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Currently Browsing: sci-fi/fantasy
Jan
3

Review: One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Review: One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews One Fell Sweep Author: Ilona Andrews Reviewers: Jen & Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: Opening three days after the conclusion of the previous book and just days before Christmas, an unauthorized Ku alien makes a ruckus in Dina’s neighborhood, bringing word to Dina that her sister is in grave trouble and needs help. And that’s just the start of Dina’s troubles. Soon she finds herself in the middle of a holy war, with her guests the primary target. One Fell Sweep is another exciting tale set in the wholly original world of the Innkeepers. The unique mythology, complex plotlines, and captivating characters draw us further into this world with each subsequent read and listen to these books. And by the conclusion of One Fell Sweep we were ready to jump into the next story immediately – do we really have to wait another year? So much happens in this title, we won’t even begin to try and summarize the various plot and subplots. However, there is tremendous growth and forward movement for the characters by the end of One Fell Sweep. First, Dina is reunited with part of her family: sister Maud and niece Helen. Last Dina knew, her sister was happily married to a ranking officer from one of the Vampire families. However we quickly learn her husband is dead, and the pair returns to Earth with Dina. Having Maud and Helen reenter Dina’s life was one of the best parts about the story. Dina has been alone for too long, and allowing her to let her guard down and connect with those she trusts and understand what her life entails was rewarding. Additionally, Maud provides comic relief as only a sibling can. Maud is also an excellent tool for putting an end to Lord Arland’s silly obsession with Dina, squelching any potential love triangle storylines (amen!). Though Una thinks that there wasn’t much of a triangle (but that could have been her optimism at work). Witnessing Arland’s fall as he gets to know Maud is perfect. She is everything he has been looking for in a woman, and it confuses and excites him. His interactions with Maud and Helen are fabulous. We are also happy to report that Sean is solidly in the picture the entire story this time around. We both appreciate and admire how the authors have grown his character from the first book through the conclusion of One Fell Sweep. Sean had to explore...
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Dec
23

Review: A Season of Spells Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Review: A Season of Spells Sylvia Izzo Hunter A Season of Spells Author: Sylvia Izzo Hunter Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: It turns out that A Season of Spells is the final book in the Noctis Magicae series.  I was surprised to discover it was a trilogy at the end.  This final book is a perfect end to this enchanting series. Note: There are spoilers from the first two books in this review, but nothing more that what the book blurbs provide. I have thoroughly enjoyed the characters and this world that Ms. Hunter has created.  The mixture of a historical setting, magic, politics and light romance was enchanting.  Though the plight of our heroes was dire at times, their adventures were gripping until the end.  Now looking back I see this series as a trilogy of Sophia bringing a new age to her world. Sophia is a powerful mage, though looked down upon by the magical authority due to her gender. It seems women with magical abilities were frowned upon during this time period in Britain.  It was compelling to follow Sophia as she goes from despised daughter to crowned princess to respected magistra.  Following her as she learned to navigate the political waters of being a long lost princess (to the king’s former wife) and the ramifications of the choices she makes.  The different mysteries she has encountered and her drive to protect not only her loved ones, but the King and her people were gripping. In this final installment, Sophia breaks through and shows her true self.  When following protocol fails, she rises to the challenge to save Britain.  Through a desire to resurrect a magical college for women, she stumbles upon the clues to save her people from invasion.  I really enjoyed how Sophia shows how much she has grown from her ability to stay calm when under duress, follow protocols, and follow not only her heart but her head.  It was especially illustrated in the separation between her and Gray. I continued to love the relationship of the varied main characters.  The conspiracies they weave in order to attain the knowledge they seek.  Seeing Lucia and Roland’s journey from arranged marriage to one of affection was sweet.  As the two follow along in Sophia’s projects, we discover they are two sides of the same coin.  I found it endearing when they realized it.  I have truly enjoyed the cast of characters in this trilogy and will miss them. Though...
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Dec
19

