Blood & Thunder (THIRDS #2) by Charlie Cochet

When a series of bombs go off in a Therian youth center, injuring members of THIRDS Team Destructive Delta and causing a rift between agents Dexter J. Daley and Sloane Brodie, peace seems unattainable. Especially when a new and frightening group, the Order of Adrasteia, appears to always be a step ahead. With panic and intolerance spreading and streets becoming littered with the Order’s propaganda, hostility between Humans and Therians grows daily. Dex and Sloane, along with the rest of the team, are determined to take down the Order and restore peace, not to mention settle a personal score. But the deeper the team investigates the bombings, the more they believe there’s a more sinister motive than a desire to shed blood and spread chaos.
Discovering the frightful truth behind the Order’s intent forces Sloane to confront secrets from a past he thought he’d left behind for good, a past that could not only destroy him and his career, but also the reputation of the organization that made him all he is today. Now more than ever, Dex and Sloane need each other, and, along with trust, the strength of their bond will mean the difference between justice and all-out war.

I’m so late to the THIRDS fan train that it’s almost embarrassing to add my review to the mix. I’m still not sure why it’s taken me so long to pick up this series, but I’m hooked now, so I’m having fun playing catch up 😉

Blood & Thunder was a roller coaster. Dex and Sloane were growing closer, but there was still some emotional distance between them. Sloane’s past was a big obstacle. He thought that his secrets would destroy everything, including his relationship with Dex. Distancing himself wasn’t working. He still had no idea exactly how tenacious, stubborn and loyal Dex really was. He understood a lot more than Sloane gave him credit for.

As intense as what was going on between Sloane and Dex, the side characters in Blood & Thunder had a lot going on themselves. I loved getting glimpses into the other members of Team Destructive Delta.

Sloane and Dex still have a lot to work through and it looks like Rack & Ruin will continue their story… and the drama…

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Magic Runs Deep by Alex Whitehall

For the last five years, Veier has been chained to a king’s throne in his bear form. When a neighboring kingdom overthrows the crown, Veier’s imprisonment ends, but true freedom is not so easily earned. With blood on his hands, he needs someone with patience, strength, and trust to help him become the person he was before and prove to the invaders that he isn’t the monstrous king’s loyal pet.
Elrid, the invading king’s brother and a powerful mage, is everything Veier despises. He’s also the only thing between Veier and execution, because he thinks he can help Veier change from an aggressive bear shifter into a reasonable man. While the pair have a rough start, with long talks and mutual leaps of faith, they begin to care for each other.
However, the closer Veier gets to his freedom, the closer he is to losing Elrid. He must find balance in his heart and his life if he wishes to truly claim the freedom he’s been given—and the man he loves.

I had no idea what to expect from Magic Runs Deep, but I was pleasantly surprised. One thing that you need to be aware of before you pick it up is that it’s labeled as PNR, but it’s not heavy on the romance. There is a romantic thread and a strong connection between Veier and Elrid, but the actual story is more focused on Veier and his journey.

I have to admit that Magic Runs Deep took me a little while to get into, but once I got to know Veier and Elrid, the more wrapped up in it I became. Veier did some things that he wasn’t proud of, but he did them to survive. By the time Elrid and his brother found him, he barely recognized himself. He had spent so much time under the King’s control that it was hard for him to tell right from wrong. He knew that if he wanted to gain his freedom he had to agree to the terms of the new power and most importantly to trust Elrid. Not an easy task when he had spent years controlled by magic and Elrid was a powerful mage.

Elrid kind, compassionate and patient. He saw beyond the monster that they found when they first overthrew the previous king. Veier hadn’t always been a beast who had to fight for his life and somehow Elrid recognized that.

I’ve only read one other book by Alex Whitehall and that was Second Skin, which I really liked, but it was also one of those books that was cut too short. Not only was Magic Runs Deep about twice as long, the characters were much more developed, which makes me really happy that I didn’t pass this one by.

Lonesome Paladin (A Fistful of Daggers #1) by SM Reine

Ever since the gods died, lapsed Catholic Lincoln Marshall has been drowning at the bottom of a tequila bottle and picking fights with non-believers. One of those fights ends in a man dead and Lincoln arrested. Nobody’ll give a bail bond to a flight risk like Lincoln, and he hasn’t a penny to his name, so he can’t pay his own bail. But Dullahan Daith can. He’s willing to buy the freedom of anyone who’ll skip town with him to the Middle Worlds, where a high price has been placed on the heads of trolls…and where rumor says God is reborn.
Lincoln and a mysterious prisoner named Sophie Keyes are the only ones crazy enough to sell themselves on this suicide mission. Sophie doesn’t talk much, but she’s got something that Lincoln no longer has: faith. And between the two of them, they might be able to bring God back to a godless world.

I have absolutely no idea where to start with this review – other than my normal SM Reine disclaimer… if you have yet to pick up a book by this author, do it now! Seriously, sooner rather than later. I don’t recommend that you start with Lonesome Paladin though. The world that this book and future books in the series belong to is way too vast to jump into with Lincoln Marshall. Trust me… you’re going to want to get at least a little bit of background before you meet him in all his crotchety, grouchy, self loathing glory. The Lincoln that readers are introduced to in A Fistful of Daggers is the product of EVERYTHING that came before this point. Fair warning, the volume of books in this world created by SM Reine may seem daunting at first, but I can pretty much promise that once you’re hooked, there will be no turning back. Here’s a link to help you navigate through the “Descentverse” . I’ve jumped around a little, but I did start with Seasons of the Moon – AND if you need even more incentive, you can pick up the entire series FREE from Amazon (Six Moon Summer, All Hallows’ Moon, Long Night Moon & Gray Moon Rising). Now that I’ve gotten the disclaimer out of the way…

I’m obviously a fan of this author and I’ve read pretty much all the books in this universe, but I do have my favorite characters, which naturally means that I like some more than others. A while ago, readers were given a chance to vote on which character SM Reine should base her next series on and Lincoln was one of those characters. I was, unfortunately, in the minority and Dana McIntyre won that round. I was NOT a Dana McIntyre fan… until Dana McIntyre Must Die kinda blew me away. I was one of the few that wanted to get a series wrapped around Lincoln and I wanted it even more after reading Dana’s series. I’m not exactly sure what drew me to him, but I knew I wanted more, so I was obviously excited when I found out that he was indeed getting his story. After reading Lonesome Paladin I can honestly say it was totally worth the wait and as a bonus, I’m getting a lot more than I bargained for… so much more.

So, now comes the time that you have to promise me not to shoot me for being vague. You’ll thank me in the long run, honest. This book was SO much more than I expected. There were new characters and others that readers know pretty well, or at least they think they do… (here’s where that vagueness REALLY comes into play.) If you’ve followed my reviews you know that I have a couple of characters in the “Decentverse” that I love more than others. Well, one of my absolute favorites had a LOT of face time in Lonesome Paladin and I think I may have done an actual happy dance when they made their first appearance. Little did I know…

A lot happened in Lonesome Paladin… way more than I expected. Sophie Keyes was an interesting addition, but shrouded in her own mystery. She’s chipping away at Lincoln and I haven’t really decided if that’s a good or bad thing. Even if you’ve read all the books in the “Decentverse” up until this point and you know where Lincoln ultimately ends up, the how and why are still a mystery and Lonesome Paladin is only the beginning of the journey.

Oh, and I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention that Chapter 22 was PERFECTION! I can’t say why and I can’t mention any names, but when you get there, you’ll know. If I could give this book more than 5 stars on most platforms I would and the extras would go to that moment ❤

The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories by Charlaine Harris

For the first time together in one volume, here is the complete short story collection starring Louisiana’s favorite telepathic waitress, Sookie Stackhouse—from #1 New York Timesbestselling author Charlaine Harris. New fans can fill in the gaps in their Sookie lore while old friends can revisit some of their favorite moments and characters. From investigating the murder of a local fairy to learning that her cousin was a vampire, from remodeling her best friend’s house to attending a wedding with her shapeshifting boss, Sam, Sookie navigates the perils and pitfalls of the paranormal world.
Belly up to the bar at Bon Temps’s favorite watering hole and hear stories that will make you wish Sookie never left.
This definitive collection is the perfect binge read for people who like their stories with bite!

I know a lot of readers read the short stories and novellas as they were released, but I wasn’t one of them. If there was any in this collection that I happened to read, it’s been so long I forgot. Having them all in one place was a definite advantage for me and it was fun catching up with some of my favorite (and not so favorite) characters. Since the stories were short, my reviews on each one will be too. 😉

“Fairy Dust” – those fairies… I forgot how much ‘fun’ they could be. In Fairy Dust, Sookie helps the triplets (who knew?) figure out who killed their sibling, then leaves them to their own brand of justice.

“One Word Answer”

“Dracula Night” – Eric flustered doesn’t happen very often. I kinda enjoyed seeing him ‘off.’ The Great Pumpkin reference made me chuckle, but somehow I doubt the vamps would have found it quite as Humorous. 🙂

“Lucky” – I forgot how much fun (at time) Amelia and Sookie were together. Amelia didn’t always do things the way that Sookie would have liked, but in this case, she helped get the job done 😉

“Gift Wrap” – Once again Niall proves that he doesn’t always show his love of his granddaughter in the most conventional of ways.

“Two Blondes” – Pam and Sookie’s friendship was always… strange? In Two Blondes they took a little road trip, had some fun, almost got themselves killed… a typical night on the town where Sookie was concerned.

“If I Had a Hammer” – Spending time with JB and Tara would have been more of a treat if it weren’t for the fact that they unearthed something even more sinister than the undead.

“Small-Town Wedding” – I know I’m one of very few readers who was actually okay with how the series ended. This weekend with Sam kind of cemented that for me.

“Playing Possum” – Sookie used her powers for good this time, with a little bit of help.

“In the Blue Hereafter” – I haven’t read any Charlaine Harris’ other series, but In the Blue Hereafter made me want to pick up one or two (Harper Connelly & Midnight Texas) . It was the only short story that wasn’t told from Sookie’s POV, but she was most definitely front and center.

White Collared (Wicked Pride #3) by Kelly Apple – Bout of Books 20 Review

Kane Mayhew, Alpha of the cat shifters and all around surly guy, has never been one to walk away from a challenge. So when a full-human walks into his business and asks for help, he gives it to her. He never expected to find himself in the middle of a possible inter-species war. Or trying to figure out how to keep the pretty human with him once he’d done as he said.
He was a cat, after all, and cats looked after themselves.
But Carrie Sato is intriguing. She calls to his beast and she’s fierce enough to stand up to him when he’s at his worst. When the help she asked for leads them into the territory of one of the meanest shifter breeds around, Kane knows he’s going to have to be as quick and deadly as his kind are known for.
Not only when it comes to keeping her safe, but also so he can stake a claim on her heart.
Because when a lion finds his mate, nobody better get between them.

It’s always fun when a big bad alpha gets unexpectedly tamed. It’s even more fun when the person doing the taming is a timid human, who isn’t quite as timid as they seem.

Kane’s most definitely got his hands full with Carrie, but he’s up to the challenge. Then there’s the tiny little matter of some disgruntled (and growly) bear shifters. Needless to say, things got interesting by the end of White Collared.

So yeah, it was a lot of fun, a lot of heat and plenty of smexiness… of course it was a Kelly Apple read, so I would expect no less. Needless to say, Laid Bear just moved way up on my TBR pile. 😉

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! 😉 

 

Dangerous Curves (Wicked Pride #2) by Kelly Apple

Samuel Delaney’s had a rough couple of months. Not only did he find out his mom works for the government in a job she stubbornly refuses to speak about, now he’s helping his alpha deal with a sudden influx of wolves after their alpha mated with one of the cats from his pride.
Most importantly, the leopardess he’s been half in love with his entire adult life is actively looking for a mate.
And Sam isn’t even a footnote on her list of potentials.
Convincing the lovely Luna North to give him a chance would be a hell of a lot easier if he didn’t get tongue tied whenever she was around. He’ll have to rely on his cat’s instinctive ability to land on its feet if he hopes to make any headway with the stubborn beauty.
Because when a lion chooses his mate, he doesn’t back down.
Ever.

Wow! That was a fun addition to the Wicked Pride series. After meeting Sam and Luna in No Reservations, I wasn’t surprised. Besides, this is a Kelly Apple book which means that witty characters, an abundance of snark and plenty of heat between the sheets – or wherever else her characters may end up – is pretty much guaranteed. 😉

So yeah, I kinda loved Sam and Luna. Sam was adorable… he knew Luna was his mate, but she didn’t have a clue. He sat on the sidelines, waiting for his chance and growling under his breath every time she made it clear she wanted nothing to do with him. Luna was utterly clueless and never even considered Sam as a friend, much less a potential mate. Watching these two squirm until they FINALLY got their act together was perfect. My only complaint – which is extremely minor – is that I wish we had more time with them. Dangerous Curves was short and … well not exactly sweet, but oh so much fun!

The next book in the Wicked Pride series is White Collared, which is on my Bout-of-Books 20 reading list, so stay tuned! 

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. 😉

No Reservations (Wicked Pride #1) by Kelly Apple

Cami Patterson has the worst luck with men. Everyone in her pride knows it and they steer clear of her so they don’t end up with a broken bone or two or, even worse, dead. Needless to say, when her best friend sets her up on a blind date with a werewolf visiting from out of town, she doesn’t expect anything to come of it.
She certainly doesn’t expect a night of non-stop excitement including thwarting a robbery, getting chased by the police, and almost causing an international incident. Who has time to enjoy themselves with all that going on? Or of hooking up with her sex-on-a-stick date?
Cami just might have met her match in the wolf who laughs in the face of danger and doesn’t hesitate to jump in when there’s a damsel in distress. Who knew it would take a wolf to brave this cat’s run of bad relationships?

Well, that was fun… but that’s one thing I know I can always count on when I pick up a book written by Kelly Apple. Doesn’t matter whether the focus is on shifters, monsters, or even demons, the characters are going to be witty and they’re going to make me want to spend some time getting to know them. As a matter of fact, the only complaint that I can come up with for No Reservations is that I wanted more. 😉

I think it goes without saying that I loved Cami and Bran. Their connection was amazing and yeah… they were fun. I think I’m going to like this romp through Wicked Pride. Dangerous Curves is next and I can’t wait to see what the author has in store for Luna and Samuel. 😉

Cat Scratch Fever by Sarah O’Rourke – Bout of Books 19 Review

Beau LaForte felt an internal pull to the beautiful, innocent Alexa Davidson. Oh, this was not the typical boy-meets-girl story. This was anything but typical. You see, Beau was a shifter – a panther – and the alpha of the pack. What his panther wanted, his panther got. And together, they wanted Alexa.
But when Alexa finds the pretty kitty lolling on her bed, she is determined to get him out — before he sheds more on her brand new sheets!

Full disclosure here. There have been some really exceptionally emotional books on my reading list lately. I’m not complaining, I’ve chosen all of them and was fully aware of what I was getting myself into. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t need a break and Cat Scratch Fever was the perfect, fun distraction.

It’s also been a while since I’ve read a Sarah O’Rourke book and this was a great reminder of what I’ve been missing. The characters were witty, the smexiness was hot and heavy and the insta romance was kinda sweet. Pretty much every thing I needed to break my overly emotional reading streak 😉