Nalini Singh keeps readers riveted in the sixth Guild Hunter novel, Archangel’s Legion

Guild Hunter #6
Singh’s Guild Hunter series is an exotic blend of Gothic and grit. Highly recommended.

Angels are falling from the sky in New York, struck down by a vicious, unknown force.

Vampires are dying impossibly of disease.

Guild hunter Elena Deveraux and the Archangel Raphael must discover the source of the wave of death before it engulfs their city and their people, leaving New York a ruin and Raphael’s Tower under siege by enemy archangels.

Yet even as they fight desperately to save the city, an even darker force is stirring, its chill eyes trained on New York…and on Raphael. Rivers of crimson and nightmares given flesh, the world will never again be the same… (synopsis taken from Goodreads)

Archangel’s Legion reviewed.

Another taut tale from Nalini Singh. Every time I decide that I prefer one of her series over the other (Guild Hunter vs. Psy-Changeling), she writes a new book that puts me right back on the fence! Although her books are unfailingly sensual and plenty HOT, I appreciate that this book — unlike some of the others — remains focused on the story instead of constant interruptions for (unabashedly hot) sex scenes. Singh writes fantastic sex scenes. No question about it. They are creative and exciting, hot without being crass and suited (if you know what I mean) to the specific characters she is portraying. Not generic or one-fits-all. Her sex scenes also develop and showcase her characters, deepening the reader’s understanding of the people in the story.

However. In some of her books, the sex scenes were so frequent and lengthy that I was simply impatient to get back to the STORY. Points made. Characters developed. Let’s MOVE ON already. In fairness, that also points to Singh’s ability to craft a compelling, suspenseful story, but after a certain point, the sex scenes, no matter how well written, just felt gratuitous.

In Archangel’s Legion, I was happy to discover that Singh had trimmed the sex without losing the sensuality and intimacy of these characters. Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of sex and heat, just not SO much that it is such an irritant.

I’m going to avoid describing the plot of Legion, because I’m all too likely to say too much, and I hate spoilers, but it is a strong addition to the ongoing story of Elena, Raphael and company. It had the feeling of a bridge book to me, but stands just fine on its own.

Singh’s universe, ruled by Archangels supported by tiers of angels, vampires, and humans is clearly imagined and deftly realized from the beginning, and the reader’s understanding deepens and expands as the series progresses. This series doesn’t represent “just another vampire/angel/supernatural creature book.” This is an original, complete, complex world with it’s own “rules” and bureaucracy firmly in place. Singh’s Guild Hunter series is an exotic blend of Gothic and grit.

I highly recommend the Guild Hunter series to readers of Urban Fantasy and/or Paranormal Romance. Fans of Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Kresley Cole, Laurell K. Hamilton, Shelley Laurenston/G.A. Aiken, or Chloe Neill will enjoy Singh’s organic world-building and compelling, strong characters.

If you haven’t read the series, I strongly recommend beginning with the first book: Angels’ Blood. I also highly recommend trying her Psy-Changeling series, beginning with Slave to Sensation.

Stylish and sly, Zen Cho’s debut novel is full of wit and adventure. A dangerously truthful tale of politics, people and magic.

Zen Cho's debut offers adventure, romance and magic against a glittering backdrop of an alternate history Regency England.
Zen Cho’s debut offers adventure, romance and magic against a glittering backdrop of an alternate history Regency England.

Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal Novel) by Zen Cho

While I loved the elegant prose and affected manners and mannerisms of an earlier age, so deftly captured by Zen Cho in Sorcerer to the Crown, I can believe that some modern readers will not enjoy it as much. To the modern ear, the book may read as slow to develop, whereas I saw it as a lushly imagined and developed alternate history of Regency era (the Napoleonic Wars) England. Cho displays gently barbed wit to sly purpose in her painting of a magical and socially regimented era into which she effortlessly weaves the politics and struggles of power, be it magical, sexual, racial, or dogmatic. This book definitely isn’t for everyone, but fans of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer will be right at home with the language and setting and will likely enjoy this magical comedy of manners.

Magic is draining from the world, and many blame Zacharias, the newly named Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers. Zacharias is considered a shocking choice by many — a familiar-less free slave! He is very different from his fellow magicians, being an orphan and black, and is an unpopular Royal Sorcerer, but he is determined to make positive, proactive changes to the world of magic during his (he fears, very short) tenure as the most powerful sorcerer in the land. He sets off to the border of Fairyland to investigate the drying up of England’s once profuse stores of magical energy.

Prunella is an orphan, charitably established at a school for girls “troubled” by magic. Women are taught only such magic as applies to household chores and must otherwise suppress their power. Prunella, however, has access to far more power than most. Zacharias’s and Prunella’s adventures bring them together, and they each discover in the other something special indeed.

A tale of adventure, romance, humor, and magic is deftly woven into a comedy of manners and sociopolitical commentary. Regency fans and fans of alternate history/fantasy should love this series opener and be eager for the next installment. I know I am!

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com in return for my honest review.

Worth a Listen! Katharine Hepburn opens up about her life and love.

Worth a Listen! Katharine Hepburn opens up about her life and love.

ME: Stories of my Life by Katharine Hepburn

I listened to this as an audiobook and the reader (Bernadette Dunne) does a marvelous job. I am an avid audiobook fan, and the performance of the narrator is CRUCIAL! Me: Stories of my Life is an interesting look into the life and mind of a profoundly private lady. The wrong reader could easily destroy the intimate tone created by the author.

Reading the autobiography/memoirs of such a famous person — with such a distinct and very famous voice — is not an easy task. Bernadette Dunne  doesn’t fall into the trap of doing an impression of Katharine Hepburn, which would have come across as annoying and mocking rather than invoking Ms. Hepburn. Unless an imitation is exact, it becomes either sarcastic or a constant reminder to the listener that the book’s reader is “doing” Katharine Hepburn. And it’s off. And it’s annoying. And 9 CDs is too long to listen to a bad imitation…

Instead, Bernadette Dunne subtly alters her own voice so that it calls the sound of Katharine Hepburn to mind, but doesn’t try to convince (or force) the listener to believe that it is actually Ms. Hepburn speaking. I don’t know if I’m being clear enough about the distinction I’m making…I have listened to many audiobooks narrated by Bernadette Dunne, and am very familiar with her voice and with the way she shapes sound. To read Me: Stories of My Life, Dunne deepens her voice a little, just adding a husky quality, and slips into what I call a New England drawl (an accent that’s crisp and posh, but also slow and drawl-y, dry, almost bored-sounding). Dunne is a deeply gifted voice actress. She brings Ms. Hepburn’s words and stories to life, using only her voice to reflect the wry humor, delight, and exasperation as well as the regret and sadness that Katharine Hepburn shares in her memoir.

Although there were parts of the book that I felt went on too long, or became too focused on details and lost the rhythm, I enjoyed Me: Stories of My Life very much. Katharine Hepburn was a true original, and a lovely and fascinating lady. (and I think her parents were amazing!) Ms. Hepburn’s writing and Ms. Dunne’s performance create an intimate, conversational experience that I would recommend to any biography/autobiography reader, to any fan of the old Hollywood, and especially to any fan of Katharine Hepburn’s. What a woman.

Holiday Anthology Warms the Heart — Whatever the Season

Holiday Heartwarmer
Holiday Heart-warmer

Montana Christmas Romance by Danica Winters, Casey Dawes, R.L. Syme, Clare Tallier, Melissa Tenley, H.A. Somerled, Jade Barnaby.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Take a trip to Montana with this collection of seven heartwarming Christmas romances by award-winning and best-selling authors who call Montana home. This collection of stories from the mountains to the valleys of the Big Sky state will remind you of what is truly important and why you love the holiday season. Be ready to be swept away on a series of incredible journeys of the heart and soul.

Authors:
Casey Dawes — author of Love on the Wind
Danica Winters —author of A Date for Christmas
R.L. Syme — author of Montana Mistletoe
Clare Tallier — author of Homecoming
Melissa Tenley — author of An Unexpected Gift
H.A. Somerled — author of Death at a Party
Jade Barnaby — author of The Stars She Lost

Montana Christmas Romance is a strong collection of holiday romances focused on the lives and loves of a range of men and women living in Montana. The stories are touching, humorous, uplifting and satisfying – with plenty to keep you warm in the cold winter season. Among them, the stories offer plenty of variety, with a little something for everyone from new loves to first loves, second chances and first awakenings, even seeing an old enemy with new eyes.

Themes of Christmas are woven throughout the stories, reflecting the feelings of love, hope and redemption inherent in the holiday season against the stark but gorgeous backdrop of wintertime in Montana. Tender, funny, even sometimes poignant, these stories are ultimately heartwarming and gratifying. Although holiday-themed, this book is a positive, pleasing read whatever the season.

Tis the Season for a wonderful holiday read!!

tis the season

I was given and e-ARC from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Tis the Seasonby Robyn Carr

As always, Robyn Carr hits every mark with her stories: warmth, humor, charm, and the wonderful human-ness of her characters! I love Carr’s full-length Virgin River novels and these novellas were just as good. In some ways, I really loved the simple holiday warmth and gentleness of the stories, necessitated by the shorter structure of novellas. We didn’t lose any heart without the longer length, we just focused more on some less intimately connected characters and enjoyed the backdrop of the familiar town and it’s unusual, endearing residents. I loved this book and I know it is one that I will read over and over again! I’m looking forward to getting the audio version as well. It’s a perfect choice to listen to while cleaning and preparing for the holiday season.

A delicious taste of Simon R. Green

Tales of the Hidden World

Tales of the Hidden World by Simon R. Green

I received this book as an e-ARC from Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

This is a wonderful collection of Simon R. Green’s stories, ranging from a brand new story to the very first story he ever sold. The stories are all tied together by themes of death and dying, resulting in a book that is darker than many of his novels, but retains Green’s familiar insouciance and dry, dark humor. Tales of the Hidden World offers a good sense of Green’s style and voice for those looking to taste a new author’s short stories before they commit to a novel or a series. New readers should be aware that short stories are truly only a taste, not a feast. While the tales reflect Green’s masterful world building and his unique combination of broody atmosphere with caustic wit and the strange twists and turns that may or may not take you somewhere you want to be, the stories are only a quick sip and don’t offer a true Simon R. Green experience. The Nightside story is good, but it isn’t as quick and clever and satisfying as a Nightside novel. “A Question of Solace,” the story about the Drood family’s armorer lacks the dimension and flair of the Secret Histories novels.

The collection includes stories written over a span of decades and represents the assortment of diverse genres that Green tackles. Each story has a new afterward written by Simon R. Green, sharing his personal thoughts and memories relating to that story. Established fans (like myself) will be thrilled to revisit familiar worlds and characters, and to trace the development of Green’s inimitable voice and style. Truthfully, my favorite part of this collection is the afterward Green wrote for his stories, giving us a peek into himself and his process, as well as enhancing the experience of reading each story. I highly recommend this book to fans of Simon R. Green.

I think that this particular book will have a very unusual mix of reactions from first-time readers and fans alike. Many (most) fans will love this collection, enjoying the pleasure of slipping into a favorite world or discovering a different one; visiting the familiar haunts, old friends – and enemies – and meeting new ones. For all the reasons that I loved this book, some fans and newbies are going to hate it. That’s just the way it goes. Like all anthologies, I liked some stories more than others, but I think that almost everyone will find something that they appreciate in this collection.

After I read through the book the first time, I closed it, scribbled a few notes so I would remember my thoughts, laughed, pulled out my copy of The Man with the Golden Torc and settled in to enjoy. Once I indulged my yen quality time with the Droods, I picked Tales of the Hidden World up again. This time I read the stories in chronological order, beginning with the earliest. What a ride! I followed the journey of a talented, inexperienced writer as he found his voice, honed his gift, and emerged as a powerful storyteller with a unique perspective and a true genius for wonderfully twisted, sardonic humor.

An orgy of entertainment… with no calories!!

Cozy up and enjoy!
Cozy up and enjoy!

Well, where to start. As anyone who reads this blog (or knows me, really) is aware, I LOVE to read, and I truly read just about anything. But I do tend to run in genre streaks that fluctuate with my mood, my life, the seasons, and all kinds of other reasons. When things are just too much and I’m overwhelmed, I hit my old stand-bys. My comfort books. Sometimes it’s Agatha Christie or Rex Stout. Sometimes it’s Nora Roberts or Debbie Macomber, or Georgette Heyer and Carla Kelly, Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews. You get the picture.

Not surprisingly, the holidays (usually late in October or early November, depending on the weather in Michigan that year), frequently ignite one of these reading “moods.” This year, I got hit with an overwhelming desire for holiday romances — the warm, fuzzy, funny ones (more) and the more emotional, cathartic ones (less). Not too shocking or unusual, really.  Here’s the unusual part — for me anyway — I wanted contemporary romances.  Gasp. That isn’t unheard of for me, of course, but it is infrequent. I’m not a huge fan of the “sweat and pant” (as my mom calls it)subset of Romance. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy erotica. But I prefer my erotica to be well-written and seductive (or well-written and blatantly hot). I want a story and characters along with my dose of fantastic sensuality and sexuality. I don’t want upsetting, dramatic, emotional, angst-y erotica (aka “sweat-and-pant” Romance.)

So I started with Debbie Macomber, of course.  I think it was the Hallmark holiday movies playing all the time that got me going, so it made the most sense to start with the original author of several of them. Then I picked up a few anthologies — anything with a “small town Christmas” vibe was right up my alley this year. I moved on to Robyn Carr (novellas and novels) and Fern Michaels (novellas mostly), then  to Susan Wiggs, Susan Mallery, Jill Shalvis and random others I enjoyed in Small Town Christmas and other anthologies. I am devouring books in huge chunks. These books are like candy, and I go through at least one (often more than one) a day (yes — even on work days). Talk about a guilty pleasure.

But I ask myself: should I really indulge myself so freely? On the cusp of the new year, should I really just gorge myself on warm, fuzzy fun? I must admit, I really love the funny romances the best. Both the actual “romantic comedies” and the ones that are just well written and full of real people who are far better at bantering and teasing and wordplay than most of the world. Witty and silly — my favorite! But should I let myself devour book after book in an orgy of happily-ever-afters and “dessert-for-dinner” reading?

YES! Yes, I should. Because it’s the holidays and, like most everyone, I’m stressed and exhausted and worried about the new year (taxes, bills, higher premium payments) and I need a little pick me up. Let’s just call it a Christmas gift to myself — one I didn’t have to wrap!

Merry Christmas to me! Happy Holidays to all of you! You have my blessing if you want to indulge in an orgy of romance  reading — or horror/fantasy/scifi/narrative non-fiction — whatever your guilty pleasure might be.  Just swim in it! And Happy New Year!