A Study in Silks ~ Emma Jane Holloway

  • Title: A Study in Silks
  • Author: Emma Jane Holloway
  • Series: The Baskerville Affair #1
  • Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
  • Format: ebook
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London’s high society. But there’s a murderer to deal with—not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse.

In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch, and sorcery the demon enemy of the empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines—something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out?

But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.

Review:  A Study in Silks kicks off a new lightly steampunk series, The Baskerville Affair. I say lightly steampunk, because although the world is powered by steam and clockwork creations abound, the world really does not feel all that different from traditional historical romance. Hmm, romance is not really the right word, either, maybe historical chick lit? Clearly, it is difficult to pin down exactly which category owns this book, and well, defining books by genre has very little practical use, so I’ll move right along.

One can definitely define this book as a mystery. The main character, Evelina Cooper, has an inquisitive mind and a touch of magic, neither of which help her blend into London society any better than her dubious heritage. She is a guest in the family home of her best friend, with whom she is preparing for her introduction to debut into society when a series of mysterious events begin to unfold. Being niece to the illustrious Sherlock Holmes, Evelina, of course, sets out to discover the truth and hopefully protect those close to her.

I have mixed feelings about the use of Sherlock Holmes within the books. Other than solidifying Evelina’s natural inclination toward solving mysteries, I am not sure that it really serves much purpose in progressing the plot of the story. It almost feels as if the author is trying to create the effect of the celebrity cameo, a device which I find trite. Perhaps Holloway intends to use this relation as a resource in future books. Only times will tell.

For a book that is not really a romance, the story relies heavily another over-used trope, the love triangle. Throughout the book, Evelina finds herself torn between her affections for her BFF’s brother and someone from her questionable past. Both characters are depicted as intelligent, dashing, and full-of-life. They are also both a bit full of themselves and prove themselves unworthy of Evelina by the end of the book. I truly hope that Ms. Holloway does not try to use them as potential romantic interests in future books. I feel that both kind suitors leave behind burnt bridges in regards to Evelina’s affections. I have to admit that I love this. It is refreshing to read a story where the female lead is not defined by finding her true and everlasting love by the end of the book. Well done, Ms. Holloway.

Going back to the mystery, it is pretty ambitious, if a little convoluted. I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt, considering this book is clearly also setting up deep intrigue for books to come. I appreciate that the author was unwilling to scrimp on the complexity of the story in favor of world building. I do so love a good enigmatic plot.

No matter how good the plot, it will remain unsatisfying without decent characters. Evelina is a character that I can like. She is smart, resourceful, and independent. I look forward to following her adventures as they unfold throughout the series. I also think there is more to her sidekick, er, I mean BFF.

My overall impression of the book was favorable. I am definitely interested to see where the author takes the series from here.

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Clean Sweep ~ Ilona Andrews

  • Title: Clean Sweep
  • Author: Ilona Andrews
  • Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #1
  • Genre: Fantasy, UF
  • Format: Kindle
  • Source: Own
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina.

And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night. Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.

Review:  The world building in this short novel is fascinating, quirky and utterly unique. It’s combining science fiction and fantasy, and it feels like the authors gave free rein to their imagination while creating it. They populated their story with a sentient inn, vampires, werewolves, hundreds of different worlds connected by some sort of gateways, and of course the innkeeper with a broom – her deadliest weapon.

Dina, the protagonist, is the innkeeper. Her inn is a sanctuary on Earth for all the travelers from other worlds. While Dina stays inside the inn’s property, her magic, combined with the inn’s magic, is the strongest, but when she leaves the perimeter of the inn, for example to go shopping, her power diminishes with every step she takes away from her inn. What an original manifestation of the idea that any power has a price and a boundary.

Like every innkeeper, Dina is supposed to maintain neutrality in any conflict arising between worlds. Her guests’ safety is supposed to be her first priority. But when someone or something starts killing dogs in her quiet little town in Texas, she feels she must interfere.

Then a handsome, arrogant neighbor, werewolf Sean, arrives to tell her that he will take care of the problem. Butterflies flutter in her stomach every time she glances at his muscular thighs/shoulders/abs. His penetrating yellow eyes don’t help her peace of mind either. But she can’t let him face the danger alone, alpha male or not.

Then a charming vampire lands in her backyard, with the same purpose – to destroy the baddies in Texas. Testosterone levels spike, as the trio fight the villains and try to figure out their relationships at the same time.

