Book Review: Pros and Cons by Jenna Black, Dragonflies: Shadow of Drones by Andy Straka, and The Reluctant Reaper by Gina X. Grant

Pros and ConsPros and Cons
The Nikki Glass Series
Jenna Black
Pocket Star Books, February 2013
ISBN 978-1-4767-0010-6
Ebook Exclusive

From the publisher—

An original eNovella in the acclaimed Nikki Glass urban fantasy series, taking place between the events of the novels Deadly Descendant and Rogue Descendant.

As a living descendant of Artemis the Huntress, private investigator Nikki Glass knows how to track someone down—but this time, her latest case leads to unexpected revelations of lies and betrayal…

I’m a big fan of crossgenre books, especially when the crossing is crime with dark fantasy. Supernatural detectives rock my boat, you might say, so I’m always interested to find a new (to me) series. Pros and Cons fits the bill very nicely, even though it’s not the beginning of the series; this novella is actually the third publication in the chronological list but is not labeled as #3 because it’s not a full-length novel. To my way of thinking, a mid-series novella or short story is a perfect way to introduce a new reader to that series and it certainly worked its magic on me.

I love the idea that Nikki Glass is a descendant of Artemis because, after all, what is a private investigator if not a huntress? I’m pretty sure I didn’t get a really good taste of Nikki’s story because there’s not much about her cohorts in this novella. That’s OK, though, because I needed to know that the crime element of this series is not just a throwaway side story to the paranormal theme. Nikki is a bona fide detective and I can learn more about her friends and colleagues, as well as her romantic life, when I delve further into the series.

In Pros and Cons, Nikki takes on a “normal” case to give her an excuse to stay away from her supernatural environs for a little while but, early on, she realizes that something is not quite right about her new client. All the mythological trappings were lingering off to the side and I fell in love/like with Jack when he got involved. Jack is a descendant of Loki, the Norse trickster god who’s fun and devious and more than a little bit of a bad boy. Jack was the icing on the cake of a decent little tale of crime and I’ll be glad to see these folks again when I go back to book #1, Dark Descendant. I have some catching up to do!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2013.

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DragonfliesDragonflies: Shadow of Drones
Andy Straka
LLW Media, May 2013
ISBN 978-1-4756-0204-3
Ebook

From the publisher—

Out to seek justice for their comrades-in-arms, a former Army helicopter pilot and the soldier who saved her life find themselves drawn instead into a web of government intrigue and peering micro drones.

Raina Sanchez is plagued by nightmares. She can’t erase the memories of being shot down in Afghanistan, of losing her foot in the crash, and the death of her commanding officer. When asked by an ex-military contact to participate in a secret drone operation with ties to the war, she jumps at the chance to exorcise some of her demons.

She joins Tye Palmer, the decorated ex-infantryman who rescued her from the flaming wreckage of her Kiowa chopper. As civilian private investigators, together they embark on a sensitive, risky effort: using cutting-edge, micro air vehicle drones in an attempt to expose the son of media mogul Nathan Kurn as a campus rapist.

But as Raina and Tye come closer to the truth about Kurn and his powerful allies, Raina’s loyalties take a potential detour when she begins to understand a chilling reality. In a world where surveillance devices as small as tiny insects are being piloted into places most would never imagine, public and private forces both large and small are maneuvering to control them with inevitable consequences. For Raina and Tye the danger didn’t end when they finished their military careers—the threat has just begun.

Disclaimer: I have known Andy Straka for years and his previous books are among my favorites. That has not affected my review of this book.

As noted above, I know Andy and appreciate his writing but Dragonflies: Shadow of Drones is very different from his earlier work and must be considered in a different light. In all honesty, my feelings about it are quite mixed.

The premise of the story is quite engaging and I especially appreciated the way the author allows his protagonists to be confused about what’s really going on.  Too many thrillers, in my opinion, have characters who never seem to get ruffled and always have a finger on the pulse, so to speak. I’m quite sure black ops and intelligence communities, even high-powered corporations, have a better understanding of the situations they encounter than a layman would but it sometimes reaches the level of incredulity or, at the very least, a raised eyebrow. In Dragonflies, Raina and Tye are frequently caught in the middle of plots that don’t quite come together for them and I like that; it makes them very human and not so superhero-ish.

I was also intrigued by the whole idea of these extremely tiny spying devices and that experienced pilots would be needed to fly them. What a scary thing to contemplate! I don’t think I’m of enough interest to anyone to ever be a target but this certainly would be a formidable and potentially very damaging tool in the wrong hands. Having them be used in both private investigative work and by rival government factions in Dragonflies highlights how invasive they could become.

Raina and Tye are interesting characters but a bit too shallowly drawn to get to know them very well. Actually, we know more about Raina than Tye but I imagine we’ll get to know both of them much better as the series continues.

