This collection of shorts contained new to me authors (Hieber and Taylor) and a series I’ve been enjoying (McDonald)
A Christmas Carroll by Leanna Renee Hieber (Strangely Beautiful 2.5) (3stars)
One holiday season at the Luminal in Victorian London, the spirits responsible for weaving memories through time and space are concerned that without a respite or spirit intercession, their headmistress and vicar could be lost forever to grief. For this reader’s taste, getting through the flowery, overwritten descriptive phrases given to Dicken’s, A Christmas Carol was hard work.
The Worth of a Sylph by L. J. McDonald (Sylph 2.5) (3.5stars)
Lily ‘The Widow’ Blackwell has caring for the valley orphans for years, at 82 she’s thinking it’s time to get her affairs in order. She advises Mace to shop for a new mistress. Meanwhile Jayden, Lily’s youngest charge, a very emotional teen runs away to a nearby town to try to rule the battle sylph by becoming a swordsman.
The Crystal Crib by Helen Scott Taylor(Magic Knot 3) (2.75stars)
Sonja goes to broker a deal in Iceland and inadvertently reignites the feud between her father and Vidar, a guardian angel. Unfortunately, this reader was adrift through most of this read and couldn’t get past the middle-ish feeling. It seemed to strongly depend on the reader’s familiarity with the series.
Radcliff Hopkins planned to restore Number Twelve to the former glory and untarnished reputation it had when his grandfather owned the building a century ago. But that was not to be. Radcliffe’s murdered just outside the building with an antique and illegal handgun adding frills to the already rampant urban legend that the address was haunted or cursed.
Though the team is excited, spouting theories that fit supernatural assistance, haunting, the curse and the facts at hand, pragmatic Eve is having none of it. She won’t be swayed to accept the possibility of improbability and impossibility having a place in her investigation. Not even when an 85 year old murder case is inexplicably linked to Radcliff’s murder. While Roarke helps he keeps his own counsel.
This outing colors outside the lines with a supernatural thread taking it away from its usual police procedural formula. The usual elements of the series are condensed in this shorter read and fans don’t miss what they’re used getting when they visit the 2060 gang this time.
It’s back to work after the Symbol Man case that left her aunt in a coma and Kara presumed dead a couple of weeks. As usual the temperature is too doggone many degrees and Kara’s sent to a fellow’s officer’s house to give him a ride and is welcomed by an unusual and grisly scene. Not only is her co-worker dead, it looks like suicide. But worse still is his essence, his soul seems to be missing.
The ludicrous angst riddled triangle between agent Ryan Kristoff, demonic lord Rhyzkahl and officer/summoner Kara continues. Ryan’s not quite ready to share or commit to Kara. Rhyz’s not quite ready to share his plan but is willing to provide Kara with all the information and sex she seeks and Kara seeks Rhyz often while complaining it’s only because Ryan won’t ravish her.
Though Kara can’t comprehend Ryan’s revulsion or reluctance to share her, a supernatural door with a demon lord, her reason for not committing to Rhyz is Ryan might change his mind. The triangle is so consuming it overshadows the murder investigation in place which this reader found annoying. .
While the elements of this tale itself are very good as is the writing, pacing, chemistry and the characters, its a hard series for this reader to commit to, maybe it’s because the lady doth protest too much, Either move on, pick one or shut up and enjoy! (There I said it.)
Hard-boiled Sergeant Duncan O’Conner doesn’t like the relationship between shy necromancer highborn Callie Brown and her sentinel, Fane. He doesn’t know if they’re lovers. But he’s sure he’ll be her next and her last lover because he and Callie have more than an attraction. Right now he’s not happy this dead body forced him to let Fane help Callie and she’s looking too comfortable in Fane’s arms.
Callie tells Duncan and Fane she was stalked by a powerful necromancer while doing her duty and needed to talk to the Mave, the supernatural leader in Valhalla. As Duncan and Fane are united in ensuring Callie’s safety they don’t hesitate to pause their male measuring to escort her. Callie and Fane were surprised since humans usually want the distance between their species.
When Fane and Callie resist, Duncan shares the unusual mutilation of the body but not a secret he’s been guarding which settles the argument for Callie. During their meeting, the Mave provides proof the latest murder is one in a series that may have ritual magic at its core and gives the trio clues to start a quest. As Duncan and Callie take their relationship past flirting the dead body goes missing.
For this reader, though it is evident telepath Serra’s primary concern is Fane, she’s awkwardly placed throughout the read. The evil, goal oriented villain felt one note and his mostly interchangeable cabal hinders rather than helps the villain’s nefarious and diabolical scheme. While necessary, these nits could have been streamlined for a smoother read in my opinion.
The first full length novel of this series clearly wove descriptions and explanations into the multi-layered foundation of this world as the norms and Valhalla residents interacted. The characters were fairly well fleshed and the pacing was mostly good in this interspecies tale wrapped around a mystery but tended to drag with important but seemingly fluff pieces of minutiae.
Formidable former police inspector, Winston Lane doesn’t know everything there is to know about his wife Poppy. She wanted to tell him about her power and she wanted to tell him she’d joined the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals. But he was attacked by a werewolf first that led to her secrets being spilled. The faith and trust built on love went out the window. Now what’ll they do?
Despite the beautiful cover, fairly well drawn characters and (what should have been) a fairly interesting love story to tell, this outing was not one this reader enjoyed. For my taste, so much was known about the heroine from the outset, even telling her tale in flashbacks left little room for true discovery and surprise since all roads led where the read started and unable to disguise the strong odor of deja vu.
To go along with coping with her parents deaths and their ghosts and learning her new trade Kerris has an overflowing issue buffet with plenty to choose from including a mortician that would like an introduction to the escorts of the dead that take spirits to either a peaceful or a very busy afterlife, not to mention, the matriarchs decide it’s time Kerris met a few of the other spirits in the area.
Some of the juicier bits on Kerris’ attention buffet are her wolf shifter guardian and mate, Bryan, is expecting a long visit from his daughter; signs point to the gray man coming to town for an extended visit so an upcoming slew of missing citizenry is expected. The magically inclined of the town are well aware and prepare to protect their little piece of harmony.
Not to mention her best friend, Peggin, has found a house she loves. It’s kinder to call Peggin’s house a haunted shack that lies directly in dangers path more than anything else. Almost as soon as she moves in, Peggin’s cursed and targeted by the un-living and needs to stay away from water in addition to being watched constantly so she won’t be called to her death.
Rounding Kerris’ personality and life re-introduces and details the characters in her life and acknowledges more that may become important later. The predictability of Peggin’s situation only made her character more tiresome though her quirky boyfriend Deev brought a smile or two. The history of the house and the town pulling together to save itself and one of its own was a fairly well-done high point.
After a slow start the busyness of the read increased the pacing and this reader’s interest but for my taste the return visit to Whisper Hollow struggled to find its footing. It had difficulty maintaining its predecessor’s freshness as repetitive passages, book one’s detailed and descriptive recap plus minutiae of mundane day to day tasks lowered the read’s rating and enjoyment.
Rachel considers herself lucky. Though she’s promised to become Big Al’s (Algaliarept) familiar if she could keep her soul, she’s caused quite a bit of upset by plucking his familiar, Ceri, from his clutches and remained on her side of the line… barely. It turns out that was the easy part of her life. But using Rachel’s guidelines for life, la-di-da, it’ll work out.
Rachel’s life is more chaotic than usual with men in a revolving door moving toward and away from her, she, her partners and friends have their own feelings about Rachel becoming Big Al’s familiar, roommate Ivy wants Rachel for a blood-buddy. There’s a new big bad in town, Kalamack has a new plan and reckless Rachel doubled and spread her debt in this hidden plot yet somehow interesting read.
The final few chapters seemed to have a plot and tried to make up for the seemingly endless character introductions and minutia, it wasn’t enough to best this reader’s frustration. Frankly, it’s time for the series and it’s heroine to solidify the first three entries and determine what it’s going to be if Rachel is a heroine or not and for this reader to decide to go forward or abandon the series.
Events from the last outing come to fruition in this outing. DJ’s still homeless and more fashionably challenged than ever but doesn’t skip best friend mode when consequences of Eugenie’s dalliance with Quince are undeniable; Alex is reverting to butt-holery with the car situation, Jean is off healing and plotting, Quince is crowing his union with DJ. Plus there’s a little matter of a council meeting or a trial.
As the trial portion of the council meeting begins, there’s a surprise waiting for DJ… besides Alex, Jean and Quince eyeing her as she belongs to each of them. The first elder throws blame on DJ for the failed assassination attempt on her life but DJ turns the tables and the meeting falls into mayhem, murder and interspecies posturing.
With vampyres, fairies, elves, witches and all other of manner of pretes not only loose in New Orleans, the species are not getting along well after the horrendous meeting, they’re in a cold war. As the plots for DJ’s assassination and two species planning a secret alliance, the council needs realignment, the men still think they can lay claim to DJ and the council assigns DJ to babysit Jean.
The humorous writing style and the fast pace kept this read moving and exciting as it tended several threads and adjusted characters to get their just desserts. The convoluted political power struggle held enough intrigue, back-stabbing, half-truths and manipulations to keep one up reading the whole thing at one sitting!
When Roland steals Saiman, it’s a challenge to Kate’s hold on Atlanta. Caution and care are needed to keep things from becoming an all out war. With the wedding two weeks away Kate not only isn’t prepared, she’s summoned by the witch oracle. The witches tell Kate war is inevitable and the outcome has her sacrificing her future. Once again the root of Kate’s present and future misery is daddy issues!
Amid wedding planner-zilla details Kate and her loved ones worry she’s becoming as magically mad as Roland, over Julie falling under his influence, abusing her own power, a break in a friendship and betrayal. Drunk with the illusion of his own power, tyrant Roland gloats over his accomplishments, domain and insists Kate needs him while belittling her wedding and inviting her to join his world domination.
Kate shares shocking details along with her family history and the floodgates to Christopher’s memories are unlocked and his secrets confound and Roland continues his psychological warfare against Kate. In a deft use of power, our intrepid and resourceful heroes make surprising alliances and cobble together a plan to stop him no sane person thinks will work. Good Times!
A lull in activity lets Justin plan for a Christmas party. As he puts the invites in the mail, he’s surrounded by dozens of golem kick-starting the outing and ending the scene with Lornicus possibly acting independently, Mr. Gray sharing a bit and Justin and his crew completely intrigued with the meet and a gift that could be a Trojan horse or the path to their destruction or a gift.
But Mr. Gray has plans, nothing’s ever as simple and straight-forward as it seems, it is Justin and his crew, nothing’s ever simple and Lornicus may even have his own plans. And nothing’s ever simple plus it’s Justin and his crew. The lure of possible arch control, thwarting Daelissa and just plain curiosity are enticing and soon everyone except Shelton is anxious to try out the gift.
Exploring the arches will definitely lead to more information, possibly a weapon they can wield and maybe give the team the upper hand. Girding for battle, off the team goes to discover new intrigue and puzzles as they try to come up with a plan to stop Daelissa. One has to wonder about baby angels, cherubs, dragons and leyworms in the same room.
Justin’s wayward family dynamics, growing power, frienemies and enemies ensure sarcasm, adventure, breathtaking moments, suspense and a fun ride everytime. While each outing is fun on its own the series must be read in order for a clear understanding of what’s happening and why.