Early Review: The Vault by Emily McKay

, by Kt Clapsadl

The Vault by Emily McKay
The Farm #3

There is no rest for the damned in this thrilling follow-up to Emily McKay's The Lair and The Farm, in a series New York Times bestselling author Chloe Neill calls, "Equal partsResident Evil and Hunger Games."

In a world where vampires rule and teenaged humans are quarantined as a food source, there is only one choice—resist or die. But fighting the vampires comes at a terrible cost to twin sisters Mel and Lily and their best friend Carter . . .

With Lily exposed to the vampire virus and lying in a coma, it’s up to Mel and Carter to search for the cure. Time is not on their side. With every passing heartbeat, Mel is becoming more and more purely vampire.

Desperate, Carter and Mel decide to split up. Carter will recruit human rebels from the Farm in San Angelo to infiltrate the guarded kingdom of the vampire Sabrina and steal the cure. Mel will go back to her mentor, her friend, her betrayer, Sebastian, who is the only one who can access an underground vault that may house the secret to the cure.

That is, if he’s still alive after she staked him to the ground. Now her worst enemy may be their best hope for curing Lily—and saving the human race.

Typically I'm not the biggest fan of rotating narrator perspectives, but in this case, it really worked well for me. I said the opposite about the previous installment as the rotations were a bit much for me, but this time around. I felt more attached to the characters than I would have otherwise. It really kept me sucked well into the story, and considering how intense things were, it made for a heck of a ride. I also really enjoyed how it upped the emotional aspects as it allowed to see multiple angles and sides, and gave me more than plenty characters to really root for. And honestly, aside from the romance that's the biggest thing I really ask for in a book, to be sucked into the story, and attached to the characters. And this one had it in spades.

Speaking of the romance. I loved how Lily and Carter's romance was still incredibly strong despite the almost insurmountable odds the book starts off with. There's just a really strong and believable connection between the two and I enjoyed it immensely. That being said, there's another budding romance that I won't go into specifics on to avoid spoilers, but suffice it to say that it stole the show for me this time around. My only complaint is that as this may be the final book, I won't get to see more of how it plays out, but I'm still largely satisfied with how it all played out.

This was one heck of a whirlwind ending to the series. I enjoyed the previous two installments, and THE VAULT gave me just the ending I hoped for. Don't get me wrong it's not all roses and happiness at the end, but a more realistic outcome considering the world. And considering there were several points throughout the book that things were so bleak that I honestly wasn't sure how things would turn out, the ending has me more than pleased. Well worth the read for fans of the series, this one is not to be missed!

(Received a copy from the publisher)


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     Girls with Books
Previous Books:
     1. The Farm
     2. The Lair

Release Day Review: Night Shift Anthology

, by Kt Clapsadl

Night Shift Anthology
Stories from Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, 
Lisa Shearin, & Milla Vane

Four masters of urban fantasy and paranormal romance plunge readers into the dangerous, captivating world unearthed beyond the dark...

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh delivers a smoldering story with Secrets at Midnight , as the scent of Bastien Smith’s elusive lover ignites a possessiveness in him that’s as feral as it is ecstatic. And now that he’s found his mate, he’ll do anything to keep her.

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews’ novella,Magic Steals , when people start going missing, shapeshifting tigress Dali Harimau and jaguar shifter Jim Shrapshire must uncover the truth about the mysterious creatures responsible.

From Milla Vane—a warrior princess must tame The Beast of Blackmoor to earn a place among her people. But she quickly discovers that the beast isn't a monster, but a barbarian warrior who intends to do some taming himself.

It’s seer Makenna Frazier's first day on the job at Supernatural Protection and Investigations, and her first assignment is more than she bargained for when bodyguard duty for a leprechaun prince’s bachelor party goes every which way but right in national bestselling author Lisa Shearin’s Lucky Charms .

I don't typically read anthologies unless they are set in worlds that I already read, but I decided to give this one a shot. I'm really glad I did as I have a new series to read, and two of my favorite series have been expanded upon. Definitely a great read for fans of these series, or anyone looking for something new to try out.

