Saturday, 29 September 2012

Review: Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night by Kresley Cole ★★★★★ ♥

Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Immortals After Dark #3
Publication Date: October 2007
ISBN: 978-1416547037
Page Count: 384
Rating: ★★★★★ ♥
Review Copy: Audiobook

Her breathless kiss haunts him... Bowen MacRieve of the Lykae clan was nearly destroyed when he lost the one woman meant for him. The ruthless warrior grew even colder, never taking another to his bed -- until a smoldering encounter with his enemy, Mariketa the Awaited, reawakens his darkest desires. When sinister forces unite against her, the Highlander finds himself using all his strength and skill to keep her alive.

His slow, hot touch is irresistible...

Temporarily stripped of her powers, Mari is forced to take refuge with her sworn adversary. It's rumored that no one can tempt Bowen's hardened heart, but soon passion burns between them. Though a future together is impossible, she fears he has no intention of letting her go.

No deed is too wicked for her seduction...

If they defeat the evil that surrounds them, can Mari deny Bowen when he demands her body and soul -- or will she risk everything for her fierce protector?


Bowen the Bitter and Mariketa the Awaited.

This is one of my three top favourites of the whole series. There's this one, which is Bowen and Mari's story, Cade's book and Malkolm's book, and they are all fabulous, but this one has always been the top prize in my eyes. I just love everything about it. It has the best setting, the best plot, the best and most sympathetic couple, and the absolute best surprise plot twist!

I was raised on action and adventure movies, due, no doubt, to being in an all-male household for a time. Indiana Jones, Romancing the Stone, Rambo, Croccodile Dundee, all those kind of films were always on and were mandatory viewing. So it seems I've kind of developed a bit of a soft spot for a jungle setting (which this book has, despite the contradictory title—there is a reason for that). And there's nothing quite like a hot and sweaty trek through lush greenery and bracing waterfalls with a panting Lykae at your back (who just happens to be a rugged and tormented Scotsman), combined with a feisty, curvy and beautiful heroine with a backbone of steel, and enough chemistry to set fire to the pages.

What's not to love?

Of course, it's not all smooth sailing. As usual—and this is a recurring theme for this series—although there is a natural mate connection going on, there's also a giant problem preventing things from progressing further. I'm reluctant to tell you anything about the plot in case I let something slip, but let's just say Bowen behaves like a total butthead at the beginning, and will have to spend quite a bit of time making up for it.

Kresley Cole does some of the best sex scenes in all of Paranormal Romance Land in my opinion, as well as outstanding dialogue. It's snappy, funny, clever, and second to none in my eyes. These books are just so much FUN! Even when the hero (or sometimes heroine) is being a total ass, I still love them. Because the thing that defines them and separates them from other PNR heroes, is that once that 'misunderstanding' is all cleared up, they become the sweetest, most protective and endearing mates you will ever read about. So just bask and enjoy.

I would recommend reading the series in order as certain elements overlap, but if you wanted to dive in here you could do that too as the romance has a solid conclusion.

5 Stars ★★★★★ ♥

Review: Into the Woods by Kim Harrison ★★★★

Into the Woods by Kim Harrison
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Tales of the Hollows and Beyond #1
Publication Date: October 9, 2012
ISBN: 978-0061974328
Page Count: 384 Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: ARC

Fans have fallen for bounty hunter and witch Rachel Morgan. Through banishment and road trips, deadly supernatural duels and lost loves, they have avidly cheered her on, eagerly awaiting the next instalment in her adventures. This collection of short works, published together in once volume for the first time, adds a whole new dimension to the Hollows saga, featuring tales involving Rachel and her coterie of friends and enemies. Untitled contains original works, including:

"Million Dollar Baby"-original novella about what happens when elven tycoon Trent Kalamack and Jenks the pixy team up to rescue Trent's daughter;

"Spider Web" and "Grace's Fall"-original novelettes set in brand-new fantasy worlds;

Here, too, are reprinted short stories, including:

"Undead in The Garden of Good and Evil"-an Ivy novella from Dates from Hell

"Dirty Magic"-a Mia the banshee short story from Hotter Than Hell

"The Bridges of Eden Park"-a Kisten/Rachel short from the mass market edition of For a Few Demons More

"Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel"-a Robbie/Rachel/Pierce novella from Holidays from Hell

"The Bespelled"-a Ceri/Al short story from the mass market edition of The Outlaw Demon Wails

"Ley Line Drifter"-a Bis/Jenks novella from Unbound

Fans have fallen for bounty hunter and witch Rachel Morgan. Through banishment and road trips, deadly supernatural duels and lost loves, they have avidly cheered her on, eagerly awaiting the next instalment in her adventures. This collection of short works, published together in once volume for the first time, adds a whole new dimension to the Hollows saga, featuring tales involving Rachel and her coterie of friends and enemies. Untitled contains original works, including:

"Million Dollar Baby"-original novella about what happens when elven tycoon Trent Kalamack and Jenks the pixy team up to rescue Trent's daughter;

"Spider Web" and "Grace's Fall"-original novelettes set in brand-new fantasy worlds;

Here, too, are reprinted short stories, including:

"Undead in The Garden of Good and Evil"-an Ivy novella from Dates from Hell

"Dirty Magic"-a Mia the banshee short story from Hotter Than Hell

"The Bridges of Eden Park"-a Kisten/Rachel short from the mass market edition of For a Few Demons More

"Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel"-a Robbie/Rachel/Pierce novella from Holidays from Hell

"The Bespelled"-a Ceri/Al short story from the mass market edition of The Outlaw Demon Wails

"Ley Line Drifter"-a Bis/Jenks novella from Unbound

Excellent anthology for Hollows super fans. 

 Like most people, I would assume, I rushed headlong to the new content, the first Trent centric novella, Million Dollar Baby. But before that, there are several other novellas and short stories of varying lengths that have all been previously released somewhere before; either in anthologies or at the end of a Hollows release. The problem I find with those antholgies, of course, is that if you only follow one, maybe two, of the authors included, they work out very costly for what you get.

So it's great, then, that all the shorts have been re-released in this format for the super fans to soak up and enjoy.

Here's a quick run-down of the previously released stories, some of which I'd read already.

The Bespelled is about everyone's favourite demon, Al. It was first published at the end of the Mass Market edition of The Outlaw Demon Wails (Where Demons Dare in the UK), and it shows Al in his earlier mind-set of use and abuse, before he met our Itchy Witch. The contrast to the Alycakes we know and love today is shocking! He was a nasty piece of work. It also features Ceri and provides an interesting glimpse into their relationship. This story was very short and sweet.

Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel is a much longer story about how an 18-year old version of Rachel met the forever soggy Pierce (I'm not a Pierce fan, can you tell?). It also provides a glimpse at the strained relationship between Rachel and her brother Robbie.

Undead in The Garden of Good and Evil is another decent length novella, this time following Ivy (and Kisten) and touches on some of the abuse Ivy has suffered at the hands of master vampire Piscary.

Dirty Magic is a short story about Mia the Banshee, who ended up being an antagonist on one of the main hollows stories.

The Bridges of Eden Park is a very short story, more like a short scene, actually, with Kisten and Rachel. I was never the biggest Kisten fan in existence, but he was a nice, amiable kind of guy and this story shows that side of him, so will be bitter-sweet for truer Kisten Fans.

Ley Line Drifter is a Jenks centric with a little side order of Bis. I wonder if Rachel ever will find out how her smallest spell pot got its dent...

And finally. Da da da da da da DAAAAH!

Million Dollar Baby! This was very good. It's written in third person following Trent on his Elf Quest with Jenks by his side (or on his shoulder, or under his hat). For anyone who's curious to know just how Trent managed to get Lucy away from the Withons, here's your answer.

Now, for the Rachel-Trent 'shippers out there (like me!), in comparison to the freaking amazing 1st person POV bonus chapter of A Perfect Blood we got the other day, this is not quite as squee-worthy or revealing of Trent's inner-most desires. But, even though Rachel isn't in the story (obviously) it's telling just how often she's in Trent's thoughts and how much her opinion of him matters.

Trent's an incredibly complex character. I am a bit in love with him as many of you will know, not only because I'm dying for something to happen with him and Rachel in the main series, but also just because his character is so unique! He's an insecure, slightly nerdish, constantly blushing, tight-ass Suit one minute. Then the next minute he's doing these amazing ninja moves and pulling a total James Bond on the Withon's fortress. The level of preparation alone is staggering. He may not be the most badass book hero out there, but he utilises what resources and skills he does have like no other. I thought he was incredibly brave and selfless in this story. It's easy to be brave when you aren't scared, and it's fair to say that Trent was absolutely terrified, which makes it all the more awesome that he was willing to do what he did, to do anything, actually, including dying, to get his daughter away from that cold-hearted bitch Ellasbeth!

Bonus Material.
At the end of all the Hollows stuff there was a couple of new bits and pieces that Kim Harrison has been working on, including Pet Shop Boys which you can also get as a separate Kindle ebook with a bonus chapter from the upcoming Ever After in it. It's fair to say I'll probably read anything Ms. Harrison produces from here on out, and she certainly seems to have some interesting avenues to explore, while staying firmly in my beloved Urban Fantasy genre. Can't wait!

All together a real treat for fans of the Hollows, especially if you've never read the other anthology stories before.  Highly recommended.

4 Stars ★★★★
ARC provided for an honest review.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Review: Mark of the Witch by Maggie Shayne ★★★★

Mark of the Witch by Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: The Portal Trilogy #1
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
ISBN: 978-0778313335
Page Count: 400 Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: Advance Readers Copy

From New York Times bestselling author Maggie Shayne comes the first novel in her thrilling new trilogy, THE PORTAL She was born to save what he is sworn to destroy...

A lapsed Wiccan, Indira Simon doesn't believe in magic any more. But when strange dreams of being sacrificed to an ancient Babylonian god have her waking up with real rope burns on her wrists, she's forced to acknowledge that she may have been too hasty in her rejection of the unknown. Then she meets mysterious and handsome Father Tomas. Emerging from the secrecy of an obscure Gnostic sect, he arrives with stories of a demon, a trio of warrior witches-and Indira's sacred calling. Yet there's something even Tomas doesn't know, an inescapable truth that will force him to choose between saving the life of the woman he's come to love-and saving the world.

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. I'm a little tiny bit in love with Father Tomas!

This was my first book by Maggie Shayne. She's a rather well-established author, however, so even though it was my first time reading her, I felt I was in safe hands hands.

Her writing style—at least in this instance—was quite interesting in that she switched from first person narrative for the heroine, Indira's, POV, and then to third person for the hero, Father Tomas'. That's 'Toe-MAAHS', not 'Thomas'. A distinction made by the author several times.

The main themes of the story are those of lost or broken faith, self-doubts, guilt, beliefs, convictions, all wrapped around a wonderful story of three sisters from Babylonian times, and their connection to our current-day heroine, Indira.

Indira's character was likeable—she's smart, attractive, kinda quirky—but I couldn't help but notice that sometimes her light-hearted "voice" was often in direct contrast to the overall feel of the story. Her misplaced humour and flippancy grated initially, until I recognised it for the defence mechanism that it was. In times of trouble, she uses bad jokes or that old faithful 'denial', that so often comes in handy. But until I came to that realization, it was just annoying. And I also felt it lessened the impact of what was being revealed in the dreams, because if Indy wasn't taking things seriously, then why should I?

However, the second half of the book seemed to change Indy's character once the straits got considerably more dire, and once Father Tomas became that much more of a distraction.

He's a priest. A really good looking and somewhat tormented priest, just to make things more complicated. And that's not all he is, either, but you'll have to read it yourself to find out the rest.

I really enjoyed the slowly drip fed back story of the three sisters. We got a little nugget more each time. I also enjoyed reading about the Wiccan practices and rituals. And of course, the other issues of faith, the dangers of extremists and close-minded people in any religion, was all interesting to explore.

It did, unfortunately for me, utilise a plot device that I personally don't care for very much, and this is probably why I was unable to rate it quite as high as others have. But, overall, I thought it was an interesting, mostly fast-paced, read, with a nice romance and some good twists and turns. It was quite suspenseful and thrilling, and I'm interested enough to read the next two books in the trilogy.

4 Stars ★★★★
ARC provided for an honest review.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Early Review: Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks ★★★★

Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Montgomerys and Armstrongs #1
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
ISBN: 978-0345533234
Page Count: 352 Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: Advance Readers Copy

This sinfully sexy new romance from Maya Banks features a remarkable woman whose rare gift teaches a gruff Scottish warrior how to listen with his heart.
Eveline Armstrong is fiercely loved and protected by her powerful clan, but outsiders consider her “touched.” Beautiful, fey, with a level, intent gaze, she doesn’t speak. No one, not even her family, knows that she cannot hear. Content with her life of seclusion, Eveline has taught herself to read lips and allows the outside world to view her as daft. But when an arranged marriage into a rival clan makes Graeme Montgomery her husband, Eveline accepts her dutyunprepared for the delights to come. Graeme is a rugged warrior with a voice so deep and powerful that his new bride can hear it, and hands and kisses so tender and skilled that he stirs her deepest passions.

Graeme is intrigued by the mysterious Eveline, whose silent lips are ripe with temptation and whose bright, intelligent eyes can see into his soul. As intimacy deepens, he learns her secret. But when clan rivalries and dark deeds threaten the wife he has only begun to cherish, the Scottish warrior will move heaven and earth to save the woman who has awakened his heart to the beautiful song of a rare and magical love.


~Then silent tears fast flowing
When someone stood beside
A hand upon my shoulder
I knew the touch was kind
He drew me near and nearer
We neither spoke one word
But the beating of our own two hearts
Was the only sound I heard~

(This is a verse from 'I Wandered by a Brookside' by Eva Cassidy and I thought the words fit this particular story rather nicely.)

A swoon-worthy hero and a brave and determined heroine.

This was a very enlightening read. The first time I've read a book with a deaf main character. It was quite an eye-opener and I grew to have tremendous respect for both the heroine for her bravery and tenacity, and the hero for his ability to see beyond his hatred of the Armstrongs to see what a true prize he'd really been given.

The book is based around a long-standing feud between two powerful clans; the Montgomerys and the Armstrongs. Their constant battling has become a source of annoyance for King Alexander II, and so after enjoying a blissful winter's peace, when the clans put down their weapons only because of the poor weather conditions, he comes up with a plan to stop the warfare once and for all.

Anyone for a spring wedding?

The story begins with the leaders of both clans in outrage over the missives they have just received from the King, ordering Graeme Montgomery, chief of the Montgomery clan, to wed Eveline Armstrong, the daughter of the Armstrong chief. For Graeme, not only would that mean tying himself to his fiercest enemy's clan by marriage, but it's also known throughout Scotland that the chief's daughter is 'daft', 'addled', 'touched'. So it would also mean he couldn't expect a 'proper wife', and therefore his dream of heirs to pass the Montgomery name to is also shattered. It's a crushing blow.

Over at the Armstrong clan, the news isn't received with any more enthusiasm. For Chief Armstrong, the thought of giving over his only precious daughter—who is all things good and kind and has suffered enough after her accident changed her forever—is positively unbearable.


Eveline and Graeme were a very endearing couple. Eveline's silence and strange behaviour has little to do with being 'daft', she simply cannot hear, but she has allowed the rumours of her mental state to continue for good reason. It was fascinating to watch Eveline's ways of communicating and how other people reacted to her. Graeme was an absolute sweetheart. Initially his feelings were more of pity than anything else, although he could certainly see Eveline was a beauty, he felt guilty for thinking that way about her and considered it such a waste. He planned never to consummate the marriage and he envisioned many long, sleepless nights ahead!

Of course, this is a Maya Banks novel, and a Maya Banks novel without a sex scene would be like a... a Fred without a Ginger. Although, having said that, compared to some of the steamy scenes in the last trilogy, the McCabes, the sex scenes weren't quite as erotic as her usual style. I think she toned it down a wee bit.

Overall, I'd say the story was more interesting and endearing than thrilling or exciting, because plot-wise there wasn't much happening other than the romance until the last quarter, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It was certainly a different read and I found I enjoyed the romance and feeling righteous indignation on Eveline's behalf over her treatment by the Montgomerys, and then elation as the final scenes came to a close.

A very satisfying read. Recommended to all fans of Scottish Romance.

4 Stars ★★★★
ARC provided for an honest review.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Review: Captured Heart by Heather McCollum ★★★★

Captured Heart by Heather McCollum
Genre: Historical Romance, Paranormal Historical
Series: Highlander Hearts #1
Publication Date: September 11,2012
ISBN: 1620610574
Page Count: 400 Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: Advance Readers Copy

Fleeing with only her bow, horse, enormous pet wolf, and the cryptic clues hidden in her mother’s medicine journal, healer Meg Boswell gallops north towards freedom, running from the man who falsely accused her mother of witchcraft. Cursed with magical healing abilities, Meg knows that if she’s captured, she will die like her mother—atop a blazing witch’s pyre.

Winter winds rip across the Highlands, pressing Chief Caden Macbain forward in his desperate plan to save his clan. He’s not above using an innocent woman to bargain for peace if it keeps his clan from starving. But Meg isn’t who Caden thinks she is, and when she kills a man to save the clan, he must choose between duty and her life. For although he captured her to force a peace, Meg's strength and courage have captured Caden's heart.

A sweet Scottish Romance with just a hint of paranormal.

This is the story of Caden MacBain, chief of clan MacBain, and Meg Boswell, niece to the MacBain's fiercest enemy, the Munro's.  It's just barely a Historical-Paranormal, although really the paranormal aspect was very small and limited to only one main character. I found it to be a really sweet and sexy story and I will definitely be reading more from this new (to me) author.

It was also quite a quick read; I probably could have happily read it in one sitting if real life hadn't gotten in the way, as it was instantly engaging and very readable.

I think my favourite character had to be Caden. He was a most unusual highland Laird; so invested in his people's well-being, making daily rounds to each family in the village to make sure they had everything they needed. He was just a really nice guy, despite some of his shady decisions made in hopes of saving his clan from starvation. I had no trouble forgiving him his transgression at all. He seemed pretty selfless to me. And as well as being an all round decent guy, he also sounded particularly delicious with his low-slung kilt and rippling muscles and narrow hips and..... Och, aye.

Meg was a very likeable heroine as well. Tough and more than capable of taking care of herself, either with her words or with her bow, or failing both of those things, her pet wolf.

I liked the way the pair met in such unusual circumstances, and I enjoyed reading about Caden's instant attraction that he tried to keep to himself, knowing that once Meg found out what was really going on, she would hate him. I also liked the fact that the clan members were all (well, mostly all) kind and honourable men. Especially sweet young Donald. Bless him.

And I definitely appreciated that the dialogue was written very straightforwardly. There wasn't really any attempt to portray the Scottish dialect with strange spellings or dropped letters, other than exchanging 'you' for 'ye', and 'your' for 'yer'. That was about it. This makes it so much easier to read. No more stumbling and tripping my way through people's speeches. I know what a Scot sounds like without any visual assistance thanks very much. A few little changes such as these are more than sufficient, if you ask me.

There were a couple of parts of the plot that were a little obvious, and of course, many of the plot devices usedclan feuds, kidnapped daughters, marriage alliances, etc.have all been done before numerous times. But I thought the addition of the witchy healing powers and the clues left within the notebook were an interesting twist and made the story stand out as unique.

All together, a quick, fun, sweet and sexy read. Recommended to all fans of Scottish/Highlander Romances.

4 Stars ★★★★
ARC provided for an honest review.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff ★★★★★

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Genre: Steampunk romance, Fantasy, Japanese inspired epicness
Series: The Lotus War #1
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
ISBN: 9780230762886
Page Count: 352
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Copy: Advance Readers Copy

The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

As amazing as I'd hoped. I cannot wait for the next one!

I admit to being slightly scared of starting this book. I don't think I've ever seen such a positive buzz about a book that hadn't (at the time) even been released yet. Book Bloggers and Advanced Copy readers were going wild about it; doing these amazing, gushing, hyperbolic reviews. This worried me, because it wouldn't be the first time that that's happened and then I've picked up the book myself and realised it's very prettily written, and highly descriptive, but is otherwise only an average story. And I can't get excited about the talent of a wordsmith alone. You have to tell me a good story as well. That's kind of my mantra when I'm reading: Tell the story, tell the story, tell the story. So when writers get too wordy or try and simile me into submission, I get turned off. Where did my story go?

And for the most part, I would be lying if I didn't say that Kristoff's writing is highly descriptive in places. More so, even, than some of the ones I ended up not liking previously. But holy freaking cow does he back that up with a great story, incredible world-building, phenomenal fantasy, sci-fi and steampunk elements, and to top it all off, a cast of fantastically diverse and complex characters!


Of course, anything worth having is worth working hard for, and for around the first 50-60 or so pages of the book, I was working pretty damned hard! The Japanese language; mostly used for names of weapons, clothing, races, species, gods, myths and of course, character names, made reading difficult initially. I don't really like having to struggle so much, but after all the reviews I'd seen, I felt confident the pay-off would be worth it if I persevered. It was, and then some.

So, what is the book about? Well, it's a very complex world and plot and overall story arc, so I wouldn't even like to try summarising it. But I will tell you your main character is a young girl named Yukiko. She is an excellent strong and positive heroine who needs no hot boy brooding at her to make her appear so. It's not a coming-of-age story, exactly, but definitely an eye-opening journey. It set in a futuristic, or maybe alternate history? (not sure) Japan, where a plant called the Blood Lotus has been discovered and put to great and terrifying use. It powers the great machinery; the sky-ships, the war machines, even the brass and iron body armour of the samurai warriors. But the cost to the world and its citizens is immense. The choking fumes are killing everyone and everything, slowly but surely. Breathing masks and goggles need to be worn at all times. Man is playing a very dangerous and greedy game; thinking only of the benefits now, and not the consequences later. It's quite thought-provoking in that it's not that much of a stretch to imagine our species doing exactly this--especially such an industrious nation as Japan--and its message is clear, and the most ingenious use of entertainment to deliver it since WALL.E.

So, it looks like someone needs to shake things up a bit, right? But our Yukiko is just one girl, and only 16 at that. She has no power. But perhaps she has the strength after all (spot the Princess Bride quote), if only she has the help of oh, say for example, a badass THUNDER TIGER!

Check out this awesome image of Yukiko and her Thunder Tigeror griffinBuruu. Isn't it cool?

Stormdancer by GENZOMAN

Buruu's characterand he definitely is a characterwas a fantastic part of the story. His dialoguewhich is telepathic and all done in shouty capitalswas excellent and often highly amusing. I loved him!

There were several other characters I grew to appreciate and as the epic final chapters came to a close, I found myself deeply concerned over their whereabouts and well-being. That's not to say it ends on a cliffhangerit doesn'tbut there are many unanswered questions and threads left unresolved and I NEED THE NEXT BOOK RIGHT NOW!

In summation, do I recommend this book? Hells yeah. Who to? I don't know... everyone? I'm not sure who to recommend it to specifically, because it's so unlike anything else with it's blend of genres. Even if you've read steampunk before that will in no way prepare you for this book. My advice is to just go and buy it, if it's not for you, hand it to your friend and they'll probably read it, love it, and tell you you're a crazy person not to have loved every single syllable. And they'll probably give you a cookie or something. So everyone's a winner.

5 phenomenal Stars ★★★★
ARC provided for an honest review.

P. S. I found some more pictures I thought were very Stormdancery:

The sky-ship with the dragon on the front.

 Blue Oni Demons

Oni by ~VisHuS702

 Steampunk Samurai.

Steampunk by ~Sumerky

Alternate cover:

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Challenge Geekius! My 12x12 Reading Challenge is complete!

Group avatar

Hey, everyone!

Just a quick update on a couple of the reading challenges I set for myself this year, one of which I've just completed: the 12x12 Reading Challenge. Basically I had to read 12 books from 12 different categories or genres for a total of 144 books in 2012. I just finished this week.

Here are the category titles I originally chose back in December 2011:

1. Gone into liquidation 12 Vamptastic books
2. Double, double toil and trouble 12 Witchy-woo books
3. Dude, what happened to your face? 12 Shapeshifterific books
4. Och aye, Lassie 12 Hunky Highlander books
5. To infinity and beyond! 12 Sci-Fi or futuristic books
6. Have we met? 12 New authors' books
7. Auspicious audiobooks 12 Books on audio, because I've got to do housework some time ya know!
8. Chicks kick butt 12 Kick-ass chick books
9. Stepping out without my babies 12 Non UF or PNR books
10. Cloud Cuckoo Land 12 Fantasy books
11. IMHO 12 Review books
12. What's doing? 12 Next-in-series books

So here's everything that I read. And of course the other thing I challenged myself to do this year was to REVIEW EVERY SINGLE BOOK I READ, so I've been doing that too both on here and on Shelfari where the group is hosted.

Gone into Liquidation
12 Vamp-tastic books

1. Be Still My Vampire Heart by Kerrelyn Sparks ★★★☆☆
2. Lothaire by Kresley Cole ★★★★☆ ♥
3. Vamps and the City by Kerrelyn Sparks ★★★☆☆
4. How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks ★★★★☆
5. Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa ★★★★☆ ♥
6. Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris ★★★☆☆
7. The Undead Next Door by Kerrelyn Sparks ★★★★☆
8. All I want for Christmas is a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks ★★★☆☆
9. Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost ★★★★☆
10. Once Bitten by Kalayna Price ★★★☆☆
11. Twice Dead by Kalayna Price ★★★★☆
12. The Witch is Back by H.P. Mallory ★★★☆☆

Double, double toil and trouble
12 Witchy-woo magic-tastic books

1. Shadow City by Diana P. Francis ★★★★☆ ♥
2. Sacrificial Magic by Stacia Kane ★★★★★ ♥
3. Wolfsbane by Patricia Briggs ★★☆☆☆
4. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness ★★★☆☆
5. Chasing Magic Stacia Kane ★★★★☆ ♥
6. Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler ★★★★☆
7. Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent ★★☆☆☆
8. Death Masks by Jim Butcher ★★★☆☆
9. To Kill a Warlock by H. P. Mallory ★★★★☆
10. A Tale of Two Goblins by H. P. Mallory ★★★★★ ♥
11. Finding Magic by Stacia Kane ★★★☆☆
12. Great Hexpectations by H. P. Mallory ★★★★☆

Dude, what happened to your face?
12 Shapeshifter-ific books

1. Wolf at the Door by Christine Warren ★★★★☆
2. Amethyst Bound by L. Shannon ★★☆☆☆
3. Masques by Patricia Briggs ★★★★☆
4. Fair Game by Patricia Briggs ★★★★☆
5. Lair of the Lion by Christine Feehan ★★★★☆
6. Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaugh ★★★★☆
7. Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn ★★★★☆
8. Kitty Takes a Holiday by Carrie Vaughn ★★★★★
9. Kitty and the Silver Bullet by Carrie Vaughn ★★★★☆
10. The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper ★★★☆☆
11. Raven Cursed by Faith Hunter ★★★★★
12. The Darkest Day by Britt Bury ★★★★☆

Och aye, Lassie
12 Hunky Highlander books

1. The Sinner by Margaret Mallory ★★★★★ ♥
2. Captured by the Highlander by Julianne Maclean ★★★☆☆
3. Highlander's Challenge by Jo Barrett ★★★☆☆
4. Highland Hero by Amanda Scott ★★★★☆
5. Highlander's Prize by Mary Wine ★★★★☆
6. Highland Warrior by Monica McCarty ★★★★☆
7. Highland Lover by Amanda Scott ★★☆☆☆
8. In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks ★★★★☆
9. The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley ★★★★☆
10. Highland Outlaw by Monica McCarty ★★★★☆
11. Seduction of a Highland Lass by Maya Banks ★★★★☆ ♥
12. Never Love a Highlander by Maya Banks ★★★★☆

To infinity and beyond!
12 Sci-Fi or futuristic books

1. Holiday in Death by J. D. Robb ★★★★☆
2. Midnight in Death by J. D. Robb ★★★★☆
3. Conspiracy in Death by J. D. Robb ★★★★☆
4. Loyalty in Death by J. D. Robb ★★★★☆
5. Born to Darkness by Suzanne Brockmann ★★★☆☆
6. Across the Universe by Beth Revis ★★★☆☆
7. Inside out by Maria V. Snyder ★★★★☆
8. Outside in by Maria V. Snyder ★★★★☆
9. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins ★★★★★ ♥
10. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins ★★★★☆ ♥
11. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins ★★★★☆ ♥
12. Judgement in Death by J. D. Robb ★★★★★ ♥

Have we met?
12 New authors' books

1. Knight of Runes by Ruth A. Cassie 8th Jan 2012 ★★★☆☆
2. The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook 3rd February 2012 ★★★★☆ ♥
3. Aftertime by Sophie Littlefield 28th Jan 2012 ★★★☆☆
4. Soulless by Gail Carriger 27th Feb 2012 ★★★☆☆
5. First Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones ★★★★★ ♥
6. Second Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones ★★★★★ ♥
7. The Restorer by amanda Stevens ★★★★★ ♥
8. Third Grave Dead Ahead  by Darynda Jones★★★★★ ♥
9. Shadow Blade by Seressia ★★★☆☆
10. How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper ★★★★☆ ♥
11. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry ★★★★★ ♥
12. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting ★★★★☆

Auspicious audiobooks
12 Books on audio, because I've got to do housework some time ya know!

1. Darkness Dawns by Diana Duvall ★★★★☆
2. The Darkest Whisper by Gena Showalter ★★★★☆
3. Night Reigns by Diana Duvall ★★★★☆
4. Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione ★★★☆☆
5. Seduced by Shadows by Jessa Slade ★★★★☆
6. Forged of Shadows by Jessa Slade ★★☆☆☆
7. The Darkest Passion by Gena Showalter ★★★★☆
8. The Darkest Lie by Gena Showalter ★★★★☆
9. The Darkest Secret by Gena Showalter ★★★☆☆
10. A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James ★★★★☆
11. When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James ★★★★☆
12. Life and Laughing by Michael MacIntyre ★★★☆☆

Chicks Kick Butt
12 books with strong female protagonists

1. Crimson Wind by Diana P. Francis ★★★★★ ♥
2. Shadow Heir by Richelle Mead ★★★☆☆
3. Blood Red Road by Moira Young ★★★☆☆
4. Witchful Thinking by H.P. Mallory ★★★☆☆
5. Moonglow by Kristen Callihan ★★★★☆ ♥
6. The Ravenous Dead by Natasha Hoar ★★★★☆
7. Shadow Chase by Seressia Glass ★★★☆☆
8. The Stubborn Dead by Natasha Hoar
9. Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent ★★☆☆☆
10. Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble by H.P. Mallory ★★★★☆
11. Broken Elements by Mia Marshall ★★★★☆
12. Witness in Death by J. D Robb ★★★☆☆

Stepping out without my babies 
 12 Non UF or PNR books

1. Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann ★★★☆☆
2. A Kiss in the Wind by Jennifer Bray-weber ★★★☆☆
3. Son of the Morning by Linda Howard ★★★☆☆
4. Black Ice by Anne Stewart ★★☆☆☆
5. The Green Rider by Kristen Britain ★★★★☆
6. Blackout by Annie Solomon ★★★★☆
7. Tempted by the Highland Warrior Michelle Willingham ★★★★★ ♥
8. If you See Her by Shiloh Walker ★★★☆☆
9. If you Hear Her by Shiloh Walker ★★★☆☆
10. Highlander Unmasked by Monica McCarty ★★☆☆☆
11. If You Know Her by Shiloh Walker ★★★☆☆
12. Summer Nights by Susan Mallery ★☆☆☆☆

Cloud Cuckoo Land
12 Fantasy books

1. Cast in Shadow by Michele Sagara ★★★★☆
2. Cast in Courtlight by Michele Sagara ★★★★☆
3. Cast in Secret by Michele Sagara ★★★☆☆
4. Cast in Fury by Michele Sagara ★★★☆☆
5. Gate to Kandrith by Nicole Luiken ★★★☆☆
6. Wilde's Fire by Krystal Wade ★★★★☆
7. First Rider's Call by Kristen Britain ★★★★☆
8. On the Edge by Ilona Andrews ★★★★★ ♥
9. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor ★★★☆☆
10. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas ★★★★★ ♥
11. Grave Memory by Kalayna Price ★★★★☆ ♥
12. Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder ★★★★★ ♥

12 Review books

1. Firelight by Kristen Callihan ★★★★★ ♥
2. Scent of a White Rose by Tish Thawer ★★★☆☆
3. The Asylum Interviews: Trixie by Jocelynn Drake ★★★☆☆
4. Grave Mercy by R. L LaFevers ★★★★★ ♥
5. Ember by Kristen Callihan ★★★★☆
6. The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens ★★★★☆ ♥
7. The Prophet by Amanda Stevens ★★★★☆ ♥
8. Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire ★★★★☆ ♥
9. The Siren's Song by Jennifer Bray-weber ★★☆☆☆
10. Dark Kiss by Michelle Rowen ★★★☆☆
11. Kiss of Steel by McMaster, Bec ★★★★☆
12. Lord of Fire and Ice by Mia Marlowe ★★★☆☆

What's doing?
12 Next-in-series books

1. Hallowed by Cynthia Hand 23rd Jan 2012 ★★★★★ ♥
2. Wrong Side of Dead by Kelly Meding 29th Feb 2012 ★★★★★ ♥
3. A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison 23rd Feb 2012 ★★★★★ ♥
4. Two Ravens and One Crow by Kevin Hearne ★★★★☆
5. Silver-Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells 22nd Feb 2012 ★★★★☆
6. Lord of the Abyss by Nalini Singh 1st Jan 2012 ★★☆☆☆
7. Hold me if you Can by Stephanie Rowe 5th Feb 2012 ★★★☆☆
8. Raven Calls by C. E. Murphy 12th Feb 2012 ★★★★☆
9. By a Thread by Jennifer Estep ★★★☆☆
10. Tricked by Kevin Hearne ★★★★★ ♥
11. Highlander Unchained by Monica McCarty ★★☆☆☆
12. Toil and Trouble by H.P. Mallory ★★★★☆

So there's my list of 144 books. For anyone interested in trying this challenge next year, the 2013 threads will be opening up soon. Come join us! If you're not a member of Shefari (an Amazon backed book community) yet, you should definitely come and make your own virtual bookshelf to keep track of your reading. The groups are great fun.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore ★★★★

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Genre: YA Fantasy
Series: Seven Kingdoms Trilogy #1
Publication Date: October 1, 2008
ISBN: 015206396X
Page Count: 471
Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: Audiobook

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight--she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug. When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po's friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace--or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.


A great book, and an amazing audiobook.

Firstly, can I just say how much I enjoyed the audio narration for this. It was a full cast audiobook so there was a main narrator and then separate male and female voice actors for the characters' dialogue. It was like listening to a play, it was so good. Why can't all audiobooks have both boy and girl narrators. Why world?

Graceling is essentially a swords and sorcery YA fantasy with romantic elements set in the completely made-up world of Seven Kingdoms. It follows Katsa, a young lady on her road to self-discovery, and Po, a fellow Graceling and a total sweetie pie.

What is a Graceling? Well, it's someone born with the gift/curse of having a 'Grace,' which is similar to having a supernatural ability of some sort. For example, Katsa's 'Grace' is killing. Not the prettiest of abilities, certainly, but something that her uncle, the King Randa, has put to good use ever since it manifested when she was a child. Katsa is more or less unbeatable in a fight. Even outnumbered. I dread to think how much you would actually have to outnumber her to win, but at the last count, 8 men wasn't enough. So it's safe to say she's pretty badass, but other than her ability, she's no stronger than anyone else; just faster, with lightning quick reflexes and good instincts for danger.

Then there's Po. A boy/man of a similar age to Katsa (around 18-20) who is a Graceling, but also a Leinid. The first one Katsa has ever met. Leinids have a completely different outlook on Gracelings than the rest of the realms where they are largely treated with wary caution at best, or outright contempt and distrust at worst. In Leinid they are revered for their gifts. Watching the two characters deal with their differences was great and I grew to really like Po and could empathise well with Katsa. My only complaint where Katsa is concerned is that she wasn't as giving of herself as Po was willing to be. But maybe the next book(s) will change that.

The story takes Katsa and Po on a journey where they uncover an evil lurking within the Seven Kingdoms. It's also an emotional journey for Katsa as she goes through some changes and makes a few revelations along the way.

This kind of genre is one of my favourites and I usually have no issue with them being YA. In this case, however, I almost wish it had been an adult book so that we could have gotten a bit more fear and tension built up, and maybe a closer look at Katsa's Grace. But of course, with it being a YA, it was not nearly as violent or bloody as you might expect a story about an assassin to be.

I'm looking forward to the next book, Fire, which I will also be getting in audio format. Can't wait!

4 Stars ★★★★

Monday, 17 September 2012

Review: Two Ravens and One Crow by Kevin Hearne ★★★★

Two Ravens and One Crow by Kevin Hearne
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Iron Druid Chronicles  #4.5
Publication Date: September 4th 2012
ISBN: 9780385366434
Page Count: 65 Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: Advance Reader Copy

Atticus O’Sullivan is back in an all-new, action-packed, laugh-out-loud novella from the author of The Iron Druid Chronicles. Two-thousand-year-old Atticus may have outwitted and outfought everyone from Odin to Bacchus, but in this eBook original, he’s about to discover what comes around when you go around messing with gods.

Six years into the training of his beautiful apprentice, Granuaile, a large crow swoops down and transforms into none other than the Morrigan, a goddess who insists that Atticus come with her at once. He must leave his apprentice behind, along with his Irish wolfhound, Oberon—and he must also leave his sword. The Morrigan has always taken extreme pleasure in pronouncing the Druid’s mortal danger and imminent doom, so the fact that she won’t reveal the purpose of their journey makes him very nervous. Of course, any time the Celtic Chooser of the Slain drops in unannounced, it’s never good. When she does let slip that she’ll be saving his life in the near future, Atticus is left to wonder . . . will he soon be giving his legions of enemies something to crow about?

Includes a preview of Kevin Hearne’s highly anticipated new novel in The Iron Druid Chronicles, Trapped!

A surprisingly fulfilling and action-packed novella.

I may seem a bit harsh saying this, but I find a lot of mid-series novellas to be unworthy of the e-ink they're displayed in. Most of the time, the stories within are so much padding and filler with no progression to the characters or the series as a whole. And I can understand why; you can't really have something major plot-wise happening in a novella that some people see as 'optional' reading. It will be far too confusing come the next book trying to explain what happened during the break.

However, you've got to give the people who do fork out for the novella (not me, obviously) something worth reading. And this novella did just that. It gave a surprisingly revealing glimpse into Atticus' feelings for Granuaile, as well as a closer look at the beautifully terrifying Morrigan.

I have to confess, I'm finding Atticus' befuddlement over things with Granuaile extremely sweet. He's sounding more and more like a man suffering unrequited love by the day. And even though both of them have been heading out at weekends over the last six years of Granuaile's training for 'booty calls,' it seems it's becoming more and more unfulfilling for Atticus. And those guilt ferrets really are bastards.
As I mentioned earlier, Atticus and Granuaile—going under the amazing secret identities of Sterling Silver and Betty Baker (thanks to Coyote for that one)—are approximately mid-way through Granuaile's 12-year training to become a druid. If you recall, at the end of the last book, Tricked, Atticus suffered some damage to his healing tattoo on his hand (giant mutant cockroaches will do that to you), so when the Morrigan turns up with an offer to repair it, he accepts.

You'd think at 2100 years old he'd know better than to trust the Morrigan by now. Guess not. Naturally, madness and mayhem ensues with much hilarity.

What seems abundantly clear to me whenever I read anything by Mr. Hearne—other than the fact that he is a comedic genius of course— is that he really has a great appreciation for the mythology his series is based around; Norse and Celtic mostly. He hasn't simply chosen it because it's popular or because it comes with ready-made characters to draw from. He really seems to just love the old stories and creating his own interpretations and retellings of them. And I, in turn, enjoy reading them too.

For fans of the series, I'd definitely recommend picking this one up. It was lots of fun and surprisingly enlightening.

4 Stars ★★★★
ARC received from the publisher for an honest review