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Review: “Wizard of Ends, Book Two ‘Dark Creature'” by Vanessa Finaughty

“Wizard of Ends, Book Two ‘Dark Creature'” by Vanessa Finaughty

To Be Released on: 23 October 2014
You can pre-order this book at: Barnes & Noble or iBooks
(P.S. The author has informed me that if she gets 2000 pre-orders, she will dye her hair blue.)
I received this ARC free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Escorted by soldiers of Ends, Lashlor sets out to find an old flame, Rune Arcana, the only person who can help to remove the curse placed on the Queen of Ends. Lashlor believes that Rune currently resides in the Mountains of Eclador – a place from which no one has returned in all of recorded history. She could refuse his request. She could be dead. Lashlor and his companions could meet the same fate.

If they do not brave the mountains, however, Queen Narraki will remain in the form of a rabid creature of darkness… forever.

Forever is a long time, and King Lanaran fears the Wizard of Ends will not return. Ignoring Lashlor’s advice not to meddle with the curse, the king employs other magic users to attempt to undo the dark magic.

Review: Do you remember how I said that if the last one had been paced better, I would have given it a five instead of a four?

Well, I’m happy to report that this second installment was paced much better. Although it was still fast-paced and kept rolling along, it didn’t have so many Really Big Things happening so very close together. The progression was smoother, and made more sense.

Lashlor was much more consistently active as a character, and I was thoroughly amused by our new addition of Rune Arcana. The story was exciting, engaging, and very funny. Three things I like in a story.

I actually don’t have much to say, except…when is book three coming out?

As promised, 5 Fireballs! If you like fun, fast-paced, funny fantasy (and alliteration), I would recommend the Wizard of Ends.

5 Fireballs

The Brethren of the Coast is On Sale!

If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Barbara Devlin’s Brethren of the Coast series. If you want to check them out but haven’t yet, now is the time! The fifth book is coming out in November, and our author is hosting a sale for the first four. Just .99 each! This sale will last until the end of September.

Barbara Devlin Banner

If you want to know what I thought about Enter the Brethren (Brethren of the Coast #1), you can read my review here.

If you want to know what I thought about My Lady, The Spy (Brethren of the Coast #2), you can read my review here.

If you want to know what I thought about The Most Unlikely Lady (Brethren of the Coast #3), you can read my review here.

If you want to know what I thought about One-Knight Stand (Brethren of the Coast #4), you can read my review here.

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Review: “One-Knight Stand” by Barbara Devlin


One-Knight Stand Cover Art

“One-Knight Stand” (Brothren of the Coast #4) by Barbara Devlin

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 27 May 2014

Description: Do old friends truly make the best lovers?

When Cara Felicity Douglas, known throughout the ton as Miss Perfect, sets her cap for childhood chum and Nautionnier Knight Lance Prescott, she enlists the aid of the Brethren women to chart a course for the altar. But her plans go awry, when her prospective bridegroom refuses to cooperate, and the hunter becomes the hunted. Soon Cara is forced to choose between staunch obedience of societal expectations, or throw caution to the wind and take a chance on love, as the young lady finds herself entangled in the trap she set for her knight.

After an injury at sea leaves Lance bedridden, and his rival captains Lance’s ship, he drowns in a dangerous mix of anger, frustration, and jealousy. Harboring more than physical wounds, a past tragedy haunts his present and future. When Cara proclaims him the man of her dreams, Lance vows, “I will never be your husband.” But Miss Perfect will not be deterred and acts completely out of character, making him an offer he dare not refuse, if only he can win her heart. For two people so alike in every way, what could possibly go wrong? In a word: Everything.

Review: I will admit that this wasn’t my favorite Brethren of the Coast novel, but I’m still gonna fangirl it up because I am now convinced that Barbara Devlin’s “worst” is better than most author’s best.

While the last book found us with the younger Douglas sister, now we see the older (Cara) get her chance at love. I liked how we jumped right into things with a rather exciting storm-at-sea scene, as the sea captain stuff is one of the reasons I love this series, and Cara is a very enjoyable character. For me, Lance took a little longer to not feel a touch flat in places, but since he had such dramatic developments at points, that may just have been a “in comparison to” for the less dramatic moments.

Aside from that, the reason this one wasn’t quite at the top was because the “happy war” (because romance is always war at first for these boys and girls) felt a little meaner at points, at least once Alexa and Jason were in the game. Although I liked Jason Collingwood. He was an amusing character in the fray.

That aside, I loved seeing more of Rebecca because she’s still my favorite. I always love Devlin’s women, though I love her men too, so it was great to revisit the other characters in The Family. Cara’s ending (the epilogue) was just wonderful for her, and the birthday party? I laughed out loud a couple times. Like, seriously. I don’t do that very often.

So, yeah, Barbara Devlin still rocks it. I’m still fangirl. I want my t-shirt. ;D

And I just looked at Amazon and saw that the fifth book comes out just two days before my birthday, so…thank you Barbara for a lovely birthday present! I’m looking forward to seeing what happens between Alexa and Jason, although I think I can’t wait most to see what romance is spun for Elaine…

Anyways! 5 Fireballs. If you like historical romance, read these books!

Five Fireballs

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Review: “The Most Unlikely Lady” by Barbara Devlin

“The Most Unlikely Lady” by Barbara Devlin

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 16 November 2013

Description: Book Three in the Brethren of the Coast Series.

Woo a young lady with a fishing rod and a bucket of worms? Oh-so dashing–but untitled–Everett Markham seeks a bride, and he has charged the field of Miss Sabrina Douglas, a woman who prefers trout to truffles. But, sometimes, even when both hearts are engaged, happily ever after isn’t so smooth a journey.

Unabashed and unapologetic, Sabrina sets her cap for a second son, one who will smile patiently when he comes home to find she’s misplaced their children. But marriage changes her in ways she could never have imagined, as the awkward debutante surrenders to a very real, very womanly, all-consuming love.

An irresistibly handsome English rogue, Everett plots his future with ruthless detail, but his future wife is anything but predictable, resulting in the zaniest courtship London society has ever seen. When a family tragedy upends his life, on his wedding day, no less, he must chart a slippery course with his most unlikely lady–as the new Earl and Countess of Woverton.

Review: Well, it’s book number three and I’m still totally fangirling it up.

“The Most Unlikely Lady” is more much light of heart than “My Lady, The Spy” but that totally makes sense. (It’s like Star Trek IV being a romp after the life, death, life of II and III. Yes, I’m a trekkie, live with it.) The book of course has its serious side, but not nearly as dark as book two got. Each book has suited the hero and heroine it featured very nicely.

Devlin’s ability to write amusing scenarios and scenes, and remarkably witty and oft hysterical dialog, remains unparalleled in my eyes. And the “buddy” scenes with past characters, background characters and soon-to-be-featured characters are just great. I love them.

Sabrina is quite the spitfire in this book, and the ups and downs she goes through trying to find her way will get you right in the gut. As well as our dear hero’s struggle to get things “right” and often making the wrong choices in that attempt. You’re definitely rooting for them as the characters who were always just left of the rest of the crowd, in many ways, find their way together.

Our intrepid author has a wonderful way with strong yet vulnerable female characters and the strong yet vulnerable male characters who catch but do not try to tame them. (I’m fond of that, personally.) It’s real men who fall in love with real woman, and they want each other to stay just how they are. To be their true selves, together, in all their glories and flaws.

Which is what true love is about.

Of the three, this book did have a few moments that treaded closer to the contrivances that can annoy me in other romances, but never toed the line and certainly never went over. And sometimes those scenes are realistic, so I could roll with it. The new wife versus mother-in-law went on a bit long (to me) but again, not so bad as to pull me out. No eye rolling took place, so we’re good. Did make the post-highwaymen scene particularly wonderful, though.

I will note there’s less of the seafaring to this one than the previous two, but that’s okay. It’s still in the same circle of people, and we love the people.

The scene with the boys talking about fishing and the worms? Thank god I wasn’t drinking anything… And the scene with Elizabeth, Cecilia and Sabrina had me giggling like crazy. Oh, and there was a line about something that looked like an angry pirate, which I actually texted the quote to my husband because it amused me so much.

This is another winner from Barbara Devlin and another enthusiastic, I-need-a-I-Heart-Brotherhood-of-the-Coast T-shirt, fangirl 5 Fireballs for me. As soon as I hit post, I’m going to email the author and find out about the next book…

5 Fireballs

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Review: “For the Love of Temperance” by Ichabod Temperance

“For the Love of Temperance” by Ichabod Temperance

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 4 December 2013

Description: The sovereignty of Planet Earth is under assault by interplanetary invaders. Ichabod Temperance and Persephone Plumtartt return in this thrilling Steampunk adventure. The duo fight bloodthirsty monsters bent on Earth’s conquest. Featuring a cast of unforgettable characters, including the world’s greatest actor and a telepathic dog, For the Love of Temperance will scare you and amuse you by turns.

Review: This is my third Temperance book, and it was again a very enjoyable ride.

What I thought of was War of the Worlds comes to Alabama, which is funny to me but made for an intriguing angle. The opening flowed well and I really like that Bolt was still with us and played a big part.

I ended up liking this one better than the second, because where the second felt really kind of out of control and kind of convoluted, this one felt like a much more coherent and organized plot and story. That made it more enjoyable for me to read. It was also more serious, I found, but I liked that too. It never lost its humor, though.

Although the dude with the CT accent? Really?! Come on! We don’t sound like that! Haha. I couldn’t let that go unmentioned.


Another interesting thing about this story is the way our author had to take modern things we all know, put them in his universe and let his characters figure out how to use and what to call them. The names were amusing.

It was also a fascinating concept for the creativity of the writer, the reader, and the character: what does a steampunk world do when one of its most common materials becomes a liability? (I don’t want to say more, lest I give too much away.)

There were less new characters joining their band of adventurers and the ones there were, were more cohesive and I really enjoyed them. I particularly loved the imagery of Clarabelle versus the cannon.

Ichabod and Persephone continue to be adorable. And I really appreciate our author’s affection for animals in his writing, as it reflects my own.

And the final solution? Brilliant.

So, this one regains the first book’s rating of 5 Fireballs. And I hope there’s a fourth incoming!

5 Fireballs

Review: “My Lady, The Spy” by Barbara Devlin

My Lady, The Spy Cover Art

“My Lady, The Spy” by Barbara Devlin

Available on: Amazon
Released on: 30 December 2013

Description: Book Two in the Brethren of the Coast series.

Can the mind forget what the eyes have seen?

L’araignee, The Spider, is England’s most notorious spy–and Lady Rebecca Wentworth’s alter ego. After her partner in espionage is killed in the line of duty, Rebecca returns to London, only to discover a traitor has compromised the war effort from the highest levels of the vaunted Counterintelligence Corps. To lure the villain into the open, Rebecca embarks on a new mission, acting as prey for a dangerous enemy. But it is the handsome former Navy captain tasked with her safety that presents the greatest threat, when she falls in love. Can Rebecca trade her cloak of office for an ermine-collared pelisse, her trusty dagger for opera glasses, and shed the underworld of espionage to claim the future she desperately desires?

When Nautionnier Knight Dirk Randolph is sent to evacuate spies from the Continent, he is shocked to find a beautiful noblewoman in service to the Crown. A no-nonsense man accustomed to a ruthlessly ordered life, his world is upended when he is paired with the intriguing operative and must act the part of smitten suitor. While he protects the fascinating agent provocateur, he does not guard his heart. But can he accept that his ladylove and the spy exist as two sides of the same coin?

Review: Apparently, my “fan girl” kicks in at book two. If I read and adore the first book, and then read and adore the second book, then I’m fan girl from here on. (Just ask poor Diantha Jones.) So, I guess this means I’m now going fan girl on Barbara Devlin. (You should send her your condolences. I’m impossible to get rid of.)

Okay! So!

First off, I liked the premise. I love good, strong female characters, and a female spy in an early nineteenth century setting was one that I loved. I also have a Thing for the stoic and sorrowing characters, which Rebecca is described as from early on.

And the great way that Devlin has with “familiar banter” is there in full force with this book, especially with her wonderfully drawn female characters who are both epitomes of and contrasts to your usual images of women of their day and place. And our little nods to the first book were awesome. I love that stuff.

There were a few touches to the courtship of Rebecca and Dirk that felt just a tad familiar to Trevor and Caroline of “Enter the Brethren,” but never enough to pull me from the story, and I also realized that these were the things that helped the book move as a romance without resorting to the stupid Try-Fails that I loathe in many other romance novels. And in not doing those stupid things, Devlin treats neither her characters nor her readers as idiots.

I always appreciate not being treated like a moron. Gotta say.

Honestly, I was tearing up a little at the end. I found it a very strong climactic sequence, even if I knew a little part of what was coming. There is a message of acceptance to this story: accepting yourself, and accepting those you love, without condition. And I really, really liked that.

Also? The Jolly Roger and “God Save the King” stuff had me giggling every time. Want to know what the joke was? Go read the book! Seriously!

5 Fireballs. (Come on, you saw that one coming.)

5 Fireballs

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Review: A Matter of Temperance (The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance) by Ichabod Temperance

“A Matter of Temperance” by Ichabod Temperance

Available on: Amazon
Released on: 17 April 2013

I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Description: In a past that never was…

The year is 1869. Earth experiences the close pass of a comet never before seen. In its wake, many of Terra’s inhabitants find themselves changed. Among men, prodigies rise in unprecedented numbers, while many ordinary adults suddenly find themselves possessed of preternatural genius. Likewise, non-hominid animals become self-aware and intelligent.

Fast forward to 1875. A young “comet prodigy” from humble beginnings, Ichabod Temperance, has become the world’s foremost inventor. He travels to England to deliver his latest brilliant invention to a famous explorer, until Fate intervenes. Meanwhile, a lovely young Bluestocking, Miss Persephone Plumtartt, survives an experimental accident only to find herself imbued with a power she can neither understand nor control, while dark forces and malevolent creatures pursue her, leaving a gruesome wake of death.

Yet, worse is to come. The naïve young inventor and the lovely intellectual find themselves fighting not only to save their own lives, but to prevent the destruction of all life on Earth.

Review: Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this in the first two chapters. Ichabod’s first chapter was kind of info-dumping, and I never approve of killing the animals. (Slaughter all the people you want, apparently…) I’m also always on the fence about whether First Person from multiple people works.

Yet, after a couple chapters, I decided that it did work here. The chapters are short and punchy, and written in Present Tense, which gives a very excited pacing. Ichabod’s enthusiasm was contagious, and there were little details to the writing that you think would annoy me but were very funny.

Like he would use (!) in sections to convey the narrator’s shock over something. Ichabod being an Alabama boy in England was also amusing, both from his accent mixing and the change of stereotypes in the racist Englishman (!) versus the appalled Southerner (!).

By 16% (thanks to my Kindle), I was really getting into it. Seeing various events from both Ichabod’s and Persephone’s perspectives made it very intriguing, as did using the comet to set up the steampunk world–even if the first description of it made me doubtful at the start.

Nonstop is a good word to describe the story. It gets a little too much so towards the middle, but it picks you back up. The humor was corny at points (magically delicious, really?) but it works and was actually cute. Not to mention, the Siberian tigers? A way to this reviewer’s heart, even if briefly.

Ultimately, I call this book monstrously amusing, quirky, charming, and just a hell of a lot fun. 5 Fireballs!

5 Fireballs

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Review: Enter The Brethren (The Brethren of the Coast) by Barbara Devlin

“Enter the Brethren” by Barbara Devlin

Available on: Amazon
Released on: 11 November 2013

I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Book One in the Brethren of the Coast Series.

Fate brings them together in a dimly lit cabin. He is looking for revenge, and she is taking a bath.

Heartbroken and desperate to escape another London Season, Caroline Elliott stows away aboard a friend’s ship, never dreaming she’ll be mistaken for a courtesan and abducted by a handsome mariner with wounds as deep as her own. Trevor Marshall, sixth Earl of Lockwood, is a battle-hardened sea captain out to settle a score. But the inexpressibly gentle heart and unschooled passion of his beautiful captive weaken his resolve, and soon the seducer finds himself seduced by an unbridled desire unlike any he’s ever known.

Review: Dude! So, yeah, I almost didn’t finish this book. I got about 13% through–according to my Kindle–and stopped for a while. I don’t know WHY though. The writing was fine and it was interesting. I had no issues with it, just didn’t get into it. I mean, I felt the opening writing was a touch awkward and the attraction a touch forced, though I liked how Caroline got the crew on her side.

But I think I just wasn’t in a reading mood then, because while on a family visit trip, I started reading a ton and got back to this one.

So glad I did! How awesome was this book!

By a third of the way through, the attraction is no longer forced. I’m really feeling their feelings. I love her family as we meet her brother and mother. He interactions with Blake are fiery and funny and fantastic. And Momma rocks it pretty hard too, for the time period.

What I really liked was that the “path” of this romance was not your stereotypical romance. I was told once that every romance had to have a series of “Try Fails” to get to the conclusion. This is true, but this story didn’t do it in the usual way. (I don’t want to give it away, so read it!) There were not the protracted Big Misunderstandings that are so forced in most romance stories that I just loathe.

Also, their “war” amidst polite society was hysterical. It’s one of the things I like about period pieces; watching these dramatic exchanges masked in polite society. And these two were very amusing; passionate and witty yet damaged. Caroline is a spitfire, and Trevor is a good alpha male without being alpha asshole. (Very important for me.)

They were both people who had issues–like we all do–but came together. There was one moment between Caroline and Trevor where it was a misunderstanding and I was sure he was going to storm out and there’d be chapters and chapters of this continuing with both being stupid and easy fixes being passed by, and the author DIDN’T DO IT. I basically fell in love then. She had the misunderstandings, but didn’t drag it out past reasonability. That’s what was great to me.

But all the secondary characters were fun too. Interactions were obviously “buddy” interactions but weren’t lousy, so many are. It’s hard to write familiarity like that without it being stiff and trite, but Devlin nailed it.

The ending was also very sweet, and I know there’s more books and the author said I could read them too, so I’m totally comin’ after her for them. This one all about the 5 Fireballs for me.

5 Fireballs

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Review: “Try Not to Burn” by Michael Matula

Try Not to Burn by Michael Matula. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase your own from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Description: Three strangers must join forces in order to escape from Hell.
Brandon Morales, a rookie cop with a shadowy past, shot dead at the age of twenty-two.
Samantha Reiss, a female bank robber, killed by lethal injection.
Jane Calrin, a teenage girl who ate a bullet to cap off a tear-stained murder-suicide.

All they have to do is pass a series of tests, avoid the wanton clutches of their fellow inmates, brave nightmares made flesh, and keep from being swallowed by the constantly evolving mass of Hell itself.

Of course, none of those obstacles might matter one lick, as the three of them might all just end up killing one another before their quest even begins.

Only God knows for sure.

Review: This story had the feeling of those old horror stories–a movie, a book, a “what would you do” scenario told at slumber parties: you wake up in a room with several strangers, what do you do?

But I liked that!

Matula is a very competent writer. We go several chapters without an actual change of scenery, but you don’t mind. The characters and mystery engage you enough to keep your attention, and the story flows well enough to carry you right along.

I’m always fascinated by unique or different depictions of Hell and Purgatory, the darker and unusual settings. Matula provides an interesting scenario, blending the spiritual, the emotional, the physical; merging past, present, future; bringing religious concepts without necessarily any specific religion, so it has a general appeal and fascination without being “preachy.”

This book brings in another thing I love: characters living in the moral grey. You know from the start that our Main Characters would not be there if they hadn’t done something to earn it, but you root for them anyways; even after you learn what they did. You’re still there with them.

Really, my only complaint is that we spend more than a third of the book from one Perspective and then suddenly go to others, which is something that always bothers me. I am, apparently, the Point of View police. I like consistency. Either stick with the one, or mix them from the start.

And, of course, there was that one moment when I was almost shouting, “Not the red pill!” (You’ll understand when you read it.)

I’ll warn anyone who reads that this is not a one-shot book. By the latter couple of chapters, I knew there was going to have to be a book two (at least) as not everything wraps up in this one. We have a bit of a cliff-hanger, but I liked the rest of the book enough to forgive the author. ;-)

There is one plot device too oft used (especially in horror stories) that bothers the hell out of me and given the setting, I worried that this book would go there and it didn’t. I was pleased with that.

Really, I…don’t have much to complain about. It was an interesting and engaging read, fast-paced and fascinating. It’s a 5 Fireballs, and I’ll definitely be looking for the next book.

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Review: “Prophecy of the Setting Sunrise” by Diantha Jones

Prophecy of the Setting Sunrise, Book Two of the Oracle of Delphi Series by Diantha Jones. I received this free from the author. It will be available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble on November 12.

Description: It’s official. Myth is doomed.

And it’s all Chloe Clever’s fault.

Still as whacked out as ever, Chloe is now faced with an even uglier truth: Not only is she the Pythia of the Great Unknown, but she is more powerful than she ever imagined and only the manifestations of her prophetic mind can save them all now.

With her Prince boyfriend, Strafford, and the Quad Fraternity always armed and ready to annihilate the opposition, she will embark on a mission to stop a great power that could consume every god in Myth…and everyone else she’s come to love.

But the worst is still to come.

Dark, painful secrets are revealed, threatening to tear Strafford from her arms, and just when she thinks the future could not look more grim, she is betrayed in the worst way.

With the heavens crumbling down around her, she must hurry to find a way to set things right. But will she be in time to save the one she loves most in the world from a fate that may be more dangerous than her own?

Review: First, I will make a disclaimer. I had agreed to review this when it was released, after I had enjoyed and reviewed the first book. Then the author asked me to edit the story. She said I didn’t have to review it, but I have chosen to anyway, but the payment I received for editing in no way reflects on this review.

That being said, if anything, the editing proved how much I liked this story. Because I basically read it twice in less than four weeks to edit it, and I didn’t mind. It was a very enjoyable story, which I’m not surprised since I really liked the first one. (Although the use of Hercules in all the Greek myth stuff rather than Heracles still bugs me. But I’ve already told her this and she’s ignoring me. Like she’s the author or something. Pfft.)

I found this story was, despite being longer, better paced than the first. It has the rolling feeling of a classic adventure, moving from objective to objective with a singular purpose, through all sorts of places and interacting with all sorts of mythical beings and people. There are scheming gods and goddesses aplenty and one still has to love playing in all the old mythology. We get to see a wide variety of beasts and folks, but it’s all fun. Doesn’t seem over-done. Least not to me.

Strafford continues to be awesome, between alpha male and alpha asshole but always falling on the right side. And we finally get to learn more about him, but with mysteries remaining. The Quad is awesome, making the secondary characters just as much fun as the primary ones. I am all hearts about Theseus and Hector, and I love the Chaotics so much, I have declared they are mine.

Chloe continues to grow into her powers, but without ever losing her hard-headed, playing-stupid-never-works, leap-before-looking personality that can drive you nuts but never drives you away from her as a character. Because she’s genuine and loyal, and despite being young (technically an adult, but still in the teens), I like her. You can’t help but like her. Because she’s fiercely protective of the people she loves and always tries hard and means well.

There’s romance all over the place, but I think it’s well done. Campy in the right ways.

I can’t really think of anything I didn’t like about this one, aside from the cliff-hanger-ish ending that I still hate Diantha for. The one complaint I had — aside from Heracles — was mentioned during editing and fixed. *lol* So I guess I can’t complain. 5 Fireballs for this one. Go read these books! Cause there’s a Strafford novella due early next year I’m already drooling for — I want a Strafford of my own — and then book three next summer!

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