Rage and Ruin – Katie Roman Review

Bridget O’Malley’s temper has always been trouble. It’s made her the black sheep of the family, cost her customers at her bar, and ruined relationships, but it has never put her life in danger. That is until she tries to rescue her cousin from a demon summoning cult. In picking a fight with one of Chicago’s most powerful witches, Bridget finds her bar being picketed, her witch’s license suspended, and demons on her trail. Annoyed and afraid Bridget uses the only weapon at her disposal to get her life back to normal: her temper.

Why did I pick this up?: Urban fantasy is my jam, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Good points: Interesting premise and world-building. It’s clear she’s done a lot of work on this novel and it shows. I also really like the idea of a heroine with faults – her temper – rather than the usual female main characters we get that are perfect.

Quibbles: I just… didn’t notice anything special. I really wanted to, but it didn’t really hook me. I wish I could have connected to the characters a little more, or at least found something within the plot that I just HAD to know more about. But honestly, I could have taken it or left it, and that’s a shame when an author has done such hard work to produce a book.

Overview (TL;DR): A novel with a lot of work put into it, but that didn’t manage to hook me.

-K Hart

The Wishing Heart – J. C. Welker Review

With a book in her bag and a switchblade in her pocket, Rebel’s been thieving her way through life while hoping for a cure to fix her ailing heart.

But when the bejeweled vase she just tried to hawk turns out to be a jinni’s vessel, Rebel gets lost to her world and dragged within another. Now every magical being in the city wants the vase for himself.

Thrust into a game of cat and mouse in a world she never knew existed, Rebel must use her uncanny skills to find a way to free Anjeline the Wishmaker.

But wishes have consequences. And contracts. Anjeline’s freedom could unravel a love like Rebel has never known, or it could come at the cost of Rebel’s heart…

Why did I pick this up?: Honestly? I heard the word ‘jinni’ and I was in. Thieves, magic, jinni stuff… All immediate pick-ups for me. A definite interest.

Good points: It did all of what I expected and more. F/F relationship? YES PLEASE. It was so cute, too. At times it got a little trope-y, but that was all part of its charm. Magical creatures, sirens, werewolves, magicians, all looking for this jinni and the vase some girl thief picked up by accident. It read a little like a modern fairytale – perfect.

Quibbles: Like I said above, sometimes it got a little trope-y. I also lost the plot of it a couple of times and missed out on the smaller details. But other than that, a very good read with a very sweet story.

Overview (TL;DR): Cute, with a properly explored f/f relationship, modern fairytale vibes from this book. Worth a read.

-K Hart

Spellslinger – Sebastien de Castell Review

“There are three things that earn you a man’s name among the Jan’Tep. The first is to demonstrate the strength to defend your family. The second is to prove you can perform the high magic that defines our people. The third is surviving your fourteenth year. I was a few weeks shy of my birthday when I learned that I wouldn’t be doing any of those things.”

Kellen’s dreams of becoming a powerful mage like his father are shattered after a failed magical duel results in the complete loss of his abilities. When other young mages begin to suffer the same fate, Kellen is accused of unleashing a magical curse on his own clan and is forced to flee with the help of a mysterious foreign woman who may in fact be a spy in service to an enemy country. Unsure of who to trust, Kellen struggles to learn how to survive in a dangerous world without his magic even as he seeks out the true source of the curse. But when Kellen uncovers a conspiracy hatched by members of his own clan seeking to take power, he races back to his city in a desperate bid to outwit the mages arrayed against him before they can destroy his family.

Why did I pick this up?: First thing, I loved the cover. I have a thing about playing cards – I absolutely love them. Don’t know why, don’t know how, but I just bought six decks myself because they were pretty. So the cover, and the title, drew me in straight away. I wanted to know more about any story that has playing cards in it.

Good points: Where do I start? I loved this. I really did. Ferius I adored. I want to be her. She talks smart, and she has CARDS, what more could you want? I loved how Kellen developed through the story, too, as he understood more about his people and the things that had happened. Also, squirrel cats? Annoyed, grouchy squirrel cats? Why not? They’re not supposed to be, but they still sound sort of cute to me. This was also so much darker than I expected it to be, and I love that. Dark is my thing. The magic of the Jan’Tep was fascinating, and I’d love to learn more. All in all, I don’t really have much bad to say about this at all. I loved almost everything. Which brings me to…

Quibbles: I’m not sure what to say here. I’m honestly not. I expected to dislike this story as it was a chance pick, but I utterly loved it and plan on getting my hands on a print copy asap to add to my shelves.

Overview (TL;DR): It’s gained an honourary place on my shelves!

