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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

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Sunday Post – 23rd July 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.

Last week was once again, a busy social one. On Tuesday I spent the morning with a good friend – we visited Highdown Gardens and had lunch there, before making our way to the pier at Littlehampton to enjoy the cooling sea breeze as it was a wonderfully hot day. In the afternoon Himself and I went to see Frances in her school play which was devised by the students about the difficult subject of bullying. It was a passionate and moving piece and we were very proud of her. I fitted in my Fitstep class on Wednesday morning and taught Tim in the afternoon. I was able to listen to the professional recording of the cast singing the songs that Tim wrote for the film – it was amazing to actually hear them being sung and a fitting end to a fantastically successful year.

On Friday I ran my one day Creative Writing course at Northbrook. Though it was rather hot, we had a very enjoyable day listening to students’ writing and working on exercises designed to spark creativity through the summer break. Both my classes for the autumn term are now full. In the evening I went out to celebrate Sally’s birthday with a meal at The Fish Factory. She had an extra present – the wonderful news that Tim has passed his first English external exam. Last night we went round to my sister’s for a lovely meal and played some games in what is fast-becoming a really enjoyable weekly routine.

This week I have read:
The Masked City – Book 2 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he’s been kidnapped by the fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.
This is a real treat. The spiky characters we met in the first book are now tested as they struggle in a very personal way with this latest threat to the fabric of the world. We also get to meet more of the Fae – and a thoroughly annoying, self-centred bunch they are. I loved the depiction of this fantastic version of Venice – highly recommended. Review to follow.

 

One Fell Sweep – Book 3 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, is glad to have you. We cater to a particular kind of guests, the ones most people don’t know about. The older lady sipping her Mello Yello is called Caldenia, although she prefers Your Grace. She has a sizable bounty on her head, so if you hear kinetic or laser fire, try not to stand close to the target. Our chef is a Quillonian. The claws are a little unsettling, but he is a consummate professional and truly is the best chef in the Galaxy. If you see a dark shadow in the orchard late at night, don’t worry. Someone is patrolling the grounds. Do beware of our dog. Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your host, Dina Demille, will defend you at all costs. We ask only that you mind other guests and conduct yourself in a polite manner.
This series just goes on getting better and better. I love the steady character development and how we learn more about Dina and her family in each book. This time around, we discover a bit about her sister’s adventures in between another cracking adventure. This is one of my favourite series of the year. Review to follow.

 

Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon
It is a novel set in the future that tells the story of plus-sized Molly Marbles, who wins a scholarship to Armstrong University on the Moon, a haven for the plus-sized set where her weight drops from 287 Earth pounds to 47.6 without so much as passing up a piece of pie. When boyfriend Drew Barron dumps her, then jumps at a job at Congress Drugs, a company that makes low calorie food supplements, Molly’s weight is the least of her woes. And when her favorite treats, Chocolate Moons are found poisoned, she finds she has bitten off more than she can chew.
When author Jackie Kingon read my review of Sherlock Mars, she got in touch and asked if I would like to read the prequel, which gave an account of how Molly got her nickname. I jumped at the chance, finding this quirky read had stuck in my head. I enjoyed this science fiction cosy mystery. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 16th July 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Face the Change – Book 3 of the Menopausal Superheroes series by Samantha Bryant

Teaser Tuesday featuring Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Star Witch – Book 2 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic by Helen Harper

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling my TBR – June Roundup

Friday Face-off – Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those who live on it… featuring The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker

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

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

50 Word Stories: The Catch https://richardankers.com/2017/07/21/50-word-stories-the-catch/
A nicely sharp story from talented wordsmith Richard Ankers.

