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review 2018-02-16 01:49
ARC Review: Wolf And The Holly (Rowan Harbor Circle #2) by Sam Burns
Wolf and the Holly (The Rowan Harbor Cycle Book 2) - Sam Burns

In this 2nd book in her new series, Sam Burns gives us Jesse Hunter, brother to Wade, childhood friend to Devon, reluctant would-be Alpha wolf, who came back to Rowan Harbor five years ago after dropping out of college for reasons not entirely clear and has been sort of drifting along aimlessly ever since. He's the accountant for many of the business owners in town, still lives with his parents and doesn't want to take his mother's place on the town council.

The night before his 30th birthday, which is where the book opens, we find Jesse in the bar with friends, trying out one of Cassidy's new concoctions and generally feeling a little sorry for himself. The evening is interrupted when a rogue vampire named Sol enters the bar. He's known to both Cassidy and Max and warned immediately to not feed from humans, but register with the bloodbank. 

Jesse has a bad feeling about the new vamp - he smells wrong, and Jesse's wolfy nose is still perfectly functional, no matter how much he tries to deny the wolf inside. 

As Jesse leaves the bar and walks home, he smells blood in an alley way. Thinking the rogue vamp may have struck, he investigates and find his childhood friend Isla slumped at the end of the alley, unconscious and bleeding from a head wound. 

Thus the author has set the scene for what follows, and Jesse can no longer deny his instincts - the wolf wants free to protect his family and friends. 

This is billed as a paranormal romance, and there is a romance inside as Jesse finds his mate in Sean Anderson, who recently returned to take over the flower shop in town (a unique place, you'll see). The romance however takes a backseat as the paranormal and suspense parts of the plot unfold. 

The whole story is told from Jesse's POV. Sinister forces may be at work, and Jesse must use his wits and overcome his reluctance to figure out what is going on and how to stop it and who's behind it all. I still had questions at the end, and can barely contain my excitement at the prospect of book 3.

Most of the world-building was taken care of in the first book, and these cannot be read as standalones - don't even try. A lot of the background information provided in book 1 is needed to understand the dynamics and the events in this book, and I expect that the subsequent books will be no different. The author calls this a trilogy of trilogies so these must be read in order as well. There is also no HEA for Jesse and Sean in this book, only a HFN, which made sense to me because they have only JUST found each other. I also like very much that while there is a mating pull at work, the couples aren't automatically in love - they still need to learn about each other and forge a relationship. 

This book is alternatively edge of your seat intense and giggly fun (such as when Jesse gets zapped by Sean, as I knew he would), but there are also parts that really showcased the author's talent in creating fully fleshed-out characters, who are flawed and complex and don't always have their act together. Jesse's self-doubts, his fears, and the reason he's denied his wolf for so long - there were moments when I wanted to either shake him to pull his head out of his rear end or hug him and tell him that yes, he could become what he was meant to be. 

None of these characters are perfect, not Devon whose anger can make buildings shake, nor Wade who can be a bit grumpy, nor Isla who has been running for years for reasons explained within, nor Jesse, the wolf who left to find his place in the world, only to realize that his rightful place is home in Rowan Harbor, doing what he was born to do. 

The townsfolk have interesting dynamics. Some made me laugh and some made me think - especially since not all is as it seems at first. So well done.

At the very end, the author cleverly sets up the events to come in book 3 - I cannot wait. Is it March yet?

** I received a free copy of this book as part of a review tour, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. **

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review 2018-02-05 03:09
Great Story and Characters
Vampire Fight Club (Demonica, #6.5) - Larissa Ione

Nathan Sabine, a vampire who is also a rare daywalker, is the manager of Thirst a bar that also houses a supernatural blood arena. Supernatural medic Vladlina Paskelkov decides to go undercover when her brother is found dead one night.

This was a great story. It was short but very fast paced and full. I really liked both main characters. Their interactions with each other were definitely memorable. I look forward to reading more from this author.

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

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review 2018-02-01 01:49
ARC Review: Heard by A.M. Arthur
Heard: An Omegaverse Story (Breaking Free Book 3) - A.M. Arthur

This series just keeps getting better and better.

In this 3rd installment, the main couple is Jax Orris, a widowed omega who was previously mated and has a baby son from that marriage, and Karter Jenks, a young constable who had a supporting role in the previous books.

Karter has recently undergone a change of mind after witnessing Kell Iverson's trial (from book 2) and has opened his eyes to how badly many omegas are treated by alphaholes. He's slowly becoming woke and has started to rebel against his own father's conservative views. He's still relatively young, and fairly new to being a constable, so he's not looking for his mate but fate has other plans.

Jax and his baby managed to escape from an illegal fight ring where he's been held captive since shortly after his husband died. Forced to bulk up with daily protein shakes and workouts, Jax has the appearance and stature of an alpha. Homeless and penniless, he's forced to break in to homes and steal supplies for his baby and himself. And a botched surgery has also left him mute.

Karter is investigating a recent break-in and is shocked to find the young omega is his bondmate. Jax cannot believe he isn't being hauled to jail immediately upon his capture and has no intention of trusting the constable, but also cannot deny the pull he feels toward the man fate intended for him.

This book cannot be read as a standalone. While it focuses on the relationship development for the main couple as part of the plot, there is too much backstory from the previous books to make it readable on its own. Some specific plot points from the previous books are also further developed and explored in this one, and I expect that to continue into future books. The characters from the previous books all make an appearance, and it's important to know their stories to fully understand and appreciate this one.

I cried a lot. A lot, a lot. When Jax's story comes out, as he tells Karter about his time in captivity, the consequences of losing a fight, the cruel and inhumane treatment he received because of his omega status, his fears for his baby, his willpower to survive, his inner strength - I alternately cried in anger and in joy. 

The author writes with so much emotion, and the world she's built is colorful and vivid and horrifying and believable. There are parallels to be drawn to our own society. There are people fighting for equality and there are people pushing these fighters back down, to keep the status quo, to keep the oppressed under their thumbs. It's an interesting comparison to our current political climate where some folks aren't viewed as human beings by those in power, because of the color of their skin, their gender, or their sexual orientation, their country of origin or ancestry. The author created a world in which alphas hold all the power and most of the well-paying jobs, while omegas aren't even guaranteed a driver's license but expected to be the little house-husband, taking care of the kids and their alphahole's every need, including spreading their legs whenever their alpha so desires, and their own wishes and dreams don't matter none to anyone. 

These aren't easy books to read. The author doesn't shy away from being explicit in the descriptions of the violence perpetrated by alphas against helpless omegas, but she also shows that it can be different, and that a bond-mated couple can be truly in love and deeply care about each other, and that an alpha who loves his mate is capable of treating his mate with respect and dignity. 

The horror is mellowed to some degree by the love that exists between Jax and Karter, Kell and Ronin, and Braun and Tarik. That loves gives hope to others, shows them that they don't have to accept the status quo, and that the fight to make a better world for all is in everyone's best interest and totally worth it. I loved how Jax learned to communicate in sign language, and how Karter tried and tried and tried to win his trust. I loved how Karter grew into his own person in this book, how he moved past his father's views and stood up for himself and his mate and became a better person for it. I loved how supportive Kell and Braun were with Jax, how Tarik and Ronin helped where they could, and how Serge and Dex continued to be awesome friends to them all. The characters are all fully fleshed out and carefully crafted, with realistic and reasonable personalities that all felt authentic and believable. 

This was an edge-of-your-seat read from start to finish. Have tissues ready. Wine and chocolate is also useful.

Highly recommended that you read this series. The next book is going to come out soon. 

** I received a free copy of this book from its author. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2018-01-09 16:34
Who says life's quiet in a small town...
Flight or Fight - Dirk Greyson

After things fell apart in New York, Brantley Calderone did what any sane person would do he bought a farm and left the city looking to make a new life for himself...he just didn't plan on that life including a dead body on his front porch at the end of his first week. Nor did he count on it including a sheriff who pushed every hot button he has.


When Mack pulled up to the house with the dead body on it and realized that he was more interested in the hot and very much alive owner as more than just a prime suspect. Mack learns in short order that first impression can be wrong and it doesn't take Mack long to figure out that his first impression was deceptive and as events unfold he realizes that not only is Brantley not a suspect, he's a potential victim.


I liked Brantley, he was determined not to give in to his fear and run back to New York no matter how tempting the idea became and I can well imagine that having someone try to kill you would be a real motivator to get the hell out of Dodge. But when push came to shove Brantley pulled on his big boy pants and held his ground and without fail Mack had his back. I might have warmed up to Brantley a little quicker than Mack but that didn't mean that I didn't appreciate Mack. I loved that Mack wasn't afraid to let Brantley know how he felt. 


As Mack and Brantley pull together to solve the mystery and keep anyone else from being hurt or worse not only does the pressure to find a solution increase but feelings between Mack and Brantley change and Mack's desire to keep Brantley safe becomes more personal than professional.


I found myself engaged by both the romance between the MCs and the mystery in this one even though I was fairly sure who it was I still enjoyed the journey that the author took us one to get there. 


Overall I enjoyed this story but I have to admit that ending was maybe just a little bit to much sunshine and rainbows for me to buy into but sometimes it's nice to get the sunshine and rainbows in my books because real life doesn't always have them to offer when life goes off the rails.


I've left my thoughts on the audio portion of this book for last because truthfully this one was a real challenge for me. I listened to the sample on audible.com  before I requested this one and honestly it seemed ok, I really didn't think there was going to be an issue...I was wrong ok? Because about an hour into the book I picked up on the fact that what sounded like a slow easy drawl after only a few minutes turned into more of a sing-songy voice and truthfully just did not enhance the story for me especially as I began to feel like it was getting a bit challenging to distinguish the character voices apart as I didn't find the voices of the MCs to be overly distinctive. This was my first audio experience with Mark Westfield as the narrator and truthfully probably my last as well. I know he's a very popular narrator especially with fans of Charlie Cochet's THIRDS series and I'm cool with that. Once again this isn't a case of right or wrong it's just a case of this narrator's voice didn't work for me. 


At the end of the story it's a case of the story was easily a 3.5 possibly a 4 star read for me but the audio only gets 3 stars from me because while this was by no means my best audio book experience I've had worse...a lot worse so I'm calling it a day at 3.5 stars for this one and moving on to my next adventure.



An audio book of 'Flight or Fight' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2018-01-02 01:46
ARC Review: Saint And The Sinner by Sam Burns
Saint and the Sinner - Sam Burns
In this 4th book in the Wilde Love series, we finally get Owen and Mickey's story. I had an inkling in book 2 that they would eventually get their own book, because when I read Keegan's book (Sins Of The Father), there was an undercurrent of want I could see from Owen and Mickey toward each other, so I hoped. And the author delivered.

This book can be read as a standalone, though why you wouldn't read the whole series is beyond me, and it also feels as if this is the last book, as it seems to wrap up any leftover questions and open issues.

Mickey Martin is Owen Quinn's father's 2nd in command, more or less, having worked for Brendan Quinn since he was fifteen years old, owing his life and his livelihood to the man, and is basically a member of the family by now. Brendan is ill, and it looks as if Mickey will be asked to take over to run the Quinn mob syndicate. Mickey, who is also best friends with Keegan, has had the hots for Owen for a long time, but he also knows that nothing will come off it, as Owen is out of his league, and he's been fighting his feelings for the younger man for a long time. A string of girlfriends led to nothing much, because Mickey can never fully commit himself to anyone,since Owen unknowingly holds his heart. Even if he knows the boy deserves so much better than a thug like himself. Or so he thinks.

Owen is in love with Mickey, and has been since he was but a teenager. He doesn't think that the older man will ever love him, and he's basically resigned himself to not ever getting the man he wants. Owen still lives in his father's house, but is not involved at all in the criminal business side, though he reaps the fruits of that illicit labor since it pays for his education and lifestyle. He's disdainful of his father's thugs, except for Mickey, of course. He knows that his dream of joining the FBI will never come to fruition because of who his father is. 

At the core of this book is the juxtaposition of these two characters - how can Owen love a man who represents all that he abhors, and how can Mickey pursue a romantic relationship with the son of his employer, his best friend's little brother? There is angst and drama, of course, though little of it stems from the criminal activities - while there is some of the crime aspect present, it's not the focus of this book. Most of the drama within is based on the two men's differences and their different stations in life, their assumptions and inability to see a future in which they can be together. There is never a question of the veracity of their feelings or the strength thereof - they love each other wholeheartedly - but neither sees a way to overcome what stands in their way.

What is also remarkable about this series is how well the author fleshed out her characters. Not just the main ones, but also all the secondary and supporting characters, and how carefully she has crafted their individual relationships and contributions to the plot. The deep love of a father for his sons, despite misunderstandings, hard feelings, and controversies, permeates this book, and Brendan's sacrifice at the very end only cemented my admiration for him - even if he can be ruthless and cold in his business dealings, I always knew he loved his children, no matter what. 

If this is truly the last book in this series, it is a fitting ending. I closed the book on my e-reader with a smile on my face and happiness in my heart. 

Read this series - I implore you. While Sam Burns may be a fairly new author, her books have a fascinating cast of characters, with complexities and flaws that make them realistic and relatable. 

** I received a free copy of this book from its author in exchange for an honest review. **


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