A Chaos Moondrawn Review : Fated Hearts (Shadow Bound #1) by Garrett Leigh — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 There is a free short story prequel to this book, but you don’t need to read it to enjoy this story. Alpha Varian of the Northern Pack is allied with the Shadow Clan against the allied packs of the South. I don’t really understand how this alliance works; it […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review : Fated Hearts (Shadow Bound #1) by Garrett Leigh — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Dead Man Stalking (Blood and Bone #1) by T.A. Moore — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5 This story features Agent Luke Bennett, aka Took, a member of the BITERs unit of the Anakim (vampire) police known as VINE. The reader is thrown into the action two years after Luke was Taken and turned. He’s been in therapy and is acting as a P.I. His case […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Dead Man Stalking (Blood and Bone #1) by T.A. Moore — 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: 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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Review: Hiding In Plain Sight By Bru Baker, Camp H.O.W.L 3

hiding-in-plain-sight
Cover Art by Aaron Anderson

This is the third and final book in the Camp H.O.W.L. series. Harris, who is a certified psychologist, has been working at the camp for a while now, yet we still don’t know much about him. Harris figured out Jackson was his mate two years ago. Since Jackson had always made it clear he wasn’t interested in settling down, when Harris realized he’d bonded with him, he kept it quiet. After being friends for over a decade, Jackson finally starts to feel the need to nest as he realizes Harris could be his mate. This is epically bad timing as he is within reach of the job he has worked towards all his life, and it will require him to relinquish all pack ties and bonds.

All the angst comes from Jackson not wanting a mate, he’s been so focused on his career, none of his relationships have been serious except for the one with his best friend Harris…whom he hasn’t even told about his interview. They are both keeping secrets at this point. But whereas Harris comes off as trying to do what is best for his mate, Jackson comes off as very self-centered and oblivious. Everyone knows Harris is in love with him, but him. His brother Drew finally drops that bombshell in his ear. Jackson is still so busy fighting his own attraction, trying to keep his plan on track, he is hurting Harris. When he finally does admit defeat and acts on the attraction, he still can’t admit they are mates and puts Harris in a terrible situation.

I guess since everyone’s been paired off except Jordan, we need a new direction, so enter the Fae Council. With no mention I recall from the previous books at all, there are suddenly naiad, selkies, dryads, and other shifters. So I admit to being annoyed that they seem thrown in, so the author has options for other books in the future, rather than being preplanned and integrated into the trilogy.

Since Jackson is so busy with three different jobs and lives two hours away from Camp H.O.W.L., there needs to be a reason to have him there. Enter a high profile wolfling who is a famous actress about to go through her Turn. They will need to keep out the press, so the camp gets a security upgrade. We do get some fun details about patrols, but not quite as fun as the scent game from book two. I always enjoy the scenes from the camp classes, though. As you would expect, the main action comes from a security breach as a paparazzo tries to take a picture of camper Candice Bachman a.k.a. actress Kandie Bates. Suddenly the FBI is involved and the plot becomes OTT (over the top).

The Connoll Pack in New York, has been mentioned since book one, yet we know nothing about them. I couldn’t help but wish there was information about them woven into the plot because it would have made the ending so much more impactful. The reason becomes clear after the epilogue, when the author talks about her new series based on this pack. That is why all of the sudden Selkies and most other shifters have a treaty with the Tribunal and representation on the Tribunal court, which is in New York.

While I enjoyed this series, it seemed planned on the fly with things thrown in as they were needed. The resolutions to all of the issues are quick and pat. I would recommend this when you are in the mood for an easy HEA read with some steamy action. Although this is part of a series, I don’t think you would miss much if you read them out of order for some reason.

The author is donating a portion of the royalties from the Camp H.O.W.L. series to the National Parks Conservation Association.

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

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Review: Under A Blue Moon By Bru Baker, Camp H.O.W.L 2

Under A Blue Moon Cover
Cover artwork by Aaron Anderson

 

With Tate having left Camp H.O.W.L. in book one, there is a job opening for a new counselor and Nick Parry applies. Drew Welch is the new human camp doctor. They actually meet on the same flight to Indianapolis and don’t realize they will be work colleagues, allowing for them to be themselves and have hot, off page, sexy times. Don’t worry, we are there in the morning when they wake up. Whew!

The first book didn’t really set up a couple for the next book, so all of the sudden Drew is friends with Adrian and everyone else, having visited the camp often. Er, ok. The camp also seems much larger, with expanded services, which makes sense if it is going to be a series. As you can imagine when Nick realizes Drew is his new colleague, he doesn’t handle it well. Besides the fact Nick doesn’t date humans, he doesn’t want to be seen as unprofessional. Drew is a human member of the pack his mother marries into; he was raised in the pack and dated and hooked up with weres before, so Nick’s objections seem strange. I had to wonder how much time he had previously spent with humans on a daily basis before this camp; I mean he has a degree from a University, he’s been out in the world. It seems most of the book is Drew having to prove to Nick how capable he is while Drew is becoming more attached to him and I just wasn’t sure why.

I don’t look for things to criticize, but when there are things that are contradictory it’s difficult not to notice. Why did they call 911 when a camper gets injured? They are a wealthy, state of the art camp with a qualified doctor. They don’t want humans on the property. They don’t want a wolfling going through the change in a human hospital, where he might shift or they might draw blood, which would show abnormalities. The local hospital is rural and not very well equipped. This plot point seemed odd to me. Then later, after we already know there are safety inspections of the camp and that there had been work crews out to fix tornado damage, they are hidden and have no address, just a fake house they get mail at.

I did like the way the camp employees were shown to be a pack and supportive of each other like family. We got to see more of the camp classes and see the staff interaction in this book. I liked that the counselors are required to have counseling themselves. There is a great scene with a camp activity to train weres that really shows how Drew’s pack integrated him into the pack with games and fun. Drew is very likable, but it took me longer with Nick. We are told he is adorable but, for me, the more I got to know him, the more annoying I found him. They have a stupid competition between them after they make a bet which was entertaining and I think it was supposed to endear us to him, but it isn’t until something tragic happens that Nick stops being a dick–right about the time Jordan, Drew’s ex pops back up. I am a little worried about this character as he is written as sarcastic, which could go either way–funny or annoying. Then, there is make-up sex. Yay!

We are set up with a couple for book three, which should be about Harris. We’ve gotten to met Drew’s brother Jackson, along with his parents and see a bit more of Pack culture in the St. Lewis pack. Drew also has a medical practice in a nearby town, so we are getting to know people in the surrounding area. There are a few places for the author to go for book three.

I would rate this 3.25 stars.

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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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Review: Bad Moon Rising by C.L. Mustafic

BadMoonArising-f500
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

This is book one in a series called Outcasts. With the title, Clay sitting in the gay friendly Blue Moon Bar, and arranging a Grindr hook-up with MoonGazer, we are clued in this will be about shifters. Enter Damian, his hookup, and a short drive into the woods where they do they deed in that awkward way that strangers do, which was written in such a way to be found entertaining. The sense of humor is one of the best things about the book. I also like enemies to lovers, and I liked the switch of lovers to enemies. Clay is pretty mad about being made a werewolf, even if it is his own fault–especially because it is his own fault. After we get past their hook-up personas, both characters are actually likable, even when mad or grumpy, and well matched, even when things do not go smoothly. Clay has shut himself off from people after the death of his parents while Damian has shut himself off from people after a toxic relationship. Neither man actually wants a relationship, so them accidentally bonding is not actually a positive experience. People are not always pleasant when they feel cornered or frightened.

We get to meet a few other characters like, Willard and Pete, a human and werewolf bonded mate pair. I am still a little confused about the difference between fated mates and bonded pairs. Still, this story really focuses on our MC’s and not side characters. The badie here is Damian’s ex, Blaine, but he is a bit of a cartoon villian and not fleshed out. Then, there is the werewolf council for this town; there are some politics here with good and bad werewolves, just like people.

I really liked the idea of werewolves having to grow into their wolf. With born weres that would happen at the same time, but with made weres, those adult humans still have a pup that needs to grow and learn. This is a great way to build a sense of community so it’s a shame that fails them in this book. But, that sets up the conflict and change for the next book. I think fans of Eli Easton’s Howl At The Moon series might like these if they let go of the idea of the happy ending being in one book and each book being about a different couple. I think we will see the relationship evolve over many books. There is still a lot of anger and bitterness here, even with some humor, so it will take time to adjust and work things out. I would call this a HFN.

I would rate this 3 stars.

Tags: enemies to lovers, humor, mates, shifters, werewolves, gay, mm, paranomal romance, cis gender, explicit

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