Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Shuzluva

http://twitter.com/Shuzluva

Sydney (better known by her handle, Shuzluva) knew that she wanted to be Han Solo's copilot after seeing Star Wars at the tender age of 5. She fell in love with romance novels over 20 years ago when she got her hands on Sandra Brown's Texas! trilogy, and in the mid 90's was overjoyed to discover romance writers had branched out into the world of SciFi/fantasy. While she enjoys the occasional contemporary or historical novel, the world of SciFi holds an unshakable fascination for her. Some of her favorite authors include Nalini Singh, Catherine Asaro and Kresley Cole, and she's always interested in adding new authors to the list.

Posts by Shuzluva :

REVIEW: Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison

REVIEW: Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison

Dear Ms. Harrison,

As a Paranormal reader and reviewer, the concept of a series is both the blessing and bane of my existence. Ever heard of a stand-alone Paranormal? I’ve gotta look around and see if they actually occur…but back to the matter at hand. After the first book, it’s crystal clear as to whether I’ll continue the series. But then I’m faced with worry: will the author’s work in the second (third, ninth…what have you) measure up? And if it doesn’t, do I pray that the author rediscovers the magic that made the first book so special and plow ahead? Because of this insanity, I have a tendency to sit on books until I’ve worked up the mental courage to dive in and read. I nearly put Storm’s Heart aside to “read later” an am so happy I didn’t.

Storm's Heart by Thea HarrisonThistle “Tricks” Periwinkle was the engine behind Culebre Enterprises PR machine and a princess in hiding, until Dragos, Pia and the sentinels killed the evil Dark Fae Urien Lorelle back in Dragon Bound. Tricks was under Dragos’ protection and (no spoiler here) had a major secret: she’s Niniane Lorelle, the heir to the Dark Fae throne and the one that got away from Urien Lorelle’s killing spree 200 years ago. After revealing her identity, Niniane goes to Chicago on her own to meet with the Dark Fae delegation befor crossing over into Dark Fae land for her coronation. Now, you know that a lost Dark Fae princess with bajillions of enemies stepping into a power vacuume won’t have a problem at all right? Riiiiight. You may ask, “well why the fuck would Dragos let her go off on her own?” Solid reasoning here folks: Niniane can’t be seen as an agent of the Wyr; she needs to stand on her own two feet to take her crown. Of course, there’s someone (or someones…I’m not going to give anything away here, but an astute reader will probably figure it out once the baddie(s) appear) who doesn’t want that to happen and wants the Dark Fae crown all to themselves. Within hours of arriving in Chi-town Niniane is the victim of an assassination attempt that’s caught on some moron’s cell phone camera. Dragos sends Tiago Black Eagle to Chicago to find Niniane and figure out what’s going on. I’d hate to be that moron when the sentinels arrive.

Tiago is ancient and in his Wyr form is the legendary giant thunderbird. In human form I’m guessing he looks quite a bit like a Native American version of Dwayne Johnson ’cause that’s something that Niniane put into my head, which doesn’t suck. Tiago headed up Dragos’ private army, and being in New York after the, er, disposal of Urien Lorelle is making him a bit stir crazy:

Vengeance, served hot. That had been Tiago’s kind of party.

Since then all he had been doing was cleanup and busywork. Make sure all involved Goblins were dead, check. Chase down and slaughter any Dark Fae that had been part of Urien’s party, check. Go to sleep with his thumb up his ass, check.”

Tiago’s relationship with Niniane is more distant than the other sentinels simply due to geography. When he sees the awful video footage of Niniane being attacked by her cousin he’s enraged that someone is trying to hurt her and he immediately volunteers for a “leave of absence” and goes to track her down. When he finds her in a Motel 6, I was sure they were going to burn the place down with all that heat.

He glowered, thrown off balance by his own intense, unwelcome reaction. Rein it in, stud. Under the reek of smoke he could smell feminine perfume and – was that the scent of blood?

“Oh, you shouldn’ta done that,” Niniane said. Large upside-down Fae eyes tried to focus on him. “Breaking and entering. That’s against the law.” She sniggered.

Tiago took refuge from his strange feelings in the much more familiar emotion of aggression. “What are you doing?” he demanded. “What do you mean ‘go back to New York’? Do I smell blood?”

“I can only answer one question at a time, you know,” she said. With remarkable dignity, considering. “I am hanging my head over to hear the wind blow. I never did get that bit in the lyrics. Who hears the wind blow when they hang their head over? Hang their head over what? What does that even mean? Do you know?”

He had no idea what she was babbling about. Something about the stupid song she had been trying to sing. He pushed the door shut with a foot and strode over to stub out the smoldering cigarette. “This is disgusting,” he snapped. “Why haven’t you called? We’ve been worried sick about you.”

“Whoa,” she said. She looked up-or down, as it were-at Tiago’s crotch, which had stopped right in front of her. He was one scary mean-looking oversized barbarian, in black jeans, black boots and black leather vest. He bristled with weapons and anger, and muscles bulged everywhere. His crotch sported a significant bulge too. A very significant bulge. She licked her lips. She might be drunk but she wasn’t dead. She wouldn’t be forgetting this sight in a hurry.

Obsidian eyes glittered. “Tricks, what the hell? Seriously.”

What follows is a superb game of cat, mouse and politics.

Storm’s Heart doesn’t have the same geographic range as Dragon Bound, but doesn’t lack for action. The book plays a superb game of cat, mouse and politics as the Dark Fae, a few Vampires, the Wyr sentinels and humans work it out in Chicago and the Dark Fae demesne. The small geographic range gives us time to really get to know Tiago and Niniane. Tiago is a scowly alpha guy, but his inner dialogue is grimly humorous and he deals with himself and his feelings toward Niniane honestly.

MINI SPOILER: [spoiler]That Tiago is more than content to play second fiddle to Niniane in absolutely every way except when it comes to her security had me so darn happy.[/spoiler]

Initially Niniane thinks she’s playing the part of Queen, but it’s obvious to both the reader and Tiago from the beginning that she’s got the royalty gene (whatever that may be) ingrained in her and she was meant to rule over her people with a firm but benevolent hand. Her struggles with her feelings, her Elizabeth I-like need to be seen as a “true” queen and the burden of the future of the Dark Fae are all shown through the course of the book. There were times that my heart ached for her, and times when I wanted to cheer because she refused to give up. Because this is a Paranormal, the violence wasn’t unexpected, and Ms. Harrison handles it well, rather than glossing over it she treats each character and their destiny seriously. Yes, there is a “mate” thing that happens with the Wyr, but it’s nice to know it’s not “fated mate”. However, once they get down to the mating business it’s one and done.

There is a clear preview of who’s up next in the series, and yeah…I can’t wait to find out all the secrets surrounding the next couple. I thoroughly enjoyed Storm’s Heart and am reading it again as I wait for Serpent’s Kiss. A-

~Shuzluva

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REVIEW: Blood of the Wicked by Karina Cooper

REVIEW: Blood of the Wicked by Karina Cooper

Dear Ms. Cooper,

Anyone who follows you, me or Jane on twitter or who read this probably caught the tempest in a teacup over the disappearing book. For those who haven’t a clue as to what I’m referring: Jane was looking all over for Blood of the Wicked, and realized that she probably sent it to me. I checked through my Pisa-like tower and didn’t see it. That afternoon, what should Paul the postman (yes, that really is his name) show up with? A package containing one item (a rare occurrence): your book! Well, after all the back and forth, I decided I had to read it, even if I’m not a huge fan of witch stories.

Blood of the Wicked Karina CooperJessie Leigh is a witch, and in the world of New Seattle witches are hunted and killed. Jessie and her brother Caleb have been on the run their entire lives, hiding their abilities and trying to blend into the grimy underbelly of a shiny stilt world. They support each other through thick and thicker until one day Caleb disappears and even Jessie’s talents can’t help her locate her brother. Jessie continues to lay low in the deep dredges of the city hoping that something will lead her to Caleb, but finds herself face-to-face with Silas Smith.

Silas is a missionary, a branch of the Holy Order of St. Dominic that locates and exterminates witches before they do any further damage to the world crumbling around them. His latest mission is to find and kill Caleb Leigh, and Silas is sure he’ll be able to manipulate Jessie into helping him. He has no idea that Jessie is a witch too and she isn’t going to enlighten him. Of course, when eyes meet eyes…they can barely talk because they’re so busy drooling over each other.

I sighed with relief when Jessie immediately staged an escape attempt from Silas. Yeah, she may have a hoo-hah (and it may even be magickz!) but she isn’t letting her libido lead her into utter stupidity. Jessie keeps her eye on the prize; stay out of the hands of the Order and find her brother alive. Silas and Jessie trek down into the depths of Old Seattle and find the remains of a blood ritual (and if you’re not comfortable with CSI I suggest that you skim this part of the book) and Jessie realizes that her brother is up to his neck in trouble. As they run, hide and try to figure out what they and Caleb are entangled in, they fall for each other but Jessie’s secrets are going to come out eventually.

I had some real problems with this book but I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even when I decided to put it down for a while (eh, a day is a while for me). But we’ll get there in a minute. Let me tell you about our H/H. Jessie is well written and I really loved her character. She’s physically vulnerable and knows it, and without Caleb she’s a bit lost but refuses to let herself fall into despair. Staying on an even keel when you can’t trust anyone around you and are hiding what you are seems nearly impossible and Jessie doesn’t just take it in stride. Her constant struggle is obvious. I can’t imagine living a life looking over my shoulder every few minutes. Her attraction to Silas is a major distraction. She initially attempts to fight it, but even after she’s swept into it, she doesn’t loose sight of her need to protect herself and her brother.

Silas is somewhat rock-like on the outside. He’s getting older and realizes that the aches and pains he has are new and the Order is going to bench him soon. On the inside Silas is a mess of guilt and confusion and sexual frustration. Silas worked for the Order his whole life and very reluctant to question any of the demands or rules, both because he believes them and because he’s fearful that he’ll loose his reason for getting up in the morning. He’s attracted to Jessie but thinks that there can’t be anything there because of the needs of the Order (yeah, he’s kinda clueless here and I did have a bit of an issue with that). When he has his lightbulb moment it’s ugly and at the same time I was nailed to the page as I watched the blinders get ripped off him. I think I could fall for him too.

The post-apocalyptic New Seattle reminded me of a cross between Blade Runner and Judge Dred (the comics, NOT the movie…oy). The divisions between upper- mid- lower- and Old Seattle are well described, and the entire place seems treacherous. A lack of guard rails, or any sort of safety measure is one of those things I love with any post-apocalyptic world. While parts of the world-building are well done, I have two issues with the book. First, I wish there had been a little more on exactly how the witches were responsible for the apocalypse and what, exactly, was the apocalypse. I have a vague understanding of the Earth splitting open, but that’s about it. Second, I would love to understand why the Holy Order of Saint Dominic ended up with all the power, and a little more on how the Order works. This may have been explained in the novella, but a few lines or thoughts worked into the beginning of the book would have helped me from feeling lost at times. Frankly, I wanted more world. A lot more world. But since I just couldn’t put the book down it’s a B for me.

~ Shuzluva

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