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Wednesday, December 28, 2016



I have just updated an ongoing post for Nora Roberts's THE GUARDIANS TRILOGY by adding a review of Island of Glass, the thirdand FINALnovel in the series.

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

Friday, December 23, 2016



I have just updated an ongoing post for Chloe Neill's CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRES SERIES by adding a review of "Phantom Kiss," (novella 12.5), which has a publication date of January 17, 2017.

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

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Author:  Ilona Andrews (Pseudonym for Ilona and Andrew Gordon)
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR) 
Publisher and Titles:  Avon
          Burn for Me (10/28/2014)
          White Hot (5/30/2017)
          Wildfire (7/25/2017) (FINAL)

This ongoing post has been revised and updated to include a review of Wildfire, the third and FINAL novel in the trilogy. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building, and my reviews of the first two novels.

                         NOVEL 3:  Wildfire                         
     From Ilona Andrews, the thrilling conclusion to her Hidden Legacy series, as Nevada and Rogan grapple with a power beyond event their imagination.

   Nevada Baylor can’t decide which is more frustrating—harnessing her truthseeker abilities or dealing with Connor “Mad” Rogan and their evolving relationship. Yes, the billionaire Prime is helping her navigate the complex magical world in which she’s become a crucial player—and sometimes a pawn—but she also has to deal with his ex-fiancée, whose husband has disappeared, and whose damsel-in-distress act is wearing very, very thin.

     Rogan faces his own challenges, too, as Nevada’s magical rank has made her a desirable match for other Primes. Controlling his immense powers is child’s play next to controlling his conflicting emotions. And now he and Nevada are confronted by a new threat within her own family. Can they face this together? Or is their world about to go up in smoke. 

As the series comes to an end, Nevada, Rogan, and their allies have a number of problems to resolve. Here are the primary story lines:
> 1. Brian Charles, husband of Rogan's ex-fiancée, Rynda, has gone missing, and Ryndaa gorgeous, clingy, seemingly helpless redheadwants Rogan's help in finding him. Even though Rynda hires Nevada to find Brian, she doesn't like Nevada very much, partly because of the part Nevada played in the death of Rynda's mother (Olivia Charlesin the previous book) and partly because she wants Rogan's attention all to herself. For the first time in her life, Nevada experiences jealousy and she hates it. This story line, which is related to the primary series story arc, weaves among the other story lines until it is resolved with a major twist near the end. 
> 2. Victoria Tremaine, Nevada's paternal grandmother is determined to kidnap Nevada so that she can maintain the strength and longevity of the Tremaine House. She begins sending teams of goons after Nevada to drag her away from the rest of her family and threatens both financial and physical harm to the Baylor family if Nevada doesn't succumb to her demands. In this story thread, we learn much more about the relationship between Nevada's father and grandmother and why Nevada's parents have kept their children hidden from Victoria. When Nevada meets Victoria for the first time, she describes her as looking "hard and vicious, like a velociraptor in human skin."
> 3. The only way to keep Victoria at bay is for Nevada to start her own house—the Baylor House—which means that she will be stepping directly into the dirty, backstabbing politics that she has always successfully avoided. It also means that she will have to publicly declare that she is a truthseeker. A new House must have at least two Primes, so Catalina and Nevada will have to be tested to ensure that they do indeed possess Prime-level magic. Penelope is totally against becoming a House. She warns Nevada that, "Primes won't care that you are young. They won't be kind. They will try to use us, manipulate us, or destroy us. You could be standing in the middle of the Assembly, and if a Prime summoned a pack of wild wolves to rip you to pieces, I'm not sure anyone would help. This would be our life." 
> 4. Once the magic world learns about Nevada's magical abilities and that she will soon be the leader of her own House, she becomes a desirable mate in the eyes of some of Houston's Primes. When a handsome truthseeker Prime makes a play for Nevada, Rogan also feels stabs of jealousy for the first time in his life, and his reaction is not pretty. Rogan has made it clear to Nevada that he doesn't believe that their magic is compatible, meaning that their children would probably not be Primes. He keeps trying to edge away from Nevada, giving her a chance to pull away from him and marry someone with compatible magic. Nevada, of course, is having none of this, so she keeps trying to convince Rogan that the two of them are destined to be together and that magical compatibility doesn't matter to her (even though she secretly worries about it a lot).
As part of the interweaving of these story lines, a number of side effects occur for many of the characters: 
> Leon, Arabella, and Catalina are forced to publicly use their very scary magic under harrowing circumstances, thus changing their lives forever. 
> Nevada, who is now killing people with some regularity, constantly worries that she is losing her humanity.
> Both Nevada and Rogan worry about whether it is possible for them to make a life together in this world of Primes and magic compatibility. Will they begin to hate one another if their children are not Primes? Would Rogan be better off marrying someone like Rynda? Would Nevada be better off marrying her truthseeker suitor? Nevada wonders, "If Rogan and I ever married and our children weren't Primes, would he resent me? My heart squeezed itself into a tiny painful ball."
     The Epilogue is a masterpiece that depicts the suspense of Nevada and Catalina's Prime trials and the hilarity of Arabella's mathematics fiasco (which made me laugh out loud). But the Epilogue also points out several loose ends, which means that another chapter in this series may surface at some future time. (We can only hope!) (NOTE: If you are a reader who habitually skips to the end and reads the final pages of a book first, please don't do that with this one because you'll ruin the story for yourself.)
The brand new Baylor House will have immunity from attacks by the other Houses for three years, but after that...look out, Nevada! 
Nevada owes a favor to the Keeper, and he can call it in at the time and place of his choice.
> Simmering along in the background is the unresolved mystery of the identity of the leader of the "Romans," "an organization of Primes that's trying to destabilize Houston so they can put their leader in power. They call him Caesar." Although the bulk of the insurrection is (predictably) crushed in the final showdown scene, Nevada and Rogan never learn the identity of "Caesar." That identity, however, is revealed subtly to the reader on the last page of the novel. You'll only realize this if you have been paying close attention to some earlier dialogue. Outing Caesar in this manner is a neat trick that leaves the door open for further adventures in this world.  
And finally, we all want to know what will happen if and when Nevada and Rogan have children.  
     As always, the story has plenty of sexy romance, subtle wit, and snarky humor to temper the blood-and-guts action scenes, which—by the way—include battles with huge, scary, otherworldly monsters summoned from unknown realms. Nevada and Rogan are terrific lead characters—intelligent, courageous, and resourceful while, at the same time, sexy and (at times) emotionally insecure. All of the characters are multi-layered, even the villains (a rarity in current urban fantasy). 

