Review: Jinn and Juice by Nicole Peeler

 

Title: Jinn and Juice {The Jinni #1}

Author: Nicole Peeler

Published: Orbit April 2015

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Status: Read on April 03, 2015  – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:
Jinn and Juice introduces a new paranormal romance/urban fantasy series from Nicole Peeler.

It’s less than a week until Lyla will finally be free of the curse that condemned her to a thousand years of servitude when Ozan, a Magi needing her help to find a missing girl, binds her to his will. A Jinn, Lyla has little choice but to obey her new Master and can only hope he will stick to their agreement to release her when their mission is complete, but Lyla will have face to her worst nightmare before her most heartfelt wish cam be granted.

Lyla was the teenage daughter of a an ancient Persian king, desperate to avoid being married off, when she was cursed by the genie she sought help from. Now she is a Jinn and a belly dancer/burlesque performer at a Pittsburgh club, biding her time until the curse expires.

Lyla’s inner circle have her back and are a fun and interesting group, including a gay Delphi Oracle, a Will-o-the-Wisp, a half troll and a psychic drag queen.

The romance between Lyla and Oz doesn’t offer any real surprises but it is enjoyable. Lyla resents Oz at first and certainly doesn’t trust him, but eventually comes to realise he is a genuine and honourable guy.

There is plenty of humour, some of it a little crude and obvious but fun and snarky nevertheless. The action is fast paced as Lyla hunts for her new Master’s missing friend, which leads to a deadly confrontation with an age old enemy.

Set in modern day Pittsburgh, I liked the way in which Peeler uses the landscape and ‘stains’ the magic with steel. ‘Sideways’ is the magical world that overlaps our own and embraces a variety of creatures and beasties.

I enjoyed Jinn and Juice, it was a quick, escapist read for a lazy afternoon.

 

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Review: Witch Upon a Star by Jennifer Harlow

 

Title: Witch Upon a Star {A Midnight Magic Mystery #3}

Author: Jennifer Harlow

Published: Midnight Ink March 2015

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Status: Read from March 05 to 07, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The events in Witch Upon a Star take place twenty years before Mind Over Monsters and twenty one years before the events in What’s a Witch to Do?.

Anna Olmstead is just nine when she meets Asher, a dashing, centuries old vampire who rescues her from her father pimping both his daughter’s magical talent and more to any one with a few dollars. Asher is her saviour, he provides her a life of wealth and privilege, love and protection and as Anna grows she is determined to always be at his side. At fourteen she becomes Asher’s legal consort and later his lover, believing all of her dreams have come true. Eventually however the relationship begins to sour as Asher’s true nature asserts itself, and things begin to spiral out of control. Still she can’t let go, and Asher refuses to free her, until one murderous, bloody night.
Almost a decade later Anna is happily married and the mother of two young sons, her life with Asher behind her, when an attempt is made to kidnap her and Anna has no choice except to confront the man she once loved with all her heart.

Witch Upon a Star is not what I expected, it has none of the lightness found in What’s a Witch to Do? and is much darker than Werewolf Sings the Blues though is still billed as A Midnight Magic Mystery.

Witch Upon a Star is actually a story of corrupted innocence and dark obsession. There is little humour, and the themes are confronting touching on child abuse, drug addiction and exploitation. Don’t get me wrong, the novel is well written and the story is quite affecting but I was thrown by the unexpected seriousness.

To be fair the synopsis hints at the seriousness of the story but the whimsical title, cutesy cover and the reputation of the author for snarky humour, contradicts it. As long as the reader is aware of what they are getting into, Witch Upon A Star is a good read.

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Review: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

 

Title: The Mime Order {Bone Season #2}

Author: Samantha Shannon

Published: Bloomsbury January 2015

Status: Read from January 22 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Bone Season introduced nineteen year old Paige Mahoney, a ‘dreamwalker’, fighting to survive in a world where possessing any clairvoyant ability is considered high treason. Caught and arrested by the governing body, Scion, Paige was sent to ‘The Tower’ where she was horrified to learn that captured voyants are handed over to a enigmatic otherworldly race that call themselves the Rephaite, to serve them as slaves or food.

The Mime Order begins as Paige, along with a few dozen other voyants make their escape, with the help of a handful of sympathetic Rephaite, after a bloody rebellion. Though forced to lay low as the Scion, whom she now knows is controlled by the Rephaite, hunt for her, Paige is determined to alert the underground community to the truths she has learned, but no-one, including her Underworld boss Jaxon, seems to care. Paige is baffled and frustrated by the disinterest until she uncovers evidence that several of the Syndicate gang leaders are in league with the Rephaite, profiting by handing over their own people. To fight back, Paige has only one choice…to become the Underqueen of the Syndicate, and then convince the voyants to stand with her against the Rephaite.

I like Paige a lot, she is smart, resourceful, feisty and both her talent and her personality are interesting. She has a core of incorruptible humanity and cares even when it is in her best interest not to. She is faced with some difficult challenges and decisions in The Mime Order but handles them well.

Set in future London following a timeline that splits from ours in the early 1900’s, Shannon’s world building is intricate and vivid. The focus here is on the underbelly of the city, forced underground, London’s clairvoyant’s have formed criminal enclaves each led by a Mime boss and nominally lorded over by an Underking or Underqueen. Paige is a Mollisher (second in command) to Jaxon (also known as the White Binder) but after the events in The Bone Season their relationship is an uneasy one, and only worsens over the course of the novel.

At 528 pages, The Mime Order isn’t a quick read. The pacing can be a little uneven though Shannon tries to ensure crucial information and detail isn’t simply dumped in the reader’s lap. There is plenty of action, danger and suspense as the novel progresses, and the conclusion ends on another cliffhanger.

An action packed fantasy adventure, well conceived and well told, The Mime Order is a strong sequel to The Bone Season. This series is expected to be seven books long, at the moment I can’t quite see how Shannon will manage to sustain the story for that long but I am eager to find out what will happen next.

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Review: Emergence by John Birmingham

Title: Emergence {Dave Hooper #1}

Author: John Birmingham

Published: Pan Macmillan January 2015

Status: Read from January 17 to 19, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher)

My Thoughts:

Emergence is a darkly funny, action packed fantasy adventure from Australian author John Birmingham.

An oil rig off of the coast of New Orleans is under attack, not from terrorists, but from a group of terrifying monsters who have clawed their way up from the deep. Dave Hooper, the rig’s safety engineer, is hungover and pissed when he finds a hairless, scabrous ape like creature that calls itself a Hunn snacking on the ribcage of his best mate and in a fit of rage crushes its skull with a splitting maul. Hours later he wakes in hospital and discovers his battle with the monster has somehow triggered super hero like abilities… and now Dave must save the world.

Dave Hooper is an anti-hero, who works hard but plays even harder. He takes his job seriously but he spends his downtime partying with hookers and blow, dodging the IRS and calls from his wife’s divorce attorney. He is a lousy father with a crude vocabulary and politically incorrect opinions. Dave is not a man you could expect to count on, but the world it seems will have little choice.

The fast paced, explosive action sees the military struggling against the frenzied attack of an advance troop of Hunn as they storm their way through the tears in the veil and set upon New Orleans unprepared citizens. It has been centuries since the Hunn last roamed the earth and they don’t expect any resistance from mankind so they are dismissive of what they encounter, for though armed only with primitive weapons and basic armour, the Hunn possess enormous strength, speed and thick hides. As New Orleans threatens to become overrun by the man eating demons, Dave is forced to step up and vanquish the Hunn back to the Underworld.

Emergence won’t appeal to everyone but I found it richly imaginative, hugely entertaining and inappropriately hilarious. I’m looking forward to Dave Hooper’s next adventure in Resistance.

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Review: Whisper the Dead by Alyxandra Harvey

 

Title: Whisper the Dead { The Lovegrove Legacy #2}

Author: Alyxandra Harvey

Published: Bloomsbury December 2014

Status: Read from November 28 to December 01, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

“Gretchen is struggling with her newfound gift as a Whisperer; the constant buzzing in her ears from detecting spells is more frustrating than fun, especially when she is spending time with one of the Order of the Iron Nail’s Keepers, the icy but strikingly handsome Tobias Lawless. While Gretchen tries to hide the truth from him, London fades from beautiful and bustling to deathly silent . . . Something evil is once again menacing Mayfair, and Gretchen and her cousins must use their powers to prevent a horrible sacrifice.

This second book in the Lovegrove Legacy trilogy is full of dark twists, spellbinding suspense and sweeping romance – perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, Lauren Kate and Ruth Warburton.”

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Review: Talon by Julie Kagawa

 

Title: Talon { Talon #1}

Author: Julie Kagawa

Published: HarlequinTeen November 2014

Status: Read from November 04 to 05, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Ut omnes segimus. As one, we rise.

Talon is the first in a new contemporary fantasy young adult series from author Julie Kagawa.

Centuries ago, dragons were forced into hiding, hunted near to extinction by the legendary dragonslayers, The Order of St George. Shifting into human form allowed dragonkind to survive and even thrive in secret, building a network which has successfully infiltrated human society, biding their time until the day Talon will rise up and reclaim the world.
Ember and Dante Hill are hatchlings who have lived their whole lives hidden within a Talon facility learning the skills they will need to survive as operatives within the organisation. Their last training task requires them to seamlessly assimilate into human society and so for one summer they will live as human teenagers on the sunny coast of LA. Ember is delighted with her new found freedom, but her experiences living among humans, as well as a chance meeting with a rogue dragon, causes her to begin to question the dictates of Talon and when she learns of the organisations plans for her, she is forced to make a difficult choice.

Talon unfolds through the perspectives of Ember, the teenage St George soldier, Garret Xavier Sebastian, tasked with discovering the human identity of the dragon known to have been seeded into the locale, and later, Riley aka Cobalt, a rogue dragon on the run from both Talon and the dragonslayers.

The pace is a little slow to begin with, allowing Kagawa to establish character and back story. There are elements of suspense, intrigue and drama as Ember defies Talon, her scary trainer, Lilith, and her brother, Dante, in search of the truth, while the Order of St George grows ever closer to exposing her. I enjoyed the action as it develops and the last few scenes are tense and fast paced.

Though the love triangle has a bit of a twist in that both Garrett and Riley – one a St George soldier, the other a rogue dragon – are ‘bad’ boys, it is still, well, a love triangle, not my favourite trope. That said, I liked both of them and there is chemistry between each boy and Ember.

Talon isn’t as strong as I perhaps hoped, the plot lacks some originality, but there is potential for Kagawa to create something more unique as the series develops. Talon is a light, quick and entertaining read, but be warned, there is a cliffhanger ending and the second book, Rogue, won’t be published for another six months or so.

 

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Review: The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan

 

Title: The Hawley Book of the Dead

Author: Chrysler Szarlan

Published: Ballantine Books: Random House September 2014

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Status: Read from September 23 to 24, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“On the day I killed my husband, the scent of lilacs startled me awake.”

When someone exchanges the blank in her prop gun for a real bullet, Revelation ‘Reve’ Dyer unwittingly shoots her beloved husband dead during the final act of their world renowned Las Vegas magic show. Reve is devastated and then terrified when she realises the murderer still has Reve and her three daughters in his sights. To protect her family, Reve flees Nevada and takes refuge at Hawley Five Corners, her family’s abandoned estate in the woods of Massachusetts. But Reve has something the killer wants and he won’t give up until he gets it.

With its blend of mystery, suspense and the supernatural, The Hawley Book of the Dead offers a complex story about family secrets, magic and revenge.

