Tag Archives: Kate Daniels

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Contests, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of January 12, 2014

12 Jan

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Nalini Singh‘s Psy-Changeling series novella, Whisper of Sin, (previously published in the anthology Burning Up) will have its stand-alone release on February 25th and the cover is gorgeous. While Amazon isn’t yet showing this beauty on the corresponding pre-order page, that shouldn’t stop you from placing your order (hell, I have this story in the anthology and I’m still tempted) since it’s only $2.99 and Nalini Singh doesn’t believe in a short novella, a satisfying situation for her readers. This particular book, which is a prequel to the first book in the series, Slave to Sensation, features the DarkRiver leopard changeling Emmett, who is helping his pack repel an invasion of their San Francisco territory when a beautiful human Ria gets caught in the middle. Emmett quickly realizes the only thing more important than keeping strangers from encroaching is protecting the one woman who could mean everything to him.

Cynthia Eden released the first book in her Night Watch series this past week, Eternal Hunter, in paperback form via Kensington Press, and if the excerpts are any indication, this is another win for an author who already made this series successful in ebook form. When an assistant DA attempting to keep her “other” heritage a secret crosses paths with a shifter bounty hunter tracking the “other” being stalking her, well…it doesn’t take any paranormal ability to figure out that her secret is going to come out and the shifter may have found his mate. With Eden’s ability to pen a great romantic suspense novel while giving paranormal readers all the world-building they can handle, this release is bound to bring an excellent series to paper book readers.

Tracey Devlynwhose Nexus series combines amazing historical romance AND romantic suspense, just released the latest title in that series this week, Latymer. As I mentioned in a previous Sunday Reflections post, this volume represents Devlyn’s personal journey to continue her series without her previous publisher of Sourcebooks, and I’m damn glad she decided to continue it on her own. The snippet she included in her newsletter (check out her website to subscribe to it) shows us our hero is a lord with a son he loves determined to ferret out a spy, something he should be quite good at considering his previous work for the Foreign Office. At the mercy of both French and British authorities who want him dead, I have a feeling that Nexus is going to have to help Lord Latymer and his son, and I’m guessing it might be a female spy (perhaps one he knew before?) who is going to lend a hand. Cannot wait!

Jill Shalvis is beloved by contemporary romance fans everywhere, particularly for her Lucky Harbor series. The next full-length novel, Once in a Lifetime, will be published on February 18, 2014 (oh, ho! Just in time for Valentine’s Day) and will star the tortured soldier Ben McDaniel and the “trouble with a capital T” Aubrey Wellington who is trying to set her life on the right path with Ben the perfect person to help. Okay “helping” him might involve a bit more with such a hot, brooding guy but making amends involves getting a little dirty, doesn’t it? Pre-order it so you are guaranteed delivery on the 18th.

dashofperilAfter wowing me with her Love Undercover series (I’m still reeling from Getting Rowdy), I’m more than looking forward to Lori Foster‘s next book in the series, Dash of Peril, starring one uptight Lieutenant (who looks pretty hot when dressed like a hooker) and the construction business owner who is happy to ignore that she’s his cop brother’s boss. When he finds out that she’s willing to use herself as bait to catch an abduction ring in the act, nothing will do than becoming her unofficial partner, and let the heat between them break loose. With Foster’s ability to write reformed manwhores and strong women who can hold their own, I’m salivating for the release date (March 25th for the paperback version and April 1st for the ebook) to arrive already.

Fans of Jayne Ann Krentz particular brand of strong characters and dark, suspenseful situations will want to make sure that they pick up her latest which just came out this past week, River Road, about a young girl saved from drugging and date rape by a young man who never tells her what he did, just accepting her resentment of his embarrassing her in front of her peers. When she returns to their town after the death of her aunt, a gorgeous woman grown, our hero is not going to let her slip away a second time, particularly after it’s become clear that someone has her in their sights with harm in mind. Keep in mind that Krentz’s popularity and talent warrant her books coming out in hardcover, with a higher price for even the Kindle version as a result (just under $11), but fans feel she’s worth it!

Contests and Giveaways

The resource all romance readers couldn’t live without, RT Book Reviews, is having a great contest to not only win one of three copies of the latest Lorraine Heath novella and the final installment of her Scoundrels of St. James series, The Last Wicked Scoundrel, but also win a chance to get not only this ebook but a bundle which includes five other Avon historical romance ebooks as well.

Audiobook lovers (hey there, commuters!) who adore fantasy will be thrilled to see that the best-selling writer duo of Ilona Andrews has given their blog fans a heads up that the AudioGals blog is having an amazing giveaway of either the first five audiobooks in the Kate Daniels series for the first three books of Andrew’s amazing Edge series. Don’t delay in entering however, as this contest ends tomorrow, January 14th at midnight. Romance readers interested in dipping a toe in the audiobook world (think long car trips, gardening, needlework and cooking as good activities for audiobook playing) should definitely check out AudioGals’ fantastic infographic for romance readers highlighting the best audiobooks in various romance subgenres to help direct them to the best purchases.

Historical romance writer Nicola Cornick is hosting a great giveaway on her website where simply by reading the excerpt from her latest Brides of Fortune novel, The Lady and the Laird, you can answer a question and gain an entry into winning the first three books of the series. These gorgeous covers are matched by the well-rated prose inside, so be sure to check them out, whether or not you win.

Fun Stuff

Those clever editors at Harlequin, knowing that the majority of self-respecting romance readers love Jane Austen, have cleverly put together their titles that are inspired by Jane’s writing. Whether it’s a Presents novel with a prideful hero or an anthology of paranormal tales based on Austen’s stories, you’ll enjoy thinking about Jane and her characters in a new light.

Any reading enthusiast who is expecting a baby should be dressing their newborn in a onesie that will hint at their personality and future reading ability, so the wonderful people at BookRiot have put together the best list of reading-themed onesies I’ve ever seen. Be sure to do your baby shower shopping with this terrific resource in mind! (This cutie is sporting the Shakespeare quote, “And, though she be but little, she is fierce.”)

Great Deals

If you’ve thought about trying Krystal Shannan‘s Vegas Mates series but not yet indulged, you should know that the first novella, Chasing Sam, is currently free on Amazon right now, so this could be a good time to try it out. Starring a shifter female who has been steadily denying her well-born heritage in order to become a doctor and help the less-fortunate and a long-lived military hero who had resigned himself to never finding a mate, these two have more than enough obstacles to keep them apart…if they can’t find the courage to fight for their future. If you do enjoy this story, be aware that the next novella in the series, Saving Margaret, just came out on January 8th and features a bear who finds himself of having to convince a sexy wolf female that interspecies matings can definitely work.

It might be after the holidays, but here’s a belated present for you. Erotic historical romance writers Kate Pearce and Samantha Kane have their holiday duology, Gift of Desire, currently free on Amazon. With Kane’s story a hot menage about two recently released prisoners of war returning to the woman one of them married and the other always wanted and Pearce’s short about a disfigured widow and the man who has never forgotten her, you’ll be chasing away your personal polar vortex in no time flat.

Chasing Charlie, the first book in the Texas Two-Step series by Kathy Carmichael, is currently on sale for $.99 on Amazon, and while I like a good Western romance, I am a total sucker for not just the fake engagement, but one where the heroine is the town librarian and she ends up tied to the town bad boy who is just trying to make his mother happy so she’ll feel comfortable remarrying. Naturally, our couple ends up feeling more than just polite interest in one another even though their pairing seems unlikely, so take a look.

Patricia Burroughs is getting a lot of buzz on the blog-o-sphere for her Western historical romance, La Desperada, about a proper Victorian woman from Philadelphia who threatens a man jailed for a revenge killing into taking her to safety, with both of them unknowingly running from a mutual enemy, a sheriff bent on his own brand of retribution. Almost 500 pages of great writing and it’s only $.99 in the month of January, so pick it up now and see what all the fuss is about.

Kristen Ashley‘s Dream Man series is one of the highest rated book series I’ve seen on Goodreads (with almost 100,000 ratings with each novel usually above a 4.5 star rating – those are not numbers to sneeze at). I’ve got Law Man on my to-read pile, but now I get to add Mystery Man, the first book in the series, which is now discounted to only $.99, perfect for people who want to take a taste. Featuring a DEA agent who falls for the woman he’s investigating (her ex-husband has a drug ring) in the course of their contrived relationship, readers absolutely rave about both the hero and heroine as well as the exes who provide fantastic villains for this more mature couple.

Happy reading this week!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, December 29, 2013

29 Dec

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Courtney Milan fans have probably already purchased The Countess Conspiracy, the third book of her The Brothers Sinister series, but in case you haven’t, this full-length novel is only $3.99 on Amazon since its publication on December 17th, and hopefully will stay at that great price for a little while. With a hero who is a brilliant rake promoting scandalous revolutionary scientific theories and the heroine the woman to whom those theories actually belong, this is bound to have plenty of conflict and tension (sexual and otherwise).

Fans of Karen Marie Moning‘s urban fantasy Fever series should be aware that the seventh book in the series, Burned, is available for pre-order with a July 22, 2014 publication date. Because of the enormous popularity of these books, be warned that even the ebook price is steep at almost $12 (but that’s still a bargain since the paper version will be in hardcover format).

Yet another summer release to plan for re: beach reading is the next Kate Daniels book by the powerhouse writing team of Ilona Andrews. Magic Breaks will be available as of July 29th, so check your vacation dates to make sure you are somewhere you can get a copy at midnight to begin reading the next installment of this amazing urban fantasy series.

Also falling under the category of “series books I will cheerfully pay full price for” is Darynda Jones‘ next book in her Charley Davidson series, Sixth Grave on the Edge, which will be released May 20th. This urban fantasy series starring the hilarious and irrepressible Charley – who happens to be an irreverent grim reaper helping departed souls get to the other side – and her love interest, Reyes (the sexiest Son of Satan you’re ever going to meet), is always alternately funny, hot, and heart-stopping. I’ll be posting an entry on the whole series in honor of Darynda doing a workshop for my local Romance Writers Association chapter (woo-hooo PLRW Chapter!) For fans who would like an autographed copy of the hardcover version, Darynda has announced on her website that she has made arrangements through Author, Author, so if you order before the end of April, you can get the autographed book right around the release date.

Cat Johnson has quite a following for her hot military romance series, Red, Hot & Blue, and it was wonderful to read recently on the Samhain publishing blog that the next book, The Commander, features the leader of all those sexy, Special Ops guys we’ve seen find their HEA. Not only is this older hero in his forties, but he finds love with a sexy, older woman who is fifty and a single mom. It’s about time! The Commander comes out on New Year’s Eve and won’t take any prior knowledge of the series to enjoy it (she always writes these so you can pick up any one of them with no difficulty).

Gena Showalter recently blogged about her uber-enthusiastic reaction to the cover reveal of her latest Angels of the Dark paranormal series and – holy crap! – we can see why she loves it. Burning Dawn is now available for pre-order with a release date of April 29, 2014 and please note that the paperback version is significantly less right now than the Kindle version if you are open to the format you receive it. This series features violent angels on the brink of darkness who each find a woman who helps them find meaning in their fight for goodness and light – so good!

Harlequin’s partnership with Cosmo has produced their high quality (and successful) Red Hot Reads line and fans are eating up these steamy contemporary romances. To add to the success of such incredible stories like Cake by Lauren Dane and Ripped by Sarah Morgan, we can now add category romance superhero writer Heidi Rice whose story, 10 Ways to Handle the Best Man debuts on January 14th so pre-order now. Since it’s Rice, you’ll get a guarantee that you’ll want to be one getting handled by her hero, I promise!

Contests & Giveaways

If you’ve been intrigued by Harlequin Presents multi-author Sicily’s Coretti Dynasty series, you’ll definitely want to enter their contest to win all the books in this extremely successful series featuring a wealthy Sicilian family with more than the usual amount of scandal and vendettas to go around. Just leave a comment on the post about what you are most looking forward to in 2014 before January 6th for a chance to win!

The always wonderful blog TheBookPushers is clearing their shelves and offering a giveaway for readers who might be interested in some of their themed bundles of books. From contemporary to historical, erotic to New Adult, there’s something here for everyone, so comment before January 1st on what bundles look interesting to you to see if you could win!

Fun Stuff

Nalini Singh Psy-Changeling fans should be sure to take a look at her website in order to enjoy her bonus stories for Heart of Obsidian, which are now up on her story page. Keep in mind that newsletter subscribers got an incredible Christmas present from Singh this year, a bonus epilogue to her amazing novella, Declaration of Courtship, starring the hunky dominant SnowDancer lieutenant Cooper and his shy mechanic Grace, now mated and going to the celebration of their alpha’s mating (so it’s post Kiss of Snow). Such a great epilogue (be warned, you’ll go out and re-read Declaration of Courtship again – I did!)

Speaking of great presents, Ilona Andrews have put out a new, fully re-edited version of their Curran stories (specific scenes from the Kate Daniels novels told from the hero, Curran’s perspective) and are offering it to fans for free on their website for a time, available in all ebook formats, for devoted fans. No new stories as of yet, but it makes for a great read.

It’s not too late to give something to the reader in your life and what do they want more than uninterrupted reading time? Trust me, nothing. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books have a fantastic downloadable free gift certificate that you can make out for the reader in your life offering them a certain number of minutes (30, 60, and 90 minutes are the options and remember you can give a ton of the certificates to add up to whatever amount you want) devoted solely to their reading, all in a very attractive certificate form bound to appeal to romance readers. Show your romance reader how much you love them by offering them this particular gift for the New Year!

Business Insider magazine has made a wonderful interactive map of the U.S. featuring the most famous book set in that particular state, and it’s gotten a few of them on my to-read list for sure! Check out your favorite states while pondering what people who’ve never visited are gleaning about your home.

Harry Potter fans have always been annoyed that you can’t easily buy ebook versions of the series via retailers due to J. K. Rowling’s restrictions on them, but now Amazon users can purchase the whole series via the author’s Pottermore business and have them delivered in the proper file format right to their Kindle! For $57.54, this is actually a great deal for all seven books (over 4000 pages of Harry). With almost every possible format (I didn’t see iBooks, but pretty much every other reading app is an option), once purchased you can send your books to any and all your reading devices. Fans of the series who find the hardcover books too heavy for their bubble baths (What? It’s just me?) may want to indulge in the super cool collector’s paperback version which forms a fantastic image designed by artist Kazu Kibuishi when placed together.

Great Deals

Virna DePaul’s excellent Bedding the Wrong Brother novel is currently available for only $.99 and fans of friends to lovers have a lot to love in this story about a young woman who has been good friends to one twin brother while crushing on the other. After an ex tells her that she’s tepid in the sack, she asks her friend to help her hone her technique but ends up with her crush instead – a man who has interpreted her easy way with his brother and stiffness with him as disinterest. He decides to seize the opportunity to “tutor” her in the ways of the bedroom while convincing her she’s everything he could ever want, but her feelings of inadequacy when combined with her long-standing feelings for him might get in the way of any happiness they could have.

If you expected Santa to bring you a Kindle and his lines got crossed, you should know that Amazon is offering some pretty good deals where you can order one, paying only 25% of the cost up front (and they send it to you!) with reasonable installments spread out over the next year. I’ve also seen some great deals on the 2nd generation iPads and iPad Minis (Apple is on the third generation as of the latest release) on QVC and HSN, with installment plans and deep discounts available as well. If you’re looking for some basic apps, video and a great ereader, one of these deals might be useful. For romance readers, so many books are only available in ebook form, or the cost is so much lower, I definitely feel that purchasing a device could potentially pay for itself over a couple years for an avid reader. Just a thought!

Royal watchers and fans of movies like The Prince and Me are loving Megan Mulry’s Unruly Royals series, especially when you can get the books at a great discount. Right now, If the Shoe Fits, the second book in the series is on discount for only $2.99 for the ebook edition. When a modern playboy Earl becomes fascinated by a no-nonsense American not interested in his fast lifestyle, our hero finds himself having to dig deep for meaning in the hope of charming a woman who just might be everything to him, if he can get her to see beyond his reputation.

Happy reading and have a book-filled New Year in 2014!

Ilona Andrews’ Clean Sweep Adds Fantastic Characters and an Intriguing New World to the Urban Fantasy Genre

6 Dec

Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #1) by Ilona Andrews (NYLA, December 2, 2013)

Anyone who adores the Kate Daniels series or the glorious Edge books understands the phenomenon that is Ilona Andrews. A spectacular husband-and-wife author team, Ilona Andrews has a definite corner on the urban fantasy market and their latest publication, Clean Sweep, only adds to their dominance of this market.

In true urban fantasy style, Andrews begins Clean Sweep by deceptively giving us the appearance of normalcy only to strip back the layers to show us how wrong we are in our assumptions. Dina Demille runs the Gertrude Hunt Bed-and-Breakfast, a beautiful Victorian home located in a sweet suburban town in Texas. Unfortunately for her, something has been brutally killing her neighbor’s dogs in the Avalon Subdivision, and while the people around her speculate that its a mountain lion, Dina knows all too well that it’s not.

You see, it’s slowly revealed that Dina is not your normal innkeeper, or rather she’s an Innkeeper with a capital “I”, a vocation held by people with magic who bond with an inn, a place of sanctuary for all types of creatures with the understanding that the location (and the innkeepers) are neutral and can therefore offer safety. Dina’s missing parents were also Innkeepers before their mysterious disappearance and while she’s been channelling her energies into revitalizing her previously abandoned inn, she’s never stopped looking for them.

But this deadly magical creature on the loose puts her neighbors into danger, and at first Dina is highly suspicious that one of them, Sean Evans, a werewolf may be involved, but it’s a supposition she quickly discards. While he tries to deflect Dina’s imperative to figure out what’s going on in his territory (not wanting to admit that he’s a werewolf to a strange human), he quickly realizes that she’s nothing to be trifled with. That he’s never heard of or met an Innkeeper is part of his confusion, but this ex-military man is deadly and very, very territorial. He’s not thrilled about a mysterious creature on the loose and he’s definitely unhappy that Dina feels she has the right to engage it. It seems he’s feeling a territorial about her as well.

The seamless blending of science fiction elements into this urban fantasy is addictive.

The seamless blending of science fiction elements into this urban fantasy is addictive. Image purchase via Shutterstock.

One of the realities Dina helps Sean face is that he’s not some morphed DNA but an engineered race and one of many. As Dina tells Sean, “For various reasons, Earth is a way station for many travelers. We’re the Atlanta of the galaxy: many beings stop here for a layover.” And she transmits this information none too soon. While Dina and Sean have managed to kill a few of the monstrous creatures stalking them, the corpses (or rather what’s inside them) attracts the unwelcome attention of vampires – and they are not the sparkly kind, but the instead the kickass, alien warrior knight kind with a very distinct code of honor.

When one of them is badly hurt, his relative, Arland, a Marshal of House Krahr, comes to protect his uncle and seek vengeance on and information about the assassin wielding these creatures. Sean and Dina realize that they are involved in something much bigger than just a crazed creature in the neighborhood and they put their heads and power together with Arland to flush out the perpetrator while hopefully saving their home. That is, if they can all manage to not get killed first.

Dina is a fascinating heroine, one more than capable of carrying a series on her shoulders (particularly with the help of her morphing broom). I liked how she was well-trained in both magical and physical self-defense but she’s not prone to the mind-altering violence we expect (and love) in Kate Daniels. Dina is truly the embodiment of her inn, a defender of hearth and home who provides sanctuary and protection to others, and she’ll go to any length to insure that safety. That her potential love interests are a footloose werewolf and a vampire who is the head of his clan’s military branch offers a natural source of conflict as it’s hard to imagine a successful long-term partnership with either man (although it’s very, very easy to imagine a successful mating!). The entire story is laced with Andrews’ fantastic sense of humor – those little references or popular culture moments that bring a big grin onto your face.

It’s a profound skill as a writer to reveal layer upon layer of a rich world while also building layers of a plot and make it all look effortless. The immediate story is the one of “who is sending these creatures and why?” – a question which ends up revealing a much more interesting plot with politics and otherworld power struggles. Yet the larger story arc reveals questions that the first book leaves unanswered in order for the series to progress: what happened to Dina’s parents? Where is her brother? What is Sean going to do in the other realm for the werewolves? What are Sean and Arland’s intentions toward Dina?

A shi tzu, the closest we can come to understanding Dina’s wonderful dog, Beast (considering that Beast can morph into something a bit scarier than this little cutie). Image via Wikipedia.

As is typical with Ilona Andrews, the amazing secondary characters blow you away and convince you that this world they’ve crafted actually exists. I love it that the house is truly a character – complete with emotions and reactions just like a human. Any follower of Andrews’ blog knows the troublesome but lovable role their animals provide and Beast, Dina’s dog, will be more than recognizable to any animal lover (her treeing Sean, the alpha werewolf, was one of my favorite scenes!). Even Dina’s permanent guest, Caldenia, clearly has a rich story to tell as she appears to be royalty or some type of powerful entity who may very well eat someone (but don’t try and separate her from her Mello Yello soft drink).

Doris Mantair not only did the cover art but also the interior, stunning full-color illustrations that bring Caldenia, Sean and Arland to life (ladies, please note that Sean and Arland are both available for download in the form of various wallpapers for your electronic devices via Ilona Andrews’ website). This book was an experiment for the writing duo, having been published for free in weekly serial form over several weeks and honed with the continual feedback of readers. That said, the original free format of its release has done nothing to inhibit sales of the official print version, as Andrews’ just announced on December 5th that Clean Sweep had reached the #2 and #3 slots for paranormal and urban fantasy on Amazon in just a few short days. I anticipate that fans (like me!) will be clamoring for scenes from Sean and Arland’s persepectives a la the Curran scenes that are so hugely popular. 🙂

Andrews’ website did announce that the sequel to Clean Sweep would come out in early 2014, but its unclear to me at this time whether there is a single sequel or multiple books which would fulfill the series name of “Innkeeper Chronicles” more thoroughly. Either way, this series (like every other series by Ilona Andrews) has leapt into my “pre-order it, dammit!” list rather quickly. Fans of Andrews, urban fantasy, or paranormal romance with more than a big dose of science fiction elements will want to rush out and grab Clean Sweep while they can.

Happy reading!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of October 27, 2013

27 Oct

Upcoming Books and New Releases

There are a few long-awaited novels that have just had publication dates announced and, believe me, you’ll want to pre-order! First up is the next full-length novel in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series (*whimper) Shield of Winter, which will feature the story of Vasic, the Arrow who has been subversively supporting the overthrow of Silence while realizing at the same time that its demise could mean his death. A damaged woman fighting for her people as his love interest and a release date of June 3rd means that I’m getting a terrific present right around my birthday. Thank you, Nalini!

In related shifter news, those readers who adore Shelly Laurenston’s Pride series filled with sexy bears, cats and wolves will be thrilled to know that the 9th book, Bite Me, is slated to be released as of March 25, 2014. Since one side of the couple shifts into a honey badger, I’ll be very interested to see how this plays out!

The next Kate Daniels book by Ilona Andrews, Magic Breaks, doesn’t have a cover (or at least not a released one, author Ilona Andrews made clear on the blog that this writing couple doesn’t want to hear the cranky comments from so-called fans who gripe at every release – can they just not read them so we polite readers can enjoy?) but it does have a date – August 5, 2014. Kate’s back in Atlanta as consort to the Beast Lord and it’s clear that her evil father Roland will be arriving soon – and everyone needs to get ready. Unfortunately things are getting complicated with the vampires and Kate has to pitch in to clear up a delicate situation (and we know how she does with delicate). Color me there!

In addition to all the announcements about big 2014 releases, it’s getting to be that time of year – holiday book time!!! Considering that I spend all December reviewing holiday books (I save them up for you to enjoy with hot chocolate and a fire in your fireplace), this is pretty exciting for me. Since I do love anthologies, those are a favorite and just a couple weeks ago, Entangled released one of their presents for the season, A Very Scandalous Holiday featuring stories by Nancy Fraser, Sophia Garrett, Amber Lin and Crista McHugh. These historical romance writers capture the spirit of the season across the centuries, from the Regency and Victorian eras to 1920s Chicago and the turmoil of World War II, so transport yourself to a different time with this bargain at a mere $2.99.

Fans of Jeaniene Frost‘s Night Huntress series (and I consider this one of the BEST series out on the market) should be pleased to note that Frost is going to release the previously published Home for the Holidays novella starring Cat & Bones (and all her related characters) as a stand alone novella for only $1.99, starting on November 5, 2013 when it comes out. While this is technically a novella, as I reviewed it in my post on the series, it reads like a much longer work, due to Frost’s fantastic writing and the harrowing threat to the couple’s happiness contained within it.

Contests and Giveaways

Vikings seem to be a hot new subgenre of historical romance and Harlequin is offering great novels from authors like Michelle Styles for readers enjoying these fur-clad pillagers. Her latest novel, Paying the Viking’s Price, is due out on November 1st, but readers have a chance to win a copy on Goodreads if they enter prior to October 30th. When a warrior who is finally granted lands and home from the king, he is surprised to discover the beautiful former lady of manor refusing to leave her home or her people. He’s happy to allow her to stay, providing she becomes his concubine.

Fans of shifter romance will want to enter the Goodreads giveaway prior to October 31st for the three pack of Ambrielle Kirk‘s first three novels in her Caedmon Wolves series. This five volume series features dark and edgy writing and plenty of werewolves finding their mates, even if it’s not under the best circumstances. A winning extra feature is that Kirk’s characters are racially diverse – so you benefit from reading interracial (as well as interspecial) romance, which is all too hard to find even in this day and age.

