Review: Games Creatures Play by Charlaine Harris & Toni LP Kelner et al.

 

Title: Games Creatures Play

Authors:  Charlaine Harris (Editor), Toni L.P. Kelner (Editor) , Jan Burke , Dana Cameron, Adam-Troy Castro , Brendan DuBois, Joe R. Lansdale , Laura Lippman, Seanan McGuire, Brandon Sanderson , Scott Sigler , Caitlin Kittredge, William Kent Krueger, Ellen Kushner, Mercedes Lackey

Published: Jo Fletcher Books April 2014

Status: Read from April 10 to 11, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Games Creatures Play is an entertaining anthology from fifteen contributors, with each short story featuring the unusual combination of the paranormal and sports.

Some of the authors didn’t venture too far from their comfort zone. ‘Into the Blue Hereafter’ by Charlaine Harris is set at a softball game in Bon Temps, where Sookie Stackhouse and Manfred Bernado meet for the first time. Similarly Seanan McGuire doesn’t stray far from the familiarity of her InCryptid series, ‘Jammed,’ in which a chimera is on the rampage during a Roller Derby, features Antimony Price. I enjoyed both stories in part at least because of my familiarity with the characters and their worlds.

My favourites included Scott Sigler’s ‘The Case of the Haunted Safeway’, a ghostly tale of love and baseball which managed to be funny, sweet and a little bit spooky all at the same time, Jan Burke’s ‘Stepping into the Dead Zone’ which portrays dodgeball as a test of loyalty and friendship, and ‘Bell, Book and Candlepin‘ by Toni L. P. Kelner in which more than just the bowling balls are returned.

In Games Creatures Play you will find witches, monster stompers, faeries, Gods, ghosts and more, all playing to win and even though I have very little interest in sport in general, I really enjoyed this anthology. Get ready, get set and go… pick up a copy today.

Games Creatures Play is available to purchase from

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Review & Giveaway: Beached by Ros Baxter

Title: Beached {Aegira Chronicles #2}

Author: Ros Baxter

Published: Escape Publishing April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from April 06 to 07, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Beached is the second book in Ros Baxter’s Aegira Chronicles, a fantasy trilogy with a creative twist on Norse legend. The first, Fish Out of Water, introduced Rania Aqualina, deputy sheriff of small town Dirtwater, and half mermaid. Her investigation into the discovery of a dead blonde with a fish tattoo on Main Street leads Rania to uncover a plot which could mean the end of her underwater home, Aegira, and her own life, at the hands of a crazed sorcerer, Manos.

In Beached, the focus of the story shifts to Rania’s sister, Princess Lecanora whom the Queen has sent to Land to find support for the battle against the Sorcerer from none other than the Presidential candidate. Lecanora, while struggling to adjust to the ways of the Land, joins her sister, mother and their allies to gain the candidates favour while dodging over zealous bodyguards, Manos’s army and saving two worlds.

The action is fast paced, as Manos launches his attack, determined to take Lecanora as his bride so he can rule over Aegira, and destroy any chance of the prophecy of ‘the Three’ thwarting him by killing Rania. The fight moves between land and sea, finally culminating in an epic battle in Aegira.

As in Fish Out of Water, there is a strong romantic element within the story and it’s Rania’s ex, Doug, who leaves Lecanora breathless. Peace loving Lecanora is baffled by her attraction to the gun toting, ex special forces, bad ass and the strange feelings he evokes. It’s insta-love of a sort, but not too badly done.

I enjoyed the humour which came from Rania’s snark, and Lecanora’s naïveté. Baxter writes well, with snappy dialogue and descriptive prose. I’d recommend reading Fish Out of Water before Beached though it’s not strictly necessary, Baxter provides enough back story to orient a reader new to the trilogy.

Beached, like Fish Out of Water, is a fun book, combining action, fantasy, humour and romance, which I really enjoyed. I’m looking forward to reading the final adventure in the Aegira Chronicles.

***

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Beached

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Review: Werewolf Sings the Blues by Jennifer Harlow

Title: Werewolf Sings the Blues {A Midnight Magic Mystery #2}

Author: Jennifer Harlow

Published: Midnight Ink March 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 06 to 07, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Werewolf Sings the Blues is the second book in Jennifer Harlow’s Midnight Magic Mystery series but not at all what I expected after reading the first, What’s a Witch to Do?

