Monday, January 27, 2020

#Review - Savior's Spell by Gwen Rivers #Urban #Fantasy

Series: Spellcaster Series Book 1
Format: Kindle, 278 pages
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Publisher: Elements Unleashed
Source: Amazon
Genre: Urban Fantasy

New York is under attack from sinister forces. To save the city, she must give her life… 

Emma Slade burns for revenge and excels at kicking butt. At least human butt. But the fiends who murdered her family hopelessly outnumber the half-fae orphan. And the handsome, brooding werewolf claiming he can help might send her instead to her death.

Liam Cooper is determined to locate the prophesied savior whose sacrifice will protect the realm. Prowling the Manhattan streets, he’s shocked when he encounters Emma and learns she’s his fated mate. But it breaks his heart when he learns she’s also the messiah he seeks.

Taken to the shifter’s compound, Emma trains with a mystic sword that has never lost a battle. But Liam grows increasingly anxious that fulfilling the prophecy will doom the woman he loves.

Can the two heroes pull off a miracle and twist a terrible destiny?

“Now in their darkest hour, One shall rise who wields the power, To resurrect what has been lost, Magic bought at a terrible cost. Blood of the children, his to spill, As they abandon Underhill. ‘Til the sword does appear, All the fae will live in fear, What can’t be replaced, she must give, So the forever young might live.”

Savior's Spell, by author Gwen Rivers, is the first installment in the authors Spellcaster series. Emma Slade is freshly arrived in New York City. She has purple and gold glyph's and is hunting those who killed her mother and brother. Emma is a spell caster who is 1/2 fae and 1/2 human. She has a 6th sense for human emotions as well as access to elemental magic. She also has the unique ability to ignore any royal commands. Emma first friend she makes is Keisha aka Rage who is a werewolf child hiding out in a close restaurant. Emma's encounter with Liam who changes everything.

As Alpha, Liam Cooper's job is to protect morals from the fae. He believes that no fae should be able to hurt any human. Liam actually gave his oath to one true queen. Liam's eyes are opened when he watches Emma protect a transitioning Dryad named Fiona from human fae haters. Liam's job is to put down any threats to the fae or his pack. What makes things even more complicated is that when his wolf sniffs out Emma, he immediately knows that she is his mate. Liam is ordered to find the Savior; spellcaster prophesied to sacrifice everything for the fae. When he discovers who Emma is, it's a game changer.

The two must work to find the sword of the Tuatha de Dannu which is said to be indestructible. Emma has spent 2 years hunting the dark fae but what she uncovers might make you a bit sick to your stomach. I'm all about outlawing incest in any from in any book written from here on out. The most curious character in this book is Keisha because she's so rare, nobody knows what to do with her. She's almost as powerful as Liam, but she makes some actual sane choices by not stepping on anyone's paw before she can prove herself to Liam's pack.

Thanks to not reading The Goodnight Kiss, I had no clue who Nic or Arden or Addison were. Apparently, this series is a spin-off from the Unseelie Court-series by Jennifer L. Hart (she changed the name for the genre). I don't think you have to read one or the other first in order to enjoy either series. You just have to be willing to suspend some aspects you hate from different things that are interspersed in this book and you'll be fine.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And the ability to change it.”

#Review - When You See Me by Lisa Gardner #Thrillers #Suspense

Series: Detective D.D. Warren #11
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Publisher: Dutton
Source: Publisher
Genre: Thrillers / Suspense

#1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner unites three of her most beloved characters—Detective D.D. Warren, Flora Dane, and Kimberly Quincy—in a twisty new thriller, as they investigate a mysterious murder from the past…that points to a dangerous and chilling present-day crime.

FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective DD Warren have built a task force to follow the digital bread crumbs left behind by deceased serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. When a disturbing piece of evidence is discovered in the hills of Georgia, they bring Flora Dane and true-crime savant Keith Edgar to a small town where something seems to be deeply wrong. What at first seems like a Gothic eeriness soon hardens into something much more sinister…and they discover that for all the evil Jacob committed while alive, his worst secret is still to be revealed. Quincy and DD must summon their considerable skills and experience to crack the most disturbing case of their careers—and Flora must face her own past directly in the hope of saving others.

When You See Me is the Eleventh book in Lisa Gardner’s series featuring Boston Sergeant Detective D.D. Warren. The story starts off with two hikers discovering human bones. After findings uncover that the remains are approximately 15 years old, the question becomes could this female be another victim of predator Jacob Ness who investigators have never found the cabin in the woods? FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy quickly puts together a task force after the remains where found in the mountains of Georgia. It should be noted that a good majority of this story is set in small towns in Georgia. 

For the first time, 3 fan favorites are brought together to solve a series of killings. Sergeant Detective D.D. Warren and victim-turned-avenger Flora Dane head to the mountains of Georgia to team up with Quincy who believes the victim may have been killed by Jacob Ness who held Flora for 472 days before she escaped. Quincy and Flora are connected in that she found Flora after she broke her connection to Ness. Flora has become something of a victim's advocate as well as a confidential informant for D.D. who is slowly coming to actually like Flora even after some of the things she's done.

Flora recently found a connection with Keith Edgar, who is a computer guru and someone who knows all too well about Jacob's dark past. As the number of bodies are uncovered by the task force grows, it becomes clear that Ness isn't the only serial killer who preyed in this area. A new monster has emerged and created a sinister criminal enterprise of human trafficking, illegal organ harvesting, and murder. With the help of a young, mute girl D.D. calls Bonita (who has been scared for life thanks to the bad man). DD, Flora and Kimberly discover that small towns can really hide some big secrets. Secrets that people will literally kill to protect. 

As usual, Gardner does fantastic research to make her story more realistic. There was a small part of this story towards the end where a bit of supernatural is thrown into the story. It all surrounds around the girl named Bonita who really broke my heart learning what happened to her mother, and how she was used like trash. You will still need to suspend some disbelief while reading this one, but I didn't mind and I don't think anyone else will either.

Friday, January 24, 2020

#Review - Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine #Thrillers #Suspense

Series: Stillhouse Lake #4
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Release Date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Thrillers / Suspense

She’s investigating a cold case no one else could—by going places no else would dare.

In spite of a harrowing past still haunting her, Gwen Proctor is trying to move forward. Until a new assignment gives her purpose: the cold-case disappearance of a young man in Tennessee. Three years missing, no clues. Just Ruth Landry, a tortured mother in limbo. Gwen understands what it’s like to worry about your children.

Gwen’s investigation unearths new suspects…and victims. As she follows each sinister lead, the implications of the mystery grow more disturbing. Because the closer Gwen gets, the closer she is to a threat that looms back home.

In a town that’s closed its ranks against Gwen; her partner, Sam; and her kids, there’s no bolder enemy than the Belldene family—paramilitary, criminal, powerful, and vengeful. As personal vendettas collide with Gwen’s investigation, she’s prepared to fight both battles. But is she prepared for the toll it could take on everyone she loves?

Bitter Falls, by Rachel Caine, is the fourth installment in the Stillhouse Lake thriller series. For Gwen Proctor, her daughter Lanny, her son Connor, and her partner Sam Cade, Stillhouse Lake is no longer the sanctuary it once was. Now, the townsfolk are against them and everyone, except for a select few, want them gone and they aren’t afraid to show it. The most dangerous adversary for Gwen, Sam, and her kids are the Belldene's who Sam has already had run-ins with. The family is powerful, criminal, vengeful, and looking for a bit of payback.

Gwen's recent publicity created renewed tensions between them and the Belldene family whose paramilitary and drug-related activities don't want the attention. Gwen started working as a private investigator for J.B. Hall's Kingston Investigations, Sam's construction business has all but dried up forcing him to work out of town, Connor is being bullied in school, and is living in constant fear, while Lanny, still nursing a broken heart from her breakup, is a typical teenager who never sees the consequences of her actions.

Gwen takes the case Remy Landry, a young man who went missing in Knoxville (3) years ago. Remy is a college student who tried to help a girl escape from a cult and hasn't been seen or heard from since. His mother refuses to move on and all but lives in his former apartment. Further investigation leads her to Father Tom and the Assembly which threatens, kills, and enslaves women in their clutches. They are evil and the cult's leader mimics those like Jim Jones and others of his ilk. When the cult attacks Gwen and her family at home and kidnaps Sam and Connor, she will do anything and everything to get them back.

With lives on the line, Gwen proves that she is a formidable opponent. She knows how to stand and fight and when the going gets tough, she rolls with the punches and punches back. Even though she is still being stalked by trolls on the internet who want her kids to kill themselves, as well as Sam's former group who is now targeting him as being brainwashed, Gwen refuses to back down and run away again. As often times as she's been threatened, it's always a surprise when Gwen can walk away from a situation without much damage being done to herself or her family. The return of Vera (Vee) Crockett from the Wolfhunter River adds a bit more intrigue as well as danger. 

