Spectacle (Menagerie #2) by Rachel Vincent

When their coup of Metzger’s Menagerie is discovered, Delilah and her fellow cryptids find their newly won freedom brutally stripped away as they are sold into The Savage Spectacle, a private collection of “exotic wildlife.” Specializing in ruthless cryptid cage matches, safari-style creature hunts and living party favors, the Spectacle’s owner, Willem Vandekamp, caters to the forbidden fetishes of the wealthy and powerful. At the Spectacle, any wish can be granted—for the right price.
But Vandekamp’s closely guarded client list isn’t the only secret being kept at the Spectacle. Beneath the beauty and brutality of life in the collection lie much darker truths, and no one is more determined than Delilah to strip the masks from the human monsters and drag all dark things into the light.

The second book in Rachel Vincent’s Menagerie series was just as intense and thought provoking as the first. In some ways, even more so. The members of Metzger’s Menagerie had a small respite from their captivity and that taste of freedom made what came next even harder to take.

The description only touches on the horrors that Delilah and her friends and other cryptids had to endure when purchased by the Savage Spectacle. Willem Vandekamp was the perfect villain and his sweet, spoiled wife was even worse. Just like Menagerie, there was a loud and clear message just below the surface. The creatures in Spectacle were much more humane than the humans that not only kept them captive, but used them in horrific ways. The captors also played on their weaknesses and it didn’t take long for Willem to figure out how to play the connection between Delilah and Gallagher to his advantage.

As hard as parts of Spectacle were to read, the intensity, imagery and action kept the pages turning. Delilah never stopped trying to find ways to escape. She refused to give up, even when her punishments came close to breaking her. Watching what her fellow captives were forced to endure was the only motivation she needed. That and her vow to destroy Willem and everything he stood for.

The ending of Spectacle didn’t seem as abrupt as the end of Menagerie, but it still left me wanting the next installment sooner rather than later. The fate of many characters were left hanging in the balance and then there’s the interesting twist…  Needless to say, the last book in the Menagerie trilogy is already on my TBR list 😉

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Allied in Flight (Through the Veil #2) by Christi Snow

AlliedInFlightA rescue gone wrong.
It was supposed to be simple. Four members from the Western States planned to sneak into the Eastern States to free four condemned Others. But when they arrived at the experimental labs where the Others were being held, it was under attack from Rebel forces.
Griff Hughes had one job…
He had to find Shar, a wounded hawk shifter. But in the ensuing chaos, he became a captive instead of a rescuer. Three days later he awakens in his own cage, alone. But during the nights, he’s not alone. An alluring redhead with a siren’s call visits his dreams, and his resistance is breaking down.
Shar McIntire is just trying to survive.
After three years in captivity, Shar has one goal…keep her and her sister alive. To do so means cooperating with the evil doctors who want her to seduce and manipulate Griff. She likes and is drawn to the man with the strange chocolate wings, but she can’t let that attraction distract her. Her sister’s fate is in her hands.
In the last eighteen years, life hasn’t been easy for anyone.
The WS and the ES have been separate entities, but once the Veil was crossed, things began to evolve. It’s a new world, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to get any easier anytime soon.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1In hind sight, I probably should have re-read the first book in this series, Through the Veil, before I started Allied in Flight. Especially since it had been over a year since I read it. I still might go back and read the first book, but Christi Snow did a really good job of giving just enough hints, without totally retelling the previous story, that I caught up to speed in no time. 😉

From the very first chapter, there wasn’t a lot of down time in Allied in Flight. Griff was a loner. He had no idea signing onto this rescue mission would change his perspective on so many levels. Regardless, love wasn’t something he was looking for and definitely not something he wanted.  Shar had known nothing but captivity for the past 3 years, so trust didn’t come easy. Until she knew her sister was safe, nothing else mattered. Fate had very different plans for both Shar and Griff.

Obviously I loved Griff and Shar’s story, but I also loved the twists and turns that made up the story, which included quite a few supporting characters. Some were new and some were introduced previously. Some were pure evil and some I still haven’t figured out yet. But that’s okay, because it means that there is much more to come. I love this unique world that the author has created and can’t wait to see what happens next.

I have to say that things wrapped up a little too quickly at the end, but that’s probably just me wanting more. It’s a common occurrence in stories I love and it happens frequently when I read this author’s stories. I also have to admit that as much as I loved Griff and Shar’s story, I was more than a little excited to learn that a couple of my favorite characters will be getting their own story. Sorry, I can’t tell you which ones, but you’ll know by the end of Allied in Flight who I’m talking about 😉 I kinda had a soft spot for them from the moment they were introduced.

So… if you like unique fantasy world building with some heated romance and interesting characters, crazy twists, a world view that makes you think, and more than a few mysteries, Through the Veil should definitely be added to your TBR list 😉

DragonFlyRating4

Ignited (Donovan Circus #4) by Liz Long

Ignited“Maybe I had to accept that the Donovan Circus no longer felt like home.” Lucy might’ve beaten Alex the Chameleon, but the cost of his defeat was too much to bear. After losing a beloved member, Sheffield Donovan temporarily disbands the show. Abandoned by the ringmaster and her friends, Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of their ruined circus – and defend it against those waiting for the opportunity to strike. During one of these attempts, Lucy learns of Augustus Rivers, the leader of his so-called gifted mafia. When Lucy is offered a chance to infiltrate the Rivers’ household, she jumps at the opportunity to seek vengeance on the mastermind. Augustus instead surprises everyone by proposing that the powerful female Firestarter work for him. It’s everything the Donovan Circus isn’t, an offer Lucy finds more enticing than she ever expected. With the Donovan Circus in shambles and the gifted world on the cusp of war, can Lucy Sullivan figure out who she’s meant to be? Or will her fire destroy everything they’ve built?

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1I’ll admit I picked up Ignited with a bit of trepidation. Liz Long proved in Hunted that loosing a beloved character was not outside the realm of possibility. The stakes get higher and the danger comes closer to the character with each book in the Donovan Circus series and no one is totally safe.

This book opens with Lucy questioning everything and finding no easy answers. Her friends are gone, except for a few who stayed behind. Sheffield is more or less hiding from everyone, including Lucy. The people she has grown to trust and think of as family will be back, but she’s not sure anything will ever be the same. Things don’t get much easier when everyone finally returns. Lucy makes some bold decisions in Ignited. She gains support from some unlikely sources and loses it from people she never expected.

There were familiar faces in Ignited and some new ones. There were also quite a few revelations – past and present. Twists and turns were also in full supply and there was more than one occasion that I literally yelled at the author. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I should have seen it coming, but really… REALLY?!? Yikes!

No cliff hanger really, but there’s definitely more to come and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’ll be nice and give the author just a little bit of lead time before I start begging. As a side note, Donovan Circus isn’t a romance, but there is a romantic interest in Lucy’s life… more than one actually and as far as who she should end up with, I definitely have my preference. 😉

DragonFlyRating5

House of Whispers (Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper #5) by J.L. Bryan

HouseOfWhispersThe luxurious Lathrop Grand Hotel is a Savannah institution that has entertained guests for more than a century and a half, offering some of the finest accommodations in the city. Famously haunted, the hotel draws tourists from around the world eager to encounter its numerous ghosts. The hotel is also known for being honeycombed with hidden doors and secret passages, enabling staff to appear and disappear quickly as they attend to the hotel’s guests.
Now some of the spirits in the Lathrop Grand have turned violent, even murderous. Ellie and Stacey must determine which ghost has become dangerous and remove it from the hotel before it can claim any more lives. They soon learn the hotel has secrets even darker than the notorious string of nineteenth-century murders that made it famous, and the powerful entities inhabiting it don’t intend to leave without a fight.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1If I was asked to make a list of authors/books that I would recommend to readers who wanted a good October (aka scary) read, J.L. Bryan would definitely be in my top ten recs. I honestly have no idea how he comes up with this stuff. Having said that, House of Whispers was definitely scary, but it wasn’t the scariest in the Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper series so far. I’m not complaining, honest. The series gets better with each installment. I guess after the craziness that Ellie experienced in Terminal, a hotel full of civil war era, weapon wielding, bloody ghosts (among others) seemed kind of tame. (Sounds kind of ridiculous when I put it that way, doesn’t it?)

I think what I liked most about House of Whispers was what went on other than the ghost hunting. The future of their investigation firm is still up in the air, which has Ellie more than a little worried. Some relationships are unexpectedly strained, which added a little twist to the story line. And as I’ve come to expect, the characters continue to evolve and grow. Speaking of which, I love these characters. They’re witty, smart, loyal to each other and believe in what they do. I’m basically falling in love with them more with each book.

There were also a lot of sneaky twists in House of Whispers that I didn’t see coming. Those twists also left room for Ellie to take control. In the previous books she’s taken some unnecessary risks. I’m not saying she was being stupid, but she took those risks to protect others. In House of Whispers she was smart and proved herself capable more than once. I liked that side of her… especially given the circumstances – but those you’ll have to figure out for yourself when you read them 😉

The best part as far as I’m concerned is that J.L. Bryan has promised that there’s more to come. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for Ellie and friends. Given the way things ended (not a cliff hanger BTW) things could prove to be even more interesting… as if trapping ghosts for a living wasn’t enough.

DragonFlyRating5

 

Menagerie (Menagerie #1) by Rachel Vincent

MenagerieWhen Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah in her black swan burlesque costume is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town.
But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.
Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Menagerie was scary and not in the way you might think. It’s not that the pages weren’t filled with monsters, there were plenty of those to go around. The horror came from the fact that the real monsters weren’t the mythical creatures kept captive.

To be honest, Menagerie wasn’t an easy book to read. It was intense, at times gruesome and even though it was total fiction, it held just enough truth to show what can happen if the wrong people are in charge when dealing with the unknown or misunderstood. This book held a powerful message about humanity. Sometimes those are the scariest to read, but the most important.

Beyond the message delivered, the imagery was amazing. Rachel Vincent brought this mythical creatures to life in vivid and unique ways. She made even the scariest among them beautiful in ways I never would have imagined. The alternate POVs added to the understanding of these creatures and a more intense hatred of the people who enslaved them. The fear that was created by a small group of creatures was warranted. What was wrong was labeling everyone that wasn’t ‘human’ as a threat. Can you tell that this book pushed some buttons with me? *sigh*

As intense as this book was, the only complaint that I have is that the ending was a little rushed. I was kind of surprised by the actions of some of the characters near the end and things were wrapped up just a little too ‘neatly.’ Even so, I have no doubt that since Menagerie is part of a trilogy, there is much more danger to come.

On a side note, I’m pretty sure that most readers were introduced to Rachel Vincent’s writing through her Soul Screamers series. This series promises to be just as amazing as that one, but it is definitely NOT another young adult series. It’s a dark fantasy.

DragonFlyRating5

 

Guided (The Jade Ring Series #1) by Danielle Young

GuidedJo’s life is in danger. And she doesn’t even know it.

A descendant from one of the worlds most powerful Wiccan families, she is hunted by a powerful warlock desperate to destroy her family line.

Kept in the dark, it isn’t until she comes of age and her powers awaken that Jo is made aware of the danger she’s in.

GUIDED by her Angel protector, and best friends, Jo will have to learn to harness her powers before she loses everything.

Guided is the first book in Danielle Young’s Jade Ring series. Trust me when I say that this series is off to an excellent start.

Jo is an average high school student. She’s perfectly content being the wallflower, sitting alone and drawing by herself when everyone else is socializing at lunch. One glance in her direction from a guy that’s obviously too cool to be looking in her direction changes everything.

There’s not much down time in Guided. From the very first chapter the story draws the reader in. Jo is the kind of character that is instantly likable. She’s real, which makes the whole fantasy even more believable. I liked her from the very first chapter. What she realizes, almost as soon as the reader does is that nothing is exactly as it seems and there is a whole lot more to the world around her than she ever thought possible.

Jasper was another character that I was instantly drawn toward. The secrets he holds are only meant to protect Jo and as the story unfolds even more mysteries are revealed. Unfortunately for Jo, even more are hidden. She never gives up though and her strength and determination are just some of the things that make her such a likable character.

There was a lot to love about Guided. The story was fast paced, the characters were well developed and the action pretty much never stopped. The world building was believable as well. The aspects of Jo’s magic being slowly revealed just added another layer to the story.

I don’t want to give too much away because a lot happened in Guided. Some amazing things and some heartbreaking things. And just a warning, if you’re not a fan of cliff hangers, you might want to wait until the next installment of the Jade Ring series is released to pick up Guided. You can thank me later, but if you can’t wait, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Basically, Danielle Young’s Guided was an impressive debut. I honestly can’t wait until the next book in the series is released.

DragonFlyRating4

Counterpunch (Belonging #2) by Aleksandr Voinov

CounterpunchFight like a man, or die like a slave. 

Two years ago, Brooklyn Marshall was a happily married London policeman and amateur boxer with a promising future. Then he accidentally killed a rioter whose powerful father had him convicted of murder. To ease the burden on the prison system, the state sold Brooklyn into slavery. Now he’s the “Mean Machine,” competing on the slave prizefighting circuit for the entertainment of freemen, and being rented out for sexual service to his wealthier fans. 

When barrister Nathaniel Bishop purchases Brooklyn’s services for a night, Brooklyn braces himself for yet another round of humiliation and pain. But the pair form an unexpected bond that grows into something more. Brooklyn hesitates to call it love—such feelings can’t truly exist between freemen and slaves—but when Nathaniel reveals that he wants to get Brooklyn’s conviction overturned, Brooklyn dares to hope. 

Until an accident in the ring sends Brooklyn on the run, jeopardizing everything he’s worked so hard for. With the law on his tail and Nathaniel in his corner, he must prepare for the most important fight of his life: the fight for his freedom. 

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1The Belonging ‘uni’ Verse is not for the faint of heart. These are not easy books to read, but they have an important message. I will admit that Counterpunch wasn’t quite as heart wrenching as Anchored. Maybe it’s because Brooklyn wasn’t born a slave and he had the perfect way to vent his frustration. That didn’t make his existence any easier though. If anything, being born a freeman may have made things even harder on Brooklyn. He knew what had been ripped away from him.

Alternate worlds usually take me a while to get into, but the world that this series exists in wasn’t hard to imagine at all. I also think that is what makes them so scary. It’s probably because our history is riddled with prejudice and slavery. In some ways we’ve come a long way since then, in others we’ve taken more than a few steps back. Nathaniel isn’t naive about the way things work, but that doesn’t mean that he agrees with it. He’s in a position to help Brooklyn, but he also has his own secrets.

There were a few twists in Counterpunch. Some surprising, some not so much. It was a quick read and to say I enjoyed it would be a stretch, just because of the subject. I can say that I’m glad that I read it. It was another lesson in humanity that is well worth the read.

You can read Anchored and Counterpunch separately, but I recommend reading them together. The characters aren’t connected, but the worlds definitely are. The fact that one takes place in the US and the other in London just adds another layer to the world. Plus, the author’s did a great job of keeping true to the concept yet giving each book their own unique voice.

DragonFlyRating4

 

Shadow Burns (Preternatural Affairs #4) by S.M. Reine

ShadowBurnsWhen more than a dozen people die at a retirement home, the official story is carbon monoxide poisoning. Cèsar Hawke is convinced the reason is less mundane and more infernal. But that’s his job. As an agent working for the Office of Preternatural Affairs, he’s always looking for supernatural answers to deadly questions.

Isobel Stonecrow agrees to help him find the truth. With her powers of necrocognition, she can speak to the dead and get the real story.

But when they return to the crime scene, they find a lot more than cadavers. They find a nightmare that they can’t escape—a nightmare from Isobel’s past, which even she can’t completely remember thanks to the contract that signed away her soul.

Cèsar will have to disinter Isobel’s secrets to save her. He’ll learn who Isobel used to be, what she’s done, and the price she paid…no matter how deadly the knowledge might be.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Just in case you haven’t been paying attention, if it’s a book written by S.M. Reine it is automatically added to my TBR list. I anxiously await each new release and fill in the short lapses in between (she writes really, really fast) with books from her back list. She hasn’t introduced me to one of her characters that I haven’t liked… at least the ones that I’m supposed to like and some of them were ones that I didn’t like to begin with… well, you get the picture. The point of this little intro is that if I had to pick a favorite character of the many she has written, Cèsar would be at the top of that list. I’ve loved him since Witch Hunt, the very first book in this series. His ‘voice’ is so different than any of Reine’s other characters. I love his wit and his sarcasm. How can you not be entertained by inner dialogue like this?

Pops used to take my siblings and me to a corn maze every Halloween. The biggest damn corn maze that you can imagine. It had been so labyrinthine that the Minotaur would have gotten lost in it. Pops thought it was funny to drop us in there and let us try to figure it out on our own, while he drank with the farm’s owner. It pissed me off at the time, but now I understood it was good parenting. What else do you do with three unruly kids on a Halloween sugar high? Throw ‘em in a maze and go drink hard cider until they’re exhausted.

Yeah, I kinda love Cèsar, but there’s a lot more to love in the Preternatural Affairs series than just one character. He’s surrounded by smart, witty, secretive and mysterious characters. Fritz is full of surprises, Suzi is brutally honest and Isobel… well we learned a lot about her in Shadow Burns too.

There were so many twists, turns and revelations in this one that I can’t really say a whole lot. Just when I thought I had things figured out, it turns out I really didn’t. Just when I thought I certain of a  character’s loyalty, I was disappointed in them. Then, chapters later, I felt like I had to forgive them for my lack of trust. I love that about this author. She pulls no punches, doesn’t sugar coat a thing and isn’t afraid to pull the rug out from underneath anyone. She’s got the ‘evil author’ thing down to a science.

Once again, if you haven’t picked up at least one book by this author, do it now. There are several books in her early series that are FREE so you’ve got nothing to lose and a lot to gain. You don’t have to just take my word for it though. Below you can find a couple of bloggers/reviewers who also give S.M. Reine a high recommendation. Enjoy!

 Witch Hunt Review by Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal

Six Moon Summer Review by Tina Ryan on GoodReads

Death’s Hand Review by @ A Book Vacation

New Moon Summer Review by Sarah-Fae Graham on GoodReads

DragonFlyRating5

Inferno Park by J.L. Bryan

InfernoParkCarter was only twelve when he witnessed the disaster that killed more than a hundred people at Starland Amusement Park. Five years later, Carter’s hometown is no longer a busy Florida panhandle resort, but a slowly dying town full of empty motels and attractions rusting behind chains and padlocks.

Now something evil stirs in the ruins of the old amusement park…something with an alluring siren song drawing visitors into the dark mysteries of the forbidden world behind the gate. Something with an appetite for restless, yearning souls. 

Carter reluctantly returns to the old park in the company of a new girl in town, who is obsessed with urban decay and pop-culture ruins, and discovers the evil at work. To stop it, and protect the children of the town, Carter will have to face his oldest and deepest fears.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1You know when you watch a scary movie and you yell at the stupid characters to not go in that abandoned house, not look out the window into the shadows, not to leave their safe and warm bed to see what was making that eerie noise outside? Then, when they do it anyway, you cover your eyes and hope that they aren’t going to end up dead… or worse? Yeah, I spent a lot of time mentally yelling at the characters in this book. If I could have closed my eyes I would have, but that would have made it kind of difficult to read.

It came as no surprise to me that J.L Bryan did scary well. That’s actually part of the reason why I drug my feet in finally reading Inferno Park. His vivid descriptions and his talent at making readers squirm is evident in both his dark Paranormals series and his lighter Songs of Magic series. I had no doubt that the same vivid descriptions and attention to detail would take the horror factor in Inferno Park over the top. I wasn’t disappointed.

Besides spending a lot of time trying to mentally coax characters into doing the smart thing and stay away from the creepy abandoned amusement park, I enjoyed the story and the characters. Carter was a sweet kid at 12 and had grown into an impressive teen. He was pretty level headed as well as compassionate. He could have easily given up, especially with all he had been through. He had a goal to work his way out of town and for a lot of reasons, he took it very seriously.

Victoria was great too. I think I liked her most for bringing a spark back into Carter’s life. She shook things up. I liked her outlook and the unique way she looked at things.

As for the story itself… it was intense. No, the author held nothing back. The gore, the terror and the suspense were all there. Thankfully, there were tiny breaks in the in those moments where things seemed almost normal. There were even a couple of moments that made me smile, but not a lot of them. The different POVs that were divided between most of the characters gave the story a different kind of flow. I liked it. Well, ‘like’ may not be the correct word since most of those POVs didn’t end well…. but you get the idea.

No one came out of this one totally unscathed and there was more than one moment where I wanted to read ahead just to make sure that everyone made it out alive… but I didn’t… and you shouldn’t either. If you’re looking for something scary to read with an intriguing story line, Inferno Park is perfect.

DragonFlyGreen4-5

Hunted (Dragonlands #2) by Megg Jensen

HuntedThe fog that trapped the people of Hutton’s Bridge for eighty years has disappeared, but now so have the villagers.
Fearing the worst, Tressa and Bastian must navigate a new and dangerous world in search of their people. Among their allies are a healer, a warrior, and even a dragon—but their enemies are far greater.

Hutton’s Bridge has long protected a powerful secret, one the dragonlords will kill to control. As the realms rise, Tressa and Bastian risk everything to save their people, until one must make the ultimate sacrifice.

Okay… I needed some recovery time before I could review this one. So much happened that I’m not really sure where to start. I’m also going to apologize in advance for any vagueness. Megg Jensen took so many twists, turns and… well, you’ll just have to read Hunted to understand. Once you do you’ll forgive me, I promise.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Hunted takes up pretty much where Hidden left off. Bastian and Tressa are separated, but still working toward the same goal… to get to the people that they left behind. They were sheltered in Hutton’s Bridge and every day aspects of the outside world are revealed.

The world that Megg Jensen has created in her Dragonlands series is epic. It’s magical, full of wonder as well as deceit, violence and mystery. There are so many secrets revealed, startling revelations and ‘I can’t believe that actually happened’ moments that it was hard to keep up. I loved every minute of it…. well… almost.

Hunted was basically an emotional whirlwind. There were times that I knew exactly where I wanted the characters to end up and then things would change. My perspective would change. Basically I’d just throw my hands up and trust the author to work things out… but it was hard.

Hunted was full of action, suspense and heartbreak. There was a fine line between good and evil, but there were also characters that were worthy of no redemption at all. The author held nothing back and by the end I both loved and hated her for it. *sigh*

The next book can’t come soon enough. Thins were left in turmoil at the end of Hunted. Progress was made and some things were settled but even more was left uncertain. Let’s just say that Megg Jensen wins the ‘Authors Are Evil’ crown for the week.

DragonFlyGreen4-5