Mittwoch, 2. November 2016

Blood Debt (Judah Black Novels) - E. A. Copen

Every life has a price. 

Tasked with policing the supernaturals on a reservation in Paint Rock, Texas, Judah Black’s unconventional methods have made her unpopular with her superiors in Washington. She's just one bad day away from losing everything, including her son.

Things only get worse after a foreign vampire is murdered and the victim’s powerful cousin vows to find the killer himself. All evidence points to another vampire, Kim Kelley, as the killer but bringing her in could spark an international war. 

And turn Paint Rock into ground zero. 

But Kim’s got her own debt to settle, one that involves Judah’s new protégé, Mara. Caught in the middle of a power struggle between two hostile vampire factions, Judah must navigate a complicated web of alliances and bring a killer to justice…all before she picks her son up from school.

My thoughts:

I loved book 1, Guilty by Association, so I was excited when I saw that book 2 was available. Unfortunately I wasn't able to read it straight away, because I was too busy, but it was so worth the wait!

E. A. Copen hooked me in right from the start. “There was blood on the ceiling.” Just like in book 1, Judah is in the middle of a grisly murder scene, doing her job as a BSI agent.

And with that hook, she kept me reading. I couldn't put the book down. We get introduced to new characters (half-vampire Abe and elf Creven for example!) and to new and even scarier monsters than in the last book. Hunter makes a few appearances too, just like Saloso and the rest of the werewolves. Things with Saloso become a bit tense, a bit complicated and I can't wait to see where Ms Copen takes the journey with those two.

We are also introduced to Judah’s new protégé, Mara, who is a troubled teen with supernatural powers and who seems to be smack in the middle of the trouble.

I think part of the allure of these books is that Ms Copen does not stick with the “regular” monsters that are so popular, but uses so many different mythologies and does so brilliantly.

All in all a solid second book. Can't wait for book 3!

Sonnet Vale: Paranormal Hunter - Gena D. Lutz

Paranormal hunter, Sonnet Vale, has the unique ability to hunt and kill vampires. But a chance encounter with a handsome stranger is about to change everything, teaching Sonnet what it's like to be hunted and possessed.

My thoughts:

I could not put the book down! Sonnet Vale is a huntress who was hired to find a missing girl. I did have some issues with Gena D. Lutz overexplaining things (mentioning them over and over as if scared that a reader might miss them), but apart from that, it's an enjoyable read.

And I love the cover! Props to the artist.

Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes (Rose Gardner Mystery) - Denise Grover Swank

“It all started when I saw myself dead.” For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad even before she sees a vision of herself dead. She’s had plenty of visions, usually boring ones like someone’s toilet’s overflowed, but she’s never seen one of herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered on her sofa instead, two things are certain: There isn't enough hydrogen peroxide in the state of Arkansas to get that stain out, and Rose is the prime suspect. Rose realizes she’s wasted twenty-four years of living and makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt: twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true. She’s well on her way with the help of her next door neighbor Joe, who has no trouble teaching Rose the rules of drinking, but won’t help with number fifteen-- do more with a man. Joe’s new to town, but it doesn’t take a vision for Rose to realize he’s got plenty secrets of his own. Somebody thinks Rose has something they want and they’ll do anything to get it. Her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in the Fenton County jail isn’t her biggest worry after all.

My thoughts:

I couldn't put this book down. Denise Grover Swank is so amazing at keeping people in the dark, I found myself racing through the pages trying to find out who Rose could trust and who lied to her. I couldn't figure Joe out until the end. Suspenseful, funny, sweet and surprising!

The characters feel real. No one is purely black or white, apart from the onion fanatic (eww). Even though Rose starts out as a weak person, she sure soon shows her strength. She is a likable person and I found myself cheering for her.
And Muffy was adorable.

Denise Grover Swank sure has a way with words.

Can't wait to read the second one.

Created Darkly (Kris Chase) - Gena D. Lutz

Necromancer Kris Chase's purpose is simple. Blindly raise the dead for the primary elite, self necro-governed group, the Center. The problem is, she couldn't care less about what the Center expects from her. Instead, she is more content with snuffing out the life-force from every vile creature she can get her hands on; the same monsters her brethren indiscriminately create… for the right price. Until the life of someone dear to her is threatened. With the stakes raised insurmountably, she finds herself bound by desperation to create the very darkness she always fought against being consumed by, going against everything she has ever believed in.

My thoughts:

I originally bought the book because I adore the cover art. It is beautiful, the red shirt a lovely contrast the the otherwise cold colors and I really wanted to know what the story is about. There might be some spoilers in the review, so read at own risk.

Starting with the positive:

- The cover, like I already mentioned it's fantastic.- I love the beginning of the novel, as Kris starts out as a strong woman who takes down a much more powerful creature than herself all alone.- Her ghostly room mate is cute. I really hope to read more of him.- The premise is very interesting. Having human Creators make vampires is new and I like the idea. Especially the idea that Creators can also kill vampires by touching them.- Rafe, the vampire is funny and I really liked him.- Kris being able to Mark her creations is interesting and I'd love to know more about it.

Things I felt needs some more work:

- The novel was written in 1st person, but both from Kris' point of view and that of her love interest Rush. The problem is, there is no indication whose chapter we are on. Though Ms Lutz doesn't headjump mid-chapter and there are breaks between shifting to another character, there should be a clear indication who is talking. The way Ms Lutz handles it here might work in 3rd person, but not 1st.- I did not like Rush. I felt zero connection to him and he'd been killed off mid-novel I wouldn't have cared. I was just waiting for him to start growling as soon as another male looks in Kris' direction, he was so possessive, it was unsexy and made me really dislike him.- I felt as if Kris was a lot more focused on getting into Rush' pants than finding her sister Torra or getting herself though situations safely. I like it when my female lead can also function without the guy.- The scene where the bride of Devil gave Kris new clothes when they first meet in the bathroom and EVERYONE stares at Kris because she wears a skirt. Even the people who didn't even know her. While the cover model really is a beauty, the club was packed with loads of beautiful women. It was unrealistic that each and every person would stare. You know what is sexy? A woman who is confident in whatever she is wearing. Even dirty, torn clothing, that became dirty and torn because she just raised a vampire. And after something happens at the club, Kris needs new clothes yet again. It really stagnates the plot.- The lead character should drive the plot. While Kris had loads of fancy powers, it was the bad guy Wolf who drove the plot. Kris was never a step ahead of him.- Unfortunately I felt there was a lot of telling and not showing and at times I thought the author wasn't confident that people will be able to follow her plot. In one instance one of the characters, Druska, tells Kris that she is looking for Torra "your sister." Yes, a character was telling the main character that she was also looking for Torra and felt the need to add that it's the main character's sister.- The characters tended to sound really dramatic. There was a whole lot of "HIS WOMAN" and a lot of trying to sound badass, but having nothing to back it up.In the end I did like the book, but with a bit more decent editing it could have been amazing. I will buy more books by Ms Lutz, as she has a lot of interesting ideas (and I would love those amazing covers on my shelves).


A World of My Own - A Short Story Fantasy for All Ages - Becca Bates

A rough life leaves Marie desperate for a way of escape. When she and her secret crush find a portal to the magical land of Sonara, it seems she has found just that. Now, she has everything she could want except the sister she left behind. Determined to save her from their abusive stepfather, Marie sets out to bring her sister with her to a new home, but Sonara may not be the idyllic land she dreamed of.

My thoughts:

A World of My Own is based on Alice in Wonderland but a compelling tale of its own. The heroine is a huge fan the Lewis Carroll novel and is thrilled when she learns that she is to play Alice in a school play.

Unfortunately things at home don't look so good for Marie, with her mother not speaking due to trauma and her step-father being abusive. So she spends her days taking care of her younger sister Lily, daydreaming and school.

Things go downward when the play is cancelled. High School cutie Leo offers Marie a ride home and suddenly they find themselves in a cave following a strange light and ending up in some sort of Wonderland.
I can't really tell any more without spoiling something, but the Wonderland Becca describes is magical and enchanting.
The story is well worth its money.

Dienstag, 5. Juli 2016

Review: Bound to Blackwood: House Blackwood Book One by Sharon Lipman

Would you surrender your soul for the love of the King? 

Lena, a vampire and a Guardian of the Order, has been honour-bound to protect human souls all her life.  Acting first and thinking second is what's saved her skin time and again in the war against the Fallen, but her disregard for orders soon catches up with her when her boss is seriously injured.  Forced to take responsibility for her actions, Lena is thrust into the path of her very own kryptonite; Thorn.  The raw power of his soul calls to her and his mere presence lights a fire within her that she cannot contain.       

With Vampire magic waning and the race in crisis, can either of them afford to ignore Nature's call? If they do, the future of the race is in jeopardy. If they don't, they will both lose the most precious part of themselves. Their souls

My thoughts:

With Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy authors popping up just about everywhere nowadays, I braced myself for another mediocre read. Still, I love vampires, so I bought the novel and started to read.

Let me get one thing straight however; this book is far from mediocre. Sharon Lipman manages to put a new, refreshing spin on vampires. Her world-building is extraordinary and her characters feel real. I was on the verge of my seat several times and found it hard to put the book down. Before I knew it I was halfway through and it was 3 in the morning.

I loved stubborn, reckless Lena. Very often female characters come in two catagories: cold, badass and unlikable or helpless and too-stupid-to-live. Lena is neither. As the only female Guardian she is used to having to prove herself, but she has this underlying insecurity when it comes to Thorn.

Thorn on the other hand is the hot, handsome King of Vampires, but sometimes I wanted to smack him. While he is a strong alpha male (which he needs to be as the king), he was not as unlikeable as some romance heroes. Thorn would rather be in the field, fighting, but after his brother's death he is stuck to rule over the vampires, a responsibilty he never wanted.

There are so many supporting characters, I have no idea where to start. At times I felt as if Kaden and Soraya might steal the show though (I adored those two!). 

All in all Sharon's characters are well rounded, the world is amazing and well thought out, so put this on your TBR list, even if you are growing tired of vampires, because Sharon's are unlike any other vampires.
If I had to compare her spin on vampires to other authors, I'd say it's somewhere between Charlain Harris' True Blood, Lara Adrian's Midnight Breed and JR Ward's Black Dagger novels.

Review: Someday I'll Be Redeemed (The Chronicles of Lorrek Book 1) by Kelly Blanchard

Everyone thinks him to be dead--or guilty. Without a word or sighting of Prince Lorrek of Cuskelom these last ten years, all believe the rumors of his crimes, which he is said to have committed, are true. However, when he finally returns to clear his name, Lorrek realizes the only way to find redemption is to become the very man they think him to be in this time when advanced technology challenges ancient magic to war.

My thoughts:

I have no clue where to start with this (and avoid spoilers, so please be aware the MIGHT be unintentional spoilers), but I absolutely loved the book.

Kelly Blanchard manages to weave an extensive plot-line and juggle a huge cast of characters, all of which have a purpose in the story, together and at no time did I find myself bored or confused.

We have Lorrek, the youngest of four brothers, a Prince of Cuskelom (one of the Kingdoms). He is the main character and rightfully so. He is cunning, the one pushing the plot forward and the only one of the princes who has magic. He's the reason we have this book.

Then we have Theran, the eldest brother. Of course, as the oldest son of the King, he should be King after the former ruler's death, but he gave that responsibility to Honroth when Lorrek disappeared and instead set out to look for his brother.
Honroth, the second eldest, now King of Cuskelom. In my opinion a far better choice, as Theran isn't exactly the most responsible person.
Heldon, third eldest, twin brother of Honroth.

Speaking of twins, what I found interesting was that both Theran and Lorrek had cousins who looked like them. Therth is Theran's “twin” and Loroth is Lorrek's double. The prince's father, King Sindric, used Therth and Loroth to stand in for his sons whenever they couldn't make public appearances themselves.
The problem was just, Loroth didn't have magic, whereas Lorrek is one of the most powerful sorcerers, which lead to the events in this book. I can't get into details here, but this plot point was so interesting! Loved the idea!
Of course the “twins” of Lorrek and Theran lead to a whole lot of other events. THOSE events also add to the main conflict, the outcome at times horrific.

Apart from the royal family of Cuskelom, we have Vixen, wife of Loroth and renown assassin. And apart from Lorrek, she was my favorite character. Talk about strong female character. She is one of those characters who is loyal, a brilliant fighter and won't ever back down from anything.

I also loved Mordora and Moren, the Princess and Prince of Nirrorm and I hope we see more of them in the next book.

I adore a certain couple together and I dearly hope they can somehow be together in book 2. I can't say their names, that would be a spoiler. But they are so cute! Whenever I wanted to put the book down to do my work and I saw the next scene would be about them, I kept reading.

King Roskelem of Serhon horrified me. Those statues. This is why a madman should not have that much power.

The world-building Kelly has done is amazing. We have several different Kingdoms. One Kingdom where the people practice pure magic (you cannot use pure magic for yourself and because of that it somehow protects the people), places like Cuskelom where people use tainted magic. In one Kingdom magic is forbidden (Nirrorm, where Mordora and Moren live, which is unfortunate as they are magic users).
In Jechorm technology rules.
There are several more Kingdoms, like Serhon.

I'd describe the genre as epic fantasy mixed with science-fiction. I'd place this book right in with books such as the “Song of Fire and Ice” books, “The Elven” saga by Bernhard Hennen and “The Lord of the Rings”.

I understand that this is the first book of a series containing 3-4 books. This first book is a build-up to events in book 2, but firmly stands its ground as a stand-alone. It does end with a cliffhanger though, so be prepared to anxiously wait for book 2 with the rest of us.

Review: Guilty by Association (Judah Black Novels Book 1) by E. A. Copen

Everything’s bigger in Texas…Including the monsters. 
Things look pretty crappy for Judah Black. Being forced to take an assignment in the middle of nowhere or risk losing her badge is hardly what she would call a perk of the job. But when a young werewolf is murdered on the Paint Rock Supernatural Reservation, her day goes from bad to worse. 
Labeled as a drug deal gone wrong, local law enforcement passes the case off as solved. Judah knows better. An occult expert, she knows the look... the feel of magick. Despite the insistence of the authorities that the case is solved, Judah presses into the investigation but she wasn’t prepared to uncover a cunning, ancient enemy… one that proves irritated with her interference. 
Using only her wits, knowledge and limited magickal abilities can Judah untangle the web of cover-ups and lies before the killer finds his next victim? Or has he already chosen one? Her son… 
Guilty by Association is the bone-chilling first chapter of E.A. Copen’s Judah Black Series. Rife with paranormal mystery, this top-notch urban fantasy will have you turning pages! If you are a fan of Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series, you won’t want to miss Judah Black! 

My thoughts:

I'm a huge fan of urban fantasy novels, especially those with strong female leads. Lately I've had a hard time finding really good books, that don't start with a strong woman as main character that suddenly turns into a whimpering helpless girl as soon as the hero arrives.
Judah Black was far from helpless as you can get. However she also isn't one of those cold, “Oh I'm so tough and nothing can hurt me” characters you often get, no Judah is a well rounded character with strengths and weaknesses that make her feel real.
Judah is a BSI agent and newly assigned to Paint Rock, a reservation for everything supernatural. Of course, most locals regard the new arrival with dislike and suspicion, which means she has a hard time starting to work.
Apart from being an agent, she is also a mother, which is refreshing in this genre. I can't remember the last time when I read an urban fantasy with a mother as main character.
Hunter, her son is well written, E.A. Copen put a lot of thought into portraying him correctly. Many times kids in novels are written horribly, but here it wasn't the case.

There are so many supporting characters in this novel, I have no idea where to start.

There is Gideon Reed, who is a priest with a secret. Saloso Silvermoon (werewolf), Chanter Silvermoon (also werewolf, the alpha), Ed (computer geek and werewolf and my favorite character), Andre DeLuc (a mysterious guy with a secret), Robbie Fellows (one of the most fascinating characters I've read so far), Zoe, who is Saloso's ex-girlfriend... Gah, I really don't know where to start, they are all well written and I was constantly on the edge of my seat wondering who the bad guy is.

In the end the villain was scary. I don't think I ever read a book with a villain quite like him. Villains hardly ever scare me, but he was a true monster.

The world building was superb. The trope “supernaturals coming out in the open” was done before and the book had a bit of a True Blood feeling, but more of a “What if the vampires and other Supernaturals in True Blood had a harder time being accepted and forced to live in camps”-feeling.

I had a hard time putting the down and can hardly wait for book 2 (which I see is due soon!).

Review: Restless Natives: An Ellie Gooden Mystery by Nan Sampson

The weekend before her coffee shop’s Grand Opening in the small Wisconsin town of Horizon, former Chicago marketing exec and hereditary Wiccan, Ellie Gooden, opens the back door to her new business... and finds murder. The former owner is dead in the middle of her kitchen, tied to a chair, covered in syrup and feathers, with a butcher knife sticking out of his chest. A stranger in a new town, Ellie climbs immediately to the top of a suspect list of one. To make matters worse, someone is vandalizing both her new shop and her new home, and the shade of the murdered man keeps urging her to solve the crime. As she struggles to launch her new business and salvage her reputation, she digs into the dead man’s past, unearthing long-buried, small town secrets – secrets that have driven someone to kill. And by exposing the past, Ellie could be next.

My thoughts:

Cozy mysteries are not my usual go-to genre, but when a trusted friend showed me the book, I just had to read it. After all, I'm a huge fan of crime shows (NCIS, the Mentalist, Murder She Wrote, Person of Interest, Castle) and I love everything supernatural (Ellie is a Wiccan).
Growing up with shows like Buffy and Charmed, the supernatural aspect piqued my interest, too, so I gave it a go.
The story starts with Ellie driving to the town of Horizon to get everything ready for her grand opening in seven days, just to find the former owner dead in his shop, covered in feathers and syrup.
The author brilliantly laid out false trails throughout the book and then proceeded to kill my murder suspect near the end.
The characters are well rounded, Ellie was a bit passive in this first book, but I reckon she will take charge more in later books, when she learns to trust her instincts better. There were quite a few characters so it was at times a bit hard to remember who was who, but that's no fault of the author, I tend to read too fast and miss details. I especially liked Charlie and Kate and wished they would appear more frequently. Maybe in book 2? I feel like Ellie might end up with Charlie, which would be great, because he's cute.
The author has updated the cover and the book since my purchase, so I'll buy myself the new edition soon. I'm rather fond of matching covers on my shelf.

Can't wait to see what happens in book 2!