Category Archives: werewolves

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Burn Bright – Book 5 of the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs

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Himself is a real fan of Patricia Briggs and pounced on this latest instalment of her werewolf urban fantasy series with glee. I idly opened it up, read the first couple of the pages – and was caught…

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…

I make a habit of crashing into series out of order as anyone who has spent any time reading my reviews knows. Mostly, I manage to work out what is happening without too much difficulty, but I can’t deny that it sometimes causes a bit of confusion at the beginning of the book. Not this time, though. Immediately Briggs pulled me into the action so at no stage was I floundering, which demonstrates a great deal of skill, given this is the fifth book in the series. Of course, I was aware there was a hefty backstory and some of the previous events were mentioned, which has certainly whetted my appetite to read more about these engaging characters.

And it is all about the characters. I loved both Charles and Anna, so very different and yet so suited. I also enjoyed reading about the jockeying for position and the pinsharp awareness of their ranking within the pack and how that balances with the human side of their character. I’ve read one or three werewolf stories in my time, each with its own take on how the blend of wolf and human works, and this was a dynamic I particularly enjoyed. I also liked the fact that despite this is a world where lives are invariably lost – they matter. Near the beginning one of the deaths really winded me – I had expected that it was going to be alright and this particular character, whom I’d really liked, would prevail. It was a shock when it didn’t.

Another of Briggs’ skills is her ability to write broken, desperate characters with compassion and empathy. Some of the oldest fae and werewolves are overwhelmed by the weight of years and bloody experiences they have endured and are too dangerous to live in the socially supercharged atmosphere of the Pack. Briggs doesn’t just tell us how dangerous and unpredictable they are – her demonstrations of their lethal oddness had me reading waaay later into the night than I should have done.

As for the climax and solution – the risk is when I’m so thoroughly invested in a story so early on, I’ll find that the ending doesn’t quite live up to my expectations. This wasn’t an issue here – there was another surprising twist near the end that certainly changed everything once again. And then again, when another twist superseded that one… The conclusion tied up most of the plot points, leaving a major one dangling in the breeze, ready for the sixth book in the series. I’ll definitely be reading that one – and before that – I’ll also be backtracking and reading more about these charismatic, engaging characters in the meantime.

Highly recommended for fans of quality urban fantasy.
10/10

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Sunday Post – 25th March, 2018

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I’m a day late with this as on Saturday evening my sister was admitted to hospital. She is still there under observation and recovering. As we also had the children staying over, it was a difficult time and yesterday there simply wasn’t space to post – and frankly it wasn’t on my list of priorities…

Thank goodness, no snow this week! For which I’m very grateful, though it hasn’t been all that warm, either… Last Sunday, I decided I was within touching distance of the end of the major rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest and given I didn’t have headspace for anything else, I just went for it. It turns out that I wasn’t as close as I thought, because I finally got to type THE END at 4.30 am on Monday morning. This was a really stupid move on my part, because I was teaching on Monday morning and in the evening until 9 pm, so there wasn’t much opportunity to catch up on my lost sleep. Indeed, I’ve been suffering from the effects of that missed night’s sleep for most of the week – tinnitus… buzzy… bad memory… sugar cravings… It’s easy to be wise after the event, because the novel was literally driving me crazy – though now I’ve a completed manuscript, I can now get a better feel of exactly where I want it to go and where to push the focus.

On Wednesday after Pilates and Fitstep, my sister, Himself and I had lunch together and arranged that as we were travelling to Ringwood on Thursday to visit my in-laws, we’d give my sister a lift so she could visit Mum, who lives less than ten minutes away from Himself’s parents. We had a lovely day visiting them, though the wind was bitterly cold in Fordingbridge where we had lunch – at least it didn’t rain. On Friday, we collected the grandchildren in the afternoon and in the evening Frances and I went over to see the first rough cut of Hoodwinked as Tim is in the last stages of editing it – a massive achievement. I was so very impressed with the way he’s put it together. There is something wonderful about the energy and strong emotional story, which the constant comedy running through the dialogue that had me laughing out loud more than once, despite editing the script and helping with the directing. On Saturday, we took Tim with us to see A Wrinkle in Time at the cinema, which we all enjoyed. While the story was somewhat predictable, what salvaged this for me was the quality of the performances, particularly by the children.

This week I have read:

The Cold Between – Book 1 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel
Commander Elena Shaw is in dire need of shore leave and has tagged along with her firm friend Jessica to a bar that was recommended as ideal for visitors wanting a bit of fun, yet off the tourist trail. But when it comes to it – she finds she would rather be back on board and is just considering leaving, when an intriguing man starts to talk to her. A man that snags her interest, to the extent that she is able to ignore the fact that he is wearing the wrong uniform…
Don’t read the blurb as it gives away far too many of the main plot points in the first quarter of the story – I’ve made up my own. What I would add is that despite that opener – this isn’t primarily a romance, it’s a space opera adventure, though there is a romantic thread running through it. It’s also great fun and highly recommended.

 

Burn Bright – Book 6 of the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Brigg

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…
I loved this one – and what really impressed me is that without having read any of the others in the series, I was able to pick up the book and immediately get drawn into the world. And it was a thoroughly enjoyable adventure, too…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 18h March 2018

Review of Virology – Book 2 of the Shock Pao series by Ren Warom

Teaser Tuesday featuring Burn Bright – Book 6 of the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Breach of Containment – Book 3 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Review of The Stone Sky – Book 3 of The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

Friday Face-off – Be a tower firmly set… featuring The Black Tower – Book 6 of the Adam Dalgliesh series by P.D. James

2018 Shoot for the Moon Challenge – February roundup

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

A woman’s work is never done, so why bother? https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/a-womans-work-is-never-done-so-why-bother/ This is a philosophy that I thoroughly subscribe to – be warned if you are inclined to visit…

Badass Book Smugglers – a historical reality? http://avalinahsbooks.space/discussion-badass-book-smugglers-historical-reality/ I loved reading this amazing story of resistance and bravery in the face of overwhelming odds.

80 Years of Caldecott Winners https://jenniefitzkee.com/2018/03/19/80-years-of-caldecott-winners/ This impressive list of outstanding children’s books is worth a visit, even if there aren’t any small people in your life requiring the written word…

Birds of the Far South (Pt.II) https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/bird-of-the-far-south-pt-ii/ For the bird lovers among you – or those that appreciate a wonderful photograph.

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

Teaser Tuesday – 20th March, 2018

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Burn Bright – Book 6 of the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs

26% Charles frowned. “Both of us left our cell phones at home. They’re in the office – you can check to see if he called.”
“We know, we did. And there’s been nothing. We were hoping that maybe he’d gotten in touch the other way.”
If something had happened to his phone, Bran could talk to his pack mind to mind. He couldn’t hear them in return, but it was still a handy thing.
“No.” And wasn’t that odd? And unlike Bran. Almost as unlike Bran as taking a vacation in Africa.

BLURB: 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…

Yep. I’m up to my old tricks – starting a series right in the wrong place. But so far, this has been a marvellous read. It started with a bang and hasn’t let up so far. I’m looking forward to tucking into the rest of it very soon.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Wolfsbane – Book 4 of the Silver series by Rhiannon Held

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I have really enjoyed the previous books in this superior werewolf series – see my reviews of SilverTarnished and Reflected – and was delighted to see this one on my Kindle, evidently bought as a gift from Himself.

When an envoy arrives from the secretive Russian werewolf pack, Roanoke alphas Silver and Andrew Dare are instantly suspicious. Tatiana claims she has been sent to locate an heirloom, lost by immigrants centuries ago, but she and the alphas both suspect that Russia fears the strength of the newly-united, continent-spanning Roanoke pack.

This is an interesting book. Andrew and Silver are absolutely correct to be concerned about this envoy as they fall prey to an unusual form of attack and while they lie comatose, fighting for their lives, they find themselves in vivid dreams or visions where an alternative timeline prevails.

It isn’t necessarily the same timeline and there is some confusion/crossover where Andrew, in particular, knows that he isn’t really a brutalised enforcer at the mercy of an inept alpha he actually took care of years ago. And that lands him in a shedload of trouble, just at a time when he doesn’t need it. However, it is Silver’s timeline which is probably the most heart-rending. In her alternate timeline, she has escaped the devastating effects of being injected with silver, so she no longer struggles with a paralysed arm or is unable to Change. So you’d think she would be capering for joy – except the consequences for her pack having not been the one hit is catastrophic. She is whole and her family are still alive, but the cost is terrible…

Meanwhile the Russian envoy, who incapacitated these two high-profile alphas, is having to cope with some hard truths of her own. Expecting to be torn to pieces for attacking Andrew and Silver, she is shaken at the response, having been raised so very differently. While I would recommend you read the series in order, this book would make a good entry point with the flashbacks and as we follow Tatiana as she copes with the difference in customs between the Russian and US packs, we learn a fair amount about the politics in this complex, intriguing world that Held has constructed. I was also pleased to meet up with John and Susan again – they are solid favourites of mine, particularly Susan. It’s refreshing to read an urban fantasy werewolf series where the strong characters aren’t necessarily the largest and shaggiest with the sharpest teeth.

Knowing how Held can take a story and produce unexpected twists, the pages flew by as I was engrossed in this story right up to the end. I don’t think this is her best book – the visions/dreams did slightly remove that edge of danger that generally permeates these adventures. However, there was more character development and it was lovely to get back to this enjoyable, complex world. I’m very much looking forward to reading more books in this quality series.
8/10

Sunday Post – 15th October 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I don’t expect to have another fortnight quite like this last one anytime soon. I’m recovering from flu – but it’s taking its own sweet time to move on. In the meantime my nose is running like a tap, I have backache, tinnitus, headaches and a temperature and I’m really fed up with feeling this lousy. Oh, and on Wednesday, I self-published my first novel, Running Out of Space. Needless to say, the launch was very lowkey. But it is ‘out there’. On Amazon. I keep nipping across to have look… And despite feeling like something the cat sicked up, every time I look at the cover I find myself grinning…

I hope you have a good week and in the meantime, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I feel less like a snot-powered zombie and more like my old self by tomorrow night so I can resume my Creative Writing classes before my students forget what I look like.

This week I have read:

The King’s Name – Book 2 of The Tir Tanagiri series by Jo Walton
The warrior Sulien ap Gwien and her lord King Urdo have finally united the land of Tir Tanagiri into a kingdom ruled by justice under a single code of law. But where many see a hopeful future for the land, others believe they sense the seeds of a new tyranny. Soon Tir Tanagiri faces the blight of civil war, and Sulien ap Gwien must take up arms against former comrades and loved ones, fighting harder and harder to hold on to Urdo’s shining dream.
This sequel that concludes Walton’s magical version of the Arthurian legend continues to deliver. See my review of the first book The King’s Peace. Marvellous writing and a wonderful, poignant ending that is still resonating with me…

 

The Hostage Heart by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
When Emma Ruskin becomes governess to 10-year-old Poppy Ackroyd, the haughty Ackroyd family all treat her with contempt – particularly Gavin, the effortlessly superior eldest son. Yet Emma realises that Gavin alone genuinely cares for Poppy and their unexpected rapport flatters and alarms her – surely he is out of her league?
I requested this book without realising it was a romance adventure this author had written relatively early in her writing career. But as it happens, although romantic fiction isn’t generally my go-to genre, I really enjoyed this sprightly, enjoyable adventure.

 

Wolfsbane – Book 4 of the Silver series by Rhiannon Held
When an envoy arrives from the secretive Russian werewolf pack, Roanoke alphas Silver and Andrew Dare are instantly suspicious. Tatiana claims she has been sent to locate an heirloom, lost by immigrants centuries ago, but she and the alphas both suspect that Russia fears the strength of the newly-united, continent-spanning Roanoke pack. What Tatiana doesn’t realize is that her pack is willing to sacrifice even their own trained spy for their goals…
I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this clever, nuanced werewolf world once more, after falling in love with the first three books – see my reviews of Silver, Tarnished and Reflected – and I am delighted to see that Held has decided to self-publish this book after her publishers took the decision to no longer continue with this series.

 

Falling Apart – Book 2 of the Otherworlders series by Jane Lovering
Jessica Grant liaises with Otherworlders for York Council so she knows that falling in love with a vampire takes a leap of faith. But her lover Sil, the City Vampire in charge of Otherworld York, he wouldn’t run out on her, would he? He wouldn’t let his demon get the better of him. Or would he? Sil knows there’s a reason for his bad haircut, worse clothes and the trail of bleeding humans in his wake. If only he could remember exactly what he did before someone finds him and shoots him on sight.
I loved Vampire State of the Mind featuring a feisty heroine who helps to keep the ancient city of York safe for its human inhabitants. This adventure gives us more insights into the courageous, funny cast of characters when one of them is threatened. Or is he actually the threat? The Department for Otherworldly Affairs has to deliver a decision – along with a dead vampire… I really enjoyed this one and the snarky humour was very welcome as I sneezed and snuffled my way through the action.

 

A Local Habitation – Book 2 of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire
Toby Daye-a half-human, half-fae changeling-has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world had other ideas… Now her liege, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills, has asked Toby to go to the Country of Tamed Lightening to make sure all is well with his niece, Countess January O’Leary. It seems like a simple enough assignment-until Toby discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, and that if the killer isn’t stopped, January may be the next victim.
Another classy series that I started with Rosemary and Rue a while ago and taken a while to return to. This classic murder mystery, where the victims are picked off one by one as Toby desperately tries to unravel who is committing these crimes, is gripping and unexpectedly poignant at the end. There is a real sense of loss over the deaths, which I appreciated. No doubt about it – McGuire’s writing packs a punch.

My posts last week:

Teaser Tuesday featuring Falling Apart – Book 2 of the Otherworlders series by Jane Lovering

PUBLISHED TODAY! featuring Running Out of Space – Sunblinded: 1 by S.J. Higbee

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Shadowblack – Book 2 of the Spellslinger series
by Sebastien de Castell

Friday Face-off – You have nice manners for a thief and a LIAR! featuring Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton

Review of Waking Gods – Book 2 of The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week and a bit, in no particular order:

Saying Thanks to Great Teachers https://dogdaysanddelights.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/saying-thanks-to-great-teachers/ A moving tribute to a clearly remarkable teacher by someone who wants to say thank you. Before it’s too late…

Finding Inspiration in the Space Race – In the Spotlight Guest Post http://www.secondrunreviews.com/2017/10/finding-writing-inspiration-space-race-guest-post.html Yours truly musing on the impact that growing up during the height of the space race had on my expectations

Times they are a-changing (I hope) ~ on the prevalence of sexual harassment & on why we’re starting to speak up https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2017/10/12/times-they-are-a-changing-i-hope-on-the-prevalence-of-sexual-harassment-on-why-were-starting-to-speak-up/ Viv’s articles are always worth reading and I particularly enjoyed this one…

Richard & Linda Thompson, Sam Cooke and Charlie Rich – The Cry for Home! https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/09/26/richard-linda-thompson-sam-cooke-and-charlie-rich-with-the-cry-for-home/ If you love popular music, then swing by this marvellous site. I don’t know anyone who writes with such passion and knowledge about the music we grew up with.

We won Best Books And Literature Blog Of The Year! https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/we-won-best-books-and-literature-blog-of-the-year/ I thoroughly enjoy browsing this entertaining library blog where the staff chat about books in an approachable entertaining way. No wonder they won – congratulations, guys.

ANDDD…

Rainne Atkins has kindly invited me today to share my top ten fiction authors during my blog tour for Running Out of Space on her delightful book blog Just Books

 

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Sweep in Peace – Book 2 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

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Back in February, I read the first book in this entertaining series, Clean Sweep – read my review here. At that point, Himself bought the other two books in the series so far and tucked into them, but I don’t like reading books from the same series back to back. However, I hadn’t planned on leaving it quite so long before returning to this world.

Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance. Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn…and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…

Dina is on a mission. Her parents, along with their magical inn, disappeared without trace some six years ago and despite an exhaustive search, no one has seen any hint of them. She has now decided to settle down and run her own inn – though she has also posted pictures of her missing family and watches every guest’s reaction as they walk through the door, hoping that one day someone will offer valuable information – or betray a shocked jolt of recognition. However taking on this particular mission is doing things the hard way.

I loved the sense that Dina is plunged into a situation well over her head and scrambling to keep up, often several steps behind. She is a likeable protagonist – steady and determined, particularly when under pressure, but with the ongoing vulnerability of constantly missing her parents.

Andrews is also good at writing animals – Dina’s little dog is suitably annoying and yappy, except when he… isn’t. And when a cat makes an appearance, I was also convinced – I get a bit fed up when pets are depicted with too much treacly sentimentality. But what sets this intriguing fantasy/science fiction mashup apart is the originality of the premise – and how effectively Andrews raises the stakes. We are left in no doubt as to the high cost of this terrible war raging between two warlike species – and the impact on everyone, those taking part as well as those caught between them.

In addition, Dina finds her own happiness held hostage as to the outcome of the peace conference. Andrews’ pacing and handling of the narrative tension is spot on as she steadily ramps up it up with a mixture of the domestic mundane with a twist of fantasy – the galactic superchef produces wonderful meals and Dina has to spend a lot of time and magic ensuring each delegation’s needs are fully met – with the crucial details we need to understand exactly how important it all is. This is all deftly done, producing a smooth, enjoyable read that covers all the epic consequences of this nasty war through the fallout in Dina’s magical inn.

