The Druid Next Door (Fae Out of Water #2) by E.J. Russell

Professor Bryce MacLeod has devoted his entire life to environmentalism. But how effective can he be in saving the planet when he can’t even get his surly neighbor to separate his recycling?
Former Queen’s Enforcer Mal Kendrick doesn’t think his life could get any worse: he’s been exiled from Faerie with a cursed and useless right hand. When he’s not dodging random fae assassins in the Outer World, he’s going toe-to-toe with his tree-hugging neighbor. And when he discovers that the tree-hugger is really a druid, he’s certain the gods have it in for him—after all, there’s always a catch with druids. Then he’s magically shackled to the man and expected to instruct him in Supernatural 101.
All right, now things couldn’t possibly get worse.
Until a mysterious stranger offers a drunken Mal the chance to gain back all he’s lost—for a price. After Mal accepts, he discovers the real catch: an ancient secret that will change his and Bryce’s life forever.
Ah, what the hells. Odds are they won’t survive the week anyway.

The relationship between Mal and Bryce most definitely did not begin with love at first sight. Mal’s lack of trust, respect, etc., of druid’s didn’t improve when he became magically attached to Bryce. The feeling was pretty much mutual since Bryce had absolutely no knowledge of the supernatural world he was suddenly thrust in head first with an uncooperative tutor. Then the real fun began. 😉

I have to admit, I didn’t like The Druid Next Door near as much as I liked the first book in the Fae Out of Water series, Cutie and the Beast. However, I did end up liking Mal more in The Druid Next Door than when readers were first introduced to him as Alun’s playboy brother, eventually.

When the book opened, Mal was pretty much a shell of the characters that readers first met. When he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself, he was trying desperately to figure out how to reverse the curse that had been placed on him. He thought he knew exactly what he had to do until a mysterious stranger gave him another option. It’s true that nothing is quite what it seems and I honestly didn’t see any of what that drunken alliance led to. In the mean time, Bryce and Mal started seeing things in each other that they didn’t expect either.

I ended up really liking The Druid Next Door. It wasn’t quite as light and ‘cute’ as Cutie and the Beast, but there was nothing light or cute about Mal or Bryce. There were a couple of fun moments though and David did make quite a few appearances, which was fun.

At the time I wrote this review, I’d already read the next book in the series, Bad Boy’s Bard. You’ll have to wait a little while to see if Gareth won me over. Honestly, after the first two books I thought that E.J. Russell probably had her work cut out for her. Stay tuned. 😉 

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Cashing Out (Dana McIntyre Must Die #3) by S.M. Reine – Bout of Books 20 Review

With the previous master vampire out of the way, and Dana McIntyre presumed dead, there’s nothing standing between Nissa Royal and her vision for Las Vegas: a city of vampires where humans serve as no more than cattle.
Except that someone keeps killing the vampires who are sweeping the streets for victims. A mysterious killer that nobody can seem to find. Someone bent on stopping Nissa…
Police Chief Charmaine Villanueva is losing control of her city to the Office of Preternatural Affairs. She hopes to appease them with a preliminary cure for vampirism–her last shot at reassuring them that she can keep her citizens safe. Except someone has broken into Holy Nights Cathedral to steal the Garlic Shot, even though the church should be impossible to burgle. She can only think of one person with the ability to steal from the cathedral. But Dana McIntyre’s been dead for hours. Hasn’t she?
Torn between OPA control and vampire control, Las Vegas is a city on the brink of war missing its guardian angel. It’s a high stakes game with no limit. But the house isn’t letting any of its players cash out yet…not when the game is just getting hot.

I can’t even… I really should deduct at least half a star for the gut wrenching events near the end… Oh, and I thought the last book ended with a crazy twist? o.O Trust me when I say that S.M. Reine is most definitely holding onto her #EvilAuthor title.

Things took a strange and unexpected turn at the end of Kill Game. So strange and unexpected that everyone (except readers) in the beginning of Cashing Out knew that Dana was dead. There were a few that held out a little bit of hope, but it was a long shot. There were too many things that she would have had to overcome to actually survive, but this is Dana we’re talking about and she obviously wasn’t finished yet.

Needless to say, a lot happened in Cashing Out and not all of it was great. Dana was kinda awesome (I told you, she’s growing on me) and her friends/family were great, whether they actually liked her or not. A key mystery was solved (I can’t say that I was surprised). On the flip side, the OPA showed up (which wasn’t all bad…). Nissa became even stronger when she became a full fledged vamp and the absolute worst was that there were losses… on both sides. *tear*

So, this is turning out to be another vague review, and I’m sorry about that, but I just don’t want to give anything away. I will say that I have a sudden urge to go back and read Bitter Thirst, because seeing one of my favorite OPA agents appear in Vegas was one of my favorite parts of Cashing Out 😉 Well, maybe not my favorite, because this is Dana’s book after all, but Cèsar is just… well, he’s Cèsar, enough said.

So, I’m going to end this review (before I give anything away) with my usual disclaimer. If you haven’t read a S.M. Reine book yet, pick one sooner rather than later. Start wherever you want, but I suggest either with Six Moon Summer or Descent. The world building is phenomenal and so interwoven between the series it’s a wild ride. I’ve got my favorites, so now it’s time for you to choose yours… you’re welcome! 😉 

 

Cutie and the Beast (Fae Out of Water #1) by E.J. Russell

Temp worker David Evans has been dreaming of Dr. Alun Kendrick ever since that one transcription job for him, because holy cats, that voice. Swoon. So when his agency offers him a position as Dr. Kendrick’s temporary office manager, David neglects to mention that he’s been permanently banished from offices. Because, forgiveness? Way easier than permission.
Alun Kendrick, former Queen’s Champion of Faerie’s Seelie Court, takes his job as a psychologist for Portland’s supernatural population extremely seriously. Secrecy is paramount: no non-supe can know of their existence. So when a gods-bedamned human shows up to replace his office manager, he intends to send the man packing. It shouldn’t be difficult—in the two hundred years since he was cursed, no human has ever failed to run screaming from his hideous face.
But cheeky David isn’t intimidated, and despite himself, Alun is drawn to David in a way that can only spell disaster: when fae consort with humans, it never ends well. And if the human has secrets of his own? The disaster might be greater than either of them could ever imagine.

This was a fun one. 🙂 David was a mess. He was also quirky, adorably and totally devoted to his unconventional family. He screwed up every job he had and trouble seemed to follow him wherever he went. When he lands a temp job in Alun’s office he is determined to make it work – even though it’s a job that he had no business taking.

Alun was cursed and he knew it was totally deserved. The fact that David was determined to stick around regardless of how hard Alun tried to push him away was just one of the reasons why he was inexplicably attracted to David. None of it made any sense at all to Alun. But then, nothing is ever what it seems. By the time both David and Alun figured out what was really going on, it was almost too late.

This was a great start to the Fae Out of Water series. The fact that readers were introduced to both of Alun’s brothers just made me want to get to know them better ASAP. Good thing I don’t have long to wait for Mal (The Druid Next Door) or Gareth’s (Bad Boy’s Bard) books. I’m not sure if they will be quite as entertaining as Cutie & the Beast. Mal pushed all of Alun’s buttons and was a shameless flirt, but Gareth has a fair amount of baggage and a pretty hefty chip on his shoulder. Regardless, I’m pretty sure that this series is going to be extremely interesting.

Spellbinder (Moonshadow #2) by Thea Harrison

Kidnapped while on tour, musician Sidonie Martel is transported to the mystical land of Avalon. A human without magical ability, she is completely vulnerable to the deadly forces surrounding her.
When she defies her captors and refuses to share her music, an act of violent cruelty leaves her broken, her ability to play silenced, maybe forever. Her only hope is a whisper in the dark, gentle hands that offer healing, and a man who refuses to show her his face yet who offers advice she dare not ignore.
One of the most feared and powerful sorcerers in history, Morgan le Fae serves a Queen he despises, Isabeau of the Light Court. Once a famous bard and an advisor to kings, Morgan has been enslaved to Isabeau for hundreds of years, acting as enforcer and the commander of her deadly Hounds.
Sidonie’s music touches Morgan in places he had abandoned centuries ago, and her fiery spirit resurrects feelings he had believed long dead. For Sidonie, trapped in captivity, passion offers a comfort she cannot resist.
But Isabeau holds Morgan bound in magical chains that only Death can break. And in the court of a cruel, jealous Queen, the only thing that burns hotter than love is revenge…

The Moonshadow series is getting more and more intriguing with each couple that’s introduced. I loved the first book, Moonshadow, and readers met Morgan as he was doing his best to inflict pain on Nikolas, his brotherhood and Sophie. I was kind of surprised when Spellbinder was Morgan’s book, but I should have trusted Thea Harrison to prove that nothing is quite as it seems.

Unlike Sophie, Sidonie was totally human with no power whatsoever. What she did have was her music, an unwillingness to give up and a strategic mind that saved her more than once. Even with all of that, she never would have had a chance if it weren’t for Morgan.

After reading Moonshadow, I never expected to like Morgan, much less sympathize with him. He didn’t win me over immediately, but it didn’t take long. Because of Sidonie’s intuitiveness, he finally had a little bit of hope and an ally he never expected.

There were a few twists and turns and things didn’t turn out exactly like either Sidonie and Morgan planned, but the path to a HEA isn’t always easy.

A few characters from previous books made some unexpected appearances and at least one of them made me want to go back and re-read one book in the Elder Races series (if not more.) Those appearances also proved that things are bound to get even more interesting as the Moonshadow series progresses. I can’t wait 😉

Moonshadow (Moonshadow #1) by Thea Harrison

Her past is a blank, her future uncertain….
Recovering from a shooting, LAPD witch consultant Sophie Ross leaves her job and travels to the U.K. to search for answers about her childhood. When she encounters a Daoine Sidhe knight of the Dark Court, she becomes entangled in an ancient hatred between two arcane forces.
He has given his body and soul to fight for his people….
Barred from his homeland along with his surviving brother knights, Nikolas Sevigny is embroiled in a conflict that threatens everything he holds dear. Only by uniting his people’s resources can they hope to prevail against Isabeau, the deadly Queen of the Light Court. He will do anything and use anyone to return home to Lyonesse.
When Nikolas encounters Sophie, he sees a tool to be used. The insouciant witch might be the key to unlocking every passageway that has been barred to the knights of the Dark Court, even as a fascination for her takes root in what’s left of his soul.
Sophie has no intention of becoming anyone’s pawn, yet the fierce Nikolas is so compelling, she can’t deny the temptation that endangers her guarded heart.
As magic threatens Lyonesse, Queen Isabeau unleashes her merciless Hounds, and Nikolas and Sophie become embroiled in a race for survival. Meanwhile, the passion that ignites between them burns too hot to be denied and quickly turns into obsession.
Thank goodness they both know better than to fall in love…

Strangely enough, I missed Moonshadow when it was first released, but once I noticed Spellbinder, the second book in the Moonshadow series, was available for review, it definitely got my attention. Why’s that so strange, you may be asking? Because it’s not only the first book in a brand new Thea Harrison series, it also introduces readers to some new members of the Elder Races. Enough said…

Sophie was amazing. I fell in love with her from the very beginning. She was slightly broken because of the shooting she barely survived, but she was brave, loyal and alone. When she was approached by someone offering her a way to acquire a mysterious property. She figured she has nothing to lose. She ended up getting a lot more than she bargained for – including maybe some insight into her past.

Nikolas was a little harder to read, but the more I got to know him, the more I liked him. He wasn’t used to someone as kind and genuinely caring as Sophie and her willingness to help kind of threw him. Just another reason to fall in love with her… that’s if he had the ability to fall in love. His one and only priority was to keep what’s left of his brotherhood safe and find a way home.

Action, magic, mystery and more… I’m thinking I’m going to like this Elder Races spin off series. Not surprising at all. As I mentioned, Spellbinder is next and it’s already way up on my TBR list. Stay tuned!

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 😉

Surrender the Dark (Dark #1) by Tibby Armstrong

Benjamin Fuller is a hunter, born and bred. Blinded as a child by the vampire who slaughtered his family, he’s blessed with a second sight that allows him to catch and kill his quarry. What his gift can’t help him see coming is his fierce, almost carnal attraction to the mystery man who claims to be a fellow hunter and whose touch triggers both lust and revulsion. When he gains the upper hand, Benjamin vows to bring his enemy to his knees.
After many years spent in exile, the only one who can help restore Tzadkiel Dragoumanos to his rightful place as War King is a blind hunter with golden curls, a lithe dancer’s physique, and distinctive facial scars—scars Tzadkiel gave him two decades ago. The mere scent of Benjamin Fuller provokes an unwelcome rush of insatiable desire. Yet to win an all-out supernatural war, Tzadkiel must resist the ravenous hunger to possess his prey—for now.

I honestly can’t believe that Surrender the Dark is the first book by Tibby Armstrong that I’ve read. I’ve been following her for a while now and I really did think that I’d read at least one of her books, but I was wrong. There’s obviously nothing I can do about that now, but after finishing the first book in her newest series, I’m hooked and anxiously waiting the next book in the Dark series.

Not surprisingly, it was really easy to sympathize with Benjamin. I’ve got to admit that I was wondering exactly how the author was going to bring these two characters together after all the pain that they caused each other. Tzadkiel was the enemy. He was a monster that had tricked Benjamin, caused him to lose his sight and killed his family. Things aren’t always exactly as they seem though and there were a lot of interesting twists in Surrender the Dark.

Once I started to understand Tzadkiel’s history and how things really played out I wasn’t sure who to sympathize with because I found my heart breaking for both of them. So much so, that I wasn’t disappointed at all to find that the real enemy in Surrender the Dark wasn’t who I expected.

Beyond the story, the writing in Surrender the Dark drew me in. The descriptions were almost poetic, but not over the top. The characters were well developed and there was even humor laced within all the pain, anger and danger. Just a few of the reasons why I’ll most definitely not only be following the rest of this series but I’ll also be searching out more books by this author.

The conflict was over between Tzadkiel and Benjamin by the end of Surrender the Dark, but there’s still more to come. More than one character’s fate was undecided. Even though the next book, Taste the Dark, centers around at least one of those characters, I’m pretty sure readers haven’t seen the last of the King and his mate. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to it. 😉

Bitter Thirst (Preternatural Affairs #8) by S.M. Reine

Things are changing in the secret government organization known as the Office of Preternatural Affairs. There are whispers of plans to go public. Special Agent Cèsar Hawke fears a thread of poison in the OPA–a poison seeded by a cult called the Apple. They’ve already hurt friends, blown cases that should have gone smoothly, and even destroyed cities. If Cèsar can’t excise the corruption before the OPA blows itself open, then the poison may spread to all of the government–and maybe the entire world.

Well… I never saw that one coming. Another ‘how in the heck am I gonna review this’ masterpiece. *sigh*

Things got crazy… people who have been absent suddenly showed up… the good guys and the bad guys switched places regularly… something that I’ve been waiting to happen since this series began finally did and then… You get the picture, right? Just another crazy tour through the multi-level/series world created by S.M. Reine.

I’ve always known how interwoven this world is, but for some reason it hit me hard in Bitter Thirst. The timeline between all these series goes back and forth so much, I’m amazed that Reine can keep it straight. As it is, I know I’ll have to do a re-read to get the full scope of what’s happening when, and to who not to mention by who… I know, it sounds confusing, but it’s really not. There are just a lot of ‘oh yeah’ and déjà vu moments thrown into the mix. Those are the moments that you feel the need to back track to the point that other characters experienced the same moments in time.

The thing is, I have my favorite characters in this world and somehow their perspective is always going to win out. Cèsar just happens to be one of those characters. What I didn’t expect was where he ended up and the alliances he chose by the end of Bitter Thirst. I gotta trust him though because he’s Cèsar, right? I should have learned by now that when it comes to this author, it’s best to expect the unexpected… 😉

 

The Herald of Day (The Boar King’s Honor Trilogy #1) by Nancy Northcott

A wizard’s misplaced trust
A king wrongly blamed for murder
A bloodline cursed until they clear the king’s name
In 17th-century England, witchcraft is a hanging offense. Tavern maid Miranda Willoughby hides her magical gifts until terrifying visions compel her to seek the aid of a stranger, Richard Mainwaring, to interpret them. A powerful wizard, he sees her summons as a chance for redemption. He bears a curse because an ancestor unwittingly helped murder the two royal children known as the Princes in the Tower, and her message uses symbols related to those murders.
Miranda’s visions reveal that someone has altered history, spreading famine, plague, and tyranny across the land. The quest to restore the timeline takes her and Richard from the glittering court of Charles II to a shadowy realm between life and death, where they must battle the most powerful wizard in generations with the fate of all England at stake.

I’ve got an issue with historical fiction. It’s not that I don’t like them, because I do. I just have a hard time getting my head wrapped around books set in a historical setting, at least until I’ve spent a little bit of time in the world. That doesn’t stop me from picking one up from time to time, especially when it’s written by an author I already know and love. I’ve read several of Nancy Northcott’s paranormal books and I’ve been a fan for a while, so when I saw that she was offering something new in a new genre I didn’t hesitate. Although I had the same slow start issues (totally my issue, not the writing), I ended up totally intrigued by her first book in The Boar King’s Honor trilogy.

I loved both Richard and Miranda from the time they were introduced. One of the issues that I had in the beginning was that there were a lot of characters to keep track of. Again, my issue, not the writing. It’s worth mentioning though because this isn’t a book that you can skim through. You have to pay attention. There are varying POV as well, but I enjoy that in a book. Especially when you’re not seeing things strictly from the main characters’ POV. It’s always kind of fun when you get a glimpse into what’s going on in the heads of the ‘bad guys’ and Nancy Northcott gives readers just enough to keep things interesting.

There’s plenty of romance, magic, suspense and mystery between the pages of The Herald of Day along with some interesting history that made me want to learn more when I was done. The next two books in the Trilogy are from different time periods. The Steel Rose takes place during Napoleon’s time and The King’s Champion is set in 1940. Although the characters obviously change, the books are all centered around the cursed Mainwaring bloodline. I can’t wait to learn more about this family and the mystery of the Princes in the Tower.

Unbreakable: Heroes of Arcania #3 by Liz Long

unbreakableTrue heroes refuse to be broken. 
Nova started the fight against Fortune for simple revenge, but now it’s turned into something much bigger. Arcania’s criminals are at each other’s throats, putting the city right in the middle of a warzone. She’ll have to work with a few unlikely allies to end Fortune’s games once and for all. Nova thought she understood what it meant to be a superhero, but will she have to lose herself to truly defeat Fortune? 
Fortune has given Cole a choice, one with unbearable consequences. When Cole takes matters into his own hands to save his sister Penelope, he realizes too late he’s another pawn in Fortune’s games. Fortune will use Cole’s gift against his enemies…including Nova. Cole will have to become the hero he always wanted to be if he’s going to protect the love of his life. 
Nova and Cole could finally save Arcania from Fortune’s deadly games, but are they willing to sacrifice each other?

All good series must come to an end… or in this case trilogies. That doesn’t mean that I have to like it though. *sigh*

The Heroes of Arcania trilogy was intense, emotional, action packed and Unbreakable did in fact bring the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion, but I still wasn’t ready to say good-bye. That’s nothing new for me though. The two books that came before this one, Supernova and Fortune’s Favor, pretty much insured that I would become emotionally attached to not just Nova, but Henry, Cole and even Penelope. Now that I ‘know’ them, saying goodbye isn’t easy. *double sigh*

Unbreakable started pretty much where Fortune’s Favor left off. Penelope’s fate hangs in the balance and Cole has some pretty big decisions to make. The odds seemed impossible and Cole’s solution wasn’t the greatest, but he didn’t have many choices. Not if he wanted to keep everyone he cared about safe.

I can’t say a lot more because I don’t want to risk giving anything away. Just know that it was intense, suspenseful and at times heartbreaking. (Yes there were tears…) And in case anyone is wondering, Liz Long is still on my 2016 Evil Author list. Oh, and it probably will surprise no one that I wouldn’t be opposed to a reappearance from any of these characters in the future. There is a connection between this series and Long’s Donovan’s Circus series, so anything’s possible, right?

DragonFlyRating5