Told in the first person, it introduces Revelation and her intriguing family history. Reve is the descendant of a line of women who have always wielded great power. Her grandmother can transport people with a thought, her mother is a healer, Reve can disappear by stepping into the veil between worlds, a talent she was born with but has never fully explored, her ten year old daughter Caleigh can weave magic with string, but the abilities of Reve’s fifteen year old twins, Faith and Grace, have yet to manifest.

In general, I feel Szarlan created well rounded and interesting characters, I found Reve frustrating a lot of the time though. She has the ability to disappear, her family line is littered with women whom she has accepted have true magical abilities, yet she dismisses most other instances of magic out of hand. This ploy may serve the needs of the plot but I felt it damaged the credibility of her character.

I did enjoy the blend of magic and myth which Szarlan gives her own little twist. The true motivations of the ‘Fetch’ stalking the family turn out to be quite unique and his relentless pursuit of Reve provides plenty of tension. The romance element, involving childhood sweetheart, now Hawley chief of police, Jolon, is a little awkward though considering Reve’s husband has just died.

The setting is great, Szarlan’s description of Five Corners and the surrounding woods are evocative and atmospheric. I loved the stories of the vanishing townsfolk and the ghostly cowherd and could easily imagine the abandoned estate and the manor house that is home to Reve and her family.

Not so great is the uneven pacing and the author’s attempt to force suspense surrounding the disappearance of the twins when their fate is blindingly obvious.

I really like the concept of Hawley Book of the Dead and there are elements of the story and character I think are creative and well done, and while overall I am not excited by this book, I do think the series has potential.

 

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Review: Craven by Melanie Casey

 

Title: Craven {Cass Lehman and Detective Ed Dyson #2}

Author: Melanie Casey

Published: Pantera Press May 2014

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Status: Read from August 29 to 31, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Craven, by Melanie Casey, is the sequel to Hindsight, featuring Cass Lehman, a woman with the psychic gift of retrocognition, and South Australian police detective, Ed Dyson.

As the book opens we learn that Cass has taken the leap and left home, securing a teacher’s position at a college in Adelaide. Cass is hoping for a fresh start but during her very first lesson she is recognised by her students and almost immediately becomes a target of gossip and derision.
Ed is conspicuously absent, it seems their romance stalled in the intervening months, though we soon learn that Ed is also in Adelaide, working with a local command on a year long secondment, and when Cass’s car is painted in blood with ‘Freak’ scrawled across the windshield he is the first person she calls. Thrown together as Cass’s stalker grows more violent, Cass is inevitably drawn into Ed’s latest case – a search for a serial killer.

Though I still really like concept of this series I was disappointed by the execution of this novel. I had issues with the uneven pacing and with what I felt were several underdeveloped elements in the plot. There was too much focus on the mundane details of Ed’s often circular investigation, and the obnoxiousness of his new partner. The identification of the stalker taunting Cass seemed come from nowhere since he barely rated a mention in the story.

The killer did have an interesting story and his motivations were suitably dark and twisted. There were moments of high tension, though much of the real action is crammed into the last few chapters when Cass is once again at the mercy of an insane murderer.

Despite the flaws in Craven I am still intrigued by the potential of this series and I hope Casey regains her footing in the third installment.

 

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Review: Hindsight by Melanie Casey

 

Title: Hindsight {Cass Lehman and Detective Ed Dyson #1}

Author: Melanie Casey

Published: Pantera Press May 2014

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Status: Read from August 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Melanie Casey’s debut novel, Hindsight, has been on my wishlist since its release. It is the first book in a series to feature Cass Lehman, a woman with the psychic gift of retrocognition, and South Australian police detective, Ed Dyson.

For almost a decade, Cass Lehman has lived more or less like a recluse in the home she shares with her mother and grandmother. Travel is difficult when her gift of retrocognition means that when she passes over a place where someone has died in a violent or traumatic manner, Cass experiences their final horrifying moments. Now twenty eight and tired of her self imposed exile, Cass decides it is time to confront her demons and takes a huge risk by offering her services to the local police department after a woman is found murdered in an alleyway. The lead detective on the case, Ed Dyson, is scornful until Cass makes the connection between a handful of missing person cases and murders that has eluded Dyson for years, and the pair find themselves on the trail of a serial killer.

Cass’s ability is intriguing, and can be viewed as both a gift and a curse. She pays a high price for her ‘gift’, since she not only sees and hears what the victims experienced but also feels the physical pain and emotional trauma they suffered. I really like that Cass’s talent isn’t always useful, since Cass can only see what the victim saw in their last moments when the killer strikes from behind, for example, she isn’t able to offer much to a investigation.

The initial partnership between Cass and Ed is not an easy one. Ed is still struggling with the unsolved disappearance of his pregnant wife two years previously and doesn’t have the patience to humour Cass given his skepticism. Cass resents Ed’s easy dismissal of her, both because she believes she can help and because she is attracted to the detective.

Casey alternates between the first person perspective of Cass and third person perspectives from Ed, and the killer the pair are hunting. It’s an unusual narrative split but works well and I barely noticed the transitions. The plot is well crafted, and crucially Casey doesn’t allow the paranormal element to overwhelm the structure of a good crime novel. The pacing of the story is good with a tense, and somewhat gruesome, climatic ending that threatens the lives of both the protagonists.

Combining crime fiction with an interesting paranormal element and a touch of romance, I really enjoyed reading Hindsight. I’d particularly recommend it those who find the genre mix appealing and who might have liked Charlaine Harris’s Harper Connelly series. I’m looking forward to following Hindsight up with Casey’s second book, Craven.

 

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Review: Hamlet’s Ghost by Jane Tara

Title: Hamlet’s Ghost { Shakespeare Sisters #3}

Author: Jane Tara

Published: Momentum July 2014

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Status: Read from July 31 to August 01, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Another enchanting romance by Australian author Jane Tara, Hamlet’s Ghost, though ostensibly the third book in a series featuring the magical Shakespeare family (the first is Forecast and the second Trouble Brewing), works well as a stand-alone.

Frustrated by an acting career going no where, and heartbroken after finding her boyfriend in bed (well on a coffee table to be more accurate) with her best friend, when Rhiannon Dee discovers an abandoned, rundown theater in the small town of Hamlet she decides to reopen it. The Hamlet Majestic has stood empty for almost thirty years, after a ceiling collapse resulted in the tragic death of the former owner, Kip Daniels, during the opening night performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. His son, Tad, who inherited the property seems to have mixed feelings about the project but Rhi, despite Tad’s weirdness, and the objections of her witch of a mother, is determined to restore the Majestic to its former glory and breathe new life into Hamlet’s theater.

Hamlet’s Ghost is a lighthearted contemporary romance with a hint of mystery, and a paranormal twist.

Rhi is a witch, and though she is determined to disown her heritage in order to disassociate herself from her teenage role as ‘Witchlet’ and escape her mother’s overbearing influence, she learns there is no escaping who you are. I liked Rhi a lot, she refuses to wallow in self pity despite recent events and is determined to make a success of the theater. To do so she has to figure out how to help the former owner, Kip, who haunts the premises, move on.

But there is more than simply unfinished business keeping Kip earthbound, additional drama stems from the surprising links between Rhi’s mother, local cafe owner/tarot card reader Crystal, and the ghost. A major theme of the book is the need to make peace with the past, applicable not only to Kip but also several other of the main characters, including Rhi and Tad.

The misunderstandings that keep Rhi and Tad apart during much of the novel stem from an unusual situation. I don’t want to give too much away so lets just say a case of mistaken identity plays havoc with their developing attraction. While secondary love-match plots also play out for two of the characters in this story, Annie is torn between two men and Tye is waiting for the man of her dreams, surprisingly I didn’t feel the romance, though an important element, overwhelmed the story.

A bewitching read, Hamlet’s Ghost is charming and often funny story with appealing characters and a feel-good ending.

 

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