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By: Robin Brande
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It’s cold. In some places, it’s freezing. OF COURSE WE NEED TO READ RIGHT NOW! Bundle ourselves up in fleece and wool and whatever else will do it, and sit for hours totally immersed in story.
Speaking of bundles … do I have a treat for you!
My novel BOOK OF EARTH is currently part of a terrific WOMEN IN FANTASY story bundle, along with nine other books, all guaranteed to transport you away from the cold and wind and snow to places and times … where there might also be cold and wind and snow, but at least there’s also magic and mysticism and other delights that make losing ourselves in fantasy so much fun.
The whole bundle is available for a $15 minimum (although you’re free to pay more, and might want to, since a portion of the proceeds go to The Pearl Foundation, a charity created by singer Janis Ian to promote education by providing scholarships to returning students who have been away from school for a while — a worthy cause!).
But here’s the catch: this bundle will only be available for a limited time. You’ll never find all these wonderful novels grouped together like this for such a low price anywhere else. So the time is now! Winter isn’t just coming, it’s here! Let’s go read our way through it!
May Contain Spoilers
I loved the action, but struggled with the protagonists. They aren’t particularly likable, or rational, which made me doubt they would, indeed, survive the end of the world. Jenna, in particular, behaves with extreme immaturity, which both grated and made me wish, even for a moment, that she would be the next victim of the demon dogs. She is more upset that Mason freezes her out emotionally than she’s mad that he kidnapped her, tying her up and tossing her in the trunk of her car before driving her to his isolated cabin in the woods. He only does it to “save” her from the end of the world, but since she doesn’t believe that the end of the world is nigh, she should have been a lot more pissed at him than she was about that incident.
There’s a lot of sexual tension, but Mason and Jenna’s relationship never seemed to grow from sex and lust to love. Maybe in a scary new world that’s all you need, but as a reader, I was disappointed at their lack of emotional development. They both act like 10 year olds, sniping and even physically fighting with each other. I’m not sure that I’m ever going to buy into a relationship between them, should they ever start to actually communicate, which they really didn’t until the very end of the book. It’s all mine, mine, mine, and I don’t consider feelings of possession to equate to feelings of love and tenderness, but maybe I’m weird that way.
This book rocked when the characters were hiding or running away from the monsters that relentlessly tried to eat them. The interactions between the protagonists, however, wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. I did like Tru and Penny, two of the younger supporting characters, and I’m looking forward to reading their story.
Review copy purchased from Amazon
About the book:
First in a stunning new post-apocalyptic paranormal romance trilogy.
Growing up with an unstable, often absent father who preached about the end of the world, Jenna never thought in her wildest nightmares that his predictions would come true. Or that he would have a plan in place to save her-one that includes the strong, stoic man who kidnaps and takes her to a remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest.
The mysterious ex-Marine named Mason owes a life-debt to Jenna’s father. Skilled and steadfast, he’s ready for the prophesied Change, but Jenna proves tough to convince. Until the power grid collapses and mutant dogs attack-vicious things that reek of nature gone wrong.
When five strangers appear, desperate to escape the bloodthirsty packs, Jenna defies her protector and rescues them. As technology fails and the old world falls away, Jenna changes too, forever altered by supernatural forces. To fight for their future, she and Mason must learn to trust their instinctive passion-a flame that will see them through the bitter winter, the endless nights, and the violence of a new Dark Age.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Darynda! Describe yourself in five words or less.
[Darynda Jones] Slightly scattered lover of words.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?
[Darynda Jones] My phone.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.
[Darynda Jones] Coffee, headphones, Post-Its.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?
[Darynda Jones] This changes regularly. Today, it’s sugar snap peas.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?
[Darynda Jones] Jane Austen (This will, of course, require time travel as I don’t relish spending the day 6-feet under. :))
[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week. Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?
[Darynda Jones] Teleportation. What I would do with it is very political and involves the letter I-S-I-S, but on the last day, I’d do a lot of traveling and see things I’ve only dreamed of seeing.
Thank you so much for having me!
About the book:
In a small village in New York lives Jane Doe, a girl with no memory of who she is or where she came from. So when she is working at a diner and slowly begins to realize she can see dead people, she’s more than a little taken aback. Stranger still are the people entering her life. They seem to know things about her. Things they hide with lies and half-truths. Soon, she senses something far darker. A force that wants to cause her harm, she is sure of it. Her saving grace comes in the form of a new friend she feels she can confide in and the fry cook, a devastatingly handsome man whose smile is breathtaking and touch is scalding. He stays close, and she almost feels safe with him around.
But no one can outrun their past, and the more lies that swirl around her-even from her new and trusted friends-the more disoriented she becomes, until she is confronted by a man who claims to have been sent to kill her. Sent by the darkest force in the universe. A force that absolutely will not stop until she is dead. Thankfully, she has a Rottweiler. But that doesn’t help in her quest to find her identity and recover what she’s lost. That will take all her courage and a touch of the power she feels flowing like electricity through her veins. She almost feels sorry for him. The devil in blue jeans. The disarming fry cook who lies with every breath he takes. She will get to the bottom of what he knows if it kills her. Or him. Either way.
May Contain Spoilers
I am a big fan of Keri Arthur’s Souls of Fire series, so I was excited to check out City of Light. This is the start of her Outcast series, which has a futuristic, post-apocalyptic feel. The main character is a déchet, an artificially conceived super-solider with both shifter and vampire DNA, and she’s been trained to seduce enemy shifters to divulge their deepest secrets. She can alter her image, she’s immune to poison, and she can talk to ghosts. She’s also pretty kick ass in a fight, and can better than hold her own in most instances. She has one major weakness, and it’s almost her downfall several times during the story. Tiger was in charge of the nursery in one of the déchet bunkers, and after the shifters won the war and attempted to eradicate all traces of her kind, she was forced to watch all of her young charges, as well as every other individual in the bunker, die horrible deaths when toxins were pumped into the structure. When she learns that a child is in danger, she drops everything to save her and ends up leaping from the frying pan into the fire.
It’s been over a hundred years since the end of the war, and Tiger has spent most of that time hiding in the bunker. The shifters dumped cement into the bunker to permanently seal it off, but luckily for Tiger, it only filled the top levels, leaving the rest of the structure intact. There are secret entrances that she makes use of to steal in and out of her home, which is populated with the ghosts of her young wards, as well as the deceased warriors that inhabited the lower levels. This was one of the largest plot holes for me, because it make zero sense that the victors of the war would completely overlook the fact that the military bunker had more ways in than the ones they sealed. Especially when it was so close to their city. They were so confident that they killed everyone in the bunker that it was inconceivable to them that someone actually survived. With all of the times Tiger entered and exited her home, it was inconceivable to me that nobody noticed.
After the shifters dropped bombs to end the war, their weapons tore rifts between this world and the next, letting in monsters more terrifying than those they fought during the war. Now blood-thirsty monsters dominate the night, causing the city dwellers to live under perpetual artificial light. Not only do the humans and shifters have to worry about vampires, but the Others from beyond the rifts also hunt during the night. It’s during a monster infested night that Tiger’s ghosts send her out into the darkness. There is a child out there, unprotected, soon to be a snack for the vampires. Without a second thought, Tiger races out to save her, and also finds an injured ranger, a shifter that specialized in the murder of déchets. Tiger manages to save both of them, and turns her quiet life on its ear.
There’s a lot of action and near death episodes in City of Light, and that kept me engaged in the story. Tiger can’t trust anyone – not her new acquaintances, not an old friend she’s been reunited with. There’s something off about everyone, some darkness she can’t quite place her finger on. When she learns that someone is kidnapping young children for unknown, but most assuredly nefarious purposes, she begins to suspect government ties to the crimes. With time running our, she knows she only has herself and her ghosts to rely on.
I thought some of the world building was a little weak. I didn’t think this post-war world was sufficiently fleshed out, especially when it came to the government structure and the ruling hierarchy. Some of the supporting characters also felt flat and one-dimensional. The lead up to a few of the action sequences seemed drawn out, leaving me to hope that the battles would soon begin. These are typical gripes I have at the start of a new series, and I’m hoping some of my concerns will be expanded on later in the series. I did enjoy the book, and I’m looking forward to the next title in the Outcast series.
Review copy provided by Publisher
The first in an all-new futuristic fantasy series from Keri Arthur—the New York Times bestselling author of the Souls of Fire novels.
When the bombs that stopped the species war tore holes in the veil between this world and the next, they allowed entry to the Others—demons, wraiths, and death spirits who turned the shadows into their hunting grounds. Now, a hundred years later, humans and shifters alike live in artificially lit cities designed to keep the darkness at bay….
As a déchet—a breed of humanoid super-soldiers almost eradicated by the war—Tiger has spent her life in hiding. But when she risks her life to save a little girl on the outskirts of Central City, she discovers that the child is one of many abducted in broad daylight by a wraith-like being—an impossibility with dangerous implications for everyone on earth.
Because if the light is no longer enough to protect them, nowhere is safe…
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May Contain Spoilers
My Mercy Thompson obsession continues. Blood Bound picks up shortly after the events in Moon Called. Mercy receives a late night call from Stefan, asking for her help. Since she indebted herself to him while searching for Adam’s kidnapped daughter, she doesn’t really have much choice than to accompany him on an errand. One of the things I love about Mercy is that her word is her bond, and she won’t go back on a promise or a debt unless dire circumstances force her to.
Stefan is on a mission from his Mistress; he’s to confront a vampire that’s just arrived in town to discover why he hasn’t informed Marsillia that he’s in her territory. Stefan wants Mercy to go with him because she is immune to most vampire powers. The encounter quickly devolves, and Mercy, in her coyote form, is helpless to assist Stefan when he is overpowered or the human the vampire has kidnapped. A narrow escape that leaves Mercy injured and with nightmares and many questions follows. Sam is furious with Stefan for putting her in that position, and that’s when Stefan reveals that the vampire is a demon-ridden sorcerer. There is an evil demon sharing his body, and if they don’t kill him soon, there will be many, many lives lost. Stefan is a very powerful vampire, and he was quickly under the other vampire’s control, so Stefan is going to need help to subdue him.
The sorcerer is a powerful foe, and Mercy is warned to back off and let the vampires and werewolves handle him. Unfortunately, the team sent after him gets their butts handed to them. When Sam, Adam, and Stefan disappear, Mercy knows that she has to do something, on the off chance that they are still alive. This is another thing I like about Mercy – she knows that she’s hopelessly outmatched, but she still is driven to do the “right” thing. She won’t be able to live with herself if she could have saved her friends, but didn’t act because she was too frightened. Instead, she gathers up her courage and a few magical gifts from friends and heads off on a demon-possessed vampire hunt.
One difference in Blood Bound is that Mercy is forced to work with the vampires. While they don’t like her kind, they realize that her powers may prove useful in tracking down the rogue vamp. Mercy’s clear confusion when dealing with them gave her an added challenge. While she could read the werewolves well and understood their pack structure, the vampires and their politics are a complete mystery to her. Can she trust them? Will they use her and turn on her? The werewolves can be hard to like given their brutal behavior, but the vampires are so much worse because they are so alien and it’s so hard to understand their motivations. Their blatant disregard for human life is alarming, but I guess that makes sense because they’re dead!
I’m finding the series very entertaining, and I’m looking forward to the next book.
Grade: B+ / A-
Review copy borrow from my local library
Mechanic Mercy Thompson has friends in low places-and in dark ones. And now she owes one of them a favor. Since she can shapeshift at will, she agrees to act as some extra muscle when her vampire friend Stefan goes to deliver a message to another of his kind.
But this new vampire is hardly ordinary-and neither is the demon inside of him.
