Book Review: The Unkindest Tide, October Daye- Book #13

Author: Seanan McGuire
Book Name: The Unkindest Tide
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Series: October Daye
Order: #13
Genre: Fantasy/Urban
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Hundreds of years ago, the Selkies made a deal with the sea witch: they would have the sea for as long as she allowed it, and when the time came, she would call in all their debts at once. Many people assumed that day would never come. Those people were wrong.

When the Luidaeg—October “Toby” Daye’s oldest and most dangerous ally—tells her the time has come for the Selkies to fulfill their side of the bargain, and that Toby must be a part of the process, Toby can’t refuse. Literally. The Selkies aren’t the only ones in debt to the Luidaeg, and Toby has to pay what she owes like anyone else. They will travel to the fabled Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of the Selkies, telling them to come and meet the Luidaeg’s price…or face the consequences.

Of course, nothing is that simple. When Dianda Lorden’s brother appears to arrest Dianda for treason against the Undersea, when a Selkie woman is stripped of her skin and then murdered, when everything is falling apart, that’s when Toby will have to answer the real question of the hour.

Is she going to sink? Or is she going to swim?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

Pretty sure I say this most every time I review a book this deep in a series that I like. It is incredibly HARD to write a review. I can’t say anything helpful to new readers really except, start at book 1 or you’re going to be lost. We are on book 13. Catch up, because you should be reading this now!

I can’t say anything to other readers of this series that they don’t already know. This is just as great as all the others in the series. Toby is still awesome. You get a good dose of Tybalt and the Luidaeg (always awesome). You get another great story. You should be reading this now!

So basically, you should be reading this now if you aren’t already.

 

Release Day! The Unkindest Tide

I cannot believe that I overlooked that today is release day for this book. Or that I also somehow missed putting it on my September TBR. Normally a book like this would be getting read today, but because I absolutely flubbed it, I’ll be squeezing it in as soon as I finish the one I’m on. In the meantime, go add this to your TBR!

On My TBR – September 2019 Edition

When I did the first one of these a few months ago, I thought for sure I wouldn’t end up being a fan and dropping it. Mostly because I am very much a mood reader and I didn’t think I’d ever really get through all the books on a TBR list. Oh, I’d read that number of books and then some, but not necessarily those specific books.

Now that I’m getting ARCs and requests from indie authors, this has actually been kind of helpful in keeping me focused a bit to ensure I meet my obligations. That and it has been kind of fun. So, I’m sticking with it.

There was only one book on last month’s TBR that I didn’t end up reading beyond the first couple of pages (really was not a fan of the writing and dropped it), otherwise, I had no problem getting to them all. I also only really put the books on this list that I currently have available to read or I’m expecting to release and pick up in that month, so it isn’t an excessively long list.

 

Anna
Anna

Anna
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Family Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evvie Drake Starts Over
Evvie Drake Starts Over

Evvie Drake Starts Over
Genre: Romance

 

 

 

 

 

 

September’s Anxiously Awaiting Release:

Archangel's War
Archangel’s War

Archangel’s War – Guild Hunter Book #12
Genre: Romance, Urban, Fantasy
Release Date: September 24, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

On Hold At The Library (should be in for this month’s TBR):

Brave the Tempest
Brave the Tempest

Brave the Tempest – Cassandra Palmer Book #9
Genre: Urban, Fantasy

 

 

 

 

 

 

NetGalley ARCs:

Good Girls
Good Girls

Good Girls
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Family Life
Release Date: October 8, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traces of Her
Traces of Her

Traces of Her
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Release Date: October 25, 2019
*Putting this on the list because I have it approved, but may wait until closer to the release date to actually read.

Book Review: Storm Cursed, Mercy Thompson – Book #11

Author: Patricia Briggs
Book Name: Storm Cursed
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Series: Mercy Thompson
Order: #11
Genre: Urban/Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: My name is Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman, and I am a car mechanic.

And a coyote shapeshifter.

And the mate of the Alpha of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack.

Even so, none of that would have gotten me into trouble if, a few months ago, I hadn’t stood upon a bridge and taken responsibility for the safety of the citizens who lived in our territory. It seemed like the thing to do at the time. It should have only involved hunting down killer goblins, zombie goats, and an occasional troll. Instead, our home was viewed as neutral ground, a place where humans would feel safe to come and treat with the fae.

The reality is that nothing and no one is safe. As generals and politicians face off with the Gray Lords of the fae, a storm is coming and her name is Death.

But we are pack, and we have given our word.

We will die to keep it.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Continuity: 4/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

The Mercy Thompson books always seem to be really hard for me to review. I always really enjoy them. I think they are incredibly well written. The world is awesome as are all of the characters and creatures and the layers of different mythologies all built into the stories.

All of that said, I think I’ve always liked the first several books much more than these last few. I still really like these, that hasn’t changed at all. The series seems to be holding strong and keeping with the expectations set in those earlier books. I’m just not sure it is doing much more than just meeting expectations, that the readers are ever really getting anything all that different to generate new excitement and interest. I think it is that fact that keeps these books from creeping into my favorites category and ending up on my “release day” reads list.

