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Currently Browsing: urban fantasy
Nov
15

Review: Hell Bent by Devon Monk

Review: Hell Bent by Devon Monk Hell Bent Author: Devon Monk  Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Hell Bent is the debut novel in the spin-off (or for those faithful Allie Beckstrom followers, continuation) series, Broken Magic.  We loved this new novel following Shame and the new world now lacking the magic that once dominated. Una was a faithful Allie Beckstrom follower.  She has read the complete series and was thrilled to find out that Ms. Monk was continuing the series (sort of).  Gikany however has read the first couple Allie Beckstrom novels, but did not finish the series (but will…even if Una has to twist her arm).  So, if you haven’t read the Allie Beckstrom series, it’s okay.  You can jump in with Hell Bent.  However, if you want to have the richer backstory, please read the Allie Beckstrom series. Hell Bent begins sometime after Magic for a Price ends.  Magic has been reduced to parlor tricks, it’s not nearly the killing strength and everyday usefulness it once had.  Well, unless you are soul complements – two people capable of breaking the rules of magic to bend it to their own will.  Soul complements are not common and the price of being able to wield magic in such a way has a tendency to drive the pair to madness.  Hell Bent is completely told from Shamus Flynn’s perspective.  We are deeply indebted to have his point of view.  Shame was a favorite of Una’s from the start, and it is a treat to have his inner monologue.  However, it is a double edged sword.  Shame is deeply damaged by the price paid by magic from before.  His specialty is death magic – he pulls power from the destruction of others: people, plants, engines, pain, etc.  Since the final battle with Jingo-Jingo (from the previous series) it is as if Death lives within him–is a part of him, urging him to destroy.  He struggles, dealing with it the best way he knows how – dulling it and trying to make it day by day. Terric Conely is Shame’s soul compliment and like a brother to him.  However, there is tension between them.  Soul compliments don’t just have the ability to use magic together in a VERY powerful way, but they are able to merge their very souls.  Typically the pairing are a male and female and very easily lend themselves to being a romantic relationship (as we saw in the Allie...
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Nov
5

Review: Hellhound by Nancy Holzner

Review: Hellhound by Nancy Holzner Hellhound Author: Nancy Holzner Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+, 4 Stars What I’m Talking About: Ah… the long awaited follow up to Darklands has finally arrived. Hellhound opens a couple of weeks after the dramatic conclusion of Darklands, which brought us two major events. First – Vicky’s deceased father has returned from the dead, inhabiting the body of the white falcon of Hellsmoor, a magical bird that Mallt-y-Nos, aka the Night Hag or Mistress of the Hounds, wants badly. And second – Vicky’s love, werewolf Kane, is bound to the Night Hag and will become one of her hellhounds at the next full moon (and every full moon for a year). These two events have a tremendous impact on demon-slayer Vicky Vaughn, causing her much grief as feels she must decide between her dad and her boyfriend – saving the life of only one. Hellhound opens with Boston homicide detective (and casual friend) Daniel Costello calling Vicky with news that a zombie attacked and killed three humans outside of Deadtown. For those not familiar with Ms. Holzner’s fascinating world, there was a plague several years ago that caused the death and subsequent reanimation of several humans, creating in essence zombies. Deadtown is a section of Boston that is gated and under guard where zombies and other (now out of the closet) paranormals are required to live. Zombies are, by and large, the same peaceful people they were before the plague. Vicky is brought in as a consultant because the attack bares much resemblance to an event involving the Morfran (a sort of demon, events happened in Hellforged, book 2). Soon Vicky is piecing together bits that imply both of her nemeses (her powerful cousin, Pryce, and the demon known as the Destroyer) are heavily involved. As I look back over my notes for Hellhound, I realize that a lot happens during the progress of this book. Luckily Ms. Holzner finds ways to remind readers of key actions from previous books without it coming across as info dumping or repetitive. Things are coming together for the final showdown between good and evil. The question remains – will Vicky fight alongside her family and friends for good, or will her demon mark and the Destroyer finally win over her soul? Progress is most certainly made on this front, but the sways back and forth are larger and stronger. One thing that has changed about Vicky since the last book is that...
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Oct
28

