5 star review

Review – Dragon Spawn by Eileen Wilks

dragon-spawn

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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4 star review

October TBR Challenge 2016 – Undead and Done by MaryJanice Davidson

TBR Challenge 2016

Topic: Paranormal or Romantic Suspense

undead-and-done

This month’s review is of a book that JUST came out. But, it has been on my TBR ever since I read the first book in the series, if you know what I mean. I got into MaryJanice Davidson a bit late, but by 2008-2009 I was hooked and was raring for more. Betsy, and the Wyndhams, and Fred the Mermaid had my heart and I simply couldn’t wait to see how their stories would play out. It was a long and maddening time coming. This review is going to be ridiculous, and I can’t promised there won’t be series spoilers.

Vampire Queen Betsy Taylor continues her rule in Hell in the scorchingly funny finale to the Undead series from New York Times bestselling author MaryJanice Davidson.

It had been a well-kept secret for centuries, but now the existence of vampires is all over the news, thanks to Betsy Taylor’s half sister (and frustrated former Antichrist), Laura. Life for the undead will never be the same, and it’s up to Betsy to do some damage control. But her interview on the local news doesn’t exactly put out the fire. It more or less pours kerosene on it.

With all the added attention on supernatural beings, the werewolves are more than a little agitated (never a good thing) and demand that Betsy gets her interview skills, and her family, in order. And while things go from bad to worse in the world, Hell continues to be hell—especially when Betsy’s new parole program gets about as complicated as you’d expect.

With a PR team launching a vampire-friendly campaign, the Devil at large and out to make trouble, and mermaids on hand to see who falls—and how hard—the end isn’t just near. It’s here. And if anyone knows how to go out with a bang, it’s the Queen of Hell.

Book 15, oh parting is such sweet sorrow! MJ and Betsy, we’ve been through it, huh? A) I didn’t know a series this ridiculous could actually jump the shark. And B) I didn’t know how we were ever going to come back from the events of Unfinished and Undermined. The time traveling and the loved ones made into a creepy skin book with an Evil Betsy Taylor was just too much for me and many other readers. I am not ashamed to admit, I kind of quit this series. It has been 15 books and 8 years or so, and while it hasn’t always been great, it has been, something…

When I heard that she was wrapping up though, I caught back up and gave her another chance. And I am glad I did. I rarely quit series, and don’t do it lightly, and this is the only one I have ever come back to. I had missed the lightheartedness, the ridiculous humor, and the antics of friends I would never, ever want to hang out with. Seriously, it was like a train wreck.

What we have is my favorite designer shoe loving, airhead almost heroine vampire. She…kind of…grows up. Resolves some stuff, messes some more stuff up, and in general just takes us on a ride. Par for the course and almost like old times. A number of mysteries were solved/resolved, the vampire nation AND Hell are humming along on a fairly even keel, and the gang all comes out on top. There was one death, which was something of a deus ex machina, but honestly I can’t say I could see another way out either, so it is getting a pass from me.

I don’t know. How do you explain the end of a ridiculous series that made you laugh, and cry, and actually hand-to-heart set a book on fire and vow to never read another thing from this author again…but then you do anyway? I guess the best way to explain it is that I enjoyed it but am glad it is over. AND FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS UNHOLY AND DESIGNER SHOE RELATED, MARYJANICE DAVIDSON, you had better not come back here ever againAll that can happen by adding to it is making it worse. The only thing permissible would be short stories to fill in the gaps of things that have already happened (see below). Don’t screw this up like the nameless horrors.

I am not unequivocally satisfied with the series. There is a major series plot hole regarding Boo, Rachel, and Edward from Wolf at the Door that I find maddening. And little inconsistencies and discontinuity that may or may not be explained by the time line shift. And Liam and Sophie were never resolved. And I don’t know if I would necessarily recommend someone who hadn’t read the series to start (too much baggage in the middle). But if you used to love this series and stopped, it might be good to peak out and maybe ease any lingering irritation and finish it on a high note, I know I am glad I did.

Undead and Done (Undead #15)

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3.5 star review, Miscellaneous

Review – Where the Wild Things Bite by Molly Harper

Where the Wild Things Bite

Delivering a rare book to a valued customer is definitely part of mild-mannered archivist Anna Winthrop’s job description. You know what isn’t? Protecting her precious cargo from mid-flight theft by the very pilot who is flying her to Half-Moon Hollow…while trying to appear as unappetizing as possible to the only other passenger, a vampire. Undead bookstore owner Jane Jameson could be waiting a very long time for her book. Possibly forever.

Fortunately, Anna’s dashing fanged companion Finn Palmeroy helps her fend off the attack, but not before their plane crash lands in the forest hundreds of miles from civilization. Great, now she’s stranded with a priceless tome and a rakish vampire whose bedtime is fast approaching. Why does everyone want this book so badly, anyway? Anna just wants to get it to Jane before Finn decides to turn her into dinner-or sweep her off her feet. Okay, the second option is really tempting. But they’re not out of the woods yet…

Molly Harper is another funny favorite of mine and this is the fifth book in her Half-Moon Hollow series which is itself a spin off from her 4 book Jane Jameson series. She sort of specializes in shady characters, and this one might be one of the shadiest yet. We met Finn when he was kind of  up to no good in the last book (there was something there but he was just too damned shady), and he is pretty well up to his same old tricks.

Anna may be the most neurotic and idiosyncratic character I have read in a long, long time. She has mommy issues, and dating issues, and self esteem issues, and medical issues. Yes, issues, she has them. But she is stronger and more capable than she knows, thought still far from perfect. Plus, she’s a librarian who handles rare paranormal manuscripts, how could we resist that? The answer is that we can’t!

This seemed incredibly short and fundamentally ridiculous, and I enjoyed ever insane second of it. There’s immolating vampires, crazed homicidal pilots named Ernie, banter in the woods, freaky shifters with poor communication skills, betrayal, and new found friendship. It MUST be love.

Honestly, I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys their romance ridiculous, funny, and filled with female friendships.

Where the Wild Things Bite (Half-Moon Hollow, #5)

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3.5 star review

Review – White Tiger by Jennifer Ashley

White Tiger

A woman is lured into the shadows of a dangerous manhunt…
Wanted and on the run…

For twenty years, Kendrick, a white tiger Shifter, has been the Guardian of un-Collared Shifters who spend their lives living in secret—and in fear of being shunted into Shiftertowns. When Kendrick’s group is discovered and forced to flee, Kendrick is more desperate than ever to protect them

His only salvation was in a beautiful stranger.

In a diner in the middle of nowhere, lonely waitress Addison Price has seen a lot of unusual drifters come and go, but none has ever captivated—and intimidated—her like the imposing fugitive who wields a broadsword with incredible skill. But when he risks all to protect her, Addison’s fear turns to empathy—and empathy to desire as she learns more about her savior. Soon she’s more than willing to help the crushingly sensual white tiger and his cubs in a passionate bid for freedom. Whatever the cost.

I really get a kick out of this series. Sometimes it is sweet, sometimes sad, sometimes light, sometimes dark. But even when I find myself not wanting to read in general, I do still want to read these when they come out. While each story is a stand-alone in many ways, I think you are better reading most of them, and in order, to get the full picture.

This particular story was longer on plot, and a touch shorter on relationship. But it was good. It opened up the world and gave readers new insights into shifter relationships and communities. Completely fascinating, I love the world building that Jennifer Ashley does with this series.

And Kendrick and Addie and their little plot moppets were completely adorable. I love a good plot moppet, and that is something that this series does well. And while Kendrick and Addie’s personal relationship may not have exactly taken center stage, their relationships with the group as a whole did, and that worked for this couple because of the kind of people they are.

We also got to see more Ben/Gil, Zander and a ton more Tiger. I adore Tiger, he’s probably my favorite character so it was really good to see how his happily ever after is shaping up. And the Ben/Gil character is fascinating and I can’t wait for his story. But I am not at all disappointed that we get Zander, the crazy polar healer’s story next.

White Tiger (Shifters Unbound #8)

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3.5 star review

Review – Wild Things by Jennifer Ashley

Wild Things.jpg

Wolf Shifter Mason McNaughton is tired of the crazy feral living in his house, endangering him, his brothers, and his sweet auntie Cora. Ferals are Shifters who’ve reverted to the wild stage, forgetting all about the joys of pizza and satellite TV. Not to mention, Mason is sick of waking up to the feral’s rampages in the bedroom next to his. The feral has been given sanctuary, so Mason can’t throw him out—the only thing to do is to find a way to cure him.

The problem is, Shifter healers—elusive, Goddess-touched Shifters who have the healing gift—are few and far between. Mason volunteers to go in search of one, and is sent to a psychic in New Orleans who might have an idea of where to start looking.

Mason doesn’t believe in psychics, but Jasmine, the psychic in question, seems to at least put on a good show. Jasmine believes in Shifters all right, but she vowed after her Shifter boyfriend dumped her to never have anything to do with them again.

