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Infected: Life After Death (Infected Book 3), by Andrea Speed

In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

But when your heart is gone, it's easy to fall into a black hole and never crawl out. Roan has been lost and alone for more than a year, and his best friends think a new case might be just the motivation he needs. Roan forces himself back into the game and discovers a dead man who might not be all that dead, a street hustler that wants to hustle him, and a dominatrix who is well prepared to take Roan's orders. As Roan claws his way out of the darkness by diving back into his work, he finds himself in a race against time in the adrenaline-pumping realization that nothing helps a person want to live like helping someone else survive.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Normally I refrain from reviewing later books in a series since they don't have a lot of context to readers who haven't read the earlier books. I think that this review is necessary for me if only to document that after the emotionally draining end of Infected: Bloodlines, the story still carries on, and is definitely worth continuing.

As with Prey, Life After Death is two novellas sandwiched together. The first is by far more affecting. As Paris predicted, Roan took a long time to recover from his death (is this a spoiler? I suppose the title is a spoiler so...). Speed captures the depression that follows painfully accurately.

Roan idly wondered if he cared about anything and decided that no, he probably didn't. Should that bother him? Again, he didn't care.

We follow Roan as he slowly digs himself out of the worst depths, although he by no means fully recovers. His discussions with an imaginary Paris who haunts his hallucinations are touching and show a tender side that Roan tries so hard to hide.

"The pain is supposed to fade, right? Why isn't it? I still miss you so much I can barely stand it. I keep expecting to see you every time I open the office door."

Paris wrapped his arms around him and gave him a squeeze that he could almost feel. "Oh sweetie, it doesn't fade. No one should know better than an infected that pain doesn't ever really fade-you just get used to it."

We do get back into the swing of his life, though, as he begins to reach out and populate his world again with those who care about him. As he takes on new cases and slowly comes up for air, we continue to learn more about Roan, his lion, and the world around him.

The second novella is somewhat less successful, if only because it's almost more of an extended slice-of-life story. Over the course of the novella Roan takes and completes several cases, and the ending seems rushed. Even so the journey is worth it, because Speed makes spending time in Roan's world with his friends and his enemies enjoyable. Recommended.
duncandahusky: (huskyface)


Werewolves of Brooklyn, by Brad Vance

Darien Mackey wasn’t looking for an adventure. For ten years, he’d been happy living in Brooklyn, working as a butcher in the same job, living in the same apartment, dating some “nothing-special” guys. Until one night his buddy Jacob talked him into taking ayahuasca, the soul-changing drug. And Darien had a vision…of a wolf, its all-too-human eyes on him, its paws on his chest, its enquiring mind in his own…

Darien Mackey is changing. He’s more confident, more assertive, hungrier, hornier. And his world is changing around him – his job, his home, his beloved Mechanic’s Library all falling victim to the predations of unscrupulous developers, bent on demolishing the old Brooklyn he loves and replacing it with a forest of condos. But he’s no longer a passive observer of his own life, and as this thing, this power, grows inside of him, he resolves to fight back, to preserve the way of life he loves.

And he’s not alone in the fight. The Lipsius Preservation Society of Brooklyn stands ready to assist in the battle, even though it seems like a bit of a joke to Darien, with its King and its Duke, Marquess, Earl and Viscount.

But there’s nothing funny about his growing attraction to Albeus Finley, King of this mysterious Court. And when slumlords and condo-mongers start to die mysterious, violent deaths at the hands of savage animals, Darien begins to realize that something is afoot in Brooklyn – something supernatural.

And it’s afoot in him, too…

Rating: 4 out of 5

There are so many great parts to this book. A great setting, fascinating world-building, interesting characters, and an interesting take on morality. Unfortunately it doesn't...quite...come together. The pacing seems off, and the plot threads that lead off in different directions are maddening. Even so, the writing is evocative and enjoyable.

Huge props to Vance for the research he has done, both in the skill of butchering and in the details of Civil War battles. Both have their place, and are used to excellent results. Darien's character arc is great fun to read, and seeing him grow into his place in the world is enjoyable. The side-characters are engaging as well (with some of those being the meandering plot threads). There is enough material here for a good four or five book series. I will definitely keep an eye out for more!

duncandahusky: (huskyface)

Werewolf at the Zoo, by Charlie Richards

Helping his brother escape the zoo, Rainy discovers more than just an array of animals.

Rainy scouts the zoo, planning a mission to rescue his brother, who’d been sold by poachers while in wolf form. He gets a whiff of the most intoxicating scent, the man Travis Carlyle, his mate. But he quickly finds out that before he can claim the handsome veterinarian, Rainy has to convince Travis that he’s worth coming out of the closet for.

Travis leads a quiet, discreet life, avoiding any situation that could possibly out him to his family. After so many years alone, Travis finds the love, affection, and acceptance Rainy offers him too hard to resist. But just when he decides Rainy might be worth the persecution of revealing his sexuality, he discovers Rainy has been keeping secrets, a lot of secrets: Werewolves, Shifters, Mates? When he watches a shift with his own eyes, Travis is forced to accept the truth.

Too bad not everyone wants Travis to know the wolves’ secrets, tossing him into a feud between shifters. When Travis’s father tries to come between them, can Rainy convince Travis to choose a dangerous, love-filled life with him instead of the comfortable, quiet existence he’s led with his family?

Rating: 2 out of 5

This wasn't a story as much as it was a checklist of werewolf m/m romance tropes. We've got your insta-love, fated mates, "I know you by smell", silly alpha pack dynamics, biting during sex, and so on and so on. Add in some paper-thin homophobia, ridiculously quick acceptance of the impossible, subplots that go nowhere, and stunningly unlikely coincidences. The whole thing was topped off at the end with a lovely scene of, "It's a shame that I just had to rip that guy's throat out with my teeth. Hey, the steaks I was cooking look like they're done. Who's hungry?" Oh, and don't get me started on the overdone Irish dialect. Ugh.

Let's do the math:
+1 star because it wasn't so awful that I couldn't make it to the end
+1 star since it had werewolves. Because werewolves.
+0.5 stars for having sentences with subjects, verbs, and direct objects, and a minimum of typos.
-0.5 star for either ignoring the need for lube or using soap as lube. Ow. Just ow.

2 stars it is! Oh, and add one eyeroll for pretty much setting up the next book and telegraphing the plot for it in a single paragraph. I will not be pursuing the rest of this series.
duncandahusky: (huskyface)


Blood Howl (Sanguis Noctis #1), by Robin Saxon & Alex Kidwell

Gun for hire Jed Walker doesn’t figure it for a difficult job—a simple smash and grab retrieval—except his new client doesn’t want money or goods. He wants shy, gorgeous Redford Reed, a man who turns Jed’s world upside down inside a day. He is in no way prepared to fall hard and fast for his newest assignment.

Redford Reed lives his life locked in his grandmother’s house, haunted by a terrible curse and watching the world pass him by until Jed shows up, sent by a man who will stop at nothing to claim Redford as his own. Teaming up with Jed is Redford’s only chance at survival, but as the violence escalates, so does the tension between them. Even though they each finally have something to live for, now it’s going to take all Jed’s skill and every bit of courage Redford has just to stay alive.

Rating: 4 out of 5

You know those movies where you know going in that you'll really enjoy it as long as you check your brain at the door? I'm thinking action movies, superhero movies, that sort of thing. Big dumb fun. Sure, there's massive plot holes, but damn the movies can be fun!

This is what we have here, in book form.

Normally I'd knock this book on a number of counts: no world-building, little backstory on the main characters, ridiculous motivations by the antagonists, and more. But you know what? The story was so much fun and I enjoyed the characters so much, I will give it a pass.

Jed is pretty much a boisterous, amoral, grade-A asshole. Need someone assassinated, somebody kidnapped, something blown up? He's your guy. This kind of broad character can be entertaining as long as you don't examine them too closely. Redford is a perfect foil for Jed. He's sheltered, naive, and quiet, an element of sweetness that is the perfect antidote to Jed's crassness. The two of them together are an adorable couple. Also, some of the werewolf scenes are flat-out hilarious.

As noted above, don't think about the plot too closely. Just go along for the ride and have a good time! Saxon and Kidwell's writing is enjoyable. The dialogue is snappy and the side characters are for the most part interesting. The big finale is definitely big, and has some intriguing plot twists that make future books in the series quite interesting indeed. I'm definitely continuing to read the series!
duncandahusky: (huskyface)


Bayou Dreams (Rougaroux Social Club #1), by Lynn Lorenz

Sheriff Scott Dupree’s got more problems than he can handle. He’s alpha of his small werewolf pack and coming up for re-election as sheriff in a year. On top of this, his mother is casting love spells to find Scott a mate. It’s all Scott can do to keep the town and pack under control, let alone his urges to mate.

Ted Canedo is openly gay, a disgraced ex-cop from New Orleans. His patrol partner was killed on duty and Ted took the blame for taking protection money from the store owner to save his partner’s wife and kids grief. No one knew Ted was in love with his partner, not even his partner. Having him die in Ted’s arms killed something inside Ted too.

When the moon is full and Scott’s momma works her magic, Ted’s erotic dreams and his work as a PI bring him to St. Jerome and sexy, straight Scott. Scott’s stunned to learn his wolf is gay and wants to mate with Ted. Ted refuses to become involved with a straight man, much less a werewolf, terrified to risk his heart again.

Especially if it he has to watch Scott fight to the death for his right to claim Ted as his mate.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I'll start off here with a bit of a rant. Keeping in mind that the target audience for M/M romances is straight women, the views presented in the genre can sometimes be...distorted. One of the common tropes is "gay for you" (or GFY in the fan parlance). This trope is, "I have been straight all of my life but now that I have met this particular man I am madly in love." This gets under my skin because it completely ignores the existence of bisexuality and the fact that sexual orientation is a continuum, not a discrete, binary gay/straight thing. Typically not even a nod is given to the possibility of bisexuality which is annoying at best and outright offensive at worst.

There. Having gotten that off my chest I can get on with this review, which ostensibly does fall under the GFY trope, but it skirts around it neatly. The idea presented here is that a werewolf has a human side and a wolf side. The human may be whatever orientation, but the wolf wants what the wolf wants (male or female), and it's going to get it. This sets up an interesting tension between the characters that was, to be honest, pretty damn hot.

Having gone to school in New Orleans, I'm a sucker for stories set in Louisiana. Werewolf stories in Louisiana? I'm all about that! The characters of Ted and Scott are interesting and their angst at the undeniable draw between them makes for a good story. The rural countryside and swamps provide atmosphere for a fun, fast-paced story.

Unfortunately, in places things didn't flow quite as smoothly as they could have. The introduction of some characters that are clearly present for future books in the series is a little clunky. Also, I generally give wide leeway for how sex scenes are written. Everyone has something that turns their crank, even if it doesn't do much for me. Even so, the sex scenes didn't always quite read as well as I would have liked. This may be just a personal thing, though.

I liked this book a lot and have already bought the next one in the series!
duncandahusky: (huskyface)


A proposal turned political…
Detective Oliver Worth doesn’t always think things through. When he proposed to Connor Pierce in front of all the packs of Logan’s Court, he thought he was being romantic. It was a grand gesture to show Connor he meant it—that they were Fated, that Oliver wanted to spend the rest of his life with Connor. He didn’t think he was proposing a bond that would unify the Courts of Logan and Nimueh, forever solidifying peace between the two kingdoms. If he had, maybe he would have expected the fallout.

Marked a murderer…
When Oliver and Connor’s bonding ceremony is interrupted by news of a murder—with Connor the prime suspect—Oliver and Connor are forced to disappear into hiding in Maeve’s Court. With a dwindling list of allies, they must race to solve the murder and clear Connor’s name. But with every passing moment, the political landscape of the Three Courts shifts toward destabilization and war, with Connor and Oliver at the centre of it all. As the evidence mounts against Connor, and the Courts prepare for all-out war, the case gets more convoluted. Is Connor being framed for murder? Is the murder only one part of a much larger plan? And with Connor presumed guilty across the Three Courts, how far does the conspiracy stretch?

A grasp for power…
The road ahead is more treacherous than Oliver ever imagined. As he pushes to find answers and save his lover, Oliver must hold desperately to the belief that he and Connor really are meant to be. Can they work fast enough to find the real killer and save their Courts from all-out war? Or will their Fated love be Fated to die?

Worth the Wait (Worth #3), by Lyra Evans

Rating: 5 out of 5

This is a great way to cap an extremely enjoyable series! Having established the characters and the setting well in previous book, Evans is free to dive deeply into the characters and the world of the Three Courts. The political machinations take center stage here, as does a pretty clever mystery.

We (finally!) learn both Oliver and Connor's family histories, and that plays a big part in the story. The heat and passion between these two is there as always, though the on-page hotness is toned down from previous books. The fast-paced story more than makes up for this though as our heroes traverse one end of the Three Courts to the other seeking to clear their names.

As always, the side characters shine here, from the stalwart Donna, Connor's second in command, to the wild and fearless reporter Rory. The small side-plot involving border guard Brook was sweet and sad, and not something I had noticed in previous books.

I enjoyed this book so much. I'm sad to leave Oliver and Connor but the ending of their story is so perfect I have no complaints whatsoever!

(Side note: That cover...ugh. I mean, at least they're consistently bad throughout the series, so I guess there's that.)

duncandahusky: (huskyface)


Worth a Shot (Worth #1) by Lyra Evans

Detective Oliver Worth has everything he needs-the job he always wanted and a knack for picking one-night stands. When a high-born Witch is found murdered on the steps of Nimueh's Court, Oliver is given the case of the century-because no one else will touch it. Not when it looks like the murder was committed by a Werewolf.

The Treaty between the Courts of Nimueh and Logan has stood for over a hundred years, and peace was hard-won. If a Werewolf is responsible, the murder counts as an act of war and would plunge both kingdoms into chaos. Something Oliver's Captain is keen to point out.

Treading lightly, Oliver has no choice but to venture alone into Logan's Court to investigate. The trail of clues leads right to Connor Pierce, a newly minted Alpha of Logan's kin. Connor is gorgeous and captivating and absolutely a suspect. Determined to do his job and catch the killer, Oliver finds he's now got more to worry about than an inter-kingdom war. He tries to ignore his growing desire, but Connor keeps drawing him in. Everything about Connor is intoxicating, and Oliver isn't sure how long he can fight off temptation...

Now there's not just the peace of two kingdoms on the line-there's also his heart.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Now, I appreciate hot, steamy scenes in my reading as much as the next gay guy, but I prefer for a book to be plot- or character-driven, and the intimate stuff is a nice garnish. This book though...wow. The overall plot is OK, and the characters are interesting. But the level of heat throughout most of this book is incredible, and not even particularly explicit.

Oliver is quite a complex character - open about his sexuality in the off hours, but deeply closeted in a professional setting. Although we don't get a whole lot of backstory on any of the characters in this book (maybe in the sequels?) we learn enough about Oliver to understand what makes him tick. Connor is more of a cipher, but that is by design. We learn about the werewolf society (Logan's Court) bit by bit as Oliver does. One thing that is very clear - sex and sensuality are very much integral to the wolves and their interactions.

The world-building is nicely done here as well. This is a society where magic exists and is a fact of life. Dirty clothes are taken care of by laundry wards, and cocktails are served with anti-intoxication potions mixed in. At the same time, there are cars, computers, and cell phones. The setting is built organically - not a whole lot of exposition going on. This doesn't always work for me, but it definitely fit in here. Also, although this is ostensibly a shifter story, very little of this plays into the plot except to define the different societies (and associated prejudices).

A large portion of the book is taken up by Oliver needing to pose as Connor's consort to interview a key witness. As a plot device it's a little flimsy, but the attraction, temptation, and intimate pas-de-deux between Connor and Oliver is hotter than hell and kept my attention throughout! The mystery is resolved nicely and while the ending is a bit unexpected (in a good way) it sets the stage for future stories, although this book is self-contained.

I liked this one a lot. Recommended!

(Side note: Ugh, that cover. I know I’m not the target demographic but that’s over the top. The way these guys are described, neither of them works out or does anything that would be necessary to maintain ridiculous chiseled abs like that. Ah well...)
duncandahusky: (huskyface)


Naked Tails, by Eden Winters

Seth McDaniel wasn't raised among a shifter passel and has no idea what it's like to turn furry once a month. An orphan, torn from his father's family at an early age, he scarcely remembers Great-aunt Irene. Now her passing brings him back to Possum Kingdom, Georgia, to take up a legacy he doesn't understand and reconnect with a friend he's never forgotten.

As Irene's second-in-command, Dustin Livingston has two choices: assume control of the passel or select another replacement. Unfortunately, the other candidates are either heartless or clueless. Dustin's best hope to dodge the responsibility is to deliver a crash course in leadership to his childhood pal Seth, a man he hasn't seen in twenty years. However, while Dustin's mind is set on his task, his heart is set on his old friend.

Seth's quest for answers yields more questions instead. What's with the tiny gray hairs littering his aunt's house? Why do the townsfolk call each other "Jack" and "Jill"? Do Dustin's attentions come with ulterior motives? And why is Seth suddenly craving crickets?

Rating: 4 out of 5

This was a fun, goofy read that was way better than I expected it to be! Offbeat shifter books don't usually do it for me, but this looked interesting, plus it takes place not too far from where I grew up so I figured I'd give it a shot.

Eden Winters does a nice job evoking the area and the people of North Georgia where "Possum Kingdom" (not too far from the real town of Clayton) exists. Seth has been away in the city environment of Chicago for so long he's forgotten his country roots (the fact that I live near Chicago now is pure coincidence but probably added to my affinity for the book!). Going back to the red clay of his youth leaves him absolutely out of his element, but he learns to adapt. I liked Seth and really sympathized with his confusion and reluctance to stay in Possum Kingdom. Dustin was a little more difficult to read and I would have liked to see more of him in the story, but it makes sense why he was not. Monica, Dustin's second in command, was a hoot! I've met Southern women like her and I can definitely say there are plenty of grounds in reality for her character.

The plot to the book isn't anything particularly special. Stranger comes in and must assume command, learn about his heritage and the local society, and train to fight like a possum (as one does). The latter part of the story seemed a bit rushed after the relaxed, enjoyable setup, and that's the main reason I rate this a 4 out of 5. I would have liked to see things drawn out a bit more and have more time to explore Seth and Dustin's time together, reconnecting from their youth.

I quite enjoyed Naked Tails, and look forward to exploring more of Winters' back catalog!

duncandahusky: (huskyface)


Wolf, in League (Wolf, Book 3), by A.F. Henley

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Wolf, in League follows the progression of Wolf, WY (a local setting), then Wolf, en Garde (a national setting), by expanding the story of wolves, vampires, and more to world-wide in scope, and it does it in grand style.

I will say up-front that vampires simply don’t interest me. Werewolves, heck yeah – vampires, zombies, and other undead things, not so much. Setting aside that preference, though, the relationship between Matthew and Gavin is wonderful to watch develop. I found Matthew extremely relatable, although it didn’t hurt that the story is told mostly from his point of view. Even so, he’s a complex, intelligent, and thoughtful  character.

Gavin is a bit harder to read (intentionally so), and if I have any complaint it would be that it would be nice to know more of his history. I could see how that could slow the overall story down, though. Much of his behavior is attributable to his affliction, but as the story plays out we find there is much more to it than that.

I liked that Matthew takes time to come to grips with his feelings towards Gavin. He’s forced into a difficult situation and being pulled in multiple directions. The rush of feelings when the dam breaks, though, is gratifying. I can’t say that I found Matthew and Gavin as sympathetic a couple as Vaughn and Randy or Lyle and Rafe, but that could be due to the whole vampire thing.

One thing I loved about this book is that the story moves along at a steady clip. Starting within the familiar setting we left at the end of en Garde, step by step we learn that the world is a much scarier place than originally thought. There are conspiracies on multiple fronts and it is up to the characters, new and old favorites, to uncover them. This all builds to a conclusion that creates a whole new setting for future books – books that I definitely look forward to reading!

Side note: huge props for dropping “Not all vampires” into the dialogue, too (vampsplaining?). This cracked me up so much!

duncandahusky: (huskyface)
Protector of the Alpha, by Parker WIlliams

Adopted at an early age by a wealthy family, Jake Davis has always seemed to have an easy life. Even in college he was blessed with good grades and an apparently clear path to a pro football career. Good thing his best friend keeps hanging around to keep his head from getting too swollen.

Zakiya Incekara has always been…odd. Being fluent in six languages and having a flair for international cooking should open the world to him, but those skills leave him isolated. 

When Jake sees Zak for the first time, with water beading down his slender form, something inside him shifts, and it hungers for Zak. To have him. To claim him. And Jake knows that whatever it is, it won’t be denied. 

When they are approached by a man who claims knowledge of a secret past they share,Jake and Zak are thrust into a world they would never have believed existed. The forests of Alaska might seem an odd place to find your destiny, but these men will meet the challenges head on, as they learn that sometimes you have to make sacrifices to be Protector of the Alpha.

Rating: 2 out of 5

No. Just no.

It says a lot when the blurb for a book reveals more about a character than you ever learn in the book. This was the case for Zak/Zakiya. It was painful to get through the first 60% of the book. After that I started skimming. I don’t feel like I missed anything.

Ugh, where to begin. Paper-thin characters, cookie-cutter plot, poor pacing…

Adult-type stuff behind the cut )

Really. Really? Really. It doesn’t improve much from there.

The buildup to the finale was tedious, and when they meet the big-baddies? Meh.

I can’t say that I would recommend this book at all.

Originally posted to my blog on 04 October 2016.
duncandahusky: (huskyface)
Hexmaker, by Jordan Hawk
A straight-laced policeman. A lighthearted thief. A murdered millionaire.

Fox shifter Malachi steals for one of the biggest crime rings in New York City. But when he witnesses the murder of a millionaire, the only person who can keep him safe is Dr. Owen Yates, forensic hexman for the Metropolitan Witch Police—and Malachi’s witch.

Owen is horrified to discover his familiar is an uneducated thief. Even worse, Malachi threatens to unleash Owen’s deepest desires…desires Owen can’t act upon, as he’s destined for an arranged marriage to secure the Yates family fortune

Their agreement: Malachi will be Owen’s lover as well as his partner, until the day of the wedding. But as their hunt for the murderer carries them from teeming slums to Fifth Avenue mansions, Owens begins to realize Malachi commands his heart as well as his body.

With dark forces drawing ever closer around them, Owen must decide whether to bow to the demands of duty, or to risk everything for the man he loves.
Rating: 5 out of 5!

This book gave me all sorts of warm fuzzies, and not just of the foxy variety!

Jordan Hawk created a fascinating world in Hexbreaker, and this book capitalizes on that. I feel like all of the things that left me feeling so-so about the first book have been fixed here, and it makes Hexmaker an outstanding story.

Malachi is a fascinating character, and here we get a full picture of who he is and what his motivations are. Likewise we understand where Owen is coming from, and why he feels bound to make the decisions that he does. In both cases that allows the reader a degree of empathy that really helps make the story resonate. An important motivating factor here is class status, the haves and the have-nots, and the clashes between the two worlds.

One thing that I thought really made the story stand out was the book's willingness to touch on themes other than the usual "guy meets guy then they jump into the sack." Themes of dominance and submission and transsexuality are touched on but do not completely drive the story; they are handled intelligently and in a matter-of-fact manner that I found refreshing. Not to say that the fun in the sack wasn't steamy as hell, because daaaayum! This was the perfect balance of plot and sexytime for my liking, though.

If I have any complaint about this book it's that once the big reveals happen it gets a little tricky for the reader to connect all the dots, but it wasn't as ridiculously convoluted as some that I've read. This in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the story. I happily recommend this book to all!
duncandahusky: (huskyface)

Skin, by Jesse Daro

Rating: 4 out of 5

Unbeknownst to most of human kind, Chimera Enterprises has resurrected a shape-shifting alien race that sank with the lost continent of Lemuria eons ago: the werekin, beings born with both a human and an animal skin, able to shift between the two at will. Seventeen-year-old Seth Michael Sullivan, a werejaguar, has grown up in the Underground, hiding from the hunters that capture and enslave werekin for Chimera Enterprises. After witnessing the murder of his guardian Naomi, Seth arrives in Fairfax, Indiana, on a snowy New Year’s Eve, a rare breed on the run. As he reconnects with the mother and sister who know nothing of his true identity, Seth discovers he is a key piece in Chimera’s plot to conquer humankind by securing the power of the werekin Totems - and uncovers a secret in his own past that could decide the fate of his kindred.

Top-secret scientific experiments, ancient alien technology, a powerful shadow organization inside the United States military - Seth soon finds himself at the center of a brewing interspecies war. Can he trust his own flesh and blood? Will he choose to stand with humankind or with his werekin kindred - especially when the best part of being human may be Marshall Townsend, the boy next door?


What an unexpected treat!

From past experiences, I’m a little gun-shy about free, self-published books. Usually they are in need of heavy editing and have a myriad of problems with characters, plot, and setting. I’m pleased to say that (almost) none of that is present in this book, and what little there is does not get in the way of an exciting read.

Daro has done a fine job of world-building here. The ramifications of historical actions are played out in a logical manner, and this makes the world very believable. My only complaint here is that some of the mythical backstory is a little mushy and unclear, but other than that I really enjoyed the setup.

The characters here are believable, and there are quite a few! I admit I sometimes got a little lost toward the end trying to make sense of the cast. I really liked Seth, the main character, a werejaguar. The author falls a bit into the trope of one’s animal influencing the human’s actions and behaviors, but that’s a minor quibble. As a teenager Seth is a smart-aleck know-it-all, though as the book progresses he starts to get his head in order and this makes him a much more sympathetic character. Marshall, his love interest, is a little one-dimensional but we get a pretty clear idea of what his motivations may be. The rest of the cast is a fun collection of characters, and the shifting allegiances (and sudden reveals) definitely keep the reader guessing.

The plotting here is more than a little convoluted. I suspect a professional editor might suggest reducing the twists and turns just a bit, but it is a fun ride that was anything but predictable. The mix of mundane high-school life and high-stakes life-or-death action can be a little jarring at times, though.

I think that the first chapter is worthy of mention. It’s tough to bring a reader into a story from the very first words, and even tougher to throw them right into the middle of the action. The first chapter of this book is one of the best at this that I have seen and is worthy of any professionally-written novel.

Finally, I came by this book in a list of gay romances (and a recommended book at that). While it has gay characters and a budding romance, the interactions on that front are strictly G-rated. I would say that this is a great urban fantasy that happens to have gay characters. (Oddly, I’ve also seen it classified as Young Adult - as near as I can tell YA in this context is “Yeah, they’re gay, but they don’t have sex.” This seems weirdly different from the mainstream definition of YA, but there ya go.)

Skin is the first of The Ark Trilogy (Skin, Blood, Bones), all of which are downloadable for free from Goodreads. I look forward to reading the rest of the books!

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