Recommended Reads From April

Looks like April was fantasy book month for me based on this list of 4 and 5 star reads. I really don’t find it the least bit surprising that I’d be looking for something that takes away from reality right now. There are a few that are more contemporary, but they were spread out over the month.

 

Grave Concerns
Grave Concerns
Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Grave Concerns
Release Date: March 11, 2014 (First pub: 1/1/04)
Series: Rhea Lynch
Order: 4
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Medical
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: No
Heart of Ice
Heart of Ice

Heart of Stone
Heart of Stone
Author: Lisa Edmonds
Book Name: Heart of Ice & Heart of Stone
Release Date: October 9, 2017 & June 18, 2019
Series: Alice Worth
Order: 3 & 4
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: No & No

Never Dead
Never Dead
Author: M.L. Bullock
Book Name: Never Dead
Release Date: April 2, 2020
Series: Welcome to Dead House
Order: 1
Genre: Paranormal
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Killing Mind
Killing Mind
Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Killing Mind
Release Date: May 13, 2020
Series: D.I. Kim Stone
Order: 12
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Police/Crime
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes (will post May 2nd – Envie!’s May Review)

Shadow Valley
Shadow Valley
Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Shadow Valley
Release Date: March 4, 2015
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes

Broken Loyalty
Broken Loyalty
Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: Broken Loyalty
Release Date: April 15, 2020
Series: Jacky Leon
Order: 3
Genre: Urban/Fantasy/Romance
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: No

The Gladiator's Downfall
The Gladiator’s Downfall
Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: *
Release Date: *
Series: Age of Andinna
Order: #1 – 4 (First 4 of the series)
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Reverse Harem
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes

Battle Bond
Battle Bond
Author: Lindsay Buroker
Book Name: Battle Bond
Release Date: March 14, 2020
Series: Death Before Dragons
Order: 2
Genre: Fantasy/Urban
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Semi-Psychic Life
Semi-Psychic Life
Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Book Name: Semi-Psychic Life
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Series: Glimmer Lake
Order: 2
Genre: Paranormal/Urban/Family Life
Overall SPA: 4.5
Reviewed: No

Book Series Review: Age of Andinna, Kristen Banet – Book #1 – 4

Author: Kristen Banet
Series: Age of Andinna
Order: #1 – 4
Books In Series: The Gladiator’s Downfall, The Mercenary’s Bounty, The Warrior’s Assault, The Rebel’s Vision
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Reverse Harem
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb – Book #1: She’s an Andinna. A member of the winged, horned, and tailed warrior race that the Elvasi Empire defeated in the Hundred Year War and then enslaved. She’s a slave, and has been one for a thousand years, the personal property of the Empress of the Elvasi Empire, since the end of the War. She’s a gladiator, thrown onto the sands of the Colosseum to die, though it backfired on those who wanted her dead. She’s the Champion of the Colosseum, and has been for roughly nine hundred years.

All of these things have marked her as an outcast among her own people. Hated, distrusted, and despised, she knows the name of her people, but not much else.

But she knows where she stands. Keeping her head down and her blades sharp has carried her this far, and she refuses to acknowledge the deepest wishes she holds in her heart. Those will only get her killed.

Alone, she’s stood against everything they have ever thrown at her, refusing to give them what they want.

What Mave doesn’t know is that it’s all about to change.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
World Building: 5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

It isn’t often that I will pick up books that fall into the reverse harem sub-genre and it is rare that I like them when I do as they tend to jump all over my peeve button for a variety of reasons. These are the first books I’ve read that fall into that sub-genre that I genuinely thought were excellent. I decided to take a chance on these as I’ve read several other books by this author that I’ve really enjoyed and I absolutely was not disappointed.

First and foremost is the incredibly well developed world building in these books. I found it fascinating and unique, giving the reader a lot of rich details and interesting concepts like the individual races of the different characters. While those races may be loosely based on some classic mythological beings like dragons and, very slightly, elves, they are their own unique beings set in their own unique world and not anything I’ve seen before.

