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review 2017-03-24 11:36
This author has skills! Urban fantasy lovers might want to check it out
Warlock in Training - T.J. Nichols
  4.5 HEARTS--I knew this author's first novel would be great. It was magical.



This isn't my first T.J. Nichols; all previous works were urban fantasy/ paranormal short stories: The Vampire's Dinner and A Wolf's Resistance . Both works had great world building and paranormal ideas. The same can be said for Warlock in Training. But what I wanted to see is what the author could do with something novel length.

Not disappointed.

Earth has changed, new countries have formed and magic is known. Well I should say warlocks and wizards are real on Earth, or Humanside. The Earth is continuing to change, forget global warming, it's approaching an ice age. Most of the population doesn't know what the cause is for it. Warlocks are believed to be the saviors to stop it, But what they don't want people to know is they're the culprits. Magic exists in Humanside and Demonside, a second world where demons and other paranormal beings live. Demonside is experiencing extreme global warming, the world turning into a desert, water is scarce. Do these changes share something in common?

Wizards practice magic without using demons. Warlocks on the other hand drain demons for their magic to be more power, have stronger magic. Wizards are looked down on in the magical society. Warlocks are the upper echelon, the 1% if you will.

Nineteen year old ginger Angus Donohue doesn't want to be a warlock, despite his prestigious warlock family history. His father is forced him to attend warlock college and threatened him not embarrass the family name or him. Angus doesn't even want to summon a demon during a requisite class and tries to fail.

And that's where the magic begins.

Enter demon Saka (I am 1000% for him). He chooses Angus despite Angus trying to fail and takes him to Demonside across the void (the bridge between the two worlds). Points to the story being dual POV. Both worlds are too interesting not to immerse yourself in.

The cover is so fitting! Because I think Angus has the potential to be the bridge.

Saka is a demon mage and is trying to help his world. He's smart, calm and wicked with a knife. He shows Angus there is more to life and magic. I couldn't help but imagine Saka something like Hellboy (black horns instead, no hair, the similar skin tone)



I always try to find a Hellboy in demons I read about. LOL

Saka teaches different types of magic: soul, blood and sex. Saka's really great at the last two.

A lot of urban fantasy, tends to have an alpha type as the lead. Not the case in Warlock in Training. Angus is nineteen and reads nineteen - unsure of himself, still learning his place in the world, exploring relationships with potential partners. But he's not the typical teenager. Demonside helps open his eyes.

There is a battle between two magical worlds that felt similar to what the political and global feel is right now. The 1% is ruining both worlds, damn the results as long as they're in power. It's magical politics. People are dying for a cause that does not benefit the greater good. The ones in charge lie to the masses and attacks any form of resistance.

But there is a resistance.



And it's growing.

The book ends with a cliffhanger of sorts. There are loose threads that need to be answered. Such as who really is in charge? Why the harvesting of so much power? The suspense is well written.

Before jumping all over this, I feel I should warn potential readers of possible triggers/deal breakers: There are romantic undertones rather than a defined romance. Both main characters have sex with other people (But I feel I should explain demons have different views on 'relationships' - monogamy is not the norm,) There were brief MF moments. (Also, didn't mind. The moments were a blip on the entire scale of things) Cutting is practiced for magical purposes.

How erotic does this get? There is on page sex but don't expect pages of a drawn out sex scene. (Quite happy about that, it can be a chore to read drawn out pages) The relationship between Saka and Angus is still forming, is kinda fluid. There is another character that has a potential of maybe making this a love/lust triangle. It's not romantic. More as a means to an end but there is potential for deeper feelings. Sex on Demonside can be and is used for ritualistic needs. If you are a reader who needs the one and only, I would say to approach with caution. Because the way the sex, relationship and openness is written fits the characters. And they struggle. But it's secondary to the world building, action and suspense.

I want to rate this all the hearts but I have tiny issues, pretty minor. Technically, the story reads well. But I feel some of the chapters ended in odd spots. I like the fact the chapters aren't overly long but some ended with where it could have just combined with half of the next chapter for better impact.