-K Hart

Blood and Ink – Holly Evans Review

It turns out that saving the day comes at a cost. In this case, my home in Wildrun. Oh, and my freedom.

Keirn called in a few favours with his friend, Fein. In return for a new life and some help hiding the fact that I’m an ink magician, we belong to the elf that runs half of Prague. Some rumours say he runs half the continent.

There’s an art thief in town, and Fein’s decided it’s my job to find and stop them. I didn’t dare point out that I’m a tattoo magician, not a detective.

The real problem is, I’m terrified that this is a slippery slope, and I don’t like where it’s going.

Why did I pick this up?: This is the second book in Holly Evans’ Ink Born series, which I was lucky enough to get an ARC of from the author after reading and loving the first.

Good points: Keirn and Dacian = perfect. Tyn is adorable. Vyx is incredible and awesome and I wish I was more like her. Characterisation throughout this book is REALLY good. You really get into and feel for each different character as you read on. I read this book in the space of two days, happily between working on my own writing as a break, and it was the best break I could hope for. Urban fantasy at its best! It’s also set in gorgeous Prague, which is just perfect!

Quibbles: None that I can think of, really. Sometimes the plot moves very fast and I ran to keep up, but I sort of LIKED that.

Overall (TL;DR): Read it. Well, read the first one first. But still… definitely a great sequel.

I got an interview with Holly Evans, author of ‘Stolen Ink’!

“Who’s our first client?”

He curled his lip and looked up from his sketchbook. “Some prissy boy in an expensive suit.”

I read Stolen Ink a while ago, and absolutely LOVED it, and I’ve been lucky enough to get an interview with the author, Holly Evans. If you haven’t already, read this book. There will be links at the bottom of the page to the author’s Amazon page and Twitter for anyone interested, and you really should be. I reviewed ‘Stolen Ink’ here. I’m also now reading an ARC of the second book in this series, Blood and Ink, which is shaping up to be as good as the first! (review coming soon). Holly Evans has also written a series called Infernal Hunt, which is on my to-read list! So, without further ado…

1) What influenced and inspired you to write your novels?
Stolen Ink really came from my love of tattoos. I think they’re an incredible art form. I have two at the moment but I have plans for four more.
There are so many subconscious influences and inspirations buried in there. My fae come from the Celtic and Norse mythology, there are twists of course, but I adore the predatory tricksters that they had there. None of the fluffy Disney stuff. The really tight friendship between Dacian and Keirn (also the one between Evie and Elise in the Infernal Hunt books) comes from my friendship with my bestfriend. We’ve been through thick and thin, we’d do anything for each other. The city and setting comes mostly from Prague as I was living there when I wrote the IH books and Stolen Ink. It’s such a gorgeous, multi-faceted city. There are so many layers to explore, it’s hard not be inspired there.
I think one of the big things that influenced the books was the fact that I see a lot of people saying they don’t see enough platonic relationships in books. There’s so much focus on rivalry and romance. I wanted to show the strong familial and friendship bonds. That came through more in the IH books, but there’s plenty of time with Dacian and co. yet.

2) Most writers put themselves into their characters, to an extent. Out of your own characters, were there any in particular that you felt you identify with more than others? Were there any that you found yourself particularly liking or disliking as you wrote them?
I really love Vyx. She’s such a fire-cracker! She’s strong, self-assured, and yet still very definitely feminine. She loves her pretty dresses, she has quite a strong maternal instinct (as can be seen in her cooking for the hopeless boys), but she’ll still stare down an alpha wolf shifter. She isn’t the combat model so to speak, but that doesn’t take away any of her strength or fire, if anything it adds to it. And she doesn’t compensate for her lack of combat effectiveness with feminine wiles or overt sexuality because she’s very much asexual. She’s so much fun to write. Don’t get me wrong, I love kick-ass woman, Evie and co were fantastic to write, and my favourite women in fiction are all kick-ass, but Vyx is wonderful. She makes me smile so much.
As to those that I put myself into… Up until Stolen Ink I made very sure to strip out every scrap of myself from my fiction. I allowed something of myself to creep into Isa though. I have an abusive past and some of that came through with him. I like to hope that I have Isa’s strength. I identify with Dacian a bit as well, that feeling of wanting a quiet life but the gods just won’t quite allow it lol.

3) If you had a day in the world of Stolen Ink, what would you do and where would you go? Who would you be in that world?
That’s so hard!! I’d love to go up into the skies with the knowledge merchants. They enjoy such freedom flying around the world trading information and using their wits and wiles to get all they can from the world. I think I’d like to fly over Northern Africa and some of the magical cities over that with them. To see the cultures that are so different to my day to day life.
4) Are there any bits of worldbuilding that never made it into the book that you’d love to share with everyone? If so, what?
There’s so much! This world is huge. I’m planning another 4+ series in this world so there’s a lot left to explore and share yet. I adore the knowledge merchants, they’ll be shown in Blood & Ink. There’s another branch to the dreamwalkers that’re very cool too, I have a series planned with one of those as a protagonist. Where Ben was very much half in the dream world with his bright colours and vacant expression, the other branch is more military. They’re kick-ass investigators. Oh! And I want to share the non-magic cities where they have magical creatures in zoos to stare at. The ethics and views around that will be fun to look into. To see how they view magic so very differently to Dacian and co. There’s so, so, much left to share! I could go on for pages, but I think it’s best put into the books.

5) If there was something you want people to get from the books above anything else, what would it be?
Hmm. I think it’s probably the importance of your chosen family. The people that you pull around you, that you choose to give your all to. The relationships with those people are so important. As I mentioned above I think those relationships are quite often put aside in fiction, but, as scary as it is to open up to people and establish those bonds, they’re life-savers (literally) when you have them. Dacian has trouble trusting people, but the people around came through for him. When he opens up a bit more he’s so much happier and freer. It’s terrifying to do that, to take the risk, but it’s absolutely worth it. It’s also worth putting our efforts into those bonds and being the best friends that we can be. It makes our lives richer.

6) What’s your next step? Tell us a little about the next thing you are planning to work on.
I’m currently writing Ink Bound (Ink Born 3). That continues Dacian’s story. After that I’m starting a new series, Hidden Alchemy. That follows the bisexual treasure-hunting alchemist Kaitlyn Felis. That’s set in the same world as Dacian and there will be a couple of cameos from Kaitlyn in Dacian’s books and vice versa. That’s far more an Indiana Jones type of book. I want to capture the adventure that I feel in the Stardust movie. Once those two series are established I’ll start my next series in the ink world. There are a few options for that, the dreamwalker I mentioned above, a blood magician, and there’s an air elemental that’s been calling to me for a while too. We’ll see what happens!

So, thank you to the wonderful Holly Evans for the interview, and for anyone who wants links to her work, here you go!
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Holly-Evans/e/B01ESEZALC
Twitter: Http://twitter.com/KhaosFoxe
-K Hart

 

Inspector Hobbes and the Bones – Wilkie Martin Review

There’s going to be trouble. Andy Caplet’s wife goes away, someone is out to get him, and he loses nearly everything in a storm. Amazing both himself and his unhuman friend Inspector Hobbes, he heroically rescues flood victims and uncovers something shocking.
Is Andy being set up for blackmail by the apparently charming young woman who attempts to seduce him, or is something even more sinister afoot? Hobbes certainly believes so, and he’s getting worried.

Why did I pick this up?: Truthfully, I kept seeing it, it had an intriguing cover and it was in my sort of genre. When something seems to show up all over the place, sometimes I pick it up just because I need something to read.

Good points: A take on Sherlock Holmes with some ‘unhuman’ elements, sure, count me in. The daft puns had me laughing a few times (I like bad puns, okay, so sue me), and I quite liked Hobbes as a character. The more ‘unhuman’ characters we came across, the more intrigued I was by the world and the setting. I wanted to know more about the world, but not necessarily the characters. Which brings me to…

Quibbles: It sort of feels like it’s been done. I know that sounds awful, but I read a lot of things like urban fantasy, detective stories, mysteries… and it’s very difficult to come up with something new and unique in that genre. Especially with your own take on Sherlock Holmes. It just didn’t do it.

Overview (TL;DR): It was a nice read, but nothing to write home about. Some bad (good) puns, and sadly nothing that stood out as a wow factor.

-K Hart

 

Keeper of the Dawn – Dianna Gunn Review

Sometimes failure is just the beginning

All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to their beloved goddess. That’s before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she has trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away.

From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum—a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace.

Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshiping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai’s own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join their sacred order.

Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.

Why did I pick this up?: There was a call on Twitter for people to read an ARC of this, especially bloggers who are on the aromantic or the asexual spectrum (or both, like me!). I jumped in and ta dah! ARC.

Good points: This is a cute little story, nicely written, reminiscent of the likes of Tamora Pierce and that vein. Perfect for me, of course, since I love Tamora Pierce. There was nicely done asexual representation that may even have been aromantic as well, although the words were never used. I loved that there was a discussion between the characters about boundaries and what they wanted. Also, cute female/female relationship, yes please!

Quibbles: Few, really. I think perhaps the story could have been expanded further, but then, I’m not used to reading novellas, so that could be the novel reader in me talking. Other than that, nothing. It was an interesting read that I managed in the space of a few hours.

Overview (TL;DR): A nice, quick fantasy read with some asexual and same-sex relationship rep. What more could a girl want?

-K Hart

Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho Review

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.

But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

Why did I pick this up?: Honestly, I picked it up because I KEPT hearing about it. So often that I eventually caved and thought ‘why not just buy it and see?’

Good points: Okay, there is this gorgeous idea within it where characters use clouds as transportation. I LOVE THAT. I also love Prunella, and Rollo, who are great characters with huge potential.

Quibbles: I haven’t got that many, but yet again this was a book I was reading that was very slow to start. It reads a little like Austen, as several people have said, and this sort of thing often puts me off. However this time it didn’t. I’d say it was a steady 4/5. It also reminds me of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which I love, so there was always going to be at least some positive points there.

Overview (TL;DR): Super short review, but… it was a good book, nothing to scream and rave about for me, but definitely worth picking up.

-K Hart

Grey Magic – J T Lawrence Review

No one appreciates the irony of her situation more than Raven Kane: she’s a burnt-out witch. Raven is a hip, hexing-and-texting sorceress – or at least, she used to be. Now her ancient timber house is falling down around her, and the bank wants to repossess it. Nothing would make her cantankerous neighbour happier than seeing Raven and her messy menagerie out on the street. To add to her stress, the reckless Wicked Witches are causing mischief and it’s her job to reign them in. Worst of all is that her magic seems to be fading. Just as everything seems to be too much to handle, there’s a knock on the (splintering) door. A not-unattractive man appears in her life: not to save her, as a fairytale would have you believe, but to arrest her for the murder of one of her clients. It wouldn’t be that bad for Raven, except that she knows she’s guilty.

Why did I pick this up?: The plot sounded intriguing, and a modern take on witchcraft sounded like exactly my sort of thing. I also loved the simplicity of the cover.

Good points: Well, it did what it said on the tin. It was very much a modern witch story, with some great humour throughout.

Quibbles: Honestly, it took me SO LONG to get into and I’m not sure it was worth it. I’ve seen some very good reviews of this book, so maybe it was just me, but I think this book and I were incompatible. It was very nearly a DNF for me. Part of that, I think, was the use of present tense. It took me so long to get over that. I rarely like books in present tense – it has to be really good to grab me, and this one missed the mark, sadly. I loved the theory behind it, and the sense of what the story could have been, but I found the MC’s conversations with herself distracting rather than endearing, and the length of time it took for me to show interest at all was far too long for me.

Overview (TL;DR): Really not for me, which is a shame. To anyone reading this, it might be better for you, and by all means check out other reviews, but not for me.

-K Hart

House of Binding Thorns – Aliette De Bodard Review

As the city rebuilds from the onslaught of sorcery that nearly destroyed it, the great Houses of Paris, ruled by fallen angels, still contest one another for control over the capital.

House Silverspires was once the most powerful, but just as it sought to rise again, an ancient evil brought it low. Phillippe, an immortal who escaped the carnage, has a singular goal – to resurrect someone he lost. But the cost of such magic might be more than he can bear.

In House Hawthorn, Madeleine the alchemist has had her addiction to angel essence savagely broken. Struggling to live on, she is forced on a perilous diplomatic mission to the underwater dragon kingdom – and finds herself in the midst of intrigues that have already caused one previous emissary to mysteriously disappear . . .

As the Houses seek a peace more devastating than war, those caught between new fears and old hatreds must find strength – or fall prey to a magic that seeks to bind all to its will.

Why did I pick this up?: Okay, so this one is the second book in a series and I read the first a while back, where it is now sitting on my shelf smugly demanding to be joined by its partner. I picked up the first because Paris, fallen angels, magic, LGBT, dragons, fantasy? You’ve got me there.

Good points: I have to talk about it… Madeleine’s addiction. That was done SO WELL. So well-written, in fact, that I could see bits of people I’ve known within it. (For reference, I used to volunteer in addiction services, so I know where I’m coming from). The relationships between characters were incredible. I won’t give spoilers, but there’s something that happens throughout the book, accumulating right at the end, that is so much a twisted and so easily toxic and dark relationship and I hate it but I love it at the same time. Thuan’s growth throughout is amazing, as is the determination of Phillippe… the ruthlessness of the Hawthorne house… I could talk for hours, but this is supposed to be a short review.

Quibbles: Seriously? I’m struggling hard. All I can say is that it’s very political. Which to me is a good point, but to some of the people who like similar things to me, might get boring. Honestly, though, it was done so well it didn’t matter.

Overall (TL;DR): Do read. Maybe read the first book first (The House of Shattered Wings), but absolutely this book did not disappoint!

-K Hart