romantic fantasy

Heroine Complex: It’s Complicated

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Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Berkley Publishing Group DAW: July 5, 2016
Source: Free from publisher

I’d go there again!
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In a familiar-but-different San Francisco, a portal to another dimension opened eight years ago and spewed demons bent on conquering Earth. A handful of San Franciscans received minor otherworldly magical powers from the first demons to arrive. Ever since, smaller portals have opened that spew mini-demons who tend to take the form of the first thing they see, such as cupcakes. Cupcake demons, folks.

Evie is personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, San Francisco’s local demon-fighting superheroine, who also happens to be Evie’s best friend. Evie, Aveda, and their friend Scott are a few of the people who received magical abilities. Aveda Jupiter, in fact, does not have enough telekinesis to fight demons, so she relies on her physical abilities and a strong PR strategy instead.

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Marked in Flesh: In Which War Breaks Out

22062202Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop
Penguin/Roc: March 8, 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Free from publisher

I’d go there again!
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As I’ve read this series, I’ve enjoyed each book to a different degree. The first one drew me in, the second and third one let me down a little. And as you’ve figured out by now, I liked this one quite a lot.

Marked in Flesh brings the conflict between humans and Others to a disastrous climax. The fight between the bad humans and the Others turns into war in this book. (more…)

Winterwood: Pirates, Magic, and Shapeshifters Oh My!

25489511Winterwood by Jacey Bedford
DAW: February 2nd, 2016
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Source: Free from publisher

I’d go there again!
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This book has so many of the elements I love in a good fantasy: pirates, fae, magic, a wolf shapeshifter, a heroine who disguises herself as a man, adventure, romance, an alternative historical setting… really, this book is just my thing.

Rossalinde (Ross) Tremayne, is introduced as she works her way to her mother’s house, where her parent lays dying. Ross and her mother have had a difficult relationship for as long as Ross can remember, and she goes reluctantly. When she arrives, she discovers that her mother sent for Ross to trick her into taking up their family’s heritage – a curse in the shape of a magical winterwood box. If Ross were to take up her destiny, she would restore balance to the world and in the process, drastically alter England., (more…)

Court Intrigue and Subtle Romance in ‘Jeweled Fire’

21528313Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn
Ace: November 3, 2015
Genre: Fantasy
Review source: Free from publisher

I’ll go there again!
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Sharon Shinn has long been one of my favorite authors. I love the futuristic technology mixed with religion in her Samaria series, and the hero/heroine pairings and adventures in the Twelve Houses series.

I remember loving the first book in this new series, Troubled Waters, and after finishing this third installment, I’m pretty desperate to get my hands on a copy of the second: Royal Airs.

In Jeweled Fire, young princess Corene is the narrator and heroine. Corene has lived in her elder sister Josette’s shadow for most of their lives, and so she decides to step out of it, to have adventures, to figure out what path she really wants her life to take. At first, she only admits to herself that she is hunting for a prince, and a crown – the things she has been raised to expect, and which she thinks will give her independence and success. (more…)

Reading ‘The Rose Garden’ in Devonshire, England

the rose gardenThe Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
Allison and Busby: 2011 (Fantasy / Time Travel / Historical Fiction)

Outstanding adventure!
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There isn’t much I like more than reading books set in the places I travel to. Sometimes, reading these books before I travel will make the trip seem more exciting; sometimes, reading them while I’m there allows me to emotionally and intellectually immerse myself more fully in (or even provide distance from) the experience of travel and adventure.

That will come as no surprise to our followers, since our whole blog is about the places you can go with books. No surprise that we love traveling almost as much as we love reading.

As soon as I learned that Devon and Cornwall are neighbors, I knew that a re-read of Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden was a must. It is perhaps my favorite Kearsley novel, and it’s set in Cornwall. OK, so I wasn’t actually in Cornwall. But Devon is as close as you can get, I believe –  and there are several cultural and geographic commonalities between the Cornwall I was reading about and the Devon I was adventuring in.A re-read is often more comforting than a new read, and comfort is no bad thing on a solo trip to a foreign country. Also, I couldn’t think of another book that wasn’t Hound of the Baskervilles that was set in Devon. Or, maybe I didn’t try very hard, having decided on The Rose Garden.

