on Aug. 29, 2017 :
Don't Judge This Book By Its Cover!
I received an ARC in exchange for a honest review.
When I first saw the cover, I wondered what I'd gotten myself into. I cannot be more honest than to tell the authors to invest in a quality cover because the current one doesn't do it justice! THIS BOOK WAS GREAT!
I enjoyed the characters, even the offensive techie, Rook. Of course, my favorite was the female protagonist, Renee.
I thought the use of magic and spells was refreshing. The variances in talents and how they interplayed in the world was cool. I am intrigued to learn more about the background story to Renee and the history of the magical families introduced to us in this book. I am thankful it is a series and looking forward to uncovering more information in book 2!
I highly recommend it for those interested in urban fantasy or paranormal crime stories! It was well-paced and entertaining all the way through!
(reviewed the day of purchase)
J C Steel
on July 6, 2017 :
Playing With Fire is an urban fantasy set in the underground world of international crime, where the top operators use magic to augment their more mundane skills. Renée Devereaux is a professional thief, flying about as far under the radar as she can. Sam ‘Stone’ Anders is a hitman for hire. When they meet on a job in Russia, the fact that the job requires both of their diverse skill sets turns out to not even be the strangest thing about it, and it takes all Renee’s magic with stealth and Stone’s destructive Talent with fire for them both to escape with their hides intact. Nearly twenty years later, when a chance to take out the man who set them up in Russia comes their way, they’re both more than ready to accept the challenge...
Renée and Stone make for interesting protagonists; they initially come across as the French chick and the all-American hero, but they develop into much stronger, more original presences in the story, adding their own unique quirks. While all the characters are written very much in the present, the interactions are really one of the high points in the book, especially once the secondary characters are introduced. There are plenty of hints of more back story to be uncovered, and as this is the first in a series, it’s not much of a stretch to assume that details will be forthcoming as the series unfolds. Rook, Grace, and Medium make a quality supporting cast.
I felt that there were areas where the tension could potentially have been made a little more of; Renée and Stone are written as highly competent, and in places, it made it hard to worry too much about their long-term well-being. The magic structure has some particularly nice touches, realistically written and with enough downsides to make it plausible, and it added an excellent thread of ‘power corrupts’ to the overall plot. The book was also editorially solid, which I always appreciate. Taken all in all, this is a very enjoyable story, a strong series-starter – I look forwards to seeing what authors Cris and Clare Meyers do with the next couple of books.
(reviewed 5 months after purchase)
on May 9, 2017 :
I've always been into the fantasy/sci-fi books, when I saw this as an option and read the description I had to try it and I'm very glad I did! In my opinion it's a PG-13 version of similar books in this genre which gives people from about junior high age or so and older a very good read! The characters are easy to follow and combine light romance, comedy, seriousness, and light suspense. The hardest part would be the foreign language that is used occasionally. However, some of it can be loosely processed in the context of what's being said and the rest can easily be translated. It reminds me a lot of the hit show "The Black List", and other similar shows, using different people, sometimes complete strangers, with "talents" or powers to complete a contracted job.
Very detailed descriptions of surroundings and characters along with clever comments made to give more information about the person or situation and sometimes to just add comedy. I'm a slow but avid reader and this book read very quick and smooth. This is a good start to a great future and I can't wait to see what else is in store from this series and this author team!
(reviewed 7 months after purchase)
on May 9, 2017 :
Urban Fantasy in its Truest Form
“Playing with Fire” is Urban Fantasy in the true sense of the word, without the romantic entanglements that a lot of UF books are bogged down with these days. It is a fast paced crime novel with an elemental twist of magic that keeps the reader on the edge of his/her seat.
The characters are complex and diverse, and I found the interactions between them both entertaining and intriguing. My personal favorite was the cool and aloof Stone Anders. His relationship with the enigmatic Renee Devereaux, and the way he juggled the often challenging personalities of the rest of the team, left no doubt that when there was a con to pull, a heist to execute, Stone Anders was the man for the job.
Overall, a fantastic first book for this up and coming writing duo, with all of the elements required for an enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to reading “Fly By Night,” and the rest of the series.
(reviewed 7 months after purchase)
on Feb. 5, 2017 :
I'm sad to say that I was unable to finish this book. I made it just over halfway. I have tried to read it four times, hoping that maybe I just wasn't in the right headspace. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case. Every time I come back I just can't get into the story and am unable to enjoy the characters.
First of all, it's pretty clear that this book is written by two people, which is unfortunate. Collaborative efforts should be seamless. It should not be obvious when one person is writing vs. another. This book has that problem. I don't know who wrote which part, but it seemed clear that writing Stone as POV and writing Renee as POV was split by two people. Stone clearly has the stronger voice. If the book was entirely from that POV, I might have been able to get through it. The parts with Renee were choppier. Her character was far less believable and more difficult to read overall. She was more like a caricature than a character, presenting the reader with the aloof thief archetype with a tragic past.
Secondly, I didn't appreciate that sometimes Stone and Renee converse in French, but translations are not always given. I took French in high school, so I muddled through. However; not everyone has that ability and it wasn't always made clear what was going on. It felt like the authors expected the reader to understand French or perhaps assumed they would google it. I've read books where there are language barriers before, (even when only one character speaks a language and no one else does,) and making it clear to the audience what is being said one way or another is important.
Third, the jumping through time at the beginning of the book was detrimental to character development. I didn't believe Renee and Stone had a deep connection at all. I'm told they have a deep connection, but we jump ten years from page one until when the story really begins. There are a lot of instances of "anecdotes" through exposition between the two characters which were skipped storytelling opportunities. This is a book of telling instead of showing in the area of Stone and Renee's relationship and it leaves the story lacking for that connection. This continues well into the book and was still happening mid-way. It was happening yet again when I decided to put the book down.
I understand the story of the book takes place ten years after the characters meet, and the events of ten years ago are key to the main plot. That's difficult to pull off in a single book and it's hard to care about the main plot because it feels tacked onto the character interactions and mess of side plots and past events that are merely spoken of but never shown.
Perhaps if there had been a book in the series before this one focusing on Stone and Renee and how they met and became partners, friends, lovers, spouses or whatever it is they are (because it's not made clear, I see romance listed as a subgenre but this is not a romance,) then perhaps there would have been a stronger bond between the reader, the characters, and the events. Perhaps then it would be easier to care that they are given the chance they are given for revenge.
On the positive side, I did like Stone. The other characters of note, - Rook, Grace, and Carlos,- were better as well, although up through the halfway mark they were merely side characters, not POVs. Perhaps having more POVs would have helped, to see Grace's part of the plan, or Carlos, or Rook, from their perspective. Again, Renee and Rook know each other from before, but we're only told this. Again, it just feels like too little to add any value to the story.
So, tl;dr - The plot is weak and uninteresting because there is too much exposition and not enough character development. There is too much information about past events and not enough actual storytelling.
(reviewed 4 months after purchase)
on Nov. 7, 2016 :
I am big into Urban Fantasy, so reading this was not a hard choice- and I’m glad I did. Mixing magic with conspiracies and snark always makes for a good read. All of the main characters had more to them than meets the eyes; with secrets on top of need to know with some “why should I tell you?” thrown in. It is nice to have characters with depth and lives beyond the scope of the story to read. And I appreciate it when the magic makes sense. I liked how it was incorporated into their lives here, it flowed well and felt natural. I am looking forward to reading more about these characters and seeing where they go from here.
(reviewed 56 days after purchase)
on Nov. 6, 2016 :
Renee and Stone are both Talents, people with magic but each with their own expertise. Used to working alone, they both do jobs on the wrong side of the law, but a botched job in Russia is the start of a beautiful working and personal relationship. Whilst after Russia they go their separate way, they meet up a few years later when Stone is doing a small security job. From that moment, they start working as a couple. When they are hired to pull off a heist involving a magical gem and get revenge on an old nemesis then the fun starts.
Renee is a strong very confident woman, she’s a loner, and does not give anything away with her emotions, she is a tough nut to crack, and is good at her job. Stoner is ex-military, ex-hitman who is not afraid of violence. Individually they are good but together they are unstoppable. Working with their strengths they know how to get the best from each other.
What I enjoyed about this book was that the main heist required more than just Renee and Stone to pull it off and the authors introduce us to Rook, Carlos and Grace. Adding these three characters changed the dynamics of the group and you see Renee softening to Grace and Carlos. Rook is the character everyone loves to hate as he is so annoying, but the interaction with him does add to some comical moments and I think that it does teach Stone a lesson in tolerance.
This is a good Paranormal mystery with a touch of romance and it is different to read about a couple that are on the wrong side of the law. With the additional characters, I can see spin offs to this series as I for one would like to read more of Grace’s story. The ending left me wanting more as I wanted to know what happened after the heist. I will definately keep an eye out for the next book
(reviewed 15 days after purchase)
on Oct. 27, 2016 :
Renee is a theif with supernatural powers. She is working along side with Stone Anders who is a mercenary and a hitman. There both forced to work together there's some problems now there got to do one last job. Steal a magical object before the deadline runs out and it can be used. They have a deadline to meet will they make it in time and will it work? I enjoyed this book I thought it was a good read. I enjoyed the whole supernatural/Crime elements.
(reviewed 6 days after purchase)