Review: “Ride the Storm (Cassandra Palmer #8)” by Karen Chance

Review:

A review by Amanda.

This review contains spoilers from the previous books in this series.

Ride the Storm picks up right where the last book ended. Cassie is still chasing after Pritkin’s soul with Rosier, hoping to counter the deadly curse that has been cast on the rugged war mage. Cassie’s court had just been attacked, and losses and injuries are everywhere. Betrayal from those she has been trying to help has affected Cassie’s usual good spirits. Even vampire master Mircea is struggling to recover from the recent events. Cassie is yanked back and forth in time, shifting from Arthurian times, where they have tracked down a young Pritkin and are awaiting the arrival of his soul, to present day at Dante’s, where the attacks keep coming from all sides. Exhausting both the Pythia power and her personal energy takes its toll, with devastating consequences. An unexpected revelation from a trusted person in her small circle of allies has Cassie (and readers) questioning everything that has happened since the events set in motion in the very first book.

This book is an absolute whirlwind of action and exposition. The first half of the story is nonstop action, with a few too many back-and-forth shifts, making it difficult to follow. No rest for our protagonist means no rest for readers. It feels as though the author tried to fit two books’ worth of plot into one book. Thankfully, the story slows down a bit and the pace evens out by the second half. Long-awaited answers to burning questions come to light, and the romantic entanglement that Cassie has found herself in might finally be unraveling. While some long-standing issues get wrapped up, others, frustratingly, do not. Cassie heroically maintains her snarky and irreverent sense of humor despite the adversity. There are a couple of steamy sex scenes, although these are somewhat mild compared to previous books. I, for one, am looking forward to the next book with the great hope that we won’t be strung along for too much longer (at least in certain areas). While the convolution of the first half of this book did affect my overall rating, the second half still makes it worth reading.

If you would like to start this series from the beginning, book one is Touch the Dark. Karen Chance also has a crossover series, featuring characters we know and love (or hate), and exciting new ones. The first book is Midnight’s Daughter.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Silence Fallen” by Patricia Briggs

Review of Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

A review by Niraja.

After a nearly fatal accident, Mercy finds herself kidnapped by a powerful vampire who sought to use her in a plot against the Tri-cities.  Mercy escapes in her coyote form, only to discover she is alone in Europe without money, clothing, or a passport. Unable to rely on her mate or pack bonds to contact Adam and the pack, Mercy must use her wits to discover who she can trust as allies and who are the enemies she must fight, while simultaneously trying to prevent outright war between vampires and werewolves.  As if that wasn’t enough to handle, ghosts stir and an old power awakens in the heart of Prague…

Silence Fallen is the 11th book in the Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.  I awaited it’s release with baited breath and am pleased to report I was not disappointed.  Yet again, Patty delivered​ an exciting plot and well developed believable characters that we love (or love to hate).

Mercy shines as our heroine as she uses her wit and resourcefulness to get herself out of, and back into, sticky situations.  True to form Mercedes faces her situation with inner strength and determination.  As a result she is both impressing and bewildering werewolves and vampires alike as they find her more than what she appears to be.  Once again Patty weaves elements from past books into Silence Fallen.  I appreciate this element of her writing because not only does this strengthen the continuity of her stories, it also makes her characters feel real.  As in her other books, Silence fallen had moments where I was cheering the characters on, feeling sympathy, getting anxious, laughing out loud, and happily feeling warm and content.  

This book differs from previous books in the series as it has several chapters from Adam’s point of view as he struggles with factors surrounding Mercy’s kidnapping and as he plots to recover her.  I enjoyed these chapters immensely as they not only grant insight to Adam’s emotions and thought processes but also show some of our favorite supporting characters from a different perspective.  Patty also throws in a small surprise twist at the end to which there are cleverly subtle clues, discoverable in hindsight (and a thorough reread of certain scenes).

Overall the book felt comfortingly familiar and yet held refreshing changes.  I was engaged in the story and felt connected to the characters.  If you are a fan of the Mercy Thompson series, Silence Fallen will not disappoint.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J Maas

A review by Amanda.

Nineteen year old Feyre is the sole provider for her family. Her father is unable to work after losing the family’s fortune and his merchant business in a risky venture. Feyre’s two older sisters seem content to live off of what meager rations and coins her hunting brings in, while giving only bitterness and indifference in return. Feyre is accustomed to burying her hurt and anger under a mask of ice and is marking time until her sisters can be married off to become someone else’s burden. She longs to be free of her responsibilities but a vow made to her dying mother keeps her stuck in place.

Everything changes when Feyre hunts too close to the border between her human village and Prythian, a land of myth and magic ruled by faeries. Retribution comes in the form of Tamlin, a powerful faerie lord with a cold, secretive demeanor who gives Feyre a choice between death or captivity. She chooses to become his prisoner to live out her life in Prythian in hopes that escape might someday be an option. She does not expect to enjoy the beauty of Tamlin’s estate,nor to develop friendships with the faeries who reside there. She does not expect that the real danger of Prythian may be one that isn’t from the legends with which she is familiar.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a beautiful reimagining of the classic Beauty and the Beast story. The inspiration is clear while reading, but Feyre’s story is uniquely her own. Feyre is a wonderful protagonist. She is rough around the edges, distrusting of everyone and everything, and incredibly stubborn. Her strengths and weaknesses are rounded out, making her into a whole person. At no point is she a damsel in distress, although she is put into dangerous situations, some of which require help from others for her to survive.

Romance has a natural progression in this story, and is given enough weight to feel real, but not so much that it overshadows everything else. The world-building is seamless and beautiful. The plot is character-driven, and perfectly paced. Supporting characters are well-rounded and given plenty of agency, although there is a lack of diversity in both ethnicity and sexual orientation. Future books may address this issue. There is some violence in this story but nothing terribly graphic. There are a couple of consensual sexual encounters, as well as some non-consensual touching and kissing (again, not too graphic), but without compromising the integrity of the story or the characters. Fans of the author’s other series Throne of Glass and fans of authors Cinda Williams Chima, Marissa Meyer, and Cassandra Clare may enjoy this book. Book two, A Court of Mist and Fury has been released in hardcover. The third book, A Court of Wind and Ruin, will be released on May 2nd.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “The Mediator Book 1: Shadowland” by Meg Cabot

Review: “The Mediator Book 1: Shadowland” by Meg Cabot

A review by Vanessa.

Susannah Simon has a special gift. Well, she wouldn’t call it a gift, really, because it certainly comes with its obligations. Namely, the requirement that she speak to and help out all of the dead people whom she can see. As much as she would prefer to ignore them and be a normal high school sophomore, their reasons for hanging around sometimes interfere with her life; and her life has enough interference already. Her mother has married a really nice guy named Andy, and although Suze approves of him for her mom she’s not so happy about the moving from New York to Carmel, CA. Or being stuck with three new annoying stepbrothers, and changing schools, and leaving her one and only friend behind. What’s worse is that her new home has an unwanted guest residing in her bedroom. His name is Jesse, and he was so obviously young, handsome, with six-pack abs, lovely dark eyes, and gorgeous hair when he died. Suze doesn’t like having him as a distraction when she is trying to adjust to all the changes. But he is not the only distraction she finds.

Suze is startled to find several surprises waiting for her at her new high school. There is Heather, the very angry and dangerous dead girl haunting her locker. Then there is Father Dominic, the school’s principal, who it turns out is a mediator just like her! Suze doesn’t know what to think about meeting someone like her for the first time ever, and fitting in with other kids at the school. It seems like things might be ok in her new life. But Heather has some very dark revenge to enact and Suze is just getting in her way. Plus her youngest new stepbrother, a sweet and super smart kid who Suze actually likes, seems to know way more than he is saying. She’s always taken care of things all on her own, but this time it might be too much for her. Can she stop Heather, and protect the people in her life that she is really starting to care about?

As always, Meg Cabot delivers a wonderfully well told story of young life, but this time with a supernatural twist. Her famous Princess Diaries series may have put her on the map as an author but this series showcases her ability write in the paranormal genre as well. Her characters are totally engaging, and utterly realistic. The supporting characters fit right into all the expected tropes, but at the same time each of them holds their own interest for the reader. They might be typical, but they are so great to read it just doesn’t matter. Suze is both a “typical high school girl” and a very unique character. She struggles with school, friends, boys, raging hormones, and annoying brothers. She thinks about fashion and clothes, and what it would be like to be kissed.  But in between all that she struggles with suppressing her own emotions to accommodate the happiness of her mother, the ever present influence of death, the moral implications of forcing a ghost to cross over unwillingly, and the guilt that comes with being forced to lie to her family and friends for their own good. She also harbors a quick temper and some violent tendencies that make her an ever more interesting character. The only drawback to this book would be that some of the stereotypes might be embraced a bit too willingly. But even then, the characters cannot be described as boring or one dimensional. I love this series, and I would recommend it to young, and adult readers alike.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Faith, Volume One: Hollywood and Vine” By Jody Houser, Francis Portella, Marguerite Sauvage, Andrew Dalhouse

Review: “Faith, Volume One: Hollywood and Vine

A review by Amanda.

Faith Herbert is a sci-fi nerd, comic book lover, and an all-around geeky girl. She’s also a superhero. Faith is a psiot; a human with supernatural abilities. Orphaned at a young age and raised by her grandmother, Faith’s nerdy dreams came true when her special talents made themselves known. She joined a team of other psiots called the Renegades and created the alter ego Zephyr. She used her telekinetic ability to fly and move objects to help people, and formed close relationships with her teammates.

When the story begins, Faith has left the Renegades for an unknown reason. She has created a new identity as Summer Smith, a journalist at an online magazine, and still uses her Zephyr persona to help people in Van Nuys, California. Bored and looking for superhero action, she stumbles across something dangerous involving missing psiots. Faith is determined to solve the mystery and save the day, but may have gotten in over her head…

Faith is a non-Marvel, non-DC superhero comic from Valiant. It stood out from other comics on a superficial level because the protagonist didn’t fit the standard superhero appearance – she was fat. Readers know this solely because of the art. Her weight was never mentioned by any character, not even in her own thoughts, which was both unexpected and invigorating. Faith, the character, was loveable and goofy. She was a Joss Whedon fan and made several nerd references that felt like nods to beloved franchises. She had a romantic life but it didn’t dominate the plot. The story was a bit slow to start and some aspects were not made entirely clear, such as why she left the Renegades. More background on the supporting characters would also have been beneficial. Perhaps future issues provide more depth. Overall, this was a nice comic – not action-heavy, and light on the details, but still a fun read. Its most attractive features are the humor and relatability of its main character. This volume is comprised of the first four issues.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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Review: “Souljacker: A Lily Bound Novel” by Yasmine Galenorn

A review by Amanda.

Lily O’Connell is a Fae woman living in Seattle’s Blood Night District. The Fae, along with Weres and vampires, revealed their existence to humans several decades ago, mostly to everyone’s benefit. Lily’s closest friends are a witch named Dani and a human called Nate, as well as her cat Whisky who isn’t exactly what he seems. She runs a private salon called Lily Bound that allows her to feed her succubus appetite without killing anyone. When a prominent, married, Were-client is murdered in her home, which is also her place of business, the trouble has only just begun. Now she must contend with the wrath of a grieving widow, as well as the shock of discovering that the killer is not finished yet – and Lily and her friends may be on his list of future targets. Is teaming up with a private investigator, who also happens to be a chaos demon, a good idea or a recipe for disaster?

This was the first book in the Lily Bound series. The most interesting aspect of this story, without giving spoilers, was the circumstances surrounding the murders. The world-building of human and non-human society was well done and made sense. The characters were very superficial; what you see is what you get, with perhaps one exception. There were no hidden agendas or suspicious motives anywhere, which was a bit disappointing. Since this was the first in a series that, of course, may change in later books. The overall plot was predictable for anyone who has read an urban fantasy series. Fans of Yasmine Galenorn’s Otherworld and Indigo Court series may enjoy Souljacker, as well as those who like Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, and Seanan Maguire’s October Daye series.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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Review: “Windsinger: A Darkhaven Novel” by A.F.E. Smith

Review: “Windsinger: A Darkhaven Novel” by A.F.E. Smith

A review by Vanessa.

Again I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to review this series. This is the third installment of the Darkhaven series, the first of which I reviewed in July 2015, and the second in Jan 2016.

Ayla Nightshade is the overlord of Darkhaven, the ruler of the city of Arkannen and all of Mirrorvale, mother of three small children, and wife to her captain of the Helm, Tomas Caraway. It is a lot to balance, especially when she is the only known Changer left in Mirrorvale, and her enemies are many. But she hopes to have one less enemy, that of the neighboring kingdom who has been the most recent trouble for her, Sol Kardis. After fending off attacks by their assassins a few years earlier, all Ayla really wants is to find a peace treaty with them and move on with living her life and helping her people. She wants to make Arkannen a thriving center for trade and commerce and give all of her people the chance at peaceful and prosperous lives. Indeed, Arkannen will be receiving a marvel of new technology from their neighboring kingdom of Parovia. The Windsinger is a giant airship which Ayla hopes will inspire her people in their own technological advances.

Tomas Caraway is happy to be the father of Ayla’s two small daughters and their adopted son Marlon. Though he still finds doubt in his ability to lead the Helm, he has been successful at recruiting some of the best and most loyal to aid him in protecting Ayla and his family. And he will need them the most when the emissary sent by Sol Kardis dies at the hands of a poison that seems like it could only have come from Ayla herself. Ree, Penn, and Zander have been serving in Arkannen since the events of several years past. Ree is a respected female member of the Helm. Despite his family’s hatred of Captain Caraway, Penn has proven to be a loyal Helmsman as well. But Zander, discovered as the son of a prominent Sol Kardis councilor, didn’t make it into the inner circle of trust or the Helm. But he serves as a fifth ring weapons master, and he has no desire to go home. With the death of the emissary from Sol Kardis, all of these loyal friends will have their own part to play in keeping Ayla and her young family safe, and protecting their home of Mirrorvale. Meanwhile, Tomas has some plans of his own and a spy that might help him along the way. There is treachery within the very halls of Darkhaven, maybe closer than even Tomas realizes. Can they avert war and disaster and find the real culprit in time?

Masterful world building abounds in this third installment to the Darkhaven series. The characters as always are multifaceted and engaging. Ayla’s strength and leadership is not at all hampered by her decision to marry Tomas Caraway. They are as always a team, where he is happy to support her as a ruler and she relies on his support and wisdom as any wise ruler would. Her physical abilities as a Changer make her the bigger, stronger, and more imposing character, but that is not a detriment to Tomas or any other character in the story. Tomas is a wonderfully flawed but lovable strength in Ayla’s life. Ree as the first and best female Helmsman has her struggles. As readers we get to admire her determination and independence as someone who is simply human and makes the best of the life she has made for herself. Even Penn and Zander get their perspective in the story, and we get to learn more about them. Penn is struggling with his separation from his family, and Zander’s experiences as essentially an immigrant in Mirrorvale are as relevant to our own world as any in the book. All of these weave together in a wonderfully fantastic read that does not disappoint.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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