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Review – Jaidee, Out of the Ashes

Jaidee, Out of the Ashes

by Clint Morey

Book received from the author

Jaidee is a thriller/mystery about a PI who normally exposes philandering spouses but gets caught up in the sex trade handled by the mob.  Josh busts a husband found with an underage prostitute which causes him to get involved with Jaidee (a 14 year old) and soon finds them both fighting for their lives.  Unfortunately, Jaidee has entertained some powerful movers and shakers and they don’t want her to be able to ID them.  The cops place her in a home to help her start a new life, but when Josh finds out about a hit on her life, he extracts Jaidee just in time, which brings him and his friends to the center of the bulls eye.  There is a mole in the police department and Josh isn’t sure who he can trust.

This was a mystery/thriller with practically non-stop action.  Just when you think you can relax, something new happens.  You know who the bad guy is pretty quickly as the POV alternates between Josh and his crew and the bad guys and their machinations.  We don’t know who the mole in the police department is and it was a little bit of a shocker and super tension filled when they are revealed.  Love that.

Morey really worked the setting, Las Vegas was a perfect place for this novel as he utilizes construction sites, rollercoasters, wind tunnels, casinos and wedding chapels.  But, no Elvis impersonators were hurt during the book in case you were worried.

Jaidee is a strong character, funny, a bit misguided but loving and sweet.  I am excited to see how she develops as the series continues.  She and Josh have a funny back and forth dialogue and you can tell that these characters will be able to help heal the hurt that exists in both of them.  Morey really hits the idea of what a family is, both in a positive and a way to manipulate.  It really made me think about who I consider family, blood relative or not, and what I would do for them.  This was an enjoyable and tense book filled with intrigue, politicians and the mob.  Good stuff!  I give it 4 stars.

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Review – Heat Rises

Heat Rises

By Richard Castle

Borrowed from a friend

This is the third book by fictional TV character Richard Castle from the show Castle.  Like the previous books, they pull situations and character relationships from the show into the novel.  There are inside jokes and funny bits that Castle manages to insert, sometimes making me roll my eyes at his zest for goofy, which is just like the show!   So if you like the show, and/or you like to read mysteries, you might like these books.

This is the most involved mystery yet.  A priest has been murdered in a bondage club and Nikki Heat and her team need to find the killer but her Captain is acting funny.  Is he involved?  Why is he keeping her from following every lead?  There is definitely something hinky with this case and Nikki is just the detective to unravel all of the clues.  Before too long, another person is dead, Nikki is stalked by highly trained gunmen and there seem to be tenuous ties to an old case.

Castle’s Rook and Heat steam off the page.  Their relationship works, it’s sweet and they make a good team.  The layers to the mystery are difficult to peel back as roadblocks are thrown at every curve but Heat and Rook dig deeper and call in favors from people they can trust.

It ends with a shootout and some arrests and Heat kicks booty.  But it is bittersweet as lives have been lost and people hurt.  I am excited for the next book to see how Castle handles interpreting Season 4 into his novel.  Good stuff.  Because I love the show and these characters and basically think anything Nathan Fillion is involved in is awesome, I give the book 4 stars.

Review – The Iron Duke

The Iron Duke

by MelJean Brook

I really enjoyed this book.  I absolutely loved the world-building.  Sure, there are a few things about the world I could pick apart that don’t stand up to close scrutiny, but they ultimately didn’t matter too much to me.  I am so impressed, especially if you like Steampunk and Paranormal Romance.  This is my third Steampunk book and I enjoy the clockwork, steam and victorian sensibilities.  It mixes the PR/UF up a bit for some fun settings and inventions.

It starts in England, just after the Horde invasion.  The Iron Duke had destroyed the Horde’s control tower (they injected the English citizen’s with nanoagents called bugs to control them).  So the duke has gone from a pirate to a Duke for saving everyone from Horde control.  Enter Mina, she is a police inspector and genetically half Horde.  It doesn’t make her popular.  When a body is dumped on the Iron Duke’s front steps, she is called in to figure out 1) who the man is and then 2) why.  It becomes an adventure story as she and the duke travel via dirigible, ship and steam powered coach all over the world.  They also fall for each other, fighting it the whole time.

So, there really are a lot of romance elements, lots of smexing and stuff but Brook really creates a wild world to work from. There are zombies (injected bugs gone bad), kraken, huge sharks, fire bombs and people who were never injected with bugs hating on the ones that were.  It really is freaking awesome.

Mina and the duke (Rhys) have issues.  There is almost a rape type event (does that seem standard in some of the UF/PR lately?!), lots of clockwork mechanisms, a missing brother and swashbuckling.  I really, really enjoyed the whole thing.  I even enjoyed the back and forth between our main characters fighting each other before they settle into love.

I will say that I think I need to mix up what I am reading lately.  I am starting to see way too many trends and getting a little jaded about it…so while yes, this is PR, and it contains those types of trends, the rape thing, the fight each other, the “I’m not good enough” and “I will bring him and my own family down if we stay together” and the kick-ass heroine used to taking care of herself and having a hard time letting someone else help…lol – it is still amazing. I loved this world and thought the mains and side characters were fantastic and I will be reading the next book!  I give it 4 stars.

Review – Blink

Title: Blink
Author: Lloyd Poast
Publisher:   Books to go Now
Publication Date:  May 17, 2012 

Summary: A teenage boy wanders into a mystical forest ruled by a gypsy goddess named Amaisia Moon.

The forest changes with every blink or head turn and he discovers an ocean where dreams and nightmares literally come alive.  (goodreads.com)

Review: A very quick read as it is only around 12 pages long, but I really enjoyed this short story. I agree with some other reviewers that I saw on goodreads.com that it has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it, but to be clear, there is no rabbit hole. This is a little scarier as you simply need to be lured into a forest or really whatever portal Amaisia creates to tempt you in.  Once in, you are stuck in Amaisia’s dream world unless you figure out the rules quick enough. The ocean creates new land and creatures from the inhabitant’s dreams and nightmares so things get a little wacky and scary but are always magical.

“You’re at both the end and the beginning of the world, Lance,” she said. “The ocean is a blank canvas for everything that is to come, and everyone who steps into the forest plays a hand in its creation. With every new thought, the tide moves out further, and the forest grows larger.”

This world could make a fascinating adventure/quest story or graphic novel.  I loved the writing, the characters and the setting. (Dave McKean would make awesome art for this story!)  I give it 4 stars because I really liked it (a lot!).

Review – Dead Man’s Hand

Dead Man’s Hand

By Lee Jay Stura

ebook provided by the publisher for review

I just want to say really quickly, since they published this book and all, that I don’t work for Three Crow Press.  This review is going up on their website, but it is independent and written by me.  Cheers!

This book takes place in 1906 up in San Francisco.  Our hero Denver Sinclair, tells this story from his POV (which is refreshing since most of the paranormal heroes these days are women!) and is a bit of an anti-hero who you root for anyway.  He is a relatively new vampire, serving an evil mistress who has bonded him to her with a blood debt.  He owes her a lot and like an indentured servant, sees no freedom in sight.  Denver likes to gamble and he is not an obedient man, so he cheats in every way possible, either by skimming off the top of his boss’ deals to playing cards and winning every time.  Denver is in love with Lily, a Chinese human woman and is trying to figure out how the two of them can have a future together and away from  his evil mistress, when mother nature throws a huge monkey wrench in everyone’s lives.  The earthquake of 1906 hits in the early morning and afterwards fires raged out of control throughout the city due to broken gas lines.

Denver and Lily survive, though Denver has to go to ground right after the quake to survive the dawning day.  Once they escape the building rubble they race for their lives across the burning city with run-ins from the army, refugees and his master’s minions.  Denver is hoping against hope that his master died in the quake and he will finally be free.

So, Denver is an interesting character.  I really wasn’t sure I was rooting for him for a while, because he isn’t a good guy by any means.  But by his actions, you find he is practical, and human in his thinking, but not evil.  It is the wild west after all, and when he was human he didn’t have the best judgment and it hasn’t really changed now that he is a vampire!  The story is quite fun, escape and survival being the issues to deal with.  These two are thwarted at every turn.  The race against the fire and the army are interesting.  Not quite as breath-taking as they could have been.  It almost seemed like Denver and Lily had a lot of time to do things…yet the fire was right behind them so it felt a little incongruous at times.  But the action is high, the characters grow on you and you root for Denver.  Lily is a spitfire and she complements Denver.  The storyline did not go where I expected it to, which was enjoyable and Stura had better be writing a sequel because there is definitely more story to be told with that ending!  I loved the setting, the Barbary Coast was fairly lawless in a lot of ways and these vampires are carving out a niche for themselves.  The other interesting thing is that Stura’s vampires, while strong and magical in many ways are not perfect and flawless.  They can’t get away with everything they want and actually have to be careful of discovery.  It made them much more interesting as characters to have a few weaknesses.

This is a historical urban fantasy with a male lead first person POV with action, adventure, a little smexiness and paranormal craziness.  It is a strong first novel and I am looking forward to seeing more from Lee Jay Stura, 4 stars.

Review – Shades of Grey by Michael Cargill

Shades of Grey

By Michael Cargill

This novel is actually a collection of three short stories about three very different people and settings.  Each main character, in their own way istrying to survive in messed up situations where they have very little control.  There are tons of books out there right now with the same or similar titles, this isn’t the other one currently making the rounds everywhere!  I won this ebook from one of the blogs I read.

Story 1 – Shades of Grey; this is largely a stream of consciousness of the wandering mind of a captured operative, John, who is being tortured for information.  He has been worked on for a while and he keeps flashing between past and present.  It does go through some flashback to other people in John’s life so the reader can understand the ending.  You don’t read too much about any gross torture stuff, but you know he is hurting.  And, while it is a heavy subject matter, there are actually funny bits.  Cargill seamlessly blends humor with horror and made me surprised that I found levity and laughed at times while reading about this situation.

Story 2 – There and Back Again – Set during WWII right before the Germans occupied France, we follow a British soldier, James who is one of the troops trying to stop the invasion.  Also filled with a few humorous bits, this snapshot of war and the men who fight them shows what we are capable of committing and surviving during wartime, and a bit of the ridiculousness that accompanies it all.  I don’t normally read war stories, but I found it interesting.

Story 3 – Down the Rabbit Hole – this third story is the longest of the bunch and the most disturbing to me.  Hard to believe since the others about the atrocities of war and torture!  But this one follows a young boy named Tom who has an abusive father and loving but ineffectual mother, though relatively strong willed, even though she has stuck it out with such an ass of a man for so long.  His best friend, a stuffed rabbit named Borger, comes alive, or at least begins talking, and makes suggestions to Tom, both in what to say and what to do when faced with adversity or even boredom.  Borger’s suggestions begin helpful and smart and take a turn to menacing and even deadly.  But Borger has Tom’s best interests at heart, or does he?

This collection was great.  I really enjoyed each of the characters and even after having finished this book a week ago I am still picturing some of the scenes.  That can be both good and bad since some of the scenes were intense, but it made me think and stuck with me so I find that impressive.  I also really enjoy the seamlessly blended humor.  It felt natural and normal, maybe I am messed up in the head, but I resort to humor during trying times, and I really felt that it works in these stories.  After having read Cargill’s blog, I was expecting much more ridiculous and wacky stuff, but he keeps it limited and it almost sneaks up on you in Shades of Grey.  I am looking forward to reading more from Cargill and give this book a 3.5/4 stars.

Review – The Gathering

The Gathering

By Kelley Armstrong

And now let’s mix things up with a little YA paranormal…

I wanted to scream in frustration at the cliffhanger at the end of this book!  Luckily The Calling was just released April 10th, I need to pick that up!  Armstrong has been taking lessons from Karen Marie Moning (read the Fever series and you will see what I mean! My cousin calls them cliffhangers from hell). Anyway, this book sucked me in at the end of Chapter 1. I simply could not put it down. I snuck in reading time wherever I thought I could get away with it. Pretty bad of me because I neglected quite a few things, though it was not the first time and won’t be the last. I have read almost all of the Women of the Underworld books as well as the Darkest Powers trilogy, but you honestly do not need to have read those to enjoy and appreciate this book. I think there are few names that sounded familiar, but this is a separate situation entirely, so far anyway. The Darkest powers trilogy, also YA, were good, but not nearly as consuming as this start to Darkness Rising.

Maya was adopted and she lives in an extremely small isolated village owned by the St. Cloud research facility, with her loving parents and friends. She has a faded birthmark of a paw print. She is great with animals, her dad is the park ranger basically, and they live on the preserve. She also runs a rehabilitation center for wounded wildlife. She is just turning 16. There is a lot that is unknown and uncovered in this book, but there are still so many open issues that the cliffhanger just kills me.

There is a little romance, snarky teen dialogue, a great relationship with Maya and her parents and interesting secrets afoot. You would think in a village of 200, you would know everyone’s secrets, but they are just waiting to be uncovered. The reader finds things out as Maya does, so while you may know something looks funky, she may not investigate right away. You have to be a tiny bit patient with her. If you like YA with a paranormal twist, you should do yourself a favor and pick this book up. 4.5 stars.

Review – Zombie Cinderella

Zombie Cinderella

By Kevin Richey

I feel like I have too many books started these days and can’t seem to finish them, so I grabbed this little beauty to help me feel accomplished.  Finished book, yay!  I am reading so fast these days.  Shew.  (I delude myself in many ways, this is one of them) 

These Zombie Fairy Tales are being released as short stories throughout 2012 on the 13th of each month.  I nabbed this story for my kindle free from Amazon.com in February.  I think they are trying to addict us to them so we pay for the next installment, which may just work.  Besides being pretty nasty with blood and juices, this storyline step-mother and her daughters are so much worse than I remember, they actually deserve what they get.  I wonder if my mind only remembers the Disney versions.  Hmmmm, I need to check out some Grimm again.

This story was so gross, yet full of warped funny parts.  Well, I suppose it is kind of like the juxtaposition of turning well-loved childhood fairy tales into zombie fests!  You can taste test the humor here when our zombified Cinderella tastes brains for the first time, “And she thought cheerfully to herself how much it was similar to scooping out the innards of a pumpkin, and that lent the occasion a festive feeling.”  Ewww.

These tales seem to be quite irreverent and will enjoy being disgusting and shocking.  However, they are really well-written and I believe the stories will be connected somehow.  There has been a plague in Cinderella’s village and it will most likely be the cause of many fairy tale zombies.  If you liked the idea of all those books like Pride & Prejudice and Zombies you will probably like these.  Though they are light-hearted (as light-hearted as vengeance seeking zombies can be) and so far don’t really have a moral or lesson to the story, they are simply twisted and fun.  I give the first one 3 stars.

The February release was Hansel and Gretel are Dead and I guess they give that cannibal witch quite a surprise.  March has to do with Pinocchio who is put together by a grave robbing Geppetto…

Review – Troubled Waters

Troubled Waters

by Sharon Shinn

This is my first book by Shinn and it has been quite a while since I picked up some pure fantasy.  I found it at my favorite used bookstore, purchased it by what I saw on the back cover and I am so happy I did!  Ahhhh, I was transported to a richly imagined world, life slowed down a bit.  This book sucked me in but good.  I really didn’t want to go to work and had a hard time pulling myself away from reading.  Shinn created a world full of magics, politics, horses, rivers and floods and the book is a lovely coming of age story about a girl finding out about her inheritance and family, understanding herself and finding love.

After the death of her father, a man who used to advise the king but had been living with her in exile, Zoe is whisked away to marry the king as his 5th wife.  But once she is makes the journey back to the city, she slips away from her escort and lives with the poor near the banks of the river.  Zoe is ruled by the elemental sign of water causing her to bring about change, surprises and flexibility (among other things).  Everyone in this world takes after an element and has most of its characteristics.  Eventually she finds out that she is the prime or head of her family, with the power and wealth that comes with it.  This means she has to return to the castle to take up her inherited duties, not to marry the king.

This is a typical fantasy novel with the slow build of world and character.  Zoe is a young, feisty heroine who was not raised to be political and speaks her mind.  She shakes things up, which is both exciting and unnerving at times.  The characters are well developed, the world lush and the religion well done.  The characters are extremely dedicated to their elemental attributes and they speak about it a lot, especially as a justification for their actions.  But it works.  The romance is no surprise, but it is sweet and rated G though there are some surprises in there.  In fact, this book might be YA, it would make sense.

The only thing that I was a little disappointed in was the villain.  I thought it was a bit convoluted and diluted, but ok, so it worked.  I think I might have huffed a bit when the reveal happened, but all in all I totally loved the book.  I couldn’t put it down even though life majorly got in my way of reading it all in one sitting.  If I could have stayed lost in that world, I absolutely would have.  I need to find some more of Shinn’s books.  4 stars.

Review – A Perfect Blood (Hollows book #10)

A Perfect Blood

by Kim Harrison

Man, I love this series.  All the characters are awesome and I care what is happening to them.  Rachel Morgan would have died many times if not for her friends backing her up, and this book is no exception.  Individually she is powerful, but true strength comes with friendships.  But her love and duty to her friends are a bit of why she starts out the way she does in this installation of the series.  This is book #10 and all of the characters have undergone amazing transformations, have survived much together and Rachel is a little scared.  She wants to be normal and have everyone quit poking at her.  Normal in this case means no ley line magic and rejecting who and what she is.  Hmmm.

Rachel, Ivy and Jenks get pulled into an investigation with both the IS (magical police) and FIB (human police) because a human hate group is targeting Inderlanders and killing them in horrific ways.  Those two groups don’t normally work together, they don’t really get along.  The hate group is trying to create a magical, demonic weapon to wipe out all magical creatures.  Rachel, Ivy & Jenks need to stop them quickly or everyone will suffer.  The action gets nuts towards the end of the book, but it still kept me at the edge of my seat because of the push/pull with the people in the IS/FIB.  Additionally, I do enjoy watching Rachel grow and progress.  It is painful at times, because she can’t see past certain things, but she gets it eventually.

Ivy, Jenks and Rachel seem to be moving in their own directions.  They aren’t as close as they have been in the past, but they know each other very well and are able trust and love and live together in harmony.  It is nice.  Though of the three, Rachel is the only one who is really struggling in this one.  She was nearly killed in the last book, and it has shaken her to the core.  She has to find herself, her strength, her power and accept who she is.  It is a long, somewhat difficult journey, but she has help.

We get a new character, Wayde.  He is a werewolf bodyguard sent by her parents.  He is interesting and is just about as stubborn as Rachel.  They have an interesting back and forth that they do.  Trent, well, I have had a love/hate relationship with his character and he is growing on me.  We will see if Rachel begins to trust him or what might happen.  Al, I love Al.  We don’t get to see nearly enough of him or the everafter in this book, and Rachel has some fixing to do down there…but maybe in the next one.   Also, since Harrison is going to wrap up this series in a couple of books, I hope she tackles a few story lines, Nick, her aura, Trent, the gaping hole in the everafter, Nick, oh yea, and Nick. 

Anyway, this book is great.  That I got to get it signed and meet Kim Harrison actually made it even more fun to read.  This series is awesome.  If you like UF and all sorts of magical creatures, humor and a strong female lead, this series is a must.  I give it 4 stars.

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