Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Shadow Rider

Shadow Rider- Christine Feehan
Berkley Publishing Group
Release Date: June 28, 2016

Rating (out of 5):

Synopsis: Whether it’s fast cars or fast women, Stefano Ferraro gets what he wants. When he’s not fodder for the paparazzi, he commands Ferraro family businesses—both legitimate and illegitimate.
While their criminal activity is simply a rumor yet to be proven, no one knows the real truth. The Ferraros are a family of shadow riders capable of manipulating light and dark, an ability Stefano thought ran in his family alone—until now… With little left to her name, Francesca Cappello has come to Chicago in hopes of a new life. She wasn’t expecting to attract the attention of a man with primal hunger in his eyes, driven to claim her as his to protect and to please. And if he discovers her secret, it could ruin her...

Warning: Potential Spoilers!

Shadow Rider begins a new series by Christine Feehan focused on the Ferraro family- a mega rich family  whose hidden work includes traveling through shadows to invisibly serve justice to those who, for whatever reason, have made themselves untouchable by the justice system.  It's a close-knit, very Italian family, full of alpha males and enough cousins to keep the series going for at least as long as Feehan's Carpathian series.

Stefano Ferraro is as alpha as they come, the head of his family and an experienced shadow rider.  He takes care of his family, his neighborhood, and his clients without letting any of them get too close.  Then he sees Francesca Cappello and finds someone he not only wants to protect, but allow closer than anyone ever has before. Stefano is the kind of male perhaps best enjoyed from afar: gorgeous, rich, extremely intense, possessive, dominating, and stubborn. It would take a very special woman to handle him in a relationship.

 Unknown to her, Francesca has the ability to be a shadow rider, which draws Stefano to her.  She's just trying to get on her feet, get a job that pays enough for a meal and a warm coat, and evade the very rich and powerful psychopath who murdered her sister is intent on destroying her life.  She doesn't see herself as strong or brave, but almost from the beginning she tries to stand up to Stefano when he pushes her.  Instant lust for a gorgeous man turns to deeper feelings as she learns more about him.  She wants to protect him from the killer coming after her, and he and his family are determined to protect her.  

Shadow Rider was a good book, the story and characters drew me in from page one and kept me needing to know what would happen next.  I especially liked Francesca and admired her determination to keep fighting back against overwhelming odds, and try to do what she thought was best for the people around her.  A naturally caring person, she puts everyone above herself and I liked how she soon saw into Stefano and tried to help him, even before she knew all the details.   Stefano was a mix of appealing and obnoxious (typical, I think, of uber alpha males no matter the genre), never apologizing for who he was and what he did while at least acknowledging that he would be a hard man to live with. He was hard to like for most of the book, but also hard not to like.  I was annoyed at how every time Francesca tried to argue with him about something she would end up thinking about how hot he was and, well, Stefano had it easy winning arguments and then not coming back to the idea that maybe there was stuff they should actually talk about to improve their relationship.  Especially in the beginning when he's trying to "go slowly" and let her adjust to things. Off the charts chemistry only gets a relationship so far.

 Shadow Rider is full of chemistry between Francesca and Stefano, the closeness of the Ferraro family, and as I went along I found myself fully accepting the gray world of morals the Ferraros live in. As with all of Feehan's books, there was enough repetition to make me wish the editor had worked a little more, but it wasn't as prevalent as in some of her other books.   

An excellent introduction for new readers to Christine Feehan's books, and a wonderful new series for dedicated fans.  Shadow Rider is an intense thriller that keeps you guessing until the very end. Can't wait for more in this series! 

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley for an honest review.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Once a Soldier

Once A Soldier (Rogues Redeemed Book 1)- Mary Jo Putney
Kensington Books
Release Date: June 28, 2016

Synopsis: As heir to a title and great wealth, Will Masterson should have stayed home and tended his responsibilities. Instead he went to war. Now, after perilous years fighting the French, he intends his current mission to be his last. But all his plans are forgotten when he arrives in the small mountain stronghold of San Gabriel and meets her.   Knowing herself to be too tall, strong, and unconventional to appeal to a man, Athena Markham has always gloried in her independence. But for the first time in her life, she finds a man who might be her match.   Two of a kind, too brave for their own good, Athena and Will vow to do whatever it takes to vanquish San Gabriel's enemies. For neither will back down from death, and only together can they find happiness and a love deeper than any they'd dared imagine. . .

Warning: Potential Spoilers!

Once a Soldier starts off Mary Jo Putney's new Rogues Redeemed series with a bang.  The hero is Will Masterson, who also played a minor role in several of Putney's Lost Lords series.  Will is the sort of hero you love to read about: quiet, quick thinking, strong, loyal, and focused.  The kind of bedrock man you know can be relied on when things get tough.  Which is good, since things are tough through most of the book!  We first meet Will and several other men who will become the Rogues Redeemed Brotherhood in a basement, captives of the French and about to get shot as English spies.  The intensity of their escape sets the tone for the rest of the book.  When Napoleon abdicates and the war ends Will is ready to head home until a fellow Rogue asks him to do one more small mission.  It seems simple: help a small band of soldiers from the tiny country of San Gabriel get home, make sure the country hasn't fallen apart during the war, report back and then he's free to go back to England.

Entering San Gabriel the soldiers are shocked at the damage a marauding French general caused over a year ago and Will meets Athena Markham- an Englishwoman acting as companion and advisor to the temporary ruler of San Gabriel.  From the moment they meet- and she points a gun at him- he's smitten.  Athena is equally attracted to Will, but values her independence and has enough ghosts in her past that she sees no way their relationship can have a happy ending.  Athena is Will's equal in every way, and it was great watching Will accept that fact from the beginning and Athena struggle with realizing that he's genuine- both in his acceptance of her abilities and his love. 

Will suddenly finds himself with multiple missions: help San Gabriel rebuild after the war, defend it against a French general who plans to take over the country, and convince Athena that she should marry him.  As the book progresses and we learn more about each of their pasts, the reader is completely convinced that these two people are fated to be together.  But of his three challenges, Athena is going to be the hardest one to win!

It was also a new and enjoyable angle to see the aftermath of the Napoleonic War in such a close up fashion.  What the tiny (fictional) country of San Gabriel and its people go through would have been similar to rebuilding troubles across Europe.  Although there are some great books dealing with the different troubles soldier returning to England dealt with after the war, I don't think I've read any other in this genre that using the devastation and rebuilding in the Peninsula as the background for the story.  It helped give the book a new, fresh angle and challenges for the characters.

I loved the characters in this book- even minor characters jumped off the pages and San Gabriel itself becomes a vividly portrayed character in Putney's characteristically lovely writing style.  The pace stays fast throughout the book and keeps you on the edge of your seat from first to last.    I was only sorry when the book ended!  However, I am sure we will see Will and Athena cameo in future books in the series, just like a few Lost Lords cameoed here.

Putney manages the difficult task of raising the bar set by her Lost Lords series, and now the only question will be how she will continue to improve as this series progresses.  I look forward to the next book to find out!  Readers familiar with Putney's work or those discovering her for the first time will love Once a Soldier.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Lost Dog

Lost Dog- Alan Russell (Gideon & Sirius Book 3)
Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: June 14, 2016

Synopsis: Detective Michael Gideon is used to being handed L.A.’s oddest cases, but his newest one assigned itself. When Gideon’s K-9 partner, Sirius, rescues a lost dog from a pack of coyotes, the duo tries to return her home—only to discover her owner is missing.  Heather Moreland has clearly disappeared under suspicious circumstances, and the more Gideon digs into her past, the more he’s convinced of her abduction.  As Gideon strives to help the missing woman, he is also troubled by the suspicious death of Detective Langston Walker, the leader of a support group for families of murder victims. The last time they’d met, Walker told Gideon about a cold case he had reopened, making Gideon wonder if the detective’s demise is the accident everyone believes.

Warning: Potential Spoilers!

Lost Dog is the first Alan Russell mystery I've read.  It's hard for me to pass up anything involving a mystery and dogs - and this had not one but two dogs trying to help solve the crimes.  Even better was that the second dog, Angie, was a bloodhound mix and bloodhounds are not only underrepresented in literature (compared to German Shepherds like Sirius) but are one of my family's favorite breeds.  

Angie is a rescue dog, so difficult that she's been returned to the shelter twice before being adopted by Heather Moreland, who also knows something about the importance of second chances.  She and Angie bond and when someone breaks into her house Heather saves Angie by shoving her out of a window.  Angie is found by Sirius, Detective Gideon's K-9 German Shepherd partner, and the pair set out to return Angie to her home.  Except the home has obviously been broken into and Angie's person missing.  The lost dog search becomes a lost human search, and Gideon knows its a race against time to try and find Heather still alive.

I had mixed feelings about this book by the end.  It seemed to drag out, and alternate between very slow going and fast paced action.  There end up being three different crimes Gideon & Sirius have to solve (two of them related), and while they are good mysteries, there seemed to be little to go on until the end, when the speed picks up, and two of the crimes are solved with one case of attempted arson. Gideon also has a penchant for absolutely groan worthy puns that can be humorous in small doses, but are so constant that I could only read a few chapters at a time before having to give myself a break from them and put the book down for awhile.  This may be one of the reasons the book seemed to drag so long.

On the other hand, Sirius and Angie are great characters and Heather Moreland is a truly strong and inspirational woman.  The chapters alternate between Gideon and Heather, and Russell does an excellent job of making us feel Heather's emotions during her ordeals.  By the end when we all figure out who the bad guy is it's a truly terrifying and creepy experience, happily saved by the devotion of a bloodhound to her person.  

A good read for dog lovers.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley for an honest review.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Invisible Library- Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library- Genevieve Cogman
Roc Press (Penguin Random House)
Release Date: June 14, 2016

Synopsis: Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen.  London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself. Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself...

The Invisible Library is a mix of mystery, magic, science, humor, and books. An incredibly rich world of alternate universes and the Librarians who gather important works of fiction from all of them.

The main character, Irene, is a wonderfully complex character- a true bibliophile who wants nothing more than to protect books and read them.  Clever and quick-witted, she returns from one mission only to be sent out instantly on another- this time with an apprentice.  Things go from complicated to seriously complicated in the alternate world they've landed in when murder, book thieves, Fae, rogue Librarians, werewolves, centipedes, and alligators become involved.  This alternate reality is a delightful blend of steampunk and fantasy, vampires and zeppelins, science and magic. Irene is sure there's more to this story than what she's been told, but she'll have to stay alive before she can worry about what she isn't being told!  Her apprentice, Kai, is hiding some big secrets of his own, a competing Librarian keeps getting in the way, and their only ally is this world's version of Sherlock Holmes, who may have his own agenda.

This was a brilliant debut novel by Genevieve Cogman.  The worlds are detailed, all her characters are rich and three-dimensional, the plots and intrigues keep you guessing without overly complicating the storyline, and the humor is snarky and dry.  I couldn't bear to put this book down once I'd started, but as much as I wanted to reach the end to see how everything was solved I didn't want to reach the end and have to leave the world of the mysterious Invisible Library.  Fortunately, there are at least two more books scheduled for release, and I hope this series lasts for many more books to come.

Fans of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, Deborah Harkness' Discovery of Witches trilogy, TNT's The Librarians tv series, and book lovers in general will fall in love with the world of The Invisible Library.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley for an honest review.