Tag Archive | Stephanie Plum

Cursed by Fire & Kissed by Fire (Books 1 & 2 in the Blood and Magic Series) by Danielle Annett

I recently signed up to the Blog Tour for the release of Kissed by Fire by Danielle Annett. However, I needed to read Cursed by Fire first. It was my intention to read each book and review them separately, but I was so intrigued by the first book, I had to read Kissed by Fire (a good sign for any reviewer) to see where Annett was going to take the tale, hence, this is a dual book review!

In Cursed by Fire, the reader is introduced to Aria Naveed, a mercenary and psyker – meaning she has pyrokinetic powers, bursting into flame, often at will, but sometimes it is out of her control, particularly when she is stressed. The opening to the book is quite a brutal one as Aria and her boss, Mike, find the body of a little boy, Daniel,  who they have been employed to find, murdered seemingly by a vampire. However, as it transpires that the Daniel was a shifter, someone who can transform into an animal, this act is seen as a potential spark to a war between the vampires and the shifters. In order to avoid a battle between the two groups, Aria is hired by the shifters to find out who killed Daniel. Helped by her best friend and shifter, James, Aria investigates Daniel’s murder, uncovering a plot to incite the war, but she is determined to find out who killed the little boy. All the while, Aria is being watched by a handsome stranger, who despite her resistance to him, feels an attraction towards him. However, Inarus is not who he seems and Aria is torn between her attraction for him and her innate defensive response.

Cursed by Fire gives the reader an idea of the hierarchy in this place where paranormals and humans live side by side, not necessarily harmoniously. The characters are intriguing, and the plot has a feel of Veronica Roth’s Divergent about it. Similarly, there are factions, in this case, shifters vs vampires vs humans/Psykers, who have lived alongside each other out of a desire to keep the peace but there are members among each group who wish to take control. Like many first books in a series, this book lays the groundwork for future books, but has plenty of action to draw the reader in.

Kissed by Fire flows a little better than Cursed by Fire, most likely because there are a lot of characters in the first book to get accustomed to and a societal dynamic to get a grasp of. Cursed by Fire ends with a 3rd person narrative in consideration of Declan Valkenaar, the Alpha of the Pacific Northwest Pack of shifters. The reader is given a hint that perhaps Declan feels more for Aria than has been previously displayed. In Kissed by Fire, we find out just how true this is. As Aria takes over at Sanborn Place, the mercenary firm she works for, she is keen to get back to work and takes a job at a farm where a being has been attacking the farmer’s animals. The farmer is convinced it is a creature only know as a myth, but when it turns out that there may be some truth to the myth, Declan’s hand is forced into completing an act that seals Aria’s fate. As Aria comes to terms with this turn of events, along with her mixed feelings for Inarus and the still-unsolved murder of Daniel, the reader is taken on a fast-paced journey.

I like to be able to feel a sense of realism in the books I read, something to relate to, and while this book is jam-packed with vampires, shifters and psykers, the battle of wills between each powering force is something that can be related to the politics of today’s society. The sense of tenuous compromises and living on a knife edge are all valid scenarios that we hear in the news each day. Aria is a great main protagonist, flawed but strong. She reminded me a little of Stephanie Plum, heroine of Janet Evanovich’s “Numbers” novels. These books aren’t remotely comedic like Evanovich’s novels but Aria always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and usually ends up coming off worst.  That said, she is strong, feisty and really likeable.

Annett has written two really good books and I have no doubt that there will be more to come from this series. They are not necessarily books I would have picked up to read, but they were entertaining nonetheless, and I think any issues I have with it are down to personal choice. I’m not completely sure I understand the Declan connection, although perhaps this will be explored in future books. I was a little disappointed that James is not the love interest, but I’m sure Annett has a plan for her characters and I am invested enough to want to know what happens next. Cursed by Fire and Kissed by Fire are action-packed, mystery-filled novels and will appeal to readers who like an adventure.

 

Morelli or Ranger? I know who I’d choose!

About 10 years ago, I was a member of Mango book club, which specialised in chick-lit. After putting a wrong number in on the order form, I received a trio of books by an author I’d never heard of, Janet Evanovich. Rather than pay the extortionate postage fee to send them back (that’s how they get you!!) I decided to keep them and read them. The books were ‘One for the Money’, Two for the Dough’ and ‘Three to Get Deadly’. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between me and the main protagonist, Stephanie Plum and the other two sides of her love triangle, Joe Morelli and Carlos Ricardo Manoso, aka Ranger.

Janet Evanovich has released her 21st in this series and I feel like I know Stephanie like a best friend. I’ve read each book at least 5 times, the earlier books, more so. I eagerly await the yearly release of the next book so I can find out whose turn it is to be flavour of the month – the  stable, bad-guy-turned-good-cop, Morelli or elusive, sexy-but-unobtainable (except for mind blowing sex and rescue situations) Ranger.

I share Stephanie’s dilemma to an extent. Given her situation as a lucky, rather than successful bounty hunter, she finds herself in need of both men to bail her out of trouble (pardon the pun) on a professional level, depending on whether she needs legal assistance from cop, Morelli, or illegal assistance from the master of breaking and entering, Ranger. On the occasions where Stephanie is in real danger, the two men come together in an unspoken alliance and save the life of the woman they both love and are driven mad by in equal measure! Morelli takes care of the arrests, while Ranger permanently rids the world of bad guys who want to kill his “entertainment”. Yet Stephanie is told by Morelli that she should stay away from Ranger and told by Ranger that while Morelli is a good man, if he gets half a chance he’ll take what is his i.e Stephanie. No wonder she is confused!

By rights. Stephanie should, and often does, feel like a total failure, as she lives by the FTA (Failure to Appear) cheques she receives when, by some miracle, she manages to bag one. She then spends it on some “p.o.s.” car that is likely to be blown up within the week. Her relationship with her insurance broker was probably broken beyond repair by book 5!! If there is a gooey substance in the vicinity, Stephanie’s hair will end up in it and she finds herself the enemy of some very nasty characters. Yet these two Adonis-like men love her to varying degrees, so she must have some redeeming traits. Indeed, she is a loyal friend, daughter and Grandaughter and mother to Rex the hamster. She may struggle with the concept of commitment but she does love Morelli and Ranger and would be by their side as and when they need her.

Ranger spends a small fortune keeping Stephanie safe with tracked Porsches (which tend to be stolen or blown up) and often a security detail who are often in fear of their own lives in Stephanie’s presence, partly because she attracts trouble and partly because if anything were to happen to her, Ranger would kill them! He classes her as a line item in his accounts under entertainment! He sure knows how to flatter a girl! He just isn’t relationship material but Stephanie secretly hopes that might change one day.

Stephanie is complemented by her friends and family, who are used to the fact that Stephanie always has either Morelli or Ranger in tow. Her mother is on the verge of becoming an   ironaholic as she irons her frustrations away whilst eyeing up the liquor as she laments about Stephanie’s ability to attract trouble. Stephanie’s father doesn’t speak often, mainly communicating by grunts and dirty looks, but is usually on point when he ventures a rare opinion. However, the two lynchpins in Stephanie’s life are her larger than life friend and colleague, Lula and her eccentric, hilarious Grandma Mazur. Lula, a former ‘ho, could be blamed for a lot of Stephanie’s bad luck. As the loose cannon of the two, if a bust is going to go pear-shaped, it’s likely that Lula’s verbal hunger for violence is to blame, usually because of her total lack of shooting ability and habit of running away when the bravado escapes her, leaving Stephanie to pick up the pieces. Hilariously over-confident, Lula’s determination to be Stephanie’s right hand girl often hinders rather than help. Fearful of the cops, she will abandon Stephanie in the blink of an eye, taking a moment to drool over “Officer Hottie” and she is usually Stephanie’s Ranger radar, swooning as soon as he comes into sight. And God forbid anyone who calls her fat – she will literally come down on them like a ton of bricks with her signature move, sitting on them! Her massive personality is the ying to Stephanie’s understated yang.

Grandma Mazur is, without exception, my favourite character in the Stephanie Plum series. The chapters that she is in are the laugh-out-loud chapters. Whether she is shooting a chicken up it’s bottom at the dinner table when she tries Stephanie’s gun for size or when she is trying to lift the lid on the coffins at her social hub, the funeral home, Grandma Mazur is the epitome of an old woman who thinks she is a teenager. She also has grand designs on Ranger, and is the only person that Ranger fears, claiming that she looks at him like he’s lunch!

Getting back to the dilemma of Morelli vs Ranger, if I had to choose, I would probably go for Morelli. Not too elusive, incredibly sexy, solid but with enough of a hot temper to keep things interesting. Plus he wants to marry Stephanie sometimes and have babies with her, whereas Ranger has denounced any chance of a relationship. If Morelli and Stephanie ever get on the same page at the same time, it would be a beautiful ending but then I would miss my yearly fix of bounty hunter japes and the will they, won’t they roller coaster ride that is Stephanie’s love life! Ranger still has time to convince me that he’s the one, though. I hope there will be many more numbers to come and in the meantime, roll on book 22!!!