Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wednesday #Review/Excerpt - Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs #Fantasy

Series: Alpha & Omega # 5
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Publisher: ACE
Source: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Now mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham face a threat like no other—one that lurks too close to home…
They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.
With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf—but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills—his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker—to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn…
Story Locale: Alternate North America
Series Overview: Mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham go where they are needed in order to keep the peace in the North American packs, in this urban fantasy series set in the same world as the bestselling Mercy Thompson novels.

Burn Bright, by author Patricia Briggs, is the Fifth
installment in the author's Alpha & Omega series. Even though it has been 3 years since the last Charles and Anna book, the stories never get old, nor does the romance between the couple. I dare say that I enjoy Anna and Charles a whole lot more than Mercy and Adam because neither has to deal with an ex-spouse who continues to show up at the most inopportune times.

Burn Bright is a curious story about a group of werewolves called wildlings, and a danger that comes to Aspen Creek, Montana. They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm. 

With their Alpha (Bran) out of the country helping Mercy, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf–but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills–his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker–to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn.

They must deal with a brutal mystery and a shocking twist that will really blow readers minds. This is a story filled with some interesting background noise, but not in a bad way. There is some explanation as to why Bran's mate Leah hate's Charles so much, and gives Anna so much attitude. But, if you know anything about Anna, you know that she gives as good as she gets. There is always a questions about Anna's past and how she came to be with Charles thanks to things that happened in Chicago. 

One could say that Anna is a much stronger character now than when we first met her. When things come up, she doesn't automatically look towards Charles for help in dealing with things. Although, Brother Wolf absolutely understands her emotions and really is amazing to have around. The story also contains a bit of background, via Charles, on Mercy's time spent with Bran's pack, which we knew by reading Mercy's series, and also the fact that Bran holds a special place in his life or Mercy which is the reason he isn't around until the end of the story. 

I am glad that the two series are basically separate and there really isn't all that much need to have the characters continually crossing over. In fact, although we know the difficulties Mercy is dealing with, it doesn't affect what is happening in this book. I loved Asil, and Brother Wolf, and Wellesley who is one of the broken wolves that becomes part of the mystery as to what, or who is going after the wildlings. The ending IMHO saved the story for me. Then again, it leaves plenty of room for more stories. Pretty interesting secondary characters introduced in this book. We shall see if they are used again, or will fade away into the sunset. I also see a war on the horizon between Bran's pack and another villain that I will not spoil. You will have to read Wellesley's story to figure out what I am referring to. 

Chapter 1

This was bad. This was so very bad.

He ran full tilt, ghosting through the trees. The branches and brambles reached out and extracted their price in blood and flesh for running at such speed through their territory. He could feel the ground absorb his blood and his sweat-feel it stir at the taste. Dangerous. Feeding the earth with his blood when he was so upset was not wise.

He almost slowed his feet.

No one was chasing him.

No one had even known he was there. They’d seen the trees who’d obeyed his will, but they had not seen him. The trees…he might have to answer to her for the trees.

She’d told him to run, and he had paused to call the trees. That was not how their bargain was supposed to work. But he couldn’t just let them take her, not when it was within his power to stop it.

Think. Think. Think. The words were his, but he heard them in her voice. She’d worked so hard to give him rules. The first rule was think.

It was funny that everyone believed that she was the danger, that she was the crazy one. Very funny-and his lips stretched in a grin only the forest could see. It wasn’t amusement that caused his feral smile. He wasn’t sure exactly what the emotion was, though it was fueled by an anger, a rage so deep that the earth, aroused by his blood, rose eagerly to do his bidding. The earth, out of all the elements, was the hardest to wake but the most eager for violence.

He could just go back. Go back and teach them what they got for touching someone he loved…


Her voice again, ringing in his ears with power. She was his dominant, though he was so much older, so much stronger. As such, she wielded power over him-a power that he’d given her out of love, out of despair, out of desolation. And their bargain, their mating bond (her word, then his) had worked for a very long time.

Anyone who cared to look around would know how well her hold on him had worked-there were still trees on this mountain, and he could hear the birds’ startled flight as he ran past them. If that bargain had failed, there would be no birds, no trees. Nothing. His was an old power and hungry.

But their mating had given him balance, given him safety. His beautiful werewolf mate had brought love to his sterile existence. When that hadn’t been enough, she had brought order to his chaos as well.

Order…that word…No, orders was the word that sifted through his roiling thoughts. She had given him orders for this situation.

He vaulted over a deadfall with the grace of a stag.

Call the Marrok, she had told him. And also, Right the hell now. That was the correct task. Call the Marrok for help. But the reason for his speed-his right the hell now-was because if he allowed himself to slow, he would turn around and…

The mountainside groaned beneath his feet. A soft shift that only someone like him-or like his true love-would feel.

His fleet footsteps…which had slowed…resumed their former speed. She was alive, his love, his mate, his keeper. She was alive, and so he had to call the Marrok and not raise the mountains or call the waters.

Not today.

Today, he had to call the Marrok and tell him…and his mate’s voice rang in his head as if she were running by his side.

I know who the traitor is…

Charles tipped his fatherÕs computer monitor so that it was at a better angle and wiggled the keyboard until it felt right.

He’d told Bran that he could run the pack just fine from his own home while Bran was gone, just as he had the last dozen times that the Marrok had to be away. But this time had looked as though it might last awhile, and his da had been adamant that it was important to keep the rhythms of the pack the same.

It wasn’t that he didn’t understand his da’s reasoning-some of the hoarier wolves under his da’s control weren’t exactly flexible when it came to change-but understanding didn’t make it any easier for Charles to function in his da’s office, his da’s personal territory.

