A MelanieM Review: Best in Show by Kelly Jensen

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Solitary mystery writer Julian Wilkes doesn’t want a pet, but his sister persuades him to visit Lingwood Animal Rescue, where he is immediately taken with a large ginger tabby cat. Before he can settle into the joys of cat ownership, however, he discovers something very unusual about his new companion.

Macavity Birch is cursed. By day he is a large tabby cat. At night he can be himself—a human male with ginger hair and oddly yellow eyes. He didn’t mean to end up in the animal rescue, but he never meant any harm when playing the prank that resulted in his curse, either. Happily, Julian adopts him. But while exploring his host’s home, he discovers the diary of a long-dead relative.

Unfortunately, not all of Mac’s ancestors are dead and buried. His great-great-great-grandmother is very much alive, and she’s a powerful witch who doesn’t take kindly to the sharing of family secrets. When Mac reveals himself to Julian in order to save him from bigger trouble, he achieves just the opposite, plunging Julian deeper into a magical mystery with him.

I found Kelly Jensen through her This Time Forever series, each novel built around a family structure, be it decades old home or lodge in the Catskills.  I love those stories so when Best in Show popped up as a discounted read I grabbed it.

Totally different in theme and characters, I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag narratively speaking.  I thought the idea was very cute and had a lot of promise.  In fact, some of the promise was delivered in the comedic elements within the story.

The reason that cat shifter Macavity Birch has been cursed is totally due to his lack of judgement, inability to grow up, and yes, warped sense of humor.  He entered himself into a cat show (with his cousin as his handler) and left with all the awards! Best in Show indeed!  The fact that it drew unusual attention to an “unknown entry” who blew everyone who had practiced and worked so hard for those awards out of the water?  Hmmm, he didn’t think of that.  Nor the risks of exposing his family of witches and shifters to the world . A definite no no. So boom cursed, picked as a stray and brought into the local shelter.

Add to that Julian Wilkes, mystery writer, and  potential shut-in. Bullied by his sister into adopting a dog as a companion, he ends up with a cat that acts strangely.

The main issue with is with the characters themselves.  Macavity has a major case of arrested development.  He never thinks about the consequences of his actions.  He acts and leaves, often with a mess behind him.  You totally buy that about this character so any change and what that might mean for him is harder to accept.  It also makes the ending seem unrealistic, honestly.Julian Wilkes shows the most growth in his willingness to not only accept a cat into his life, but to come to care about it as well as the man he meets at the same time.  Julian shows strength of character whether facing down his sister or Mac’s relatives, or the loss of his dream.  I felt that loss for him as well.

I did like the fact the Jensen threw in the idea of what happens to Mac’s “equipment” to keep it safe since most shelters are spay/neuter.  Here she answers that question.  Magically of course!

I think that perhaps Best in Show had so much potential in its characters and theme but for me it came up short.  I felt there wasn’t enough time to develop a realistic relationship for Mac and Julian to have a solid foundation to go forward on and too many other things are left unanswered.  But the idea of a cat shifter entering himself in a cat show and the sheer joy of winning event after event?  Hilarious. I wish we  would have had a scene or two of that!

Cover art:  Alexandria Corza.  That’s an adorable cover, complete with Julian and Mac.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 87 pages
Published July 27th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634774760 (ISBN13: 9781634774765)
Edition LanguageEnglish
URL

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Stone the Crows (Wolf Winter #2) by T.A. Moore

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

When the Winter arrives, the Wolves will come down over the walls and eat little boys in their beds.

Doctor Nicholas Blake might still be afraid of the dark, but the monsters his grandmother tormented him with as a child aren’t real.

Or so he thought…until the sea freezes, the country grinds to a halt under the snow, and he finds a half-dead man bleeding out while a dead woman watches. Now his nightmares impinge on his waking life, and the only one who knows what’s going on is his unexpected patient.

For Gregor it’s simple. The treacherous prophets mutilated him and stole his brother Jack, and he’s going to kill them for it. Without his wolf, it might be difficult, but he’ll be damned if anyone else gets to kill Jack—even if he has to enlist the help of his distractingly attractive, but very human, doctor.

Except maybe the prophets want something worse than death, and maybe Nick is less human than Gregor believes. As the dead gather and the old stories come true, the two men will need each other if they’re going to rescue Jack and stop the prophets’ plan to loose something more terrible than the wolf winter.

Imagine being dumped into a landscape where all your childhood nightmares are real, where the bedtime stories of monsters  with claws to rend your flesh and teeth to eat you told by your gran were not just nasty tales but of horrible tattered together creatures waiting for you to arrive?  This is but the beginning of an incredible story and the second book in an amazing series by T.A. Moore.

Stone the Crows  is the second novel in the Wolf Winter series by T.A. Moore and its a stunner at every level and element.  Horror, urban fantasy, and romance.  There is nothing this author and book doesn’t excel at.

It starts from the beginning, a bleak winter landscape and an isolated compound.  It’s full of dead people.  And that’s where we meet both Dr. Nicholas Blake, cataloging the dead, and the soon to arrive Gregor, werewolf, (twin brother to Jack, and one of the Crown Prince Pup of the Numitor).  The author immediately surrounds us with the horrors of a plague like illness and a catastrophic winter that’s overtaken the population.  Only we see the intimate results on the villagers nearby.  The families and their children.  It’s heartbreaking and ominous, setting the tone for all that follows.

Moore seamlessly blends the Norse mythology with the horrors of the supernatural to create something sublime.  His wolves, his dogs, (they are different), are fully non-human.  Not human characters given a light fur coating and called were.  No, they have the “feel” of something feral and wild. And that contrasted with Nick’s humanity, makes the difference all too apparent. As will all the horrors that follow.

When legends and mythology collide, when blood and revenge are tied together, and a Throne involved, well, as it’s already been proven, there is nothing no one will sacrifice to achieve one’s goals, no amounts of blood, no great number of people, wolf or human that can’t be killed and Moore understands the emotions behind it all.  On both the grand scale and the small emotional, intimate one.  That last one that will leave you  sobbing in scenes here. Trust me…keep those tissue boxes handy.

This is a bleak, gritty, moving story. It’s epic fantasy  It’s full of muddy, emotional complications, and an overall series arc that starts back in book one, Dog Days (Wolf Winter #1).  It’s got a ways to go before its highly involved, convoluted tales  plays out.  So much more blood to be spilled, and I expect the price to be paid equally high.  I’m both dreading and highly anticipating the next story.

You con’t have to have read the first one but why wouldn’t you?  It’s equally incredible and give’s you Jack’s story.  This is a beautifully written story and series.  It has amazing depth, and continues to grow as more elements are revealed in detail.  Again, it’s a stunning story.  Don’t pass it up.  I highly recommend it.

Cover Artist: Bree Archer.  I like the cover but it’s too white (i can’t believe I’m saying this. Doesn’t convey the  darkness of the story).

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 240 pages
Published May 29th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640805422
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Wolf Winter :

Dog Days (Wolf Winter #1)

Stone the Crows (Wolf Winter, #2) 

A MelanieM Review: Mage of Inconvenience by Parker Foye

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Can they find the magic in a practical union?

West is on the run from his werewolf pack, but if he cannot renew his magical defenses, he won’t get far. What he needs is a mage….

Julian is part of a wealthy and ancient family, and one day, his legacy will include his mother’s vast library of spell books—and the knowledge he needs to correct his past mistakes. But his inheritance comes with a stipulation: he has to be married before he can collect. What he needs is a husband….

West and Julian can help each other, and at first they don’t want anything further. But as they dodge meddling cousins, jealous rivals, and an insidious drug, it becomes clear that their lives are entwined in ways they never imagined—and they’re in greater danger than they thought possible.

Parker Foye developed a sizable agenda for themselves with Mage of Inconvenience.  Foye had to develop a large enough universe to contain both witches and werewolf societies  (I’m talking extended families, cultures, laws, set across a sprawling geographical map), then start to tunnel it down to encapsulate the two men at the heart of Mage of Inconvenience, West and Julian.  We get alternating povs that let’s us see the desperate situation that each man or being find’s himself in that leads up to their marriage of convenience. A great job in all cases with the world building.

Of particular note is the creation of the drug Rabid that’s spreading through the shifter population with devastating effect.  You see this drug through West’s eyes as he observes addicted shifters and through bits and pieces of his memories. It pulls on your emotions as you will make direct ties to today’s drug problems.  Julian’s needs seem completely separate and different…at first.  He wants to inherit his mother’s estate and keep it out of the hands of greedy relatives.  To do that he needs to marry and soon.  West fits the bill nicely.  Of course there is much more to it than that.

The characterizations are nicely layered, the plot has a great many twists and turns that will keep you suitably shocked and surprised, and, it’s still suspenseful  enough to keep you on the edge of your seat right up until the edge of the seat. While it did get a little soft around the middle, I still thought the writing was smooth and flowed all the way to the end.

I liked the slow build to trust and romance here and in some cases, it has the feel of a much larger story.

Love the supernatural?  And romance?  How about both together?  Dreamspinner Press’ Dreamspun Beyond is doing a fantastic job of combining both and Mage of Inconvenience by Parker Foye is a perfect example why.  Pick it up and try it out today.

Cover art:  Aaron Anderson.  Love the cover. Great Job.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 212 pages
Expected publication: March 20th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640802469
Edition LanguageEnglish
URL