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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 2018-02-11 00:59
ARC Review: Blackbird In The Reeds by Sam Burns
Blackbird in the Reeds (The Rowan Harbor Cycle Book 1) - Sam Burns

This, ladies and gents, this is how you write the first book in a new series. The world-building and character development in this book are absolutely fabulous. There is absolutely no info dump. Each piece of new information is revealed via the plot progression, and while I still had no idea what was actually going on at about 30% in, I couldn't wait to find out.

Devon Murphy, from whose 3rd person POV the story is told, rushes home to Rowan Harbor, Oregon, at the request of his grandmother. Who never asks for anything. Some years ago, Devon fled his hometown because everyone knew everyone, and everyone had their nose in everyone else's business. But now Gran needs him, and Devon rushes home. He's in such a rush that he gets into a car accident not far from town and comes face to face with a massive wolf. 

I'm not going to give away the plot - you should read this book yourself to find out what happens within. I will however tell you that this series is planned for 9 books, and I cannot wait to devour each one. This author mixes a suspenseful whodunit with a paranormal romance, and it all fit exceptionally well together. I was on the edge of my seat more often than not, and grinned and giggled when Devon gets zapped by Wade Hunter, and then comes to terms with what that means. 

Supernatural politics? A town council? The Knit Nights? Devon being treated like the town's long lost son, without having any idea why? Each step forward in unraveling the mystery surrounding this small coastal town only poses more questions, with some hinting at things to come in future books.

The romance itself was more subdued and doesn't really come to fruition until the latter part of the book, which made sense to me, considering the many things Devon has to explore and figure out. While there was some mating compulsion at play here, there was no insta-love, and while the book doesn't end on a cliffhanger, there's no HEA - obviously. I did believe though that Devon and Wade will get their happy ending, once the series runs its course, and I had no doubt whatsoever that they are truly in love, but still need to learn so much about each other. 

This author is quickly becoming one of my favorites. The first series, Wilde Love, was obviously very different from this one, but Sam Burns is an author to watch and I will gladly read anything they decide to publish. 

Fabulous, just fabulous. Go get yourself a copy, stat!

 

 

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

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review 2018-02-09 02:47
ARC Review: Cinderella In The Sheets by Reece Pine
Cinderella in the Sheets - Reece Pine

This was superficially cute and engaging, and I had a good time reading it. For those readers looking to spend a few hours with a comfortable read, this book would be a good choice.

For me personally, this didn't reach the depths I usually expect from a romance novel. The idea behind the book is that Presley, step-son to the Republican President of the United States, whom he regards as evil (though no reason is really given, other than the guy being Republican and thus presumably homophobic, which explains why Presley is in the closet), therefore Presley has only anonymous sex with escorts who are provided by Rico, a member of his security team. As part of the anonymity, Presley wears a blind-fold before, during, and after sexy times so his hook-up du jour can't recognize him. Which means that while he's in a hotel room alone with the escort, HE CANNOT SEE. 

Stupid and dangerous? You bet. 

Presley is tired of traveling all over the country trying to win over other Republicans to his way of thinking, no matter how stealthily (since he has evil step-daddy in the White House), and when he finds out that his latest escort wasn't an escort after all (thanks, Rico), he moves heaven and earth, and his entire security team, to find the guy. Because this was more than a fuck and run, and Presley might have fallen harder than he thought possible.

The title of the book is misleading. Neither Presley nor the escort are Cinderfellas by any means, and any real similarity to the real Cinderella story is rather far-fetched. While Cinderfella leaves his glasses in Presley's room, in a nod to the glass slipper, that's about the only thing that felt somewhat familiar.

I think this would have worked better for me if the presumed Cinderfella was actually poor and/or in distress, or the one with the evil step-mother or step-father, but that wasn't the case here. Unfortunately, due to the plot, the MCs spend most of the book apart, and I had a difficult time believing that Presley had truly fallen in love to the point of not leaving any stone unmoved to find his man. 

The search for Cinderfella was the best part of the book, and the snarky banter between Rico and the head of Presley's security detail was fun. Like I said, I had a good time reading this book. I would have liked a bit more character development, and I would have liked to know a bit more about Louis the Cinderfella, other than how sweet and considerate he was. The HEA was cute, though I would have liked for Presley to grow a bit more of a backbone than he did. 

This was a fun albeit not very deep read. 

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

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review 2018-02-01 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 2018-01-13 03:03
ARC Review: Worth His Salt by Ofelia Gränd
Worth His Salt (Tattooed Corpse Stories) - Ofelia Gränd

Quirky is the word I'd use to describe this book. Quirky, with a large dose of paranormal and magic, and such an adorably odd character in Eldred. 

I didn't read the first book in this series, but I had no issues following the plot, so I would definitely classify this as perfectly doable as a standalone.

Eldred Henstare is a not so powerful witch responsible to help the lingering spirits in his city move into the light. His twin brother is his anchor, as we find out. Eldred is also a shameless flirt, something that he does without even really thinking about, and a bit of a smartass, but in a good way. The latest spirit is calling him to the old lighthouse where he meets Mo Vin.

Mo sees the younger man and has no idea what's happening. Befuddled but intrigued by Eldred, he kind of just follows along, pulls the wet and bedraggled man from the shore into his small cottage, and offers him the couch for the night.

Then things get weird for Mo, because he sees stuff that doesn't seem to be real, but maybe is. Or maybe it isn't. Mo still has no idea what's happening, but Eldred says what must be done, so Mo just kind of stumbles along. Eldred's shameless flirting certainly helps. 

As I said, this is a quirky story with magic and salt circles, and I had fun reading this. Not my usual fare, but certainly something I might want more of. It had witty dialogue, fun characters, and a nice paranormal plot. My only complaint is that this wasn't long enough to let me see what happens after Mo becomes Eldred's anchor and how that will play out going forward. 


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

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