Synopsis from Goodreads: When her home is attacked by murderous vampires, 17-year-old Alexa is forced to leave her mother for dead in order to save her sister. She soon learns that she is the last known member of an elite race of supernatural Warriors, and is thrust into a world full of vampires and werewolves who all seem to regard her as some sort of savior. Meanwhile, Alexa battles a monster within herself that seeks to gain control; a monster that seeks blood.
The hidden city she finds herself in appears perfect, but Alexa’s instincts tell her that all is not right within its walls. When she is asked to attend a school of fighters, whose exams consist of gladiator-style competitions, she must decide who she can trust among the smiling faces. And, when she meets Kayden, a vampire she feels undeniably drawn to, she must decide if she can trust herself.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: As many experienced readers will tell you, the first book in a new series is often the most difficult for both the reader and the author. The author has to lay the groundwork of the long-term plot, create a successful and exciting short-term plot, and establish characters and their personalities. In addition to all of this, the author must also convince the reader to keep reading not just the first book but those that will follow in the series. Congratulations H.D. Gordon, I’m hooked!
Blood Warrior is Gordon’s first book in the Alexandra Montgomery Saga and it is an exciting and fast-paced read from cover to cover. Alexandra Montgomery is not like other girls: her mother has been training her ruthlessly and relentlessly since she was old enough to walk and to hit back; she is an absolute outcast at school; and she’s not truly human. One night the Lamia attack and although Alexa and her younger sister Nelly are able to escape with their lives, their mother is not as lucky. Alexa soon learns that everything she knows is a lie.
Alexa discovers that she is the last true Sun Warrior and according to the legends, she will be the one to free the Warriors and the undesirables living within the walls of Two Rivers. Alexa also learns that her younger sister is a half-breed (a dangerous thing to be in the Two Rivers world) who can read people’s souls, and her best friend Jackson is a werewolf. And just because it’s fun to kick someone while they’re down, Alexa also discovers that she has to quite literally fight for her spot within the Two Rivers warrior school. No pressure there, right? Alexa does earn her spot in the warrior school but discovers a very disturbing aspect of her nature: she loves fighting and has great difficulty controlling her desire to kill her opponents. Enter Kayden, the totally lickable warrior who is a Libra, or the balance to Alexa’s inner demons.
For the first time in her life, Alexa feels like she actually belongs and fits in somewhere in the world. She does well in her classes, her on-going training is turning her into an even better fighter, and she is now Jackson’s girlfriend. But there is something wrong in Two Rivers and a very large number of citizen’s keep slyly reminding Alexa of her destiny to save them all. But in order to be a teenage savior, Alexa first has to figure out what exactly is wrong within the confines of Two Rivers.
Gordon’s story is fast-paced, exciting, and full of characters that the reader connects with fairly quickly and wants to know more about. Alexa is a strong female lead, Jackson is delightfully weird, and Kayden is a source of steamy tension. Gordon resolves the short-term plot quite nicely while the tidbits with regard to the long-term plot are decidedly enticing. The content is absolutely appropriate for a young adult audience while still very appealing to an older audience.
The bottom line: I am absolutely ready for book two of the Alexandra Montgomery saga.
Synopsis from Goodreads: In the days when powerful witches used their magic to shield humanity from demons, their allies and guardians were a group of men gifted with preternatural abilities of their own–the witch guardians. But when a band of witches traded their humanity for demonic power, the ancient bond was broken, and the guardians became the hunters.
Darcy MacAlister knows nothing of demons or magic. But this beautiful young woman is about to discover the truth about her past . . . and her future. For she is a witch–not just any witch, but the key to breaking the curse that has plagued witches and the men who hunt them. For if a hunter kills an innocent witch by mistake, the price is no less than a piece of his soul.
Axel Locke, gorgeous leader of the Wing Slayer Hunters, has sworn never to shed the blood of the earth witches who have resisted the temptation of demonic power. But when his sister is cursed by a demon witch, he discovers that Darcy MacAlister may hold the cure–if she can master her newfound powers in time. When the chase begins and Axel and Darcy come face-to-face, this hunter must weigh his soul against his honor–and against his heart.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: Blood Magic is the first book in a series about a group of hunters and the witches they are born to protect. Book one follows Darcy MacAlister, a young woman who owns and operates a funeral home and has always felt a bit different and set apart from the world around her. Darcy’s mother died long before she had time to tell her unsuspecting daughter she is an earth witch. Unfortunately for Darcy she finds out about her nature in a most heinous way. Enter Axel Locke: a massive mountain of muscle who owns a club called Axel of Evil; has a dead sexy hawk tattoo; has a serious soft-spot for his baby sister and; is the de facto leader of the Wing Slayer Hunters.
Axel Locke is not an evil man. In fact, he has struggled his entire life to fight the demons that constantly plague him and his fellow Wing Slayer Hunters. The hunters were once immortal, the beloved creation of their god, Wing Slayer who created the men to find and protect earth witches. Unfortunately that arrangement fell apart when a group of demon witches cast a spell that split the men from their god and saddled them with a nearly unquenchable thirst for sex and witch blood. Axel needs a witch in the worst kind of way, his baby sister has been marked with a death curse and there are only two ways to break it: 1) find a powerful and willing earth witch to break the curse or; 2) kill the demon witch who cast the curse. Both options have serious consequences.
Darcy MacAlister is content to live her lonely life running the funeral home and avoiding relationships at all costs. That is, until the night rogue Hunters try to kill her. This traumatic event coincides with Axel dropping in to kidnap her so she can cast a spell to cure his little sister. That’s a bad freakin’ night. Darcy suddenly finds herself trapped in a world she knows nothing about but feels compelled to understand. After all, a little girl’s life is on the line. Oh, and then there’s Axel, the guy who kidnapped her and who she is uncontrollably attracted to. In a few short days Darcy’s life is turned upside down. With very few stutter-steps, Darcy accepts every challenge, even the role of soul-mirror to her kidnapper; this last part is perhaps the biggest challenge of all.
The Bottom Line: Lyon had a lot of ground to cover in this first book: she introduces all the major characters, the long-term plot line, and the more immediate plot line associated with this particular book. That’s a tall order and Lyon does a decent job of covering everything. She is not only establishing a whole new cast of characters, all with their own drama and dilemmas, but also a whole new history to go along with the characters and the long-term plot line. Initially the history is a bit convoluted but eventually straightens out and makes perfect sense. This is done primarily through a ton of action, dirty awesome sex, and great dialogue. Lyon’s writing style is smooth, the plot is fast-paced, and the characters are intriguing.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Phaedra Thorne’s goals in life are simple. Make it to eighteen so she can legally adopt her sister and hope she never becomes like her deranged mother who secretly lives in the attic. They’re not the normal hopes and dreams of a kid her age, but then again, Phaedra is anything but typical. Schizophrenia and psychokinesis go hand in hand in her genes. With things always upending or blowing up around her, she’s already halfway there and horrified one of these days she’ll be the next to go insane.
Five years have passed since Phaedra has seen her older, estranged brother. She’s hesitant about his return and even more so when he comes bearing a cure for their mother. However, this so-called antidote, having sex with an incubus, comes with a catch that’s larger than the statutory rape implications. The incubus who’s willing to help the Thornes has unwittingly been followed by beings who call themselves hags. They want to drain the demon dry of his power and don’t care if they threaten Phaedra’s desire to have a normal family. She’ll do whatever it takes to protect her loved ones, even if that means trusting her uncontrollable powers won’t kill everyone in the process.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 3/5 stars
My Review: Being a teenager sucks but it sucks twice as hard when your mom is bat-crap crazy and has to be locked in the attic for everyone’s safety! So begins Phaedra’s story in Marcia Colette’s young adult novel Bittersweet. Any book which starts out with this kind of description is going to grab my attention.
The first half of Bittersweet outlines the life young Phaedra is forced to live as a result of her mother’s unique abilities. In a nutshell: Phaedra attends high school (BLECK); cares for her spunky younger sister Nadia; ventures into the attic on a regular basis to care for mom; and tries to keep her emotions in check so that her own abilities don’t bring death, despair, and destruction to those around her. Add to all of this: the regular trips to the ER to repair the bodily harm caused by mom; the constant fear that Child Services will show up; and the sudden and unexpected return of the prodigal brother, Kurt. And you thought your teenage years sucked – WIMP! Phaedra must deal constantly with her worry over her mother’s condition, the knowledge that the condition is genetic and already manifesting in Phaedra, as well as her anger at her brother Kurt for abandoning the family and then returning as if nothing happened. The first half of the book is good and there is plenty of low-level action but I found myself always feeling as if something big was coming and it never did. As a reader, I found this very frustrating.
The second half of Bittersweet was much more intense and fast-paced as Colette finally begins to unravel what she was leading up too in the first half of the book – something big, finally happens. And there are hags – HAGS! I must say, the use of hags is something that doesn’t appear in paranormal novels very often and I was quite glad to read something new. Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some vampires and werewolves but a girl cannot live on vampire and werewolf porn alone. Colette completely devotes the last half of the book to the solving of problems: Kurt has brought a not-so-ideal “cure” back with him that can help the entire family; Phaedra is admitted to the Hub – a school which specializes in the training and teaching of people like her; and the hags, who have caused a great deal of trouble for the family are dealt with handily. It is in this half of the book that we see Phaedra get over herself and start truly fighting for her future. Phaedra unleashes her abilities in order to save her family. Phaedra becomes more than an angsty teenager: she becomes a strong lead character that will play well in future novels.
The Bottom Line: Bittersweet is a typical first-in-a-series novel. That is, the author has a lot of ground to cover in terms of establishing characters, creating an interesting plot, and setting the reader up for the future of the series. This is a tall order and one that Colette fills reasonably well. While I was frustrated by the first half of the book I found the second half to be quite satisfying. By novel’s end there is a sense of resolution but also the knowledge that the series is going to continue. Bottom line: this series has potential but only if Colette allows her characters and plot to evolve. As long as there is evolution I will continue to read this series as it becomes available but I don’t see it as a series topping my must-read list.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Beautiful, wild-child Nicole Tepper is hit by a car and left for dead. But when she wakes the next morning, Nicole finds herself in bed without a scratch. Perhaps she was more intoxicated than usual, as her mother is giving her the silent treatment and her friends are ignoring her as well.
Things take a turn for the weird when Nicole soon discovers she is actually hovering between life and death. Her body is lying in the forest while her spirit is searching for anyone who can hear her. Unfortunately the only person who can is Dale Finnigan, the guy she publicly humiliated with a sharp-tongued insult that has left him branded.
Desperate, Nicole has no choice but to haunt Dale and convince the freaked-out senior to help her. Will he find her body before it’s too late? Or will the guy who tried to kill her with his car, beat him there and finish her off before anyone finds out?
Source: ARC from author for a fair and honest review (blog tour)
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: Nicky has a few serious problems: she is betwixt this world and the next; the only person who can hear her, one Dale Finnigan, pretty much hates her; her physical body is in a significant amount of pain and fading and; she has no idea where her physical body is actually located. Yeah, this is gonna be easy.
Melissa Pearl delivers a good read and a strong plot filled with likeable and completely unlikeable characters in this quickly-paced young adult novel. Pearl doesn’t waste any time getting the plot moving and within the first chapter Nicky finds herself on a dark country road trying to make her way back home from an unhappy date. While this predicament sucks, it is immeasurably better than what comes next that is, being plowed by a swerving vehicle which sends her flying over a guardrail and into a ditch where no one can see her. The next morning Nicky wakes in her bed with funky hair, dressed in her date clothes, and little to no memory of how she got home the night before. Typical.
Unfortunately, Nicky is a bit dense and it takes her making it through nearly half of the school day before she finally figures out her “friends” and parents aren’t ignoring her, they just can’t see her newly incorporeal from. Let the full-on freak out begin. As Nicky is wandering through the school she catches her tool of a boyfriend making out with another girl and finds her loser friends taking bets and posting Twitter polls about her status as either dead or a runaway. Nicky eventually makes her way to the library where she sees Dale Finnigan, a boy she once thought for sure she could really like if he were only cool enough for her friends to accept. Since that was never going to happen, Nicky turned on Dale and made sure he never put himself in her line of fire again. As they say, karma is a b*tch and it turns out Dale is the only person on earth who can hear Nicky.
For three days Dale does everything possible to help Nicky not only remain calm but find her location so her physical body can be rescued before she actually dies. These three days are some of the most revealing and turbulent of Nicky and Dale’s young lives as they have to learn to trust one another in order to achieve their goal. For Dale this means telling Nicky his secret and for Nicky it means learning to accept that even she, as wretched as she has been for the past two years, deserves a second chance. Depending on her mood, Nicky is either completely worthless or wildly determined – the former is rather tiring and the latter is rather humorous from time to time.
As if Nicky and Dale’s task weren’t already daunting enough let’s add to it the fact that someone else is looking for her body and willing to bury it, dead or alive in order to protect the driver of the car that hit her. Oh balls, really? Really! As Nicky and Dale put all the pieces together the clock on Nicky’s life is winding down and neither is willing to give up on the other. The last several chapters of Betwixt are nerve-wracking and dramatic but so worth the wait. For Nicky and Dale all of their dirty little secrets have been revealed and all that remains is for the two of them to find their way to one another in the real world as they have while Nicky was betwixt and between. For Dale this means allowing Nicky to find the courage to forgive herself and come to him and for Nicky this means confronting those who helped get her into her horrid mess in the first place. Nicky’s moment in the hospital when she goes off on her “friends” is by far one of the most satisfying of the novel.
The bottom line: While I wasn’t blown away by Betwixt I did enjoy the read. I like the development of the characters and seeing two somewhat troubled and lonely kids come to grips with their respective pasts in order to find true friendship with one another. The plot moves quickly with no major issues or questions left unresolved at the end. I can absolutely see this story appealing to a young adult audience but it may fall a bit flat for older audiences.
Synopsis from Goodreads: As Charlotte steps through the gate, she has a strong feeling that nothing will ever be the same again.
Moving back to South Carolina after three years away, Charlotte knows she’s going to have to face people from her past and adjust to a new high school, but she’s completely unprepared for what else waits for her in Charleston.
Drawn through an old garden gate, Charlotte discovers a hidden world where she meets Calvin, a boy to whom she is inexplicably attracted. As Charlotte is pulled deeper into this hidden world, it’s up to her older brother Kevin to rescue her. No matter how hard Kevin tries, the rescue depends upon Charlotte fighting her intense feelings for Calvin while mastering a set of abilities that she has only just discovered she possesses.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: After three years in Alaska, Charlotte Calloway and her older brother Kevin are moving back to their ancestral home in Charleston. As usual, Kevin is relaxed and ready for the adventure while Charlotte, ever the social recluse, is anxious and uncertain. You see, despite her brother’s best efforts and intentions Charlotte has never quite felt that she belongs anywhere. Things are about to change in Charlotte and Kevin’s world. And so, the real story begins . . . .
While Kevin begins to fall seamlessly back into life in Charleston with school, basketball, and friends, Charlotte struggles. Being back in Charleston brings back a flood of memories for Charlotte especially those related to her dead mother. Solace is found in the one place her mother loved beyond all others, the lush and verdant garden behind the family home. Growing up, Charlotte loved the garden as much as her mother but was always warned to never, ever go through the iron gate at the back of property. Mother’s warning had always been headed until one night Charlotte notices a bright light near the gate and in an instant Charlotte’s decision is made and her life is irrevocably changed forever.
Beyond the boundary of the gate is Energo, quite literally a whole new world that Charlotte neither understands nor completely believes. That is, until she meets Calvin, her one true mate and the man destined to walk by her side for all eternity. What?? Let’s add to this the fact that while in Energo Charlotte also discovers she is a very precious and powerful entity that is coveted by all. Holy cats! In a heartbeat, Charlotte goes from being a socially awkward teenager to finding her soul mate and discovering some immensely powerful (and nifty) new talents. Whew! No wonder her mother warned her never to go through that gate! For a short time, the secret of Calvin and Energo is all Charlotte’s and she is blissfully happy with this arrangement. And then she is kidnapped.
Well crap! From this moment on the family secrets begin to spill out all over the place and Charlotte’s safety and rescue becomes the ultimate priority for Kevin, his best friend Liam, and the kid’s uncle, Monty. The rescue party launches itself into Energo with the sole purpose of rescuing Charlotte. The problems? 1) How do you separate a young girl from her soul mate? 2) How do a handful of people breach the walls of a virtually impenetrable castle? and 3) What if Charlotte doesn’t want to leave? From the moment the rescuers enter Energo the story unfolds at a lightning pace. Action is mixed beautifully with background information, each major character really begins to develop, and the ride is worth it! Ivy’s writing style is smooth and easy, the plot flows, and the action and limited romance are absolutely appropriate.
The bottom line: this first part of the Afterglow Trilogy is a fantastic young adult read. The story is gripping, the characters are relatable, and the cliff hanger is tantalizing. I am certain I will be diving into book two, Perilous Light, at the earliest available moment!
Synopsis from Goodreads: To protect those she loves from herself, Jax will leave them all behind. She’ll risk everything in a desperate search for answers.
Jax Pherson fled the darkest of covens and from her own father’s evil. For a brief moment, her courage was rewarded. She found everything she’d ever wanted. A normal life. An amazing boyfriend. An envy-worthy best friend .
But her past put them all in danger, forcing a confrontation with the dark covens. In a life-and-death battle to save those she loved from the covens, Jax gained staggering power. Power so intense, so dangerous, she fears the darkness that now dwells inside her like a living thing.
If she can’t control the power, she may yet become as evil as the witches she conquered.
With her friend Egan, Jax leaves all she’s built and heads for the one place that might hold the answers she desperately needs to hold back the darkness-Salem, Massachusetts. Her research unearths a shocking discovery: the Bane, a secret group of witches dedicated to thwarting the covens.
Jax desperately needs their help in her fight against the covens, but finding the Bane is easier said than done and takes all her skills and courage. As Jax gets closer, her dark powers begin to rise and control her actions. If she succumbs to the darkness, Jax may have as much to fear from the Bane as the evil covens and the determined hunter on her trail.
My Rating: 4½/5 stars
My Review: Holy crap, Batman! Bane is the second book in Trish Milburn’s Coven series and just like book one, my socks have been rocked! Bane picks up precisely where White Witch ended with Jax and Egan having arrived in Salem after skipping out on Keller and Toni in Baker Gap, North Carolina. Yes, it’s as craptastic as it sounds L
Jax and Egan have landed in Salem with a highly specific and rather terrifying agenda: find out what got into Jax at Shiprock, research the possibility of white witches actually existing and, find the key to taking down the covens. Mind you, the dynamic duo has to accomplish all of this without using any of their own powers and being completely separated from the two people they love most.
Jax and Egan seem to think they are completely under the radar that is, until they discover how odd a town Salem actually is. Jax keeps shaking off the feeling she and Egan are being watched because she can’t actually sense the presence of any witches. That is until she encounters Rule Latimer and his grandmother, Fiona Day. After a rather rocky introduction everyone begins to understand they are all on the same side and have frighteningly similar goals. Once Jax and Egan join forces with Fiona and Rule the real research and work gets started.
Here’s the short list of precisely what rocked my socks:
*the relationship between Jax and Fiona: Fiona is such a strong, wise and no-nonsense woman with a lot of experience and knowledge where witches and witch history is concerned. Fiona is good for Jax and helps her understand her powers and her place within the context of the coming fight
*Keller and Toni’s return: You know they had to show up; stop snorting like I just unloaded a spoiler on you! The reappearance of these two is absolutely necessary to the development of the plot and Jax and Egan’s sanity but their reappearance also creates a whole host of new problems.
*The backstory: I am a big, big, big fan of backstories and histories and this book is full of both. The research the group is doing is how Milburn weaves the backstory and histories of Salem, the original families, the covens, and the Bane (the who?) into the contemporary plot. The information is not only really interesting but it also infuses each of the characters and the plot with a greater sense of depth and dimension.
*The fan-crappin’-tastic cliffhanger!! Even with all the backstory and history Milburn still finds time to squeeze in plenty of heart-pounding action. Believe me when I tell you she has cooked up one hell of an ending that will leave you wondering where the hell that came from. So. Totally. Worth. It.
Synopsis from Goodreads: On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.
Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.
Her desperate search for the truth leads Claire into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: It takes a rich imagination indeed to make a story like the real-life and still unsolved theft of $500 million worth of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston more interesting. Congratulations B.A. Shapiro, you have done just that and what a fantastic imagination you have!
Claire Roth was, just three short years ago a graduate student with a promising career as a painter in her future. Thanks to one significant and utterly disastrous decision Claire’s bright future and budding reputation are derailed simultaneously leaving her known in the art world as The Great Pretender and her former professor (and lover) dead. Claire now spends her days diligently and expertly copying famous works of art for an on-line retailer and having little to no hope of making a new name for herself on the strength of her own paintings. And then one day the strikingly handsome and incredibly prominent art dealer and gallery owner, Aiden Markel shows up on Claire’s doorstep with a proposition. The proposition is both elegant and simple: copy one of the paintings long-thought lost in the Gardner Museum heist, make a ton of money, and earn yourself a one-woman show in Markel’s gallery. Markel’s delivery is so smooth and confident and Claire is, quite frankly so desperate, that she makes yet another significant and disastrous decision. The money is just too good to pass up, the one-woman show is an unexpected and once unfathomable opportunity and, according to Markel there is no way the dirty deed can be traced back to either one of them.
From the moment the painting Claire is to copy arrives in her apartment she has some serious doubts about its authenticity. Given the sketchy nature of her job Claire chooses to keep those doubts to herself and sets to work copying the work of the great 19th century Impressionist master, Degas. This section of the book is one of its great strengths with fascinating background information about known and very successful forgers, the process by which one forges or copies a great master, and how the “original” work Claire is copying came be a part of Belle Gardner’s private collection. Shapiro flawlessly mixes fact and fiction to create a wonderfully detailed backstory involving Belle Gardner, Degas, and the building of one of the U.S.’s most important collections of art. Shapiro is very careful not to overdue the technical elements of the forging process so the story will appeal to a wide range of readers and not just those with a background in art and art history.
As Claire works we learn more about her past and how she came to be known as the Great Pretender. Claire’s sad past elicits sympathy from the reader but also feeling of frustration as you see her walking into the same trap she found herself in previously. Again, Claire stupidly falls for the charms of an older man who has promised her things he just can’t deliver. And this, dear reader is where the story really, really gets good. Of course you know the entire scheme unravels and Claire’s only hope of saving herself and Aiden is to prove, beyond all doubt, that the “original” Degas she copied was in fact a forgery as well. Claire’s quest to prove the “original” Degas is a forgery leads to her having to reveal her role in the scheme as well as proving she copied to work by doing the whole thing again in front of a group of experts. This is by far the fastest-paced section of the novel and it brings the past and present together in a delightfully interesting way. All of the secrets, all of the schemes, and all of the plots come to light and not all is well in the end.
The bottom line: this is a fantastically well-written bit of art historical fiction that I had a very, very hard time putting down once I got into the story. Getting into the story took about four pages, by the way. Both Claire and Belle’s respective pasts are intriguing and certainly inform the plot, the real forging information is fascinating and the drama of the plot will keep you from putting the book down. I love that Shapiro is willing to sacrifice the happiness of some her characters in favor of the overall plot and how her writing style is reminiscent of one of my favorite authors, Susan Vreeland. Shapiro is in no way a forgery (HA!) of Vreeland but a fine contemporary writing in the same vein. This novel will certainly appeal to lovers of mystery (the heist), art and art history as well as those interested in finely crafted and fast-paced reads.