Category Archives: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Fissure (Chronicles of the Interred #2) by Marilyn Almodovar

This book is on tour via Xpresso Book Tours. Check out of the rest of the schedule here. And don’t forget to the enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Baxter Jacobs just survived the worst Sweet Sixteen in history: buried in a coffin, hunted down by assassins, and losing almost everything that mattered to her. She’s ready for some normalcy, but “normal” won’t play any part of this Time Bender’s future.

Now that the immediate threat is over, Baxter learns just how much the English Council expects of the newest Interred. The pressure has her seriously considering her uncle’s offer to take her to New York, especially since she thinks it will keep her Healer, Jack, from overusing his abilities. Knowing the New York Council’s ranks are filled with beings using dark powers, however, makes her hesitate.

Before she can choose, the decision is wrenched from her. Fissures in Time result in a new battle with an old enemy. Someone she thought she’d lost reenters her life, and she’ll discover a web of lies woven into the fabric of Time…lies only she can unravel. Baxter will have to use her growing abilities to try and reveal the truth, even if it forever changes the reality she knows.

There are lies in the fabric of Time only she can unravel…

 

My thoughts so far:

I’m about a third of the way through Interred, the first book in the series, and so far I’m enjoying myself. Haven’t had much time to read lately, so a review will go up once I’ve finished.

 

About the Author:

 MarilynMarilyn Almodóvar is the author of a series of YA paranormal novels. Born in Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, Lyn is a lover of words whose reading tastes range from Victorian novels to the books of Stephen King. Her favorite past-times have always been reading and writing, two activities that let her escape to other worlds.It was this love that propelled her to choose Theater and French as majors in University, with a minor in English Victorian Literature. Lyn lived for almost a decade in England followed by three years in France before returning home to the States. A self-confessed citizen of the world, she is fluent in English, French and Spanish, with basic knowledge of the Italian language.

Lyn could happily exist breathing the clean air of Narnia, trapped in a cupboard under the stairs with Harry, fighting alongside Captain Jack Sparrow, doing an internship in Torchwood, or traveling around time and space with the Doctor…as long as she can have Mr. Spock, Captain Kirk and Captain Mal as companions.

Lyn currently lives in Central Florida with her French husband, English-born eldest son, and French-born youngest son. Her debut YA Novel, Interred, was be published by Iambe books on 01/22/2013.

Author links:
FissureTourBanner2
Advertisements

Blog Tour & Giveaway: School of Deaths by Christopher Mannino

Thrust into a world of men, can a timid girl find bravery as the first female Death?

Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe. Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail.

Scythes hungry for souls, Deaths who subjugate a race of mysterious magicians, and echoes of an ancient war with Dragons.

As her year progresses, Suzie suspects her presence isn’t an accident. She uncovers a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths. Now she must also discover the reason she’s been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.

 

This book is on tour with Enchanted Book Promotions. Check out the rest of the tour stops, and don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaways: one for an ebook copy of School of Deaths; one for a $20 Amazon gift card.

 

Review

I received a copy of this book as a part of the tour hosted by Enchanted Book Promotions. It in no way affects my judgment of the book.

Rating: 4/5

This was such a fun read—I don’t think I’ve ever been let down by a reaper book. It’s a relatively untapped subset of the urban fantasy genre, and these books are always so unique. I particularly enjoyed the idea that people are recruited to be Deaths and have to go to a school and pass a test to get out of their contract. And there are Deaths that “fade,” or just get so old that they simply stop existing. And there are Deaths that “cease,” or get killed and therefor forgotten. If a Death ceases they are erased (just like if the light from the crack in Amy’s bedroom wall touches you, for you Doctor Who fans). It was nicely illustrated, and I was pleased with how Mannino set up the rules of the world. They were creative, they were interesting, and they were consistent.

There’s a tension between the three species in the realm where Deaths exist (Deaths, Elementals, and Dragons). As is suggested in the description, Suzie being the first female Death in millenia doesn’t really help. Neither does the fact that Suzie is determined to solve mysteries that no one else has even noticed. Trust a girl to shake things up, eh? 😉

I’ll be honest and say that some of the bits at the beginning weren’t my cup of tea. There were some teenage problems(read: really problems with society in general, not just our teenage population) that, while I generally enjoy reading YA, I could do without. But they weren’t important to get through and understand, as they kind of set the scene.

At times it moved a bit slowly, but I assure you it picks up. Once you get into the meat of the plot and Suzie learns enough about the world she’s been thrown into, it moves along pretty nicely. Overall, I didn’t have any problems with the general pacing.

I do wish Suzie had been a bit older—I think there could have been a bit more depth to her character if she’d been a bit more mature when this all hit (after all, there’s only so much I can expect out of a thirteen year old). It certainly didn’t detract from the quality of the book, but I think a couple extra years might have brought this book to the next level.

