Six Crimson Cranes, Elizabeth Lim
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, teens and YA.
Well, re-tellings are a bit hit and miss for me, some I’ve adored and others…well, lets just say I didn’t. This story though, based on the old Grimms fairy tale, pulled at me. I adored Grimms as a kid, any fairy stories but especially those, and I’d read them over and over.( Mum used to say “Jeannie, you’re too old for fairy tales.” I’d have been maybe 9 or 10….) I’m much, much older now – frankly, you’re Never too old for fairy tales 😉
I remember this one so well, the poor sister spinning and knitting sweaters out of nettles…
Elizabeth makes the sister a princess, and the brothers princes. Sets them in a beautiful Eastern setting, with woods that stretch for miles, huge snow covered mountains, harsh dusty roads. There’s a very pronounced master/servant divide that works so well for the story.
The closeness of Shiori and her brothers grows, she’s always been loyal to them, loves them, but they’ve grown apart over the years. Now though, forced into each others company, depending on each other to break the curse, they grow back as one unit.
I loved this book, loved the addition of dragons, loved the fantasy elements that were still true to the original story but changed to fit this new one. I enjoyed the way Eastern beliefs and myths were woven into an essentially European fairy tale. It all added to that overall roundness of the story, made it feel believable.
I really liked seeing the day to day life, the little things like Shiori struggling to work for the lady she tried to steal the boat from. There were some great characters, harsh ones, kind ones, and of course my favourite, the cruel but clever, wicked ones.
Shiori grew so much in this book, from a sweet but selfish princess, into a much more rounded and understanding character. I enjoyed the gentle romance that grew towards the end, loved the way poor Shiori and her brothers seemed to take one step forward and two back. Those setbacks all added to the story, pushed her and her brothers into devising even more ways to try to break the curse. Kiki though, Kiki really was the star for me. I loved her, and can’t wait to see where Elizabeth takes her and Shiori on the next adventure.
This story is complete but…there are seeds sown for a follow-up that I’d love to read.
Stars: Five, a fun read for all ages, not just teens and YA.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
A Grimoire for Gamblers, (The Trove Arbitrations Book 1), Amanda Creiglow
This sounded unusual, and that’s good in a market saturated with so many fantasy reads that are almost copies…so I dived in.
The magic here is different, very different to the usual, and I liked that, it was good to read a protagonist that wasn’t instantly transformed into someone more skilled than others hundreds of years older. Magic here – for humans at least – relies on skill, practice, accuracy- and intention. I really felt that part was one of the things that sets this novel above so many others.
I liked Elizabeth, and understood her grief for her father even though he’d been trying to end his life for some time. Her curiosity – that would be me, I couldn’t leave such interesting papers and items alone either….The grief provides a convenient excuse for her not being at work too, which gives her time to sort out this mess she’s inadvertently involved in. I didn’t see the point of the boyfriend, Faisal, he’s away for most of the novel and doesn’t add anything. Their relationship doesn’t feel like a very solid one, there’s no real pull between them, they feel more like flatmates than lovers.
I did get a little confused by all the different magical creatures, and I’m still not entirely sure what/where the Gravelings come from. That kind of brings up the weakness in the story for me, I have several unanswered questions. I didn’t understand the relevance of some incidents, felt others were too slickly glossed over. Max seems almost manic at times, yet terrified of his masters – why? What was the significance of the train, other than to begin events? The solutions occasionally seemed a bit slick, though the end result, the big problem, worked excellently for me. Complex enough to make me think, yet with a logic that I could understand.
Overall this was a fun read, and the issues I had could easily be put down to first in series syndrome. Those books have a tough ask, delivering a story interesting enough to hook the reader, but a world wide enough to carry future books. I think its successful here, I’d certainly like to read more.
Stars: Three and a half, its a fun fantasy, but with some darker edges. Holds promise for an interesting series.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy
Well, this is probably my favourite or the trio. Maybe because I feel I know many of the characters. Its good to see how things are growing in the coven, though even with them being witches I’m still pretty sure it wouldn’t be as easy hiding things from the rest of the village as it seems. Still, that’s the beauty of fiction 😉
This book seems to have a bit of everything, the Coven witches of course and then we’ve Ghosts, Demons and Vampires…Vampires. First time they’ve been around in the village and at first the Coven members cant make it out. There’s more issues with Nathaniel Fox, a documentary crew poking into everything, looking for the paranormal, and an old acquaintance from Aveline’s past crops up, and he’s unwelcome. Sadly he’s also very persistent, very suspicious, and tagged into the film crew.