Maya BanksColters’ Legacy series is one of the most emotionally packed menage series I’ve read, so it’s wonderful that the fifth book, Colter’s Gift, due out on November 5th is being offered as part of a Goodreads giveaway for readers who love the ratio of more than one man interested in loving a strong woman who has undergone some recent emotional upheaval after trusting the wrong man. Enter before November 1st to see if you can win.

Harlequin always manages to deliver heart-warming holiday romances and that’s what I expect, A Little Bit of Holiday Magic by Melissa McClone to be. Featuring a widow and her young son rescued by a hunky fireman who has sworn off dating for the season, we can all guess what Santa is going to leave under this tree. Considering that Goodreads is having a giveaway for people who enter the contest prior to November 1st, I’d hop over there and see if you can get an early holiday present delivered to your doorstep.

Cynthia Eden is celebrating the latest release in her wonderful Mine suspense series, Mine to Hold, which was published on October 21st, and I’m sorry, is there anything hotter than a gorgeous billionaire who decides a woman too damaged to trust must be won? No, unless it’s when the author is amazing enough to also offer a $50 book gift card to the seller of your choice (Amazon or Barnes & Noble) giveaway to celebrate it! Head over to Eden’s Facebook page to enter using the Rafflecopter interface before the end of the month.

Suspense fans will want to enter the giveaway for a copy of Lena Diaz‘s Undercover Twin, the second book in her Morgan Brothers series. Featuring a DEA agent who left the love of his life behind only to come back into her life when her twin sister is kidnapped, this suspenseful tale is due to be released on November 19th. Enter the contest prior to November 1st for your chance to win a copy.

To celebrate a bunch of juicy-sounding paranormal releases, the Entangled in Publishing blog is giving away a Kindle Fire this week for people who enter their Rafflecopter giveaway by promoting the contest via social media. Keep in mind that these books are going for a mere $1.99, so you might want to give yourself something less calorie laden then chocolate for the holiday (or, like me, give yourself BOTH!).

Someone needs to do a study on the birth control failure rate in Harlequin novels (or maybe they are all just swept away and forgot to don a condom), which results in all those surprise pregnancies! In Expecting a Bolton Baby by Sarah M. Anderson (the third book in her Bolton Brothers series) a businessman never expects to see the hottest one night stand he ever experienced since the lady in question revealed she was the daughter of an intense rival. Yet now he discovers she’s pregnant with his child and he wants more than nothing else to make things right and marry her, preferably without letting her know of his feelings. Enter the Goodreads giveaway before November 1st for a chance to win a copy.

The Vampire Book Club blog can always be counted on, both for in depth reviews and fun giveaways and you can imagine that October is an important month for them! To celebrate three terrific Urban Fantasy reads that they feel are going to end up on the ‘best of’ lists this year, they are having a Rafflecopter giveaway to win copies of Larissa Ione’s Bound by Night, Kelley Armstrong’s Thirteen and Karen Chance’s Tempt the Stars. Head over there before October ends to enter!

For Writers

The Popular Romance project, a fantastic source of all things related to the romance industry, released a terrific video clip of an interview with Jessica Andersen regarding what makes writing category romance so attractive to romance writers. Andersen herself is a well-regarded writer for Harlequin’s Intrigue line as well as the Nocturne line for her paranormal series like Royal House of Shadows. Like her (her Nightkeepers line is out under Signet), many writers who have made it big on the single title market continue to keep an oar in category romance, putting out a couple books a year (think Jill Shalvis and Catherine Mann) and even more best-seller authors got their start in category. Why? Watch the clip.

Writer Pat Haggerty is a whiz at Scrivener (and shared his wisdom via a well-regarded Savvy Authors class that my fellow RWA chapters members enthusiastically endorse) but in his post at Romance University, he kindly illuminates how writers can employ the “Save the Cat” screenwriting formula recommended by editors in the industry using that wonderful piece of software.

Tracey Devlynwhose latest book A Lady’s Secret Weapon I adoredwrote a post over at Romance University about how to handle it when your publishing house decides to let you go, right in the middle of your series. I’m not sure what her publisher’s (Sourcebooks) motivation was (I’m guessing the books weren’t selling the way they wanted?) but I’m grateful that we live in a day and age where a writer can continue a high quality series on her own to satisfy the numerous fans who do not want to see it end prematurely.

Fun Stuff

Do you remember those little Golden Books you read when you were little, the ones with colorful covers and gold foil spines? So does artist Ryan Jude Novelline who created a ballgown from the illustrations and spines of those iconic first reads. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Novelline got his degree in illustration, yet his work continually attempts to reinterpret established ideas and push boundaries. Take a look at the Pinterest board showing the many stages of the creation of this masterpiece.

When you are a reader, you love to snicker at clever t-shirts and I happen to love the ABC’s of Literature t-shirt on sale at Threadless. Whether it’s Ginsberg’s glasses or the Route 66 sign for Kerouac, this simple black shirt will have kindred spirits giving you the “nice one” head nod when you wear it (and help you steer clear of the “I don’t get it” people).

Similarly, readers and librarians alike will enjoy the pulp fiction-styled Attack of the 50 Foot Librarian t-shirt from Funny Baby. I don’t know what I like best, that the figure has auburn hair (ahem) or that she seems to be holding an ereader (replacing the car in the original image) with classic books and glasses strewn in panic on the highway beneath her. Whatever the reason, this must-wear item has gone into my Etsy cart!

Great Deals

You don’t get better than free and that’s exactly what Amy AndrewsGirl Least Likely to Marry – a Harlequin KISS book – is right now on Amazon! With a wealthy, football playing hero with a good sense of humor and a scientist who couldn’t care less (and probably falls on the autism spectrum with her ability to read people) reviewers are raving about this outstanding addition to Andrews’ The Wedding Season series.

Historical romance author Elizabeth Boyle has updated the covers of her Brazen series, re-releasing this mid-1990s series with a fresh new look. At the moment, Brazen Angel, the first book in the trilogy, is a mere $.99 for the ebook version, allowing fans of romance novels with strong spying/privateer themes to sigh in happiness.

Fans of Urban Fantasy might want to try the second book in the Crimson City series, A Taste of Crimson by Marjorie M. Liu, which highlights a romance between a strong vampire and a rebel werewolf who find themselves working with what would normally be a natural enemy in a fallen City of Angels. The Crimson City series is one of those put together by an editor employing different authors to write each installment and with authors like LIz Maverick, Jade Lee and Patti O’Shea, chances are these high ratings are well-earned.

Romantic suspense fans might want to take advantage of Pamela Clare‘s Breaking Point (from her I-Team series) being on sale for $1.99 right now on Amazon. Unlike the common security company trope, Clare has created a series based around a group of mostly women investigating (hence the “I” in I-Team) the shadowy corners of society where they stumble across “the alpha males of the their dreams.” Considering that this entire series of nine books and novellas consistently range above a four on Goodreads, I’d say this angle has proven darn successful for Clare (and I plan on trying it out at these prices!).

Close out Breast Cancer Awareness month by taking advantage of not only a great deal for the paranormal anthology Entangled (whose proceeds go to Breast Cancer research) but which also offers you 424 pages of stories from amazing authors like Cynthia Eden, Jennifer Estep, and Michelle Diener. At only $2.99, you’ll feel like you are giving yourself (and all women) a present for Halloween.

Fans of the sheik romance might remember my post on Sarah Morgan’s Lost to the Desert Warrior, but for readers who have not yet gotten to sample it, please be aware that not only is that title on sale for $1.99 right now, but it’s predecessor, Woman in a Sheik’s World is also available at the discounted price. Considering that books hero and heroine (living their HEA) make an appearance in Lost to the Desert Warrior, it would be fun to get both to enjoy Morgan’s excellent writing about these gripping characters.

Happy reading this week (and happy Halloween)!

Urban Fantasy For Lovers of Badass Women and the Alpha Males Who Love Them: The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews

30 Jul

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1) by Ilona Andrews (Ace, 2007)

Urban Fantasy is a genre packed with badass, incredibly strong female protagonists matched by alpha males so strong and sexy that it’s a wonder they don’t take over the world (and sometimes they do). Magic abounds in these books (a hallmark of urban fantasy which is usually set in cities) and the fantasy piece involves a massive struggle of good versus evil, with swirling political forces pitted against the heroine who, with her allies, desperately attempts to thwart them and keep the world in balance.

Readers of this blog already know of my love of the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, which so many readers put in paranormal romance when I think it fits urban fantasy far better as a subgenre. The husband and wife writing team of Ilona Andrews has a corner of the strong female protagonist market with their Kate Daniels series, a group of books that I would cheerfully call the height of its genre. In honor of Magic Rises, the sixth full-length and latest book in the series published today (and yes, it’s included in this post), I thought I’d do a full series review.

While lacking the sexual explicitness of Frost’s work (sadly, but don’t worry there’s a decent amount of hot nookie), this series combines fantastic writing, a mind-blowing story arc, phenomenal world-building, characterization so strong you forget they aren’t real people, humor so funny you’ll be stealing the lines to look clever with your friends, and the best fight scenes I’ve ever read (in fantasy or otherwise).

Because of the many books, novellas and short stories in the series, the below overview undoubtedly has spoilers in it, so be warned. This is the kind of series review I like to read – one that tells you what order to read each book, short story and novella as well as gives an understanding of the conflict without giving away the farm – but some people get cranky about it. Sadly, anytime you have a series this long (and awesome) this is a necessary evil. You can’t just write descriptions with “uh…and stuff happens with Kate and…some other guys!” So bear with me.

Some Key Players:

  • Kate Daniels – professional mercenary with a lot of secrets in her past, including the source of her extremely powerful magic
  • Curran Lennart (aka the Beast Lord) – head of the “The Pack” or approximately 1500 shapeshifters in the Atlanta area, of various clans separated by type
  • Saiman – a polymorph who can change his appearance at will; businessman who supplies valuable information, tech and magic; operates according to his own set of ethics
  • Ghastek Stefanoff – ambitious Master of the Dead who operates out of the People’s casino and is the main contact person for Kate in her investigations
  • The People – the name assigned to the group of individuals who pilot vampires and who work for the global organization headed by the ancient and mythical Roland; cold, devoid of ethics, and the enemies of shapeshifters (or anyone else who gets in their way)
  • Derek Gaunt – young werewolf tied to Kate via a Blood Oath in the first book and who rapidly becomes a friend and partner; strong abilities mark him a potential future alpha
  • Julie Olsen – a young street kid whose mother is murdered; becomes Kate’s ward; has a highly sought after magical ability that must be kept under wraps
  • Andrea Nash – Knight of the Order and a beastkin, or type of shapeshifter the majority consider an abomination; werehyena who also happens to be a deadly accurate Master of Arms with any weapon that fires
  • Raphael Medrano – male Alpha of the Hyenas, partnered with his mother the female Alpha, Aunt B; runs a Pack business specializing in reclamation
  • Jim Shrapshire – Kate’s friend and occasional partner from the Mercenary Guild; Cat Alpha and Head of Pack Security

Note that I actually number these books and put them in strict chronological order in the series since the events in even the short stories and novellas end up building the overall story arc and/or characters. If a story is not written from Kate Daniels’ point of view (POV), I’ve clearly labeled it “Kate Daniels World.” This is a little different from the way that term is used and the way the stories are ordered and labeled on Goodreads, but I think it’s much clearer if you believe in tackling a series in strict order like I do.

Magic Bites (Book #1)

In the first book of the series, Magic Bites, the world of Kate Daniels is one hauntingly familiar yet startlingly different from our own. Set in Atlanta (with occasional forays to Savannah), Kate lives in the near future where our world has disintegrated under the burden of waves of magic which come unpredictably, rendering technology useless. Magic is a power most people can access to some degree, but it’s an advantage to be able to powerfully wield it, particularly with vampires and were-creatures around, mingling with witches/warlocks as well as human users.

Kate is a mercenary attempting to stay off the larger radar and simply make a living, but plans change when she is notified that her guardian Greg has been brutally murdered. Kate had been somewhat estranged from Greg as he wanted her to join him in working for the Order, a group of Knights who serve the larger community by exterminating horrifying supernatural creatures (who often wreak havoc on the populace) and investigating strange happening. Kate attempted to join before but her anti-authority outlook didn’t jibe with the larger culture of the Order.

Magic Graves by Jeaniene Frost and Ilona Andrews (including Kate Daniels #.5 “A Questionable Client”) (Amazon Digital Services, 2011)

With Greg dead, the Order decides to let Kate, a trained mercenary active in the Mercenary Guild, work as an adjunct to find Greg’s killer, particularly to discover if the murder had anything to do with his work. Slogging her way through his things, she discovers missing young women, a dead vampire, and test results that might implicate a shifter.

This does not make for an easy investigation as vampires – skeletal creatures who are “steered” by masters – fall under the power of the People and their rulers, while all were-creatures in the area are under the jurisdiction of the Pack, led by the Beast Lord. And Kate isn’t exactly going to win a diplomacy award anytime soon since her style is more “annoy people until they tell her what she wants to know.”

Using the contact of a fellow mercenary and were-jaguar, Jim, she makes contact with the Beast Lord, aka Curran, who is more than contemptuous of her and her so-called abilities, throwing obstacles at her right and left, but reluctantly agreeing to work with her out of respect for her deceased guardian. The vampires stonewall her at every turn, and even traditional investigating only turns up few clues.

Amidst it all, we see that Kate is eager to hide her abilities, which include swordplay that is like an extension of herself and magical power beyond anything anyone around her can manage. A few people suspect her abilities, but she is careful to not reveal too much, even as she and the people around her deal with an unholy being bent on murder and destruction.

Another aspect of Ilona Andrews that I love is, because the Kate Daniels novels are written in the first person, they make a point of giving you a different perspective, specifically Curran’s. Curran Vol. I, has a companion story to Magic Bites, detailing a brief version of the moment Curran and Kate meet from his (rather disdainful) perspective. You can also read the scene for free on Ilona Andrews’ website.

“A Questionable Client” (Book #0.5) in Magic Graves anthology

Curran Vol. I by Gordon Andrews – includes scenes from Curran’s perspective from the first three books (noted in text of review). You can read the stories for free on Andrews’ website or get them in a collection for $.99.

Because Kate has an acquaintance/friend, the mysterious, ethically bankrupt Saiman who helps her (for quite a price) in Magic Bites, I do recommend readers of the series purchase the dual anthology of Magic Graves in order to read the prequel, “A Questionable Client” detailing the first time Kate and Saiman work together. Not only does it shed light on their relationship and Saiman’s power and abilities, but it gives a great deal of insight into Kate’s character and her encyclopedic knowledge of magic and folklore.

Magic Burns (Book #2)

In the second book of the series, Magic Burns, Kate is now in the position of liaison offered her at the end of Magic Bites, and she has the somewhat joyless job of negotiating between the Order, the Mercenary Guild, the Pack, the People, and humans. She’s at least got a regular salary and she can live in Greg’s apartment which she inherited when in Atlanta, occasionally going back to her house in Savannah. It’s a living.

Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2) by Ilona Andrews (Ace, 2008)

With the waves of magic coming more unpredictably, people get a little out of control, including a crazed arsonist she and Jim go to apprehend. Their preference for a live capture is thwarted when a mystery assassin puts several cross bolts into their perp.

With Jim called away on pack business, Kate is left to pursue the mystery man who can seemingly disappear into thin air. She finds him in the midst of the Honeycomb, a dangerous area of Atlanta filled with shifting magic. Kate also stumbles across a young girl whose mother and her coven have gone missing, possibly after freeing a god or goddess that they did not intend to release.

Taking the young girl, Julie, home with her, she discovers the girl herself is a conduit for powerful forces who seem to want the her, Curran and his Pack, as well as Kate’s new friend Andrea from the Order. The pressure to figure out what the hell is going on (and then defeat it) bonds them together as valuable allies in an effort to protect an innocent girl and protect the city. For bonus scenes from Curran’s perspective, our fabulous authors have given us his rescue of Kate after she almost dies after the fight with the Reeves as well as Curran’s uber-sneaky wooing of her when he plies her with chicken soup.

Magic Strikes (Book #3)

Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels #3) by Ilona Andrews (Ace, 2009)

When Magic Strikes, the next book in the series, opens, Kate seems to be settling in to her life, gaining confidence as an official mouthpiece for the Order. Exhausted by a harrowing day, Kate has a lot going on. Her werejaguar friend Jim refused her official help with a shapeshifter death, Derek the young werewolf previously bound to her with a blood vow tried to steal something from Kate’s dangerous acquaintance and now she owes Saiman a favor. He cashes in by insisting that Kate accompany him to the Midnight Games, illegal arena fighting with a smorgasbord of creatures fighting to the death, in order to evaluate the fighters for him.

Derek is not only unrepentant at getting caught, knowing Kate will not turn him into Curran for punishment, but also convinces Kate to use her time with Saiman at the games to pass a note to a beautiful young girl on the Reapers team. One look at the girl’s fellow fighters and Kate knows something is wrong – they are way too physically perfect plus they definitely have it out for Saiman. When they kill Saiman’s imported Minotaur and attack him and Kate as they leave the arena, Kate knows something is very, very wrong and Derek is in danger.

Now she’s caught up in a vortex where Jim and some of her friends have gone rogue (and the clock is ticking on Curran hunting them down to kill them according to pack law), one of her good friends might die, and she is determined to kill those responsible even though that would mean outing her and her abilities to exactly the kind of people she’s been trying to avoid. Pursuing this course also means running in the opposite direction from Curran and whatever tentative trust and feeling has been growing between them.

In the world of awesome bonus material is my absolute favorite, Curran’s perspective of the oh-so-sexy hot tub encounter at the arena between His Furriness and Kate. Prior to that amazing scene, there is also Curran’s mental fury at being trapped in the loup cage by Kate as she attempts to delay his pursuit, and his insight into Kate as he talks Julie into letting him out. Helpful in understanding exactly what Curran feels for Kate is the story that happens in the interim between this and the next book in the series when Jim’s investigation turns up some pretty dangerous information about Kate’s past and he has to show it to Curran in the best interests of the Pack.

Magic Mourns (#3.5 novella – Kate Daniels World – Andrea…with plenty of Raphael)

Magic Mourns (Kate Daniels World #3.5) by Ilona Andrews (Ace, 2011) – this story was also published in the anthology Must Love Hellhounds

Watching werehyena Raphael desperately attempt to woo Andrea (particularly with her self-hatred of her beastkin nature – a nature she must hide from the Order or lose her job) has been both amusing and wonderful. In this interim novella to the series, Magic Mourns, readers can see these two embark on an adventure together.

Andrea is busy answering Kate’s phone at the Order while her friend recovers from the wounds received at the end of Magic Strikes. A citizen complaining about a were-animal running away from a dog the size of a house qualifies as reason to investigate, so Andrea – a Master of Arms even if the Order chooses not to bestow the title on her – packs up her guns and crossbow and heads out.

Her anonymous caller was not exaggerating on the size of the dog, which happens to have three heads, but in fighting it off she’s even more shocked when a male hyena starts running her way. Praying it’s not Raphael, the man whose been pursuing her for six months, she’s dismayed when that exact man of her dreams/nightmares changes back into his glorious, naked human form and promptly loses consciousness. Now she’s stuck with a six foot hunk who stops women in their tracks and no answers to the question of what is going on.

She does eventually get some information when he wakes up. Raphael’s mother, the hyena Alpha, recently lost her human mate. The whole clan was horrified when the kind man’s corpse went missing from the funeral home. Tracking the scents at the scene led Raphael to the house in the boondocks and the three-headed dog with an anti-hyena complex. As much as Andrea desperately wants to deny her hyena nature, Raphael’s mother once saved her life and she offers to help him. The forced intimacy of the investigation spurs Andrea to reveal both her desire for Raphael and some of the facts surrounding her horrible childhood.

This is a great story which lays the foundation for not only the future books in the series but also the outstanding full-length Kate Daniels world novel dedicated to Andrea, Gunmetal Magic (see below). Andrea is a phenomenal, complex character and I love any story told from her perspective. The immortal apples in this story also have a cameo role in the next book in the series, so that’s a nice tie-in as well. It’s great to get in the head of a different character, particularly when it comes to seeing Kate and Curran through someone else’s eyes.

Magic Bleeds (Book #4)

Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels #4) by Ilona Andrews (Ace, 2010)

Magic Bleeds is one of the most painful Kate Daniels books to date for me to read but it’s also my favorite. The activity in the book gets not only incredibly dangerous, but the novel also contains the ever present backdrop of Kate’s hurt feelings regarding Curran dismissing her right when their relationship was about to take a huge step forward.

Trying to work through the emotional pain, Kate responds to a bizarre incident at a rowdy bar, one that almost unleashes a virulent plague. Picking up a large, bizarrely colored poodle as a faithful sidekick (who provides much needed comic relief to this tension-packed story), Kate is called to her old stomping grounds of the Mercenary Guild to investigate the murder of the founder. Both Jim and Curran show up, with Kate and Curran unleashing their anger at one another about the demise of their relationship.

Needing answers to two strange murders, Kate turns to her untrustworthy acquaintance Saiman who has amazing magic and technology at his disposal, if the price is right. Not only requiring a hefty fee from the Order for his services, Saiman also exacts the fee of one elegant dinner with Kate for rendering assistance. That he times it for right when Curran comes with the other Alphas and the People for a political dinner brings that entire situation to a boiling head.

Discovering what and who is behind the latest attempt to decimate the Pack and render the city helpless is a cold wake up call for Kate, and one that could come at an unbelievably high price, possibly costing her the friends she’s made, the home she’s built, and the man she’s come to love. Ilona Andrews says in the acknowledgments that this was a hard book to write, but I feel nothing but gratitude that they managed to wade through whatever difficulties they encountered to produce this story. As always, the intersection of the series story arc and the more immediate subplots and political machinations is astonishingly tight. For me, seeing Kate and Curran work through their relationship problems to see the vision of what they might be able to have is not just heart-warming but inspiring, as these two damaged people with so much on their plate deserve some personal happiness.

Andrews has given us some phenomenal bonus scenes as well. [Ilona Andrews added the altercation that prevented Curran from making his dinner date with Kate on July 31, 2013 and, wow, talk about a rough day.] Naturally one of the key scenes is the controversial dinner scene from Curran’s POV, but the one that ties me up in happy emotional knots is when Curran wakes after the battle and realizes what Kate has gone through while he’s been unconscious. The ass-kicking throwdown of the subsequent council meeting and then Curran’s fight with his on-the-fence foster father Mahon is total icing on the Kate Daniels cake.

Magic Dreams (novella #4.5 – Kate Daniels World – Dali…with a lot of Jim)

Magic Dreams (Kate Daniels World #4.5 – Jim and Dali) by Ilona Andrews (Ace, 2012)

Anyone who has seen the Pack’s Head of Security and Kate’s friend Jim interact with the were-tiger Dali knows there is a significant spark between them. In Magic Dreams, told from Dali’s POV, we finally get a little forward progress with the unlikely pairing of a half-blind, vegetarian were-tiger and the badass jaguar who keeps the entire Pack safe.

Dali is surprised coming home one night to see her luscious Alpha asleep on the floor of her bedroom. While her fantasies have certainly run in that direction she knows there must be a reason and waking Jim up is harder than she expected. Discovering that he cannot remember the details he encountered when visiting one of the safe houses for their pack, Dali realizes that magic is afoot, and if there is anything this double Ph.D. understands it’s the cultural complexities and danger surrounding different forms of magic.

When the realization dawns that Jim is dying as a result of the magic inflicted on him at the safe house, Dali doesn’t hesitate to take on a mission that could very well get her tortured or killed, because this man means everything to her and she doesn’t want to live in a world without him.

OMG, Dali. Ilona Andrews writes smart, funny, brave female characters like they are going out of style and Dali is no exception. She’s quirky (a white tiger who faints at the sight of blood?) and feisty and it’s adorable seeing her have no clue how much Jim wants her while she’s working so hard to find the cure before all his magic is siphoned away. I always hope to see these two together in every Kate Daniels books and want to see little white tiger/jaguar babies some day soon!

Magic Slays (Book #5)

Magic Slays (Book #5) by Ilona Andrews (Ace, 2011)

In Magic Slays, Kate might be relieved not to be working for the Order anymore, but making her own viable go of a private business isn’t as straightforward as she wants it to be. Being the official mate of the Beast Lord makes things even that much more complicated and her former employer, the Order, is happy to spread rumors of the “loose-cannon-bad-at-her-job” variety.

Well, life is full of complications. Kate’s best friend Andrea reappears after she’s been missing for months. It turns out she was injured so badly during the battle at the end of Magic Bleeds that she changed into her beastkin form in the hospital while being treated as an unconscious Knight of the Order. Since the Order has a “no shapeshifters allowed” policy, this meant they essentially kidnapped her (along with Kate’s dog Grendel) and took her to Order headquarters to stand trial. While Andrea fought a valiant legal fight for acceptance, she’s been officially discharged and is clearly filled with rage toward an organization who she believed was her family.

Kate might have been pissed that Andrea was gone all those months with no word, but she’s grateful she’s back, immediately putting her on the payroll. And it’s none too soon. A freak accident with a vampire whose master loses control comes on the same day as Kate’s first real case. What seems like a kidnapping of an inventor and murder of his guard actually begins to have far more frightening repercussions – after all, anything that sends Saiman packing up and ready to flee the city does not bode well. When Kate’s daughter Julie is endangered by the secret society bent on waging war, Kate and Curran might ally themselves with the various magical factions of the city in order to save the lives of the people they love.

I adore this book on so many levels. The biggest reason is watching Kate and Curran grow as a couple, with Kate finally realizing that Curran loves her for herself, not for the power she can bring him and the Pack. Andrea’s character only gets more complex and interesting, undoubtedly serving as a build-up to the next full-length novel in the series which is told from her perspective. Naturally the evil Kate and crew faces seems to be an independent evil on its surface but actually is tied into the bigger story arc of the whole series, so Andrews’ usual mastery is at work here. Magic Slays is basically a slice of fantastic served up with a healthy dose of awesome sauce.

“Magic Tests” short story in An Apple for the Creature anthology (Kate Daniels World #5.3 – Julie)

An Apple for the Creature – anthology containing “Magic Tests” short story by Ilona Andrews, #5.3 in Kate Daniels series (Ace, September 2012)

The publishers who put out these anthologies always have me over a barrel – it’s my completionist tendencies at work. I have to read every story when I really love a series. *shakes fist at exorbitant anthology pricing*

In An Apple for the Creature anthology, each story focuses on some kind of first day at school with the Ilona Andrews story “Magic Tests” giving us the wonderful insight into Kate’s ward Julie. Julie hasn’t had a great track record with educational opportunities. She lived on the street after her mother died and then Kate sent her to a highbrow boarding school in Macon where she was so miserable, she ran away three times before being expelled. While she’s thrilled to finally be living at home, Julie is nevertheless disgruntled that Kate will not let her just work at the office and learn from the shapeshifters.

Having received ten names of Atlanta schools, Julie reluctantly chose one – the day/boarding school of Seven Star Academy. When Kate and Julie have their initial interview with the principal, Julie is shocked to discover that Kate has recommended her to go undercover to figure out the location of a missing student. In the course of her investigation, which uses the magic Julie must keep concealed from everyone lest she be used for personal gain, she makes several friends as well as solves the mystery.

Julie is an incredible character who is so filled with potential in terms of the story arc and for her own personal journey that I’m rather in awe of the writing of her. I did love this short story told from her POV since it’s easy to forget with all the smart ass comments and dangerous situations that Julie is incredibly smart and perceptive. A total bonus was the appearance of the eighteen year old, pleasantly megalomaniacal dragon shifter who Dali freed in Magic Dreams. I expect he is going to be a fantastic character, and between him, Derek, and Ascanio I’m keeping a tally in my head of all the hot guys Julie could chose from when she decides to fall in love.

Magic Gifts (Novella #5.4)

Magic Gifts (#5.4 Kate Daniels series) by Ilona Andrews (Ace, July 2012)

This novella was offered for a while as a freebie on Ilona Andrews website before it’s inclusion in the bonus material of Gunmetal Magic, and now you have to buy that book in order to read it. Since I always appreciate a chance to observe Kate and Curran up close, it’s a delight. Because the story has its own cover design on Goodreads (see visual on the right), I’m guessing it will eventually be released as a stand alone enovella, but for now you should read it in the back of Gunmetal Magic, which is so terrific, you should be reading it anyway.

After a hard day of killing psychotic floating jellyfish, Kate is happy to get back to the office and find Curran there. He asks her to go out to dinner with him, something this power couple doesn’t get to do…ever. What seems like a great carnivore experience at an Atlanta Korean restaurant quickly becomes a nightmare when a young woman is strangled by a gold necklace at the table near them. When that same necklace is slapped on a young boy who is slowly being choked to death, Kate and Curran engage in a race against time to save him.

I’ve read some great novellas in my day, but this one tops the chart. Not only is the world of the “Vikings” described in more detail but the subplot of the ongoing upheaval of the Mercenary Guild is fascinating, stemming directly from the murder of its leader which we witnessed in Magic Bleeds. Because the dead woman and her date were both upper-level journeymen controlling vampires, Kate and Curran’s nemesis Ghastek is involved, so the People offer a complicated layer to the story.

Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels World Book #5.5 – Andrea…with a lot of Raphael)

Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels World #5.5) by Ilona Andrews (Ace, July 31, 2012)

Since Gunmetal Magic overlaps the events of Magic Gifts, it helps to read the novella prior to this book. While Kate and Curran are off dealing with “Vikings” in Magic Gifts, Andrea is in charge of the investigation firm. When the Pack’s Head of Security calls to alert her that four shapeshifters have been killed on a Pack job site, she’s the lead investigator. Unfortunately, the job site is her ex-boyfriend Raphael’s current reclamation project.

After their fight before the major battle with Erra at the end of Magic Bleeds and Andrea’s disappearance while legally battling the Order, she hasn’t called or spoken to Raphael. She knows it’s cowardly and she’s been working on one hell of an apology in her mind, so Andrea takes this job for the opportunity it is and leaves a message for Raphael to please come to office to be interviewed and that she has some long overdue things to say to him. He shows up alright, along with his gigantic, human blond bimbo of a fiancee, and Andrea takes that as the dismissal it’s meant to be.

Sadly, the murdered shapeshifters still require justice and Andrea must turn to Raphael for assistance as she uncovers strange snake people, an Egyptian god and ceremonial knives charged with so much magic it leaves her breathless. Amidst the investigation, Andrea also deals with the reality of becoming part of the Bouda Pack (of which Raphael is the Alpha Male) and finally accepting her shapeshifter side. That a handsome Russian volhv keeps coming to her rescue throughout the investigation just adds to the intriguing mess that is Andrea’s life.

My fandom for Andrea is well known and I would say this novel is tied with Magic Bleeds as my favorite book of the entire series. Andrea experiences a boatload of internal and external conflict and I challenge anyone to not appreciate her heartfelt fear of losing Raphael permanently. Raphael is a selfish asshole, but one who is motivated by so much love for Andrea that it’s easy to empathize with him even when you’re just getting Andrea’s skewed take on the situation. The freaky god versus the snake people plot is intriguing and I like having more Roman time, since he was a great character back in Magic Slays.

“Retribution Clause” in Hex Appeal Anthology (Kate Daniels World #5.6)

“Retribution Clause” in Hex Appeal (Kate Daniels World #5.6) by Ilona Andrews (St. Martin’s Griffin, June 25, 2012)

This short story, partnered with several other urban fantasy authors in the anthology Hex Appeal, has Ilona Andrews venturing outside Atlanta to Philadelphia. Saiman’s much nicer cousin Adam works as an insurance adjuster, which to our eyes seems like a boring occupation, but in Kate Daniels’ world is anything but.

Adam and his mysterious partner Siroun are often called upon to investigate the theft of insured property and fulfill the clauses of unique life insurance policies. When the wife of a powerful lawyer is discovered strangled, the policy she took out with POM Insurance stipulated a “retribution clause” where her husband should be killed since he would be her murderer.

This short story is brilliant, teasing us with a hint of Siroun’s origins in magic, the world of the insurance business (pretty scary) and the unstated affection these two partners have for one another – feelings that neither feels they can act upon because of who they are. It’s nice to know that someone can be a polymorph like Saiman and have a conscience. This duo would be a powerful force in any future books or novellas since the premise of their jobs offers an almost limitless number of plot lines. Unless they crop up in future books, you don’t need to read this short story, but if you happen to enjoy the other authors in the anthology (like Jim Butcher and Carrie Vaughn, both great writers), this would be well worth it.

Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6)

Magic Rises (Book #6) by Ilona Andrews (Ace, July 30, 2013)

Here’s what I stayed up until 4 am this morning in order to read the moment it landed in my Kindle app! Yes, the cover has gotten a ton of criticism from fans – I gather from Andrews’ website that the model featured in all the other Kate Daniels books was no longer available so the publisher found a delightful sixteen year old to pretend to be a woman in her mid-to-late twenties. Oh, publishers.

In Magic Rises, the Pack is given an incredible opportunity…for a price. The biggest fear of every shapeshifter is that their child, upon puberty will surrender to the animal within and go “loup” at which time the alpha will be forced to kill them. This happens all too often and the European shapeshifters have access to a medicine that greatly reduces the chance of this happening. Rather than simply sell it, however, they insist that Curran come and mediate a dispute between families.

Curran and Kate take a contingent of their most trusted pack members to fulfill the agreement – playing bodyguard to a pregnant werewolf whose child will inherit a crucial piece of land – knowing ahead of time that it’s definitely a trap. What they don’t know is why they are being exposed to a trap, but the appearance of one of Roland’s warlords brings a certain amount of clarity to a situation that can only be described as (pardon me) a clusterfuck of epic proportions.

Not only does this utterly kick butt book send chills down your spine as we see Kate inch closer to being exposed to her father, but there are the added layers of incredible sacrifice in the desperate bid to get this magical concoction for the children. With a shapeshifter princess making the moves on Curran and him letting her, the relationship pain is off the charts, making the political machinations that much more dramatic. I was gasping in horror in more than one location in this book – it’s an emotional rollercoaster but oh, so satisfying.

So that’s my whole review for all of the Kate Daniels stories to date, as of July 30, 2013. 🙂 I hope this gives you an inkling of why I think this is one of the best fantasy series on the market and why the writing team of Ilona Andrews is deserving of such respect. In an incredible alternate history, the rich world of Kate Daniels is one that I find myself rereading, fully enjoying the drama, humor and ultimately the escape to a place where the battle for good vs. evil happens all too often. If you are a fantasy reader, do yourself a favor and begin reading these books. You won’t be sorry.

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, News, and Deals You Might Have Missed This Week

7 Jul

I just came back from the ALA (American Library Association) Conference in Chicago were I attended a lot of informative sessions. While most of them where geared toward my work in education, there were more than a few things that I think will help me be a better blogger for my readers. A great suggestion was having the occasional “round up” post to inform people about great links, upcoming books, and excellent blog posts you might have missed, so here are a few recent items I’ve been enjoying.

Upcoming Books

The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures #6) by Jennifer Ashley (Berkley, October 1, 2013)

Jennifer Ashley mentioned on her blog that the ARCs will be out very soon for The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie, the next book in the Highland Pleasures series (which I think is the best Victorian romance series on the market). It’s due out on October 1st, so hopefully NetGalley might have an ARC available soon! If you’ve enjoyed this series, you might also need a reminder that the next interim novella, The Untamed Mackenzie, will be out even sooner, and will finally give Inspector Lloyd Fellows, the illegitimate Mackenzie who is a reluctant member of the family at best, a happily ever after. That one is e-book only, so sorry print lovers!

On Ashley’s paranormal romance front, note that Amazon has made available Wild Wolf for preorder (even though it’s not coming out until January 2014), the next full novel in the fabulous Shifters Unbound series. Yes, I’ve preordered it and will be waiting up at midnight for it to land in my Kindle! Coming out even sooner is the next novella for that series, Feral Heat, which will be Eric’s son, Jace’s story (thank goodness!) out in November of this year.

Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) by Ilona Andrews (Ace, July 30, 2013)

In anticipation (and God knows I’m anticipating it!) of Ilona Andrews’ next book in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Rises, due out on July 30th, Bookpushers is sponsoring a Readalong for the series. The husband and wife team of Ilona Andrews have already vetted much criticism for the cover, since the model depicting the twenty-something Kate looks waaaayyyy too young and not nearly enough of a hard ass for this alpha female. I realize I still need to do a review of this series which is tops in the urban fantasy genre for me.

In exciting news, Nalini Singh had two great announcements. The first is that she just agreed to do a Psy-Changeling series novella in 2014 which will be part of an anthology and that the hero of her next full-length novel (the 13th in the series) will be …. VASIC! This cold Arrow won my heart with his questioning of silence long ago, so I’m elated to see that he’ll be partnered with a heroine we’ve never met before. This book will be closely tied to her latest book, Heart of Obsidian which won all five stars from me, making it the fourth book (out of over the 200 books I’ve read so far this year) to be declared totally perfect.

If you’re an urban fantasy fan chances are you’ve been devouring the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones as much as I have (Reyes *fans face* is one of the hottest heroes in a loooooonnnnggg time). Keep in mind that the hardcover and Kindle editions of the next book, Fifth Grave Past the Light, will be released on July 9th (two days from today!!!) so you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a copy of this book hot off the presses.

Media News

Outlander (Outlander series #1) by Diana Gabaldon (Dell, 1992)

Any fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series? If so, you’ll be either pleased or dismayed to read that the book series has been made into a TV series which will debut on the Starz network come this October. According to the excellent blog, The Good, The Bad and The Unread, Scottish actor Sam Heughan has been cast to play Jamie Fraser. Worried? Don’t be. “Sam is 33, stands 6’3″ tall, and his Scottish brogue portraying one of the most-loved characters in literature will definitely make the ladies swoon. More importantly, of course, is that he’s perfect for this part and will make Jamie come to life on the screen.”

Reader Fun

In case you were wondering, this is what a RITA award looks like. Pretty cool, yes?

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (an AMAZING blog) is still doing their RITA Reader Challenge. If you love romance (any subgenre), I’d encourage you to take a look at this challenge, which lists all the winners in various categories from the Romance Writers Association. This a great way of making sure you get a taste of all the great books published in the last year. What if you missed one? You may not agree that they deserved an award, but it’s fascinating to note what the judges (published authors as well as agents and publishers) think constitute the best of the best.

Entranced Publishing, a wonderful new ebook press, is having a Christmas in July giveaway where they are giving away one copy of every book they’ve ever published. For a new publishing house, there has been a ton of great buzz about their editing and their payment model, with the result being some stand out books in a short period of time. Fill out their entry form before July 31st for your chance to win!

Australian romance readers! You lucky down-under dogs, the Australian Romance Readers Association is having a book signing event in Freemantle on August 17th that has over 56 authors attending, including powerhouses like Julia Quinn, Nina Bruhns, and Carole Mortimer. Wow! And the signings will be held at three public libraries (further proving the connection between public librarians and supporting romance). Have I mentioned how much I’d like to visit Australia one day?

Authors After Dark are having a giveaway for tickets to their conference (in Savannah this year!) August 14th to the 18th. Anyone who enjoys paranormal romance or urban fantasy should consider following this blog and learning more about the organization. The annual conference is quite small and you get tons of author time, which would be amazing for any fan! Enter by July 11th for your chance to win.

The Romance Publishing Industry

Is historical romance on the decline? Jeez, I hope not! But with the numbers dipping slightly, The Sisterhood of the Jaunty Quills discuss if the glut of Regencies on the market are stifling the genre. I agree with them that this is probably just the usual ebb and flow experienced by so many categories of romance, but it’s worth pondering.

In an unbelievable merger, Penguin and Random House have now joined forces, making them a force to be reckoned with. In romance terms, Random House publishes authors like Danielle Steel, Sophie Kinsella, and E. L. James (yes, that E. L. James!) under their imprints of Delacorte, Dial and Vintage, and Penguin controls the romance powerhouse Berkley (Jennifer Ashley, Jaci Burton, Nalini Singh) and Jove (Nora Roberts), so I feel that Random House really boosted their piece of the romance pie with this merger. For your consideration, does anyone besides me think the company’s new name should be Random Penguin? Imagine the logo!

Great Deals

It Had to Be You (Lucky Harbor #7) by Jill Shalvis (Grand Central, May 28, 2013)

If you didn’t have a chance to enjoy the most recent Jill Shalvis Lucky Harbor novel, It Had to Be You, fear not. Ebook readers can take advantage of the $2.99 deal going on right now on Amazon (and I think other retailers).

Julie Garwood’s classic, Rebellious Desire, is on sale in Kindle format for only $.99 for those of us wanting a walk down memory lane. Not to make you feel old, but this puppy was originally published in 1991 – 23 years ago! I’m not sure how long it will be at this price, so if you’re looking to bolster your classic romance backlist, this is a nice addition.

One Perfect Night by Bella Andre is a stand alone short story/novella originally published in 2011 and just reissued with a new cover. Right now, it’s available for free. I haven’t read it but, hey, it’s Bella Andre, so it’s bound to be great! For those of you who haven’t read her Sullivan series, get the lead out. This great family is available in ebook form and now in print via Harlequin and is tops in the contemporary romance category.

Forgotten Sins (Sins Brothers #1) by Rebecca Zanetti (Forever, July 2, 2013)

Looking pretty intriguing on the paranormal romance front is Forgotten Sins, the first book in the Sins Brothers series by Rebecca Zazetti which just came out on July 2nd. A husband returns to his wife after turning up in the hospital with amnesia, yet he abandoned the love of his life two years ago. Does his amped hearing and powerful strength have something to do with his missing years? This new series is billed on Goodreads as “Romantic Suspense with a slight paranormal twist about a band of brothers who carry unnatural powers genetically engineered into them by a black ops military unit.” At only $2.99 for 384 pages, I’m excited to try it!

%d bloggers like this: