Review: Sin’s Daughter by Eve Silver (Sins series #0.5)

343945684 stars

Synopsis:

A Sins Series Novella!

Cursed with immortality, driven into a nomadic life on the fringes of society to escape those who hunt her, Amber Hale has learned the bitter lesson that she can never grow close to anyone. Never love.

Only once did she break her own rules. And her lover, Kai Warin, paid for her mistake with his life. For decades, she’s been numb with grief. Now, confronted by a soul reaper—an agent of one of the most powerful of the Underworld deities—with Kai’s face, she must acknowledge the likelihood that he betrayed her…to the Lord of Evil himself.

Forced into an uneasy alliance and plagued by the unwanted yearning between them, they must work together to elude the dark forces hunting them both…

For fans of J R Ward, Kim Harrison and Kelley Armstrong!

The books in the Sins Series are mature, gritty, dark, violent, sexy and straddle the line between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.


This novella was exactly what I needed after dragging myself to the end of a long and dry political high fantasy novel.

Obviously, this book is shorter than the others in the series.  It doesn’t follow the main story arc, though it does follow the same format as the other books so far – brooding soul reaper meets hot superwoman and gets his alpha on, while soft porn music plays in your head. Bliss.

The soul reaper in question, Kai, is one of the supporting characters in book 3, Sins of the Flesh and it’s sweet to see that the single hunks of the Underworld are finally being paired off to their soulmates (oh the irony!),

The plot of this book is very fast moving and satisfying, the only thing that I would have wanted more of is the heroine’s relationship with her father. We’ve seen romantic and fraternal relationships so far in this series, it’s time to see the women relating with men who aren’t their lovers!

The perfect palette cleanser after reading something dry, with uninspired characters. Eve Silver wins the day again with her likable characters that you can instantly latch on to and share their feelings, this is the reason I can’t stop going back to her books time and time again! I’m less anxious than I would otherwise be, knowing that I’m almost at the end of the Sins series… for the sole reason that I know there are other series by Silver for me to sink my teeth into.

This is going to be a short review for a short book – I don’t think that you need to have read the rest of the series to fully enjoy this book. In fact, I think this installment might even be the perfect taster for readers new to the urban fantasy genre. If anything is going to sell you on the concept – this will be it!

Guest Post: A Writer is Always Terrified by Joyce Schneider

J.A. Schneider

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine, a wife, mom, and reading addict. She loves thrillers…which may seem odd, since she was once a major in French Literature – wonderful but sometimes heavy stuff. Now, for years, she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine, forensic science, and police procedure. She lives with her family in Connecticut, USA.

A Writer Is Always Terrified

I look at that title I just wrote, and I laugh. Easy to do at times like this when I’m between books – one done, the next just starting to form. Well it is kind of funny, when you’re out of your writing tunnel, to remember what it feels like when you’re in it.

Oh, those twin terrors: the new, blank page, and the question, What happens next?

Which tells you immediately that I don’t outline. I start with the fun part – an idea, the beginning with my main one or two characters and a fuzzy idea of the ending. That’s the exciting part, just letting the new idea start to swirl in my head. Then more ideas come to join the Word doc of notes that I keep – but those notes start to resemble a shopping list more than any semblance of order.

I’ve tried to outline, several times gave it my best effort. Those outlines maybe made it up to chapter four or five…but then what? The final stories went off the rails anyway.

So pare it back down to the naked beginning. And since I write thrillers, they inevitably start with something high adrenalin. Those opening scenes are my favorite, the cornerstone of what reading that story should feel like, with the problem remaining of how to maintain that intensity.

For me the hardest part is the battle with the first draft. Two of my favorite author quotes are David Baldacci’s “A writer is always terrified,” and E.L. Doctorow’s “Writing is like driving at night. You can only see as far as your headlights.” Other terrific quotes are Tess Gerritsen’s “Do you have the guts to stay with it?” and Stephen King’s “Just flail away at the goddamn thing.” I have a collection of those quotes on a Word doc which I keep open to the left of my writing draft, and those quotes are my crutch, like friends saying, “Hey, we all go through the same thing!”

It’s a comfort.

Then when finishing a book I wonder, How in the world did I do that? It feels like that whole story, finally and after struggle, just…took form. It feels like magic, and I don’t remember how I did it! Only that ideas came as I wrote. Things just finally filled in…although that never happens in the first draft.

Nobody gets it right the first time. You HAVE to do it wrong first to see how you should have done it. First drafts to me feel like descriptions of mountain climbing, where you have to pound spikes, one at a time, into the hard rock face, and then you pull yourself up to the spike where you’re hanging on, buffeted by wind and lost sleep, and you reach up further and bang in the next spike, and the next…until you’re done with the bleeping first draft.

And then you “turn the pile over,” go back to the beginning to see what you’ve got. By this point, the muddy water has cleared (these metaphors do help), and you have a clearer idea of the story. It does get easier after the first draft. Even pleasant with discovery as characters come to life and start figuring things out for themselves. Kinda like Geppetto carving Pinocchio?

My biggest hurdle is still avoiding the quagmire of re-writing too soon, editing as I go along. I’m still trying to learn to write rough, master the art of powering through, get to the end of the manuscript and THEN worry about the quality, go back and edit.

But I’m not there yet. I still plod away, starting each day trying to get yesterday’s work into better shape, and then I move ahead. Which is better? Writing 3,000 words a day, then having a mess to go back to and edit? Or writing a more careful 1,500 words a day and having them go down cleaner?

I fall in the latter category. But maybe that’s because, subconsciously, I really do have a story structure more clear than I realize in my head. Honestly, I’m not sure.

I’m still learning, and the learning never stops. For the next book, I’ll make another try to get a decent outline down…

 

Website: http://jaschneiderauthor.net

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5832782.J_A_Schneider

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoyceSchneider1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joyce.schneider.142?fref=ts

 

 

 

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Review: Watching You by J.A. Schneider

34621256

Published by RGS Media

5 stars

Synopsis:

A serial killer texts his victims first. A detective vows revenge. He comes after her.

In the chill of an October night, Detective Kerri Blasco is called to a bizarre murder scene. Leda Winfield, a young volunteer for the homeless, has been shot. Her cell phone displays the frightening text, WATCHING YOU, and into her back, hideously pushed with a hat pin, is a note with the same awful message. Leda’s socialite family and friends insist that no one would have wanted to harm her, but Detective Kerri isn’t convinced.

Until another random young woman is killed in exactly the same way. Kerri and her team profile a monstrous killer who enjoys terrifying his victims before stalking and killing them. But how does he get their phone numbers?

Kerri soon finds that the killer is after her, too, and that the key to finding him may just be in the homeless shelter. When the body count rises, she vows to stop the madman – even if it means battling her own personal trauma, risking her job, her love relationship with her boss Alex Brand, and her life.


This book is my favourite in the series so far. Kerri Blasco is evolving as a character, we see different sides of her in each book as the series go on and they all fit perfectly, so she stays true to herself as she was described in the first novel. She is a likable character, with many talents and humanising flaws. I think there are so many different directions that the rest of this series can go in to keep her growing, I’m fascinated to read them all.

In this instalment, Kerri is brought to the forefront as both the investigator and potential victim. Until this point, she’s been slightly aloof but this time we see right into her mind and get a real feel for her as a human being.

The killer in this book is the most sinister of them all, picking his victims seemingly at random and stalking them before murdering them. There’s something about stalking that gets under the skin, and Schneider uses it to its creepiest extent, something that chilled me to the core.

I adore Schneider’s writing style in general but for me, her ability to build tension and create really human characters is what sets her apart from other authors.
In this novel, her portrayal of the first victim really made an impression on me. Leda was a young woman from an affluent background who chose to live in a modest apartment and work with homeless people – this wasn’t then riddled with scandal or hypocrisy, she stayed a good character who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think the cynicism gets me down when seemingly generous and good characters turn out to be selfish and flawed all the time, sometimes it’s just nice to let someone be…. Nice.

Another aspect of this series that I really enjoy is that it’s a straight-laced crime mystery where the police aren’t stupid or corrupt, they’re realistic detectives and officers who are doing a job. I think Kerri is edging towards going rogue, which I hope isn’t going to be the case, because her relationship with her fellow detective has to be kept secret or she’ll be reassigned to another precinct. She does bend several of the rules this time, I hope she starts treading that thin blue line again soon!

This series is perfect for readers of crime thrillers, especially those looking for well written female characters (so rare in this genre) and strong plots.

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Review: Lost Souls by Kelley Armstrong

330243983 stars

Synopsis:

The disappearing hitchhiker is one of the hoariest urban legends, and no one knows that better than Gabriel Walsh, a lawyer who grew up on folklore and myth. When author of books on the supernatural Patrick brings Gabriel a case of a hitchhiking woman in white who vanished on a country road after accepting a ride from a businessman, Gabriel knows the Cainsville elder is just trying to wheedle into his good graces. But Gabriel is a man in need of a mystery, one that will get him back into someone else’s good graces. His investigator, Olivia Taylor-Jones, has blown town supposedly on a simple vacation. But when she left there was a rift between them and…he misses her.

Gabriel is well aware the only thing Olivia loves more than a good mystery is a weird one, and this hitchhiker case more than fits the bill. As Gabriel digs into the story, he’s forced to face ghosts of his own and admit that the woman in white isn’t the only one who has lost her way.

With Lost Souls, New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong weaves an unmissable novella-length tale connected to her fan-favorite Cainsville series.


Oops… I didn’t realise that this book was part of a series! This novella ties in to the Cainsville series, and to be honest… as I’ve noticed with Armstrong’s other work, you need to be familiar with the main series to get the full benefit. Thankfully, her storytelling is so easy to read, I don’t see this being a hardship.

I’ve given this book 3 stars because even though I enjoyed it, I don’t see it sticking with me – the writing is really enjoyable and it automatically appealed to me because it features the old hitchhiker urban legend, this would probably have nailed a full 5 stars if it wasn’t part of a series. The characters have already been established in the main series (I assume) so there were constant references to their past which distracted me from the narrative, I could have enjoyed the story as it was.

Gabriel is an unsympathetic main character, you would have to have affection for him from the earlier books to really connect with him in this. He lacks empathy for regular humans and he’s immature, whiny and self sabotaging in his personal relationships… without the context to work with, he’s just a pain in the ass and a bit cringeworthy to read.

Gabriel takes on a case of the mysterious hitchhiker, thinking that having an intriguing case on board will help him win back the affections of Olivia, his legal firm’s investigator. Of course, things are never as simple as they seem and the ‘fun’ case turns out to be more than he bargained for.

All in all, it’s the writing that makes this story worth a read – unless you’re a follower of the Cainsville series though, I would probably recommend picking up another book by the author to get you started.

 

Review: Bleed Through by Adriana Arrington

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Published by Curiosity Quills Press

5 stars

Synopsis:

With his schizophrenia under control, life is looking up for twenty-five-year-old Liam Murphy. Independence looms on his horizon, and he’s under the care of a psychologist who understands him. Then he witnesses a murder at the yacht club. He worries it’s a hallucination and sign of regression, but soon becomes convinced that his meds have given him the paranormal ability to see past events and that the murder actually happened.

Attempting to make sense of his new talent, Liam finds an unlikely confidant in Mai Nguyen, a fellow college student and eternal optimist. Though she helps him navigate the unsettling memories threatening to engulf him, the emotional toll of learning terrible secrets he can’t prove pushes Liam to the brink of lucidity.

Desperate to wrest back control of his life, Liam tosses his pills. He spirals into a relapse and captures the killer’s attention as he bumbles through investigating the crime. Hunted by a possibly imaginary murderer, and haunted by self-doubt, Liam must distinguish between hallucinations and reality. If he doesn’t, he risks losing either his hard-won sanity or his life.


I reached the halfway point of this book and almost couldn’t finish it, and not for the reason you’d expect.

 

This book is excellently written, almost too well. Liam, the main character, suffers from schizophrenia in a way that few literary characters do: realistically.
When on medication, he can mostly differentiate between reality and hallucinations even though he knows that some of the delusions will be with him the rest of his life – like his belief that the neighbour has been replaced by a replicant who is watching his every move.

When medicated, Liam’s situation is more palatable but when he stops taking his medication around halfway through the book… it starts getting hard to read. This is as it should be though, schizophrenia isn’t palatable, it’s hell for sufferers and the people who love them.
As the reader, you have to try to work out for yourself what’s real and what’s a hallucination – Liam is the most unreliable of narrators, which the author masterfully uses in this book.

This is something that’s got under my skin with books before, because it’s something very close to my heart: people not being believed because they suffer from mental illness. Suffering from paranoia and hallucinations doesn’t negate someone’s intelligence or opinions, their completely unique view of the world can sometime hold insights that mentally healthy people don’t have. By the midpoint of this book, I was feeling stomach churningly anxious for the main character and really thought about putting the book down for a little while and trying something else. For me, that demonstrated exactly how well this book was written.

This story will stick with me for a long time, I think – Liam was a lovable character, despite his best efforts. He’s understandably self-centred, having  to spend every ounce of energy analysing his own thoughts to make sure they’re not trying to trick him, but he loves his family and wants them to be happy.
On the path to recovery, now his therapist has found a good combination of medication for him – he starts to want things for himself, such as a friendship with Mai, his open minded fellow student.

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All these things at risk when he starts to see things, despite his encouraging progress with his mental health. His battle against his own mind to figure out what’s real and how to keep the people he loves safe from himself and his visions is the true making of this story.

Another interesting element of this book that I felt added an extra something to proceedings is that it’s set on a military base where Liam is now living with his mother, sister and stepfather – Isaac, the stepfather, is a brilliant character for reasons I won’t divulge and works for the military. This isn’t essential to the story but it just adds something to the story beyond Liam’s health.

I don’t think this book is for everyone, it’s heavy as hell and at times, pretty confusing. But if you’re up to the challenge, you won’t regret it. This is the portrayal of a mentally ill character who doesn’t have their struggle belittled by being magically healed by the end of the book, or by finding out that they’re actually a supernatural creature or some other cliché – this is suspenseful, heart wrenching and very respectful.

Review: Sins of the Flesh by Eve Silver (Sins series book 3)

343945295 stars

Synopsis:

The blood of the Underworld lord of evil runs through soul reaper Malthus Krayl’s veins. Raised to fight for survival and to kill for victory, he can destroy anyone who poses a threat. As he searches for the one responsible for his brother’s murder, he refuses to succumb to any distraction…until his sworn enemy crosses his path and tempts him beyond all reason.

Calliope Kane, a Daughter of Aset, has a personal hatred for soul reapers. Their savage attack against her family still haunts her. But only Malthus can help her find the traitors of her kind, and only she can help him hunt the source of betrayal amongst the reapers. As they unite, the danger grows closer…and the passion between them ignites.


This series is just getting better and better with each installment. Anything that Eve Silver writes from this point on, I’ll read. If she writes ingredient lists for the back of a new breakfast cereal, I will read it. If she writes a full blow-by-blow account of paint drying: I. Will. Read. It.

This time it’s Mal, son of Sutekh that’s finding himself a strong woman to call his very own. Sure, it’s getting a little formulaic that one brooding supernatural male is finding himself a badass woman to give his heart too and that may at some point become boring, but not yet!

The badass woman in this instance is Calliope Kane, mentioned in Sins of the Heart as Roxy Tam’s mentor. I hadn’t considered her as a likely love interest for this series given her hatred for soul reapers, but that’s something that’s actually dealt with in this story. Calliope isn’t my favourite heroine in this series (3rd of 3 as it happens) but Mal may be my favourite of the brothers, he doesn’t have the same anger issues or possessiveness as his brothers but seems to be more practical and reserved when it comes to forming new relationships.

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This book was considerably more plot centric than the last, which not only drew me back into the main conspiracy but also raised the ante for sexual tension. I’m firmly in the camp for delayed gratification when it comes to literary sexy times, it gives the reader more time to get to know the characters and their motivations so that by the time they finally get down to it, it’s just that little bit more satisfying.

In this installment of the Sins series, Eve Silver reminds me how good she is at creating suspense and intrigue. This time round we learn more about the hierarchy of the Sisters of Aset, before all the characters we’ve met thus far are thrown together. I can’t say that the final reveal was completely unexpected, but it was so satisfying that I don’t care.

Again, the most wonderful things about the relationships between the Krayl brothers and their mates is that all the relationships are built on respect, even if they are a little feral when it comes to protecting them from the dangers that come with being connected to Underworld royalty.

I can’t freaking wait to read the next book in the series, which is going to be an unknown quantity now that one side of the conspiracy has been resolved! I’m hoping that the romance side is going to be different this time for the sake of variety, but I know that the action side of things is going to be fantastic.

Review: The Hematophages by Stephen Kozeniewski

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Published by Sinister Grin Press

5 stars

Synopsis:

Doctoral student Paige Ambroziak is a “station bunny” – she’s never set foot off the deep space outpost where she grew up. But when she’s offered a small fortune to join a clandestine salvage mission, she jumps at the chance to leave the cutthroat world of academia behind.

Paige is convinced she’s been enlisted to find the legendary Manifest Destiny, a long-lost colonization vessel from an era before the corporations ruled Earth and its colonies. Whatever she’s looking for, though, rests in the blood-like seas of a planet-sized organism called a fleshworld.

Dangers abound for Paige and her shipmates. Flying outside charted space means competing corporations can shoot them on sight rather than respect their salvage rights. The area is also crawling with pirates like the ghoulish skin-wrappers, known for murdering anyone they can’t extort.

But the greatest threat to Paige’s mission is the nauseating alien parasites which infest the fleshworld. These lamprey-like monstrosities are used to swimming freely in an ocean of blood, and will happily spill a new one from the veins of the outsiders who have tainted their home. In just a few short, bone-chilling hours Paige learns that there are no limits to the depravity and violence of the grotesque nightmares known as…THE HEMATOPHAGES.


Stephen Kozeniewski gives another big ‘fuck you’ to anyone demanding him to settle down and pick a genre, and I couldn’t be happier!

So far, his books have ranged between zombies, vampires, a clone society and dystopian civil war – this one is about evil space leeches.

Kozeniewski adds his usual light touch in the social commentary in his world building – humanity has screwed its way across the cosmos, now populating several planets and space stations. Instead of nations, humanity is now divided by the companies that they work for and everything is done with the bottom-line in mind.

What I love most about this kind of world building is that it sets the scene for the story, but they’re not central to the story they just are. There’s no ranting and raving by the author to make you listen to his world view, he just throws in a few tidbits and then gets on with telling another amazing story. This book manages to be stomach churningly gory, but by stimulating the imagination rather than through graphic description.

Ambroziak is a brutally ambitious scientist who has been offered the opportunity of a lifetime to set the trajectory of her career. She joins a mission to recover the Manifest Destiny,  a vanished ship with all the celebrity of the Titanic , but a couple of things stand in her way. Namely, space pirates and evil leeches.

Space pirates, captained by the best literary character of all time: Nia.
That’s right! There’s finally a ‘Nia’ in an English language book!!
There pirates aren’t your usual swashbucklers, they’re like a combination between Firefly’s Reavers and something even worse. For me, the horror started when the pirates arrived, their physical appearance was nasty enough but their back story is even worse.

Once our intrepid explorers have landed on the blood planet, the story shifts tone and becomes more claustrophobic and genuinely terrifying. I’m a sucker (pun intended) for alien parasites and horror mixed with sci-fi, Kozeniewski managed to gather all of my favourite things, wrap them up in a writing style I adore and advertise it on Facebook at a moment I was looking for a new horror read. I tend not to re-read titles (there are too many books out there in the world) but if this one should be turned into an audiobook, I see that being something I could listen to over and over again.

I couldn’t put the book down a and felt a little nauseous at times, Kozeniewski is getting more twisted as time goes by and I’m both eager and terrified to read whatever he releases next.