Wolf’s Bane (Moon Marked Book 1) Aimee Easterling
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!
A Life Without Living, (The STREGA Series Book 1)
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance
I didn’t realise this wasn’t a stand- alone, but part of a series so was expecting it to end. And it didn’t, but ends on something of a cliffhanger. Still, its a great story and goodreads and amazon do make it clear its not a stand alone read.
I was intrigued, its a supernatural story but different to much of whats on offer, a love story passed down through the ages.
Gio, what a fabulous man and how harrowing, always searching and never quite making it in time. Then waiting for the next lifetime. Kate, I really liked her and her friend from work, Dave. Then there’s Alex, on the surface the perfect husband but when we see their relationship closer its not all that it seems, and yet despite his faults Kate is always so eager to please him. And of course there’s Claire and Willem, and the way there seems an instant attraction between them.
I enjoyed the story but there were a few sections that jarred, a few oddities such as when Gio meets Kate for coffee. They’re strangers, and he gets her an Americano. “ That’s amazing. Its my favourite. How did you know?” Well, I guess as most coffees are the basic, Americano, it wasn’t a difficult guess, but more a safe choice….
Its a story I enjoyed but didn’t have me riveted to the page, wasn’t one I couldn’t put aside for a while. I do want to read more though, want to see how things are going to work out.
Stars: Four, an enjoyable read, good story and I’m keen to see what happens next.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Echo Trilogy Collection: The Complete Series
I read this series as individual books as they came out, but it’s now available as a complete set, a massive 1143 pages for just £9.99 or free on KU.
I’ve just borrowed this on KU and reread them ( easier than digging them out individually on my kindle, I’ve almost 7K books there…. ) Each book has been renamed, maybe has been updated, from memory i didn’t notice anything different but it is several years since I’ve read them. Knowing the backstory and some of what would happen meant i feel I got more from the story this time round – that’s something i often find with complex reads such as this.
It’s set in modern times, but also there are periods when the story reverts to the past, from Ancient Egypt to current day and between. It’s a great read, totally absorbing, great characters that felt real to me, and some unusual world building. I love it, definitely a five star read, thought I can’t recall how I originally rated the stories individually.
I’ve added links to past reviews.
Woman Who Spoke to Spirits, Alys Clare
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
I love this kind of historical read, one where I feel I’m part of the setting, can taste the atmosphere, really feel as if I’m there in past times with the characters. It proved t be a light and enjoyable read. This is first in a new series, I’ve read a couple by Alys and enjoyed those, so was confident I’d like this one.
First books in a series have a hard ask, delivering characters, new settings along with an interesting story, and this book did that really well.
I’m intrigued by Lily’s past, we get hints of some awful trauma but I guess that’s going to come out more in further books. Likewise her new hire, Felix, has his own somewhat mysterious past. We know some of it, but there seems much more to him that just a down at heel former rich kid. He has so much experience of different things, and I’m keen to know how and where and when he learned all this. He seemed so much older than his actual years.
He and Lily make a good pair, work well together and even though in those times its odd to have a female boss, he makes it work, being deferential without seeming obsequious, and yet standing up when its needed. I feel maybe in further books something might develop between them but there’s little here except respect and a possible growing attraction. I want to know more about the guy in the houseboat – forgotten his name, but though he and Lily have only met a handful of times they have something special maybe? Or perhaps I’m reading things that aren’t there 😉
The mystery this is based around is actually two stories, there’s the one about the actress, the stage and young Julian, and then the primary one of Albertina and the evil she senses is out for her. That had me completely puzzled, I simply couldn’t work it out, though of course after its over I could see the clues Alys had cleverly weaved through. An original tale, not one I’ve come across before.
Stars: Four, a fun read and a great intro to the series.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Storm Cursed, A Mercy Thompson novel, Patricia Briggs
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy
My all time favourite fantasy author, others come close but she’s still Queen of Fantasy for me, so when I saw this I just had to request it.
I’ve read and reread all the books multiple times and even now find things I’ve missed on previous readings. Its a fabulous series, and unlike some that go on to become long running but tired, its still as fresh as the first one.
Each story is complete but part of a long term story arc.
What I love about good authors is the way they bring in what I think of as story seeds, the little hints that are easy to miss, that become part of bigger plots further down the line, sometimes books later.