And that brings me to my last, and most adamant, opinion. I HATED the ending of this book.  I don’t mind cliffhangers but this one is beyond the pale and, if I had known it was written in serial style, I would not have read it until at least the second book, and maybe the third, was available. While I can get past any other faults in this book besides this one, I imagine other readers will be more accepting, especially those who like the TV cliffhangers that happen from week to week—and this has, in fact been optioned for TV. As for me, I probably won’t read any more installments until several are available.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2013.

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The Reluctant ReaperThe Reluctant Reaper
The Reluctant Reaper Series, Book One
Gina X. Grant
Pocket Star, June 2013
ISBN 978-1-4767-2868-1
Ebook

From the publisher—

Life for Kirsty d’Arc might not be perfect, but it’s far from hellish. She likes her job, has a great BFF, and truly admires Conrad, her boss. But when she dives in front of a lunatic’s blade to save him from certain death, she finds out Conrad isn’t so admirable after all. In fact, he’s traded her soul to the Devil! 

While her body lies comatose on the Mortal Coil, Kirsty’s spirit is dragged straight to Hell…which is not quite the fire-and-brimstone abyss she’d expected. In fact, the place is quirky, wacky, and not without charm. Desperate to reunite body and soul before her time runs out, she seeks out allies, earning the friendship of a powerful drag demon, a psychic server, and, most importantly, Hell’s civil servant. But what of her growing attraction to Dante, the sexy Reaper with a flair for romantic language—can she forgive him for scything her soul?

Stuck in the netherworld, Kirsty vows she’ll do everything on her postmortem bucket list, starting with getting her life back and ensuring that Conrad has Hell to pay!

Oh, my, I can’t remember the last time I read a book that had me smiling, chuckling. sometimes outright guffawing on every single page but Gina X. Grant has accomplished that very feat with The Reluctant Reaper. This is just one of the funniest books ever and here’s the weird thing—a LOT of the humor involves puns and I have never been enamored with puns. Until now.

Kirsty D’Arc has just been accidentally reaped by a guy named Dante who carries a scythe and struck her with it instead of her boss who was supposed to die. Since it was an accident, though, Kirsty is not exactly dead, more like undead (but not of the vampirish sort). Kirsty has no choice—she has to go to Hell and appeal her “death”.

Hell, it turns out, is full of interesting surprises, including Charon who ferries the river in full drag and a small, very cute kittenish animal who is actually a real life gargoyle. Her name is Jenni, short for Jenni-fur because she sheds so much. Then there are the vicious little creatures called gee-gnomes who can alter your DNA. Most are sort of countrified-looking except one that seems to be more sophisticated,  known as a “metrognome”. Dante himself is a 700-year-old poet—yes, he’s THAT Dante.

Ms. Grant also has a great time skewering the very things we all love to hate, like this:

“Reaping is a precise art. It must occur only at the exact hour, preferably the exact minute, as ordained by Death. Or by our new software system, MS Death 2.0.”

“You have Microsoft products in Hell?”

Figures.

Kirsty’s adventures in Hell keep her busy while she’s waiting for her trial but, when that finally comes, she’s in for a rude awakening. Will she be able to go back to her life or will she have to stay in the afterlife even if she isn’t really dead? Will she have to give up the hunky Dante? Will she really have to do something useful with her life?

I can’t help it, I loved this book and can’t wait to read the next one, Scythe Does Matter. Thank heavens—oops, Hell doesn’t appreciate that saying—it’s already on my Nook.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2013.

Book Blitz: Jump Zone: Cleo Falls by Wylie Snow

Jump Zone Blitz Banner

Jump Zone: Cleo Falls by Wylie Snow
(Jump Zone #1 )
Publication date: September 9th 2013
Genres: Dystopia, New Adult

Synopsis:

All Cleo wants, all she’s ever wanted, is the acceptance of her tribe and the love of her family…
and she
almost dies trying to earn it. But the man who saved her, who found beauty in her flaws and
loved her without
condition, has cruelly betrayed her, and she’s dying all over again.

Was it all lies? His words, his promises, his kisses? Lost in unfamiliar territory, Cleo will fight the
forces
that conspire to destroy her homeland, even if she has to do it alone.

Libra longs for freedom—from prison, from pretense, and from his birthright… but he’s caught in a
political game
where only greed and power can win, and Cleo Rush is the pawn. How much is he willing to
sacrifice for liberty? His
morals, his principles, the woman he loves? No matter which path he chooses,
people will die, their
blood on his hands. And it could be hers.

To save themselves and their world, Cleo and Libra must overcome the double tragedy that binds
their families in
hatred. Together, they might live. Apart, Cleo will fall.

