Review: Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong

led astrayReviewed by Jen

I really enjoyed this collection of Kelley Armstrong short stories. Some were part of her existing worlds, while others were standalones. Almost all were winners for me and I think any fan would enjoy this.

Rakshashi – This standalone short gives us a peek inside the life of an immortal woman, bound in servitude, to act as a hand of justice to her masters. It’s supposed to be temporary, until she can balance the scales of her wrongdoing in life, but her actions line the pockets of those who could free her. After hundreds of years, she is ready to make her move. So how far will she go in her bid for freedom? I enjoyed this and would happily read more in this universe. [Read more…]

5 for Friday – October 5

Happy Friday everyone! And a happy birthday shout-out to Jennifer at the Book Nympho. You’re almost as old as I am now, chica!

I survived the mini-vacation to Atlanta and I even got to read a little bit in the car. But this weekend, I have big plans to sit down and really catch up on the TBR.  No. Really. Please?

5. I have never read a Jaci Burton book.  You guys know I’m not big on contemporary romance. But her covers are to-freaking-die-for.  Every cover in the Play-by-Play series is drool worthy and the new one is no exception.

It’s because of this series I know who Jed Hill is.  (*sigh*) Thank you Jaci Burton (or the art department for your publisher.) You make my days a little brighter.  One Sweet Ride is out in June 2013.

4.  Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series may be over, but it’s not over-over.  In her newsletter this week, Kelley announced a new Jaime novella. Amityville Horrible will release through Subterranean Press later this year.  The Clay & Elena novella, Forbidden, releases in December.

In other Otherworld news (*giggle*) –remember that Bitten tv show I told you about earlier?

I wondered if the upcoming Canadian TV project would/ could make its way across the border to the US. Well, Kelley says the producers are working with a company to seek international distribution. Hooray!!

3. I love Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London books.  Love.  This week she announced tidbits on book 4 in the series.  It’s called Shadowdance. She said on her Facebook page that it will feature shifter Jack Talent and Ghost in the Machine Mary Chase. I saw this and was ready to pee my pants.  I am still anxiously awaiting Winterblaze, people.

I need this book now. Someone tell the calendar to jump ahead to February 13th.

2. Another cover reveal for you… this one for book three in Amanda Bonilla’s Shaede Assassin series.

Nothing comes easy for Darian. Her heightened powers make her indispensable to the Shaede Nation, but dangerous missions have driven her lover, Tyler, to his breaking point. Darian must salvage their bond, but a new assignment to protect Anya—a fellow Shaede and the first of their kind to become pregnant in centuries—stands in their way.

It doesn’t help that the two Shaedes are longtime rivals and share nothing besides mutual hatred. But when it becomes clear that someone—or something—is bent on destroying the expectant mother and her unborn child, Darian must put her feelings aside and track down Anya’s would-be assassin.

As she probes into Anya’s past, Darian digs up long-buried secrets—and a connection between Tyler and the mission that could destroy everything between them.

It’s gorgeous.  But Amanda Bonilla already knows there’s gonna be trouble if she breaks up Darian and Tyler.  Big, big trouble.

Crave the Darkness, which I will henceforth refer to as The Book Where Tyler and Darian Reconcile, will be out March 5th. (Don’t correct me if you know something I don’t. Let me keep my dreams.)

1. And finally… Christine Feehan’s Carpathian series is one of my great guilty pleasures. I can do no other but to keep reading them.  (Feehan fans will get that joke.)  Well, the book trailer came out for her new installment, Dark Storm.

This book released on Tuesday.  I must go buy.  (Anyone read it yet?)

That’s it for now. Hope you guys are enjoying the Favorites From My Favorites feature!

XOXO,
Jen

5 for Friday – August 24

Congratulations on making it through another week!  I’ve now come down from my AAD high and am already anxiously awaiting RT in May. (Yes, I am a planner.)  As if I wasn’t already excited enough about Kansas City, now I hear RT2014 will be in NOLA!  I can’t wait.  I still have some AAD books to give away, so make sure to check out the contest at the end of the post.

5. I really enjoyed Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld spinoff, Wicked Nights.

This week, she released the blurb for book two in the Angels of the Dark series: Beauty Awakened.

