My Best of 2019 List

The Best Of The Best

This year I read approximately 200 stories/books, although I didn’t review them all. If you have been reading my reviews, both here and on my own blog, you’ll know I like quirky–books that do things a little differently than the status quo. They still have to make sense, connect with me emotionally, and tell a good story. I gave 5 Stars, without rounding up, to these book that were published this year:

Digging Deep, Digging Deep 1, by Jay Hogan
This book gave a realistic depiction of being in a relationship with a chronically ill person with humor, honesty, and dignity whilst still managing to be a romance. The author didn’t cover over the gross or inconvenient things about illness the way most books do.

The Ghosts Between Us, The West Hills 1, by Brigham Vaughn
People handle grief differently and sometimes they fall in love at completely the wrong time with someone others might deem inappropriate. Oh well, that’s their problem.

The Story Of Us by Logan Meredith
Literally, no one agreed with me about this book featuring an older prudish, judgmental man falling in love with a young student and porn star. With breaking the fourth wall and only one point of view, some people didn’t dig it.

Best Covers

The King’s Dragon cover by Natasha Snow, The Witchstone Amulet cover by Tiferet Designs, Anhaga cover by Tiferet Designs, Hell And Gone cover by Danonza, Ramen Assassin cover by Reece Notley, Earth Fathers Are Weird cover by Lyn Gala, Clean Break cover by Natasha Snow, Healing Glass cover by Miranda from Pavelle Art, and Taji From Beyond the Rings cover by Lyn Forester


The Best Of The Rest

Best Contemporary

Arctic Sun, Frozen Hearts 1, by Annabeth Albert
Best Behavior by Matthew J. Metzger
Heated Rivalry, Game Changers 2, by Rachel Reid
Ramen Assassin by Rhys Ford
The Other Book, Those Other Books 1, by Roe Horvat
We Still Live by Sara Dobie Bauer


Best Fantasy/Paranormal/Science Fiction

Anhaga by Lisa Henry
Dead Man Stalking by T.A. Moore
Empire of Light, Voyance 1, by Alex Harrow
Healing Glass, Gifted Guilds 1, by Jackie Keswick
Space Train by David Bridger
The Shoreless Sea, Liminal Sky 3, by J. Scott Coatsworth


Best Holiday

A Faerie Story by Barbara Elsborg


Best Dark Themed/Taboo

Sick And Tragic Bastard by Rowan Massey
Please read the tags and get ready for a big, fat, ugly-crying meltdown if you have a soul. Then, read or watch the fluffiest, sweetest stories you can find for a week after.

Best Rerelease

Release, Davlova 1 and Return, Davlova 2, by Marie Sexton
This dark romance duology (pay attention to the tags) was originally released under the name A.M. Sexton. I don’t think there are any substantial changes. Expect rich, bleak, dystopian world-building.


Honorable Mention

The King’s Dragon, Fire And Valor 1, by W.M. Fawkes and Sam Burns
The Stone Amulet by Mason Thomas
I read so much fantasy this year. These two books stayed with me even though I rated them lower than the others. Why? Maybe I didn’t have enough coffee.

via More Best of 2019 and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Texas Charm (Aberrant Magic #6) by Lyn Gala

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

The sixth book in the series focuses on the policemen in El Paso from book three, Art and Zach–partners both on and off the job. We know that the local council had misallocated or openly stolen federal money instead of using it for a Djedi Center, so Salma comes to see what facilities and resources are available for local people with Talent.

Zach has found a spirit guide in one of the old ifrit–an Aztec hummingbird named Pochi. So, like Darren, he has no powers of his own, being neither a shaman nor a trained magic user, but now has some power at his disposal, which is not really a lot of help at this point. In fact, it is difficult not to compare Zach and Darren, so it’s also difficult not to compare Art and Kavon. I did laugh as Art visits Zach’s version of the spirit plane. It’s a good way to drive home that though these couples are similar in some regards, they are their own people, so it’s unfair to expect them to act the same. Their banter and the ways they like to irritate each other are part of their charm.

The point of this book is to fix the political problems locally and rally the magical community in order to oust the corrupt council members. Art has always made it very clear he doesn’t want to be involved, so it’s no surprise when Zach can’t convince him to challenge for a seat when hundreds of shamans and adepts meet on the spirit plane to discuss the situation as everyone picks a side. It is both difficult and easy to see Art’s side of things and while I might not agree, it’s an accomplishment of the author to make Art such a complicated character. At this point, I have to admit that Art was not my favorite character in this series. However, Art has many good reasons to have a few chips on his shoulder. This book helps establish why his personality may not be that inviting. In the middle, he made me laugh out-loud. By the end, I wanted to both hug him and punch him out at the same time. We finally get some differences between the way the Vatican, the Egyptians, and Native Peoples train people who have a spirit guide. I also enjoyed seeing the psychological aspect of a guide’s relationship with their shaman.

Art and Zach are called to the scene of a murder. Their victim is actually a famous rapist. I enjoyed the parts about them working the case, although the subject matter is disturbing. The emotions are also difficult to handle as his father is questioned by police and the author creates some empathy for everyone involved. There is a good job of juxtaposing the awful case they are working on and the private lives of the detectives. This is an established couple so we walk in on the middle of their story and get to share in their intimate moments and their journey to their HEA. Adding in family dynamics was a great way to add depth to this story.

This book really puts us forward in the overarching plot, whilst showing new allies for the fight ahead in a more nuanced depth. This also takes us structurally back to the first few books, while stylistically it has some things in common with book five. I liked having Art’s POV (third person limited) for most of the book, because he would come across unfavorably if we didn’t know his thoughts and motives. We need to like him, so this was a smart move. Now, in hindsight, I wish we had gotten to know one of the shaman in Toronto the same way in book three. I am so excited to have the links between this book and book five explained. This is a great addition to a series that has been uneven in many ways. Still, there is always something in each book that draws me back.

The cover art is by Natasha Snow and is in keeping with the rest of the series. I believe it shows Art and Zach in the meditation room of the police precinct going to the spirit plane.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details: ebook, 187 pages
Published August 20th 2018 by Lyn Gala (first published August 16th 2018)
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series: Aberrant Magic

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Texas Charm (Aberrant Magic #6) by Lyn Gala — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Expeditions, Estimation, and Other Dangerous Pastimes (Claimings #4) by Lyn Gala

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

This is the fourth book in the Claimings series with an overarching plot, so these should be read in order. There are also alien words used without context, which you would need to be aware of beforehand. This is the continuation of Liam and Ondry’s journey aboard the Rownt ship Calti, to seek trade with the Imshee.

One of the things I like about this series, like all good science fiction, is viewing the absurdities of humanity, when trying to explain them to an alien race. I always enjoy the discussions of linguistics and psychology. The fact that this happens after a rousing bout of alien sex, made me laugh. Quite a lot of this book made me laugh and appeals to my dry sense of humor, although be warned the depictions of sex and biological functions are a bit graphic and crude. Anyway, if you have been following this series and like those linguistics discussions, those are increased in this book due to Zach and Liam both being in the linguist field, them both learning from each other aboard ship, and meeting a new alien species.

In the last book, Zach came aboard as a palteia to a Grandmother who is now his chilta. The nearest translation in English to palteia seems to be submissive (although these relationships are not sexual in Rownt culture.) A chilta would have the “dom” role of protecting and helping a palteia, who are a highly regarded in Rownt culture. This opportunity gives the Rownt a way to learn about humanity without all of that burden remaining on Liam. It’s also intriguing to see a higher ranked human than Liam, but someone with less experience with the Rownt, navigate the complexities of the society, culture, and language. The change in dynamics is a way to show us Liam’s place in the world, in both cultures.

The author shows Liam and Ondry established in their relationship of mutual trust and love. Liam’s confidence has grown and as Liam has become more Rownt in his thinking, Ondry has also become more human in his. Ondry has also gotten even more overprotective the more he reads human medical texts. If fact, the whole reason for this book is fear of human physiology and aging–Ondry wanting Liam’s lifespan to be more compatible with his and for Liam to be less breakable. I love how Liam asserts himself to be an equal partner in decisions that affect their lives and status in a way he never would have earlier in the series. But while Liam seems more confident, in some ways Ondry seems less so.

There is a bit of repetition in Ondry’s thoughts and on the obsession with palteia throughout the book, but that is a minor niggle. Overall, this is a good contribution to the series, although not my favorite. The Cy, a race that traded with the Rownt thousands of years ago, are mentioned as how they learned folded space technology. I do hope this goes somewhere in a story, whether set in the past or the present. Of course, the Imshee contact with humans is a frightening prospect. I understand why Liam would want what the Imshee offer as he will live out the rest of his life with Ondry; I am unsure of why Zach would consent when he has a five year contract, especially since if he were to go back to Earth, I would expect the military to experiment on him. I would be happy for the author to pick any of these plot bunnies that she seeded in this story.

The cover artist is Anna Sikorska. It’s in keeping with the series in style and color palette and I think represents the story well.

Sales Links:  Amazon link coming
Book Details:
ebook, Patreon edition
Expected publication: October 23rd 2018
Edition Language English
Series: Claimings

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Expeditions, Estimation, and Other Dangerous Pastimes (Claimings #4) by Lyn Gala — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Echoes Of Deviance By Lyn Gala, Aberrant Magic 4

Echoes of Deviance cover
Cover Art: Natasha Snow

When book four starts we see the affects on the team of not having more local cops with Talent. I think this is to allow for more Talent teams to be created in the future and to show how integration rather than segregation is what is needed, showing the contrast with how the Egyptians, Vatican, and Native Peoples handle their societies.


They get called to the scene of a cop killing where someone used magic. Obviously, the cops are a little hostile. The interdepartmental politics in this one could have been more of a nightmare with a task force set up to find out who killed Peterson, actually a parole officer. He was supposed to be meeting with Alan Underwood, one of his parolees, when he was killed. We learn he was a dealer with a long history of violence and selling drugs. His coworkers Kyle Hall and Chandler Owen want justice and put pressure on the task force. Mrs. Underwood is the first real clue that all is not what it seems. We finally get what looks more like a law enforcement investigation in this book. The actual take down of the suspect is not on the spirit plane.


We get to see Kavon time walk–it had been mentioned before. The author is clever at putting up roadblocks that will make seeing the past or future difficult to see, or this would be over too quickly. The idea of time is very important in this book, but I won’t tell you how.


At this point, I have to wonder if the publisher insisted on all the racapping of previous books and already established characters. This is not a series that has standalone books, so I feel like this much is unnecessary. I also feel like anyone who can’t follow these books is used to easy reads and maybe doesn’t want to concentrate too hard on anything anyway.


The friction between Darren and Kevon is about walking that fine link of being partners and Kevon being his boss. Darren having access to more powerful magic yet having none without Bennu is a bit of a problem on occasion. Kavon having problems being overprotective of his team even though he knows they are qualified federal agents and good at their jobs. Both are facing the effects of the bond settling into place. The good news is that the emotional bond that I wanted to feel instead of just hear about, finally clicked for me in this book so I am willing to mostly forgive the clunky recaps. The love scenes and displays of affection seemed much more natural and intimate.


This actually has a lot of socially relevant ideas: about opportunities and education for the poor; ignoring tradition if it is no longer useful; and about taking the responsibility to help if you have the abilty/resources to do so. We see Darren start to see how the Djedi centers really could make a difference. This is connected to the POV we get of Assistant Director White in the epilogue to clue us in on future plot developments.


I would rate this 4 stars.

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Review: Mafia And Magics by Lyn Gala, Aberrant Magic 5

Mafia and Magics Cover
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Angel Zamora is in prison when Darren and Rima visit him. It’s really unique in this series that we get Angel’s POV. Three men with no history of Talent were released from prison, began showing signs of using magic, and then were shot in the back of the head. They offer Angel a deal to be an informant on anyone who tries to recruit him when he is released from prison. Angel has no plans to get involved with the mafia or the feds, but life is what happens to him when he’s making other plans. As he is pressed into service to the Luschesce crime family, he is kept captive at their estate where he meets Matt.

