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: Badger To The Bone, Honey Badger Chronicles – Book #3

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
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: She’s the woman he’s been hired to kidnap. But ZeZé Vargas has other ideas . . . like getting them both out of this nightmare alive. Just one problem. She’s crazy. Certifiably. Because while he’s plotting their escape, the petite Asian beauty is plotting something much more deadly . . .

Max “Kill It Again” MacKilligan has no idea what one of her own is doing with all these criminal humans until she realizes that Zé has no idea who or what he is. Or exactly how much power he truly has.

But Max is more than happy to bring this handsome jaguar shifter into her world and show him everything he’s been missing out on. A move that might be the dumbest thing she’s ever done once she realizes how far her enemies will go to wipe her out. Too bad for them Zé is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her alive . . . and honey badgers are just so damn hard to kill!

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I’m not even a little bit surprised that this was another win for me. I’ve really loved all the books from this world (this series and a couple of other interconnected series with some character overlaps) and this one is no exception. I’m just really glad that I wasn’t reading this when anyone was around or I probably would’ve had them convinced I was certifiable with all the snorts and outright belly laughs that burst out of me at random times.

The only real ding this gets from me is that the romantic line of this story isn’t quite a prominent as it is in most of the other books in this world. I would have really enjoyed more time with Max and Zé interacting, but their parts together are almost an afterthought to everything else that was going on.

It is because there is a whole lot of other stuff going on that this still manages to be an excellent book. This is an absolute recommend (along with pretty much every single other book in this world) for anyone that loves irreverent, snarky humor with a small side of steam.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

Book Review: The Queen’s Bargain, The Black Jewels- Book #10

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

4 Stars

 

 

 

Blurb: POWER HAS A PRICE. SO DOES LOVE.

Return to the dark, sensual, and powerful world of the Black Jewels in this long-awaited new story in the New York Times bestselling fantasy saga

After a youthful mistake, Lord Dillon’s reputation is in tatters,
leaving him vulnerable to aristo girls looking for a bit of fun. To
restore his reputation and honor, he needs a handfast—a one-year contract of marriage. He sets his sights on Jillian, a young Eyrien witch from Ebon Rih, who he believes has only a flimsy connection to the noble society that spurned him. Unfortunately for Dillon, he is unaware of Jillian’s true connections until he finds himself facing Lucivar Yaslana, the volatile Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih.

Meanwhile, Surreal SaDiablo’s marriage is crumbling. Daemon Sadi, the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, recognizes there is something wrong between him and Surreal, but he doesn’t realize that his attempt to suppress his own nature in order to spare his wife is causing his mind to splinter. To save Daemon, and the Realm of Kaeleer if he breaks, help must be sought from someone who no longer exists in any of the Realms—the only
Queen powerful enough to control Daemon Sadi. The Queen known as Witch.

As Jillian rides the winds of first love with Dillon, Daemon and Surreal struggle to survive the wounds of a marriage turned stormy—and Lucivar has to find a way to keep everyone in his family safe…even from each other.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

When I first saw that Anne Bishop was going to be revisiting the Black Jewels world after nearly 9 years, I was ecstatic because this is one of my favorite series.

Then, when the blurb came out and I saw that it was going to build on the short story from Twilight’s Dawn about Surreal and Daemon, I was REALLY torn. That’s because, of all the books and stories set in this world, that one was my absolute least favorite because I just could not get on board with those two together.

For me, that relationship had so many problems and I just didn’t like that after everything that Daemon went through, after getting his dream and the epic love between him and Jaenelle, that he would end up in a relationship with Surreal. It just felt wrong. It felt like he was forced to end up with a consolation prize. Reading this, I still feel that way. If anything, I feel that even more because of how their relationship continues to play out. I really want Daemon’s character to get a chance at real happiness and I don’t feel like it works with Surreal.

I also always liked Surreal’s character and felt that she fit so much better into that friend, almost sister role, with Daemon. To have her with Daemon feels like she is having to settle for someone that can never really love her the way she deserves. Again, I really, really want to see her get a shot at genuine happiness and it doesn’t feel like she gets it. It also felt like so much of what I loved about her as a character throughout this series is kind of neutered until the very end of this story. She looses that feeling of badassness that she is known for through how her relationship with Daemon is presented, at least until the very end.

If I could ignore that part of the storyline (and it is a decent size of the book), I adored getting back into this world and revisiting with these amazing characters. Even though I don’t like that relationship, it doesn’t take away from how much I still loved this book. Not much, anyway.

There is every indication that this won’t be the last dip back into the Black Jewels world. I won’t complain in the least that we are getting to do that, but I almost wish it would have taken a different path, maybe something along the lines of Shalador’s Lady, where the characters were entirely new and different.

I think this is a great example of being able to love and kind of hate a book at the same time.

 

Book Review: Last Memoria – Rachel Emma Shaw

Author: Rachel Emma Shaw
Book Name: Last Memoria
Release Date: May 10, 2020
Series: *
Order:*
Genre: Fantasy
Overall SPA: 3 Stars

3 Stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Sarilla has learnt one thing from stealing memories.
Everybody lies.

There’s nothing Sarilla hates more than stealing memories. It robs people of their lives as surely as if she killed them, leaving behind only the husk of who they once were. Since Sarilla is one of the few with the ability to transfer memories, she’s highly prized by the king. He makes her take them from his people to keep them in line. All Sarilla wants is to escape to where nobody knows what she is or what she can do, but her plans go awry when she runs into Falon. He hopes to use Sarilla to help get his stolen memories back, whether she wants to or not.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
World Building: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

I always struggle with writing a review when my personal opinion and preferences conflict with the quality of a book. This book pulls me in all directions because I’ve hit that kind of conflict as you can see by the disparity in my above area ratings.

I’ll be upfront and say that this isn’t the kind of book I enjoy. It has a heavy, depressing theme throughout that never really lets up. I struggled to like or sympathize with the characters because their thoughts and actions tend to heavily reflect that theme. If I had understood that ahead of time, I probably wouldn’t have read this. If I hadn’t been reading specifically for a review, I might not have finished at close to the half way point for that same reason. But those are my personal preferences, so take it with a grain of salt.

That said, this was definitely a well written, unique storyline with a nicely developed and interesting world. Anyone that likes the darker tones in their stories with deeply, humanly flawed characters would probably really enjoy this.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

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.

 

Book Review: Great Balls of Fury, Federal Bureau of Magic – Book #1

Author: Annabel Chase
Book Name: Great Balls of Fury
Release Date: February 22, 2019
Series: Federal Bureau of Magic Cozy Myster
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Urban/Fantasy/Mystery
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Annoying but loving family? Check.

Picturesque small town with a hot police chief? Check.

A rescue hellhound, a black cat with attitude, and a pet python that thinks he’s a puppy? Triple check.

My story has all the hallmarks of a sweet and cozy supernatural tale, but there’s a twist—

I am evil.

Well, I’m supposed to be evil thanks to both nature and nurture, but I fight it with every fiber of my being. I just want to live a normal life. I even joined the FBI instead of the Federal Bureau of Magic, until my powers reared their ugly head and the agency sent me packing back to my hometown to fight magical crimes instead.

Now I’m back in Chipping Cheddar, living with my evil family, with a new job and all my old baggage.

Oh, and there’s a dead body, which was definitely not an accident.

So there you have it. Welcome to my world.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

World Building: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

I honestly struggled with this one. Mostly, I like the bones of the story and the world that is created here. I like the idea that the main character is a fury.

But… and there are few of these… but, there are just some things that didn’t work for me. Normally I love me some irreverent snark and attitude. I’m pretty sure that was the direction this is trying to go with the family dynamics, but instead of it coming across as funny, it feel ugly and mean, something I’m not a fan of at all.

I also sort of get this feeling that if there is a paranormal/mystical type of creature that exists anywhere in mythology or fantasy, there is a very high probability that you are going to see it at some point in one of these books. That may not actually be the case. It just feels like this has that catch all flavor, instead of a specific, defined basis for the overall world, like it isn’t entirely sure what kind of fantasy/paranormal type of book it really wants to be.

The main character is interesting, but again, not completely defined to where you really know who she is. The side characters have personality, but they are either strangely ugly (the family) or lacking in much depth. Again, you aren’t really sure who they are as characters.

While I mostly liked this, it was a little weak in areas and pushed my peeves in others.

 

 

Book Review: Blood & Ash, The Jezebel Files – Book #1

Author: Deborah Wilde
Book Name: Blood & Ash
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Series: The Jezebel Files
Order: #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Cold-blooded kidnappers. Long-lost magic. When things get serious, she goes full Sherlock.

Ashira Cohen takes pride in being the only female private investigator in Vancouver. With her skills, her missing persons case should be a piece of cake.

She wasn’t counting on getting bashed in the skull, revealing a hidden tattoo and supernatural powers she shouldn’t possess.

Or the bitter icing on top: a spree of abductions and terrifying ghostly creatures on a deadly bender.

And don’t even get her started on the golems.

Reluctantly partnered with her long-time nemesis Levi, the infuriating leader of the magic community, Ash resolves to keep her focus on the clue trail and off their sexual tension because WTF is up with that?

But with a mastermind organization pulling strings from the shadows and Levi’s arrogance driving her to pick out his body bag, can Ash rescue the captives and uncover the truth or will the next blood spilled be her own?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This weaves together serious and seriously funny. It is loaded with snark and attitude, but isn’t completely irreverent when presenting heavier aspects, giving you a really well balanced story.

There is also a very different feel to the way the world in this is presented as it pulls elements from the Jewish faith without veering so far as to place this into a religious fiction category. You have classic urban fantasy elements, like magic, but the origin of that magic and how it manifests felt very fresh and new, which is always a huge bonus for me.

While this is also a romance, I wouldn’t say it fits into a classic romance box as this has a whole lot of push and pull, back and forth between Ash and Levi with a bit of a steam factor tossed into that mix. That isn’t a trope I’m normally a fan of, but this didn’t quite take it to the extreme levels that would make me dislike the book. It runs along the side of the bigger plot and, while still a somewhat big part of the story, it isn’t the main focus.

The overall story arc in this is resolved, but it leaves a lot of threads open for future books. Not anything that I would call a cliffhanger. Maybe a small, cliffhanger light? As someone who really dislikes cliffhangers, the way this wrapped up didn’t push that button for me, but it may come close for some.

Overall, this was a fun and different feeling read.

Best of 2019: Books

I don’t tend to set reading goals as I already probably spend too much time with my nose buried in a book. Maybe. It’s debatable. I have no desire to ever again hit or even get close to my highest book count in a year, because that 508 was nuts. I can say that based on the numbers below, I can probably still hang onto my my “picky, moody reader” label.

Books read in 2019

258 New to me; 28 Rereads; 14 DNF
5 Stars: 12
4.5 Stars: 7
4 Stars: 91
3.5 Stars: 34
3 Stars: 80
2.5 Stars: 13
2 Stars: 21
Below 2 Stars: 0

*I didn’t start recording half stars until I changed my rating system in May. I also fully plan on adding at least one or two more books to this before we reach “one” on the countdown clock.

Of those twelve 5 stars I handed out, it isn’t a bit of a surprise that most of them came from authors at the top of my favorites list. Faith Hunter, Anne Bishop and Michelle Sagara (West).

Firstborn
War
War
Circle of the Moon
Circle of the Moon
Wild Country
Wild Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of others were standouts even among those few that managed 5 stars and are worth mentioning again.

 

Kimberly Belle’s Dear WifeDear Wife

 

And G.A. Aiken’s The Blacksmith QueenThe Blacksmith Queen

 

One of the other things that I wanted to do as a final wrap up to my 2019 reading is to mention my top Indie Author reads for the year. Keep in mind that these are books that I KNOW are indie books. There are probably dozens of indies on my read list for the year, but not all authors are upfront and it isn’t always easy to tell. If I wasn’t 100% certain, I didn’t notate that a book was an indie.

These are the best indie reads for me this year.

 

Stephen Paronlini’s Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky (4 Stars)Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky

 

Kameo Monson’s I Not David (4.5 Stars)I NOT David

 

I highly recommend any of the books I’ve listed here. If you haven’t read one of them yet, you really should add it to your 2020 TBR.

*click on any thumbnail to go to the review for that book*

Book Review: Another Dead Intern – Joel Spriggs

Author: Joel Spriggs
Book Name: Another Dead Intern
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Suspense
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When Morgan Burns applied for an internship with Hemlock Connal P.I, he thought he’d signed up for coffee runs and printing jobs, not preternatural investigation.

As he starts his new job, Morgan learns about the unseen and blended landscape of magic. Soon he finds himself meeting grungy pixies, mixing with fairy royals, and the annoyingly bad musical talents of a half demon. Morgan has to also face the fact that Hemlock’s last three interns met painful ends.

Morgan must quickly adapt to his broadening world to keep the two things he needs most: a paycheck and his life. Hemlock has to keep her wits about her and watch that she doesn’t end up with yet another dead intern.

When a friend comes to her about random Bostonians start losing their memories, Hemlock tries to find a paying customer. The only one willing to entertain her unnatural explanations is the head of the Irish mob, Bobbi Cotter. Cotter wants to find out why one of her top hitmen has lost his memory, and why one of his planned executions was just carried out by a fifteen year old cheerleader.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 2.5/5 Stars
World Building: 3/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

The foundation and plot of this story are both really good. I would have given this a higher rating, but it is a little rough around the edges and I kept running into issues that pulled me out of the story.

One of the bigger ones I was never able to quite pinpoint and say “this is an editing issue” or “this is a stylistic thing” because I just could not tell for sure. There are a lot of places where the phrasing of a sentence felt off. Either a word was missing, an additional word that didn’t feel like it belonged was included, or the word choice was off a bit (I saw all three at different points, multiple times throughout the book). Whether this is a stylistic thing or just something that got overlooked during editing, it kept forcing me to stop and reread sections which broke up the flow of the story.

I’ve never been a huge fan of character perspectives that flip at random without distinct cues letting the reader know there is a change. This is very much a personal preference, but it added to the difficulty I had staying in the flow of the story. The characters all felt as though they had similar personalities and voices with very little to distinguish one from another. When you have that perspective swap mixed in, even more effort needs to be made to stay immersed in the story.

Another issue that isn’t a huge deal to the overall story, but is a huge peeve of mine was the swapping of character names. I only noticed this in one small section, but I again was forced to stop and reread, even go back and refresh my memory on the stated names to make sure I wasn’t confused.

The world, while interesting at first glance, lacked a certain distinction. I was never certain how the world worked exactly, especially with regards to how common the knowledge and acceptance of magic and magical beings were to the non-magical sections of society. There were some conflicting scenes on this, so I was never sure if everyone knew or if the magical side was supposed to be hidden. The presentation of the fae breaks from most traditional presentations I’ve seen, though still a little on the vague side in detail. This could be a very good thing or not depending on the type of reader.

The ending was a little abrupt and it felt like some of the side/supporting pieces to the story didn’t get completely fleshed out or resolved. I prefer to have more of those types of things cleanly tied up.

Overall, this fell onto the okay side of good for me.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

 

On My TBR – November 2019 Edition

I didn’t get to all my books on my list last month. I made the mistake of loading up too much on the really heavy reads and needed more of a break in between. I read more than what was on the list, though I didn’t review them all. That was part of the break I needed. I’m trying to leave a bit more padding for that this month.


NetGalley ARCs:
The Other Daughter
The Other Daughter

The Other Daughter
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: November 5
(Currently Reading)

 

 


Library:
Lost You
Lost You

Lost You
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Thriller

 

 

 

The Shape of Night
The Shape of Night

The Shape of Night
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

 

 

 

Don't You Forget About Me
Don’t You Forget About Me

Don’t You Forget About Me
Genre: Contemporary/Romance

 

 

 

 


Indie Book Reviews:
Another Dead Intern
Another Dead Intern

Another Dead Intern
Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy

 

 

 

Crossing the Line
Crossing the Line

Crossing the Line
Genre: Romance
Release Date: November 4th

 

 

 

 


KU/Open Reads (No Due Date)
Blood Echo
Blood Echo

Blood Echo (Burning Girl Book #2)
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/SciFi

 

 

Book Review: Shattered Bonds, Jane Yellowrock- Book #13

Author: Faith Hunter
Book Name: Shattered Bonds
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Series: Jane Yellowrock
Order: #13
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal/Urban
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Jane Yellowrock is a shapeshifting skinwalker, and vampire killer-for-hire, but her last battle with an ancient arcane enemy has brought her low. She seeks retreat in the Appalachian Mountains to grieve the loss of her friends, and to heal–or to die–from the disease brought on by her magic.

But malevolent elements in the paranormal community still seek to destroy Jane, and the younger Son of Darkness stalks her, even into the safety of the hills. With nowhere to run and her body failing, the rogue-vampire hunter and her inner Beast must discover a way to defeat this new threat, and find a form that gives her a chance to fight another day.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

So much happened and changed by the end of Dark Queen, I really wasn’t certain what to expect with this book, especially with the not quite a cliffhanger you got at the end of that one. I did expect that issue to be addressed or at least mentioned pretty quickly in this one, but it takes a bit for it to come up, which left me wondering if that event was somehow getting changed.

This felt different than most any of the other JY books. You still get some great shift scenes. You get a good amount of Beast time. You still get a few battle scenes. You still get a few scenes of Jane connecting with her people. But… those all seem to have the edges dulled a bit because, to a large extent, she has to take more of a backseat in this one. She doesn’t get to be the full on badass all the time which shifts the overall tone and feel of this book.

This does tie off a couple of the loose threads introduced in the last book, but you are again left wondering where the series is going to go next. One big thread is glanced across and cannot possibly be all we see for the end of that thread. A whole lot happens along the side of what happens in this book. Things that are introduced through brief conversations, but are left wide open by the last page. You are definitely left with the feeling that there is a lot more yet to come.

As always, the biggest downside is that there is a last page and too big of a time gap in which I have to wait for the next book.

 

Book Review: Archangel’s War, Guild Hunter- Book #12

Author: Nalini Singh
Book Name: Archangel’s War
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Series: Guild Hunter
Order: #12
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Romance
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Wings of silver. Wings of blue. Mortal heart. Broken dreams. Shatter. Shatter. Shatter. A sundering. A grave. I see the end. I see. . . .

The world is in chaos as the power surge of the Cascade rises to a devastating crescendo. In furiously resisting its attempts to turn Elena into a vessel for Raphael’s power, Elena and her archangel are irrevocably changed. . .far beyond the prophecy of a cursed Ancient.

At the same time, violent and eerie events around the world threaten to wipe out entire populations. And in the Archangel Lijuan’s former territory, an unnatural fog weaves through the land, leaving only a bone-chilling silence in its wake. Soon it becomes clear that even the archangels are not immune to this deadly evil. This time, even the combined power of the Cadre may not be enough. . . .

This war could end them all.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

Was this entertaining? Did I enjoy it? Did this keep me invested in the story? Yes. Yes. And Yes. But… (there always seems to be a but) it also kind of felt a lot like reading a book I’ve already read.

From the Elena and Raphael perspective, we’ve already done this dance before. Sure some of the specific details are a little different, but the bigger picture is still the same. Scramble to understand the newest change thrown at them from a power perspective. Have a raging archangel battle over New York. These are big pieces that are seen in nearly every Guild Hunter book that features them and you see them all again in this book, so it really does feel like reading the same thing again.

It also makes it feel like they spend so much time scrambling to deal with those constant changes, that they don’t get the opportunity to really grow as characters. You would think that by book 12 they wouldn’t have to still be doing that scrambling to catch up. That there would have been some maturing to how they handled situations, but you see the same Rafael and Elena that I feel like you’ve seen in the last couple of books they were the focus characters.

I did still enjoy this, but it felt more like revisiting an old favorite rather than picking up a new release.

On My TBR – October 2019 Edition

The end of September got interesting for me. Between getting into the groove of the new schedule with BG’s dance, managing my Amazon ad, and getting an influx of ARCs, several indie requests and all the books I picked up that I wanted to read, I’ve kind of felt a little swamped. For the first time ever, I’ve had to create a list of all the books I have obligations for and the dates so I don’t miss out on any. Feels kind of weird when you are mood reader.

Anyway, my TBR this month will reflect that list in its current state.


Anxiously Awaited October Releases:
Heartsong
Heartsong

Heartsong (Green Creek Book #3)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban
Release Date: October 22

Shattered Bonds
Shattered Bonds

Shattered Bonds (Jane Yellowrock Book #13)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban
Release Date: October 29

 

 


NetGalley ARCs:
Traces of Her
Traces of Her

Traces of Her
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Release Date: October 25
*The only book I didn’t get to in September, in part because of the late pub date.

 

The Empy Nest
The Empy Nest

The Empty Nest
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Thriller
Release Date: November 1

 

 

The Other Daughter
The Other Daughter

The Other Daughter
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: November 5

 

 


Library:
Lost You
Lost You

Lost You
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Thriller

 

 

 

Things You Save in a Fire
Things You Save in a Fire

Things You Save In A Fire
Genre: Romance

 

 

 

The Missing Years
The Missing Years

The Missing Years
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

 

 

 

Archangel's War
Archangel’s War

Archangel’s War (Guild Hunter Book #12)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban

 

 

 

Stolen Things
Stolen Things

Stolen Things
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

 


KU/Open Reads (No Due Date)
Blood Echo
Blood Echo

Blood Echo (Burning Girl Book #2)
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/SciFi

 

 

Book Review: Brave The Tempest, Cassandra Palmer – Book #9

Author: Karen Chance
Book Name: Brave The Tempest
Release Date: July 30, 2019
Series: Cassandra Palmer
Order: #9
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Cassie Palmer has been chief seer of the supernatural world for a little over four months. In that time, she’s battled two gods, fallen in love with two men, and confronted the two sides of her own nature, both god and human. So it’s not surprising that she currently finds herself facing two adversaries, although they have a single purpose: to wipe out the supernatural community’s newest fighting force, leaving it vulnerable to enemies in this world and beyond.

To prevent catastrophe, the vamps, mages, and demons will have to do the one thing they’ve never managed before and come together as allies. Cassie has the difficult task of keeping the uneasy coalition intact, and of persuading her own two opposing forces, a powerful mage with a secret and a master vampire with a growing obsession, to fight at her side. She just hopes they can do it without tearing each other apart

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

This book showed me that I still love this world. There is so much to enjoy about it and it is incredibly well built. The common theme seen in previous books, the one where Cassie is constantly knocked down and isn’t even back on her feet to take a breath before she gets knocked right back down again, is, thankfully, not as prevalent throughout this book.

Sadly, in it’s place is a massive amount of rehashing the events in all the previous books. It isn’t all at once, more sprinkled throughout the book, but it is way more than was probably needed for the majority of readers since you simply cannot read these as standalone and not be utterly lost. Mentioning a previous event in another book is one thing, going into a lot of those details made this feel bloated.

For the first half of this book (maybe a little less), you spend a lot of time with Cassie either “remembering” some of those events or doing an awful lot of navel gazing. On one hand, this is a bit refreshing because the reader isn’t being constantly batted around by the events, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like you are actually getting anywhere.

If you look back at Cassie from the first books in the series and compare them to the Cassie in this book and you don’t see much growth or change. Granted, all 9 of these books happen over an incredibly short period of time, but SO MUCH has happened, you think that how she reacts to all the stuff thrown at her would have progressed at least a little. That lack of growth has become really frustrating for me.

There is a point, later in this book, where you think this is finally getting addressed and you are going to get to see some progress with it. Then, in classic Cassie Palmer style, things start to get knock down, attempt to stand, but get knocked down again before you can get your balance and you lose that forward progress.

As I mentioned before, I still really love this world. I enjoy most of the characters, but the overall progress in the last few books feels like running in place a bit and it is frustrating. Yes, there is some change, but it feels sort of like a lateral move rather than a forward one.

 

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

Cover: 2/5 Stars

Why does it feel like the covers for these books have regressed the age of Cassie with each new release? I get that she might be on the young side (mid 20’s maybe?), but she isn’t a teenager. Please don’t make her look like one. This one seems to be the least fitting cover in the series.

 

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.