His name is Koldo. He is scarred, powerful, his control legendary-and he lives only for vengeance, determined to punish the angel who viciously removed his wings. But if he yields to the forces of hatred, he will be kicked from the heavens, eternally damned.
She is his last hope. Nicola Lane was born with a defective heart, yet this fragile human shows surprising strength as demons stalk her every move, determined to end her. She is the key to Koldo’s deliverance…and his downfall. Though he fights duty, destiny and his first addictive taste of desire, his toughest battle will be the one for Nicola’s life-even if he has to sacrifice his own…

No sign of a cover yet. Beauty Awakened is scheduled for release February 26th.

In other Showalter news, Gena announced the title of her next Lords book, The Darkest Craving. Kane’s book will be out next July or August.

4.  Kim Harrison has revealed the cover for the next Hollows book, Ever After.

The ever after, the demonic realm that parallels the human world, is shrinking. If it disappears completely, so does all magic. It’s up to witch-turned-daywalking-demon Rachel Morgan to avert catastrophe and keep life from changing… for the worse.While saving the world is important, it isn’t Rachel’s only motivation. There’s also the small fact that she caused the ley line to rip in the first place, setting off a chain reaction of unfortunate events. That little mistake has made her life forfeit unless she can fix it. It’s also made her more than a few enemies, including the most powerful demon in the ever after—a terrifying entity who eats souls and now has an insatiable appetite for her. He’s already kidnapped her friend and goddaughter to lure her out, and if Rachel doesn’t give herself up soon, they’ll die.

But Rachel has more than a few impressive and frighening skillls of her own, and she isn’t going to hand over her soul and her life without one hell of a fight. She’s also got a surpise: elven tycoon Trent Kalamack. With this unlikely ally beside her—a prospect both thrilling and unnerving—she’s going to return to the ever after, kick some demon butt, rescue her loved ones… and prevent an apocalypse before it’s too late. Or, at least that’s the plan..

I didn’t love the last book like I loved Pale Demon, but I have high hopes for Ever After. It releases January 22. If you can’t wait until January for your Rachel-fix, Harrison is releasing a compilation of Hollows short stories, including a new one about Trent & Jenks kidnapping the baby! Into the Woods is out October 12.

3. Just a little tidbit for fans of the Charley Davidson books.  Darynda Jones has announced a change in the title for book five. It was originally supposed to be Fifth Grave Off the Beaten Path, but it’s now Fifth Grave Past the Light. I like the new one! Fifth Grave isn’t out until next May, but book 4, Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet releases in October.

(I can’t wait to see where that series goes next. I am so mad at Charley’s dad!!)

2. As sad as I was to see Kelley Armstrong end her Otherworld series with Thirteen, there is now reason to celebrate!!  Armstrong announced Thursday that Space, a Canadian sci-fi channel, has ordered 13 episodes of a tv show based on Bitten!!

Can we get this channel in America? I must watch this show. Who could possibly be hot enough to be cast as Clay?

1. And finally, the premiere for the new season of Sons of Anarchy is just two weeks away.  This is one of my favorite shows, people!  In honor of Jax and the boys, help yourself to these new trailers.

 

The season premiere is September 11th on FX.

Oh yeah… I promised you a giveaway! Fill out the Rafflecopter form to win a copy of both books in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series by Phillipa Ballantine and Tee Morris. That’s Phoenix Rising and The Janus Affair. Contest is open to entries in the US & CAN.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Thirteen

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve been a fan of the Otherworld series ever since I picked up Bitten and fell in love with the hot, complicated and largely dysfunctional romance between Clay Danvers and Elena Michaels.  Over the years, I have liked some stories more than others. Some had better narrators, others had a stronger story arc, and yet others appealed more to the romance lover in me.  But these last two Otherworld books took the series to an entirely different level.  Thirteen was everything I wanted… everything I needed… for a fitting farewell to these characters I have come to care so much about.

I will do my very best to keep from spoiling you on the particulars.  In broad strokes, I can tell you that the story picks up where Spell Bound left off.  It follows Savannah on her journey to recover her powers and stop the faction of supernaturals trying to out themselves to the human world. This, of course, as she tries to finally snag the man she has loved all her life.

But while Savannah is the anchor of the story, this book belongs in part to everyone we have come to know in the Otherworld universe. We spend time with Elena, Paige, Eve, Hope, Jaime, Cassandra and the men who love them.  We get bits and pieces in their POVs –enough for me to remember who I love and why.  We see how far everyone has come, the evolution of their lives, but all folded seamlessly into the framework of this current crisis.

