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    REVIEW: Hell Cop by Astrid Amara, Nicole Kimberling & Ginn Hale

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    Hell Cop – Astrid Amara, Nicole Kimberling & Ginn Hale

    Three award-wining authors bring a magical city and its fantastic defenders to life!

    Home to demons, enchanting creatures, sorcerers, and millions of ordinary people equipped with paranormal technology, Parmas City runs on magic. But not all sorcery is benign. Whether they’re murderous spells, supernatural assassinations, demon-fighting rings or illegal incantations, paranormal crimes abounds. Sworn to take on those threats are the tough, tireless, and often troubled members of the Metropolitan Demonic Unit–the Hell Cops.

    Next of Kin by Astrid Amara
    Jay Yervant is a Hell Cop so powerful that his bare skin incinerates anyone he contacts. Isolated, he is tortured by desire, until he meets Brian, a sensual young man who touches him with impunity. But Jay’s burgeoning hope is threatened when a malevolent sorcerer unleashes a host of demonic assassins against Brian. Keeping his lover may cost Jay his life

    Red Sands by Nicole Kimberling
    Anthropologist Michael Gold’s got problems. His apartment’s been ransacked, his dad’s missing, and he’s been framed for murder. As a half-demon he expects trouble from the city’s Hell Cops. Instead, he gets Argent, a man immune to his psychic powers and armed with disturbingly intimate knowledge of Michael. But whether Argent intends to use that to exonerate Michael or to convict him may not matter, because someone wants him dead.

    Touching Sparks by Ginn Hale
    When photojournalist James Sparks stumbles into an underworld of sorcery, blood sports and demonic drug traffic, he believes that Detective Ben Moran may be his only way out. But playing the role of an informant is far from safe, and as James uncovers evidence of police corruption, he realizes that Moran may be in as much danger as he is.

    Hell Cop is a fantastic urban fantasy collection brought to us by the same author trio who created my favorite supernatural world of the Irregulars.

    Astrid Amara, Nicole Kimberling and Ginn Hale give us Parmas City, a city that is powered by demons. Demons and demon body parts are used to create technology, medicine, used as labor, fuel even illegal drugs. Some of these demons can be seen on the streets going about their daily tasks. The city is ruled by old rich sorcerer families called hotbloods who own huge corporations and control portals that summon demons.

    Hell Cops is the street term for the police officers who handle any case related to demons. It goes without saying the job is pretty dangerous so the hell cops are typically magic users.

    This collection has 3 interconnected stories starring hell cops, Jay Yervant, Sam Argent and Ben Moran. Each story is a police procedural/mystery with an innocent bystander who found himself entangled in the case and with a hell cop.

    Next of Kin by Astrid Amara

    This introduces us to the world of hell cops by way of country bumpkin Brian Day who left his cultish roots to look for his father in Parmas City. He was working at the hospital assisting nurses when he spotted a man literally on fire and offered him a glass of water. He turned out to be hell cop Jay Yervant.

    Jay was so taken by the young man that he followed (well, stalked really) him to his apartment and witnessed (he was peeping) Brian’s rather spicy interaction with an incubus that almost turned tragic. The two were thrown together when more threats to Brian’s life surfaced.

    This is a strong opener. It built the world smoothly as Brian navigates his way around the metropolis and Jay providing a more experienced perspective. It then flips the dynamics with Jay as the virgin and Brian introducing him to the sensual delights of human touch. By virtue of his powers, Jay expels too much energy and burns everything he touches. But to his amazement, Brian can touch him without harm.

    Family is the key theme. Jay is from the prominent hotblood family of the Yervants. Brian’s search for his father led him to another hotblood family, the Sairs, whose scion was suspected of illegal activities.

    From what was a seemingly unrelated case of demons massacring kindergartners to a long lost father to Jay and Brian’s blossoming romance, everything was built up really well and came together splendidly. The mystery was an intriguing one and made me want to learn more about the hotbloods and Parmas City.

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Touch
    Artist: Daft Punk feat. Paul Williams
    Album: Random Access Memory

    Red Sands by Nicole Kimberling

    This is a story of half demon anthropologist Michael Gold framed for the murder of his cousin. The hell cop handling his case was Sam Argent, who he later realized was the same guy he hooked up with one summer.

    This is my least favorite of the three. For one, we only get Michael’s POV. I understand that this is to highlight Michael’s telepathy and Sam’s mysterious unreadable appeal. But I had a hard time connecting to the hell cop’s character which made the romance unconvincing. Another thing I was unimpressed with was how unprofessional Sam was sleeping with the main suspect.

    The mystery here wasn’t as compelling as the first but I liked that we get the perspective of somebody with a demonic blood. I wished this was developed more because it would be interesting to get a demon’s POV. However, this story meshed well with the general vibe of the book so I still liked it.

