Destiny: Absent Shadows Trilogy, Book 1 by S. M. Spencer

Destiny

Absent Shadows Trilogy, Book 1

by S. M. Spencer

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Vampires

Four Stars

Lili McIntyre just ended a difficult relationship and is now on a much-needed summer vacation to Melbourne, Australia for a few months. Her aunt Debs welcomes her Down Under and provides her with a chance to clear her head. On the plane, Lili meets Claire, and that new friendship introduces her to more than she dreamed of. Though Claire doesn’t know it, her new boyfriend, Tom, has an enormous secret. The oblivious Claire introduces Lili to Sam, Tom’s close friend. As a natural double-date, Sam and Lili find themselves thrown together and soon discover a growing attraction.

Soon, Lili discovers why Sam and Tom behave so strangely. They are vampires! Suddenly a world of the supernatural opens up to Lili and her heart will lead her to help Sam keep his secret identity and defend the city from conflicts begun in ages past.

Destiny is an enjoyable book with a fun take on the vampire genre, full of characters created with affection and care. Lili’s struggle to determine her future and the pressures from home struck a chord with me. She feels the urgency to decide her future and move forward, although the hugeness of the decision overwhelms her.

The American/Australian crossover made me wonder through the tale about the author’s origins, but I think I know. Some telling word choice clued me in. I loved hearing about life in Melbourne and all the interesting trips the characters took nearby. Though some of Melbourne’s history appears in the book, I would have like to learn more.

I appreciated the potential for the tale to discuss the subject of abuse. I think that young women, especially, need reinforcement that abuse is real, encouragement that they don’t have to endure it, and illustrations of what it really looks like. Plenty of speakers and nonfiction writers share about abuse, but tales of people enduring and overcoming it reach us in a different, sometimes more personal way.

Lili wonders through the tale why she isn’t scared that Sam is a vampire. I know why: it’s because none of the vampires in this book are the slightest bit scary. Romance and good looks trump blood-drinking. Any slip of the teeth is slight and polite to the extent that Claire never once discovers their identity. Even the scenes that should be thrilling and terrifying lose their teeth because of the detached and passive way the author describes them. My take is that the trouble lies in the author’s unwillingness to make the characters suffer. She loves them too much. Any problem is short and quickly resolved without the pain that blood-drinking romantic interests should pose.

Aside from the pressured calm of the tale, I enjoyed the book and look forward to the second book in the trilogy to find the answers to the problems that Lili hasn’t solved yet.

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Diabolical Taste by Ros Jackson

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Diabolical Taste

by Ros Jackson

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban

Five stars

Another adventure with Kenssie the secret-eating demon takes us into the countryside where Rak and Kenssie have fled from the council. They struggle to feed themselves in the sparsely populated area, and soon Kenssie learns why. Rak has a big secret waiting there and a vital mission to execute. Throw in a human with a formula that allows him to see demons, and Kenssie gets into a big mess. Can she help Rak with his problem without alerting the Council? Will he ever see her love for him and reciprocate? Does he deserve it anyway?

Ros has taken us on another entertaining and interesting stage in the life of Kenssie the secret-eater. Though she is a demon, she isn’t a horrific movie demon. She has compassion and a desire to do good that war with her nature and the pressures of demon society. Also, she has a fun sense of fashion.

I loved the thoughtful and multilayered story that Ros has created, and I had the pleasure of a read without the need for intense scrutiny. Her characters all have depth and interest outside the story, each with the seeming potential for their own book. This adds a huge realism to this fantasy tale that emphasizes the moral and important ideas that the author works out through the story.

Kennsie grows in this installment, and (hopefully not a spoiler) she learns her own value and gains her independence. I loved her growth from dependence and codependence to a woman standing on her own two feet, even if she wishes they were hooves. Her secret-delving powers also seem to gain in strength and importance through the story and add surprise and depth to the plot. Humor is the icing on the cake of this story, and there is plenty with all the foibles of man and demon. This book is a must-read, and while I highly recommend reading the first book, I feel this story can stand alone .

I approve this title for Awesome Indies. http://awesomeindies.net

I received this book from the author for the purposes of an unbiased review.

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Sacrifice by Jennifer Quintenz

Sacrifice

Daughters of Lilith: Book 3

By Jennifer Quintenz

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban, Young Adult, New Adult

Five stars

Braedyn battles once again to stop the apocalypse and prevent the terrible demon Lilitu from breaking through the ancient barrier into our world. This book in the series follows the Guard’s preparations for Seth the Incubus’ next attempt to free Lilith from the underworld. Friendships are forged, tested, and destroyed while the teens must wrestle with decisions that may save the world…or not. Can Braedyn save Luke, Cassie, and Royal, her vulnerable human friends, from the demons’ attacks? Will she manage a friendship with Amber, who once tried to have her boyfriend killed? Can they discover the enemy’s plans in time to stop their next move?

This book definitely served as a transitional part of the series, though an important one, going deeper into the existing characters and their struggles. The mission didn’t change and the stakes didn’t improve. Braedyn didn’t save the world, but she hasn’t lost it yet either. The tension keeps building and it’s getting really heavy! I liked learning more about her relationship with Luke and the perils of their love. The sacrifices the two make mean so much more when we share their struggles with them. We hate the villain, Seth, more too.

Reviewing books can sometimes highlight the vast difference between a well-written book and the rest. Jennifer definitely writes a good book! Only now I have to wait for the next in the series…

I approve this title for Awesome Indies. http://awesomeindies.net

I received this book from the author for the purposes of an unbiased review.

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Djinn by Laura Catherine

Djinn cover copy

Djinn

by Laura Catherine

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

ThreeStars

A teen shouldn’t have to live a life on the run, with constant moves and training in self-defense. Kyra and her father have always lived this way, and though she resents it, it is what she knows.

But everything she knows shatters when a boy named Will and his team of supernaturally-powered friends kidnaps her and takes her to the community of the Djinn. She learns her true past as a noble daughter of the Djinn, a magical people with fantastic powers, and she discovers the true identity of the man she thought of as her father. Can she rearrange her whole perspective of reality to fit in to the place they say she belongs? Can she adopt their strange culture and master the supernatural powers she possesses? Can she ignore her heart and reject the tempting Will because of their different classes in Djinn society?

Laura has worked long and hard on Djinn. One of my first “web friends” through our blogs, I have seen her grow and mature as an author. I know how much we writers need to learn so we can hone and craft great books. Laura is miles ahead of me as a young writer, and I am honored that she let me contribute to her efforts!

Laura’s new slant on the Genie is a lot of fun. Her world and her characters have a vivid life to them and the feelings she addresses bring them to life. The exploration of prejudice and classism she explores through the story and the protagonist perspective has a fresh perspective in the contemporary work.

The book still could use some work with active writing, verb variety, and variety in sentence structure. Some overcomplicated or overlong sentences remain, as well as a few confusing paragraphs. The way Laura wrote the book, the language might work much better as an audiobook or a movie. Some of the dialogue took a little analysis to follow the meaning.

Kyra’s tough girl character with a solid connection to her emotions was refreshing. She represented just the right mixture of soft and tough so that I didn’t want to smack her for being a wimp, but also didn’t consider her heartless. Laura thought a lot about how her characters would react to the strange surprises in their lives and that enhanced my experience as a reader.

I can’t wait to see what Laura will come up with next!

I received this book from the author for the purposes of an unbiased review.

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The Secret Eater by Ros Jackson

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The Secret Eater

 by Ros Jackson

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban

Five stars

Kenssie is a demon who eats secrets. Her mission in life is to creep into humans’ minds and devour the energy from their secrets. Her other missions include: pleasing her Master, Rakmanon, stirring up humiliation for him to feed on, and figuring out what is happening to her power. She is growing weaker and she doesn’t know why. The Demon Council offers no help, instead poking fun at her and kicking her out of their chambers. Her Master can’t seem to help her either.

But a part-demon witch named Permilia may have the answer to her problem. Should she risk angering the Council by stealing a magical tome from them or should she just accept her waning power and all the danger that comes with it?

Ros makes it easy to suspend disbelief with her quick fanciful story. Normally I don’t want to root for the success and wellbeing of demons, but Kenssie was such a relatable character. The tale proceeded from just her perspective and I found it easy to sympathize. She must try to complete difficult and dangerous tasks under the authority of unreasonable and downright evil authorities. She has to figure out how to think for herself and do the best she can with very little support or information. I can relate to that. While I read Kenssie’s adventures and hoped for her success, I kept remembering, “Oh, yeah. She’s a demon who feeds off of humanity.” I reflected a lot on the ability to see from someone else’s perspective. It also gave me a little sense of pleasant danger through the tale.

I would have liked to know more about the mechanics of the world Ros created. Kenssie didn’t seem entirely evil and I wondered how that fit into the story. Most of the demons seemed less than fully evil and mostly concerned with themselves and their pet obsession. Part of the reason the story appealed to me is that I’m highly interested in intelligent perspectives on evil and good, the afterlife, and the supernatural. Ros’ world fascinated me but left me with a lot of questions.

The short and sweet tale seemed to set the stage for possible future volumes. I wanted to know about Kenssie’s relationship with Rakmanon, how that started, and what he really had in mind. He is a demon, but she is too. Does he care about her? What is the deal about her incomplete information about whether she is full demon or not?

Please write more, Ros! I really like Kenssie the secret-eating demon. (Did I really just write that?)

I approve this title for Awesome Indies. http://awesomeindies.net

I received this book from the author for the purposes of unbiased review.

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Run by Tahlia Newland

Run

by Tahlia Newland

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Short Story, Action/Adventure

Four Stars

Run is a racy prequel to Newland’s Diamond Peak series, filled with all the angst Newland suggested haunted Nick in Lethal Inheritance. Nick, struggling to advance up the mountain and kill demons, loses his resolve and attempts to escape his life there. He tries to start anew in the mundane world, but soon learns that he can only go through the motions.
Run is a quick, meaning-packed read full of action and emotion. Nick’s inner demons reveal themselves in a time before he “got it together” to become the romantic hero of the series. This story also fits well as a flashback anywhere in the series if you haven’t read it first. It does contain a sex scene, unlike the main series’ first two books. I wouldn’t call it erotica though. Run will pull you in to the Diamond Peak series wondering what happens to Nick. Newlands fantastic transformations make emotions into creatures, giving us a fresh perspective on our own hearts.

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The Lustre by Kate Policani

The Lustre

by Kate Policani

Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

Read reviews of The Lustre here:

http://kathleenfberg.webs.com/apps/blog/entries/show/12686610-the-lustre

http://quillwielder.com/2012/03/15/book-review-the-lustre/

http://christianfantasyforwomen.com/2012/03/16/fantastic-fantasy-review-of-the-lustre-by-kate-policani/

http://kateschannel.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/book-it-party-room-kate-policanis-the-lustre/

http://awesomeindies.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/review-the-lustre-by-awesome-indie-author-kate-policani/

http://thedarkglobe.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/thelustre/

Cassandra Rivera’s review:

“The Lustre is an easy read for anyone who wants to curl up in an easy chair with their favorite cup of hot chocolate. It has enough action to keep you motivated not to put it down, but is not threatening. Though perhaps not a good story for children due to its sexual overtones, it’s a great book for an adult to enjoy. The writer is seasoned and knows how to pace her material well.”

Synopsis:

Hidden within Human society is an entrancing race of beings who look just like us. They are the Akataromai. Originating on Earth, they conceal themselves, blending within the Human population. Though they appear to be Human, mature Akataromai live for centuries and feed upon negative Human emotions. Angelina Quorra is an Akataromai, a Human-looking girl who might never die. But Angelina is unique among her people, absorbing pain as well as emotion and giving anyone who feeds her overwhelming pleasure. This is her story, told by the men who adore her. Her talent is called The Lustre, bringing her great fame, and great trouble.

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The Lustre at Goodreads