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Wolf Unleashed, Jessica Meats

Wolf Unleashed, Jessica Meats

Wolf Unleashed by [Meats, Jessica]

Genre: General fiction (adult), Sci-fi and Fantasy.

I really wanted to love this book, it sounded so interesting, a unique take on the genre.

It has some excellent characters too, and an interesting plot-line that I can see developing further within future books.

And yet….it was interesting, it was well written, paced to keep the reader engaged and yet somehow I kept putting it to one side.

Possibly it was the sheer unpleasantness of the idea of keep werewolves as pets/slaves, and of breeding them for that purpose, taking away the children and selling them. Its all too reminiscent for me of the human trade in slaves where non whites were considered sub-humans and we used and abused them.

Although it made for a great main plot it did make me feel incredibly uncomfortable and guilty as a human for the past atrocities white people forced onto non-whites.

If you can set that aside and enjoy the story for what it is, fiction and well written, then this is a series you’ll enjoy. I might try later books as they come out, I know once the imbalance starts to get addressed I’ll be happier reading about these people.

Its an excellent look at human nature, how ready we are to believe what “the authorities” tell us, which of course is what benefits a few powerful people the most, but gets dressed as if its helping everyone. Cynic? Me? There’s a quote from Edmund Burke that suits this book really well, it goes something like this… “all that is needed for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing”. Here we’ve a handful of good people, starting with Crystal, doing something which hopefully will grow, but it isn’t going to be easy.

Even then if Crystal’s brother hadn’t been bitten she would still have gone along with the official line that this treatment of werewolves is essential for them and us.
It mirrors what happens so often, as humans we mostly ignore or turn a blind eye to distasteful practices and injustices until we’re forced to confront them personally.

Stars: Three, a really well written story, but which made me feel so guilty for similar human past practices it affected my enjoyment of the story

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.

 

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Bright Ruin, Vic James

Bright Ruin, Vic James

Bright Ruin (The Dark Gifts Trilogy Book 3) by [James, Vic]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, I loved books one and two and was desperate to read this. These characters, this strange UK feels so real. My heart was breaking for those caught up in the Equals power struggle, their determination to keep unSkilled commoners where they feel they belong, serving Equals as slaves for ten years of their lives. There’s a section on Abi’s thoughts that’s so relevant to today’s Real Britain, not just Vic’s fantasy one. It was very resonating to me and I have to quote it.
“ Abi knew many would approve of such expulsions. This narrative fitted into the bigger lie Wittam Jardine was telling the British people. If folk felt poor, it was because of these sponging refugees, not the greed of the Equals. In the same way, those that protested against the slavedays were being cast as the lawbreakers, when it was the days themselves that were unjust.”
We have that same kind of thinking now, and I guess that’s why I was so easy to suck into Vic’s alternative Britain, and why it felt real. I could see events playing out this way, the careful manipulation of facts, the scapegoating, the laying of blame in certain quarters, and the behind the scenes atrocities that the Equals claimed were necessary to keep the peace. Or at least the status quo where the one per cent of the population flourished supported by the 99 per cent unSkilled….
We learned things about a certain character that explained why others had acted in a way that felt unusual, not what they would do willingly. I certainly hadn’t seen that as being the cause!

Jenner, I so liked him in book one, was astonished and heartbroken at his actions in book two, and here we can see his motives.
Gavar, in book one I found him cold to everyone but his daughter Libby, and finally I understood him a little better. I was so sad about Libby’s mum and wondered why he did what he did, finally there’s an explanation for his actions.
Silyen, the enigmatic character, you never really know what he’s thinking, he does things that seem heroic but for completely different reasons than ones we’d think essential, and he treats life and death very lightly. He’s extraordinarily skilled though, incredibly complex and half the time his mind is on other worlds, such as when he was with his aunt in her world while she was comatose.
That other worlds bit comes quite prominent here, and reminded me of another book I read. Annoyingly I can’t recall the title but it involved parallel worlds or dimensions, kind of like a fold in fabric reveals different layers. I got to reading about the whole real theory they could exist, that one centred around tesseract principles but there is a whole scientific ream of thinking that these could exist in many different ways.
We see much more of Abi, Luke and Dog here too and I can’t help having a soft spot for Dog. He’s done some awful things, but had atrocities perpetrated on him.

I felt at times the story got a little battle heavy, not the breathtaking displays, the actual actions but in the endless battle planning, dealing, double dealing and for me that was a bit…dull. ( and I skim read those bits* blush *) Battle planning never is my favoured parts of stories. It didn’t detract from the whole though, and I’m sure there are readers who love all that minute detail.

Its a terrific conclusion, a battle royale, full of surprises at every turn, and an heroic ending. Made me think of just what happens next, how does Britain continue, and what life holds for those we’ve come to know and love ( and hate in the case of some of them!)
That last sentence though, that last tiny action made me so, so happy 😉 for certain characters, I like to think they got a HEA.

Stars:Five, fantastic read, excitement, drama, some breath stealing suspense, that left me floundering to work out just how it could all wrap up. How on earth was Vic going to sort this world out, how could things work out better for the unSkilled, when would all the atrocities end.
I loved the scenes with Luke, Silyen and the King. Oh, and That Kiss, it was a long time coming….

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Crossroads of Bones, A Katie Bishop Novel Book 1, Luanne Bennett

Crossroads of Bones, A Katie Bishop Novel Book 1,  Luanne Bennett

Crossroads of Bones (A Katie Bishop Novel Book 1) by [Bennett, Luanne]

Genre:, Sci-fi and Fantasy

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this, Luanne is a new-to-me author, but its a story I really enjoyed.

There are some terrific characters here, and that’s really important for me. I loved Katie, a strong and independent lady, not a whiny TSSL heroine. She’s got a mysterious past, is making a new life for herself in her tattoo shop. Her employees are a mixed bunch but really interesting, and as the story unfolds some of them have valuable info for her. I loved her friend Sugar too, a great secondary character who proved very important and was such a treat to read. I really enjoy reading about people who are different in some way, individuals in the fullest sense and Sugar was perfect.
The adventure, the story, the bit that’s the focus of the book was cleverly done, and kept me reading avidly and this book set me up to look forward for the next. I like that there are characters other than the usual vampire/shooters, I love those but I love stories which take things a bit further too. This one was very vivid in the way it played out and even though we’re talking about fiction, specifically fantasy, it all felt so very real to me. The touches of root/voodoo/voudun magic were good and added so much to the atmosphere, and blended perfectly with the setting.
That ending, not a cliffhanger but a terrific, tantalising glimpse of what’s in story for Katie next. I look forward to reading that.

Stars: Four and a half, almost the magic five, and a terrific series opener.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

 

 

The Howling, Erin McCarthy

The Howling,  Erin McCarthy

The Howling by [McCarthy, Erin]

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy, Romance

This is a really short read, novella length barely at just under 1000 kindle locations ( typical books run at 3-5K ) and I rarely enjoy short reads. If I’d known before I wouldn’t have chosen it as all the reasons shorts don’t work for me were here.
I read quickly, but I’ve a friend who reads just a few pages a night. She loves novellas as she can finish them while still remembering how they started. She’d probably like this book.

I found the story a little confusing at times, so much seemed to have already happened with Sebastian and Scarborough and the pack, and we just get a quick recap of events through memories, dreams and dialogue. There simply isn’t the length in the story to let that play out. I hadn’t realised at first that it was so short and spent time looking for earlier books as it felt like I’d jumped into a series and should know what had already happened.

I didn’t really like any of the characters, Scarborough was just two faced and an ambitious, amoral schemer, Sebastian had what felt like weird reasons for not asking Liv to marry – why not just Talk to her? And Liv, she was a bit of a mix, so in love with Sebastian, allegedly, but when he disappears with her money she doesn’t think “oh, this is out of character. I wonder if everything is OK, where he’s gone, why he did this?” Nope, she just falls into Scarborough’s waiting arms and is about to marry him six months later. Some Love she held!

As for that sex scene, where she thinks she’s dreaming – hey, would that all dreams were that lifelike. I don’t think so…..

So a book that was a fail for me, in part because its just too short to allow the story to play out properly, which is why I avoid novellas. Having got to the end I still wasn’t really sure just what it was all about, the dreams/premonitions just felt too slick and weren’t really treated as a plot properly IMO, Liv fell into accepting werewolves – and that she was one – with just an “OK then, werewolves are real. Cool beans” well, along those lines ;-). The big fight was soon over and all was happy…. full length it could have been a story I enjoyed, this length it was a fail.

Stars: Two, if you like shorts and novellas you may love this, I don’t and didn’t 😦

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Quinn,  D. B. Reynolds

Quinn,  D. B. Reynolds

Quinn (Vampires in America: The Vampire Wars Book 12) by [Reynolds, D. B.]

Genre: Romance

Oh Gosh, I’ve been so looking forward to seeing more of Quinn but this book wasn’t the greatest for me.
I’ve loved all the books except Sophia, and this had the same kind feeling about it for me. I just didn’t feel the connection, the sizzle, the must-be-with each other that I’m used to in DB’s vampire mates.

The story was fun, and as usual I enjoyed the flashbacks to Quinn’s ( and Garrick’s) Turning. What a b itch their Mistress was. I’ve seen technical inaccuracies pointed out since reading this, but TBH I didn’t notice them at the time. Its a bit of a basic error though, I know in fantasy the chance to re-write history is there and Maybe in Quinn’s sixties technology had got that far, but without explanation of that then I can see how some readers are irritated. I guess I got too hung up on the story to notice. I really enjoyed reading Quinn and Garrick’s backstory.

I like that the main plot has now moved to Europe, that’s been set up since the early books, and each later story has been working towards this. Take the battle to the Europeans, rather than wait for attack, has been the recent decision by the American vamps. After all why should they wait, knowing that Europe has designs on their land. Put in some strong Lords and they’re all better off.

I’m pleased Quinn has roots in Ireland, I didn’t – and don’t – want a US Vamps are the only ones strong enough thread to this story line. I’m hoping DB sticks with keeping those roots connected, and also that at least some of the European vamps stay as Lords. I don’t want a total US annihilation.

That’s all for the future though, back to this story. There’s bits I loved, as usual the battle scenes were slick, polished and very real, bloody at times as befits Vampires. I loved Quinn and Garrick, though did find it a bit incredible that Quinn was so fixated on Eve at times, while at others he was very take it or leave it and the-battle-comes-first ( as it should, he’s Lord for a reason)
I have to say it, but I didn’t like Eve. She’s a bigot, selfish, cold in the way she regards Vampires. As Quinn says, if her brother was killed by humans would she go all out killing them? I do find it a bit incredible she’s been so successful, given she hasn’t any special talents, isn’t superfit, gun trained etc but simply relies on her femininity and surprise ( Hey guys, look, Boobs…oh and here’s my pointy stick!) That’s not enough to kill stronger vampires, as we see in the story, and it seems weird that she’s managed to avoid meeting and trying to kill any of them when she doesn’t know how to tell strength. I did feel for her about her mother, she was a horrible woman, and of course losing her brother like that, seeing him killed, was tough. Still didn’t mean I liked her though.

Same goes for her romance with Quinn. With every other one I’ve been able to feel a strong attraction, feel the pull to each other from early on, and felt that human and vampire both respect each other. Not so here, there’s lust, but that’s it. There’s certainly no respect for each other, and in a way everything takes place over such a short time – couple of weeks I think – that perhaps there isn’t time for them to develop that. Apart from sex they spend very little time together, and yet they become Mates….I wasn’t feeling it. I respect all the other Mates, they all have different qualities, but there’s that indefinable Something about them that works. Maybe it’ll grow here, as I’m not feeling it yet.

Stars:Four. I enjoyed it as part of the wider story, loved the Vampire side of things but felt it was let down, rather than enhanced, by the romance. I’m currently re-reading this series- I love catching up with it on a second or more read, the only other one I don’t love is Sophia, and I skim read that to get gist of story, I guess I’ll do the same here.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Day Reaper, Melody Johnson

Day Reaper,  Melody Johnson

Day Reaper (The Night Blood Series) by [Johnson, Melody]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

I loved the first three in this series, but this final novel was a real disappointment for me.

Its a complex cast of characters, not just the usual Humans and Vampires, but Night Bloods, Day Walkers and The Damned too. At times they overlap a lot, and I had to keep reminding myself of the differences between the groups. Its not always a s clear as it seems with Walker being a Night Blood who is out to kill Vampires ( and The Damned and Day Walkers), Ronnie who’s a Vampire but can’t seem to thrive on blood, and Cassidy’s brother Nathan transformed to one of The Damned back to Something Else….he still has the same characteristics of The damned, but not the murderous impulses and rages.

The friendships that were such an integral part of the early stories take a battering, with Cassidy fighting her friends to convince them she, Dominic and co can work with them, that they are on the side of good despite being vampires. At times its hard seeing which way either side will go. Harsh too that bonds of friendship were stretched, that Cassidy’s friends were so ready to just dismiss her, write her off a Vampire=Bad. It’s difficult too, to know who is going to help and who is just going to take advantage of the situation and change sides, or revert back to their history of preservation at all costs, or killing non humans, believing they are all evil.

The thing that really got me from this book was the credibility. Dominic has been so strong throughout, loyal to his coven, a great leader ( though I’m not sure why when the Levelling is a regular event he wasn’t more prepared…) but in this book I felt he became emasculated and that Cassidy became what I hate in fantasy reads, one of those recently transformed characters who have endless new powers popping up to save the day. It just doesn’t feel real that someone who only weeks earlier learned about vampires, gets transformed and becomes The Great Savior, so to speak, not struggling with her days only transformation but able to think clearly, adapt and do what Dominic and the others with their combined thousands of years experience can’t. I know part of it is the friendship she has with the humans but its just a step too far for me. A per hate, one that I guess won’t bother many readers, but for me which always spoils novels when it happens. 😦
I felt much of this story was dragged out just to fill pages, and perhaps the books would have been better condensed into three. Dominic could have been left as the strong, intelligent character he’s been for hundreds of years, with his quick, strategic thinking, The focus could have stayed on the Levelling, which as a huge part of the early books seemed to fizzle out into a non event really, and less attention put on Cassidy as the Saviour of Everyone! No New Girl saves the Day, keep my pet peeve out.

Stars: Three, a really disappointing ending for me, still a good read but this final book lacks the special qualities that the earlier ones had, the thing that made it such a perfect read.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Shadow Hunt ,(Disrupted Magic 3), Melissa F. Olson

Shadow Hunt ,(Disrupted Magic 3), Melissa F. Olson

Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic Book 3) by [Olson, Melissa F.]

Genre: general fiction(adult), Sci-fi and Fantasy.
I love this series, and the sister series set in the same world. It was that one, featuring Quinn and Lex that brought me the the Old World, and let me to buying more and being lucky enough to have some review ARCs too.

I love Scarlett, she’s in a tough and dangerous world, has to do things that her heart really isn’t in, but which are necessary to protect others. It means she’s alone though, having to keep family and human friends at a distance as they can and will be used to get to her.

One of her few human friends from the early days is Jesse, and he’s a human that’s been allowed to know about the Old world because of the way he learned about it via his police job, and because Dasheil, Vampire leader for the city, feels he could be useful. Jesse is retired from the police now, but still very much friends with Scarlett and helps her when she needs assistance.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Jesse, wanted him and Scarlett to be together but through the series its never been the right time for either and they have both been in other relationships, and just remained good, true friends.

Its another exciting adventure, bringing into play characters, enemies Scarlett thought had been neutralised – or at least a truce reached with them. The attack, when it comes, is very unexpected, and once more its Scarlett and Jesse in the thick of things, rescuing those they love, and trying hard to prevent a massive tragedy and loss of life. We meet a few new characters, catch up from some from past stories and Maven, we learn a bit more about her too!
I really enjoyed this, perfect pacing, perfectly balanced and “realistic” within fantasy realms 😉 situations. The why ad hows were the usual puzzle for me, with me thinking “ooohhh…riight” when all was revealed. And the ending, Sob, just perfect.

I’m glad the way is open for more Old World adventures, I’ve grown close to many of these characters, and would love to read more from them. Molly and Wyatt, Maven, Will and Sashi, there’s so much more to learn about all these guys, plus Jesse and Scarlett of course 😉

Stars: Five all the way, fabulous finish to the trilogy. More please Melissa!

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Touch of Ice, Mary Auclair

Touch of Ice,  Mary Auclair

Touch of Ice (Dawn of Dragons Book 1) by [Auclair, Mary]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

I’d never read anything by this author but liked the sound of this. I really wanted to like it but…TBH it was a little too simplistic for me.
Endora, I get why she lied about not having children, what parent wouldn’t when their child’s life is at stake but I didn’t understand why she lied about Wilfrid. Or why that event didn’t actually seem to matter.
I though she was far too many times just TSTL. She’s ready to blame Aldric for everything – even while melting in lust against him…gah! I hate that. Personal gripe though, its common in paranormal reads so clearly others don’t find it an issue. She sees Wilfrid after ten years of being abandoned, no support, no help even when their child was dying and yet ignores the fact that she and the children are huge targets for bloodthirsty killers, skips out against all Aldric’s instructions to keep them safe, even when last time she did that the guard almost lost his life – and that time she just wanted some fresh air. This time she thinks Tallie ought to be able to see her dad! WTH?

It’s an OK story, better if you can get past Dora’s stupidity and judgmental tendencies. The dragon and child thing was a good touch, and I liked Aldric and his family, and the whole dragon structure. I can see how this is going to build into a decent series if you like a kind of simple paranormal romance theme. For me I need a bit more depth, but the best sellers are dominated by books like this so obviously many readers love them, even if I want a bit more substance 😉 Horses for courses, reading taste is subjective. Just because this wasn’t right for me doesn’t mean others won’t love it.

Stars: Three, OK but a bit light and Dora was a real Fail for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Heart on Fire, Amanda Bouchet

Heart on Fire, Amanda Bouchet

Heart on Fire (The Kingmaker Trilogy Book 3) by [Bouchet, Amanda]

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy, Romance

The final stretch, and what a fantastic trilogy this has been. A mesh of traditional legends, Gods, Goddesses, fantastical creatures and imagined kingdoms. Amanda has taken bits of stories we all grew up with and shaped them into an amazing story that had me gripped right from the start.

The characters, a real mix, and finding out some of the ones Cat has known for years were actually more then just magical humans came as a shock to her. Griffins family, she wishes she’d been brought up that way, secure in her parents love, but her upbringing was very far from that. Griffin and his siblings and parents support each other at every turn, Cat’s siblings were forced to fight each other and their mother for their lives, and killing her sister scarred Cat’s psyche in unimaginable ways.
When she ran, aided by Thanos, and found the circus they became her family for many years, but she kept secret inside her talents, her magical skills. Then Griffin came into her life.