     HIDDEN LEGACY is another top-notch series by the Andrews duo, and this is a fine finale that you won't want to miss. Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from Wildfire on the novel's page where you can click on the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio.

The series has its roots in a short story called “Of Swine and Roses," which the authors wrote years ago. The heroine of that story is not the heroine of the HIDDEN LEGACY series, but she lives in that world—a world in which people have varying degrees of magic. Currently, this story is still free on-line, but you can also purchase it on Amazon for a nominal charge. Click HERE to read the story free. It provides a nice introduction to the mythology in the form of an entertaining short story.

The authors have created a HIDDEN LEGACY web site within their regular site, and I will be quoting from its pages as I describe the series world-building. At the end of this world-building section, I will provide links to the various web pages.

      THE MYTHOLOGY      
 In 1863, in a world much like our own, European scientists discovered Osiris serum, a concoction that brought out one’s magic talents. These talents were many and varied. For example, some people gained the 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. The serum spread throughout the world. Governments gave it to soldiers in hopes of making the military forces more deadly. At the same time, members of the fading aristocracy, desperate to hold on to power, obtained it, as did the rich, who desired to get richer.      

Eventually the world realized the consequences of awakening godlike powers in ordinary people. The serum was locked away, but it was too late. The magic talents passed on from parents to their children and changed the course of human history forever. The future of entire nations changed in the span of a few short decades. Those who previously married for status, money, and power now married for magic, because strong magic would give them everything.  Now, a century and a half later, families with strong hereditary magic have evolved into dynasties. These families—Houses, as they call themselves—own corporations, have their own territories within the cities, and influence politics. They employ private armies; they feud with each other; and their disputes are deadly. In this world the more magic you have, the more powerful, the wealthier, and the more prominent you are. Some magic talents are destructive. Some are subtle. But no magic user should be taken lightly. 

Magic users are segregated into five ranks: Minor, Average, Notable, Significant, and Prime. The difference between Minor and Prime is enormous. For example, a pyrokinetic is considered Average if he can melt a cubic foot of ice under a minute. In the same amount of time, Adam Pierce, a pyrokinetic Prime featured in the first novel, can conjure a fire that will melt a cubic foot of stainless steel. 

A family with powerful magic abilities is considered a House when it produces at least two Primes within three generations. Houses are small economic empires: they control territories within cities; they hire private muscle; and they engage in cut-throat business tactics. Houses frequently feud with each other, and vicious rivalries between rival Houses are not uncommon. Most of the time, civilian law enforcement stays out of the inter-House conflicts as long as ordinary citizens are not endangered in any way. Houses also have their own ruling body, an Assembly, and although the Assembly has no official status within the United States government, its voice is heard and (usually) taken to heart by all three branches of government.

