Author Archives: Kristen R.

About Kristen R.

I am a cataloging librarian and I live with my husband and dog in Indiana. I love to read, write and sing.

Werewolves and zombies and romance, oh my!

survive to dawn

Title: Survive to Dawn

Author: P.J. Schnyder

Series: Books three of London Undead

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Source: Galley received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer: Kristen R.

London is overrun by zombies but the epidemic has been contained to the city. The local werewolf pack is in charge and holding steady, but it is only a matter of time before things spread outside the containment barrier.

Deanna, a human, comes to London with a research team to try to find a badly needed cure along with a more personal reason that she is reluctant to reveal. When the team refuses to follow the rule of not caging the zombies, even for scientific reason, they are left unprotected and alone.  They are soon slaughtered by the undead. Deanna is the lone survivor and that is only because Danny, the pack medic, rescues her from certain death. The pair share an instant attraction and they are not shy about admitting it to each other.

Deanna is determined to find a cure for the zombie plague and so is Danny, but will Danny be willing to go against the Alpha’s orders to obtain it? How far will he go to help this woman that he has just met and what if the Alpha is wrong about should be allowed to be used to find a cure?

This is the concluding volume of P.J. Schnyder’s London Undead trilogy. Most people would think that romance novels and zombie plagues cannot go together, but those people are wrong. Schnyder has done a fine job of it. There is some violence and gross zombie stuff, but it is not overwhelming if you are not terribly squeamish.

The series is composed of three novellas, so Schnyder has to fit a lot of character development into a short amount of time for each one. She pulls this off admirably. In this story the relationship between the characters is able to develop within the time restraints since they are both logical thinkers and quickly admit to the attraction that they feel for each other. However, I do wish that the books were longer so that I could spend more time in this world. The story leaves things open ended so the world could be revisited. Let’s hope that it is!

Each of the stories of the trilogy are unique, so reading this did not feel repetitious, which is my main complaint when I read many paranormal romance series. The characters are honest about their feelings towards each other, accept them and move along. No moping or resisting what they were feeling after they logically worked through it.

When Deanna reveals her additional motivations for showing up in London it leads the pair to different parts of the city and they interact with some nasty vampires. We get some resolution as to the cause of the zombies and why it is centered in London. Of course, I won’t give that away here, but I thought it was creative.

My Rating:

4 out of 5 bookmarks. If you are up for a paranormal romance that is a bit gruesome at times (it is about zombies and werewolves, after all) and is a quick but entertaining read, go for it! You need not have read the previous stories to enjoy this, but if you pick them up you will be glad that you did.

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Look for the Girl on the Golden Coin

Girl on the Golden Coin

Title: Girl on the Golden Coin: A novel of Frances Stuart

Author: Marci Jefferson

Genre: Historical fiction

Source: Galley from author in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer: Kristen R.

Summary (From Goodreads):

Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war.

Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.

On the eve of England’s Glorious Revolution, James II forces Frances to decide whether to remain loyal to her Stuart heritage or, like England, make her stand for Liberty. Her portrait as Britannia is minted on every copper coin. There she remains for generations, an enduring symbol of Britain’s independent spirit and her own struggle for freedom.

My review:

Girl on the Golden Coin is a well written and entertaining book. This is a period of history that I have little knowledge of so it was fun to be immersed in Frances Stuart’s world. She is a fascinating character and life in the court of Charles II is filled with political intrigue and danger, especially for a single woman in the Queen’s service.

Francis is one smart girl and is able to use her personality and charm to make a place for herself in England and to protect her family from destitution. As she moves her way through the court she has to decide how far she is willing to go to uphold promises made to the King of France and the Queen Mother, while also maintaining her virtue. Because of her beauty and grace she is not only loved by two kings, but by many in court as well.

Marci Jefferson’s writing style is fast paced and engaging and the book is hard to put down. All of the characters are well developed. Frances is endearing and realistic. The reader experiences dilemma after dilemma with Frances and we get to see how she maneuvers her way through her uncertain world. Charles II is not simply the king, but is a passionate man who is filled with his own inner struggles about his personal and political life.

My rating:

4.5 out of 5 bookmarks. If you like historical fiction pick up this book. Even if you are not into reading historical fiction you should read this book. The writing is fantastic and this is a fascinating time period to explore.

 

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Review for Tempered by Karina Cooper

tempered

Title: Tempered

Author: Karina Cooper

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Steampunk

Series: Book 4 of the St. Croix Chronicles.

Source: Galley received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer: Kristen R.

Summary:

Cherry St. Croix has been in a downward spiral since the murder of her husband on the day of their wedding. Ever since she has had one thing to comfort her as she disappeared from society and into the filthy streets of the London below: opium. However, now she has hit rock bottom and can no longer dwell in either London society or the dark underside of London.

Her guardian, Mr. Oliver Ashmore, is involved and she has to deal with something even harder to come to terms with: sobriety.

My Review:

I have been reading right along with this series and I have not been disappointed yet! In fact, I think that this was a great story because many of the plot points from the past three books have been tied up and we find Cherry up against a very different kind of enemy: herself. We are taken out of the environment of London and are placed in a more introspective place. She must battle her own demons, and eventually those of her parents. Unfortunately for Cherry, things are not straightforward with her guardian either and she learns that there was more to her parents’ lives and deaths than what she has been told.

In the last three books we have watched Cherry become more and more reliant on the opium that she has used since her days in the traveling carnival as a child. As things got worse and worse for her she spiraled down, relying on tar rather than simply a draught of opium to help her sleep. On top of this her life in the London Underground has come to an end after she was saved from total humiliation at the Menagerie.

It is painful to watch Cherry work her way through the process of becoming sober. We are right along with her as she is desperate for more opium, willing to do anything to get it, and finally stops caring about living. Ashmore is there with her as well, and since she barely knows him it is interesting to watch her learn about him in her compromised state.

The entire story is not made up of these intense emotions because she finally pulls through, but this leaves her with other aspects of her past to deal with, things that she is surprised to discover about her family and the unknown Mr. Ashmore.

My Rating:

4.5 out of 5 bookmarks. This books cannot be read out of order, so take the time to read the earlier books in the series. You will be glad that you did. I have enjoyed this entire series. This was different from the rest, making the story fresh and moving it along from the plot that had occupied the first three books. I would recommend this series to anyone who wants to read steampunk set in an alternative London. I cannot wait to read the rest of the books to find out what happens since there are still loose ends to deal with.

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Review for Hang Wire

hang wire

Title: Hang Wire

Author: Christopher Adam

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Horror (Stand alone)

Source: Galley received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer: Kristen R.

Summary:

Ted is a Bay area blogger. He doesn’t feel quite right after a strange event at his birthday party involving an exploding fortune cookie. Around town there have been horrific murders by the Hang Wire Killer and Ted’s own sleepwalking tendencies seem to coincide with the occurrences of the crimes.

At the same time a new carnival has come to town and it boasts an eclectic set of performances, including Celtic dancers and an amazing high wire act. With the carnival comes Victorian carnival rides and there is something about these rides that is not quite right as violent and bloody events surround them and their operator, Joel.

There are forces at work around San Francisco, both good and bad, as immortals search for the ancient power stirring beneath the city that has the potential to destroy the world and the unsuspecting mortals that are caught up in the middle.

My review:

This is a quirky tale that was a bit confusing at first, but once I got into the story it was intriguing. The reader starts out just as confused as Ted. After the fortune cookie incident he is exhausted despite all of his efforts to rest and recover. After a full night’s sleep he is still sore and he starts waking up in places that he does not remember going. The phrase from his exploding fortune cookie shows up all around him “You are the master of every situation.” On his laptop, other places that he goes, over and over again…

At the same time the reader is taken to scenes from the past and the present and is not allowed to view one character for long. Mixed into the modern day scenes are glimpses of the past. It is not at first clear how these relate to the story, but as the reader is introduced to more characters in the present the connection develops that links them to those in the past.

This back and forth method of storytelling is a refreshing way to show the evil forces that the characters are up against. Instead of simply telling about how evil the carnival rides and their operator are and where the evil comes from, the reader discovers it through the flashbacks to earlier times. The story of the rides and the one who is searching for their pieces builds up as the flashbacks continue and the true nature of the situation comes to light. As the events lead closer to the present day and we learn about the immortals in the current day, the reader learns just what peril the people of San Francisco, and the world, face in this tale.

It soon becomes clear that some of the characters may, in fact, be the same people, even if they do not realize it quite yet. The downside to all of this jumping around is that we do not get to learn as much about the characters as one might like. This does make it a bit difficult to care about the main characters as much as one might desire but in the end it creates a compelling story.

 My rating:

4 out of 5 bookmarks.  Your enjoyment of this book depends on the type of storytelling you like. Be prepared for something different and just go with the flow, even if you are a little lost at first. Take your time with this book. Read carefully. The different parts of the story come together and it makes it all the more creepy and exciting.

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by | April 10, 2014 · 12:36 am

Review of The Damsel and the Daggerman

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Title: The Damsel and The Daggerman

Author: Delilah S. Dawson

Series: Blud 2.5

Genre: Carniepunk e-novella

Source: Galley received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer: Kristen R.

Summary (From Goodreads):

“Bad boy knife-thrower Marco Taresque is the hottest and most dangerous performer in the caravan. He keeps to himself until a pesky female journalist arrives, anxious to interview him about his checkered past—his last assistant disappeared under mysterious and bloody circumstances, earning him the nickname “The Deadly Daggerman.”

Unsinkable journalist and adventurer Jacinda Harville doesn’t take no for an answer, and she’s determined to wear down Marco no matter how threatening—or incredibly desirable—he might appear. He agrees to an interview—but only if she’ll let him strap her to a spinning table and throw knives at her body. How can she say no? And how can she resist him when he leans close for a kiss that strikes her more sharply than any blade? It’s the first time she’s let a man get the better of her, and she’s determined it will be the last…”

My review:

The Blud series has been enjoyable to read from the start and this novella is no exception. We are brought back to Criminy’s Clockwork Carnival after the last book took us away to other parts of the world of Sang. We get to see Criminy and Tish once more (Wicked as they Come), as well as Madam Morpho and Mr. Murdoch from an earlier novella (The Mysterious Madam Morpho). There is something special about being with the caravan again and it gives us a chance to learn more about its cast of characters and their interesting culture.

Dawson once again comes through with unique and colorful characters for this story.  There is the independent and strong-willed reporter Jacinda.  She has her eye on the mysterious and deadly Daggerman, Marco. Will Marco reveal the truth to Jacinda as to whether he murdered his assistant? Jacinda is willing to do almost anything to get him to tell her what really happened and finds herself caught in a game of cat and mouse.

As always, there is a nice balance of steampunk flavor mixed with paranormal romance and set in a fascinating world. There are clockwork animals and vampires (Bludmen), as well as other supernatural creatures.  Due to the length of the story the reader only gets a taste of what the world of Sang is like, but there is certainly enough information to enjoy the story and what is revealed will entice first time readers to seek out the other titles.  

The relationship between Marco and Jacinda was a little too much about power to be completely appealing to me as a story element, though I know it can be a very appealing to others. Despite the fact that this element was not quite for me I could appreciate it because the interactions between the two characters were expertly done. Jacinda is headstrong and determined and  will do almost anything to get her story but is challenged by the feelings that Marco brings out in her when he is in control. Dawson is wonderful at creating complex characters with complicated backgrounds and putting them together with interesting results.       

 My rating:

4 out of 5 bookmarks.  This is a wonderful novella that can be enjoyed even without having read the earlier stories, though they are highly recommended.  If you like romance with a paranormal or steampunk twist you will like this novella.

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Review: Something More than Night

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Title: Something More than Night

Author: Ian Tregillis

Genre: “… a Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler inspired murder mystery set in Thomas Aquinas’s vision of Heaven.”

Source: Galley received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer: Kristen R.

Summary:

The angel Gabriel is dead and the Jericho Trumpet has gone missing. Why was Gabriel killed and by whom? What connection does his death have with a possibly crooked priest, the recipients of a plenary indulgence and body-mutilating penitentes?

Bayliss is an angel and a hard-boiled detective, complete with the dialogue to accompany the roll.  When he kills Molly, a human, and turns her into a fellow angel, he fills the hole left by Gabriel’s murder and keeps order in the universe. Bayliss is a poor mentor and Molly causes havoc due to her lack of knowledge and her human way of thinking. The pair is roughed up by angels who do not like the questions they are asking about Gabriel and this causes them to push harder for the truth, if only to preserve themselves.

My review:

This story presents an interesting take on the manner of the universe. The heavens, angels, and reality are not the typical sort that one usually imagines. This is in no way the common Christian idea of the angels and heaven.  There are no souls of the faithful departed amongst the heavenly Choir, nor are the angels at all concerned with the affairs of humans (who they call “monkeys”). The universe is held together by a disinterested Choir of angels who live in the Plemora, the wilderness where most angels make their home.

Complex prose and complex concepts. Due to the nature of the story there are many philosophical themes and explanations. There were times in which there was so much technical description going on that it was hard to follow.  However, because I found it confusing I was able to understand how confusing all of these concepts were for Molly.

The world building is smoothly integrated into the story.  This is not quite the Earth of today.  We are sometime in the future, sometime that has different technology and a slightly different culture.  Tregallis interweaves these details lightly and delicately throughout the narrative and the reader is fed little bits of this information as the story progresses.  Nicely done.

My rating:

4 out of 5 bookmarks.  Beautiful and engaging prose. I recommend this book for someone looking for a mystery with philosophical underpinnings. This is not for everyone, but is certainly great prose and an interesting premise.

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Review of Sing for the Dead

Sing for the Dead (London Undead, #2)

Title: Sing for the Dead

Author: P.J. Schnyder

Series: London Undead #2

Genre: Paranormal Romance (Adult)

Format: eARC

Reviewer: Kristen Rinaldo

Synopsis:

London is crawling with zombies and nobody knows why. Werewolves and other were-creatures help the human police keep the zombies and stupid zombie hunting humans under control.

Kayden is a were-leopard living in zombie infested London.  Though a loner by nature, he is allied with the London werewolf pack and aids in patrols. Sorcha is the child of a Baen-sidhe and a mortal, cursed to carry the battle rage of her berserker father. She is a half-fae warrior sent by the Court of Light to investigate the danger that the zombies may pose to the fae.

Some of the zombies are moving in coordinated attacks, the likes of which have not been observed before. Sorcha agrees to temporarily team up with the were-creatures, specifically Kayden, to investigate the reason for the new zombie behavior.

Review:

This is book two of the London Undead series. I am the kind of girl who does not like to start reading a book in the middle of a series, so I began with the first story, Bite Me. This was a good investment of my time and money because it gave me a fuller understanding of the setting and I got to read the story of Seth and Maisie, who are great characters.

That being said, this story can easily stand alone.  The author incorporates enough back story so that reading the first book is not necessary, but it is highly suggested because it is well written and enjoyable.

Sorcha’s internal struggle is compelling.  She has berserker tendencies and is ashamed of her lust for violence:

“And that was her shame, wasn’t it? Violence sang through her blood – the mortal part of her heritage surging to the fore at the mere memory of the earlier fight. More.  She needed more.”

With the help of Kayden, who is not ashamed of his own violent tendencies, Sorcha can start to come to terms with who she is.

Schnyder’s writing style is engaging.  Characters each have a unique voice. As the point of view alternates between Kayden and Sorcha the voices are distinct. The descriptions of London and the parks in which some of the action takes place are very well done:

“The trees in Kensington Gardens were bare skeletons this deep into the winter in London—sleeping, but restless, tugging at her heart. Would the trees be too sickened to bring forth new life after the roots had bathed in blood?”

Rating:

4 out of 5 bookmarks. This is an original take on zombies, which was refreshing.  I recommend this book for anyone who is not too bothered by zombies.  This really is more of a horror romance novel, which is just fine with me.  I only wish it was a little longer so that I could spend more time with the characters and their world, though the current length does not make the story seem rushed or incomplete. I hope the author will set a full length novel in this world but I will happily buy another novella length work in this series.

 

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