Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday #Review - Empowered: Agent by Dale Ivan Smith #Science Fiction #Fantasy

Series: Empowered # 1
Format: Kindle, 360 pages
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Source: Amazon
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

The world says those with superpowers are either heroes or villains. But what if you’re both?
Mathilda Brandt isn’t the angry, out-of-control teenager she was before she got out of jail. She’s hungry for a chance at a normal life, but when a gang threatens her sisters, she has no choice but to use her illegal superpower to protect them.
A secretive government agency gives her a choice: go back to prison for life, or infiltrate a notorious super-villain group in order to stop a psychotic Empowered. To save her city, her family, and herself, Mat must become the last thing she ever wanted to be again: a criminal.

Empowered: Agent is the first book in Dale Ivan Smith’s The Empowered urban fantasy series. This series actually begins 5 years from when this story picks up. There is a novella called Renegade that features a 16-year old Mathilda (Mat) Brandt. 16-year old Mat lives in a world where you must make a choice if you have powers. You can either join the Hero Council, or go Rogue. There are no third choices. If you are caught and are not registered with Hero Council, you may very well end up in prison for the rest of your life. Mat, after being captured, was sent away to a special corrections facility for those with powers.

As Empowered: Agent picks up, it is 5 years later. Now 21-year old Mathilda has been paroled from a special corrections and now has to find a job in order to support her family. In Renegade, readers got a chance to understand Mat's true powers. Powers she was just beginning to understand. In this story, Mat is now called a Botanical Catalyst because of her ability to control plants. Mat finds herself on the cusp of choosing which way her life is going to go after she is caught using her magic. She can remain clueless as to what is happening around her and end up back in prison, or she can take an undercover job with the Hero Council hunting down The Scourge, the most dangerous Rogues in the world.

With two sisters on the edge of getting themselves into deep trouble, and her grandmother slowly dying from a rare disease, Mat finds herself choosing between working undercover for Support in order to infiltrate a group known as the Scourge, or quickly returning to prison where she will no longer have access to her powers. What really sets this story straight with me is Mat's powers really grow by leaps and bounds from Renegade. Also, her situation with her family is no joke. There isn't anything that is pure black, or pure white. It is a mixed up world where Mat has to make the best choices without screwing up. 

One could call this an alt-reality story since the author makes pains to twist history especially when it comes to Tricky Dick Nixon and the Cuba missile crisis. If you like heroes and villains, you’ll love this fast-paced, suspenseful read featuring a strong female hero. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wednesday #Review - From the Ashes by Eliza Nolan #YALit #Fantasy

Series: The Phoenix # 2
Format: Kindle, 316 pages
Release Date: June 26, 2017
Publisher: E.N. Publishing
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

In this exciting sequel to Phoenix Awakens, Nolan whisks her readers off to Istanbul where the Legend of the Phoenix is the centerpiece in a centuries old battle for power.
It’s been three months since Julia Long discovered she’s a magical being called The Phoenix, and she still hasn’t mastered her ancestral powers. But when a mysterious visitor provides evidence that Julia’s birth mother has been kidnapped in Istanbul, Julia must try to save her.
Meeting her mother's family for the first time is wonderful, but discovering there are other kids her age with magic is better, even if one of them is infuriatingly dark and handsome.
But not everyone is happy letting kids be kids. Some seek to use these gifted youth as pawns in a game of power and intrigue. And just by the nature of who she is, Julia's now the most powerful piece on the board. But if she doesn’t play her part perfectly, she could lose everything, including her mother.

From the Ashes is the second installment in author Eliza Nolan's The Phoenix series. 18-year old protagonist Julia Long recently discovered that she is the fabled Phoenix. The Phoenix, in this world, is a sort of magical creature that lived a few hundred years ago. Unfortunately, Julia's knowledge of the full extent of her powers, and the book that explains what she needs to know, is currently locked up in a Charleston Police Station where it sits after the events of the previous installment.

Julia's issue, to begin with, is that her powers have gone silent since she healed five boys, including her current boyfriend Graham, who became her Beshi. Beshi, for the uninitiated, are those who gave themselves up in order for the Phoenix to rise. The second issue is the arrival of a strange woman with a packet of money, a passport, a one way ticket to Istanbul, as well as a letter supposedly written by her mother. Curious, especially since we previously learned that her mother apparently knew all along who Julia was and left a necklace to protect her from enemies that await her. 

Julia and Graham travel to Istanbul where an unexpected reunion with a family she knew nothing about happens. The struggle to find her mother, who she hasn't known her entire life, begins in earnest, but with plenty of twists and a bit of betrayal as well. To add insult to injury, the family is aghast at how little Julia understands about her role as the Phoenix. A role that can, as we find out, be taken away from her if she fails to understand what her destiny really is and does all she can to protect herself from enemies just waiting to surprise her.

Julia's hope is to return home to Charleston to retrieve the book that apparently holds all the answers, and unlock the key to her powersEspecially after discovering the so called Army of the Phoenix and the strange boy she finds a curious connection to Kele. Her connection to Kele will test her relationship with Graham to the limits on both ends of the spectrum. Will Julia survive her next test, or will the evil that is waiting for her finally bring down the Phoenix? Book # 3 has is being called The Fire Within. No further information is available at this time, but I will definitely be reading to see what happens next. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday #Review - Blood Gamble by Melissa F. Olson (Urban Fantasy)

Series: Disrupted Magic # 2
Format: Kindle Edition, 300 pages
Release Date: July 25, 2017
Publisher: 47North
Source: NetGalley/Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy

If there is one city that Scarlett Bernard hates, it’s Las Vegas. But when the cardinal vampire of Los Angeles convinces her to go investigate a new vampire-themed stage show, Scarlett quickly finds herself shoulder-deep in sequins, slot machines, and Old World intrigue.
The show’s creators are vampire celebrities Arthur and Lucy Holmwood, who once inspired characters from the original Dracula. Now, however, they have no qualms about announcing their true status to the human world, endangering the secrecy of the Old World and Scarlett’s mission to keep it hidden.
But before she can begin untangling the Holmwoods’ motives, Scarlett also discovers that their new production has attracted more than just fans: Las Vegas’s many vampires are suddenly disappearing, and rumors are flying that actual vampire hunters may have followed Arthur and Lucy to town.
Now, without her allies, her bargest, or her frequent partner Jesse Cruz, Scarlett must navigate a new underworld of secrets and murders in a city where nothing is ever as it seems. And the stakes have never been higher.

Blood Gamble is the second installment in author Melissa F. Olson's Disrupted Magic series. However, it is also book # 5 in the Scarlett Bernard series, and book # 11 in what's being called the Old World Chronicles. Scarlett Bernard is a null who negates all the magic withing a certain radius. She has the ability to extend, and withdrawal that radius which makes her rather unique. Scarlett works for Dashiell, the Cardinal of Los Angeles, cleaning up supernatural problems and keeping the Old World from being discovered by humans. 

Dashiell's latest job for Scarlett is something she would have avoided at all costs. But, after being blackmailed in the most cunning way possible, Scarlett finds herself in Las Vegas. Scarlett doesn't have any fond memories of Vegas. In fact, it has been 8 years since she was last there, and if she has her way, it will be a cold day in hell before she returns again. But, with a new vampire themed show called Demeter opening, and the owners being legendary vampires Arthur and Lucy Holmwood straight out of Dracula, Scarlett finds herself investigating the strange disappearances of several dozen vampires. 

As it is Scarlett's job to keep the Old World from being exposed to humans, Scarlett must get to the bottom of what is happening quickly, while also not letting humans know what is happening. One of the more cunning aspects of this story is the revelation of the villains and why they are doing what they are doing. The fact that Scarlett has no allies since her bargest Shadow can't leave LA County, and Jessie Cruz is picking up her slack, makes this story that more focused on Scarlett and her actions in using what she has at hand to discover the truth and return home alive.

This is a book that I had to read to the very end, and then the author's notes to understand what she is trying to do & why she is taking the chance she did with the shocking ending she leaves readers with. (yes, I realize that is vague) Author states that she has seen this particular issue coming since Dead Spots. One could say that Olson jumps the shark with this story, which I realize she hates, but nonetheless it is in the same ballpark as killing off a main character for unnecessary reasons.

My issue is that her OWN character made a statement that she totally blew apart at the seams for whatever reasons in the end. As I state all this, this story was still entertaining. I loved that Scarlett cares about her brother and his new family and has done one of the coolest things she can do in order to provide financial support for them. I do care for Scarlett regardless of who she stupidly falls in love with. I do care how she fares even though she lives a dangerous existence. I do care that she gets knocked down and manages to stagger back to her feet somehow. The sixth installment, called Shadow Hunt, should be a very interesting story indeed.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday #Review - Vanguard by Ann Aguirre #YALit #Science Fiction

Series: Razorland # 4
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: Publisher
Genre: YA, Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic

The Razorland saga continues. Since the war ended, Tegan has dreamed of an epic journey, so when she has the opportunity to sign on as ship's doctor, she can't wait. It's past time to chart her course. Millie Faraday, the kindest girl in the free territories, also yearns to outrun her reputation, and warrior-poet James Morrow would follow Tegan to the ends of the earth.
Their company seems set, but fate brings one more to their number. Tegan will battle incredible odds while aiding Szarok, the Uroch vanguard, who has ventured forth to save his people. Szarok is strange and beautiful, like a flower that blooms only in the dark. She shouldn't allow him close, as such a relationship is both alien and forbidden. But through stormy seas and strange lands, she will become stronger than she ever knew.

Vanguard is being called the companion fourth installment in author Ann Aguirre's Razorland series. Vanguard picks up approximately ten months after the end of the War of the River between humans and the Horde. This story focuses on four characters; Tegan, Millie Faraday, Szarok (the Vanguard of the Uroch), and James Morrow, aka the storyteller. Three of the four characters have settled into peaceful lives. Tegen, who still suffers from what happened to her over the course of the previous 3 installments, lives in Rosemere where she is Dr. Wilson's apprentice. 

Tegan became Dr. Wilson's apprentice after the War of the River. But, with his dying words that she should find Catalina, Tegen, along with Szarok, and Millie travel to Evergreen where they reunite with James, Deuce, and Fade and later join a crew where Tegen becomes ships doctor. Tegen promised Szarok that she would help find him a new home. Little did she know that they would find an everlasting connection. Millie is the girl known for her kindness. The girl made of sunlight and flowers. A kindness that ended up saving humanity from the Horde. 

Millie wants to be known for something else instead of the girl who saved humanity. She gladly joins Tegen on her adventure, only to discover that she has the ability to be, and become anything she wants to be. James returned home to Evergreen where we find him writing a book and waiting for the imminent return of Tegan who he still has feelings for. James joins Tegen, Szarok, and Millie on their curious journey to different ports of calls. But, James finds himself being moved by the girl, Millie, who has heard about James, Deuce, Fade, and Company D's adventures. 

Szarok, meanwhile, searches for a new home for his Uroch. He understands that humans will not willingly open their arms to the Uroch and let them settle near them. His people are not patient, and it's only a matter of time before he has to leave Tegen and their adventure behind to return home. I loved that we get to actually meet the remaining Uroch clan who have given him the distinction of being Vanguard. I loved that he really isn't just a monster who found humanity, and later a connection to a woman who carries a heavy burden but has so much to offer the person who lets her be herself. 

