Bout-of-Books 23 (August 20-26, 2018)

It’s almost Fall! I don’t know how the weather’s been where you are, but it’s most definitely been a hot, muggy summer here. Perfect weather to find a nice cool spot and curl up with a book (or two or three). Speaking of which, nearing the end of summer also means that Bout-of-Books time is here!

If you’ve never participated, you really need to consider joining in on all the fun. There’s always crazy shenanigans, fun challenges, some crazy fast twitter chats and loads of ways to meet and interact with some crazy cool bloggers. Did I mention it’s a CRAZY week, but in a good kind of crazy way? Oh, and it’s also a great excuse to read as much as you can for an entire week! No pressure, just plain fun! To find out more, read the official blurb below and follow the link to the Official Bout-of-Books blog.

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 20th and runs through Sunday, August 26th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 23 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

 

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A Mage’s Power (The Inquisition Trilogy #1) by Casey Wolfe

Built on the bones of an ancient city, modern-day Everstrand is where master mage, Rowan, has set up his enchantment shop. When not hanging out with his werewolf best friend, Caleb, or studying, he dabbles in herbology and the controversial practice of blood magic. A prodigy who has already earned two masters, Rowan’s bound and determined to reach the distinction of grandmaster, a mage who obtains a masters in all five Schools of Magic.
Shaw works for the Inquisition, the organization charged with policing the magical races collectively known as magicae. Recently, it has come under scrutiny as magicae begin to disappear and reports of violence increase. With secrets of his own on the line, Shaw is willing to risk everything to find out just what is going on behind all the locked doors.
When Rowan and Shaw are entangled in each other’s worlds, it becomes evident that their hearts are as much at risk as their lives. They must find the truth and stop a conspiracy before it’s too late.

I love it when a book takes me by surprise 😉 In the case of A Mage’s Power, it wasn’t immediate. I honestly wasn’t sure about this one at first, but there was a lot of world building involved. Once the story got going though, it was tough to put down.

There was a lot I really liked about this story. There was a unique family/pack connection between Rowan and his best friend Caleb. Speaking of which, I loved Casey Wolfe’s approach to the pack mentality. Actually, even though her world building was extensive, everything about it really drew me into A Mage’s Power.

The relationship between Shaw and Rowan took some time to build, but that’s okay. Trust needed to be built between the two of them. Shaw had some secrets and some preconceived notions about mage’s and their use of magic. Rowan had some doubts about the sincerity of anyone who worked for the Inquisition.

As I mentioned, A Mage’s Power was hard to put down. The mystery of what was really happening to the missing magicae, the action, the budding romance and the friendship kept the pages turning. It’s probably worth mentioning that all the “romance” happened off the page. That didn’t bother me either, but it might be a deal breaker to some. Just know that the story and the obvious love between Rowan and Shaw made up for it… at least for me.

I’m really glad that this book is part of a series. Even though A Mage’s Power didn’t end in a cliff hanger, there is obviously more story to be told and a few other mysteries that weren’t totally solved. I can’t wait until The Inquisition Trilogy continues.

SpellSmoke (A Fistfull of Daggers #2) by SM Reine

It’s not much of a life, taking bounty hunts on vampires. But as a disgraced former deputy, Lincoln Marshall’s not exactly knee-deep in job offers, and airplane tickets are expensive after the apocalypse. His dying father is all the way across the country in Northgate. It’s Lincoln’s last chance to see him, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get there – even though the werewolf pack in Northgate is still out for his blood.
Sophie Keyes, the one and only Historian, needs Lincoln’s help. She fears the gods may be out to kill her. So Lincoln drags her back home despite his better instincts – only to learn that home’s not exactly safer than Reno. Some preternatural monster is killing hospice patients in Northgate.
Sheriff Noah Adair is convinced the killers are werewolves. The werewolves are convinced Lincoln Marshall is the killer. And Lincoln thought surviving the post-apocalypse had been bad enough before all this crap.

