Snared (Elemental Assassin #16) by Jennifer Estep

Irony 101—The Spider herself snared in someone else’s web…
Another week, another few clues trickling in about the Circle, the mysterious group that supposedly runs the city’s underworld. Gathering intel on my hidden enemies is a painstaking process, but a more immediate mystery has popped up on my radar: a missing girl.
My search for the girl begins on the mean streets of Ashland, but with all the killers and crooks in this city, I’m not holding out much hope that she’s still alive.
A series of clues leads me down an increasingly dark, dangerous path, and I realize that the missing girl is really just the first thread in this web of evil. As an assassin, I’m used to facing down the worst of the worst, but nothing prepares me for this new, terrifying enemy—one who strikes from the shadows and is determined to make me the next victim.

I can honestly say that I have never ‘met’ an Elemental Assassin book that I didn’t like and Snared was most definitely no exception. If you’ve read any of my other reviews in this series, you’re probably getting tired of hearing some of the same things over again. Trust me, it’s not because the books are all the same, not by a long shot. It’s because they all have the same elements that I love and that consistency – knowing that what’s always drawn me into Gin’s world is going to be there – keeps me coming back.

Things started heating up for Gin and company in Snared because she was getting close to identifying members of the Circle. She knew who a few of the key members were, which was helpful, but she really wanted to get to the top of the organization. When she’s asked to help find a mob boss’s missing sister, she has to change her priorities, but only for a little while.

I have to admit, I figured out who the bad guy was before Gin, but that didn’t lesson the mystery. There was a lot more going on behind the scenes and one character in particular that I really want to figure out. So does Gin…

As usual, one of my favorite aspects of the Elemental Assassin books is the sense of family. It seems like that family just keeps growing and new ‘members’ find their way into this tight knit group in some unexpected ways. There’s definitely more to come in the series and I can’t wait to see what happens next because I have a feeling things are about to get even more interesting in Ashland. 😉

Unraveled (Elemental Assassin #15) by Jennifer Estep

UnraveledAfter the shocking revelations of the previous book, Bitter Bite, the world of Ashland’s become even more sinister, and Gin Blanco (aka Ashland’s most fearsome assassin, the Spider) no longer knows who—or what—she can count on. Only one thing is for certain: danger and new enemies await Gin in Unraveled, Book 15 in the New York Times bestselling Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series that RT Book Reviews calls “unbeatable entertainment!”
What could go wrong when you’re trying to unravel a decades-old conspiracy?
As the current queen of the Ashland underworld, you would think that I, Gin Blanco, would know all about some secret society controlling things from behind the scenes. I might be the Spider, the city’s most fearsome assassin, but all my Ice and Stone elemental magic hasn’t done me a lick of good in learning more about “the Circle”. Despite my continued investigations, the trail’s gone as cold as the coming winter.
So when Finnegan Lane, my foster brother, gets word of a surprising inheritance, we figure why not skip town for someplace less dangerous for a few days? That place: Bullet Pointe, a fancy hotel resort complex plus Old West theme park that Finn now owns lock, stock, and barrel. At first, all the struttin’ cowboys and sassy saloon girls are just hokey fun. But add in some shady coincidences and Circle assassins lurking all around, and vacationing becomes wilder—and deadlier—than any of us expected.
Good thing this assassin brought plenty of knives to the gunfight …

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1The more that Gin Blanco’s eclectic family experiences and grows, the more I fall in love with them. So yeah, we’re up to the 15th book in the Elemental Assassin series and it’s still going strong.

After everything that happened in Bitter Bite and Unwanted, I kinda agreed with Finn in thinking that they all needed a break. The only problem is that trouble seems to follow this crew where ever they go, so R&R is totally out of the question. Good thing that Gin never lets her guard down. I really love that about her. 😉

Aside from the danger – because when it comes to Gin and crew, danger is a given – there was a lot of ground covered in Unraveled. Secrets were revealed, more than a few revelations were uncovered and a couple of mysteries were left to discover.

As usual, with pretty much every book in this series, the family connection is the best part. From the beginning to the end, they count on each other, which is just one of the reasons why this series never gets old. It pretty much goes without saying that I can’t wait for Snared, the next book in the Elemental Assassin series. Oh, and it looks like there’s even a new novella to look forward too – Nice Guys Bite is coming around December 😉

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Unwanted (Elemental Assassin #14.5) by Jennifer Estep

UnwantedThe fallout from his disastrous “family reunion” in Bitter Bite has left Finn feeling hurt, angry, and depressed. He can barely stand to look at himself in the mirror, much less eat any of the delicious barbecue from Gin’s famed Pork Pit restaurant.
But when the funeral for a slain security guard at his bank turns into a showdown with some nasty underworld giants, Finn knows that he must act in order to protect an innocent family.
Finnegan Lane might be the most unwanted man in Ashland these days, but he’s determined to try to make amends for his past mistakes…

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Oh Finn… As I mentioned more than once, the thing that I love most about the Elemental Assassin series is the sense of family. At the core of that family is Gin and Finn. That family was put to the test in Bitter Bite and because of that I spent a lot of that book being really upset with Finn. Unfair, I know, especially since by the end of Bitter Bite Finn was totally broken… which is where readers found him at the beginning of Unwanted.

Seeing Finn as low as he was in Unwanted was hard. He was without his characteristic wit, charm and self confidence and worse, he felt he deserved every dirty look and cold shoulder thrown his way. When he finally saw the chance to make things up to at least one of the people he hurt, he jumped on it.

All of Finn’s “family’ were there to support him and prove to him that they loved him no matter what. Some things you just have to do on your own and Finn was determined to prove to others and to himself that he wasn’t the man that they thought he was. As novella’s in a series go, Unwanted wasn’t just a side story, it was almost necessary. Finn had been through so much in Bitter Bite that he (and readers) deserved to gain some closure from the ordeal. Unwanted did just that and leaves readers ready and waiting for the next installment in the Elemental Assassin series, Unraveled.

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Bitter Bite (Elemental Assassin #14) by Jennifer Estep

BitterBiteWhich is stronger: blood ties or a battle-tested friendship?
It’s not easy being queen bee of an underworld abuzz with crooks and killers. Wielding my potent Ice and Stone elemental magic will only get me so far—my real secret is my tight-knit makeshift family, a motley crew of cops and criminals, dwarves and playboys. My foster brother Finnegan Lane is my right-hand man, but when his suddenly not-dead relative comes back into the picture, I’m the one on the outside looking in. 
It’s funny how life works: one minute your best friend is rock-steady, and the next he’s doe-eyed and buying into this whole loving-relative routine to the point of ignoring you. I’d like to be happy for Finn, I really would. But all of my instincts are telling me that beneath the syrupy sweet demeanor and old-fashioned charm, this sudden interloper is planning something. The whole shtick leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. This person might have avoided the grave once, but I’ll put anyone who hurts Finn in the ground—for good.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1This was a hard one… The thing that I love most about the Elemental Assassin series is the family aspect. As makeshift as they appear to be, Gin’s family is stronger than most conventional families. Any time that their relationships are threatened in any way, it makes me nervous. Bitter Bite made me very, very nervous.

Readers found out at the end of Spider’s Trap that Finn’s mother was still alive. Bitter Bite opened pretty much right after Gin had made that discovery. Gin’s protective instincts flare initially because of warnings that Fletcher left her to find. Those feelings intensified the more she got to know and distrust the woman. I spent a lot of time being mad at Finn in this book, which really wasn’t fair, but it was hard to watch him  push aside Gin’s feelings but the rest of his family as well. As much as he loved his family, he wanted to have his mother’s love so bad he was blinded. I wanted to shake him, but I wanted to hug him too because… well, because he was Finn and sooner or later he was going to be crushed. *sigh*

I think I loved Gin just a little more for her undying devotion to Finn even though he was being selfishly blind. She would be there to pick up the pieces. The rest of Finn’s family felt the same way, which gave me hope that things would turn out okay for all of them. No, Bitter Bite wasn’t an easy book to read. The emotional roller coaster was pretty much nonstop and my heart broke for Finn more than once. He had a lot of support though and in the end, that makeshift family that I’ve grown to love so much came through just a little bit stronger. ❤

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Spider’s Trap (Elemental Assassin #13) by Jennifer Estep

SpidersTrapKeep your friends close but your enemies within stabbing distance.
One important lesson I’ve learned in the assassination business is that to be the best you have to roll with the punches. Now that I’m queen of Ashland’s underworld—by default, not by choice—a lot more punches are being thrown my way. But I suppose that’s the price of victory for taking down some of the underworld’s top dogs. Good thing I have my Ice and Stone magic to help me survive my volatile new position. Just when I think things are finally settling down, someone tries to murder me during a hush-hush underworld meeting. But the real surprise is how strangely familiar my shadowy assailant seems to be.
My job is to maintain order among killers, crooks, and thieves, and soon I’m embroiled in a bloody game where the ability to keep secrets could be the greatest superpower of all. My enemies have all sharpened their knives and laid their traps, waiting for me to fall. But this Spider weaves her own webs of death…

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure113 books in and my love of Gin and company hasn’t faded one bit. If anything, my commitment to this series has gotten even stronger.

Gin’s standing in the Ashland underworld has taken a strange twist. She’s now the reluctant ‘boss’ of the underworld, but that doesn’t mean that she’s gained more respect. The opposite’s probably true. There’s a twist to the turn of events in Spider’s Trap though. One that brings out her unique sense of honor among assassins.

Once again, the family aspect of the Elemental Assassin series drew me in. Like it or not, Gin’s makeshift family is growing and her goal is to keep everyone safe. The stakes grow even higher this time around and when one of those members is almost lost, someone has to pay. It’s no surprise that Gin has no problem collecting.

The end of Spider’s Trap isn’t an end at all. It’s actually a rather intriguing intro to the next installment, Bitter Bite. Given what Gin uncovers, things are about to get even more interesting in Ashland. I can’t wait!

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Black Widow (Elemental Assassin #12) by Jennifer Estep

BlackWidowThere’s nothing worse than a cruel, cunning enemy with time to kill—and my murder to plan.
With wicked Fire elemental Mab Monroe long gone, you’d think I could finally catch a break. But someone’s always trying to take me down, either as Gin Blanco or my assassin alter-ago. Now along comes the Spider’s new arch-nemesis, the mysteriously named M. M. Monroe, who is gleefully working overtime to trap me in a sticky web of deceit.
The thing is, I’m not the only target. I can see through the tangled threads enough to know that every bit of bad luck my friends have been having lately is no accident—and that each unfortunate “coincidence” is just one more arrow drawing ever closer to hitting the real bulls-eye. Though new to Ashland, this M. M. Monroe is no stranger to irony, trying to get me, an assassin, framed for murder. Yet, as my enemy’s master plan is slowly revealed, I have a sinking feeling that it will take more than my powerful Ice and Stone magic to stop my whole life from going up in flames.

Well, that was intense. Of course none of the books in this series are a calm walk in the park, but Black Widow took things up a notch. I never thought that I would hate a character more than Mab Monroe, but her daughter turned out to be a whole new level of ‘witch.’

Instead of going for the obvious kill like all the other crime bosses in Ashland, M.M. Monroe decided to go the ‘legal’ route. Or as legal as things got in their fair city. She didn’t go about it slowly either. One by one, everyone that Gin loved and cared about was targeted. They never saw it coming. The one thing that Ms. Monroe didn’t take into consideration was the level of payback that Gin would send her way for messing with her family.

The battle got super personal and they were pretty much surrounded by danger from the beginning to the end. The tactics were clever but once Gin knew the game plan, she took her time and worked as smartly as her opponent. As usual, she didn’t do it alone though. Her friends and family were behind and beside her all the way, which is one of the many things I love about the Elemental Assassin series.

