Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review - Sleight of Hand by Mark Henwick

"Vampires are the flickering illusions of Hollywood. They don't exist. We do. We are the Athanate."

For Amber Farrell, post-military life as a PI has its ups and downs: She's been hit by a truck. She's being sued by a client. Denver's newest drug lord just put out a contract on her. The sinister Athanate want her to come in for a friendly chat. And it's only Tuesday.

Enter Jennifer Kingslund: rich, gorgeous--a tough businesswoman who's known for getting what she wants in the boardroom and the bedroom. Someone's trying to sabotage her new resort and destroy her company--and she wants Amber to find out who.

The answers lead Amber past Were and Adept, right back to the Athanate--and a centuries-old war that could threaten not just Denver, but the nation that Amber swore to protect and serve.

And all sides want to claim her for their own...

Review by: Scott

4 stars

Sleight of Hand by Mark Henwick has a lot of great things going for it.  It's got a solid heroine and a lot of unique twists to it.  Amber Farrell is ex-military, kind of, she has also been bitten by a vampire and has not turned yet.  She gets some pretty awesome physical benefits from her condition including a fantastic healing rate.

Another thing that makes this book a stand out is how it deals with some common paranormal elements.  The mythos around vampires and werewolves is completely changed and that keeps you wanting to turn the pages.  There are some interesting characters on each side and as Amber learns more about herself and her condition the world that is revealed pulls the reader in completely.

The only downside I found in the book was the relationships being set up.  Amber finds herself attracted to a woman, which is a first for her, while also being attracted to a man.  She spends a lot more time with the woman through the book, but the man has certain aspects that make him extremely appealing to her as well.  I feel that the additional layer that this added to the story wasn't necessary at all and worry that it could severely detract from what made the first book great in the second.  This does come from someone who really does not enjoy books that have a lot of relationship drama or overly romanticized plots.

This book definitely had me interested enough to check out the follow up.  I have already downloaded a novella that is available featuring the characters and it only took me to about halfway through the book to start looking to see if the second book was available yet.  This is for sure a book that is worth checking out for anyone who is a fan of the urban fantasy genre.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Guest Post with Julianne Donaldson author of Blackmoore

Why I read:
 I have always loved the adventure of reading. I have itchy feet, love to travel, and don't get to do too much of it right now as a full-time mother. In the pages of a book I can experience worlds that are new and foreign to me. I can learn the thoughts of strangers. I can explore new cultures. I can visit countries I may never see with my own eye. My world-view expands, my mind becomes more open, and in the hands of a skilled story-teller, I am changed.

Why I write:
The adventures of reading are the same for me as the adventures of writing. My stories are set in England, and in preparation for each book I have traveled to the Mother Land to research the place my stories occupy. In my writing, place determines story to a great degree. My writing not only allows me to travel in reality, it keeps me there. Every time I open my document to work on my manuscript, I am once again walking along the moors, or standing at the sea shore, or running for shelter under a tall oak tree while England's fickle rain pelts me. Writing historical fiction offers the additional adventure of time travel and the thrills of research. It also challenges me to write what I know without alienating a modern audience. For an adventure-seeker like myself, reading and writing are my greatest thrills.
Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never to marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead—if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured—and rejected—three marriage proposals.

Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain sooner rather than later and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There on the wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?

Set in Northern England in 1820, Blackmoore is a regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn how to follow her heart.

Review - Valcoria by Jason King

Jia is life. It is spirit. It is indestructible. It is that which is permanent. Dyn is fragile, corruptible, and temporary. In the entirety of the universe, man is the only being created of both, his soul from Jia and his flesh from Dyn - an abomination in the eyes of the fallen god Aedar who would use the destruction of man as a means for reclaiming his lost godhood. Valcoria, a planet created by the benevolent god YaJiann, is the world that bridges these two planes, a dual existence that allows some to tap their Jia and subject and control things made of Dyn. Those who can so affect themselves and the world around them are called the Kalyra or the Children of the Crystal Star, and are the only ones who can protect Valcoria from the jealous fury of a fallen god.

Review by: Scott

4 stars

Valcoria by Jason King is an excellent offering from a first time author.  Starting in a futuristic setting with a man that has seemingly lost his mind and become a tyrant.  His wife manages to bring him back to himself, but at great cost to them both.

From there the book seemingly flies in a totally different direction and the tie ins to the opening scene come slowly.  I did actually really enjoy the slow revelation of what had happened in the opening scene as well as learning what it really led to.

I honestly didn't know what to think when I started reading this book.  I had expected a bit more of the traditional epic fantasy and it started out very differently.  It didn't take too long to get more into what I was expecting.  The characters, though fairly numerous, are well written.  The changing perspective can get a little confusing at times until you get a real grasp on them.  The incorporation of the advanced technology into a traditional fantasy setting worked out very well.  The magic system was also pretty unique and I enjoyed learning about it.

I'll be sure to look into more from this author in the future.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review - Lost Birth by David Alderman

The Swallower of Worlds—better known as Legion, a mysterious alien race that was responsible for destroying Earth long ago—has arrived on the planet of Anaisha. At least this is what Carrie Green is led to believe after awakening in an underground structure known as the Complex. Unsure if the information being fed to her is true or not, or why she is being worshiped as a deity by fanatical cult followers of the flame element, Carrie makes it her priority to escape the Complex and the clutches of a madman from her past.

David Corbin, the only man who may be able to save Anaisha from the cold grip of Legion, is on his way to Galtaia Penitentiary as a prisoner, escorted by the maniacal Agent Parks. Housing many of Anaisha’s most dangerous criminals, most of whom David helped put away, the prison, it seems, will become David’s crypt. But as allies and enemies continue to scramble to find the timepiece—an ancient artifact with unknown origins and powers—one person believes David to be the hero he was in the past and seeks to rescue him from his living nightmare to help save Anaisha from its own.

Reivew  by: Scott

4 stars

Lost Birth starts out with David being escorted to prison for the events that took place at the end of Endangered Memories.  His life has crashed around him and now he is going to be locked up with all the criminals he put away, escorted by the officer who has an unseemly infatuation with him.  This book drew me into the story a lot more than the first book of this series was able to do.  Surprisingly I found the sub story involving Kimberly to be the most intriguing, the end especially has me eager to see how everything will be coming together.

The characters really start to shine in this book and I think that is the reason that I enjoyed it more.  There is a bit more background established with them and since they have an extremely interesting history that is a great thing.  The Legion makes it's presence felt in this book as well.  Overall things are really ramping up for the next book in the series.  I will continue to follow this and the Black Earth series by Mr. Alderman and can't wait to see the what happens next.

Review copy provided by the author.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review - Hashimoto Blues by Sarah Dupeyron

Ellie Fox, quirky pilot, mechanical genius, and drug smuggler, never thinks ahead to the consequences of her actions. When her boyfriend, Max, asks her to “play a Game,” his term for one of his crazy criminal ideas, Ellie agrees and the two of them wind up on the hit list of a Japanese crime lord. On the run for their lives from their disaster in Montreal, the two lovers the two lovers must find a way to outwit their formidable opponent. Will they live to regret playing such a dangerous Game?

Review by:  Scott
4 stars

Hashimoto Blues by Sarah Dupeyron focuses on the story of Ellie.  As a teenager on her own she tries to pick the pocket of Frank, who is himself an active criminal.  Frank takes her under her wing and give her a plane which allows her to smuggle small parcels of illicit materials and the occasional person.  One of the people that she ends up taking across the US/Canada border is Max, a young man who she has an instant connection with.  When a job that Max plans a job that goes horribly wrong they both end up on the run from a Japanese crime lord.

Although this book has a bit more of a romantic element than I usually enjoy it still had plenty going for it.  The characters were down to earth and very easy to understand.  Though making a living on the wrong side of the law both Max and Ellie are easy to feel sympathy for.  Neither of them really seems like a horrible person, quite the contrary they actually are both extraordinarily loyal to their friends.

