Book Review – Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays by Maia Chance, Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak, G. Clemans.

4 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Grey Sun Press for providing me with a free ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an open and honest review.

Christmas time is almost upon us, I’m a dyed in the wool speculative fiction/ urban fantasy fan… how could I not find this group of short stories enjoyable?

Yes, as with any anthology, some of the tales were more a miss with me than a hit… but the overall selection was good and made for an enjoyable read.

‘Joy to the Worlds’ is a compilation of little snippets of urban fantasy worlds (some within our own, some not) all with the under lying theme of Christmas. No two stories alike – other than the Christmas theme – and for me, a great introduction to some authors I’d not yet read before. Which is exactly what an anthology is meant to be about, so a really great combo all round.

I couldn’t give it the full five stars as there was the odd bit here and there I didn’t enjoy or connect with. Sorry for being an overly picky Pagan, but making Yule and the winter Solstice two separate occasions still haunts me as annoying two days after I read that story. I’m cruel, I know… but that was a fantastic story all the same.

Would I recommend this book to others? Yes I would. It was a great little anthology of Christmas themed stories. I would advise people it had more of a YA/ NA feel to it… but as I love these sub-genres too I had no issues. But I would mention it just to prepare the reader a little more as I’ve known people to dislike a book I’d recommended as I failed to mention it was YA. Oops!

Would I buy this book for myself? Yes, I can see it being added to my electronic bookshelves and one to read when it ‘tis the season’. But I am the kind of book nerd who matches her reading lists to the times of the year they suit. So I do grab a certain Zelazny come October… and read about Green Knowe come Christmas. What is life without a little literary whimsy?

In summary: A good, well-paced and enjoyable anthology of speculative fiction/ urban fantasy short stories set around Christmas time. It is an enjoyable read, suits to season for this urban fantasy junkie and all in all something I suggest you pop in your eBook stocking tomorrow!

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

Book Review – Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon by Rena Rocford.

acne asthma and other signs you might be half dragon

4 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Curiosity Quills Press for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an open and honest review.

Move over Ms MacAlister and her Wyverns – there’s a new type of dragon in town! Well, half-dragon… and not just one town, a few towns… and other places.

I loved this book! Being a huge fan of Urban Fantasy and world’s within our own that have a good dash of reality, a large sprinkle of humour and a dollop of sarcasm – how could I NOT love this book?

And thank goodness for a book that contains teens, supernatural creatures and NO SPARKLY VAMPIRES! Hoorah! I do love it when you get writers who know how to write a great book and break free of those horrible cookie cutter moulds that seemed to restrain the Urban Fantasy genre for so long. We need more books like this! So glad it appears to be the first in a series. Please put me down for the next one!

Okay, so now I try and talk to you about the book without giving away the plotline… as, seriously, you want to know about the story, you need to read it. 😉

But basically Allyson is your typical teen outcast with no true place to call home, always on the move and with more than the usual pimples of puberty to deal with. She meets someone she really connects with, finds out there is more to her life than what she thought and is then thrown into an adventure that introduces both our protagonist and the reader to the world of the Kin and all that is going on. Seriously, read it. My blurb does it no justice.

Would I recommend this book to others? Yes I would. Lovers of the Wyvern series by Katie MacAlister, or Other Worldly book like the Hollows by Kim Harrison or even Mary Janice Davidson will enjoy this book. Though it is more of a YA genre than they are as the main characters are teens and not the twenty somethings of the series I’ve mentioned. Still, ‘Acne, Asthma, and other signs you might be half dragon’ is not your typical teen Urban Fantasy (see my comments about the lack of pretty fanged wonders) and so really is worth a read.

Would I buy this book for myself? Yes I would. And I look forward to the next in the series. Ms Rocford’s style is light, refreshing and she sets a good fast-paced scene that keeps you reading and kept my ‘One more chapter’ mantra going. So this book, series and author are definitely ones I will keep on my list of things to remember.

In summary: A well written, fast-paced YA Urban Fantasy where reality will still make even the supposedly graceful and wise dragon’s bunny hop from time to time. Well thought out, highly entertaining and a fantastic first book in what looks to be a great new series. Well worth you checking out tomorrow!

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

Book Review – Emma and the Banderwigh by Matthew S. Cox.

Emma and the Banderwigh

4 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Curiosity Quills Press for an ARC of this book in exchange for an open and honest review.

This is a very entertaining YA fantasy novel. At first I thought it was set in our past and so found some of the historical inaccuracies grating, but as I read more I learnt it wasn’t set in our world, simply set in a world similar to our own. I could cope with it after that.

It was a good read, definitely better suited to a YA/NA audience. Not that that is a bad thing, I love the YA/NA genre despite the age of forty nearly being upon me.

As much as I enjoyed the story, I sometimes found the characters a little disjointed and parts of it hard to follow. Though I’m pretty sure this was more my fault than the book. Sometimes a story grabs you and won’t let you go; sometimes it just sits there companionably chatting to you when you have a moment. For me, ‘Emma and the Banderwigh’ was more a chatter than a grabber. 😉 Saying that, at times this book did get my “one more chapter” mantra going until after midnight. Which shows it was an entertaining read.

My only minor gripe with the story is I felt it ended too abruptly. Almost mid-sentence. I don’t expect every tale to have a long winded wrap up where it sets out precisely how they will all live happily ever after… but I do like a little more than a one liner, as if it’s about to lead into just that little bit more. If this is the first in a series (I don’t know), then the ending is not so bad. As a stand-alone, it didn’t work for me. **See new update below!**

Would I recommend this book to others? Yes I would. Lovers of YA/ NA Fantasy would really enjoy this work. The pace is steady, the characters well thought out and believable. Ticks all the boxes for a good YA Fantasy read.

Would I buy this book for myself? Possibly. It was a good YA Fantasy story, but I’m not finding myself thinking over it and rehashing the plot and wondering “what ifs” about it. So it just hasn’t grabbed me as much as I’d hoped. If it is the first in a series, I WOULD be keen to read the next book to see how it goes. So, not all that bad. 😉

In summary: A fun and entertaining read, a well written YA Fantasy and a gorgeous cover setting the scene for a good yarn. Something lovers of the YA Fantasy genre should take a look at as I’m pretty sure they’re going to enjoy it too.

**UPDATE** Matthew Cox – the author – contacted me with a new last chapter added to ‘Emma and the Banderwigh’. I’ve read it and felt I need to update this review and give it another star – bringing it up to 4 out of 5 stars.

The chapter lifts the whole ending of the book, rounds it off nicely and doesn’t just leaving it hanging and having you wonder if there is a page missing. The new ending works well if the book is a stand-alone, but also makes the idea of a series even more enticing.

My opinion of recommending or buying the book hasn’t changed – as I still would recommend it and would still read it as a series. But I do have to say it needed this extra chapter and I’m so pleased it has happened. Really does smooth things out and keep the ending up to the same quality as the rest of the novel.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

Book Review – Clockwork Menagerie: A Shadows of Asphodel Novella by Karen Kincy.

Clockwork Menagerie

3 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Curiosity Quills Press for an ARC of this Novella in exchange for an open and honest review.

This was a good story; my only regret about it is that I wasn’t paying attention when I requested it to see it was a novella and book “2.5” in a series I’d not yet read. Totally my own fault as Curiosity Quills did say it was what it was, but I’m a bit of a diva about coming into a series midway and so couldn’t give this story a higher grade as I wasn’t caught up on it all.

Saying that, I did enjoy reading it as a stand-alone type story, but would have liked more history on the world in which it was set, which I’m pretty sure the first to books would have given me.

My only other minor gripe (it seriously is minor) is that it was more of a romance story than the urban fantasy/ steampunk I had been hoping for. I have no problem that it is “male on male” romance as that’s perfectly natural, and I don’t mind romance stories… but I am getting frustrated at the amount of paranormal, supernatural, steampunk and urban fantasy stories that seem to need to rely on sex and romance to be an interesting read. The romance in this book was good. The minor sex scenes were done well and didn’t hog the lime light. I just feel it would be nice to see more urban fantasy (and similar genres) not needing the romance sub-genre to get by. Okay, getting down off my little soapbox on that one. 😉

Other than that, I loved it. I want to know more about the world in which it is set, its technology, history, etc. So that is a well written story when the world captures your entire imagination and draws you in.

Would I recommend this book to others? I would mention it in passing to those interested in urban fantasy and steampunk worlds, but would warn people this isn’t the first in the series and would suggest they check out the first two books before reading this one.

Would I buy this book for myself? Possibly. The excellent writing style and world created intrigued me enough to go check out the first two books, but as they too seem to heavily rely on romance to be a story… I’m really undecided as to whether I’d buy them to read them. I’m more likely to be a cheapskate and look out for them in my library catalogue first to see if I could cope with the romance and see if it was the lead genre or the sub-genre of the stories.

In summary: A good story concept, a good little novella adventure. But not the first in the series and not a pure urban fantasy/ steampunk genre tale. Contains romance and should include this in its genre statement.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

Book Review – Homunculus and the Cat (The Omnitheon Cycle Book 1) by Nathan Croft.

Homunculus and the Cat

3 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Curiosity Quills for an ARC of this book in exchange for an open and honest review.

What an intriguing book. An enjoyable spin on the creatures of myths and legends, lands of fantasy and magic. Think Terry Pratchett’s Discworld with a slightly straighter face… but only slightly straighter!

It was colourful, witty, fast paced and all round a mostly good read. Despite the rating I’ve given it, this book was a pleasurable new story and, despite what I say below, I can see myself seeking out the next in the series to see what comes next.

And a cat that flips the bird? Took me a moment to get my mind around how it was done… was tempted trying to help one of my own cats learn do it just to get the idea right… but got there in the end without annoying a pet. Fun mental image.

Now for the constructive criticism side of things. Please note I’m not doing this to be mean, or negative or nasty. I provide constructive criticism to try and provide decent feedback on a story. As an author myself, I might not always appreciate people not liking my books, but if they explain it with constructive criticism I can at least learn why it didn’t work for them.

The reason I didn’t rate this book higher was that I found the storyline a little too fractured and splintered. And I’m not just talking about the mild inconsistencies in the plot like the Sanctuary Alchemist staying behind in Atlantis… but also joining their little pocket of fighters in the briny depths. The worm that snatches them from all the baddies then being a snake… those are just the usual hiccups that you often see in an ARC that are usually smoothed out in the final edit. I noticed them, but would never mark a book down for such things.

What really had me drop a star was I found the plot jumped all over the place too much. As if too many ideas were being crammed into the one storyline, rather than being paced out into the series. I also didn’t like the way chapters would start mid-conversation and then, still mid-conversation, the story would be backtracked and the plot, situation and surroundings then filled in. It just came across as a little too disjointed for me. Please note – this could just be an issue with the reader and not the author or their work! This is not me saying it was badly written or terrible. This is just me explaining why I didn’t score it as high as I might have.  No hate mail please simply because I, the reader, couldn’t come to grips with the writing style! 🙂

Also, and seriously not a big issues (none of them are big issues, minor flaws really in a great story) is that I feel a glossary might be needed for some readers. This is due to the vast array of mythical creatures, deities, places, objects, etc. listed from the world of fantasy. I knew what most of them were… but did find myself having to Google a few. So a glossary would have been nice. It’s a problem I’ve found with my own books and so, to draw the reader to my other work, the glossary can be put on the authors page rather than in the book. Just so readers have somewhere to go for an explanation. Something Mr Croft might like to look into?

Then there was the way the book came across if people are going to know and recognise each creature, deity, place and so on made it come across as more of an extension of existing work. So I’m not too sure if Mr Croft has had some shorter stories from this universe of his published elsewhere, or if the book is a culmination of writing in an online fantasy group… I don’t know. I just got the feeling this wasn’t the first works of this world, if that makes sense? This is not a bad thing, just a feeling I got that made me curious.

Would I recommend this book to others? Yes I would. Ignore my constructive criticisms for the moment as they are mere niggles as to why I rated the book the way I did. The story was fresh, new, entertaining and enjoyable. I’ve already mentioned it to a few people who I know are into this sort of light-hearted fantasy. It is a good book.

Would I buy this book for myself? I probably would. And, as said, the ending has gotten me intrigued enough to see how the series unfolds.

In summary: Slightly disjointed and fractured in parts of the plot, but all in all a good and enjoyable read and one I would recommend. It is a good start to an interesting new series that anyone who likes fantasy, urban fantasy – or cats that can flip you the bird – should read.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

Book Review – The Veil by Chloe Neill.

The Veil

5 out of 5 stars.

I would like to PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW for providing me with an ARC of this book via Netgalley for an open and honest review.

Move over Kim Harrison’s Hollows series, there’s a new red head in town and a new look on the paranormal scene!

Set in – what I believe is – modern day New Orleans this is a wonderfully well written urban fantasy/ supernatural book ready to entertain lovers of these genres. I’m not wrong in saying Ms Harrison has some competition for this parallel world to our own.

I also liked how it brought closer to home what living in a war zone is possibly like. I got the feeling the rest of the world was happily mostly going about its business while New Orleans barely survived within the zone – just like so many places within our big wide world right now that are rarely thought of. I don’t know if this was intentional or not… but I hope it was, as I find it rather thought provoking and touching at the same time. Maybe I just read more into it than there was meant to be?

So, yes, set in New Orleans where it has been turned into a war zone by the Veil being broken and creatures from the Beyond coming through. For more of a blurb, check out the book.

Loved this book. Yes it had the typical typos and grammatical errors an ARC can have, but I never hold that against an ARC as they’re usually sent out before the final edit is done and so can live with this minor issue.

It was fast paced, smooth flowing and rather addictive. Definitely got my ‘One more chapter’ mantra going night and day. I do admit to having to look up New Orleans a bit as I got into the story, but that wasn’t a big deal either. I’m Australian, and not one lucky enough to have visited the place in person, so needed to visualise it a bit before adding the war torn look, a couple of wraiths and the Devil’s Isle. After that it was smooth sailing and a highly enjoyable read.

Would I recommend this book to others? Absolutely! I already have done while still reading it. Many of my friends – who enjoy series like the Hollows – will enjoy this book and so I’ve already been nudging them towards grabbing a copy for a look.

Would I buy this book for myself? Yes! And the rest of the series too, judging by the quality of this first book. This series would take pride of place in my virtual bookshelves, and I’d ever stretch so far as including them in my ever decreasing space of my physical bookshelves too.

Fans of urban fantasy, the supernatural, the paranormal or a sassy self-reliant red head… you will enjoy this book. Go buy it, read it and thank me later.

Highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

Book Review – Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker.

Witch Hunter

3 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Orchard Press for allowing me an ARC of this book for an open and honest review.

I am in two minds with this book. I absolutely and utterly LOVED the story… right up to the end. I found it a fun, enticing and highly enjoyable read that had my ‘One more chapter’ mantra going into the small hours of the night… day. But I felt the ending really fell flat and let it down. We went from a fast paced and exciting story to a bit of an anti-climactic moment followed by a few brief pages and then it was done. Not saying this is the case, but it felt as if the author hit her required word count and then put her pen down.

Now I do believe this book is the first in a series and there is more to come, but that is still no excuse to finish it with such an ending. A cliff hanger, an apparent ‘all lived happily ever after… or did they?’ moment. They would have worked. But not what we got. It’s really left me feeling disappointed and has made me mark the book down for lower than the rest of it really deserved.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a GREAT story. It just needed a better ending. I mean, to let you know how much I really did enjoy this book, the electronic copy I received got corrupted on the download. And I didn’t realise this until after it had been archived (so I couldn’t try again). This meant any time a sentence began with ‘Th’ or the letter ‘f’ was used in most words… the f and the letter next to it were missing. So, sentences beginning with ‘the’ or ‘There’ became ‘e’ and ‘ere’. Fireplace became ‘ireplace’ and so on. And yet, despite noticing this issue within the first few pages… Those pages had me so hooked I just had to keep reading. So it was a good book. And possibly why I was so disappointed with the ending? I put up with digital issues to read and you ended it like this? How could you! 😉

Seriously, this is a great book and yes I WILL be looking for the next one. Why? The characters are engaging, the world it’s set in (though not historically accurate) is still believable and very visual. The story idea is a mixture of old themes with a gorgeous flourish of new life and vibrancy. It is a good book. Just brace yourself for the flat ending and pray for the next book to be ready soon so you can pick the adventure back up. I know I will be. I want to read on… So well done.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. Though I might suggest people wait until the next book in the series is out so you can just pick it up where this one stops. I have to wait and do hope the next book picks up in a good spot and throws us all back into the fray.

Would I buy this book myself? Yes, I really would. But if I’m getting it as an eBook I hope the digital corruption issues I had in my ARC have been fixed in the finished piece.

I look forward to seeing where this story/ series takes me and I can’t wait to hear the next book is out.

A great new story for lovers of the magical world around us.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO