Review: Junkyard Cats by Faith Hunter

Review: Junkyard Cats by Faith HunterJunkyard Cats by Faith Hunter
Format: audiobook
Source: purchased from Audible
Formats available: audiobook
Genres: dystopian, military science fiction, post apocalyptic
Series: Junkyard Cats #1
Published by Audible Studios on January 2nd 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

After the Final War, after the appearance of the Bug aliens and their enforced peace, Shining Smith is still alive, still doing business from the old scrapyard bequeathed to her by her father. But Shining is now something more than human. And the scrapyard is no longer just a scrapyard, but a place full of secrets that she has guarded for years.

This life she has built, while empty, is predictable and safe. Until the only friend left from her previous life shows up, dead, in the back of a scrapped Tesla warplane, a note to her clutched in his fingers - a note warning her of a coming attack.

Someone knows who she is. Someone knows what she is guarding. Will she be able to protect the scrapyard? Will she even survive? Or will she have to destroy everything she loves to keep her secrets out of the wrong hands?

My Review:

I picked up Junkyard Cats because it was one of the monthly freebies for Audible members. It looked like interesting SF, had “Cats” in the title, and I was looking for something shorter after spending a whole lot of hours sucked into an excellent but long story and needed a bit of a break.

And did I ever get one. Although Shining Smith doesn’t seem to get many. Ever. At all.

The setting for Junkyard Cats is a remote bit of post-apocalyptic West Virginia in a future that doesn’t seem that far away in time from our present. But it’s clearly one hell of distance down the road to hell.

This is not remotely one of the fun post-apocalypses. Shining Smith’s world is more like Mad Max – possibly Mad Max on steroids. Or on Devil Milk, which actually seems to be worse. Or both.

The sheer bleakness of this post-climate-seriously-changed world reminds me a bit of the world of American War. Only a whole lot worse on the environmental front. But less…awful…in a different way as this wasn’t kicked off by a civil war. At least not so far as we know – yet. And not that it hasn’t become one along the way.

But the story of Junkyard Cats is the story of how Shining’s remote, lonely and seemingly safe little junkyard gets invaded – disrupting her hard-won peace and exposing all of her many, many secrets.

Including the crashed spaceship buried in her backyard. Especially the spaceship buried in her backyard. And the secret hidden in Shining’s radically altered DNA. Her enemies have found her – and so have her friends. Shining’s biggest problem is figuring out which are which.

And letting the cats, her Cats, have the rest. After all, in a world where everything that supports life is very, very scarce, a protein source is much too good to let go to waste.

Escape Rating A-: I really, really wish there was more of this available already, because this first story is a teaser with a lot of worldbuilding, a crew of absolutely fascinating characters – whether organic, partly organic, or artificially intelligent – and a pride of sentient, semi-telepathic warrior cats with an agenda of their own. But then, don’t cats always have an agenda of their own?

Actually, she had me at the cats, but in the end I was equally beguiled by Shining Smith’s world-weary voice. The narrator does an excellent job conveying Shining’s loneliness, her hopes, her fears and especially her desperate need to keep her very motley crew safe and to keep the rest of the world safe from her.

And her complete, total and utter annoyance that the world has come to get her because she couldn’t let go of her past – no matter how much she seriously needed to.

The biggest part of this story is a gigantic battle, conducted all over the junkyard with the help of her friends – including a few that Shining didn’t even know she had – or that some of them even existed in a state that could truly help. And that’s her fault too.

But this is a battle that’s not over when it’s over. The only question is where the next front will be – and who and what Shining can bring to the fight.

As teasers go, Junkyard Cats is one hell of a tease. I just wish I could find some info on where Shining Smith and the Cats go from here. Because they are awesome.

Review: Malfunction by Nina Croft

Review: Malfunction by Nina CroftMalfunction by Nina Croft
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: mystery, paranormal, science fiction romance
Series: Dark Desires Origins #1
Pages: 320
Published by Entangled: Amara on January 20, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

Investigator, Sergeant Logan Farrell, has never been convinced the human race deserves saving. But it looks like he’s got the job anyway.

