Thursday, May 5, 2016

#Thursday Review - Smoke and Mirrors by Jess Haines (New Adult, Paranormal Romance)

Series: Blackhollow Academy # 1
Format: E-Galley, 290 pages
Release Date: May 1, 2016
Source: Author Jess Haines
Genre: Paranormal Romance

A girl who uses her illusions to fool the world into thinking she's just like all the other magi.

A dragon who sees through her lies.

Together they just might survive a world that wants to control or destroy them both.

Kimberly may wield ultimate cosmic power, but even a mage has to pay the rent. No one will hire her for her magic talents until she's got the credentials, so she’s stuck in a crappy rent controlled apartment with her mother, yearning for treats she can't afford at her part time job in a café, counting down the days until she graduates the secret Blackhollow Academy school for magi. Only then will she have the certificate she needs to land her dream job in a coven.

The problem? She needs a familiar to graduate.

As an illusionist, she doesn't have the ability to summon or create a familiar of her own. Her only option is to convince a supernatural creature to let her bind it instead. Since having a powerful Other at her beck and call would guarantee her a place in a coven after she graduates—and legendary treasure hoards are an added bonus—she thinks binding a dragon as her familiar will solve all her problems...

Because sometimes a girl needs a dragon, not a knight....

The first thing you should now is that I received this E-Galley from author Jess Haines. Jess is the author of the  H&W Investigations series featuring Shiarra Waynest. A series I hope continues & soon. Smoke and Mirrors is set in the exact same universe as Shiarra's series. It has the same Others like vampires, werewolves, and Mages. But, it also adds unicorns, Naga's, Dragons, and Wyvern's just to make things even more interesting.

Smoke and Mirrors is centered around a 21-year old woman named Kimberly, not Kim, Wells who is trying hard to graduate from Blackhollow Academy. After discovering that she had magical abilities, Kim received a scholarship to attend the school at 17. Things haven't exactly gone smoothly for Kimberly. Especially since she's poor by other student's standards. But, with her brilliant abilities to use illusion to get her through her classes, she just might survive.

But, if Kimberly doesn't find a way to pass her most difficult and challenging course, she won't graduate. Her dreams of getting out of poverty, of finding a decent job at a coven or any place else, may end up going up in smoke. Segue to the appearance of Cormac Hunter. Cormac is a dragon. A dragon as powerful, dangerous, and protective as they come. A dragon that might be Kimberly's only chance at graduating if she can survive what is coming next.

I am all in on Kimberly's character. I love that she is a bit prideful, but not a prune. I love that she is genuine in not wanting to be another evil sorcerer that binds people against their will. I love Kimberly's mother, Heather, as well. Here are two women who have each other to lean on and support through the good and the not so good. So much so that each of them wouldn't hesitate to pick up odd jobs to pay the bills.

In closing, I dare say that I think that you can read this book without knowing about her H&W series. I do hope that one day that you will join us in waiting for the next installment by the author which we are itching for soon! I don't know where the author goes from here. The ending is almost perfectly wrapped up with little left over. I do know that there is a second novel in this series called Candle and Horn. Will Kimberly still be the protagonist, or will another character step up instead. We shall see. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

#Wednesday Review - To Kill A Kettle Witch by Barb Hendee (Science Fiction/Fantasy)

Series: The Mist-Torn Witches # 4
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: ROC
Source: Publisher
Genre: Sci-Fiction, Epic Fantasy

National bestselling author Barb Hendee returns to the world of the Mist-Torn witches, as two sisters who can see the secrets of the past and the mysteries of the future begin a quest to save the family they never knew existed.…

Powerful prince Malcolm is facing ruin in the wake of a curse that has destroyed his harvest. He blames the band nomadic Móndyalítko who summer in the meadow below his castle—and he is determined to root out the people who caused the blight by any means necessary.

When Céline and Amelie Fawe, descended from the Móndyalítko, learn that their mother’s people are under suspicion of sabotage and treason, they set out to use their magical gifts to save their estranged relatives and learn about their own origins.

Now it’s up to the sisters—along with their motley escort, including a prince’s lieutenant, a shape-shifter, and an old woman with a murky past—to discover the source of the curse to restore life to the ravaged land and protect the innocent from unfair vengeance.

To Kill A Kettle Witch, is the fourth installment in The Mist-Torn Witches by author Barb Hendee. This is a series that is set in the world of the Noble Dead Saga. Does that mean you have had to read the Noble Dead first? Nope. It just means that similarities can be found. Especially since most of this series is set in what is the country of Droevinka.

