4.5 Stars, Genre Romance, Historical Romance, Kate McMurray, Paranormal, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Across the East River Bridge by Kate McMurray

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Title: Across the East River Bridge (2nd Edition)

Author: Kate McMurray

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 239 Pages

At a Glance: Across the East River Bridge, in its second go-round, is every bit as good now as it was in its original release.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: When historian Christopher Finnegan walks into a new museum in Brooklyn, he’s chagrined to learn its curator is his old academic rival, Troy Rafferty. Worse, Troy is convinced the museum is haunted and wants Finn’s help learning more about the ghosts. Finn and Troy have never gotten along and Finn wants to run screaming, but then Troy offers him an intriguing proposal: Troy will help Finn with a research project for his overbearing boss if Finn will help Troy solve a mystery involving two men who died in the building under mysterious circumstances in 1878.

Finn and Troy piece together the two men’s lives–and the quiet romance that grew between them–through diaries, newspaper clippings, and police reports. They’re both soon convinced the men were murdered. They’re also convinced the ghosts are real even Finn witnesses paranormal phenomena he can’t deny–and that they’re capable of affecting thoughts, feelings, and actions. When Finn and Troy start falling for each other despite years of animosity, Finn worries he’s being manipulated by the ghosts to stay with Troy and solve the case. Troy is convinced the love between them is real, but he’ll need to figure out how to get rid of the ghosts in order to prove it.

Dividers

Review: I first read Kate McMurray’s Across the East River Bridge back in September of 2012. A few years and more than a few hundred books later, when I chose to review it in its second edition release, I’ll confess that while I had the plot basics down, I clearly had forgotten some of the finer details that made it such a fantastic read—both the first time and now, the second. This book is many things rolled into one: an enemies-to-lovers story, a contemporary romance, a historical romance, a tragic romance, and then, to top it all off, there’s a paranormal mystery dating back to the 1870s that this author managed to finesse into a touching and sometimes intense read.

McMurray leads us into the story in modern day Brooklyn, where we learn that Christopher “Finn” Finnegan and Troy Rafferty have a history of their own—rivals from their college days, Finn has spent more than a decade loathing golden boy Troy for sabotaging his academic career by discrediting his dissertation research, which then resulted in Finn’s funding being pulled. Amongst the animosity that Finn still feels toward Troy all these years later is an undercurrent of sexual tension that’s been there between them from the start. And, added to it, there’s an intense frustration that Finn is still attracted to someone he hates so thoroughly—or tries to hate so thoroughly, at least. The setup for them working together, then, is a great foundation for the conflicted feelings Finn has throughout the book—how can he hate Troy and still want him so intensely? And how can Finn look inward in any sort of honest and rational way and continue to blame Troy for his failings? I have to say I felt a lot of frustration myself toward Finn throughout this book. His stubbornness and scapegoating of Troy makes it hard to excuse some of Finn’s actions and reactions, but a lot of that for me is because Kate McMurray makes Troy such a likeable and charming character. Where Troy may be intended to be Finn’s foil, it actually worked the other way around, and I liked the turning of the tables.

Where the author infuses this book with a terrible poignancy is in the historical research Finn and Troy delve into to uncover the mystery of Brill House, the museum of which Troy is now curator. There is a ghostly presence or two in Brill House that seems to lead directly to one-time owner Theodore Brill, and a border who eventually became Teddy’s lover, George Washington Cutler. Their story, of course, carries with it all the ingrained difficulties of the time in which these two men lived and loved. As Troy and Finn continue their investigation into Teddy and Wash’s deaths—an apparent murder/suicide—they uncover more questions than answers about the way in which the couple died. And, in the process, begin to agitate the spirits of the deceased as the ghosts become desperate for the truth of their deaths to be revealed. I 100% loved this aspect of the novel, not only from an emotional standpoint but from a writing standpoint as well. As Finn and Troy get closer to the truth, the more the tension and suspense escalate, and once the storyline reaches its climax, it plays out in true page-turner fashion.

Troy and Finn’s interactions throughout the story are part antagonistic, part full-on sexual, and their relationship builds from that as well as the eventual realization on Finn’s part that he’s going to have to give up the ghost, so to speak, and stop trying to make Troy the enemy. As feelings change and begin to look a lot like two men falling in love, the underlying question they can’t answer for sure is, how much is this metaphysical mystery manipulating them and their emotions. Finn’s not only skeptical about nearly every aspect of Troy’s theories on what happened to Teddy and Wash, but he’s so busy hanging on to the past that he can’t see what a great future Troy’s offering him, and I liked how these relationships contrasted—we see what a gift it is for Troy and Finn to be able to live together openly, a luxury that Teddy and Wash didn’t have. And, it may well have cost them their lives.

Across the East River Bridge, in its second go-round, is every bit as good now as it was in its original release. Whether you’ve read it before, or are considering reading it for the first time, I can say it’s a solid story that comes highly recommended.

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You can buy Across the East River Bridge here:

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3 Stars, Ceci Thornton, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: Saved by the Shifter by Ceci Thornton

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Amazon

Title: Saved by the Shifter

Author: Ceci Thornton

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 212 Pages

At a Glance: In spite of some niggles here and there, the action sequences in Saved by the Shifter made for some suspenseful reading.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Nate Palmer is desperate enough to try anything to find his missing niece…

Nate has cared for his niece Beth since she was a baby, and now the sixteen-year old has disappeared without a word. The only clue he has is a letter she left behind from her birth mother. He’d do anything to find her, even if it means turning to a down-on-his-luck private investigator working out of a store front in a strip mall—one with the ability to sniff out more clues.

Dexter Armstrong is a lone wolf looking to use his tracking skills to do some good…

Dexter had a pack once, but left, disgusted by their lack of appreciation for their gift. But business is bad and his roof is leaking. He’s just about ready to throw in the towel on that lonely life when Nate walks in the door, looking helpless and smelling delectable.

Together they will travel to the seediest parts of LA

Even as he’s focused on finding his niece, Nate can’t help but be drawn to Dexter’s powerful dominance. And Dexter becomes more and more certain that Nate’s his fated mate. Can their attraction survive the reveal of Dexter’s true nature? And can they both survive the supernatural perils that they will face in their quest to find Beth—and to find the kind of love and family both have been dreaming of?

Dividers

Review: When Nate Palmer’s older brother, Craig, was busted for selling drugs to an off-duty cop and sent to prison, Nate became sole caretaker of his niece Beth. Beth’s mother isn’t in the picture any longer, having fled to parts unknown years before, so Nate truly is Beth’s only hope at a normal life—and they’d gotten along well, too, until Beth hit the terrible teens. Now Beth has gone missing, Nate is beside himself with worry and fear, and his one hope of finding his niece and getting her back home safely seems to be Private Investigator Dexter Armstrong.

That’s the quick setup for Ceci Thornton’s Saved by the Shifter, a novel that taps into the shifter bonding trope, albeit only shallowly, to bring Nate and Dexter together as partners in sex as well as in tracking down Nate’s niece. As I’ve said any number of times before, sometimes the device works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. A lot depends on how well the author convinces me, after that initial spark of lust has struck, that the two guys have what it takes to be a couple. I liked Dexter and Nate, and though I had some quibbles over their initial meeting and the lack of exploration in what they have in common other than lust, the fact they go through hell and back with each other did help to make the bond somewhat more believable. There’s something to be said for not only going into battle together but then surviving.

While Saved by the Shifter is categorized as a Mystery, I have to say I felt Dexter’s role as a PI was pretty well in title only, made so by the simple lack of a true mystery in this plot. We don’t have to wait long to discover what happened to Beth, and Dexter isn’t even the one who searched for the clues to track her down, so we don’t get to see him at work much in that role. The information on Beth’s whereabouts is effectively dumped in his lap, which I felt was a bit of a let-down as I’d prepped myself for a good missing person investigation, but once I understood the storyline was more Urban Fantasy than an all-out Mystery, the positive becomes the author’s ability to write a tense and suspenseful action scene. Of course, Dexter’s shifter half comes in handy along the way too, as he’s fairly certain of the danger Beth is in before it’s confirmed, so that added to the tension in the storyline and made for some excitement during the book’s climactic scene.

There are several things that, overall, I felt could have been explored in greater detail in this book, much of it revolving around Dexter as a character. I think the potential for him to be more interesting and layered was missed in the lack of background details about him—we get a few facts, but to make him more interesting, knowing where he came from, who he came from, what he came from, what shifter mythology inspired his character, would have gone a long way to building interest in him as a supernatural character for me. Essentially, we get no world-building to speak of (which left me with some distracting questions during Beth’s rescue), and even more confusing for me, was a group of shifters that materialized and disappeared from the story and left me scratching my head—one moment they appear threatening, the next, they were there to cover Dexter’s back. There’s a history there that most definitely was missing, and I’d have loved to know more of it—why they were antagonists one moment, saviors the next. And while I’m on the subject of characters, here, I will say I liked the sweet reunion between Nate and Beth, and felt the affection between them was genuine and well portrayed.

In the end, though I feel the book could have used some more exposition, I liked Saved by the Shifter for what it was—a vehicle to bring two likable men together to form their own little pack.

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You can buy Saved by the Shifter here:

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4 Stars, Comedy, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Lex Chase, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Loving and Loathing Vegas by Lex Chase

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Amazon

Title: Loving And Loathing Vegas (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Lex Chase

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 62 Pages

At a Glance: This little snippet is sure to delight and amuse you this holiday season.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Jackson has loved Vegas since God created Man—literally. As a demonic incubi hailing from the Seventh Circle of Hell, Jackson and Vegas have never been anything more than roommates. Now living among humans, they run Eaven, a TripAdvisor-recommended detour-worthy diner famous for its devilishly decadent pies. Business is dead on the holidays, and Jackson will gleefully stab himself with a spatula if he has to clean spotless pots and pans one more time.

For fun—or torture—Vegas makes him a bet that should Jackson win, they take a much-needed vacation. Should he lose, he’s doomed to clean out grease traps for all eternity. When the challenge is to fall in love with other people by Christmas, it proves Vegas isn’t the least bit interested. But when they find an abandoned baby in the trash, she could be the Christmas miracle to warm Jackson’s cynical heart.

Dividers

Review:   Author Lex Chase offers up a devilishly sweet story for the Sleigh Ride 2015 Dreamspinner Advent Calendar. Even demons, in this case incubi who feed off sex, deserve a holiday, and are determined to have it when they make a bet with each other to see who can fall in love by Christmas. The only hitch is Jackson is already in love—with his long time roommate and fellow demon, Vegas. The two have settled down and run a diner that is best known for its devilishly decadent pies, but Jackson is tired of cleaning the diner’s grease traps, and more than fed up with trying to hide his feelings for Vegas. To top off the whole crazy wager, a baby is left on their doorstep, and it is up to Jackson to make sure she is taken care of, especially since she can’t seem to stand the sight of poor Vegas.

Only Lex Chase could create such a crazy-hot and adorable Christmas story with a decidedly unique twist. The relationship and interchanges between Jackson and Vegas were sharp and humorous while also bordering on the frustrating—-all they had to do was admit how they felt, and yet the constant dance around those emotions made for a fun romp of a story. With more than a fair share of snark and sarcasm, the story flew along, fraught with sexual tension that you could cut with a knife. The resolution of that tension made for a very hot sex scene that left me breathless!

Loving and Loathing Vegas is an unusual and clever contribution to this year’s Advent calendar. While it would have been great to know a bit more about the baby’s origins and the backstory of the two incubi themselves, this little snippet is sure to delight and amuse you this holiday season.

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You can buy Loving And Loathing Vegas here:

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5 Stars, Historical Romance, Jordan L. Hawk, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Paranormal, Reviewed by Jules, Self-Published

Release Day Review: Maelstrom by Jordan L. Hawk

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Title: Maelstrom (Whyborne & Griffin: Book Seven)

Author: Jordan L. Hawk

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 268 Pages

At a Glance: Once again I am completely in awe of the talent and imaginative genius of Jordan L. Hawk.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Between his father’s sudden—and rather suspicious—generosity, and his own rash promise to help Christine plan her wedding, Percival Endicott Whyborne has quite enough to worry about. But when the donation of a mysterious codex to the Ladysmith Museum draws the attention of a murderous cult, Whyborne finds himself in a race against time to unlock its secrets first.

Griffin has a case of his own: the disappearance of an historic map, which quickly escalates to murder. Someone is sacrificing men in dark rituals—and all the clues lead back to the museum.

With their friends Christine and Iskander, Whyborne and Griffin must discover the cult’s true goal before it’s too late. For dark forces are afoot at the very heart of the museum, and they want more than Whyborne’s codex.

They want his life.

Dividers

Review: “Widdershins knows its own.”

Trying to write this review in any kind of linear fashion is proving to be impossible. I’m trying to stick to some kind of organized format, but my brain keeps jumping to the brilliance, the sheer brilliance, of chapter fifty-seven. Once again I am completely in awe of the talent and imaginative genius of Jordan L. Hawk. The entire book is extraordinary and mind-blowing – but chapter fifty-seven is indescribable. One thing I do know is that I don’t want to come down from this high; I want to wallow in this one for a bit. I truly think Maelstrom is my favorite of the series to date.

In this seventh book of the series, Widdershins, with its maelstrom of energy lying beneath the earth, is a hotspot for cultists far and wide, and our heroes once again find themselves smack in the midst of the goings on. The latest batch of books donated to the museum has brought all the crazies to the yard, and Whyborne and Griffin must, of course, work together to foil them before all is lost.

It should come as no surprise that one of the things I love most about Maelstrom is the continually growing relationship between Ival and Griffin. They are as in tune to each other as ever, and must draw on that closeness throughout the story. In parts of Hoarfrost, Griffin was in a rough place, and needed Whyborne to keep him from breaking apart – here, however, it is Whyborne who largely needs grounding and clarity. I love that turnabout and all of the different ways we get to see their love for each other. The tender, poignant moments toward the end (*cough* chapter fifty-seven *cough*) are magnified a hundredfold because of their ever-strengthening bond.

So, of course the love story is amazing…but you better believe that all the other Jordan L. Hawk trademarks are there as well. Action, peril, creepy creatures from the Outside, humor, and a razor sharp wit. Not to mention perhaps the hottest sex scene in the series yet. I actually thought my brain was going to explode. No joke.

I already mentioned the humor, but want to touch on it a bit more specifically. The magic of these books is obviously in the world building and the storytelling – but a part of that magic also has to do with the delivery. And Hawk nails the delivery every time. Whyborne has tons of great one-liners. Griffin has a new motor car, which is an endless source of comic relief. The wedding prep and talk that is peppered throughout the book is fabulous. And, I absolutely had to share this gem, from our dear Christine:

“We’re going to be married, damn it, and Whyborne is going to walk me down the aisle…It’s going to be perfect, even if I have to kill every one of these bastards myself!”

In short, Maelstrom is fantastic. I don’t know how the hell Hawk keeps making each book better than the last, but she does. She’s kept the series fresh through seven books, and I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve for the eighth! Coolest. Books. Ever.

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You can buy Maelstrom here:

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4 Stars, DSP Publications, Lissa Kasey, Paranormal, Reviewed by Sammy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Evolution: Genesis by Lissa Kasey

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Amazon

Title: Evolution: Genesis (Evolution: Book Two)

Author: Lissa Kasey

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: Genesis is an interesting, if somewhat tangled, read for paranormal fans.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Evolution made music history when one bandmate turned vampire and another joined the vampire hate movement Preservation Group. Gene is trying to cling to the music as his relationship with Kerstrande begins to spiral into the darkness of hidden demons. Jaded by his years as a vampire flunkie, Kerstrande uses his newly won power over New York City to destroy his enemies and protect Gene. But a demon called a Fallen begins to take control of KC, slowly devouring his soul and through him the entire city. Battling against the evil that wants to destroy him, Kerstrande fights to hold onto Gene’s brightness.

A power unlike any other grows within Gene and shines like a beacon to the demons surrounding him. Realizing that only he can save his lover, Gene is willing to do anything to shake the darkness loose. Even if it means reshaping the future, the band, and his own existence.

Dividers

Review: I was thrilled to see a sequel to the riveting novel Evolution by author Lissa Kasey. With book two, Genesis, two of the most exciting characters in the paranormal genre are back, center stage, and sparks fly once more—and by sparks I mean an all consuming fire, which is exactly what Gene is currently dealing with at the story’s beginning. I cannot state more clearly than this that you must read this series in order to appreciate all the nuances and relationships that are further developed in book two. If you have not, then please stop reading this review and go read Evolution, for I will be remarking upon some of the themes and incidences from the first book to set the stage for book two.

At the opening of Genesis, Gene is still grappling with the fact that he is a human hybrid in the form of a phoenix. Those who know their mythology will remember that the phoenix never really dies but instead is reborn from flames—dying when engulfed from inner fire—and that is exactly what Gene had discovered he could do when he took down Hane—the maker of Kerestrande (KC), Gene’s vampire, again/off again lover—in the first novel. But remember vampires cannot be fully destroyed by flames—instead, they must incinerate by being exposed to sunlight, which burns them to ash never to rise again. This is exactly what KC does to Hane, and when he does so, the dark shadow—the fallen that clung to Hane—consumes KC and begins to slowly take him over.

Meanwhile, every bad guy and paranormal on the earth seems to be after Gene as a means to get to KC. Consequently, Gene undergoes several horrific deaths only to be reborn again each time. However, Gene is weakening, and coming back to human form takes longer and longer each time. Instead, he is trapped in darkness where he can clearly see what is eating at KC, and all the undead that cling to his lover as well. In the end, it will be up to Gene to save his vampire lover from certain death, as the Fallen within KC pushes its way into his soul and consumes that which is KC at his very core, taking him over completely.

Okay. That was a major oversimplification of a very intricate plot that I must admit I lost my way in at certain points in this novel. Not only were there additional characters to learn about, there were also so many creatures after Gene that it was hard at times to keep up with who was after whom, and why. Still, the bones of this story were really solid and KC and Gene, when they were together, were pure gold in terms of an “it’s complicated” relationship. Every time KC pushed Gene away, Gene’s pain and dejection was so poignant to read—really just heartbreaking. And this author was so smart in that she alternated the point of view almost chapter to chapter so we were privy as to why KC was sending Gene away. Plus, we saw just how it guts the vampire when he does so.

Alongside these two was a cast of secondary characters that were convincingly real, and each became an integral part of Gene’s life—some with deadly and evil intent. Without them, Gene would have never been able to survive all that he does at the hands of evil forces determined to use Gene as bait to draw out KC and the shadowy evil that holds him captive.

So why wasn’t this a five star read? Well, when it came down to it, this story got very involved with the mystical side of both vampires and Gene himself—this phoenix hybrid. In doing so, I honestly was often confused as to where this whole plot was moving and just exactly why Gene kept getting…well, brutally beaten and killed, only to rise again. I felt that the plot was sometimes unanchored and drifted too far into mystical realms that were not always fully realized or fleshed out in the story. That made for some real frustration when I just wanted this story to “get on with it” and come to some conclusion I could understand.

As a result of all this action without a solid plot theme to plant itself on, the ending seemed way too easy and a bit rushed. The final outcome was nice, but after all the angst and miscommunication between KC and Gene, a sweet happy-ever-after seemed just a bit contrived. Still, this is an author whom I really admire and whose writing is often involved and well executed, therefore I would encourage fans of the first in this series to see how things play out between Gene and KC. Genesis is an interesting, if somewhat tangled, read for paranormal fans.

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You can buy Evolution: Genesis here:

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5 Stars, Anthology, B.G. Thomas, Dreamspinner Press, Eli Easton, Genre Romance, Jamie Fessenden, Kim Fielding, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Spirit by Jamie Fessenden, Kim Fielding, Eli Easton, and B.G. Thomas

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Amazon

Title: Spirit (Gothika: Book Four)

Authors: Jamie Fessenden, Kim Fielding, Eli Easton, B. G. Thomas

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 260 Pages

At a Glance: Four top-notch authors have once again created an incredibly well written anthology with stories that are both entertaining and thoughtful.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Seeing dead people. Haunting and being haunted. Ghosts and those trying to deal with them add a supernatural flair to these four tales of romance. 

In Among the Dead, Neil Gaven sees dead people. A gentle ghost guides him to Trist, who needs his help. But Trist is tormented by spirits, so maybe together they can find a way to live among the dead.

Dei Ex Machina is the story of Sabbio, a Roman slave who was killed 1700 years ago. He’s been alone until he meets landscaper Mason. But because they’re separated by centuries, it will take a miracle to make love work.

The Mill brings a supernatural challenge to Frank Carter and his team of paranormal investigators. The owner’s personal psychic, Toby Reese, is supposed to help. Frank doesn’t have much respect for psychics, but when the dangers of the old mill threaten his team, he realizes he and Toby will have to work together to survive.

Mike Ellsworth finds himself suddenly deceased. Now he’s a ghost with lots left undone in Unfinished Business. He’s never been able to be honest with his wife. He’s never been able to tell the man he loves how he feels. He’s barely been able to admit he’s gay. If only there were a way he could make up for all he’s failed to do….

Dividers

Review:   There is a new Gothika anthology out, Spirit: Volume Four, and this time it has a supernatural and ghostly bent. Four top-notch authors have once again created an incredibly well written anthology with stories that are both entertaining and thoughtful.

The Mill by Jamie Fessenden:

Our first story is an incredibly well-crafted tale about paranormal investigators and psychics. Drawing from historical fact about the many horrific warehouse fires that took place in the early 1900s, the story focuses on an old sewing factory that burned to the ground with over one-hundred souls locked inside. Since then, Hawley Textile mill has attempted to house other industry, but most recently, plans were made to demolish the old building and turn the land into a shopping mall. However, several unexplained injuries and setbacks caused any renovation or demolition to come to a screeching halt.

The current owner, elderly Mrs. Hawley, has hired a paranormal investigative team to come in and debunk or verify the idea that the building is haunted. While visiting her favorite psychic, she also enlists his help to check out the site. When Frank Carter and his team begin to investigate, his little brother sees something on an upper floor of the building. Before any of the team can move to help him, Louis runs screaming from the large hall and falls down a flight of stairs. While he only suffers a concussion and a broken leg, for some inexplicable reason Louis slips into a coma-like state, and nothing the doctors can do seem to wake him up. Around this time, Frank and his team meet up with Toby Reese, and the general reaction is a lot of skepticism and even a bit of hostility. However, Frank slowly begins to understand that Toby is the genuine article. Not only that, but feelings long dormant are stirring in both Toby and Frank, and now they must team up to confront whatever is haunting the factory–and hope they come out unscathed.

What an incredible story. The pacing, the charged atmosphere that permeated every scene in the abandoned factory, and the growing attraction between Toby and Frank made for an exciting tale all around. Ghost stories are tricky things, and to make them raise that tingly feeling along your spine takes some real dedication to making the story as believable as possible. I really enjoyed how Jamie Fessenden used the distrust between the science of paranormal investigation as opposed to the “feelings” of the psychic. Setting up this foil between Frank and Toby made each supernatural moment in the story just that much scarier and more realistic. This was one of those types of short stories that I would love to see in serial form with many more adventures for this paranormal team. Rating: 5 stars

Dei Ex Machina by Kim Fielding:

In her story, Dei Ex Machina, Kim Fielding offers up a story of second chances. Focusing on two men–one corporeal, who has recently lost his husband, and the other one, who has lived in limbo for hundreds of years–this author brings the two together in a lovely story that focuses on the healing and redemptive power of love.

Once upon a time, centuries before Mason ever walked the earth, a young slave named Sabbio was taken from his home and forced to work on building a majestic palace in a small coastal town called Split.  When he died, he did so without ever understanding what real love is, without ever feeling the touch of a lover’s hand, and without ever fully realizing how love transforms a person. Because of that, Sabbio was destined to live a life in darkness, in a terrible form of limbo where he would often forget who he was and what he had once been. When he is able to pull himself from the dark pit, he walks the small town of Split to which his spirit is forever chained.  One day he sees a young American man, Mason. Mason is still grieving several months after his own husband was shot down on campus grounds where he worked. Having the one man he loved ripped from his life has left Mason empty and hurting.

As the days progress on this vacation Mason has agreed to take with his brother and friends, he will become increasingly aware of the feeling that someone is watching him. Little does he know that a chance encounter with one of the locals will lead to his dreams of being able to love again becoming a reality.

More than a ghost story, Dei Ex Machina, speaks of an instant connection, a spark that only one person can provide for another. That spark leads to recognition and, in Mason’s case, to a second chance at love. When two wounded hearts come together there is often healing, but Kim Fielding goes one step further in the story. Not only are Mason and Sabbio destined to be together, they discover they are the one thing that completes the other, they are soul mates.

This delightful story is complete and total fantasy, and I dare you not to fall in love with its two main characters. Rating: 4 stars

Among The Dead by Eli Easton:

In the third offering of this wonderful anthology, author Eli Easton gives us Among the Dead.

After a near fatal accident while windsailing, Neil finds himself with a brand new ability: that of being able to see dead people–spirits who are not yet at rest. At first he thought he was crazy, and after some intensive therapy, he realizes that the knock on his head has actually left him with this very real and horrifying ability. In an attempt to save his sanity, slowly but surely Neil becomes a recluse, only leaving the house every first Tuesday of the month for a check in with his boss at his IT job. Other than that, he has little interaction with the world around him.

On one such Tuesday jaunt, Neil sees a man in a bowler hat. Unlike other spirits, this man seems calm, slightly sad, and desiring to somehow communicate with Neil. At first Neil is terrified, for right after his accident he did try to help the spirits that he saw, sometimes with disastrous results. So, when this gentleman appears in Neil’s apartment, he decides to engage him in conversation. After many attempts, Neil is finally able to understand what the man wants. There is someone who needs Neil’s help; someone who Neil had seen before the accident, at the local park. When he agrees to help the man, the comfortable, quiet life he has been enduring will change forever.

This story had quite the shocker of an ending, but the ride getting there was really sublime. Neil was so cut off from everything and everyone after his accident. Alternating between the thought that he was insane, and grappling with the reality that he could see dead spirits, Neil coped by simply choosing to shut out life as much as possible. When he finally decides to help Trist, at the prodding of the ghost in the bowler hat, he is overjoyed to finally find someone like him–someone who also interacts with the spirit world. The instant attraction, the need to cling to one another, and the reality that neither of them is alone anymore is so incredibly beautiful. While the transition into lovers is rapid, it is also utterly believable. This was such a sweet story about finding your soul mate and defying all odds to hang on to him forever. Rating: 4.5 stars

Text by B.G. Thomas:

The last thing Mike remembers is that stupid text, the one that now has him walking the earth as a dead man–or nearly so. Prior to the accident, Mike had lead a double life. For years he has denied that he is gay; instead, he runs a successful business alongside his trophy wife. And for the last year, has been meeting the one person he really loves, Joel. Having met at one of Mike’s seminars, Joel and he have been meeting clandestinely every time Mike can get into the city. In fact, it is Joel who Mike is texting when he accidentally runs that red light and loses his life…sort of…

You see Mike is now seemingly brain dead, on life support and running out of time. He must somehow reach out to both Joel and his wife to let them know how he feels. He must set things straight before he passes on. But will there be time?

B.G. Thomas writes the most compelling story about what is most important in our lives, and the foolish way we have of taking it all for granted. By writing the character of Mike, the author hits the reader hard with the idea that any second may be our last, and we must live life to the fullest, be honest with those we love and never, ever take our eyes off the prize–love.

One should not look at this short story as just an advert against texting and driving—although it is a very strong reminder of just that idea. No, there is a bigger message here. While we watch those who Mike loved, and who loved him in return, agonize over things that were left undone and words of love that were left unspoken, we are forcibly reminded that every second of our lives counts. Now the question remains, what will you do with that very important message? Rating: 5 stars

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, M.A. Church, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance

Review: Behind the Eight Ball by M.A. Church

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Title: Behind the Eight Ball (Fur, Fangs & Felines: Book Two)

Author: M. A. Church

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 214 Pages

At a Glance: Behind the Eight Ball had much more depth to it than the first in this series, and was much richer in terms of character development and interpersonal conflict.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: A cool morning, a yard full of birds, and a kitty on a mission. What more could a werecat want? Beta Heller Wirth has it all, except a mate—a shifter mate, that is. The last thing he wants is one of those dangerous humans who kill without remorse. Heller knows about that firsthand. So what does the goddess Bast do? She gives Heller exactly what he does not want—a human: business owner Lawson Dupre.

Lawson hasn’t a clue what just happened in his car detail shop. One minute a cute client is about to pass out, and then he perks up and starts flirting. Next thing, he runs out the door like the hounds of hell are after him. Learning that Heller is a werecat doesn’t freak out Lawson. He happens to be one of those rare humans who knows paranormals exists. He even lives with one. Watch the fur fly as Heller and Lawson battle hurt feelings, misguided beliefs, and a power shift in Heller’s clowder.

Dividers

Review: Heller is a bigot. Admittedly, when it comes down to it, there is a hard reason he hates humans but nonetheless, he paints all of them with the same wide brush—including the one he has just discovered is fated to be his mate. Lawson is a unique human in that he is fully aware of the paranormal world, and that of shifters, for he is best friend and roommate to two of them. And, they are some scary shifters to boot.

However, nothing Lawson has gone through has prepared him for the extreme pull he feels towards Heller, who is more than likely to be running from his mate than embracing him. Then a mysterious threat appears on the horizon—seemingly aimed right at Lawson–and Heller not only changes his tune, he fervently hopes that it is not too late for Lawson to forgive him and consider being mated to him for good.

I must admit I was so pleasantly surprised when author M. A. Church opted to focus on the disgruntled and fairly nasty beta Heller Wirth for her second installment in the Fur, Fangs & Felines series. I was so certain that Remi would be her next choice, and by choosing Heller, I felt there was so much more to explore in terms of his background and obvious distrust of humans. I also felt it was quite a smooth move to introduce other shifters in the form of the snake duo, Marshell and Janelle. What I found most fascinating about this next chapter in the series was the depth to which we plumbed Heller’s character. I was so impressed by how all of his history was unpacked, and along with it, all his insecurities and fears that no one would ever really see him—beneath the beta exterior—the real him.

I felt there were such lovely poignant moments between Lawson and Heller—particularly when Heller really broke down and discussed his past experiences with humans and how deeply one in particular had hurt him. This may see an odd comment, but once you read the book you will understand. I was so relieved that the conflict that formed Heller’s mistrust and hate was not a physical one—a rape or torture driven memory. Instead, the additional characters from the past were sadly realistic, and how they affected and interacted with Heller was so very sad to read.

I was also quite taken with Marshell and Janelle and the idea that they survived off human blood and yet did not kill the host. Rather they paralyzed them, fed and released them. I look forward to book three in this series in hopes of reading more about this race of shifters. Perhaps the only drawback for me in this novel was some of the repetition of storyline from the first novel. I understood that the author was attempting to bring new readers up to speed, but I felt that the near verbatim explanations from book one were a bit annoying and could have possibly been addressed either in a forward or a more cleverly disguised format within the body of the novel. Quite a few times I found myself distracted by having to read about clowder events and rules that were nearly identical to the initial introductions to those same rites in book one.

However, in the end, Behind the Eight Ball had much more depth to it than the first in this series, and was much richer in terms of character development and interpersonal conflict. It’s a worthy and entertaining addition to the series.

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4 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Elizabeth Noble, Genre Romance, Narration Rating - 4 Stars, Paranormal, Reviewed by Maryann

Audio Review: Electric Candle by Elizabeth Noble – Narrated by Faust Kells

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Title: Electric Candle (The Sleepless City: Book Two)

Author: Elizabeth Noble

Narrator: Faust Kells

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 6 hours and 49 minutes

At a GlanceEven though this series is written by two different authors and performed by different narrators, it’s worth the read or the listen, whatever you prefer.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: When a vampire finds his soul mate, the bond is forever. It’s love at first sight. Or is it?

Flint, Ohio, Homicide Detective Jonas Forge has been a vampire for nearly two hundred years. He’s fought wars, seen life go from the simple but hard colonial days to the modern, high-tech world. He’s evolved with the times, adapting with each new era, blending into each new life. The one constant is his best friend and lover, Declan.

Until Forge’s soul mate tumbles, literally, into his life.

Even though they’re not fated to be together forever, Forge and Declan are perfectly happy. Despite the pheromone attracting him to his soul mate, Forge isn’t thrilled with the guy, and the feeling seems mutual. While trying to adjust to his clumsy soul mate and equally awkward feelings, Forge is on the hunt for the serial killer who’s leaving a trail of bodies, and who witnesses can’t identify. But Forge better watch out. When his work collides with his love life, things really heat up.

Dividers

Review: Electric Candle is book two in The Sleepless City series, which takes us back to Bogg’s Castle, where Simon, Ben, Lucas, Bogg, and Forge live.  Oh, and we can’t forget Moose!  Elizabeth Noble takes us on the second paranormal adventure, where Forge and Blair are our focus.

Oh my, Faust Kells brought so much expression and emotion to this audio, especially the humor.  I loved what he did with Blair. He brought youth, a little innocence and moments of maturity to this character. Lots of humor too when he and Forge first meet.

Lucas’s tone is more gravely and goes along with his persona of being a werewolf. The only voice I was disappointed with was Bogg’s, I wanted him to still have that southern gentlemen drawl portrayed in the audio Shades of Sepia, but he didn’t.

Even though this series is written by two different authors and performed by different narrators, it’s worth the read or the listen, whatever you prefer.  I was not disappointed.

(*Jackie, also did a great review of the e-book of Electric Candle in April 2015.)

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5 Stars, Carol Lynne, Genre Romance, Horror, Paranormal, Reviewed by Maryann, Wilde City Press

Review: The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly by Carol Lynne

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Title: The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly

Author: Carol Lynne

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 99 Pages

At a Glance: Carol Lynne creates another well done horror/paranormal story here, with dangerous spirits, satanic worship, possession and old tales of horror.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: After taming the Ghosts of Alcatraz, Fisher Marx left his position as head of the World Police Unit to take a job in the small town of Toblerville. He’d hoped to live out his life in quiet splendor while still using his skills to protect the Hickory County residents, but everything changed when he heard rumors of a young man who claimed to be the victim of regular attacks by a ghost.

Unable to put the young man out of his mind, Fisher decided to investigate the situation. What he discovered in the run down house outside of town would change his life forever.

Dividers

Review: The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly is the sequel to Ghost of Alcatraz, where we first meet Fisher Marx. Carol Lynne creates another well done horror/paranormal story here, with dangerous spirits, satanic worship, possession and old tales of horror. These are two excellent stories, but a word of warning: this book does include sexual abuse and violence.

This story picks-up with Fisher starting a new life, but he’s not at peace yet. He’d seen a lot of crazy things during his ordeal at Alcatraz prison, with Jensen Black and Brian Phipps. He hears things being said about a young man, Patrick Donnelly, which are treated as a joke by his fellow officers. He just can’t let it go, so he seeks out Patrick with every intention of helping him. What he finds is a young man who is being sexually abused and tormented by his father’s spirit.

Fisher witnesses the abuse that Patrick is going through, and rescues him, but the “living spirit” follows Patrick to Fisher’s house.  Fisher decides to take Patrick to Pont-Aven, France, and put as much distance as possible between Patrick and the spirit.  But nothing can stop the evil. Fisher has been seeking advice from his friend, Brian Phipps, an ex-parapsychologist, and Brian and Jensen arrive in France to help Fisher and Patrick figure out why Patrick is plagued by the spirit.

Both Fisher and Patrick are searching for something: Fisher wants someone to make life worth living, and Patrick needs real love and peace in his life. Even though there is an age difference between them, I believe it’s a spirit that unites them together. I thought the same about Brian and Jensen when they met in Ghost of Alcatraz. Carol Lynne also introduces some new characters—Gavin, Ian, and Sal—who add an odd twist to this story.

I was really surprised and glad to see this series is continuing. It has been a long time since Ghost of Alcatraz was released (2011), the story that takes us to the year 2020 and a new Alcatraz prison where we meet Jensen, Brian and Fisher for the first time. I liked that she brought Jensen and Brian back for Fisher’s story and am hoping she will continue to bring us more eerie adventures in this paranormal world.

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Horror, Paranormal, Reviewed By JJ, Santino Hassell

Release Day Review: Stygian by Santino Hassell

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Title: Stygian

Author: Santino Hassell

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 217 Pages

At a Glance: I loved this book. I recommend Stygian to anyone who loves horror, paranormal, and dark m/m romance.

Reviewed By: JJ

Blurb: Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.

Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band’s enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music, but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.

Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he’s finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroways’ secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.

Dividers

Review: After the death of his brother, Jeremy suffers from bouts of madness. He is still trying to get back on his feet when he joins the band called Stygian. He is also motivated to join due to his crush on the guitar player, Kennedy. The book begins when the band decides to rent a house for the summer in order to write new music. However, everything goes wrong from the beginning. No one in the band is on the same wavelength, and they are always fighting with one another. To make matters worse, there is something very creepy about the house and its owners, Hunter and his sister. Even though things don’t feel right, Jeremy ends up becoming closer to Hunter and distancing himself from the band. Fearing the resurgence of his psychosis, Jeremy keeps his suspicions about the house and its owners to himself until it is almost too late.

In addition to being a great book, this genre was a new experience for me. Though there are paranormal and romantic elements, Stygian feels more like horror than anything. I loved how the story kept me on my toes due to not knowing what scary thing would happen next. However, I especially loved the psychological element and the mind games they get sucked into. Due to Jeremy’s past, he was more inclined to doubt his sanity rather than believe the messed up things happening around him.

Another aspect of this book that was impressive was the complicated relationship dynamics between the band members. Jeremy is somewhat lost, but he’s in a band with guys who are also quite lost and damaged. Through their adventure in the house, Jeremy learns painful things about his band mates that help him put his own suffering into perspective. It takes the band almost falling apart before they have the strength to come together and look out for one another. In addition to being suspenseful, this book was also quite sexy.

I loved this book. I recommend Stygian to anyone who loves horror, paranormal, and dark m/m romance.

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5 Stars, Holiday Romance, Jordan L. Hawk, Paranormal, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Release Day Review: Dangerous Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk

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Title: Dangerous Spirits (Spirits: Book Two)

Author: Jordan L. Hawk

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 157 Pages

At a Glance: Dangerous Spirits is everything a good ghost story should be.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: After the events of Reyhome Castle, Henry Strauss expected the Psychical Society to embrace his application of science to the study of hauntings. Instead, the society humiliates and blacklists him. His confidence shaken, he can’t bring himself to admit the truth to his lover, the handsome medium Vincent Night.

Vincent’s new life in Baltimore with Henry is disrupted when a friend from the past asks for help with a haunting. In the remote town of Devil’s Walk, old ties and new lies threaten to tear the lovers apart, if a fiery spirit bent on vengeance doesn’t put an end to them first.

Dividers

Review: I’ve probably uttered the words, “Oh my god, this is my favorite Jordan L. Hawk book. Evarrrr!” every single time I’ve finished reading a Jordan L. Hawk book. That sort of redundancy is an occupational hazard of which I never tire. And, once again, it’s entirely true.

Putting my finger on the pulse of my love for Dangerous Spirits is simple—the paranormal plot elements in this story are exceptional. How exceptional are they? I was so frustrated by my inability to read fast enough that I kept skipping down the page to see what would happen next, and then going back to read the parts I’d skipped just so I wouldn’t bust a vein from the tension and suspense woven into those scenes. If you’re a fan of horror—the vivid prose and chilling metaphysical story elements that not only get the adrenaline pumping but the goose bumps popping at the deadly visitations from beyond the grave—then this book will scratch every single one of your horror-loving itches. Those scenes are written with a skill, attention to detail, and an inspired celebration of the supernatural, which not only had my imagining working overtime but immediately took me back to the earliest days of my first sleep-with-the-lights-on reads, the books that made me fall in love with this genre in the first place. Though, in a bit of a twist, the author also makes our resident ghost an entirely sympathetic character, not to mention made me glad I, for one, am a 21st century woman.

Lest you aren’t as huge a fan of the macabre as I, though, rest assured that there’s plenty of relationship tension in this story too, not only between Henry Strauss and Vincent Knight, our endearing heroes and earnest lovers, but between Henry and Lizzie, Henry and Jo, and Henry and Sylvester Ortensi, a man from Vincent and Lizzie’s past who comes calling—and brings more than a little danger for the trouble.

Poor Henry, you might see a pattern here. He has a rough go of things in this installment of the Spirits series, and his failure to impress the Psychical Society with his scientific approach to the spirit world culminates in a blow to his already somewhat fragile confidence, especially where Vincent is concerned. Henry and Vincent both are a bit of a study in frustration in this novel, their strife is the epicenter of the story, and yet it’s impossible not to understand their decisions and actions and inactions where each other is concerned because their relationship is still untried by the challenges they each bring to the table, let alone that they have to hide what they mean to each other from the whole of society. There are outright lies and then there are lies by omission; what they share to their core is that the wounds to the conscience can be every bit as painful as telling the truth can be to the heart. Both Henry and Vincent are fortunate to have people in their lives—Jo and Lizzy—who love and want the best for them, are the voices of reason, and who help to make up what many would call a bit of a misfit family.

And, where there’s love, it seems there’s always a way.

Dangerous Spirits is crackin’ good spec fic, fraught with emotion, tautly paced, packed with danger and chills, and—simple as this—it’s what we’ve come to expect from the author. This is an effortless read—unless you take into account the spikes in blood pressure—so light a candle, lay your salt lines, say your prayers, and dig into the fun.

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3 Stars, Charley Descoteaux, Dreamspinner Press, Paranormal, Reviewed by Sadonna, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: The Pinch of the Game by Charley Descoteaux

Title: The Pinch of the Game

Author: Charley Descoteaux

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 98 Pages

At a Glance: A really interesting, if slightly confusing, paranormal mystery and love story that read like a combination road trip/hot pursuit/screwball comedy.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: Being a witch doesn’t mean one can beat the devil forever.

Jeffrey Overton, unemployed IT professional turned poker player, pushes his luck once too often and runs afoul of the host of an illegal card club. The man sent to escort Jeffrey to a “meeting” about his supernatural winning streak arrives at Jeffrey’s crappy North Portland apartment, lock-picking tools in hand and a charm to block Jeffrey’s magick.

Head muscle for said host, Mike Wells, is a Daisy from Daisyville. He isn’t a witch. What he lacks in magickal talent he makes up for in brawn, so he doesn’t expect the guy he’s after to overpower him. But once Mike renders Jeffrey helpless, he’d rather seduce him than bring him in.

Jeffrey and Michael ditch the “meeting” and end up hunting some of the same people they ran from, trying to get Jeffrey back into his own body. And that’s only part of the adventure. The pair travel halfway across the country on the quietest road trip in history and find missing people, empire-building witches, and maybe even the families they’d both thought lost to them

Dividers

Review: This is a different story than the other stories I have read by this author, in that it’s really a paranormal mystery/romance. It’s kind of a combination road trip/one long chase scene/screwball comedy in some ways.

Jeffrey has gotten himself in trouble by using his magic to win at cards. The house does not like this and sends the muscle to bring him in. But, the muscle, Mike, flips all of Jeffrey’s switches, and he’d really rather spend time with Mike than anything else. When they end up on the run together, Jeffrey makes a terrible miscalculation that poses great risk to both himself and Mike.

While on the run and trying to figure out just how to fix the terrible situation they find themselves in, Jeff and Mike end up hiding out temporarily with Mike’s family. There is also the little issue of Jeffrey’s missing mother, more muscle on their tails, and a possible double-cross.

The chase leads halfway across the country, from the home ground of Portland, and draws a bunch of other bad guys (and bad magic) along with them. They aren’t sure who to trust, who is after them, or who is really calling the shots. There are a lot of near misses and some big surprises. Overall, things got a lot more confusing before they became very clear.
I really enjoyed this story, but I wish it had been longer, with additional blanks filled in. The relationship between Mike and Jeffrey is really the heart of the story, and their interaction and dialogue is always energetic. But, at times, I felt like I was missing a couple of chapters here and there. I don’t like a big info dump, but I did feel confused when various characters just “dropped in” to the action, and there wasn’t enough detail for me to figure out what they were doing there, or who they were tied to, or what their part of the game was. It was kind of like walking into a movie 15 minute after it started, where the action that occurs that kicks off the whole movie has taken place and you’ve missed it. I felt like I eventually caught up, but at times the ride wasn’t smooth.

I have enjoyed Charley Descoteaux’s writing in the past, so I welcomed the opportunity to read another longer story. I feel like the author has a unique voice and perspective, and also bases a lot of the stories in my favorite US city, Portland, Oreg0n. Overall, I’d recommend for those who enjoy a good mystery with some romance and magic on the side.

 

 

 

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4 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Holiday Romance, JMS Books LLC, Paranormal, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Review: Desmond and Garrick (Book One) by Hayden Thorne

Title: Desmond and Garrick (Book One)

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press/JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 226 Pages

At a Glance: Another fantastic historical YA fantasy from Hayden Thorne.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: It’s 1815. Garrick Mortimer is a scholar extraordinaire, an underemployed and starving genius, who agrees to sign on as tutor to Desmond Hathaway, the youngest son of a vampire family living in Yorkshire. Desmond, heartbroken by another boy’s callous treatment of him in school, rebels against Garrick’s attempts at educating him and does everything he could to chase Garrick away, which proves to be a greater challenge than he first thought.

When Desmond’s older brother returns from Italy for a visit and brings with him a small group of talentless and self-absorbed poets, life in Dryden Abbey turns upside-down, mainly when Desmond meets Leigh Blaise Sherbourne, a sullen vampire poet.

Throw into the mix a desperate mother’s plea for grandchildren, a family-owned torture chamber, a cottage-abbey-and-quarter-castle, and a grumpy family magician, and Garrick finds life in the Hathaway household to be a great deal more than he bargained for.

Dividers

Review: Hayden Thorne knows how to write historical YA, and historical fantasy YA, so when I had the opportunity to read Desmond and Garrick I was thrilled. First of all, it has a similarly haunting cover of some old building. Without even reading the blurb, I knew the house would play some interesting part in the story, and it did.

The first of a series (at least one other book is out, or soon to be out), Desmond and Garrick focuses on a vampire family and their young son, Desmond, who has been sent out of human schools for “provoking” human boys, like pretty much every young vampire has done. Desperate to change him and get him to settle down, his parents send for a human tutor and find Garrick, a brilliant scholar who detests teaching. But, the idea of working with vampires and learning about their species intrigues him.

What follows is a story as both teacher and pupil grow. Their growth may not necessarily be because of each other, but changes take place. Garrick is drawn more towards tutoring Desmond’s talented younger sister, who shows more promise than Desmond. And Desmond, attempting to get over the human boy he loved and lost, finds himself face to face with his older brother’s friend, Leigh Sherbourne, a vampire poet who both intrigues and repulses Desmond.

Like the author’s other YA books, there is very little romance, and what is there is incredibly slow to start, but also, like the other books, that’s okay. There’s more to this than the romance. Instead, you’ll be drawn to watching the vampire children (who act much younger than fifteen and sixteen) throwing themselves off the top of their home, locking themselves in the torture chamber’s various devices, watching vampire parents adding graveyards and collapsed walls to their cottage-abbey-and-quarter-castle home.

I look forward to the next book, because this one leaves off in spot that suggests this would work well as one long book rather than two (or more) parts of one story.

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5 Stars, DSP Publications, Lissa Kasey, Paranormal, Reviewed by Sammy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Evolution by Lissa Kasey

Title: Evolution

Author: Lissa Kasey

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 250 Pages

At a Glance: Evolution unlocks an exciting paranormal world where the focus is on the heart and soul of its characters rather than just their superhuman qualities.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Gene Sage has only ever wanted to sing, but his band, Evolution, is pushing him toward the big time. He finds it hard to focus on making musical history when he’s dreaming of graveyards and seeing ghosts. And while all he can think of is hiding who he is from a world unforgiving of anyone different, he discovers he’s also the ultimate snack for vampires and demons. When Gene literally runs into—over—his idol, Kerstrande Petterson, rock god, vampire in hiding, and music cynic, his life falls over the edge into chaos.

Jaded by the world and nearly a decade in the music business, Kerstrande thinks Gene wants to use him to make Evolution immortal in more than one way, but he can’t seem to brush aside the young singer’s enthusiasm.

Getting involved with Kerstrande drags Gene into otherworldly power struggles. Between the ghosts stalking them, the media painting supernaturals as villains, and a vampire out of control in the city, the only way for Gene and Kerstrande to survive is for Gene to embrace his powers—and his destiny.

Dividers

Review: How to understand living a life that was always skirting the edge of reality, versus the terrifying thought that there was something so very wrong with you. Genesis sees dead people. But it’s more than that, for he also sees the darkness which possesses people and creates such a sinister and evil change in them that they become nearly unrecognizable. It is more than their aura and yet it is. From an early age he knew he was different, and he spent years being the focus of bullies and trying desperately not to stand out. Then one day, after nearly being drowned, and knowing the one person who professed to be his friend stood by and watched, Genesis chucked school and pursued his dream—to sing. Forming the band Evolution with two friends, he set out to be himself: gay, quirky and unafraid. However, living in a world where vampires were registered and regularly hunted, and being different himself, Genesis still walked on the edge, trying to live free yet still weighed down with fear.

When his car accidentally hits a living legend, Kerstrande, of rock star fame, little does he know that his life is about to change forever, and for the first time, he will truly understand what it is to be the balance in another person’s life. Unfortunately it is unclear if Kerstrande really wants that feeling of calm Genesis provides for he also evokes other strong feelings, and some of those put Genesis in mortal danger.

Author Lissa Kasey creates a world so familiar yet innately sinister and fantastical in her novel Evolution. Set in New York, we enter a city inhabited by creatures that roam the city, hunting others for sport and, of course, for blood. But those are not the only beings that inhabit this world. The undead roam the streets and are just as real and frightening to Genesis as the vampires. Along with these, our hero himself is not quite human and possesses unknown and untapped power waiting to surface. The world building, the paranormal thread that is unraveled, and the tender and poignant person that Genesis is all converge in what is a fascinating story that had me hooked from the very beginning.

Genesis was, in many ways, a simple young man, full of loving compassion and a core of iron strength that had not yet been fully tested despite his painful history. Each time he was described by the author, from his ever-changing hair color to his painted nails, he evoked such a protective response in me. Much like one of her secondary characters, Cris, Gene’s only real friend, I felt such a need to protect this young man. Lissa Kasey writes her novel with such deliberate care, vividly describing her creations, laying out the city with such a visceral and graphic description that you taste the grit and the evil underbelly that makes up her world. To say that this book was an intense ride is an understatement. Ending with a cliffhanger, I am thrilled that I can turn immediately to the next installment in this exciting series.

Evolution unlocks an exciting paranormal world where the focus is on the heart and soul of its characters rather than just their superhuman qualities. It is an exciting novel that I can definitely recommend to those who love this genre.

TNA_Signature_Sammy

 

 

 

You can buy Evolution here:

OmniLit/ARe

OmniLit/ARe

Standard