Gin seems to pick up more family as she goes, which is keeping things interesting. So are the twists and turns in Black Widow that could have changed everything and still might. Gin’s status in Ashland also took a new turn and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book, Spider’s Trap. 13 books in and I’m not even close to being tired of Gin and company. 😉

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Poison Promise (Elemental Assassin #11) by Jennifer Estep

PoisonPromiseCoverGin Blanco is hard-nosed, sexy, and lethal. Nicknamed “The Spider,” she’s a stone elemental assassin who brings her unique mix of magic and tact to every assignment, no matter the target.

There’s a new drug on the streets of Ashland, and its name “Burn” sums up the potent effect it has on its users. When one of her restaurant employees is threatened by dealers of the drug, Gin steps in to set things straight.

Even though Poison Promise is the 11th book in Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series, I’m not even close to being tired of Gin and her makeshift family. That being said, the chip that Bria seems to be carrying around on her shoulder regarding Gin, really needs to go away.

The latest threat to Ashland (and Gin) is a dangerous combination of nasty. He’s not only pushing deadly drugs, but he takes a scientific approach to the victims he tortures. And his brand of torture isn’t tame.

Gin has been so busy defending herself against the people trying to kill her on a daily basis that she hasn’t had time to go on the offense. That changes when the new threat goes after people she cares about. As usual, that kind of thing doesn’t go ignored or unpunished.

I think what I enjoy most about this series is the love that ties these characters together. Gin is a force to be reckoned with, but she doesn’t do it alone. She’s surrounded by her friends and family who have her back both physically and emotionally. I think that’s why Bria’s attitude in Poison Promise bothered me so much. She was hurt and distracted by her need for revenge. She lost sight of not just Gin, but everyone else who could have been there for her.

As readers have come to expect in the Elemental Assassin series, nothing is ever exactly as it seems. Players changed and new ones were added to the mix. The next threat is sure to make Black Widow an interesting read.

PoisonPromiseOn a side note: I have a shelf dedicated to my Elemental Assassin paperbacks as well as a couple on my Kindle. Even though Poison Promise will join the shelf full of paperbacks, it’s extra special because it’s my first signed copy from the series, thanks to Laura from Little Read Riding Hood and Jennifer Estep. Best. Christmas. Present. Ever!

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The Spider (Elemental Assassin #10) by Jennifer Estep

TheSpiderFor the first time, the origins of Gin Blanco’s career as the deadly assassin “the Spider” are revealed in full. In a story that pre-dates the other nine books in the series, Gin Blanco goes through her paces to become the most feared assassin in the Ashland.

Even though the time-frame of The Spider was basically set as a prequel, I’m glad that it fell where it did. I don’t think that I would have fallen in love with this series to the extent that I have if the Gin from the past is the first Gin we were introduced to. If you haven’t picked up the Elemental Assassin series yet, I don’t expect you to understand. If you are a fan of Gin and ‘family’ you’ll totally get where I’m coming from. Let’s see if I can explain.

The Spider opens with Gin receiving a mysterious package that’s delivered to her at the Pork Pit. Once she gets rid of all her customers and it’s just her and Owen, she opens the package. What she discovers inside the plain white box leads her to explain to Owen a part of her past that she never really left behind.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1The Spider gives readers a glimpse into part of what shaped Gin into who she has become. Not just the assassin aspect, because if you’ve read this series you already know that there is much more to Gin Blanco than just being an assassin. This glimpse into her past showed how vulnerable she was. The pain of losing her family wasn’t recent, but it was still fresh. She loved the people that she depended on, but she didn’t quite consider them ‘family’ yet. This trip that took place 10 years in her past was a turning point and even though The Spider wasn’t my favorite installment of the Elemental Assassin series, I’m glad that Jennifer Estep gave us this glimpse.

Beyond Gin’s story, seeing all her ‘family’ in the past was fun. There were several cameo appearances  that I didn’t expect but thoroughly enjoyed. It was kind of fun knowing more about the future than Gin. It probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has read any of my reviews in this series that my favorite part was getting a lot more personal time with Fletcher. Even though he is pretty much a memory from the first book in this series, he is still one of my favorite characters. The Spider just made me love him more.

The Spider did an excellent job of bringing things full circle from the first chapter to the last. I enjoyed this glimpse into Gin’s past and I loved seeing the characters that I’ve come to love being introduced to her for the first time. They’ve come a long way since that first meeting. This was a fun one to read even though there was a fair amount of heartache. Gin learned a lot about herself in The Spider and it was pretty evident how those events shaped her.

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Heart of Venom (Elemental Assassin #9) by Jennifer Estep

HeartOfVenomWhen a terror from the past threatens Gin’s friend and body-disposer, Sophia, Gin will stop at nothing to protect her, even if it means walking straight into a killer’s trap. Meanwhile, the rocky romance between Gin and Owen reaches a turning point—can they reunite and rekindle their love? Or will the things Gin has been forced to do in her line of work as the deadly assassin the Spider keep them apart forever? Assuming, that is, she survives long enough to find out.

I mentioned this week somewhere that this is one of my favorite UF series. I also laughingly added that Gin Blanco makes me forget that admiring an assassin isn’t necessarily a good thing – or a normal thing for that matter. Whatever… normal is highly overrated right?

There was a lot of history in Heart of Venom. It wasn’t the normal back story history. It was character revelation history. Readers got a glimpse of Sophia that they had never seen before.  I always liked Sophia, even though we never knew her very well. She was the tough, silent, loyal friend. This story showed us what shaped her into the person she was and her past wasn’t pretty. It was even more gruesome and terrifying than readers could have even guessed. It made me like and respect Sophia even more.

There was also a lot of heart break in Heart of Venom. The danger was upped a couple notches and more than once I wasn’t sure exactly who was going to come out on top. Once again though, the thing that keeps me reading this series was front and center. The sense of family and loyalty between these characters and that ‘family’ continues to grow and just get stronger. I honestly don’t think I could pick a favorite out of the whole bunch. I love them all. *sigh*

By the end of Heart of Venom, things are looking up and everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. I’m sure it won’t last though. A few mysteries were stirred up and there may be a new enemy in town. I’m sure the Spider is up for it though. Speaking of which, The Spider is the next book in the Elemental Assassin series and it’s ready and waiting for me to finally read. I can’t wait to see where the Spider got her start and I’m really looking forward to some quality time with Fletcher. 😉

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Carniepunk: Parlor Tricks (Elemental Assassin #8.1) by Jennifer Estep / Bout-of-Books 8.0 Review

CarniePunkParlorTricksCome one! Come all! Witness Gin Blanco—aka the Elemental Assassin, aka the Spider—go toe to toe against the Esmerelda the Amazing’s Wheel of Death and some dangerously creepy clowns! Only at The Carnival of Wondrous Wonders!

A free story from the forthcoming Carniepunk urban fantasy anthology starring bestselling authors Rachel Caine, Jennifer Estep, Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire, and Rob Thurman, and also includes Delilah S. Dawson, Kelly Gay, Mark Henry, Hillary Jacques, Jackie Kessler, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicole D. Peeler, and Jaye Wells. Samples of all fourteen tales are included to tantalize and to tease. Come to the Carniepunkmidway and explore the creepy, mysterious, magical world of traveling carnivals today!
CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1I should have known. I skipped this installment of Carniepunk when I read the book because I knew that I would soon be reading Deadly Sting and (when I’m paying attention) I like to keep my series reads in order. When I added Deadly Sting to my Bout-of-Books list I should have just thrown Parlor Tricks into the mix. Honestly, it was inevitable.
A perfect little glimpse into the Elemental Assassin world. I love Gin and having just her and her baby sister Bria featured in this short read was fun. Well as much fun as a scary, dangerous carnival can be. As per usual, Gin dispenses her own brand of justice with her trusty blades, but this time she has a little help from her sister. There was even enough time in Parlor Tricks for some mouth watering food descriptions.This one was short and sweet but still full of the wit, fun, danger and action that readers have come to expect from the Elemental Assassin series.

On a side note… I can’t really count this toward my ‘Why Buy the Cow’ Reading Challenge because I read it as part of the whole Carniepunk anthology. However, I thought it was worth mentioning that Amazon is still offering Parlor Tricks alone for FREE
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