Without spoiling a thing, I will say that this is pretty much just a feel good story with lots of romance, a bit of action and adventure, and a way to say goodbye to Tegan, Millie Faraday, Szarok, James Morrow, and of course, Deuce and Fade. I really don't see any reason why there would be a 5th book in this series. Plus, do we really want to drag Deuce and Fade into another adventure? Although this installment can stand alone, I would definitely recommend reading the previous three installments as they do explain how we got to this point. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

#Stacking the Shelves / Bought, Borrowed, & Bagged # 73

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Bought Borrowed and Bagged is all about the latest additions to your library – virtual or actual, with books that are  bought, borrowed, won or ARCs  you will be reading soon. Bought Borrowed and Bagged is a homage to to Barron’s Books and Baubles from Karen Marie Moning’s amazing Fever series, and is hosted by Braine over at Talk Supe. 

Thanks for Shopping by! 
Hope you find something you are interested in!
Have a great weekend!

This Weeks Reviews: 

Monday - Midnight Jewel by Richelle Mead (YA, Fantasy)

Tuesday - No Good Deed by Kara Connolly (Fantasy)

Thursday - Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine (Mystery)

Friday - Wildfire by Ilona Andrews (Paranormal)

(Urban Fantasy)

*Received from NetGalley/Edelweiss*


*Received from Publishers*



Friday, July 21, 2017

#Review - It Happened One Doomsday by @LMacNaughton @Pyr_Books

Series: Dru Jasper # 1
Format: Paperback, 280 pages
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Pyr
Source: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Magic is real. A handful of sorcerers wield arcane power against demons and the forces of darkness. These protectors of the powerless are the best magic-users in the world. Unfortunately, Dru isn’t one of them. She’s got magical potential. She uses crystals to see enchantments, and she can research practically anything in the library in the back of her little store, sandwiched between a pawnshop and a 24-hour liquor mart. She sells enough crystals, incense, and magic charms to scrape by.

Everything changes the day a handsome mechanic pulls up in a possessed black muscle car, his eyes glowing red. Just being near Greyson raises Dru’s magical powers to dizzying heights. But he’s been cursed to transform into a demonic creature that could bring about a fiery doomsday. There’s only one chance to break Greyson’s curse—and it’s about to fall into Dru’s inexperienced hands….

Story Locale: Present-day Denver, around Dru’s home and crystal shop, in a world where sorcerers and magic lurk beneath everyday life, unbeknownst to most people

It Happened One Doomsday is the first installment in author Laurence McNaughton's Dru Jasper series. As a reader who literally reads hundreds of books each year, I am always looking for something new, something refreshing, something outside of the box, something that is action packed, has wonderful characters, and is loads of plenty of fun to read. It Happened One Doomsday is just that book. Meet protagonist Dru Jasper. Dru operates The Crystal Connection in Denver, Colorado. 

Dru has the ability to enhance the inherent spiritual powers of crystals, make them stronger, and more powerful. She isn't fond of believing that she has strong magical abilities. Dru yearns for normality. She has a dentist for a boyfriend, and is happy supporting the Denver Sorcerer community with their magical problems. Then things suddenly change with the arrival of Greyson Carter to her shop who complains about dark dreams. What's even stranger is that Dru has a connection to Greyson, and when he is around, her abilities actually amplify. 

Dru knows that there is definitely something wrong with Greyson and while experimenting with various crystals that are supposed to help him, she discovers that Greyson is a possessed by demon who may be one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The topper? He drives a car that has a mind of it's own called Hellbringer. If you've seen the movie Christine by Stephen King, please refer to it now. Turns out the other horsemen have been loosed on the world by a group called Harbingers, and it's up to Dru, and her sorcerer friend Rane to help put down the pending apocalypse. 

You want originality? How about not only are there four horsemen, but also four cars that are also demon possessed? You want creep factor? Try the mansion in the middle of the New Mexico desert where fantastic action scenes take place. You will love Rane. She has the ability to morph into whatever substance she is in contact at the time. Example: Steel, Iron, Wood, etc. You want a quirky relationship? Try Dru and Rane who states emphatically that Dru is her best friend forever and she is going to stick to her like glue no matter what happens. You want a hint of romance, but nothing so in your face? Dru and Greyson have a connection like I said. Whether or not it pans out is yet to be seen. There's really no negatives to this story. The world building is fairly simplistic because it takes place in the modern world setting of Denver. 

