Review: “A Questionable Client” (Kate Daniels #0.5) by Ilona Andrews

questionable clientThis short story takes place prior to any of the novels in the Kate Daniels urban fantasy series. However, reading this story after reading at least the first novel, Magic Bites, works best.

“A Questionable Client” tells the story of how Kate first meets one of her informational contacts, a shape-shifter called Saiman. He’s kind of a dick, but he’s a loveable dick. It also shows the very unglamorous side of her mercenary career.

One of my favorite aspects of this entire series is the use of unfamiliar monsters from mythology. This is used to excellent effect here, especially in regards to the plot’s climax. Continue reading

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Review: Escaping Mortality (Escape #3) by Sara Dobie Bauer

escaping mortalityDisclaimer: I received an ebook in exchange for an honest review.

The cliffhanger at the end of book 2 in this trilogy, Escaping Solitude, left me frantic. Luckily, this installment picks up mere moments from where the previous left off and continues the story without missing a beat. This trilogy of novellas will make for a seamless full book once released in that format. Continue reading

Review: Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4) by James S.A. Corey

cibola burnAfter the whirlwind of the previous book in this series, this book should have felt like a time to breath. Unfortunately, I think the authors took things a bit too far in the other direction. They teased us with a Bobbie-centered prologue, and then things started to drag. On top of it all, I wasn’t a huge fan of Elsi, Havelock, and Basia, the point of view characters other than Holden. Continue reading

Review: Into the Ashes (Taine McKenna Adventures #3) by Lee Murray

Into the AshesDisclaimer: I received an ebook in exchange for an honest review.

The third installment of the Taine McKenna adventures follows the format of the two previous books without becoming formulaic or predictable. It’s an action-packed adventure featuring human and supernatural dangers, full of both familiar faces and new characters I hope to see again in future books.

This time, the supernatural element is a lot less obvious — no giant monsters this time. Instead, Murray delves deeper into New Zealand mythology to use environmental dangers to great effect. For various personal reasons, I am NOT a fan of stories about volcanoes and/or earthquakes. But I tore through this book because I was enjoying the story enough not to be put off by the very realistic and detailed descriptions of being near an active volcano and its various environmental impacts. The only reason I knocked half a star off my rating of this book, compared with the two previous, is that I really liked the inclusion of giant monsters in addition to very human villains. Totally a personal opinion on my part.

Jules and Taine keep breaking my heart in this book. If this series was a single romance novel, I’d be smacking them both right now. But this isn’t a romance novel, and Jules and Taine are portrayed as realistic people — real people don’t always get a happy ending.

Just tell that to all the other people who die in this book: heroes, villains, and innocent bystanders alike. I like a healthy dose of reality in my supernatural thrillers, and this book has it in spades.

Can’t wait to read the next adventure featuring my favorite Kiwi soldier!

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Con Report: Cleveland Concoction 2019

Cleveland ConCoction logo 2019

March means a return to one of my favorite events of the year: Cleveland ConCoction! This year, I took the Tesla on her first official road trip, which involved stopping at multiple supercharger stations. We had a blast, and I am officially never taking a long trip without navigate on autopilot ever again.

supercharger selfie

My car has a moon roof. It is covered in snow.

FRIDAY

I left very early on a snowy Friday morning to accommodate the slightly longer time the trip would take for charging stops and any weather-related road issues. However, I was able to end the drive with a leisurely lunch at the requisite Steak n’ Shake visit while the car pulled a final charge to last through the weekend. After checking in to the hotel and setting up my books in Author’s Alley, I was just in time for my first panel of the weekend.

At this point I can probably do the panel on genres and genre-blending while half-asleep (and I’m pretty sure that I actually have), but it’s always fun to see what new insights my fellow panelists have and answer the often unique questions from the audience.

Afterward, I enjoyed a quiet dinner catching up with friends and excellent fellow authors Shannon Eichorn and K.M. Herkes. Once I delivered them to their evening panels, I also spent some quality time at the hotel bar with another fabulous author, Sara Dobie Bauer. The day finally caught up with me, and I crashed early.

SATURDAY

Despite my con report’s promise of getting three Dog Star Books authors together at one event, it was all a lie. Unfortunately, K.W. Taylor and Matt Betts both experienced health issues that prevented their attendance, which meant I was a poor replacement. In this case, it meant I moderated a panel on the mistakes beginning authors make on Saturday morning for Matt. We discussed issues authors face in both writing and the publishing industry, including sharing some of our own mistakes. My major take-away for that panel is always to tell the audience one thing: “Don’t be a jerk.”

I spent late morning and early afternoon hanging out in Author’s Alley, chatting with readers and writers alike. After a late lunch, it was time for my weekend reading! The audience enjoyed the first scene from Steel Time, and then it was back to Author’s Alley to sign books.

After a hasty dinner of cake in the con suite, it was time for the first highlight of my evening. Along with some of the other authors in attendance, I was invited to participate in a special episode of Prompt Joust, a web show that pushes storytelling to the limits. I dug deep for my improv comedy experience from college, and while I knew I wouldn’t make it to the final round based on the “king of the hill” competition style, I knew I had the opportunity to take out show host Marcus V. Calvert in the first round — so I did. /evil laugh

I closed out the night by moderating a panel on time travel in fiction and on screen, which was way too science-filled for my sleepy brain to handle, but I think we muddled through. Luckily, I caught my second wind in time for the late-night “author soiree,” in which I enjoyed homemade mead (compliments of the Very Vocal Viking) and lots of laughter with friends.

SUNDAY

I did not have anything official on the schedule for the last day of the convention, but due to a scheduling mix-up, I landed on a panel on urban fantasy! We had a lovely discussion about how romance, mystery, and horror can all be elements to the genre, and what reader expectations are (and how to break them).

Afterward, we wrangled a certain demographic of attending authors to take a photo. Gee, what did we all have in common?

blue hair authors

In what’s become a ConCoction tradition, I enjoyed a late lunch with a group of friends, and then I sent everyone on their way! Due to the long drive, I wasn’t heading home until Monday. Good thing, too, because the snow had started.

I closed out the evening enjoying a good book and watching the snow fall from my hotel room. It was a little creepy to realize that I was now one of very few guests in a giant conference hotel, but I passed out anyway loved my quiet time.

MONDAY

The snow was over by the morning, so I had a safe but COLD drive home to Maryland.

I can’t wait to do it all again next year!


ConCoction 2019 haul.JPG