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The Stone Warriors: Kato, Book 2, Stone Warriors Series, D.B. Reynolds. Warrior of Fire, Shona Husk.

The Stone Warriors: Kato, Book Two of the Stone Warriors Series, D.B. Reynolds

The Stone Warriors: Kato by [Reynolds, D. B.]

Genre:  Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, Wow. I think now I understand the overall plot and world building I really need to go back to book one, as I’m sure I’d rate it higher than I did on first read.
Some series are like that, it takes another book or two before the overall theme falls in to place for me, and this clearly is one such.
I think part of it too was over-expectation, I so love ViA, and was hooked from book one and expected this to be the same.

Its is the same great writing though, full of people who feel real, who I have strong mental images of, ladies who aren’t simpering kittens waiting for a big strong man to save them 😉
Grace is anything but one of those, though our and Kato’s first impressions could be forgiven for thinking that, because that’s the image she tries to project. she’s more than that though and a perfect lady for Kato.

He’s the second stone warrior, and I kept thinking how awful, to be trapped like that for thousands of years, seeing and hearing everything but unable to interact.
Sometimes books have things happening and I think “ how very convenient that he/she does that riiigght at this point”, and you could feel that about Kato coming out of imprisonment just in time to save grace from the Demon. D.B has the answer though, she’s made it so there’s a very real explanation why things are happening just now, and weaves every small thing into part of the larger overall plot that threads though the series.

Its another great read, a race against time to stop demons from being unleashed and creating mayhem. Another, well..brush with danger feels too subtle, its more than that, another solid drama where the characters face a horrible death over and over, but manage to scrape through, and without using any of that New Skills Gained Just at the Optimum Moment that I so hate. You know the sort, he or she has just learned of their place in the supernatural world, takes it in their stride, and by  the fourth page or so they’re killing the bad guys the others have been fighting and losing against for centuries, using some new skill that showed up just as the Demon or whatever is about to kill them! Gah, that really annoys me.
D.B doesn’t ever do that, and though here Grace saves the day a few times, it works because she’s the skills needed already, the training to keep calm and deal comes from her background. She gained her gun skills as a child, and as an adult she’s been involved in some dangerous and scary dramas. Add in how clever and analytical her mind is and she’s perfect for Kato.

I loved catching up with Damian and Cass, and yep, now want to re-read their story.
Two more warriors to go yet, and of course there’s also Nick, Nico, Nicademus…what a guy he is. When we first met him back in the early, the first book I think of the ViA series he was almost a throwaway guy, Cyn’s friend with benefits hot guy, but he grew in importance in later books, and then we learned he’s a powerful sorcerer.
I love how these two series interact, how we get snippets of other characters, even if only in conversation or thoughts.
I can’t help but wonder if there’s someone special in Nico’s life planned? The mysterious talented Lili maybe – or perhaps someone from the Via series? Loads of possibilities to pick from, and I look forward to D.B.s next book(s) of either series.

Stars: Five, a cracking, riveting, engrossing read and a great addition to D.B’s series.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Warrior of Fire, Shona Husk

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

Genre:  Sci-fi and Fantasy

I really enjoyed Lady of Silver, the intro book to this series. that featured Saba, an Albah lady and Dale a human cop.
This book is about Liera. Saba’s sister, who we met in book one as a secondary character, and Julian who’s a son of cop Quinn, who is also the Albah’s “King”. Its a title that’s really name only, they don’t meet or live closely as its too dangerous.

There’s a faction called Guardians, who are out to kill Albah, though supposedly there’s been a truce for the last 200 years. Strange though how so many Albah die in accidents. That’s what happened to Julian’s mum, she died in a car crash when he and his younger brother were in the car. Its affected them both, as traumatic events do to young children, and they’re not a close family. In fact Julian has been away for the last 12 years and only returned six months ago.

He’s been working at a local hospital, somewhere he can put his healing skills to use without creating attention.
See that’s the thing the Guardians won’t recognize, that most Albah just want to be responsible, to do good and work in fields where their talents are best use to humankind. As far as Guardians are concerned the only good Albah is a dead one.
Its that potential to turn into an immortal blood sucking murdering Alabanex that worries them so they think killing all Albah means humans are safe. Shame they don’t focus on how humans can become murdering vicious killers too, or even look at their own behaviour, murdering parents, children, wiping out whole families proudly and bringing up their kids to believe in the same.
Hate rhetoric is so pervasive when instilled from a young age and that’s what’s happened here.

Julian has been having a “casual” relationship with a woman for the last few months. He doesn’t know much about her, that’s what he likes, physical only stuff, no need for pleasantries and socialsing, not knowing she’s a Guardian and a killer.
She’s come to do a job, make her first kill and become a real Guardian, a role she’s trained hard for, encouraged by her Guardian mother and family.
She’s finding it hard though, she’s become attracted to Julian even though both agreed upfront this was simply a casual fling, and now she’s becoming clingy Julian is thinking the time has come to part ways. she won’t like that!

Liera has always known she’s meet the love of her life on a train, she and Saba are very good at seeing into the future, though its not fixed but depends on paths taken by individuals.
She doesn’t know who her future is with though, and so is astonished when she feels a visceral reaction to Julian at a meeting of the local Albah. It’s where they connect via the internet with others to discuss recent events. Julian feels the attraction too but its a kind of muted pull for them both, not a huge insta-lust kind of thing. Jut that feeling of rightness when they connect with each other.
Liera is puzzled. What about the future she and Saba had seen?
Julian isn’t sure he’s ready yet either, he’s always felt he would marry an Albah. His people need the males that come from only Alabah pairings, but he thought that was way in the future, loads of time yet. Until now he’s been content with simple casual relationships, like the current one with Emily. This has thrown him though,made him question that, and he decides Emily’s been getting clingy lately, not what they agreed and its time to let go.

She is Not Happy though. Pressure from home about why she hasn’t killed him yet and the excuse she’s given, he could lead her to more is wearing thin. Now he’s dumped her, and as she’s been spying on him she sees him meet Leira and just knows it’s all down to her. the knives come out, Liera is in the way, time to move her. She knows now Leira is an Albah so has no worries about killing her, she’s been brought up to beleive thats the right thing to do.

It all leads to a cracking story, brings danger to the Albah, not just here but across the globe, makes them think about the future of the race, brings the Guardians into the series in a big way and is a hugely entertaining read. One that flows easily, has that element of suspense I love, the wondering what if, and how will they…?
The romance too, I enjoyed that, the doubts both had, it makes a change from the one-look-and-they-are-in-love scenario we see so often. Instead they both talk, tread carefully, think about how they feel inside.

There’s no simply quick fix solution for the future of the Albah. It needs some decision if they aren’t to die out, and the way they’ve lived for the past few hundred years needs to change. Using the internet they can conference, avoiding the dangers when large groups get together, and hhopefully make changes to their lifestyles the majority agree to while keeping safe.
Maybe the time for Quinn as king has become the era for change, for the role to become more than the lip-service one its been. He’s certainly a decisive enough character to generate momentum for change.

I really enjoyed this installment, loved meeting Dale and Saba again, was intrigued as to how things were going to work between Julian and Liera, whether the change of place of their first meeting meant their future had changes in a big way, and of course the drama with Emily was pretty solid and full on.

I found it easy to believe in Emily, that she’d been brought up and trained to kill Albah, but in her greed to kill more by finding Julian’s family she actually came to like him, to see the good he did. Somewhere deep in her psyche she had to rationalise why she hadn’t killed him yet, rather than admit she was falling for him. She was a twisted individual but also a product of a very dark upbringing, brainwashed that Albah were all bad, potential killers.

Its an easy read, well paced, solid writing. Its not as in depth as many fantasy reads, but a fun story that made me look at the characters as individual, see them as real people, and wonder just where the story is going next.
I’m really hoping Quinn gets some happy, right now he gets all the flak and doesn’t really seem to have anyone close to support him when it goes bad.

Stars: five, a great story, building on the first one and expanding the world.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

New Moon, Lisa Kessler. Chief’s Mess, L.A. Witt

New Moon, Lisa Kessler

New Moon (Moon Series Book 8) by [Kessler, Lisa]

Genre:  Romance, sci-fi and fantasy

We’ve reaches the end and I’m always feeling conflicted when that happens. In part because I love a good series and its hard to say goodbye, but set against that is the feeling of satisfaction when the little clues throughout the series are finally wrapped up, when we know who was behind things and why, how it all worked out.
With a good series we’re left feeling hope for the future, that these people we’ve got to know so well are facing a time when they can finally relax, live a normal life, enjoy their friends and family. Still, I love rereading series so from me its not really Goodbye but See you later 😉

The back to back reads through a whole series work best for me too, when each book is still fresh in my mind, so its easier to follow the story, recall which character fits in where. Sometimes after months and lots of other reads its hard to recall exactly who belongs with whom, and how they fit in the overall story.

I remember Sebastian from the first book, and he’s changed. Or has he? Maybe its just my perception of him, as looking back the seeds of his discontent were clear even back then, but i just didn’t see it.
Its a great author who can turn around a character so the callous, murdering, immoral man we met becomes someone we love, who we want to have that HEA…but Lisa does it for Sebastian.
I found he was a terrific man, that he had been trying to put things right as much as he could for a long time, and with a father like his no wonder he grew up to be the man he was. Thank god for his mother’s influence, its whats kept that core of humanity in him.
Sebastian and Isabelle don’t have the best start, with her trying to kill him….well, until her wolf tells her she Just Can’t Kill Him! That’s a bit of an eye opener and changes everything. Isabelle is shocked.

Its another fabulous adventure, when plans get made, and changed and remade all the time. Nero has really hit bottom in its actions here, kidnapping a child for Antonio Severino’s cruel crusade, but it proves the catalyst for some unheard of co-operation.
Things quickly change in the story as the plots unfold, and this final book brings in many of the characters we’ve met in the preceding books. It opens up the Packs even more than they have been. It was a struggle getting Lana accepted into the pack, as she was a jaguar shifter back in the early books but since then they’ve become more accepting, less Wolf only insular and that’s given them an edge they needed for this final battle.
They’re not just a wolf pack now but have Jaguars, Psychics and humans among them and that’s given them strength, and maybe what Fate intended, that supernaturals work together, find power in collectivety.

I’ve enjoyed the series as a whole, and love this last book. Looking back to some of the books that weren’t quite top whack I can see the gaps that bothered me back then filled in now and I understand why things played out certain ways.
Despite not all the books being five star reads for me, the series as a whole deserves a solid five stars, it all adds up now.

Stars: five,a great read to finish a fantastic series

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Chief’s Mess, L.A. Witt

Chief's Mess (Anchor Point) by [Witt, L.A.]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I loved the first book in this series, but the second did nothing for me.
Still,  LA Witt is one of my favourite m/m authors so I thought I’d try book three.

It wasn’t a great read for me, I just didn’t feel I Knew the characters, just a surface opinion of them, and I really want to feel book characters can be people I know. I need them to feel real for me to get invested in what happens to them.
Here I just didn’t, they were just two anonymous guying hooking up for hot sex.

They were very alike in many way, and TBH I kept getting confused, right up to the end, about which was which.
Not a good thing, and when characters are well fleshed and distinct not something that happens. I think maybe there could have been – for me, not for everyone of course, a little less sex in the first half and a bit more character and plot building.

I mention the plot, and that really is pretty simple, Noah ( and see? I almost wrote Anthony there – had to check it) is a functioning alcoholic, and like many others doesn’t recognise he has a problem.
Of course for Anthony that’s a bigger trigger than it maybe would be for others, his ex brother-in-law was an alcoholic, and that caused great distress for his sister and their kids.
I liked the build up, though it was pretty muted and did make Noah come over as judgmental rather than sympathetic, but the way things played out felt very simplistic, and its rarely as easy as that.
I guess there wasn’t space to go into any depth, but in reality it would have been far, far harder.

Stars: three, it was just an OK read for me, and maybe I need to look carefully before accepting any more Anchor Point novels.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Hunter’s Captive, Cassandra Bella. Memory of Love, JJ Keller

Hunter’s Captive, Cassandra Bella

Hunter's Captive by [Bella, Cassandra]

Genre:  Romance, Mystery and thrillers

I enjoyed this story, but parts were a little hard to take, and though they moved the tale to where it needed to be they lacked real credibility.

Paxton, rich girl, daddy’s girl, trust fund baby, shared a beautiful summer with Hunter ten years ago. Then it all went wrong, and he’s been bitter about it ever since.

He’s focused on his career, and the boy from the poor side of the town has done well, is a top agent and he thinks he’s moved on.
Then the case he’s on involves Paxton. He can’t bear to think of her locked up just because its her wedding day to the jerk who’s finally being brought in. So….he kidnaps her.
That part one of the hard to take bit. Would a professional really do that? and get away with it with his boss and colleagues? Still, they’re on the run now and it seems her fiancee has sent killers after them.

Paxton is so angry at Hunter and thinks he’s just doing this out of revenge. Her fiancee a wanted man? Please ( roll eyes), he’s not like that she says, he’s a good man, her father admires him, he’s a solid businessman.
She won’t believe Hunter until the others track them down and they’re running ( well driving) for their lives, at breakneck speed down the mountain side. How did they find them?
Well, that’s the second hard to take part. She’s an intelligent woman and would she really do that? I can see the first part, out of concern and worry but the second thing she lets out, perleease…she’d have more sense surely. Or maybe she is just a dumb blonde…

Anyway, there they are running out of danger and the tensions are high. The attraction between them that each thought was gone is clearly still there, and before long they’re talking about the past, have become close again, very close and are into some erotic and sensual sex. Can they have a future?

Well, first thing is to escape the danger they’re in..

Its a fun read, some hot and heavy sensuality, some danger and excitement and made for a decent read to pass away a coupe of hours.

Its not one I’d re-read, but I did enjoy it despite those couple of irritations in inconceivability factor.

Stars: four, a decent but one off read for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Memory of Love, The Valkyrie Series, JJ Keller

Memory of Love (The Valkyrie Series) by [Keller, JJ]

 

Genre:  Romance,

I was so taken with the synopsis that I didn’t do my usual checks so missed that this was thrid in a series, and also its a novella. My bad.

Lots of readers love them, but for me they just don’t work, I don’t feel they have the space I need to understand the story, the characters or really get to feel for them.

Its a good read if you are following the series, and of course, if you like novellas.

I was able to keep up with the story OK, but it would have worked better for me if I’d read the first two books, as the characters and plots follow – or I assume they do – from things that happened back then. It meant I had to guess at parts, and how each person was connected.

Its a fun read, I liked the Viking legend part, something not often seen in fantasy sadly, as its very interesting and can create some great stories.

If you’re happy with shorter reads this could be a great series for you. For me it’s just not in-depth enough, even if I had read the first two novels.

Stars: three, interesting premise, and a good series if you like shorter novels.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

In Her Blood, (The Dagger Chronicles 1), Janice Jones

In Her Blood, (The Dagger Chronicles 1), Janice Jones

In Her Blood by [Jones, Janice]

Genre:  Romance, New Adult
Edit: Its priced at over £10, $13 for an unknown author…Seriously?? I’m all about supporting writers but that price is way to much. I think twice about paying that for one of my favourite, well established authors.

Well, its termed Romance so I expected there to be some in the book, but apart from some heated action between Jason and Alex towards the end, that’s it for Romance.
Even that feels more like scratching an itch, sex for the sake of it, there’s no real closeness, nothing other than lust between them though there are hints Jason might be feeling more.

I felt there were too many people, too many plots, and there I’m saying that when I hate the simplified, one plot book that pervades the best seller list.
This though feels like Janice has taken every supernatural concept she ever could come up with, every possible connection and thrown it all together. the Blunderbuss effect, throw it all and hope some sticks. It makes for a messy novel though IMO.

I didn’t really like Alex, didn’t dislike her, but there’s nothing special that I can say I like about her personality. I felt for her, but I didn’t understand how she went from A, working as the Dagger for her “father” to B, famous successful business owner. That just doesn’t happen without an awful lot of clout.
Then there’s all her very useful contacts and people owing her favours. how did that happen, so many powerful people knowing her, owing her?
She spent from 13 to 21 as far as I can see locked away underground unless out on a mission with the rest of the team. After that she’s building a base in the human world for her clothing line I assume, so how did she become so close to all these powerful supernaturals. What did she use for funding to build her business?
There’s too many unanswered questions for me to believe this could happen that way.

Jason seemed intriguing when I read the synopsis but I’ve a horrible feeling he’s going to be one of those soft in love types, that become almost emasculated vampires when it comes to their lover ( Think JC from Anita Blake…)
I do wonder how these centuries old vampires survive when a pretty face can make them lose all sense.

There are irritations too, at one point Jason and Coop are talking and “Jason sat back with a grin and took Amy’s water…” Who’s Amy? Its only the two of them meeting.
Then later we’re told Jason was born 115 years ago. OK – so how come later he’s talking to himself “after three centuries of being what I am” – is he 115 or over 300.
The bit about Someone – won’t mention a name ( though if you’re as confused as me it probably wouldn’t matter!) who’s recovering and needs…how shall i put it…a certain type of blood, was a step too far for me, really made me feel uncomfortable.
I just don’t like reading things like that and it wasn’t necessary. shock value writing and not good IMO.

I’ve got all the way through and I’m still confused, so many double deals, blackmails, bait and switch, so many hidden agendas, and those playing both sides that I really aren’t any wiser now I’ve finished.
I really, really wanted to like this book but for me its a fail.

Stars: Two, sorry one that I won’t be continuing with. I tried, I did finish it but am still lost as to whats actually going on.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Wraith Hunter, City of Crows 3, Clara Coulson

Wraith Hunter, City of Crows 3, Clara Coulson

Wraith Hunter (City of Crows Book 3) by [Coulson, Clara]

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, sci-fi and Fantasy

This is turning out to be a cracking series, seems to be full of drama, action, puzzles, danger and each day seems to bring Cal and the crew into more of it. It’s not quite like that though, when this story opens its some months after that action of the last book, the gang have taken time to heal from the incredible injuries they incurred back then and that’s as it should be.
When a book is day after day of non stop action it makes me think” who dealt with all this before?” and “who will do xyz when this gang are gone?”
Spaced out over time feels much more fluid and natural than the one-drama-on-top-of-another story lines too many books have.

 

The last two books have proved to be openers for more action, and I love that the vampire who was the catalyst for Cal joining the DSI is in this book, and of course wonder about him and his actions. Are they as cut and dried as they seemed? Or is he just as much a victim of circumstance. Or maybe its just his job, that’s going to make him p iss off a lot of people, maybe it is all about the money for him. Who knows? He’s an intriguing character and I want to read more of him.

I love Cal, he’s a great lead, talented and yet flawed too, he knows he doesn’t have all the answers, knows his limitations but throws himself in wholeheartedly when he believes its needed regardless of the cost to himself.
Erica, oh I hated that bit, what she needed to do, and why she felt she had no alternative. fingers crossed that all works out well.
Cooper – a surprise there? Or not, maybe its another red herring – though book one made me wonder if that might happen. I love storylines that make me wonder what if, and how come, and maybe this will….you know the sort, where you get so involved with characters you think of them as real.
The rest of the gang are there, with a few new guys ( and ladies) joining in and it was great seeing them all again. Like meeting old friends, and making new ones.

Its a fabulous read once more, things to puzzle out, drama and action, dangers, and speaking of which, those elevating zombies – what fun they were. The sly humour that had them dressed up in long coats and carrying scythes.
Its little touches like that which lift this novel up, give some levity to the dark dramas surrounding some of the main plots. There are other little touches worked in too, moments of humour, things that make these characters feel real. We all crack jokes at inappropriate times, that’s the kind of human way of dealing with stress and fright and it works so well here. Thats what separate a good book from the crowd, the little extras that keep us reading.

The plots in this part wrap up well, but open up the wider one that’s been building, and I really want to read more right now!!

Stars: five, another rivetting instalment, whetting my appitite for more. I know when this series is ended its going to be one I reread right through, in a back-to-back reading fest. I love to read series like that, get fully immersed in another world.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Muse, Marie Martine. Cougar Bait, Evangeline Anderson

Muse, Marie Martine

Muse by [Marie Martine]

Genre:  Romance, New Adult.

Well, this was a fun read. an  author, writing about an erotic reads author, whose writing a new romance, but in a historical setting….
Its an enjoyable romp, a fun sneak of history and what might have been going on under all those straight laced appearances. Don’t expect historical accuracy, though there’s a few fun snippets tucked in, just take it in the spirit its written, fun and a little bit frivolous.

There’s a sweet love story going on, with Alaric really being in love with the idea of his latest heroine Erica. He can’t seem to find a muse though, the person who’s just right to play her character out in front of him with his long time best friend and fellow writer Sim. His “research assistants” play a very hands on – and clothes off- role, acting out scenes with sim, while he watches, studies, takes notes and is inspired into the next scenes.
Behind that is part of the reason he writes romances…his cold, philandering father. He’s one full sister and a host, an unnamed number, of half brothers and sisters spawned from his dad’s days of cheating on his mother.
Finally she had enough and committed suicide and Alaric blames his dad, she was heart broken at his actions and couldn’t take any more. Their relationship has been cold ever since and rather than work in the family firm Alaric writes sexy stories. Brings him a very good living too.
Then life takes a very unexpected turn involving his latest find, his Erica, Caterine.

Caterine a cute girl, innocent but not a virgin, alone after her beloved mum died, except for her best freind Zoe. When she meets Alaric after another failed job interview he’s entranced. here out of the blue is the woman he’s looking for!
He Has to persuade her to work for him, he Needs her. No won’t be accepted.
Luckily for him she needs a job, the money’s excellent and Zoe is always telling her more sex is good, and she’s got the chance to dip out of her comfort zone, in a big way. hot sex with two gorgeous men….

I liked both her and Alaric ( and Sim, unreprentantly sex obsessed).
OK so its an unrealistic novel, (unless erotic authors really do use hands on research!!) but its got enough of a tale to tie together the steamy sex scenes, both in real time and the acted out historical ones, and lets the story flow through.
I can’t take books where its all sex and no story, even in an erotic read I need enough story to hold things together and this book does it.

Its not a huge pull at your emotions drama, though in fact it could have been, but a lightish, very sensual and tantalising read.
Its not one I’d reread, but I did enjoy it and I’d be interested in reading the next book, Sim and Zoe. There’s a sample of that and the end of this and having got to know both characters it looks another fun read.

Stars: Four, a fun and sensual read.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Cougar Bait, Evangeline Anderson

Cougar Bait (Cougarville) by [Anderson, Evangeline]

Genre:  Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

I was intrigued by this, hadn’t read book one but each seem to be stand alone reads within the same world. I didn’t really enjoy it though, found the premise a bit odd, the rejuvenation gene stuff was…strange.
Its not unknown, a kind of variant on how in some readers shifters and vampires etc. when turned revert to their prime age, usually mid twenties/thirties but this was just a female only thing and felt a little weird to me.

I hadn’t read the first book but I don’t think that mattered. I found it strange that Keller kidnapped Sammie and her sister mainly for her sister, to get her to be his mate, bear his children (book one).
Now in a matter of days ( I think – could be weeks, but I’m going by the battle between him and the deer shifter) he’s transferred that feeling to Sammie…nothing like making a lady feel second choice. It wouldn’t endear me to him.
Sammie’s having none of it, she’s had a world change in her views and accepts that things she thought weren’t real are, but Keller. Nope, he’s deluded, he’s too young, he wanted her sister first and she’s not interested. I’d feel like that too.
However he’s not deterred especially when she puts herself in the cross-hairs of some evil shifters.

There’s a lot of sex here and I’m always OK with that in a book if it fits the story. For me it doesn’t in this one, its just there to spice things up, add some heat and just felt wrong, not integral to the novel but an addition.
I just can’t see Sammie doing such an about change in view, and the further into the story I got the more detached I felt.
The events at the end were just the final; straw for me, so unreal, even for the supernatural where usual timelines don’t apply.

It’s one I thought would be great for me but which I just couldn’t get along with.
It’s very similar though to many of the current best sellers in the way the story plays out, so for many readers it will be perfect.
Sadly I don’t like most of those and didn’t enjoy this one ;-(

Stars: Two, not one for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Heart of Malice, Alice Worth Book 1, Lisa Edmonds

Heart of Malice, Alice Worth Book 1, Lisa Edmonds

Heart of Malice (Alice Worth Book 1) by [Edmonds, Lisa]

Genre:  Romance, Sci-fi and fantasy

What a cracking read this is, and it seems to be Lisa’s debut book!
I love when I find an author who can write books like this, with so many multi layers of plots, with interesting and varied characters that it keeps me gripped to the end.

There are so many paranormal reads out right now, and it seems 90% are one plot romances; those where its a meets b, and there’s just one plot making – or preventing – that happening. Clearly that’s what many readers want, they sell really well, but some of us want that bit more. A story where it isn’t obvious which way its going from the first chapter, and Heart of Malice delivers that.

There’s a clear and solid story-line in this first book that wraps up, but there is so much more going on in tandem with that, that its easy to see its going to make a fabulous and gripping series.
My favourite Fantasy authors are Patricia Briggs, Jeanine Frost, Kelley Armstrong, Kim Harrison, Rachelle Mead, Debbie Reynolds and of course Sookie’s creator Charmaine Harris. Those reads are what I love, ones where the world settings are clear, the plots multi layered and always imaginative, and there’s so much more going on underneath the main plot in each book.
I read and reread them finding more each time I devour the content. They kind of build up an over-arcing story-line, while delivering individual ones, and the Alice Worth series feels that way.

Clearly Alice has a gruesome and terrifying history, she’s escaped for now but the dangers are ever present. We get glimpses of her past from her memories and nightmares.
Then there’s the world as it is, where supernaturals are open and out, mixing with humans, but as ever there are some vigilant, at times over vigilant, official organisations policing them.
We’ve ghosts, shifters, vampires, mages, in the supernatural types, SPEMA and SPERA gov orgs and I’m sure more will come out in future reads.

Alice is a Mage PI, working alone, always trying to keep her head down, avoid any hint of her past being exposed. That means she tends to be very self contained, doesn’t have freinds, and when Malcolm the ghost comes into her life he’s kind of the first person I feel she really talks to.
She’s careful with him too though, but his help in this current investigation is invaluable as it gets ever more complex and brings her into real danger.
Natalie, her client was a great girl, and I felt a real rapport between her and Malcolm. Will anything come of that in later books? Who knows…
Then Alpha wolf shifter Sean comes in. Alice meets him in a bar, and he tries to persuade her they can be more than just a one night stand. The chemistry they have is incredible, but is he really trustworthy? Its far too soon for Alice to let down her defences, however beguiling and persuasive he seems, and she keeps him at arms length. Except for those scorching times when he’s not 😉
And what about Vampire Charles, over 200 years old, suave, good looking, perfect charm and manners, very well respected by the Vampire Alliance, and full of his own vampire intrigues…what’s his interest in Alice?
He’s held back so far, keeping her in a kind of loose acquaintance field which suits her. She trusts him, just a little bit, a very, very little bit, but she isn’t letting her defences down for a pretty face and a few vampire wiles. She’s wary as to what his end game is, vampires aren’t known for altruism…He’s never yet hinted at wanting more from her but it feels like there’s an unspoken text whenever they meet.
Of course we can’t forget Agent Lake either, comes into the book early and turns up again at the end. I get the feeling he’s got an interest in Alice, but why? What sort? What does he want from her?

Its a cracking read, ages since I read a new fantasy story that’s gripped me like this, that I so enjoyed.
Its up there with my favourite reads and I hope Lisa is hard at work with the next book.

Stars: five, a fabulous read, fast paced, solid plots great characters, and will join my favourites.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Spectacle, Rachel Vincent

Spectacle, Rachel Vincent

Spectacle (The Menagerie Series, Book 2) by [Vincent, Rachel]

Genre:  General Fiction (adult)

Book one had me riveted, saddened, excited, scared, and was an incredible read, book two lives up to all that and more.
The books are  based upon a world like ours, a kind of parllell universe, its our timeline but with different events. There’s been a terrible slaughtering in the 1980’s they call The Reaping in the USA. It led to some harsh legislation where people deemed to be not wholly human have no protection, can be used in experiments, sold, exhibited, abused  and have no rights. Interspersed between chapters are snippets of TV and News report from that time.

We met Delilah and some of the characters from here in book one, where they finally escaped Metzger’s Menagerie. They’re carrying on as if Metzger still runs it, and once the curtains are closed then everyone who can safely be freed is, and hopefully they can escape to a better life in another country.
Its not long though before their coup is revealed, and they are caught once more, and become part of the Savage spectacle, a private collection specializing in some horrific shows.
Once more they lose all their hard won freedom and are subject to Vandercamp and his wife’s cruelty. Money is all they care about, the cryptids are kept in more hygenic situations, better fed, but only because they can make more money out of them that way.
Its horrible to see all their hopes and dreams shattered, but Delilah just won’t give in.

At first she doesn’t see what they can do but when she sees how the others are convinced she’ll come up with a plan again, that they are relying on her – well, she just has to start thinking of what they can do, so that if an opportunity arises they can make best use of it.
Its far harder though, Vandercamp has perfected collars that control them, stop them shifting, or force a shift when he wants one, stops them talking about certain things and at night stops them talking at all. The collars can even paralyse them completely, leaving them conscious but helpless, and of course they deliver shocks if the wearer tries to go beyond a set boundary…..it seems fool proof, no way out but with them looking to Delilah how can she let them down?

Gallagher is here too, thought to be human at first and taken to prison but his cap finally gave away his species, and Vandercamp is using his loyalty to Delilah to force him to fight and kill for entertainment.
Its horrific for him, his honour demands that he fight only when threatened and yet he also has vowed to protect Delilah so he has to do what’s demanded to stop her being hurt.

There are some awful scenes here, you wonder just how far people will go for power, money, influence and plain old blood thirsty entertainment, and once more its done in such a realistic way that I truly believe there’s a real danger that if this were genuine situation then much of it would be possible, that we would pass such legislation, telling ourselves that they are not “human” and so don’t need protecting, are dangerous, need to be controlled…
There’s an undercurrent too below the visible entertainment, that seems to dredge the depths and behind the scenes even darker depravity is going on.
Delilah is determined to find a way out, and situations arise that speed up the timeline, that mean they need to be out sooner rather than later.

It was good to see so many of the previous characters, heart-breaking seeing parents separated from their children, seeing kids forced to fight for their lives, seeing how awfully they treat them all, how they only look at what they can do to make money and simply don’t try to understand the individual characters. How ready they are to simply euthanise them if they aren’t financially viable. Its truly awful knowing the consequences of the depravity the Cryptids are forced into. There’s a big shock for Delilah here too.

The ending is similar to book one in that it completes the book, wraps up this part of the story and yet we know that the search for freedom is very far from over, that their next moves need to be carefully thought out, that the risk is always there in everything they do, everywhere they go.
Its not one of those awful cliff hanger endings that I hate, but one that opens up and shows the direction the next book will take.

Its another fascinating, fabulous and absorbing read, and though I’ve used the word horrific several times its not a horror book per se, but one where horrible things happen, mainly due to human greed.
Book three soon please Rachel 🙂

Stars: Five, another terrific read and I really hope the next book isn’t long in coming!

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Called Out, Jen Doyle. Fraud Twice Felt, J.T. Hall

Called Out, Jen Doyle

Called Out by [Doyle, Jen]

Genre:  Romance,

Carina: what I love about Carina books is they have a happy ending, eiother a HEA or a HFN, and thats what I want in a romance, an escape from realisty into happy times, a way to leave todays probelms behind and disappear into a world where things go wrong but end well.

I’ve got to start this review with a gripe though 😦 One thing that really bothered me about this story.
We’re told Jack screwed over his best friend and work colleague, and has been given the cold shoulder by everyone since.
What he did was dreadful, a total no-go thing to do to your best mate but I kept thinking, maybe there’s something we’re missing? There are some details that mean what we think happened may not be quite that way perhaps? **see edit at end**
Equally there were complications, something results from that act that gets left open. That felt weird to me, I can’t understand why it wasn’t dealt with, why Jack would have not acted upon what resulted, or again maybe there’s something I’m missing. The Jack we know from this story would not have just done nothing, would have acted, stepped up, not just left things hanging.
Without giving it away its hard to say what happened, maybe it resolved spontaneously, but it felt very strange to me, and was hard to match with the Jack we came to know.

I love this kind of book, enemies to lovers, and there was some serious chemistry between Jack and Lola, some scorching sensual scenes that are page melting.
Lola, I so felt for her, devastated after her husbands death, left with four small boys, she’s kind of running through life on autopilot, and anything that affects that fine tuned organisation she has is disastrous. So she’s not in the best mood when she meets Jack. Her boys though – he’s one of their idols.
Jack’s actually a really good guy, though his background leads to him to deny that, to think he’s like his parenst and incapable of love. Yet the things he does for Lola show us otherwise and how he is with the boys, (one, two and three…and four the later addition!!) well, that’s heart melting.

We meet up with the gang again, I loved Dorie and Nate from the first book, somehow missed out on book two, but its the same great group of characters, who’ve known each other for years, who feel so real.
Its another story I loved, that pulled at the heart strings, made me laugh and feel tearful all within a few pages sometimes.
Its a great summer read, one for when you’re feeling a little down and want something to make you smile and feel really good at the end.

Stars: four and a half. I have to take off a half star for that huge, unresolved issue, the thing that’s such a catalyst for the story and yet gets left hanging. ( but may not be in final version)

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

** that may have been only in ARCs. Seems debut had her losing the baby. Hopefully thats clear in final version**

Fraud Twice Felt, J.T. Hall

Fraud Twice Felt (The Oddities Book 2) by [Hall, J.T.]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I hadn’t read book one. Occasionally I have to restrict myself and catch up on the TBR list and must have missed it that way because its a series that’s got so much I love.
Still, looking at sample and reviews it was pretty easy to catch up.

Derwin and Elliot are finding a new life together. It seems strange to think they’ve only been together three weeks but I guess its been very intense so that’s why they feel as though they’ve known each other longer. They really are Jack Spratt and his wife with Derwin needing pain to feed, and Elliot getting enjoyment from being hurt. Makes them perfect for each other.

Now Elliott’s given up the rent boy gig and moved in with Derwin, he’s also working at Bob’s Bail Bonds. Just filing currently but hoping to learn more and be a bounty hunter himself. For now though he’s enjoying having some autonomy over his life, its not been that way for a very long while.
He’s still in danger though from the head of one of the local gangs who sees Elliot as his special plaything, his to hurt, his to keep. Derwin is determined not to let that happen and with most people his strength would do it, but Roy seems to have some abilities of his own, plus of course backing of a gang…

As well as the relationship issues, and the gangs there’s a supernatural bent to this series too with some people like Derwin and Elliot having extra abilities. That’s good – and not good. It helps keep them alive and in work but if the government gets to hear about it they’ll be whipped off to some science lab, no doubts there.
So they need to fly under the radar carefully. The last book put them in the eye of some of the local cops, so caution is needed.
Life isn’t like that though, and long time friend and colleague Connie’s son is missing. That leads them into an adventure that brings in more people, the cops, the underclass of homeless and prostitutes Elliot knows so well, Roy and his gang, along with another local gang, and of all things a sea serpent, a huge sea dwelling dragon…

Its a breathtaking adventure with a bit of everything thrown in, romance and esp m/m romance, the issues of homophobia, the police/government and the bias against Oddities, the danger from the local gangs, who of course don’t work together so cause issues everywhere, the bounty hunters, the sea dragon and in that mix they need to find and rescue Connie’s son and his girlfriend without getting caught in any of the competing dangers.
Well, there’s so much going on, so much action, planning, thinking on the fly when plans go wrong that its a solid read, and yet its not five stars for me as I expected.
I’m not sure why but maybe its just that there’s a bit too much of everything happening. That kind of diluted some of the effects, and the constant crisis to crisis action didn’t really leave much time for thinking, for seeing how the relationship between Elliot and Derwin was developing.
Its romance, but really more an action read than romance read IMO.

Its a good read, I enjoyed it but its not (yet) a series I’m in love with. time will tell I guess, there;s the potential from far more from this setting.

Stars: Four, an action packed read.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket, Linda MacDonald. The Moon Shines Red, Heart of Darkness 1, Pamela Sparkman

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket, Linda MacDonald

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by [MacDonald, Linda]

Genre:  Romance, General Fiction,(adult).
Well. I love romance, saw this and was intrigued but…..to me this Isn’t Romance. Romance for me is lovers, twists, dramas, upheavals, and this book has all that but it doesn’t have a HEA, or even a HFN and to me one of those is essential for a book classed as a romance read.
That said it’s a story I very much enjoyed, made me do a lot of that “what if” thinking, look at things from the position of each character.

I hadn’t read the author’s other books which feature characters from this one, and maybe if I had I’d feel differently about Marianne, Ted and Felicity.
I may have been more sympathetic to Felicity, when we first met her. As it is I found her strange, very out for herself. She’d left Ted to be with her lover, and yet she’s irritated that he’s found someone to replace her, disparaging about Marianne, irritated that she’s spending time with Ted in the family home, cross when they both spend time in Marianne’s London home.

Then she meets Coll, and its as if she likes the attention, is flattered and is using him as a place warmer, waiting to see if she can displace Marianne and get her position back with Ted.

She seemed to me very shallow, expected everything to go back as before she left to move abroad with her lover, she left without caring about them, now she’s back she wants it all to carry on as if she hadn’t gone, as if those months had just been a kind of limbo for everyone else.. We do see her lighter side though, and maybe her attitude is one shaped by recent events and not a true look at her.
I did warm to her over time, did come to understand her better, and at the end I respected her and what she did.

Sarah, I felt she really drew the short straw. Ten years “with” Coll, each having separate homes and their relationship revolving solely around what he wants.
Her first husband died, when they were still deeply in love and she really wants to find that again, seemed like she had when she first met Coll. However he’s slowly eroded her confidence to the position when she seems to think its OK for him to have other women, (OW she calls them) as she knows its all flirting on Coll’s part, and nothing serious would come of it. Then he meets Felicity, and everything changes.

Coll, I hated that man and yet I could see what he was so attractive to women. He’s decent looking and cultivates an air of mystery, the Bohemian artist type, and is very careful what he says about himself and his life. What he does do so well is encourage the OWs to talk about themselves, leaving it open for him to listen carefully, to flatter, to encourage, to sympathise until they hang on his every word.
He made me so angry the way he was so careful not to tell Felicity about Sarah…..I wanted to shout at Sarah “Follow him, Check his phone, ask him outright.” To Felicity i wanted to say “ask more, questions why he hasn’t/doesn’t seem to have has a relationship since his divorce over a decade ago.” But of course they don’t and the story rolls on to its climax.
I so felt for Sarah, she knew but was kidding herself. She realised Felicity was more than the usual Ow, a real threat this time. And Coll, he just wouldn’t see what he was doing was wrong, belittled Sarah in subtle ways, didn’t stop to think of how hurt she would be about what he says. All the way through he only ever looks at how events affect him, and some of the things he says to Sarah I could strangle him, choke him, I was so angry.  Dammit he’s a book character! How can I get so angry about one of those 😉 but I do. Testament of good writing the the world and characters that are fictional feel so real.

The ending kind of soft, subdued, unfinished to me, there’s not real conclusion and overall from everything I think Sarah is the one who lose most, I really felt for her. She’d done nothing but fall in love with a charismatic but shallow, selfish man.

Stars: five,not a romance, but an interesting and absorbing read none-the-less. Not a rereader but a full 5* story despite that.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Moon Shines Red, Heart of Darkness 1, Pamela Sparkman

The Moon Shines Red: A Fantasy Romance Novel (Heart of Darkness Book 1) by [Sparkman, Pamela]

Genre:  Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, some you win, some you lose. Sadly this was a lose for me. Its garnered a whole slew of 4 and 5 star reviews so clearly its spot on for many readers, but I’m not among them.

I thought I’d like it, it sounded intriguing but I just felt disassociated from the plots and the characters. I just couldn’t connect with them in any way, didn’t really feel anything for them, didn’t care if things worked out. I did skim read the last 60% just to finish as it was clear when I got to 40% that it wasn’t going to work for me 😦
That happens, reading is subjective, not liking it doesn’t mean it’s a bad book any more than liking a book doesn’t mean it’s good. Its just My View of it, and if you share my taste in reads you may feel the same.

Its perfectly well set out, doesn’t leave plot lines hanging, is easy to follow and has a proper ending where everything is clear and story-line for later book emerges, but it felt almost YA in the way the plots played out and the characters acted. Though I’ve enjoyed some YA in the past its not my preferred reading type and this just didn’t work for me. I won’t continue with the series.

Stars: Two, a great book for many readers, but wasn’t one for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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