A Barb the Zany Old Lady: Howling on Hold by EJ Russell


Rating: 3 stars out of 5

I admit, I was attracted to this story by the cover and the blurb—and the fact that it was a standalone since I haven’t read any of the author’s other stories and I don’t like starting in the middle of a series. But I was disappointed in that there were multiple characters from previous books who played a strong secondary role in this story. There were also references to situations and past events that those who’ve read the other books would likely recognize. 

Apparently, though, when it comes to werewolves, this is the first time they’ve been explored. Those other books were about the Fae, and vampires, and other shifters and more, whereas this one focused on werewolf packs, their hierarchy, and the training of “juniors,” those who have passed certain criteria and now enter a three-year Howling school where they learn how to suppress the things that make them wolves so they can pass unnoticed in the human world. This book is about Tanner, a young wolf howling student who turns 21 and is worried that his uncle will call him back early so he can take over his legacy as pack alpha, his dad having died years before. And it’s about his RA in “the Doghouse,” Chase Denney, a guy with high moral standards who refuses to act on his attraction to Tanner. 

After a series of misunderstandings and a possible threat on his life, Tanner goes into hiding for three months. Chase isn’t aware he’s gone, due to his own series of misadventures that bans him from going back to the Doghouse, and when he returns, he immediately sets out to find Tanner and tell him how he really feels. Even when the two find each other, there’s still threats from otherworldly creatures to contend with, intercessions and assistance by the (apparently important) characters from previous books, and a dirty, underhanded plot from one of Tanner’s family members.

To be honest, the story felt way too busy with information overload. Perhaps it hit me that way because the author was trying to fill in all the past issues for those new to the book, or perhaps that’s the author’s writing style, but there was a lot of narrative, and in proportion, very little dialogue. Facts, facts, and more facts had my head spinning with information I did not find interesting so I had a difficult time following many parts of the story. I enjoyed the sweet and simple romance between the two young men, but that took up very little page time. A few less characters, both new and past, and a few less plot twists would have gone a long way toward making this a better book. More face-to-face time with more dialogue, less about the antics of the other wolves in the house (which didn’t seem to go anywhere or have a point to them), and a note linking this to the other books in this paranormal world would definitely have made the story more enjoyable.

The cover by L C Chase is really attractive and shows, in cartoon style, a wolf standing on a cliff edge, howling at the sky, with a cartoon bubble filled with hearts coming out of his mouth, instead of the traditional howl. Very cute and it’s what sold me on reading this story.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 237 pages
Published January 13th 2020 by Riptide Publishing
Edition Language English

New Release Tour and Giveaway: Tested in Fire (Art Medium #2) by EJ Russell


Tested in Fire (Art Medium #2) by E.J. Russell

Riptide Publishing
Cover Art: L.C. Chase

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon


About Tested in Fire


Six months ago, Stefan Cobbe was at rock bottom: grief-stricken, guilt ridden, debt laden, artistically blocked, and living on charity in an isolated mountain cabin. But after reconciling with his first love, Luke, and moving to Sarasota with him, Stefan is preparing for his first major show. Yes, he still has debts, and no, Luke doesn’t understand Stefan’s desire for independence. But compared to last year? No contest.


Luke Morganstern ought to be happy. After all, his art-investigation business has recovered and he’s got his boyfriend back. But Stefan stubbornly refuses to move in with him or accept Luke’s financial help, and it’s really starting to bug him. Who knew that the biggest test of their relationship wouldn’t be time or distance, but his own insecurities? After Luke’s next job—a trip to Italy to retrieve a mysterious artifact—he plans to convince Stefan that it’s time to totally commit.


But when Luke returns, he changes, and Stefan begins to suspect that the person in Luke’s skin isn’t Luke at all. He can hardly go to the police and claim his lover is the victim of a supernatural hijacking though. He needs alternative help to find Luke and get him back, because he refuses to let anyone—or anything—come between them again.

About the Art Medium Series


Artists use all manner of materials to express their vision, to interpret the world around them, to affect the hearts and minds of their audience.


But what if the artist himself were the medium? And what if artistic inspiration weren’t the only force at work?


If painter Stefan Cobbe and art investigator Luke Morganstern don’t answer those questions fast, they stand to lose their reputations, their relationship—and their lives.

About E.J. Russell


E.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business-intelligence consultant. After her twin sons left for college and she no longer spent half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class, she returned to her childhood love of writing fiction. Now she wonders why she ever thought an empty nest meant leisure.


E.J. lives in rural Oregon with her curmudgeonly husband, the only man on the planet who cares less about sports than she does. She enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.


Connect with E.J.:


Website: ejrussell.com

Blog: ejrussell.com/bloggery/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/E.J.Russell.author

Twitter: twitter.com/ej_russell

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ejrussell/


To celebrate the release of both books in the Art Medium series, E.J. is giving away a $25 Amazon credit and an ebook copy of both titles in the Legend Tripping series! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Contest closes at midnight, Eastern time, on April 7, 2017 and is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Don’t forget to leave your contact info!

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


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
SeriesFae Out of Water #1