In has been a year since Sisters Céline and Amelie Fawe left their former home under a dictator and found a new home under Prince Anton. Since then, the sisters have found a safe place where someone who actually respects them, and doesn't treat them like dirt under his toes. They have accepted Anton's call to use their skills to help others and solve mysteries three times now. This is their fourth mystery to solve.

Céline is able to see into a persons future, while Amelie is able to see the past. The sisters, who are descended from a group known as the Móndyalítko, (or the world's little people/travelers), find themselves once again accepting a call for help. This time to Yegor, where Prince Malcolm has a serious issue. His crops have been cursed, his economy is about to tank, and he blames the Móndyalítko who have made his land their summer home for years.

The same Móndyalítko who are Céline and Amelie's people on their mother's side who they've never met thanks to their mother's passing. Thanks to the foresight from Helga, another Móndyalítko who can tell when something is happening right now, the sisters, plus Lieutenant Kirell Jaromir and Mason, who they met in Witches in Red, set off to uncover the source of the curse.

Let's stop there for a moment because I would be remiss by saying the so called villain of the story is truly bad. That, my friends, is the furthest from the truth. In fact, I dare say that I felt nothing but empathy and a desire to kick the shit out of Malcolm's ass instead. This is also a story that could have been a bit better, but I'll not run away kicking and screaming. There is a lot of looking back at the past by different characters which took up chunks of the story. 

I loved that the sisters were finally able to meet others from their heritage. I loved that the sisters met their aunt Sinead, and other family members who they didn't know existed thanks to their own mother. I loved that Amelie and Jaromir may have put an end to their angst and dancing the two steps around each other to bed. But, I kind of felt for Mason. It's more than obvious he cares for Céline who may or may not have the same feelings for Anton but can't exactly do much about them. 

So, overall this story is a B on my rating scale. I really would like Anton to trust the sisters a bit more when things come up they can help with rather than only going places where he suggests. I would love for Anton to either sit or get off the pot when it comes to Céline. Either way, Céline deserves the chance to feel the same thing that Amelie is currently feeling.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

#Tuesday Review - Target by Mike Shepherd (Adult Space Opera, Science Fiction)

Series: Vicky Peterwald # 1
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Publisher: ACE
Source: Library
Genre: Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Grand Duchess Vicky Peterwald has undergone an unlikely transformation—from pampered heir to naval lieutenant. Now Vicky will need to use both her military and political ranks to rebuild war-torn planets, planets ruined both by the Peterwald Empire and by Kris Longknife’s revolutionary quests. When the death-before-dishonor code of the Navy meets the anything-goes-to-win motto of the Imperial family, Vicky must confront, outwit, and conquer both revolutionaries and her own family to stifle galactic disorder.

Target, by Mike Shepherd, is the first installment in the Vicky Peterwald series. Target should come with a warning. If you haven't read Shepherd's Kris Longknife series yet, especially the novel where Kris and Vicky come face to face, don't just blindly jump into this story expecting to have a clue where the story picks up or why Vicky has had so many assassination attempts made on her.

So, thanks to your friendly neighborhood reviewer, me, I shall save you the time and summarize what happened before this book opens up. Let's get some facts straight. There are some remarkable sex scenes in this book because Vicky was taught to use her body at an early age to get what she wants, and later had her training scrambled to learn how to fight when she joined the Navy after failing to assassinate the person who she believes killed her own brother. So, now that that is over with, let's move on. 

As Target and the series kicks off, Lieutenant Vicky Peterwald, aka Her Imperial Grace, Grand Duchess Peterwald, finds herself in enemy territory onboard Lt. Commander Kris Longknife's remaining ship the Wasp. She's one of 5 Greenfeld survivors of the Great Voyage of Discovery that became a fight against dangerous aliens that left a destroyer battalion destroyed.

Vicky and four others find themselves onboard Kris's ship. That includes two, who are considered to be her body doubles, Kit and Kat. After perhaps gaining a little respect from Kris, Vicky goes and does something so shocking that it gets her kicked off the ship and is forced into find another way home. Behind the scenes, Vicky's step-monster, the Empress, is pregnant and expecting a boy. 

A boy that has no chance of becoming heir to the crown unless Vicky is dead. So, step-monster takes out bribes, and pays assassins to ensure Vicky doesn't reach her home alive. One of the things that makes this book worthwhile reading, is the politics, and the nearly dozen attempts on her life. With Vicky alive and fighting back, and learning who she can and can't trust, and the Empress growing even more deranged and dangerous by the moment, a collision course is imminent.

As a Navy female veteran through and through, I do appreciate that Shepherd uses Navy and Marine aspects to tell this story. I appreciate that the Navy is basically the GOOD guys trying to hold against a tyrant. I appreciate the odds and the evil the Marines are facing in this story. Vicky has to make her way into this tight brother/sisterhood in order to be respected, and not thought of as an royal pain in the ass who is as spoiled as they come. She has to find those who will stand and help her, and not sell her out.

A few things really bothered me about this story. 1. There was no warning that readers should read the Kris Longknife series before jumping into this book. 2. The way things are brought to an abrupt ending between Kris and Vicky didn't at all make sense to me and that's saying a whole lot. 3. The original synopsis, as found on Goodreads, and Amazon, has nothing to do with this book. 

It has to do with a situation that happened long before the events of this book. 4. One could say that this book should be labeled as erotica, or maybe that was the publishers fault for not letting readers know the sex is more on the terms of being a space soap opera. 5. Finally, I would have loved this book a whole lot better without the rape scene and the space soap opera with sex. 

Will I read the sequel called Survivor? We shall see. If Shepherd can cease with the Erotica Space Opera, and focus on Vicky's future in attempting to bring down the Empress, then perhaps I will. Sorry if that sounds like I am Vanilla, but it's just not my thing. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

#Monday Review - The Skylighter by Becky Wallace (Young Adult, Fantasy)

Series: The Keepers' Chronicles # 2
Format: Hardcover, 422 pages
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Johanna and Rafi are in a race against time to save their country before a power-mad Keeper destroys everything they hold dear in the “enthralling magical world” (Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles) introduced in The Storyspinner.

As the last of the royal line, Johanna is the only person who can heal a magical breach in the wall that separates her kingdom of Santarem from the land of the Keepers, legendary men and women who wield elemental magic. The barrier protects Santarem from those Keepers who might try to take power over mere humans…Keepers who are determined to stop Johanna and seize the wall’s power for themselves.

And they’re not the only ones. As the duchys of Santarem descend into war over the throne, Johanna relies more than ever on the advice of her handsome companion, Lord Rafael DeSilva. But Rafi is a duke too, and his people come first. As their friendship progresses into the beginnings of a tender relationship, Johanna must wonder: is Rafi looking out for her happiness, or does he want the throne for himself?

With war on the horizon, Johanna and Rafi dodge treacherous dukes and Keeper assassins as they race to through the countryside, determined to strengthen the wall before it’s too late…even if it means sacrificing their happiness for the sake of their world.

The Skylighter is the second and final installment in author Becky Wallace's The Keepers' Chronicles. Not unlike The Storyspinner, Wallace intermingles a group of Seven characters to tell her story. From Johanna (Princess Adriana) Von Arlo, Lord Rafael DeSilva, Lord Dom DeSilva, to Keepers  Jacaré, Pira, and Leão. Jacaré's Keepers are magically inclined and have access to the five elements. As the leader of the group and Captain of the Elite Guards, Jacaré has seen a whole lot over the past 300 years. But, he hasn't seen what's coming next. 

With his fellow Keepers in deep trouble and separated after the events of the previous novel, and the missing Princess's life in jeopardy from power hungry Dukes and an evil more powerful than perhaps himself, Jacaré must find Princess Adriana and bring her to Donovan's Wall before their enemies can get to her first. Even if that means never returning home again. I have a short apology to make. I was a bit harsh on the Keepers in The Storyspinner and I was wrong. Each of them goes through literal hell and back in this story and would give up their lives if it meant that the Princess lives long enough to save Santarem. With Pira facing her own mortality and being used as a slave, and Leão trying to find her before its too late, these Keepers more than make their presences felt. 

Even though The Skylighter has a whole lot happening, and character's narratives flip at each chapter, the most interesting is those from Dom DeSliva, who is forced to stand in for Rafi and protect Santiago from being destroyed. Dom stands out because he puts away his partying ways and became the man of the house who everyone could count on. I love that he is very protective of Michael. I even liked the unusual relationship with Lord Inimijo's daughter Mirabelle, but was shocked to the core over the betrayal that I never saw coming.

With Duke's Belem and Inimijo each having plans for the long lost daughter of the slain King Wilhelm, things become dire for Johanna. While the first book focused on the search and reveal of who the Princess actually is, this book is perhaps better. Everyone character faces their own challenges and life altering situations that you don't know if they will live or not. Rafi and Johanna find that their road isn't easy at all. They find allies are hard to come by, and relying on Jacaré may be their only hope. 

