Archive | November 2013

Review – Cold Fire (Spiritwalker #2) by Kate Elliott

cold fireCold Fire is the second book in the Spiritwalker series by Kate Elliott.  (Note that this review may contain spoilers for Book 1.)

We pick up right where Cold Magic ended – Cat and her cousin, Bee, are looking for a refuge from the different factions that want to use them for their powers.  Cat is still confused by her husband, Andevai.  While they haven’t consummated their relationship, they are bound by the magical ties that were forced on them.

There are many revelations in Cold Fire that explain some of the actions taken in Cold Magic.  We learn more about Cat’s family history and each character is further developed. The world-building is expanded and I found it very creative and well thought out.

However, while I very much enjoyed this book, I will admit that it was frustrating at times.  Cat is so secretive and contrary (yes, I know that’s an old-fashioned word but it kept coming to mind.)  She’s not dumb by any stretch.  Some consider her naïve and I don’t disagree.  Yet, it was more than that.  She seems to enjoy arguing a little too much.  And, boy, does she need to learn to keep her mouth shut sometimes.  These character flaws caused her to make decisions that didn’t help her cause.  I wish she would have been a little slower to act (and react).  Plus she needs to learn to trust a little more.  Most of the time she seems to only trust Bee.

But, after reading Cold Fire, I’m not sure that trust is well-placed.  Bee is also either extremely naïve (which I don’t believe) or she is manipulative.  Cat seems to forgive her of a lot.  Because Bee is the “pretty one” all the men just fall all over her and she feels that is her right.  Something about her is really rubbing me the wrong way and that’s disappointing because I truly liked her in Book One.

Andevai completely grew on me in this installment and we got to see behind that arrogant demeanor.  Which brings us to my Thank You to Kate Elliott – when you read Cold Fire, be sure to go to Kate Elliott’s website (www.kateelliott.com) and read Chapter 31.5.  Well, only do it if you are over 18.  Andevai’s point of view does not disappoint.

Overall, an enjoyable read and a great story.  4/5 stars.

Review – Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep

spider's biteGin’s family was murdered when she was younger by a Fire Elemental.  She lived on the streets and then was taken in by the owner of the Pork Pit BBQ restaurant.  She works for him as a cook and as an assassin.  Gin is the Spider and she is one of the fiercest killers out there.  Known for her knife-work, she tries not to use her Stone and Ice elemental magic.

When she is hired for a hit and then double-crossed, Gin has to use all of her strengths to get revenge against those who hurt the ones she loves.

What I really liked – Gin is a strong, likeable MC who doesn’t take herself too seriously.  I know that sounds strange when we’re talking about an assassin but it works.  She is loyal, has her own strong moral code and loves to cook.  The world building was done well and the descriptions of the elemental magic were interesting.  It’s a good story with a nice balance of action, emotion and the supernatural.  Since it’s set in the Appalachian Mountains, there are a lot of southernisms.  Po-po for the police and the mention of Mountain Dew cake.  My favorite quote is about southern women:

If there was one thing all Southern women instinctively know how to do, it’s flirt.  It’s encoded in our DNA, along with a fondness for grease, sugar and oversized hats.

There were a few things that were a bit of a miss for me.  Most noticeable was repetitious writing.  Every time coffee was mentioned, it was “chicory coffee”.  “Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy” is Gin’s go to phrase when talking about someone else’s work.  The reader is told where Gin stows her knives so many times that I lost count (two tucked up her sleeves, one in the small of the back and two inside her boots.)  When there was any kind of countdown it always ended at 45 seconds.  And, one of my personal pet peeves, using a character’s first and last name every time – Donovan Caine.

None of these were deal breakers for me and they didn’t detract from the overall book.

4/5 stars for an enjoyable read.  I will definitely pick up book 2.

Review – Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews

magic bleedsIlona Andrews just keeps getting better and better.  This fourth installment in the Kate Daniels series does not disappoint.

Kate is called to a local bar to investigate a disturbance.  She finds that someone has unleashed a disease through magic and she works to keep it contained.  While she is successful, she soon discovers that there is a strong presence at work that is a threat to everyone she holds dear.  Family can be deadly.

Magic Bleeds is a fun, action packed story.  For me, though, it was about growth and change – what do you want from your life and, ultimately, what do you want to be?  After all we know that Kate is the daughter of Roland and by blood should be one of the bad guys.  But she has chosen a different path.  Her stepfather raised her to be a loner and not to create attachments so she’s never had friends or responsibilities outside of herself.  Now she has chosen to have people close to her.  Kate has an adopted daughter (Julie), a best friend (Andrea), a man that she is starting to realize that she loves (Curran) and others that she cares about.  She will do anything to protect them even though she knows that one day she will have to face Roland.

I finished reading this over a week ago and I have thought about it each day since then.  That is the sign of a 5-star book to me.  Because I care about Kate and Curran, the series is making me nervous. There were points in Magic Bleeds where is seemed Curran had let Kate down.  Her sadness and anger were so well-written that I felt every emotion with her.  I did keep the faith in Curran but it was nerve-wracking.  Authors love to pull the rug out from under readers (and why not, we love it!)  There is a bad feeling that he is going to do something unforgivable or, gasp, be mortally wounded in one of these battles.  You know you are in love with a series when you cannot wait to pick up the next book but are a nervous wreck about what might come next.

My favorite quote actually comes from Andrea and made me laugh out loud: “Raphael’s mad because he can’t get his thingie approved.”

This is urban fantasy at its’ best.  Go read it now.

Review – A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

a breath of snow and ashesA Breath of Snow and Ashes is the 6th book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  Fair warning, I’m not going to write a proper review.  At this point it would be impossible to discuss the story in ABOSAA without giving away too much from prior books.  And, if you haven’t read them then you are missing out.  Please remedy that now.

NONE of the main characters are untouched in this installment.  My emotions went from happiness to misery to anger to contentment to sadness to boiling ferocity and then back to sadness.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where I’ve wanted to crawl inside and kill someone before.  ABOSAA took me to that point.  If I had been able to do that I would have also throttled a few people while comforting others.

It’s been quite a ride so far.  I still have one more to finish (An Echo in the Bone) and I will be caught up on the books published so far in this series.  The publish date for the next installment (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood) was recently pushed back to July 2014.  The wait may just kill me.  Until then, I will leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from ABOSAA (yes, most of them are from Jamie…sue me):

  • “If I die,” he whispered in the dark, “dinna follow me. The bairns will need ye. Stay for them. I can wait.”
  • “There is an oath upon her,” he said to Arch, and I realized dimly that he was still speaking in Gaelic, though I understood him clearly. “She may not kill, save it is for mercy or her life. It is myself who kills for her.”
  • “He reached forward then took me in his arms, held me close for a moment, the breath of snow and ashes cold around us. Then he kissed me, released me, and I took a deep breath of cold air, harsh with the scent of burning.”
  • “‘Why d’ye talk to yourself?’    ‘It assures me of a good listener.’
  • “I chose my way when I wed ye, though I kent it not at the time. But I chose, and cannot now turn back, even if I would.’
    ‘Would you?’ I looked into his eyes as I asked, and read the answer there. He shook his head.
    ‘Would you? For you have chosen, as much as I.”  ”

5/5 stars.  WONDERFUL!

Review – Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Moon CalledMoon Called is the first book in the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.  Mercy owns a mechanic shop where she specializes in working on VWs and other foreign cars.  She is also a walker.  This means that she can shift into coyote form at will.  Her next door neighbor, Adam, is the alpha of the local Werewolf pack.  While she was raised in a nearby wolf pack, she has always been an outsider.  Her life is very complicated and it doesn’t show any signs of getting easier.

I’ve been on an urban fantasy kick lately.  What is urban fantasy?  Well, my definition would be that it’s similar to a paranormal romance but is heavier on the storyline and mythology while being lighter on the sex.  They also tend to be series that focus on one major character (usually a female) throughout.  Most PNR series seem to focus on a group of people and each book tells the love story of one of that group.

Some UF series are turning into favorites like the Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series.  Others are just average.  After reading Moon Called, I have high hopes that this series is going to be a favorite.  Mercy is a tough MC that has many layers.  It’s going to be interesting to get to know her better.  Her presumed primary love interest, Adam, hits all the right buttons as an Alpha.  While there is a bit of the standard UF formula at work, I loved the nuances that Briggs added.  Mercy is a college graduate who chooses to be a mechanic.  She is more concerned with doing something that she loves versus doing what might be expected.  She has also made peace with her inner coyote.  So, we don’t see any of the usual, “I hate what I am.”  Mercy is fine with who and what she is.  While she is certainly no prude, she goes to church each week and doesn’t curse.  I loved that the men around her would edit their language out of respect for her.  But, she didn’t judge others for making different decisions than she had.  The supporting cast of characters add even more depth.  Jesse as Adam’s daughter, Samuel as another love interest, Stefan – the vampire, Zee and may others.

An action-packed story + strong world building + interesting characters = a 5 star read.

Guest Post and Giveaway – Jodi McIsaac

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I am so happy to welcome Jodi McIsaac to the blog.  Below her post, check out the links to the books, her website, twitter and facebook.  There are also two giveaways for you to enter – one on her website and one for my blog. 

After reading both books and noting the strong female MC, I asked her to talk about writing fantasy as a woman and the struggles (or not) of working in this traditionally male-dominated genre.  Take it away, Jodi:   

“Being a relatively new writer, I have to say that while I’m aware of the struggles of women writing in fantasy, I have yet to experience it myself. I work in my basement office by myself, and my male editor has been nothing but marvelous—so there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity for discrimination. My sub-genre, urban or contemporary fantasy, is dominated by women writers such as Charlaine Harris, Diana Gabaldon, and Patricia Briggs, so there are many excellent examples to follow. But I’ve heard enough stories from other writers of sexual harassment at cons and unequal treatment of women in the industry as a whole to know to know that it is a problem—and just because I haven’t experienced it personally doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

What bothers me the most in fantasy is the way women are depicted on many book covers. Even though I love reading urban/contemporary fantasy, there are some of my colleague’s books that I refuse to read because I just can’t get past the overly-sexualized, ridiculously-contorted woman on the cover. You know which ones I’m talking about—the heroine with the halter top and tramp stamp, holding a weapon in one hand while twisting her spine so that her butt and her boobs are both showing. I just can’t get past these covers, no matter how good the words are on the inside. And don’t even get me started about cover art for epic fantasy, where the female warriors apparently don’t need any armor covering their vital organs; as long as they have a few flimsy pieces of leather or shiny gold dangling from their bodies, they’ll be juuuuuust fine. 

Fortunately, I get a lot of say into the cover design for my books (which is one of the reasons I chose to go with 47North in the first place), and I very specifically told my publisher that there were to be no halter tops (I have nothing against halter tops in general, but my protagonist definitely wouldn’t wear one), no tramp stamps, and no contortionism on my covers. (I think in order to be safe they removed people from the covers altogether!) Other people have said it much better than me, but no one has said it—and shown it—better than fantasy author Jim Hines, who did a series of photos in which he attempted to pose like the women on fantasy and urban fantasy covers, with eye-opening (and muscle spasming) results. 

So while I haven’t experienced any direct gender-based discrimination myself, I recognize that there is still a rather, er, twisted perception of women in fantasy, particularly when it comes to cover art. And hopefully as more people talk about it, more and more authors, publishers, and designers will stand up make the changes that need to happen.” 

Jodi McIsaac is the author of the Thin Veil contemporary fantasy series, where Celtic mythology and the modern world collide. INTO THE FIRE, the second book in the series, is being released tomorrow, on November 12. You can pre-order or buy it here.

Links:

THROUGH THE DOOR (book 1): http://www.amazon.com/Through-Door-The-Thin-Veil-ebook/dp/B00AJXXA4G/

INTO THE FIRE (book 2): http://www.amazon.com/Into-Fire-The-Thin-Veil-ebook/dp/B00C1IPQTY/

www.jodimcisaac.com

www.facebook.com/jodimcisaac

www.twitter.com/jodimcisaac

GIVEAWAYS:

Visit the author’s website at http://www.jodimcisaac.com/#!blog-tour/c1nm6 to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of INTO THE FIRE. 

My giveaway for e-book copies of both books! 

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Blog Tour Review – Into the Fire by Jodi McIsaac

into the fireInto the Fire is the 2nd book in The Thin Veil series.  I recently reviewed book one and highly recommend you read it first.  The review below may contain spoilers for Through the Door.

Cedar has discovered her true family history.  She is the daughter of the deceased King and Queen of Tir na nOg.  Her defeat of Lorcan, the man who murdered her family to become King, has left a power void in her home world.  Cedar, Finn, Eden and the rest of the gang return to Tir na nOg to help with the rebuilding process.  They soon learn that Nuala is vying to become the new Queen.  Since she is the one who kidnapped Eden and tried to use her powers of persuasion to control Lorcan, they know that this can’t be allowed to happen.  Into the Fire describes their journey to defeat Nuala and begin the healing process for their home.

While I enjoyed book one, I found Into the Fire to be even better.  The author works to build the world and, at the same time, keeps the story moving forward with both action and emotion.  There are moments of happiness for Finn and Cedar between all of the battles that they must fight.  I also felt that Eden had grown up a little (who wouldn’t after everything she went through.)  We see another glimpse of her adult self in the dream world and it piques your interest for her future story.

We also learn more about the Druids, Maeve’s history and the bitterness between them and the Tuatha De Danaan.  Note to self: I don’t want to meet a druid alone on a dark night in Ireland.

Seeing Felix and Jane start to fall for each other added some fun to the story.  Jane puts on such a tough front but she is as insecure as the rest of us.  And, she is willing to sacrifice for those she cares about.  I fell in love with her in this book and I could imagine her and Felix on their own adventure – hint, hint Jodi McIsaac.

Into the Fire is recommended for those who enjoy fantasy but I think it will work for science fiction, paranormal and historical fans.  It’s a story of family, betrayal, loyalty and fate.  4/5 stars for a great time.

I received a review copy as part of the blog tour.

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Visit the author’s website at http://www.jodimcisaac.com/#!blog-tour/c1nm6 to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of INTO THE FIRE. 

I am giving away E-copies of books one and two to one of my wonderful followers as well.  Enter for your chance below:

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