5 star review, News

Sweep in Peace Release Day Giveaway Winner

Clean SweepSweep in Peace

And the winner is…….

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have. And if you didn’t win, I hope I have done a good enough job of extolling this series’ virtues that you’ll consider picking them up for yourself.

And, as an added bonus, it looks like the first book, Clean Sweep, is on sale for $1.99 for a limited time.

And I just wanted to thank all of you, who made this my best giveaway ever. Almost 600 people signed up, which is huge for me. And thanks for all the fun comments, I appreciate every one of you.

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3 star review

Review – The Twisted Souls Series box Set by Cege Smith

Twisted Souls Box Set

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

The complete Twisted Souls series is available in this box set collection:

The Soul Ripper (Twisted Souls #1)
In a post-apocalyptic world known as the Territory of Malm, infants are born soulless. With a hideous appearance and unquenchable hunger, they are kept out of sight until they are Chosen.

Long ago, the residents of Malm placed their faith in the Office of Souls to lead them and keep them safe after the human race was almost destroyed in the time known only as “Before”. But someone long forgotten has other plans, and that means unleashing unspeakable evil into their world.

Soul Implantation Day 3675 starts out like any other, and follows the paths of six people who are destined to meet in the courtyard of the Fountain of Souls. They bear witness to a soul implantation ceremony gone terribly awry.

Not all of them will survive, and some will suffer a fate far worse than death.

*This novella was previously released under the title “The Soul Garden”.*

Twisted Souls (Twisted Souls #2)
The epic collision of good and evil that began in The Soul Ripper (Twisted Souls #1)

continues in Twisted Souls (Twisted Souls #2), the second installment of Cege Smith’s Twisted Soul series…

The survivors of Soul Implantation Day 3675 went into hiding as the rest of the Territory of Malm was ravaged by an old foe hell-bent on total domination of their world. As the focus settles on the last untouched outpost of humanity, Samuel, the new Head Master of the nearly annihilated Office of Souls, knows that something must be done in order to bring the human race back from the brink of total extinction.

Samuel’s secret weapon is Cameron, the last recipient of a soul from the Fountain of Souls. Cameron’s destiny has set her on a path to face down the ultimate evil and hopefully save mankind. Time is against them as the survivors discover that nowhere is safe from their enemy’s reach, and they must rejoin the outside world and fight before it is too late.

Soul Cycle (Twisted Souls #3)
The line between good and evil blurs even further in Soul Cycle (Twisted Souls #3), the third installment of the Twisted Souls saga…

Cameron, Samuel, and Malcolm survived the trap in the Office of Souls compound. Their goal is to reach Outpost Alanstown where they know they will have to confront their enemy. But as their journey begins, an encounter with a group of bloodthirsty Soulless Ones separates the group on the outskirts of West End, the capital city of the Territory of Malm.

In the meantime, in Outpost Alanstown, Chim retrieves Marius from the edges of madness. Marius finds himself in the difficult position of helping Chim in order to help himself.

What no one knows is that someone has been behind the scenes pulling the strings like a skilled puppet master, and that person is someone they never expected.

Answers from the past must be found before Cameron and Samuel’s true destinies can be revealed. The journey to the final battle is coming, but who will be there still remains a mystery.

A Soul to Settle (Twisted Souls #4)
A new evil rises as Samuel and Cameron race toward to Outpost Alanstown in the thrilling conclusion of the Twisted Souls series…

Facing a moral dilemma, Samuel realizes that everything he believed was right is wrong. He is confronted with the devastating truth that to save the Territory of Malm, he must first remove the stain of the treacherous legacy of the one who ruled before him.

Cameron teeters on the cusp of discovering her purpose.

This was just so trippy sounding I couldn’t resist. I am such an unreasoned fan of post-apocalyptic dystopians. And man, trippy doesn’t even begin to cover it. Babies in this world are born soulless, and it is creepy, not like Gail Carriger’s version of soulless at all.

So at first it is kind of mysterious, it is interesting and maybe even a bit frightening. And the end of the first story has quite a bit of action and a heck of a cliffhanger. I would NOT have liked to have been following along before everything came out. But when the second novella in the series starts up, it get a little… well it gets a little weird. And I don’t mean weird in a friendly nice sort of way. I get why the author made the choice she made. It truncates things in a way that makes her plot work the way she obviously intended. I just found this one aspect a bit offputting.

Honestly, the romantic elements of this story were the weakest elements in what is otherwise an interesting sort of sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal (honestly I don’t know quite what it is, it is a mashup) dystopian story, and while that takes up a significant portion of the plot, I think it may have been a stronger and better story without it, or at least done differently. Or that may be my particular bias, because this turned out to be a new adult in disguise.