“Vivian Frances Dahl, daughter to Frank and Michelle, I am here to protect you and deliver you to safety. No harm will come to you, I swear on my life, but we must leave now. Please get in the car. Now.”

When a pair of US Marshall’s turn up at a gig to ask singer Vivian Dahl questions about her father, she is surprised, given she hasn’t seen or heard from the man in nearly thirty years, but it’s not until one draws a gun and the other forcefully grips her arm and starts dragging her through the underground car park that she realizes something isn’t quite right. Moments later, her captors are trading gunfire with the hot, built, blonde Adonis -with a paw?! -she suspected of stalking her and she is forced to make a quick decision. What follows is a wild cross country road trip as Vivian learns her estranged father is a the Alpha of the North American werewolf pack, her saviour, Blondie aka Jason, his second in command, and adopted son, and she is in grave danger from a rogue wolf making a bid for power.

Luckily Vivian is no princess, her rebellious teen years and party hard life style as a wannabe singing star means she can hold her own when things get difficult. Vivian is not your typical heroine, self absorbed, not averse to (more than) a few drinks, a hit of cocaine or a casual shag, I didn’t warm to her initially. She carries a lot of anger due to her father’s desertion, her mother’s disinterest, the failure of her career to launch and the breakdown of two marriages. Viv freely admits she is selfish and bitter but spending time first with Jason and then the Pack in her father’s Virginian compound her attitude begins to change.

I was surprised by the increase in action and violence in this story, particularly during the final scenes, when contrasted with the first book. What’s a Witch to Do? had a paranormal romance/ cosy mystery feel, this is much darker in content, more like urban fantasy, though with more focus on the romance than is usual for the genre. I felt there wasn’t a lot of mystery in the story either, the identity of the mole is obvious from the moment of his introduction. It does still have the snark and biting humour familiar to readers of the author’s backlist though.

I also found it odd that this installment takes place eight years earlier than What’s a Witch To Do? Though Adam and Mona, amongst other characters from the F.R.E.A.K.S. series, make an appearance, the link between the two books in the series isn’t clear and I’m wondering in which direction the author plans to take the series next.

Despite the unexpected direction in which Harlow chose to take this series, and the unconventional characterisation of the protagonist, I did enjoy Werewolf Sings The Blues. It’s a fast paced, action packed easy read with plenty of humour to balance the darker moments.

Available to Purchase from

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Click the cover to read my review of Book 1

Review: A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey

Title: A Breath of Frost {Lovegrove Legacy #1}

Author: Alyxandra Harvey

Published: Bloomsbury ANZ January 2014

Status: Read from January 15 to 17, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A Breath of Frost is the first book in Alyxandra Harvey’s The Lovegrove Legacy trilogy. Set in the early 1800′s, it features three debutante cousins, Emma, Gretchen and Penelope, who discover their secret family legacy, and open the gates to the Underworld, after Emma accidentally breaks a keepsake given to her by her mother. As murderous witches and hellish beasts threaten the magical community, the girls must embrace their legacy to end the deadly chaos.

While each of the cousins is involved in this story, the focus of this first book is on Emma. It is she who stumbles across murdered classmates, she who the Order targets, and she who must solve her mother’s riddles to banish the terrifying Greymalkin sisters. I liked Emma, who is not complex but not stereotypical either. Though all three girls seem to be rather casual in their acceptance of their new world order, I’m grateful not to have to endure lady like fainting and fluttering. There is romance for Emma as well with Cormac Fairfax, a young man without magic but who works for the Order and is determined to protect her.

I enjoyed the world building, Harvey establishes the novel well blending the historical with the supernatural. There is some contemporary interpretation of historical detail, like language and behaviour, which purists may be peevish about but didn’t really bother me. Witches are amongst my favourite paranormal elements and I liked the variety of magics Harvey created including spells, charms and innate abilities.

I do think the novel was overwritten though and could have been pruned by at least 50 pages without detracting from the atmosphere, plot or characters. There was some scene repetition and the pace was a little uneven, but there was also some good action and a couple of twists.

I have to admit I wasn’t really expecting much from A Breath of Frost, I didn’t think much of a previous book I had read by the author, but I am glad I gave this a chance because despite its flaws it is overall an entertaining and engaging read.

Available to Purchase From

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Review: Lord of the Hunt by Shona Husk

Title: Lord of the Hunt {Court of Annwyn #2}

Author: Shona Husk

Published: Sourcebooks January 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from January 11 to 12, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

The second book in the Court of Annwyn trilogy, Shona Husk’s ‘Lord of the Hunt’ invites us into fairyland where winter is approaching as the reign of King Gwyn nears its end. With the acrimony between the King and Queen accelerating the death of Annwyn, and no clear successor to the throne, the court is in flux and it’s not a good time to be seeking the favour of the King, but Taryn has no choice. Any fae on the mortal side of the veil at the moment of the crowns transfer will die and Taryn must ask the King to revoke her father’s exile and allow her parents to return to Annwyn so they may survive. Having been raised in the mortal world, Taryn is naive about the ways of the court but is determined to successfully negotiate its perils to save her parents.

Taryn finds an unlikely ally in Verden, The Lord of the Hunt and the King’s most loyal subject. Verden is drawn to Taryn’s innocence and beauty, risking the displeasure of the King and his own position when he falls in love with her. The forbidden romance between Taryn and Verden is at the heart of the story and while the relationship develops quickly it doesn’t seem forced. I enjoyed reading of their stolen moments of passion, their secretive forays into the mortal world and their struggle to be both loyal and true.

The world building is intricate and convincing. The politics and intrigue of court play out in the background of this novel as the fairies maneuver for the power of the throne. Prince Felan, the King and Queen’s son is the obvious heir but the Queen, bitter and hateful, opposes his succession in favour of an unknown threat. Taryn needs the favour of the King but putting the Queen offside is dangerous and she unwittingly becomes a pawn in their feud. The power struggle and the manipulations of court adds plenty of interest to the novel and is a rational obstacle to Taryn and Verden’s romance.

Though this is the second novel in the trilogy, it reads well as a stand alone. Creative and entertaining, The Lord of the Hunt is an engaging paranormal romance.

Click here to read a guest post by Shona Husk posted earlier today at Book’d Out

Available to Purchase From

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AWW Feature: Shona Husk on rules for visiting fairyland

LORD OF THE HUNT BY SHONA HUSK – IN STORES JANUARY 2014

She Wasn’t Cut Out for His World…
The realm of the fairies might be unbelievably beautiful, but its people are notoriously treacherous. Raised among mortals, Taryn hoped to avoid her fairy heritage her whole life. But now she must cross over to Annwyn and appeal to the King to pardon her exiled parents, or they’re sure to die. And to get to the King, she’ll first have to face the Lord of the Hunt…
He Can’t Imagine Life Without Her…
Verden, Lord of the Hunt, is sworn to serve to King. But the moment he sees Taryn, the attraction is instant and devastating. How can he not help the beautiful, brave young woman who refuses to bend to the will of the court? Yet the power in Annwyn is shifting, its magic failing. No matter how much he may love Taryn, the Hunter knows that abandoning his duty could bring down the mortal world forever.

Five essential things to take to Annwyn

This list was inspired by the often asked question what things would take if you were stranded on a desert island (sunscreen, books and a satellite phone so I can call for help). Annwyn isn’t a desert but it is quite possible for humans to be stuck there—my best advice is don’t accept an offer from a fairy to go there no matter what they promise—however history is littered with people who dealt unwisely with fairies. So this is what I’d pack if I knew I was going. YMMV.
1)    Water and food.
The biggest danger is Annwyn is eating and drinking fairy food and water. One bite and you are stuck there until the King decides to release you which could be never. So assuming you are going to be stuck in Annwyn for a finite amount of time before help arrives or you find a way out, take food and water. Of course if you run out well…you’ll have to chance the fairy food and hope the King is feeling lenient and releases you. Just remember not to make any deals as the fairies will always get the better end of the stick.
2)    Vodka.
Yep, I’d be slipping that into the fairies not alcoholic wine just to see what would happen. All their rigid ideals and carefully planned games would fall apart rather rapidly. Once the Court was in disarray it should be easy to negotiate a way home…maybe or they might just throw you in the river of the damned for spiking their drinks.
3)    Chocolate.
Fairies like sweet stuff so this would win over some friends and buy you some much needed favors, perhaps even a way back home that won’t involve trading your soul or bind you up in deals that last for centuries. This is a far less risky strategy than the vodka so maybe try this first.
4)    Mah jong.
Fairies like games, especially games that involve gambling so I think this would be a hit. Unless you can play really well perhaps just show them how it’s done and then let them enjoy, after all losing to a fairy would be a really bad idea.
5)    Books
If all else fails you can get through your to be read pile in the beautiful forests of Annwyn until help arrives. Reading is a much safer pastime than playing with fairies no matter how pretty and tempting they are.

*****

Click here to read my review of Lord of the Hunt

Praise for the works of Shona Husk:
“Romantic and intriguing.” —Publishers Weekly
“Enthralling.” —Booklist
“A great fairy-tale feel…dark, fresh, and tantalizing.” —Anna’s Book Blog

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A civil designer by day and an author by night, Shona Husk lives in Western Australia at the edge of the Indian Ocean. Drawing on history, myth and imagination, she writes about heroes who are armed and dangerous but have a heart of gold—sometimes literally. She is the author of the Shadowlands Series and the Annwyn Series. You can find out more information about Shona and her edgy romances at http://www.shonahusk.com/ or follow her on Twitter, @ShonaHusk.

To Purchase Lord of the Hunt:

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Review & Giveaway: Cemetery Girl by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden

Title: Cemetery Girl {Book One: The Pretenders}

Authors: Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Don Kramer, Daniele Rudoni, Jacob  Bascle

Published: Jo Fletcher Books January 2014

Status: Read on January 07, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Cemetery Girl Book One: The Pretenders is the first in an original graphic novel trilogy authored by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden with art and letters by Don Kramer, Daniele Rudoni and Jacob Bascle.

Cemetery Girl introduces a teenage girl who awakens in a graveyard with no memory of who she is but certain someone tried to kill her. Taking her name from the gravestones that surrounds her, Calexa Rose Dunhill decides to remain hidden until she can figure out who she is and why someone wants her dead.

The mystery of Calexa’s identity, and the person who tried to kill her, is the obvious arc for the series, but the plot of this book features a group of teenagers playing at raising the dead, which takes a dark turn and endangers Calexa. There is a paranormal element to the story, but it is also blends crime and action.

Though the speech/thought is minimal, when combined with the art, the story is communicated clearly. The panels are of various sizes and move the action along well. I think the realistic art is well detailed and the colouring evokes the appropriate atmosphere – shadowy and dark in the cemetery at night or when danger is present, muted when Calexa is alone, brighter when she feels strong and warmer when Calexa is with the cemetery groundskeeper and the old lady she befriends across the street. Memories are tinged with sepia.

This is my first read of a graphic novel and the medium offers much more than I expected. I was impressed, not only entertained but also quickly involved in the storyline and I am curious to know what will happen in Book Two: The Inheritance.

Available to purchase from:

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****************************

GIVEAWAY

Thanks to Jo Fletcher Books

I have

1 print edition of Cemetery Girl to giveaway

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Review: Taste of Darkness by Maria V Snyder

Title: Taste of Darkness {Healer Trilogy #3}

Author: Maria V. Snyder

Published: Harlequin Au January 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from December 27 to 28, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher via netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The final installment in Maria V Snyder’s ‘Healer’ trilogy is an entertaining and satisfying climax to a what has a been an enjoyable series.

Avry, Kerrick and their allies may have won the battle with King Tohon, trapping him in stasis, but not the war, as Cellina and Sepp take control of his troops and a new power, The Skeleton King, arises to bid for control of the Fifteen Realms. Fast paced and action packed there is also plenty of emotional angst as Avry and Kerrick face threats both from without and within.

In terms of the story, new elements are introduced, most notably the Skeleton King, but the focus is on tying up loose ends. Most issues were resolved but some events, like Belen’s fate, were glossed over and I thought the finale was perhaps a little rushed, though overall satisfying.

Though headstrong and often reckless Avry has been a likeable heroine. She is loyal to the cause but her priority is always those she loves. Even though she is separated from Kerrick much of the time their romance matures in this installment and their connection becomes vital in the struggle to win the war.

The Monkeys are their usual irascible selves, and Flea plays a surprisingly crucial role in the storyline, so much so I have to wonder if Snyder is considering a spin off with Flea taking centre stage. I was happy that Captain Od opted to support Avry and had a part in this final.

Combining adventure, fantasy, drama and romance the Healer trilogy is a enjoyable read and I am a little sad to see it end. I hope Snyder will provide the opportunity to visit this world, and its characters again.

Available to Purchase From

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Click the cover for my reviews of books #1 and #2

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Review: How to Run with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper

Title: How to Run with a Naked Werewolf {Naked Werewolf #3}

Author: Molly Harper

Published: Pocket Books December 2013

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from December 22 to 23, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The third book in Molly Harper’s Naked Werewolf series, How to Run with a Naked Werewolf features Dr Anna Moder (AKA Tina), a woman on the run, and Caleb Graham, bounty hunter and werewolf. Those familiar with the previous books, How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf and The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf will recognise the names though here, both Anna and Caleb are far from Grundy, Alaska.

This paranormal romance series is all about well, romance, and humour – lighthearted, fun, escapist entertainment, but there is a sombre side to this installment, Anna (AKA Tina) is on the run from an abusive, obsessive husband and he is a real and ever present threat to her.

The way Harper builds the romance between Anna and Caleb is lovely, from wariness, to friendship to flirtation and lust and despite the compressed time frame, it all seems to evolve naturally. Though Anna is understandably slow to trust him, the chemistry with the sexy and charming Caleb, is believable.

I enjoy Molly Harper’s sense of humour which often demonstrates perfect timing. There is snark but without a mean spirited edge and the banter between characters is laced with quips, without being overdone.

I think Harper makes a good effort of portraying domestic violence with the seriousness it deserves and Anna as a strong and resourceful woman, more survivor than victim. I also really liked that Caleb doesn’t rescue Anna, he supports her, and that is an important distinction.

I enjoyed How to Run with a Naked Werewolf, it is a quick, fun read, even with its serious side. Despite it being part of a series, the installment reads well as a stand alone and fans are sure to be satisfied.

Available to Purchase From

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Review: Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

Title: Gunmetal Magic {Kate Daniels World/Andrea Nash #1}

Author: Ilona Andrews

Published: Ace Fantasy July 2012

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from December 19 to 22, 2013 — I own a copy- A fabulous birthday surprise from Jackie!

My Thoughts:

Gunmetal Magic is a spin off from Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series featuring Andrea Nash. It begins a few weeks after Andrea was summarily dismissed from the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, her shape shifter status having been revealed in Magic Slays. Having spent some time metaphorically licking her wounds, mourning not only the loss of her career but also the messy demise of her relationship with Raphael, she is working for Kate at Cutting Edge when she is assigned to investigate the deaths of four Pack members. The murders uncover the theft of a priceless artifact that leads Andrea to an Egyptian God determined to rise again, and suddenly Andrea is fighting for her life and the lives of those she loves.

The world building is phenomenal as always, of course I am familiar with most of it having read the Kate Daniels series but Andrea’s character offers a slightly different perspective. The action is frantic, and often violent given the nature of the were’s. Andrea is kick ass and doesn’t shy away from any physical confrontation.

Much of the character angle of the novel involves Andrea coming to terms with her werehyena (bouda) nature. As a beastkin she endured a horrific childhood and has avoided the Pack as much as possible, but now she is outed she has to find a way to make peace with who she is and the Clan that claims rights to her.

There is romance too of course with Andrea and Raphael’s relationship in a mess to begin with. It takes some sorting for these two stubborn characters to work out their differences, providing both some hilarious and achingly tender moments.

Many of the Kate Daniels series characters make appearances including Kate, Curran and Ghastek. Though Gunmetal Magic is technically the start of a new series, familiarity with the Kate Daniels series would definitely enhance the reading experience of this debut.

I loved Gunmetal Magic and I am impressed that Andrews has been able to continue the momentum of her well established world into Gunmetal Magic. I can’t wait for the next installment.

Available to purchase from

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