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… 😉

 

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Deceived (Jade Ring #2) by Danielle Young

DeceivedLife is fleeting. No one knows that better than Jasper.
After failing his mission, Jasper puts his trust in an unseen source in order to reverse the magic that’s been done.
Unfortunately, magic of that magnitude has consequences. Only time will tell what those are, and what they could mean for magic… as well as Jasper’s heart.

This is the second book in Danielle Young’s Jade Ring series and even though it’s shorter than Guided, it’s not lacking… at all.

As I may have mentioned (actually, I think it was more of a warning) Guided ends in a cliff hanger. Thankfully, Deceived picks up where Guided left off. Unsurprisingly, that means that it starts with a heart wrenching intensity. Just so you know, that intensity doesn’t ease up or slow down through most of the book. Jasper makes a decision in those first few minutes that will pretty much lock Jo’s destiny with his in an unexpected way.

My heart broke for these two characters. They obviously cared about each other, but because of their ‘magical’ connection, neither one of them were sure what was real and what was a product of what they had gone through. That was doubly heart breaking for Jo, who had to re-live memories that she had lost.

There were quite a few revelations and more than a few twists and turns and a couple of characters that my opinion changed about… almost. One thing I know for sure is that I’m going to have to do a complete re-read of this series before the next book is released… which I’m hoping is sooner rather than later 😉

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Beta (War of the Alphas #2) by S.M. Reine

BetaDeirdre Tombs has lived most her life as the weakest of shapeshifters—an Omega who can’t turn into any animal. Now the terrorist known as Everton Stark has made her his Beta. He wants her by his side when he defeats the Office of Preternatural Affairs, kills Rylie Gresham, and becomes Alpha of all shifters.
The faeries from the Winter Court have an offer to make Stark’s domination easier. They know where to find a cursed sword that can kill anything, and they’ll give it to him…for a price.
Deirdre’s the only one who can keep Stark from getting this powerful weapon—if she wants to. But as brutal as Stark may be, he’s also the only one who can give Deirdre what she wants.
Vengeance.
And Deirdre doesn’t know where her loyalties lie anymore.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that made me hate, admire and sympathize with characters as much as the War of Alphas series has. Let me clarify that for you. I’m not talking about different characters here, it’s fairly common to love one character as much as you hate another. I’m talking about the SAME character. Sure, an author has made me change my opinion about a character more than once, but it usually takes at least a healthy portion of a book to make my opinion of those characters pull a complete about face. S.M. Reine has managed to make me have a love/hate relationship with at least two characters in this series pretty much from the beginning. My loyalties flip sometimes from chapter to chapter. The crazy part is that one of them is the heroine, Deirdre.

Really, I understand where Deirdre’s coming from and I never really hated her. She’s basically a semi-reluctant double agent. It’s no wonder she’s confused. She’s spent her entire life after Genesis feeling betrayed by Rylie. To make things even more complicated, it was Abel who made the final decision about keeping her out of the sanctuary. I know in my mind that all those things make it impossible for her to put her total trust in Rylie or anyone else connected with the sanctuary. I know what happened prior to the Genesis. In my heart, every time Deirdre listens to Stark and doubts Rylie’s intentions I want to reach into the book and shake her and tell her everything… but I can’t. Honestly, it’s beyond frustrating.

Then there was Stark. I really thought it was impossible to feel anything for this man other than hate. I’d be lying if I said that I now like him. Not even close. It’s more a matter of me understanding him just a little bit more. That realization didn’t come until near the end of Beta, but it was a powerful moment.

There wasn’t much down time in Beta. Things happened fast and the players (and sometimes their loyalties) changed just as quickly. Speaking of which, there are a lot more characters to contend with. The battle isn’t just between the Alphas anymore. There’s a lot more at stake and more preternatural beings than ever before. Readers are also getting closer to finding out exactly what Deirdre is and I have a feeling it’s going to bring things to a whole new level for everyone.

Alpha is next, and it was supposed to be the end of the trilogy. Evidently it’s taken on a life of its own because S.M. Reine has hinted that there will probably be another book added to the series. After reading Beta, I totally understand. As awesome as this author is, I have no idea how just one book can wrap up all the crazy developments in this book.

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Up from the Grave (Night Huntress #7) by Jeaniene Frost

UpFromTheGraveLately, life has been unnaturally calm for vampires Cat Crawfield and her husband Bones. They should have known better than to relax their guard, because a shocking revelation sends them back into action to stop an all-out war…

A rogue CIA agent is involved in horrifying secret activities that threaten to raise tensions between humans and the undead to dangerous heights. Now Cat and Bones are in a race against time to save their friends from a fate worse than death… because the more secrets they unravel, the deadlier the consequences. And if they fail, their lives—and those of everyone they hold dear — will be hovering on the edge of the grave.

I admit it. I’ve had this book in my possession since it was first released over a year ago. So why haven’t I read it until now? I’m a wimp. I just couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye to Cat & Bones. I figured I had put it off long enough though and I’m glad I finally picked it up. Up from the Grave turned out to be the perfect ending to an amazing series.

I’m not sure how much I can add to the hundreds of reviews that have already been written, so I’ll keep it short. Plus, if I write too much I’m afraid I’ll give something away. Up from the Grave had more than a few surprising twists, unexpected alliances and the normal heat, romance and fun that fans have come to expect from Cat, Bones and company.

Frost brought the book and series to a satisfying end and that’s pretty much all fans could ask for. It also made me love them even more. Up from the Grave also gave me a whole new appreciation for at least one character. I mention this mainly because I really hope that some of my favorites (one snarky vamp in particular) find their way into the Night Huntress World with books of their own. 😉

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Twelve Shades of Midnight Anthology

12ShadesOfMidnightThe stroke of midnight ushers in many things. From hijinks and mischief to danger and evil, romance is the magic that binds these paranormal novellas together. Join 12 best-selling and award-winning authors as they explore the different shades of midnight in exclusive, never-before-released stories.

This anthology turned out to be a huge tease. I ended up enjoying most of the stories and found quite a few authors in the mix that I intend to follow. I’m just hoping that most of these turn into series or at the very least continue to full length novels. Some of these characters are too good to walk away from with just the little taste that the authors gave us.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Liliana Hart: The Witch Next Door

This is the second book by Liliana Hart that I’ve read and if she continues this series, it definitely won’t be my last. Basically this story is about three sisters, who also happen to be powerful witches entrusted with protecting the inhabitants of a town. A handsome stranger that seems to know more than he should. Toss in reincarnation, an evil force that’s getting closer, a touch of humor and nice little romance and you have a quick, enjoyable read. I can’t wait to find out what happens next because readers are definitely left hanging at the end of The Witch Next Door.

Darynda Jones: A Lovely Drop

This is my first Darynda Jones read, but she’s an author who I’ve been curious about for a while now. It was the perfect way to get a quick taste of her writing style. It’s also a story that I definitely want more of. A Lovely Drop had a unique premise and the characters had that ‘real’ quality that I really liked. This story not only has me wanting more from these characters, but has also put this author on my TBR radar.

Shea Berkley: Dark Secrets: Stone Cold Dead

Another first…. and another case of wanting to get to know characters better. This was also another unique premise. I loved the mix of vampires, werewolves and a fighter who was much more than she seemed. This one even had a couple of precocious kids thrown in to make things even more fun…. and dangerous.

Dakota Cassidy: Witched at Birth

I wasn’t really sure about this one at first. It started out almost a little too ‘campy.’ The silliness leveled off though and once the story got going I couldn’t put it down. Mystery, humor, danger, an adorable little girl, magic and romance proved to be an interesting mix. This is also the first story in this anthology that didn’t leave readers hanging. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy more from these characters….

Claire Cavanaugh: Midnight Renegade

Basically, this was a military/science experiment gone terribly wrong. A scientist trying to do the right thing for the wrong person. A daughter who was on a mission to save her dad and a deadly soldier who barely understood the powers forced on him, much less how to control them. His only goals were to find a cure, the rest of the infected soldiers he felt responsible for and seek revenge on the man who tore his world apart. Can’t wait to see where this series goes….

Rachel Grant: Midnight Sun

Possessed artifacts, helpful spirits and bad guys possessed by greed. I liked this one too. It was pretty much non-stop and I liked the paranormal twist. The romance was fun too, considering how it started. That’s something I can’t giveaway… it was just too much fun seeing them try to fight the inevitable.

Trish McCallan: Spirit Woods

I really liked this one. Of course, I wasn’t surprised because I’m pretty familiar with the author, but this wasn’t like any of the other books I’ve read by Trish McCallan. The mystery behind the magic of Spirit Woods is one that I can’t wait to continue.

Angi Morgan: Bodyguards in Heels: Hit and Run Hallie

Oh, this is going to be a fun series. The characters are just a little quirky, but not to the point of being silly. Magic, mystery, a crazy family romance… what’s not to love?

Robin Perini: Night of the Jaguar

Out of all of the books in this anthology, this one was the hardest for me to connect with. It did get better as it went along. The world building was a little confusing, but I liked the twist on the supernatural, especially the vampires and the unique breed of hunters.

Robyn Peterman: Switching Hour

I honestly thought I was going nuts when I started reading this one. The first chapter of Switching Hour is pretty much the same as the first chapter of Witched at Birth. Turns out it was planned that way… very sneaky of Robyn and Dakota. This one wasn’t quite as campy but it was just as silly in places. The main character in Switching Hour and the main character in Witched at Birth were best friends. Long story short, they were being punished for their mistakes and they both had to go their separate ways to fulfill their sentences. The first chapter in each book was told from different POVs, but they both happened right before they were forced to split. I’m sure that sooner or later these two silly but lovable witches will find their way back to each other.

Ann Voss Peterson: The School

Well, now we can add fairies to the mix. Not that any were actually seen, but they were definitely present and accounted for – and not in a very nice way. Not sure if this one is going to continue or not, but there are definitely a couple of characters that I’d like to learn a little more about.

Jenn Stark: Getting Wilde

Well that certainly was an awful lot packed into a short read. Almost too much. And, to top it all off it ended in a crazy cliff hanger. Yikes! There’s no doubt that this one will continue… hopefully with answers to a lot of question I have about the crazy alternate world created in Getting Wilde.

So there you have it. I didn’t love all of them, but I definitely added more than one author to my TBR list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kinked (Elder Races #6) by Thea Harrison

KinkedTwo opponents must confront the cause of their obsessive fury in the latest Novel of the Elder Races…

As a harpy, Sentinel Aryal is accustomed to dealing with hate, but Sentinel Quentin Caeravorn manages to inspire in her a burning ire unlike anything she’s ever known. Aryal believes the new Sentinel to be a criminal, and vows to take him out as soon as the opportunity arises. But the harpy’s incessant wrath has pushed Quentin to the limit, and forces him to make a deadly vow of his own.

To put an end to the conflict, Dragos, Lord of the Wyr, sends them on a reconnaissance mission to the Elven land of Numenlaur. Forced to work together, Aryal and Quentin’s mutual antagonism escalates. Each fight draws forth more passion—culminating in an explosively sexual confrontation. But when their quest reveals real danger, Aryal and Quentin must resolve their differences in ways beyond the physical, before the entire Wyr is threatened.

This book grew on me the longer I read it. I have to be honest though, Aryal and Quentin were not my favorite couple. Their story needed to be told though and I’m guessing, that given their actions, they were pretty well suited toward each other. After all, who else would put up with them?

Honestly, these two were like the ‘brats’ of the Sentinels. Basically what Dragos did was give them a ‘time-out’ – which was deserved. I don’t think that there was a Sentinel around that didn’t agree. I think Dragos’ reaction to their behavior and the ‘straw that broke the camel’s’ back was one of my favorite parts of this story.

Readers knew that their connection was inevitable. The only people that didn’t know it were Quentin and Aryal. As the old adage goes, it’s not always the destination but the journey, and that’s exactly what Kinked was. These two characters had to get away from everything and everyone that they knew to discover each other. Because they were away from the rest of the Sentinels, there wasn’t much interaction with the rest of the characters. That’s okay though because they made up for it in the end.

There were crazy moments, sweet moments, sad moments and moments of revelation. Some of them I thought would be a little more dramatic than they turned out to be, but I’m not complaining.

Night’s Honor is up next, but there are two novellas on my TBR list that will hold me over until the new book’s release. Pia Saves the Day and Peanut Goes to School are two little gems that I can’t wait to pick up. 😉

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The Wolf Prince by Karen Whiddon

WolfPrinceWillow was unlike any princess he’d ever met…. As heir to the throne, Ruben must choose an appropriate mate to preserve his royal bloodline—despite his fear that his true nature will destroy them both. Yet the female he craves above all others is a dangerous combination of fairy and shifter, a mesmerizing creature who inspires both passion and suspicion. Then violence strikes the castle, and the two are forced to track a killer into perilous magical territory. But with treachery everywhere, will Willow and Ruben’s growing bond be enough to shift the fate of their two kingdoms?

The Wolf Prince was a book with a lot of promise. It was sweet in some places. It had just the right amount of heat in other places. It had characters that I really liked. There was plenty of mystery and twists and turns to keep me turning the pages. The bad guys were really, really bad and a few of the players were a mystery until you really got to know them. I really, really liked a lot of this story, but…..

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Okay, let’s start with what I liked. Prince Ruben was a great werewolf MC. He was alone, slightly broken and he was in search of a mate. Well, his family was in search of mate for him. Not because they were heavy handed parents who were forcing a match. It was because they were loving parents who wanted the best for their son. I loved Ruben’s parents, or his dad anyway because we didn’t see a lot of his mom. He seemed to understand more than Ruben gave him credit for. Ruben also loved and respected his parents. He just didn’t think he deserved a mate because he didn’t trust himself or his wolf.

Willow reminded me more of Cinderella than any character I’ve read in a long time. The only difference is that she wasn’t raised by a wicked step mother and teased by step sisters. No, her mother was pure evil even though she was her real mother and her sister and father weren’t much better. Her family was a polar opposite of Ruben’s. That made the connection that they had all the more bittersweet. They needed each other. She needed him because she needed someone to love her for the beautiful young princess she really was. He needed her to calm his wolf and teach him how to accept who he really was.

The rest of the characters were as annoying as they were necessary. The kind you love to hate. There were also a couple of surprising characters and twists near the end that were worth waiting for. I loved the way the story unfolded and where everyone eventually ended up. It really was a fairy tale kind of story that I enjoyed.

Now, what I didn’t like. There were several parts of the story that were kind of repetitive. Well, actually, more than repetitive. The same thing was said over and over again and then repeated. I wouldn’t bother mentioning it, but it happened more than once. There was also at least once that I had to re-read a couple of pages to make sure I didn’t miss something. Certain events and statements seemed to contradict themselves. Since I read an ARC, I don’t want to be too critical because some of this could have been corrected before the book was released. This isn’t the first book I’ve read by Karen Whiddon. I read and loved Powerful Magic and didn’t notice any of these issues, so I’m hoping that the issues I’ve mentioned aren’t really issues at all. Aside from that, The Wolf Prince was a book that I really enjoyed. I skipped The Wolf Princess, which is also part of The Pack series and written by Karen Whiddon. It is Prince Ruben’s sister’s story and since she’s mentioned in The Wolf Prince, I might have to check it out.

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Lord’s Fall (Elder Races #5) by Thea Harrison

LordsFallIn the latest Novel of the Elder Races, two mates find themselves on different paths, torn between their duty to the Wyr and the passion that binds them…
Before she met Dragos, half-human/half-Wyr Pia Giovanni was alone and on the run. Now she’s mated, pregnant and heading south to repair the Wyrs’ frayed relationship with the Elves. Being separated from Dragos is painful, but for the good of the Wyr demesne they need to figure out how to be partners—in more places than just the bedroom.

In New York to preside over the Sentinel Games, Dragos is worried about his mate, but knows that finding two replacement sentinels is essential to show the rest of the Elder Races just how strong and brutal the Wyr demesne can be. But as the Games heat up, Pia’s negotiations with the Elves take a turn for the dangerous, straining her bond with Dragos and threatening everything they hold dear.

Well, some things are worth waiting for and Lord’s Fall definitely falls into that category. I’ve wanted more Pia and Dragos since I read the final page in Dragon Bound. Sure, readers were treated to a glimpse of them every now and then in the other Elder Races books, but those glimpses weren’t nearly enough. Besides that, Dragos is a totally different character when he is dealing with his Wyr than he is when he interacts with Pia. To be honest, he’s a jerk. (He’ll be the first to tell you that Pia makes him a better person, so see, it’s not just me 😉 )

Lord’s Fall had Pia and Dragos separated throughout a good portion of the book. That was OK though because they found ‘creative’ ways to be together. Thea Harrison also helped the illusion along by having them remember special moments that they spent together. Those moments were great because they showed how far they had come as a couple, even though they had only been together for a short amount of time. Switching the POV between the two also worked really well because there was a lot of crazy stuff going on for both of them. Through it all though, they were an integral part of each other. I love this couple!

Dragos and Pia weren’t the only characters that I loved in Lord’s Fall. A few new characters as well as those that readers have already been introduced to fill the pages with plenty of humor, action and tension. I loved the interactions between these characters. They are like a bunch of misbehaved kids at times, including Pia and Dragos, but they have their priorities where they need to be and are ready to go when danger strikes. On a side note, one of my favorite characters in this one totally took me by surprise. I never would have thought in the beginning that she would be my favorite.

Along with Pia’s mission to work out an alliance with the Elves, Dragos was hosting a contest to replace his lost sentinels. The crew that came out on top of that competition is going to prove to be an interesting mix. I can’t wait to see how well they work together – yes, there was a tad bit of sarcasm there. Just a tad. 😉

The final battle was brutal, the romance was as hot as ever and the dialogue was perfect. Severed alliances were strengthened (through gritted teeth and a lot of coaxing from their perspective mates – but it happened.) There were also some adorable and at times intense scenes with ‘Peanut.’ There just isn’t anything not to love about this series. Honestly.

I might have to start this series over soon. After I finished this one I didn’t want it to be over. the final chapter ended on a perfect note, but I want more – now! The wait for the next book is just too long. I know, I’m a greedy reader, but if you have been following this series I’m sure you understand. If you haven’t started the Elder Races yet, go find a copy of Dragon Bound now… you can thank me later 😉

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Keeper of the Night (The Keepers: LA #1) by Heather Graham

KeeperOfTheNightIn their new Keeper roles, these extraordinary women must balance the fate of the world with their desires…

New Keeper Rhiannon Gryffald has her peacekeeping duties cut out for her—because in Hollywood, it’s hard to tell the actors from the werewolves, bloodsuckers and shape-shifters. Then Rhiannon hears about a string of murders that bear all the hallmarks of a vampire serial killer, and she must confront her greatest challenge yet. Together with Elven detective Brodie McKay, they head to Laurel Canyon, epicenter of the danger, where they uncover a plot that may forever alter the face of human-paranormal relations.

Don’t let my rating sway you. Honestly. I think I said the same thing in my review of The Gatekeeper, but the same statement applies here. I love the premise and the characters are interesting as well. I can’t quite put my finger on why this series isn’t grabbing me, but even so, I’m not ready to give up on it.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Rhiannon is a strong female lead character and Brodie is a great Alpha male. They connect well and the relationship isn’t rushed. I like the connection that they have, so what is keeping me from loving it? I’m at a loss.

Maybe it’s because they both fight the relationship for a lot of reasons and then suddenly they both seem to cave at the same time. Or could it be that there is still so much going on that I haven’t quite caught up with the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of the premise? I guess I’m not ready to lay the blame on just one element. Regardless, it’s still a good story and I am honestly interested in the rest of the Gryffald cousins and what’s in store for them throughout the rest of the series. The dialogue flows well and the action is just intense enough to keep my interest. The mystery is pretty good too.

The next book in the series (Keeper of the Moon) won’t be released until March of 2013. It features Rhiannon’s cousin Sailor. It’s also written by a different author, Harley Jane Kozak.

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