Its a fun read, not just the documentary crew but the Coven, the 1940’s party ( I had to look up Zoot suit – found from Wiki rabbit hole and the images I remember seeing a pic with my dad in that style trousers…See, even fiction teaches us things). Of course there;s Eben, who adores Aveline, and is such a source of strength. She needs it in this book, there are some hard things to deal with.
It ends with a big bang, literally, and some tear jerking moments too.
Stars: Four, a fun read, I enjoyed seeing how the coven and its memebers have grown over the books, and how Fox was finally dealt with.
ARC supplied by author
The Midnight Bargain, C.L.Polk.
Magic meets Bridgerton in the Regency fantasy everyone is talking about…
I wasn’t sure about this book at first, but quickly became hooked and I loved it.
Its a mix, a magical world, but historical in the sense that women are property, and horrors, no matter how talented magically once married they lose that. As spirits can enter unborn children and take over women have to wear a collar to lock out their magic and therefore lock out any harmful spirits. Not just while they are pregnant, but from their wedding day to the end of their childbearing years. Beatrice is horrified, she is talented, thinks the system unfair and would fair rather keep her magic and remain unmarried. However her families future depends on her making a good marriage, thanks to some poor investments by her father, a fact she’s only just become aware of.
Poor Beatrice, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Her only hope is to continue her magical education in secret and get good enough to convince her father she can help mend the families fortunes that way…
There are some great characters here, a lovely mix of friendship and the usual Mean Girls, as Beatrice isn’t quite from the top drawer. I was surprised how things with Ysabeta developed, loved it, it wasn’t what I expected. Ianthe, who couldn’t love him. One of the few forward thinking men of the time, who was prepared to try to understand what Beatrice had issues with. Like most of us, whats accepted as norm isn’t questioned, and though he knew Ysabeta has problems with it he hadn’t really though about it from a woman’s view. Of course he’s in the minority, and his mother certainly doesn’t share his views.
The star for me was Nadi, the luck spirit. I adored her, she made the book really special, her relationship with Beatrice. They both cared about the other, where convention said spirits needed to be kept in place, and didn’t have those sort of feelings.
Its a gentle romance, beset with society problems and a really fun read. I loved the magic, loved the problems that cropped up, loved the gentle mean girls stuff. It ends neatly, everything wraps up with a neat epilogue, and I’d love to read more from this world, see how the things develop with these characters and maybe others a couple of years down the line.
Stars: Five, a really magical read and I love this world. C L Polk, please write more!
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
Midnight Desire, Shari Nichols
Genre: Sci fi and Fantasy. romance
I enjoy books in the fantasy genre and where there’s romance too, that’s me happy. I enjoyed this book but didn’t love it as I’d thought. To be fair, as with other reviewers I’m writing this, reading this in the midst of the Covid19 crisis and my mind isn’t where it usually is so that could affect my enjoyment.
I loved the characters, the story flowed well and was a quick, steamy read. What I had a really hard time with is Alex being a – well, rabid witch hater wouldn’t be too strong, and yet within the first meeting he’s attracted to Willow and they’re quickly hot and heavy. I couldn’t see how he could put his years of hatred behind him, and how Willow could be with someone who’s held those views for so long. Lust only goes so far. Then there’s the way Willow was assimilated back into the coven with very few questions asked and apart form the initial snarky, hurtful comments its almost like a girls bonding party.
Get past those issues though and its an easy to read novel, a neat story, wrapped up properly, a little magic, a lot of mystery, and plenty of heat.
Stars: I’m hovering between three and four, I liked the story a lot, but the things I had issues with were for me pretty big. Three and a half.
Arc via author
Unearthed, A Death Seeker Novel, Cecy Robson
genre: General Fiction (Adult), Sci-fi and Fantasy
I love Cecy’s stories so was keen to read this but…I did find it confusing at times. Its got that “first novel in series” issue that often happens, where there’s so much to deliver, story, world building, type of character and what magics they have, that it can easily get confusing.
Everything here is so very different, for example Olivia is a pixie, but living among humans as so many of the Fae are, but undetected. She has magic that’s so far unknown but when it does come its kind of typical Olivia, she of the rainbow coloured hair has pink magic, deadly, dangerous magic, but pink.
I really liked Olivia’s spark, loved the humour in the book, the loyalty she inspires. I loved Jane, a fellow magic user, an Elder, but who communicates in somewhat different ways. Then there’s Ryker…swoon…who turns out to be more than just a heart throb top legal expert.
There’s a terrific cast overall, some much needed humour at times among all the death and destruction that lifted the tone just when I needed it. I had a hard time believing that all that devastation could go unnoticed by humans though, and it wasn’t really explained that well. A couple of times early in the book we get to hear what story has been put out, but later on when the destruction is massive, I didn’t find any explanations of how humans wouldn’t have noticed, or what they would have thought.
I did find the constant battles with the hell hounds a bit wearying, and too graphic for me. I know it wasn’t easy killing them, I know the deaths they caused weren’t pretty, but after the third time of reading just how they dismembered victims I got the picture, didn’t need a blow by blow account full of gore and detail every time. I ended up skipping those parts, and of course there lies the danger I may have skipped something that’s later a major part of the story.
I enjoyed this story but wasn’t riveted to it. I think its one I’ll come back to further on in the series when I understand more, and get much more from it. For now I just feel a bit overwhelmed by such complex events and characters. Its a three star now, but I suspect when I’m more into the series it’ll actually be a five star read. I’m just still a bit confused and bemused…
BTW thanks Cecy, no awful cliffhanger, my bête noire . This story ties up with indications for future books and that’s just how I like a book in a series to end.
Stars: Three, a story that’s complex, and I found a bit too packed with world setting, new events and characters. I feel when I understand more of this world I’d probably rate this a five but for now its a three.
Arc via Netgalley
Summoned to Thirteenth Grave. Darynda Jones
Genre:Mystery and Thrillers.
I’ve joined the blog tour as part of the release of this final book and we were asked to review another book from the series too. I’ve chosen the first book, seems ages ago I read that – when I very first bought a kindle. Charley and the gang have come such a long way since then so I’m looking forward to rereading the beginning – and I’ll probably work my way through the series once more! Good books are well worth that, I find I see things I missed first time round.
Anyway, this book. Well, after the ending of the last, where Charley was banished for 100 years what would happen why she returned, what happened to the humans she knew, what happened to Beep? So many things going on but as usual Darynda manages to give all the answers in a way that’s believable.
The thing with Charley world is you have to forget everything learned about supernatural fiction from other reads, and go with what Darynda has created. Its unique, time isn’t linear, isn’t even anything I’ve read before, but exists in a way that makes ends easy to tie up. Its worlds within worlds, past, present and future all existing within the same frame. There’s God, and his side, Lucifer and his side, and of course Charley, Reyes, and all their gang amassed over the series. If I think about it too hard its head-aching, so its easier to just accept it as is, and go with the flow.
I love Charley’s “voice”, her snark, her outlook in life. At times she sounds a little childish, but its as if that’s her way of coping with all that goes on in her life. She’s had it tough, and there are still some huge shocks to come for her in this book. What I love is that as usual she’s got the big question of Beep and Lucifer, and yet she takes time to deal with everyday issues that crop up, deal with friend’s little issues, missing people, possible murders, letting a few folk pass through her as she’s out and about. I loved that we see almost everyone I remember from the past books in this one, it really feels like a tying up of ends. I hate books where I’m left wondering “what about xxx, how did xx deal with it” and thankfully there’s none of that here.
Reyes, ah Reyes. That guy is so incredible, adores Charley, you know he always has her best interests at heart (can I sever his spine now?) He is just so gorgeous, everyone has the hots for him, but Charley really is It for him, he never even looks elsewhere. Well, he did create her for him, so I guess that’s to be expected. The fact that there are so many supernatural folk in this book, and none really fit the standard supernatural trope. Reyes isn’t one of the good guys, and yet he’s good, others are supposed to be God’s folk yet they leave things t play out, and as when Charley saved amber in the last book a good deed still has consequences for them. They seem to be all about non interference even when it means unjust endings.
Stars:Five stars, a fabulous finale. Forget all other supernatural stories, Darynda’s book are unique. Read them and lose yourself in an amazing world, full of incredible characters and a story that will stay with you for ages. I’m hoping we get more of Beep and her story, I’m not ready to leave all these characters yet
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
First Grave on the Right, Darynda Jones
Genre: Romance , Mystery and Thrillers
As part of the Summoned blog tour reviewers were asked to choose an earlier book for review a swell as the final one, and I thought it would be interesting to go right back to the start. I often find on rereading novels I pick up on things I missed first time round, look at characters and events with different eyes now I know the full story, and it was very much a case of reading First Grave with fresh insights.
I certainly looked at some of the original gang with a different opinion. It made me wonder – did Darynda plan events all the way through, of did the story dictate what happened to characters?
We see the main gang right from the start, Cookie, Amber, Ubie, her dad, Gemma, the wicked stepmother ( ok, maybe she’s not thaaat bad, just feels it), Garret, Angel, My Wong, Aunt Flo, and of course Reyes Farrow……….mmmmm.
Cookie remains this stalwart, slightly scatty, slapdash character, who’s actually got an amazingly sharp mind under all the fluff and frivolity face she presents. Amber is still a kid, but sharp and sweet, adores her mum and Charley. Charley’s dad and Uncle Bob, great supports to Charley even if on a strange level, though when she was a kid they really let her down IMO. But then she wouldn’t be the Charley I love without that so a pass for that. Garret has just been told about Charley via a drunken binge with Ubie and he’s one of those, who expect Charley to perform miracles, a skeptic always testing, but still can’t believe her results. The supernatural gang, or at least the beginnings of it, and Reyes. Nuff said.
As with each book we get Charley’s day to day life as a PI with Cookie, a sometimes police “consultant” via her dad and now Ubie. There’s a complete story in each but the overall story arc advances too each time.
What I love about Charley is her heart, her irreverent humour, and her determination to get the bad guys, do whats right even at the cost of her own well being. She comes over as immature sometimes, scatty, inappropriate, and yet she’s got an incredibly sharp mind. Doh, she’d say, Grim here, knows every language ever spoken, ever invented, can speak with the dead, so what do you expect?
She always plays down what she does, treats everything as a bit of a joke, and maybe that’s because she’s learned to get in first rather than wait for ridicule, a kind of way of coping, way of protecting herself. As well as her heart, her snark, her sharp intelligence, her coffee addiction, I love the way she names everything. By the end of the series I’m very familiar with the girls Will Robinson and Danger 😉 Misery the jeep, George the shower ( though that’s later). Her first thought on getting something new is what to call it. And of course her convoluted mind comes up with some real crackers.
Anyway, in book one we get to meet all these great folk, the nucleus of the incredible support team she develops over the series, and not only does Darynda deliver all that, along with a realistic environment for her, but we get a gripping mystery, that starts simple – as they all do – and grows ever more complex and dangerous. Does that stop Charley? You’ve guessed, no…she’s in because its the right thing to do, but despite getting battered, bruised, shot at, attacked, she carries on. Good side of the Grim job, she heals quicker, not instant but certainly quicker than human.
It ends with one mystery wrapped up, but the wider one of Charley and Reyes, the supernatural world, the people who get caught up in it, developing further with a great lead in to book two, and the start of the overall story opening out.
I have to mention the chapter headings, by the end of the series they were something I eagerly looked forward to at the end of each chapter. I knew turning the page would bring a smile to my face, even if the story was full of death and despair, those headings reminded me it would lighten up, that good would prevail. Its that mix of drama and humour, done so perfectly throughout the series that made it so perfect for me. I’ll miss these characters, though whisper in the world of books is that Beep may be bringing them back in a new series 😉
Stars: Five, a great start to a fabulous series. A real treat to read, if you love a well written, suspenseful, supernatural romance.
