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Lady of Silver, Shona Husk

Lady of Silver, Shona Husk

Lady of Silver (Blood & Silver) by [Husk, Shona]

Genre:  romance, paranormal and fantasy

I’d enjoyed a couple of Shona’s stories and liked the sound of this, a hopefully new series.
It turned out to be a great read, a perfect balance of romance and fantasy. The main characters were interesting and felt very real and that’s always important for me. If they and the plots don’t feel as if they could happen (in the event magic etc is real..or maybe it is??) then I just don’t enjoy a story.

Shona takes the vampire legends and makes some subtle changes, the way they are made, where they begin and how to kill them.
She brings in a new (to me anyway) group, the Albah, a group that can do certain magics, that share Elf features and felt very Fae descended to me. They keep hidden from humans, scared of past repercussions, the witch hunts and bigotry.
They’re a race that’s slowly dying, as though they can have children with humans, only those from another Albah will produce males. They don’t have ambitions to dominate humans, just want to live peacefully and enjoy their lives.
The dangerous part of them is that they can be turned into the undead, called Albanex, vampires who aren’t pretty, sparkly, romantic, brooding heroes, but creatures that need blood to continue, and who kill relentlessly to get it.

The Albah thought they’d got rid of the last of the Albanex and that the ways to make them had been forgotten centuries before, but then local killings get blamed on a cult, Saba gets involved and the dangers to her stack up. Not only to her though, to anyone important to her, which now includes Detective Morgan.

Dale is a sceptic and doesn’t like her at first, thinks she’s a charlatan, but he’s been advised to ask for her help and does so reluctantly.
From the first meeting there’s a sizzle between them and soon they seem as if they can’t resist each other, even though they want to.
He doesn’t know what she is though, and doesn’t know that the man he thinks is behind the killing is more than that, that he can’t capture and imprison him. Saba has to decide what’s safest to do for them all, how much to reveal, what’s the best answer.

My only criticism is that it was perhaps a little too light and slick in parts, especially the ending, the way the problem was resolved. That just felt a little too easy, a bit too simplistic given the dangers so far, and that’s why for me its a four and not a five star read. If you want an uncomplicated read that feels genuine maybe its a five for you, I just needed that little bit more.

I really enjoyed this story. Its not a solid, complex fantasy, ala Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison, Debbie Reynolds etc. but a lighter one, easy to read, easy to follow, but with a storyline I quickly got drawn into.
Its a stand alone read, but there is more from this world to come with Saba’s sister taking the lead in the next book. Its a series I’ll happily read, and probably reread when I have more books so can read through the stories, immersing myself fully into their world.

Stars: Four, a fun, light fantasy and I look forward to the next one.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Retribution, Shana Figueroa

Retribution,  Shana Figueroa

Retribution (Valentine Shepherd Book 2) by [Figueroa, Shana]

Genre:  romance,

This is classed as Romance by genre but it’s also paranormal and fantasy as both Val and Max have visions of the future, and have found there are others like them, with a group known as Alpha seeking to control them.
Somehow I missed book one of this trilogy, but read the amazon sample, which gave me enough to understand the characters, and most important, their visions and the Alpha group, who seem to have far reaching tentacles.

In Vengeance they went through a harsh time, got close, came together and then parted. Val felt Max deserved more, someone better than her, that being together would give in to the Alpha group who want them to have a child so they can take and control it….she wanted him to be happy, and it seems like he is, he’s to be married in two months to Abby.
All is not how it seems though, Max is trying to have a normal life, but however hard he tries he can’t forget Val and what they had, can’t let go of his anger that she wouldn’t fight for them.
Abby seems to know something is wrong but is taking an ostrich approach, ignore issues and all will come right – except they don’t. Max is abusing medication to deal with his issues, and hiding it, telling himself he’ll stop soon.
Even though I missed book one I can still feel that Max and Val belong together, there’s a pull whenever they meet, a feeling that they are two halves of a whole, something that’s missing when he’s with Abby or Val with Sten, her Ex, currently not a friend but not a total enemy either.

Val gets a new case for her and PI partner Stacey. A local young lady, Margaret, has gone missing. As soon as her mum shows Val a picture she recognises her from a recent vision, murdered and washed up on a local beach. She knows it hasn’t happened yet but there’s only a short window before it does, so she needs to move fast. She does a bit of enquiring and finds she needs to attend a rich mans secret club, and calls on Max to help her get entry.
Abby isn’t happy to find out Max met with Val when she asked for his help, but he tells her Val just wanted money, and as usual she turns a blind eye to anything else.
Of course being Max he checks things out first and that brings him into real danger again.

I’m not sure about Abby, whether she really loves Max, or just wants the position as his wife, and the prestige. She comes from a wealthy family so doesn’t seem like its money, but she just seems blind to the turmoil and unhappiness Max is in. Maybe he just hides it well, maybe she just doesn’t know him well enough?
Val of course thinks he’s found the nirvana she hoped he would but can’t help being jealous, wishing he was still with her, she still loves him. Meanwhile she’s in an odd sort of sex only relationship with Sten, a crooked cop who may be working for the people who want to control Max and Val. Strange eh?
Many of the characters in this book all seem to have weird connections, Val was in a relationship with Stacey for a while in their youth, before deciding she preferred men, though Stacey is still into women, and Max hasn’t told Abby he’s been with a man before.
There’s lots of quirks like this is the book, so you can never guess just quite what’s going to happen, with whom, what will come out about the past, and where the story is going next.
People have the oddest of connections, and they key players here have more than one between them.

