Review: Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

, by Kt Clapsadl

Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep
Black Blade #3

Bad Things Always Come In Threes…

As a thief, I'm good at three things: hiding in the shadows, getting in and out unseen, and uncovering secrets. I put these skills to work for the Sinclair Family, one of the magical mobs that run the tourist town of Cloudburst Falls.

Everyone knows Victor Draconi wants to take over all the other Families--and kill every last Sinclair. What they don't know is that I'm on to him, and no way will I let the man who murdered my mom get away with hurting all the other people I care about. Especially when I've got places to break into, stuff to steal, and Devon Sinclair fighting right by my side…

BRIGHT BLAZE OF MAGIC caught me off guard as I didn't realize it was the last book in the series. I wasn't expecting the final show down and for everything to be tied up at the end of this book, but instead expected another cliffhanger ending. I have to admit I'm a bit bummed now as I've really enjoyed this series, and I do hope the author eventually writes more because there's so much potential for more. Don't get me wrong, the ending is very satisfying and fans of the series should be more than pleased, but when it comes to Jennifer Estep's books well I'm always wanting more.

Despite this only being a trilogy, I feel like there were so many building and looming threads packed into the previous book. So I was really impressed with just how well everything came together in this book. Everything and I do mean everything comes to a head, and no punches are held. More than a few moments were utterly gut wrenching and while it made me miserable in a away, I thoroughly enjoyed every emotion packed moment. So massive kudos to the author for crafting a story that's so rich in both the characters and the stakes that you can't help but get sucked right into the character's plights, feeling every emotion right alongside them.

All in all, BRIGHT BLAZE OF MAGIC proves once again that a Jennifer Estep book, and series are simply not to be missed. If you're looking for a fast paced read with amazing characters, incredibly high stakes, and plenty of twists and turns, this series is meant for you!

(Received a copy from the publisher)


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Previous Books:
     1. Cold Burn of Magic
     2. Dark Heart of Magic

Kirsten Reviews: Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

, by Kt Clapsadl

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen
The Shadow #1

A rich, dark fantasy of destiny, death, and the supernatural world hiding beneath the surface.

Nettie Lonesome lives in a land of hard people and hard ground dusted with sand. She's a half-breed who dresses like a boy, raised by folks who don't call her a slave but use her like one. She knows of nothing else. That is, until the day a stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood, and he turns into black sand.

And just like that, Nettie can see.

But her newfound sight is a blessing and a curse. Even if she doesn't understand what's under her own skin, she can sense what everyone else is hiding -- at least physically. The world is full of evil, and now she knows the source of all the sand in the desert. Haunted by the spirits, Nettie has no choice but to set out on a quest that might lead to her true kin... if the monsters along the way don't kill her first.

Wake of Vultures, by Delilah S. Dawson writing as Lila Bowen and the first book in The Shadow series is the sort of coming-of-age Western story that was once solely reserved for boys. It calls to mind such recent comic titles as Pretty Deadly and East of West, and with a female protagonist being confronted by an array of supernatural and very human monsters, it belongs to what may prove to be a further revival of the genre.

There may be many protagonists who believe themselves to be the most unlikely of heroines, but Nettie Lonesome has the deck stacked high against her. She stands out in a world that does not look kindly on women, mixed-race people, or anyone who does not let themselves be entirely broken by a harsh world and cruel people. Nettie, who is attracted to both women and men, and self-identifies as a man, preferring to dress as such, is a slave in all but name when she is attacked one day by a stranger. In defending herself, Nettie stabs the stranger through the heart with a piece of wood, only to be shocked when he turns into black sand.

This event, besides propelling Nettie into a greater wariness of people also makes her aware that there are more monsters in the world, and some of them have very sharp teeth. The difference is that now Nettie has the ability to see them for what they truly are. Such knowledge does not make life any easier, and now Nettie is aware of exactly what comes out of the desert at night to attack people, steal children, and drink blood. Although she is in no hurry to try her hand at heroics, Nettie’s soon encounters vampires, chupacabras, and harpies, and her journey takes her into the sand and toward an evil which she both fears and knows must be stopped.

As protagonists go, Nettie is both a survivor, and someone who, in spite of all the hardship she’s endured, a good person, who ultimately chooses to listen to her gentler instincts instead of being selfish and steering clear of danger. It is this kindness, bolstered by admirable ferocity and the determination that a person shouldn’t let other people dictate who they are that makes her so compelling, and the story one which demands a sequel.
(Received a copy from the publisher)


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Early Review: Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

, by Kt Clapsadl

Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

There's a reason they say "be careful what you wish for." Just ask the girl who wished to be thinner and ended up smaller than Thumbelina, or the boy who asked for "balls of steel" and got them-literally. And never wish for your party to go on forever. Not unless you want your guests to be struck down by debilitating pain if they try to leave.
These are things Lennie only learns when it's too late-after she brings some of her uncles' moonshine to a party and toasts to dozens of wishes, including a big wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was abducted and murdered six months ago.

Lennie didn't mean to cause so much chaos. She always thought her uncles' moonshine toast was just a tradition. And when they talked about carrying on their "important family legacy," she thought they meant good old-fashioned bootlegging.

As it turns out, they meant granting wishes. And Lennie has just granted more in one night than her uncles would grant in a year.

Now she has to find a way to undo the damage. But once granted, a wish can't be unmade...
When I read the blurb for this one I was incredibly intrigued. It sounded so interesting I knew I’d have to read it, and I’m so glad I did. I wound up devouring it in one setting turning the pages as fast as I could to see what happened next. DOWN WITH THE SHINE is a fun, and yet twisted story that was very entertaining. It felt almost like a twist between a backwoods small town you’d find in a movie mixed in the fantastical element of genie like wishes. It definitely made for an interesting mashup.

I would have loved to have rated DOWN WITH THE SHINE 5 stars considering how hooked I was and how much I enjoyed it while reading it, but unfortunately the heroine’s character is holding me back. I liked Lennie but parts of her personality and actions just rang false. She just didn’t quite ring true to me. She acted the wounded and outcasted party from everyone, and while that made sense in her school life due to how her classmates treated her, she also acted as if her uncles only tolerated her presence. There also was the deal with her dead best friend and while her words showed devastation at the loss, her actions sure didn’t. Things just didn’t line up, and that only held true the further in the book I read. I think the book meant to have her only feel as if she was outcasted and that it was her own misconceptions of other’s thoughts and feeling to her that were in the way, not real events. Unfortunately I felt there just wasn’t enough set up for this. It’s almost like the case of someone not realizing they are beautiful until the hero comes along and magically tells her that she is. Only in this case it wasn’t just her not realizing that other people are not outcasting her it’s her own fear in the way, but it also was her acting out against things that just weren’t there. I guess I feel like there was no set up at all for her insecurities and misconceptions, so I had a bit of a hard time believing them. Just rant a little false.

Frustrations with Lennie’s actions aside, I really loved the rest of DOWN WITH THE SHINE. There was just the right amount of fantasy elements intermeshed in. I particularly loved how vibrant and in depth the author painted the consequences of the rampant wishes, and the book definitely had more than a little sinister feeling to it. It’s one that makes you think because any wish no matter how simple could become amazingly twisted beyond recognition. Nothing comes without a price, even magical wishes it seems. I won’t spoil things, but suffice it to say things spiral way out of control in a hurry and it was incredibly entertaining to both watch that spiral and all the character’s scramble to try and fix things. Sometimes the fixes were worse than the original mess up, adding yet another layer that kept me hooked.

If you’re looking for a fun yet, slightly sinister and engrossing read that can be devoured in one setting, look no further than DOWN WITH THE SHINE. Perfect for fans of standalone novels with more than a little danger and fantasy elements, this one is not to be missed.
(Received a copy from the publisher)


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Early Review: Soldier by Julie Kagawa

, by Kt Clapsadl

Soldier by Julie Kagawa
Talon #3

A fighter dedicated to saving humankind from dragons in strictest secrecy.

That was what Garret Xavier Sebastian thought he was part of as a soldier of the Order of St. George. What he learned from a fiery dragon hatchling twisted all he believed in and set him on a collision course with certain death-but not without a chance to put things right.

Betrayed and on the run again, Ember and rogue dragon Riley discover an unthinkable truth about Talon and St. George. They'll need Garret's skills and insider knowledge of the Order to negotiate an impossible deal-and if they fail, there will be no way to stop all-out war.

I have to admit I don’t really understand the love triangle in this series. It just doesn’t make sense or really work emotionally to be honest. I don’t know if there just isn’t enough depth to it to make it believable to me, or if thing just need to develop further, but honestly I’m let scratching my head. First off you have the complication that Dragons aren’t supposed to love or have partner, preferring to be solitary creatures. But then there’s this inexplicable bond pulling Ember and Riley together. It almost feels like the mating bond so common in shifter books which would make sense since the dragons are technically shifters although they are dragons really, just mimicking humans. But that there leads me to the other part of the triangle, Embers attraction and pull towards Garrett. She’s not supposed to be human nor be capable of love, and yet in so many ways Ember is very very human. While it’s something that was started to slowly be considered in SOLDIER, there’s really so much more to be figured out. I guess in the end I just need more from the romance for this triangle to work for me. As it stood in this book there was barely any moments romantically between Ember and either “boy” and even the ones that were seemed rushed and glossed over. I need more.

Onto the plot, this is one area where SOLDIER shined. The sheer amount of twists, turns, and machinations between all the various factions left my head spinning at times. It felt like Ember and co were under fire from all directions, and nothing and no one were safe one bit. It definitely made things more than interesting and the stakes incredibly high. Almost too high perhaps. By the end of the book I was left amazed at everything that had happened, the new developments and things revealed to come, and it’s hard to imagine a reasonable survival outcome for anyone. I almost feel like things are headed into unbeliveability territory. I could be wrong, but only time will tell in the next book to see how they get out of the building chaos.

Overall SOLDIER kept me entertained, but unfortunately it lacked the amount of depth I would like to have seen. This book and characters have so much potential in my opinion and I’d love to see so much more from them, but as seems to be the course for this series I feel like we’re only scratching the surface. I’m enjoying them well enough to continue the series as I’m definitely invested, but I can’t help hoping for more depth in books to come.

(Received a copy from the publisher)


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Previous Books:
     1. Talon
     2. Rogue

Kirsten Reviews: The Scent of Secrets by Jane Thynne

, by Kt Clapsadl

The Scent of Shadows by Jane Thynne
Berlin #3

August, 1938. Paris is a city living on its nerves and the threat of war hangs heavy as a distant thunderstorm on a summer's day.

British actress, Clara Vine, is in Paris to film her latest movie, having left Berlin under a cloud. Joseph Goebbels has become increasingly suspicious that Clara has been mingling in Berlin society and passing snippets of information to her contacts in the British Embassy. It would have been absurd, if it hadn't also been true…

With war becoming increasingly likely, Clara is approached by an undercover British operative, Guy Hamilton, who asks her to perform a task for her country: to befriend Eva Braun, Hitler's girlfriend, and to pass on any information she can gather.

Clara knows that to undertake this task is to put herself back in danger. But she also knows that soon she may have to do everything in her power to protect her country… 

The Scent of Secrets is the newest book in Jane Thynne’s Berlin series about actress and spy Clara Vine. The story begins in Paris in August of 1938. The city and Europe itself teeter on the edge of war. Jewish citizens are facing ever-increasing discrimination and there are rumors of the Nazi government preparing an even worse crackdown, which history revealed to be the concentration camps and other atrocities.

Clara Vine, British actress is in Paris filming a new movie. She has become successful, and her rising career has given her the ability to move among the upper class of German society, putting her in proximity to such people as Joseph Goebbels, who is suspicious that Clara is actually a spy. He is correct, and if he found out that, or the fact that Clara’s grandmother was Jewish, something which she conceals with fake papers, she would be arrested or suffer a worse fate.

While in Paris, Clara is contacted by Guy Hamilton, a British operative also passing himself off as an ordinary citizen who asks Clara to do something nobody else has been able to: befriend Eva Braun, Hitler’s sweetheart in order to learn all she can and pass it along to British intelligence. This mission will position Clara squarely in the path of people who would think nothing of killing her, but although initially reluctant, Clara knows that every piece of information she gathers may be critical in protecting her country.

While there have been many books and movies about World War ll, there are far less that are set in the years before the way, and the story’s combination of political complications and intrigue are an excellent blend of historical detail and suspense.
Clara Vine is a young woman on her own among dangerous people, and she uses her wits, experience, and even fashion sense in order to pursue the truth, making her an appealing protagonist that readers will root for with increasing concern as she finds herself ever more entwined in conspiracy.

(Received a copy from the publisher)


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     1. Black Roses
     2. The Winter Garden

Review: Golden by Melissa de la Cruz

, by Kt Clapsadl

Golden by Melissa de la Cruz
Heart of Dread #3

Recast the spell. Light the flame. Make the world anew.

With the ruins of New Kandy still smoldering around them and Nat’s bond to her beloved drakon quickly fraying, Nat and Wes are lost amid a sea of destruction—with Wes at death’s door. Wes tried to save his sister, Eliza, and protect them from her cruelty, only to see firsthand just how dark her power had become.

Desperate to escape the dangers lurking in New Kandy, Wes accepts help from a mysterious voice calling out to him from the Blue, leading Nat and his crew into even more perilous surroundings. They quickly realize that their only chance for survival lies with Nat and the quest for a new world to replace their broken one—but at what cost?

In this epic conclusion to the Heart of Dread trilogy, Nat and Wes must put their love to the ultimate test in hopes of seeing their world reborn.

Golden continued and finished the long journey started back in Frozen. While it was enjoyable, unfortunately just like in the first two books, I felt rather disjointed from the story and characters. There was plenty going on and really high stakes/intense scenes, and yet I felt held apart. There was a lot of telling rather than showing throughout and I felt some of the shocking events were just glossed over too quickly. I had hoped things would pick up and I would grow more attached. But even after reading the last two books back to back, I just didn't feel very invested in the outcome. Don't get me wrong, the plot was intriguing enough that I wanted to know how everything turned out. It just wasn't emotionally invested, only curious. It just a shame as I felt like there was so much unrealized potential here, but perhaps it's just me and my tastes and others will be sucked right in.

Disjointed issues aside, I enjoyed seeing the progression of the characters in this series, as well as the romance. Nat and Wes both grew a lot and learned what it really meant to sacrifice and fight for what they believe in. They came a long way from the start, and when you combine that with the very unique and interesting world, it made for an enjoyable read overall.

Fans of the series will be happy with the final book in the Heart of Dread series as GOLDEN is an action packed read from start to finish with an enjoyable conclusion. If it weren't for the disconnect, I'd have rated this one excellent, but in the end it was an overall decent read. 

(Received a copy from the publisher)


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     1. Frozen
     2. Stolen

Review: The Demonists by Thomas E. Sniegoski

, by Kt Clapsadl

The Demonists by Thomas E. Sniegoski
Demonists #1

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Fallen series and the Remy Chandler series, a new dark fantasy series filled with demons, exorcisms, and the fight against the worst that hell has to offer...

There is more to our world than meets the eye—darker things, crueler things. Exorcist John Fogg and his wife, psychic medium Theodora Knight, know what lurks in the shadows. But even they’re not prepared for the worst Hell has to offer...

It was supposed to be a simple exorcism, a publicity stunt to firmly establish John and Theodora’s thriving paranormal investigation empire in the public eye. But something went wrong, leading to an on-air massacre that unleashed a malicious host of demons and left Theodora catatonic, possessed by countless spirits.

John sets out on a desperate quest to find a cure for his wife, but his obsession brings him face-to-face with an even more terrifying problem: Theodora’s possession is only one piece of a deadly plot that is threatening the entire world. Because an ancient evil is about to make Earth its battlefield—and without John and Theodora’s intervention, there is no chance for salvation...

THE DEMONISTS was a mixed bag for me. At times I was completely sucked in, reading the pages as fast as I possibly could, and yet other times I found myself skimming, particularly the further along in the book I read. It felt like things took off with one heck of a bang from the start and fizzled from that point on. I kept waiting for things to get that early spark back, and while I was sucked back in a few times, it never quite got the momentum back for me.

Another big strike against the book's pacing and flow was due to the almost random perspective changes. I felt like the story bounced from person to person without any real need to, making those changes more frustrating than they should have warranted. In particular, the extremely creepy villain's perspective is one I could have done without. Sure, that angle upped the creepy and horror factor, and yet I didn't feel like that added any real value to the book. It would have been stronger without that look into that side of things, instead staying more in the dark about those going ons. And lest you worry, there were plenty of other creepy things and scenes going on that it wouldn't have detracted from the horror angles overall.

Overall a mixed bag, THE DEMONISTS is a rocky start to a new series, but I haven't written it off yet. While this was a rough read for me, I'd be willing to give the next book a try as there were those parts in this one that sucked me in. Only time will tell.

(Received a copy from the publisher)


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