3.5 star review

Review – Emperor’s Arrow by Lauren D. M. Smith

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Grand Prize Winner of Harlequin’s 2015 So You Think You Can Write contestDebut author Lauren D.M. Smith delivers an epic fantasy romance in this soaring tale of a kickass warrior and the emperor she’s honor-bound to defend.

The bride candidates have been summoned. Their numbers are many, yet only one is an Amazzi warrior. Only one would give her life to protect him.
Evony of Aureline, warrior of her people, has no intention of becoming a hideous old man’s bride. Though her people have sworn their loyalty to the legendary emperor Galen, Evony knows little of courts and intrigue. It’s simply not her world.

Yet it’s on the palace training grounds where Evony’s archery skills gain her the respect of soldiers and legates alike. The emperor himself takes notice of the beautiful, ruthless warrior. In turn, the young, steely eyed Galen is nothing at all what Evony expected. This man could very well conquer her heart. But does he feel the same?As the rivalry among the remaining bride candidates intensifies and the plot for the throne unfolds, Evony must make a grave choice: fulfill her destiny and protect her people or follow her heart and pursue true love.Either way, the honor of the Amazzi people and the future of the empire now rests with Evony of Aureline. For she is the Emperor’s Arrow.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

This had actually been on my shelf for quite an embarrassingly long time, from the time of my deepest slump, and I just couldn’t get past the first few pages so I reshelved it. But after reading Enveloping Shadows, I thought I would give it another try, and I am glad I did.

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was the author’s second book rather than her first book. It is every bit as well written and vivid as her second, maybe even more so, and Evony and Galen were much more clearly and sympathetically wrought. Futhermore (or maybe more to the point) I actually really liked both of these characters and the story they told.

Evony is a stranger in a strange land, she makes mistakes but she can acknowledge them, she is comfortable asking for help when needed, and she is willing to offer help when needed as well. Even better she is comfortable when others have different cultures and mores than she does.

Galen is initially hard and cold, but we soon learn he has good reason for being so, and as the story progresses and he and Evony grow closer he unfurls like a flower to the sun. I am being a little tongue in cheek here describing him as one would often describe the female in a pairing, but in essence it is true-he has healing to do and under Evony’s strong supportive shoulders he does.

As for the story itself, there’s mystery and intrigue and plotting. It is good and entertaining and well worth the read, I recommend it if you are in the mood for fantasy and a slight twist on the Amazon mythology.

The Emperor's Arrow

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5 star review

Review – Dragon Spawn by Eileen Wilks

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The New York Times bestselling author of Mind Magic returns as FBI agent Lily Yu gets some very bad news…

Lily learns she was right. Tom Weng—a powerful sorcerer allied with the Old One who keeps trying to take over the world—is still alive. But that’s not the worst. Weng is a dragon spawn, the product of a botched hatching given a human form in an attempt to keep him from going mad. A failed attempt.

Meanwhile, Lily’s husband Rule is facing a Challenge to the death. Then there’s the possible reappearance of another sorcerer. But none of that matters when their enemy strikes out of nowhere in the worst way possible. Lily must face a nightmare and return to a place she never wanted to see again. The place where she died…

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

This is a series that has me in my feelings every single time. And this last one, while I really enjoyed it, left me a trifle confused about where the overall story arc was going. And so, while I was nervous to start it, I recognized the last time that I always am with this series, and since I have never had a significant disappointment, when the opportunity to snatch it up occurred, I did so gleefully and put my trepidation aside to start almost immediately.

Since this is book 13 in the series, DO NOT start here. Eileen Wilks’ World of the Lupi series is sort of an alternate history, slightly post-apocalyptic, urban fantasy romance series. In this world, we have Lupi (sort of like hereditary werewolves who until recently were only male and have a deeply religious bent), Sidhe, humans with Gifts, witches, dragons, demons and various other mythological creatures all rolled up into a complicated tapestry. It rocks, seriously rocks.

The series follows the events that occur after the return of magic in large quantities to this world, with the overall arc following those who are opposing a deity like creature who is out to cause genocide against the Lupi. The bridge between the Lupi and the humans comes in the form of Lily Yu-Turner, a human FBI agent who is the heroine of most of the stories. She is a very by the book FBI agent, so her involvement in events that are often outside of her control makes for entertaining reading.

This particular book however doesn’t intersect with her job or even much with the human world. There are actually a couple of different story threads going on. There’s the Lupi’s violent form of politics which Rule Turner has managed to step in. There’s the deepening relationship between Rule and Lily (so nice to see an author who acknowledges a relationship still needs to grow, even after marriage), and some hammering out of the Lily’s relationship with Rule’s son. There’s the Great Bitch’s shenanigans. There’s the trip itself and Gan the former demon’s continued growth of soul and her heroics. And naturally enough there’s the titular dragons. The last book certainly makes sense now.

Things are serious, and seriously busy. And I’ll admit that it kept me gripped in the story until right up at the end, when Eileen Wilks punched me right in the guts with the mother of all cliffhangers. One thing I can state unequivocally, I will not be the least reticent in picking up the next book. In fact, I think it si fair to say I am feeling slightly violent about getting the next installment of the story.

Don’t get me wrong, while I am irked as hell at this cliffhanger BS, I still really enjoyed the story. And I sincerely recommend the series as a whole, it is well written and despite the length it is a cohesive whole that as I have said several times before forms a rich tapestry of a story. You might not always get what’s going on while in the midst of it, but once the next piece is finished and you step back and look at the whole it all makes sense. What was accomplished in the book makes sense in the wider story arc, so while not everything is completed in this book, I have faith that the author knows where she is going and how to get us there.

Dragon Spawn (World of the Lupi, #13)

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3 star review

Review – Enveloping Shadows by Lauren D. M. Smith

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A fierce and beautiful warrior.

A man of secrets and shadows.

Only together can they stop the awakening horror.

Rumors of monsters and dark magic are circulating through the court, but Terrwyn is little concerned. Her superb sword skills are all she needs to protect the princess Aricia—and as chief bodyguard, the princess’s safety is Terrwyn’s only mission.

Too late, she realizes her mistake: a stranger cloaked in darkness snatches the princess before Terrwyn can react.

When a handsome stranger emerges from the shadows to save her life, Terrwyn has little choice but to allow him to accompany her. Zelek, shrouded in secrecy and on a mission of his own, has special skills that Terrwyn needs.

Together the warrior and the shadow-whisperer forge a plan to rescue the princess, and find themselves plummeting not only headlong into evil, but into the depths of passion and love.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

I found this book to be kind of middling. The heroine was all that a feminist warrior heroine should be…only she was a little to perfect and chivalrous. Think about the alpha male knight from older romance novels, then take out the mysogyny and rapy vibes and you have Terrwyn. To me she just wasn’t that clearly defined or wrought as a person, there was little more to her than her duty. And Zalek was fairly one dimensional as well.

But the story itself was very well written and entertaining, despite what I felt was some filler in the form of the two additional knights that initially accompanied her. I don’t actually get what the point for them was. And, I would have liked to have spent more time on the trip home and the developing relationship between Terrwyn and Zalek.

Honestly, I don’t have a ton to say about, but if you are looking for a fantasy adventure with a capable heroine, this might be your bag. But it did prompt me to dig up the author’s first book from my shelves and give it another go, so in that respect I consider it a success.

Enveloping Shadows

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4.5 star review

Review – Warrior Wench by Marie Andreas

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Vaslisha Tor Dain is a mercenary starship captain with a few simple rules: A good ship is better than a great man, in case of confusion always err on the side of blowing someone’s head off, and never fall for a telepath or a member of her crew.

All of those are about to bite her in the ass.

Vas’s life takes a turn for the worse when she comes back to her crew after what should have been a two week pleasure trip to find out she’s actually been gone a month and has no memory of missing time. Her beloved ship, The Victorious Dead, has been sold for scrap and its pieces scattered throughout the galaxy. In addition, there are unmarked ships blowing apart entire planets and the Commonwealth government can’t, or won’t, stop them.

And that’s just her first day back.

Vas has to fight her crew, the Commonwealth, and a mysterious cadre of warrior monks to get her ship back and save a universe that may not want to be saved.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Yeah, I don’t pick books that I think I WON’T like, but still, I found this book to be unexpectedly fantastic!

What we have here is a space epic adventure story with the humor and sense of ridiculous of Robert Aspiren’s Phule’s series with some of the epic galactic scope of Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax series. And while there is a hint of a romance, it is NOT a romance. And our heroine is a smart mouthed merc with a mysterious back story and unknown capabilities. In many ways Vas remind’s me a bit of Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels. It is nothing like a copy cat, don’t get me wrong, and Vas has way more ties than Kate ever did, but there are just some parallels that caught my attention.

There are a couple of different mysteries swirling around, not all of which get resolved since it is a series, a cast of endearing and likable (if unlikely) heroes, and it is all wrapped up in writing that kept me hooked throughout.

It is fun, it is a romp, and I seriously think this series will be going somewhere in the future and will be avidly looking forward to the next book in the series. This is one book where I wish I could do better justice in my review because I really want to see this author find a market so the series will continue. And in that I am serious, serious enough to have bought it even though I got a free review copy, and anyone who knows me in real life knows what a miserly person I am.

Warrior Wench (The Asarlaí Wars, #1)

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4 star review

Review + Blog Tour – One Snowy Night by Jill Shalvis

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It’s Christmas Eve and Rory Andrews is desperate to get home to the family she hasn’t seen in years. Problem is, her only ride to Lake Tahoe comes in the form of the annoyingly handsome Max Stranton, and his big, goofy, lovable dog Carl.

Hours stuck in a truck with the dead sexy Max sounds like a fate worse than death (not), but Rory’s out of options. She’s had a crush on Max since high school and she knows he’s attracted to her, too. But they have history… and Max is the only one who knows why it went south.

They’ve done a good job of ignoring their chemistry so far, but a long road trip in a massive blizzard might be just what they need to face their past… and one steamy, snowy night is all it takes to bring Max and Rory together at last.

I have been digging on this series for a bit now, and it was a surprise since contemporary doesn’t always do it for me and YA/NA (which this has a flavor of) is even chancier, but this group of friends I just can’t wait to keep hanging out with. And yeah lucky readers, there’s a giveaway that will give you a chance to get hooked up with the first two in the series!

Link to Follow Tour

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | Google | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info
New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras with her family and far too many assorted quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental.

Look for Jill’s latest, SWEET LITTLE LIES on shelves and e-readers now, and get all her bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold.

Visit Jill’s website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Edelweiss, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

I think it is possible to read these as stand alones, I just don’t know why you would want to. Part of the joy to me in this series is the group dynamics. We met Rory in the first book in the series, and she got a little more present in the second and we got a peek at touch of her background as one of Willa’s adoptees, connections made of those who did not grow up with a stable home life.

But now it is Christmas, and Rory figures it is time to finally take grown up stance in her life and mend some familial breeches. Which puts her into contact with Max, the one guy that she just cant settle her feelings with, and apparantly the one guy she has some sort  of mysterious history with.

This is a sort of snowed in trope, though they are driving, and it is a Big Mis. SO there aren’t a lot of interactions with others and they have some solid time to work out their issues. And since this is novella length, it works out for the best that they have both history and the extended alone time, and that every disaster (and there are several) gives them each the time to size each other up in a new light. And they are almost painfully cut with each other, and there is plenty of saucy banter. It is good stuff.

But, on the neg side, it is almost too short, and the age and theme skew even younger than the other books in the series. It is also a happily for now with glowing possibilities for the future, which actually does fit better my idea for two such young (to me kids) and the short format, so for me it isn’t a negative, but I know it could be for others. So take that into account.

Overall though, it is a good, quick, happy  read, perfect for the upcoming holidays and I do recommend it, along with the whole series.

And whoohoo for me, I have the 3rd full book in this series in the queue, so drop on by in January and see what the gang is up to next.

One Snowy Night (Heartbreaker Bay, #2.5)

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5 star review

Review -Archangel’s Heart by Nalini Singh

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One of the most vicious archangels in the world has disappeared. No one knows if Lijuan is dead or has chosen to Sleep the long sleep of an immortal. But with her lands falling into chaos under a rising tide of vampiric bloodlust, a mysterious and ancient order of angels known as the Luminata calls the entire Cadre together to discuss the fate of her territory.

Accompanying her archangelic lover Raphael to the Luminata compound, guild hunter-turned-angel Elena senses that all is not as it seems. Secrets echo from within the stone walls of the compound, and the deeper Elena goes, the uglier the darkness. But neither Raphael nor Elena is ready for the brutal truths hidden within—truths that will change everything Elena thinks she knows about who she is…

Nothing will ever be the same again.

I am going to admit, I was a bit leery with this one, it sounded ominous and I have not been in a particularly good place of late. But Singh has had me captivated, so I had to read it anyway, and I was so glad I did. I absolutely devoured it.

This is book 9 in a series that really should be read in order. Spoilers for the previous books in the series are likely to occur. So the series teaser (as interpreted by me to see if you are interested): an urban fantasy world filled with non-judeo/christian angel’s, Archangels, vampires with a hell of a twist, and the human vampire hunters who work the fringes of this mad world have hellacious adventures, live, and love and all that jazz. So seriously, read all the books. But stop reading this review if you haven’t already read in the series.

Things have gotten super weird in the world. It has been two years since the events of the last book, and the staggering power of the cascade has been on pause and the big bad no where in sight. So needless to say that emotions are running high. This isn’t always a good thing, but based on how we have slowly been exploring Aodhan and his relationship with Illium it seems it might just be the perfect thing to break open the cracks in the remnants of our dear Sparkle’s solitude. I completely ‘ship SparkleBell. And things aren’t just in turmoil on the personal fronts, the power vacuum of a territory not under command of an Archangel is an issue that must be dealt with.

Enter stage left: the Luminia, an eons old sect but a complete mystery to us and to the relatively new minted angel Elena. And this group has the power and authority to call a meeting of the Cadre of Archangells…duh, duh, DUHHH. Things get dark pretty damned quick.  Power corrupts and rots in secret.

I think it is fair to say that I was completely surprised by where this book went. In a good way, but still, very surprised. And I think it is excellent that Singh has the power to surprise me, because I was starting to wonder.

I will admit, that I initially started this series under duress and desperation (I had nothing to read and had completely demolished-as in reread until the pages fell out waiting for the next Psy-Changeling book came out), and was prepared to dislike it for a variety of reasons…and the first book didn’t exactly endear itself to me. But now that I am into it, I think what I enjoy about it is how the power differentials are dealt with. Here a mortal heart in the face of such age and immorality is powerful and can change the course of the future, here there is power in being a scholar, here women can be and are expected to be powers in the own rights. It all just tickles my fancy. Plus, I really enjoy the twist with the vampires and the world building that goes along with this mythology.

I also really enjoy the balance. While I do enjoy following an established couple through a series, they can get stale and one-dimensional since we almost never seem them grow through the growth of integral friends. And while I also enjoy series that use each new couple’s book to advanced the overall story arc, sometimes it is exhausting meeting new people, plus the time giving more people back stories can make the overall arc disjointed. I find the method in this book about perfect. We do have out main characters who keep things moving along, but then other people close to the main characters have their own books too, which livens the series up. The first three books focus on Raphael and Elena, then we get Dmitri and Honor’s book, then Jason and Honor’s book, then back to Raphael and Elena, then back to their friends Janvier and Ashwini and then Nassir and Andi, and now we are back with Raphael and Elena, so I think we can expect more from Raphael’s Seven now. With Galen having found his heart long ago, that just leaves us with Venom, Sparkle, and BlueBell. And since I ‘ship the Sparklebell, you’ve got a good guess of whose story I want to see next.😀

I am hoping for Sparklebell, then Venom…maybe with Sorrow…not at all sure about that. And then the big showdown with the big bad.

Meantime, our new guests to New York are I am sure going to shake things up, and I can’t WAIT for two of them to meet Elena’s father and her two half sisters. I am going to bet it is going to be love at first sight with those little girls, much to Jeffrey’s great discomfort.

And as it goes along I am going to wallow in how this mortal heart changes such ancient beings, breaking them out of their hidebound ways. It is purely delightful. Fair warning though, there is some darkness. But overall a happy book, that made my afternoon a little brighter. Singh always makes me glad I have read.

I am not certain any of this rambling makes a bit of sense, but I was trying not to squee and cooo, and Bieber it all over the place. Happy reading!

Archangel's Heart (Guild Hunter, #9)

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