I am happy that this series was only TWO books long. I was also happy that my library had both books and that I was able to borrow them back to back so that I could remember what happened in the previous novels. The Skylighter is a satisfying ending to the series, and it does have a whole lot of action especially in the second half. There is even an Easter egg, as it were, in this book that you might pay attention to. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

#Saturday Review - Heir to The Sky by Amanda Sun (YA, Fantasy)

Series: Standalone?
Format: E-Galley, 304 pages
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

As heir to a kingdom of floating continents, Kali has spent her life bound by limits—by her duties as a member of the royal family; by a forced betrothal to the son of a nobleman; and by the edge of the only world she’s ever known—a small island hovering above a monster-ridden earth, long since uninhabited by humans. She is the Eternal Flame of Hope for what’s left of mankind, the wick and the wax burning in service for her people, and for their revered Phoenix, whose magic keeps them aloft.

When Kali falls off the edge of her kingdom and miraculously survives, she is shocked to discover there are still humans on the earth. Determined to get home, Kali entrusts a rugged monster-hunter named Griffin to guide her across a world overrun by chimera, storm dragons, basilisks, and other terrifying beasts. But the more time she spends on earth, the more dark truths she begins to uncover about her home in the sky, and the more resolute she is to start burning for herself.

Amanda Sun, author of the Paper Gods series, returns with a story about a kingdom in the sky, a fallen princess, and a world where a group of humans live against the backdrop of a prehistoric world with dragons, chimera's, and other strange creatures who are as dangerous as their names imply. 16-year old Kallima, Kali for short, lives in the kingdom of Ashra high about the Earth. 

She believes that the ground is overrun with monsters that roam freely. And, even though her minds runs with some interesting possibilities, she doesn't want to be on the ground. In fact, the humans who live on Ashra, and Burumu all believe they are what is left of humankind. Ashra calls Kali the Eternal Flame that ignites the Phoenix. The same Phoenix who it is said to have lifted Ashra and a group of smaller islands into the sky.

Kali finds some interesting secrets that could cause a whole lot of distress if they were to ever get out. This leads to an unfortunate incident. An incident that sees Kali falling off Ashra, through some sort of magical barrier, and onto the ground where she manages to survive. She quickly discovers that her fears about monsters roaming the ground weren't just tall tales to scare the crap out of the children on Ashra. 

But, the most telling tale of this story begins on the ground where a handful of humans actually live on the ground. Those like Griffin who is a monster hunter and isn't afraid to take on the most dangerous beasties imaginable to survive. Griffin has managed to survive alongside of Aliyah and Sayra who have both lost everything to the monsters that terrorize humans on earth. 

But the tale is much more than Ashra can imagine. It is a fantastical one with mythical beings who shouldn't exist, becoming true allies and friends of a princess who fell to the ground under not her own choice. It will take her own form of courage, strength, and determination to return to the island in the sky and make things right again, while learning how to fight against beasties that are more than happy to take a chomp out of her pampered behind.

Heir to The Sky isn't the first story that I've read about a floating city high above the earth, nor will it apparently be the last. The Internment Chronicles by Lauren DeStefano was also set high above the ground. Heir of the Sky apparently is a standalone novel that perhaps could have used a bit more world building to go along characters like Kali, Griffin, and Elisha. The story is a fairly quick paced novel which made reading and finishing it a breeze.  

Friday, April 29, 2016

#Stacking the Shelves / Bought, Borrowed, Bagged # 14 - Thanks @kristicharish @torteen @Scholastic @bookouture!!

Bought Borrowed and Bagged is all about the latest additions to your library – virtual or actual, with books that are  bought, borrowed, won or ARCs  you will be reading soon. Bought Borrowed and Bagged is a homage to to Barron’s Books and Baubles from Karen Marie Moning’s amazing Fever series, and is hosted by Braine over at Talk Supe. 

Hello Everyone!
Happy Weekend!
Thanks for stopping by!

This Weeks Reviews: 

Scheduled for Next Week: 

Monday - The Skylighter by Becky Wallace (YA, FANTASY)

Tuesday - Trust (Vicky Peterwald) by Mike Shepherd (Science Fiction)

Wednesday - To Kill A Kettle Witch by Barb Hendee (Epic Fantasy)

  Thursday - Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen (YA, Fantasy)

Friday - Camp Alien by Gini Koch (Science Fiction)

 Saturday - Night Shift by Charlaine Harris (Urban Fantasy)

*Received from Publisher*

Via Kristi Charish - Thanks Kristi! 