Similar to other books, the author rotates her narrative between Gwen, Lanny, Connor, and Sam. I often times whine, yes I said it, about the numerous narratives but in this case I think they are more than warranted due to the circumstances each character finds themselves in. The ending both felt a bit rushed, as well as the end of the series. Not sure if there will be another book, but obviously the situation has drastically changed and so will the scenery. We shall see.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

#Review - Ashlords by Scott Reintgen #YA #Fantasy

Series: Untitled Duology #1
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy / Epic

Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races in this epic fantasy following three phoenix horse riders—skilled at alchemy—who must compete at The Races—the modern spectacle that has replaced warfare within their empire.

Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they’ve raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.

Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That’s all legal and encouraged.

In this year’s Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest—a champion’s daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary’s son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?


Ashlords, by Scott Reintgen, is the first part of a two part duology to an as yet untitled series. The story revolves around three main characters: Imelda, Pippa, and Adrian. Each of the characters is from a different sector of the population; Dividians, Ashlords, and Longhorns. The story revolves around a yearly competition called the Races. There are 11 competitors who each have their own phoenix. The phoenix horses were gifts from the gods. They are powered by the sun, and last a day before bursting into flames and turning into ashes. 

The riders save the ashes and when they are set back out in the rising sun, the phoenix horse is reborn. Of course there's a catch. If you mix certain chemicals into the ashes, the phoenix's properties can change. They can become faster, grow armor, etc. The race itself is dangerous, sabotage is expected, alliances are made and broken, and although outright killing of a contestant is outlawed, people have been known to die. The Ashlords are the ruling elite and have the best chance of winning. They also have the Gods on their side who helped them crush the invading Dividians and subjugate them under their rule. 

Pippa is the daughter of two racing champions. She was born to win. She's nicknamed the favorite by the author. I would absolutely love to know exactly why Reintgen chose to write Pippa in second person, while Imelda is in the first person, and Adrian is in the third person. Pippa diverts the attention from herself by encouraging the Racing Board to choose Imelda for this years race. Girls are a minority in a race that is mostly run and won by men. Pippa makes a choice to support another rider to win, but things don't go so well for her. While I really didn't care for Pippa most of the time, she kind of grew on me until the ending when things went sideways.

Imelda Beru, called Alchemist, was my favorite. She was supposed to be the main character until changes happened and Scott added Pippa and Adrian. Dividian's sailed to Furia centuries ago intending to conquer. They failed thanks to the Ashlord's Gods. Imelda is a Dividian who has always dreamed of being in the Races but doesn't truly believe she will. Her goal is to spend as much time with the phoenixes as possible. Imelda is involved in making films with her friend Farian which has netted her some decent money. For some reason, it appears that fate has chosen that Imelda will be this years scholarship contestant in the race. They'll never see her coming.  

Adrian Ford is a Longhorn, the children of the Rebellion who rose up against the Ashlords. They wait for the right moment to rise up again. If Adrian wins, it will signal that the time has come to fight back. It has been 48 years since the Ashlords rounded up every single first son and daughter and executed them for their rebellion. Adrian, along with his father, intends to make them regret that decision. This is a story that has plots with plots, betrayal, and Gods who can either help you and stand in the way. 

The first half of the book featured the world building, history of the world, political dynamics are explained, and “rules of the game” are explained. The second half was all about the race and each of the three characters. The story contains some very unique details like the Phoenix horses, alchemy,  mythology & deities breaking down each God and explaining what they are. While this book is fantasy in its concept, there are technologies that make you believe that this is a world all its own. Where racers have videos, and monitors they wear to determine what place they are in. Thus the comparison to Hunger Games. Even though I have not read the book, there are also comparisons to The Scorpio Races.

