A Caryn Review : Diego (Endangered Fae #2) by Angel Martinez

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I am having so much fun reading fantasy books that incorporate ancient mythology!  Diego, the sequel to Finn, is all about Celtic mythology, mixing Irish deities with the Welsh, along with a bit of reincarnation and earthly as well as fae magic.  The end result is pure enchantment!

The first book introduced Diego, a human who is much more than he realizes, and Finn, a pooka who rose from a long hibernation to find a modern human world that was slowly poisoning him.  Through a series of adventures that reveal they are much stronger together than apart, Finn and Diego forged a relationship that was more than just a rekindling of the love they shared in previous lifetimes.  I didn’t expect a sequel because the story arc was complete, but I was really happy to see this book pick up just where the first left off.

Despite all they’ve been through, Diego is still a bit of a puritan, and has a hard time believing that Finn would ever give up his life of sexual freedom and adventure to settle down.  So when he came home to find Finn in a compromising position – even though there was a perfectly innocent reason – he allowed his anger to overtake his reason, leading to an explosion of magic that ripped a hole in the world, and he woke up on the other side of the veil, in the Otherworld, kingdom of the Sidhe.  Finn was also unwittingly transported to the Otherworld, but in the land of the Fomorians, enemies of the Sidhe.  I remember as I was reading through the adventure where Finn and Diego got caught between the Danu/Balor feud that this was enough for a novella all on its own, especially when our heroes managed to bring the two kingdoms together.  Next came a mysterious illness, for which again, Diego and Finn managed to find the cause, and provide the cure.  Once again, the story could have ended here!  But our intrepid author managed to push it yet further, and the culmination of the story involves clandestine government agencies capturing and experimenting upon the fae who were with Diego and Finn at their house in Montana.  I loved how the story went from fairy tale to X-Files!

It was clear in the first book that Diego, AKA Taliesin, was powerful, and probably the most magical human that ever existed.  His power was never really manifested though, and he was first and foremost a humble and gentle man.  In this book, he finally came to believe in and even embrace that side of himself, which made him more sure of his worthiness to be with Finn, but unfortunately made Finn feel that he did not deserve Diego.  A great deal of the book was the push and pull between the two of them wondering if they were indeed right for each other, and facing new jealousies related to old relationships.  Diego was revealed not to be as kind and forgiving as he thought he was, while Finn found humility.  They both made mistakes, but as in every good fairy tale, true love wins in the end.  I have to admit that the ending was cheesy in a lot of ways (and I had to laugh when the US lost out to Canada as the host for Faerie’s chosen earthly location!) but that is part of the author’s charm.

Very enjoyable, with some surprising twists, and a whole lot of learning to love your neighbor despite differences

Cover art by Emmy @ studioenp has a very nice representation of the hole in the veil, with the ubiquitous headless torso.

Sales Links:  Pride Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 328 pages
Published August 14th 2018 by Pride Publishing (first published September 16th 2010)
Original TitleDiego
ASINB07FCT4SVR
Edition Language English
Series Endangered Fae #2
Characters Danu, Finn Shannon, Diego Sandoval, Lugh, Balor…more settingMontana (United States)
Otherworld

A Caryn Review: The Weekend Bucket List by Mia Kerick

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is one of the best YA books I’ve ever read.  It is emphatically not a romance, and to be honest, that’s what makes it so wonderful.

If you were asking for advice, Coop, I’d tell you that friendship is the deepest form of love.  But society deems the love between friends less important than romantic love.  Friendship is highly underrated.

That quote is from Cooper’s father, and I think sums up the theme of the book pretty completely.

Cooper is the high school valedictorian, a nerdy kid who’s never really been tempted to act out, and who has been good as gold for his entire high school career.  His best friend is Cady, another outcast nerd who “has always been game for any kind of fun that’s rated G.”  The two have been best friends who became especially close when Cady’s twin brother overdosed and went to rehab.  They’ve supported each other through high school, and now that they’re near graduation, Cady came up with a plan to do all the things they missed by being “good” kids – the Weekend Bucket List.  They are both frightened of leaving each other when they go to different schools, and both are wondering if what they feel for each other is more than just an extremely close friendship.

While carrying out their plan, they meet Eli, a lonely young man who dropped out of high school and has been working with carnivals and moving from town to town.  Cooper and Cady spontaneously adopt him into their plans, and they have an intense weekend that answers some questions, but raises even more difficult ones.  When the weekend is over, everything falls apart.

Fortunately, they have the summer to repair things before they go their separate ways.

I love how all the emotions are in this book – love, anger, jealousy, betrayal, hope, fear, and faith.  All three of these characters are at times unintentionally cruel to each other, and each at different times gives up on the other two.  Eli especially just broke my heart, because he had so little to begin with, and was so open and trusting, “falling into friendship” too quickly because he was so starved for affection.  In the end, all three of them learned strength and faith as they came together and fell apart over the summer, and learned how to be kind and honest and to truly appreciate the depth of their friendship.

Learning to differentiate between platonic love and romantic love can be very difficult, especially when there is some physical attraction, and definitely at that age!  What this book did so beautifully was elevate platonic love to the level it deserves, validate it in a world that talks way too much about finding “the one”, and legitimize the idea that soul mates don’t have to be lovers.  It was a beautiful book, and one that I am going to recommend to a lot of people.

Cover art by CB Messer is simple, eye-catching, and perfect for a YA book.

Sales Links:  Interlude Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: April 19th 2018 by Duet Books
ASINB0797P1NX1
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Caryn Release Day Review: When Everything is Blue by Laura Lascarso

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Wow.  Just Wow.  This book is everything I love to read in a coming of age story, and I guess the only thing that surprised me is that it was not marketed as YA.  I would absolutely recommend this book to the YA crowd as well as to adults

Our protagonists are Theo and Chris, two boys who are entering their junior year in high school, who have been best friends and next door neighbors for years.  The story is told primarily from Theo’s point of view.  He’s suspected that he is gay for a few years, and thought maybe he was falling in love with Chris, but when Chris returns from his summer long visit with his Dad in California, it hits Theo like a ton of bricks.  Yes, he is definitely gay, and yes, he is definitely in love with Chris, and he has absolutely no idea what to do with that.

The characterization is phenomenal in this book.  Theo is a  skater boy, a geek, a good student, and a good son to his mother.  He’s just a great kid, a little messed up, and a little thrown by all the events that befall him as he comes to terms with who he is, but he maintains a surprisingly calm and mature attitude about everything.  Chris is almost too good to be true – one of those popular kids who is nevertheless a genuine friend, the type of boy that everyone wants to be;  as Theo says “people gravitate to Chris like sugar ants on a soda can”.  And as the story unfolds, he shows his uncertainties, his mistakes, and Theo is able to appreciate him as still the true-blue and staunch friend, even as he steps down from the pedestal Theo put him on for all those years.  There were so many moments when I thought these two boys would separate, let circumstances or bad choices come between them, but it never happens.  And I think that loyalty they have for each other is my favorite aspect of the book.

There are amazing secondary characters as well – Theo’s twin sister Tabitha, who is obsessed with being popular, with social media, but is nevertheless protective and supportive of Theo.  Theo’s father, who is on his third family and focussed only on how Theo can make him look good.  Theo’s demented great-uncle, who is difficult and disrupting and calls everyone “cocksucker”, but who has a secret past that makes a lot of things clear to Theo when he discovers it.  David, the new kid in school, gay and experienced and kicked out of his parent’s house, who introduces Theo to gay sex.

The process of coming out is certainly changing as our society changes, easier in some ways, harder in others.  Social media is a great platform for anonymous bullying, and the incident that affects Theo and those around him was frighteningly believable.  The way Theo and Chris handle it just showed the depth of their maturity, and their devotion to each other as friends.

The writing was engaging, funny, the dialogue realistic, and the plot unfolded naturally and easily.  This is definitely a book I will go back and read again!

Cover art by AngstyG is absolutely beautiful, the top portion setting the scene, and the bottom and really capturing the tender friendship between Theo and Chris

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 216 pages
Expected publication: March 6th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleWhen Everything Is Blue
ISBN139781640801448
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Caryn Review: The Artist’s Touch (Art Medium #1) by E.J. Russell

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Do you like ghost stories?  Do you like creepy ghost stories?  I have to say I didn’t think I did, but this book (and maybe the others to follow in the series) changed my mind.  The review, though, was kind of hard to write without giving significant spoilers, and although as you read you can guess what’s going to happen on the next page, I couldn’t predict the outcome from the beginning.  You can read this book in one evening, so just sit back and enjoy….

Luke Morganstern is an art fraud investigator who had been at the top of his field until one big mistake, and he’s been struggling ever since.  He can’t afford to turn down a job anyway, but when a mysterious client contacts him about a possible forgery, he can’t resist when he finds out the artist being imitated.

Jeremiah Arcoletti.  He was a rising star of the American realism movement, until he disappeared without a trace, taking with him his last 13 paintings.  Paintings that he meticulously described in letters to friends, but were never seen.  Paintings that Luke has been able to picture in his mind after studying Arcoletti for so long.  Paintings that were inexplicably starting to turn up in a remote gallery in Oregon.

Stefan Cobbe is an artist with a very promising start to his career, until a tragedy destroyed his paintings and left him with literally only the clothes on his back.  Worse, he found he was completely unable to produce any art at all.  Homeless and destitute, he was taken in by a man who provided him with room, board, art supplies, and a studio.  And Stefan produced finished canvases, miraculously complete in hours – hours that Stefan had no memory of.

Luke and Stefan have a complicated history together, with guilt and blame on both sides that led to their separation years ago.  Stefan is now the most likely suspect for the forgery, and Luke has to decide what exactly he is going to do about that, especially when Stefan claims innocence.

The pace of the story was constant and the tension just kept building and building, with a few surprise twists, and I couldn’t put the book down until I finished (fortunately it’s not too long!).  Well written, great plot, outstanding characterization with significant growth of both MCs and excellent secondary characters, and throughout a perpetual sense of foreboding.  There are definitely some dark places in this book, and seeing Luke and Stefan struggle to escape those places – some of which were in their own minds – was exciting, and a little scary.

Highly recommended, and I’m looking forward to the next in the series!

Cover art by L.C. Chase is fine, though I’m not quite sure which character the model is supposed to represent…

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

book, 2nd edition, 130 pages
Published February 12th 2018 by Riptide Publishing (first published September 23rd 2013)
Original Title Northern Light by E.J. Russell
ISBN13 9781626497580
Edition Language English

A Caryn Review: The Artist’s Touch (Art Medium) by E.J. Russell

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Do you like ghost stories?  Do you like creepy ghost stories?  I have to say I didn’t think I did, but this book (and maybe the others to follow in the series) changed my mind.  The review, though, was kind of hard to write without giving significant spoilers, and although as you read you can guess what’s going to happen on the next page, I couldn’t predict the outcome from the beginning.  You can read this book in one evening, so just sit back and enjoy….

Luke Morganstern is an art fraud investigator who had been at the top of his field until one big mistake, and he’s been struggling ever since.  He can’t afford to turn down a job anyway, but when a mysterious client contacts him about a possible forgery, he can’t resist when he finds out the artist being imitated.

Jeremiah Arcoletti.  He was a rising star of the American realism movement, until he disappeared without a trace, taking with him his last 13 paintings.  Paintings that he meticulously described in letters to friends, but were never seen.  Paintings that Luke has been able to picture in his mind after studying Arcoletti for so long.  Paintings that were inexplicably starting to turn up in a remote gallery in Oregon.

Stefan Cobbe is an artist with a very promising start to his career, until a tragedy destroyed his paintings and left him with literally only the clothes on his back.  Worse, he found he was completely unable to produce any art at all.  Homeless and destitute, he was taken in by a man who provided him with room, board, art supplies, and a studio.  And Stefan produced finished canvases, miraculously complete in hours – hours that Stefan had no memory of.

Luke and Stefan have a complicated history together, with guilt and blame on both sides that led to their separation years ago.  Stefan is now the most likely suspect for the forgery, and Luke has to decide what exactly he is going to do about that, especially when Stefan claims innocence.

The pace of the story was constant and the tension just kept building and building, with a few surprise twists, and I couldn’t put the book down until I finished (fortunately it’s not too long!).  Well written, great plot, outstanding characterization with significant growth of both MCs and excellent secondary characters, and throughout a perpetual sense of foreboding.  There are definitely some dark places in this book, and seeing Luke and Stefan struggle to escape those places – some of which were in their own minds – was exciting, and a little scary.

Highly recommended, and I’m looking forward to the next in the series!

Cover art by L.C. Chase is fine, though I’m not quite sure which character the model is supposed to represent…

Sales Link:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon (link to follow0

Book Details:

ebook, 2, 130 pages
Expected publication: February 12th 2018 by Riptide Publishing (first published September 23rd 2013)
ISBN139781626497580
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Art Medium

A Caryn Advent Release Day Review: The Holly Groweth Green by Amy Rae Durreson

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5 

This is easily my favorite of all the Christmas stories I’ve read so far this year.  I love this author to begin with (she’s on my auto-buy list) and once again she has not disappointed!

This is a fairy tale:  not a retelling, but an original.  Although the setting is post-WWII England, the story still reflects that atmosphere of magic that you expect in a fairy tale.  There is an enchanted wizard, an unlikely hero, a curse to break, and a happy ever after.  Ms. Durreson’s prose very cleverly draws the reader from the mundane world of a cold train through the border between reality and magic to the enchanted cottage and a world that truly does feel set outside of time.  And then thrusts the reader right back into cold harsh reality – I felt like I was not just reading about Laurence, but was right there with him experiencing it!

Dr. Laurence Payne survived WWII, but he was not whole.  A head injury left him without certain critical thinking pathways which made him unsafe to continue practicing medicine, and he was at a complete loose end.  No family, no plans, so he decided to spend Christmas in the country, for lack of anything better to do.  On the way to Portsmouth on Christmas Eve, the train was stopped by snow, and Laurence, as one of the last passengers to get off, found there were no more rooms at the inn.  So he set off on foot to the village in hopes of finding a place to stay.

The winter afternoon was deceiving though, and Laurence felt that no matter which way he went, he kept getting farther away from his destination, and the night was coming on quickly.  When he came to a cottage surrounded in holly hedges, he was thankful, and though the beautiful man who answered his knock seemed a little strange and a little over-eager to welcome a stranger into his house, Laurence accepted his offer of hospitality.  Avery told him that he was born in 1579, that he could do magic, and Laurence immediately chalked him up as “a little mad” but found himself enjoying Avery’s company nonetheless.  The hours turned into days, and Laurence started falling in love and experienced a contentment and joy he’d never felt before.  On Twelfth Night, Avery asked him to stay, but Laurence was already thinking he had to get back to the real world, employment and all of the other prosaic realities of life, and it was only when he awoke alone the next morning, to find the cottage in ruins and Avery gone, that he finally believed that Avery had been right about magic all along.

I have to say here that one of the things I loved most about this story was how beautifully it was written, and how the author switched between more modern, factual descriptions of action and setting when Laurence was alone, and the softer, entrancing, and otherworldly notes of his time with Avery.  The difference was marked enough that when Laurence woke up after Twelfth Night, I also felt like I was waking from a dream, but it was subtle enough that I didn’t realize it was like a dream until that moment.  It is rare to find that level of writing skill in this genre, so I appreciate it all the more (those readers who are also fans of Harper Fox know exactly what I’m talking about!)

The writing was amazing, but I also enjoyed following Laurence from his start as a man who had lost his purpose and direction in life to the war and its aftermath, to a man with a purpose – not only to find and reclaim Avery, but also to make a life for himself and to become part of a community.  Breaking a curse in a modern world meant confronting his own demons and his own brokenness.  In doing so, he saved Avery, but he also saved himself.

Very, very highly recommended!

Cover art by L.C. Chase is pretty, and I felt the image of a man trudging through snow appropriate for the theme of the book.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 55 pages
Published December 1st 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640803077
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Caryn Review: Safety Protocols for Human Holidays by Angel Martinez

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Highly recommended as the cutest, funniest bit of holiday fluff I’ve read in a long time!

This sci-fi story is set on an interspecies ship traveling in the distant universe.  For the most part, there is only one of any individual species on the ship.  There is only one human, Jen, and the captain is concerned that she is broken, because she is not “behaving within previously observed species parameters”.  The captain is concerned about the safety and well-being of everyone on the crew, and so he assigns Security Officer Raskli, a Growlan, to investigate the change, to see if she can identify the problem, and fix it.  Why was Raskli chosen for this task?  Because the ship’s doctor said “you are both members of lactating placental species”.  Ha!

Raskli’s investigation into humans, and Jen in particular, is laugh out loud funny.  One of her first observations:

[Humans] ate everything.  It was a wonder than any other life on the planet had survived.

When she thought she had sufficient background, Raskli decided that she should become “friends” – a somewhat unusual concept to ritualistic Growlans – with Jen, and looking for a friendship ritual, followed the interspecies manual instructions for “dating”:

The initiator of the date will sometimes bring a small offering to the domicile of the acceptor.  Angiosperm blooms or boxes of sugar-and-cocoa-bean globs appear to be traditional for one-on-one dates, while offerings of substantial, meal-oriented food or fermented drink are more common for group dates.

This was the most adorable little meet-cute you can imagine.  Raskli’s heart was in the right place despite her awkwardness, so Jen accepted her friending request and the two proceeded to get to know and like each other despite the huge cultural differences.  Since the story is told from Raskli’s point of view, we get the outsiders perspective of humans and their quirks, and the author did a fabulous job of making fun of all the crazy things we do.

When Raskli was able to identify that the holiday season was exacerbating Jen’s feelings of homesickness and loneliness, she decided to put on a ship-wide celebration, and started researching.  In addition to our Western standards like Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa, she also found references to solstice, yule, saturnalia, rohatsu, and others, and decided to just use them all.  In addition to the “traditional large sacrificial plant” that was “large, possibly radially symmetric, sloping limbs with many sharp spikes.  Looks fierce”, there were “shining spheres” and “glitter snakes”.  I was having so much fun reading how the decorations that have become so commonplace to us might be described by an alien who has never seen anything like them before!

The romance between Raskli and Jen was perfectly sweet.  No other word to describe it!  The story was just the right length, the various alien crew members all existed in almost perfect harmony, and at the end of the story I just couldn’t stop smiling.  I’m going to keep this around to re-read when I need a little happiness!  Brava, Angel Martinez!

Cover art by Freddy MacKay was exactly how I pictured Jen, sitting in front of a window that looked to be straight out of Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  Very appropriate!

Sales Links: Mischief Corner Books | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, First
Expected publication: December 9th 2017 by Mischief Corner Books, LLC
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Caryn Review: Bad Boy’s Bard (Fae Out of Water, #3) by E.J. Russell

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Reading this book reminded me a little of my progression reading through J.R.R. Tolkein – The Hobbit’s simple characters give way to The Lord of the Rings darker tone and complex world, and The Silmarillion’s vast scope is tragic, and so detailed and interconnected that it was very hard to read.  For me, that was the end of reading Tolkein!  And of course I am not comparing the Fae Out of Water series to Tolkein, but moving from the romantic comedy of Cutie and the Beast through The Druid Next Door to Bad Boys Bard was also a journey with increasingly complex world building and darker, more tragic characters.  There is nothing of comedy in this book, and the denouement is the fate not just of Faerie, but of all creation.

Gareth is the youngest of the Kendrick brothers, and he is the last true bard.  Where his brothers have been raised to fight with body and sword, Gareth was trained to use the powerful magic of his voice to influence and change people’s behavior.  Gareth’s training came at a much greater price than his brothers’ though – he was apprenticed to an amoral ghost, locked away from Faerie and subjected to the voices of the dead, and when he finished his apprenticeship he came back changed – aloof and unable to connect emotionally to anyone. 

Niall was the one person who was able to get through Gareth’s armor, and awoke passion and happiness in him.  He is human, and though Gareth always believed the races should not mix, he was swept away by his love and desire for Niall.  When Niall was taken by the Unseelie – and killed – Gareth was broken, bitter, and his hatred for anything Unseelie was limitless.  He removed himself completely from Faerie, cut most ties with his brothers, and never felt passion or romantic love for anyone again.

All is not as it seems though, and Niall is not dead.  And not human.  When he is released from hell to attend the Convergence between the Seelie and Unseelie realms, he finds he will have to face Gareth again.  And though he still loves Gareth, coming clean about who he really is, not to mention all of the lies he told, and all of the suffering their affair caused, seems to be an insurmountable task.

I enjoyed the tragic parts of the story, as well as the way both Gareth and Niall were imperfect and had some serious flaws that they had to recognize and address before they could save the world.  My problem with this book, however, was that the world building got so complex that it was incomplete.  Celtic mythology isn’t exactly common knowledge, and in the previous books everything that was introduced was at least explained – I wondered if there originally was more exposition, that was edited out to keep the book at a certain length.  If so, the editing could definitely have been better.  Fortunately this didn’t detract from the story too much, but I had to drop at least one star for it.

Cover art by Lou Harper fits in with the rest of the series, and with this story.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 264 pages
Published September 18th 2017 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleBad Boy’s Bard
ISBN139781626496231
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Fae Out of Water:

A Caryn Review: The Druid Next Door (Fae Out of Water #2) by EJ Russell

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Book one, Cutie and the Beast, in this series was a romantic comedy (which I adored!), and so I admit I was expecting the same here.  These characters, however, are more serious, the tone darker, the danger greater, in this enemies-to-lovers novel.  And this book is absolutely not stand-alone – all of the world building happened in book one, and this book just expands on the Fae world and it’s denizens.

Mal – Lord Maldwyn Kendrick – was cursed at the end of book one.  He saved his brother Alun’s life by cutting off the villain’s hand, and in punishment, he was cast out of Faerie and his own right hand became useless.  The Seelie queen, who cast the curse, told him the curse could be lifted if he could “make whole what you cost us this night”, and Mal has no idea what that even means.  Give Rodric his hand back?  Even if he wanted to after all the evil Rodric committed, how could he possibly do that?  His entire existence was being a warrior, protecting the Seelie Court, and in one moment he lost that purpose, and even the ability to be a warrior.  He was fairly lighthearted in book one, but he’s now angry, bitter, and completely directionless.

Because Mal was homeless, his brother-in-law David bought him a very nice little house with zero carbon footprint in a wetland conservation area.  Mal couldn’t have cared less.  Worse, when he found Unseelie creatures in the swamp and drove them off, he came to the attention of his neighbor Bryce MacLeod, professor and deeply devoted environmentalist who was shocked and appalled at Mal’s lack of care for the wetlands.  Mal recognized him as a druid – a fact Bryce himself was completely unaware of – and Mal had never trusted druids as far as he could throw them.  Things went from bad to worse when the local arch druid bound the two men together in order to foster Bryce’s training, without consent from either of them.

Mal just wants to get his hand and his old life back, while Bryce wants to find out what is causing the poisoning of the wetlands and fix it.  But since the men are literally tied together, they have to find a way to work with each other to reach these goals.  But there are manipulative supernatural forces in play, pushing them into the middle of a conflict that endangers not only their lives, but (once again) the fate of the world.

The set-up seems awkward and ridiculous when I try to condense it, but I didn’t feel that while I was reading.  Every character acted in accordance with their nature and personality (as introduced in book one) and in accordance with the rules of the outer world and world of faerie.  The progression from irritation, to grudging respect, to true appreciation of each other from Mal and Bryce was extremely fluid.  The supernatural powers of druids and the hereditary interaction between druid and sidhe kept Mal and Bryce continually wondering what parts of their attraction was real, and what was biology, or spell.  The inner conflict of trying to untangle that played out in the conflict they had with each other, but I felt both men learned to look past their initial rigid beliefs about the world, themselves, and each other, and they grew into better men as they became more flexible and accepted new truths about themselves.  The eventual defeat of evil was typical of a fantasy novel, but the happy ever after was more like the typical contemporary romance.  I thought it fit together extremely well!

Gareth, the youngest of the Kendrick brothers, shows up only briefly in this book, but a painful history of betrayal and loss were introduced to set the foundation of the final book.  Which I expect will be darker than this one, and I’m eagerly looking forward to it!

Cover art by Lou Harper has a great model for Bryce’s sexy professor look, and the interdimensional doorway fits with the story.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 328 pages
Published August 21st 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published August 19th 2017)
Original TitleThe Druid Next Door
ISBN139781626496217
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesFae Out of Water #2

A Caryn Review: Cutie and the Beast (Fae Out of Water #1) by EJ Russell

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I LOVE fairly tale retellings!  And of course, Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorites because I am such a sucker for that hurt/comfort trope.  I also think that a fairy tale retelling is a good way to showcase an author’s creativity – being original while still following the basic skeleton of curse and redemption and attraction to the inner beauty is hard to do when it’s been done so often! 

This retelling brings in a lot of Celtic folklore, combining the Irish, Welsh, Scots, and British fae in the Unified Seelie Court, as well as adding the more modern paranormal elements of vampires and shifters, and then throwing in some Druids just for fun, to create the world of the “Supes”.  Dr. Alun Kendrick is the “shrink to the supes” – an exiled Sidhe warrior who is now a psychologist  in Portland, catering to the mental maladies of the supernatural, as well as treating humans who have been accidentally exposed to (and traumatized by) supes.  His is a very specialized, and private, practice and he intends to keep it that way.

David Evans is an earnest and enthusiastic young man who works at a temp agency.  He’s been intermittently going to nursing school which is his passion, but in the meantime is working to support his terminally ill Aunt Cassie.  David tries, he really does, but every job he lands ends up in disaster as things just seem to happen around him – that riot in the dentist’s office?  Totally not his fault.  Besides, he’s done some transcription for Dr. Kendrick, and his voice is so swoon-worthy, he just has to meet the man.  So when the office manager position came open, it only took a little prevaricating to get it, and David just knew that he would do a fabulous job.  It was fate, it was right, and damn it, he was going to make it work.

The first day, however, didn’t go as planned.  Dr. Kendrick’s voice is just as smooth and dulcet as David remembered, but that face? 

He looked like the victim of a failed experiment on the island of Dr. Moreau who’d tried to get the results fixed at a cut-rate back-alley plastic surgeon.

But David is nothing if not determined, and even in that initial hostile meeting he noticed something more, something worth putting up with all of Dr. Kendrick’s glares and attempts to get rid of him in order to break through to the man beneath the ugly.  David’s irrepressible cheerfulness, his sublime coffee, the color he brought into the sad grey office, and his uncanny insight into client’s problems did catch Alun’s attention, but his dancing clinched it.

Stubborn, impudent, maddening, human David, with his wildly colorful office accessories, constant challenges, and the worst dancing Alun had seen in over two millennia.  Goddess strike him blind, but the man was bloody wonderful.

Thus the two men become a unlikely partners drawn into a conspiracy that could destroy the Unified Seelie Court and endanger all supes, in both fae and human worlds.  In the process, they finally solve the mystery of a centuries old murder that led to Alun’s curse, and both men find out there is more to them than they believed.

I loved the entire wild ride, from the dull, lifeless office to the magical, glittering world of Faerie.  I loved the secondary characters, the clients, the druid aunties, and especially Alun’s brothers Mal and Gareth (who will be getting their own books in the future, yay!).  We have an exciting plot, character growth, great dialogue, beautifully described settings, and it was also freakin’ hilarious.  What more can you ask from a book?

I didn’t really have a place to put it in this review, but must include this last quote:

“What about that poser guy?  Jackson.  What’s he?  Demon?  Troll?  Were-jackal?”  “Worse.”  Alun’s voice dropped to a husky whisper.  “Lawyer.”  David gulped…

Regarding the cover art by Lou Harper:  before I read the book, I have to admit I thought it was a little annoying, and I didn’t like the model’s smirk.  Now that I’ve read it, well, that is David!

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 283 pages
Published July 24th 2017 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleCutie and the Beast
ISBN 1626495998 (ISBN13: 9781626495999)
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttp://riptidepublishing.com/titles/cutie-and-the-beast
SeriesFae Out of Water #1