Category Archives: Paranormal

The Emperor’s Edge

Buroker, Lindsay. The Emperor’s Edge: A High Fantasy Adventure in an Era of Steam (2010). Digital Only. Self-Published. $.99

I figured “Eh, $.99? Why not?” That’s the problem with Kindle, and instant-gratification low- or no-cost books; “Why Not?” That’s how you end up with a to-be-read list hundreds of books long. I kid you not, it’s gotten completely out of hand, even if you disregard everything except the ones I actively intend to read soon instead of just eventually. That’s how I ended up with Lindsay Buroker’s The Emperor’s Edge.

From the Author’s Website

Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire’s most notorious assassin is in town. He’s tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills… or someone wants her dead.

First Lines

Corporal Amaranthe Lokdon paced. Her short sword, night stick, and handcuffs bumped and clanked at her thighs with each impatient step. Enforcer Headquarters frowned down at her, an ominous gray cliff of a building that glowered at the neighborhood like a turkey vulture, except with less charisma.

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Red Glove

Black, Holly. White Cat (2011).  325 Pages. Margaret K. McElderry. $17.99

The Curse Workers | Book Two

Please be aware that because this is the second book in a series, there may be spoilers for the first book, White Cat. Proceed with caution.

Also included in this post, my opinion on “Lila Zacharov in 13 Pieces,” which was a teaser to bridge the gap between White Cat and Red Glove. (I loved it.)

From Goodreads

Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe’s world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she’s human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila’s been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila’s love is as phony as Cassel’s made-up memories, then he can’t believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can’t trust anyone—least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

First Lines

I don’t know whether it’s day or night when the girl gets up to leave. Her minnow silver dress swishes against the tops of her thighs like Christmas tinsel as she opens the hotel door.

I struggle to remember her name.

“So you’ll tell your father at the consulate about me?” Her lipstick is smeared across her cheek. I should tell her to fix it, but my self-loathing is so great that I hate her along with myself.

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Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

White Cat

Black, Holly. White Cat (2010).  336 Pages. Margaret K. McElderry. $7.99

The Curse Workers | Book One

The lovely ladies of Reading In Skirts and I have a pseudo-bookclub. Pseudo because we live very far apart, and because we don’t meet as consistently as we like. (Mostly it’s my fault for having two part-time retail jobs.) Recently we tackled White Cat, (and then agreed to read Red Glove) and this is what I’ve managed to decide, as far as this book is concerned.

From Goodreads

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn’t got the magic touch, so he’s an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He’s noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the con men.

First Lines

I wake up barefoot, standing on cold slate tiles. Looking dizzily down. I suck in a breath of icy air.

Above me are stars. Below me, the bronze statue of Colonel Wallingford makes me realize I’m seeing the quad from the peak of Smythe Hall, my dorm.

I have no memory of climbing the stairs up to the roof. I don’t even know how to get where I am, which is a problem since I’m going to have to get down, ideally in a way that doesn’t involve dying.

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Seduced by the Wolf

Spear, Terry. Seduced by the Wolf (2010). 416 Pages*. Sourcebooks Casablanca. $7.99*

Heart of the Wolf: Book Five**

From Goodreads

Cassie Roux is a wolf biologist who has studied real wolves for years, trying to prove to the world they’re not the evil predators so many people believe them to be. A red lupus garou, who lost her pack and was raised by real wolves, she has dedicated her life to their preservation. Now for the first time, she discovers a female wolf, her mate dead, and the pups and the mother in real danger, and Cassie does everything she can think of to protect them. Until she runs into one stubborn alpha pack leader—werewolf kind—who has other plans for her.

Leidolf Wildhaven is a red lupus garou pack leader of Portland, Oregon and has more troubles than he ever thought possible what with running a pack, a ranch and other businesses, dealing with a couple of cantankerous new lupus garous, and a myriad of other problems when a little red wolf of the lupus garou variety is spotted in his territory. She’d be perfect as his mate, if she agreed. Only the headstrong woman has other priorities, saving real wolves from extinction, when he’s more worried about his own kind’s extinction and winning her heart.

First Lines

Except for a couple of cars parked outside the town hall, the lot was empty, and it appeared the wolf biologist speaking here tonight wouldn’t have much of an audience to lecture to.

The Oregon air surrounding him felt damp and cool, not like the drier, much sunnier weather Leidolf Wildhaven had left behind in Colorado. He kept telling himself he’d get used to it.

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Urban Fantasy

A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills

Zindel, Lizabeth. A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills (2010). 302 Pages. Viking Juvenile. $16.99

Sometimes I have far too much fun exploring the newly-input lists at the local library, and I end up with my holds maxed out at 10 and more items I still wanted to get. This is one of those books. It’s a Hamlet spinoff, but it follows the interpretation which I don’t entirely agree with.

From the Cover

Something is twisted in the state of Cali

It’s winter break, and Holly has come home from boarding school to face her dad’s new girlfriend, Claudia– who also happens to be her mom’s sister. Gross. Holly’s mom died less than a year ago, and already Claudia has taken over her movie production company, her house, and now her husband.

Then the ghost of Holly’s mother appears, claiming that Claudia murdered her. Holly vows to avenge her mom’s death no matter what it takes, but as the stakes get higher, she starts to wonder: What does this ghost really want from her, and why?

Throw in an adorable college guy named Oliver, an all-night house party with a pack of Australian surfers, and a shopping disaster on Rodeo Drive, and you wind up with a Hamlet-inspired ghost story unlike any other.

First Lines

It was ridiculously early as I sat on the steps of Reed Hill waiting for the cab to take me to the airport. I was bundled in my favorite red peacoat and warm hat with earflaps that looked like some nice grandma had knitted it.

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Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Realistic Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Steam & Sorcery

Pape, Cindy Spencer. Steam and Sorcery (2011). 305 Pages*. Carina Press. $5.99**

Don’t let the cover stop you. The contents of the story are much better than the cover suggests with its cheesiness.

From the Publisher

Sir Merrick Hadrian hunts monsters, both human and supernatural. A Knight of the Order of the Round Table, his use of magick*** and the technologies of steam power have made him both respected and feared. But his considerable skills are useless in the face of his greatest challenge, guardianship of five unusual children. At a loss, Merrick enlists the aid of a governess.

Miss Caroline Bristol is reluctant to work for a bachelor but she needs a position, and these former street children touch her heart. While she tends to break any mechanical device she touches, it never occurs to her that she might be something more than human. All she knows is that Merrick is the most dangerously attractive man she’s ever met– and out of reach for a mere governess.

When conspiracy threatens to blur the distinction between humans and monsters, Caroline and Merrick must join forces, and the fate of humanity hinges upon their combined skills of steam and sorcery…

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Chick-Lit, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Historical Romance, Paranormal, Romance, Speculative Fiction

Patient Zero

Maberry, Jonathan. Patient Zero (2009). 419 Pages. St Martin’s Griffin. $14.95

Joe Ledger: Book One

This post is long-overdue. When I read Rot & Ruin, I was thrilled. I’d found a zombie book which was also about humanity. I had to find out if the author had more in him, so I went out of my way to pick up Patient Zero from the library. I devoured it in a little under a day, and spent a little over an hour gushing about the pair of them to my mother, who has now decided that she needs to read it. And then, life happened.

I got sucked-in to a writing project– yes, I also do creative writing– and a few old forums that I haven’t been on in ages. I got extra hours at work, I’ve been on a fierce job-hunt, and reading has really fallen by the wayside. I am attempting to get myself back on track, which will likely happen as a direct result of me setting myself a posting-schedule.

Synopsis (via Goodreads)

When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there’s either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills… and there’s nothing wrong with Joe Ledger’s skills.  And that’s both a good, and a bad thing.  It’s good because he’s a Baltimore detective that has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new taskforce created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. This rapid response group is called the Department of Military Sciences or the DMS for short. It’s bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance…

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery & Suspense, Paranormal, Sci-Fi

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

McBride, Lish. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (2010). 343 Pages. Henry Holt & Co. $16.99

I told myself I’d pick a schedule and stick to it for the new year; M/W/F was starting to look pretty good, and then I got absorbed in playing The Sims 3 and I forgot to review any of the mountain of library books that are sitting on my desk, or any of the books I have read from my shiny new Kindle. Whoops. So we’ll be settling into a schedule soon, but for now we’ll continue with “updating when I’ve read something and have had time to write about it.”

And, for today, that something I’ve read is Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, which sounded like the sort of book which would be romantic– the whole “hold me” bit– but wasn’t. I was ok with that, though, because I enjoyed the adventure.

Synopsis

Samhain “Sam” LaCroix has had a fairly lame life until now. He’s a college dropout working at a fast food place, mostly getting by, and sometimes wishing he’d stayed in school*.

Things get interesting for Sam when a game of Potato Hockey damages the wrong car, and he catches the attention of Douglas Montgomery, a powerful necromancer with an agenda. As it turns out, Sam is a necromancer, and Douglas doesn’t play nice with the competition.

Now, Sam has to figure out how to use his necromancy, how to save Brooke, and eventually, how to save himself before Douglas kills them all.

First Lines

I stood in front of today’s schedule still holding my skateboard, still drenched from the ride over, and still desperately wishing that I hadn’t dropped out of college. But wishing wouldn’t erase Sam from the counter slot and rewrite it under the grill slot. No matter what, my job kind of sucks, but on the grill it sucks less. On the grill, you don’t have to handle customers.

Thoughts

As I mentioned, I was expecting something a little more romantic– I love YA romance– but wasn’t disappointed by what I got. Sam is an awesome narrator who adds the charm and sarcasm which separates this story from most. The fact that Sam is an outsider to the supernatural community he discovers means that we learn about it with him. It’s also great to see his friends; they’re fiercely loyal and protective, and it helps make Sam more likable.

Surrounding Sam is an entertaining supporting cast. We’ve got Ramon, his best friend and coworker. Brooke, the adorable heartbreaker-in-training, Frank, the kid whose spirit they’d like to break, Brid the hottie werewolf, and then peripheral family members. Opposing Sam are Douglas and his minions; all dangerous types who would do a lot of harm if they could.

Aside from the bit towards the end where Sam is really fairly helpless in a cage, most of the story features him being fairly proactive about his fate. He doesn’t descend into hopelessness, and remains determined throughout. (The lack of whining was nice, I must say.)

This book is clearly setting up for a series; there are several things left just open enough to make it clear that it was at least hoped for**.

Overall, I found myself fairly impressed by Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and I was glad I’d picked it up. (And saved myself enough time that I didn’t have to put it down until I was done.) It’s pretty good for a debut novel, and manages to be a paranormal-YA without becoming anonymous within the genre(s). I’d give it a solid 4.5/5– it was nearly perfect, and I really, really liked it.

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* This could have quickly took on a PSA tone, but it didn’t, thank goodness. (In part because Sam’s a good narrator.)

** The fact that it came out in hardcover rather than going straight to paperback says that they expected it to do well and they’re likely to let it turn into a series.  (I’ll read it, if it continues.)

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This is the first book of the Local Library 2011 challenge.

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The Dead Girls’ Dance

Caine, Rachel. The Dead Girls’ Dance (2007). 238 Pages. Penguin. $6.99

The Morganville Vampires: Volume 2

From the Back Cover

Claire Danvers has her share of challenges– like being a genius in a school that favors beauty over brains, dealing with the homicidal girls in her dorm, and above all, finding out that her college town is overrun with vampires. On the up side, she has a great roommate (who tends to disappear at sunup) and a new boyfriend named Shane… whose vampire-hunting dad has called in backup: cycle punks who like the idea of killing just about anything.

Now a fraternity is throwing its annual Dead Girls’ Dance and– surprise!– Claire and her equally outcast best friend, Eve, have been invited. When they find out why, all hell is going to break loose. Because this time both the living and the dead are coming out– and everybody’s hungry for blood.

First Lines

It didn’t happen, Claire told herself. It’s a bad dream, just another bad dream. You’ll wake up and it’ll be gone like fog…

Thoughts

I was warned that book 1 was a cliffhanger, so I had book 2 at hand to continue. I would advise doing the same, should you choose to read it.

The story definitely shifts a bit from volume 1 to volume 2. There is some major violence, and quite a bit of angst and drama in this volume, which works well, considering the storyline. Things start to get more involved, and the end result is a story which keeps drawing you in, making you want to know even more than Glass Houses told.

Things are complicated by the fact that the vampires aren’t very happy with the residents of Glass House. None of them are safe, and it’s a difficult thing to read about. There aren’t any strong females, and none of them rise to the challenge. There is a moment of potential gang-rape, and I was unimpressed by the character’s inability to help herself at all.

There is a complete story arc here, but it’s clear that there is much, much more to come.

It gets a 3 of 5.

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Starcrossed

Bunce, Elizabeth C. Starcrossed (2010). 351 Pages. Scholastic.$17.99

I’ve been eying Starcrossed since I read A Curse Dark as Gold, and an opportunity to read it finally presented itself. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of starting this book in the evening, and I could not bring myself to put it down. It was 5am when I finally went to sleep. It’s a wonderful adventure story for fans of fantasy and political intrigue.

Synopsis

In a world with seven moons, there are seven gods who each have their roles, and who were once worshiped equally. Eighteen years before the novel starts, everything changed. The followers of Celys– the Great Mother goddess– declared war against the followers of Sar– the patroness of magic– and by extension all other gods. To be a magic user or a Sarist is to be a treasonous heretic, which is punishable by gruesome death. In this dark, unbalanced world, a cruel king rules, aided by Lord High Inquisitor Werne the bloodletter. The only hope for the common people is the hope that King Bardolph will name Prince Wierolf as heir, rather than Prince Astilan (who is known to be as cruel as his uncle.)

Sixteen year-old Digger is not concerned with politics or religion, she is merely concerned with surviving. (Something which was much easier before she and Tegen were ambushed by Greenmen.) Now Digger is on the run, alone, and unable to trust anyone. When a group of drunk nobles offer her a chance to escape Gerse, she takes it. Soon, Digger is disguised as Celyn Contrare, safely hidden in the snow-bound, remote Bryn Shaer, working as lady’s maid to Lady Merista Nemair. What was looking to be a quiet winter in the castle, waiting for spring, is quickly turning into the most dangerous situation Digger has ever been involved in.

First Lines

I couldn’t think. My chest hurt from running, and I wasn’t even sure I was in the right place. Tegen had given my directions to a tavern on the river– was this where he’d told me to go, if things went wrong?

It didn’t matter. I had to get off the streets. Behind me, the Oss splashed moonslight over a row or fiverside storefronts, bright enough for me to make out the sign of a blue wine bottle and the short flight of stairs down into the alley. Down was shadows and safety. I took it.

Thoughts

I was entranced from the first, unable to stop reading for fear that I might miss something.* The world is unique, the characters strong and dynamic, the writing effective and descriptive without meandering. All told, it’s a very well-done book which I truly enjoyed reading.

Digger is a fascinating character; a runaway with a mysterious past whose only goal until recently has been to survive. She’s a clever girl who uses her wits and some thieving skills to get by** and until recently has been under the radar. We meet Digger as she realizes that Tegan has died– a death she spends most of the book getting over; he was her lover as well as her partner– and that she must get out of the city. Things don’t ever seem to get easier, but her determination keeps her going. It is perhaps the fact that she keeps going, rather than lapsing into self-pity that makes her so very interesting. She is a strong character, a girl who can (and does) kick butt.

Surrounding Digger is an equally as interesting and important supporting cast; Meri most especially, but also the others stuck at Bryn Shaer. There is a mystery surrounding the place and the people, a mystery which Digger uncovers. There is a lot more going on in this novel than can be resolved in 351 pages; there is at least one more volume (Liar’s Moon) coming.

As a whole, I thought the book was well-done and very, very interesting. It moves along much more quickly than A Curse Dark as Gold did, which makes it more appealing to people who need faster pacing. This story gets a 5/5, and if you like fantasy with political intrigue at all, I would strongly suggest reading it.

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* When I’m reading, I’m not seeing words on the page, rather, it’s like my own mental cinema. I sometimes forget that I can “pause” by closing the book.

** Character-wise, Digger reminds me of Tamora Pierce’s Aliane Cooper. Setting-wise, she reminds me of Beka Cooper. However, Digger’s story is unique enough that the similarities are not a bad thing.

The story continues in Liar’s Moon, release date TBD

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