Charles couldn’t work in the office without making it his own-and wasn’t that just going to set the fox among the hens when his da got back and had to reverse the process. But Bran would understand, as one dominant male understands another.

Charles had to admit, if only to himself, that he’d moved the mahogany bookcases to the other side of the room and reorganized the titles alphabetically by author, instead of by subject matter, just to mess with Bran. Anna, he thought, was still the only person on the planet who honestly believed he had a sense of humor, so he was pretty sure he could make his da believe the rearrangement was a necessity.

Charles hadn’t moved the bookcase until Bran called him this morning, not quite a month after he’d left the pack in Charles’s keeping, to let him know that his initial business was concluded-and Bran had decided he would take another week to travel.

Charles couldn’t remember the last time Bran had taken a vacation from his duties. Charles hadn’t realized that his da was capable of taking a vacation from his duties. But if the rearrangement of Charles’s life was no longer essential, just required, then he felt free to make some changes to make his life easier. And so he’d rearranged his da’s office to suit himself.

Even in the redecorated room, it took Charles longer than normal to lose himself in his work, his wolf restless in his father’s place of power. Eventually, the hunting game that was international finance grew interesting enough that Brother Wolf let himself be distracted.

It was a complicated dance, to play with money at this level. The battle pleased Brother Wolf, the more so because they were good at it. Brother Wolf had a tendency toward vanity.

Eventually, drawn in by the subtle hunt for clues in the electronic data on his screen, he sank into what his mate called “finance space,” chasing an elusive bit of rumor, stocks rising for no apparent reason, a new company seeking financing but there was something they weren’t saying. He couldn’t tell if what this company was hiding was good news or bad. He was running down the background of an engineer who’d been hired at what looked to be an abnormally high salary for his title when he was pulled out by the sound of the door hitting the wall.

He looked up, Brother Wolf foremost at this interruption to his hunt. It didn’t help his temper that it was his da’s mate who’d barged into (what was now) his territory without permission.

“You have to do something about your wife,” Leah announced. She didn’t react to his involuntary growl at her tone. When she spoke of Anna, she would do better to talk softly.

He didn’t like Leah. There were a lot of people in the world he didn’t like-most of them, even. But Leah had made it very easy not to like her.

When his da had brought her back with him, Charles had been a wild thing, lonely and lost. His da had taken his much-older brother, Samuel, and been gone for months off and on. Half-mad with grief at the death of Charles’s mother, Bran probably hadn’t been the best person to raise a child when he was home.

Charles’s uncles and his grandfather had done their best, but Brother Wolf had not always been as willing to ape being human as he was now. A werewolf child born instead of made, Charles had been (as far as he knew) unique; no one, certainly not his mother’s people, had any experience dealing with what he was.

A good part of the time Bran had been gone, Charles had roamed the forest on four feet, easily eluding the human adults tasked with raising him. Wild and undisciplined as he’d been, Charles had no trouble admitting that his ten-year-old self had not been a stepson that most women would have welcomed.

Still, he had been very hungry for attention, and Leah’s presence meant his da was around a lot more. If Leah had made even a little effort, his younger self would have been devoted to her. But Leah, for all her other personality flaws, was deeply honest. Most werewolves were honest by habit-what good is a lie if people could tell that you are lying? But Leah was honest to the core.

It was probably one of the things that allowed Bran’s wolf to mate with her. Charles could see how it would be an attractive feature-but when someone was mean and small inside, it might be better to keep quiet and hide it, honest or not, rather than display it for the world to see. The result was a mutual animosity kept within (mostly) the bounds of politeness.

Charles honored her as his da’s wife and his Alpha’s mate. Her usual politeness to him was brittle and rooted in her fear of Brother Wolf. But, since she was a dominant wolf, the fear she felt sometimes made her snappish and stupid.

Brother Wolf recovered his temper faster than Charles. He told Charles that Leah was agitated and a little intimidated, and that had made her rude. Brother Wolf didn’t like Leah, either, but he respected her more than Charles did.

Other than the growl, he did not respond immediately to her request (he refused to think of them as orders, or he might have to take an action about them that did not involve anything she would appreciate). Instead, he raised a hand to ask her for silence.

When she gave it to him, he spent a moment leaving himself clear notes about the suspicious engineer that he could follow up on later, as well as highlighting a few other trails he’d been investigating. He concluded the other changes he wanted to make, then backed out of his dealings as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Leah waited in growing, but silent, indignation.

Finished packing up his business, he looked up from the screen, crossed his arms over his chest, and asked, in what he felt was a reasonable tone, “What is it that you wish me to do with my wife?”

Apparently, his response wasn’t what Leah had been looking for because her mouth got even tighter, and she growled, “She seems to think that she’s in charge around here. Just because you have been placed in charge temporarily doesn’t allow her the right to give orders to me.”

Which seemed out of character for his wife.

Oh, the disregard for pack hierarchy, traditional or otherwise, was typical of his mate. Anna would not, Charles thought with affection, know tradition if it bit her on the ear. His Anna had carved out her own, fluid place in the pack hierarchy-mostly by ignoring all the traditions completely. It did not, however, make her rude.

Nothing good had ever come from sticking his nose in business that had nothing to do with him.

“Anna is Omega. She doesn’t have to obey the Marrok,” he told her. “I don’t know why you think she would obey me.”

Leah opened her mouth. Closed it. She gave him an exasperated growl, then stalked off.

For a conversation with his stepmother, he thought on the whole it had gone rather well. That it had been short was the best part of it.

One of the reasons he had resisted moving into Bran’s home while the Marrok was gone was because he knew Leah would be in, harassing him all the time. He paused to consider that because, until this very moment, she hadn’t done that. This was the first time she’d interrupted him at work. He wondered, as he began playing with the numbers on the screen in front of him, what it was that his da had said to Leah that had kept her out of his hair this effectively.

Before he was seriously buried in business again, Bran’s phone rang.

“This is Charles,” he said absently-as long as it wasn’t Leah, he could work while he talked.

There was a long pause, though he could hear someone breathing raggedly. It was unusual enough that Charles stopped reading the article on the up-and-coming tech company and devoted all his attention to the phone.

“This is Charles,” he said again. “Can I help you?”

“Okay,” a man’s voice said finally. “Okay. Bran’s son. I remember. Is Bran there? I need to talk to the Marrok.”

“Bran is gone,” Charles told him. “I’m in charge while he is out of town. How can I help you?”

“Bran is gone,” repeated the man’s voice. It was unfamiliar, but the accent was Celtic. “Charles.” He paused. “I need…we need you to come up here. There’s been an incident.” And then he hung up without leaving his name or where exactly “up here” was. When Charles tried calling him back, no one picked up the phone. Charles wrote down the number and strode out, looking for his stepmother.

He hadn’t recognized the voice, and if one of the pack members had been in trouble, he’d have felt it. There was another group of wolves who lived in Aspen Creek, Montana, though they were not part of the Marrok’s pack: the wolves Bran deemed too damaged or too dangerous to function as part of a pack-even the Aspen Creek Pack, which was full of damaged and dangerous wolves.

Those wolves, mostly, belonged to the Marrok alone. Not a separate pack, really, but bound to the Marrok’s will and magic by blood and flesh. “Wildlings,” Bran called them. Some of the pack called them things less flattering, and possibly more accurate, though no one called them the Walking Dead in front of Charles’s father.

The wildlings lived in the mountains, separate from everyone, their homes and territory protected by the pack because it was in everyone’s best interest for no one to intrude in what peace they could find.

Bran had given him the usual list of names and a map with locations marked. Most of them Charles had met, though there were two wolves he knew only by reputation. The wildlings were, as a whole, both dangerous and fragile. Bran did not lightly allow anyone else to interact with them.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Tuesday #Review - Lake Silence by Anne Bishop #Urban #Fantasy

Series: The Others # 6
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Publisher: ACE
Source: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy

In this thrilling and suspenseful fantasy, set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Others series, Vicki DeVine and her lodger, the shapeshifter Aggie Crowe, stumble onto a dead body . . . and find themselves enmeshed in danger and dark secrets.

Human laws do not apply in the territory controlled by the Others—vampires, shapeshifters, and paranormal beings even more deadly. And this is a fact that humans should never, ever forget . . .

After her divorce, Vicki DeVine took over a rustic resort near Lake Silence, in a human town that is not human controlled. Towns like Vicki’s have no distance from the Others, the dominant predators that rule most of the land and all of the water throughout the world. And when a place has no boundaries, you never really know what’s out there watching you.

Vicki was hoping to find a new career and a new life. But when her lodger, Aggie Crowe—one of the shapeshifting Others—discovers a dead body, Vicki finds trouble instead. The detectives want to pin the man’s death on her, despite the evidence that nothing human could have killed the victim. As Vicki and her friends search for answers, things get dangerous—and it’ll take everything they have to stay alive.

Lake Silence, by author Anne Bishop, is the 6th installment in the Others series. Bishop leaves Meg Corbin and Lakeside Courtyard behind for an entirely new cast of characters including Vicki Devine, Agatha "Aggie" Crowgard, Ilya Sanginati, Julian Farrow, and Wayne Grimshaw, while also introducing a few new and terrifying terra indigene including the Lady of the Lake and the SproingersLet's start out by introducing Vicki first since she gets most of the storyline. 

She's the current custodian of what the author is calling The Tumble near Sproing & Lake Silence in what is actually the Fingerlakes Region of NY State. The Tumble may have a few humans interspersed here and there, but it is a terra indigene community. As part of her divorce settlement, Vicki is supposed to have the property free and clear. She knows that she can only managed to upgrade the property, but not actually go any further since the land isn't hers. Then one day, her renter, Aggie discovers a dead body on the property.

One thing leads to another which leads to a whole lot of trouble for Vicki and a rallying cry, of sorts, for those who refuse to allow anyone to damage someone who is already damaged and has her fair share of panic attacks after years of abuse. Let me just say that Vicki is NOT Meg Corbin. While the Others seem to gravitate towards her and protect and support her, she has no special powers to see into the future, nor does she have the ability to become a Terra indigene. 

I have to admit that I loved Ilya Sanguinati, leader of Silent Lodge and Vicki's knight in shining armour. He's a fantastic character who takes zero prisoners and makes the most stoic character tremble in their feet. Yes, he does in many ways remind me of Vlad, but Ilya is a strong presence throughout the story. Wayne Grimshaw is a high patrol officer and the first on the scene after Aggie discovers the dead body. 

Thanks to some political nuisances, Grimshaw ends up temporarily assigned to Sproing Station where his friend, Julian Farrow, owner of the book store called Lettuce Read, is currently living. Julian is a former cop & Intuit who has the ability of sensing danger. An ability that actually saved his life. Grimshaw and Julian are thrown together when things seem most desperate for Vicki thanks to a nasty group of humans.

