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AUTHOR SEARCH lists all authors reviewed on this Blog. CREATURE SEARCH groups all of the titles/series by their creature types. The RATINGS page explains the violence, sensuality, and humor (V-S-H) ratings codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their Ratings. The PLOT TYPES page explains the SMR-UF-CH-HIS codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their plot types. On this Blog, when you see a title, an author's name, or a word or phrase in pink type, this is a link. Just click on the pink to go to more information about that topic.

Friday, December 19, 2014

UPDATE! Paige Tyler: X-OPS SERIES



UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Paige Tyler's  X-OPS SERIES with reviews of novel #2 and e-novella #2.5:
     Her Lone Wolf, novel 2
     "Her Secret Agent," novella 2.5      

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

As of today's date, "Her Secret Agent" is free on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

M.L. Brennan: GENERATION V/AMERICAN VAMPIRE SERIES

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for M. L. Brennan with a review of Tainted Blood, the third novel in her GENERATION V-AMERICAN VAMPIRE SERIES.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Night Shift" Anthology: Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Lisa Shearin, Milla Vane

Title:  Night Shift Anthology
Authors:  
     Nalini Singh
     Ilona Andrews (pseudonym for Ilona Gordon & Andrew Gordon)
     Lisa Shearin
     Milla Vane (pseudonym for Meljean Brook)
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)     
Publisher:  Berkley (11/2014)      

            INTRODUCTION            
     The back-cover blurb describes this book as follows: "Four masters of urban fantasy and paranormal romance plunge readers into the dangerous, captivating world unearthed beyond the dark…" This statement is true to a certain point. Yes, all of the novellas were written by master paranormal fiction authors, but no, not all of the stories are urban fantasiesonly the first three. The fourth is an erotic medieval fantasy story, the first in Meljean Brooks's new BARBARIANS series.   

     This anthology has apparently been cobbled together by Berkley to introduce/promote BARBARIANS, but, unfortunately, that series is completely unlike the other three that are represented in this volume: different in genre, different in sensuality level, different in tone, and different in quality. "The Beast of Blackmoor," a dark and violent medieval fantasy, is a misfit in this book, which is three-quarters romantic, urban fantasy. 

         Nalini Singh: "Secrets at Midnight" (a PSY-CHANGELING novella)          
    Singh delivers a typically smoldering love story featuring the leopard, Bastien Smith (Mercy's brother), as he picks up the elusive scent of the woman who is meant to be his mate. He, of course, tracks her down and immediately turns into an over-protective, possessive alpha male. Predictably, there is problem in their new relationship. Kirby Rosario, Bastien's soon-to-be mate, believes that she is 100% human, but Bastien soon discovers that she is a changeling. When Kirby begins to show definite changeling characteristics, Bastien realizes that he's going to have to help her through her first shift. This novella has no evil villains and no Psy drama, just a bewildered young woman who knows nothing about her genetic heritage and who realizes that everything in her life is about to change forever.

     This is a typical love story for this series but it is missing an action plot to counteract the oh-so-sweet romance. I admit, though, that I enjoyed watching Bastien find his mate—it's about time! Click HERE to read an excerpt from "Secrets at Midnight." Click HERE to read my reviews of Singh's PSY-CHANGELING series. 


         Ilona Andrews: "Magic Steals" (a KATE DANIELS novella)         
     This story features a familiar pair of shape shifters: white tigress Dali Harimau and jaguar Jim Shrapshire, Curran's chief of security and alpha of Clan Cat. Even though Dali has strong magical powers, she has always felt inferior because she isn't beautiful and physically strong like all the other shifter females. Here's how she describes herself: "a skinny vegetarian girl who had to wear glasses with lenses as thick as Coke bottle bottoms, threw up when she smelled blood, and was about as useful in a fight as a fifth leg on a donkey." Dali is in love with Jim but figures that they can never be together because he needs a much more powerful and aggressive mate.

     The conflict begins when a woman asks Dali to find her missing grandmother. Dali has the power to banish evil, so many people come to her with their problems. Dali and Jim investigate the case and figure out who is causing problems for the tenants of a building housing five different businesses, each of which is having dangerous magic-based problems. They follow the clues to solve the case and resolve their personal relationship at the same time. Humor comes from Dali's mother and other relatives, all of whom interfere as much as they can in Dali's life.


     This is another strong addition to a great series, with an interesting romance and a suspenseful mystery. For me, it's the best novella in the book. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from "Magic Steals." Click HERE to read my reviews of the authors' KATE DANIELS series.

         Lisa Shearin: "Lucky Charms" (SPI FILES prequel novella)         
     This is the prequel to Shearin's SPI FILES series in which Makenna (Mac) Fraser works as a seer for Supernatural Protection and Investigations, the law enforcement agency for New York's supernatural world. SPI has two missions: to keep the world safe for supernaturals and humans and to keep humans in the dark about the existence of supernaturals. 

     Here is Mac's description of her work attire on her first day on the job: "slacks, blouse, blazer, nice pumps,…small silver crucifix and a water pistol filled with holy watersupernatural business casual." Her first assignment is to track down a leprechaun prince and four of his friends as they take on a variety of glamours and enjoy the strip joints and sex clubs of Manhattan. Unfortunately, some evil supernaturals, including a goblin mage, want to capture the leprechauns before the SPI can find them. Mac meets sexy Ian Byrne for the first time when he is assigned as her partner and protector. 


     This has the makings of a solid, entertaining series, and this story gives a taste of Shearin's story-telling strength. My only quibble is that in this story and in the first book of the series, Mac comes across as rather ineffective and weak in comparison to the rest of the SPI team, always needing a man to rescue her. Let's hope that Shearin toughens Mac up as the series moves along. Click HERE to read my reviews of the SPI FILES series


         Milla Vane: "The Beast of Blackmoor" (the first BARBARIANS novella)        
     Apparently, this is the first story in a new series—BARBARIANS—by Meljean Brook, writing here as Milla Vane. The heroine is Mala, a warrior princess who is on a quest for her goddess, Vela. When Mala meets the beast she is supposed to tame, she finds that he is a dark and menacing barbarian warrior named Kavik (aka the Beast of Blackmoor), who has all the sex appeal of a primitive, barely coherent cave man. This erotic and violent story is a throwback to the bodice rippers of days gone by (but without their civility), and it has the highest sensuality rating (5) of all the stories because of its many scenes of down-and-dirty oral sex. (Literally filthy, dirty sex because the pair rarely takes time out to bathe as they travel by horseback for days on end through mud and dust and bloody battles.) The lust scenes in this novella are crude and repulsive—never, ever romantic in any way.

     This is my least favorite of the four stories, partly because medieval fantasy is not one of my favorite genres and partly because the supposedly intelligent and independent heroine constantly puts herself at the sexual mercy of the dour, churlish, cruel antihero. This one just didn't work for me, and I probably won't read or review the series.


     To read an excerpt from "The Beast of Blackmoor," click HERE, then scroll down and click on the second Night Shift cover, and finally scroll down a bit more to click on the "Excerpt" icon. To read a free short story set in the BARBARIANS world, click HERE and scroll down just a bit.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

UPDATE! Jennifer Estep: ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN SERIES

UPDATE:

I have just updated a previous post for Jennifer Estep with a review of Black Widow, the twelfth novel in her ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN SERIES

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

UPDATE! Laura Resnick: ESTHER DIAMOND SERIES

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Laura Resnick with a review of Abracadaver, the seventh novel in her ESTHER DIAMOND SERIES.      

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ilona Andrews: HIDDEN LEGACY SERIES

Author:  Ilona Andrews (pseudonym for Ilona Gordon and Andrew Gordon)
Series:  HIDDEN LEGACY
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)     
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality2-3; Humor—3 
Publisher:  Avon (an imprint of HarperCollins)     
          Burn for Me (11/2014)
   
            WORLD-BUILDING              
     This dynamic writing duo has hit it out of the park once again with a great new series featuring a world in which power lies with mages. Set in Houston, Texas, this alternate world has a slightly different history than our real world. As the first book opens, the U..S. is recovering from massive territorial wars over magic in Central America and South America. Formidable mage Houses hold all the power in cities and countries around the globe, and the relations among the Houses are not always peaceful.

     Book 1 begins with an explanation of the source of magic in this mythology. Back in 1863, a serum was developed that brought out people's magic talents—abilities of all kinds. "Some people gained ability to command animals, some learned to sense water from miles away, and others suddenly realized they could kill their enemies by generating a burst of lightning between their hands." As the serum spread around the world, people soon realized that many magic users were taking advantage of their new power by using it for evil and violent purposes, and the serum was locked away. By that time, though, the serum's effects had reached into people's DNA, and their magical traits were passed down to their children—generation after generation—changing the course of history forever. Click HERE to go to a page on the authors' web site that discusses types of magic in this mythology.

     Currently, mages are segregated into five ranks: Minor, Average, Notable, Significant, and Prime. Mage families are rated by the power of the head of the House and his or her children, particularly the heir. Here, a character explains what life is like for a prime: "When you're a Prime, especially an heir Prime, your life stops being your own once you graduate from college. Certain things are expected. Your specialty is predetermined by your family's needs. It's understood that you will complete your education, work to further the family interests, select a mate whose genetic pedigree is most likely to produce gifted children, marry, and have said children, at least one but no more than three"—one prime and two back-ups. Click HERE to go to a page on the authors' web site that provides in-depth information on the ranks and Houses of mages in this world. 

     For a lesser mage to stand a chance against a Prime, that mage would have to have shockers permanently inserted into his or her arms. Here, a character describes shockers as "completely invisible from the outside, but it lets you shock anyone with magic. Hurts you like hell, but it hurts whoever you grab even more. Seriously nasty gadgets." Shockers work like an amped-up taser, except that instead of pulling power from a battery, shockers pull power from the magic of the person doing the shocking. If the shockers pull too much power, they can kill the person doing the shocking and/or the person being shocked. Early in the book, the series heroine has shockers implanted into her arms as a means of self defense.

     That heroine is Nevada Baylor, a truthseeker mage (the third rarest magic talent) and a licensed private investigator who lives with her extended family in a converted warehouse. No one outside Nevada's family knows about her truthseeker talents because if anyone found out, she would be pulled away from her family and forced to work as an interrogator for either the government or one of the Houses. Nevada is the chief investigator for her family's investigation agency and is assisted by her mother, cousins, and sisters. Her mother is an army veteran—a lethal sharpshooter, and her grandmother—a mech-mage—repairs and restores armored vehicles for various Houses, all of which take their security quite seriously. During Nevada's father's extended terminal illness, the family mortgaged their agency to the powerful Augustine Montgomery, head of House Montgomery and chef executive of Montgomery International Investigations (MII) so the Baylors work hard to build their image, and pull in clients in order to can keep up their monthly payments to Montgomery. 

     The Baylor family lives by three rules: "Rule #1: we stayed bought. Once a client hired us, we were loyal to the client. Rule #2: we didn't break the law…It kept us out of jail and safe from litigation. And rule #3, the most important one of all: at the end of the day we still had to be able to look our reflections in the eye," meaning that they had no regrets and were sure they had done the right thing.

     Click HERE to go to a page on the authors' web site that provides biographies and sketches of the main characters in this series.

     This writing team has produced two other terrific series. Click HERE to read my reviews of their EDGE series. Click HERE to read my reviews of their KATE DANIELS series.

            NOVEL 1:  Burn for Me               
     As the story opens, everyone in Houston is talking about the pair of rogue mages who set off a fiery explosion in a bank vault, killing and injuring several innocent by-standers. The most notorious of the two is Adam Pierce  son of one of the most prominent Houses in Houston. Adam is a supremely powerful pyrokinetic Prime who broke from his family several years ago and has spent his time since then causing fiery trouble of all sorts. "A pyrokinetic was considered Average if he could melt a cubic foot of ice under a minute. In the same amount of time, Adam Pierce could conjure a fire that would melt a cubic foot of stainless steel." The other mage is Gavin Waller, a much younger and weaker telekinetic. The families of both men reach out for help. Gavin's mother seeks aid from her cousin, Connor, who heads up House Rogan, and Adam's grandmother goes to Montgomery.


     Connor (aka Mad Rogan, the Butcher, the Scourge) is an extremely powerful billionaire Prime, an inorganic telekinetic who earned his fierce and deadly reputation during his years in the military during the Mexican and South American wars. Millions of people have viewed his video on the Internet in which he completely destroys a Mexican town in just moments and with seemingly little effort, slicing up huge buildings and destroying them completely, one after another. Connor now lives in relative seclusion and even refers to himself as Mad Rogan. After leaving the service, Rogan put together his own security army equipped with top of the line technology and weaponry along with complete medical services for all staff. His people are loyal to him because he takes care of them and their families. Everything Rogan does, he does for practical reasons, and emotions never get in the way of rational thought. He is a cold-blooded killer, and he has accepted and even embraced that aspect of himself. 


     When Adam's grandmother reaches out to Montgomery, he knows immediately that his security people won't stand a chance against Adam's powers, so he calls in Nevada Baylor and assigns her to track down Adam and return him to his family. Right away, Nevada realizes that Montgomery is forcing her to take this assignment because she is expendable and that there is no way that her puny powers can win against Adam's ferocious fire. Unfortunately, the Baylor family's contract with MII states that they are required to take any assignment MII gives them, so if Nevada refuses the job, MII will call in their loan and dump them out on the streets with only the clothes on their backs.


     So…we have two people going after Adam Pierce: a rich and powerful amoral telekinetic Prime with a murderous history and a righteous truthseeker who is an excellent marksman but doesn't have any magical fighting powers and has never killed anyone. Their relationship gets off to a really bad start when Rogan kidnaps Nevada and tortures her for information about Adam. To the surprise of both of them, Nevada breaks Rogan's mind-torture spell and refuses to divulge any information, even under painful mental and physical duress. Rogan isn't used to people standing up to him and saying "no" to him, and he is definitely intrigued.


     The story line follows the pair as they team up out of necessity and strategize on ways to track down Adam before he does more damage to the city. As they gather information, they begin to realize that Adam's actions are not part of his usual attention-grabbing behavior pattern. Adam is searching for something, and it's up to Nevada and Rogan to figure out what that is and where it is. As events begin to lead toward a violent conclusion, the two become Houston's only chance to survive total destruction. Meanwhile, the pair's personal relationship becomes more and more complicated as lust blossoms between them, lust that is fanned by Rogan and rejected by Nevada (at least she makes a valiant attempt to reject it).


     This is a terrific book that appears to be leading into another fantastic series for this talented pair of writers. Although the story is dark and violent, there are touches of laugh-out-loud humor as eccentric characters do their thing. For example, even during times of danger, Grandma constantly snaps pictures of the super-hero Primes, and Nevada's family members snipe sarcastically at one another. All through the story, Nevada comes up with some very funny mental pictures and wry comments. For example, she describes an overly put together receptionist in great detail, ending with this slam: "She wore a white dress that really wanted to be a sleeve." I love that line!

     The epilogue provides a tease for the second book when Rogan gets a message from someone who was deeply involved in Adam's scheme and who is seeking revenge. I can hardly wait for book 2 to see what happens next. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Burn for Me that includes the prologue and the first two chapters.

Monday, December 8, 2014

UPDATE! Nora Roberts: COUSINS O'DWYER TRILOGY

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Nora Roberts with a review of Blood Magick, the third and FINAL novel in her COUSINS O'DWYER TRILOGY.     

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.