 

Book Review: The Blacksmith Queen, The Scarred Earth Saga – Book #1

Author: G.A. Aiken
Book Name: The Blacksmith Queen
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Series: The Scarred Earth Saga
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Humor
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb:  The Old King Is Dead
 
With the demise of the Old King, there’s a prophesy that a queen will ascend to the throne of the Black Hills. Bad news for the king’s sons, who are prepared to defend their birthright against all comers. But for blacksmith Keeley Smythe, war is great for business. Until it looks like the chosen queen will be Beatrix, her younger sister. Now it’s all Keeley can do to protect her family from the enraged royals.

Luckily, Keeley doesn’t have to fight alone. Because thundering to her aid comes a clan of kilt-wearing mountain warriors called the Amichai. Not the most socially adept group, but soldiers have never bothered Keeley, and rough, gruff Caid, actually seems to respect her. A good thing because the fierce warrior will be by her side for a much longer ride than any prophesy ever envisioned …

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Believability: 5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

When I first saw this book was the start of a new series, I was a tiny bit concerned it wouldn’t follow what I’ve come to know and love about G.A. Aiken’s style. You never really know for sure what you’re getting into with a new series and the blurb doesn’t quite do this justice, falling on the more serious side. Fans of the Dragon Kin series will be happy to know this series is set in that same world. Though there isn’t any kind of crossover just yet, the potential is there for future books.

Everything I’ve always loved about a G.A. Aiken novel is in this one. All the over the top, effortlessly badass female characters. The phenomenal, irreverent snark and humor layered into those intensely grotesque battle scenes. I don’t know another author that can make me laugh so hard about someone getting their head smashed to a pulp. Those things really shouldn’t ever be funny, but because of the way she writes, I cannot read and drink anything at the same time.

I was really surprised this went the direction it did with Keeley’s and Beatrix’s relationship. At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but I really did. It felt different for this author (unless I’ve forgotten something or missed a book in the past) to go that route.

Even though this is the same world as the Dragon Kin series and you get to see similar beings (dragons, centaurs), they are still unique to the part of the world this book is founded in. So, while similar in setting and general feel, it still has the sense of newness that I thoroughly enjoyed. The next book in this series cannot come soon enough.

For those new to G.A. Aiken, no need to worry. You won’t feel lost. If you love a little magic, a wide range of interesting types of characters, battle scenes and lots of humor (the kind that gets everyone looking at you funny when you snort, choke or belt out your most embarrassing laugh), you absolutely should be putting this one on your TBR.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Book Review: Fated, Alex Verus – Book #1

Author: Benedict Jacka
Book Name: Fated
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Series: Alex Verus
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Uban
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Alex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex’s own powers aren’t as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future–allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success.

But when Alex is approached by multiple factions to crack open a relic from a long-ago mage war, he knows that whatever’s inside must be beyond powerful. And thanks to his abilities, Alex can predict that by taking the job, his odds of survival are about to go from slim to none…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 2.5/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

I’m really on the fence with this one. For the most part I enjoyed it. Alex’s character was interesting. So was Luna’s issue with her curse. I just don’t think there was anything in particular about this book that made it stand out from any other urban fantasy out there.

I wasn’t a huge fan of how ugly every side of the magical community was portrayed (both Light and Dark), leaving Alex and maybe Luna to be what seem to be the only decent people in that community. There was plenty of focus on the actual magical parts of this, though little to no explanation of how it all works. There were also lots of action and fights for those that need loads of that in their books.

In all, this was a decent read, hitting slightly above “just okay” in the “good” range.

 

Book Review: Shadow’s Bane, Dorina Basarab – Book #4

Author: Karen Chance
Book Name: Shadow’s Bane
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Series: Dorina Basarab
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Dorina Basarab is a dhampir—half-human, half-vampire. As one of the Vampire Senate’s newest members, Dory already has a lot on her plate. But then a relative of one of Dory’s fey friends goes missing. They fear he’s been sold to a slaver who arranges fights—sometimes to the death—between different types of fey.

As Dory investigates, she and her friends learn the slavers are into something much bigger than a fight club. With the Vampire Senate gearing up for war with Faerie, it’ll take everything she has to defeat the slavers—and deal with the entirely too attractive master vampire Louis-Cesare….

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

It had been a while since I’d read any books in this series so it took me a bit to get back into it. Once I did, I was kind of kicking myself for taking so long to pick this one up, because I really enjoyed it, even if I’d felt a little lost at times because I’d forgotten so much.

I’ve enjoyed all the other books in both this series and in this world, so I don’t have a clue why I hesitated. I really like all the characters and the world and always have. I think the one thing, and it is the thing that maybe holds me back, is that these do tend to be long and sometimes feel slow even with all the action going on. You also have that constant feeling of Dory being knocked on her butt, barely getting back up and then getting knocked right back down again before she’s even gotten then chance to catch her balance. That can be hugely frustrating because it feels like you don’t get anywhere. It was great getting to see the new direct interaction between Dory and Dorina in this book, though.

I’m really torn on what to think and feel about Mircea. Anyone that is reading both this series and the Cassie Palmer series sees two very different people being presented in each of them. I get that the books are supposed to focus on Dory or Cassie (depending on the series), but Mircea is a huge tie between them and is impossible to push to the side. Especially when you have a book like this that spends a lot of time focusing on one point of his history.

As always with these books, this was a hugely entertaining read, even with the pieces I feel like I’d forgotten. It may mean it is time for a reread marathon of the two different series.

