Monday 31 August 2015

Review: The Last True Vampire - Kate Baxter

Centuries ago, the vampire race was almost destroyed. Now, salvation rests upon one - the last true vampire.

He is the last of his race. King of the vampires. Michael Aristov roams the nightclubs of LA after dark, haunted by his past and driven by hunger. The sole Ancient One to survive the slayers' obliteration, only he can resurrect the vampire race. But he's unable to reclaim his world without the woman who can return his soul . . .

Claire Thompson is mortal, yet her intoxicating blood draws Michael like a moth to the flame. Sassy and seductive, only she can satisfy his insatiable cravings, their first fiery kiss igniting an irrevocable passion.

With the future of the vampire race now at stake, Claire has the power to seal Michael's fate - forever.

Last True Vampire Series:
Stripped Bear (Novella)
The Last True Vampire
The Warrior Vampire
The Dark Vampire

Visit Kate Baxter's website for more information.

Michael is the last of his kind, the only ancient vampire to survive the slayers who set out to eliminate his race. He survived their torture but has never forgiven himself for the deaths of his brethren and he has been punishing himself ever since by refusing to feed as much as he required and by keeping himself apart from the dhampirs who think of him as their king. Michael is the only one who can repopulate the vampire race and he can only do that if he finds his true mate, the one woman who will return his soul and give him the strength to start turning dhampirs. After searching for centuries he's pretty much given up hope but all his prayers are answered when he stumbles upon Claire in a nightclub. Her blood draws him like no other but it takes him a while to realise how important she is to him and she gets away before he can stop her. Now the race is on to track her down before his enemies can harm her.

I had incredibly high expectations when I picked up The Last True Vampire, let's face it when a book is compared to works by four of your favourite authors (Nalini Singh, Lara Adrian, Larissa Ione and J.R. Ward) you're going to be looking for greatness. Unfortunately I think that did this book a disservice because it was almost bound to be a disappointment. It's actually a pretty solid start and I have high hopes that Kate Baxter will build on these foundations to create a wonderful series but there were issues with this first instalment that meant I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have.

Let's start with the positive. The author has managed to put her own twist on vampire mythology, you can tell the series has been inspired by some of the author's mentioned previously but it stands on it's own enough for that not to be a problem. I'm intrigued by the connection between the vampires and dhampirs although I'm still not 100% sure I understand it fully and am hoping we'll get more information about that as the series continues. Usually the vampire society is well established at the start of a series so I'm definitely interested to see how Michael will go about rebuilding an entire race and I think seeing things from the ground up will add an interesting element to these books.

One of the things I missed the most was having a solid group of core characters who are going to be central to the series though. When we first meet Michael he very much keeps himself to himself and there is only really one dhampir who he trusts. I did enjoy the bond he had with Ronan and it looks like Ronan has a group of warriors he trusts so the cast is bound to expand thanks to him but since Michael is supposed to be the king I felt he should have been the core member of the group and the one that everyone relied on.

I actually had a lot of issues with Michael to begin with, the way he treated Claire in the beginning was despicable and a complete turn off, he constantly left her in the dark and refused to answer any of her questions so it was no wonder she found it hard to trust him. At one point he used mind control to put her to sleep for THREE WHOLE DAYS just so he didn't have to deal with her - he didn't even wake her up to feed or drink so it's a wonder she even survived! After everything he puts her through I struggled to believe the romance that develops between them even after he realised his mistakes and worked hard to turn things around. Claire was an interesting character, she starts out strong and street smart but it did seem like her connection to Michael effectively removed her brain and she started making more and more stupid decisions the longer she'd known him. To be fair they both turned things around eventually and I was happy with the way things turned out but I could have enjoyed the whole book much more if they hadn't been such idiots. I don't mind the whole fated mates thing in paranormal romance but I do like to feel that there is more than just a physical attraction between them and I'd have liked more of a slow build into a full on relationship.

In spite of the problems I had with this book I definitely want to carry on reading the series. Ronan was my favourite character all along, although I have to admit the side story with him and another dhampir Siobhan actually turned my stomach, so I was excited to find out he will be the hero of the next book. I'm kind of nervous to see how it plays out because of his connection to Siobhan but since I know she isn't going to be the heroine I'm hoping we won't have to see too much of her. If Kate Baxter can build on the positives and avoid some of the issues then I think I could really fall in love with this series so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed when I pick up a copy of The Warrior Vampire.

Source: Received from Headline Eternal in exchange for an honest review

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Sunday 30 August 2015

Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky Chambers

Somewhere within our crowded sky, Rosemary Harper has joined the crew of the Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that's seen better days. Rosemary is looking for a small, quiet spot to call home with adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past. She believes she has found this on the Wayfarer.

The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful - exactly what Rosemary wants. That is until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet.

The job will earn them enough money to live comfortably for years . . . if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.

It soon becomes clear Rosemary isn't the only person on board with secrets to hide. and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of its eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

Visit Becky Chambers' website for more information

Reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a bit like diving into a series of a show like Star Trek or Firefly and I enjoyed every minute of it. The story is very character driven so the plot can be a little slow in places but I was having so much fun getting to know everyone and learning about the different alien cultures they come across along the way that this really didn't bother me. Most of the action is towards the end of the story though as they get closer to their destination and that's when I was completely on the edge of my seat waiting to see how things would turn out.

This is the story of the Wayfarer, a small ship that tunnels wormholes through the galaxy to make long distance space travel much easier. Their latest job has the potential to make the crew rich but the journey will be long and tedious and they're flying into a war zone so the potential dangers are high. The Wayfarer's crew is small and relatively tight nit, but even the closest friends can start to wear on each other after spending a long time trapped together in a relatively small space. There are nine members of crew who come from a variety of backgrounds spanning across both human and alien races. They even have an AI on board who is just as sentient as the rest of the crew.

Rosemary, the newest human crew member and the ship's clerk, is looking to escape from her past and just wants to get as far away from her home on Mars as possible. Captain Ashby is also human but he was born in space and just loves to travel, his ship is everything to him and he cares deeply about his crew. Pilot Sissex comes from a lizard like alien race who have very different customs to our own while Dr Chef, another alien, wants to live in peace away from his war torn home world. The two ships engineers, Kizzy and Jenks, are both a little on the crazy side and fight like brother and sister while AI Lovey watches over the ship and her friends to protect them from danger. The final members of the crew are navigator Ohan, a complicated symbiotic pairing with a very different outlook on the world, and algaeist Corbin who is in charge of fuel production.

Each of the characters get to tell part of the story which really allows us to get to know them all, they are all unique but sometimes flawed individuals with their own quirks and interests and I really grew to love them. The interactions between the various crew members were fantastic and I enjoyed seeing how various relationships changed throughout the course of the story. The universe Becky Chambers has created is fully fleshed out and full of intricate details, she has some brilliant settings and we get to meet a lot of interesting alien races along the way. Each species introduced has it's own customs and eccentricities that really helped bring them to life. Although The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet works perfectly as a stand alone story I can't help hoping that we'll get a chance to meet up with the Wayfarer again to join the crew on another adventure.

Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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Saturday 29 August 2015

Review: Mechanica - Betsy Cornwell

Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn't want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

Visit Betsy Cornwell's website for more information

I took one look at the stunning cover of Mechanica and knew I wanted to read it and that was before I discovered it was a steampunk retelling of Cinderella. Talk about a book that was made for me! I've seen lots of people commenting that this sounds similar to Cinder by Marissa Meyer so I wanted to clarify that apart from the fact that they're both based on Cinderella these books couldn't be more different.

Nicolette grew up watching her mother creating fascinating mechanical creatures and useful gadgets and she always dreamed of becoming an inventor too but after her mother's death her father had their workshop destroyed. Now, after losing her father too, Nicolette spends her life running around after her stepmother and stepsisters, she is pretty much a servant in her own home but she doesn't have anywhere else to go so she's stuck there until she can find a way to escape. Then on her sixteenth birthday she receives a mysterious letter from her mother and discovers a secret workshop hidden in the basement. Nicolette finally has access to her tools and she finds unexpected friends when she realises some of her mothers mechanical creatures have survived. With the help of her new friends Nicolette's life gradually starts to get easier as she creates mechanical tools to take over her day to day tasks allowing her time to work on new inventions.

When it is announced that the royal family is holding a ball in honour of the prince Nicolette is much more interested in the inventor's exposition that will follow, if she can just create something amazing perhaps she will be able to find a sponsor and earn enough money to leave home. Unlike Cinderella Nicolette is determined to save herself, she doesn't need to marry a prince and she would much rather become a famous inventor and earn her own living. I think that was the main thing I loved about her character, she has it tough but rather than sit around complaining about things she sets her sights on a goal and works hard to make her dreams come true. Of course she does have a little help along the way and I enjoyed seeing her make a few friends outside the house but I have to admit my favourite character was the mechanical horse Jules.

Mechanica is beautifully written and very descriptive, it was easy to dive into Nicolette's world and I enjoyed reading the story. The pace was a little slow at times but I was so caught up in it that it didn't really bother me. I think the main issue I had was with the ending, not because of the twist (which I have to admit I guessed well before the end) but because of the way one of her new friends acted. I was pleased with how Nicolette handled things but I was disappointed with the way her friends reacted to the situation and it just left the ending feeling a little bit flat. This was still a fun read though and I'll definitely keep an eye out for more from Betsy Cornwell in the future.

Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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Friday 28 August 2015

Review: Magic Shifts - Ilona Andrews

In the latest Kate Daniels novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews, magic is coming and going in waves in post-Shift Atlanta—and each crest leaves danger in its wake . . .

After breaking from life with the Pack, mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate—former Beast Lord Curran Lennart—are adjusting to a very different pace. While they’re thrilled to escape all the infighting, Curran misses the constant challenges of leading the shapeshifters.

So when the Pack offers him its stake in the Mercenary Guild, Curran seizes the opportunity—too bad the Guild wants nothing to do with him and Kate. Luckily, as a veteran merc, Kate can take over any of the Guild’s unfinished jobs in order to bring in money and build their reputation. But what Kate and Curran don’t realize is that the odd jobs they’ve been working are all connected.

An ancient enemy has arisen, and Kate and Curran are the only ones who can stop it—before it takes their city apart piece by piece . . .

The Kate Daniels Series:
A Questionable Client (Short Story in the Magic Graves anthology)
Magic Bites
Magic Burns
Magic Strikes
Magic Mourns (Novella included in the Must Love Hellhounds anthology or available separately as an ebook)
Magic Bleeds
Magic Dreams (Novella included in the Hexed anthology or available separately as an ebook)
Magic Slays
Magic Tests (Short Story included in the An Apple for the Creature anthology)
Magic Gifts (Novella available for a limited time as a free ebook from the authors and included in the print version of Gunmetal Magic)
Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniel's World book 1)
Retribution Clause (Short Story in the Hex Appeal anthology)
Small Magics (Anthology containing previously published stories including A Questionable Client, Magic Tests and Retribution Clause as well as 2 other stories not set in the Kate Daniels world)
Magic Rises
Magic Steals (Novella included in the Night Shift anthology)
Magic Breaks
Magic Shifts
Magic Stars (Novella, Grey Wolf book 1)
Magic Binds
Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant book 1)
Magic Triumphs

Visit Ilona Andrews' website for more information

I think I lost the ability to write a sensible review of anything written by Ilona and Gordon Andrews a long time ago and that goes double when it comes to their Kate Daniels series. I just absolutely adore this world and these characters and will never get enough of them. I have been eagerly waiting for Magic Shifts for a year now, I reread the entire series in the run up to it's release, I dove into the book the moment I got my hands on a copy and I absolutely loved it. I loved it so much that I read it twice within three weeks of the release date, something I hardly ever do.

Kate and Curran are without a doubt my favourite fictional couple and we get to see them on top form here. Things were a little rocky in Magic Rises, they improved in Magic Breaks but in Magic Shifts they are back in full force. They are a couple to be reckoned with, come after one and you have to take them both on because they always, always have each other's backs. I love that they're equals, Curran may have the edge on Kate physically but she's no slouch and with her skill with her sword and her powerful brand of magic she's a powerhouse in her own rights and Curran respects that about her. There may be times that he longs to lock her away from the world to keep her safe but he respects her and her abilities and knows that she can stand on her own two feet so instead he chooses to stand with her so they can fight their enemies together. There are some particularly poignant moments between the two of them in this book and there was definitely more than one point where I had tears in my eyes. I love seeing how far they've come as a couple and they really are stronger than ever now.

After the ending of the last book we knew there would be huge changes in this instalment, Curran and Kate are separating themselves from the pack and it's a complicated process that has a knock on effect on their friends and family. I don't want to say too much about what happens but I am very happy with the way things are currently playing out and I think it's going to be very interesting to see where the couple go from here. As always we get to catch up with some of our favourite side characters, some we don't see as much of as I'd have liked (I missed Derek in particular) but I enjoyed what we do see of them and they never fail to add humour to any situation. Julie really gets a chance to shine and there are some wonderful bonding moments between her and both Kate and Curran. Plus we have the reappearance of both Cuddles and Grendel who never fail to make my day.

One of the things I love about this series is the way the authors are always including new creatures to keep things fresh. I'd hate to spoil things for you so I'm keeping this vague but we get the chance to explore some Arabic mythology this time around and we see the Andrews' twist on some powerful new enemies for Kate. Of course just because they have new people to fight doesn't mean that their biggest threat has left the picture. Roland is still very much on the scene and his motives are still unknown. There are some moments when I'm convinced that he wants to be a proper father to Kate and that he's curious about the idea of having a daughter and family to love but there are other times when I keep expecting him to try and wipe her off the face of the planet and I actually kind of love how ambiguous he is. I honestly have no idea how this series is going to end and it's fantastic that the authors are able to keep me guessing.

Magic Shifts was everything I want from a Kate Daniels book, it was full of action, intrigue and mayhem, there were heartfelt declarations, hilarious conversations, moments of compete and utter anxious terror, interesting twists and a couple of huge hints about major events to come. In short it was perfect! So begins the incredibly long wait for book 9, although I know I'll reread the series at least once between now and then to tide me over.

Source: Purchased

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Thursday 27 August 2015

Review: One - Sarah Crossan

Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.

And their lives are about to change.

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?

But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined . . .

From Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this moving and beautifully crafted novel about identity, sisterhood and love ultimately asks one question: what does it mean to want and have a soulmate?

Visit Sarah Crossan's website for more information

I knew before going in that One was going to break my heart but what I wasn't expecting was how beautiful the story would be. I don't tend to read many verse novels, in fact the last one I read was The Weight of Water, also by this author, three years ago but there is no doubt that this writing style can be extremely powerful when done well. Sarah Crossan definitely has the skill to pull it off and One is now my favourite of her novels.

This is the story of conjoined twins Grace and Tippi, they are joined from the waist down so although they each have two arms they only have one pelvis and two legs between them. Their condition has led to high medical bills which the family struggle to pay and it causes no end of difficulties for the girls when it comes to living their daily lives but the pair are overwhelmingly positive in their outlook. It was great to see them both as individuals and the way they work together as a team, they have an incredibly deep bond with each other and although there are times they wish for privacy most of the time they're just happy to be together.

When the girls start school for the first time it was heartbreaking to see how they were treated by the outside world, the cruel remarks don't just effect the twins though, both their younger sister and their parents are also under a lot of extra pressure. School isn't all bad though and for the first time they have a chance to make friends with people outside the family. Grace and Tippi go through so much but they are always a team, they're best friends as well as sisters and no matter what happens outside they always have each other to turn to.

I'm not going to say anything else about the story because I want readers to be able to enjoy it for themselves. It's being marked by Bloomsbury as "The ONE book to read this summer" and for once I'm completely on board with the marketing hype. If you're looking for something a little different, something that will give you an insight into the really rare condition of conjoined twins but is really all about sisterhood, love and friendship, then you really should pick up a copy of One. It's a beautiful book and it's one that has stuck with me in the weeks since I finished reading it.

Source: Received from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review

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Wednesday 26 August 2015

Review: Escape - Pippa DaCosta

"There’s no quicker way to get yourself killed than trusting someone in the black." ~ Caleb.

Caleb Shepperd knows Fran has her own motives for helping him escape prison, but he’s not about to let a little thing like past betrayal stand in the way of his next paycheck. Until he’s forced to meet with the sexy and psychotic pirate, Adelina Cande. They’ve met before. When he seduced her, cleared out her credit account, and left her for dead in-the-black.

Caleb figures Adelina holds a grudge when she plants a bomb on his ship and demands he steal a fleet freighter for her, that is, if he ever wants to fly again. Get him drunk enough and he’ll try anything once, but this time, he has to balance his own greed, with the needs of a vengeful pirate and the scheming of his dubious second-in-command, Fran. What could possibly go wrong?

In the heart of Chitec headquarters, #1001 enlists an eager young technician to aid in her escape. But it’s not freedom she wants. It’s revenge. The memories of a life that don’t belong to her demand she finishes what she started. She believes she killed Caleb, now she's targeting Chitec CEO Chen Hung, and not even the hopeful technician can dissuade her.

Synthetics don't make mistakes.

She thought she knew the truth.

She was wrong.

