Tag Archives: genre: paranormal

With Caution by J.L. Langley

With Caution

With Caution by J.L. Langley

Series: With or Without, Book 2
Published by: Samhain Publishing on November 20, 2007
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Remington Lassiter is still adjusting to his new upside-down world. Overnight, he went from not knowing werewolves existed and that his best friend was one to being one himself. At the same time, Remi finds himself trying to do all he can to protect his younger brother from their abusive father. But Remi also carries some deeply-rooted secrets that he doesn’t even realize are hidden in his past. They will need to be confronted before he can truly be free. And then there’s the attractive and mysterious private detective, Jake Romero, who keeps popping up to help Remi out whenever he needs it. And Jake has his own bombshell to drop on Remi when the time is right…

The character development in this one is pretty solid. Each of these guys is a distinct character with complex backstories that come to bear on who they are and what they do. It’s hard not to feel for Remi at so many points while reading, but I appreciate that he has moments where he can find his strength and try to move things forward at the same time. I also appreciate that the author didn’t rush the relationship here, knowing full well that Remi has other things to deal with on top of confronting the possibility of being in a relationship with a guy. An interesting read, though there are some unpleasant moments in the lives of these characters.

Content warning: discussions of child abuse and domestic violence, virulent homophobia

Hemovore by Jordan Castillo Price

Hemovore

Hemovore by Jordan Castillo Price

Published by: Samhain Publishing on July 28, 2009
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Mark Jensen would describe his boss, Jonathan Varga, in many ways. Mysterious would be a big one. And he’d also probably say sexy too, but it’s not something he could ever act on. Not only is Jonathan Mark’s boss, but he’s also V-positive–a vampire–and it can be passed on through sex. So they carry on a professional relationship with Jonathan often holed up painting in his studio while Mark runs his errands, keeps the office clean, and procures cat blood for his boss. But when a major sale comes through on several of Jonathan’s paintings, he decides they should have a night out. The night itself is innocent enough, but it ends with someone from Jonathan’s past resurfacing. And that someone appears to be anything but friendly, leaving death and destruction in his wake. So Mark finds himself on the run with Jonathan, not really sure where they can hide or where they can turn. They both know they can only run for so long, and they can only hope they will make it out alive…

The idea of vampirism as a virus is a rather interesting concept. It adds a whole layer to the vampire-human interaction piece that doesn’t exist in more traditional vampire narratives. It also draws parallels to it as more of a medical condition than a “you are now a demonic monster overnight” condition. But clearly that doesn’t mean there isn’t drama around being “turned” or people using the virus to threaten or intimidate other people. Some vampire drama here with a few very interesting twists.

Without Reservations by J.L. Langley

Without Reservations

Without Reservations by J.L. Langley

Series: With or Without, Book 1
Published by: Samhain Publishing on October 10, 2006
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Chayton Winston has been dreaming of a mate since he was five years old. And despite being part of an American Indian werewolf pack, in his dreams his mate always has blond hair and blue eyes. But his parents always told him he would find his mate in good time, so he forced himself to stop obsessing about it and just let it happen. So when an injured wolf is brought into his veterinary office and he experiences some strange feelings, he’s surprised. Of course, he’s also surprised because if those feelings mean his mate is near, it means his mate is male. He knows that won’t go over well with his mother, but he first needs to figure out how it goes over for himself.

Keaton Reynolds is a powerful wolf who wants nothing more than to leave any fighting in his past. He took a job as a professor in New Mexico, far from his family, to have a new start. So when we wakes up in a strange man’s vehicle after going for a run, he’s not sure what to think. And his thoughts are further clouded when he realizes this strange man is his mate. Not one to force himself on someone, he’s more than willing to walk away from Chay–especially since the man is straight. But the pull of a mate is strong. And Keaton may be in the crosshairs of someone far more dangerous than a mate…

I feel like shifter romances with the whole “unexpected mate” trope aren’t difficult to find. There seem to be several on the market. But the supporting cast and the world in which this takes place are different enough to make this unique. I do wish we got a chance to get to know the main characters a bit better. Once they’re thrown together, it’s all about how they interact and there isn’t much of them alone or with friends or family that might help provide a bit more insight into who they are. And Chay’s decision seems a bit fast for someone who was not expecting a mate like the one he got.