*****

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Kobo          Smashwords           Amazon Paperback          Amazon Ebook

JUMP ZONE SURVIVAL QUIZ

Jump Zone Cleo FallsIn the book Jump Zone: Cleo Falls, the inhabitants of the Taiga forests struggle to survive daily life in the northern wilds.
Take this simple quiz to find out if you’re Taiga material…

Question 1
How many days can you survive without water:
A.    1
B.    3
C.    5
D.    7

Question 2
You’re lost in a northern forest and want to travel due south. Which indicator do you look to for help:
A.    moss
B.    sun
C.    anthills
D.    all of the above

Question 3
You should avoid sleeping on the ground for what reason:
A.    ouch – you’ll wake up with stiff aching joints
B.    the cold hard ground will zap your body heat
C.    avoid snake bites
D.    forest dirt leaves harsh un-washable stains

Question 4
You’re weak from hunger and the insects are looking awfully yummy. Which should you avoid:
A.    slimy ones
B.    flying ones
C.    brighty colored ones
D.    ugly ones

Question 5
Thunder, lightning! How do you estimate the distance of a storm:
A.    Count the seconds between the thunderclaps and lightning strikes and divide that number by five to equal the distance in miles.
B.    When you feel the first raindrop, start counting the seconds until you hear a rumble of thunder, which equals the number of miles away.
C.    Count the number of lightning strikes in one minute to equal the distance in miles.
D.    Who cares! Get yourself under the biggest tree you can find and prepare to get wet.

Question 6
Oh no, you’re lost! But you know to implement the S.T.O.P. plan. Gosh… what do those letters stand for again?
A.    Sing Things Or Pray – when in doubt, hum a hymn
B.    Stretch Twirl Oscillate Pivot – keep moving, turn this adventure into an exercise plan
C.    Stop Think Observe Plan – don’t do anything rash, think this situation through
D.    Solo Time Operating Plan – you’re alone and it’s time to do all those crazy things you saved for when nobody was watching… yeehaw!

Question 7
You’re still lost, and night is falling. It’s time to build a shelter. Choose your spot:
A.    An open, highly visible area – the search party needs to find you.
B.    The edge of volcano – best place to keep warm!
C.    At the bottom of a dry creek bed – no hair-curling dampness to worry about.
D.    Close to a water source – you might get thirsty in the night.

Question 8
You’re stranded in a forest with only one item from your handbag. What would be the most useful thing? Choose just one:
A.    Hairbrush
B.    Nail file
C.    Lipstick
D.    Tampon

ANSWERS:

1 – B
The average person needs about 2 quarts of water per day to maintain good health. Going without water for 3 days spells death!

2 – D
All of the above! Though moss will grow on the north side of trees, it will be lusher and greener on the south side. Ants frequently build their nests on the south or southeast side of trees to take advantage of the warmth, and if you walk toward the sun precisely at noon, you’ll be headed due south.

3 – B
You’ll preserve your body heat by piling up a bed of grass, leaves or bows and getting yourself a few inches off the ground.

4 – C
Stop with the ick-face. Insects can be a great source of protein (pound for pound, as much as 3 times as much as beef!), but it’s a good idea to stay away from the bright ones, which could potentially signal poison or toxin. Leave the hairy ones and the smelly ones alone, too.

5 – A
As soon as you hear thunder, start counting – one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, etc… until you see a strike of lightning. Divide by five and that’s roughly how many miles out the storm is. And for heaven’s sake, don’t stand under a tall tree!

6 – C
Stop moving, sit down and relax,
Think about your situation, how you got into it, how might you get out of it,
Observe your surroundings, your supplies and/or tools,
Plan your next move.

7 – A & D
Hopefully, somebody knows you’re missing (you DID tell someone about that wilderness hike, right?) so you should find or build shelter in a spot where the search and rescue team can find you. Though building too close to water can be hazardous (insects, animals coming to drink), it’s a good idea to stay fairly close as you need water to survive.

8 – D
You could probably find uses for all of those items, but surprisingly, a tampon is your best bet. The ‘Tactical Adventure Medical Preparedness Outdoors Necessity’ (see what we did there?), is a handy-dandy multi-purpose tool, summed up best by the good folks at The Art of Manliness (click the link, if only for the pictures of a man with a tampon in his mouth!): http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/06/05/survival-tampon/

Your score:
7-8 correct – you are a survivor!
4-6 correct – you may want to brush up on your outdoor skills before you leave the beaten path.
1-3 correct – Glamping might be more your style.
0 – stay home, lock the doors, you’re not fit to go outside!

About the Author

Almost every author says they wanted to write from a very early age. Not me. I wanted to be a detective
like Nancy Drew, or a wildlife expert like Jim Fowler or an archaeologist like Indiana Jones. Or have my own
island resort and make fantasies come true!

I didn’t do too badly with any of those…I married a detective, worked in a zoo, explored ship wrecks
instead of old ruins, and spent 18 glorious years living on a sunny island.

As for those fantasies…
I also write erotic romance as Wylie Kinson.
Happy reading!

Author Links:
Website: http://www.wyliesnow.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wylie-Snow-Author/496092523761066
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WylieSnow

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