On My TBR – August 2019 Edition

The bare bones of my August TBR list, as always, I’ll probably read way more than this, but this is what is waiting to be read:

Shadow's Bane
Shadow’s Bane

Shadow’s Bane – Dorna Basarab #4 (yes, this one is a hold over from last month)

Genre: Fantasy/Urban

 

 

 

 

Fated
Fated

Fated – Book #1 Alex Verus

Genre: Fantasy/Uban/Paranormal

 

 

 

 

 

The Scribe
The Scribe

The Scribe

Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Crime

 

 

 

 

 

 

August’s Anxiously Awaiting Release:

The Blacksmith Queen
The Blacksmith Queen

The Blacksmith Queen – Book #1 in The Scarred Earth Saga

Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Comes out August 27th
Requested via NetGalley

 

 

 

 

On Hold At The Library (should be in for this month’s TBR):

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance

 

 

 

 

 

Caged
Caged

Caged

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Book Review: Year One, Chronicles of the One – Book #1

Author: Nora Roberts
Book Name: Year One
Release Date: December 5, 2017
Series: Chronicles of the One
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Science Fiction/Distopian
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she share with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most. As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

This book actually fell pretty far outside of my normal reading genres as I rarely ever read dystopian or science fiction (just not my thing). I had honestly expected a lot more of this to be on the fantasy/magical end of the spectrum and is why I picked it up, but at this point in the larger story arc of this series, you really haven’t gotten a whole lot of it.

When it comes to believability in a story, you can get away with a lot more when it is because of magic and this book’s main premise is based on that fact, otherwise there would be some issues with how so many of the world’s population died. The basis does work, but it stretches to get there. The magical aspects fall on the flimsy side of things for me because there is never much explanation behind it. I get that much of that is supposed to come later in the series storyline, but it leaves readers in this place where they are expected to believe in it just because they are told to without any kind of foundation to support it.

There were some characters I really liked, that came across as layered and interesting, but I struggled with Lana’s character. She just kind of came across as a bit… not flighty exactly, but the dreamy sighs attitude of “It was meant” seemed a bit repetitive and too much, as though she really wasn’t fully grounded in the horror of the world around her. Max wasn’t much better.

For the most part, I felt the story was interesting and I was invested in where it was going. Then you get this shift and things change. Suddenly every character that the reader has been introduced to gets dropped off the page. I kept expecting to get back to some of their perspectives, but it never happens. When I finally got to the end, I was kind of wondering what the point was of getting anything at all from their perspective in the first place. You get all these threads of their stories and then they are all just dropped.

The final piece that really kept this from being a really good story for me was how the last 1/4 or so of the book wraps up and the events in that wrap up. I’m not going to go into spoiler levels here, but lets just say it really did not work for me when it came to character relationships.

I have the next book on my TBR, but I have a feeling it is is going to be one that I keep setting aside in favor of other books I’d much rather read.

Book Review: Demon Magic and A Martini, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book #4

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Demon Magic and A Martini
Release Date: April 12, 2019
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #4
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When I first landed a bartending job at the local guild, I didn’t know a thing about magic. These days, I’m practically an expert on the different magical classes, but there’s one nobody ever talks about: Demonica.

Turns out they have a good reason for that.

My guild is strictly hellion-free, but some people will risk life and soul to control the biggest bullies on the mythic playground. And now a demon has been loosed in the city.

My three best friends are determined to slay it, but even badass combat mages are critically out-magicked. And that’s not all. The monster they’re tracking–it’s not hiding. It’s not fleeing. It’s not leaving a trail of corpses everywhere it goes.

The demon is hunting too. And in a city full of mythics, it’s searching for deadlier prey.

If we can’t unravel the demon’s sinister motivations, more innocent people will die, but finding the answers means digging into dark secrets … and learning truths I never wanted to know.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

Wow. This one got way more intense and serious than the previous books. You still get doses of that fun, funny, snarkiness that has been something of a hallmark for all the books up to this point, but not nearly the amount as before.

If I had to say that any of the guys got a book, this one would be Ezra’s. You learn a lot about him, his powers and his history in this. And some of that is pretty intense in a way I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it in the series going forward.

I’m even more iffy on how there is now this jumping attraction thing going on from Tori with the guys. This isn’t a reverse harem story and isn’t classified as romance in any of the genre tags, but there is definitely attraction and flirting in the previous books. Now we are seeing the object of that attraction shifting onto another guy in the group, making Tori’s character start to seem a little flighty where she hasn’t been so far, which is a little disappointing as I’ve loved pretty much everything about her character up until now.

This is still a really good story, but I have my concerns about the direction it may take in future books. So far, this really hasn’t felt like a NA/YA book, even if the character ages fit the genre, but some of the ways I see this potentially going will bring some of my least favorite elements that genre into this series.

Book Review: Two Witches and A Whiskey, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book #3

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Two Witches and A Whiskey
Release Date: February 8, 2019
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #3
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Three months ago, I landed a job as a bartender. But not at a bar—at a guild. Yeah, the magic kind.

I’m not a badass mage like my three smokin’ hot best friends. I’m not a sorcerer or an alchemist, or even a wussy witch. I’m just a human, slinging drinks like a pro and keeping my non-magical nose out of mythic business. Seriously, I know my limits.

So why am I currently standing in a black-magic ritual circle across from a fae lord?

Somewhere behind me, my three mage friends are battling for their lives. Somewhere near my feet is the rogue witch I just knocked out with a stolen spell. And I have about five seconds to convince this very angry sea god not to shmoosh me like a bug.

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t part of the job description.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I’m still loving these books. I’m sadly at that point with reviews, though, where I feel like I’m going to be saying all the same things. I love Tori’s character. I love that she is special because she kind of isn’t. I love the guys. I love how they have this amazing friendship between them all. I’m still loving the world and how it works. This fits all of those, same as the previous books.

Of the first three books, this one delves just a little deeper into Tori’s need to fit in. I like seeing this aspect of her character. I’m a little worried that after this book she is going to lose some of what I’ve liked about her up to this point, the pieces that made her stand out from the other characters, so I’m anxious to see where that overarching thread goes in the next books. It also has a couple of scenes that were super sweet and touching, which was a nice shift from either funny or intense.

So, yes. Still enjoying the hell out of these and hope they continue to be just as fun as the first three.

Book Review: Dark Arts and a Daiquiri, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book #2

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Dark Arts and a Daiquiri
Release Date: November 18, 2018
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #2
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When I found myself facing down the scariest black-magic felon in the city, practically daring him to abduct me, I had to wonder exactly how I ended up here.

It all started when I accidentally landed a job as a bartender—but not at a bar. At a guild, populated by mages, sorcerers, alchemists, witches, and psychics. Good thing this lame-o human is adaptable, right?

Then my favorite guild members—three sexy, powerful, and intermittently charming mages—asked for my help. Did they want access to my encyclopedic knowledge of cocktails? Oh no. They wanted to wrap me up in a pretty ribbon and plunk me in the crosshairs of a murderous rogue to lure him out of hiding.

So that’s what we did. And that’s why I’m here. About to be kidnapped. Oh, and our grand plan for safely capturing said murderous rogue? Yeah, that completely fell apart about two minutes ago.

Why did I agree to this again?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 3.5/5 Stars
World Building: 4/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This was another fun read that I really enjoyed.

When things first got going, I was a little worried and disappointed as it looked like we weren’t going to see much, if any, page time from the guys from the guild in the last book, which was really disappointing. It took a little bit, but I got over that and got into learning about a couple of new characters that I really hope to see again in later books.

I loved getting to learn more about the magical world in this series. It has a few typical things for this genre, but it also steps outside of the typical in many other ways, which was exciting. I like the newness of that, though I feel like there were certain aspects that didn’t get clarified to my liking.

You still get some attitude from Tori, but you don’t see it nearly as much in this book as the last one and I missed that. One of the things I love the most about the first book was her snark and sass and that was toned down quite a bit in this one.

It was still a really good book and I’m off to the next one!

 

 

Book Review: Three Mages and A Margarita, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book 1

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Three Mages and A Margarita
Release Date: September 14, 2018
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Broke, almost homeless, and recently fired. Those are my official reasons for answering a wanted ad for a skeevy-looking bartender gig.

It went downhill the moment they asked me to do a trial shift instead of an interview—to see if I’d mesh with their “special” clientele. I think that part went great. Their customers were complete dickheads, and I was an asshole right back. That’s the definition of fitting in, right?

I expected to get thrown out on my ass. Instead, they… offered me the job?

It turns out this place isn’t a bar. It’s a guild. And the three cocky guys I drenched with a margarita during my trial? Yeah, they were mages. Either I’m exactly the kind of takes-no-shit bartender this guild needs, or there’s a good reason no one else wants to work here.

So what’s a broke girl to do? Take the job, of course—with a pay raise.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

This was such a fun and exciting read! It was cute and funny and intense. While there are typical elements found in a lot of other books in this genre, this one felt a little new and different from what I normally see.

One of those differences, and probably one of my favorites, is that our main character isn’t some magical badass hero. She is a human that stumbles into the magical side of this world. She doesn’t have any special powers, unless you consider snark and smartass to be super powers (which I kinda do). She is also bold and gutsy. Powers or no, she can hold her own, which I really enjoyed.

The guys are also funny, but not class clowns that can’t take things seriously, a deadly combination when it comes to character personalities in my book. While they are magical badasses to some extent, they aren’t invincible, their best being when they work together.

Another thing that I really loved about this was that, while there were all kinds of flirty teasing going on, this wasn’t an overblown romance. There is definitely some interest going on, but that isn’t the focus of the story. I love a good romance in a book, but it is nice every once in a while to see something a little different.

I enjoyed this so much I’ve already got the next one in the series cued up and ready to go.

 

 

 

Book Review: Tethered to the World, Phantom Touched – Book 1

Author: Stacey Brutger
Book Name: Tethered to the World
Release Date: June 19, 2019
Series: Phantom Touched
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal Romance/Reverse Harem
Overall SPA: 3.5
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: ONE TOUCH CAN SAVE YOU FROM CERTAIN DEATH…OR SENTENCE YOU TO AN ETERNITY IN HELL.

Born with the ability to defy death, Annora has been warned to keep her gift secret, but her greedy uncle can’t resist exploiting her by any means necessary. Starvation, beatings, broken bones–she’s survived them all and emerged stronger. But it’s not enough for him. It will never be enough. When she discovers her uncle plans to sell her to the highest bidder, she risks everything to escape the prison that has become her life.

The last thing she expected was to land at a university for supernaturals…or be paired with a pack of men as broken as her. As students go missing, Annora can’t get over the suspicion that she’s being hunted. To protect her, the guys must set aside their personal troubles and begin working as a team. But as her past collides with her present, she must make the ultimate sacrifice and expose her secrets to save the guys who’ve become more than family to her…and hope she’s strong enough to live with the consequences.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

A couple of areas got dinged in this for me. One is the missing genre tags on Amazon. This was not marked as being a Reverse Harem. Yes, I really should have picked that up from the blurb, but didn’t. I also should have checked Goodreads as it does have that tag there, so this is only a small ding. The other missing tag is the new adult tag. I’m also not giving this a heavy ding with that because you don’t actually know the ages of the guys, but Annora is mentioned as being 20 and this has a college like setting, though that isn’t the bulk of the plot. This skirts the edges of that tag, but it still kind of applies.

The other one, and this one is a big one for me as it is a massive peeve of mine, is that this ends in a huge cliffhanger. More times than not, I will avoid books with a cliffhanger because they tick me off. Especially when it is a new book and the other books in the series haven’t even been written yet as is the case with this book. I have no problems with continuing story arcs across a series, but I need each book in that series to have an encapsulated story that gets wrapped up in each book. Or at least comes to a clean end. This is one great big cliff to hang on to, which really irritated me as I did really enjoy the rest of the book.

Even though I haven’t been a huge fan of reverse harem books in the past, this one was done pretty well so far. There aren’t a lot of games played within the group. None of the typical teeny-bopper-angsty drama. I did tend to get confused early on as to which one of the guys was which. There were a couple of times I was certain the wrong name was used in referring to one of the guys. The characters are decently mature, intelligent and likable (loved Mason) and I loved their different shifters and abilities.

I am a bit of a sucker for shifter type stories and even more so when they aren’t all the typical shifters. You absolutely get the not typical in this, which was a really refreshing take on that theme, with the exception of the wolves being on the stereotypical side as the mostly bad guys.

I’m not a huge fan of the college like setting as it isn’t something I typically enjoy and, so far, that setting hasn’t really been justified. There isn’t much of an actual purpose to it, which makes it even less appealing to me. Past that and the issues I mentioned above, I enjoyed the story and the interesting shifters and characters. I mostly enjoyed the world being built here, but there isn’t enough of it to really understand it yet.

Will I read the next book in the series? Probably, but depending on where it goes, it would be just as easy for me to drop it after that.

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 4/5 Stars

I thought this cover was really pretty and I love the effect it creates. I probably like the cover way more than I like the book.

On My TBR – July 2019 Edition

I normally don’t have a set TBR as I tend to pick up and read what I’m in the mood for at the time. I do have several lists in various different genres that I’ll use to pick from when I’m in the mood for that particular genre or I just go dig through new releases or new additions to my local library.

Now that I’m getting ARCs and picking up more books based on what I’m seeing other bloggers reading, I’ve decided to try and keep an actual TBR. These are the books I’m looking to read in the near future. Knowing me and my reading habits, this list is likely to change drastically within a week or two, but we will see how it goes if I shoot for a full month. I seriously doubt these will be the only books I read this month and there is a chance one or two get the procrastination shove to the bottom of the list, but it is a place to start.

So, what is currently on my shelf:

A Stranger On The Beach
A Stranger On The Beach

A Stranger on the Beach

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Thriller/Mystery/Suspense

*This is an ARC

 

 

 

The Need
The Need

The Need

Genre: Thriller/Mystery/Suspense

 

 

 

 

 

The Place On Dalhousie
The Place On Dalhousie

The Place on Dalhousie

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life

 

 

 

 

 

The Road She Left Behind
The Road She Left Behind

The Road She Left Behind

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life

 

 

 

 

 

Shadow's Bane
Shadow’s Bane

Shadow’s Bane – Dorna Basarab #4

Genre: Fantasy/Urban

 

 

 

 

 

Winds of Fate
Winds of Fate

Winds of Fate – Valdemar: Mage Winds #1

Genre: Fantasy

Book Review: The Witchkin Murders, Magicfall – Book 1

Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis
Book Name: The Witchkin Murders
Release Date: June 7, 2019
Series: Magicfall
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Urban Paranormal Romance
Overall SPA: 3.25
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Four years ago, my world—the world—exploded with wild magic. The cherry on top of that crap cake? The supernatural world declared war on humans, and my life went straight to hell.

I used to be a detective, and a damned good one. Then Magicfall happened, and I changed along with the world. I’m witchkin now—something more than human or not quite human, depending on your perspective. To survive, I’ve become a scavenger, searching abandoned houses and stores for the everyday luxuries in short supply—tampons and peanut butter. Oh, how the mighty have fallen, but anything’s better than risking my secret.

Except, old habits die hard. When I discover a murder scene screaming with signs of black magic ritual, I know my days of hiding are over. Any chance I had of escaping my past with my secret intact is gone. Solving the witchkin murders is going to be the hardest case of my life, and not just because every second will torture me with reminders of how much I miss my old life and my partner, who hates my guts for abandoning the department.

But it’s time to suck it up, because if I screw this up, Portland will be wiped out, and I’m not going to let that happen. Hold on to your butts, Portland. Justice is coming, and I don’t take prisoners.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
This one was a hard one to rate as I liked most all of the characters, but not one of the major ones.

Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
While you have an often seen theme of the real world being changed by a catastrophic event that results in magic and magical beings, I do think it was presented in a new and interesting way.

World Building: 3/5 Stars
Like the uniqueness factor, I mostly enjoyed the world this is built on. I had a few issues with some of the founding facts of the world and how well the author made it work, basically some quirks that didn’t pan out for me.

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I liked the majority of the characters and there was a freshness to the way magic was brought into the story in this world. That said, I didn’t love it. It was a good story, but there were a few things that kept it from being a much better story for me.

I was not a fan at all of Ray’s character. He comes across as a volatile, angry, nearly abusive person and I’m never a fan of those types of characters being the love interest in the story. This has a touch of the enemies to lovers trope for those that are interested in that theme, but Ray’s character makes it hard for me to get on board with the romantic aspect of this story.

The way the introduction to magic was presented in this book was really intriguing and I was drawn in by that, but there were certain aspects of it that made it hard to believe. The idea that certain things were difficult to obtain was awesome, but it fizzled a bit in the implementation of that idea because you don’t really see the lack. If a region is cut off with regards to communication and transport of goods, there are going to be much larger issues than what you see in this book. Access to a whole lot of different foods, especially something like coffee, kind of grated on me. Mostly because there was very little explanation as to how things were obtained after transportation channels were cut off. Again, I love the idea, but it didn’t feel completely developed.

Though I wasn’t a fan of those aspects, I was still able to enjoy the story.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 2/5 Stars
I think I’m developing a peeve when it comes to covers. I get this fits the genre, but I’m kind of tired of seeing the ripped, scantily clad bodies, especially women, on most every single cover. Especially when they take up the majority of the cover and don’t really do much of anything to reflect any of the specifics in the story. I think for me it is as much about creativity as anything. How creative did you really have to get when you are doing pretty much the same cover as every other book in this genre?

Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars
I didn’t include this in the SPA because it wasn’t a horrible abuse of my peeves, but it is worth mentioning and touches a bit on my personal opinion rating. I really don’t like characters like Ray. The angry, never thinks before he speaks, volatile and damn near verbally abusive character. I can tolerate them to an extent and am more willing to do so when it is a side character or a bad guy, but I really dislike them in a lead, romantic role. I’m even willing to overlook that when it is a part of character growth, but you honestly don’t see much of that at all in this.

Also, if you are going to create a world, especially a fantasy one with a magical aspect, I really want to see it fully rounded out. If you are going to do something like in this book and say that transport between regions or even cities is near impossible, then you really need to work on how your characters survive, because in the real world, EVERYTHING is felt on a global basis. There are probably very few areas of the US that could be truly self sustaining without some severe areas of deficits. If the situation in this world had happened over a period of time so that those regions could prepare, that would be one thing, but that isn’t what happened. Granted, this is really a small potatoes issue with regards to the overall story, but it is something that I notice and it irks me a bit when it is glossed over and not actually addressed or dealt with.

There were a couple of others that I noticed while I was reading, but they weren’t really big enough to stick with me by the time I finished. The ones I noted weren’t enough to make me hate this, but it definitely impacted how much I liked it.

 

Book Review: War, House War: Book 8

Author: Michelle West (Sagara)
Book Name: War
Series: House War
Order: #8
Genre: Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: The eighth and final book in the epic fantasy House War series closes this chapter in a beloved world of magic and political intrigue, where new threats are stirring.

When the Sleepers wake.

Once, that phrase meant: never. The Sleepers were a myth, part of a story told to children. But in truth, the Sleepers, ancient princes in the court of the Winter Queen, were imprisoned in slumber by the gods themselves—in the cold, dark ruins of the ancient city that lies buried beneath the capitol of the Empire. And that prison is fraying, at last.

They are waking.

The gods no longer walk the world. There is no power that can stand against the princes when they wake—and the city that has been Jewel’s home for her entire life will be destroyed when the Sleepers walk. There is only one person to whom they owe allegiance, only one chance to halt them before they destroy everything in their ancient rage.

But that person is the Winter Queen; she is not, and has never been mortal. Jewel carries the last of the surviving saplings that might usher in a new Summer age—but all of the roads that lead to the court of the Queen are closed.

Jewel ATerafin has faced the Oracle’s test. She has control of the prophetic powers that she once considered a curse and a burden. She will find her way to the Winter Queen, and she will ask—or beg—the Winter Queen to intervene to save her kind, her House, and everything she loves.

But she is mortal, and time has never been her friend. The demons are waiting to bar her way, bringing battle to the hidden ancient paths on which she must travel. To win, she must face the true meaning of the Oracle’s test, and risk sanity and life to make the choice that has always lurked at the heart of the firstborn’s test.

And even then, it might be too late.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Series Continuity: 5/5 Stars
I don’t have much to note specifically here other than to say this book definitely stayed true to form, but this does play a huge part in my overall opinion.

Series Expectations: 4/5 Stars
As usual, this exceeds expectations in most areas. Some I saw coming and others I was surprised by in a way I’m still torn on.

Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this book as the end of the House War series. Because this is so intricately tied with The Sundered, The Sacred Hunt, and The Sun Sword series, I didn’t know for sure if this was the LAST, last book, or just the last House War book. It doesn’t feel like the end of the much larger universe and story arc that ties all those other series together.

There is so much that happens in this one book, I’m not sure how to unpack it all. Many threads that have been introduced throughout this series (and some of the other connected series) get tied up in this book, which was to be expected, but they don’t feel completely done. There are other, much larger, storyline threads outside of the House War series that are still left unfinished.

I wasn’t entirely surprised by the end result of Jewel’s journey. I am a little surprised at the specific events that get her there. I was honestly expecting different events or circumstances would be the catalyst that brought about her decision, a kind of emotional upheaval, but these weren’t. I am by no means disappointed, just… it came about differently than I thought, leaving me a little torn about my response to the actual events.

There is a conclusion to the storyline about The Sleepers, but I feel like this takes a bit of a backseat to Jewel’s story. Since she is essentially the focal character in this particular series, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think I would have liked to have gotten a better glimpse of their interaction with Meralonne, though. But that is the problem with any great character in any book, you never feel like you get nearly enough page time with any of them.

In typical fashion, I get to the last page and I wasn’t ready for it to BE the last page. There are still lots of threads left unfinished, even the threads of many of the focal characters in this series. There are still so many characters in this series that I’m not ready to see the last of. This book, even being the end of the House War series, means that I don’t have to see the last of them just yet. I’m hopeful that means we will still get more of the specific characters in THIS series, wherever the larger storyline takes us.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 5/5 Stars
I have to be a bit giddy about this cover. I have loved the art on ALL the covers of this series. They all hold an extremely consistent look and feel and this blends in perfectly with the rest. I cannot get over all the detail and how deeply this (and all the other covers) reflect the events in the book.

World Building: 5/5 Stars
It is probably obvious if you were to look at my favorites list that this falls into one of my favorite series. It is because of the world building in this series that I love it so much. Fair warning, though! You’ve GOT to read the books in order to truly understand what is going on, that means the books across all the different series. You may be able to pick up one of the series and not feel entirely lost if you read from the beginning of that series, but you would be missing out on some of those finer details and underlying pieces that are so essential to the whole.

There is so much detail and intricacies woven throughout this as a whole. I honestly don’t think I’d want to ever be in the author’s head. To be able to hold it all together and keep it in line and consistent is kind of astonishing.

 

 

 

Book Review: Eric Carter Series – Books 1 – 4

As usual, I can’t do things the easy way. Instead of my first book review under the new system being… oh, I don’t know, a single book? I have to do a review on a series. Or at least the first four books in the series so that is going to make this interesting, but I’m gonna just go with it.

Author: Stephen Blackmoore
Book Name: Dead Things, Broken Souls, Hungry Ghosts, Fire Season
Series: Eric Carter
Order: #1-4
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 2.7 Stars

2.5 Stars

 

 

 

Normally, I’d post the blurb here, but since this is 4 books I’m going to just do my best to summarize them as a group (fair warning, I suck at general summarizations). These books are set in the modern world with the added bonus of magic. Ghosts and gods are real. Magic casters are mages and there are different types. All those types are apparently all arrogant assholes, including the main character. It pretty much actually says that in the books, this isn’t just my opinion. The main character, Eric Carter, is a necromancer. While there are a handful of supporting characters, they don’t really move much from book to book. They are there for a book or two and then they are done. Eric spends all of his time in all these books constantly trying to stay alive from all the various different people or beings that want him dead.

 

Cover: 3 Stars
Again, discussing these as a whole, they have a similar style, but aren’t very consistent with regards to the look of the main character. There is not a lot going on that applies to the books outside of that central figure. While the art is nice, I don’t feel like any of them are spectacular or particularly eye grabbing.

Blurb: 3 Stars
This is kind of a non-issue here as, obviously, the first book was enough to bring me in. I didn’t actually pay much attention to the others after that.

Characters: 2 Stars
I had a particularly hard time with this as I never really liked any of them. I kind of went back and forth on Eric, but the farther into the series I got, the less there was to make him appealing.

Plot/Themes: *
I’m not using this one in this rating because I feel like it is covered in the other areas. Besides, doing this as a series makes this one a little too broad overall.

Uniqueness Factor: 3 Stars
While many of the basic concepts in this were in line with a lot of other books in this genre, this focused more on the necromancy and brought in a lot of Aztec mythology, which was new for me.

Problem Free/Editing: 5 Stars
All four of these were really clean. Nothing jumped out at me as problematic or annoying.

World Building: 3 Stars
This was a tough one to call as there was a lot going on in these books. A whole lot of thought and planning absolutely went into them. The one thing that bothered me, and it cropped up multiple times, is that the author never really gets into the meat of the magic system and how it works, yet this is a prominent aspect of all of these books. The system just apparently works if the person wants it to. You do get a few little bits here and there with the character doing some specific things to get a specific outcome, but then they were often counteracted by the character being able to do the same or similar things without those actions. That aspect felt a little unfinished to me. I also wasn’t a fan of the extreme level of arrogance that was part and parcel of the mage group. The lack of structure for their society or their concern for anyone other than themselves was pretty off-putting.

Believably: 2 Stars
I’d have to say that if I were just rating the first book, this would probably be a bit higher, but as I got through the later books the less I was feeling it because of the above peeves. There is only so much constant chaos and dumb mistakes a character can make before that believability switch gets shut off.

