A Fated Bond by T.L. West

Joseph Roth, a young member of the Rockfort Paranormal Department which is in charge of keeping vampires, shifters, fairies, and all kind of supernatural creatures in check, finds himself facing more than he bargained for when he is assigned to investigate a mysterious murder. Not only is Joseph stuck between his department and a prestigious vampire family, he’s unaware of the target on his back. With the department keeping secrets from him, Joseph decides to uncover the truth on his own, unaware that dark forces are on the rise. Will Joseph be able to find the truth in time or is his search allowing the enemy to come close enough for a kill?

My initial reaction when I finished A Fated Bond…. “3.5 – 4… maybe? I’m still not sure how I feel about this one.” And that’s still how I feel. The premise was great and the world created by T.L. West was intriguing, but this book was all over the place.

The story centered around Joseph, but there are so many players in this world that have ties to each other in sometimes very obscure ways that it got pretty hard to keep track. I did like what I could follow though and I’m definitely not giving up on this potential series… it has to be a series because there were WAY too many loose ends left at the end. 

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The Art of Hero Worship by Mia Kerick

College junior Liam Norcross is a hero. He willingly, even eagerly, risks his life to save a stranger as a murderous, deranged shooter moves methodically through the darkened theater on the Batcheldor College campus, randomly killing innocent men, women, and children.
The stranger he saves is college freshman Jason Tripp. Jase loses everything in the shooting: his girlfriend, who dies on the floor beside him, and his grip on emotional security. He struggles to regain a sense of safety in the world, finally leaving college to seek refuge in his hometown.
An inexplicable bond forms between the two men in the chaos and horror of the theater, and Liam fights to bring Jase back to the world he ran away from. When Jase returns to school, they’re drawn together as soulmates, and soon Liam and Jase fall into a turbulent romantic relationship. However, the rocky path to love cannot be smoothed until Jase rescues his hero in return by delving into his shady past and solving the mystery of Liam’s compulsion to be everybody’s savior.

Jase and Liam are thrown together – quite literally – from the opening chapters of The Art of Hero Worship. Even though Liam is the obvious hero, they help each other survive (in more ways than one) a traumatic experience. It leaves Jase a little bit more shattered than Liam, but the comfort that they draw from each other is as unexpected as it’s a natural response to what they’ve been through.

There’s a slow burn and attraction that they can’t deny and it grows stronger when Jase comes back to school. They’re both still dealing with issues from their shared experience, but Jase knows that there’s more to Liam’s need to save whoever needs saving. When it feels like Liam puts his own safety on the line regardless of how scared Jase is for him, something has to give.

When Liam’s secrets are revealed, my heart broke for him. Jase had his own family hangups – mainly an overprotective mother, but Liam… Well, I can’t say a lot more without giving something away and readers need to find out Liam’s past as it’s revealed – it’s totally worth it, I promise.

This is my first Mia Kerick read, but I don’t think it will be my last. The Art of Hero Worship was a great surprise from a new to me author. 

Rabi and Matthew by L.A. Witt

A decades-old family rivalry is reaching a boiling point as the patriarchs vie for a seat in Congress. Democrat vs Republican, Muslim vs Christian, Hashmi vs Swain — the Midwestern town of Arbor Hills is one spark away from an explosion of violence. So when two men find themselves irresistibly drawn together at a party, only to discover they were born on opposite sides of a bloody battle line, Matthew Swain and Rabi Hashmi know they should leave well enough alone.
The pull between them is magnetic, though, and it’s too strong to ignore. Unable to resist, they meet again in secret. Generations of hatred can’t temper the passionate love growing between them, but two men falling for each other in the middle of a war zone can’t hold back the inevitable clash.
And when decades of political, religious, and personal strife finally come to a head, there will be blood.

I can honestly say, since the year’s almost over, that Rabi and Matthew is one of the hardest books I’ve read this year. My initial reaction when I finished… “Gotta admit… this was NOT an easy one to read, but there are also a LOT of people I’d love to recommend it to. ❤ ” For the record, that opinion still stands.

Although there were elements of prejudice on both sides in Rabi and Matthew, Matthew’s family set the bar for way too many people in the community. Matthew saw beyond the hate that his family lived by and not just for the obvious reasons. He was way more enlightened than the rest of his family. No one really knew him except for his best friend and they protected each other’s secrets. Even so, his friend didn’t understand the attraction to Rabi of all people. It was a dangerous attraction, but love is love and the hate had to end somewhere.

There was a price to pay though and it took something drastic to make everyone come to their collective senses. The only real issue I had with this book at all was how things kind of wrapped themselves up at the end. I’m not complaining though. I spent most of the book just waiting for the worst to happen… Rabi and Matthew didn’t exactly end with a perfect HEA, but it was close. In the end there was hope for the next generation between these families…

Trusted (Until You #3) by Karrie Roman

Zach Piper has escaped his father’s cult only to find himself in a world he doesn’t understand. Abused and neglected, he’s grown up an outcast among outcasts. He has no business trusting anybody after what he’s been through, but when Cameron Cronin takes him in and shows him a world he never knew, he willingly hands over his trust. In Cameron he finds honor and decency—someone who cares.
Cameron lives without love and he prefers it that way. He never wants to fall in love again. The last man he loved shattered Cameron’s heart as surely as his trust. When he takes in much-younger Zach, who recently emerged from his own hell, he hears the familiar whisper of long-dead feelings. But he doesn’t want to love. He cannot trust he won’t be broken again if he does.
As time passes and the two men get to know each other, Cameron’s feelings for Zach deepen whether he wants it or not. But just when Cameron decides to trust in Zach, and act on the love he knows is there, both of their pasts come storming back to threaten everything they’ve built. When their lives hang in the balance they must trust each other enough to get out alive.

I didn’t start this series with the first book, but I did start with Sentinel, the second book in Karrie Roman’s Until You series. Starting there wasn’t too bad, it basically just made me want to read Shipped to get to know Ryan and Lucas better and see how their story began. I have a feeling that wouldn’t be the case if you started with Trusted. There are just too many “players” and even though you get some of Zach’s back story in Trusted, his connection to Cam and the rest of the characters start in Sentinel. So… the lesson is – don’t start here. You’re welcome. 😉

Now, as for Zach and Cam’s story? I loved these two together. Zach had been through so much and there were very few people he could trust. He never had any doubts about Cam though, from the moment he met him, there was a connection. What Zach didn’t know was that Cam had his past that left him emotionally scarred. Not only was he afraid to hurt Zach, but he didn’t feel safe risking his own heart.

I think one of my favorite things about this series so far is the family aspect. Some by blood, some by chance, but the connections couldn’t be stronger. Zach may not have had much of a family before, but he definitely made up for it. There’s also more to come in the Until You series and I can’t wait for the next book. 😉

Surreal Estate by Jesi Lea Ryan

Sasha Michaels is a psychic with an affinity for houses. And he’s homeless. Go figure. After months of sleeping rough, he stumbles upon an abandoned house, and the lonely place beckons him inside. He’s finally safe . . . until someone comes blundering in to his hideaway.
House-flipper Nick Cooper lost everything in the recession. Desperate to revive his business, he turns to a loan shark to fund his comeback project: flipping an abandoned house full of potential. But it turns out the house has an unexpected occupant.
Nick and Sasha make a deal: Sasha can stay in exchange for helping with the renovation. To both of their surprise, the closer they get to the loan shark’s due date, the stronger their feelings for each other grow. Problem is, Nick isn’t the only one with feelings for Sasha, and now the house doesn’t want to let Sasha go.

I read a lot of fantasy/paranormal books, so it’s really exciting when I find one with a unique twist. Surreal Estate was just that kind of book. I loved the way Sasha’s connections to buildings worked. I also really liked Sasha. I liked Nick too, but Sasha definitely brought out the “mom” in me… for a lot of reasons.

Then there was Nick… like I said, I liked him and I know he was desperate to handle his money problems on his own, but a loan shark? Really?!? Sasha had his own problems, but none of them were his own doing. When he lost his only real family support he was at the mercy of a mother who was beyond selfish.

It may not have seemed that way in the beginning, but Sasha helped Nick (not with just the physical labor) as much as Nick helped Sasha (not with just a place to stay.) I really liked these two together. There were some really great supporting characters in Surreal Estate too… there were some not so great ones as well, but they all added to the story.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but I’ll definitely be checking out some of her other reads. 😉

Better Not Pout by Annabeth Albert

One hard-nosed military police officer.
One overly enthusiastic elf.
One poorly timed snowstorm.
Is it a recipe for disaster? Or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for holiday romance?
Teddy MacNally loves Christmas and everything that goes along with it. When he plays an elf for his charity’s events, he never expects to be paired with a Scrooge masquerading as Santa Claus. His new mission: make the holiday-hating soldier believe he was born to say ho-ho-ho.
Sergeant Major Nicholas Nowicki doesn’t do Santa, but he’s army to his blood. When his CO asks an unusual favor, Nick of course obliges. The elf to his Kris Kringle? Tempting. Too tempting—Nick’s only in town for another month, and Teddy’s too young, too cheerful and too nice for a one-night stand.
The slow, sexy make-out sessions while Teddy and Nick are alone and snowbound, though, feel like anything but a quick hookup. As a stress-free holiday fling turns into Christmas all year round, Teddy can’t imagine his life without Nick. And Nick’s days on the base may be coming to a close, but he doesn’t plan on leaving anything, or anyone, behind.

Teddy was adorable and Nick was prickly… but there was a lot more to each of them than that.

The last thing that Nick wanted to do was play Santa, but he only had a little bit of time left before his retirement so turning down his new CO wasn’t an option. He had no idea what he was in for and Teddy was definitely not what he expected.

Teddy considered Nick a challenge. He knows that there is more to Nick than the grumbly guy he first meets. The more he gets to know him, the more the challenge turns into a lot more than either one of them bargained for.

Better Not Pout was the perfect Holiday read. Full of a little sweet, a little bit nice and a little bit naughty. It fits right into what I’ve come to expect from Annabeth Albert’s military romances. 🙂

Fury (Menagerie #3) by Rachel Vincent

1986: Rebecca Essig leaves a slumber party early but comes home to a massacre—committed by her own parents. Only one of her siblings has survived. But as the tragic event unfolds, she begins to realize that other than a small army of six-year-olds, she is among very few survivors of a nationwide slaughter.
The Reaping has begun.
Present day: Pregnant and on the run with a small band of compatriots, Delilah Marlow is determined to bring her baby into the world safely and secretly. But she isn’t used to sitting back while others suffer, and she’s desperate to reunite Zyanya, the cheetah shifter, with her brother and children. To find a way for Lenore the siren to see her husband. To find Rommily’s missing Oracle sisters. To unify this adopted family of fellow cryptids she came to love and rely on in captivity.
But Delilah is about to discover that her role in the human versus cryptid war is destined to be much larger—and more dangerous—than she ever could have imagined.

My initial reaction when I finished Fury, the last book in the Menagerie series was torn between heartbreak and… well, I’m still not sure. Yet, there’s no way that I could rate this book with anything less than 5 stars. Given the direction that Rachel Vincent had taken the characters and events in Menagerie and Spectacle, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I wanted these characters that we’ve gotten to know, respect and love to get the happiness that they deserved – just like Delilah did. *sigh*

There’s really not a whole lot more I can say without giving things away, and trust me, Fury is one of those books that you have to experience for yourself. There was also a big difference between Fury and the rest of the books in the series. The chapters flipped between “1986″ and “Present Day.” At first it was a little confusing, especially since the book began with “1986.” It didn’t take long to not only get used to, but to actually look forward to each POV. Eventually both POVs catch up with each other and surprising connections are made.

I loved these characters and the world that Rachel Vincent created. Parallels between “fiction” and “non-fiction” weren’t hard to recognize, but the message wasn’t forced. I suppose it’s possible to read the Menagerie series without making the connection, but it would be nice if people paid attention to the details…

Then there was the ending… not what I expected and definitely not what I wished for, but there was a spark of hope, which is always nice to walk away with in a series as powerful and emotional as this one. ❤

Single White Incubus (Supernatural Selection #1) by E.J. Russel

Does a bear shift in the woods?
Well, partially. That was what got grizzly shifter Ted Farnsworth into trouble. He wasn’t trying to break the Secrecy Pact. He just wants people to see the real him. So he signs up with the mate-matching service Supernatural Selection — which guarantees marriage to a perfect partner. Not only will Ted never be lonely again, but once his new beaver shifter husband arrives, they’ll build Ted’s dream wilderness retreat together. Win-win.
Quentin Bertrand-Harrington, scion of an incubus dynasty, has abstained from sex since nearly killing his last lover. When his family declares it’s time for him to marry, Quentin decides the only way not to murder his partner is to pick someone who’s already dead. Supernatural Selection finds him the ideal vampire, and Quentin signs the marriage agreement sight unseen.
But a mix-up at Supernatural Selection contracts Quentin with Ted. What’s Ted supposed to do with an art historian who knows more about salad forks than screwdrivers? And how can Quentin resist Ted’s mouthwatering life force? Yet as they work together to untangle their inconvenient union, they begin to wonder if their unexpected match might be perfect after all.

First, the Supernatural Selection is a spin-off series of E.J. Russel’s Fae Out of Water series. You don’t have to read one series before the other, but you’ll be missing out just a little bit if you don’t. Actually, the main characters in Cutie and the Beast, the first book in Fae Out of Water make a couple of appearances in Single White Incubus. To be honest, I may be just a little bit partial, but Cutie and the Beast was my favorite book in the Fae Out of Water series – mainly because of its lightness and Single White Incubus reminded me of that book… a lot.

So… Ted was adorable. I loved him from the moment he was introduced. He was honest, sweet, adorable and lonely. He wanted someone to share his life with, which is why he went to Supernatural Selection. He honestly thought it was his only chance at happiness. Then Quentin came into his life and threatened everything he hoped for – along with an apparent slip-up at Supernatural Selection.

As adorable as Ted was, Quentin was… well… prickly. He had his reasons though. He’d tried love once and it was disastrous. He came close to destroying someone he loved and he had no intention of taking a chance again. That’s why he decided to allow Supernatural Selection find him a perfect undead match.

Through a crazy set of circumstances, things got a tad bit mixed up at Supernatural Selection, but did they? Things definitely got interesting and I’m pretty sure that it’s going to get even crazier by the end. I can’t wait to see what E.J. Russel has in store for the rest of the couples who decide to use Supernatural Selection

Too Hot! by Avery Giles

Eli Johnson is not a hero. He’s just a guy who’s doing his best. His mother was a hero, though, and when she died, he dropped out of college to become a firefighter—a vocation she would have been proud of. He might not be able to save everyone, but he can do what she taught him: put more good out than bad.
Charlie Kinnear is definitely not a hero. When he ran into a burning building to save a trapped child, he was acting on instinct. He’s not expecting a medal, or for a handsome firefighter with a stunning smile to give him his oxygen mask. Charlie’s light-headed, and not from smoke inhalation.
Right as their romance begins, a serial arsonist terrorizes the city. As if that weren’t bad enough, Charlie appears at the scene of every fire. Eli hates to think it, but if someone wanted to get a firefighter’s attention—say, a certain sexy someone who coincidentally wandered into Eli’s life—what better way than by starting fires? Sparks are flying all right, and things may get too hot for Eli and Charlie to handle.

Too Hot! is Avery Giles’ debut novel and it’s not a bad start at all.

I loved both Charlie and Eli, even though Charlie was a mystery throughout most of the story. I had a hard time buying that he was a “bad” guy though, even when Eli wasn’t so sure. I never doubted him though and I have to admit that I got kind of aggravated with Eli when he did. I just knew that there was a logical explanation.

The author did a great job of keeping readers in the dark… even though they got Charlie’s POV. I liked that added suspense.

To be fair, I understood where both characters were coming from. Charlie had his reasons for keeping his secret and Eli had his reasons for suspecting him… They were both in a bad situation, but in the end they had each other. 😉

FYI – this author is now on my radar. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Building Forever (This Time Forever #1) by Kelly Jensen

Charlie King is doing fine. Sure, he’s a widower raising a teenage daughter who just got her first boyfriend, his book series isn’t writing itself, and he has a crush on his new neighbor — the guy next door. But everything’s just fine.
Simon Lynley is doing better. He moved to Bethlehem to fall out of love and rebuild his career. An affair with his neighbor isn’t part of the plan, but the attraction between them is too hard to ignore.
But when Simon’s ex follows him to Pennsylvania seeking reconciliation, and Charlie’s life starts to feel like a video on repeat, everything comes apart. Charlie worries that he’s failing as a father, and Simon is a distraction he can’t afford. Meanwhile Simon doesn’t know if he could survive being left again, and he hasn’t come all this way to make the same mistakes. But despite their fears, it’s only together that they’ll find the strength to slay old foes and build the forever they’ve been waiting for.

I think that there are more than a few parents out there – single or married – that think that they’re failing somehow. No one’s perfect, but Charlie feels like he’s floundering more often than not. He misses his late wife. She was his best friend and a true partner in parenting their daughter. He really needed the balance she provided when it came to his daughter’s teenage years. And he definitely didn’t need the distraction of his new neighbor.

Simon had a lot on his plate. A new job, a new home, new goals… he didn’t need to be distracted either. Some things you can’t fight though and his attraction to Charlie was one of them.

I felt for both these men. They needed each other, but they were each too guarded to let the other in fully. I liked both Charlie and Simon and I could see where they were coming from… but I couldn’t wait until they both gave in…

This is also one of those books that is enhanced by the supporting characters. I loved Simon’s friends and Charlie’s family was great too… with a couple of exceptions. I’m sure that the rest of the series can be read as stand alones, but since the characters in the next two books were introduced in Building Forever, I going to enjoy getting to know them better. Renewing Forever is next in the This Time Forever series, but I personally can’t wait to see how Kelly Jensen redeems a certain character in Chasing Forever 😉