Category Archives: Urban Fantasy

Quickie Reviews

I’m on a glomming reading session at the moment, and its a very serious battle against my TBR pile. So here are some quick-snap reviews:

Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold

Blurb taken from Fantastic Fiction:

“Young Fawn Bluefield has fled her family’s farm hoping to find work in the city of Glassforge. Uncertain about her future and the troubles she carries, Fawn stops for a drink of water at a roadside inn, where she encounters a patrol of Lakewalkers, enigmatic soldier-sorcerers from the woodland culture to the north. Fawn knows the stories about the Lake-walkers: they are necromancers; they practice black sorcery; they have no permanent homes and own only the clothes they wear and the weapons; mysterious knives made of human bone they carry. What she does not know is that the Lakewalkers, as a whole, are engaged in a perilous campaign against inhuman and immortal magical entities known as “malices,” creatures that suck the life out of all they encounter, and turn men and animals into their minions.

Dag is an older Lakewalker patroller who carries his past sorrows as heavily as his present responsibilities. When Fawn is kidnapped by the malice Dag’s patrol is tracking, Dag races to rescue her. But in the ensuing struggle, it is not Dag but Fawn who kills the creature at dire cost and an uncanny accident befalls Dag’s sharing knife, which unexpectedly binds their two fates together.

And so now the misenchanted knife must be returned to the Lakewalkers. Together, Fawn and Dag set out on the long road back to his camp. But on the journey this unlikely pair will encounter danger and delight, prejudice and partnership, and maybe even love. . . .”

I love fantasy romance! It’s probably one of my favourite sub genres, and Lois McMaster Bujold nearly manages to deliver on all fronts in her first book of the Sharing Knife series. The budding relationship between the hero and heroine is a wonderful read. Both have been broken by different and separate events from their lives, and they come together and manage to heal one another in a way that I found to be very sweet.

I did have an OMG: How freaking old is he moment. There is a major – and I mean MAJOR – age gap between them, but I quickly got over that aspect as Fawn and Dag seem to be made for one another. And they work together in a partnership that was very believable, IMO. Since this is a fantasy world, and Dag is magical, I don’t think the ageing will be a problem for them in their future. Eek. I hope not!

The only downside was that the fantasy and action was too slow paced for me, and nothing really big happened, but the premise is fantastic. Hopefully the action will pick up in volume two.

4 out of 5 for Beguilement.

Coming Undone by Lauren Dane

(I love this cover. It’s sexy, and has this super glow about it. Very awesome!)


Blurb taken from Lauren Dane’s official website:

“Brody Brown has always been responsible for others. After his parents’ death, he gave up a promising artistic career to care for his younger brother and sister. Now, with his siblings grown, Brody owns his own business, has a nice house, makes a nice living, and for the first time in years he’s on his own.

Elise Sorenson has come to Seattle with her young daughter to find peace. After years as a world-famous ballerina—(and just as many years in a marriage-gone-bad)—she’s looking for neither love nor attention. But she finds both in the handsome, honest man who befriends her with no strings attached.

More than friends, Brody and Elise discover in each other what they need—wild, physical passion without commitment. But it’ll take a shadow from Elise’s past to make them look beyond what they need—to what they truly desire.”

I’m fairly a new reader to Lauren Dane’s work. I’d bought her first début book: Undercover and liked it. But for some reason, I didn’t buy anymore of her titles. I have now, though.

Coming Undone is a sexy and likeable read, but I found it lacking in tension. The hero, Brody, is a wonderful and vivid character, and Elise is a very likeable heroine who is having trouble putting behind a violent past, not only for herself, but for her daughter.

Elise did a lot of healing with Brody, and for me, that was one of the two strong aspects of the book; her learning to becoming independent and not letting anyone push her around. But the tension that was supposed to be the driving point and focus of the book was weak.

The sex scenes were sizzling hot! And with an extra sizzle! I’m very much looking forward to Dane’s Relentless, another title I bought that looks like a goodie.

3.5 out of 5 for Coming Undone.

Salt and Silver by Anna Katherine

Blurb taken from Anna Katherine’s (actually two authors) official website:

“One night six years ago, Allie and her friends got drunk and chanted a fake spell they made up… and accidentally opened a portal to Hell. Now it resides in the basement of the diner Allie runs, and it’s a pain in the ass — mystical crap is always coming out, and then it has to be killed. Demon guts get everywhere, stuff gets smashed up, there are salt circles and sigils all over the place… It gets tedious.

The up side is that Allie gets her own personal demon hunter guarding the Door and killing the demons: a sexy and mysterious, Stetson-wearing, snide-remark-making, dark-eyed demon hunter named Ryan.

But after six years of jibes and sexual tension, the Door disappears at the same time there’s a surge in demonic activity — and no one seems to know what’s going on. Not Narnia the bitchy psychic witch, or Roxie, a kickass demon hunter from the other side of town.

It’s not Allie’s idea for a team of demon hunters to find another Door and go into it to see if Hell is about to take over Earth, but she definitely wants in on that plan. After years of seeing the havoc a Door to Hell wreaks on the world, she’s ready to grow up, take responsibility for helping open a Door in the first place, and kick some demon butt.

Okay, and she’d also like some quality make out time with Ryan, and mortal peril is always a turn-on, right?”

When a friend of mine recommended this book, I went to the author’s website and read the excerpt, and liked it verily muchly. After reading the whole of the book, I didn’t like it as much as my first impression. The premise is interesting, and overall, the book is very much a light read, but the heroine was too shallow for my tastes and there was not much depth from the characters.

The heroine does not make for a very sympathetic one, and when you have the heroine’s POV in first narrative, the dialogue and inner thoughts have to grab you, and make you want to read and learn more about her. I was skating upon being amused, and nearly not liking her.

The hell portals is a cool idea – especially when it’s expanded upon in the story. While I didn’t love this book, I did like it – despite the heroine –  and I managed to finish the book in one reading. I’m interested in how the second book will turn out, and hopefully there will be more depth and a tighter plot.

3 out of 5 stars for Salt and Silver.

Review: Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre

In this third instalment in the Grimspace series, Doubleblind marks a departure from the previous two books, which were frenetic in high octane action and scope. Sirantha Jax is asked by the Conglomerate to become a goodwill ambassador, to try and forge an alliance with the elusive and secretive bug-like Ithtorians. However, there are factions who would like to jeopardize this alliance. There is the insidious threat from a progressively more powerful Syndicate (a mafia like organization), headed by Jax’s own mother that would love to take over where the Farwan Corporation has left off, and has become a threat to the Conglomerate’s authority in the Galaxy. It is essential for Jax to try and cement an alliance with the Ithtorian because failure would leave the Galaxy under threat from the Morguts – a vicious alien race who have increasingly attacked outposts, stations and threatening the survival of the Conglomerate Alliance

In addition to these outside pressures, Jax also has to deal with healing March’s fractured mind after the events in Wanderlust, which have left him emotionless and dangerous to the people around him. Did I mention earlier that Jax doesn’t do diplomatic and sensitive well? Especially when she has to deal with an alien race that do not view humans in a favourable light due to a testy past.

Doubleblind is quieter in tone and pace compared to Grimspace and Wanderlust. It is more character driven as it focuses more about Jax’s developing relationship with March and Vel; ( If I wasn’t in love with Vel in the last book – I so am now!) the Ithtorian bounty hunter, who has cemented himself as a firm ally and friend to Jax despite his ties to Ithiss-Tor. Jax has grown up and matured a lot over the past two books. This becomes evident to the reader during the many diplomatic incidents in Doubleblind where the old Jax would have jeopardised the mission and abandoned March.