One of the things that stands out for me is the fact that the main character, Mave, is absolutely fierce in every way. For once you get a mature female character that can easily stand on her own two feet and doesn’t need to be coddled. She is no simpering princess and takes no BS from anyone. She is a true survivor and an absolute badass. She also isn’t perfect, not by a long shot. She has a lot to deal with and overcome, but she does so by standing in front of it and facing it head on.

What came as a surprise in these books is that, while this is a reverse harem, it isn’t the main focus of the story and comes along slowly. If anything, this is just as much a series that focuses on finding family as it does on the romance. You also spend way more time on the action going on around the characters and the conflicts of the world around them than you do on most anything else. The romance and the family building are tightly woven through everything else giving you an incredibly well balanced story.

For those that really aren’t a fan of a lot of heavy steam, you won’t get that here. There are maybe one or two scenes in each book. They don’t go too heavy on the detail and don’t take up a lot of page space. They are easily skimmed or skipped if you really aren’t interested. For those that do like a lot, this could be a disappointment, but you still get some and there is enough amazing storytelling going on around it to make up for it.

This was such a surprising series and I’m a little amazed at how much I really ended up loving it. So much so, that this may have pushed this author into my auto buy group. The first to be added to that group in a really long time.

I do want to note that there are more than 4 books in this series. When I first considered picking these up, I saw a box set or collection available, so made the assumption that the series was finished. It is not and book 4 makes that beyond obvious as it leaves off at a place that is as close to a cliffhanger as you can get without actually being one. The next book in the series is due out in June 2020.

*Cover art and blurb are only for book #1.

 

Recommended Reads From March

I haven’t written many reviews recently, but have still been reading a ton. I’ve also gotten away from posting any kind of TBR. I thought I might try posting a sort of a reverse TBR, instead. Basically a list of books I read over the month that I’d recommend instead of what I intend to read.

All books will be 4 to 5 star ratings and books that I enjoyed enough to say, “Hey, you should maybe pick this one up!” All books will also be books I read in that month, but not necessarily books released in that month. Not sure if it is something I’ll stick with, but thought I’d try it out, just for something different.

Based on this list, I’d say I had a decent month when it comes to books I enjoyed. The massive number of books that start with an “S” was purely luck and completely unintentional.

Badger to the Bone
Badger to the Bone
Author: Shelly Laurenston
Book Name: Badger To The Bone
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Series: Honey Badger Chronicles
Order: #3
Genre: Urban/Fantasy/Romance/Humor
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed: Yes – HERE

The Queen's Bargain
The Queen’s Bargain
Author: Anne Bishop
Book Name: The Queen’s Bargain
Release Date: March 10, 2020
Series: The Black Jewels
Order: 10
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: Yes – HERE

Suddenly Psychic
Suddenly Psychic
Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Book Name: Suddenly Psychic
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Series: Glimmer Lake
Order: 1
Genre: Paranormal/Women’s Fiction/Family Drama/Romance
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes – Will post on 4/2/2020 (Also for Envie! Book Review)

Shifting Dreams
Shifting Dreams
Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Book Name: Shifting Dreams
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Series: Cambio Springs
Order: 1
Genre: Urban/Fantasy/Romance
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Bounty
Bounty
Author: K.N. Banet (Kristen Banet)
Book Name: Bounty
Release Date: March 14, 2020
Series: Kaliya Sahni
Order: 1
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: Yes – HERE

Smoke Bitten
Smoke Bitten
Author: Patricia Briggs
Book Name: Smoke Bitten
Release Date: March 17, 2020
Series: Mercy Thompson
Order: 12
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: No
Spiked
Spiked

Summoned
Summoned
Author: C.P. Rider
Book Name: Spiked & Summoned
Release Date: August 14, 2019 & November 30, 2019
Series: The Sundance
Order: 1 & 2
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: No
Heart of Malice
Heart of Malice