I’ll happily read the sequel that’s in the works— the ending wrapped everything up in a tidy bow and I don’t feel like we’re missing part of the story, but the door was left open for some potential follow-on books set in the same world or even picking up pretty much where this one left off. I’m looking forward to seeing how the world develops after the shock Suzie is putting it through. And, I mean, who doesn’t want to read about Dragons and Deaths at the same time?

 

Excerpt

An enormous white wolf with blood-red eyes snarled at her. Suzie screamed.

The walls closed in and the wolf pounced. She ran.

Her body still ached with pain, but her heart thundered in her chest, pounding with complete fear. The wolf howled and another white wolf appeared, with the same blood-red eyes. She sprinted away.

She didn’t remember going outside, but the walls were trees. The trees grew dense, a forest closing in. She ran and ran, faster and faster. The wolves howled behind her. More white wolves lurked ahead.

Wolves everywhere. Far behind her, she heard Luc laughing.

One of the bone-white wolves snarled and leapt for her throat. She fell back and rolled. The wolf turned toward her and vanished.

A massive white cobra with blood-red eyes hissed at her. She scrambled to her feet and ran again. Panting hard, her legs in agony, she couldn’t think. Her only emotion was fear. Fear surged through her body, giving fleeting strength to her aching legs.

The ground opened and she fell. Down and down until she landed hard on something moving. Spiders. Thousands of bone-white spiders with tiny red eyes. Crawling. She screamed until the sound caught in her throat.

The cobra re-emerged, hissing.

Suddenly she understood. The cobra hissed at her again, its red eyes glaring at her.

“You’re a ’Mental, aren’t you?” she asked the giant snake.

Luc yelled something behind her. The snake vanished.

For a strange moment, the world cleared. Suzie looked around. The Ring of Scythes surrounding the College stood in the distance. She had run away from the school and collapsed in a field. Behind her, a real forest loomed.

“Not me, you imbecile, her.” screamed Luc. His dark face tightened, and he yelled at some invisible threat. The albino man, the ’Mental, stood near him. Luc yelled in terror and ran back toward the College.

The albino turned toward Suzie.

At once all sensation was gone. This time she didn’t see wolves, snakes, pits, or spiders. This time, she saw nothing.

The attack was swift and precise, cutting her deeper than a scythe.

Fear.

Pure, unfettered fear. Fear deeper than terror, darker than nightmares. Fear filled with horrors, too terrible to deny.

Fear swept through every cell in her body.

Suzie tried to fight. She tried to scream. Finally, she started to run again. She ran into the forest, tripping over roots. The albino followed her, and the forest darkened.

Crows cawed at her. If she turned, they’d attack. The trees reached down to grab her, but Suzie ran until she reached the other side of the woods. She collapsed.

Deep in the forest, far behind her, someone was crying.

 

About the Author

Christopher ManniniChristopher Mannino’s life is best described as an unending creative outlet.  He teaches high school theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland.  In addition to his daily drama classes, he runs several after-school performance/production drama groups.  He spends his summers writing and singing.  Mannino holds a Master of Arts in Theatre Education from Catholic University, and has studied mythology and literature both in America and at Oxford University.  His work with young people helped inspire him to write young adult fantasy, although it was his love of reading that truly brought his writing to life.

Mannino is currently working on a sequel to “School of Deaths” as well as an adult science fiction novel.

 

Watch the trailer here

Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AeszKiTz0k

Links

All purchase links can be found at http://www.christophermannino.com/school-of-deaths.html#.U81VLPldWSo

www.ChristopherMannino.com
http://poetsfire.blogspot.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CTMannino
https://twitter.com/Ctmannino
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00K2XOP88
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8108129.Christopher_Mannino

 

schoolofdeathsbanner

Don’t forget to visit the rest of the tour stops, and enter the rafflecopter giveaways: one for an ebook copy of School of Deaths; one for a $20 Amazon gift card.

Marked (House of Night #1) by P.C. Cast & Kristen Cast

After a Vampire Tracker Marks her with a crescent moon on her forehead, 16-year-old Zoey Redbird enters the House of Night and learns that she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess Nyx and has affinities for all five elements: Air, Fire Water, Earth and Spirit. But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school’s most elite club, is mis-using her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny – with a little help from her new vampyre friends (or Nerd Herd, as Aphrodite calls them).

 

Rating: 2/5

I really don’t know how I felt about this book. Overall, I thought it was ok. And I might read the next one if only because I’m curious about the couple of things that were alluded to at the end of this book. So since I’m otherwise having difficulty articulating my thoughts, I’m going to follow a review format I’ve seen used by a few other bloggers for this post.

The likes:

I found that for the most part I did like the main character, Zoey. She’s sensible and has a good head on her shoulders. She’s not overconfident, but she’s not really down on herself either. And she does develop well over the course of the book (though I might argue that the bulk of her development is a bit sudden at the end if the book, but hey, epiphanies happen in the real world too, right?). I also liked that when the supposed “hottest guy in school,” and possibly even “hottest guy in the world” asked her out she didn’t completely lose herself. In fact, she approaches the offer warily.

I liked the way magic was structured in the world. It was pretty cool, and unique, and interesting to learn about.

The dislikes:

Everyone basically picks up on the new religion flawlessly. I mean, yeah, it seems to be somewhat beat into them that as fledgling vampyres they must respect the religion of the House of Night and follow Nyx. But no one even bats an eyelash at suddenly being told to worship a goddess that they ever did. I suppose an argument could be made that only teenagers who had a predisposition toward the belief system of the House of Night would be destined to be marked, but that’s somewhat of a stretch for me.

I honestly didn’t care for the fledgling idea in general. I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m a traditionalist when it comes to vampires (that’s obviously not true, given some of the books that I’ve raved about here), but there are some stretches to the baseline myth/legend that I have difficulty accepting. The idea that certain people get “marked” by a tracker and therefore will become vampyres (yes, I intentionally switched the spelling) is only ok at best. The idea that they then have to go to school to learn what life is like as a vampyre when they may or may not survive the transition (that will happen 4 years later, by the way) is just bizarre.

Tacked onto that the general assumption that the only subjects worth learning about over that time (when normally you’d be in a normal high school) are:

  • Vampyre Sociology (sensible)
  • Some subset of the arts (as a band geek, I’m totally on board with this in any basic curriculum)
  • Language (again, I’m a bit of a language geek and good friends with folks who definitely are, so this is awesome)
  • Physical fitness of the not so modern-sport variety (like Fencing and Equestrian)

Nothing about math or science. Those fields apparently don’t matter for vampires. At all. Like, Not only was there no expectation that those classes are taken, but they don’t seem to even have been offered. I totally get not emphasizing them. I totally get people who don’t like them. That’s fine. But to be preparing these fledglings for a life that they will have to live, presumably, forever, to not offer anything in the fields of math or science just seems wrong, and a bit like the author went “I wish my high school was like this” rather than asking “What would be a realistic curriculum for this subset of society?” Maybe that’s just a personal pet peeve, but it bugged me. This may seem like a trivial point to go on about since the school curriculum is obviously not the plot. But seriously, about half of the book was about Zoey’s classes and nothing else. Sure, some of it was interesting, but for the most part I just didn’t care about what was going on in her classes.

Similarly, the overarching plot was all about regular high school teenage drama. Yeah, there was a magical component to it, but if I wanted to read about an outsider holding a coup against the queen bee popular girl, I wouldn’t be picking up an urban fantasy book. In fairness, some decent groundwork is laid for book 2 to potentially have a little more to it than that.

But now for the kicker:

Oh, the inconsistencies (what can I say? I’ve always been a nitpicker, and attention to detail matters to me). Some quick examples:

  • First she likes any brown pop and she has a diet coke, then throughout the rest of the book she likes any brown pop that’s not diet.
  • First Heath is her boyfriend. Then he’s her almost ex-boyfriend (which kinda makes sense because she supposedly never actually broke up with him). Then he’s her ex-almost boyfriend, implying that they had never dated at all. Well, which is it?
  • In most classes, she was coming in mid-semester, but in the Equestrian class it seemed like the first day.

There were other things that weren’t necessarily inconsistencies but were tacked on information that seemed to have been thrown in because it seemed convenient. I understand the desire to do this; I used to write like that myself. But the editing process should at least make those instances less obvious.

Interestingly enough, I started off giving this a 3-star rating. By the time I was halfway done writing I had knocked it down to a 2.5. And now that I’m reading back over, I’m knocking it down again. There was just too much that I didn’t care for, and a good chunk of my annoyances were driven largely by two factors: not liking the topic (particular to me) and not liking the writing (much more general). While I wouldn’t necessarily discourage anyone from reading this — I’m sure it’s great if you absolutely love reading about teenage drama, and some people certainly do — I still wouldn’t go out of my way to pick it up. I’d also caution that you should wait until you’re in a mood to put up with the drama.

Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner

A mermaid’s supernatural beauty serves one purpose: to lure a sailor to his death.

The Massacre is supposed to bring peace to Eriana Kwai. Every year, the island sends its warriors to battle these hostile sea demons. Every year, the warriors fail to return. Desperate for survival, the island must decide on a new strategy. Now, the fate of Eriana Kwai lies in the hands of twenty battle-trained girls and their resistance to a mermaid’s allure.

Eighteen-year-old Meela has already lost her brother to the Massacre, and she has lived with a secret that’s haunted her since childhood. For any hope of survival, she must overcome the demons of her past and become a ruthless mermaid killer.

For the first time, Eriana Kwai’s Massacre warriors are female, and Meela must fight for her people’s freedom on the Pacific Ocean’s deadliest battleground.

 

I received an ARC of this book via Xpresso Book Tours. It in no way affects my judgment.

Rating: 4.5/5

I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I went into this book. I mean, the description is accurate, but it doesn’t really prepare you for what you’re about to read. I practically inhaled this book (to the extent that when my boyfriend kept interrupting me to go look at the bathroom he just painted, I started getting huffy—seriously, how is it fair to interrupt a scene like that repeatedly?!).

