Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Review: Barbarian's Prize - Ruby Dixon

It’s hard being the most popular girl on the ice planet. The alien men are falling all over themselves to impress me in the hopes that I’ll take them to my furs. But they don’t know my secrets – none of them do. And they don’t realize that behind my smile, I just wish they’d go away.

I don’t want any of them. I want someone else – someone with a gorgeous blue body, big horns, and the most intense gaze ever. He’s the only one that knows the truth. Maybe with him, I can work through my fears of the past…. but I’m pretty sure he wants more than just friendship.

He wants forever, and I’m not sure I can give it.

Ice Planet Barbarians:
Ice Planet Barbarians
Barbarian Alien
Barbarian Lover
Barbarian Mine
Ice Planet Holiday (Novella)
Barbarian's Prize
Barbarian's Mate
Having the Barbarian's Baby (Short Story)
Ice Ice Babies (Short Story)
Barbarian's Touch
Calm: Slice of Life (Short Story)
Barbarian's Taming
After Shock: Slice of Life (Short Story)
Barbarian's Heart
Barbarian's Hope
Barbarian's Choice
Barbarian's Redemption
Barbarian's Lady
Prison Planet Barbarian
Barbarian's Rescue
Barbarian's Tease
The Corsair's Captive
The Barbarian Before Christmas (Novella)

Icehome Series:
(Set in the same world as the Ice Planet Barbarians series but introducing new characters)
Lauren's Barbarian

Visit Ruby Dixon's website for more information

Review:
Tiffany is one of the few remaining human women yet to find a mate and because of that she's receiving a lot of attention from the single males in the cave, all of whom are hoping she'll resonate with them. The last thing Tiffany wants or needs is a man though and after the brutal rape she suffered while they were still captives on the alien ship all this extra attention makes her extremely uncomfortable.

Salukh takes a very different approach to the other males so rather than competing for her attention and being brazen about what he wants from her instead he takes the time to get to know her and become her friend. He goes out of his way to bring her things he knows she'll find interesting and he never pressures her to spend time with him when she needs space. I loved how patient he was with her and really enjoyed the slow build nature of the romance that develops between them.

I'm not a fan of rape being used as a plot device in stories, especially romance, so I was a little worried going in but overall I think Ruby Dixon dealt with Tiffany's past quite realistically. She's been through a huge emotional trauma and its no wonder she finds even the thought of getting physical with a man (well alien in this case LOL) terrifying. I'll admit that once she starts to admit her feelings for Salukh things escalate quite quickly but I can forgive that in this series, especially when you have a hero as gentle and patient as Salukh was.

This series is one of my guilty pleasures that I pick up when I'm in the mood for something light and fun but with a nice amount of heat - I just can't seem to get enough of these big, blue, furry aliens! - so I'm already looking forward to the next book which I believe will finally be Josie and Haeden's story.

Source: Purchased

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Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Review: Shadow of the Fox - Julie Kagawa

A single wish will spark a new dawn. 

Every millennium, the missing pieces of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers are hunted, for they hold the power to call the great Kami Dragon and ask for any one wish.

As a temple burns to the ground Yumeko escapes with its greatest treasure - the first piece of the scroll. And when fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, she knows he seeks what she has.

Kage is under orders to kill those who stand in his way but will he be able to complete his mission? Will this be the dawn that sees the dragon wake?

Enter a beautiful and perilous land of shapeshifters and samurai, kami and legends, humans and demons... A world in which Japanese mythology and imagination blend together.

Shadow of the Fox series:
Shadow of the Fox
Soul of the Sword (2019)

Visit Julie Kagawa's website for more information.

Review:
Once in every millennium the person who holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers has the power to call upon the great Kami Dragon and make one wish. For the safety of the world the Scroll has been torn into pieces and each section is held by a different group of protectors. Yumeko is a young, half-kitsune, girl who has been raised by monks in the Silent Winds temple who secretly guard one of the pieces. When the temple comes under attack by demons she is tasked with the important job of taking the scroll piece to safety.

Tatsumi trained from birth as a samurai learning to control a powerful cursed sword so he could become the Kage Demonslayer. He has been tasked with tracking down the pieces of the scroll and told he must to whatever it takes to bring them home to the head of his family. When Tatsumi and Yumeko meet she tricks him into believing she can lead him to the first part of the scroll but what will happen if he realises that she has been carrying the piece with her all along?

