Hot Blooded ~ Amanda Carlson

  • Title: Hot Blooded
  • Author: Amanda Carlson
  • Series: Jessica McClain #2
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Kindle
  • Source: Net Galley ARC
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 2 out of 5

Description:  It hasn’t been the best week for Jessica McClain.

Her mate has been kidnapped by a Goddess hell-bent on revenge — but Jessica is playing for keeps.

Because she’s the only female werewolf in town…it comes with its own set of rules…and powers.

Aided by two vamps, two loyal Pack members, and one very reluctant human, Jessica must rescue her man while coming to terms with what being a wolf really means.

All in a day’s work for a girl.

The second novel in the Jessica McClain series is a full on action adventure featuring one angry Goddess and plenty of monsters, demons, and a few newly risen beasties…


Review:  Hot Blooded picked up right where Full Blooded left off. It kind of had to, since Full Blooded ended somewhat abruptly with no firm conclusion. The greatest incentive that I had to give the second book a shot was not so much that I was eager to find out what happens next, but rather that I was granted a free advanced review copy by the Publisher via Net Galley.

Once again, Carlson’s concept was good, but the execution was not. For example, the main character, Jess, was maybe a little too powerful. This appeared to be a go-to plot device for the author. The characters were in a no-win situation, no problem! Jessica would mysteriously discover yet ANOTHER inexplicable super power. Maybe I would have bought into it more if there had been some sort of logic behind the powers, but there was not.

Another over-used trope in this book was that all of the villains adhered to the Scooby Doo school of pontification. “Well, now that I’ve captured you, let me gloat and fill in details so that you can find a chance to defeat me and escape.” Ugh. The hero characters plainly walked into danger half cocked, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would not have been better for the bad guys & gals to shut up and kill them already!

Speaking of half-cocked, I found Jessica to be more annoying in this book. On top of her ridiculously emerging powers, she took head strong to the level of hard headed. Bad decisions made under the guise of being tough are still bad decisions. Rinse, lather, and repeat over and over and the result was one stupid heroine.

The one good side of the heroine rushing head first into danger was that it resulted in a lot of action. The battle scenes were not bad at all and quite frankly, they were what kept my attention and allowed me to finish the book. Well, that and the hope that the world-building potential might just solidify into something decent.

What finally made me bump my rating down to just two stars was the cliff hanger ending. It was pointless that a completely new plot line opened up and was tacked on to the the end of the book. Why do some authors seem to think that they this is the way to make sure readers purchase their next book? Isn’t just simply writing a compelling story enough???? This tactic so annoys me that if I had not already received a free advance review copy of the next book I would drop the series cold. As it stands, this series has two outs with no one on base. We’ll see if the third books strikes out.

**Disclaimer: Reviewer was provided with a digital advance review copy of this book by the publisher via Net Galley.

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Full Blooded ~ Amanda Carlson

  • Title: Full Blooded
  • Author: Amanda Carlson
  • Series: Jessica McClain #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Kindle
  • Source: Own
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Description:  Born the only female in an all male race, Jessica McClain isn’t just different—she’s feared.

After living under the radar for the last twenty-six years, Jessica is thrust unexpectedly into her first change, a full ten years late. She wakes up and finds she’s in the middle of a storm. Now that she’s become the only female full-blooded werewolf in town, the supernatural world is already clamoring to take a bite out of her and her new Pack must rise up and protect her.

But not everyone is on board. The werewolf Rights of Laws is missing text and the superstitious werewolves think that Jessica means an end to their race. It doesn’t help when Jessica begins to realize she’s more. She can change partway and hold her form, and speak directly to her wolf. But the biggest complication by far is that her alpha father can’t control her like he can the rest of his wolves.

When a mercenary who’s been hired by the vampires shows up to extract information about the newly turned werewolf only days after her change, they find themselves smack in the middle of a war and there’s no choice but to run together. When it’s up to Jessica to negotiate her release against her father’s direct orders, she chooses to take an offer for help instead. In exchange, Jessica must now swear an oath she may end up repaying with her life.


Review:  I am a sucker for a good cover and I have to admit that the cover of Full Blooded sucked me in. The cover features a striking, but fierce looking female who is ready to take on the world. Just what I like in my urban fantasy! I won’t lie; the story did not live up to the promise of the cover for me.
It is not a bad story. In fact, the concept is great. The plot builds on the mythology that Jessica is the first of her kind, a FEMALE werewolf. This is a game-changer in the supernatural world, especially in light of some vague, threatening, and apparently lost prophecies.

Jessica is a strong minded independent young woman trying to cope. However, she can be really whiny, which I found annoying, almost as annoying as her tendency to leap before looking. She KNOWS she has gaps in knowledge, yet she seems to have no interest at all in actually spending some time learning.