The story runs quickly, maybe too quickly, as if it has too many legs but sometimes those legs trip over each other. The dialog is fast, snarky and funny, representing the authors’ dry, offbeat humor. Although characterization is pretty primitive (with the exception of Dina), secondary to the world-building and plot, the whole is an enjoyable read. I like this book more than the authors’ other series. Obviously, I’m not a huge fan of Kate Daniels.  

The illustrations included in the text are simply gorgeous, even though I read the book on my B&W Kindle.

Overall – a delicious, entertaining reading experience.

Skinwalker ~ Faith Hunter

  • Title: Skinwalker
  • Author: Faith Hunter
  • Series: Jane Yellowrock #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind – a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can turn into any creature she desires and hunts vampires for a living. But now she’s been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katie’s Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who’s killing other vamps.

Review: 
This is dark fantasy, bloody and harsh – not my favorite genre. But it’s written so well, I never wanted to abandon the book.  I wanted to read to the end. I wanted to know what happened next to its heroine Jane Yellowrock – a Cherokee, a vampire hunter, a skinwalker.

In the fantasy lingo, Jane is a shape-shifter, and she can take any shape she wants, although there is always a price. Her preferred shape is a panther. Together, they fight rogue vampires: by day as a human woman, using words and technology, by night as a beast, using the panther’s tracking skills, superior strength, and speed.

Jane is a complicated character, full of contradictions, unique in the genre, as far as I can tell. I’ve never read about another one like her. Two creatures cohabit in her body and soul in an uneasy alliance. Both are given words by the author, whenever Jane shifts, reflecting her dual personality: a predator with a vaguely human attitude and a definite human intelligence. She makes mistakes. She loves dancing. She carries a big gun and rides a motorcycle. And she would kill without compunction, if necessary. She is not human, and it shows.

In this story, Jane is hired by the vampire council of New Orleans to find and destroy a rogue vampire terrifying the city dwellers, both human and vamps.  The action moves so fast, it leaves you reeling: one escapade after another, with danger growing exponentially to the page number. Nobody is Jane’s friend, everyone has his/hers own agenda, but she, a true predator, comes out of every encounter invariably one step ahead of her adversaries. Always snarling and smiling, she wouldn’t accept any outcome but victory.

The city of New Orleans, permeated by moisture and music, is a character in her own right. The city throbs with life around Jane, its ambiance dark and sensual. It’s no surprise that one of the constant sets of the story is a brothel owned by a vampire.

In parallel with Jane’s investigation flows another plot line: her memories and recollections, as she tries to figure out who and what she is. This is as much an action adventure with mystery undertones as it is a self-discovery tale.

The secondary characters in the book are colorful but grim. Most of them are links along the same food chain: from the vampire masters down to their human blood servants and from them to the rest of humanity. Every layer dominates and terrifies the ones beneath. Fortunately, Jane is outside this chain: a classic loner, able to fight her way to the top, rude, irreverent, and fiercely independent, beautiful and untamed like her panther alter ego.

I enjoyed this book, but it started me on a rather odd strain of thought. In Faith Hunter’s world, the blood servants to the vampires serve their masters willingly. They accept abuse from the vamps, and then dish it out down the chain to the rest of the people. Why do they serve? What makes them consciously choose to give up their free will to their bloodsucking lords? In our modern times too. In general: what makes one choose a life of a loyal servant instead of a paid employee? Of course there are benefits and perks, but do they outweigh the constant bleedings and the risk of death by an occasionally enraged monster?

Sealed with a Curse ~ Cecy Robson

  • Title: Sealed with a Curse
  • Author: Cecy Robson
  • Series: Weird Girls #1
  • Genre: UF, PNR, Fantasy
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Description:  Celia Wird and her three sisters are just like other twenty-something girls—with one tiny exception: They’re the products of a curse that backfired and gave each of them unique powers that make them, well, a little weird…

The Wird sisters are content to avoid the local vampires, werebeasts, and witches of the Lake Tahoe region—until one of them blows up a vampire in self-defense. Everyone knows vampires aren’t aggressive, and killing one is punishable by death. But soon more bloodlust-fueled attacks occur, and the community wonders if the vampires of Tahoe are plague-ridden.

