Review: Darkness Unbound by Keri Arthur

Darkness UnboundI was a little afraid to pick up Keri Arthur’s newest series.  I wasn’t that pleased with her most recent Myth and Magic book, and I was hoping very hard that it wasn’t the sign of an author who had run out of ideas.  Thankfully, after taking a deep breath and picking up the first Risa title, my fears were put to rest.  Darkness Unbound returns to the world of the Riley Jensen books, with characters old and new.

(Description nicked from B&

“Being half werewolf and half Aedh, Risa Jones can enter the twilight realms between life and death and see the reapers, supernatural beings that collect the souls of the dead. But she soon makes a terrifying discovery: Some sinister force is stealing souls, preventing the dead from ever knowing the afterlife.

Reapers escort souls—not snatch them—but Risa is still unnerved when a reaper shadows her in search of someone Risa has never met: her own father, an Aedh priest, who is rumored to be tampering with the gates of hell for a dark purpose. With the help of her “aunt”—half-werewolf, half-vampire Riley Jenson—and an Aedh named Lucian who may have lost his wings but none of his sex appeal, Risa must pursue whatever shadowy practitioner of blood magic is seizing souls, and somehow stop her father . . . before all hell breaks loose.”

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Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in BloodThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve been reading a lot of teen fiction lately.  While the majority of my reading fare can be found in the “adult” science fiction and fantasy sections, there’s no denying that young adult literature has produced some gripping tales in the past few years.  Many of those lean heavily towards the dark end of the spectrum, and Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood is no exception.

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“Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas’s life.”

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Review: The Traitor’s Daughter by Paula Brandon

The Traitor's DaughterThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The novels that I find the most memorable are the ones that take me by surprise.  It might be because I got a different idea of what the story would be like from synopses and teaser text, or it might be because the author brings in an unexpected twist.  Either way, I like not knowing what to expect from a novel, and that’s one of the things that made me like The Traitor’s Daughter.  Paula Brandon’s novel of political intrigue and deception sneaks the magic in under your nose.

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“On the Veiled Isles, ominous signs are apparent to those with the talent to read them. The polarity of magic is wavering at its source, heralding a vast upheaval poised to alter the very balance of nature. Blissfully unaware of the cataclysmic events to come, JiannaBelandor, the beautiful, privileged daughter of a powerful Faerlonnish overlord, has only one concern: the journey to meet her prospective husband.  But revolution is stirring as her own conquered people rise up against their oppressors, and Jianna is kidnapped and held captive at a rebel stronghold, insurance against what are perceived as her father’s crimes.

The resistance movement opens Jianna’s eyes―and her heart. Despite her belief in her father’s innocence, she is fascinated by the bold and charming nomadic physician and rebel sympathizer, FalasteRione—who offers Jianna her only sanctuary in a cold and calculating web of intrigue. As plague and chaos grip the land, Jianna is pushed to the limits of her courage and resourcefulness, while virulent enemies discover that alliance is their only hope to save the human race.”

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Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Dearly, DepartedThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I think that one of the trickiest love stories is one between the living and the dead.  Zombie romances are starting to appear on the shelves, although not in any great quantities.  And these tales have now migrated to the young adult section.  Lia Habel’s Dearly, Departed explores new territory with a story set in a possible near future of humanity.

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“The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.”

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Review: Working Stiff by Rachel Caine

Working StiffThis book was a personal purchase.

I wasn’t much for zombie novels not that long ago.  It’s probably because I’m not someone who really enjoys horror.  My imagination is far too vivid for me to want to watch films with gore and nastiness.  I have come to find over time that some zombie stories aren’t gross and, in fact, are really good reads.  But I’ve also found that a writer walks a fine line in making their main character one of the undead.  Rachel Caine tries this with Working Stiff, with mixed results.

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“Bryn Davis was killed on the job after discovering her bosses were selling a drug designed to resurrect the dead. Now, revived by that same drug, she becomes an undead soldier in a corporate war to take down the very pharmaceutical company responsible for her new condition…”

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Review: Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

Jane Bites BackThis book was a personal purchase.

I’ll admit that I haven’t been a fan of the recent surge of “quirk classics”, books that mash up classic literature with vampires and werewolves and their ilk.  Nor have I really been tempted to peruse the rash of books that tell original stories within these classics while adding the aforementioned monsters.  However, I was intrigued by Jane Bites Back, which sounded like it had a lighter touch than most of the others, and upon reading it, I found myself pleasantly surprised.

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“Two hundred years after her death, Jane Austen is still surrounded by the literature she loves—but now it’s because she’s the owner of Flyleaf Books in a sleepy college town in Upstate New York. Every day she watches her novels fly off the shelves—along with dozens of unauthorized sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Jane may be undead, but her books have taken on a life of their own.

To make matters worse, the manuscript she finished just before being turned into a vampire has been rejected by publishers—116 times. Jane longs to let the world know who she is, but when a sudden twist of fate thrusts her back into the spotlight, she must hide her real identity—and fend off a dark man from her past while juggling two modern suitors. Will the inimitable Jane Austen be able to keep her cool in this comedy of manners, or will she show everyone what a woman with a sharp wit and an even sharper set of fangs can do?”

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Review: Kitty’s Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn

Kittys-Greatest-HitsThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve been following Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series since book one. I enjoyed the way the author presented her characters and painted a world coming to grips with the supernatural. Up until now, though, I’ve never had a chance to read any of the short stories that are set in this storyline. In Kitty’s Greatest Hits, readers can find all of these tales in one volume.

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“Kitty Norville, star of a New York Times bestselling series, is everybody’s favorite werewolf DJ and out-of-the-closet supernatural creature. Over the course of eight books she’s fought evil vampires, were-creatures, and some serious black magic. She’s done it all with a sharp wit and the help of a memorable cast of werewolf hunters, psychics, and if-not-good-then-neutral vampires by her side. Kitty’s Greatest Hits not only gives readers some of Kitty’s further adventures, it offers longtime fans a window into the origins of some of their favorite characters.

In ‘Conquistador de la Noche,’ we learn the origin story of Denver’s Master vampire, Rick; with ‘Wild Ride,’ we find out how Kitty’s friend T.J. became a werewolf; and in ‘Life is the Teacher,’ we revisit Emma, the human-turned-unwilling-vampire who serves the aloof vampire Master of Washington, D.C.

This entertaining collection includes two brand-new works: ‘You’re On the Air,’ about one of Kitty’s callers after he hangs up the phone; and the eagerly awaited ‘Long Time Waiting,’ the novella that finally reveals just what happened to Cormac in prison, something every Kitty fan wants to know.”

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Review: Restoration by Guy Adams

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

One of my personal favorite settings for a book is within a great house or structure.  I love the concept of secret passages, hidden rooms and weird things tucked into storage.  Therefore, Guy Adams’s novels The World House and Restoration (the most recent book) are right up my alley.  Restoration picks up within minutes of the first novel’s conclusion and ties together events from that book with remarkable skill.

(Description nicked from the publisher’s website.)

None who enter the World House leave it unchanged.

They sought the box for many years, because held inside that arcane magical artifact was, miraculously, a house. But now its real purpose has become clear – it was a prison, and the infinitely evil being it was built to imprison has been let loose. Now the real quest begins in earnest.”

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Review: The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magician KingThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When Lev Grossman’s The Magicians came out a few years back, I eagerly devoured it.  I loved the way it turned fantasy tropes on their ears and made me look at the genre in an entirely new way.  The long awaited sequel, The Magician King, doesn’t disappoint despite the long wait.  It goes off in an entirely new direction, but it delivers the same thought-provoking tale as its predecessor.

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“Quentin and his friends are now the kings and queens of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are starting to pall. After a morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin and his old friend Julia charter a magical sailing ship and set out on an errand to the wild outer reaches of their kingdom. Their pleasure cruise becomes an adventure when the two are unceremoniously dumped back into the last place Quentin ever wants to see: his parent’s house in Chesterton, Massachusetts. And only the black, twisted magic that Julia learned on the streets can save them.”

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Review: Kitty’s Big Trouble by Carrie Vaughn

Kittys-Big-TroubleThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Kitty Norville books have been a favorite of mine since the series first debuted. I like the way the supernatural world and the real world learn to deal with each other, because it seems like one of the more realistic portrayals out there. And with the newest installment, Vaughn brings the story close to home for me–specifically, to San Francisco, for a dip into Chinatown’s mythical underworld.

(Description nicked from the back of the book.)

“Kitty Norville is back and in more trouble than ever. Her recent run-in with werewolves traumatized by the horrors of war has made her start wondering how long the United States government may have been covertly using werewolves in combat. Have any famous names in our own history been actually supernatural? She’s got suspicions about William Tecumseh Sherman. Then… an interview with the right vampire puts her on the trial of Wyatt Earp, vampire hunter.

But her investigations lead her to a clue about the enigmatic vampire Roman and the mysterious Long Game played by vampires through the millennia. That clue, plus a call for help from a powerful vampire ally in San Francisco, suddenly puts Kitty and her friends on the supernatural chessboard, turning them into pieces in a dangerously active play. But Kitty Norville is never content to be a pawn…”

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