I guess we can forgive Jessica a little bit, considering the fact that everyone in her life is equally stupid. It made absolutely no sense that everyone kept trying to keep her in the dark regarding werewolf lore. I suspect this was the author’s attempt at creating a situation ripe for conflict. Unfortunately for me, this type of weak plot device turns me right off.

I also felt that the author tried to cram too much into one book. It would have been different if all of the plots and subplots had been handled well, but they all felt short-changed. I think the book would have been much stronger if the story focused on the local pack intrigue with well-executed story development.
Finally, the abrupt ending made me want to throw the book across the room. Lucky for my Kindle, I was able to restrain myself. What is with the trend toward unfinished stories???? I feel cheated. I bought a complete book, but it wasn’t. Grrr.

There was just enough of a glimmer that I will give the next book a shot. It helps that I’ve been approved for a no cost advanced review copy. If I had to shell out money, my journey with Jessica would like end here. Fingers crossed that this series gets better.

City of Ashes ~ Cassandra Clare

  • Title: City of Ashes
  • Author: Cassandra Clare
  • Series: The Mortal Instruments #2
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 2 out of 5

Description:  Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City’s Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.

*This review may contain spoilers.*

Review:  Cassandra Clare is back. City of Ashes is the follow-up to her fun, young adult urban fantasy adventure City of Bones. This second book of the Mortal Instruments series is everything that the first book was not, and I don’t mean that in a good way. The first book was light on teen wallowing and focused on more on their adventure through a dangerous magical world.

City of Ashes, on the other hand, is a story about a group of spoiled teens in the midst of a big ole angst fest. Clary and Jace are all angsty about their Luke and Lei sibling attraction since they still think they are brother and sister. (Clearly, at some point it will be revealed that they are not actually siblings, because otherwise, eww!) Jace is also wallowing in Vader/Valentine father drama and acting bratty because nobody believes him, because dishing up disdainful attitude is always helpful in getting others to see your point of view. Simon is battling his angst driven jealously over any attention that Clary is paying to her brother, Jace. Alec is drowning in a whole vat of youthful melodrama, struggling with his sexuality, his unrequited love for Jace, and perhaps a hidden romance? Isabelle is not so much angsting as she is rebelling against nothing. Oh, and they are aware of the magical world around them and they are trying to fight evil.

Eventually, we see some opportunities for action and adventure. However, it feel like every time a conflict arises, someone breaks out into an angst-driven monologue. How many times are they going to feel swayed by Valentine’s fanatical ranting? Really? He’s right THERE! Less talky talky, more stabby stabby. When we are not interrupting this regularly scheduled not-a-fight scene, we are flash-forwarding to the end only to experience yet another heart rending near death episode. Surely Simon’s nine live are up??? Oh, the drama!

This book is guilty of SO many fiction faux pas plot devices that I may have lost count. The top five kind of looks like this:

  1. Overreaction in place of action – like going to a werewolf bar to pick a fight because you are mad at your stepmom
  2. Overuse of the monologue – battle is raging all around us, my sweet, but let me try to convince you why my evil plan is great
  3. Logic is overrated (not sure which is my favorite example) – I hate demons SO much, that I want to rid the world of half demons by allying myself with full demons OR I know you are my sister, but will you still be my girlfriend and we can keep it a secret?
  4. Smart characters make stupid decisions – The bad guy is looking for someone like ME? Why then, let me run off into the night alone and take back alleys so he can capture me!
  5. And the worst plot device used in this book is . . . Love triangles, or in this case knots – A hot werewolf girl is in love with me, but I’m in love with you. You are in love with your brother. He loves you, too, but you can’t be together, obviously. His teenage foster brother is in love with him, but dating a 300 year old wizard who may be in love him (eww). The foster sister seems to be in love with herself. Let’s not even bother with the “adults.” It boggles the mind.

I pretty much liked the characters in the first book. Well, I didn’t dislike them, at least. However, in City of Ashes I think that everyone could use a swift boot to the head. Jace spends the book sneering and throwing abuse at others, meanwhile whining that no one believes in him. Clary is trying to martyr herself for every bad thing that happens to her in between bouts of saying really nasty things to people. Simon acts like a pouty douche who seems to have lost at least 30 IQ points since that last book. I could go on. Suffice it to say that Valentine wiping them all out starts to look appealing by the end of the book.

As for the conclusion, Clare serves up an ending so ambiguous that when examined you realize that there really wasn’t closure to any of the plot threads of this book. In fact, if you remove all of the angst and over emoting, I think that this book contributes maybe a single chapter, two at the most, of relevant information that moves that series plot arc forward.

