YESTERDAY’S HEROES by Heather Long

YESTERDAY’S HEROES
Heather Long
paranormal romance
novella: 89 pages

Cover Copy:

Aurora “Rory” Graystone
Codename: Halo
Abilities: superior reflexes, I.Q. and aptitude for calculating probabilities
Mission: find missing teammates

Rory knows she’s being watched, and she’s not about to let the hunter catch her in his trap. She’ll confront her stalker, a man she suspects is involved in the disappearances of other superheroes—if she can ignore the sensual heat that fills her every time he’s near…

Michael Hunter
Codename: Hard Target
Abilities: expert tracker and sniper
Mission: kill Rory Graystone

One of five desperate men sent back in time to save the future, Michael believes eliminating Rory is the key to his mission. But even as he takes aim, a split second of doubt causes him to miss his shot.

Drawn together by passion, and on a collision course with fate, can Rory and Michael work together to change the future? Or have they set in motion the horrific history the time travelers are trying to prevent?

My Thoughts: YESTERDAY’S HEROES is a fun, quick read and a great mashup of genres– a superhero, time-travel romance.

The story opens with Rory aware she’s being followed. Then a sniper’s arrow misses hitting her. She changes into her superhero and goes after the sniper. Intense, inexplicable attraction occurs and just when they should kill each other, they don’t. Michael Hunter, the sniper, gets the upper hand and takes Rory back to his headquarters, where she is held prisoner. Hunter must explain to the rest of his team why he didn’t follow through with their mission and kill Rory, why he now protects her.

I loved this concept: fated superheros holding the future of the universe in their hands. The romance was hot. The worldbuilding was great. But I wanted more. I could easily have read another 200 pages.

At this time, there’s no mention of a series, but I do hope for more.

Rating: A
Series:
Publisher: Carina Press, 2012
Acquired: publisher via NetGalley

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collins TheDeadOfWinter

THE DEAD OF WINTER by Lee Collins

THE DEAD OF WINTER
Lee Collins

Cover Copy: Cora and her husband hunt things – things that shouldn’t exist. When the marshal of Leadville, Colorado, comes across a pair of mysterious deaths, he turns to Cora to find the creature responsible, but if Cora is to overcome the unnatural tide threatening to consume the small town, she must first confront her own tragic past as well as her present.

My Thoughts: The story starts with a mystery plot: on a cold winter day in Colorado a marshal and his deputy investigate the remains of a couple of miners. The murders are unlike anything they’ve encountered and seem to have been caused by something unnatural. A stranger in town, Cora Oglesby hears about the strange deaths, and offers to put her years of monster hunting to work for the marshal.

Through the first half of the book, Cora and her husband Ben hunt this dangerous creature. I was disappointed with this half of the book for a few reasons. The investigation into the type of creature and how to kill it seemed to drag. After their first encounter with the thing, Cora and Ben board a train and head to Denver to find out more information about the creature, leaving the town to protect itself. I thought this a bit odd. They’ve been hired for this job, but they’re leaving?

Cora is presented as a bad-mouthed, whiskey-drinking fighter. Ben is presented as the quiet half, keeping to his books. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t the “expert”, the one to research the monsters they’ve encountered, to send telegrams when they need outside advice, etc. I also became aware Ben was noticeably absent for all the big fights. He was with the horses or gone to bed for the night. What kind of husband leaves his wife to do all the fighting? I wanted much more from Ben and had I not been reading on my Kobo, I would have tossed the book at the wall.

From the book description, I was expecting a husband and wife monster hunting team. In fact, Cora and Ben reminded me a lot of Zoe and Wash from the TV series “Firefly”. I could get behind a monster-hunting couple where the woman was the main fighter and the husband provided support. Unfortunately, THE DEAD OF WINTER isn’t it.

The monster is killed at the mid-point of the story. The mystery comes to an end. Cora and Ben pack up to leave town. The feeling at the mid-point was so final I almost put the book down and didn’t look back.

Before they board the train to leave town, Cora and Ben take on another job: hunting and killing a nest of vampires holed up in a nearby silver mine. The job is familiar to them, as ten years ago they fought a nest of vampires near Denver, and the money is too good to pass up. The job is familiar because the same big bad vampire is behind creating both nests.

I wanted more about this big bad vampire. He seemed hell-bent on eliminating Cora, on making her miserable, but we’re not given a sufficient reason for this. Yes, she destroyed his nest ten years ago, but even back then he wanted her to suffer– for no apparent reason. Since he is so vital to Cora’s character, this should have been developed much more.

[SPOILERS]

The ending felt rushed. The build up to the big twist at the end was not as obvious as it should have been. Given the story was billed as a husband and wife monster hunting team, and that’s what I expected (and wanted!) I was not impressed with the “Sixth Sense” twist. Considering this story involves vampires and other monsters, I also cannot see why the author had to make this choice of messing with Cora’s sanity versus allowing for a ghost. And in the end, Cora isn’t changed by this twist. Yes, it gives her a push to defeat the big bad vampire, and it gives her the knowledge of her true reality, but little else. My feeling is the twist was there for readers’ entertainment versus character growth and I really would have preferred the latter.

[/SPOILERS]

With its twisty plot and kick ass heroine, THE DEAD OF WINTER gives readers the fun of seeing vampires in the Old West. Cora is a character worth rooting for– from holding her own at the poker table to her determination to defeat every monster that crosses her path. I look forward to more of her adventures.

I’m torn in how to rate this one. In terms of what I expected, it’s a B. But expectations aside, on it’s own I think it’s very close to an A. The Old West world is well done, the monsters are frightening. Cora is an interesting, complex character, but her development needed to be stronger.

Rating: B+
Series: Cora Oglesby, #1
Publisher: Angry Robot, 2012
Acquired: publisher, via Netgalley

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[Title not available on Kobo at the time of this review.]

Drake Angel's Ink

[Review] ANGEL’S INK by Jocelynn Drake

ANGEL’S INK
Jocelynn Drake

Cover Copy: Buyer beware . . .

Looking for a tattoo—and maybe a little something extra: a burst of good luck, a dollop of true love, or even a hex on an ex? Head to the quiet and mysterious Gage, the best skin artist in town. Using unique potions—a blend of extraordinary ingredients and special inks—to etch the right symbol, he can fulfill any heart’s desire. But in a place like Low Town, where elves, faeries, trolls, werewolves, and vampires happily walk among humanity, everything has its price.

No one knows that better than Gage. Turning his back on his own kind, he left the magical Ivory Tower where cruel witches and warlocks rule, a decision that cost him the right to practice magic. And if he disobeys, his punishment—execution—will be swift.

Though he’s tried to fly under the radar, Gage can’t hide from powerful warlocks who want him dead—or the secrets of his own past. But with the help of his friends, Trixie, a gorgeous elf who hides her true identity, and a hulking troll named Bronx, Gage might just make it through this enchanted world alive.

My Thoughts: Gage is a warlock in a tight spot. He’s the only one to ever survive leaving the collective of witches and warlocks, and the only reason Gage isn’t dead is because he’s agreed to masquerade as a human and to not use magic. As a tattoo artist, Gage has a little leeway with the latter, for tattoos in Low Town can come with a little something extra in the ink. Need help with your love life? You can get a love potion mixed in with your ink and presto! Your social calendar will be full. Gage also has been allowed to use magic in case of self-defense. And in his case, he really needs it. Trouble has a knack for finding Gage.

Gage’s old warlock mentor isn’t happy about Gage being free. In fact, his mentor seems desperate to eliminate Gage at any cost.

But that’s just one of Gage’s many problems:

He’s recently completed a tattoo for a woman that accidentally made her immortal. And now the grim reaper is ticked because he didn’t get to collect her soul. He’ll happily take Gage’s soul instead, if Gage can’t make her mortal again.

Gage’s employee and sort-of girlfriend, Trixie, is also masquerading as a human tattoo artist, until her elf kin come to take her home. Trixie doesn’t want to go back to living with the elves, and Gage vows to help her stay in Low Town.

And then there’s the matter of an unhappy customer…

Gage is a great character, and aside for his knack for getting into trouble, he has a heart and a conscience– both of which seem to make more trouble for him, not less. The combination of magic and tattoo artistry provides a new venue for urban fantasy with potential for conflict and entertainment. It’s nice to see some new creatures, too. Warlocks, elves, trolls are the main creatures featured, but Low Town is populated with other interesting creatures, including a talking cat.

ANGEL’S INK is quite different from Jocelynn Drake’s vampire series, Dark Days series, but recognizable as a Jocelynn Drake creation. Where the Dark Days series was very dark in voice and tone, the Asylum Tales series is light. It’s urban fantasy that edges closer to humour than horror.

ANGEL’S INK is full of action and plenty of characters trying to escape their problem pasts. With a satisfying ending, it’s a great start to what promises to be a fabulous new series. Check this one out if you like urban fantasy with action and characters who keep getting themselves into tangles.

Rating: A-
Series: The Asylum Tales, #1
Publisher: HarperCollins
Acquired: publisher via Edelweiss

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[At the time of this review, ANGEL’S INK was not available for Kobo.]

michelle brightest kind of darkness

[Review] BRIGHTEST KIND OF DARKNESS by P.T. Michelle [YA]

BRIGHTEST KIND OF DARKNESS
P.T. Michelle (Patrice Michelle)
YA

Cover Copy: Nara Collins is an average sixteen-year-old, with one exception: every night she dreams the events of the following day. Due to an incident in her past, Nara avoids using her special gift to change fate…until she dreams a future she can’t ignore.

After Nara prevents a bombing at Blue Ridge High, her ability to see the future starts to fade, while people at school are suddenly being injured at an unusually high rate.

Grappling with her diminishing powers and the need to prevent another disaster, Nara meets Ethan Harris, a mysterious loner who seems to understand her better than anyone. Ethan and Nara forge an irresistible connection, but as their relationship heats up, so do her questions about his dark past.

My Thoughts: BRIGHTEST KIND OF DARKNESS tells the story of Inara Collins, a girl with a serious case of deja vu. Every morning she wakes up having dreamed the events of her day and where most people would promptly forget their dreams, Nara remembers them. She lives out her days knowing exactly what’s going to happen.

I’ve had moments of deja vu, I’ve even had those deja vu moments and remembered them from my dreams, but Nara’s gift/curse would be something pretty difficult to live with. Imagine never having any surprises. Sometimes it might be nice to know what’s going to happen so you could prepare for it (like chemistry tests), but other times it would be horrible. You’d know every Christmas and birthday gift before you ever opened it.

Nara’s dreams were never a big problem, mostly just daily spoilers, until she dreams about a bomb inside the school. She decides to call in the tip, thus saving several students from death and harm. But at what cost has she crossed Fate? Soon she starts having dreams in which more and more students are injured. She continues to try to interfere to save the students from injury, but a mysterious force seems to be acting against her.

That dark force could be the new guy, Ethan Harris. He’s dark, mysterious, and he seems to have uncanny timing. But Nara’s instincts tell her she can trust him. Nara and Ethan even strike up a relationship, but soon Nara begins to suspect Ethan has something to do with her dreams disappearing. And Ethan does seem to be more than he’s letting on with a past he doesn’t want to talk about . . .

The book starts out a bit rocky in the opening pages, but it doesn’t take long to figure out what’s going on. The pacing is quick, the tension builds steadily. The romance is sweet but complicated by Nara’s trust-issues with Ethan. But mostly it was an enjoyable, engaging read. The bad guy turns out to be very bad. I can’t wait to read the sequel, LUCID.

BRIGHTEST KIND OF DARKNESS is perfect reading for fall. Put on a pair of boots, a warm sweater and settle down with a pumpkin spice latte on a fall afternoon with BRIGHTEST KIND OF DARKNESS.

Cover: The cover is gorgeous. I’ve always loved fall colours and pretty dresses.

Rating: A
Series: Brightest Kind of Darkness, #1
Publisher: Patrice Michelle, 2011
Acquired: Author

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[At the time of this review – Kindle price: $0.99; Kobo price: $0.95]

mcleod the cold kiss of death

[Review] THE COLD KISS OF DEATH by Suzanne McLeod

THE COLD KISS OF DEATH
Suzanne McLeod

Cover Copy: Genny Taylor works for Spellcrackers.com ± Making Magic Safe.
But her own life is anything but safe!

‘The ghost grasped her shift and ripped it open. The three interlacing crescents carved red-raw and bleeding into her thin chest didn’t look any better than the last dozen times I’d seen them. The wounds weren’t lethal – they weren’t even recent; she’d been dead for at least a hundred and fifty years – but my gut still twisted with anger that someone would do that to a child.’

Being haunted by a ghost is the least of Genny’s problems: she’s also trying to deal with the witch neighbour who wants her evicted. Finn, her sort-of-Ex – and now her new boss – can’t quite decide whether he wants their relationship to be business or pleasure. And then there’s the queue of vamps inviting her to paint the town red; how long before they stop taking no for an answer?

Just when it seems things can’t get any worse a human friend is murdered using sidhe magic. Determined to hunt down the killer and needing help, she turns to one of London’s most capricious wylde fae and the seductive vampire Malik al-Khan.

But all too soon she realises she doesn’t know who she can trust – and now Genny’s the one being hunted, not just by the police, but by some of London’s most powerful and dangerous supernaturals.

My Thoughts: Ah, Genny. In trouble with the vampires again!

THE COLD KISS OF DEATH took everything introduced in book 1, THE SWEET SCENT OF BLOOD, and went deeper and darker, making for more trouble for our poor protagonist, Genny Taylor.

Genny is a half-vampire, half-sidhe. She works for Spellcrackers.com, a business that fixes magical problems. Genny is being haunted by a ghost that she can’t communicate with. Finn, the satyr Genny thought was getting romantic with her, has become her boss and gone cold in the romance department. Things get crazy when a vampire’s human attendant shows up at Genny’s place to demand the Faberge egg in Genny’s possession, and then Genny is framed for the murder of a human friend. Suddenly she’s on the run from a growing number of humans and supernaturals.

The overarching mystery is wonderfully woven around supernatural incidents. Genny finds herself in an awkward situation– asking for help from an ex-boyfriend while Finn is there and the boys literally bash their fae heads together. She’s chased by dryads when the fae community get upset because they think she killed that human. Then Genny’s vampire disguise– the spell that enables her to change into the vampire Rosa so she can manage the disease she’d contracted– stops working. In fact, the spell may have Genny connected more tightly to Rosa than she’d like. This is a particular problem because the other vampires don’t like Rosa and want her dead.

I would have liked seeing more of Genny at work doing the spellcracking thing. I always think that’s neat. But, you know, being on the run when she’s wanted for murder, I guess she’s not going to stop to help a few clients. It was great that the murder was tied directly to her spellcracking, though. It was the magical equivalent of being caught with the smoking gun or the blood-covered knife.

In all, THE COLD KISS OF DEATH makes for some high-octane reading. I loved getting more time with the fae in this book. The vampires are still a large part of the plot and they’re great, but they’re less of a novelty item this time around and more of the political-positioning vampires. The mystery kept me reading right to the end– twisty and unpredictable. Just the way I like it.

Rating: A
Series: Spellcrackers.com, #2
Publisher: Gollancz, 2009
Acquired: Purchased

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drake bronx

[Review] THE ASYLUM INTERVIEWS: BRONX by Jocelynn Drake

THE ASLYUM INTERVIEWS: BRONX
Jocelynn Drake
novella

Cover Copy: In Low Town, where humans walk and work side-by-side with elves, vampires, ogres, and all manner of creature, it’s understandable that people occasionally need a little help in their lives. Whether is love, work, or … other, tattoo artists are there to try to help turn the odds into your favor. When Gage’s friend Parker needs help with his love life, tattoo artists Gage and Bronx are only too happy to help. But the incubus ends up getting more than he bargained for with his new tattoo, and his friends are forced to scramble to fix the mess they’ve created before someone gets hurt.

ebook, 87 pages

My Thoughts: THE ASYLUM INTERVIEWS: BRONX is narrated by Gage Powell, a warlock. The story opens with Gage on the floor of a women’s washroom in a bar. As he tries to piece together how he ended up there, he meets Bronx, a troll. Bronx is new in town, licensed to make magical tattoos and looking for work at Gage’s tattoo parlor. With a little help, Gage figures out his friend Parker, an incubus, drugged him and left him at the bar. Gage and Bronx set out to find Parker with the intent of showing him a lesson, but they soon find the incubus is struggling with getting enough sexual sustenance. They men all decide Parker needs a magical tattoo to help him feed. With Gage being too drunk to do it, Bronx does the tattooing. But when something goes wrong, Gage has to try to fix it without incurring the wrath of the law– both the Tattoo Artists and Potion Stirrers Society and the Ivory Towers have something to say about this. Gage could end up losing his license, maybe even his life.

An engaging introduction to The Asylum Tales universe and the firecracker characters populating it. I love this world and can’t wait for more!

Rating: A
Series: Asylum Tales, 0.5
Publisher: Harper Voyager, 2012
Acquired: Author

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carlson full blooded

[Review] FULL BLOODED by Amanda Carlson

FULL BLOODED
Amanda Carlson

Cover Copy: Born the only female in an all male race, Jessica McClain isn’t just different—she’s feared.

After living under the radar for the last twenty-six years, Jessica is thrust unexpectedly into her first change, a full ten years late. She wakes up and finds she’s in the middle of a storm. Now that she’s become the only female full-blooded werewolf in town, the supernatural world is already clamoring to take a bite out of her and her new Pack must rise up and protect her.

My Thoughts: After the action packed into BLOODED, the prequel novel, I had hopes of more of the same for FULL BLOODED.

FULL BLOODED was a little hard to understand at times, though the concept is simple: Jessica is thought to be part of a disastrous prophesy about a female werewolf, one that makes the other werewolves very anxious, even though Jessica has shown no signs of turning being a werewolf, for all outwards appearances she’s very human. She leaves the Pack, assumes a new identity, and stays hidden until her first shift. Alone on her first shift, she trashes her apartment and escapes into the wild until she can gain control of the wolf and assumes human form again. Because of the prophesy, she can’t return to the Pack for help during this tumultuous time of learning to handle her wolf, so she goes back to trying to live under her human identity, even though there’s now a police investigation into the trashing of her apartment and the wolves might be onto her.

This is where it gets hard to understand. Why go back to that old life? Why not assume a new identity and move on? Also, several wolves from the Pack are Jessica’s friends and family, and they move to help her, which only serves to draw attention to Jessica from the wolves who want her dead so the prophesy can’t come into fruition. Why do this? Why not gather the allies she has and find another place to live for a while?

I also had trouble with the concept of the male werewolves being so against Jessica. If, after all these centuries of not having a female, wouldn’t they be happy? Wouldn’t they be attracted to her? Even for survival of the species? I understand they have their beliefs, but this part of the plot wasn’t grounded enough. It seemed to be reaching. Probably because the concept was not clearly shown, but discussed in dialogue.

It doesn’t help that the cop investigating the apartment damage is so bitterly against Jessica for no good reason. She came out more like a victim than the action hero I wanted her to be.  Additionally, after every piece of action, Jessica’s neighbour (who is Latina and her accent is spelled out phonetically in all her dialogue. It was irritating and offensive.) and workplace assistant/friend lavish so much concern over her I felt a little nauseous. “Oh, Jessica! I was so worried! I’m so glad you’re okay!” It really ends up victimizing the hero than making her sympathetic.

(Also, as someone who used to install burglar alarms after break-ins, I found the police’s investigation to be completely unrealistic. Police departments don’t have time to investigate break-ins. This level of harassment would have been much more logical if the bad cop was a private investigator working for the insurance company of the building’s owner.)

I might have had fewer questions about the logic if I was better able to immerse into the story, but I found page after page was dialogue explaining the world-building. (This is “telling”, not “showing”.) There was so much discussion setting up each action piece, followed by so much post-action discussion, it really slowed the pace. I found myself skimming over many pages.

I’m hoping a lot of this is set-up for future books.

The action scenes were brilliant but too short and too far between. I mean this is really Ms. Carlson’s strength. There were times when reading the action, she really reminded me of Kelley Armstrong. I want to see more action.

Ms. Carlson also writes some pretty hot sexytimes in FULL BLOODED, but these scenes were also too short and too far between. When Jessica is surrounded by so many hot werewolves in her life, I had trouble deciding which one I wanted to root for. Well done!

Fans of Rachel Vincent’s Shifter series will love FULL BLOODED. The writing and storyline both reminded me of ROGUE.

Rating: B-
Series: Jessica McClain, #1
Publisher: Orbit
Acquired: NetGalley

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