Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Undying Legion by Clay and Susan Griffith

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The second installment of the Crown & Key series by Clay & Susan Griffith has Simon, Kate, Malcolm, Penny, Imogen, and Charlotte not only working hard to stop a killer, but getting closer as a family.  This is another good addition to the growing steampunk genre.

Title: The Undying Legion
Author: Clay and Susan Griffith
Series: Crown and Key Book 2
Publish Date: June 30, 2015
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s Description: When monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane comes across the gruesome aftermath of a ritual murder in a London church, he enlists the help of magician-scribe Simon Archer and alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther. Studying the macabre scene, they struggle to understand obscure clues in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the victim’s heart—as well as bizarre mystical allusions to the romantic poetry of William Blake. One thing is clear: Some very potent black magic is at work.

But this human sacrifice is only the first in a series of ritualized slayings. Desperate to save lives while there is still time, Simon, Kate, and Malcolm—along with gadget geek Penny Carter and Charlotte, an adolescent werewolf—track down a necromancer who is reanimating the deceased. As the team battles an unrelenting army of undead, a powerful Egyptian mummy, and monstrous serpentine demons, the necromancer proves an elusive quarry. And when the true purpose of the ritual is revealed, the gifted allies must confront a destructive force that is positively apocalyptic.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (in other words, SPOILERS!)


Nell 100

Nervous Nellie says…

Main characters: The posse is back together again for round two. Kate, Simon, Malcolm, Charlotte and Penny are pulled into a war that involves Gods. Kate and Simon aren’t evolving much, but Malcolm and Charlotte are center point in this story. Malcolm is gruff and a loner, but he is slowly growing to accept these people as his friends. Charlotte is learning to control her wolf, something that is supposed to be impossible.

Other characters: Imogen is brought into the light more after her difficult time with Dr. White. She has mostly healed physically, but mentally she’s broken. This story has zombies just in case you are one of those folks who enjoy zombies. The “bad” guys aren’t really that developed. I’m can’t exactly explain what is happening with the evil characters, but it’s all got to do with taking over the world. Isn’t that typical for megalomaniacal villains?

World: I’ve never really read much steampunk, but this is a pretty cool world. The world in this story is the same late 1800’s steampunk London as the first book.

Story: I feel that this story wasn’t as spectacular as the first, but it was still darn good. First off, Kate and Simon unfortunately don’t progress much in their relationship. Secondly, there really isn’t a cliffhanger. Charlotte comes to Kate in desperate need of wulfsyl. Kate makes the potion and regulates it in an experiment to see if Charlotte can retain her humanity while in wolf form. Malcolm comes across a ritualistic murder in a church in London. He knows there is something wrong when he also encounters a zombie. Kate and Simon encounter an army of zombies when searching for the mushrooms to make wulfsyl. The conclusion made by the scientist, sorcerer and hunter is that the rituals awakened the dead unintentionally. The story centers around the mystery of the killings and the villain’s dastardly (did I really say dastardly?) plan to bring a god back to earth. OH, and Simon figures out the secret of the key.

Cover: I think there could be a better cover for this story out there somewhere. The chick on the cover doesn’t really feel very steampunk-ishly Victorian English. The only thing that really rings true is the sword. It’s the sword that Kate uses towards the end of the book.

badge3v4Overall:  I love this series, really I do, but this book wasn’t as fabulous as the first book. I want to continue the trilogy because I have to see what happens to all the characters. I think this series is a fun read, but it did feel like it could have ended at least two chapters from the end. I will look for the last book because are a lot of questions that I have to have answers to before I’m satisfied. Will Penny and Malcolm get together? Will Charlotte become a real girl? Will Kate and Simon actually move ahead with their relationship? Where is Nick Barker and what’s his place in all of this? Finally, what is going to happen with Imogen? I’m looking forward to the third and final book.

ivana 100Invested Ivana says…

Unlike Nell, I like this second installment of the Crown and Key series better than the first, probably because we get more in-depth mythology and, as this is my second visit with the characters, I’m getting more and more invested in them.

Some mysteries from the past are, if not revealed, then at least coming back to haunt our band of warriors.  Ash and Gaios, two of the original founders of the Order of the Oak, are still in the world and wreaking havoc; Simon, Kate, Malcolm, Penny, and Charlotte are trying to stop the ritual deaths meant to resurrect a god; and escapees from a magical prison are trying to kill them all.