Lest we forget what series this is, a crow heron is following Angel around. Angel is being as truthful and honest as he can in his own morally neutral way. Instead of pushing Matt away, it’s strangely having the opposite affect. It is difficult not to have sympathy for Angel, but we are privy to his thoughts. Jerry is the mob enforcer who takes Angel on jobs. Vin is the boss’s brother who has some brain damage due to childhood trauma. The moss boss is the one teaching Angel how to use his magic. Then, we have the FBI who should be the good guys, but really aren’t in this scenario–even Rima and Darren have basically blackmailed Angel into cooperating. The characters help so we get to see a full range of what shades of grey morality really look like. At first, Matt seems to be the foil for moral center, but even Matt has made his choices. I suppose we are supposed to latch on to Kavon, but he loves the law–to the letter–and the law is not always just and has loopholes. We all have our lines in the sand and this is where we get to see where they are with everyone involved.

I like the way the relationship between Matt and Angel developed, but I did need just a little more. I even understand how stressful situations can help accelerate how well people get to know each other and affect how quickly trust develops. But, two sex scenes and Angel is thinking in terms of love? I think that could have waited until a little later in the story. The sex scenes were well done. The epilogue gives us Kavon and Darren having couple time and discussing how the case wrapped up. There are more ideas generated about how magic works based on Bennu knows but that’s it for our DC characters.

So, this is great…but stylistically it is the outlier as it doesn’t match the rest of the series. With all the previous repetition in world-building, part of me wishes the rest of the series had done this and woven in different stories/cases to keep their day job with the FBI at the fore. This has more in common with Lyn Gala’s book called Lines In The Sand (which I recommend) than being dropped into the middle of an epic urban fantasy series. I could see fans of Mary Calmes possibly liking this book. It’s a mixed bag because I think if you had not read the previous other four books, this could hook you in, but that is deceptive if you like the way this book is written. I feel like this could be the calm before the storm. Still, as we gear up for the epic battle of good and evil ifrit, which is where this seems to be going, it helps to remember the individual battles that are fought all the time. Those battles matter too, every day in every way.

I would rate this 4 stars.

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Review: Divergence By Lyn Gala, Aberrant Magic 3

Divergence Cover
Cover Artist: Mina Carter


In book three the team is still looking for O’Brien, the sadistic murderer who was slaughtering adepts to steal their magic in book one. Last we heard, he had been seen in Toronto and he keeps evading the police. The team is also still working on the child trafficking case. While I understand not wanting to get involved in the shark infested politics of the Council, Kavon now has a responsibility to the community. This is where Darren has to step up: in the way he used to act as the bridge between mundanes and those with talent, or help facilitate between law enforcement on their cases, he now needs to help Kavon balance his shamanic duties with their law enforcement duties, while being the diplomat to everyone involved.

With the Egyptians wanting access to the ifrit, they are willing to serve Kavon because they think his spirit animal is one. We know, this protects Darren and Bennu. One of the main issues between Kavon/Darren and the Egyptians is the fundamentally different beliefs regarding the magic community and how it should be arranged/treated. The politics here, and the navigation through and around them, are some of the best parts of the book. We also hear about the Vatican having influence and magical knowledge, yet have seen no evidence of that so I hope we get that in future books. Salma, the adept from the Egyptian embassy comes to help them with the shamanic aspects of the case, to act as a liason between Kevon and the other council, and to help with adminstration.

In Toronto, we get to see some of the problems with localized power in the shamanic community and the affects of segregation. I like that the author takes time out of the politics to show the emotions and ramifications this battle has on Darren. Just like any officer or soldier who has to kill in the line of duty–just because it was on the spirit plane makes it no less real. He also has a bit of an epiphany about everything that changes his attitude and focus.

At this point, the basic world building should be complete, so I’m a little disappointed at the repetition in places it shouldn’t be. The addition of Agent Ahtisham Boyd to the team allows the author to give us recaps and helps us learn about things as he does, but he could have been better utilized. Coretta and Darren shouldn’t be having these types of conversations about things they both already know. They seem to be giving Boyd way more information, immediately, than they did to Darren the whole four years before. While having him be Muslim is great for diversity, it’s a shame that wasn’t more of a plot point considering what is happening. It’s good to finally know more about Rima and I agreed with her take on what happen in the last book as opposed to Les or Coretta. The ideas in this series continue to be interesting and keep me engaged.

Once the O’Brien case is wrapped up, the focus turns towards the child trafficking case. Coretta has been working on that with Cyber Crimes trying to undo the damage caused by sabotage and counter the magical spells of the criminals with her crystals. Coretta being snarky was my comedic relief. We need more of her. Darren starts to train with Bennu to use his magic in a real world law enforcement scenario for investigation rather than just reacting when they come under fire. It’s nice to see another type of magic as Coretta and Darren work together. The child trafficking case heats up when they go to El Paso and try to work with local law enforcement and the Mexican authorities. Here we get a glimpse of what Native Peoples magic looks like in this world and how insular they are.

A hummingbird ifrit starts hanging around and helps take down the traffickers. This is where we get introduced to a shaman, Detective Arturo Lammas, and his mundane partner both on and off the force is Zach Johnson. Art and Zach get the choice Darren and Kavon didn’t and we will see more of them in the future. Kavon doesn’t want to get involved in local politics, although he will investigate any crimes, but Darren is the one who sees the bigger picture here. In fact, we are all starting to see the dangers coming and the need to consolidate power.

There was a lot happening in this book: in the law enforcement cases, the spiritual realm, the relationships, new characters, and the development of the overarching storyline. It was ambitious and some parts worked better than others, but I am actually enjoying this series more the second time around.

I would rate this 4 stars and I am on to book four.

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Review: Derivation By Lyn Gala, Aberrant Magic 2

Derivation cover
Cover design by Mina Carter


In book two we start out with Darren having to go through training materials and relearn his job since he was trained as a mundane, not a magic user. He has such high level magic, everyone keeps forgetting he doesn’t know the basics about how magic or the spirit plane is even supposed to work.

Here we get more involved with the politics of the DC Shamanic Council: Charles Cruz, Susan McLean, Henry Halverson have asked for help with a murder at the Egyptian Embassy. This gives us a vastly different view of how magic users (jinn) and mundanes (the untouched) interact within the Egyptian authority. The dead body belongs to a well respected shaman named Thuya. With the Council and the Egyptians, there is no shortage of shamans to go looking for her on the spirit plane and ask: Who is plotting with whom? They are wary of Kavon’s growing strength, mad about his lack of deference to them, and suspicious about Darren’s sudden shaman status. The Egyptians have a regent and a court waiting for the return of the rightful rulers, which are those chosen by the ifrit. They have access to pre-Purge knowledge and money to spend on preventing another Purge. The Purge was sometime around the Middle Ages when mundanes killed most of the magic users.

While on the spirit plane Thuya sends Darren and Kavon to Arlington cemetery. While there they sense a magical trap buried in one of the graves. She also tells them that ifrit are from other worlds, while most guides are formed from the clay of this reality. So why would ifrit come to this plane now? There are now three different cases, two of which overlap, and a minefield of a political landscape in every direction. At this point, we don’t know who the good guys are – either on the Council, in the FBI, or among the Egyptians.

The rest of the team are working on a human trafficking case. Someone is luring kids to major cities; all victims showed up at airports or bus terminals in the hour before a bus or plane left for Mexico City. They obviously have magical help to stay off the police radar so there is a traitor within law enforcement. Team dynamics are still not right after the Ben incident. I like that Kavon sees his team as his herd and that he will protect and defend them, but that the interpersonal relationships are still complex. Frankly, you don’t always like everyone you work with equally. In both books, bigotry against magic users and racism against POC is commented on. We know Coretta and Kavon are black, and Les is Hawaiian, and Darren is some unnamed shade of brown. It’s not just mentioned once and forgotten about.

Now that Darren and Kavon have a permanent soul bond, we get to see all the emotions and thoughts that others don’t, helping to soften Kavon and making him a much more attractive character. As Kavon trains Darren, we get to learn more about magical abilities. Here is where the benefit of them knowing each other for the prior four years really adds to the flow of the plot as they build their relationship while living and working together. They also start to explore some light kink. The love scenes are getting better, but are still not my favorite thing about the book. In fact, there are much more important power exchanges going on magically.

There is obviously a showdown coming, and Darren’s guide Bennu is at the center of it. In an effort to protect Darren, Kevon and his cape buffalo, and apparently the rest of the world, Bennu binds them all closer together in a magical ceremony. Why this was necessary becomes apparent later in the plot. While on another spirit plane, we get a peek at other spirit birds that will start to play a role later. Spoilers.

While some recap is appreciated as this is all a lot of information, there was a little repetitiveness, which takes away the time and space for different conversations to be had. I also appreciate they are conversations and not just info dumps.

Kevon ends up being on the DC Shamanic Council, which was inevitable, I think. It will allow him to better navigate any interference, give him more resources, and help him better integrate the larger magical community. After seeing the dangers that are possible in the Egyptian system, and facing the dangers of rogue shamans and magic users working together, having councils working together seems a good way forward.

The team is all now reeling after another betrayal and having to regroup to find the traffickers once the Arlington case is mostly over. They still have to find O’Brien, the serial killer from book one. With Darren having access to shamanic powers, they need a new mundane on the team. Enter Ahtisham Boyd with six years of experience on the Hostage Rescue Team. I look forward to meeting him in book three.

I would rate this 4 stars.

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Review: Deductions By Lyn Gala, Aberrant Magic 1


Cover Art by Mina Carter

The series was originally published by Loose Id, which went out of business so book six was self-published by the author. I decided to reread the whole series before reading the new one. Basically, this is what our modern world would look like if magic users, or people with talent, had always existed alongside non-magic users, or mundanes. The laws that govern us would need to protect and police all citizens so the story centers around the Talent Unit of the FBI that works in Washington D.C.. While I have read other series with a similar plot, this world is totally unique. It also not only has both the two main leads as POC (people of color), but many of the supporting characters.

There is a tremendous amount of world building here with a complex plot. In this book, the FBI team is working on catching a serial killer using magic to drain magic from the victims. Much of the book is trying to figure out who and stop them while everything goes FUBAR magically speaking, causing Boucher to question everything he thought he knew about magic and about spirit guides. This books works hard to set the stage for future books covering both mundane and magical politics, terrible magical events in history, the love story between Boucher and Darren, and hints at an overarching plot that will develop over all the books. The author is clever at giving you information and then letting the scenes develop while layering in more and more information.

Darren is the only mundane on a team of all-Talent federal agents. Because people can ask to be interviewed by a non-magic user, his role is essential in investigations. He also works as the liason to the more conventional police departments and even other federal teams who do want to work with magic users. His partner is Les, an adept, with the ability to perceive truth when he talks to someone face to face. Kavon Boucher is a shaman and the head of the unit with fifteen years’ experience in the field and degrees in criminal psychology, deviant psychology, and ethics. Ben is his adept, with an ability to influence luck, and the rookie team member. Coretta, his second in command is a crystal user. Traci is the computer specialist and specializes in incantations. Rima is the charm specialist. Coretta, Les, and Rima all have backgrounds in local law enforcement.

Boucher walks in the spirit world but needs an adept to anchor him (hold the door open for the way back). Shamans have to have had a near death experience. Adepts are born with their magic and start to show their Talent while teenagers. Both usually go to a Djedi Center for training. Adepts are also the only ones that can’t really hide their magic as the marks come up on their skin, making them easy targets for hatred. Fundamentalist groups hate magic users. Shamans and adepts have spirit guides–spirits that look for talented humans with similar thinking patterns. The traits people have attract the spirit guide they get and influence the animal shape they will take. A guide can leave an evil shaman, otherwise it is also culpable. Those who don’t take a shamanistic path use crystals or incantations or charms. They have to gather up magic that has bled through to this reality from the spirit planes.

There are dangers for a mundane to be physically or emotionally close to a shaman so Kavon pulls away from Darren. Darren starts to believe Ben is trying to hurt him, but the team thinks it’s jealousy because he wants Boucher. So we start with a team that is on edge and has some friction. Kavon has tried to keep barriers in place against Darren, but they are starting to crumble. He is used to being powerful, knowledgeable, and in control of his domain so seeing him off kilter is fun. But Kavon knows who he is faults and all: short tempered, arrogant, loyal, brave, aggressive, stubborn, logical, and dangerous. When we first meet Darren, he has been under the strain of being in love with his boss for years. Once he gets the idea that he can actually have him, we see who he really is as a character: passionate, brash, intuitive, determined, stubborn, clever, and tenacious.

There is so much going on in the plot and laying the groundwork, that there is less of an established emotional connection with the characters than I am used to with this author. That’s illustrated in the lack of sexual chemistry for the first love scene. It’s described, but I just don’t feel it. Still, I feel their work chemistry, their redeveloping friendship and the way they fit together magically. Yet, when they are in danger and emotions should be running high, I still feel a bit disconnected. By the time the second love scene occurs, the intimacy level is much more developed, but I couldn’t help wanting more.

There are so many cool ideas in this book. The little bits about how the laws developed to protect society from magic users are interesting: laws limiting the evidence collected by shamans to probable cause hearings, for instance. I think that things are thought out about soul bonding and the spiritual abuse that could arise. While I don’t agree with the idea of dead and living magic in the way that the author defines them (to me magic is the redirection of energy which can’t be dead, even if it comes from the dead), it’s an interesting concept. The explanations for the way guides, shamans, and spirits interact on the spirit plane, and the effects of that in the world, clearly come from an imaginative mind. I like that different schools of thought have developed about magic so there is a place for Indigenous, Catholic, Egyptian, or other forms to coexist; that is only briefly touched on here. I don’t mean to overwhelm anyone with details, just to highlight the ones I think are most important to carry forward as I start book two.

I would rate this 4.25 stars.

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Review: Bitter Blood By Lyn Gala

Bitter Blood Cover
Cover by Lyn Gala with stock art by Dreamstime.

I kept having a deja vu feeling whilst reading this and when I checked, I had actually read an earlier version under a different title. This has been revised and re-edited. Lyn Gala is know for her M/M writing so this is a rare M/F for me.

The book has a logical, strong, no nonsense heroine. When Paige’s rookie partner shows up on her doorstep, bleeding and confused, having been kipnapped, she’s not sure what to do. Brady has no pulse, so calling their colleagues doesn’t sound like a good plan with dissection and rubber rooms in their respective foreseeable future. Before Brady was kidnapped, tortured, and killed, they had been working on a case to find victims of a serial rapist and killer who was targeting illegal immigrants. Suddenly, this small, quiet town is filled with vampires, demons, and hunters. Brady is not quite Brady anymore and Paige doesn’t know who to trust. When she runs into an ex-military hunter named Jim, she learns a little about vampires/demons, but Jim has his own agenda. He also drives a blue sedan, just like the one seen at several of the rape/murders and outside Brady’s apartment the night he got kidnapped.

In the end, Paige doesn’t trust what all the various men are telling her, she trusts herself. She trusts her own interactions with people and her own judgement about them. As the trauma of the events and the emotion spills over, Paige is more emotionally vulnerable and susceptible to Brady’s seduction. I love the horror elements in this and it wins hands down for the creepiest post-coital scene ever. I am also completely freaked out that the sex scenes are hot…with a possibly dead guy (Buffy and Angel aside). Also, the way to distract the demons is hilarious. There is actually a lot of action, described well. The author creates great tension in many scenes. I like that we struggle to figure everything out as they do. There are layers to their communities, not just the demons, but the demon hunters. There are different types of demons and vampires mentioned (pijavica, vrykolakas, jiangshi, blajiji, strigoi, vârcolac) so feel free to fall down the internet rabbit hole. Actually, one little criticism is these words seem used interchangeably sometimes and they shouldn’t be. Brady is quite clear he is a demon.

The plot twists near the end are great. I didn’t see them coming, yet I didn’t feel sideswiped or tricked. They seemed like natural progressions to the book and the only way out of the situations that had no other good way to end. I would have liked a little more information in the end about the demon Gavril, and where this might go. It did seem a strangely abrupt ending, but I would have no hesitation recommending this for a fun cross genre read.

I would rate this 4 stars.

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