City in Embers (Collector #1) by Stacey Marie Brown

23531413What a pleasant surprise this book was in the end. It has all I’ve wanted: I spunky female lead, a ferocious fae warrior, an apocalyptical setting in today’s USA, a fast moving plot with some surprising turns and an adorable fae familiar in the guise of a monkey. The little guy made my day, every fucking time. And take a closer look at the cover! Aint’t it beautiful? Better as some covers that I have seen lately with male nippels in the center.

Oh and the romance was brilliant. Even though they are not even kissing there were several moments when you could feel the heat coming of the pages. What I love most about this book? There is no insta-love, not even an instant attraction. They are both standing on opposite sides: Zoey is like the fae equivalent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and La Femme Nikita. Zoey is hired by a special government agency, the Department of Molecular Genetics (DMG) to find and collect fae in Seattle because of her special talent: She is one of the few humans who can actually see through the glamour. Ryker is the fae warrior she is paired up with, a freak mix somewhere between V’lane from the Fever series, Merle Dixon from The Walking Dead and Travis Fimmel as Ragnar Lothbrok in The Vikings. Zoe hates fae and Ryker hates the humans. Unfortunately for both, they have no other choice but to work together. Bit by bit their prejudices and hate for each other vanish and there is a growing respect and a fragile friendship blooming instead. I am so much looking forward to see how this will ripen in the next book.

The only thing that I have to criticize is the bumpy beginning. I almost gave up reading the book to be honest. There was just so much info-dumping in the first few chapters! The first person narration did not help in that moment either and there were so many confusing bits and pieces: Daniel her instructor with whom Zoey has fallen in love, her sister who is disabled and sick, the crazy professor from DMG, Zoeys backstory a foster kid… On and on it went this telling and not showing, recounting past events. I felt breathless alone from reading it. I feel like a different approach to telling the background history and kind of starting the book a little bit later might have been better. But 15% into the story the action really takes off and makes for an enjoyable, suspenseful read.

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Shield of Winter (Psy-Changeling #13) by Nalini Singh

17159944I adore Nalini Singh, really I do, and I love her even more for sending me an advanced reader copy to review. I’ve been a huge fan of the Psy/Changeling world from the start. I mean who could pull it off to make even rat shifters sound sexy? Right from the first moment I read the first line introducing Vasic, the cold TK-V Psy with the silver eyes I wanted his story. And Nalini Singh delivers again a fascinating story with my favorite Psy taking over the center stage.

The Psy-Changeling series is one of the few remaining paranormal romance series that keep getting better with each new book. There are many series out there who can’t keep the same level of awesomeness in the course of an ongoing series with 10 or more installments. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter world and the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward disappointed me. I don’t even want to start on the last installments in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stakehouse series. And even my all-time favorite author Karen Marie Moning crushed my fangirling over the Fever world back to the Ice Age with Iced (Dani O’Malley, #1; Fever, #6). Nalini doesn’t disappoint. She always delivers a good story even if the main characters of the individual book don’t end up on my favorite shelf.

My favorite part about Shield of Winter was not as I expected Vasic falling in love with Ivy but to see how Nalini played out the many challenges in the Psy-world after the fall of Silence. 

The twilight of 2081 will be forever remembered as the time when Silence fell in a crash of violence brutally leashed by the furious abilities of the most powerful Psy in the Net. With the fall comes a hush across the world, as the Psy race seeks to understand who they are in this new reality where emotion isn’t a crime punishable by a vicious psychic brain-wipe, and the heart is no longer an organ simply used to pump blood. For though Silence was a deeply flawed construct, it existed for a reason.

 

  1. One the one hand there is the creeping darkness in the Net that is still getting stronger, a sickness infesting in the society, on the other are the empaths whose abilities have been suppressed their whole lives and who now have to come out of hiding and face fighting a war against madness on the psychic plane they have no understanding of how to fight. Nalini Singh has done a great job in exploring this story line.
  2. The same can be said about another sub-plot: The importance of government supervision and control and the qualities of a good leader. Kaleb Krychek, Nikita Duncan, Anthony Kyriakos and even Ming LeBon – they all play a role in this book trying to keep a fragmenting society from crumbling down completely. Does this make them all good persons? No! But it explains why sometimes justified revenge and personal interests have to be postponed when hundreds of thousands of innocents would suffer otherwise.
  3. With Vasic being an Arrow, Shield of Winter also features an interesting discussion on assassins/soldiers. The Arrows have been known for black operations, for assassination and even mindless murder (while under the influence of a drug called Jax administrated during the time Ming LeBon was the leader). Each member of the squad has to come to terms not only with the fall of the Silence Protocol and the challenge of a new society they have to adapt to, but also with their former role as assassins. The Arrow squad will have to undergo a long process of reconciliation. Soldiers go to war and sometimes they have to kill. But soldiers also help in reconstruction and development; they are the ones who help in times natural disaster strike, rescuing innocents, sometimes by putting their lives on the line. In a new world without silence even assassins have to adapt and change without forgetting the past. Nalini takes us on an interesting journey of assassins turning to heroes that will render readers sympathetic to guilt and responsibility and what it means to serve and protect.

As I mentioned before the love story wasn’t my favorite part of the book.My main reason is that I constantly compared the love story of Ivy and Vasic to those of Sasha & Lucas Slave to Sensation and Brenda & Judd Caressed By Ice. Sasha an empath like Ivy, Judd an Arrow like Vasic. I had hoped for a similar romantic journey, a slow awakening to emotions as in those two former books. But the romance in shield of winter felt rather rushed. Ivy was very upfront with her feelings for Vasic. After only a few small encounters and conversations she sends him telepathically an image of her … topless, bra-less, half-naked, like an idiot girl sending images of her breasts to some stranger she met on a dating internet site. After only a few kisses she already talks about “we” and “our”. And to top it off she is annoyingly clingy throughout the book. I mean, I understand she is an empath and all but she doesn’t even let poor Vasic shower in peace (after he carried dead and injured people around while on a mission) because she wants to discuss something with him. I thought: please, please let the man breathe a minute without nagging him. And Vasic, my Vasic, what has become of you? Every time he talks to Ivy all those florid words and flowery descriptions come out of his mouth. It was hard to not roll my eyes sometimes. 

But the novel recompenses by the different POVs and all the secondary characters. We meet old friends like Zie Zan, Alice Eldridge, Devraj Santos and are being introduced to new ones like the group of empaths and Arrows. Especially Aden has a leading supporting role and I loved to see Sasha in action, calming a riot with her cardinal powers.

So all in all this might not be a glowing 5-star review but it still was a very satisfying 4,5-star read for me. I hope very much everybody else will like it just as I had.

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard

16239655DNFed 15% into the story.

Reason number one: 
Apart from the prologue and some vague mentions about Dragons and lost magic, there is no magic / fantasy in this story. Instead you are treated to a highly unconvincing historical, pseudo-medieval romance with insta-love and some such. This was really not what I expected or anticipated.

Reason number two: 
The annoying female main character. Tam, wow I hate her. Never thought I would write this ever about anyone but she is so damn perfect, that I had an insta-hate moment there. She is not only “stunning, (…) with the most astonishingly beautiful face he had ever seen”, she is also totally unaware of her attractive looks and an epitome of womanly virtue. Gah!

She was a well-bred and well-educated young woman, even an accomplished one. She spoke three languages besides her own and could draw, sing, play the piano, and do embroidery, all of it inoffensively. She could converse on poetry and morals with equal grace. She had improved her mind by extensive reading. But her education did not end there.
She dressed wounds, mixed medicines, sat by the dying. She helped her father with his experiments and his writings. When he saw something interesting under the glass, it was she who drew the picture for him. She had done other work too, assisting her brother with his accounts, shipping lists.

Of course she can sit so fucking quietly “that a butterfly lighted briefly on the flower in her hair.

Reason number three:
The awful descriptive writing. Never have I ever seen so much info-dumping on the historical facts and semi-poetical, semi-prosaic descriptions.

– There is a whole paragraph dedicated to archaeological findings around the capital only to emphasize Tam’s sentiment of feeling “humbled”.
– There is no escaping the many gowns and fashion accounts or the countless remarks on the countryside, architecture or interior design of the palace.
– There is no difference in the two POVs the story is written in. Tam’s and Corin’s voices are totally alike. Why even bother to write in two POVs when you can’t differentiate between the two characters?
– Last but not least: The many confusing expressions like:”draw, sing, play the piano, and do embroidery, all of it inoffensively” or “She smelled stone and ice”, which I admit could be useful if you’re looking for a cave. The smelling part is really baffling. All in all Tam and her Prince can smell like bloodhounds. A total of 63 times they smell things like damp air, death, water, they can smell if a wind is cold, and they even pick up with their noses on salt in the air. How something can smell salty is beyond me. Things can smell “angular and sharp”? Say what? Apparently even people can be gamey-smelling. Whats wrong with words like rancid or stinky?

So feel free to read it for yourself but be aware that there is not much fantasy!