Review: Black Heart by Christina Henry

Review: Black Heart by Christina Henry Black Heart Author: Christina Henry Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A-, 4 Stars What I’m Talking About: Note: due to the nature of this series where the storyline continues from book to book, there are spoilers from the previous books in this review. When we last saw our heroine Madeline (Maddy) Black, her life was in imminent peril, with the infamous Agency Retrievers coming to destroy her soul. Not only had Maddy left the Agency (something unheard of) where she was an Agent of Death, but she had broken the rules by crossing over into the land of the dead. Black Heart begins at full throttle, and it takes a while until Maddy can catch her breath. Hoping to save Maddy, her one remaining friend Nathaniel tosses her through a portal to an unknown land. Her she begins her long journey back home. While I adore the Black Wings series, there have been a couple of reoccurring themes in the past two books that didn’t sit well with me. First, it bothers me that the author seems to be pushing Nathaniel and Maddy together, even though it’s only been a couple of weeks since her beloved husband (and father of her unborn child) Gabriel died. Second, I have been uneasy with the amount of darkness and bad karma that has descended upon Maddy. I am happy to report that both of these concerns are addressed in Black Heart. While I may not be completely happy with all of the outcomes, I am grateful for what I feel is a much more balanced book. The dark and light are more equally featured as Maddy continues her battles just to survive another day. The first part of the book is a bit different than the previous novels: Maddy is basically on her own. One of the best things about this series is the camaraderie and companionship of her make-shift family. Unfortunately for Maddy, they all abandoned her in the previous book. While she is forced to be on her own by circumstance (being tossed into a strange land), her memories of what happened just before she left renders her emotionally alone as well. However, there is life on this planet and Maddy soon bonds with a mysterious Dragon and is held captive by some strange Fae-type creatures. She also uncovers a horrific plot by the Faery Queen, Titania, to use the large bug-like Cimice, which we saw in a previous story. While...
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Oct
18

Review: Sins of the Lost by Linda Poitevin

Review: Sins of the Lost by Linda Poitevin Sins of the Lost Author: Linda Poitevin Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: B+, 3.5 Stars What We’re Talking About: ***Note: this review contains mild spoilers if you have not read the previous novels! This IS a series you MUST read from the beginning! Sins of the Lost is the third installment in the Grigori Legacy.  Gikany and Una are a bit disappointed with it.  It’s nothing we can truly point a finger at but an overall feeling as we came to the end of this novel.  This is partly due to a significant loss of character (why, oh why did this character have to die!?!?!?) but also because someone we thought highly of didn’t turn out to be who we thought they were.  Not to mention…the war that was about to commence…yeah, we are still waiting – gives the anticipation a raw edge. Our rating may seem a bit high to some after reading our general summary above.  However it is not.  In some ways, we believe what we are feeling should be natural considering the culmination of Sins of the Lost.  Gikany and Una feel a bit betrayed by Seth – someone for whom we had such hope and who let us down in a big way.  Seth had been a beacon of hope to us – someone who could have the power to stop the war between Lucifer and the One.  However, in the previous novel, Sins of the Son, Seth makes his choice – Alex.  However, by choosing Alex, in Sins of the Lost, he becomes obsessed with her.  It turns out that Seth is selfish – something we didn’t see in the previous novel.  Because of that selfishness, he forces choices and his will.  In fact, he becomes the over bearing boyfriend turned stalker that you just can’t get rid of.  This was very sad to us. Alex on the other hand continues to surprise us.  The apocalypse is pending and instead of shutting it all out and cocooning herself with just Seth until the end, she fights.  She fights and sacrifices to try to stave off the war.  Although mortal and horribly outgunned (and horribly manipulated by the immortals) she doesn’t give up.  We admire her courage and her stamina (and her stubbornness).  There are moments when she herself questions her own sanity about not giving up – those moments are poignant and powerful. But in her stubbornness she does make a choice that...
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Oct
17