There is no romance between any of the characters in this book. This is no Meg and Simon who eventually get together as a couple, although an argument could be made for Ilya and Vick if this becomes a series. This is a cast of characters who have live in a wild country where the terra indigene and elders have a tendency of playing with their food, and protecting what is theirs. When outsiders arrive in an attempt to disrupt things, well, I shall leave you to your imagination.

In the end, Lake Silence is a predictable story in many ways. You also have a lead character who isn't perfect in any way or shape. Yes, that's what I said, shape. Vicki is a character that will appeal to those of us who have a bit of cushion to our bodies, and that is absolutely okay. In many ways, Lake Silence could be a standalone. I am not sure what the author's plans are, or if she intends to write another trilogy, but I'd be fine either way.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Monday #Review - Where I Live by Brenda Rufener #YALit #Contemporary

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Book, 352 pages
Release Date: February 7, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary

Perfect for fans of Jennifer Niven and Nicola Yoon, Brenda Rufener’s evocative YA debut tells the story of Linden, a homeless teen secretly living in her high school. Together with her makeshift family of friends, Linden struggles against the domestic violence of her past and begins to shape a bright future, in this moving novel about overcoming all odds.
Linden Rose lives with a big secret: She’s homeless and secretly living in the halls of her high school. No one can know her secret. If any adults uncovered the truth, they’d get the authorities involved and derail everything she’s worked for. All she wants is to make it through high school and get into college to fulfill her dreams of becoming a journalist.
Her position as editor of the school’s blog, her best friends Ham and Seung, and the promise of a future far away are what keep Linden under the radar and moving forward. The three outsiders have created a makeshift family, and their jokes and solidarity have become home for Linden. And she’s beginning to hope that with Seung there might be something more than friendship on the horizon. But when cool-girl Bea comes to school with a bloody lip, it hits closer to home than Linden would like to admit. Linden starts looking more closely at Bea’s relationship with her boyfriend, and soon her investigation causes people to pay more attention to Linden’s own dark history. And attention is the last thing she needs.
Linden knows the only way to put a stop to the violence is to tell the story. Even if that means breaking her rules and jeopardizing the secrets she’s worked so hard to keep.

Where I Live is Brenda Rufener’s debut novel. Rufener tells the story of a homeless teen named Linden Rose who has three distinct rules for survival: Rule 1: Prevent in-class naps, Rule 2: Never carry too many belongings, Rule 3: Avoid looking the part. Linden's rules guarantee that no one, not even her best friends who she calls the Triangle, learn that she lives in the halls of their high school, and has been doing so for nearly a year.

She's the lead reporter of the school newspaper, she works at cleaning houses, and she volunteers at a local senior home. Linden's job as a reporter is her hope for the future. A future that includes going to college along with her best friends, Franklin "Ham" Royse, a gay teen, and Seung Rhee, a Korean American and her love interest. Their experiences inform a large part of this novel. While the reader will focus on Linden and her story, don't over look Bea, and the crappiness that she deals with. Yes, she is a mean girl, but nobody deserves to be treated the way she is.

Racism, homophobia, and domestic violence are all present in Linden’s story. Rufener confronts these issues with grace and sensitivity, diving deep into the difficult topics of homelessness and violence against women, making them human and palpable. Linden's background at how she ended up as a homeless teen is emotionally charged and thought provoking, as is her final chapter. The writing is thoughtful and evocative, with dialogue that rings true. Linden is her own kind of teenage hero—what she lacks in superpowers she more than makes up in inner strength and attitude.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday #Review - Everlife by Gena Showalter #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Everlife # 3
Format: E-Book, 496 pages
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

In Book 3 of the New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter's Everlife novels, war is heating up even as numbers-obsessed Tenley "Ten" Lockwood gives her all to stop the conflict and rebuild the bridge between the two realms of the afterworld. Action, betrayal and forbidden romance abound in this exciting conclusion to the trilogy.

Ten Lockwood lost the last battle, but the war between Troika and Myriad, the two realms of the Everlife, is far from over. Ten's secret bond with rival realm Laborer Killian Flynn may give her the strength to prevail...or may be the key to all of their undoing, as rulers make their final plays and trust becomes an afterthought. Ten has been given the crucial choice of which soul to bring back from Second-death to fight for Troika, but will she choose the person she wants most beside her, or the one the realm needs to triumph once and for all?

Nothing is certain--not Killian's love for her, not her own faith in herself...not even whether she can trust her realm-mates to have her back when the darkness of Myriad rises to come for them all. Don't miss the exhilarating and breathtaking conclusion as Ten evolves from cynic, to leader, to a true visionary able to inspire the world and help everyone build a new way of life forevermore.

"When a storm comes, the lie will crumble and fall, and only the truth will remain."

Everlife is the third installment in author Gena Showalter's Everlife trilogy. As the story opens, things haven't exactly gone well for Tenley (Ten) Lockwood. Upon her Firstlife ending, Ten chose Troika over Myriad which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. But, this wasn't the after life she was hoping for. This after life features the realms of Myriad and Troika at war and nobody is willing to give an inch. Not even when a major virus could bring down Troika and give Myriad control over both realms. 

"Firstlife was a dress rehearsal. Now the curtain is up. and we're performing in front of a live studio audience. Every word, action and decision comes with a consequence. There is no second chances to right our wrongs. No do-overs." 

Ten, who is one of Troka's Conduits (responsible for lighting Troika), is tasked with selecting which of Troika's fallen is to leave the Rest, the place where Troikans go upon their Second death. All indications are that Ten will choose one of the fallen Generals Troika needs so badly to help stabilize their realm, and keep Myriad from winning. Even though Troika is outnumbered and outgunned, they have Ten and her desire for peace among the realms. That is why Ten's choice isn't, nor should be shocking to anyone who has read this series from the beginning.

