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Nell’s Gossip and Book Hunt 5/6/2018

Welcome to my Sunday book hunt and author gossip.  Keep coming back for updates on book releases and news from favorite authors.

We certainly have some books for you today! Things are exciting around here – not only has spring arrived but there is a super deal out there for a fabulous author, Laura Bickle.

Laura Bickle created one of my favorite characters ever. Sparky, a salamander familiar and elemental, is half the investigation team with Anya Kalinczyk being the other half. If you want a super read, check this out: Anya Kalinczyk series. 

In more recent publishing is Laura’s series, Dark Alchemy also known as Wildlands series . The news this week is that this series is on sale as Kindle Monthly Deals for May! Each price pointed at .99, a person can hardly go wrong with that entertainment value!

Dark Alchemy
Author: Laura Bickle
Series: Dark Alchemy #1
Released: March 24, 2015
Publisher’s description: Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking for clues to her father’s disappearance years before. What she finds instead is Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested present. But under the town’s dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When bodies start turning up – desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can’t scientifically explain – her investigations land her in the middle of a covert war between the town’s most powerful interests. Petra’s father wasn’t the only one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking are now ready to kill. Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of antique guns, and a relic she doesn’t understand, the only thing Petra knows for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or die next.

Title: Mercury Retrograde 
Author: Laura Bickle
Series: Dark Alchemy #2 (or Wildlands series)
Released: October 27, 2015
Publisher’s description: Something venomous has come to Temperance …

It’s been two months since Petra Dee and her coyote sidekick Sig faced off against Temperance’s resident alchemist, but things are far from quiet. When an Internet video of a massive snake in the backcountry of Yellowstone goes viral, a chase for the mythical basilisk is on. Monster hunters swarm into the area, and never one to pass up the promise of discovery, Petra joins in the search.

Among the newcomers is a snake cult on wheels―the biker gang Sisters of Serpens. Unlike some, the Sisters don’t want to kill the basilisk―they want to worship it. But things get complicated when the basilisk develops a taste for human flesh that rivals the Sisters’ own murderous skills.

Meanwhile, the alchemical tree of life is dying, and the undead Hanged Men of Temperance who depend on it know the basilisk may be their last chance for survival. With time running out for everyone around her, Petra will be forced to decide who survives and who she must leave behind in this action-packed sequel to Dark Alchemy.

LOOK OUT! Owl is on the adventure path again!! Also, Kristi Charish is a B & N spotlight pick! How exciting is that?? What that means is that you can get Owl and the Japanese CircusAdventures of Owl #1, for $1.99 until Monday, May 7, 2018!! Take this series for a spin –

Title: Owl and the Tiger Thieves 
Author: Kristi Charish 
Series: Adventures of Owl series #4 
To Be Released: May 7, 2018
Publisher’s description: In this fourth Owl novel, Kristi Charish (The Voodoo Killings) melds sparkling fantasy with the grit of urban underbelly—with a detour through the world’s most spectacular cities. This is perfect for fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Jennifer Estep, Jenn Bennett, and fantasy lovers everywhere.

Through no fault of her own, Alix has found herself essential to the fate of the world as we know it. She didn’t mean for this to happen—she was quite happy being merely the notorious antiquities thief, and ex-archeologist, known as Owl.

However, years ago, Owl reluctantly entered the secret world of the supernatural. Her goals: complete one job, escape one bounty on her head, continue her thieving in peace.

Fast forward to today. Now, she has become a key player in a brutal paranormal civil war that is rapidly getting out of hand. The leader of one of these factions—a lethal opponent called the Electric Samurai—grows more powerful by the second. To stop him, Owl sets out to find the long-lost, legendary group known as the Tiger Thieves.

But will it be too little too late? One thing Owl misses about “normal” archaeology: there are few emergencies with thousand-year-old relics.


HOLD ON TIGHT!! Here comes Harry Dresden! Whoo! Hooo!
Title: Brief Cases 
Author: Jim Butcher 
Series: Dresden Files #15.1 
TO BE RELEASED: June 5, 2018
Publisher’s description: An all-new Dresden Files story headlines this urban fantasy short story collection starring the Windy City’s favorite wizard.

The world of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is rife with intrigue–and creatures of all supernatural stripes. And you’ll make their intimate acquaintance as Harry delves into the dark side of truth, justice, and the American way in this must-have short story collection.

From the Wild West to the bleachers at Wrigley Field, humans, zombies, incubi, and even fey royalty appear, ready to blur the line between friend and foe. In the never-before-published “Zoo Day,” Harry treads new ground as a dad, while fan-favorite characters Molly Carpenter, his onetime apprentice, White Council Warden Anastasia Luccio, and even Bigfoot stalk through the pages of more classic tales.

With twelve stories in all, Brief Cases offers both longtime fans and first-time readers tantalizing glimpses into Harry’s funny, gritty, and unforgettable realm, whetting their appetites for more to come from the wizard with a heart of gold.

The collection includes:

* “Curses”, from THE NAKED CITY, edited by Ellen Datlow
* “AAAA Wizardry”, from the Dresden Files RPG
* “Even Hand”, from DARK AND STORMY KNIGHTS, edited by P. N. Elrod
* “B is for Bigfoot”, from UNDER MY HAT: TALES FROM THE CAULDRON, edited by Jonathan Strahan. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT
* “I was a Teenage Bigfoot”, from BLOOD LITE 3: AFTERTASTE, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT.
* “Bigfoot on Campus”, from HEX APPEAL, edited by P. N. Elrod. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT.
* “Bombshells”, from DANGEROUS WOMEN, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
* “Jury Duty”, from UNBOUND, edited by Shawn Speakman
* “Cold Case”, from SHADOWED SOULS, edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie Hughes
* “Day One”, from UNFETTERED II, edited by Shawn Speakman
* “A Fistful of Warlocks”, from STRAIGHT OUTTA TOMBSTONE, edited by David Boop
* “Zoo Day” – brand-new novella, original to this collection

DO YOU NEED AN ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN FIX? Jennifer Estep will be self-publishing Venom in the Veins, Elemental Assassin #17. Aren’t we all so happy for self publishing! We’d all be stuck holding the bag if the publishers got their way about some series! Anyway, here is what Jennifer has to say about her new book.

Print book: The print book won’t be available to order until release day, June 12. I’ll share those links as soon as they are online. The price will be $14.99.

The print book will NOT be stocked in your local bookstore so you will have to order it online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also, the print book will be trade paperback size—not the smaller mass market size as the previous books in the series.

Audiobook: There will be an audiobook, and the awesome Lauren Fortgang will once again be the narrator. I’ll share more info about the audiobook as it becomes available.

Title: Venom in the Veins
Author: Jennifer Estep
Series: Elemental Assassin #17 
To Be Released: June 12, 2018
Publisher’s description: Blood might be thicker than water, but venom is stronger than just about anything …

It was supposed to be a nice, quiet, simple dinner with friends—but nothing is ever nice, quiet, or simple when you’re Gin Blanco, the Spider, notorious assassin and current queen of the Ashland underworld.

This time around, someone seems to be targeting Stuart Mosley, the president of First Trust bank. Lots of people have grudges against Mosley, but the more I investigate, the more Mosley’s problems seem to be connected to some of my own, especially when it comes to the Circle, the evil, shadowy group that is secretly responsible for much of the crime and corruption in Ashland.

But when another blast from my dark and deadly past as the Spider comes to light, I wonder if I’ll be able to survive this dangerous new enemy, who has a burning thirst for revenge that will only be satisfied with one thing: my death.

Read the first chapter:


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The Dragon’s Playlist by Laura Bickle

In The Dragon’s Playlist, Di begrudgingly returns home when her father is severely injured in a mining accident. But when she discovers an ancient dragon lurking around the mines, she has to question where she stands in an upcoming battle for the mines that could change her life forever.

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

Title: The Dragon’s Playlist
Author: Laura Bickle
Publish Date: June 1, 2017
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s Description“This is war,” the dragon said. And she believed him.

Di fled rural West Virginia to study music and pursue a bright future as a violinist. But when a mining accident nearly kills her father, she is summoned back home to support her family. Old ghosts and an old flame emerge from the past. When Di gets a job as a bookkeeper at the same mine where her father worked, she is drawn into a conflict pitting neighbor against neighbor as the mine plans an expansion to an untouched mountain.

If the mining company’s operation goes forward, there will be more at stake than livelihoods or the pollution of the land: Di has discovered a dragon lives deep within Sawtooth Mountain, and he is not happy with this encroachment upon his lair. When catastrophe strikes, Di must choose between her family’s best interests and protecting the dragon – the last surviving bit of magic in Di’s shrinking world.

In every fight, sides are chosen. And there can be no yearning for what has been left behind.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Kat Mandu says…

Di returns home when her father is nearly killed in a strange incident in the mines. She’s not happy about it. She was off living her dream as a violinist, and coming back home means she’s gotta give up that dream and be stuck in her small hometown, where she feels like she’s suffocating. On the one hand, her relationship with her mother seems to be even more strained, but then she’s got her ex-boyfriend Jason, who proves to be more supportive than she realizes.

When she gets a job at the mining facility where her dad worked, she meets and befriends a dragon by the name of Afakos. The dragon loves her violin music. There’s a connection between the beast and her father’s accident… something Afakos isn’t hesitant to admit.

But there’s also a bigger threat when environmental rioters come in and protest against the planned blast mine, which would progress the industry, but also kill off all the wildlife in the area – an area which Afakos has made his home.

So now Di is torn between walking away and stopping the blast mine process to spare Afakos. It makes for a great read all in all.

I’m fond of Di’s character for the most part. I really honed in on the parts with her and a side character, Julie, who shows her a taste of magic. I’ve been in her shoes for that role – the curiosity of learning something you never really knew existed. It reminded me of Sweep at times, which is a series I also enjoy. The Wiccan elements really hit home for me, though I’m not sure how I feel about not knowing Julie’s fate.

One thing I couldn’t relate to was Di’s bitterness at coming home. I also grew up in a very small town but I never had that “oh god, I must get out” feeling. And personally, if I got a call telling me my dad was in the hospital and in very bad condition, I would have no qualms about returning. So I found it very frustrating that Di was acting like a child having temper tantrums at some points.

I like the romance between Di and Jason, and the small but crucial attraction she has to the leader of the protesters. Though the romance doesn’t take over the story, Jason plays a key role in helping Di realize her place in her small world. Plus, he seems like a genuinely sweet guy.

The writing is wonderful. It flows well and you can tell the descriptions just fit in all the right ways. This obviously isn’t Laura Bickle’s first novel, so I’m enjoying reading some of her new work and new ideas. I wouldn’t take this as a natural fantasy, more of a contemporary about family and growing up with fantastical elements (dragon, of course) added to it. Although it didn’t hook me enough to read all through the night, it was still a book I would read again eagerly.

Overall, I give it a four.

Other recommendations…

Sweep by Cate Tiernan; Starlight by Chelsea Campbell; Sublime by Christina Lauren.

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

A Fantasy Medley 3 by Yanni Kunzia (ed.)

Kunzia’s third collection of fantasy novellas, published by Subterranean Press, is just as beautiful as the first two.  These collections are well worth picking up.

Fantasy Medley 3Title:  A Fantasy Medley 3
Author:  Yanni Kunzia (ed.)
Publish Date:  December 31, 2015
Genre:  Fantasy
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s DescriptionIn “Goddess at the Crossroads,” Kevin Hearne shares a thrillingly memorable episode from the past of his popular Iron Druid Chronicles hero Atticus O’Sullivan, revealing how one night’s dark encounter with the cult of Hecate served as inspiration for Shakespeare’s witches in the Scottish play.

With “Ashes,” Laura Bickle revisits Detroit arson investigator and powerful spirit medium Anya Kalinczyk as she, her five-foot-long salamander familiar Sparky, and Hades’ Charon pursue a destructive fire elemental named the Nain Rouge through the city’s festival in his dubious honor.

“The Death of Aiguillon” finds Aliette de Bodard exploring an episode sixty years prior to the start of her latest novel, The House of Shattered Wings, in which the survivors of an ongoing magical conflict in Paris eke out a grim existence, and one woman’s wish for a better life is granted at a terrible price.

And in “One Hundred Ablutions,” Jacqueline Carey, author of the much-beloved Kushiel’s Legacy series, tells the tale of Dala—a young woman chosen by her people’s overlords to be an exalted slave among slaves—and of the twining in her life of ritual, rebellion, and redemption.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

A Fantasy Medley 3 contains two urban fantasy novellas and two fantasy novellas.  I’m familiar with the worlds in which the two urban fantasy novellas are written: Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles and Laura Bickle’s Anya Kalinczyk series.

Kevin Hearne gives us a tale from Atticus’s past, an adventure he had with William Shakespeare, his favorite bard.  This novella is a fun read and adds just a little flavor to Atticus’s past.  Having lived for 2000 years, I’m sure Atticus has many, many fun tales to share.

I was very excited to read the Anya Kalinczyk story, since we haven’t seen an Anya story since 2010.  “Ashes” takes Anya’s story in a wildly different direction than I was expecting, which makes me wonder if there aren’t some thoughts about new novels in the author’s mind.  I hope so!

I have not read any books by Aliette de Bodard or Jacqueline Carey, but after reading the two stories in this collection, I have added them both to my TBR list.

“The Death of Aiguillon” byAliette de Bodard is a lovely tale about the choice humans make between security and freedom, an appropriate topic in today’s world.  “One Hundred Ablutions” by Jacqueline Carey is also about freedom and the cost that is paid to win freedom from oppressors.  “One Hundred Ablutions” is a beautiful and self-contained tale and really piqued my interest in reading more from Jacqueline Carey.

badge4v4My only complaint is that A Fantasy Medley 3 and its predecessors are not available in ebook format. The print books are beautiful collector’s editions, and I appreciate that; but in my house, storage space is at a premium, which is why I prefer buying ebooks over print books, even beautiful ones.

Other reviews…

If you like this book…

…you might try A Fantasy Medley 1 and 2, or books by any of the authors whose stories you enjoyed.

Dark Alchemy by Laura Bickle

Dark AlchemyTitleDark Alchemy
Author: Laura Bickle
Publish Date: March 24, 2015
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Perspective: Third person

Publisher’s Description: Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking for clues to her father’s disappearance years before. What she finds instead is Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested present. But under the town’s dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When bodies start turning up – desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can’t scientifically explain – her investigations land her in the middle of a covert war between the town’s most powerful interests. Petra’s father wasn’t the only one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking are now ready to kill. Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of antique guns, and a relic she doesn’t understand, the only thing Petra knows for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or die next.

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

Nell 100Nervous Nellie says…

Main characters: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  Petra Dee is the center of this story.  She is a no-nonsense geologist that has taken a position near Yellowstone National Park’s caldera.  Petra has some pretty harsh recent history and is trying to heal her heart from an accident that she claims to have caused.  Her father, Joseph, went missing in 1995 and she is in search of him.  Sig is Petra’s familiar coyote.  Without him, Petra would have been toast a few times over. Gabriel is a creature that is very original to any story that I have recently read.  Gabriel  is a member of the “Hanged Men” that takes the leader role.  He was a Pinkerton Agent 150 years ago and was old west hanged on a tall tree.

Other characters: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Sal Rutherford is a many-generation rancher that controls the land where the hanging tree is located.  Mike Hollander is the ranger that helps Petra with her law enforcement needs. Marie Yellowrose is Petra’s new friend in Temperance and she has an uncle that has shaman-like/prophet-like skill.

World: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ The world takes place in the area near Yellowstone National Park, so if you’ve been there, you can pretty much imagine it.  The whole concept of alchemy has to do with turning base metal into gold or possibly eternal life so there is a little scientific mumbo jumbo that I could pretend I understood, but in reality just nodded all knowingly when the story mentions anything like that.

Story: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Shout out to the salamander! Love that unnamed Sparky!! If you’ve read Laura Bickle’s other series, Anya Kalinczyk, then you will catch the salamander reference.  Anyway, I was saying that this story is very original.  Petra is searching for her missing alchemist father and falls into the magic of alchemy.  The characters are very well put together.  The story is mostly a mystery as we follow along with Petra.  She is trying to figure out, along with where her father might be, the secret to a “locus” that she found near the trailer she is renting.  She, along with us readers, don’t have any idea what is going on and all her experiences are puzzling to a down-to-earth scientist.  Turning base meal into gold  is allegedly what the man that founded the town of Temperance used to make a living.  I wasn’t really clear on the whys and wherefores of what happened to the alchemist other than he had created the “Hanged Men” and went missing, left town, died – whatever, when his house was burned.  Petra meets a lot of unique characters.  Stroud is the “crazier than a pet coon” current living alchemist who claims legacy to the original alchemist’s work.  He, of course, has henchmen.  Sal Rutherford is the local all powerful, nasty toad of a rancher that has control over the Hanged Men and uses them as his ancestors did – to make money at ranching. All these things come together with a crash at the end of the book – oh, there is a cliffhanger, but not wrench your heart out of your chest kind of cliffhanger.  Just one where you will check the interwebs every other day just in case the next in the series has made its debut.

Cover: I think the cover art is right on the money.  The chick on the cover looks like someone who walked out of an old west movie and that’s really what this storyline seems to follow.

Overall: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Awesome start to a new series. Laura Bickle’s story telling is incredible.  The twists and turns are all ones I didn’t see coming.  I had no idea where this ride was taking me.  I was a refreshing spin meshing historical old west, modern day, “out in the middle of nowhere” small town, science and the paranormal.  Good job, Laura!

ivana 100Invested Ivana says…

While I enjoy even the stereotypical Urban Fantasy, Dark Alchemy is refreshingly unique read in the genre.  It gives the study of alchemy – something I associate with medieval Europe, though it is much older than that – a distinctly Native American feel and places it in Midwest America ranching territory.

Petra Dee comes to the small town of Temperance, Wyoming, to both heal from a recent tragedy and search for her missing father.  Temperance is an odd place, the way many small rural towns are, and she finds much more than she bargains for.

I was able to connect with Petra right away.  She’s hurting emotionally and blaming herself for the death of her boyfriend; but, she’s also stubbornly independent and determined to pursue a goal so she feels productive.  Petra unknowingly acquires a familiar, the coyote Sig, who completely steals the show.  I found myself wanting to know where Sig was in every scene.  The author seems to have a talent for creating beloved animal companions, having created the character of Sparky the salamander in her Anya Kalinczyk series.   In fact, a couple of Sparky-like characters appear in Dark Alchemy, presumably as a nod to her character and her fans. 🙂

In Temperance, three characters seem to be on Petra’s side: Mike Hollinder, the local forest ranger; Maria Yellowrose, a local healer; and her usually drunk and somewhat psychic uncle, Frankie.  Frankie is an interesting character with a huge back story; I can’t wait to hear more about it.

The town “baddies” appear to be Sal Rutherford, a ranch-owner with a selfish and sadistic personality, and “The Alchemist,” Stroud, who surrounds himself with young, strung-out meth-heads.  Stroud is searching for immortality through the study of alchemy, counting on the town’s history to provide him answers.  He comes off as a dangerous but ridiculous thug and easy to despise.

Sal Rutherford is a bastard, but not an alchemist.  The ranch hands, Gabriel and his brethren, are one of the most interesting mysteries of the book.  I absolutely love their story (I won’t give it away here) and am so very eager to learn more about them.

Though Petra seems to accomplish her goal at the end of the book, there are still too many unanswered questions, which makes me believe this is the start of a series, though there is yet no mention of Book 2.  I will certainly be on the lookout for it, though, as I thoroughly enjoyed Dark Alchemy and am eager for more of Petra’s story.

Rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ However, depending on how this series goes, I can see it becoming one of my favorites.

Stand Out Award Badge2Other reviews:

If you like this book…

For another “weird small town” story, you might try Charlaine Harris’ Midnight, Texas series.  The town of Midnight isn’t quite as spooky as Temperance, but it is odd in its own way.  Another reviewer also suggested Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series, though I haven’t had the pleasure of reading that series yet.  I hope to soon!

No promotional consideration was granted for this review.

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