Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona Andrews

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The newest book in the Hidden Legacy series has just been released and some of us have already read it, of course. And loved it! Just when you think it can’t get any better, it gets better! Here is our interview-style review of the book and the series overall.

What are your overall thoughts about Wildfire?

Shelly: I thought it was so great, I could fangirl all day and  night. So much happens and its nonstop action and very plot-driven. Sergeant Teddy (the super-intelligent and genetically enhanced grizzly) and Zeus (the lion tentacle creature from the arcane realm) were such cool new “animal” characters. A lot of pieces of the puzzle were resolved, but there is still so much more left to discover!

Kira: I feel like the odd man out because I didn’t love this. It was wicked good but my least favorite in the series so far. The plot was great, and I love the direction the series is going. Victoria Tremaine was full of surprises. There were a couple of things that annoyed me with this. I’ll discuss those later on.

Do you have a favorite character?

Shelly: Well, Rogan of course. But, I really like so many of the supporting characters. Cornelius, and all the Baylors…

Kira: Hands down it’s Rogan. No one else even compares. Grandma Frida is cool too.

If you were a Prime, what ability would you have?

Shelly: If I could be a combination of a Summoner and then have the ability to communicate and control what comes out of that realm (like Cornelius’ House does with regular animals), I’d go for that one. Psionics and aegis are cool too.

Kira: Of all the abilities I’ve seen so far, I want to be able to teleport only as long as I could do it for long distances. It’d be great for getting out of dangerous situations. Traveling would be so much easier. Like they showed in Burn for Me, if thievery is your thing that is easier too. It would also be sweet to be a mnemonic and have nearly perfect memory recall.

If you were stuck on an island, which Baylor would you take with you and why?

Shelly: I think I’m gonna go with Arabella, only because of all the characters, I think she would be able to get me OFF the island. I wouldn’t want to be stuck on an island for ever (maybe just a nice sunny day). Even if we had to swim away, she could protect me from sharks.

Kira: Grandma Frida. She’s funny, witty, caring and protective. The woman is crafty as hell. She’d probably know how to take whatever random materials you’d have on an island and know how to build something from it.

Are there any criticisms or issues you had with Wildfire or the series in general?

Shelly: The ex drama and angst over Nevada and Rogan’s relationship was my one sore spot. Even considering that, it wasn’t heavy-handed and I could deal with it (and I’m allergic to drama).

Kira: The relationship ambivalence with Rogan and Nevada got on my nerves. The two of them clearly love each other, but Rogan is convinced Nevada will regret their relationship if their children aren’t primes someday. Since he planted that seed of doubt in her mind in White Hot, it kept popping up in her thoughts. Neither of them showed interest in other people, but Nevada had another guy expressing interest in her. Rogan’s ex was around for the whole book, creating lots of drama.

Genetics has been spoken about quite a bit in regards to magical abilities. It’s been emphasized that primes are more likely to come from two strong primes, otherwise the power weakens. Certain abilities are much more compatible than others, so two people without similar abilities are likely to produce children with weaker or no abilities. So why the hell is Nevada’s family loaded with people with special talents? Her dad had no abilities. Her mother and grandmother aren’t incredibly powerful. I’m not even sure if they have abilities or not. If they do it must be related to their military type of skills. This is a wild guess, but that magic doesn’t seem like it would be compatible with the magic from Nevada’s father side of the family. Between the father having no abilities and the mother not having considerable power, how did they produce three powerful kids? I know it’s possible the way genetics work. Sometimes things skip a generation, but it doesn’t seem like the most plausible scenario that all 3 kids are powerful with rare abilities. It’s not just them either. Leon has a rare and powerful ability, and Bernard has his own powerful ability. The two of them are cousins. Where did their abilities come from? With everything we’ve been told about how the magic passes genetically, this entire family is an anomaly. I’d like an explanation for this that’s better than genetics are random.

Who should get their own spinoff in this world (character or House)?

Shelly: I am really fascinated with the arcane realm that the Summoners pull these monster-like creatures from. I would love to learn more about Summoning and this strange other world. I think there could be a good trilogy’s-worth of material focusing just on a Summoner House. I would devour read that!

Kira: Catalina Baylor seems like she’d be a good choice for spinoff. I’d love to know what she can really do with her siren powers. Every ability has such depth to it. There must be more than simply luring people to her. It seemed like something was going on behind the scenes with her in Wildfire. It definitely seemed like there was mutual interest with Catalina and Alessandro Sagredo.

Any last thoughts?

Shelly: This series, in my view, shows how much the Andrews have grown as writers and is very indicative of their style. The humor, the action scenes, the world-building, and even the way they make a character come to life the minute they are on the page… it sounds cheesy, but it’s magical. They write amazing villains too. Victoria Tremaine was fantastic in this and stole all her scenes. This is book depression territory, it’s so good!

Kira: I am so happy there will be a fourth book! I love Nevada and Rogan. I’m not ready for their story to be done yet. It would be great to have a book where they can work together as a couple without doubts about whether or not they’re right for each other. This world Ilona Andrews has created is fascinating. Look how crazy everything is, and most of the characters we’ve met are just from one part of Texas.

7ya8izz

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Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier

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I’ve loved Juliet Marillier since reading Daughter of the Forest.  She’s one of my bucket list authors that I hope to read, or at least attempt to read, all of her works. She has such an amazing way with weaving a tale, of creating emotions and atmosphere. Her books all feel a little bit like magic. I seriously love her style. So, when I discovered that she had written a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast it immediately went on my TBR list. Unfortunately, I have way too many books on that list with not enough time to read them (book reader problems, am I right?) so it waited patiently for me for 2+ years to get around to it.  This past weekend, we had no plans so it was the perfect opportunity to cozy up to a book and spend the weekend reading.

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“But hope is such a tenuous quality. To feel it and then to be denied what one most longs for…Better, surely, not to hope at all, than to open the heart to a hope that is impossible.”

Heart’s Blood maintains the feeling of what I consider the classic telling of Beauty and the Beast, having derelict castle whose curse encompasses all those who live within its borders, including its “beastly” master. But as with all her works, Mrs. Marillier was able to add her own spin to the story. Caitrin, our young protagonist, is the on the run from her wicked aunt and cousin. After the death of her father, the two of them swooped in like greedy vultures and claimed inheritance to the estate. Lost in her own grief, Caitrin was in no position to defend herself against them. She suffered at their hands, both mentally and physically, for nearly a year before finally finding the courage to get away. Her escape led her to Whistling Tor, with a village surrounded by a formidable barrier, with tales of a forest filled with whispers and manifestations, and with a warped and twisted chieftain who ruled over it all. Despite the warnings from the villagers, Caitrin gains employment as a scribe at the castle, home to an interesting array of characters, from the gnome-like Olcan and his giant dog Fianchu, to the austere lady but not quite Lady Muirne, to the bickering Rioghan and Brother Eichri, and at the heart of it all, Lord Anluan, the misshapen master.  It doesn’t take long for Caitrin to realize there is more to the story than just superstitious gossip and as she grows closer to this family of oddities, she knows that she must do everything in her power to help them.

 “Patterns could be broken; paths could be changed. All it took was courage.”

And hope.  That’s really what this story is about. It’s the hope that we can control our futures, that there is, even in the darkest of times, a way back into the light.

I loved the supporting cast, including the host. Give me a good, haunted, creepy forest any day.  I also really like the way the relationship between the castle inhabitants and the village was handled in the end, that they come together to fight a common enemy versus becoming the enemy to one another.

I think there were a few things that she left open, such as Olcan and his back-story (which hints at a fae ancestry though it is never expounded upon) as well as the history of the mirrors, which could have been explained a little more fully. Especially the mirrors. What’s the origin? Did Nechtan really create them all? And to what purpose? And one mirror is a little different from the rest. Why?

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I also found Anluan sending Caitrin away a little messy. If he really wanted her to leave and believe he did not want her, why send what he did with her? It doesn’t make sense. And the real reason behind the banishment seemed a little bit immature. It just didn’t quite click for me.  Plus, the “bad guy” reveal was definitely no shocker. I knew almost from the onset who it was.

However, I don’t read her works to be shocked, I read her works to be swept up in the characters stories and their emotions. Did she deliver here? Yes and no.Like I said, I loved the secondary cast, but I felt a little ambivalent when it came to Anluan and Caitrin. Don’t get me wrong, I always want the beast to end up with the beauty (or to end up with another beast, so long as he’s happy), but I found them both to be a little flat, a little dull, a little bit boring.

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So where does that leave me? I loved the setting, the atmosphere, and the secondary characters. I liked the story well enough, though the two main characters were a little on the meh side. I’m not disappointed, per se, but I do think there was something lacking. I’m giving it 3.5 stars, but I’m rounding it up to 4. Bam.

Sam Says (1)

Roar (Stormheart #1) by Cora Carmack

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Aurora/Rora/Roar (she has got a lot of names in this) is a princess with no power. She comes from a line of Stormlings, the elite who protect their kingdoms from violent storms of all types that ravage the world.

Twisters, hurricanes, thunderstorms, fires, any storm you can think of… they seem to be alive and even sentient. They have “hearts” that only Stormlings can take and extinguish, giving them more power and protecting the people.

Only it’s not quite so perfect and things have been kept from Rora. She has lived a sheltered life and discovers there’s a whole new world out there, after she sneaks out and follows her sketchy betrothed Prince Cassius. Stuff happens and Rora takes on a new identity as an apprentice with a rag-tag group of storm-hunters.

So, this started strong for me and somehow just fizzled out by the end. The world-building was fairly interesting, although this kind of magic is not my favorite.

I think my biggest issue was the romance. :/ There is a weird sort of maybe-love triangle, although not really? The main romantic interest was Locke and I just couldn’t get into the lust/hate relationship between him and Roar (as she is known to the hunters). Instead of fun bantering, it felt too angry and argumentative to me. I didn’t really feel any chemistry.

Cassius was the most intriguing, although I find it hard to believe there is a way to redeem him. He did some pretty crappy things in this. But the ambiguous villain is a personal favorite and we are never quite sure if Cassius is full-on bad guy or just warped from the upbringing and being forced to play palace politics.

There were several scenes with Cassius and Nova, who was Roar’s childhood friend and maid servant (whatever you call them). I think I saw somewhere that someone mentioned a ship between her and Cassius, but I don’t see how she could ever forgive him for being such a douche to her in this book. :/

I also felt there were too many “training” scenes, which are never a favorite of mine, and also, I dislike the plot device where the heroine is sick or mysteriously weakened by forces we don’t discover until the end of the book – and that happens to Roar.

I did appreciate how Roar is mostly capable of handling herself and wasn’t a damsel in distress (outside of that mysterious condition she developed around storms). She wasn’t run over by the cute men in her life, although there is a fairly good amount of angst (do I like him or do I hate him, why do we fight so much when all we really want to do is kiss, argh lol).

Overall, a decent fantasy that reads more Young Adult (even though the heroine is 18). It doesn’t quite read as “New Adult” either, and regardless of the genre, I just wasn’t able to push this from “liked” into the “really liked” category. 🙂 Three Stars. Review also found at Goodreads.

7ya8izz

Whispers and the Roars by K. Webster

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Kady had serious mental issues. Most of the people in her life did not seem like good people. Yeo and Kady loved each other but hadn’t been together since he left for college. Yeo came back and was determined that they’d be together again. They loved each other, but I never got to see why they developed feelings for each other. They never clicked as a couple for me. I didn’t understand why they loved each other so intensely.

Then it got kinda weird. Yeo was trying to be her protector and drive away all the bad people in her life. His role of boyfriend had a strong paternalistic feel to it. Yeo had relationships with all of the weird people in Kady’s life, some of them very close. Then a love triangle was thrown into the story but not the usual kind. It was like there were three people in a relationship, but the three of them were never together at the same time. The whole situation was incredibly bizarre.

About half way through there was a major plot twist. It completely flipped everything upside down. Many of the odd things going on made sense in hindsight. The book took an entirely different direction after that. The romance was no longer an issue. The solution to the reveal was overly romanticized. Love doesn’t make serious problems go away. It just doesn’t. Life is not that simple. The problem was resolved way too quickly as well. It was hard for me to get engaged in the story, but if the ending had been portrayed more realistically, I would have given it a higher rating. I’m sure plenty of dark romance lovers will like this, but it didn’t work for me.

Rating: 2 stars

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Q & A with Author Juliette Cross

Warning: Sucky vampire puns ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

I’m a huge fan of the new series, Vampire Blood, by Juliette Cross. When I found out there was a chance to sink my teeth into an ARC,  I couldn’t get my greedy little hands on it fast enough. I loved the first book in the series, The Black Lily, which was loosely-based on the Cinderella fairy tale. The Red Lily is a Little Red Riding Hood re-telling and does not disappoint.

I was ecstatic to find out our blog would be scoring a Q&A with Juliette. Apparently, she and I both have a sanguine outlook on the future of the series and are about neck and neck in our appreciation of vampires in general.

So pull up your coffin – perhaps a Bloody Mary or two – and let’s get down to the bloody Q&A already!

But first, a bit about the book…

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When Red falls for the Big Bad Wolf…

The Black Lily resistance needs a larger army if they are to defeat the vampire monarchy. In order to do so, former lieutenant and traitor to the vampire Crown, Nikolai must seek help from the red-hooded temptress he needs to avoid at all costs. The secret he carries could prove dangerous for her if she gets too close…even though keeping her close—very close—is the only thing on his mind.

Sienna will do anything for the Black Lily, and when Nikolai asks for her assistance to gain the trust of the commonwealth, it’s the last thing she wants to do. The thought of leaving her woods and her wolves behind is terrifying…not to mention the danger being with Nikolai poses.

Shelly: I saw your Top 5 Vampire Movies list for USA Today (well done, by the way!), but how about a favorite vampire book?

Juliette: Oh, wow. Hard to pick just one. I love Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed series. Book 1, Kiss of Midnight, is amazing. I also ADORE the vampires in Nalini Singh’s Guildhunter series. I’ve had a crush on Dmitri for like forever. And I’m dying for Viper’s book coming out in September. And to this day, Richelle Mead’s young adult Vampire Academy is still one of my absolute favorite series ever.

Shelly: How long do you see the Tales of the Black Lily series going? Or how many might you have sketched out now? When I re-read book one, I saw several potential stories that I had missed before. Ryker, Marius’s cousin, the vampire who was with Sienna’s grandmother (that could be a really good story) are the ones that stood out the most. Any hints or teasers you can share?

Juliette: This is a fantastic question. 😉 So, I can tell you there will be four books in the series surrounding the Black Lily. Will there be more? Not sure, but I’ve got a million ideas and tons of secondary characters who need a love story. 😉 I can give you a little hint about book 3. The White Lily is scheduled for release on October 23rd. Our hero will be the vampire duke, Friedrich, and if you think about the title, you’ll know which fairytale I’m retelling this time.

Shelly: What book do you think is under-rated or under-appreciated?

Juliette: Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters Trilogy, specifically book 2 Son of Shadows (one of my favorites). Marillier has a large fan base but few people I know have even heard of this series. It’s so beautiful, the writing and the stories.

Shelly: Who/What is your spirit animal or mascot?

Juliette: A cat, perhaps. Quiet and unassuming but always watching. And a bit of an attitude at times. Lol.

Shelly: How do you decide on the names of your characters?

Juliette: For each fantasy world I create, I tend to think of a specific culture that has the tone I want to convey in their race. For example, most of my vampires have a Romanian or Russian name, conveying a cold, dark beauty. And the humans tend to have English names, representing a civilized, proper people. But sometimes, I stray because it’s more about the character specifically than the culture. Like Sienna, which means “red-orange color” like her hair and the name originated in Italy. And Queen Morgrid. She needed a villainous name. I borrowed from the evil Morgana of Arthurian legends and twisted the name to fit her.

Shelly: Is there a particular scene that was harder to write than others? (From this series or others)?

Juliette: Pretty much every sex scene. I try to balance the emotional aspect with the physical, and this isn’t easy to do. Of course, I tend to write very dark scenes as well, borderline horror, I suppose. You might think these would be difficult to write, but it’s rather the opposite. My muse runs wild while writing these. Kind of a cathartic experience.

Shelly: On average, how long does it take you to write a book?

Juliette: Well, THE RED LILY is my twelfth published book, and I’ve gotten much faster over time. Now, it takes on average three months to write a full-length book and edit it with beta feedback.

Shelly: What advice would you give your younger writing self?

Juliette: Don’t you ever give up, woman.

 

The Red Lily release date is (this Monday!) June 19, 2017. You can stake your claim to this sizzling romance at the following places:

Amazon

B&N

iBooks

Kobo

Entangled

Goodreads

About Juliette Cross:

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Juliette lives in lush, moss-laden Louisiana where she lives with her husband, four kids, and black lab, Kona.

Multi-published author of paranormal and urban fantasy romance, she loves reading and writing brooding characters, mysterious settings, persevering heroines, and dark, sexy heroes.

From the moment she read JANE EYRE as a teenager, she fell in love with the Gothic romance. Even then, she not only longed to read more novels set in Gothic worlds, she wanted to create her own.

Connect: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Amazon | Goodreads | Newsletter

 

 

7ya8izz

The Red Lily (Vampire Blood 2) by Juliette Cross

The Red Lily is book two in the Vampire Blood series by Juliette Cross. The kingdoms are ruled by the dark and powerful Varis vampire family. One of the royals is pulling the strings and powering the soldiers with a blood madness, called sanguine furorem, giving them extra strength and an indiscriminate urge to murder innocents.

The Black Lily is the resistance, made up mostly of humans and a few powerful vampire allies. Book one, The Black Lily, focused on Prince Marius and the human leader of the resistance, Arabelle. This book focuses on a Legionnaire named Nikolai and the Red Witch of the Woods, Sienna.

Sienna lives in Silvane Forest, a mysterious place where the enchanted hart wolves live. The hart stone is the mystical force providing magic in the area for millennia. This is loosely based on the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale. Sienna has red hair and a red cape and her grandmother was her mentor who transferred her wealth of knowledge to Sienna.

This is very much a fantasy romance. I found Nikolai and Sienna to be a tender and passionate couple. There was not very much angst and denial between them, as they knew they were attracted to each other at first sight (and we know of their original flirtation and chemistry from reading book one).

There are plenty of swoon-worthy and steamy scenes. Nikolai really knows how to treat a lady.

The bulk of the action comes toward the end and I won’t spoil it for you, but there are plenty of surprises – and some of them much darker than we have yet seen. We find out more about the hart wolves and the hart stone. There are plenty of hints and threads for hopefully more books to come. I have heard that the next one is a Snow White re-telling and I can’t WAIT to find out who the next vampire is. I am hoping it’s Friedrich, as his roguish flirty demeanor is one I love in romance heroes!

I highly recommend this for vampire romance fans. It has a nice mix of girl power, sexy men, and light fantasy elements.

The Red Lily will be released on Monday, June 19, 2017.

Now, my casting choices for the males (so far):

Marius:

Nikolai:

Friedrich:


(Notice that I didn’t cast any of the females because, um, I am only fantasizing MYSELF in those roles! I want these vampires all to myself! hehe)

My Goodreads review of The Red Lily is here.

My Goodreads review of The Black Lily is here.

7ya8izz

 

Freaky Friday: Tingle or Not to Tingle?

Normally I’m all for the crazy shenanigans of the MacHalo group. Heck, I’m normally in the front waving flags and blowing horns. But sometimes my brilliant ideas come back to bite me. Last year I had this fantastic idea to do a smut reading challenge. It wasn’t hard to convince every one of my brilliance. Any excuse to read smut is a great excuse. The problem with my idea occurred when democracy was introduced. But first, I think that I need to share our Official MacHalo 2017 Smut Challenge. (I’m sure some of you will love to participate.)

MacHalo 2017 Smut Challenge

1. Read a Chuck Tingle (or M/M).
2. Read one with a monster/alien/mythological creature.
3. Read one with a stereotype (men in uniform, mafia, MC).
4. Read one with group sex.
5. Read one with “play” or fetish of your choice.
6. Read a taboo one (stepbrother, stepdad, etc.)
7. Read one with a fantasy/turn-on of your choice.
8. Read a dark/horror one.
9. Read one a friend has read or recommended.
10. Read one with stuff you would never do in real life.
11. Read a dom/sub one.
12. Pick a random one.

Can you tell where my brilliant idea went wrong? I was out-voted.

The one crazy bandwagon I could never quite jump on is enjoying the art of Chuck Tingle. I’ll be honest, his titles terrified me and didn’t sound remotely interesting. Surely with such titles as Shared By The Chocolate Milk Cowboys and Seduced By Doctor Bigfoot: Attorney At Large you can understand my hesitancy. I admit, there was a brief moment in time where I almost joined the parade. I mean Chris Hardwick (one of my ultimate celebrity crushes) talked about the awesome Chuck Tingle’s stories on @Midnight. If you are mentioned on a nighttime game show all about popular culture, you are legit. Still something kept holding me back. Now thanks to my brilliant idea, I was going to have no choice. I was going to read my first Chuck Tingle masterpiece.

For my first taste I chose Hard For Hardwick: Pounded In The Butt By The Physical Manifestation Of My Own Handsome Late Night Comedy Show. As I’ve already stated I have a huge crush on Chris Hardwick, so the choice was obvious. At least if I was going to read this, there would be one part that I would enjoy. Seriously, how would you not find this man sexy?

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Unfortunately, that is where my enjoyment ended. I have NO IDEA what I read, nor how to rate it. It was obviously a spoof. It was obviously meant to be funny. But I just didn’t find it funny. The dialogue reminded me of all of those cheesy Lifetime movies from the 80’s. Or that time I tried to re-watch Silk Stalkings. (I loved that show when it was on. Sadly, it  didn’t withstand the test of time.) I spent most of my time trying to figure out what exactly “a handsome collection of ‘at’ symbols floating around in a swirling mist. Within the haze…every episode, past, present and future, dancing together in smoky blue waves” would look like. Would it really be handsome? I kept picturing something more like this:

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Not sexy. The story also relied heavily on the whole insta-lust thing. Which I guess should be forgivable since it is only about 20 pages long. But I just needed something more to believe that my beloved Chris Hardwick would just drop his pants and say “Come and get me big boy”.

Overall, I’m not sold on Chuck Tingle. I most likely will not read another one until I’m forced again. But in the interest of fairness, I do think it was me and not the story. The writing flowed well. So if crazy titles like Pounded in the Butt by My Own Butt or Space Raptor Butt Invasion sound like your cup of tea, read one for me!

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