Now, Ten, along with her boyfriend Killian Flynn, who just happens to be known as the butcher from Myriad, must unite as one, and attempt to bring the two realms together before the deadly Penumbra virus is released and fundamentally
changes the Afterlife forever. Ten and Killian's plan doesn't go exactly as planned after they unite and he loses his memory of what they planned on doing and their bond. What's worse, if something happens to one, it happens to the other as well. Killian is Tenley's weakness and their enemies know it very well.

This series stuck to the idea that Tenley is light, while Killian is dark. But, binding the two together, will bring dark to Ten's emotions, and light to Killian's thinking. If you can unite the two together with love, you can defeat any sort of darkness that stands in the way. The most curious aspect of this story is that part of it takes place in Troika, part of it takes place in Myriad, and the most twisted part takes place in Many Ends. I also loved the addition of the guardians, which means Ten ends up with Biscuit as her guardian. Biscuit and his fellow guardians are just plain awesome!

One of the stables of Tenley's life has always been those who she calls friends. People like Archer, Clay, Reed, Raanan, Clementine, Sloan along with her brother Jeremy who she can telepathically speak to even though he is a baby. Ten is a strong character who has some upsetting moments at times, but overall, she stands and delivers and rises to the creme of the top when the chips are down, and a heroine is needed to do what is right for both realms. This is a story of love, loyalty, trust, and attempting to save as many people as you can since not everyone will be happy with peace between the realms. Killian and Ten endure a whole lot and are tested to the limits of their abilities. They will face pain and suffering, betrayal and happy reunions, and a bond that bends but doesn't break. 

"I'm a Troikan Conduit. He's a Myriadian Laborer. We are lifeblood-born enemies, and yet he is the love of my Everlife."

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Thursday #Review - Witch Creek by Laura Bickle #Urban #Fantasy

Series: Wildlands # 4
Format: E-Book, 384 pages
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Urban Fantasy

The next enthralling chapter, following Nine of Stars, in Laura Bickle’s critically acclaimed Wildlands series
In the backcountry of Yellowstone, evil moves below the surface...
As the daughter of an alchemist, Petra Dee has battled supernatural horrors and experienced astonishing wonders. But there’s no magic on earth that can defeat her recent cancer diagnosis, or help find her missing husband, Gabriel. Still, she would bet all her remaining days that the answer to his disappearance lies in the dark subterranean world beneath the Rutherford Ranch on the outskirts of Temperance, Wyoming.
Gabe is being held prisoner by the sheriff and heir to the ranch, Owen Rutherford. Owen is determined to harness the power of the Tree of Life—and he needs Gabe to reveal its magic. Secretly, the sheriff has also made a pact to free a creature of the underground, a flesh-devouring mermaid. Muirenn has vowed to exact vengeance on Gabe, who helped imprison her, but first...she’s hungry. Once freed, she will swim into Yellowstone—to feed.
With her coyote sidekick Sig, Petra must descend into the underworld to rescue Gabe before it’s too late...for both of them.

Witch Creek is the fourth installment in author Laura Bickle's Wildlands series. This book takes place 9 months after Petra Dee arrived in Temperance, Wyoming looking for clues to her father's disappearance. Her "main" job is actually that of a geologist, but she's been interrupted by the strangeness and the people who call Temperance home. A home that was pretty much created by Lascaris by using alchemy.

Petra's entire body is a map to the troubles she has faced since arriving in Temperance, and it is only the beginning of what is to come. Petra, as you hopefully know from reading the previous 3 installments, has been through a whole lot in the 9 months that she has been living in Temperance. One could say that her current health crisis is the biggest obstacle of her life, and one that nobody would wish on anyone, let alone someone they don't like. 

But, Petra isn't going to allow her illness to dictate how she lives her life, even if that life is to be shortened. She needs to put one foot in front of the other and kicks herself in gear in order to discover the mystery behind Gabe's disappearance. 
Gabe, the former Hanged man who is no longer immortal, spends a whole lot of time with Sheriff Owen Rutherford, and hardly any time with Petra. 

This story not only digs into Gabe's past life and how he ended up in Temperance, but we also get more of an introduction to Lev, a bartender who has been, at best, a tertiary character who is now a major player. I will say that Lev's storyline really intrigued me because of who he is. It's fair to say that you will have to read the book for further explanations. Lev's story, the good and the sad, will intermingle with Petra's for a moment in time, but after that, who is to say whether or not they will remain allies or not.  

But, the most intriguing character is the character the author calls the Mermaid. Since revealing the actual identity of the Mermaid leads to all sorts of spoilers, we will walk right over this. The most interesting part of the story itself, is that each of the main characters faces their own mortality. Petra with her illness. Gabe by being kidnapped and not allowed freedom from Owen while also staring at death from the mermaid who he has a history with. Whether or not they all survive is entirely based on other characters, and factors that leaves the story hanging off a cliff wondering what is going to happen next.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesday #Review - Outpost by W. Michael Gear #SyFy @dawbooks ‏

Series: Donovan # 1
Format: E-Book, 432 pages
Release Date: February 20, 2018
Publisher: DAW
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Science Fiction

The first book in a thrilling new sci-fi action adventure, set on Donovan, a treacherous alien planet where corporate threats and dangerous creatures imperil the lives of the planet’s inhabitants.

