Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

HELL BENT by Leigh Bardugo

Wealth. Power. Murder. Magic. Alex Stern is back and the Ivy League is going straight to hell in #1 New York Timesbestselling author Leigh Bardugo’s Hell Bent.

Find a gateway to the underworld. Steal a soul out of hell. A simple plan, except people who make this particular journey rarely come back. But Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to break Darlington out of purgatory―even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale.

Forbidden from attempting a rescue, Alex and Dawes can’t call on the Ninth House for help, so they assemble a team of dubious allies to save the gentleman of Lethe. Together, they will have to navigate a maze of arcane texts and bizarre artifacts to uncover the societies’ most closely guarded secrets, and break every rule doing it. But when faculty members begin to die off, Alex knows these aren’t just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if she is going to survive, she’ll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university’s very walls.

Thick with history and packed with Bardugo’s signature twists, Hell Bent brings to life an intricate world full of magic, violence, and all too real monsters. 


Title : Hell Bent
Author : Leigh Bardugo
Series : Alex Stern (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : adult fantasy
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : January 20, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Starting the year off with a book you’ve been anticipating since July of 2019 takes some courage. What if it’s bad? What if you have to stew in that disappointment for the next three plus years (or longer.. though, ideally, less) until the next instalment is out?

Thankfully I don’t have to reckon with either because Hell Bent was not bad. It was very not bad. Which just means I have to once more desperately anticipate a sequel. Darn. But also yay?

What had he imagined? Some muttered words, a voice from the beyond? Had he thought there would be dignity in this? But this is what real magic looked like — indecent, decadent, perverse.

This sequel opens with a banger of a chapter but, of course, it wouldn’t be the Alex Stern series if we didn’t bounce around in the timeline a bit. At first I worried it would feel samey, especially having just reread Ninth House, but it didn’t. I enjoyed it. It just worked so well and, in some ways, I hope it sorta becomes the vibe of this series going forward. Or not. I’ll be happy either way. Mostly just happy for more..

Anyway, what can be said about the plot of this without giving away the whole game for book one? Not much, really! But everything you loved from the first instalment is here.. and more. We get some solid found family/Scooby Gang vibes (but make it hell-ish and oh how I love the little twist to one of their addition near the end) adventures and some new paranormal additions beyond the rituals and artifacts we’ve seen so far. We were teased on Alex’s potential (and oh my the callback to book one was [chefs kiss]) along with a psych-out that literally had me wanting to throw my book against the wall (in a good frustrated kind of way, not mad at all). Not to be forgotten we, of course, had Darlington Darlington Darlington, plus an image of the aforementioned gentleman demon that will live in my head rent free for all eternity, a heist (of sorts!), and so much more.

[Darlington]’d go to hell for me, for you, for anyone who needed saving.”
Alex, he’d go to hell just to take notes on the climate.

Bardugo really leans into the darkness of this world. Not just in the deeds or the presence of violence but in the sense that magic isn’t sparkly rainbow funtimes. The preparation, the doing, the results? It’s messy. It’s messed up. And, like so much, it benefits only a certain crowd because who has access, who has the power at their fingertips, and is willing to do whatever they can to keep it? You know the answer.

But at the same time, I love that we got to see a side of Alex that is the opposite of the one who has dwelled in a different kind of darkness, one who could see herself at Yale, at lectures, learning and living a different kind of existence. There was such a great balance to the events of this book, to the characters, to how they’ve changed, and who they might still become, and it’s all mixed up into this perfect little.. well, tempest in a teapot.

In many ways Hell Bent has done more to whet my appetite for this series than Ninth House did because we’re just that much closer to seeing some things play out and become realized. Even if I think we’ll be waiting quite a while for most (all?) of it to come to fruition. And that’s even if it ever does.

That was all there was in this world. No heroes or villains, just the people you’d brave the waves for, and the ones you’d let drown.

I truly can’t wait for what comes next. I’m just hoping it doesn’t require a trip to hell to magic it into existence! But, like so many things, this was worth the wait. And I know the rest will be, too.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

SHADOWFEVER by Karen Marie Moning

“Evil is a completely different creature, Mac. Evil is bad that believes it’s good.” — MacKayla Lane was just a child when she and her sister, Alina, were given up for adoption and banished from Ireland forever. — Twenty years later, Alina is dead and Mac has returned to the country that expelled them to hunt her sister’s murderer. But after discovering that she descends from a bloodline both gifted and cursed, Mac is plunged into a secret history: an ancient conflict between humans and immortals who have lived concealed among us for thousands of years.