Elemental Magic:
Elemental magic users command forces of nature. Some can bend water to their will; some are able to mold soil; and others can conjure fire or create an electric current. Elemental mages can cause a great deal of damage. Most work in manufacturing. The greatest elemental Houses tend to run industrial and construction corporations. Here are some examples of elemental magic: 
   > Pyrokinesis—mastery over fire (A sociopathic pyrokinetic Prime is at the heart of the first novel.) 
   Aquakinesis—mastery over water (An aquakinetic plays a key role in the second novel.)
   Geokinesis—mastery over earth
   Aerokinesis—mastery over air
   Fulgurkinesis—mastery over lightning

Mental Magic:
Magic of the mind would be best described as magic of the will. This category includes a slew of powers that rely on the will of the user. The mental talents are many and varied, from telekinesis (which can be used to devastating effect), to harmonizing (which enables the mage to make beautiful flower arrangements). Here are some examples of mental magic:
   Telekinesis—the ability to move objects with your mind (The series hero is a telekinetic Prime.)
   Projection—the ability to transmit images and feelings to the minds of others
   Therionology—the ability to command animals. Practitioners are usually known as animal mages. Rare.
   Harmonizing—the ability to arrange one’s environment to invoke a specific feeling or mood
   Elenchus—the ability to distinguish lies from truth, also known as truthseeking. Extremely rare. (The series heroine is a truthseeker.)

Arcane Magic:
The word “arcane” means known or understood by very few. True to definition, even those who are born with these magic powers poorly understand the arcane branch of magic talents. Power of arcane magic users comes from reaching into the arcane realm, a place of magic outside of our typical reality. Their talents are frequently disturbing. Here are some examples of arcane magic: 
   Enerkinesis—mastery over magic energy
   Animating—the ability to impart life to inanimate objects
   Binding—the ability to fuse or bind something found in the arcane realm to a human host with the purpose of giving the host new magic powers
   Summoning—the ability to cause manifestation of creatures (This type of arcane magic is featured in the second novel.)

The Baylor family runs the Baylor Investigative Agency, and they always try to follow three rules: "Once a client hired us, we were loyal to the client...We didn't break the law...And...the most important of all: At the end of the day we still had to be able to look our reflections in the eye." The family lives and works in a former warehouse in Houston, Texas, which they have retrofitted with offices, a living area, and a large garage area where Grandma Frida works on various military vehicles.

 > Nevada Baylor: the 25-year-old series heroine. She is a licensed private investigator, and since her father died, she basically runs the business. Nevada is a truthseeker (the third rarest magical talent) who has no idea that she has tremendous untapped powers. She has always kept her talent hidden because most truthseekers are snapped up by the government and turned into human lie detectors. Nevada also has a second magical ability that surfaces in book two.

 > Grandma Frida: She is a mech-mage who has a magical connection to armored things that move. "It didn't matter if they rolled, crawled, or floated. She lived and breathed the deep-voiced rumble of their engines and the smoky odor of their guns."

 > Penelope Baylor (mother of Nevada, Catalina, and Arabella): She is a military veteran—an expert sniper—who still walks with a limp from a severe war injury. Her expertise with a rifle comes from her magical talent.

 > Nevada's teen-age sisters: Catalina (age 17) and Arabella (age 15)

 > Nevada's cousins: Bernard (aka Bern, age 19) and Leon (15). Bern is a tech genius who can hack into any computer network in minutes. Leon's magical talent remains hidden until midway through book two so I won't reveal it here because I hate spoilers.

     Click HERE to go to the home page of the authors' HIDDEN LEGACY web site where you can click on links to the following topics: Main Characters, Magic Ranks and Houses, Types of Magic, and Magic Circle Archive.

                         NOVEL 1:  Burn for Me                          
     New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews launches a brand-new Hidden Legacy series, in which one woman must place her trust in a seductive, dangerous man who sets off an even more dangerous desire. 

     Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile situation. Nevada isn't sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire. 

     Then she's kidnapped by Connor "Mad" Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run and wanting to surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

     Rogan's after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she's getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

    As is usual in the first novel of a series, the authors introduce us to the series mythology, placing their characters in a magic-riddled world in which the Houses have boundless powers over their own lives and the lives of those who have less—or no—magical power. 

     The action plot revolves around a pyrokinetic Prime named Adam Pierce, who is the black-sheep son of a powerful House. For years, he has been estranged from his family, declaring himself a radical and spending his time getting into trouble. His doting mother spends much of her time and money doling out compensation to pay off the families of the people Adam maims or kills with his fire. Adam's latest crime is huge: He and another magic user blew up a bank, killing a security guard and severely burning three others. Now, he is in hiding, and his family wants him brought in before the police shoot him down. 

     Unfortunately for Nevada, the family company is mortgaged to House Montgomery, which runs Montgomery International Investigations. Nevada knows that trouble lies ahead when she gets called into Augustine Montgomery's office. Augustine explains to her that she will be hunting down Adam Pierce and returning him to his family, and if she refuses, he will call in their loan. That would mean that they would lose the warehouse, their electronic equipment, their cars, and their company name—basically everything but the clothes on their backs. Nevada realizes what Augustine is doing: He is trying to appease the Pierce family by sending a competent, but expendable, investigative team after Adam, knowing that Nevada has little or no chance of succeeding because her magic pales in comparison to Adam's fiery power. Augustine is pretty sure that Nevada will die in her attempt to capture Adam, but he has no qualms about using her to get himself out of a sticky situation with the Pierce family.

     This story line forms the main plot, providing all of the action and leading into the romance plot. The man who soon takes the lead in the romance story line is Connor Rogan (aka Mad Rogan, the Butcher, the Scourge), a seemingly heartless, extremely powerful telekinetic Prime who is able to move/destroy huge buildings with just a thought. In addition to his telekinesis, Rogan is a tactile, which means that he can make a person feel physically touched with just a thought—which turns out to be a very sexy skill when he uses it to seduce Nevada. Rogan spent time in the military during a recent war, where he built his reputation to the point that everyone fears him and his powers. Now, he leads a very private life, surrounded by his personal army of magic users who are military veterans he has rescued them from post-war lives in which they were treated badly by both the government and the private sector (not unlike the treatment that real-life vets suffer through in our own world). Rogan earns their complete loyalty by giving them well-paying jobs, health care benefits, fair treatment, and respect. Rogan gets involved in finding Adam Pierce because Adam's accomplice, Gavin Waller, is his cousin's son. Gavin's mother, Kelly, begs Rogan to find him, and—quite unexpectedly—Mad Rogan agrees to help.

    As the plot begins to unwind, Nevada starts searching for Adam. When she finds him, he refuses to surrender, but he becomes infatuated with her because she turns down all his efforts to charm her—one of the very few women on whom his sexy persona has failed to work. After their first meeting, Adam jumps in and out of Nevada's life, nearly always putting her and her family in danger. Nevada knows that Adam is working for someone who has mapped out the destruction that he is wreaking, but she has no idea who it is. 

     Then, Mad Rogan inserts himself into the case. He discovers that Nevada is somehow involved with Adam, so he kidnaps her, chains her to his basement floor, and tries to force her to give him all the information she has about Adam. Both of them are astonished when Nevada is able to summon enough magic to resist Rogan's interrogation. Like Adam, Mad Rogan is fascinated with and attracted to Nevada's beauty, intelligence, and stubbornness, something that has never happened to him before. After the kidnapping, Nevada is so afraid of Rogan that she has a taser-like magical implant inserted in her body to protect herself against his powers. But soon, the two grudgingly form a shaky partnership and begin to work together to track down Adam, who leads them on a violent, fiery trail of death and destruction. Eventually, the inventive twists and turns of the plot take Nevada and Rogan on a desperate search for a magical artifact that has a connection to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. (In this world, contrary to legend, it wasn't Mrs. O'Leary's cow that started that disastrous fire—it was pyrokinetic magic.)

     Here's how Nevada summarizes her situation about a quarter of the way into the book: "Let's see, I had blackmailed a mechanic; called my employer, who was probably a Prime a terrible person—again; met with a pyrokinetic Prime and gotten kidnapped by a telekinetic Prime; gotten into a fight with my mother; and made the decision to have a weapon that could possibly kill me implanted in my arms...Too many Primes all around."

     This is a great start to a promising series. The authors have created a fresh and inventive world led by two fascinating characters. Nevada is (most of the time) a strong, courageous, independent woman, confidant in her investigative abilities and willing to experiment with her newly blossoming magical powers. Unfortunately, the authors have bought into the trope of lust at first sight, particularly for Nevada, which means that whenever she is in Rogan's company, her brain melts into a puddle of lust that interferes with her ability to think straight. Of course, Rogan is also falling for Nevada, but he has much more control over his lusty emotions. Still, the romance is filled with unresolved sexual tension (UST) from the moment they meet. By the end of the book, the two have exchanged a few kisses and Rogan has made his feelings clear, but their romantic situation is still to be resolved—if that is even possible.

     The most entertaining characters in the novel are the members of Nevada's family, particularly Grandma Frida, who is happiest when she is covered in axle grease while working on the undercarriage of an armored car. The two cousins are computer geniuses (due to their magical talents), and they form an interesting supportive team for Nevada. We haven't yet heard the entire sad story about Penelope and her tragic wartime experiences, but I'm sure that the authors will reveal more of her back story in the next two books. Nevada tells the story in her straightforward first-person voice, and her narrative includes lots of snarky, humorous dialogue, both with her family and with Rogan.

     This is a great book, one that I could not put down until I read it from cover to cover. The second book is due in May, and I can't wait to read it. Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from Burn for Me on the novel's page where you can click on the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio.

                         NOVEL 2:  White Hot                          
   Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she's used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family's detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor "Mad" Rogan.

     Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice.

     Nevada has always kept her truthseeker abilities carefully hidden from all but a few trusted friends, family members, and allies. She knows that if her talent becomes public knowledge that her life (and her family's lives) would be in danger because powerful people would stop at nothing to force her to become their personal lie detector. Nevertheless, Nevada's conscience won't let her ignore the fate of a kidnapped girl who will die if her kidnapper does not tell police where he has hidden her away. Just as she decides to give up her anonymity and help the police find the child, her frenemy, Augustine Montgomery offers her a deal. He will assist her in hiding her identity while she interrogates the kidnapper if she will investigate the mysterious murder of the wife of one of his clients, Cornelius Harrison. When Nevada first meets Cornelius and his daughter's dog, Bunny, she realizes that Cornelius is "an animal mage, a rare brand of magic, which meant Bunny wasn't a dog. He was the equivalent of a loaded assault rifle pointed in my direction." 

     Cornelius' wife, Nari, was an attorney for the powerful House Forsberg, which runs Forsberg Investigative Services. One evening, Nari and several other lawyers attended a meeting in a hotel where they were methodically attacked and brutally shot multiple times, resulting in death for all of them. The head of House Forsberg claims that the lawyers' meeting was not work related and threatens to smear Nari's name in the scandal tabloids if Cornelius pursues his investigation of his wife's death. Cornelius is determined to learn the truth, so he and Nevada decide to confront Matthias Forsberg at the Assembly building. Just as Nevada is trying to get some information from Matthias, two things happen: Rogan strides into the scene and Matthias is murdered by an unseen aerokinetic Prime who freezes his eyes and brain into mush. Shortly thereafter, Rogan shows Nevada a video showing the violent and mysterious murders of the attorneys—a video that proves that several unseen Primes were at the heart of the crime. From that point on, the action never stops, and neither does the sexual tension between Nevada and Rogan.  

     As it turns out, the murder investigation is tied to the chaotic activities that took place in the first novel. It is also connected to the recent death of a popular Senator, Timothy Garza, who was killed in a magic attack by unseen assassins. It appears that someone is trying to bring down the Houses through chaos and disruption (and murder), and it's up to Nevada and Rogan to find out who and why. Each time Nevada and Rogan begin to make progress, someone or something tries to kill them—from magical monsters (pulled from another realm through arcane magic) to an iced-over highway (that pesky aerokinetic again) to a full-on military attack, the action proceeds at a break-neck pace. 

     Between battles, Nevada and Rogan simmer lustfully at one another, and Rogan gets to show off his tactile magic by using it on Nevada's most sensitive body parts. Nevada is nuts about Rogan, but she hates his take-over ways. When she discovers his latest secret attempt to control her life, she is so furious that she tries to turn away from him for good. (You can imagine how long that lasts!) Rogan, of course, can't understand why Nevada is so upset. After all, he's just trying to protect her and her family. What's wrong with that? (Oh, Rogan, will you never learn?) Will these two ever work out their differences? (Of course they will, but not in this book—at least not fully.)

     All through this book, Nevada wrestles with issues of morality. Several times, she is forced to kill people who are threatening her, but she has a hard time living with the fact that she is taking more and more lives—even though they are all really bad people. Cornelius tells Nevada that part of their deal must be that she gives him the person responsible for his wife's death so that he can personally kill him or her. Nevada has a hard time agreeing to this, and even after she does, she worries about what is happening to her soul each time she acquiesces to or participates in the taking of yet another life. Nevada's soul-searching intensifies when she realizes that her magic is becoming much more powerful and diverse than she ever suspected.

     The authors add some more back-story for Nevada's family. This time, it's her father's side of the family. Major secrets are revealed that have the capacity to change all of their lives. Plus, in another shocker, Nevada meets Rynda, Rogan's ex-fiancée, and feels a sharp jolt of jealousy for the first time in her life. Rynda and her husband are at the heart of the plot of the third novel. White Hot builds on the story line that was expertly set up in Burn for Me and will be fully resolved in Wildfire. 

     Just as they always do, the authors have created an inventive, fascinating world with multi-layered characters and twist-and-turn plot lines. It's always a pleasure to sit down with one of their books, and this one is no exception. Rogan and Nevada are charismatic characters who will hold your interest as they chase down the bad guys and try to figure out their love life. I'm looking forward to reading the final novel later this month. (I'm overjoyed that I don't have to wait the usual year for it to be published!) 

     Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from White Hot on the novel's page where you can click on the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio.

Monday, December 19, 2016



I have just updated an ongoing post for Julie Marillier's BLACKTHORN & GRIM SERIES by adding a review of Den of Wolves, the third—and FINAL—novel.

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

Saturday, December 17, 2016



I have just updated an ongoing post for Sandra Hill's DEADLY ANGELS SERIES by adding a review of Good Vampires Go to Heaven, the eighthand FINALnovel.

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

Thursday, December 15, 2016



I have just updated an ongoing post for Laurell K. Hamilton's ANITA BLAKE SERIES by adding a review of Crimson Death, the 25th novel.

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

Monday, December 12, 2016


Author:  Devon Monk 
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality4; Humor—2-3  
Publisher and Titles:  Odd House Press
          Death and Relaxation (6/2016)
          Devils and Details (8/2016)
          Gods and Ends (Spring 2017)

This ongoing post contains an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first two novels. I will add reviews of future novels when they are published.  

     The oceanside village of Ordinary, Oregon, is populated by a mix of ordinary humans and extraordinary deities and supernatural creatures (aka deits and creats). The creatures (mostly vampires and werewolves) live in Ordinary in their human forms, and some of them have lived there for many, many years. The deities, on the other hand, use Ordinary as their vacation spot, stopping in for a year or ten or twenty to relax and get away from their god/goddess responsibilities. All of the deits and creats have regular jobs in Ordinary. For example, many of the vampires are firefighters and EMTs; an aquatic creature owns a brewery; and a Valkyrie runs Ordinary's annual festival—the Rhubarb Rally.

     For future reference (mostly so that I will remember who's who in future novels), here is a list of the main deits and creats currently residing in Ordinary:


 > Odin, head of the Norse gods. In Ordinary, he is a (bad) chainsaw artist.

 > Frigg, Odin's wife runs Frigg's Rigs, a towing company in Ordinary.

 > Crow (aka Raven), the trickster god, is a glassblower who holds Saturday glass-float-making classes that he calls Blow Your Own Balls.

 > Thor (aka Thorne Jameson), Odin's son, the hammer-wielding god of thunder and lightning, is a mediocre guitar-playing lounge singer who collects vintage vinyl record albums and rubber duckies.

 > A Valkyrie who calls herself Bertie is the head of the community center and runs the town's four annual festivals.

 > Zeus, king of the Greek gods, wears expensive suits and runs a high fashion and fancy decor shop that caters to tourists with lots of money to waste. 

 > Hera (aka Herri), Zeus' wife (and sister), runs Mom's Bar and Grill.

 > Ares (aka Aaron), Greek god of war, runs the local nursery and garden center.

 > Hades, Greek god of the underworld, is a happy, soft-hearted man who runs a bed and breakfast where each room is decorated in literary themes: romance, mystery, western, historical, and fantasy.

 > Athena (aka Thena), Greek goddess of reason, runs the local surf shop.

 > Nortia, Etruscan goddess in charge of fate, is the cook at Jump Off Jack Brewery.

 > Heimdall, the Norse god who is supposed to alert the gods in Valhalla when Ragnarök is at hand, is a fisherman.

 > Thanatos (aka Than), Greek god of death, shows up in the middle of book one and takes a job as a kite maker. He is fond of wearing brightly colored Hawaiian shirts over tee shirts with touristy slogans.

 > Travail Rossi (aka Old Rossi) is the head of the vampires. (All vampires have the surname "Rossi.") He does not like the heroine's boyfriend, Ryder. In his current form, Old Rossi is a New Age hippie/yoga fanatic who is obsessed with the flow of chi in his house and who collects carved eggshells.

 > Granny Wolfe is the head of the werewolves (All werewolves have the surname "Wolfe.")

 > Ben Rossi (vampire) and Jame Wolfe (werewolf) are the town's token gay coupleboth firefighters. They play an important role in book two.

 > Chris Lagon is a gill-man who owns and runs Jump Off Jack Brewery. 

     The key human characters in the series are the three Reed sisters: Delaney, Myra, and Jean. For generations, the Reed family has been in charge of keeping the peace in Ordinary. Outside the Reed family, very few humans know about the existence of the deits and creats, and neither of those supernatural groups is allowed to reveal their secret identities to the humans. Of course, that leads to problems when deities hook up with humans of the opposite sex, because deit lovers tend to suddenly disappear at the end of their Ordinary vacations, leaving a trail of broken human hearts in their wake.

     In the original oath they signed, the Reeds "were bound to answer the call of the deities as quickly as we could." In fact, Delaney has a special telephone on her desk at the police department that is a direct line to the Casino, which serves as the headquarters and mail drop for the gods. She has to drive out to the Casino once a week to pick up the gods' messages and meet with any new deities who want to vacation in Ordinary. New deities are required to sign a contract promising to divest themselves of their god powers while they are in town. They must also agree to other non-negotiable rules: "Get a job or otherwise be a contributing member of the community. Don't kill anyone or harm through intent or neglect. And most importantly: do not procreate." Also, as Delaney reminds Thanatos, "You understand that my family is the law in the town, and our word is the final justice." Although the deities enjoy vacationing in Ordinary, there is one big downside: "While any god was vacationing and powerless, he or she would be mostly human, and, therefore, could be injured, and even worse: killed."

     Each Reed sibling has a particular magical power. Myra has the gift of always being where she needs to be at the right time. Jean can tell when something bad is going to happen and usually has an idea as to what that bad thing is going to be. Delaney, who inherited her father's position as chief of police as well as his powers, serves as a bridge for god power. She uses her talent primarily in two ways: to transfer a vacationing god's power from him or her during vacation time and to transfer the god power from a dead god to his or her replacement. If a deity dies, its god power lives on and must be transferred to a willing human within seven days. It is Delaney's job to carry the god power of the late deity within her own body, find a willing human, and transfer the power to its new owner, who then takes on the identity of that deity. If she fails to transfer the power in time, the god power will leave her and attack the town and its environs.

Note: All quotations (in green) in the World-Building section are taken from Death and Relaxation.

                         NOVEL 1:  Death and Relaxation                          
     Monsters, gods, and mayhem…Police Chief Delaney Reed can handle the Valkyries, werewolves, gill-men and other paranormal creatures who call the small beach town of Ordinary, Oregon their home. It’s the vacationing gods who keep her up at night.

   With the famous Rhubarb Festival right around the corner, small-town tensions, tempers, and godly tantrums are at an all-time high. The last thing Delaney needs is her ex-boyfriend reappearing just when she’s finally caught the attention of Ryder Bailey, the one man she should never love.

     No, scratch that. The actual last thing she needs is a dead body washing ashore, especially since the dead body is a god.

   Catching a murderer, wrestling a god power, and re-scheduling the apocalypse? Just another day on the job in Ordinary. Falling in love with her childhood friend while trying to keep the secrets of her town secret? That’s gonna take some work. 


     The plot begins to build in the first chapter when someone blows up Dan Perkin's rhubarb patch in the middle of the night. The town's tourist-attracting Rhubarb Festival is days away, and Dan (a human) is convinced that one of his rivalsChris Lagonhas committed the crime. As Delaney tracks down leads, she discovers that one of Chris's alibi witnesses is her childhood crush, the handsome Ryder Bailey, who has moved back to Ordinary and back into Delaney's dreams. Delaney has stayed away from Ryder since he returned, but when she interviews him, she's once again hopelessly swamped with seemingly unrequited lust/love. Her lustful feelings are directly related to the fact that Ryder is stark naked when he answers her knock on his door. Soon, Myra and Jean sneakily hire Ryder as a reserve officer to help them out during the Rhubarb festivities, and Delaney's romance with Ryder begins to get serious. 

     The next event, which is foreseen by Jean, is the death of one of the gods, which means that Delaney absorbs the dead deity's god poweran uncomfortable experience that knocks her unconscious for awhile. Now, she has several tasks: solve the mystery of the rhubarb explosion, find the god killer, find a human to take the dead god's powers, and deal with her very complicated relationship with Ryder, who seems to be concealing some law enforcement skills that don't match up with his career as an architect. Clearly, Ryder is keeping some secrets. As if that's not enough, Delaney's ex-boyfriend, Cooper Clark, comes back to town ready to take up their relationship where he left it a year ago when he went off to "find himself." 

     The romance is weakened because Monk sabotages her heroine. As the police chief who deals with vampires, werewolves, contrary humans, and unpredictable deities, Delaney is portrayed as dependable, loyal, strong, intelligent, and competent. But every time Delaney is in the presence of Ryder Bailey, she turns into an ugly puddle of embarrassing, mindless lust-mush. Every single time they are in the same vicinity, Monk flips a switch in Delaney's brain that turns this mature, well-spoken woman into a stuttering, love-struck adolescent. It's hard to believe that this is the same author who created the fearless, feisty Allie Beckstrom. (Click HERE to read my review of that series.)

     Although Monk sets up a suspenseful plot, I found it relatively easy to figure out the identities of both the god killer and the human who becomes the new god, because Monk drops so many clues into the narrative (most of which Delaney—implausibly—misses). SPOILER AHEAD IN NEXT SENTENCE: At one point, early in the book, someone leaves a threatening message of warning at the deities' Casino message box, but that message turns out not to have come from a deity or a creature
so how did the message writer know about the message drop? And why was the message even sent? None of this is ever explained.  END OF SPOILER 

     For me, this novel wasn't as good as I expected given Monk's terrific writing in her ALLIE BECKSTROM series. On the plus side, though, she has created an interesting and detailed mythology and some quirky characters. If Delaney can pull herself together and be the heroine we know she can be, I believe that the series will be successful. But if she keeps melting into a love puddle every time she sees Ryder, I will probably stop reading the series. Click HERE to go to this novel's page where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt.

     One last thing: The sisters play a game they call "No-goes" when faced with a task that they don't want to do. I never heard of it before and was slightly confused by the reference, so I did some research. If you need some background on this little game, click HERE

                         NOVEL 2:  Devils and Details                         
     Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea…Police Chief Delaney Reed is good at keeping secrets for the beach town of Ordinary Oregon–just ask the vacationing gods or supernatural creatures who live there.

     But with the first annual Cake and Skate fundraiser coming up, the only secret Delaney really wants to know is how to stop the unseasonable rain storms. When all the god powers are stolen, a vampire is murdered, and her childhood crush turns out to be keeping deadly secrets of his own, rainy days are the least of her worries.

     Hunting a murderer, outsmarting a know-it-all god, and uncovering an ancient vampire’s terrifying past isn’t how she planned to spend her summer. But then again, neither is falling back in love with the one man she should never trust. 

    In the second novel, Delaney must deal with a major problem: finding and recovering the god powers, all of which someone has stolen from Crow's "secure" hiding place (inside one of his glassblowing furnaces). Naturally, the deities are in an uproar—furious at Crow for his lousy security and angry with Delaney for allowing Crow to stay in Ordinary when he was supposed to have left town for a year. You see, one of the rules the gods must follow when they vacation in Ordinary is that if a deity takes up his or her powers while in town, he or she must then keep those powers for a year and get out of town. 

     This story begins several months after the end of book one (in which three deities took up their powers in order to assist Delaney in resolving a major problem), and the other two gods (Hera and Thor) have both followed the rules. In fact, Thor is demonstrating his anger at being kicked out of town by soaking Ordinary in a never-ending series of thunderstorms. Why on earth did Delaney allow Crow to break the rule and remain in town? At the time, she believed him when he said that his trickster nature allowed him to "bend" the rules, but now that he has lost all of the god powers—including his own—Delaney is on his case, as are all the rest of the deities. 

     The second problem—which turns out to be completely unrelated to Crow's problem—is that Sven, Old Rossi's newest vampire, is found dead with a bullet in his brain and mysterious symbols written on his body in blood—Ryder's blood. Delaney is shocked by the crime and stunned when Rossi tells her that it was the bloody symbols that killed Sven, not the silver bullet. Rossi calls this "ichor techne"—blood art. The fact that Ryder's blood was used in the crime reaches back to some foreshadowing in book one in which Delaney suspected that Ryder, who claims to be a full-time architect, was much more familiar with guns and police procedures than one would expect an architect to be. Did Ryder murder Sven? Is he trying to undermine Delaney and damage her town? What deep and dangerous secrets is he hiding? Who is the mysterious (and obnoxious) man that Ryder brings to Rossi's house? Much of the plot deals with Delaney's attempts to get answers to those questions. By the end of the book, all of Ryder's secrets are revealed to Delaney and her allies, and all of Ordinary's secrets are revealed to Ryder. As part of that process, Ryder makes an extremely risky decision that will change his life forever. Part of this story thread involves the introduction of a new godMithra, the Zoroastrian god of contracts and justice. Mithra was mentioned in book one, but in this book we get to meet him in all his scowling, menacing god-glory.

    Another foreshadowing from book one also comes to fruition: Hera's prediction that war is coming to Ordinary. By the end of the book, we learn who is bringing the violence to Delaney's town and in what form.

     Basically, the story follows Delaney as she searches for clues to Sven's murder, investigates the mystery of the vanished god powers, and deals with the repercussions of Ryder's mind-boggling revelations.

     And one more thing: We are forced to suffer through yet another silly town festival: the Cake and Shake fundraiser, in which teams of ice skaters compete to deliver food packages. According to Delaney, Ordinary has four festivals each year, so I'm guessing that each novel will include one of them. Thankfully, we only have to suffer through a few pages of Cake and Shake action, but even that is too much. Monk probably includes the ridiculous festivals to provide comic relief in these dark plots, but really, the novels would be stronger without them.

     Simmering along in the background is the mostly untold story of the mysterious death of Delaney's father, the previous police chief, who died in a suspicious auto accident. Back in book one, Than (god of death) hinted that there was more to it, and in this book Delaney gets a bit more information from Odinnot enough to solve the mystery, but enough to keep her wondering.

     Delaney is still going all weak-kneed and wobbly every time she is near Ryder, so that situation still hasn't improved. And that's too bad, because in every other way, she is a stalwart, intelligent, logical woman who handles the supernatural and human problems of Ordinary quite efficiently and effectively. But if Ryder is on the scene, Delaney turns into a lust-addled nitwit without a brain in her head. What a shame to waste a terrific heroine on such a lame "hero." I was hoping that Monk would allow her heroine to be an independent woman, but I guess that's not going to happen.

     There is one stylistic oddity: In the first novel, Delaney constantly referred to the deities and the creatures as deits and creats, but in this novel, she drops those nicknames completely and just calls them gods and creatures.

     Still, even though the romance subplot is predictable (and icky), the action scenes have plenty of suspense and they move along at a crisp pace. So...if you ignore the mushy stuff and concentrate on the action, you may enjoy the book. Click HERE to go to this novel's page where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt.