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In the Void by Sheryl Nantus

In the Void by Sheryl Nantus (Tales from the Edge #2)Released: October 6, 2014
Format: eARC
Publisher: Carina Press

Series: Tales from the Edge #2

Source: NetGalley

Excerpt: No

Book two of Tales from the Edge

Catherine Rodgers doesn’t like Mercy spaceships, or the courtesans who work on them—not after her husband left her for a Mercy woman. But after her luxurious transport ship gets blown up to prevent her from cracking the lid off a corporate scam that’s left hundreds dead and a few people very rich, the only vessel around to save her is the Bonnie Belle.

Sean Harrison has worked as one of the Belle’s courtesans for years, bringing happiness to countless women along the space lanes. When he’s asked to look after Catherine while the Belle brings her to safety, it should be just another job. Somehow it’s anything but.

Sean is captivated by Catherine’s sense of justice and responsibility. And Catherine finds a softer, more emotionally intelligent man in Sean than she expected. Drawn together in darkness under the threat of death, they find the beginning of something lasting. But with pirates after the Belle and a price on Catherine’s head, that beginning might be all they get.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I was completely hooked by IN THE BLACK, the first book in Sheryl Nantus’ Tales from the Edge, so I was over the moon (yes, space pun intended) when I found out that the next story in the series was coming out so soon.

IN THE VOID takes up back to the Belle, but now we’re focused on Sean, one of the most endearing characters from IN THE BLACK. He and the rest of the crew get tangled up in some big-stakes industrial crime when they rescue Catherine, the only survivor of a shipwreck that looks extremely deliberate. Luckily for Catherine, the Belle is in the area and pick her up. Not so luckily, she’s forced to deal with her prejudices against courtesans (which are not at all baseless) and the crew of the Belle is also forced into a confrontation but it’s one with life-or-death consequences since they know that whoever was after Catherine will be sure to make more attempts.

The plot kind of reminded me of a western standoff because you have the Belle fighting against an unknown but definitely stronger enemy (she has no weapons), fighting because it’s right and the crew has no other choice.  It felt like a showdown but also a race against the clock as they try to make it to a safe haven so that Catherine can testify before her enemies can take her, and the ship, down. There’s a real sense of urgency to IN THE VOID and it gave the book a great sense of pacing.

Have no fear, though, because the blossoming romance between Sean and Catherine does get its due. Nantus once again delivers some steamy chemistry and strong personalities and it was great to see Sean and Catherine fall for each other. I found Sean’s side of the story particularly touching because we learn how he ended up on a mercy ship. I won’t tell you how (spoilers!) but I will say that it’s a tragic backstory and you can see how it’s shaped him into the person he is in the series. As I said before, Catherine also has a personal journey but it’s not as deep as Sean’s, in my opinion. Catherine had to re-evaluate her perceptions of mercy ships and their crews but this didn’t touch me as much as Sean’s.

I truly hope we’ll get another Tale from the Edge soon because this is one series I can’t get enough of!

**I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
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Flesh and Blood by Kristen Painter

Flesh and Blood by Kristen Painter (House of Comarré #2)Released: November 1, 2011
Format: e-book
Publisher: Orbit

Series: House of Comarré #2

Source: Purchased

Excerpt: No

With the ring of sorrows still missing, and the covenant between othernaturals and mortals broken, Chrysabelle and Malkolm’s problems are just beginning. Chrysabelle still owes Malkolm for his help, but fulfilling that debt means returning to Corvinestri, the hidden vampire city neither of them is welcome in.

The discovery that Chrysabelle has a brother could mean reneging on her promise to Malkolm, something that might make him angry enough to loose the beast living inside him. And fulfilling her vow could prove devastating for Chrysabelle —- especially when you throw in power hungry witches, dead fringe vampires, and the Kubai Mata.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s been a while since I’ve read the first book in Kristen Painter’s House of Comarré series but it was incredibly easy to get back into this amazing world. My best friend has been visiting this week so I’m way behind on reviews and in a hurry so this one’s going to be a quick post.

The one-line version:

If you want a series with strong, conflicted characters, evocative writing, and a mythology that keeps growing, you must read FLESH AND BLOOD (after reading BLOOD RIGHTS first, of course).

A bit more:

Chrysabelle is mired in self-discovery. She’s no longer comarré in the way that she was raised. Can she still keep her comarré values? How should she deal with Creek and Mal? She’s like a colt finding her legs in a lot of ways, but she happens to be an over-a-century-old fighting machine with newly discovered needs. There’s a lot going on with her. And Mal’s also got a heap of bagagge. Creek’s a breath of fresh air since he’s relatively light on this front but brings a lot to the table as a character and as a potential love interest for Chrysabelle. I’m also really intrigued by the introduction of the Kubai Mata. Can’t wait to see where that goes. There are also some neat developments for all of the other characters that I liked from the first novel so if you’re a fan of any of the secondary characters, you’ll come out of FLESH AND BLOOD feeling satisfied.

That’s it for now! You can always hit me up on Twitter if you want to chat more. 🙂

Celtic Moon by Jan DeLima

Celtic Moon by Jan DeLima (Celtic Wolves #1)Released: September 24, 2013
Format: e-book
Publisher: Penguin

Series: Celtic Wolves #1

Source: Purchased

Excerpt: Yes

Like father, like son…
 
Sophie Thibodeau has been on the run from the father of her son for more than fifteen years. Now her son, Joshua, is changing, and her greatest fears are about to be realized. He’s going to end up being just like his father—a man who can change into a wolf.
 
Dylan Black has been hunting for Sophie since the night she ran from him—an obsession he cannot afford in the midst of an impending war. Dylan controls Rhuddin Village, an isolated town in Maine where he lives with an ancient Celtic tribe. One of the few of his clan who can still shift into a wolf, he must protect his people from the Guardians, vicious warriors who seek to destroy them.
 
When Sophie and Dylan come together for the sake of their son, their reunion reignites the fierce passion they once shared. For the first time in years, Dylan’s lost family is within his grasp. But will he lose them all over again? Are Joshua and Sophie strong enough to fight alongside Dylan in battle? Nothing less than the fate of his tribe depends on it….

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Don’t let the cover dissuade you: CELTIC MOON is an interesting book. It’s not the best werewolf book I’ve ever read but it has some strong points.

First, I enjoyed the mythology that DeLima brings to the table. It’s Celtic, as you can probably guess from the book and series titles, which is something we don’t see too much in the genre. The author has created a novel history for her shape shifters (which is how the characters self-identify, as opposed to werewolves) and I really liked the details that are included. The main one, of course, is that there are basically two factions of shape shifters: those that follow the Guardians (there’s a long Welsh name that goes here) and those who are opposed to the Guardians, like our protagonist Dylan and his people. The Guardians are very prescriptive and dogmatic, which is why not everyone is enthused by their rules, which lead to the killing of children who can’t shift or who are born as animals, for example. They aren’t nice people so it’s easy to get on-side with Dylan and his people.

Another aspect of the mythology is that these shape shifters live for a very long time. Dylan is thousands of years old and remembers growing up in Wales back when it was called Cymru. Some of his followers and guards are his contemporaries while others are younger. Sophie, his wife, is a regular old human but I found her to be much more interesting because of the transformation she goes through to become the woman she is in present day in CELTIC MOON. We get some flashbacks to when she met Dylan and she was a much softer, naive version of herself. I liked tougher, warier Sophie a lot better, because she was more secure in herself and because she’s more equal to Dylan in strength of personality and conviction (even if she can’t match him for brute strength). You can see why they’re drawn to each other. I also really liked their son Joshua and I hope he’ll get his own book once he’s a bit older.

On the negative side, though, some of the plot/characters are a bit predictable. There are definitely moments where I was surprised, which I loved, but CELTIC MOON does have its more typical moments. Nothing distracted me from my reading — which I did in a single sitting — but you’ll be able to guess where certain plot strands are headed.

I’ve got the second book in the series, SUMMER MOON, for review so look for that to post over on Team Tynga’s Reviews some time in September or October!

The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires by Molly Harper

The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires by Molly HarperReleased: July 31, 2012
Format: online book
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Series: n/a

Source: Free read on xoxoafterdark.com

Excerpt: No

“The thing to remember about a ‘stray’ vampire is that there is probably a good reason he is friendless, alone, and wounded. Approach with caution.”

Iris Scanlon, Half-Moon Hollow’s only daytime vampire concierge, knows more about the undead than she’d like. Running their daylight errands—from letting in the plumber to picking up some chilled Faux Type O—gives her a look at the not-so-glamorous side of vamps. Her rules are strict; relationships are purely business, not friendship—and certainly not anything more. Then she finds her newest client, Cal, poisoned on his kitchen floor, and her quiet life turns upside down.

Cal—who would be devastatingly sexy, if Iris thought vampires were sexy—offers Iris a hefty fee for hiding him at her place. And even though he’s imperious, unfriendly, and doesn’t seem to understand the difference between “employee” and “servant,” she agrees. But as they search for who wants him permanently dead, Iris is breaking more and more of her own rules . . . particularly those about nudity. Could it be that what she really needs is some intrigue and romance—and her very own stray vampire?

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE CARE AND FEEDING OF STRAY VAMPIRES is set in the world of Harper’s Jane Jameson novels but you don’t need to be a fan of that series to read this novel. (Proof: I’ve never tried those books but I followed along well enough. I may have missed an inside joke or two but I still enjoyed reading THE CARE AND FEEDING OF STRAY VAMPIRES.)  It’s very much a Molly Harper book, characterised by a light tone, some slapstick humour, and a sweet romance.

I don’t know if this is Iris’ first appearance in a Molly Harper book or if she was a supporting character in the Jane Jameson series but I thought she was just great. I love her business idea — working for vampires by running daytime errands while dodging them as much as possible —  and the way she take care of her sister Gigi. She’s a very nurturing woman but, at the same time, she’s really tough and practical. She’s an interesting character with a lot of depth, and she’s more than a match for Cal.

The two are thrown together after a failed assassination on Cal’s life. Iris is very reluctant to help him but the promise of cash money sways her to help him against her rules. It’s not the most romantic beginning but it doesn’t take long for the sparks to start to fly between Iris and Cal. They’ve got some good chemistry and it doesn’t take long for the reluctant attraction to kick in. The assassination and Cal’s investigation are rather interesting, though not terribly complicated. There’s enough meat to the story to hold your attention but it’s not the most compelling mystery: you come to THE CARE AND FEEDING OF STRAY VAMPIRES for the humour and the characters, not the complex storylines.

If you’re looking for a light paranormal romance, THE CARE AND FEEDING OF STRAY VAMPIRES might be for you. Sadly, it’s no longer available as a free read on xoxoafterdark (I try to stay a few weeks ahead with my posts) but you can always see if your local library has a copy since I couldn’t find an excerpt link. I do hope you enjoy it!

Claws Bared by Sheryl Nantus

Claws Bared by Sheryl Nantus (Blood of the Pride #2)Released: January 21, 2013
Format: eARC
Publisher: Carina Press

Series: Blood of the Pride #2

Source: NetGalley

Excerpt: Yes

Book two of Blood of the Pride

Rebecca Desjardin, a P.I. and cat shifter, doesn’t normally find herself in strip clubs. But a popular male dancer has been murdered in Pennsylvania, and it looks like the work of a shifter from the local Pride. Rebecca has a duty to help protect her kind—and she needs to find justice for the dead.

Her impromptu trip leaves her boyfriend, reporter Brandon Hanover, unhappy. He’s only just come to terms with the fact that she’s a Felis, and their relationship is still so new… Rebecca is determined to deal with the murder first, then deal with their future.

As her investigation unfolds, she’s met with grudging cooperation and half-truths. Does the Pride want her to find justice, or help them hide a killer? Frustrated and 
unable to shake the sexy local shifter who says he’s on her side, Rebecca can’t seem to scratch out the truth—at least not on her own. But when Brandon shows up, is he there to help or to mark his territory?

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

In keeping with last month’s resolution to finally review more Sheryl Nantus, I’m going to talk about CLAWS BARED, the second book in her Blood of the Pride urban fantasy series.

In CLAWS BARED, Rebecca goes on a road trip to the States, to investigate the murder of a male stripper. She’s been called in as a neutral party — one of the apparent perks of being an outcast with investigative skills. It’s a great scenario because it puts Rebecca on the outside on multiple levels and I really enjoyed seeing how she would cope with everything. Nantus has crafted a nice and somewhat unpredictable mystery for CLAWS BARED and the pages flew by as I watched Rebecca get closer and closer to the killer.

There’s also some momentum on the romance front. Rebecca and Bran’s relationship is still a bit unsettled: the feelings are there but Rebecca has commitment issues. Rather than dithering about them for book after book, though, Nantus sets the question up as fairly central and there’s some good exploration of their feelings for each other and Rebecca’s feelings about being with a human rather than a fellow Felis. In fact, the latter are confronted rather dramatically thanks to one of the local Felis, which was a nice touch of temptation.  This also shows us a new side to Bran, which was very cool. He’s a wild card in the Felis world but I’m so happy that he’s not fumbling around all the time. Bran’s secure in himself and wants to be secure in the relationship, which earns him a lot of respect in my books, and in CLAWS BARED.

The benefit of being behind in my reviews is that I have two more Blood of the Pride novels waiting for me so I think it’s time to dive into the next one, but not until I encourage you to give this series a shot. It’s written by a fellow Canuck and I’m pleased to be able to throw 100% of my support behind this great writer. CLAWS BARED is a great story but you should read BLOOD OF THE PRIDE first so that you’re properly immersed in the Felis world.

**I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh

Archangel's Blade by Nalini SinghReleased: September 6, 2011
Format: e-book
Publisher: Berkley

Series: Guild Hunter #4

Source: Purchased

Excerpt: Yes

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh is back in the shadows of a deadly, beautiful world where angels rule, vampires serve, and one female hunter must crawl out of the darkness to survive…

The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past…but Dmitri’s need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.

Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel’s right hand, and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality…the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.

As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting…and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more…

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I took a break from this series once the focus shifted away from Elena and Raphael but I decided it was time to dive back in since I’m have a huge fan of Nalini Singh’s work. It’s been three years since I read the series so I re-read the previous three books and I was reminded of why these books are so good. And also of how sad I was to have the books shift to other characters, particularly Dmitri, whom I’ve never really liked. But Nalini Singh is a very talented writer and she more or less won me over in ARCHANGEL’S BLADE. I don’t think it’s as strong as the previous stories but I enjoyed it more than I anticipated, even with my qualms about Dmitri as a leading man.

Prior to ARCHANGEL’S BLADE, we got some insight into why Dmitri is the way he is. Singh really delves into his past and mind in this novel and it shows us just why Dmitri is as cold and hard as he is. He’s still not my favourite protagonist but ARCHANGEL’S BLADE was still quite interesting. The best part of the book, however, is Honor, who is really great lead character. She has a pretty tragic backstory but she’s an interesting and strong character. She also serves a very different purpose in the Guild from Elena and it was neat to see more of the internal structure of the Guild Hunters’ world.

ARCHANGEL’S BLADE is also structured a little bit differently from other novels in the series. There’s still a hunt but it’s also a bit of a vengeance quest so it’s a rather dark book. Dmitri is helping Honor track down the vampires responsible for her torture and it gives the novel a heavier tone than previous instalments in the series. The change in tone was interesting and makes sense since Dmitri is an inherently dark character.

Although this isn’t my favourite book in the series, ARCHANGEL’S BLADE is characterised by Nalini Singh’s powerful writing and outstanding worldbuilding. If you’re a fan of the series, you won’t want to skip it!

Amityville Horrible by Kelley Armstrong

Amityville Horrible by Kelley ArmstrongReleased: December 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Subterranean Press

Series: Otherworld #10.8

Source: Purchased

Excerpt: No

Jaime Vegas—spiritualist, entertainer and, unbeknownst to her audience, real-life necromancer—swore she’d never do another reality ghost show after the last fiasco. But when she’s railroaded into a charity gig, she finds herself back on the set, this time with a cast of photogenic college kids, an up-and¬-coming Russian spiritualist, and a tale of missing girls and murder in New England. It’s cheesy, but that’s show business. With her werewolf Alpha lover, Jeremy Danvers, along to keep her nights interesting, it’s not so bad really. Until the bloody ghosts show up. Jaime has never faced spirits like these, and no matter how hard she tries, they won’t be ignored.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jaime and Jeremy on the road again! Who doesn’t want more of Jaime on set with Jeremy looking out for her? AMITYVILLE HORRIBLE is one of those delicious novellas that Armstrong releases through Subterranean Press and, like all of the others, it is an absolute delight.

I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed Jaime as narrator. It’s been a while since we’ve seen things from her point of view and it was so much fun being back in her shoes. Jaime’s narration charms me every time, thanks to her blend of stoic resolve to all things showbiz and necromancer combined with her more joyful and girly moments with/about Jeremy. She’s older than most of the other characters who narrate the series and it gives her voice a bit more maturity, but not in the stodgy mature kind of sense.