On the positive side, the cover art for City of Ashes is fantastic. In keeping with the theme of the first cover, it features the city skyline with an otherworldly teen figure rising from the behind the city. This time the figure represents Clary with an almost flaming quality to her red hair. Too bad the contents of the book do not live up to the promise of the cover.

Now, I am left with a decision. Do I give the series another chance? I DID like the first book. However, my eyes are still sore from the number of times I rolled them while reading this book. Perhaps I’ll give it some time, let my eye muscles recover, and see how I feel with a little distance. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. We shall see.

City of Bones ~ Cassandra Clare

  • Title: City of Bones
  • Author: Cassandra Clare
  • Series: The Mortal Instruments #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
  • Format: Hardback
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder – much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air.

It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing – not even a smear of blood – to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk.

Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…

Review:  I’ve long had my eye on City of Bones. The cover is eye catching and the plot sounds interesting. My lingering hesitance is part of my usual dilemma, will the story be more adventure or angst. With the movie release upon us, it is time to make that decision . . . to read or not read?

I am glad that I chose to read. There are certainly hints of teen angst here and there, but the story is directed mostly by adventure and world-building. Hurrah! I admit that the plot is on the predictable side, but the entertaining manner in which the story unfolds makes it almost possible to overlook.

The basic premise is one we’ve seen before, kind of an Alice through the Looking Glass kind of tale. The world-building has elements that make it unique enough to hold the readers interest. The story follows Clary, an impetuous teen whose mother goes missing just when she starts to see inexplicable things. She is seeing demons to be precise. It turns out that everywhere. Fortunately for her, she meets a band of teenage demon hunters who grudgingly agree to help her find her mom and figure out what is happening to her.

I am not sure that it makes sense that a group of teen demon hunters are the only ones around to protect the city for the duration of the book. Reader have to make a leap of faith to just accept this a move on. Because of their youthful exuberance, the teen characters are fun, if one-dimensional. Some of them have secrets, and I’m not telling! I want to tell you, truly I do, but I think it would be more fun it you discover them on your own.

My favorite character, Magnus Bane, is a minor character of importance to the story. He is extremely powerful and totally unapologetic. The ambiguity of his character allows Ms. Clare a vehicle through which she can deliver truth, in a crazy-cool kind of way. I also love Valentine as a villain. He is psychotically brilliant and totally arrogant. Oh, and in the movie he’s played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Hello, sexy calling!).

Clare relies more on intrigue rather than action to move the story forward. This is not to say that there are no good action scenes, there are. It is just the mystery is solved more Sherlock style, piecing together clues gained through investigation.

This is a good first book to the series. It was a solid introduction to the characters and the Clare’s alternate world. The resolution to the primary plot is strong enough to give closure, yet there are there are plenty of tantalizing open threads to entice the reader back for more. So, go on now, dear reader. I have another book (City of Ashes) to read.

Charming ~ Elliott James

  • Title: Charming
  • Author: Elliott James
  • Series: Pax Arcana #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
  • Format: ebook
  • Source: Review copy
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  John Charming isn’t your average Prince…

He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn’t change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar… Right?

Review:  At first glance, this books looks like a clear-cut paranormal romance. The cover is a little on the cheesy side, featuring a handsome and surely dashing hero staring intently at the reader beneath a suitably fancy font. But wait, is that a male author’s name blazoned across the bottom? I can’t remember ever having read a romance by a male author. Hmm. So, I take a closer look and the book description reads much more urban fantasy, than PNR. Now, my interest is peaked, the hook is set, reel me in.

The book has an interesting concept, fairy tales about “Prince Charming” are really an amalgamation of stories about various members of the Charming family, a long line of Knights Templar. Yes, those Knights Templar, except they still exist, but rather than going on holy crusades they protect the balance between magic and mundane. Our hero of this tale, John Charming, is a tarnished descendant of this illustrious line. Once upon a time, a Valkyrie walk into his bar (er, pub) and mayhem ensues.

The first person narrative of the story allows the author to effectively contribute bits of detail and lore to flesh out the urban fantasy world being created. James takes it a little far at the end, having John tell the reader why he is documenting what has happened. I found this offensive as a reader, I am smart enough not to need a convenient explanation as to why the narrator is telling his/her story.

Make no mistake, our hero uses his droll wit to tell quite a story of adventure and intrigue. I love the humorous tone of this book. Even the chapter titles are chuckle inducing. John is quite charming, in a sarcastic and messed up kind of way, unless he has been provoked. Then, foes beware, he is a tough cookie and ready to rumble.