What follows is a shocking chain of events with devastating consequences, and now Mac struggles to cope with grief while continuing her mission to acquire and control the Sinsar Dubh — a book of dark, forbidden magic scribed by the mythical Unseelie King, containing the power to create and destroy worlds.

In an epic battle between humans and Fae, the hunter becomes the hunted when the Sinsar Dubh turns on Mac and begins mowing a deadly path through those she loves.

Who can she turn to? Who can she trust? Who is the woman haunting her dreams? More important, who is Mac herself and what is the destiny she glimpses in the black and crimson designs of an ancient tarot card?

From the luxury of the Lord Master’s penthouse to the sordid depths of an Unseelie nightclub, from the erotic bed of her lover to the terrifying bed of the Unseelie King, Mac’s journey will force her to face the truth of her exile, and to make a choice that will either save the world . . . or destroy it


Title : Shadowfever
Author : Karen Marie Moning
Series : Fever (book five)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 617
Genre : urban fantasy
Publisher : Dell
Release Date : January 18, 2011

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2.5 (but rounded up) star review

Despite chomping at the bit back in June, after all the good intentions my buddy and I had to read (more or less..) one of these a month, here we are.. six months later. Whoops? We had the best of intentions but life, y’know?

For me, I was anticipating this book like crazy. Not only because of that intense cliffhanger in book four but this is the book I remember going cuckoo for cocoa puffs over. It wasn’t that I hadn’t loved the first four but book five stood out in my memory. Because so much happens. And, true to that memory, it does. A lot goes on in this book. And, thankfully unlike the last one, things aren’t rushed, Moning lets them breathe a bit with that sizeable jump in page count. And yet, weirdly, maybe we had too much time?

The pacing was a little off in this one. I almost missed the chaotic headlong rush from one action scene to another. Because this was easy to put down, to hope maybe we’ve skipped along by the time I’d picked it back up, as if it was a movie playing on in my absence. There were still some really good parts, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t hold me in thrall like it once had.

Where the book did succeed, a hundred percent? The red herrings. The lead up to how Mac was connected to everything was really good. I’ll admit the whole dreaming of the Cold Place her whole life thing felt a little bit like an afterthought to make it work along the way (unless they were reeeaaally subtle and I missed them but I’m thinking no) but I thought everything else was too good to give it too much side eye. Also, for those keeping track we’re now at Mac 5.0 and she was basically the meme of the goth girl and her sparkly pink sister side by side but instead mixed together in a blender. Or something. I have vague memories that Mac’s identity issues don’t continue to be so wrapped up in her outfits going forward but I have a feeling that’s just wishful thinking.

Also, speaking of lead up, I think I loved the psych-out moment about how Mac’s sister actually died a lot more this time. Moning did a good job making things a lot more than they seemed and therefore a lot more emotionally and morally complex. Also, on a related note, thank christ Rowena is finally dead. She has a character who had long outstayed her welcome and truthfully she was too much an evil villain caricature which didn’t fit considering how layered and complex all the other dark siders are, so. That was lame from start to finish.

Next up, Barrons and his men. We finally get a little understanding of that whole mystery (I remembered learning a lot more, maybe that’s to come?) and his motivations for wanting Mac’s help with the book. And truthfully I had completely forgotten this and I fell a liiiiittle in love with him for it. As much as I’ve enjoyed his character this second time around — even if the alpha male on steroids thing isn’t totally my jam anymore so therefore I’m not quite gagging for him the same way — and his secrets, and honestly I do love the dynamic he has with Mac despite, well, despite Mac sometimes, the words-without-words conversations got hella old hella fast in this one. I would be a lot more in love with his ability to finish her sentences or answer questions she has if it happened a lot less infrequently. As is.. just have a damn conversation people!

Now that the main Fever arc is over and we’re heading into where things (as far as I recall..) get weird(er), I do have a little trepidation over the whole Dani thing. I had definitely expected one event to happen in this book but it didn’t so that’s still to come. However, in some ways, I am looking forward to what happens to her because she is not really written all that well. Between the fecks and the weird obsession with her virginity and her mail blasts and more it’s just a little tiring. I just hope the whole switchover lands a little better than I remember it doing.

