Book Review: Blood Curse by TG Ayer

Blood Curse (DarkWorld: Soul Tracker, #3)Blood Curse by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy of this book.

Mel certainly keeps herself busy! This time out she not only has a demanding new client, but the problems brought about by the poltergeist she’s been cursed with are becoming increasingly more dangerous making it even more critical that she find out who’s behind it, and she’s worried for both her gargoyle companion, Drake, and her boyfriend, Saleem, who are dealing with family matters that may take them from her side.

Clearly, there’s a lot of action here, but it’s well paced. As always with this series, there’s nice character growth and it’s interesting to try and figure out what all this is leading up to. While I missed seeing more of Drake and Saleem, there are some new characters introduced that I suspect will become more important as the story progresses, and sending them off on personal matters made room to get to know these new ones better. I just hope both will be back by the next installment.

If you’re reading both this series and the Skinwalker series, be sure to read the fourth Skinwalker book “Blood Promise” before this one as there are spoilers here for what happens in that story.

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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: 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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Book Review: Fire and Shadow by TG Ayer

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: 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: Hunters of the Mortals by Monica Leonelle

Hunters of the Mortals (Hallows & Nephilim: Waters Dark and Deep #2)Hunters of the Mortals by Monica Leonelle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Monica Leonelle continues to build Archworld in this second installment of her “Waters Deep and Dark” series.This book marks a distinct improvement over the first volume as it avoids the somewhat confusing chronology and overly-quick acceptance of revelations that most people would need a while to assimilate.

The story itself continues to be quite interesting and I’m definitely curious to find out what happens next. I enjoyed getting to know the characters better, and the heroes are people I enjoy spending time with. My only serious complaint is that we were introduced to another faction – the Trinities – but there was no real explanation of who they are or what their purpose is, something I look forward to finding out in the next book.