Review: Cold Blooded by Amanda Carlson

Review: Cold Blooded by Amanda Carlson Cold Blooded Author: Amanda Carlson Reviewer: Twimom Rating: B-, 3 Stars What I’m Talking About: The third story in the Jessica McClain series picks up immediately after the conclusion of the previous book, Hot Blooded. Jessica, her mate Rourke, and their various pack mates and friends have just survived a nasty encounter with the crazed goddess Selena. Now the group is being questioned by a powerful witch, Tally, on the disappearance of her niece, Jessica’s friend Marcy. Marcy was kidnapped by a group of sorcerers wanting to get at Jessica. Quickly, the entire situation escalates, and Jessica and Rourke go on the run to escape and re-group. Cold Blooded is a high-octane ride, filled with crazy action and fights with several close calls. Jessica is coming into unimaginable power and has been quick to adjust, learning how to wield it with ease. While this helps Jessica and her friends as she journeys to save not only Marcy, but her father as well, sometimes I felt that solutions to problems came a little too easily for Jessica and the others. Apparently, none of the new supernaturals have learning curves if Jessica and newly made vampire Ray are examples. While Jessica did have two previous novels to work through some of the issues, in reality, only a few days to weeks have passed since she became the only female werewolf. I would have liked more failures or at least a few more struggles for Jessica as she learned about the supernatural world and her own internal controls. Jessica does wage through multiple battles before she can save Marcy or her dad.  She faces several foes this time around; it was almost too many to keep straight. The action is pretty intense and even a little gruesome at times. I enjoyed the battles most when Jess and her friends worked together as a team to defeat whatever was happening. This was one of the things I liked most about the second book: the teamwork of Jessica and her friends. This time around it felt more like Jessica was the alpha and everyone just did what she said. There wasn’t as much camaraderie. In addition, I didn’t feel as invested in her journey because something always happened to make things easy for her. There was the mysterious child prophet who gave Jessica answers and it felt a little to convenient. Then there was a friendly ghost, a crazed vampire seer, witches with spells,...
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Oct
8

Review: Stonecast by Anton Strout

Review: Stonecast by Anton Strout Stonecast Author: Anton Strout Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: C, 2.5 Stars What We’re Talking About: Note: This review contains minor spoilers. Stonecast is the sequel to Alchemystic in the Spellmasons Chronicles.  Sadly, we were disappointed in this much-anticipated continuation of the journey of Alex and her friends through this fascinating new world.  The elements that we enjoyed most in the previous novel were missing from this edition, making it a slow and difficult read. Alex is still struggling to understand and use her spellmason abilities so she can save Stanis from his father.  While she is currently unable to live in her previous home, she has set up a new lab – in the building where her brother had “allegedly” died.  When Alex finds an intruder stealing from her grandfather’s supplies, she discovers she is not the only “mystical” person in this world.  This means that Stanis’ father is not the only person looking to control Alex. Stonecast takes a very different path from the previous novel.  As Alex works to find and free Stanis, she discovers the unlikely ally in Caleb.  He is an alchemist – not a true stonemason, but able to do something similar through potions and spells.  However, Caleb’s only loyalty is to himself, and he only worries about his wellbeing and his wealth.  We learn early on that not only is Caleb the thief, but also working with Stanis’ father to break Stanis.  The torture we experience through Stanis’ point of view is disturbing and not for the faint of heart.  For Gikany and Una, it was too much.  It is not just a moment of torture but several chapters’ worth.  This led us to deeply dislike and distrust Caleb causing us to be completely flabbergasted by Alex’s immediate attraction to him.  We understand the concept of love at first sight, but seriously?  He robbed her, harmed her and Rory, and she finds herself in love?  And yet, she doesn’t trust him…how do you love someone if you cannot first trust them?  This whole scenario just struck a wrong chord with us.  Alex seemed to have some very definite moments that felt out of character and just wrong. Our favorite parts of the previous novel were Alex’s friends: Rory and Marshall.  In this novel, Alex attempts to protect her friends from harm by avoiding them, and we lost that.  There are very few moments of the banter and camaraderie that we had become...
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Oct
4