Before I started writing this review, I went back and read my review of Lonesome Paladin. I do that from time to time, just to refresh my memory. I didn’t really need to this time, it hasn’t been that long since I read the first book in A Fistful of Daggers. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t repeating my self too much… 😉

Needless to say, I’m loving this series so far. There were a couple of surprising appearances in Lonesome Paladin. The additional characters in A Fistful of Daggers were expected, but that doesn’t mean that the way readers saw them in SpellSmoke was. Abel and Rylie are adjusting to being new parents while still being the Alpha mates. Abel is trying to take on most of the Alpha duties while Rylie recovers and adjusts. The fact that he needs his mate just as much as Rylie needs him isn’t making things any easier on anyone. Adding Lincoln to the mix isn’t helping. I loved spending time with Rylie, Abel and even Summer again. I may be a bit partial because Seasons of the Moon was my first introduction to this crazy, amazing world created by SM Reine. So you may want to take my infatuation with the pack with a grain of salt.

Aside from Lincoln’s unintentional involvement with the pack, there was a lot more going on in SpellSmoke. I may or may not have mentioned in my review of Lonesome Paladin that I wasn’t sure about my feelings about Sophie. That’s changed… I fell in love with her in SpellSmoke -awkward nerdiness and all. Her sincerity, her unique view on the world, pretty much everything about her… even the way she continually put Lincoln in his place… I loved it all.

Then there were the unexplained hospice deaths. Lincoln’s family, (that, incidentally, explained so much about the man he was). The mysterious assassin who was after Sophie. And a brand new group of shapshifters (kind of)…  SpellSmoke was pretty much non-stop action and craziness and I loved every minute of it.

Oh, and if you’re not a fan of cliff hangers, consider yourself forewarned. Just one more reason why I can’t wait for the next book in A Fistful of Daggers

The Consumption of Magic (Tales from Verania #3) by T.J. Klune

Sam of Wilds faced the Dark wizard Myrin and lived to tell the tale. Granted, the battle left him scarred, but things could be a hell of a lot worse.
It’s not until he reunites with Morgan of Shadows and Randall that he realizes just how much worse things could be.
Because the scars have meaning and hint at Myrin’s true plans for Sam and the Kingdom of Verania.
With time running out, Sam and his band of merry misfits—the unicorn Gary, the half-giant Tiggy, Knight Commander Ryan Foxheart, and the dragon known as Kevin—must travel to the snowy mountains in the North and the heart of the Dark Woods to convince the remaining dragons to stand against Myrin. Along the way, Sam learns secrets of the past that will forever change the course of the future.
A reckoning is coming for Sam of Wilds, and there is nothing he can do to stop it.

So, what was my first response when I finished reading The Consumption of Magic? …and the love/hate relationship with TJ Klune continues…. Yep, that about covers it.

Okay, so I’m not really mad at TJ Klune. Readers knew going in that there would be loss, it was all part of the prophecy after all. That doesn’t mean that it still wasn’t heart breaking, even though it was expected, I just never expected… Just in case you’re wondering – there were tears… pretty much a chapter and a half worth. You’ve been warned…

I’m not sure what I can say about this book that I haven’t already said in my previous reviews of The Lightning Struck Heart and A Destiny of Dragons. These books are so much more than stories of a young wizard and his Merry Band of Misfits would suggest. They’re about love, loyalty, trust, challenge, fear, heartbreak and choice… there’s always a choice.

There’s just enough lightheartedness woven within the pages of The Tales from Verania to balance every thing these characters endure while battling forces of both good and evil. Just one of the many things I love about this series.

At the time of writing this review I had just finished the last book in the series, A Wish Upon the Stars. I don’t usually do that, but when I finished The Consumption of Magic, I had to know how things turned out. Stay tuned… 😉

Shift’s End (Smoke & Bullets #3) by A.R. Barley

With a couple failed marriages under his belt, Captain Jack Tracey knows how tough it is to balance a personal life with his job. But nothing in his long career has prepared him for the moment Diesel Evers walks into his firehouse. Sure, Jack’s contended with cocky young recruits before, but this seriously hot hotshot rookie is poised to crash and burn. With early retirement in sight, Jack can’t afford to get involved with a subordinate.
Having transferred to Jack’s house after a disastrous relationship, Diesel isn’t looking for another commitment. But that doesn’t mean he can’t have a little fun with his sexy silver fox of a new boss. Sometimes you have to bend the rules a bit…or shatter them completely.
With an unidentified saboteur endangering his squad, Jack doesn’t want to draw any more heat, but Diesel is too damn tempting to deny. Indulging their desires feels worth the risk—until trouble on the job lands Jack in the hospital, forcing them both to decide what’s worth fighting for.

I’ve liked all the books in this series so far, but I think that Shift’s End might be my favorite so far.

Jack was a man that demanded respect. He not only led his team, more often that not, he was right in the thick of things with them. He was more than a Captain, he was a true part of the team. Diesel had a past that he was trying to get away from. He takes his job just as seriously as Jack though and when they find out that someone’s sabotaging the equipment that’s meant to keep everyone safe, he doesn’t hesitate to offer to help.

This story had action, danger, loyalty and just the right amount of heat to keep the pages turning. I loved the connection between Jack and Diesel and the respect and sense of family that was evident between the crew. So yeah, there were a lot of reasons why Shift’s End is one of my favorites. I’m really hoping there’s more to come in the Smoke & Bullets series.

Sticks & Stones (Cut & Run #2) by Abigail Roux & Madeleine Urban

Six months after nearly losing their lives to a serial killer in New York City, FBI Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are suffering through something almost as frightening: the monotony of desk duty. When they’re ordered to take a vacation for the good of everyone’s sanity, Ty bites the bullet and takes Zane home with him to West Virginia, hoping the peace and quiet of the mountains will give them the chance to explore the explosive attraction they’ve so far been unable to reconcile with their professional partnership. Ty and Zane, along with Ty’s father and brother, head up into the Appalachian mountains for a nice, relaxing hike deep into the woods… where no one will hear them scream. They find themselves facing danger from all directions: unpredictable weather, the unrelenting mountains, wild animals, fellow hikers with nothing to lose, and the most terrifying challenge of all. Each other.

Why oh why has it taken me so long to pick up this series? I guess the good thing is that I have lots of Ty and Zane books to keep me busy 😉

Ty and Zane are both dealing with the stuff they went through in Cut & Run. Neither one of them are dealing very well. Because of that, they’re forced to take some time off, whether they like it or not. Ty’s decision to take Zane to his family’s home isn’t totally just for a vacation. He’s hoping that by the time they spend some time together, he might get his partner back… with a little bit of help.

Because it’s Ty and Zane, nothing really goes as planned. They seem to be magnets for danger and the unexpected. Adding Ty’s family members to the mix just made things more interesting. The whole dynamic between the sons and their father was crazy, especially when seen through Zane’s eyes.

There was a lot going on in Sticks & Stones – even beyond their trek through the mountains. A lot of emotions came into play, some that neither Zane or Ty were ready to face. They both came to unexpected realizations.

I really like this series so far and I can see why everyone’s so crazy about Ty and Zane. They are beautifully broken  – my favorite kind of alpha male characters. 😉 I can’t wait to see how the unexpected connections made in Sticks & Stones comes into play throughout the rest of the series. Fish & Chips is next!

 

Cooper’s Charm (Love at the Resort #1) by Lori Foster

One summer, two sisters and a chance to start over…
Before the burglary that shattered her confidence, Phoenix Rose had a fiancé, a successful store and a busy, happy existence. After months spent adrift, she takes a job at the lakeside resort of Cooper’s Charm. Surrounded by beautiful scenery, friendly colleagues and a charismatic, widowed boss, Phoenix is slowly inching her way back into the world.
Visiting Cooper’s Charm to check up on her little sister, Ridley Rose impulsively agrees to fill in as housekeeper. Still reeling from an ego-bruising divorce, she finds satisfaction in a job well done—and in the attention of the resort’s handsome scuba instructor.
For Phoenix and Ridley, Cooper’s Charm is supposed to be merely temporary. But this detour may lead to the place they most need to be, where the future is as satisfying as it is surprising…

Two for the price of one! Well, not really, but both sisters find their HEA in Cooper’s Charm.

Phoenix and Cooper’s story was the perfect introduction to Lori Foster’s Love at the Resort series. Phoenix needs more than a change of scenery, she needs a whole new life perspective. She’s finally starting to feel a little bit more like herself, but she’s not quite there yet. Cooper’s Charm might just be the best place to totally heal. She most definitely wasn’t looking for love when she made her move to the RV resort, but her attraction to Cooper was hard to resist.

Cooper was first intrigued by Phoenix’s story, but when he got to know her, the attraction got stronger. He wasn’t looking for love either, but Phoenix was a lot more than he expected her to be.

Then there was Ridley. There was a lot more to her than what was on the surface. The feeling of accomplishment she felt after a few days of work. At first she considered Baxter a challenge, but the attraction between them took them both by surprise.

Cooper’s Charm was basically a sweet romance with a touch of danger and characters that were more like family than co-workers. There was a hint of things to come and I’m looking forward to what Lori Foster has in store for Love at the Resort.

Sink or Swim (Anchor Point #8) by L.A. Witt

When need meets fear, can two very different men find common ground?
Alhazar Bukhari spent his Navy career in the closet. Now he’s retired, divorced, and hungry for the love he’s never had a chance to experience. He tries to put his faith in Allah to bring the right man into his life, but it’s hard to be patient after all this time.
Chaplain Dylan Pedersen spends his days counseling Sailors, and his nights with men he doesn’t know. Months after finally escaping an abusive relationship, he’s terrified of anything more than a physical connection. Maybe it’s a sin, but he’s too lonely to not let men into his bed, and too scared to let them into his heart.
When Alhazar’s civilian job brings him aboard the USS Fort Stevens, and his daily prayers bring him into Dylan’s chapel, the chemistry is instantaneous. Sex and friendship quickly evolve into more, but Dylan’s too haunted by his recent past to be the man Alhazar wants. Alhazar needs love, Dylan needs time, and if they can’t find some sort of balance, they’ll sink before they ever have a chance to swim.

When L.A. Witt decides to tackle a subject, she doesn’t hold back. I love the real life situations that she has her characters face in the Anchor Point series. Given that most of those situations are unique to the military makes things even more interesting. In Sink or Swim, Alhazar and Dylan had more than one obstacle to over come if they ever wanted to make a relationship work between them.

Despite those obstacles, Alhazar and Dylan had a lot in common. They both were previously married to women and had children. Alhazar married out of necessity, Dylan in an attempt to have a “normal” life. You’ll have to read Sink or Swim to get their personal back stories. Parts of both are heart breaking.

I respected both these men a lot. It was refreshing to “meet” a Chaplain – or any religious character – be as open, welcoming and respectful of other religions as Dylan was. I loved Alhazar’s devotion to his faith and learning more about it was an added bonus. His family dynamic with his ex-wife and children was great too. The circumstances were unique, but they made it work.

Both men slipped, they weren’t perfect and as much as I loved them, there was at least once where I wanted to yell at them both. There were a lot of odds against them and that balance they needed to find didn’t come easy. Alhazar had a strong need to protect those he cared about and Dylan felt like he needed to stand up to his fears on his own.

It was great seeing other characters from previous stories. Even though it would be easy to pick any one of the books in the Anchor Point series up as a stand alone, having those simple connections between the characters adds a lot to each book. I think that’s what I might like best about series books that include different characters with each book and L.A. Witt does a great job at including those previous characters seamlessly. So… if you haven’t started the Anchor Point series up yet, you could start with Sink or Swim, but I’d start with the book that started it all… Just Drive. You can thank me later 😉

Tight Quarters (Out of Uniform #6) by Annabeth Albert

Petty Officer Bacon, a navy SEAL and ace sharpshooter, has been on the front lines of more than his fair share of dangerous ops. Yet when a minor injury relegates him to the beta team, he’s tasked with what may be his riskiest assignment yet: the silver fox journalist he’s babysitting is the hottest, most charismatic man he’s ever encountered.
Award-winning journalist Spencer Bryant may have been named one of Pride magazine’s most eligible bachelors of the year, but he’s not looking to change his relationship status. He’s a consummate professional who won’t risk his ethics or impeccable reputation by getting involved with a source. Even a sexy-as-hell military man. But while Spencer can resist his physical attraction to Bacon, he has less control over his emotions—especially when the mission goes sideways and the two men are trapped alone.
Getting out of the jungle alive turns out to be easy compared to facing the truth about their feelings for one another back in the real world. And whether or not they can build a future is a different story altogether.

I really like this series and it seems to get better with each installment.

There’s a lot of tension in Tight Quarters aside from the growing sexual tension between Bacon and Spencer. Bacon is a member of the same seal team that Dustin and Wes belonged to in Wheels Up. Their (secret) romantic involvement didn’t go over well with the team. Which is just one of the many reasons why Bacon isn’t anxious to let anyone but his closest friend in on the fact that he’s pansexual. Having being put on babysitting detail with Spencer just ups his stress level. While you don’t necessarily have to read all the books in this series to enjoy the individual books, connections like this add another layer that I really enjoy.

Things got really intense in Tight Quarters. More so than a lot of the other books in this series so far. Spencer was determined to make the most of his assignment, but the men on the team didn’t trust him. There were some pretty strong reasons why getting this story right was important to him and some times he couldn’t really see beyond that. Getting close to Bacon wasn’t smart because regardless of what the guys thought about him, he had a strong sense of ethics and certain boundaries he wouldn’t cross.

Bacon was loyal to his brothers on his team, but that didn’t mean he respected them all. There were some pretty strong personalities within the ranks and he wasn’t sure who among them would have is back if they found out about his sexuality. He was getting tired of hiding who he really was though and I really felt for him. He and Spencer were great for each other, but the timing for anything to develop between them was totally off.

I really love the real life circumstances that Annabeth Albert puts her characters in. A lot of tough issues that are unique to the military are tackled and I really like the way she handles them. Tight Quarters was definitely a great addition to the series and I really hope there’s more to come.

Write On Review-A-Thon (July 27-29, 2018)

I’m actually in a good place as far as reviews go now, but that doesn’t mean that I still don’t have a few to catch up on. Because, let’s be honest, I ALWAYS have reviews to catch up on. That may have something to do with the fact that I read pretty much every chance I get and since I don’t see that changing any time soon, the never ending cycle shall continue!

A little about the Review-a-thon:

Brought to you by Reading the Paranormal and the #boutofbooks-ers facebook group. This monthly review-a-thon is a chance to get caught up on outstanding reviews. Bring your to-be-reviewed list, block out some time, write reviews. It’s that simple.

This month’s review-a-thon will run from Friday, July 27th to Sunday, July 29th.

You can see Kelly’s post at Reading the Paranormal

For once, I’m not outrageously behind on my reviews. That’s not to say that I still don’t have more than a few to knock out this weekend, because I do. It’s just that my list is actually manageable. (It kind of says a lot that I consider 10 reviews totally manageable – we probably shouldn’t examine that too closely) I even managed to knock one out this morning before I even worked on this post. 😉 So, here we go!