Onto the stories:

Secrets at Midnight by Nalini Singh - I'm a huge fan of Nalini's archangel series, but I haven't read anything from her psy series. If this novella is any comparison to the rest of the series, then it seems I have been missing out. Boy is it hot! That being said, I don't think this was really the best place for a new comer to start in the series, because I was more than a little lost as to the world and what was going on outside of the main couple. Even so, an enjoyable read that makes me want to check out the full books.

Magic Steals by Ilona Andrews - THIS novella is the entire reason I wanted to read this anthology. I've been dying to see Jim and Dali's story since their attraction had been first hinted about a couple of books ago in the series. I absolutely loved seeing them together, and Dali is a really interesting character to see inside her head. Now I wish there was going to be a full length from her perspective. Even so, I'm really happy I got to read this story, and see another side to the mysterious Jim.

The Beast of Blackmoor by Milla Vane - This one was a difficult read for me. I just don't think barbarian stories are my thing as I couldn't really get into it. Don't get me wrong, it was sexy, but it was a bit too out there for my tastes.

Lucky Charms by Lisa Shearin - I have to admit that I completely spaced on what this story was until I started it. I absolutely loved the first book in this series, so it was really great to see this prequel story. Now I just can't wait to get my hands on book two as this fun story reminded me just how fun the book was, and how much I loved it. If you're looking for a new urban fantasy read, these are the ones to check out, lots of fun!

(Received a copy from the publisher)


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Kirsten Reviews: Voices from Beyond by Simon R. Green

, by Kt Clapsadl

Voices from Beyond by Simon R. Green
Ghost Finders #5

Meet the operatives of the Carnacki Institute—JC Chance: the team leader, brave, charming, and almost unbearably arrogant; Melody Chambers: the science geek who keeps the antisupernatural equipment running; and Happy Jack Palmer: the terminally gloomy telepath. Their mission: Do Something About Ghosts. Lay them to rest, send them packing, or just kick their nasty ectoplasmic arses…

In a quiet London suburb, four university students participating in an experiment inside a reputed haunted house hold a séance that goes terribly wrong. What—or who—ever they summoned has taken their minds away, leaving them empty shells.

Enter the Ghost Finders, ready to confront an enraged poltergeist for the students’ very souls.

All in a day’s work—except the team doesn’t know that in another part of the city, a different entity has also breached the threshold between worlds. And this time what is at stake is not four lives—but the very existence of all humanity.

Voices from Beyond, the fifth book in the Ghost Finders series by Simon R. Green has the dark humor and ghost-busting that is a hallmark of these novels. One aspect of these books worth noting is that while the characters may have paranormal abilities, they aren’t superhuman, and often find themselves in situations where they very nearly don’t escape in the nick of time. The stakes are higher in this sort of urban fantasy, and it keeps the story moving at a nice pace.

The Ghost Finders, a motley cast of characters are something close to the standard group of heroes, with a little variation as there is a telepath addicted to pills, JC, whose girlfriend Kim happens to be a ghost, and the requisite ‘techie’ character is Melody. Their job is to Do Something About Ghosts, whether that’s laying them to rest, doing their best to kick their butts - if such a thing is possible with spirits, or otherwise get creative.

This time, four university students have decided that holding a séance inside a haunted house is a somehow a good idea. The result is that, as expected, nothing good happens. Whatever they summon literally steals their minds, leaving behind empty shells. This puts the Ghost Finders on course to confront an unhappy poltergeist.

But, at the same time, in another part of London, something else has breached the threshold between worlds. In this case, there is more to worry about than a few students, as humanity itself is now under threat of being annihilated.

While this is definitely a fun series, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and if readers are familiar with the previous books, or Green’s other books, they will enjoy this latest installment.
(Received a copy from the publisher)


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Other Reviews:
     All Things Urban Fantasy
     James Genre Books

Previous Books:
     1. Ghost of a Chance
     2. Ghost of a Smile
     3. Ghost of a Dream
     4. Spirits from Beyond

Early Review: Wickedly Wonderful by Deborah Blake

, by Kt Clapsadl

Wickedly Wonderful by Deborah Blake
Baba Yaga #2

Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…

Though she looks like a typical California surfer girl, Beka Yancy is in fact a powerful yet inexperienced witch who’s struggling with her duties as a Baba Yaga. Luckily she has her faithful dragon-turned-dog for moral support, especially when faced with her biggest job yet…

A mysterious toxin is driving the Selkie and Mer from their homes deep in the trenches of Monterey Bay. To investigate, Beka buys her way onto the boat of Marcus Dermott, a battle-scarred former U.S. Marine, and his ailing fisherman father.

While diving for clues, Beka drives Marcus crazy with her flaky New Age ideas and dazzling blue eyes. She thinks he’s rigid and cranky (and way too attractive). Meanwhile, a charming Selkie prince has plans that include Beka. Only by trusting her powers can Beka save the underwater races, pick the right man, and choose the path she’ll follow for the rest of her life…

When it comes to paranormal romance, the most important thing by far in my book is the characters and their chemistry. And boy, let me tell you, Beka and Marcus had that in spades. I absolutely loved the antagonism between the two of them. Of course, it does help that enemies to lovers is my favorite trope, all that yummy tension really makes the book for me, and trust me these two had it. I absolutely loved seeing these two dance around each other and throw their barbs back and forth, all the while getting closer to one another. Trust me, it was perfect.

Moving along to the plot, it was pretty enjoyable as well. I like how these books mix mundane problems in with supernatural issues. I think it just makes things a bit more interesting to mix it up and raises the stakes a bit. Of course that the normal humans have no idea that their issue is also affecting the hidden supernaturals only makes it more interesting as some of their eyes get "opened." I also enjoyed how this plot set things up for the next book, making me really want to get my hands on it, and keeping me hooked.

This was another fun romp, and just the thing I needed. It's no secret that my first love is Urban Fantasy. I just love the recurring main characters and the fantasy/paranormal aspects. However, they can be a bit frustrating in the romance department as that takes several books. So books like WICKEDLY WONDERFUL serve as the perfect and fun palate cleanser for me, this one particularly so. I really enjoy the world Deborah Blake has set up, especially in that it's not the same old tried and true paranormal characters but a great mix and Baba Yagas that aren't old crones to boot! I really had a blast reading this book, and I think it's perfect for any paranormal romance fan who is looking to escape for a couple of hours.

(Received a copy from the publisher)


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Previous Books:
     1. Wickedly Dangerous

Early Review: Captive by Aimee Carter

, by Kt Clapsadl

Captive by Aimee Carter
The Blackcoat Rebellion #2

For the past two months, Kitty Doe's life has been a lie. Forced to impersonate the Prime Minister's niece, her frustration grows as her trust in her fake fiancé cracks, her real boyfriend is forbidden and the Blackcoats keep her in the dark more than ever.

But in the midst of discovering that her role in the Hart family may not be as coincidental as she thought, she's accused of treason and is forced to face her greatest fear: Elsewhere. A prison where no one can escape.

As one shocking revelation leads to the next, Kitty learns the hard way that she can trust no one, not even the people she thought were on her side. With her back against the wall, Kitty wants to believe she'll do whatever it takes to support the rebellion she believes in—but is she prepared to pay the ultimate price?

While there seemed to be a lot of mixed reviews for the first book in this series, Pawn, I really enjoyed it, so I was hoping for a repeat performance in CAPTIVE. Unfortunately, while the book mostly kept my attention, I just wasn't swept up into the story as much as I would have hoped, making it an overall mediocre read for me. While CAPTIVE was enjoyable, I have to admit that both Kitty and Knox more than got on my nerves for most of the book. Kitty is purposely and obtusely immature, acting out against anyone and everyone because she can, not for any constructive purpose. Frankly I just didn't get it. She wants to support the rebellion, and yet she's so far stuck in distrust and stubborness that she sabatoges her own self at every corner. Very frustrating to say the least, and then you have Knox, who drove me every bit as crazy as well. He seems to be stuck on distrusting Kitty and purposely keeping her in the dark instead of trying to include her. He really looks down on her, and there were a couple times where I wanted to smack him.

