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Currently Browsing: urban fantasy
May
16

Review + Giveaway: Firestorm by Nancy Holzner

Review + Giveaway: Firestorm by Nancy Holzner Firestorm Author: Nancy Holzner Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: It’s been 3.5 years since the release of the previous Deadtown story, Hellhound, and I’ve been stalking the author, er… um… patiently waiting the release of the sixth and final story of Vicky Vaughn’s tales. As always, the story opens with Vicky in action, this time trying to banish a group of sirens who are causing people to plunge to their deaths off the Tobin Bridge and into the Mystic River. Aunt Mab is still around, there to help Vicky prepare for the upcoming final showdown with longtime demonic nemesis, the Destroyer. Firestorm is the exciting climax of and fitting conclusion for Ms. Holzner’s amazing Deadtown series which features a “Buffy-like chosen one” set to save the world from evil forces. The book is the culmination of every title that came before it, so you definitely want to start back at the beginning. I was concerned that with so much time passed and the intricacies of this urban fantasy arcing plotline, that I would be completely lost and playing catch up. But between reading my previous reviews and the author’s expertly placed reminders of important events, I was able to jump right into the story. In the previous book, Vicky allowed the Goddess Ceridwen inside her, and now both the Destroyer and Ceridwen are fighting for control of her body. It’s a seesaw battle, and poor Vicky is the one suffering its impacts, like when the goddess took over and when on a tear through the bars of Deadtown. The back and forth wreaks havoc on Vicky’s mental and emotional states, leaving her vulnerable and open to making poor decisions. She feels like she’s constantly being played or used and that she’s fighting against her own destiny. I liked that Vicky had to go through this final set of trials, helping her to realize what is truly important. I also appreciated that the author made sure to tie up all the loose ends with the major characters. No spoilers, but I was happy with everything! Because the focus of the book is the FINAL BATTLE, Firestorm didn’t have a standalone mystery or storyline like each of the previous titles, and I missed that aspect of Ms. Holzner’s storytelling. At times I felt the storytelling suffered from ADD because it jumped from one thought to the next, and the plot wasn’t as complex as previous tales. However, the...
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May
11

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Staked by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Staked by Kevin Hearne Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book: Staked Author: Kevin Hearne Narrator: Luke Daniels Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #8 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased Staked Warning: Spoilers of events from previous books are included in this review. Staked opens with Atticus back in Toronto, a place he swore he’d never visit again. He’s there to steal the list of all vampires in the world. While there, he runs into Joseph – the head of Hammers of God, who has retired and married. Atticus learns that Joseph has seen the errors of his youth, and now Joseph wants to help Atticus kill off the vampires. We also finally learn what happened when he was in Toronto years ago, under the name of Nigel. Meanwhile, Granuaile is in Asgard with Oden, working on a way to remove Loki’s mark. And Owen has moved to Flagstaff with Greta, where he plans to train six young humans to become Druids. As with the previous book, Staked is shared in three different POVs: Atticus, Granuaile, and Owen. This time around, there are actually three separate stories, as each of the Druids is on his/her own journey. I wasn’t as confused this time around since I was used to the jump from character to character. While I truly enjoyed listening to Staked, Atticus’s life weighs heavily on his soul, and it brought me down at times. Also, I continued to worry about what would happen to the characters, especially with Jesus’s dire prediction in the previous title. I was waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop, and didn’t feel lighten by the end of the book. I don’t like feeling this way. But as Owen would say, Atticus has really cocked things up, and I fret at how far-reaching his actions will reverberate. Although at the beginning of the book I felt the narration was off, it settled back into its usual patterns after a couple chapters. Mr. Daniels’ voices are all pretty consistent from the last book – Granuaile’s voice remains not as light as she was when we first started hearing it – and I think it’s because she’s not the same wide-eyed girl she once was. But Luke Daniels continues to provide a top-notch performance, and he does a great job with all the voices, especially the trolls. Staked is emotionally dark at times, which makes for a gripping, if not heart-wrenching,...
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May
10

