Reader Recommendation – Mageri Series

It has been a while since we have had one of these reader recommendation posts, but Aggie has come across a series that she loved and wanted to share with everyone. The Mageri series from author Dannika Dark recently ended with the release of the fifth and final book, Shine. Aggie also found herself really enjoying the first book of her new series, called Seven.

sterlingBook one is called Sterling

Zoë Merrick lived a less than ordinary life, until late one night, she was brutally attacked and left for dead.

A man named Adam spotted her running down the road covered in blood, and took her under his wing. Zoë didn’t just survive that night – she underwent a physical transformation and acquired strange new abilities. Severed from her old life, her frustration grows as she tries to comprehend what’s happening to her.

Serendipity leads her to Justus. He’s handsome, arrogant, and not entirely human. Zoë learns the truth about what she is, and just how dangerous their world is for a young Mage. The only way she will understand her power is by putting her trust in this man, and accepting the protection he offers.

When her immortal freedom is threatened by the one man who has a right to claim her, Zoë learns the price of freedom…and the value of loyalty.

twistBook two is Twist

Months after moving to the mysterious city of Cognito, Silver is developing her gifts as a Mage, and learning how to live under new laws. Forced to give up her old life, she must now live in secret among the humans. She finally has hope of leading an ordinary life . . . until Logan Cross walks into it.

Their chance meeting leads her close to discovering the identity of the nameless Mage who once stole her light and discovered the unique power she possesses. That knowledge poses an unimaginable threat to Silver, fueling her search to find out who he is, before he finds her first.

Lives are at stake. Truths are revealed. And an unexpected passion ignites.

x-defaultBook three is Impulse

Almost one year ago, a Mage attacked Silver and changed the course of her destiny.
Immortals exist, and now she is one of them.

Within the dark and supernatural city of Cognito, Silver is living under the watchful eye of her Ghuardian and dating her mortal enemy. Neither man can protect her from a dark secret, one buried within the contents of a box. As rival factions struggle to gain control, she finds herself in the middle of a centuries-old feud that threatens to drive a wedge between her and Logan Cross, the man who intends to seduce her.

In an explosive turn of events, one life is saved and another is forever altered. Can Silver trust those around her, or are they hiding a dark secret of their own?

gravityNumber four is called Gravity

When a choice is made, it will forever alter the course of our destiny. It cannot be undone, for fate is a river changing direction and carving away the bed of our hearts like everlasting fractures.

A difficult past has left Silver broken, but she is learning to trust again through Logan Cross, a Chitah who has convinced her that a dangerous man can change. Their conviction for each other will be put to the ultimate test when an old nemesis reappears and flips her world upside down. Will Logan be able to tame the animal within, or will he succumb to his impulsive nature?

The ongoing investigation into Breed experiments unveils a shocking secret about Silver’s past. Standing at a fork in the road, Silver is forced to make a decision. Each comes with consequence, and there is no turning back.

shineAnd it wraps up with Shine

Love is infinite.
Hate is absolute.

In the short span of a year, Silver has gone from becoming a Mage to discovering the truth about her unique genetics. Logan Cross went from her mortal enemy to her immortal lover, but a threat is fast approaching like an inevitable storm. Attacks are underway against the Mageri and one man is behind it—an elusive foe who is an unstoppable force. Nero is not Silver’s only concern as someone close to her is arrested for treason. In the midst of chaos, Silver discovers she cannot protect everyone from the wrath of fate, including her own Ghuardian.

Justus finally opens his heart, but an unexpected turn of events could darken his soul forever. Secrets are revealed that will leave you reeling from one twist after the next. Would you sacrifice everything for love?

Destiny has set sail and once she alters her course, no one’s life will ever be the same in this explosive conclusion to the Mageri Series.

Any other fans of this series? Does it sound like something you might check out? There is a kindle bundle available right now at Amazon with the first three titles on sale for $6.89, if you would like to check things out.

As always, if you would like to share a great series, just drop me a line in the Contact Me section.

Reader Recommendation – Promise Series

Doug Meeks usually sends over the reviews for the books he has enjoyed (more wanting to share a great story and not wasting the time to review a bad one). but this time around he focused on a series. The Promise series is written by Tara Fox Hall, and at this point there are three stories available in either e-format or paperback version.

Promise Banner

What Doug said…

            Promise Series
By
Tara Fox Hall
Reading Order
Promise Me #1
Broken Promise #2
Taken in the Night #3
Taken For His Own #4 (Release Date: May 2013)
NOTE:  At least 3 more books are planned for release

Summary:
This is the Promise series. An eclectic mix of Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance/Thriller/Drama with a supporting cast of vampires, various shifters, half demons and some we may not have seen yet. The series for the most part covers the life of recently widowed Sarelle McGarran.

When young widow Sarelle McGarran finds the vampire Danial Racklan unconscious and hurt in her woods, intuitive concern quickly becomes passionate love. Together Danial and Sar work to overcome their own past heartbreaks, their vastly different lifestyles, and Danial’s relentless enemies. Yet Danial needs more; an Oath of forever. But Sar is surprised by a betrayal of her trust in Danial. Shocked at Danial’s betrayal, Sarelle returns to her old home to consider her options. Yet even as Sar plans a reconciliation with Danial, things take a turn when Terian (another life she has saved) arrives, confessing his desire.

When Theo witnesses Terian and Sar kiss, he angrily confronts Sar, leading to startling consequences. When Theo disappears, Sar is left bereft, the uncertain guardian of Theo’s newly born werecougar daughter, Elle. As months pass, clues emerge about Theo’s disappearance, yet the twisting trail ends repeatedly without answer. In her grief, Sar turns to Danial and hesitantly begins to build a life with him and Elle.  The search for Theo will ultimately yield some answers but what other dangers are still following Sar that she has forgotten about …

Review:
First of all I should mention the entire series with some very minor exceptions,  is from Sar’s point of view so if she does not know it, we do not know it.  This series starts with a bit of action as Danial Racklan becomes the target for a hunter who wants him dead for reasons Danial does not even realize and when he ends up collapsing behind Sar’s home she brings him in and even though she realizes that he must be a vampire from his teeth she decides to give him blood to save his life (mainly because she finds him so desirable and she actually has a soft heart).  The story evolves into a romance from there with multilayered plots that unfold as the reader goes along in the series, many if not most are quite surprising and add to the enjoyment of the reader.

The only danger of this type of writing is that the reader can become a bit fatigued from constant stress of the life of Sar, who seems to attract angst and tragedy at every turn.  I should mention that I read all three novels in 2-3 days back to back so that might not be something that would affect everyone and though stressful at time it is not depressing as many of this type tend to be. The turning tides of the romance in this novel can be a bit confusing and Sar is continually trying to do the “right thing” but it seems to bring her as much heartbreak and sadness as it does brief periods of happiness. We have Sar, Danial, at least 2 or more other possible love interests (no this is not an erotic, Anita Blake type setup), at least 2 evil antagonists (the ultimate status of one of them might be in question), a couple of friends and a host of ancillary characters that you are given just enough information to remember their names but not really assign anything beyond a 2 dimensional personality, they are mainly pleasant and soldier-like but when one of them is killed you hardly even take notice.  The diversity of vampires, shifters, demons and partials of such and it is a great mix of characters. The overarching story which is the constant thread through the whole series I found enthralling although at times I think it was a trainwreck attraction of how bad things get at times but it also makes the main characters and their lives compelling and they stay on your mind even when you are not reading (always a good sign).

While there are not textbook “cliffhanger” ending there is usually a big reveal that drives you to the next book in a similar fashion.  Book 3 “Taken in the Night” was the worst but the author posted a teaser of the first 2-3 chapters of the next book online so you are not left frustrated for months waiting for the book (which will be released approximately 1 May 2013 – “Taken for his Own”) to know the answer you are left dying to know at the end of the book. The thing you should know before you start this series is that it does evolve; the story in book #1 is unlike the story in book #3 as our characters have changed as become more familiar, this is a mix of heavy romance, some urban fantasy and a lot of drama and angst.  Assuming that somewhere down the line at the end of 6-7 books we will get a HEA but most are HFN at best in these first 3 books.

I am giving them a 5 Star review that I attribute more to the addictive quality and the fact that I enjoyed them immensely even though I spent a l0t of time mad, sad, shocked and a few “WTF are you doing!” moments .  This is a series that plays on your emotions so you should be aware, the sex is probably a 3-4/5 range and the number of pages devoted to those situations is a bit more than needed but far from an erotic level.  The overwhelming majority of the pages are devoted to moving the plot along (which I always appreciate, I hate authors who waste my time on pages and pages where nothing really happens).  Take a look at the teaser on Amazon of book 1 “Promise Me” and see if you are hooked into this story which still has several more tales to tell in the future it seems.

Reader Recommendation…

starA few days back, Doug Meeks did up a review for the newly released e-book Vamps Gone Wild (print release date March 26th). Anyways, one of the four novellas featured was from the Diaries of an Urban Panther series from Amanda Arista. This got Doug looking into the rest of the series, and he liked what he found.

Urban Panther Series

What Doug said…

            Diaries of an Urban Panther Series

By

Amanda Arista

Diaries of an Urban Panther (Book #1)
Claws and Effect (Book #2)
Nine Lives of an Urban Panther (Book #3)
“First Dates Are Hell” from Vampires Gone Wild ( 1 of 4 stories)

Summary:

Violet Jordan Rule #1 of being a superhero: No tights.

Violet Jordan Rule #2 of being a superhero:
Find reliable sidekicks.

Violet Jordan‘s Rule #3 of being a superhero: Family first, fur second.

Dear Diary,

By now you know I’m hardly a normal girl. Last night I woke up naked in an alley after fighting off some werewolves. All in a day’s work, I guess. I thought I was dealing pretty well with the whole Werepanther thing: the training, the apocalyptic prophecies. And the hot guy following me around, protecting me at every turn is definitely a bonus. I’m even starting to become accustomed to the bloodshed and the violence—and that’s what scares me. What will tomorrow bring…

I thought life was going to get better. After four assassination attempts, I’m thinking not so much. The pack needs a new leader, and I’ve just about run out of reasons why I’m not right for the job.

Besides, having loyal followers would definitely help me fight off whoever’s out for my blood. Especially since my boyfriend is always busy playing White Hat to every wanderer except me. I’m glad he thinks I’m tough enough to handle my own business, but a little extra backup would be nice.

With new supernatural creatures popping up at every turn (Ghouls? Really?), the city divided, and my long-lost cousin blazing into town, I’ve got a lot on my mind. Oh, not to mention I’m supposed to be planning a wedding. Chaz has got to be the best, most patient (and probably clinically insane) boyfriend around.

But defeating my sworn enemy in a battle for the souls of Dallas is going to require more than just my full attention. It means learning to depend on everyone—especially Chaz—if any of us are going to make it out of this alive. Because if Plan A doesn’t work, I’m going to need them for Plan B. And Plan C…

Review:

Violet is hardly normal, she has went from being a script-writer for horror movies to being a shapeshifter but there is something special about Violet, something that an old prophesy says will help all of the shapshifters in Dallas have a better life …. If she lives that long and overcomes more problems than you could list with Excel.

This series was a bit of a surprise since I had the first 2 books buried in my “to-be-read” stack of books for over a year and that is where they would still be if I had not been given a copy of Vampires Gone Wild to review and in that anthology the best story was one called “First Dates Are Hell” which was very good and it came from the Urban Panther series (actually in the timeline it was after the trilogy of books).

So after enjoying that story I grabbed the books I had, bought #3 and started reading and was totally hooked into this story, I am not sure if the author was writing a trilogy when she wrote Diaries of an Urban Panther but these 3 books have to be read together to really get the full impact (who wants to read 1 book of the Lord of the Rings?) and while each book has an ending of sorts the real story that threads through all of them is the one that ends in the last book of this trilogy.

While I do not want to give away too much of the story, I can say it was one of the best reading experiences I have had in several months, but while I am extolling this series greatness I need to point out that if you are OCD about editing then book 2 may pose some problems since her editor must have jumped ship during the writing/publication of Claws and Effects (book #2) but I was still able to enjoy it and continue on but be forewarned.

The ending of the main story arc threading through all the books coming to an epic end in book 3 and one of the best endings I have seen in awhile to be honest. The characters were fleshed out very well, Violet was an awesome heroine and her humor was what made reading this series a much more pleasurable task.

Let me just say that as a full time reviewer as a hobby, I get dozens of free books every month and I went and BOUGHT all of these books after reading the story in Vampires Gone Wild and in spite of some bad editing and stumbles along the way, this story was so good I could care less. I give it 5 Stars not because it is an awesome piece of writing but because it was the best story I have read in a long time AND I liked the way it made me feel when it ended. You don’t get many of those type stories.

My hope is that she may come back to this series (although blogs have said it was over) since I loved it but the ending was good enough I can live with this being all these is, get these books and enjoy a great story and ignore any stumbles along the way to an awesome ending. The story in Vampires Gone Wild was just a bonus to close a loop on one of the characters and it was done exceptionally.

I have eyed this one for a while myself, but I have always put it on the “oneday” list. Sounds like I might have to move that up. As always, if you have a series you think deserves that little extra attention, just give me a shout and we can set up another Reader Recommendation post.

Reader Recommendations…

I was surprised to hear from Douglas Meeks that the WVMP series from Jeri Smith-Ready was wrapping up with the release of Lust For Life in a couple of weeks.  For some reason, a series ending always manages to catch me off guard, unless it is specified as a trilogy up front (I live in the land of denial).  So, Doug did up a reader recommendation post covering the whole series.

What Doug said…

        WVMP/Ciera Griffin Series:

Wicked Game – Book #1
Bad To The Bone – Book #2
Bring On The Night – Book #3
*Let It Bleed – Book #3.5
*NOTE!! – The FREE book Let It Bleed is only available at the authors website and is REQUIRED reading for this series – Available in format for any reading device or PC
Lust For Life – Book #4 (27 Nov Release)

Disclaimer: These books were furnished to me at no cost and without conditions in expectation of a fair and honest review.

WVMP/Ciera Griffin Series
Summary & Review:

The WVMP series is different from almost any other “vampire” series you ever read, it follows one female for the life of the series and in addition to the plots and subplots the main theme throughout the books is the romance between her and Shane (an undead DJ), I took this assignment on due to the “Rock & Roll” aspect of the books but that quickly becomes a secondary thing as you follow the life of Ciera Griffin. I should mention that these books are filled with musical trivia from the 50s to the 2000s that adds to the enjoyment if you are into such things (I am a small bit so it DID interest me).  The series was going to be promoted in a big way (as evidenced by the http://www.wvmpradio.com/ that the author or publisher setup) but the series never gained the popularity to fully develop these things but the link is still there and has some interesting things.

The difference I mentioned is with the vampires as the author writes them, in her version of vampires they are attached to the times they lived in and are somewhat ‘locked” on the time period they were turned into vampires, which gives a bit of depth to several of the subplots. They all are OCD to some degree (some more than others) and it adds a bit of lightness to some of the darkness of these books, I think one of the things I slowly enjoyed somewhere along the line was the authors ability to mix the light and dark aspects of these stories without coming off as inappropriate or stupid. (Click here for info on the DJs)

The last book in the series Lust For Life will be released on Nov 27th of 2012 and the series will end, the book closes pretty much all the loose ends and the hoped for HEA everyone has been looking for will be decided and it won’t be what you thought it would be. Ciera and Shane have weathered many storms in their struggles which revolved around a core of amazing characters (mostly vampires) who pose as DJs at the WVMP radio station playing music from the age they were when they were “turned” and it plays well. The picture of vampires presented in these books is far from the all powerful creatures in most other PNR/UF type novels, these are people with problems and emotions.

While these novels tend to meander back and forth from action, adventure and typical vampire fare, they also spend a great deal of time letting you get into the characters heads a bit, sometimes this is done well and sometimes it gets boring but you do get a good mental picture of what makes up the main characters. I got the feeling throughout the books that the author was struggling NOT to inject her personal feelings on religion and politics into the books, for the most part she succeeded although a heroine who has the “superpower” of disbelief in almost anything religious does kind of give you an idea but nothing overpowering since I will magically turn any book obviously trying to inject “social engineering” into my entertainment into compost.

As far as the HEA I can only say the books ends in a suitable fashion and as with most good authors we are hit with an unexpected ending, but be forewarned that there is some tragedy along the way in these novels that you don’t see coming (as most really good series have) which adds to the emotional impact of the series. This is an amazing series but, I fear the slow start is what doomed it although it has taken over 3 years to get the series to this point. I don’t usually give a high recommendation to a series that moves as slowly as this one did but if you can hang in there with it by about halfway through book 2 you will be glad you did, the story picks up speed and the climatic ending will be appreciated by all readers.

This series falls into the category of “almost” great, it kept my attention, I wanted to know more but I was disappointed several times in things not reaching the potential I felt was there, it turned into a book of self analysis many times it seemed.  The core of these books is always the romance and not the action so if your interest is more romance oriented then you might like it a bit more than I did (and I loved it).

BOTTOM LINE:
This is a great series at its core, it wanders off from time to time but always comes back, you won’t be sorry you read them but you will feel sad at the end and for me a feeling of amazing potential not fully realized. Great series and I wish I could have known a bit more about the other amazing characters.   It would have been 5 Stars but the author gets a bit introspective at times and I had to scan a small bit but the overall story is gripping and enjoyable.  ….. 4 of 5 Stars

Was everyone else like me and surprised to see this one wrap up?  I will have to keep an eye out and see what will be in store for Jeri Smith-Ready now, since surely there must be a new series in the works.

Reader Recommendation – My Immortals

Hey all.  I love these reader recommendation posts, partly because they are so little work for me, and partly because I do find it really interesting to see what great series people have discovered.  This post comes courtesy of Jill, who has found a favorite series in the My Immortals books from Carolyn Jewel.

What Jill said…

Winter is coming.  Do you want to curl up with a fantastic, hot paranormal romance read?  Then I highly recommend Carolyn Jewel’s “My Immortals” series.  Ms. Jewel invites us to look at our world as if it were peopled by  mages, witches and demons living right beside us.  The overarching story line is about the struggles of the powerful demon warlord, Nikodemus, to unite the kin (free demons) against the mages (male magic users) who are enslaving them.

The first book, My Wicked Enemy,  establishes the above described world and introduces Nikodemus and Carson.  Kidnapped as a child and raised by a mage intent on stealing all her magic, Carson is weak and confused when she escapes the mage.  Finally free, she is  captured by Nikodemus who has plans of his own for her.  Lots of world building in this first book and I felt there was an easier flow to the subsequent books but I still gave this  4.5 stars. The rest of the books in the series have, in my opinion, been 5 star reads.

Overall, some of the things I love about this series are strong female leads to balance all the alpha males, relationships that end up as true partnerships, strong writing skills from Ms Jewel (no syntax or grammatical errors – a huge plus for me these days) and  great, great romance.

Ms. Jewel is currently giving away free copies of My Wicked Enemy (who doesn’t like free?) on her web site www.carolynjewel.com  You can also find descriptions of her other books, My Forbidden Desire, My Immortal Assassin,  My Dangerous Pleasure and Freefall (a novella).  Look for the next book sometime later this fall.

Who else has read this one?  I admit, I have seen them around, but never dove in myself.  Another one to add to the Mountain, it seems.

Reader Recommendation…

Doug Meeks kindly sent over another Reader Recommendation (I do love getting these).  Looks like he is on to a really good series I have seen around forever but never gotten into myself, The Horngate Witches from Diana Pharaoh Francis.  Right now, there are three books available, with the fourth due out at the end of this year.

What Doug said…

          Horngate Witches Series:
Disclaimer:
These books were furnished to me at no cost and without conditions in expectation of a fair and honest review. It should be noted that after reading about 20% of Bitter Night I bought them all in Kindle format at my own cost (that should be considered a large recommendation)
Summary:
Ages ago, the Guardians of the earth created an army of creatures—faeries, banshee, chimeras, oni, lamia, kelpies, angels…the Uncanny and Divine things that populate myth and legends that most humans suppose never really existed. It was an army meant to contain the human population, to keep them from overrunning the earth…hungry parasites taking more than the host can provide.
The army failed. The Guardians were too benevolent and did not prune back the weed of humanity as severely as needed. As a result, cold iron took a heavy toll on the creatures of the Uncanny and Divine.
Centuries later, the Guardians have decided to act before it is too late—before the magic dies entirely. This time, they are holding nothing back. Over centuries, the creatures of the Uncanny and Divine have grown less susceptible to iron, and they will no longer let mercy or pity get in the way of saving the earth and its magic.
A war is beginning, one that will remake the earth and decimate much of humanity. It will move mountains and drain oceans. Magical beings will once again walk the earth, more powerful than ever before. A new army is rising, and the portents are here. Fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes…a collapsing bridge, a sinkhole swallowing a city block, a tidal wave to kill an island.
Witches will be at the heart of the war. They have kept the fires of magic burning for centuries. The Guardians call on them to lead the fight. But uniting the witches is no easy task. Many are enemies, while others see the rising tide of magic as a chance to build empires.
Questions arise. Will anyone protect humanity? Who will survive when the war ends? The line in the sand between good and evil is smudged and crooked and right and wrong is impossible to know. But no one will be left on the sidelines; everyone will have to choose sides and they will have to do it VERY soon..
Once, Max dreamed of a career, a home, a loving family. Now all she wants is freedom…and revenge. A witch named Giselle transformed Max into a warrior with extraordinary strength, speed, and endurance. Bound by spellcraft, Max has no choice but to fight as Giselle’s personal magic weapon — a Shadowblade — and she’s lethally good at it. But her skills are about to be put to the test as they never have before….
So the story begins …
Review:
Max is the very angry, very capable heroine and my initial impression after getting into the book was “How have I missed this series??” it had me hooked quickly. My favorite characters in PNR/UF have always been the more violent ones (Kate Daniels, Jane Yellowrock, BDB, etc) but I could not believe how great the character of Max was in these books. She embodies a bit of all of them and keeps a pace in these books that made me tired just reading them.
I was initially a bit disappointed in the first book because I did not get the revenge “fix” I felt like I really needed but the author while feeding my violent addiction took a higher road on the revenge thing and had it all make sense by book 3 (I still wanted her to get her revenge and I guess she did in a way).
A large part of these books is her relationship (totally nonsexual) with Giselle (the witch in charge of Horngate and former best friend) which is horribly complex and is still the most frustrating part of these books for me, I wish I could explain it better but since it is an evolving thing I can’t do it without spoilers. I think in Blood Winter (book #4) it will get a bit more resolution it would seem to indicate.
Make no mistake that there is most definitely a love interest in Alexander (another Shadowblade) and it runs cold and hot but when you are spending a huge amount of time trying to stay alive or protecting others, your sex life suffers a bit, not from the lack of Alexander’s efforts. As with most relationships, it too is very complicated.
These are books setting up the beginning of an apocalypse (read the summary) and she is a survivor and once she considers you one of “hers” she is a “fight till you die” type of personality which you have to love and actually has a soft core that you don’t get to see much of until about halfway through book 2.
The cast of characters is endless and every species in UF shows up (or a variation of it), there are the Shadowblades, Sunspears, witches, mages, angels, etc. If you can think about it, chances are you will see at least a mention of it in one of the first 3 books (and a couple you never thought of)
The reason these books work so well is that Max is extremely passionate about her responsibility to take care of all around her and that loyalty is reflected back by the loyalty of those she cares for (and a couple she puts up with anyway).
The stories are a bit stressful, the odds impossible at times and death is a constant companion and pain is just part of life in apocalyptic America. I tend to dislike dystopia type books but this series is so good it overcomes my dislike with ease. While each book has a main plot, the theme of this whole series is Max doing whatever it takes to protect people weaker than her and she never forgets it.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a 5 Star rated series and I can’t wait to read more, she leaves you wanting more at the end of each book but be forewarned, don’t get to the end of book 2 without book 3 right there ready to be read since you WILL want to get right to it (trust me). Book #4 Blood Winter will be released at Christmas and I hope to have an ARC to review a few weeks in advance of that date. You really should grab these books now to be ready for Blood Winter at Christmas, if you want nice girls, pages of hot passionate sex and are a fan of nonviolence …. you are in the wrong place. This is about survival of the fit and justice for those who prey on the weak, all she needs is a cape with a big S on the front. You will be thrilled with her success and suffer over her history of betrayals by people she trusted, but all of her tortured past serve to make her into someone whose story you cannot resist. Strong heroine is such an understatement in describing Max , you are going to love her.
Who else loves this one?  Anyone going to give this one a start if you haven’t already?

Reader Recommendations…

Thanks once again to Doug Meeks, who has been kind enough to do up another reader recommendation post.  I do love to see what others like, and hopefully these little posts can give some attention to a lesser known author or series who deserves the recognition.  This time around, Doug chose a stand alone story from author Grace Draven called Master of Crows.

What Doug says…

SUMMARY: (Fantasy / Fantasy Romance) What would you do to win your freedom? This is the question that sets bondwoman, Martise of Asher, on a dangerous path. In exchange for her freedom, she bargains with her masters, the mage-priests of Conclave, to spy on the renegade sorcerer, Silhara of Neith. The priests want Martise to expose the sorcerer’s treachery and turn him over to Conclave justice. A risky endeavor, but one she accepts without hesitation–until she falls in love with her intended target. Silhara of Neith, Master of Crows, is a desperate man. The god called Corruption invades his mind, seducing him with promises of limitless power if he will help it gain dominion over the world. Silhara struggles against Corruption’s influence and searches for ways to destroy the god. When Conclave sends Martise as an apprentice to help him, he knows she’s a spy. Now he fights a war on two fronts–against the god who would possess him and the apprentice who would betray him. Mage and spy search together for a ritual that will annihilate Corruption, but in doing so, they discover secrets about each other that may damn them both. Silhara must decide if his fate, and the fate of nations, is worth the soul of the woman he has come to love, and Martise must choose continued enslavement or freedom at the cost of a man’s life. And love…
REVIEW: We all have books that stick with us well beyond the last page; Master of Crows is one of those books. Released in 2009, this is not a new book and somebody did NOT tell me what an excellent book this was going to be. Let me clear up something and that is that all my all time favorite books have been epic type novels/trilogies/series where the hero/heroine struggles against seemingly impossible odds. That is where this book took me, as with most fantasy romance it is slow paced but the reason is that there is not the “MINE” moment you find in a lot of PNR/UF and so it is a more realistic slowly evolving romance based on days/months of interaction. Master of Crows held to this principal in an excellent manner keeping my attention while moving along towards a goal that becomes seemingly unattainable.
Master of Crows is a wonderful fantasy/PNR romance with a great balance of rich world building mixed with a solid, steamy hot romance between the Silhara of Nieth, the Master of Crows, and Martise of Asher, a slave girl with a hidden surprise. This book slowly paints a unique world with Gods, priest clans, mages, giants, soul eaters who are dispersed among the story.
Silhara is a sarcastic, anti-social mage. Martise is the plain, unremarkable woman sent to spy on him against her will. I wasn’t sure if the author was going to be able to convincingly pull off this unlikely pair. In the end, these two very different people suit each other well. The balance between fantasy and romance was well maintained.
Since I don’t do spoilers all I can say is that they have to defeat a god, a ruling body of priestly sorcerers and a few personal demons to have a chance, the odds are NOT in their favor. So, for me this gets 5+ Stars on its ultimate entertainment satisfaction, this is not “love at first sight” romance (it DOES get there, but I am not sure there is even a kiss before 50% of the book) but it is storytelling at its finest and an ending that is richly satisfying. I love it when I expect little of a book and find it to be exceptional, the only other time in recent times that has happened was with Original Blood by Stuart Land.
Bottom Line: 5+ Stars and it is a wonderful combination of action, romance, mystery and memorable characters that will stay with you long after the last page.
NOTE:  This is pretty much R Rated for occasional sexual scenes and although it is more erotic in a few places than some people enjoy it is far from the driving force of this book, it is almost an aside with so many things happening.
Your Reviewer: Douglas C. Meeks
Any other fans of this one?  Anything you would like to see get its own post?  As always, just drop a line under the Contact Me section with a series that you feel needs that little extra push.

Reader Recommendations…

Doug very kindly did up another post spotlighting a series he would like to see get a bit more attention.  This one is the Narcoleptic Vampire series from author Dicey Grenor.  I myself had never heard of either the series or the author, but it does sound like it would be a fun read.  Thanks again to Doug for taking the time to do up these posts.  Much appreciated.

What Doug says…

Author: Dicey Grenor
Source: Self purchased
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy (Vampire with “others”)
Book #3 Release Date October 2012
Summary: Ever since vampirism became illegal, the undead have been hunted to near-extinction. So Willow has to watch her back to make sure no one finds out what she is. And that’s not easy considering she’s a vampire with narcolepsy. Predator can become prey at any moment, especially with the skillful Vampire Extermination Team (VET) on the job.
Hoping to blend in with the nightlife, Willow takes advantage of being an animated corpse by performing for necrophiliacs at premiere fetish club Hades. Here, she discovers colleagues with other supernatural secrets. She’s also unexpectedly drawn to Remi, her most loyal fan, despite his deviant sexual nature and personality disorder. But succumbing to her lust is not a good idea, especially since her maistre vampire forbids it.
Now Willow has to outsmart VET agents, escape bounty hunters, and find a cure for narcolepsy…or vampirism. And she’s got to break the bond with her maistre, no matter how powerful and unrelenting he is.
Most importantly, can she stay awake long enough to do any of it?
And now we follow the adventures of a vampire who has trouble staying awake on a very unique and fascinating ride. Make no mistake, this is NOT a light hearted reading experience, Willow has serious problems that if not solved will determine if she becomes her own woman or if she is the toy of a Master Vampire that sees her as yet another piece of property.
The Sleepy Willow Series is a passionate paranormal mystery/romance for adult readers bordering on the erotic. This book is not for the easily offended or squeamish. Bad language, explicit scenes, and gore.
Review: Well in a sea of vampire romance left in the wake of Twilight most seem to follow a similar pattern but a few take a trip along a path that has never been tread before. Such is the story of a sleepy vampire called Willow who for all her traits (good and bad) the most disturbing is that she is narcoleptic (means she falls asleep at random times) and trying to rid herself of what she considers a curse was the reason she became a vampire (OK, that is really new).
Prepare yourself for a journey in the life of Willow the Narcoleptic Vampire who among other things is an erotic dancer at a club that panders to the paranormal and those humans who enjoy being among the supernatural crowd.
Among the many things Willow was not prepared for was the demands of her narcissistic maker and the fact that to him she was nothing more than property and so the whole point of her existence is the ultimate goal of being a free vampire. Hope you did not think that was going to be anything close to easy or simple ……
This is one of the most unique takes on vampire romance I have read and then add in the erotic nature of the setting and the characters (a sexual themed nightclub called Hades and employees that cultivate their own following according to sexual preferences) this becomes an interesting break from normal PNR.
I don’t wish to turn this into a spoiler type review so let me just say that the journey so far has taken us from a novice vampire in Book #1 Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul who hasn’t a clue to a more confidant Willow in Book #2 Sleepy Willow’s Heartless Soul who has a plan to achieve her freedom, as long as she can overcome some seemingly unsolvable problems ….. but that is why we read the books.
I enjoyed the first book but you could see that it was a journey for the author also (let me inject here that the editing was exceptional which is the bane of many independent writers) and when I read Sleepy Willow’s Heartless Soul it was Willow 2.0 and she was more of a heroine and much less of a victim. I enjoy growth in my characters and hate the TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) women I see many times in PNR/UF.
Let me recommend this series for those who like a good story, unique characters and are not offended by the sexual nature of the books. Since the second book  was a step up from the first I expect Sleepy Willow’s Loosed Soul: The Narcoleptic Vampire Series Book 3 (due out around October I think) to be even better and tie up things up nicely even though it is not the end of the series. If you have read the Demonica books and enjoyed them then this series will be no problem, take a break from “normal” and give this series a try, you won’t be sorry.
Was anyone else in the dark about these books like me, or are there any other fans that throw their support behind the Narcoleptic Vamps?

Reader Recommendation…

Doug Meeks has been kind enough to write up a spotlight on another favorite of his – the Odd Thomas series from Dean Koontz.  I have seen these books around but I have to admit, I personally thought that Koontz did only mystery/thrillers in the vein of James Patterson and Lee Child, so this came as a surprise to me.  Although James Patterson “writes” very little of his stuff lately, and does seem all over the board in terms of subject.  Huh, wish I got his paycheck, though.

What Doug Says…

Wow, I just finished the 3 Odd Interlude books/novellas, which as it turns out are actually a novel broken into 3 parts. It was excellent and much, much better than I had expected. I do have concerns when I compare the great reviews for the original 4 books and this trilogy to the reviews of the new novel Odd Apocalypse: An Odd Thomas Novel. I am not going to write an official type review since there are many of them already out there for these books but I can say without any problem that the 4 original books and these 3 parts of a whole are amazingly good. They are only described as horror more because of who wrote them than content IMHO since much of what I read in UF/PBR is many times more “horrible” but there is little of anything that can be considered romance after the original book 1 of the series, I can say with no problem that you should get and read the below items in the listed order, possibly not in a marathon reading but space them no more than a month or so apart (the 3 interlude books are actually 1 book so doesn’t apply) and you will have some exceptional reading. These books are at times funny, sad, horrible, happy and occasionally tragic but they are great writing. I can’t speak to Odd Apocalypse: An Odd Thomas Novel until I read it. The below I can recommend:
The Odd Thomas Series 4-Book Bundle: Odd Thomas, Forever Odd, Brother Odd, Odd Hours
Odd Interlude #1 (An Odd Thomas Story)
Odd Interlude #2 (An Odd Thomas Story)
Odd Interlude #3 (An Odd Thomas Story)

A little about Odd for those who may not know anything about him and much of it describes book 1 to avoid any accidental spoilers:

“”The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Odd Thomas thinks of himself as an ordinary guy, if possessed of a certain measure of talent at the Pico Mundo Grill and rapturously in love with the most beautiful girl in the world, Stormy Llewellyn. Maybe he has a gift, maybe it’s a curse, Odd has never been sure, but he tries to do his best by the silent souls who seek him out. Sometimes they want justice, and Odd’s otherworldly tips to Pico Mundo’s sympathetic police chief, Wyatt Porter, can solve a crime. Occasionally they can prevent one. But this time it’s different. A mysterious man comes to town with a voracious appetite, a filing cabinet stuffed with information on the world’s worst killers, and a pack of hyena-like shades following him wherever he goes. Who the man is and what he wants, not even Odd’s deceased informants can tell him. His most ominous clue is a page ripped from a day-by-day calendar for August 15.”

Throw in a couple of review snippets:

“”Once in a very great while, an author does everything right – as Koontz has in this marvelous novel. This is Koontz working at his pinnacle, providing terrific entertainment that deals seriously with some of the deepest themes of human existence: the nature of evil, the grip of fate and the power of love.”
– Publishers Weekly
“A curious mixture of whimsy, gentle humor and horror… [and] a hero who feels perfectly comfortable with the ghost of Elvis Presley and identifies, in equal parts, with Hamlet, Quasimodo and E. T.”
– The New York Times”

and a word from the author:

“Every book is difficult to write. Every page of every book goes through twenty or thirty – or in certain stages of creative Hell, fifty – drafts. ODD THOMAS was no different in that regard. But every draft was also play; every moment of its creation was a pleasure. Prior to publication in any language, this book has generated two- and three-page letters of ecstatic reaction from publishers, agents, editors, and others in my professional life who have been captivated by it to a degree that – according to them – they cannot adequately put into words. Their praise is not anything I have earned; this story was a gift to me, entering my mind as if it were already a finished piece, and I am, at least as much as anyone else, unable to explain its source or the reason for its powerful effect. I am not a New Age believer in channeling and the like; I’m a traditional guy in that regard; but ODD THOMAS exists aside from me, as an odd little jewel box that arrived on my mental doorstep without a gift card or a breath of explanation. I hope you enjoy it.”

I certainly did ……………………..

Many thanks again to Doug, who has been great about spreading the word for his favorite series.  As always, if there are any books or authors that you think deserve a bit of a shout out, feel free to drop a line over on the “Contact Me” page.

Reader Recommendation

I really do like these Reader Recommendation posts…maybe I am nosy, but I enjoy finding out what stands out for people who like the same thing I do.  I don’t have any “real-life” friends who read PNR/UF/YA at all, so I depend on reviews and opinions to see what I am going to throw on top of Mount TBR next.  This recommendation comes from Delhia Alby, who sounds like she has found a good one.  I have heard very good things about the Shaede Assassin series from Amanda Bonilla, and this confirms it.

What Delhia says…

Do you know the Shaede Assassin series by Amanda Bonilla?  It’s my revelation this year. This series is just amazing! I think it’s always difficult to make a difference with Urban Fantasy’s books because we can find a lot of them today. But the author succeeded in this challenge, and even more.  She created an explosive, dynamic mix which leads us in a new universe that we don’t want to leave. Indeed, once started, we instantly get into the story and it’s really difficult to put the book down before finishing it. Well, you can understand now that this series blew my mind away!

While we discover Darian in the first and second book, we understand her past in the novella. So many things happened to her and it’s difficult for her to accept her true nature. We see her evolve in the first book into someone who cares for her friends, a new experience for her. She discovers a new world full of things she didn’t expect. Tyler is an important character in this story as well. He will do everything he can to help and protect our heroine. And when I say everything, it’s really everything! It was funny and cute to see them evolve together, Tyler, trying to expose his feelings to her and Darian trying to stay away from him.

The second book was really heartbreaking; It was so pleasant to see Darian with our little Djinn, Tyler, as she always was alone before. We understand that this relation will also be complicated between an overprotective Tyler and a shaede a little too independent for her own good. It was really surprising to see the efforts that they both try to do to make their relationship work, but it’s also a difficult situation. I confess I asked myself a lot of questions all along the book about Tyler because I didn’t understand what was going on. Amanda Bonilla was able to beautifully recreate the feelings of the characters throughout the book, love as well as sorrow. It’s difficult for Darian to know what she really wants to do and at the same time it’s impossible for her to be totally opened to Tyler as she is afraid and trying to protect him as well. Many things happen in this novel and Darian will end up with more responsibilities than she would have thought at first, or even us. I confess that everything was a real surprise; I didn’t expect that at all. The author succeeded in this challenge to make of this story a wonderful book, really! It’s always really easy to relate ourselves to Darian from the start. We perfectly feel the complexity of her feelings. She has evolved a lot since the first volume and she is now more vulnerable. It’s the reason why we can easily understand her acts.

In the two books we have two great investigations that will lead us into deep paths. The battles are really detailed, so we can only enjoy them. I was a little afraid they were quite fast like in some books or not much described because it’s true that it can be very difficult, but it wasn’t the case. And we get each time into the energy of the moment.

The character of Darian is in constant evolution and I’m sure the third book will have a lot of answers for us.

The Shaede Assassin reading list can be found HERE.

Many thanks to Delhia, and as always, feel free to hit the Contact Me page (shown over on the right column) and send a bit of info on your under-appreciated favorites.