Now onto the romance. Despite my issues with the way Knox and Kitty treat each other, I think a budding romance between those two would frankly have more spark and passion than what's going on between Kitty and Benjy. I just don't get the relationship between the two of them, as there just didn't seem to be any real passion or emotion there. Sure they say the love each other, and are desperate to be together, but I just don't feel it. It's almost as if there's a glass partition keeping the emotions from coming out. Frankly the entire time while I was reading CAPTIVE I kept waiting for Kitty and Knox to just start kissing during one of their numerous spats. It's just frustrating that that's when I felt real emotion rather than the scenes between Kitty and Benjy who are supposed to mean everything to one another. I'm still left scratching my head over this. I'm going to assume that since this is a trilogy, there's no shot at Kitty and Knox at this point, but only time will tell. 

So all that being said, hopefully this one can just be chalked up to a sophomoric slump, and the last book will take the cake. That being said, despite being a medicore read for me, I think it's still well worth the read for fans of the series, and make you want to get a hold of the final installment to see how everything plays out.

(Received a copy from the publisher)


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     The Eater of Books!
     Istyria Book Blog
     Curling Up With A Good Book

Previous Books:
     1. Pawn

Early Review: Black Widow by Jennifer Estep

, by Kt Clapsadl

Black Widow by Jennifer Estep
Elemental Assassin #12

There’s nothing worse than a cruel, cunning enemy with time to kill—and my murder to plan.

With wicked Fire elemental Mab Monroe long gone, you’d think I could finally catch a break. But someone’s always trying to take me down, either as Gin Blanco or my assassin alter-ago. Now along comes the Spider’s new arch-nemesis, the mysteriously named M. M. Monroe, who is gleefully working overtime to trap me in a sticky web of deceit.

The thing is, I’m not the only target. I can see through the tangled threads enough to know that every bit of bad luck my friends have been having lately is no accident—and that each unfortunate “coincidence” is just one more arrow drawing ever closer to hitting the real bulls-eye. Though new to Ashland, this M. M. Monroe is no stranger to irony, trying to get me, an assassin, framed for murder. Yet, as my enemy’s master plan is slowly revealed, I have a sinking feeling that it will take more than my powerful Ice and Stone magic to stop my whole life from going up in flames.

I have to admit I was a bit worried about this one as it seemed like we were in store for a Mab 2.0 showdown. However, MM is nothing like her mother. Don't get me wrong, she's a massive big bad, and tough as heck for Gin to go up against, but unlike Gin's previous foes, MM doesn't come at her straight on. There's all kinds of plotting and scheming and many different angles at play, making MM a mastermind at strategy and manipulation. This may sound strange, but I actually enjoyed seeing Gin fall right into the traps MM set, because it made things even more intense and edge of seat than the typical who's the bigger bad showdown. Don't get me wrong, of course there was a showdown by the end, but it was the lead up that made this one feel over the top, and I loved every moment of it. I can't wait to see who Gin faces next!

Every single time I finish a Gin Blanco book, I'm amazed that everything that woman goes through hasn't become stale and old hat by this point. It's just incredible that after everything she's faced that the danger and risk still comes across full force. I really love how these books guarantee me an action packed ride that never feels stale, making them a treat in the Urban Fantasy genre. Seriously, 12 books, and this series isn't showing any signs of losing steam. Bravo Ms. Estep, Bravo!

So, I'm happy to give this one the stamp of my approval. Highly recommended to fans of the series, BLACK WIDOW is one heck of a ride from start to finish that's sure to please!

(Received a copy from the publisher)


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Previous Books:
     1. Spider's Bite
     2. Web of Lies
     3. Venom
     4. Tangled Threads
     5. Spider's Revenge
     6. By a Thread
     7. Widow's Web
     8. Deadly Sting
     9. Heart of Venom
     10. The Spider
     11. Poison Promise

Kirsten Reviews: Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams

, by Kt Clapsadl

Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams
Bobby Dollar #2

I’ve been told to go to Hell more times than I can count. But this time I’m actually going.

My name’s Bobby Dollar, sometimes known as Doloriel, and of course, Hell isn’t a great place for someone like me - I’m an angel. They don’t like my kind down there, not even the slightly fallen variety. But they have my girlfriend, who happens to be a beautiful demon named Casimira, Countess of Cold Hands. Why does an angel have a demon girlfriend? Well, certainly not because it helps my career.

She’s being held hostage by one of the nastiest, most powerful demons in all of the netherworld - Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell. He already hates me, and he’d like nothing better than to get his hands on me and rip my immortal soul right out of my borrowed but oh-so-mortal body.

But wait, it gets better! Not only do I have to sneak into Hell, make my way across thousands of miles of terror and suffering to reach Pandemonium, capital of the fiery depths, but then I have to steal Caz right out from under Eligor’s burning eyes and smuggle her out again, past demon soldiers, hellhounds, and all the murderous creatures imprisoned there for eternity. And even if I somehow manage to escape Hell, I’m also being stalked by an undead psychopath named Smyler who’s been following me for weeks. Oh, and did I mention that he can’t be killed?

So if I somehow survive Hell, elude the Grand Duke and all his hideous minions and make it back to the real world, I’ll still be the most hunted soul in Creation. But at least I’ll have Caz. Gotta have something to look forward to, right?

So just pour me that damn drink, will you? I’ve got somewhere to go.

Happy Hour In Hell by Tad Williams, the second book in the Bobby Dollar series is something of a conundrum. It’s not a badly thought out story, nor poor written, it’s simply that it doesn’t seem to go anywhere with much energy.

Bobby Dollar, also known as Doloriel is an angel, who, by his very nature would prefer to avoid Hell. But, the denizens of the lower realm have captured his girlfriend, a demon named Casmira, Countess of Cold Hands. The fact that they are lovers is not something that angels or demons are generally thrilled about, and after she’s kidnapped by Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell, Bobby has to mount a rescue mission by heading directly into Hell itself. While it might seem relatively simple for an angel to deal with demons, there’s a catch - Bobby’s soul is immortal, but his body isn’t, which means Eligor is not only on home turf, but he also has a huge advantage.

Nevertheless, Bobby heads into Hell, confronting a myriad of horrors, damned, and demons. His task is made even more challenging by the fact that in addition to demonic soldiers, hellhounds, and other creatures guarding Eligor’s domain, he is also being stalked by an undead psychopath named Smyler who also happens to be immortal. In short, Bobby Dollar is not having any kind of happy times in Hell.

The premise is a good one, but in its execution, the book ends up being lots of descriptions of Hell, other characters, and anything that is not the plot moving forward with any momentum. It’s definitely not the strongest sequel, and depending on readers’ opinion of Tad Wiliams’ other work, they may not be persuaded to stick around for the third book.
(Received a copy from the publisher)


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     All Things Urban Fantasy
     The Eloquent Page

Previous Books:
     1. The Dirty Streets of Heaven

Review: Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

, by Kt Clapsadl

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

It's an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp -- the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn't return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.

Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp's done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance -- and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her.

This debut novel is full of atmosphere, twists and turns, and a swoon-worthy romance.

BEWARE THE WILD suffered from a case of "almosts" for me. The world was almost there, and I was almost attached to the romance, but unfortunately those "almosts" kept me from really connecting to this story. The world behind the story was supposed to be creepy, especially the swamp, but it just didn't quite feel like enough to really suck me in. As the blurb says, there's atmosphere, but it just wasn't fleshed out enough to really give the air I think this was trying to achieve. It's a shame, because this could have been one heck of an enthralling and chill inducing read, but it ultimately fell flat.

Another bit of disappointment for me was the characters and the romance. I had a hard time connecting with Sterling. I didn't get her behavior towards her brother, and the eating disorder to punish him for growing up. Yes, I realize he was her protector, but frankly the way she stood up and was determined to get him back once the swamp took him, seemed at odds with her previous actions that led to the whole situation in the first place. It just seemed out of character and too strong willed for the type of person she seemed to be at the beginning. That being said, I did enjoy seeing her grow and gain confidence, which kept me interested in the story. However, one thing I didn't enjoy too much was the romance between her and Heath. I just didn't quite get it as it was another one of those cases where something just seemed to be missing. I just didn't feel the chemistry nor the connection, which made it not work for me.

While BEWARE THE WILD kept me interested, it wasn't the enthralling read I was hoping for, but overall mediocre in the end. It's a shame because this one could have been great. That being said, I definitely see potential for this author and will be checking out her future books.

(Received a copy from the publisher)


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     The Nocturnal Library
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