I. Completely. Believed. Every. Page.

Not only is it perfectly plausible (I mean, given that we assume that mermaids exist of course), but each scene was so well written it wasn’t even a stretch to believe what I was reading. There’s a bit about the economics of the world that still doesn’t quite sit well with me—the local economy of the island has obviously suffered from the relentless onslaught of the mermaids, and they don’t have any food anymore, yet they seem to have an endless supply of iron and wood to make weapons and build new ships. Maybe the iron is an abundant natural resource on the island? I mean, trade would obviously help with that particular problem, but it’s been pretty clearly demonstrated that options down that path are somewhat limited. It’s a minor nit in the grand scheme of things, but I did wonder about it on more than one occasion.

Meela was one hell of a main character, and I was particularly impressed with Warner’s ability to write her as both an 18 year old and a 10 year old (yes, we have a flashback at the beginning of the book. And it’s important and well-done and everything). She had a strong voice throughout, carried herself with a certain amount of sense rather than acting rashly (as some main characters in urban fantasy have been known to do *cough*trope of the genre). And her moments of indecision were’re dramatized or played up to emphasize that “this issue matters—pay attention because it’s going to come up in the test at the end of the book,” which is a bit of a pet peeve of mine (and something I find to be far too common). Those pieces of indecision that did exist were appropriate for the situation and were meaningful.

If you flip through the reviews I’ve written recently, you’ll notice that I’m not much of an action-reader. Suspense is difficult to write and I find that I dislike it more often than I like it. But this book had me pretty much on the edge of my seat as I was reading—not because I seriously wanted to know what would happen next, but because I had enough of an idea of what was going to happen that I didn’t want it to happen. I mean, some of those girls are scary (and whose bright idea was it to load a ship full of eighteen-year-old bags of estrogen and tell them to organize themselves?), and some of the mermaids are even scarier.

Overall the plot was/is incredible (yes, this is/will be a series, and yes, I plan on reading the next book). There were a couple of times I found myself wondering about some of the peculiarities of the situation that the residents of Eriana Kwai find themselves in, but it’s adequately explained. More importantly, the girls on the ship wondered about the same things in a very natural way.

I’ll be honest and say that if you mind brutal honesty and gore in your books, you should steer clear of this one. Otherwise, I strongly encourage giving it a go.

 

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Tortured Souls (The Orion Circle #1) by Kimber Leigh Wheaton

Sometimes Rest in Peace isn’t an option…

Kacie Ramsey sees ghosts—and it’s ruining her life. Her mother left, her father blames her, and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t keep the ghosts away. Now a new power has emerged. Nightly visions of grisly murders and a relentless predator draw her to the brink of insanity.

When the phantom appears at a party, Kacie’s longtime crush, Logan, saves her. He invites her to join the Orion Circle, a group of supernatural hunters with chapters in schools all over the country. Through the Circle, Kacie learns to embrace her spiritual powers, and for the first time in her life she feels in control rather than a victim.

But the Foxblood Demon will not give up so easily. A demented serial killer in life who trapped the souls of the thirteen children he murdered, imprisoning them within the walls of his mansion. Now in death, he plots his return while drawing power from the pure souls of the children. He recognizes something in Kacie he’s never seen before—a medium powerful enough to provide a vessel for his tainted soul.

Kacie can’t ignore the tortured souls of the children crying out to her every night. With Logan at her side, she will fight the Foxblood Demon. But can they banish this powerful phantom, or will Kacie lose not only her body, but her eternal soul to the monster.

 

 

I was provided an ARC of this book as a part of the tour hosted by Xpresso Book Tours. It in no way affects my rating.

Check out the tour schedule, and don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaway for $25 to Amazon!

Rating: 3/5

I have mixed feelings about this book. The overall plot was quite good, and I’m very pleased with how this book was wrapped up while letting us know what’s coming in the next book. It’s clear that this particular series of events wasn’t an isolated case, even though it read that way for most of the book. The range of characters and skills was also a good mix, and I generally liked how the rules of the world were presented.

However, I did find myself skimming portions. The characters didn’t draw me into the book as much as I would have liked, and there were fluff scenes that didn’t really do anything to progress any of the plots (primary or otherwise). I acknowledge that these kinds of scenes are important to teenagers and a key part of the YA genre, but they’re most useful when progressing a romance subplot, something that went so quickly at the beginning of the book that there wasn’t really any room for growth in the ‘fluff scenes’ later on.

I really wish we’d gotten to learn more about the Orion Circle in this book. It kind of felt like it was just introduced and that was enough. And for the specific plot of this novel, it probably was enough, but I didn’t really feel satisfied by the brief sample we got. I’m glad that this is an organization across all ages and it’s not just teenagers fending for themselves (which is a personal pet peeve), but I found myself somewhat confused by the role the adults played. The adult psychic in charge of the group, for instance, had a bad experience at the place that was causing all the problems, and from then on her only involvement was advice here and there while the kids were doing all the dangerous stuff. It seemed odd to me.

