Cherry Mischievous

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ETCHED IN BONE

 

The Others #5: ETCHED IN BONE

Etched In Bone by Anne Bishop
Book 5 of The Others series
Read by Alexandra Harris
Genre: urban fantasy
Format: hardback, ebook, & audiobookAudiobook

 

 

About Etched In Bone:

After a human uprising was brutally put down by the Elders — a primitive and lethal form of the Others — the few cities left under human control are far-flung. And the people within them now know to fear the no-man’s-land beyond their borders — and the darkness…

As some communities struggle to rebuild, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery’s shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.

With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end — with her standing beside a grave…

Source: Info in the About Etched In Bone was taken from http://happyeverafter.usatoday.com/2016/06/23/etched-in-bone-cover-reveal-excerpt-anne-bishop on 25/06/2016.

 

Excerpt :

Windsday, Messis 1

Eager to join his friends for an early morning run, Simon Wolfgard, leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, hurried toward the terra indigene Wolves who were using trees and shrubs for camouflage as they watched the paved road that looped the Courtyard. Actually, they were watching the man who was riding on the road at an easy pace.

[It’s Kowalski,] Blair growled. It was a soft growl, but the human suddenly scanned the area as if his little ears had caught the sound.

[On a bicycle,] Nathan added.

[We gave him permission to ride on the paved roads,] Simon said, a little concerned about their focused attention on a human they knew fairly well.

Karl Kowalski was one of the human police officers who worked directly with the terra indigene to minimize conflicts between humans and Others. Because of that, he had been labeled a Wolf lover and had had his share of conflicts with other humans. The latest incident happened last week when a car “accidentally” swerved and almost hit Kowalski while he was taking a bicycle ride before work. Because the terra indigene viewed that as a threat to a member of their human pack, Simon, Vladimir Sanguinati, and Henry Beargard—members of the Courtyard’s Business Association—decided to allow the human pack to ride on the Courtyard’s paved roads.

Simon had thought all the Wolves had been told about the Business Association’s decision—especially Nathan, who was the watch Wolf at the Liaison’s Office, and Blair, who was the Courtyard’s dominant enforcer—but this was the first time any of the humans had ventured to ride on a road that still had “Trespassers Will Be Eaten” signs posted as a warning.

[Bicycle, Simon,] Blair’s growl wasn’t as soft this time.

Must have been loud enough for human ears because Kowalski started to pedal a little faster.

Oh. Bicycle. Now Simon understood the real focus of the Wolves’ attention and excitement. Humans had ridden bicycles up to the Green Complex as well as a few other places in the Courtyard, and the Wolves had been intrigued by the two-wheeled vehicles. But those instances had been about transportation to or from a task. This could be something else.

[A game of chase?] Jane, the Wolfgard bodywalker, asked hopefully.

[Kowalski could be play-prey,] Nathan said.

[Does he know how to play chase?] Blair asked.

[He’s a police officer,] Nathan replied. [He chases other humans all the time.]

[Doesn’t mean he understands our game.] Simon thought Nathan’s opinion of police work was skewed more toward hopeful than accurate. Still, they could offer to play. If Kowalski didn’t accept, they would just enjoy a run. But…bicycle. Simon really wanted to chase one. [Let’s find out.]

The Wolves charged up the road, Simon and Blair in the lead as they swiftly closed the distance between the pack and their play-prey. But would they have a game?

Kowalski looked back. His eyes widened—and he pedaled faster.

Yes!

[We don’t catch, only chase,] Simon said.

[He’s fast!] Jane surged ahead of the males, pulling up alongside the bicycle’s back wheel in seconds.

[Don’t grab the wheels,] Nathan said. [If you catch a tooth in the spokes you could break your jaw or worse.]

[I was listening when Officer Karl told the puppies about the dangers of biting wheels,] Jane snapped, clearly offended by Nathan’s unwanted warning. She moved up a little more, now in position to play-bite Kowalski’s calf.

Kowalski glanced at Jane and pedaled faster. Instead of going over the bridge that would take them into the Hawkgard section—and commit the human to the big loop within the Courtyard’s three hundred acres—Kowalski turned onto the road that ran alongside the Elementals’ lake, heading back toward the Green Complex.

The Wolves ran, maintaining their distance even when Kowalski slowed down while going up a rise. They took turns pacing the bicycle and pushing their prey to run and run. Or pedal and pedal. As they reached the intersection with the Courtyard’s main road, Kowalski swung left toward the Green Complex instead of turning right toward the Market Square.

Most of the pack, having slowed to a trot as their prey tired, circled back toward the Wolfgard complex. Nathan headed for the Market Square and the Liaison’s Office where he would keep track of the deliverymen and guard Meg Corbyn, the Courtyard’s Human Liaison. Simon and Blair followed Kowalski until they reached the Green Complex. Then Blair continued on to the Utilities Complex while Simon dashed for the water trough in the common area that formed the open center of the Courtyard’s only multispecies complex. He lapped water, then shifted to his human form and dunked his head, flinging water as he stood up and tossed his dark hair away from his face. He splashed his arms and chest, then grinned when Kowalski parked the bicycle and approached the trough warily.

“That was a great game of chase!” Simon said happily. “You understand how to be play-prey.”

“I do?”

“Yes.” Simon cocked his head, puzzled by the human’s wariness. Hadn’t they just played, had fun? “Want some water?”

“Thanks.” Kowalski splashed water on his face and neck, then on his arms. But he didn’t drink.

Simon pondered the not drinking for a moment. Humans were clever, invasive predators who had recently shown the terra indigene once again why they could never be fully trusted—not even by each other. But physically they were so much weaker than other kinds of predators. This not drinking, for example. Nothing wrong with the water in the trough. Someone had already drained yesterday’s water, using it on the potted tree and other plants in the open area, and refilled the trough with fresh water for drinking and splashing. Humans would drink water pumped from the well if it was in a glass or a bucket or some other small container but couldn’t drink the same water from a shared outdoor container?

It made him wonder how they had survived as a species long enough to become such a problem.

“So who doesn’t understand about play-prey?” Kowalski asked, rubbing a hand over his face.

“The female pack. Every time we invited them to play, they stopped riding their bicycles and asked if they could help.” Simon spread his arms in a what’s that all about? gesture. Then he pointed at Kowalski. “But you invited us to play, and we all had a good run.”

Kowalski snorted a soft laugh. “Well, I sure had a good run.”

“Since the females can’t pedal as far or as fast as you, maybe they could play chase with the puppies.” The pups would learn how to run as a pack without the risk of being kicked by real prey.

Simon studied Kowalski, who studied him in turn.

“I’ll talk to Ruthie,” Kowalski finally said.

They both heard the clink of glassware and looked toward the screened summer room below Meg Corbyn’s apartment.

“Must be later than I realized,” Kowalski said. “I’d better go home and get cleaned up for work.”

Simon watched the man walk toward the bicycle—and the summer room. For a moment, it looked like Kowalski was going to go in and talk to Meg, and Simon felt his teeth lengthen to Wolf size as his lips pulled back in a silent snarl. But Kowalski just raised a hand in greeting, said, “Morning, Meg,” and rode away.

Simon walked around the trough, then stopped suddenly when he realized he was naked in his human form. It had never mattered until Meg came to live in the Courtyard. But humans reacted in various ways to seeing each other without clothing, even when clothing wasn’t needed for protection or warmth. Meg had adjusted pretty well to friends shifting to human form to give her a message or answer a question before shifting back to their preferred furred or feathered form, but it was different with him—maybe because their friendship was different from any other she had with humans or terra indigene.

Most nights, he slept with her in his Wolf form. They had their own apartments, but those places were connected by the summer room and a back upstairs hallway, and more and more it was becoming one den instead of two. But they weren’t mates in the same way Kowalski and Ruthie were mates. Then again, terra indigene Wolves only mated once a year when females came into season. Meg did the bleeding typical of human females but she hadn’t shown any physical interest in having a mate. Except…

She’d asked him to go skinny-dipping with her a couple of weeks ago. Both of them naked, in human form. She’d been nervous about being in the water with him, and she seemed scared after he’d kissed the scar along the right side of her jaw—a scar made by the cut that had saved the Wolfgard in Lakeside as well as many other Wolves throughout the Northeast Region and even beyond.

He’d kissed her before—on the forehead once or twice. But when he’d kissed that scar, he’d felt a flutter of change inside him, and in the days that followed he began to understand on some instinctive level that he wasn’t quite the same as the rest of the Lakeside Wolfgard. Not anymore.

Maybe it wasn’t just for Meg’s sake that, after the kiss, he’d invited her to play a Wolf game despite their both looking human. Then she wasn’t afraid anymore. And since then… Well, it wasn’t lost on him that, in summer weather like this, human males wore next to nothing in and around their own dens and no one thought anything of it.

“It’s hot upstairs,” Meg said, not raising her voice because she didn’t need to. His ears might look human, but he was still a Wolf and could hear her just fine. “I brought some food down here for breakfast.”

“I’ll take a quick shower and join you.”

He hurried inside and up the stairs to the bathroom in his apartment. Washing his hair and body didn’t take long, but he stood under the shower, enjoying the cool water falling over him as he thought about the complication that was Meg Corbyn.

He had brought her into the Courtyard, offering her the job of Human Liaison before discovering that she was a blood prophet, a cassandra sangue—a breed of human females who saw visions of the future when their skin was cut. She had escaped from the man who had owned her and used her, and Simon and the rest of the terra indigene in Lakeside had taken her in.

That sounded simple but it wasn’t. Nothing about Meg was simple. She was the pebble dropped in a pond that was the Lakeside Courtyard, and the ripples of her presence had changed so many things, including the terra indigene who had befriended her. Because of Meg, the Courtyard’s residents interacted with humans in ways that were unprecedented—or, at least, hadn’t been considered in centuries. Because of Meg, the terra indigene throughout Thaisia had tried to save the rest of the blood prophets who had been tossed out like unwanted puppies by the humans who had owned them. Because of Meg, the Lakeside Courtyard had a human pack that provided an additional learning experience for terra indigene who had a human-centric education and needed to practice those skills with humans who wouldn’t take advantage of mistakes.

Because of Meg, he had the uncomfortable feeling that a little bit of being human had become attached and inseparable from his Wolf form.

 

The Others #5: ETCHED IN BONE audio

My Thoughts:

In the world of The Others series, the names of the continents of their world sounds much like our own world, i.e., Afrikah, Brittania, Australis… but, what the heck is Felidae?! Sounds to me like a land full of cats…??

