Announcements Regarding: Reviews, Dreamspinner, and Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

As you know if you follow this blog, I write reviews to post here, but I also review for Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. They have made the announcement that Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is Going on Hiatus as of February 1, 2020. It is intended to return as of June 1, 2020. I will still be reviewing on this site during that time. I also post my reviews on Goodreads and Bookbub; you are free to follow me wherever you wish.

There is also a statement about Dreamspinner Press. I understand and support their stance–it is their website to do as they wish. I support all authors trying to make a living and I hope they all get paid. My stance is…I will support the author wherever they choose to publish. Many authors have chosen to ask for their rights back, but some authors have chosen to stay with Dreamspinner Press. I hope that works out for them so if they ask me to review their book, then I will here on my site. I am not going to ask to be removed from any author’s ARC team. This may have all created a bit of a mess for book links everywhere. Since many authors are republishing their books after the rights revert, there will be new covers, sometimes new titles, and a book may not be sold at all retail outlets any longer. I would advise readers to subscribe to an author’s newsletter or follow them on social media to find out the lastest information. You can click on the link below to read their statement for more information.

Please know, I don’t have any friends in this industry. I do not work for, nor have ties to any publisher or author. I do not friend authors on social media, although I am in their groups on Facebook and MeWe in order to see announcements about new publications, sales, etc. I pay attention to them on Goodreads and Bookbub or receive their newsletters, but only as it pertains to their work. I know next to nothing about them as people unless they way overshare in a way that I can’t help but notice. I did join a football pool. My point is: I am not trying to take sides or be political in any way. They write the books and publish them. It is their choice where to publish their work. I read the books and review them. I do not get compensated in any way and I am not an affiliate for any bookseller. Sometimes the review copy is free to me for my honest review, sometimes I win them in a contest, and sometimes I buy them. Please see the legal disclosure in the footer if you haven’t already.

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Review: Silent Heart by Amy Lane, Search And Rescue 2

SilentHeart
Cover Art © 2020 Alexandria Corza

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

This is the second book in the Search And Rescue series. Damien was a key character in that book, so although this could be read alone, it would have more emotional impact read in order. Damien is in love with Preston, a dog wrangler who trains service dogs and search and rescue dogs used in law enforcement. Damien’s business partner Glen is his best friend and Preston’s brother. While Damien is still dealing with the aftereffects of the crash in book one, he has yet to move forward with acting on his feelings for Preston. When Glen disappears in Mexico trying to extract a “punk kid” named Cash during an earthquake, Damien and Preston mount a rescue with their friend Buddy.

Damien met Preston on leave from the military when he came home with Glen. Preston was 13 so Damien has watched him grow up, their friendship a close one. It’s the main reason he has hesitated, afraid he will lose his chosen family if things don’t work out. His injuries and mental health are other reasons he has given himself for holding Preston at arm’s length. Preston is in your face honest, gruff, and hard to figure out (although the word isn’t used, he seems autistic to me.) But Preston can make decisions too, and he is tired of waiting for his happily ever after so he makes his move. I think it needs to be this way so that the reader is never confused that Preston is being taken advantage of. Glen seems like he would be supportive, but he may have inadvertently kept Damien and Preston apart because of bad advice at a critical time.

Their story is told through their ongoing fight about changing their relationship to a romantic one as well as being seen in memories and flashbacks so the POV switches around. This was a little difficult for me to get into; it starts slow and there were moments I couldn’t keep thoughts and dialogue straight. There is a little repetition about how Preston organizes his thoughts and what he needs to focus. It’s difficult not to compare this with the first book: I was invested in Damien’s health because I was right there with him when he was sick and injured. Because this is focused on Damien’s and Preston’s journey to find Glen, the reader isn’t with Glen when he is injured and since the author doesn’t spend a lot of time with Glen in either book, I was less emotionally attached to his character. This uses forced proximity to get Damien and Preston together, and uses Glen’s situation to set-up the next book for him and Cash. Being with Preston’s POV also creates distance as his difficulty handling strangers and changes to his routine slow the pacing. Overall, I’m glad these guys got their HEA, I just wanted to feel more excited about them getting out of their own way.