The 1000 Revolution:
Falling (Short Story)

Visit Pippa DaCosta's website for more information

After thoroughly enjoying the first book in this series I couldn't wait to dive back into this world and spend more time with Caleb and #1001. The story picks up not long after the last one ended, #1001 has been caught by Chitec and is about to be decommissioned, she believes that she murdered Caleb and although she was only carrying out orders she feels very conflicted about what happened. When a lab technician agrees to help her escape #1001 knows this is her last chance to make her father suffer for what he did to her and she will do whatever it takes to get her revenge.

Meanwhile Caleb has also been captured and he is struggling to survive on an inhospitable prison planet. His second in command, Fran, may have come to his rescue but Caleb knows that she can't be trusted and the deal she made with a pirate family to save him has ended up dumping him out of the frying pan and into the fire.

If you thought these characters made questionable choices in the first instalment you've not seen anything yet, they all have their own agendas and loyalty is a word that most of them don't know the meaning of. Any alliances they make are fleeting and only last until a better offer comes along so no matter what kind of friendships you think they have you can never be quite sure that their bonds will last. It's just so much fun to read about characters who are so morally ambiguous, I may not always agree with their choices but Pippa DaCosta always does a good job of making their decisions believable.

Caleb is a loveable rogue and I just can't resist him. He's not a good guy, in fact he does some truly horrible things, but he does have his own code of honour and he never claims to be something he's not. #1001 is probably my favourite though, she thinks of herself as completely inhuman but from her thoughts and actions it's obvious that deep down inside her human side is still very much in control. She longs for revenge against the people who wronged her but she also craves friendship and wants something more from life.

I really don't want to say too much about this story apart from to warn you to expect the unexpected. Nothing is what it seems and there are plenty of twists to keep you guessing. I have absolutely no idea where the story will go from here but I do know that the next instalment will be jumping to the top of my to read pile the minute I can get my hands on it!

Source: Received from Pippa DaCosta in exchange for an honest review

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Review: Betrayal - Pippa DaCosta

"My name is #1001, and I am not ready to die." I’d only just begun to live.

When Captain Caleb Shepperd is released from prison, all he wants to do is keep his head down and earn a living smuggling illegal cargo through the nine systems. So when a synth stows away on his ship, and brings with her a crap-ton of problems, including guilt-ridden secrets he thought he’d escaped, he’d prefer to toss her out the airlock. The problem is, she’s priceless tech, and he’s fresh out of credit.

#1001 is not meant to exist. Created for a single purpose, she has one simple order: to kill. But not everything is as it seems. Buried deep inside, she remembers... Remembers when she was human. And she remembers what Shepperd did to her. She’s not ready to die, but she is ready to kill.

From the bestselling author of the Veil Series comes an action packed story of love, redemption, and revenge.

Pippa DaCosta captures the grit and realism of her urban fantasy stories and injects it, along with some down-and-dirty passion, into the sci-fi genre.

WARNING: 18+ only. Contains graphic adult content, including sex, drug use, violence, and a plethora of curse words. Not for the easily offended.

The 1000 Revolution:
Falling (Short Story)

Visit Pippa DaCosta's website for more information

There are only 1000 synths in existence, these highly advanced synthetic humans can be purchased the super rich so that their memories and consciousness can be transferred to the synth when they die. But if only 1000 of them were created who is #1001, where did she come from and why is she so different to the others? #1001 wants to live, she's managed to escape captivity and she has a plan but is it a coincidence that it's Caleb's ship that she ends up on? Caleb makes a living smuggling cargo but a stowaway synth is too hot for him and he knows he'll be in all kinds of trouble if he's caught. All he wants to do is get rid of her fast and if he can make some money while he's at it then he'll be happy to take the bonus. What Caleb doesn't realise is that he and #1001 have history and now it's high time to pay for the mistakes of his past.

Oh what a fun read Girl From Above: Betrayal is and if you like your characters morally ambiguous you are going to love Caleb and his crew. None of these characters are what you'd call good guys, they're all willing to bend the rules if it benefits them and they're all out for themselves above anyone else even if that means betraying each other. Caleb is the worst of the lot but somehow I found myself loving him anyway. As soon as I picked this up I started getting Firefly vibes and I have to admit picturing Caleb as Captain Malcolm definitely didn't hurt my enjoyment of the story.

This world is dark, the characters are twisted and I was completely hooked. The blurb contains the following warning "Contains graphic adult content, including sex, drug use, violence, and a plethora of curse words. Not for the easily offended." and I definitely stand by that, it isn't going to be the right book for everyone but if you're like me that warning will just make you want to read it even more. I loved this story and can't wait to dive into the next instalment.

Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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Tuesday 25 August 2015

Review: Anything but Broken - Joelle Knox

After five years, tragedy brings Hannah Casey back to Hurricane Creek to bury what’s left of her family. She’s flunking out of college, haunted by scandal, and the only person who cares is Sean Whitlow, an irresistible bad boy with a soft spot for her. The problem? He’s her dead sister’s ex.

Sean doesn’t bleed red, he bleeds motor oil. During the week, he struggles to turn his auto repair shop into a profitable business. But when Saturday night rolls around, he’s the reigning stock-car king of the local race track. He doesn’t know how to lose–or how to walk away and leave Hannah alone with her grief.

Between her grades and her wealthy family’s dark secrets, Hannah’s barely holding her life together. And the last thing Sean needs is to get tangled up with another Casey girl. As the attraction between them spins out of control, they’ll either find a love with no limits–or go up in flames.

Hurricane Creek Series:
Anything but Broken
Anything but Perfect (2016)
Antyhign but Tempted (2016)

Visit Joelle Knox's website for more information.

Anything but Broken is the first book in the new Hurricane Creek series by Joelle Knox, AKA writing duo Bree and Donna who you may already know under one of their other pen names: Moira Rogers or Kit Rocha. I can understand why these authors choose to write under several names because each of their personas have a very distinctive voice and writing style, I'm a huge fan of everything that they write but not all of their books will appeal to everyone and it's good to have an easy way to tell what you're signing up for before you buy one of their books. Anything but Broken is like nothing they've done before but it still has innate their flare for story telling and for creating characters you'll come to care about.

Hannah hasn't returned to her home town since the death of her sister five years ago but now another tragedy has brought her back, this time a car crash that killed her father outright and left her mother in a coma. Her life is falling apart around her and Hannah doesn't even know how to start picking up the pieces. Sean used to date Hannah's sister and when he realises how alone Hannah is he sets out to take care of her. The attraction between them is intense but Sean is more interested in helping Hannah put her life back together and he doesn't want to rush her into anything. The connection between them is undeniable but they both have plenty of issues to work through if they are going to have any chance at making a relationship work.

Too often I find that NA romances revolve around guys who are players which leads to drama with exes or a lot bitchiness amongst the female characters and I'm sick of reading them so it's nice to find something that breaks the mould. The intensity in this story comes from the character's, from their past experiences and their way of looking at life, so there is actually very little in the way of conflict caused by the people around them. Hannah has been through a lot, her father was an alcoholic and her mother didn't deal with things very well so her childhood wasn't great. Her sister suffered with bipolar disorder but was never given the help she desperately needed because of the way her mother reacted and Hannah has spent years blaming herself for her sister's death and struggling to come to terms with what happened. She felt ostracised by her family and she never got the chance to make peace with them or get answers to the many questions she had. It's had a huge impact on her and now she's struggling to come to terms with everything and find a way to move forward.

Sean was her first crush but as her big sister's boyfriend he was completely off limits, of course five years later everything has changed. She's still just as attracted to him as ever but it looks like he might return the attraction and she's not quite sure what to do with that, especially considering the family secrets she is still keeping from him. I absolutely loved Sean, he was the perfect blend of protective, caring lover and sexy, slightly dangerous bad boy. He was an everyday guy who worked hard to keep his garage running by day and who spent his evenings and weekends as a race car driver. I've never really thought of stock-car racing as particularly sexy but Sean convinced me and I'm definitely looking forward to more of that side of things as the series continues. What I loved most about Sean was his patience and the way he looked out for Hannah, he can see just how broken she is but that doesn't scare him off and he works hard to help her build her confidence and get her life back on track.

Alongside the main couple we also have a great cast of secondary characters, I loved Sean's family and the way they took Hannah into the fold was really nice to see. There is a lot of fun banter between the siblings but they all care deeply about each other and I hope we get to see more of them all as the series continues. Hannah gets the chance to reconnect with her childhood friend Evie and I really loved seeing a strong and supportive female friendship between them, there is no petty jealousy, you just have two young women who care about each other and are there to support each other through the hard times. My favourite secondary character was Sean's friend Gibb though, in the beginning he is very against Sean's relationship with Hannah and I have to admit I was a little wary of his character but he really grew on me. Gibb obviously didn't want to see his friend get hurt and was trying to protect Sean and I could respect him for that but what I liked about him most was his ability to realise when he was in the wrong and the way he stepped up for Hannah to help her deal with something when he was in a unique position to offer her advice. Once we get to know him it becomes obvious that he's a really caring guy and I was incredibly excited to find out he's the hero of the next book.

I was already a huge fan of this writing duo but I'm definitely going to be adding their new Joelle Knox pen name to my list of auto-buy authors. I have a feeling that this is going to turn into one of my favourite NA series and it's definitely one I'll be recommending to anyone who likes to read about realistic, flawed characters who are dealing with tough emotional issues and who find the strength to rebuild their lives.

Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
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Monday 24 August 2015

Cover Reveal: Say You're Mine - Diane Alberts (+ Giveaway)

I'm a massive fan of Diane Alberts' contemporary romances so I'm excited to be taking part in the cover reveal for her upcoming novel, Say You're Mine, which is being released by Entangled Publishing in December.

About the book:

She’s a challenge he can’t afford to lose . . .

Navy SEAL Steven Thomas has only ever been able to count on three things: waking up in the morning, going to sleep sometime during the night, and Lauren Brixton. She’s been his best friend since grade school, and what they have is the only relationship he’s managed not to ruin.

Until one drunken night puts that all in jeopardy.

Lauren’s watched Steven flit from one-night stand to one-night stand, seemingly not interested in something more. So when the long-ignored attraction between the two of them blows up in their faces, she does the only thing she can—she pretends she doesn’t want him. But all’s fair in love and war, and Steven’s not about to lose the only person in his life who matters . . .

Author Bio:

Diane Alberts is a USA TODAY bestselling Contemporary Romance author with Entangled Publishing. Under the name Jen McLaughlin, she also writes New York Times, USA TODAY, and Wall Street Journal bestselling books with Penguin Random House. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestselling lists. Diane is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.

Diane has always been a dreamer with a vivid imagination, but it wasn’t until 2011 that she put her pen where her brain was, and became a published author. Since receiving her first contract offer, she has yet to stop writing. Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, and four cats. Her goal is to write so many fantastic stories that even a non-romance reader will know her name.

Facebook Fan Page:


To celebrate the upcoming release of Say You're Mine Diane Alberts is giving away ebook copies of Temporarily Yours and Stealing His Heart, two previous books in the Shillings Agency series. You can enter using the rafflecopter form below and the winner will be contacted directly by the author or her assistant in order to arrange sending out the prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday 23 August 2015

Review: 30 Days - Christine d'Abo

For years, Alyssa has been going to bed with a memory. Is she ready to wake up with a fantasy?

Some people wait their whole lives to find their soul mate, but not Alyssa Barrow. She met Rob at nineteen, and they were set to live happily ever after—until he became ill. In his final days, Rob urged his beautiful, young wife not to abandon happiness—or pleasure. He even left her a special gift, a sexy game plan to help her move on: Thirty cards with instructions for thirty days of passion. You’ll know when the time is right, he’d said. Now it’s two years later, and when Alyssa meets her hot new neighbor, Harrison Kemp, she begins to think the right time is right now . . .

From his sculpted thighs to his devilish grin, Harrison is the kind of man women want. Before she can lose her nerve, Alyssa tells Harrison about her long-ignored cards…and asks him to help her fulfill them. It’s a favor he’s more than happy to, um, perform. With his skillful touch, and the hot press of his lips against her skin, Alyssa finds herself re-awakening to life—and a host of other sensations. But what began as not-so-innocent fun soon grows into true intimacy, and Alyssa realizes she’s opening herself up not just to sex . . . but to love. When it comes to a future with Harrison, what’s really in the cards?

Saucy, heartwarming, and insightful, 30 Days explores the agony—and the ecstasy—of starting over, and how a little encouragement, and a little courage, can go a long way . . .

Visit Shiloh Walker's website for more information

Alyssa already had what she thought would be her happily ever after, she married her first love and they were incredibly happy together until her husband, Rob, became ill. Knowing he was dying Rob made Alyssa promise that when she was ready she would move on and find happiness with someone else. Alyssa was sure she would never be able to get past Rob's death but now two years on she is finally starting to feel like she could move on with her life, she'll never forget Rob but she doesn't want to be alone forever either. Rob left Alyssa a letter for when she was ready and when she discovers it contains 30 cards with sexy instructions to help build her confidence she just needs to find someone to test them out with. Then Harrison moves into her apartment complex on a short term lease and she realises he's perfect, not only is he completely gorgeous but he'll be gone in three months so she doesn't have to risk getting her heart involved in a rebound relationship.

30 Days was a beautiful, heartfelt story that shows it is possible to move on with your life even after suffering the most terrible tragedy. It was obvious how much Alyssa had loved Rob and how hard she found even the thought of moving on but at the same time she deserved to find happiness again and I enjoyed seeing her come out of her shell both emotionally and sexually. She was obviously very young and inexperienced when she met Rob and it seemed like even though they were best friends and very compatible they never had enough time to fully explore each other sexually. Rob wanted Alyssa to be able to push her boundaries and find out what she really enjoys and the cards were his way of helping her move on. At first I thought it would be a bit weird having Rob's presence in her current relationship in the form of the cards but it was actually handled really well and I think Alyssa found Rob's continued support rather comforting.

Harrison was a great character too, he was obviously more than happy to let Alyssa experiment on him and I enjoyed the fun banter between the couple. He had his own secrets and reasons for keeping Alyssa at arms length and I would really have loved to be able to get inside his head and see exactly why he reacted the way he did sometimes. I think that would have helped me connect with them as a couple even more but even without it I still thought they fit well together and I believed that they would make a good couple. Christine d'Abo always writes great sex scenes and she didn't disappoint me here, 30 Days was a sweet and emotional story but it was also funny and hot as hell. The cards certainly gave me a few ideas that I'd like to try out in the future!

Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
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Review: Seduced in Secret - Shiloh Walker

Best laid plans…are meant to be broken.

Life laid out, Tessa had everything set. Engaged to marry the perfect man, a rich, great-looking doctor, she was content with her life, or so she thought. Then the gift arrived. Delivered to her office on Valentine’s Day, it was filled with handcuffs, sexy little toys and a suggestive little card.

It wasn’t from her fiancé, either.

When the emails and the phone started coming, she should have been able to brush them off, except the man said something that left her uneasy…and not because he scared her, but because he was right. Your fiancé will never make you happy, Tessa.

Confused, she starts looking at her fiancé, her life…and other things…in a whole new light. One of the things she finds herself considering is her best friend and neighbor, Caleb. He’s always been there. Even when he spent years in the Navy, Caleb was the one she could count on and now isn’t any different. He’s there to listen when she needs an ear and he’s got nice, strong shoulders when she needs one to lean on.

It doesn’t her long to realize that one thing is certain—her fiancé can’t make her happy. But now she doesn’t know whether she wants to take a chance on her sexy secret admirer…or Caleb, the man who’s been there waiting for her all along.

It includes a short bonus story called Don't Walk Away.

Seduced in Secret was previously published as Whipped Cream and Handcuffs. It has been extensively rewritten, revised and expanded.

Visit Shiloh Walker's website for more information

Seduced in Secret was originally published with the title Whipped Cream and Handcuffs but the story has been revised and expanded before being published again with a new name. Having never read the original version I can't compare the two so this review is purely for the new version of the story.

Tessa's life is going completely to plan, she likes her job, she loves her home and she's engaged to the perfect man. Well, he's the perfect man on paper anyway even if he is a little over controlling. Everything is great until she starts receiving messages and gifts from a secret admirer and they make her start to think about all the things she is missing out on. She quickly realises that man sending the messages is right - her fiancé will never make her happy - but does she take a chance on meeting up with a stranger or should she risk action on the attraction she feels for her best friend Caleb, the one man who has always been there for her?

I really love the friends to lovers trope so I knew from the blurb that I was going to enjoy Seduced in Secret. Caleb has had feelings for Tessa for as long as he can remember but she placed him in the friend box a long time ago and he's never managed to break out of it. He's spent years working overseas in the Navy but Tessa has always been the woman he dreamed of coming home to and now that he's been medically retired he is determined to make his move. It was easy to fall for Caleb, he was such a sweetheart and he obviously knows everything there is to know about Tessa and what she needs to be happy. I loved seeing the strong bond of friendship between them as well as the obvious physical attraction, they make a really cute couple and it was easy to root for them. The secret Caleb was keeping was very amusing although I didn't blame Tessa for being a bit upset when she realised what was going on. My only problem was that the story ended a bit too abruptly, I think it would have been even better if it had been extended by a couple more chapters.

This book also includes a bonus short story called Don't Walk Away, this was a second chance love story between a couple with a complicated history. It was a nice bonus but was a bit too short for me to really connect with either of the characters. I would have much preferred to skip this for an extra couple of chapters of Seduced in Secret.

Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
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Saturday 22 August 2015

Review: Hard to Come By - Laura Kaye

Five dishonored soldiers.
Former Special Forces.
One last mission.
These are the men of Hard Ink.

Derek DiMarzio would do anything for the members of his disgraced Special Forces team - sacrifice his body, help a former teammate with a covert operation to restore their honor, and even go behind enemy lines. He just never expected to want the beautiful woman he found there.

When a sexy stranger asks questions about her brother, Emilie Garza is torn between loyalty to the sibling she once idolized and fear of the war-changed man he's become. Derek's easy smile and quiet strength tempt Emilie to open up, igniting their desire and leading Derek to crave a woman he shouldn't trust.

As the team's investigation reveals how powerful their enemies are, Derek and Emilie must prove where their loyalties lie before hearts are broken and lives are lost. Because love is too hard to come by to let it slip away . . .

Hard Ink Series:
Hard as It Gets
Hard as You Can
Hard to Hold on to (Novella)
Hard to Come By
Hard to Be Good (Novella)
Hard to Let Go
Hard as Steel (Novella) (This is a Raven Riders MC crossover novella)
Hard Ever After (Novella)
Hard to Serve (Novella) (This is a Blasphemy crossover novella)

Raven Riders MC Series:
(This is a spin off from the Hard Ink Series)
Hard as Steel (Novella) (This is a Hard Ink crossover novella)
Ride Hard
Ride Rough
Ride Wild
Ride Dirty (Novella)

Blasphemy Series:
(This is a spin off from the Hard Ink Series)
Hard to Serve (Novella) (This is a Hard Ink crossover novella)
Bound to Submit
Mastering Her Senses
Eyes on You (Novella)
Theirs to Take (Crossover with Reveal Me by Jennifer Probst)
On His Knees
Switching for Her (April 2018)

Visit Laura Kaye's website for more information

I knew I was going to love Derek from the moment we met him in the first book, he is without a doubt a hero, someone who sacrificed a lot to protect his best friend and fellow Special Forces team member and who has no regrets about any of it. Derek has a great sense of humour but more than anything I love his strength of character and the way he is so loyal to his team. He's the kind of guy that any woman would be lucky to meet and it doesn't take Emilie long to realise how great he is. The connection between them is fairly quick but in spite of that I didn't have a problem with things feeling rushed, they're in the middle of a high pressure situation and that is bound to help fan the flames between them.

Emilie is in a really difficult situation, her brother has always been the one person she can rely on to protect her but the man who came home from the war isn't the boy she remembers. He is now secretive, paranoid and jumpy, Emilie can tell he's showing signs of PTSD and she's terrified he might be a danger to himself or others. For the first time in her life she's actually scared of her brother and she's not really sure where to turn to. I have to say I was really pleased with the way Emilie handled things, she doesn't bury her head under the sand and hope that the problem will go away but instead she chooses to fight things face on and make the difficult decisions that are needed. She meets Derek because he is investigating her brother and although it takes time for her to open up to him once he has earned her trust she puts her faith in the Hard Ink team to protect her.

One of my favourite things about this series is the bond between the Hard Ink guys, the banter between them is so much fun to read and I thoroughly enjoy the way that the friendship they share has increased throughout the series as they work to clear their names. Derek has had a lot to deal with and there are times he feels a burden to the team because of his physical injuries but really he's just as capable now as he ever was and the rest of the guys help him to see that. There may be things he can't do now but they don't stop him in the long run and he deserves the utmost respect for that. I don't think it's easy to write about a hero who has suffered from an amputation but Laura Kaye did a fantastic job of it, she takes a difficult subject and handles it sensitively but with her trademark humour too.

This series is getting better and better with every book, the guys are getting closer to unravelling the mystery of what happened to them and they make some very important discoveries in this book. The story is full of heart stopping action, a fantastic romance and brilliant friendships. If you're a fan of romantic suspense you're going to love these books but I really would recommend reading the series in order and starting with Hard as It Gets. I can't wait to find out what happens next!

Source: Received from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday 21 August 2015

Review: Vicious - V.E. Schwab

A brand new hardback edition of V.E. Schwab's critically acclaimed novel.

New cover art
In-universe short story Warm Up
A teaser for the forthcoming sequel Vengeance
Specially designed end papers - unique to this edition
Presented with a ribbon marker

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in one another. A shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death-experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. They become EOs, ExtraOrdinaries, leaving a body in their wake and turning on each other.

Ten years later Victor has escaped from prison and is determined to get his revenge on the man who put him there, aided by a young girl with the ability to raise the dead. Eli has spent the years hunting down and killing every EO he can find, convinced that they are a crime against God, all except his sidekick, a woman whose power is persuasion and whom he cannot defy. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the arch-nemeses have set a course for revenge but who will be left alive at the end?

Villains Series:
Warm Up (free prequel short story can be read online here)

Visit V.E. Schwab's website for more information

After really enjoying A Darker Shade of Magic I was really excited to get my hands on a copy of Vicious to see what else V.E. Schwab was capable of. The two stories couldn't be more different but they both show what a talented writer she is and I thoroughly enjoyed her take on superheroes, or perhaps I should say anti-heroes because there aren't really any good guys here!

The story is told in two distinct narratives, you have flashbacks ten years into the past where we see Victor and Eli meeting a university, they are close friends and very competitive in their studies so when Eli comes up with the idea to study EOs (ExtraOrdianry people with superpowers) for his thesis Victor automatically wants to join in and take things one step further. The boys run dangerous experiments trying to turn themselves into EOs and the resulting tragedy sees Victor put in prison for murder. In the current timeline Victor has broken out of prison along with his cell mate Mitch and he's determined to track down Eli and make him pay for betraying him. It takes a while for us to uncover exactly what went down between them but it is clear from the beginning that they have both become very dangerous men who will stop at nothing to further their causes.

