Book Review: Blood and Gold by TG Ayer

Blood & Gold (Hand of Kali, #2)Blood & Gold by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy of this book.

For most of her life Maya had been skeptical about her parents religious beliefs and the work they do for the goddess Kali. Discovering that she is the Hand of Kali, however, and meeting some members of the Hindu pantheon has understandably given her a new perspective on things. And so it is that we find her now accompanying her parents on the job as the second installment in this series opens. I liked getting a chance to see what her parents do and through that to learn a bit more about Indian folklore.

Of course, working with her parents is just a small appetizer before getting into the meat of the story. Maya receives a summons from Lord Shiva, the most powerful god in the Hindu pantheon, who has a mission for her. With Nik and Joss along to help, she sets out to fulfill the request Lord Shiva has made.

A lot happens in this book. In addition to her main mission, Maya also finds that her friend Ria needs her help, as does an acquaintance of hers and a grieving mother she meets along the way. Sometimes when so much happens in a story it can become a bit tiring to read. Ayer does a good job of pacing the plot so that doesn’t happen here.

There are some interesting twists to the story. As usual, Ayer nicely sets them up so that they don’t feel completely out of the blue without telegraphing them. It’ll be fun to see what surprises are in store in the next volume.

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Book Review: Too Wyrd by Sarah Buhrman

Too Wyrd (Runespells, #1)Too Wyrd by Sarah Buhrman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy of this book.

This book is great. The characters are a lot of fun, and the heroine, Nicola – a single mother and a witch – had just the right mix of strength, stubbornness, street-smarts and courage tampered with compassion and vulnerability. As the story opens, her best friend, Joseph, is telling her that her sister Muriel is missing and that she may have gotten caught up in a cult Nicola’s ex-boyfriend – and the father of her child – is running. She and Joseph quickly head out to determine what’s happening, and when they find out its nothing they’d expected.

I really liked how the story covered a range of emotions. There are action sequences, scenes that are laugh out loud funny, scenes that are heartbreaking and more. It keeps the story moving along nicely and gives the book a feeling of real life when we can experience all those emotions in any given day .

The main characters are well-developed and believable and many of the side characters – even if they’re only in one scene – are colorful and distinct .

The only complaint that I might have about the book is that the final battle scene has so much going on that it was difficult to keep track of what was happening during that scene. Given how good everything else in the book is, though, that’s really just a minor quibble.

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Book Review: Rage by Sierra Cross

Rage (Spelldrift: Coven of Fire #3)Rage by Sierra Cross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy of this book.

With Matt’s dramatic actions at the end of “Ignite” the stakes are even higher for the Coven of Fire. While Alix and Asher head to Europe to help Matt, Liv works in Seattle to find a way to save the good Cassie she believes is still hidden within the dark witch she’s become.

There are a lot of twists and turns in this installment in the series and we get a closer look at the various ruling bodies that regulate the Magicborn community. A lot happens during the story – sometimes it came close to being a bit too much – but overall it’s a good, fun read.

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Book Review: Seer’s Stone by Holly Evans

Seers Stone (Hidden Alchemy #1)Seers Stone by Holly Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great series opener

I loved this book. Normally, I’ll be in the middle of two or three books at any give time and take a few days to work through them all, but once I started reading Seer’s Stones I just kept going. It was a fast read and lots of fun. The characters are well-developed and their individual strengths and weaknesses mesh nicely to make for a good team. There’s quite a bit of humor in the book and a fair amount of talk about sex, but the few actual sex scenes that are included are quite mild.

Interestingly, there wasn’t really any kind of defined villain to the story, which is about the main characters’ attempts to obtain a valuable artifact. Others are also looking for it, of course, and the dramatic tension comes from our heroes trying to stay ahead of these various rivals. I really rather liked the idea that there wasn’t just one guy who kept throwing blocks in their way nor any grand conspiracy against them as it felt more like how a situation like this might actually play out.

This is a good start to what looks to be a really fun series.

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Book Review: Greco by Andrea Domanski

Greco (Omega Group #1.5)Greco by Andrea Domanski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is follow-up novella to the first book in the Omega Group series, “Crossfire.” It tells the story of Mirissa’s trainer, Greco, and the troubled life he’d had as a result of his mother’s deep disappointment at his not having been born female. The family tension comes to a head when his mother disappears and Greco and Mirissa go searching for her.

While short, the story gives a lot of insight to Greco’s character and shows a very different side to him than was seen in the first book. The ending was really powerful and I’ll be interested to see how these events affect him in later installments.

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Book Review: Nightmare Realm by MV Stott

Nightmare Realm (London Coven #2)Nightmare Realm by M.V. Stott
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.

This is the second book in Genre Reader’s London Coven series, one of three series set in their Uncanny Kingdom, and like the first in this series “Familiar Magic” it’s a lot of fun, though there’s a bit of heartbreak in this one as well.

This time out, Stella and her friend/sidekick David are facing a monster thought banished from London forever. Children are falling asleep, unable to wake up or be woken and trapped in their nightmares. While the London Coven has defeated it before, they’re now dead and Stella hasn’t been able to find any information on how they did it. Faced with more children are being taken every night – and the situation becoming more personal – she knows time is not on her side. Yet even in this grim story, the overall series’ sense of fun and humor comes through, giving needed breaks to the tension and helping to keep the story moving.

I strongly recommend checking these books out if you like stories with a nice balance of humor and darkness.

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Book Review: Fresh Hell by David Bussell

Fresh Hell (Ghosted #1)Fresh Hell by David Bussell
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.

This is the first book in “Ghosted,” one of the (so far) three series that Genre Reader has that are set in its “Uncanny Kingdom.” (The others are “The London Coven” and “Dark Lakes,” if your curious. I haven’t started Dark Lakes yet, but London Coven has been excellent so far.)

Jake is a fairly recently deceased ex-exorcist who hadn’t realized that when he was exorcising ghosts from haunted houses or other places ghosts shouldn’t be he was completely destroying their very essence rather than sending them on to their eternal rest, and had no idea just how much that would puss the Big Guy off. So now he’s trying to help with solving paranormaly-related crimes and get rid of a bunch of bad spirits to try and make up for his quite inadvertent bad deeds so he’ll have a chance at going Up when his time to leave Earth finally comes.

As with all of the Uncanny Kingdom books I’ve read so far, this is a great mix of laughs and thrills. Jake can be quite the rascal, but he’s still got a bit of the romantic in him (even if there’s no romance to be had) and usually tries to do the right thing. His friendship with Jazz Hands is adorable. There are a number of twists in the book – one of which was telegraphed a bit early, so the reveal want as surprising when it came – but the rest were well done and provided the intended shock. The story moves at a fast pace, and the characters are well developed.

If you’re looking for a really fun read, give this a try!

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Book Review: Wolves and Roses by Christina Bauer

Wolves and Roses (Fairy Tales of the Magicorum #1)Wolves and Roses by Christina Bauer
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.

This is a really fun book, even if part of the premise didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. In the world the book is set in, there are people who are destined to live life – or at least part of it – by the basic plot of a fairy tale. It’s never explained how or why this happens, but once I decided to just accept that it does and not worry about it making sense I was able to thoroughly enjoy the book.

There a lot of humor in the story but plenty of mystery, too. The romances were sweet (and yes, there’s more than one!) and the guys are great. There are a lot of twists and turns to the plot, but they’re nicely set up and the reveals flow naturally into the narrative.

This is the first book in Christina Bauer’s “Fairy Tales of the Magicorum” series. It’s certainly an intriguing start and I’m interested to see where it goes next.

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Book Review: Trials of Magic by Thomas Carpenter

Trials of Magic (The Hundred Halls, #1)Trials of Magic by Thomas K. Carpenter
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.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: An orphan who’s parents died in a magical calamity goes to a magic school, quickly makes enemies with an arrogant blonde and discovers a number of secrets have between withheld for many years. Actually, don’t stop me, keep reading – because as familiar as that may sound, it’s where any similarity between this story of new students attending a magic school and the rather well known other such story ends.

In “Trials of Magic” we meet two orphaned sisters who are trying to get into the Hundred Halls, the only magic university in the world. Finally living on their own after years bouncing through foster homes, they’re short on money – and one sister is short a sponsor for the Hall she wants enter – and have to pass the entrance exams to get in. But these girls are determined to get in, even if it might mean taking dangerous risks to do so.

This is a really great book and a good start for a series. The characters are complex and while the girls do tend to run headlong into dangerous situations, they are capable of learning from their mistakes and show a lot of growth through the course of the story. The writing is clear and the author does a good job of making it easy to keep track of who’s who so that I didn’t have to keep looking back at what I’d already read to figure it out (something I run into far too often!) It’s definitely a series I plan to continue reading.

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Book Review: Ignite by Sierra Cross

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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