And it is a crisis.  The action is almost non-stop. The danger is very real.  In fact, there is one heart stopping moment, where I felt like Kelley Armstrong stabbed me in the heart with a rusty butterknife. It was that wrenching.  It’s also a testament to how deeply connected I feel to these characters and their lives.

Armstrong weaves together so many threads from so many of her previous books. We see (or at least hear about) all the major players that have shaped the series.  Some, I never thought we would ever see. Some I thought we had seen the last of.  They’re all connected by our core cast of characters either by blood, by friendship or by feud.  It’s brilliant.

I wouldn’t change a thing.  Well, that’s not entirely true. I would have liked to see a page or two of payoff on the relationship we have waited on between Savannah and Adam.  I didn’t need (or even want) the romance to take over the story, but I felt robbed with a love scene that fades to black.  Armstrong has given us good love scenes in the past, but here, for whatever reason, she opts not to.

When all is said and done, our characters lives are still a work in progress.  But we have enough closure that I was very satisfied. And a little sad. I will miss this series… but at least it went out with a bang instead of a whimper.

Rating: A-

*ARC Provided by Dutton

Click to purchase: Amazon
Thirteen
by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: Dutton

Review: The Hunter and the Hunted

Reviewed by Jen

As the clock ticks down on the release of the last novel in the Otherworld series, Kelly Armstrong gives us this novella to tide us over until July. It features two short stories. “Off Duty Angel” is new. “Stalked” was previously released as part of My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon. I’ve read it before, but I enjoyed reading it again here.

Stalked” is a Clay POV about his honeymoon with Elena. It’s really important to him to get it just right. Elena didn’t have the wedding of her dreams. Clay 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.

Clay and Elena are my favorite couple in the series.  And I love hearing Clay’s voice. He is a very simple man. He loves his wife. He lives to protect her, his family, and his pack. That’s it.  Here, he doesn’t disappoint.

Off Duty Angel” is an Eve short. It’s very reminiscent of Angelic, in my opinion. We see Eve kind of stuck in the circumstances of her afterlife.  Kind of bored. Still thumbing her nose at authority and playing by her own rules. Right now, Kris is in the middle of a big case and she has nothing to do with her downtime. So Kris sends her on a mission to play P.I. for him. The story is mostly action oriented and gives us very little time with Eve and Kris. I think I would have enjoyed an adventure that did more to incorporate them both, but I’m glad Eve got one last hurrah.

This novella also offers an extended peek inside the series finale book, 13.  The first seven chapters are here, if you want to get a head start on your reading. 13 releases July 24.

I’m sad the series is ending, so I am happy to take every last story Armstrong has to offer.  Just be aware that if you’ve already read “Stalked” and you are planning to buy 13, the only exclusive content you’ll find here is Eve’s 25 page short story.


*ARC Provided by Dutton via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Hunter and the Hunted
by Kelly Armstrong
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Publisher: Dutton

Review: Hidden

Reviewed by Jen

Thank you, thank you Kelley Armstrong. This story is exactly what I wanted and needed to say goodbye to my beloved Clay and Elena. “Hidden” is a novella for the fans. It’s not for people new to the Otherworld series. Yes, it would still make sense, but it wouldn’t resonate. It wouldn’t mean to you what it means to us.

The basic premise is that Clay and Elena have brought their four year old twins away to a cabin to celebrate Christmas as a family. But the appearance of a mutt threatens their holiday celebration. And the couple must figure out whether he is linked to a suspicious death in the area, while juggling their time with their kids.

It was so easy to slide back into this world, with these characters who have become so familiar. That’s part of what makes it so satisfying. The other part, is knowing we have seen the complete evolution of Elena. She has come so far since Bitten. Now she has finally found peace as Clay’s mate… as Alpha-elect of the Pack… and as a mom to Kate and Logan. Reading this story shows us the last few pieces falling into place. She finally has everything she always wanted –even though it’s nothing like she would have pictured it.