I think the relationship between Simon and Kate is moving forward; they act as if their pairing is a done deal, even in public, and their relationship is acknowledged by their friends.  The relationship between Malcolm and Penny is moving slower, though.  However, the friendship between Malcolm and Charlotte is the real heart-wrencher in this book.  Like a perverse cat, Charlotte is taken by the one person in the group who can’t stand her, but Malcolm is learning to fight through is prejudices against werewolves and see Charlotte as a person and an ally.

We also get one mystery completely solved — what Simon’s key does.  But I’m not going to reveal that here. 😉

badge3v4However, there are still a lot of unsolved mysteries that I’m hoping will be solved in the final book.  Where is Kate’s father? What was his connection with the Order of the Oak and Simon’s mother. What is Hogarth?  Will Imogen heal?  What was the purpose of the key?  And when does the “crown” part of the series’ name come in?

Overall, I think this was a good installment in the trilogy, and it set up some good things for the final book.

Other reviews:

If you like this book, try:

Ascendance: Dave vs. the Monsters by John Birmingham

Ascendence

Dave Hooper gets a well-earned reality-check in this third installment of Dave vs. the Monsters series.  Dave is no longer the only one with special powers, and the war finally gets personal.  The daemons are getting trickier and more skillful and everyone has to step up their game to protect the world.

TitleAscendance: Dave vs. The Monsters
Author: John Birmingham
Series: Dave Hooper Book 3
Publish Date: June 30, 2015
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s Description: Kids, there are no monsters under the bed. They’re in the front yard.

As a hardworking monster-slayer, Dave Hooper tries not to bring his work home with him. But nowadays it’s hard to keep them separate. Email, cellphones, empath daemons, they never let a guy rest.

The Horde has been raising hell and leveling cities from New York to Los Angeles, keeping Dave and his fellow monster-killer, Russian spy Karin Varatschevsky, very busy. But when the legions of hell invade the small seaside town his boys call home, Dave has to make a call. Save the world? Or save his family?

Not as easy a choice as you’d think, since Dave’s ex-wife expects to be saved too. And there’s no convincing her that the supersexy Russian spy isn’t his girlfriend. She’s just his sidekick—and an assassin.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (in other words, SPOILERS!).


Invested_Ivana 50Okay, Nell. I told you Dave Hooper gets his slap-upside-the-head in Book 3. Do you agree?

Nervous_Nell 50I do agree. I feel less frustrated with Dave this time around. I am not sure that it will “stick”, because in my experience people rarely change.

Invested_Ivana 50Sometimes they do, especially in fiction. What did you think about the “big reveal” about Dave’s past? I don’t want to give anything away, but wow, huh?

Nervous_Nell 50The reveal was so totally on the money. The explanation rang true and with Dave’s background, southern upraising, father that was disrespectful to his wife and sons as well as abusive. Dave is not only fighting himself with how he feels in his heart, he’s fighting what he was taught by his no good, rotten excuse for a man that is supposed to be a moral compass.

Invested_Ivana 50Whoa. You have some daddy issues, don’t you, Nell?

Nervous_Nell 50OH, you have no idea.  I think Dave’s dad and mine must share some DNA.


Nervous Nellie says…

Ascendence is war at its pinnacle.  Humans vs. the Daemonum is on the ticket with odds fNell 100avoring a draw.  That’s pretty much the only good thing that comes out of this mess.  “Threshy” is a master stratagist and is only so because of eating Compton.  I say “yay” on eating Compton, but “nay” at the intel the other side gains.  Luckily for the Wonder Twins, Karin and Dave, they have the US military on their side as well.  Humans are holding their own, but just barely.

Dave plays a “grown up” much better in this book than the last, which I am happy to see.  So many times in the past books, I’ve just wanted to punch Dave’s lights out.  He steps up responsibility and even recognizes that everything does not revolve around “Super” Dave. Professor Boylan is absent from this episode, which saddens me.  We could have used some comic relief after witnessing the massacre of so many humans and monsters.  I will tell you that Dave saves his “boys”, Jack & Toby – just in the nick of time.  I would love to see Dave win his family back, but I just don’t know if it will happen.  He’s screwed over a lot of loved ones in his life just by being selfish.  Speaking of loved ones, I learned more about Dave’s brother, Andy, who died in service of his country and why Dave feels crippling guilt over Andy.  It makes sense now, and I should have seen it, but I was too caught up in the carnage.

badge3v4The ending isn’t exactly a cliff hanger, but it does lead up to the next book.  There are now 5 “champions” – a female chaplain, a female sheriff, a female Russian super spy, a male military and Dave.  I got a bad feeling that even though Heath has 4 out of the 5 champions, Trinder has the fifth.  Yikes.

I do not have information on when the next book will be released, but I will tell you this:  If you hated Dave and his moronic escapades in Book One, just hold on.  Mr. Birmingham will reward you with better superheroes and a better Dave as time goes on and the war escalates.

ivana 100Invested Ivana says…

In Ascendence, the daemonum are learning more about the humans, and with the ingestion of Professor Compton’s knowledge via the little Thresh daemon, they are improving their battle tactics.   At the same time, Dave meets up with Colonel Ekaterina “Karen” Varatchevsky, a Russian spy posing as an American art dealer, who has become a Champion like Dave by killing one of the Threshrend empath daemons.  Dave and Karen fight together against the daemon invasion of Manhattan, but by watching Karen’s battle tactics and occasional disregard for human life, Dave starts to examine himself.  Karen, being an empath, smacks Dave on the head with the truth of his own thinking, which challenges Dave’s world view.

Of the three Dave Hooper books, I enjoyed Ascendance the most.  Dave seems to take things more seriously in this book.  He is being intellectually and emotionally challenged by Karen and the daemon’s improved tactics, and he is forced to face the consequences of his own actions.  This time, there is no distance, work, or substance abuse available to hide behind; the cost of his actions is bloody, visceral death all around him.

Through all three books, I have enjoyed the perspective of the daemons and the UnderRealm.  It’s been very interesting learning about their culture, about their traditions, and seeing the human world through their eyes.  The little Thresh daemon that serves as the bridge between worlds is my favorite character.  In Ascendence, Threshy is starting to feel the strain of being a daemon with the thinkings of many humans in his brain.  Not only are we learning about the demon world through Threshy’s perspective, we’re learning a lot about who Professor Compton was – before he was eaten.  The conflict between daemon and human in Threshy – and sometimes where there is NO conflict between the daemon and the Compton personality – is very good storytelling.

I am sad we didn’t get to see any more of Professor Boylan.  Boylan is a great character. NOTE:  I didn’t say “hilarious” or “funny”, or anything that implies humor.  Okay, Paul?  Surely, “great” is okay.  You can get behind “great,” can’t you, Paul? 🙂

I was disappointed that there is no real ending; as with the first two books, the ending is “To Be Continued.”  After the emotional and time investment of three books, I didn’t get the payoff I wanted in Book 3.  I was hoping for some sort of satisfying closure, some sense of completeness.

badge3v4Despite the non-ending, I’m happy Dave went after his family (though I would hate to be anywhere near Dave when he realizes Heath used his family as bait), and I’m intrigued by the introduction of two more Champions.  According to the story, there will eventually be twelve, and now we’ve met four of them.

If you have a strong need for closure, I will say this series will frustrate you.  But if you like action, snark, and fantasy, a hero that’s not very heroic, and can wait for a complete ending, you’re going to love this series.

Other reviews:

If you like this book…

If you like Dave, you might look up James R. Tuck’s Deacon Chalk series.  Chalk is another diamond-in-the-rough, kick-ass hero.  Nell tells me that the Monster Hunter International series by Larry Corriea would be good for Dave’s fans as well.

Nell’s Book Hunt

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Grumpy Old Wizards — this title says it all.  The description sounds fun and serious and just up my alley.  I picked it up as quickly as I saw it.  I checked the author’s website and he’s up to Book 4, so the series isn’t finished yet.  Go grab it! Quick!!

Nell 100Title: Grumpy Old Wizards
Author: John O’Reily
Series: Grumpy Old Wizards series 01
Publish Date: November 10, 2013
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Free on Kindle | Nook

Publisher’s Description: Fifty years after the Disaster, the world is vastly different from days of old. Wizardry is the norm and magical talent is categorized. Josephine O’Connor, an eighty-four-year-old with a penchant for off-beat antics, is a category six, which means she possesses magical powers as rare as they are unsettling and a talent for psychometry that is so strong and acute that she can read the psychic impressions in a room without touching anything.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00039]With her unique physiology, she’s over 80 years of age and still gets carded at R-rated movies. Most of the time it’s flattering but it can sometimes be a nuisance. For the most part, Josephine spends her days like any other retirement community member. She plays cards with friends, attends get-togethers, and occasionally visits the beach until she is called upon by the police to investigate a crime scene left behind by a suspect with powers equal to her own.

Now the race is on. Can an out-of-practice wizard marshal her abilities and catch a menace before he becomes so powerful even she can’t stop him?

Category six wizard, Josephine O’Connor, is called in to help with a series of murders involving dark magic. Unfortunately, the killer covers his tracks very well and destroys virtually all trace of psychometric energy which makes the crime scene unreadable – even for a talent such as Josephine.

By all rights, Josephine shouldn’t be forced to contend with this case. After all, she’s a retired eighty-four-year-old and she can hardly be blamed for having a beautiful body akin to a woman in her mid-twenties. It’s just one of the perks of being a rare category six. Josephine’s problems pile up to insurmountable odds as the killer grows stronger, Detective Riley pesters her for a quick resolution to this challenging case, and her obnoxious neighbor starts harassing her just because she looks too young to live in a retirement community.

ivana 100Ivana says…

I don’t usually comment on Nell’s book hunts, but we had an interesting conversation about the cover. Nell likes the cover at the top better; I like the second cover better.  However, both of us think that the title and the covers are mismatched.  You can’t call a book Grumpy Old Wizards and then have a beautiful girl on the cover.  Call me literal, but there is a mental disconnect for me everytime I look at the picture. We decided we needed to put this title on James A. Hunter’s Cold Hearted cover.  Then it would match. 🙂

Flashback: Siren Song by James A. Hunter

Siren Song

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, where we feature short stories and novellas.  Siren Song, set in wartime Viet Nam, shows readers how an ancient power, corrupted by human influence and awakened during the war, forces Yancy Lazarus to come to terms with his emerging power.  So far, this is Hunter’s best writing yet, so don’t miss it!  Pick it up along with ten highly-rated urban fantasy novels in the bundle called A World of Shadows.

Title:  “Flashback: Siren Song
Author: James A. Hunter
Series: Yancy Lazarus 0.5
Publish Date: June 22, 2015
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Provided by the Author

Publisher’s Description: The year is 1969. Yancy Lazarus—bluesman, gambler, future world-class mage and fix-it man—is just a dumb, unlucky kid serving with the 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines in Vietnam.

With just a few weeks left to go until Yancy gets shipped back to the States, he’s just trying to keep his head down and avoid a body bag—no mean feat in Nam. But when his squad is tasked with conducting a routine patrol deep in enemy territory, everything goes to nine kinds of hell, and he quickly sees his chances at survival slipping away.

When the radio operators start to pick up some funky, dirty ol’ blues all the way out in the backcountry, it’s a nice change of pace. At least until the men in Yancy’s squad start losing their minds, turning on each other with murderous intent as the music works its deadly power within them. Convinced it’s some kind of new psychological warfare initiative, the squad leader forces the men to push deeper and deeper into the Vietnamese jungle, obsessed with locating the music’s source. What they find, however, isn’t some new technology, but an ancient spirit awoken by the terrible war. Even worse, the music is changing Yancy too, awakening something buried inside of him. Only one thing is certain, nothing is ever going to be the same.

See how it all began …

World of Shadows“Flashback: Siren Song” is a novella available in a new bundle called A World of Shadows.  In addition to the Hunter novella, this collection contains 10 first-in-series full-length novels that introduce you to new worlds and deliver kick-ass stories. Featuring eleven heroes and heroines – PIs, cops, mages, witches, wizards, elite units, shapeshifters, and more – not to mention more monsters and villainous horror shows than you can shake a stick at!

Books in this bundle include:

  • Justice Calling by Annie Bellet (Twenty-Sided Sorceress series)
  • Red Hot Steele by Alex P. Berg (Daggers & Steele Mystery series)
  • World of Shadows SetThe Seventh Sons by Domino Finn (Sycamore Moon series)
  • Flashback: Siren Song by James A. Hunter (Yancy Lazarus series)
  • Till the Sun Breaks Down by Tom Leveen (Deviant Aeon series)
  • The Fixer by Jon F. Merz (Lawson Vampire series)
  • The Heretic by Joseph Nassise (Templar Chronicles series)
  • London Macabre by Steven Savile (Greyfriars series)
  • The Long Way Down by Craig Schaefer (Daniel Faust series)
  • Elemental Arcane by Phaedra Weldon (Eldritch Files series)
  • Half-Made Girls by Sam Witt (Pitchfork County series)

Buy the bundle: Kindle

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (in other words, SPOILERS!).


Nell 100Nervous Nellie says…

“As tight lipped as a frozen clam.”

Author James A. Hunter does it again, except this time with a novella that lends some insight about what kind of man developed from a boy sent to Vietnam on his senior trip.  We see his friend Greg and Yancy’s unit be overcome with (you guessed it) Siren Song.  Wait! There’s more!  This Siren Song has a different origin than what you would expect.  It’s a revengeful “Tree King of Old”, a Leshy of the Fae Court that likes – of course – blood.  His name is Xuong Cuong and he was peaceful and caring at first until stupid humans had to ruin everything.  They decided they needed to conquer the jungle and to do that, they needed to kill Xuong Cuong.  It kinda pissed the tree spirit off so when his spirit should have moved on, it was reborn with revenge on his scary mind full of rage.

badge4v4I do not like war stories.  Vietnam is a real and scary place for a lot of soldiers that were put there to fight a war that was not even named a war.  With that being said, Mr. Hunter totally struck gold with the descriptions, the war like maneuvers by Yancy’s unit and I even got some interesting historical education about the Dac Cong who were serious players in the Vietnam People’s Army in 1968. Yancy was yet a green, wet behind the ears, brand spankin’ new, we-watch-him-become a glimmer of the mage he is now, young man.  I liked Yancy after the first book, Strange Magic.  Fell a little in love with him in the second book, Cold Hearted, but this novella showed me his roots and I gotta love him for his courageousness.

I whole heartedly recommend this read.  It won’t take long – it’s a novella- and you can try Yancy and his world on for size.  I think it’s going to be a rival for Harry Dresden someday.

ivana 100Invested Ivana says…

If you’re a frequenter of this site, you know that we here at One Book Two love James A. Hunter and his protagonist, Yancy Lazarus.  So when James told us that not only was there a Yancy origin story, but that it was part of an exciting new bundle of awesome, kick-ass series starter novels, we lost our heads for a little while.  This is a great bundle of highly-rated novels; you really need to pick it up.  Now.  Go ahead, go get it now.  I’ll wait. 🙂

Okay, back to the story.  “Flashback: Siren Song” is the Yancy Lazarus origin story – how he became a mage and first learned of the Vis.  As with many heroes, Yancy’s origin starts in tragedy.  His Marine squad encounters a deadly supernatural threat in the jungles of Viet Nam.  Yancy has to use his newly-emerging power, about which he knows jack-all, to defeat the threat and save his squad if he can.  Not all of his squad makes it out alive.  In fact, what happens to his squad-mate, Rat, about breaks my heart.

In “Siren Song”, we not only learn more about Yancy, but we also get to meet his best friend, Greg.  Greg and Yancy have been friends since their school days.  Greg talked Yancy into joining the Marines, which explains a lot the nature of their relationship in Strange Magic.  We also get to witness Yancy meeting James Sullivan for the first time, just as he’s about to recruit Yancy for the Guild.

badge4v4Hunter’s writing is getting better and better with each publication.  There was a lot of improvement in the clarity of the writing between Strange Magic and Cold Hearted, but the writing in “Siren Song” is even better.  It is clear, tight, and direct – essential qualities for a novella since word count is limited.  I think “Siren Song” is Hunter’s best writing yet.  And that means Yancy Lazarus Book 3 is going to be spectacular!

Stand Out Award Badge2If you like this book…

Seriously, you have 11 stories in this bundle, from 11 amazing authors.  Do you really need me to recommend any more?  🙂

Feature & Follow Friday – Required Reading

FF_2013Button-300x300Hi Everybody! Here’s another installment of Feature & Follow Friday hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, where bloggers post links to their blogs on Parajunkee’s site, answer the Feature & Follow question in a blog post, and then visit each others’ sites checking out the answers!

Is there a book that you were required to read in school that you actually loved? – Suggested by Natalie Hearts Books.

Nell 100Nervous Nell Says…

I was required to read a lot of books and I really didn’t like any of them.  I mean, they were fine, but not ones that sit on my favorites shelf and I go back to time and again.  As Ivana can tell you, I am not a fan of the classics.  Just not my thing.

ivana 100Jane SlayreInvested Ivana says…

Jane Eyre.  I was assigned the book for an advanced literature/reading class in high school.  Though I loved history, I wasn’t excited about it… until I started reading.  Have you read this book?  It’s an Edwardian soap opera!  I devoured it over the weekend and shocked the teacher.  We had a goal to read 50 pages a day; I read the 400 page Jane Eyre in a weekend.  But that was no big deal around my house growing up.  I don’t think I’ve read it since, but have thought about it.  Now, I’d be more likely to read Jane Slayre. 🙂