Its a tough and gritty read at times, sex without love, without Like even at times, people dying who are integral to the story I thought, and then they’re gone. Shana isn’t afraid to kill off people, so even the “good” guys die here.
Its a scary read, the lust for power is a very human thing and its what makes books like this so realistic, there are people who will happily do anything to be at the top, to have control.

I enjoyed the way the story played out, the twists and turns, the weaving together people who seemed not to have a connection and then….
There’s lots of dangers to almost all the major characters, and Val’s visions of both her and Max keep having different endings, though sadly ultimately not happy ones, and she wonders how she is affecting the future. She’s unsure if it is possible to change bad events to happy ones, especially the ones involving her and Max. She can’t sit back and do nothing though, and once more she and Max are involved in a dangerous scenario, risking their lives.
.
Stars: Five, a great read, and sometime I want to read book one, but for now am waiting 🙂 for the final part!

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Midnight Curse, Disrupted Magic: Book 1, Melissa F. Olson

Midnight Curse, Disrupted Magic: Book 1,  Melissa F. Olson

Midnight Curse (Disrupted Magic Book 1) by [Olson, Melissa F.]

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy, general fiction (adult).

I found Melissa’s books by way of the Boundary Magic reads on KU – I love KU!! Risk free way of trying books for a small sum each month. Melissa’s novels tend to be in trilogies with some side ones in novella form.
I think if I’d come to this one without having read any of the others maybe I’d have struggled a bit more, as it is I missed the last Scarlett novel – it’s on my kindle for reading now 🙂 – and there were things I didn’t wholly follow.
Its a stand alone read though, even though part of a trilogy. this particular story wraps up but its clear there’s more to come.

I love the characters in this series, vampires and werewolves, witches – with a very, very few boundary witches who specialise in death magic, and Scarlett, a null – someone who temporarily wipes out paranormal elements whenshe is close to them, so vampires and werewolves are human when next to her, and witches unable to use their powers. Evens out the field a bit!

Scarlett has been involved with the supernatural world for sometime, and lives with werewolf Eli. She gets a strange message from Molly, a good friend some time ago but they’ve not seen each other for years. She takes Shadow, her Bargest ( sort of supernatural dog) and goes to see what’s wrong. Scarlett is like that, when someone needs help she wants to give it if she can. She gets a horrible surprise though when she finds Molly blood soaked and her 12 housemates dead….

Of course the Vampire Trials are coming up next day, a two day event held every three years where the three supernatural leaders gather with their members and decide over grievances. Scarlett knows the punishment for killing like this is death, but Molly doesn’t know why she did it, its not her nature, nor really any vampire, to kill and feed this way.
She wants to prove Molly was set up, but time is short. the other leaders aren’t looking beyond the obvious, and the perpetrator behind events seems determined to get Molly killed at the trials.

Its another riveting, exciting read. Scarlett has changed a lot from last time I read about her, and she’s grown in confidence and ability.
She likes her job, feels she’s doing something useful, and even though it brings her into danger again and again, she thrives in the planning and doing of making things right. Eli isn’t so happy, they love each other but he can’t understand why she persists in doing this job that risks her life again and again, and she can’t seem to make him understand its what makes her happy. Rock and hard place, and I felt for them both.

Jesse is back in a big way in this book. I love Jesse, but the poor guy is in a rough place, taken for a ride by his ex wife, who wanted his fame and money more than him. Tough stuff. When Scarlett seeks his help he’s not keen at first but soon the deadly duo are back in action. They really do work well together, trusting each other and knowing what each can and can’t do.
With Shadow’s help they’ve a huge task ahead, find the perpetrators and bring them in quickly or Molly dies. Vampires – actually all Supernaturals, have a harsh but much needed rule, risking humans knowing about them means death. Its too big a thing to do half measures, there are rarely excuses accepted, so Scarlett and Jesse need to find out what’s going on ASAP.

Once more I loved the story, loved the characters and the way it all played out. There are no hated “quick fix” solutions here, those where someone gets a new, unheard of so unpractised power just at the crucial moment. I hate those, I want what happens here, where the solutions come from attributes we already know about, from skills practiced, from accepted traits of the characters.
Its got a kind of bittersweet ending, one that made me sad but also made me think maybe what I wanted from very early in these books might finally happen…..

Stars: Five, a great start to another trilogy 🙂 I’m looking forward to more.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Turn, The Hollows Begins with Death, Kim Harrison

The Turn, The Hollows Begins with Death,  Kim Harrison

The Turn: The Hollows Begins with Death (Hollows Prequel) by [Harrison, Kim]

Genre:  Sci-fi and fantasy

I’d just been thinking it was maybe time for a reread of Kim’s Hollows, a fab series, one of the first I bought when I got Kindle number 1.
Its not a light, fluffy, romance + alpha hero tale, but one with some dark moments, demons that aren’t all romantic underneath, vampires who’re out only for themselves, and will kill without a second thought if they think they need to, werewolves, witches, pixies and fairies, and ley line magic, lots of that. And yet wrapped up in that IS a romance, the story isn’t some dark, macabre horror as it sounds, and there’s so much fun, so much mystery as to what can and will happen. Great characters and it’s a series you can read over and over.

So seeing a prequel I was excited, its several years since I first read it but I can remember feeling confused about parts of The Turn, what exactly happened, and how and why, so this is just perfect for both folk new to the Hollows, and for those of us who’ve read it but got questions.
We meet mainly Trent’s parents, see how they got together and I’m ashamed to say I can barely remember anything of them from the main series. They’re both clever scientists, leaders in their field and have a fierce rivalry.
Trent’s dad Kal is a total jerk, viciously cruel, totally amoral, made me see a bit where Trent got his initial prejudice from. He’s always done his best to knock down Trisk from when they were kids, his jealousy knowing no bounds. I did feel for him a bit when we read about how much of his childhood was spent in pain, knew about the constant surgeries and tweaks to his genetic code he’d had. That’s tough on any child.
Doesn’t excuse the way he was so cruel to Trisk though, always reminding her she was an upstart Dark Elf, not like the Kalamacks with their long heritage keeping them pure. Trouble is though those Pure Elves, the bloodlines they were so proud of, was what was helping them die out, they were having huge issues reproducing.
Poor Trisk is hampered too by the 60’s view of females, little women that should be chained to the kitchen popping out babies, certainly not leading scientific advancements, that should be left to the men. If by chance they did make a break through, well they should be pleased a man would take over and get it published and maybe let their name be credited as one of many helpers….Gah! that was so spot on, I was just a kid then but is so how life was! I love Trisk, one of the good people, who wants to do what’s right, regardless of personal cost.
Her human colleague Daniel is another like her, and he was a terrific addition. Made it easy to see how the whole coming out to humans part was decided. There were people for and against, but with Daniel in front of them, the way he’d dealt with such a lot in a short time and still helped those not human as well as the humans helped sway the decision.
Along with Orchid of course, who was a great character and help fill the missing shoes of Jenks. I can’t write his name without thinking “Tink’s little red panties” – he had a phrase for every occasion, and Orchid has a similar curse ridden mouth!
We meet Quen too, a young Quen and maybe an explanation for why he’s always been so loyal to Trent. I love Quen, always the man in the background, always there protecting, overseeing and yet unseen much of the time.
Alongside that there’s Al the demon of course, Piscary, Rhynn, and a few others from the main series.
Another reviewer mentioned Rachel’s dad, and I can’t recall much about him, and missed that – I need to go back and look…I’m sure there’s other nods to the main series I’ve missed.

Stars: Five, a fabulous story, well worth reading before or after the main series.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Mark of the Moon, Beth Dranoff, Wolf Moon, Lisa Kessler, The Demigod’s Legacy, Masters of Maria – Book 1, Holley Trent

Mark of the Moon, Beth Dranoff

Mark of the Moon by [Dranoff, Beth]

Genre:  romance, Sci-fi and fantasy

Looks as if this is a debut book, I can’t find anything else Beth has written and its a really good start.

I loved the idea of this series, and from the beginning I was quickly brought into the action.
There’s a few issues though that stopped it being a five star read for me, though I think it has that potential. Maybe if it is a debut book, and Beth learns more as she writes –practice makes perfect and all that – hopefully later books will grow and evolve into the kind of reads they could be.
Think of some of the early books of now well known authors, some have really polished their craft as they get more used to the world of creating stories from nothing, and making us readers believe in them.

The biggest issue for me is that Dana spends so much time “in her head” mulling things over, rambling to herself, that the story becomes tell-not-show and that format really doesn’t work for me.
There’s also a lot of action, so much so that at times it becomes hard to sort out who’s doing what and why, what’s really going on, and I ended up seeing Dana escape yet again but uncertain of how, or why it happened. That’s possibly because I found myself skimming some of her meanderings, and some of the what felt like repeated attacks.
I’m the kind of reader that needs answers, needs to know that the protagonist gets free using skills I know she or someone else already has. I don’t like new-skills-discovered-at-the-critical-time kind of read, the quick fix answer where they are in a scrape that looks inescapable and then someone comes in, does something hitherto unknown, and everything is perfect once more.

That said I love the characters, the mystery of the seven moon pack – or whatever they were called, wondering who Ansell is, the triangle (or quad?) of Jon, Dana and Sam, with jealous Claude making up an unwilling fourth!! I’m kind of confused over that, as Jon tells her after the first crisis she finds herself in that Claude is an ex, that there’s nothing between them. However Claude doesn’t seem to feel he’s an ex, more a current, and the interaction between him and Jon seems to back that up – so what is the truth?
I like Jon, can feel he genuinely cares for and about Dana, but his relationship with Claude is odd, and i didn’t see how he could let go the things Claude did and said when he cares so much for Dana.
I liked Sam too, but he’s more complex that he first appeared, and did things that made me feel somewhat differently about him.

There’s some serious heat in the scenes in this, with some very sensual sex going on but…I could have done with a bit more attraction between them, not just sexual, lust, physical but emotional, actually liking each other, wanting to support and help.
Jon seems to do a bit of that, but in an understated way, and it’s really hard to tell if he’s doing it because he likes Dana, or whether he just feels its the right thing to do, kind of old school traditional behaviour that many vamps show.

I think – and I really hate to say this as usually I’m banging on about stories being too simplified – this series will work better as it grows, as Beth works out what she wants her characters to be, where she wants them to go and how. Once they know who they are, then maybe their actions will become more simpler, more understandable instead of the random we see curretntly,, and we won’t need this constant rescue from unnamed sources with untold skills.

Its a great idea, and by the end I can see that its going to get more complex, so something needs to go, or to get more slick and polished or the plot(s) along with non stop, over-complex and over-explained action is going to spoil what could be for me a terrific 5* series.

Stars: Three and a half. A really good start to a series that has the potential to become a favourite for me, but still needs some fine-tuning IMO.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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Wolf Moon,  Lisa Kessler

Wolf Moon by [Kessler, Lisa]

Genre:  romance,

I’d read and enjoyed the first five books in this series, but somehow missed book six…still, these can be read as standalone stories so that didn’t matter.

There is an overall story arc to the series with the Nero connection, but that seems to have taken a real backseat in this book.There are references to Nero and the people within it, but its a very minor part of the book. I’d have liked to see more Nero involvement, without it this becomes just a shifter romance, and there’s a deluge of them on the market.
Lisa’s writing is always very good, but the Nero connection gave this series the edge IMO.

So we meet Luke and Raven. We do hear from others in his pack, but in this book they’re very much in name only, its mainly just Luke and Raven and the Sedona Pack.
Poor Raven, turned against her will and against werewolf rules, is trapped in the Sedona pack. I really felt for her and her sister, stuck there with her.
The pack Alpha is in league with Nero, and is growing his pack quickly, against werewolf law and tradition, mating the females up with whoever he wants to reward to breed more werewolves. He wants a strong and loyal pack, and is searching out and turning people with abilities to help him achieve that, if they don’t have close family and won’t be missed.
Forget the fated Mate connection, he’s not interested in that, just in rewarding those men loyal to him with females, and the ladies don’t have any say in the matter.

What an awful life. Raven is determined to escape with her sister, and when she meets Luke and they touch, the need grows stronger and they discover they are mates.
Luke hates the thought of her going back to the pack, but she must, to save her sister and to prevent war on Luke’s pack. That looks inevitable though when they learn of the Sedona Alpha’s plans and the Nero connection.

I loved Luke and Raven, but the story felt a little slick, everything fell into place too well, even when there were issues they were dealt with quickly.
Compared to earlier reads this one did feel very simplistic, maybe I just needed more Nero connection, a bit more angst and anger.
I’m kind of confused about the Nero crew too, as to which way the major players are swinging, what side are they really one, are they playing bluff or double bluff? I like that kind of thing, trying to work out what people really have in mind.
Compared to that intrigue the Sedona stuff just seemed to flip by too easily, issues sorted too simply.

Its still a fun read, still a great addition to the series but looking back at my past reviews the ones I’ve enjoyed the most have been the ones where Nero takes a stronger part.

Stars: Four, a good read, but I needed a bit more Nero to make it a five.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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The Demigod’s Legacy, Masters of Maria – Book 1,  Holley Trent

The Demigod's Legacy by [Trent, Holley]

Genre:  romance, paranormal and fantasy

I didn’t realise this was a spin off series, and of course I’d not read the Desert Guards. Didn’t matter though, there’s enough info given for me to follow the story, but I do want to read the other books at some point, they sound fun.

I’ve read a few of Holley’s contemporary romance reads a while back, but none of her very very many paranormals….she has an easy to follow writing style, with some sharp humour which keeps the feeling of light-heartedness in the story.
Its a kind of easy, relaxing read rather than deep dark drama. I like both, very much depends on my mood which I want to read.

So this book – a fun read, made me smile at some of the things that happened. I loved the main characters of Dee, Cruz and Tito, and they all felt very real. Cruz especially – five going on fifteen. she was a real sweetie kid.

I really felt for poor Dee, dumped like that, Tito promising he’ll be back and then she’s stuck, pregnant and alone, with only her sister for support. That must have made the early days very tough, especially as she’s no way of contacting Tito, other than trying many times to send a message via his cousin.
She never hears back but now she’s found out where he is and has driven her and Cruz to see him. I’d have been pretty riled at him too.

I started off really disliking Tito, hated what he’d done, and his reaction when he first sees Dee isn’t great, nor did he take the news he’s a father very well. If I’d been Dee I think I’d have got in the car and gone…but somehow his family and friends sort of bamboozle Dee into staying, and his Godess mother tells him to pull himself together basically.
Of course once I knew his past I understood why he’d left Dee, and really felt for him, he was just trying to do the right thing even though it hurt him.
He’s still allowing that to impact the current situation though, and Dee just isn’t sure whether he really wants her now, or just wants his daughter,Cruz, and her by default as Cruz’ mother, as he can’t really explain what he is without sounding crazy…

Of course the tale gets more tangled with endless Foley friends and cousins in every corner it seems, and poor Dee was as confused as i was, especially before she knew the truth about them.
They were trying to make excuses for Tito’s behaviour, and persuade her to stay without being able to explain so much of what was going on.