Being that the story is about a bad-ass protector-type, there is plenty of action in the story. John is inspired by Sig, a Valkyrie, to join forces with her merry band of misfits to eradicate a vampire threat to that magical balance. Whether or not he can trust all of the Scooby gang to have his back remains to be seen, as suspicion and mistrust is rife among them.

Between bloody battle scenes, there are a LOT of interpersonal dynamics going on in this book, a little too much for my taste. Mid-way through the book, the author gets so caught up in the romance sub-plot that it almost loses the SUB and becomes the plot. It is not that it is badly written, I just prefer UF to PNR.

Regardless, this was a really fun book. James seems to channel a couple of my favorite authors: Ilona Andrews and Jim Butcher with his blend of magical conflict and snarky humor. The result is not quite as well executed as the aforementioned UF icons, but I have hope that this series can turn into something fun.

*Disclaimer: A free advance copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher through Net Galley.

Stone Guardian ~ Danielle Monsch

  • Title: Stone Guardian
  • Author: Danielle Monsch
  • Series: Entwined Realms #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
  • Format: ebook
  • Source: Review copy
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Description:  Gryphons flying past skyscrapers? Wizards battling it out in coffeehouses? Women riding motorcycles with large swords strapped to their backs? All normal sights since the Great Collision happened twenty-six years ago.

Well, not normal for everyone. Larissa Miller may have been born after the Great Collision, but as a history teacher who lives in the human-only city, she has never come into contact with any other race or species, nor has she wanted to. Her life is as ordinary as it gets – that is, until one day she walks out of her apartment and is attacked by a mob of Zombies, only to be saved by a Gargoyle.

Gargoyles trust no one outside their Clan, but due to a cryptic prophecy, Terak, Leader of the Gargoyles, has been watching over the human woman for months. While he can find no reason why the woman has been singled out, something about her stirs every protective instinct within him. When the attack confirms that the threats against her exist and are real, he convinces Larissa that though their races have never been allies, the best chance of discovering why she has been brought into his world is by working together.

In the course of their investigation Terak becomes entranced by his little human. But when he discovers why Necromancers want her and the great reward that awaits him if he betrays her, he must choose between the welfare of his Clan and not only Larissa’s life, but the fate of this New Realm as well.

Review may contain spoilers.

Review:  I was very intrigued by the concept of a gargoyle hero. I read a LOT of urban fantasy (if you haven’t noticed by following my reviews) and I was eagerly anticipating the prospect of new mythology. The further I read, the more my excitement dimmed, as it revealed that the story was not well executed.

The concept of the world was great. Two realms (dimensions) collided, leaving the inhabitants of both realms struggling to find balance. Larissa found herself the target of attacks from magical creatures, the kind from which she had been sheltered her whole life. Terak, the leader of the gargoyle clans, stepped in to protect her based on advice from the Oracle. Of course, they found themselves drawn to one another as they fought to keep Larissa safe.

Let me start with Larissa. I didn’t really care for this heroine at all. The big tough gargoyle kept saying that she was brave, but I couldn’t see it. Yes, she was soft and pretty and different from gargoyles. I get the fascination. However, she was also meek in the face of danger and made stupid decisions as a matter of habit. I did like Terak, but I felt he would have found Fallon, a warrior character, to be a much better companion. Beyond the obvious physical attraction between Larissa and Terak, there was not a whole going on in this romance. The author TOLD kept telling us that there were feelings developing between them, but never really demonstrated a basis for those feelings.

The magic system itself wasn’t bad. Heck, it was Dungeons & Dragons 101, hard to fault that. It was just not overly original. The plot also played out very much like a D&D campaign; skirmish, win, regroup, skirmish with a higher foe class, win, regroup, rinse, lather repeat. It is fun when PLAYING D&D, but slightly less fun to read.

*WARNING: The following paragraph contains a MAJOR SPOILER. Turn back now, or risk a major plot reveal.*

The biggest flaw with this book is that Ms. Monsch violated her own rules of world-building. I hate inconsistent mythology. The reason Larissa is being targeted is for ability as a null (one who can cancel magical effects, for those less dorky than myself). That can be a useful quality, but wait, didn’t the battle mage cast a protection spell around her early in the book? Why, yes, the author remembers, explaining that her null power requires direct contact. I got it, except, why then does the null power render the battle mage useless later in the book. Surely she could target her magic upon other villains? This was just plain sloppy.

*END of SPOILERS*

It wasn’t a waste to read this book, after all, I get credit for a gargoyle book in an urban fantasy reading challenge. (Do you know how hard it is to find UF with gargoyles???) As for the book, the concept itself has promise. What this author needs is a really good editor to help her polish and refine her work. Until then, I’m just in it for the gargoyles.

*Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was provided to me for review by the publisher through the Net Galley program.