Review: The Furies’ Bog by Deborah Jackson

Review: The Furies’ Bog by Deborah Jackson The Furies’ Bog Author: Deborah Jackson Reviewer: Nima Rating: C The description of Deborah Jackson’s The Furies’ Bog will draw in any regular sci-fi reader.  It promises a lot.  Jackson spreads her tale across multiple locations worldwide and even space, incorporating genetics, archeology, and secret agents. The Furies’ Bog was thought-provoking. It was well-written. Parts of it were definitely engaging, but sadly, you could say all of those things about a textbook on a subject in which you were interested. Jackson has definitely done her homework—literally.  According to her end notes, she studied science journals and went back to school at MIT to take classes with this book specifically in mind.  You have to be in awe of someone that dedicated to writing a scientifically plausible story.  It’s a relatively long story, however, coming in at over 500 hundred pages. Long books are not unusual in the sci-fi world, but The Furies’ Bog is not a page-turner despite a fair amount of action. It wants to be an exciting sci-fi thriller, well-grounded in current genetic science, but never achieves real momentum, getting—if you’ll excuse the expression—“bogged down” in the science. She even includes an entire thesis paper within the body of the story.  (In the electronic version, you can click a link to skip over this.) In the first of two appendices, which is not wholly unusual for the science fiction genre, she includes the entire DNA sequence of the LIPE gene referenced in her thesis stating, “I wanted to emphasize how a small mutation in this entire length could alter the function, or trigger the dysfunction, of a protein and upset the balance in our bodies, or even entirely alter the way our bodies work.  These mutations can lead to cancer or other diseases, or set us on a new evolutionary path.”  I don’t know that that actually adds anything or even emphasis to her story.  Before the link to skip it, Jackson offers this disclaimer:  This document contains a variety of technical terms that may be confusing to the average reader.  Feel free to skip over it, if you find it tedious. To me, it felt a little condescending.  I’m not exactly sure who she intended as her primary audience. Probably most significant to me, because the action of The Furies’ Bog is stretched across multiple locations, Jackson has main characters in each of those places.  This meant we didn’t spend enough time with any of them...
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Dec
15

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: What a Dragon Should Know by G.A. Aiken

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: What a Dragon Should Know by G.A. Aiken Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Dragon Kin Series Book: What a Dragon Should Know  Author: G.A. Aiken Narrator: Hollie Jackson Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Dragon Kin #3 Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy Romance Source: Tantor Audio What a Dragon Should Know expands upon the richly entertaining lore of mighty dragons and the humans that love them. Picking up after the conclusion of the previous book, the story primarily focuses on the love story of Gwenvael the Handsome and Dagmar Reinholdt, the only daughter of the Reinholdt, also known as “the Beast.” Annwyl the Bloody, heavy with her twins who are literally sucking the life from her, sends Gwenvael to the Northlands on her behalf to discover if the Reinholdt will make a worthy ally. When Gwenvael discovers that the Beast is actually an extremely intelligent and wily female, he is forced to adjust his approach to the situation. Dagmar has spent her entire life as the brains behind her father’s success, staying in the shadows while she manipulates events to her advantage. So when Gwenvael acts unpredictably and treats her with respect, even reverence, Dagmar isn’t sure how to best respond. Striking a bargain with Gwenvael, the pair head out of the Northlands with important information to share with Annwyl. I absolutely adored the pairing of Gwenvael and Dagmar. Two underestimated souls, both play to the misrepresentations and conventions their families have placed upon them. They use these stereotypes to hide their true intentions, striking blows upon their enemies. Both love their respective families and would do anything to protect them. Right from the start the pair recognizes the strengths of the other; never disrespecting the other, even if they do try to outsmart one another. Their passion ignites as Gwenvael and Dagmar open up and fall in love. I just adored their verbal sparring and joint masterminding. Outside of the romance, the entire story is multifaceted and filled with complex layers of political maneuvering.  I found myself engrossed and enjoyed just listening to the plot unfold. While I did find myself lost a couple times and trying to remember who was who  more than once (lets face it, there are too many similar sounding names), the character development and bonds cemented over the course of the series made for stronger connections and deeper enjoyment of this tale. In addition to Gwenvael and Dagmar, What a Dragon Should Know shares the continuing romance of Brastias and Morfyd. I was pleased...
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Dec
14

Review: Pocket Full of Tinder by Jill Archer

Review: Pocket Full of Tinder by Jill Archer Pocket Full of Tinder Author: Jill Archer Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una have eagerly awaited the fourth installment in the Noon Onyx series.  Although we were thrilled to be back in this unique and fascinating world, the novel had a few odd notes that culminated in an astonishing cliffhanger. The Noon Onyx world is so unique.  In the years after the demons won Armageddon, angels and demons have blended with what is left of humanity.  It is an intricate and fascinating world.  The premise with Noon and her Nightshade being oddities in what is already a strange world to the reader is a fun juxtaposition.  The supporting characters are just as compelling as Noon, who is the primary point of view.  The novel continues to evolve the world and we are utterly intrigued by it. The previous novels have had a fairly solid and seamless flow; however it felt as if Pocket Full of Tinder was two different novels.  The first two-thirds of the book was slowly built to what we had been waiting for: would Noon and Ari forgive and start over, or forgive and move on?  For all of those who were all waiting for that moment: fear not, we are given the resolution. However the last third moves very quickly and oddly.  After a shocking and defining moment, the novel takes a hugely unexpected left turn.  It felt like a few characters behaved very differently from how we would have expected them to behave. Although it felt like there were two distinct parts to Pocket Full of Tinder, we still liked it.  The first part may have moved slowly but it was the surreal final third that had us flabbergasted.  Even with the odd notes – we are eagerly awaiting the next Noon Onyx novel.  Considering the cliffhanger ending, or what seemed like the start of the next novel, we cannot wait to see what happens next in Noon’s life.  If you enjoy something that is a little different with a well thought out mythology and engaging characters, then you need to try this series. Our Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: Noon Onyx is back! In this long-awaited fourth installment, Jill Archer returns readers to the dangerous world of Halja, where demons, angels, and humans coexist in an uneasy state of détente.  Maegester-in-Training Noon Onyx feels like she’s done it all – mastered fiery magic, become...
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Dec
12

Review: Winter Halo by Keri Arthur

Review: Winter Halo by Keri Arthur Winter Halo Author: Keri Arthur Reviewer: Jen Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Winter Halo, the second installment of Ms. Arthur’s Outcast series, picks up just after the action-packed conclusion of the first book. The series follows Tiger, a human-shifter-vampire hybrid known as a déchet, as she works to save a number of young children captured for nefarious purposes. The fantasy-based world is detailed and complex, and I recommend starting with book 1: City of Light, to best understand this multifaceted mythology (see my review for City of Light for more detail on the world). However, Ms. Arthur does a fantastic job recapping the important points of the first book right up front in Winter Halo, therefore if one wanted to, you could probably jump in with the second title. After reading the first book, I was on the fence with the series. While the mythology was interesting and I really liked Tiger, I didn’t care for any of the supporting characters other than the young déchet ghosts. I felt the world-building, which was overly complicated, dominated too much of the story, and the overall plot felt like a set up for the second book. While some of these issues were successfully addressed in Winter Halo, the overall mythology and plot remained difficult to follow. First, what worked… I continued to like Tiger, who makes for a wonderful tragic heroine. Although everyone hates her because of what she is, Tiger continues to do the right thing. Her moral compass may have been warped because of war and isolation, but it remains true, and saving children is what is most important. She uses every means available, including her own body and soul, to protect the innocent. She makes the hard decisions, even when they aren’t popular. I also enjoy Tiger’s relationship with Bear and Cat, two young déchet ghosts. They have been her companions for over a century, and their closeness gives Tiger an emotional safety net, grounding her when she has every right to walk away from her mission. The pair provides lightness and comic relief into this dark tale. Additionally, Tiger’s friendship with Jonas improved tremendously in Winter Halo. Getting past stereotypes and prejudices, the twosome opens the door to the possibility of more, giving honest pieces of themselves to each other. I loved their candid dialogue – admitting there is an attraction there, regardless of how “wrong” it would be. And via Tiger’s first person POV, we...
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Dec
7

