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The Turn by Kim Harrison #TuesdayBookBlog


My Rating: 3.5 Stars

BLURB:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Kim Harrison returns to her beloved Hollows series with The Turn, the official prequel to the series that will introduce you to a whole new side of Rachel Morgan’s world as they’ve never seen it before!

Can science save us when all else fails?

Trisk and her hated rival, Kal, have the same goal: save their species from extinction.

But death comes in the guise of hope when a genetically modified tomato created to feed the world combines with the government’s new tactical virus, giving it an unexpected host and a mode of transport. Plague rises, giving the paranormal species the choice to stay hidden and allow humanity to die, or to show themselves in a bid to save them.

Under accusations of scientific misconduct, Trisk and Kal flee across a plague-torn United States to convince leaders of the major paranormal species to save their supposedly weaker kin, but not everyone thinks humanity should be saved, and Trisk fights the prejudices of two societies to prove that not only does humanity have something to offer, but that long-accepted beliefs against women, dark magic, and humanity itself can turn to understanding; that when people are at their worst that the best show their true strength, and that love can hold the world together as a new balance is found.

~~~

When I saw that a prequel to Harrison’s very popular Rachel Morgan/Hollows series was coming out, I had mixed feelings. Yes, I read every one of the Hollows books, right to the end, but I might not have done so, had I started them after reading a lot of other urban fantasy books. (Thus having more experience with what the genre ought to feel like.) For me, the books were always a mixed bag. There were some story lines and some characters I really loved, and some I definitely did not. And sadly, several of the ones I truly didn’t like were supposed to be the good guys. Not a single book made me happy all the way through, I’m sorry to say. And yet I kept reading.

I think I stuck with the series primarily because I really enjoyed the character of Trent Kalamack, and wanted to watch his relationship with Rachel grow into something permanent. No way to tell you whether or not that happened, without spoiling the books for those who might still like to read them. I can say that the final book was not nearly as well done as I had hoped it would be, and the ending felt rushed and incomplete to me. (Ducking for cover, here, because Harrison’s fans are legion, and I don’t want anyone throwing things at me. Like lethal, virus-riddled tomatoes.)

I will say this. You have to be doing something right to keep a reader coming back for thirteen books, which I did, so my hat’s off to Kim Harrison for creating series that, to me, was flawed, but was still absolutely addictive. I will also add that the things I did like, I liked very, very much, and they mostly made up for the things I hated.

Now, comes the prequel. Did I like it? Yes and no. Was I engaged with any of the characters the way I was with some of the ones from the Hollows book? No. They weren’t badly done, per se. They just didn’t pull me into their stories as much as I’d hoped. The book isn’t bad, by any means, and since I seldom gave any of the Hollows books more than 4 stars, 3.5 for this one feels about right. I did very much enjoy finding out how the tomato virus happened. And I must say that meeting Kal explained a lot about what made Trent Kalamack the conflicted and complicated character he was in the Hollows books. Oh, my. Talk about the sins of the fathers.

All in all, I would recommend The Turn to anyone who enjoyed the Rachel Morgan books. You’ll have to decide for yourself how it stacks up against those. I believe that there will be more books in this new series, and I’ll probably read the next one, too, having come this far. If the characters start to engage me a bit more, I’ll continue, but if not, I’ve got a TBR list as long as my arm, waiting. So, you Hollows fans, read this one  for yourself, and let me know how it works for you. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it, and we’ll find out together if the next one is a bit stronger. Sometimes a new series just needs to get its sea legs under it, and then, it’s smooth sailing.

The Turn: The Hollows Begins With Death

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard #TuesdayBookBlog

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My Rating: 4-1/2 of 5 Stars

Because I have so little time to read right now, I’m digging back through books I’ve read over the last year or so, and haven’t yet reviewed. This one popped up in my Unreviewed Books folder, and I decided it would be a quick, easy one for today. It’s good. Read it.

What, you want more? Okay, you asked for it.

Blurb

A charmingly gothic, fiendishly funny Faustian tale about a brilliant scientist who makes a deal with the Devil, twice. 
 
Johannes Cabal sold his soul years ago in order to learn the laws of necromancy. Now he wants it back. Amused and slightly bored, Satan proposes a little wager: Johannes has to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls or he will be damned forever. This time for real. Accepting the bargain, Jonathan is given one calendar year and a traveling carnival to complete his task. With little time to waste, Johannes raises a motley crew from the dead and enlists his brother, Horst, a charismatic vampire, to help him run his nefarious road show, resulting in mayhem at every turn.

My Thoughts

Fiendishly funny, yes. Gothic, sort of. Charming? Not so much. Disturbing? Check. Weird? Check. Relentless? Double checks, with stars beside them. But Charming? Nope. Didn’t see that at all. Instead, I would describe Cabal as entertaining and thought-provoking, and frighteningly capable of pursuing his unknown goal with a  vengeance.

There are many things in this book to make you laugh. Deliciously clever one-liners, coupled with Cabal’s falling apart (Literally, believe me!) companions, make for laugh out loud moments galore. But make no mistake. This book is dark. There’s an undercurrent of horror running through it, and you are never quite sure where the tale is headed. If this type of thing intrigues you as much as it does me, you probably should give Johannes Cabal a go. Getting to the end and finding out what’s really driving his actions is like being on one of the truly terrifying rides in his traveling carnival. My only serious complaint with the book is the loss of a character that really touched me, and I doubt Johannes Cabal will be able to bring him back from the dead, no matter how skilled he is at necromancy. That’s the reason I dropped half a star. I always hate losing characters I like.

If you are looking for something very, VERY different, I highly recommend you check this one out. If you enjoy it, there are several more books in the series, always a good thing to know.

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer

#BookinItTuesdayReview #TuesdayBookBlog – A Cold Tomorrow by Mae Clair

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My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

BLURB

Stopping to help a motorist in trouble, Katie Lynch stumbles upon a mystery as elusive as the Mothman legend that haunts her hometown of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Could the coded message she finds herald an extraterrestrial visitor? According to locals, it wouldn’t be the first time. And what sense should she make of her young son’s sudden spate of bizarre drawings—and his claim of a late-night visitation? Determined to uncover the truth, Katie only breaks the surface when a new threat erupts. Suddenly her long-gone ex-boyfriend is back and it’s as if he’s under someone else’s control. Not only is he half-crazed, he’s intent on murder…. As a sergeant in the sheriff’s office of the famously uncanny Point Pleasant, Officer Ryan Flynn has learned to tolerate reports of puzzling paranormal events.   But single mom Katie Lynch appears to be in very real danger—and somehow Ryan’s own brother, Caden, is caught up in the madness, too. What the skeptical lawman discovers astounds him—and sends him into action. For stopping whatever evil forces are at play may just keep Katie and Caden alive….

~~~

I read and enjoyed A Thousand Yesteryears, and was eagerly awaiting another visit to Point Pleasant. Fascinated by the way Mae Clair made Mothman so much more interesting than he ever seemed to me before, I couldn’t wait to see what new developments were in store. I was not disappointed. While I enjoyed Yesteryears, A Cold Tomorrow ratcheted everything up several notches, and Clair knocks this one right out of the ballpark. The characters were truly engaging, the mystery intensifies, and an element of shivery danger overlays every page.

Not going to go into details here, because I never like to give away too much of any plot, but my favorite character this time around is Officer Ryan Flynn. Try as he might to disbelieve in the Point Pleasant paranormal shenanigans, Flynn can’t ignore a truth that becomes more and more clear to him every day: what seemed solidly real to him for most of his life isn’t, and a creature he’s never really believed in, is.

The tale makes me want to visit Point Pleasant, and take a look around for Mothman, myself. If you love a good, creepy mystery, with everything from Men in Black to flying humanoids, this book is for you. You can read it as a standalone, but I wouldn’t. The first book, A Thousand Yesteryears, gives you a more solid grounding in both the real life tragedy that occurred in Point Pleasant, and the mysterious mythology that haunts the little town.  A Cold Tomorrow takes you to the next level. I recommend both books, and I’m looking forward to the final installment in this shivery trilogy.

A Thousand Yesteryears

A Cold Tomorrow

 

#TuesdayBookBlog – The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks @BrentWeeks

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My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars for EACH Book!
Pure Enjoyment!

I’m sorry to admit this, but I’m so pressed for time this week, it was either no review at all today, or a very, very short one. I opted for short: Read this trilogy.

For those who might require more depth to their reviews, I’ll add this: If you love well-written fantasy, with strong characters, intricate plotting, friendship that knows no bounds, painful and heartbreaking sacrifice, and really, really weird names: READ THIS TRILOGY!

And to back up my suggestion, here are the blurbs and links for each of  the three Night Angel books. (I’m serious. Read. This. Trilogy.)

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5 of 5 Stars

For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city’s most accomplished artist.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly – and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics – and cultivate a flair for death.

Way of Shadows

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5 of 5 Stars

Kylar Stern has rejected the assassin’s life. The Godking’s successful coup has left Kylar’s master, Durzo, and his best friend, Logan, dead. He is starting over: new city, new friends, and new profession.

But when he learns that Logan might actually be alive and in hiding, Kylar is faced with an agonizing choice: will he give up the way of shadows forever and live in peace with his new family, or will he risk everything by taking on the ultimate hit?

Shadow’s Edge

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5 of 5 Stars

Logan Gyre is king of Cenaria, a country under siege, with a threadbare army and little hope. He has one chance – a desperate gamble, but one that could destroy his kingdom.

In the north, the new Godking has a plan. If it comes to fruition, no one will have the power to stop him.

Kylar Stern has no choice. To save his friends-and perhaps his enemies-he must accomplish the impossible: assassinate a goddess.

Beyond the Shadows is the action-packed conclusion to the Night Angel Trilogy.

 

 

 

#TuesdayBookBlog Among Thieves & Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hulick @DougHulick

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My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars for Each

Among Thieves Blurb:

Drothe has been a member of the Kin for years, rubbing elbows with thieves and murderers in the employ of a crime lord, while smuggling relics on the side. But when an ancient book falls into his hands, Drothe finds himself in a possession of a relic capable of bringing down emperors–a relic everyone in the underworld would kill to obtain.

Sworn in Steel Blurb:

It’s been three months since Drothe killed a legend, burned down a portion of the imperial capital, and found himself unexpectedly elevated into the ranks of the criminal elite. As the newest Gray Prince in the underworld, he’s not only gained friends, but also rivals—and some of them aren’t bothered by his newfound title. A prince’s blood, as the saying goes, flows just as red as a beggar’s.

So when another Gray Prince is murdered and all signs point to Drothe as the hand behind the knife, he knows it’s his blood that’s in danger of being spilled. As former allies turn their backs and dark rumors begin to circulate, Drothe is approached by a man who says he can make everything right again. All he wants in exchange is a single favor.

Now Drothe finds himself traveling to the Despotate of Djan, the empire’s long-standing enemy, to search for the friend he betrayed—and the only person who can get him out of this mess. But the grains of sand are running out fast, and even if Drothe can find his friend, he may not be able to persuade him to help in time…

~~~

I’ve never made any secret of how much I love beautiful book covers. I own an overabundance of print books, filling floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in my library, even though these days, I read almost exclusively on my Kindle. (Old eyes, adjustable fonts, ’nuff said.) Bearing my nearly OCD Cover-Love in mind, it might not surprise you that the cover of Among Thieves pulled me right in, but trust me–the story inside did not disappoint. In fact, it was so engaging, I downloaded and read Book 2 of the series immediately upon finishing Book 1. And happily, I loved Sworn in Steel just as much.

As another reviewer pointed out, Drothe is exceptional among fantasy book heroes because he’s not. Exceptional. At least, not particularly so. He’s smart and scrappy, sure, but not impossibly smart or annoyingly scrappy. He has no magical powers, nor any supernatural strength to mention. What he is, is determined. Once he’s made up his mind, he’s damn hard to stop. And he’s loyal to his friend, Degan.

In fact, the friendship between Drothe and Degan is one of the things I loved most about both of these books. The sincerity of their commitment, even when it was put to the most severe of tests, left me rooting for each of them, throughout both their separate, and combined, journeys. It was a reminder that true friendship can withstand terrible hardship and trauma, and put me to mind of the bond between Scott Lynch’s Locke Lamora and his friend, Jean–but that’s a review for another day.

Hulick’s world building worked for me, with just enough political intrigue to make sense, but not so much as to slow down the plot, which, btw, is filled with action, drama, some very bad (and scary) players, and some great swordplay.

I’ve read there is to be a 3rd book in the series, but have found nothing definite as to when. I’m sincerely hoping the rumors are correct. I’d love to join Drothe and Degan on another adventure, and I highly recommend that you folks who enjoy the realm of fantasy check out the world of the Kin. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Among Thieves

Sworn in Steel

 

 

 

A Reason to Live (A Marty Singer Mystery) by Matthew Iden

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My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

BLURB:

In the late nineties, a bad cop killed a good woman and DC Homicide detective Marty Singer got to watch as the murderer walked out of the courtroom a free man. Twelve years later, the victim’s daughter comes to Marty begging for help: the killer is stalking her now. There’s just one problem: Marty’s retired…and he’s retired because he’s battling cancer. But with a second shot at the killer—and a first chance at redemption—Marty’s just found A Reason to Live.

~~~

I don’t often read “straight-up” mysteries, but something about this blurb appealed to me, so I gave it a try, and was happily surprised. I found Marty Singer to be a very likable guy, and I was engaged with the plot all the way.

It’s often difficult to make a character suffering from something like colon cancer sympathetic to the reader in just the right amount. Too much, and it’s uncomfortable. Too little, and it’s not realistic. I felt Matthew Iden hit the perfect balance. I believed Marty had cancer, and was floundering as he tried to figure out what to do with whatever was left of his life, but I never felt it overwhelmed the story, or became maudlin or depressing.

The murder mystery was well done and believable, too, if not earth-shattering at the conclusion. And most important of all when you are writing a series, A Reason to Live made me want to read the next book.

If you are a fan of mysteries with a bit more grit to them than most cozy ones, but without the heavy-handed violence and gratuitous sex of so many on the other end of the spectrum, I recommend you give this one a go. You just might find yourself a whole new series.

A Reason to Live

#TuesdayBookBlog – A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair

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My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Amazon Blurb: Behind a legend lies the truth…

As a child, Eve Parrish lost her father and her best friend, Maggie Flynn, in a tragic bridge collapse. Fifteen years later, she returns to Point Pleasant to settle her deceased aunt’s estate. Though much has changed about the once thriving river community, the ghost of tragedy still weighs heavily on the town, as do rumors and sightings of the Mothman, a local legend. When Eve uncovers startling information about her aunt’s death, that legend is in danger of becoming all too real . . .

So begins Mae Clair’s very shivery novel about a town still trying desperately to recover from the terrible tragedy that caused Eve Parrish and her mother to abandon their home, friends, and family for nearly fifteen years. Upon Eve’s return, she discovers, among other things, that the legend of Mothman still hangs over the town, and believe me, it adds an unexpected dimension to this tale of buried secrets and soul-crushing guilt.

As a fan of Appalachian folklore, I’ve read about Mothman many times, but have to give kudos to Mae Clair for her skillful rendition of what I originally thought was a pretty silly concept. In her able hands, it most definitely is not silly. In fact, I can’t wait for the next book to find out more. In addition to the continuing story of the Eve’s future plans and growing relationship with her childhood crush, Caden Flynn, the mystery of just who, or what, Mothman actually is, just might get laid to rest. I’m dying to learn exactly what the title of the book only hints at.

If you like your mysteries filled with evil aplenty of the human kind, and a touch of what might be something supernatural . . . or not . . . you should definitely check out A Thousand Yesteryears. And may I add, it’s always a pleasure to read a well constructed, well-edited, and solidly written book like this. I will be following along with this story, and will definitely continue reading more of Mae Clair’s work.

A Thousand Yesteryears

#TuesdayBookBlog – The Pax Arcana Series by Elliott James

 

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My Rating 5 of 5 Stars

“John Charming isn’t your average Prince…

He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chain mail and crossbows to Kevlar and shotguns, John Charming was one of the best–until a curse made him one of the abominations the Knights were sworn to hunt.” (Amazon Blurb for Charming: Pax Arcana Book 1)

All of the above is true, but due to the aforementioned curse, John is now leading a very low-key life, tending bar–hiding–in rural Virginia, until the wrong people walk through the door, and turn his safe but humdrum life upside down. Not exactly an unusual premise as urban fantasy goes, but the surprise is in the writing, folks. Elliott James has a way with words. Especially funny, snarky words.

The adventures in Books 1, 2, and 3 are well written, believable, and yes, charming. But most of all, the ever-present one-liners are utterly addicting. I knew I was going to love the series the  minute I read, “Wait . . . did I just write that last part out loud?” That did it for me, and onward I went, pausing only to savor and highlight other droll and witty lines.

Combine those great lines with chapter titles that are worth the price of admission alone, and I’m a fan for life. How can you resist chapters like “If Shoving You is Wrong, I Don’t Want to do  Right,” or “The Norse Whisperer,” or my favorite, “Psychopomp and  Circumstance.”

Now for those of you who can take or leave that kind of humor, there’s still plenty of adventure and action, with all the usual suspects, and a few who aren’t so usual, like Valkyries and a very creepy Naga.

There are currently four books in the series out. I’ve only read the first three, but I’m quite confident I’ll enjoy #4 just as much. Highly recommended for fans of urban fantasy, magic, various and sundry supernatural creatures, and an extremely funny and appealing hero, determined to do the right thing, in spite of his bad luck so far. And if you don’t believe me, check out what Patricia Briggs, Kevin Hearne, Richard Kadrey, and my idol, Seanan McGuire have to say. It’s all there on the Amazon page! 🙂

Charming

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Daring

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Fearless

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In Shining Armor

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#TuesdayBookBlog – Myth and Magic by Mae Clair

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My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

“As children, they played games of myth and magic . . . .” 

An old inn with a mysterious past. Ladies in white, ghosting through the trees. Unexplained sobbing noises during the dead of night. Strange happenings, all, and the quest to understand who–or what–is trying to drive guests away from Stone Willow Lodge is at the heart of Mae Clair’s shivery romantic suspense novel.

Anyone who has visited Bookin’ It very often knows that I’m extremely partial to angsty, conflicted men, and heaven knows, private investigator Caithelden Lairen is the very personification of angst and conflict. Born Caithelden Breckwood (his mother has a thing for myth and magic, herself, naming her other sons Galen, Aren, and Merlin), Caith has been estranged from his family for years. A childhood trauma has left him scarred and angry, especially at his father, and thus it is that his son, Derrick, has never even met his grandather.

When Breckwood Industries (the family firm that has made, and kept, the Breckwoods extremely wealthy) hires Caithelden to investigate the shenanigans going on at Stone Willow Lodge, their company retreat, he must return to his home town of Coldcreek, facing both his family, and Veronica Kent, the only woman he’s ever loved. And therein lies the romance part of this romantic suspense.

Mae Clair’s writing is excellent–clean, solid, and well-paced–and she leads the reader on a tense and riveting journey, from the opening chapter to the last page. I thoroughly enjoyed Myth and Magic, and I highly recommend it, especially to fans of mystery, romance, and spooky encounters with things that go bump in the night.

Myth and Magic

 

The Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo #TuesdayBookBlog

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My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars. Or maybe 6 of 5 Stars. Or . . .

A short time ago, I reviewed Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy, giving all three books five stars. I loved the series so much, I couldn’t wait to read her next one, and immediately downloaded Six of Crows. After oohing and aaahing over the stunning cover design (I may have mentioned once or twice how much I love cover art), I dove straight into the tale.

As you can read on the cover, the book is about “six dangerous outcasts, and one impossible heist.” Those of you who love stories about gangs of less than upstanding citizens, sting operations, and movies like Ocean’s Eleven, should be pulled in by those words alone. Me, I’m not usually drawn to those particular topics, but knowing the book was set in the same world as the Grisha trilogy, I was hooked, anyway–and I was not disappointed!

The antihero, and leader of this gang of six, Kaz Brekker, pulls you into his world and forces you to care about him, whether you want to or not. He’s a wonderfully odd character, fully developed, incredibly complicated, and many-faceted. I loved him, and pretty much his entire gang of misfits.

And then there’s the “impossible heist.” If you think you’ve read enough about those types of things, think again. I can almost guarantee this one will have you hooked from the get-go, worrying who will survive the ordeal, and who won’t.

My only complaint about the book is that I raced through it in two days, and then was left dying to get my hands on the next in the series, the equally beautifully clad Crooked Kingdom, due out September 27.

If you haven’t read The Grisha Trilogy yet, I say start with that, so you are thoroughly steeped in the magic of the world, and then immediately grab Six of Crows. If you hurry, you can finish all four by the time Crooked Kingdom arrives!

Six of Crows

 

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