Tuesday, March 31, 2020

#Review - The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag #Fantasy

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 448 pages
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Contemporary

Once upon a time, a demon who desired earthly domination fathered an army of dark daughters to help him corrupt humanity . . .

As children, Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea dreamed of a strange otherworld: a nightscape of mists and fog, perpetually falling leaves and hungry ivy, lit by an unwavering moon. Here, in this shadowland of Everwhere, the four girls, half-sisters connected by blood and magic, began to nurture their elemental powers together. But at thirteen, the sisters were ripped from Everwhere and separated. Now, five years later, they search for one another and yearn to rediscover their unique and supernatural strengths. Goldie (earth) manipulates plants and gives life. Liyana (water) controls rivers and rain. Scarlet (fire) has electricity at her fingertips. Bea (air) can fly.

To realize their full potential, the blood sisters must return to the land of their childhood dreams. But Everwhere can only be accessed through certain gates at 3:33 A.M. on the night of a new moon. As Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea are beset with the challenges of their earthly lives, they must prepare for a battle that lies ahead. On their eighteenth birthday, they will be subjected to a gladiatorial fight with their father’s soldiers. If they survive, they will face their father who will let them live only if they turn dark. Which would be fair, if only the sisters knew what was coming.

So, they have thirty-three days to discover who they truly are and what they can truly do, before they must fight to save themselves and those they love.

 Once upon a time, a demon who desired earthly domination, fathered an army of dark daughters to help him corrupt humanity . . .

Menna van Praag's The Sisters Grimm is an original magical realism set in the modern world. This book has multiple POVs Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, Bea & Leo. The story jumps back and forth in time which some might find confusing. The story begins 33 days away from the girls turning 18. Grimm girls have free will for the first 18 years of their lives before being forced to choose between good and evil. They have no idea about the power they possess but Scarlet may be the exception. The narrative switches between present and their childhood. All four posses very distinct different aspects of elemental magic. 

Goldie has the element of earth as she manipulates plants and gives life, Liyana has the element of water and controls rain and rivers, Scarlet has fire and electricity sparks at her fingertips and Bea has air and she can fly. Only (1) character, Leo, has any clue as to what is going on. He is a fallen star turned human turned killer. The Sisters Grimm were born to different mothers on the same day. They share the same father. They found each other at eight years old. Separated again at thirteen by Everwhere, it’s imperative that they find each other now that they are nearing a day of reckoning with their eighteen fast approaching. 

The Sisters only have 33 days to try and discover who they are and their magical capabilities. The sisters must return to the land of their childhood dreams when they turn 18. Everwhere can only be accessed through certain gates at the time of 3:33 A.M. on the night of a new moon. As the sisters gradually regain their memories of Everwhere, they realize the choice they will eventually have to make. They will be forced by their father to make the choice between light and dark, between good and evil in the mystical land of Everwhere. As in the past, one will choose the darkness at the expense of her sisters. But, who will it be?

Goldie, in many ways, is primary in this story. She has a 6th sense about guests. Goldie is also one of the most troubled characters in the book, having had a dark childhood, only to now be stuck in a job with a sleazy boss. Goldie has a younger brother who she dots on and ends up doing somethings that are far from legal. She meets Leo who she has no clue is bound to kill her on the night of her 18th birthday.  Eventually, she falls for Leo who tries to explain to her what she is fated to do. Goldie, like Bea, Liyana, and Scarlett, lost her mother years before. Leo is a fallen star who has killed hundreds. His kills are shown in the number of stars on his body. Leo is so certain what he is doing is right and yet upon meeting Goldie he cannot help but enter an internal conflict. He wants to protect her but knows he cannot.

Bea (Beauty) is at Cambridge University studying philosophy as well as sleeping her way through college. She doesn't really care who she uses to get what she wants. Liyana is an athlete, swimmer, who loves to write graphic novels, and searching for answers from her tarot cards. But, her aunt's finances may force her to drop her girlfriend and marry the first suitable fit who has money. Scarlet (Red Riding Hood) Thorne works in the families bakery. She is struggling to keep the bakery open while also taking care of her dementia addled grandmother. 

This is a tale of (4) sisters, their childhood adventures, family secrets, hidden strengths, unclaimed powers and a far off father watching patiently as they are forced to choose to stand with him, or fall like so many other Grimm sisters have in the past. Each of the characters in Menna van Praag's story are completely and utterly unique. They are diverse individuals in personality, ethnicity, sexuality, behavior and status, each are well developed, in-depth and complex, and easy to connect with. The ending was shocking and unexpected. The misdirection prevents you from accurately predicting the outcome. 


Monday, March 30, 2020

#Review - Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth #Fantasy #SyFy #Thriller

Series: The Chosen Ones # 1
Format: Hardcover, 432 pages
Release Date: April 7, 2020
Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Contemporary

Fifteen years ago, five ordinary teenagers were singled out by a prophecy to take down an impossibly powerful entity wreaking havoc across North America. He was known as the Dark One, and his weapon of choice—catastrophic events known as Drains—leveled cities and claimed thousands of lives. Chosen Ones, as the teens were known, gave everything they had to defeat him.

After the Dark One fell, the world went back to normal . . . for everyone but them. After all, what do you do when you’re the most famous people on Earth, your only education was in magical destruction, and your purpose in life is now fulfilled?

Of the five, Sloane has had the hardest time adjusting. Everyone else blames the PTSD—and her huge attitude problem—but really, she’s hiding secrets from them . . . secrets that keep her tied to the past and alienate her from the only four people in the world who understand her.

On the tenth anniversary of the Dark One’s defeat, something unthinkable happens: one of the Chosen Ones dies. When the others gather for the funeral, they discover the Dark One’s ultimate goal was much bigger than they, the government, or even prophecy could have foretold—bigger than the world itself.

And this time, fighting back might take more than Sloane has to give.

Veronica Roth's Chosen Ones could best be described as a thriller/fantasy/SyFy chimera. What happens to our heroes after the villain is vanquished and the curtains come down? In this book, Sloane Andrews (named for Ferris Bueller's girlfriend) deals with PTSD and grief in the (10) years after her moment in the sun. She's still asking questions about why she was chosen, about Project Ringer, about her handler Bert, & her connection to a certain powerful artifact. Sloane's life is clearly coming towards a boiling point, as she increasingly resists the social pressures to behave as expected of a world hero. 

From 2004 until 2010, the world was in chaos & being terrorized by a mysterious villain known as the Dark Lord. A prophecy foretold (5) Chosen Ones; teenagers who will defeat the Dark One and save the world. They spent their formative years in relative isolation, training and fighting for their lives, and experiencing a lot of real trauma like the loss of their brothers and fathers. It took finding ancient weapons (in Sloane's case Kochei's Needle) to finally win the day. The (5) may have defeated the Dark One and saved the world, but some of them are barely keeping it together. 

It's fair to say that the only (2) who seem normal, are team leader Matthew Weekes, and Esther Park who cultivated fame with her Insta! app. Albert Summers and Ines Mejia are tired of the constant celebrity status and have all but shuttered themselves off from the world. Sloane has to look at her life and the fact that the Dark One took an special interest in her, going as far as kidnapping her and making her choose who lives or who dies. Sloane and Matthew have been together for 10 years, but they're not exactly living the good life.  

After one of the 5 dies too soon, she, Matthew, & Esther find themselves thrown into an alternate realm called Cyrielle where they once again are urged to help fight against this realms dark villain. The Drain is here which means the Dark One is very much still alive and not dead as the (5) thought for 10 years. Even though Sloane has a strong affinity for magic, she also remembers that her powers cost the lives of dozens of innocents. She doesn't take too kindly to Aelia or Nero who basically kidnapped them and brought her here. She also finds that fate has grabbed Sloane by the throat and won't let go anytime soon.
Chosen Ones examines the humanity behind heroism. It opens the back door and asks the reader to question what being a hero costs in a world that is shockingly similar to our own, but with a magical twist. Newspaper clippings, government documents, and other extracts break up chapters to share information that Sloane, the main character, couldn't provide without being too expository. I'm not sure why a second book is necessary, but apparently this series is far from over. There are some tricky surprises at the end of this book, so, maybe I'll read the sequel as well.


Friday, March 27, 2020

#Review - Thorn by Intisar Khanani #YA #Fantasy

Series: Dauntless Path # 1
Format: Hardcover, 512 pages
Release Date: March 24, 2020
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Hunted meets The Wrath & The Dawn in this fantasy retelling of the Goose Girl fairy tale.

For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she's never had ... until she's betrayed.

Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family's cruelty and the court's contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.

But powerful men have powerful enemies--and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman's, giving Alyrra the first choice she's ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she's never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.

Thorn is the authors retelling of The Goose Girl. Princess Alyrra of Adanie has lived her life in fear, especially from her abusive brother. Despite the cruelty of her family and the court games she's been forced to play by her other, she's still managed to hold onto her humanity without breaking. Alyrra who is without pretensions, vulnerable, and undervalued by her family, has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. When her mother betroths her to a powerful prince in a distant Kingdom of Menaiya, she has little hope for a better future.

King of Menaiya seeks a bride who no one would miss if she dies. Alyrra accepts the match knowing that Menaiya has many enemies who will be her enemies and she won't be safe until she arrives in her new home. In a twist of unbelievable fate, a mysterious sorceress and her own personal nemesis, Valka, robs her of both her identity and her role as princess. Instead of fighting back, Alyrra seizes on the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl. She can now choose her own life and her own path. But, there's a catch.

Thanks to a wicked spell, Thorn cannot tell anyone who she really is or what happened to her and ends up forced out of the palace and into the life of a poor subject looking after geese. Alyrra changes her name to Thorn. She uncovers dangerous secrets about her new world, including a threat to the prince himself. She knows that she must find a way warn the prince and his family before they are destroyed. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds, and ultimately must decide who she is and what she stands for.

As in the fairy tale it’s based on, Alyrra must find a way to lead her own life as she now has the benefit of actually being who she wants to be without her brother or mother looking over her shoulders. Although she finds herself being a goose girl, Thorn finds a real family who takes her in and welcomes her with open arms. She finds people who could be the family she always wanted; she finds satisfaction in simple hard labor. But, she also can't forget about Prince Kestrin who the Lady seems to want very badly.

Court intrigue, false identities, and dark secrets make this bold fairy tale retelling perfect for fans of classic and contemporary fantasy alike. Originally self-published as an eBook and now brought to life in hardcover with a refreshed design and completely revised text, Thorn also features an additional short story set in-world, The Bone Knife.

The companion book to Thorn, called A Theft of Sunlight, will release in Winter 2021.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

#Review - Ruthless by Sarah Tarkoff #YA #Dystopian

Series: Eye of the Beholder # 3
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fiction / Dystopian

A brave young woman risks everything to expose a conspiracy controlling her world in this heart-pounding finale to the Eye of the Beholder series, a thrilling sag set in a near-future dystopian society.

Grace Luther grew up believing in the Revelations: the moment when Great Spirit “saved” humanity and transformed the world into a place where pious behavior is rewarded with beauty, and wrongdoing results in ugliness and even death. But at eighteen she learned the truth: the Revelations were a lie meant to manipulate and suppress her society.

Joining the resistance, Grace heroically struck a major blow against the government of the prophets. Now many in the rebellion believe that “Prophet Grace,” is the champion who will lead them to final victory. Grace isn’t so sure. The battle has cost too many lives—including those closest to her. Devastated by all she has seen and endured, she fears she cannot command anyone—much less an entire movement.

As the government’s reign of terror intensifies, rebel after rebel is targeted and killed. Yet there is one last hope. With the future at stake, Grace must overcome her fears to expose and destroy the government’s false prophets forever. Though she has many doubts, there’s one thing she’s certain of: she will lead the rebellion to victory . . . or die trying.

Prophet is the third and final installment in author Sarah Tarkoff's Eye of the Beholder trilogy. This story picks up right where Restless left off. 10 years ago, a world wide phenomena called the Revelation, united the entire world under one Universal Theology. So called Prophets rose to prominence. Almost everyone believed that those like Joshua are a direct mouthpiece of the Great Spirit. Thanks to a network of tiny nanobots in everyone's brains, there have been no wars or large scale conflicts for 10 years.

But, there has been a steep price to pay for humanities new utopia and not everyone is happy with the new status quo. Those who are “good” are blessed with beauty, while those who are not suffer horrifying consequences, disfigurement, or even death under what is called Punishment. It is hard for Grace, who is a daughter of a cleric who was front and center of the Revelation, to come to terms with any other realities. She's had years of religious fundamentalism drilled into her brain. 

But, since she went undercover to expose the hypocrisy of the Prophets, especially Joshua, Grace has pushed the boundaries and decided to go to war against the Prophets expose them for their hypocrisy.
After naming herself Prophet Grace and escaping from South Africa, Grace and her friends end up in Brazil. Grace has a few loyal friends still alongside, including Dawn who is the overall leader of the rebellion. But, plenty of enemies including one who was supposed to be dead; her own mother, are eager to see Grace fail spectacularly. 
The battle will be costly. Lives, including those closest to her, may fall. After so much devastation and loss, how can Grace survive against all odds? Grace must overcome her fears to expose and destroy the false prophets forever and if her mother gets in the way, she goes down as well. Plus, Grace has to choose who she trusts. Can she trust Zack who claims to be a double agent? Or, how about Jude who she holds her heart? The ending left me puzzled for reasons I can't spoil. Grace has pushed and shoved and knocked down and treated like crap but when all is said and done, does it really matter what she tried to do? 
This book, as with the previous installments, is written into a bunch of minor books. Kind of like episodes of a series. Which shouldn't be surprising since the author has been writing for TV series.  


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

#Review - Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa #YA #Fantasy #Paranormal

Series: Shadow of the Fox (#3)
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Paranormal / Fantasy

The incredibly epic and shocking conclusion to the Shadow of the Fox trilogy holds back nothing! No one is safe in New York Times bestselling author Julie Kagawa's final journey into the Japanese mythology inspired Empire of Iwagoto, in a series perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Julie C. Dao and Natasha Ngan.

All is lost.

Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has given up the final piece of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, placing it in the hands of Genno, the Master of Demons, in order to save everyone she loves from imminent death. Now she and her ragtag band of companions must journey to the wild sea cliffs of Iwagoto in a desperate last-chance effort to stop him from calling upon the Great Kami dragon and making the wish that will plunge the empire into destruction and darkness.

Shadow clan assassin Kage Tatsumi has regained control of his body and agreed to a true deal with the devil--the demon inside him, Hakaimono. They will share his body and work with Yumeko and their companions to stop Genno and ultimately separate Hakaimono from Tatsumi and the cursed sword that had trapped the demon for nearly a millennium.

But even with their combined skills and powers, this most unlikely team of heroes knows the forces of Evil may be impossible to overcome.And there is another player in the battle for the scroll, a player who has been watching, waiting for the right moment to pull strings that no one ever realized existed...until now.

Night of the Dragon is the third and final installment in author Julie Kagawa's Shadow of the Fox trilogy. This book picks up right where Soul of the Sword ended. The book actually features several narratives including Yumeko, Kage Tasumi, and Suki the ghost girl who has been hanging around with a Key player in the game, Lord Seigetsu. The game is balancing on an edge waiting for someone to make a costly mistake that could destroy the entire world. Even though Genno, Master of the Demons, has all (3) pieces of the Dragon Scroll, hope has not been lost. 

After all, Yumeko has proved herself time and time again, and her allies, Reika, Taiyo Daisuke, Hino Okamo and Kage Tatsumi would follow her to the end of the earth if she asked. If Yumeko and her band of unlikely heroes can’t stop Genno in time, he will summon the Great Kami Dragon, make his wish, and plunge the world into chaos and darkness. Yumeko has definitely gotten stronger since she left her temple. Both in her fox powers, and as a person. 

She's determined to save the world no matter the cost to herself. Despite all that she has gone thru and suffers here, she still remains pure and unselfish. Yumeko's journey is one of enlightenment as well. One could say that Yumeko's journey returns to where it began by traveling to meet the Moon Clan and its leader on the Island of Ushima. It is here where Yumeko learns about her heritage. It is here where Yumeko must make a final stand against Genno and the hoards of hell eagerly flooding the Island in hopes of complete chaos and destruction.

Meanwhile, former-Shadow clan assassin Kage Tatsumi has regained control of his body and agreed to a true deal with the devil — the demon inside him, Hakaimono, thanks in large part to Yumeko. They will share his body and work with Yumeko and their companions to stop Genno. Hakaimono is still dangerous and can't truly be trusted, but his strength gives Tatsumi an edge when it comes. The pair soon find out their combined power and skills may not be enough to help Yumeko overcome what's ahead. Especially when the group discover there's been a shadowy figure following their every move, and he has his own plans in store.

With all the pieces of the game all making their way to Ushima, it will be a matter of ultimate survival or ultimate sacrifice for our heroes and heroines. Suki is one of those pieces. Suki has always been an outside character who fell into a bad place thanks to evil machinations and now can only look on while someone she loves puts himself at death's gate. Suki is actually used to help Yumeko in this book which was fine with me. Yumeko and her allies could use every little assistance they gain gather. Because of who she is with, Lord Seigetsu, her part in this book has never been more important and crucial to Yumeko's survival. 

A variety of new demons are introduced, from smaller yōkai such as the fire wheel Wanyūdō to the much larger sea priest Umibōzu. I found myself flipping back and forth between the glossary at the end of the book just to keep myself fully immersed in the story and its characters. Fair warning gentle readers, the author holds absolutely nothing back. The final battle was action packed and very emotional. Far too often I am left disappointed when the last fight is so anti-climatic that it was almost boring and it was less than epic. Not the case in this book. The Shadow of the Fox trilogy was inspired by the authors love for and knowledge of the myths and legends of Japan and is set in a fully imagined Japanese-fantasy world.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

#Review - The Mercenary's Daughter by Jessica Therrien, Joe Gazzam #Mystery #Thriller

Series: Unknown
Format: Ebook, 199 pages
Release Date: March 31st 2020
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Source: Publisher
Genre: Mystery / Thrillers

"People live and die. But as long as they do both things with purpose, there's never much to regret."

The Mercenary's Daughter is written by co-authors Jessica Therrien and Joe Gazzam. It is a spy thriller with a touch of romance thrown in. The story follows Tara Kafee, a former Special Ops Marine who was dishonorably discharged from the military for reasons that need to be cleared up. When she returns home to Miami, Florida, she has to deal with the attitude of her younger brother, Mitch, the strange disappearance of her father, Harry, who was also in the military, as well as uncovering secrets about Harry that has been kept secret for who knows how long.

After getting word that Harry is dead, Tara and Mitch are not too happy about the explanation that is given. Soon after stumbling upon a safe room full of weapons, fake passports, and a mission’s dossier marking a target in Cuba, the truth is revealed. It appears that Harry went on a retrieval mission to Cuba and was captured. Apparently, Harry is what's called an extractor who gets called upon when someone too extreme and off the books needs to be brought back to the States to face justice. These so called sensitive ops are formed to help maintain deniability. So, again, something went wrong, Harry was caught, and now he's disavowed by everyone.

Tara reluctantly accepts the help of her angsty teenage brother who has been holding hatred for his sister inside for the years she was in the military. Mitch is the only one she can trust, which means that Tara and Mitch have to put together a plan on the fly, invade Cuba with a stolen boat, find Harry, not get captured or killed, and bring him home. Most of this story takes place in Havana, Cuba while the rest takes place in and around Florida including Key West. 

Upon arriving in Havana, Tara and Mitch have to find Harry's contact which ends up being Andy who very much wants to get the hell out of Cuba. Tara, Andy, & Mitch face corrupt cops, arms dealers, drug kingpins, and all sorts of danger while using cable cars, zip lines, scuba gear and one beauty of a 1955 Chevy Bel Air as transportation. Yes, one absolutely needs to suspend belief while reading this book. You have to suspend belief that Tara, while trained as a Special ops soldier, and her brother who is a science prodigy, will work together after years of antagonism between the two of them to help their father come home. You have to have an idea that Tara is trying to find what she is supposed to do with her life now that she doesn't have the military after she, well, nah, no spoilers.

The problem I have with this story is the ending. First, the publisher doesn't tell the reader whether or not this is part of a series or not. Second, the authors leave a huge, shocking, head scratching cliffhanger ending which apparently means there needs to be a sequel in order to find out what happens next. So, we shall see what we shall see when it comes to an actual sequel and whether or not it will be released.


Monday, March 23, 2020

#Review - Of Flame and Fury by Cecy Robson #Paranormal #Romance

Series: Weird Girls: Flame #3
Format: Kindle, 282 pages
Release Date: March 24, 2020
Publisher: Cecy Robson, LLC
Source: Author
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Taran Wird, the loudmouth mistress of flame and lightning, didn’t want to attend the formal gathering of the supernatural elite. She did so only to help unite the supreme beings in attendance in one common goal: protecting Taran’s sister, Celia.

Celia is pregnant with alpha werewolf Aric Connor’s child, the same child prophesied to save the world from uprising evil. Evil wants this child dead before he is born and, more importantly, before he can grow strong enough to stop it.

Taran and her werewolf lover, Gemini, put plans in place to protect Celia. Master Vampire Misha Aleksandr and his clan also swear their allegiance to Celia and vow to keep her from harm. The witches even cast protection spells around the manor to curse anyone with malintent who enters. Nothing was supposed to go wrong, except everything did.

Creatures that shouldn’t exist stalk the grounds and invade the premises, and every curse meant to shield the guests turns against them. No one counted on the powerful being who arrived uninvited. But he’s here, manipulating the magic enclosing the estate to work in his favor.

As body counts rise and allies become enemies, chances are Celia won’t survive the night. But evil never counted on how hard Taran Wird would fight, even at the expense of her life.

Of Flame and Fury is the third installment in author Cecy Robson's Weird Girls: Flame trilogy. This is technically the 9th installment in the Weird Girls universe but the final installment with Taran Wird as the main character. Cursed by a spell meant to destroy them, Taran and her sisters Celia, Shayna & Emme, developed unique magical talents. With the power of fire and lightning literally at her fingertips, Taran doesn’t fear much. Taran also has a zombie arm which has a mind of its own. Her mate is Tomo (Gemini) Hamamatsu, a were who has the unusual ability of splitting into (2) wolves.

At the beginning of this story, a Hodge podge of supernaturals from the Alliance--Vampires, Werewolves & Witches from around the world--have traveled to Genevieve's magical fortress to find ways to work together to save Taran's eldest sister Celia and her unborn baby from being wiped out. Celia is pregnant with alpha werewolf Aric Connor’s child, the same child prophesied to save the world from uprising evil. Evil wants this child dead before he is born and, more importantly, before he can grow strong enough to stop it.

Master Vampire Misha Aleksandr and his clan have sworn their allegiance to Celia and vow to keep her from harm. Uri, Master of all Vampires, as well as Ileana Vodianova, the sole female master vampire, are also in attendance but whose side they are on, is impossible to tell. A fortress that was supposed to be impregnable, has been compromised thanks to betrayal. Creatures that have never been seen before called Nytes go on the attack with dire consequences for many, many possible allies of Celia & Aric. If you've read Of Flame and Fate, you've already been introduced to the villain; Johnny Fate and what he is capable of. Of so you thought. 

No one counted on the powerful being able to manipulate the magic enclosing the estate to work in his favor. As body counts rise and allies become enemies, chances are Celia won’t survive the night unless a miracle happens. That miracle is Taran Wird and her ability to do what needs to be done even if if means her death. Taran doesn't give a crap what most people think about her.  She curses like a sailor, dresses like a Hollywood vixen, wears high heels on all occasions, including being chased by vampires, and her right arm is a combination of new and old magic. 

She gives out as best as she gets and has come to be respected by more people than not. I enjoyed how much Taran grows as a character in this book. She takes charge, kicks ass, and still has time for some romance with Gemini. She's the only one who actually understands that there is dark magic at work that is slowly eliminating allies of the Alliance which was formed to keep Celia alive. Author Cecy Robson really ups her game in this story. The action is wild and almost non-stop. There's plenty of bloodshed and violence but a bit of hope as well.

One of the most interesting characters in this story might as well be Destiny who carries the unique ability to predict the future and manipulate magic. Born of two witches, Destiny is revered among the supernatural elite for her acute ability to predict the future. Her biggest prophecy involves Taran’s sister, Celia, whom Destiny decreed will bear children strong enough to take on the evil that’s rising. Unfortunately for everyone, she couldn't see what would happen next. 

Let me finish by saying this; READ THESE BOOKS. IN ORDER! DO NOT SKIP ANY! There has been plenty of adventures for the sisters and their allies. There's plenty to come as the author plans to continue this series by featuring Shayna, who is married to Alpha Warrior Koda, and Emme, the youngest sister who may or may not have feelings for Bren, a werewolf who was once rogue. I am actually looking forward to Emme's story to uncover what is really happening with her and maybe Bren? 

P.S. - I could legitimately rate this book with 5 stars it was that freaking good!


Friday, March 20, 2020

#Review - Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs #Urban #Fantasy

Series: Mercy Thompson #12
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Release Date: Ace
Publisher: Publisher
Source: ACE
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Mercy Thompson, car mechanic and shapeshifter, faces a threat unlike any other in this thrilling entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

I am Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman.

My only “superpowers” are that I turn into a thirty-five pound coyote and fix Volkswagens.

But I have friends in odd places and a pack of werewolves at my back.

It looks like I’m going to need them.

Centuries ago, the fae dwelt in Underhill—until she locked her doors against them. They left behind their great castles and troves of magical artifacts. They abandoned their prisoners and their pets. Without the fae to mind them, those creatures who remained behind roamed freely through Underhill wreaking havoc. Only the deadliest survived.

Now one of those prisoners has escaped. It can look like anyone, any creature it chooses. But if it bites you, it controls you. It lives for chaos and destruction. It can make you do anything—even kill the person you love the most. Now it is here, in the Tri-Cities. In my territory.

It won’t, can’t, remain.

Not if I have anything to say about it.

Smoke Bitten is the 12th installment in author Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson series. Shape-shifting mechanic Mercy Thompson has painted a target on the pack by claiming that the Tri-Cities was the Columbia Basin Packs territory to protect whether they are human or not. With Bran no longer protecting the pack, it has become that much harder for the pack to keep track of all the troubles that continue to pop up no matter how small or large. The previous story proved that there are groups of paranormals that will go to great lengths to go up against he pack.

This story opens with several storylines. Because of the dangers facing the pack and the fact that she's human, Jesse has had to make a choice that she will attend a local university rather than attend one in Oregon where her mother lives so that she can be protected by those like Tad and the Pack. Of course, there are still certain members of the pack who still prefer Christy over Mercy. When Mercy goes into her yard to give everyone, including herself, a chance to cool down, she makes an unfortunate discovery.  

The ancient power that is Underhill, the underground world of the fae, which manifests as a creepy young girl in order to spend time with Aiden, has opened a door from Underhill into Mercy’s back yard. What's worse, a dangerous entity has escaped. This creature can take over a body by biting with ‘smoke’ and at the same time kill anyone nearby, putting everyone’s lives in danger. One of its first targets just happens to be our favorite Coyote shifters neighbors as well as Mercy who ends up being saved the ridiculously dangerous vampire/witch Wulfe who seems to be stalking Mercy relentlessly. 

With this primordial being on the loose, everyone wonders what other dangerous creatures are being kept in Underhill and whether they will eventually escape as well. The second part of this story is Adam's disconnection from Mercy. Wouldn't be a big issue except that Adam has been keeping the mating bond between himself and Mercy on lock down for reasons she doesn't know as he won't talk to her about what's going on. Mercy has to make a choice. Does she walk away, or does she stick around and slap Adam upside his head until he tells her what the hell is wrong with him? 

If you've read the previous installment, you will understand why Adam has pretty much kept his feelings and thoughts under lock and key. I don't agree it was the right thing to do, but he literally went through hell. If that weren't enough! A group of rogue werewolves attempt to move in on Adam's pack with the help of a assassin Witch which escalates the danger facing Mercy and the Pack. And for the first time in awhile, Bran actually seems to be willing to offer some guidance without making it seem that he supports the packs recent choices. 

I think it is fair to say that the Pack has its hands full. After all, 8 have left the pack either by their own choice, or have been killed by the monsters that the pack has had to face since Mercy entered the picture. I will also say this. You really should have read the entire saga in order to understand the dynamics and the characters and what has happened to this point. There have been too many character and a lot of world building that has already taken place. This has also become a problem with characters that haven't been seen in awhile. They are more like tertiary or guest characters than party of the Mercyverse. Oh, by the way, just when you think the story has been wrapped up, don't let down your guard. You'll be sorry you did!

“Are you okay, Mercy?” Tad asked me as he disconnected the wiring harness from the headlight of the 2000 Jetta we were working on.

We were replacing a radiator. To do that, we had to take the whole front clip off. It was a rush case on a couple of fronts. The owner had been driving from Portland to Missoula, Montana, when her car blew the radiator. We needed to get her back on the road so she could make her job interview tomorrow at eight a.m.

The task was made more urgent by the fact that the owner and her three children under five were occupying the office. She had, she told me, family in Missoula who could watch her children, but nobody but her alcoholic ex-husband to watch them in Portland, so she’d brought them with her. I wished she had family here to watch them. I liked kids, but tired kids cooped up in my office space were another matter.

To speed up the repair, Tad was taking the left side and I was working on the right.

Like me, he wore grease-stained overalls. Summer still held sway-if only just-so those overalls were stained with sweat, too.

Even his hair showed the effects of working in the heat, sticking out at odd angles. It was also tipped here and there with the same grease that marked the overalls. A smudge of black swooped across his right cheekbone and onto his ear like badly applied war paint. I was pretty sure that if anything, I looked worse than he did.

I’d worked on cars with Tad for more than a decade, nearly half his life. He’d left for an Ivy League education but returned without his degree, and without the cheery optimism that had once been his default. What he had retained was that scary competence that he’d had when I first walked into his father’s garage looking for a part to fix my Rabbit and found the elementary-aged Tad ably running the shop.

He was one of the people I most trusted in the world. And I still lied to him.

“Everything’s fine,” I said.

“Liar,” growled Zee’s voice from under a ’68 Beetle.

The little car bounced a bit, like a dog responding to its master. Cars do that sometimes around the old iron-kissed fae. Zee said something soft-voiced and calming in German, though I couldn’t catch exactly what the words were.

When he started talking to me again, he said, “You should not lie to the fae, Mercy. Say instead, ’You are not my friends, I do not trust you with my secrets, so I will not tell you what is wrong.’”

Tad grinned at his father’s grumble.

“You are not my friends, I do not trust you with my secrets, so I will not tell you what is wrong,” I said, deadpan.

“And that, father of mine,” said Tad, grandly setting aside the headlight and starting on one of the bolts that held in the front clip, “is another lie.”

“I love you both,” I told them.

“You love me better,” said Tad.

“Most of the time I love you both,” I told him before getting serious. “Something is wrong, but it concerns another person’s private issues. If that changes, you’ll be the first on my list to talk to.”

I would not talk about problems with my mate to someone else-it would be a betrayal.

Tad leaned over, put an arm around me, and kissed the top of my head, which would have been sweet if it weren’t a hundred and six degrees outside. Though the new bays in the garage were cooler than the old ones had been, we were all drenched in sweat and the various fluids that were a part of the life of a VW mechanic.

“Yuck,” I squawked, batting him away from me. “You are wet and smelly. No kisses. No touches. Ick. Ick.”

He laughed and went back to work-and so did I. The laugh felt good. I hadn’t been doing a lot of laughing lately.

“There it is again,” said Tad, pointing at me with his ratchet. “That sad face. If you change your mind about talking to someone, I’m here. And if necessary, I can kill someone and put the body where no one will find it.”

“Drama, drama,” grumbled the old fae under the bug. “Always with you children there is drama.”

“Hey,” I said. “Keep that up, and next time I have a horde of zombies to destroy, I won’t pick you.”

He grunted-either at me or at the bug. It was hard to tell with Zee.

“No one else could have done what I did,” he said after a moment. It sounded arrogant, but the fae can’t lie, so Zee thought it was true. I did, too. “It is good that you have me for a friend to call upon when your drama overwhelms your life, Liebling. And if you have a body, I can dispose of it in such a way that there would be nothing left to find.”

Zee was my very good friend, and useful in all sorts of ways besides hiding dead bodies-which he had done. Unlike Tad, Zee wasn’t an official employee of the garage he’d sold to me after teaching me how to work on cars and run the business. That didn’t mean he was unpaid, just that he came and went on his own terms. Or when I needed him. Zee was dependable like that.

“Hey,” said Tad. “Quit chatting, Mercy, and start working. I’m two bolts up on you-and one of those kids just knocked over the garbage can in the office.”

I’d heard it, too, despite the closed door between the office and us. Additionally, just before the garbage can had fallen, I’d heard the tired and overworked mom try to keep her oldest from reorganizing all of the parts stored (for sale) on the shelving units that lined the walls. Tad might be half fae, but I was a coyote in my other form-my hearing was better than his.

Despite the possible destruction going on in the office, it felt good to fix the old car. I didn’t know how to fix my marriage. I didn’t even know what had gone wrong.

“Ready?” asked Tad.

I caught the cross member as he pulled the last bolt. A leaking radiator was something I knew how to make right.

Before I’d left work, I had showered and changed to clean clothes and shoes. Even so, when I got home, I’d gone across the back deck to go in the kitchen door because I didn’t want to risk getting anything from the shop on the new carpet.

I’d disemboweled a zombie werewolf on the old carpet, and one of the results of that was that I’d finally discovered a mess that Adam’s expert cleaning guru couldn’t get out of the white carpet. All of it had been torn up and replaced.

Adam had picked it out because I didn’t care beyond “anything but white.” His choice, a sandy color, was practical and warm. I liked it.

We’d had to replace the tile in the kitchen a few months earlier. Slowly but surely the house had been changing from the house that Adam’s ex-wife, Christy, had decorated into Adam’s and my home. If I’d known how much better I’d feel with new carpet, I’d have hunted down a zombie werewolf to disembowel a long time ago.

I toed off my shoes by the door, glanced farther into the kitchen, and paused. It was like walking into the middle of the last scene in a play. I had no idea what was causing all the tension, but I knew I’d interrupted something big.

Darryl drew my eye first-the more dominant wolves tend to do that. He leaned against the counter, his big arms crossed over his chest. He kept his eyes on the ground, his mouth a flat line. Our pack’s second carried the blood of warriors of two continents. He had to work to look friendly, and he wasn’t expending any effort on that right now. Even though he knew I’d come into the house, he didn’t look at me. His body held a coiled energy that told me he was ready for a fight.

Auriele, his mate, wore an aura of grim triumph-though she was seated at the table on the opposite side of the kitchen from Darryl. Not that she was afraid of him. If Darryl was descended from Chinese and African warlords (and he was-his sister, he’d told me once, had done the family history), Auriele could have been a Mayan warrior goddess. I had once seen the two of them fight as a no-holds-barred team against a volcano god, and it had been breathtaking. I liked and respected Auriele.

Auriele’s location, which was as far as she could get from Darryl and remain in the kitchen, probably indicated that they were having a disagreement. Interestingly, like Darryl, she didn’t look at me, either-though I could feel her attention straining in my direction.

The last person in the kitchen was Joel, who was the only pack member besides me who wasn’t a werewolf. In his presa Canario form, he sprawled out, as was his habit, and took up most of the free floor space. The strong sunlight streaming through the window brought out the brindle pattern that was usually hidden in the stygian darkness of his coat. His big muzzle rested on his outstretched paws. He glanced at me and then away, without otherwise moving.

No. Not away. I followed his gaze and saw that the door to Adam’s soundproofed (even to werewolf ears) office was shut. As I turned my attention back to the occupants of the kitchen, my gaze fell on my stepdaughter’s purse, which had been abandoned on the counter.

“What’s up?” I asked, looking at Auriele.

Maybe my voice was a little unfriendly, but Jesse’s purse, the shut door of Adam’s office, Darryl’s unhappiness, and Auriele’s expression combined to tell me that something had happened. Probably, given the people involved and my insight into a few things going on in Jesse’s life, that something had to do with my nemesis, Adam’s ex-wife and Jesse’s mother, Christy.

The bane of my existence had finally returned to Eugene, Oregon, where I’d optimistically thought she might be less of a problem. But Christy had a claim on my husband’s protection and a stronger claim on my stepdaughter’s affection. She was going to be in my life as long as they were in my life.

Christy’s strikes on me seldom rated a level above annoyance. She was good at subtle attacks, but I’d grown up with Leah, the Marrok’s mate, who had been, if not as intelligent, infinitely more dangerous.

I would pay a much higher price than dealing with Christy to keep Adam and Jesse. That didn’t mean I was going to be happy about her anytime soon. I might be able to take her on just fine, but she hurt Adam and Jesse on a regular basis.

Auriele’s chin rose, but it was Darryl who spoke. “My wife opened a letter meant for someone else,” he said heavily.

“This is your fault,” she snapped-and not at Darryl. “Your fault. You have Adam, her place in the pack, the home that she built, and you still won’t let Christy have anything.”

I might like Auriele, but the reverse was not true because Christy had a way of making everyone around her hyperprotective of her. Auriele was a dominant wolf, which meant she started out protective anyway. Christy just put all of Auriele’s instincts into overdrive.

Still, I couldn’t see her opening anyone else’s mail because I was Adam’s wife instead of Christy. I decided I didn’t have enough information to process her accusations.

So I asked for clarification. “You opened a letter from Christy? Or for Christy?”

“No,” said Darryl, staring at his mate. “She opened a letter for Jesse.”

Auriele glanced at the table, and I noticed, for the first time, that on the table in front of Auriele was a stack of mail. On the top of the stack was a white envelope with Washington State University’s distinctive cougar logo-and all the pieces clicked.

I pinched my nose. It was a gesture that Bran, the Marrok who ruled all the packs in North America except ours, did so often that it had spread to anyone who associated with him for very long. Since I’d been raised in his pack, it was bound to get to me sooner or later. It didn’t help with the frustration, though I felt like it helped me focus. Maybe that was why Bran used it.

“Oh, for the love of Pete,” I said. “Jesse told me she was going to call her mom a week ago. Let me guess-she put it off until yesterday or this morning. And Christy called you. You came over, found the letter from WSU on the table-”

“In the mailbox,” said Darryl.

I raised my eyebrows, and Auriele’s chin elevated a bit more and her shoulders stiffened. Yep, even in her current state of Christy-born madness, she was a little embarrassed about that one.

“We got here just as the mail carrier left,” she said stiffly. “I thought we could take the mail in.”

“You found the letter in the mailbox,” I corrected myself. “And, given the urgency and trauma that Christy expressed to you about her daughter’s change of plans, you had to open it to find proof that dire shenanigans were afoot.”

Jesse had been accepted to the University of Oregon in Eugene, where her mom lived. She had also been accepted to the University of Washington in Seattle, where Jesse’s boyfriend, Gabriel, was attending school.

Both were good schools, and she’d let her mother think that she’d been debating about which way to go. Adam and I had both been sure she intended to follow Gabriel-boyfriends outranked parents. I understood why Jesse hadn’t wanted to tell her mother-witness the current scene with Auriele. Though putting it off had just been postponing the explosion.

But all of Jesse’s schooling plans had changed thanks to recent events. Our pack had acquired some new and very dangerous enemies.

A week ago Jesse told me she’d decided to stay here and go to Washington State University’s Tri-Cities campus. I’d agreed with her reasons. Jesse was a practical person who made generally good choices when her mother wasn’t involved. The only advice I’d given Jesse was that she needed to tell Adam and Christy sooner rather than later.

“Hah,” Auriele said with bitter triumph, pointing at me. “I told you it was Mercy’s idea.”

I opened my mouth to retort, but the door to Adam’s office jerked open and Jesse stalked out, her cheeks flushed and her fists clenched. She glanced past me at Auriele and gave her a betrayed look that lasted for a long moment until she rounded the corner and took the stairs at a pace that was not quite a run.