I really enjoyed Shadow of the Fox, its the first instalment in Julie Kagawa's new series and I love how different each of the worlds she creates are. This is a magical world based on Japanese mythology full of all kinds of yokai & kami supernatural creatures, some I recognised and others that were completely new to me. Yumeko and Tatsumi are hunted by demons and monsters at every turn as they travel in search of the hidden temple and you never know quite what will be thrown at the reluctant allies next.

Yumeko has had a very sheltered upbringing so she is quite naive and sweet and often far more trusting than she should be but she also has an incredibly mischievous streak and some fun illusion abilities that are going to make her a force to be reckoned with as she grows into her powers. Tatsumi on the other hand is much harder, he's been raised to be a warrior and taught not to trust anyone or let anyone get too close so he's much more aloof and wary than Yumeko. He wields a cursed sword that is possessed by the demon Hakaimono and it takes a lot of willpower to use the sword without letting the demon get inside his own head. As they fight alongside each other during the search for the hidden temple they have to learn to trust each other and what I really enjoyed was that it wasn't always Tatsumi who saved the day, there were times when Yumeko's skills were just as important in keeping them both alive.

This is a slow build story with absolutely fantastic world building that takes readers on a journey across a beautifully described fantasy land. I was captivated with this book from the beginning and didn't want to put it down for a minute. I loved both Yumeko and Tatsumi but we also meet some fantastic side characters and I really enjoyed the occasional chapters we got from Sumi's point of view. I have a feeling this series is going to become a firm favourite so I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of Soul of the Sword next year!

Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
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Don't forget to check out the rest of the stops on the Shadow of the Fox blog tour:

Monday, 19 November 2018

Review: Dreams Made Flesh - Anne Bishop

The Black Jewels Trilogy established Anne Bishop as an author whose "sublime skill...blend[s] the darkly macabre with spine-tingling emotional intensity"(SF Site). Now, the saga continues in this collection that includes four more adventures of Jaenelle and her kindred...

Jaenelle is the most powerful Witch ever known, centuries of hopes and dreams made flesh at last. She has forged ties with three of the realm's mightiest Blood warriors: Saetan, the High Lord of Hell, who trains Jaenelle in magic and adopts her as his daughter; Lucivar, the winged Eyrien warlord who becomes her protector; and the near-immortal Daemon, born to be Witch's lover. Jaenelle has assumed her rightful place as Queen of the Darkness and restored order and peace to the realms, but at a terrible cost.

Collected here are the beguiling stories about the origin of the mystical Jewels, the forbidden passion between Lucivar and a simple hearth witch, the clash between Saetan and a Priestess, and the choice Jaenelle must make, between her magic and happiness with Daemon...

The Black Jewels Series:
Daughter of the Blood
Heir to the Shadows
Queen of the Darkness
The Invisible Ring
Dreams Made Flesh
Tangled Webs
The Shadow Queen
Shalador's Lady
Twilight's Dawn

Visit Anne Bishop's website for more information

Review:
Dreams Made Flesh is a collection of short stories and novellas set in the world of Anne Bishop's Black Jewel series, the stories add in some extra backstory and also work as an extended epilogue to the original trilogy so I wouldn't recommend reading this book until after Queen of the Darkness. If you enjoyed the first three books then I'm sure you'll love this collection though, it gives so much more insight into some of the character's backstories and I loved getting a chance to spend more time with some of my favourites.

Let's talk about each story individually though to give you an idea what to expect:

Weaver of Dreams:
This is set well before the beginning of the series and gives a bit more insight into the dream weaver spiders. The story is very short and I have to admit I didn't enjoy it as much as the others in this collection but it was interesting to read something from the point of view of a spider.

The Prince of Ebon Rih:
In my opinion it would be worth buying this book for this story alone, I loved Lucivar's character in the original trilogy but even though I was glad that he had found a HEA I was disappointed we didn't get to see it happen for ourselves. This story fits into the timeline during Queen of the Darkness and lets us see how Lucivar and Marian first met and fell in love. They meet under dark circumstances but their actual romance was really sweet and heartwarming and I loved the way Marian stood up for Lucivar against an unwanted rival.

