From Russia with Fangs (by Jacey Conrad)

Urban Fantasy 

After her husband is murdered in front of her, Irina the adopted daughter of a Russian gangster finds herself at the centre of plots and intrigue. The only problem is, she isn’t at the centre.

Let me explain.


 

 

 

 

 

 

From Russia with Claws (the first lines)

“Galina Sudenko scanned the sea of vaguely familiar faces. The cream of the crop had turned out in full force at Katya Bulgakov’s Sweet Sixteen party.”

From Russia with Fangs (the first lines)

“If the DJ played one more Russian bubble gum pop song, Irina Sudenko Volkov was going to stab him with a swizzle stick. Well, she would pay someone to stab him with a swizzle stick. Her father had people who did that sort of thing. Irina knew it was wrong to be in such a foul mood at a Sweet Sixteen party.”
So these two books are basically the same story being told from two different perspectives. Book one was Galina, and that was a story. I might have even rated it 5 Stars, I don’t really remember. Book two is Irina, she was a minor character in book one and honestly she’s not really a major player in this book either.

It’s weird reading the perspective of someone who isn’t even a witness to the major events of the story as laid out in book one.

From Russia with Fangs is OK in the same way a Chevrolet Malibu is an OK car. Nobody stops to watch one drive by. Nobody dreams of one day owning a Malibu. Honestly you could park one in a crime hot-spot with the keys in the ignition, the windows down and five bennys fanned out on the front seat…come back in an hour and it will still be there.

And that’s this book. The author is great. One of the best. There just isn’t enough of a story to make it worthwhile.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 4.24.20 PMOrange, Red, Yellow. What it means:  YOR-Guide

Bitter Bite (by Jennifer Estep)

Urban Fantasy

When Finn’s mother, Deirdre shows up out of the blue, Gin knows something is up. But there is a part of Finn deep down and well hidden that wants to be loved and he’s determined to believe his mother despite Gin’s misgivings.

With Finn spending more and more time with Deirdre, it’s left to Gin and Bria to get to the bottom of what she’s doing in Ashland and stop her.


 

I’m in two minds about this book.  Yes it’s entertaining as are most of the books in the Elemental Assassin series. It’s a page turner. It’s gritty. And yes, it’s good fun.  It’s all of that and I enjoyed the book. Not for a single moment was I bored.

But I have a problem and maybe (probably) it won’t be a problem for anyone else. With each book, the villains get more villainous, the challenges get more challenging.  For a short series, a trilogy or even a five book series that can work but this is book fourteen and while it’s still working at the moment it’s hard to see it working for much longer.  God forbid it ends up being the train wreck that Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series has become.

So here is me wondering if it isn’t time to think about taking the story in a different direction. Perhaps breath some new life into the series.  Sophia has always been a favorite character and under-utilised in my opinion.  I would love to see the series shift focus and put her at the centre.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 6.44.49 PMMany thanks to Pocket Books and Edelweiss for providing me with this ARC

Orange, Red, Yellow. What it means:  YOR-Guide

Summer Harvest (by Georgina Penney)

Women’s Fiction / Contemporary Romance

In the space of a few months, Beth’s sister dies of breast cancer, she herself is diagnosed, and after a double mastectomy her husband leaves her. She returns to live with her grandmother and withdraws into herself, only venturing out for her job as a dog trainer.

When her grandmother gives her a trip to Australia for her birthday she is reluctant to leave the austere life she has built for herself after the divorce. But despite her misgivings a week later she finds herself driving along a dry dusty road in the Margaret River wine making region of Western Australia, her destination a small cabin on a working farm.

As she settles in, she makes new friends, among them Clayton who runs a vineyard in the area. Their attraction is immediate but her scars run deeper than the surgeons knife, and for his part Clayton’s mother died of cancer and he is terrified of starting a relationship with Beth only to have her taken from him.


Summer Harvest is something of a hybrid. It combines the best elements of Contemporary Romance with what is essentially Women’s Fiction and it manages to effortlessly avoid the pitfalls of both. I wouldn’t call it a fun read, it’s serious and occasionally emotionally fraught but ultimately it’s emotionally satisfying and I loved it.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 4.24.20 PMMany thanks to Penguin Books Australia and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Orange, Red, Yellow. What it means:  YOR-Guide

Murder on Wheels (by Lynn Cahoon)

Cozy Mystery

South Cove is in the middle of a drought and as the sun continues to beat down tempers are beginning to fray. Jill has somehow offended her best friend Amy, her Aunt Jackie has her telling lies for her, and the newly formed Water Conservation Committee is gunning for her.

Then Kacey, a new arrival in South Cove is found dead on the beach. When Jill’s last remaining friend becomes a suspect Jill steps in and begins to investigate determined to find the real killer and clear her friend’s name.


 

Cozy mysteries are one of my ‘go to’ comfort reads. I just love them, well usually I love the first couple of books in a series before the novelty starts to wear off. As a genre they really are a hard field to hoe. I mean they’re generally set in a small quaint town, the sort of place you’d want to retire or raise your kids….except for the murder rate that’s higher than Caracas.

So I read the first couple in this series and as I tend to do moved on. When I saw this book at Netgalley I wondered how the series was going and requested it.

And it’s great.

Lynn Cahoon seems to be that very rare author who can keep a series like this alive and interesting even after six books. I’m thinking I need to climb back on this horse and read some of the books I’ve missed.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 6.44.49 PMMany thanks to Kensington & Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Orange, Red, Yellow. What it means: YOR-Guide

Who’s Afraid? (by Maria Lewis)

Urban Fantasy

When Tommi travels to New Zealand to find her father she discovers two things. Her father is dead and she is a werewolf. And not just any werewolf, she is an alpha descended from the most powerful line of werewolves.

After being attacked by one of the local pack members she flees New Zealand and returns to her home in Scotland. But before long it becomes apparent that some of her problems have followed her home, a werewolf from New Zealand is stalking her and murdering the locals.


 

Who’s Afraid? is a little more than your typical werewolf story. It avoids the well trodden path that these books often follow, and what could have been a fairly average story actually ends up being great.

It’s not perfect. I don’t think this story really needed to be international and it might have benefitted from being set entirely in New Zealand (or Scotland). But I’ll forgive a lot in a debut and honestly Tommi is such a great heroine –– she’s the heroine that other heroines should aspire to be. She’s a kick ass confident woman who doesn’t need saving by anyone.

Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 11.45.29 PMMany thanks the Hachette Australia and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Orange, Red, Yellow. What it means:   YOR-Guide

Boundary Magic (by Melissa F. Olsen)

Boundary Crossed (book 1)

While saving her niece from a kidnapping attempt Lex is stabbed multiple times. She shouldn’t be alive. Her heart stopped on the operating table. Then just as the doctor is about to call time of death, it starts beating again.

That’s Lex’s introduction into the supernatural world of vampires and witches. As a boundary witch, a witch who has power over life and death she has never received any training and the leader of the local coven wants to keep it that way. She’s just too dangerous. But she will do anything to protect her niece, even enter into a partnership with the vampires, the vampires who want to see just how powerful she is.


 

Boundary Lines (book 2)

Something is out of whack in the Old World and the vampires, werewolves and witches are all acting strangely. Someone is messing with the line and with Maven, Colorado’s ruling vampire, in a power struggle she has entrusted her most recent employee boundary witch Lex with sorting it all out.

She finds herself not just walking the line between the supernatural groups and stopping a war, but also dealing with ghosts and an ancient predator that will require the vampires, werewolves and witches to unite if they are to have any chance of killing it.


 

So much fun.  I picked up book one expecting to kill some time while I was waiting for some of my tried and true authors to release books.  This series is anything but killing time. It’s completely addictive.  Lovers of Faith Hunter and Patricia Briggs won’t be disappointed with these books.  They’re great fun and yes, Melissa F. Olsen is joining the list of authors I madly follow.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 6.44.49 PMOrange, Red, Yellow. What it means:  YOR-Guide

Truth or Beard (by Penny Reid)

Contemporary Romance

After graduating from college, Jessica returns to her home town of Green Valley, TN to pay off her student loan and save some money before following her dreams and exploring the world.

Duane is anything but subtle. He’s honest to a fault, stand-offish and of the Winston brothers he’s the wall-flower. But he’s always loved Jessica and when she returns he sees his chance, plucks up the courage and makes his intentions known.

Unfortunately, settling down is not for her and it’s all there is for him. They grow to love each other, but with different life-goals, love just isn’t enough.


 
So…I was listening to an interview with the author and I think I’m going to contradict her here. One of the things I found most interesting about this book was that the typical archetypes of male and female characters were flipped. In this book Jessica was the one who couldn’t commit, the one who was going to leave while Duane was the one who wanted to settle down and have a family.

It isn’t surprising. In a genre that is dominated by books written for the lowest common denominator Penny Reid writes books that demand your attention and honestly make you feel a little smarter. She never plays by the rules and her books are better for it.

I don’t have a problem with those by the numbers romances. Honestly, I enjoy them –– they’re a bit like an apple pie bought from your local supermarket. They taste pretty damned good. But they can’t hold a candle to a homemade apple pie. There’s just no comparing the two.

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 4.24.20 PMOrange, Red, Yellow. What it means:  YOR-Guide