I am not quite sure why this book is titled Etched In Bone, though. A theme which is starting to plague this series lately. Titles that don’t really relate to the book! Whats that all about??! What in the world??…

I used to whinge about the narration of these books, and I still do, however this being book 5 in the series, I have already gotten used to it…. eventually. So that is probably why it is no longer as annoying as it used to be… probably…

 

Empirical Evaluation:
Story telling quality = 5
Character development = 5
Story itself = 5
Writing Style = 5
Ending = 5
World building = 5
Cover art = 5
Pace = 5
Plot = 5
Narration = 3.5

 

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 cherries

 

Books In The Others Series:
 

         

 

The Author
Anne Bishop

Anne Bishop lives in upstate New York where she enjoys gardening, music, and writing dark, romantic stories. She is the author of fourteen novels, including the award-winning Black Jewels Trilogy. Her most recent novel, Twilight’s Dawn, made the New York Times bestseller list. She is currently working on a new series, which is an urban dark fantasy with a bit of a twist.

Crawford Award (2000)

 


 

FTC Disclosure:
This book, in all its formats, were purchased with private funds.
No money received for this review.

 

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14/03/2017 Posted by | 5 cherries, audiobook, book review, Cherry's reviews, ebook, kindle ebook, review, urban fantasy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: JUSTICE CALLING

 

Justice Calling by Annie Bellet
Book 1 of The Twenty-Sided Sorceress series
Narrated by Folly Blaine
Genre: urban fantasy
Format: ebook & audiobookAudiobook

 

 

About Justice Calling:

Gamer. Nerd. Sorceress.

Jade Crow lives a quiet life running her comic book and game store in Wylde, Idaho. After twenty-five years fleeing from a powerful sorcerer who wants to eat her heart and take her powers, quiet suits her just fine. Surrounded by friends who are even less human than she is, Jade figures she’s finally safe.

As long as she doesn’t use her magic.

When dark powers threaten her friends’ lives, a sexy shape-shifter enforcer shows up. He’s the shifter world’s judge, jury, and executioner rolled into one, and he thinks Jade is to blame. To clear her name, save her friends, and stop the villain, she’ll have to use her wits… and her sorceress powers.

Except Jade knows that as soon as she does, a far deadlier nemesis awaits.

Justice Calling is the first book in The Twenty-Sided Sorceress urban fantasy series. Readers who enjoyed The Dresden Files or The Iron Druid Chronicles will likely enjoy this series.

Source: Info in the About Justice Calling was taken from GoodReads at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22825711-justice-calling on 04/04/2016.

 

Buy Link(s):
 

 

My Thoughts:

The book ended the current plot but left a lot hanging. Also the book is thin, worth two and a half hours listening time. An average length paperback is about roughly ten to fifteen hours long, so two hours is really thin. This shouts to us that there are more books in the series (as if we’d miss that glaring fact). The ending is a start of the next book which, although closed the plot, left off as a cliffhanger. I am not fond of cliffhangers, so that garnered a low rating with me. I like the story telling quality though. It’s not as masterful as Ilona Andrews‘ but good enough to hook me as a reader. The world building is great too! It got shapeshifters and witches. Maybe we’ll see elves and dwarves a few books down the line. Elements that catches my fantasy geek’s attention. And I love the narration! The voice quality is not as soothing to the ears as Therese Plummer‘s but I love her narration anyways. In the end, it was a good read, seeing that it is a very short book. I would give it an overall entertainment value of four out of five.

 

Empirical Evaluation:
Story telling quality = 4
Character development = 4
Story itself = 4.5
Writing Style = 4.5
Ending = 3
World building = 4.5
Cover art = 4.5
Pace = (2 hrs and 35 mins listening time)
Plot = 4
Narration = 5

 

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 cherries

 

The Author
Annie Bellet

Annie Bellet is a full-time speculative fiction writer. She holds a BA in English and a BA in Medieval Studies and thus can speak a smattering of useful languages such as Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Welsh.

Her books include Avarice (Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division: Book 1), A Heart in Sun and Shadow (Cymru That Was: Book 1), The Gryphonpike Chronicles series, and the Twenty-Sided Sorceress series.

Her interests besides writing include rock climbing, reading, horse-back riding, video games, comic books, table-top RPGs, and many other nerdy pursuits.

 

The Narrator
Folly Blaine

Folly Blaine writes fiction, narrates short stories and audiobooks, and shoots pictures in the Pacific Northwest.

She attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2014.

 

Books In The Twenty-Sided Sorceress Series:
 

Book 1: JUSTICE CALLING   Book 2: MURDER OF CROWS   Book 3: PACK OF LIES   Book 4: HUNTING SEASON   Book 5: HEARTACHE   Book 6: THICKER THAN BLOOD   Book 7: MAGIC TO THE BONE   Book 7.5: HARPER'S TALE: TRIBES   Book 8: DUNGEON CRAWL

 


 

FTC Disclosure:
This book was purchased with private funds.
No money received for this review.

 

25/05/2016 Posted by | 4 cherries, audiobook, book review, Cherry's reviews, review | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SWEEP IN PEACE Review

 

The Book

 


Sweep In Peace by Ilona Andrews
Book 2 of the Innkeeper Chronicles series
Read by Renee Raudman
Genre: urban fantasy
Format: ebook, & audiobookAudiobook

 

 

About Sweep In Peace:

Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn is a living entity that defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance.

Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn… and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…

Source: Info in the About Sweep In Peace was taken from the author’s website at http://www.ilona-andrews.com/blog/book/sweep-in-peace on 23/10/2015.

 

Buy Link(s):
   

 

Excerpt:

Chapter One

When visitors came to the fine state of Texas, they expected a dry, rolling plain studded with longhorn cattle, oil derricks, and an occasional cowboy in a huge hat. According to them, that plain had only one type of weather: scorching. That wasn’t true at all. In fact, we had two types, drought and flood. This December, the town of Red Deer was experiencing the latter kind of weather. The rain poured and poured, turning the world gray, damp, and dreary.

I looked outside the living room window and hugged myself. The view offered a section of flooded street and, past it, the Avalon subdivision hunkering down under the cascade of cold water determined to wait it out. The inside of Gertrude Hunt’s Bed-and-Breakfast was warm and dry, but the rain was getting to me all the same. After a week of this downpour, I wanted a clear sky. Maybe it would let up tomorrow. A girl could hope.

It was a perfect evening to snuggle up with a book, play a video game, or watch TV. Except I wanted to do none of those things. I’d been snuggling up with a book, playing video games, or watching TV every night for the past six months with only my dog, my inn, and its lone guest for company, and I was a bit tired of it.

Caldenia exited the kitchen, carrying her cup of tea. She looked to be in her sixties, beautiful, elegant, and cloaked in the air of experience. If you saw her on the street in New York or London, you’d think she was a lady of high society whose days were filled with brunches with friends and charity auctions. Her Grace, Caldenia ka ret Magren, was indeed high society, except she preferred world domination to friendly brunches and mass murder to charity. Thankfully those days were behind her. Now she was just a guest at my inn, her past barely an issue aside from an occasional bounty hunter stupid enough to try to collect on the enormous price on her head.

On this evening she wore a sweeping kimono the color of rose wine, with gold accents. It flared as she walked, giving her thin figure a suitably regal air. Her silver hair, usually artfully arranged into a flattering hairdo, drooped slightly. Her makeup looked smudged and short of her typical impeccable perfection. The rain was getting to her as well.

She cleared her throat.

What now? “Your Grace?”

“Dina, I’m bored,” Caldenia announced.

Too bad. I guaranteed her safety, not entertainment. “What about your game?”

Her Grace gave me a shrug. “I’ve beaten it five times on the Deity setting. I’ve reduced Paris to ashes because Napoleon annoyed me. I’ve eradicated Gandhi. I’ve crushed George Washington. Empress Wu had potential, so I eliminated her before we even cleared Bronze Age. The Egyptians are my pawns. I dominate the planet. Oddly, I find myself mildly fascinated by Genghis Khan. A shrewd and savage warrior, possessing a certain magnetism. I left him with a single city, and I periodically make ridiculous demands that I know he can’t meet so I can watch him squirm.”

She liked him, so she was torturing him. Her Grace in a nutshell. “What civilization did you choose?”

“Rome, of course. Any title other than Empress would be unacceptable. That’s not the point. The point, my dear, is that our lives are beginning to feel dreadfully dull. The last guest we had was two months ago.”

She was preaching to the converted. Gertrude Hunt required guests, for financial and other reasons. They were the lifeblood of the inn. Caldenia helped some, but for the inn to thrive, we needed guests—if not a steady stream, then a large party. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to get those guests. Once upon a time, Gertrude Hunt had sat on a crossroads of a busy road, but decades passed, the world changed, the roads shifted, and now Red Deer, Texas, was a small town in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t get much traffic.

“Would you like me to pass out flyers on the corner, Your Grace?”

“Do you think it would help you drum up business?”

“Probably not.”

“Well then, that answers your question. Don’t get snippy, Dina. It really doesn’t become you.” She glided up the stairs, her kimono flowing behind her like a mantle.

I needed tea. Tea would make everything better.

I went to the kitchen and reached for a kettle. My left foot landed in something cold and wet. I looked down. A small yellow puddle greeted me. Well, doesn’t that just take the cake?

“Beast!”

My tiny Shih Tzu dashed into the kitchen, her black and white fur waving like a battle flag. She saw my foot in the puddle. Her brain decided it was time to beat a hasty retreat, but her body kept going. She tripped over her own paws and smacked headfirst into the island.

“What is this?” I pointed to the puddle.

Beast flipped onto her feet, slunk behind the island, and poked her head out, looking guilty.

“You have a perfectly good doggie door. I don’t care if it’s raining, you go outside.”

Beast slunk about some more and whined.

Magic chimed, a soft not-quite sound only I could hear—the inn letting me know we had guests.

Visitors!

Beast exploded into barks, zooming around the island in tight circles. I hopped on one foot to the kitchen sink, stuck my foot under the faucet, and washed my hands and my foot with soap. The floor under the puddle split, forming a narrow gap. Tile flowed, suddenly fluid, and the offending liquid disappeared. The floor resealed itself. I wiped my hands on the kitchen towel, ran to the front door, Beast bounding at my heels, and swung it open.

A white Ford Explorer was parked in the driveway. Through the screen door I saw a man in the driver seat. A woman sat next to him. Behind them, two smaller heads moved back and forth—kids in the backseat, probably stir-crazy after a long trip. A nice family. I reached forward with my magic.

Oh.

I’d thought the chime didn’t sound quite right.

The man got out and ran to the front door, shielding his glasses from the rain with his hand, and stopped under the porch roof. About thirty-five, he looked like a typical suburban dad: jeans, T-shirt, and the slightly desperate expression of someone who had been in a car with small children for several hours.

“Hi!” he said. “I’d like to rent a room.”

This was exactly why Gertrude Hunt had a private phone number and no online listing. We weren’t on any tourist brochures. How had they even found us? “I’m sorry, we have no vacancy.”

He blinked. “What do you mean, you have no vacancy? It looks like a big house, and there are no cars in the driveway.”

“I’m sorry, we have no vacancy.”

The woman got out of the car and ran over. “What’s the holdup?”

The man turned to her. “They have no vacancy.”

The woman looked at me. “We drove six hours in this rain from Little Rock. We won’t be any trouble. We just need a couple of rooms.”

“There is a very nice Holiday Inn only two miles from here,” I said.

The woman pointed at Avalon subdivision. “My sister lives in that subdivision. She said the only person who ever stays here is some old lady.”

Ah. Mystery solved. The neighbors knew I ran a bed-and-breakfast because that was the only way I could explain the occasional guests.

“Is it because we have kids?” the woman asked.

“Not at all,” I said. “Would you like the directions to the Holiday Inn?”

The man grimaced. “No, thanks. Come on, Louise.”

They turned and went to their car. The woman was mumbling something. “…outrageous.”

I watched them get into the car, reverse down the driveway, and leave. The inn chimed softly, punctuating their departure.

“I thought we had guests!” Caldenia called from the stairs.

“Not the right kind,” I said.

The inn creaked. I petted the doorframe. “Don’t worry. It will get better.”

Caldenia sighed. “Perhaps you should go on a date, dear. Men are so attentive when they think there is a chance you will let them into your bed. It does wonderful things to lift your spirits.”

A date. Right.

“What about Sean Evans?”

“He isn’t home,” I said quietly.

“Too bad. It was so much fun when he and the other fellow were around.” Caldenia shrugged and went up the stairs.

About five months ago, I watched Sean Evans open a door and step through it to the greater universe beyond. I hadn’t heard from him since. Not that he owed me anything. Sharing a single kiss could hardly be called a relationship, no matter how memorable it was. I knew from experience that the universe was very large. It was difficult for a single woman to compete with all its wonders. Besides, I was an innkeeper. Guests left to have exciting adventures and our kind stayed behind. Such was the nature of our profession.

And telling myself all those things over and over didn’t make me feel better. When I thought about Sean Evans, I felt the way business travelers from Canada might feel about an overnight trip to Miami in the middle of February. They would ride in a taxi, see the beach outside their window, knowing they wouldn’t get a chance to visit it, and wonder what it would be like to walk on the sand and feel the waves on their feet. Sean and I might have been great if only we had more time, but now we would never know if that beach would’ve turned out to be paradise, or if we would find jellyfish in the water and sand in our food.

It was for probably for the best. Werewolves were nothing but trouble anyway.

I was about to close the door when magic brushed against me like ripples from a stone cast into a calm pond. This had a completely different flavor. Someone had entered the inn’s grounds. Someone powerful and dangerous.

I reached for my broom, which was resting in the corner by the door, and stepped out onto the front porch. A figure in a gray rain poncho stood by the hedges, just on the edge of the inn’s grounds, politely waiting to be invited inside.

We had a visitor. Maybe even a guest, the right kind this time. I inclined my head, more of a very shallow bow than a nod.

The two doors behind me opened on their own. The figure approached slowly. The visitor was tall, almost a foot taller than me, which put him around six two, maybe six three. He walked into the inn. I followed him, and the door closed tight behind me.

The figure pulled the cord securing his hood and shrugged off his rain poncho. A man in his early thirties stood in front of me, muscular but lean, his shoulder-length blond hair pulled back into a haphazard ponytail at the nape of his neck. He wore a white shirt with flaring sleeves, dark gray trousers, and supple black boots that came midway up his calf. An embroidered vest hugged his frame, black accented with blue, emphasizing the contrast between his broad shoulders and flat stomach. A leather sword belt graced his narrow hips, supporting a long, slender scabbard with an elaborate basket hilt protruding from it. He probably owned a wide-brimmed hat with some fluffy white feathers and possibly a cloak or two.

His face was shocking. Masculine, well-cut but not at all brutish, with strong elegant lines people usually called aristocratic: high, broad forehead, straight nose, good cheekbones, square jaw, and a full mouth. He wasn’t at all feminine, yet most people would describe him as beautiful rather than handsome.

The man smiled at me. Quiet humor tinted his pale blue eyes, as if he found the world a perpetually amusing place. They were the kind of eyes that shone with intelligence, confidence, and calculation. He didn’t look—he watched, noticed, and evaluated—and I had a feeling that even when his mouth and his eyes smiled, his mind remained alert and razor-sharp.

I had seen him before. I remembered that face. But where?

“I’m looking for Dina Demille.” His voice suited him well: warm and confident. He had a light accent, not really British, not really Southern US, but an odd, melodious meld of both.

“You found her,” I said. “Welcome to Gertrude Hunt Inn. Your poncho?”

“Thank you.” He handed me the poncho, and I hung it on the hook by the door.

“Will you be staying with us?”

“I’m afraid not.” He offered me an apologetic smile.

Figured. “What can I do for you?”

He raised his hand and traced a pattern between us. The air in the wake of his finger glowed with pale blue. A stylized symbol of scales, two weights in the balance, flared between us, held for a second, and vanished. He was an Arbitrator. Oh crap. My heart sped up. Who could possibly be suing us? Gertrude Hunt didn’t have the finances to fight an arbitration.

I leaned on my broom. “I’ve received no notice of arbitration.”

He smiled. His face lit up. Wow.

“My apologies. I’m afraid I’ve given you the wrong impression. You’re not a party to an arbitration. I came to you to discuss a business proposition.”

Business was so much better than arbitration. I pointed at the couches in the front room. “Please sit down. May I get you something to drink, Arbitrator?”

“Hot tea would be fantastic,” he said. “And please, call me George.”

#

We sat in my comfortable chairs and sipped our tea. George frowned, obviously collecting his thoughts. He seemed so… pleasant. Cultured and genteel. But in my line of work, you quickly learned that appearances were often deceiving. I clicked my tongue, and Beast jumped on my lap and positioned herself so she could lunge off my knees in an instant. Being cautious never hurt.

“Have you heard of Nexus?” George asked.

“Yes.” I had visited Nexus. It was one of those bizarre places in the galaxy where reality bent into a pretzel. “But please continue. I would rather have all the information I need than assume I know something I don’t.”

“Very well. Nexus is a colloquial name for Onetrikvasth IV, a star system with a single habitable planet.”

He didn’t stumble over the name. That must’ve taken some practice.

“Nexus is a temporal anomaly. Time flows faster there. A month on Earth is roughly equivalent to over three months on Nexus. However, biological aging proceeds at the same pace as on the planet of origin.”

My brother, Klaus, had once explained the Nexus paradox to me, complete with formulas. We were trying to find our parents at the time, and the complex explanation had flown right over my head. I chalked it up to magic. The universe was full of wonders. Some of them would drive you insane if you thought about them too long.

“Nexus also contains large subterranean reserves of kuyo, a naturally occurring viscous liquid that, when refined, is used in production of what my background file calls ‘pharmaceutical assets of significant strategic value.’”

“It’s used to manufacture military stimulants,” I said. “They affect a wide variety of species in slightly different ways, but typically they boost strength and speed while suppressing fatigue and fear. They turn humans into berserkers, for example.”

George smiled. “I should probably speak plainly.”

I smiled back. “It would save us some time.”

“Very well.” George sipped his tea. “Kuyo occurs throughout the galaxy but only in small quantities, which makes Nexus extremely valuable. Currently there are three factions fighting for control of the planet. Each claims the rights to the entirety of Nexus’s mineral wealth, and none are willing to compromise. They’re engaged in a bloody war. It’s been going on for a little over seven Earth years and almost twenty years in Nexus’s time. The war is brutal and has cost everyone involved a great deal. Cooler minds on all sides agree it can’t continue. The matter has been referred for arbitration by one of the interested factions, the other two agreed, and here we are.”

“I’m guessing one of the factions is the Merchants?” When we landed on Nexus, we’d ended up in a Merchant spaceport. Merchants facilitated interstellar trade through the known galaxy and its many dimensions. When you needed rare goods or a large quantity of goods, you went to see a Merchant. They were motivated by profit and prestige.

George nodded. “Yes. The war is cutting into their profits.”

“Which family? The Ama?”

“The Nuan. The Ama family cut their losses and sold its holdings on Nexus to Nuan two years ago.”

Suddenly his presence here made a lot of sense. “Is Nuan Cee involved?”

“Yes. In fact, he was the one who recommended your establishment.”

Before my parents disappeared, they did a lot of business with Nuan Cee. Running an inn sometimes required exotic goods, and he procured the rarest items. Even I had done a deal with Nuan Cee. I’d bartered the world’s rarest honey for the eggs of a deadly giant spider.

“Your tea is delicious,” George said.

“Thank you. Which are the other two factions?”

“House Krahr of the Holy Cosmic Anocracy.”

Six months ago I had sheltered a vampire of House Krahr after he was injured trying to apprehend an alien assassin. His nephew had come to rescue him. The nephew’s name was Arland, he was the Marshal of his House, and he had flirted with me. At least flirted in vampire terms. He’d assured me that he would be ecstatic to be my shield, and I shouldn’t hesitate to rely upon his warrior prowess. He’d also gotten drunk on coffee and run through my orchard naked.

Good God, who could hold the vampires of Krahr off for twenty years? They were one of the most ferocious sentient species in the galaxy. They were predators who lived to war. Their entire civilization was dedicated to it.

“And the final faction?”

George set his cup down. “The Otrokars.”

I blinked.

Silence stretched.

“The Hope-Crushing Horde?”

George looked slightly uncomfortable. “That’s the official name, yes.”

The Otrokars were the scourge of the galaxy. They were huge and violent, and they lived to conquer. They’d started with one planet and grown their holdings to nine. Their name literally meant Hope-Crushing, because once you saw them, all your hopes died. The Holy Anocracy and the Horde had collided several times over the past three centuries, always with disastrous results. The two species hated each other so much their feud had become legendary. Half the jokes in the galaxy started with “a vampire and an otrokar walk into a bar….”

Having vampires and Otrokars together in close proximity was like mixing glycerin with nitric acid and then hitting it with a sledgehammer. They would explode. It would be a slaughter.

I leaned forward. “So you need a neutral venue to hold the arbitration?”

“Yes. An inn on Earth is ideal. It is defined as neutral ground, and we can rely on an innkeeper’s power to keep the participants in check.”

“Let me guess: you’ve tried other inns and everyone turned you down. Am I your last stop?”

George took a deep breath. “Yes.”

“There was an attempt to broker peace between Otrokars and the Holy Cosmic Anocracy during their Ten-Year Conflict,” I said. “About fifty years ago.”

He braided his long, elegant fingers into a single fist. “Yes, I’m familiar with it.”

“Then you also know how it ended.”

“I believe the patriarch of House Jero lunged at the Otrokar Korum, and Korum beheaded him.”

“He ripped the patriarch’s head off with his bare hands and then proceeded to beat the Marshal of House Jero to death with it.”

“Well, the venture does sound risky when you put it that way…”

“It’s not risky, it’s suicidal.”

“Should I take it as a no?” George asked.

This was a really bad idea.

“How many people do you expect?”

“At least twelve from each party.”

Thirty-six guests. My heart sped up. Thirty-six guests, each with robust magic. This would sustain the inn for years to come. Not to mention that if I managed to pull this impossible thing off, it would raise the inn’s standing.

No. What was I thinking? It would be crazy. I would have to keep the peace between thirty-six individuals, each dying to kill the other. It would be terrible. The risk… The gamble was too great.

What did I have to lose?

George reached into his pocket, produced a small tablet about the size of a playing card and just as thin, and showed it to me. Two numbers: $500,000 and $1,000,000.

“The first is your payment in the event the arbitration fails. The second is payment if we succeed.”

Five hundred thousand. We needed the money. I could finally upgrade my books. I could buy the additional building materials for the inn.

No. I might as well set Gertrude Hunt on fire.

My gaze fell on the portrait of my parents. They were looking at me. Demilles never backed down from a challenge. But then, we didn’t take unnecessary risks either.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I could simply sit here and continue to wait for a chance traveler to happen my way…

“If I do this, I would need you to meet my conditions,” I said.

“Absolutely.”

“I want agreements of reimbursement to be drawn up and signed by all parties. I want a sum of money to be set aside in escrow from each faction and placed under your control. If they damage the inn, I want them to pay for the damages.”

“I find that reasonable.”

“I need each party to review and sign Earth’s nondisclosure policy. Ordinary citizens of this planet can’t know of their existence. For example, we may experience visits from local law enforcement, and I want it expressly understood that nobody will be crushing necks or ripping off heads.”

“Also reasonable.”

“I may think of some additional restrictions. Do you have any concerns?”

“A couple.” George leaned forward. “The nature of the relationship between the inn and its guests isn’t quite clear to me. Why does the inn require guests?”

“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” I explained. “The inn provides the guests with shelter and food. It sees to their every need. In return, it feeds on the natural energy all living beings emit. The more varied and powerful that energy, the more magic the inn is able to generate and the stronger it becomes.”

George narrowed his eyes. “So is the inn empathic?”

“No, not exactly.”

“Can it influence the mood of its guests?”

“Only in as much as we are all influenced by our surroundings.”

George frowned. “I’ve read of some cases that suggested a link can be forged between an inn and its guests.”

Oh. That’s what he was getting at. “That’s not exactly accurate. It is possible for the inn to forge a mental link between an innkeeper and a guest, but the inn can’t influence the guest’s mental state. The linking ritual has been done only a handful of times in rare cases when the inn or guests were in danger. For example, when the identity of a murderer had to be confirmed. The guest has to be a willing participant in the process and try to forge the link. So if you’re asking me whether the inn can magically make the guests more agreeable and likely to sign the peace treaty, then no. I can make sure the peace delegates have the softest linens and the most tranquil of rooms, but I have no power to influence them. Even if I could, I wouldn’t. The privacy of my guests is sacred, and I am meant to remain as a neutral party. It would be a breach of ethics.”

“Oh well,” he said. “It was a thought.”

Considering the enormity of the task at hand, I could understand why he would reach for any possibility that could influence the outcome. “Anything else?”

“Yes.” George turned and glanced at the modest room. “I mean no disrespect, but your establishment is considerably smaller than I was led to believe. I don’t believe we have enough room.”

I rose. “Have you stayed at many inns?”

“No. I’ve visited several in connection with this summit, but I haven’t had the pleasure of being a guest. Yours is my first.”

I pulled the magic to me. What I was about to do would likely drain most of the inn’s resources and mine. If he walked away from our deal after I was done, it would take us a very long time to recover. But if we could get guests, it would all be worth it.

I picked up my broom. The magic vibrated within me, building and building, held so tight, like a giant spring compressed to its limit. George rose and stood next to me.

I raised the broom, bristles up, pictured the interior of the inn in my mind, and brought the broom down. Wood connected with floorboards with a dry knock.

Magic rolled through the inn like an avalanche, the wood and stone suddenly elastic and flowing. The interior of the inn opened like a blossoming flower. The walls moved apart. The ceiling soared. The magic kept streaming out of me, so fast I felt light-headed. Polished pink marble rolled over the floor, sheathed the walls, and surged up, forming stately columns.

Next to me George stood very still.

Two-story-tall windows opened in the marble. I leaned on the broom for support. Vaulted ceilings turned pure white. Crystal chandeliers sprouted like bunches of exquisite blooms. Golden flourishes spiraled and curved on the floor. Lights flared among the crystal.

I cut off the magic. The power snapped inside me like a rubber band. I reeled from the impact.

The grand ballroom spread before us, grandiose, elegant, and glowing.

The Arbitrator closed his mouth with a click. “I stand corrected.”

Source: Excerpt was taken from the author’s website at http://www.ilona-andrews.com/blog/book/sweep-in-peace on 23/10/2015.

 

Books In The Innkeeper Chronicles:

 

Review

 


My Thoughts:

I Beta Read for the first book in this series and I was in love with it! So for this second book I decided not to Beta Read when the author called for Beta Readers because I wanted to experience the full book in its finality and in it’s full glory… and I was reminded again why I love this series and this author all over again! So much so that I bought the audiobook after I read the ebook and currently re-listening to it! So I am an old die-hard fan, so this review might be nothing but fan-girling rave. Still, no one can dispute my claims to it’s masterful and compelling story telling quality! Superb world building! And well-developed characters who fells like old friends… five out of five!

 

Empirical Evaluation:
Story telling quality = 5
Character development = 5
Story itself = 5
Writing Style = 5
Ending = 5
World building = 5
Cover art = 5
Pace = 5
Plot = 5
Narration = 5

 

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 cherries

 


FTC Disclosure:
Copies of the book were purchased with private funds.
No money received for this review.

 

22/12/2015 Posted by | audiobook, book review, review | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: MASKED BY MOONLIGHT

Masked By Moonlight by Nancy Gideon
Book 1 of the Moonlight series

About Masked By Moonlight:

IN THIS STUNNING FIRST BOOK FROM NANCY GIDEON’S SIZZLING NEW SERIES, A TENACIOUS COP AND HER SHAPE-SHIFTING ENEMY SACRIFICE EVERYTHING FOR FORBIDDEN DESIRE.

ALL SHE WANTS IS REVENGE.

New Orleans homicide detective Charlotte Caissie is dedicated to bringing down the crime boss responsible for her father’s murder. Using Jimmy Legere’s mysterious and irresistible right-hand man is a dangerous gamble, and not only due to his reputation as more monster than man. Because her feelings for Max Savoie are . . . complicated.

THEN HE RISKS HIS LIFE TO SAVE HERS.

Rescued from the swamps as a child, Max exists silently in Legere’s shadow, heeding only his voice—until Charlotte Caissie awakens his emotions and tests his loyalties. Stepping outside his cautious rules threatens more than just his heart. He could expose his darkest secret.

NOW THEY’RE BOTH IN OVER THEIR HEADS.

Testing boundaries they weren’t meant to cross means facing the truth about who and what they are—and what they need from each other. If Max is the murderer she seeks, Charlotte could be his next victim. She can’t afford to trust any man. Good thing Max isn’t one.

Source: Info in the About Masked By Moonlight was taken from GoodReads at http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6979554-masked-by-moonlight on 01/10/2011.

My Thoughts:

I was actually dreading reading this book… because I said “yes” before reading the synopsis. Then when I did read the synopsis, my first thought was, “Another run-of-the-mill werewolf…” But, I was pleasantly surprised! The story telling quality is so good that it made the reading pace go fast despite my apprehension going into this book. Now I just want to read Book 2 straight away! (Which of course I am reading right now.) You have to give the author a lot of kudos for making me like the book quickly despite my apprehension at the start. However the story felt like it’s lacking a more substantial structure. It read like a first chapter of a bigger book… which I suppose it is…

I have a question though for those discriminating readers out there who might have read this book… what does the title got to do with the story? Can somebody explain that to me because for the life of me I cannot see any real connection here… as Max explained to Cee Cee, his shapeshifting is not determined by the moon at all…

Overall this was an enjoyable read for me. Maybe because of the very good story telling quality, I say this is a very good start to a promising series!

Empirical Evaluation:
Story telling quality = 5
Character development = 4.5
Story itself = 4
Ending = 3
World building = 4
Cover art = 4.5
Pace = 4.5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 cherries

Buy Link:

Other Books In The Moonlight Series:

Thank you to the wonderful people at Simon & Schuster for the review copy of Masked By Moonlight by Nancy Gideon received.

07/10/2011 Posted by | book review, Cherry's reviews, Moonlight series, Nancy Gideon, review, Simon and Schuster, urban fantasy, werewolves | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Review: MADHOUSE by Rob Thurman

Madhouse by Rob Thurman

About Madhouse:
Book 3 of the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman

My brother had spent a lifetime – mine, at least – telling me that I was normal, that I wasn’t a monster. With his help, I’d finally realized that as long as I could remain who I was, I could survive what I was. It was only bad genes…

Half-human Cal Leandros and his brother, Niko, aren’t exactly prospering with their preternatural detective agency. Who could have guessed that business would dry up in New York City, where vampires, trolls, and other creepy crawlies are all over the place?

But now there’s a new arrival in the Big Apple. A malevolent evil with ancient powers, dead set on making history with an orgy of blood and murder, is picking off humans like sheep. And for Cal and Niko, this is one paycheck they’re going to have to earn… if they live long enough to collect it.

Source: Info in the About Madhouse was taken from the the author’s website at http://robthurman.net/cal-leandros/madhouse/ on 18/08/2010.

Review:
What I’ve said about book 1 (Nightlife) and book 2 (Moonshine) in this series is still true with this book. Good paced with humour between the pages and satisfying ending. I would highly recommend this book to urban fantasy readers! But seeing that this is book 3 in the series, I would suggest that you read books 1 and 2 first. It would give a better appreciation of characters and events. Go to Rob Thurman‘s website for reading order at www.robthurman.net.

What do I love about this book that I haven’t said already about the other books in this series? The mere pleasure of reading more about the now beloved characters, Nik and Cal, and enjoying the wonderful story telling quality of Rob Thurman. The novelty hasn’t worn off yet and I’m going to savour it while it lasts 🙂

And another thing I like about Rob Thurman’s writing style is that she always delivers a good ending to all the books in the series. She may add on a cliffhanger at the end just to keep you interested in the series but the ending always resolves the central dilemma in the story. Resolution! I am a resolution kind of girl. That is very important to me as a reader.  I do not like being strung along to hung dry. I tend to avoid those authors like the plague!

What I don’t like? There were a couple or so of patches in the book where it dragged a bit. I just persevere through it just to get to the next bit because by now I know this author and I know that something good is waiting at the bend.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 cherries

Buy Link:

17/10/2010 Posted by | book review, Cal Leandros series, Cherry's reviews, magic, review, Rob Thurman, urban fantasy, werewolves | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments