Master Of Restless Shadows by Ginn Hale, Book One

GinnHale Restless Cover
Cover Illustration by Zaya Feli Cover Design by Dawn Kimberling

I would rate this 4 stars.

I thought this was a standalone, but apparently it would have been helpful to read the Lord of White Hell and the Champion of the Scarlet Wolf duologies first. The world-building is amazingly detailed, yet I still feel like I might have had a rounder view of this universe if I read those first, as there are several characters from those books included in this one and they are written in linear time. Things about the court intrigues, neighboring countries, power struggles between church and state, all the differnet types of religious beliefs, and the use of magic obviously all have more background than I was privy to here. While the plot is always easy to follow, the explanations about the magic are not–until the second half. All of the sudden the magic is explained, the emotional connection I wanted kicks in, and the book really comes alive, which saved this story for me. I am left wondering if maybe I would have felt more emotionally attached from the beginning if I had read the other four books? The writing style for the first half is removed, like an observer focused on the main plot and moving about chess pieces. While there is clever dialogue and witty banter, the author never lets them succumb to passion or deeper emotions that the reader can actually sit with and let breathe. Then again, maybe that is because of the constant explanations of past events, but recaps are entirely necessary for this to work.

The story is told from four points of view: Narsi, Atreau, Ariz, and Fedeles. Narsi is a great character, a genuinely kind, clever, brave and warmhearted physician. Atreau the charming rake and novelist, but that deflects from what he is really doing as a spymaster. Ariz is the tragic tale, living under compulsion and being made to do things he doesn’t want to do. Fedeles as the Duke of Rauma is treading a fine line of facing his fears and past traumas to become the hero everyone needs. Although these main leads are all male, there are many strong females characters in this book and the cast is large and diverse. Clara and Oasia are the most intriguing, rich, intelligence, three dimensional female roles I’ve read in secondary characters in a long time. Everyone has various shades of grey as many are not whom they seem on the surface, even Narsi takes to subterfuge with ease. The characters are what bring this to life–why I even cared about all the plots and subplots. Honestly though, more than rooting for them individually, I was rooting for good to win over evil and for anyone to have even a dash of happiness. Just like real life, there is racism, sexism, homophobia, religious zeal, and xenophobia. In the end, it’s about averting a war. The corruption, greed, torture, assassinations, servitude…they are what you would expect from the rich and powerful. There is nothing fast about this book; it’s all slowly built brick by brick. That’s not to say that no action happens, but the pacing is slowed by the world-building–even though this all takes place in a week, it feels much longer. Suddenly everything happens at once and it’s over.

If you are wanting an m/m romance, this may not hold your interest. If you want a complex, painstakingly detailed, queer renaissance type high fantasy novel with a tangle of multiple plots and slow burn, fairly chaste romantic pairings, then you might like to try this book. This is also going to be a duology, so be aware this doesn’t end here. Right now I am frustrated on many levels. While I acknowledge the first half was neccessary, I didn’t love it and was getting bored. After the second half, I am completely sucked in and want to read the next book right now this minute. I am also sad that reading this might have ruined the four previous books for me, because I will know what happens as I believe this duology is the end of the series.

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A Chaos Moondrawn Review : Hitting Black Ice (Heart and Haven #1) by Heloise West — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 For the first nine chapters, the reader is in Hunter’s POV as he navigates his crush on Shawn, a colleague at the hospital he works at. He is beset by guilt over the death of his boyfriend. Hunter’s drinking and PTSD are a source of worry for his friends […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review : Hitting Black Ice (Heart and Haven #1) by Heloise West — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Craving’s Creek by Mel Bossa — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 The blurb to this book really captured my attention. The story, seen through Ryde’s point of view, takes place over 15 years and is broken down into three main parts. The first part shows Ryde’s intense attraction and focus on his neighbor Alastair. The reader gets to see the […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Craving’s Creek by Mel Bossa — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Shift by Joel Abernathy, Flesh And Bone 3

Shift cover

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

This is the third book in the series about werewolves, vampires, and hunters. These should be read in order for the overarching storyline. These books don’t have white hats, but shades of gray with graphic sex and violence. This is Andrei’s story of how he meets Mihail showing alternating POV. It makes sense, in this world, that they would end up thrown together–both know death and the hunt. This is a coming of age story in many ways and shows their gradual loss of innocence, breaking away from their family influences/duties and finding out who they are and what they can live with.

After all the nontraditional pairing in the first two books, I’m not sure why everyone expects Andrei to just fall in line with tradition, especially with his past. This has that Romeo and Juliet quality, except they actually have known each other for most of their lives. The plot is similar to the second one featuring Mason and Vasil, so the author had to throw us a curveball out of nowhere in regards to Andrei. That’s not quite fair, there was a little foreshadowing, but I feel like the actual plot didn’t need it on top of everything else. It just seems to be there for a certain type of sex to occur. This is trope city with friends to enemies to lovers, dirty little secret, alpha/omega, first time, and dubcon all present.

One of the emotional components I really liked about this story was something I understand: abuse, being feral, and then being vulnerable when you feel loved and unable to access that rage for protection anymore. There are so many psychological issues that ring true to human existence included to help ground the story a bit. That’s especially important when writing about characters who are not “good” or necessarily likeable.

In the beginning the story seems slow and clunky, but gets better as you see the threads of the plot weave in and tighten. The author is consistent and committed to this over the top, angsty style so it makes sense to just revel in it. Then it all ties back to books one and two, making it all inevitable. All the interesting world building from book one isn’t really used or visited again. It’s also a shame that we see all the characters from the first two books, but they have just walk-on parts with no sense of their personality. These books have been about finding home and someone who will love you, scars and scarred psyche and all, yet I didn’t really feel it. The way this book ends for Andrei and Mihail, the way the series ends, has a nice symmetry.

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Review: Chained by Kim Fielding, Bureau 4

Chained_Cover
Cover Art:  Reese Dante   http://www.reesedante.com

I would rate this 4 stars.

This is the fourth novella in a losely tied together series about The Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs. Usually these show the darker side of humanity. As with all of Kim Fielding’s work, she draws the reader in with damaged characters. They can be read in any order.

Edge and his brothers, Duke and Holt, were bought and trained to be security. Edge has the most difficult time as “the boss” tends to abuse him the most. Terry works for the Bureau’s West Coast HQ and goes undercover at the estate to investigate a Hollywood agent named Whitaker. They grow close while Terry is staying at Whitaker’s estate. As a dog shifter, Edge has never known any other life but to obey, yet he isn’t as good at it as he should be–he’s not broken. The details paint a heartbreaking picture. Terry’s background explains his empathy with Edge and their quick connection. Using Hollywood as the backdrop for a tale of greed, power, abuse, and temptation seems like a no brainer.

The connection between the two characters is well done. The story does get magically resolved so everything is neatly taken care of. It’s a little upsetting that Duke and Holt did nothing earlier to help their brother. While hope and a happy end is the point of a romance, it is wrapped up with no mention of recovering from the long term affects of abuse. Still, the happiness I felt for Edge in the end was worth it.

Proceeds from the sale of this series are donated to Doctors Without Borders.

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Review: Pendulum by Joel Abernathy, Kingdom of Night 1

Pendulum Cover
I would rate this 4.25 stars.

This is a trilogy and the first two books end with cliffhangers, so you have been warned. If you follow my reviews, you know I hate cliffhangers, but there is a definate story arc and these have already been written since this is a rerelease under a new pen name, so I decided to take the plunge. This series has dark themes and explicit content so pay attention to the trigger warnings and tags. (As an aside, there is nothing hardcore in this book in terms of BDSM, but I have used the author’s tags which may be for the whole trilogy.)

Remus is looking to start over in Washington after having left Texas, to get away from his rich controlling ex-boyfriend. He meets Arthur, who is a member of a high class BDSM club run by the Wolf Pack. There is a contest to be Alpha’s Pet that Remus enters without meaning to and quickly gets in over his head. The whole situation is odd and gets more odd by the minute. It’s also a lot of fun as both Remus and I tried to figure out what is happening. Remus meets the twins Sebastion and Victor, sparking angst and jealousy in Victor as Sebsatian has marked them as mates without telling Remus or giving him a choice.

Although Victor seems creepy at first, in many ways he would be a better match for Remus. The love between Sebastian and Remus is too soon and unbelievable. The sex scenes between them are lacking something. The author does a good job of seesawing between the three of them in a love trangle, but it would have been a great job with more time devoted to figuring out why Sebastian and Remus fall in love in the first place. Having more depth here would have really given an emotional oomph to what happens later in the story. The author is great at building the tension like a horror novel. Also the sexual tension between Victor and Remus is well done in places, but could have been better developed with more scenes. Here, the short looming deadline could be seen as working against the story, but a few more scenes with Victor as Master would have gone a long way. This may be a personal preference as some readers may like the fast pacing, which does add urgency. By the time the extent of Remus’s past is revealed, there is yet another impediment to them being together.

This brings us to the vampires. The origin myth for the wolves and vampires is completely awesome. It also helps develop the mythos of both cultures which we’ll see more of moving forward. I feel like there is a little hypocrisy about the way the wolves view the vampires in terms of death and violence although the wolves do seem…saner, mostly. The last part of the book is OTT (Over The Top). It is both horrifying and fun. No one is left untouched and the readers’ perception of each charcter will completely change by the end. I think I know what will happen–there is plenty of foreshadowing. For me to be happy about Remus ending up with Sebastian in any fashion, there will have to be some major character development. Having said that Remus has some problems of his own to fix. I had wondered why the author spent so much time on Remus’s professor and roommate, only to seemingly drop that portion of the story, but they popped up later when I least expected it and will definitely be more involved in the next books. My last little thing is that I didn’t actually like the switch in POV in the Epilogue, even though I acknowledge that it helps set up a dilemma for the next book. Without giving away too much, there is a good reason that Remus’s POV may not be desirable at this point in the story arc. It’s a good thing I only have to wait a few weeks to see what happens.

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A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Italian Weddings and Funerals (Italian Stallions #1) by A.J. Llewellyn — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5 Luca Dell’Oro is the owner of an event planning business in California. He takes a job in Italy to cater a funeral for an Italian opera singer. The client is a grieving widower, the man Luca loved in sixteenth-century Italy. Luca is a vampire, but how is Francesco still […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Italian Weddings and Funerals (Italian Stallions #1) by A.J. Llewellyn — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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

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 […]

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

Review: Camp H.O.W.L. By Bru Baker

Camp Howl Cover
Cover art by Aaron Anderson

Bru Baker Camp H.O.W.L.

Adrian Rothschild is tired of being reminded every year that he is still human instead of a werewolf, so he schedules a business trip out of town on his 27th birthday. His mother is the Pacific Northwest’s Alpha werewolf, head of the West Coast Werewolf Tribunal, and CEO of Rothschild Architects were he works. He is feeling increasingly isolated from his family and his pack.

Dr. Tate Lewis works for Camp H.O.W.L. to ease the Turn for young adult werewolves, usually on the full moon when they are 19. This is a month long camp for the elite in werewolf society, so they are a bit spoiled which could be dangerous when combined with increased strength and mood swings. The camps give them a safe space to learn to control their change so they don’t get discovered by humans. One of the things I liked about the camp was that it is set up as a neutral space so anyone can come and no Pack politics are allowed. I was also happy they have need based scholarships and grants.

There is a bond created with weres during the Turn, and it is usually not, but can be sexual so the weres being 19 keeps things from getting icky as they are all the same age. The temporary bonds help keep bloodlust at bay. Tate is pack-less due to past abuse, and using the camp as a pack to get through the full moons. He shies away from roots and relationships. This is a little quibble, but Tate is a board-certified clinical psychologist and is listed as Adrian’s doctor, which could get his license revoked if they engage in a personal relationship. This was a matter of record as Adrian’s mom called the hospital. While I am glad this issue was addressed ethically to make sure there was no doctor/patient relationship formed and Adrian consented, there would be real consequences for Tate’s career and his license being revoked and that was discarded.

This is a story of moonmates, so if you don’t like the idea of fated mates, then this may not be your book. Having said that, one of the main conflicts is about Tate’s reluctance to be a slave to biology, or be trapped by the bond, so even with the forced proximity, they don’t just bond instantly. They get to know each other over several months. Adrian is hopeful and patient as Tate is the one still scarred by his past and has to work through how to get over his fears. The author creates some sexual tension, embarrassing moments, and has one explicit sex scene near the end that seems natural and a normal progression of their relationship. This is not mpreg, and there seems to be no plan to have that included in this series. Also, there is not much animalistic behavior if that is your thing; this is more like humans who happen to change shape.

Here’s a quote to give you a feel: “He separated his whites and colors. He ate quinoa. He paid his taxes. He had an IRA. He didn’t relish the idea of not being in control of his body, even if it was just for the initial shift.” Believe me, between the painful descriptions of changing into a wolf, the humor was appreciated.

Ryan is one of the campers we get to see grow and develop as he has to stay longer due to control issues. Most issues with their shifting seem to be due to psychological issues. One of the fun things was the class Tate teaches during camp, but then we don’t get the rest of the time and it faded to two weeks later. I suppose this is the difference between a novella and a novel, still, I pouted a little.

There are a few other side characters such as Kenya, who is friends with Tate and acts as Adrian’s therapist, the Director Anne Marie, the doctor Diann, Quinn the meditation instructor, Harris who is also a clinical psychologist and trained volunter forest ranger, and Blake the yoga instructor. We get more of Kenya and Diann as mentors and meddling friends, but they are still just sketched out.

The epilogue takes place 6 months later and shows us what their happily ever after looks like. Overall, this was entertaining, cute, and I enjoyed it. It did have some interesting, original ideas about werewolfdom, and I would recommend it for a fun read. There are three books so far, so I am going to go read the second one.

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

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