Review: Fifth Grave Past the Light by Darynda Jones

Review: Fifth Grave Past the Light by Darynda Jones Fifth Grave Past the Light Author: Darynda Jones  Reviewer: Twimom Rating: A-, 4 Stars What I’m Talking About: The fifth story of Ms. Jones’s wonderful Charley Davidson series opens just days after the conclusion of the fourth title, Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet. Due to the continuing storyline nature of this series, this review inevitably contains spoilers from the first four books. I strongly encourage new-to-the-series readers to start with the first book. So much happens between characters and in individual character development along the way, one would miss out on a lot by starting with this book. The overall feel of Fifth Grave Past the Light is finally a bit lighter after a couple of pretty dark books, and because of this, I enjoyed the book a lot more. With that said, things don’t go smoothly for Charley, and once again either Charley, or those she loves, are placed in dangerous situations. This time around, Charley’s main case involves trying to capture a male adulterer. While this case falls apart pretty quickly after Charley’s BFF Cookie tries to help, there are aspects of the case that linger throughout the entire book. Meanwhile, Charley’s apartment is quickly filling up with creepy dead women, none of which will talk to her. Solving what happened to these women (and getting them out of her apartment) becomes the focal point of the book. So much happens in Fifth Grave Past the Light, that it is difficult to write a review without letting spoilers slip. I want to chat about the different aspects and what it all means (so if you’ve read the book and want to chat, find me on twitter, please!) One of the positive things in the story is that Charley and her dad seem to be getting along a little better. They are not buddies, and she still hurts from his actions and betrayal, but she’s working out of her office again, she’s hanging out at the bar, and she’s even filling in for the bartender now and then. I’m glad to see the pair experience calmer waters. There is a LOT more of Reyes this time around. If you are a fan of Reyes, I think you will be very happy with the events in Fifth Grave. The pair spends a lot of time together in intimate settings, and their chemistry is hotter than ever! Their verbal sparring and teasing creates a lot of fun for a couple...
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Oct
3

Review: Cursed by S.J. Harper

Review: Cursed by S.J. Harper Cursed Author: S.J. Harper  Reviewer: B. Rating: B+, 3.5 Stars What I’m Talking About: Having the best track record around for resolving missing persons cases for the FBI sounds great, but it still isn’t enough to free Federal Agent Emma Monroe from the vengeance of an angry goddess. Demeter has a bad temper and a long memory, and until she’s satisfied that the Sirens have suffered enough for the loss of her daughter, Emma must endure her fate alone. But, when her new partner turns out to be the one man she can’t keep at a distance, she may have to give up everything to save them both. Trained to kill and duped into doing so with lies borne of corruption, Zach Armstrong is seeking an absolution of his own. Joining the FBI seems like a good way to atone for some of the hurt he’s caused, especially after the politics of life in his former pack lead him to start over on his own in San Diego. That his new partner has one of the highest success rates in the department, as well as the fact that she calls to him like no other woman ever has, makes the entire situation as close to perfect as he could have hoped for. As S.J. Harper, Ms. Stein and Ms. Sommersby have crafted a solid Urban Fantasy novel with Cursed, giving their main characters an intriguing mystery to solve in the midst of their internal struggles. Emma and Zach seem to be in motion the entire story, even their few moments of respite and introspection positively buzzing with the need to decipher the trouble surrounding them. It takes a good, long while to get to the bottom of the mystery, stretching the suspense out for the length of the story. Emma and Zach are extremely well paired as partners, their true natures, and the need to keep them hidden, creating sensual tension alongside the easy rapport they establish fairly quickly. They play off one another nicely and are adept at filling in the blanks the other might not see. Sexually, they can’t resist one another for long, and the attention the authors give to the chemistry between them outside of the bedroom makes their encounters more meaningful and believable for it. As much as I’m fascinated by various mythologies, stories that involve the associated deities (usually Greek and Roman) hardly ever fail to make said gods rather loathsome on some...
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Sep
24