May Contain Spoilers
I’m late to the Mercy Thompson band wagon. I don’t know why I avoided the series, but I just didn’t find them appealing, despite the kickbutt covers. Then I started reading the Alpha and Omega series, and I decided to give them a chance. I think a big stumbling block for me was the 1st person POV, which isn’t my favorite (I am learning to appreciate it, though). However, after listening to part of the audio book, I jumped to an ebook copy during last week’s marathon of pre-surgical appointments. The audio book was very entertaining, but not practical to listen to in either the doctor’s office or the hospital, and that is the only reason I switched versions. I highly recommend the audio book if that is your preferred reading method.
I loved Mercy. She’s a a Walker, and she shapeshifts into a coyote. Her ability to shift in not linked in any way to the cycle of the moon. She was raised by Bran’s pack after her mother, scared and not quite sure what to do with a shapeshifting daughter, gave her to the werewolves with a plea for help. Living with the wolves gave her a backbone, because they are constantly on the edge of violence and aggression, and it also gave her a very clear picture of how to behave when around them. Though she was raised by the pack, she wasn’t part of the pack, and she wasn’t compelled to follow Bran’s orders. So, to say that she’s a strong and independent, and certainly not a pushover, is somewhat of an understatement.
Mercy lives in Washington, where she runs an auto repair shop. Her life takes a turn for the chaotic when Mac, a young werewolf, turns up at her door, looking for work. Mercy senses that there’s something off about him, and her instincts prove correct. When the alpha of the local pack is attacked and his daughter is kidnapped, Mercy suddenly has her hands full. She fears a traitor in the pack, and with no other options, takes the grievously wounded alpha, Adam, to Bran to help heal him. Then Mercy, Adam, and Samuel are in full out pursuit of Adam’s attackers. Adam wants his daughter back, and he won’t let anyone stand in his way.
Having read the first two Alpha and Omega books, it was great fun to have someone else’s perspective of Bran and the other wolves. Again, because Mercy isn’t part of the pack, she doesn’t necessarily jump at his every command. She and Bran’s son, Samuel, also have a bittersweet history. When Mercy was a teen, she loved Sam with all her heart. Now that she’s an adult, she questions his motives for his interest in her. When he gives indications that he wants to pick up where they left off, she’s not so eager to go along with him. Adam adds to the tension between Mercy and Sam, because he thinks of her as his. So, while these two tough, dominant wolves are posturing and trying to prove who’s the boss, Mercy doesn’t really have much time to spare for either of them. One fear I have in future installments is that the love triangle will drag out, and I hate love triangles. I think Adam is the wolf for her, and she needs to realize that sooner rather than later.
Part of the reason for the conflict in this book is Bran’s intention to make the existence of werewolves common knowledge. As with in Hunting Ground, not everyone is on board with his decision. This causes a lot of grief for Mercy. Soon, not only are renegade wolves involved, but so is the local nest of vampires. I love the world building in the series. There are all kinds of paranormal creatures, some known to the general public, some still keeping a low profile and trying to blend in with the humans. While Mercy is certainly a strong, powerful woman, many of the beings around her are doubly so. I like that that Mercy is often outgunned, and that she has to rely on guts, brains, and pure old-fashioned luck to get herself out of some the messes she winds up in. The world feels very believable, especially the pack politics and pecking order. Even though Mercy is outside of that, it still affects her, and how she relates to other beings she encounters.
Now I am hooked on two Patricia Briggs’ series, and I’m looking forward to getting to know all of the characters better. If you haven’t given them a try yet, I highly recommend both the Mercy Thompson and the Alpha and Omega series.
Grade: B / B+
Review copy borrowed from my local library
Mercy Thompson’s life is not exactly normal. Her next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she’s fixing a VW bus for a vampire. But then, Mercy isn’t exactly normal herself.
May Contain Spoilers
I am not big on audio books, and prior to Hunting Ground, I could count the number I’ve listened to on one hand. I had a long solo drive to a horse show, though, and thought that listening to a book would keep me alert and less stressed during the drive. I picked this book because I loved Cry Wolf, but I haven’t had time to read any further in the Alpha and Omega series. At first I was a little hesitant as I pulled out of the driveway and started my journey, but MY.GOODNESS! I didn’t want the drive to end, I was that engaged in the story!
The narrator, Holter Graham, was incredible. The different voices he used for different characters were spot on, and now I can’t imagine that they would sound otherwise. He varied the cadence of the words depending on the pacing of the particular scene, and wow, I was so caught up in the story that I can’t imagine reading it instead of listening to it now. The story translated well to audio; it’s fast-paced, exciting, and there’s a lot of action that is read with a staccato of sounds. It was like listening to a long, intricate song, with changes in reading tempo and crescendos of action. I loved the narration, and I’m so glad I picked it for my first foray into Scribd’s audiobook library.
The story, for me, is all about Charles and Anna, and their blossoming relationship. They are sent to a meeting in Bran’s place, to discuss the Marrok’s plan to let the world know about the existence of werewolves with some of the foreign alphas. Charles fears that something bad will happen to Bran, so he and his father had been fighting about Bran’s attendance. Shy, quiet Anna forces the two to see reason, and soon, she and her new mate are headed to Seattle, Washington to meet with some of the biggest, baddest werewolf leaders in the world. As the snarling males circle each other, looking for weaknesses, Charles was right to be concerned. There is a lot of animosity between the wolves, especially for Bran, and not all of the alphas are on board with coming out to the general public. A gruesome murder doesn’t help, and Charles finds himself framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Only Anna’s clear thinking and bravery helps root out the true villains.
The characters are what make this such a good series. Anna is still suffering from her mistreatment with her previous pack, and Charles, his father’s enforcer, is feared by the other wolves. Because he might be required to kill any one of them at any time, he also seeks to keeps himself emotionally distant. Only with Anna does his wolf feel at peace. Anna is learning that being Omega doesn’t mean being a pushover. She does not have to be submissive, she does not have to yield, and she has a strength she didn’t think herself capable of. Anna’s mere presence in a pack brings it peace and a sense of calm. While Charles’ job is to control the pack and protect the weaker members, Anna’s is to make everyone in the pack happy.
This was such a successful endeavor that I started listening to Moon Called, also by Patricia Briggs. So far, it is also an engrossing listen; too bad I don’t have any long trips in the near future!
Review copy listened to on Scribd
About the book:
The first Alpha and Omega novel, Cry Wolf, unlocked the doors to a unique urban landscape in “a great…new werewolf series” (Darque Reviews). In Hunting Ground, #1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs invites readers to follow her even deeper into that seductive realm of the unknown…
Anna Latham didn’t know how complicated life could be until she became a werewolf. And until she was mated to Charles Cornick, the son—and enforcer—of Bran, the leader of the North American werewolves, she didn’t know how dangerous it could be, either…
Anna and Charles have just been enlisted to attend a summit to present Bran’s controversial proposition: that the wolves should finally reveal themselves to humans. But the most feared Alpha in Europe is dead set against the plan—and it seems like someone else might be, too. When Anna is attacked by vampires using pack magic, the kind of power only werewolves should be able to draw on, Charles and Anna must combine their talents to hunt down whoever is behind it all—or risk losing everything…
May Contain Spoilers
I wanted to read Frozen in Amber because it’s about shifters, and I generally enjoy shifters stories. Also, Phyllis Ames is a debut author, and I like discovering new authors right as they hit the ground running. This book didn’t start successfully for me, but as I became more embroiled in shifter politics and the secrets Amber’s grandfather had been keeping, I found myself caught up in the story. By the end I couldn’t put it down, and I thought the ending, despite some loose ends, was a perfect solution for Amber.
When Frozen in Amber starts, Amber has been hunted by a group of unknown men the night of her shift. She is a WerCougar, and she hates shifting and her beast. She wants to be human, and she rejects everything about her other self. She’s a vegetarian, she avoids hunting after her shift and prefers being locked in a padded room to prevent her cat from hurting anyone, and she spent seven years in exile after killing a human. She hates her lack of control when she’s a cat, and far prefers her life as a human. She’s a defense attorney at her family’s prestigious law firm, and she relishes in the order and routine of her career.
Then all of that blows up after she’s hunted and shot with a tranquilizer. In her cat form, she experiences the fear and hopelessness of capture and human hands on her, but the next morning, she awakens in her bed and wonders if she imagined the whole thing. She rarely remembers what happens when she shifts, so she thinks she’s just had a weird nightmare, until she notices the welt on her backside that won’t heal and won’t go away. Even with her shifter healing abilities, the wound is painful and troublesome, and it just won’t go away.
As her current case defending a suspected killer begins to tumble out of control, she knows that she can’t trust or believe her client, but she can’t smell a lie on him. There’s a vested interest for the Wer community to get Bergman off on the charges, because he claims that he’s developed a cure for the Wer condition. The Wer Court would like to get their hands on it, for when bitten pups can’t get control of their Wer. Amber is intrigued by the prospect of giving up her cat and living as a normal human. But Bergman hides an explosive temper behind his charming demeanor, and she starts to wonder how much she can trust him. Her Wer senses are also becoming erratic, and she wonders if she’s been targeted to test the experimental drug.
There’s a lot of office politics at the law firm, as upstarts challenge Amber’s authority. There’s also interest by the FBI and CIA, with the agencies battling for control of the Wer community. There are rumors that a new, unstable alpha wolf is having humans bitten, turning them into members for her growing pack. There is a lot of concern at the idea of so many unsanctioned wolves running around town, because newly turned shifters have zero control over their Wer self. Attacks on Amber make her even more determined to figure out what’s going on, and who’s behind ambushing her during her nighttime hunt.
While I couldn’t embrace Amber’s rejection of her shifter side, I slowly started to like her. I read these kinds of stories because I like the struggle between the human side and the animal side of the shifter, but Amber flat-out kept her cat on a tight leash. While she hates shifting, she does make good use of her enhanced senses every moment she can. I thought that was hypocritical; if you deny your Wer self, you shouldn’t be able to exploit the traits of your caged cat. It seemed to me that she was cheating, and I had a hard time accepting that.
Once the action got going, though, I had a hard time stepping away from the story. Amber’s love interest is extremely likeable, and the office politics were engaging. Her urgency to discover the identity of the person who shot her becomes even more pressing after her grandfather becomes ill, and Amber suspects that he, too, was hunted during the last full moon. The pacing improved as the story unfolded, and I was glad that I stuck with it. In the end, even after the rough start and not being Amber’s biggest fan, I thought this was a gripping read.
Grade: B / B-
Review copy purchased provided by publisher
Amber Treganis constantly reinvents herself. New clothes, new hairstyle, new car—anything she can do to exert a level of control over her life. What she can’t control is her shape-shifting other self: the WerCougar that sinks its claws into her brain during the three nights surrounding the full moon.
Though she is a natural-born shifter from a prominent WerCougar family, Amber has been unwilling to change into her cat form ever since a terrible tragedy cost her the man she loved. And she has little patience with Wers of any species who embrace their otherness more than their humanity. She focuses on her life as a defense attorney in Mt. Hood, and stays out of Wer politics.
But after a blurry night of hunting, Amber begins to notice changes in her transformation. When she hears rumors of research to discover a treatment for shifting, she suspects she may have been unknowingly given the experimental therapy.
With the help of Adler, a WerEagle active in community politics, Amber tries to hunt down the truth about this cure, while staying off the radar of the FBI, which tracks and manages Wer communities in secret.
But Amber doesn’t realize how much she depends on her Wer sense until, one by one, they begin to fade. And Amber is left increasingly ill—and increasingly human. Can shifter who is losing her abilities survive for long in either human or Wer society?
May Contain Spoilers
I wanted to read The Veil because it’s the first in a new series, and it’s written by Chloe Neill. I haven’t had the pleasure of reading her yet, because the thought of jumping into her longer series is daunting, but then this came along. I loved the dystopian New Orleans setting, and was curious to learn how the war with supernatural beings from beyond the Veil had changed life for the city’s inhabitants. While I found the initial pacing slow due to all of the set up, the story did pick up and deliver a solid read.
