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.**

TV Talk: Thoughts on Bitten Season 1

Unless you’ve been living outside of North America, you probably know that Kelley Armstrong’s werewolves have come to TV thanks to Canada’s Space channel in Bitten, a show named after the first book in Armstrong’s Otherworld series. The show was later picked up by Syfy in the States but it hasn’t debuted anywhere else to the best of my knowledge. As a Canadian, this meant that I got to watch it from Day 1, which was great. But then I lucked into my job in the UK and I moved mid-series and so I wasn’t able to keep up. I’m on holiday now I’m Canada so I figured I’d use the time to find out how things ended. I actually ended up binge watching the whole season over the past two days and decided to share my thoughts with you.

Before proceeding any any further, I should point out that there will be spoilers for both the TV show and the series. I’m assuming that anyone who continues with this post has either watched the series and read the books OR doesn’t mind spoilers.  You have been warned!

bitten
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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.**

On the road again

Jenn Goes Places

Canadian flag

Just a quick note to say that I’m travelling again. This time I’m in Ontario for a wedding and some quality family/friends time but I’ll be taking a quick stop in St. John’s on my way back to prep some conference papers.

Also, HAPPY BELATED CANADA DAY!!! I had to work on Canada Day for the first time ever and it was unpleasant in the sense that I am accustomed to having that day to relax and eat BBQ. There was no relaxation or BBQ this year but at least it was sunny.

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Changes by Jim Butcher

Changes by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files #12)Released: March 1, 2014
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Roc

Series: The Dresden Files #12

Source: Library

Excerpt: Yes

Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden’s lover-until she was attacked and left struggling with the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Now, she needs Harry’s help. Harry’s enemies have found the secret she has hidden for so long, and he will have to unleash the full fury of his untapped power.

Because this time, he’s fighting to save his child.

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

Holy. Crap.

I’m a few books behind on the Dresden Files and I knew that CHANGES had some big, well, changes in it but Jim Butcher just about killed me this time around. The Dresden Files is a truly solid series and I’ve loved every book in the series but CHANGES takes the cake.

Some of you may know what happens if you’ve been better about keeping up with the series but I don’t want to spoil anything. The main thrust of the novel is Harry’s quest to find his daughter, Maggie — a daughter he never knew he had with Susan. And this is just the first change we get, on page 1. I’d been hoping Susan would come back again and Butcher gives her an excellent part in this story. We get to see a bit of the old Susan but also a lot of the new, harder Susan who lives life on the run, killing vampires and then moving on, in an endless cycle. It’s no life for a child, and neither is Harry’s, which is why Susan gave up their daughter. It’s perfectly sensible but you can see it tear at both Harry and Susan throughout the novel. Family is a touchy subject for our hero and it’s a theme that resonates throughout CHANGES.

The other titular events? Well, they’re part of the surprise so I don’t want to say anything about them. I will say that we get some quality moments between Harry and Molly, and some of my most beloved characters make appearances. We also get some awesome Mouse moments, which is probably no surprise since he’s a most excellent dog-who’s-much-more-than-a-dog. Butcher also gives us some amazing Murphy scenes and they cement my love of this character. Murphy’s such a strong character — a smart, tough human in a supernatural world — and I love her practicality, her loyalty, and her relationship with Harry. And of course, Butcher wouldn’t be Butcher if the novel didn’t end with a last amazing chapter. Wow.

I really wish I had GHOST STORY on hand so that I could figure out how Butcher is going to resolve the final event in CHANGES but I guess I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what Harry’s next crazy adventure will be.

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.

Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore

Dead Things by Stephen BlackmooreReleased: February 5, 2014
Format: e-book
Publisher: DAW

Series: Eric Carter #1

Source: Purchased

Excerpt: Yes

Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it’s a title Eric Carter is stuck with.

He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He’s turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When he left LA fifteen years ago, he thought he’d never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him.

But now his sister’s been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.

 Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it’s the patrion saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who’s taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter’s going to find out who did it, and he’s going to make them pay.

As long as they don’t kill him first.

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

[Admin note: Sorry for the late post. I’ve been swamped with work so I wrote it on the train to London. I’m heading to the capital for some quality time with the British Library and a public lecture. Who knows how to have an exciting weekend?]

If I had to keep it short and sweet, I’d just say: DEAD THINGS is the tits!

If you have a bit more time to read, here’s why. DEAD THINGS is a very cool entry into urban fantasy, bringing us a necromancer unlike the others that populate the literature. Eric Carter is a man without a home, voluntarily exiled from Los Angeles to keep his sister alive. He’s been roaming for 15 years, talking to ghosts, banishing them, killing when necessary, living completely off the grid. He’s covered in tattoos that help him in some way — protection, spellcasting, etc. (even he can’t remember what they all do) — and he’s got a little bit of reluctant hero vibe. He’s capable of noble deeds — after all, he left LA to keep his sister Lucy safe and he does a fair bit of smiting — but he’s also a loner with a lot of emotional baggage. He literally has no physical baggage since he’s a vagabond by choice, which was quite interesting because his lifestyle reminds me a lot of what you see in post-apocalyptic stories, where people don’t have many possessions because they’re so focused on survival.

Of course, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if Eric was just running around doing a case of the week so Blackmoore drags him back to LA by killing Lucy.  No one in LA can figure out what happened but Eric’s gifts make him the man for the job. Plus, he has no one left to protect now that Lucy is dead so there’s less keeping him out of the city. The mysteries of who killed Lucy and why Lucy was killed were unpredictable and well motivated so you know I loved that aspect of the story.

The world building is also outstanding in DEAD THINGS. Blackmoore draws on various mythologies to populate his world. Eric interacts with a range of deities/supernaturals including Baron Samedi and the Aztec goddess Santa Muerte. Like my fave Kevin Hearne, Blackmoore isn’t restricted to a particular pantheon; instead, everything seems to be fair game in Eric Carter’s world. I love it when authors do this because it means the possibilities are so broad. Many of Eric’s key interactions in DEAD THINGS are with Santa Muerte but there are also ghosts of people he killed, gangsters, and more to keep him busy in between his encounters with Santa Muerte.

The book ends with a very interesting revelation and I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series.

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach (Paradox #1)Released: November 5, 2013
Format: e-book
Publisher: Orbit

Series: Paradox #1

Source: Purchased

Excerpt: Yes

Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.

That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

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

This book is amazing. There aren’t enough positive words to describe FORTUNE”S PAWN. Whether you’re a die-hard sci-fi buff or someone new to the genre, you will definitely enjoy Bach’s accessible and well-written novel. It’s the start of what’s sure to be a great series. Don’t believe me? Ask Felicia Day.

Seriously, that’s how I feel about FORTUNE’S PAWN. But I will try to be a bit more articulate so that I can give you a better sense of what makes this such a great book:

1. Devi is a fantastic protagonist. She’s everything you could want in a heroine: tough, driven, smart. She’s extremely single-minded about her goal to become a Devastator and it leads her to the Glorious Fool and its strange crew. I love her commitment to her goals and her insatiable curiosity.

2. An amazing world. The further you get into FORTUNE’S PAWN, the more elaborate and interesting the world gets. I can’t say too much but there are all sorts of beings that inhabit the galaxy and each species is more intriguing than the next.

3. Crisp writing. Bach is a seasoned writer and it shows. She’s got such a way with words and you’re immediately sucked into the narrative.

4. A teensy bit of romance (or romantic potential). The main focus of the story is Devi and her journey but there is some major sexual tension between her and Rupert. Of course, it’s complicated, and not just because shipboard romance is forbidden. I love a good sci-fi romance but the romance in FORTUNE’S PAWN is just one small element of the overall story.

5. Lady Gray. Devi’s crazy armour suit is a thing of beauty, as are her weapons, and I loved discovering what the suit can do.

6. That ending! There’s a definite end to FORTUNE’S PAWN — no stinky cliffhangers here — but Bach really shows that this is just the first step in Devi’s journey. I was left wanting much, much more.

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