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Versions of her. Andrea Lochen 

Versions of Her by [Lochen, Andrea]

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

I was intrigued by this, who wouldn’t want to find a portal to the past in their home? Of course there’s the danger of seeing and hearing things we really don’t want to see, so its kind of a mixed bag. The ethics too – is it really spying? Can it be compared to reading someones diary?

Melanie and Kelsey are sisters, but very different in nature from each other. On the surface Melanie is Mrs Successful, with her job, husband, and perfect home, but underneath she’s grieving a miscarriage after she and Ben have been struggling to become parents for a while. Kelsey knows none of this, just feels that Melanie is always critical of the way her life runs, her love life sucks, her job isn’t exactly going places and she feels fiercely that her life and Melanie’s are very different.

Then out of the blue Kelsey gets a call from Melanie about selling the lakeside home they inherited, now the tenants have moved out. They both visit the house, find it needs work, and Melanie decides to stay and oversee it, needing a break after the miscarriage, just wanting to get away from her lovely husband. She just can’t take his well meaning ideas any more…Emotions can be like that, we all take a loss, disappointments differently, and though she loves Ben and he loves her, they could so easily drift apart after their loss. It happens to many couples, the constant stress of timing, ovulation charts, sex at prescribed times, somehow among all that the love gets lost, and I feel that Ben sees that as potentially happening to them, and that’s why he wants a break of a few months before trying again. To Melanie though it feels like giving up, she feels a failure as a woman, and though of course we can see another side, when you’re in the thick of a problem its all you can see.

Kelsey loves her sister but they’re not exactly close, Melanie is more careful, measured in her actions, thinks things through, while Kelsey just blunders in regardless and that’s how she’s found herself in her early thirties trapped, no great career, no loving partner, its just her and Sprocket her rescue dog. And I loved Sprocket, he was a great addition to the story. Its little touches like that which make a story feel real.
Then Melanie finds the hidden door, and, well, at first its fun, but then it becomes such that they both want to see more and yet don’t always like what they see. It does make them think about their family, see themselves, from another angle, lets them see different sides to some problems, helps them cope with events they hadn’t realised had such an impact on their lives. Sometimes though secrets are just that for a reason, and there comes a time when the two are divided about what to do next.

Would I like to see into my past? See my mum again? Part of me says yes, but part of me knows it wouldn’t change the fact she’s long gone, and the person I’d be seeing isn’t the one I know as mum. Still, there are always two sides to a story and it would be interesting to see how she viewed certain events from my childhood, and perhaps know more about hers.

Its a fun read, interesting and made me think about what I would do in the same circumstances, ( I guess I’m overly curious, I’d have to take a peek at least). Kelsey and Melanie and the problems from past and present felt very real, and even knowing the doorway into the past can’t exist the story made me feel it was genuine, that I could believe in it. Its not a story I’d reread, but one I’m glad I did read, made me think about myself and my life too.

Stars: Three, a fun read, fantasy and yet believable fantasy, with some questions that made me wonder, what would I do?

ARC via author

Shadow Hunter, (Rosie O’Grady’s Paranormal Bar and Grill 1), B.R.Kingsolver

Shadow Hunter, (Rosie O’Grady’s Paranormal Bar and Grill 1), B.R.Kingsolver

Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, I’m always looking for fantasy reads I’ll enjoy, there are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, on KU so its hard to fine a gem among the dross. There are good books that simply suit different readers, different tastes, and then there are books that TBH should never see the light of day. Some people seem to think throw a few words together, cull bits from bestsellers with minimal changes and a fortune awaits. It doesn’t, but the morass of these stories do make it hard to find ones that are worth reading sometimes.
Anyway, Shadow Hunter proved to be one of those Gems, characters that feel real ( as much as they can in a fantasy setting), a major plot that will run through future story arcs, and lots of smaller plots. First books in series have it hard, deliver a story to keep reader engaged while setting out new characters and world building. Shadow
Hunter does that really well, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and promptly borrowed book two in KU.
The story is believable and has potential to stay that way through future books. I was hooked on it after the first few pages, and was keen to see just where it would take us. We’re learning more about Erin, she’s strange in some ways, a magical assaisin but incredibly naive when it comes to everyday life. She’s been brought up simply typ be a killer for the Illuminati, and at that time believes she’s working – and killing – for the greater good, but very quickly in this book she – and we- learn its all been a lie. As part of her training she’s bale to mix with the escelons of socierty so put her in designer clothes and heels, take her to top restaurants and opera houses and she copes fine, but ordering a pizza, making friends, coping with everyday life and she’s having to learn as she goes, watching others to see how they do it.
I really enjoyed meeting the main characters that seem set to lead future stories, and there’s a couple of faintly possible romantic prospects – they may come to nothing, though I’m hoping something with gel for Erin. I do love a romance within a story. Its a treat though to find a story where romance doesn’t dominate, in fact its not in this book more than a couple of hints, and when the supernatural fiction genre seems dominated by stories that are simply dross romances, but with supernatural creatures and no decent world building I was so happy to finally find this gem of a read. It makes trawling through endless samples of dull novels worth it.

Stars: Four and a half, not quite the magic five for me but a great read, and once I finish this series I’ll be looking at others BB Kingsolver has written.

Novel via KU

Wolf’s Bane (Moon Marked Book 1) Aimee Easterling

Wolf’s Bane (Moon Marked Book 1) Aimee Easterling

Wolf's Bane (Moon Marked Book 1) by [Easterling, Aimee]

Genre:Sci-fi and Fantasy, Romance.

I love fantasy/romance reads, but so may of these seem to be all grunting, monosyllabic alphas, reverse harems or ones where the romance is all the book, no side/sub plots, no overall story line. Still, it means when I do find a read I enjoy then its like a sweet victory!

I added this one last week, it was free at the time, so nothing to lose and I’d enjoyed the sample. I’ve just bought books two and three, as it was an intriguing read, and I’ll be looking at what else Aimee has written.
Mai is great, she’s a Kitsune, Japanese fox shifter. I’ve come across these occasionally – I think the last one was in a Hailey Edwards read as a secondary character, and the Kitsune premise fascinates me. They’re not just shape shifters, but have a kind of fox nature in the way they think and behave, and usually they have some form of magic. Aimee has added a touch here where that magic is connected closely to Mai, and allows her to create real items, her sword for example, within a split second, but it needs to stay physically connected to her or she weakens. I’m still getting my head around the star ball that Kitsunes in this book have, that allows the magic.
Mai is guardian to her younger sister, and struggling. She doesn’t know any other Kitsunes, they live in a city controlled by werewolves, and she needs to tread carefully, as they see Kitsunes as something to be killed.
Its an interesting story, full of some very real characters, sub plots that add up to the whole, the star ball connection to magic, and of course poor Mai doesn’t have anyone she can ask for help to learn more about what they are. She’s never met another Kitsune. Her dead mother offers some cryptic comments at times in Mai’s head, but they’re beyond my understanding, and mostly Mai doesn’t see the logic til too late either. I do like that connection though, and trying to puzzle out what the heck she means by her strange phrases.

There’s a developing romance but its still early days, and apart from a couple of stolen kisses hasn’t gone further. So many fantasy romance reads make the romance all the story, held up by the tiniest of plots, and for me I want all the mystery, the magic, the struggles, with the romance being there but as part of the story, not all of it.

Stars: Four, a fun read, and a good start to the trilogy.

Book purchase – I do buy books in addition to receiving ARCs and having KU!

Heart of Stone, (Alice Worth Book 4), Lisa Edmonds

Heart of Stone, (Alice Worth Book 4), Lisa Edmonds 

Heart of Stone (Alice Worth Book 4) by [Edmonds, Lisa]

Genre:Sci-fi and Fantasy, Romance.

Another terrific installment to the series. Its my favourite sort, where there’s an overall story arc, but each episode is complete and wraps up this story neatly, not leaving great cliffhanger endings, but just hints of things to come.
Review of books one and three below
https://jeanniezelos.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/heart-of-malice-alice-worth-book-1-lisa-edmonds/

https://jeanniezelos.wordpress.com/2018/11/30/heart-of-ice-alice-worth-book-3-kindle-edition-by-lisa-edmond/

I love Alice, she’s come such a long way from the solitary woman we first met. She’s strongly independent and yet happy to make allies now, trusting in a few friends, Sean and Malcolm having the most trust. They’re’ two great characters too.
Malcolm works so well with Alice, his issues mean he’s a real asset to Alice, and she respects him, does everything she can to keep him safe.
Sean, Pack alpha whose Pack aren’t all happy about Alice, and in the past a couple of people have brought serious danger to them both with their actions to replace alice with someone they feel more suitable.
Then there’s the vampires, some of whom Alice has reluctantly accepted as allies, helped and accepted help. Charles seems to have some kind of feelings for Alice, that’s been clear since day one. Its not so much a kind of romantic interest, as he sees her as a challenge, a puzzle, and for a centuries old vampire things like that are important. Life must get a little bland after so many years, an intellectual challenge of working out who and what she is, keeps life interesting for him. Like all vampires though, that doesn’t mean he’s trustworthy. They’ve got a kind of understanding currently, where both have helped the other and feel…well…a sort of friendship even if on Alice’ side, that’s kind of guarded.

Once more we’ve a tightly woven adventure, bringing in issues from the past and setting up more for the future.
Alice is hired to find a missing child, an unregistered one, with rare talents that would make him a target for unscrupulous cabals. She can’t just abandon a child, even though finding and rescuing him once more puts her life in danger, and this time maybe her long hidden secrets too.
If they come out how will those around her react? What will it mean for her relationship with Sean? And will it make her an even bigger target to the supernatural world than she currently is?

Stars: Five, another cracking read, and i’m keen for more. Some series tire as they continue, I can see Alice has lots of adventures to go before that happens 😉 hurrah. If you like fantasy with a side of romance that doesn’t dominate, just supports the story this read is one for you.
Book via KU. The whole series is currently available on KU and its one worth reading

The Talon & the Blade, Grace Bloods: Book 3, Jasmine Silvera

The Talon & the Blade, Grace Bloods: Book 3, Jasmine Silvera

The Talon & the Blade (Grace Bloods Book 3) by [Silvera, Jasmine]

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

I loved the first book in this series, but found it a little harder to connect with the second, and again with this one. That’s not to say its not an excellent read though, just one of those where I think I’ll get more from it on second ( or more ) readings. I love to go back to back through a series when all books are complete, really immerse myself and this series is one that will work well for that.
Gregor, he’s been an enigma since the first book, and I really enjoyed seeing his backstory, and seeing the attraction between him and Ana. It was interesting too being in another necromancers realm, Raymond is very different to Azreal, seems very distant from his Aegis, where Azreal and his people feel like there are respectful but friends, that he supports them in their actions. Raymond sends Ana off to deal with issues in this book with the minimum of information, which brings her into great danger. Gregor knows Azreal would never do that, and its interesting comparing two such distinct styles of rule.
I love that Jasmine has created such a fabulously different world, but it does take a bit of understanding. Fortunately the books have been released fairly close so the stories, settings and characters are still pretty fresh in my head.

Stars: Four. I enjoyed this story very much, just not as much as the first tow books. At times I was a little lost about what was actually happening, the story behind the story so to speak. I think re-reading will sort that though.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

American Witch, American Witch: Book 1, Thea Harrison

American Witch, American Witch: Book 1, Thea Harrison

American Witch by [Harrison, Thea]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

I love Thea’s writing, have read many ( but not all) of the Elder Races series, and I loved the tie in here. Its very subtle, not a direct link, more a reference to the world setting.
I enjoyed the story, had me hooked very quickly and loved Molly and Josiah separately, but I wasn’t so convinced about them as a couple. There was certainly intense lust, but they seemed to flow from that to a full fledged relationship very quickly, and it just didn’t feel right. I felt cheated of the relationship growth, especially as for much of the time they were separated, for Molly’s safety.
The dangers facing Molly were twofold, first externally via her cheating husband and his machinations and secondly from her newly emerged and totally unexpected witch power. I loved Molly as a person, and cheered her on when she announced at the party just what Austin had been doing. He really was a typical selfish cheating husband. I had my thoughts early on about who the other party ( this time) was, and really felt for Molly when she discovered who it was.
Josiah seemed pretty cold, single minded about his quest when we first meet him, and he doesn’t realise Molly is unaware of her Powers. There are some terrific scenes between them, and TBH he was a character I thought I’d dislike. Sometimes its more interesting that way, than having the main leads be wonderful, likable characters right from the start. When I discovered his history, the reasons behind his quest I understood it. Its bring him and those around him into danger though, and I was full of respect for Molly when she said – for specific reasons) that she couldn’t be around that danger, and removed herself temporarily until he’d sorted it, even though it was heartbreaking for both of them. That brings me back to the turnaround in feelings though, where they’ve gone from 0-60, from disliking each other intensely to full on togetherness. It was just too quick, and I felt a bit cheated.
Its an interesting story, with some great characters. I couldn’t recall if it was a standalone or the start of new series as I was reading, but am so pleased it is a series. This book ends completely but leaves lots of threads open for more stories, and I’ll be lining up to read them.

Stars: four, a great start, just a few small reservations that stopped it from being a five.

Arc via Netgalley

Touch of Smoke, Karissa Laurel

Touch of Smoke, Karissa Laurel

Touch of Smoke by [Laurel, Karissa]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy.

I loved Karissa’s Norse Chronicles, a really unusual supernatural series in a genre that’s dominated by vampires and werewolves. I was hoping she’d put that same unique spin on this book, and wasn’t disappointed.

This story is told in a past/present format, with a three year gap between the two time periods. I really enjoyed the way the tension is built, that we know something supernatural is happening, but not what or why.
I could see how Rikki felt that events were strange and yet like most of us, she dismissed her feelings as wrong. Well, who really believes in a supernatural answer, we’re creatures who believe in the obvious answer, and not the spooky one that we can’t really believe in.
I loved the characters, from Rikki and Mina, Owen and Luke, diner owner Rose, and Rikki’s mum who’s the town sheriff. Rikki wasn’t expecting to fall for Owen, being focused on escaping the town, but her friend Luke returns bringing Owen with him and they both seem set to settle in the town. That poses a problem for Rikki, who wants to do her training in a place four hours away….
And then the big mystery, huge events, Mina dies, Rikki can’t quite believe what she saw, what terrified her, what gives her nightmares still. She finds it hard to believe Owen could do what she remembers, but now three years later she’s ready – maybe – to face up to what she ran from, to seek answers.

I love the way it all slowly falls into place, how once more Karissa has turned to a more unusual form of supernatural entity for her story.
I loved Owen from the start, but could see how the secrets were wearing on Rikki, how she was struggling to convince herself about what she’d seen, whether it was real or her imagination, but those nightmares and Mina’s death were certainly real. And scary!
I enjoyed the way it wrapped up, it was a very satisfying ending. I hate when there are unanswered questions or solutions that come too easily and with supernatural stories I feel too often a slip of magic is used as answer and it feels too slick. I want my solutions to be hard won, to require energy, effort, sacrifice, not just a metaphorical wave of a hand. This ending was perfect.

Stars: Five, another fabulous read from Karissa.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Dancer’s Flame, Grace Bloods: Book 2, Jasmine Silvera

Dancer’s Flame, Grace Bloods: Book 2, Jasmine Silvera

Dancer's Flame (Grace Bloods Book 2) by [Silvera, Jasmine]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Sci-fi and Fantasy
I loved the first book in this series, but found it a little harder to connect with this one. There is so much going on, so many new characters and its such an unusual world. I feel its one of those stories where once all parts are out and I do a back to back reading session I’ll get so much more from it, having learned more about the world setting. This has Gods ( definitely plural) who aren’t necessarily benign or even easy to understand, Necromancers who can live thousands of years, the retinue of assorted supernaturals each necromancer has accrued over time, witches, werewolves, no doubt other supernaturals yet to be seen. Oh, and plain old humans….In this story there area couple of new supernaturals, Golems, fitting as its set in Prague and someone that poses a huge threat to everyone even if he doesn’t mean to, who of course Isela wants to save and others are keen to kill.
We see more of Isela and Azreal, which is great, I love those two, Gregor, in his usual taciturn protective self, along with some new folk from Azreal’s team. Of course nothings going smoothly, and once more supernaturals are threatening Azrael’s city, and it culminates in a huge, and at times to me confusing, climax. What’s next for the team.
I love that Jasmine has created such a fabulously different world, but it has the downside that its quite intense to read and follow, to understand who is whom, and how they fit into the story. I know though, that once I’ve fully got to grips this will be a solid five star series.

Stars: Four and a half. The half off is simply because at times the whole story and characters did get a bit confusing, however I know a second read will give me so much more, and I expect I’ll pick up on things I missed first reading.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Bad Moon, (Bad Duology Book 2), Shyla Colt

Bad Moon, (Bad Duology Book 2), Shyla Colt

Bad Moon (Bad Duology  Book 2) by [Colt, Shyla]

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

Well, where to start? I guess with the fact that I persevered and got to 30% but simply couldn’t finish this book. I hadn’t a clue what was happening, didn’t really like or empathise with any of the characters. I missed that it was book two so in an attempt to understand I read the sample of book one when I finally tracked it down but that doesn’t seem to relate at all to this one? Confused? I was….
It wasn’t helped by the bad grammar and spelling issues that made it hard to understand what was happening, or the swapping of characters speaking without telling the reader, and the verging from third view to first which was weird. No book is perfect, we’re human, we make mistakes but there were so many here that combined with a story that confused me I just gave up. Its surprising as Shyla is a very prolific author so I’d have expected proofreading to be more accurate. Errors such as “soil yielded monster talks yearly” “The silky a lot of her best friend Kennedy” Chapter two starts with “….stepped into the masculine space.” Then talks about vampires, so I assume its a vampires room but next paragraph she’s walking into her own bathroom…talking about hair colour, her father apparently has bright right locks ( red?) then there were words and phrases added that just felt wrong or overdone. “small pumpkin Spice shaped latte purse” “she sensed an ellipsis behind the sentence, letting her know that could change” “the danger within lied him” these and more were within the first 15% and added to the fact I just didn’t like the characters or really feel any story development I pushed myself to 30% and then gave up.
As I said Shyla is a prolific writer and I’m sure has many fans who will love this book but for me her writing style and my reading tastes just don’t mesh. Make your own judgment, it could be a story you love if you can get past the issues I had.

Stars: Two, one to pass for me. I just didn’t ever really understand what it was about but I DNF it.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Enchantée, Gita Trelease

Enchantée, Gita Trelease

Enchantée by [Trelease, Gita]

Genre: Teens & YA, Sci Fi & Fantasy

I really enjoyed this, its a fabulous debut read, with a very polished writing style. I was absorbed into the story very quickly and felt as if I was there with the characters.

The magic part of the story felt genuine, as if it could be real. I liked that magic has a cost, the user needs to pay. I was really sympathetic to Camille and Sophie, they found themselves without parents, without money, without employment and with a drunkard brother, through no fault of their own. In real life, things like that do happen, and Camille reluctantly employs her small magic skills to buy them food and pay the rent.
Its not enough though, and faced with losing their home Camille uses a darker magic to create a persona who can gamble ( and use her magic to win) in the court of Versailles.

There were some wonderfully descriptive scenes there, and characters who were sometimes more than they seemed. Along the way there’s the puzzle of Lazare. He too may be more than a simple balloonist. Camille has a scary, dangerous path to follow. Will they have a romance or won’t it happen?

Its all set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, making a perfect setting.
There are more books planned but this one ends well, no cliffhangers but a neat closure. I don’t know it he next book will be about Camille, Sophie or possibly some of the other characters we’ve met but I’ll be keen to read it.

Stars: Five, Romance, mystery, history and Magic, all in one cleverly written story.

Arc via Netgalley

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