2017 – Part 1

My Yearbook of Awesome Books has come around again. I hope you find some favourites or some potential next reads.

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Frostbite by Alexandria Bellefleur

After his sister touches a lethal Frost Flower and succumbs to Frozen Sickness, Rainor seeks out the mysterious Dragon, who purportedly holds the only cure for the fatal disease. In gratitude for saving his sister’s life, Rainor agrees to bring him fresh bread twice a week—despite the man’s insistence he wants for nothing.

As Rainor makes his deliveries, the two slowly become friends, and Rainor finds in the Dragon all the things he never found in his little village. But on his way to make his latest delivery, the unthinkable happens, and Rainor fears that if he asks for the cure he needs to live, he’ll lose the man he’s coming to love…

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Review:

Captivating. That’s the only word I can think of to describe what I just read. Captivating and beautiful.

From the characterisation to the evocative storytelling, there wasn’t one thing I didn’t love. This is a true fairytale, from the setting, language and execution, to the plot and characterisation. Rainor was this sweet, smart kid who is optimistic, brave and hopeful in ways that others aren’t; he’s aware enough to see what others miss and looks beyond the surface, even beyond his own fear. Drachen is his opposite; a pessimist from experience, afraid to leave his comfort zone and trying to do what is right while being considered a monster, he is the recluse who was chased away by a society who didn’t understand him. Together, this pair are amazing. A beautiful, perfect couple who share their secrets and experience a true romance, with some heat, that I could happily read again and again.

I’ll happily read this again in the future and I’ll be eagerly keeping an eye out for more stories by Bellefleur.

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The Palisade (Lavender Shores #1) by Rosalind Abel

Confident businessman Joel Rhodes sees the small California town of Lavender Shores as nothing more than a business opportunity and a final stepping stone to the position he’s been working toward his entire life. It was supposed to be just one night in town to close the deal, and sleeping with one of the local men, no matter how gorgeous, meant nothing more than a few hours of fun.
Andrew Kelly is perfectly content with the life he has in his hometown. So much so that the only thing missing is someone to share it with. Going to bed with a tourist was never meant to be the answer to his dreams, just a beautiful distraction. He could get back to looking for Mr. Right the next day.
Both Andrew’s and Joel’s worlds are turned upside down when a few hours of pleasure get extended to a couple of days. Even that shouldn’t have been a big deal. You can’t fall in love in that amount of time. That isn’t how it works. However, if destinies collide, a few short days may be all it takes to find your soul mate. Even so, when secrets and motivations get tangled, fate may do nothing more than leave two hearts in pieces.

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Review:

Rosalind Abel owes me a box of tissues. I swear, I felt like I cried from beginning to end and I’m still teary eyed now, straight after finishing it.

I was dragged, hook, line and sinker into the story from the first line right until the last and I had no chance of escape. I just love the way that the whole town of Lavender Shores is LGBT orientated. Not just friendly, but completely rooted in being there for any and all LGBT people who need it, as are their long standing, straight-as-an-arrow and not-so-straight residents. As for the cast? I fell in love. With Lavender Shores, with the people there, with the two MC’s and everyone we met! Seth was a riot! He was one of the craziest characters, beside Robert, and when Joel’s jaw fell open, so did mine.

There were a whole host of other brilliant characters, but these were the ones I loved best.

But what I really loved was that Andrew and Joel – and the other characters – were real. They were real people who cried, who hurt, who fell, who struggled. I could prattle on and on about the chemistry between the characters, the brilliantly orchestrated plot and how, even though I knew the final fall had to happen, I was still shocked, crying and gutted when it did. I could tell you that I was surprised, that I fell in love, that I grieved, that I broke and it wouldn’t make a difference. Not until you read it yourself. Because, quite honestly, I spent 50% of this book smiling so much it made my face hurt, while I spent the other 50% crying. This is a kick-your-feet, blush-while-giggling, I-promise-to-ship-Andrew-and-Joel-until-the-day-I-die kind of read. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll be all the better for it, because this is one story – one couple and one series – you don’t want to miss.

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Wehr Wolff Castle (Wehr Wolff Chronicles #1) by B. Bentley Summers

During the rise of Nazi Germany, Hagen Messer joins the Royal Air Force as an American soldier who specializes in tracking. He’s attached to British commandos and given a seemingly simple mission—to find a captive and destroy a dam—but everything goes awry. Hagen’s plane crashes into Germany’s Wehr Forest and he has to use his extrasensory abilities to track the captive to nearby Wehr Wolff Castle, a secret Nazi base where vile experiments are being conducted.

Hagen and his surviving team members must sneak into the castle and devise a way to destroy the experimental labs creating diabolical creatures. Hagen is horrified to find Nazis and scientists with no scruples, and at the most inconvenient time, he learns that he may be in love with one of his teammates, an Irishman named Liam. In order to protect his love and his friends, Hagen must feign nonchalance amidst pure degeneracy and suspicion. Hagen soon discovers, though, that he is in over his head.

What may not only redeem him, but also save his lover and friends, is a childhood past and a darkness lurking deep inside him, just waiting to be engaged.

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Review:

Wow! This was incredible!

Now, let’s get the warnings out of the way. The book comes with the following warnings: this book contains scenes of graphic violence. Well, yup it does. It’s a Horror/Thriller. This is all part and parcel of the military theme and the Nazi regime of torturing prisoners. Having read a lot of horror/thriller stories, I can say that although some of the things made me feel uncomfortable, due to the realism and the knowledge that these tortures were used in real life, by the Nazis, there was nothing that really turned my stomach.

When it comes to the writing style, it’s perfect for me. There is a singular POV, but it’s always clear at the beginning of every chapter who the POV is for, without having to wait for half a page or more for confirmation. For me, reading this was like watching an old classic war movie, with a supernatural twist. Which, I know, never existed, but it should. This would make a fantastic movie! I had it all in my head, with the start showing us something exciting and intriguing, before the next chapter took us back to see how it had all started and what led up to it. I love that it kept that feel throughout the novel, adding a great pace and storytelling style that felt natural and comfortable. I definitely saw hints of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to it, with the feel and the Nazi aims concerning the occult, yet it was still highly original and brilliant.

I loved the characters. Hagen was the perfect character to have his POV, allowing us to see all the important events and how they affect him throughout the adventures these guys go through. I loved that he was a badass right from the start, didn’t really believe in himself and had a bit of a confidence complex. He only got better as the story went on. Liam was a little spitfire and I loved everything about him, from the quirky attitude to the teasing and the strength of character that meant he was able to drag Hagen through some impossible situations just because of their feelings for each other. Their chemistry was brilliant and I loved how they slowly progressed from friendship to a relationship. Everything about it was natural and logical; it wasn’t rushed or over emphasised at all.

There is a lot that I can’t talk about, plot wise, because of so much of it being important to the plot progression and final reveal. I don’t want to give any spoilers so there’s a lot I won’t be talking about. However, I do want to mention the completely genius creativity that this plot involves. Not only from concept to progression to execution, it was a perfect blend of careful planning and attention to detail that made the paranormal elements of werewolves feel completely natural within the Nazi era. It’s well known that Hitler was obsessed with the occult and that he and his people conducted heinous experiments on their prisoners, so it was more than just rational and logical to link these two together.

Unlike some books in the paranormal genre, I really loved that these characters got hurt. They went into impossible situations, including torture, and came out with serious injuries. They didn’t end up miraculously unscathed at any point, which was awesome. Because, sometimes, seeing the badass guy have to stumble through injuries and worry about his mortality is way more interesting than just waltzing through it without a worry. It was hard to read, at times, because I know a lot about the Holocaust and what people suffered there, so I knew some things were a little too real and were plucked from history itself, but that was part of the genius; rolling together fact and fiction until it blended into one believable story.

Overall, I could gush about this book all day and back again. But, I won’t. Just go read it. You won’t be sorry. Between the world building, the characterisation, the pace and uniqueness of the plot and the attention to detail, to the ending and that Epilogue…it was perfection. Everything I could have hoped for and wanted when I started reading it.

I can’t wait to read more!

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The Little Crow (Heart of Darkness #1) by Caitlin Ricci

Detective Jamison Landry’s job isn’t easy. He’s dealt with the worst criminals imaginable and believes in his work and the community he serves. But he’s never met someone quite like Mal before.

The mysterious man, rescued from a basement in which he was chained by cultists, keeps Jamison guessing. He both confuses and excites him, and Jamison isn’t sure how he feels about that. Plus, things turn from unusual to downright strange when people start insisting Mal isn’t quite human. And Jamison’s creepy dreams of crows and graveyards don’t make things any better for him.

Will Mal stay around long enough for Jamison to figure out his secrets, or will this stranger leave him aching for more?

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Review:

Wow! I loved this one. From the world building to the characterisation, there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about it. I was pulled right into the story from page one, when Jamison began any other raid by finding Mal as a prisoner, held hostage by a bunch of occultists. It was a great way to introduce us to both characters, and I loved the weirdness that Mal exhibited through Jamison’s POV. Though it was obvious that something else was going on, it was nice not to have it thrown in our faces right away. Jamison had a very no-nonsense attitude, always the dedicated cop, so it was nice to follow that for a while, before dipping into the more naughyy, malevolent attitude of Mal.

When it comes to the characters, I loved them all! Mal is naughty, feisty and sometimes so utterly adorable. Jamison is sweet and proper at first, then a little vengeful, unforgiving and stubborn later on (with good reason). Carter is naive, but innocent and lovely. Jamison’s mum is just amazing. I love her to pieces. I loved the chemistry between Mal and Jamison, the friendship between Carter and Jamison, the awkward friend-zone part of their friendship, and the way that Mal and Carter argued and had a nicely matched resistance towards each other. Most of all, I loved the bond that Mal had with Jamison’s mother. It was just beautiful and it was perfectly explored with the cookies incident.

I really liked that we spent an almost equal amount of time in Earth and Hell, getting to see Mal in both environments, while Jamison explored his reality as well as his dreams. It was a nice twist to the whole idea, actually seeing Mal in action, while also seeing that he wasn’t quite the top dog, despite what he’d want anyone to think.

The ending was really cute, but I really appreciated the little blurb and snippet of book 2 at the end, letting me know that my unanswered question of Carter’s shadow was going to be answered. I would have liked a confrontation about Jamison finding out the truth about all Mal had done for him, in terms of the dream and the cat-o-nine, but at the same time I kind of love that he learns to appreciate Mal despite that knowledge. Because I think Mal would always wonder if pity or gratitude was the real reason for his change of heart, instead of genuinely wanting it.

So, pretty much the perfect ending. I can’t wait to get stuck into book 2.

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Being(s) in Love (Being(s) in Love #1-5) by R. Cooper

In a world where magical creatures came out of the closet after the First World War, romance still pops up in unexpected places. Police detective and werewolf Ray Branigan will have to overcome his own prejudices to find a happy ending, in Some Kind of Magic. Dragon and historian Philbert Jones has a challenge to face in A Boy and His Dragon—convincing Arthur MacArthur that his worthy of being a dragon’s treasure. In A Beginner’s Guide to Wooing Your Mate, Zeki Janowitz, wizard, and Theo Greenleaf, werewolf, have a second chance at a relationship, if they can learn what love’s really about. Tim Dirus is on the run from his own kind, in Little Wolf, but werewolf and local sheriff Nathaniel Neri is determined to teach him that it’s not all about how alpha you are. And in The Firebird and Other Stories, R. Cooper takes us from the turn of the twentieth century to present day with stories that explore beings throughout history.

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Review:

The Being(s) in Love series is an awesome collection of contemporary, urban fantasy, paranormal stories all linked together through one universe. Involving creatures like werewolves, fairies and dragons, it’s a series that takes you through a whirlwind of emotions and possibilities.

The entire series is romance gold. From slow burn to flaming heat, there are stories of all sorts. There are a variety of Beings (wolves, fairies, dragons and magic users for the novels; a firebird, jaguar, fairy, troll, elf, imp and dragon in the last novel of shorts) that each get to tell the story of their people and show how they love. Some have destined mates, but not all, and it’s great to see how that differs from Being to Being.

I started this series thinking that Book 1, Some Kind of Magic, was my favourite story. I’m ending it with an absolute certainty that The Firebird and Other Stories has taken its place. I can’t help it. Kazimir stole my heart and that can’t be undone.

If they were all available in paperback (though that’s sadly not the case) I would absolutely be snapping up each and every novel until I had the whole set. For now, I’ll settle for keeping this on my Kindle as a yearly re-read must.

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The Hunt, by The Aeon Writers

(Mary MerrellS.A. StovallRyan WilsonLaura LeeTiffany O’HaroDoug Souza)

Aeon Writers brings you The Hunt, a collection of twelve stories starring the most primal struggle of all, the battle between hunter and hunted. From prowling shadows to travelers among the stars, from realms unknown to the supernatural of the everyday world, a primal battle rages through eternity. Fangs, wits, spells, and circuitry are its weapons. The warriors range from gun-blazing bounty hunters to mundanes with fierce spirits and heroic hearts. Join the hunt if you dare…

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Review:

The stories in this anthology follow the age-old concepts of Hunter and Hunted. But, not always in the way you think. Full of surprises, lessons and some stunning world building, this anthology challenges those concepts of what makes a Hunter and what makes someone the Hunted, just as much as it offers the classic interpretations.
Each story is a gem and I’ll definitely be reading more from these authors in the future.

OVERALL

This was a great collection of stories by some very talented authors. I got really excited about some stories, sitting on the edge of my seat to see how they’d pan out, while others had me quietly wondering what was going to happen next.

In the end, I enjoyed the Hunter stories more than the Hunted, though I can’t really quantify why. I think it might be a simple matter of connecting with those stories and the characters more. Regardless, it was a great anthology that will keep you on your toes and offer some exciting stories that I hope will become the inspiration for novels, in the future.

Favourites? I know I’m not supposed to choose any, but I can’t help myself. I LOVED:
I Am Invincible, by R. Garrett Wilson
Weight of the Matter, and Easy Pickings, by Doug C. Souza
The Silence That Screams, and Death Herald, by L.L. Nutt
and, finally, Weakness, by S.A. Stovall

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