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Paranormal Suspense

Review: Beneath The Blood Moon by R.J. Blain


“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” -Buddha

The chaining of Fenrir cost the god Tyr his right hand” – Völuspá,  translated to English in The Poetic Edda,  Henry Adams Bellows, 1923

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Sara Watson thought her life was bad enough as it was. Working as a stripper and part time Vegas showgirl, she tries to hold down four part time jobs, go to college, and still pay the rent and eat. They say Vegas is a hard place to live, and she knows all about that. But even the hell of her life is better than the hell she ran from in New York. A father that beat and controlled her, a life with no meaning. At least now, if she can get through school, she can start a real life on her own – fake ID or no fake ID.

Yes, life was hard. But nothing as hard as being kidnapped along with her best “friend” (though the idea of friend is Las Vegas equates to ‘what can I get out of you for doing you the favor of being your friend) and dragged out to the desert by her ex ‘I’m-a-cheating-POS’ boyfriend who has tracked her down to Las Vegas to bring her back. Or kill her. Whichever works.

Telling him to get stuffed, taking her beating and broken ribs, then crawling out into the desert to die on her own and free is gutsy enough. I gained a ton of respect for her at this point, though I already respected her for keeping her moral compass (unlike her crappy friend) and going against said ‘friend’ and not going full-on prostitute made me respect her. Yep. She is one tough cookie, with more internal fortitude than any man her age I have ever known. But after the ex and the girlfriend finish doing the nasty and track her down as she crawls across the desert, then turn into wolves and begin eating her alive (literally), even weirder things happen. And suddenly, Sara’s life is more hell than she could have ever imagined.

Let’s get serious here. First, I really, REALLY wanted to give this book five stars with a bullet. Sara is tough and strong, yes. But she isn’t unbelievable, and she has a heart of gold and a strong sense of right and wrong – and did I mention the heart of gold? Then she meets four other women who are an absolute joy. Tough, take no prisoners women with a fetish for guns, not taking any crap off of anyone, and their husbands (pretty much in that order). There is romance, but no sex scenes, which was completely refreshing (if you are an erotica-only lover, skip this one). The story is fast, suspenseful, sometimes terrifying, and kept me totally immersed in the story. The characters are wonderful, the world building is unusual (living in the world as we know it, but with their own governance, etc.) Some of the scenes literally brought me to tears. That’s the good.

The bad came after I had a chance to come down off my ‘reader-high’ and start thinking about what I would write in my review, and realized I couldn’t give it a five at all. The story is complex, and kept my attention throughout, but there were some issues that a really good content editor could have solved. Ms. Blain has a brilliant mind for writing paranormal suspense, but she isn’t organized. She has a few different threads moving through the book, which is fine, I really enjoy books that are more than one-note songs, but she literally dropped the ball about midway through, dropping one of the more interesting story lines and never going back to it. No wrap, just dropped. Poor form. The book is quite long, 564 pages, and I was never bored or wanting to skip pages as I do with some longer books, and her descriptive narrative and conversational style was enjoyable, but dropping the story line, which I was invested in, shows a lack of organization. Editing for word usage, spelling, and dropped words was OK, but not good. Someone put effort into beta reading for that sort of thing, but the continuity is what killed it.

Overall, I will still recommend the book. The story and pace kept me up all night long (literally, yawn) and then the minute I rose I went right back to it and stayed with it to the end. Give this woman a good content editor, or just a whiteboard to write down all of her threads to make sure she ties them all up at the end and a couple of really good beta readers and she will be a force to be reckoned with in the world of Paranormal Suspense. Recommended, but could be better.


Review: Last Immortal Dragon (The Last of the Gray Back Series)

26854031“I hope to outlive my enemies.” — William Sanderson

“I watched the spinning stars, grateful, sad and proud, as only a man who has outlived his destiny and realizes he might yet forge himself another, can be.”  ― Roger Zelazny, Isle of the Dead

Outliving your enemies is good. Outliving those you love, your family, your friends, the very world you once knew? How terrible. Excruciating loneliness. Emptiness. Watching everything and everyone you know age, die and turn to dust.

Such is the life of Damon Daye. For you see, Damon Daye is the Last Immortal Dragon. The only one of his once numerous kind. Alone. So terribly, terribly alone. Unable to die, he retreats to his mountain, Damon’s Mountain, where he watches over the Bear Shifter Crews under his protection. He grows too close however, to the scraggly crews under his care, leading to a need he hasn’t known for a while. His dragon wants to care for someone again – a child of his own.

Determined to ascertain his boss fulfills his needs, even though Damon fights against it, Mason brings a woman to Damon’s Mountain. A woman who he believes will sign Damon’s contract to have a child with him, then walk away – something that has worked for Damon in times past, to assuage his desperate loneliness. But this time? This time both Damon and Mason are in for a surprise. For the woman Mason brings, Clara Sutterfield, an Alpha Bear, is much more than either expected. And that very fact may signal the destruction of not only everything Damon has built on the Mountain, but the destruction of the Last Immortal Dragon himself.

I absolutely adored Last Immortal Dragon. I have read (and reviewed) many, if not all, of T. S. Joyce’s Damon’s Mountain stories and have enjoyed every one. Ms. Joyce writes interesting stories, with true storylines – not just a weak storyline as a cover for multiple sex scenes. The sex is there, of course (this is a ‘shifter meets mate’ series after all) but there are actual stories here. Stories that carry the theme through the whole series and touch on real world issues such as race hatred, multi-racial marriage, environmental issues, human fear of the unknown, and political manipulation of those who are least able to protect themselves. She writes well, and fulfills so many promises other writers offer, but never achieve.

I highly recommend you start at the beginning of the Damon’s Mountain series and work your way through. Then check out Ms. Joyce’s other works. They are all solid entries in the Paranormal Romance genre, but are actually more than just a genre entry.

Reading Order for Damon’s Mountain:

Lumberjack Werebear (Saw Bears, Book 1)

Woodcutter Werebear (Saw Bears, Book 2)

Timberman Werebear (Saw Bears, Book 3)

Sawman Werebear (Saw Bears, Book 4)

Bear My Soul (Fire Bears, Book 1)

Axman Werebear (Saw Bears, Book 5)

Bear the Burn (Fire Bears, Book 2)

Bear the Heat (Fire Bears, Book 3)

Woodsman Werebear (Saw Bears, Book 6)

Lumberman Werebear (Saw Bears, Book 7)

Gray Back Bad Bear (Gray Back Bears, Book 1)

Gray Back Alpha Bear (Gray Back Bears, Book 2)

Gray Back Ghost Bear (Gray Back Bears, Book 3)

Gray Back Broken Bear (Gray Back Bears, Book 4)

Lowlander Silverback (Gray Back Bears, Book 5)

Last Immortal Dragon (Gray Back Bears, Book 6)

A Very Beastly Christmas (Gray Back Bears, Book 7)

Boarlander Boss Bear (Boarlander Bears, Book 1)

Boarlander Bash Bear (Boarlander Bears, Book 2)

Boarlander Silverback (Boarlander Bears, Book 3)

Boarlander Beast Boar (Boarlander Bears, Book 4)

Boarlander Cursed Bear (Boarlander Bears, Book 5)


Guard Wolf (Shifter Agents Book 2) by Lauren Esker

“You think humanity’s found rock bottom, and then they keep digging.” – Special Agent Avery Hollen, Special (Shifter) Crimes Bureau, Seattle WA

“We can never be gods, after all–but we can become something less than human with frightening ease.” ― N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Guard Wolf: BBW Paranormal Wolf Shifter Romance (Shifter Agents Book 2) - Lauren EskerBack in August of 2015 I wrote a review of “Handcuffed to the Bear” by Lauren Esker. At the time, I said, “If this weren’t a shifter story, it would fall under the suspense or romantic suspense genre without a doubt. So I will call it “Paranormal Suspense.” The focus is on Casey and Jack staying alive long enough to be rescued from a sadistic pack of lion shifters intent on hunting them down and slaughtering them, as they have with many other victims – including Casey’s best friend Wendy.

I had thought from the cover that it was some bondage thing and almost bypassed it immediately, but the blurb caught my eye. And I got a big kick out of reading it, as you can tell if you click on the link to my review, above. I mentioned that Guard Wolf, the second in the series, would come out that October. Then, of course, I got distracted. Oops.

The other day I came across Guard Wolf and thought, “Hum. That looks like a good ‘bathtub book’” (i.e., a book I carry into a nice hot bath with a glass of wine). As I got into it, I got a niggle that I had read another book by this author, and by the time I got to the end I remembered why the story felt so familiar.

I am glad I happened to stumble across Esker once more. Guard Wolf is the second in the series, carrying forward with the Shifter Agents storyline, this time the story of Avery Hollen, Jack’s best friend and coworker at SCB Seattle. Avery has a harder life than the others at the SCB. Badly crippled when an RPG took out the gasoline tanker truck he was standing beside in Afghanistan, he lived only through the efforts of Jack. Jack, who takes full responsibility for the fact that Avery was hurt in the first place. For you see, it was Jack’s ‘private security’ (read, mercenary) team who got themselves stuck on a lonely Afghan road, and cried for the Army to haul their ashes. A whole team of young, fresh-off-the-farm Army boys were slaughtered by that RPG. And Jack never forgot.

Now, Avery walks with a cane, his leg so torn up and twisted from his rapid shifter healing in the field he can barely walk at all. So, he gets desk duty more often than not. And tonight? Tonight he is thrown a curve when a box of werewolf children in puppy form are thrust on his desk. Oh, yeah. He just knows he is going to regret this. After all, his own childhood was a sadistic nightmare. What the hell does he know about children?!

Nicole Yates is a harried, hard-working social worker, specializing in shifters with family issues. When Avery stumbles into her office just before quitting time with said box full of pups/children, well, her life is suddenly not only turned on its head – she may actually not be able to hang onto her life at all. And neither may Avery. For these puppies have scars and shaved spots. Scars and shaved spots that indicate that someone, somewhere, have been at best medicating them. At worst? At worst, something nasty is going on, and these children have been subjected to the unimaginable. Tracking down what is going on leads Nicole and Avery down a warped path of horrors, of science gone incredibly wrong.

“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” – Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias

Like HttB, this second in the series is very much paranormal suspense of the best kind. Edge-of-your-seat, fast-paced suspense that kept me in the tub for three runs of ‘drain-and-refill and the heck with the empty wine glass’. I love paranormals with sharp edges, suspense, and fast action, and this one fits the bill to a T. It also isn’t simply a thinly developed, poorly plotted story designed to be a vehicle for ‘boom chaka laka’ (Yes, you DO know what I mean) on every page, which I truly enjoyed. Lauren Esker could write suspense thrillers all day long without the paranormal bent – but I am glad she writes what she does. I really enjoy her work.

Review: Handcuffed to the Bear by Lauren Esker #ParanormalSuspense

“Those that much covet are with gain so fond,
For what they have not, that which they possess
They scatter and unloose it from their bond,
And so, by hoping more, they have but less;
Or, gaining more, the profit of excess
Is but to surfeit, and such griefs sustain,
That they prove bankrupt in this poor-rich gain.”
― William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece’

Handcuffed to the Bear: BBW Paranormal Bear Shifter Romance (Shifter Agents Book 1)First, don’t look at the cover and think, “Oh, BDSM.” That isn’t what this is. What it is, is a great story. It is advertised as a “Paranormal Romance” – which I find to be a shame, as it is more than that. If you are looking for a simple story, boy shifter meets girl shifter, immediate mating occurs, stuff happens, tons of sex happens, HEA, well, this isn’t that. Though the ending is sooo good, I have to say – can we all say kickass Casey?

Being cuffed together and dumped out in the forests of the American Northwest, neither Casey nor Jack can switch to their animal forms. The handcuffs are Jack’s – as a federal agent, the handcuffs are designed to hold the strongest shifter. If Jack, a grizzly, shifts, he will lose a hand/paw. And it doesn’t do Casey any real good to shift, even though her wrists/ankles are small enough to get away with it. As a lynx, her paws are huge, designed to allow her to race over deep snows. So they must retain their naked human forms as they flee from a lion pride. A lion pride gone bad, who hunt and slaughter terrified shifters for fun. Staying alive means running, hiding, and when necessary, fighting for their lives. Stuck on a private island off the British Columbia coast, there is no help in sight. Not unless Jack’s backup can first find them, then rescue them before the pride closes in and the slaughter commences.

If this weren’t a shifter story, it would fall under the suspense or romantic suspense genre without a doubt. So I will call it “Paranormal Suspense.” The focus is on Casey and Jack staying alive long enough to be rescued. For Jack, being handcuffed to a tiny lynx shifter civilian is, well, frustrating to say the least. He is an admitted ‘bad team player.’ But Casey isn’t just any civilian. After her best friend Wendy disappeared Casey was determined to find out what happened to her. No one would listen to her, would believe that Wendy didn’t just move away to Colorado without a word. Wendy and Casey are both orphans, Wendy brought up in “the system” and Casey by her grandmother. Wendy wouldn’t just take off. The only clue Casey has is that Wendy was a programmer for Lion’s Share Software, a shifter owned corporation owned by the local lion pride. So, Casey works, hard, for two years to put herself into a position to find out what happened to her friend. From waitress to mail room, up through the ranks to executive assistant to the head of Lion’s Share, Roger Fallon. It was a brutal slog of long days and nights, school and job, total focus and hard work. But she is there. And when asked to the company’s yearly yacht tour around Puget Sound, Casey sees it as an opportunity to watch, to listen, and to find out if her suspicions are correct – that the Fallons had something to do with Wendy’s disappearance.

Agent Jack Ross of the “Shif uh, – Special Crimes Bureau” or SCB, is working undercover. Shifters have been disappearing. Females, small breeds, easily picked off and with no families, or families who can’t afford to mount a search. Young single mothers, single women with little or no family. The SCB knows that the Fallons are involved, but to prove it they need more evidence. Jack’s assignment with the catering company on the Fallon yacht was supposed to be information gathering only. But when he sees tiny Casey’s unconscious body being stuffed into a crate, something must have happened – because he finds himself waking up from a deeply drugged state handcuffed to Casey in the middle of a forest. To survive they are going to have to work together, to help one another, to save one another from a horrid death at the teeth and claws of the pride. Not an easy thing for two self-sufficient people with teamwork and trust issues to handle.

Again, I completely enjoyed this book. I picked it up as a Freebie – and it is still free, so even if you can’t read it right now, pick it up and read it when you get a chance. If you like suspense, you will like this. Casey never wimps out. She gets hurt, battered, shot at, shot, and she just puts her head down and keeps right on going. She is believable, she isn’t an idiot, and she is one gutsy lady. And I really liked that she had to actually kick the big bear in the butt a couple of different times to get his fat backside moving when he would have simply laid down and died. Awesome! They learned to work together, and Casey’s part in the story was never minimized. Yep. Totally awesome.

The next one coming out is “Guard Wolf on Duty” coming out in October. I have it on my “order when available” list. And we will hopefully get to see Casey kicking backside and taking names again…. Cool!

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