Monday, August 27, 2012

Top 5 Sundays #17 - Eternal TBR Books!

So, this week's theme is those books you want to read, but you can't seem to get to. Let's be honest here; every reader has those books they are forever intending to read but, for one reason or another, always end up bumping back on the list in favour of something else. Maybe it's a matter of mood or of timing or of who-only-knows-what; whatever the case the book just keeps almost being read when something else comes along instead.

So, without further ado, here my Top 5 books that are forever almost going to be read. Enjoy!

#5 - Greywalker by Kat Richardson
Harper Blaine was slogging along as a small-time P.I. when a two-bit perp's savage assault left her dead. For two minutes, to be precise.

When Harper comes to in the hospital, she begins to feel a bit ...strange. She sees things that can only be described as weird-shapes emerging from a foggy grey mist, snarling teeth, creatures roaring.

But Harper's not crazy. Her "death" has made her a Greywalker-able to move between our world and the mysterious, cross-over zone where things that go bump in the night exist. And her new gift (or curse) is about to drag her into that world of vampires and ghosts, magic and witches, necromancers and sinister artifacts. Whether she likes it or not.
 I like the premise - the female PI with a magic bent is one of the tried-and-true traditions of the urban fantasy genre, just look at Kate Daniels, October Daye, Charley Davidson, Merry Gentry, and so on. Unfortunately, when it comes to this book, I've never gotten past the first chapter before something comes up, time passes, and before you know it I've picked up something else. 
 #4 - Sebastian by Anne Bishop
A world of shifting lands connected only by bridges, Ephemera has been kept stable by the magic of the Landscapers. In one land where night reigns and demons dwell, the half-incubus Sebastian revels in dark delights. But then in dreams she calls to him: a woman who wants only to be safe and loved-a woman he hungers for while knowing he may destroy her.

But a more devastating destiny awaits Sebastian, for in the quiet gardens of the Landscapers' school, evil is stirring. The nearly forgotten Eater of the World has escaped its prison-and Sebastian's realm may be the first to fall

I've read both of Anne Bishop's other series - The Black Jewels and Tir Alainn - and actually own this book but I've just never been in the mood to delve into this series. I have this absurd idea that if I read this series it will have some sort of significance, some sort of undefinable meaning attached to it. Logical it is not, I know, but there you have it.

#3 - Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
Kitty Norville is a midnight-shift DJ for a Denver radio station - and a werewolf in the closet. Her new late-night advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged is a raging success, but it's Kitty who can use some help. With one sexy werewolf-hunter and a few homicidal undead on her tail, Kitty may have bitten off more than she can chew?
I first caught wind of this series when my friend was reading it. Unfortunately, because I read faster than her, she immediately banned me from reading it, at least until she was quite a ways into it. Ten books later, I finally got the green light to have a party so now it's just a matter of working my way through my TBR pile to it...

#2 - Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
All the creatures of the night gather in "the Hollows" of Cincinnati, to hide, to prowl, to party...and to feed.

Vampires rule the darkness in a predator-eat-predator world rife with dangers beyond imagining - and it's Rachel Morgan's job to keep that world civilized.

A bounty hunter and witch with serious sex appeal and an attitude, she'll bring 'em back alive, dead...or undead

This is one of those series that everyone and their aunt has read and so naturally I haven't. It has gotten a lot of hype - even had some original graphic novels - and even hermits living in Australian outback know who Rachel Morgan is...and I don't. My ignorance of this series is quickly getting to be a tad shameful...especially when the eleventh and final book is set to be released this coming January.

#1 - The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay
Atlanta: it's the promised city for the off-worlders, foreigners from the alternate dimensions of heaven-like Elysia and hell-like Charbydon. Some bring good works and miracles. And some bring unimaginable evil....

Charlie Madigan is a divorced mother of one, and a kick-ass cop trained to take down the toughest human and off-world criminals. She's recently returned from the dead after a brutal attack, an unexplained revival that has left her plagued by ruthless nightmares and random outbursts of strength that make doing her job for Atlanta P.D.'s Integration Task Force even harder. Since the Revelation, the criminal element in Underground Atlanta has grown, leaving Charlie and her partner Hank to keep the chaos to a dull roar. But now an insidious new danger is descending on her city with terrifying speed, threatening innocent lives: a deadly, off-world narcotic known as ash. Charlie is determined to uncover the source of ash before it targets another victim -- but can she protect those she loves from a force more powerful than heaven and hell combined?
Single moms - heck, moms in general - are pretty rare among the urban fantasy heroines, marking this book right off as something original. Unfortunately, time has never seemed to be on this book's side and it just keeps sliding back on the TBR pile.

And there you have it - this week's Top 5! Until next week, adieu!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

REVIEW: Michelle Rowen's Blood Bath & Beyond

Book: Blood Bath & Beyond

Author: Michelle Rowen

Series: Immortality Bites Mystery

Publishing stats: August 7th 2012 by Signet (USA)

Genre: Paranormal Mystery

Cover Blurb: Sarah Dearly is adjusting to life as a fledgling vampire, satisfying her cravings at vampire-friendly blood banks. But when her fiancé Thierry takes a job with the Ring—the secret council in charge of keeping vampires in line—Sarah’s about to get more than a taste of danger…

Being engaged to a centuries-old master vampire can be challenging—especially when he takes a job with the Ring. Thierry’s in for fifty years of nonstop travel and deadly risk. It’s enough to make any woman reconsider the wedding…any woman except Sarah, that is.

Traveling to Las Vegas for his first assignment, they encounter a child beauty pageant contestant from hell, as well as a vampire serial killer leaving victims drained of blood, potentially exposing the existence of vampires to the whole world. But when Thierry’s truly ancient history comes back to haunt him, and he’s accused of a crime he didn’t commit, it’s up to Sarah to clear his name before their immortal lives come to an end.

First line: The fangs don’t get nearly as much attention as you’d think.

What I liked: What I've always loved about this series; the humour, the romance, the characters. Sarah Dearly is hands down one of the funniest, goofiest heroines (and narrators) I've had the chance to read. Between what she says and the antics she lands herself in, she'd give the entire cast of Friends a run for their money.  I especially love her unfailing ability, for good or bad, to always see the good the people be they blood addicted ancient vampire, demon bound vampire hunter or insanity prone wizard. The romance and relationship shared between Sarah and Thierry is one of the more unique ones; these two could not be any more different but, somehow, it works and not only that but seeing these two crazy kids together as they work through their differences and come out stronger than ever is one the book's true delights for the reader.

What I didn’t like: There were some points in the narrative that got a bit dry and felt just a tad repetitive, almost like the story had gotten itself stuck in a loop. I spent a great deal of time wishing I could slap Thierry - does that man learn nothing from his own past?! The resolution to one of the mysteries in this book came a bit out of left field - perhaps it was just me but until that last scene where the murderer spilled the beans I would not have thought that character guilty. I mean, okay, looking back there were hints for a potential motive, but there was nothing that connected that motive to the crimes until the murderer slipped up and did so right before the reveal. I'd like to think even Jessica Fletcher would have been hard pressed to see that reveal coming.

Overall: Back in September 2009, Tall, Dark and Fangsome ended the Immortality Bites series with a defeated big bad, a vanquished curse, a friend's wedding and a surprise engagement. It hinted at happily ever after and left the door open for potential sequels in the future. Blood Bath & Beyond blew that aforementioned door off its hinges, put a twist on the old story lines, tossed in a mystery (two, actually) and picked things up where they left off - more or less. All of the secondary characters from the first series were given happily ever afters, allowing for Thierry and Sarah to head out into the world to encounter new friends and new enemies while still connected with characters who previously had their lives revolving around the main plots. There were some rough spots to be sure but overall this was a great revamp (see what I did there?) on a great series. 

Would I read this author again: Yes - the humour is one-of-a-kind!

My rating: ♥♥♥/5

To purchase the book for yourself, you can find it at,,, or The Book Depository. Enjoy!

EXCERPT & CONTEST - Jennifer Estep!

Alrighty then, boils and ghouls, today we have an extra special treat; Jennifer Estep, author of the Elemental Assassins series, has provided yours truly with an exclusive except from her newest release, Widow's Web, a great edition to the fast paced, perpetually surprising series about a (semi-retired) assassin trying to get through life in corrupt and morally rotting city. You can read my review of this book, complete with links to purchase it, right here and be sure to scroll down after the excerpt for the contest details!

So, without further ado:
I used to murder people for money, but lately it’s become more of a survival technique. Once an assassin, always an assassin. So much for being plain old Gin Blanco. With every lowlife in Ashland gunning for me, I don’t need another problem, but a new one has come to town anyway. Salina might seem like a sweet Southern belle, but she’s really a dangerous enemy whose water elemental magic can go head-to-head with my own Ice and Stone power. Salina also has an intimate history with my lover, Owen Grayson, and now that she’s back, she thinks he’s hers for the taking. Salina’s playing a mysterious game that involves a shady local casino owner with a surprising connection to Owen. But they call me the Spider for a reason. I’m going to untangle her deadly scheme, even if it leaves my love affair hanging by a thread.

We talked and laughed all through dinner. The food was excellent—black pepper-crusted steaks, along with soft, sweet sourdough rolls, crispy, fried green tomatoes, and mashed sweet potatoes generously slathered with honey butter and sprinkled with cinnamon. Our waiter was attentive without intruding, and none of the other patrons paid us much attention. Even though some of the crime bosses like Ron Donaldson and Lorelei Parker were also eating here, they merely glanced in our direction and went back to their meals and dinner companions, content to leave well enough alone—at least for tonight. 
Owen and I were having a lovely evening—until Jonah McAllister walked into the restaurant.
Among those in the underworld, McAllister was probably the person who hated me the most—with good reason. Last year, I’d killed his son, Jake, for trying to rob the Pork Pit and then wanting to rape and murder me. Plus, Jonah used to be Mab’s lawyer, so I’d cut off his meal ticket and a good deal of his power and influence as well when I’d taken her out.
Rumor had it that McAllister was at loose ends these days, looking for a new crime lord or lady to serve, but he was also gunning for me. A few weeks ago, he’d sicced a sadistic vampire named Randall Dekes on me, and the bloodsucker had almost been the death of me before I’d put the vamp in the ground instead.
Needless to say, Jonah was at the top of my to-kill list now. All that was left was for me to decide when and where to take him out—and just how much I wanted to make it hurt. My only regret was that it wasn’t going to be tonight. But I wasn’t ruining my evening with Owen, especially not for the likes of Jonah McAllister.
The maître d’ led McAllister to a table about fifteen feet away from ours. Despite my hatred of him, I had to admit that the lawyer cut a confident, impressive figure in his impeccable black suit, and his thick, perfectly styled coif of silver hair gleamed underneath the restaurant’s muted lights. Nobody in Ashland—male or female—had better hair than McAllister did. 
McAllister sat down and glanced around, checking out who else was here. He tipped his head at Donaldson and Parker, who both politely nodded back at him, even though their smiles were nothing more than mocking sneers. Not too long ago, McAllister had tried to have the two crime bosses and me taken out by a sniper at Mab’s funeral. At least, I was convinced he was the one behind that sneak attack, even if nothing had ever been proven. I was mildly surprised that Donaldson and Parker hadn’t retaliated against McAllister yet. Perhaps they didn’t realize that he was probably behind it. Or perhaps they simply thought he was beneath their notice these days. Either way, the lawyer was still breathing when he shouldn’t have been.
Finally, McAllister spotted Owen and me. He stiffened in his chair, and his mouth puckered down the faintest bit in displeasure, but the rest of his features didn’t move with his lips. Despite the fact that he was in his sixties, McAllister’s face was smoother than mine was at thirty, given his regimen of Air elemental facials. Vanity, thy name was Jonah McAllister.
“Well, well, well,” I murmured. “Look who’s here tonight. I’m glad we had dinner already, or I would have lost my appetite.”
“Ignore him,” Owen said. “Just pretend he’s not sitting there. I don’t want him to ruin our night. I don’t want to give him that satisfaction, and I know you don’t either.”

“Of course not. We both know he’s not worth it.”

Jennifer Estep is a New York Times bestselling author. Jennifer writes the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series for Pocket Books. Widow’s Web, the seventh book, was released on Aug. 21. Visit for excerpts and more information about her books. 

The bad news (because bad news should always be given first - gives the good news the chance to redeem it) is that this contest is unfortunately open to US mailing addresses only - sorry folks!

The good news, however, is that up for grabs is a copy of Widow's Web and, believe me, you do not want to miss out on this little gem! It's got everything; romance, drama, tragedy, back story galore and an ending you have got to read to believe! All you have to do is (1) follow Calliope's Domain (links to do so are located on the sidebar) and (2) comment on this post, including your e-mail address in the message and voila! you're in! Contest will close in exactly one week on Sunday, September 2, and I will announce the winner the very next day, Monday, September 3. Good luck!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

REVIEW: Jennifer Estep's Widow Web

Book: Widow's Web

Author: Jennifer Estep

Series: Elemental Assassins

Publishing stats: August 21st 2012 by Simon & Schuster (USA) (today!!)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Cover Blurb: I used to murder people for money, but lately it’s become more of a survival technique. Once an assassin, always an assassin. So much for being plain old Gin Blanco. With every lowlife in Ashland gunning for me, I don’t need another problem, but a new one has come to town anyway. Salina might seem like a sweet Southern belle, but she’s really a dangerous enemy whose water elemental magic can go head-to-head with my own Ice and Stone power. Salina also has an intimate history with my lover, Owen Grayson, and now that she’s back, she thinks he’s hers for the taking. Salina’s playing a mysterious game that involves a shady local casino owner with a surprising connection to Owen. But they call me the Spider for a reason. I’m going to untangle her deadly scheme, even if it leaves my love affair hanging by a thread.

First line: Breaking into the building was easy.

What I liked: This book unloaded a heck of a lot of backstory, tying together characters in surprising way and fleshing the history and people of Ashland alike. It was a little like being an archaeological dig where for the past six books you know, just know, that there's something more to be found here and then, with this book, a sandstorm strikes and suddenly the revelations are flying a mile a minute. And the best part? Most of the discoveries were Owen-centric. The other element topping my "like" list is the villain. This is the seventh book in the Elemental assassins series and, depending on how you want to do the counting on this, at least the seventh villain Ms. Estep has delivered. Have you ever seen the Adam West Batman series? Almost each and every  villain had a theme and took it to the extreme; everything, from their costume to their henchmen to their crimes followed their theme (case and point: there was Bookworm who had a book theme and left literature based puns as clues, King Tut who had an Ancient Egypt theme and wanted Gotham as his new Thebes, Mad Hatter who had a hat theme and at one point stole hats with their wearer included - the list goes on). Ms. Estep's villains, however, are in a hell of a lot more individualized. With a heroine as powerful of Gin, it can be tough creating a villain that actually comes across as a believable challenge. Not only does Salina drive the back story discovery, she also leaves no doubt she's a contender as well, physically, mentally, magically, even romantically.

What I didn’t like: With this book, my biggest problem regarding these books holds firm. There is a habit in this series for key points - like Gin hearing the whispers from stones, for example, or specific events from past books - to be brought up again and again and again. It's a little like reading watching Murder, She Wrote and having the camera zoom in repeatedly on an otherwise subtle clue. These instances are blended in the narrative better than ever before with this book, but, alas, still persist.

Overall: The ending of this book had me screaming. I couldn't believe Ms. Estep actually went there and had that happen. There was so much to digest, so much emotion to wade through, and then BAM! You get slammed with the one thing you would have sworn going in would never happen. I mean, heck, after the events of the past books, you sort of come to think of elements of sacred. It would be like Ilona Andrews breaking up Kate and Curran or Patricia Briggs killing off Jessie or Jeanine Frost playing the amnesia card or...well, you get the idea. Some things you just do not do to your readers and Jennifer Estep went there, did that, and left us hanging. Otherwise, this was definitely one of my favourite books to date in this series and the next installment, Deadly Sting, cannot release soon enough!

Would I read this author again: Yes - the ending was pretty much a cliffhanger as far as I'm concerned!

My rating: ♥♥♥♥/5

To purchase the book for yourself, you can find it at,,, or The Book Depository. Enjoy!

REVIEW: Ilona Andrews' Gunmetal Magic

Book: Gunmetal Magic

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: The World of Kate Daniels

Publishing stats: July 31st 2012 by Ace (USA)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Cover Blurb: Some people have everything figured out — Andrea Nash is not one of those people. After being kicked out of the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, Andrea's whole existence is in shambles. All she can do is try to put herself back together, something made easier by working for Cutting Edge, a small investigative firm owned by her best friend, Kate Daniels.