ARC via Netgalley and Publishers
Crossroads of Bones, A Katie Bishop Novel Book 1, Luanne Bennett
Genre:, Sci-fi and Fantasy
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this, Luanne is a new-to-me author, but its a story I really enjoyed.
There are some terrific characters here, and that’s really important for me. I loved Katie, a strong and independent lady, not a whiny TSSL heroine. She’s got a mysterious past, is making a new life for herself in her tattoo shop. Her employees are a mixed bunch but really interesting, and as the story unfolds some of them have valuable info for her. I loved her friend Sugar too, a great secondary character who proved very important and was such a treat to read. I really enjoy reading about people who are different in some way, individuals in the fullest sense and Sugar was perfect.
The adventure, the story, the bit that’s the focus of the book was cleverly done, and kept me reading avidly and this book set me up to look forward for the next. I like that there are characters other than the usual vampire/shooters, I love those but I love stories which take things a bit further too. This one was very vivid in the way it played out and even though we’re talking about fiction, specifically fantasy, it all felt so very real to me. The touches of root/voodoo/voudun magic were good and added so much to the atmosphere, and blended perfectly with the setting.
That ending, not a cliffhanger but a terrific, tantalising glimpse of what’s in story for Katie next. I look forward to reading that.
Stars: Four and a half, almost the magic five, and a terrific series opener.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
Vampire Fight Club, Larissa Ione
I love Larissa’s writing, but somehow lost track of the series after reading the first few Demonica books. Still, I’d read enough to follow this story, I think possibly if you haven’t read any you could still enjoy it 😉 Its a short, hot paranormal, set in the Demonica world.
Its not a complex story, that’s good as its so short…I don’t often read novellas for that reason, they don’t have space to let me really get to know the worlds and characters in the story, but when its part of an existing series it works for me.
I liked Lena, she’s had a tough upbringing and is now facing death but before that she’s determined to get revenge on whoever killed her brother, the one that understood her, protected her, not the two that have made it their work to torment her. With her loving father dead and now Vaughn gone she’s alone, and for her last weeks she’s going to find the killer.
That brings her in the sphere of Nate, manager of Thirst, and the cruel vicious Demon, Fade….and maybe death too soon. Of course Larissa throws in events that change what’s going to happen very rapidly, and of course there’s sex…lots of it, hot and sensual.
It’s a series that features sex demons as main characters, so its no surprise the main books have that angle, but even this short does -however it fits the general story line, and is not the more-sex-than-story issue I so hate. There needs to be a balance, and Larissa always seems to find it 😉
Stars: four, a fun addition to the series.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
Council of Souls, Fated Eternals 2, Jen Printy
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, Romance
Well, I loved book one and was keen to crack on with the story but….its so different from other fantasy books, so many new immortals with different talents that I was lost. I went back and read last five or so chapters of book one to refresh my mind and fell back into the story.
Having finished this book I really think it would benefit from an index or something, so that we know how each person is connected, and the difference between the supernatural types. Now we’ve Souless, Timeless, Endless, Immortals, Soul Immortals, Death, the Fates, Shadow Death….you get the idea. I just kept forgetting who fitted where and the difference between them all.
Its a great read once more. The love between Jack and Leah is so perfect, and the lengths each will go to to save the other really emphasises that. I love Artagan too, he seems to know a lot more than he lets on. Kemsi, a puzzle that one. What does she really feel about Artagan and he her? Death? What’s his end game and why does he seem to let Domitilla get away with so much. How are people chosen for Gathering and why? So many questions and the end of this book sets things up nicely for the next.
Its a five star read, though I really would have benefited from an index of types and hope that maybe for the next book Jen does one. I did have to put this aside sometimes as I just got so lost between characters and connections. I needed to sit back from the story a bit and think about how that worked before I could continue and it spoiled the flow a bit for me. These kind of very different supernatural reads work best for me when all books are out and its one that I’ll definitely do a back to back read when that happens, immerse myself in the story and be able to read through remembering who’s who and where they fit in things. Currently with them being different from the fiction norms, and with a gap between books it means I need to refresh my mind on all that before starting next book.
Stars: five, a fabulous, fresh take on the supernatural world.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers