Book Review: The Last Guardian Rises (The Last Keeper’s Daughter #2), by Rebecca Trogner


Lily Ayres, Sanguis Ancilla to Krieger Barnes, has retreated into the shadows of the archives, hiding from the king and the intense emotions he arouses in her. How long can she deny him? Will she accept her role in the Other world and the abilities arising within her?

Krieger Barnes, Vampire King of North America, has shared his blood, his kingdom, and his heart with Lily. He summons her, needing her nearness, needing her to attend the council meeting with him.

Merlin, the king’s advisor, must fight the darkness that threatens to overtake him. Can he survive the dark magic?

Lucien Black, the wielder of the Dragon Sword, is once again charged with Lily’s protection. How will he explain his avoidance of her?

A being buried deep underground, inside a cage of iron and wrapped in chains, escapes. Is he the dark entity that the Others feel and fear?

In the Last Keeper’s Daughter, Rebecca Trogner introduced Lily Ayers, a strange and fragile young heiress entrusted by her father to the care of ancient vampire, Krieger Barnes, the King of North America.  The first human he’s allowed into his court, Lily joins Krieger’s inner circle—composed until then of a witch, a wolf-shifter, and a cursed slayer—as his Sanguis Ancilla. It translates roughly as “blood slave,” a title that is more necessary than accurate for the complicated pair.

In the world of vampires and witches, and as she blossoms from a timid child into a willful woman, Lily’s nature as an “Other” (creatures neither human nor vampire) quickly becomes apparent, as does her role in something grand and sinister bubbling beneath the kingdoms of the supernatural. Krieger, bound by blood and primal instinct to protect Lily, finds himself in a truly frustrating position of being an honorable man. Because he loves her, he sets her free, allowing her to choose who she will give her heart to, and he waits for her to come to him.

Trogner reveals in The Last Guardian Rises that Krieger has the patience of a saint. Fearing the king would not forgive her for killing his brother at the climax of the first book, Lily turned her focus toward the castle’s archives, looking for information that would help the king while she avoided him. Days became weeks and then months, until the Krieger summons her, gives her thirty minutes to show up, and warns he won’t ask twice. She drags her feet only to learn that the king is not mad at her. Quite to the contrary, he’s loving, gentle, and demanding, exactly as she remembers, which means that the battle of wills between our romantic leads has begun anew.

In Guardian, we see more of the politics of the vampire world, more of the mystery’s machine, and more of the implications and consequences of each successive action. At a pivotal point in Detective Hunter’s arc, he tells Krieger, “We’ve been played.” The king then has to deal with a difficult situation forced upon Hunter, so how they’ve been played is not explicitly answered. It becomes apparent through the story arcs of Merlin, Hunter, King Beline (the King of Europe), that the awful transgression committed long ago against Lily’s mother on behalf of a demon was not an isolated incident. Krieger, along with his people and allies, spend months scorching a global conspiracy tied to Catholic orphanages from the Earth, only to have the pieces fall into place when Lily casually recommends a priest for Hunter’s upcoming marriage.

In addition to magic, spies, adventure, and lies, Trogner also gives her heroine two powerful, tortured men to hold her heart. The first, of course, is Krieger. The second is vampire Lucien, Krieger’s brother-by-choice and faithful servant. He was long ago imbued with the blood of a dragon, which allows him to wield a special sword capable of killing anything, but the spell came with a terrible price. Lucien cannot have sex with someone he loves. To do so would release the dragon from its prison within him. He releases his physical needs with meaningless sex, but as one of the men Krieger trusts the most, Lucien becomes one of Lily’s guardians, and every moment with her tests his resolve. Lily could make things easier by fully committing herself to Krieger and not flirting with him, but as she admits to the king, she loves Lucien, too.

A twist toward the end of the Guardian sees Krieger and Lily at once desperately in love with the other, yet separated by growing mountain of circumstances out of their control, anger, loss, and enough good intentions to build a bridge to Hades and put the ferryman out of a job. Playing the role of the Beast once again, Krieger will let his Belle go with hope that she will return to him, a decision that will move the action from Virginia to Big Sur, California, and a confrontation with Strigoi “Anson,” who claims Lily as his mate when he first lays eyes on her.

I found the details of The Last Guardian Rises intriguing, the escalation of Krieger and Lily’s relationship fulfilling, and the sex scenes very well written, yet I found the story a little slow. However, with Lily’s blood bond to Krieger broken by her demon father, and her desire to have children the king cannot give her but Anson can, book three of this story promises to be explosive, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

About My Book Reviews


Book Review: Moth, by Sean Poindexter


Moth, by Sean Poindexter
Ellysian Press
August 5. 2014
Dark Paranormal Fantasy

Social Worker Max Hollingsworth is no stranger to the otherworldly. But when he’s called upon to investigate a missing child protective services worker, he stumbles upon a deeper mystery.

Children are vanishing and no one, not even their parents, remembers them. Suspicion turns to Neo-Nazi vampires and humans running a child slavery ring, but the truth is far more sinister than even Max is prepared to handle. For help he turns to friends, old and new, but even they might not be enough…forcing him to turn to the least likely ally of all: an enemy who’s cruelty and evil was almost his end…and haunts him still.

He’ll be lucky if he makes it out of this one alive.

Think about a moth for a moment. He and his more popular cousin, the butterfly, both begin their lives as caterpillars, munching their way across the landscape until they’ve grown fat and happy enough to curl into a ball and go to sleep. And when they wake up, they are different animals. They are no longer forced crawl along on their bellies, as they now have great wings upon which they can seek out their hearts content in the air.

The princely butterfly pursues pretty colors and sweet tastes. The moth, geekier by design, prefers hanging out in the dark, which makes the bright lights it believes to be the moon easier to find.

Sufism has many poems about moths, one of which became a popular metaphor in western culture. A succession of moths dance around a flame, each getting closer and closer before returning to the others to tell what they learned. Each one is told by the eldest of them that they have no more, or no greater knowledge than the moth before him. That is, until the last thrusts himself bodily into the flame, allowing it to consume him. He, the eldest tells the others, is the only one among them who understood the gift of the flame.

In Poindexter’s novel, Moth, Max Hollingsworth’s reluctantly supportive girlfriend recognizes her lover for what he is: a moth to the flame, one obsessed with his job and compelled to pursue his cases even to his own destruction. The title is more than a nod to Sadie, however. From the first page to the last, and focused on the meth/child sex trade that flourishes along the US Interstate highway system, this novel is driven by needs, wants and sicknesses which become cocoons where character defining transformations take place. Just like in nature, the moths outnumber the butterflies 100 to one.

Sadie’s relationship with Max provides pockets of sweetness in an otherwise bitter plot. Outwardly, she is Goth, complete with piercings, tattoos, heavy make-up and attitude to match, which altogether makes her a odd surrogate for normal society, but that’s precisely what she is. Sadie’s primary role is to provide the one ounce of self-preservation that Max has, but she also anchors the reader in a place just outside of the action. What Max is experiencing is beyond normal. What he is doing is beyond his call of duty. What he has borne witness to is beyond belief for a rational human being. The most brilliant part of Sadie is that the author never uses her POV. She reacts to Max, and other characters, in a way that is powerful enough to keep her, him, and the reader from acclimating to the bizarre world in which Max spends most of his time.

Vampires are the primary creatures in this dark paranormal fantasy, but as far as vile antagonists go, they might just be physically harder to kill than their human counterparts. As an agent of Child Protective Services in Joplin, Missouri, Max meets people on a daily basis who are perhaps more heinous than bloodsuckers. At the very least when a vampire enslaves a child for food and sex, he can wipe his abuses clean. Not out of mercy, of course, but to simply cover his tracks and to remain below human radar. Human pedophiles brainwash their victims for the same ends, but in ways far crueler. I won’t spoil the details of how the author illustrated this, but I will say that he doesn’t pull punches.

Moth pushed every boundary of my reading comfort level and I would not recommend this book to just anyone. It’s inappropriate for young adults and I would give seriously caution to readers who are sensitive to child abuse. This novel is chock full for profanity, vulgarity, blood, violence, and scattered sex scenes (but only between willing individuals.) If any of that bothers you, none of this author’s books are for you, but especially not this one. While I typically avoid books described as this one is, I became enamored with Sean Poindexter’s voice while reading his the Dragon’s Blood Chronicles, and that gave me the confidence to trust him to take me into this story. I’m very glad that I did, firstly for the delightful cameo by quick humored dragon Garrett Terago, but also for the brutal honesty and raw emotion that bleeds on every page as Max survives his challenges only because he is too busy to stop for death.

About My Book Reviews

I believe in this book so much, I’ve posted this review four times.

Originally published on August 23, 2013, for Crescent Moon Press publication.
Republished September 28, 2013, for Ambrosia Arts publication.
Republished March 19, 2014, for Self-Publication by Author.
Republished July 31, 2014, for Ellysian Press publication.

ARC Review: Summoned (#1), by Rainy Kaye

Immortal Ink Publishing
Release Date: March, 2014
Dark Paranormal

Twenty-three year old Dimitri has to do what he is told—literally. Controlled by a paranormal bond, he is forced to use his wits to fulfill unlimited deadly wishes made by multimillionaire Karl Walker.

Dimitri has no idea how his family line became trapped in the genie bond. He just knows resisting has never ended well. When he meets Syd—assertive, sexy, intelligent Syd—he becomes determined to make her his own. Except Karl has ensured Dimitri can’t tell anyone about the bond, and Syd isn’t the type to tolerate secrets.

Then Karl starts sending him away on back-to-back wishes. Unable to balance love and lies, Dimitri sets out to uncover Karl’s ultimate plan and put it to an end. But doing so forces him to confront the one wish he never saw coming—the wish that will destroy him.

A dark twist on the genie folklore, SUMMONED follows a reluctant criminal as he unravels the mystery of the paranormal bond controlling him.

SUMMONED is represented by Rossano Trentin of TZLA.

Note: SUMMONED contains strong language, naughty scenes, mature content, terrible wishes, mystery, violence, discomfort, explosions, and an apple.

Summoned opens with the kidnapping. Dimitri dislikes kidnappings. Murders are easier for him. He gets in, does the job, and goes home to wait for his next assignment. On this afternoon, he has a precocious nine year old and her stuffed bunny shackled in his back seat. He doesn’t know why his boss wants her, but tells himself that it’s for ransom and she’ll be home before bedtime. He never sees anyone that he brings to Karl’s desert mansion after security drags them from his car, which is why he goes immediately to a bar to forget the afternoon ever happened. While there, he meets Sydney, a sexy blond who’s supposed to meet a friend until she gets stood up. Easy hook-up. No strings attached. At least, that’s the idea at the time.

Dimitri Hayes is an astonishingly complex antihero. He’s a child, a monster, a victim, a sex-fiend, and a bad man’s puppet. His entire reason for existing is to fulfill Karl Walker’s violent wishes. Because the act of being summoned physically moves him, without warning, from wherever he is to a special room in Karl’s house, Dimitri’s life outside of work is incredibly limited. He can’t have a part-time job, make friends. His sex-life consists of one-night-stands that he rudely kicks out in the morning to ensure they don’t call back. He doesn’t like it, doesn’t want to do what he does, but he literally has no choice. The magical bond that tethers him to his master is cruel when challenged. As it stands, there’s nothing in his life worth the trouble. So he lies to himself about who his victims are to make them worthy of the fate he brings to their door.

Syd, a “rock star” he meets by chance, was supposed to help him forget his troubles for a few hours and get lost. Getting rid of her, and her insatiable sexual appetite, proves to be impossible. Despite Dimitri being a complete jerk to her, she keeps calling, texting, and showing up at his house, until she becomes something he can’t live with or without.

I was delighted by the evolution of Dimitri’s character over the course of story. We are introduced to a deviant, who is somewhat weak-minded and apathetic, and he grows into someone with a moral compass that finds its true North and holds onto it for dear life. (And not just his own.)

But don’t get me wrong, Summoned is not a romance. In fact, I was neither surprised nor disappointed by the blood bath at the end. (No, that’s not a spoiler. Surely you can guess by now that people die, and I’m not telling whom.)

If you’ve seen me around the Internet, you might have read four things about me. I like a) organic scenes, b) inquisitive characters, c) slow reveals, and d) snowballing climaxes. In Summoned, Rainy Kaye solidly hits a, c, and d, which makes it a story pretty much written just for me. Even throws in a puzzle and Pre-Muslim Arabia at total bonuses.

Still, the author gave me an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review, and the book is not perfect.  Some things are errors that I fully expect to be cleaned up before publication, because Immortal Ink cares about stuff like that. I also found details that I personally would have chosen to do differently, but Ms. Kaye didn’t actually write it just for me. It would suck of me to hold those against her, and I try hard not to suck.

I give Summoned 4.5 stars, and I round up. I recommend it to fans of dark paranormal that don’t mind mature content with their felonies and apples.

About My Book Reviews

Book Review: Reaping Me Softly, by Kate Evangelista

Reaping Me Softly 450X679Omnific Publishing
Release Date: October 2012
YA Paranormal

Ever since a near-death-experience on the operating table, seventeen-year-old Arianne Wilson can see dead people. Just as she’s learned to accept her new-found talents, she discovers that the boy she’s had a crush on since freshman year, Niko Clark, is a Reaper.

At last they have something in common, but that doesn’t mean life is getting any easier. All while facing merciless bullying from the most powerful girl in school, Arianne’s world is turned upside down after Niko accidentally reaps the soul of someone she loves. This sends them both into a spiral that threatens to end Arianne’s life. But will Niko break his own Reaper’s code to save her? And what would the consequences be if he did?

Reaping Me Softly opens with an introspective solo scene. Death has a migraine. It’s not really surprising with the paperwork he has to keep up with. A hundred people die every minute on earth and he has to sign every single one. And it’s not just him. Nikolas Clark, the Reaper of Georgia, has been going through the motions for several lifetimes now. He’s so bored, so depressed, so fed up, that he forgets to take in residual energy from the souls he reaps. He’d have faded away to nothing if not for Arianne Wilson, a girl in his chemistry class, who just happens to be in the right place at the right time.

Arianne is a troubled girl. (What teenager isn’t to some extent?) At school, she’s in the crosshairs of the school bully, cheer captain Darla, and so is everyone who talks to her. At home, her family is divided. Both of her parents work. Her mother also spends nights at the hospital with Carrie, Arianne’s sister, whose first kidney transplant is failing while she’s on a waiting list for another. Arianne donated that kidney. She’d donate her other one if her parents would let her. Even if it were possible, she died on the operating table the first time around. Since then, Arianne’s been able to see ghosts, naked people who show up just about everywhere. She can’t talk to them. They don’t bother her. She’s gotten used to them.

At the opening of the story, there is news of a car accident on I-75. She doesn’t think much about it, until two classmates from her chemistry class, including her lab partner, are called to the principal’s office. This leaves Nico Clark without a lab partner, too, so their teacher puts them together. While Arianne is drooling over Nico, she drops hydrochloric acid on her skin, and Nico saves the day by knowing exactly what to do.

I wouldn’t exactly call Nico and Arianne’s relationship “instalove.” Arianne’s had a crush on the guy for years. Nico, however, does fall flat on his face in love rather quickly. Despite having multiple classes with her over the year, and having a locker right next to hers the year before, he has no recollection of having seen her before. Granted, he’s been depressed by his Reaper occupation and his being in school is mainly about fitting in. His best friend teases him, often, for being incredibly dense. But Nico goes from oblivious to lovesick in five seconds flat, and after she saves his life, he really is done for, to the amusement of his Reaper mentor, Tomas, and even Death himself. However, the author remedies this with a punishing ending that promises to make the boy work to keep Arianne.

Reaping Me Softly, is a cute book with serious themes underlying the sweetness. Darla, the bully, is a monster that keeps the entire school, including teachers, on a tight leash. Carrie’s declining health and the literal accumulation of death surrounding Niko and Arianne keep mortality close at hand. The prose is at times a bit too flowery, and in one scene, I remember reading through it three times before I understood what the author meant. These problems aside, I enjoyed reading it. So much, I moved the sequel, Unreap My Heart to the top of my reading list.

Reaping Me Softly is a clean YA read. There’s a scene depicting battle between two Reapers and the aftermath torture. There is no drinking, little swearing, and no inappropriate touchy-feely scenes. I would recommend it to fans of Evangelista’s other paranormal novels, Taste and Savor, and of YA paranormal romance in general.

I was given an e-book copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.


About My Book Reviews

Book Review: Sorrow’s Point, by Danielle Devor

Sorrow's Pointe CoverCrescent Moon Press
Release Date: October 2013
Dark Paranormal

When I was twelve, my mother disappeared. I was the first person to never find her.
I’m sixteen now and she has never been found, alive or dead.
I’m not the girl I should have been.

Not all exorcists are created equal- especially those that are “marked”. When defrocked ex-priest, Jimmy Holiday, agrees to help an old friend’s sick daughter, Lucy, he unearths unexpected horrors. Blackmoor, his friend’s new residence, has a dark history that makes it appear almost alive. Jimmy must decide if Lucy is only ill, or if the haunting of the house and her apparent possession are real. After the house begins affecting him as well; seeing colors of magic and his voice taking on an unusual power, Jimmy discovers that he is apparently “marked”. Whatever being “marked” means, Jimmy doesn’t care. He wants to help Lucy. Helping Lucy means performing the exorcism. Jimmy knows the ceremony, but it’s belief that matters. And if a demon is using a little girl as a meatsuit, his faith had better be strong enough to kick it back to Hell. Otherwise, he might damn them both.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Sorrow’s Point is not my kind of book. I don’t do well with creepy. I jump at all the Hollywood studio tricks. Most of the time, my husband is staring at me with a look that falls somewhere between “I married you?” and “You’re so cute.” Yeah, if he wants to watch scary stuff, he is on his own and he knows it.

So, I put off reading Sorrow’s Point until the end of my Christmas road trip. I started reading it at dawn, and finished while it was still light. This was intentional. I wanted enough time to get in something fluffier before night fell. Since I was reading in the car, I couldn’t just turn on all the lights in the house. In hindsight, these preparations were unnecessary. The book is not as scary as I was anticipating, or even as it should be, leaving me to wonder if it’s the problem is with the book…or me. (The last book I recall scaring me was an Agatha Christie title, and I’ve read lost of Stephen King and Robert McCammon since then.) Maybe, I’m not scared when I read?

Sorrow’s Point, I believe, should be classified as macabre. The home, Blackmoor, is creepy because it’s old, opulent, and way too big for the needs of a single family. It’s more of an old castle, two football fields wide, and when the Andersons move into the house, it comes fully furnished. The family learns after moving in–despite real estate laws requiring disclosure of crimes that took place on the premises–a Black family member killed, dismembered, and ate his wife and daughter in the kitchen, an event that cast a shadow over the town that persists until the present. The horrible affliction of the Anderson’s daughter, Lucy, animates the house enough to make it feel alive to those within it, but like watching a stage play, the characters keep the tension between them. Unlike The Stanley Hotel (The Shining) or the home in Amityville, Blackmoor remained a setting for me. Once this was clear to me, I retained hope throughout the story that if Lucy could be rescued, the family could go about their lives in this house.

I could be wrong, and horror fans can correct me, but I don’t think that’s the feeling I should have in the middle of a demon possession story.

And because I don’t feel that I am qualified to judge the book from a genre standpoint, my 4-star rating is based solely on the writing. The prose is mostly good. The narration is clear. The setting is appropriately dark and triggers the senses. The dialog works well. I think, if optioned for film, it would stand on its own in the genre, and would benefit from special effects. My main problem is that in a few places, the author meanders into sections of second-person POV—which uses the word “you.” Rather than characters talking to each other, or the narrator addressing himself, Will addresses the reader and requests participation in the story. It’s a technique that works in some storytelling situations, like Michael Weston’s narrative bits on Burn Notice. In Sorrow’s Point, however, the second-person POV sections feel like notes that were never fully fleshed out. I was yanked out of the story every time I encountered them.

The characters in the story feel real. Jimmy Holliday, former Catholic priest, is a man who is annoyed the responsibility of saving this family has fallen on him, yet as much as he could take or leave her parents, he finds he cannot walk away from Lucy. Will Anderson, a long lost friend from childhood, is one part nice guy, one part coward, one part doormat, and suffers from selective memory. His one saving grace is that he loves his daughter, but he predictably fails in husband, father, and friend departments. Will’s wife, Tor (short for Victoria), is a trust fund baby used to getting what she wants. When she’s not losing sleep or changing Lucy’s IV and feeding bags, she’s cooking. Each meal is more complicated than the next, and she puts three on the table. Every single day. Honestly, for a good portion of the book, I thought Tor was possessed, too, and I kept waiting for her connection to the Black Family.

I have never seen the Exorcist. Not interested. Don’t wanna. Having said that, six-year-old Lucy Anderson is exactly what I expected from what I’ve heard about the Exorcist.

Finally, there’s Tabby, the witch that Jimmy met while he was a priest, and over whom he was defrocked. Jimmy’s a man of integrity. There was nothing between him and Tabby while his vows were intact, but they lived together for several years after he left the church. Tabby is a good witch, with a warm, loving personality. As Will and Tor’s relationship disintegrates over their daughter’s demise, Tabby and Jimmy pick up the slack, put together a case for exorcism, and remember why they loved each other long ago. Tabby was my favorite character in the book.

Sorrow’s Point includes scenes of light magic, dark magic, Ouija boards, torture, physical violence, harsh language, and a young child exhibiting the affects of demon possession, including sexually inappropriate speech and behavior.

***I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest opinion.***


About My Book Reviews

Book Review: Phantom Touch, by Jessica Hawke

phantomTouchCrescent Moon Press
Release Date: November 2013
YA Paranormal

Bridget White just wants to be an average girl, but the car accident that killed her sister took away everything normal in Bridget’s life. Now she spends her days talking to unhappy ghosts and helping them move on to the afterlife. But dealing with death on a daily basis is too much for one girl to handle, so when she finds a way to get rid of her supernatural sight, she jumps at the chance.

There’s just one more job standing between her and normal. When a missing local girl turns up as a freshly murdered ghost, Bridget realizes she’s the only one who can find the killer. Worse still, he’s not done killing. Now Bridget may have to sacrifice her only chance at being normal to stop him from taking another innocent life.

Bridget helps the wrongfully dead pass on to the hereafter. It’s not something she wants to do, but if it earns her a shot at a normal life, she’s up for it. In the opening chapter, while she prepares to send off the ghost of a middle aged woman, her sister Val sits irreverently on a headstone and keeps her company. Bridget has researched the woman, and after she’s shown pictures of her children and grandchildren, and the ghost moves along. Bridget has one week left until she can perform a ceremony that will shut off this strange ability. She’s anxious to get rid of it, but she’s also dreading it a little. First she has to let go of Val, who died two years earlier in a car accident.

On the way home, Bridget sees a missing person’s poster for Natalie Fullmer. She gets a very strange feeling when she sees it. The girl’s mother believes she’s run away again and has washed her hands of the mess. Natalie’s totally hot little brother, Michael, is holding out hope, and that brings him and Bridget together. Of course, things get complicated when Natalie attacks Bridget from beyond her shallow grave. Because Natalie doesn’t want Michael to know she’s dead, Bridget has to pretend to be looking for her when she’s actually looking for the killer.

Also in Bridget’s life is an annoying little brother who plays video games at jet engine volume; a divorced mother who works as hard to forget she had an older daughter as she does to put food on the table; and a best friend who is in dire need of a spanking.

Phantom Touch is a young adult paranormal story, told in a very believable teen voice, which focuses more on the complications of Bridget’s personal life than the boy who’s walked into it. That’s right. Even though Bridget has a crush, and it would appear that Michael likes her, too, both kids are too preoccupied with the sisters that are lost to them to start much of a relationship with each other. The two (living) girls in the story have conversations about parents, and concerts, and classmates, making Phantom Touch one of the most realistic teen stories I’ve read in the YA paranormal genre. At the same time, the serial killer arc brings attention to the dangers and the seeming innocent things that can make someone vulnerable to the evil that lurks below the surface of society.

I very much enjoyed seeing how Bridget’s story unfolded. It appears to be a standalone novel, but like the pilot of a television show, the ending left open the possibility of a long-running series. The novel includes some violence and a serial killer that target problem teen girls. I don’t recall coarse language and there are no touchy/feely scenes. She did, however, make me cry, so that has been taken into account in my 5-star rating.

I was given an e-book copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

About My Book Reviews

Book Review: Speak of the Devil, by Shawna Romkey

SpeakOfTheDevilCrescent Moon Press
Release Date: March 2013
YA Paranormal

What happens when falling in love and falling from grace collide?

After dying in a car accident with her two best friends, Lily miraculously awakens to grief and guilt. She escapes to her dad’s to come to terms with the event and meets some people at her new school who seem all too eager to help her heal. Sliding deeper into sorrow and trying to fight her feelings for two of them, she finds out who…what they really are and that they are falling too.

Can she find the strength to move on from the past, reconcile her feelings for Luc, find a way to stop a divine war with fallen angels, and still pass the eleventh grade?

Teenagers are complicated, sensitive creatures, and on the surface, Lily is normal for her age. She loves her friends. She loves going out with her friends, Mike and Julie, who are not afraid to take a bit of a risk for a good time. One night, the three go out in a rainstorm and their car ends up going over a bridge.

It’s hard to be grateful to be alive when your friends are dead, and it’s your fault. Seconds before the crash, Lily did something innocuous, but it distracts Mike, causing the slide that resulted in the car going over the edge. Going to school is torture. The other kids treat Lily carefully, but she projects her guilt onto them, and receives their sympathy as blame. To start over, she moves to Kansas City to live with her dad, and finish high school with kids that don’t know about the her, the accident, or her dead friends.

There, she meets a group of kids who are beautiful in a punkish sort-of-way, and entirely too talented for their age. The apparent leader among them is Luc, to whom Lily is immediately drawn, but he steps aside because his friend Mo thinks she’s “the one” for him. But, it doesn’t last, because Luc feels the same connect to Lily as she feels to him.

Luc, the hottie with wings on the cover of the book, was born to human parents but he grew into an angelic calling to save one human soul. At the same time, he and his friends are suffering a crisis of their own. Dwelling on Earth takes its toll on angels, but this group, there are extraordinary circumstances with dire consequences. Luc needs Lily as much as she needs him.

Speak of the Devil is a YA Paranormal Romance that explores survivor’s guilt, the grieving/coping mechanisms of teenagers, and how finding/having a purpose can make all the difference in a young adult’s life. My one problem with the book is this. It is told primarily in Lily’s first-person POV, and because of her circumstances, this results in forty pages of a 16-year-old telling me she’s depressed. After a while, I really wanted to slap her and say, Stop feeling sorry for yourself. She does do something about it, leaves to go to a new school, but her attitude doesn’t really improve until her curiosity about Luc and his friends surpasses her self-pity. At that point, the story improves by leaps and bounds, but getting past the beginning was a little rough for me, thus my 4-star rating.

Speak of the Devil includes angels, demons, scenes of teen alcohol abuse, sexual attraction, and an attempted rape of the main character. Religious subject matter is interpreted in a generic “angels=good/demons=evil” way that doesn’t counter Sunday School, but God is missing, which may offend. I would recommend it for readers as young as 13, depending on the reader’s maturity.

I finished this book on April 2, 2013. I rated it on Goodreads with intention of returning to leave a review, and then…stuff happened. It was nine months ago, I don’t even remember what the stuff was. Pathetic. Truly pathetic. Anyhow, I received this book from Crescent Moon Press in exchange for my honest opinion.


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Book Review: Death Lies Between Us, by Jody A. Kessler

deathLiesBetweenUsRelease Date: March 2013
NA Paranormal

Saving the life of someone you love should not be the worst thing you have ever done, unless you are an Angel of Death. Disgruntled with his position in the afterlife and conflicted by his feelings toward his new client, Nathaniel Evans forgoes the rules and saves nineteen year old Juliana Crowson from being hopelessly stuck in Forge Creek. This alters Juliana’s destiny and she finds herself in a series of near death accidents.

In the mountains of Colorado, Nathaniel comforts Juliana as she struggles to understand her paranormal abilities while coping with her brother’s drug addiction. When an ill-tempered Native American Shaman teaches her the difference between ghosts and place memories, she decides she wants nothing to do with the supernatural world. Too bad she doesn’t know that Nathaniel is part of it. Will fate bring these two together, or has Nathaniel made the biggest mistake of his afterlife?

When Nathaniel Evans first sees Juliana Crowson, she’s writing in a notebook while a boy that resembles her plays a guitar. Her face is hidden from Nathaniel by her long black hair and eyelashes. The poetry she’s writing in her book give him an ominous feeling, like she may have a death wish. It wouldn’t surprise him. He’s an Angel of Death and he’s there to help her make the transition into the hereafter.

Her time has not come yet, and because he has to be there when it does, he has the only excuse he needs to follow her. It’s in his job description, but he quickly realizes it might be bad for his soul. He was wrong about her death wish. On the contrary, she’s full of life. Within an hour of walking into her life, Nathaniel finds her in three potentially life threatening situations, and with each one, he feels the moment he’s waiting for draw nearer and dreads it. But when people who know Juliana leave her with her foot caught between a log and a rock in an ice-cold creek, Nathaniel can no longer watch. He makes himself visible and flesh enough to free her from her predicament, but fears that his interference may set her up for a death worse that the hypothermia he’s helped her avoid.

Death Lies Between us is a New Adult novel centered on a theme of unintended consequences. Every character in this story does something that impacts other characters, sometimes in undesirable ways, even across time and dimensions. There are moments of innocence, selfishness, cruelty, fear, greed, love, pity, and forgiveness, all of which come from characters one might least expect. This gives the entire cast a very human quality.

Nathaniel is a desirable hero with a tragic past that allows the reader to pity his mortal life and sympathize with his present situation. With two dangerous incidents averted, superstitious Juliana is on her guard and waiting for the third to come and claim her. Once introduced, they are subject to quick, mutual infatuation. The reader can only hope that she avoids the fate that Nathaniel’s presence promises.

Yet, it’s in the love story arc of the story where a latent flaw inherent to any romance with a ghost lies. The only “happily ever after” requires the death of the living partner, and the thought of Juliana’s death was Nathaniel’s conflict. How could he do his job when his instinct was to protect her? Appearing to her is not a huge deal, because the girl has supernatural talents that she is struggling to come to terms with, but manifesting as a touchable person takes a lot of effort for him. Basically, I didn’t feel that Juliana was at risk of dying, but neither did I feel there was hope for a future with Nathaniel. A happily-for-now was possible if she survived the novel, but I found myself hoping for the development of a third scenario that involved Chris, a cranky, 25-going on-70-year-old Native American shaman.

Without giving anything away, I will say I was satisfied.

In her debut novel, Jody Kessler has written a solid paranormal novel that bring together Native American folklore, restless spirits, supernatural gifts, and angels on missions. It is the first of a planned series, and there are a number of loose ends left to be tied. The haunting of Castle Hill, (one of the primary settings of the book), Juliana’s brother’s drug addiction are both realistically still in play, as is an apparent fall from grace for Nathaniel, who seems unable to follow rules where Juliana is concerned.

I would recommend Death Lies Between Us to fans of NA Paranormal Romance, particularly readers who enjoyed Avery Olive’s “A Stiff Kiss” or Toni de Palma’s “The Devil’s Triangle.”

I was given an e-book copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.


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Book Review: Ascendant, by Rebecca Taylor

ascendantCrescent Moon Press
Release Date: June 2013
YA Paranormal

When I was twelve, my mother disappeared. I was the first person to never find her.
I’m sixteen now and she has never been found, alive or dead.
I’m not the girl I should have been.

When Charlotte Stevens, bright but failing, is sent to stay at her mother’s childhood home in Somerset England her life is changed forever. While exploring the lavish family manor, Gaersum Aern, Charlotte discovers a stone puzzle box that contains a pentagram necklace and a note from her mother—clues to her family’s strange past and her mother’s disappearance. Charlotte must try to solve the puzzle box, decipher her mother’s old journals, and figure out who is working to derail her efforts—and why. The family manor contains many secrets and hidden histories, keys to the elegant mystery Charlotte called mom and hopefully, a trail to finding her.

Charlotte Stephens is an orphan. Sort of. Her mother’s been missing since she was twelve, and because her father, Simon Stevens, is a best-selling author 17 times over, Elizabeth’s disappearance was a tabloid-worthy mystery. Four years later, Charlotte plagiarizes a final paper on Richard II, a play she’s read four times, because she just doesn’t care. This sets into motion a chain of events a teenager wouldn’t anticipate. Her principal notifies Charlotte’s emergency contact, her father’s literary agent, that Simon has shown up to a disciplinary meeting sloppy drunk. Twenty-four hours later, Charlotte is on plane for England to stay with an uncle she’s never met while her father dries out at a detox facility.

There, Charlotte is met at the airport by Gaersum Aern’s caretaker’s children. Caleb is seventeen, and she vaguely recalls him as the boy she kissed behind the dining room curtains when she was seven. Along for the ride is fifteen-year-old, Sophie, a “material girl” who’s recently gotten the pair’s Internet privileges revoked.

Caleb is still in love with Charlotte nine years later, an infatuation that she reciprocates easily once they reconnect in Gaersum Aern’s library. Unfortunately for him, another boy has his sights set on Charlotte. Hayden Wriothesley is sixteen and a second cousin of the king of England. He’s filthy rich, absurdly gorgeous, and very accustomed to getting everything he wants from everyone. He’s arrogant and chauvinistic, and Charlotte despises him. Here she is torn in three directions. Her heart wants Caleb. Her mind wants to figure out her mother’s mysteries. And, her body responds to Hayden’s advances, making it very hard to say no when she should.

I suppose now is a good time to mention that’s she’s stumbled ass-over-teakettle into a conflict between orders of Freemasons. By the time she realizes the role she plays, it’s far too late to turn tail and run.

Ascendant is a wonderful YA paranormal tale set in the tapestry of rural England, among old wealth estates, and includes ancient symbols, secret societies. It is driven by naiveté and teen angst on the surface, ancient tradition beneath, and between the two, the consequences of one family’s choice to save face at the expense of an illegitimate child ripple across decades, leaving tragedy in their wake.

Ascendant would fit at home on a shelf with Rebecca Hamilton’s The Forever Girl series, Rebecca Trogner’s The Last Keeper’s Daughter. There are some sexual situations, including kissing and partial nudity. I would recommend it readers over the age of 13 who are fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, and/or the YA Paranormal Romance.

I was given an e-book copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

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ARC Review: Desperate Possession (Protectors #3), by Hildie McQueen

DesperatePossession-400-600Crescent Moon Press
Release Date: January 1, 2014
Paranormal Romance

Fallon Trent is going to die. Either the Protectors will kill him or he will do the honors himself. Either way, the powerful demon in him will not be allowed to flourish. After living so long, why does the love of his life have to enter his life at the same time as possession.

As a human demon slayer, Tonia Mohr’s sole purpose is revenge. The more demons she kills the better – and she will continue finding the one that killed her husband. But will she be able to keep her oath when the man she loves becomes more demon than not.

In Hildie McQueen’s Atlanta, there are Protectors and demons. Three castes of the latter, in fact, walking around looking very human, and some are up to no good.
The third Protector novel focuses on the plight of Lord Fallon Trent, a British noble who, like his brothers-in-arms, acquired immortality in his 20s, along with nightmares and the physique of a Greek statue. A privileged young man in prior to his change, Fallon has long had a way with women, so a lover’s bed is a good place to pick up where “Desperate Surrender” left off.

Tonia Muhr–a US Marshal by day, demon slayer by night—begrudges the clothing that hides Fallon’s body from her as he dresses to leave her apartment. She doesn’t know much about him. His name. He’s British. He’s filthy rich. And if sexual talent were converted to dollars, his actual bank account would pale by comparison. He’s that freaking great at it. At the same time, he wants her to stop looking for the kind of trouble that introduced them, and with a murdered husband in the ground, walking away from the demon world is something she won’t do.

Fallon’s recent performances in bed aren’t entirely his doing. A master demon has been slowly preparing him for possession over the course of weeks. The symptoms of this process are a desire to kill everyone around him, which he fights, and a voracious appetite for sex, which he indulges with a very willing Tonia.

In between romps, Fallon patrols the streets and looks for the demon that’s marked his claim on him, where his paths continue to cross paths with Tonia’s.

Tonia and Fallon’s do-si-do with demons becomes a tango when he finds her bleeding and near death on her bathroom floor. Fellow Protector, Roderick Cronan saves her life the same way he once saved his own wife; he infuses her with the only blood available…Fallon’s. It was once a rare thing, but there are now three mated protectors in Atlanta. What’s their exasperated boss Julian to do with the fourth soldier to disobey his very clear orders?

First, he throws the Protector’s rule book at the lone remaining single man on the team with a stern command to, “Read it.” Then, he insists Fallon join with Tonia in the same ancient Roman ceremony that joined Roderick, Cynden, and Kieran, to their respective wives. This takes place on the spot, without input from Tonia, and it doesn’t go over well at all.

What was once a glorious casual sex relationship becomes marriage overnight, complete with competing expectations, mistakes, and bruised egos. The sex between them is passionate, almost animal, and possibly driven more by Fallon’s demon’s lust than his own. It doesn’t care much if it fills the growing rift between Tonia and Fallon, or pushes it open wider, as long as it gets fed.

Desperate Betrayal, the first book in this series, was an exercise in trust and forgiveness between soul mates. Book two, Desperate Surrender followed man overcoming deep-seeded emotional scarring to reluctantly grasp happiness and hold onto it for dear life. In the third, Desperate Possession, the battle against demons is closer to home than ever, and deeply personal.

The Protectors novels are among my very favorite in the Paranormal Romance genre. The chemistry between characters is at times amusing, heartwarming, and maddening. The settings are rich, the fights are explosive, and the sex scenes are scorching. With incubus, Sebastian, taking on a larger role, the introduction of two very interesting new characters, it is clear that Ms. McQueen is not done in Atlanta. So, I will be anxiously awaiting the next novel, hoping (and crossing my fingers, and praying to gods I don’t believe in) that we’ll soon know Julian’s story. I mean, with a new master demon at the helm in Atlanta, it might be time for the Protector’s leader to pick a bedroom at Fallon Trent’s house.

I would recommend the Protector novels to fans of Paranormal Romance, Christine Ashworth’s Caine’s Brother’s novels, Lynn Rush’s Wasteland series, and SyFy Channel’s Lost Girl.

I was given an advance copy in return for my honest opinion.

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