I really love the course of their romance across the three books, (Grimspace, Wanderlust and Doubleblind). Ann Aguirre gives the reader a sense of symmetry with March’s and Jax’s relationship. From the beginning, March was the sensitive and patient lover while Jax was the opposite. Now, Jax has learned and grown from past mistakes, to realize how important March really is. This shows how much she has changed from her previous irresponsible and cocky persona in Grimspace, and is evident in her determination to try to heal March from his emotionless disconnect.

There were times when I feared that March wouldn’t be able to reconnect due to the coldness and menace of his emotional disconnect – which was pretty scary at times. Despite this, I think readers will definitely enjoy how this subplot develops, because like the previous books where March helps Jax to overcome her own grief and emotional baggage, Jax does the same for March. And for me, this book strengthens their love, I think the quieter tone and pace of the book were needed to show and emphasize that.

Another relationship that was further developed was that between Jax and Vel; who I think – in my eyes – he is definitely become one of my all time favourite characters. Just like Jax’s relationship with March, the events in Doubleblind brings Vel and Jax closer – especially as there are outside and inside forces that threaten their mission, and even their lives.

One of the best elements in the book involved the world building about Ithtorian culture and their political intrigue. Vel helps and guides Jax, who learns there is more to the Ithtorian than she realised. This helps her to understand Vel and bond with him more.

One of my favourite passages in the book, which highlights this is:

‘As he straightens, his mandible moves in some subtle meaning. “Your manners have become … exquisite, Sirantha. The shading you gave that wa… it was poetic.”
Surprise washes over me as I register the compliment. “Really? What did I say?”
“In the time after the broken sunrise, brown bird looks to white wave. The Sky does not touch, all songs have ceased. It is far and lorn.”

Ann Aguirre does not keep the readers trapped on Ithiss-Tor. In between chapters, there are breaks with interviews and satellite forum conversations which convey what the galaxy is going through after the downfall of the Farwan Corporation, and the takeover bids of the Syndicate. This gives an insight that things are coming to a head later, and adds to the tension about the success of Jax’s mission.

There are also a few developments with Constance (Jax’s personal computer aide) and Jael. I hope we get to see more about them in the next book, although I was slightly disappointed that Dina, Doc and Hit were featured lightly in this book. I can understand why, though, as they would have detracted attention from the plot.

Doubleblind has enriched and further developed the characters and the world building of this series. It’s a pivotal book as it sets out and expands on future things to come for Jax and Co., and I am sorry to say it does end in a cliffhanger.

The Grimspace series is multi-layered with memorable characters and heart wrenching romance with dashes of high octane action and wit. And although this installment has a different change of pace and tone, it is a rich and satisfying chapter in this series.

Book four, Killbox, will be out late Sep/early Oct and I cannot WAIT!

Review: Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong

This review may contain spoilers.

Frostbitten explores so much more and to date, for me, is the most emotional POV with Elena as narrator. I admit, I wasn’t enamoured with Living With The Dead, so I found Frostbitten to be a welcome return to Elena. I think it’s a definite MUST buy for fans of Kelley Armstrong and if you haven’t yet read this series, I strongly urge you to do so.

Frostbitten delves deep into Elena’s insecurities: about her painful experience while in foster care, juggling pack work and raising a family at the same time. Elena is also coming to terms with Jeremy’s announcement: He has chosen her to be the future alpha of the pack!

Frostbitten is very centred on Elena and Clay, and we don’t see much of Jeremy, Nick, Antonio and the other usual suspects playing an active role. What we do see is a whole slew of new characters with their own secrets, and a new shape-shifter species that has definitely made The Otherworld that much more interesting than it already is. And it makes me think: What other supernaturals are hiding in this world that Kelley hasn’t yet shown us?

The action in this story is fast paced, and it shows off how talented Kelley Armstrong is. Kelley creates some of the best villains I have come across in books and she doesn’t disappoint in Frostbitten. There is more to the story than humans being killed and Kelley’s story-lines always expand into something deeper.  Elena and Clay stumble across old pack members, from back when Jeremy first become alpha, and it turns even more sinister when they find out that mutts, who have invaded the area, are very much caught up in the middle of all the killings. While the mystery of the killings is the driving point of the book, it enables Elena to work through her strengths and weaknesses as the future alpha, and she has to think of how it will effect her family and relationship with Clay.

I have to admit, family hood has agreed with Clay and I found myself liking him very much in Frostbitten. In previous books, I couldn’t warm up to Clay with his carelessness and rudeness towards others, and his bull-headed ways when it came to Elena.

Kelley made Clay entirely ‘wolfish’ in his characteristics and that’s what I struggled with – his lack of empathy towards other people out of his pack. But, in this book he has sort of mellowed out. He actually makes the effort to pretend to care, and Clay has his own insecurities to deal with. He’s worried that he can’t protect Elena as well as he did because of his damaged arm (zombie attack from Broken) and with her being the future alpha, and Clay being older, he thinks he doesn’t have that edge to fight off the new, younger mutts who might invade their territory. So, his relationship with Elena is very much a partnership in Frostbitten, and they learn to come to some sort of an understanding on how they will make decisions regarding being a family, and Elena’s authority as pack leader in future.

I also want to mention: Previously, Elena has always struggled to forgive and forget the incident that lead to her becoming a werewolf – Clay biting her and turning her. She has always kept some sort of barrier between herself and Clay, where she rarely voices her love towards him.

There is a wonderful scene in this book, where Elena finds herself really missing Clay while he is away teaching in a university for two weeks. Elena notices how off kilter she becomes without him – especially after receiving a disturbing letter from someone in her past.

It was lovely to see that loving spontaneous relation that Elena has with Clay and it made me think how far this couple have journeyed since ‘Bitten’. They are both now older, they have a family to think about and it’s a new turning point in their lives. That’s not to say they have changed dramatically. They are still the same Elena and Clay who impulsively have hot, smoking sex whenever they can manage. **grins**

Their relationship is stronger than ever, and I believe Frostbitten cements their love even more firmly. I was so happy that there were glimpses of their twins: Logan and Kate, who made me laugh out loud with their antics.

There was, though, an aspect of the story that I struggled with.

Spoiler

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Elena was raped while in foster care, and she receives a letter from her foster Father, apologising for his crime. Elena doesn’t know what to think of this and she feels extreme anger, and the helplessness of what she experienced becomes very real to her again as one of the mutts in Frostbitten continuously tries to rape her.

While rape seems to be appearing in numerous books in Urban Fantasy, I can understand why the intent was there in Frostbitten. Most mutts are dominant and they haven’t got the structure of the pack to stabilise them, which makes them so very dangerous. They can’t control their instincts and most of them can go crazy. As Elena is a werewolf, a female one at that which is extremely rare, I can understand why she was threatened with the force of rape numerous times by the same mutt. But, I did think it was once too many times. Though, in a strange way, it was pivotal into helping Elena conquer what happened in the past, by defeating it in the present.

Frostbitten is a very exciting read and new changes seem to arrive within each book of The Otherworld series. I’m very excited about these new characters, as I believe it’s the start of the pack expanding and perhaps paving way for future books featuring said characters? The ending of the book was wonderful, and it portrays everything that a pack should be like.

The next two books in the Otherworld series will be featuring Savannah as the narrator, and I’m eagerly awaiting to see what Kelley has in store for her.

Review: Strange Brew – Week 4

Signatures of the Dead by Faith Hunter.

A rogue group of vampires are loose, killing and torturing people every night. Molly Trueblood, an earth witch, and her friend, Jane Yellowrock, need to find the rogue vampires before they strike again.