Seeing as my buddy and I hoped to have finished this series by the end of 2022, I have no idea when the rest of the series will be conquered but look forward (I guess..?) to more of these in the new year!



THE WITCHES OF MOONSHYNE MANOR by Bianca Marais

A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat.

Five octogenarian witches gather as an angry mob threatens to demolish Moonshyne Manor. All eyes turn to the witch in charge, Queenie, who confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments. Still, there’s hope, since the imminent return of Ruby–one of the sisterhood who’s been gone for thirty-three years–will surely be their salvation.

But the mob is only the start of their troubles. One man is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy he claims was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. Then things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle instead of the solution to all their problems.

The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but their aging powers are no match for increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline to save the manor approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.

Funny, tender and uplifting, the novel explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family and unlikely friendships. Marais’ clever prose offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.


Title : The Witches of Moonshyne Manor
Author : Bianca Marais
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 400
Genre : paranormal / fantasy
Publisher : Mira Books
Release Date : August 23, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’ll admit, I picked this up purely for the title. I had no idea what to expect — except that I hoped for some spoopy vibes! — and was surprised that this witchy tale was to be comprised of a coven of eighty year olds. Not only battling age and aches but also trying to keep from being run out of their homes by the local townspeople after they’ve a) fallen behind on mortgage payments and b) are widely known to be witches.

Sounds like a hoot, right? And it mostly is.

I didn’t always love the writing/narrative tone and actually found that it felt a little too removed for me to really sink my teeth into things as a reader. I enjoyed how the plot and the events that happened in the past informed the present but it was hard to connect to any real emotional resonance with the characters. I found them interesting, occasionally funny, and in one case my heart wanted to break over and over, but again, I just felt a bit too distanced from it all. But there were multiple times I paused to reflect on a passage or observation, I absolutely loved that these old biddies had a colourful past and had successfully done a heist in their fifties, and I also enjoyed how everything resolves at the end — even if it’s almost a little too perfectly wrapped up.

She thinks of how sometimes the most sacred conversations we’ll ever have are the ones that require no words, and how there are very few people in our lives who we’ll ever speak that silent language with.

At it’s core, this is a story about family and sisterhood and the ties that bind, come hell or high water or an angry mob. If you’re looking for a wholesome kind of spoopy tale, with some incredibly insightful lines, and some pretty unique characters, this is definitely one to pick up.

EMPTY SMILES by Katherine Arden

New York Times bestselling author Katherine thrills once again in the finale to the critically acclaimed, spook-tacular quartet that began with Small Spaces.

It’s been three months since Ollie made a daring deal with the smiling man to save those she loved, and then vanished without a trace. The smiling man promised Coco, Brian and Phil, that they’d have a chance to save her, but as time goes by, they begin to worry that the smiling man has lied to them and Ollie is gone forever. But finally, a clue surfaces. A boy who went missing at a nearby traveling carnival appears at the town swimming hole, terrified and rambling. He tells anyone who’ll listen about the mysterious man who took him. How the man agreed to let him go on one condition: that he deliver a message. Play if you dare. 

Game on! The smiling man has finally made his move. Now it’s Coco, Brian, and Phil’s turn to make theirs. And they know just where to start. The traveling carnival is coming to Evansburg.

Meanwhile, Ollie is trapped in the world behind the mist, learning the horrifying secrets of the smiling man’s carnival, trying everything to help her friends find her. Brian, Coco and Phil will risk everything to rescue Ollie—but they all soon realize this game is much more dangerous than the ones before. This time the smiling man is playing for keeps.

The summer nights are short, and Ollie, Coco, Brian, and Phil have only until sunrise to beat him once and for all—or it’s game over for everyone.


Title : Empty Smiles
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Small Spaces (book four)
Format : physical
Page Count : 205
Genre : MG paranormal fantasy
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young 
Release Date : August 9, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I honestly thought this would edge out Dead Voices as my favourite of the series. Until the story wrapped in the span of ten pages and the book abruptly ended out of nowhere. And when I say out of nowhere I mean it because there were sixty plus pages of previous-instalment excerpts at the back of the book. Which I definitely thought would be plot or reveal or explanation related.. but no. Just filler.

I am.. disappointed. I feel like we’re left with more questions than we started with because we had so much unexpected smiling man character reveal over the course of the book four and yet it turned out to just be a tease. And all that beautiful tension, the creepiness, the clowns!, it all just fizzles out and poof, the end.

But.. for 80% of this? Solid. Eerie. Fun. So I won’t round down but just.. brace yourself.

Also, I know I hinted at it (and I mean, the cover is r i g h t t h e r e), but seriously, if you fear or have an issue with clowns? Middle grade or not, this might legitimately terrify you because some of those scenes? Oh yeah, they were creepy.

I definitely see myself rereading these, maybe next year for a spoopy readathon or something. They weren’t brilliant but they were a good time (and had some good spooky moments!) and, as I’ve said a million times, nostalgic for those of us who lived through the Goosebumps era of storytelling.

RUBY FEVER by Ilona Andrews – double review!

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews is back with the newest book in the exciting Hidden Legacy series—the thrilling conclusion to her trilogy featuring fierce and beautiful Prime magic user Catalina Baylor.

An escaped spider, the unexpected arrival of an Imperial Russian Prince, the senseless assassination of a powerful figure, a shocking attack on the supposedly invincible Warden of Texas, Catalina’s boss… And it’s only Monday. 

Within hours, the fate of Houston—not to mention the House of Baylor—now rests on Catalina, who will have to harness her powers as never before. But even with her fellow Prime and fiancé Alessandro Sagredo by her side, she may not be able to expose who’s responsible before all hell really breaks loose.


Title : Ruby Fever
Author : Ilona Andrews
Series : Hidden Legacy (book six)
Format : eBook (overdrive) / eBook Edelweiss
Page Count : 320
Genre : paranormal romance / urban fantasy
Publisher : Avon/Harper 360
Release Date : August 23, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5 / ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

As always, I never envy the task that is required by authors to wrap up a series. Especially one like this that is the continuation of the five books that came before.. and also sets up the (likely, eventually, p l e a s e n o w) books to come. That’s a lot of loose ends and a lot of new, tantalizing, threads to keep track of. And I think overall, IA did a good job. But.. it’s also a lot of stuff.

This book felt overwhelming in a lot of ways but mostly in terms of action sequences and throwbacks to the main trilogy (which, had I been smart, I would’ve reread all books not just Catalina’s, my bad) and sometimes it was just overload. I didn’t find that this had any emotional or feelsy moments, much less any swoons, and I’m really surprised by that.

In a lot of ways this is a very Catalina-centric story; she has the man she loves, they are committed, so there was less focus on them as a couple — barring a few specific interactions — instead it’s Catalina learning more about her powers (so cool!) and also some familial connections and surprises. Which, hey, I will never complain about Baylor Fam page time but I definitely expected to get socked in the feels along the way and there was only one tiny close call and even that didn’t cause a lump in the throat.

All that to say, as a romance? This was a little lacking. Alessandro ends up as a bit player, especially in light of a newcomer character who takes much of the spotlight because he is shiny and new and rather devious. This is much more plot and Big Bad confrontation plus wrap up than anything else. But with a secured love interest, I can see why; and at least they didn’t have any manufactured drama to deal with. Just something to keep in mind.

Despite some of the dynamic shifts from some of the well-earned reveals, which I really enjoyed, I don’t think this’ll go down as my favourite of the series. I think it’s book two, one, and three for me. But this is still solid, written by some of the GOATs, and featuring one of my absolutely favourite fictional families. I’m also so excited by the tease for Arabella’s book(s) and in reading this transcript (huge spoilers, mind you, you’ve been warned) I’m excited about the possibility of it being an self-published release so as to break out of the more restrictive trad-published formula.

But let’s be real I would be excited either way (also, not me losing my mind to see them reference book two of Iron and Magic because yesss, fiiiiiinally, 2018 was so many moons ago..) because even in a review sprinkled through with nitpicks, I have very little ability to remain unbiased in my love for these authors and their worlds. Having that said that, while I did initially round up on this, further thought (as in, I haven’t thought about this since finishing) has me deciding that.. well, this really was the weakest of the lot. Thus the rating should reflect that.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Grandparent hell
Spider warnings
Slow start

This was an pleasant but perhaps weakish installment in this UF series. I think my investment in this fandom, the sisters and the current couple kept me in the enjoyment sector but this book definitely had a slow start. The second half was a stronger read for me with more action and plot.

I always think with this family that the current couple I’m reading is my favourite, I loved Nevada and Connor, then Catalina and Alessandro came along…but now I find myself looking rather intently at Arabella and the indications we got in this book. Talking of couples, I felt a bit left wanting with Catalina and Alessandro, especially towards the end. Although these two are firmly in coupledom, I think we needed a bit more.

This was a strong plot, the best element being the grandparent storyline. I enjoyed how this part of the story came together. I did want more from the spider however…okay, maybe not.

I don’t know if this is the last Catalina story and Arabella is next but if so, I’m ready.

Thank you to Harper 360 for the eARC.

COURT OF THE VAMPIRE QUEEN by Katee Robert

Three Powerfully Alluring Vampire Men
And One Queen to Rule Them All

All Mina ever wanted was to escape her father’s control. Half human, half vampire, she lived eternally torn between two worlds, never fully experiencing the pleasures of either—until her father chose her as the pawn in his latest political move, gifting her to the darkly powerful and dangerously seductive Malachi Zion.

Malachi is not a vampire to be trifled with. He rules with an iron fist and has a reputation for the darkest of sins. But the longer Mina spends with him, the more she realizes he’s not the monster she first thought—and as fear bleeds into lust, then trust, then something more, Malachi opens Mina up to a world she never knew could be hers for the taking: including the love of Malachi’s two closest friends and companions.

Now surrounded by all three men, the center of their shockingly seductive world, Mina may finally have the power to face down her father and take back the life—and crown—that by all rights should be hers.

LONG LIVE THE QUEEN. 


Title : Court of the Vampire Queen
Author : Katee Robert
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : paranormal romance
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : September 6, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I was willing to look past the fact that of the three instalments of this bind up, Acts I and II were basically 85% sex. Barely any plot to be seen or detected. I was willing to accept that. But then, not two chapters into Act III, something that was stated outright in the final chapter of the part before is suddenly.. not a thing. Okay. Tiny bit of double-take side eye. But then a few chapters later, two pages apart, a thing was said and then contradicted. Again. Eye twitch.

Listen, I know this is an ARC, but these stories existed before this bind up. Maybe there was no editing done beforehand but you’re telling me no editing was done before this republish? Not great. Also, before anyone yells at me, this bothered me to such an extent I held off on this review until after release and checked out the repackaged version via KU. And those errors are still there. Sigh. So much for my hope it would get caught before release..

But anyway, what’s this story about? Vampires, dhampirs, and more, oh my. It’s about an unwanted woman, destined to be a pawn or a sacrifice, finding there’s more to her than anyone thought. And falling into the laps of not one, not two, but three vampires, and the bond — mystical and otherwise — that connects them. That’s more or less the be all end all of the plot, though. The rest is just sex sex sex.

While Act III, unlike the two that came before, had more plot.. it wasn’t the kind that did much with the story that came before it. There are a lot of bits we never learn about, parts we’re apparently just supposed to go along with, and other minor irritants. All the sex aside, it did feel like the early parts had more time given to them, despite the lack of character development of backstory. Whereas the final was just kind of rushed along. Which kind of applies to the whole storyline, really. Everything happens really fast (granted, these are all novella length, so yeah, everything being fast makes sense, I guess) but I also mean timeline-wise. In the sense that no time at all passes. Also, only one of the three men has any real personality. And unfortunately that lack of character applies to our lead, too.

This could’ve been good. Maybe not great but decent. But overall, errors aside, it just misses the mark. I wish the author would’ve taken the opportunity to tidy things up while also fleshing everything out a bit before repackaging this. Alas..

But if you’re looking for a relentlessly spicy/zesty/insert euphemism for much sex-y time, with a bit of magic and blood and mayhem mixed in, this might be for you. Also if you’ve had any experience with the author before, I’m sure you know exactly what you’re in for.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

PACK OF LIES by Charlie Adhara

Werewolf meets human. Werewolf snubs human. Werewolf loves human? 

Julien Doran arrived in sleepy Maudit Falls, North Carolina, with a heart full of hurt and a head full of questions. The key to his brother’s mysterious last days might be found in this tiny town, and now Julien’s amateur investigation is starting to unearth things the locals would rather keep buried.

Perhaps most especially the strange, magnetic manager of a deserted retreat that’s nearly as odd as its staff.

Eli Smith is a lot of things: thief, werewolf, glamour-puss, liar. And now the manager of a haven for rebel pack runaways. He’s spent years cultivating a persona to disguise his origins, but for the first time ever he’s been entrusted with a real responsibility—and he plans to take that seriously.

Even if the handsome tourist who claims to be in town for some R & R is clearly on a hunt for all things paranormal. And hasn’t taken his brooding gaze off Eli since he’s arrived.

When an old skeleton and a fresh corpse turn a grief errand into a murder investigation, the unlikely Eli is the only person Julien can turn to. Trust is hard to come by in a town known for its monsters, but so is time…


Title : Pack of Lies
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Monster Hunt (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : paranormal LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Carina Adores
Release Date : August 30, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Sometimes, I swear you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. In this particular sense, I’m talking about rereads. I made a point to reread the Big Bad Wolf series prior to this spin-off series opener because I wanted everything fresh in my mind for any carry-over plots and characters. And I’m glad I did. I’m also glad I put two weeks between finishing those and starting this, just so there wouldn’t be too much of a good thing in my brain. But.. I think it also made me love this a little less.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love here. Eli being the number one thing. Eli was perfect. His dialogue, his wit, his whole being. There was no wrong done. And while I liked Julien, and did think there was some chemistry in their intimacy, outside of it..? It just wasn’t as electric. I wasn’t desperate for them to interact, to bounce off each other, or even to bone — though hey, again, those were good times. There was really only one moment, where Julien asked to be friends (if you know you know!), that socked me in some feels.

Having said that, when I did my reread, I knocked some ratings up a star. So maybe this is another one I’ll love more in hindsight when it’s all said and done? Historically that seems to be the case with Adhara. We might eventually find out.

Oh, what’s this all about you ask? Well, it’s a queer paranormal shifter mystery! This new series (which, by the way, I would not recommend starting here; go back to the beginning and meet Cooper and Oliver!) features a secondary character from the main series, one who has not had an easy life (some backstory reveals in the main series, hint hint), and who is now part of a new start-up pack and is heading the running of a “retreat” (as far as humans know) which is a front for a shelter, or a safe place, for wolves. He’s barely there long enough to get the place running before hijinks ensue that have him threatened by a nearby pack, put a human who is clearly hiding things in his path, and more. Said human, Julien, eventually convinces Eli to team up and try to uncover.. well, more than a few things. How’s that for vague and unhelpful?

But yes, while I’m not shouting praise from the rooftops like I expected, this could just be me a little overwhelmed by my own expectations, and also too much Ollie and Coop too recently in my reading (and forever in my heart). It does not mean I am in any way not excited for more. I want Julien to grow on me. I want more hijinks. I want more Eli fullstop. And, in general, I just love this world and Adhara’s writing. Also, I’m clearly an outlier; just look at all those five stars! I’m not disappointed by this rating. And you shouldn’t be put off, either.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

CRY WOLF by Charlie Adhara

Agent Cooper Dayton never thought anything could be harder than solving murders. Until he had to plan a wedding.

After taking down an old adversary, Agent Cooper Dayton of the Bureau of Special Investigations has earned a break. Not that planning a wedding to his sexy shifter partner, Oliver Park, is necessarily stress free, but it’s better than worrying about the ominous warning, delivered months ago, that Cooper’s life is in danger.

When he’s dragged to an event by his family, Cooper braces for an awkward evening, but instead finds himself in the middle of an ugly feud between Park’s ex and a rebel pack leader. What was supposed to be a quick outing turns into a full-blown murder investigation after the pack leader ends up dead, Park’s ex goes missing, and Cooper and Park are sent a series of disturbing wedding gifts that are somehow connected to it all.

The list of potential suspects is long, and with the bodies piling up, Cooper must turn to the one person he trusts the least: the villain he’s already put behind bars once and who has nothing to lose by lying and everything to gain if Cooper is out of the picture—for good. 


Title : Cry Wolf
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Big Bad Wolf (book five)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 269
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : January 18, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So when I read initially this “finale”, I was so confused because it was an end but it wasn’t the end, you know? Which made reading it now, knowing there’s a spinoff, and knowing why it is shifting POVs, far more satisfying — not that I wasn’t initially happy with how this went! But it just lands better, knowing there’s more to come.. and what that might look like.

Is everyone you’ve ever dated an asshole?
Maybe I have a type.

Also, I think I maybe understood things a little better. I have a tendency to inhale books, read them compulsively quickly, and maybe I did that when I finally got my grubby mitts on this book the first time around. Because things have settled in my brain a little more and I like where we might yet see things go, particularly in a certain Moon-like direction.

You know, it’s never too late to call off this engagement. You’re a catch, you’ll find someone.
I was cursed by an old witch to find him charming.
That’s some dark magic.

Obviously there isn’t much I can say, even for a non-ending end like this book, but this had all the fun and swoons and feels and investigative hijinks as the previous books but in this case, specifically, the stakes are a little higher. But there wasn’t any need for artificial tension of drama because what drives those stakes, at least from Cooper’s POV (which is all we have), is.. meaningless. Or hard to grasp. Somewhere in there. Which makes it all kind of funny actually. And not at all typical for the genre. Again.

Also, [Eli] said to tell you you’ve been demoted to fourth rank.
We don’t do ranks. We’re not pirates. Fourth?
[The cat] took third already.

As mentioned before, Adhara really likes to mess around with expectations within paranormal/urban fantasy reads and I enjoy that immensely. But I also love that in a genre so highly saturated, this really does stand out. Because of the world, sure, but the characters. Even beyond Cooper and Park, there’s Eli, the other bureau agents, Cooper’s family, the cat (Boogie is best!), and more. 

Why did you reveal yourself to us in the first place?
Yes, I can see now that was my mistake. To be brutally honest with you, I thought Cooper had recognized me. But I’m beginning to understand this whole glaring, staring, nostril-flaring thing is less ‘I know that wolf’ and more of a permanent feature of his face.
Well, he’s not wrong.”

I can’t wait to see what new or familiar (and both) faces we get in the spinoff with Eli to come (out August thirtieth!) and I’m really excited to explore more of his backstory. As much as I love Cooper, and Park, their dynamic, their banter, and everything they’ve endured and earned over the course of their series, I’m excited for a new dose of freshness to this world and to shift (tee hee) into a new POV. 

WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING by Charlie Adhara

Agent Cooper Dayton and his partner, Oliver Park, are going undercover—at a retreat for couples who need counselling. They do say the best cover story is one that’s close to the truth…

Agent Cooper Dayton is almost relieved to get a phone call from his former boss at the Bureau of Special Investigations. It means a temporary reprieve from tensions created by house hunting with Oliver Park, his partner both in work and in life. Living together in a forever home is exactly what Cooper wants. He’s just not keen on working out the details.

With a former alpha werewolf missing, Cooper and Park are loaned to the BSI to conduct the search at a secluded mountain retreat. The agents will travel to the resort undercover…as a couple in need of counseling.

The resort is picturesque, the grounds are stunning and the staff members are all suspicious as hell.

With a long list of suspects and danger lurking around every cabin, Cooper should be focusing on the case. But he’s always been anxious about the power dynamics in his relationship with Park, and participating in the couples’ activities at the retreat brings it all to the surface. A storm is brewing, though, and Cooper and Park must rush to solve the case before the weather turns. Or before any more guests—or the agents themselves—end up dead.


Title : Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Big Bad Wolf (book four)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 323
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : March 2, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Oh hey, another review I can cannibalize for my benefit! 

What the hell about him had Park seen and thought, Oh yes, anxiety-ridden loner with a temper sharper than a serpent’s tongue and a deep-seated fear of change whose longest successful relationship is with an equally judgmental cat? Swoon.

Our couple has come so far by the time book four in this paranormal shifter series rolls around. They’ve settled into life together, come to terms with most (all?) of the secrets and tragic backstories, and have successfully navigated a few sticky situations related to being in a werewolf-human relationship. But this relationship is still half Cooper, after all. 

Why does it feel like all our cases send us to the gloomiest places off the map?
High altitudes, high crime rates?
One day, we’ll get assigned to a nice, sunny beach murder. And it will be wonderful.
What nice, normal goals you have.

The excuse for this particular adventure, going undercover at a couple’s counselling retreat for werewolves, was genius. Who doesn’t love the ‘pretend relationship’ trope except it’s even juicier when they are in a relationship and get forced to work through some things. Delicious. But so much of the counselling element of this story, the various topics discussed, the trust, the trauma, it was all done so well. And so smoothly; nothing felt shoehorned in, which is how it could’ve easily gone a) for the sake of drama and angst but also b) to find time around the actual mystery of the story. But no, the balance was there.

Cooper felt oddly exhausted and tender this morning. Was this what talking about feelings for an hour did to a person? What a nightmare.