But overall, these are just little things, and they’re not intrusive to the book. My biggest complaint is in how the emotional issues were handled throughout the first ~third of the book. Kassie had some issues with her parents growing up, but some of the emotion around her past seemed a bit forced, as if she were explaining it because she had to have had a rocky past. She shares a very random story about her experience with a particular ghost in her house, which quite frankly should have caused her more emotional disturbance than her parents, and that story never really comes back up later. And then things are mended with her family almost instantaneously, which again, felt forced. Thankfully, most of that was out of the way by around the 35% mark.

This was still a really good book, and I encourage you to give it a go and at least make it well beyond the halfway point. It’s a quick read and definitely worth the time 🙂

About the Author:

Kimber Leigh Wheaton is a YA/NA author with a soft spot for sweet romance and is a member of Romance Writers of America.

She is married to her soul mate, has a teenage son, and shares her home with three dogs and four cats. No, she doesn’t live on a farm, she just loves animals. Her house is filled with dragons, though she does lament that they are the porcelain, non-flying variety.

Kimber Leigh is addicted to romance, videogames, superheroes, villains, and chocolate—not necessarily in that order. (If she has to choose, she’ll take a chocolate covered superhero!)

Her debut novel, Shadow Fire, is the first book in the Light Chronicles series. Watch for book two, Stolen Moon, a standalone sequel, coming August 2014.

Author links:

TorturedSoulsTourBanner2

Don’t forget to visit the tour schedule and enter the rafflecopter giveaway for $25 to Amazon!

Blood Games (Chicagoland Vampires #10) by Chloe Neill

While Merit didn’t choose to become a vampire or Sentinel of Cadogan House, she vowed to fight for her House and its Master, and she’s managed to forge strong alliances with powerful supernaturals across Chicago. But even though Merit has had wild adventures, this may be her deadliest yet…

A killer is stalking Chicago, preying on humans and leaving his victims with magical souvenirs. The CPD hasn’t been able to track the assailant, and as the body count rises, the city is running out of options. Vampires and humans aren’t on great terms, but murder makes for strange bedfellows. Can Merit find the killer before she becomes a target?

 

Format: Audiobook

Rating: 4/5

I feel that my reviews of books in this series are starting to sound redundant, so I’m keeping this one pretty short. In summary, I absolutely love Neill’s writing — the characters are all alive, and more importantly they’re unique. The plots of each novel are good by themselves—there’s enough content to justify any given book, the pacing is good, and I’m never bored. And the over-reaching plot is clear and, while there’s not necessarily one main conflict tying them all together, I like how each books fits into the general scheme of things and how the world continues to develop.

Merit and Ethan tackle some emotional drama that somewhat annoyed me in this one. Yes, Ethan has a big scary past. Yes, Merit knows this and is already over it. No, Ethan shouldn’t be freaking out about it. Yes, Merit’s job is to protect Ethan. Yes, Ethan is all alpha male and wants to protect her. Why is this supposedly only just now an issue, after ten books in the series? These things may have been getting on my nerves. The good news is that they’re not overwhelming by any means.

Overall, this is still a great series, and I’m quite pleased that Neill is still holding strong on this one.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

 

Rating: 4.5/5

Before I write my review, I need to warn you: I’ve been writing and peer reviewing stats reports the last couple of days, so this review may sound a bit more clinical than you’re used to. Apologies in advance. ~Liza

 

This book was an excellent read. Just, all the way around. It had a great plot—very unique, and set in a pretty unique world. There were definite peaks and valleys, but the pacing felt right—I didn’t feel like we had prolonged periods slow or too much rushed in all together.

Black’s use of imagery was particularly impressive. This whole book is a good example of showing instead of telling, and I really felt like I was a part of the setting. It wasn’t so much that the detail was very precise — there was plenty of room to let my imagination do the work, and Black didn’t overwhelm with detail. It manifested itself more in that she chose the right details to share, and those she did very well. I’m not normally a fan of flashback scenes to seemingly unrelated pieces of the main character’s past, but Black tied them in really well, and the details she selected for those scenes added a whole layer of context to the present-day setting, and I was quite pleased with how that was handled.

And the characters … Oh, the characters. I absolutely love Tana. And I love Gavriel. And more importantly, it doesn’t feel like they were forced together or like there’s just this spurious spark between them that doesn’t feel real. It all had the necessary context. I’m not going to talk much about that, but you’ll appreciate what I mean when you read it (if you haven’t already).

And let’s talk about this world. It’s basically an alternate reality where vampires have only recently come out in the open and the US government copes with it by creating coldtowns. At first it seemed a little odd to me, but the idea definitely grew on me as we learned more about what coldtowns are. Very nicely thought out from a logistical perspective, and beautifully executed. And again, a nice twist on the genre 🙂

If you haven’t read this already, you definitely should.