Heart of Fire
Heart of Fire
Author: Lisa Edmonds
Book Name: Heart of Malice & Heart of Fire
Release Date: June 5, 2017 & May 29, 2018
Series: Alice Worth
Order: 1 & 2
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: No

Shatter the Earth
Shatter the Earth
Author: Karen Chance
Book Name: Shatter the Earth
Release Date: February 5, 2020
Series: Cassandra Palmer
Order: 10
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Book Review: Bounty, Kaliya Sahni – Book #1

Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: Bounty
Release Date: March 14, 2020
Series: Kaliya Sahni
Order: #1
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Kaliya Sahni.
Tribunal Executioner. Bounty hunter. The last nagini.

Her reputation is larger than the desert she lives in.

Dangerous. Irresponsible. Antagonistic.

When a friend asks her to look into a supernatural bounty on a human, Kaliya finds herself taking the first steps into a conspiracy that had been in the shadows for nearly a decade. Too intrigued to get out before it’s too late, she dives straight into the deep end, ready to discover the truth.

When the mysterious bounty takes a personal turn, she knows there’s no turning back, no putting the lid back on the box.

It’s all or nothing in her world and Kaliya doesn’t like to lose.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This is set in the same world as the Jacky Leon series but can be read on it’s own. Like that series, you get many of your typical fantasy types of beings, vampires, werewolves, witches and fae, but you also get a good dose of something not typical. In this case, Kaliya’s character is a Naga. I really like that this is somewhat typical, but also with that extra twist. Kaliya isn’t the only unusual character, either.

While the base story line of this gets a clean wrap up, it also brings in a lot of other pieces that don’t get wrapped up, clearly indicating that those will be ongoing pieces to this series. There wasn’t anything hanging so hard that I’d consider it a cliffhanger, but you don’t get the satisfaction of resolving everything in this book.

This will definitely be a series I’ll be watching for the next release on.

 

 

 

Book Review: Oath Sworn, Jacky Leon – Book #1

Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: Oath Sworn
Release Date: July 15, 2019
Series: Jacky Leon
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Jacky Leon isn’t someone who goes looking for trouble. She owns a bar, pays her taxes, and serves her drinks cold outside a small town in Texas. The fact that she’s a werecat is just something she’s had to live with. Alone in her territory, she’s lived a secretive life for six years: under the radar, avoiding her past and the baggage that comes with it.

Trouble finds Jacky, though, in the form of an eleven year old girl and a werewolf turf war just outside her borders. Forced to honor an ancient treaty and the Laws of the supernatural world, Jacky swears an oath to protect Carey Everson, the human daughter of a local werewolf Alpha from Dallas.

When his enemies come after Jacky and her charge, she’s going to have to embrace the more dangerous side of who and what she is. She’s going to have to challenge the very Laws that govern her kind.

And nothing is going to stop her from honoring her word.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
World Building: 4.5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

I already tend to be a sucker when kids or taking care of kids takes a big role in a book. Combine that with a fantasy book with shifters in it and I could not pass this one up.

The second that “get the kid” scenario popped up in the story, I was seriously hooked. I loved how the problem of this really out there premise is presented. For one, that is kind of right up my alley as far as a kid premise goes and I’m always fascinated to see how an author can pull that theme off, if they can actually do it in a way that makes a reader believe it. Because this was a fantasy, it was a cool and unique way of presenting the problem and the author sold it really well. And believe me, I was watching that closely as I know how hard it is to make that work, so I was thrilled to see it pulled off.

That whole premise and how it ties into the world that is created here helps to add to the uniqueness factor of what would otherwise be a normal shifter style book. You get the range of paranormal creatures often seen in UF, though the main focus are the werecats and werewolves, but the background and history of this world felt new and different.

The only reason this didn’t tip over into a full 5 star range for me is that once you hit that shift in the story (a little over the half way mark), the plot slows a bit and I lose a tiny bit of what I loved about the first part.

I really enjoyed this and already have the next in the series downloaded and ready to dig into.