4 star review

Review – Seashells, Spells & Caramels bu Erin Johnson

Seashells Spells and Caramels

Imogen’s spent her twenties in Seattle, saving every penny and missing every party, to follow her dream of opening her own bakery.

When that dream goes up in flames, she accepts a spot in a mysterious baking contest—one she doesn’t remember entering. She travels to a bustling, medieval village off the coast of France and discovers an enchanting world of magic and mystery, and learns that she, too, possesses powers.

Unable to so much as cast a spell, Imogen struggles to keep up with the other witches and wizards who have come from all over the magical world to the Water Kingdom’s big competition. She juggles relationships with a sweet new friend, a snarky baking fire, and a brooding, handsome baker. As Imogen falls for this bewitching world, she fears she won’t master her magic in time to win the job of Royal Head Baker, and will be forced to return to the shambles of her non magical life.

It only gets worse, when a competitor drops dead in the middle of the big white baking tent, and Imogen’s the prime suspect. Now, she’ll not only have to survive the vampire and psychic judges, but also clear her name by finding the real murderer, before they strike again.
With a killer on the loose, a missing prince, and the Summer Solstice Festival fast approaching, Imogen will have to bake like her life depends on it- because it just might.

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.

I’ll admit, while I was intrigued by the blurb, the very shallow reason I took the author up on it was because we share a first name. And I was more than repaid in spades with a very funny and lighthearted story. When you find yourself giggling out loud in the first chapters, then you know you are in for a treat.

Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day ain’t got nothing on poor Imogene’s travails. And the way it all went down really resonated with me…I have those sort of life altering catastrophes myself. Admittedly though, my mayhem is just a little less magical.

I enjoyed the world building quite a bit, and I didn’t figure out the mystery until near the very end. The writing was quick and kept my attention centered on the characters. And the two female protagonists have a very Lucy Rucardo and Ethyl Mertz sort of vibe, which I was digging. There was also quite the nice little spark between the Imogene and the love interest.

The only “negative” is where the romance was at the end of the book….and that isn’t because it ended badly or anything, it just doesn’t neatly fit into my personal preferences. That being said, it looks like the second book should be coming out shortly and so I shouldn’t have to wait too long to see how Johnson pulls this off. I am definitely looking forward to the next entry in this magical world she has created.

Seashells, Spells & Caramels (Spells & Caramels, #1)

Advertisements
Standard
5 star review

Review + Blog Tour – Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

VT-Wildfire-IAndrews_FINALwildfire mm c

From Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times bestselling author, the thrilling conclusion to her Hidden Legacy series, as Nevada and Rogan grapple with a power beyond even their imagination…

Nevada Baylor can’t decide which is more frustrating — harnessing her truthseeker abilities or dealing with Connor “Mad” Rogan and their evolving relationship. Yes, the billionaire Prime is helping her navigate the complex magical world in which she’s become a crucial player—and sometimes a pawn—but she also has to deal with his ex-fiancée, whose husband has disappeared, and whose damsel-in-distress act is wearing very, very thin.

Rogan faces his own challenges, too, as Nevada’s magical rank has made her a desirable match for other Primes. Controlling his immense powers is child’s play next to controlling his conflicting emotions. And now he and Nevada are confronted by a new threat within her own family. Can they face this together? Or is their world about to go up in smoke?

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss and Tasty Book Tours, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review. And the usual Ilona Andrews disclaimer applies, I bought it anyway. +Giveaway!!!

I will admit, I have become a little obsessive over this series.

Wildfire Readings

Wildfire

I post that to show you that it is barely possible that I might not be entirely reasonable when it comes to this series. Seriously, I just want to squee and squee for days over this delightful confection. It has the best of both urban fantasy (clear and intricate world building and action and crazy sauce) and Paranormal Romance (magic and tightly plotted relationship with happily ever after).

This is however the third book in the series and it is definitely not a series you can read out of order. Think of this as one giant, epic fantasy book that just happens to have been released in three installments, and read accordingly. That being said, while I will attempt to not spoil THIS book, spoilers for previous books are highly likely. You have been warned.

The Hidden Legacy series is in a divergent world where in 1863 we discover a serum that unlocks untapped magic potential. Shenanigans ensue and the world decides this is much too dangerous to be let loose and so put a lock on the serum. Of course, there are all the people who have already had the serum, and these traits are passed down genetically to their offspring; so magic, and thus power, prestige, and money are concentrated into the hands of these families, known as Houses.

That is how it all starts, so seriously pick up this series and read it, I doubt you will be disappointed because there is a little something in it for most fiction readers.

On to the show. Those genetic connections however bring both pitfalls, and opportunities, and Nevada bears the brunt of both. She is riding the crest of a vast and catastrophic conspiracy hoping to untangle it before everything goes to hell. Meanwhile she has two sisters and two cousins, a mother and a grandmother who are also subject to the decisions she may make.

We’ve seen Nevada in hiding from the world of power, and Nevada making her initial hesitant entrance,  now we get to see Nevada stepping up to make her own place in this world, on her own terms. She rocks and is one of my favorite all time heroines. She doesn’t wander through the world as some sort of Mary Sue with the intrinsic knowledge that her basic (but humble) perfection will change the world to suit her, nor does she bust up the world order just because she can. She walks the balance.

Meanwhile in relationship land, Nevada and Rogan struggle to navigate their personal relationship in the midst of all this trauma and drama. Genetics, and boundaries, and competing relationships oh my! That sounds ridiculously cliched and soap-opera-esque, but it really isn’t.

But when you boil everything down, it all circles back to relationships and the people in ones life. Do you want something for someone in your life that current circumstances dictate they can’t have? Do you want something for yourself, and others are trying to stop you? It all really boils down to those desires and impediments and Ilona Andrews navigates through these competing desires in complex individuals to build a compelling tale. And that is what makes this so good and so much more intricate than your average romance novel, the rest of the people aren’t just stage dressing, they are as much real characters as the main protagonists. And they have real consequences and real effects on the story trajectory, whether the initiating event came from Nevada or themselves. It makes it, as I said before, compelling.

And while this arc is categorically concluded, there is a nice wide door to continuing further adventures in this world, which I sincerely hope happens. Leon, Bern, Cornelius, Catalina, Arabella, Victoria Tremaine, and a few others too spoilery to even speak of right now…all I could see could easily support more stories. Hell, I would even read some NA/YA in this world.

Buy Links: AMAZON | B & N | GOOGLE | ITUNES | KOBO

Author Links:   WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER GOODREADS

Standard
4 star review

Review – A Merciful Truth by Kendra Elliot

Merciful Death

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.

Raised by a family of survivalists, FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick can take on any challenge—even the hostile reception to her homecoming. But she’s not the only one causing chaos in the rural community of Eagle’s Nest, Oregon. At first believed to be teenage pranks, a series of fires takes a deadly turn with the murder of two sheriff’s deputies. Now, along with Police Chief Truman Daly, Mercy is on the hunt for an arsonist turned killer.

Still shunned by her family and members of the community, Mercy must keep her ear close to the ground to pick up any leads. And it’s not long before she hears rumors of the area’s growing antigovernment militia movement. If the arsonist is among their ranks, Mercy is determined to smoke the culprit out. But when her investigation uncovers a shocking secret, will this hunt for a madman turn into her own trial by fire?

I didn’t think it was possible, but I find that I may just enjoy this series even more than the Callahan & McLane series, and that is saying something. There is something just so fantastically comforting and soothing about stepping into a world where adults are ADULTING. I know, it is weird right, but nowadays I tend to find myself doing some mental gymnastics trying to keep my head into a story about the young ones when I just want to scream at the book: “Love him?! You don’t even know him, you’re still just a child!” There is none of that here, just delightful characters who actually make sense to my brain.

This book is a continuation of the series, and while it may be possible to read it as a stand alone, I highly suggest reading at least the previous book if not even the other series too.  That is because there were inexpertly mended relationships that we get to see continue to grow and change, and that makes is really fascinating and lovely to watch. Additionally, I think the relationship between Mercy and Sheriff Truman Daly is a lovely and warm slow burning fire that deserves all the page time. Did I have my qualms in the last book? Absolutely. Did Elliot justify my faith in her capability to make me buy in? Again, absolutely.

Beyond the primary relationship though, there are a variety of other relationships to flesh out the human dynamic. Mercy’s brother, sister, and niece all got a significant amount of page time, but it was done in a way that further the overall plot well. And the plot served well to further the changing relationship dynamics. Ilona Andrews recently posted on the topic of episodic vs progressive series, that really re-framed how I am looking at series right now. And this is definitely progressive. The stakes are real and so is the character growth. None of these people are the same as when they started the first book.

Speaking of the plot, the suspense was well done, there were a couple of nice red herrings, and one major “you did NOT see that one coming” twist that made the mystery stand on its own rather than just being the vehicle to carry the romance. And as I said before, real stakes with real life type consequences.

I think there are a couple of things that have me edging this series ahead in my favoritism. One is that Mercy just barely edges out Ava in my affections. But two, the Callahan & McLane series focuses on the monsters. This one focuses more on relationships and the seething secrets in small town rural life. While I may not have any experience with monsters (which that fact does make that topic fascinating in its own way), I do have experience with the seething secrets in small, town rural life. So the Mercy series is a bit more like slipping into home.

Either way though, if you enjoy romantic suspense with slow burn romance and real life relationships with adultier adults, I cannot recommend Kendra Elliot enough.

A Merciful Truth (Mercy Kilpatrick #2)

Standard
5 star review

Review – White Hot by Ilona Andrews Blog Tour + Giveaway

TastyToursReview

Review - White Hot by Ilona Andrews

Yes that original cover is as bad as you think it is, no it isn’t indicative of the quality of the story.

Ilona Andrews White Hot

Second one…not much (any) better.

This blog post has been sitting in my drafts since December 2015, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to get an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Edelweiss, through Tasty Book Tours (this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review and the usual disclaimer when it comes to Andrews applies…I bought it anyway).

Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she’s used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family’s detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor “Mad” Rogan.

Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice . . .

Oh Nevada and Mad Rogan, how do I adore thee? I’ll admit Burn for Me was a little rough at first when it came to my preferences. It isn’t so much paranormal romance (abysmal covers notwithstanding) as it is urban fantasy that you can tell will eventually have a stronger romantic component. And the hero was fairly anti at the time. But sometimes an epilogue just smacks you upside the head and shakes up all your preconceived notions about a character. So I knew I’d have to read the next one. Of course with the long wait time, I found myself going back to the first book. And much like the first Kate Daniels book, this is one that seriously improves with re-reading. It went from a 3.5 basically saved by the epilogue that bumped it to 4.5, to one of my all time favorite books.

I never dreamed it would be so long until the next one came out though (heck the links and everything were still attached to my old Blogspot). But it’s probably for the best as I said, plenty of time for me to grow my love of these characters. Plus, new covers AND books 2&3 coming out so close together? It’s like a beautiful dream, except for that wait…and except for the covers not really changing. But hell, as I have said before, the cover curse is probably part of the fun now, and I guess it is nice that some things never change 🙂

We got a glimpses of the secrets hidden in Nevada Baylor in the first book, but this one blows those secrets wide open, and I LOVED it. It wasn’t like she was hiding it from herself, so much as that in the struggle for the day-to-day you don’t always have the chance to utilize your best self, if you see what I mean. But then BAM! you get that incident where you have to reach down and pull your best self out, that is where the magic happens and it was GLORIOUS! Nevada as a heroine rocks.

But as much as I adored Nevada, honestly (excepting her taste in men…initially) I adored her in the first book too. This second book really shone the light on Rogan, and it took facts we already knew about him, and then reframed them in a light that let us know, or maybe understand, Rogan better. Absolutely heartbreaking and heart wrenching, things that were pointed out gave me a filter to kind of take objectionable characteristics he exhibited, and overlay them with the understanding I have developed for the people I have in my life who have gone through similar situations.  PTSD is a hell of a thing. That is Ilona Andrews gift, giving us the humanity in these powerful…sometimes kind of insane alpha-hole characters.

And the relationship that built between these two strong people was fantastic, and funny, and a little sad all at the same time. Instead of a one note, one hit kind of resolution, it was messy just like life. And thankfully, we had enough will they/won’t they in the last book, so all that simmering heat just burst right onto the pages in this book. Very hot. And putting it all together created a very credible relationship that left me feeling warm…like super warm. But I definitely enjoyed the ride.

The story itself was action packed, and aggressive, and twisty-turny enough to keep me engaged through out. Wheels within wheels conspiracies are slowly being brought to the forefront and I have a bamboozled on that one. Plus there was a ton of zany, crazy sauce Baylor family drama, which was a definite plus to me because the family dynamics were and continue to be a major selling point for this series. And man do family dynamics (not just Nevada’s) play an important role in this series-the good and the bad. Few things irk me so much as a romantic couple that seems to live in a vacuum, bereft of other family, friends, and human contact. But this book is cause for rejoicing on that front. The secondary characters in this story are fleshed out and appealing and there are a host of them I’d be thrilled to see get their own stories. Do I want Bug, Cornelius, Leon, and Bernard to get their own features? Yes, yes I most certainly do!

The story arc for this book had a highly satisfying resolution (for a blood thirsty and vengeful girl like me you really can’t get much better than the ending this book’s big bad got at the hands of the person most wronged), and the overall series arc progressed enough that I am champing at the bit for the next book…but not so much that I feel I have any true inkling of how the final show down will go. And the teaser for the next one gave me all the angsty, excited shivers.

So I am giving this book all my squee points, and thus far it has been my reading highlight for the year. Now I am off to reread these compulsively until I get my sweaty hands on the next one.

White Hot (Hidden Legacy, #2)

Rafflecopter Giveaway (One Print Copy of BURN FOR ME (US ONLY))
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Buy Links:      AMAZON | B & N | GOOGLE | ITUNES | KOBO

Author Links:   WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

Standard
3 star review

Unlikeable Demon Humter

Bridesmaids meets Buffy with a dash of the seven deadly sins.

The age-old story of what happens when a foul-mouthed, romance impaired heroine with no edit button and a predilection for hot sex is faced with her worst nightmare–a purpose.

Ari Katz is intelligent, driven, and will make an excellent demon hunter once initiated into the Brotherhood of David. However, this book is about his twin Nava: a smart-ass, self-cultivated hot mess, who is thrilled her brother is stuck with all the chosen one crap.

When Nava half-drunkenly interrupts Ari’s induction ceremony, she expects to be chastised. What she doesn’t expect is to take her brother’s place among the–until now–all-male demon hunters. Even worse? Her infuriating leader is former rock star Rohan Mitra.

Too bad Rohan’s exactly what Nava’s always wanted: the perfect bad boy fling with no strings attached, because he may also be the one to bring down her carefully erected emotional shields. That’s as dangerous as all the evil fiends vying for the bragging rights of killing the only female ever chosen for Demon Club.

Odds of survival: eh.

Odds of having a very good time with Rohan before she bites it: much better.

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 would call this a Kate Daniels Buffy mashup with a train wreck and a side of new adult stupidity. So maybe more like Buffy than I would like to admit, the only thing is I was at A VERY different life phase when I was so enthralled with Buffy, and even then I sometimes got irked with the BS.

But this? This is a hot mess on so many levels, just like the dislikeable heroine. The premise was excellent; a secret society of Jewish demon slayers so blinded by their misogyny they missed their chosen one was the female twin? Sheer catnip. The writer’s voice which was clear and full of snark (excepting the sex scenes both solo and two player which were both just not great to me-particularly Nava’s name fer her vagina, bleck). Perfect.

The characters and what they do though? Stupid, and not often in a fun-loving way. You know how they say of young soldiers that they have to be young, dumb, and full of… to throw their lives away like that? Yeah, these kids (even though ones who are ostensibly full adults) struck me that way. Which just screwed with the plot for me, since I couldn’t get behind their motivations so much of it didn’t make sense. Don’t get me wrong there was some deep stuff going on, but for me it was overshadowed by exclamations of “damn it, are these @ssholes 20 or 12 for crying out loud.”

I don’t know though. It was like a freaking train-wreck that I COULD NOT look away from. I read it in one sitting, just devoured it, I had to know what would happen next. So that has to be worth something. And I remind myself the Kate Daniels series didn’t exactly set my world on fire that first book either. So I am going to give this a cautious 3 stars, see what happens next, and maybe suggest that this might be more of a hit among firm lovers of the New Adult paranormal genre.

The Unlikeable Demon Hunter (Nava Katz, #1)
Standard
4.5 star review, Miscellaneous

Review – The Unyielding by Shelly Laurenston

I8

The Unyielding

Stieg Engstrom, Angriest Viking Ever, has got big problems. The human Viking Clans of earth are in danger of being obliterated—along with the rest of the world—and the only one who may be able to save them is a super pain-in-the-ass Crow. Most people annoy Stieg, but this is the one woman he really can’t stand…

Erin Amsel loves being a Crow! Why wouldn’t she when the other Viking Clans are so hilariously arrogant and humorless? She’s not about to let all that come to an end! She just didn’t expect to be shoulder to shoulder in battle with Stieg. Then again, he’s so easy to torment—and also kind of cute.

With the future of the world riding on them, Stieg knows he’ll have to put aside his desperate need to kiss the smirk right off Erin’s face. Wait. What? He didn’t mean that—did he? No! They have one goal: To conquer the idiots. Because nothing bugs Stieg more than when idiots win. If only he can keep himself from suddenly acting like one….

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.

Erin “Fire Hands” Amsel is a bit of a dick, ok, not just a little bit, but a real dick. She messes with people because she can, She’s A.D.D. extreme with a snarky attitude and a puckish sense of humor, and I ADORE her like the sun!. Of course being that we share a name, I was predisposed to favor her, but I have enjoyed her offbeat worldview from the start of the first book, and this one just makes it better. This is book 3 in the series, and while perhaps they can be read as standalones (I mean each book has its own story arc that is complete), I discourage it in this case because there is an overall arc Laurenston is building, and relationships that won’t exactly make sense without reading them in order.

So, a quick primer: imagine a world where are the gods are real, albeit flawed creatures. Powerful, but unable to act on the world except through their human intermediaries. And I mean all of them, Christians, Hindu, and most importantly; VIKING. Yes dear gentle readers we have Viking mythology on steroids…and probably some LSD. And needless to say based on the Nordic Pantheon, their human clans are NOT the best of friends.

And once upon a time, while the Viking clans were doing what they do, Skuld-Norn of Fate, occasional Valkyrie rider, she who cuts the thread and sometimes unweaves what her older sisters make, decided to dip her hand into influencing the humans. Of course, being sometimes bent of humor, as little sisters tend to be; she didn’t pick pure bred rape loving Vikings. Nope, she picked only women, only slaves and the abused who had mostly been killed, with a motto of “Let rage be your guide.” whose avatars are crows. Who says fate can’t have a sense of humor?

Now the purpose of the human clans is to prevent the end of days (Ragnarok for the vikings, but if any one religions end times come it would actually create a cascade of all religions end times), and to find the gods lost items of power, and to train as warrior when Ragnarok does come. Basically, they are all hitmen and women for their respective gods. The Crows, due to their history are just a bit more of hot messes than the rest of the clans though, but seeing as how rather than being born into the life, they are REborn into their second lives, they make the most of it.

So there is an overall big baddie they are trying to fight who we meet in The Unleashing; along with the first heroine Kera (a former Marine) as well as the Ravens who are hot as hell burly Vikings and owe their fealty to Odin-and which sets you up to understand the Clans and all the mythology. In the next book, The Undoing, we get to know Kera’s teamate Jacinda Berisha (former cult leader’s wife and Berserker), as well as the Protectors, who are OCD book loving Owls owing fealty to Tyr-and which sets us up for an upcoming showdown. And now we have the The Unyielding, which pairs up the meanest of the crows with the angriest of the Vikings-a pairing guaranteed to set sparks firing.

Seriously, these two can’t STAND each other, and it is hilarious. But with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, of course they both have to step up, and of course they fall in love and discover the secret things hidden in each other. (Dude, the angriest viking ever is so freaking adorkable!)

Here’s the thing, and why I adore Shelly Laurenston. Her heroines aren’t demure, or sweet or any of that. They are large and in charge and take no crap from anyone. And the snark; it abounds. So don’t expect sweet romance or angsty “will we wont we”, these are women who know what they want and will damned well TAKE it if they want it. I LOVE these women and I reread Laurenston’s books regularly. All I can say about this story, like I say about all of them, is buckle up for a violent and hilarious ride full of crazysauce along with the plot pets (this one has goats!), and prepare to have a good time.

So the world is saved for another day, hero and heroine are happy-ish (I mean come on, you can’t expect hearts and flowers for the dick and the angriest viking-but they seem to enjoy it), and prepare to get ready to save the world all over again tomorrow.

Interestingly, I have absolutely NO clue who the next book will be about, which is unusual for me. Will it be the former sociopath turned psychologist Crow Annalisa? The socially awkward and OCD Owl, Bear. The hypochodriac Crow Maeve? The booty shaking, dancing man and accountant Raven Siggy? Some odd and hitherto never guessed combination? Honestly, I have absolutely no clue, but with a cast of characters like this all I can say is I am so ready and will be thrilled no matter who it is, because Laurenston never disappoints.

The Unyielding (Call Of Crows, #3)

Standard
4 star review

Review – The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

Book of the Unamed Midwife

Philip K. Dick Award Winner for Distinguished Science Fiction

When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead.

In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power—and the strong who possess it.

A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence.

After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.

This was a hard review for me to write. I did read it a while back, at the start of my slump when a change seemed as good as a rest (and I enjoyed it), but then I struggled to find what to say about it. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and no one feels fine. The titular heroine of the story, the unamed, gets sick in a world going mad and wakes up at the literal end of the world. Women are mostly dead, dying, or enslaved. Babies aren’t being born. And men are grabbing all the power. Into this world the unnamed goes forth hidden as a man.
The tale is mostly told in epistolary form, and it actually mostly worked for me. The book starts 100 years in the future with scribes recopying the unnamed’s diaries. And with that introduction we are jolted into this world. It is dark, gritty, sad, and much of the time horrifying. Realistic is probably the right word. Don’t expect a happy ending, or romance. Don’t expect reunited lovers. This isn’t this book.
What it is, is a “smart” book that delves deeply into gender role, survival, and the slide into superstition when science is lost. And I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of the book, but there is really no one to root for and you already know no one is getting their happy ending. So if you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary as a palate cleanser, then this is worth a look. Now, I understand there are other books in the series, but this one I think ends in the perfect way, so there is no sense that you actually need to read the sequel if you don’t want to, and I probably won’t.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere, #1)

Standard