Book Review: Stolen Ink by Holly Evans

Stolen Ink (Ink Born #1)Stolen Ink by Holly Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is *really× good

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy of this book.

There are several different kinds of magic in this alternative Earth. The main kind used here is tattoo magic and it is easily of the more interesting ones I’ve come across in my reading. It’s kind of tricky to try and explain how it works without giving an example of one being done, and I know how much I hate spoilers, so I’ll just say this: It’s really creative and sounds exceptionally cool. I kinda wish I it was real!

Dacian is a tattoo magician and is quite good at his job – perhaps too good. He’s worked hard to keep the extent of his abilities under wraps because if it were known it could put him in danger. However, when someone starts stealing people’s tattoos – causing them to die in agony – he realizes he may have to risk exposing himself to prevent more murders.

The book had a moderately large cast of characters who are introduced to us over the course of the story, which I really liked. The pacing of the introductions allowed the characters personalities to stand out before becoming part of the enable.

There’s a sweet romance that develops and I really appreciated that it wasn’t an “instalove.” By going at a slower pace I get to see how the guys grow together as a couple and how their interaction changes them both. I feel more invested in their relationship and it makes me want to see them succeed that much more.

I also really liked how vivid the descriptions are.I often felt like I was almost more watching the story than reading a book.

I have high hopes for the rest of this series based on this start.

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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: 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: Lost Soul by TG Ayer

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

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: Blood Magic by TG Ayer

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: Skin Deep by TG Ayer

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: Dark Sight by TG Ayer

Dark SightDark Sight by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dark Sight gets TG Ayer’s new series “Daughter of Pythia” series off to a good start. Set in an alternate reality where America is known as New Germania and society is based on the Roman Empire, governments around the world hire or consult with oracles to help with solving crimes, averting disasters, strategizing and other such matters. The most powerful oracle is known as the Pythia and is a descendant of Apollo’s oracle at Delphi. When she begins to recieve visions of an apocalyptic-scale disaster in the near future, she must work with officials from the New Germanian government to piece together the clues her visions present in an attempt to thwart the cataclysm.

I really enjoyed this book, though I did have a couple of problems with it. The characters were complex and relatable and the plot avoids most of the more predictable traps often found in urban fantasy and romance novels. The one exception is that that the potential romance between the leads hits a roadblock because one decides to put a brake on things out of fear that the other will reject them if certain information becomes known rather than discussing it. This particular trope is the one that annoys me the most because talking about it would show trust and a willingness to be vulnerable, both of which can actually make a relationship stronger. Plus, if the other person is going to reject them upon learning the information, wouldn’t it be wiser and less painful to find out early on? My other issue with the book is a sub-plot that felt to me kind of like filler. The impending disaster presents numerous opportunities for dramatic tension without needing to add a secondary villain, especially since that section didn’t really provide much additional information that couldn’t have been revealed while resolving the main plot. Fortunately, this detour isn’t terribly long so the story gets back on track quickly.

Despite these issues, I found myself drawn into the book’s world and the characters’ lives enough that I was dissapointed to find I’d have to wait a bit before the next volume is released. There’s considerable promise in this book, and having read her Valkyrie series (which begins with Dead Radiance I know how fresh Ms Ayer’s writing can be.

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Book Review: “Court of Nightfall” by Karpov Kinrade

Court of Nightfall (The Nightfall Chronicles, #1)Court of Nightfall by Karpov Kinrade
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Below is my original review for the first, non-extended, version of the book. I recieved a free copy of the extended version in exchange for an honest review. Sadly, the extended version did not improve the book at all in my opinion – in fact, it took what had been a 4-star novel and turned it into a 2-star mess. The problems included ooccasionally inconsistent characteizations, some new material that felt a bit more like filler than a vital part of the story, and a few times where the plot snuck across the line of suspension of disbelief, but I could forgive a lot of that. What ruined it for me were the incredible inconsistencies in the timeline.

Starting with the event that changes our heroine’s life irrevocably, the time frames in which things happen are shockingly muddled. Things are presented in chronological order, but the characters switch back and forth between referring to the event as having occurred the previous night and as them having been a week ago. And while just the sheer amount of things that happen between the event that caused her to flee Montana for New York and her return to her home would probably need a week, it’s the 24-hour time frame that’s mentioned the most often.

The writing itself was good, and the story has many interesting twists and turns. Unfortunately, the confusing time references had me going back to check things over and over again, trying to sort out the whole mess, that I really wasn’t able to enjoy the strengths the book has.

4 stars

I have to admit, the reason I initially picked up this book is simply because my husband’s nickname is Nyghtfall, and it made me curious about the book, so I had no real expectations for the story. I ended up liking it quite a bit. I usually have 3 or 4 books I’m working my way through at any given time, but this one was interesting, fast-paced and good enough that I read it almost straight through.

The story is set in an alternate, dystopian reality where society is primarily controlled by the Knights of the Four Orders: Templars, Teutonics, Hospitaliers and Inquisitors. In the not-too-distant past, humanity had fought a war against the Nephelim – a race of half a human / half-angelic beings that essentially function like vampires with wings – which ended with the destruction of the Nephelim. Also in the mix are humans with “parapowers” known as Zeniths. Because their powers are feared, Zeniths are socially ostracized and politically oppressed. Against this backdrop we meet Scarlett Night, her uber-cool parents and her best friend Jax. When her parents are attacked, however, Scarlett learns that not everything is at it seems, and finds that she and Jax are no longer safe. With that our story its off and running.

Though the initial setup follows a well-worn path, once the action begins, the story really starts to come into its own. The world-building is nicely done – and done without any excessive infodumps. Meeting with the heads of the Four Orders gives an idea of what each Order is like, and the general atmosphere is communicated by how people act and what our heroes observe. The history of the war its likewise presented more through dialogue without just tossing a big history lesson into the middle of the action.

I really only had a couple of issues with the book, none of which are major, but they did have an impact on my enjoyment.. I’m not a big fan of vampire stories – in part because there are just so many of them coming out these days. When I realized the Nephilim are, for all intents and purposes, vampires, I felt a bit “tricked” by the authors. I suppose in some ways its not a bad approach, since I might have skipped the book if is known that’s what they were, but it still irked me a bit. I will say, though, that the Nephilim seen to be without some off the typical vampire tropes that have led to my disliking them: They aren’t automatically evil, nor are the overly sexual. Personality-wise, so far, at least, they seem mostly like normal humans, which is rather nice.

There are several references to a Nephilim named Nyx. Most references to Nyx use a male pronoun, but at least once the female pronoun is used. Nyx is also referred to as both a god of the Nephilim and the name is also described as being “used” by their leader, so perhaps the god is one gender (traditionally, Nyx is the Greek goddess of night) and the leader is the other, but it really wasn’t clear.

Lastly, I found myself surprised when the book ended. It felt like like the players had just gotten all of their pieces set and were about to begin the game when the emcee came out, thanked everyone for a lovely evening and invited us all back in a few weeks for more.

As I said, they’re really fairly minor issues and I will certainly be tuning back in when the game continues. Overall is a fun read and I’m very interested to see where the story will be taking us.

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Goodreads | Kriselda Gray’s review of Ice Girl

Ice Girl by Andy Mulberry My rating: 3 of 5 stars<br

Source: Goodreads | Kriselda Gray’s review of Ice Girl

Ice Girl (A Tale of Witches and Wolves, #2)Ice Girl by Andy Mulberry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

This is the second part of Andy Mulberry’s “Of Witches and Wolves” series, and it’s a decent follow-up to the first volume, if a bit more flawed – something that isn’t all that uncommon with the second part of a series. The first part introduces us to the characters and familiarizes us with the world the story takes place in, while also setting up the pieces of the plot and putting them in motion. With all of that to accomplish, first tend to be pretty strong stories with just enough dangling threads to lure you back in for more. By contrast, second books serve more as bridges – picking up those threads and moving the plot pieces to their next place on the board before laying out some new threads to be picked up in the next book, fleshing out and evolving the main characters a bit, and maybe shining a bit more light on some secondary characters. Because they have less to accomplish, second books can end up feeling a bit weak by comparison. Unfortunately, “Ice Girl” suffers a bit from that.

In my review of “Fire Girl” I’d noted the romance seemed a bit lacking because one-half of the couple was under a spell that compelled those feelings, and I’d expected the romance to be more vibrant in this volume. Sadly, it wasn’t. We didn’t really see our main couple together that much, and both were feeling quite insecure about their relationship because they were making assumptions rather than talking to each other. We got to revisit some of the side characters from the first book, but in some ways, their appearances felt a bit like cameos. A few new characters were introduced and seem promising, though a couple didn’t have a whole lot to do besides establishing that they are a part of the story.

As for the story itself, it started pretty slow, but once it got going, it was one heck of a ride. Things went from bad to worse very quickly, and it was in figuring out how to resolve the situation that we really got to see how strong of a bond our main characters have, which was really nice.

So, even though it may be a weaker book overall – largely due to “second-part-itis,” there was certainly enough to hold my interest and I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

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