Zuulaman:
Another fab story this gives us a bit more background into the relationship between Saetan and Hekatah long before Daemon or Lucivar were born. This was pretty heartbreaking and made me love Saetan more than ever even though he takes truly drastic measures to get revenge after something horrendous happens. It never ceases to amaze me how low Hekatah is willing to sink in her quest for power but this shows us exactly why she's so terrified of Saetan throughout the series, he really isn't someone you should mess with!

Kaeleer’s Heart:
This story is like an extended epilogue to Queen of the Darkness that shows us the fallout from Jaenelle's sacrifice both physically and emotionally. There's no denying what she did saved the world but the aftermath put a lot of strain on the relationship between Jaenelle and Daemon that they now need to work through in order to move forward. I really enjoyed seeing how Jaenelle was affected by what happened and how all of the family reacted to that. I also really liked how this story tied back in with The Prince of Ebon Rih with the reappearance of a certain character who desperately needed to get her comeuppance. I'll never get enough of this world or these characters so was thrilled with this glimpse into their happily ever after.

Source: Purchased

Other Reviews:
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Review: The Invisible Ring - Anne Bishop

New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop returns to the world of her Black Jewels Trilogy with a prequel that follows a man who is determined to rebel against the course set before him...

Jared is a Red-Jeweled Warlord bound as a pleasure slave by the Ring of Obedience. After suffering nine years of torment as a slave, he murdered his owner and escaped—only to be caught and sold into slavery once again.

Purchased by a notorious queen, Jared fears he will share the mysterious fate of her other slaves—never to be seen again—and so prepares himself for death. But the Gray Lady may not be what she seems and Jared soon faces a difficult decision: his freedom, or his honor...

The Black Jewels Series:
Daughter of the Blood
Heir to the Shadows
Queen of the Darkness
The Invisible Ring
Dreams Made Flesh
Tangled Webs
The Shadow Queen
Shalador's Lady
Twilight's Dawn

Visit Anne Bishop's website for more information

Review:
I have to admit I was a little disappointed when I realised that The Invisible Ring is actually a prequel to the first 3 books in the Black Jewels series and is about a whole new set of characters that I don't remember being mentioned previously. I was excited to be back in this world but I love Jaenelle, Daemon, Lucivar and Saetan so much and was sad we weren't getting to spend more time with them. Having said that I still found myself really enjoying this story and we do get a few glimpses of Daemon that show how he was always trying to defy Dorothea in any way he could long before Jaenelle came along!

This story introduces us to Jared, a Red-Jewelled Warlord who has been kept as a pleasure slave thanks to the Ring of Obedience. He's already escaped once only to be recaptured and sold back into slavery so he is extremely unhappy to find himself being purchased by a Queen who is known to kill her slaves. The Gray Lady may have purchased Jared but it quickly becomes clear that not everything about her is what it first seems. Perhaps if Jared can look beyond the surface he'll find a Queen he is actually willing to bond himself to but with Dorothea trying to capture the Gray Lady and her entire party they have to find a way to work together if they want to survive.

This story wasn't quite as dark as the previous three, yes it's still a world where rape and torture is considered normal in certain circles (you can thank Dorothea and her like for that one!) but there are people who still respect the old ways and know that women and men have an equally important role to play in a happy and productive society. Just because some people have twisted the system doesn't mean everyone is like that but it can be very hard to know who can be trusted. I actually really enjoyed the chance to see what a real Queen should be like, one who will protect her people at any cost to herself and who wouldn't dream of hurting the people who depend on her. Jaenelle is the same but she started out as a damaged child and had to learn the old ways after being horrendously abused so it was a little different for her.

While this wasn't my favourite book in the series so far I'm glad I read it and I'm now excited to see what else Anne Bishop has in store for us and this world that she's created.

Source: Purchased

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Thursday, 15 November 2018

Review: Beneath the Sugar Sky - Seanan McGuire

A stand-alone fantasy tale from Seanan McGuire's Alex-award winning Wayward Children series, which began in the Alex, Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award-winning, World Fantasy Award finalist, Tiptree Honor List Every Heart a Doorway

Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third book in McGuire's Wayward Children series, returns to Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children in a standalone contemporary fantasy for fans of all ages. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the "real" world.

When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)

If she can't find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests...

A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do.

Warning: May contain nuts.

The Wayward Children Series:
Every Heart a Doorway
Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Beneath the Sugar Sky
In an Absent Dream (February 2019)
Come Tumbling Down (2020)

Visit Seanan McGuire's website for more information

Review:
I think one of the things I love most about this series is how different each of the stories are. Every Heart a Doorway was set mainly in Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children and although lots of other worlds are mentioned we don't really get to visit them. Down Among the Sticks and Bones is Jack & Jill's prequel story and we get to explore the dark and creepy world of the Moors based on the Dracula and Frankenstein books. Now, in Beneath the Sugar Sky, we get to explore the illogical but bright and fun candy filled world of Confection that Sumi was supposed to find her way back to before she was murdered in the first book.

It had been prophesied that Sumi would return to Confection and save it from an evil queen but her death has ruined everything. When a girl called Rini literally falls out of the sky and lands in the pond at the Home for Wayward Children looking for her mother people are shocked to realise she's looking for Sumi who died long before she could have had children. Rini is slowly ceasing to exist and unless they can find a way to bring Sumi back from the dead the whole of Confection is in trouble.

I had so much fun exploring the nonsense world of Confection, just imagine a place where the sea is made of strawberry soda, the ground beneath your feet is made from chocolate brownies and castles are build from bricks of gingerbread, sweets literally grow on trees and you can even pluck the stars out of the sky because they're really made of candy. Pretty much everything you look at is edible so it's a dream world for anyone with a sweet tooth!

I loved getting the chance to catch up with previous characters but it was also great to meet some new additions like Rini and especially Cora. Seanan McGuire is constantly giving us diverse characters and breaking stereotypes which is something I really appreciate and can't wait to see more of as the series continues. I honestly hope that we get a story for each of these kids, I want to see them all find their way back to the worlds that felt like home.

Source: Purchased

Other Reviews:
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Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones - Seanan McGuire

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

The Wayward Children Series:
Every Heart a Doorway
Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Beneath the Sugar Sky
In an Absent Dream (February 2019)
Come Tumbling Down (2020)

Visit Seanan McGuire's website for more information

Review:
We already met Jack and Jill in Every Heart a Doorway but this is the story of their lives growing up and their journey through a doorway and into the Moors. Technically that makes it a prequel to the first book but trust me you're far better off following the official reading order because you'll enjoy this so much more knowing how Jack and Jill's story ends.

The twins really have the worst parents, cold and totally standoffish they only had children because they thought it was expected of them but they never really understood or cared for the twins as anything other than mini accessories to be paraded around when it was convenient and left behind when they weren't needed. So it's no wonder that the two girls were a little messed up by their childhood but it was sad to see that they had been pitted against each other so often that they didn't have a very strong bond between them. In fact most of their relationship was build on rivalry and jealousy directly caused by their parents and neither of them quite seemed to know how to bridge the gap between them.

When they arrive on the Moors they both totally rebel against everything they've been brought up to do, Jack goes from being her mother's little princess to someone who loves to learn and is happy to get her hands dirty while Jill does the opposite and wants the fun of wearing pretty dresses after years of being treated like a son by her father. I actually loved the way Seanan McGuire subtly shows the ridiculousness of gender stereotypes and how damaging they can be, how girls are often raised to be pretty and quiet ornaments while boys are supposed to be messy and loud. That attitude is damaging all round but it's not something that is challenged enough in my opinion. There are also nods to both the stories of Dracula and Frankenstein in the dark and kind of creepy world of the Moors.

I loved Jack in the first book and I think I ended up liking her even more in this book, we really get to see exactly how much she sacrificed for her sister and it's sad to think how Jill repaid that in the first book. I was really pleased with the ending but I had one major question that I was desperate to get an answer to. What happened to the innkeeper's daughter? I'm going to choose to believe that she got the HEA she deserves since it wasn't spelled out one way or the other.

I really hope we get to explore all of the different worlds visited by the children in Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, there is just so much potential for all the different places this series could take us and I can't wait to visit them all!

Source: Purchased

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Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Review: Ripper - Lexi Blake

A New Heroine Rises...

Kelsey Atwood is a private detective with a problem. She came from a family of hunters, growing up on the wrong side of the supernatural world. Tracking down bail jumpers and deadbeat dads may not make her a lot of friends, but it’s a lot safer than the life she turned her back on. She was hoping to escape from the nightmares of her past, but her latest case has brought them right back to her door.

A young woman has gone missing, and she didn’t go willingly. When Kelsey discovers that the girl is actually a shifter, she knows she should drop the case and walk away. But this shifter was a sweet kid, and she’s in serious trouble. More females are missing and the evidence points to a legendary killer. Bodies are piling up, and her case is becoming center stage for a conflict that could shatter the fragile peace between wolves and vampires.

As the hunt intensifies, she finds herself trapped between two men—Gray, a magnetic half-demon lawman, and the ancient vampire Marcus Vorenus. Both men call to her, but when a shocking secret about Kelsey’s family is revealed, it could ruin them all. To stop the killer, she will have to embrace the truth about who—and what—she truly is.

Thieves Series:
Steal the Light
You Will Call Me Master (Free short story via the author's newsletter)
Steal the Day
Steal the Moon
Steal the Sun
Steal the Night
Ripper (Hunter book 1)
Addict (Hunter book 2)
Sleeper (Hunter book 3)
She Will Be My Goddess (Free short story via the author's newsletter)
Outcast (Hunter book 4) (release date to be confirmed)

Visit Lexi Blake's website for more information

Review:
Ripper is the first book in Lexi Blake's Hunter series, it's set in the same world as her Thieves books with reappearances from some of the original characters so to be honest I think it's best read as a continuation of the original series rather than being used as a starting point but I'm enjoying getting to know a new main character and looking forward to seeing how Kelsey's journey continues.

Kelsey is a character that we've not met before but I thought it was really fun to eventually find out how she tied back to the original group we grew to love in the Thieves books. She was raised by her father to believe all supernatural characters were evil and he used her abilities to help him hunt werewolves and shapeshifters to murder. She was horrified when she realised how wrong he was and she's never forgiven herself for the part she played in his killing spree, even though she was only a child at the time, so has tried to avoid the supernatural world as much as possible since then.

She focuses on her job as a private detective tracking down cheating husbands or bail jumpers but won't touch a case if it involves the supernatural. Until a desperate woman begs for her help to find her missing daughter, a shapeshifter who has vanished in mysterious circumstances. Kelsey is reluctant to get involved but she knows her skills put her in a unique position to help and she finds it really difficult to say no to a desperate mother. As Kelsey starts to investigate she realises that there has been a spate of abductions recently and they all seem to tie back to a local vampire club. It looks like this case won't be as easy as she first assumed and it's going to drag her right back into a world she hoped she'd left behind forever.

After loving the Thieves series I had really high hopes for this spin off and I do think it has a lot of potential but there were a couple of big issues I had with this first book. Firstly was the pace of the relationship that develops between Kelsey and the half-demon Gray. He is a friend of her brother's who has apparently been interested in her for a long time but things between them move at a ridiculously fast pace so we miss out on all the build up that is usually half the fun of a romance story. There were reasons for this that were revealed later on in the book but I still didn't like it and Gray's overbearing possessiveness was a bit of a sticking point. I don't dislike his character but I'm not at the point where I'm rooting for him so he's going to have to change his attitude if he wants to win me around. It's clear that vampire Marcus (who I already loved from the original books) also has an interest in Kelsey so I don't think the romance side of the story is sorted yet, I'm kind of hoping for a menage relationship like we got with Zoey, Danny & Dev but I'm not sure if either Gray or Marcus would be up for that.

The other thing that really upset me about this was how badly everyone treats Kelsey, nearly everyone in her life is keeping secrets from her, using her in some way or manipulating her to do what they want her to do. By the end of the story I was angry with pretty much everyone but especially at Danny and Dev which was really upsetting because I've always loved those two in the past. I couldn't believe the way Danny treated Kelsey, it ruined my opinion of him and kind of spoiled all the happy feelings I'd been having at seeing some of my favourite characters make a reappearance. You know Danny is behaving badly when even Zack, who has always his followed orders without question, and Marcus, who has been his number one supporter from day one, go against him!

I am going to continue reading the series but in the next book I REALLY need to see an attitude adjustment from Danny, he's got some serious making up to do after this book. I'd also like whatever relationship Kelsey decides to embark on to be with a man who can respect her without trying to control her in any way. There needs to be some proper slow-build romance for her and if that's with Gray he's going to have to work hard to earn her trust back. What I'm most looking forward to is seeing Kelsey come to terms with the revelations about who and what she is, she's going to have to learn how her abilities work and then I want to see her take back control of her own fate and not let Danny get away with using her like he's currently trying to.

Source: Purchased

Other Reviews:
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