Review: The Memory Thief by Sarina Dorie

Review: The Memory Thief by Sarina Dorie The Memory Thief Author: Sarina Dorie Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: The Memory Thief is a different type of steampunk series.  This Victorian era science-fiction novel is an interesting world.  Suffice to say, I enjoyed it and look forward to the next one. First, let me say that this was more mystery/adventure romance than science-fiction. Though it is science-fiction, the science and steampunk qualities are in the background. The plight of Felicity in recovering her memories is gripping. The planet and history of the Jomon people is rich and fascinating. I really loved the world I found myself in. The memory moss, the intriguing creatures, and the evolution that has obviously taken place are all quite intriguing.  I truly found myself lost in the world. The novel is told from Felicity’s viewpoint and utilizes flashbacks. Some of the flashbacks are consciously done when she is partaking in a memory swap. However, some chapters are started with a moment from the past. Though they are interesting and give background to the novel, I felt that they stunted the flow of the story a little, but not enough to inhibit my enjoyment. I enjoyed the courtship between Felicity and Nipa (the ruler of the Jomon tribe). Though some of the novel is fairly easy to figure out, I was still surprised by some of the past. Felicity’s strength of character is equal to her kindness to the indigenous people. I enjoyed her intelligence, especially when up against Nipa’s cunning. Nipa’s character was equally charming and ruthless.  I enjoyed trying to figure him out. Felicity’s intended, Merriweather, seems to be a filler character.  It is not surprising when the Jomon use him as a patsy.  However, he grew on me.  He seems very out of place in the world, and in the novel, especially in Felicity’s eyes.  He is very naïve and innocent.  More innocent than I would think an aristocratic male would be in Victorian England.  However, I think there is more to him and I hope to learn it in the next novel. I am reluctant to give anything away, but the emotions of the novel caught me off guard.  This book is about remembering and recovering from the past. The past is more than just events, but emotions as well. Once I finished the novel, I could see how the novel dances slowly to the truth. I really enjoyed the flow and the overall crafting of...
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Nov
23

Review: The Burning Isle by Will Panzo

Review: The Burning Isle by Will Panzo The Burning Isle Author: Will Panzo Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una were fascinated by this debut novel.  The Burning Isle is a compelling mixture of dark fantasy, adventure, mystery, and suspense.  We were mesmerized by this richly complex novel. Unfortunately there is not much we can say about this intriguing puzzle of a novel.  It is a well-woven mystery of who Cassius is, what his mission is, and why he is so dedicated to it.  Gikany and Una discussed the rich nuances of the story, but sharing that discussion could possibly spoil the plot line.  The novel is a slowly unweaving journey of discovery.  Each moment of conflict unveils another truth.  In deciphering these mysteries, Mr. Panzo expertly weaves in flashbacks that give hints about Cassius and his actions.  The overall picture is filled in section by section.  We were able to grasp pieces along the way, but until the final piece was clicked, the overall picture eluded us. Cassius’ character is complex and beguiling.  You are never sure what is truly going on.  This aspect kept us glued to the pages. Although it appears the overall plot is resolved at the end of the novel, questions still linger.  We had the urge to reread it to see what clues we may have missed, to reinvestigate different milestones, and to be able to see the novel with the clarity of knowing. The Burning Isle is a gripping and immensely intriguing fantasy novel.  We desperately hope there is more to come.  We found the mystery, the world, and most especially Cassius compelling and alluring.  If you enjoy dark fantasy full of politics, moral questions and action/mystery, you truly need to pick this one up! Our Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: A powerful and gripping debut grimdark fantasy novel, set in a world of criminals, pirates, assassins, and magic… “A man has only three reasons for being anywhere: to right a wrong, to earn a coin, or because he is lost.” Cassius is not lost… The mage Cassius has just arrived on the island of Scipio. Five miles of slum on the edge of fifty miles of jungle, Scipio is a lawless haven for criminals, pirates, and exiles. The city is split in two, each half ruled by a corrupt feudal lord. Both of them answer to a mysterious general who lives deep in the jungle with his army, but...
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Nov
10

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: About a Dragon by G.A. Aiken

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: About a Dragon by G.A. Aiken Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Dragon Kin Series Book: About a Dragon Author: G.A. Aiken Narrator: Hollie Jackson Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Dragon Kin #2 Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy Romance Source: Tantor Audio Talaith lived the same dead-end life, day after day for sixteen years, with the town’s people afraid of her and a dimwitted husband who thinks she’s the devil. She’s been sent to this little town by her goddess, waiting for the day Talaith is called to perform an act of sacrifice on her behalf. But the day that Briec passes through her town, everything changes. Briec, a powerful and arrogant dragon, sees Talaith and demands she join him, even after she tells him she’s married. Right from the start he finds himself obsessed with her and wants his own human plaything. And when the town’s people decide to riot and kill Talaith, Briec gets his chance, saving her and stealing her away. About a Dragon picks up about three years after the first book, with Annwyl the Bloody as queen, and dragons and humans forming an alliance. However, none of this news reaches Talaith’s small town, and as the book unfolds, we learn how Talaith’s human goddess has manipulated events in Talaith’s life. Likewise, we learn more about the dragon deities, and the history of the dragons. This expansion of mythology is equally interesting and exciting. It gives the book weight and increases the fantasy appeal. Although still not one to rate in my top of lists, the Dragon Kin series, its characters, and even the narration have grown on me. I enjoy following the adventures of this crazy, unconventional family. Their rudeness and barbaric, bloody behaviors make it a unique and compelling listen. However, after three pairs of males and females who constantly argue, I really hope for something a bit different stories. As the book went on, I grew to like Talaith, especially as her motives were unveiled. She’s a strong woman, as are most in this series. I also like that Annwyl’s character didn’t grow softer, if anything, she’s more crazy as she leads the kingdom these days. Additionally, the introduction of Izzy brings promise of fun adventures in the future. The males of the series, including Briec, seem a bit rough around the edges, yet are mesmerized and perplexed by their chosen females. I enjoy that they succumb to their feelings and revel in being with strong females. The narration by Hollie Jackson still isn’t my favorite, but by...
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Nov
4

Review + Excerpt: Ruled by Elle Kennedy

Review + Excerpt: Ruled by Elle Kennedy Ruled Author: Elle Kennedy Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: The Outlaws series by Elle Kennedy is my go-to dystopian read. I’m not even sure why. Oh, wait. I know. Ms. Kennedy has crafted a world in which I get lost. Each of the three titles has focused on people struggling with their every day conflicts—what it’s like to live in that kind of society. Ruled isn’t any different. And I adored this book. Here’s your warning, folks: if you’re not a fan of boy bits touching boy bits, this isn’t a read for you. And if ménage isn’t your thing? Consider giving this one a try—it’s… different and I loved it (even though I’m a big fan of a well-written ménage, this was still different!). We need to talk about Reese. She was introduced in the first Outlaws title. She’s portrayed as a cold-hearted witch, basically. But that isn’t the case. It was really awesome getting to know Reese. Getting inside her head. Watching her change. Sloane is Reese’s shadow. Her right-hand man. He’s been around for about five years, and has had Reese’s back for every single minute. We learn why, and I was sincerely floored. I’d had theories, but none of them panned out. Congrats to Ms. Kennedy for surprising me. Rylan. OMG. My gut wrenched for him during this book. The road to happily ever after is never easy, and everyone deserves one. Getting Reese to hers was a special brand of heartache for me. The poor woman, in charge of Foxworth, had so many skeletons in her closet it was like a haunted house at Halloween. The things that haunted her aren’t for the squeamish, and made me think. I could actually relate to Reese in a way I haven’t related to a character in a long time. The parallels I drew to myself were powerful and allowed me to take a step back and re-evaluate a few things in my own life. I highly recommend Elle Kennedy’s the Outlaws series for dystopian fans, as well as readers of romance who like things gritty and hard-hitting. I have a theory about the next couple, for the next book—but it’d be spoilery to talk about. It makes me extremely happy, though! My Rating: A+ Personal Favorite About the Book: In the latest novel in the series with the “sexiest, baddest, hottest”* outlaws around, one woman must choose between the two men who want...
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