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We stand in the sun and look back in our tracks
An image of self in grays and in blacks
Laughter and joy hold us in their sweet thrall
But even in wonderland shadows must fall

Book Review: Ignite by Sierra Cross

September 22, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Urban Fantasy | By

Ignite (Spelldrift: Coven of Fire #2)Ignite by Sierra Cross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The new Coven of Fire has barely gotten its feet wet when various presiding bodies in the magical world decide they want to have some chats and a new nemesis arrives on the scene – not to mention, Alix is concerned there’s something a bit wonky with her magic.

While the stakes were pretty high in the first book, Rise, Cross ratchets up the tension even more, and the Coven finds itself looking at the possibility of having to work with some rather unsavory characters to get everything sorted out.

The story itself is engaging and I enjoyed learning more about the version of our world this series is set in but, for me, the romance aspect tends to fall a bit flat. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of stories where would-be lovers are kept apart by seemingly arbitrary means, such as a rule that people from groups “A” and “B” aren’t allowed to fall in love, without much explanation as to why. Hopefully there will be more of an explanation down the road. Other than that, though, these first two books have been nice, quick, fun reads, and I want to see what happens next.

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Book Review : Demon Kin by TG Ayer

September 22, 2017 | Posted in Angels and Demons, Book Reviews, Fiction, Steampunk | By

Demon Kin (DarkWorld: Soul Tracker, #)Demon Kin by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this second outing with Mel Morgan we’re treated to a nice mystery as a wealthy man who recently lost his wife hires Mel to find his missing daughter. There are a number of nice twists and turns without the mystery ever becoming too overwrought or confusing and in the end the pieces fit together well.

But that mystery is hardly the only thing going on in this book. We check in on Saleem’s search for his mother, get more info on Mel’s hope of one day finding her sister, a new conundrum for Mel to figure out and some solid character development. Oh, and we also get a substantial visit from Kai Odell the panther shifter from Ayer’s other series set in her Dark World universe. Don’t worry, though, she provides enough information about what’s happening in Kai’s story to make sense of what’s going on even if you aren’t reading that series as well – without overloading those who are with info they already know.

If, however, you are reading both the Soul Tracker and Skinwalker series, be sure to read the first three books in Skinwalkers (Skin Deep, Lost Soul, and Last Chance) *before* reading this book as it contains several spoilers for Last Chance.

As I’ve come to expect, Ayer keeps the story moving along at a steady pace and I really appreciate her ability to fill her stories with multiple subplots and interesting characters while still making it easy to follow the action and not just remember who’s who but also be able to find points of connection with them.

On to the next one!

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Book Review: Familiar Magic by MV Stott

September 15, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Urban Fantasy | By

Familiar Magic (London Coven #1)Familiar Magic by M.V. Stott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The London Coven is made up of the three most powerful witches in the city who have been charged with policing the denizens of the Uncanny Kingdom – the hidden magical world in this series’ universe – and to help keep most humans unaware of its existence. They’ve been doing their job for a few hundred years, but as the story opens, Stella Familiar, a humanoid woman the Coven had created to assist them in their work, comes home to find them dead. Stella quickly begins trying to find out what killed her witches and avenge their deaths.

Aside from a short prequel story I haven’t yet read, “Familiar Magic” is the first book in publisher Genre Reader’s London Coven series, one of at least three series they have that are set in their multi-author Uncanny Kingdom universe. It’s full of action, snarky humor, interesting people and lots of magic. It’s a face-paced tale that still manages to work in some strong world-building and good character development.

Stella makes for an intriguing heroine. She was conjured up, fully grown, by her masters, and she never ages, but even though she was created for a specific purpose, she’s not just a puppet or living automaton. She has a full range of emotions, is smart and witty, has strengths and vulnerabilities and is able to determine her own path, be it what she needs to do in the moment or what plan she had for her own future.

She gets teamed up with Detective David Tyler, who until Stella entered his life knew nothing about the magical world existing along-side the human one. And while he may get flustered when confronted with yet some other new thing or experience, he has an almost unrelenting positive attitude and does his best to just roll with it. Together, Stella and David make for a formidable (and entertaining) team.

This was one of those books I had a hard time putting down once I picked it up. It’s a promising start to what I’m hoping will be a really fun series.

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Book Review: Fire and Shadow by TG Ayer

September 12, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Mythology-Based, Urban Fantasy | By

Fire & Shadow (Hand of Kali, #1)Fire & Shadow by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book in TG Ayer’s “Hand of Kali” series, this one centered around the gods and legends of Hinduism.

Even though she’s been raised by a family devoted to the Hindu gods, Maya Rao doesn’t believe they’re real. That makes it all the more shocking when she discovers that she was born to be the Hand of Kali – her warrior on Earth to battle the Rakshasa demons who can possess people in order to do their master’s bidding and sometimes kill people just for the fun of it, so some serious evil here. Maya remains skeptical about her status even after she experiences her new-found abilities, but she soon comes to accept that what’s happening is real. She also learns that while she may have a special connection to Kali, other gods and goddesses may need her help at times and will also assist and help protect her when possible.

I’ve only read the first book in this series, so this might change, but if I was the mother of a mid-teen to young adult daughter, I could see myself giving this to her and hoping she might find some inspiration in Maya. Even though she’s still young, as Maya grows in her acceptance of her new reality, she shows a certain maturity in understanding the responsibilities that come with it. Sure, she has moments of doubt or chafes at times about some of what she’s asked to do – she wouldn’t be believable otherwise – but she doesn’t allow herself to wallow in them. She also cares about others enough that she can put their needs first and is willing to take significant risks to help her friends if necessary.

The story itself is good, as are the other main characters. The plot and subplots mesh together well and each is interesting in its own right. There are a couple of times where something that happens in one part of the book seems to be contradicted later by something else but I enjoyed the rest of what was going on enough that it was easy to give it a pass. As I’ve come to expect from Ms Ayer, the side characters are well-developed and multi-dimensional. I really liked how loving and supportive Maya’s parents are, and her friends are fun and interesting in their own right.

All-in-all, this is another good tale from TG Ayer

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Book Review: Lost Soul by TG Ayer

September 8, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy | By

Lost Soul (Dark World, #2)Lost Soul by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

In this second installment in Ayer’s “Skinwalker” series, we learn a lot more about Kai, Logan and the Dark World universe where both this and her “Soul Tracker” series are set.

This time, Kai is preparing to rescue some people from the demonic dimensions where they’ve been trapped, but she’s still severely weakened by the poison she was infected with in the previous book.

There’s a lot of character development in this book, and it’s fun to see Kai growing in her abilities and the understanding of the role she’s destined to play. Her relationship with Logan is sweet, and I liked being able to see her interacting more with her grandmother. We also get a visit from Saleem, one of the main characters of the “Soul Tracker” series. You don’t need to know anything about that series, however, as none of what Saleem does here is tied to what he does in those books.

I enjoyed this installment a great deal and it does a good job of ratcheting the tension up for the next book in the series.

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Book Review: Rise by Sierra Cross

September 6, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy | By

Rise (Spelldrift: Coven of Fire, #1)Rise by Sierra Cross

“Rise” by Sierra Cross is the first book in the Spelldrift: Coven of Fire series, set in an alternative version of modern Seattle. Our heroine is Alix, a young woman still trying to heal from the trauma of the death of her mother – and all of her mother’s coven – ten years ago, and not doing too well with it. To make matters worse, as the daughter of a witch – and a powerful one at that – Alix should have been a witch herself, but has led to believe she has no magical ability. As a result, she finds herself tending bar for a less than ideal boss instead of working side-by-side with her mother and their coven fulfilling the duties of a witch. Things begin to change, however, when one night she unexpectedly discovers that she might not be as magicless as she thought.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Alix is a fun heroine and her compatriots make for an interesting and engaging set of personalities. I found the romance aspect of the book to be a bit tiresome because it’s based on the overused trope of capital-F “Forbidden Love” though, thankfully, it’s not one of the more predominant themes in the book, which focuses more on the action and growth of the characters. There are a few major twists that are very well handled. I didn’t see them coming, but when they did, the author had done a good job of laying the groundwork for them so that they didn’t feel like something that just came out of nowhere. I also liked how the story makes use of the history several of the characters share and how that history plays into their growth through the events of the book.

If you’re looking for a good, witchy urban fantasy this one should did quite nicely.

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Book Review: The Dark Interest by JP Sloan

August 29, 2017 | Posted in Angels and Demons, Book Reviews, Urban Fantasy | By

The Dark Interest (The Dark Choir #4)The Dark Interest by J.P. Sloan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wow.

I’ve loved this series since I started reading it, and have eagerly awaited each new installment. I have yet to be let down, and the series just keeps getting better.

Dorian Lake has been having a rough time lately. As if losing his soul wasn’t bad enough, his troubles from the magical world are affecting his friends – some in truly awful ways – messing with his lovelife and getting him caught in the middle of an internal war within one of the most powerful magical groups in the country. And while he has never wanted to participate in Netherwork (dark magic) his enemies aren’t leaving him a lot of options.

In this story, Dorian’s slow-but-steady fail continues as he realizes that demonic forces are trying to create mass chaos in his city and he finds someone who claims to know where is soul is – but will only tell him if he can get concessions from a new group in town. Of course, this new group has conditions of its own if he wants their assistance. Not helping matters any is an upstart practitioner who is competing with Dorian for customers, and winning a bit too often for Dorian’s taste.

Author JP Sloan managers to juggle all of these elements with a deft hand and throws in several twists just to keep things interesting. One thing I particularly liked was that none of the twists were so obvious that I was able to predict what was going to happen, yet when I reflected back on the events leading up to them, I could see how Sloan had carefully set each element up so that when the dominos began to fall it all made sense.

This story was by turns exciting, humorous, touching and devastating. Sloan has created a believable alternate reality and stocked it with interesting – and generally likeable inhabitants. I like that his characters are not clearly divided into good guys and bad ones. Instead, they’re multi-dimensional with both positive and negative attributes. It’s hard to watch a character like Dorian – who I’ve grown quite fond of – falling so far and harder still to know he’s probably not reached bottom yet, but I’m really eager to find out what happens next and to see how – or if – Dorian can be redeemed.