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Joint Review: “Uprooted” Exceeds Expectations

22544764Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Del Rey: May 19, 2015 (Fantasy Romance; Retellings)*

The Book…

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

The Outstanding Adventure…

Uprooted was a wonderful read, in fact, both Stacey and I rated this one an outstanding adventure! Of course, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t love different things about the book. (more…)

Signal to Noise: Best of 2015

signaltonoiseSignal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Solaris: February 10th, 2015 (Fantasy / Coming of Age / Fiction)

Outstanding Adventure! vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

This story about three teenagers growing up in 1980s Mexico city drew me in so slowly and seductively that I hardly realized it was happening, until I felt compelled to turn page after page. The real world faded away as the vivid colors of Meche’s, Sebastian’s, and Daniela’s Mexico City surrounded me.

Meche, the main narrator, is a fifteen-year old misfit who spends all her time with two other misfits at her school, Sebastian and Daniela. Meche, the ringleader, goads Sebastian and Daniela into practicing magic with her portable record player after she discovers she can make inexplicable things happen if she wants it hard enough while playing the right song.

The narration splits between all the main and close supporting characters, and between two time periods: their fifteenth year, in 1988, and twenty years later, when Meche returns for the first time to attend her father’s funeral and nine days of mourning. Sometimes, split narratives can be distracting, but they rounded out the characters and the story here. As the story progresses, we find out that something terrible happened between the trio of friends, and Meche is deeply opposed to seeing Daniela and Sebastian when she returns. Slowly, it is revealed what happened and why the friendships disintegrated. (more…)

“Carousel Seas” – In Which the Pace Matches Maine Life

carouselseasCarousel Seas by Sharon Lee
Baen: January 6, 2015 (Fantasy)*

The view was nice, but the food was bad vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

Over the course of this trilogy, I have felt less and less satisfied with the details of life in a small Maine town, working a carousel at an amusement park, and getting along with all the natives, in human and other forms. This is not the fault of the story, of the details themselves, but belongs more to the pacing of the novel. This month, I appear to be looking for more fast-paced books with more action in them, and less description. The plot moves along so slowly that it doesn’t grab my attention. A note here: the pacing adds another dimension to the setting, since it reflects a slower pace of life. The language, too, is very “Maine,” and I think these added features really do help to bring the setting to life.

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The Scribe – romantic urban fantasy set in Istanbul

scribeThe Scribe by Elizabeth Hunter

Published in Darkly Dreaming: A Five Book Fantasy Romance Anthology, 2014 (Fantasy Romance)*

My Rating: The view was okay, but the food was bad (2.5-3/5)

The Scribe not a terribly unique urban fantasy – fallen angels, descendants of angels, true mates, Chosen One heroines that don’t fit the mold, and the battle between good and evil are all common symptoms of the genre. At times, I enjoyed it. Most of the action takes place in Istanbul, which adds an exotic flavor.

Ava Matheson has an interesting history. All her life, she’s heard a foreign language in her head. The words underlie spoken words in the people around her. Believing she is crazy, she’s been to therapists regularly. No one can determine what causes it, or how to fix it. Until one day in Istanbul, she hears a single voice that stands out among all the others. She confronts the strange owner of the voice, who has been following her. Malachi, said owner, knows something is different about Ava, because she has other followers – descendants of fallen angels, mortal (immortal?) enemies of his own people. As mysterious events swirl around the pair, they do their own dance of getting to know each other, resisting the pull of attraction…  (more…)

Sword-Wielding Heroines: A Reader’s Map

It’s been a while since we’ve done a reader’s map at Spicy Nodes. Today, you can interact with a map of books (mostly fantasy) that feature women who wield swords. There’s a Celtic fantasy series, several books about mercenaries, “sword and sorcery” books, an alternate fantasy, and of course, romantic fantasies.

Click the image below to be taken to the interactive map.

Do you know of any other books with swashbuckling, bada$$ women who wield swords? Share in the comments and I’ll add them to the map!