Celia reluctantly agrees to help Misha, the handsome leader of an infected vampire family. But Aric, the head of the werewolf pack determined to destroy Misha’s family to keep the area safe, warns Celia to stay out of the fight. Caught between two hot alphas, Celia must find a way to please everyone, save everyone, and—oh, yeah—not lose her heart to the wrong guy or die a miserable death. Because now that the evil behind the plague knows who Celia is, he’s coming for her and her sisters.

This Wird girl has never had it so tough.

*May contain spoilers*

Review:  This one was just kind of meh for me. I liked some the basic concept and world building. She had an interesting interpretation of vampire/were lore. However, her mythology as it related to the sister was a bit suspect. It felt almost like Ms. Robson didn’t really want to nail down any set rules regarding the girls, so she could use their mysterious magic whenever she needed to move the story forward.

As for the story itself, the plot had some big gaps. Most glaring was the last hospital scene from which everyone left in a mad dash. Um, shouldn’t someone have stayed behind for clean up on aisle five, maybe alter some memories or something? This stood out because at the previous hospital incident, the author made a point to have Emme take care of this. Oops.

The action and the mystery plot line were not bad. I just wish there had been more of it and again, that there had been more consistency to it.

Robson did a good job of building chemistry between the main love interests, but then I felt like she dropped the ball. There was really no relationship development beyond some raging sexual tension. This is a pet peeve of mine. I just don’t buy hormone-driven insta-love. And speaking of stupid love, each sister seemed to get her very own insta-love package with one of Aric’s closest were-buddies? Really?

Finally, and this drove me absolutely batty throughout the entire book . . . WHAT was with the unnecessary quotes every time Celia experiences a “change.” GAH! Why? Why? Why?

Deep breath and moving on. Clearly, I was not a fan of this story. It is a shame. I do think with some tweaking that it could have been a pretty good book. Too late now.

One last thing regarding the cover, I thought it was well done. The girl looks mysterious coupled with barren night trees and full moon (which hints at the were mythology contained in the book), without being twisted into an unnaturally sexy pose. The font choice plays out well against the rest of the cover and considering the nature of the book.

Sons of Wrath Fan

TPhoto_00056 FlipThere are countless perks to running a Book Review website. I’ve had wonderful opportunities to get to know authors, readers and more! One of the cool pleasures is getting a book from an author that you enjoy, admire and very happy to call a friend! I’m taking a moment to geek out and be a fan. =D

Keri Lake is the author of the Sons of Wrath series. Keri kick started Silk Screen Views Author Interview & Review series. We showcased the first book of Sons of Wrath, Soul Avenged, as the first book in our AI&R series and the 100th Book Review posted on SSV. You can find out more about Keri by following the links in this post. They’ll lead you to her website, our interview and book review. Not familiar with Soul Avenged? No problem! You can read an excerpt of the book!

+ Key Chain

+ Key Chain

I’m very pleased to be a Sons of Wrath Fan and totally excited to see where the next book in the series will take us!

Keri is running a Cover Contest to decide who and what will be on the cover of the next Sons of Wrath book. I’ve been keeping an eye on updates and I’ll be in line to place my vote this summer. Will you?  😉

o–oo–o

Note:  I’m a bookworm and fan at heart! This isn’t the first “Yay!” post I’ve made on SSV and it won’t be the last. I like to share my happy! Don’t you?   🙂

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children ~ Ransom Riggs

  • Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  • Author: Ransom Riggs
  • Series: Miss Peregrine #1
  • Genre: Fantasy, UF, Graphic Novel, Interactive
  • Format: Hardback
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Soo
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience.

As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here – one of whom was his own grandfather – were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason.

And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.

Review:  Ransom Riggs made an everyday world into something special. He took photos from wandering paths of here & there and wove a story to tell in the dark, by a warm fire.

Jacob grew up with wild, tall tales of special children with extraordinary skills. He loved them as a child, but grew jaded to the stories his Grandfather told as he grew older. Then Jacob’s Grandfather died and he found photos that made him think about the stories that he grew up on.

What if they’re real?

Join Jacob on his journey to another country, an isolated island with ordinary people living ordinary lives–or is it?

Riggs’ writing is a bit rough and there are some details that don’t quite mesh but, overall, I had fun reading this book and look forward to the next one. I like concepts that engages a reader with multiple aspects. The vintage photos are a nice touch.