Stone Cold (SoulShares #8) by Rory Ni Coileain

Maelduin Guaire is a Fae with a mission. An obsession, really. He’s trained his entire life to become the greatest scian-damhsa, blade-dancer, the Fae have ever known, for the sole purpose of killing the blade-dancer who murdered his father and gave House Guaire its reputation as the Cursed House. Now he’s followed Tiernan Guaire through the Pattern to the human world, to fulfill his oath or die trying… but the passage has cost him all his skill with a blade.
Terry Miller, Josh LaFontaine’s business partner at the Raging Art-on Tattoo and Piercing Parlor, has the worst luck with men since… well, since ever, as far as he’s concerned. Years ago, he walked out on a great thing with Josh, when Bryce Newhouse offered to play sugar daddy for Terry’s ballet company; then Bryce kicked him to the curb, and Terry ended up relying on big-hearted Josh to help him get back on his feet. And now a too-good-to-be-true stranger has turned up in Terry’s half-built dance studio, with a beautiful sword and a bloody nose.
In order to regain the grace and skill he needs to keep his vow, a Fae cursed with the inability to love must SoulShare with a human convinced that love runs screaming when it sees him coming. All with the Marfach looking over their shoulders. No pressure.

Okay, so it took me a while to get into Stone Cold, but once it grabbed me, it didn’t let go. I didn’t have this issue with the first 5 books in the series, but it’s been a while since I’ve read any of the books in this series (I read Blowing Smoke in 2015.) Also, I inadvertently skipped Mantled In Mist (#6) and Undertow (#7) so I’m pretty sure both contributed to the slow start. Sometimes you can fall effortlessly back into a series after a break, but so much happens in the SoulShares series and what affects one pair seems to affect them all and not knowing all the characters made things just a little confusing. Lesson learned. 😉

Once I caught up, I couldn’t put Stone Cold down. Terry’s a character that’s been around for a while in the SoulShares series and finding his SoulShare was long overdue. Both Maelduin and Terry had their reasons for fighting the pull that they felt toward each other. Maelduin was cursed to never love and Terry was unlucky in love. He either picked the wrong person or pushed the right ones away. Things are never quite what they seem in this world of magic.

The Marfach was as gruesome as ever and magic was running rampant – and not always in a good way. As I said, a lot happened in Stone Cold and evidently a lot happened in the books I missed. I’m definitely going to have to go back and read those two books before the next one is released. Stay tuned!

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Bad Boy’s Bard (Fae Out of Water #3) by E.J. Russell

As far as rock star Gareth Kendrick, the last true bard in Faerie, is concerned, the only good Unseelie is . . . well . . . there’s no such thing. Two centuries ago, an Unseelie lord abducted Gareth’s human lover, Niall, and Gareth has neither forgotten nor forgiven.
Niall O’Tierney, half-human son of the Unseelie King, had never lost a wager until the day he swore to rid the Seelie court of its bard. That bet cost him everything: his freedom, his family—and his heart. When he’s suddenly face-to-face with Gareth at the ceremony to join the Seelie and Unseelie realms, Niall does the only thing inhumanly possible: he fakes amnesia. Not his finest hour, perhaps, but he never revealed his Unseelie heritage, and to tell the truth now would be to risk Gareth’s revulsion—far harder to bear than two hundred years of imprisonment.
Then a new threat to Gareth’s life arises, and he and Niall stage a mad escape into the Outer World, only to discover the fate of all fae resting on their shoulders. But before they can save the realm, they have to tackle something really tough: mending their own broken relationship.

I’ve really liked this series, but I’ve gotta admit, out of all the brothers, Gareth was my least favorite. It was pretty much inevitable that he would be the last brother of the three to find his soul mate… or find him again.

To be honest, even when Niall and Gareth ‘found’ each other, I still wasn’t a fan. They did eventually grow on me, but it took a while. I wasn’t impressed with Niall’s decision to fake amnesia – being honest would have saved a lot of heartache. They both ended up doing things that I didn’t like, but to be fair, I think my opinion may have been colored a tad bit by my love of David, Bryce, Alun & Mal.

There was bitterness, deceit, heartbreak and eventually healing, but, as I said, it took a while to get there. The journey to their HEA was full of twists and turns and some heated moments. In the end, both Gareth and Niall ended up redeeming themselves and I ended up liking them both. If I’m totally honest though, David and Alun (Cutie & the Beast) are still my favorite. ❤ Since all the brothers have come full circle, I’m fairly certain that Bad Boy’s Bard is the final book in the series. I won’t complain though if E.J. Russell decides to revisit this world in the future. 😉 

 

