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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Iron by Robin L. Cole - Exciting, compelling, and sure to draw you in. 4.5/5 Stars!

Today, I am reviewing the Paranormal/Urban Fantasy story Iron by Robin L. Cole. The first novel in the exciting The Warding series, we’re introduced to a world where fae folk (don’t call them “faeries;” it pisses them off) walk between the worlds. Some of them, however, have run afoul of the increasingly mad High King, and have been exiled to Earth, searching for some way to return.

Unfortunately for Caitlin, a regular woman who’s rapidly approaching her 30th birthday (and feeling every minute of it), she’s exactly what they’re looking for. She has the Warding, the ability to repel fae magics and glamours, and the exiles need her.

This is an absolutely stellar book, filled with action, character development, and intriguing plot. I give it a 4.5/5. Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 5/5. A definite strength of this novel. It’s often a trope of urban fantasy how easily and quickly the characters shift from their “normal” lives into the new powers and/or responsibilities thrust upon them. It’s tough to make the journey seem natural and realistic, but Cole has done just that. As Caitlin evolves from a soft woman lamenting hitting 30 into an absolute badass, I felt every step on the journey as she struggled to come to grips with lying to her best friend, her guilt about her new fae compatriots…even the first life she stole. Beyond that, the whole supporting cast was played fantastically, with particular favorites of mine being Mairi and Gannon.

Yeah, definitely like Gannon. /looks over his shoulder and wipes his brow.

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Realistic yet fantastical, Cole blended fae politics and intrigues with the present day like a seasoned professional. Every plot twist was handled excellently, with just enough “whoa” and none of the “WTHeck?” The final reveals made total sense, and I loved the unfolding of interpersonal relationships and how they drove the story. Character-driven storylines are the best, and this one did it just right.

Flow: 5/5. Perfection. Cole paced between beats like a marching band – always in rhythm, always in tune, and when things got heated you could tell by the tap-tap-tapping of your heart along with the words. The pages passed through my fingers until, at the end, I was astonished that it was already over. In fact, the first thing I said to Cole was “Is the sequel done yet?”

(No, not yet. But she’s writing as fast as she can!)

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. There were a few typos in this book. A few homophone errors and a couple dropped words round out the mistakes, but I’ve seen much worse. It was a solid, but not fantastic, editing job.

Overall: 4.5/5. I loved Iron and, if you’re a fan of E.J. Stevens’ Ivy Granger series, or Neil Gaiman, or Curse of Prometheus by Morgan St. Knight, then you’ll absolutely adore it too. I’m waiting on tenterhooks for Faster, the sequel, and I’ll let you know what I think!

Pick up your copy of Iron at Amazon today:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Saving Maggie - A shifter novel with heart. 3.75/5 stars.

Today, I am reviewing the Paranormal Shifter story Saving Maggie by R. Mac Wheeler. This is a story set in the modern day, with opposing/cooperating councils of Lycans and Vampires (who call themselves “talents.”) The main character, Carter, is a lone wolf without ties to the normal immortal society. He encounters a dying piece of street-trash, Maggie, and finds himself inexplicably attached to her, drawn to help the poor girl rise from the gutter, even against her will.

I give this book a 3.75/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 4/5. Very solid. The characters are developed through the story, and we keep getting peeks at the hidden society that drives them. I didn’t know that vampires were a thing until a bit into the book, but that’s good – if our protagonist isn’t worried about them, why should I be? Wheeler also did an amazing job with the character of Maggie – her comments about her life, her sullen acceptance of her “place,” and her disbelief of the idea that someone might just be trying to help made her very real to me.

Plot/Storyline: 3.5/5. Not bad. The story was exciting, and I found the battle scenes excellently described. The way the narration flipped between Carter and his Beast were also well done. Plot-wise, though, I’m still not sure where the story is headed. I mean, I got the reason for the battles and the conflict with the Red Court…but after that, it seemed like it was kind of on a treadmill of “Meeting. Make demands. Retaliation.” This happened at least three times without much in the way of development for the characters or story. I think that maybe it was because of the time that Maggie needed for her arc (no spoilers here!) but it was still a little off-putting. Overall, though, I enjoyed the story.

Flow: 4/5. Very good. The biggest issue with flow I had was that Wheeler has a strange tendency to make Carter think Ack when things are going wrong. And sometimes he’ll do it three or four times in a row, very quickly. The use of such a word so often drew my attention and threatened my verisimilitude – I mean, how many people really think Ack?.

Spelling/Grammar: 3/5. There were several grammatical mistakes sprinkled throughout this book – and, unlike with cakes or pies, the sprinkles don’t make it better. Wheeler shifted back and forth between past and present tense narration a few times, and there were some homonym usage (bare vs bear is one that I remember offhand). Was it horrible? No. But it wasn’t great.

Overall: 3.75/5. I very much enjoyed this read. It ended on a note that left me wanting to know where the story went. I plan to pick up the sequel as soon as my schedule permits. If you like shifter novels, you’ll do well to check out this series.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fast Draw by D.W. Collins - Solid, but not spectacular. 3.5/5

Today, I am reviewing the Urban Fantasy/Thriller story Fast Draw by D.W. Collins. In this book, we follow Bob Mayes, an aging cowboy and performer in a show who demonstrates his superhuman aim and firing speed. Unbeknownst to him, he is about to be caught in the middle of two warring presences who are fighting over the future of mankind…and are using Supernaturals like him to do it. 

I give this book a 3.5/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 3/5. There was a large cast of characters in this novel, but I felt like I never got to know any of them very well. What I did know was reasonably interesting, and I cared about the main ones…but they felt like movie characters, rather than book characters. The romantic subplot between two of the side characters was fun, and helped define them a little bit, but I felt the book lacked a little in this area. As far as our protagonist, while I cheered for him and enjoyed watching him work, I didn’t feel a lot of depth in him. A few moments of soul-searching don’t really change a man who’s spent the last several decades living the home life to a bringer of righteous death.

Plot/Storyline: 3.5/5. The story was fun and interesting and it kept me turning the pages. There were few twists, though, and many of those that were there had the bright red colors of the deus ex machina glowing upon them. I found myself a bit confused at times as to the reasons and motivations of the characters as they used their assets to confound one another. Who’s winning? What’s going on? At times I wasn’t sure. Overall, though, the story was coherent, made sense most of the time, and was a new take that I hadn’t seen before.

Flow: 4.5/5. Well done here. The pacing was excellent and Collins does a good job of it. He spaces the events in the book out perfectly and fills the intervening time with things that make sense, all the while pushing a sense of urgency. I admit to thinking that Bob (who, as mentioned earlier, is not a spring chicken) was actually doing very well considering the pace his friends were setting 

Spelling/Grammar: 3.5/5. Meh. Some missing and spliced words, spelling mistakes. The book is written in present tense, but there were a few confusing times when Collins went back to past that threw me. I definitely noticed the issues in Fast Draw.

Overall: 3.5/5. A solid effort, but it could have used a couple more beta readers and another editing pass. I’m honestly most frustrated with the ending and the character of Bob Mayes. It felt like, as the story progressed, Collins had this character, and he established what the character could do…and I got this feeling that Bob wasn’t being challenged much. He was this instrument of God (metaphorically) that just rained death on his enemies. Which was cool. But he never felt threatened.

And then the ending happened. I won’t spoil it, but I felt cheated, like it had been thrown in, or pre-written and shoehorned so that the ending imagined before the book was ever written is the book that we have. I don’t know. People who are fans of the genre will probably enjoy Fast Draw, but those who are prone to analyze the plotlines or who are looking for visionary approaches would do well to be careful.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Vampire's Virgin by Leeloo Deschain - 3.75/5

Today I’m reviewing The Vampire’s Virgin, an erotic paranormal short story by Leeloo Deschain (btw, I love that name!). It’s the first book in the Desert Bloodlust series. The story introduces us to a young, 19-year-old waitress at a roadside café who is suddenly enthralled by the appearance of a handsome stranger…and the stranger turns out to be a vampire who is just as enamored with her as she is with him.

I give this story a 3.75/5. Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 4/5. Given that this is an erotic short story, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of character development. Surprisingly, Lucy (the protagonist) caught my attention almost immediately. I found myself feeling for her frustration with her dead-end job and the idea that, at 19, her life was already passing her by (I remember that feeling well). The vampire love interest seemed pretty standard – powerful, with a hint of brutal savagery underlying his civilized veneer. It’s a tried-and-true formula, but Deschain does a good job with it. The vampire society introduced in the story was also interesting, and I’m curious to see where that goes in later installments.

Plot/Storyline: 3.5/5. The story here doesn’t bring anything really new to the table – lonely virginal teen, vampire alpha male – but I’m pleased by the writing quality. Deschain doesn’t stoop to a whole bunch of clichés or tropes in order to advance her story. The dialogue is witty and realistic, and the characters act like real people, which is always helpful.

Flow: 4/5. The beginning of The Vampire’s Virgin is hampered a bit by in-head narration and exposition, and the book suffers just a bit from the “I’m thinking about myself a lot so that the readers know more about me,” but overall the story moved very well and quickly. I didn’t find too much description and the events flowed naturally into one another.

Spelling/Grammar: 4.5/5. There were a few minor errors in this work – some misspellings or missing words – but nothing significant.

Overall: 3.75/5. I enjoyed this book. The erotic aspect of it was definitely present, but I was pleased by the presence of actual story behind the sex. I’m also curious about future installments and wondering what sort of plot twists and events will come up to trouble Lucy and her vampire beau. 

Thank you, Leeloo, for the read! You can pick up your own copy below.

The Vampire's Virgin by Leeloo Deschain