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Beasts

 

Beasts by [Angelina Kanan]

Beasts by Angelina Kanan is a classic example of the paranormal werewolf genre. Selene Knight is an alpha struggling to find her place in the world after the tragic death of her sister. For years she has run away from her past, but she is unable to continue avoiding it when an increase in wendigo sightings forces her to pay a visit to her brother, which also means having to encounter her estranged father and the bitter memories of her childhood home. Add the stress of a burgeoning relationship with her elusive mate, and Selene has a lot on her plate.

Beasts contains elements that will please fans of werewolf romance, including a mysterious and sexy mate with a tragic past, and an abundance of conflict stemming from the politics within and between packs. While the story line is enthralling, I was left wanting more from the scenes meant to be exciting, tense, or romantic. While the old adage “show, don’t tell” could be used here to draw readers further into this imaginative world. Much of the narration is devoted to explaining the relationships between characters and how those characters feel, as well as how Selene herself feels.

The most compelling character is Selene; as a female alpha who leads a small pack and is plagued by a host of demons from her past, readers will root for Selene to succeed. Her mate also proves to be an interesting character, with the question of his identity being the first of many mysteries Selene unravels as she gets to know him. Also strong are the connections between Selene and her deceased sister, as well as her brother. These sibling relationships, filled with love and loss, are touching. The rest of the characters blend together. Brett is the “sassy male friend who loves clothes and makeup” stereotype, while the other members of Selene’s pack come to the foreground when they are important to the plot.

The strongest aspect of this book is the plot, which presents some interesting conflicts and surprising reveals. Many readers will likely enjoy the relationship between Selene and her handsome mate.

Pages: 212| ASIN: B088TFBHJL

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Those Who Watch From Afar

The journey that we take with Those Who Watch From Afar is both exciting and strenuous at the same time. Zack Hacker is an author who lets you experience what his characters are feeling in such a way that you almost feel as if you are right there with the character and that it is happening to you. When the story opens, we are drawn to an ethereal place of wonder as a teenager named Leah is brought to who appears to be a woman, but we find out that she is a race of beings known as the Mithryndor. She has brought Leah to her, and her magical friend known as Ridella, to tell her a remarkable story that might help her save planet Earth. The Earth is fragile and in danger, and Petra has vital information that could help Leah stop its destruction.

The world is full of magic, and different creatures inhabit the globe, but unfortunately, magic is not being used in the best way. It’s being hoarded and stolen, leaving people starving and destitute, and it appears that destiny has chosen Leah to be the one to attempt to save it. If she chooses the path. Through this story, we watch from Petra’s point of view as she tells Leah about her past, believing that it will help Leah decide for the future.

This was a fascinating book for me, and I had a mostly positive experience with it. The prose was elegant, but was flat in some places, almost as if the characters were younger than they were being portrayed. I did wonder why no one seemed to care what happened with certain characters and why others were so quick to forgive certain circumstances, but with a book with less than two hundred pages, I figured things might be a little bit rushed. The novel does a fantastic job of world-building, and you get a real sense of the different exotic places the characters travel to. And Tristram as a love interest was superbly executed. He was a capable and robust character, and I wish we had seen more of him in the book.

I also liked the book’s theme, which was not just about adventure, but equality, friendship, family, and true love. It warmed my heart how certain characters interacted with each other and how others turned out to be quite different than I initially thought. The sudden turn of character and the dynamic personalities they had were something that consistently drew me in. Those Who Watch From Afar while mostly adventurous and heartening it could still capture moments of the dark fantasy genre. This is an exceptional start to a series that promises to be intriguing and thrilling.

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Worldshaper

Worldshaper (Worldshapers Book 1) by [Edward Willett]

Worldshaper by Edward Willett is an exciting supernatural adventure story that builds on a unique premise to deliver a mesmerizing story. Set in a small town, the book delves into the life of Shawna, a seemingly normal woman whose perfect life takes a suddenly deadly turn. Her best friend is killed. But after experiencing this horrific event it’s erased from existence, including her friend. Shawna then encounters a mysterious stranger that  helps her understand what is happening to her, her world, and comes to find out that all of it is threatened by an evil entity.

Worldshaper has one of the most unique setups to a story that I’ve read this year. Shawna has a supernatural ability to shape worlds to her liking, although she doesn’t know it. This sets up the story to be a learning experience where we as the reader learn along with Shawna as she’s learning about it. Delivered in the first person we get to see Shawnas wit and charm first hand. She becomes endearing and fun to follow. Shawna starts out as somewhat of a reluctant and naive hero, a bit cliched for the fantasy genre, but what makes this novel stand out from the rest is the extraordinary journey that she goes on, exotic worlds that she visits, and the dramatic twist at the end. To say I didn’t see the twist coming at the end would be an understatement. I don’t think anyone will see it coming. You should read this novel for the fantastic ending, if for nothing else.

What I liked the most about Worldshaper was the world building, but it was also something that slowed the story’s pace a bit. Edward Willet has obviously put a lot of thought into building not just one world, but a universe of shaped worlds. It’s all presented to the reader up front, which can be a lot to take in, but readers who enjoy deep world building and unique design will enjoy the meticulous development of the backstory. Sprinkle in some offbeat characters and dramatic turn of events and you have an exceptional supernatural story that is highly engrossing.

This is book one in Edward Willett’s Worldshapers series. This sets the bar high for the series. With most of the Worldshaper mythology established here, other novels are surely primed to deliver non-stop fun and entertainment. Worldshaper is thoroughly entertaining, rarely dull, and always fun.

Pages: 368 | ASIN: B0782XSM22

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Devil Days in Deadwood

Devil Days in Deadwood (Deadwood Humorous Mystery Book 11) by [Ann Charles, C.S. Kunkle]

Devil’s Days in Deadwood by Ann Charles is a fun supernatural thriller. The story delves into the life of Violet Lynn Parker a seemingly normal human being who works as a real estate agent but is involved in the supernatural as a ghost hunter. The protagonist is part of an agency that is tasked with defending Earth from the evils unseen by normal human beings. The compelling heroine of the story faces a formidable foe but she requires help from and engaging cast of characters in order to overcome the exact definition of evil incarnate. The story is set in the alluring town of Deadwood, a town plagued by mysterious happenings since time in memorial ranging from ghosts to haunted houses.

Ann Charles has invoked various stylistic devices that highlight her writing skill and made this novel stand out in the paranormal genre. Although this is book eleven in Ann Charles’s Deadwood Humorous Mystery series, I think new readers will be able to jump right in as I have. What I particularly liked about this novel, and Ann Charles’s view of the supernatural, is the satirical lens that it is all viewed through. It’s a stimulating blend of humor, mystery, and paranormal that all come together to make the reader alternate between gasps, laughter and furiously flipping pages. It reminded me of the writing style of Douglas Adams or A. Lee Martinez.

Violet is an exceptionally well defined character, someone we can relate to as a mother who works hard to provide for, and protect, her children. But in the same vein of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she’s a demon executioner who risks her life to defeat some truly vile, other worldly, beings. While I understood Violet’s motivations, and her emotions, I did want a little more backstory. The world created here is interesting and I wanted to explore it more, though I suppose I could by reading the other novels in the series.

I was excited about this novel from the very beginning, based on the short synopsis of the book. I was thoroughly entertained and may have found a new series to while away the time in quarantine. Fans of supernatural thrillers will find an exceptional piece of literature that offers a unique voice to this genre.

Pages: 393 | ASIN: B0884DJ4MP

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Demon Heart

DEMON HEART by [David Crane, Mary Holzrichter]

Published in 2017, David Crane’s dramatic Sci-Fi novel, Demon Heart, is set in Osaka, Japan. It explores the roles of light and darkness in shaping the human experience. It is a powerful narrative about Naoko Kitamura, the protagonist who realizes that she is half-demon. Living amongst human beings, the character learns how to manage this dark side – by controlling the intensity of her powers.

Crane’s readers realize that learning one’s true identity has a significance in their life journey. All the challenges faced by Naoko, prove her strength and ability to achieve victory, regardless of all the tough circumstances at play.

I give this book a 5-star rating for numerous reasons. First, it was cathartic to read it in first person narration, as this made me feel closer to Naoko, the protagonist. It was easier to understand all the psychological battles within her mind, by progressing with her thoughts, throughout the story.

Furthermore, the book gives an account of the themes of good and evil, and the basis of human existence. Naoko reveals to her characters the importance of accepting one’s identity. Suppressing the shadows and demons within us only leads to chaos. If she wasn’t aware of her true identity, it’d be difficult for her to understand the origin of all the darkness around her.

Through the writing of Crane, the readers perceive demons from a different light. We have been taught, so often, that demons are destructive, and don’t want the best for humans. This is quite clear when Naoko is expected to keep her true identity a secret. Human beings cannot handle the intensity of divinity thus, they shouldn’t know much about this world. Keeping it a secret is also psychological since humans would not have the capacity to understand the healing powers of a demon-hybrid.

However, Naoko manages to engage the readers’ empathetic sides, as she thrives to create a balance between good and evil in the world. She is indeed one of the genuine police officers, who attempt to create this balance, while greatly fighting against evil.

This book also teaches its readers about Japanese cultures, traditions and beliefs, and it is a great narrative for readers like me, with a keen interest in the spiritual realm.

The story captured my attention, right from the title, and I’ll be sure to give it a second reading due to how much I related with the protagonist and her experiences.

Pages: 272 | ASIN: B074DSSBPY

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The Court Of Outcasts

In her latest book, Allison Rose takes us through a roller-coaster of emotions finalizing in a hopeful yet uncertain ending. The Court of Outcasts is a contemporary fantasy novel filled with treachery, betrayal, and a twist of unexpected loyalty. While it begins with the main characters; Nola and Kelty, trying to adjust to their new normal, they are yet to realize how much weirder things could get.

With the introduction of a new foe, everything goes haywire as old enemies become new friends in the pursuit of a common good. Nola, though she looks like an ordinary teenager realizes that she is far from it. Torn between her mundane high school existence and the allure of the mystical faerie world, she embarks on a journey that will eventually force her to choose one of the worlds.

On the other hand, Kelty faces trials of her own. Battling with the uncertainties of her love life and the painful reality that she may never go back home, she has to make difficult decisions about who to trust amid chaos.

While the book does inspire a sense of awe and curiosity, it can be a little hard to follow if you haven’t read the previous book. For instance, the use of mystical language like ara can take a while to wrap your head around. However, the author goes through great lengths to explain foreign concepts in simple terms. She uses a lot of descriptive language to not only explain the woodsy setting of the book but also the emotional and psychological states of the characters.

This book gives you a clear description of both the physical and personality traits of each of the characters. The story begins with gentle explanations and hints about things to come. Yet, little can prepare you for the great plot twists ahead. The story seems to intensify from page to page until it reaches a breathtaking climax. As a reader, I am yet to get the resolution I need and have ended up with great fantasies about what is to happen next.

This is a great motivation to read the sequel if there will be one. Allison has done a phenomenal  job in capturing the emotions between characters and tension in scenes, although more could be done in developing the story of supporting characters like Sayra and Lark. Another aspect that is yet to be fully explored is the romance between Nola and her love interest.

However, I do appreciate that the author could be saving this for the next book. Apart from what is on the surface, there are serious and compelling themes that subtly color the narrative. The ones that truly stand out are the importance of family and sense of belonging and perseverance through dark times. These are themes that I and many others can relate to, and it kept me devouring pages.

Pages: 246 | ASIN: B0851VPMPX

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The Dreams of Demons

The Dreams of Demons (The Legends of the Pale Series Book 3) by [Tarrant Smith]

Gabriella didn’t know what she was in for when her roommate, Darren, left on a weekend vacation with his boyfriend and told her to have fun and get herself out there! Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that her life would be completely changed that weekend by the man of her dreams. Or should I say demon?

The Dreams of Demons is the third book in The Legends of the Pale Series. We follow Murmur, a demon who serves Lugh, a god, for all eternity, as he dreams and searches for a woman who keeps coming to him in his dreams. The thing is, demons don’t dream.

Gabriella, who has always had a gift to read people’s minds and feelings, dreams of Murmur as well. After Murmur materializes and saves her life at her local park they find their attraction to each other is so strong that after surrendering themselves to each other they are now bound forever. But is Gabriella ready to be someone else’s, someone she only just met?

The Dreams of Demons is the most unique book I’ve read this year in that it is set in modern-day, but involves gods and demons who have lived for thousands of years, so there is an ancient feel to it as well. Smith has been able to not only braid these two times into one, but the lives of mortals and gods as well, and she has done it exquisitely.

The love that Murmur and Gabriella have for each other is always brewing in the background, even when Smith takes us into the different story lines. Rhiannon, another goddess who feels something dangerous brewing, the relationship of Lugh and his woman, Keely, and the friendships of Keely, Gabriella, and Zee that emerge. All of them are intricately drawn characters.

This is book three in The Legends of the Pale Series, but if you have not read the first two books I think new readers will still understand what’s going on. Smith gives a bit of back story here and there, but not too much that would make the reader bored if they had already read the series in its entirety.

There are only so many ways you can describe the act of love and lovemaking. But Smith has breathed new life into the classic romance genre, with steamy scenes enhanced by the raw power of a demon and a mortal who may have otherworldly blood in her. While reading you can feel the magnetism between Murmur and Gabriella. Their relationship was an enthralling escapade of emotions that I looked forward to.

Pages: 222 | ASIN:  B0886K161B

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In the Realm of Ash and Sorrow

In the Realm of Ash and Sorrow was a unique historical fiction novel colored with themes of guilt, sorrow and suffering over all that had been lost. Although this was a very emotional novel, it wasn’t all negative emotions, it also had happiness, romance, and a (possible) love like no other, mixed in with some supernatural elements and fantastical hints of history. The story caught my attention in the first couple of pages, remaining consistently entertaining throughout with only rare moments that seemed to slow a bit due to necessary exposition. The detail throughout the book is absorbing and really pulls you into 1940’s Japan. When it came time for the atomic bomb to drop I could see the horror surrounding Micha as he searched for Kyomi, the burning bodies that he came across and the fear that he would never find her or Ai. I could visualize most every scene, which is something I truly appreciated in a novel that covered such a cataclysmic event that reshaped human history.

While Kyomi’s character was interesting I wanted to see more of her personality. Her character seemed monotone at first, but after awhile her character began to grow on me just as she developed in the novel. I liked Micah from the first page, I’m not sure if that’s because he was the first character introduced to me or because I could empathize with him, perhaps it’s because I felt bad for him after the plane crashed. I liked Ai’s character from the beginning as well, children are always fun characters and Ai was no exception. The three of them together made for a great read with interesting interactions and I liked some of the other spirits that they came across along their travels.

Something that made me enjoy the book even more was how the author used the actual terms used by the Japanese such as calling the military Kempeitai instead of using one of our military terms like Army, Navy, Coast Guard, etc. This happens frequently throughout the book which showed me that the author did thorough research for this book and it also helped me learn a few terms. This is an example of the authors dedication to historical detail in this book. Something that I praise the author for is the way that this novel helps you see different points of view from the American and Japanese sides in World War 2. It is also an exploration of Japanese culture at an interesting time in their history. It covers how the Japanese lived, their culture, their work, routines, the hardships they face and much more. I really loved having bits of history weaved into the pages and the way it gave me a new insight. History and fiction meld seamlessly in this novel to deliver a captivating story.

Pages: 344 | ASIN: B083Q4WRPD

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