The book starts with a hook to draw the interest then goes back in time to establish all of the characters.  There were some slower parts during the character introductions and as I said earlier a bit more romance and sexual situations than I normally prefer.  Max has some mystery to him as he never reveals what his main criminal talent is.  He calls his job Beer Runs and will just disappear and often shows up pretty beat up and drunk.  He also has his Games which are fun little criminal acts that he undertakes just to see if he can get away with them.

This book is great for fans of crime thrillers with romance.  It also works well for people who enjoy action packed character driven stories.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review - Secrets of New Forest Academy, Janitors Book II by Tyler Whitesides

Spencer stood up, anxiously scanning the library for movement. Instinctively, his hand reached into his backpack to grip a small Ziploc bag of magical vacuum dust. Spencer turned a slow circle, eyes flicking from bookshelf to bookshelf. The students were showing all the signs—so where were the Toxites?

Now more than ever, Spencer, Daisy, and even Dez must fight to save schools everywhere. Toxites, the small creatures that love to feed on the brain waves of students, are just the beginning of their troubles.

The Bureau of Educational Maintenance (BEM) is after Spencer, and the Rebels hope to sneak him to safety within the walls of an elite private school. But danger follows Spencer and his friends, testing their loyalty and trust as well as their Toxite-fighting skills. Can they hold out long enough to discover the true secret of New Forest Academy and what it means to the future of education?

Reivew by: Scott

4 stars

Secrets of New Forest Academy is the second book in the Janitors series.  Daisy and Spencer are working to keep their classroom free from the Toxites in the absence of a rebel janitor at their school.  When Walter returns to tell the kids they need to relocate in order to hide from a serious BEM surge that is coming after Spencer and he knows where to take them.  The kids will be attending New Forest Academy for a week to let things cool down at home.

The concept behind the book remains strong with the Toxites being responsible for a huge decrease in educational productivity as their breath has negative effects on schoolchildren.  While there are only three species of toxite the BEM uses them in unique ways.  The rebel janitors haven't been idle however and Walter has a few new tricks up his sleeve as well.

The twists begin early when, as everyone is planning on getting the kids to their new school, Dez overhears and insists on joining the group.  This addition really keeps you guessing as you try to figure out which side Dez will eventually join.  There are also several new characters introduced as Spencer and Daisy meet the other kids in attending the school's trial week.

The biggest advantage this book has over the first book is in the pacing.  Since the majority of the background info has already been revealed the story flows much quicker than Janitors.

For this month this book has special pricing.  You can get the kindle version for only 1.99 HERE.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Review - Curse of the Broomstaff by Tyler Whitesides

A secret society of Janitors with wizard-like powers continue their battle, and now, the stakes are even higher.

The Bureau of Educational Maintenance is after Alan Zumbro and this time they mean business—deadly business. Spencer, Daisy, and their little team of rebels must find the source of all magical Glop and destroy it before it can destroy the world as we know it. No small task with the BEM and their monster toxites at their heels. It’s a wild and dangerous ride as they follow the trail of clues all the way to the hiding place of the mysterious aurans: guardians of a secret landfill. What they discover there will change the way Spencer sees himself, not to mention the fate of the rebels.

Review by: Scott

4 stars

Curse of the Broomstaff is the third book in the Janitors series. Primarily following Spencer, Daisy, Penny, and Walter there are a few new characters as well. The dump truck was a perfect vehicle for the gang to be driving around in, and the driver was a great addition to the team.

Once again this book involves new varieties of bad guys and the glopified weapons that they are using to try to bring education almost to a halt. And again Walter has used his status as a Warlock to create some new weapons for the rebels to use against the BEM.

This book really brings a lot of the history of the BEM and the fight against Toxites out of the darkness and into the forefront of the story. There is all kind of information about the founding witches and quite a bit of new stuff is revealed about Spencer's strange abilities. The landfill that a lot of the book takes place in is a pretty incredible place, with some fantastic creatures. The garbage monsters were a particularly strong addition. I also enjoyed how Daisy uses her unique world view to do something that no one knew was possible. She just couldn't bow down to the normal method of dealing with the monsters because it wasn't in her and something great happened instead.