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

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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

 

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

Dreams and Shadows – C Robert Cargill Review

There is another world than our own—one no closer than a kiss and one no further than our nightmares—where all the stuff of which dreams are made is real and magic is just a step away. But once you see that world, you will never be the same.

Dreams and Shadows takes us beyond this veil. Once bold explorers and youthful denizens of this magical realm, Ewan is now an Austin musician who just met his dream girl, and Colby, meanwhile, cannot escape the consequences of an innocent wish. But while Ewan and Colby left the Limestone Kingdom as children, it has never forgotten them. And in a world where angels relax on rooftops, whiskey-swilling genies argue metaphysics with foul-mouthed wizards, and monsters in the shadows feed on fear, you can never outrun your fate.

Why did I pick this up?: Urban fantasy, a world of faeries close to ours, genies, a darker faery world? Not to mention the gorgeous cover. This book sounded like it was made for me… and spoiler alert, it met expectations!

Good points: This book had an incredible skill and craftsmanship about it. It’s been compared to Gaiman’s work, and I can see why. That underground world of magic fusing seamlessly with our own mundane world, creatures walking amongst us invisible. This book  was everything I wanted from an urban fantasy – it made me believe that maybe, just maybe, it might be real. I loved the dark and the weird: that’s my territory, and this checked all of my boxes.

Quibbles: Honestly, it’s a shame, but it took me a while to really get into it. Starting with the young Colby made me wonder for quite a long time where it was going, and if I’d even like it. I loved the little bits of information we got from the start about the magical world, but the characterisation of young Colby, not so much.

Overall (TL;DR): Please don’t put this down because you’re not sure where it’s going. I promise you, it’s going somewhere great. If you’re willing to come along for the ride, this book will take you to amazing places.

-K Hart

Stolen Ink – Holly Evans Review

I’m Dacian, a tattoo magician, and my life went from my biggest concern being finding a pretty guy to fall into bed with at the end of the week to everything falling apart around me.

There are two problems in my life.

Number one – I’m an ink magician, the thing of myths. A lot of very powerful people would love to get their hands on me, and I have no intention of letting that happen.

Number two – A tattoo thief came to my city, and the magical community has decided that I’m the guy to stop them.

Somehow, I have to catch the thief without letting my secret out of the bag, and that’s even harder than it sounds.

Why did I pick this up?: LGBT+ ink magician? Urban fantasy? OF COURSE I was going to pick this up, and I wasn’t at all disappointed. I got what I came for and more.

Good points:  Isiah! I fell in love with this character from the first moment he appeared. Elves! Magicians! Tattoo magic! Vyx! Potentially asexual representation! Gay characters! Badass vixen hybrids! Snarky sarcasm. This was practically my perfect book. Vyx and Isiah I particularly fell in love with.

Quibbles: I had a panic mid-book thinking that there was going to be a sex scene, but there was all of the lead-up to sex and then a fade to black. THANK YOU SO MUCH HOLLY EVANS. I LOVE fade to black, because it saves me from having to read the gross details. So anyone like me, who moves away from sex automatically, know that this book is mostly safe for you!

Overall (TL:DR): READ IT. I absolutely loved it and have already prodded several friends to read it.

-K Hart

Soulless – Gail Carriger Review

Progress on Alternate: Well, I’m taking part in PitchWars… anyone on my Twitter may have noticed…

Current Review:

This is an odd one for me to talk about, because I REALLY LIKE Gail Carriger’s work in general. I just shouldn’t. There’s a high level of… shall we say, romantic entanglement in her work that often makes me uncomfortable. No one’s fault, it just is. In fact, the story itself is part romance so OF COURSE it should be expected. I’m just not entirely settled with reading such descriptions, however politely worded they are.

But something in them makes up for it. There’s such wit. And of course, dandies. Give me all of the dandies, all of the time. I love the strong female lead, the sarcasm, even the irritated Scottish werewolf. I love how she’s taken one of the periods of history that, as much as I adore it, is OFTEN used and spoken about, and given it a new twist. Not to mention how her world, in which the supernatural mingles with the known world, is so well-constructed. Give me vampires out in the open. I love that. Polite, organised vampires and werewolves transforming in the streets. Why not? Not to mention the novel begins with Alexia making use of a parasol as a weapon. Parasols are ALWAYS appropriate weapons. I regularly carry one myself, though mine is not really sharp enough to do any damage.

Anyway, I had to talk about it. I think, ignoring my general squeamishness around romance, I would fall completely in love with these books. And perhaps those of you sans that discomfort will do so.

-K Hart

Small Favour – Jim Butcher Review

Progress on Alternate: In the hands of beta-readers

Current Review:

The Dresden Files #10, I believe. This book reminded me why I think Dresden is the exact sort of hero I’d be. Oh God, angels. Why am I doing this again? Just completely done and fed up with all of these external agencies pushing him around, but doing it anyway because he’d feel bad if he didn’t. Yeah, that would be me.

It’s getting so deep by this point. The stakes have been upped. I can’t help but wonder, though, why whenever urban fantasy ups the stakes, the angels are called. It’s always Heaven vs. Hell. Surely the highest stakes could be something different? I don’t know… it’s less a criticism and more a consideration.

Having said that, these angels are fun. Angelic vessels? Fallen angels? Weird coins? Well, you know, maybe the last one doesn’t excite many people, but you know. I never said I was normal. And as I said last time I reviewed a Dresden Files book, I love how much Molly is maturing. She’s sort of adorable and I want to keep her.

Less of Bob in this one. Fewer sleazy comments. But hey, Bob never struck me as an unpleasant sleazy… just… weird. And Dresden has a smart enough mouth to get past it.

Ivy is… quite frankly, adorable. I feel oddly protective of this little child. For anyone reading this review who hasn’t read previous Dresden Files books with Ivy in them, just… she’s cute. Take it from me. I want to wrap her in a blanket and take her away from everything. And even though I really disliked Kincaid at first, I’m coming to like him a lot more. Murphy, as always, is a goddess. I don’t have the rest of the series on my shelf yet (I know, it’s awful), but soon I’ll be trying to review the rest, as and when I get hold of them.

-K Hart

White Night – Jim Butcher Review

Progress on Alternate: Editing at 28%

Current Review:

The first thing I think of when I’m writing about this book is a very dark part it contains. Now I tailor these reviews to make sure there are no spoilers, so I won’t talk about what it was except to say that it really hit a nerve with me.

This is Dresden Files #9. Vampires, more crime, apparent suicides… Lots of twists and turns. I also really like Molly, who has a hell of an attitude.

I need a dog like Mouse, too. Just a massive dog that’s peaceful and lovely. And you know, growls at evil people. That’s always good.

I found it really interesting how this book explored again a lot about the darker sides of Harry, and the way it addressed his own internal monologues, and so on… I don’t really have much to say other than that Jim Butcher managed to pull it out of his hat once again. Or you know, wherever he’s been pulling these books out of…

-K Hart