Review: Blood Bond by Jeanne C. Stein

Review: Blood Bond by Jeanne C. Stein Blood Bond Author: Jeanne C. Stein  Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: B, 3 Stars What We’re Talking About: Blood Bond is the latest installment in the Anna Strong Chronicles, and it seems to be a transitional novel to the next story arc.  Although it is an emotionally charged novel, we felt a bit distanced from the storyline. We must make it clear, Gikany and Una started this series two books ago, with Crossroads.  Therefore we do not have a strong connection to Anna’s family, their situation and, most importantly, her relationship and history with Frey.  Blood Bond is the culmination of the history of Anna and Frey. Frey and Anna have decided to choose each other above all others.  There are many moments where Anna talks about being so utterly in love with Frey.  However, Gikany and Una feel that although they are explosive in the sack…sex is not the foundation of any long term relationship.  We do not doubt the personal connection they may have.  It is just that we do not see it.  Maybe it would be more noticeable to those that started the series from the beginning.  However, for the duration of Blood Bond the majority of their time together was slicked between the sheets.  Thankfully it was not overly graphic, but hotly passionate.  That being said, and noting that when vampires feed they require sex as part of the act, it should not have been the primary “quality” time they spent together.  We do have a few moments of “dating” but they were squashed between errands for the wedding, dealing with an overzealous detective, and grumpy old world European vampires. Maybe we would have been given more courtship at the beginning of Blood Bond if right after Frey and John-John arrived, Anna had not gotten THE call.  The most dreaded call – her mother is dying and it is time to be there.  This portion of the novel was very emotionally trying for Gikany and Una.  As some of you faithful TWITA followers know, I lost my mother to cancer.  Gikany has lost her father to a long illness several years ago, and her mother is currently battling cancer.  Needless to say, this was a very rough portion of the novel for both of us.  We are grateful to say that we feel it was handled well.  At least the family handled it well.  We liked that for her mother, Death was not the end...
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Sep
12

Review: Vengeance Borne by Amanda Bonilla

Review: Vengeance Borne by Amanda Bonilla Vengeance Borne Author: Amanda Bonilla Reviewer: B. Rating: A-, 4 Stars What I’m Talking About: Born and raised to be a soldier in a secret war against the horrors that roam the night, Jacquelyn Byrne has never known anything other than a life of bloodshed and duty. As a Waerd, she is the only thing that stands between the humans under her protection and the supernatural creatures that prey on them. With no one else she can trust, except the Bearer assigned to be her partner, she can’t afford to think of her own needs, although getting her car repaired before the winter snow makes biking to a hunt impossible would be a good idea. Micah Marinescu has felt like an outcast all his life, his strange ability to fully experience the emotions of those around him driving him to medicinal, as well as physical isolation from everyone he knows. But, when he stumbles across a woman who is his dream made flesh, he can’t resist the fire that burns within her, and suddenly finds himself wrapped up in a deadly battle he never knew existed. As a fan of the Shaede Assassin series, I was very excited to hear about this new series from Ms. Bonilla. Jacquelyn, or Jax for short, is a strong, imperfect hero who is the key player in a war against all the “nasty things that go bump in the night,” which no typical human could hope to survive. She is stubborn and beautiful, and is both resentful and defiant in the face of an insidious authority she is powerless to escape. While she makes plenty of mistakes, they don’t render her completely hopeless as they might have done. Jacquelyn also has an impressively sly sense of humor, given the circumstances, even though it is largely borne out of exhaustion more than anything else. Micah is also a great character, and possibly my favorite in Vengeance Borne. Although some of his rapid adaptation to his role in Jacquelyn’s world is conveniently attributed to his unrivaled natural “gifts,” he approaches the whole situation with an un-jaded fierceness that’s a pleasure to read. That he demands answers to questions most of the other participants gave up asking long ago makes him one of the most interesting characters, as well as one of the most endearing, in the story. Also interesting is the relationship between the Bearers, those partnered with the Waerds in order to heal them...
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