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Book Review: Light’s Shadow

Light’s Shadow is the third (and final?) book in the Copper Falls trilogy by Colleen Vanderlinden. I have been anxiously waiting for this once since I finished the second in the series. I knew I wouldn’t have long to wait, because Colleen is a magical writing machine! She publishes fantastic stories every day! (That is an exaggeration, of course. It’s more like once a week.) (I’m not actually sure how often, I just know that her prolificness leaves me in awe. I’m beginning to suspect that her “home school” is just a book sweatshop.) (KIDDING!)

Although I picked this up via my Kindle Unlimited subscription, I should disclose that Colleen is a friend (and my editor) and we are locked in a fierce contest to see which of us can kill the most characters. She did alright in this book, but she really could’ve done better. Too much saving!

Disclosure: I am writing this pre-coffee, so there will probably be more parentheticals than are legally allowed.

The Cover

That hair! That dress! Those bosoms!

 

The Blurb

Born of the Light. Corrupted by Shadow.

After spending her entire life as a servant of the Light, Sophie Turner no longer knows where she fits into a world in which she’s been forced to become the very thing she’s come to hate. She doesn’t know herself anymore, and can’t seem to reconcile her strong belief in the tenets of Light as Shadow magic flows through her body, seducing her, tempting her to do the very things she swore she’d never do.

At the same time, her relationship with Calder Turcotte, the man she’s loved for practically her entire life, is on shaky ground. The things she had to do to break his curse haunt them both, and there’s a distance between them now that she doesn’t know if they can ever bridge.

All of that is bad enough, but when the alpha of the Copper Falls wolf pack ends up dead, Calder finds himself under suspicion for his murder, and it becomes abundantly clear that the quiet life Sophie and Calder crave is further from their reach than ever.

And when an ancient enemy returns to make his final move against Sophie, finally fulfilling his mission, she’ll be forced to rely on the tenuous alliances she’s made, as well as the Shadow magic she detests and distrusts, to save everything that matters to her.

A story of eternal love, forgiveness, and strength, Light’s Shadow is the final book in the Copper Falls paranormal romance trilogy.

The Review

I love the cover – it’s nice to see a more…buxom…woman gracing our fantasy stories (and not just your fantasies, Steve). I also really like Sophie. She’s a realistic blend of soft and strong.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners, wise-cracking, my-weaknesses-are-secret, kick-ass heroines as much as the next person, but Sophie has human weaknesses, and that makes her more realistic. (As realistic as a witch who can throw you out of windows with her brain can be, anyway.)

Her relationship with Calder builds along fits and starts of misunderstandings, deliberate (but necessary) heart-breaking deception, and temper tantrums. I get this. This (except for not being able to break trees with my mind) (and the deliberate but necessary heartbreak) is me (down to the fantastic tatas).

The story winds along at a very good pace, speeding along and then slowing down to let you catch your breath. Although I figured we were in a HEA situation (regardless of body count), there was nothing predictable about the path we took to get there.

There were some scenes that made me gasp out loud and shake my fist in a vaguely threatening manner. Things that pierced me to my soul. People had to make hard decisions and my heart broke more for those decisions than they did for Calder in the second book.

The Quotes

“I’ve never been insulted by someone quoting Emily Dickinson before. That’s new,” Sophie said, looking up at the gray clouds above.

“I try to bring a little class to my insults. Sometimes, anyway,” Esme said.

That delights me, because who doesn’t love an educated, snarky witch? (According to Giles, Emily Dickinson is a pretty good poet…for an American.)

She wasn’t perfect. He knew that. She could be cold and standoffish. She could say things sometimes, not realizing how much they hurt. And she had a bad habit of closing herself off from everyone exactly at those moments in which she needed them most.

To be honest, she sounds pretty damn perfect – at least according to that description. (Or does she sound like me? Out of my head, Vanderlinden!)