It’s been five hundred years since we fled the remnants of a dying Earth in search of a new home. Twenty-four ships, each carrying ten thousand Chosen Ones. All sleeping peacefully...until people start dying in cryo.

Malfunction or murder? Hopefully, the former—a serial killer in the fleet would be drastic for morale. But Logan is determined to find the truth. Unfortunately, he’s got a new partner—and he works best alone.

Katia Mendoza, hot-shot homicide detective, has been woken from cryo to assist with the investigation. But is she really interested in solving the case, or does she have her own agenda?

Before he can answer that question, though, they become targets themselves.

Nothing like a few near misses with death to bring a couple together, and Logan finds himself falling for the alluring detective. But he doesn’t know that Katia is hiding a secret.

It’s not only humans who fled the dying Earth.

My Review:

Once upon a time there was a book called Break Out. It takes place in a far distant future – 3050 – in a galaxy far, far away. It’s kind of a heist story, and the first paranormal SFR I ever read. It’s SFR because, well, obviously, 3050 and humanity has managed to get itself off this rock. It’s paranormal because one of the lead characters, the captain of the spacefaring band of mercenaries that the series follows, is Ricardo Sanchez.

Rico was born on Earth in 1452. He became a vampire – yes, you read that right, vampire – during the Spanish Inquisition. A vampire, whether from the Spanish Inquisition or otherwise, is not what you expect to discover on a spaceship.

And yet, when humanity fled Earth, Rico managed to beg, borrow, bribe or steal – mostly bribing and stealing – his way onto one of the sleeper ships heading away from the disaster. And he brought 5,000 or so of his fellow paranormals along with him. Vampires, werewolves, werecats, demons, etc.

Through a bit of timey-wimey time travel bits, we got a few glimpses of Rico’s life before he went space traveling in Break Out and the books that followed. However, while he and his friends talked about their journey to get to the far-flung future, we didn’t get to actually see it.

Now we do. Malfunction is the first projected book in a prequel series to Break Out and its series, which is either titled Blood Hunter or Dark Desires. And if you’re wondering why I’m going through all this background information for a prequel, it’s because my love of Break Out (I gave it an SFR Galaxy Award in 2013.

I was interested in this book because I loved that one. Whether a reader new to the series will have that same reaction is anyone’s guess. I’m not sure.

Because this is not actually Rico’s story – not that I didn’t love seeing him again. Instead, this prequel is an SFR murder mystery – not that there aren’t plenty of paranormal elements in the mix.

This story takes place aboard the good ships of the Trakis expedition – and they are all falling apart. But those malfunctions are mostly what you’d expect after 500 years of continuous operation with no resupply and no hope or home in sight.

The Captain of the Trakis One and Rico on the Trakis Two have each woken an investigator from cryosleep because a recent audit of ships’ systems has turned up a malfunction that is not merely not random. It’s not even likely.

Someone has been running from ship to ship sabotaging cryosleep chambers – including each and every failsafe built in to those chambers to prevent the dozens of deaths by asphyxiation that have occurred.

Trakis One wants their investigator, Sergeant Logan Farrell, to declare the whole thing an unfortunate series of accidental but coincidental malfunctions. He’s not buying what they’re selling, but he’s a good enough soldier to pretend he does.

Rico Sanchez, on Trakis Two, wants his own investigator, Detective Katia Mendoza, to make sure the investigation stays away from the Trakis Two and doesn’t poke its nose into the many, many illegal things that Rico did to get his people onto the ship instead of the people who were supposed to be there.

As Katia is also one of Rico’s illicit people – and a werecat – she’s more than willing to keep the fleet out of their business. But her detective instincts are aroused by the crimes, which are definitely real and definitely crimes and not accidents or malfunctions at all.

That her baser instincts, as well as her emotions, are equally aroused by Sergeant Logan is something that she’ll have to either ignore or let Rico deal with – permanently. One way – or another.

Escape Rating B: I loved the early books in the original series, so I was all in for Malfunction. That being said, Malfunction didn’t feel like it hung together nearly as well as the early books in that series. I enjoyed Malfunction for its look back at the origins of a story I really liked, but I’m not sure that I’d have liked it nearly as much without having already seen the future of this universe and at least one of its characters.

