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Midnight Curse by Melissa F. Olson

Scarlett Bernard is back! It’s been three peaceful years since we’ve seen her last, and she’s grown up a lot. Now she’s thrown into a plot to frame her former roommate, Molly, with the murder of twelve human women and overturn the fragile peace of the Old Word in LA.

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

midnight-curseTitleMidnight Curse
AuthorMelissa F. Olson
SeriesDisrupted Magic, Book 01/Old World Chronology
Publish Date: February 7, 2017 by 47North
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Amy McFadden
Source: ARC from NetGalley/Audio purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionScarlett Bernard is used to cleaning up messes. As a human who cancels out any magic around her, Scarlett’s job is to keep the supernatural world hidden—at any cost.

On the eve of the Vampire Trials, a two-day tribunal that allows the otherworldly community to air their grievances, Scarlett receives a blood-soaked message from Molly, her estranged former roommate. Molly, a vampire, had been living with twelve human college students…and in one terrible night, she slaughtered them all.

Scarlett believes Molly’s been set up, but no one else in the Old World agrees with her. And the true perpetrator is determined to make sure Molly goes on trial for the massacre—the penalty for which is death.

With less than two days to prove her friend’s innocence, Scarlett calls on former LAPD detective Jesse Cruz to help her dig into Molly’s past. But no one—Molly included—wants Scarlett and Jesse to bring the terrible truth to light.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

Midnight Curse is the fourth book featuring magical null, Scarlett Bernard and the tenth work of Olson’s set in the “Old Word,” yet it is the start of a new series called Disrupted Magic. I’m not yet sure where this new series is going, but I sure enjoyed the first book.

It’s been three years since the end of Hunter’s Trail, and I’m not sure how long since the end of Boundary Born. Scarlett and Eli have been living together as a couple, along with the dog-like bargest, Shadow. Jesse Cruz has quit the police force, married and divorced, and is living a depressed life out of his one-room apartment. The mystery of who is framing Molly, Scarlett’s former roommate pulls Scarlett and Jesse back into the dangerous side of the Old World in LA.

I’m impressed at where this series has taken Scarlett and Jesse. In the previous books, Scarlett had feelings for both Eli and Jesse, but Jesse saw Scarlet as someone who needed saving and protecting–from her enemies and her own choices. Though Scarlett goes to Jesse for help, their romantic relationship is not immediately rekindled, even when Scarlett’s relationship with Eli is in jeopardy. In fact, NOT having romantic feelings help each of them see the other more clearly, which is the strength of their newfound partnership. I don’t know if they’ll become involved in future books, but it was refreshing to see them just be friends.

One of the big themes of this book is accepting yourself and others for who they are–not who they were or could be. Ultimately, Scarlett likes who she is and her role in the Old World in LA. When being her fullest self conflicts with her relationship with Eli, she chooses no relationship over one that forces her to be something she’s not. I think this is a great message. No relationship, no matter how loving, will be successful if you can’t be yourself. Love isn’t always enough. It’s a very modern and mature message and I appreciate it being played out in my fiction.

And can I just say how much I LOVE Shadow. In fact, I love how big a role animals play in Olson’s work in general. She is obviously an animal lover and supporter of animal welfare.

badge5v5Amy McFadden is the voice actor for all four Scarlett Bernard books. I listened to the three original books in preparation for Midnight Curse and enjoyed them thoroughly. I remember the first time I listened to Dead Spots, I felt like Amy’s voice didn’t fit Scarlett and it took me a while to get used to her. Maybe it’s because I’ve just listened to her for about 42 hours over the last week, but she is now firmly Scarlett in my mind. Her voice is clear and expressive and I really enjoy her interpretation.

I’m excited about this new series and the return to Scarlett’s world. I’m very curious to see what happens next for Scarlett.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

If you haven’t yet, check out all of Melissa F. Olson’s work–the Scarlet Bernard series, the Boundary Magic series, the Old Word shorts, Nightshades (paranormal but not related to the Old World), and her non-paranormal Lena Dane mysteries.

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

Nightshades by Melissa F. Olson

The world knows that vampires, or shades, exist, but not everyone really believes it. The agency created to police shades, the Bureau of Paranormal Investigations, is a joke. But Alex McKenna wants to change both those things, while keeping the world as safe as possible.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

NightshadesTitle:  Nightshades
Author:  Melissa F. Olson
Series: stand alone (for now)
Publish Date:  July 19, 2016
Genre:  Supernatural thriller
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s DescriptionAlex McKenna is the new Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago office of the Bureau of Paranormal Investigations—the division tasked with investigating crimes involving shades.

Or vampires, as they’re more widely known.

Children have been going missing, and agents are routinely being slaughtered. It’s up to McKenna, and some unlikely allies, to get to the bottom of the problem, and find the kids before it’s too late.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

What drew me to this book: So far, I’ve liked everything I’ve read from Melissa F. Olson. Nightshades looks very different than her other series, but it is still paranormal and the description sounds intriguing.

Why I kept reading: Nightshades is a good novella. I’d call it more of a supernatural thriller than a true urban fantasy, though it will appeal to fans of both genres. The story is told third-person from the perspective of several characters, most of them involved in an FBI-like mission to solve teen kidnappings and stop it.

Nightshades feels like the introduction to a new series.  In it, we see Alex McKenna and his right-hand man, Chase Eddy, take over the Chicago office of the Bureau of Paranormal Investigations, an office whose staff has recenbadge4v4tly been slaughtered by shade activity.  Alex and Chase choose their team, including an unconventional “consultant,” and go after the shade that is kidnapping teens and killing citizens in the Chicago area.

After this “origin story” and introductory mission, I hope we get to see more of Alex and his Chicago-based team.

Why I recommend it: This is a great novella to pick up for a quick read.  It is a complete story in itself, and hints there might be more to come.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed. 🙂

Nervous Nellie says…

This story is a mystery/thriller type supernatural read.  There isn’t a cliffhanger…not really.  The storyNervous_Nellie_100 is completed, but there is a seriously good lead in to hopefully the next book.  Please? Please? I’d love another book!! No sex, a little violence but nothing horrific.

Melissa Olson is a genius writer.  She has the flexibility to switch between series and the characters maintain their own individuality.  I have yet to read a book she’s written that I haven’t loved.

In this book, the protagonist that takes the lead is male where the author’s other series are female.  She does a good job writing for him and I can picture him as a suit and tie idealist. Typical Fed.  Less than Men in Black, but more than the Untouchables. The really cool thing is as she writes, she turns badge5v4him into an agent that actually might be worth his salt.  I got interested in him as an agent and then as a person. Sure, he’s looking for a promotion and the glory of the collar, but the author slowly has him evolve into an agent that’s willing to put his life on the line for everyone.

It’s interesting how the author introduces “shades” or vampires into the equation.  Shades are basically cast as a vampire. Kind of a Silence of the Lambs type of creature.  The author lured me into thinking they were all the same, but, just like humans, shades come in all shapes and sizes.  There are shade brown nosers that I’d like to squish under my shoe and then there are the psychopaths.  There are also those that just want to be left alone to live their life.  The zealots want humans as food and conservatives want to mainstream. Typical vampire propaganda.

The author takes the reader on a ride by feeding little bits of information and letting the reader’s mind run away with them.  When I think I’ve got it pegged, the author adds to the scenario and unbalances me again.  It’s an evolving story with a thriller aspect that is very hard to put down. Hats off, Ms. Olson.  You’ve done it again.

If you like this book…

…you might try the Harmony Black series by Craig Schaefer or 9mm Blues by Keith Melton.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Boundary Born by Melissa F. Olson

I love the Boundary Magic series by Melissa F. Olson! The newest book, Boundary Born, gives us another great adventure in Boulder’s Old World community, and some personal history about Lex.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Boundary BornTitle:  Boundary Born
Author:  Melissa F. Olson
SeriesBoundary Magic Book 03
Publish Date:  June 21, 2016
Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s DescriptionSomething wicked is at work in Colorado’s supernatural community. Vampires are being paralyzed or killed with poison…a weapon favored by witches. This offense threatens to break apart the already-fractured alliance between witches and the undead.

The state’s cardinal vampire, Maven, summons boundary witch Allison “Lex” Luther to stop the killing before it ignites a war. Lex has barely started investigating when she gets another surprise: the biological father she’s never met arrives on her doorstep. He has answers to all of Lex’s questions about her bloodline, but getting those answers could mean betraying the life she’s already built.

Then the next vampire is poisoned—and this time it’s Maven herself. The new evil that hunts Lex is powerful and ruthless enough to stop the strongest supernatural creature in the state. In order to find such a killer, Lex will have to face down her own birthright and call on every ally—both living and dead.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


 

Nervous Nellie says……Nervous_Nellie_100

This is an urban fantasy with a strong female lead and a sexy vampire partner.  It’s a part of a series and the series should not be missed.  There is violence and blood but that usually always goes hand in hand when vampires are in the book.

I love this series.  Melissa Olson’s writing is so good, I feel like she is the narrator and I’m watching the story unfold through a crystal ball.  I don’t notice the descriptive parts of the scenes, I just see them.  I really like Lex.  I think she should follow her gut more.  If something doesn’t feel right, she should examine it – she made that error in judgment a couple of times in the book.

My favorite part of the book was where Lex was being totally honest about her mom.

And as much as I loved my parents, I was pretty sure my mother privately thought all my rescue animals should be put down before they ruined my house any further.

badge5v4That quote put me in a place where I could totally relate to Lex. Usually, these private thoughts are kept very private.  There is no negativity cast upon the “perfect” parents.  This was very refreshing, because parents are human too and they will always think they know best.

I learned a little more about the team, Simon, Lily, Quinn and boundary magic.  This was one of those books that made me forget about time and responsibilities.  I just had to get to the conclusion and find out what happened.  Trust me, when you start this series, you will not wish to stop.

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

What drew me to this book: So far, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Melissa F. Olson; but, her Boundary Magic series is by far my favorite.

Why I kept reading: This book deals with the origins of boundary magic and the blood family of the protagonist, Lex. Lex and her twin were adopted by the Luthers, a completely non-magic family. The previous two books mention this, but don’t pursue the question of Lex’s parentage. In Boundary Born, Lex’s birth family comes looking for her, bringing some answers, but even more questions, about the nature of boundary magic and the history of magic in general.

The friendship and teamwork among Lex, Quinn, Simon, and Lily is one of my favorite parts of this series. They love and trust each other, and accept each other,  faults and all.

I’m really liking Mavin, the vampire ruler of Boulder, as well. She has a good side to her, despite being a scary strong vampire. She’s honorable, at least, as well as ruthless and practical.

badge5v4Why I recommend it: The Boundary Magic series is really good urban fantasy, and Boundary Born in particular is a strong story. If you haven’t picked up this series, now is the time!

Our reviews in this series…

If you like this book…

… you might try the companion series about Scarlet Bernard. Scarlet and the supernaturals in LA are mentioned in Boundary Born. Olson also has several shorts set in the same universe as both Scarlet and Lex.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Boundary Lines by Melissa F. Olson

Olson’s best book yet, Boundary lines is action-packed and intense.

25271794Title: Boundary Lines
Author: Melissa F. Olson
Series: Boundary Magic Book 02
Publish Date: October 13, 2015
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s Description: Fitting into the Old World isn’t going very well for Boulder boundary witch Allison “Lex” Luther: she may have earned a place in a vampire’s service, but now it seems as if every supernatural creature in town has found a reason to hate her. And when Lex and her partner are assigned to investigate the suspicious disappearance of two vampires during the night of the full moon, they find themselves with more questions than answers.

Was it murder…or mutiny?

The crusade for answers will lead Lex all over the Colorado Old World, from a prison cell for a broken werewolf to a haunted Denver brothel. And when Lex determines the responsible party, the hunt is just beginning: something has been awakened in Boulder, something as old and powerful as it is terrifying. Only the woman with death in her blood can stop what’s coming.

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


Nervous_Nellie_50Well, I’m finished with Boundary Lines! Have you grown tired of waiting on me?!?!

Invested_Ivana 50Nah, I just went on to read other books. 🙂 What did you think? Good, wasn’t it?  There were so many different things happening!

Nervous_Nell 50It was the best book yet! There is something about Melissa Olson’s writing that just sucks me in. Since I had a lot of “life” junk going on, I didn’t want to start it until I could focus. I’m glad I did because I opened the book and couldn’t put it down.

Invested_Ivana 50I surprised myself. You know how I have to reread the previous book when a new one comes out. I didn’t reread Book 1, but had no trouble following Book 2. That made my really happy.

Nervous_Nell 50Have you talked with Melissa Olson? Is she a pretty cool author?

Invested_Ivana 50I haven’t yet. But she seems like she’d be fun to chat with. Maybe we’ll run into her at a book event somewhere, or maybe we can get her Authorgraph. I adore the world she’s created.

Nervous_Nell 50I agree. I love Lex. She is everything a hero should be. I’m not sure if I agree with her hooking up with Quinn, but I’m sure the author knows best…

Invested_Ivana 50Quinn’s turned out okay for a vampire.  I’ll give him a chance. 😉


Nervous_Nellie_100Nervous Nellie says…

“I was clubbed down by a chunk of meat the size of a basketball.”

The Author does it again. I thought that the first book in the Boundary Magic series was really good. If I thought Boundary Crossed was really good, then Boundary Lines is…..well…. like magic!  The characters are vibrant and the story pulled me in from start to finish.  Lex is back to assess the situation with more attitude and quick thinking that only makes the story that much better.. She uses little to no magic this time around but hey! calm down! Simon and Lily are in this story too!

Lex is a character I can really get behind. She shows no fear which is either stupid or impressive. I think I’ll go with impressive because I know what kind of chicken I am. Lex has gone through a lot within the last few years of her life and she is broken, but it is an honorable broken.

I learned a lot about Lex’s world through this story. I learned a little more about Maven’s history (which is pretty darn cool), I learned a little more about Lex’s traumatic experience in the Iraqi desert. I learned more about the covenant between the witches and Maven, the fading ley lines and how to heal a crazy werewolf. Is that all, you ask? Uh…..no-o-o.

It seems that there is a gigantic komodo dragon/anaconda/scaly, scary fanged wormy thing is on the loose. It’s eating people and it’s creating such a stir it’s hard to hide it from the normals. The cops are involved and that’s never convenient for Lex. Luckily, she has Simon, Lily and Quinn to help her.

To make things a little weirder, the witches and werewolves are acting all juiced up. There are remnants and wraiths showing up along with this power boost and as Maven’s Lieutenant, Lex gets to figure out the where, who and why.  The clincher to that sentence is that as a boundary witch, Lex can’t see ghosts. Why does that matter, you ask? Well, you see, there is a resource that Lex can tap, but unfortunately she’s….um…dead…..and a ghost or wraith or whatever you wanna call her. I think that was one of the best scenes in the book – along with the grenade in the worm trick.

badge5v4Melissa Olson nailed this story. The story starts with one thing which leads to another which leads to something else and all these things need to be prioritized, but they all need to be fixed….like yesterday.  There were twists where I expected turns and turns that made me go “Whaaa??” It was excellent. Oh, and one last thing? John has a girlfriend and it’s NOT Lex. Hmmmmm……..

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

“…I could only fight evil so long without a bra.”

I think I said this back when I reviewed Boundary Crossed, but I’ll say it again — I really like the Old World universe Melissa Olson has created. In both her Scarlett Bernard series and in her Boundary Magic series, there are distinct creatures with different characteristics and roles within the magical community, a consistent set of rules for magic, and yet still always more to learn.

In Boundary Lines, we learn a bit more about the nature of magic and about the relationship between witches and vampires in Boulder. We get a great Old World history lesson, as well, that includes the werewolves. We learn even more about boundary witches and about Lex’s past as well. I love it when a complex world is built slowly over time; it is certainly one of the elements that keeps me coming back to a series.

I’m kicking myself, though, that I didn’t do more research into the novella, Malediction, before I started Boundary Lines. I saw there was a new Old World novella and even bought it, but got caught up in life and didn’t realize it fell between this book and the previous. Not reading the novella didn’t do any harm–Olson sums up what you need to know–but I do so like to read things in order. Plus, Lex gets to meet Scarlett in the novella, and I don’t want to miss that!

badge4v4Boundary Lines grabbed my attention from the very first page and I enjoyed every bit of the story. If you haven’t tried Melissa F. Olson’s series, you’re missing out. I highly recommend them both.

See our reviews for…

Stand Out Award Badge2Other reviews…

If you like this book…

If you haven’t yet, you might try the Scarlett Bernard series by the same author, and certainly pick up the novella Malediction, which features both “Lex” and Scarlett and falls between Boundary Crossed and Boundary Lines. There are a couple other novellas set in this world, too: Bloodsick (which features a character from Boundary Lines) and Sell-By-Date.

Dead Spots by Melissa F. Olson

Dead SpotsTitleDead Spots
Author: Melissa F. Olson
Series: Scarlett Bernard Book 1
Publish Date: October 30, 2012
Publisher: 47North
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Perspective: First Person

Publisher’s Description: Scarlett Bernard knows about personal space: step within ten feet of her, and any supernatural spells or demonic forces are instantly defused—vampires and werewolves become human again, and witches can’t get out so much as a “hocus pocus.” This special skill makes her a null and very valuable to Los Angeles’s three most powerful magical communities, who utilize her ability to scrub crime scenes clean of all traces of the paranormal to keep humanity, and the LAPD, in the dark.

But one night Scarlett’s late arrival to a grisly murder scene reveals her agenda and ends with LAPD’s Jesse Cruz tracking her down to strike a deal: he’ll keep quiet about the undead underworld if she helps solve the case. Their pact doesn’t sit well with Dash, the city’s chief bloodsucker, who fears his whole vampire empire is at stake. And when clues start to point to Scarlett, it’ll take more than her unique powers to catch the real killer and clear her name.

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


Invested Ivana says…

After reading Boundary Crossed, I wanted to go back to Dead Spots to remind myself of the world and the story.  I wanted to see if Dead Spots was as light and “romancy” as I remembered.  I think it does have more of a romantic leaning than Boundary Crossed, especially since there is a love triangle involved.  And Scarlet’s relationship with her roommate, Molly, has some comical tendencies.  But the story itself wasn’t as light as I was remembering.

Main characters: ♥ ♥ ♥ Scarlett Bernard is a magical null and cleaner for the supernatural community in Los Angeles.  I like Scarlett – she’s practical and resourceful and determined – but she also has an annoying tendency to be too passive.  I think she sees herself as a victim of her circumstances and is a little bit self-pitying, which keeps her from believing she has worth and can take charge of her life.  It’s been a while since I’ve read the whole series, but I’m hoping this is one of the character’s growth-points.

Other characters: ♥ ♥ ♥ I’m not very fond of the vampires in this world – with the exception of Dashiell’s wife, Beatrice.  I do like the wolves, though.  Will and Eli seem like good guys.  I feel bad for Eli; he likes Scarlett, but she doesn’t take his interest seriously.  Jesse Cruz is the cop who accidentally stumbles into supernatural dealings.  I like him, but he’s a bit slow on the uptake.  His stubbornness seems to put his and Scarlett’s life on the line a bit too often.

World: ♥ ♥ ♥ In Scarlett’s world, supernaturals are attempting to avoid detection by the normals. Vampires, werewolves, and witches have a tentative working relationship, but none of them really like each other. In Los Angeles, where Scarlett lives, the vampires are in charge. They operate much like an old mob family and are not very nice – well, most of them aren’t very nice. Nulls like Scarlett are seen as valuable, but mostly in the way that property is valuable. Werewolves seem much friendlier.

Story: ♥ ♥ ♥ Dead Spots is mainly a mystery. Los Angeles vampires are being slaughtered brutally and no one knows how or why. Scarlett needs to solve the mystery before human cop, Jesse Cruz, gets pulled farther into the supernatural world and probably killed. There is an interesting surprise at the end, though I won’t spoil it for you here.

Narrator: ♥ ♥ ♥ I’ll admit that it took me a bit to warm up to Amy McFadden as the narrator.  Her voice for Scarlett is pretty brash… more like an East Coast accent than a West Coast one.  There wasn’t a great amount of difference in the voices of her males, either.  But I eventually got used to her and it was fine.

Overall: ♥ ♥ ♥ Dead Spots is a good read and a good listen. Though it sometimes straddles the line between a serious urban fantasy and a fluffier paranormal romance, it is certainly entertaining.

Other reviews:

If you like this book…

There are two other books in the Scarlett Bernard series that you might try: Trail of Dead and Hunter’s Trail. The author also has two short stories set in the same world as Scarlett Bernard: “Bloodsick” and “Sell-by-Date“. The newest book in this world, Boundary Crossed, was published May 1, 2015.

No promotional consideration was granted for this review.