The Verdict

This book is a fantastic end to a fun and interesting trilogy, and you should go out and get it immediately. It’s on Amazon (and Kindle Unlimited), and I don’t think you’ll regret a thing. Solid 4.5 stars.

Book Review: The Beast of London

A few weeks ago, I got an email from the author asking if I wanted an advanced copy to read and review. Along with the email, I got the cover and the blurb.

The blurb sounded interesting, but I am not going to lie to you, faithful readers. It was the cover that convinced me. I mean, look at this gorgeous thing!

The Cover

Right? RIGHT?

That is amazing. Also intriguing? The blurb. I love me some Bram Stoker, and I think we all know how I feel about vampires. A retelling of the Dracula story from Mina’s point of view? There was absolutely no way I was turning that down.

The Blurb

Mina Murray once lived an adventurous life, but after a tragedy in the forests of Transylvania, she left it all behind. Now she has settled into a quiet routine as a schoolteacher in London, engaged to the respectable solicitor Jonathan Harker, attempting to fit into the stuffy upper class London society to which he belongs.

Her dark past comes careening into her present when Jonathan is abducted by a group of vampires from a society ball. Determined to rescue him, she teams up with her former paramour Abraham Van Helsing and his colleague, Scotland Yard Inspector John Seward.

As they pursue Jonathan’s abductors from England to the Low Countries and beyond, Mina realizes that Jonathan’s abduction is tied to a larger threat against humanity…

The Review

I had a hard time getting into it in the beginning. The language seemed stilted and didn’t flow very well. It wasn’t until I was about 30% of the way through this (60K word) book that I felt like it came into its own.

The backbone of the story is interesting, but the characters didn’t seem very well-developed. It was hard to believe that Jonathan Harker was lovable enough to endure his mother and to mount a full-fledged rescue attempt in the face of almost impossible odds.

However, the world-building was very well done, and by the end, I was buying the forbidden chemistry between Mina and Abe (Van Helsing). There were some fun twists and turns regarding a mysterious stranger and some events that had me wanting to do a little historical research (which is, for me, the hallmark of a good book–I care enough to dig deeper).

The ending felt abrupt. I think the book could’ve easily continued on for another 10-20K words (and I would’ve liked more exposition and time spent with the main characters).

I’m hoping we see more of the intriguing Clara in the next book (which I will definitely be picking up) and learn more about Gabriel’s back story.

The Verdict

A good debut! I’m looking forward to the author’s voice really coming into its own as she moves forward with future works. I’ll definitely be waiting for the second one to come out and give this a solid 3.5 stars.

The Disclaimer

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Night in the Waking City (an Elemental World short story)

Elizabeth Hunter re-released her novella A Very Proper Monster yesterday. It  had previously been paired with a Grace Draven short (which you should read…), but now it’s out in the world alone and with a brand new cover.

Cover of A Very Proper Monster

I reviewed A Very Proper Monster when it came out before, but this edition has a new short story in it that gives us a new glimpse of Josie and Tom.

The short was genuinely fantastic. I enjoyed Tom and Josie the first time around, and this look at them, with bonus Tenzin and Ben, was just the best.

The Blurb

Tom and Josie travel to New York City to meet with allies and publishers, but a chance encounter sends Josie into a rage, leaving Tom to look for unexpected allies in the city that never sleeps. Can a young human and an ancient vampire find his ailing mate before Josie does something she’ll regret?

The Review

This story was both laugh out loud funny (honestly-I was laughing loudly enough sitting alone at the bar last night that people gave me side-eye) and sweetly (but not too sweetly) poignant. Not many authors have the chops to pull off heart-string tugging and funny bone whacking in the same short story.

Josie is a delight-she’s eccentric, passionate, and not quite like other vampires. Honestly, she’s what I want to be when I grow up and have enough money to be eccentric instead of merely odd.

I also want the ability to find offensive authors and have a “chat” with them about the abuses they’ve perpetrated on the English language.

(And I want to hang out with Tenzin and discuss romance novels.)

The Quotes (I couldn’t pick just one…this story is so quotable!)

 “He does write in a genre,” [Josie] said. “It’s a genre called ‘predictable sexist shite.’ Trust me, he’s hardly the first writer to publish in it.”

New York City skyline at night with quote

Typical. She gives a man perfectly valid writing feedback, and he threatens her.

And the best for last (and not something I worry about over muchly…ha!)

“Just tell me. Are you going to kill me?”
“I don’t know. Are you going to keep abusing adverbs?”

The Verdict

If you haven’t already read A Very Proper Monster, you’re going to want to do that immediately – and especially now that you get this fantastic short story with it. Run, don’t walk, to Amazon and download your copy today.

Book Review: Etched in Bone

I have been reading this series – The Others – since early 2015 (the first book was published in 2013 and I picked up the first three when #3 was released). This is the fifth in the series, and there will be at least one more (“Lake Silence” is scheduled for a 2018 release).

I have loved this series. I pre-ordered “Etched in Bone” as soon as it was available for pre-order. I scheduled this review. And then a few days ago, I got this text:

I’ll admit to feeling trepidatious when I started reading. As I have probably mentioned before (here and here, for starters), I have very little patience for sexual assault in my books. It’s disheartening to go back over books I’d rated highly and see how much non-consensual sexual content there is.

For a while, before Cat & I got too depressed, we were tracking the incidences of sexual assault (including mate rape, which just stop!) in romance novels. Urban fantasy and PNR (paranormal romance) have an exponentially higher rate of sexual assault than any other romance genre.

The above information will definitely color my review. Going forward, any book that has sexual assault that doesn’t drive the storyline (and I am extremely particular about what I will allow for “storyline driving”) will automatically get a 3-star rating. It’s no longer me deducting one sexual assault star from an otherwise 5-star book. This is crap and needs to stop.

The Blurb

After a human uprising was brutally put down by the Elders—a primitive and lethal form of the Others—the few cities left under human control are far-flung. And the people within them now know to fear the no-man’s-land beyond their borders—and the darkness…

As some communities struggle to rebuild, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery’s shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.

With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end—with her standing beside a grave.

The Cover

I love the covers for this series.

The Review

spoilers below…

I love the main characters in this story – the are well-crafted and well-developed and the way they grow and change with the series is fantastic. Meg Corbyn, the main character, has grown up so much over the series. She’s still skittish (as would you be, had you been a virtual slave pimped out so people could cut you up and get prophecies), but is developing into a strong young woman who is getting much better at asking for help and channeling her gift through her prophecy cards instead of through cuts in her skin.

Twyla Montgomery is my favorite human character and this book really showcased her strength. Having to watch her three adult children screw things up so badly (at least 2/3 of them) and to stand firm so that they have to stand on their own two feet (or not) had to have been painful (especially since there are grandchildren involved).

Simon and Tess are my favorite non-humans, and I kinda want to be Tess when I grow up. (Mostly for the hair, but a little bit for the “harvesting of human lives with her brain” thing she’s got going on.)

The bad guy – Cyrus James (Jimmy, or “that Cyrus”) – is bad. He is lazy, petty, manipulative, and cruel. The way he treats his younger sister (who was adopted, as we are reminded frequently by him) is abhorrent. He is physically, mentally, and verbally abusive to her, to his own wife, and to his children. There is no doubt what-so-ever that he is a bad, bad man. Also not in doubt? That his son Clarence is fixing to grow up just like daddy.

This is well-established by the way they treat people they perceive as weaker and less-powerful. Their lack of perception is showcased by who they perceive to be weaker and less-powerful (small doesn’t mean weak, especially when you’re dealing with Others).

At no point did I say to myself, “Hey, self! That Cyrus seems kinda bad, but I’m conflicted as to whether or not he deserves the kind of punishment that the Others mete out.”

Nor did I say, “I wonder if that shoplifting kid who is mean to his sister and who wears child-sized brass knuckles before beating up (or at least attempting to) smaller children is growing up just like daddy?”

The characters of both Cyrus and Clarence were carefully built and they both made me very uncomfortable with their slimy, greedy, stupid cruelty. (Anne Bishop’s character crafting is amazing. It’s a testament to her skills as a writer that she can cause me to have a visceral reaction to Cyrus with just a few strokes of her pen…errr…keyboard. Which is why what follows is even more upsetting and unnecessary.)

And then it was revealed that Clarence was offering his younger sister money to kiss his friend’s bums and had been offered money for young Frances to do more than that. As if the exposition that Clarence was considering “trying to pimp his younger sister” (direct quote from the book) wasn’t enough, later, in an effort to provide a distraction for his father, Clarence pulled down the pants of another little girl (Sarah), held her, and yelled out “Show ’em your bald pussy, bitch!”

Neither of the items mentioned in the previous paragraph were necessary. Clarence was already well on the road to Reprehensible Town, and making the child a sexual predator (which is never really addressed, other than Monty asking his sister-in-law – the mother of Clarence and Frances – if she knew Clarence was starting to pimp his sister and finding out that she was) is not only unnecessary, but lazy and gross. The fact that Sarah’s public assault is mentioned again only in passing (therapy was recommended, but Clarence wasn’t sent to sex-offender juvie, just “boys ranch in the woods” juvie) is even worse. If you’re going to make a child a sex offender, then it needs to be addressed because that is some serious shit and not just a kid going down a dark path.

To me, that was almost worse than the way That Cyrus behaved. It is well-established that he sees everyone, but particularly women, as objects to be used. He steals or coerces food from his sister and leaves barely enough for his children and wife. His mother’s purpose is to be manipulated by either him or his children so that she can also be a source of food and money (Twyla is not having it, though. I love me some Twyla). He helps some guy sneak into Lakeside for money without caring what exactly that man wants (answer: to either retrieve or render useless something that’s his and is beyond his reach). (Further answer: that “thing” is his ex-, a person, and I’m pretty sure we all know what’s meant by “…if I can’t take it with me, I’m going to make sure it’s of no use to anyone.”)

That Cyrus facilitates other crimes as well, and then uses his own son as a distraction when he (that Cyrus) actually does his own crime. (Such initiative!)

This crime (SPOILER) is the kidnapping, physical assault, and sexual assault of Meg. (Forced sexual contact is still assault, even if the penis doesn’t go in the vagina.)

I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with the correlation between the cutting visions and sexual arousal, because it equates pain and pleasure in a non-consensual way, ensures that sexual pleasure for the blood prophets is morally questionable, and takes sexual agency away from the cassandra sangues.

There was absolutely no reason for that Cyrus to sexually violate Meg. He was already bad. That was established. She was already in a world of hurt – kidnapped, locked in a trunk where she received various bumps, bruises, and accidental cuts, and then cut and forced to prophesy against her will by someone who was unskilled and didn’t know how to properly administer the cuts.

Sexual assault wasn’t necessary to establish either her dire straights or his reprehensible character.

The Verdict

This was a very good story marred by laziness. The story-line was well crafted, the characters well developed, the world is still fascinating, and the overall series moved forward with this character-heavy novel.

BUT.

Authors, if you can’t think of a better way for men to be awful and women to be hurt, please let me know. (A short list follows to get you started.)

The only thing worse than sexual assault to hurt a woman is sexual assault to hurt “her man.” And by worse, I mean awful and lazy on the author’s part.

I’m tired of wading through sexual assault in books. Urban fantasy and PNR are my favorite genres to read and to write, and it’s awful that they’re the rapiest genres.

AUTHORS OF THE WORLD – get it together. There is a 99.8% chance that the assault you wrote into your book was completely unnecessary.

READERS/REVIEWERS OF THE WORLD – pay attention to this and start calling authors on it.

Yes, rape and sexual assault are realities.

One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. That’s 17.7 million women.

IN addition, 3% of American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime – that’s 2.78 million men. (https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims).

That doesn’t mean you have to assault your characters every time you want to establish a bad guy or a hurt woman. THIS IS FANTASY! (And a woman killing her rapist doesn’t make it okay. She can also kill the man who was pulling out her toenails, tying her up and giving her cardboard cuts and pouring lemon juice on her, or making her listen to that “Friday” song on repeat which is how my ex- used to torture me every Friday morning.)

The End

Read the series. It’s magnificent (particularly book 3, which was fan-fucking-tastic). But don’t let rape and sexual assault slide by when you’re reading. Note it. Call it out. And stop writing it.

The Disclaimer

(I bought this book with my own money.)

 

Book Review: Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson was my gateway drug into urban fantasy. I don’t remember what inspired me to pick up Moon Called so very many years ago, but up until that point, my fantasy reading was much more of the Robert Jordan, Mercedes Lackey, David Eddings variety – i.e. the worlds that were built were other. I still enjoy exploring new worlds (Jeffe Kennedy and Grace Draven are excellent examples of current favorites), but urban fantasy (with vampires!) is where it’s at for me…

I preorder every Mercy Thompson book the moment I can, and because I live on the west coast, they arrive in my Kindle at 9 pm on Monday evening. Plenty of time to finish them before bedtime–if bedtime is after 1 am. Which it was the day this book came out.

The Blurb

Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe…

Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise…

The Cover

 

The Review

First, my only real criticism (and this is for the book specifically as well as the series generally): the book basically opens with Mercy getting kidnapped. Again.  There are really only so many times a woman should be kidnapped in her life. (I read a book once where the MC was kidnapped at least four times in one book. That’s bordering on ridiculous.) Mercy has spent a lot of time in this series getting kidnapped and assaulted. The saving grace is that she does get to spend some time rescuing her wolves from kidnapping as well.

Sidebar: I would love to read a PNR or urban fantasy series where the main female character is never once kidnapped or sexually assaulted. (I’m totes okay with physical assault, because violence is part of the genre…sexual violence doesn’t need to be.)

ANYWAY – the best part of this book? Mercy is a self-rescuing kidnap victim. (The other best part? Bran. I love me some Bran. He is terrifying and awesome, which is exactly as he should be.)

Oh wait! There’s a third best part! Larry!

[Elizaveta:] “The blue room should be adequate for the goblin king.

“We don’t call ourselves that,” said Larry dryly. “That was just that one movie. I mean, ‘Larry the Goblin King’ just doesn’t have the right ring to it.”

Ooooh – and Stefan and Marsilia! I do enjoy the vampires (Wulf gives me the wig, though.)

One of the interesting parts of this book was that the chapters were split up between Adam and Mercy chapters, and that made the timeline…a bit wibbly-wobbly (Ms. Briggs is a Whovian; there’s a Matt Smith in the book who is definitely not the Doctor). I enjoyed it immensely and thought Ms. Briggs did an exceptional job with that. It was also fun that most of the action took place in Europe – particularly Prague. (Prague, along with research destinations to the southeast, is my next planned destination…the Beer Guy and my PSM were both recently there [oddly enough, at almost the exact same time…were they hanging out without me?].)

The Verdict

It’s hard to keep a series and characters interesting and fresh, and Patricia Briggs has managed to continue to do so. This was more than worth the time and money spent for the latest in the series and I’m definitely looking forward to Mercy’s next adventure.

The Disclaimer

None for this one-I bought this book with my own money, and as far as I know, Patricia Briggs not only doesn’t know I’m writing this review, she has no idea who I am at all.

Further Disclaimer

Once, I made my ex- stop in the Tri-Cities for tacos towards the end of a loooooong road trip on the off-chance we might run into some Fae or werewolves or coyote-girls. (As far as I know, we didn’t.)