Friday, July 20, 2018

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire



Title: The Girl in the Green Silk Gown
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Ghost Roads # 2

Tradepaperback, 352 Pages
Publication: July 17, 2018 by Daw Books

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


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For Rose Marshall, death has long since become the only life she really knows. She’s been sweet sixteen for more than sixty years, hitchhiking her way along the highways and byways of America, sometimes seen as an avenging angel, sometimes seen as a killer in her own right, but always Rose, the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl in the Green Silk Gown.

The man who killed her is still out there, thanks to a crossroads bargain that won’t let him die, and he’s looking for the one who got away. When Bobby Cross comes back into the picture, there’s going to be hell to pay—possibly literally.

Rose has worked for decades to make a place for herself in the twilight. Can she defend it, when Bobby Cross comes to take her down? Can she find a way to navigate the worlds of the living and the dead, and make it home before her hitchhiker’s luck runs out?

There’s only one way to know for sure.
The Girl in the Green Silk Gown continues the story of Rose Marshall, a sixteen-year-old girl who died in the 1950’s and now spends the rest of eternity as a hitchhiking ghost. But just because you’re dead doesn’t mean death gets any easier. Bobby Cross, the immortal man that ran Rose off the road to her death is still looking for her, the one that go away because with Rose’s soul can power his car for a year or more. Rose has Persephone’s protection sigil on her which makes her untouchable to Bobby. However, after an elaborate trap, Bobby brings Rose back from the dead making her fair game and all Rose wants to do is to die, again.

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown is a solid sequel to Sparrow Hill Road. Sparrow Hill Road was initial written as an online serial and the writing felt disjointed and pieces of a story. McGuire had more time on the sequel and it clearly shows. The story/plot felt more grounded and the writing flowed better; readers can clearly see the beginning, middle and end. If the first book had you interested in the ghost roads and it’s inhabitants then this book will more than satisfy your curiosity. McGuire delves deeper into the different roads, routewitches, a whole variety of ghost types and a little mythology and folklore for good measures; such as the significance of Halloween and the Greek Mythology of Persephone and Orpheus.

McGuire is a talent writer and I’ve enjoyed most of her work. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown is no exception. I thought this was a good book, well written and researched as with all of her books. I just wished there was more action and a sense of urgency. Yes, this is basically a cat and mouse chase with Bobby and Rose but the plot dragged in a lot of places. Nor did I feel as connected or invested in the characters as I do with other series (I.e. October Daye). But as I said it still a good book and with the story still unresolved, I’m sure we’ll be seeing Bobby Cross and Rose Marshall again real soon. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio




Title: Empire of Silence
Author: Christopher Ruocchio 
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Sun Eater # 1

Hardcover, 612 Pages
Publication: July 3, 2018 by Daw Books

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


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Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives--even the Emperor himself--against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.
I’m not an enthusiastic reader of Science Fiction, although I watch plenty of Sci-Fi movies and televisions. But that’s because there hasn’t been a Science Fiction novel that captured my attention…that is until I read Empire of Silence. Empire of Silence was more than just a Science Fiction novel, it’s a novel about a man’s journey and struggle to find out who he is and who he wants to be, about life, war, political, family and friends. It multifaceted, complex and beautifully written. Many reviewers stated that this is an epic Science Fiction Space Opera, a genre I’m not too familiar with but what I can definitely say is this book is impressive and well written and executed. This is a whopper of a book and one would think a book this size would be intimidating with over 600 pages but by the time you start and finish Empire of Silence; you’d wish there was another 600 pages!

Empire of Silence is written in a style I’ve never encountered before. It’s written like an autobiography narrated by a future Hadrian and Hadrian in the present. It was different, unique and I loved it. Readers are taken on a space adventure as we see young Hadrian, a noble on Delos, Hadrian on the run and living in poverty on a foreign planet light years away, as a fighter in the coliseum, a prisoner in a gilded cage to Hadrian on the cusp of greatness or destruction…or both. But it wasn't always fun and games. Ruocchio also painted a cruel, unforgiving and dreary world. Where nothing is as it seems and there are monsters, because where would a story be without monsters? Except they don’t come in the form of some alien species nine feet tall or with talons and razor sharp teeth. But are made flesh and bone like us dear readers.

The characters and world-building were both well-crafted, developed and rich. The way that Ruocchio described things down to the most minute details showed the great care he had for his characters, with the world being a secondary character itself. I can imagine myself on Delos with the red and black imperial colors in the flag billowing in the wind to the hot days and nights in the slum of Emesh. Hadrian was a great flawed characters and I loved seeing his transformation over the course of the book. After reading the first page I knew I was going to enjoy this book and narrative. Hadrian did terrible things, or to be more accurate it’s the things that he didn’t do that made him terrible but yet I couldn’t help but want to learn more about him. He is by no means your typical lead, he never said he was a hero. He was just Hadrian, Had to his friends.

I absolutely loved Empire of Silence. I loved reading every minute of it, every page. With normal books, 600 pages would've been too much but for Empire of Silence it wasn't enough; and we were left with a cliffhanger! If you haven’t already read Empire of Silence then you need to go grab yourself a copy A.S.A.P. This is a 2018 debut you do not want to miss! I am already counting down the days until we get the sequel. Ruocchio is an emerging talented writer you’re going to want to watch out for and I can’t wait to see what he publishes next. 




Saturday, July 07, 2018

River Marked by Patricia Briggs


Title: River Marked
Author: Patricia Briggs
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Mercy Thompson # 

Mass Market Paperback, 291 Pages
Publication: January 31, 2012 by Ace

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


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Coyote shifter Mercy Thompson knows that life with her mate, the Alpha werewolf Adam, will never be boring, but even their wedding doesn't go as planned. Nevertheless, a ten-day honeymoon camping on the banks of the Columbia River, alone, just the two of them, should make up for it. But the trip - and the pimped-out trailer they're using - is courtesy of the fae. And nothing from the fae comes without strings attached...

Being a different breed of shapeshifter - a walker - Mercy can see ghosts, but the spirit of her long-gone father has never visited her. Until now. An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River - and innocent people are dying. As other walkers make their presence know to Mercy, she must reconnect with her heritage to exorcise the world of the legend known as the river devil...

Mercy has come a long way since the beginning from a regular mechanic to a revered member of the supernatural community. If anything happens, you can count on Mercy to save the day. In the opening of River Marked, Mercy and Adam finally get hitched and like all newly wed couples are about to jet off on their honeymoon. Except the honeymoon doesn’t go as planned with Mercy getting pulled in to investigate a murder and find herself attacked and marked by a river demon hellbent on killing her.

I very much enjoyed River Marked and loved that Briggs explored and incorporated Native American lore into the storyline. I haven’t encounter many novels with Native American Lore/Mythology, so it was a nice and welcomed change. With that said, I however, didn’t think the river demon was all that scary…Mercy has faced scarier, life threatening opponents before in my opinion. In addition to learning more about shapeshifters, we finally learn more about Mercy’s background and who her parents are…Especially her father.

All in all River Marked was a solid read, but not the best in the series. But I am still excited to see how the dynamics will change, now that Mercy is officially part of the pack now. If you haven’t picked up this series yet, I highly recommend it. The Mercy Thompson series is one of Urban Fantasy’s staple series. 


Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

Title: Heroine Complex
Author: Sarah Kuhn
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Heroine Complex # 1

Trade Paperback, 378 pages
Publication: July 5, 2016 by Daw

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder.

Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco's most beloved superheroine. She's great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss's epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.

Unfortunately, she's not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.

But everything changes when Evie's forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest comes out: she has powers, too. Now it's up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda's increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right... or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.
I’m always looking for a good superhero novel, something on par with all the movies saturating the market these days. Heroine Complex’s synopsis sounded promising with two female leads, a quirky plot and a whole bunch of humor. I’m always down for a humorous Urban Fantasy, if done right. Heroine Complex had some good moments, but it was out weighed by the under developed world building and characters. I like some things but for the most part it fell short and didn’t meet my expectation.

What Heroine Complex did well was showcase women friendship between Evie and Aveda. There were up and downs, bumps but what friendship doesn’t have that? At least when Aveda wasn’t treating Evie like a personal servant. Readers did get to see how their friendship began in grade school to where they are now. Aveda protected Evie from elementary bullies when they were young and now Evie protects Aveda from the harsh realities of being a superhero and the fame that goes along with it. My only issue with this is that Evie felt indebted to Aveda now. She spends basically her entire life catering to Aveda’s life because of her kindness as kids. I think it was a bit too much and thought Aveda definitely abused the friendship and took it for granted. I thought it could’ve been executed better.

The world building was pretty simple and straightforward, after a specific event (which I don’t think was explained) certain people obtained powers. That’s it. I wished Kuhn developed the world more.  get that it’s Urban Fantasy but I’ve read plenty of Urban Fantasy that were more complex than this; Nor did Kuhn delved into the characters’ powers and they were all very basic power…fire, levitation…nothing new or spectacular.

At first I thought Evie was kind of funny but as the story went on, her “quirky” traits and personality just got tiresome and ridiculous. If I remember correctly, she’s in her mid 20’s but she acted like a pubescent teen. It also didn’t help that she played guardianship to her teenage younger sister, which she did a poor job of doing. One of these said trait is that her diet only consisted of lucky charms…that’s just really unhealthy and not remotely funny or cute. She also whines a lot. Just her character overall wasn’t very likeable. If Evie was a real person, I don’t think I’d want to be friends with her. Then there’s Aveda, the ever shallow superhero. All Aveda cared about was herself and treated everyone around her like shit…which made her also unlikeable. Then we had the side characters; Scott, Nate, Bea and Lucy. And as you can guess, they too were unlikeable. Scott was just there in the background. I didn’t think he lend anything to the story. Nate was Evie’s love interest that came out of the blue with a personality of a cardboard box. Nuff said. There’s a secret that Nate is hiding but said secret was random as heck and silly in my opinion. Bea is Evie’s sister.I didn’t like her either…she was reckless and annoying like her older sister. And Lucy was there I guess as comic relief but like Scott, she blended into the background as well. Never have I read a book where I dislike all of the character. I didn’t like a single person! But then again there’s a first for everything.

Heroine Complex was a big disappointment. I managed to finished the book, although how I got through it…I don’t even know. As I mentioned before, the world building and characters were under developed, the plot had no substance but add in writing/dialogue that’s trying too hard to be funny made for a really underwhelming novel.The only good thing that Heroine Complex had going for it is the amazing artwork. It was what first caught my eyes. It’s beautiful and certainly grabs your attention. I haven’t found a decent superhero novel yet but I am determined to find one! Bottom Line, skip this one…not worth the time or money. 



Friday, June 29, 2018

The Restorer by Amanda Stevens



Title: The Restorer
Author: Amanda Stevens
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Graveyard Queen # 1

Mass Market Paperback, 376 Pages 
Publication: April 19, 2011 by Mira

Source: Personal Library

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My name is Amelia Gray. I'm a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I've always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.

It started with the discovery of a young woman's brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I've been hired to restore. The clues to the killer, and to his other victims, lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret. Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I've vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.

I read The Restorer when it first came out but now, I can’t recall any of the story; so I thought a re-read was in order. The Restorer is part ghost story and part murder mystery, my two favorite things.

What I loved about The Restorer is that it took place in beautiful graveyards. Amelia, our heroine restores them for a living. She lived a quiet life of solitude and normally keeps everyone at bay as her father taught…until a body turns up in a graveyard she worked in. With Amelia’s expertise, she is called in to be a consultant on the murder investigation. But as more bodies are discovered, Amelia realizes that she’s in over her head, and two bodies may be a coincidence but three is a pattern. It is up to Amelia and Detective Devlin to find the killer before more bodies turn up dead.

The Restorer is one creepy novel and I can’t imagine it being set anywhere but the south. Charleston was the perfect setting for it. A city with plenty of rich history…and one I hope visit one day! Stevens definitely kept me on my toes as we tried to figure out who the killer was and their motives. And when both questions got answer I was quite surprised because I didn’t expect said person. So kudos for that! My only complaints was the reveal was literally in the last two chapters and everything was resolved quickly thereafter. I felt the plot/mystery was a tad too drawn out.

Amelia was Amelia. I liked her well enough as a lead but didn’t find her all that special or interesting. And as I mentioned before Amelia lived a quiet life and did everything by the books. However, that all went down the drain when she’s pulled into the investigation and gets a bi too obsessed with Devlin. I say obsessed because there wasn’t a moment that went by that she wasn’t talking or daydreaming about Devlin. It got to the point of distracting and annoying. As for Devlin, he was a walking enigma but one I didn’t care to decipher. I found their chemistry unbelievable and had a hard time connecting with both characters, which made it hard to invest into the story itself. It was a good plot and all but I never feel immersed in it or invested in the characters or the overall outcome of the book. Which is unfortunate because I remembered loving it when I first read it.

The Restorer is a good ghost mystery but I don’t think I’d be continuing with the series. 


Monday, June 25, 2018

White Hot by Ilona Andrews

Title: White Hot
Author: Ilona Andrews
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Hidden Legacy # 2

Mass Market Paperback, 389 Pages
Publication: May 30, 2017 by Avon Books

Source: Personal Library 

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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 …
 

What compelled me to read White Hot so soon after Burn for Me, I haven’t the slightest clue. I didn’t love Burn for Me a much as everyone else. Even in my review I wrote that I wasn’t interested or likely going to read the sequel any time soon. And yet here I am done and writing a review for White Hot. To my surprise, White Hot was much better than its predecessor and a lot of issues that I had with the the first book were nowhere in sight.

In the second installment of The Hidden Legacy series, Nevada is hired by Harrison, whom we met in the previous novel, to find his wife’s killer. Harrison believed it wasn’t an accident and the only person that can and is willing to help him find out the truth is Nevada. But this isn’t any ordinary murder case, it goes high up in the ranks of the council and houses and more sinister than anyone can imagine.

What made White Hot more enjoyable in my opinion was delving deeper into house politics, everyone’s background and character development. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, there’s a major conspiracy going on that involves a lot of powerful people, houses and in White Hot we see most, if not all of the houses getting involved whether they want to or not. Which also meant seeing new characters or getting to know the characters already introduced in book one.

I liked that we were able to learn more about Rogan and the Baylor family. Readers were told of Rogan’s time in the war which made perfect sense that he acted the way he did. He also made great effect in proving to Nevada that he wasn’t the man she thought he was...like completely bad and ruthless. Which was somewhat debatable. Then there were Nevada’s family. They were a hoot! Love seeing them get more page time and learning about their prime abilities.

White Hot was a satisfying sequel with a much more interesting plot. I can’t wait to start Wildefire and see how Nevada and Rogan's story arc ends. Highlights of White Hot includes: Matilda/Zeus, Augustine, Dark Horse Leon, and the Baylor sisters! And the name of the series totally make sense now! If you haven’t read anything by Team Andrews yet, this is a good series to check out first.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

[Blog Tour] Cassie Scot Series Cover Art Re-Reveal!


Designed by Lou Harper, the beautiful cover art for Frozen is far more than it appears. It is actually the culmination of years of struggle, of adversity, and of serious backlash over misleading, inadequate, and unprofessional series covers.

Let me back up, because this story doesn’t begin with Frozen at all. It begins with the first book in the Cassie Scot series, which has recently had an incredible makeover.

Many of my reviews for the early books in the series say, “Don’t judge this book by its cover!” They go on to say that the cover is awful, but the book is great. Well, obviously, I’m glad they liked the book, but I’ve been discouraged for years by the flack I’ve received for the covers.

One of the worst consequences of my original covers was the mistaken belief (by some) that my books were mid-grade novels, or at least young adult. They are not! These were written with adult audiences in mind.

As a picture is worth a thousand words, let me show you the before and after images:
 
Old Book Covers
New Book Covers
The original cover artwork for the Cassie Scot Series were hand painted originals done just for me. And saying that is bittersweet, because when my publisher first suggested going this route, I felt incredible pride at the idea of having artwork created just for me. It made me feel special. At this point, I have something of a love/hate relationship with the original covers because I can’t deny they were mistakes. Yet, some part of me still sees something special in them, something unique that the modern practice of photo manipulation can’t capture.

Take Secrets and Lies, for instance, the second book in the series and the one with the greatest backlash. “It looks too romantic,” many or my readers said to me. And maybe it does. None of these books are romances, exactly, but there is a strong romantic subplot (like it or not), and that pose on the original Secrets and Lies perfectly captures the tension in that book – Evan wants Cassie; Cassie is unsure.

Photo manipulation is incapable of creating such a scene. To do the same thing with photography, I would have to hire my own models, and a photographer, and do a prohibitively expensive photo shoot to make it happen.

But I get it. I really do. The original cover artwork has manican-like faces, and they lack the sharpness, the zing, the edge of professionalism that people are used to seeing on urban fantasy novels.

I asked my publisher to hire a new cover designer for Madison’s Song and Kaitlin’s Tale, two spin-offs following secondary characters, and she did a nice job. Not so nice that I wanted her to redo my whole series, but definitely an improvement. And at that point, I thought I was done writing the series.

When Cassie told me, “Life doesn’t end when you get married,” and made me write Frozen, the first book in her new plot arc, I knew I needed something different for the cover. My publisher gave me some choices, knowing I was unhappy with the earlier artwork, but ultimately I refused them all and asked her if she would hire Lou Harper, who was recommended by some fellow authors.



We found a stock photo model for Cassie, and when I did, I tried to find someone with enough poses that she could be used on additional books and maybe … if I liked Frozen well enough, on a series overhaul. I told Lou about some magical creatures that appear in the book, including a hellhound, which she depicted beautifully standing atop a frozen lake. The mist obscuring the background is another important plot element, and really holds the scene together.

When I revealed the cover art for Frozen to my loyal readers, I got immediate, positive feedback. Some claimed that Cassie looked just like they’d pictured. Many said it was beautiful, and professional, and when I floated the idea of the series makeover, I was met with enthusiastic encouragement. So I went for it.

The result is … breathtaking, I think. I particularly love the covers to Mind Games and Stolen Dreams (books three and four), though I am enthusiastic about all of these. They are obviously more professional, cleaner, and state clearly, “These are adult urban fantasy novels.”

I hope you like the new covers half as much as I do, and that regardless, you’ll give the books a chance. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we often do. I sometimes do, even though I know how the process goes, and how hard it is to find the right representation for a book!

I present these before-and-after covers proudly, but know the books are far more than their covers. Cassie Scot is a labor of love that only comes alive when you peak inside. 



The seventh Cassie Scot novel, Frozen is out now!




Apparently, life doesn’t end when you get married.

When a couple freezes to death on a fifty degree day, Cassie is called in to investigate. The couple ran a daycare out of their home, making preschoolers the key witnesses and even the prime suspects.

Two of those preschoolers are Cassie’s youngest siblings, suggesting conditions at home are worse than she feared. As Cassie struggles to care for her family, she must face the truth about her mother’s slide into depression, which seems to be taking the entire town with it.

Then Cassie, too, is attacked by the supernatural cold. She has to think fast to survive, and her actions cause a rift between her and her husband.

No, life doesn’t end after marriage. All hell can break loose at any time.





ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, which scars the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams. 

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. In addition to being a writer, she's a mom and freelance editor.


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