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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

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

Caraval, Stephanie Garber. Some Kind of Magic, Mary Ann Marlowe

Caraval,  Stephanie Garber

Caraval by [Garber, Stephanie]

Genre:  Sci fi and fantasy

Well, this really is a magical book, and that part I adored. Its so full of secrets, of things that are not as they seem, of twists and turns that predicting who is who and what will happen just isn’t possible.

Its got a YA feel to it, and yet if you like reads that are pure fantasy, full of magic, colour and impossibilities this will appeal whatever your age. For me the magic was the best part,
I liked Scarlett and the mysterious Julian, enjoyed meeting the weird and wonderful characters of Caraval, was entranced by the danger disguised as fun feel of Caraval, the way we never quite know if the dangers are real. There were plenty of unexpected events, things that totally came out of the blue and the ending…well, didn’t see that coming.

I did feel a little confused at the finish, had to go back a reread parts to fit it all together, and TBH it was a little ambiguous for me, I like things to be more defined, but then again leaving parts open mean that the reader can kind of put their own ending in 😉 if they want.
I didn’t realise there was a second book until I came to write my review, and that makes more sense of the ending, but as Caraval is over what will it be? Will it be what we’ve seen but from another perspective, or will the main players, Scarlett, Tella and Julian be part of some kind of follow up and consequences of the decisions in Caraval, and the events behind them? Will we ever know the real story about their grandmother and Legend, and who is their mother and what happened to her?
Of course the big question they’re all asking (and me) is who is Legend, what and what are his motives?

It kind of ends leaving me with more questions that I started. I want to read book two of course and I think it’ll be one of those duos where book two will make more sense of book one for me, and I’ll read both together and enjoy the story fully knowing the whole picture.

Stars: Four, a fabulous magical read, that might become a five when I’ve read book two 🙂

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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Some Kind of Magic, Mary Ann Marlowe

Some Kind of Magic (Flirting with Fame) by [Marlowe, Mary Ann]

Genre:  romance, women’s fiction

So, a debut book- its always a gamble not knowing what writing style you’ll get in a debut book, could be perfect for you or could be something you hate – I got lucky here, I love it. Actually I’ve had several really good, well written and fun debut reads this year.

I had several on my TBR list for review as usual, and like to read what I’m in the mood for. I passed over this a couple of times for some reason thinking that a) it was a flirty chic lit lite – I like those sometimes, when I want a bit of mind numbing, easy reading.. b) that it was some kind of fantasy read. I’d got the cover in my head which let to the chic lit connotation but all I can say was it was the work Magic in the title that caught me out.
It is a magical read, but as in wonderful, not the fantasy paranormal kind!

Having decided it was time to start this one I was soon pulled in.
There’s some great but subtle humour, I adored Eden and loved her friend who was later so star struck. I could just see that happening, when Eden and Adam are eating and Stella gets out her phone. Eden’s gentle “Stella, what did we talk about?” or words to that effect was perfect.
Eden is a “good” girl, always striving for parental praise, works hard but is cautious, ultra cautious. She has a list of “suitable”  men and tattooed musicians don’t make the grade. She’s 28 though and her mum is always setting her up with dates, dentists, doctors etc leading Eden’s list to get longer on the No column.
She loves her brother Micah, is a fervent supporter of his music and meets Adam one evening when Micah is playing. She gets chatting to him, thinking he’s interviewing for her brothers band…she’s wrong though, so very wrong 🙂

Adam, he’s an international rock god, but though she supports her brother she’s not one of those rabid followers of bands, so she knows what music she likes, but she doesn’t always know the people and stories behind it. Adam loves that about her, that she treats him as someone “normal”, isn’t fazed by him, and they have a great time, ending up to the surprise of both in a hot and steamy night.
Thus begins a torrid and erotic romance. All seems well until Eden learns about the scent she wore before meeting him….to tell or not to tell, that is the question?

I love band stories, but lately its been hard to find one that actually feels like a proper band book, that has the music and how it happens, the touring, the venues, the pressures of fame, the media intrusions and the way everything is turned into something, regardless of the truth.
This book does all that and more – it was totally unexpected. Its not a heavy dense read, but also not the chic lit lite I expected from the cover.
Its for me a perfect balance, an easy to read story, solid romance but with some real issues here, how we perceive people that are famous, the way the press warp the truth, how difficult it is to trust someone when there are huge barriers waiting to trip one up.
I loved all that, loved the romance and the way it unfolded, understood Eden and Adam, and when it all went wrong I could see both points, but of course I “know” their reasons, they don’t.
They need to trust each other. I loved the way the drama played out, was dragged along to really extend the misery of them both at the break up.
I kept wondering how – how would they get past this? What would they do? Who would make the first move?
That Was Perfect, as it covers a good part of the book, not just a couple of pages as we get so often. I love to wallow in the sad parts, to really feel that maybe they can’t work things out, even though I know of course they will.

There’s a short excerpt at the end of the beginning of book two, featuring  Eden’s brother Micah and his romance with a paparazzi …that looks to be another well written fun read and will be on my TBR list.

Stars: Five, a fabulous debut novel, perfect rock band read

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

The Devil’s Russian Beauty, Book two of the Werewolves of Rebellion Series, Ana Lee Kennedy

The Devil’s Russian Beauty, Book two of the Werewolves of Rebellion Series,  Ana Lee Kennedy

The Devil's Russian Beauty: Book two  of the Werewolves of Rebellion Series by [Kennedy, Ana Lee]

Genre:  romance, sci-fi and fantasy

I really enjoyed the first in this series and was looking forward to this one. First books in a series have a tough job and I usually find I like succeeding ones better, as the setting is in place and the story can concentrate on events and characters and not just world building and intros.
I found this book to be a bit under-whelming though, and in fact didn’t enjoy it as much as the first.

I didn’t feel the chemistry that Bernadette and Frank had, that I loved, between Phil and Daffi, they felt like good friends more than potenital mates/lovers. Apart from the werewolf pheromones making them sexually attracted I didn’t feel there was a real relationship in the making here. I liked them both, just didn’t feel that magic connection with them.
In book one I commented on Scary Mary and mentioned my pet hate of where people have some unused/unknown supernatural talent which comes in just at the right moment. Sadly that crops up once more here, and it just doesn’t work for me, I want them to use skills I know about, and that have been learned solidly. Its a quick fix solution I really dislike, and I felt it let the story down. We had all that build up, then its done and dusted quickly, and I don’t really know how it happened except “its magic”.
I never did go for the non explanation, whether real life or in my fiction reads….

I love this idea of a werewolf MC, that succeeds through hard work, friendship and trust. I’m not a great MC reader, usually as the heroes seem to think speaking in words of not more than two syllables is conversation, and sex is two or three thrusts, an orgasm for him and the female should be happy he chose her. Oh and a few obligatory beatings…
Yeah, I know, they’re not all quite like that but the few I read gave me that impression and I avoid them.
Here though Anna has created a club I love, one where everyone deserves and gets respect, where they all work together, and its a great setting, especially with the werewolf connection.
If only the magic side could be sorted, no more quick fixes, and a bit more connection between characters so the chemistry steams, as it did with Frank and Bernadette, then I’d love it.
Sadly this book was more of an OK read than one I couldn’t put down, though I’d still be happy to give the next book a chance.
Could just be this story, this couple that didn’t fit so well with me, there’s such potential in the world Anna has created IMO.

Stars: Three, less quick fixes and more long term skills for me please.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Curse Mandate, (The Dark Choir 3), Book THREE of The Dark Choir, J.P. Sloan

The Curse Mandate, (The Dark Choir 3), Book THREE of The Dark Choir,  J.P. Sloan

The Curse Mandate (The Dark Choir Book 3) by [Sloan, J.P.]

Genre:  Horror, Sci-fi and fantasy

Currently on KU

I NEVER read horror, and if I’d seen that I wouldn’t have come to this series. Its not a gory, blood-fest read though, and for me the horror is more of the “could this happen” type and I can deal with that. I really enjoyed books one and two, and was keen to get on to this.

Poor Dorian, you really can’t help but like him. He’s a very moral person in so many ways, just wants to live his life, earn a living and have fun, but he’s a magnet for trouble and sometimes his sense of morality leads him to tread very close to the permitted lines in magic.
He’s still searching for his soul, lost in book one, well – more he was tricked out of it than he lost it. Once more his need to help others got him into danger.
Alongside that though he’s got other problems, he’s got a new pupil, her brother needs help as he’s been cursed, there’s some wierd Chaos magic targeting people and places, and he’s trying to get to the root of that, trying to stop more people being hurt, and on top of that he’s a bar to run as part owner! Just another day for Dorian then..He feels like he’s always trying to catch up, and the next huge crisis is just aroubnd the corner.

As before the story is packed with magical terms, spells, curses, hexes and explanations of how different historic (genuine – they did/do exist) factions fit into this story. He’s an amazing man with incredible knowledge of his craft and its history, and I found myself constantly flicking the paperwhite Look-up function 🙂
The fact there is so much of this book based on genuine societies gives it a very realistic feel.
I love the detective (Hunter?), assigned to help him, a sceptic who by the end had changed his tune and looks to become a future ally.
One issue I did have is the cast of characters has grown huge, and I found it hard to recall who connected where, why, to which group, which section of magic they practiced or whether they were of the innocent of magic group, normal humans who’ve no idea what really goes on in their world. Lots of backtracking for me, and I’d have appreciated an index to keep them straight.

As always the plots are fast and furious, Dorian is racing against time, chasing clues and help, trying to sort out who are the good guys and what the others are up to, and still trying to help his friends and track down his soul.
There some really sad parts here too, both in his personal life and for me having grown fond of a certain person 😦 but sometimes that just makes it all the more real, when the unexpected happens, when the good guys don’t always come out on top.

Its a great read once more and the reason its four and not five is that I spent so long looking back at who did what, and how they fitted in to the story, plus checking out the many different terms and groups that it affected the flow of the story.
Actually that’s a bit unfair to drop a whole star, maybe just a half, as the idea and plots are excellent.
I loved the way the little side issues ended connected to the larger picture, and the detailed explanations of what the curses and spells could do, how they were constructed and at what cost. I enjoyed being completely off course in who was behind things, I like the unpredictable!

Stars: Four and a half, another action packed adventure, spell binding (!) saga, full of  power filled plots.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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