Griffin has been incredible, he’s ambitious, but not for power, for peace. He wants to reunite the fractured kindoms and stop all the fighting, the abouse by those in power, the cruelty and murders, but he’s happy to stand behind Cat, to take second place as he knows she’s meant to be the figurehead.
Turns out much of what he feels is real, that he and Cat were shaped for each other, given the skills to get this done but that doesn’t mean its plain sailing. They’ve come so far but still have a big battle in store, Cat’s mother won’t give up her kingdom easily, and Cat knows just how powerful she is.

I love the way this plays out, as with the other two books there are battles, both on a large scale, and small with just Cat, Griffin and sometimes some of the others from Elpis team.
There’s a backstabbing betrayal that comes as a shock, there are multiple times they face death and scrape by aided by one of the Gods, or by a talent they’ve gifted them in the past – nothing was ever free though, they had to prove they had the skills, they were right to hold that gift.

I love the way Amanda has dealt with my pet hate, when characters are right on the edge of losing and one of them gets a new power and miraculously is skilled and wins the day. Mostly she has them use powers we already know they have, having worked hard to refine the use of them. There are times when they are almost in the situation I’ve described, but they have to really think about, understand the consequences of using what they have, and often it doesn’t go right first time, or even fourth time, and they need a quick Godly rescue 😉
I want my characters to have to work to win, to have to make tough choices, to really understand what it is their asking, doing, wanting.
I need them to practice to get the skills they need, not just whip them out of a hat at the tough moment, and Griffin ensures Cat and the rest of the team do all that.
There’s lots to understand to about him and Cat, why and how they are who they are, the consequences of their actions, their pasts and how that has affected them.

Of course it culminates in an amazing battle bringing in so much of whats gone down earlier in this book, and in the previous two.
I love stories that do that, build on events and characters, let them play a full role in how the story ends, not just a bit part along the way.

Way back when I read the first part of Charlie N. Holmberg’s  Magician trilogy, I wrote that I thought it would make a fantastic family film – and a couple of years later Disney picked it up.
I really think this trilogy would be a terrific film too, but more for new adults upwards. There are scenes between Cat and Griffin that are very sensual, which belong to the story, show their connection, but which would probably get toned down too much or disappear if this became a family film, and that would be a real loss IMO.

Stars: five, a fantastic trilogy, gripping, entertaining and one to keep.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Water Viper ,(Jesse Alexander 1), R.J. Blain

Water Viper ,(Jesse Alexander 1), R.J. Blain

Water Viper: A Jesse Alexander Novel by [Blain, RJ]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

My first novel by this author, got it as part of some free book offer, I’d read the amazon sample and wanted to read more. Sadly I didn’t note exactly how I came by this book, just found I’d filed it in the review collection….

Its a long book at almost 500 pages, and usually I love long books but TBH at times this felt a bit Padded, a little too much Filler and – heresy for me saying this – I think if it had been a little more succinct it would have been better for me.
There were story-lines which looking back the day after finishing I can’t recall what was their purpose, nor what the resolution was in some of them. I’m thinking here of who was behind the second bounty/kidnapping attempt, the one where Henry and Anatoly find her? There are other parts too which were funny the first and second times but after a while….they got old. Its frustrating reading plots and then finding they don’t actually add anything to the story.
I didn’t see how on earth, even cleverly disguised, she thought she was still getting away with fooling everyone about who she really is/was when she was day to day living with people who she classed as friends, who knew her very well.

Set against those moans though was some subtle humour, some terrific characters, and a really interesting new world post Starfall, with a good mix of paranormal creatures. Sometimes the shifter/magic types stories feel like I’m reading the same ones but with minor plot changes and new names. This was very unusual and I really liked it.
Overall, even with my caveats, I really enjoyed the story, and would be happy to read more Jesse Alexander stories, or other characters set in this world. I think it has a lot of potential, and is an interesting take on a genre that can get tired from all the stories set in it.

Stars: Four, an interesting read, one I really enjoyed but which dragged at times, losing it a star.

 

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