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Creatus by Carmen DeSousa

CreatusSource: Own Collection
Format: Kindle ebook
Overall Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

As the sun’s rays peeked above the horizon, lighting the abyss below her, she inhaled a deep breath, closed her eyes, and jumped. She didn’t scream; she didn’t look down. As much as she hated her life, she hoped it wouldn’t end this way. She’d really like to see him one more time.

Her life didn’t flash before her eyes as she’d always heard. Just an image of her mother covered in blood and her Dark Angel telling her he was sorry.

What really attracted me to this book is the tag-line to the series – “The reason we believe in fairy tales – and monsters”.

At first glance, the Creatus may appear to be vampires, but as it turns out, that’s far from the case. My memory is hazy – comes of writing a review long after I’ve read the book – but if I recall, the Creatus crash-landed on Earth four thousand years ago (okay, so I got that from the blurb) and have worked to integrate into human society – as well as hide from it – over the millenia.

From They Exist we learned that Derrick has been watching over Kris since she was a little girl – since he saved her from certain death the night her mother was killed. Over the years since, she has lived in numerous foster homes, and is somewhat reckless given that she knows she has a “saviour” “out there”, and wants to meet him – she has learned that he only turns up when her life is threatened. So, not surprisingly, this book starts with her throwing herself off a bridge in a bid to bring him out into the open. Unknown to her, her action attracts the attention of a rogue Creatus, who discovers Derrick’s attachment to Kris.

This book is a fantastic read, and thankfully isn’t your run-of-the-mill vampire tale. In fact, forget vampires. The Creatus are something completely different. DeSousa’s writing is excellent, drawing one in to the tale with ease, and then one is trapped, following events as they unfold.

At times, especially in the first chapters of this book, Derrick can appear to be very controlling, trying to restrict Kris’s movements. However, one discovers that this is more out of a desire to protect her from a danger he cannot tell her about (for reasons that eventually become clear) than a desire to clip her wings, so to speak.

An excellent romantic suspense that leaves one wanting to read more.

Creatus: They Exist by Carmen DeSousa

Creatus - They ExistSource: Own Collection
Format: Kindle ebook
Overall Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

For four thousand years, creatus have concealed themselves from the humans who hunted them almost to extinction. Unwittingly, one creatus will endanger them all…

As with most of his family, Derrick Ashton knows his future and what position he’s destined to fill within his unique society. Everything changes, however, when he breaks one of his family’s strictest laws and falls in love-with a human.

In his quest to protect the woman he can never have, a twist of faith propels him into a new role that will cause dissension among his family and endanger the anonymity that they’ve strived for thousands of years to protect. Now, he will risk everything to save the girl from humans and his own kind. The one thing he can’t save her from, however…is herself.

This novella tells the story of how Derrick comes to be Kris’s Dark Angel, the person always there who looks out for her. I read this book before reading any of the other books in the Creatus series, and it has piqued my interest. Very intriguing, filled with hints of more to come, and quite a few surprises.

I definitely need to get on with reading the rest of the series now.

When Dark Falls by Pippa Jay

Source: Own collection
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

In a city where Dark Technologies Inc. now runs the show, Kadie Williams has more immediate concerns than the fall of Blaze, their guardian superhero. Almost every morning for the last few months she’s woken up with cuts and bruises on her body, and no idea how she got them. There are no nightmares. No evidence that she sleepwalks, or any sign of a break in. And nothing to tell her who’s been cleaning up after her. As just one of thousands of civilians conscripted to slave away in the labs of Professor Dark, she knew there’d be trouble ahead. But she never expected it to be so bad, or so personal.

Desperate for answers, Kadie looks to the new defender of the night, the only person who can hinder the total domination of Professor Dark—Nocturnelle. The mysterious vigilante superhero came from nowhere with her cybernetic sidekick Shadow, set on putting an end to the brutality of Dark’s regime. But as his laboratories work on a new secret super-weapon, Nocturnelle and Shadow may not be enough to save Nephopolis…or to save Kadie either.

This story is another star turn from the pen (mind, fingertips, take your pick) of Pippa Jay, and gets an unreserved five stars from me. Jay’s story-telling skill continues to shine bright, drawing readers into the worlds she creates with ease and simplicity.

This book has the reader asking questions from almost the first paragraph, probably because Kadie, the main character, is also asking questions. As the blurb says, she wakes up with a bruise on her arm and no knowledge of how it got there. She soon meets up with another character, Jev, who appears to be protective of her, yet distant. He is her manager in the lab where she works, putting components together for Dark. It isn’t long before we meet Nocturnelle, a superhero, and her sidekick Shadow, who are working to defeat Dark.

The pace of this story is unrelenting, emphasised by the fact that the main characters essentially never sleep. The hopelessness of life under the regime created by Dark comes through clearly, and the resolution is unclear until the last minute, something I appreciate.

An excellently woven tale, with tight imagery. In particular, I commend Jay on her title selection, as it really is a brilliant play on words and concepts.

Hellbent by Cherie Priest

HellbentSource: ARC for review
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Vampire thief Raylene Pendle doesn’t need more complications in her life. Her Seattle home is already overrun by a band of misfits, including Ian Stott, a blind vampire, and Adrian deJesus, an ex-Navy SEAL/drag queen. But Raylene still can’t resist an old pal’s request: seek out and steal a bizarre set of artifacts. Also on the hunt is a brilliant but certifiably crazy sorceress determined to stomp anyone who gets in her way. But Raylene’s biggest problem is that the death of Ian’s vaunted patriarch appears to have made him the next target of some blood-sucking sociopaths.  Now Raylene must snatch up the potent relics, solve a murder, and keep Ian safe—all while fending off a psychotic sorceress. But at least she won’t be alone. A girl could do a lot worse for a partner than an ass-kicking drag queen—right?

If you’re looking for an urban fantasy book that is not your run-of-the-mill vampire novel, then Hellbent has got to be your first choice. I don’t consider myself to be an urban fantasy reader, but I just love Cherie Priest’s style and her characters; especially Raylene Pendle, the vampire narrator in the book. Her wit, charm and honest assessment of herself, and those around her, are refreshing, and one cannot help but be sympathetic to her and her causes.

In Hellbent, following hot on the conclusion of Bloodshot and the events in that book, Raylene has multiple issues that she needs to deal with: some personal, others purely business. When Horace calls her in for a lucrative gig, Raylene readily agrees to take it on – until matters at her first destination turn rather destructive. Matters aren’t helped when Ian’s House attempts to recall him, and the fact that Adrian/Sister Rose’s sister’s whereabouts are still unknown is a further problem.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a well-written urban fantasy, even if they don’t like vampires much. One doesn’t have to like vampires to love Raylene’s take on life – or is it the undead life? This fast-paced book will stop you from putting it down until it’s finished, and you’ll definitely be left wanting to know what happens next.

Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

BloodshotSource: ARC for review
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Raylene Pendle (AKA Cheshire Red), a vampire and world-renowned thief, doesn’t usually hang with her own kind. She’s too busy stealing priceless art and rare jewels. But when the infuriatingly charming Ian Stott asks for help, Raylene finds him impossible to resist—even though Ian doesn’t want precious artifacts. He wants her to retrieve missing government files—documents that deal with the secret biological experiments that left Ian blind. What Raylene doesn’t bargain for is a case that takes her from the wilds of Minneapolis to the mean streets of Atlanta. And with a psychotic, power-hungry scientist on her trail, a kick-ass drag queen on her side, and Men in Black popping up at the most inconvenient moments, the case proves to be one hell of a ride.

When I picked up this book to review, I was an urban fantasy novice. The only vampires I had ever met were those in Terry Pratchett Discworld novels. I’m just not ‘into’ them.

Having finished reading Bloodshot, I don’t think I’m a vampire – or urban fantasy, for that matter – novice, and if not a fan of urban fantasy in general – or vampires in particular – I am a fan of Cherie Priest’s writing and her characters.

As a fellow writer, I admire Cherie’s demonstration of the craft. Bloodshot is a phenomenal work, not least because it is written in the first person. Cherie grasps this writing technique with both hands and turns it into a treasure trove of images and concepts. Through Raylene, the narrator, we see the world through a vampire’s eyes. Her running commentary is lively, witty, at times biting, and altogether entertaining. We are also not spared the vampish tendencies – such as thinking of their last killing as supper.

The story begins with Raylene, an accomplished thief, receiving a note from a fellow vampire, Ian. From Raylene we learn that this is not good news. For one, she is pretty untraceable, and she makes it clear to the listener that she does not like other vampires. Intrigued, however, Raylene meets up with Ian to find out his story, and discovers a job that will test her research and thieving abilities. Captured by Project Bloodshot, a military project intent on trying to capture vampire abilities for military uses, Ian was blinded before he could escape. Now, with the assistance of a kind doctor in Canada, he is trying to regain his sight – for which he needs paperwork from Project Bloodshot, decommissioned years earlier. This is where Raylene comes in, as he hopes she can locate the paperwork.

The task sends Raylene across America, and into more hives of angry wasps than she usually cares to attract – if one is to believe her. These do, however, bring out the best of her vampire abilities, which are really cool to experience. While dealing with the intricacies of her project for Ian, however, she must battle against some personal invasions as one of her warehouses is located and invaded by the Feds.

This book will take any reader on a roller-coaster ride through Raylene’s life, and I recommend it very highly.