Book Review: Lilyth (The Shadow Spirits Paradox - Book 1)
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Lilyth (The Shadow Spirits Paradox – Book 1) by Tiyana Angel

4 stars
Category: YA
Note: $0.99 cents on Kindle. Only 68 pages long.

Summary: Actually, I really can’t write much of a summary without spoiling stuff, since that’s how few main events happened during the course of this story. It stars a young woman named Lilyth who was orphaned at a young age when her mother was drowned in a flood. She now lives in a rustic village with her grandparents. She has a contentious relationship with her grandmother, which makes Lilyth escape the house constantly, leaving her spending time with her best friend Tristan, who obviously wants more than just a friendship with her. However, there is a war brewing which will change everything.

Comments: What drew me to reading this was the gorgeous cover. And now that I’ve finished this installment, I didn’t see the gorgeously costumed woman with the blue lipstick on the cover appear at any point in this particular book. In the description, it lists it as being dystopian, but I didn’t see any remnants of the modern world anywhere in it. The setting seemed like a basic medieval fantasy-world small village. Also this is listed as book 1, but really we only get an introduction to the characters and the main plot of the story doesn’t come into play until the end where it barely gets started before the book cuts out. In other words, this really is just part 1 of a larger book, rather than a contained Book 1 with continuing elements leading into another book. The grammar is perfect, I didn’t spot any typos, and the author fluidly describes her fantasy world. However I couldn’t stand Lilyth herself. She acted mean, bratty, unreasonable, over-dramatic, always arguing and shouting, storming off in a fury for no reason, and manhandling other characters, shoving them around. It was a bit much for even teenage angst. And it felt like things weren’t explained to the reader all that well at times. Still, I did keep reading till the end.

Book Review: Demon Princess (Demon Kingdom - Book 1)
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Demon Princess (Demon Kingdom Fairy Tales – Book 1) by Kassandra Lynn

5 stars!
Category: YA
Note: Only $0.99 on Kindle!

Summary: Princess Adrianna is just about to assume the throne of the Demon King after the disappearances of her father and older brother when she is summoned by a human mage and ripped away from the comfort of the demon land. She finds herself bonded to a human teenager who doesn’t give a moment’s thought to her needs, and only concerns himself with how his new bonded beast can advance him in standing in the magic academy that he attends. He immediately uses her to fight against other beasts, against her will, forcing her to obey him, to advance his placement. He refuses to even treat her as a human being, suggesting that she should eat with the other bonded animals. The only one who gives her any consideration and sympathy is Keldrin, her bonded master’s cousin. She finds herself growing closer to Keldrin each time he tries to help her, but he is a Savior Blood, which when partnered with a Wiseman, and a Warrior blood, form the perfect team to kill the reigning Demon King. And at the school Adrianna finds a Wiseman who becomes more than a little interested in finding out exactly what Adrianna is, since she is obviously more than just human. Adrianna enlists Keldrin’s help in releasing her from her bond, and to do that, they must obtain an Enchanter’s Stone from the dangerous wasteland.

Comments: I loved every minute of this! There were points at which I was worried it would go down the road of so many bad novels I have read, like when it came out that she had been summoned to a school. I was just waiting for the inevitable bullies, crush, classes, teachers, popular girls snubbing her, etc. But, yay, it really didn’t focus on the school in a student capacity since she wasn’t actually a student, and Aldric was embarrassed by her, she didn’t actually have to waste her time moaning through any of that. The battling of mage beasts felt D&D and World of Warcraft style, I worried it might go down the road of continuing on with the tedious beast battles through the entire story, which it thankfully didn’t. This took a lot of surprising twists and turns, yes, there was the inevitable romance (which was very sweet and I totally adored it!), but it didn’t just stay at the school, which I was nice surprised by. I loved Adri’s determination and refusal to be cowed, even with the ill treatment by Aldric. It really irritated me that Aldric really couldn’t see her as a human being. (Which is a good thing because we’re supposed to not like him and root for Adri to get free of him). And like Keldrin pointed out, it was slavery, though Aldric seemed determined to see her as a beast so perfectly within his rights to control. And, yes, I totally adored Keldrin, as well as I thought the Wiseman was an intriguing character, when he so could have easily gone down the road of villain hell-bent on bringing her down. One thing I felt was off though was that she really didn’t seem to question what happened to her father and brother. They were missing and she was determined to hold their kingdom together, but she didn’t seem to be questioning what had happed to them or where they were or if she might vanish along with them. I am eagerly looking forward to reading the next book in the series!

Book Review: Shadows of Darkness (Order of the Blade - Volume 10)
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Shadows of Darkness (Order of the Blade – Volume 10) by Stephanie Rowe

4 stars
Category: Adult
Note: This was included in the Romancing the Paranormal anthology

Summary: Levi Hart is an immortal Calydon warrior who has been chained up underground for a century after the killing frenzy of his assassin training took hold of him. In the century of being tied up his killing frenzy has cooled off and he has continued to train his muscles in wait for rescue to find him. And when it does, he senses HER, his Fated Mate, doomed to love him and kill him, because if he succumbs to pairing with her, he will kill everyone else. Maya, though, can’t afford to love Levi. She has to rescue her kingdom first from Shadow Wolves that have killed her parents and hunt the rest of her kingdom’s population to extinction. In hope of a quick fix, she has agreed to give herself to a neighboring warlord in exchange for the light that he wields.

Comments: Maya and Levi have fantastic chemistry. I can’t help but love this story just for the love between the two of them. Levi is beyond sexy with a wounded, vulnerable past and darkness lurking within just begging Maya to banish it from his soul. And Maya is a once shy, overlooked second daughter just coming in to her own and finding her strength to seek help and fight the darkness. And all of those wonderful things almost overshadow all the faults of this story. Almost. But this story does indeed have a lot of faults. The villain is just so over the top cliché, he was almost twirling a black moustache. As usual in these stories, I caught them having sex at really odd inopportune moments (like the first time when they should have been on the run from the creatures or trying to find their friends, they suddenly decided to use sex to heal themselves -which is preposterous in itself. Not to mention that she also didn’t seem bothered in the slightest that she had ditched her companions). Then there’s the whole preposterous overarching predestined fate looming over the entire story. According to the destiny, when the warrior finds his Fated Mate, he is doomed to pair with her, and after the mating is complete, he will lose his mind and go into a killing frenzy with only his mate the only one able to stop him. And after she kills him, she will kill herself. I mean, seriously, if that were the case, then their race would have died out long time ago since the mate wouldn’t be around long enough to bare children. Another problem I had with this was I couldn’t tell when this was supposed to have been set. They were wearing modern clothes, like jeans, but yet, the world felt like a feudal system with horses being the mode of travel, and castles and not much in between except plains. But the story itself is a fun adventure, and the Shadow Wolves are deliciously scary. And the looming threat of the Warlord is fun as well, wondering how Maya will extricate herself from her deal.

Book Review: Spirits, Hurricanes, and the Krewe of Ghoul
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Spirits, Hurricanes, and the Krewe of Ghoul (A Pyper Rayne short story) by Deanna Chase

4 stars
Category: Adult
Note: 0.99 cents on Kindle (I read this as included in The Spell of the Ball anthology) BTW, Amazon has it listed at being 39 pages long.

Summary: It’s Halloween in New Orleans, and Pyper has been hired by a client to appear on his float in the parade. It’s a vampire Bachelor theme with competitions during the parade where at the end of the parade he will choose his bride for the night and have her attend the party with him. Since Pyper already has a hunky boyfriend, she’s not interested in being the bride of the night. But still, her client manages to drag her into the dance part of the competition as well as the fighting part. And to make matters worse, Ida May, Pyper’s house ghost suddenly appears on the float with her, in the flesh. As eyes flash and change color, and vampire fangs sprout, the competition starts to look more real than just entertainment.

Comments: This was my first time picking up a Deanna Chase book, and while it was written well, it didn’t really sell me on the characters. Pyper felt like any other Sookie Stackhouse wannabe with things just happening around her (if anything, she seemed a bit blind to the shenanigans happening around her). There was nothing that really set her apart from any one else on the float, though it did have the delectable New Orleans party atmosphere. And Ida May was over the top raunchy for my tastes. I finished this within half an hour, which is short for even a short story. The story itself is fun and the way Pyper interacts with the other contestants was good for a laugh, so readers who are already fans of the characters would enjoy reading this.

Book Review: Origins (To Each His Own Ghost #0.5)
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Origins (To Each His Own Ghost #0.5) by S.M. Boyce

5 stars!
Category: Adult
Note: Free on Kindle!

Summary: Mel has always been able to see ghosts. So, seeing a guardian ghost sitting in on the session with her new shrink isn’t anything new. But knowing that the shrink has a friendly ghost makes her hope that the shrink might actually be able to help her, rather than considering her crazy as everyone else in her life does. Her story begins back in her childhood with her imaginary friend Hazel, who was actually a ghostly resident of her house that only she could see. After getting bullied and not fitting in at school, she shuns the spirit. Only to have it return when she’s an adult with her baby also being able to see it. But rather than the friendly ghost she knew as a child, Hazel has turned mean, and lets loose an evil monster spirit against her.

