Knave of Blades (Tarot Witches: The Raven Knights Saga #1) by S.M. Reine & Rory Hume (Bout-of-Books 25 Review)

They are destined to find each other…
Allene Whelan is scavenging through the ruins of post-apocalypse Oregon when she finds a strange tarot card, the Knave of Blades. Touching it awakens her magic—the power of the sylph, a rare and deadly seelie sidhe who can defeat any other of her kind. Her pollen is intoxicating. Her magic is irresistible. And she’s suddenly at the center of the Autumn Court’s war against the rebellious True Kingdom.
She’s the only person who might be able to defeat Macsen, the prophesied Fenrir who will one day grow big enough to devour the world. But first she needs to make herself strong enough to face him, and that means collecting power as only a sylph can. Joining the Raven Knights means committing more than her life to defeating the True Kingdom. She’s committing her soul…and her body.

There’s a cute little intro for Knave of Blades that gives readers a time frame reference. This book starts not long after Genesis – an apocalyptic event in the Decentverse that changed everything. As with all series in this immense world created by S.M. Reine, Tarot Witches: The Raven Knights Saga can be read as a stand alone series, but I’m pretty sure, once you start, you’re going to want more. Trust me, I’ve been delving into this world for years and I still get excited when I find out there’s going to be a new release. Each series in this world is just a little bit different and gives you a totally different perspective. Not all of them are quite as full of “smexiness” as any of the books that deal with the Tarot Witches, but what do you expect from Sidhe? 😉

Allene’s life changed, just like everyone else who survived, after Genesis. That was nothing compared to how it changed after finding the tarot card, the Knave of Blades. Once she finds Leander and Keane, things get even crazier… or sexier… and a little dangerous and… Well, let’s just say a lot happens in a lot of really interesting ways.

Readers learned a lot in Knave of Blades, but there’s still a lot of questions, especially after that ending… Cliff hanger isn’t a strong enough term for how things were left on that final page… especially after… well, you’ll just have to read Knave of Blades to find out.

There was so much to love about Knave of Blades. The supporting characters were what I’ve come to expect from this author… witty, strong, well developed and with just enough mystery surrounding them to keep things interesting. I loved the little connections that were woven into this one – those are the things that make me itch to re-read previous books in this series to see what I missed or other little hints I can pick up.

So… start here or visit S.M. Reine’s website to see if anything else catches your fancy, but please do yourself a favor and give one of this author’s books a try. You’re welcome 😉

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You, Me, and the Voodoo Queen (A Malveaux Curse Mystery #2) by G.A. Chase

Things get complicated when you don’t know what you’re voodooing.
Kendell Summer just can’t catch a break. All she wants is one good passionate kiss from her paranormal partner, Myles, but in the midst of their embrace, she hears a distress message coming from a passing paddle wheeler. Her band, Polly Urethane and the Strippers, is in trouble. Once again, she must drop everything and rush to the rescue while relying on Myles to have her back.
Unfortunately, the events that unfold while she’s saving her friends only plunge her deeper into the dreaded Malveaux curse and threaten Myles with a fate worse than death. Kendell will need everyone she trusts, including her loyal dog, Cheesecake, to help her save his soul.

Not sure why, but this one started out kind of slow for me, well, maybe not started out slow? It hit a point where it kind of dragged along, but trust me, that didn’t last long. You, Me, and the Voodoo Queen picked up pretty much where Dog Days of Voodoo left off. Kendell and Myles are still in the “getting to know you” stage of their relationship, but both of them are ready to move on to the next phase. The only problem is, trouble seems to follow – and sometimes even beckon them at every turn.

Myles wants to protect Kendell, Kendell wants to protect Myles and Cheesecake wants to protect them all… Yeah, things get kind of crazy… uh… crazier? in You, Me, and the Voodoo Queen. They end up putting their trust in someone Myles doesn’t trust at all and he hates what he sees it doing to Kendell. Before  they realize what’s happening… well, it’s all par for the course when it comes to Myles and Kendell. They even reach out to some very unlikely allies while trying to… well, you’ll have to read You, Me, and the Voodoo Queen to see who exactly is being saved from what.

I loved the twists, turns and even the bad guys – well, at least some of them. I’m also loving this trip into the background characters from The Devil’s Daughter. One of the best parts is getting to know the characters that play such and important role in Serephine’s life and seeing exactly how they got there. I can’t wait to see where each series goes from here. 😉

Dark Rivers (Witchbane #2) by Morgan Brice

One hundred years ago, a sheriff’s posse killed dark warlock Rhyfel Gremory, but his witch-disciples escaped, and their magic made them nearly immortal. To keep their power, each year one of the witch-disciples kills a descendant of one of the men in the posse, a twelve-year cycle that has cost dozens of lives, including that of Seth Tanner’s brother, Jesse.
Seth Tanner uncovers the cycle of ritual killings that feeds the power of the witch-disciples, and he’s hell bent on getting vengeance for Jesse and stopping the murders. His fledgling romantic relationship with Evan Malone complicates his mission, but Seth can’t walk away. Seth and Evan are learning to navigate their partnership—as lovers and monster hunters—while they chase down the next witch-disciple and avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention.
When the hunt takes Seth and Evan to Pittsburgh on the trail of the next killer, they’ll have to save the intended victim and take down the powerful witch. If the skills they possess and the bond between them isn’t enough, the evil will remain unchallenged, and more people will die…
Note: Includes mention of past domestic violence and stalking.

I am so glad that I stumbled across this author (more on that at the end of this review.) Witchbane, the first book in this series, had me wanting more and Dark Rivers didn’t disappoint – in fact it gave me more than I expected. 😉

Even though Seth and Evan’s relationship is just beginning, it’s stronger than either of them have ever experienced. Seth pulled him into a world that Evan didn’t know existed, but he was always unknowingly a part of. That was a lot to take in, but neither one of them had time to analyze the situation, they needed to stay ahead of the next disciple.

There was a lot going on in Dark Rivers. More than enough action to keep the pages turning, some heated moments between Seth and Evan (and not always between the sheets 😉 ) The couple was tested more than once from more than one source. I pretty much loved every minute of it. Honestly, the only complaint that I had – which was minor – was that there seemed to be a lot of going over what happened in Witchbane. I think that may have been just a “me” thing though, mainly because not a lot of time passed between me reading Witchbane and Dark Rivers. If it had been a longer time span, I might have even found it helpful.

One of my favorite aspects of Dark Rivers may have been the supporting characters. Seth was used to doing things on his own, until he met Evan. In Dark Rivers, they found themselves needing even more help. They had depended on long distance assistance before from other “monster hunters” and “specialists” but this time they needed physical help – whether they wanted it or not. Turns out, their “help” came in the form of characters from another series – that I quite accidentally discovered – by Gail Z. Martin. Yep, Travis and Brent have their very own series – Night Vigil. Imagine my surprise when I didn’t realize that little bit of info until I started Sons of Darkness (which should probably be read before Dark Rivers, but oh well – not the first time I put the “cart before the horse” and I’m sure it won’t be the last.) There are even more connections between these and a couple more series and books (Spells, Salt, & Steel & Badlands) and you know what that means…. I get to read ALL the books. 😉

Hell or High Water (The Devil’s Daughter #4) by G.A. Chase

A light conversation over coffee tosses the devil’s daughter out of the frying pan of life’s problems and into the fiery depths of hell.
Sere Mal-Laurette was warned against meeting Jennifer, the real woman behind her doppelgänger body. However, she didn’t mention that instruction to Jennifer during their numerous psychically bonded moments. So when Jennifer shows up in front of Sere’s apartment, the doppelgänger doesn’t see much choice other than to invite the housewife in for a cup of coffee.
Before the day is out, Myles’s sweet little dog has turned into a hellhound, Sere’s friend and sidekick Fisher has succumbed to his demonic possession, and supersized crawfish have emerged from the swamp. Sere is forced to wonder if she should have heeded the warnings about Jennifer. But is the widening of the hell mouth a result of one morning’s coffee conversation, or is something more sinister at work?
Sere has plenty of other explanations to choose from. There are the lost souls of the damned that Marjory Laroque cast into hell in her attempt to raise a new devil. There’s the fact that Sere’s sweet angel and mother figure, Sanguine, has been imprisoned. Worst of all, Sere’s very presence among the living could be the cause of the impending apocalypse. Once again she needs help curbing the chaos, but this time, she’ll call on her support system in hell.

The last couple of books I’ve picked up have been… intense. The type of intense that has the main characters either fighting for their own life or desperately trying to save someone else. When I turned the last page in Hell or High Water, I knew I needed a break. I loved this book. Honestly, The Devil’s Daughter gets better with each installment, but wow…

Sere has opened herself up – in more ways than one. She has inadvertently become closer to Jennifer, which is loaded with all kinds of ways to mess things up. Even the most innocent of encounters seems to bring about life-altering consequences… and not just for Sere and Jennifer. That’s not all that’s going on though. It seems that every time Sere makes a move, there’s a new threat lurking around a dark corner… or under dark water. Secrets are revealed – most of them kept from Sere from those closest to her. New allies come into play and trust is tested more than once. The one constant and grounding force for Sere through everything is Bart. To say that Hell or High Water was a page turner would be a HUGE understatement.

A lot of ground was covered and I’m not ashamed to say that some of it was a blur – which means I’ll probably have to pay closer attention when I read this one again, because I definitely will be reading it again – along with the rest of the series. It also piqued my curiosity about Sere’s life and her makeshift family’s before The Devil’s Daughter, which is just one of the reasons why I started the Malveaux Curse Mystery Series. The first book, Dog Days of Voodoo was a fun read and I can’t wait to start You, Me, and the Voodoo Queen. You don’t have to start with that series to follow or understand The Devil’s Daughter, but I found myself wanting the background into this world created by G.A. Chase. So far, I haven’t been disappointed. 😉

Speaking of not being able to wait… after the final chapter in Hell or High Water, the wait for Hell Away from Home is going to be torturous. It wasn’t so much of a cliff hanger as a surprising revelation that could go either way for the fate of a lot of people.

Demon on the Down-Low (Supernatural Selection #3) by E.J. Russell

After decades of unrequited love, this kangaroo will jump at the chance for a date. Any date.
Lovelorn kangaroo shifter Hamish Mulherne, drummer for the mega-hit rock band Hunter’s Moon, waited years for the band’s jaguar shifter bassist to notice him. Instead, she’s just gotten married and is in a thriving poly relationship. How is Hamish supposed to compete with that? But with everyone else in the band mated and revoltingly happy, he needs somebody. Since he can’t expect true love to strike twice, he signs up with Supernatural Selection. Because what the hell.
When Zeke Oz was placed at Supernatural Selection through the Sheol work-release program, he thought he was the luckiest demon alive. But when he seems responsible for several massive matchmaking errors, he’s put on notice: find the perfect match for Hamish, or get booted back to Sheol for good. The only catch? He has to do it without the agency’s matchmaking spells, and Hamish simply will not engage.
But Zeke starts to believe that the reason all of Hamish’s dates fizzle is because nobody in the database is good enough for him. And Hamish realizes that his perfect match might be the cute demon who’s trying so hard to make him happy.

I’ve lost count of how many series finales I’ve read in the past few months. *sigh* It’s always sad to say good-bye, but I’ve loved the Supernatural Selection series and I’ve also loved Zeke since he was first introduced in Single White Incubus. If the series had to end, Demon on the Down-Low was the perfect way to wrap it up… even though I wasn’t really ready.

I’ve said before that I’m a huge fan of E.J. Russell, but my absolute favorite characters are her quirky ones. The characters that make me giggle and fall in love with them, just for being who they are. This series was full of them and Zeke was one of my favorites. Hamish and Zeke together were adorable. The other thing I loved about this series was getting to see characters from the Fae Out of Water series. They jumped in to help “save the day” on more than one occasion.

There was a bit more intrigue in Demon on the Down-Low, mainly because readers (and the characters) finally discovered who the “bad guy” was in Supernatural Selection. It wasn’t exactly who I expected, but I wasn’t surprised either. The wrap-up actually involved the characters from the previous books in this series, as well as the characters from Fae Out of Water, so it was like a big homecoming 😉 I loved every minute of it. Since Hamish was first introduced in the Fae Out of Water series, it’s the perfect excuse to start a re-read from the beginning with Cutie and the Beast (one of my favorites from that series.) Actually, it doesn’t take much to convince me to re-read a series I loved the first time around. 😉

The Prince of Air and Darkness (The Darkest Court #1) by MA Grant

The only human student at Mather’s School of Magick, Phineas Smith has a target on his back. Born with the rare ability to tap into unlimited magick, he finds both Faerie Courts want his allegiance—and will do anything to get it.
They don’t realize he can’t levitate a feather, much less defend the Faerie Realm as it slips into civil war.
Unseelie Prince Roark Lyne, Phineas’s roommate—and self-proclaimed arch nemesis—is beautiful and brave and a pain in the ass. Phineas can’t begin to sort through their six years of sexual tension masquerading as mutual dislike. But Roark is also the only one able to help Finn tame his magick.
Trusting Roark’s mysterious motives may be foolish; not accepting his temporary protection would be deadly.
Caught in the middle of the impending war, Phineas and Roark forge a dangerous alliance. And as the walls between them crumble, Phineas realizes that Roark isn’t the monster he’d imagined. But their growing intimacy threatens to expose a secret that could either turn the tide of the war…or destroy them both.

This one… grew on me? I wasn’t sure at first and it took me a lot longer to get into than it normally takes me, but once it grabbed me, it wouldn’t let go… Like “staying up until 1 am so I could finish” not letting go…

I’m not sure why it took me so long to get into Prince of Air and Darkness, other than the fact that the story went in a lot of directions. I didn’t have a problem with the characters though, at least not Finn. I liked him from the beginning, Roark… not so much. Things weren’t exactly as they seemed though – for the record, those are my favorite kinds of stories.

There were a lot of twists and turns and secrets… One of the major twists came at the very end – which I’m still a little confused about because… well, for a lot of reasons. Even though The Marked Prince, the next book in The Darkest Court series centers around another couple, I’m hoping that readers haven’t seen the last of Finn and Roark… for well, reasons. 😉

Fire Devil (Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper #11) by J.L. Bryan (Bout-of-Books 24 Review)

Ellie’s pursuit of a possessed friend and her own worst enemy takes her across the United States into forgotten corners of the countryside through haunted hotels, ghost towns, and strange highways, and toward the site of a horrific fire haunted by hundreds of spirits.
Together with her team, plus help from an eccentric exorcist from Texas, prepares for the fight of her life, a fight destined since her own childhood.
Ellie’s past and present collide in a final confrontation that will change the course of her life, giving her a chance to finally be rid of her most dangerous personal demon—if he doesn’t kill Ellie first, along with the people she cares about the most.

Eleven books in and I’m no where close to being tired of Ellie Jordan, her crew or their escapades. Fire Devil may be one of my favorites in this series so far.

Throughout the Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper series, readers have known about Clay. He’s only been front and center in a few books, but he’s always there. He’s the reason why she started hunting and trapping ghosts in the first place. In Fire Devil, things finally come to a head and she risks losing everything to take Clay down. Even her own life.

The action and danger didn’t slow down in this one at all. The whole crew was together, with a few additions. Their main goal was to release Michael’s sister from Clay’s clutches and destroy Clay in the process. Hopefully without anyone else getting hurt… or worse… in the process. Along the way they encounter even more restless spirits and solve a few mysteries, while opening up even more. Clay has a sinister plan, which they have to figure out and fast.

Ellie learns more than she expected and gains something that she thought was forever lost. Just one of the many reasons why I loved this one so much. I can’t wait to see what J.L. Bryan has in store next for Ellie Jordan. 😉

Wretched Wicked (Preternatural Affairs #9.5) by S.M. Reine

Cesar Hawke works for the Office of Preternatural Affairs. He’s an agent in the Magic Violations Department, hunting down witches who break the law, saving lives, and getting caught up in a lot more trouble than he’s paid to deal with.
Fritz Friederling is his boss. The director. The heir of the Friederling fortune, earned by mining in Hell with human slaves. A man who puts away witches for life without trial. Inheritor of his father’s legacy, and his grandfather’s, and all the ruthless men who came before.
But they didn’t always work together. Not before, and not after. Once they were strangers, and now they’re something else. More fatal than family, more permanent than marriage, closer than the oldest friends, until death do they part…
This novella tells the story of the early years of their partnership from Fritz Friederling’s perspective. It contains spoilers and should be read after the rest of the Preternatural Affairs series. It also includes a new, exclusive afterword from the author!

Ah Cesar *sigh* Have I mentioned that he’s at the top of my favorite Decentiverse male character list? Fritz, not so much and since Wretched Wicked is told from his POV I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to like it. Honestly, getting to know Fritz just a little bit better wasn’t so bad. Those of us who have read through the Preternatural Affairs books already know what happens. Getting the same story from Fritz’s POV wasn’t really surprising but it was enlightening enough to make me want to go back and reread Preternatural Affairs from the beginning. (I’ll use any excuse for a reread 😉 )

There was more to Wretched Wicked though. It wasn’t a total retelling. We learned more about Fritz’s personal life before he met Cesar. I might have even ended up liking him a little bit more by the end. To be honest, Fritz is a much more likable person when he’s with Cesar and for some reason, these two really care about each other. Their relationship works – even with the rest of their motley crew.

This may have been a short read (less than 100 pages), but it didn’t lack any of the usual punch connected with S.M. Reine’s stories. And then there was the Epilogue… don’t skip the Epilogue, whatever you do. I may not be a huge fan of Fritz on his own, but paired with Cesar?… those moments are priceless ❤

Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox #1) by Julie Kagawa

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.
Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.
Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.
There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.
With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a series by Julie Kagawa. I practically devoured The Iron Fey series and I loved Blood of Eden. When I saw Shadow of the Fox, I didn’t hesitate. Once I started reading, it didn’t take me long to remember why I love this author’s world building so much.

My first love in the Fantasy genre is mythology, mainly because I loved it as a child. It’s familiar, but every author has the ability to put their own spin on it, so the stories are also fresh. Shadow of the Fox was centered around Japanese mythology, a first for me. I have to admit that it took me a little while to wrap my head around this unfamiliar world, but not too long.

There was a lot to take in, but I loved all the twists and turns. The POV switched between not only Tatsumi and Yumeko, but some unexpected characters were given a voice. I loved the magic and legends that were woven into the story. There was danger everywhere and both Tatsumi and Yumeko kept secrets from one another – which didn’t make things easier for either one of them.

I also loved the twists and turns and the unlikely alliances that were formed along their journey. Yumeko’s perspective on pretty much everything was the polar opposite of Tatsumi’s, which was both confusing and frustrating for the warrior.

There are a lot of reasons why I can’t wait until the next book in Shadow of the Fox is released. First and foremost is that, things take a major turn near the end and then… yeah, you’ll just have to read Shadow of the Fox to find out and then join me in waiting not so patiently for Soul of the Sword. *sigh*

Ravensong (Green Creek #2) by TJ Klune

Gordo Livingstone never forgot the lessons carved into his skin. Hardened by the betrayal of a pack who left him behind, he sought solace in the garage in his tiny mountain town, vowing never again to involve himself in the affairs of wolves.
It should have been enough.
And it was, until the wolves came back, and with them, Mark Bennett. In the end, they faced the beast together as a pack… and won.
Now, a year later, Gordo has found himself once again the witch of the Bennett pack. Green Creek has settled after the death of Richard Collins, and Gordo constantly struggles to ignore Mark and the song that howls between them.
But time is running out. Something is coming. And this time, it’s crawling from within.
Some bonds, no matter how strong, were made to be broken.

Ravensong didn’t affect me nearly as much as Wolfsong, but it was still powerful in its own way. Going in, readers that paid attention were warned by the author that this was Gordo’s story and being in his head wasn’t going to be anything like it was with Ox. I paid attention and I knew that, but I still wasn’t prepared for Gordo’s darkness. That’s not a bad thing because Gordo had been through so much, it would have been weird if he didn’t have a harder edge.

Mark and Gordo were broken and in a lot of ways they had broken each other. They still loved each other though and the kind of bond they had wasn’t an easy one to break. Gordo thought he had though. He thought that he could keep Mark at a distance and ignore his feelings. He thought he hid them well, but it’s hard to hide things from a pack, especially when one of them is destined to be your mate.

So much happened in Ravensong. There was a lot of overlap with events that took place in Wolfsong, but they were seen from Gordo’s POV, so it wasn’t redundant. It actually added to both stories.

Richard Collins may be dead, but what he started is far from over. I don’t want to spoil anything, but TJ Klune’s concept of an Omega wolf plays a very big role in Ravensong. I can’t say much more except that I spent a lot of time in this book holding my breath. Mainly because I had no idea exactly how much of his #EvilAuthor side was going to come into play. Yeah, that love/hate relationship is still going strong.

Regardless of the tension – there was so much to love about Ravensong… The sense of family (pack!pack!pack!) continued to be strong. The characters were amazing. The twists and turns and craziness kept the pages turning and I loved every single minute of it.