Peeve Factor: 1 Star
These books smashed the ever loving hell out of my peeve button on a couple of fronts. One is the main, male character being pretty much an unemotional prick when it came to his interactions with the female characters, especially the couple of times there was any kind of intimate interaction (very few of these). Another is this never ending, constant battle plot line. Basically when a character stands up, they get knocked back down again before they can even get their balance, repeatedly. Continuously. So much so that it is unrelenting and never gives the reader a chance to breathe. These kinds of hopeless books drive me up a wall and I really dislike them. You also have the issue with the main character not just being a prick, but one that would qualify for a “Too Stupid To Live” award. Every single situation, he would run head first into, trip up somewhere ending up in some kind of epic shitstorm that the only reason he survives is mostly dumb luck with a side of requisite Super Mage Skills. There are only so many times a character can continue to make truly stupid mistakes that cause all kinds of drama and chaos before this starts to push my peeve button. These books tried really hard to break it. Oh, and spoiler altert! Everyone mostly dies. Except Eric, of course.

Personal Opinion: 2 Stars
I honestly wasn’t a huge fan. I read the first book, was intrigued by the interesting storyline, but didn’t love it. I wanted to read the second to see where it would go. I honestly caught myself a couple of times wondering why I was still reading because this hit several of my peeves, but I still picked up the next book anyway. I finally called it quits about a 1/3 of the way into book 4 when I convinced myself that just because this was in a series and I’d read the first few books, that didn’t mean I had to finish this.

I can absolutely see how others would really like these because I do honestly think that for the most part, the writing is really good. These just weren’t for me and I decided there are other things I’d much rather be doing or reading other than a book that left me feeling frustrated and kinda hopeless about anything happening other than dumb luck, Super Mage Skills, and people dying.

Book Review – Pillars of the World: Tir Alainn, Book 1 (Reread)

Author: Anne Bishop
Book Name: Pillars of the World
Series: Tir Alainn
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb: Myth and magic combine in a superb dark fantasy of a world in danger of being destroyed by those who deny themselves and their heritage, and let evil loose in the world.

In Sylvalan, a witch hunt is in full force. As witches and innocents are brutally murdered, magic is disappearing from the land, and the roads between the world of humans and that of faeries are vanishing one by one. Ari’s family has tended one of the Old Places, places which hold the key to travel between human and faery lands, for generations, keeping the magic alive and the land lush and fertile. Ari unknowingly takes a Fae lover, the Lord of the Sun, and immediately becomes the target of the unwanted interest of the faery nobility.

To save their world the Fae must trust humankind, but with a few exceptions they do not believe Ari and her friends can help them. Against the Inquisitor and the arrogant Fae, Ari and those who believe in the world of magic and human unravel the secrets of the Old Places and discover that they all need each other if any are to survive.

This is a story which uses all the myriad stories of humankind, good and evil, to weave a breathtaking tale of action, romance and thought-provoking themes to enthrall readers.

With my kind of reading slump lately, I decided to pick up a book I read a long time ago and has been sitting on my favorites list forever. I was absolutely thrilled to find that it has held up to my memory of a really great book. I was shocked when I discovered that this wasn’t even in my personal book database I keep track of my books in, which I started in 2012. That means I read this long before that. Probably only a few years after it was published as I remember reading the entire series back to back.

Like so many Anne Bishop books, this has deeper themes running through it if you are willing to look past the surface story. When I read this for the first time, I was in a perfect place personally to read the themes that form the basis of this story. The concepts of using people’s fears to push them to do terrible things, often couched in the veil of good vs. evil or religion when in reality the base motive is greed; women being treated as objects or unworthy of basic respect and decency and fighting against that. Some of this is more subtle than others, but it is there. There is more within the series, but I’m attempting to stay with just this book for now. Those concepts made me really think and view my world a little differently, which is something I really needed at the time and sparked a huge personal growth for me at the time.

I no longer needed these themes as I did the first round, but they still speak to me, even if it is a little differently this time. I can see different parallels to the way the world is today and I find those kinds of stories fascinating. Especially the concept of driving fears against “other” or “different” for personal gain.

There are lots of different characters in this to follow and it is told from all those perspectives, which may be difficult for some readers. I enjoyed getting to see the story unfold from those various perspectives. I especially liked getting to see the thoughts from the Fae perspective and how they changed their views, or not, in some cases. While this is the first in a three book series, it ends cleanly without any cliffhangers.

The magic system in this seems to pull heavily from modern pagan/Wiccan practices and has a classic feel to it that I fell in love with the first time around and still held through this second reading years later. While I’m not surprised that I still loved this after all this time, it is Anne Bishop after all, I can say that it isn’t my favorite of hers. I’m not sure anything can top the Others series.

 

Book Review – Phoenix Unbound: The Fallen Empire, Book 1

Author: Grace Draven
Book Name: Phoenix Unbound
Series: The Fallen Kingdom
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital–her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion–and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will abandon everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more

It took me a while to get through this, but I’m pretty sure that is just because my brain has been utterly scattered lately. There are a few parts, mostly towards the middle, where this slowed down for me, but I easily got back into it once I got over that tiny hump.

In all, I really liked this story and the characters. While it carries a thread of never ending obstacles or impossible odds, I was pleased with how the story wrapped up in the end because I really wasn’t certain how everything would play out. I will definitely be watching for the next book in this series.