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Book Review: Crossfire by Andrea Domanski

August 29, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Mythology-Based, Urban Fantasy | By

Crossfire (Omega Group #1)Crossfire by Andrea Domanski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Crossfire” is the story of a young Amazonian warrior who lives among humans, fighting to protect them from the evils of the world, and, no, her name is NOT Diana Prince. In fact, aside from that brief description, this book has little in common with the adventures of Wonder Woman.

Our heroine here is Mirissa Coleson, a 19-year-old young woman who, until her 18th birthday was completely in the dark about her unusual heritage. While understandably shocked and a bit hesitant at first, Mirissa soon takes to her new reality – and the responsibilities it brings – with gusto.

“Crossfire” is a really fun book. Mirissa is a likeable hero. She’s tough, smart and compassionate with enough vulnerability to avoid coming across as too perfect and invincible. Her companions are developed well enough that they stand out as individuals, making it easier to remember who’s who without having to flip back through the pages for reminders. I especially appreciated the clarity with which the action scenes are written. Too often it’s easy to lose track of what’s happening in the various face-to-face skirmishes that take place in the overall battle, but I didn’t find that problem here, making it more enjoyable than similar scenes in several other books.

The main story in the book is nicely wrapped up rather than left as a cliffhanger with enough threads left from various subplots to accommodate future tales.From what I’ve seen in the blurbs for some of the other books in the series, it appears that – in most cases – the books each focus on a different one of Mirissa’s companions, which I think sounds rather interesting. I’m looking forward to getting a chance to know these other characters better.

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Book Review: Cursed Sight by TG Ayer

August 24, 2017 | Posted in Alternate History, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Fiction, Mythology-Based, Urban Fantasy | By

Cursed Sight (Dark Sight Book 2)Cursed Sight by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

In this second volume of TG Ayer’s “Dark Sight” series, Pythia Allegra Damascus and her guardian Commander Max Vissarion are headed to Peru where Allegra’s visions have shown her an event of massive destruction is soon to occur. Upon arriving, however, she discovers that not everyone is thrilled with her desire to help, perhaps not even the representatives of her home country’s government who are supposed to assistant her – and she has no idea why.

“Cursed Sight” introduces us to several new characters, including the staff who had cared for Aurelia, Allegra’s predecessor as Pythia. I found Mara, Aurelia’s handmaid, to be a delight. She’s a mischievous and cantankerous older woman who’s as sharp as a tack and hides beneath her gruff exterior a deep devotion for the women she serves. I hope we see more of her in future installments.

We also learned more about Allegra’s enemies and a few breadcrumbs were dropped that point to a possible future betrayal that had the potential to be devastating. I can’t wait to see how that develops!

While there were a number of mysteries that kept me guessing up until they were revealed, there were a couple of cases where the foreshadowing was a bit heavy-handed making their eventual revelations a bit too obvious for me. That said, the book as a whole was very enjoyable and has me looking forward to what happens next.

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Book Review: Blood Magic by TG Ayer

August 10, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy | By

Blood Magic (DarkWorld: Soul Tracker, #1)Blood Magic by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The first book in TG Ayer’s “Soultracker” series gets it off to a good start. Melisande (Mel) Morgan has a number of paranormal gifts which she uses to track and hopefully retrieve missing persons. She can locate the person psychically using an object they’ve been in contact with or a sample of their body – like what law enforcement would use for a DNA sample – and can project her consciousness to different locations, such as where the person she’s seeking is located or a room she wants to check out, even if it is in a different dimension. She can also physically jump herself pretty much wherever she needs to go, and can bring one or more people with her as long as they are all in physical contact. Her home base is Chicago, and while few officers are aware of her talents (or the existence of the paranormal world, for the matter) the Chief of Police knows what she can do and the two have a good working relationship.

As I’ve come to expect from Ms. Ayer, the story is well plotted and her characters are distinct and dimensional. Even the strongest characters have their weaknesses, and these vulnerabilities feel appropriate given what else we know of the characters, rather than a flaw that seemingly exists simply to move the plot further. Ayer does a nice job of setting up the different turns the story takes so that while they’re surprising, they also make sense.

Soultracker is part of Ayer’s Dark World universe, a setting shared with her Skinwalker series, and there are a number of mentions made to characters and events there. These are nice “Easter eggs” for fans of both series, but no knowledge of the Skinwalker story is needed to understand this one.

I do wish she’d sometimes back off from the “insta-romance” trope that is used so often in any kind of romantic storytelling. Her Valkyrie series is a great example of just how effective it can be to build a relationship more slowly, giving the reader more time to get invested in the couple and enjoy the different milestones they pass as they grow closer. Fortunately, though, it’s not a major annoyance and the other elements of the story are strong enough to outweigh it.

Ayer has quickly become one of my favorite authors because I know I can rely on her to provide a well-crafted tale, full of interesting characters and set in a fully-realized and unique world. Her work is definitely worth checking out.

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