*Granted approval via NetGalley/Edelweiss*


*Borrowed from Library*


Thursday, April 28, 2016

#Friday Review - Soldier by Julie Kagawa (YA, Paranormal)

Series: The Talon Saga # 3
Format: E-Galley, 416 pages
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

A fighter dedicated to saving humankind from dragons in strictest secrecy.

That was what Garret Xavier Sebastian thought he was part of as a soldier of the Order of St. George. What he learned from a fiery dragon hatchling twisted all he believed in and set him on a collision course with certain death-but not without a chance to put things right.

Betrayed and on the run again, Ember and rogue dragon Riley discover an unthinkable truth about Talon and St. George. They'll need Garret's skills and insider knowledge of the Order to negotiate an impossible deal-and if they fail, there will be no way to stop all-out war.

Soldier is the third installment in The Talon Saga by author Julie Kagawa. As with the previous installments Talon and Rogue, Kagawa once again weaves her story between FOUR main characters: 16-year old Ember Hill (Hatchling/Rogue Dragon), 17-year old Garret Xavier Sebastian (Ex-Dragon Hunter Traitor to the St. George Order), Rogue Talon Operative Riley/Cobalt who has been fighting Talon and attempting to save rogue, hatchlings, and any other dragon who wants out from Talon, and Dante Hill, Ember's twin brother who has become completely brainwashed by Talon.

Right out of the starting gate, Kagawa does something a bit different. She has Garret take the lead. She not only flashes back to how he became the Perfect Soldier, and how he lost his family, but pushes forward into dark and deadly territory which will have startling consequences and change the direction of this series. Garret has always been one of the more interesting characters in this entire series, regardless of the whole Ember/Riley/Garret angst ridden silliness. He found himself trained as a soldier and quickly become a pawn in a much larger game between the Order of St. George, and the evil spawn dragons of Talon. 

But, he never imagined his world would be rocked by falling for Ember Hill, who it turned out, was a dragon hiding in plain sight. A Dragon he was supposed to kill, but didn't. He could never image betraying is fellow soldiers, including his partner Tristan. He could never imagine what he would find in London, either. Everything that he was told in the past about the Order vs Talon, has quickly come unglued. When a deadly secret is revealed, Garret finds himself with an unlikely ally in Chinese Dragon Jade, and he soon finds himself racing back home to once again help save Ember, Wes, and Riley.

Ember has had a whole lot of unwanted kimchee tossed on her plate since she choose to go rogue with Riley. From being training by Lilith to become a Viper/Assassin, to leaving her brainwashed brother Dante behind at the mercy of Talon, to finding a connection to not only a human who worked for the so called enemy, to apparently finding her soul mate for life, Ember hasn't had a chance to take a deep breath. Ember's heart is spinning is several directions at once which makes for some interesting choices. 

Ember, who struggles with her human & dragon sides, is in a dark place since Garret left. She and Riley continue to try to remain one step ahead of both the Order and Talon, but have no clue how they are finding Riley's underground so quickly. She's had to do things that has splintered her heart into pieces, but at the same time, has saved her life. One could do a paper on Ember who nearly looses herself while being immersed in a really dark place. I have had some issues with the whole Riley/Ember merry-go-round romance. Unfortunately, this is entirely typical for a book written by Julie Kagawa.

I'm going to skip over Riley and go directly for Dante. I'm doing so because Riley, even though he means well, hasn't been one of my favorites and I truly believe his issues will have dire consequences when all is said and done.

Dante is a general tool, and that's saying a whole lot. He's thrown himself on a grenade called Talon, and continues to blame his sister for everything that has happened to him. It's all HER fault that he choose to follow the evil sadistic bastards of Talon, instead of listening to common sense. So, readers shouldn't be shocked or disturbed by anything that happens to Dante and his interactions with the Talon hierarchy. With an author like Kagawa around, you just know that you are about to be shot through the heart with a poisonous arrow. 

So, why the rating then you ask? Simple. The ending that is just brutal in every way imaginable. I realize that there will be two more books in this series, but holy mother of Murgatroyd! I won't even dare guess what was in the authors sick/twisted mind at the time she was writing this book. We all know that Kagawa has written some very imaginary & entertaining books over the years. We know that she tends to put her characters through a living hell while laughing like a lunatic. But, I'm not sure what she was going for in this instance. Was it the shock and awe factor? Or, does she not care that she might give someone a bloody heart attack?

Next in Series: Legion, The Talon Saga # 4.