The Longing of Lone Wolves
As Clarke wended down rocky terrain, the snow melted and revealed fresh dirt and abundant nature. The more they descended, the grumpier she got. Something shifted inside when she saw how the world had changed because of the way she’d lived her old life. Death had been on one side of the mountain and life on the other. Even though she’d had a part, she didn’t want to be lumped in with humans who’d intentionally destroyed the world.
The fae’s words came back to her. “We don’t choose the rules of life, but if we don’t follow them, we’re destined for nothing.”
“You know,” she said as she dodged a divot in the path. “We’ve been walking for hours and you still haven’t told me your name.”
She was also tired, itchy, and hungry.
The fae nudged her between the shoulder blades. She almost lost her footing.
He may have a giant sword, scary mother-fucking teeth, and a powerful body she was sure could snap her in two, but her instinct just wasn’t feeling the fear. He had the ability to control her words and her actions, yet he’d only just used the power. She rounded on him.
“Take these off me,” she demanded. “Free me.”
He looked down his nose and flicked his gaze to the restraints. Her breath stuck in her throat and, for a moment, she thought her instincts needed a serious talking to. But then he moved toward her. Fast.
With a speed that left her breathless, and a flick of his powerful hand, his bone knife sliced through her restraints. Clarke’s fists dropped to her sides.
He leaned forward, his menacing presence only inches from her face. And then he sniffed, nostrils flaring as he trailed his nose along her cheek, jaw and neck. Where he stayed. Hot air puffed out as he exhaled, and goosebumps erupted over her flesh. The tattoo under his eye flared, casting an eerie blue glow as he bared sharp teeth and bit the air, snapping with an audible click.
Clarke squeaked. A tremble of fear skated up her spine.
He raised a brow. “It matters not if you are free. You will not run.”
“And why not? Because you’ll compel me to stay?”
“Because, woman,” he growled, mouth curving into a wild, wicked grin, “I am the reason for those goosebumps on your skin. I am the reason children have nightmares, and in there”—he pointed into the shadowed woods only a few hundred feet away—“there are far worse things than nightmares. I am the reason you will live to breathe another day.”
“So I need a monster to fight a monster, is that it?”
Stupid woman. Stop provoking the beast.
His eyes narrowed and held her gaze.
An unearthly howl came from deep within the woods. At least, Clarke thought it was a howl. It could be any manner of creature in this foreign place. His pet wolf stiffened and raised his hackles.
Watching the woods, the fae stilled in a way that was wholly inhuman. He reached for his sword. Fingers locked tight around the hilt. Knuckles whitened. His ears pricked up straight.
Leaves rustled and trees whispered that night was falling. Then the tension left his shoulders and he let go of the sword. He tossed a self-righteous look at her, and then swaggered away, continuing toward the very forest that had caused him concern only moments before.
Goddamn it. She wanted to stomp her feet.
Smug, smug bastard.
She should leave just to spite him. But where would she go? To the human city that brutalized fae and animals through a barbed wire ceiling? The one the source of her dread came from? No thanks. She had to face facts. She was in a strange place and on her own. There were dangers out there in the night, and her gut said to go with the fae. He had the upper hand.
She hurried to catch up, for she knew something he didn’t. She could make friends with nightmares. She’d had practice.
'Crown of Whispers' is book five in the Faerie Lords series by the author duo known as Isabella August. The fae fantasy series quickly became a favorite of mine toward the end of last year and I find myself eagerly awaiting new releases to devour. As always, this book did not fail to live up to my expectations.
Beatrice Martel, a tech savvy security expert for hire, is the main character in this story. Like all August's characters, she's flawed in relatable ways, and incredibly easy to like. It's amazing really, it's uncommon for me to continually love all the characters in a series.. but it has definitely been the case with this one.
Dorian Moreau is her ex. A lawyer with an icy exterior, he deals with highly important supernatural clients, extracting and collecting secrets from them along the way. Known as 'The Vault,' he has a unique way of storing and protecting those secrets, that no one entirely understands.
The pair have a complicated history that ended in a vile betrayal. So, when Martel is hired to find a leak in vampire.. Jean Belmont's close network, neither of them is particularly thrilled to be dealing with the other.
I took to Dorian immediately. I wasn't put off in the least by his cold demeanor and sometimes biting words. Largely this is credit to August's ability to give you peeks of the person beneath the surface without actually cracking that facade. The story doesn't suffer for those glimpses, in fact.. it benefits. I found myself wanting to know what really happened between them all those years ago.. and once I did.. I wanted to know why.
There's just something about him even early on, that implies no decision is made lightly. Ever. No action, simply without cause. And admittedly, I believed I had a good idea of the reason. I did, sort of. Right idea, not quite the right source.
Which is another reason I love these books. Even though my intuitions are sharp when it comes to storytelling, August can still surprise me with each new novel.
In a previous review, I mentioned loving the magic system. I'm still wild about that. I know all the arguments against the concept of astrology, but even considering that.. I believe there's something to be said in the study of people who share commonality. Certain times of the year are still prone to certain climates, certain times of the month are still prone to certain tidal patterns, and so on. We cannot live without the nature of our surroundings having some effect on us. That being said.. I love the connections the author has made to the astrological signs.. and as a Scorpio, I was innately pleased to see the witch magic for that sign would hold dominion over blood and darkness.
Even the name Arcadia, the faerie world in this series, is drawn from legends and folktales used throughout history. It's amazing how richly crafted every aspect is, how much detail and research has to have been necessary to include so much.. and it's done in a way that seems almost off-handed. And the more I see of the various realms within Arcadia, the more fascinated I become.
It's pretty apparent that the series is leading somewhere and that too is exciting. There's a growing collective of Faerie Lords that are referred to as 'the Infected' and a collision with the others, at least bit-by-bit.. is inevitable.
I'm already excited for book 6. Get out there and pick this one up!
"He is a beautiful, perhaps unrepeatable, fluke, like the rumors of cold fusion. And, if they cannot catch him, it will be equally impossible to prove that he was ever real."
Every so often in the media industry.. you come across a creator so special that you know they could be the 'next big thing.' I've always had a keen eye for this. I knew it with musicians like Alice in Chains and Stone and Jeff from Pearl Jam (then Mother Love Bone) before they got label deals. I knew it with Linkin Park the moment I heard the advance copy of Hybrid Theory. I've always been an early adopter on promoting those artists that trigger that feeling in me because I know the difference between someone with that skill remaining lesser known and actually blowing up across their industry.. is largely luck.
In the last several months, I've been lucky myself. Lucky enough to cross paths with a handful of authors that fall into that category.. knowing that if the right sets of eyes see their work.. even the sky isn't something that could contain them.
Wren Handman is one of them. I had a feeling about her when I read a novel she released called 'In Restless Dreams.' There is a subtlety to her writing that beautifully distracts with one hand while leading with the other and in that.. 'Wire Wings', which is slated to release on June 23rd, 2020.. is no exception.. but it is extraordinary in every other way.
Graciela is a 'good girl.' She seems to feel small.. veritably crushed by her intellectual.. but emotionally distant parents and the loss of her best friend. She's an expectedly brilliant girl who adheres to the rules and gets good grades. But in the VR world called the Waves.. she can be who she wants to be.. the person she believes she is.. deep down. Free, strong-willed, decisive.
"Gracie recognizes the sound of something delicate breaking. She knows no one else has seen it, wishes she could stop the fallout but knows the bomb has already gone off; it's just traveling through space, taking time to reach them. By the time you see the light of a star, it has died a thousand years before."
In the real world, Gracie's struggling. Her panic attacks are getting worse all the time and Khaiam, her best friend's former boyfriend.. is nearly the only thing she has left of Calista.
Then she meets Thomas. A stranger in the Waves with eyes that pull her in like a moth to a flame. He's charismatic and seems dangerous at times, fueling her desire to spend more time in VR than her real life. He seems to be able to defy all laws of code within the Waves and though he repeatedly finds her when she Dives.. he keeps his own secrets close. She doesn't know who he really is or how he came to be, much less why he continues to seek her out time after time.
"Revelry. Alcohol. Fire. Nothing can go wrong."
I can't possibly express how much I love this story.. how moving and exhilirating it is.. all at once.
The characters are richly developed with complex relationships, problems that are realistic even in their fantastical presentation. Handman is amazing at showing the vulnerable layers beneath the veneers. I've seen her do so in both the aforementioned books.
Like us, they often have carefully constructed appearances. Protective shells that help them survive pain and loneliness, grief and loss, fear and insecurities. While managing to let us peek beneath these veneers, she still allows the characters the illusion of keeping them in place for a time and when they ultimately crumble, the result tugs at your heart.
"Don't you sometimes feel your body is a prison around your soul?"
The story is full of hope though.. hope and worry. A yearning for something more.. some.. better connection to those around us that I think speaks to us on a level deeper than our conscious might always allow. You want so desperately for everything to turn out right for Graciela and her friends.. their journey.. fraught with risks.. some you can see instantly.. and others which remain hidden from you. While I saw one big reveal coming within the first few chapters, there were still unexpected turns.. especially toward the conclusion.. and what an ending it is!
Eventually, through one of the characters, the author herself draws parallel between this story and a well known myth. A favorite of mine, though I won't ruin anything for you by telling you what it is. I will say, it surprised me.. though in hindsight it shouldn't have. The story is just so elegantly crafted, so immersive.. that I never even considered the implications.
In truth, I don't know if she really means 'Wire Wings' to be a retelling or if it's just a similarity she wanted to point out to the reader. I hesitate to call it that, since it almost feels as if naming it anything else might diminish it in some way. But if it is indeed a retelling of the famous story.. it is quite possibly the most stunningly original retelling I have ever read.
If you read only one indie title releasing this month, let it be this one.
★★★ CATE BEAUMAN'S AFTERMATH OF SECRETS RELEASE CELEBRATION! ★★★
AFTERMATH OF SECRETS
RELEASE DATE: June 4, 2020
When The Secrets Of The Past Threaten To Destroy The Future…
Boston’s Most Eligible Bachelor has it all: good looks, a great career, and plenty of wealth and prestige. But Bradley Sanderson’s charmed life quickly falls apart when scandal rocks his famous family. Arrests have been made; the media circus has begun, and Brad’s been tasked with the daunting chore of restoring the Sandersons’ good name. Moving back to Carter Island and picking up the pieces hasn’t been easy, especially when the one person he needs the most won’t give him the time of day.
Bakery owner and island resident Molly Carter is loyal to her core, but that doesn’t mean Brad’s homecoming hasn’t left her torn. Brad’s darkest days aren’t lost on Molly, but reaching out to her lifelong friend isn’t so simple when she’s forced to guard her heart. Everything changed when she woke up alone after their sexy summer night.
The complications keep coming when Brad’s long-lost brother shows up in town, bringing the remnants of his checkered past with him. Forgiveness and redemption are possible for all, until new secrets come to light that may have dire consequences.
*A contemporary romance with twists of mystery and suspense
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS:
5 Stars! “I'm a big sucker for a good love story, especially one that has drama. Aftermath Of Secrets by Cate Beauman provided both in a beautiful way. I was swept in by the characters, their wants, and desires.” -Shannon Winings, Readers’ Favorite Book Awards
“What do you think it’s been, five or six years since you’ve been home for more than a week in a row?”
Brad nodded slowly. “Yeah, something like that.”
“It’s like the good old days.”
He shrugged, pushing off the wall, moving her way. “Sort of.”
Molly winced, foolishly forgetting that life for Brad was currently unrecognizable. “I guess that was pretty dumb of me to say.”
“No, I just meant Nate isn’t here hanging out in his boxers, and I haven’t done this yet.”
She frowned. “What?”
“Dunked you,” he said as he pressed his hand on top of her head and sent her under.
She sank beneath the watery depths, slapping at his hand and arm as he kept her submerged for a good three or four seconds. She came up sputtering and glaring. “You idiot.” She coughed again. “Are you trying to drown me?”
He dismissed her with a chuckle and flippant raise of his brow. “So dramatic. We had about three minutes before we needed to start worrying about brain damage.”
Her eyes narrowed again. “Oh, you’re dead,” she said, gritting her teeth, charging after him.
He laughed, swimming away.
But they were well-matched, both of them excellent swimmers. All the Sanderson and Carter kids had had numerous lessons in their younger days due to their proximity to the Atlantic.
She hooked her arm around his neck, maneuvered her way onto his back, and sent them both underwater, her legs locking around his waist to keep her leverage. But his sheer size and strength were her disadvantage.
Then they both surfaced for air, Brad laughing before she brought him under again. Within seconds, he had their positions reversed, and he held her against him, one arm wrapped around the front of her waist, the other around her shoulders as they came up for another draw of air.
His breath puffed against her neck in hot torrents as their legs brushed with their kicks to stay afloat, while he let her waist go and used his arm to tread water. “Molls, this is quite a predicament.
He wasn’t kidding. She was pinned beneath his strong arm, and her back was pressed against his solid chest, with no choice but to grip his muscular forearm caging her in place. “Fine. You win.” She just needed him to let her go.
“That’s it? Since when do you give up so easy?”
Since he’d kissed her brainless and taken her to bed. “Since I realized it’s time to get home and get changed for your party at Nate and Callie’s.” She tried to move away from him.
He switched arms, now holding her around the waist, and began keeping their heads above water with his opposite arm. “No problem. Just say, Brad, you’re the best Scrabble player I know. I bow to you, you genius.”
She huffed out a laugh, raising her arm to the surface to help keep their chins from bobbing under. “I won. Three years in a row now.”
“Just luck.” He held her tighter, whispering next to her ear, his voice full of teasing. “You’re the best, Brad. That’s all I need to hear.”
“Broody Brad,” she murmured, knowing he hated it when she called him that—a slight from their childhood.
“What was that?” he asked, drilling his fingers into her side, tickling her.
She scream-laughed. “Damn it, Brad.” She fought him enough to turn and immediately realized her huge mistake as he held her chest to chest, and they stared into each other’s eyes.
He grinned. “This is certainly a situation.”
A droplet trailed down his face to land on his firm bottom lip, and his eyelashes were webbed together, making him even more irresistible than he already was. Her heart pounded, her pulse thundering in her throat, and she glared at him, needing to be free of him, well aware he was enjoying this far too much.
There was an undeniable attraction between them. All she had to do was press her mouth to his, and they would have a repeat of August. But they weren’t going there again. She wasn’t risking their friendship a second time.
ABOUT CATE BEAUMAN
Cate Beauman is the multi-award-winning, international bestselling author of The Bodyguards of L.A. County series and the Carter Island Novels. She is known for her full-length, action-packed romantic suspense and contemporary stories.
Cate's novels have been named Readers' Favorite Five Star books and have won the Booksellers' Best Award, Maggie Award for Excellence, the Holt Medallion Award, two-time Aspen Gold Medal, two-time Readers' Favorite International Gold Medal, three-time Readers' Favorite International Silver Medal, and the Readers' Crown Award.
Cate makes her home in New Hampshire with her family and their St. Bernards, Bear and Jack.
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"Whatever happened next, however it was recorded and remembered, she was entirely on her own."
'Star Wars Queen's Peril' by E.K. Johnston is a story from the other side of Trade Federation's blockade of the planet Naboo during The Phantom Menace era.
We've already seen the ins and outs of the liberation of the Naboo people and the role Amidala plays in standing against that incursion.. to a degree. So, we don't see a lot of that here. Incidents like the ousting of Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum, the introduction of Jar Jar Binks, the Skywalker pod racing, the Maul hangar duel, and the death of Qui-Gon are mentioned.. but mostly they act as historical landmarks on the timeline.. allowing us to draw the parallels between the two stories.. and know where we are.
What's wonderful about this book is that it's more of an intimate portrait of Padme and her inner circle. It begins before she even rises to power. I enjoyed learning about the steps it took her to get there and seeing a bit of what she was like, separated from the Queen persona.
I also learned a lot about things I'd always questioned and that was deeply satisfying.. like the reason she dressed as she did in the first place. I'd always found those costumes of hers to be so.. well.. gaudy. But to learn the extent of their purpose.. which was as heavily layered as the costumes themselves.. that was fascinating. Seeing the group of girls develop the Queen's image together was amazing, how and why they adopted the things they did.
"He found the weak points, the cracks where the light got out, and shoved the darkness in."
Watching her go in as an idealistic citizen.. a smart, powerful female protagonist.. and surround herself with others like her, that too was intriguing. It gave me a whole new appreciation for a character I'd honestly never been that fond of. She was more than 'able,' she was calculating and driven. She knew how to show humility without seeming weak.
If I'd read this book before The Phantom Menace, I feel like I would have see in through an entirely different set of eyes. Actually, now I think I need to go back and experience The Phantom Menace again armed with the knew knowledge. Some of the early glimpses of Darth Sidious and Maul are especially interesting.
"Most would have flared out in glorious rage, taking untold numbers with them into the blackness of the void, but not Maul. Maul was made for better things, and his anger was his fuel."
I loved getting to know the handmaidens. Each of them had distinctively different skills they brought to the table and their personalities and backgrounds were just as diverse. This story gave those supporting characters real depth.. and though I started out unsure of one of them, she absolutely had my respect before long.
Watching her build those relationships, along with the relationships between herself and her Queen's Guard was so much fun. She was at times.. frustrating.. for her protectors because she didn't just let them walk all over her, but she chose her battles carefully.. giving in on some issues and standing strong on others.
In hindsight, I picked up this title thinking I was going to read a story about the Queen.. and I did.. but I had no idea how well I'd get to know all those close to her. How much I'd come to like the handmaidens and Captain Panaka and his intelligence officer wife. This story isn't just hers, it's theirs.. and I loved every minute of it.