Where I struggled was the ending, it got to a point where I felt it was kind of rushed, overly complicated at times and at other it was just Problem, wham – problem gone, far too quick and simplistic. I needed something between the two, to be able to see what was going to happen, how it was resolved and how they kept humans from finding out what they’d done.
It seemed to me a magical clean sweep was done very quickly every time there was a fight and/or a death, but it wouldn’t really have been as simple as that surely? There would have been times when other eyes were around, when they didn’t clean up quick enough?

I wasn’t really sure why her parents and other relatives were involved, that wasn’t really needed IMO and the way that plotline played out was certainly unreal and felt unnecessary.
I couldn’t see they could have covered things up so slickly, that everyone would have been so accepting of what had been happening and the consequences. I’d rather things there were left as we first knew them.
Though I’d really enjoyed the novel til the end section, those issues were what made it a four star not a five. Again had I read Desert Guards maybe I’d have followed it better – who knows?

One thing I did like was the historic references, Aztec names etc – I kept looking them up each time I came across one and learned a little more interesting facts about ancient Aztec culture and Gods. That was fun and gave an edge of reality to the story.

Stars: four, a fun supernatural read.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Breath of Fire, by Amanda Bouchet

Breath of Fire, by Amanda Bouchet

Breath of Fire (The Kingmaker Trilogy Book 2) by [Bouchet, Amanda]

Genre:  romance, paranormal and fantasy

Back when reviewing book one I wrote “This is one of those fantasy reads that can cross age limits, being suitable for teens and YAs, as well as those like me long, long past that. Its a fascinating story with enough romance to keep me hooked, for me that gives a story something special, and some cracking magic.
Its not a historical LotR type fantasy, but one that brings in Olympus and the Greek Gods and Goddesses.”
Book two has all that and more.

The story continues with the main characters facing death and disaster from humans and magical creatures alike, in their Quest to bring peace and end the reign or terror and raise up the standard of living for all the citizens, not just a favoured few living off the backs of the rest.
Its easy when faced with the kind of destiny they’re looking at and the sucess they’ve had so far to let the power go to their heads.
Cat, Griffin and friends aren’t like that though, Cat’s background gets revealed and we know already just how much she’s been through in her short life.
Griffin comes from the other side, the non-magical folk, ones that do the hard manual work and are always subject to the whims of their rulers. He has a vision though and its aligned with that of higher powers who seem to favour his ideas. Cat is central to his and their quest for a new regime, for peace, for fairness for all. They want a world with a hopeful, peaceful future for all the citizens, a world free of torture, slavery, all the things imposed on the non magical folk that currently provide enjoyment for a favoured few.

I love the relationship progression, Griffin is so protective of Cat and yet doesn’t try to stop her from doing what she needs, encouraging her when she faces her very natural fears.
Once more they face Gods and Goddesses, (and Kato gets to find that you can have too much of a good thing!) fierce, deadly magical creatures, as they take the next step in their journey.

Its a fabulous book, that touch of romance lifts in from just a fantasy read and beings in the personal side, and yet sensual though it is it never overtakes the story, never overshadows the magic that’s happening around them.
They’re learning a lot about each other too, becoming a tight knit team, learning to trust each other fully. Griffin has had their trust and pledge for a long while but now Cat’s in the team and they look to her as a leader too. She and Griffin both have their own specialities, and when needed they’re happy to let the other take point, lead, make the tough decisions.

Back in 2014 I read a YA story that I felt would be perfect for film. The Paper Magician trilogy has since been snapped up by Disney, and I think this trilogy too would be perfect for the big screen. Its got so much in it, the romance thread  which I love is just enough for those like me who enjoy that angle, but won’t put those off who profess not to enjoy “romance”, the magic is fabulous, gripping, exciting, almost bloodthirsty at times but without too much horrific descriptions  ( they made me queasy, I’m a wimp, I know) and welded throughout is the message of fairness, of taking into account the effects of things all all members of society, of morality, kindness, and there’s a very clear Right and Wrong barrier in behaviour.

This read follows book one quite closely in release time, which is great, the story is still fresh, sadly though part three isn’t due out til Jan 18 😦 Still, it’s definitely one for my keepers file for re-reading right through all three books.

Stars: Five, terrific read, more magic and mayhem, with romance and Right on Cat and Griffin’s side.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Dawn Study, Maria V. Snyder, Steam and Sensibility, A Steampunk Novel of Suspense, Kirsten Weiss

Dawn Study, Maria V. Snyder

Dawn Study (Study Series, Book 6) by [Snyder, Maria V.]

Genre:  Sci-fi and Fantasy

The final Valek and Yelena story….I’ve been waiting for this so long it feels.
I first discovered Fantasy via the wonderful Poison Study, which I’d ordered with a batch of paperbacks in my prekindle days when the first three were already out. I’d somehow thought it was a historical read – dunno why * shrug* my bad, but when I finally got to it I learned Fantasy wasn’t all Star Trek, LotR and Terry Pratchett type reads and was hooked….Sometimes mistakes pay off 🙂

I felt the last book was slipping a little, still a worthy four star but that some of the magic ( hah!) had been lost for me, with the Commander being a very changed person from the one we first met, and looking back at my review I’d written this
“I am beginning to get a little tired of the issues of Null Shields, Theobroma and Curare though. It seems that they are becoming the catch all solution for both sides, and it means its very difficult to see what can happen when one of these “new” solutions keeps popping up. In some ways it evens the playing field, but I’m just not convinced when they seem to be the answers to every problem. I was happier when I knew it was down to the talents and skills ( good or bad) of certain individuals, whether magical or just well trained.”
That sums up much of how I feel about this book too, its very much plan goes wrong, someone gets caught, someone gets rescued, make more plans, but when there’s this null shields for magic, theobroma, curare, and now new versions of similar drugs then it gets a little tired, impossible to try to work out what can happen and that takes the fun out for me. There were so many times this format cropped up that it actually became repetitive, something I never thought I’d say, and I found myself rolling my eyes…
With the earlier books what I enjoyed was the magic v the skills learned and natural talents, so when they were fighting some would use magic but the skilled non magical people could still win with their natural talent for battle, and using the skills they had long trained for. Think of Ari and Janco training Yelena in that first book, and of her learning to use her bo staff with Mara, discovering that people without magic could still win if they were alert and clever enough. That seems to have got lost for much of this book, with even Valek’s famous plans going wrong, and his much vaunted skills in espionage and conflict definitely showing his age…

It was good to meet Ari and Janco again – that duo never change and I love them. Likewise Little Miss Assassin, and some of the up and coming newer youngsters that look set to move into place if there are more books planned. Fisk is now a leader of a fairly large group, a clever man grown up from that quicksilver lad we first met. I always love seeing him, and his clever way of finding out things, knowing who has what skill and putting people where they’re best utilised.

The storyline had become very complex with it being difficult to recall who was supposed to be on whose side, and why, and whether they were still with that group or had switched sides, or where playing a spy role. It made sense – in a way – but did become difficult to follow and dull at times.
I enjoyed the early reads when we knew who was for which side, when there were times a character – or a few characters – were duped, but not on the mass scale of this story.

I did enjoy the story, even with the repetitive bits and the other issue I mentioned, just that for me they stopped it from being a five star read, stopped me being glued to the book, having to read “just one more chapter” and finding out its 3am….all avid readers have been there!
I found myself actually putting it aside easily, and felt that when it did come to the final point it was almost a non event….

I can see the potential for the younger kids to move up into place for a new series, but unless its going to be like a return to those first books, more skills, more magic and less plant based improbable solutions to almost everything then I won’t be reading… I don’t think…. Depends I guess on what else is around at the time 😉

Its not a book you can read without earlier ones, even just reading the first two in this trilogy won’t let you understand the minute details from the past, the things that shaped events now, and there are a myriad of little quips and reminisces here that refer back to those early reads. You could possibly miss out the  glass trio, they weren’t my favourites anyway, but then you’ll still not really follow the storm-dance characters and what they do. Its one of those series where to get the best you need to start at the beginning and work through, though I haven’t read any of the side novellas, and they are extras rather than essential reading.

.
Stars: its difficult to rate, I loved meeting all the characters, seeing how they’d grown up and changed, but that constant capture and release and magic v plants got old quickly for me. I guess I’m going three and a half. I thought about four but those parts do make up a substantial part of the story
.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Steam and Sensibility, A Steampunk Novel of Suspense,  Kirsten Weiss

Steam and Sensibility (Sensibility Grey Steampunk Novels of Suspense Book 1) by [Weiss, Kirsten]

Genre:  mystery and thrillers, sci-fi and fantasy

I haven’t read a lot of Steampunk, a couple that were really enjoyable and a few that were OK reads, but its good to read outside one’s comfort zone occasionally.

This book sounded fun, but for the first half it really was a western type read more than steampunk, with very little to bring the story into that category.
I liked Sensibility, and her confidence in her abilities, and enjoyed the aether refs, they made for a bit of extra and Steampunk does need that touch of magic IMO.
I wasn’t really taken by any of the other characters though, and found the plot to be a little thin.
It seemed to be a who can be trusted and everyone is out to get the Journal, and rather too much bumbling around to fit my taste. It picked up after the halfway point, but never really hooked me fully into the story and the steampunk elements were very thin on the group.
The author mentions this was a book that has been reworked to fit the steampunk  category and to me it feels like that, doesn’t feel as if its fully immersed in the genre, but another story with added extras making it fit where the original story didn’t. There was the watch, and the little mechanical sweeper she made, but no traditional elements such as dirigibles, fantastic creatures etc until close to the end.
Maybe it will appeal to steampunk lovers more than those like me who tend to stay on the fringes, I don’t know, its not a bad book, just one that was only an OK read for me.

It’s a fun read, but definitely a one off for me.

Stars: Three, an OK read but steampunk is a bit thin.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Gilded Cage, Vic James

Gilded Cage,  Vic James

Gilded Cage (The Dark Gifts Trilogy Book 1) by [James, Vic]

Genre:  Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, I’ve had a fantastic year for debut books. I try to choose all reads carefully as I hate doing low star reviews but debut reads are a shot in the dark, with only a few words to decide wither its for me or no. No previous stories to tell me authors writing style, and the type of plots he/she writes so it really is a whole bran tub surprise, but I’ve unearthed some real gems for me this year. This is one of them.

I’m not really a YA reader, except for those few stories that really are suitable for any age, such as Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy, and the Golden Lily spin off, Twilight ( of course), The Paper Magician trilogy, stories like these that appeal to anyone regardless of age.
A well written story does that, so though YA isn’t my preferred read I don’t rule anything out, especially in the Fantasy genre.

I did find this a little struggling to begin, I was intrigued but the to and fro of Millmoor and Kyneston settings took a while to adjust to, as did the fairly large cast of characters. Then throw in a world that is like the UK now and yet so not like it, that there’s a lot to take in. It works though, really well once I’d got that mentally mapped out.

I’ve read that the 1% v 99% dichotomy inspired this story, the haves and the have nots of money and power. Vic has replaced the money side with Skill, a magical talent. Those families who have it are called Equals, a very small proportion of the population, and they rule the rest.
The rest, the commoners, all have to do a ten year slave term at some point in their life, and families can do it together once the youngest child is 10. That’s what happens here, with eldest sister arranging – she thinks – for them all to do their 10 years at the large estate of Kyneston. That way they can all stay together, stay safe she hopes. But things go wrong, despite being only 16 Luke gets sent to Millmoor alone, separated from the family and against rules which say under 18’s stay with their parents.
Its like now though, a whole way of life ruled by red tape, and underscored by deceitful scheming and grasping for power – gosh you can tell which side I’m on in politics can’t you 😉

The story follows Luke and what happens to him, alternating to what’s going on with the rest of his family and the other inhabitants at Kyneston.
We don’t really see much about Luke’s parents but sisters Abi and Daisy figure largely. Daisy at 10 is a kind of nanny to the Heir’s illegitimate child Libby, and she adores her. Heir Gavar seems to be a strange character, a ball of anger, hates everyone it seems and yet plays the game, wants the power that will come when he succeeds his father and yet is a ball of mush when it comes to Libby and strangely gentle with Daisy.
Jenner, the middle son, is on the almost unique position of having no Skill despite coming from a strongly skilled family. Abi works with him on the admin side of running Kyneston, and we see a slow developing regard for each other growing. Forbidden of course, Equals never get involved with Commoners, its a disaster, as shown by what happened with Libby and her mum. Despite being the only grandchild her place is on sufferance only, and she’s mostly kept out of sight of the other Equals and not really spoken about.
Then there’s Silyen….he is seriously strange and yet – I can’t help feeling a soft spot for him. He’s very solitary, with the constant grasping for power no-one really seems happy, to have friends, to be close to family but he seems even more alone than the others. There’s an air of mystery about him and I feel there’s lots more to come from him.

So, in a society like this, with all its abuses there’s bound to be a revolt. So far the cruel and rigid ways have kept things controlled, but there’s a feeling of change brewing and this book heralds the start. It ends with a real – “I want the next book now, dammit” feeling for me, so I really hope books two and three are progressing well!!

Its an absorbing world, full of magic, full of cruelty, on both large and smnall scales, and the cruelty isn’t just confined to Equals, but also those commoners who’ve risen through the ranks, a -rse kissng their way into positions of power….and yet the characters are not one sided but multi faceted, so no-one is quite what they seem and the fun is working out who is really who, what place they will play in the future, and just how things are going to go, not just on the large scale but on the small one. I’m full of questions, what’s going to happen to Luke, what about Abi, will she and Jenner ever be together, will Gavar marry the fiercely ambitious Bouda as his father commands, or find a way out? What will happen to Libby, and Daisy? What about the dogman, what part is he playing, and the Doc, and Angel, Rennie and the rest of the gang…..and of course the big one. Silyen – what’s he plotting, and is it for good, for bad or just to pass the time? With him you never quite know 😉

Its a fabulous read, if Skill were real as in this book you could imagine that all these things could – and probably would 😦 – happen. A book destined to become a real Classic, a treat to read and I’m rooting for books two and three ASAP.

Stars: Five, a gem of a debut read

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Steele City Blues, Book 3 in the Hell’s Belle Series, Karen Greco

Steele City Blues, Book 3 in the Hell’s Belle Series,  Karen Greco 

Steele City Blues: The Third Book in the Hell's Belle Series (Hell's Belle 3) by [Greco, Karen]

Genre:  Sci Fi & Fantasy, General Fiction (Adult)

I’ve read books one and two in this series/trilogy (I’m unsure which it is) and loved them so its on to book three to see what’s going to befall Nina and co next.
We pick up where book two left off. Although there have been a couple of novellas between, I haven’t read them and they don’t feel necessary to read to follow the story ( though might be fun to see what else is going on!).

Leila can’t be allowed to continue her actions, she’s destruction in person form and a complete nutter power freak. She’s creating what seems to be a supernatural army. Who needs her running the world?
Who can stop her though? Blood Ops doesn’t exist now, Max seems to have thrown in with Mary Jane and  the Gov but they don’t have the skills and knowledge to fight supernaturals. Bertrand the demon is untrustworthy, he seems to be on their side but who knows, he’s totally unpredictable and what’s best for him only is what drives him. He’ll help so longs as he benefits, and when it doesn’t he’ll swap sides easily and seamlessly. Dr O can’t help, he’s in Steele city, the prison for those of a supernatural bent, and the team miss him and his advice and magical talents.
With Babe gone and Dr O locked up its really down to just Frankie, Nina and friends to save the day..and the world. Tough times eh?

Its a fun read once more, full of humour and snark, puzzles to unravel, sides to take and wondering just where Nina is going next, what’s going to happen and how.
I love the core group of friends, Frankie, Nina, Matty and Darcie, and Caspar…a great group, very diverse, and at times it seems like herding cats trying to get them to agree. Max is kind of in the group but not, he’s very allied to Mary Jane, and TBH I was disappointed in some of his actions and decisions. He’s very pro helping people, saving lives and yet seems to have no issues with Mary Jane’s announcements about what she’ll do if Nina and co don’t succeed in stopping Leila very quickly…it just didn’t feel right to me him being OK with that.
There’s a new player to the game too, someone who may – or may not – be a help and who comes from a very unexpected place.

There some great humour too tucked in with the drama, and its the kind of quirky snark that pervades Kim Harrison’s Hollows series and made that such a must read for me. I do like some fun in among my dark and dramatic, the end of the world is nigh…but there’s time for a coffee first sort of stuff!
Nina seems to have curbed her anger a little in this book, it was beginning to grate on me that she had a shoot first policy, so for me that’s a real improvement. After all there are only so many times you can get away with it!
I said Max was a bity of a disappointment, but that’s made up for by Frankie – I Love that guy, he’s so perfect, humorous when the situation needs it, but ready to defend Nina to the death. I love the thought of him in the 70’s in gold lame and roller skates!! He and Nina are getting closer, its clear he wants her and she’s attracted but will she ever take that final step?

Its fun and games, drama and deception, snark and sensuality and another hit read for me.
I’m not sure if this is a trilogy or a series, can’t find out from author site or anywhere on net. It ends…kind of..so it could be a wrap, but there’s so much left open that I think there’s room for more books, and am hoping they are coming.

Stars: Five, a fabulous read once more, packed with magic and mayhem and fantastic characters.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

A Promise of Fire, Amanda Bouchet

A Promise of Fire,  Amanda Bouchet

A Promise of Fire (The Kingmaker Trilogy) by [Bouchet, Amanda]

Genre:   Romance,

I’ve been really lucky this year as regards debut books, and read some real crackers. Its always a leap into the unknown, will you like the authors writing style, the way the story is delivered, the type of character? So when it goes well for me I’m happy 😉
Nothings worse that writing a low star review on a debut book. Authors work so hard, but not all stories will suit all readers, it doesn’t mean a book is good or bad, just for that person its good or bad.

Anyway, this is one of those fantasy reads that can cross age limits, being suitable for teens and YAs, as well as those like me long, long past that. Its a fascinating story with enough romance to keep me hooked, for me that gives a story something special, and some cracking magic.

Its not a historical LotR type fantasy, but one that brings in Olympus and the Greek Gods and Goddesses.
I really enjoyed the crossover, the way snippets slide into the story, reminding me of things I’d read as a teen. I had a real kick then for Greek and Roman legends that’s never really left, they form the backbone for some incredible stories.

That framework backs up the story, with Cat being someone in hiding, with certain magical traits, most of which she hides.
There’s a mystery about who she really is, where she’s come from, and unlike some stories where its clear early on, there are clue, but things that also point a different way. I’m 99% certain I know now, but still have room for a little doubt. Its a story that brings things out of nowhere, so there’s still room for her to be someone other than who I think.

So, she’s hiding out in the circus, among people that are as close to family and friends as she’ll allow. They make you weak, that’s how she was brought up, and there’s some horrific stories about how she was taught that.
Its become instinct now and when Griffin finds her and abducts her she fights, hard and strong, but he’s very devious.
Its clear fairly early on just how single minded he is, and having determined his family who have just taken over a region ( a family without magic, something unheard of formerly) need her he’ll stop at nothing to bring her to them. He wants her to go willingly though and of course only knowing what she reluctantly reveals about herself he doesn’t understand just why she’s fighting so hard.

As the journey goes on feelings change, a mutual respect is earned between Cat, Griffin and the other three soldiers with him.
They go through some tough times, fight off magical creatures and human enemies. The ties with Olympus and the Gods are revealed, but no-one ever quite knows how they will respond. They can be fickle creatures these Gods, and catch them at the wrong moment and no help is forthcoming. They’re constrained by rules too, so you can never quiet predict how things are going to turn out.

Then when they reach the destination the story doesn’t stop, Griffin is still pursuing Cat romantically and she has come to have feelings for him she’s scared to reveal, partly from her people-make-you-weak upbringing, and partly because she fears making him a target. The new reining family have lots to learn, decisions to make and need to guard against being overthrown, either by their own people, or the other two districts.
I loved the family, loved their optimism, kindness, sense of justice and fairness, and the way they took Cat to their hearts so quickly.
I really liked getting to know the other soldiers along the journey and how things changed, and how they were all still close once back at the castle.
And of course Daphne, I love someone like her, a perfect nasty character, full of jealousy 😉

Its a great start to a series/trilogy, I’m not sure which, but I do know I want to read more from Amanda.
Though its part of more, the story has a “for now” ending, not a cliff-hanger, just hints that more is to come. For me that’s perfect – I HATE cliff-hangers, hate them. Nasty things, by the time the next book is out they’ve lost impetus, but when I’m reading the one they’re in its frustrating! So hurrah to Amanda for not doing that!!

Stars: Five, a fresh, fabulous, fantastical “realistic” read, with a good dose of romance that fits within the story, doesn’t overtake it.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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