Review: The Wicked City (Siren Song #1) – Megan Morgan

the wicked cityWhatever June Coffin says, goes—literally. And it’s not just because she’s a chain smoking rebel. As a Siren, June has the ability to force people to obey any command she voices. But in a world where those with supernatural powers quickly become lab rats for science, she’d rather look out for herself than fight on the front lines…until her similarly gifted twin brother, Jason, is captured by Chicago’s Institute of Supernatural Research.
 
 To save Jason, June has no choice but to enter a hidden world of conspiracy, murder—and strange bedfellows—including a widowed paranormal advocate whose memory June accidentally erased, and a fiery paranormal separatist leader. Soon the lines between attraction and strategic alliance become blurred. But in a city exploding with paranormal crossfire, and her brother’s life at stake, June will have to face her inner demons and finally take a stand.

Rating: 3/5

Not a bad start for a UF debut!

We’re introduced to a modern-day Chicago where paranormals with varying abilities are persecuted, a series of “normals” are rather opposed to them, and an apparently innocuous Institute studies these paranormals but has some rather dodgy scientists with less than savoury intentions.

The story launches right into the action, which had me a tad confused until I caught up a few chapters later. Our MC, June, is heavily tattooed and pierced, chain-smoking, potty-mouthed, crude, witty, brave and loyal. She’s not always likeable, but really, I like my protagonists sassy and unpredictable.

After her twin is captured by the Institute, June teams up with a number of unlikely characters, including the amnesiac husband of one of the researcher’s killed in June’s escape, the pervy schmuck who is also the leader of the Paranormal Alliance, and a number of cohorts with mindreading and telekinetic abilities.

What follows involves a lot of political manuovering, unlikely allies, June having to prove her worth, rescue attempts, betrayals and a number of near-death experiences. While the book wasn’t flawless – I have some reservations about June and the romance- it was certainly enjoyable, and things have been set up nicely for the sequel.

ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Review: Marked (Servants of Fate #1) – Sarah Fine

marked sarah fineIn a broken landscape carved by environmental collapse, Boston paramedic Cacia Ferry risks life and limb on the front lines of a fragile and dangerous city. What most don’t know—including her sexy new partner, Eli Margolis—is that while Cacy works to save lives, she has another job ferrying the dead to the Afterlife. Once humans are “Marked” by Fate, the powerful Ferrys are called to escort the vulnerable souls to either eternal bliss or unending fire and pain.

Unaware of Cacy’s other life, Eli finds himself as mesmerized by his fierce and beautiful partner as he is mistrustful of the influential Ferry clan led by the Charon—who happens to be Cacy’s father. Cacy, in turn, can no longer deny her intense attraction to the mysterious ex-Ranger with a haunted past. But just as their relationship heats up, an apparent hit takes the Charon before his time. Shaken to the core, Cacy pursues the rogue element who has seized the reins of Fate, only to discover that Eli has a devastating secret of his own. Not knowing whom to trust, what will Cacy have to sacrifice to protect Eli—and to make sure humanity’s future is secure?

Rating: 4/5

An admirable urban fantasy offering from Sarah Fine, previously known for her young adult work.

Cacy, a paramedic, belongs to the prestigious and powerful Ferry family, who, unbeknownst to the public at large, are also responsible for transporting the souls of the recently deceased to the afterlife. Eli, her new paramedic partner, has just moved to Boston so that his genius younger sister can take up a position researching immunity and virology at Harvard.

The romance plays a large role in the book – after all, this is one of the staples of urban fantasy/paranormal romance. While there is some insta-lust, they spend a lot of time getting to know each other’s character while simultaneously extracting themselves from tricky, dangerous and/or life threatening situations. It’s an enjoyable slow burn.

I also admired our two MCs – Cacy is good at her job, strong, smart, loyal and unfortunately for her, impulsive – she goes to the ends of the earth to save those she cares about, even at her own expense, and even if it means trusting or bargaining with the proverbial devil.

Eli is pretty refreshing compared to many UF male leads – sure, he’s attractive, can defend himself and gets protective, but he’s a pretty upstanding guy without the misogynistic he-man tendencies. He’s also very wary of jeopardizing his job and new opportunity in the city for what might very well turn out to be a short-lived fling. I liked that Cacy’s relatives weren’t all “Touch my sister and die, bitch.” After ascertaining that Eli is a decent dude, they leave the two of them alone.

While enjoyable, Marked was not without its flaws, namely:

1. If I had a shot for every time the words ‘her spicy scent’ were used, I would have a hangover from hell this morning.

2. While urban fantasy as a genre obviously relies on imaginative elements and supernatural creations, the worldbuilding still needs to be plausible – and I’m not entirely convinced in the strength of the whole ‘Galena will be the downfall/savior of humanity’ angle, upon which the entire plot is hinged. But hopefully this will be made clearer in the forthcoming book.

Review: Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) – Ilona Andrews

burn for meNevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile case. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.

Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run or surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

Rating: 4/5

Fabulous urban fantasy. Ilona Andrews can do no wrong. Seriously – this is the third UF series I’m reading from them, and the authors have still managed to create yet another magical world that still feels fresh and new.

Full of fabulous banter and snark, plotty intrigue, and well drawn characters who are all a little mad, bad, and dangerous to know – I have come to expect nothing less from this fabulous duo.

[I HAVE USED THE WORD FABULOUS FOUR TIMES ALREADY. THIS SHOULD GIVE YOU AN INDICATION OF MY GLEE AND JOY.]

One thing that stands out for me is how many of Ilona Andrews’ characters are really family focused – whether their biological family or one they’ve formed with people who care about them – they will go to the ends of the earth to protect the ones they love.

I also love the depiction of strong women – while Kate Daniels is an ass-kicking force of nature, our protagonist, Nevada Baylor, is perfectly capable of defending herself, but killing is something that does not come easy to her.

“There is a big hole inside me, like something has been violently ripped out. I was brushing my teeth today, and I thought of those two men and the women. They will never brush their teeth. They’ll never go to breakfast They’ll never say hello to their mother. They won’t get to do any of those simple things. I caused that. I squeezed the trigger. I realise that they were trying to do the same to me, but I feel guilty and I mourn for them and for me.” 

Our duo of Nevada and Mad Rogan is delightful to watch. Kind of like a slow-motion car crash at times, but entertaining nevertheless.

And oh, the unresolved sexual tension. Le sighhhhhhhhhh. *fans self*

“The chatter on the House groupie forums says he was horrible disfigured in the war.”
“Yes, and he’s just waiting for the right woman to come and love him as he is.” 

&

“You killed Peaches.” I stepped over the gap in the bridge.
“Of course I killed him.”
I opened my mouth and closed it.
“Okay,” Mad Rogan said. “This is distracting you, and I need you to function, so let’s fix this. Which part of what happened is upsetting?” 

&

“Thank you for not killing the squirrel.”
“You’re welcome, although now I want to go back and strangle it.” 

&

“For example, if you’re terrified of snakes, repeated handling of them will cure it.”
Aha. “I’m not handling your snake.”
He grinned. “Baby, you couldn’t handle my snake.” 

&

“I see you liked the flowers.”
I got a sudden urge to set the carnations on fire. “They are gorgeous. It’s not their fault you bought them.” 

Are you chuckling yet?

Nevada is a tough, smart cookie, and no matter what her heart and/or ladyparts want, she’s not about to get herself into yet another potentially emotionally damaging situation.

Mad Rogan was off limits. He was from a different world, he had different standards, and he promised to make me an orphan if my mother threatened him again. 

All in all, a super start to a new UF series with a great supporting cast, a duo you can’t help but root for, and plenty of action and mystery.

Review: Edged Blade (Colbana Files #4) – J.C. Daniels

edged bladeIn the year since her life was torn apart, Kit Colbana has slowly rebuilt herself. There’s a promise of hope in the relationship with the alpha of the local shapeshifters and she no longer comes screaming into wakefulness. Life’s not perfect but then again, when was it ever?

When her best friend Justin comes to her for help, there’s little question as to what her answer will be. Witches are disappearing and Justin won’t rest until he has answers. Soon, they learn that it’s not just witches who’ve gone missing, but vampires and shifters, too.

Unlikely alliances are forged as Kit and Justin found themselves drawn into a twisted web of lies and betrayal. As the clock counts down and the culprit behind recent disappearances is revealed, those Kit loves the most become the target of somebody who will kill to protect an ugly secret.

I think this is the best of the series so far. Things are getting tense, with strange disappearances involving all the paranormal species in East Orlando, and naturally Kit, our investigator MC, ends up right in the thick of things.

Right from the beginning, I haven’t been a fan of the male love interest, Damon -he’s a typical alpha male, he-man – sniffing around Kit, questioning what men she’s been around, extremely possessive – but only because its in his shifter nature, etc. *eyeroll* This behaviour doesn’t fly with me. I will admit that he’s gotten better as the series goes on, and is far more chilled now, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how problematic this kind of behaviour is.

The only part that redeems it for me is that Kit is no pushover. She stands up to him, makes it clear she has a job to do and won’t let him stop her, and specifically tells him that he cannot speak for her.

“You do not speak for me.” He opened his mouth and I whirled on him, driving my finger into his chest. “Ever.” 

Kit is a ballsy character – she has been hurt many times in her life, and is tough as nails, but still retains her compassion and will go as far as it takes to protect her loved ones or the vulnerable who need help.

The book also deals with Kit’s PTSD, and her recovery from her ordeal at the end of book two. While it’s quite jarring to read as Kit relives her trauma night after night, I admire the realism – i.e. Kit isn’t magically cured after a good month or two or some boyfriend lovin’. It’s something she has to constantly deal with.

I also don’t like the constant pitting of strong females against each other – with Sam and Megan in previous books, and Shannelle in this one – they are always in a power play over Damon – I mean, really ladies? Let’s have strong female characters who don’t feel the need to hiss and snarl over a man. Bechdel test FAILED.

Nevertheless, for all my complaints, I find this series entertaining.

ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from an uncorrected proof and may change prior to publication.