Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: Vicious (Vicious #1) by V E Schwab


4.5 stars for Vicious (Vicious book 1) by V. E. Schwab.

This urban science fiction fantasy is V. E. Schwab's first adult novel, about two brilliant and highly disturbed pre-med students who set out to generate their own superpowers and end up mortal enemies.

In all its brilliancy and originality, the author creates a world where gaining superpowers does not automatically lead to heroism and there always exists a fine line of what it takes to be a hero or a villain.

Though Vicious is not my usual choice of a read, surprisingly I enjoy reading it and love the way this masterful piece of a tale develops, unfolds and concludes.

Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: 24 Sep 2013

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Victor and Eli started out as college roommates–brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will.

Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge but who will be left alive at the end?

*Blurb from author's website*

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Review: Dark Angel by T J Bennett


4 stars for Dark Angel by T. J. Bennett.

Dark Angel is a memorable historical fantasy romance with a intriguing plot that is filled with mysterious magical forces.

The author writes beautifully by weaving an enchanting, gripping gothic fairy tale with richly detailed settings, in which a woman with a troubled past shipwrecks on a mysterious island whose master has dark, deadly secrets of his own.

Reading Dark Angel reminds me of the story of Beauty and the Beast. It feels almost like a re-telling of this classic love story where appearance does not matter; love lies in the eyes of beholder; and ultimately love transcends all.

Publisher: Entangled: Edge
Publication date: 21 Oct 2013

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When young widow Catherine Briton is washed ashore, the sole survivor of a violent shipwreck, all she wants is to go home to London. But injured as she is, she can't escape when a shadowy stranger rescues her and takes her to his castle - where she's healed with suspicious, almost magical speed.

The more time Catherine spends in the castle, the more her curiosity rises where her fiercely handsome new "master," Gerard, is concerned. As she begins to investigate, though, her discoveries only bring more questions. It seems Gerard isn't the only one on the island keeping secrets...

The small town is full of strange mysteries and townspeople who know more than they should about her. And when a hulking beast that stalks the nearby hills and valleys catches up to her, Catherine must figure out what's going on before it's too late.

*Blurb from FantasticFiction*

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Review: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen


4.5 stars for Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen.

Garden Spells is an impressively charming, light-hearted, easy read with likeable characters and a dose of sweet humor.

There is just the right amount of suspense and secrecy centering on the extraordinary Waverley sisters and their special, almost magical connection with an enchanted apple tree to keep me intrigued and turn the pages incessantly.

Overall, a remarkable debut novel.

Publisher: Bantam Books; Later Printing edition
Publication date: 1 Jan 2007

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The women of the Waverley family -- whether they like it or not -- are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.

For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother's unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town's constraints. Using her grandmother's mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business -- and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life -- upon the family's peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories.

Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire's routine existence upside down. With Sydney's homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire's own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.

As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney's child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.

*Blurb from Goodreads*

Publisher: Bantam; 1 edition
Publication date: 28 Aug 2007

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review: Master of Crows by Grace Draven


5 stars for Master of Crows by Grace Draven.

Master of Crows is an enthralling tale of romance, danger and magic.

Grace Draven brings fantasy romance to a totally different level by writing beautifully, a storyline that centers on not just the romance aspect but fantasy as well. It is not solely a love story with the male protagonist in mage robes casting a few dark spells here and there, masquerading as fantasy; it is a plot, rich and deep in a vividly painted fantasy world, with well developed characters dipped in heavy doses of light humor immersed in a slow buildup of romance.

My only grievance is that the initial 10% of the story is slow-moving as the author lays the foundation of her world building. But once that is done, I have a hard time steering my eyes away from the story. It has such a fierce grasp on me that I happily obliged to ride the journey alongside the characters.

All in all, an enchanting and magnificent fantasy romance, one of the rare few whereby the characters leave deep impression long after the book is read.

A jewel of a story with an equally matching gem of a book cover.

Publisher: Grace Draven
Publication date: 8 Aug 2011

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What would you do to win your freedom?

This is the question that sets bondwoman, Martise of Asher, on a dangerous path. In exchange for her freedom, she bargains with her masters, the mage-priests of Conclave, to spy on the renegade sorcerer, Silhara of Neith. The priests want Martise to expose the sorcerer’s treachery and turn him over to Conclave justice. A risky endeavor, but one she accepts without hesitation–until she falls in love with her intended target.

Silhara of Neith, Master of Crows, is a desperate man. The god called Corruption invades his mind, seducing him with promises of limitless power if he will help it gain dominion over the world. Silhara struggles against Corruption’s influence and searches for ways to destroy the god. When Conclave sends Martise as an apprentice to help him, he knows she’s a spy. Now he fights a war on two fronts–against the god who would possess him and the apprentice who would betray him.

Mage and spy search together for a ritual that will annihilate Corruption, but in doing so, they discover secrets about each other that may damn them both. Silhara must decide if his fate, and the fate of nations, is worth the soul of the woman he has come to love, and Martise must choose continued enslavement or freedom at the cost of a man’s life. And love.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Review: Twist Me (Twist Me #1) by Anna Zaires


1 star for Twist Me (Twist Me book 1) by Anna Zaires.

I do not enjoy reading Twist me. Perhaps I am too jaded to appreciate this New Adult dark romance which is well liked by so many others.

On a serious note, I find it hard to take pleasure in revelling a story which centers on stockholm syndrome, or otherwise known as capture-bonding whereby the hostage expresses empathy and sympathy, and have positive feelings towards his/her captor, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with them.

Besides a disturbing theme, the plot is awfully shallow with poor background and world building. It is essentially an incredulous tale of a sweet lovely damsel and a strikingly gorgeous male protagonist that screams lust, desire and mating. There is such copious amount of graphic sexual content that I find myself skipping chunks in hope to reading something constructive.

If dark, twisted and disturbing fabrication is your thing, give it a try. But if you are after some decent romance with substance, I would say look elsewhere.

Publisher: Mozaika Publications
Publication date: 31 Jul 2014

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Kidnapped. Taken to a private island.

I never thought this could happen to me. I never imagined one chance meeting on the eve of my eighteenth birthday could change my life so completely.

Now I belong to him. To Julian. To a man who is as ruthless as he is beautiful—a man whose touch makes me burn. A man whose tenderness I find more devastating than his cruelty.

My captor is an enigma. I don’t know who he is or why he took me. There is a darkness inside him—a darkness that scares me even as it draws me in.

My name is Nora Leston, and this is my story.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review: River Marked (Mercy Thompson #6) by Patricia Briggs


4 stars for River Marked (Mercy Thompson book 6) by Patricia Briggs.

The events in River Marked take place a short distance from Mercy's usual hangout in the Tri-Cities. While looking for a nice place to honeymoon and relax with Adam, Mercy gets herself and her mate implicated in a series of complicated endeavors. Besides the risky undertakings that smoke of powerful magical creatures and heaps of fast-paced action fighting, readers are granted glimpses of Mercy's innermost feelings as she longs for her missing father and coming to terms with what the Coyote reveals.

After the last two remarkably fabulous stories in the series, it would be untruthful to say that I am not disappointed with River Marked. While I agree that book 6 is still a well written fantasy tale with good storyline, I feel that it somehow lacks the distinctive punch delivered in the prior few. Or perhaps my own expectations of this series has risen much along with the folklore developments.

All in all, River Marked is still a good and enjoyable read.

Publisher: Ace; Reprint edition
Publication date: 1 Mar2011

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Car mechanic Mercy Thompson has always known there was something different about her, and not just the way she can make a VW engine sit up and beg. Mercy is a shapeshifter, a talent she inherited from her long-gone father. She's never known any others of her kind. Until now.

An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River-one that her father's people may know something about. And to have any hope of surviving, Mercy and her mate, the Alpha werewolf Adam, will need their help...

*Blurb from FantasticFiction*

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Review: Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson #5) by Patricia Briggs


5 stars for Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson book 5) by Patricia Briggs.

Coyote-shifting garage mechanic Mercedes stars again in this fifth book of the Mercy Thompson series, an urban fantasy along with paranormal romanace novel that has her embarking on yet another thrilling adventure in the Tri-Cities.

Silver Borne as narrated from Mercy's first person point of view, is as much her story as well as werewolf Samuel's, who has been existing for far too long and miserable over being his own lone alpha. The author spins a seamless tale of Mercy's attempt to return a magical book to a fae friend-of-a-friend, her handling of Samuel's depression and the challenges she face in her efforts to fit in and match up to the wolfpack's expectations. The world building is rich with well-rounded characters some of which more likeable than others, making the fantasy story more convincing and lifelike.

There is a spring of surprise as the story concludes with a twist and I am certainly delighted with such a brilliant ending. This brilliancy is what sets a fabulous author apart from the rest.

A note on the book cover.. this is by far my favourite book cover picture of Mercy. The angle and pose for the photo has done great justice to Mercy as she not only appears tough as a cookie but demure and exotic, with intricate rose tatts on both her arms and back.

Publisher: Ace; Reprint edition
Publication date: 30 Mar 2010

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Being a mechanic is hard work. Mercy Thompson, for instance, just spent the last couple of months trying to evade the murderous queen of the local vampire seethe, and now the leader of the werewolf pack - who's maybe-more-than-just-a-friend - has asked for her help. A book of fae secrets has come to light and they're all about to find out how implacable - and dangerous - the fae can be. OK, so maybe her troubles have nothing to do with the job. But she sure could use a holiday ...

*Blurb from FantasticFiction*

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Review: Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson #4) by Patricia Briggs


5 stars for Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson book 4) by Patricia Briggs.

It has been such a long time since I am granted the pleasure to weave my way through a series, book after book after book; and skip the torturous experience of having to wait a year for the next instalment. It feels really wonderful to be allowed to move on straight to the next book upon reaching the end of the previous.

Bone Crossed pretty much picks up from the unfinished scene in book 3 Iron Crossed. The story revisits Mercy's affiliation with her vampire friend Stefan, his seethe and menagerie. Though the plot focuses on the nightwalkers, there is also much involvement coming from the werewolf pack due to Mercy's unique relationship with the sexy alpha Adam.

All in all, the author has done a fantastic job on not only exploring the politics and intricate relationship in and among the local vampire clan, but also the inter-relationship among the supernatural communities of the shapeshifters and faes. Thus far, Bone Crossed has the most intriguing and captivating account of Mercy's life expedition.

Publisher: Ace; Reprint edition
Publication date: 3 Feb 2009

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Car mechanic and sometime shapeshifter Mercy Thompson has learned, the hard way, why her race was almost exterminated. When European vampires immigrated to North America, they found Mercy's people had a hidden talent - for vampire slaying. Unfortunately for Mercy, the queen of the local vampire seethe has discovered her true identity. She's also furious when she learns Mercy has crossed her and killed one of her vampires. Mercy may be protected from direct reprisals by the werewolf pack (and her interesting relationship with its Alpha), but that just means Marsilia will come after Mercy some other way. So Mercy had better prepare to watch her back.

*Blurb from FantasticFiction*

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson #3) by Patricia Briggs


4.5 stars for Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson Book 3) by Patricia Briggs.

The Mercedes Thompson series just keep getting better and better, with each sequel outdoing the previous and exceeding expectations. I am utterly hooked on this book 3 and practically living it.

While book 1 Moon Called focuses on werewolf and book 2 Blood Bound concentrates on vampires, Iron Kissed, the third instalment in the series emphasizes alot more on the fae. In my opinion, the book title is very well chosen as according to folklore, a true blue fae cannot withstand iron.

Much as the story revolves around the fae, Mercy's family and especially a particular male family member, play a major role in the world building of this riveting work of fiction. Likewise, there are moments where various strong emotions all come into play; jealousy, anger, regret, guilt; and they serve to make a great intense rollercoaster ride.

All in all, it is a tremendous joy to read Iron Kissed and I look very much forward to reading the next book in the series to uncover whatever surprises it has installed for its fans.

Publisher: Ace
Publication date: 2 Jan 2008

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When her former boss and mentor is arrested for murder and left to rot behind bars by his own kind, it's up to shapeshifting car mechanic Mercy Thompson to clear his name, whether he wants her to or not. And she'll have to choose between the two werewolves in her life-whether she wants to or not.

*Blurb from FantasticFiction*

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson #2) by Patricia Briggs


4 stars for Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson Book 2) by Patricia Briggs.

I move on to Blood Bound almost immediately upon finishing Book 1 Moon Called as I thirst for more of Mercy Thompson and her first person account of exciting happenings.

As insinuated by the book title, Blood Bound is about Mercy and her quests involving all things blood, that is the bloodsuckers, or what we commonly termed vampires. Here Mercy has been called upon to repay a favor that requires huge doses of stealth, and since she can shapeshift at will, who else but Mercy makes the best candidate for the job while killing two birds with one stone.

Book 2 Blood Bound is definitely a much easier and better read than book 1 Moon Called. While readers are introduced to more story characters, it does not feel overwhelming or complicated; and the narration flows smoothly with well developed storyline.

Publisher: Ace Hardcover
Publication date: 4 Jan 2011

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What could frighten a vampire? Mercy is about to find out. While repaying a favor, Mercy finds herself face to face with a monster that should not exist. Her hunt for the monster will lead her deep into the realm of of the vampire -- where she will discover more than she wanted to about herself and the people she loves.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Review: Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia Briggs


3.5 stars for Moon Called (Mercy Thompson book 1) by Patricia Briggs.

My first attempt to read Moon Called in 2006 has seen me chucking the paperback aside before the first chapter comes to an end. I pick up the same title 4 years later in hope of finishing what I have foresaken. The result is better but not by much as I am not able to progress beyond the last page of chapter four.

To me, failure to take off on book 1 of a series does not warrant ditching the entire series totally, especially one of urban fantasy which encompasses shapeshifters and vampires. The thought of skipping this book 1 and dive straight to book 2 Blood Bound did cross my mind as is my typical quirk when faced with reading block. However, due to unavailability of book 2 and reluctance to jump 2 novels in the series to book 3, Moon Called eventually ended up taking residence in my keep-in-review to-be-read list for the next couple of years until my decision to revisit the story in this year 2014.

At long last, my third shot aimed at Moon Called yields positive results and I am proud to declare that I have successfully overcome the accursed initial four chapters and slowly maneuver myself right to the end of the book; all the while enjoying role playing as Mercedes Thompson aka Mercy and going about her journey on thrilling adventure rides with a strong-headed alpha werewolf and a less than forthcoming vampire.

A book.. 8 years in the making to arrive at the finishing line, my ultimate victory.

Publisher: Ace
Publication date: 31 Jan 2006

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Moon Called is the beginning of the story of Mercedes Thompson a coyote shapeshifter who is also a pretty decent mechanic. Mercy's world looks a lot like ours except that the Otherworld is begining to be forced out of hiding by our modern technologies. Mercy shares her back fence with the local Alpha werewolf and works evenings on the vampire Stefan's VW bus. She's safe and content -- which doesn't make a very story, does it? So, of course, matters begin to change on the first page. In this book Mercy faces trolls and gremlins, old boyfriends and older vampires.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Review: Cursed (Fallen Siren #1) by S J Harper


4.5 stars for Cursed (Fallen Siren book 1) by S. J. Harper.

Cursed is the first in a brand new series by S. J. Harper, the pen name for writing team of Samantha Sommersby (the “S” in S. J. Harper) and Jeanne C. Stein (the “J” in S. J. Harper).

It is interesting to note how a mutual love of good wine, edgy urban fantasy and all things Joss Whedon can bring together two different authors to kick off a collaboration of an exciting urban fantasy-paranormal romance featuring a cursed federal investigator / Siren working towards redemption. Even more unusual is how the single name Harper is conceived by the authors from the letter “H”, which is often eye level on bookshelves and the beginning letter on the list of most popular surnames.

The Harper team has done a wonderful job bridging urban fantasy with paranormal romance by creating a mystical world with compelling lead characters who are clearly drawn to each other, yet suppress their mutual feelings in a bid to conceal their dark secrets and elude revealing their less-than-human sides.

There is considerably an amazing amount of script rapport between the two authors as readers cannot tell which chapter or section is written by author S or author J. The story flows smoothly and consistently from start to end via the heroine, Emma’s first person narration.

All in all, an impressive debut novel which I would recommend to lovers of all things urban fantasy with a hint of romance paranormal.

.. And Book 2 Reckoning has already made its way up on my to-be-read list.

Publisher: Roc
Publication date: 1 Oct 2013

*** Favourite quote 1 ***

He continues dipping onion rings in ketchup as if that stalling tactic is going to work.
Persistence is my middle name.
I fix him with a laser beam stare.

*** Favourite quote 2 ***

He knocks back the last of the bourbon.
The sound the empty glass makes when he sets it down on the table has a ring of finality to it — a decision’s been made.

~ Cursed
S. J. Harper

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Meet FBI Agents Emma Monroe and Zack Armstrong.
She’s cursed. He’s damned.
Together, they make one hell of a team.

Emma Monroe is a Siren, cursed by the gods and bound to earth to atone for an ancient failure. She’s had many names and many lives, but only one mission: redemption. Now that she works missing persons cases for the FBI, it could be just a rescue away. Unless her new partner leads her astray.

Special Agent Zack Armstrong just transferred into the San Diego Field Office. He’s a werewolf, doing his best to beat back the demons from his dark and dangerous past. As a former Black Ops sniper, he’s taken enough lives. Now he’s doing penance by saving them.

Emma and Zack’s very first case draws them deep into the realm of the paranormal and forces them to use their own supernatural abilities. But that leaves each of them vulnerable, and there are lines partners should not cross. As secrets are revealed and more women go missing, one thing becomes clear: as they race to save the victims, Emma and Zack risk losing themselves.

*Blurb from author's website*

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