 

Wild Things (Chicagoland Vampires #9) by Chloe Neill

Since Merit was turned into a vampire, and the protector of Chicago’s Cadogan House, it’s been a wild ride. She and Master vampire Ethan Sullivan have helped make Cadogan’s vampires the strongest in North America, and forged ties with paranormal folk of all breeds and creeds, living or dead…or both.

But now those alliances are about to be tested. A strange and twisted magic has ripped through the North American Central Pack, and Merit’s closest friends are caught in the crosshairs. Gabriel Keene, the Pack Apex, looks to Merit and Ethan for help. But who—or what—could possibly be powerful enough to out-magic a shifter?

Merit is about to go toe to toe, and cold steel to cold heart, to find out.

 

Format: Audiobook

Rating: 4/5

I honestly had no idea what to rate this one. I really, really liked it, but at the same time … It just didn’t thrill me. I also try to avoid rating a single book based on how much I’ve enjoyed the series thus far—this is easy to accomplish fairly early on, but by the time you get to the 9th book in the series, it gets a little more challenging. Overall, I give this series an easy 5 stars—it’s been absolutely wonderful. The characters are great, the plots are inventive, and I haven’t once felt like I’m getting bored. More importantly, I haven’t gotten annoyed with anyone yet.

That said, most of what I loved about this book was a result of things provided by the overall series, rather than just this book. I absolutely loved the fact Neill keeps upping the anty for Merit, for Ethan, and more broadly for Cadogan House. I mean, it’s been a steady crescendo since book one, but so far this book takes the cake on the level of drama. The mayor’s dislike of vampires escalates, and this time it’s specifically targeted toward Ethan. And that’s only one of the problems dealt with in this novel. It’s been an absolute pleasure to watch the characters learn and grow through the adversity that they’ve faced.

But again, most of the reason I enjoyed the plot in this one is because of the wonderful build-up to this point. And because I’m really anticipating the next book. This will honestly very likely be one of those books that I’ll look back on after I’ve finished the series and wonder “what happened in that one again?” And that’s not because this book was lacking. Quite the opposite—we’ve wrapped up quite a few problems and are getting geared up for what I suspect will be some absolutely stellar upcoming books. That excites me, just not about this book.

Which I suppose is a good thing in a book. I mean, I clearly enjoyed the book. I clearly am going to read the next one.

But the beginning was slow. Slow enough, in fact, that I actually started reading this one in (*checks Goodreads*) mid-March (exactly 6 months ago yesterday), set it back on the shelf when work got crazy-ish, and only just picked it back up this week. As an audiobook (in fairness, I listened to the first … 6 or so? … books, so switching back wasn’t really a big leap). So even though I absolutely loved everything that happened in this book (and I’m thrilled about the direction the series is going), I’m only giving this one 4 stars.

The Witch With No Name (The Hollows #13) by Kim Harrison

At long last… The final book in the New York Times bestselling Hollows series by Kim Harrison!

Rachel Morgan’s come a long way from the clutzy runner of Dead Witch Walking. She’s faced vampires and werewolves, banshees, witches, and soul-eating demons. She’s crossed worlds, channeled gods, and accepted her place as a day-walking demon. She’s lost friends and lovers and family, and an old enemy has become something much more.

But power demands responsibility, and world-changers must always pay a price. That time is now.

To save Ivy’s soul and the rest of the living vampires, to keep the demonic ever after and our own world from destruction, Rachel Morgan will risk everything.

 

Rating: 5/5

Full disclosure here: this book would have had to have been a complete disaster to have received less than a 5-star rating. I admit, I went into this one with a predisposed bias toward it being great, and I normally try to approach my rating way more objectively than I seem to be with this book. I feel that’s ok, this is the last book in the series, and I’ve been reading Harrison’s books approximately annually, even during the Dark Ages During Which Liza Was Not Reading. So I think it earns some of those extra props anyway. But I wanted you, my lovely readers, to be aware that the number of stars was very nearly set in stone before I started.

That said, even on a purely objective basis, I still would have given this book 5/5 stars. I absolutely adored it, and I’m going to have a bit of a challenge to write a review that does this justice without giving anything away. (*quickly re-reads the book blurb to establish limits*)

One of my absolute all-time favorite things to read in a book is world-breaking. That’s right, that was breaking, not building. The books that truly stick with me are the ones where the main character has to not only overcome some outside force, but also has to change that force in order to keep on going. It’s one of the things that I think made The Hunger Games so powerful with its startling conclusion of book 1 (I’m not going to go so far as to say the sequels were as well). A truly powerful book takes us on a journey of impossible odds, and it has characters strong enough that it forces the world to accommodate them, rather than the other way around.

Rachel Mariana Morgan possesses the strength of will to accomplish that, as she has shown time and time again throughout this series. But really, it’s more than just her stubbornness that allows all of this wonderful world-breaking to happen. The first key ingredient is to have a world so well built and so real that it actually can be broken. Such a world needs to have context, texture, and history to such an extent that the reader can completely lose themselves in it. It needs to have rules so well understood that they can be pushed and tested. The world of The Hollows has all of these qualities, most of which have very gradually developed over the last 12 books.

The second key ingredient is characters who have something to lose, and those characters need to elicit a certain fondness and belief from the readers. I don’t just mean your main character here. In order to support the real-ness of the world, every character needs to feel uniquely real. You have to have a well-balanced cast of characters, and they each need to make sense independent of all of the others. Every one has a back-story that we catch glimpses of in the same way we might learn snippets of person information from a coworker. And a close inspection of the main cast of characters needs to feel complete: we need to know all of the characters we’ve been following for a while, and we need to love them. And more importantly, we can’t be allowed to forget about them.

A perfect example of this from A Witch With No Name is when the shit hits the fan, each of the main characters has their own priorities that all make sense. We don’t have a supporting cast that are merely concerned with the main character’s well-fare: Ivy is worried about Nina and about her parents, Jenks is worried about his kids, Trent is worried about the girls. They all very realistically go their separate ways to make sure the ones they care about are ok. Hell, even Al shows his soft spot. We as readers are allowed to wonder about the same things because we all already known Nina and Ivy’s parents and Jenks’ kids, and who doesn’t love Trent’s girls?

And that’s exactly what the main character has to lose if everything goes wrong. Nevermind any other motivations that might exist: the other characters alone would be enough. And as readers, we’re just as invested in their well-being.

The third key ingredient is a believable force driving the need to break the world. Either something that really will break the world by itself, or something that boxes the main character into a corner with no other options (as with The Hunger Games), or something of that ilk. This one kind of speaks for itself, but I want to emphasize the word believable.

A Witch With No Name meets these three criteria and then some. Each book in the series has had some kind of world-breaking going on: book 1 saw the breaking of a long-established “you don’t do this” rule when Rachel, Ivy, and Jenks all left the IS and survived at seemingly impossible odds. Then Rachel was able to survive the onslaught of the demons. I could compile a very long list here, but I’ll spare the details for those of you who haven’t read any of this series yet.

A Witch With No Name wraps up the series with a world-breaking endeavor on steroids. Seriously, it was such a big deal that we’re talking a beyond-global scale. And decisions that were made decided the fate of not one, not two, but (at least) three different species. It was an excellent way to end the series, as I’m not sure what in Rachel’s impossible life could possibly top that.

So I’ve talked about world-breaking to-death. What else did I love about this book?

We had a very acceptable amount of romance going on, and I must say I approved. It wasn’t distracting from the main issue, and it really felt natural after how the last book concluded. It wasn’t really a slap in your face, we didn’t have to deal with the awkward “getting to know you” phase of the relationship, as we pretty much already had that hashed out. Really, it just was. And it was the extra support that Rachel needed. (I’m seriously trying really hard not to mention anything important for folks who haven’t read the series at all, so I’m going to stop there).

We already talked about the characters in the world-breaking section of this review, but there’s just one more thing I want to mention there. Even in the thick of things, there’s still humor in the way that friends who are staring down the end of the world as they know it would find something absolutely insane to laugh about, and I love that we still get that coming through.

The following passage comes from later in the book, and may give away a tidbit of info, so if you’re super anti-anything-spoilerish, don’t read. It doesn’t touch on any plot points though. For those of you who haven’t read any of the series, Al is a demon who is countless centuries old.

“If I’m not mistake, he works for … the I.S.?” Trent guessed.

“The FIB, actually,” Al said, and I sank down into the chair at the breakfast nook. “I chose the FIB over the I.S. because the I.S. currently functions on decisions from old white vampires who have lost touch with the ever-changing social structure and are slowly losing power. Progress and all.”

Thunderstruck, I blinked. “You work for the FIB?”

Al tugged his suit coat straight. “I accepted a request to investigate the damage to your church initially, but I like it and I needed a job on the rental agreement other than former emperor of China.” Trent was chuckling, but I failed to see anything funny.

“I get to push people around, poke my nose where I want, and no one stops me. At least not more than once,” Al finished with a familiar evil smile.

Tired, I rubbed my forehead. “Did they give you a bright shiny badge?”

Al flushed, but I figured they had when he touched a breast pocket.

The “other than former emperor of China” bit had me practically rolling on the floor when I read it—I suspect a good deal of that was a result of lack of sleep, as it was getting well past my bedtime.

But I digress and this review is getting rather lengthy, so let’s move on.

The few downsides:

  • Rachel does get a bit whiny in this book. Everything is her fault. I’ve seen this very strongly criticized, but it honestly doesn’t bug me all that much. It’s a character flaw, yes. It’s healthy for characters to have flaws, and Rachel’s is the fact that she always feels responsible for everything. That particular trait is what allows her to do all that world-breaking I was talking about earlier, and without it these books wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable.
  • There are a lot of people really fixated on getting one thing or another for really stupid reasons. Again, this doesn’t bother me because in the real world, that’s pretty much expected. I might not have appreciated that thick-headedness quite as much before getting out of school, so I advise younger readers to not judge so harshly on the seeming stupidity of some of the antagonists in this book.

In summary, if you haven’t given this series a shot yet, you absolutely should. It’s been a blast, and I love the little detail of this series being a 13-book-long story about a witch. Thank you, Kim Harrison, for sharing such a wonderful series with the rest of the world.

Blog Tour: Call Me Grim (Call Me Grim #1) by Elizabeth Holloway – GUEST POST & GIVEAWAY

The truck should have turned Libbi Piper into a Libbi Pancake — and it would have, too, if Aaron hadn’t shown up and saved her life. The problem? Aaron’s the local Grim Reaper… and he only saved Libbi’s life because he needs someone to take over his job. Now, Libbi has two days to choose between dying like she was supposed to, or living a lonely life as Death Incarnate. Talk about a rock and a hard place.

And the choice goes from hard to sucktastic when her best friend shows up marked: condemned as a future murderer. Libbi could have an extra week to stop the murder and fix the mark… but only if she accepts Aaron’s job as Reaper, trapping herself in her crappy town forever, invisible and inaudible to everyone except the newly dead. But, if she refuses? Her best friend is headed straight for Hell.

 


Call-Me-Grim-Banner

This post is a stop on the blog tour for Call Me Grim, hosted by Chapter by Chapter. To view more stops on the tour, feel free to visit the schedule here!

And please enter the Rafflecopter giveaway before you leave!

This is a book I reviewed a couple of weeks ago by request from Month9Books—take a look at it here. I enjoyed it enough that I was more than happy to participate in the blog tour, and I asked Elizabeth if she could write a scene from the perspective of a different character. I’m thrilled she took me up on the challenge, and even more pleased by the scene and character she chose. Aaron was my favorite character from the book, and I’m looking forward to getting to learn more about him in the next book when it releases. This is a short and sweet scene from very early on in the book, and I hope you enjoy it.

With that introduction, I’ll turn things over to Elizabeth:

 

For this stop in the CALL ME GRIM blog tour, I was asked if I could write a tidbit of the novel from another character’s point of view. I had another option to choose from, but I was so intrigued by this idea, I couldn’t resist. So, without further ado, I give you the first time Aaron and Libbi see each other from Aaron’s perspective. The pacing is a little faster than I usually write, since I don’t want to make this post ungodly long, but I hope you like it!


She’s here. Somewhere in the rows of student artwork, the girl who could solve all of my problems is here. The question is, where?

My eyes drift closed and the ring on my right thumb tingles as it searches the art show for the girl’s dying soul. Her time is soon. I can already feel the slight tug of her soul without using the ring, but it’s not strong enough to draw me to her, yet. Her death is scheduled for tomorrow, and there are too many souls in the high school gym for me to pinpoint where the tug is coming from. The ring will have to show me where she is.

The ring’s power forms an image behind my closed lids. The girl—Libbi. Her name is Libbi. How the heck will I ever convince her to listen to me if I keep calling her ‘the girl’?—stands beside a tall copper sculpture that looks like three gigantic blades of grass reaching for the gym’s overhead lights. Dark waves of hair spill down the middle of her back as she tilts her head to look at the top of the towering piece.

I’ve seen that sculpture. It’s at the end of the first row of artwork, just inside the door. My eyes snap open. I spin around and sprint down the length of the gym, determined not to lose her.

There aren’t many people in the gym now, and most of them move out of my way as I draw closer, affected by my creepy Reaper aura. Those who don’t, get a shock of ice cold when I pass through their bodies. I hate doing that, but sometimes it’s a necessity.

As I round the last partition I catch sight of her. Libbi turns from the grass-like sculpture toward the open doors that lead to the high school’s main entrance like she’s looking for someone.

This is my chance. My foot lifts off the floor, but before I can take a step toward her, she pivots on her heel and marches away from me, down the aisle on the opposite side from where I stand, and deeper into the gym.

I follow, in my parallel aisle, catching glimpses of her long hair, her skirt, the backs of her shoes, at the end of each row we pass. Finally, she decides on a row and turns down it. I skid to a stop at the opposite end.

Her bright, green eyes meet mine across the distance and my breath takes a temporary vacation.

She’s freaking beautiful.

How’s that for fair?

Libbi’s lips bow into a pout and I can almost feel the disappointment rolling off of her in waves. And, Lord help me, I want to take that disappointment away. I want to make her feel better. I want to see her smile.

I give her a small nod and smile myself, but it seems to have the opposite effect. Her shoulders droop and her pout deepens to a scowl. She looks away.

Well, that’s probably for the best. I shouldn’t have noticed how pretty she is anyway. It’s not like anything can come of it.



Elizabeth HollowayAbout the Author:

Elizabeth Holloway is a registered nurse living in Southern Pennsylvania with her two teen children, Bam-bam the dog, and Tinkerbell the cat. CALL ME GRIM is her first novel.

Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: