Review: Magic Mourns (Kate Daniels #3.5) by Ilona Andrews

Magic MournsThis novella takes place between Magic Strikes and Magic Bleeds in the Kate Daniels universe, but the point-of-view character is Kate’s friend Andrea Nash instead. We’ve already been introduced to Andrea and know secrets about her character from previous books in the series, but this time, she’s the hero of her own adventure.

Once again, Andrews shows how the werecreatures in their books are not all sexy. In fact, Andrea’s backstory is rather tragic and disturbing, but it doesn’t stop Andrea from being just as amazing as her friend Kate.

It’s also interesting that Andrews doesn’t just rely on the tried-and-true trope of werewolves as the default shifters. In this novella, we delve into the world of werehyenas, a very different breed from werewolves in more ways than one.

And as usual, we’re treated to a story line that revolves around yet another flavor of mythology. This time, Greek mythology is the source of our monsters. Andrea’s character arc in this tale is completely satisfying, and it was fun to cheer her on as she learns to embrace her own inner beast.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: The Lion Mistress (Eburosi Chronicles #5-#7) by R.A. Steffan

Because of how much I enjoyed each installment of The Horse Mistress, my first experience with the world of the Eburosi Chronicles, I went ahead and bought the full collection of the next adventure as one book. I have no regrets about that decision. This world gave me one of the most intense book hangovers of my life, and I now consider myself a solid fan of the author.

Kathrael, Favian, and Ithric’s story continues the saga of the city of Rhyth, with interesting tie-ins to events in previous tales. Each character experiences a complete character arc, against the backdrop of an epic quest. Magic, politics, and religion combine to create a fantastic female-driven epic fantasy that is not to be missed for fans of epic fantasy who are bored with the typical treatment of female characters.

Steffan does an amazing job balancing the world-building with the smaller moments between the characters. The sex, when it does occur, is quite steamy, but the focus always remains on the connections between the characters rather than erotica for erotica’s sake.

Though it’s possible to read this without reading The Horse Mistress first, I think you’d miss out on some great details because Carivel, Senovo, and Andoc make more than token appearances. Instead, be prepared for a deep dive into some fantastic epic fantasy that breaks all the molds.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Balticon 53 Schedule!

balticon logoOnce again, I look forward to returning to my local convention this year, Balticon 53 in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor over Memorial Day weekend. And by local, I mean that I literally worked 2 blocks away from the host hotel for over 10 years.

It will be super easy to find me this year, since for the majority of the convention I will be hanging out in the dealer room! I will be selling my books, along with other titles from my publisher Raw Dog Screaming Press.

I am on programming as well, so here are the other places you’ll be able to find me:

Saturday

  • 4 PM: After Avengers: Endgame (panel)
    • Did Avengers: Endgame deliver on the buildup promised by earlier films? How do you feel about the prior films after all this has happened?
    • With Kim the ComicBookGoddess (moderator), Dame Dahlia, Liz Dukes, and D’Manda Martini
  • 6 PM: The Blurring of Genre Borders (panel)
    • Can you easily tell whether a work is science fiction, fantasy, horror, or literary? If you can’t, is it a good or a bad thing?
    • With Scott Roche, Sarah Pinsker, L.H. Moore, L. Marie Wood, and Roberta Rogow (I’m moderating!)
  • 8 PM: How to Self-Edit That Lousy First Draft (panel)
    • Panelists discuss techniques for editing when you don’t have an outside reader to help.
    • With Joshua Bilmes (moderator), Jay Smith, Karen Osbourne, Scott Edelman, and Ian Randal Strock

Sunday

  • 10 AM: From Fanfic to Pro (panel)
    • You’re confident at creating coherent sentences, and have become good at building upon the worlds of others. You have the discipline of writing pretty much in your grasp. How do you start creating characters that don’t feel like you’re borrowing them? How do you movie into worldbuilding when it wasn’t necessary before? Come talk to authors who have written both.
    • With T. Eric Bakutis, K.M. Szpara, Vivian Shaw, and Steven Howell Wilson (I’m moderating!)
  • 12 PM: Autograph session
    • With Jennifer R. Povey

Monday

  • 12 PM: Readings
    • With Gail Z. Martin and T. Eric Bakutis

Review: Noelle by Night (Dommes by Night #3) by Rachell Nichole

Noelle by NightDisclaimer: I am friends with the author; however, I purchased this ebook for full price.

The final installment of the Dommes by Night series once again flips the script on its head. Nichole heightens the tension on multiple fronts, from the relationship between the main characters, to the hidden secrets, to the drama of the town where the story takes place.

There is an amazing “OH SNAP!” moment right at the beginning of the story, which changes everything about how the reader views the interactions between the hero and heroine. (Luckily, since I am friends with the author, I was able to immediately send her a text that consisted entirely of exclamation points.)

But perhaps my favorite element to this story went beyond the domination/submission tropes that are inherent to this series. Nichole does not hesitate to delve deep into her characters’ relationships with their emotions, proving that real masculinity also means acknowledging vulnerability.

I can honestly say that I might not have tried out this series had it not been for my friendship with the author. But I’m so glad that I did. This might not be your initial flavor of erotica tea or romance in general, but you won’t regret expanding your horizons and checking it out.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Con Report: StokerCon 2019

StokerCon 2019 imageIf you’re here to find a copy of my alternate history presentation, you’re in the right place! Scroll, read, and enjoy.

I might not be a horror fan, but you won’t find a nicer group of creative people. I was immediately welcomed into the fold at StokerCon 2019, held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I had a fantastic weekend.

Wednesday

Since my publishers, Jennifer Barnes and John Edward Lawson of Raw Dog Screaming Press, live fairly close to me, we traveled to the convention together. After an uneventful afternoon flight, we checked into the hotel and enjoyed dinner at a nearby brew pub. Then it was early to bed since we had some nonstop days ahead of us.

Thursday

A giant hotel room bed to myself and no hungry cats to feed in the morning? I slept in until 11 AM and it was glorious. In the afternoon, I helped set up the RDSP table in the dealer room and began my main purpose for attending the convention: chatting with people and hopefully selling them a book or two.

I slipped out later in the evening to moderate a panel on making your work stand out from the slush pile. The conversation meandered a bit, but I think I managed to wrangle the panelists into contributing some useful knowledge to the audience. The main take-away point? Read the submission guidelines. Follow the submission guidelines.

Afterward, I had a lovely dinner with some friends from the Seton Hill University In Your Write Mind program, then a quiet evening in the hotel room doing some reading.

StokerCon 2019 dealer room

With Jennifer Barnes at the RDSP table.

Friday

Coffee, then back in the dealer room! A quick break in the afternoon to attend my reading, where I shared a scene from Steel Blood. I already don’t particularly care for pistachios, but I’ll never look at them the same way again, thanks to author Jeff Strand, who read a hilarious short story.

Later that evening was the mass author book signing, then the RDSP room party! I met some people in person that I’d otherwise only interacted with online, which is always fun. I stayed up way too late, drank way too much wine, and regret nothing.

StokerCon 2019 alt historySaturday

Dealer room time again. I sold a lot of books at this convention, you guys. Seriously, it was awesome. This time, my mid-day break came in the form of my alternate history presentation. The audience was small, but intimate, and everyone joined in on creating some fun worlds. Our nexus point event centered around the Cuban Missile Crisis, and our true alternate history assumed that the Hollow Earth theory was real. Click the link below to download the PDF version of my presentation.

Creating Stories by Changing the Past StokerCon 2019

That evening, I attended the Bran Stoker Awards and got to cheer on Raw Dog Screaming Press as John and Jennifer accepted the Specialty Press Award. I’m so proud to be part of this amazing publishing company.

Sunday

Sold a few more books in the dealers room, then it was time to say goodbye and head to the airport again. By this time, I was completely wiped out and I needed some introvert time. Luckily, my husband had dinner ready at home after he picked me up and I got some cat snuggles during Game of Thrones.

Would I ever return to StokerCon? Absolutely. No guarantees on attending next year in the UK, but this is definitely a convention I’ll be keeping on my radar.


The final haul:

StokerCon 2019 haul

Purchases:

From the StokerCon 2019 swag bag:

2019 Resolution Project: Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels #3) by Ilona Andrews

Magic StrikesMy 2019 Resolution Project over at my other blog, Speculative Chic, is to read the entire Kate Daniels urban fantasy series by Ilona Andrews, finishing up with a first read of the final book in the series.

I’ve read the third book, Magic Strikes, before, but never officially reviewed it. You can find my full review here.

An excerpt:

“Kate might think of herself as a thug, but we readers know that she’s a genuine hero. Her power may be the result of an accident of birth, as is the fate she knows is coming for her, but we care about her (and her friends!) because she’s more than just a bundle of power with some skills with a sword.”

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: The Horse Mistress: Book 4 (Eburosi Chronicles #4) by R.A. Steffan

Horse Mistress 4Now that our three heroes are in a solid relationship, it was time to shake things up a bit. It would have been easy for the author to focus on a more character-driven story, but I love how they don’t let the readers forget that war is coming. Times are changing, and our heroes have to grow up and adapt along with them.

Family is a major theme in this installment, and Carival travels to her old home to face her mother. This reunion was equally painful and poignant. Steffan balances it wonderfully with the introduction to Andoc’s mother.

The handfasting ceremony in this book felt a little self-indulgent on the part of the author, but in retrospect, that’s an issue on my part and stems from what is traditionally “normalized” in fiction. Steffan does excellent work in breaking the mold, both in the world of the Eburosi Chronicles and our own.

The shapeshifter plotline culminates with the political plotline, and both are resolved to my great satisfaction. I’m completely in love with this world, and while I know Carival, Andoc, and Senovo’s story is over, I’m looking forward to exploring more Steffan has to offer. Continue reading