Friday, September 19, 2014

Red Blooded by Amanda Carlson

Title: Red Blooded
Author: Amanda Carlson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Jessica McClain #4

Trade Paperback, 320 pages
Publication: September 9, 2014 by Orbit

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

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Jessica is on her way to Hell. After settling a fragile truce between the vampires, werewolves and witches, the last thing Jessica wants to do is face the demons head on. But when the Prince of Hell kidnapped her brother, he set into motion a chain of events that even Jessica doesn't have the power to stop.

Now, Jessica must go into battle again. But Hell is a whole new beast... new rules, more dangerous demons, and an entirely foreign realm. And when Jessica is dropped into the Underworld too soon, without protection or the help of her friends, she must figure out just how powerful she can be... or she will never make it out alive.

When opening a Jessica McClain book reader are always guaranteed two things, nonstop action and twists upon twists. And going into the fourth book in the series, Red Blooded isn’t short on either element. 

In the last book, Jessica’s brother Tyler was kidnapped by the Underworld Prince and the only way to retrieve him is to go into the Underworld herself.  Jesscia’s plan is to minimize detection by all means possible, which leaves her the only choice of bringing two allies with her, Ray the reaper vampire and the Vampire Queen Eudoxia. However, for anyone familiar with this series know that anything rarely goes accordingly for the gang. While prepping for her trip to the Underworld, Jessica accidently launches herself ahead of schedule, unprepared and alone!

The beginning of Red Blooded was slow, a lot slower than all of the previous books which was quite surprising. The action started once Jessica arrives in the Underworld dump site, being chased by hellhounds a.k.a chupacabras and unseen phantoms/Wyverns as she treks through the unknown in search of Tyler. However, these action scenes left me feeling disengaged. The scenes are nonstop action but it felt formulated. I was hoping to be ‘wowed’ by the Underworld but instead it had the opposite effect of being underwhelming, there wasn’t anything remotely interesting or scary about it. To be honest the entire time Jessica was in the Underworld (which was for 2/3 of the book) I was bored. Why? Because none of the usually gang was there (not till the end), and I missed that. What I enjoy most about this series are the characters and without them there, it showed me that Jessica’s character alone cannot hold an audience. There were two things that bothered me about Red Blooded, the first was the internal monologue Jessica had with her wolf (and later telepathically with Tyler/Rouke). I was never bothered by it before, but then again it wasn’t as pronounced in the previous books. It was just too much, and every time she spoke telepathically/Internally (which was A LOT) I found myself skipping over the scenes. The second thing is the repetition; my goodness was that in abundance. Jessica would say one thing and a couple of pages later she’d say the same thing again but somehow re-worded. Also the word ‘Horrid’ was used like every other page (Okay maybe not every other page) but enough that it caught my attention every couple of pages. It actually got distracting to the point that I would momentarily withdraw from the story. 

Since Jessica was without friends/backup for most of the book, readers were introduced to a new character, demoness Lili, a prisoner that Jessica inadvertently meets while escaping the hellhounds. I was intrigued with Lili right away and more so when I learned of her true origin. But that intrigued slowly diminished as I saw more of Lili. The addition of Lili as a subplot ended up feeling more like a page filler for drama. Lili didn’t support the main plot much and in my opinion didn’t push the story forward (I mean the book/series as a whole).  And it wasn’t the good kind of drama either…it was more soap opera drama because Lili is the Prince’s mistress. Enough said. 

Just when I felt like Red Blooded wasn’t going to get any better; the last 100 pages saved the book. Rouke, Danny, Eudoxia, Naomi and Ray make an appearance and the action scenes were actually engaging again. Unlike the first 2/3 of the books I found myself finally enjoying the story, because the last 100 pages are what a Jessica McClain book should be. Not only does the plot get exciting but readers finally learned the truth about the prophecy. Yay for answers, but the events at the end of Red Blooded opens another can of worms for Jessica and the gang. 

Overall I thought Red Blooded was a good book, okay at times. I had high expectations for Red Blooded as this is the fourth book in the series. What I’ve noticed over the course of the books is how far it has departed from the essence of the first book. While this is a fun and unique Urban Fantasy, I can’t help but wish for a more serious concrete story arc that connects the books together. So far the books’ plots are just a bunch of random things thrown together without rhyme or reason, it was fun but after awhile it becomes tiring and predictable. Also with this installment, I notice there hasn’t been any character growth nor do I see the end game of the series…which is a serious problem for me.  Jessica seems to always wing it, never taking anything seriously. She gains immense power, new powers (or discovered abilities she didn’t know she already had) each book and while it was cool in the beginning I now find it absurd. Bottom line, I liked how Red Blooded ended, and am curious to see what happens next but I don’t know if I’ll be out rushing to read the next book in the series, Pure Blooded or if I’ll continue with the series altogether.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

[Spotlight] The MoonBound Clan Vampire series by Larissa Ione

Book I of The MoonBound Clan Vampire series

Bound by Night was a fantastic start to this very promising new series…
a very tasty treat from a must be read author.  Happy reading everybody…you’re bound to love it.
Night Owl Reviews for Bound by Night

“The exceptionally entertaining Ione kicks off a sexy new vampire series…
Ione does what she does best: deliver paranormal romance with a sexy and dangerous bite!
RT Book Reviews ****HOT Review for Bound by Night

Book II of The MoonBound Clan Vampires series

“Ione’s second MoonBound Vampires paranormal deftly uses a mixture of complex rivalries, primal violence, and sex to portray a society in which frequent vampire enslavement provokes a civil-rights dispute…Ione’s characters are relatable and sympathetic both because of and despite their id-drenched setting, and Ione’s flavor of vampirism produces a fascinating mixture of authoritarianism, atavism, and compassionate humanity that works on multiple levels.”
Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW August 25th
“Ione has created a fascinating vampire world steeped in Native American traditions and lore and developed a path to happiness for Hunter and Aylin that is fraught with potent and poignant internal and external conflicts. The action-packed plot and creative worldbuilding keep us enthralled; the romance and sexual tension keep us emotionally invested.”
Kirkus Reviews August 28th online, Sept. 15th print

“Major talent Ione is back with the second installment in her gritty new MoonBound Clan Vampire series, where vampires live under the threat of enslavement and torture by humans.  Ione’s vampire world is made up of sometimes warring clans who fight against each other as well as humans.  Uniting the clans may be the vampires’ best hope for survival in the upcoming war with humans.  With so much at stake, these excellent character relationships are fraught with intense and conflicting emotions.  Hang on tight, as this is one exciting and dangerous world!”
—Romantic Times ****1/2 HOT

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

House Immortal by Devon Monk

Title: House Immortal
Author: Devon Monk
Genre: Sci-Fi-Fantasy
Series: House Immortal #1

Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
Publication: September 2, 2014 by Roc

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

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One hundred years ago, eleven powerful ruling Houses consolidated all of the world’s resources and authority into their own grasping hands. Only one power wasn’t placed under the command of a single House: the control over the immortal galvanized....

Matilda Case isn’t like most folk. In fact, she’s unique in the world, the crowning achievement of her father’s experiments, a girl pieced together from bits. Or so she believes, until Abraham Seventh shows up at her door, stitched with life thread just like her and insisting that enemies are coming to kill them all.

Tilly is one of thirteen incredible creations known as the galvanized, stitched together beings immortal and unfathomably strong. For a century, each House has fought for control over the galvanized. Now the Houses are also tangled in a deadly struggle for dominion over death—and Tilly and her kind hold the key to unlocking eternity

The secrets that Tilly must fight to protect are hidden within the very seams of her being. And to get the secrets, her enemies are willing to tear her apart piece by piece.…

Wow. Just wow. House Immortal is the first installment in a brand new series by Devon Monk, and I am completely blown away by how incredible this book is. This is the first book I’ve read by Monk, and if this is anything to go by as to how her writing style, characters and world-building is…I’m sold for life *puts author on auto-buy and go read all her other work*.

House Immortal immediately captivated me from page one with the introduction of Matilda Case and Neds Harris. Matilda is a stitched together 26-year-old ‘Immortal Galvanized’ girl (think Frankenstein) and Neds, her farm-hand, is a two-headed mutant guy. The world-building is rich, meticulous and complex. Monk described everything in perfect clarity, painting vivid images in my mind. And just the overall concept is so unique, fresh and well crafted that I am still in awe of it. Like any first in the series, there was a lot of information required for the foundation of this new world. Some readers felt there was too much info-dumping, but I never had a problem with it. The information was incorporated in a way that it didn’t feel overwhelming and the short journal entry at the start of each chapter helped in the explanation. I love learning about the background/history of the Immortal Galvanized and The Houses. The governing system is comprised of 11 houses (House Brown not acknowledge) each specializing in a certain area and a different color:  white is medical, yellow is technology, black is defense, green is agriculture, grey is humanity, silver is vices, etc. The interworking of each House like the characters were well developed that in my opinion created a believable society. I am extremely impressed by what I see so far and can’t wait to learn more; since the first book I’m sure barely touches the surface of this multifaceted world.

Right from the get-go I knew I was going to like Matilda (Tilly). She is exactly the type of heroine I enjoy reading about; she’s intelligent, independent, compassionate, and totally kickass. All of the secondary characters were just as great. While many of the house leaders and Galvanizes didn’t get much page time as other characters (Abraham, Neds, Oscar, Slater), in their brief appearances you can still glean a lot of their personality because each character is fleshed out and memorable. Of all the side characters, there were two that stood out the most to me and had me laughing out loud the entire time…Neds and Welton. Since Neds has two heads, one called Right Ned and the other Left Ned. I was a bit confused with Neds’ dialogue at first, unable to differentiate who (Left or Right) was speaking but after a couple chapters, I got the hang of it. Neds had completely different, somewhat polar opposite personalities which made for hilarious dialogue. And there was Welton Yellow, leader of House Yellow. He is what I’d call the black sheep of the Houses, he does and says whatever he want, He’s eccentric, and awkward at times yet still likable. Another plus with Welton was he was the only one not really out to get Matilda. He of course tried and wanted Matilda, but is more friend than foe. 

There is a blossoming romance between Matilda and Galvanized Abraham. I thought their chemistry really worked and loved their back and forth repartee. They really complement each other, both strong equal characters. However, I thought the romance was a bit rushed. Matilda been hiding her entire life, so I know she didn’t have much of a male connection other than her brother and Neds. But I don’t recall them exchanging more than a few words, and they barely know anything about one another. This isn’t a big deal, and I still enjoyed the book…I just had a moment where I thought it was funny how quickly they decided to be BF/GF (and I think this is the first book, where I heard a leading couple ask each other if they wanted a title lol, interesting). 

House Immortal is definitely one of my favorite reads this year. The world building is amazing, the characters unconventional and fully realized, and the plot fast-paced. From the moment readers open the book and to the very end, expect nothing short of a roller coaster ride full of action and twists that will have you completely floored. I was so shocked by the ending that I swear my heart stopped for a moment, and when I flipped that last page I couldn’t believe it was the end (I literally flipped back and forth and went ‘WHAT? THIS IS THE LAST PAGE? DAMNIT!’)…it was THAT crazy. I loved this book, and highly recommend it to everyone; it’s a fantasy, science-fiction and dystopian all rolled up into one. The sequel, Infinity Bell comes out next spring and I can’t wait for more Matilda and Co.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Captured by S.J. Harper

Title: Captured
Author: S.J. Harper
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Fallen Siren 0.5 

Ebook, 171 pages 
Publication: June 10, 2014 

Source: Free download

*Still free as of today's post*

Emma Monroe is a Fallen Siren, cursed by the gods and banished to Earth for her failure to prevent the kidnapping of Persephone. She’s had many names and many lives, but only one mission: redemption. Now she works for the FBI and is on temporary assignment in Charleston. Solving this next missing persons case could be the key to ending her ancient curse—unless the temptation that’s her new partner gets in the way.

Zack Armstrong is a Werewolf. Tall, dark, and dangerous, he currently works for one of the bureau’s elite Child Abduction Rapid Deployment teams. In many respects the man is every bit as mysterious as his secret and perilous past. But there are two things he’s certain about, that he’s going to get his man and his woman.

When Zack finds himself suddenly shy a partner and a third child goes missing in Charleston, Emma goes from consultant to CARD team member in the space of a few hours. The abductions of the first two boys ended in murder, an outcome that neither Zack nor Emma can abide. As they race against time to track down the kidnapper and rescue the latest victim, they find themselves fighting something just as treacherous—a growing attraction that can’t be ignored or denied.

I have Cursed sitting in my ever expanding TBR pile. I’ve been meaning to read it when it first came out but never found the time.Then a couple of months ago the authors released Captured, a free prequel to Cursed. Fast-forward 2 months, and still I haven’t pick-up either books…till now. Since many of the readers that read Captured already read and loved Cursed…I thought I’d go in order and at the same time see if I’d enjoy the writing/story as I haven’t read any of the authors’ work. Two birds, one stone. I’m so glad I read Captured, while it was a quick read, the authors packed a lot of action, suspense and chemistry in the 171 pages!

For a Novella, I thought the authors did an incredible job with introducing readers to FBI Agents Emma and Zack and writing such a detailed plot. I don’t read many novellas but from the ones I did read, nothing comes close to Captured. The main murder/missing child case was well thought-out and written. Everything had a beginning, middle and end, and I thought it all wrapped up nicely with the problem solved. While reading this, I momentarily forgot it was even a novella, it felt more like a short book…unlike most of the novellas I’ve read which usually feel like tiny snippets to the world/characters of a novel…but never a full book. 

I enjoyed Captured, and am looking forward to starting Cursed soon. I haven’t read many books with Sirens as the main sup, but what little I’ve seen of Emma, I know I’ll enjoy her snarkiness a lot more once I start the first book!  Bottom line, Captured had great characters, great plot, and great writing…it can’t get better than that.  

*Side note: The main characters did a lot of grubbing in the novella…did anyone else get hungry from reading about all the times they stopped to eat? LOL.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Title: The Midnight Queen
Author: Sylvia Izzo Hunter
Genre: Fantasy-Historical Fiction
Series: N/A

Trade Paperback, 432 pages
Publication: September 2, 2014 by Ace Trade

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

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Gray’s deep talent for magick has won him a place at Merlin College. But when he accompanies four fellow students on a mysterious midnight errand that ends in disaster and death, he is sent away in disgrace—and without a trace of his power. He must spend the summer under the watchful eye of his domineering professor, Appius Callender, working in the gardens of Callender’s country estate and hoping to recover his abilities. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.
Even though she has no talent of her own, Sophie Callender longs to be educated in the lore of magick. Her father has kept her isolated at the estate and forbidden her interest; everyone knows that teaching arcane magickal theory to women is the height of impropriety. But against her father’s wishes, Sophie has studied his ancient volumes on the subject. And in the tall, stammering, yet oddly charming Gray, she finally finds someone who encourages her interest and awakens new ideas and feelings.
Sophie and Gray’s meeting touches off a series of events that begins to unravel secrets about each of them. And after the king’s closest advisor pays the professor a closed-door visit, they begin to wonder if what Gray witnessed in Oxford might be even more sinister than it seemed. They are determined to find out, no matter the cost…
Once in awhile I like to mix up my reading, since I usually read YA and Urban Fantasy. So when I heard of The Midnight Queen, a Fantasy-Historical Fiction I knew right away I wanted to read it. Who doesn’t love a magical school setting (College! I usually read HS/Boarding school types) in Regency London?

The Midnight Queen had all the right ingredients for a captivating read; conspiracy theories, buried secrets, a lost princess, and a prophecy of the ‘chosen one’ but it wasn’t quite as I expected it to be. Hunter’s did a good job at setting the foundation of her magical world but she never really expanded on it further then the basis. For example, Merlin College is the most prestigious college around teaching magic to only the rich and talented prominent families yet we don’t learn much else of the college or what it looks like. Our main character Graham A.K.A Gray attends the college but within the first chapter he is already temporary sent away to his professor’s home; so we don’t see much of the college till the very end of the book but even then it was brief and not much detailed. As for the magical aspect, it seems that magic is something one must be born with. One can study as much as they want of magic, but that’s all they can do; only those with magic can cast spells and incantations. Again there isn’t much said about the overall magic system. Those with magic also have a main ability that they’re the greatest at like scrying or shape-shifting. I thought the characters’ abilities were all interesting but wished we knew more about it and how the characters got their specialized ability (scrying, shape-shifting, chameleon, siren call etc).

I am really picky when it comes to characters, I mean shouldn’t everyone be? When readers read a book, you want to feel and connect with the characters at all levels because frankly we are investing our time in the characters and their journey. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect with Gray or Sophie. It isn’t to say that I dislike their characters, far from the fact. Gray was a really sweet and shy guy and Sophie was intelligent as she was headstrong. But I never once felt invested in their story/journey. I’m not sure whether it was because the characters weren’t as fleshed out as I liked or because their dialogue felt forced and monotonous. I think if the author worked a bit more on character development, it would have been made all the difference.

The book started out extremely slow. It isn’t until I got to the middle that I felt the story pick up and the plot put into motion. I love the whole lost princess and prophecy ideas but it played more as a background story to the main plot. Overall The Midnight Queen was a good book, but just one I didn’t personally connect with.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

[Blog Tour] Stolen Dreams by Christine Amsden + Giveaway

Title: Stolen Dreams
Author: Christine Amsden
Genre: New Adult, Paranormal
Series: Cassie Scot #4

Trade Paperback, 272 pages
Publication: November 15, 2014 (Paperback)

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


Edward Scot and Victor Blackwood have despised one another for nearly a quarter of a century, but now their simmering hatred is about to erupt.

When Cassie Scot returns home from her sojourn in Pennsylvania, she finds that her family has taken a hostage. Desperate to end the fighting before someone dies, Cassie seeks help from local seer Abigail Hastings, Evan Blackwood's grandmother. But Abigail has seen her own death, and when it comes at the hand of Cassie's father, Victor Blackwood kills Edward Scot.

But things may not be precisely as they appear.

Evan persuades Cassie to help him learn the truth, teaming them up once again in their darkest hour. New revelations about Evan and his family make it difficult for Cassie to cling to a shield of anger, but can Evan and Cassie stop a feud that has taken on a life of its own? Conclusion to the Cassie Scot series.

Stolen Dreams is the fourth and final book in the Cassie Scot series, and what an amazing journey it’s been.

The Blackwood and Scots have been in a feud with each other for years, but it isn’t till the final installment that we see the two families’ feud final boil over…with causalities on both sides. Like the previous books, Amsden works a multi-plot story interwoven with a main case in which both Cassie and Evan have to work together to solve. The only difference now is that it relates to their immediate family…specifically their fathers. 

Cassie has definitely done a lot of growing over the course of the series. When readers first met Cassie, she was still figuring life out. Trying to find her place in the world, society (both human/magical community) and her family. Cassie was always trying to fit in with her magical family; believing she wasn’t anyone unless she had magic. It has taken awhile for Cassie to come to the realization that she didn’t need magic to understand herself worth and but in the end she loved herself for exactly who she is, someone without magic. I love seeing that transformation. Cassie’s character has grown stronger and stronger over the novels, and she can do anything she puts her mind to as best as the next person with magic.  

Readers also finally got to learn more about the background/history of the secondary characters like Madison, Jason, Aunt Sherri (Jason’s mom), Edward and Victor which brought a lot into perspective and answered questions I had throughout the series. I thought the final installment was well done, and am happy how everything ended. Although, I am sad that series has come to an end, like others readers I’m not ready to say good-bye to Cassie and the gang. However, it won’t be good-bye forever as the author mentioned that a spin-off of sorts is in the work, this time focusing on the secondary characters as lead like Kaitlin and Madison. 

All in all, Stolen Dreams was an amazing end to an incredible series. I highly recommend this series to all NA/Paranormal lovers and those that enjoy character driven novels. Cassie is one of the realist and most relatable heroine I’ve read and I guarantee you’ll love her as much as I do. It is best to start at the beginning with Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (book 1) as the story arc and character development progresses along all four books. I can’t wait to read Amsden’s spin-off series; I’m dying to know what happens to Kaitlin, Jason and their baby! 


 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.

 Other books by Christine Amsden