Review: How to Dance an Undead Waltz by Hailey Edwards

Reviewed by Jen

I’m not sure I have the words to tell you how much I adored this book. Hailey Edwards has skyrocketed to one of the top spots in my favorite author list and I’m now at the point where I will read anything she writes. Because it’s gold, guys. And as much as I love her Foundling books—and believe me, I do—this book has put the Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy series as my new favorite from her. One of my favorite urban fantasy series, period.

Spoilers from book three ahead. If you haven’t read the previous books already, stop and go read them now. They are best enjoyed in order and they are all fantastic.

So as this book begins, Grier is reeling from an awful betrayal from her boyfriend and her best friend. Boaz is engaged to another woman and Amelie knew he was doing it. These are garbage people and I want to set them on fire. But at the same time, I’m so very glad to have Boaz out of the picture as a love interest because it clears the way for the man Grier SHOULD be with… Linus. [Read more…]

Review: How to Break an Undead Heart by Hailey Edwards

Reviewed by Jen

Oh Hailey Edwards, you crafty crafty lady. You make me feel things.

This book kept me so riveted, I read it in one sitting. The kind of book that made me stay up way past my bedtime on a work night so that as I write this the next morning, my eyes are bleary but my insides are still squeezing tight over the events that transpired.

Read any reviews about this series and you’ll find how often people say the heroine, Grier, can’t catch a break. And it’s so true. It is a crappy, crappy world that she lives in. No one can be trusted. And I mean no one. The climax in the last book should’ve tipped me off. The title of this book should’ve tipped me off. And yet when everything came crashing down, I felt sideswiped. And that’s good writing, people.

You know what else is good writing? Subtly laying the groundwork for all of this, so that when it came together, it made complete and total sense. The downside I had about a particular character or the interest I had an another. Expertly played. [Read more…]

Review: How to Claim an Undead Soul by Hailey Edwards

Reviewed by Jen

This second installment in the Beginners Guide to Necromancy solidifies this series and as another winner from Hailey Edwards. If you haven’t read book one, stop now and go back to the beginning. This book would be best enjoyed after reading that one.

Our heroine, Grier, is facing all new challenges now that her place in society has been restored. She has money again–and the possibility of a relationship with her childhood crush, Boaz, but she is far from comfortable in her skin. She is still suffering from serious PTSD from her time in supernatural prison and she is waiting for the rug to get ripped out from under her at any moment, either by losing everything she just regained or by becoming a target again for the vampires who would use her for their own purposes.

She can’t get her old job back, seeing as how she disappeared for five weeks due to a pesky kidnapping. But there is a potential place for her on what will be a haunted cruise ship. As she helps renovate the ship, she stumbles upon a sentient ghost and learns of a new big bad in town, a devourer who is eating specters. And now, she may be a target as well. [Read more…]

Review: How to Save an Undead Life by Hailey Edwards

Reviewed by Jen

It can’t be easy to keep coming up with a fresh new take on urban fantasy. I read a lot in the genre and so many of the books carry similar threads or a common tone. I am finding, though, with Hailey Edwards that each one of her series has a unique flavor. This one is no exception. It is really, really good.

The heroine is Grier, a weak necromancer who has only recently been released from a supernatural prison where she spent the last five years for a crime she did not commit. This is a woman who has endured a lot. She was caged, drugged, and tortured all those years and is suffering now from a mighty case of PTSD. Add to that, she has no idea how or why she was released. She barely has two cents to rub together, but she does have the home where she grew up, a haunted house she calls Woolly, which feels like its own character in the story. [Read more…]

Review: Ward Against Darkness

ward darknessReviewed by Jen

Is it wrong that I want the necromancer to get it on with the dead girl he brought back to life?  Because if it is, I think I need to stop reading this series right now.  Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s ever gonna happen… at least not the way I want it to.

Ward and the lovely (but deadly) Celia are mooning over each other more than ever, but the whole “dead” thing keeps getting in the way of romantic progress. Let me back up.  The story picks up almost immediately from where the last book left off.  Ward and Celia are on the run from bounty hunters who think they killed her father.  [Read more…]

Review: Beauty

Reviewed by Shelly

I can’t tell you how many times I put off reading this book for the simple reason that I didn’t want the series to end. But alas, I grew some you- know-what and took the plunge. Oh my, my, it was totally worth it.

Beauty picks up right after we left Dante and Kaja from Beast. This story is about Bronwyn (how cool is that name, huh?) and her Dark Ones, Lachlan and Shim. Bronwyn, the sister of Beck and Cian (from Bound) is alive and living the life of the working class while her bonded mates are searching for her from one plane to the next.

For Sophie Oak fans, she offers a lot of characters from other series in a non-distracting way, but I think that if you’re a new reader to her work and read this as a stand-alone you can still enjoy the storyline because it’s just that good.

I found myself reading this story and thinking, WOW, I can’t believe Oak was able to pull that off! One of the wonderful things that I’m really coming to appreciate from this writer is that she’s able to blend unlikely genres/categories and make them very believable. Who knew BDSM was so popular, even with Unseelie Fae (or is it Faeries?)

Even as new characters were introduced, we really got a chance to get to know some of the characters from previous stories a little more, like vampire mercenary Simon Roan and Dante’s father, Alexander Dellacourt. I’m kinda hoping we see more of Roan, Harry and Gillian later on in a spin-off (*fingers crossed*).

Lachlan was my favorite hero in this story; he was the epitome of the tortured hero, both physically and mentally. He was by no means perfect and that’s what made him ideal for the other half of his symbiotic twin and such a great foil for Bronwyn’s ‘pureness’. As a necromancer, it’s by accepting his ‘gift’ that he finds his true purpose and his amazing strength.

Shim, the pyromancer, and the more affectionate of the twins, was wonderful as a Bronwyn’s number two. He clearly was such a likeable hero who was totally in-love with his wife that it was hard for me to see any wrong in him. Whatever he had to do to protect her, even the not so nice things, he would do. We get to see him going from being weak because of his love to a very strong and driven King –and let me tell you it was a wonderful journey to take.

The sex between these three was WOW! The boys definitely made drawing ‘first blood’ seem like every girl’s unlikely fantasy come true.

Of course, I have to mention something about Dante because that bad boy always make me laugh… His wife Kaja had some of the funniest lines – after Bronwyn tells her she doesn’t have to come along (and get in trouble) Kaja responds with all seriousness – “I do. I cannot break the sacred code of chicks before dicks…”

Overall, I completely enjoyed this ride and I’m hoping that there will be more about these families because they sure were a pleasure to read about.

Rating:  A

Beauty
by Sophie Oak
Release Date: June 15, 2012
Publisher: Siren

Review: Ward Against Death

Reviewed by Jen

I had no idea from the blurb that this book was supposed to be YA. And even after reading it, I’m not sure if I would have characterized it that way. Both of the characters are about 20 years old, with careers, so to speak. Then again, there is no sex and our male main character isn’t quite the standard hero.

Ward is a necromancer, though his real dream was always to be a physician and surgeon. Unfortunately, in this past/alternative world, magics are a way of life and surgery is forbidden. Ward has already been caught trying to learn the craft and now his innate necromantic gifts will have to get him through life. As the story begins, Ward is called to perform a wake on beautiful young woman named Celia. He plans to bring her across the veil for just a few minutes at her father’s request. But when she wakes up, she begs him to help her discover who killed her.

No one is above suspicion, not even Celia’s family, so together they go on the run. Ward has no idea that Celia was actually an assassin and her father is the head of the underworld. And Celia is sure that Ward is something other than the sweet, bumbling, and principled young man he seems to be. But despite their differences –and despite the fact that Celia is dead– there is an attraction between the two of them.

