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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Book Review: Pyros by TG Ayer

August 5, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Urban Fantasy | By

Pyros (Dark World #0.5)Pyros 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.

This short novella gives the backstory for Logan Westin, one of the main characters in TG Ayer’s Skinwalker series. Several of the events here are referenced – but not fleshed out – in the first book of that series, Skin Deep.

The story is good, plot wise, and leaves open several new mysteries for readers to await unveiling in the later series books, but the writing style is kind of choppy. It does a nice job, though, of shining a light on how Logan became the man that he is. For some reason, it’s listed as number 0.5 in the series on Goodreads but number 1.5 on Amazon. Whichever is correct, I strongly recommend reading Skin Deep before Pyros, even if you’re tempted to try the shorter work first as a kind of test drive, as reading them in the reverse order will spoil some of the surprises in Skin Deep.

It’s a nice chunk of information, though, and helps make some of Logan’s quirks make more sense.

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Book Review: The Curse Merchant by JP Sloan

August 5, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Urban Fantasy | By

The Curse Merchant (The Dark Choir #1)The Curse Merchant by J.P. Sloan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dorian Lake has an unusual job. He sells hexes and charms to people who feel they need a bit of help from the magical side of things. For the last couple of years, however, he’s been having a bit of a slump. Following a devastating break up with his girlfriend, he began to neglect his clients, ignore his friends and kept a less-than-watchful eye on the rental properties he owns. It isn’t until a confrontation with a gun-wielding disgruntled client that he realizes how much he has let things slide. Determined to get back in the game, Dorian begins to work on getting new clients, reconnecting with his friends and learning what he can about the Mage who seems to have cornered the Baltimore market while Dorian was moping around.

Lake makes for a great protagonist. He’s smart, witty and more-than-a-bit charming, though he can be a jerk at times, too. His saving grace there is that he has the self-awareness to know he’s a jerk and a genuine desire to set things right. Too bad for him that most of his efforts to do so end up backfiring on him, always costing him something and sometimes at a very high price.

This is the first book in what promises to be a really good series. Dorian is really quite a bit of fun, and the side characters are all well-written and three-dimensional. The magical world Sloan has created is unique – magic can be built on someone’s karma, which helps mitigate blowback, or it can be crafted with dark energies that are very dangerous to mess with. Dorian is committed to using only karmic magic, though after he’s tricked into giving up something quite precious, the dark side begins to look more tempting. It will be interesting to see how far Dorian may end up falling – and if he’s able to save himself before he meets a grisly fate.

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Book Review: Skin Deep by TG Ayer

August 5, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy | By

Skin Deep (Dark World, #1)Skin Deep 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.

Another in a string of strong stories by TG Ayer.

I have to admit, Skin Deep got off to a bit of a slower start than most of her other books that I’ve read, but once the story really got underway – which didn’t take too long – it was a very enjoyable ride.

Skin Deep is part of Ayer’s Dark World universe, an alternate take on our world in which a number of various paranormal creatures live mostly hidden alongside humans. These include Skinwalkers (aka “shifters,”) mages, Immortals, Death-talkers, Wraiths and more. It is the first book in her Skinwalker series, one of two (so far) set in this universe. The other is the Soultracker series, which I am also reading. I’m really hooked on her stuff!

At its core, Skin Deep is a police procedural / mystery – but it’s a well-written one. The case involves the discovery of a gruesome murder by our heroine, the Panther shifter Kai (short for Kailin) Odel. While she usually divides her time between hunting Wraiths and counseling troubled teens who come to the clinic where she works, she gets pulled into the investigation when she realizes the victim is also a shifter and then finds that other shifters have disappeared as well.

Kai is a great lead character. She’s as tough as one would expect given her dual occupations, but she has enough vulnerability to make her believable and endearing. Her romance with Logan Westin, an investigator assigned to the case, is sweet, if a bit too quick to start (something I’ve noticed in a few of Ayer’s books, though when she decides to play with the romantic formula – as she did in her Valkyrie series – it’s very effective and a great change of pace!) Logan is well-developed, and it’s fun to watch Kai trying to figure out the effect he has on her before she discovers what he is.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. There’s a nice collection of side characters – some of whom also appear in the Soultracker series, neatly tying the stories into the same world – and I look forward to following Kai and Logan’s story in the rest of the series.

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Book Review: Dragon Redeemer by Amy Bearce

July 30, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Fiction | By

Dragon Redeemer (World of Aluvia, #3)Dragon Redeemer by Amy Bearce
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 third – and, I believe, final – book in the “World of Aluvia” series wraps up the stories of our six heroes – Sierra, Micah, Phoebe, Tristan, Nell and Corbin – quite nicely. While all six are involved, though, this is truly Nell’s story.

In Fairy Keeper and Mer-Charmer (the first two books in the series) we are initially introduced to Nell as an enforcer for the ruthless gang of drug-dealing alchemists who was doing what she had to for her family’s safety, and saw her grow into a new role as the host of a mysterious voice which spoke through her to the people of Aluvia about the need to rebalance magic in the world and maintain that balance so the world won’t be destroyed.

By the time of “Dragon Redeemer,” Nell has gotten somewhat used to the voice taking over whenever it decided a message need to be relayed, but she wasn’t entirely at peace with it, nor with having given up her identity as a warrior to learn how to be a healer instead. While her boyfriend Corbin is thrilled with her transition into a peaceful way of life, Nell feels like she’s setting aside an integral part of who she is.

This conflict – both within herself and between her and Corbin – comes into sharp focus when the group learns that a magic-user calling himself The Dragon plans to take over the world and declare all magical creatures – such as fairies, mer-folk, fauns and dragons – as subservient to humans, who can use them and their magical abilities however they want. To stop him, Nell will have to learn more about the voice that has chosen her as its vessel and find a way to reconcile her healing and warrior sides.

Much of this book, like Fairy Keeper, is taken up by a trek through unknown lands searching for something Nell needs to help her defeat The Dragon. Quest stories aren’t always my favorite, but this one was better than many I’ve read, with a minimum of the side distractions that usually only serve to slow the heroes – and the story – down. And the last part of the book, after they’ve reached their objective is really good. Author Amy Bearce’s descriptions of what is happening and how Nell is reacting are vivid and, in some ways, I almost felt like I could see it unfolding on a screen in front of me.

Nell is probably my favorite of the six main characters in this series. She’s the most complex, and I find her quite relatable – and very likable, too. This isn’t to say that the other characters aren’t relatable or likable – they are – but there’s just something about Nell that makes her stand out even more, at least to me.

I’ve noticed with a few series in the last couple of years that sometimes the author keeps escalating things until they become so big and out-of-control that by the last book (or books, in longer series) the situation has gotten so preposterous that I don’t even want to finish it. That is most certainly *not* the case here. Bearce has done a great job over the three books of raising the stakes enough to keep things interesting and make the adventures important, without turning it into a metaphysical Gordian Knot that makes you want to turn your brain inside out to see if that helps it make more sense, and for that, I heartily thank her.

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