Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

Broken Blade by J.C. Daniels

Title:
Broken Blade
Author:J.C. Daniels/Shiloh Walker
PublisherShiloh Walker, Inc
Publication Date:January 2014
Publisher's DescriptionKit Colbana: assassin, thief, investigator extraordinaire. Now broken. She always expected her past to catch up with her but never like this. Haunted by nightmares and stripped of her identity, she’s retreated to Wolf Haven, the no-man’s land where she found refuge years before. But while she might want to hide away from the rest of the world, the rest of the world isn’t taking the hint.
Dragged kicking and screaming back into life, Kit is thrust head-first into an investigation surrounding the theft of an ancient relic...one that she wants nothing to do with. Her instincts tell her it’s a bad idea to just leave the relic lying about, but finding it might be just as bad.

Forced to face her nightmares, she uncovers hidden strength and comes face to face with one of the world’s original monsters.

If she survives the job, she won’t be the same...and neither will those closest to her.
My rating:****.5

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A worthy successor to Night Blade, which is one of the best UF books that I’ve read in ages. I thought that this book came out on Tuesday, so I was pretty freaking excited to see it appear on my Kindle on Monday morning. Yay for not being able to keep my days straight! I’m glad to be able to say that this book far exceeded my expectations! While I knew that it would be good, I’m really impressed by how Ms. Daniels managed to advance Kit’s story in logical, though often unexpected, ways while setting up events that are still to come.

First of all: Kit is my freaking hero. She thinks of herself as barely being able to put one foot in front of the other, yet she is so, so capable; the fact that she doesn’t see this and doesn’t believe it when people tell her is heart-wrenching. Some characters in this book are obviously more welcome than others, but they all return and behave exactly as they ought to. Justin – still with the dreads but otherwise terrific; Sam – just as evil as ever; Damon – awesome and swoon-worthy even while navigating through a (largely deserved, sorry, but really) mountain of guilt; Doyle – still my bestest bestie ever, and even more so after this book.

I turned off the book progress info on Broken Blade, because I wanted to enjoy it without constantly trying to figure out whether I thought that the book was 70% of the way wrapped up at 70% in. Also, I just didn’t want to see the end coming. J.C. Daniels/Shiloh Walker is a freaking tactical genius; I bet her book outlines resemble the whiteboards o’crazy made popular by Carrie from Homeland (I am left-handed, and this is a compliment). I don’t believe that there are throwaway words or scenes in any of these books, but I love how seemingly small details from the first two books turn out to be absolutely pivotal in this one. And not in “a wizard did it” kind of way. I’m really excited for the fourth book, but I feel that Broken Blade ended in such a way that I’m excited, not distraught and anxious, to read the next installment in the Colbana Files.

Right now I’m still squeeing to myself over specific scenes and sentences. This series reminds me of my three favorite urban fantasy series: The Walker Papers by C. E. Murphy, and The October Daye books by Seanan McGuire. Even though I came late to it, this book has quickly made its way into the autobuy category for me. Preorder even, although I know that Amazon is totally going to screw me over on pricing somewhere around day 8.

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Blade Song & Night Blade by JC Daniels

Title:
Blade Song
Author:JC Daniels
PublisherShiloh Walker, Inc
Publication Date:August 2012
Publisher's DescriptionKit Colbana - half breed, assassin, thief, jack of all trades - has a new job: track down the missing ward of one of the local alpha shapeshifters. It should be a piece of cake.
So why is she so nervous? It probably has something to do with the insanity that happens when you deal with shifters - especially sexy ones who come bearing promises of easy jobs and easier money.

Or maybe it’s all the other missing kids that Kit discovers while working the case, or the way her gut keeps screaming she’s gotten in over her head. Or maybe it’s because if she fails - she’s dead.

If she can stay just one step ahead, she should be okay. Maybe she’ll even live long to collect her fee...
My rating:****
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Title:
Night Blade
Author:Shiloh Walker
PublisherShiloh Walker, Inc
Publication Date:March 2013
Publisher's DescriptionKit Colbana is always biting off more than she can chew. She has a knack for finding trouble. This time, though, trouble finds her. Someone from her past drops a case into her lap that she just can’t refuse...literally.
People on the Council are dying left and right and she’s been requested to investigate the deaths. The number one suspect? Her lover, Damon. If she doesn't clear his name, he gets a death sentence. Even if she succeeds? They still might try to execute him. Oh, and she’s not allowed to tell him about the case, either.

The stakes are high this time around, higher than they've ever been. Kit may be forced to pay the ultimate price to save her lover’s life...a price that could destroy her and everything she loves.
My rating:***** (squijillion)
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I read Blade Song and immediately moved onto Night Blade. I think I read the two books in about 5 hours (let’s hear it for vacation). I really like Kit and felt bad enough about her childhood after reading Blade Song that all the things she went through in Night Blade were really hard for me to take. None of the horrors that she survives in this series have ever felt gratuitous to me, and I found them even more gut-wrenching because I care so much about Kit as a character. I am certain that the third book, which comes out in two more days (dying here btw), will give me the payoff that I began to see glimmers of at the end of Night Blade.

Although this series centers around Kit, there are so many characters in it who are clearly going through a lot and growing all the time. Damon! Doyle! Goliath! Colleen! Chang! Doyle! I know I said him twice, but he’s like the leopard little brother that my parents neglected to give me. I really love how integral the secondary characters are to what is going on in the world. While I think it’s crazy that I just learned about this series the other day (I’ve bought book one ages ago and then promptly forgot that it existed), I’m happy, too, otherwise I would have had a much longer wait to get to the third book. Now, of course, I am going to go back and read everything else written by Shiloh Walker (whose pen name is JC Daniels) to tide me over until next week. I would give this series five squijillion stars, and since this is my web site and my rating system, I totally can, but I’ll just limit myself to five and call it a day.

Trigger warning: This book contains rape and copious physical abuse.

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Mountain Echoes by C. E. Murphy

Title:
Mountain Echoes
Author:C. E. Murphy
PublisherHarlequin
Publication Date:April 2, 2013
Publisher's DescriptionYOU CAN NEVER GO HOME AGAIN

Joanne Walker has survived an encounter with the Master at great personal cost, but now her father is missing—stolen from the timeline. She must finally return to North Carolina to find him—and to meet Aidan, the son she left behind long ago.

That would be enough for any shaman to face, but Joanne’s beloved Appalachians are being torn apart by an evil reaching forward from the distant past. Anything that gets in its way becomes tainted—or worse.

And Aidan has gotten in the way.

Only by calling on every aspect of her shamanic powers can Joanne pull the past apart and weave a better future. It will take everything she has—and more.

Unless she can turn back time...but time is never on Joanne’s side.
My rating:****

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I love Joanne Walker. She’s a great character, and I’ve enjoyed watching her grow more comfortable with her abilities over the course of the Walker Papers series. I also really love that Mountain Echoes is the penultimate novel in this series. I’m not at all sick of Joanne, but each new entry in a series bring with it the possibility of stagnancy; Joanne and Morrison (dear baby Jesus, please bring me a Morrison for Festivus) remain one of my favorite fictional pairings, and while each visit with them is undoubtedly a treat, I almost want to give them a little privacy.

I never said I wasn’t weird.
It was great to see Joanne interact with people from her past. Watching a relatively more mellow Jo surprise people who remembered how she used to be was pretty entertaining. As always, Jo’s delight in her abilities was pretty delightful to witness. I really felt her turmoil when it came to her feelings about her father and her upbringing, and watching her integrate new information into old memories was a pretty rewarding experience.
I think that maybe I can’t be objective about this series, because I love it that much, but I just don’t see how anybody who is interested in the initial premise and reads the novels is going to be disappointed.
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Shady Lady by Ann Aguire

Title:
Shady Lady
Author:Ann Aguirre
Publication Date:February 2011
Publisher's Description"I’d spent my whole life settling, trying not to attract attention, and generally doing whatever it took to keep other people happy. I didn’t want to do that again. Not when I was finally comfortable in my own skin. Sure, there were certain challenges, like a drug lord who wanted me dead, and the fact that I owed a demon a debt that he could call due at any moment. But everybody’s got problems, right?"

Whenever Corine Solomon touches an object, she immediately knows its history. But her own future concerns her more and more. Now back in Mexico, she’s running her pawnshop and trying to get a handle on her strange new powers, for she might need them. And soon.

Then former ally Kel Ferguson walks through her door. Heavily muscled and tattooed, Kel looks like a convict but calls himself a holy warrior. This time, he carries a warning for Corine: the Montoya cartel is coming for her—but they don’t just pack automatic weapons. The Montoyas use warlocks, shamans, voodoo priests—anything to terminate trouble. And Corine has become enemy number one…
My rating:****.5

I went back and read Blue Diablo and Hell Fire before I read this book, and I’m glad I did. I hadn’t visited this world for over a year, and there were lots of little details that I had forgotten. Reading the books in a series back to back will either cause you to fall more in love with it, or expose flaws that followed from book to book and make you like the series a lot less (hello, Weather Warden books). Thankfully, this book falls into the former category.

Corine Solomon is a fascinating character…and so is Kel. Ms. Aguire did an excellent job of showing how Corine and Kel’s relationship changes over the course of their time together. Halfway through this book, I nearly forgot how creepy he must have seemed to every rational person in this universe (no offense to poor Shannon, but it’s not like teenagers are known for their rationality).

The number of powerful, complex men in Corine’s life just keeps increasing. The mutation of the Chance and Jesse situation has been fascinating to read, and then the ending of this book went and threw two new curveballs at us. I love it!

I am really looking forward to reading the next book in this series and the further adventures of Corine and co.

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One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire

Title:
One Salt Sea
Author:Seanan McGuire
Publication Date:September 2011
Publisher's DescriptionOctober "Toby" Daye is settling into her new role as Countess of Goldengreen. She's actually dating again, and she's taken on Quentin as her squire. So, of course, it's time for things to take a turn for the worse.

Someone has kidnapped the sons of the regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must find the missing boys and prove the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. Toby's search will take her from the streets of San Francisco to the lands beneath the waves, and her deadline is firm: she must find the boys in three days' time, or all of the Mists will pay the price. But someone is determined to stop her-and whoever it is isn't playing by Oberon's Laws...
My rating:****.5

I liked the first book in this series well enough to read the second, but An Artificial Night just didn’t interest me as a story, and I nearly gave up on the series altogether. Thankfully, I liked Toby and her mad, mad world enough to give it another try. I’m truly glad that I stuck it out for the next three titles in this series. Each of them has been better than the last, and One Salt Sea is so full of win and awesomeness that I fear the bar may now be set too high for book 6.

Toby is a really compelling character; she’s not human, and doesn’t experience the type of angst over her non-human status that is at this point almost a staple (cliche?) of non/quasi-human protagonists in urban fantasy. Toby’s hangups are largely related to class; as a changeling, she has always had a lower status in the world she chose. With her unasked for ascension to the nobility, she is now the technical equal of many of those who would shun her, which is uncomfortable for everybody involved. Toby’s life up to this point has been about learning to exist on the fringes of both fae and human society, and becoming the Countess of Goldengreen does not mesh well with the survival skills and coping mechanisms that Toby had to acquire to make it to her midfifties. She has rules that are all her own, and make her who she is. These rules are different the rules embodied by some of her closest friends and associates, and leads to a fair amount of tension over some of her actions. It is a testament to how many disparate plots are presented and resolved in this novel that this conflict is not even the first or second most pressing thing going on in Toby’s world.

I can’t begin to offer a reasonable synopsis of this novel that is not spoilerific, but I will say that I definitely didn’t expect to find myself sniffling away at my desk as I finished this book during my lunch break. Seanan McGuire did not pull any punches with this novel.

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