Goodreads Monday: Druid’s Moon by Deniz Bevan

Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press

Date of Publication: September 20th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Fairytale Retelling, Fantasy

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

Goodreads Synopsis:

Beauty to his Beast…

Lyne Vanlith, an archaeologist who seeks a logical explanation to any mystery, discovers an ancient Druidic curse on her first dig. When the signs foretold by the curse descend on her, Lyne can’t find a reasonable interpretation.

And that’s even before a Beast rescues her from a monstrous sea-creature. She drops a grateful kiss on the snout of the Beast, who transforms into a man, Frederick Cunnick, Baron of Lansladron. Lyne is meant to be Beauty to his Beast—and break the curse forever.

Now both spell keeper and monster are targeting Lyne. She must take up her legendary role, to defeat the curse and save Frederick—and herself. Instead of logic, for the first time, Lyne must trust her heart


“The Curse of the Octopus,” Lyne read, translating the Middle English script.

druid’s moon by deniz bevan

I didn’t pay attention when I read the blurb for Druid’s Moon. I skimmed it and accepted the book because it was a fantasy romance. But then I started reading and realized that it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. When that lightbulb flashed over my head, I did get excited. I have read many fairytale retellings, but I haven’t read one about Beauty and the Beast. So, I settled back and let myself be taken away by a tale as old as time.

Druid’s Moon, as I mentioned above, is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Lyne is an archaeologist who is excavating a cave on the shores of England. On her first day, she finds and sets loose a Druidic curse. She also discovers a giant Beast who lurks in the coast and wooded areas, preying upon sheep and campers for his Mistress. But it is who the Beast is that shocks her. Determined to break the curse, Lyne must battle an unseen horror that lurks beneath the ocean as well as a Druidess, who is determined to keep the Beast as is. Will Lyne win? Will the curse be broken for good? Or will Lyne fail?

Druid’s Moon is a medium-paced book with a flowing plotline. There were some areas where the book did lag a little, but it didn’t affect my reading.

I thought that Lyne was an interesting character to read. Her character growth throughout the book was excellent. She went from a sheltered woman who relied on logic to explain things to a woman who wasn’t as sheltered and understood that there was mystery, magic, and reasoning. I loved watching her gradual acceptance that she was Beauty. But once she accepted who and what she was, she was all in.

I didn’t connect as much to Frederick as I did to Lyne. He came across as too nice (if that is such a thing) when he was in human form. He also came across as resigned to going back to being the Beast. He didn’t even try to fight when the Druidess recaptured him. But he did show Lyne where the counterspell was, so, in his way, he did fight back.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I haven’t read a retelling about that particular fairy tale, so I was pretty excited about it. I will say that it was an exciting and imaginative retelling. I would have never expected a werewolf/Druid spin on fairytales. It did make it more interesting to read.

The fantasy angle of the book was well written. I wish that the author had gotten more in-depth about who Octopus/The Mistress was. The brief glimpses that the author gave weren’t enough for me!! The same goes for the Druidess and her spell. The author presented the background, but nothing gave me anything. I wanted meat. I wanted a reason more than what was provided. Instead, I had to settle for something that made me wish for more.

The romance angle also left me wanting more. It started as a semi-triangle that morphed into Instalove. I am not a fan of Instalove (even with this particular fairytale), and I felt that the romance did seem forced at times.

The end of Druid’s Moon was interesting. I liked how the author wrapped everything up. I was pleased with what happened. But I felt that some plotlines were left hanging. I was also not a fan of the epilogue.

I would recommend Druid’s Moon to anyone over 21. There is violence, mild language, and mild sexual situations.

The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith

Publisher: Two Petals Publishing

Date of Publication: September 15th, 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Adventure, Action, Urban Fantasy, Supernatural, Thriller, Mystery, Contemporary

Purchase Links: Amazon | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Welcome or unwelcome. Fate has arrived.

A suspenseful incident in a forbidden preserve heightens the senses of five friends. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell become super-gifts that forever change the world. But furious battles confront the boys as they try to understand their sensory super powers in a race to save mankind. With light beings and mysterious strangers complicating their plight, can the boys defeat the evil Druth before it’s too late? Get prepared for the twisting and grinding of this award-winning, action-adventure story — an edge-of-your-seat narrative for young and mature readers alike.


First Line:

An alluring midnight seeped through the preserve, where huge, wavy leaves dances beneath the moonlight.

The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith

Fantasy has been one of my go-to genres to read since I was a child. I remember reading The Hobbit for the first time and thinking, “I like this!” But I wasn’t a contemporary or urban fantasy fan until I was a little older. And when I say a little bit, I mean in my late 30’s, lol. But, once I started reading them, I liked that subgenre. When I was approached to read/review The Urban Boys, I considered how I felt about the genre/subgenre and decided to accept the invite. I am glad I did because this book was a great read.

The Urban Boys had an exciting and somewhat complex plotline. Five boys acquire magical powers that affect their five senses. They also learn that they are responsible for keeping a peaceful alien race secret and protecting the human race from a being determined to enslave them. But it isn’t easy because the boys need to learn how to control their powers and work together. Can they do that? Can they overcome Druth and save the world?

The pacing of The Urban Boys went from fast to medium and back to fast. It didn’t bother me because I could keep up with the shifting pacing. Plus, when it did shift, it allowed me to take a breather (as a reader) and process everything that had happened up to that point.

I loved that there were five teenage boys (all of various ethnic backgrounds) as the heroes/main characters of the book. The author did something I considered difficult and gave each boy a distinct personality. So, if the book shifted to that character, I immediately knew who it was.

As stated, each of the boys acquired a heightened sense that turned them into superheroes (for lack of a better word). They are (in no particular order):

  • Hearing—Jordan
  • Sight—Kinsu
  • Touch—Chase
  • Smell—Rhee
  • Taste—Alex

I enjoyed reading as the boys discovered what had happened to them. It was interesting to read each boy’s response. The responses went from thinking it was cool to wishing they never had it.

The villain in this story was an evil person, but I felt terrible for him simultaneously. He felt neglected by his parents and forgotten by people that mattered to him. But, it doesn’t excuse what he did. He used the powers he was given by the Naculeans and exploited them. He turned that power into a weapon of destruction and used it to hurt countless people.

There were a lot of secondary characters in The Urban Boys. I did have a minor issue keeping them straight until I realized I could make notes of them on my Kindle (and so I did). The main secondary characters were The Dark Stranger, Mason, and Alina Alcaraz Olivas. The other secondary characters consisted of Druth’s main thugs, the Naculeans, the parents/guardians of the boys, and Alex’s girlfriend. They were all well written. Some I wished I had more info on, and others I wanted were more involved in the plotline. But all added an extra depth to the overall plotline. I will say that I wouldn’t have been as cool as the parents/guardians were when they found out the truth.

I do want to mention the Naculeans. I found them and their backstory fascinating. They were genuinely peaceful beings who tried to help humans. But, I liked that the author made them make mistakes. The big one was telling Druth a half-truth about his powers. They realized that and ensured they had the right people (the boys) before they again bestowed the powers.

There is a lot of action in The Urban Boys. It primarily centered around the boys learning about their powers and fighting Druth’s thugs. I did enjoy it because it showed the boys’ growth as people and as a fighting unit.

A substory line was running in the background of The Urban Boys. It involved the parents of a couple of the boys, Druth, Alina, and The Dark Stranger. I was wondering how the author was going to tie everything together. I wasn’t disappointed and was very surprised by what was revealed.

The end of The Urban Boys was interesting. I loved how the author resolved the main storyline. It was a classic good versus evil battle, and I was on the edge of my seat. Of course, there is a lead-in to the next book, which I can’t wait to read.

I recommend The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses to anyone over 13. There is violence, mild language, and some kissing scenes (otherwise, a clean book).


If you enjoy The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Fives Senses, you will enjoy these books;

Meara: A Contemporary Fantasy Romance by Anya Wylde

Publisher:

Date of publication: May 31st, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary, Young Adult

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

A whisper of someone like her being born has been discussed for aeons by the gods. The question is, who is she, and where is she?
Meara lives an ordinary life with her eccentric grandmother and three siblings in a small Georgian house in Dublin. On her eighteenth birthday, her little sister is kidnapped by an incredibly powerful man, and her entire world turns upside down.
Long hidden family secrets tumble out, and supernatural beings suddenly surround her. However, she thinks she is a side character, the hero’s friend, and the heroine’s sister. After all, her nature is more girl-next-door than a tortured soul with ninja fighting skills.
Her only desire is to get her sister back and keep her safe but to do so; she must battle dangerous beings and reign in her treacherous heart which has begun to beat for her family’s sworn enemy, a gorgeous demigod.


First Line:

The weather department said that the sudden startospheric warming event that caused the easterly winds to rush over and blanket Ireland in snow and ice was rare.

Meara: A Contemporary Fantasy Romance by Anya Wylde

When I was younger, I was very much into researching myths/fables/different Gods and Goddesses of the world. I was also fascinated with learning about the other mythological creatures/entities worldwide. So, when I realized that the author used a variety of gods/goddesses/mythical creatures/entities, I was intrigued. But this book is so much more than that, and once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down.

Meara had an interesting plotline. Meara is a girl who lives with her two older brothers, grandmother, and six-year-old sister in Ireland. Meara’s life is quiet and somewhat dull until the day of her 18th birthday. She has an accident while ice skating and, during her birthday party, her best friend tries to kill her sister. She finds out that she is from a long line of magical immortal beings, that her sister is part of a prophecy, and that prophecy has put a big target on her head. Everything comes to a head when a gorgeous demigod, Kamraan, kidnaps her sister. Determined to get her back, Meara is sucked into Kamraan’s world. Can Meara get her sister back and go back to the life she knew? Or will she become a pawn in a war that she didn’t know about and wanted no part of?

I loved Meara because of how real she felt to me. In every situation she was in, I could see myself (if I was 18, which was ages ago) doing the same thing. She wanted only to see the best in people, even when they proved otherwise. I felt that some of the people in the book did take advantage of her and her giving nature. I also thought that what Kamraan put her through for 90% of the book was awful, but I will discuss that later in the book. I loved when she finally found her backbone, but I did feel that the author could have done it earlier.

Kamraan was a colossal jerk for 95% of the book. I understood why at the beginning. There was a war, and Meara and Bree (her sister) were the enemies. But I didn’t appreciate his attitude and cruelty in the middle and towards the end of the book. At that point, he knew what was happening (Meara did not). He did try to justify his behavior during a pivotal scene at the end of the book, but still. Other than that, I liked him just fine. He was a devoted brother/son and did everything in his power (which was infinite) to keep Meara and Bree safe.

The secondary characters added extra depth to an already great storyline. I was disappointed with how a couple of them turned out (talk about a surprise), but it back up Meara/Kamraan’s storyline perfectly.

The romance angle of Meara was a slow burn. It was so slow that I wondered if Kamraan even had feelings for Meara. The romance did speed up once they were on the island, and it was full force by the end. There are no sexual situations, but the author laid on the sexual tension thick. I almost wished there was a sex scene so that tension would go down.

The fantasy angle of Meara was excellent. I loved how the author introduced Meara and her family’s powers and how she explained the different dimensions. Meara’s eyes fascinated me because they didn’t have an actual color and acted like a mood ring. White=fear, red=anger, green=jealousy; the list could go on.

As mentioned above, I loved that the author used the book’s different deities/mythological creatures and beings. It made for an enjoyable read for me (since I knew most of them were). It also reinforced that the gods/goddesses were inbred…lol. Meara carried the blood from everyone in her (including demons), and it was fun to watch her learn and interact with them.

Meara also showcased that family can be messy and complicated. Meara’s parents abandoned them when she was 12-13 years old. That left Meara to raise Bree (her brothers and grandmother were never around). It also left Meara with so much anger and bitterness towards her parents. I didn’t blame her for erupting on them the way she did; they deserved it.

The end of Meara was interesting. I liked how the author wrapped up the various storylines that were throughout the book and how she introduced new characters. She also introduced a new storyline (hopefully) that involves Meara, Kamraan, and their child. I will go out on a limb and say that there will be a book two because of how book 1 ended. I hope so!!

I would recommend Meara to anyone over 13. There is violence, mild language, and no sexual scenes (kissing scenes with Meara and Kamraan/Violet and Kamraan).

Together We Burn by Isabel Ibanez

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books

Date of publication: May 31st, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Dragons, Young Adult Fantasy

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come for miles to see her father fight in their arena, which will one day be hers.

But disaster strikes during their five hundredth anniversary show, and in the carnage, Zarela’s father is horribly injured. Facing punishment from the Dragon Guild, Zarela must keep the arena—her ancestral home and inheritance —safe from their greedy hands. She has no choice but to take her father’s place as the next Dragonador. When the infuriatingly handsome dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, withholds his help, she refuses to take no for an answer.

But even if he agrees, there’s someone out to ruin the Zalvidar family, and Zarela will have to do whatever it takes in order to prevent the Dragon Guild from taking away her birthright.

An ancient city plagued by dragons. A flamenco dancer determined to save her ancestral home. A dragon hunter refusing to teach her his ways. They don’t want each other, but they need each other, and without him her world will burn.


First Line:

My mother died screaming my name.

Together We Burn by Isabel Ibanez

I had been hearing a lot of hype around the blogoverse about Together We Burn before I got the invite to review it. With everything I had been hearing, I was very interested in reading it. So curious that I went and put it in my To Read pile. So when the publisher sent me the invite, I jumped on it. I am glad I did. This book was a great read!!

Together We Burn had an exciting plotline. Zarela is a flamenco dancer who lost her mother, a famous flamenco dancer when the dragon her father was fighting went rogue and burned everyone in the arena. Disaster strikes again when, during the 500th-anniversary show, another dragon broke free of his bonds and rained carnage on the arena. One of the dragon’s victims was Zarela’s father. He wasn’t killed but was severely injured. That left Zarela to deal with the backlash. Convinced it was sabotage, Zarela starts an investigation. She is also determined to return her family’s arena to its former glory. Her investigation into that day and her quest to bring the arena back are merged when she realizes that the attack was not random. Failing to convince the Dragon Guild that there was foul play behind the attack, Zarela is left with no choice but to fight the dragons herself. But, she only has days to learn. Can Zarela find out who is behind the attacks? Can she save her family’s arena? And more importantly, can Zarela learn to fight dragons and not get killed?

The plotline in Together We Burn moved slowly during the book’s first half. On the one hand, I liked it because it let me learn about Zarela’s background, the background of dragon fighting, and the tragedy of her mother’s death/the arena carnage. But on the other hand, the book started dragging by 40% of the book. But, after Zarela hires Arturo, the book picks up speed. By the end of the book, the plotline was super fast.

What I loved about this book was that the author included a glossary of the different types of dragons and other guilds in Hispalia. I can’t tell you how many times I used that glossary, and I wish every author would do something like that. I found it helpful while reading.

I liked Zarela. Even though she was devastated by what happened to her parents (and remember, it was two different occasions), she rose to the occasion. She was willing to do whatever it took to keep the arena afloat. That included learning how to fight dragons so she could keep her family’s arena. And that meant hiring a dragon hunter/ex-dragon fighter to teach how to survive in the arena. While doing that, she was also investigating what happened at the arena. I found her to be a very well-rounded character who surprised me.

Arturo didn’t become a central character until the middle of the book. He wanted nothing to do with Zarela at first. But, her stubbornness and resolve won him over. He was hard on her, which didn’t surprise me. He needed to teach her the basics of dragon fighting before the event that could save the arena. He also reluctantly became involved with her investigation into the events at the arena. He was instrumental in several key scenes towards the end of the book. The author wiped away doubts about him before the arena scenes at the end of the book.

Several memorable secondary characters breathed life into the book. They added additional depth to the storyline. I will not go into each one, but I enjoyed the flair they each added.

I loved how the author portrayed the dragons. She went from seeing them as ferocious creatures who lived to kill and maim to creatures who were misunderstood and wanted to be left alone. I loved it!!

The storyline with Zarela and the investigation was well written. I didn’t figure out who was behind everything until the author revealed that person. I was completely surprised by who it was and the reasons behind it.

The storyline with Zarela, Arturo, and learning how to fight dragons was interesting. I liked how Zarela convinced Arturo to work with her (the girl is stubborn). But, I also liked how Arturo showed Zarela a different side to dragons. The lessons made me wince, and Arturo was rough on Zarela. But considering she could die, he wasn’t harsh enough. And the twist to that plotline (what Zarela and Arturo figured out and used) was amazing!!

There was a romance angle in Together We Burn, but I was kind of meh about it. I liked that Zarela and Arturo got together but did the author need to discuss it? In my opinion, no.

The fantasy angle in Together We Burn was well written. I liked how the author chose to portray magic (both good and bad) along with dragons. That alone made me want to see more books written in this universe.

The end of Together We Burn was good. There were no twists (other than the dragon fight), and everyone did have their HEAs.

I would recommend Together We Burn to anyone over 16. There are sex and sexual situations (not graphic) and violence.

A Spark of Ash (Ember of Night: Book 3) by Molly E. Lee

Publisher: Entangled Publishing, Entangled: Teen

Date of publication: May 24th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Paranormal

Series: Ember of Night

Ember of Night—Book 1 (review here)

Shadow of Light—Book 2

Spark of Ash—Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Seven―the Divine beings meant to protect the world―just declared war. On me. They took Ray, my baby sister, and now they’re using my boyfriend to do their dirty work.

Well, screw that.

I may not be able to wipe them off the face of the earth now, but I know what can.

Thanks to an Ather connection, I know about the Seven Scrolls. An ancient incantation made by the Creator to counteract the Seven’s great power, scattered into pieces across the world.

With the help of my new crew, we’re on the hunt. And with each located scroll, I face new battles, bloodier and harder than I’ve ever known before. But now the stakes are even higher, because Ray has always been my bright light in the darkness, and Draven is my hope when all seems lost, and if I don’t get them back?

Well, then I might just become the scariest legend the world has ever known.


First Line:

Harley giggled as I lean over her on the bed, laying a line of kisses down her neck.

Spark of Ash by Molly E. Lee

When I got the invite to review Spark of Ash, I almost didn’t accept it. I had read Ember of Night (and loved it) but didn’t get to read Shadow of Light. What ultimately made my mind up was that I was intrigued by the synopsis. I hoped the author would review what happened in Shadow of Light so I wouldn’t be lost. While that didn’t happen, I could still follow the plotline.

Spark of Ash is the 3rd (and final) book in the Ember of Night series. Readers cannot read this book as a standalone. I also strongly suggest reading the series in order.

Spark of Ash had an exciting plotline. Harley and Draven live peacefully on a plane in the Aether when Draven is kidnapped by the head of the Seven, brainwashed, and then kidnapped to kidnap Harley’s baby sister, Ray. Harley is given a quest that could save both Ray and Draven: She needs to find the Seven Scrolls. These scrolls, when united, can be used to counteract the Seven’s power. The scrolls are located in various parts of the Aether and Earth, and each comes with dangers. But Harley is determined to find them, even if that means facing the demons of her past. Can Harley find the scrolls? Can she counteract the Seven’s powers? Can she defeat the head of the Seven? Can she free Ray and Draven? And most importantly, can Harley get through to Draven? Or will she fail?

As I mentioned above, I almost didn’t accept the review invitation because I didn’t read Shadow of Light. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to follow the storyline. I was fortunate because the author briefly reviewed what happened in Shadow of Light before diving into Spark of Ash. Some parts confused me because I didn’t understand what was happening. But that was only for 3-4 scenes. The rest of the book flowed smoothly.

I loved Harley. She was a badass b*tch who would do anything for her family (found and otherwise). It was showcased when she didn’t hesitate to rescue Draven and Ray. She agreed to get the scrolls, knowing she could get hurt or even die. She was willing to risk everything to find them. I really can’t say anything bad about her.

I loved Draven, too, even though he spent 90% of the book with his memories wiped. He cared for Ray, even though he had no clue who she was. I wouldn’t say I liked seeing him as a mindless machine, though. After reading the first chapter and seeing how much he loved Harley and knowing he was in Ember of Night, I couldn’t come to terms with how he was in this book. But, once he got his memories back, man, he was something else.

The storyline with Harley and Cassiel looking for the scrolls was interesting. But I did feel slightly let down by how easy it was for Harley to get some of the scrolls. I was looking for more battles than what was shown. The only one that put me on edge was when Harley returned to her abusive stepfather’s house to get a scroll.

The storyline with Ray, Draven, and the Seven was interesting. I liked seeing how the Seven was splintering on the inside. I was curious about Ray and her abilities, but the author didn’t get into them. I am hoping for a book (or series) when Ray is a little older that will explore them. As I mentioned above, I wouldn’t say I liked seeing Draven without his memories, but that did serve its purpose.

The romance between Harley and Draven was terrific. It showcased that true love can overcome everything. I loved seeing Harley trying to reach Draven on so many levels while looking for the scrolls (thanks to the mate bond), and when she did, it was incredible!! I also liked seeing the beginning of a romance between Ryder and Wallace. Again, I hope for another series or a standalone book in this universe.

I thought the fantasy angle of the book was well written also. Having Hell (aka Aether) be a whole other dimension with layers was fascinating. Harley’s journey through those layers was eye-opening and made me want to read more about this universe.

There were several twists in the plot towards the end of the book. The one with a significant character broke my heart. I kept saying “Oh no, no, no!!!” when it was revealed what that person did. There was a twist with Harley that left me with my mouth open. Mainly because I couldn’t believe what Harley found out; not only did I not believe it, but I also couldn’t believe that this person had stayed in the shadows for so long. The biggest twist, though, was the end of the book. I did not expect it to go the way it did. It only made me want to read more from this universe.

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the end of the book took me by surprise. Mainly because of everything that happened and was revealed. The author did wrap up Draven and Harley’s storyline, but I am hoping for more books in this universe.

I would recommend Spark of Ash for anyone over 16. There are mild sexual scenes (kissing but no sex), violence, and language.

Shadowed Origins (The Guardians: Book 2) by Reily Garrett

Publisher:

Date of publication: June 3rd, 2022

Genre: Romance, Suspense, Fantasy

Series: The Guardians

Shadowed Horizons—Book 1 (review here)

Shadowed Origins—Book 2

Shadowed Passages—Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Ashlyn has spent years hiding her ability to connect with animals, especially dogs. After escaping the clutches of her guardian, she’s determined to remain free and bring the psychopath to his knees.
The terrorist’s plan for mass annihilation and anarchy requires her talent, and he will stop at nothing to reclaim his unique and invaluable prize.
Taylor’s telekinesis and special-ops training granted him seamless passage to work with Kenner’s paranormal unit. When he rescues a young woman from the clutches of her sadistic guardian, he’s unprepared for the emotional backlash created by their connection.
Forging ahead on the narrow path of freedom dictates keeping an eye on the rearview—for death and destruction dog their every mile.


First Line:

Ashlyn never considered the face of evil taking a physical form, with a fist to match.

Shadowed Origins by Reily Garrett

I have been looking forward to reading Shadowed Origins since I finished Shadowed Horizons. I had questions from the first book that I hoped would be answered in this one. And guess what, the author answered all of my questions. The author left me with questions about Ashlyn and Keira’s older brother. But he is the focus of book three, and I am sure the author will answer those questions for me in that book.

Shadowed Origins is the second book in The Guardians series. This book is not stand-alone. You need to read book 1 to understand what is happening in book 2.

Before I get into the review, I want to throw up a trigger warning. If you have been following my blog for a while, then you know how rare it is for me to do this. The main character, Ashlyn, has been abused (in all ways except sexual) by her captor, Roth. The author includes some scenes of the verbal, psychological, and physical abuse that Ashlyn has endured. So, if this triggers you, I strongly suggest not reading Shadowed Origins.

Shadowed Origins is Ashlyn’s story. Ashlyn has been held captive by Roth for her entire life. She has spent most of her captivity trying to escape Roth, but he has always caught her. Ashlyn had her next escape planned out, and it would have ended the same way except, this time, Ashlyn had help. She was aided by a group of men with similar powers that she and Roth possessed. Ashlyn discovers her powers (she can communicate with animals) and uses that power to protect herself against Roth’s numerous attempts to take her back. She also discovers that she has an identical twin sister who shares the same powers, and she realizes that she is falling in love with Taylor, an ex-special forces op who is also telekinetic. Will Roth succeed in taking back Ashlyn? Will she be able to meet her sister? Will she find out who is funding Roth?

I liked Ashlyn. Even though Roth abused her, she still had an optimistic view of life. She tried to find ways to escape him, and she resisted him in almost every way—which caused Roth to lash out. I thought that her plan to escape him out the bathroom window would fail (Roth had given her a sedative to keep her compliant). So, I was surprised when it didn’t fail and when Taylor and his group came to her aid. From then on, I enjoyed watching her character grow to become a young woman with confidence in her abilities. She was also able to see what/form healthy relationships look like and was instrumental in bringing the two groups together. I also loved her delight when she discovered that she had an identical twin sister and her nervousness about meeting her (Keira was an unknown and in a group that Kenner, the leader, thought was the enemy). She was a fantastic character to read, and I can’t wait to see more of her in the upcoming books.

I liked Taylor also. The author didn’t make him as fleshed out as Ashlyn, but he was still a fascinating character. He did not want a relationship because the death of his wife did affect him. But he was very attracted to Ashlyn, and he was also very protective. I liked seeing him slowly realize his feelings for Ashlyn. I also liked seeing him use his powers. His telekinesis was no joke. It was also satisfying to see him eat a bit of crow when his group finally met the other group. He was a little aggressive with that group.

Roth was one evil dude. The author didn’t get into his character in Shadowed Horizons, but in this book, she let loose with him. He was a true psychopath who enjoyed hurting people. He kept human eyes in glass jars in his office, and that grossed me out. But, there was a huge twist in his plotline that I didn’t see coming and I hope gets explained more in book 3. I did feel that he got what he deserved in the end, and I loved who gave it to him!!

The plotlines involving Roth and both groups were well written. I liked how the author finally had both groups meet after so many misconceptions about each other. I also liked how they teamed up to beat Roth and his people.

The end of Shadowed Origins was pretty awesome. I liked how the author wrapped up Ashlyn and Kiera’s storylines. She introduced Logan, Ashlyn and Kiera’s older brother, at the very end of the book (well, the concept of him), so I figure the next book will be about him. She also left the plotline for who Roth was working for, and I am very interested to see where that will end up.

In the Midst of Magic by Christian Cura

Publisher:

Date of publication: May 25th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Meet Kara Hartman, a photojournalist who is hiding her magic from the world. Traumatized by her brother’s death, she wants nothing more to do with magic. But just when she thought she could neglect her gift, it becomes apparent that the universe has other plans for Kara. When she discovers that an old foe has broken out of prison, hellbent on destroying her new life, Kara has no choice but to embrace the only power that can stop her.


First Line:

“You look worried about something,” Anthony said strumming his guitar.

In the Midst of Magic by Christian Cura

When the author emailed me back in February and asked if I could read/review his book, I almost turned it down. I was still finalizing my vacation plans and wasn’t sure if I would even be able to read the book. But, once I read the blurb and some reviews, I felt I had to read it. I am glad that I did because this book was pretty darn good!!

In the Midst of Magic had an interesting (and magical) plotline. For years, Kara has been hiding her magical ability. She was traumatized by the fact that she couldn’t stop her best friend from using forbidden magic which also led to her brother’s death. She throws herself into her photojournalist job. But that all ends when she and her friend are attacked by demons while on assignment for the local paper. Her editor has decided she will document the exploits of the newest demon hunter: a woman named Selene. As Kara and Selene grow closer, an old enemy from Kara’s past has escaped from jail and has her sight set on killing Kara and sending the magical world into chaos. Can Kara and Selene stop her in time? And will they allow the feelings that they have for each other to grow into something more?

I had conflicting feelings for Kara. On the one hand, I liked her. I thought she had remarkable strength to overcome what happened to her in the past. But on the other hand, she rubbed me the wrong way. There is nothing specific that I can point out, but there were certain scenes where I just wanted to shake some sense into her. Thankfully my wanting to shake her didn’t come around very often, and I was able to admire the way she handled things in the book.

I loved Selene. She was very sure of herself and didn’t want a photojournalist tagging along while battling demons. I loved seeing her come around to Kara and eventually start to train and care about her. Now, Selene wasn’t perfect, and I loved that the author chose to allow that part of Kara and Selene’s storyline to go through. I also loved her origin story. She got started in the very thing that Kara and her friend were doing a story on. So, that rounded the story out.

While Thalia and Charlotte were the bad guys in the book, I couldn’t help but feel pity for them. In Thalia’s case, she was studying necromancy when the Council decided to outlaw it and then killed the head of the school. That turned her down the path she chose to take. In Charlotte’s case, a combination of things turned her bad. But the main thing was her mother’s death and the pull of forbidden knowledge. I believe that she didn’t mean to kill Anthony or her other friend, but it changed her once she did. I also understand why she was so focused on Kara. In Charlotte’s mind, Kara was the reason she was in jail, and it just festered until she was driven mad by it.

The storyline with Selene, Kara, and fighting the demons was terrific. The author detailed the fights and the different types of demons that Selene (and eventually Kara) were fighting. The author explained why the demons were being called forth and who was doing it. It did tie into Thalia’s and Charlotte’s storyline at the end.

Thalia and Charlotte’s storyline was the one I liked the most. I loved learning about the magical prison and the enforcers that ran it. I liked seeing how Thalia (in her memories and written in the present day) had risen through the ranks. I was fascinated by how the enforcers kept the prisoners from using their magic. When Thalia started the riot and released Charlotte and the other two prisoners, the storyline turned sinister. I will not go into much more, but it kept me on edge. I was a little sad about Charlotte’s part of the storyline. She was eaten up with hatred for Kara and her family, which erased everything else. I wish there could have been a different outcome for her, but it made sense to end the way it did.

I loved Selene and Kara’s romance. It was a slow burn, and they didn’t get together until halfway through the book. I could understand Selene and Kara’s unwillingness to commit to each other. Each had been burned, rather severely, by previous girlfriends. But once they committed, I loved how close they were. Of course, true love does not run smoothly, and the author introduced an ex of Selene’s to shake up the relationship. I wasn’t happy because Selene and Kara were a power couple. But the author took care of that pretty fast, and they were back on again!!

The sex scenes were scorching and graphic. There were points when I had to put down my Kindle to fan myself.

The end of In the Midst of Magic was good. The author wrapped up the storylines in ways that I liked. I wonder if the author will make a series out of this book. I would love to read more stories written in this universe.

I would recommend In the Midst of Magic to anyone over 21. There is graphic language, graphic sex, and graphic violence.

Shadowed Horizons (The Guardians: Book 1) by Reily Garrett

Publisher:

Date of publication: May 13th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Suspense

Series: The Guardians

Shadowed Horizons—Book 1

Shadowed Origins—Book 2

Shadowed Passages—Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Fate can have many paths. Which would you choose?

Kiera’s capacity to face death stems from training, begun when old enough to wield a knife. Befriended by wolves and raised by a group of psychic men sworn to protect humanity, she now faces mercenaries intent on reshaping the world using equal talents.

Prodigious keyboard skills and innate curiosity has led Wyatt McGlauklin to invent the unimaginable. He’s long since claimed status as the top computer science geek. Little do people know, there’s much more to Wyatt.
When a blonde spitfire steps out of nowhere to prevent his assassination, his life’s direction takes an extraordinary turn where his analytical mind can’t validate paranormal phenomena.

Fate decrees Kiera find her life partner, but she learns you don’t always get to choose whom you love. Wyatt’s arrival challenges destiny as they combine forces to preserve the world as they know it.


First Line:

Each flip of the key ring around his index finger tallied another reason to quit the world of high stake’s business.

Shadowed Horizons by Reily Garrett

I have read/reviewed for Reily Garrett before, and her books are consistently good. When I got the invite to review Shadowed Horizons, I didn’t hesitate to accept. I am glad I did because this book was fantastic and excited me to continue reading the series.

Shadowed Horizons is the first book in The Guardian’s series. Usually, I’d add something about if readers can read the book as a standalone or if you need to read the previous books. But in this case, it’s the first book, so those don’t apply here.

The storyline for Shadowed Horizons was interesting. Wyatt is a tech genius who a group of bodyguards is protecting with paranormal abilities. After being attacked by another group with similar paranormal abilities, he is taken to live with that group. During that attack, Wyatt meets Keira, a beautiful blonde warrior who can open portals and communicate with animals. Hiding him in their safe house is the only rational thing to do, but neither Wyatt nor Keira expected the sparks between them. Wyatt continues to work on his project, and Keira makes some discoveries that rock her world. She has an identical twin sister being held by an evil psychopath who tortures her. Another group, similar to hers, is also operating with the same end game: stop the psychopath. Can Kiera and her group save her sister, stop the psychopath, and ally with the new group? Will Kiera and Wyatt give in to their attraction? More importantly, will Kiera’s adoptive brothers allow her to have a relationship with Wyatt? And will they be able to save Ashlyn, Kiera’s twin?

I liked Wyatt. I felt he dealt with learning about paranormal abilities very well, considering how he found out. I also liked how he dealt with Kiera’s overprotective brothers. He was able to diffuse some pretty tense situations with humor. As for how he was with Kiera, I loved it. He didn’t quite know how to deal with her at first (she was a little pushy) and was a little awkward with her.

I liked Kiera. She was headstrong and knew what she wanted. She also had a penchant for practical jokes (the portals going to women’s dressing rooms was funny). Her paranormal ability (communicating with animals and opening portals) was intriguing. I liked that the author explained what she could do and how she met her wolves. I loved her scenes with Wyatt. She wanted him, and she would have him, regardless of what her brothers said. I was laughing out loud at the scenes where she asked different brothers about sex.

The bad guy, Roth, was a growing presence in the book. I liked that the author didn’t give too much away about him, only that he was collecting people with paranormal abilities and using them as mercenaries. I liked the mystery around why he was doing that and who he was. Nothing was answered about him, just that he was holding Ashlyn captive, and he was this very nasty, very evil person. I am looking forward to seeing more of him in the upcoming books.

The secondary characters, including the people from the other group of paranormals, rounded out the book. I liked seeing the guys’ different paranormal abilities and how they used them. I hope they get their books (along with their HEAs).

The paranormal angle was well written. The author kept me glued to the book with each ability uncovered. They fascinated me. I liked how they used their abilities to not only protect Wyatt but to fight Roth. I didn’t particularly appreciate that they immediately attacked the other group they found in Wyatt’s mansion or didn’t even bother to try and see who they were. They could have been allies, but no, the boys decide to fight them. That is my complaint about that (hopefully, the author will fix it in book 2!!).

The romance angle was ok for me. I liked the attraction between Wyatt and Kiera, but it didn’t progress beyond that. By the end of the book, I wanted more than a few stolen kisses between them. But, on the other hand, it was very refreshing to have a romance novel where the main characters weren’t having sex.

Something caught my attention when the author brought it up, and then she didn’t address it again. Nicholai (the head of the group and a precog) said that Kiera had a fated mate, and Wyatt wasn’t it. It was brought up again later in the book and then dropped. But I need more answers!! Does that mean that Kiera’s fated mate is still out there? Or was Nicholai wrong, and it was Wyatt all along? I hope that it gets explained more in the other books.

I had mixed feelings about the end of Shadowed Horizons. While I liked what I read, I hated that nothing was resolved, and had more questions than answers. Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate that it ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger. But that cliffhanger did its job, and now I have to read book 2!!

I would recommend Shadowed Horizons to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and sexual situations.

The Wizard’s Ward by Jules McAleese

Publisher: Vale Media

Date of publication: April 30th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Vale

The Wizard’s Ward—Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | Kobo

Goodreads Synopsis:

Francis has gray blood.

The King of the Elves ordered all gray bloods be put to death, by any means necessary. Francis, the Wizard’s Ward, has been hiding in plain sight all her life, under the care of Billington, the King’s wizard. When Billington disappears from the Cardinal castle, Francis enlists the help of her first love, a battle-ridden soldier called X, to find the only family she’s ever known.

But outside the castle walls, there is a war raging between kingdoms and Francis faces countless dangers that plague the land of Vale. Shapeshifting bounty hunters search for military deserters, pirates maraud Vale’s seas, combat-trained dragons dwell in the witch’s mountains, and betrayals harden once-warmed hearts.

As the journey pushes Francis to her limits, she uncovers the true power of her gray blood, a power that could fulfill a prophecy and bring down a psychotic king.

Vale: The Wizard’s Ward is the first installment of an epic young adult fantasy franchise.


First Line:

“Three pieces of kings copper?” Billington asked, as his unruly gray eyebrows rose in skepticism.

The Wizard’s Ward by Jules McAleese

I first saw reviews for The Wizard’s Ward on a couple of blogs I follow. I was very interested in reading it from the blurb and the reviews I kept seeing. But I figured that I would have to wait until I saw it for sale on Amazon. So, imagine my surprise when the author emailed me and asked if I would like to read/review this book. Of course, I jumped on it, and when I got the physical copy of the book, I decided that this would be my vacation book. Let’s say I read this book in 4 hours (split between two days) while driving to Fl, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I also have loaned it to a friend and her daughter (remember, I got a physical book). When I get it back, my 16 and 14-year-olds want to read it. So yes, I liked this book and have been recommending it to everyone.

The Wizard’s Rule had an exciting plotline. Francis is Billington’s ward, the wizard for The King of Elves. But Francis has a secret. She has gray blood, and The King has ordered all people with gray blood to be killed. Billington is hiding her in plain sight to protect her. Several things happen at once. Francis’s first love, a soldier named X is back from his 2-year deployment, Francis is required to attend a ball about her bully who happens to be the sister of The King, and Billington disappears. Determined to find him, Francis needs to go outside the castle and follow clues to where he could be. With the help of X, she escapes the castle but soon realizes that X is damaged and dangerous. With help from a surprising source, Francis enlists on a journey that will have her sail with pirates, fly with dragons, and confront a tyrant. But, can she find Billington, and can she learn what makes her so special to so many people?

I loved Francis. She did take her relationship with Billington for granted until he disappeared. It was then that she realized how much she had been protected. She also realized that he would have never disappeared without letting her know. That is when she took action and decided to go search for him. She learned much about herself and what her gray blood could do on that journey. Seeing her character grow and evolve was awesome!!

Let’s talk about X. I was pretty conflicted about his character right from the start. I didn’t understand why Francis had such strong feelings for him. He didn’t seem like her type. As the book went on and I got to see what happened from his perspective, I understood what attracted her to him. I also began to understand what attracted him to her. Francis was X’s haven. Memories of her helped him keep sane and not lose it when he was on that horrible island and forced to do awful things. So, I was a little surprised when the author had the storyline go the way it did. Surprised didn’t precisely entirely cover my reaction to that scene. More accurately, I was sad, horrified, and disgusted by his actions. Those feelings carried over for the rest of the book with everything he did and who he ended up hooking up with. But there were hints of the old X in there. He still thought about Francis constantly and imagined her when he was with Medea (which did gross me out).

I wish that Billington was more of a presence in the book. I loved how he came into the custody of Francis and raised her as his daughter. But there was a massive chunk of the book where he was just gone. I couldn’t get a feel for him as a character because of that. I hope he will be more there in the next book. I also hope the author explores Billington and Francis’s relationship a little more. He is her father, he did raise her, and I would love to see that discussed more.

The storyline about Francis’s gray blood was well written. I loved that the author didn’t fully explain what it meant (other than the prophecy and magic) until the end of the book. At that point, it made perfect sense, considering what had happened. I hope that in book 2, the author delves more into what gray blood can do.

The romance angle of the book was well written also. But, to be honest, I couldn’t pair Francis and X together in my head romantically. They were just too different. I hope that the author has them come together at some point in book 2. There are a lot of unresolved feelings on both their ends.

The author very well wrote the fantasy/magic angle of The Wizard’s Rule. The author did a fantastic job building this rich world where magic existed and was used for almost everything. I loved that Francis didn’t have a good grip on her magic for 90% of the book. She understood the spells, but they wouldn’t obey her. She ended up “wishing” for the magical things to happen, and they did. I can’t wait to see where the author will take that. I also can’t wait to see more of the fantasy world that these characters live in. The author gave us a glimpse into witches, sirens, centaurs, dragons, and pirates. What else could there be?

There are a couple of twists in the plotline. One comes with X’s storyline (see above). While I didn’t see it coming at the time, looking back, it made sense. But, the other plotline twist is HUGE and takes place in the very last chapter. I was so taken aback by what was revealed that I had to read that chapter 3 times. And each time, I kept thinking, “OMG, what did I READ!!!” It was very sneaky of the author to do that because there are certain characters that I can’t look at the same now. It also makes me want to read book two because of what was revealed.

As I mentioned, the end of The Wizard’s Ward was a complete bombshell. The author didn’t wrap up any of the storylines. Instead, she left them open, which left a vast opening for book 2.

I would recommend The Wizard’s Way for anyone over 13. There is no language, mild to moderate violence, and some very mild non-graphic sexual content (with X and Medea).

Kagen the Damned (Kagen the Damned: Book 1) by Jonathan Maberry

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Date of publication: May 10th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Horror

Series: Kagen the Damned

Kagen the Damned—Book 1

Son of the Poison Rose—Book 2 (expected publication date: January 10th, 2023)

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | World Cat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sworn by Oath
Kagen Vale is the trusted and feared captain of the palace guard, charged with protection the royal children of the Silver Empire. But one night, Kagen is drugged and the entire imperial family is killed, leaving the empire in ruins.

Abandoned by the Gods
Haunted and broken, Kagen is abandoned by his gods and damned forever. He becomes a wanderer, trying to take down as many of this enemies as possible while plotting to assassinate the usurper–the deadly Witch-king of Hakkia. While all around him magic–long banished from the world—returns in strange and terrifying ways.

Fueled by Rage
To find the royal children and exact his vengeance, Kagen must venture into strange lands, battle bizarre and terrifying creatures, and gather allies for a suicide mission into the heart of the Witch-king’s empire.

Kings and gods will fear him.

Kagen the Damned


First Line:

Kagen Vale woke to the sound of his own damnation.

Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry

Kagen the Damned is a horror/fantasy that was slow to start but gained momentum after the book’s first quarter. I couldn’t put this book down!!

Kagen the Damned had a unique storyline. Kagen is a place guard and the protector of the royal children. He had gone to town on his day off to enjoy some ale and a wench. But when he wakes up, poisoned, and hears the sound of battle outside, he realizes something is seriously wrong. And it is. The Hakkia, led by their Witch-King, have attacked the Silver City and killed the empress and her children. Kagen arrives in time to see the children’s bodies, brutalized beyond recognition. He also attempts to defend his mother, a warrior known as The Poison Rose but is witness to her death. Kagen then has a vision where his gods turn their backs on him and damn him. That pushed Kagen to start drinking heavily and whoring his way around the countryside while avoiding the deadly Ravens (who are the Witch-King’s assassins). Can Kagen pull himself out of his despair and exact revenge on the Witch-King? Can he redeem himself?

There is another storyline running in tandem with Kagen’s. Fifteen-year-old Ryssa, an alocyte with The Garden, and twenty-year-old Miri, a nun with The Garden, run through the Silver City, looking for an escape route. Finding it in underground tunnels, they soon meet up with pirates taking them to a haven. But, Ryssa starts noticing that not all is what it seems with Miri and the crew. And when she finds out where they are heading, she is doubly sure that something will happen to her. What is going on? Can Ryssa trust her instincts, or are they wrong?

I am going to warn you about trigger warnings. They are rape, attempted rape, talk of rape, domestic violence, child abuse, animal abuse, gore, and murder. If any of these trigger you, I strongly suggest not reading this book.

I felt awful for Kagen and didn’t blame him for his actions during the book’s first 30-40%. How would you have acted if an invading force gruesomely murdered everyone you loved (family, friends, coworkers)? And then you find out that the gods you have dedicated your life to have turned their backs on you? My answer: The same way. He had a combination of survivor’s guilt, PTSD, and shame that he couldn’t save the children. What broke my heart the most about that part of the storyline was his anguish about not being able to save the children. Now, saying that, it did seem like the storyline stalled a tiny bit while Kagen was in his depression. When Tuke came on the scene and forced Kagen to come out of his depression, the book picked back up. From that point on, Kagen had a purpose: kill the Witch-King.

Ryssa was almost too innocent to be a part of this book. I got why the author wrote her the way he did but still. It wasn’t until she and Miri got to the island that I began to understand that she had a part to play in Kagen’s storyline and that her innocence was a considerable part of it.

The Witch-King was one of the more gruesome villains that I have read. He gave me shivers every time he made an appearance in the book. His end game was to become Emporer, and I was curious to see if that would happen.

The fantasy angel was wonderfully written. Kagen the Damned is a dark fantasy, and oh boy, did it live up to that genre. This was also one of the few books I have read that mentioned the Elder Ones (Cthulhu and Hastur). It made the book more enjoyable for me to read.

The author wonderfully wrote the horror angle also. This book was like a car accident, I wanted to look away, but I felt compelled to keep looking. I needed to read the next chapter to see what was going to happen and if Kagen would achieve his goal.

The end of Kagen the Damned was interesting. I did figure out who the Witch-King was, and I figured out who his children were early on in the book (well, once they were mentioned). The author dropped enough hints throughout the book that when the reveal happened, I wasn’t surprised. I also wasn’t surprised by what happened with Ryssa and Miri. The author did end the book on a cliffhanger, which I didn’t like, but it did its job. I am going to need to read book 2.

I would recommend Kagen the Damned to anyone over 21. There is graphic violence, graphic violence, and semi-graphic sex scenes. There are also the triggers that I mentioned above.