Comments: Chilling story! Everything I could want from a short ghost story! The reader can’t help but sympathize with Mel as she grows up, struggling to fit in even though she stands out, and having no one believe her, while faced with an impossible spirit who just doesn’t want to be reasonable, and not to mention very scary at times. Hazel is very eerie and does cross the line to scary, as well as the other monsters that get let loosed during the course of the story. Not to mention the frustration of not having any adults believe her even when she is an adult. I loved every inch of paranormal in this and the atmosphere is perfect. I hear we get to see Mel, at least briefly in the next book Ari, which I am definitely looking forward to reading after this. I am dearly hoping we get to see more of her story since things were left hanging in this installment. But even with that said, I would still recommend this to others for a short creepy read.

Book Review: Moonlit Feathers (Woodland Creek)
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Moonlit Feathers (Woodland Creek) by Sarah Makela

5 stars
Category: Adult
Notes: I read this as part of the Be Witched anthology

Summary: Raven-shifter Morgana picks up a gold rock and takes it back to her wizard friend to investigate it. Coyote-shifter Cody hires Morgana to find his missing family talisman. One of its powers is that it is able to turn things to gold. However other parties are also after the missing talisman. An evil wizard also attempts to hire Morgana, and when Morgana rejects his job offer, the wizard takes action, threatening everyone around Morgana unless she bend to his will.

Comments: I absolutely loved 98% of this book. Seriously, the final chapter felt like it had been tacked on by a different author trying to satisfy the erotic readers out there without a hint of the paranormal that had been in the other 98% of the book. The indie shifter books on the market all feature werewolves (usually Scottish, country, or biker), dragon shifters, or bear shifters, so it’s refreshing to hit something that doesn’t have any of the above. Cody felt a bit inconsistent. The first couple of chapters from his point of view made him sound like a high school senior, while each time we saw him from Morgana’s viewpoint he looked more like in his mid-twenties. Personally, my favorite character was Kevin, who I definitely hope gets his own book eventually (even though he did have a Dresden vibe to him). The story itself had a fun blend of Native American culture, and mystery, as well as the action and adventure, and a dash of magic. I did notice this had been written as part of a collection of stories by different authors, so sadly it didn’t look like the author had written any sequels with the characters.

Book Review: Steadfast (An Elemental Masters novel)
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Steadfast (An Elemental Masters Novel) by Mercedes Lackey

4 stars
Category: Adult
Note: Borrowed from the library

Summary: Finally taking a chance on freedom from her abusive strongman husband, Katie Langford steals away in the middle of the night from the circus where she had grown up as a tumbling act. She hops a train to Brighton where by magic she finds a job as a magician’s assistant in a music hall. The doorman Jack, takes an immediate liking to her, and spots that she’s an elemental master like him with an affinity to fire, but the fear of her husband that she clings to is holding her back from realizing her full potential.

Comments: Usually I love Mercedes Lackey novels. I’ve read plenty of her Valdemar novels and loved her Free Bard series and I totally adored Firebird, the first book in this Elementals series. And while I did like the characters, and loved the idea of the heroine working as a magician’s assistant, it felt like the book was lacking. Yes, spouse abuse is a hard, painful topic to read, as well as Jack’s having been a soldier and returned from the war where he didn’t come back unscathed from both emotionally and physically. To me, it felt like it fell short in that I was hoping Lionel, the magician, would have a larger role in the book, in terms of his magic tricks. I know he was in it plenty, but he really had a side-lined part (I would like to hope that sometime in the future he might be the centeral romantic figure of his own book?). The entire book felt too detailed overall. I know that should be a good thing, to add as much detail as possible to make it feel authentic, but there’s a point where all the detail gets to be tedious, and this crossed that point very early. But, I did keep reading straight till the end, and as other reviewers have pointed out these elemental master books seem to be a bit formulaic in that rather than bringing back old characters who might have just been on the sidelines, each book in the series spotlights new characters with an older master falling for a young new protégé. BTW, adding in a couple of mentions of steam powered, does not make a book steampunk. Still, I did love the setting. I don’t often see things set in Brighton. It’s almost always either London or in the country. The town itself was fun to explore with it’s boardwalk and entertainments, and all of the lifestyle of the entertainers.

Book Review: Sixty-Six
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Sixty-Six (A Strange Story) by Matthew Stott

4 stars
Category: Adult (Horror violence)
Note: I obtained a copy of this via Instafreebie

Summary: In a small town in England there is a legend of a monster who wakes from his slumber under the waters of a ruined house on a lake every sixty-six years in search of a child’s head to replace his missing one. Carl is dared by his older brother to go out to the ruined house in the middle of the lake and take pictures as he investigates the interior of the house. While taking the pictures, a monster attacks. The casualty is Carl’s older brother who had been lying in wait to prank his brother. Carl returns to the small town years later for his school reunion and investigates, determined to prove that the events of that fateful day really did happen.

Comments: This is a very short, effectively creepy story. Yes, the headless monster brings to mind the Headless Horsemen of the famous Washington Irving story. This one is certainly not as mobile considering he’s confined mainly to the small island, but yet that’s what naturally encourages children to test their bravery. It is deliciously atmospheric, and, yes, gory for those who love their horror slasher movies. The only real problem I had with this story were the kids in the beginning. Their slang was nearly unintelligible. When it gets to the second section of the story where Carl has returned for his reunion, suddenly I could follow all of the dialogue without any trouble (though I didn’t really care for the boys discussing their conquests. Felt a bit unneeded, though considering they’re guys, I suppose it’s expected). In all, I did like the story. I thought it was a fun read, and I especially liked the last section.

Book Review: Brea's Tale (Feyguard Novella)
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Brea’s Tale: A Feyland Novella (Feyguard) by Anthea Sharp

5 stars
Category: YA
Note: Only 0.99 cents on Kindle!

Summary: Brea Caergaird, the daughter of a fisherman in a small rustic town, finds herself alone after a storm destroys her father’s boat. She is expelled from her home by the villagers, who think of her as odd and distant, which she is convinced is because her mother was most likely some fantastical creature from the sea. On her way out of town, she is accosted by a gang of brigands intent on doing Brea harm. As she struggles, she falls into the faerie blessed stream and screams internally if she has any magic at all or if the faeries can hear her for help to come to her aide. And suddenly, she turns into a fish! Then begins Brea’s new magical life.

Comments: I loved this story. Brea is definitely not the usual kick-ass heroine in all the books available nowadays. She’s a scared, innocent, sheltered young woman who panics when she gets into sticky situations. She does grow and change as a character through the course of this novella, and by the end she does try to solve her situations rather than just succumb to the panic. Admittedly I read Feyland: The First Adventure and didn’t care for it much. It felt juvenile and rather wooden and the video game world of Feyland, even though richly described, felt flat and just there as a backdrop. Though this novella is a vast improvement, with Brea a lifelike and complicated character with emotions and flaws, and the story certainly has a lot of twists and turns as she has to adapt to the different places she ventures to, but still Feyland itself is very static and feels like a richly visual, but still very flat backdrop. There is no personality to the creatures of Feyland, other than what is expected of them (to be comic book evil or to talk in riddles). With it being the centering focus of this series, I keep expecting more of it than being just a backdrop. I adored Brea’s time in her aquatic form. I’m sure the audience, as fans of fantasy, expected Brea to turn into a mermaid, so I loved that the author had her transform into something pleasantly unexpected, and certainly different from any other shifter story I’ve encountered. And did like Brea trying to adapt to going back into the human world, but I had to groan when she decided to enroll as a student and pave the way for yet another high school drama to come (it’s like when in doubt, write high school drama). Another thing I had trouble with was that she had gained a whole bunch of new powers when she went back to the human world and knew how to use all of them, but there hadn’t been any mention of them prior to her returning to the human world which felt like a puzzle piece missing. In all, I thought it was an excessively fun read and would certainly recommend it to others.

Book Review: Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors (Volume 1)
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Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors (Volume 1) by H.L. Burke

5 stars!
Category: YA

Summary: Early one morning, a man dressed in black threatens Nyssa to come with him. As she struggles against him, her boss comes to her aide and gets killed. Nyssa evades the man in black, but rather than go to the authorities, which she will be in trouble with for the death of her boss since she is already a convicted felon (for theft) but was currently out on good behavior, she goes on the run and gets shortly picked up by a woman who offers her a new life if Nyssa can get some documents for her in an inventor’s mansion. The inventor and his family and staff had mysteriously vanished within the mansion except for one hysterical maid. Curious about the mystery of the house, Nyssa enters, using her thief skills and encounters a house full of malfunctioning robots, Indiana Jones type booby-traps, and an odd artificial intelligence overseeing the house security who seems willing to help her through the mansion.

Comments: I loved every moment I spent reading this short story. I loved the impish personality of Hart and the creativeness of Nyssa with her goggles with their many settings for breaking and entering. Though I’ve been picking up quite a few steampunk stories lately I hadn’t yet hit one about a female thief. And I love the steampunk genre for creating these strong heroines completely going against the time period. The mansion was almost a character of itself as the author designed so many different types of robots to populate it with, and the horrific elements felt right out of a late night scifi movie. There was a good blend of adventure, mystery, and even a dash of unattainable romance as she found herself trusting the house security intelligence more and more. That said, I loved the chemistry between Nyssa and Hart and will definitely be picking up more in the series. I can’t wait to see what directions the author takes the series in! I picked up this book after devouring my way through H.L. Burke’s wonderful Dragon and Scholar series, which I also recommend for fantasy lovers.

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