Daring You To Read…Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells

Daring you to read

Daring You To Read is a weekly feature here on Tynga’s Reviews where we dare you to read some of our favorite older releases (at least 6 months old). All the books/series we choose to feature are titles we adored and think you should give them a shot! We think it’s a super awesome way to discover that special book who might have slipped off your radar!

You’ve already read the book? Let’s us know what you thought!
You are accepting the dare? We’d love to know!
Have a dare of your own? Leave a comment ^^

I’m starting September off with a dare I hope you’ll accept: RED-HEADED STEPCHILD by Jaye Wells. She’s an author that I’ve known about for a long time but never tried…until now…and I’m kicking myself for taking so long to actually give her books a shot! On the plus side, the series is now complete so I can devour the books as quickly as I like and get the whole arc. 😀

RED-HEADED STEPCHILD boasts many excellent qualities: a fantastic title, amazing world-building, great characters, and wonderful writing. You’ll be hooked from the first line, which is delightful in and of itself:

Digging graves is hell on a manicure, but I was taught good vampires clean up after every meal.

How’s that for an amazing kick-off?

If that’s not enough to entice you, let me tell you a little bit more about the world. There are all sorts of supernaturals but the two main ones right now are vampires and mages. The two races have been enemies for centuries. Mages are descended from Hekate while vampires are descended from Lilith (thanks to an affair with Cain). Vampires bear the mark of Cain: red hair. The darker the red, the older the vampire. (I love, love, love this conceit.) Sabina Kane, our protagonist, is half vampire and half mage and she has the red and black hair to prove it. Her mixed heritage makes her an outcast, who has found her place in the vampire world by acting as an assassin for the Dominae (the vampire leaders), who include Sabina’s grandmother, who hates her.

Said grandmother gives her an impossible mission: infiltrating a half-demon’s organization and then killing him after findin out what his grand plans are. It’s not Sabina’s usual kind of job but she takes it on anyways because she feels she has a lot to prove. Along the way, she acquires a demon named Giguhl (who is hilarious!), learns some hard truths, and tries to stay alive against some incredible odds. The book’s been out since 2009 but I’m not going to say any more than that so that you can enjoy it as much as I did when I first picked it up.

Interested in finding out more? Here’s the scoop on RED-HEADED STEPCHILD:

Jaye Wells Red-Headed StepchildIn a world where being of mixed-blood is a major liability, Sabina doesn’t really fit in. And being an assassin – the only profession fit for an outcast – doesn’t help matters. But she’s never brought her work home. Until now.

Her latest mission is uncomfortably complex, and threatens the fragile peace between the vampire and mage races. As Sabina scrambles to figure out which side she’s on, she uncovers a tangled political web, some nasty facts about her family and some unexpected new talents. Any of these things could be worryingly life-changing, but together, they could be fatal …

This time, it’s personal.

Tynga’s thoughts

Read an excerpt

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

Jaye Wells The Mage in BlackJaye Wells Green-Eyed DemonJaye Wells Violet TendenciesJaye Wells Silver-Tongue DevilJaye Wells Blue-Blooded Vamp

What do you think of the Sabina Kane series?

Jenn

PSC: Camp Story & Giveaway with Jess Haines

PSCbig_thumb[3]_thumb

Jess Haines is a formidable person and an amazing author, so whenever I organize an event close to one of her release date I must invite her! Her characters are always volunteer for interesting stories, so make sure you don’t miss that one, to celebrate Stalking The Others’ release!

————————-

Guest Post: The H&W Gang Talk About Summer Camp
By Jess Haines

Hello there! Jess Haines here. I’m the author of the urban fantasy H&W Investigations series (HUNTED BY THE OTHERS, TAKEN BY THE OTHERS, DECEIVED BY THE OTHERS, and the recently released STALKING THE OTHERS).

The H&W Investigations team are going to discuss their memories of summer camp. Take it away, guys!

______________

Shiarra: I remember the first time I went to summer camp. I was covered in ticks by the end of the first day.

Sara: Eww, yuck! I never went to that kind of summer camp. It was always ballet or painting or deportment classes for me.

Arnold: Your parents didn’t know anything about you, did they?

Sara: Not really. They were both business professionals and didn’t have a lot of time for me or my sister.

Chaz: My dad tried to get me into one of those sports camps once, but when I started showing signs of turning Were, he had to pull me out.

Royce: We never had such a thing when I was a teen. Most of my summers were spent tending crops.

Shiarra: You? A farmer?

Royce: Is it that hard to believe?

Arnold: Never took you for the type to get your hands dirty. Not that way, anyway.

Chaz: He probably wouldn’t now. These days, I bet you couldn’t get him to touch a potted plant with those manicured hands of his.

Royce: At least I wouldn’t piss on the ornamental tree in the corner to mark my territory.

Chaz: HEY–

Shiarra: Boys, boys, boys! Enough!

Sara: We’re supposed to be talking summer camp, not snarking at each other.

Arnold: Vampires and werewolves. Cats and dogs. Need I say more?

Chaz: Nobody asked your opinion, sparky.

Arnold: Hey, you don’t like being called a dog, I don’t like being called a spark. We clear?

Chaz: Yeah, yeah.

Shiarra: Now. Summer camp. Ahem.

Sara: I always wanted to tell ghost stories around a fire. Never got to do that as a kid.

Arnold: It’s overrated. Those stories never scared me.

Shiarra: S’mores are pretty good, though.

Royce: S’mores?

Shiarra: I keep forgetting you never would have tried modern food. That’s a real tragedy. S’mores are these godly little finger foods you make by the campfire. Toasted graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows.

Sara: Oh, man. Now I’m craving some.

Royce: I can eat small amounts of food, but I don’t know that they taste the same to me as they do to you. Nor do I get any nutrition out of it.

Arnold: My, I feel so educated and enriched. My day is complete.

Royce: I don’t appreciate your sarcasm, mage.

Sara: Well, I didn’t know, so I don’t mind. It’s not like vampires talk about this kind of stuff every day.

Shiarra: It’s sorta gross if you think about it. I mean… where does it go?

Sara: Um.

Chaz: What?

Royce: I’m not quite sure I understand what you’re asking.

Arnold: Do we really want to understand what she’s asking?

Shiarra: Oh, shush. Royce, you said you don’t get any nutrition out of it, right? I mean, vampires drink blood. Duh. So… uh… what does your body do with it?

Royce: That’s not exactly a conversation for polite company, Ms. Waynest.

Arnold: Okay. Campfire story material right there.

Chaz: Yeah, I’m with you on that. Ugh.

Sara: Nightmare material. I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep tonight.

Shiarra: Sorry. Sometimes my mind wanders to weird places. It’s like that thing with hotdogs and hotdog buns.

Chaz: You lost me.

Arnold: Me too.

Shiarra: Oh, come on, you know that old mystery about why hotdogs come in packs of ten and buns come in packs of eight? Didn’t you guys ever wonder that when you were sitting around the fire at summer camp?

Sara: Oh, yeah. Why is that?

Arnold: Beats me.

Chaz: I never noticed.

Royce: You people think about the strangest things.

Chaz: Not “you people”. Maybe they do.

Sara: I don’t mind being considered a “you people”. I’d rather think about weird stuff than never question anything about my environment.

Shiarra: The down side to that is a complete inability to turn off the questions that should probably never be asked.

Sara: Amen to that.

Chaz: How come you never asked me anything about what it’s like being a werewolf, then?

Shiarra: Probably because I never had the chance to after I found out. With all the weird crap going on and you lying to me all the time, I didn’t exactly trust you to tell me anything about yourself or your pack.

Arnold: Burn.

Chaz: Stay out of this!

Arnold: Hey, just sayin’.

Royce: Werewolves are a shifty lot. Better not to put your trust into them.

Sara: Ha! I see what you did there.

Shiarra: Hehe. That was pretty clever.

Chaz: Oh, yeah. Laugh at the vampire’s jokes. Just wait. He’ll turn on you. Walking corpses always do.

______________

Err, right. As you can see, these guys probably wouldn’t do so great sharing a bunch of s’mores around a campfire together. Did you ever go to summer camp and share stories around a campfire? What were your favorite scary stories as a kid?

Visit me on the web:

www.JessHaines.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JessHainesAuthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#%21/Jess_Haines

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/jesshaines

Thanks again for having me, Tynga!

————————-

More about Stalking the Others:

Stalking the Others (H&W Investigations, #4)

Vampires, werewolves, mages–the Others are very real, and wreaking havoc in Shiarra Waynest’s life. But now, she’s returning the favor…

Once, she was one of the good guys–or as close as a New York P.I. can get. Then Shiarra Waynest was drawn into the world of the Others. Every faction has its own loyalties and agenda. And Shia’s recent betrayal by her ex-boyfriend means that she may be on the verge of becoming a rogue werewolf at the next full moon.

Of course, with all the threats against her, Shia’s not sure she’ll live long enough to find out. The enigmatic vampire Royce wants her back in his clutches, as do two powerful werewolf packs, along with the police. Instead of going into hiding, Shia is enlisting the aid of her enchanted hunter’s belt and every dirty P.I. trick she knows. If she’s going down, she’ll take out as many of her enemies as she can–and hope that in the process, she keeps whatever humanity she has left…

Pre-order: Amazon | Book Depository

————————-

giveaway

Kensington is offering one copy of Stalking The Others to one lucky winner!

To enter the giveaway, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

Open to US & Canada

Ends Wednesday, August 5th, 2012
(like all of our Paranormal Summer Camp giveaways)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

————————-

More books by Jess:

Hunted by the Others (H&W I...Taken by the Others (H&W In...Deceived by the Others (H&W...NocturnalThe Real Werewives of Vampi...

 

 

“I’m a displaced New Yorker with a penchant for the silly, the obscure, and the fantastical. Los Angeles is home for the time being, since it consistently meets my daily quota of strange. I’m currently working on the H&W Investigations urban fantasy series. Find out more about Shiarra Waynest, drop me a line, or join my mailing list at www.jesshaines.com!”

 

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter

tynsig_thumb[1]_thumb

Queen’s Hunt by Beth Bernobich

Beth Bernobich - queen's Hunt

Queen’s Hunt by Beth Bernobich

Book stats:
Reading level: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Hardcover: 332 pages
Publisher: Macmillan (Tor Books)
Release date: July 17, 2012

Series: River of Souls #2

Source: Copy from the editor for review

Reviewed by: Stéphanie

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

Ilse Zhalina has left to start a new life in a garrisoned fort, leagues from her estranged lover, Raul Kosenmark. The violent quarrel that ended Ilse and Raul’s relationship was quite public. And also, quite fake. They hope to mislead Kosenmark’s enemies so that he can continue to influence the politics of the kingdom in an attempt to stave off an ill-advised war, while keeping Ilse safe from royal assassins.

While Raul seeks to make alliances for peace, Ilse is set on her own quest to find one of the three fabled jewels of Lir. In her search, she encounters a shipwrecked prisoner from another land, a woman who has a secret of her own…and the second jewel in her keeping. The two women become allies in their quest for the third jewel, because finding and controlling these stones could mean salvation for both of their nations. And their failure the ruin of their peoples.

I really didn’t have any words to describe how I felt when I finished QUEEN’S HUNT, and I mean this a good way. This series so smart and emotional. It has everything I want in a good fantasy book, including a well developed fantasy world and just enough magic to keep things interesting. Where the first book of the series, PASSION PLAY, was an introduction to the fantasy world and to the main character Ilse, this sequel is more about the war brewing between three major kingdoms and the political battles within each of these kingdoms. There’s so much more tension in this sequel and its faster pace made me devour the book very quickly.

However, a fair warning to everyone. The writing differs from the previous installment, since book one was written mostly from Ilse’s point of view while this second book was written from multiple point of views. Though I understand this switch was necessary to incorporate many characters into the story, it felt it changed the flow of the series. Mind you, I read one book right after the other so this small detail might not be as obvious if I would have read the first book a year ago. I fell in love with Ilse’s story in book one and I would have liked to read more about her and her lover Raul. They spent to much time apart in the first half of QUEEN’S HUNT, that their brief reunion wasn’t satisfying enough for the romantic in me. This just proves how the series is truly evolving past their love story into a great epic fantasy. Tensions between parties is brewing war and conflict which, in turn, is adding layers upon layers to the story.

So many new characters are introduced in this sequel and it would be very difficult to names and describe them all. Valara Baussay and Leos Dzavek are two major ones, and although enemies, they have very similar goals. They’re both on the hunt for three magical ring and want what’s best for their kingdom, yet both have very different views and abilities. I don’t want to go into too many details of the war that’s brewing and I don’t want to name all the characters (there’s a lot!), but I will suggest jotting down the names of every characters you meet, because it will get overwhelming as the story progresses.

Despite all the new characters, Ilse remains my favorite. I admire her so much and I think it’s because of her perseverance and her ability to adapt to every new situation. And you can’t not love Raul and his dedication to peace. It’s through him that we see the political unfairness of his court and he seems to be two steps ahead of everyone in the game of deceit and power. And of course, as a combo, Ilse and Raul are perfect for each other since their love is built on so many past lives together.

The River of Souls series is so much more than a fantasy series. It’s a story of politics, war, romance and magic. In my opinion, this series has a lot of potential. Although I enjoyed QUEEN’S HUNT, I felt the first book was much better. Personally, I’m very critical of sequels. I always expect too much from them and I always end up being a little unsatisfied. However, I have a strong feeling book three will be great since Beth Bernobich has set us up for a great conclusion to the trilogy. The cliffhanger leaves us with so many unanswered questions, and I really hope the anticipation will be worth it.

Read an excerpt

0stephsig

Passion Play by Beth Bernobich

bernobich - Passion Play

Passion Play by Beth Bernobich

Book Stats:

Reading level: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Hardcover: 367 pages
Publisher: Macmillan (Tor Books)
Release date: October 12, 2010

Series: River of Souls #1

Source: Personal Shelf

Reviewed by: Stéphanie

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

Ilse Zhalina is the daughter of one of Melnek’s more prominent merchants. She has lived most of her life surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege.  Many would consider hers a happy lot. But there are dark secrets, especially in the best of families. Ilse has learned that for a young woman of her beauty and social station, to be passive and silent is the best way to survive.

When Ilse finally meets the older man she is to marry, she realizes he is far crueler and more deadly than her father could ever be. Ilse chooses to run. This choice will change her life forever.

And it will lead her to Raul Kosenmark,  master of one of the land’s most notorious pleasure houses…and who is, as Ilse discovers, a puppetmaster of a different sort altogether.  Ilse discovers a world where every pleasure has a price and there are levels of magic and intrigue she once thought unimaginable. She also finds the other half of her heart.

PASSION PLAY is one of those rare fantasy books that I read from cover to cover, barely stopping for a breather. It has everything I love in a book: intrigue, magic, romance and of course, a wonderfully developed world.

In this first book of the series, Beth Bernobich introduced us to a great cast of characters. The main character, Therez, went through so much that it’s hard not to feel for her. We first met her as a delicate daughter of a wealthy merchant/trader, who refused to marry the cruel man her father chose for her. Only fifteen, she knew she could do little to alter her father’s mind, so she decided to change her name to Ilse and run away from her home town. With very little money and no street smarts, she soon discovered that life on the road with a caravan of men isn’t easy. Forever needing to give more money to them, just for some peace, and then being accused of stealing, what happened next is very hard to describe. This part of the book is not for the faint of heart since Ilse is more or less forced to give herself (in other words, whore herself out) to the group of men, instead of being sent back home to her father.

I really admired Ilse’s tenacity through this dark period of her journey, and I especially admired her optimism since she never gave up of hope of gaining back her freedom. Eventually, she was able to escape and become the secretary of Lord Raul Kosenmark’s wealthy household/pleasure house, where love between a man and another man and between a woman and another woman, is as normal as love between a man and a woman. Obviously, owning a pleasure house makes Lord Kosenmark an atypical lord, and one could say he’s atypical in every way. At first, I wasn’t too sure if he was being honest with Ilse, but the air of mystery that followed him was obviously because of the many political secrets he kept to himself. Through Lord Kosenmark, Ilse became more and more involved in the politics of this fantasy world which meant more and more danger began to creep into her life. Although, some might feel like this part of the story was slow and might voice that the story came to a standstill, I believe it was necessary to understand more about everything happening in politics. Personally, it felt like the eye of the storm, where everything was calm, but I knew something big was about to happen and change the course of the story.

So many interesting things happened in this book. You really have to pay attention while you’re reading because you never know when something important will happen. At times, it’s hard to see this book as a fantasy because so many political opinions on war are discussed, but behind the intrigue and the backstabbing politics are layers of magic and myth. Throughout the book, we see Ilse grow more adept in controlling magic and we can only imagine that she’ll continue to train in the following installments, in order to help herself and her new lover in their quest for peace.

Beth Bernobich has only touched the surface of her story and following installment promises so many answers to questions that have been present throughout the book. I hate that the story ended so abruptly, but fortunately, the sequel is coming out very soon (July 17, 2012). Also, a prequel of sorts, that introduces us to the fantasy world, is also available online.

Read an excerpt

0stephsig

Interview with Benedict Jacka + giveaway!

Benedict JackaI’m absolutely delighted to welcome Benedict Jacka to the blog today. I fell in love with his first Alex Verus novel earlier this year and so I’m a little giddy right now. =) Today, Benedict’s here to talk about the second Alex Verus book, CURSED, which was released last month.

Read on to get to know Benedict and to learn more about CURSED. And stick around for a chance to win a copy of CURSED from the lovely folks at Penguin!

&nbsp

&nbsp

———————————

Welcome back to the blog, Benedict! We’re excited to have you back with us.
To begin, could you tell our readers what to expect with CURSED?

Thanks – good to be back!

Cursed is the second book in the Alex Verus series, and though it follows on from Fated it can be read as a standalone. Alex and Luna are the focus of the story, and there’s more action than Fated as a series of enemies target Alex for reasons unknown. New characters arrive and old ones return, including Arachne, Sonder, Starbreeze, Cinder, and Deleo – some are friends and some enemies, and Alex has to figure out which are which.

One of the things I adore about your books is that Alex has to use his smarts to get out of trouble because his divination powers only give him information, not solutions. How did you decide to make Alex a diviner, rather than giving him a flashier ability like some of the other characters?

Fated is actually the fifth book I’ve written in the setting, and in books one through four I did give the protagonist one of the more flashy abilities. The problem I found with those, though, was that the more I wrote the harder I found to keep resolving conflicts in an interesting way. The most natural solution to any problem tended to be for the protagonist to brute-force it rather than use their magic to maneuver or give information. So when I sat down to write Fated, I had the idea to try out a story where the main character’s primary ability only gave information. Alex developed from there.

Luna’s curse is very interesting and I love that we get to see her learning more about it in CURSED. Will she ever be able to control it?

Depends what you mean by control! It’s not going away anytime soon, but she’s getting better and better at using and directing it with each book.

My favourite character (other than Alex) is Sonder. Can you give us any hints about his future?

Sonder’s the most “white hat” of the main cast – he’s got much less of a dark side than the rest of the primary characters. That’s going to cause some friction in the future, but he’s still going to be around!

Benedict Jacka Cursed UKFATED got a lot of positive buzz, including some major praise from Jim Butcher. How did it feel to interact with him and hear all of the comparisons between Alex and Harry Dresden? Do you feel extra pressure now?

Getting to talk with Jim was awesome – he’s an incredibly nice guy and the advice he’s given me has been really helpful. The comparisons between Alex and Harry Dresden, though . . . eh, I pay less attention to those. I can see where they come from, but I know so much about both characters that I notice the differences more than the similarities. Not enough to make me feel any pressure, anyway!

Are there any other authors or public figures you’d like to be able to sit down and chat with?

Heh. Lots, but I doubt I’ll get the chance – I still feel like I was lucky to get to talk to Jim! Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson, and Lois McMaster Bujold for a start, but they’re all way more established than me.

Getting back to your books, what can we expect from TAKEN? Will that be the last we see of Alex Verus?

Taken‘s going to be a shift of pace from Cursed – slightly less combat and more poking around in dark corners. There are still action scenes, but they’re more integrated into the story. The book focuses more on the apprentices of Alex Verus’ world, and what life’s like for the younger mages. It also introduces a couple of new characters who are likely to be long-term additions to the cast (one of them made a very small cameo in Cursed, but it was of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort).

And finally, one last question before we wrap up: One of the plot points in CURSED involves the monkey’s paw, a magical item that can choose its bearer and grants his or her wishes (with a catch). If you could have catch-free wishes, what would they be?

I actually used to think about answers to that question, about ten-fifteen years ago. Now that I look back on it, nearly all the things I would have wished for would either have been pointless, or out-and-out counterproductive (because getting them without working for them would have taken away the whole point of the experience). So while I’m not saying I’d turn them down, I’d think REALLY carefully before making them!

Thanks for having me here on the blog, and hope you enjoy the books!

———————————

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, Benedict! I’m so curious about who this new long-term addition is. I think I’m going to re-read CURSED and try to figure out who it might be. =)

Here’s the scoop on CURSED:

Benedict Jacka CursedThings are going well for Alex Verus. He’s on moderately good terms with the Council, Luna’s settling in as his apprentice, and nobody has tried to kill him in weeks.

But when a mysterious woman bursts into his shop one night with a construct assassin on her tail, he’s thrown into the middle of a plot to revive a long-forbidden ritual for draining the power from living creatures. Alex’s old enemies Cinder and Deleo are after the secret, as well as a Council mage named Belthas and a mercenary named Garrick; at least one of them is trying to get Alex killed, and unfortunately for Alex he doesn’t know which. And finally, Luna’s found a boyfriend.

In between dodging assassination attempts and trying to keep Luna in one piece, Alex needs to figure out who’s really playing who – and whose side he should be on. He can see the future, but knowing who to trust is something else.

Jenn’s thoughts

Read an excerpt

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

And in case you haven’t had a chance to read FATED yet, here’s the scoop on Alex Verus’ first adventure:

Benedict Jacka Fated Alex Verus is a diviner, able to see the future. This is impressive to most people but less so to other mages, who can do things like throw fire, disintegrate things, and fly. Right now Alex has a problem – a site’s been discovered containing an ancient and powerful relic, and lots of people are looking for a diviner to open it, including a trio of dark mages, a faction of the Council with an agenda of their own, and a shadowy figure out of Alex’s past, all of whom are looking to recruit, press-gang, or kill Alex, not necessarily in that order.

As if that’s not enough, Alex has to take care of his would-be apprentice, who has some connection to the relic which is making her a target as well . . . and who also just happens to carry a curse that’ll kill anyone who gets too close, assuming the mages hunting her don’t do it first. His allies are an air elemental with the memory of a goldfish and a creature living under Hampstead Heath that would make most people run screaming.

Sometimes seeing the future isn’t as fun as it sounds.

Jenn’s thoughts

Read an excerpt

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

———————————

giveaway

Penguin is graciously offering one (1) copy of CURSED to a lucky reader!

To enter the giveaway, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

US only

Ends Thursday, July 5, 2012

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jenn

Cursed by Benedict Jacka

Benedict Jacka Cursed Cursed by Benedict Jacka

Book Stats:
Reading level: Adult
Genre: Urban fantasy
Trade paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Ace
Release date: May 29, 2012

Series: Alex Verus #2

Source: Review copy from Penguin

Reviewed by: Jenn

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

Things are going well for Alex Verus. He’s on moderately good terms with the Council, Luna’s settling in as his apprentice, and nobody has tried to kill him in weeks.

But when a mysterious woman bursts into his shop one night with a construct assassin on her tail, he’s thrown into the middle of a plot to revive a long-forbidden ritual for draining the power from living creatures. Alex’s old enemies Cinder and Deleo are after the secret, as well as a Council mage named Belthas and a mercenary named Garrick; at least one of them is trying to get Alex killed, and unfortunately for Alex he doesn’t know which. And finally, Luna’s found a boyfriend.

In between dodging assassination attempts and trying to keep Luna in one piece, Alex needs to figure out who’s really playing who – and whose side he should be on. He can see the future, but knowing who to trust is something else.

(This is the blurb from Benedict Jacka’s website, not the one you’ll see on the back of the book.)

I thoroughly enjoyed my first encounter with Alex Verus and so I was thrilled when my review copy of CURSED showed up. (Thank you, Penguin!) FATED was such a strong series debut and so my expectations were rather high for CURSED. And you know what? CURSED completely delivered. It has all of the things I loved about FATED and more.

CURSED picks up a few months after the end of FATED. Alex is a bit more on the radar and he’s been working with the Light mages more, though he remains unaligned. He’s developed some good working relationships but he still doesn’t really trust anyone except for his closest circle. He finds himself sucked into a new mystery when a barghest is found dead and stripped of its magic. At the same time, he has to deal with Luna’s new boyfriend, Martin, a monkey’s paw, and a damsel in distress. It’s not exactly a good time to be Alex Verus. But in true Alex Verus form, he spends his time helping his friends and dodging assassination attempts.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the way that Alex and Luna’s relationship evolves. Alex is training Luna so she can handle her curse but they don’t have the master/apprentice thing down pat because they’re friends too. It’s a complicated dynamic and it’s interesting to watch them negotiate their new roles, particularly since Alex isn’t all that thrilled about Luna’s new boyfriend. The events in CURSED force Alex to take a hard look at their relationship and both he nd Luna have some important decisions to make.

I also really enjoyed the main story, about harvesting magic from magical creatures. It really hits home for Alex because of his friendship with Ariadne but I liked it because it explores some of the ethics and senses of responsibility in the main characters in the book. Alex has a much more flexible moral compass than some of the other characters (ahem, Sonder) and you can see the beginnings of potential future tensions. Alex wants to do the right thing but it’s not going to be at the expense of those he cares about. Not everyone is quite so practical.

There are also some great moments with Cinder in CURSED. He cme off like a thug with a soft spot for Deleo in the first book but we get to see more than that this time around. He may be a Dark Mage but he’s got his own code and he’s much more astute than I realized from FATED. Deleo also has some intriguing scenes. I don’t want to say too much because the context might spoil some stuff for you but I will say that I would really, really like to know what’s going on in her head.

I could keep gushing but I think this is a good place for me to stop. CURSED is another great urban fantasy novel that will keep you on the edge of our seat. It’s got a thrilling plot, engaging characters, and a well developed world and it will leave you counting the days until book 3 comes out. (FYI, that’s a whole 68 days away.) Thankfully, Benedict Jacka is a wonderful writer and I’m sure I’ll be re-reading CURSED between now and then to tide me over.

Read an excerpt

Jenn

PAF: Guest post by Jenn Bennett + giveaway!

Paranormal April Fools

I’m so excited that Jenn Bennett is visiting the blog today. Her Arcadia Bell books are absolutely delicious: they have witty characters, interesting magic, and great plots, plus they feature the only moustached hero in the genre (at least as far as I can figure).

Jenn’s offering up something really exciting in her guest post and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. And remember to stick around to learn all about SUMMONING THE NIGHT, her upcoming release, and have three chances to win a copy of your very own!

———————————

Jupiter Butler’s April Fools’ Sketches

Jupiter, aka Jupe, is a 13-year-old Earthbound demon, the teenage son of my hero, Lon. Now, if you’re familiar with Jupe, you can probably imagine that he takes pranking veeeerrrry seriously. And his father is so tight-lipped and grunty, he’s the perfect target. But there’s an art to pulling a good prank without getting grounded. So Jupe needs your help choosing the perfect April Fools’ Day gag. Take a look at Jupe’s three sketches below and include your pick for the best prank in the comments for a chance to win one of three copies of book 2 in the Arcadia Bell series, SUMMONING THE NIGHT.

(Note from (blogger) Jenn: Click to embiggen!)

Jupiter Butler April Fools Sketch 1
Jupiter Butler April Fools Sketch 2
Jupiter Butler April Fools Sketch 3

———————————

Want more Jupe? Then you should check out SUMMONING THE NIGHT, which hits bookshelves on April 24:

Jenn Bennett Summoning the Night Magick. Murder. Mayhem. It’s all in a night’s work…

After narrowly escaping her fate as a sacrificial scapegoat, Arcadia Bell is back to normal. Or at least as ordinary as life can be for a renegade magician and owner of a tiki bar that caters to Earthbound demons. She’s gearing up for the busiest day of the year—Halloween—when a vengeful kidnapper paralyzes the community. The influential head of the local Hellfire Club taps Cady to track down the fiendish bogeyman, and now that she’s dating red-hot Lon Butler, the Club’s wayward son, she can hardly say no.

Cady and Lon untangle a gruesome thirty-year trail of clues that points to danger for the club members’ children. But locating the person behind the terror will require some metaphysical help from Cady’s loyal bar patrons as well as her potent new Moonchild powers—and she’d better figure it out before the final victim disappears and her own darkest secret becomes her biggest enemy.

Pre-order: Amazon | Book Depository

Click on the cover to read my thoughts on KINDLING THE MOON:

Jenn Bennett Kindling the Moon

———————————

giveaway

Jenn is graciously offering three (3) copies of SUMMONING THE NIGHT and Simon & Schuster are also offering three (3) copies of SUMMONING THE NIGHT so we have six (6) copies to give away in total!

To enter the giveaway, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

3 copies – US/Canada only

3 copies – US only (no PO boxes)

Ends Sunday, April 15, 2012
(like all of our Paranormal April Fools’ giveaways)

/*{literal}{/literal}*/
a Rafflecopter giveaway
You need javascript enabled to see this giveaway.

———————————

Jenn Bennett

Jenn Bennett is an award-winning visual artist and author of the Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series from Pocket Books. Born in Germany, she’s lived and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the U.S., and the Far East. She believes rebellion is an under-appreciated art form, has conjured more demons than you’ve had hot lunches, and likes her fairy tales like she likes her coffee: dark. She currently lives near Atlanta with her film-geek husband and two very bad pugs.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Jenn

Summoning the Night by Jenn Bennett

Jenn Bennett Summoning the Night Summoning the Night by Jenn Bennett

Book Stats:
Reading level: Adult
Genre: Urban fantasy
Trade paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Pocket
Release date: April 24, 2012

Series: Arcadia Bell #2

Source: Review copy from Pocket

Reviewed by: Jenn

Pre-order: Amazon | Book Depository

Magick. Murder. Mayhem. It’s all in a night’s work…

After narrowly escaping her fate as a sacrificial scapegoat, Arcadia Bell is back to normal. Or at least as ordinary as life can be for a renegade magician and owner of a tiki bar that caters to Earthbound demons. She’s gearing up for the busiest day of the year—Halloween—when a vengeful kidnapper paralyzes the community. The influential head of the local Hellfire Club taps Cady to track down the fiendish bogeyman, and now that she’s dating red-hot Lon Butler, the Club’s wayward son, she can hardly say no.

Cady and Lon untangle a gruesome thirty-year trail of clues that points to danger for the club members’ children. But locating the person behind the terror will require some metaphysical help from Cady’s loyal bar patrons as well as her potent new Moonchild powers—and she’d better figure it out before the final victim disappears and her own darkest secret becomes her biggest enemy.

I was absolutely thrilled when Jenn Bennett agreed to participate in Paranormal April Fools’ because I think she’s an extremely talented writer. (And I love her hat in her author photo.) I was even more excited when my review copy of SUMMONING THE NIGHT appeared in the mail because it meant I got to spend time with Cady, Lon, and Jupe. I thought Cady’s first adventure, KINDLING THE MOON, was a masterful debut (my full post here) and I was dying to find out what was going to happen next. I’m pleased to report that SUMMONING THE NIGHT exceeded my (perhaps too high) expectations! Jenn Bennett has created another amazing novel filled with strong characters, magical surprises, and quirky humour.

The central plot of SUMMONING THE NIGHT revolves around the return of the Snatcher, someone who was kidnapping teenagers 30 years ago and who’s back for more of them just in time for Halloween. Cady and Lon get roped in because the kids that are getting taken are from Hellfire Club families; neither one of them particularly want to associate with the Hellfire Club but they do end up investigating the old crime to try to stop the current one. It’s a great story with lots of twists and turns and I couldn’t predict what was going to happen as the novel progressed. In the process of their investigation, we get to learn more about Cady’s Moonchild powers and about the magics that exist in Cady’s world.

On the relationship front, Lon and Cady’s romance is going strong. It’s not quite old hat but they’re definitely comfortable with each other. There are some great sexy moments but I really enjoyed seeing them a little more (but not entirely) settled. I also enjoyed the occasional comments other characters made about their age gap. 🙂 Plus, the family dynamic with Lon’s teenage Jupe is adorable. Cady and Jupe’s relationship is a lot of fun because they’re closer in age than she and Lon and because Jupe is just such a rascal. He’s absolutely irresistible and I love it when he’s on the page. There are some particularly awesome Jupe moments in SUMMONING THE NIGHT so you’ll need to pick this book up if you liked him in KINDLING THE MOON.

We also get to see some new faces and learn more about some of the characters introduced in Cady’s debut. There are some wonderful scenes with Kar Yee, Cady’s business partner and best friend. Kar Yee’s one of my favourite characters in the book because she’s so sharp and alive and I was pleased to get to know her better. We also get to know some of the darker folks, particularly Ambrose Dare from the Hellfire Club. I don’t like him. You won’t either. But he’s good for the story and I appreciate him for that reason, and that reason alone.

All in all, SUMMONING THE NIGHT is a fabulous entry into the urban fantasy genre and I can’t wait to see what happens with Cady, Lon, and Jupe next. Make sure you pick up your copy on April 24!

To help you remember, check out the best book trailer EVA:

Jenn

PAF: Story by Benedict Jacka + giveaway!

Paranormal April Fools

Today’s post is an amazing story by Benedict Jacka, author of the Alex Verus series.
I adored FATED, the first book in the series, and I just about died reading this story.
I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Alex Verus’ world, here’s a quick description of the characters:

Alex Verus: a mage who can see the futures. That’s right, futures. He can see all of his options and makes his decisions accordingly so he is a formidable dude.

Luna: Alex’s friend. Her family was cursed generations ago and so Luna can’t really get close to anyone. When she does, bad things happen to them.

Sonders: a mage with the Council who meets Alex and Luna in FATED. IMO, one of the most endearing characters in the book.

Deleo and Cinder: two bad guys.

Read on to find out what antics Benedict gets up to with his characters and make sure to stick around for the giveaway, where you have a chance to win a copy of FATED, courtesy of the lovely folks at Penguin!

———————————

The Tale of Hansel and Gretel

Once upon a time, a poor woodcutter and his family found themselves starving due to a great famine. His wife convinced him that their only hope of survival was to abandon his children, Hansel and Gretel, in the deep forest. Alone, the children wandered lost for many days . . .

Luna: “Can you see any way out?”
Sonder: “Sorry.”
Luna: “This is great. Everyone complains about global deforestation and we manage to get stuck in the Amazon Basin. How did we even get here?”
Sonder: “I’m not sure. Last I remember I was—”

Suddenly, both children came across a strange cottage in the middle of a glade, made of gingerbread and sweets!

Sonder: “Wow. That’s amazing!”
Luna: “Is that chocolate?”

The starving children quickly began to eat the house.

Sonder: “This is really good! Don’t you want some?”
Luna: “I can’t, I’m on a diet.”

I said, the starving children quickly began to eat the house.

Luna: “I should eat the— wait, no I shouldn’t.”
Sonder: “Aren’t you hungry??
Luna: “Yeah, but look how much sugar’s in that! It’s about a million calories!”

Suddenly, the biscuit door swung open, and a face emerged, peering at the two children!

Alex: “Hey! Stop that!”
Sonder: “Oops.”
Alex: “What do you mean, ‘oops’? You’re eating my windowsill!”
Luna: “If you didn’t want it eaten, why did you make it out of dessert?”

However, the old wo— the man quickly controlled his temper and smiled, inviting the children within.

Alex: “But the shop’s still open, I guess. What are you looking for?”
Luna: “Shop?”
Alex: “Uh . . .”
Sonder: “I don’t think this is a shop.”
Alex: “. . . No, it’s not. That’s weird, it just slipped out. Anyway, come in.”

But unknown to Hansel and Gretel, the man was an evil witch!

Alex: “Excuse me?”

I mean, an evil warlock.

Alex: “That’s better.”
Sonder: “Who are you talking to?”
Alex: “. . . I’m not sure. Wait, who are—”

Inside, the wi— the warlock invited them to sit at a table filled with delicious food!

Alex: “Well if you’re that hungry, you might as well eat that instead of snacking on my front wall.”
Luna: “Thank you.”
Sonder: “Thanks. We were really lost out there. Uh, sorry about the damage.”
Alex: “Oh it’s okay, I’ll fix it. You can stay overnight and I’ll lead you out of here tomorrow.”

But the warlock was lying, for he had no intention of ever letting the children go. He was an evil man who fed on children, and the gingerbread house was his trap!

Alex: “Hee hee! Sleep well, little children, for tomorrow I will cook and eat . . . wait a minute . . .”
Luna: “Did you say something?”
Alex: “I’m not . . . Look, something weird’s going on.”
Sonder: “I know.”
Luna: “You do?”
Sonder: “Yeah, there’s no way this house should be holding together. Gingerbread doesn’t have anywhere near the tensile or the compressive strength to be used as a construction material. Plus it biodegrades way too fast, so rain will—”
Alex: “No, not the house. It’s about tomorrow.”</>

Of course, the warlock did not tell the children his plans.

Sonder: “You don’t think the foundations are stable enough to last through the night?”
Luna: “Will you shut up about the house? What’s going on?”
Alex: “I think tomorrow I’m supposed—”

I SAID the warlock did NOT tell the children his plans.

Alex: “—I’m supposed to cook and eat you guys.”
Luna: “WHAT?”

You are the worst villain ever.

Sonder: “You’re kidding, right?”
Alex: “Look, this recipe book I’ve got is nothing but ways to prepare children. Take a look.”
Luna: “Huh? These are measurements for— oh God, I’m going to be sick!”
Sonder: “Wait, you’re going to EAT us?”
Alex: “Don’t be disgusting. Of course I’m not.”

Yes you are.

Alex: “I said I’m not. Why the hell would I want to eat you?”
Luna: “I don’t know! You’re the one with a book which has children’s body parts sorted by protein and fat content!”
Alex: “Look, will you just listen a second? Something doesn’t make sense here. Where did this house and all the food on the table come from? And why am I treating you like children when you’re obviously not?”
Luna: “And why are you wearing a dress?”
Alex: “I’m not— oh. What the hell?”
Sonder: “I don’t think you’ve been living in this house.”
Alex: “What?”
Sonder: “Well, I just looked back. You’ve only been in here about ten minutes. Before that there’s just a fuzzy patch. I think this place has only existed that long.”

Well, there goes any hope of meeting this deadline.

Alex: “Did you hear that?”
Luna: “Hear what?”
Alex: “I keep feeling the futures ripple. There’s someone else here . . . Hey! You!”

What?

Alex: “Who are you?”

I’m the narrator. Or at least I was before you stopped following the script.

Luna: “Who are you talking to?”
Alex: “Listen carefully. It seems like it’s part of this world, but it’s not.”

Oh, whatever. Look, could you just move along with the story, please?

Alex: “Not so fast. What story?”

Hansel and Gretel.

Luna: “Hey, someone’s saying my name . . . Wait, no they’re not. My name’s Luna.”
Sonder: “That’s not my sister’s name.”
Luna: “I’m not your sister, you idiot!”
Alex: “Wait a minute. So you’re the one who put us in this story?”

I had to pick something the audience would be familiar with, all right? And I think you should be grateful I went for Hansel and Gretel. I was this close to doing Cinderella with Deleo and Cinder as the two ugly sisters.

Luna: “Why are you doing this?”

Look, we needed a story with an April Fool’s theme, and I figured putting you guys in a fairy tale would get a few laughs. If you’d just followed the script we’d have been done by now.

Luna: “What happens at the end of the script?”

You get home safe and live happily ever after.

Alex: “Wait, what happens to the witch? And why does this house have such a huge oven?”

Would you quit asking questions? The story isn’t going to end until the witch gets defeated.

Alex: “. . . Okay then. So you can narrate things into existence? And you do it by talking in that font?”


What? Look, the sooner you finish this the sooner we can all go home.

Alex: “Ahem. Suddenly, a baseball bat appeared in the warlock’s hand.”

Hey! Stop that!

Alex: “Cool, it works. Then the narrator, who was really an evil witch, appeared in the house.

Narrator: “What? I’m not supposed to be here!”
Alex: “Hey, Miss Witch. Turn around.”
Narrator: “Huh?”

*WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!*

Alex: “I think that counts as ‘defeated’. Oh, and April Fools, asshole.”
Sonder: “Do you have to keep kicking him like that?”
Luna: “So what are we supposed to do now?”
Alex: “I figure we grab some lunch, head for the nearest path, and start looking for a way out.”
Sonder: “Oh, that makes sense. This effect would have to have a limited radius. If we get far enough from the epicentre it should collapse.”
Luna: “It’s kind of a shame. I would have liked to see what it felt like to get a ‘happily ever after’.”
Alex: “I guess you’ll have to make do with THE END.”

———————————

Has this left you wanting more? I bet it has! Here’s more on FATED:

Benedict Jacka Fated Alex Verus is a diviner, able to see the future. This is impressive to most people but less so to other mages, who can do things like throw fire, disintegrate things, and fly. Right now Alex has a problem – a site’s been discovered containing an ancient and powerful relic, and lots of people are looking for a diviner to open it, including a trio of dark mages, a faction of the Council with an agenda of their own, and a shadowy figure out of Alex’s past, all of whom are looking to recruit, press-gang, or kill Alex, not necessarily in that order.

As if that’s not enough, Alex has to take care of his would-be apprentice, who has some connection to the relic which is making her a target as well . . . and who also just happens to carry a curse that’ll kill anyone who gets too close, assuming the mages hunting her don’t do it first. His allies are an air elemental with the memory of a goldfish and a creature living under Hampstead Heath that would make most people run screaming.

Sometimes seeing the future isn’t as fun as it sounds.

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

———————————

giveaway

Penguin is graciously offering one (1) copy of FATED to a lucky reader.

To enter the giveaway, obey the Rafflecopter!

US only

Ends Sunday, April 15, 2012
(like all of our Paranormal April Fools’ giveaways)

/*{literal}{/literal}*/
a Rafflecopter giveaway
You need javascript enabled to see this giveaway.

———————————

Benedict Jacka

Benedict Jacka became a writer almost by accident, when at nineteen he sat in his school library and started a story in the back of an exercise book. Since then he’s studied philosophy at Cambridge, lived in China, and worked as everything from civil servant to bouncer to teacher before returning to London to take up law.

Website | Blog | Twitter

 

 

Jenn

Fated by Benedict Jacka

Benedict Jacka Fated Fated by Benedict Jacka

Book Stats:
Reading level: Adult
Genre: Urban fantasy
Mass market paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Ace
Release date: February 28, 2012

Series: Alex Verus #1

Source: Review copy from Penguin

Reviewed by: Jenn

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

Alex Verus is a diviner, able to see the future. This is impressive to most people but less so to other mages, who can do things like throw fire, disintegrate things, and fly. Right now Alex has a problem – a site’s been discovered containing an ancient and powerful relic, and lots of people are looking for a diviner to open it, including a trio of dark mages, a faction of the Council with an agenda of their own, and a shadowy figure out of Alex’s past, all of whom are looking to recruit, press-gang, or kill Alex, not necessarily in that order.

As if that’s not enough, Alex has to take care of his would-be apprentice, who has some connection to the relic which is making her a target as well . . . and who also just happens to carry a curse that’ll kill anyone who gets too close, assuming the mages hunting her don’t do it first. His allies are an air elemental with the memory of a goldfish and a creature living under Hampstead Heath that would make most people run screaming.

Sometimes seeing the future isn’t as fun as it sounds.

I was so excited when I first heard about Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus series. I was on tenterhooks waiting for my review copy of FATED to arrive because I loved the cover copy on the book and the fact that it was blurbed by Jim Butcher, an author I adore. Needless to say, I jumped right in when it showed up in my mailbox. And you know what? I loved it! In fact, there are so many great parts to FATED that I’m hard pressed to know where to start.

First of all, Benedict Jacka has created a marvellous world. In this series, most of the world is unaware of the magic that is an everyday part of Alex Verus’ life. There is, however, a small part of the population who are sensitives, i.e. folks who can feel the presence of magic but don’t necessarily know what’s what, an even smaller group of people known as adepts who can channel magic but don’t really wield it, and finally a tiny slice of the world’s population who are mages. Mages have different gifts but I think Alex’s abilities — seeing possible futures — is by far the most interesting. It means he has to use his brains to get out of the many bad situations he finds himself in, rather than using straight-up brawn, and it makes for a much more exciting story.

Here’s a quick quote to give you an idea of what Alex does:

My name is Alex Verus. It’s not the name I was born with, but that’s another story. I’m a mage; a diviner. Some people call mages like me oracles, or seers, or probability mages if they want to be really wordy, and that’s fine too, just as long as they don’t call me a "fortune teller."

Of course, a story needs a strong protagonist to be memorable and Alex is fantastic. He quickly became one of my favourite urban fantasy leads. He’s got so much depth, right from the very beginning, and he really leapt off the page. And he’s smart. I know I mentioned it before but I love smart heroes. There’s really nothing like it. Plus, Alex’s powers give him a different perspective on the world and his past has turned him into something of a loner. There were certain points in the novel where I was struck by how similar Alex is to Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden (had bad experiences as an apprentice, goes against the typical mage path, finds himself in situations that become progressively more (potentially) catastrophic, often due to his desire to help) but these moments were fleeting. And really, being compared to Jim Butcher is not a bad thing, at least not in my opinion. 😉 (As an aside, you can read a great conversation between Benedict Jacka and Jim Butcher over at B&N. You have to scroll down the page a bit.)

Alex isn’t the only fun character in FATED. He was my favourite but I was also charmed by some of the other characters, like Luna and Starbreeze. Starbreeze is an air elemental with the emotional maturity of a child. Her love of shiny things made me laugh. Luna’s a bit more complex. She carries a curse thanks to a bad decision by one of her ancestors and it makes it dangerous to be her friend. Luna and Alex’s friendship really grows over the course of FATED and I particularly enjoyed Luna’s story arc in the novel.

In terms of the story, I don’t think FATED could have been any better. Benedict Jacka takes his readers — and his characters — on quite the journey. The plot is so layered and a lot of the characters have have murky motivations and I couldn’t predict what was going to happen, which I loved. Plus you learn a lot about Alex’s past and why he’s decided to be the only mage with a shop rather than being involved with the Council, the body that governs mages.

Before I sign off, can we just take a moment to admire the cover? It really stands out to me because (a) the colours and smoke effects are gorgeous and (b) it’s one of the rare urban fantasy novels that doesn’t have a scantily clad women or menacing man on the front.

After having so much fun reading FATED, I’m desperate to get my hands on CURSED! (There’s a sneak peak at the end of FATED but I’m resisting the urge to read it because CURSED isn’t out until June. Not that long in the publishing world, I know, but it’s going to feel like forever if I read the snippet…)

Read an excerpt

Jenn