But I see this book as the foundation for more to come. War is approaching. What side are you on? Will the resistance win?

Bonus was that this book stars my favorite paranormal beings: DEMONS!



And a ginger warlock! It was like it was written just for me. ;P

Fans of urban fantasy should definitely check this series out because the world building is tops. The author obvious is an urban fantasy fan and it shows in their work. The first third is mostly building. The other two thirds are fast paced and filled with intrigue. My heart started to crumble in the last 5-8% but the author pulled it through.

I am so there for this series! And I'm definitely a fan of this author after this. It's 3 out of 3 for me!

Recommended.



A copy provided for an honest review.

 

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review 2017-03-22 02:33
Theft of Swords
Theft of Swords - Michael J. Sullivan,Tim Gerard Reynolds

One of my friends described this series as fantasy-lite and boy is it ever. Hadrian and Royce are fun protags, but the stories are on the thin side. 

 

I didn't realize this volume has two different stories, so I was getting annoyed at how quickly the first story appeared to be resolving itself. But even after realizing what was going on, the writing and resolution of the first story is still too reliant on villain monologues. The story didn't take any unexpected twists and the characters don't have much depth. The second story was somewhat better in construction and the way it was paced. The fantasy elements are slow to be integrated, maybe to ease the reader into the world? Though I'm not sure why a fantasy fan would need such easing. (Ok, GRRM is on the feet-dragging side of this too, but his characters and their various relationships are complex and complicated, and the world they live in feels real. And even when the villains reveal things, you can't be sure they're telling the truth.)

 

The narrator has that fantasy-type voice which works well with the narration, but he doesn't have much range on the voices. A lot of the characters start sounding the same after awhile.

 

These are decent stories and fun, but I can't say I'm tempted to continue. I did pick up The Crown Tower during Audible's last sale, so I'll try that one next and see if some of these issues get improved upon or not. 

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review 2017-03-18 23:27
This is definitely going to be a series to watch...
An Unseen Attraction - K.J. Charles

A Tag Team Review with Chelsea!

FOUR HEARTS--K.J. Charles' newest Victorian romance series, Sins of the Cities, starts off on the right foot with An Unseen Attraction. A slow burn with an encompassing mystery and romance between two unassuming souls can be found in this novel.


"Rowley, there are lots of people who think I'm worth looking at. Not so many who think I'm worth listening to. Not like you."
A spasm of something passed across Rowley's face. "Then there are a lot of fools out there."




Swoon.

The words were, as usual, a joy to read from this author. And the shared moments between 28-year-old Clement Talleyfer - lodging house keeper and 35 year old, Rowley Green, a solitary preserver (taxidermist) made this book special.

Clement, or Clem, is of Indian descent and grew up an outsider for his entire life. Rowley has not had an easy childhood and bears the scars to prove it. The author has a fine hand on writing inclusive characters be it race or QUILTBAG, no one gets left out. And An Unseen Attraction is on par.

But what makes this book even more special was including a character with DCD (Developmental Coordination Disorder or Dyspraxia). She wrote the character in such a way that respected the disorder and an affected person's feelings, rather than using his disorder as a characteristic and not following up. (I'm not a fan of books that write characters with intellectual disabilities and can't back it up with thorough research). Based on the obvious research alone put into this tale, it's rated all the hearts.

Clem runs the lodging house and crushes on his lodger of eight months, the small, quiet Mr. Green, who runs a preserve shop next door. Clem's not one to easily discern if Mr. Green would welcome his affections, so quiet friendship is what he relies on to keep in respectable contact within that time period. You know what they say about the quiet ones? Because quiet Mr. Green notices Clem just as much.

Told in dual POV, the two become closer while surround by interesting characters at the lodging house. Their shared attraction obvious. A mystery is literally dropped on the house doorsteps by way of a dead body. The pair bond even more, trying to figure out what is the cause of the violent acts. Both men have damaging pasts, with internal and external scars. Clem is gorgeous (great cover by the way - it's very close to how I picture Clem). But with DCD, most treat him like an imbecile. Rowley, knows he's not as handsome and he tends to downplay himself. Not to the point of annoyance but thankfully Clem sees him as a worthy partner and vice versa.

I loved both main characters. (Can you tell?) Flawed individuals who make each other stronger together and bring out the best in each other without losing a sense of self. They aren't overt characters, rather it's the quietness and the little things that they both do that grabs the attention.

And their compatibility exists both in and out of the bedroom!


"I like to be...undemanding in bed. To, well, have the other person make the decisions. there's something about someone doing what he wants to do with me..."






I-- *clears throat*

Yes, I'm very fine with that.

Edging and submissiveness...oh yes, these two were definitely hot together.

While the two check off so many boxes on my characters-I-enjoy list, the story isn't without minor flaws.

Why not full throttle and dump all the hearts at this book's feet? There are some open ended issues that I would love to be answered. There's an arc that has enough mystery to probably cover the entire series. (That epilogue is everything)

But...something about the 'villain(s) ending'-- something about it s sticking in my craw. Maybe it could be more of a me thing but I wanted justice. I wanted a big never ending battle royal as a climax to the action scenes scattered about the story.

The cowardice irks me. Who is the accomplice? Mastermind? Ah!

But I do think the author kept the main character's personalities at the forefront at all times, so I'll just have to swallow and build a bridge to get over it.

Or read the rest of this series, which I DEFINITELY will be. Because I am all in for "Polish Mark". This author has me pining for themes I tend to shy away from - mysteries and psychics. *shakes head*

The writing is that good.

I don't plan on running through the ignored lists of books with those themes but it seems that if K.J. Charles has written it, I'll make an exception.

The secondary characters are just as intriguing as the main characters. And the story overall, is well written enough, suspenseful enough and romantic enough to check out!

Recommended.



A copy provided for an honest review via Netgalley.

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review 2017-03-15 07:16
For the fantasy lovers... aka me. ;P
The Shadow Mark (Lords of Davenia Book 2) - Mason Thomas
It's a unicorn gang review! Sara and Fantasy Living join the Mason Thomas reading party! (My 2 cents below):

3.75- 4 HEARTS
--I jumped at the chance to review The Shadow Mark without even reading the blurb. Why? Lord Mouse is one of my favorite reads last year (my review), and Mouse is hands down one of my fave characters written. What drew me in was the adventure, the fantasy based world Mason Thomas created, the snark and wit.

And of course, Mouse.

If you've read Lord Mouse first (it's not necessary, it can be read as a standalone), you know the snark is heavy. Mouse demands attention with his very being. He's just that type of personality.

That is not to be found in The Shadow Mark.

Auraq was a soldier with a lot of promise. Now he's living on edges of society due to being accused of murder. One night, his solitude is interrupted by a pair of small townsmen. The younger of the men, Kane has mysterious magical marks that attract the wrong attention, assassin attention. Upon a dying man's oath, Auraq ends up being Kane's protector and bodyguard while they try to search for answers to the mysterious marks.

It's a mostly fast paced adventure full of backstabbing characters, killers and fighting.




A captivating read from start to finish, though I'll have to say the second half outweighs the first half.

Where I find this author flourishes: action and suspense - Thomas is clearly a gamer and it shows. He knows how to set an action scene, make it impactful enough. I appreciate sword fights, especially well-written scenes. Thomas thinks out the swing, the lunges...it's great to read. Weaving a tale, keeping the suspense and action turned up high!




Where there is improvement: editing - Though I read an ARC, the tale in Shadow Mark is definitely more linear than Lord Mouse. Less time jumping which made a smoother read. Now as to a personal enjoyment, the fantasy is stepped up in Shadow Mark. The vocabulary read less modern compared to Lord Mouse (I don't mind either approach TBH)

Areas for improvement: The story is told mainly from Auraq POV, so his 'love' interest Kane and his attributes are told from Auraq. Auraq is tight-lipped and his 'romantic' feelings are definitely buried way, way, waaay deep. There wasn't much to go from since Kane was introduced as an annoyance and someone who was told to wait here and there, while Auraq took care of the grunt work. Kane could have been more even from Auraq's POV. He's introduced as young apprentice, didn't seem on much consequence. And he seemed like the means to an oath, not much a character with depth. Then the second half happened, where a romance sort of happens in between the mystery unfolds.

The romance is secondary in stories Thomas has presented so far. But I feel the initial reaction of Kane didn't wear off until way late. Just a glimpse or inkling more of Auraq's feelings would have made more of an impact for me. I'm fine with mere kisses, but the relationship goes from 0 to 100% and I'm still having difficulties buying it.

I live for tight-lipped heroes, especially ones that are not demonstrative. Auraq took that to an extreme. His protectiveness was palpable, it's what warmed me in the end. But the romance...it needed some work.

Readable? For sure.

But if you're a reader who needs sex in your romance or overly mushy displays, I wouldn't recommend The Shadow Mark. The novel is quieter than its predecessor, more of a tactical head game waiting to be played out.

The story and mystery are the main players, along with Auraq, the seemingly irredeemable criminal warrior with a heart of loyal gold. I loved the mystery, kinda guessed who was the culprit behind the treasonous crime. But how everything came together? That was fun.

Enjoyed the last chapter even more than the epilogue. Am I seeing a possible link between book #1 and #2's Lords? I really hope so.

Overall, great story stronger in all parts but romance than book #1. I'm definitely a fan of this series.



A copy provided for an honest review.
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review 2017-03-15 02:24
Midnight Riot (or, Rivers of London)
Midnight Riot - Ben Aaronovitch,Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Oh, boy, that was fun! And funny! This is like the UK's answer to Harry Dresden - if Harry was way more mellow and his dog was a slipper with ears. Harry's dog might be named Mouse, but he ain't tiny. :) Toby still has it where it counts though.

 

Survey says: Harry kicks ass; Peter is swell bloke.

 

The world-building was pretty well-developed throughout the story, not just for the magic stuff but for London itself for us non-Londoners who don't know how London works. I imagine it's told in a politely backhanded enough way to still be amusing to those who live there though. We're told only what we need to know when we need to know it, and aren't info-dumped for no reason, yet it still manages to set things up for later books.

 

The case was interesting and certainly unexpected.

Punch and Judy is just messed up, y'all. And to think that was considered appropriate entertainment for the whole family back in the day.

(spoiler show)

Leslie looks like she's getting set up to be the Murphy of this universe, only much more mellow and less awesome. Though she could still end up being awesome later. We'll see. 

 

I'm not sure at all why the American publisher changed the name of the book from Rivers of London - since the rivers actually are pretty important - to Midnight Riot. Sure, there's a riot and it happens at night, but it's not even the climax of the book. Com'n. Did they really think we'd need the promise of a riot to get us interested? That's horrible. This isn't like trying to get kids interested in a bunch of old guys sitting around discussing the meaning of life to a bunch of rocks (BORING!) versus wizards doing cool magical stuff with stones (AWESOME!). There was just no reason to change the title, and maybe it's just me, but it also introduces an unfortunate (most likely completely unintentional) racial implication. Peter's mixed-race. There's a riot. Must be connected, yeah? Let's make it the title! Boo! Bad job, American publisher! Bad job! 

 

The narrator, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, did an okay job. He has a nice voice, all silky and rich and mmmmm...wait, what was he saying? ;) I did tend to get caught up in the sound of his voice and miss the actual words he was saying, having to go back and re-listen and mmmmm... :D The downside is that he really needs to learn how to breathe properly when he's narrating. Lots of deep inhales at pretty much every stopping or pausing point. Comma? Time to breathe. End of sentence? Time to breathe. I did listen to the sample for the next book, and he seems to have improved on this point, so I'll continue with the audios.

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