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review 2018-07-07 00:38
ARC Review: Stag And The Ash (The Rowan Harbor Cycle #5) by Sam Burns
Stag And The Ash - Sam Burns

This is the 2nd book for Jesse and Sean, continuing shortly after where Hawk and the Rowan ended. Jesse still struggles with his place on the town council, with being the Alpha wolf, with having to be in charge of things, and he's finding it equally difficult to help Sean grieving the loss of his mother and finding his stride in dealing with his powers as a succubus.

There were some humorous moments to lighten the mood, which is mostly somber throughout the book, which was to be expected after the events of book 4, as well as considering what we find out in this book.

At around 30% or so, I had an inkling on how this would unfold, after finding out who sent the troll that killed Sean's mother, and the three young wolves showed up in town. 

The book is told entirely from Jesse's POV, and he's a somewhat unreliable narrator, as his perception of how people feel about him isn't entirely accurate, something that he's starting to learn. His guilt stemming from mistakes made in the past, and how they are affecting the present, is obviously not helping him see himself clearly, and he continues to feel as if he's not good enough and can never measure up. 

I would have liked to find out more about what makes Sean ticks, but perhaps that's still to come. I wish Jesse could see himself as others do, and it seems that by the end of this book, he's starting to get there. Their relationship gets a chance to grow in this book also, as Sean towards the end forces some honest conversations with Jesse instead of both of them fumbling with what needs to be said. 

As the focus of this book is mostly on the new wolves in town, and Jesse struggling with his guilt and his keeping secrets from Sean and others about the true reason for the troll attack, we don't see a whole lot of the townsfolk in this book, at least not as much as we did in previous ones. Of course, all the main players make an appearance, and everyone contributes to the plot unfolding, but this book felt to some extent as a transition, a bridge, a set up for the next one. It also felt shorter than the previous ones, but certainly covered what it needed to cover. 

Of course, the writing is as awesome as always, engaging and entertaining, and I continue to be fascinated with this series. Fletcher's 2nd book is next, and if the first chapter is any indication, it'll be a wild ride. I can hardly wait!

Please note: These cannot be read as standalone books and must be read in order. 


** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost promotions as part of this tour in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-07-04 03:08
ARC Review: Inside Darkness by Hudson Lin
Inside Darkness - Hudson Lin

There were some really good themes in this book, and there were some things that weren't so good.

Let's talk about the good stuff first.

The author does a fine job exploring the impact and effects of PTSD that Cameron experiences, and how it shapes his interactions with the world around him, even when (and perhaps especially when) the traumatic events leading to the PTSD have passed. The darkness to which Cameron escapes is a place of safety to which he retreats when he's under extreme pressure or fear. An international aid worker for many years, Cameron has seen more than his fair share of human suffering, violence, and death, and there's not much left of the idealistic, out and proud gay man he was 10 years or so ago, the one who wanted to help others and jumped into aid work with both feet. Being gay is a crime in many African countries still, and Cameron knows only too well what might happen to someone who's found out to be gay. He has hidden that part of himself behind a cynical and gruff exterior because it's safer that way. 

Tyler is very much an opposite to Cameron. Somewhat self-centered and career oriented, he struggles with his ethnicity (born in America of Chinese heritage) and having clawed his way to success out of growing up in foster care. He's extremely sensitive to perceived slights, and he's unhappy at his job because he feels that he's being marginalized for his race and heritage, and not given any real assignments other than covering the happenings in Chinatown. At first, I didn't like Tyler very much. He was angry, perhaps understandably so, but also standoffish. He grew on me, especially as the author peeled back the layers of his personality, and Tyler became Cam's main support system.

While sex happens early, intimacy and romance does not, and the slow burn inside needed to be, since Cameron's PTSD makes for a difficult companion, and Tyler doesn't initially know how to help the other man, helplessly watching Cam sink deeper and deeper into the darkness. 

Love, as it happens between them, happens slowly, almost as a side product of their struggles to overcome the obstacles in their respective lives. 

It is only when they are separated again, by choice to some extent, that both men realize how much they need the other, just when it's nearly too late. The darkness threatens to swallow Cameron whole, and there's no Tyler to pull him back when he needs it the most. The climax of this book did have me at the edge of my seat, even if the ending felt a bit rushed.

Now for the not so good. This was my first book by this author, and the writing style didn't really work for me. It was oftentimes more tell than show, which is a shame, really, because the story itself was well done. But show me what makes your characters tick - don't tell me. 

There was also some slut-shaming inside, which I thought a bit odd, and while I don't know much about UN Aid workers and how things are run there, I was left to wonder if someone diagnosed with severe PTSD, under the supervision of a therapist, would then be sent back to another hellhole with the expectation of performing the job as if the PTSD didn't exist. 

This is a heavy, angsty read, and not the kind of book you take with you for a sunny day on the beach. There's a lot of darkness inside, and both Cameron and Tyler have to fight their way into the light. 

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. If you like romances that are slow to develop, with a lot of angst, this might be a book for you.


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

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review 2018-05-28 02:27
ARC Review: Nasu by Jet Lupin
Nasu - Jet Lupin

I was approached by the author about a review for this book. The blurb doesn't really tell you a whole lot about who (and what) Shige is, but I was intrigued so I said yes.

I'm glad I did. This was an interesting and enthralling read, despite the multitude of grammatical and spelling issues that a good editor or proofreader should have found. 

Phil, a nurse, is in dire need of some time off. He basically works, comes home to take care of his dog Hugo, eats, sleeps, and goes back to work. His shift is the graveyard one, so he's awake at night and asleep during the day, which doesn't really make for much of a social life. But now he's got some vacation coming, and his good friend decides they both need a night out on the town.

While at a club, Phil meets Shige, a handsome stranger. Attraction is instantaneous and mutual, and they spend a night together.

Then weird things happen. 

I won't spoil the plot here, but suffice it to say that the book had a myriad of interesting characters and doesn't focus on the romance between Shige and Phil. Evil forces are at work, and the relationship doesn't develop naturally because of those, as Phil and Shige don't spend a whole lot of time together, and even when they do, they keep getting interrupted. 

While Phil and Shige are interesting and engaging characters on their own, I didn't feel as if their relationship truly developed outside of the potential supernatural attraction they felt. Shige's mysterious aura, combined with his unwillingness to reveal his secrets, made for a contentious relationship, and though Phil eventually believes what his eyes (and everyone else) are trying to tell him, he too expresses a reluctance to commit. Not that I blamed him - if your entire life is suddenly uprooted because some guy you met a club whisks you off to his lair because of having put your life in danger, but doesn't tell you what's going on, you'd be pissed off too. 

The author did a fine job with the world-building. There was no info-dumping, and information was revealed slowly as part of the plot. There's a myriad of supporting characters, and the atmosphere created here is often dark and mysterious. The book kept me interested, and I didn't feel bored at all. The dialogue felt organic and believable, and I liked that Phil didn't take any crap from Shige or anyone else unless he absolutely had to. I also liked that he wasn't written as a "damsel-in-distress". 

What bothered me a bit was the ending - this wasn't advertised as the first in a series, and I was a bit surprised when I came to the end without having a HEA or even a strong HFN. There are still too many open questions, and I wasn't all that happy to find that the 2nd book isn't finished yet. While we leave Phil and Shige in a somewhat good place in their still developing relationship, their story isn't done, and I wish I had known this before starting this book. I wouldn't call it an absolute cliffhanger, but it wasn't a real ending. 

I mentioned the editing issues - on occasion, they would yank me out of the flow, and I recommend that the author get a good proofreader to fix those issues. I'd hate to see folks miss out on a good book because they can't get past the errors. 

This was my first book by this author, but I'm definitely interested to see what they cook up next. 


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

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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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