Monday, August 31, 2015

Forbidden by Cathy Clamp

Title: Forbidden
Author: Cathy Clamp
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Luna Lake #1

Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Publication: August 18, 2015 by Tor Books

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

Buy|Amazon|B&N|


Ten years have passed since the war that destroyed the Sazi Council and inflicted a horrible "cure" on thousands of Sazi, robbing them of their ability to shapeshift.

Luna Lake, isolated in Washington State, started as a refugee camp for Sazi orphans. Now it's a small town and those refugees are young adults, chafing at the limits set by their still-fearful guardians.
There's reason to fear: Sazi children are being kidnapped. Claire, a red wolf shifter, is sent to investigate. Held prisoner by the Snakes during childhood, Claire is distrusted by those who call Luna Lake home.

Before the war, Alek was part of a wolf pack in Chicago. In Luna Lake he was adopted by a parliament of Owls, defying Sazi tradition. The kidnappings are a painful reminder that his little sister disappeared a decade ago.

When Claire and Alek meet, sparks fly—but the desperate race to find the missing children forces them to set aside their mutual attraction and focus on the future of their people.

I haven’t read the original Sazi series by Clamp, and while Forbidden is somewhat a continuation of the series, it focuses on new characters, location, and overall plot making it easy for new readers to join and follow along. Clamp did a great job explaining the history of how the Wolven agents formed and how the hierarchy of the Sazi Council works. Sazi is a term used to describe shifters, and Luna Lake, is full of all sorts of Sazi living together from owls, wolves, cats, bear etc. And that’s exactly what makes Luna Lake different from all other Sazi communities. Most Communities comprise of one type of Sazi, since most Sazi are known not to get along with another species. But it isn’t the only reason why Luna Lake is different. The town’s Major enforces strict and harsh rules that make it difficult for newcomers to adjust to. Our heroine, Claire (a.k.a Clarissa) is sent there to investigate a string of missing children and is in for a rude awakening when she is made the town’s omega.

I’ve read some of Clamp’s other work but in my opinion they weren’t as good as Forbidden. I really like the Sazi World, and the foundation, world building and characters seemed more well-rounded and better developed. I also like the two leads. Claire and Alex are strong, independent, compassionate and kind characters, which made them both likeable. I’ve seen some people write, why is it so importable to have likeable character? Well, for me it’s a must. If I don’t like them, then I wouldn’t care for them. And if a reader didn’t like or care about the characters, then why read it in the first place…right? But back to the point, Claire and Alex make a good team. They never got carried away from the most important task at hand, which is to find the missing kids. The supporting cast was just as great from Dani to the former omegas Rachel and Scott. I wouldn’t mind getting a Rachel or Scot story, I would definitely be interested in them.

Overall, Forbidden was a great, solid reintroduction (or introduction for newbies) to the Sazis. I highly recommend this new urban fantasy series to those looking for great characters and an engaging plot/story. I look forward to reading more of the Sazi/Luna Lake world…it’s certainly something worth checking out!



Thursday, August 20, 2015

Clear Your Shelf Hop

Welcome to my stop on "Clear your Shelf"  Hop! 

This giveaway hop runs from August 20-27th
US only (sorry international folks, shipping is expensive)

 For my giveaway, I'll be giving away a box of books. Books will include Arcs (Advance reading copies) and finished books. All my books are in excellent condition. Books will include Adult and YA titles ranging from Dystopian, Fantasy, Paranormal, and Urban Fantasy.

To enter please fill out the Rafflecopter below




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check out the other awesome blogs participating.

Monday, August 17, 2015

[Blog Tour] Madison's Song by Christine Amsden Review + Excerpt


Title: Madison's Song
Author: Christine Amsden
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Standalone, companion novel to the Cassie Scot series

Trade Paperback, 272 pages
Publication: Out now in eBook, September 15, 2015 (paperback)

Source: I received a review copy from the author in exchange for a honest review. 

Buy eBook|Amazon


Her voice is enchanting; his soul is black…

Madison Carter has been terrified of Scott Lee since the night he saved her from an evil sorcerer – then melted into a man-eating monster before her eyes. The werewolf is a slave to the moon, but Madison’s nightmares are not.
Despite her fears, when Madison’s brother, Clinton, is bitten by a werewolf, she knows there is only one man who can help. A man who frightens her all the more because even in her nightmares, he also thrills her.

Together for the first time since that terrible night, Scott and Madison drive to Clinton’s home only to discover that he’s vanished. Frantic now, Madison must overcome her fears and uncover hidden strengths if she hopes to save him. And she’s not the only one fighting inner demons. Scott’s are literal, and they have him convinced that he will never deserve the woman he loves.  
I was sad when the Cassie Scot series was over. There were only four books in the series but I thought there was still so much to explore and stories to be told. However, last year the author revealed that she too, wasn’t ready to leave Cassie’s world and thus was writing two companion novels in the same world focusing on Cassie’s best friends Madison and Kaitlin. And I’m happy to say Madison’s Song did not disappoint!

Madison’s Song focuses mostly on Madison, Scot, and werewolf hierarchy and dynamics. Madison’s brother Clinton gets bitten by a werewolf and imprisoned and the first person Madison seeks help from is Evan’s best friend, Scot, a powerful sorcerer and alpha. What they thought was just a newbie lone wolf attack turns out to be a sinister government black operations gone wrong…and only Madison can save them all.

Amsden did a wonderful job expanding on Madison and Scot’s character as well as delving deeper into the werewolf society; since Madison and Scot played minor/secondary characters before and we only knew the minimum about Scot and his pack. Werewolves are one of my favorite paranormal creatures, so I had no problem getting sucked into the story. Readers will not only meet Scot’s pack but other territories alphas and see how things are run differently than the sorcerer’s covens/families. I really liked Madison’s character, she’s relatable in the sense that she’s shy, quiet and like any girl has some insecurities but by the end of the book she learns to love herself and embrace her powers and see that she can use magic not only to help others but also as self-defense without hurting anyone. Scot was the perfect alpha, he’s a fair and understanding leader and doesn’t shy away from getting his hands dirty if it means protecting everyone for the greater good. I also liked that Scot and the other werewolves weren’t shown as timid swoon worthy boys/girls next-door. These werewolves are dangerous and vicious and at the end of the day they’re killers ….not some cute little pup; which is usually depicted as-so in other books.

All in all, Madison’s song is another great read by Amsden. If you loved and read Cassie Scot, then you’ll definitely love this book too! Madison is a great heroine who can no doubt carry her own story and keep the readers engaged and entertained. This can’t be said for all spin­-off/companion novels. They either work or they don’t and in Amsden’s case…we have another winner! I can’t wait to read Kaitlin’s book next! I highly recommend this to all UF readers, you won’t be disappointed!








“Silence,” David commanded.
           
Her throat continued to work, but no sound emerged. She felt like a fish being gutted, choking and spluttering as David returned to the work of cutting into the soft, sensitive flesh of her belly. Yet even as tears refilled her eyes and fear devoured her heart, some part of her recognized that her guts remained intact. Whatever David was doing to her with the dagger involved tracing shallow patterns across the surface of her skin.
           
Fight the pain. Take deep breaths. Ground and center. She was not in the empty living room of a house she had not quite moved into yet, she was at church, singing in the choir. Above her, Jesus hung from a cross, a crown of thorns atop his head, a soft glow surrounding him. She usually found the magic within that glow. She reached for it...
           
“Stop that!” David slapped her hard across the face.
           
Once again her eyes flew open. She saw the dagger dripping with blood – her blood. Had her feeble grab for magic actually made a difference? David seemed to have noticed something, but what?
           
“You're just making this harder on yourself,” David said.
           
“What do you want?” Madison tried to ask. Her mouth moved, her lips forming the question, but no sound emerged.
           
She didn't think he would answer; he couldn't even have heard the question, but to her surprise he only hesitated a moment before saying, “Your soul.”




ABOUT THE AUTHOR  

Christine Amsden has been writing science fiction and fantasy for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children, Drake and Celeste.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Public Enemies by Ann Aguirre

Title: Public Enemies
Author: Ann Aguirre
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, YA
Series: Immortal Games #2

Hardcover, 320 pages
Publication: August 4, 2015 by Feiwel & Friends

Source: I received a review copy from the author in exchange for a honest review. 

Buy|Amazon|B&N|

Learn the rules of the game…and then play better than anyone else.

Through a Faustian bargain, Edie Kramer has been pulled into the dangerous world of the Immortal Game, where belief makes your nightmares real. Hungry for sport, fears-made-flesh are always raising the stakes. To them, human lives are less than nothing, just pieces on a board.

Because of her boyfriend Kian’s sacrifice, she’s operating under the mysterious Harbinger’s aegis, but his patronage could prove as fatal as the opposition. Raw from deepest loss, she’s terrified over the deal Kian made for her. Though her very public enemies keep sending foot soldiers—mercenary monsters committed to her destruction—she’s not the one playing under a doom clock. Kian has six months…unless Edie can save him. And this is a game she can’t bear to lose.

I read Immortal Danger last year and loved it. Actually, I’ve read most of Aguirre’s work and I haven’t been disappointed…till now. Comparing Public Enemies to the first book in the trilogy, it definitely did not live up to my expectations. And like the curse of many middle books in a series, Public Enemies suffered the sophomore slump.

Many reviewers stated the author didn’t do a good job at rehashing the details of the previous book. Which was quite evident in the opening chapters. I couldn’t remember what happened in the last book. The only thing I did remembered was that I loved the book, but all the events totally escaped my mind. Which is to say; it obviously didn’t make a lasting impression on me like I thought it did. In Immortal Danger, Edie’s now boyfriend Kian did everything in his power to save Edie, not only from herself but also the immortal gods. Now the tables have turned and Edie is the one trying to save Kian, who only has a few months to live.

I vaguely remember liking Edie in Immortal Danger and while she’s gotten more confident and bad-ass in this sequel…I don’t feel the same anymore...I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but she just came off as unlikable. Edie’s mom just died, her boyfriend only has a few months to live, school is out the window, and life at home with her dad is in shambles…and yet, I found myself not caring about her or her problems. Then there’s her relationship with Kian. I still find it creepy how fast they got together and fell in love. Does anyone recall he was stalking her for god knows how long? The relationship is still unrealistic and like Edie…I didn’t find myself caring about them as a couple either.

I thought the plot was okay. In my opinion there were just too many things going on. Too many monsters, bad guys…that I didn’t know what was happening half the time. The gods and monsters didn’t have much distinction or personality and I had trouble remembering who was who. I’d say 99% of the characters were one-dimensional; they lacked complexity and character growth. The only one that was interesting and stood out from all the characters was The Harbinger. Now, that’s a character I wouldn’t mind reading more about.

It is such a shame that I didn’t enjoy Public Enemies as much as Immortal Danger or Aguirre’s other novels. While the ending was super unexpected, I’m not sure if I will be continuing this series. I honestly wouldn’t recommend this book; there are other great books that feature gods/monsters. However, if you’re still curious about this series or sequel, I’d suggest borrowing from a library or friend.



Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Alice by Christina Henry

Title: Alice
Author: Christina Henry
Genre: Dystopian-Fantasy 
Series: N/A

Trade Paperback, 304 pages
Publication: August 4, 2015 by Ace

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

Buy|Amazon|B&N|

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.
In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back.

She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…
Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.
I love Alice in Wonderland, who doesn’t right? I’ve read my share of Alice in Wonderland retelling, re-imagined and for the most part they’re all pretty good. But they all were Young Adults. I think any Alice in Wonderland fan at one point or another has wondered if there was ever going to be an adult book based on Alice. Well that time is now and it’s Alice by Christina Henry! If you ever wanted an adult version of Alice in Wonderland this is it. Henry’s take on the classic story by Lewis Carroll is wonderfully imaginative and unique; it’s bloody, gritty, dark and delicious. This is a book I’ve been waiting for!

If I had to categorize Alice, I’d say it’s a Dystopian through and through. The world of ‘Wonderland’ is comprised of two cities, Old City and New City and as the city names suggests one area is rich and one is poor. However, this book focuses solely on Old City as we follow our heroine Alice and her protector, Hatcher in search of their pasts and the sword to slay the Jabberwocky. I love, love Henry’s world building. It had all the elements and characters of the originals but Henry puts her own spin on them to create a fresh and one-of-a-kind read. The Old City is divided into different territories and each turf is controlled by a gangster. There’s Rabbit, Caterpillar, Cheshire, Walrus and Carpenter. I don’t want to say too much and spoil the fun but the gangsters and their territories fit their personalities perfectly! The gangsters are fascinating and terrifying all at the same time…I loved it!

I also really liked Alice and Hatcher. Being institutionalized for 10 years will no doubt have long lasting effects on a person. The two are plagued by their unknown pasts and Hatcher has his spurt of ‘nonsensical madness’ but they’re both fighters; and they fought hard all the way till the end. Everyone from Alice’s past expected Alice to be the same frighten 16-year-old but now at 26, Alice is a powerful bad-ass who doesn’t back down from anyone and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. I totally dig this version of Alice! And then there’s Hatcher who is a protector, warrior, and companion to Alice. I loved how protective he was to her and the way he showed he cared. To say it’s unusual, is putting it mildly (once you read it, you’ll know what I mean). Their relationship is different than any couple I’ve ever read. For 10 years they have kept each other sane, communicating with one another through a small hole in the wall that separated their rooms. Though they never saw each other (maybe an eye here, a nose there), they understood and accepted each other for all the good along with the bad…which is all anyone can hope for.

I loved this book! Alice had everything I look for in a novel; incredible world building, realistic characters, original story and a fast paced plot. Fans of retelling, re-imagined classics will be captivated by Alice. I highly recommend Alice to already Alice in Wonderland fans and Dystopain-Fantasy readers. This is a book you don’t want to miss, entertainment reading at its best! I hope Henry writes more Alice novels…I want more of Alice and Hatcher!



Monday, July 27, 2015

Trace of Magic by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Title: Trace of Magic
Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Diamond City Magic #1

Trade paperback, 303 pages
Publication: September 30, 2014 by Bell Bridge Books

Source: Personal Library

Buy|Amazon|


Even the most powerful tracers can’t track you if the magical trace you leave behind is too old. But I can track almost anything, even dead trace. That makes me a unicorn, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Lock Ness Monster all rolled into one. In a word, I am unique. A very special snowflake. And if anyone ever finds out, I’ll be dead or a slave to one of the Tyet criminal factions.

Riley Hollis has quietly traced kidnapped children and quietly tipped the cops to their whereabouts one too many times. Now she’s on the radar of Detective Clay Price, a cop in the pocket of a powerful magic Tyet faction. When he blackmails her into doing a dangerous trace for him, Riley will have to break every rule that keeps her safe. Or become a Tyet pawn in a deadly, magical war.
I’ve been looking forward to reading Trace of Magic ever since it was published last year but haven’t gotten around to it till now. I’ve read Francis’s Horngate Witches series and loved it. The last book in the Horngate Witches series wasn’t as good compared to the first 3 books but overall it’s still one of my favorite Urban Fantasy series I’ve ever read. When I heard Francis was going to start a new series I was ecstatic! The cover and synopsis looked and sounded really promising.

It pains me to say this but Trace of Magic was disappointing. It didn’t live up to my expectations and I had high expectations coming from her previous novels. Trace of Magic is labeled as an Urban Fantasy but it’s really a Paranormal Romance. The plot, world building and characterization took a backseat and the romance aspect was full on blast. I’ll talk about the characters and romance in a second. The world building was a bit confusing, there are 5 gangster-type guys ruling Diamond City and there are certain people with special abilities but readers don’t really learn much of either. The information and details of the world is almost nonexistent. Our main heroine Riley is a tracer. She has the ability to locate anyone, anywhere and see whether or not they’re dead or alive because every individual leaves a distinct color track/thread in their wake. Riley’s ability is very interesting, and the first book seems to only scratch the surface of it. But instead of actually learning about Riley herself, readers are thrust into an investigation looking for Riley’s sister’s ex-fiancée and a mysterious rich woman connected to Tourey, a Tyet gangster.

I did not like Riley. Riley rubbed me the wrong way right from the beginning. She’s snarky but not in the funny way. She’s cocky and annoying as hell. But it got worst once she teamed up with Detective Clay Price. For the entire book she was getting all hot and bothered by Price and would internally reprimand herself for lusting after him because he’s supposed to be the enemy. Yet, the moment they weren’t being chased and shot at…they had time to have sex (right after waking up from being shot at). Riley also had a problem assuming things left and right and she would talk about hypothetical situations where Price would betray her...but he never does. It drove me nuts! I wished I could reach inside the book and shake her for her idiocy! And the biggest annoyance of all…Riley and Price thought they were in ‘LOVE’ with each other after only 48 hours! Are you kidding me?! That’s worst than reading insta-love in YA. I also never warmed up to Price. Price was described as an asshole from the beginning, which wouldn’t be a problem if he had any redeeming qualities. I seriously can't think of any. But now that I think about, yeah, he was an ass for most of the book. Riley and Price are probably the least likable couple/leads I’ve read to date. I really despise them.

I’m still in disbelief that this is by the same author as my beloved Horngate Witches series. I mean, The Horngate Witches series feels like a seasoned author wrote it, while Trace of Magic felt like it was written by a newbie. The plot is weak, the world building lackluster and the characters flat and unlikable. If you haven’t read Francis’s books yet, I’d suggest skipping this book and checking out her Horngate Witches series…it’s much better.



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern 
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone 

Hardcover, 387 pages
Publication: September 13, 2011 by Doubleday

Source: personal library 

Buy|Amazon|B&N|

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.
I heard nothing but raves about The Night Circus upon its publication in 2011 and still occasionally do till this day. I ended up buying myself a copy just last year but haven’t gotten around to reading it till now. I finally see why so many people loved it; it felt like a very sophisticated fantasy with beautifully written prose. The Night Circus is all about magicians, a circus and the performers’ lives that get mixed up in the deadly competition…who wouldn’t be intrigued?

The Night Circus is centered on Celia and Marco, two talented magicians pitted against each other in a much obscured arena with even vaguer rules and purposes. The book spans years as readers see how Celia and Marco are groomed and taught in two completely different styles of magic by their mentors. Celia’s instructor is none other than her father, The Great Prospero who teaches Celia visually, hands on and through vigorous practices. While Marco on the other hand, is plucked from an orphanage by the enigmatic Mr. A H who stresses the importance of studying magic through books. The two become implicitly bound at an early age but don’t meet until they come face to face at ‘Le Cirque des Reves’.

I enjoyed The Night Circus very much, more than I thought I would. The attendees of The Night Circus had a few words to describe it from: enchanting, magical, enthralling and like a dream…and all these words perfectly described my experience reading Morgenstern’s debut. Her writing had that gripping quality that made you get swept up into the story and forget about the real world. There were moments that I literally lost track of time since I was so wrapped up in Celia and Marco and the other wonderful characters that made up the circus like Chandresh, the Burgess twins, Friedrick, and Bailey to name a few. My favorite part of the book was the description of the circus itself. The circus is made up of various sized tents. Each tent housed a special attraction or a performer…there are so many tents that even if an attendee came 3-4 times they still wouldn’t have gone to every tent! 


My only complaint is the unrealistic romance. I don’t want to say too much, but while the characters knew each other for years, I didn’t think they spent enough time with each other to actually build a real connection. I never felt the chemistry between the two, and every interaction they had felt forced. Thankfully, the romance was always in the background and was so subtle that it didn't take away from the overall story (it is said that the circus and the tents were seen as a love letters to one another but again, I didn't really see it as that).

Overall, The Night Circus was a solid and enjoyable read. Like many reviewers stated, The Night Circus is a slow paced book, with the occasional flashbacks and jumps in different narratives… but I still think it’s a book that everyone should read at least once in their life. The writing style alone is fresh and unique and the world building and characters are complex and fully developed. This book is a book for all readers. It won’t matter if you like/or don’t like fantasy or history… If you’re a reader, you’ll appreciate it. Period. I highly recommend The Night Circus and believe its worth checking out.