Claire runs a shop in New Orleans, helping to provide the remaining inhabitants with both essential and luxury (things like butter) items. Since the war with the paranormal inhabitants beyond the Veil seven years ago, life can be challenging in the city. Electricity is unreliable, once common goods are almost impossible to get, and there’s a fear that the magic that ripped the city apart could cause further havoc. To ensure that it doesn’t, anything remotely considered magical has been banned by the government, and punishment for breaking the law can be brutal. Getting thrown into the Devil’s Isle, a walled off section of the city where anyone suspected of magic, as well as the stranded fae from beyond the Veil, is the usual punishment, and life there is very bleak.
Claire has a terrible secret. She’s a Sensitive. She has powers because her body absorbs the magic leaking from beyond the Veil. She’s terrified of being found out and getting locked away in Devil’s Isle, so she goes to extreme lengths to keep her secret a secret. When a woman is attacked by a wraith in front of her, though, Claire has to act. Using her powers, she saves the woman, and then frets about the authorities coming to take her away. To monitor illegal magic use, the entire city is wired with recording devices and alarms to alert the citizens to rogue paranormals.
Luckily for Claire, Liam gets to her first. He’s a bounty hunter, and he tracks down wraiths – Sensitives who have been consumed by magic, and now mindlessly prey on humans. He’s gruff and tough, but he wants to give Claire a fighting chance, so he offers to show her how to use her powers and how to keep them concealed. Claire also wants to help Liam track down the wraiths she encountered, because there was something off about them. It seemed to her that they were communicating with each other, which means that they are getting smarter, something that is frightening to contemplate.
As they work together, they uncover a plot to reopen the Veil. Now they are racing against time to prevent another war from breaking out between the humans and the fae. To make their task even more daunting, they discover that there are humans trying to open the Veil, which will bring nothing but disaster to what’s left of New Orleans.
As I mentioned previously, the pacing until about the 50% point was a struggle for me. It also felt like there was too much telling and not enough showing at first, but after the groundwork was established, that wasn’t a problem anymore. I enjoyed the bleak city Claire lives in, where life is tough, but people have learned to get along despite that. Claire’s friendships gives her a sturdy support system, and she and her circle of friends have learned to take the good with the bad. When things are bad, well, things will get better sooner or later. And when they’re good, what better excuse to get together to enjoy a good meal and bask in the glow of not being alone.
While The Veil wasn’t a total win for me, I am looking forward to seeing what happens next. Now that all of the set up is done, I think the pacing will improve, and I’m curious to see where Liam and Claire’s relationship is going.
Review copy purchased provided by publisher
A brand new series from New York Times bestselling author Chloe Neill.
Seven years ago, the Veil that separates humanity from what lies beyond was torn apart, and New Orleans was engulfed in a supernatural war. Now, those with paranormal powers have been confined in a walled community that humans call the District. Those who live there call it Devil’s Isle.
Claire Connolly is a good girl with a dangerous secret: she’s a Sensitive, a human endowed with magic that seeped through the Veil. Claire knows that revealing her skills would mean being confined to Devil’s Isle. Unfortunately, hiding her power has left her untrained and unfocused.
Liam Quinn knows from experience that magic makes monsters of the weak, and he has no time for a Sensitive with no control of her own strength. But when he sees Claire using her powers to save a human under attack—in full view of the French Quarter—Liam decides to bring her to Devil’s Isle and the teacher she needs, even though getting her out of his way isn’t the same as keeping her out of his head.
As more and more Sensitives fall prey to their magic, and unleash their hunger on the city, Claire and Liam must work together to save New Orleans, or else the city will burn…
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If only a perfectly nice dragon could be left well enough alone to manage his curse removal business with his partner (and crush) the human mage, Marci. Unfortunately for Julius, his family is far too big and far too, well, draconic to ever let him be. And clan seer Bob claims to have big plans for him. This does not at all add up to a quiet lifetime of removing tank badger spirits (don’t ask) from the erstwhile cursed. This series is just so much awesome fantasy fun. Picking up shortly after the events of Nice Dragons Finish Last, Julius and Marci are giving it their best to scrape by running a curse removal business when major events start happening that throw the two into a situation way beyond their means. Estella, seer, daughter of the Three Sisters and long time enemy of the Heartstriker clan has put into motion... Read more »
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I have been reading up a storm, but I’ve been lax on writing reviews. Here’s a quick catch up post with short reviews.
Hello, I Love You by Katie M Stout
This dragged for me, and I didn’t think there was any chemistry between Grace and Jason. I read this mainly for the setting, but the school might as well have been anywhere, which was a big disappointment. Cultural details were sparse and shallow. I didn’t get a feeling that Grace was in a foreign country, and the fact that everyone she interacted with spoke English didn’t help make this unique or different. It also bugged me that Jason and his sister were the only Koreans to use Korean names.
The Surgeon and the Cowgirl by Heidi Hormel
C / C+
Both protagonists were all about “Me, me, me!” and it felt like it took forever for them to mature. I’m not completely convinced that they will ever effectively communicate, which made the ending rushed and not completely believable.
What Once We Feared by Carrie Ryan
Not enough here to even call this a short story. Lots of potential, but it fell flat because it felt so incomplete. This should have been called a teaser, not a short story.
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
Fun, quirky read that somehow combines ballroom dance with mythological critters.
Verity comes from a long line of cryptozoologists, but her true passion is for competitive dance. She’s spending a year in Manhattan to pursue her dance career, as well as to keep an eye on the beasties living in the big city. When Dominic, a member of Covenant, arrives in town, his kill all non-humans before even asking them how their day is going attitude gets on Very’s nerves. Both Dominic and the sudden appearance of a snake cult in the sewers under the city have made her life extremely complicated.
Though it got a little draggy in places, and was over the top in others, overall Discount Armageddon was a fun adventure.
May Contain Spoilers
I loved House Immortal. I purchased it when it was an Amazon deal of the day, and I read it on the plane to Tampa two weeks ago. Everything about it felt fresh and new, and I really liked Tilly. I didn’t like the cliffhanger ending, but since I have the next book in the series cued up on my Kindle, the irritation didn’t last long.
Matilda Case has been living a low profile existence on the family farm, taking care of her senile grandmother, as well as the creatures her father stitched together. Tilly herself is a galvanized, a being stitched together from bits and pieces. When she was a child, she became ill and would have died if her memories hadn’t been housed in the stitched together body. Now she’s hiding out on the farm, pretending to be human, while avoiding allegiance to any particular House. In Tilly’s world, there are only twelve galvanized beings (thirteen, counting Tilly), they gave up their rights to be considered human to stop a war, and now they are possessions, fought over by the powerful Houses that rule a post-apocalyptic Earth.
When the head of one of the Houses, Slater Orange, of House Orange, learns about Tilly, he’s sure that his mind and memories can be stitched into another body, too. With Quentin, Tilly’s genius brother, a prisoner in his House, he’s racing against time to see his dream realized before the disease ravaging his body kills him. With Tilly’s life hanging in the balance, Quentin is reluctantly forced to cooperate with Slater.
Tilly has been worried about Quentin. He hasn’t been home in years, and she hasn’t heard a word from him. When the peace of the farm is shattered by the arrival of Abraham, one of the galvanized, she’s forced to leave her home and pledge to a House. Otherwise, because she doesn’t have any rights under the law, the Houses will fight for her and she could end up with any of them. Determined to make the best of a bad situation, Tilly has decided to use her new connections to locate her missing brother.
That’s the basic plot, and I don’t want to give away any more details. I enjoyed the pacing and the characters. Tilly is one tough, independent woman, and she doesn’t let anyone intimidate her. Because she has the strength of a galvanized, she’s doesn’t back down from confrontations. She’s also basically immortal, which also gives her confidence in tense, life-threatening situations. I guess if I was that hard to kill, as well as that valuable, I wouldn’t be a pushover, either.
There are some light romantic elements between Tilly and Abraham. Abraham also serves as a mentor as Tilly negotiates the confusing new world she’s become enmeshed in. I liked the concept of these powerful, immortal beings that are also powerless in the society they live in. Abraham brokered the peace to end the war, convincing the other galvanized to give up their rights under the law to prevent the slaughter of more humans. Some of the galvanized are not in good situations and they are mistreated by their current contract holders. Once they sign a contract with a House, the word of the House leader is law, and they have to follow whatever orders they are given, whether they agree with them or not.
If I have one complaint about the story, I thought that the pacing got bogged down a little near the end. I didn’t care about another roll call of the galvanized and their accomplishments; I wanted to find out what happened to Quentin and Abraham. Otherwise, I thought House Immortal was exciting, suspenseful, and creative. I can hardly wait to crack open Infinity Bell, the next book in the series.
Review copy purchased from Amazon
One hundred years ago, eleven powerful ruling Houses consolidated all of the world’s resources and authority into their own grasping hands. Only one power wasn’t placed under the command of a single House: the control over the immortal galvanized….
Matilda Case isn’t like most folk. In fact, she’s unique in the world, the crowning achievement of her father’s experiments, a girl pieced together from bits. Or so she believes, until Abraham Seventh shows up at her door, stitched with life thread just like her and insisting that enemies are coming to kill them all.
Tilly is one of thirteen incredible creations known as the galvanized, stitched together beings immortal and unfathomably strong. For a century, each House has fought for control over the galvanized. Now the Houses are also tangled in a deadly struggle for dominion over death—and Tilly and her kind hold the key to unlocking eternity
The secrets that Tilly must fight to protect are hidden within the very seams of her being. And to get the secrets, her enemies are willing to tear her apart piece by piece.…
FIRST IN A NEW SERIES!
May Contain Spoilers
I loved Fireborn, so I was eager to dive into Wicked Embers. While I did enjoy it, the non-ending was a letdown for me. I prefer at least the illusion of completeness, even if I know that the larger, more complicated plot threats won’t be wrapped up until later in the series. I didn’t even get my faux ending here; instead, Emberly, Jackson, and Rory manage to survive a no-holds barred battle with some vampires and bam! It’s the last page. So the grade did take a knock for that.
Emberly has a lot to keep her busy. She keeps having dreams about a mysterious creature with backward feet that sucks organs from corpses, there is a passel of nasty vampires after her, she’s made more werewolf enemies, and Sam, her love of this life, still hasn’t forgiven her for not being honest about what she is. All of this keeps her on her toes and fighting for answers. As the frequency of her dreams increase, she’s desperate to track down the creature before it moves from the recently deceased to killing its own victims. She and Jackson are also looking for a backup of research notes, which may or may not exist, about the Crimson Death, which turns its victims into mindless killing machines. The red cloaks, victims of the red plague, are controlled by a psycho wearing a gray cloak, who is also after Emberly for nefarious purposes. She is thrust from one precarious situation to the next, with hardly any time to catch her breath!
Even though the book is almost 400 pages long, the pacing is such that I polished it off very quickly. I was reluctant to put down my Kindle, and I was happy I waited until the weekend to start this, because I stayed up past my bedtime reading away. While we learn a little more about phoenixes and the fae, I wish the world building was a bit more robust. Details about the creatures populating the series are slowly teased out, which can occasionally be frustrating.
I like all of the characters, especially Emberly and Sam. Emberly is tough, and I get a real sense that she isn’t human. She’s a spirit, a creature made of fire, and in order to survive, she needs Rory, her life mate, to recharge her energy and ensure that she reborn from one life to the next. Because of their symbiotic relationship, phoenixes are cursed. They need their life mate, but they will never be in love with their life mate. Instead, there is one person that they are fated to fall in love with every lifetime, only to have their love rejected. Emberly’s love is Sam, but he, understandably, just can’t wrap his head around the need to have Rory in the picture, too. It didn’t help that Emberly wasn’t up front with Sam about herself, so Sam just thinks she’s cheating on him with Rory. I can see how that would be a relationship breaker!
I’m hooked on this series, and I can hardly wait to see what happens next. Thanks to Signet, I have a copy to give away to one of you. Just fill out the widget below to enter!
Review copy provided by publisher
Keri Arthur, New York Times bestselling author of Fireborn, presents the thrilling new Souls of Fire Novel featuring Emberly Pearson, a phoenix that can transform into a human—and is haunted by the ability to foresee death….
Crimson Death, the plague like virus spawned from a failed government experiment to isolate the enzymes that make vampires immortal, continues to spread. Emberly and her partner, Jackson Miller, are desperately seeking the stolen research for a cure before the virus becomes a pandemic.
But their mission is jeopardized by another threat uncovered in Emberly’s prophetic dreams. A creature of ash and shadow has been unleashed on a murdering spree. Now Emberly must summon all her gifts and investigative knowledge to put an end to this entity’s brutal rampage—even if it means placing herself in harm’s way….
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Imagine being a 17 year old hunter-in-training, going about your business vanquishing poltergeists, mucking up vampire politics, and getting into other general supernatural hijinks. You know, the usual. Now imagine the one obstacle in your way to becoming a fully fledged hunter: losing your virginity (it turns out vampires go crazy in the presence of virgin blood). This is the dilemma for our heroine, the magnificently irreverent, snarky, and confident Maggie. It’s hard enough to navigate the realms of normal adolescence. Add in several layers of paranormal complications, and many years of homeschooling, and our Maggie finds herself at a disadvantage in swiftly accomplishing this goal. The conversation in which Maggie’s hunter mom, Janice, informs her of this unique challenge sets the stage for one of the highlights of the story: the beautifully complicated yet loving mother/daughter relationship. The two are close, but have plenty moments of conflict and misunderstanding.... Read more »
The post The Awesome: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
Review by Andye
THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHTThe Girl at Midnight #1 by Melissa GreySeries: THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHTHardcover: 368 pagesPublisher: Delacorte Press (April 28, 2015)
AUDIOBOOK Publisher: Listening Library Narrated By Julia Whelan Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through
May Contain Spoilers
I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Daughter of the Sword. I was pleasantly surprised, and ended up enjoying it. While it was more a police procedural than urban fantasy, with historical flashbacks thrown in to breathe life into the backgrounds behind the swords, I had a hard time putting it down. The setting helped – a whole bunch. I’m not going to lie; I love reading about Japan, and Mariko’s job as a detective with the MTPD gave the story a colorful backdrop.
Mariko is the only female detective with the Metropolitan Tokyo Police Department and she’s got her sights set on being a narcotics officer. When her old, encouraging superior officer retires and is replaced with Ko, she knows she’s got her work cut out for her. Ko wants her making coffee or bringing him tea, and he has no patience for a woman in his department. Mariko is on a probationary period with Narcotics’, and Ko has threatened to dash her career at the first hint of impropriety from her, and even if she’s on her best behavior, he’s still going to send her packing at the end of her probation. He makes no secret that he doesn’t want her on the team, and Mariko bristles at his dismissal of her skills.
When she gets a tip that someone is planning to start pushing hard drugs on the streets, Ko dismisses her out of hand. The police and the yakuza have an unspoken agreement; the police look the other way on smaller offenses, and the yakuza make sure hard drugs stay off the streets. Ko sends her to investigate an attempted robbery to get her out of his hair. Mariko is angry at being assigned to a case that isn’t even a crime. The sword wasn’t stolen because the homeowner interrupted the robbery.
The owner of the sword is Professor Yasuo Yamada, and once he enters the picture, I couldn’t read fast enough. Yamada has studied the weapons created by Inazuma, a sword smith of extraordinary skill. Most scholars doubt he even existed, but Yamada has no doubts. He’s seen several of Inazuma’s blades, and Yamada believes that each has magical properties. Mariko scoffs at his claims, but as she gets to know Yamada, and as a demented killer continues to try to steal Yamada’s sword, she starts to wonder if the swords are somehow connected to the rumored cocaine shipment.
Mariko becomes a student of Yamada’s; in addition to being an expert about the history of the swords, he’s also an expert swordsman. Even though Mariko still doesn’t believe in magic swords, she does believe that someone is dead set on stealing Yamada’s sword. When a group of armed thugs break into Yamada’s house with the intent to kill him, Yamada, a frail seeming, nearly blind 89 year old, swiftly puts an end to their aspirations, looking all the world like a samurai warrior of old.
I really enjoyed the flashbacks. Each of the swords has a history, and each is explored through a series of flashbacks. The swords are cursed or blessed, depending on the will of the one wielding it and the intention behind their attacks. The characters in the weapons’ pasts get pretty much what they deserve, too. Their behavior dictates their successes and failures, and while some learn from their mistakes, others never do and suffer horribly for it.
I liked Mariko, too. She has to put up with a lot of crap from Ko, but she still finds a way to circumvent his orders and do what she thinks is right. She’s tough, not easily intimidated, and she goes up against yakuza members and drug dealers with equal ferocity. Her mom gives her pause, but otherwise, she’s got guts and nerves of steel.
If you’re looking for something a little different, Daughter of the Sword is worth a look. It’s a pleasant break from the shifters and alternate realities that I’ve been reading, and I could easily relate to the strong female lead.
Review copy provided by my local library
As the only female detective in Tokyo’s most elite police unit, Mariko Oshiro has to fight for every ounce of respect, especially from her new boss. But when he gives her the least promising case possible—the attempted theft of an old samurai sword—it proves more dangerous than anyone on the force could have imagined.
The owner of the sword, Professor Yasuo Yamada, says it was crafted by the legendary Master Inazuma, a sword smith whose blades are rumored to have magical qualities. The man trying to steal it already owns another Inazuma—one whose deadly power eventually comes to control all who wield it.
Mariko’s investigation has put her on a collision course with a curse centuries old and as bloodthirsty as ever. She is only the latest in a long line of warriors and soldiers to confront this power, and even the sword she learns to wield could turn against her.
May Contain Spoilers
This isn’t so much a review as a compilation of what I love about The Others series. There are already a ton of reviews, so instead I’ll try my best to compel you to read Vision in Silver if you haven’t already.
The series just gets better and better. I have enjoyed seeing how Meg’s introduction to the Lakeside Courtyard has changed the Others, and how they have changed her. Meg is struggling to understand simple human interactions, since she was isolated by the Controller in her cell at the Compound and she wasn’t allowed to have normal socializations. A prized belonging, she was valued for her skin, which when cut, causes her to prophesize. Her man who controlled her made a fortune on her, paid for by Meg with her blood. Once she was able to run away to the Courtyard, she finally found a measure of independence working as the Others’ Human Liaison. Now she has to figure out how to survive outside of the Compound, where she finally has a choice over her own life.
Because Meg is addicted to the euphoria that overcomes her when she cuts, she constantly battles the urge to pull out her razor when she thinks there’s a danger to her new friends. Meg is having a hard time tamping down the need to cut, but under the watchful gazes of the Others who inhabit the Courtyard, she is having some success with her addiction. Until she gives in to the urge and damages some of the relationships she’s worked so hard to develop. When Meg first arrived at the Courtyard, the Others were indifferent to their new employee. Sure, they found her amusing, but as her cheerful and caring personality slowly won them over, one by one, they all developed a need to protect her. Witnessing her losing control of herself shakes the tough Nathan to the core, and I was worried that they wouldn’t be able to get past her lapse in judgment. Nathan is a protector, so being forced to hurt Meg wounded him deeply.
When Meg first came to the Courtyard, Simon only thought of humans as meat. Humans working in the Courtyard were off-limits, because I guess even the Others consider eating your employees bad manners, but otherwise, the annoying humans were prey. By Vision in Silver, there are two kinds of humans – cleaver meat and the members of Meg’s pack. Simon, and many of the rest of the Others, realize that there will be advantages to having a pack of humans willing to work for the good of everyone. With the growth of the Humans First and Last movement, it’s become even more important to have humans they can trust for business dealings with the humans. As the violence against the Others escalates, Simon begins to wonder if a new type of Others will transform into Humans. What a scary thought. The Others are so powerful that the humans have no hope to win a war against them, but they are so arrogant that they don’t even know the many forms of their enemies. There are older, frightening, and terribly powerful beings in the wild that think of the humans as fleas, and the only thing keeping them from wiping them out is Simon’s experiment in the Courtyard, where humans and Others live together. I’m curious to see how long this tolerance will last, as the HFL movement continue to strike out at them, as well as betray other humans, all in the name of victory.
As Meg tries to find ways to cope with new situations, she is also given the task of helping the other cassandra sangue who were rescued in Murder of Crows cope with their new surroundings. Some of the girls are unable to handle the sudden changes that have overwhelmed them, but one girl desperately grasps ahold of the idea of living. She’s moved to a small settlement, where some Wolves are given guardianship of her. She refuses to name herself, despite the Wolves urging. She doesn’t need a name. She’s uncertain of new surroundings, and thinks that she’s given up one form of captivity for another. When Jackson gives her colored pencils at her timid request, she’s finally allowed to answer another call instead of cutting herself. Through her art, her ability to see the future flourishes. I love, love, loved her chapters, as she slowly, tentatively reached out and explored her new world. Jackson is just as confused as she is, but he strives to help her settle in and feel more comfortable in her new home. I got a little teary eyed when she finally gave herself a name. I hope she has a larger role in the next book.
The emotional pull between Simon and Meg is the slowest burning romance. Like – ever. Neither one of them knows how to show their feelings, so they stumble along, trying to figure out just exactly what it is that they are feeling for each other. Simon gets jealous when others give Meg the attention he wants to, and at the end of a long, hard day, all he wants to do is curl up with her, a movie, and a bowl of popcorn and decompress. He’s fiercely protective of her, and she is just as protective of him. There’s a lot of tap dancing here, because nothing between them makes sense to either of them. You know that Simon is doomed, though, when he thinks of Meg and also thinks “Mine.” How long before he connects the dots? Because almost everyone in the Courtyard have already figured it out.
I usually don’t like reading books in a series one right after another. No matter how talented the author, their writing style begins to grate after too many back to back books, and repeated phrases become distracting. That did not happen with The Others. Right after I finished one, I wanted to jump right into the next, and that’s the only bad part about reading a series that is incomplete. It’s going to be a long, long wait until Marked in Flesh releases next year!
Grade: A (or I want MOAR NOW!)
Review copy provided by publisher
The New York Times bestselling author of The Black Jewels Trilogy transports readers to a world of magic and political unrest—where the only chance at peace requires a deadly price…
The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.
Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.
For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…
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May Contain Spoilers
I’m bummed that Touched by an Alien did not work for me. I thought there was too much telling and not enough doing, and it got annoying after a while. I hit the 52% mark and decided that this rental was going back to the library. Even though this book didn’t win me over, I am still interested in the series and I’ll probably give Alien Tango a whirl (sorry for the awful pun!). I don’t know if all of the set up is what bogged things down, so I need to do a little more research to know for sure.
I liked Kitty and her family, but the gorgeous aliens attempting to help save the world were both smug and annoying. Christopher was a jerk, and I don’t know if he redeemed himself or not because I set the book aside. Jeff Martini was too good to be true. An empath, he has an unfair advantage to wooing Kitty because he knows what she’s feeling. I thought that was kind of creepy, and it gave Jeff the upper hand in their relationship. If the Alpha Centauris weren’t such terrible liars, I could not have bought into their romance at all. Since he can’t lie to save his life, I’m taking the leap and assuming that he can’t manipulate Kitty’s feelings without her catching on either.
The book started out promisingly. Kitty is minding her own business, headed back to work after an early dismissal from jury duty, when a domestic dispute breaks out in front of her. Things get ugly when the man turns into a winged super powered being who can fling blades from his wings, causing chaos, death, and destruction. Instead of running away, Kitty grabs the only weapon in her possession, a pen, and kills the monster. I loved that! Here’s a bad ass heroine who can’t run away and save herself, but instead has to take matters into her own hands and try to stop the mindless killing that’s taking place in front of her. Things kind of took a downward spiral after, though.
When she’s whisked away back a gang of impeccably dressed, drop-dead gorgeous men, she learns that they are aliens, and they’ve come to Earth to try to save it from parasitic beings that turn people into super powered monsters. All of the background info is fed to the reader through long-winded dialog, which quickly got boring. I probably wouldn’t have read as far as I did if it wasn’t for another monster attack, and the introduction of Kitty’s mom, who is every bit a bad ass as her daughter. She’s also a secret agent, and she quickly takes charge of the alien situation. Her dad enters the picture soon after, and he’s just as fun as her mom.
The endless verbal barrages, with their accompanying info dumps, finally had me setting the book aside. I liked Kitty and her parents, though, so I’m going to give the next book a try, with hopes that once the series is more established, there will be more doing and less jaw flapping. Are any of you reading the series? What do you think?
Review copy obtained from my local library
Marketing manager Katherine “Kitty” Katt had just finished a day on jury duty. When she stepped out of the Pueblo Caliente courthouse, all she was thinking about was the work she had to get caught up on. Then her attention was caught by a fight between a couple that looked like it was about to turn ugly. But ugly didn’t even begin to cover it when the “man” suddenly transformed into a huge, winged monster right out of a grade Z science fiction movie and went on a deadly killing spree. In hindsight, Kitty realized she probably should have panicked and run screaming the way everyone around her was doing. Instead she sprinted into action to take down the alien.
In the middle of all the screeching and the ensuing chaos, a hunk in an Armani suit suddenly appeared beside her, introduced himself as Jeff Martini with “the agency,” and then insisted on leading her to a nearby limo to talk to his “boss.” And that was how Kitty’s new life among the aliens began…Touched by an Alien is the thrilling first installment of the Alien novels.
The post Review: Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
Please welcome Christina Moore to the virtual offices. She’s here to talk about her release Beautiful Death.
Greetings to all of you Manga Maniac Café readers, I’m Christina Moore, the author of the Uruwashi Series. I’m in the middle of a tour here for Book One of the Uruwashi Series, Beautiful Death. Book two, Bête Noire and book three, Moon Child are also available for your reading enjoyment. You can read more about them at www.thebeautifuldeath.com.
Tristan Blum, poor blundering Tristan, is the reluctant protagonist of the series. He’s part Japanese by birth but pure American at heart. He’s blunt, rash and amusingly unpredictable at times. And let’s not forget the mouth he’s got on him, even more so now that he’s lost his way. Before his life was turned upside-down by the seemingly random car accident that took his family, he was a good, nice kid, generous and fun. Back then, when life was simple, he didn’t have much of a requisite on accoutrements just to leave the house, not like he does today, embroiled so in his dark new world.
Once where his keys, wallet and a full iPod were more than enough to hit the streets to have a good time, he now has to rely on much darker accessories, and there’s usually no fun to be had. Just staying alive has taken its toll on him, making him rely on carrying a gun with an extra clip (or three), several knives and a good pair of vampire-kicking boots—or jikininki stompers as he likes to think of them now. (He learned the first time not to stomp a jikininki to death with his bare feet). The katana he usually does without unless he’s talked into it, but the most important of thing of all he can’t leave home without is not a thing at all, but a who. Such a heavy dependence on the dead to maintain life can’t be particularly prudent though, can it? It seems to be his only choice now.
Beautiful Death for Kindle is on sale from November 24-30, Bête Noire from December 1-8 and Moon Child from December 9-16, all for $.99 each. There’s also a Tour prize happening, you can find the entry form at my website. Thanks goes to our host, Julie and thank you readers for stopping by. Stick around for more Tour exclusives, you can follow at http://www.paranormalcravings.com/nov-24-dec-8-beautiful-death-uruwashi-series-1-christina-moore (P.S. I totally dig manga, you can check out my collection on Goodreads—maybe you’ll even discover some of my writing influences…)
Title: Beautiful Death (The Uruwashi Series #1)
Genres: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal romance
Series: The Uruwashi Series
Book Length: 361
Publisher: Uruwashi Publications
His life is in a monster’s hands but he may be one himself.
The only thing about Tristan’s typical American life that’d been even slightly atypical was that he was adopted. The Blum’s raised him, loved him as if he was their own. But they never knew who Tristan really was, about the stigma his birth surname carried. Everything changed after their untimely death. Suddenly monsters are after Tristan and all because of a few words spoken by a remarkable stranger.
After carelessly stumbling into the arms of the enemy’s servant, a rotting jikininki, the one silently watching over Tristan is forced to intercede. Ash claims to be a hunter, but that’s not the whole truth. Whatever Ash is or isn’t, it’s neither good nor evil. And Ash is the only one who can save Tristan now. But can someone who can’t even accept the unwavering truth that maybe they never were really human to start with be saved?
EXERPT Chapter 1: Clubbed to Death
THERE were dead bodies everywhere. Skeletons, zombies, mummies, something hairy with fangs… Odoru Shikabane was one of the stranger clubs Tristan had been to. He wasn’t sure what the name meant in English, but the theme was clear: death. He half expected a real bat to fly by or find a guy dressed in a black cape with red lining telling all the girls “I vant to suck your blood.” Yep, it was just weird.
Tristan gave a soft oomph as someone plowed right into the back of him. “Hey pretty lady,” he said with a great big smile, looking down at the petite girl gawking up at him. “How’s it going? Ah… genki ka?” That was pretty much the extent of his Japanese right there. Well, plus a few curses, but she was too cute to curse at just for running into him.
The girl gasped and then was being dragged off by her friend, saying loudly in Japanese that she didn’t need to get mixed up with a gaijin. The small town was more than a little weary of foreigners and as gaijin went, Tristan stood out more than most with his towering height and handsome European features. At least he wasn’t in a skirt like the dude at the bar—it was only a kilt, but still, it wasn’t something you saw every day. At least not outside of Tokyo.
There was one who wasn’t intimidated by the American’s presence though as she wiggled up against him. That would be Shizuka. Her name meant “the quiet one.” Tristan wondered how someone like her ended up with a name like that. Seriously, the woman never shut up. She did a little dance, moving against him to get his attention. Her silly expression clearly said she had something to say—because she never did, right? Tristan bent down with a weary sigh. He wasn’t tired of her company really, but he was tired of her going on without being able to understand a thing she said. Even the English bits. Shizuka leaned in close, pressing as much of her front to his, a hand against his chest for support. The other found its way over his hip and grabbed a handful of American ass.
Tristan grinned at the new development, tilting his face into hers and met those gorgeous dark almond eyes. She had been getting all touchy feely with him from the start, but this was more forward, more demanding than before. Maybe she was tired of waiting for him to make a move. He wasn’t shy when it came to flirting, but somehow, he just wasn’t into it tonight. It might have had something to do with the reason he was in Japan to start with. He didn’t belong here. He knew he didn’t, but still he tried to force it. He had to find something normal in his life again. Flirting, drinking and the fun that came after was normal enough he supposed. Somehow though, it wasn’t enough. Not nearly.
“I get more drink,” Shizuka breathed into Tristan’s ear. She’d been feeding him drinks all night. If it was her plan to get him loaded, she’d have to try a hell of a lot harder than a handful of beers. She shot him a grin full of teeth and danced off towards the bar without another word—small miracle. She made sure to prance around so that her dress bounced up to show virgin white panties, now bright purple thanks to the black lights. Tristan grinned hard and found himself swaying with the pulse of the room, mesmerized by the music, the mass of bodies in endless dance and the sway of Shizuka’s cute little ass. The music picked up, a fast, frantic beat and he was lost to the pounding. He caught himself quickly and stopped, wondering what he was doing. He hated dancing.
Shizuka leaned over the front of the bar and flashed the entire place her rear end and those sexy glowing panties. Everyone was watching her. They were thinking primitive sexual thoughts—well, the men anyway. The women, they all looked like they were about to claw her pretty little eyes out. Tristan chuckled, studying Shizuka’s exposed backside, moving his gaze down the smooth line the back of her legs made all the way to her shiny red heels. She had a great set of legs.
An ashy voice cut through the din as if searching Tristan out, drawing him out of his admiration of the saucy Asian. “That is no woman.”
“S’cuse me…?” Tristan drawled, turning. “What the f—” His next words were cut off when he saw the person standing behind him. “The hell are you?” he asked, eyeing the soft-faced, shorty with long pale hair that glowed purple in the lights. Dude was wearing a cape. Yep, just like Dracula. But his question wasn’t to the costume. He had no idea if he was talking to a young woman or an older teenaged boy. Guess he didn’t really care. “Look, Count. I’m not interested in whatever you’ve got hidden in that cape, so scamper off and hit on someone else.”
If only the loudmouthed American knew all that was hidden within. Maybe he wouldn’t have been so quick to snap. “You misunderstand, Tristan.”
The young stranger’s voice made Tristan flinch back. It was strange, but he felt like the voice touched him, tickled his face. Or maybe he was drunker than he realized. “Howdya know me?” The words fell out of his mouth jumbled, tongue slow and uncooperative. He stopped and clutched his head feeling disorientated. He was sweating, though it had nothing to with the oppressiveness of the club. “You know what, forget it, I’m leaving.”
He turned to go, but the other man grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop.
“I am afraid it is for something rather more urgent than sex. I will only ask for you to come with me once politely.”
Tristan made a rude noise, giving him the look to go with it as he felt a little more himself and jerked his arm away. “Look, sweetheart. I’m not going anywhere with you. So why don’t you go find someone else to take home and play your silly vampire game with.”
“You misunderstand,” the stranger repeated sternly. “I could care less about games. I am here to help.”
“Ahuh. Help. I’ve heard that before. Seriously, piss off.”
The stranger let out an annoyed sigh, looked down, brought long fingers up to pinch a thin bridge of nose. Another sigh. “Looks like things must be done the hard way. Again.” When the wannabe vampire looked up again, he was grinning so that Tristan got a flash of press-on fangs. “But the hard way can be more liberating now, can it not?”
Unlike Shizuka, the stranger spoke perfect English and yet Tristan didn’t understand a word of their bizarre conversation. He blinked down at the stranger, wondering what in the hell he—yeah, Tristan decided that kind of arrogance had to be a dude—was rattling on about. He opened his mouth to ask just that when the guy reached out and grabbed his upper arm again.
“You do not have time for this.”
“Wha—” Tristan’s words turned into a small yelp of shock and he stumbled into a girl, spilling her drink all over them both. “Hey!” Tristan yelled over the music as he tumbled along, lead around by his arm like an indignant toddler. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Cries of surprise and groans of anger echoed around the pair as Tristan was dragged through the dense throng of hot, thrashing bodies. He tripped over his own feet, over other feet, over nothing fighting to keep up with the quick pace. He glared at the back of the short man’s head, willing his gaze to burn a hole through him. When that didn’t work, Tristan jerked his arm but it was as if the guy anticipated the movement seconds before it happened and tightened fingers into Tristan’s flesh. He groaned in frustration and tried to plant his feet against the floor, faintly aware that his arm hurt. He pulled back with his full body, thinking the smaller man couldn’t possibly hold on against his larger weight and his sneakers lost traction causing him to fall into a slender back, fingers tangled in silken hair.
“What the fuck?” Tristan muttered under his breath, arm still in the guy’s bruising grip.
The other man looked back, past Tristan. Green and blue lights reflected off his pale skin giving that fucking stupid smirk a sickly complexion. Tristan followed the other man’s line of sight and found Shizuka standing where he had been moments before, a drink in both hands, watching him being dragged off. She didn’t look very concerned.
Tristan huffed at her indifference and stumbled again, almost falling. There was a hard jerk on his arm and then he was being propelled forward. Hands slapped down onto his back and he went stumbling head first into a door painted blood red. His free hand went up to catch himself but he slipped, falling against the cold metal. He cursed loudly when his thumb pulled back at a bad angle—it was a miracle he didn’t dislocate it. The slurred words were barely out of his mouth when the stranger kicked in the long push bar with his heavy boot, making the door spring outward. Tristan was falling forward again, only to come to a sudden stop. Hard fingers dug into his ribs from behind as the guy grabbed him. Just as he thought the short shit decided to play nice, there was a deep grunt and then Tristan was airborne. He had seconds to think that the cold outside air felt good and then his right shoulder slammed into a dumpster. He cried out and tumbled backwards onto his ass. The ground was cool and wet through his jeans. The tang of blood filled his mouth where he’d bitten into his cheek.
He shook his head and mumbled, “Pretty strong for a scrawny little bitch.” He wobbled to his feet, turning to face the man who was now standing outside too, back to Tristan. “Look, asshole, I don’t know what the fuck your problem is, but you don’t need to be a fucking prick about it.” He was talking to the back of his head. The jerk hadn’t bothered to face him while he was speaking. “Hey, I’m talking to you.” He grabbed the thin shoulder in front of him and spun the shorter man to face him. Tristan’s fist was balled and moving towards that stoic expression before he had a chance to think about what his body was doing, a reaction that’d gotten him into trouble more than once recently.
Brilliant white flashed past Tristan’s vision seconds before his head snapped back, his body following the movement. After a moment of disorientation, Tristan realized he was on the ground against the dumpster, again. A tickle above his lip brought his hand up to find blood. He stared at the red dripping down his fingers for a moment, unbelieving and then up to the stranger. “You son of a bitch, who the fuck do you think you ar—”
The back door squeaked and they both jerked to attention. Tristan sighed to himself, thinking that sumo-sized dude who was doing crowd control had seen them and decided to follow them out. He was no stranger to a bar fight, or two, or the inevitable that generally followed. And who knew if the cops around here even spoke English. Guess it wouldn’t really matter either way since Tristan had no idea what the hell was going on. He didn’t have the faintest idea why he was sitting outside on his ass, in a filthy alleyway with a bloody nose, staring up at the short man who gave it to him.
“Shit,” Tristan said with a sigh. He was having a fairly decent night too, that was until this guy showed up. Now, it looked like he was going to end up in jail. Perfect.
The door opened and a beautifully shaped almond eye framed by smooth white porcelain appeared around the edge. Tristan let out a long breath, only half relieved. Shizuka stepped out into the alleyway, her heels making two sharp clicks against the ground. She watched with a cynical sort of smile while Tristan inched to his feet using the dumpster at his back as a crutch. Shizuka slid her hands behind her, leaning against the door as she glided across the front of it to make it click shut under her weight. She grinned broadly, too broadly. It was then he realized she was mirroring him, mocking him. He pushed off of the dumpster and took a step towards her, but not before tripping on his own feet again.
Shizuka stood off the door immediately, mimicking his movements, less the clumsy trip, and took a step towards him. Tristan’s expression shifted into anger as she gave him a huge shit-eating grin. He just about had enough of these two. He wanted to get the fuck out before he really did find himself in serious trouble.
“That was unnecessary,” Shizuka said to the stranger, amusement heavy in her voice as she fought off a laugh.
“It got you outside…,” he answered, “you disgusting filth.”
Now Tristan was just confused. He thought that maybe the guy wanted the girl, but now it looked like that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Maybe it was the beer. Wouldn’t have been the first time it confused him.
“So rude.” Shizuka put hands to her slender hips. “Master teach you no manner?”
The young man grunted a crude laugh, as if it were some terrible joke. “Pitted against that man, I would be the one to teach manners.”
In her native tongue, Shizuka responded, “What do you want, fucking traitor whore?”
The stranger answered in perfect Japanese. “Now are those Shizuka’s words or his?”
“You know very well that answer.”
The man gave a heavy sigh. “I am here to stop you from doing this.”
“This one is special.”
“There was a telling,” Shizuka snapped. “He must die.”
“You are wrong.”
“He’s dangerous, As—”
“You have always been wrong,” he snapped, returning to English.
The creature laughed, all giggly and girly.
Tired of being left out of the conversation, Tristan took a heavy step forward, reaching for the stranger. “What, the fuck are you two—”
The shorter man’s head jerked around to glare at Tristan. All he could see of the look was those intense pale eyes but it was more than enough to shut him up, snap his hand back. He couldn’t explain it, but there was something dangerous and wild about this strange man who came barging into his life like a bad superhero in that silly cape and press-on fangs.
“Enough,” Shizuka said, returning to her version of English, “you bore and I have pet now. No hard feeling.”
Tristan smirked, wondering if he was the pet. Then he thought that sounded like a lot of fun, in the right situation. God, what the hell was wrong with him, thinking about sex at a time like this? “Look, it was nice meeting you both,” he said with a sarcastic tone that even the dead could hear. “But I’m done. I’m going home. You two have fun without me.”
Tristan pushed past the shorter man, bumping into his shoulder harder than he intended and tripped. He fell into the stranger and felt something hidden within the cape that he was sure he didn’t like. “What the fu—” The same moment he realized what the hard object was, Shizuka shot forward and decked Tristan. He never saw the hit coming and for such a tiny little thing, she packed one nasty punch. Tristan lost his footing and fell, timber, all six-three straight back. He only just managed to save from cracking his skull open on the pavement like a watermelon. When he looked up again, Shizuka was swinging at the stranger. Despite the absurdity of the whole damn situation, Tristan had to smile. The loudmouthed girl had more fire to her than he realized. He loved a woman that could kick his ass.
She took another swing at the stranger that went wide when he ducked and he countered, delivering a hard blow to Shizuka’s plexus.
“Hey!” Tristan shouted at him, stumbling to his feet again. “The hell is wrong with you… hitting a girl?”
Tristan threw his own punch that never made contact. He wasn’t sure how, only that the stranger was holding his fist in a cold, hard hand, blinking at him. “That is no woman.”
He said that before too, didn’t he? Tristan jerked his hand back, glanced at Shizuka then back to the man. “You’re a bit of an asshole. Or fucking blind.”
The other man gave a small nod. “I accept the former. However, the latter is far from the truth. It is you who is blind.”
“What the fuck are you talking about? You know what, I don’t give a shit. Come on Shizuka, I’ll take you home.”
“Stop!” The man darted out and grabbed Tristan’s wrist when he reached out to the woman. He started to argue, ready to punch the short shit’s lights out when there was a loud laugh echoed in the alleyway. They pair stopped grappling and looked up.
Shizuka looked… different, though Tristan wasn’t sure exactly why right away. “And that is not man.” She laughed again. “I think animal. Hai, hai, inu-chan…”
“Yogore,” the man hissed back.
Shizuka burst into laughter. Her flesh rippled from top to bottom and the smooth porcelain was replaced with dark, shriveled leather. The surface flaked, sending leaves of dead flesh to the ground like dirty brown snow. Voids opened, revealing knots of raw muscle and dark jelly. Silken black hair came off in thick clumps, taking chunks of scalp with it to fall to the pavement with a wet, sticky noise that echoed off the close walls.
As her body changed, so did her voice. Her laughter turned shrill. The short little black dress sagged on her frame as dark fluids poured out from under it and down spindly legs. She started to wobble on her feet, splashing up dark liquid as she took tiny steps to steady herself in her high heels. Finally, it was clear she couldn’t stand in those dangerous shoes anymore. She kicked them off, sending them towards the club exit and stepped bony feet into the body fluid collecting under her in a murky pool.
“Oh my god,” Tristan whispered and sucked in a sharp breath, catching a whiff of decay. He gagged and stumbled backwards until his back hit the dumpster, jabbing an elbow against the side. He sank to the ground against the bin, cradling his elbow to his chest, though the pain wasn’t enough to matter. Nothing mattered now except for the awful thing standing before him that he knew as Shizuka. The stranger made no movement that Tristan could see from his low seat. Somehow though, he knew the guy wasn’t surprised. That he knew exactly what this woman was.
The man sighed, shaking his head and reached inside his cape. “I had preferred that it not come to this.” The soft reverberation of metal rubbing against something solid sounded from under the fabric moments before the katana that Tristan felt earlier emerged.
Shizuka’s laughter finally subsided as she rolled cloudy brown eyes down to look at the others. She grinned broadly showing the muscles of her jaw in thick leathery strands. When she spoke again, it was the voice of a cartoon snake, all hiss. “Silly toy for silly—”
“Damare!” the cloaked stranger shouted and darted forward, blade aimed right for Shizuka’s head.
Totally thrown off guard, lost and confused, Tristan gave a small cry and jerked back in shock, hitting his head on the dumpster. He lifted a fist and banged it into the side. He was angry that he hadn’t high-tailed it out of there while he had the chance. He was angry that all he could do was sit there and watch, trapped between a stinking dumpster and a man with a sword fighting a zombie.
A fucking zombie.
He thought briefly of getting up, trying to sneak away. Maybe of evening helping the guy he was ready to punch out only minutes before. But he fell into a trance, staring at the spectacle before him. It was a dance these two performed. Somehow, despite one being short, the other short and dead, they both moved with a delicate grace, and it was completely mesmerizing. He was shaken out of the trance though when Shizuka landed a hard blow to the man’s stomach that made him give a low groan and shudder. But, he didn’t go down.
Zombie Shizuka stepped back, shifting into a stance that would have been appealing if she had her skin. Her chin started to jiggle in a movement that was the beginning of her trying to speak, but then her lower jaw fell off. The man gave a crude grunt and a little leap, aiming for Shizuka again with that sharp, shiny blade. But he was swinging at empty space. The blade whipped through the air, pulled downward as gravity brought man and metal back to the earth. The tip chipped into asphalt with a loud metal ting. Tristan had only a moment for his lethargic brain to think about why it was wrong before the man spun on his heel, lifting the sword towards Tristan.
He put his hands up. “Whoa, hey—”
Shizuka appeared between them and reached out, grabbing the man by his neck with those disgusting decomposed fingers. He let out a long breath and lowered his arms, letting them hang lifelessly at his sides as she held him in place. The sword almost slipped from his fingers, but he didn’t seem to notice one way or the other. There was no fear in his eyes as a dark, closed-mouth smile curled his lips, not quite reaching those pale eyes.
A blaze of bright metal flashed up past Shizuka’s side and the arm gripping the stranger’s neck was suddenly on the ground. Shizuka wailed and reached for him again with her remaining arm as he jumped away. His toes barely touched asphalt and then he was airborne again moving towards Shizuka. Towards Tristan. Tristan sucked in a sharp breath through clenched teeth when the guy suddenly appeared directly in front of him, toe to toe. The young man stared down at him, calm and relaxed as if he had been there all along. As if there wasn’t a zombie trying to kill him.
Tristan blinked up at him for the longest ten seconds of his life, not a single tangible thought making its way to the surface to help guide him to something close to sane. He finally tore his gaze from the stranger. Shizuka was standing behind him with her back to the others. Tristan looked up to the man again, confused and whispered, “What happe—”, but never got to finish his question. Shizuka’s head broke away from her neck and hit the ground with a loud crack. Seconds later her body crumbled to the ground with a heavy weight that said she was more than skin and bones. The stench of death doubled as a breeze brought Shizuka’s scent to the others. It seemed to seek Tristan out, tickling its way into his sinuses, making the back of throat itch. Tristan’s stomach tightened and the blood drained from his face so fast it made him dizzy.
The cloaked man blinked slowly, his eyes coming into focus on Tristan’s. Expression utterly blank, he gave his blade a quick flick at his side. Tristan flinched at the sudden movement and wished he hadn’t. Expression still impassive, the stranger flung his long hair over his shoulder, turned away, and brought his sword down onto the mass of bones and rotted flesh that was once Shizuka.