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Release Day Review: The Spirit Key (Lock and Key #1) by Parker Williams

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

This starts with a long, detailed first person recap of the past from Scotty’s POV. After he died at age eight, he started seeing ghosts but didn’t tell anyone. This is really the crux of the whole book. By the time he was eighteen, it was overwhelming, unrelenting. The stress of everything made his family implode. Through it all his best friend Tim was always supportive, but it wasn’t enough and Scotty ran away. The farther he got from Milwaukee, the sparser the ghosts became so he lived his life normally for five years in Chicago until a visitation from Tim’s mom.

If you like the idea that there is one person meant to help the main character as they fullfill their destiny, then you might like this. There are parts of this book that remind me of me of Kris Bethke’s Requiem Inc. series (or even Mary Calmes’ Warders), although there are parts that are completely original and there is no organization that helps these ghosts cross over. In fact, the support team is not fully fleshed out. I think this is meant to set up a series, but for me this felt like the complete story.

There are several times when I feel the execution could have been better. Scotty is going home after five years when no one knew if he was even alive and Tim just throws them into a sex scene with power dynamics after a day? It was a hot scene, but the emotional impact could have been greater if they had a chance to build trust first; it doesn’t quite work as angry make-up sex either. Tim’s mood swings are jarring and confusing because this is in Scotty’s first person POV and he doesn’t know Tim is possessed, but the audience already knows from the blurb, so this is not quite successful. There is a scene where it is supposed to be first person, but Sophia talks to Scott, about Scott, as if talking to someone else, which is confusing. I am hoping that gets fixed before publication. Then, Scotty does the most colossally stupid thing, without consulting Tim, which endangers himself and breaks what little trust is left between them. I know these guys are in their twenties, but the bad judgements and lack of honesty between them is what causes all the anguish in the first place, although there is plenty of parental/adult bad judgment that contributes to the circumstances Scotty finds himself in. I think the author is showing everyone trying to do the best they can. Because of these story-framing choices, there are things that just seem to come out of nowhere…at least it’s told through dialogue and not narrative.

The book is at its best as Scotty actually tries to figure out why he sees ghosts and if he can help them. The flashes of the past Scotty sees are good additions to the story. As Scotty and Tim figure out who they are to each other and how they fit into this paranormal role, they also have to take care of themselves emotionally and physically, as well as each other. What they are doing, what is happening, is dangerous. Although this could have been frightening and quite atmospheric, the author doesn’t go this route so if you dislike horror, don’t worry. There are flashes of what the killer sees, but they are short and are only detailed enough to show his character. However, there is some violence that could be upsetting. The flashes of humor and love between Scotty and Tim are a nice counterbalance. Overall, the story is supposed to be about them but their whole lives are told through a recap and in their present Tim is not really Tim; this makes connecting with them a bit of a challenge. We are told they are best friends and in love, but only shown a few days of it when they are hurt, angry, and in danger. I liked so many ideas in this book, but I feel the way it was written constrained the story.

The cover art by Reese Dante captures the dark, tortured, paranormal feel well.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details: ebook, 210 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644051214
Edition Language: English
Series: Lock and Key

via A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: The Spirit Key (Lock and Key #1) by Parker Williams — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Release Day Review: A Deeper Blue (The Game #2) by S.E. Harmon

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 

This is the second book in the series and should be read in order for maximum emotional impact. A year later, Blue is still basically in the closet. Happily ever afters are work.

So, I’m not going to lie: I was upset about Blue using a beard. Keeping this secret is destroying what they have. At the end of book one Blue had planned to come out and it was Kelly who stopped him. In this book, Blue has let the fear take over and Kelly is the one that wants to be part of a normal relationship where he can participate in Blue’s life like any of the other guys on the team and their wives/girlfriends. Blue was also supposedly the romantic one, yet it is Kelly that seems to be waiting for the big gesture while still not being all in. As a gay man, Kelly understands what Blue would face coming out publicly way better than Blue does. Fear of losing Blue when the discrimination starts, of Blue resenting him, makes him hold back a bit of himself. Even as annoyed as I was, this book sucked me right in.

Of course, Blue is good at pushing things away too–like thoughts of retirement and fear of injury. This time, I was glad to see more football. It was important to show more of Blue’s family as it lets the readers know that Kelly is not correct in blaming football for all of their problems. There were several moments when I wanted to strangle Blue, but I understood all too well why he is the person he is and wanted him to make better choices for his own happiness. Conner has been a good and supportive friend to Kelly, but it’s nice to see that Blue has friends who have his back also. There are some incredibly painful moments in this, but the author doesn’t wallow in them. Those big moments in life (wedding, birth, major illness, death, coming out) are when you find out who really cares for you, and it’s not always who you think, or even hope.

This worked really well as a duology and the epilogue was everything I wanted for these guys, where it was always going in between the bouts of mild angst. I enjoyed both of these books.

The cover art is by Kanaxa. I like the cover, and I supposed it is supposed to be Blue. Blue has new tattoos, as discussed in the book, but not as many as that, and of course, the tattoos are not the same as this model.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press |  Amazon
Book Details: ebook, 260 pages
Expected publication: October 30th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640808089
Edition Language: English
Series: The Game

via A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: A Deeper Blue (The Game #2) by S.E. Harmon — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: The Blueprint by S.E. Harmon, The Game 1

The Blueprint Cover
Cover Artist is Kanaxa

I would rate this 4.25 stars.

Kelly Cannon is having a very bad night. This book throws you in the deep end immediately. But sometimes you can’t ignore things anymore and Kelly is in love with his best friend, NFL player Britton “Blue” Montgomery. With Blue under so much pressure in his career, to have to worry about losing his best friend too is not helping. I can say I liked Kelly right away. I loved the use of humor. It took me longer to warm up to Blue, but then he does get less time on page at the beginning. After being in their heads, I can say these two deserve each other. The most difficult part of this book is being in Blue’s head, how does he not know?! Oh course, it’s obvious why. But, there comes a point when he can’t lie to himself anymore either. Turning a 17 year friendship into a relationship is not without its ups and downs.

This just feels natural. I love their interactions. Even during sex, they are themselves with humor and banter. Just when I thought they couldn’t be mature about things, they proved me wrong. The reminiscing about childhood events really works in this story as they both think about how much their relationship means to them. Kelly’s family adds so much to this story, I can’t imagine it without them but, it makes Blue’s family a glaring omission. I would have liked to see them too, even though his dad doesn’t sound pleasant. There is nothing about his brother. Still, they have made an impact on who Blue is and it would have added another layer.

There were small issues I had, like how accepting everyone is, which is less realistic than the rest of the book. There is also the timing of Kelly basically giving Blue an ultimatum–while I understood his feelings and why, the particular moment had me more sympathetic with Blue than Kelly. Maybe that’s on purpose though, and I just didn’t realize it. For anyone who likes friends to lovers, the nerd and the jock theme, and bisexual for you, as well as a coming out story, this is your book. Because there is a full range of emotions here, and it’s realistic without being overly dramatic, it doesn’t feel like a list of tropes.

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Review: Somebody To Die For By Kris T. Bethke, Requiem Inc. 3

Somebody to Die For Cover
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson

 

Kris T. Bethke Somebody To Die For

This is the third book in the Requiem Inc., series. To learn more about the first book, Ghost of a Chance, or the second book, Lost Souls Found, go here.

The people who work at the company help find stranded souls so they can go on the next step of their journey after death and find peace. As a recap, the mediums find the spirits, the ghostwalkers die and go to them, the anchors bring them back and provide aftercare, and the guardians, as anchors with greater abilities, oversee several teams at once and make sure everything goes smoothly.

Ghostwalker Avery Wagner lost his anchor and bonded partner to cancer four years ago and now teaches rather than ghostwalking himself. Get ready to be mired in the angst of a widower. Jameson is in training, but doesn’t have the anchor gene. He’s awkward, determined and somehow really likeable because he wants to help people. The attraction is there for both of them pretty immediately and they both fight against it for different reasons. Even though the age gap here is 18 years and Jameson does make some immature mistakes, he also steps up when he needs to and learns from them.

