Mark of The Demon by Diana Rowland, Book Review

Goodreads Blurb 

Cop and conjurer of demons, she’s a woman in danger of losing control to a power that could kill….

Why me? Why now? That’s what Beaulac, Louisiana, detective Kara Gillian was asking herself when an angelic creature named Rhyzkahl unexpectedly appeared during a routine summoning. Kara was hoping to use her occult skills to catch a serial killer, but never had she conjured anything like this unearthly beautiful and unspeakably powerful being whose very touch set off exquisite new dimensions of pleasure. But can she enlist his aid in helping her stop a killer who’s already claimed the lives’and souls’of thirteen people? And should she? The Symbol Man is a nightmare that the city thought had ended three years ago. Now he’s back for an encore and leaving every indication on the flesh of his victims that he, too, is well versed in demonic lore.

Kara may be the only cop on Beaulac’s small force able to stop the killer, but it is her first homicide case. Yet with Rhyzkahl haunting her dreams, and a handsome yet disapproving FBI agent dogging her waking footsteps, she may be in way over her head…

My Review

Rating: 4*

So this was an interesting one for me as it was a little outside of my usual fare. It was a real combination of police-procedural and urban fantasy, with a healthy dose of humour and just a dash of eroticism. I think Ms Rowland did a seamless job of blending all those elements together and the one constant throughout was Kara. She was a great lead character as she was imperfect, flawed and ordinary except for when she was extraordinary. I like her vulnerability, it makes her extremely human in sometimes inhuman situations.

I must confess to taking an immediate and very shallow liking to Rhyzkahl. Ryan, on the other hand, was a slow burner, intentionally so I think. The two male leads really make you question the concept of good and evil, reminding me a little of Anne Rice’s Memnoch the Devil.

All told, an enjoyable read and I look forward to finding out what happens to the trio in the next one.

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Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) Jim Butcher, Book Review

 

 

Goodreads Blurb

Harry Dresden — Wizard.

Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or
Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

 

My Review

Rating 4*

Harry Dresden is a Wizard for hire. Along with helping civilians with magical problems, for a fee, he also works with the Police Department when they have magic related crimes. In this first volume of The Dresden Files, Harry gets embroiled in a crime that spans magic and the mafia, while at the same time trying to prove to the wizard authority, the White Council, that he is not breaking wizard law by practising black magic. To make matters worse, the Police have Harry in their sights, too.

What makes a refreshing change for this type of Urban Fantasy is having a male protagonist and a male author. Though I really liked Harry, perhaps that is also why I found it a little bit difficult to stay completely immersed in the story. And the fact that Harry was a bit hapless simultaneously added humour to the story and turned me off. Perhaps it was my own expectations that tripped me up here. Even though I like to think of myself as an open-minded reader, perhaps I’m more set in my ways than I thought. 

There are some great characters in this book, Butcher has a gift for giving a real personality to his characters, all of them different, all of them with a back story. Even if he doesn’t share all of it with us, the reader, you get a sense of them without him belabouring the point. That is the books real strength, along with the quality of writing. 

It’s flaw, for me, comes from the pacing of the story. The first half of the book felt very slow, though I understand he was world-building, while the second half was relentless. Poor Harry stumbles out of one impossible situation straight into the next. I personally enjoy the odd moment of stillness in a book, a chance for the protagonist, and me, to catch our breath. And I do like my leading men to be a bit more Alpha male. Again, though, I’m willing to concede it may well have been my own expectations that got in the way. 

This was a hard one for me to rate because Harry is a contradiction. On the one hand he’s accident prone, not too great with women, and seems to attract danger, while on the other he’s a formidable Wizard. If I was rating it purely on how much I enjoyed the book I would have given it 3*. But if I take into account the fact that this is a well written book with great characterisation, a solid mystery and the ability to challenge my expectations at every turn, in good faith I can’t give it less than 4*. 

Widow’s Web (Elemental Assassin #7)by Jennifer Estep, Book Review

 

 

Goodreads Blurb 

I used to murder people for money, but these days it’s more of a survival technique.

Once an assassin, always an assassin. So much for being plain old Gin Blanco. With every lowlife in Ashland gunning for me, I don’t need another problem, but a new one has come to town. 

Salina might seem like a sweet Southern belle, but she’s really a dangerous enemy whose water elemental magic can go head-to-head with my own Ice and Stone power. Salina also has an intimate history with my lover, Owen Grayson, and now that she’s back in town, she thinks he’s hers for the taking. 

Salina’s playing a mysterious game that involves a shady local casino owner with a surprising connection to Owen. But they call me the Spider for a reason. I’m going to untangle her deadly scheme, even if it leaves my love affair hanging by a thread.

 

My Review

Rating: 4.5*

Gin Blanco is still one of my favourite female protagonists, and Jennifer Estep is yet to let me down in her recounting of Gin’s adventures. Perhaps I’m just in a demanding or particularly picky frame of mind right now,(I get like that when I’m in writing mode) because, as much as I want to, I can’t give this book 5*. 

Why? I hear you ask. If you love the story and you love the writing, why not give it full marks? 

I only have one answer to that. For the first time in reading an Elemental Assassins book I felt the formula. This series, as with many ongoing series, does follow a formula, but usually with this series I don’t notice it. The story flows logically, with one or two surprises on the way, ending with Gin kicking ass. But with Widow’s Web it felt very similar to a couple of the earlier books, just with a couple of name changes. The result of that was it lacked a little of the usual Gin magic that I have become accustomed to.

That is the only criticism I have of this book. What I am enjoying is watching Gin’s development as a person, aside from her identity as The Spider. I very much like how this book focuses very heavily on Owen and his background, which I hope means we’ll be seeing more of him as the series progress. In fact, many of the characters that feature in this series are growing and changing, even Jo-Jo (g’wan, rude girl!) has a little twinkle in her eye. Thankfully, Finn has stayed exactly the same: flirtatious, materialistic, fiercely loyal, utterly loveable.

I wonder what book #8 has in store.

Broken (Women of the Otherworld #6) by Kelley Armstrong, Book Review

 

 

Goodreads Blurb

In this thrilling new novel from the author of Industrial Magic, a pregnant werewolf may have unwittingly unleashed Jack the Ripper on twenty-first-century—and become his next target.

Ever since she discovered she’s pregnant, Elena Michaels has been on edge. After all, she’s never heard of another living female werewolf, let alone one who’s given birth. But thankfully, her expertise is needed to retrieve a stolen letter allegedly written by Jack the Ripper. As a distraction, the job seems simple enough—only the letter contains a portal to Victorian London’s underworld, which Elena inadvertently triggers—unleashing a vicious killer and a pair of zombie thugs. 

Now Elena must find a way to seal the portal before the unwelcome visitors get what they’re looking for—which, for some unknown reason, is Elena.

 

My Review

Rating: 4.5*

Women Of The Otherworld is back to it’s best with this instalment. Loved it!

For me, Women Of The Otherworld is at its best when Elena is at the heart of the action. Though there is a cast of interesting and unusual characters in the series, it’s Elena that piqued my interest from book 1, and it’s Elena’s story I really want to follow.   

In this instalment of WotO, Elena is pregnant. ‘How on earth is Kelley Armstrong going to make this work?’ you may ask. That’s what I asked. I mean, Elena Michaels is a kickass werewolf chick who never walks away from trouble and loves to have a bit of a rumble and a tumble with Clay. I’ll tell you how she handles it: With serious aplomb and a deft touch.  

From the earlier books we always knew how much Elena worried about her fertility, whether she’d be able to have children after the horrible things that were done to her. So now that she’s pregnant she’s likely to be taking a back seat, letting the guys deal with any situation that might arise, right? Wrong. Though she’s aware that she needs to be careful, Elena is certainly not allowing pregnancy to turn her soft.

Kelley Armstrong has been very clever in choosing the situation for this instalment in that, although there are fights and scraps that Elena invariably gets caught up in, the theme of the plot is more a magical mystery than out-and-out action. It’s a more closed environment than we’re used to seeing in WotO, it’s more intimate, really driving home the emotional nature of this book. How Elena feels about her pregnancy is a thread that runs throughout Broken like veins of colour run through marble. In proportion to the whole, it’s a small percentage,  but without it you’d just have a lump of rock. The very presence of those veins intrinsically changes the very composition of said rock, and that’s exactly what Elena’s pregnancy does, not just to her, but to Clay and Jeremy,  too. It changes the dynamics of their relationships with each other and I very much enjoyed seeing, and feeling, their personal growth.   

As always, the book is well written, easy to read, imaginative and well paced. Though I enjoyed the last few books in the series, this one had something extra, something some of the earlier books perhaps lacked,  that I found really pleasing. This story didn’t just have heart; it had soul. One of my favourites yet.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Book Review

Goodreads Blurb

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. 

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. 

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. 

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

My Review

Rating: 4*

So, this is a tough one. I still can’t make up my mind about this book. I’m hovering between 3 and 4 stars. I don’t want to give away any spoilers because it really would spoil the effect of the book for those that want to read it, so I’ll give you a potted overview. 

The story is about a magical competition between Celia and Marco, instigated by her father and his mentor when they were children. Celia knows very little about the competition, not even who her opponent is, while Marco knows much more. And the location for the contest is Le Cirque des Reves. They do battle by creating more and more elaborate experiences (tents) within the circus, neither knowing how the contest will be won, but knowing there can be only one winner. Of course, there is the inevitable love story that ensues, though for a large part of the book the two protagonists are kept apart.

What was wonderful about this book was Morgenstern’s beautiful, often elaborate prose and intricate descriptions. The tents, and what happened within them, really came to life with her detail and atmosphere. You felt as though you were really there and these magical experiences could actually be real because of the dexterity of the author. One of my favourite things in the circus was Herr Theissen’s clock. What an extraordinary imagination Morgenstern has.

However, I also feel as though this was the book’s weakest point as well. Because the circus was described in every detail, from the clothes to the food at the Midnight Dinners and the smells of the circus, because the story was told from so many points of view and places in time, I found it, not difficult, but awkward to really develop any attachments to the characters. I wasn’t swept away with the story, but rather with the imagery.

Perhaps this was the author’s intent. The book actually felt like someone’s dream, one of those rare dreams that we all occasionally have that feels so real that when we wake up we feel disappointed because it didn’t actually happen. The Night Circus was less of a story and more of an experience.

If Morgenstern could shape her characters as satisfyingly as she shapes the world she puts them in, I think she could be a prodigious talent. For a debut novel I was very impressed and I will certainly be interested to see what else she writes. It’s not going to be one of my favourite books but all told, I think the book deserves 4 stars for the sheer commitment and bravery Morgenstern displays in not leaving any descriptive stone unturned. Not many books are written in this fashion and I admire her for trying something unusual. How successfully she achieves it is up to you.