When several shapeshifters working for Raphael Medrano — the male alpha of Clan Bouda and Andrea's former lover — die unexpectedly at a dig site, Andrea is assigned to investigate ... and must work with Raphael. As her search for the killer leads her into the secret underbelly of supernatural Atlanta, Andrea knows that dealing with her feelings for Raphael might have to take a backseat to saving the world ...

First line: Thud!

What I liked: I liked the chance to see the world and characters I'd come to know and love over the five books (so far) of the Kate Daniels series from a different perspective. In particular, I loved getting someone else's take on Kate and Curran - both as individuals and as a couple. I also liked how, despite being a spin-off from the Kate books, this book had a tone and voice all its own. There is no mistaking that Andrea is a distinct and markedly different character compared to Kate, with problems, personality, and past that help to distinguish her and guide the story in ways you just know Kate wouldn't go.

What I didn’t like: Huh. You know, I'm not really sure if there was anything I didn't like. I mean, okay, there were a couple of times where I thought Andrea was being an idiot and I'm not sure I agree entirely with where she ended up romantically - or a couple of other events and happenings peppering the plot - but there was no one element or item I can point to and commit to not liking.

Overall: The writing team that is Ilona Andrews can definitely write some damn awesome books. This one in particular tied up a lot of loose ends that wouldn't have been done justice in Kate's perspective. It built upon what Kate had established in the last five books in several ways; adding to the world, deepening the readers' understanding of shapeshifters both in and out of the Pack and developing the characters you've come to know and love in ways you never would have expected. As an extra special treat, included with Gunmetal Magic is the novella, Magic Gifts, originally released to fans on Ilona Andrews' blog back in December. This is a story that starts with a date that leads to Kate and Curran trying to rescue a boy from a fatal, magical artifact. The novella's events are intertwined with those of the novel and even share a scene or two, giving the reader a sense of just how much is truly going on in this world at any given time. Ultimately, a great spin-off that will hopefully set the standard for more to come.

Would I read this author again: Yes - I positively, absolutely adore this author!

My rating: ♥♥♥♥♥/5

To purchase the book for yourself, you can find it at,,, or The Book Depository. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Top 5 Sundays #16 - Best Book Couples!

Good evening, ladies and germs, and welcome to yet another (and on time) edition of Top 5 Sundays presented by Calliope's Domain. This week's post was written way back on Wednesday night - I'll be going out of town again this weekend and I'll be damned if I have a third tardiness strike with this feature. The consequence here is that it's entirely possible that between now and Sunday the other possible topic - The Next TBR Books To Be Read! - may have pulled ahead and won the role of official Top 5 theme. It's a risk but, hey, it's also a compromise - possibly erroneous topic in exchange for timely posting.

Ah, the things I do for my readers.

So, without further ado, I present my Top 5 Best Book Couples!

#5 - Betsy Taylor & Eric Sinclair from MaryJanice Davidson's Betsy Taylor, Undead series
This couple began as the very definition of a love/hate relationship. Specifically, he loved her and she hated him. As the series progressed, however, so Sinclair began to grow on Betsy (like mold, she claims) and by the sixth book vows are said, rings exchanged, brides kissed and knots tied. What I love most, however, is the obvious devotion and love between these two despite how impossible it seems for either one of them to feel that deeply outside themselves.

#4 - Sarah Dearly & Thierry de Bennicoeur from Michelle Rowen's Immortality Bites series
She is a goofy, trouble-attracting, tenacious fledgling vampire. He is a stoic, secretive, virtually expressionless master vampire. These two could not be any more opposite each other. Heck, day and night, white and black, fire and water all have more in common than these two. But irregardless, these two work as a couple; they just click.

#3 - Gin Blanco and Owen Grayson from Jennifer Estep's Elemental Assassin series
Gin's first try at love left her badly burned but her second try seems to be the keeper. Gin is a ruthless assassin with our strict code of ethics. Owen is a businessman who knows that sometimes a little dirt and blood is necessary to get a job done. The understanding and acceptance between these two are beautiful and endearing elements of this romance that really serve to put it on the map and draw readers back again and again to see how it develops and grows with time.

#2 - Elena and Raphael from Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter series
Raphael is a scary powerful archangel; the sort of powerful that would have given Zeus himself nightmares.  Elena is a fledgling angel and vampire hunter born and trained to be an efficient tracker and slayer. Both are severely damaged by the events of their pasts and both bear scars incapable of fully healing for one reason or another. Together they're like a hurricane in love with a tornado; sure there's a power discrepancy, but at the end of the day the danger they represent can't be underestimated and as a team they're unbeatable.

#1 - Kate Daniels and Curran Lennart from Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series
Here we have the daughter of an ancient sometimes god and a lion-shifter ruling over fifteen hundred shapeshifters. Both have questionable sanity and a predilection for violence. And they're together. Their world should be very, very, very afraid. I mean, this is the guy who fought his way through an army of monsters to reclaim his mate and the woman who willingly and knowingly impaled herself on a magical sword to save his life. And at the same time this is the guy who quotes The Princess Bride to her regularly and the girl who, after a long day of monster managing, cooks pie just because she knows he likes it. In a word, these guys are simply adorable.

And - ta dah! - that's all folks! Until next week...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Top 5 Sundays #15 - Worst Fictional Dads

Okay, okay - it goes without saying but, once again, I'm late getting my Top 5 post out. To be fair though I usually write up this post much earlier in the week, as soon as it's clear what way the poll over at this feature's originating blog, Larissa's Bookish Life, is going to go in fact. Unfortunately, this week's poll was tied right up until the last minute and so I went away for the weekend without being able to post this week's Top 5 in a timely manner.

But now I'm back, the tie is broken, the topic is clear and I'm all set to go! So, without further ado, Calliope's Domain presents this week Top 5 list featuring the worst daddies the fictional world has to offer!

#5 - The Tulpa, Joanna's father, Signs of the Zodiac series
Once upon a time, he was a mental construct. Fast forward and he's a big bad who could give Darth Vader a run for his money. And Joanna Archer is his bouncing baby girl all grown up. Since learning of her existence (as his daughter, that is - he dispatched one of his minions to rape her at the tender age of sixteen not knowing of their familial connection), he's alternated between wanting her to join him on the dark side and trying to kill her and, really, he has no preference which way the results go so long as she's removed as an interference to his master plans. Can you say "fatherly affection"?

#4 - Daniel Beckstrom, Allie's father, in Devon Monk's Allie Beckstrom series
When he was alive, he had no qualms about using his magic and power to manipulate his family - namely his wife du jour  and daughter, Allison - into being more manageable, more in line with what he wanted them to be. When Allie realized what he was doing to her, she turned her back on him and his plans for her and struck out on her own, happy to be ignored by Daddy Dearest for years to come. Then he died - killed, to be precise - and took up residence in his daughter's head. I'll admit that he's has some kick ass knowledge to impart and has proved useful at times but when you get right down to it he's still using his daughter as a time share to escape death.

#3 - Jeffrey, Elena's father, in Nalini Singh's Guild Hunters series
Jeffrey wasn't always such an ass, it's true, but following the brutal murders of his wife and two eldest daughters, he shut up his softer emotions and became a man driven solely by his ambition and greed who sees his remaining daughters (from his first marriage at least) as assets to be exploited. First time he's introduced in the books, for instance, is when he summons Elena to his presence to demand she use her newly established acquaintance with an archangel to further his own business interests and, when she refuses, berates her for her lack of family loyalty, never mind that he'd all but disinherited Elena before that moment.

#2 - Max, Cat's father, in Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series
Alright, so the question of whether or not daddy dearest raped Cat's mother has gotten a little murky since the first book but even if Max was innocent in that instance he's more than made up for it since. To date he's hired multiple hit men to try and kill his daughter and when they all failed took a turn at capturing and torturing her himself. Fortunately, like many a villain targeting an urban fantasy heroine, Max made the grave error (See what I did there? Ha!) of forgetting about the love interest.

#1 - Roland, Kate's father, in Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series
Roland is a powerful, ancient man responsible for the creature of vampires and whose very blood is a weapon all its own; he's also a horrible father. Throughout history he's fathered numerous children and without fail every single one of them has tried to kill him, necessitating a bit of preemptive action on Roland's part. Fast forward a century and ten and Roland has a bit of a memory lapse and caves in to his latest concubine's desire to have his child. By the time he remembers why it was he was against having any more children, his concubine is already pregnant. So he tries to kill her and things just go downhill rather spectacularly from there...

And there you have it! Tune in next week for yet  another Top 5 list - hopefully on time! Kiss, kiss!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Interview: Kasey Mackenzie!

Today I have another special treat in store for all you lovely readers - an interview with paranormal author, Kasey Mackenzie. Scribbler of the Shades of Fury series, Ms. Mackenzie has a wonderful talent for blending together the world's mythologies - both past and present - with delightfully entertaining adventure and just a dash of romance. Her most recent book - Blackhearted Betrayal - is just over a month on the shelves and if you haven't delved into this world before, I definitely recommend doing so posthaste. I mean, heck, her main character is a Fury, for crying out loud, as in of Greek mythology fame Fury. And that's note even mentioning her intricate world building. Not that I'm a fan or anything...Yep, I ish subtle, aren't I just?

So, without further ado, I give you Calliope's Domain's interview with the one, the only Kasey Mackenzie! Cue applause here.

Calliope: The basics are always a fun place to start so, do tell, who exactly is Kasey Mackenzie? 
Kasey Mackenzie: Well, THAT'S a loaded question. The short answer is I'm just a science fiction and fantasy geek who also loves romance, along with computer games, reading, and writing. And we don't have time for the long answer. Plus, I'd have to plead the Fifth anyway.  

Calliope: Tease.
Kasey Mackenzie: I like to think that the best people (and writers) are!

Calliope: Oh, no doubt. You have this delightful tendency to somehow tie up your story and still have at least three questions hanging like loose threads!
Kasey Mackenzie: The better to hook you with, my dear!

Calliope: This, of course, brings us to a rather important question - what exactly ARE your stories?
Kasey Mackenzie: You mean, existentially speaking? Because wow, I don't tend to consciously think about things like that. I pretty much just come up with characters I find interesting, put them into a whole lot of trouble, and watch them work their ways around all the mayhem I've thrown their way. Though I guess, at the heart of it, my stories are good vs. evil, where "good" and "evil" aren't always black and white. I mean, most villains rarely see themselves as "evil" or the "bad guys" anyway.

Calliope: This is me refraining from making a shades of grey pun. I'd like credit for that.
Kasey Mackenzie: Haha, honestly I haven't read that one yet so I can't make puns or anything.
Oh wait, you're not talking about 50 Shades of Gray. Hee.

Calliope: Nope - inferring, maybe, but more by coincidence. More on point though, how does your
story ethos come into play with your Shades of Fury series?
Kasey Mackenzie: I think that my fundamental belief is that people have to fight for what they believe in. Even if that means sacrificing things that mean a lot to them, or pushing through a lot of pain to get through to the other side of a dark place.
We certainly see Riss coming to this conclusion as the books proceed; especially in Blackhearted Betrayal.

Calliope: Blackhearted Betrayal is your most recent release, barely on the shelves a month now. What can you tell us about it?
Kasey Mackenzie: I can tell you that it was an absolute bear to write! Oh, wait, you mean concrete details? Well, those who love Riss's snake tattoos, Nemesis and Nike, will be excited to see the play a much bigger role this time out. I also think that those who enjoy my plot twists will be especially happy with this book. Riss starts out heading to the Palladium to clean house in the Sisterhood, only to find out that their problems are way bigger and actually involve the gods and goddesses, as well.
"them play" not "the play" (obviously)
Stupid typos!

Calliope: LOL, the Eleventh Plague, hands down
Will there be more Fury books to come?

Kasey Mackenzie: That is the million-dollar question, it seems. My plan is absolutely for there to be more Fury books; unfortunately I don't yet have any logistical details to share right now. I'm sort of in a holding pattern as far as that goes. But I definitely foresee way more stories for these characters and this world, so hopefully readers can be patient while I work out the details.

Calliope: Considering Blackhearted's ending, it would be just plain cruel - one of those pesky dangling threads from the first book looks this close || to tying up!
Kasey Mackenzie: I would never willingly leave any embarrassingly dangling plot threads out to torment readers! Unfortunately, though, I also have little control over certain aspects of the publishing industry. I absolutely adore working with my publishing house, Ace--I'm just not 100% sure whether the next book they publish from me will be a Fury book or something different. Never fear, however--there WILL be more Fury books one way or another.
I would never willingly leave any embarrassingly dangling plot threads out to torment readers! Unfortunately, though, I also have little control over certain aspects of the publishing industry. I absolutely adore working with my publishing house, Ace--I'm just not 100% sure whether the next book they publish from me will be a Fury book or something different. Never fear, however--there WILL be more Fury books one way or another.  :)
Well, you know, barring unforeseen disasters that take me out of writing commission - I better put that out there before the Universe decides to smite me! 

Calliope: If ever there was a time to knock wood! With there be so much uncertainty regarding your next publication, what are you working on right now?
Kasey Mackenzie: I have several writing irons in the fire, so to speak. I just submitted a book dealing with humans who wield Elemental magic and must form magical partnerships called Quatrains in order to channel that magic without going insane. It's a more romance-ish urban fantasy than the Shades of Fury books. I have a dystopian project I'm poking at that features the aftermath of a world decimated by cancers after scientists unlock the aging gene and create a subset of "Ageless" people who now must re-sow their seeds among the "Aging" populace so that those folks don't completely die off to the cancers. And I have a bunch of other UF projects at various stages of completion I'm poking at, depending on what my editor asks to see.  :)
These things always sound way cooler in my head than summed up in a couple sentences.

Calliope: One thing I noticed in your Shades of Fury books, you have one heck of a knack for world building and weaving together our world with that of your imagination. Is there any/very much research involved in your processed?
Kasey Mackenzie: I do consider world-building one of my own personal strengths, and that probably has a lot to do with the fact I have always loved mythology and other cultures. I read across a wide variety of myths and religions and that breadth of reading always seems to work its way into my stories, whether consciously or unconsciously. I do enough research to understand the basics of whatever real culture/myth/whatever I'm including in the story, but not so much that it bogs me down in the details since I always put my own spin on it. That's one of the great things about writing fiction - you get to do a certain amount of "hand-waving" in urban fantasy, especially, as long as you make your own world-building rules internally consistent. Or do a damned good job of explaining WHY something turns out NOT to be the way you first established it.

Calliope: Has writing always been a passion of yours? Where did it come from?
Kasey Mackenzie: It has - I've been a voracious reader since about the age of 3; writing since the third grade or so, I'd say. I remember telling stories before that - but that's about the age I started writing them down. And darned if I can tell you where it came from. The story fairy?

Calliope: What is it about mythology that attracted you? In your Shades of Fury you have pretty much have all of the heavens and underworlds thrown in.
Kasey Mackenzie: What was it that made humans create myths to explain how the world works in the first place? I think whatever created that drive in them created the interest in me.  :)  Which I guess is to say, I don't know how to explain it. I have always loved fairy tales and magical stories and that probably has a lot to do with it. As for my Shades of Fury world, I like to explore the concept that no culture/religion is actually "wrong."

Calliope: What do you consider the hardest part of writing?
Kasey Mackenzie: Hmm. I used to consider revisions the hardest part of writing, until I mastered the art of revising. Now I look forward to the opportunity to improve the basic bones of the story and polish everything up as shiny as I can get it. The middles of stories are probably the hardest part for me. The beginnings aren't too terrible, because everything seems all new and fresh. And once you read about the last third of the story, things are on a role and it seems pretty easy to rush through to tie everything up in the end. The middle third though - sometimes that can feel tricky because it seems like you still have so far to go.
"read about the last third" should say "reach about the last third" oy.
role = roll...oh noez I'm making my inner editor cry.

Calliope: Eleventh plague. Seriously. I so very, very much agree on the revision front. *shudder* Definitely not fun out of the gate.
In terms of your Shades of Fury series, what element do you think is the hardest to get right? The romance? The dialogue? The description?

Kasey Mackenzie: Hmm. I think that the romance itself (as in the relationship) isn't that hard for me, but actual, physical love scenes (i.e. the sexx0r)...I am much better at reading those than writing them. That's something I'm working on.  =)

Calliope: And this brings us to...drum roll please...the LAST QUESTION! In theory. It probably won't be. Because I have commitment issues.
What are you reading right now?
Or what did you read last? Whichever applies.

Kasey Mackenzie: An important question! I am broke so I am re-reading the first 12 books of the Stephanie Plum series on my iPhone.  :)

Calliope: Did you see the Katherine Hiegl movie?

Kasey Mackenzie: I did - that's what prompted me to want to re-read the series!  :)

Calliope: So it stacks up well? Or, you know, as well as a movie can to a book...when Peter Jackson isn't involved.
Kasey Mackenzie: I actually thought they did a pretty good job. I was kinda iffy on Katherine Heigl in the role when I first heard she had been cast, but I think she pretty much nailed Stephanie dead-on.
Debbie Reynolds was a HOOT as Grandma Mazur.
And Daniel Sunjata as Ranger...I have a new one to put on my "yum" list!

Calliope: LOL, got to love it when Hollywood gets it right.
You have a Dream Cast for Shades of Fury?

Kasey Mackenzie: Hmm, Kristin Bell a few inches taller as Riss, Oded Fehr as Scott, Gabrielle Union as Trinity, and I'm not sure on any others...haha
I actually envision Riss in mortal form as Kristin Bell and Oded Fehr from The Mummy as Scott.  :)
Oh, wait! Eva Mendes is Harper. Haha almost forgot that one.

Calliope: So, what you're saying here is that you write a series where Veronica Mars has super powers and a red-headed Ardeth Bay goes wolfy.
Kasey Mackenzie: Pretty much!  :)
Calliope: Wicked.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Top 5 Sundays #14 - Super Powers You'd Love to Have for a Day

Confession time: when I was little, my sister and I would spend a great deal of time playing in imaginary worlds, a great number of which we'd borrow from television, movies, and books. We were MIB agents. We were X-Men. We were monster hunters. We were witches. The list goes on. My point, however, is that I've had quite a bit of experience wishing for super powers of one kind or another. Needless to say, therefore, that my biggest problem with this week's Top 5 was narrowing it down to only five; especially five I would want to borrow for just one day!

But enough of my blathering. Without further ado, I give you Calliope's Domain's Top 5 Super Powers You'd Love to Have for a Day!

#5 - Trance's shields and orbs - Kelly Meding's Metawars series
Once upon a time, Theresa West could instill thoughts and emotions into another person's mind through eye contact. Then super powers the world over disappeared. Fast forward fifteen years and without warning super powers return. Suddenly, Theresa's powers get one hell of an upgrade; in lieu of her former trance-like powers, she finds herself able to create protective force fields and conjure explosive energy orbs to her hand. Sure, it took some time to get a handle on these new powers, but, dang, do they prove useful, especially for a superhero!

#4 - Mercy's coyote shifting - Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series
Unlike her werewolf friends who take fifteen minutes of painful contortion to shift shape, Mercy's shift to coyote form is painless and instantaneous. Not to mention that once shifted, coyote Mercy has the speed and agility going on that even the wolves can't compete with. Plus, plus, and, and this lovely power also comes complete with a bunch of frills - like immunity to certain magics and the ability to chat with the dead - that even Mercy is just beginning to discover. Heck, even the vamps want to give her a wide berth - at least since killing her isn't an option. What's not to love about that?

#3 - Kate's power words - Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series
 With one word (mind you, not the same word), Kate can slice and dice undead giants, destroy indestructible swords, and bring whole armies to their knees. Admittedly, acquiring said words isn't exactly a cakewalk and using them can be more than a little draining...but there's something to be said for a one word take down that goes literal on the take down part.

#2 - Charley's Reaper abilities - Darynda Jones' Charley Davidson Series
She sees dead people. She's a portal to Heaven. She has more gifts she's only just beginning to discover and understand. She's like the Melinda Gordon (Ghost Whisperer) meets Dawn Summers  (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) with the son of Satan as her very own personal bodyguard. It's one hell of a package deal - pun intended.

#1 - Elena's Hunter Born/Angel Made gifts - Nalini Singh's Guild Hunters series
She can fly, which all on its own is awesome enough. Add to that her accelerated healing, heightened senses and strong psychic shields and Elena is practically the Jean Grey of her world; uniquely powerful but with the compassion necessary to keep her on the side of more ways than one.

And, as Porky says, th-th-th-that's all, folks!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

REVIEW: Jeaniene Frost's One Grave at a Time

Book: One Grave at a Time 

Author: Jeaniene Frost  

Series: Night Huntress

Publishing stats:  August 30th 2011 by Avon Books (USA)

Genre: Urban Fantasy 

Cover Blurb: How do you send a killer to the grave when he’s already dead?

Having narrowly averted an (under)World War, Cat Crawfield wants nothing more than a little downtime with her vampire husband, Bones. Unfortunately, her gift from New Orleans’s voodoo queen just keeps on giving—leading to a personal favor that sends them into battle once again, this time against a villainous spirit.

Centuries ago, Heinrich Kramer was a witch hunter. Now, every All Hallows Eve, he takes physical form to torture innocent women before burning them alive. This year, however, a determined Cat and Bones must risk all to send him back to the other side of eternity—forever. But one wrong step and they’ll be digging their own graves.

First line: “Donald Bartholomew Williams, get your ass back here now!”

What I liked: I liked how Ms. Frost gave history her own vampiric twist. This wasn't the first time of course - what with Vlad the Impaler running about in modern times and Joan of Arc having been a dhampir, to name but a few instances - and I very much doubt it will be the last. What I love about this take, however, was that it took a real and true villain and served him up the just desserts reality denied him.

What I didn’t like: The past books in this series must have spoiled me because there wasn't nearly enough of Cat interacting with established characters. I mean, sure all the characters we know and love - Bones, Spade, Ian, Justina, Denise, Tate - were in the book but they were more equitable to furniture that characters. I mean, yes, the characters were present but their contribution to the plot was minimal; they came, they did their part, they moved off screen. Even Bones, who was with Cat almost constantly, didn't seem to be as involved as usual. The mission took center stage for this book, and in my opinion it was in detriment to the characters.

Overall: I liked this book and am a big fan of Ms. Frost's work. That being said, this was not my favourite of her books. In fact, if I'm too be honest, it was a disappointment in comparison to past Cat and Bones books. Don't get me wrong, on its own, it's a terrific book. But we're talking about the series with the infamous Chapter 32 here - there are standards! I loved the mission - stopping a ghost who was a real monster in life and who had only gotten worse in death was definitely a unique take on your traditional ghost story. I also loved the subplots that went on concurrent to the mission. In particular, I enjoyed the introduction of Don's replacement, Madigan; an ambitious man with several hidden agendas at play, at least one of which having something to do with Cat. I can definitely say I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays out in books to come. No, like I said before, my main problem with this book was the lack of participation from characters besides Cat and the newbies. Taken as a stand alone, however, this book was most certainly a worthwhile and engaging read.

Would I read this author again:
Yes - I love Cat and Bones!

My rating: ♥♥♥/5

To purchase the book for yourself, you can find it at,,, or The Book Depository. Enjoy!

Top 5 Sundays #13 - Fictional Worlds You'd Love to Live in!

Okey dokey, boils and ghouls, this week's Top 5 Sunday post is a little late. Okay, it's a lot late and technically it's last week's Top 5 but let's all just try to ignore that little detail, alright?

Now, this week's post is a truly special one - it coincides with the 100th, yup, ONE HUNDREDTH, such post over at Larissa's Bookish Life, the originator of this feature. Congrats, Lar! After just 13 posts I can totally understand the work the work that goes into them - and that's minus the headaches of coming up with the themes each week! Way to go, Ship #1!

Regarding this week's post, it's a hard one. Sure there are a lot of characters I'd love to trade places with but that doesn't necessarily mean I'd want to vacation - let alone live - in their world. I mean, heck, look at Karen Marie Moning's Fever series. Between the bookstore, Barrons, and the cars, I wouldn't mind having Mac's life, especially knowing that she survives her experiences as Priya and everything else her world throws at her. Others in her world, however, are no where near that lucky. In fact, when the walls come down, most of the Earth's population found itself collateral damage. So, yes, nice place to read about, great characters I wouldn't mind swapping places with, but not so great a substitute for the world as is, thanks but no thanks.

Another thing to bear in mind is that when it comes to the worlds of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, there tend to be two kinds: the worlds that know about the things that go bump and the worlds still in the dark about the vamps and weres and witches, oh my! If I'm going to be living in these worlds then I most certainly, most definitely, want to be in the know regards of what the rest of the world knows. I'm not saying I'd necessarily want to be one of the bumpers, but, seriously, what's the point of world swapping if you're not even going to know about the OMFG huge difference that just went on?

So, that being said, without further ado, I give you Calliope's Domain (belated) Top 5  Fictional Worlds I'd Love to Live in!

#5 - The World of Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews
Okay, so the magic's a little wild and unpredictable but even still this is one heck of a world. Vampires are the mindless, vicious undead piloted by necromancers. Shapeshifters are the result of a virus and live in clans overseen by one hell of a hunky alpha. Magic based crimes and problems can be investigated and dealt with by any one of a number agency, including The Order of Merciful Aid featuring knights and the mercenary run Guild. Sure, it has its problems - what fantasy world doesn't? - but by and large its interesting, unique blend of the magic and mundane. Literally.

#4 - The World of Jane Jameson by Molly Harper
Now this world has it all - vampires, werewolves, ghosts, legal rights - what's not to love? Plus, when you get Turned into a vamp, the (not even remotely) friendly neighbourhood vampire council sends you over a Welcome to your Undeath basket full of all your basic vampire starter needs. The fact that things will probably go horribly wrong soon afterwards is, well, to be expected. On the bright side, if Jane can survive, anyone can!

#3 - The World of the Metawars by Kelly Meding
Admittedly, this world gets off to a rocky start mostly on account of all the collateral damage inflicted during battle after battle of superheroes vs. supervillains. Fast forward fifteen powerless years though and the world has itself something of a reboot. Now superheroes are back and once more saving the day and, truly, who wouldn't want to live in a world so much like the one read about in comics? I mean...have you ever seen an ugly superhero? Exactly. Saving the world makes for hunky business.

#2 - The World of Sarah Dearly by Michelle Rowen
Picture a world just like ours except with vampires thrown into the mix. And by "vampire" think immortal, blood drinking undead human with super speed, super strength, super senses, and a couple other super gifts tossed into the mix. No reflections though. What I love about this world is that it has all the comforts of home tweaked with a supernatural slant. Heck, it's even set in Toronto.

#1 - The World of Kitty Katt-Martini by Gini Koch
This is a world with a secret agency run by alien who, to quote Kitty, "come from Planet Hunk, sent to Earth to protect and serve. And make the ladies happy." Yes, it's dangerous, with a varied mix of political intrigue, intergalactic subterfuge, and homegrown terrorism putting one's survival on the line over and over again. But it has hunky aliens. And an adorable super consciousness. And they use alligators as attack dogs at least once. Believe me when I say that if I could apply for employment at Centurion Division and/or its embassy, I would. Oh, how I would. Well, provided they offered adequate health insurance that is.

And there you have it! This (by which I of course mean "last") week's Top 5! Stay tuned...later today or tomorrow, LOL, for the next feature!