Monthly Archives: March 2017

Glass Predator by Craig Schaefer

Who are the enemies?  What is the goal? What is Cold Spectrum? What is Glass Predator? Dive on in – find out.  There is no way you’d ever be sorry.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Title: Glass Predator
Author: Craig Schaefer
Series: Harmony Black #3
Publish Date: March 28, 2017
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Author

Publisher’s Description: For Harmony Black, practicing witch and government agent, defeating criminal masterminds and eliminating supernatural threats are all in a day’s work. She’s ready to fight, as long as she can count on her partner, Jessie Temple; her team at off-the-books special FBI unit Vigilant Lock; and her magic. But her latest case threatens it all.

A high-profile bank robbery reveals thieves with the same unnatural strength and turquoise eyes as Jessie, who was touched by the King of Wolves. Jessie becomes unstable, struggling with her inner Beast, and Harmony’s magic is threatened by unexpected interference. Even worse, the women uncover a secret their own handler may kill to protect, forcing Vigilant Lock to go off the grid.

From the smoky back rooms of Washington, DC, inhabited by the crooked elite, to the astonishing high-rises of corrupt upper-crust Manhattan, Harmony and Jessie fight to uncover and halt a mass conspiracy threatening US soil in a race against time—and hell.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In other words…spoilers.  *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

 

This is a part suspense-thriller and part urban fantasy. No sex, no horrible graphic bloodletting but there is a definite hook at the end that left me wanting to read the next book right NOW! You see, senators, demons, computer hackers, sorcerers and princes of hell all have stakes in whatever Harmony Black and her partner Jessie Temple uncover. This epic page turner raises the bar on the Harmony Black  series to new limits.

You ever heard the phrase ‘write what you know’? Yeah, well, I’m afraid.  Craig Schaefer’s weaving of a conspiracy – governmental conspiracy-is enough to give me chills. This story – series, actually- incorporates the strategy of three dimensional chess game.  There are moves wrapped inside of moves that are hidden in plain sight. One thing is perfectly clear, however.  Total power corrupts and when it corrupts with magic? OMG, watch out.

The story took me deeper inside of something that is not all that hard to imagine in present day. Glass Predator isn’t a who, it’s a what.  Cold Spectrum isn’t a what, its a who.  The trick with all of this is to uncover who is pulling the strings on the whole operation.  Is it one person with one agenda or is it multiple people working along side one another to reach a coordinated goal?  OR is it multiple operatives with individual plans searching for their own golden ticket?  Do you have a mind cramp?  Think that there are too many characters, too many scenarios and too many plots? No, don’t worry.  Schaefer’s writing simplifies the most complex ideations any villainous mustache twirling bad guy can think of. Even I could keep up! 😉

In the end, what Harmony and Jessie with their team are trying to do is far beyond cashing a paycheck.  It may be their job to keep the mundanes in the world safe, but when push comes to shove it’s really not about a job.  It’s about their own moral compass, their conviction and belief that what they are doing is worth risking their own skin.  Pick up this series.  It’ll have you wanting more.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

…you might like 9mm Blues by Keith Melton, the Order of the Sanguine series by James Rollins, or the Nathaniel Cade series by Christopher Farnsworth.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

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Defy by Sara B. Larson

Defy is a high fantasy set in a jungle that features Alexa, a formidable warrior who protects the prince. Disguised as a boy, she’s sworn to give her life in defense of Damian. But when she, Damian, and Rylan are kidnapped, the danger of losing Damian, getting killed, and exposing her true self all come into play with major stakes.

TitleDefy
AuthorSara B. Larson
SeriesDefy, Book 01
Publish Date: January 4, 2014 by Scholastic
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

Sometimes it takes me a while to write up a review. I was very touch-and-go on this particular trilogy, not because I thought it was a bad read, but there were certain things about Defy that didn’t quite capture my attention like other high fantasies do. Let’s start with things I did like, shall we?

This has a great plot – Damian is trying to overthrow his father, but does it in a tricky way, in hopes that his evil dick of a dad doesn’t see it coming. So he hires a neighbor country where he has family ties to help him. The plan? To kidnap Damian and stage a coup to make it look like Damian isn’t at fault. Although Alexa gets dragged into the plan without her knowledge, her ignorance makes the ploy that much more convincing. However, as more secrets – especially about Damian – are revealed, Alexa has to wonder just how much she can trust the prince she thought she knew.

Also, I like that magic is featured in a way that doesn’t make it the main plot – but just a side one, as some characters have special abilities and some do not. Some fear magic, others use it for their personal benefit, and some just want to do good with it. Yes, it’s a common theme for most fantasies dealing with magic, but I like that it isn’t the focus of the story.

However, there are quite a few things I wasn’t fond of.

First off, the whole Alex vs. Alexa. For someone who has spent YEARS pretending to be a boy, Alex doesn’t seem to have a lid on her emotions and often projects herself in a way that could automatically be construed as feminine. She has frequent outbursts, which although necessary, don’t help her case for me; you’d think if she was really trying hard not to be found, she’d be better at hiding her feminine side, especially with all those years of practice. It’s no wonder that half the characters you meet already know she’s a woman. Granted, I was in her head while reading, so I suppose this may make me bias. But I just didn’t buy into any of the scenes where she was acting the role of a man.

Something related to that topic but not in the same way, was the frequent use of her breasts. And I don’t mean like in a romantic way. I mean, this word was overused and referred to as if the reader was a simpleton. This may be weird to say, but WE GET THAT SHE’S A GIRL IN DISGUISE. I don’t constantly need reminded that Alexa has boobs and she has to hide them 24/7. This is really something I picked up on less in the next two books, so either I’m not the only one who noticed this repetitiveness and the author changed her style; or it’s because in the next two, all the characters know she’s a girl anyway. Not sure but I’m glad it was less frequent regardless.

Another thing that really bothered me was the romance. I felt that this was the most forced thing in the book. Neither one of the relationships Alexa found herself torn between felt real. With Damian, things started out as love-hate. He was attractive, but a spoiled brat destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. That is until Alexa discovers he’s been keeping his real self hidden and then suddenly OMG SHE’S IN LOVE AND EVERYTHING HAS TO DO WITH DAMIAN AND THE WAY HE LOOKS. I was frustrated at the change in pace and wanted nothing more than to remind Alexa of what her real goal in the story was. And then of course, there’s Rylan, the BFF who has loved her for a long time and she’s grown fond of him as well. I suppose their relationship isn’t necessarily forced, so much as convenient to help engage a new side plot for the story.

HOWEVER. Tell me why – you have Rylan, the sweet, protective, and friendly guy who just wants to make Alexa happy and help her to be herself is left in the dust for the future king who has spent YEARS lying to Alexa, treating her unkindly, and hiding things from her that could have benefited her protection over him. That makes no sense to me. The love didn’t feel real. Even at the end, Alexa didn’t know Damian because she literally just found out he too was a sorcerer. I hated this choice. I wanted to scream at her.

Okay, ranting spree over with now.

All this being said – THIS IS NOT A BAD BOOK. Like I mentioned before, it has a great plot with characters who are heroic and skilled in a multitude of ways. There’s magic and there’s intrigue and there’s romance. I’m really sticking with the Goodreads three which literally says, “I liked it.” Which is true. I liked it. I just wasn’t in love with it. But that doesn’t mean someone reading this review won’t be. I mean, Marie Lu blurbed it and she’s one of my favorite authors. So I’m hoping readers of this review will still give this trilogy a chance if they’re into all the things I just said.

Our reviews in this series…

Links will become active as reviews are posted.

Other recommendations…

Recommended for fans of Kiersten White, Sophie Jordan, and Tamora Pierce.

Magic Carpet Ride by Laurence MacNaughton

When shop-assistant Opal brings one of her father’s old rugs into The Crystal Connection to cover a burn spot in the floor, she and store owner, Dru, discover just why the rug was hidden away in the first place.

Title: Magic Carpet Ride
Author: Laurence MacNaughton
Series: Dru Jasper, Book 0.0
Publish Date:  November 19, 2016
Genre: Humorous Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Available on Amazon for $.99 or free when you subscribe to Laurence McNaughton’s newsletter

Publisher’s DescriptionDru Jasper scrapes by selling potions, charms, and enchanted crystals to help sorcerers fight the forces of darkness. But when Dru’s latest customer shows up on fire, things get magical (and funny) fast. This prequel story includes the first chapter of IT HAPPENED ONE DOOMSDAY. Available FREE exclusively on the author’s website at www.LaurenceMacNaughton.com/free/


Invested Ivana says…

Magic Carpet Ride is a short, but fun introduction to the world of Dru Jasper. Readers get a sense of:
*Dru’s shop, The Crystal Connection, and the kinds of magical problems Dru deals with there.
*Dru herself, her addiction to lattes, and her magical power.
*Dru’s shop assistant, Opal, and her quirky sense of humor and style.
*Dru’s friend, Rane, a kick-ass monster hunter with a magical ability of her own.
*McNaughton’s funny writing style, which puts me in mind of MaryJanice Davidson, but without the “Sex in the City” vibe.
The Dru Jasper series is a fun, quirky read, perfect when you’re you’re in the mood for light-hearted, magic adventure. Check out my review of the first book, It Happened One Doomsday, and stay tuned for the second book, A Kiss Before Doomsday, which comes out in July of this year.

Other recommendations…

For more urban fantasy with a light-hearted side, check out the Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom series by Julie Kenner, the Queen Betsy (sometimes called the Undead) series by MaryJanice Davidson, or the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones

 

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Villainous by Kristen Brand

Black Valentine and White Knight are back in the sequel to Hero Status! After the events of the first book, Dave (White Knight) is dealing with the repercussions of his actions. If she wants to keep him out of jail, Valentina has to play nice with the feds and track down some nasty narcotics.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Title: Villainous
Author: Kristen Brand
Series: White Knight/Black Valentine Book 2
Publish Date: September 28, 2015
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Received for review from author

Publisher’s Description: Valentina Belmonte isn’t evil anymore—honest. She’s hung up her supervillain costume, retired to Florida with her family, and hasn’t committed a crime in years. (Well, not a felony. What’s a misdemeanor here and there if you don’t get caught?) This time, she’s not the one in trouble with the law—her goody-two-shoes, former superhero of a husband is.

He saved her life two months ago but committed a spectacular amount of assault and property damage along the way. The feds plan to press charges…unless Val does something for them in exchange. Apparently, an old friend of hers is importing a deadly drug that gives people temporary psychic powers. The feds want to send in Val with a wire to get evidence to bring him down. Sounds simple enough, but things turn deadly fast, and Val finds herself up against another supervillain—one who can out-play her at her own game.

Val’s worried she’s gone soft since retirement, but if she doesn’t get the feds the evidence they need, her husband will end up rotting in one of the most hellish prisons in the country…


Kat Mandu says…

This series is super full of action and I love it! It blends a lot of genres. It’s not just cool villain versus superhero fight scenes, it’s also got a touch of romance, mystery, and humor. Plus the characters are relatable to real life despite its fantasy appeal.

Valentina is sexy and hardcore and ready to take on anything if it means getting her husband a get out of jail free card. She makes a deal to track down a shipment of a drug called “psyche” and its seller, but discovers her own sister and her twisted arch-nemesis, Dr. Sweet, may be behind its trafficking. As she tracks down clues and skirts dangers thrown at her at every corner, she’s gotta use her telepathic abilities and sheer force of will (which is a lot, for the record) to save the day.

This series is growing to be one of my favorites in the superhero genre. It’s the little tidbits of information about the characters, plus the awesome flashback scenes, that really make it for me. Valentina and Dave are awesome on their own, but even cooler together. I’m very eager to see where the next book, Almost Invincible, whisks me off to on their adventures.

But don’t just stop there – check out Hero Status and her episodic online, all of which you can find on her home site. https://kristenbrand.com/web-fiction/ – I really recommend this fun, crime-fighting (or in some cases, crime-loving) series.

Other recommendations…

…you might try other badass superhero books from Lexi Dunne, Jennifer Estep, and Bethany Frenette.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

In this stunning companion to The Star-Touched Queen, we reunite with Guari as she finds herself faced with a choice: stay prisoner to the city of Ujain and let her older brother Skanda rule over her country with cruelty, or join a stranger in a competition through a magical world full of dangerous creatures and even darker desires.

Title: Crown of Wishes
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: Star-Touched Queen
Publish Date: March 28, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
Source: Provided by Good Reads courtesy of a giveaway

Publisher’s Description: Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

Dual review from Kat Mandu and Luna Lovebooks!


Kat Mandu says…

Kat_Mandu_100I absolutely loved this. For me it was all about that gorgeous imagery, hilarious dialogue, and the dual-narration of both Guari and Vikram. Though I didn’t dislike A Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes just really tickled my fancy more than its prequel. I almost couldn’t put it down and even then when I was forced to, I had serious withdrawals. It’s just so fascinating from beginning to end.

The continual banter between Guari and Vikram is the best. They’re bickering from start to finish, even as they grow fonder of one another. They really made this book for me because they each learn that they both have secrets and pasts, and learn to understand each other. I had a feeling they might fall in love but I was glad it wasn’t the focus of the story. It was more about them discovering who they really had to be in life, getting past their fears and showing their true identities.

There were a few scenes that kind of threw me for a loop, ones I either just don’t get or have been corrected in the final version. I didn’t really understand all that was happening in the courtesan tent – with the mirrors – and I wish I would have understood all that was happeningbadge5v5 when Vikram and Guari both “died.” Like I said, not sure at this point if those have been cleared up with editing or if I am just confused in general.

However, that writing is still there, succulent and mesmerizing with every page. It makes you really want to read more Indian fairy tales. It’s really gorgeous and I adore Roshani’s writing style.

All of this made it a five for me!

 Luna Lovebooks says…

Likes: As much as I loved the beautiful writing of The Star-Touched Queen, I think I love Luna_Lovebooks_100Crown of Wishes even more! The writing is still beautiful and lyrical. The characters Guari and Vikram are beautifully written and I enjoyed their playful banter. This novel is a bit more fantastical features even more of the beings from Indian mythology.

badge5v5Dislikes: Once again there isn’t much I didn’t like about this novel. There were a few instances where I was confused during a scene or by what a character did but it didn’t distract from the story.
Other recommendations…

…you might try Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer, Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis, Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

 

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