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.]

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[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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[Review] THE SWEET SCENT OF BLOOD by Suzanne McLeod

THE SWEET SCENT OF BLOOD
Suzanne McLeod

Cover Copy: Genevieve Taylor is a sidhe – one of the noble fae – and she’s unusual even in a London where celebrity vampires, eccentric goblins and scheming lesser fae mix freely with humanity…

Genny is a rising star at Spellcrackers.com, where she finds the “M” in magic – which can mean anything from mischief to malice to murder. The spellcrackers are run by the Witch Council, whose ancient tenets prohibit any contact with vampires. And that’s just fine with Genny, who wants as little to do with the bloodsuckers as possible.

But when a sinfully sexy vamp is accused of killing his lover, an old debt forces Genny to help prove his innocence, risking her job, her safety – and the exposure of her own dark secrets. Genny soon realizes that she and her client are both unwitting pawns in a centuries-old power struggle. And it’s not just her own neck at stake but the lives of all of London’s supernatural beings.

My Thoughts: Genny Taylor works for Spellcrackers.com, a witch-run company that specializes in “undoing” spells placed by mischief makers and ne’er-do-wells. Employees like Genny “crack” the spells by pulling out the magic. From what I understand, the witches have been trained to use the magic they’ve cracked, but Genny can’t do this.  She can pull the magic out of the spell, store it inside herself, but she has trouble disposing of it. Probably because she’s not a witch– she’s half fae, half vampire.

The vampires in THE SWEET SCENT OF BLOOD have cool powers– one of them can Stop Time, another travels only by shadows– and are of course, plagued with politics, and are very dangerous. Though she’s half vampire, Genny appears to all as a fae. To turn vamp, she has to invoke illegal dark magic, something she must do every so often to placate the vampire-related disease she’s contracted. This disease has her craving vampire venom and seeking out fresh victims to suck the venom from their bites, lest she be driven mad by the cravings. This makes for great character building, and I loved the fresh take on a ‘vampire junkie’.

THE SWEET SCENT OF BLOOD is set in modern London, and written by a Brit, so a word of warning about the language. I was totally fine with it, but I’m half English and grew up hearing these words. I also loved seeing a darker side to London, an insider’s guide to the city. I didn’t once feel like I was reading a tourist brochure.

Genny finds herself unexpectedly pulled into the vampire politics when a vampire is accused of murder and his father makes a plea to Gen to find out if magic is involved. The clues were few and far between for my liking. I would have preferred to see Genny actively earning the clues herself. But otherwise, I found Genny to be a smart and capable kick-ass heroine.

What I found most enjoyable was all the faerie lore sprinkled throughout the story: Genny’s primary love interest is a satyr, the police detective is a solid granite troll, gangs of goblins patrol the streets for vamps behaving badly. I loved it all and wanted more.

THE SWEET SCENT OF BLOOD is a sweet cracker of a book. It’s easily one of the most unique worlds I’ve encountered along with some of the best action scenes. Looking forward to more in this series.

Rating: A-
Series: Spellcrackers.com, book 1
Publisher: Gollancz/Orion, September 2008
Acquired: author

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[Review] SHADOW OF NIGHT by Deborah Harkness

SHADOW OF NIGHT
Deborah Harkness
genre: historical urban fantasy

Cover Copy: Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel,A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending,Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.

My Thoughts: I did not read the first book in this series, but that didn’t put me at a disadvantage for jumping into the middle of the trilogy. Harkness does a good job of catching the reader up in the first couple of chapters while also laying the groundwork for the story to come.

This is a great book for anyone looking for more history mixed up in their magical tales– or more magic mixed up in their history.  The legendary Kit Marlowe and Thomas Harriot are daemons in Harkness’s world. Henry Percy and Walter Raleigh are alchemists. Together these gents were known as the School of Night.

With great writing, intriguing characters, SHADOW OF NIGHT is sure to please anyone who likes historical urban fantasy.

Rating: A-
Series: All Souls Trilogy, #2
Publisher: Viking Adult, July 2012
Acquired: NetGalley

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[Review] DRIVEN by Eve Silver (Eve Kenin)

DRIVEN
Eve Silver
futuristic romance

Cover Copy: In the harsh Northern Waste where human life is worth little, ice trucker Raina Bowen has learned to keep her eyes open and her knife close at hand. She’s spent her life on the run, one step ahead of the megalomaniac who hunts her. All she wants is to stay out of trouble and haul her load of grain to Gladow Station–but trouble finds her in the form of a sexy stranger called Wizard. He has the trucking pass she needs, and she has to drag him out of a brawl with the very people she’s trying to hide from in order to get it. She may have rescued him, but Raina’s not foolish enough to see Wizard as anything close to helpless. He’s hard and honed and full of secrets–secrets that may destroy them both. As they race across the Waste, trying to outrun rival truckers, ice pirates, and the powerful man bent on their destruction, Raina’s forced to admit that trouble’s found her. And this time, there’s nowhere left to run.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed DRIVEN, right from hearing the premise. I mean, what’s not to like about romance meets Ice Road Truckers? I thought this was a great concept because the very landscape provides conflict and tension. In Ice Road Truckers, one wrong move and you sink your rig in Arctic waters. In DRIVEN, one wrong move and your life is ended by the gang of pirate-raider bad guys.

DRIVEN is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where a new, icy continent has formed and supplies have to be sent to remote areas by truck. But these are no ordinary trucks. These are cabins on wheels– with sci-fi inspired weapons.  And then put a young woman behind the wheel? Awesome!

Raina Bowen is just trying to trek her haul to her destination, when she ends up in trouble. She supposed to meet a guy named Wizard, who will give her the trucking pass she needs to complete her run. But things go awry when he ends up in a brawl and she has to rescue him. Matters get a whole lot worse when he doesn’t have the trucking pass, and it turns out she’s not hauling the load she thought she was. Raina and Wizard end up on the run from pirate-raiders.

Love ensues. But it’s a tricky romance because Raina has trust issues, and Wizard is very emotionally closed– almost robot like. How they end up falling for each other amid All This is a story you won’t want to miss– especially if you’re a reader of romance or urban fantasy and you’re looking for something a little different.

Rating: A-
Series: Northern Waste, #1
Publisher:
Acquired: purchase

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[Review] 13 by Kelley Armstrong

13 (THIRTEEN)
Kelley Armstrong

Cover Copy: War is coming to the Otherworld. A sinister cult known as The Supernatural Liberation Movement is hell-bent on exposing the truth about supernaturals to the rest of the world. Their violent, ruthless plan has put everyone at risk: from werewolves to vampires, from witches to half-demons.

Savannah Levine – fiery and unpredictable – stands at the heart of the maelstrom. There is a new, dark magic inside her, granting her the power to summon spells of terrifying strength. But whether this magic is a gift or a curse, no one knows.

On the eve of battle, all the major players must come together in a last, desperate fight for survival – Elena and Clay; Adam and Savannah; Paige and Lucas; Jeremy and Jaime; Hope, Eve and more…They are fighting for lives.

They are fighting for their loved ones.

They are fighting for the Otherworld.

My Thoughts: Oh my. What a fabulous ending to a fabulous series! Where do I begin? How do I begin without giving away spoilers?!

Multiple narrators: In 13, Armstrong gives us the story from several of our favourite characters: Savannah, Elena, Jaime, Eve, Hope, and Paige. I think Elena and Eve are still my favourite characters, but Savannah has grown on me. She might be a close third.

Lots of danger and action. What I liked about the last three books in the series is how well Armstrong built up and presented the Otherworld as being on the brink of war. When compared to other series where the worlds are “on the brink of war”, we saw very little action that would constitute a large scale battle such as war– typically we saw a murder or two and the characters extrapolated “this is an act of war” and suddenly there is war. Whereas Armstrong is not afraid of blowing up buildings, killing large groups of people, large scale threats against innocents. The same sort of acts that might be cause for war in real life. And she puts the main characters right into the thick of it. The threat of war seems far greater.

Savannah’s character development ends in a wonderful scene of high action and tension. I wonder if Adam gets that top for his Jeep or that ski vacation.

The women of the Otherworld are strong, and I love that the men aren’t Beta males, but they allow the women to be strong and don’t swoop in to save their women. There’s a great fight scene for Elena in 13.

Once again, Armstrong has delivered a high-octane, adrenaline-rush of a story with lots of action, hot guys and ruthless villains. I sure will miss the Otherworld series.

Rating: A
Series: Women of the Otherworld, #13
Publisher: Random House Canada
Acquired: purchased

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[Review] MOONGLOW by Kristen Callihan

MOONGLOW
Kristen Callihan
Genre: historical paranormal romance

Cover Copy:
Once the seeds of desire are sown . . .
Finally free of her suffocating marriage, widow Daisy Ellis Craigmore is ready to embrace the pleasures of life that have long been denied her. Yet her new-found freedom is short lived. A string of unexplained murders has brought danger to Daisy’s door, forcing her to turn to the most unlikely of saviors . . .

Their growing passion knows no bounds . . .
Ian Ranulf, the Marquis of Northrup, has spent lifetimes hiding his primal nature from London society. But now a vicious killer threatens to expose his secrets. Ian must step out of the shadows and protect the beautiful, fearless Daisy, who awakens in him desires he thought long dead. As their quest to unmask the villain draws them closer together, Daisy has no choice but to reveal her own startling secret, and Ian must face the undeniable truth: Losing his heart to Daisy may be the only way to save his soul.

My Thoughts:  Although it’s set in Victorian London and a paranormal romance, I think MOONGLOW will appeal to lovers of historical urban fantasy. The historical elements are accurate, the city is vivid, and there’s plenty of action. I figure the happily ever after is just a nice bonus.

MOONGLOW tells the story of Daisy Craigmore a recent widow with an extraordinary sense of smell, and Ian Ranulf, the shunned werewolf who should be the leader of the pack. A rogue werewolf starts attacking and eating people, and it seems to be targeting Daisy. Ian, wanting to catch the culprit, takes Daisy under his protection to keep her safe, but also to use her for bait. This is where other historicals might leave the heroine helpless and dependant on the hero. But not Callihan. Daisy soon discovers she has a magical power– she can move the earth and rapidly grow plants. It may not seem like much of a power, but in the moment Daisy discovers it, she impales some bad guys with tree roots. (Like I said, the action is great!)

A romance blossoms between Daisy and Ian over the course of these trials and tribulations, and Callihan develops it really well.

The plot does get a little twisted with its improbable “secret baby” subplot towards the end, but there’s enough adrenaline-infused action and other character development that this convoluted bit is relatively minor.

MOONGLOW is sure to be easily enjoyed by readers of romance, urban fantasy and historicals.

Rating: A-
Series: Darkest London, #2
Publisher: Forever, July 2012
Acquired: NetGalley

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