I have the next book in this entertaining series – One Fell Sweep – and I won’t be waiting so long to get to it and if you are seeking an interesting fantasy with a sci fi twist, then this series comes highly recommended.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Invisible Library – Book 1 of the Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

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I have read a steady stream of positive reviews for this book – and being a bibliophile myself, I treated myself to this one a while ago… It was high time I got around to it, so I did.

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

I really enjoyed Irene’s character – brought up knowing that she would eventually always work for the Library as her parents were both Librarians, she is slightly apart from many of her colleagues. She is also cool-headed and used to keeping her own counsel – quite different from many of the rather emotional protagonists we are used to seeing in fantasy adventure. I enjoyed watching her character progress throughout the book, particularly as she has to accept that the Library might not be as principled about using its hapless employees as she likes to think.

She is supported by her new assistant Kai, who is something of a puzzle. Cogman nicely builds up the tension as Irene struggles in a hostile world someone alongside that she does not fully trust. I really enjoyed Cogman’s trick of presenting us with the situation only for us to discover that all is not what it seems – my favourite kind of storytelling. The pacing and steady increase in the stakes and danger level of this adventure is very well handled. Given the rigorous rules Irene has to abide by and the particular way the world works, it would have been all too easy for the tension to trickle away in wordy explanations. Cogman avoids this trap with the dexterity of someone who clearly knows what she is doing.

Having wound up the story so that I stayed up way too late to find out what would happen next, the climax had to be something special. And it is. We have a nicely nasty antagonist who I outright hated and will clearly continue to pose all sorts of dark threats in later books. Several other book bloggers have mentioned how as soon as they completed The Invisible Library, they immediately went on to read the second book in the series, The Masked City. If I had had the second book to hand. I would certainly have done the same thing. As it is, I have ordered it from the library (sadly not the invisible variety) and look forward to reading the next slice of Irene’s adventure very soon. Highly recommended.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Clean Sweep – Book 1 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

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Himself had picked up this one up as a Recommended Read and loaded it up on our Kindles – and after reading it, enthusiastically suggested I also read it. And I generally listen to Himself on the subject of books…

cleansweepOn the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina. And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night… Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved.

Dina is a thoroughly engaging protagonist. Impulsive, brave and with an over-developed sense of responsibility, she immediately plunges into this adventure when she feels the caretaker of this territory is not doing enough. I really enjoyed her character, particularly as she also has a vulnerability that pulled me further onto her side. She has lost her parents, who disappeared from their thriving Inn and though she has spent years trying to track them down, all her efforts have ended in failure.

As for this particular threat – she quickly finds she has met her match and needs some help. Once again, this urban fantasy adventure delivers in giving us an interesting take on both vampires and werewolves. The science fiction twist is a delight and I liked the supporting cast – Sean, the touchy alpha werewolf and her one and only permanent guest, Caldenia, the aristocrat in hiding. There is plenty of sharp dialogue with a fair amount of humour.

Meanwhile, I cared about the main plotline – Andrews puts her young innkeeper in real jeopardy and I stayed awake reading far longer than I should have in order to discover how the final climactic battle would resolve itself. For fans of urban fantasy, this is a well written, enjoyable take on the genre with some refreshing touches. No wonder Himself recommended it – I do, too.
9/10

Favourite Fantasy Worlds – Part 2

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I posted my first five Favourite Fantasy Worlds a few weeks ago, so here are the next group. All of these worlds are well developed, nicely complex and provide satisfying backdrops for the stories. It’s no accident they are all series. One of the reasons I really enjoy multi-book story arcs is the extra layers of detail that can be built into the worldbuilding.

The Glass Thorns series by Melanie Rawn
This original, remarkable series is set in the equivalent age of the Tudors, with horse-drawn conveyances Touchstoneand charts the fortunes of a magical travelling theatre company. In the first book, Touchstone, they form their group and the next three books in the series records their highs and lows as they steadily get more prosperous and successful. Though that brings its own pressures. The glass thorns of the series title, are the drugs the actors dose themselves with, in order to heighten their emotions – or help them relax after the excitement of performance. I eagerly await each book and so far, have not been disappointed at the unfolding drama of these enormously talented, difficult people battling to produce their best work in less than ideal circumstances.

The Worlds of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones
This series of books covers the adventures of the state-appointed enchanter Chrestomanci, who is taskedCharmedLife with keeping law and order amongst the magical community. I have read most of these books to my granddaughter, after having devoured them myself several decades ago – my favourite is Charmed Life. And rereading them aloud has not only proved they can stand the test of time, but increased my respect at the quality of the writing, the crafting of the story arcs and the sheer quirky genius of Jones’ imagination. Yes – I know they are supposed to be for children, but give them a go if you appreciate magical mayhem. They are a joy for any age group.

The Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong
nohumansinvolvedThis world is extensively portrayed in the thirteen-book series, with a number of accompanying novellas and short stories. It all kicks off with Bitten, where werewolf Clay accidentally bites his girlfriend – and her life is never the same again. But don’t go away with the idea that the series is all about werewolves – it also encompasses witches, necromancers and vampires. In short, anyone who dabbles with the paranormal or magic. Read my review of No Humans Involved. The world is enjoyable – I love the way Armstrong manages to slide from everyday normality into something else.

Einarinn by Juliet E. McKenna
Again, this extensive, detailed world has been produced over a long period of time through several series dangerous watersof books – there are five books within The Tales of Einarinn; four books in The Aldabreshin Compass; three books and a novella in The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution and her latest trilogy, still set within the same world – The Hadrumal Crisis. Juliet provides an excellent explanation of her world on her blog. They are all great reads – but my personal favourites are The Aldabreshin Compass series and The Hadrumal Crisis – see my review of Dangerous Waters.

The Inheritance trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
thehundredthousandkingdomsThis is an extraordinary series – particularly the first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms which is set in the city Sky where gods and mortal co-exist. See my review here. The book is pervaded by the sense of threat and a feeling that a set of rules apply here that our protagonist needs to know, but doesn’t fully understand. The second book, The Broken Kingdoms had me in tears at the end – and that doesn’t happen all that often, these days. If you like remarkable fantasy on an epic scale focusing on gods, then give it a go.

And there you have it… a few of my favourite fantasy worlds to date. What are your favourite fantastic worlds?

Review of *NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Kindle EBOOK of Fire Touched Book 9 of the Mercy Thompson series

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Himself is a solid fan of this series and had pre-ordered this book, though I had slightly lost touch with this supernatural urban fantasy adventure since the early days – see my review of Blood Bound here. Has this long-running series run out of steam?

firetouchedTensions between the fae and humans are coming to a head. And when coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her Alpha werewolf mate, Adam, are called upon to stop a rampaging troll, they find themselves with something that could be used to make the fae back down and forestall out-and-out war: a human child stolen long ago by the fae. Defying the most powerful werewolf in the country, the humans and the fae, Mercy, Adam and their pack choose to protect the boy no matter what the cost. But who will protect them from a boy who is fire touched?

The story hits the ground running and whisked me straight back into Mercy’s world with a deftness that always wins me over. Though this time around, she is happily married to Adam – a huge improvement on the romantic shilly-shallying that was going on in the earlier books. Depicting a solidly happy marriage in a long-running series is trickier than it might seem, but I reckon Briggs has nailed this one. I like the strong bond between them that didn’t descend into unrealistic treacle. Not that they have all that much time to stare meaningfully into each others’ eyes…

It all kicks off very fast and the threat continues to ramp up, as Mercy’s impulsive drive to protect a frightened refugee leaves the pack very exposed and Adam with some hard choices. It goes without saying that there are a whole cast of strong, enjoyable characters who also feature in the mayhem. My two favourites are Zee, the grumpy Fae smith with a galaxy-sized chip on his shoulder and Baba Yaga – Briggs’ version of this famous Russian witch is enjoyable.

As well as providing entertaining characters, Briggs excels at unspooling the action. She understands that in order for the big, crashing climaxes to really work, we also need quieter moments to reflect exactly what is going and just how high the stakes are being raised. And scenes that tip into farce can also provide much-needed light relief. I really enjoyed these.

I had expected to be whisked away into the another of mischief and mayhem – it’s why I’m a fan of speculative fiction – what I hadn’t anticipated from the ninth book in the series, was the same chirpy insouciance that was apparent in the earlier novels. It is a given that as a series progress, the initial light-heartedness inevitably fades away as the stakes are gradually raised ever higher. But episodes like the rescue of Sherwood Post from the top of a crane and the spatula smack in the kitchen made me grin and kept all the life and death stuff from getting too heavy.

That said, was the final denouement sufficiently satisfying? Oh yes. There were still a few twists to keep it exciting and plenty of drama, while I have a hunch that Mercy and the pack will be dealing with some of the fallout from this business in the future. In short, this was a blast. If you like urban fantasy with a feisty heroine and werewolf action, then it doesn’t get better than this.
10/10