Donovan is a world of remarkable wealth that comes at a high price.
When Supervisor Kalico Aguila’s ship arrives, she discovers a failing colony, its government overthrown, the few remaining colonists gone wild. Donovan could make her career—or kill her.
Planetside, Talina Perez is one of three rulers of the Port Authority colony—the only law in the one remaining town. With the Corporate ship demanding answers about the things she’s done, Perez could lose everything, including her life.
For Dan Wirth, Donovan is a last chance. A psychopath with a death sentence looming over his head, he will make a desperate play for power. No matter who he has to corrupt, murder, or destroy.
Captain Max Taggart is the Corporation’s enforcer. But is it too late to seize control of Donovan?
Then a ghost ship, the Freelander, appears in orbit. Missing for two years, she arrives with a crew dead of old age, and reeks of a bizarre death-cult ritual that deters any ship from attempting a return journey. But maybe it’s worth the risk, for a brutal killer is stalking all of them as Donovan plays its own complex and deadly game.

Outpost, by author W. Michael Gear, is the first installment in the author's Donovan trilogy. Welcome to Donovan, where humans landed 30 years ago. It is a planet where you can make your riches if you are lucky. It is also a planet filled with life that can ruin a person's life quickly and permanently. A good description for this book would be, Deadwood meets Avatar in a gritty, action packed adventure with colonists on the fringes of survival on a dangerous frontier planet where both fauna and creatures can kill without any warning. This story consists of several main characters:

Talina Perez is a security officer on Donovan (Port Authority) who is something of a living legend. She is also one of the Triumvirate who have the final say on Donovan. If you were looking for one main character who really stands out not only for her badassery, but because she understands the environment in which she is living, and hasn't lost her perspective that one wrong move could be her last, then look no further than Talina. There is also something very creepy happening to Talina which I won't spoil. I'm eager to see how this storyline plays itself out.

Trish Monagan, a first generation Donovanian, as well as Talina's ward after her parents died. Trish was actually born on Donovan which makes her a rarity among those living on Donovan and who agreed to a contract. Trish doesn't get all that much set away for her to shine, but the time she does has proves that she is no pushover. Trish takes charge at one point while Talina is off being stranded in the bush. 

Captain Max Taggart is a Corporate Security expert with a military background who arrives on Donovan via the Turalon and finds himself questioning his very reason for being on the planet after nearly killing Talina and the Triumvirate. Taggart's world changes abruptly after he and Talina crash land and are forced to survive against all sorts of difficult odds. Odds that the weakest couldn't survive through. Taggart's choices lead to some curious avenues and some puzzling outcomes.

Dan Wirth is a real hard case who arrives on Donovan via the Turalon and immediately disrupts the status quo. If one were looking for a villain outside of the Quetzal, he would be it. Dan pretty much finds something that he is really good at and takes advantage of those who have suddenly found a glutton of wealth sitting in their pockets. With a man like Dan around, one needs to watch their backs and their front. 

Kalico Aquila is a Corporate bigwig who arrives on Donovan via the Turalon and immediately realizes that things on Donovan have gone to hell. The previous leader is dead. The Triumvirate rules the planet with different ideologies. Nobody cares about contracts they once signed, and to top things off, there are 7 Corporate ships with 3500 people onboard that have gone missing on the way to Donovan. Kalico chooses a different path from the others. A path that puts her directly in the way of Dan Wirth. Should be interesting to see what happens next. 

If you are curious about the cover, the scene actually does take place in the story. It is really, really creepy to say the least. It also leaves so many questions as to what happened that led the ship astray for 100 years or more. Will those who are still alive on Donovan ever return home, or will they be forever part of the Donovan landscape?

An exhausted Talina Perez watched the sunrise on Donovan. They still called it sunrise, even if the “sun” was officially named Capella and lay some thirty light- ears from Earth. This particular morning began as a brilliant spear of light behind the craggy black silhouette of the Blood Mountains. Donovan rotated in the same direction as Earth, so sunrise was still in the east.

Aching with fatigue and possessed of a pervading sense of futility, Talina would have preferred to be back at Port Authority. She would have awakened this morning, rested and energized from a full night’s sleep. Instead she stank of sweat, her feet and legs spotted with dried mud, her overalls filthy and smudged. Her skin stung from thorn punctures that she hadn’t been able to avoid in the darkness.

As the first light spilled through the distant gap, she desperately wanted to believe the morning myth, to lower her guard and yawn. Maybe let her mind wander.

Except that she’d seen too many sunrises play across the rictus on a freshly dead man’s face.
Donovan did that, destroyed illusion with brutal regularity.

As the dawn brightened, its light softened the angles and contours of the canyon—sifted shadow and form from the darkness.

She crouched on a precarious trail, body tense, the heavy rifle tightly gripped in her slim and tanned fingers. Her dark eyes shifted constantly, desperately searching the shadows. The charge was almost depleted in her thermal scope. Overhead, two of the drones scoured the canyon sides, the hiss of their fans barely audible.

Capella’s first rays caressed her face, warming her high cheeks and straight nose as they gave a golden cast to her bronzed skin. They illumi­nated her ancestral features of Spanish hidalgo mixed with classic Maya. Descended from sun gods and conquistadors, their spirit flashed in her sable eyes as she stalked the wild and rocky trails of another world.

Talina Perez hunted a killer.

She pursed her full lips and brushed back a strand of black hair where it had come loose from her long braid. Hair that adopted a bluish raven tint in the full morning light.

Warm air drifted down the canyon, carrying the odor of dry dirt and the cloying scent of musk bushes. The silence seemed to intensify as Capella’s light accented the parched surface of cracked and tum­bled stone with pale lavender; high above, it bathed the shredded cir­rus clouds in purple and orange streaks where they stretched across the northern sky.

