• book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Origin by A.J. Sherwood & Jocelynn Drake

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    Scales ‘N’ Spells: Origin – A.J. Sherwood & Jocelynn Drake

    Cameron wants to make it clear that he did not go into the festival to find a dragon mate.

    Germany is supposed to be an escape. With a new mechanical engineering degree, a new job looming, and a whole life planned out that isn’t his, Germany seems like the best place to find himself.

    So how does he end up discovering his lost magic heritage, running from bad guys with a secret agenda, and being adopted by the not-so-extinct Fire Dragon clan?

    Cameron blames tall, dark, and sexy Alric, king of the Fire dragons. His fated mate. Because of course he is, and mates are meant to take the blame, right?

    It may take a hot second, but as Cameron learns more about the scarred Alric and the life he’s landed in, Cameron realizes that perhaps this is where he’s meant to be, magic and mates and kidnapping and all.

    Turns out coming to Germany wasn’t an escape but his awakening.

    Tags:

    Not-so-extinct, Shifter dragons, mages, fated mates, secret clans, epic libraries, hurt/comfort, age gap, not that Alric cares, magical heritage, mechanical engineers being BAMF, grumpy dragon kings being protective of their cute mates, really the cuteness is downright criminal, we might need a firehose for these two, or not, sass, so much sass, Ravi and Cameron are no longer allowed to be alone together, for reasons, dragons hoarding, when you live long enough statistics will get you, bats named Cheryl, beheadings, no damsels in distress here, just very unhappy mages, with trigger fingers, anyone have life hacks on how to get rid of kidnappers, Cameron is open to suggestions


    Here be DRAGONS!!!

    If you love them, this series is sure to make your inner fire-breather rumble.

    Those tags up there in the blurb made my day! I think every book should have them.

    A.J. Sherwood teamed up with fave author Jocelynn Drake to deliver us this fantastical series, Scales ‘n’ Spells. This is a world of dragons and mages. They work together to create magic. Mages are also extra precious because they are the dragons’ fated mates. However, there was a Great War that wiped out the mages and dragons became extinct. Or so the world thought…

    The remaining dragons, like the Fire dragon clan, kept their existence a secret. King Alric and his clan have been searching for a mage for 500 years. They finally found one at the Dragon Festival, an American-Korean tourist named Cameron Park. Alric decided to play tour guide to see what the young man knows. Turns out, Cam had no clue he is a mage or that dragons still exist.

    Origin is the first book in the series. It effectively established the Scales ‘n’ Spells world and boy, there was quite a lot to take in. Cam had to learn thousands of years of dragon history, about his own family’s legacy as well as magic spells. There was info-dumping but there was an effort to avoid bogging down the narrative too much. The magic system was explained using simple scientific analogies by Cam as he tried to figure how it worked. I liked this approach because it makes things more straightforward and easier to grasp.

    Cam was understandably freaked out upon learning he’s a mage. Still I couldn’t help wishing that maybe MCs can react more like Po from Kung Fu Panda, all gung-ho and fanboy-y about being the chosen one instead of getting hysterical.

    That mini-gripe aside, Cam’s fabulous! Flirty, cheerful, intelligent and so very determined to boost people’s self-esteem through compliments. Especially that of a certain broody, pessimistic king. They say a mate is someone who brings joy. And while Cam’s a bit too much at times, the way he lit up Alric’s world was a palpable energy that shone throughout the story.

    Many will claim Cam is cute, but really, the most adorkable character of all was Alric. Check out his dragon hoard! The man is regal and dominant, very elegant in his suits, very protective of his Clan. But he can be so endearingly awkward and insecure too. Many times, I wanted to give him a hug.

    As the last remaining Burkhart, Alric carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. More so now that they have just found a long-lost mage, someone tried to kidnap their treasured magic user. Alric was always too ready to sacrifice his own happiness for his Clan. The dork even thought he’s unworthy to be anyone’s mate, let alone Cam, because he has a damaged arm. Put this poor king out of his misery, Cam!

    I loved the authors’ take on fated mates. It’s started with insta-attraction but then took things slow. Instead of simply being swept away by fate, the two MCs got to know each other properly. The relationship development was a rollercoaster but it’s definitely worth it.

    The book as a whole felt a tad too long. There’s the training rigmarole to go through, historical events to recount, the big to-do about Cam’s family, and the mystery of who is behind the kidnappings. It could do without some of these parts. It was like things were happening quickly for Cam in a matter of weeks but it also took a while for the story to get to the point.

    The supporting characters though, I loved them! Alric’s friends/courtiers are awesome! Each of them stood out and made me want to know more about them. Baldewin, Ravi, and Gunther each have their own books. I can’t wait for these dragons to find their mates.

    I might have some niggles, but overall, I had a lot of fun with Origin. It’s fast-paced and slow-burn, humorous and angsty. This series opener set the wonderful world of dragons and mages. It introduced us to a lovable Fire Dragon king, his beloved little mage, and a wacky family cheering them on. It’s a story 500 years in the making but it’s only just the beginning.

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

    Soundtrack: I Found You
    Artist: Andy Grammer
    Album: Naïve


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    ORIGIN

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    REVIEW: Role Model by Rachel Reid

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    Game Changers: Role Model – Rachel Reid

    The highly anticipated fifth novel in Rachel Reid’s Game Changers series sees a grumpy professional hockey player meet his match in an out-and-proud social media manager

    The hits just keep coming for Troy Barrett. Traded to the worst team in the league would be bad enough, but coming on the heels of a messy breakup and a recent scandal… Troy just wants to play hockey and be left alone. He doesn’t want to be in the news anymore, and he definitely doesn’t want to “work on his online presence” with the team’s peppy social media manager.

    Harris Drover can tell standoffish Troy isn’t happy about the trade—anyone could tell, frankly, as he doesn’t exactly hide it well—but Harris doesn’t give up on people easily. Even when he’s developing a crush he’s sure is one-sided. And when he sees Troy’s smile finally crack through his grumpy exterior, well… That’s a man Harris couldn’t turn his back on if he wanted to.

    Suddenly, Troy’s move to the new team feels like an opportunity—for Troy to embrace his true self, and for both men to surrender to their growing attraction. But indulging in each other behind closed doors is one thing, and for Troy, being in a public relationship with Harris will mean facing off with his fears, once and for all.


    As much as I love Rachel Reid’s hockey romance series, Game Changers, I struggled with Book 3. As a result, I didn’t bother with Book 4. However, there was something about Book 5 that piqued my interest again. Because who doesn’t love a bad boy redemption story?

    Role Model is top pro hockey player and asshole by association Troy Barrett, fresh from a scandal and having just been traded to bottom ranked team, Ottawa Centaurs. Feeling lonely and miserable, also secretly nursing a broken heart, he grumps his way through the day with the intent of moving to a better team when the season is over.

    Troy is considered a pariah in the league after calling out his former teammate/best friend for sexually assaulting several women. Anticipating a frosty reception, he did not expect his new team welcoming him with open arms. Nor did he expect the Centaurs’ out-and-proud social media manager, Harris Drover, befriending him. And slowly but surely, drawing out that super secret side he had hidden for years. Also, is he imagining it or does the man smell like apples?

    One thing that made me keen to read this is the promise of Ilya sightings. He is in very fine form here. Witness him cooing over a puppy. The author really made good use of his character in the plot, as well as setting up his and Shane’s second book.

    However, what made Role Model stood out for me was that even with Ilya’s magnificent self making a very strong presence, Troy and Harris managed to shine and they did it quite brilliantly. There were no doubts that this is their story.

    Raised by a happy family of apple farmers, Harris is the ray of sunshine Troy needed in his life. With his booming laugh and his beaming smiles and him being completely comfortable in his own skin. Everyone in the team loves the guy. I loved his openness and how he looked, really looked, and saw that behind the cold expressions was an anxious young man who could use a friend.

    The romance was a beautifully rendered slow burn, friends to lovers, out for you story between two opposite people. It was super sweet and oh so gentle, showing a surprisingly thoughtful and caring side of Troy very few people are privileged to know.

    The book did a fabulous job portraying how Troy’s character evolved from an angry, heart-broken and very sullen newcomer to Harris’ tentative friend to a motivated team player to a young man on the cusp of new love to the inspirational hero he is.

    My heart went out to Troy when he felt like the whole world was against him. I was rooting so hard for him. The book’s Disney fairy tale ending couldn’t be more perfect. Of all people who deserved that many rainbows and his very own apple-scented prince, it was him.

    Role Model is not only a story of bad boy gone good, it also a story about giving voice to those who were silenced and the courage it takes to be truly yourself. Funny, heartwarming and uplifting, this here is Rachel Reid upping her game and scoring a definite win

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

    Soundtrack: Apple Pie
    Artist: The Scary Jokes
    Album: April Fools

    P.S.

    While Role Model can be read as a standalone, hockey is a group effort. So it’s best to meet the rest of the team starting with the meet-cute that led to the Stanley cup in Game Changer and that infamously incendiary trysts between that cocky Russian and the polite Canadian boy in Heated Rivalry.


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    ROLE MODEL

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    REVIEW: Sleight Of Hand by Charlie Cochet

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    The Kings: Wild Cards: Sleight Of Hand – Charlie Cochet

    Former Special Forces Green Beret, Sacha “Joker” Wilder, is well-versed on the subject of demolitions. As a silent partner of Four Kings Security, Joker spends his days working alongside his brothers-in-arms and his best boy, Chip—a bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois with sass. Years of military and private security experience have prepared Joker for almost anything, except the explosive attraction between him and Giovanni Galanos.

    When Gio returns from his travels abroad, everyone is charmed by the handsome billionaire philanthropist, but in Joker’s experience, anyone who’s too good to be true usually is. Gio is hiding something, but the more time Joker spends around Gio, the more his walls start crumbling, leaving him exposed and at risk of losing his heart, something he swore he would never do. Love is for suckers, and that’s not him.

    For years Gio has dedicated his life to his charity work, helping people around the globe, but when things go horribly wrong during one particular trip, Gio decides it’s time to come home for good. The desire for family, and a certain ex-Green Beret with a chip on his shoulder, has Gio eager to restart his life Stateside. For all of Sacha’s blustering and griping, no one makes Gio feel safer. If only Sacha could see how right they are for each other.

    Danger lurks in the shadows as someone sets their sights on Gio, and secrets are forced into the light. If Gio and Joker are to have any kind of future together, they’ll have to face difficult truths, because where love is concerned, it’ll take more than sleight of hand to make things work.

    The Kings: Wild Cards series is a spin-off of the Four Kings Security series.


    Among the ex-Special Forces Green Beret co-owners of the Four Kings Security, cybersecurity specialist Jack is my favorite. But my most anticipated story is his best friend, Joker’s.

    Our boy Joker is the group’s wild child. He grabbed my attention from the start. He hates being called by his real name, Sacha. He boldly declared he was never going to fall in love, EVER. He is short of stature, with an even shorter fuse, sloppily dressed, occasionally skips showers yet still managed to be very adorable. Jack might be his brother but his best friend is Chip, his black, bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois. This lovable duo charmed their way into everyone’s hearts.

    When Gio made his appearance and Joker expressed his dislike of the do-gooding billionaire, I knew right off the bat that what these two have was something special. The author teased us with glimpses of their USTs-filled, long-distanced interactions in previous installments. Gio has always been upfront about his interest in Joker who he calls Sacha. This, despite never having met him face to face yet.

    Now home after a long stint abroad, he was very determined to show his beloved Sacha how good they could be together. Meanwhile, Joker was very determined not to fall for Gio’s considerable charms. Still, the very enticing billionaire has a way of breaking through his walls.

    The magic of Sleight Of Hand was how it brought Gio and Joker together in the most delicious and satisfying way possible even if we already know what to expect. I loved how naturally Gio and Joker fell for each other and the way Joker came to terms with his feelings. This was one of the most enjoyable and well orchestrated relationship progressions I’ve ever encountered. The chemistry was off the charts!

    Joker’s antagonistic approach to Gio stemmed from preconceive notions fueled by trust issues. Despite his best efforts to disliked the billionaire, he was attracted to him. The more time he spent with Gio, the more he realized how truly kind-hearted and sincere about his intentions the other man was.

    Gio is awesome! He is sweet, generous and caring. He is a self-made billionaire who’s always smiling and genuinely enjoys helping people. He has so much love to give. Joker was surprised at how much the billionaire cared for him. Also, the man loved his dog Chip almost as much as he did. So really, our boy stood no chance of resisting.

    I lived for that moment when things fell into place for Joker and he realized, oh fuck, he was indeed in love! With last person he expected to fall for. It was so damn GOOD!

    My favorite part was how the two showed they care. These are men who take action. And their gestures, no matter how grand or small, really showcased the depths of their feelings. Joker, for all his griping about Gio, always made sure the busy man had eaten properly. What Gio did near the end made me a bit emotional. It was a touching tribute that meant the world to Joker.

    The book is mostly romance with bits of action/suspense and mystery to move things along. The bad guy’s identity was very obvious but even with the elements of predictability, the story never felt stale to me. The plot moved fast while still giving Gio and Joker enough time to slow-burn their way towards each other (and make us squee).

    The book is written in that inimitable Charlie Cochet style that’s always humorous, engaging and immersive. There were a lot of ridiculous dialogues and gags. Also, very thorough with details, especially the actions, yet never dragging.

    The best thing about her books are the people and their wonderful dynamics. Joker and Gio belonged to a big family of ex-Green Berets, their boyfriends and their friends. Since the first time I meet this group in Jack’s book, Stacking The Deck, they felt very real to me. The author created such a fabulous cast, every one of them is memorable. And watching them interact with each other is always a treat.

    However, the real star of the show is Chip. I loved all his cute doggy antics! New dog Cookie is also a sweetheart. You need to see how Cookie came into the picture. This part is pure heart-melter!

    Sleight of Hand gave us everything we hoped for for our boys, Joker and Gio. Theirs was a fun, emotional, fluffy, sweet, delicious and happy coming together, with furry friends to light their way and human friends to cheer them on. Well played, Charlie Cochet!

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

    Soundtrack: Wild Heart
    Artist: Bleachers
    Album: Strange Desire

    P.S.

    Sleight of Hand is best read after meeting all the Kings, Jack and their fabulous Boyfriend Collective in the sister series, Four Kings Security and The Kings: Wild Cards Book 1, Stacking The Deck.


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    SLEIGHT OF HAND

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