The easiest way to get rid of the growly Lupine, Mason, is to help him, but Jasmine never dreams what that help will drag her into.

A short novel of the Shifters Unbound series.

This one is a bridge between the previous books and the direction the series is headed. It doesn’t quite have the same punch as Mate Bond, which absolutely gutted me, but I really did enjoy it. The series as a whole has some pretty good world building, the mythology of shifters is unique, there hot shifter sex, and the characters are mostly just flat out nice and often adorable. Seriously, there is a 10 year old polar bear cub, what more can you ask for? And this story nicely ties a few things up, and opens the series up with a brand new integral character, so I figure the story arc is about to heat up.

As for this particular couple Mason hasn’t really featured much so far, and Jasmine is a brand new character, so it was a little hard to get a bead on them at first.  But I adored Mason, he’s more Beta than most of the heroes in this series, in a completely delightful way…he’s just…scrumptious is the word I think I am looking for. Jasmine was almost a little too good to be true, but it didn’t push her into the dislike-able eye rolling category, so it worked in this short format that there weren’t too many thorns to get through. And with her skills it will be interesting to see how she impacts the shifters and their long range goals.

They one thing I guess to warn for readers who aren’t familiar with this series is that this series is filled with fated mates, and this one is no exception. So heads up if that isn’t your things, but in the context of the world building fated mates make sense. And this particular couple are so sweet together I think they didn’t need a longer book. It’s a good quick read, and I am super excited that we get another story next month and then another in September. It looks like it is going to be a hell of a year in the Shifters Unbound series, and I find myself excited. This may be just the thing to get me out of my slump.

Wild Things (Shifters Unbound #7.75)

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5 star review

Review – Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs

Fire Touched

Mercy Thompson has been hailed as “a heroine who continues to grow and yet always remains true to herself.”* Now she’s back, and she’ll soon discover that when the fae stalk the human world, it’s the children who suffer…

Tensions between the fae and humans are coming to a head. And when coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her Alpha werewolf mate, Adam, are called upon to stop a rampaging troll, they find themselves with something that could be used to make the fae back down and forestall out-and-out war: a human child stolen long ago by the fae.

Defying the most powerful werewolf in the country, the humans, and the fae, Mercy, Adam, and their pack choose to protect the boy no matter what the cost. But who will protect them from a boy who is fire touched.

This is book 9 in the Mercy Thompson series, a series which features coyote shifter Mercedes (the Volkswagen mechanic) and her adventures being the lone coyote in werewolf territory. There is also a side series, Alpha & Omega, which has 4.5 books. There is some argument as to whether or not you really need to read Alpha & Omega to get the series as a whole (I say that you do), but whichever side of that argument you fall on, one thing is certain, you just can’t start here. Seriously, go and read them all, this blog will still be here when you get back.

Of course my bias for  A&O may be because I came to that series first through an anthology I had picked up for some other author. It captivated me, and once I finished that it made me go back and take a look at Brigg’s other works. I had completely passed over the Mercy series for the very shallow reason that I found the covers rather offputting. I looked at those covers, and with a sneer…I put them back.

Yep, I thought, really? That is a serious mechanic? And I dropped it before starting. I don’t know who they were trying to market to, but I find the covers weird, and not representative of Mercy at all. Not that there is anything wrong with those outfits in and of themselves, it just had to do with the description of the series paired with those images. Like, she was luring us with a description of a kick@ss mechanic and then was going to give us a helpless damsel instead. I couldn’t have been more wrong. But the series, it is actually amazingly good. And Mercy is one of my favorite heroines. She is a tough, no nonsense mechanic who stays true to herself. And honestly, I can’t really imagine her wearing any of those outfits, particularly to work in.

As for this book, it is completely awesome. I can’t promise to to make this spoiler free, because there is a lot going on, but I will try.

Basically, the war between the world as we know it and the fae has been heating up off page. And eventually, chaotic coyote that Mercy is, she has to draw her own line in the sand. This leads to Adam FINALLY tying off the nebulous thread to the plot arc of the pack’s animosity toward Mercy (which was welcome), but also leads to what I consider a surprise move from the Marrok.

But it is exciting. There is fighting, and mystery about the boy Aiden, and favorite characters like Zee and Tad are back. And if you read the short stories, two very interesting characters make quite the appearance, it is absolutely FANTASTIC. (Here’s to hoping the get some more page time in the next book, I think it will be good for all involved …including a conspicuously missing character. And it will be fun to watch too.) I hadn’t made the connection when the one character previously appeared, but a ton of things made better sense from that.

As for the rest of the story arc, I’ve been wondering where things were going, but man-oh-man I did NOT see this coming. You wonder sometimes, at the disparate things that come about as a series develops. Is that some random deus ex machina? Does it have purpose? Does the author know where he or she is going with this? So it was delightful to see that Patricia Briggs knew EXACTLY where she was going, or at least is a good enough story teller to pull things off with great aplomb.

And damned if there wasn’t the absolute strangest thing to be sad about too. When you get to around 96%, come back and talk to me about it, surely I am not the only one who was almost unbearably moved. But don’t be saddened to much, Briggs finishes off on a really, really high note.

So, final thoughts, there was a much higher level of humor in this one than others, the relationship angst and overall angst are at almost negligible levels, and it gives us readers some breathing space after the trauma and drama of past books and also resettles the story in ways that are hard to explain. It was an excellent installment and makes me that much more antsy to see what Charles and Anna, the titular Alpha & Omega, are up to now, since I think one of their stories will be next (see what I mean by needing to read both series to get the full picture?). Unfortunately I guess that will be happening in 2017, which is a long ways to wait, but made slightly bearable by the fact that we leave them in such a good place.

Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson, #9)

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4 star review

Review – Mind Magic by Eileen Wilks

Mind Magic

FBI agent Lily Yu’s mind is a dangerous place to be in the latest Novel of the Lupi…

Thanks to the mindspeech lessons she’s receiving from the black dragon, Lily is temporarily benched from Unit Twelve—until her brain acclimates and the risk of total burnout passes. At least she has her new husband, lupi Rule Turner, to keep her occupied.

But when her mentor calls in a favor and sends Lily to a murder scene, she’s suddenly back on active status—despite the hallucinations she can’t keep at bay. With one touch, Lily knows the man was killed by magic, but her senses don’t warn her how far the conspiracy goes…

A shadowy force within the government wants to take Unit Twelve down, and they don’t mind killing to achieve their goal. With none of her usual resources, Lily is up against impossible odds–because with her mind in disarray, she can’t trust anything she sees.

I’m not entirely sure why I waited so long to read this one. Some of it was me, I hadn’t been feeling well and was rather blah, but for the rest I was unaccountably nervous about this one. I was weirdly nervous about starting the last one too, but I figured it was because it was focusing on alternate characters. This one focused on Lily and Rule, so I am not sure why I was nervous, but I am starting to think it may just be this series. It makes me nervous. Even after 12 books now, it is always something unexpected (as an aside, don’t start with this book, it would be impossible). And then I read some reviews that made me more nervous. So, I kept putting it off.

Once I did get to it, the beginning didn’t begin to make me feel any better than the blurbs or the reviews I read had. It took a couple of chapters for me to really get into it because we started out in someone else’s head and I couldn’t understand why. But then once I did, it was Whoa Nelly.

There are some seriously surprising plot twists in this story, and Lily and Rule spend an unprecedented amount of time apart. But since we get to learn so much more about both dragons and brownies, it was forgivable. And those parts were amazing. I missed many of the usual characters, but their lack was only really evident in retrospect. And the one new major character is really interesting and I hope we see more of her.

And this story was really, really good. Amazing really. But I don’t quite understand how or even if this furthers the overall story arc of the series. I’m going to have to admit that I am quite baffled at this point.  I mean, I get where some of the odder threads have been leading to now, but where we go from here is slightly baffling. And there are a few threads that are far from tied up, beyond the overall story arc. But considering how Wilks has pulled it off in the past, I’ll just have to go with it. Eileen Wilks said of the differences between her initial novella and the first book, that she “can’t step into the same stream twice”, and I think that is true, maybe in more ways than she meant at the time. Most series are strongly linear, by both time and events. Hers is oddly non-linear, in a way that I can’t quite describe. I’ve described it as a tapestry before and that seems as good a description as any.

And holy heck this went to some really dark places, even compared to the places Wilks has taken us before. It wasn’t really gratuitous, but it stung a little. Some of it was expected, but the rest was almost completely out of my frame of reference.

So, where do I stand as far as opinions? It isn’t my favorite story of the series. Yes, moments were amazing and magical and fascinating, but not all of it was. And I’m not talking about the things that hurt, because they seemed necessary. But there were some rough spots. And this isn’t going to make my re-reads for any old reasons shelf. But it was certainly better than just solid, and it is very necessary for the series as a whole I think, even if I can’t quite see how right this moment. So I am going to give it 4 stars and hope the next one comes out soon.

Mind Magic (World of the Lupi, #12)

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