Invertebrates whizzed and chirred in the tangles of brush beneath the sandstone outcrops. To her right the canyon dropped away to a stone-and-sand-choked streambed some twenty meters below.

She swallowed nervously and snugged the rifle butt into her shoul­der. Her gaze searched the cap rock above for any irregularity. Then she turned her attention to the narrowing gap where the trail climbed the canyon wall and emptied out onto the flat tableland above. Dotted with aquajade trees and ferngrass, the plain extended to the distant Wind Mountains where they rose some twenty kilometers beyond.

“Where the hell are you?” she whispered.

She tried to still her pounding heart in order to hear even the faintest sound. Changing her focus, she gave careful scrutiny to the ground, looking for scuffed soil, a displaced rock, a broken thorn, or a bruised leaf on one of the plants.

Because of a dead battery in a motion sensor, the quetzal had come undetected in the night, crossed the defensive ditch, unhooked the gate latch, and slipped into town. That was the thing about quetzals, they were intelligent. Learned from their mistakes. This one obviously had previous experience with humans and knew the defenses. After the creature made its kill, it had known how to escape, charging head­long for the uplands. That was another thing about quetzals: for short distances they could run faster than an aircar.

The planet hosted an endless variety of different and deadly beasts. Bems, though solitary and slow, relied on extraordinary camouflage and deadly claws to capture prey. The creature they called the night­mare inhabited the tropical jungle stretches just south of Port Au­thority. Also a master of camouflage, it mimicked the surrounding vegetation and invoked a special kind of horror: it first impaled and then devoured victims from the inside out. Fortunately nightmares almost exclusively lurked in mundo trees down south. Smaller threats like the slugs, spikes, and semisentient stinging, poisonous, and pred­atory plants filled out most of the rest of the known dangerous flora and fauna.

“Talina? You on the trail?”
 Allenovich’s voice came through her ear­piece.

She shifted her rifle, eyes still on the thornbushes as they rotated their branches to expose night-weary leaves to the rising sun. “I’m maybe three hundred meters from the head of the canyon.”

Still got tracks?”

Talina filled her lungs, hating the way her heart was hammering at her breastbone. “No. They vanished about fifty meters back.”

Shit.” A pause. “You watch your ass.”

“Yeah,” she whispered and wished for a drink of water.

“Trish here. I’m on the rim just across the canyon from you, Tal. Iji says the drones are reporting that nothing broke out onto the flat up ahead. It’ll take a while to recall them. I’m scanning the canyon with the IR. With the morning sun, that slope you’re on is a patchwork of heat signatures. You sure it’s there?”

“Yep.” She swallowed hard, the rifle up, her pulse racing. “I can al­most…”

A trickle of dirt broke loose to cascade from above.

Talina dropped to one knee, the rifle lifted for a snap shot as she stared through the optic.



The buzzing of the invertebrates changed; the chime shifted as if a whole section of them had gone quiet. Odd, that.

A pebble clicked and bounced down through the rocks and into the scrubby thorn brush above.
Quetzal? Or just the morning sun expanding the eroded soil?

Damn, I hate this!

Her muscles remained bunched like knotted wire. Something about the invertebrates…

“Trish?” she barely whispered. “See anything above me?”

Why the hell couldn’t humans have eyes in the backs of their heads?

The morning air had grown heavy, oppressive.

“Can’t make out anything definitive, Tal. Be damned careful. We don’t want to bury you, too.”

“Affirmative on that.”

The quetzal had prowled the town, tracks indicating where it had avoided adults—aware of their weapons—and skirted the lighted areas. Sticking to the shadows and back ways, it had made its way to the personal quarters, stopping only long enough to peer into the domes and try the doors.

At Allison Chomko’s it had found safe prey, had watched her leave her house on an errand. Then the creature had raised the unlocked latch before entering to make its kill. It had escaped, gone before any­one knew.

A running quetzal made an incredible sight with its flared collar membranes spread for thermal regulation. Its mouth gaped wide to expose serrated jaws, which acted as a sort of ram-air intake. Pushed into three separate lungs, oxygen supercharged the blood. As air was channeled through the body core, it picked up heat and was exhaled, or vented, above the powerful legs and along the tail. All six meters of the animal would turn blaze-white for better radiation. A quetzal running in panic across flat terrain could hit one hundred and sixty kph for short periods of time.

But it came at an incredible cost in energy; and here, in the canyon, it had gone to ground. By now it would have digested the infant girl it had taken from Allison Chomko’s cradle. Before it could run again, it had to eat, to replace those depleted resources.

Talina could sense the quetzal’s hunger, sense the creature’s three shining black eyes as they studied her. As if the gaze were somehow radiant.

The invertebrates began another chime—like a mutual wave of sound that passed from critter to critter. Talina was barely aware as it rolled slowly up from the canyon’s mouth.

The fine hair on the nape of her neck rose.

How can a creature that big turn invisible?

But that was the way of so many of Donovan’s creatures: masters of camouflage, all of them.

Arguments raged in Inga’s tavern. Were quetzals—in their way—as smart as humans? They hunted with uncanny ability, manipulated locks, doors, and tools—but made none of their own.
Here, in the canyon, the predator’s cunning permeated the very air. A metaphysical odor borne on the currents of the soul.

One small slip, Talina. That’s all it takes. Stay crisp—or you’ll die here.