The Alchemist
Farian wakes me at some ungodly hour.
He comes in like he lives here, drags me out of bed, and gets me into a pair of boots. My corner candle’s out, so I can’t even see which cloak he throws around my shoulders or which hat he slaps on my head. Farian would say that’s for the best. According to him, fashion and I were never properly introduced. He’s always threatening to throw away my favorite dresses. It is a point of contention between us.
We stumble through the dark. Someone’s asleep on the couch. An uncle, but I couldn’t say which one. They all snore the same. Empty bottles spin away from my clumsy steps. Farian keeps a steady hand on my back until we’re in the candlelight of the kitchen. He sets a cup of coffee in my hands, lets me take a few sips, and then pushes me out the door.
It should be black at this hour, but the sky’s cloud-clear, and the stars recognize a stage when it’s there. Dueling nebulas slash over the dark, rolling mesas. I hear Doctor Vass explain, “Each light is a sun. To each sun, planets. To each planet, moons. How endless it all is….”
Farian looks back. “You awake yet?”
“No talking until I can see what color your clothes are.”
He laughs. Farian has always laughed easily. Doesn’t know his way around a joke, but he always makes you feel like you do. My best friend and confidant lopes ahead, his limp barely noticeable, a satchel full of camera gear tucked under one thick arm. He’s always been big. Fourth son in a family of farmers, with three older brothers that have all grown even bigger than he is. But that’s because Farian’s made his world more than digging irrigation pits. He skips out on his chores to enhance photographs or edit our film series. He’s bound for an education if he keeps at it, as long as his parents don’t disown him before he can get there.
We’re not the only ones awake at this hour. The door to Amaya’s bar bangs open, and three ranch hands slide out into the slick shadows, laughing and singing the wrong words to “The March of Ashes.” Farian hums the tune long after we’ve passed them.
Down the road, a pair of postmen trot past on slender mounts. Both tip their brims, looking like any other riders but for the government-issued gloves threaded with gold and the sacks full of letters strung to their saddles. We arrive at the ranch well before sunrise. It’s dead and dark, quiet-like. The stars are fading.
“Looks empty,” Farian says. “Only Martial is out there.”
I squint, but Farian’s eyes have always been better than mine. I can’t make out much beyond the nearest row of fence posts, but there’s nothing surprising about the quiet. It’s a holy day. “The Ashlords only bow to the gods,” I remind him.
He snorts but says nothing. We’ve caught hell for skipping Gathering the past few years, but we both know it’s the only way to get any respectable riding time. Martial owns the only Dividian-friendly ranch in the district. He won the Races about twenty years ago and used the prize money to build his own ranch and buy his own herd of phoenixes. He promised it would be a training ground to hopeful Dividian riders who couldn’t afford their own horses. Like him.
It was a stunning kindness.
Until the money started running out. It always does. Gold is worth less when it’s in Dividian pockets. Not to mention they tax Dividian landowners twice as much. A few years back, Martial opened the ranch to some of the lesser Ashlord nobles. Carved out just a few days of the week at first, but it wasn’t long until he was booked solid. I don’t blame him, either. Ruling-class gold pays too well to turn down.
“What’s it going to be today?” Farian asks, glancing back again. “Something new?”
“Something old,” I reply with a smile. “Something long forgotten.”
We head in different directions. Farian strides out to talk with Martial. He’s been working up to asking the old champ to do a biopic, but Farian’s about as careful as thunder. Won’t make any noise until he’s sure lightning’s already struck. I leave them to it, heading for the stalls.
Martial might have sold out to the Ashlords, but there’s still no ranch like his. As a Dividian, I get to ride his phoenixes free of charge. And he slashes component prices by half. He even lets us pay off all the expenses through a little side work. I’m pretty sure there’s no better setup in the Empire, at least not for a Dividian like me.
His barn is a fine thing, too. All stone, with slightly sloping roofs and lamps dangling every few paces. I walk the outer courtyard, hearing horses occasionally stomp in their stalls on my left, seeing columns and arches running on my right. Martial sank most of his winnings into the place. People called it a mistake, but the quality of the facility is the only reason gold keeps moving from Ashlord pockets into his accounts. He has seven city-bred families boarding horses here, and more on the waiting list. I’m just glad he hasn’t turned the whole place in that direction. He’s still got about eight of his own horses, and they’re the closest I’ll ever come to calling one my own.
At the end of the yard, a great red door waits. I lift both latches and put my whole body into a shove. The door opens into the dark. I smile as a great smash of scents carry through the opening. I follow them inside. Practiced hands find the lamp thread and I give it a pull. The bulb takes its time, warming the room with light, brightening until I can see the endless containers with all their precious powders. All those possibilities…
I remove a half-ripped theater poster from the pocket of my riding jacket. Proper paper is too expensive, but street litter and old playbills are always free. I copy ingredients from the poster to one of Martial’s inventory forms. I cringe, though, when I see the price he has listed for unborn ash.
“Seventy legions. Pick my pockets, why don’t you, Martial.”
After a second, I scribble the component down. I know today’s video will make up for the cost eventually. It still stings to use anything that costs that much. I haven’t taken on a component with a price that steep since my disaster last year with powdered gold. Burned through a hundred fifty legions in less than two clockturns. But I won’t make that mistake again.
After noting each component, I take five racing containers and link them up. Martial’s cubes are a cheaper version, about a fourth the size of the Race-regulation ones, but I’m only doing one rebirth anyway.
It takes a few minutes to locate each component, measure out what I’ve purchased, and strap the cubes to my riding belt. I lock the door behind me and find Martial rolling a cigarette outside. He keeps his thinning hair long and pulled back in a knot. His eyes are bright and blue, so shockingly Dividian that it’s like looking across oceans, a few hundred years into our past. I can almost see our ancestors arriving on the shores of the Empire for the first time, eyes bright with desire.
He nods once. “Imelda Beru,” he says. “The Alchemist.”
“That name was Farian’s choice. He says we need a brand if we want it to sell.”
Martial taps the end of his cigarette. Dissatisfied, he starts rolling it again.
“Smart kid,” he says. “I watched your last video. Some twelve thousand views, no?”
“Enough to pay you back, and buy Farian a new lens.”
“What an age,” Martial says. “Getting paid for people to click on a box.”
“The modern world has its charms,” I reply. “Speaking of which, sun’s rising.”
He glances out, nods once. “Seventh stall. Your ashes are waiting.”
I thank him and head that way. He and I both know the sun won’t touch the ranch for another twenty minutes, but talking with Martial makes me nervous these days. He’s a man of hints. Idle comments intended to stir me up. Too often he talks about the Races with Farian. He thinks I have a chance to be chosen as this year’s Qualifier. There’s also a chance I’ll be devoured by wolves, but I’m not betting on either one. Martial was chosen all those years ago, and a man who’s been struck by lightning always thinks it’s likely to happen again.
Opening the seventh stall, I find the ashes piled neatly in a metal box. I lift them up, careful with the lid, and start my search for Farian.
The land stretches north and south of the barns, and even though the estate’s massive, Farian’s been complaining about the shots getting stale. Like me, though, he knows we’re lucky to even have this option. I find him at the south end of the property, navigating the low limbs of Martial’s lonely shoestring tree. He doesn’t like climbing, but by the time I reach him, he’s wedged fifteen feet in the air. The mountains glow with coming gold. I frown up at him.
“You’re going through all this trouble to film a Stoneside rebirth?”
Farian shoots me a furious look. “You serious? Why would you do Stoneside again?”
I grin at him. “Just snacking on you, Farian.”
He flicks me off, laughs, then almost drops his camera. We both gasp, then laugh again when he catches it to his chest. He shakes his head, like I’m the one who almost dropped the thing.
“I hope you have something good for me,” he says, glancing back through the branches. “I think this lighting will be flawless. It’s the only time we’ve ever done a camera angle this high, you know? I’m thinking of doing some crosscutting for this one, if you ride well.”
“Crosscutting,” I say. “Glad to hear that. I was going to suggest…crosscutting.”
He makes a face. “It’s when you—”
When he sees my face, though, he goes quiet. We’ve played this game too many times. He talks like a textbook and I end up…distracted. He gets annoyed; I get mad.
“You film. I ride. It’s simple.”
“Gods below,” he says, eyeing the light again. “Get me to a university already. I’d like to have a proper conversation about montages and backlighting with someone.”
I smile up at him. “I thought you talked about all that stuff with Doctor Vass.”
“For fifteen minutes.” Farian shrugs. “Not his area of expertise.”
“Guess you’ll have to go to university.”
“Guess so,” he says, but his voice is full of doubt.
His family doesn’t send off to school. Neither does mine. Every uncle and cousin is proof enough of that. Education is reserved for Ashlords and city-born Dividian with deep pockets. Out in the rural villages, we’re more likely to inherit trades. Both Farian and I spend most of our time ignoring the trade we’ve been pegged for since birth. Farian knows as much about farming as a chicken. And I know even less about charming and getting married to a boy. My parents are already hinting that I can’t spend my life riding other people’s horses. One day they’ll shrug and say that all we can do is make the best of the world the Ashlords offer us.
But on holy days—while the Ashlords worship their gods—I forget all of that. I walk out to greet the sunrise and become who I really am.
“Ready, Farian?”
He jams an elbow into his lap, turning the lens slightly. At his signal, I start spreading the ashes out over the ground. They’re still warm, so I take quick handfuls and sweep them out in a flat, even circle. I don’t flinch away from the heat, not after Farian claimed my cowardice ruined his shot a few months ago. I am as bright and fiery as the creature I will summon.
Once that’s done, I unclip the cubes from my belt, flipping the individual lids so Farian has a good angle on each stored component. Sunrise isn’t far off. I lift my eyes to Farian, focused on the camera. He’s been walking me through the acting cues, but I always need a deep breath before we start, no matter how many videos we’ve made. He signals, and I begin.
“Good morning.” I offer the camera an unnatural smile. “My name is Imelda Beru, also known as the Alchemist. First, I wanted to thank all of you for watching our recent videos. If you missed our Stoneside or Fearless rebirths, you’ll find the link to those videos below.
“Today, we’re staying with the theme of vintage rebirths. Everyone knows the standard resurrections these days. Those are tired. They’re boring. All we have to do is look back at the pages of history to see just how inventive phoenix rebirths used to be. Since you don’t have time to wade through codices and scrolls, I’ve done your homework for you. Here’s a rebirth I like to call Trust Fall.”
Farian leans out from behind his camera long enough to roll his eyes at my chosen title. I kneel down, hiding my laughter as I take a healthy pinch of locust dust.
“You’re going to start with an outer ring of locust,” I explain, letting the powder feed between my fingers and highlighting the circle’s border with a deep tan color. “Keep the circle unbroken. You want your locust to burn hard and quick. You’ll know you did it right if there’s the faintest trace of sandstone coloring just as sunrise hits.
“Next: gypsum and limestone.” I empty those containers into a central pile on my ashes, mixing them slowly with both fingers. “You’ll want to lightly mix them, but don’t spread them out too far. Three fingers of height will guarantee your mixture doesn’t burn away.”
As I hold up the last cube, I throw a wicked grin at the camera.
“Now, unborn ashes are as vintage as it gets. Our ancestors lived in a crueler world. Blood sacrifices every month and gods roaming the land. Unborn ashes aren’t the cheapest component in the storeroom, but they’re what you need if you want to call on the powers of old. Make another circle.” I take a handful of the dead ashes. They’re so cold that the hairs on that arm start to rise. “Place them inside the locust powder, but ringed outside the mixture of gypsum and limestone. Make the circle thick and add them just before sunlight hits.”
I stand back, wiping my hands clean and gesturing past the camera.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

#Review - Wardens of Eternity by Courtney Allison Moulton #Historical #Fantasy

Series: Unknown
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Blink
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy / Legends, Myths, Fables

From Courtney Allison Moulton, author of the acclaimed Angelfire series, comes Wardens of Eternity, an action-packed page-turner that blends history, mythology, and magic; perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and Kiersten White.

Ziva Ellison has one memory of her parents, made the day they abandoned her on the streets of New York City when she was three years old. They left her with only a fleeting memory and a hint that she has a great and terrible destiny.

16 years later, Ziva discovers that destiny includes powers that she doesn't understand and can barely control. Her magic attracts vicious, supernatural monsters, and eventually compatriots to help her fight them. Sayer and Nasira know the secrets Ziva doesn't; that Ziva is descended from Egyptian royalty and in possession of ancient magic passed down from the time of the gods. They promise to teach Ziva to control her magic and to give her the family she's always yearned for.

But trouble is brewing in the world around them; darkness is descending on Hitler's Germany, threatening World War II. As the last heir of a revered Egyptian queen, Ziva is the only one with the power to prevent another costly global conflict. As Ziva navigates her newfound abilities and her connection with powerful, otherworldly gods, she must decide whom she can trust and where her loyalties lie if she is to save herself and the world.

Wardens of Eternity, by author Courtney Allison Moulton, follows the story of Ziva Ellison who was abandoned by her mother when she was 3 years old. This is a historical fantasy series based on Egyptian mythology. The story opens in 1939 NYC. World War II is slowly spreading and Americans are worried about yet another costly war. Ziva works in a textile company scarcely scraping by. She lives in a small room where she dreams of finding out where she really came from, and if there are any other people like her. Her hope is to discover if her parents are still alive and where they might have gone. 

Ziva carries magical powers that she does not fully understand, but she only uses them in self-defense. However, after a Kriosphinx finds Ziva and calls her the queen’s scion, she finds herself fighting back using her powers. Sayer & Nasira Bahri, Medjai, or the last of an ancient tribe who have been searching for Ziva a very long time, help her defeat a trio of Kriosphinx. Sayer claims they are here to take her home so that she can learn about her birthright. The pair claim they will help her discover how to use her power and that she is descended from Queen Nefertiti. 

Sworn to protect the world against evil, the Medjai are trying to resurrect their long-dead queen in order to prevent the outbreak of 'a second Great War.' As she wholeheartedly embraces the Medjai's mission to bring back the legendary Queen Nefertiti, she trains in combat and hones her innate spell-casting abilities. The Medjai are opposed by certain gods, however, and even with the blessing of Anubis, lord of the dead, their task seems insurmountable. Anubis becomes a kind of Ace in the hole for Ziva, on call when she needs his help the most. 

As Ziva Mereniset, as she is now called, discovers the extent of her abilities and the world she was born into, she also learns her place in it. This story could be compared to The Mummy and Raiders of the Lost Ark for it's exceptional settings. It includes a German occultist group known as the Thule Society which actually existed. This group is searching for the perfect race and attempts to lure Ziva into joining them willingly or not. I gladly join with others in saying that this book would have been better had the story been told in a third person narrative. We, as readers, needed to look into the actions of Sayer and Nasira as well as a group of other important players. 

There are key characters such as Anubis, Set, Cyrene, & Baket that were important to the plot, as well as Nefertiti. There is slight romance in this book, but I think it was wasted and not necessary to the enjoyment of the story itself. Wardens shows potential with a premise that should be interesting if the series is to continue, which I hope it does. The historical settings are particularly well done, especially the Egyptian mythology and how Egypt was divided between the English, French and Germans. Wardens is an action-packed adventure tale, filled with magic, romance, betrayal, and battles with the gods.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

#Review - Faerie Forged by L.R. Braden #Fantasy

Series: The Magicsmith #3
Format: Ebook, 264 pages
Release Date: January 17, 2020
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy

New world, new rules . . .

Alex is screwed. She’s due at the fae Court of Enchantment in less than twenty-four hours, but she’s not even close to being ready. Her job is hanging by a fraying thread. There’s a new vampire master in town. And several of her werewolf friends have been captured by the Paranatural Task Force.

She’s their best chance for release before the full moon reveals their secret, but the Lord of Enchantment is not someone you keep waiting—even when he happens to be your grandfather. All Alex can do is call in a favor, hope to hell she can survive the plots of the fae court, and hightail it home to salvage her life.

One mistake at court could change everything . . . .

Faerie Forged, by L.R. Braden, is the third installment in the authors The Magicsmith series. Protagonist & metalsmith Alyssandra "Alex" Blackwood has her hands full in this story. For those who have not yet started this series, Alex is 1/2 fae, 1/2 human who can easily handle metals that other fae shy away from. She is also called an Imbuer, which means she is capable of imbuing objects with specific memory, emotion, thought, or enchantment. Alex's biggest worry is for PTF to discover that she's an unregistered halfie which would mean an end to her freedom.
The Paranormal Task Force is charged with enforcing the treaty that ended the Faerie Wars and maintaining peace between humans and all things paranatural. The peace treaty stipulates that any full-blooded fae must live on one of the fae reservations, and must receive permission from the PTF to travel through or temporarily reside on human land. Halfers can live anywhere, but they must register with the PTF and are restricted from holding "sensitive" jobs, like police, teacher, government employee, etc. Any halfer found lying about their true nature is arrested and extradited to a reservation for a minimum of one year before they are allowed to petition for probationary status.
As the story opens, Alex is 24 hours away from traveling to the Fae Court of Enchantment where she has been summoned by her grandfather. Thanks to Malakai (Kai) and Hortense drilling her with all things Fae, Alex may have a chance not to embarrass herself. In the meantime, her personal life is slowly unraveling. She loses her job, the PTF are collecting potentials (those who have been reported for magical behavior) and the new Colorado governor is a member of the Purity Campaign which wants to get rid of anyone paranormal. 
Those "collected" are Marc, Sarah, and Oz who are not necessarily friends, but have become allies of Alex. Alex calls in a favor from her once guardian, Solomon Adams who also works for the PTF. Alex's biggest antagonist in this series is PTF agent Benjamin O'Connell who is not only stalking Alex to see if she makes a mistake, but targeting anyone who has had any contact with Alex. This could be anyone from Maggie, her human boss, to her roommates Kai, Chase, and Jynx along with Emma who is a practitioner. 
The next part of the story takes place in Faerie where Alex meets her grandfather Bael, Lord of Enchantment who gave her a charm that made her Fae blood stronger. She can now see through glamour, read imbued memories, and move faster than before. Alex is told in no uncertain terms not to be herself and to keep her temper at all times. Alex is a means to an end while Bael is a target for those who want to see him gone. 
The perfect storm. Fae purists hate halfies and don't exactly fall all over themselves to like Alex. They intentionally bait Alex into an unwanted challenge that has consequences. The Fae are not unlike the Human Purity campaign in that regard. The point of Alex visiting Faerie was that Bael wanted to teach her how to imbue objects using magic which nobody has done so to this point. She's kind of hit and miss along the way into creating her owns items. What she ends up with instead is a bad taste in her mouth for Faerie and no plans of returning any time soon.
The final part of this book deals with Alex against the PTF and personal issues with so called friends and allies. I absolutely need the next book in the series after that cliffhanger-y ending. I foresee even more greater danger to Alex and her friends after what happens under duress and pressure. I also don't even care if Sophie and Alex become friends again. Sophie made her bed with her actions in previous installments and now she can stew in her own hatred for it. It's fair to say that a second Faerie War is now closer than ever. It will be interesting to see who falls on what side of the war.

Monday, January 20, 2020

#Review - Malfunction by Nina Croft #SyFy #Romance

Series: Dark Desires Origins # 1 
Format: eBook, 400 pages
Release Date: January 20, 2020
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Source: Publisher
Genre: Science Fiction / Romance

Investigator, Sergeant Logan Farrell, has never been convinced the human race deserves saving. But it looks like he’s got the job anyway.

It’s been five hundred years since we fled the remnants of a dying Earth in search of a new home. Twenty-four ships, each carrying ten thousand Chosen Ones. All sleeping peacefully...until people start dying in cryo.

Malfunction or murder? Hopefully, the former—a serial killer in the fleet would be drastic for morale. But Logan is determined to find the truth. Unfortunately, he’s got a new partner—and he works best alone.

Katia Mendoza, hot-shot homicide detective, has been woken from cryo to assist with the investigation. But is she really interested in solving the case, or does she have her own agenda?

Before he can answer that question, though, they become targets themselves.
Nothing like a few near misses with death to bring a couple together, and Logan finds himself falling for the alluring detective. But he doesn’t know that Katia is hiding a secret.

It’s not only humans who fled the dying Earth.

Nina Croft's Malfunction is the first installment in what is being called Dark Desires Origins. The story actually features two main characters: Sergeant Logan Farrell, Investigator of the Federation Security Force and Homicide Detective Katia Mendoza who spent 9 years in the London Metropolitan PD. 500 years ago, Earth became unsustainable. There was a lottery to choose which ones will travel on 24 ships seeking a new home that can sustain life. Each ship holds 10,000 chosen and 30 crew members who alternate for 10 rotations plus an army.

As the story opens, things are going to hell quickly. Ships are disappearing, people are dying in their Cryopods, and almost all of the ships are malfunctioning. Onboard Trakis One, Logan is awakened from cryo-sleep by Major Travis Payne claiming that Logan is needed to determine if malfunctions caused the deaths of people in cryo-sleep or something more nefarious. Similar murders have happened on other ships. So far, it appears as though at least 30 Chosen have died. When Katia arrives, Logan knows he's in trouble. 

Similarly, Katia is awakened from cryo-sleep on Trakis Two by Rico, a vampire who is now captain of the ship, who she owes a bit of loyalty to because of what happened to her when she was 19. Rico's ship includes a collection of Unchosen Ones such as vampires, werewolves, demons, witches, warlocks, and one werecat, Katia. Rico informs Katia that someone has been killing the Chosen Ones, the name given to the people who won the lottery to leave Earth and find a new home. Katia who was the best at solving murder cases, is sent to Trakis One to investigate and solve the mystery of the cryo deaths.

As Katie and Logan try to figure out what is causing certain cryo pods to stop working, trapping the occupants inside with no oxygen and no escape, other forces are working to stop the investigation. In fact, there are several attacks on both Katia and Logan that give them both pause to reflect who could be so evil that they would not only kill innocents, but the detectives trying to solve the murders. As the number of ships dwindle, Katia and Logan are against time and an unseen enemy with an unknown agenda. (Note: I figured out the parties involved quite quickly which kind of ruined the story for me.)

At the same time, Logan gets more than he bargains for with Katia. She's his perfect match and the sex scenes are very steamy. Logan's relationship with Rico is humorous and you can't help but like Rico who is just trying to save his people by doing some things that aren't necessarily above board. I actually really liked Katia. She's feisty, and snarky, and doesn't take a crap from anyone, not even Rico. Logan is an empath who has tried hard to fit in, but figured out that fitting in isn't all that cracked up to be which is why he joined the military.

This series actually takes place 500 of years before the Dark Desires 6 book series which is why it is called Origins. Some of the same characters from that series like Vampire Ricardo Sanchez and Callum Meridian appear in this book. Rico, as I said, is Captain of the Trakis Two, while Callum is a hero pilot who was once engaged to marry the daughter of the Federation President. In this story, he's the captain of Trakis 7 where a large piece of the mystery is revealed thanks to not believing the BS he's been handed by those in charge. While Rico's appearance is almost a main character, Callum's appearance is pretty brief.