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: 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.

Book Review: Loving Henry, Kate Lawson

Author: Kate Lawson
Book Name: Loving Henry
Release Date: June 24, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Henry’s mother gave him up for adoption and although he’s been the most loved boy in the world, he always wondered why his birth mother gave him away.

Elizabeth wanted a son, a little man to dote upon, but she always worried he would leave her one day, like the man she had intended to be his father.

Rachel had to give her son up for adoption, just like her mother gave her up when she was born, but she always wondered, what if…?

A chance encounter changes their lives forever and brings to light emotions all three have been trying to suppress. Can they all move on now their lives are entangled, especially when they’re all holding on to the secrets in their past?

Loving Henry is a novel about the search for identity and purpose, and an examination of the true meaning of family.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I always have a soft, squishy spot for stories about family, especially ones where the families are built on more than just blood and genetics, so this was a really good fit for me. The characters came across as fallible and human, without dipping into stereotypes, making them relatable. This gives a good look into some of the issues that can come up with both adults and kids that have been adopted as well as seeing it from the perspective of those adopting and those letting go. It was nice to see all those different perspectives. I wasn’t pulled in quite as hard emotionally as I would have expected given the subject matter as this didn’t take me to extremes and is probably my one ding to the overall rating for me. Otherwise, this was a really good story.

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

Cover: 4/5 Stars: I had to note that I really liked this cover and the simplicity of it. It just feels really calming and soothing.

Book Review: The Body Keeper, Detective Jude Fontaine Mysteries – Book #3

Author: Anne Frasier
Book Name: The Body Keeper
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Series: Detective Jude Fontaine Mysteries
Order: #3
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Crime
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: A boy’s frozen body is found trapped in the ice of a Minneapolis lake. The horrifying discovery leads Detective Jude Fontaine and her partner, Uriah Ashby, to more bodies in the ice, all of twelve-year-old boys missing for twenty years.

Then, in one of the worst blizzards the city has ever seen, a four-year-old is abandoned on Jude’s doorstep. The child can’t tell them where he’s from, who his parents are, or how he got there. He doesn’t even know his name.

But in his unspoken language, Jude reads something horrifying—a connection to the dead boys. Now a four-year-old with no name may be the only key to a twenty-year-old, very cold case.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

This is a series that I really enjoy, but has tiny bits here and there that keep me from loving it and keeps it off my favorites list. This book fits the mold of the previous two books.

I really love Jude’s character and seeing how her past trauma and damage shape who she is today and the choices she makes. It is one of the the things I like the most about this series. I like the fact that this book breaks down some of the barriers she’s put up in the past. It keeps her feeling very real and human.

The pieces I’m not a huge fan of are the extreme levels of evil that the bad guys always seem to hit. That and the crazy, twisty levels of coincidence take a bit of a ding for me when it comes to rating. This book had just a few too many. The story is really great without those coincidences, could have definitely stood amazingly on its own without them and I would have absolutely loved it, but the addition of those took a bit of the shine off in a couple of areas.

The one coincidence and twist I saw coming from the beginning and I’m good with that one. It is going to make things interesting moving forward and getting to see how Jude copes with it.

 

Book Review: Unspoken Vow, Steele Brothers – Book #2

Author: Eden Finley
Book Name: Unspoken Vow
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Series: Steele Brothers
Order: #2
Genre: Romance/LQBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: 𝙃𝙚’𝙨 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙄 𝙬𝙖𝙣𝙩 𝙗𝙪𝙩 𝙧𝙪𝙣 𝙖𝙬𝙖𝙮 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢.

There’s a long list of things I don’t handle well:
Change.
Relationships.
Breakups.

But there’s one person above everything else I can’t seem to get a handle on.
𝘉𝘳𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦.

In short, he’s perfect. The reality, he scares me.He’s the opposite of what I usually go for. He’s bigger. Intimidating. He reminds me of someone I’d rather forget.

When I need to find a new place to live, Brody offers me his spare room, but I have no plans on taking him up on the offer. He doesn’t know what happened to me five years ago, and I want to keep it that way.But with limited options, I find myself outside his apartment holding a full moving box and wondering: How can I do this without exposing the darkest part of my past?

**𝘜𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘬𝘦𝘯 𝘝𝘰𝘸 𝘪𝘴 𝘢 𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭-𝘭𝘦𝘯𝘨𝘵𝘩 𝘔𝘔 𝘯𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘭 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 a 𝘏𝘍𝘕/𝘏𝘌𝘈 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴. 𝘗𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘤𝘬 𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘨𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳.**

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Unwritten Law, so when I saw that this had been released, I was really excited. This is a sweet romance that delves into some really heavy emotional issues and it does so in an incredible way without getting too heavy or dark.

I think this book does an amazing job of dealing with and showing the emotional fallout from both physical and emotional trauma. It does so from a very realistic and human perspective without falling into preaching or educating about mental health while still telling an incredible story. The serious aspects are balanced against the right amount of humor and sweetness.

The utter lack of perfection in working out the relationship issues in this book is probably one of the things I like the most. Anders doesn’t suddenly and magically become “fixed” just because he gets into a relationship with Brody, but rather they work on their issues knowing that it will always be a thing they need to work on. That kind of realism when dealing with the emotional issues in this book is what really clenched how much I liked this.

There was one part that bounced up against a typical romance trope that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but even that was handled well enough to not really take too much from my enjoyment of the rest of the story.

If you like emotionally fragile characters that fight to not be so fragile, who are really at heart way more and way stronger than simply fragile, and the loved ones that help them in that fight, then you really need to read this one.

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.

 

 

 

Touch of Power: The Healers, Book 1

Touch o fPowerAuthor: Maria V. Snyder
Book Name: Touch of Power
Series: The Healers
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince–leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life….

Review: I had seen this book/series a while ago, but for some reason didn’t pick it up.  I think I was under the impression that it was a young adult book, but it turns out that it isn’t.  So glad I took a second look.

This is a different type of story than what we’ve seen from Ms. Snyder’s Study, Glass and Soul Finder series, but it is just as good as all of those.  While those three series are connected and set in the same world, this series is totally new with new characters as well as a new world.

Much of this story is meant to get the readers really sunk into this new world and introduce them to all the different facets around the political climate.  There is a lot going on and while there are a few primary protagonist characters, there are also lots of antagonists that are important factors as well.  We get to meet a lot on both sides.

Avry’s character in particular is pretty awesome.  She is so not a pushover and absolutely has a mind of her own.  Even though I’ve classed this as a romance as well as a fantasy, the focus isn’t really on the romantic side of things, but more on Avry, her allies and the difficulties she needs to deal with and overcome.

Readers are left with lots of questions by the end of the story, in a good way.  It didn’t leave them hanging, but opened the door for all kinds of “What’s next?” scenarios.  I’m definitely putting the next one on my list.

 

Vengeance of the Demon: Kara Gillian, Book 7

Vengeance of the DemonAuthor: Diana Rowland
Book Name: Vengeance of the Demon
Series: Kara Gillian
Order: #7
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy

Blurb:  Demon summoner Kara Gillian is on the wrong side of the law, and there’s evidence to prove it. Too bad the courts don’t accept “fighting demonic forces” as justification for murder and mayhem.

Yet Kara has problems that go way beyond her legal woes. When the enemy demonic lords spur their human accomplices into high gear, master summoner Katashi aggressively pursues their goal to establish a permanent gate between Earth and the demon realm. To hell with the consequences for humanity.

The line between ally and enemy blurs as Kara gathers the remnants of her posse to prevent a devastating demonic incursion, but a shattered trust may cost them the war and put Kara behind bars. With treachery rife, and her loved ones in danger, Kara must call upon the essence of who she truly is in order to rally back from a crushing loss.

And if she can’t, the world is going straight to hell.

Review:  The Kara Gillian series is one that I probably wouldn’t normally enjoy because it is one of those that absolutely drags huge amounts of the story across the series, but the character and story are unique enough that I can overlook that enough to still enjoy them.

Not sure I liked this one quite as much as the other books in this series, though.  This one seems to come really close to falling into a type of book/story that I’m just not fond of, which is the “can never get a break, always something bad happening without any relief” types of books.  This book just skirts that edge, more so than I’ve seen in the other Kara Gillian books.

There seems to be a whole lot more left unresolved and hanging by the end of this book than in past books.  We have no clue how the legal issues are going to get cleared.  The loss of several support characters is left hanging.  Readers are left wondering who’s side other characters are on now.  Kara’s own status with regards to her abilities are also left strongly in the “now how are you going to deal with that” category.  I’m not sure, at the end, that there was actually anything that got resolved in this book.

I definitely still liked the book, but it is going to be hanging on the edge for the next book.  I’m not a fan of a never ending, constantly changing plot so I’m holding out hope that this isn’t going to become that.

 

Venom: Elemental Assassin, Book 3

VenomAuthor: Jennifer Estep
Book Name: Web of Lies
Series: Elemental Assassin
Order: #3
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Blurb:  It’s hard to be a badass assas­sin when a giant is beat­ing the crap out of you. Luck­ily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My cur­rent mis­sion is per­sonal: anni­hi­late Mab Mon­roe, the Fire ele­men­tal who mur­dered my fam­ily. Which means pro­tect­ing my iden­tity, even if I have to con­ceal my pow­er­ful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most.

To the pub­lic, I’m Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland’s best bar­be­cue joint. To my friends, I’m the Spi­der, retired assas­sin. I still do favors on the side. Like rid­ding a vam­pire friend of her over­sized stalker — Mab’s right-hand goon who almost got me dead with his mas­sive fists.

At least irre­sistible Owen Grayson is on my side. The man knows too much about me, but I’ll take my chances. Then there’s Detec­tive Bria Coolidge, one of Ashland’s finest. Until recently, I thought my baby sis­ter was dead. She prob­a­bly thinks the same about me. Lit­tle does she know, I’m a cold-blooded killer … who is about to save her life.

Review:  This is another killer addition to the Elemental Assassin series.  I feel like all I can do is to keep repeating myself from the reviews of the previous books in this series.  The characters are awesome.  How they interact with each other is awesome.  Jennifer Estep is amazing about finding a perfect balance when it comes to creating these characters.  They are so completely believable you can’t help but get sucked into their lives.

We get to meet Bria, Gin’s sister in this book.  We also get to learn a bit more about her past and some of the story behind her family’s murder.  I’m really enjoying how all of this is getting pieced out to the reader.  It isn’t so little that you are frustrated by the lack of progress on that end, but it isn’t so much that all the suspense and mystery is suddenly gone.

Getting to see more of Owen and his story has got to be one of my favorite things (among many) in this book.  I am really liking his character and who he is.  I’m hoping that it stays that way in other books.  I get really frustrated in a series when the love interest changes every couple of books.  I don’t hate it (usually), but It kind of takes something away for me I think.  I’m anxious to see how this relationship plays out in future books.

I’ve already got the next one in the series on hold and it will most likely end up on the top of my To Read list as soon as it is available.

Web of Lies: Elemental Assassin, Book 2

Web of LiesAuthor: Jennifer Estep
Book Name: Web of Lies
Series: Elemental Assassin
Order: #2
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Blurb:  Curiosity is definitely going to get me dead one of these days. Probably real soon.

I’m Gin Blanco. You might know me as the Spider, the most feared assassin in the South. I’m retired now, but trouble still has a way of finding me. Like the other day when two punks tried to rob my barbecue joint, the Pork Pit. Then there was the barrage of gunfire on the restaurant. Only, for once, those kill shots weren’t aimed at me. They were meant for Violet Fox. Ever since I agreed to help Violet and her grandfather protect their property from an evil coal-mining tycoon, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m really retired.

So is Detective Donovan Caine. The only honest cop in Ashland is having a real hard time reconciling his attraction to me with  his Boy Scout mentality. And I can barely keep my hands off his sexy body. What can I say? I’m a Stone elemental — with a little Ice magic thrown in — but my heart isn’t made of solid rock. Luckily, Gin Blanco always gets her man … dead or alive.

Review: I am again kicking myself for not picking up this series earlier, because these are really good books.

In Web of Lies, we get to see more of the kick ass, self assured Gin.  I love her personality.  While she is flawed, she doesn’t apologize for who she is or what she has done.  Not to or for anyone.  Heroines with that kind of combination just really work for me.  I especially love how she deals with the issues in her relationship with Detective Caine.  No matter what she’d like out of that relationship, she isn’t going to try and be someone different to make another person happy.

One of the things that I’ve loved about these books is how well the different dramas and plot lines blend together so well.  Both the ones that are self contained in each book and the bigger one that seems to be stretching across the series (so far anyway).  The background story of Gin’s family and her sister still being alive, how it has been presented and what it is hinting at has me really excited to see how that plays out.

Often authors that write in the fantasy genre have a tendency to take the “there is magic so anything and everything is possible” attitude in their books.  When their main character gets into a bind, suddenly, previously unknown talents surface and everyone lives happily ever after.  I don’t like it when authors take that easy route instead of taking the time to really work a story and have the character deal with struggles.  That said, if it is done right, where the magic is what saves the day, but it took effort and work and really wasn’t such a miraculous moment, it can totally work, especially if it isn’t over done.  We do have one of those moments in this story, but it falls into the second category of writing and it is done really well.

I’ve already got the next one in my reading queue.  If it is as good as the first two, there is a strong possibility I might have to rethink my ratings and boost these to favorites.

Mate Bond: Shifters Unbound, Book 7

Mate BondAuthor: Jennifer Ashley
Book Name: Mate Bond
Series: Shifters Unbound
Order: #7
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Blurb:  To cement the leadership of his North Carolina Shiftertown, Bowman O’Donnell agreed to a “mating of convenience.” Two powerful wolf shifters, he and Kenzie keep the pack in order and are adored by all. Bowman would do anything to protect Kenzie, for in each other’s arms they’ve found far more than friendship. But as strong as their attachment is, they still haven’t formed the elusive mate bond—the almost magical joining of true mates.

Now with a monster ravaging the countryside and threatening the Shiftertown community, some in the pack fear that a pair without a true mate bond isn’t strong enough to lead. Bowman and Kenzie will have to rely on their instinctive trust in one another to save their Shifters—and the ensuing battle will either destroy them or give them the chance to seize the love they’ve always craved.

Review:  Mate Bond is a bit of a departure from the typical theme found in other books in this series in that the main characters are already in a romantic relationship rather than just meeting and falling in love.  At first, it kind of felt like I wasn’t getting the same experience that I’d come to expect from this series and was a bit disappointed, but ended up being pleasantly surprised.

The fact that the story is based on an existing, instead of a new, relationship, you have a lot of different options storywise to work with that wasn’t available before, different struggles come up in that scenario.  The characters have different insecurities and concerns that you just would never see in a brand new relationship.

Taking this approach has definitely allowed Ms. Ashley to keep this series fresh and interesting and avoided falling into the pitfall of becoming a cookie cutter writer.  I love the fact that she took a chance and went with something a bit different.  The characters do have a very different dynamic and vibe than the majority of other characters in this series, but it works well because of that.  Definitely another great addition to a really good series.

Still the One: Animal Magnetism, Book 6

Still the OneAuthor: Jill Shalvis
Book Name: Still the One
Series: Animal Magnetism
Order: #6
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Romance

Blurb:  Darcy Stone is game for anything—except sexy Navy veteran and physical therapist AJ Colten, the guy who’d rejected her when she’d needed him most. Now the shoe is on the other foot and he needs her to play nice and help him secure grants for his patients. Unfortunately Darcy can’t refuse. She needs the money to fund her passion project: rescuing S&R dogs and placing them with emotionally wounded soldiers.

AJ admits it—Darcy is irresistible. But he’s already been battle-scarred by a strong-willed, vivacious, adventurous woman like Darcy, and he’s not making the same mistake twice—until he and Darcy are forced to fake a relationship. Growing closer than they’d ever imagined possible, Darcy and AJ have to ask themselves: how much between them is pretend? What’s the real thing? And where does it go from here?

Review:  This book is what I would consider a typical, fun, flirty and lighthearted romance story.  It has all the essentials to make it a good romantic read.  Interesting characters that have some depth, enough to actually enjoy and want to learn more about them.  A good story with just enough going on to keep it on the good side without getting beyond the romantic focus of the story.

There is a definite emphasis on the lighthearted in this story.  It does not get too heavy or really pull hard on any emotions, so it is the perfect kind of book to read if you need a break between some weightier or more intense types of books.

As a series, Animal Magnetism books are pretty much stand alone books, where characters from previous books in the series may make appearances in other stories, but it is not necessary to read those other books in order to follow the current story or feel like you’ve missed something important.

Spider’s Bite: Elemental Assassin, Book 1

Spider's BiteAuthor: Jennifer Estep
Book Name: Spider’s Bite
Series: Elemental Assassin
Order: #1
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy

Blurb:  My name is Gin, and I kill people.

They call me the Spider. I’m the most feared assassin in the South — when I’m not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don’t use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.

Now that a ruthless Air elemental has double-crossed me and killed my handler, I’m out for revenge. And I’ll exterminate anyone who gets in my way — good or bad. I may look hot, but I’m still one of the bad guys. Which is why I’m in trouble, since irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine has agreed to help me. The last thing this coldhearted killer needs when I’m battling a magic more powerful than my own is a sexy distraction . . . especially when Donovan wants me dead just as much as the enemy.

Review: I have run across this series several times, but for some reason I just never actually read it and I have no clue why.  For all those times I skipped over it, I’m now wishing I hadn’t because this is a really good book.  I absolutely love how the author builds her story and draws the reader in.  I thoroughly enjoyed her characters and that they were beautifully flawed in such ways as to make them feel more real.  When you can sort of fall into the flow of the story itself without having anything drawing you away or distracting you, then you know that the author is truly an expert in their craft.

While the story is on the darker side, the main character is an assassin afterall, it isn’t so dark and ugly that the story isn’t also balanced out by the more positive, hopeful aspects of life.  I really enjoyed how the darker and lighter aspects of this story played together, especially within the personalities of the main characters.  It is a huge reason as to why they, and their relationships with each other, are so believable and realistic.

From this first book, I can say that this looks like it falls right into the type of series I enjoy reading.  Those that have self contained stories in each book, but holding on to that larger thread that spreads across the series.  So far, I think I’m going to really enjoy this series and these characters.

I think the only reason this didn’t rate the favorite/excellent rating from me is because I wasn’t quite so wrapped in it all that I was not ready to be done reading at the end, though I’m not certain that isn’t so much the lack of desire to leave the story’s world as it is the author’s ability to finish the story well.  I can say that it is a very close margin there, so maybe that will change with future books.

Full Blooded: Jessica McClain, Book 1

Full BloodedAuthor: Amanda Carlson
Book Name: Full Blooded
Series: Jessica McClain
Order: #1
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy

 Blurb: Born the only female in an all male race, Jessica McClain isn’t just different—she’s feared.

After living under the radar for the last twenty-six years, Jessica is thrust unexpectedly into her first change, a full ten years late. She wakes up and finds she’s in the middle of a storm. Now that she’s become the only female full-blooded werewolf in town, the supernatural world is already clamoring to take a bite out of her and her new Pack must rise up and protect her.

But not everyone is on board. The werewolf Rights of Laws is missing text and the superstitious werewolves think that Jessica means an end to their race. When a mercenary who’s been hired by the vampires shows up to extract information about the newly turned werewolf only days after her change, they find themselves smack in the middle of a war and there’s no choice but to run together. When it’s up to Jessica to negotiate her release against her father’s direct orders, she chooses to take an offer for help instead. In exchange, Jessica must now swear an oath she may end up repaying with her life.

Review: While I did like this book and the general storyline behind it, there were several things that bugged me about it and kept it from being a much better book for me.  For one, the blurb itself, which is what you need to read to figure out if you want to read the book or not, is actually a pretty big spoiler to the plot.  If you are going to write a teaser, please don’t give away one of the big surprises of the story in that teaser.

Every book needs background basics for the reader to understand the current situation/world/character history, especially books that are the first in the series.  What they don’t need, at least not if you don’t want to bore your readers, is dry, essay like descriptions that get dropped into the story just to get it out of the way.  I felt like the first couple of chapters were so fluffed full of this level of background that it took away from a lot of what was going on in the plot and made it a whole lot less interesting.  There are ways to introduce that information and keep the flow going and make it interesting for the reader to discover along the way.  This book dropped the ball in that regard.

The last, big issue for me is more a personal taste thing.  I much prefer stories that are either self contained or are the type that have small stories that fall along a much larger story arc across a series.  I am so not a fan of books with huge cliff hangers.  That is exactly what this book is.  It opened up several different plot lines and none of them were resolved by the end of the book.  I find that hugely frustrating.  When you get to the end of a story, it should feel like a reward, even if it is a little one.  You want to feel as though you have accomplished something or resolved something by the time you get to the last page, even if it is minor and I didn’t get that at all with this.

As I said before, I did like the general storyline despite the things that annoyed or frustrated me and, because of that, I’ve rated this as Really Good, but it is borderline.  I do have the next book in the series on my reading list, so I’ll see if I still feel the same with the next installment.

Dead Heat: Alpha and Omega, Book 3

Dead HeatAuthor: Patricia Briggs
Book Name: Dead Heat
Series: Alpha and Omega (in the Mercy Thompson World)
Order: #4
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy

 Blurb: For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way…

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

Review:  I really kind of wish that in my theme of re-reading books this year, I’d taken the time to re-read the rest of the books in this series before I’d read this one.  It has been too long since I read the last one that it took me a bit here and there to remember some of the things that had happened in previous books.

For me, even though I really did enjoy this book, it felt a bit slow starting out.  I really kind of think that is on me rather than the book, though.  I had to stop a couple of times to either try to remember an incident from previous books, or go and read the burbs to refresh my memory here and there.  Finding the right balance in too much or too little previous history in a book can be a hard line to find.  I don’t think that is an issue here, it is more that I just really, really need to understand what is in front of me whether it is critical to the story or not.  I don’t think that most readers would find this as slow to start as I did.

As with all the rest of the books in this series and in the Mercy Thompson series, this is another great story.  I have loved the dynamics in the relationship between the main characters, Charles and Anna, and this book continues to keep those dynamics interesting in the process of still giving the reader a great story outside of that relationship.  For a lot of authors, that is something that is really difficult to accomplish.  Most can pull off one or the other, but rarely both.  That is not a difficulty Patricia Briggs has, not by a long shot.

I love that the story resolves the immediate issue that arises with the missing children (I hate full on cliff hangers), but gives the reader some great insights into what is going to be happening next in this world, both the Alpha and Omega series and the Mercy Thompson series.

As of right now, the next book in this world is in the Mercy Thompson side and isn’t due out until 2016.