Friday #Review - Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by @ilona_andrews #Paranormal #Romance @avonbooks

Series: Hidden Legacy # 3
Format: E-Galley, 384 pages
Release Date: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Avon
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Paranormal Romance

From Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times bestselling author, the thrilling conclusion to her Hidden Legacy series, as Nevada and Rogan grapple with a power beyond even their imagination…
Nevada Baylor can’t decide which is more frustrating—harnessing her truthseeker abilities or dealing with Connor “Mad” Rogan and their evolving relationship. Yes, the billionaire Prime is helping her navigate the complex magical world in which she’s become a crucial player—and sometimes a pawn—but she also has to deal with his ex-fiancĂ©e, whose husband has disappeared, and whose damsel-in-distress act is wearing very, very thin.
Rogan faces his own challenges, too, as Nevada’s magical rank has made her a desirable match for other Primes. Controlling his immense powers is child’s play next to controlling his conflicting emotions. And now he and Nevada are confronted by a new threat within her own family. Can they face this together? Or is their world about to go up in smoke?

Wildfire is the third and apparent final installment in author Ilona Andrews Hidden Legacy series. Wildfire picks up right where White Hot left off. Protagonist Nevada Baylor, of Baylor Investigative Agency, is a powerful truthseeker which is extremely rare in this world. She can tell whether you are telling the truth, or not. She can also crash through your mental barriers and extract information that she needs to do her job. In this installment, Andrews throws Nevada into plenty of twisted situations. 

From the onset, things get really twisted. Connor Rogan's ex fiance Rynda Charles, who is also the daughter of the woman (Olivia) who she helped bring down, asks for help finding her missing husband. This issue drives almost everything that happens in this story, including uncovering some even more nefarious plots and machinations. Notice I said almost. Nevada has another issue that may determine her families future. The arrival of Victoria Tremaine to town. Victoria is Nevada's Grandmother on her father's side. A grandmother that they have been avoiding for years. A Grandmother who is about as dangerous as any villain we've encountered in this series, and in this book.

Nevada makes a choice. After Victoria makes a daring move, Nevada lays out plans for House Baylor becoming a reality. That means that she, and her sisters, and most likely Bern, will need to register, and be put through trials to determine if they are Prime material, or not. I dare say that Nevada's entire family makes this series fun and entertaining to read. From Grandmother Frida, Mother Penelope, Nevada's sisters Catalina and Arabella, and cousins Bernard and Leon who really steps into his own role in this series and not a moment too soon. 

Victoria wants Nevada to become her heir. She won't take no for an answer. Her attempts at controlling Nevada and her sisters. Her machinations at trying to stop Nevada from going through with the trials. But, no worries. Nevada isn't one to let things simmer and bake for long. She wants to protect her family, while the family, including her own sisters, are more than capable of standing up and delivering when someone messes with the family. Even Rogan has learned that lesson the hard way, and continues to learn step by step to the point where Nevada is as powerful and driven as he is. Their connection is like wildfire burning uncontrollably, and the romance is as hot as anything that you've read in this genre.

You really should start from the beginning with Burn for Me so that you don't get lost in translation from what has happened over the course of the previous two novels. Fans of Ilona Andrews know that they can expect paranormal romance the way readers want. There are strong heroines, sexy male leads that make you fawn, tons of humor, as well as a creative world building that always manages to impress no matter if it is this series, or the Kate Daniels series. 

As I posted earlier, and was answered by said author, I really do wish the publisher would have allowed one more story to be written in this series. That's not a slap at the author. Trust me. I absolutely loved the final 2 installments in this series and would have gladly rated this story 5 stars. But, there is one huge plot hole that hasn't been answered. Nevada and Rogan have been chasing after answers, but have come up short time and time again in exposing who the main villain is who has been creating all the chaos. Plus, the epilogue leaves you wanting to know what happens next. Do Nevada and Rogan discover who is behind all the turmoil in Houston?