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Trafficking in Demons: Book Seven of ‘Fantasy & Forensics’ (Fantasy & Forensics 7)

“I’ve smelled some truly terrible things in my time. It came with the job. In fact, the patent was still pending on my very own Chrissie Scale of Stinkiness . . . I wasn’t going to be using a body bag. It looked like I’d need a wet-vac for this job.”  Dayna Chrissie, Trafficking in Demons: Book Seven of ‘Fantasy & Forensics’ (Fantasy & Forensics 7)

Not by the forces of civil war can you govern the very weakest woman. You can kill that woman, but she escapes you then; you cannot govern her. No power on earth can govern a human being, however feeble, who withholds his or her consent. – Emmeline Pankhurst

Poor Dayna. As if it weren’t bad enough wading into all the ‘normal’ carnage of being a Crime Scene Tech in gritty Los Angeles, cleaning up all the Andeluvian spillover sometimes causes some really messy messes. And Trafficking is boiling – not only in LA but in the world of Andeluvia as well. As has been so well put before, She’s the LAPD’s best corpse-kicker. And the world of Andeluvia’s as well these days.

C.S. Lewis does indeed continue to meet CSI in Michael’s newest addition to the absolute incredible Fantasy & Forensics series. And the tension continues to ramp up, both in our world and the other.

If you are a poor suffering reader who hasn’t found this series yet – well, let’s just say you are missing something special! The series began back in Centaur of the Crime (and hey! It’s FREE on Kindle unlimited right now! As is The Deer Prince’s Murder!)  What are you waiting for??? 

(Clearing throat.) So, back to your regularly scheduled review…

The tensions of the previous books have built to what, in this addition to this incredible series, could very well be an explosion of epic proportions on both our world and on Andeluvia. The carryover of technology to a Middle Ages world is bad enough – but magic in our world? Let’s just say that the blowback could be devastating for both worlds.

Of course, not everything is horrible and scary. Dayna began the series feeling as if everyone hated her and she only had herself to rely upon. And let’s not fool ourselves, lots of people did. And still do. But as the series has developed, so has Dayna. She has grown, realizing that she no longer has to rely solely on herself. And what is not to love about a group of close friends that include a Centaur Wizard, a Griffin Warrior and a gentle Fayleene Prince? And the addition of Skallgrym Serikkaylen of the House of Friesain (Better known as ‘Rikka’) in Assault in the Wizard Degree, the previous book in the series, gives another much needed feminine (yet strong!) presence to the series. Which is hysterical in this case, because Rikka’s warrior status in the centaur realm is a huge contrast to Dayna’s most recent requirement placed upon her by King Fitzwilliam. Let’s just say it requires miles of pink fabric (PINK!) and some highly embarrassing pomp and ceremony!

Well, even with war on the horizon, politics and catering to the expectations of the masses must continue…

If you haven’t read the series, you ‘can’ pick up here, but I highly recommend starting from the first. This blend of humor, fantasy, politics, and plain ol’ excellent writing is well worth the investment of your precious reading time!!!!!

(And aren’t the covers Great?)

 

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Review: Beneath The Blood Moon by R.J. Blain

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“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” -Buddha

The chaining of Fenrir cost the god Tyr his right hand” – Völuspá,  translated to English in The Poetic Edda,  Henry Adams Bellows, 1923

 Free On Kindle!

Sara Watson thought her life was bad enough as it was. Working as a stripper and part time Vegas showgirl, she tries to hold down four part time jobs, go to college, and still pay the rent and eat. They say Vegas is a hard place to live, and she knows all about that. But even the hell of her life is better than the hell she ran from in New York. A father that beat and controlled her, a life with no meaning. At least now, if she can get through school, she can start a real life on her own – fake ID or no fake ID.

Yes, life was hard. But nothing as hard as being kidnapped along with her best “friend” (though the idea of friend is Las Vegas equates to ‘what can I get out of you for doing you the favor of being your friend) and dragged out to the desert by her ex ‘I’m-a-cheating-POS’ boyfriend who has tracked her down to Las Vegas to bring her back. Or kill her. Whichever works.

Telling him to get stuffed, taking her beating and broken ribs, then crawling out into the desert to die on her own and free is gutsy enough. I gained a ton of respect for her at this point, though I already respected her for keeping her moral compass (unlike her crappy friend) and going against said ‘friend’ and not going full-on prostitute made me respect her. Yep. She is one tough cookie, with more internal fortitude than any man her age I have ever known. But after the ex and the girlfriend finish doing the nasty and track her down as she crawls across the desert, then turn into wolves and begin eating her alive (literally), even weirder things happen. And suddenly, Sara’s life is more hell than she could have ever imagined.

Let’s get serious here. First, I really, REALLY wanted to give this book five stars with a bullet. Sara is tough and strong, yes. But she isn’t unbelievable, and she has a heart of gold and a strong sense of right and wrong – and did I mention the heart of gold? Then she meets four other women who are an absolute joy. Tough, take no prisoners women with a fetish for guns, not taking any crap off of anyone, and their husbands (pretty much in that order). There is romance, but no sex scenes, which was completely refreshing (if you are an erotica-only lover, skip this one). The story is fast, suspenseful, sometimes terrifying, and kept me totally immersed in the story. The characters are wonderful, the world building is unusual (living in the world as we know it, but with their own governance, etc.) Some of the scenes literally brought me to tears. That’s the good.

The bad came after I had a chance to come down off my ‘reader-high’ and start thinking about what I would write in my review, and realized I couldn’t give it a five at all. The story is complex, and kept my attention throughout, but there were some issues that a really good content editor could have solved. Ms. Blain has a brilliant mind for writing paranormal suspense, but she isn’t organized. She has a few different threads moving through the book, which is fine, I really enjoy books that are more than one-note songs, but she literally dropped the ball about midway through, dropping one of the more interesting story lines and never going back to it. No wrap, just dropped. Poor form. The book is quite long, 564 pages, and I was never bored or wanting to skip pages as I do with some longer books, and her descriptive narrative and conversational style was enjoyable, but dropping the story line, which I was invested in, shows a lack of organization. Editing for word usage, spelling, and dropped words was OK, but not good. Someone put effort into beta reading for that sort of thing, but the continuity is what killed it.

Overall, I will still recommend the book. The story and pace kept me up all night long (literally, yawn) and then the minute I rose I went right back to it and stayed with it to the end. Give this woman a good content editor, or just a whiteboard to write down all of her threads to make sure she ties them all up at the end and a couple of really good beta readers and she will be a force to be reckoned with in the world of Paranormal Suspense. Recommended, but could be better.

 

Review: By Darkness Revealed by Kevin O. McLaughlin

12416486“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.” ― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“Child, child, do you not see? For each of us comes a time when we must be more than what we are.”
― Lloyd Alexander, The Black Cauldron

Recruit Ryan Blackwell’s father was determined that he not follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, and used his power and lawyerly clout to make sure it didn’t happen. No West Point. No Valley Forge or Citadel. Ryan would, come hell or high water, bend to his father’s will. But there wasn’t much he could do about it when Ryan was recruited to Northshield University – the same military college his grandfather attended – with a full scholarship. No, Ryan simply packed a small bag and boarded a bus.

At first, Northshield was everything he expected. Reveille at oh’ dark thirty each morning. Grueling PT, strict regulations, and screaming Drill Sergeant Upper Classmen with quick tempers and a tendency to make life on campus utterly miserable if they wished. Just what he expected, just what he wanted from his experience as an ROTC college student.

But then? Things got bad. It started simply at first. Magical motes, like tiny bits of fairy dust, dive bombing him as he ran through a creek, attempting to stay ahead off the pack of his fellow freshmen out for a grueling PT run. But then the motes attacked, and one of his fellow classmen went down. And as much as Recruit Blackwell wanted to hide who he was, and what he could do, he couldn’t let his fellow freshman drown. So, he stepped in.

His secret laid bare to two of the upperclassmen, the story begins to grow and evolve into something horrific. For something is trapped on the grounds of Northshield University. And when a twisted recruit pulls part of the darkness out of its prison below ground, people begin to die in horrific ways. And though Ryan is just a freshman with a bit of magic and no training, it seems he is the only one with any sort of knowledge that might trap the darkness back into its prison – and ascertain that the true monstrosity trapped so very long ago isn’t released upon the world.

In a lot of ways, this could have been just some YA story of a young man gaining amazing magical powers and riding in to save the day. Luckily, it turned out to be a much better book than that. Ryan knows he isn’t strong, he isn’t trained or knowledgeable. But he is ready to go all out, to give his own life if necessary, to stop what is happening. He has a good heart, a good soul, and a strong link to the strength his grandfather displayed in the Second World War. He isn’t cocky, he doesn’t suddenly gain super powers. He is just a college freshman with a bit of talent, a will to learn, and some quirky abilities he has had to learn to control in order to keep himself sane – and make sure others think he is as well. Of course, on a campus where weird things happen, and two or three students a year die under ‘unusual’ circumstances, there are those who watch out for anyone who appears who seems a bit odd, a bit like they are there for less than your bog standard military school reasons. So Ryan finds a friend or two. But when push comes to shove? Yeah. It’s all pretty much on him.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from By Darkness Revealed. I just felt like something a bit magic, a bit horror, and this is the first thing that popped up on my reader that fit the bill. I dove in, and from the first page I was hooked. I added it to my collection from a ‘Freebie’ email (it is Free on Amazon) – probably because I liked the cover, to tell the truth – I certainly wouldn’t have picked it up from reading that it was a “coming of age” book – that isn’t my thing normally. But it kept me riveted from page one, so I am very glad I did. The only thing I can really fault it on is lack of backstory for Ryan – that would have helped me understand him more.

Kill It With Magic (Lillim Callina Book One) by J. A. Cipriano – Young Adult

Kill it with Magic by J.A. CiprianoHere’s the thing. I don’t normally like “YA” books. Hey, been there, done that, didn’t even want the flipping “I lived through being a teenager” T-shirt. But I was looking for a Whispersync book, I had downloaded this book from a “freebie” email, and though there was no description on the “About this book” on my Kindle, the first couple of paragraphs grabbed my attention and made me laugh.

“What kind of a tip do you give someone you’ve just blown up? That’s the thought that ran through my mind as I frantically rummaged through my pockets for something, anything to give the delivery boy I’d just blasted into the brick wall outside my tiny apartment.

It wasn’t my fault, I swear. It’s not like my day planner reads: brush teeth, shower, get dressed, blow up delivery boys.” – Lillim Callina

You have to admit, that is pretty darn humorous, right? So, I paid my $1.99 for Whispersync, popped on my headphones, and wandered into my studio to work on my art. Let’s face it – that is a LOT less money than paying for a full Audible Edition! And you can simply stop listening and start reading any time you want.

Score.

Come to find out, Lillim Callina is actually sixteen – but you wouldn’t know it from reading her. Well, actually, actually she is something like six years old. Yeah, weird, huh? You see, Lillim is a reincarnation of one ass-kicking, name-taking female with a nasty streak and some deep, dark secrets. Throw in a ton of magic, a spectacularly sped-up growth rate, a mother who thinks that the perfect way to ‘teach’ her toddler “Vampires Bad!” is to tie her to a tree outside a cave full of blood-suckers right at sundown (OK, I just thought my egg donor was a raving lunatic!) a dragon turf war, and a truly pissed-off werewolf king (Well, OK. She did accidentally get his son kidnapped as a pawn in the aforementioned dragon turf war. Sigh.) Add to that various and sundry other weird, hideous and downright loco monsters, and this was a riot wrapped in a Dresden-esque ass-kicking on steroids. Lillim appears to be sixteen, but her thought process are wildly skewed by the memories from her eight former lives – especially the previous one – making her a clever mix of teenager and burned-out middle aged woman.

This is non-stop action, with plenty of blood and blades to go around. Lillim is quite interesting, though I had a bit of a problem with just how often, and just how severely, she got herself beaten to a pulp and still walked away. The author goes to great pains to write her as a mortal creature in a world filled with immortal monsters – but it stretches belief when every time she turns around she is being slammed into brick walls by dragons, set on fire, and basically subjected to brutality that should have killed her. Over, and over, and over again. Still, the book was amusing, the story itself is unusual – not as formulaic as is so common these days – and Lilllim is an interesting character with a striking backstory.

Overall, I don’t regret the time I spent with the book. If you are a fan of YA, I recommend it. If you aren’t a fan, you still might enjoy it – I did.

Magic Stars by Ilona Andrews

Magic Stars (Kate Daniels, #8.5, Grey Wolf, #1)OK, I am definitely behind the curve when it comes to my favorite authors!

The Incredible team known as Ilona Andrews published a novella, Magic Stars, the first in the Grey Wolf series on December 8. I would normally jump on that bad boy before it was ever published, but I have been absent and unaccounted for lately. But I AM working on it!

Magic Stars focuses on two of my favorite characters from the Kate Daniels series, Derek and Julie. Since the end of the Kate and Curran series things have changed for Derek. He is now a lone wolf, having signed his separation contract from the Pack a half-hour after Curran. Now, he is, basically, a Gun for Hire, working with Kate and Curran, and with others. He is the Grey Wolf of the city, the one who came and found you if you f**ked up and hurt the wrong people.

And someone really f**ked up when they slaughtered Melissa and Randall Ives and their two small children in their own home.

For a rock.

Vengeance is mine sayeth Derek Gaunt, the Gray Wolf. And vengeance he will most certainly have. Not only against the five murderers, but against the new Pack members the new Beast Lord let into the Pack. Oh, boy. Are they ever in trouble!

Annnd then . . . Julie shows up. Julie, ward of Kate and Curran, and now Herald of the City. With her gypsy horse, tiny jeans shorts and double tomahawks, well, things are about to get interesting.

“That’s the Beast Lord’s Wolf.” the wolf raised his hands palms out. “And that’s the Beast Lord’s daughter. I’m out.”

Ha! Run, run, run, as fast as you can!

Julie is sixteen now, training hard, and still as gutsy as ever. You will learn things about both Julie and Derek in this first in the Grey Wolf series – Doing dance and giggling like a loon!!!!! I am so incredibly JAZZED!!!! I HIGHLY recommend this newest of the Ilona and Gordon’s work.

And I just preordered “Alphas: Origins” for delivery on April 19.SCORE!!

Kate Baray – Episode 3 of Spirelli Paranormal Investigations

Spirelli Paranormal Investigations: Episode 3 (Spirelli Paranormal Investigations, #3)Kate Baray continues her Episodic, and it keeps getting better! An offshoot of her Lost Library series, Spirelli Paranormal Investigations, Episode 3, continues the story of Jack Spirelli, Paranormal investigator and Marin, his dragon sidekick. The story in Episode 1 was the first Jack and Marin worked together – and a ghost is determined to ascertain that it is their last. It was lovely fun. In Episode 2, Jack and Marin’s next case take them back to Louisiana, where a single case of “something odd is going on . . .” becomes much more, and much more dangerous, than they ever expected.

Now, in Episode 3, Jack and Marin bite off an even bigger chunk of “paranormal pain-in-the-ass” as they take on protecting Sylvia, a coven witch determined to escape the coven’s control. But Jack has a truly bad history with the coven – and that history may get the three of them dead just as much as the coven’s determination to make sure Sylvia doesn’t escape their grasp.

I’m not a lover of episode storylines, but Kate does it right. These are complete novelettes, with beginning, middle, and end – something that most don’t offer, and Kate blows out of the water. If you haven’t read the Lost Library series, I highly recommend it.

Thanks Kate, for once again offering me the opportunity to read and review your stories! I love, love your work!

Review: A Little Night Magic by Lucy March – The Audible Edition

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“Be Careful what you wish for . . .”

Olivia Kiskey should have remembered that. I mean really – she should have learned that particular lesson when standing on the magic linoleum square by booth nine at Crazy Cousin Betty’s Waffle House granted her wish. But again – be careful what you wish for. Like when she wished on the magic square for “a little more space” from her college boyfriend, Charlie. Two days later? Yep. He dumped her for his roommate – Neal. Sigh.

“A Little Night Magic” starts out funny, and Amanda Ronconi does a beautiful job of narration, her slightly nasal voice is completely believable as Olivia.

When Olivia decides she is finally going to give up her crush on Tobias the cook, sell the house her mother left her, and travel to Scotland, well, people really don’t know what to think. And when Olivia finds out that she can turn objects to animals, things get really whacky . . .

There are things I liked about A Little Night Magic. Olivia is a fun character – she has been stuck in a small town, working as a waitress, for years. As she says, “Spontaneity without commitment is just wishful thinking.” So, in six weeks, she is outta-there. Well, at least that is what she is planning. For a twenty-eight year old, she is very ‘young.’ So when Davina, a supposed ‘magical person’ shows up, and things start getting interesting, Olivia starts learning new things – the hard way. Davina is sure that Olivia is magical – and is determined to teach her. Hence, the whole ‘my coffee mug is now named Gibson’ thing. There are secrets, evil, a stranger chasing her – and the people she has known all her life are even stranger.

Then there are the things that could have been done much better. The give-and-take between Olivia and Tobias is aggravating, to say the least. Tobias is passive-aggressive, the people trying to ‘help’ her are more harmful than helpful, and Olivia’s innocence, in my opinion, is laid on a bit thick. This is a ‘fluffy’ book – which I really don’t mind at all – but Olivia’s ‘friends’ are spiteful and the mystery was figured out within the first couple of chapters, which really doesn’t work for me. The other thing that really disappointed me? The “Bad Guy” is truly evil. And yet, instead of doing something about it, or helping others with the ability do something about it, Olivia is a complete gutless weenie loser. I mean, come ON! You have the ability to stop a murderous megalomaniac – and yet you are too cowardly to stop that person?

So, Olivia pretty much ends up in the “too stupid to live” category, as others have said. And that is a shame, because the concept was good – it was the execution that let me down.

Review: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler – Beautiful

23014670“But the heaviest things, I think, are the secrets. They can drown you if you let them.”
Ally Carter

“Let them think what they liked, but I didn’t mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank — but that’s not the same thing.”
― Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer and other stories

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
― P.T. Barnum

Tragedy and loss are sounds. The slip of waves across rock. The cry of a loon across a dark lake. The patter of rain against midnight windows.

They are water, streaming from here to there, giving life. And taking it away.

His mother, Paulina, circus performer, fortune-teller, magician’s assistant, and mermaid, walked into the water when he was seven. His father soon followed, destroyed by grief. And only Simon, and his baby sister Enola, remain. Simon, a lonely young librarian, who clings to the home he grew up in, which itself clings desperately to the edge of the cliff above the sea, falling to wrack and ruin, a mere memory, a ghost of the warm family home it once was. Simon, who lives alone while his sister, like her mother before her, lives the life of the circus, the carnival, reading the fortunes of the lonely, the lovelorn, the lost.

But then, the book arrives. And time begins to waver, back and forth through time, the past melding with the present through the words of yet another “walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.”* A poor player indeed, who struts and frets across a traveling carnival stage. There is magic here. Magic and pain and loss and death.

And drowning.
Always drowning.

Simon’s tale reaches back, back to Hermelius H. Peabody’s Portable Magic and Miracles Traveling Show. Hermelius H. Peabody, self-proclaimed visionary in entertainment and education. Hermelius H. Peabody, who one day comes upon a real Wild Boy – a Wild Boy who was left in the woods to die, and instead lives – lives, and learns to listen to the water. Learns to vanish.

“The Book of Speculation”
is a small miracle. History and mystery, mysticism and the water. Always, always the water. A lost book, a lost soul. A lost history found, beliefs crumpled.

And the water sings, its quiet song of death.

I received “The Book of Speculation” from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

Highly recommended.

  • Shakespeare, Hamlet

Review: Crimes Against Magic (The Hellequin Chronicles Book 1)

Crimes Against Magic (Hellequin Chronicles, #1)I know what you are. You’re the thing the monsters fear.” – Ivy, The Hellequin Chronicles

“If you believe, as the Greeks did, that man is at the mercy of the gods, then you write tragedy. The end is inevitable from the beginning. But if you believe that man can solve his own problems and is at nobody’s mercy, then you will probably write melodrama.” – Lillian Hellman

“So, Nate, I’ve heard rumours that you’re actually alive.” It would have to be rumour. You see, even Nate didn’t know that he really was Nate. He only had a piece of paper with the name Nathan Garrett on it, in what he discovered was his own handwriting, when he woke up in a filthy, shuttered warehouse ten years ago. Was that his name? Well, it was a good enough name, and he needed one. That’s what happens when you have no knowledge of your previous life, not the slightest memory.

Fast forward and Nate is a thief, taking the hard jobs, the unusual jobs, for an odd fellow living in a ‘lost’ section of the London underground rail tunnels, his jobs managed and recommended by his partner Holly, daughter of Mark and Lyn O’Hara, Mob Bosses Extraordinaire and two of the most dangerous people in London.

Well, if you don’t count the psycho gargoyles, nightmares, and various other things that go bump in the night.

This is my first reading of a Steve McHugh Hellequin Chronicles book. I have put them off for a bit, as the main character is male and I have really been wanting to read female heroes, but I am glad that I picked it up sooner than later. The settings are marvelously well done. The story moves back and forth between time periods, from the modern day, to ten years previously when Nate first lost his memories, and further back, to the 1400’s as Nate’s memories begin to return. The characters are sharply written and realistic. McHugh knows his Greek Mythology, and it shows in his deft handling of gods and monsters, sorcerers and just folks. The book has that dry, British delivery that I adore, interspersed with a sort of subliminal humour that I completely enjoyed.

The idea of magic actually taking over the sorcerer if he uses it too much was spectacular. Nate is very conscious of the power of magic, as well as the dangers – but a man can only take so much when the lives of innocent women and children are on the line, threatened by monsters with no compunction when it comes to savage murder of innocents. When he finally loses his shit, he is absolutely glorious!

If you are of the mind to read a solid modern fantasy with that sharp, dry ‘Brit Wit’ some British authors carry off so amazingly well, I would highly recommend the series. I have already downloaded the next, though honestly I don’t know when I will get to it with the huge backlist I have. But it will be worth it when I do, I have no doubt.

Highly recommended. Very minimal sex, some really nasty violence but not overdone, and a strong grasp of history makes the warping of history just right. Homer may have written the Illiad – but you know he did it several hundred years after the Trojan wars. “History is written by the victors who have hung the heroes.” – Sr.William Wallace

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