On the other hand, that may not have helped, as I found Marius, one of the bad guys, the most likable and sympathetic out of the whole cast for most of the book. Chim was unmitigated one-dimensional evil. Cameron was stunted and one-dimensional for the vast majority of the book, though that really wasn’t her fault. But Samuel was the piece de’resistance, a man so willfully blind for so long is almost unbearable.

And for then first 98% of the book, the ending of my review had a very different angle. But the authors ending vompletely changed mine. It is hard to describe, but I vacillated between being almost too frustrated to continue, and being helplessly mesmerized by the events taking place. This thing twisted and turned on itself so many times it was impossible to know where it was headed. But that last 2% of the book, in a series full of twists absolutely turned me on my head. Absolutely nothing was like I thought, and that ending was nothing that I could have expected.

As far as editing goes, the first two appeared very well-edited, or if there were any errors I simply didn’t note them. The third book saw a variety of small errors that caught my attention, like please instead of pleas. But overall for a self published book it is actually quite good.

So final analysis? Did I like it? I don’t know. I think I liked the premise of it better than the execution. I was honestly all set to give this thing 2 stars and be done with it. Is it really fair to change a rating based on such a small section of the book? Probably not, but the author did something so unexpected that it completely subverted my expectations, such that I can’t quite help myself from adjusting my viewpoint, and my rating. Do I wish the author had handled the main relationship differently and that more of the questions were answered? Absolutely, like I said this is better in theory than in execution. But there was just something about the way she stayed true to what is not precisely a happy ending in a way that fed into the world she built without shoehorning in the perfect happy ending, that it felt like a rewarding read in the end. I just couldn’t help upgrading my rating.

So I am giving this a generous, conditional 3 stars. Very generous considering it was only the last 2% of the book that bumped it up for me (though some of that initial low score was likely from previous admitted biases). Conditional on what I can’t quite express without entirely spoiling the ending. Closest that I have is that you should probably like new adult, not mind that the boundaries of science and magic are unclear, not mind that all the questions aren’t answered, and not need a complete happily ever after. Which all sounds rather grim, except it isn’t.

On a completely unrelated note (to the story itself), what I found myself feeling slightly curious about as I read through this serial compilation, is that when people put these together they don’t edit out the recap transitions. I know those are necessary and/or helpful when people are reading the various entries separately because of time lags or because people skips books or jump into the series randomly, but when they are all bound together in one book, I’d almost think you’d want to clean them up since they aren’t really necessary anymore. It just makes me wonder why people don’t. So that is my odd musing for this one.

The Twisted Souls Series (Box Set: The Soul Ripper, Twisted Souls, Soul Cycle, A Soul to Settle)
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5 star review

Review + Giveaway – Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

Sweep in Peace

I received an ARC of this book from the author, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance.

Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-Char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn… and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…

It is absolutely no secret that I adore husband and wife writing duo Ilona Andrews. Their works are just magical. This is the second book in the Innkeeper Chronicles and it is an interesting project because this is a self published venture that is initially written as a serial for free on their website, and then is copy edited and published for a modest price. So if you haven’t started this series, once you get caught up you can read along for free. I personally don’t do that because serials drive me barmy, but it is certainly an option, and I would imagine it is interesting to get small peeks into the writing process.

To that end, and to show my great love, my cheap butt is personally hosting a giveaway. And also to support an author who most rationally releases their book on a Friday, as in my opinion all books should be released – Tuesday releases are misery. As Sweep in Peace is being released on Friday 13, the giveaway will be open until November, 13, 2015 12:00 am at which point a winner will be chosen to receive an ebook copy of both Clean Sweep and Sweep in Peace. This giveaway is open to US residents age 18 or older who can receive ebooks through Kindle, Nook, or Kobo.

Enter HERE:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is more of an Urban Fantasy series than a paranormal romance. Clean Sweep had some romantic elements, and there was the beginning of a light love triangle (which is something I normally despise but which didn’t bother me here), but this is more about Dina’s journey than anything else. Yes, eventually I am sure she will get her happily ever after, I can even guess who it will be, but it is more about her than any pre-supposed “him” right now.

So in an alternate version of current reality (or maybe it is this world…if you believe in magic), Dina is an Innkeeper. This doesn’t sound too magical until you realize that The Gertrude Hunt is no mundane Inn, it is a living, breathing, entity; and within its grounds Dina, with her trusty broom, reigns supreme. And from it she has access to other worlds and to other dimensions of this world. She’s a truly kick-ass homemaker. There is also a small tie-in to Andrews’ Edge series, but it is a small easter egg for fans and I don’t think you have to have read that series to enjoy this one. While the characters from that series are main characters here, they are fully formed in this story without requiring the back story from that series. I recommend you go back and read those, because they are excellent, but it just isn’t a requirement if you aren’t looking for that sort of commitment.