Sherwood Post is one of those, we met him a few books back, he’s grown in person as we meet him more and he plays a big part in this book. Being a fellow leg amputee I have a real soft spot for him, and it was great to slowly see more of him in this story.
He’s had a tangled history with witches, can’t recall his past but retains an awful lot of instinctive fear about witchcraft, so its probably a psychiatric issue more than physical one but who knows? The brain is a curious organ. Where usually werewolves can regrow body parts, his leg presumably was spelled in some way and hasn’t regrown. I feel for his struggles, and although he has a below knee amputation and mine is most of my leg his struggles are real. Patricia clearly either knows someone like this or has done research because unlike in so many books ( Horse Whisperer anyone?) Sherwood’s physical issues with his missing limb and prosthesis are genuine. I know, having struggled over the same things. In fact when he talks about his socket for his prosthetic I knew exactly what he meant, it was suggested as possibly suitable for me by a doctor in the early days, and though my prosthesist disagreed he made one anyway, so I could try and he was right. It was incredibly comfortable and perfect for those only missing below knee, but for people like me the weight of a whole limb was too much, and it just wouldn’t stay on 😦 I love that Patricia didn’t just give Sherwood a false limb, but made it the right sort for him. Small touches but those are what make her books so incredible to read for me. I can believe in them, can believe in the weird and wonderful types of folk she dreams up.
Once more its am amazing story, full of suspense and yet lightened with touches of humour ( nudge!!). I love that she brings in so many parts of past stories, and weaves them seamlessly with the current one. So here we’ve Mercy and the wolves still dealing with her perhaps rash proclamation, but the right thing to do, offering protection to the inhabitants of the Tri-cities. That brings in everyone in this story, the Pack, Elizaveta and her family, the vampires, and of course the Fae, including my much admired Zee and Tad. Zee’s actions here reminded me very much of his earth affinity that allowed Mercy and the others into Underhill several books back. I enjoy that kind of continuity.
Wulfe is in this story a lot towards the end and I’m kind of confused about how I feel over him. He’s a real mix, we’ve seen his seemingly uncaring, blase attitude to his menagerie, and to humans in general, his lack of loyalty to the seethe possibly in the Frost book, or maybe he was playing a long game, his strange abilities as the Wizard, and yet he seems to have a thread of doing the right thing running through. Is it because of morals ( unlikely) or just that it appeals to his sense of fun, his fondness for causing change, stirring things up? A bit like Coyote you never quite know whats behind their mechanisms. I guess its part of that long, hundreds- maybe thousands- of years of life, they like entertainment to relieve the ennui that affects some.
Mercy, well, I’ve loved her character right from the start, overlooked so, so often by Wolves, Witches, Fae and humans, yet she’s incredibly intelligent, with the strong sense of morals that guides her, and somehow gets others doing whats right. Adam ( swoon) has always seen her value though, and respects her even while he’s terrified for her as she veers into life changing difficulties. He knows that while he’s love to keep her wrapped up safely away from danger that’s not who she is, and their relationship would suffer so he respects her decisions and always has her back.
I hope she and the others have got lots more stories to come, this world Patricia has created and its evolution can take much more yet before the story gets old.
Stars: five of course. Another riveting read, taking me on a wonderful journey into another world. A book to get lost in, to leave reality for a few hours and immense myslef in the Tri-cities and its inhabitants.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
The Talon & the Blade, Grace Bloods: Book 3, Jasmine Silvera
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
Little Darlings, Melanie Golding.
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
A fabulous read, but if like me you’re easily spooked please don’t read at night! Its not scary per se, but scary for the possibilities. Chillingly unsettling in its supernatural potential rather than chillingly terrifying.
When we first start, I wasn’t enamored of Patrick, he says the right things but I didn’t feel he really believed them. I felt he was selfish, and the further into the novel we got the more I disliked him. That’s just a personal view, I’m not saying he was bad, irresponsible, or had anything to do at what had happened, but I just did not like him. Hearing events via Lauren made me feel sympathetic to her, and of course fully believe in what she is saying. Is she really seeing that though, it it really happening as she describes or is it some form of post natal depression or something similar?
All the way through the novel we get events through Lauren’s eyes and then via other folk, showing maybe what she is seeing is the truth, or maybe she is imagining seeing things, and I veered from one thought to another, wondering just which one is right. Were the twins singing at just five weeks or was it her imagination? Its so cleverly done that as a reader I just didn’t know.
