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Most of my reviews are accepted via  World Literary Cafe (WLC). My interests include paranormal romance, of course, fantasy with romantic elements, multicultural romance with paranormal elements, thrillers, mysteries and suspense with romantic elements. Some crime thrillers capture my attention, and I’ve been know to read intrigue novels. In other words, if you’re interested in a review, run it by me through WLC.

Dariel’s Review: “Soul Meaning” by A.D. Starrling

Product Details

  • File Size: 556 KBSoul_Meaning-800-Height
  • Print Length: 420 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008L8IU8C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled 
  • X-Ray: Not Enabled 

 

My name is Lucas Soul.
Today, I died again.
This is my fifteenth death in the last four hundred and fifty years.’

The Crovirs and the Bastians. Two races of immortals who have lived side by side with humans for millennia and been engaged in a bloody war since the very dawn of their existence. With the capacity to survive up to sixteen deaths, it was not until the late fourteenth century that they reached an uneasy truce, following a deadly plague that wiped out more than half of their numbers and made the majority of survivors infertile.

Soul is an outcast of both immortal societies. Born of a Bastian mother and a Crovir father, a half breed whose very existence is abhorred by the two races, he spends the first three hundred and fifty years of his life being chased and killed by the Hunters.

One fall night in Boston, the Hunt starts again, resulting in Soul’s fifteenth death and triggering a chain of events that sends him on the run with Reid Hasley, a former US Marine and his human business partner of ten years. When a lead takes them to Washington DC and a biotechnology company with affiliations to the Crovirs, they cross the Atlantic to Europe, on the trail of a French scientist whose research seems intrinsically linked to the reason why the Hunters are after Soul again.

From Paris to Prague, their search for answers will lead them deep into the immortal societies and bring them face to face with someone from Soul’s past. Shocking secrets are uncovered and fresh allies come to the fore as they attempt to put a stop to a new and terrifying threat to both immortals and humans.

Time is running out for Soul. Can he get to the truth before his seventeenth death, protect the ones he loves and prevent another immortal war?

 

Review

I received a review copy of “Soul Meaning” free of charge in exchange for an honest review. “Soul Meaning,” book one of A.D.Starrling’s “Seventeen Series” is aptly categorized as a supernatural thriller. Let me start by saying the first book in any series is challenging to say the least. The author has to balance introducing readers to a new world with dumping too much information and confusing or boring them too death. Well, Starrling came pretty close to finding a perfect balance here. This book has something for the paranormal, sci-fi, fantasy, and science fan.

Back in the day, “Highlander” was one of the few shows I taped to make sure I didn’t miss an episode. Starrling took me back to those fond memories with Soul, and added a feudal plot twist not present in the Duncan McLeod stories (Crovirs vs. Bastians). Filled with non-stop action and adventure, detailed fight scenes and an intriguing lead character, not to mention the rich mix of supporting characters, this is definitely a page turner.

Did I mention how much I enjoyed it? “Soul Meaning” is well worth the time of any reader who enjoys reading for entertainment and doesn’t mind learning and thinking along the way. Starrling’s well-researched environmental and historical facts enrich the story and make it even more real. My only complaint if I must have one is that it got a little wordy at times, but the writing style is fast-paced and I loved the characters. I could very easily see a movie-making deal in the future. Rich and savory. I look forward to the next installment. 4.5 rounded up to 5***** stars. Great job!

Dariel’s Satin Sheets Review: “Mates Since Birth” by Miranda Stowe

  • File Size: 281 KB
  • Print Length: 94 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Mates Since BirthPublisher: Whispers Publishing (February 6, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BCNX84O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled 
  • X-Ray: Not Enabled 
  • Lending: Enabled

When a stranger shows up in her front yard claiming he’s her mate, Ari Fallow wants to laugh in Dane Griffin’s face. But the sleek, sophisticated jaguar makes her hormones hum with a desire she can’t deny. She almost wants to believe his claim that she’s been his since birth.

Her father, however, is still sore over the fact Dane marked her when she was only minutes old. After summoning a pack of wolves to their quiet community for Ari to make her own decision about which male she wants, Dane’s original plan to sever his ties to Ari fly out the window. He can’t lose her again. This time, he’s playing for keeps.

“Mates Since Birth” started off with an interesting twist before teetering on the YA romance line, but as the plot thickened, which it did eventually, I found myself identifying with Ari and Dane. Ari is a strong heroine, and that’s always a plus. I love desire and action, and this read is full of both.

This is a light, fun read with feuding purists, family interference, and a touch of destiny.   I enjoyed it. Three and a half satin pillows.

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  • File Size: 364 KB
  • Print Length: 123 pages
  • For the Love of a SphynxPage Numbers Source ISBN: 1481922297
  • Publisher: Still Moments Publishing (January 6, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AY0Y99Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled 
  • X-Ray: Not Enabled 
  • Lending: Enabled
  • When time’s the enemy, there’s no room to pussyfoot around.
    Betrayed by her fiancé, Mahri Lassler swears never to risk losing her heart again. She’s convinced she may as well collect cats since she’s on the path to spinsterhood. She adopts a tomcat, and just as they’re beginning to learn each other’s idiosyncrasies, the cat bolts out the door, disappearing without a trace. Her quest to find the darn cat leads her to a confused, naked man writhing on the street. The hopeless look in his eyes touches something deep inside Mahri. Can she trust her heart enough to risk it on a man with no past? Will her love be enough to break his curse?

Review

This short reads like a full-length, but lacks the fire of the typical romance. Morgan’s 11th century fiance cursed him when he tried to explain to her that he needed to marry another woman to receive his father’s blessing.

Mahri, a relatively straight-laced woman just recently free of a painful relationship, goes to the animal shelter with her sister to find companionship in a pet kitten and chooses an adult tom-cat instead. When the cat runs away, Mahri finds a naked man near her house and takes him in.

The fact that no woman in her right mind would let a strange naked man into her home is addressed rather skillfully, but for a romance, very little chemistry exists between the hero and heroine. More references are made to Morgan, the sphynx/naked man watching Mahri in his cat form than to his watching or desiring her as a man!

The fact that Morgan is a beta becomes obvious rather quickly, but I kept hoping one of them would take action. Mahri seems complacent or ambivalent about what she thinks or wants, and Morgan uses the fact that he will be in cat-form again soon as an excuse for his lack of action towards moving the relationship forward or even protecting her.

The story is well-written, the plot is interesting, and while I enjoyed reading it because of Sharpe’s writing style, the lackluster characters left me wanting. Too much rationalizing and not enough action or passion. Despite the lack of passion, it’s still an enjoyable read. Go figure! Three (3) satin pillows.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! February 11, 2013Torin_final cover

By Catrina Barton
Torin DuMont is larger than life, and commands attention from the first moment we meet him. He’s brash and very much an alpha male.Stephanie Bates is a hard-butt Real Estate Attorney, with some issues of her own to work out.
From their first meeting these two bring out the best, and worst in each other.Their exciting adventure is full of many unexpected twists. The book will grab your attention and run away with it. Dariel Raye certainly knows how to keep the pages turning. A little over descriptive at times, but that only adds to her unique writing style.Overall Torin is a wonderful addition to the Dark Sentinel Series. Readers who enjoyed the first one {Sable}, will be blown away by this sequel.
Well done, Dariel.

Ishtar Bound (Book 1 of Sinnis)
by Natalie Gibson
Buy: AMAZONIshtar Bound
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: 199 pages

Surrounded by magical enemies with an intimate knowledge of her abilities, a matchmaking witch of the highest rank must fulfill both her duty to her coven and her desire for a love of her own, even if the two goals collide. 

Maeve Lovejoy has always been good at her job even though her service comes at such a high cost. Though her matchmaking abilities are stronger than ever, the most potent in any coven’s recorded history, her introduction to Aaron has confused matters. Believing she’s found a partner who can love her and allow her to continue practicing her arts, she shares her secrets with him. Is it a coincidence that soon after, that same information is used to locate and murder Maeve’s matches? When Aaron goes missing, is it because he is a member of a rival black magic sect or because he has fallen victim?


For mature readers only.
 

Mark of Cain

  • File Size: 609 KB
  • Print Length: 389 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009KAM0FO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled 
  • X-Ray: Not Enabled 
  • Lending: Enabled
 Buy “The Mark of Cain” 
History as we know it is a lie. An intricate web of half-truths and falsifications spun by the most infamous murderer in history: the immortal, Cain, son of Adam and Eve. All so the truth of him and his power can stay in the shadows, with every oblivious mortal his pawn. The Mark of Cain reveals the truth.

After murdering his brother, Abel, Cain was unjustly cursed by God. When the curse becomes too unbearable for him and he faces immortality alone, Cain puts his energy into claiming the Earth as his own. Now, after thousands of years living his life as some of history’s greatest conquerors, the ruthless first son of Adam finally has a controlling interest in the world with the strongest governments secretly answering to him.

Tired of the bloodshed and manipulation that has brought him to this point, Cain is ready to relax. But God has sent someone to challenge his interests: a young woman named Hara, whose very life was foretold centuries ago.

To keep God from victory, Cain sets out to woo and corrupt Hara, planning to kill her once she is no longer God’s Chosen One. At first, as she edges off the path leading toward the fulfillment of the prophecy, Cain can’t help but feel smug. However, the closer he gets to her, the more he finds that Hara’s charitable presence causes him to feel shame for the first time in his long life, and soon he finds that he no longer wishes her harm. But the prophecy is clear on this; she has to die for him to win. When it comes to her end, will he be as selfish as he has always been, or will he sacrifice himself for the love of his very long life?

 
Review
 

I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review, and WOW am I delighted! “The Mark of Cain” is an outstanding read with romance, action, and epic historical sections. Even the most flawed characters are believable and loveable

 Hara is an orphan, raised in a Catholic orphanage to be as perfect and good as possible, while Cain, yes, the one from the Bible, is the world’s first murderer, unrepentant, blasphemous, always harboring a dark motive for everything he does. Cain is hardened and self-centered, while Hara is innocent and fragile. Each needs the other to effect positive changes in their lives.

 Cain is definitely not the typical hero, but he’s blatantly honest, and unapologetic about his character or motives. Seeley’s ability to create a complex man who is both hero/protagonist and antagonist is remarkable, and I immediately fell in love with his sharp, if a bit dark wit and sense of humor. Despite the terrible crimes Cain has committed throughout his immortal lifetime, Seeley managed to make me relate to him, and his actions toward Hara are every woman’s dream.

 Hara, the heroine, is the source of our necessary side-kicks, Tracker and Crystal.  Their characters become more important as the story unwinds, particularly Tracker, who not only harbors a secret from Hara, but wants her for himself.

The greatest accomplishment is Seeley’s descent into Cain’s mind. Any reader will learn to love him, hoping for the best and yearning for a happily ever after until the very end. Due to Hara’s innocence, there was very little sex in the novel, but the story was so enthralling, I barely missed it (and I do enjoy a good love scene). This is a MUST read – one you’ll grab to read every free moment, hate to put it down, and actually feel sad when it’s over. A rare novel I’m sure I’ll read more than once. Definitely five satin pillows! Heat rating: Sensual (2 candles out of 5).

The greatest accomplishment is Seeley’s descent into Cain’s mind. Any reader will learn to love him, hoping for the best and yearning for a happily ever after until the very end. Due to Hara’s innocence, there was very little sex in the novel, but the story was so enthralling, I barely missed it (and I do enjoy a good love scene). This is a MUST read – one you’ll grab to read every free moment, hate to put it down, and actually feel sad when it’s over. A rare novel I’m sure I’ll read more than once. Definitely five satin pillows! Heat rating: Sensual (2 candles out of 5).

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Satin sheets sensual rating2

 

Absolution

For years, travelers in the French Vosges Mountains heard the wailing of a woman echo in the hollows. Her cries went unbidden. No one was brave enough to seek out the source. Over time, the screams lessen, then stop. Eventually, even the memories slipped away, forgotten.

Six centuries later, two over-eager research assistants find and release the young half vampire, Chloe—unaware of events they unwittingly unleash with her.

Far away, other forces are aware of her awakening. Zaccarius, greatest of all the Slayers, is sent by the Council of Nine to seek out Chloe, determine her worth and render justice. Enticed by her purity and innocence, he becomes her protector. However, Jochad, the Dark Master and his army of evil vampires are eager to claim Chloe.

In the battle that ensues, Zaccarius falls beneath Jochad’s army. To save her lover, Chloe must make a choice. Ancient and dying, Jochad needs her blood to reanimate. His ultimatum—her blood or Zaccarius’ life.

 To say the least, author P.L. Parker has created a rather unique character in her heroine, Chloe. A desiccated, decomposing vampire slowly reanimating before my eyes was not what I expected, and certainly not the norm, but it worked.

 The hero, Zaccarius, is a swashbuckling, good-looking, dark vampire – one of my favorite characters! He’s protective, loving, tortured, and redeemable. What more could a girl ask for? To top everything off, Chloe turns out to be a fighter.

 As an author, I must say I was impressed by P.L.’s use of rich character accents to denote point-of-view instead of awkward scene breaks. She slips easily from one point-of-view to the next, breaking every rule and making it work.

 You will love the supporting characters, Earl, Benny, and Shauna, as they add comic relief and somehow win you over with their endearing, if bumbling loyalty. Zaccarius’ trusted mentor, Alisdair already has a wife, but I’d enjoy reading their story – I fell in love with him, too. The villains, Jochad and Deac don’t have much depth, but who cares? They served their purpose. LOL

 This book teeters on the line between paranormal romance and horror with romantic elements, and since I don’t mind a little blood and gore with my romance, I LOVED it! Five (5*****) satin pillows!

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Dariel is Reading....

Toran Lathan never expected to become Laird, and never expected to meet a woman like Aileanna Shaw. Her healing ability is just what his people need, but Toran cannot resist her beauty.  Yet will loving him destroy her ability to heal? 

 Aileanna Shaw has a healing touch – and a special talent she must keep secret.  Stolen from her home by a marauding army, she’s kidnapped again by the Highland Laird she heals. Is she a prize of war, or the prize of his heart?

While Toran battles the invading lowland army, he also battles his desire for Aileanna. And Aileanna must decide if she can trust her secrets to this fierce warrior who needs her talent, but wants her love.

Aileana is an exceptional healer, capable of bringing people back from the brink of death. Orphaned at an early age and eventually captured by Colbridge, a brutal dictator, Aileana has spent 2 years using her “talents” to keep Colbridge’s army strong. When Toran, a laird in his own right, is captured by Colbridge and taken to Aileana for healing, she is immediately drawn to him.

The tension between Aileana and Toran is obvious from the moment she comes in contact with him. Blair leaves no doubt that the two strong personalities will come together, and the action, Toran’s escape with Aileana, as well as Colbridge’s relentless pursuit, add to the drama and excitement of “Highland Healer.”

Toran quickly makes his interest known to Aileana and his clan, but fearing that he is only interested in her ability to heal his people, she continues the lie that has kept her safe among Colbridge and his men, telling Toran her virginity is linked to her healing powers, effectively holding him off for a time despite her desire for him.

After witnessing Aileana’s healing ability, Toran’s clan members are afraid she is a witch, but Toran’s  authoritative manner and the respect he has earned from his clan intensify the romance between them. Aileana’s tendency to overreact, though understandable given Blair’s allusions to what she has been through, wears thin, and the story could have ended approximately 40 pages earlier if not for Aileana’s antics, but the story is well-written, well-suited to historical fans with a touch of paranormal.

Strong secondary characters, including a mentor, a maternal healer, and Toran’s jealous former lover, Coira, make this a rich, enjoyable read. Easily 4 satin pillows.

The Eagle's Woman

Son of an impoverished, dying Norse chieftain, Ari raids for booty and slaves so he can feed his people. Pagan himself, still he spares priests though he sells them. He’s a heathen, a murderer, and it is a sin for any Christian woman to love him. Yet when he abducts Maeve from her peaceful Irish fishing village, he may have found the one woman who can.

“The Eagle’s Woman” is a novella set in Viking times. Ari is a “heathen” Viking, and Maeve is a “God-fearing” young maiden. Vikings live by taking from the land of others. As the Vikings continue on their way, raping, killing, and pillaging, they seek the greatest prizes to sell and replenish their riches – women, particularly young women. Ari is the younger of two male children, so his older brother, Soren,  stands to inherit their land, and Ari will have to leave and make a home elsewhere. Maeve is betrothed to another man, but he is rough and inconsiderate with her, and overly eager to bed her with just his own pleasure in mind. When one of Ari’s men captures and attempts to rape Maeve,  Ari saves her – not because he’s against her being raped for moral reasons, but because she is worth much more as an untouched virgin. Ari takes measures to keep her alive because she will bring him a good price at the market, and although he won’t admit it, he is attracted to her. Unfortunately, as soon as his jealous-hearted older brother sees her, he wants her for himself. I was impressed by Newman’s ability to weave such strong characters and believable conflict into this short historical novella. Ari has some less than ideal complications in his life, and the romantic in me would have preferred a more open expression of his feelings, but the book held my attention because of the three-dimensional characters. “The Eagle’s Woman” is a quick, action -packed, well-written story, but a little light on the romance for my taste. 3.5 stars.

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Kade's Dark Embrace (Immortals of New Orleans)

I received this book free with my Amazon Prime membership. I only read and review books that I enjoy, so sit back a minute and let me tell you about this one.

Sydney is a tough, independent Philly detective who ends up sharing a serial killer case with a headstrong alpha vampire named Kade. Of course, Sydney is pretty headstrong herself, so the two clash and sizzle immediately.

When beautiful women start turning up dead and made to look like dolls, Det. Sydney Willows finds herself paired with vampire elite, Kade Isaacson from New Orleans. When two strong personalities come together, the battle for control is expected, but neither the hero nor heroine is prepared for the romantic sparks that ensue.

Turns out the villain in this tale is a former lover of the hero’s, who wants him back, no matter the cost – or at least that’s how she wants it to look. Rumor has it that she’s actually after all of his power, and she’s not particularly keen on sharing!

Overall, I enjoyed this paranormal romance with vamps, werewolves, mages, voodoo, witches, and even an apparition. The heroine, of course, is human, but lives in a society where humans are aware of the supernatural, and even have agencies governed by and for the supernatural. In fact, one of Sydney’s best friends, Tristan, is a werewolf who stole my heart away from the hero, Kade!

Sydney’s overstatements of independence became annoying at times, as did Kade’s condescending, somewhat overbearing nature, and some of the sex scenes were a little stilted in my opinion, but perhaps that’s because my expectations were too high.  Anyway, if you like alpha males, strong, capable women, and enjoy reading about serial killers, you’ll enjoy this one, and it really has a worthwhile ending. Don’t read the ending first, but the perfection of the ending brought it to 4 stars! I look forward to reading more about other characters introduced in this installment, such as Luca, Tony, and definitely Tristan. Keep ‘em coming, Ms. Grosso !

This is a little different because I haven’t read the entire book yet. Kitty is still working on the full novel, but the teaser is just that – interesting enough to make me want more! I can’t wait until she finishes it because so far, it’s shaping up to be a rather interesting story. “Dangerous Temptation” is a YA romance between a graduating high school senior dealing with the loss of her heroic father, and a tiger shifter who is learning to lead following traumatic events that have left him emotionally scarred.

Katie’s father, Keith, is absent most of the time due to his military obligations, and Katie lives with Pete, her father’s best friend. Barton makes it obvious that the heroine’s time spent with her father is quality time, and that Pete is a good substitute father figure, but Katie still misses her father and has trust issues that will very likely play a key role in the novel.

When her father is killed on a mission, Katie’s life changes drastically. A new, unexpected caretaker surfaces and Katie learns that her father had many secrets, and a life she knew nothing about. In order to avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that through these changes, Katie meets Cade, our hero white Bengal tiger-shifter. There is conflict between Katie and her new caretaker before she even meets the hero, and additional conflict between the hero and Katie’s caretaker. As I stated earlier, Barton has done a good job of captivating interest with a likable hero and heroine.

t’s too premature to give a rating at this juncture – I’ll wait until it’s completed for that. For now, though, I’ll just say “Dangerous Temptation” has my attention. The fact that she has chosen to write about an endangered species is also admirable. I’m always happy about anything that draws more attention to the plight of our animals, particularly endangered ones. “Dangerous Temptation” promises to evolve into a great YA read. I hope to get a chance to write a full review after its completion.

It’s seldom that I read something that moves me the way this book did. Based on the romance of the biblical King David and his first wife, Michal, daughter of King Saul, I classify “Michal’s Window” as a romantic tragedy. Author Rachelle Ayala has taken a classic, beloved story, starring the first wife of “a man after God’s own heart,” and penned fictional details realistic enough to make the reader cry, yell, and scream.

David arrives, a young musician in King Saul’s court. The only one capable of lulling the nearly insane King Saul to sleep with his beautiful music, David quickly gains his adoration, but incurs his wrath and bitter hatred just as easily when he starts to win the hearts of Saul’s people. Assured that he is to be the next King, he slays the Nephilim giant, Goliath, and gains the hand of Michal, Saul’s youngest daughter. Their love begins with the innocence of young lovers, but is soon overshadowed and tainted by the hatred and jealousy of Michal’s father because the people seem to love David more, and by societal beliefs that made love between a man and woman nearly impossible, as women were given and sold like property.

Impeccably written, “Michal’s Window” takes us on an epic journey – an adventure, even, through war-ravaged times and their effects on the people of those times. Women, of course, had no rights. They were viewed and treated as property, and respect for their wishes was nearly unheard of. Despite his good intentions, David was a man driven by the same desires and double-standards as most men. Michal saved his life, jeopardizing her own, yet he repayed her by continually taking other wives. “It’s different for me, Michal. I’m a man. Why can’t you just accept your place? Stop being jealous like a man!” Although that’s not written in the bible, I can just hear him saying those words to her.

Concerned more with how he was viewed by the people, particularly his men, than how he managed his household, time and again, his prideful, insensitive actions drove him to cruelty toward Michal, knives to her heart, and wedges between them. The helpless, powerlessness of women opened old wounds about the gender inequities we have yet to rectify today, but Ayala managed to show strength in Michal even in her seeming masochistic love for David, and I reveled in those rare times when she owned her power.

A victim of the common practices of her culture, she still owned fire, spirit, and power beyond her time, and she knew and understood God’s word. Despite David’s roving eye (and every other body part), it was these qualities that made him love her most of all. It was Michal who made him want to possess her and strike down other men who wanted her, yet he refused to understand that she felt the same way about him. His love for her, as often is the case today, was more possessiveness than true love. He also refused to obey God’s law regarding “one man for one wife,” continued to abuse God’s law with the customary double standard of faithfulness being required of women, while men had as many women as they desired.  This was a constant bane to Michal. David’s desire to possess more and more, was his eventual undoing, yet through all of this, he was a good-hearted man who did hurtful, sinful things, paid for some of them, and she loved him. Despite everything, Michal loved him and David knew that she loved him more and knew him better than any of his other women.

It got a little wordy near the end, but perhaps that’s because I was so fed up with David by that time. Ayala was so true to the laws and culture of biblical times, as well as David’s relationship with God and his people, the only thing I disliked about the book was the dark reality of David’s selfish insensitivity. Need I say more? Five stars!

“Descension” is actually two love stories in one – we have present day Layla, a witch who doesn’t know she’s a witch, and Quinn, the strikingly handsome stranger who has loved her his entire life, and later we learn of their ancestors, Rhosewen (Rose) and Aedan, powerful bonded witches in their own right. This epic story got off to a rather slow start, but I was grateful to have been patient for once. Descension continued to gain momentum once Layla and Quinn met, and I was hesitant to put it done from then on.

Burgess chooses to introduce us to Layla, a 21 year old witch, just months after the death of her adoptive mother. Layla is soon led to uproot, leaving her exceptionally sheltered existence to embark on a quest for self-discovery. She meets Quinn, a chivalrous hotty who not only makes her feel things she’s never felt before, but guides her to her Wiccan history. Through him, she learns for the first time that she was adopted as a baby, has an entire family/coven in another state, a rather vivid history, and a whole lot of catching up to do. Oh, and there’s a villain on her trail who had a hand in the deaths of her biological parents.

In addition to the lovers, a bevy of colorful, mostly likeable supporting characters and hateable villains allow the reader to step into her world for the duration of the story. Burgess has woven two sweet love stories into a web of witchcraft, murder, and plain old scornful craziness. With the exception of the somewhat slow start, I really enjoyed “Descension,” and came to genuinely care about the characters. I was especially impressed by Burgess’ ability to weave the two love stories seamlessly. I recommend this book to both YA and adult readers – 4 stars.

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Keepers of Water (Guardians of Nature)

Arieana’s brother, Rydan, has been murdered in the human realm by Arieana’s own people. Breaking the laws of her realm (the two realms are separated by a veil of magic), she crosses the veil to avenge his death and lay his spirit to rest. Once in the human realm, Arieana uses her magic and fighting skills to locate his murderers and uncovers a much broader plot to destroy the entire human race. Some of her people are convinced that humans are not only destroying the realm in which they live, but human carelessness and disregard for nature is causing devastating storms and destruction in their realm beyond the veil as well.

The fantasy/adventure filled with magical spells and otherworldly abilities should have kept me riveted to the pages, and it started that way, but slid into distracting scene changes with too many POV’s for my taste, and an abundance of “A” names. I managed to keep up, but three of the main female characters had somewhat similar “A” names, and even a tertiary male character had an “A” name. A trivial concern, but distracting, nonetheless.

Following the first scene, the action slowed for the next 50 – 55% of the story, with some of the characters not quite connecting, and nearly lost me. Not usually the type to skip to the ending, I was tempted. The author had roped me in enough to care how it ended, so that’s certainly positive, but the journey was not as magical as its description promised.

Redeemed by the latter half, I was glad I stuck with it, but along the way kept wondering what was missing. I didn’t immediately identify with the main character, Arieana, because my heart remained with her brother! She should have told the story from the very beginning, and perhaps I wouldn’t have needed more than 50% of the book to feel close to her and give up on her brother’s return. Actually, I still haven’t completely given up on Rydan. It is a series, afterall.

Overall, the plot and writing were fine, but emotionally, I barely connected with most of the characters. Porter gave the characters interesting abilities, Arieana is smart, strong, and capable of making wise decisions, and the series is promising, with a bit of mystery and intrigue. Developing an immediate emotional connection with readers is suggested for future books in this series. I rate it 3.25 because of Porter’s redeeming creativity and Arieana’s promise to grow on me.

Author Mia Darien has woven a fascinating tapestry of characters – mostly supernatural with a few humans thrown in – into a well-written, action-packed thriller perfect for paranormal, fantasy, and action lovers. Reminiscent of the great, gritty detective novels, Dakota tells her story in first person. She’s a shifter, and we meet her as a panther, chasing her quarry. Yes, she’s a contracted bounty hunter sent out to catch the supernatural bad guys, and she can shift into any human or animal form she’s familiar with.

Dakota wins me over when she catches her prey, grumbles about it, then lifts him onto her shoulder to carry back to Darien’s version of a holding cell. Throughout the story, Dakota entertains us with her irreverent, loveable personality with comments like “vampires are creepy-ass-fuckers.” Her co-workers are an interesting menagerie of weres and vamps, and Dakota thinks she’s fine without them when the story opens, but as the action heats up and the plot thickens, if you will, she realizes more and more that their help could be useful and possibly necessary.

Contracted to work on two jobs at once, both personally charged and interrelated, Dakota finds herself drawn to a human officer while hunting an ex-lover thought to be involved in a number of brutal murders. The fact that Dakota’s long lost baby sister is also involved in the murders coupled with unresolved baggage from her past, perpetuates Dakota’s evolution into, let’s say, a better socialized antisocial.

Add an ancient vampire, Amazon warrior women, humans housing Norse Gods, Thor’s hammer, and a giant snake with steel-like scales, and you have an action-packed, yet character-driven read. I didn’t want to miss anything, because new twists kept popping up. Despite the wild characters, Darien managed to keep it believable due to her subtle world-building, and Dakota’s character is so strong that she was always the star. When I had to put it down, I couldn’t wait to pick it up again. Highly recommended 4 ½ stars!

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