Although the reviews seem to be saying that I’m a bit off-base, and readers new to this world are still loving this book. Your warp speed may vary, of course.

For this reader, it felt like the story existed on three levels. One is the “nostalgia” factor, that I already knew where this universe ended up, so it was fun to see where it began.

The second, and the primary plot of this particular story, is the spacefaring murder mystery. In a strange way, it reminded me of Medusa Uploaded, probably the bit about the mysterious deaths being investigated as well as the class system that has been not just preserved but enshrined in the way that people where chosen for this journey. It also has a bit of Veronica Scott’s Star Cruise/Sectors SF series to it, as that spacefaring SFR series often deals with crime aboard a spaceship. But the tone in Malfunction is dark in the way that Medusa Uploaded is dark.

Third, of course, is the romance between Logan and Katia. They have instant chemistry together, and they both resist it for equally good reasons. Sometimes for the same reason – neither of them has ever fit in and they are afraid to trust themselves emotionally. Of course Katia has another reason for resisting the attraction. She’s not sure how Logan will react once he knows her secret and she’s not sure about becoming emotionally involved with someone that she will probably outlive by centuries.

Unless, of course, the course of this investigation sends them both to “kingdom come” in a ball of fire. After all, someone is committing the crimes that they are investigating, and it becomes almost instantly clear that whoever that someone is they are willing to murder not just dozens but literally thousands of people to cover their crimes.

Or to fuel their need for vengeance. After facing near-death at every turn and always – so far at least – managing to survive together, it’s not any wonder that Katia and Logan decide to grab whatever joy they can in the now – because tomorrow really might never come for either of them.

I, however, certainly hope that there will be more books in the Dark Desires Origins series. It was fun to see Rico and company at an earlier stage of their journey – and the trials and tribulations of watching a new human colony being created while hiding in more-or-less plain sight should be fascinating.

Review: Sweep with Me by Ilona Andrews

Review: Sweep with Me by Ilona AndrewsSweep with Me (Innkeeper Chronicles, #4.5) by Ilona Andrews
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: urban fantasy
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #5
Pages: 144
Published by Ilona Andrews on January 14, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

A charming, short novella in the Innkeeper Chronicles, from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Ilona Andrews.

Thank you for joining us at Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, during the Treaty Stay. As you know, we are honor-bound to accept all guests during this oldest of innkeeper holidays and we are expecting a dangerous guest. Or several. But have no fear. Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your hosts, Dina Demille and Sean Evans, will defend you at all costs. [But we hope we don’t have to.]

Every winter, Innkeepers look forward to celebrating their own special holiday, which commemorates the ancient treaty that united the very first Inns and established the rules that protect them, their intergalactic guests, and the very unaware/oblivious people of [planet] Earth. By tradition, the Innkeepers welcomed three guests: a warrior, a sage, and a pilgrim, but during the holiday, Innkeepers must open their doors to anyone who seeks lodging. Anyone.

My Review:

I’ve just realized that this is a holiday story. And that the guests at the Gertrude Hunt for this particular holiday match the traditional guests for this season as far as the Innkeepers are concerned.

The traditional guests are a warrior, a sage and a pilgrim, to celebrate the guests that were present with the Treaty was signed that established the rules for inns, innkeepers and their intergalactic guests.

But this is the Gertrude Hunt, on Earth, in Red Deer Texas. The pilgrim is also a warrior, the warrior is also a human from Earth, and the sage – well the sage is an overgrown chicken. All in all, that’s kind of a typical guest list for Gertrude Hunt – especially when you include the epic beat-down that the warrior has to deliver to her evil uncle. Who is just as human as she is – or isn’t.

The story in Sweep with Me goes directly back to the main line of the series that began with Clean Sweep, following Innkeeper Dina Demille, her Inn, Gertrude Hunt, and her “adventures” on Earth trying to juggle the needs of her inn, the rules of the Innkeepers’ Guild, and the needs of her guests without bringing the intergalactic equivalent of World War III to her door – again.

The events of this book, although they come after Sweep of the Blade, aren’t really dependent on what happens in that story. But they are a direct extension of the story in the previous three books, Clean Sweep, Sweep in Peace and One Fell Sweep. To the point where this story feels like one continuous story with one sidebar (Sweep of the Blade) and you really need to read all of it to get into it. The series is awesome, the individual entries are relatively short, so reading the whole thing is no hardship at all.

Sweep with Me feels like a sweep back, to get the reader back into Gertrude Hunt and to deal with the fallout, of which there was plenty, from previous events.

It also sets up a new dynamic, with intergalactic alpha werewolf Sean Taylor finally joining Dina as an Innkeeper. Mostly in charge of taking care of the security of the inn, because past events have proven that her damaged but impressive security might not be enough.

And it’s a holiday story. The specific holiday is not an Earth holiday, but Treaty Stay, the holiday that marks the official start of the Innkeeper system. Dina has “welcomed” for select values of welcome, a variety of potentially contentious guests to the inn to add to the already motley crew that inhabits the place.

One uber-dangerous planetary warlord has come for a terrible hamburger and an even worse meeting. One warrior-turned-pilgrim has come to figure out how to survive the unsurvivable. And a whole flock of philosophic chickens has come to debate the origins of their species – until the feathers fly.

It’s all a typically atypical day for Gertrude Hunt. Dina and her inn will survive. Again. Hopefully with no additional damage – this time.

Escape Rating A-: This was terrific and a fun addition to the series. It’s also a bit short – even in comparison to the previous books in the series. It feels a bit like a reset after the off-world adventures in Sweep of the Blade.

As with all the entries in this series, there’s always plenty of comic relief mixed in with a surprising amount of serious stuff – either serious events for Dina and Gertrude Hunt or serious stuff for the reader to think about. Or both.

The comic relief this time around is provided by the Koo-ko, who are, yes, the chickens. Intelligent chickens. Philosophical chickens. Beings who will debate anything and everything, and get so wrapped up in their “discussions” that no method of making their side’s point is too far – not even mass murder. At the same time, there’s really no deliberate harm in any of them – they just tend to get carried away – very far away. It’s up to Dina to let them have their debate without actually killing each other – or any of the Inn’s other guests – when they take things much, much too far. As they do.

And Dina’s methods for dealing with their increasing extremes is ingenious. Also taxing. And frequently hilarious.

But the series, with just a touch of this series’ trademark tongue-in-cheek asides, is the story of the warlord. Her very evil uncle. And just a touch of nostalgia in the form of an objectively tasteless fast-food burger. The tastelessness of the burger drives Dina’s resident alien chef beyond crazy and straight into depression. But the heart of that story, and what turns out to be the heart of the entire book, is all about greed and selfishness and the willingness to set aside one’s personal wants and desires in order to serve one’s people. And about the quality of mercy.

So this one is fun and marvelous all the way through, but as is so wonderfully typical, the ending zings.

Review: St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets by Annie England Noblin

Review: St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets by Annie England NoblinSt. Francis Society for Wayward Pets by Annie England Noblin
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: women's fiction
Pages: 384
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on January 14, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

If you love Susan Mallery and Jill Shalvis, you won’t want to miss this new novel of second chances, dogs, and knitting, from the author of Pupcakes and Sit! Stay! Speak!

Laid off, cheated on, mugged: what else can go wrong in Maeve Stephens’ life? So when she learns her birth mother has left her a house, a vintage VW Beetle, and a marauding cat, in the small town of Timber Creek, Washington, she packs up to discover the truth about her past.

She arrives to the sight of a cheerful bulldog abandoned on her front porch, a reclusive but tempting author living next door, and a set of ready-made friends at the St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets, where women knit colorful sweaters for the dogs and cats in their care. But there’s also an undercurrent of something that doesn’t sit right with Maeve. What’s the secret (besides her!) that her mother had hidden?

If Maeve is going to make Timber Creek her home, she must figure out where she fits in and unravel the truth about her past. But is she ready to be adopted again—this time, by an entire town…?

My Review:

This isn’t quite the book I was expecting from the blurb. It was much better than that.

On the surface, this looked like a story about second chances. And it is. But not all of those second chances belong to Maeve, the main character of this story. And some of those second chances are in the past and not the present. Or they are an unexpected and unknown present, in the other sense of the word. The present that doesn’t look like a present, the gift that Annabelle gave her daughter when she gave Maeve up for adoption.

A chance for a better life than Annabelle expected for herself – and a much better life than she could have given her daughter if she’d kept her.

But Maeve knows nothing of that past when she comes to tiny Timber Creek to attend her birth mother’s funeral. All she knows is that the woman gave her up as an infant, never answered the letters Maeve sent as a teenager, and has died leaving her everything she owned. Including a small house, a wandering cat and a fully-restored classic VW Beetle.

Along with an empty hole where the truth needs to be.

But Annabelle also left her daughter a circle of good friends, a reputation as a rescuer of last-chance animals, and just enough clues to figure out the secrets of Maeve’s origins – and the seeds that truth sowed all those years ago.

Maeve is 36, and at a crossroads in her life. More than one. Her childhood was relatively idyllic but the present is a whole other matter. Not anything terrible, but she’s just not adulting the way she expected to be in her mid-30s. She’s just lost her job – journalism is not a great career choice these days – and she discovered her boyfriend was cheating on her along with the entire rest of the world – on YouTube. Ugh.

So the trip to her birth mother’s funeral comes as Maeve has reached a big fork in her road – and doesn’t know how, or which way, to take it. There seems to be a place ready-made for her in Timber Creek – the place left achingly vacant by the sudden death of Annabelle – the mother she never knew.

Flailing at the current mess of her own life, Maeve steps hesitatingly, and sometimes more than a bit angrily, into Annabelle’s. Everyone loved the mother who gave her up. It’s awkward and sometimes even painful to feel just how much the entire town loved the woman who didn’t love her enough to keep her. It makes no sense. And it hurts.

But as Maeve gingerly becomes part of Timber Creek, she discovers the truths that lie hidden. The truth about the town, the truth about her birth mother, the truth about herself – and just how much her mother’s love and pain bound those truths together.

Escape Rating A-: I was expecting a small-town feel-good women’s fiction-type story. And it has elements of that, but the St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets isn’t just that – no matter how cute the dog and cat sweaters knitted by the society are.

Instead, this book, like last year’s The Oysterville Sewing Circle, is about a group of women who are doing their best to rescue victims of domestic abuse. It’s the dark and barely hidden underbelly of life in Timber Creek – and everywhere else.

But these women, Annabelle and her friends, are doing something about it. Whenever they can. Whenever a girl or woman is willing to ask for help. Because there was no one to help them when they were abused. Because Annabelle knew that when she became pregnant that if she kept Maeve both she and Maeve would be abused by Maeve’s grandfather – and that they’d have no weapons to fight back and no support.

So Annabelle gave Maeve up for adoption, for a better life than she knew she could give her, and spent the rest of her life rescuing as many girls and women as possible from the situation she had faced – along with rescuing a few “wayward pets” along the way.

The story is told on two levels. The main story is Maeve’s story as she comes to Timber Creek, decides to stick around rather than go back to Seattle to live with her adopted parents – again – and try to figure out where her future lies. The longer she stays in Timber Creek, the more she falls in love with the place – and the more it reaches out and enfolds her in its arms.

And the more she discovers its secrets – and her own.

But we also see bits and pieces of Annabelle’s life. I’ll admit that at first it looked like Annabelle’s story was going to be different – and even more cruel – than it actually turned out to be. Just how Annabelle became pregnant and why she gave Maeve up hung like a Sword of Damocles over much of the story. I actually read those bits ahead because I couldn’t stand the suspense and didn’t want it to turn out to be the worser of two evils. Which it was not – and was a better story for it.

The St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets has a similar storyline to The Oysterville Sewing Circle, at least in the important bits. Meaning that if you liked one you’ll like the other and vice versa. Considering that the issue that underlies both stories is an important one that needs to be dealt with, more such stories, told well, are an excellent thing.

And both of these stories are told very well indeed.

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 1-19-20

Sunday Post

There were two “firsts” this week. This week marked the first time I’ve ever officially used my new “A++” rating – for The Name of All Things. Which was absolutely super-awesome. If you love epic fantasy, the series so far, The Ruin of Kings and The Name of All Things are definitely worth a read. The author gave me the ultimate good news/bad news after she saw my review. I had thought/hoped the series was a trilogy, with book 3 coming out this summer. It’s a Pentalogy (5 book series), so it’s great that there are more coming than I thought but bad that it will be longer before its done.

I’m also pretty sure that this is the first time I’ve ever had three blog hops in a single week. I hadn’t originally planned on quite so many, but I’m off to the American Library Association Midwinter Conference at the end of the week and I needed the breather to get my act, if not together, at least into a single pile. I never seem to have as many round tuits as I really need.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Roaring 20s Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Welcome Winter Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of The Country Guesthouse by Robyn Carr is Alison
The winner of the Welcome 2020 Giveaway Hop is Deb
The winner of the 3…2…1…Giveaway Hop is Carl

Blog Recap:

A++ Review: The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons
The Roaring 20s Giveaway Hop
Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop
B+ Review: Skinwalker by Faith Hunter
Welcome Winter Giveaway Hop
Stacking the Shelves (375)

Coming This Week:

St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets by Annie England Noblin (blog tour review)
Sweep with Me by Ilona Andrews (review)
Malfunction by Nina Croft (review)
Junkyard Cats by Faith Hunter (review)
Last Light by Alex Scarrow (guest review by Amy)

Stacking the Shelves (375)

Stacking the Shelves

I had to put myself in “kitten jail” to get this done. Hecate really, really, really wanted to play on the top of my desk – while I’m typing. After about the tenth round of “jump on the desk, stalk around the monitors, block the screen, climb into mommy’s lap and jump off” I moved her out of my office and closed the door. It’s driving her crazy – she can see me but she can’t reach me – which makes whatever I’m doing WAY more interesting. My office doors open inwards and they don’t latch, but when she was little closing her out kept her out unless she could convince Freddie to push the door open for her. Now that she’s full grown, I’m sure that she could push the doors open if she tried – but she seems to still remember when kitten-Hecate wasn’t big enough to make it work. So temporary peace has been achieved – even if she is still playing “pawsies” under the door.

For Review:
Always the Last to Know by Kristan Higgins
Blood on the Chesapeake (Haunted Shores #1) by Randy Overbeck
The Book of Dragons edited by Jonathan Strahan
Children of the Stars by Mario Escobar
Crossings by Alex Landragin
The Lion’s Den by Katherine St. John
Malfunction (Dark Desires Origins #1) by Nina Croft
The Marriage Game by Sara Desai
The Moment of Tenderness by Madeleine L’Engle
More Miracle Than Bird by Alice Miller
Passing Fancies (Julia Kydd #2) by Marlowe Benn
We Ride the Storm (Reborn Empire #1) by Devin Madson
The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock #1) by Faith Hunter (review)
Stars Uncharted (Stars Uncharted #1) by S.K. Dunstall
Sweep with Me (Innkeeper Chronicles #5) by Ilona Andrews
Truthwitch (Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard

Welcome Winter Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Welcome Winter Giveaway Hop, hosted by Review Wire Media and Chatty Patty’s Place!

This is the perfect day for this hop. At least from a certain shivery perspective. I don’t know about where you live, but here in Atlanta it has been unseasonably warm for the past week. Sometimes wet and gloomy, but into the 60s. Shirtsleeve weather even in the evening.

And it all ends just as this hop opens, and temps are expected to drop like a rock – or maybe a hailstone – over the next week. It’s more than enough to make a person think seriously about global warming – because the summer will probably be brutal.

Nevertheless, the thing I love about living around here is that we have four seasons but winter isn’t terribly wintry – all things considered. Not like some other places I’ve lived in and shivered through.

But winter does have some upsides. It does get cool enough that we get out the “cushy” blankets, which brings the cats back into the bed. A purring snugglebunny is a lovely way to end the day!

What about you, what’s your favorite thing about winter? Answer in the rafflecopter for your chance at the usual Reading Reality prize, your choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository anywhere that the Book Depository ships.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more fabulous – if possibly somewhat chilly prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Review: Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

Review: Skinwalker by Faith HunterSkinwalker (Jane Yellowrock, #1) by Faith Hunter
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: urban fantasy
Series: Jane Yellowrock #1
Pages: 320
Published by Ace Books on July 7, 2009
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

First in a brand new series from the author of the Rogue Mage novels

Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind—a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can turn into any creature she desires and hunts vampires for a living. But now she’s been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katies’s Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who’s killing other vamps.

Amidst a bordello full of real “ladies of the night,” and a hot Cajun biker with a panther tattoo who stirs her carnal desire, Jane must stay focused and complete her mission—or else the next skin she’ll need to save just may be her own...

My Review:

I picked this because, well, I was bouncing off pretty much everything, both to read and to listen to. When you start cheering for one of the characters in the story you’re on to get eaten by an alligator – and quickly – it’s time to pick up something different. I picked up Junkyard Cats by Faith Hunter to listen to, and got sucked in enough that I also picked up Skinwalker to read. I have a friend who adores this series, and I have a thing about books set in New Orleans. So it seemed like kismet – or something like that.

It’s been a long time since I’ve sunk my teeth, pun intended, into a new-to-me urban fantasy series. I’d forgotten just how much they are. As far as the pun goes, well, there are plenty of vampires in this version of post-Katrina New Orleans – and everywhere else. This is one of those worlds where vamps not only exist but have come out of the coffin. And the witches have come out of their gingerbread houses as well.

The weres and all the other supernatural creatures are still on the down low, but that situation can’t continue in the days of the intrusive, invasive, all-encompassing internet.

But Jane Yellowrock is none of those things. She’s something else altogether, something even she isn’t completely sure about. While she isn’t exactly a were, she’s probably closer kin to them than anything else. Because she can transform into an animal, full moon or no. Technically, she can transform into ANY animal, but her most familiar form is that of a female mountain lion, a creature who exists in her head as Beast.

Except when Beast stalks the night, and Jane exists in the back of Beast’s head.

It’s an uneasy alliance, made even more fraught by Jane’s belief that Beast remembers how they merged – as well as a whole lot of other things about Jane’s past – that Jane herself doesn’t remember. And that Beast is still mad about.

As the story begins, Jane has arrived in New Orleans at the surprising behest of the local Vampire Council. It’s surprising to Jane that she’s received this invitation/job offer because the job that Jane usually performs is hunting rogue vamps. And that’s just what the local council wants her to do – hunt a rogue vamp who has managed to elude them all – and make him, her or it true dead as fast as possible.

No matter what it takes. Or what it costs.

Escape Rating B+: First, I want to say that I had a whole lot of urban fantasy fun with Jane Yellowrock. This book had everything that I read urban fantasy for, a kickass protagonist with a mysterious background and otherworldly powers, a version of our world that is close enough to be familiar while different enough to be fascinating and a supernatural puzzle to solve that is not quite what it appears on the surface. Vampire politics add just the right amount of danger, depth and color to the story. The combination is always a win.

Jane Yellowrock strikes me as a combination of Joanne Walker, C.E. Murphy’s Urban Shaman with the post-Katrina New Orleans – along with the supernaturals and their neverending political shenanigans and grudges – of Suzanne Johnson’s Royal Street and her Sentinels of New Orleans series. From my perspective, that’s damn good company to be in.

But as much as I enjoyed the story, there were a couple of things that seriously niggled at me. One is just how different the world of 2020 feels from the world of the mid-2000s. In our current climate I don’t believe that the reveal of the existence of either vampires or witches would have gone nearly as smoothly as it does – and it hasn’t been completely smooth in Jane’s world either. Or perhaps their version of backlash is yet to come. But it feels like a more hopeful version of how things might go, in spite of the rogue vamp running around killing vampires, humans and animals all over New Orleans.

And the other thing that bothered me even more was a question about the Native American protagonist, her visions and memories of her past, and whether the interpretation of the character respected her heritage or constituted cultural appropriation. I know that I don’t know. It felt respectful, but it’s not my heritage so I’m not the best judge. And it made me wonder equally about the protagonist of the Walker Papers whose powers come from her Native American heritage.

And I’m just as bothered by the idea that when both of these books were originally published those questions might not have even been asked. And I’m not sure what to do with all of those thoughts.

But I liked Jane as a character, especially with the addition of Beast. The story is told from their first-person perspective, so we are inside both of their heads. That first person perspective takes on a different flavor when Beast is in the ascendant, and we experience the world through her not-completely animal nature. Beast sees the world differently from Jane – or from the reader – and there are plenty of times when Beast’s more direct approach feels like the right one. The push-pull between the two personalities has oodles of dramatic possibilities for future stories.

As does the intense level of vampire politicking. Their hierarchical structure feels positively Byzantine – and may well date back at least that far. The sheer level of convolution and posturing is reminiscent of Goddess with a Blade by Lauren Dane – also excellent company for an urban fantasy heroine. At the same time, the level of unfinished business that Jane has with Leo Pellisier, the vamp in control of NOLA, has a similar feel to the early Anita Blake books. The VERY early Anita Blake books.

Like much of urban fantasy, there is no romance in Skinwalker. There are possibilities hinted at for future stories, but at this beginning point, the people who have emerged as those possibilities are at the moment either too unstable, too dangerous, or too much asshole to be worth bothering with. The most likely possibilities have the longest journeys in front of them to make them remotely worthwhile so I’m happy she falls for none of them. Lusts after several, yes and rightly so from the sound of things. But none of them are relationship-worthy – at least not yet.

All things considered, I certainly had a good reading time with Jane Yellowrock. A more than good enough time that I’ll probably pick up the next book in the series, Blood Cross, when I want another urban fantasy fix.

Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop, Hosted by Bookhounds.

Every year has its highs and its lows, its bests and its worsts – and 2019 was no exception. But 2019 is over, and its time to take a look back – at least at the books.

This blog hop is all about those best books list that everyone does at the end of the year. My list was posted as Best of My 2019 on Boxing Day (12/26) 2019. Since I just couldn’t reduce the damn thing to only 10 books, it’s long. It’s really, really long.

And that’s all to the good for you. Because the prize in this particular hop is whichever book from that list you want, either in print or ebook. If you would really rather have a $10 Amazon Gift Card I’ll send the winner one of those instead, but I really want to share my favorite books. So if you say you want a book, it will be the currently available print copy – paperback if there is one, hardcover if there isn’t. Unless you are in the US and want an ebook. I don’t think I can send ebooks outside the US, but the giveaway is open to everyone so print (up to $25) is probably the best option.

Now it’s up to you. I want to share my favorites with you, and my list was long enough that there is plenty to choose from, at least something from most genres. And all good! So tell me which book you would want in the rafflecopter below and cross your fingers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more best books and best bookish prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

The Roaring 20s Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the The Roaring 20s Giveaway Hop,  hosted by The Kids Did It and The Mommy Island.

The term “Roaring 20s” sure conjures up an image, doesn’t it? A carousel of flappers and speakeasies and seemingly endless parties. The “Lost Generation” of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. The generation that came of age during World War I, the war that they thought would end all wars.

The 1920s (and 1930s) were also the “Golden Age of Detective Fiction”, the era of not just Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, but also Margery Allingham, G.K. Chesterton, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, Georges Simenon, Ellery Queen, Erle Stanley Gardner and even Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet. With the addition of Arthur Conan Doyle, who was still alive and still adding to the Sherlock Holmes canon during the 1920s, these are the giants on whose shoulders the modern mystery genre still stands.

The 1920s were years of ferment in so many ways. Looking back, it sometimes seems to have been a never-ending party, at least until the resounding crash of the stock market on October 28-29, 1929. When it all came tumbling down. Hopefully we’ll fare better with our own “Roaring 20s” in the 2020s.

What images come to your mind when you hear the phrase “Roaring 20s”? Answer in the rafflecopter for your chance at either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a book, up to $10 in value, from the Book Depository.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And for more “Roaring” prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!