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Uncaged Reviews – Rituals of the Nights Series, with Excerpt by Kayla Krantz

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To read an interview with Kayla Krantz, please see the February issue of Uncaged Book Reviews.

Both books reviewed, are Top Reads for February. The excerpt will be from Dead by Morning, along with a review, and also a review of Alive by Sunset, the second book in the series.

Dead by Morning
Kayla Krantz
Psychological Thriller

Obsession is deadly. No one learns that better than Luna Ketz, a pessimistic high school senior. She wishes more than anything to graduate but things don’t always go as planned. Luna quickly finds herself trapped in a web of lies and murders, spun by the least suspected person in her hometown. It’s not long before she realizes she’s being targeted by the person she despises most in the world. When Luna figures out who is behind the killings, things make a turn for the bizarre when she is contacted by a friend she has not heard from in years. It is then Luna realizes she is very much in danger, but although she can avoid the killer in reality, she cannot avoid him in her dreams.

Excerpt

Reluctantly, she set her hand in his. His skin felt clammy beneath her fingers, like he had been sweating. Luna wanted to pull her hand back, but she forced herself to keep it there. He closed his fingers around hers and pulled her onto the dance floor. The music turned to a slow, sappy song, forcing them to slow dance. He forced her arms up onto his shoulders and set his hands on her waist. As he stepped to the music, she searched his expression for any sign of compassion. “Why do you do this to me?” “Do what?” “Make me go to things like this. I mean, I know you don’t like me. What could you possibly want from me?” He looked back at her, and for a minute, he didn’t speak, as if he had been caught off-guard by her question. “I can’t tell you.” “You can blackmail me into going on dates with you, and you can have your friends kidnap me, but you can’t tell me why you do it?” she asked in disbelief. “Look, you’ll find out eventually, and you won’t like it, I know. I try hard to get you to feel something toward me so that when you find that out, you won’t fight me,” he whispered in her ear. “Find what out? What could be so bad? Do Susan and Kate and all of them know what it is?” She pulled back to watch his face carefully. “No, they don’t. No one does. Just keep quiet, okay?” “Does this have to do with the thing you hide in your pocket?” Luna asked him a bit louder. “Do you have it on you now?” She reached her hand forward to try to touch the side of his pants. A couple people around them turned to look as she raised her voice to him. Chance caught her wrist easily in his hand, returned their stares, and smiled nervously before looking back at Luna. He had to resist the urge to shake her into silence as he let go of her arm. “I don’t hide anything in my pocket okay?” he snarled. “That’s all just your imagination, Luna. Now drop it.” Part of her was frightened by his sudden anger. He was hiding something from her…and from everyone else as well. “Okay, we’re setting up to play,” a voice called from the stage. “We need a volunteer singer to help us out.” “How about Chance does it?” Luna heard a nearby girl suggest. The anger dissolved from Chance’s face as he turned to the girl who had spoken. Luna realized all of his rage had been solely directed at her, and she felt oddly cold at the thought. “Yeah, I’ll do it. Why not?” she barely heard him say. He let go of her and moved through the cheering crowd toward the stage. The band took its place, and Chance stood at the microphone. He looked completely comfortable up there, normal, as if he weren’t the center of attention. The band began to play “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, and Luna studied Chance. He began to sing the words gently, and his voice surprised her. It sounded beautiful.
As Luna watched him, she knew he looked like any other teenage boy. The girls around Luna cheered him on, but she stayed silent. His eyes flicked to her as he reached the chorus of the song, flashing in the lights. There was something bad about him. Something that separated him from all
the other teenage boys and made him a danger to the people who called him ‘friend.’


Uncaged Review: 

Luna is a high school student, who keeps her head down and her grades high, so when the most popular boy in school starts paying a lot of attention to her, she is completely confused and tries to get him to leave her alone. But Chance won’t take no for an answer, and is obsessed with Luna and manipulates her and her parents, and she ends up spending more time with him than she wants.

But there is an evil lurking behind Chance’s eyes, and Luna can’t quite put her finger on what’s going on. When girls from school end up missing, she starts putting it together. When she has to go to the school dance with Chance, he ends up taking her to his home, where she stumbles upon a room with pentagrams and bones.

This book is a psychological trip, and it’s not just about a serial killer, there is a paranormal/fantasy element similar to the Freddy Krueger dreams, and when Luna has her nightmares and is shackled up in her dream, her wrists are bruised the next morning. And when her old friend Max comes back to town and tells Luna of his dreams, which are almost an exact match to hers, the danger is only just beginning. If Chance can unite with his DreamWorld self, he will be unstoppable. Will Luna and Max be able to figure out his weakness before it’s too late?

It had a satisfying ending, that I did not predict, and it left it wide open for the series to continue, and it ends with a note….

The author does a great job creeping you out and having you thinking about keeping that night light on when you go to sleep. Reviewed by Cyrene

4 1/2 Stars


Alive by Sunset
Kayla Krantz
Psychological Thriller

Revenge can become an obsession of its own. After her high school experience, Luna Ketz moved on. She’s in college, studying to be a doctor, and lives an hour away from her old home in Lima, Ohio–where the worst of her memories lie. Three years have passed since her friend Violet’s death and the thought of that day in the woods hasn’t left her mind once. Every week, she visits the hospital where Chance Welfrey remains in a coma. She tries to move on…wants to move on…until once again, she receives a phone call from Max Cazmea warning her that things may not be over just yet.

Chance, having recovered from his recent coma, shows up on her doorstep. He has found a way into Luna’s life that she cannot escape–he’s dating her roommate, Amanda Grey. Back in her life once more, Chance has a list, and everyone on it ends up dead. As things escalate, Luna finds herself in a dangerous game of cat and mouse that will take all of her wits to survive.

*Warning: This book contains content that may be disturbing to some including rape and graphic violence.*


Uncaged Review: 

This book starts off three years after the events of the last book. Luna is now in college, and she’s living with her roommate Amanda. Chance has been in a coma for three years, and Luna has visited the hospital every week, just to reassure herself that he’s still there. The doctors tell her there is very little chance he’ll come around….

Luna’s friend Max is convinced that something is wrong in the DreamWorld, but with Chance in a coma, and even if he wakes he won’t know anything about his past, Luna has a hard time believing him, until killings begin again, and Chance is no longer in his hospital bed where he’s been in for three years.

The author really ramps this one up. This is an edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller, with horror and paranormal elements. And there is graphic violence. You get to see deep inside the head of this serial killer, and feel the fear of Luna and his victims. But the author also has you feeling sympathy for Chance, which I never would have believed I would, but I did. The characters are well flushed out, and the author leaves no stone unturned in taking you on this highly charged emotional sequel. Reviewed by Cyrene

5 Stars

Uncaged Review – Highland Hope by Madelyn Hill

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Highland Hope
Madelyn Hill
Highlander Historical

“Remember, lasses. Through Hope, Faith, and Honor, ye can rule,” were the last words Lady Hope MacAlister’s father spoke before dying. Those very words direct her every action and thought. Sword fighting and leading the men of her clan was second nature to Hope and she has little time for herself or any thoughts of love. Until Aidan MacKerry is captured spying on the clan.

She is beautiful, strong, and quick to pull a sword. But when he kisses her, all thoughts of the lairdship Aidan MacKerry seeks flee his mind. When the enemy continues to undermine Hope, Aidan is determined to aid her—only he didn’t think he’d lose his heart to the Laird of Wild Thistle Keep. When the enemy reveals Aidan’s secret, he must fight for his right to be laird and prove, despite their differences, he loves Hope.

The enemy refuses to back down and continues to threaten not only Hope, but the security of the entire clan. Only together will they be able to save the clan and save their love.


Uncaged Review: A very solid Highlander story with memorable characters and a hot romance. Hope is the laird of Wild Thistle Keep and the clan. A tough and fair laird, Hope has proven herself capable of leading for years – a strong and intelligent woman, but there are members on the council that want her removed as laird. After the death of her father, she leads the clan with her mother’s council, but after her death, according the decree of her father, she must wed if she is to continue to rule. Enter Aidan MacKerry, who is captured on castle grounds, with his own intentions of taking over the lairdship, and is his birthright. But getting past Hope will not be easy, and falling in love with her was not in the plans. But what will Hope do when she finds out about his betrayal and deceits?

There is some mystery, and layers of deceit, and a heap of romance. I would have liked to see more of Hope and Aidan’s interactions, but it’s an interesting read that kept me engaged throughout. The characters are well developed, and the author did a good job giving strength to Hope, but also giving her vulnerability and heart to keep her believable and likable. Reviewed by Cyrene

4 Stars

Uncaged Review: Stan: The Awakening by Richard Wold

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A February Top Read

Stan: The Awakening
Richard Wold
Horror

A controversial New York artist is entangled in a dramatic clash between good and evil.
Ever since he survived his suicide attempt, New York artist Stan Foster has not been himself. Plagued by amnesia and a head full of visions of death and destruction, he claws his way through a life he doesn’t recognize. The search for his true identity leads him to believe he is Satan: spit out from the bowels of hell to live among the mortal inhabitants of earth. Is he delusional, or is there truth behind this troubling revelation?

Stan must piece together who he was with only clues he stumbles across. Eventually, he must decide if he wants to remain who he used to be or become someone new. Stan’s psychiatrist, Abigail, is committed to help him find his true identity. She too must overcome her troubled background to offer him the redemption he is after.


Uncaged Review: Stan found himself wanting to end his own life but was unsuccessful. By jumping off a bridge. Now he can’t remember who he is. One thing he does remember is that art played a big part in his life somehow. Stan slowly remembers a little each day thanks to his doctor. Only problem is it’s awakened a gift in him that can sense all the evil that other people have inflicted on each other.

I really enjoyed this book and there’s even more secrets to learn about Stan. A good dark read, that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

This is Richard Wold’s first book I will certainly read more of his books. Reviewed by Jennifer

5 Stars

Uncaged Review: The Prince’s Son by Deborah Jay with Excerpt!

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A featured author in February, to read the interview, please see the issue.

The Prince’s Son
Deborah Jay
Epic Fantasy

Nessa Haddo has been raised to pursue what every young noblewoman needs: a suitable husband. Unfortunately for her, as a younger twin, her prospects are limited. Things start to look up when she lays eyes on the handsome foreign envoy sent to escort her sister to an arranged marriage, but her romantic fantasies quickly entangle her in events beyond her darkest nightmares.
Compared to his last mission, ex-spy Rustam Chalice’s new assignment sounds simple: wrangle an unwieldy bridal caravan across a mountain range populated by bandits, trolls, werecats, and worse, try to cajole a traumatized princess out of her self-imposed isolation, and arrive on time for the politically sensitive wedding. What could possibly go wrong?
Meanwhile, Lady Risada—the woman who haunts Rustam’s dreams—is struggling to adjust to a normal life. All her carefully honed assassin’s instincts scream warnings of foul play, yet she can find nothing obviously amiss.
And deep in the halls of a mountain clan, an old enemy plucks his victims’ strings with expert malice.

Excerpt

When Rustam gave a small whistle, the bay stallion ghosted out of the early morning shadows.
Rustam ran a hand along the stallion’s muscular crest, his fingers sliding through the cascade of black mane to the warm sleekness of the silky hair beneath. “I really hate to do this, boy, but you’ll have to stay behind this time.”
A pair of huge, dark eyes regarded Rustam with reproach before Fleetfoot shook his head vigorously, long strands of mane whipping from side to side to slap Rustam sharply across the face. “Ouch! I’m sorry, really I am, but even you can’t climb a goat trail; I need you here, to keep the others safe. They can’t look after themselves the way you can.”
Fleetfoot heaved a large sigh and rubbed his forehead against Rustam’s shoulder. Leaning into the equine embrace, Rustam caught sight of one of the grooms rolling his eyes to the sky. Crazy, that’s what they thought he was. He smiled privately and kept his silence. It wasn’t their fault they couldn’t see the tiny bit of magic flowing between him and the magnificent animal. When the lads talked to their charges they communicated with tone of voice and a few easy words, achieving a level of trust and affection any human might gain with a horse. But for Rustam’s entire life it had been so much more than that. The ease with which, even as a child, he’d been able to catch the naughtiest ponies; the calmness he’d instilled in the wild black mare no one else could handle, and the way that over the years of their service together Nightstalker had always sensed where he was, and when she was needed.
It wasn’t until they journeyed into Shiva that Rustam understood it to be an attribute of his elven blood; he was a Horsemaster in more than mere words. Now, with a Shivan bred steed, that link was even closer.
“You know they think I’m soft in the head for talking to you, don’t you?” Fleetfoot snorted; horsey laughter if ever Rustam had heard it. He slapped the hard-muscled red shoulder. “It’s not funny!” He shook his head, drawing the dark thread of his thoughts back together. “No, nothing about this is funny.”
He stared into the liquid depths of eyes turned wary. “I need you to keep this lot safe, hear me? I don’t know how long we’ll be gone, or if you’ll be secure here. Watch over them, for me, yes?”
Fleetfoot snorted again, head nodding up and down. Rustam draped an arm over the stallion’s withers and bent forward to bury his face in the abundant mane. With his eyes shut, he inhaled the glorious scent of horse, and felt his muscles relax. He was leaving the caravan with the best possible guard he could arrange, in the absence of a small army.


Uncaged Review:  This is an epic fantasy novel. The world building is amazing, and I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of research and layout that this world took before the author even started writing. There is also a lot of characters to keep track of, but it’s done pretty easily. I don’t really feel this is a romance per say, but it has those elements scattered throughout. I read a review that this was romance heavy, and I really disagree with that assessment. It is present, at least for a couple characters but does not draw away from the storyline at all. This is the second book in a series, but I did not have any issues reading it as a standalone.

This story truly revolves around three main groups, all interconnected. The Prince and his pregnant wife Lady Risada, the Prince’s son, Rustam who is charged with escorting a bridal caravan to its destination, where the oldest Haddo twin, Julin will be getting married. With her is her maid Enya, and her twin sister Nessa. Along the way, the girls are kidnapped and they soon discover some of their most horrifying days, and some of their most amazing discoveries.

This story held my interest from the beginning, but it was a bit slow for me. It’s a story that slowly grabs you before you realize it. Reviewed by Cyrene

4 Stars

Uncaged Review: The One I’m With by J. Lynn Rowan

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One of February’s Top Reads.

The One I’m With
J. Lynn Rowan
Romantic Comedy

The truth is, letting yourself fall in love means daring to risk heartbreak.

Interior designer Marissa O’Brien has sworn off long-term relationships, instead protecting herself from a broken heart by following a specific set of rules when it comes to her many flirtations and first dates. She’s content to just have fun in the world of romance, but all her rules fly out the window when she grabs the attention of a sexy, international stranger during her weekly Girls’ Night Out.

Josh Mattingly has spent the last two years trying to turn over a new leaf, focusing on his role in the family corporation and erasing his womanizing reputation. In Asheville, North Carolina, on business, the last thing he’d planned on was getting involved with a local girl. But one encounter with Marissa has him hooked. He soon falls hard for the designer, and now he’s terrified to reveal his romantic past for fear she’ll bolt.


Uncaged Review: A very sweet, romance with an endearing cast makes this story very easy to fall for. Marissa is an interior designer, who with her posse of friends, has kept her strict dating rules in place for over three years, to keep from getting hurt – never allowing anyone to get too close. Immersing herself in working hard, she makes a name for herself in the small city she lives in. On Saturday nights, she goes out with her girlfriends to let off a bit of steam. It’s on one of those nights, she meets Josh, and before she knows it, her dating rules are out the window. But Josh is from an influential family, only in town until his business is concluded, so what could it hurt to enjoy the time with him?

Romance lovers will enjoy this story, with fun banter, enduring friendships and a nice heap of romance. This story is clean, the main characters are flawed, which makes them human and realistic. Even when their pasts come back to haunt them, they will need to get past it to find their way back to each other.

This is the third book in the Sweet Somethings series, but reads perfectly fine as a standalone.
Reviewed by Cyrene

5 Stars

Uncaged Review: The Orphan and the Duke by Jillian Chantal

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A Top Read in February

The Orphan and the Duke
Jillian Chantal
Historical Regency

Basil Staunton, Duke of Darnley, a younger son and reformed reprobate, had his title forced on him by the death of his parents and brother. Now he has a dilemma. His twin sisters are old enough for their presentation to Queen Charlotte, a requirement before they can enter their first season. He has no idea how to prepare them for what lies ahead.

Amelia Mandeville, orphaned and brought from France to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin, has always been told she‘s illegitimate. Treated as no more than an unpaid companion to her odious cousin, she knows as soon as the cousin marries, she will have no more usefulness to the family and worries she’ll be asked to leave.

Meeting the duke at the dressmaker’s shop is serendipitous for Amelia and, with her uncle’s permission, she’s allowed to assist the duke’s sisters. Hoping she can turn this opportunity into a way to support herself, Amelia undertakes the task with enthusiasm.

What she doesn’t count on is becoming attached to the family and her cousin’s designs on becoming Amelia’s employer’s duchess.


Uncaged Review: The simple fact of this book, is it’s a Cinderella story. The more complex part of the book, is it’s an enchanting regency with humor, mystery and very likeable characters. I actually read a couple of reviews on this after I finished the story, and a couple of them had me wondering if I was reading the same book as they did.

The story brings you Amelia, whose parents died when she was very young, and she’s been brought up in her Aunt and Uncle’s home, along with her very horrible cousin, Susan. Believing what she was told, that her parents were never married and threatened constantly about being tossed out of the home, Amelia is relegated to be only sub-par to the rest of the house, helping her cousin get ready for her Presentation and Season, but without hope of ever having her own coming out.

Basil, the Duke of Darnley, is forced into the title after his parents and older brother is killed in an accident, bringing him the responsibility of guardian to his two younger twin sisters. When it’s time for their Presentation and Season, he’s at a dilemma of how to prepare them for society. Meeting Amelia and her cousin at the dressmakers with his sisters, Basil is astonished at how badly Amelia is being treated by her cousin, and finds a way to hire Amelia to help prepare his sisters for their coming out.

And this is only part of this story. The mystery surrounding Amelia and what will happen when she’s no longer needed by her Aunt and Uncle, and if she will ever know more about her parents. The love story is genuine and fun, and for me, a Cinderella-type story is always welcome. Reviewed by Cyrene

5 Stars

Uncaged Review – Evermore by Alexandra Lee with Excerpt!

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One of February’s Featured Authors, along with being a Top Read. To read the interview with Alexandra, please see the issue!

Evermore
Alexandra Lee
Paranormal/Fantasy

How far would you go for family? For twins Marie and Thea there is no line they won’t cross. They’ve remained inseparable since birth, but, after one night, their lives are changed forever. The sisters find themselves confined behind the gates of worlds they have never imagined, populated by twisted creatures and voices filling their heads. The sisters seek more than just answers to how they ended up in these worlds or how they developed psychosis. They seek a way out and more importantly, each other. But what will it cost them to reunite with one another and will their lives be the same again? Not if the voices have anything to say about it.

Excerpt
Chapter 14 (This scene made my editor cry.)

Marie knocked on the wooden door nervously before taking a step back. She clutched the basket tightly, her palms sweaty as she studied the patterns in the door. She had imagined how this day would go a hundred different times and worried if her son still cared about her.
The door was opened by the wet nurse, Ciel crying behind her. “Can I help you?”
“I brought a basket of books and toys for Ciel.”
The woman looked over Marie suspiciously. “Why?”
She swallowed her nerves, tightening her grip on the basket. “Because he’s my son.”
The woman laughed. “I highly doubt that.”
In all her scenarios, Marie hadn’t imagined herself being rejected. “Believe what you will but I bore that child.”
Behind the wet nurse, her mother stood, staring at Marie in disbelief. “Invite her in.”
The wet nurse turned her head. “Absolutely not.” She said beginning to shut the door. “I don’t know this woman nor do I believe her.”
The mother approached her, holding Ciel in one arm, grabbing the door with the other. “You continue to show me that I’ve raised a fool. It is because of this that I do not deserve the right to raise this woman’s child.” She forced the door open, holding Ciel out to Marie. “Will you hold him for a moment while I speak to my daughter?”
Marie set the basket down, taking her son from the woman. “Of course I will.” Ciel’s cries stopped as his mother held him close. “How are you my baby boy? You’ve grown so quickly.”
The woman dragged her daughter into the home, the basket of toys in her other hand. She gently placed the basket in Ciel’s room before meeting the eyes of her daughter. She had learned more about her daughter in the last year than the entire time she had raised her.
“I’ve never felt more disappointed then every time you open your mouth. Here Marie stands before us and you are going to lie to her face?”
“She doesn’t deserve him.”
The woman slapped her daughter. “And what makes you think you’re worthy?” She took a step towards the door. “I don’t want to see your face until Marie has returned home and I pray she takes Ciel with her.”
“Mother I’m sorry-” The woman said holding her cheek.
“It’s not me you should be apologizing to.” She said holding the door open. “That woman has literally died and come back to us. She is an angel sent to us from Heaven. She is watching over our home and her son. You need to show her some gratitude.”
The woman nodded, returning to the entrance. “I must go into town for some time but it was nice to see you, Marie.” She said before leaving.
Marie watched the woman leave in confusion before turning to her mother. “If it’s too much trouble I can go.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” The woman said pushing her inside. “We have much to discuss.”
Marie smiled at the woman, taking a seat on their sofa. “I only saw him what feels like yesterday and he’s already so much bigger!”
The woman prepared tea, bringing two cups with her when she joined Marie on the sofa. “That’s because it’s been a little over a year since you died.”
Marie looked at the woman as Ciel smiled, reaching for her face. “It’s been that long?”
“Time must seem nonexistent when you’re dead.” The woman laughed.
Marie recalled the first time she had gone to limbo, how time felt as if it had disappeared altogether. She looked into her son’s eyes, watching as he smiled at her. She began to bounce him on her lap, listening to him as he laughed.
“He can talk now.”
Marie looked at Ciel. “You can talk? Say something to me, Ciel.”
“Angel.” Ciel mumbled.
The woman laughed. “Yes, Ciel, mommy is an angel.”
Marie laughed, gently hugging her son. “But mommy is here now.”
The woman smiled, placing a hand on her lap. “It would warm my heart if you would take Ciel with you.”
Marie looked at the woman, tears streaming down her face. She had never thought they would ask her to take Ciel. She had imagined them saying it to them but hadn’t thought she would hear the words. Now that she did she wasn’t sure what to say.


Uncaged Review: 

This book starts out as a historical, with two sisters, Thea and Marie who have been inseparable all their lives. Thea has been rebellious and a protector of her sister Marie, and Marie has always been the dutiful one. When it’s time to marry off Marie, her parents arrange her marriage to an older Duke, who turns out to be an abusive man. One night, the Duke rapes his wife and Marie learns she is pregnant. Staying away from the Duke from then on, she gives birth to a baby boy, keeping her son away from her cruel husband. The Duke and Marie’s parents have been destroying all the letters that Thea and Marie have been writing back and forth. And when Marie finally discovers what has been happening, she finds one letter from Thea that wasn’t destroyed with news of Thea’s nuptials, it’s time for Marie to go home. Leaving her son in the care of a wet nurse and her mother, Marie and her husband travel to attend the wedding.

Now this story really gets moving. It turns from a historical novel, to an epic storyline and fantasy novel that spans a lifetime of these two characters. For an author’s debut novel, this is an impressive first outing. I won’t tell you how it happens, but when both daughters are killed, one goes to Heaven, the other to Hell. And both will move mountains to find each other again. The originality and how the story still follows some traditions is well executed. There are a few minor editing flaws, but they are so minor that they don’t even matter. Even with Heaven and Hell, this is not a religious novel in any form, even though it pulls some traditional elements from religion. Well worth the read. Graphic violence, sexual situations – Uncaged recommends adult readers. Reviewed by Cyrene

5 Stars

Uncaged Review – Spirit Song by Tessa McFionn

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One of February’s Top Reads.

Spirit Song
Tessa McFionn
Paranormal Romance

The assassin and the angel. Can her song redeem his soul?

Miranda Devalande had long since given up on her dreams of a happy life. Forced to sing at mob boss Slick Sal’s seedy nightclub to cover her brother’s rising gambling debts, she survives from day to day as a caged bird. With each new bad bet by her wayward brother, her hope of finding a way free of her “contract” fades. Until a mysterious stranger arrives at the club and turns her whole life upside down…

Danger has always swirled around reluctant Guardian Warrior Sebastian Lambert. Trained as an assassin and recruited out of desperation, he now battles the evils of power-hungry Rogues in Chicago. When his friend and fellow Guardian Viktor Arnhart drags him into a nightclub, he would have never imagined to find an angel at the mic.

Caught between his desire to keep Miranda safe and his drive to hold her close, Bastian must walk the line between the light of a beautiful songstress and the dark of his perilous past even as dangerous forces threaten to destroy them both. Will he open his heart to her in time, or will she fall prey to her soulless fate?

Uncaged Review: The third book in The Guardian series is as mesmerizing as the first two. I really need to learn that once I start a book by Tessa McFionn, I won’t be able to stop reading it until it’s finished. And 3 am on the bedside clock came pretty quick last night. Now, I was wondering how well this author from southern California would pull off the world building in this one, as it’s based in the Chicago area, closer to my own stomping grounds – but she did it with ease.

This book brings use Sebastian and Miranda’s story. Sebastian was changed to a Guardian over 500 years ago, and against his will. So he’s been angry for a very long time. His sidekick in this book is Viktor, who can temper Sebastian’s anger with a touch, his gift as a Channeler. Viktor also provides a whole lot of humor that breaks up the tensions of the book.
Body parts start turning up all over the Chicago area. And Sebastian and Viktor can sense the Rogue activity, but the Rogue’s always seem two steps ahead of them. When they end up at a club one night, Sebastian’s whole world is shaken when he sees the gorgeous singer on stage, with the voice of an angel with an underlying sadness. Miranda is singing at a seedy club, owned by a man named Slick Sal, and she is working to pay off her little brothers gambling debts, but little does she know, that Slick Sal will never let her contract expire….

Fantastic action sequences, never a dull moment. The character and world building is second-to-none, and the author manages to give you both easily without bogging down the story. This is a series book but easily read as a standalone. This is a series that is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Cyrene

5 Stars

Uncaged Review – The Longest Night by Danielle Devon

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A January Top Read

The Longest Night
Danielle Devon
Gothic Romance

A dark and chilling gothic romance

Such a sad sort of sickness, the way Lucien watched her. She no longer prayed to the night and yet he stayed on. Hidden behind the veil, lost in the shadows, for years, watching, listening, waiting for her to call him.

Trapped in her new life as the second Lady Merrick, Isabella had long since turned away from her childhood rituals for the sake of duty. Yet with each day that past, she slipped deeper into a world of quiet despair. Until the night her drunken husband pushes too far.

Will she summon Lucien forth or will she take fate into her own hands?

Uncaged Review: This is the second novella in a series, the first one being A Good Night, and this one jumps in right after the events of the last book. In this book, Isabella has just buried her abusive father, and is told by her sisters and her mother, that she needs to find a suitable husband, namely a man named Lord Merrick. Cut to a few years into the cold, loveless marriage, Isabella has grown cold and without feelings for much of life. Only when her mother gifts her two puppies to help with the loneliness, does Isabella show any type of happiness.
Lucien, still watches from the shadows. Watching how the light and happiness is no longer present in Isabella’s life. When Lord Merrick kills one of her dogs, it sets in motion a string of events that will conclude this chapter.
I still don’t know what or who Lucien is, and even though I felt the strongest for him in this chapter, I can only hope he re-emerges in the next installment stronger than ever. These books are well written and beautifully done, but they leave a lot more questions than they do answers. Well worth the read. Reviewed by Cyrene

5 Stars

Uncaged Review – The Separation by Stormy Corrin Russell with Excerpt!

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To read an interview with Stormy, please see the January issue of Uncaged Book Reviews.

A January Top Read.

The Separation
Stormy Corrin Russell
Young Adult/Dystopian

In a world where men and women live on separate sides of a massive wall, seventeen-year-old misfit Eroyn Fairchild has always been too busy with her broken family to wonder why they live the way they do.

When a man from the other side breaks through, Ero holds him hostage, hoping for a ransom large enough to pay for her Elder Grace’s treatment. Things get more complicated as the man is followed by two others who make Ero question everything she’s ever known about her life.

As Ero searches for the truth, the lines between right and wrong blur, leaving her to choose between saving her city and saving herself.

Excerpt

One of the things I love about Grace is that she is the heaviest sleeper I know. So heavy, in fact, she doesn’t hear me dragging a thrashing body through the front door at two in the morning. For the first time in my life, I consider it lucky that we live on the outskirts of the north side. If we didn’t, I would never have been able to get it this far without attracting attention. A loud, confused sound starts to come from the net, so I kick it firmly.
“Shut up,” I hiss, looking around nervously. I’m not worried about Grace rousing, but I don’t want the neighbors waking up and noticing my noisy cargo. I kick twice more, as hard as I can. Silence, finally. With a sigh, I wipe my arm across my forehead, getting rid of the sweat beading there. I sink down on the couch, staring at the large lump inside the net on my living room floor unblinkingly. Little red flowers are blooming all over the heavy white plastic, and they grow quickly. It’s blood, I realize with a sick feeling. It’s seeping through from the inside and leaking onto the clean white carpet of our house. It can’t be real. It just can’t be.
I see Almond cut across the room and sniff at the lump with caution. With one movement, I scoop him up and press him to my chest in horror. For the first time, I realize the danger of what I’ve just done. I’ve invited a monster into my house.
I’ve made a horrible, horrible mistake.
It takes Luna ten minutes to get here five minutes faster than usual but it feels like hours. She lets herself in the back door quietly, but I rush into the kitchen to meet her.
“Where’s Grace?” she asks with urgency, dropping her medical bag on the kitchen table.
“What? No, I … this isn’t about Grace,” I stutter. I open my mouth once, then again, but it’s no use. Nothing is coming out, so I turn on my heel and tiptoe into the living room. Luna wordlessly follows, eyeing the netted form. I kneel next to it, holding my breath. With shaking hands, I slide the knife into the plastic and pull it upwards slowly. I know what it’s going to reveal when I pull the plastic away, but it still makes my breath leave my lungs in an audible whoosh. I can’t seem to inhale again once it’s gone. I hear Luna do the same next to me.
“Is it a…?” She leaves her sentence unfinished, and I nod. The small slit I cut in the plastic shows a thick arm under a rolled-up shirt, far too thin for our recently nasty winter. At the very end of the slit, I glimpse a swollen throat and a jaw covered in a dark shadow of hair. A chill runs down my spine and my stomach turns.
“Is he alive?” Luna asks, her voice small.
“I … I think so.” I stare at the floor guiltily. “I kicked him pretty hard to shut him up.” She scoots closer and with trembling fingers folds back the plastic to see his side, where most of the blood is coming from.
“Cut the rest of it off him,” she tells me quietly. I stare at her in shock.
“But, he––” She cuts me off with a look.
“He isn’t dead yet, but he will be if I don’t stop the blood loss.”
I swallow hard, and comply.

Uncaged Review: After a Gender War, this dystopian world has the women living apart in their own separate quadrant, known as Genesis. They are taught that they won the war, and the men are gene mutations and live outside the walls. In this world, Elders choose Youth to be their caretakers, and when the Elder finally passes on, the Youth that has been taking care of them, inherits what is left for them from their Elder. This gives them a small nest egg so they can eventually hire on their own Youth, and the cycle begins all over again. This story starts out with Eroyn, who is a Youth for Grace, a woman that remembers what it was like before the wars, but is in the late stages of dementia.

This is a very original story, and it had me hooked. Eroyn discovers she has a brother, whom she never knew, and that the women have been taught lies for decades. Her best friend Luna and her begin to unravel the truth, after Ero’s brother, best friend and another man are caught by them and begin to explain what really happened. You don’t really know how the war began, or the main nuances as to why the world is like it is, but some of the truth begins to unravel in this installment.

I’m not going to give away more, but this is not a book that really hooked me from the go, it crept up on me slowly, and by the time I was to the middle, I was completely invested. The writing is terrific, with nice world building and character development. The idea that emotion and love breaks through the decades of suppression, is uplifting. Even though the book ends on a mild cliffhanger, it ends where it probably should end for this one, and I’ll look forward to the next one.
Reviewed by Cyrene

5 Stars