Review: Dog Eat Dog World: Limited Edition Bundle by Hailey Edwards

Review: Dog Eat Dog World: Limited Edition Bundle by Hailey Edwards Dog Eat Dog World: Limited Edition Bundle Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: It’s no secret how much I adore the Black Dog Universe. I gush over them every chance I get. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, Hailey Edwards has released a LIMITED EDITION bundle with every previously released story (except Over the Moon, Gemini #6, the upcoming title due out this summer), including the shorts she’s had in other collections. And I’VE READ THEM ALL…now you can, too! Below are some quickie comments for the short stories in the collection I hadn’t reviewed and a complete reading order—with linked reviews—appears below that. Dog Days of Summer (A Black Dog Short Story) When a fan boy goes missing, all evidence points to a warg being responsible for the crime. Thierry is called to lead the hunt for the rogue, but the closer she gets to locating the boy, the further she gets from the truth. This Thierry and Shaw short story is—in true Hailey Edwards form—suspenseful. I love learning about new creatures, and the way I can feel Thierry’s disgust at times over the new one 🙂 As always, the connection between Theirry and Shaw is intense. My Rating: A+ Personal Favorite Out for Blood (A Gemini Short Story) White sand beaches, fresh tropical drinks…and three exsanguinated bodies. So much for Marshal Ayer’s transfer to the island of St. Kitts being a vacation. Marshall Eileen Ayer spent some time in Edelweiss Mental Institution, and when she returned to duty she was stationed in the Caribbean. Called in to help with the investigation of a couple murders, she’s on the receiving end of the attentions of one Taye Jones. First, I loved seeing Marshall Ayer again. I’d wondered what had gone down with her. Second, I’m diggin’ Taye. Third, vampire and chupacabras. My paranormal heart is beating a rapid rat-a-tat-tat. My Rating: A+ Personal Favorite The Bakers Grimm (A Gemini Short Story) When two struggling business owners compete for the contract of a lifetime, it’s all bakers on deck. Mix in a dollop of rivalry, a tablespoon of romance, and a pinch of magic, and you’ve got the recipe for one heck of a bake-off. May the best decorator win! Here’s a cute little short—a Rumplestilskin-inspired tale—set in the Gemini branch. We’re dropped back into Wink, TX at a cookie shop called Lookie’s Cookies. Our main character is Millie—Decker Comeaux’s daughter, from other...
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May
4

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Shattered by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Shattered by Kevin Hearne Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book: Shattered Author: Kevin Hearne Narrator: Luke Daniels Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #7 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased Shattered Warning: Spoilers of events from previous books are included in this review. Shattered opens with the exciting addition of Atticus’s arch-druid, Owen, fresh off one of the time islands and unaware of the millennia that have past since he was last awake. As Atticus and Oberon work to acclimate Owen to the twenty-first century, Granuaile takes her own Druidic journey and heads to India to meet up with Latcha and save her father from a demonic possession. So much happened in Shattered! It was exciting to listen to; however, it did get confusing at times. This time around the story is shared by three voices (Atticus, Granuaile, and Owen) and two different POV tenses (Atticus in past tense, while Owen and Granuaile are present tense). Additionally, there are time lags and overlaps between the different narrators which left me scrambling at times to keep up. The overall stories of the Tuatha Dé Danann chasing after Atticus AND Loki’s intentions for Ragnarök, seem to take a backseat in this one… at first. But then the pieces of the puzzle slowly lock into place until BAM! two huge reveals and a lot of forward momentum. In fact, the events are so huge, that there will be impacts from the revelations for a long time. I loved the addition of Owen, Atticus’s arch-druid, who is now physically younger than Atticus (even tho he looks older) by a couple millennia. Atticus helps restore his body to a more youthful state and acclimate him to the modern times. His POVs add additional comic relief and thoughtful insight to the tale. Allowing the pair to come to terms over their past filled a void I didn’t realize was there. Watching teacher become student was humbling for both. I also enjoyed the addition of Orlla, Granuaile’s Irish wolfhound, and look forward to the time when she and Oberion can speak together. I spent a lot of the book fretting for Granuaile. Between the ominous predictions from Jesus and Granuaile’s own hindsight on her actions, I seriously was afraid of what would happen by the end of the book. No spoilers – something significant does occur, and I survived the tale. haha. But not since the battle with the Norse pantheon in...
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May
3

Review: Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller

Review: Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller Borrowed Souls Author: Chelsea Mueller Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Callie’s brother Josh is in trouble and the only way to get him back alive is to do the bidding of drug lord Ford. For her task, Callie must borrow a soul from the Soul Charmer and commit a crime. But it’s not that easy. The Charmer insists Callie work for him for two weeks in exchange for the soul saying she doesn’t have enough cash to outright loan it. The Charmer is intrigued by Callie’s soul, and Callie may be getting way more than she bargained for. In Ms. Mueller’s fascinating new Soul Charmer series, souls are pawned for cash or other favors. The Soul Charmer is able to wield “soul magic,” allowing him to take souls from and place souls in bodies. One can trade their for a short time to get cash, or borrow another to sin without repercussions on your own soul. The mythology is completely unique and unlike anything I’ve read before, which is one of the reasons I was drawn to Borrowed Souls. As the first book in a new series, there is a lot of world-building, but it’s not heavy-handed or shared via info-dumping. The author leaves clues about the world in dialogue and descriptive scenes. The reader learns about soul magic as Callie is exposed to this dangerous trade. Callie is rather naive at times, even though she comes from a rough childhood and her mom is a bit of a con artist. I like that Callie has to work for her badass UF heroine status; she’s not born with powers or have innate fighting abilities. Try as she might, Callie just can’t be mean, which gives her a soft edge. Callie makes mistakes, sometimes costly ones, but she seems to learn from her situation and move forward. Callie works as part of a soul repo team for two weeks to earn a day use of a soul. The Soul Charmer pairs Callie with Derek, the muscle to shake up those who are delinquent on returning borrowed souls. Derek is the strong, silent type, but Callie forms a bond with the big guy fairly quickly. She also has difficulty hiding her attraction to Derek, and soon the pair find themselves a couple. I LOVE Derek. He’s kind and good, giving someone for Callie to trust. She’s got so little good in her life, and Derek fills all...
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May
2

Review: Cold Reign by Faith Hunter

Review: Cold Reign by Faith Hunter Cold Reign Author: Faith Hunter Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: All of the familiar players are back in the eleventh story in the Jane Yellowrock series: Jane and Beast, the Youngers, Bruiser, Leo, Edmund, Derek, Grégoire, the Robere twins, Gee, Brute, Ricky, etc. Leo, of course, is so insufferably arrogant (yet necessary) that I kind of wished Jane would just kick him, but Jane’s family, Clan Yellowrock, becomes more endearing and fascinating by the minute. This growing assemblage of personalities is my favorite part of Cold Reign, and Jane is infinitely better for their presence in her life. In Cold Reign, Jane is once again trying to stop an attack aimed at Leo Pellessier, the Mithran Master of the city of New Orleans. Despite Leo’s secrecy and manipulations, Jane is now fully aware of what might be lost if Leo falls, and knows that turning her back on it all would be far too costly for everyone, including her. To say that it’s a complex situation is a gross understatement, but Jane’s learned a thing or two since her arrival and uses it to her advantage without a flinch. As to Jane, she’s become one of my favorite characters ever, and I truly feel invested in the life she’s been building for herself. She’s got scars. Lots of them. But, she’s earned every one, and has managed to find some happiness, too. No longer the obstinate, wounded loner, she’s a richer character all-around, and in Cold Reign, it seemed more evident than in any of the previous novels. Jane’s evolution is reflected in the narrative as a whole, and Cold Reign benefits from the effect it has on the other elements of the story. There are some really funny moments sprinkled throughout, made even more so because of their irreverence and borderline impropriety, thanks to Jane’s “quirkiness”—which seems to be catching. Likewise, there’s serious romance going on here that Jane absolutely deserves, even if she’s disgusted with herself just a little. I thought it was completely wonderful. Eleven books in, and the Jane Yellowrock series keeps getting better and better. And unlike many other long-running series, it has remained consistently strong and downright riveting more often than not. Jane still stumbles occasionally, but rarely now, and her determination to learn whenever she does makes me love her even more. While Jane’s understanding of the world she’s become embroiled in continues to grow, it is her own...
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Apr
27

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Hunted by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Hunted by Kevin Hearne Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book: Hunted Author: Kevin Hearne Narrator: Luke Daniels Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #6 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased Hunted Warning: Spoilers of events from previous books are included in this review. After completely enjoying the previous title, Trapped, I couldn’t wait to get into Hunted; however I was a bit apprehensive over what would happen to my favorite trio of characters as life seemed to be going “too good” for them. Of course, life didn’t stay safe, and the opening of Hunted was rather surprising as the Morgain helps fight off the Roman-Greco goddesses of the hunt to save Atticus. She confides in Atticus some rather telling information that made me relook at her character. Now Artemis and Diana are hunting Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon across Europe to seek retribution for perceived losses, and all of Europe has been struck with Pandemonium, preventing their escape to Tír na nÓg. I love that Hunted is a blend of pure adventure as well as a mystery to be solved. Someone/s is out to end Atticus and has recruited a number of players in the effort. Not only are the Olympic pantheons after him, but there are vampires, dark elves, and gods tracking his every move. Oh, and Loki is on the loose, again. Finding out that Jupiter, Zeus, and Odin are following along and watching the chase for entertainment is the perfect nod to the classic tales. The battles are epic and even a bit frightening. Meanwhile, Atticus believes a powerful fae is orchestrating the efforts against him, and his weariness and fear had me on the edge of my proverbial seat. With so much going on, I thought I’d be lost, but rather, I was completely engaged as I followed along the frantic chases. The book also treats us to chapters from Granuaile’s POV. While the first time it occurred it almost felt out of place, later I realized it was setting me up for the events to come. I enjoyed seeing life through her younger and unfettered eyes. Although, being Atticus’s apprentice and now companion has forced Granuaile to quickly mature and deal with the ugly. Granuaile’s perspective and powers, along with her powerful feelings, adds so much to the series and each story. She balances Atticus perfectly, and I simply love how much Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon have become a genuine team....
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Apr
20

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Trapped by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Trapped by Kevin Hearne Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book: Trapped Author: Kevin Hearne Narrator: Luke Daniels Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #5 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased Trapped Warning: Spoilers of events from previous books are included in this review. Twelve years have past since the last book, and Granuaile has finished her Druidic apprenticeship. Looking for a safe place to bind her to Gaia, the earth, Atticus discovers that Loki is free and the Olympus pantheons are plotting against him. Now the pair, along with best hound friend, Oberon, are trapped between a rock and a hard place unsure who to trust, as they try to find a safe place to tie Granuaile to the earth. Oh I really, really enjoyed Trapped. I love the deepening connections Atticus and Granuaile. The book isn’t about romance, but their love is true and a perfect addition to the overall mythology and storylines. Stories are best when the reader/listener connects with the characters, developing a relationship with them. In this case, I’ve grown to care about Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon, making their journeys more exciting and emotional. And all three characters have matured so much since the first book. Especially Granuaile, who is now a full Druid. Yet she still has so much awe for the world around her. Having Atticus reconnect and rediscover the wonders of the earth and other planes through Granuaile, in effect allows me the same discoveries and awe-inspiring experiences. I also appreciate and am extremely thankful of the direction the author has taken with the overall story arc. Atticus continues to pay for his crimes when he chose to help Leif seek revenge against Thor instead of walking away and staying neutral. It was one thing to kill Angus Og, who had been hunting him, but to assist in and cause the destruction he did to the Norse pantheon was simply outrageous. And now, over twelve years later, his actions are still causing him problems. Atticus’s introspection over his choices is the perfect blend of regretfulness and acceptance. He understands that he may never make amends and balance the scales, but he will do his best to try. However, it seems that in his effort for atonement, Atticus continues to cause more issues, and the problems he and Granuaile face just keep growing in a trickle-down effect. Luke Daniels continues to surprise and amaze me with his consistently strong...
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Apr
18

Review: Snared by Jennifer Estep

Review: Snared by Jennifer Estep Snared Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: With clues left by her late mentor, Fletcher, Gin and Silvio have started identifying the members of the devious Circle. They discover the “easiest” mark is Damian Rivera, a trust fund prince with a huge drinking problem, and Gin starts surveillance on the man, looking for any clues as to the identity of the mysterious head of the Circle. Meanwhile, Gin’s friend Jade comes to her asking for help locating her missing sister. As Gin digs deeper into both situations, she uncovers a serial killer is loose in Ashland. Once again, Ms. Estep had me glued to my Kindle as I took a ride with my favorite assassin. The Elemental Assassin books are always full of high-octane action, and Snared is no exception with its race against time – serial killer plot. While parts were fairly predictable, I found the energy surrounding Gin and her situation strong, and it pulled me in right from the start. I enjoyed learning more about the Circle and Gin’s own past. With that said, there are a few things that bugged me this time, more than usual. I genuinely enjoyed Snared, so I don’t want you to think otherwise as I list these issues, but I feel like it needs to be said. These are character flaws and/or plot devices that have started becoming repetitious, making the books predicable. First: Gin is an extremely intelligent woman; one of the smartest heroines out there. She also relies heavily on her gut instincts. So when she “hears” something or feels an ominous presence and then just walks away, saying it’s nothing… it frustrates me. We ALL know it is something, so why doesn’t Gin go with her gut instincts?! And she always seems to have facial recognition amnesia. That whole “something is off but I can’t figure out what” thing happens too often. Second: The dreams. I know the dreams are Gin’s “thing,” guiding her as if Fletcher was still around. But at this point, I find them disappointing. Too often, after recalling nothing about a significant memory from her youth, things that Gin *should* have remembered or never forgotten, she suddenly remembers something HUGE from her childhood that is just too coincidental in solving her current case. It’s just frustrating to see it over and over again, uncovering these secrets that Gin didn’t know she knew all along. Even with my frustrations...
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Apr
13

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Tricked by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Tricked by Kevin Hearne Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book: Tricked Author: Kevin Hearne Narrator: Luke Daniels Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #4 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased Tricked Warning: Spoilers of events from previous books are included in this review. Tricked opens with Atticus’s spectacular death as foreseen by the Morrigan. Her prophesy was actually a deal that Atticus brokered with Coyote in the previous book, something readers/listeners were not privy to at that time. Coyote shifted to look like Atticus and then let the remaining, avenging Norse pantheon kill him, with the help of a few thunder gods. Now Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon must move on, but first Atticus must fulfill his promise to help Coyote move some earth. Well, knowing that Coyote is a trickster god means nothing is as it would appear. After the self-serving adventures into Asgard that dominated the previous title, I was thankful to see that there were indeed consequences to Atticus’s actions. Hel has been unleashed on Earth, and she looks to start Ragnarök for her father, Loki. While this wasn’t the primary plot of the book, I was glad Atticus now realizes the mistakes he made when he indulged Leif’s vengeance. And speaking of Leif… he is back, and he has changed. Or maybe he hasn’t changed, but now that he’s used Atticus for the purpose he intended, we are privy to his true vampiric nature. I enjoyed Tricked for its Native American-based mythology. While I have no clue how much of it is based in actual beliefs, I found the story engrossing and the mythology interesting. My favorite character was the Navajo spiritual leader who brought a new level of spiritual magic to Atticus, and conversely, he learned much about the earth’s magic from Atticus. Their temporary bond was genuine and fruitful. It looks to me like the series is heading for change, with the farewells in the previous book, Hammered, and the start of new identities in Tricked. Atticus wants to focus on training apprentice Granuaile, who he is also completely taken with. I love his awkwardness around her. I also enjoyed how he opened up about his own long life to her. Granuaile, in turn, shares some secrets with Atticus that she had been internalizing. Their bond is growing stronger. I also really like the development of Oberon’s character. He’s becoming an intelligent, humorous sidekick. His nature has matured and grown...
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