The first piece of zombie was tossed over Tristan’s head to the dumpster and a warm glob of something squishy, wet and stinking of rot fell to his forehead and stuck. That was all it took. Tristan’s stomach twisted and he scrambled to his knees, retching on the pavement.
When his stomach was empty of all of its contents Tristan sat back on his heels, his back to the guy. He took in a deep breath past his burning throat and hung his head in hopes to ease the pounding. He could hear the cutting of rotted flesh and bones. He wasn’t ready to turn around and see that again. Not just yet. He sighed, shutting his eyes and his head spun again. When he opened his eyes, something to his right caught his attention in a dark corner between the dumpster and a wall. Stomach spinning, head feeling even worse, he decided standing wasn’t an option at the moment and pushed to hands and knees to crawl forward a few paces.
“Oh shit!” he screamed and fell back onto his ass, damp gravel cutting into his palms.
“What is it?” the zombie slayer asked, annoyance lacing his words. The cracks of breaking bone echoed loudly off the walls as he deftly finished his work.
A new nightmare, the crumpled body of a naked woman shoved in the corner like a pile of trash. Her stomach cavity had been ripped open and emptied, leaking stinking bile and other vital liquids on to the pavement. The edges of the hole were torn and jagged like an animal had at it with its teeth. Bloody scratches ran down the length of her face stopping at lips frozen in a frightened scream. Two dark, cavernous holes stared blindly up at nothing where her eyes had been ripped out.
“Ther—there’s a dead girl back here.” He didn’t think he even spoke loud enough for the guy to hear. He swallowed hard against the tang of his regurgitated dinner and alcohol. He was sure he was going to lose it again. God, what was wrong with him? He never got sick from just drinking. And as his head spun he was sure the reason had more to do with Shizuka than he realized.
“Ah yes, I had almost forgotten about that. The jikininki I just disposed of did that. It needed the—” He paused and Tristan looked over his shoulder to him, disgusted. He was twirling his hand in a small circle like he was searching for the appropriate word. Finally he settled on, “Sustenance, from that poor soul there to appear as the exquisite woman she was.”
“I—I don’t understand…”
“I know.” He strolled forward, boots silent on the pavement, and extended a hand.
Tristan gave the pale hand a long, slow blink and whispered, “You askin’ me for a dance again?” A heavy, dark fuzziness was creeping in on the edges of his vision. He shuddered, suddenly cold and let out a long sigh. “You’re pretty sweet, for a weird lookin’ dude.”
The “weird lookin’ dude” gave a dismayed sigh. “Come, we must go.”
Tristan met those strange eyes and gave him another long look. “Go… with you? Why?”
The offer of a hand was rescinded with a scowl. “Did you not figure that much out?”
Tristan shook his head, immediately regretting it. Thick lace covered his vision, blurring everything and he swayed, even though he was seated firmly on the ground.
“That jikininki knew me,” he said, voice steadily rising, “but it was summoned to hunt you.”
Tristan could only manage to answer with a long, drawn out, “Oh.” Someone was looking for him? That was nice. He dropped his face into his hands and toppled over. Something dark and warm was coursing through him. He was certain of it now, that he’d been drugged. It was whispering promises of sweet sleep to him. His eyes had shut, though he couldn’t remember when. He was losing against the drug. It was better to not fight it anyway.
“Who—what… ?” He couldn’t even finish his sentence. What was he even trying to say? Guess it wasn’t important.
“Everything is okay,” came the stranger’s creamy smooth voice, like a distant whisper. It was strangely comforting. “I am here now to—” His voice broke. “Just… sleep.”
Tristan let out a long groan, the drug finally claiming victory over him. He thought he heard the stranger again in his last twilight of consciousness whisper something about ashes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SOMETIMES known as Stinna (pronounced Steena), Christina Moore just so happens to be her real name. Her writing career started under a pseudonym in the romance genre. But her true love has always been the paranormal. Vampires, werewolves, demons, faerie and everything in between, she loves them all—the allure of the unknown. The birth of the Uruwashi series started many years ago with a daydream sparked by a very special voice of a certain bad-ass vampire in her favorite anime. Little did she know then that the story of the Uruwashi would morph into what it is today.
When not writing or chasing her toddler, Christina loves to read, garden, cross-stitch, and play video games. A Maryland native, she lives just outside of beautiful historic downtown Annapolis with her husband, daughter (a.k.a. Tiny Boss) and two Australian Shepherds, Deunan and Aydin. Growing up riding horses to show in dressage and cross-country, later moving on to racing Volkswagens and then finding a career in the architecture industry as a graphic artist/mother hen, she’s never been a real expert in any one thing. Christina has a passion for diversity and enjoys many types of music, film and literature that sometimes clash with the norm. She’s often said she’s going to marry Spike Spiegel when she grows up—her husband understands.
Author (Contact Links)
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The Blackwell Family Secret:THE GUARDIANS OF SINSby Jonathan L. FerraraURBAN FANTASY, Young Adult5.5x8.5, 224 pagesPublication date: December 5, 2014$15.95 trade paperback, ISBN 978-1-940076-19-5$5.95 E-book, ISBN 978-1-940076-20-1Publisher: Dragonwell PublishingDistribution: Ingram Book Companywww.dragonwellpublishing.com / AMAZONNicholas Blackwell has no idea he is supposed to fulfill a destiny. All he knows is that he draws trouble like a magnet. Orphaned at eleven when two demonic men killed his parents, he copes with the strict rules of his new home, St. Christopher’s academy, unaware that he has been the real target for the killers and that his guardian angel has saved him in the nick of time. And now, his problems are only beginning when a mysterious serpent lures him into the woods and tricks him into a demonic ritual that will unleash the Seven Deadly Sins to destroy the humankind. Nicholas has no choice but to correct his mistake--or die trying. Aided by Amy, a shy but determined girl who seems to know more about his task than she should, Nicholas's quest is to travel into the City of Demonio and defeat the Seven Guardians of Sin. To succeed, he must confront demons, monsters, and lost souls, learn the mysteries of the Chapel of Dreams, discover the true meaning of friendship and love, and face the darkest secret of all: the Blackwell Family Secret.“The Blackwell Family Secret: the Guardians of Sin” is a debut young adult urban fantasyadventure with a Christian theme.
About the author:
Jonathan L. Ferrara was born in San Pedro, California to an Italian fisherman and a motherfrom New York. Growing up with one older brother, Jonathan had several hobbies: findingthe best hiding spots to jump out and scare his mother, discovering new fantasy book series,and imagining outrageous, whimsical worlds full of magic. He is now happily married,residing in California in the City of Angels. He has two wonderful children-his dog Koda andcat Merlin.
Kristi Charish dropped by the virtual offices to share Owl’s character sheet. She’s also excited to let everyone know that she has another series of (UF, Kincaid Strange, 3 books) that was just picked up by Anne Collins at Random House Canada (Kelley Armstrong’s editor), so be on the look out for that!
Owl Character Sheet
It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of video games, particularly the RPG genre (I’ve now clocked almost 150 hours on Dragon Age Inquisition). So is the lead protagonist, Alix Hiboux, in my debut series, Owl and the Japanese Circus. As an ode to video games I’ve included Owl’s Character Sheet below. Enjoy!
Name: Alix Hiboux (Aka: Owl)
Class: Rogue. (Whatever you do, don’t call her a thief…at least not to her face.)
Profession: Antiquities ‘procurer’ for hire (see above for use of the word thief in characters vicinity)
Animal Companion: Captain, one (slightly) overweight Mau. Known for chewing his way out of cat carriers, helping himself to supposedly sealed bags of kibble, attacking vampires on sight, blatantly ignoring commands such as ‘Stop’, ‘Get back here’, and ‘Hey! Drop my lunch!’
Skills: ‘Removing’ and ‘re-appropriating’ items from high security facilities, disarming ancient booby traps, (not to mention finding said ancient booby traps), outwitting vampires, flying under the digital radar, and navigating ancient tombs and ruins. Expert at the MMORPG World Quest.
Knowledge: Ancient history and cultures, archaeology/anthropology, supernatural creatures, antiquities.
Strength: 10 (average). Hours spent playing video games are tempered with rock climbing, crawling through tombs, and running from the International Archaeology Association (IAA) and a pack of vampires.
Dexterity: Natural 20 (epic). Ah, dexterity, the statistical advantage most sought after by the rogue class in RPGs everywhere. Dexterity allows the rogue to effortlessly avoid attacks and maneuver their way through shadows unseen. Why does Owl score a natural 20 you might ask? The fact that Owl manages to stay alive with her often clumsy and utterly ungraceful disposition makes her dexterity an epic accomplishment. Whether it be ancient booby traps, supernatural predators, or the International Archaeology Association (IAA) Alix is a master at evading them all.
Constitution: 15 (above average). Owl has a penchant for junk food (the usual suspects: chips, cheesy twists, and pop), beer (preferably Corona), and MMORPG video game marathon’s. Regardless, whether it’s the occasional drinking binge with Nadya or a weekend long online gaming session in World Quest, Owl’s above average constitution pulls her through. “Dogged Determination’ adds bonuses to this stat.
Intelligence: 18 (exceptional). Second only to her dexterity, Owl’s intelligence is responsible for keeping her out of trouble. An expert in archaeology and (reluctantly) in the supernatural, Owl can maneuver her way around a dig site with the best of them. Works best under pressure and on her feet. Also possesses an uncanny litany of World Quest trivia.
Wisdom: 8 (below average). I’m not going to lie, intelligence doesn’t always go hand in hand with wisdom. Owl might be smart and resourceful but she’s sorely challenged in the decision making department. More likely to rush brashly into a situation than critically analyze potential outcomes, often with disastrous results. Owl’s choices are fueled by her emotions and her impatient nature.
Charisma: 9 (somewhat below average). Some people are so beautiful no one will ever notice they’re personalities leave them irritating to the core…like a pearl to the oyster. Not Owl. Alix’s hit to charisma comes from an unabashed vocabulary choice and completely unfiltered brain to mouth dump. Play nice? Catch more flies with honey? Ha! Alix played nice and by the rules and look where it got her. Kicked out of archaeology with every bridge burned spectacularly in it’s wake. In Owl’s mind, playing nice is a one-way trip to ruin. She speaks her mind, whether or not you approve.
Special bonus: Like the mythological dwarves in D&D, Owl gets a combat bonus from beer. Unfortunately, this is also accompanied by a significant wisdom penalty, and let’s face it, Owl’s wisdom can’t take much of a penalty.
Kristi is the author of a forthcoming urban fantasy series OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS (Jan 13th, 2015, Simon and Schuster Canada/Pocket Books), about a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. She writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists, pop culture, and the occasional RPG fantasy game thrown in the mix. The second installment, OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS, is scheduled for release Jan 2016.
Kristi is also a scientist with a BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. Her specialties are genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology, all of which she draws upon in her writing. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists.
Click on the cover to purchase Owl and the Japanese Circus from Amazon. A digital copy is only $1.99! Release date is January 13, 2015
Fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, and Linda Hamilton will flock to the kick-ass world of Owl, a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world.
Ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief, Alix—better known now as Owl—has one rule. No supernatural jobs. Ever. Until she crosses paths with Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon who owns and runs the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas. He insists Owl retrieve an artifact stolen three thousand years ago, and makes her an offer she can’t refuse: he’ll get rid of a pack of vampires that want her dead. A dragon is about the only entity on the planet that can deliver on Owl’s vampire problem – and let’s face it, dragons are known to eat the odd thief.
Owl retraces the steps of Mr. Kurosawa’s ancient thief from Japan to Bali with the help of her best friend, Nadya, and an attractive mercenary. As it turns out though, finding the scroll is the least of her worries. When she figures out one of Mr. Kurosawa’s trusted advisors is orchestrating a plan to use a weapon powerful enough to wipe out a city, things go to hell in a hand basket fast…and Owl has to pick sides.
The post Guest Post: Kristi Charish, Author of Owl and the Japanese Circus appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
May Contain Spoilers
One of my favorite reads of 2014, Burn for Me is an action packed race to save Houston from a psychopathic mage who uses fire to level anything in his path. Set in an alternate world where a serum gave some people incredible magic powers, Nevada is a private investigator struggling to make ends meet for her family. When she’s given the mission to bring in Adam Pierce before he kills anyone else, she knows that she’s a sacrificial scapegoat for the powerful families that own her firm and rule Houston. Nevada can tell if someone is lying to her, and she knows that everything she’s been told so far is a lie.
Mad Rogan is after Adam Pierce for reasons of his own. He’s another human with unmatched destructive powers and even fewer ethics. He can kill with the flick of his wrist, arouse with a thought, and reduce a city to rubble. I loved this guy! He does what he wants, with little regard for the consequences, because for Mad Rogan, there are no consequences. Wealthy beyond belief, powerful beyond measure, Mad Rogan is godlike with his powers. He is an indifferent, brutally decisive god who doesn’t hesitate to act, and it’s a good thing for Nevada, because without his help, however reluctantly she’s accepted it, she would be toast. Literally.
Nevada is a very strong heroine who doesn’t realize the extent of her magic. She knows that she can tell if someone is telling the truth, but she doesn’t know that she can compel another to speak the truth. Mad Rogan discovers this, rather unpleasantly, when someone tries to kill Nevada’s grandmother. I thought he deserved it. He’s a guy you can’t entirely trust, and after their initial introduction (he kidnaps she), I didn’t think he would ever come across as a convincing romantic lead. He did. That’s part of the magic of this book. Nevada’s influence on him changes him. Mad Rogan has willingly done terrible, terrible things, things he doesn’t regret or even feel the slightest twinge of remorse over, but Nevada tempers his impulses to just let loose with his magic, at least when someone isn’t trying to kill them.
I loved this book! I wasn’t going to read it at first because of the cover, which I don’t think represents the book well at all. I thought it would be a PNR with lots of sexy times – it’s not. It’s more of an urban fantasy with a strong heroine, a badass hero who finally meets his match, and a whole lot of sexual chemistry. And a ton of adrenaline-laced action scenes. I LOVED it! I want MOAR!! And I want it NOW!!
Review copy proved by my local library
#1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews launches a brand-new Hidden Legacy series, in which one woman must place her trust in a seductive, dangerous man who sets off an even more dangerous desire . . .
Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile situation. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.
Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run and wanting to surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.
Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.
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The Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin
is book 1 in Jonathan L. Ferrara’s YA urban fantasy series. I must say this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.
After his parents are killed by a demon, sixteen-year-old Nicholas Blackwell is put under the protection of the Vatican and sent to a boarding school surrounded by a deep forest: St. Christopher’s Academy, complete with iron gates, gargoyle statues, and gateposts that leer at him. As his life is in danger, this is the only place where he can be kept safe. One night he ventures into the woods and a serpent tricks him into eating the forbidden fruit, with disastrous consequences–for the Guardians of the Seven Deadly Sins have been unleashed, and now Nicholas must go into the City of Demons and defeat the Princes of Hell, and in the process discover his family secret, one that could change the entire world…A daunting task for a teen, even if he happens to be the school’s cockiest leader of mischief.
I loved the book. Nicholas is a charming protagonist, cleaver, arrogant, yet brave and selfless at times. Ferrara’s world, inspired by Biblical tales, of course, is elaborate and imaginative. I especially loved his focus on the Seven Deadly Sins–what they are, where they came from, etc. Angels and demons are intertwined with fantasy elements, and the whole concept of good and evil is explored.
There’s romance, action, adventure, and mystery. It is also a bit dark at times, which I enjoyed. Ferrara is a talented writer, his prose smooth and his dialogue witty. The pace was excellent and the story kept moving forward with increasing tension until the very satisfying ending that left me hungry for book 2. Recommended!
I loved Night Owls, so I was eager to dive into Grave Matters. While it didn’t quite have the punch that the first book did, I enjoyed revisiting with Val, Elly, Cavale, and the rest of the Night Owls gang. The characters are what makes this series stand out for me, and I had a blast getting to know them better. There aren’t any that I dislike, and I even like the not so nice Stregoi vampires, led by Ivanov and his second in command, Katya.
Elly gets most of the attention in Grave Matters. She’s working as a bodyguard for Ivanov, the head of the Boston vampires. She has a tenuous relationship with the vamps, and as one incident after another start piling up and none of them make any sense, she begins to wonder if she’s putting a little too much trust in her employer. After she exorcises a ghost from a neighbor’s house, things get really weird. There’s a necromancer in town, and he’s causing all kinds of trouble. There’s also a rival vampire coven threatening Ivanov’s turf, so Elly has a lot on her plate.
There’s a lot of vampire politics and jostling for power. There are also an increasing number of the necromancer’s newly risen dead getting in the way and mucking things up. The necromancer interferes with both Cavale and Chaz, making them both determined to uncover his identity. While Cavale is a bad ass and more than capable of defending himself, Chaz is faced with the uncomfortable truth that he’s the weakest link of the Night Owls gang. Lia and Sunny can probably take on an entire town and emerge victorious, shy Justin, still adapting to his new undead existence, can more than hold his own, and Elly puts Chaz’ fighting abilities to shame. Add in Val’s reluctance to put him in danger, and you have a guy wrestling with his sense of self-worth. Chaz decides to do something about his state of helplessness, and finally comes into his own during the climax of the story.
There’s lots of action, and Elly is the main participant in the fighting. Cavale is in stealth mode, trying to track down the necromancer. When Chaz unlocks the key to the necromancer’s runes, they all have the uneasy realization that an ancient Mesopotamian god of the dead might be involved in the strange and deadly goings on, both in Boston and their towns. I thought this was a great twist, because, really, how do you defeat a god, and a god of the dead at that?
If you’re looking for a new urban fantasy series to take for a spin, the Night Owls books are great. They have great characters, fun plot twists, and lots of tense moments. The character interactions are my favorite aspect of the series, and there are just enough personalities to get to know without being overwhelming. The books are also very fast paced; nobody gets to sit on their thumbs for long before they’re scrambling to put out a paranormal fire or save somebody from an unpleasant end. I can hardly wait for the third book in the series!
Night Owls bookstore always keeps a light on and evil creatures out. But, as Lauren M. Roy’s thrilling sequel continues, even its supernatural staff isn’t prepared for the dead to come back to life…
Elly grew up training to kill things that go bump in the night, so she’s still getting used to working alongside them. While she’s learned to trust the eclectic group of vampires, Renfields, and succubi at Night Owls bookstore, her new job guarding Boston’s most powerful vampire has her on edge—especially when she realizes something strange is going on with her employer, something even deadlier than usual…
Cavale isn’t thrilled that his sister works for vampires, but he’s determined to repair their relationship, and that means trusting her choices—until Elly’s job lands all of the Night Owls in deep trouble with a vengeful necromancer. And even their collective paranormal skills might not be enough to keep them from becoming part of the necromancer’s undead army…
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May Contain Spoilers
ZOMG! These books! This series! I’m going to gush, and I just can’t help myself! It’s rare when I come across a series that sucks me in with the strength of a Dyson vac on steroids, and Anne Bishop manages to do just that. I read Written in Red in December, and it was one of the best books I’d read last year. I didn’t write a review because, gosh, I just didn’t know how to put my thoughts into words. I still don’t, but I’ll try anyway.
I didn’t rush out to read Written in Red because I don’t remember loving the first two Black Jewels books. I read them so long ago, though, that maybe my memory is faulty. Or my reading tastes have changed. But when I was offered a review copy of Vision in Silver, I thought, what the heck. Written in Red was on sale for $1.99 at the time, and the library had Murder of Crows, so I cautiously entered the world of Meg Corbyn and the mysterious, dangerous Others. I’m hooked!
Meg is a cassandra sangue, a blood prophet. Murder of Crows picks up where Written in Red left off; Meg has settled in with the Others as their human liaison. She’s basically their mail carrier, and she accepts, sorts, and delivers the parcels the terra indigene , or the Others, order from the humans. There is an uneasy peace between the humans and the definitely not human Others, but it’s a precarious peace at best. The humans are tolerated by the powerful Others only as long as they provide something they want, otherwise, the humans are reduced to one thing. If they have nothing to offer, then the humans are prey. It’s as simple as that to the Others. Either a human is somewhat useful and they are allowed to live unmolested, or they are special meat.
Meg is special because of the power in her blood, so she is in the not prey category, and that designation is non-negotiable. The blood prophets are wonderful and terrible creations. Some evil humans are exploiting them, selling their prophesies to the highest bidder, as well as using their blood to poison the Others. The cassandra sangue feel euphoria after being cut, which releases their prophesies, but they also come with an expiration date. Supposedly, their skin can only be cut a thousand times, and then they go mad or die. They are virtually slaves to greedy, powerful men who use them for their own gain, keeping them carefully segregated and ignorant of the rest of society.
Murder of Crows notches up the tension between humans and the Others. Humans First and Last, an organization intent on destroying the Others, is striking out at their enemies, heedless of how the Others will react. They seem to have forgotten how powerful the Others are, and that humans are allowed to remain in their towns and cities, on land rented from the Other, only because the Others find them useful. When the Crows are singled out for murder, the Others don’t respond well to the threat to their kind.
The series is engrossing and hard to put down. Anne Bishop made the Others seem, well, not human. I love the world building, and I love learning more about the creatures that populate it. Simon Wolfgard is the leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and he and Meg have a lot to learn about each other. Their first interactions are awkward, and growly Simon often leaves Meg frightened and uncomfortable. Simple misunderstandings threaten to burst into violence with all of the Others, and Meg has to carefully navigate her new surroundings. She’s at an even greater disadvantage because she was kept sheltered and ignorant in the Controller’s compound. She manages to make friends among her new employers, and slowly gains their trust, and even wins the protection of one of the most powerful Others in Lakeside.
I love the Elementals, who bring devastating destruction as casually as flicking their fingers. And the ponies. OMG! The ponies! Chubby and grumpy, they reluctantly assist Meg with her delivery duties (she has to bribe them with treats). But then, when danger strikes, suddenly, they aren’t chubby little ponies anymore. They are majestic, terrifying beasts of thunder, lightning, and fog. I freaking love the ponies!
Meg is hard to dislike, too. She is one of the most selfless heroines I’ve ever been introduced to. She knows that she can only cut herself some many times, and that cutting herself is inherently dangerous because she can cut too deeply and bleed to death, but when she feels that her new friends are in danger, out comes her blade. She’s also one of the bravest characters; she endures horrible pain to learn how to escape from the Controller, and she puts herself in harm’s way to protect the Courtyard and everyone in it. She’s kind and gentle, but has a stubborn streak a mile long.
My favorite part of Murder of Crows is how confused both Simon and Meg are about their relationship. Being a Wolf, he doesn’t understand that shifting into his human form can cause all kinds of problems between him and Meg. Being different species, they have a different understanding of what a friend is, and they grapple to work out a definition that works for them, but it’s a slow, awkward process. Will they ever be more than friends? I have no idea, but I can’t wait to find out!
If you haven’t read Written in Red or Murder of Crows, you must give them a try! Like, right now! They are awesome books that build to a holy crap, I can’t believe this is so good! crescendo. Then, after the last page, you just want more!
Grade: ZOMG! A!!
Review copy obtained from my local library
Return to New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop’s “phenomenal” (Urban Fantasy Investigations) world of the Others—where supernatural entities and humans struggle to co-exist, and one woman has begun to change all the rules…
After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more.
The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murder of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard—Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader—wonders if their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or a future threat.
As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now, the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet—and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.
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