The gist of the matter is that magical Inns require magical guests to maintain their magic. It is a strange and wonderful symbiotic relationship. Dina comes from a family of Innkeepers, and at some point they and their Inn went missing. When she failed to find them she revived the long dormant Gertrude Hunt in order to get guests from all over the universe and across dimensions in hopes of news of her family. But being new and lacking guests, the Inn has been in a slump. So when the Arbitrators, the universe’s neutral faction, come calling with a business proposition to host an arbitration, it is an offer she literally can’t refuse. No matter how disastrous she thinks hosting warring factions will be. And she knows it will be disastrous.

And damn if it didn’t start out with a bang. It was just as disastrous, if not more so, than anyone could have foreseen. There was plenty of action and drama as one would expect when you get warring factions together. Sneaky maneuverings and stratagems. Excellent storytelling and world building, characters you root for and empathize with. All in all, a simply wonderful urban fantasy (with an emphasis on the fantasy) tale. And then BAM! Andrews hits you with the curve ball. Maybe I would have seen it coming if I hadn’t been sucked into the story so hard, but there was simply no time to analyze where all this was going. And that curve ball left me unbalanced just enough that when the pinnacle hit, I’ll admit it, I sobbed like a little baby.

The story is excellent, even better than Clean Sweep, and that is saying something. The premise is interesting, the world building is excellent, and I love Dina to bits. Yes there are other characters, and they are more than one dimensional set pieces, but this is Dina’s story and she rocks. So 5 stars and a sobbing plea to the AuthorLord for more Innkeeper.

Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles #2)
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4 star review

Review – Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carriger

Manner and Mutiny

This is the 4th and final book in Carriger’s Finishing School Series. So this is in a way a prequel series to the Parasol Protectorate, as timeline wise it is earlier in the same world, just as The Parasol Protectorate is a prequel to the The Custard Protocol series. And if you haven’t read either of those, you can absolutely start with this series even though Parasol Protectorate came out first. Just not with this book. This series needs to be read in order to make sense. But it is a fun, and mannerly steampunk world that I enjoy very much.

So since this is the series finale, let me introduce how the series starts:

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

See? Adorable. I had to have it. And subsequent books deal with Sophronia growing up, as a lady who finishes…everything. I think I was on to something previously when I posited that New Adult really only works well for me when it isn’t contemporary. Plus, the covers are simply gorgeous. But now we are in Sophronia’s final adventure.

Lessons in the art of espionage aboard Mademoiselle Geraldine’s floating dirigible have become tedious without Sophronia’s sweet sootie Soap nearby. She would much rather be using her skills to thwart the dastardly Picklemen, yet her concerns about their wicked intentions are ignored, and now she’s not sure whom to trust. What does the brusque werewolf dewan know? On whose side is the ever-stylish vampire Lord Akeldama? Only one thing is certain: a large-scale plot is under way, and when it comes to fruition, Sophronia must be ready to save her friends, her school, and all of London from disaster—in decidedly dramatic fashion, of course.

What will become of our proper young heroine when she puts her years of training to the test? Find out in this highly anticipated and thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

And I’ll admit to having some trepidation over how everything would be wrapped up. But I was soon sucked back into this world where espionage is the rule, disguises are de rigueur, etiquette is cutting (both figuratively and literally) and where plot-pets are delightfully mechanical.

It is oh so bittersweet to find everything finished. There isn’t much I can relate regarding the plot, besides the the aforementioned general description about the genre mashup and the book blurb, without spoiling either this book or previous ones in the series.

So I guess I’ll focus on Sophronia, a lady I enjoy tremendously. She’s intrepid, resourceful, and smart. It has been a delight following her adventures in this madcap steam punk world. I can’t say how much I enjoyed this final adventure focusing on her, and her growth, rather than so much on her feelings for boys. Don’t get me wrong, we get a satisfactory happily ever after, but that wasn’t what this book was about.

I wish I could find more steam punk or gas lamp stories like these, Meljean Brook‘s, or Cindy Spencer Pape‘s. So I highly recommend this series for lovers of those genres, whether they like new adult fiction or not. I also recommend it for those who enjoy new adult, so long as they don’t strenuously object to steamp punk/gas lamp. And if you are a new adult fan who wants to dip their toes in steam punk, this is probably the place to start. It is also an appropriate selection for teens, there isn’t a thing a parent would object to, that would simply be unmannerly.

And as an aside, one of the things that fascinates me is how very much I now want to go back and reread The Parasol Protectorate and look for all the tiny little linkages. That series is completely unneeded for this series, nor is this one needed for P.P., but for people who are interested in both, the little connections are just so fascinating. It is excellent world building in my opinion.

Manners and Mutiny (Finishing School, #4)
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3.5 star review

Review – A Talent for Trickery by Alissa Johnson

A Talent for Trickery

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Years ago, Owen Renderwell earned acclaim—and a title—for the dashing rescue of a kidnapped duchess. But only a select few knew that Scotland Yard’s most famous detective was working alongside London’s most infamous thief…and his criminally brilliant daughter, Charlotte Walker.

Lottie was like no other woman in Victorian England. She challenged him. She dazzled him. She questioned everything he believed and everything he was, and he has never wanted anyone more. And then he lost her.

Now a private detective on the trail of a murderer, Owen has stormed back into Lottie’s life. She knows that no matter what they may pretend, he will always be a man of the law and she a criminal. Yet whenever he’s near, Owen has a way of making things complicated…and long for a future that can never be theirs.

I picked this up because I realized it was the same author who wrote A Christmas Dance, which I found charming and day brightening. Plus, the blurb sounded pretty intriguing, and since it is the first book in the series it was a relief to not have to dig through a backlist. The issue with that, of course, is then you have to wait impatiently for the next one to come out.

This is a somewhat different story than A Christmas Dance, not just that it is a full length story, but the themes are a bit darker. But the same trick of creating likable characters and especially a strong, capable, and quirky heroine were here. There are two main prongs to the story. One is the mystery itself, and the second is the Big Misunderstanding between the main characters. But the misunderstanding is more one of intent and perspective than anything else. Lottie and Owen have themselves in a fine tangle of misunderstanding and hurt feelings, but it is difficult to blame them, it is a fraught situation. And it doesn’t drag on either, they sit down and talk their way through most things approximately a quarter of the way into the story. Granted, it had dragged out 8 years prior to the start of the story, but since we as readers weren’t dragged through it as well, I didn’t find it bothersome. Which leaves the Big Secret, or rather Big Secrets. It is a twist alright.

I think this was really more Lottie’s story than it was Owen’s though. There was quite a bit of character growth for her. And a lot of heartache. Owen on the other hand, well, he was solid, and reliable. He was also on occasion, at least in his own head, somewhat ridiculous and kind of funny.

As for the plotting, the beginning and the ending were rather fast paced, but the middle dragged a bit. Sometimes it was frustrating and this is one of those books that I could put down for a bit and do other things and come back to it. While I do generally prefer that a book be gripping and that I can’t put it down, by the end I kind of understood the point. This isn’t one of those stories where the main characters hop into bed on a whim in a mad frenzy of lust. Despite their history, they got the chance to get to know each other as they are now. And that was lovely to see.

So my final verdict is to stick with it through the slog, and you’ll end up with a delightful romance and plenty of payoff in the end. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of the rest of the thief takers.

A Talent for Trickery (The Thief-takers, #1)

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4 star review

Review – Fangs for the Memories by Molly Harper

Fangs for the Memories

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

4.5 in Harper’s Half-Moon Hollow series had literally no description, to tell you how much I generally enjoy them, let me just say I snapped it up with absolutely no clue what it would be about. But Because I did not know what it was about, and apparently wasn’t paying enough attention for when the blurb finally came out, I decided to hold off on reading this until I had read Single Undead Mom’s Club. which I really didn’t need to do it turns out.

“Molly Harper writes characters you can’t help but fall in love with” (RT Book Reviews), but how did Andrea and Dick Cheney fall in love? Join Half-Moon Hollow’s favorite couple for a trip down memory lane—to a time when Mr. Wainwright was newly dead, Jane Jameson was a newbie vampire, and a budding paranormal romance was not yet uncorked…

Half-Moon Hollow’s supernatural social event of the season—Zeb’s Titanic-themed werewolf wedding—is coming up, and Dick Cheney (not that Dick Cheney!) needs a date. But Andrea’s had enough of clever, handsome, and rakish to last a lifetime, and Dick Cheney is certainly not the sort of man you bring home to mom (not that Andrea’s deadist parents are speaking to her ever since she dropped out of college and became a blood surrogate.) Shameless, relentless, roguish, with a Stetson-worthy swagger, a naughty sparkle in his eyes, and a constant smirk—oh, and fangs—no, Dick is the last person (er…vampire) Andrea wants to date.

But the infuriatingly irresistible man who lives quietly on the edge of a criminal underworld knows exactly what he wants, and once he surprises Andrea with a thrilling hot and dirty kiss behind the paranormal bookshop, she knows what she wants too: Dick. All it takes to ignite their unconventional courtship is a near-undeath experience that confronts Dick with a choice between turning Andrea, losing her forever, or tapping into his countless shady resources in this hilarious and heartwarming enovella that revisits the early days of Molly Harper’s Nice Girls series—one that “makes me laugh and laugh”

Yep, we finally get Dick and Andrea’s story. It isn’t a full fleshed one really, I would consider this a tidbit. It is an important tidbit because it shows where Dick and Andrea’s relationship shifted, but I would say this absolutely is  not a short story for new readers, or to entice new readers. (Come on new readers, why do you need to be enticed, this series rocks and you should just start it already.) This is the sort of thing you throw slavering fans to keep them appeased and off your back for just a little longer.

Molly Harper, we are appeased, for about a month or two I’d say. It may even be enough to keep us only mildly rabid until the next book, Where the Wild Things Bite, which is coming July 2016. I mean I knew I liked Dick, he was too funny and like the awful older brother you don’t exactly want your friends to know about. But I never expected to fall in love with him myself. “Totes adorbs” as my students like to say. Plus, much like Andrea I have a soft sort for the actually redeemable shady character. No, not the so-called redeemable Bad Boy, but the Shady Character who isn’t precisely good, but definitely isn’t bad. Dick is a winner, and while we got to see that in the end, it was super sweet to see how Andrea saw enough of that to start something with this raunchy, irreverent, shady character.

It is fun stuff and I seriously recommend this series, and this is an absolute must read if you are already a fan of the series, but it isn’t remotely the place to start for new readers.

Fangs for the Memories (Half-Moon Hollow, #4.5)

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4 star review

Review – The Single Undead Moms Club

Single Undead Moms Club

It has been interesting seeing how Molly Harper has spun off from her original Jane Jameson series. This is book 4 in her Half-Moon Hollow series, and the gang is all here in all their snarky, irreverent glory.

Widow Libby Stratton arranged to be turned into a vampire after she was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. It wasn’t the best idea she’s ever had, but she was desperate—she’s not about to leave her seven-year-old son to be raised by her rigid, overbearing in-laws.

On top of post-turning transition issues, like being ignored at PTA meetings and other mothers rejecting her son’s invitations for sleepovers, Libby must deal with her father-in-law’s attempts to declare her an unfit mother, her growing feelings for Wade—a tattooed redneck single dad she met while hiding in a closet at Back to School Night—and the return of her sire, who hasn’t stopped thinking about brave, snarky Libby since he turned her.

With the help of her new vampire circle, Libby negotiates this unfamiliar quagmire of legal troubles, parental duties, relationships, and, as always in Harper’s distinct, comedic novels, “characters you can’t help but fall in love with”

Seriously, despite the love triangle, a convention that in general I abhor, I found this one charming. Granted, I did peek to the ending to see which way it went, but I had a pretty good idea after the first 4 chapters. Seriously, it is a fun crowd, and one of the things I appreciate so much is Harper’s emphasis on friendships, and particularly female friendships. By this point in time sliding back into the group is like putting on your favorite most comfortable pair of shoes. You can go anywhere with them. Even in this case with an entirely new set of characters, and a convention I don’t particularly like.

You just can’t help but like Libby. She doesn’t always do the right thing, but she isn’t malicious, and she always tries to do the best for her son. She’s just so real and down to earth. She is a perfect addition to the gang, and I for one am going to enjoy having her around. She’s another friend for me to hang out with when I visit Half-Moon Hollow. Then there are her two love interests, the both of whom are just scrumptious, but I found only one of them truly relevant from the beginning, but that may just be bias on my part. We’ve also got a few adorable little plot-moppets mucking around. They are a good addition because really, despite all the undead and paranormals littering the scene, this series is about small town life and families. So they were both adorable and relevant.

Half-Moon Hollow is honestly one of my favorite fictional places to visit. The people feel very real to me, and the setting isn’t too far from home. I could plunk myself down there and never feel like I was missing a beat. I think the only reason I didn’t rate it any higher was because it felt really short, and so a few plot points felt a little more glossed over than I would have preferred. But all in all I recommend these books (seriously start at the beginning with the Jane Jamison series) to anyone who is a fan of paranormal romance with ensemble casts, small town romance, or in this case a mish-mash of the two. And TSUMC is a delightful addition that opens up some fun characters for the series to continue with. I think I have a clue who the next main hero is going to be, and I can’t wait!

The Single Undead Moms Club (Half-Moon Hollow, #4)

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