Bound by Thorns (Dragon Soul #3) by Sean Michael

Park ranger Luke Beteferoce likes the quiet of the forest—a place he can be alone. The dragon shifter keeps himself busy maintaining his territory in the park…that is, until he meets ex-soldier Greyson Paulson. Suddenly, Luke finds himself thinking of all sorts of scenarios that involve Greyson. And with the kind of tension he’s feeling, hot, sweaty, nonkinky sex is only the beginning. 
While he’s perfectly fine being left alone, Greyson finds he enjoys the company of the bossy yet tender park ranger. Soon, trying to fight the heat between them is a losing battle: he’s ready to give in to the irresistible lust he feels for Luke. Greyson may not be ready to completely submit, but he still can’t stop himself from following every command Luke whispers his way. 
Luke hasn’t felt this kind of connection and satisfaction with anyone ever before, leading him to discover Greyson’s marked as his mate. But with Greyson battling his own limitations and lack of experience, it’s going to take Luke more than hours-long hot sex to convince Greyson to stay and accept his destiny. 

I’ve gotta admit, I think that Grey and Luke may be my favorite couple in this series so far.

If you’ve been following my reviews of Dragon Soul, you know that I’ve had a couple of issues with how things developed between the brothers and their soul mates. There was still more sex than story in Bound by Thorns (which isn’t really an issue, just worth mentioning) but I think what I liked most about their story was that Luke was totally up front with Grey about who and what he was. His revelation came a lot earlier than his brothers and even better, Grey accepted it a lot better than the other soul mates.

I’m also a push over for broken characters and Grey was broken enough that Luke felt the need to save him. Their relationship grew from there, even though it was inevitable. Bound by Thorns gave me hope for the rest of the series. Two brothers left to go and I’m kind of looking forward to meeting them. Even though at least one of them is destined to be a heart breaker. 

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. 😉 

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.

The Alpha’s Claim by Holley Trent

Jim West, the New York Coyote pack alpha, has successfully defended his territory from external threats for almost fifteen years. Pack politics may be a pain in his ass, but his command has never been doubted, his authority never questioned.
Until Teddy, an argumentative pancake-house server, challenges more than his patience. The lithe, pretty human calls to Jim’s baser instincts. He knows instantly Teddy is his mate – but the timing couldn’t be worse. Tension within his pack is growing, and adding a human mate to the mix could spark an uprising, with Teddy as the target.
Teddy’s smart mouth may heat Jim’s blood, but with a full moon only days away, getting Teddy to let down his guard and accept him – the man and the beast – is his main priority.
There’s no fighting the pull of a mate, but learning his lover is a literal predator might make Teddy run right into the danger Jim’s desperate to control.

Okay, so I try not to read reviews before I read a book – I’ve been burned by spoilers a few too many times so I consider avoidance the safest way to go. However, I do look at ratings. I don’t always make decisions based on those ratings, but I kind of like to know what I’m in for. This book had a LOT of low ratings, but there were a couple from trusted readers that I know have the same taste in books as I do that rated it higher. Those couple of reviews/ratings are what made me decide to take a chance on Alpha’s Claim and I’m really glad that I did.

I’ve never read any other book by Holley Trent, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Alpha’s Claim wasn’t perfect, but I really liked the story and I liked Trent’s writing style. Teddy was a fun character. He had no idea how crazy it was to be talking back to an alpha. He was human and basically thought that Jim and his friends were jerks. The fact that he didn’t back down and actually stood up to Jim was just one of the things that attracted him to Teddy.

I also liked the dynamic of Jim’s pack. You’ll have to read the book to understand what I’m talking about. I’ve read a lot of shifter books and series and the sense of family in Alpha’s Claim was one of the strongest I’ve read in a while. Yet, just like in every family, there were a few members who weren’t quite as loyal to the pack as the rest.

The only real complaint that I have about Alpha’s Claim is that I wanted more. There were things that I wanted to know and spending more time getting to know Jim and Teddy wouldn’t have been a bad thing. 😉

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. 😉

Forest of Thorns and Claws by J.T. Hall – Bout of Books 19 Review

Donovan McGinnis, a veterinarian and conservationist at a research center in Sumatra, is fighting to save the rainforest from poachers and politicians alike. One day he discovers a tigress trapped by a snare, and while treating her injuries, she bites him. He becomes ill with strange symptoms that leave him feverish and dreaming of the jungle and blood.
Kersen and his family are part of the Harimau jadian, a clan of tiger shifters hidden away in a secret village near the rainforest. When Kersen’s sister is caught, he knows he must free her before she infects someone with their magic and reveals their secret.
But Donovan has already been turned, and only time will tell if he can control the tiger within. Kersen must help him, but will the fierce attraction between the pair bring ruin to them all? With the rainforest under threat from outside forces, they may be doomed anyway, unless Kersen and Donovan can find a way to defeat the danger from inside and out.

I love books that convey an important message without being ‘preachy’ about it. You know what I mean, right? Forest of Thorns and Claws was one of those books. The message was about conservation and the affects that both legal and illegal actions can have. The story was centered around two very special characters. One who fought for the wildlife and its habitat even before he knew its magical secrets and the other who lived in that magical world with his family. That would have been enough to draw me in, but there were tigers, one of my favorite big cats, so I probably would have picked this one up regardless.

Kersen belonged to a clan of tiger shifters who had kept themselves hidden from humans for centuries. It was important to keep their secret, but it was even more important to rescue his sister. Once he found out that Donovan had been infected, he had more than one issue to handle. The doctor could be an ally, but what if he wasn’t. He had to get him away from the other humans before things got worse. Once he started spending time with Donovan, the attraction between them added another element.

Having Donovan turn into a shifter was kind of poetic in a way. His devotion and respect for the tigers was apparent in everything he did. It didn’t take him long to feel a part of the clan, which took his protection instincts to a whole new level. Thrown into the mix were untrusting villagers, a political and bureaucratic nightmare and a meddlesome friend. Needless to say, there wasn’t much down time in Forest of Thorns and Claws.

The romance was heated and intense, the suspense was gripping and the message was clear. If you read Forest of Thorns and Claws, don’t skip the author’s notes at the end. Her personal message to readers is worth the read. Enjoy!

 

Half by Eli Lang

halfLiving between worlds has never been comfortable, but it’s where I’ve always fit: between human and fey, illness and health, magic and reality.
I’ve spent the last six years looking for a cure for the nameless sickness eating me up. If I believed there was one out there, I would keep searching. But there isn’t, so I’ve come back home, where my past and present tangle. Come home to live . . . and to die.
But my father insists I meet Kin. He’s a healer, and determined to help, even though I’m not so hopeful anymore. But Kin isn’t what I expected, in any way. He sees me, not my illness. He reminds me of what it’s like to be alive. And I can’t help falling for him, even though I know it isn’t fair to either of us.
Kin thinks he has the cure I’ve been looking for, but it’s a cure that will change everything: me, my life, my heart. If I refuse, I could lose Kin. But if I take it, I might lose myself.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Half is one of those books that sticks with you long after you read it. I’m pretty sure not everyone will be affected by Kin and Luca’s story the same way. That’s the beauty of books that aren’t easy to read from an emotional stand point. They make you think and feel and the best ones make you ask what if?

There were a lot of layers to Half and quite a few perspectives to consider. What would you do to save someone you loved? What would you do if you were offered a cure that may or may not work? What if that cure changed you? How do you come to terms with the guilt you feel for not always being the person someone needed and the frustration of knowing that it may be too late to make up for it? There’s no right or wrong answer… unless you’re the person living with the decision you make.

That’s about all I’ve got… Read Half with an open mind and heart and a box of tissues probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. Also, it’s probably worth mentioning that even though this book is about fairies, that’s about the only paranormal aspect.

DragonFlyRating4

Rogue Magic by Kit Brisby

roguemagicWhile trapped in a stalled subway train on his morning commute, PR rep Byron Cole flirts with Levi, a young waiter with adorable curls. But Byron’s hopes for romance crash and burn when Levi saves him from a brutal explosion—with outlawed magic.
When Levi is imprisoned, Byron begins to question everything he’s ever believed. How can magic be evil when Levi used it to save dozens of lives? So Byron hatches a plan to save Levi that will cost him his job and probably his life. If he doesn’t pull it off, Levi will be put to death.
Byron discovers that he isn’t the only one questioning America’s stance on magic. And he learns that Levi is stubborn, angry, and utterly enchanting. Time is running out, though. Byron must convince Levi to trust him, to trust his own magic, and to fight against the hatred that’s forced him to hide his true nature his entire life. The more Levi opens up, the harder Byron falls. And the more they have to lose.
 

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1On the surface, Rogue Magic is a paranormal romance between two very different people. You don’t have to get very far into the story to figure out that it’s so much more.

The story is told by both Levi and Byron’s POV, which is good. In the beginning, Byron’s POV is frustrating, only because his mindset is jaded. He’s not a bad person, but he has to change his total way of thinking, everything he knows and has been told is wrong. It doesn’t take him long to turn his thinking around, but it takes long enough. Levi’s POV is heartbreaking. He’s labeled, condemned and alone when all he did was try to save people. Byron and Levi live in a world where there is a very definite line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. All of it’s based on how you were born. Something that individuals have absolutely no control over. Sound familiar?

I have to admit, there were parts of Rogue Magic that were hard to read. There’s really no hope for Levi. He’s condemned… trapped… destined to be used, abused and tortured, when he really should have been hailed as a hero. It was beyond scary for him and those who cared about him. Nothing was quite what it seemed, but change couldn’t happen without sacrifice.

This book reminds me of another M/M Paranormal series, but I’m not going to name it. Mainly because I don’t want readers to think that I’m accusing one author of copying the other. The real connection is that there are underlying ‘lessons’ to be learned and I honestly hope that people reading pay attention.

DragonFlyRating4