I enjoyed Signatures Of The Dead. It had a constant flow of action scenes that progressed naturally within the plot till the very end. Something was always happening, but it wasn’t busy or chaotic.  Molly’s power was very heavy, in the sense that every time she uses it, she gets bruised emotionally. Molly is able to sense what happened at death. She can read murder scenes and she is able to feel the victim’s pain, shock and the death inflicted by the murderer. I liked Molly, but her personality wasn’t shown as strongly or effectively as Jane Yellowrock’s character, and Molly is the narrator of the story. Jane is definitely someone I want to read about –  the scene in which Faith Hunter describe the shifts was beautifully written. Luckily, I have Jane’s book: Skinwalker in my TBR pile.

This story isn’t a light read, and the ending is sort of bitter-sweet and very emotional as we see the characters wrung out emotionally and physically.

I give Signatures Of The Dead 4 out of 5.

Ginger by Caitlin Kittredge

Sunny Swann is a witch, but she’s no where near as strong, physically and mentally, as her werewolf cousin, Luna, who is a police detective. While watching Luna in court one day, Sunny has to use her powers against someone who is dead set on murdering everyone in the court room. After the event, Sunny receives a strange phone call, from someone who has expressed a keen interest in her. While figuring out what they want with her, and doing some work for the police, Sunny ends up being kidnapped. How will Sunny get out of her predicament?

Ok, I have to admit this was a DNF for me. In the beginning, originally, I thought it was refreshing seeing a heroine openly admit to not being brave and taking a back seat rather than getting involved. This then got annoying when Sunny does something so completely stupid. While wearing an earpiece, which feed backs information to Luna and the police, she takes off the sound piece because Luna and the other police officer are arguing ( about something so inconsequential that it was just silly) Then, in the next scene, where Sunny is kidnapped, reading about her her crying and sniffling, while a child who was also kidnapped, is comforting her made me roll my eyes and skip right to the next story. The writing is not bad, but the heroine is just a complete numpty head. Sorry, but it was a DNF.

Dark Sins by Jenna Maclaine

Again, this was more of a TBF aka to be finished. I started reading it, but I found myself losing interest and I haven’t been able to pick up the book since. I liked the characters, and I would actually think about reading the series that the characters are featured, but my interest just waned and I couldn’t make myself finish.

Overall, Strange Brew is one of the better anthologies out there. I enjoyed most of the stories, but there were a few that didn’t press the right buttons for me.

So, my overall rating for Strange Brew is 4 out of 5.

Review: Week 1
Review: Week 2
Review: Week 3

Strange Brew – Week 3

Sorry it’s a day late as things were very busy last night.

Carrying on with the Strange Brew anthology reviews, this week it will be P.N. Elrod, and Charlaine Harris.

Helcate’s Golden Eye by P.N. Elrod

Set in Chicago, June 1937, P.I Investigators Jack Fleming and Charles Escott are hired to find and retrieve the Helcate’s Jewel, a beautiful pendent which is rumoured to kill any man that touches it. Luckily for Jack Fleming, being a vampire already makes him the undead.

This is a pure mystery story and to be honest, I found it somewhat boring. I derived no personality from the characters and the story itself was quite mild in nature. I wasn’t sure at first if the characters were newly created, but looking the author up (google), Jack Fleming is the main character of the Vampire Files. I admit, I’m not knowledgeable in vampire mysteries, so forgive me. I did like the background setting of Chicago in the late 1930’s, but for me there was just no oomph in this story.

The jewel itself I’m guessing had magic, but we saw none of that. Just sly winks from the jewel itself. The people who stole the jewel were not very villainous, and I found Jack to be pleasant for a vampire. He didn’t have the ruthless quality that I thought a vampire should have. Over all, it was just a very nice, albeit boring, read.

I give Hecate’s Golden Eye 3 out of 5.

Bacon by Charlaine Harris

Dahlia Chivers is out for revenge. Her werewolf husband was killed by another member of a werewolf pack, and she’s determined to find out what happened that fateful night, and what-else or who-else contributed to his murder.

So far, this is the only story that I have disliked in this anthology. The heroine was completely unlikeable, and I didn’t feel any sympathy for her. I felt no pain or emotion from Dahlia regarding the death of her husband. She was ice-cold and I think she was the same when he was alive. Dahlia admitted she wasn’t very popular with her husband’s pack.

This story was just full of hateful revenge, which is understandable when your husband was murdered, but perhaps I could have enjoyed the story if there was any heartfelt emotion shown by the heroine.

The secondary characters weren’t particularly interesting and I found myself reading this story very fast so it would finish. There was nothing wrong with the writing itself, but Dahlia was simply a horrible character. The title of the story is very apt for the ending, which I found to be very icky.

I give Bacon 2 out of 5.

Review: Strange Brew – Week 2

Carrying on with the weekly reviews from the short stories within the Strange Brew anthology, this week it will be: Rachel Caine and Karen Chance.

I would just like to give a big thank you to the wonderful Ellyll, who proof reads the reviews for any pesky spelling mistakes. Thank you m’dear.

Death Warmed Over by Rachel Caine

Holly Caldwell is a witch, but she’s no ordinary witch. Holly’s ability is rare, which puts her amongst the unique. Holly is a resurrection witch, someone who can bring back dead people with potions and a very special kiss. Holly is called upon one day by the police. They need her help with a case and they need Holly to bring back someone very special, someone who has stolen a place within Holly’s heart. When Holly finds out Andrew is that person, will she be strong enough to let him go when the time comes?

Death Warmed Over is a darn good read. One that plays with the emotions. I admit, the first two pages I found somewhat lagging, but when the action finally starts and we meet Andrew, I was hooked. Holly has learnt the hard way not to feel empathy when she does her work- which is understandable. When she brings back people, they are not walking zombies who chew your brains and with no soul to speak of. Holly’s ability manages to bring back breathing, warm bodies with a beating heart and most importantly, a soul.

It was an interesting concept. If they looked like zombies, I don’t think it would be too hard to let them go – especially if they looked like the typical one. Yuck, not a fan of zombie related things. *shudders*

The connection between Holly and Andrew was very strong, and I felt her pain when she was reminiscing about the past – where she had to say goodbye to Andrew. I honestly didn’t know what the outcome would be in this story. I’m not going to say what the outcome is *grins* as I don’t want to spoil it, but, it’s done in a way where Rachel Caine plays with your emotions until you literally don’t know where she is leading you. The ending is sort of quick, and very rushed which spoiled it somewhat, but over-all it was a gripping read. The baddie was a surprise, which I didn’t see coming and even though the baddie was insane with grief, I could understand why they became that way. The power that resurrection witches hold is mighty and dreadful.

I give Death Warmed Over 4 out of 5.


Vegas Odds by Karen Chance

Lia is a training instructor for the War Mage Corps. She trains students to join the corp in the fight against the Dark Mages. While sleeping one night, Lia ends up getting more than she bargained for when her students decide to start a fight against her, and kill her!

So far, out of the anthology this has to be my favourite so far. I like me some magical/ass kicking in my books and from the start, there is non-stop action which flows smoothly. The fighting sequences and magical abilities used were very colourful and very deadly.

Lia is a character who I think needs to be explored more. She’s very strong in magic and in her personality. I thought she was too independent sometimes, especially when she went off on her own to find the culprit, but her reasoning is understandable. Her werewolf boyfriend, Cyrus, is very hot(!!!) and he has the protective werewolf instinct going on. There is some tension between them as Lia thinks he is holding back, and we do see how that is resolved.

Vegas Odds was a jam-packed story, and the world building was incredibly strong. I really hope that Karen brings these characters back in a new story, hopefully in a fully fledged novel in the future. So many things can be explored from these characters and from the world. There was also a mention of a werewolf pack which I want to know more about.

There is a resolution to the story regarding the attack on Lia, but again so many sub-plots have been left unexplored. So, there is one thing I would like Karen Chance to know about this short story and its characters: Can I have some more please?