Jameson hasn’t been assigned a ghostwalker yet and is going through the training alone. Thrust into working an emergency with Jameson, Avery is afraid of his feelings, not wanting to open himself up to that kind of pain again. The author took the time for Avery to be thoughtful about his grief. Jameson was so sweet and understanding. Their intimate moments were perfect: hot, sweet, and confused feelings. It’s the emotions that anchor this story and put it a shoulder above others. I did cry at one point. I love how everything is not magically fixed at the end–grief is a long process and love is complex. Even with the age difference, this gets to the point of being a true partnership where they work through issues and talk things out.

I’ve enjoyed this whole series. This may actually be my favorite of the three and it’s nice that the author finishes strong rather than the first one setting everything up while the other two seem tacked on to make more money. This is not that. This seems to have been a trilogy from the start and, whilst there could be many more stories to tell in this world if done right (there are 47 branch offices), the HEA of all the originally focused upon characters is now complete.

I would rate this 4.25 stars.

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Release Day Review: The Librarian’s Ghost (The Supers #2) by Sean Michael

Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

I was really excited to read this one because I enjoyed the first one in the series, The Supers. Coming off of a house exploration where there was no paranormal activity, the guys get asked to investigate McGregor Mansion. The gothic style house was built in the 1780’s, so there have been plenty of deaths on the property. There is something weird and dangerous going on right away.

Many of the details just don’t gel for me in this book. We’re told Payne McGregor is at his wit’s end and is ready to pay for an exorcism, yet at the house he seems resigned, dismissive of the things that are happening. We keep getting told how rude Will, the cameraman, is to Payne upon meeting, but I didn’t read it that way at all so I was a little confused. It wasn’t until about chapter four that we even get a bare bones description of what Payne looks like (trim beard and glasses.) Then, even though he is older than the other characters, and highly educated, he ends up sounding the same way they do when he thinks or speaks. As soon as possession came up, Flynn said he was “out” which I assume was a stress response to what happen in the first book. It’s unclear to me if he was kidding or not, but he does stay with the team.

There are other things that don’t work for me. For example, near the beginning Will is worried about demons. Later, randomly, we get this sentence “‘None of the workers saw a demon, though, right?’ Payne offered.” Why was Payne worried about demons? (As a weird aside, daemon is the Latin word for the ancient Greek daimon which is just a benevolent spirit; the idea of malevolent “demons” is ancient Near Eastern and Abrahamic. I thought it was strange Will used holy water and then prayed at one point, even if it was casually done in fear. If the author is going with quasi-Christian ideals, what is done with the bones later is anathema. My personal preference would have been to do without religious references altogether.) The first book was more atmospheric, even though the situation turned out to be less dire. I also missed the sexual tension from the previous book. I like forced proximity as a trope, but the time shifting scenario created to get Payne and Will together didn’t help cement their attraction like it was meant to. The banter seemed forced and the flirting was strange and awkward. Even if they were being influenced by a ghost, this was handled in a very clunky way so I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the explicit sex scene that happens after.

The plot moves towards the final showdown in the basement. This time when Will is possessed it is very noticeable; if it had been that bad in the beginning I doubt the men would have been able to shrug that off and still get together so it makes me understand what the author was trying to do at the beginning. The other problem is what they do with the bones. No matter how you slice or dice it, they broke the law. Since there are clues about where this takes place (Aero bar and Coffee Crisp), my best guess would be Canada. I don’t know Canadian law but the Coronor’s Act or the Archaeology Act would have to be considered. In the UK, it would be the Burial Act of 1857. If this takes place in the US, state laws differ, but every jurisdiction has some kind of law governing the discovery of human remains. In Utah, for instance, it is a third degree felony for anyone except an archaeologist, the Medical Examiner’s office, law enforcement, or a licensed mortician to disturb, move, remove, conceal, or destroy human remains. Since they are filming this to make a TV show, it’s a problem. Maybe in trying to appeal to all audiences the author was vague about which country this actually takes place in, but the devil is still in the details. Like when after all this incredibly disgusting stuff happens, Will kisses Payne on the neck before they take a shower. I cannot even convey how skeeved out this made me.

This could have been a nice opposites attract story with the mild mannered librarian and the cameraman who looks like a biker–with both of them liking organization and being compatible in the bedroom, it would have worked. As it is I have a difficult time believing they are moving in together after two days. While I really liked the first book in the series, this suffers a bit by comparison. Since there are two more ghost hunters in the group, I would expect there to be two more books for Jason and Darnell who are barely mentioned in this book. I would cautiously recommend this book if you like ghost stories and want an easy read as long as you are not too concerned with having a lot of detail.

The cover artist is Alexandria Corza. It is in keeping with the other Dreamspun Beyond covers. The model represents the main character Payne, who is a librarian. Some of the scenes also take place in the library of the mansion so it’s appropriate to the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook, Dreamspun Beyond #29, 210 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640807389
Edition Language: English
Series: The Supers

via A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: The Librarian’s Ghost (The Supers #2) by Sean Michael — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Love You So Special By Tara Lain, Love You So 3

Love You So Special
Cover Artist: Reese Dante

This is the third book in the Love You So series. I have not read the first two and didn’t feel like I missed anything at all so I would call this a standalone. I admit having a bias here as I went to school in and worked in Orange County, CA where this and a lot of her books are set. Tara Lain usually does the blue collar/wealthy trope well. She has reigned in the fabulousness for this one, although there is still a little OTT plot point.

Artie, a plumber working on a job in a concert hall gets to hear some of the music played for rehearsals. We know by his POV that it’s a unique experience for him. When we see the rest of his life–his work buddies, his family–we understand how he only superficially fits into his own life. His quirks as they are called, his interests, hobbies, what moves him, are what flesh him out as a person for the readers.

Francois is a rich, famous classical pianist who loves composing, but has anxiety performing because of the crowds. He lives with his overbearing mother in an exclusive gated community. They meet when Artie is hired to take over work on the guest house, being built in the back of the main house. Artie is enchanted by the music and then attracted by the man. Francois has been home schooled and is socially awkward, but he’s intrigued by Artie.

As Artie and Francois become friends, I found the interactions between them charming. Artie has spent so long pretending to be what everyone expects him to be, he is lonely. While Francois is out, Artie is not–not even to Francois. Of course, I’m happy when that changes. Some people just click when they meet and it just works. Francois having met Artie is the impetus for him to start trading security for some independence. Artie needs to stop living to accommodate everyone else in his life and start living for himself. Have you ever had someone say the right thing to you at the right time? Don, Artie’s landlord gives Artie something to think about that changes the way he looks at things. Francois’s epiphany comes during a much more traumatic experience.

At first I didn’t really like Francois’s mom, but then once we get to know her more she becomes more human and she does actually care for her son. Her idea of what’s best for him and his idea of what’s best for him don’t always gel. I could say the same for Artie’s family, but when they needed to step up and be supportive, they were so that’s all that matters. Right? So, yes, everything is resolved easily and there is some fan girl nodding to her favorite authors. Not everything has to be angsty. While I’m the first to say I like realistic stories, I like a good fantasy to cheer me up also. Sometimes the world is dark enough and I want to escape into a well written cheerful happy, sappy gay romance novel. This hit the spot.

I would rate this 4 stars.

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Review: The Supers By Sean Michael

The Supers cover
Cover Art by Aaron Anderson

Blaine Franks is a member of the paranormal research group called the Supernatural Explorers, and Flynn Huntington is hired to be the new tech guy. These are guys that believe in ghosts and are trying to prove their existence. They all spend some time getting to know one another, everything is normal, and they gel together well. The sexual tension starts right away as Flynn tries to remind himself they just met and are going to be working together. Flynn is also full of questions about what Blaine sees and how they document everything. He’s so excited, and seems to also be somewhat receptive to the paranormal phenomenon. Jason is the leader of the group, so of the three other characters, we get to know him the best. Darnell, the camera man, and Will, who helps with the equipment, are less fleshed out.

Whilst investigating an abandoned hospital, the creep factor is high. The juxtaposition between the normalcy of before, really helps set the mood and then clues us in when things are not what they seem. The author does a good job of making us excited and frightened each time they go back to record at the hospital. They make contact with multiple ghosts at the location, and investigate some of the people who died at the hospital.

Then there are the sexy down times when Blaine and Flynn explore one another and grow closer as lovers. This was more explicit than the other Dreamspinner Dreamspun Beyond books I’ve read. There are multiple sex scenes and I would definately call this an erotic romance. If this is our reward for being scared and grossed out, I am all for it. They are adorable dorks, but I have to say there is a lot of “giggling” in this book. The resolution seemed to work out well, although it was a little out of left field. I can’t really talk about that without spoilers, but we warned there is violence.

The guys took everything they recorded at Eugene Thurston Memorial Hospital and turned it into a forty-minute video and sent it to Jason’s producer contact in the hopes of getting a TV deal. The converted barn on Blaine’s parents’ property where he lives with Flynn is the defacto meeting place for the ghost busting team so I think I’ll be spending some more time there in future books. Since Halloween is coming, this was a perfect spooky read with more horror than I thought it would have, so if that is something you like, I recommend.

I would give this 4.25 stars.

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Release Day Review: Savior (415 Ink #2) by Rhys Ford

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This is the second book in a series about five men who have forged a family and own a tattoo business. I would recommend reading these in order. Mace, a firefighter, has made himself Bear’s right hand man in helping raise the family, but it’s time he got some help, whether he asks for it or not.

We start by seeing 10 year old Mason, abandoned and locked in a closet by his father, being rescued by a firefighter. We understand why Mace becomes a firefighter, and why he always checks the closets while on the job and our hearts are already broken. It’s that crack that allows Rob, a tattoo artist at 415 Ink, to see a part of the real Mace. Being bossy, a tad controlling, and concentrating on the brothers’ personal lives is a way to keep the wolves at bay and maybe prove he deserves to be in this family. He still seems unsure, unable to ask for what he needs–afraid of what the answer will be. It’s ok though, because his brothers know and they have his back.

Rob’s best friend is Lilith, but we don’t get to see a lot of her. As with the first book, the tattoos are lovingly described. I can’t help but feel a little bit of a missed opportunity to learn more about tattoing since we get Rob’s POV as he’s learning while doing. In fact, I wish we knew a little bit more about everything. We get a little slice of Chinatown and the culture there. We get a slice of Rob’s disagreement with his father and his relationship with his family. We get slices of Ivo, but not with as much depth as our slice of Luke in the first book and that’s still just a slice. In the first book we see how close Luke and Gus are. Here we get that dynamic with Mace and Ivo, except Mace didn’t share with Ivo about, well, anything–not his father, not Rob, not his past. Actually, I am really starting to like Luke and he occupied all of two pages. The next book will likely be about Ivo and the cop he meets in the aftermath of Mace’s injuries.

There is more action in this one, although you would expect that due to his problems being in the present (which I won’t tell you about because of spoilers) rather than just past wounds, although those are also shown. You know that thing that should happen when you crack yourself open and show someone your scars? That actually happens here. That’s the best thing about this book: that moment you find your person. We get to see Rob and Mace fit together and weave their families together. And if it happens a little too easily, that Rob’s wealthy family just slot into Mace’s rough and tumble one, we need that after the horrors going on here because the abuse and violence don’t get glossed over. Mace certainly deserves some happiness and we do too.

There is a little nod to the Sinner’s series at a party that is nothing to worry about if you’ve not read them. Overall, this is a solid follow-up to the first book and I enjoyed it. I hope the author continues to layer in more depth to the world and all the characters with each new book.

The cover by Reece Notley is gorgeous, but this is not quite how I pictured Mace since he has some scars from childhood, as well as some minor gouges and burns from firefighting, however the abs are as described.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Expected publication: September 18th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640808614
Edition Language: English
Series: 415 Ink

via A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: Savior (415 Ink #2) by Rhys Ford — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words