4.5 star review

December TBR Challenge 2016 Sky Raiders by Michelle Diener

TBR Challenge 2016

Topic: Holiday Themes

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If you are reading this, there will be no public shaming this month. But, because I am a Scrooge and tend to despise holiday stories, there will be NO holiday story. Bah-humbug! In fact I have completely gone off the map, this is a very new story, and it wasn’t even on my TBR because I didn’t even know it was coming out until it was released. SO I am reviewing it, because screw you 2016, you suck and I am going to do what I want.

Without further ado, here’s my pick for the final TBR challenge of 2016, Merry Christmas to ME!

First they flew their mysterious sky craft through the skies of Barit. Then they started attacking. Finally, they began to raid.

Garek’s one year of duty as a guard walking the walls of Garamundo was extended to two when the sky raiders appeared. Two long years away from home and his lover, Taya. When he finally returns, the town is empty. While Garek was protecting Garamundo, the sky raiders were taking their victims from his hometown.

Taya can’t bear looking into the night sky. All she can see is Barit, her home planet. Impossibly, the sky raiders have brought her and their other victims to Shadow, the planet that shadows her own, and looking up makes her aware of everything she’s lost. Garek is out there somewhere. She knows he’ll look, but he’ll never find her.

She and the other captives have to find a way to escape. Without the food and clothes the sky raiders bring them from their raids on Barit, they’ll starve on the almost barren wastes of Shadow. And when they’ve given the sky raiders enough of what they want, that’s exactly what the sky raiders will leave them to do.

She does have an idea of how she can break free–the sky raiders have brought them to Shadow to mine for ore. A very special ore which Taya has worked out is as dangerous to the sky raiders as it is valuable.

What she doesn’t realize is she’ll have some help with her plan. Because Garek isn’t giving up. And he’s even more resourceful than she could ever have imagined.

Nothing is going to keep him from Taya. Not even space itself.

I am not sure what I expected when I started this. I mean it was an autobuy because it is Michelle Diener and she hasn’t hit a wrong note with me yet. I didn’t even really read the blurb, I just one clicked when the release day email came. I’ll just start by saying I found myself raising my eyebrows a little once I started. Not what I was expecting after the previous books I’d read would be an understatement.

But here is what we have. On a foreign planet where there is significant civil discord, sky raiders have taken to, well…the raiding of both personnel and resources. We have two young lovers who have been parted first by the civil discord, and next by the raiders. As the story progresses we alternate between Taya, a forthright women who stands up for and to people, and her love-Garekek. They are a good match for one another, and you can see it by how they each respond to the events in their respective story lines, but I’ll admit I found it a little disconcerting for their stories to play out so much apart (almost half), no matter how each thought of the other, but because of their long-standing history, it did work for me.

But on the plus side we got to see a strong female friendship develop between Taya and a woman named Min (she seems like a sharp cookie, and a sweet lady), and that is always a favorite for me. And there was an almost as well-developed male friendship with young aristocrat Aidan. So yeah, the main characters developing relationships outside the one between them is almost always a winning combo for me and these were charming.

This book is the start of a series, so there is quite a bit of info woven into it to set it up for future stories. There are certain powers involved that I won’t disclose because I expect it might be considered spoilerish, and we start to see the clash of cultures and policies that field the civil discord. While there’s action and intrigue to go along with our love story, there is also a ton of politics that sets the stage for future books. Your mileage may vary, but I enjoy politics when it isn’t the near apocalyptic horror we have encroaching on our daily lives like current events, so we’ll just say I found it interesting and enough to hold the threads of future tales together.

As for this particular story, not just how I see the series going, I enjoyed it a lot and will probably re-read it. But, the ending felt a little rushed, and it wasn’t as tied up as I tend to prefer my love stories. But, I am avidly looking forward to future stories in the series and hope to see more of Min, Aidan, and a young man named Dom (a really interesting character but to tell more I would have to spoil things).

Sky Raiders (Sky Raiders, #1)

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5 star review

Review – Beyond Surrender by Kit Rocha

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The final book in the bestselling, award-winning series…

She’s the heart of O’Kane liquor.

He’s the brains of the revolution.

They’re facing a war that could end their world. Again.

On December 13th, the Beyond series comes to its climactic conclusion with Nessa and Ryder’s story–and the final battle between the sectors and Eden.

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

This is book 9, and the final book in this remarkable, dirty filthy beautiful series. The first 8 books in the series are only 0.99 as a bundle for an extremely limited time. SO pick it up NOW.

Like many I was late to the party on this series, two years late to be precise. And I only picked it up on accident because I was picking up lots of anthologies early in my blogging hobby trying to broaden my reading horizons and book 4.5 was in it. I liked it so I went back and picked up the first book and proceeded to devour 1-4 in the course of a couple of days and after that I was a devoted Sector 4 junkie jonesing for the next hit. Fortunately for me, while my reviewing skills needed work (so very much work), the books were fantastic and only got better with a new one coming every few months. Beyond Addiction, Beyond Possession, Beyond Innocence, Beyond Ruin, and Beyond Ecstasy.

It was (if you’ll excuse my truly awful play on words) beyond anything I had ever read before. All the sex and kink I could possibly want, without the woman being powerless or overpowered. And all the freaking consent, consent is so sexy and this series proves the hell out of it. Plus menage that felt equal and balanced.

And the world building is truly excellent. I felt immersed in this world that took all the things I had been enjoying with YA/NA post apocalyptic dystopian, without the insipid things I couldn’t stand.

As each book has followed a particular relationship to further the overall plot arc, so too this one did. We FINALLY get the Sector Four princess, sweetie pie Nessa’s story. And her and Ryder are smoking hot together, even with the fact that objectively their relationship is the most vanilla of any in the series. I guess you could call it spare, or basic, but it fit them. They didn’t need the trappings of power and submission, they each hold their own shares of power albeit in different spheres.

More important than the relationship though is the conclusion of what has been a massive undertaking: war. The war that was ramping up in the last book culminated in this book, and the results are dire and heartbreaking. Not everyone got out alive and it effing HURT. We also got some background or a behind the scenes peek at some of the subterfuge that shaped the events in Dallas’ life, and a distilling of all the relationships in the Sector. When everything is destroyed, what you have left are the people, and that is the real strength in Sector Four. And in that, even with the individuals who died, the core of Sector Four endures. It is a bittersweet ending, but the sweet makes it worthwhile.

And while I don’t want to leave them, it is good that Kit Rocha is leaving them to live out their lives in what happiness they have found. I really do hate when authors keep jerking around beloved characters just to keep drama high enough to continue a series.

Fortunately, we don’t have to leave the Sectors. Kit Rocha will be returning next year, only this time to Sector One, and the writing duo heard my (and probably everyone else’s) pleas to give us more Ashwin Malhotra. The icy cold Makhai soldier is up next. Every time I saw Makhai I read it Maiko, and that is what Ashwin is, my cuddly wuddly little Maiko shark (sue me, I looove the damaged ones), and I so want to see him got his happily ever after. Ashwin can’t come soon enough for me.

Beyond Surrender (Beyond, #9)

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5 star review

Review + Giveaway – One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews

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Dina DeMille may run the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, but she caters to a very particular kind of guest… the kind that no one on Earth is supposed to know about. Guests like a former intergalactic tyrant with an impressive bounty on her head, the Lord Marshal of a powerful vampire clan, and a displaced-and-superhot werewolf; so don’t stand too close, or you may be collateral damage.

But what passes for Dina’s normal life is about to be thrown into chaos. First, she must rescue her long-distant older sister, Maud, who’s been exiled with her family to a planet that functions as the most lawless penal colony since Botany Bay. Then she agrees to help a guest whose last chance at saving his civilization could bring death and disaster to all Dina holds dear. Now Gertrude Hunt is under siege by a clan of assassins. To keep her guests safe and to find her missing parents, Dina will risk everything, even if she has to pay the ultimate price. Though Sean may have something to say about that!

I received an ARC of this book from the author, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the contents of my review…obviously, since I bought it anyway. And I’ll buy a copy for one lucky winner of my Giveaway too, as has become my tradition (and despite the fact that it is getting released on a Tuesday)! a Rafflecopter giveaway

So on to the story. This is the first one of this series of serials where I actually read the serial instead of waiting for the project to be finalized, though I did wait for all parts to be written…because I am not that much of a masochist. So I found it really interesting to try to see where and how it changed. Of course, the difficulty with trying that is that I once again got sucked into the story, hard. It is difficult to play the difference game when you feel like you are in something instead of outside it.

This is the third book in their urban fantasy series, where the earth in question is one out of a multiverse, one that connects to the wider multiverse through key points in the form of Inns. Inns are magical places that are hidden from the earthlings at large, and that function as neutral points on earth for the protection of both earth and the special visitors that come here. They also are symbiotic, Inns need guests. And Dina is the Innkeepeer of the Gertrude Hunt, the setting of our story.

The overall series arc revolves around the search for Dina’s parents who disappeared with their Inn some years ago. While her brother actively searches, Dina’s plan was to draw guests to her Inn in the hopes of encountering someone who could help. Considering the caliber of guests she has attracted, and the courageous way she has addressed problems along the way, it is no surprise that this plan is bearing fruit. Dina rocks.

Other notable points in this story are getting to meet more of Dina’s family and the resolution of the love triangle that was noted in the first book. I was never in doubt about which way that was going to go, personally. But if you were hesitant to pick up this series because of that triangle, you can rest assured it is safe to pick it up now.

But the most important things are the way our kick-ass homemaker grows into her role and owns up to making life and death situations. She  also learns to be part of a team. This book wasn’t as “fun” as the first one, nor was it quite the sucker punch to the guts that then second one was (in my opinion), but it was just as good only in a broader way. I guess what I am trying to say is that there was a lot more going on in this one. Heartwarming moments, humor, joy, despair, and hope. This one has it all, and so did Dina.

As for changes from the original serial format? The only thing I actually noticed was the little bit of a twist at the end. It really cleared up one confusing (to me) plot point from the last book, and left us with a hell of a question to ponder while waiting for the next one.

But you’ll have to read it to see what shook out. And I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a little paranormal/urban fantasy.

One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)

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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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