Soul of the Sword (Shadow of the Fox #2) by Julie Kagawa

One thousand years ago, a wish was made to the Harbinger of Change and a sword of rage and lightning was forged. Kamigoroshi. The Godslayer. It had one task: to seal away the powerful demon Hakaimono.
Now he has broken free.

Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.
Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos.

The Shadow of the Fox ended with Yumeko and her companions in an unexpected and dangerous position. In other words, it ended with one heck of a cliff hanger. Soul of the Sword continued their journey to deliver the piece of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers that Yumeko had been entrusted with to the Steel Feather temple. That’s no longer their only mission though. Yumeko can’t bring herself to give up on Tatsumi. She wants to save him and his soul from possession.

Soul of the Sword was an amazing followup to Shadow of the Fox. The POV switched between Hakaimono and Yumeko and a couple of other “voices” throughout the story. Connections were made with some of the side characters that were slightly vague in Shadow of the Fox. Yumeko learned a lot about herself and what she was capable of as well Tatsumi’s past during her travels. There weren’t quite as many “light” moments in Soul of the Sword, but there were just enough to break through a little bit of the darkness – which there was plenty.

I loved the way Soul of the Sword continued to weave the past and present and give even more dimension to all the characters. There was even an unexpected bit of romance that made me smile. Things are far from over for Yumeko and her companions. Decisions and unlikely alliances were made that changed the course of their mission and left them in even more danger. Needless to say, I can’t wait until the next book in the Shadow of the Fox is released.

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Love Someone Like Me (Trillium Creek #4) by Silvia Violet

Waverly
I’m not a typical omega. I like control, and I’d rather take than be taken.
After years of fantasizing, I finally find an alpha who will submit to all my desires. Our connection is beyond intense. My wolf says we’re fated for each other, but I know better.
Even if a test strip says I’m pregnant, I don’t want a mate. No matter how submissive he may appear, I won’t link myself to an alpha.
Derek
I’ll never live up to what my pack thinks an alpha should be.
I don’t want to order omegas and betas around. In fact, I’d prefer to hand over the reins and enjoy the bliss of surrender.
I jump at the chance when a dominant omega asks me to share his heat. Once I get a taste of him, I know a few days together won’t be enough. I want it all: a mating ceremony, kids, the future stretched before us. He wants to run as fast as he can, but I’m determined to show him I don’t want to confine him—I want to set him free.

I don’t know why these guys all fight the fated bond. I can understand Derek, because of the pack he belonged to, but Waverly? He’s seen it happen often enough now that he should have been ready for it. Just kidding… I love the fact that these guys are oblivious. It makes the inevitable even more fun, especially when everyone around them sees the obvious way before they do. 😀

I’m obviously loving this series so far. Derek and Waverly added an extra little twist to the fated mate thing. Their relationship has also moved the case against Waverly’s former pack along. They still have a long way to go and a lot of prejudice to fight. Readers got a little hint of a future couple and more babies to look forward to. MPreg isn’t exactly my “go-to” genre when it comes to PNR, but Trillium Creek is helping to push it up a few notches. 😉

The Scarecrow & George C by Mia Kerick

High school senior Van Liss is barely human. He thinks of himself as a scarecrow—ragged and unnerving, stuck, and destined to spend his life cold and alone. If he ever had feelings, they were stomped out long ago by his selfish mother and her lecherous boyfriend. All he’s been left with is bitter contempt, to which he clings.
With a rough exterior long used to keep the world at bay, Van spooks George Curaco, the handsome new frycook at the diner where he works. But George C senses there is more to the untouchable Van and refuses to stop staring, fascinated by his eccentricity. When Van learns that George C is even more cold, alone, and frightened than himself, Van welcomes him to his empty home. And ends up finding his heart.
Their road to trust is rocky and, at times, even dangerous. And looming evil threatens to keep them apart forever.
Fair warning: You may want to strap in. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

My initial response when I finished The Scarecrow & George C? This author is getting really good at breaking my heart…

These boys were definitely meant to be with each other. They were both so broken, although George hid it well. Van kept himself closed off, but he couldn’t help himself from being drawn to George. I loved watching him open up and become “real”.

I loved George, but it was hard for me to not get mad at him – yet when everyone else gave up on him, Van didn’t. Oh Van was crushed and my heart broke for him (more than once) but once he got himself together, he realized that some things were worth fighting for.

There were so many layers to The Scarecrow & George C. Heartbreak, trust, forgiveness, love, true friendship and most of all, there was hope. There was also a strong sense of family – not by blood, but the found kind of family. Sometimes those form the strongest and most dependable bonds. Watching these characters grow and learn to trust (and not just each other) was amazing.

I’ve read enough books by this author now to understand that their books aren’t exactly easy to read from an emotional standpoint, but they are totally worth every tear that’s shed. ❤

Sisters of Summer’s End (Summer Resort #2) by Lori Foster

As the summer ends, friendship begins…When single mom Joy Lee abandoned her old life to take a job at a lakeside resort, she found something that her family’s wealth and influence could never buy: peace of mind. Not easy to come by for the once-burned divorce who keeps everyone at a distance. But when her new friend, Maris, dares her to take a chance with the drive-in’s charismatic new owner, everything changes for Joy and her young son. A difficult childhood has left Maris Kennedy with definite priorities. Her job running Summer’s End, the camp store and cafe, comes first. Always. Nothing could ever make her risk that hard-won security–especially not her free-spirited colleague. But the more she encourages Joy to open herself up to new experiences, the more Maris begins to wonder what she, too, might be missing. Learning how to trust will bring Joy and Maris together.
And soon they form a friendship that leaves them as close as sisters–and open to love where they least expect it…in Summer’s End.

I’ve really enjoyed the Summer Resort series, which started with Cooper’s Charm. I think that Sisters of Summer’s End may have been even sweeter than the first book. For one thing, the only real conflict in this one was emotional. There was a touch of danger in Cooper’s Charm that was absent in the second book. That’s not a complaint though. Although I love Lori Foster’s suspenseful books a little more, the sweet ones definitely have their own appeal 😉

Just like Cooper’s Charm, there were two couples featured in Sisters of Summer’s End and I enjoyed both of them. Both women had interesting back stories and both men were determined to find a way into both of their hearts.

I’m not sure if there’s more to come with the Summer Resort series, but I have no doubt that there’s much more to come from Lori Foster, regardless.

The Midnight Twelve (Outlaw Seven #1) by Hairann

Ezra Grayson arrives in the small town of Edgewood, following a clue that will hopefully lead him to the men responsible for the deaths of his parents. His desire for revenge, the only thing keeping him going after five years of trailing the midnight twelve.
Colleen Warren was not like the other girls working at the Lady Luck Saloon in Edgewood. It was not easy to explain to her customers that the soft, feminine Colleen was also the hard, masculine Cole.
A miscalculation throws them together as they run from the law and the bounty on Ezra’s head, but it is fate that guides their journey across the land; bringing them closer to the answers they both seek and to each other.

This story pulled me in little by little. Both Ezra and Colleen/Cole had suffered tragedy at an early age – but in very different ways. Ezra had lived with loving parents until the night they were murdered and Ezra escaped. Colleen/Cole had rarely had anyone show him any type of care or affection until he met Ezra.

Even though the references and speech didn’t always match the historical time frame, I still enjoyed the story. Historical fiction isn’t my “go-to” genre, so other readers may find it more distracting. What drew me into Ezra and Colleen/Cole’s story most was Ezra’s acceptance of Colleen/Cole. That’s not saying he wasn’t confused at times – but he didn’t judge. Honestly, Ezra had little or no sexual experience at all, so he wasn’t sure about his attraction to them regardless of his/her gender.

The rest of the story was intriguing and the action/danger for both Ezra and Colleen/Cole didn’t slow down. There is most definitely more to come and I can’t wait to see how Ezra’s justice plays out and how the relationship between Ezra and Colleen/Cole develops.

Blood is Forever by Asta Idonea

As a fae-vampire hybrid, scorned by all, Holden’s life has never been easy. The one bright spot is his job testing blood at supernatural crime scenes. It’s routine work, until the day he finds a victim he can’t read.
When one murder becomes two, and then three, it’s clear there’s a serial killer on the loose—one with a penchant for collecting hearts. Finding the bad guy could cement Holden’s career, but he’s drawing a blank. And it doesn’t help that the expert his boss calls in to assist him is the man Holden’s been crushing on for years.
With lives hanging in the balance, Holden and Val must solve the case before the killer strikes again. But will they come out with their hearts still intact?

Standalone books are great, but every once in a while, I read a book that isn’t a part of a series that I really wish was. That’s how I felt when I finished Blood is Forever. I loved getting to know Holden and Val and their story came to a satisfying end, but I couldn’t help thinking that it would be great to get more from them. *sigh*

Holden was one of those characters that I just wanted to hug. He was treated as an outcast by pretty much everyone. His only true friend was someone who didn’t even come into his life honestly. He became a friend because he took the time to really get to know Holden and not judge him because of his parentage.

Val wasn’t someone who was easy to like, especially since he treated Holden just as bad as everyone else during their first encounters. He was arrogant and rude, but not everyone or everything is exactly what they seem at first glance. There was a lot more to Val than he let others see and it didn’t take long for Holden to become even more enamored with him.

There were a lot of unexpected twists and turns in Blood is Forever and at times the situation that Holden and Val found themselves in seemed hopeless. Love has a way of turning things around though, even when betrayal comes from some unexpected sources.

Give Up the Ghost (Not Dead Yet #2) by Jenn Burke

Immortal not-ghost Wes Cooper and his vampire partner, Hudson Rojas, have it all—rewarding private investigation work, great friends and, most important, a love that’s endured. But ever since Wes sent a demon screaming back to the beyond, his abilities have grown overpowering and overwhelming. He’s hiding the fact that he’s losing control the best he can, but it’s hard to keep anything a secret for long when your partner’s a former cop…and especially when your partner’s a former cop who wants to move in together.
When all hell literally breaks loose in Toronto and superstrength ghosts are unleashed on Wes and his friends, he and Hudson are thrown into a case unlike any they’ve seen before. To save the city, Wes needs to harness his new power…and find some answers. But when he gets them, the solution to fix it all could mean losing everything.

This is one of those series that I’m so glad I stumbled on. Not Dead Yet was a great start to this series and Give Up the Ghost may even be just a little bit better… even though I spent a fair amount of the book wanting to smack Wes. *sigh*

By keeping his secret, Wes put his friends in a lot of danger. He didn’t mean to, he was just afraid of loosing Hudson if he knew what he was hiding. The only problem was that the longer he hid it, the more out of control his power became. In trying to save his relationship he almost lost everything important to him.

There was a lot more to Wes’ power than he even knew and the temptation use it, even in the most innocent ways, was strong. He ended up putting everyone he was trying to protect in even more danger. So much that he was willing to sacrifice everything – even himself – to make sure no one else was hurt, physically or emotionally.

I loved all the twists and turns and unexpected revelations. The danger and suspense definitely kept the pages turning. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Wes, Hudson and the rest of their “family” in Graveyard Shift. In the mean time, I may have to make room on my ever growing TBR pile for other reads from Jenn Burke 😉

Arctic Wild (Frozen Hearts #2) by Annabeth Albert

When a plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, the best place to land is in the arms of a younger man…
Hotshot attorney Reuben Graham has finally agreed to take a vacation, when his plane suddenly plunges into the Alaskan wilderness.
Just his luck.
But his frustrations have only begun as he finds himself stranded with the injured, and superhot, pilot, a man who’s endearingly sociable—and much too young for Reuben to be wanting him this badly.
As the sole provider for his sisters and ailing father, Tobias Kooly is devastated to learn his injuries will prevent him from working or even making it back home. So when Reuben insists on giving him a place to recover, not even Toby’s pride can make him refuse. He’s never been tempted by a silver fox before, but something about Reuben is impossible to resist.
Recuperating in Reuben’s care is the last thing Toby expected, yet the closer they become, the more incredibly right it feels, prompting workaholic Reuben to question the life he’s been living. But when the pressure Toby’s under starts closing in, both men will have to decide if there’s room in their hearts for a love they never saw coming.

Frozen Hearts started with Griffin and River in Arctic Sun. Even though you could probably read either book as a stand alone, there are some cameos from previous characters, plus readers do briefly meet Tobias in the first book. I’m a series “junky” though, so, it’s up to you if you want to start here. 😉

I really liked getting to know Toby better in Arctic Wild. There was certainly a lot more to him than the playboy readers met in Arctic Sun. He’s under a lot of pressure and responsibility – which is why losing time from work after the accident is such a hard blow. It also makes it hard to become too dependent on Reuben, especially since getting attached to someone who doesn’t plan on sticking around is risky – mainly to his heart.

Reuben is a certified work-a-holic, but while he’s taking care of Toby, he realizes that there’s more to life than work. Getting close to Toby while re-connecting with his daughter makes him want even more. Toby doesn’t trust what they’re feeling to be enough to pull Reuben away from the fast-paced business world he seems to thrive on. Watching the three of them (including Reuben’s daughter) become closer and eventually trust what they’re all feeling was the best part of the story, at least for me.

The rest of the supporting characters were also great and added a lot to the story. (I especially loved Toby’s sister.) Even the characters that I didn’t like very much kept things interesting.

The next book in the Frozen Hearts series features a character that readers only met briefly in Arctic Wild, so I’m sure Arctic Heat can also be read as a stand alone.

Damned if You Do by Marie Sexton

The path to temptation is paved with a hellish amount of paperwork.
Soul acquisition is a drag, but if Abaddon doesn’t catch up on his quota, he could be demoted to scooping poop for the Hounds of Hell. With a deadline hanging over him, he heads for the Bible Belt, looking for the perfect combination of sweetness and challenge.
Seth is a blind musician, part of a traveling tent revival. He’s cute, mystically talented, and quotes the Bible at every turn. His soul is pure enough to fill Abaddon’s quota for months to come, and Abaddon is determined to claim it.
The problem? There’s the revival foreman who watches Abaddon’s every move. Then there’s the mystery of Seth’s many unusual talents. Lastly, there’s Abaddon himself. He’s beginning to like Seth a bit too much. Maybe Seth deserves something better than damnation.
But Hell’s agenda isn’t negotiable, and time is running out. If Abaddon doesn’t play his cards right, he could condemn both of them to the worst fate of all—an eternity apart.
Warning: Contains a Bible-quoting twink and an irreverent devil. Also, snakes. Lots and lots of snakes.

What a sweet little devilish tale 😉

There was so much more to Seth than was on the surface and there was more to Abaddon too.

Abaddon did just enough at his job to squeak by, but that lazy work ethic was catching up to him. He was giving a deadline and of course he decided to try to find a soul that would fill his quota for as long as possible. Seth was the perfect choice.

Seth’s soul seemed as pure as they come and Abaddon knew if he managed to get him to give it up, he’d be set for a very long time. The problem was, Seth was so devote that Abaddon couldn’t find a way to tempt him. The longer amount of time he spent with Seth, he wasn’t sure he wanted to – which surprised no one more than Abaddon himself.

It’s been a while since I’ve read anything by Marie Sexton, but this little story reminded me that I need to check out more of her books.

Thrown to the Wolves (Big Bad Wolf #3) by Charlie Adhara

When Agent Cooper Dayton agreed to attend the funeral for Oliver Park’s grandfather, he didn’t know what he was getting into. Turns out, the deceased was the alpha of the most powerful werewolf pack on the eastern seaboard. And his death is highly suspicious. Regardless, Cooper is determined to love and support Park the way Park has been there for him.
But Park left him woefully unprepared for the wolf pack politics and etiquette. Rival packs? A seating order at the dinner table? A mysterious figure named the Shepherd? The worst is that Park didn’t tell his family one key thing about Cooper. Cooper feels two steps behind, and reticent Park is no help.
There are plenty of pack members eager to open up about Park and why Cooper is wrong for him. Their stories make Cooper wonder if he’s holding Park back. But there’s no time to get into it…as lethal tranquilizer darts start to fly, Cooper needs to solve the mystery of the alpha’s death and fight for the man he loves—all before someone else dies.

This is one of those series that gets better and better with each new book. It’s so good that I didn’t hesitate to purchase Thrown to the Wolves when I realized I missed the chance to snag the ARC. 😉

Cooper and Park have been through a lot, but nothing prepared Cooper for what he was in store for when he was introduced to Park’s family. Given the situation that he walked into, I’m not sure anyone could have been prepared. Park was kind of the “black sheep” in his pack. He wanted nothing to do with pack politics, but some things just can’t be avoided. There was more than one reason why he left his family in the dark about Cooper, but that didn’t make it sting any less. It also didn’t make Cooper any less determined to help Park and his family – whether they wanted him to or not.

There were a lot of twists and turns in Thrown to the Wolves and I can honestly say I didn’t see the “who” or the “why” coming until close to the end. I love it when that happens. 😉 There were members of Park’s family that were okay… and some that were not so okay… and a couple that redeemed themselves in the end. Park even threw me for a while, but that didn’t last long. Again, after all they had already been through, I trusted Park and so did Cooper.

Things will definitely be changing for both Cooper and Park – I can’t wait to see what’s in store for them next.