Then there’s Jess, the police officer, the history of events in the area, Natalie, so many possible explanations and the easiest one for Patrick, the hospital and the police is that she’s imagining it brought on by stress, tiredness and possible health/child birth complications.
I tend to want definite answers and in this novel there isn’t one. How could there be though when no-one really knows what did happen? Its a very ambiguous ending, just as I was believing one thing once more the temptation of another version being correct raises its head. Its not the ending I like, but it is the perfect ending to this story.
Stars: Five, an amazing, brilliant debut novel, perfectly written, full of suspense and suggestions, leading reader one way then pulling them back the other. I really had no idea by the end which version of events was true. Chillingly suspenseful, and a thoroughly absorbing read.
ARC via Netgalley and Publishers
American Witch, American Witch: Book 1, Thea Harrison
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
The Last Loyalty, Bernadette Lyons.
Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy
What an incredible debut read! I was blown away by this story, moved to tears by the ending, but satisfied by the way it was done even so. It was the perfect finale for this book (even if it did make me cry).
I wasn’t sure when I read synopsis if it would be a story for me, but it sounded a bit like Jean M Auel series, of which I read and loved the first book years ago. ( I might have to search the rest out now!) It does share a few characteristics via The People and the way they live, very primitively, but I feel they share more with historical Native Indians in their outlook, reverence for nature, the way they follow the horse herd, as the Native Indians followed the bison etc at different times of year.
Jessa, a classic under-dog, talented and respected as a healer, and yet ridiculed at times for her eye colour, brown, unlike the rest of the People who have blue eyes.
Hers is a lonely life, not for her the popularity among the men of the other ladies, and she’s kind of apart from the rest, few real friends, always on the fringes.
Then she gets a new patient and although he’s a stranger, a potential danger to The People, she is fierce in her defence of him. Malcolm’s uniform bears marks the People associate with Gods, and when he does open his eyes they are gray – another sign from the Gods.
Malcolm finds it hard to believe his situation, is desperate to escape and get back to his duty with the army. It’s when he looks out at night though, early on, and sees two moons and many more stars than on Earth that he realises its not going to be easy. He has no idea where he is or if its possible to return.
As time goes on and he becomes accepted among The People his desire to get back, his duty to return vies with his situation of a life he’s come to enjoy, a woman he loves, a people he respects.
And then come The Others…..and Malcolm realises that maybe he is here for a reason, that the People need him and his command of tactics to survive the upcoming battle.
Its a fabulous read, I really enjoyed seeing the day to day life of how the People live, the way the horses are so important, the way the tribe is run, the respect for nature. When Malcolm goes on his first hunt and the prayer of thanks to the Gods is said over the animal that dies, the prayer respecting and venerating its sacrifice of life, it reminded me very much of the Native Indians who did the same, and of the Scots who had their own prayers of thanks when hunting. I’ve no doubt other groups that live off the land have similar rituals, and this made the hunt feel very real.
I liked too that they didn’t just slay at random, but chose older, weaker targets, never a pregnant or nursing animal, and when the leader decided they had enough meat for survival they stopped.
All that made the People feel real to me, I loved their rituals, the way nothing was wasted, their whole way of life, tough but fair in the main. There’s a hierarchy that works, where everyone knows their place.
Malcolm slowly finds his place, and he was a man I adored, he saw in Jessa what her eye colour blinded the others to. Once he treated her with respect, as a desired woman, other men of the People saw her differently too. I was so happy at what transpired between them, at the way she and Malcolm became one unit, that he didn’t follow the Peoples custom of sleeping with any woman that invited them, but stayed true to Jessa only.
I felt I knew many of the tribe, knew them as people, as real individuals and understood their reactions. I liked that not all were good, that sometimes behind a pretty or handsome face lay an unpleasant nature. There’s a slow build up of tension between some of the characters, things that all come to a climax towards the end.
And the end- oh I really wanted a different ending, but TBH it wouldn’t have been near as good done my way. The way it happened broke my heart, made me cry but was so perfect, and among the sadness there is also happiness, not just for Jessa but for others of the People.
Stars: five, its an incredible, amazing, riveting first novel and I’m so looking forward to more from this author.
Arc via Netgalley
Dancer’s Flame, Grace Bloods: Book 2, Jasmine Silvera
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