Armstrong has written a tidy little mystery for us and it’s as unpredictable as her longer novels. There are some spooky moments and chilling ghosts, plus an ending that you’ll find quite satisfying. She even manages to give us some small moments of romance so that we can remember just how good Jaime and Jeremy are together. (And it makes me sad all over that Jaime probably won’t ever show up on Bitten.)

My standard complaint of “I want more” notwithstanding, Armstrong delivers a great vignette into Jaime’s life. It’s a must read for fans of the series and it’s extremely affordable as an e-book for those who don’t want to shell out the $45 for the print version. Enjoy!

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Queen of the Tearling by Erika JohansenReleased: July 8, 2014
Format: eARC
Publisher: HarperCollins

Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1

Source: Edelweiss

Excerpt: Yes

An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”

Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is an absolutely amazing book. It should be on everyone’s Must Read list. Simply put, Erika Johansen’s debut is stunning and you will love every single page of it, so much that you won’t be able to put it down. At least that was my experience. I devoured THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING in a single day and my first thought upon hitting the last page was, “How do I get my hands on the sequel?” (The answer, of course, is painful waiting but I’m trying to forget about that for now.)

It’s hard to identify particular elements that standout because the entire novel is amazing. THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is beautifully written fantasy with strong characters, rich worldbuilding, and lots of political intrigue. I’ve seen Johansen being called the female George R. R. Martin and I think it’s an apt comparison because Johansen is such an amazing storyteller. She may not have the overwhelming number of characters that typify a Martin book but she’s just as gifted as he is when it comes to her craft. The pages flew by as I was reading. I just couldn’t get enough of Kelsea’s journey from a plain girl hidden from the world to the Tear Queen, a role she slowly owns over the course of the novel. Kelsea is tested on every level and her personal development had me captivated.

Of course, it helps that she has a truly menacing foe. The Red Queen is something of a mystery since we only get glimpses into her life but we know that she’s super evil and aligned with dark powers. In her unnaturally long life, she has turned Mortmesne into a terrifying and terrified land, and she’s willing to do the same to the Tear to get her way. She’s more than a match for Kelsea but the Red Queen fears our heroine for reasons that aren’t quite explained in the THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING. Kelsea has these two magical necklaces and I expect we’ll see her learn to use them eventually — and then we’ll understand just why the Red Queen wanted Kelsea dead before she could ascend to her throne.

Each character in THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is well written and developed. They all have distinct personalities — and the secrets to go with them — and I enjoyed watching Kelsea slowly unwrap some of their mysteries. There are still characters I don’t fully understand but I think that’s part of the fun. It would be a much more boring book if everyone’s motivations were laid out from the first page, don’t you think, especially since Kelsea is taken away from everything familiar at the start of the novel. Instead, there’s a lot of intrigue and plotting, some of which is incredibly obvious and some of which is much more subtle. And it’s the subtle problems that are causing the most issue for Kelsea and her Guard, which makes sense.

Finally, I’d point out that there is no romance in THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING and I’m glad. I love a good romance as much as the next reader but there was no darn time for Kelsea to start making out with someone, and I’m very happy that she didn’t get completely distracted by a boy while her kingdom is under threat. There’s a little moment here or there where you could see something blooming eventually but Kelsea doesn’t focus on finding her true love in the novel. She’s got bigger issues on her mind and I’m glad that she doesn’t dither too much about romance. She does fret a bit about her appearance because her mother was quite beautiful and Kelsea’s rather plain but what teenager doesn’t worry about their looks a bit? I hope she’ll start owning her look as things go on but she makes some steps in the right direction in THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING.

There are a lot of mixed reviews out there (check Goodreads, for example) but I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING. I’d suggest you try the excerpt before buying but only because the book seems to have really polarized the Goodreads crowd. I thought this was a fantastic debut novel and the beginning of an amazing career for Johansen.

**I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

In the Black by Sheryl Nantus

In the Black by Sheryl NantusReleased: May 12, 2014
Format: eARC
Publisher: Carina

Series: Tales from the Edge #1

Source: NetGalley

Excerpt: No

Book one of Tales from the Edge

When Sam Keller left the military, she ran to the far end of the galaxy. Now she captains the Bonnie Belle, a spaceship full of courtesans who bring a little pleasure to hard-up men on mining colonies. When one of her girls turns up dead, it’s Sam’s job to find out who killed her, fast.

Marshal Daniel LeClair is as tough as steel and quick on the draw. But when his vacation gets replaced by an assignment to help find the killer, he can’t help angling for a little action with the saucy, hard-charging Sam. She’s got brains, attitude and a body he wouldn’t mind investigating.

Sam, six months lonely, might just indulge him. But the Guild that owns the Belle wants the case closed yesterday. With pressure coming from all quadrants, Sam and her marshal clash over false leads and who’s on top. But when the killer threatens the Belle again, romance will have to wait. It’s a captain’s job to save her crew, no matter the cost.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I really like Sheryl Nantus. I think she’s a very talented author (though I have been quite slack about getting reviews up, which I am trying to fix). In IN THE BLACK, she moves away from urban fantasy and superheroes to give us space opera goodness. There’s sex, there’s mystery, and there’s cool technology. What more could you want?

There’s lots of good stuff in this book  but I’m quite busy at work so here are the highlights:

Nantus has created a very cool world for IN THE BLACK. It reminded me a bit of Firefly. Prostitution is legal and our heroine Sam Keller is the captain of a courtesan ship. These courtesans aren’t just there for sex: they provide all sorts of services to their clients, from different flavours of sexual intercourse to financial advise to medical care. The Belle flies from mining colony to mining colony and it should be an easy job for Sam, who’s recently out of the military, but one of the courtesans ends up murdered. It’s not only bad for the courtesan but it’s also bad for business, which means that the Guild wants it cleaned up as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for the Guild, Sam and Marshal Daniel LeClair are determined to find the culprit, not sweep the problem under the proverbial rug. And this is just one of the reasons that Sam and Daniel make a good pair.

Another reason IN THE BLACK really works is the fact that Sam and Daniel have insane chemistry. It’s absolutely off the charts. They smoulder from the instant they meet and it makes their romance really fun. But they also work really well as individual characters. Both Sam and Daniel are strong, well developed characters and I liked them as soon as they came onto the page. Sam has a particularly memorable first scene, thanks to her occupation. 🙂

If you’re looking for a sexy space story, IN THE BLACK is definitely for you. Sheryl Nantus has created a truly gripping mystery with some very sexy moments. I think you’ll really enjoy it!

**I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Twisted Miracles by AJ Larrieu

Twisted Miracles by AJ LarrieuReleased: April 7, 2014
Format: eARC
Publisher: Carina

Series: The Shadowminds #1

Source: Netgalley

Excerpt: Yes

Cass Weatherfield’s powers come with a deadly price.

Cass knows it was her telekinetic gift that killed a college classmate five years back, even if no one else believes her. She’s lived in hiding from her fellow shadowminds ever since, plagued by guilt and suppressing her abilities with sedatives. Until the night her past walks back into her life in the form of sexy Shane Tanner, the ex-boyfriend who trained her…and the one she left without saying goodbye.

When Shane tells her that his twin sister, Mina–Cass’s childhood friend–is missing, Cass vows to help, which means returning to New Orleans to use her dangerous skills in the search. But finding Mina only leads to darker questions. As Cass and Shane race to learn who is targeting shadowminds, they find themselves drawn to each other, body and soul. Just as their powerful intimacy reignites, events take a terrifying turn, and Cass realizes that to save the people she loves, she must embrace the powers that ruined her life.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I’m sorry to say it but I’m rather ambivalent about TWISTED MIRACLES. There was no insta-love or need to read. I was really intrigued by the cover copy and it has some nice elements but I can’t recommend this book as a Must Read. I’d say it’s more of a try-an-excerpt-and-see-for-yourself kind of book.

The good: It was fun to read a series about “shadowminds”, basically different flavours of psychics. There are some neat powers and the history that is slowly revealed is very interesting. Larrieu has some nice world building going on, and it’s definitely one of the strength of the novel. You get a really authentic sense of Louisiana, probably because Larrieu is a native of the state.

The bad: Cass is a weak protagonist. I’ve got no quibble with characters who are damaged or anything like that (hello, I love Shiloh Walker, who writes some of the most broken people ever) but Cass is weak in the sense that I didn’t feel like she had much personality. It’s like she was so busy trying to dampen her gift that she forgot she was a person. A main character who doesn’t grab me is a kiss of death and it made it hard to get invested in Cass’ journey, especially since she’s surrounded by more interesting people.

I don’t have much more to say because of my ambivalence. TWISTED MIRACLES didn’t make a great impression on me but I hope it will find fans out there somewhere. If you liked it more than I did, I’d love to hear why.

**I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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