Untitled https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/07/17/untitled-110/ I love this rippling effect on the building, which turns it into something far more interesting…

…Istanbul is Constantinople… however many letters it takes to spell it… https://seumasgallacher.com/2017/07/20/istanbul-is-constantinople-is-istanbul-however-many-letters-it-takes-to-spell-it/ This recollection from best-selling indie author Seumas Gallacher reminded me of hours of fun playing similar word games when going away on holiday with my grandparents…

Reverse Bucket List https://dogdaysanddelights.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/reverse-bucket-list/ I really like this idea – as well as striving for more adventures, why not celebrate and recollect those we have already experienced?

British Fantasy Awards 2017 – Good News! https://hierath.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/british-fantasy-awards-2017-good-news/ Good news indeed! This is an impressive and astonishing number of nominations for a small indie press – and I’m honoured to be one of the authors they have signed up this year…

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 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

Sunday Post – 26th February 2017

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Sunday Post

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.

It’s been my turn to have a week off, as it’s half term. That said, I’ve been hard at it – last week I suddenly had a breakthrough with how to move forward with Miranda’s Tempest so this week I’ve cracked on with the rewrite and finally completed it Friday afternoon. The relief is staggering – I’d begun to think this was the one that would defeat me… I still have to go through it a couple more times to tidy up the prose and catch those stray pronouns – I’ve changed the viewpoint from first person to third – but hopefully I’ll have it in a readable state before Easter.

Other than that – I’ve read. A lot. It’s amazing just how much more mental energy I have when I’m not teaching or trudging through the inevitable pile of admin that comes with it. Both the Fitstep and Pilates sessions went well this week and I am still thrilled at the progress I’m making fitness-wise. Next week, back into the hurly-burly but I’m still on a high at having completed my rewrite – yay!

This week I have read:

The Mercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson
Riptide, Oregon, 1983. A sleepy coastal town, where crime usually consists of underage drinking down atthemercyofthetide a Wolf Point bonfire. But then strange things start happening—a human skeleton is unearthed in a local park and mutilated animals begin appearing, seemingly sacrificed, on the town’s beaches. The Mercy of the Tide follows four people drawn irrevocably together by a recent tragedy as they do their best to reclaim their lives—leading them all to a discovery that will change them and their town forever.

This book is definitely on the literary end of the speculative fiction spectrum, with a nod to alternative history and magic realism. It is a study of loss and grief. A car crash months before the story starts has killed two women and not only does their death massively impact the main protagonists in the story – it also appears to set off a chain of events that have recurred on this site before.

 

Demon Hunting in Dixie – Book 1 of the Demon Hunting in Dixie series by Lexi George
demonhuntingindixieAddy Corwin is a florist with an attitude. A bad attitude, or so her mama says, ’cause she’s not looking for a man. Mama’s wrong. Addy has looked. There’s just not much to choose from in Hannah, her small Alabama hometown. Until Brand Dalvahni shows up, a supernaturally sexy, breathtakingly well-built hunk of a warrior from – well, not from around here, that’s for sure. Mama thinks he might be European or maybe even a Yankee. Brand says he’s from another dimension. Addy couldn’t care less where he’s from. He’s gorgeous. Serious muscles. Disturbing green eyes. Brand really gets her going. Too bad he’s a whack job. Says he’s come to rescue her from a demon. Puh-lease. But right after Brand shows up, strange things start to happen. Dogs talk and reanimated corpses stalk the quiet streets of Hannah.

This is not my normal fare – I freely admit it. But this was just plain fun. While the insta-love was more about insta-lust, I was prepared to go with the flow as Addy is just so much fun. I enjoyed the fact that she was still concerned about what the neighbours thought and was very mindful of her mother’s opinion even after all the life-changing adventures.

 

Clean Sweep – Book 1 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in cleansweepa 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.

 

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
allthebirdsintheskyPatricia Delfine talks to trees and birds in the hope they will answer back, as they did one amazing day when she was little… Laurence Armstead invents a two-second time machine in his bedroom. Unsurprisingly, they are both targets for the bullies at school who make their lives hell. So under duress, they become unlikely friends. A friendship that is tested and often found wanting as their lives both spin off in amazing directions…

What I won’t be doing is telling you that this is a fantasy or science fiction book, because it’s a little bit of both. After all, one of the major protagonists is a nerdy scientist and the other is a witch. And what Anders is doing throughout this highly readable, roller-coaster adventure is exploring the space between the magical, natural world and the high-tech, scientific community.

 

Very Important Corpses – Book 3 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
The Organisation has despatched Ishmael and his partner Penny to Coronach House on the shores of veryimportantcorpsesLoch Ness where the secretive but highly influential Baphamet Group are holding their annual meeting. The Organisation believes an imposter has infiltrated the Group and they have instructed Ishmael to root him or her out. It s not Ishmael s only mission. The first agent sent by the Organisation has been found dead in her room, murdered in a horribly gruesome manner. Ishmael must also discover who killed his fellow agent, Jennifer Rifkin and why. Dismissive of rumours that the legendary Coronach Creature is behind Jennifer s death, Ishmael sets out to expose the human killer in their midst. But he must act fast before any more Very Important People are killed.

I’ve done my usual trick of dropping into the middle of a series, but while I was aware there was something of a backstory that I didn’t know, most of the action and focus was on the current situation so it wasn’t an issue. Ishamael is certainly an intriguing figure. Endowed with superhuman powers, he is used to dealing with the nasties coming from other dimensions.

 

The Demonic Arctic Expedition – Book 4 of the Skycastle series by Andy Mulberry
thedemonicarcticexpeditionFast-paced, action-packed and funny, perfect for reluctant readers. The Demonic Arctic Expedition is the fourth in a series of MIDDLE GRADE books for fantasy-adventure loving readers. This book contains a scowling demon, an ancient weapon, an adorable Hound of Hell, a sort of angel, a dragon, an ordinary boy and an extraordinary castle. And a not so cuddly polar bear…

Yes… the plot is every bit as surreal and whacky as it sounds. There is also an enchanted sword and a dragon, who spends most of the time coating the dungeon in dragon snot as he has a cold, which he has given to the guardian angel… Mulberry has a trick of pulling in all sorts of classic characters and themes from fantasy and subverting them in her Skycastle adventures. Great fun!

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 19th February 2017

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – The Mercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson

Teaser Tuesday featuring Clean Sweep – Book 1 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling my TBR

Review of The Vanishing Throne – Book 2 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

Friday Face-off – Little Green Men… featuring The Tar-Aiym Krang – Book 1 of the Pip and Flinx series by Alan Dean Foster

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of The Demonic Arctic Expedition – Book 4 of the Skycastle series by Andy Mulberry

 

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

Point of View Blows Up in My Face (or the end of the “Normal’s Menace” experiment)
https://jeanleesworld.com/2017/02/23/point-of-view-blows-up-in-my-face-or-the-end-of-the-normals-menace-experiment/ Jean’s blog is always worth a visit – she is a passionate, talented and searingly honest writer, but this experiment in writing viewpoint is a MUST for anyone who struggles with it.

10 of the Best Poems about Dreams and Dreaming https://interestingliterature.com/2017/02/24/10-of-the-best-poems-about-dreams-and-dreaming/ I love this site – and once more it delivers a series of excellent poems about this mysterious thing we all do…

Space Features of the Week http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/02/23/space-features-week-23-february/ Once more Steph delivers an excellent roundup about what’s going on in space. And plenty is…

Photolicioux – untitled https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/untitled-98/ It may be untitled but I’ll guarantee it’s burn out your visual cortex if you focus on it for too long.

Using Speech-To-Text Software as an Editing Tool http://writershelpingwriters.net/2017/02/using-text-to-speech-software-as-an-editing-tool/ The marvellous Sara Letourneau has set out very clearly in this excellent article how to save your voice and your sanity by getting your computer to read back your work to you during the editing phase.

Thank you for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of the KINDLE Ebook Driven – An Otherworld Stories novella by Kelley Armstrong

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With this very popular werewolf series finally completed, Armstrong has been persuaded to offer those of us suffering from Clay and Elena withdrawal symptoms this novella to ease the pain…

DrivenCains are known for being big, brutish and not-too-bright. The mutt clan embodies all the supernatural world’s worst stereotypes about werewolves. But when young Davis Cain comes to the Pack for help, Alpha Elena Michaels can’t refuse him. However, Elena is also dealing with the Pack’s homegrown monster—Malcolm Danvers, onetime enforcer, full-time psycho, who suddenly appears and forces Elena to make one of the hardest decisions as Alpha. Will he be allowed back into the Pack, or has his past cruelty finally caught up with him?

That is an edited version of the rather chatty blurb in one of a series of novellas and short stories that Armstrong has written between the main novels of the series, designed for fans who want to see the character progression and some of the backstory that doesn’t make it into the main books. While I’m not a huge fan of short stories and short novellas, preferring the longer story arc and deeper characterisation that comes with novels, in this case, with 232 pages, I didn’t find it a problem. An important consideration is that I already know the main characters so well already, that some of the time normally taken to bond with protagonists and learn their strengths and weaknesses is not necessary. And I will stress, again, that Driven is designed for fans of the Otherworld series and not for readers who haven’t yet encountered any of the novels.

Himself ordered the Kindle ebook on its release in December, but the print copy that has only just been released comes with a series of illustrations which look fabulous. So… does the story deliver the goods? Oh yes – I loved this slice of Otherworld goodness. This is Armstrong back to her best, featuring Elena and Clay, the couple that – along with Paige – were always my favourites, anyway. And while this wrinkle isn’t wildly original, I like the way we see progression within the characters we have watched suffer through a thicket of adventures – and the emergence of a major antagonist who loomed over the series in his absence through exploring the damage he’d already inflicted on a number of protagonists.

All in all, this is a slick, enjoyable read and if you are a fan who’d appreciate revisiting the The Pack, then it is recommended. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure and you enjoy urban fantasy at its pacy best in a wide-ranging series whose popularity is well deserved – then track down Bitten, the first book in the series.
8/10

Review of Frostbitten – Book 10 of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong

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Himself has discovered that Armstrong had been busy completing this entertaining series, so decided to track down the books we hadn’t yet read. Starting with Bitten, this urban fantasy series charted the stories of various female protagonists in Armstrong’s supernatural world. And Frostbitten returns to Elena, who featured in Bitten, with this next slice of her adventure.

frostbittenAfter years of struggle, Elena Michaels has finally accepted her life as a werewolf, and learned how to control her wild side. At least, that’s what she believes when she sets off to investigate a series of gruesome murders outside Anchorage. The truth, however, is more complicated. Trapped in a frozen, unforgiving terrain, Elena is forced to confront a deadly secret, and her own untamed nature…

Hm. I’m not overly impressed with this blurb – it makes this book sound like Elena spends a chunk of the narrative agonising over the nature of her own supernatural status… how she is going to cope… what will happen next… While all those issues are present, they are niftily interleaved amongst the full-on action that kicks off right at the start of the book and don’t stop until the final page.

One of the things that impresses me about Armstrong is how much these books vary in tone, depending on who the protagonist is. In No Humans Involved – see my review here – the tension builds slowly and steadily throughout as Jamie battles to work out exactly what is going on. In Personal Demon – see my review here – Hope and Lucas are trying to work out who is responsible for the trail of mayhem, so my attention was held by their unravelling the puzzle. Whereas in Frostbitten, we get to know fairly quickly exactly who is responsible for the murders – the tension comes in whether Elena and Clay can prevail against the mutts. And what Elena is going to decide to do regarding the future of their Pack…

I really enjoyed this update on a character I loved in previous books, and I think Armstrong has achieved a difficult trick – to show a character’s maturation and greater sense of responsibility without her losing her edge. Which is a great deal harder than she makes it look. It was also enjoyable to take Elena right out of her comfort zone and deposit her in a different part of the country – Armstrong has been smart in this long-running series to swing the action around in a variety of different settings, which has also helped to retain the freshness and excitement of each story. I also very much like how she has portrayed the relationship between Elena and Clay, now they are settled with a family.

She tackles a difficult subject – and one I’ve become increasingly intolerant as a plot device – Elena’s feelings when cornered by a rapist. While I’m not going to divulge how she fares – that strays into spoiler territory – I was gratified to see that even though as a werewolf, she is fitter and stronger than the average woman, she was absolutely terrified, and made no bones about it. Quite right, too.

Any woman who has been in that situation knows it is an utterly horrible experience and I get very fed up when writers serve it up as just one more assault. And when the heroine bounces back, right as a trivet so that by the end of the novel, she quite happy to resume her sexual relationship with her boyfriend – the book goes flying across the room, along with a barrage of language I won’t be repeating here. Armstrong has her strong, capable heroine very afraid to the extent that she finds it difficult to function – in other words, she feels like the rest of us when confronted with such a threat.

So, does the story come to a successful conclusion? Oh yes – I was delighted with this slice of werewolf edginess and am eagerly looking forward to reading the next in the series.
9/10

Review of Indie KINDLE EBOOK Xoe: or Vampires, and Werewolves, and Demons, Oh My! – Book 1 of the Xoe Meyers series by Sara C. Roethle

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Sara is a smart, funny writer I’ve met through my blog. So I downloaded and read the first book in her YA fantasy series.

Xoe Meyers had a normal life. So she was stuck going to high school, and she only had a few friends to call her own. She liked her normal life. Things were about to change though, because there’s a new guy in her small town, and he is anything but normal. Before Xoe can say, “Werewolf,” her best friend’s life is in peril, and Xoe’s world is turned upside-down. Then, of course, there’s Jason. Xoe doesn’t trust him as far as she can throw him, and given that he’s a vampire, she’d have to be able to catch him first.

XoeThe chirpy tone of the blurb accurately reflects Xoe’s attitude. This isn’t some angst-ridden cry from the heart set in amongst an uncaring dystopian world. In fact, her daily routine is very familiar – right down to the long-suffering tone Xoe adopts when discussing her classes. Roethle manages to exactly capture the teen voice, with perhaps a slightly less self-absorbed spin on events. But the first slice of the book effectively establishes Xoe and her friends’ daily lives – until it all changes.

I was perfectly willing to suspend my belief regarding that change and go with the flow. Roethle’s lively style sets a cracking pace that doesn’t hang around, as the story then gains extra momentum once everything lurches into the paranormal spectrum. However, this story isn’t about some isolated loner mooching around looking exotically different… Xoe has several close buddies and like many teens of her age, wants to hang out with them. Constantly. So when events start sliding out of control, there’s no thought of this little group coping alone – one of Xoe’s main characteristics is her strong loyalty and sense of protectiveness towards her friends. Which means that in addition to finding Xoe appealing, we need to be convinced about her friends and their relationship dynamic within the group. And it’s a lot harder to do successfully than Roethle makes it look, when the story skips along at such a rate, while ensuring readers know exactly how everyone is feeling and what they are doing. But, again, she ticks that box.

So does Roethle manage to bring this adventure to a satisfactory conclusion, yet leave us wanting more? In the first book of a series, it is always a balancing act – do you leave the story on a cliffhanger, hoping your readers will be compelled to immediately reach for the second book to discover what happens next? And I’m delighted to report that Roethle resisted the temptation to go down that route. All the major plotpoints are satisfactorily tucked up, bringing this particular slice of action to a conclusion with a real sense of pleasure – yet with the knowledge that there are a handful of outstanding issues that will need attention sometime very soon.

This is a charming, enjoyable beginning to this YA series and one that once she is a few years older, I’ll have no hesitation in introducing to my granddaughter. In the meantime, I’ll be tracking down Accidental Ashes, the second book in the series – Xoe is definitely a teen I want to meet again.
8/10