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    REVIEW: Conned by Kim Fielding

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    Bureau: Conned – Kim Fielding

    World War I veteran Thomas Donne is new to San Francisco. Always a stoic man, shell shock and a lost love have nearly turned his heart to stone. No matter–a private eye has no room for softness. Almost broke, he takes on what appears to be a simple case: finding a missing young man.

    As a magician and medium, Abraham Ferencz cons his audiences into believing he can cheat death and commune with their dearly departed. Although his séances are staged, the spirits are very real, and they’ve brought him almost more pain than he can bear.

    When Donne’s case becomes complicated and the bodies start to pile up, he and Ferencz must fight their way through a web of trickery and lies. The truth is obscured by the San Francisco fog, and in their uncanny world, anyone can catch a bullet.


    Bureau is a series I’ve been diligently following since the beginning. Six books in and it’s still giving us lovable characters and enjoyable stories with magic and heart.

    Conned is the latest installment. Private detective and former Londoner, Thomas Donne was hired by a rich and dubious wannabe politician named Herbert Townsend to find a young man. Townsend was decidedly non-specific about the details but was willing to pay good money.

    Thomas’s investigations led him to magician and conman, Abe Ferencz. Abe has been employing the young man as his assistant. A series of deaths led the PI and conman to work together to uncover the killer’s identity. All the victims were known to Abe. He could be next.

    Ghosts and spirits aside, this is the most spiritual of all the books. Religion played an important role with Abe’s Jewish background being a crucial part of his character. The story put emphasize on how it anchored him to his true self.

    All the books in the series has always been, for a lack of better word, vague about the definitive presence of a god. I liked how the world-building didn’t limit itself to the usual religious concepts. Instead, it had a more general and inclusive ethos which makes a lot more sense in a world where literally anything can exist

    Townsend explained the Bureau‘s mission something to the effect of the lines of good and evil, friends or enemy are porous and it’s their job is to nudge those lines gently until they are in the right place. It’s about protecting “everything that’s valuable in people and not just human people“.

    Our heroes, Thomas and Abe, were men who had seen enough deaths to know not to waste life in regrets. So I could understand how they want to grab life by the balls and jump head first into a relationship in just a matter of days. I liked how the author executed the romantic development. She did it in such a way that you feel the strength of their connection and not how short the timeline actually is.

    While I liked the pacing of the romance, I did feel the drag in the first half of story. This was the part where they found the dead bodies one by one. There was the going-around-in-circles feel to it. Thankfully, the story picked up upon the appearance of Agent Crespo.

    Also, while I liked the general world-building, in this story, the paranormal elements were kind of confusing and a bit scattered in its presentation. Maybe it helps if the reader is more familiar with Judaism than I am.

    The book is set in the late 1920s. There’s a great sense of time and place with a noir vibe. It was an era of cloches and speakeasies, a time I’m fascinated with but don’t want to time travel to because, wow, people smoke and drink like there’s no tomorrow.

    This is a prequel of sorts to the entire Bureau world. The agency was only less than a decade old. We also meet Townsend before he was the West Coast Chief.

    I’m happy we finally get a backgrounder on the Chief. He is always present but mostly in the shadows, wielding his considerable influence and power, nudging various characters towards the best outcome. There were hints of his paranormal nature throughout the series. Here, we get his origin story. It’s definitely worth the wait especially with how it was related to a key secondary character in the story.

    Conned might not be my favorite book in the series (that honor goes to Creature) but it was a great addition, nonetheless. It certainly answered some burning questions I had and getting a look at the early days of the agency is a treat. You will meet men brave enough to catch bullets. You will see what a true mensch is capable of. And learn what it is about all along.

    A game.

    A very long game.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Street Spirit (Fade Out)
    Artist: Radiohead
    Album: The Bends

    P.S.

    The books can be read as standalones but I recommend starting at the beginning where a half angel and a captive demon discovered their cosmic connection. There will be a holiday-themed book about them soon.

    Reviews of Bureau books below:
    Corruption
    Clay White
    Creature
    Chained
    Convicted

    Posts on Kim Fieldings works here.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to get your copy of Bureau. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

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    SERIES REVIEW: Chained + Convicted by Kim Fielding

    I’m a huge fan of Kim Fielding‘s fantastic paranormal series, Bureau. I have been following this since Corruption, Tenrael and Grimes’s story. This series has become better and better with each installment.

    This is a review of Chained and Convicted, volume 2 of the series. Both novellas featured creatures shackled and chained, one through captivity and the other through culpability.


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    Bureau: Chained – Kim Fielding

    An agent for the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs? That’s the best job in the world. And it’s enough for Terry Brandt, who doesn’t need personal relationships complicating his life. His newest assignment puts him undercover, investigating a Hollywood agent who may have some evil tricks up his sleeve.

    Edge is not the man he appears to be. Although he’s a member of the Hollywood agent’s security staff, his true situation is darker and deeper than that. Ordered to seduce the new prospect, Edge finds himself caught in conflicting loyalties.

    Haunted by their pasts and tied up in secrets, neither Terry nor Edge can afford to allow passion to interfere with duty. And with danger dogging them, it’s impossible to envision a future together.


    Chained is a shifter story that made me want to hug my dogs.

    Terry Brandt is a music-loving Bureau agent assigned to investigate Hollywood’s most powerful agent, Whitaker, rumored to be offering fame and fortune in exchange for something sinister. He goes undercover as a wannabe actor. He was asked to move in to the agent’s mansion as part of the test to see if he has what it takes. There he meets Edge, the man assigned to guard him.

    Edge and his two brothers are dog shifters bought by Whitaker, their boss, when they were pups. They served as security in the mansion. They used to be four but their other brother was put down when he refused to behave.

    My heart went out to Edge. He and his brothers were treated like dogs. They live in a kennel modified to accommodate their human form. But he’s the one their boss treated the worst. Not only is he beaten at the slightest mistakes, he is forced to seduce the potential actors as part of their owner’s tactics to sink his hooks deeper into them. He was ordered to do just that to Terry.

    All the dog shifter brothers were obedient but Edge is different. His boss loved pointing out that he is weak. Compared to his brothers, Edge wanted more but knew he couldn’t. He’s too well-trained for that. He’s loyal to his owner even if Terry is making him feel unexpected things. The most heartbreaking scene was when Terry urged him to run away after all the abuse. He refused. “I’m a good dog!” (╥﹏╥)

    The story is set in 1989. There are mentions of HIV. I enjoyed all the musical name-dropping of Terry’s favorite 80s bands. He introduced Edge to the joys of music and I adored Terry for that. He faced monsters but still loves his job. He also kept his sunny, talkative disposition. He’s a good foil to Edge’s strong, silent type.

    I loved how Terry treated Edge kindly right from the start. Edge immediately noticed he was different from the other wannabes. Terry didn’t treat him and his brothers in dog or human form as part of the furniture. He acknowledged their presence and talked to them even if he still didn’t know what they actually were.

    The book succeeded in portraying the seediness of the unseen side of Hollywood. We get dual POVs. What I like about the writing is that even if I know what’s going on from Edge’s perspective, I could still feel a sense of the unknown as experienced through Terry’s POV where he knew something is wrong but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. This was what made the twists effective.

    Terry’s investigation came to a head when he was offered the job in exchange for the most valuable thing he owns. The climax was a suspenseful chaos of fangs, blood and bullets. I gave a little cheer when the brothers finally took action. There’s a lovely ending and epilogue where Townsend, the Bureau chief explained the magical mechanics of things to the guys. I’m happy that Terry was able to keep doing what he loved. Now he can do that with Edge.

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Chains
    Artist: Duran Duran
    Album: Astronaut


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    Bureau: Convicted – Kim Fielding

    Vietnam veteran Kurt Powell’s addiction almost cost him everything, but a job as federal agent with the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs helped him find sobriety and purpose. Now he tracks down dangerous paranormal creatures as well as humans who abuse their magical powers in illegal ways.

    Sent from Belfast to the United States as a boy, Desmond Hughes later fell into a disastrous relationship that led to horrific murders. He’s spent seventeen years in a bleak prison with few comforts and no hope of release.

    A new mission throws Kurt and Des together in a desperate attempt to prevent disaster. Sometimes what’s long been lost can still be found, but the road to redemption is never easy—and a mutual attraction may not ease the way.


    Convicted is a moving journey towards redemption, forgiveness and freedom.

    Desmond Hughes has been incarcerated in the Bureau prison for 17 years. He, along with his lover, Larry Crane, was responsible for the deaths of many people. Crane masterminded the crime, using magical boxes as source of power to wreck destruction. Crane is dead and these deadly boxes are now missing.

    Kurt Powell is the agent assigned to find the boxes. He interviews Des who gives him all the places he and Crane stayed. Later on, he takes Des with him to find the boxes with the condition that Des returns to prison after they do. Their quest took them all over the American heartland moving towards Florida, stopping at the places Des had named.

    The book is set in the 1993. The sense of time was not as strongly delivered as the other stories. There are nods to the time period, mentions of HIV and racism especially towards Kurt who had a mixed parentage.

    Unlike the other Bureau novellas, Convicted has human + human pairing. I liked this just a tad less than Chained but not because it’s not as well written. This is due more to my disinterest towards stories involving road trips and looking for lost things. So I did feel the drag just a bit but the story picked up when they found one of the boxes.

    There is less focus on the paranormal here. It’s very character-driven. Both men are burdened with guilt. They have the deaths of multiple people in their hands. One as a soldier, the other as an accomplice to a psychopath.

    Des won me over with his spirit. He’s so lonely he talks to himself but I didn’t sense defeat. It’s more like he’s accepted his fate and tried to make do with what he is given. I also didn’t expect him to be the talkative type. The first parts of the book showed him alone. Then he had his first conversation with Kurt and his bright personality really shone through. As Kurt puts it, he has the voice of a born story teller. He’s a big guy with a gentle and kind soul that Crane took advantage of, using and abusing him as part of his schemes. I think Des truly believed Crane meant to change the world for the better with those boxes.

    Kurt had his own share of troubles. He’s a Vietnam veteran who dealt with alcohol addiction. In his low moments, he was recruited by Townsend who believed in his potential. Kurt has a son and is friends with his ex-wife. I really liked that Kurt looked beyond the orange uniform and saw Des for what he truly is. He also made him understand that there is always a choice. And that he could forgive himself and move on.

    Towards the end, the paranormal elements come into play in a show of magic and double crossing. Kurt suffers the same equally suspenseful fate as Terry. Townsend once again makes an appearance with his words of wisdom and second chances. Then Des showing up on Kurt’s doorstep all earnest and yearning is beyond endearing. Let’s give the man a hug!

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Run Wild
    Artist: For King and Country
    Album: Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.


    Bureau has always been a series with a lot of heart. Very much present in the stories are the small unexpected kindnesses that go a long way and reach deep places in the hearts of the tormented. Most of the time, the characters don’t even realize the impact of what they’re doing. Like Kurt offhandedly mentioning he would ask for more books for Des who had to make do with a measly 5-book ration. These touches of humanity are what makes this series.

    I enjoyed the references to and cameos of well-loved couples from the other stories. West Coast Bureau chief Townsend is always present in all of them and he’s the biggest mystery of all. According to Edge, he smells human and something else. He often pops up in unexpected places to move things along. And I swear, his secret hobby is matchmaking because he really knows how to pair up these guys.

    I highly recommend Chained and Convicted as well as the Bureau series as a whole. This is a series that will make you FEEL for ugly, tormented monsters. And no one does ugly, tormented monsters like Kim Fielding.

    P.S.

    Reviews of Bureau books below:
    Corruption
    Clay White
    Creature

    Posts on Kim Fieldings works here.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to get your copy of Bureau. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

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    FIRST LINES FRIDAY 56: I Woke Up With A Vampire Licking My Face. Ask Me How.

    First Line Fridays” is by Hoarding Books and is all about the first line of a current/upcoming read. Friday 56 is a meme hosted by Freda’s Voice, where you turn to page 56 (or 56%) in what you’re reading a find a snippet that jumps out at you. The idea to combine the two came from Kat @ Here There Be Dragons

    I found this meme on The Writerly Way. And I’m doing this on a Thursday just to be difficult.

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    THE AMERICAN HORROR STORY BOOK TAG

    This tag is brought to you by Susan at Novel Lives. She made this tag and you should click the link to check out the original tag and her blog!

    I found this on My Year of Reading Dangerously. The gifs are theirs.

    I LOVE American Horror Story. The visuals are always stunning! But after Hotel, I was too chickenshit to watch the other seasons.

    Here goes my little tribute to this terrorific show…

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    My Top 10 Reads of 2018

    1. Death and the Devil Series – L.J. Hayward

    Explosive, action-packed, edge-of-your-seat thrills. Sizzling unconventional romance. Yes, the entire series is the best thing to come out this year. Everything’s a solid 5

    Reviews here.

    2. The Agency: Merlin in the Library – Ada Maria Soto

    The ace romance story of my dreams

    Review here.

    3. Green Greek: Ravensong – T.J. Klune

    dirt and leaves and rain. packwitchmateheart

    Review here.

    4. On Davis Row – N.R. Walker

    So emotional and emotionally satisfying I got goosebumps.

    Review here.

    5.  Captive Prince: The Adventures of Charls, the Veretian Cloth Merchant – C.S. Pacat

    We’ll make another kind of empire.  

    Review here.

    6. The Auspicious Troubles of Love: The Impetuous Afflictions of Jonathan Wolfe – Charlie Cochet

    A sqee-tastic, tension filled, delicious slow burn dance of the young and impetuous.

    Review here.

    7. Bureau: Creature – Kim Fielding

    Because love means loving him, even though. The best Bureau story so far.

    Review here.

    8. Bad Behavior: Reckless Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z

    A police procedural story that went above and beyond. Perfect combination of flawless writing and heartfelt narration.

    Review here.

    9. Lord of the Butterflies – Andrea Gibson 

    Powerful poetic stuff!

    Review here.

    10. Whyborne & Griffin: Balefire – Jordan L. Hawk

    The best W&G book yet! Whetting our appetites for the final magnificent showdown.

    Review here.

    Bonus:

    A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo – Marlon Bundo & Jill Twiss

    Attack of the super cute!

    Review here.

  • book,  Uncategorized

    Bureau: Creature – Kim Fielding

    Alone in a cell and lacking memories of his past, John has no idea who—or what—he is.

    Alone on the streets of 1950s Los Angeles, Harry has far too many memories of his painful past and feels simply resignation in facing his empty future.

    When Harry is given a chance to achieve his only dream—to become an agent with the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs—all he has to do is prove his worth. Yet nothing has ever come easy for him. Now he must offer himself and John as bait, enticing a man who wants to conquer death. But first he and John must learn what distinguishes a monster from a man—and what a monster truly wants.

    This! 

    A monster was kept in a cell, alone for who knows how long. Isolated, he dreams of the sky, grass, and coffee. His only comfort is the warm patch of sunlight that filters through his cell then he crawls to a corner to sleep. The monster knew his name was John and he said his name over and over again. I am alone most of the time but the depth of John’s loneliness was something I could barely fathom even in my most isolated state. Breaks the heart, it truly does. 

    Harry Lowe dreamed of becoming an agent of the Bureau. He was turned down because Chief Townsend saw a softness in him that doesn’t fit an agent role. He was, however, approached by Townsend once again when they were in need of a pretty face for a case involving the illegal and unethical scientific practice of reanimating dead people. Harry will be used as a bait for the mad scientist and John will be used as a hook. Desperate, alone and penniless, he reluctantly accepts and meets John inside his cell. Harry’s initial reaction was that of shock but he soon noticed that the monster was not dangerous. 

    Right from the start, Harry treated John with kindness and day by day John grew stronger and more human. Harry grew to care for John and now he is conflicted. Poor Harry! He is a simple minded bloke and the case was quite out of his league. The moments he spent with John were really sweet. I love the way John marvels at the everyday things we take for granted. He is so pure and selfless and it’s really adorable how Harry was showering John with little gifts.

    He, in turn, reminded Harry of appreciating all the small blessings he has.

    “Let me see your feet.”
    An odd request, but John held them up obediently and watched as Harry
    measured one of his own stocking feet against John’s bare one. “All right. Yours
    are just a little bigger.” Then Harry sat in an armchair to put on his shoes. “I’m
    going to run errands. Need anything?”
    “I already have so much.”
    Harry looked surprised and then smiled. “Yeah. I should remember how
    good I have it too.”

    And then this!

    “I like you.”
    “Even though—”
    “Yes. Just as you care for me, even though.” In fact, John thought, their
    respective shortcomings made their feelings exquisite. It was probably easy to
    fall for someone who was flawless, but to ache for someone who was not…
    didn’t that mean the emotion was more genuine?

    Go! You both deserve it!

    Kim Fielding in a “noir frame of mind”created this beautiful story about men and monsters. Creature is my favorite Bureau book so far. It neatly captured the mood of the 1950s with diners, Sinatra and Cary Grant. There men who were crueler than monsters and monsters who were more human than most men. There were men who create monsters and monsters who hunt other monsters. And then, there were monsters who simply want a friend.

    Harry was tempted to remind him of their earlier discussion, in which Harry had questioned the very concept of monster. He still believed it was just a word people threw at someone they feared or misunderstood.

    I couldn’t agree more, Harry!

    Rating

    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Somebody Loves Me
    Artist: Nat King Cole
    Album: Penthouse Serenade

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39779972-creature)

  • book,  Uncategorized

    Bureau: Clay White – Kim Fielding

    Someone—or something—is murdering young men in San Francisco. Clay White has been fired from the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs, but he’s determined to track down the killer. When he comes across a vampire named Marek, Clay assumes he’s caught the perp. But the encounter with Marek turns out to be more complicated than Clay expected, and it forces him to deal with his own troubled past and murky psyche. As Clay discovers, sometimes the truth doesn’t come easy—and the monsters are not who we expect.

    I’m happy that Tenrael and Charles made appearances and it was great how everybody was working together. 

    For this installment, we get vampires. I haven’t read a vampire story in quite a while and Clay White, the story did just fine. It’s a hunt for a serial killer who left desiccated corpses so bloodsuckers were the obvious suspects. Clay White, the titular character was approached by a vampire, Marek, who offered to help him find the killer. They did find the killer or rather the killer found Clay. The rescue scene kind of just happened really fast (was all a blur to Clay) so I think the focus is really on Clay, what he is about and his transformation. The attraction between Clay and Marek was a given and there was nothing really new but Kim Fielding still managed to hold my interest. So far, this series is looking really good. Can’t wait for book three.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Funtime
    Artist: Iggy Pop
    Album: The Idiot

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36316189-clay-white)