Genre: Urban Fantasy

A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter (Book Review)

Posted March 8, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Book Review / 3 Comments

A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter (Book Review)A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter
Series: Elemental Mysteries #1
Published by Self on October 18, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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3 Stars

"No secret stays hidden forever."

A phone call from an old friend sets Dr. Giovanni Vecchio back on the path of a mystery he'd abandoned years before. He never expected a young librarian could hold the key to the search, nor could he have expected the danger she would attract. Now he and Beatrice De Novo will follow a twisted maze that leads from the archives of a university library, through the fires of Renaissance Florence, and toward a confrontation they never could have predicted.

I was really excited to sign up for this book as part of the Elemental Mysteries Blog Tour, celebrating the third book’s release. The premise sounded pretty awesome. I loved the idea of the main character being a librarian, and there being such a focus on extremely old literature. And Giovanni is totally an Italian name, and combining that with the mention of Renaissance Florence, I was sold! Books and Italy. What more could I ask for? A Hidden Fire had its moments, but overall I was a little disappointed. It fell short of its potential, and I feel like it could have been so much better than it was.

1. The whole beginning is pretty mysterious. Beatrice is a librarian at the Houston University in the Special Collections reading room, picking up a new shift where she ends up spending time with Dr. Giovanni Vecchio, who is translating a very old document. He’s a unique person with a hidden past, and we go a while in the book before we find out who he is and why he’s connected to bunch of old literature. Beatrice is more to him than a librarian. Danger surrounds her, plus he’s developing feelings for her.

2. I liked the main characters. Beatrice is smart, shy, and bookish.She’s extremely level-headed, all things considered. I love her sarcasm and quick wit. I think we’d be friends. Giovanni is a sexy bad boy. He’s also very scholarly and is always reading or researching something. He’s also reclusive, with a very rich past that is coming back to haunt him. I loved the banter between the two of them. The sexual tension was definitely there. I just with they had done more with it.

3. The romance is kind of silly and unbelievable. You can tell Gio and Beatrice care about each other, but it’s weird. He treats her like a child he needs to protect, and she treats him like a knight in shining armor. They never really hash out their feelings or intentions. Sometimes they have to put on a steamy act in front of spectators, but then they avoid one another for quite a while after. They are always holding back, but never indicate to each other why. So they always appear to mad at the other, when in reality they are lusting after one another. It wasn’t really romantic to me. It was just frustrating and never really got resolved. I guess that’s book 2’s job.

4. The supporting characters were great. Gio’s butler, Caspar, is so sweet and grandfatherly, especially with Beatrice. He’s also very protective and caring towards Gio. He’s clearly part of the family. I love his cat, Doyle, as well. Caspar starts a cute little something up with B’s grandma, who is also a strong character with a lot of spunk. Gio has a friend named Carwyn, who is definitely my favorite character in this book. He’s a Welsh priest who has been around for quite a while, and has a lot of life experience. He’s funny, flirtatious, and becomes a great friend to Beatrice. He always seems to know how she’s thinking and feeling, and knows just what to say to put her mind at ease. I’m kind of envious of Beatrice. She has so many sweet men keeping an eye on her!

5. The settings were unique, and I liked them. I enjoyed all the library time, and it was fun to picture what everything looked like and smelled like. I love libraries! Gio’s house sounds pretty cool. We also get to explore Greece and Chile in this book, which was cool.

6. I laughed a lot. There was a lot of joking around, sarcastic remarks, flirtatious moments, and interesting tastes in clothing. The characters lovingly made fun of each other. It was refreshing, since the underlying story is a bit dark and dangerous.

7. I liked the incorporation of the elements (fire, earth, wind, and water). Each book in the series focuses on one, and this one obviously focused on fire. And I liked the paranormal elements. I’m not going to say what those are, for fear of spoiling things for you, but it’s an interesting twist.

8. Really, my only complaint is that some of the plot dragged on and on, and was rather repetitive. There was a lot of sitting around and talking, with not a lot of action until the last part of the book. This is a long book, yet the bulk of the story felt rushed at the end. Nothing was tied up for us.

I would recommend this to people who enjoy paranormal urban fantasies with a tiny bit of romance. I’m thinking book 2 will open things up a lot more, and I’m curious to see what happens next! Book 2 (This Same Earth) is already out, book 3 (The Force of the Wind) is out this month, and the concluding book (A Fall of Water) has a tentative release date in June of this year.

To visit more stops with reviews of books 2 and 3, interviews with the author and characters, book excerpts, and chances to win all three books, click here

3 Stars

Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll (Book Review)

Posted February 7, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 8 Comments

Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll (Book Review)Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll
Series: Black Swan Rising #1
Published by Tor Books on August 3, 2010
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 396
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

When New York City jewelry designer Garet James stumbles into a strange antiques shop in her neighborhood, her life is about to be turned upside down. John Dee, the enigmatic shopkeeper, commissions her to open a vintage silver box for a generous sum of money. Oddly, the symbol of a swan on the box exactly matches the ring given to her by her deceased mother. Garet can’t believe her luck and this eerie coincidence until she opens the box and otherworldly things start happening. . . .

That evening, the precious silver box is stolen. When Garet begins to investigate, she learns that she has been pulled into a prophecy that is hundreds of years old, and opening the box has unleashed an evil force onto the streets of Manhattan and the world at large. Gradually, Garet pieces together her true identity—one that her deceased mother desperately tried to protect her from. Generations of women in Garet’s family, including her beloved mother, suffered and died at the hands of this prevailing evil. Does Garet possess the power to reclaim the box and defeat this devastating force?

On her journey, she will meet the fey folk who walk unnoticed among humans and a sexy vampire who also happens to be a hedge fund manager that she can’t stop thinking about. But the fairies reveal a desire to overpower mere humans and the seductive vampire has the power to steal the life from her body. Whom can Garet trust to guide her? Using her newfound powers and sharp wit, Garet will muster everything she’s got to shut down the evil taking over her friends, family, New York City, and the world.

This book was rich with beautiful literary writing, dynamic characters, and a complex plot. “Lee Carroll” is a collaboration between award-winning mystery novelist Carol Goodman and her poet and hedge fund manager husband, Lee Slominsky. I loved the integration of mystery, intrigue, poetic writing, and exquisite descriptions. These two make an awesome team, and I hope they continue to write novels together in the future.

This was right up my alley! I started reading it as soon as I could, and I was sold by the end of the first page. As I said, and will probably say again, the writing is lovely!

The story takes place in present-day NYC with elements of history, the arts, and Shakespeare. I really liked the main character, Garet, which stands for Margaret (named after her mother Marguerite—which is an important detail). She’s courageous, spunky, and has a good head on her shoulders. She has to go through a lot in this book, seeing as how evil is slowly escaping and seeping into everyday life. At the very beginning of the book, her father gets shot and some valuable artwork is stolen from their business. An investigator comes and believes her father staged the whole robbery and shot himself. This storyline is an underlying part of the entire rest of the story, and has Garet deeply troubled. The evil influences, which come in the form of fog and feelings, weigh heavily on her friends and her father… even the world around her. The evil actually coaxes someone into trying to commit suicide. Garet is the only one who knows why all of this is happening, but she doesn’t sit and complain about it like some heroines do. Instead, she follows in the footsteps of the women she descended from, in order to try and defeat this evil. Through it all, she has this wonderful sense of humor! It helps that she has sidekicks along the way, particularly a small fairy and a sexy vampire. Boy, does this book make him sound amazing! He swoops in and protects her when she needs him (even though he’s forbidden), which makes you want a vampire of your very own.

The authors put a totally different spin on vampires, and it’s really a tiny, tiny part of the story. Even though this vampire is a romantic interest, the romance is almost non-existent. The main focus is on Garet’s discovery of this new world, and what she plans to do about it. Along with the fey and the vampire, she encounters an alchemist, a dragon, a water goddess, and some other interesting people that are not who they appear to be. She experiences so many different things, goes through every emotion, and flip-flops between who to trust and who to steer clear of. It’s a crazy web of events and feelings, but it was written in a way that was not at all confusing.

I really love that we are kept guessing throughout the entire book. I didn’t know what was going on until Garet did. I found myself questioning every character right along with her. Is this guy on my side? Should I be worried about this? What’s going to happen next? I had no idea how the ending would work out. I was shocked every time she was. I trusted the same people she did. It’s like I was doing the thinking for her. That was refreshing, as many mysteries can be easily solved before the book is over.

The only complaint I had was that Garet’s father and close friends slowly slipped into the background. I guess when you’re one woman fighting off the evils of the world, while being sought out by Mr. Evil himself, and befriending a romantic vampire you don’t have much time for family! However… the characters were likeable, so I wish I got to learn more about them.

If you love a good urban fantasy, a strong heroine, a little mystery, evil lurking around every corner, amazing and beautiful writing (see, I told you I’d mention it again), detailed descriptions, a smidge of romance, a dash of action, and a hint of Shakespeare, then I think you’ll love this book! I’m really excited to start on the sequel, The Watchtower.

5 Stars