Book Review | Truth or Dare by Ariana Nash

America. The land of the free. Unless you’re a latent.

Kage is missing. Alexander Kempthorne would prefer he stay that way. Life at the new-look Kempthorne & Co agency is difficult enough without adding a missing American to the mix. But John “Dom” Domenici won’t abandon someone who was once their friend, even if Kage is “technically” an enemy.

But as the team investigate Kage’s disappearance, a traumatic, hidden past comes to light. And a missing person case soon turns into a fight for survival for Dom and Kempthorne, in a land not-so-free.

***

Breathless action, suspenseful mystery, and steamy romance combine in the fast-paced gay adventure series from the author acclaimed for their enemies-to-lovers, epic twists, and morally conflicted characters.

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How was it?

A missing ex-lover, a dangerous country for latents, and two lovers smack in the middle of it. That’s how the Shadows of London fourth entry starts and it’s quite the ride.

When Kempthorne became a bigger focus in Trial by Fire it came as breath of fresh air, because Dom’s poor decision making skills was starting to be grating. Here it rears it’s ugly head again to the point where I was tempted to skip paragraphs and chapters whenever Dom acted like an idiot. Even the will they? Won’t they things was back.

But fear not, this entry gets increasingly better and captivating. Taking place in the united states seem to give the story a new edge, well a different edge. Alex and Dom are challenged in new and interesting ways. We learn a lot about Kage – some of which surprised me -, we also get to see Alexander and John as a couple. It’s a lot of unsaid, which can be frustrating, but then it gets amazing between them. The fact that it happens in book four is a tad annoying but I loved it so who cares.

Out of all the previous books, this entry is the one I had the most trouble putting down, the action is gripping and nicely paced. I love how the characters are evolving, even though some aspects about their personality still annoys me. It’s a great read, I might dive back in before the audio version is out.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Truth or Dare is available on Amazon (Kindle, and Paperback).

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I received an advanced copy of this book and this is my fair and unbiased review.

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Book Review | A Kiss to Revive Me by Michele Notaro

A prickly mage has me under his spell, and I think I kinda like it.

The first time I met him, I knew I was in trouble, but I hadn’t known just how much. I hadn’t been looking for a relationship, hadn’t wanted one, but it seems that a stubborn little mage did it for me because he’s impossible to resist.

When the NHSO goes on a manhunt for an unregistered mage, I can tell it’s upsetting for Mads and Jude. It’s upsetting for me, too, but even more so when I find out exactly why Mads is so worried about this kid. The more I find out about Madeo’s past and his world, the more I realize how special he is. No one who’s gone through what he has should come out the other side sane, let alone as kindhearted as him. I just hope he wants this thing between us to continue as badly as I do. And I want it to. Bad.

A Kiss To Revive Me is a 30K word MM urban fantasy novella and meant to be read AFTER The Scars That Bind Us (The Magi Accounts 1).

*Intended for adults only. Please read the trigger warnings at the beginning of this novella.

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How was it? Taking place between book one and two of The Magi Accounts, A kiss to Revive Me is a novella from Cosmo’s perspective, the Alpha pride shifter that Madeo falls for.

In fact while reading The Scars That Bind Us I did feel that Cosmo wasn’t as fleshed out as the Magi, meaning Madeo, Jude, and even Logan but it completely made sense given the rich and dark history regarding the Magi. Having Cosmo’s point of view adds to his character but also gives us a broader understanding of this world. Since Shifters, Magi, and Humans have been segregated it’s interesting to see how his perspective of their world is evolving by being around Mads. They’re learning about each as much as we are learning about them, and this story teases some potential changes in Cosmo’s future that I can’t wait to see happen.

This novella may start by retelling Cosmo’s pride arrival at the NHSO through the alpha’s eyes but it quickly its own thing, with an emotional case that affects all the parties involves, making it a great end-credit scene for book one and a good teaser for what’s to come in The Shackles That Hold Us (The Magi Accounts 2).

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A Kiss to Revive Me is available on Amazon and other book retailers near you.

This story continues in The Shackles That Hold Us (The Magi Accounts 2). Pre-order now!

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Book Review | Trial by Fire by Ariana Nash

The third book in the thrilling Shadows of London series.

It’s not just Kempthorne’s secrets bubbling to the surface of London’s streets …

Outmanoeuvred at every turn by the figure known as “M”, only Alexander Kempthorne can free Dom, but juggling the horrors of his own past, containing a rising preternatural threat and the twisted machinations of “M” might just be too much, even for Kempthorne. Can Kage Mitchell be trusted to help?

Alexander Kempthorne lost an agent before. He’ll not lose another. He’ll do anything to save Dom, and if that means revealing who and what he truly is, then his time has come.

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How was it?

Twists and roller-coasters of emotions can be fun but when most of the decision making habits of the main characters you follow, doesn’t make sense to you, it’s a bit of chore. In a Tide of Tricks Kempthorne grew on me, so it was great that for almost a quarter of Trial by Fire we see life outside Wordsworth, subsequently spending more time with him, which was pretty amazing. And you know what? I did not miss Dom.

With M’s identity revealed I really thought this was going to be an engaging action-driven part of the story. Instead it was a lot – at least too much for me – going back and forth to places for dubious reasons. It almost felt like filler. Sometimes, I even felt the story edits as the flow wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be.

So reading it wasn’t the smooth and exciting ride I wanted it to be but there was enough to keep me going. The sexual tension between Dom and Kempthorne is top notch here. In previous entries, I didn’t understand the attraction between the two and didn’t see it has necessary, whereas here it was entertaining and juicy.

Despite the twists, emotion filled reveals, and gut punches I was tempted to skim this one too many times. It didn’t totally grip me, except when it comes to the evolution of Kempthorne, and his relationship with Dom.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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Book Review | Paper and Blood by Kevin Hearne

Kevin Hearne returns to the world of the Iron Druid Chronicles in book two of a spin-off series about an eccentric master of rare magic solving an uncanny mystery in Scotland.

There’s only one Al MacBharrais: Though other Scotsmen may have dramatic mustaches and a taste for fancy cocktails, Al also has a unique talent. He’s a master of ink and sigil magic. In his gifted hands, paper and pen can work wondrous spells.

But Al isn’t quite alone: He is part of a global network of sigil agents who use their powers to protect the world from mischievous gods and strange monsters. So when a fellow agent disappears under sinister circumstances in Australia, Al leaves behind the cozy pubs and cafes of Glasgow and travels to the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria to solve the mystery.

The trail to his colleague begins to pile up with bodies at alarming speed, so Al is grateful his friends have come to help—especially Nadia, his accountant who moonlights as a pit fighter. Together with a whisky-loving hobgoblin known as Buck Foi and the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, along with his dogs, Oberon and Starbuck, Al and Nadia will face down the wildest wonders Australia—and the supernatural world—can throw at them, and confront a legendary monster not seen in centuries.

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How was it?

It seems like the banter is the main driving force of this story; it works at times, there’s even a few memorable quotes and pearls of wisdom in there but that’s about it. The adventure we go on this time around seemed mysterious and exciting but kind of fell flat in the end. If it weren’t for the innuendos behind some of these jokes, I’d swear this was a so-so middle grade book.

As much as I love re-entering the world of the Iron Druid Chronicles, I don’t remember it being so…underwhelming is not the right word, I guess I’m whelmed. It almost makes me doubt my fond memories of the main series. It’s the same lavish, mystical world building with Al MacBharrais having his own interesting way of using magic – through ink sigils on paper – and yet I’m hardly captivated or excited by what I’m reading. I wasn’t bored at least the book has that going for it but I’m frustrated because the way the inks and sigils work are great, the little backstories on how they’re made is interesting, and Al’s group of friends/employees are awesome – Nadia in particular. There’s also a strong supporting appearances of three, well four characters from the Iron Druid and it didn’t help as much as I thought it would. I still feel like these characters’ potential is not fully realized but I still have hope.

I may have preordered this book before reading Ink & Sigil but I’d still give a shot to the following book in the series, in hopes that the first two were intro and filler episode before a grand finale or a thrilling new entry.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Paper & Blood is available on The Book Depository, Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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Book Review | The Scars That Bind Us by Michele Notaro

The Magi Accounts 1 – The Scars That Binds Us by Michele Notaro

Sometimes the worst scars are the ones you can’t see.

World War III broke out 130 years ago when humans found out that my people—magi—and shifters were real. They’ve been imprisoning and enslaving our two species since. But now humans need our help protecting the world from the strange monsters they let cross the veil between realms. 

Eighteen years ago, my world changed. Suddenly I was allowed freedoms I’d never had before, but I was still at the Non-Human Specialties Operations’ beck and call. Which is how I found myself on a team with my best friend, five shifters, and a human.

Now, I have to figure out a way to work with others—with shifters. I’ve never been one to trust easily, and I don’t see that changing, but this shifter pride has a way of getting past my walls. Unfortunately, all that means is now I have even more people I need to protect against the evils of this world, and I really don’t know how I’m gonna do it.

All three species have been at odds for more than a century, but maybe Cosmo—a lion shifter—and I can put aside our differences to work together and keep everyone safe. And if I’m secretly crushing on the guy, well, I think I’ll keep that to myself.

The Scars That Bind Us is a 115K word novel and the first book in the MM urban fantasy series, The Magi Accounts

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How was it?

The first entry of The Magi Accounts is both heavy and sweet. The history that introduces this world of Magi and shifters is brief but the effect of that gruesome past is very much felt throughout the book. So the weight of that 130 years history permeates the book, meaning speciesism – to use a word from the book – established discriminations of all sorts, and microaggressions. On top of that there are – brief – mentions of past abuse, and yet it never takes away anything away from the core story. It doesn’t overtake it, it just grounds the story in a chilling realistic way. Because humans can be trash – it’s just my opinion.

I very much like the pace of the story, it’s well-balanced. A lot of it establishes the world, its magic and paranormal and interdimensional species. It also has an interesting dynamic when it comes to the main characters, because the bonded friends, Madeo and Jude, take as much space in the overall story – if not more – than Madeo’s romantic pairing. I loved that. It show a deep, non-sexual friendship between two queer men. Some might call it fantasy but they do exist, and if Jude hadn’t been giving his dues he totally would’ve seem like Madeo’s servent.
While establishing Mad and Jude’s relationship Notaro manages to build a new one between these two with Logan creating a small family unit for them. On the other side of that the close-knit relationship between Cosmo and the members of his shifter pride is very much felt if not as heavily detailed. So when both families start to merge it’s very endearing, in particular taking into account the Magi’s past.

Romance-wise the relationship between Cosmo and Madeo is only at its beginning, a good one with a solidifying base as we go along. Because the story is told through Madeo’s perspective, Cosmo doesn’t seem to have as much depth but again it’s the beginning of their relationships and this book is the start of a series.

In terms of the class system systems between races, with Magi on the lowest rung, it’s good to see the wrong assumptions shifters and Magi have of each other’s lives. I also love how well the microaggressions were depicted but it would have been better if they weren’t always pointed out. Speaking from personal experience, when you’re the target of microaggressions they don’t all always get a response (internal or otherwise), because sadly you get used to them. It would have been more interesting to see how many people would have picked on them if they weren’t made obvious by Madeo’s emotional responses.

I got so reluctant to finish this book toward the end, it was crazy. I sat on that last chapter and epilogue for way too long. This book is immersive, and I’m excited for the future because I suspected more even exciting things are coming.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Scars That Binds Us will be available on Amazon and other book retailers near you.

My ARC copy of the book was provided by GRR for a fair, unbiased review.

The Magi Account book 1 was released on February 22, 2022.

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Book Review: Fluke and the Faithless Father | Sam Burns

After escaping a murderer and resurrecting his boyfriend, Sage figures he deserves a little time to recover.

Unfortunately, life is rarely fair.

So instead of a break, he gets to deal with a magical law enforcement rookie asking uncomfortable questions about his brush with death. The quaesitor is acting downright suspicious. Or is it suspiciously?

Things go from awkward to dangerous when the man who murdered Sage’s mother is released from prison, and soon after there’s a break-in at the bookstore. The situation escalates so fast that Sage is afraid he’s going to end up with whiplash. Or worse, end up dead. He wanted a break, but not a permanent one.

Fluke and the Faithless Father is a direct sequel to The Fantastic Fluke, and should not be read first. It is an ~85k word novel that follows the continuing adventures of Sage, Fluke, Gideon, and their whole family, found and otherwise.

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How was it?

Going back into The Fantastic Fluke‘s world for this second entry, I had forgotten how Sage could be so hard on himself, which is probably why I didn’t rush to this book even though I enjoyed the first.

The story picks right after the events of book one – so if you read both back to back you’re set – so Sage survived an attack from low-level mage killer, and one from a cultist he first taught came to his rescue. You’d rightly think, how unlucky one can get? Being in the crosshairs of two killers with very different agendas? That’s insane. Well turns out Sage never really had a lot of luck. In this entry we get a little more background on the people in his past, the first entry might have given us all the relevant information about it but the focus was on the effects Sage’s past has on him. Here the focused shifts a bit to the people, past and present, who shaped him. In The Fantastic Fluke I was annoyed with Sage belittling himself every chance he got, in this one I was more horrified by the people who raised him and glad to see that he’s developed a bit of backbone and stands up for himself more, even though he avoids and procrastinates a bit too much still – which is rich coming for me.

All I’m saying with this mini “rant” is that the main characters – well mostly Sage – are written in such a way that you can’t help but feel something. The characters have an emotional weight that resonates, whether you want to throw hands, cussed them out – because some of them need it – or hug them. Having Sage’s P.O.V. makes the story personal but his emotional damage means they are ramblings, yet didn’t bother as much as book one.

When it comes to his relationship with Gideon there’s not much happening but I didn’t miss it. I loved addition of Freddy even though I don’t trust him. I love a badass grandma so Iris is the best, also I can’t wait to see what will happen with Roger – and it better be good.  And finally another thing that I particularly enjoy is the commentaries on the Quaesitors, the magic enforcement.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Fantastic Fluke 2 is available on Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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