Talina took another step, senses at high pitch. People had stepped on quetzals before, oblivious to their presence until that shift of slip­pery flesh beneath a misplaced foot. For their part, the creatures had learned that a human could be efficiently eliminated by a strike to the head, chest, or neck. All it took was a pistonlike blow from one of their clawed, three-toed feet.

Nerve sweat trickled down Talina’s cheek. Capella was a full hand-width above the horizon now, its heat beginning to radiate on the canyon wall. The chirring of the invertebrates swelled, covering any sound—as if the “bugs” were cheering the quetzal on.

Let it go! Just back away!

But she couldn’t. This one was too cunning a killer. It would be back. Smarter. Faster. More deadly.

The air pulsed with chime, beating a rhythm that was echoed by the land. Thorncactus reached out with a tentative branch, its spines scratching along her boot’s protective leather.

Talina flinched, wheeled, rifle up as she stared at the trail behind her. Empty.

If the thing would just move, the drones would detect it, give her that moment of warning. But for the drones they’d never have tracked the beast this far.

Another swelling of sound rolled up the canyon as the inverte­brates song-shared. The chime passed her, heading for the head of the canyon.

Yes! There! A break in the wall of sound—a dead spot of uncharac­teristic silence just off to the left—slightly above the trail and not more than ten paces away.

She fixed on it, lowered her cheek to the stock and squinted through the optic. The soil began to flow. A plant seemed to thin, as if reality had turned sideways. A shadow formed in dislodged dirt. Three black eyes emerged from behind mottled, soil-toned lids.

The moment their gazes fixed, they might have shared souls, touched each other’s deadly essences.

Talina shot as the quetzal leaped. Explosive-tipped bullets ripped into the rock and brush that surrounded the three eyes that seemed to rise before her.

She reeled back. Lost her footing and hit hard on the uneven stones. Somehow she kept her hold on the rifle, brought it up.

The quetzal’s camouflaged colors darkened as the creature landed, bunched, and launched itself.
Talina had a momentary image of its wide mouth, the wickedly serrated teeth. Then it blocked the sky as it hurtled toward her.

She was screaming as she held the trigger back. The rifle thundered as she kicked sideways, flung herself downhill off the trail. The quetzal slammed hard feet into the spot where she’d been, one claw cutting her sleeve.

The world spun as Talina tumbled down the slope, tore through the vegetation, bounced off rocks. She slammed onto a weather-rotten outcrop; sandstone crumbled under her weight. The side of her head hit a rock. Lightning and pain blasted through her skull. Her body bounced, landed on loose scree, slid, and broke through a young aquajade tree.

Suddenly she was weightless, falling. The creek bottom stopped her cold, the impact smacked both breath and sense out of her.

Stunned, vision blurred, she came to. Shocked nerves jangled in her limbs. Synapses overloaded and screamed. She tried to move—and gasped. Pain, like fire, burned through her body.

What the hell? Where am I? What the fuck happened?


Yes, I know this feeling.

The distant bang of a rifle bored past the ringing in her ears.

Who’s shooting?

Panic caused her to reach out, slap a torn and bleeding hand on a large rock. She was in a canyon bottom.

An image burst into her stumbling brain: quetzal. Baby killer.

“Hunting me,” she whispered as she reached up to wipe at her eyes—and couldn’t, given the long thorns sticking out of her hand.

Dirt and rocks came cascading from somewhere above. A bullet exploded on stone, followed by the crack of a rifle.


Talina whimpered as she pulled herself upright and struggled to see through her swimming eyes. Branches snapped above. Pretty clumsy work on the quetzal’s part.

Clumsy? Why?

Another bullet popped as it exploded above the cut bank no more than three meters above her.

Talina tried to stand. The numb burning in her leg changed to a white-hot and searing pain that speared through her fumbling brain. She managed to focus on her oddly twisted leg. Broken!

The quetzal slipped sideways above her as another of Trish’s bullets exploded in the dirt where the creature had been but an instant be­fore. Then it dropped over the edge, feet thudding into the streambed a couple of meters from Talina’s boots.

The quetzal gleamed, skin shining, reflecting streaks of black and yellow with the legs mottling into blackened umber on those deadly three-toed feet. Behind the creature’s elongated head, the neck expanded; the flaring collar burst into crimson glory.

Talina’s hand—heedless of the thorns—slapped for her holstered pistol. To her horror, the holster was empty, the pistol lost during the tumble down the slope.

The quetzal fixed her with its three black and gleaming eyes. The beast wobbled as if hurt. Took a step, then another.

The quetzal uttered an eerie moan as it raised itself sluggishly. Less than a meter separated her from the three vitreous eyes. The creature blasted out a trilling whistle mixed with a hiss of rage. Crystal drops of moisture caught the light in diamond sparkles where they beaded on the razor-ranks of teeth.

“So, you’re taking as many with you as you can,” Talina told it, dazzled by the glow behind those angry eyes. And in that instant, she could sense the alien intelligence behind that stare.

“Not that I blame you.”

The quetzal replied with a clicking down in its iridescent throat, as if in agreement.

Why the hell hadn’t Trish taken the final shot? What was keep­ing…Of course, this far down into the narrow-walled canyon, Trish didn’t have a shot. Couldn’t see the target.

“Sorry, pal.” Talina granted the beast a weary smile. Blood was run­ning down the side of her head.

The beast kept wobbling on its feet, mortally wounded. Gaze still fixed on hers, it tilted its head, as though in an effort to understand. It gestured with one of the wickedly clawed forefeet, as if demanding something of her. She could almost feel the bottled emotion as the beast whipped its tongue out between the elongated jaws.

She screamed as it made one final leap.