Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: The Queen is Dead by Kate Locke

Title: The Queen is Dead
Author: Kate Locke
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Immortal Empire #2

Hardcover, 336 pages
Publication: February 5, 2013 by Orbit

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Source: Publisher 

When her brother Val gets in over his head in an investigation of Half-Blood disappearances and goes missing himself, it's up to Xandra, newly crowned Goblin Queen, to get him back and bring the atrocities to light. Xandra must frequent the seediest parts of London, while also coping with what she is, the political factions vying for her favor, and the all too-close scrutiny of Queen Victoria, who wants her head. Add this to a being a suspect in a murder investigation, a werewolf boyfriend with demands of his own, and a mother hell bent on destroying the monarchy, and Xandra barely knows which way is up. One thing she does know is that she's already lost one sibling, she's not about to lose another.
Xandra Varden is the newly crowned Goblin Queen of England. But her complicated life is by no means over.

There are the political factions vying for her favor, and the all too-close scrutiny of Queen Victoria, who for some reason wants her head. Not to mention her werewolf boyfriend with demands of his own, and a mother hell bent on destroying the monarchy. Now she's the suspect in a murder investigation --- and Xandra barely knows which way is up.

What she does know is that nothing lasts forever---and immortality isn't all its cracked up to be.

In the latest installment of The Immortal Empire series, Xandra is still coming to terms with her sister Dede’s death, death of her mentor Churchill, and finding out she isn’t a havie but an entirely new breed of goblin that’s able to walk in the daytime. Prince William and most of the goblin den have declared their loyalty to Xandra, and hope she agrees to be their official Queen. But before Xandra can even contemplate the matter she finds out her brother Val has been nabbed by a couple of Betties (humans that drink vampire blood). With the DI on her tail about the death of Churchhill, she’ll need to draw as little attention to herself as possible…like that’s going to be easy with her red hair, yellow-green eyes, title of the Goblin Queen, and her boyfriend is the Lord alpha of the werewolves.

This was another great addition to Immortal Empire series narrated by Xandra Vardan, who I absolutely adore! Xandy is a feisty-headstrong female lead that isn’t afraid to speak her mind or protect her friends, family and innocent bystanders. Xandy is viewed as the Goblin Queen (although she hasn’t officially accepted the title yet) but feels like she isn’t ready to step in such a big role/title.  I love that the Plague (goblins) are extremely devoted to Xandy, doing everything to protect their lady. Everyone fears the goblins thinking they’re the worst-lowest group but what readers see is that the goblins are far better than the Aristo, and humans combined. Although Xandy is uncertain whether or not she’ll take the role as queen, or be a ‘goblin’ for that matter; she eventually gets over her fears and embraces her inner goblin. There were a lot of time in the book she’d ‘Gob-out’ where her face re-shifted and fanged out, had crazy spider- like climbing ability, her thirst for blood, and the coolest detail was finding out that goblin blood is toxic to others!

There were a lot of great memorable characters who are unique, and bring something to the ever expanding world of Steampunk-Victorian London. There’s Penny Dreadful, the fabulous trans that works at Freak Show and Val’s maternal sibling, Vex, Xandra’s  boyfriend whose not your typical alpha male, or William the Goblin Prince, a noble leader of his kind…just to name a few. In regards to Xandra’s brother being taken as the main plot line, there were also other interesting subplots, one of which was everyone wanting Xandra to be aligned with their group…the werewolves, her mother, and even Queen V herself.

Overall, this book was a great expansion of the Immortal Empire world, diving deeper into the characters/history and adding to a detail about experiment labs from the first book as well.  Something happens to Xandra near the end of the book, and I’m wondering if this will be a game-changer in the next book. I really enjoyed The Queen is Dead, great world and characters, witty and heart-felt dialogue, and lots of action and blood! I highly recommend this series, starting with the first book, God Save the Queen. The third book in the series, Long Live the Queen is coming out this October…I can’t wait!! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Author Interview: Marie Brennan + Giveaway

Writing under the pseudonym Marie Brennan, Bryn Neuenschwander is the author of several novels such as ‘Warrior and Witch’ the Doppelganger duology, ‘With Fate Conspire’ the latest Onyx court novel, and ‘Lies and Prophecy’ a YA fantasy novel. Marie is here today to talk about her latest novel, a Victorian Era-Fantasy, A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent as part of her blog tour. A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent was released on February 5th and is available wherever books are sold.

Hi Marie! Thank you for being here today, can you give us the elevator pitch for ‘A Natural History of Dragons’?

The first volume in the memoirs of Lady Trent, world-famous lady adventurer and dragon naturalist.

I know this question is probably asked a lot, but how what inspired you to write this book? Why did you choose to write it as a ‘memoir’ style?

It came out of a collision between the Dragonology calendars and the D&D supplement Draconomicon. The two of them gave me the idea for a natural historian studying dragons. Since natural history is a very Victorian kind of thing, I decided to set in a world based on that time period; after that, the memoir approach just seemed natural. And when I tried it, the voice just clicked instantaneously.

I was checking out your website but didn’t see much on your bibliography/FAQ sections. Besides being an anthropologist and folklorist, what are three interesting facts that readers don’t know about you and that isn’t found on your Bio/FAQ page?

I have abysmally bad vision, I was a ballet dancer for thirteen years growing up, and I once played a concert in Carnegie Hall.

(Not playing “two truths and a lie”: all of those are true. The Carnegie concert was in high school.)
 Todd Lockwood did an amazing job on the cover art, it’s so beautifully detailed and exactly how I imagine dragons to look like. What was your initial reaction upon seeing the cover art? Did you have any inputs on what you wanted for the cover?

I did have some input, yeah, and the cover is basically a hybrid of my idea and my editor’s. He came up with the general look of it, with the cream background and the lifelike style you get on the front half of the dragon; my suggestion was the dissected look on the back half. (Possibly this is a signal that I have a more gruesome imagination than my editor does.)

As for my reaction when I saw it, I was pretty much walking on air. The cover is just absolutely stunning. 
Lady Trent, the heroine/narrator of the novel is compared to Alexia Tarabotti (The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger) as being a headstrong female whose intellect/will can’t and won’t be stifled by her times. What are your thoughts on the comparison? Have you read The Parasol Protectorate series?

Unfortunately, I generally can’t read stuff that’s like my own projects while I’m working on them -- I’m already in danger of overdosing on the subject. So while I read Soulless several years ago, before I started writing anything Victorian-era, I haven’t picked up any of the subsequent ones yet. (There’s a whole pile of Victorian-era/steampunk fantasy I haven’t touched. I am so far behind the curve . . .) 

Based on what I know, though, I’d say Isabella has more of the “outrageous old woman” thing going on than Alexia does, and less of the “sexy.” It’s a memoir, so although she’s talking about her youth, she has the old-lady advantage of being able to get away with saying whatever she pleases. The flip side is that she’s always conscious of telling her story to an audience, which means that for every shameless thing she says, there’s probably one she’s decided to keep secret.

Is A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent a stand-alone or will it be part of a series? 

Definitely a series! I’m contracted for two more, and hope to take it a bit further than that. This first book only relates how Isabella’s career got started; there’s a lot more to tell about what she did once she really got going.

What other projects can we look forward to reading from you in the future?

The second book of the series will take Isabella to Bayembe and Mouleen, two tropical countries inspired by West and Central Africa. That will be out next year, and -- to quote Isabella -- will involve her being accused of “fornication, high treason, and status as the worst mother in all of Scirland.”

Other than that, I have a short story in the upcoming fourth volume of Mike Allen’s Clockwork Phoenix series. I hope to have a few other things besides, but I prefer to keep stuff under wraps until it’s definite!

Lightning Questions
Coke or Pepsi? Cherry Coke!

Facebook or Twitter? Twitter. I canceled my Facebook account over their privacy violations.

Favorite Paranormal Creature? Going to have to go with faeries, for obvious reasons.

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? You just made me imagine a terrible fanfiction crossover.

All time favorite Movie? The Princess Bride.

Physical book or E-reader? Physical book. Still don’t own an e-reader.

Thank you Marie for being here today and taking the time out of your schedule to answer my questions.

 Tor Books has generously offer one (1) copy of A Natural History of Dragons to a Short & Sweet Reviews blog reader! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter below. 
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Review: Shattered Circle by Linda Robertson

Title: Shattered Circle
Author: Linda Robertson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Persephone Alcmedi #6

Mass Market Paper, 384 Pages

Publication: January 29, 2013 by Pocket Books

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Source: Publicist 


 After her werewolf boyfriend, Johnny, tried to kill her, Persephone Alcmedi finds herself in the comforting arms of powerful vampire Menessos. She’s trying to sort out her feelings for the two men, but not even Seph is above the confusion of tangled emotions. All Johnny wants to do is mend their relationship and reveal the life-altering news he’s recently received, but his new responsibilities as the werewolf king take up most of his time.

Does this mean Menessos can finally make his move?

Meanwhile, unknown to Seph, her beloved foster daughter, Beverley, has been playing with a magical artifact and making dubious friends on the other side. When Beverley disappears, Seph must seek help from a supernatural being so potent that even Menessos fears him...and such aid always comes with a very steep price.

There were a lot of things going on in this book, and separately for that matter. In the previous book, Seph, Johnny and Menessos were always together going up against the vampires at one time, witches or the wærewolves. This time around everyone was dealing with their own personal problems.  The Diviza, region wære representative is coming into town to confirm Johnny as the Dom Loup, all while Johnny adjusts to his new role; not only as the wærewolf king but also as a father. Next we have Menessos who just stepped down as haven master after VEIN discovered he was twice marked by Seph, and he’s now in the process of transferring all his responsibilities to his successor Goliath. Finally we have Seph, who sadly cannot catch a break from everyone wanting to use her position as the ‘Lustrata’ to their personal advantage. Everything gets more hectic when Beverly; Seph’s adoptive daughter goes missing in the ley-lines. Menessos, being the powerful wizard that he is able to pull Beverly from the ley line but not without a price…since she’s not fully human (how she got in the ley line in the first place) Menessos had to ‘gift’ her …creating a ward-breaker.

Things go from bad to worse when Seph sits down for a meditation and realizes creepy is in her alternative plane. Creepy says he can help Seph escape from all her troubles and protect the people she loves all at the same time if she’s willing to agree to his price but once Seph learns his true identity…she sees he never had the intention of letting her go. The first third of the book is mostly recapping of the characters, and their progression throughout the series. The Vampire-Harpy sisters from the previous novel are still prisoners of the haven, and they cause problems when they learn of Beverly’s new ability. There wasn’t a lot of action, just two big scenes from what I can remember in the entire book but there was a lot of scheming between the characters, everyone trying to manipulate others to reach their goal. My favorite part of the entire book was the end when everyone is finally together. The scene with Seph, Johnny and Menessos in the kitchen looking out at everyone gathered around them totally made me tear up! I really enjoyed this book, and look forward to what lies ahead for the trio. 


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Review: A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest

Title: A Shade of Vampire
Author: Bella Forrest
Genre: PNR/ Young-Adult
Series: A Shade of Vampire #1

Paperback, 147 Pages

Publication: December 14, 2012

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Source: Author

On the evening of Sofia Claremont's seventeenth birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake.
A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood. 

She is kidnapped to an island where the sun is eternally forbidden to shine.
An island uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet. She wakes here as a slave, a captive in chains. 

Sofia's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn when she is the one selected out of hundreds of girls to join the harem of Derek Novak, the dark royal Prince.
Despite his addiction to power and obsessive thirst for her blood, Sofia soon realizes that the safest place on the island is within his quarters, and she must do all within her power to win him over if she is to survive even one more night.

Will she succeed? ...or is she destined to the same fate that all other girls have met at the hands of the Novaks?

On the night of Sofia’s seventeenth birthday she gets kidnapped while strolling on the beach. When she finally wakes up, Sofia discovers she’d been taken by vampires and brought to the Blood Shade Island. What Sophia discovers is that she and four other girls who are of the same age were hand-picked to be part of Derek Novak’s personal harlem. Derek is the youngest prince and leader of the Blood Shade, who has been asleep for more than 500 years, finally waking when his people needs him the most. Upon waking he was instantly drawn to Sophia for showing a kind gesture to another captured girl.  Sofia knows she needs find a way to escape the island but realize if she wants to stay alive in the mean time sticking close to Derek is her safest bet.

I didn’t know what to expect when starting this novel, just that it had vampires. A Shade of Vampire is told from Sofia and Derek’s point-of-view, alternating between chapters. The majority of the book takes place at the Blood Shade, as Sofia comes to term that she might never be able to escape…and in a way see the place as her home now. There wasn’t much action as I’d like but the book still kept me absorbed in the story-line as Derek and Sofia gets to know more about one another. I also wish that the book was longer, clocking out at only 147 pages…the author could have taken more time to talk about the shadow hunters, the Blood Shade/Vampires’ enemy and to flesh out the characters more. Overall I really enjoyed the book, and would recommend this book to all paranormal romance/YA lovers. I hope the next book in the series will be longer, and can definitely see this series going far. I can’t wait to see what Forrest has in store for Sofia and Derek because the last page in the book totally hints at a prophecy of some sorts!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Author Interview: Bella Forrest

Please welcome to Bella Forrest to Short & Sweet Reviews blog! Bella is here today to answer some questions about her latest book, a little bit about herself and what she's currently working on. Bella is the author of A Shade of Vampire, the first book in a series. A Shade of Vampire was released at the end of last year on December 14, 2012 and the book is available in both e-book and hardcopy formats.

Hi Bella! Thanks for stopping by the blog today. Can you give us the elevator pitch for A Shade of Vampire 

I’m really terrible at elevator pitches! So I’ll quote from Daniela’s review over at YA Book Season:
“The story itself is exciting. We've got Shadowhunters, vampires who live in giant trees on an uncharted island, and lots of kidnapped humans. There's a combination of romance and mystery. Who killed who? What's happening? Why are they doing this? What are they going to do? Stuff like that. It gets better as the story progresses.
Overall, A Shade of Vampire is a sexy vampire twist, an unforgettable romance that sizzles from start to finish. It's a perfect read for Twilight fans and vampire fans in general.”

Can you tell us about you road to publication?  
I did not submit A Shade of Vampire to any agents or publishing houses. I decided to journey down the self-publishing route. So there’s not much of a story to tell, it was pretty straight-forward and easy! 

There are a lot of supernatural/paranormal beings to choose from, what made you decide to have vampires as the focus of your story?
I find the interaction between vampires and humans particularly interesting to write about and explore.

Is A Shade of Vampire a stand-alone novel or will this be part of a series? 
This will be part of a series. A Shade of Vampire is Book One.

I couldn’t find a website for both yourself and the book, can you tell us about yourself so readers can know more about the author behind this skyrocketing paranormal YA?

Sorry about that, everything has happened so suddenly, it’s taken me a while to get my blog sorted out, but it’s up now: http://bellaforrest.blogspot.com

About me… well, I’ve been telling stories pretty much since I could talk. Creative writing was my favorite subject at school and, as far as I can remember, I have always written things like poems and short stories. Reading and writing have always trumped watching movies and TV for me.

I think I first got the idea for A Shade of Vampire when I was 18. It just took a while for me to set aside the time to write it all out!

What are some of your favorite paranormal YA books and authors?

Can I broaden this to favorite fantasy books and authors?
- Harry Potter/J.K. Rowling is my all time favorite.
- The Chronicles of Narnia/C.S. Lewis.
- The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

What other projects can we look forward to reading from you in the future?

Currently I’m working on the sequel to A Shade of Vampire.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer? 

Make a promise to yourself to write every single day. Even if it’s not for very long, get yourself into a strict habit of writing regularly.

Lighting Questions
Coke or Pepsi?

Would you rather go 30 days without refined sugar or 90 days without caffeine?
90 days without caffeine.

Facebook or Twitter?

Would you rather go on vacation anywhere in the world for 1 week or spend 24 hours with anyone in the world but be unable to leave your house during that time?
I’d rather have the option to spend 24 hours with anyone of my choice in the world. People trump places for me.

E-reader or physical book?
Physical book.

Favorite paranormal creature?
I guess I’d have to say vampires!


Thanks Bella for the Q&A session and stopping by the blog! 

Thanks for having me! It’s been a pleasure.

Want to learn more about the author and A Shade of Vampire?