Also, I liked how Adhara introduced another element for the shifters in such a natural way. It seems to happen in each book, the total opposite of an info dump, and always relevant for the moment, not for a ‘maybe in the future you need to know this’, and it’s so perfect. The worldbuilding is so fabulous and so natural, so subtle. 

What I probably did notice on my first read but don’t seem to have mentioned in my reviews is how Adhara continually subverts some of the expected tropes in these kinds of stories/series. I don’t really want to say how, not only because of spoilers, but because it’s a delight to watch unfold. So keep your eyes peeled. 

Also, this is what I always refer to, in my head, as the hug book. Because there is a hug that just puts so many other intimate scenes to shame. Curious how? Read these books! Really, I’m just throwing out all the reasons, trying to find that one sweet spot, that’ll convince you to do so. Let me know when I nail it.

THROWN TO THE WOLVES by Charlie Adhara

Agent Cooper Dayton is going to meet his boyfriend’s werewolf family. Unarmed. On their turf.

And he’s bringing his cat.

When Agent Cooper Dayton agreed to attend the funeral for Oliver Park’s grandfather, he didn’t know what he was getting into. Turns out, the deceased was the alpha of the most powerful werewolf pack on the eastern seaboard. And his death is highly suspicious. Regardless, Cooper is determined to love and support Park the way Park has been there for him.

But Park left him woefully unprepared for the wolf pack politics and etiquette. Rival packs? A seating order at the dinner table? A mysterious figure named the Shepherd? The worst is that Park didn’t tell his family one key thing about Cooper. Cooper feels two steps behind, and reticent Park is no help.

There are plenty of pack members eager to open up about Park and why Cooper is wrong for him. Their stories make Cooper wonder if he’s holding Park back. But there’s no time to get into it…as lethal tranquilizer darts start to fly, Cooper needs to solve the mystery of the alpha’s death and fight for the man he loves—all before someone else dies.


Title : Thrown to the Wolves
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Big Bad Wolf (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 263
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : April 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

For the first time in this reread I get to take advantage of an unexpected joy : stealing parts of an already-written review from GR and getting to do a little less work for a review. Win!

Thrown to the Wolves is a perfect title for this one because both Cooper, and the reader, are well.. thrown to the wolves. This was the first time we actually got some real shifter action. And I don’t mean that in a pervy way. Up until book three, the shifter element was kind of background noise, even if the protagonists worked for a shifter-friendly/focused organization to police and investigate supernatural peoples and events. But book three throws us right into the politics, the families, and the fur, appropriately enough, goes flying.

I suppose you know why I’ve asked you out here.
Um, to tell me my engagement to your nephew, Mr Darcy, is impossible?

This book, as one expects (hopes?), had the most solid foundation for Ollie and Cooper. And as a result I loved them so much more than I ever have. Cooper is still a bit neurotic and twitchy but his internal voice, his concerns, are so much more.. stable. His observations, everything about him, felt more mature. More grounded. He’s secure in his relationship and that makes him more secure in himself. It was so nice to experience, so nice to see, so of course things fuck it all up. –> this is where I really started to appreciate Cooper the first time around but, as I’ve been saying all throughout this reread, he’s so much easier (for me) to love with hindsight. 

What am I supposed to be doing on this hike? Trying to start a.. a..
Investigation?
Threesome?
Okay. We’re obviously not a couple that should be trying to finish each other’s sentences.

Nonetheless, I loved both the story, the progression of their relationship, and their professional one, too. Cooper makes some big changes as a result of his deeper understanding of the world he now inhabits and I really loved that growth and understanding. On a less serious note, the sprinkling of humour that has been present in this series felt stronger in this one (so many lol moments) and aside from one weird roleplay sexytime (which culminated in a great great moment, not in a dirty way, stop side eyeing me!) I also thought the intimate moments were topnotch. Not just because it was hot but because it felt like an extension of the scene, the moment, the emotion. 

I love you. Really love you. I mean it.
That’s awkward, ’cause I’ve just been joking this whole time.

This book featured so many milestones both in the world and in Cooper and Park’s relationship. And it had the added bonus of breaking down so many barriers which, with the benefit of knowing what’s to come, makes for the perfect transition into the setting for book four.

Also, shoutout to the tiny reference that only Canadians might understand, when one character describes another as the “jewelry store commercial guy”. I died.

While I did add to and jazz this up a bit, additional shoutout to 2019-me for writing an excellently timeless review. I’m a fan.