    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: Read Your Mind
    Artist: Enya II
    Album: Read Your Mind

    Touching Sparks by Ginn Hale

    A slow burn, age gap, hell cop/informant romance of Ben Moran and James Sparks, the photojournalist who was helping him take down a corrupt official. As the story progressed, we learn more about the plight of hapless demons, often treated worse than animals, hidden behind the ostentatious wealth and power of hotbloods.

    Ben and James were the best couple and the most interesting characters. Ben has known James as a teenager. James has been crushing on Ben since forever. The older man has suffered the loss of his lover and has closed himself off.

    I’m glad we get James’ and Ben’s POVs. The hell cop is attracted to James but does not act on it. Especially because he was someone Ben watched grew up. There’s a lot of USTs simmering between them and I love the anticipation that built up through the story.

    I totally loved James’ spunky spirit! He’s a brave soul who took in upon himself to investigate a prominent official illegal activities. He almost got himself killed if not for a bunny suit. But it didn’t stop him from pursuing his target. He was clever and resourceful. Despite being completely human, he fought a dragon and saved a sorcerer’s life.

    This is a great blend of suspense, action and mystery with high stakes, nasty villains, a beautiful romance and a sweet ending. This is my favorite of the three.

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: SPARK-AGAIN
    Artist: Aimer
    Album: SPARK-AGAIN

    All three Hell Cop stories fit together seamlessly while letting us see the city through several sets of eyes. The authors did a great job great job creating this magical demon world. I’m so glad that stories were by no means over because we have more cases to investigate in Hell Cop 2.

    Overall Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

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    REVIEW: Song Of The Navigator by Astrid Amara

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    Song Of The Navigator – Astrid Amara

    Worst Possible Birthday: Being sold into slavery by none other than your lover.

    Tover Duke’s rare ability to move anything instantly across light-years of space makes him a powerful, valuable asset to the Harmony Corporation, and a rock star among the people of the colonies. His life is luxurious. Safe. Routine.

    He has his pick of casual hookups passing through Dadelus-Kaku Station. His one brush with danger of any kind—the only bright spot in his otherwise boring life—is Cruz Arcadio, a dark-haired, hard-bodied engineer whose physical prowess hints he’s something much more.

    When a terrorist abducts Tover, hurling him into a world of torture, exploitation and betrayal, it’s with shattering disbelief that he realizes his kidnapper is none other than Cruz. As Tover struggles to find the courage to escape his bondage, he begins to understand the only way to free his body, his mind—and his heart—is to trust the one man who showed him that everything about his once-perfect life was a lie.

    Warning: This story contains descriptions of extreme violence and assault. It also contains graphic sexual depictions. It also has a lot of birds. And pirate movies from the future. And romance.

    Tover Duke loves four things: food, soccer, birds and fucking.

    Tover is a navigator, one of only 42 improvisional navigators, someone with the ability to instantaneously transport anything to any part of the known and unknown universe using orbifolds he can create through vibrations in his vocal chords. He is a cherished celebrity, a demigod even to himself, whose every whim was catered to by his company, Harmony. That includes his own personal aviary because Tover is a hardcore bird otaku.

    At his birthday celebration, he was held hostage by Cruz Arcadio, a Harmony engineer he had occasional hook ups with and who he had a serious crush on. He was then sold by the Pulmon Verde, terrorist soldiers from Carida, to pirates in exchange for data. His world was turned up side down. Please heed the trigger warnings because it was nasty.

    I love this navigator world Astrid Amara created. The physics behind the orbitals is solid and interesting, though it would have been more so had I had some knowledge of string theory. Nonetheless, I was amazed with Tover’s teleportation powers. Like any realistically rendered superpower, it has its limitations. This being it takes up a LOT of energy which means he has to eat a lot too. At one point, it left Tover severely emaciated after jumping from Dadelus-Kaku to Carida to save Cruz. It didn’t stop him from doing it again.

    I love Tover! Like every navigator, he was a diva who had questionable rock star wardrobe (snake skin pants, really?). He may or may not have been an asshole at some point in his career, but the torture in the pirate ship and the eye-opening truths he learned in Carida changed him completely.

    The torture he suffered was brutal! My heart went out to him. It resulted in paralyzing PTSD. It was so bad he lost the ability to create orbifolds, the only thing he’s good at. It wasn’t just the pirates. Tover also learned the reality of his existence as a navigator. His was a story of what it means to be truly free. It was one of the most moving and satisfying character progressions I’ve ever read.

    Song of the Navigator is also story of corporate exploitation. The carbon-dioxide breathing people of Carida is fighting against the terraforming of their planet by Harmony. Terraforming Carida had very disastrous consequences. Cruz is a soldier of the Pulmon Verde, a military group working to bring down the corporation. He was working undercover. He was willing to do anything for their cause.

    I wanted to hate the poker-faced Cruz for doing what he did to Tover. It was a shitty, shitty thing to do. But when he showed Tover what was at stake, he convinced me it was worth it. He’s also fiercely proud of Tover’s ability and very protective of Tover’s freedom. It was his little acts of affection that made me believe he genuinely feels for the navigator.

    Tover was harder to convinced. Couldn’t blame the guy (and I wouldn’t have been impressed had he gave in easily. Yes, let Cruz grovel for a bit.). He refused to see that Harmony was using him. At the end, it was the birds that finally did it. And because Tover always had to be the hero, he did what he did best and gave a grand middle finger salute to his company. Attaboy!

    Favorite part:

    “You didn’t react to being shot. You don’t feel anything at all, do you?” Tover hated the hurt in his voice.

    “I feel everything.” Cruz stepped toward him. He said nothing more. But his eyes,€”they were warm now, dark and dilated. He moved so close he could pin Tover to the wall if he wanted to.

    “You should show it,” Tover suggested.

    And for a moment, Cruz’s visage broke. His eyes trembled and a glitter of moisture filled his eyes.

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    The story was a study in contrasts. Tover was an adored rockstar. Suddenly, he was a pirate slave. Then he was a beloved guest only to end up where he started. Even the settings were strikingly different, from the a highly urbanized space station, to an old pirate ship to a verdant planet. These 180-degree turns only served to heighten the gut-wrenching, emotional whiplashes I felt when reading the book.

    It was a tale as old as time. Betrayal. Slavery in its many forms. Huge corporation vs the minority. Natural resources threatened by bland suburban development. Even in the far future, these are still relevant and at a galactic scale. Tover, Cruz and the Pulmon Verde made major strides in saving Carida. I had a feeling they still have a few ways to go. It’s only an HFN ending but at least Tover will not be strapped to a machine against his will ever again. He has his birds and his games and all the tamales he can eat and he and Cruz can go at it everyday.

    Because Tover Duke loves five things.


    Astrid Amara books here

    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: The Sparrow Looks Up At The Machine
    Artist: The Flaming Lips
    Album: Embryonic

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    REVIEW: Irregulars by Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon, Ginn Hale, & Astrid Amara

    Irregulars – Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon, Ginn Hale, and Astrid Amara

    It’s a secret international organization operating in cities on every continent. It polices relations between the earthly realm and those beyond this world, enforcing immigration laws, the transfers of magical artifacts, and crimes against humanity.

    The agents who work for the NATO Irregular Affairs Division can’t tell anyone what they do, or how hard they work to keep us safe. It brings a colorful collection of men together:

    Agent Henry Falk, the undead bum. Agent Keith Curry, former carnivore chef turned vegetarian; Agent Rake, Babylonian demon with a penchant for easy living; and Agent Silas August, uncompromising jerk.

    Four cities, four mysteries, four times the romance. Is your security clearance high enough to read on?

    Cherries Worth Getting by N. Kimberling – made me glad I am a vegetarian. Former chef Keith Curry and trans-goblin Gunther Heartman investigate contraband food items while trying in vain to keep it professional between the two of them. Nicole Kimberling sets up a world where extra-humans exists side by side with regular people and the Secrecy Act is in place. Extra-humans being vampires, goblins, fae folks and other mythical creatures from all over the world. Foodies might get an extra kick with the gourmet part.

    Green Glass Beads by Josh Lanyon – a fluffy faery-demon romance that’s also a heist and an obsessive quest for family heirlooms. Sidhe politics and history were mentioned but not  elaborated upon. Archer, our half faery-half human protagonist, is an intelligence but impulsive ex-terrorist and Rake is the Irregular agent tasked to investigate him. This is my first Josh Lanyon story which, I’m glad, didn’t disappoint. It’s character-driven with demon action, magic and some heartwarming moments.

    No Life But This by Astrid Amara – Aztaw history and culture is fascinating and terrifying in equal measures. For a moment, I bought the whole Aztaw thing as a real Mexican mythology until I tried googling it. Silas August is a jerk who wears designer suits. Deven is both a childlike man and skilled assassin, a combination that has its own ironic appeal. This is my favorite of the bunch since it was dark, bloody and dangerous with slow build romance simmering underneath.

    Things Unseen and Deadly by Ginn Hale – another sidhe story involving Half-dead Henry who was almost a century old and Jason Shamir, a young man struggling with what he thought were hallucinations. I like how this is connected with the first story and a good wrap-up of the series.


    Cherries Worth Getting  –  3.5 stars
    Green Glass Beads – 3.5 stars
    No Life But This – 4 stars
    Things Unseen and Deadly – 3 stars

    Overall: 4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets
    Artist: Queens of the Stone Age
    Album: Rated R

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12759444-irregulars)