The external conflict keeps the story moving forward –with an unexpected twist at the end. But it also shows that werewolf problems and danger are simply another part of the life Clay and Elena lead. It’s part of what it means for them to be Pack, and will always exist, just like their connection with one another, their packmates, and their kids. It’s all here. And I couldn’t be happier with how it was done. –I’ll definitely miss these characters, but this is a great way to send them off. 5 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
Hidden
by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: December 2011
Publisher: Subterranean Press

Review: Spell Bound

Reviewed by Jen

I loved this book. Loved it so much, in fact, that it may be my very favorite Otherworld book of all time. Yes, I know that’s a pretty bold statement. And not everyone will agree. After all, generally the best Otherworld books are Elena books and I’m the first person to say so. But what makes this book so fantastic is that even though Savannah is the narrator,it brings everyone together. Savannah, Adam, Paige, Lucas, Hope, Karl, Elena, Clay, Jeremy, Jamie, Benicio, Troy, Griffin, Sean, Bryce, Kristof, Jaz, Rhys… The only major player missing was Eve (and she did get a mention.) Kelley Armstrong has taken threads from her previous books and woven them together into this awesome creation, like it was some giant master plan all along.

The story picks up right where Waking the Witch left off. Savannah is without her powers and she believes it’s because she offered to exchange them to right one of the wrongs in the last book. She and Adam investigate and, sure enough, little Kayla and her grandmother have been reunited. But now what? There are witch-hunters still after Savannah and despite her feelings in a moment of weakness, she needs her powers. She and Adam work to figure out how to restore them while sniffing out the witch-hunters and foiling their murderous plans.

As if that weren’t enough to deal with, there is a group of supernaturals that are pushing to out themselves to the human world. They believe now is the time, because of a prophecy that foretold key events: Savannah’s birth, the werewolf twins, Jaz’s powers, and the birth of Rhys’ clairvoyant grandchild, among others. The group’s leaders also have ties to the immortality questers we learned about in Broken. It’s all very complicated and conspiracy-theorist and there is still a lot we don’t know about them, even as the story ends. –That’s right. This story won’t reach it’s conclusion until the next book… which will also be (**sniff**) the last book in the series. I’m sure that’s going to turn a lot of people off, and I’m no fan of cliffhangers, myself. But I like that Armstrong is making this final story epic… to go out with a bang. I’d rather that than some lame rush job, trying to make it all fit in one book.

If you’re wondering about the romance we were missing in Waking the Witch, there is a little bit of progress. We all know that Adam is Savannah’s HEA, but they have some serious hurdles to overcome. But… since you clicked the spoiler button, you obviously want to know… we do get one good kiss, which shows we are headed in the right direction.

I will miss this series when it’s over. Armstrong has created such a rich world for these characters with the wealth of novels and short stories she has written. But I am so impressed that she is pulling them all together for a ending that is fitting and worthy of the characters and stories she has given us.  I can’t wait to see what happens.  5 stars.

*ARC Provided by Dutton
Spell Bound
by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: Dutton Books

Review: Waking the Witch

Reviewed by Jen

One of the things I love best about the Otherworld series is that time passes in the books pretty much like real-time. The series began back in 2001 and we’ve essentially watched the characters change and grow through 10 years of their own lives. We met Savannah in the 2nd book, as a 12 year-old child and now she’s a 21 year-old woman, serving as the narrator of her very own story. It’s a little hard to see her as an adult, but I think that’s in part to her personality, which is still a little impetuous and self-absorbed. And she is still trying to prove herself.

So when Paige and Lucas go on vacation, Savannah jumps at the chance to take the lead on her very own case. The tip comes from Jesse, a half-demon contact of Lucas’ — and it takes Savannah to a small town to investigate a trio of human murders with a link to the occult. She joins forces with an off-duty cop named Michael, whose sister was one of the victims. I liked him right away. So when Armstrong killed him off, I was crushed. I knew he wasn’t going to be Savannah’s HEA, but I really hated to see him die.

There’s a wide range of suspects: from the strange commune of girls living with a creepy therapist… to the adulterous boyfriend of one of the victims. Links to the supernatural keep popping up, but Savannah can’t quite put her finger on how they’re tied to the case. Savannah’s a tough girl, as we are reminded more than once, but she could have helped herself a lot by reaching out and being honest with her family and friends. It was frustrating to keep watching her make this mistake. The story would have gone very differently if she weren’t so bent on proving herself.

Adam shows up in the second half of the book. We don’t get a romance between him and Savannah, but the groundwork is there. I’m hoping they’ll pursue it in the next book, which is also a Savannah story. The resolution here on the murder/mystery was a huge surprise for me and while that storyline did wrap up, the ending is a pretty big cliffhanger. I enjoyed the book, but I wish we would have had more crossover with the other characters from the previous books. 4 stars.

Waking the Witch
by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: July 27, 2010
Publisher: Dutton Books

Review: Counterfeit Magic

Reviewed by Jen

Counterfeit Magic is not a full length novel, but a limited release novella. The narrator in this installment is Paige, an independent and optimistic witch, who runs an PI agency with her sorcerer husband, Lucas. It’s great to have a Lucas and Paige story. We’ve seen the evolution of their nine year relationship since the very beginning, with Dime Store Magic.  And I’ve always rooted for them.

Anyway, the story begins with a lovely young woman named Ava, coming into the agency, asking for help getting to the bottom of her brother’s death. She believes it could be tied to a supernatural fight club she brought him to. Ava had participated in the fight, hoping to win money to help him pay off his debts, but she lost her fight. When she found out her brother bet against her, she stormed out. She didn’t see him again until his body was found a month later.

Ava is really only interested in Lucas handling the case. Paige and Lucas both tackle it, but split up to do the job. Lucas plans to look into the people the brother owed money to, while Paige and Savannah check out the fight club. Savannah poses as a fighter and they get in the door with ease. It doesn’t take long for the women to discover that their have been a couple of unexplained deaths affiliated with fighters –and there is definitely something going on.

A distance is growing between Paige and Lucas. One that began with the deaths of his brothers in Personal Demon. He has become more and more involved in his family’s cabal. And throughout the course of the novella, Paige notices the distance more and more. The climax of the book comes when she tries to connect with Lucas on the phone, only to have Ava answer. She convinces Paige that Lucas is in bed with her. And it’s done so convincingly, that my heart broke a little. Then, Adam moves in to seduce Paige… which is wrong, wrong, wrong, as we know he is the obvious HEA for Savannah. Fortunately, we find out that this is all a ruse –a counterfeit magic– to convince Paige to stray from Lucas. It’s all been orchestrated by his only living brother Carlos, who hopes Lucas will leave the cabal to save his marriage. Carlos is behind the deaths at the fight club too; he set that up to help pay off a debt to another club that viewed it as competition. Using Ava’s real connection to the club was away to draw in Paige and Lucas, so he could kill two birds with one stone.

I really enjoyed this novella. I’m used to reading stories even much shorter than this one with this series, as Armstrong has created several internet offerings and two anthologies. I was prepared for the length and not disappointed by it. Like many others, I pre-ordered it, knowing that it was darn near impossible at the time to get your hands on Angelic, the last limited release novella.  You don’t have to read this one to continue on with the series. And you don’t have to have read the previous books to understand what’s going on.  But honestly, this was written for those of us who were already Otherworld fans. A bonus offering.  One with a fast, interesting story –and a surprising emotional punch.  4 stars.

Counterfeit Magic
by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: November 30, 2010
Publisher: Subterranean Press

Review: Frostbitten

Reviewed by Jen

My beloved Clay and Elena are back and they’re doing what they do best… tracking mutts. The story begins with Elena trying to catch up with a young Aussie wolf named Reese, who is being set up to take the fall for some man-eaters. (Armstrong set up a backstory for Reese in the short story “Chivalrous,” but you don’t have to read it to know what’s going on.) She follows him to Alaska, where he is promptly attacked by mutts living there. Elena patches him up and faces the task of finding the mutts to deal with them.

She and Clay also have a side-mission while they’re there. Two former Pack members (Dennis and Joey, who we met in the short story “Ascension”) are living in Alaska, but Jeremy is worried about them because they have fallen out of touch. We discover quickly that Dennis is dead… killed by the mutts… giving Clay and Elena more incentive to track them down. Adding to the trouble: some missing girls and some unexplained wolf-kills. How much are the mutts responsible for? And what is the strange shifter that Dennis was researching before he died?

This book was fantastic. There was a lot of action, but there was plenty of introspection for Elena as well. She’s finally aware of Jeremy’s plan to make her Alpha. Is that really what she wants? And what will that mean for her and Clay? Beyond that, she is finally facing some of the demons from her childhood… at first in an intangible way, but later, in ways that are all too real.

It was all very satisfying…. kind of like coming home after the departure of Living With the Dead.  I love that Elena is finally embracing her feelings for Clay and accepting who she is. I really enjoy watching them as a couple… their fire, their commitment… just everything. It was also great fun to meet new werewolves who could expand the Pack. 5 stars.

Frostbitten
by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: September 29, 2009
Publisher: Bantam Books