Over the course of the book, Ward and Celia work to find clues to her death. But instead of things getting clearer, they get more and more convoluted. There’s a great big plot afoot, somehow tied in with another assassination, ancient prophesies, and magic. I’ll admit that I got confused a few times, especially early on… most often in the details between the assassin’s guild and the bad-guy underworld led by Celia’s dad. But it was a very engaging read. I think the best thing about the entire book was Ward. He is such a good guy. He is honorable and loyal, while still being fallible and scared. He is so easy to root for, I found myself much more invested in him than in Celia.

I won’t spoil the details of how the murder plot unraveled, but there was a lot of action and danger that kept me wrapped up in the story. The book was light in the romance department, but the undercurrents are there throughout. It’s clear that more adventures are ahead for Ward and Celia… just as it’s apparent there is much more to his magic than even he realizes.

Unique world-building and engaging characters. Worth checking out. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by Entangled Publishing

Click to purchase: Amazon 
Ward Against Death
by Melanie Card
Release Date: August 2, 2011
Publisher: Entangled Publishing

Review: Living With the Dead

Reviewed by Jen

This didn’t feel like an Otherworld book. At all. It was deeply disturbing and dark. It featured some characters we know: primarily Hope and Karl, but unlike any of the previous books, this was written in the third person and the real main character was a regular human we’ve never met before.

It’s been six months since Robyn’s husband Damon died. Since then, she’s moved to LA to start a new life for herself. She’s a PR rep for a celebutante, but she’s really just going through the motions. Hope is worried about her –the two are longtime friends– so she and Karl come to visit. Shortly after they arrive, Robyn’s client is killed and thanks to a string of unlikely events, Robyn becomes the prime suspect. Then Karl and Hope must figure out who really killed the woman and why, while protecting Robyn from the real killer.

Investigating the case is Detective John Finnley. Finn’s a necromancer, though he doesn’t even really know what that means. He only knows that he occasionally sees ghosts… a skill that helps him believe Robyn is innocent, not only of her client’s murder but other deaths that are piling up in her wake. The ghosts of the victims help lead his way, and so does (eventually) the ghost of Robyn’s husband.

Earlier, I mentioned that this story is disturbing. That’s due almost entirely to our villain, a sociopathic clairvoyant named Adele. She is the real killer. It’s not because she enjoys killing; she’s just looking out for number one. You see, Robyn’s client had the misfortune of accidentally taking an incriminating photo of Adele. That leads to her death. And the deaths that follow are also to keep Adele’s secret — that she is trying to escape from her commune of clairvoyants to join the Nast cabal. That doesn’t sound that bad… standard bad-guy stuff. But there’s more to her schemes. She slips birth control pills to one of her commune sisters, knowing it will eventually force the girl into what’s essentially gang rape when she can’t conceive a child by her husband. The husband Adele wanted for her own. She has sex with a mentally disabled boy to manipulate him into sharing his powers with her, and gets pregnant with his child. Then she seduces his younger brother, a 15 year-old, to hide the baby’s paternity. She doesn’t care what she has to do or who she has to do it to, to get what she wants.

Adele is really a product of the environment she has grown up in… although undoubtedly, she is the worst case scenario. The commune beats its children to instill fear of the cabals; it inbreeds; uses the disabled for their powers; and we’ve already talked about the forced sex. It even kills those whose powers are too weak to make them useful. And even as I try to describe all this, I know it doesn’t do it justice.

There’s a lot going on here. In addition to all the stuff with Robyn, Finn & Adele, we can’t forget about Hope and Karl. Their relationship is at a crossroads. And Hope has a lot of uncertainty about her future. And in the end, we see that the major developments in this book and the previous ones are intertwined, perhaps in some greater purpose, or bigger picture. I find that very intriguing. It was a solid installment… it just felt… off. And I missed the romance. 4 stars.

Living With the Dead
by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: October 21, 2008
Publisher: Bantam Books

Otherworld: Short Stories and Novellas

Reviewed by Jen

I love the way Kelley Armstrong has enriched her Otherworld series with a wealth of short stories. She compiled many of them together into the anthologies Men of the Otherworld and Tales of the Otherworld, but there are even more out there. Some are free reads on the internet (provided by Armstrong herself); others are parts of anthologies shared with other authors.  You don’t have to read them all to know what’s going on in the novels. But they are great fun and teach us more about the characters we have already grown to love. I’ve got the details on the short stories found in Men & Tales, in the reviews for each of those anthologies. This is a short breakdown on the rest.

Demonology” (free online story) – This is one of the very few Otherworld story that’s not told in the first person narrative.  It features Adam’s mother Talia, as she struggles to figure out what makes her child different. Adam is only 8 years-old in this story and he is becoming fixated with fire. He’s even exhibiting some strange physical behaviors, like hot hands, and giving other kids a jolt. It’s in trying to help her son that Talia meets Robert Vasic, the half-demon that will end up her husband… and who will finally explain her son’s true nature.”

The Case of the Half Demon Spy” (free online story) – narrator: Adam –  This little 16 page short story gives us a peek at Adam and Paige as young teens. They’re growing restless, being shut out of a council meeting, when they see a demon spying on the gathering. They take it upon themselves to scare him away and get his notes. They never realize that it was all a set up by Adam’s step dad to give them an adventure.

Truth & Consequences” (free online story) – narrator: Elena – This story takes us inside Elena’s life, not long before the events of Bitten. She is working for the pack, tracking down a man who says he has proof werewolves exist. Elena is forced to kill him to protect the pack. It’s a decision that will ultimately drive her away from Stonehaven and set the wheels in motion for the first novel.

Territorial” (free online story) – narrator: Karl – As this story begins, Karl is working a mark to steal her necklace. But his mind quickly turns to reminiscing about his past and his father. In flashback, we learn how his father died: killed by Malcolm — and why Karl believes it was hit fault. As the tale draws to a close, we see how his path crosses with Daniel Santos, laying the groundwork for their evil plan in Bitten.

Escape” (free online story) – narrator: Eve – We didn’t get a chance to meet Eve in the supernatural holding cells of Stolen. She was already dead. But here we get her perspective. We learn why Savannah was home they day of their kidnapping and the events that led them to their captivity. And we watch as Eve works to free herself and her daughter from the facility. It looks like she was on the right track… until a guard kills her.

Adventurer” (free online story) – narrator: Kenneth – If you’re asking yourself, “Who the heck is Kenneth?’ — don’t feel bad.  I couldn’t remember either. He’s the shaman in the interracial council with Paige, Adam, Cassandra and co.  In this story, we get to see the council members from his perspective –and see the quiet contribution he makes.

Bargain” (free online story) – narrator: Xavier – This story sets-up Xavier’s approach to Elena in Broken.  It seems that his desire to make her an ally came before the job to retrieve the From Hell letter. He actually looked for a way to need her help to cultivate her as a contact and perhaps, by extension, he could cozy up to Lucas through their connection with the interracial council. Xavier’s been having trouble with a cabal lately and some well placed contacts could make all the difference…

Chaotic” (Dates from Hell) – narrator: Hope– Hope is a half-demon who gets off on chaos. That’s given her a lot of trouble following the straight and narrow. So when Tristan approached her to serve as an agent for the supernatural interracial council, she didn’t hesitate to say yes. She doesn’t realize, though, that she is on the job the night she goes on a blind date at a museum gala. But she can’t help but follow the threads of tension she feels coming from one of the exhibits. It turns out to be werewolf Karl Marsten, there stealing some jewels. Her first thought is that he’s the bad guy and she has to stop him. But she finds out quickly that it’s really her boss who is evil and he is after Karl for petty vengeance. Hope doesn’t work for the council at all… She’s just a pawn in his schemes. Hope and Karl grow closer as they work to escape Tristan and his henchmen. And there is one really hot scene they have while in hiding that I may have read two or three times. All in all, it’s a pretty solid story. And while you don’t have to read it, it lays the foundation for future books that feature Hope and Karl.

Framed” (free online story) – narrator: Nick – We’ve heard a lot about Nick, but always from Elena or Clay’s perspectives. Here, get a glimpse into his mind as someone tries to frame him for murder. He wakes up one morning, with no memory of the night before, and finds a dead woman in his bed. It turns out to be a blackmail scheme. A man wants Nick to seduce his estranged wife and take pictures. It seems she has a thing for werewolf romance novels, so Nick brushes up on the stories to set up his seduction. But he draws the line once he realizes the sex is supposed to take place while he’s in wolf-form. So he finds a creative solution to the problem and is proud that he manages to handle the whole thing without help.

Twilight” (Many Bloody Returns) – narrator: Cassandra – I think Cassandra may be my least favorite character in the Otherworld series, so this story didn’t do much for me. Basically, we already know that she is getting closer and closer to her final death. Now it’s time for her annual kill, but she is having a lot of trouble forcing herself to do it. She’s been putting it off and putting it off… and Aaron is worried that she won’t do it all. But what he doesn’t realize is that it’s not just a mental problem, but a physical one for her as well. Obviously, in the end, she makes the kill, but it leaves you wondering if she’ll be able to do it next time.

Stalked” (My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon) – narrator: Clay – It’s really important to Clay that his honeymoon with Elena is just right. She didn’t have the wedding of her dreams. He ruined that idea 18 years ago when he turned her into a werewolf. But, the honeymoon… he wants to make that perfect for her. Only, a mutt is stalking them. Clay tries to hide it from Elena, but that doesn’t quite work out. The good news is… taking down the mutt together may be the highlight of their trip.

Chivalrous” (Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2) – narrator: Reese  – Of all the short stories, this is one of the two I haven’t actually read. I just couldn’t bring myself to part with the 30-bucks it would cost for this anthology. And it took me forever to even find a decent blurb telling me what it was about. But I finally found some info from a review on Locus Online. Paraphrasing, it basically says that Reese is an Australian mutt, who is attending college when he rescues a young woman from being raped. It turns out she is the local Alpha’s daughter sent to insinuate herself into his life. He doesn’t find that out until after he falls for her. So then he must decide whether to protect the woman he loves or his family, still threatened by her father. –If you’re asking yourself what an Aussie wolf has to do with anything, Reese becomes part of the current cast of characters in the novel Frostbitten. This is his backstory.

The Ungrateful Dead” (Blood Lite) – narrator: Jamie – There’s an obnoxious ghost demanding help from Jamie. She’s all ready to banish him, but decides to grant his request to open his cousin’s coffin. Savannah comes along on the adventure. And they both get a big surprise when they lift the lid and a zombie comes out. It seems that the pair tried to harrass another necromancer into bringing them back to life and the necro tried to teach them a lesson with the zombie trick. You think they would have learned that lesson, but they keep pushing Jamie, until they push her a bit too far. (This had some pretty good one liners in it. A couple made me laugh out loud.)

Zen and the Art of Vampirism” (A Fantasy Medley) – narrator: Zoe – Zoe didn’t make a huge impression on me when we met her in Broken, so I wasn’t too disappointed that I never got a chance to read this one. From the reviews I have found, the story is about some young vamps who decide they want to take over Zoe’s territory in Toronto. She turns the tables on them and they hightail it out of town.

Learning Curve” (Evolve) – narrator: Zoe – This may be the shortest of all the short stories.  Wannabe vampire hunters are stalking Zoe. Somebody’s been watching too much Buffy.

Checkmate” (free online story) – narrator: Elena – Clay and Elena take a trip to Winnepeg to check out reports of missing hookers. They think a man-eating mutt may be to blame. As they investigate, they think, perhaps it wasn’t the mutt after-all. But in the end, it was.

“Recruit” (free online story) – narrator: Elena – The Pack needs to increase its numbers. Clay and Elena decide to go meet a possible new recruit. But the man tries to sell them information on a man-eater. His plan doesn’t really work. But he does give them the information –and they let him keep all the body parts that he came with.

The List” (Evolve 2) – narrator: Zoe – This one kicks off at the same bar Zoe always frequents. It’s been a year since “Learning Curve” and now Zoe has sort-of befriended Brittany, the teenage would be vamp hunter from that story. Someone has created a list of so called “real vamps” in the city, so Zoe and Brittany go to check the guy out, only to find the real danger is from his groupies.

Lucifer’s Daughter” (Blood Lite 2) – narrator: Hope – Karl and Hope are at a bash thrown by Hope’s mom back at the museum where they met. Karl accidentally unleashes a demon, who recognizes Hope for who she is. Hope and Karl manage to contain him, but it’s no easy feat. And this has quite a dramatic ending (*spoilers*) as Karl asks Hope to marry him.

“V-Plates” (Blood Lite 3) – narrator: Nick – Reese wants Nick to help Noah lose his virginity. So they go to a brothel. But it’s not what they bargained for when zombies enter the equation.

From Russia with Love” (13) – narrator: Elena – As the drama comes to a close in 13, Elena and Clay travel to Russia where the rest of the pack has been staying with the twins.  After a surprise visit from Xavier, Jeremy passes over the reigns, making Elena the new Alpha of the pack.  It’s a great ending, as we see the series come completely full circle.

Review: No Humans Involved

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve been waiting for Jamie’s story ever since Industrial Magic. It’s hard for me to say why exactly, but I’m pretty sure that it has something to do with the embarrassing crush she has on werewolf alpha, Jeremy. I mean, you expect crushes from young, inexperienced heroines, but Jamie is 44 years-old. She is sexy and she is secure in her own skin… except when it comes to Jeremy. In his presence, she turns into an adorable fool, and it is completely impossible for me not to root for her.

So finally, after four years of carrying a huge torch for the man, Jamie is finally getting some alone time with Jeremy. He’s coming to visit her on the set of the supernatural tv special she is working on. Jamie is holed up in a house with two other “psychics” to try to figure out the mysteries of Marilyn Monroe’s death. Of course, the other two aren’t necromancers, like Jamie, so they don’t feel the strange pull coming from the garden. As Jamie opens her senses, she realizes that she has stumbled into something truly terrible… that the garden is filled with the tattered spirits of child ghosts. So she and Jeremy team up to investigate who killed the kids what dark magic has weakened their spirits.

Joining the two is half-demon Hope. (She was first introduced in a short story, called “Chaotic” in the anthology Dates From Hell. She’s sort-of a love interest for the werewolf Karl we met in Bitten. It’s easy to pick up the essentials of their relationship in the course of this book, but I can imagine that without the short story, you might feel like you’re missing something.) Hope uses her contacts as a tabloid journalist to help them get a pulse on the local magical community. And her participation sets her up as the narrator for the coming book.

The murder storyline was very dark. But different, because the real villains here were plain old human monsters and their victims, the most fragile of us all. I don’t think I’ve wanted to see folks die in the this series more than I wanted to see this group bite the dust.

But let’s get back to Jamie and Jeremy. I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin waiting for the big payoff between the two of them.  And when it finally happened, I wanted more! I know Kelley Armstrong isn’t an erotica author, but I could have enjoyed a few in-depth pages of smexy description, if you know what I mean. The tension has been building for ages between these two! I wasn’t terribly thrilled with how they left things, though I understand it. I just hope to see more of them in the future. 4 1/2 stars.

No Humans Involved
by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: May 1, 2007
Publisher: Bantam Books