It’s still definitely worth a read, so I give it a recommendation.

In the Twist by L.A. Stockman

In the Twist

In the Twist by L.A. Stockman

Series: The Wild Hunt, Book 1
Published by: NineStar Press on August 22, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

David Shaughnessy hoped when he moved to California and became a police detective, he’d left dealing with truly dangerous creatures behind him. But after a series of murders, it’s clear he’s not dealing with a human killer. And when the mysterious Dallan Jaeger shows up, he learns it’s something new he’s never dealt with before. And David used to be a demon hunter.

Together, the two of them must work to stop the creatures that are killing children before they strike again. And according to Dallan, who is used to hunting these types of spirits, it will take everything they’ve got. He’s never seen anything like this before.

But then Dallan has never seen anything like David before, either. The attraction between them is fast and mutual. And it proves to be a lot for both of them to deal with–especially on top of this case. Which just adds to the tasks before them as they race against a ticking clock…

The overall idea here is great. The concept for the story is something I actually enjoyed. And the characters’ backgrounds provide a great setup to the whole thing.

But there are some issues for me here in the execution. For one, Dallan is referred to alternately as Jaeger and Dallan early on in the story. It isn’t until later that Dallan Jaeger is referred to as his full name. So for a brief period I was confused about whether there was a third person involved. Secondly, the relationship moves super fast with very little explanation as to why.

The imagination in creating and crafting the story is clear. So I give this a decent recommendation, though there were some parts that definitely made me scratch my head.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

Vespers by Irene Preston & Liv Rancourt

Vespers

Vespers by Irene Preston & Liv Rancourt

Series: Hours of the Night, Book 1
Published by: Prescourt Books on September 13, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Sarasija Mishra knows there’s reason to be concerned about his new job. But he’s not going to admit that to his mother. After being hired without so much as a real interview, Sara drives from Seattle to New Orleans to become the new assistant for the mysterious Thaddeus Dupont. Sara couldn’t even find anything about the man on the internet. But he’s been offered $80,000 a year for part-time work–and his family needs the money.

Of course when Sara arrives and it seems he wasn’t expected, things seem even stranger. And when his new boss sends him away, he resolves to fight–he has a contract after all. But the desire to fight takes on a new meaning when the pair are suddenly attacked in the night, sending them off on an adventure that both excites and terrifies Sara. Until Sara learns what his contract meant about providing his new boss with meals that cater to his special diet…

Thaddeus isn’t sure what to do with his new assistant. He’s specifically always had women assistants, and for good reason. He needs to feed to stay alive, and the act of feeding always ends up a bit more physical than one might think. And the White Monks, the Catholic order that is supporting Thaddeus, have given him a set of rules. Among them: he cannot engage in what they deem to be sinful relations. And they are the last line of defense for his soul.

But proximity and adrenaline seem to increase temptation. And eventually the two of them will need to make a decision about not just the contract, but what they really want out of life. Can Thaddeus provide the sense of meaning Sara’s been looking for in his life? And can it be Sara–not the White Monks–who holds the real power to save Thaddeus’s soul?

Well, my friends, all I have to say is this was an unexpected gem for me. I mean, I read the blurb and figured I would enjoy it. But I was pleasantly surprised at the sense of adventure that carried through the entire story. The pacing here is wonderful, consistent, and sustained. And that’s partly how I read this in a single day, finding it difficult to put it down.

There are some characters I didn’t care for, but I think that’s more just a function of who they are (ugh, the White Monks are not my friends). And Sara is a dynamic character who seems to find himself in a lot of ways during the story. Although the timeline of the book is relatively short, none of the character development seems overwrought or contrived.

Definitely give this one a recommendation. And I’m personally looking forward to the next book in the series.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

 

Cronin’s Key by N.R. Walker

Cronin's Key

Cronin’s Key by N.R. Walker

Series: Cronin’s Key, Book 1
Published by: N.R. Walker on March 13, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

NYPD detective Alec MacAidan is used to things being strange. There have been enough unexplained things that have happened during his life. But what happens one night when he’s chasing down a suspect is weird even for him. He comes across an injured bystander who rambles off some riddles, calls Alec by his real name (how could he know that), and then turns into dust. This is weird even for Alec.

And things get even weirder when his report at the station is interrupted by the appearance of a mysterious man. He literally just appears out of nowhere, grabs Alec, and together they disappear. And while Alec is confused, he can’t help thinking something about the whole situation feels right.

Alec has stumbled into a story that goes back millennia. And he’s right at the heart of it–he just might be the only person who can stop the biggest threat to humanity in centuries.

Yes, this is a vampire story. Yes, there have been so many of those lately. But yes, this one is unique. The backstory for vampire society that N.R. Walker has created is unlike one I’ve encountered anywhere else. There are some strong (and interesting) connections to history that show not only that this is well-researched but also that attention was paid to detailed world building.

The background characters are just as interesting as the main characters, which is something I always appreciate. Too many times I pick up a book that has a well-developed protagonist without much attention paid to the supporting cast. Here, we can see Alec and Cronin as strong characters out front, but the other characters are just as much an important part of the overall story.

This fast-paced and action-packed book is one that’s tough to put down. I found myself pushing to get just one more chapter read every time I picked it up. But anyone familiar with this author’s writing shouldn’t find that too surprising.

Softpaw by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

Softpaw

Softpaw by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

Series: Smilodon Pride, Book 1
Published by: Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus on July 14, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

A serial killer is targeting male prostitutes on the streets of Paris. And the grisly nature of the crimes earned the perp the moniker “Jacqueline the Ripper”. At a complete loss for leads, the police are set to send Michel in undercover. The hope is he will make connections easily, since he used to work the streets before he joined the force. And as much as he never wants to fall back into that life, he knows that they need to do everything they can to catch a killer.

Connor seems to have what he considers a dream life. He lives on a house boat and spends his time in the gay district surrounded by art, culture, and beautiful boys. He teaches youth about art by day and plays piano in a bar by night. And he takes the time to look out for the young men who are working the street–even offering them a place to stay when they need it. But his dream life is shattered by the fact that so many of his friends are dying–and the rest aren’t safe.

When Michel walks in the door, Connor’s dream feels like it might have repaired a bit. Although he doesn’t really want a relationship–especially with someone in Michel’s line of work–he finds him hard to resist. And when Michel takes up Connor on his offer for a place to stay, proximity brings temptation and desire. Connor doesn’t know Michel has ulterior motives: Connor is one of the chief suspects in the police investigation.

But Michel doesn’t know Connor’s secret: he seems connected to the murders because he is hunting the killer. Of course, Connor also has a much bigger secret. He’s a werecat–and that’s just the tip of the supernatural iceberg that might stand in the way of the two of them having an actual relationship. Of course, first they have to track down a killer who is much more difficult to kill than anyone could have imagined…

I very much enjoyed the juxtapositions that are present within this story. Michel worked to get away from his past but now he’s fallen right back into his old haunts. Connor is trying to catch the killer, but his connection makes him the prime suspect. Michel isn’t being completely honest with Connor; and, well, vice versa. The number of opposing issues and forces could make this an unwieldy story to tell. But in the hands of these storytellers, they’re used to effortlessly build a web that is engaging, interesting, and thrilling.

This is the first book in a series. And I’m absolutely looking forward to the next installment.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review.]

Love, Marriage, and a Baby Carriage by C.S. Poe

Love Marriage and a Baby Carriage

Love, Marriage, and a Baby Carriage by C.S. Poe

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on June 1, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Theodore Reinhart isn’t quite sure what he’s gotten himself into. At the urging of others, he’s ended up at WaddleCon, the perfect place for a penguin shifter to find a mate. But Theodore isn’t looking for the woman of his dreams, and the entire event is focused on male-female pairings.  He’s resigned to just get through the end of the weekend. But when a speed dating mishap puts him across a table from Wesley O’Neill, things change. Especially when Wesley makes it known he might be interested right back.

Theodore and Wesley end up spending some time together, and Theodore thinks he may have found what he’s looking for. But when he discovers an abandoned egg during their date, all hell breaks loose. Theodore and Wesley find themselves on the run, all the while doing everything they can to keep the egg safe. Will this bring them closer together? Or is this the kind of thing that will tear them apart?

Penguin shifters? Sign me up. I’m all for fun and unique shifters, and an action-packed, comedy of errors type story like this is an easy sell for me. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going in. And I was pleasantly surprised.

This is on the shorter side as it’s a part of Dreamspinner’s 2016 daily does series. But it’s well worth picking up and taking the time to read.

Drinker Class X by Sasha L. Miller

Drinker Class X

Drinker Class X by Sasha L. Miller

Published by: Less Than Three Press on October 30, 2013
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Laurence works in law enforcement, tracking vampires who’ve gone rogue by bucking the rules of drinking. But when he’s bitten on the job, everything changes. Now he’s a drinker. He needs to adjust to a whole new lifestyle. He also needs to learn self-control to follow the rules. It’s only if he can prove he can follow the rules that he can return to work.

To do this, Laurence must meet with a court-appointed psychiatrist. Dr. Ira Ashwood specializes in newly-turned drinkers. And while Laurence is not one for opening up about his feelings, he finds there’s something about Dr. Ashwood that feels comfortable. And then there’s the fact that the man is attractive. But everything becomes complicated when Laurence finds Dr. Ashwood has a connection to his social life. And even more so when a connection between the doctor and one of Laurence’s colleagues comes to light. In short, there’s far more to this psychologist than Laurence ever could have imagined.

This isn’t a too long of a story, and it’s interesting enough to keep readers engaged for that length. The character interactions and the mystery provide a few unexpected twists. But it also doesn’t take too much sleuthing to pinpoint the right suspect when things go south.

What is lacking here is a solid foundation for the world in which the story takes place. It comes together as the story progresses. But I do think readers will find they start at a bit of a loss. As I got closer to the end, things fell into place, but some readers might not be as comfortable with that approach. And it did make some pieces in the beginning a bit difficult to follow.

But it is an enjoyable read and it’s entertaining enough for sure.

Man and the Beast by J. Ashburn

Man and the Beast

Man and the Beast by J. Ashburn

Series: The Beast Within, Book 1
Published by: J. Ashburn on March 22, 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

When Alec Ashcroft begins having vivid dreams and blackouts, he’s afraid. Those dreams involve him attacking people–most notably his boyfriend. It’s not even that they’re just dreams. They manifest as desires. Unsure if he can control himself, Alec decides his only option is to run away. The pain of leaving people behind is less than having to live with the knowledge that he harmed them should it come to that.

Alec winds up in Redfern, a quiet little town that seems like the perfect place to disappear. He’s lucky enough to find a job and a place to stay without much effort. And his boss’s attempts to fix him up with the bartender at least reassure him that he may not have to hide being gay in his new home. But he’s still wary of relationships until he can get whatever his urges are under control. When the mysterious Luca shows up, Alec thinks he may have an answer. Luca is like him. And he lives with a group of guys who are the same. The two quickly fall into an intense and passionate relationship. But there’s a dark side to Luca that Alec isn’t sure he can live with. And he’s not sure he can fit the image Luca has of what they need to do with their “gift”. But when Alec doesn’t know where to turn, he’s surprised once again by the little town of Redfern and everything it has to offer.

This is a little different take on the shifter story than I’ve read before. There are some interesting layers to the mythology here that I really liked. And the character relationships are interesting. And Max–you have to just love Max. I didn’t really like the way Alec’s boyfriend at the beginning of the story was just sort of dropped, but I understand that’s part of how Alec gets to where he needs to be. It just would have been nice to see some closure there. Maybe it will come in one of the later books?

Definitely give this a recommend for a quick and fun read. It’s not deep or heavy–it’s almost more of an action book. There is some violence, so take note of that before you read.