I already mentioned that this is a story of anti-heroes but I find it kind of hard to think of Victor as anything other than a slightly less evil villain. Victor and Eli are both extreme and they're both willing to torture and kill without batting an eye so it's hard to decide which side you should be rooting for. We get to see a more human side of Victor through the eyes of Mitch and Sydney, a young girl he rescues along the way, but from their point of view Victor can't be called a good man, he's just the lesser of two evils. I loved how ambiguous these characters are though, you can never quite be sure what Victor is capable of so it's hard to trust his motives long term and that is one of the things that makes him quite so fascinating.

This is a dark world, one where some people have amazing abilities but they rarely use them for good. I was completely hooked from the beginning and I loved the masterful way V.E. Schwab wove the two different time lines together in a way that kept you guessing right through to the end. There were a couple of incredibly well thought out twists and I was impressed that she managed to get me rooting for a psychopath. I would love to read more stories set in this world so I hope the author decides to revisit it at some point in the future.

Update October 2018:
I recently purchased the new Collectors Edition hardback of Vicious so I thought I'd post a couple of pictures so you can see just how gorgeous it is! This edition also includes the short story, Warm Up, that was only previously available on the website.

I love the gold foiling on the naked hardback!

and just look at those endpapers!

Source: Received from Titan Books in exchange for an honest review

Other reviews of this book:
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Original UK Paperback
Hardback (Collectors Edition) / Paperback / Kindle:

Quick Review: Warm Up - V. E. Schwab

It’s been 297 days since David died–and came back.

He may have survived the avalanche, but the aftermath has been far worse. His wife moved out, taking his son with her, and a devastated David hasn’t left his house since, terrified of the mysterious new power that followed him home from the ill-fated expedition.

After months in seclusion, David’s ready for a fresh start, and ventures out, determined to keep his power in check. But David’s power isn’t the one he needs to worry about.

Villains Series:
Warm Up (free prequel short story can be read online here)

Visit V.E. Schwab's website for more information

Quick Review:
It's been 297 days since David died and came back to life, 294 days since his wife left him and 293 days since he left his house thanks to the scary new ability his near death experience seems to have given him.

Warm Up is a short story set in the same world as V.E. Schwab's that can be read for free on the Tor website. It's a great little intro to a dark world where some people have superhero type powers and have to learn how to control them. One of the main characters from Vicious makes an appearance towards the end of the story and it definitely left me looking forward to reading the full length novel.

If you're undecided on whether you want to read Vicious or if you just want to try out V.E. Schwab's writing style then this is a great place to start. It's very well written and I was totally invested in David's story from the beginning, my only complaint was that I wanted the story to be longer!

Source: Read for free on the Tor website here.

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Wednesday 19 August 2015

Review: The Thing About Wolves - Leigh Evans

Being put in charge of a werewolf pack might be someone's dream, but it's Hedi's nightmare. Hints that it's not working out include the Creemore wolves wanting her blood. And the Council of Weres wanting her dead . . .

Then all Hedi's wishes are granted. Robson Trowbridge, pack leader, returns - and her love isn't alone. He's found her missing twin brother Lexi among the fae. With this double helping of wonderful, things should be all sunshine and flowers, but the fae lands have changed both men. Hedi's brother is dying of an addiction and her relationship with Robson may not survive the forces pushing them apart. To combat the darkness ahead, Hedi must face her dangerous were/fae heritage - and accept the consequences.

The Mystwalker Series:
The Trouble with Fate
The Thing about Wolves (Published as The Thing About Weres in the US)
The Problem with Promises
The Danger of Destiny

Visit Leigh Evans's website for more information.

The Thing About Wolves (published as The Thing About Weres in the US) picks up Hedi's story about six months on from the ending of The Trouble With Fate. Since sending Trowbridge through the portal to the fae realm to save his life Hedi has been desperately trying to find a way to bring him home but so far all of her attempts have been unsuccessful. Even worse she now seems to have gained control of a werewolf pack since her mate is currently unavailable. The wolves aren't happy with her leadership, they don't trust her fae side and the fact that she can't change into a wolf isn't helping matters. Things come to a head when the Council of Weres get involved and Hedi suddenly finds herself surrounded by enemies with no way to save herself or her few allies.

Thankfully Trowbridge returns at just the right moment but he's a very different man to the one who left, while only 6 months have passed in the human realm Trowbridge has been in the fae realm for ten years and it's not been an easy life. He's changed almost beyond recognition and Hedi isn't quite sure what to make of the new version, especially since he seems to be keeping major secrets from her and it looks like he may have found it easier to move on than she did. One thing she's extremely thankful for is that he didn't return home alone and has in fact brought her long lost twin brother Lexi with him. For years Hedi believed that Lexi was probably dead so she's thrilled to have him back in her life but he's also a very different man to the boy she remembers. Lexi has been to hell and back and even now he's back in the human world he is having trouble adjusting, it doesn't help that he has come home addicted to a fae substance that Hedi doesn't have access to and now she's facing losing her brother all over again.

I remember enjoying The Trouble With Fate so I had high hopes for The Thing About Wolves but it was even better than I'd hoped for. Hedi has come a long way and she's starting to learn much more about her Mystwalker abilities which was really interesting to see. She missed Trowbridge more than anything when he was gone so it's painful for her to see him so different now he's returned, especially since he seems to be keeping her at arm's length and he has brought a new wolf with him. She is heartbroken at even the thought of him cheating on her but no matter how bad things look nothing is quite as it seems. I was actually feeling incredibly cross with Trowbridge at one point so I was incredibly relieved when we finally started to get an explanation into his behaviour. I don't really want to say too much more about the story but it definitely left me eager to read the remaining two books and I'm incredibly glad that I don't have to wait for either of them to be published!

Source: Received from Tor in exchange for an honest review

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