ARC Review: Insight by Santino Hassell

A mind-bending romantic thriller, Insight offers a unique concept that tugs at your heart and keeps you guessing the whole way through!

30364791Nathaniel comes from a line of psychics, but for some reason, he only has minor empath abilities. He’s never quite “fit” in anywhere, and his school life is twice as hard when it comes out that he’s gay. With the disappearances of his mother followed by the death of his twin, Nate travels to New York to understand what happened. And when he starts having visions that his brother’s suicide wasn’t one, he’s clotheslined by it.

Trent is heading back to school when he sees Nate hitchhiking along the road. It’s not the first time he’s run into Nate in that small town of Texas, so he thinks it’s fate and allows Nate to ride with him. Trent’s intrigued by the shadows that lurk inside Nate, and their cross-country journey challenges Nate’s barriers at the same time Trent realizes what they have is much more than friendship.

The plot captured my attention right off the bat, and the story starts with a BANG. While this is the first novel I’ve read with Hassell as a solo author – I’m a BIG fan of his and Megan Erickson’s Cyberloveseries – his characters always have a vulnerability that pulls the emotion right out of you. I expect to be invested, and Insight is no different. And it’s a road trip romance for the first half. These were my favorite parts! There’s nothing like learning about someone while trapped in a car and deciding what music to listen to. It was sweet and steamy, and I just loved these two so much!

Then the plot kicks into overdrive with Nate discovering The Community. The group proclaims to want to help psychics acclimate but with the disappearances piling up, Nate doesn’t know who to trust.

One thing that was off for me was the pacing throughout the middle. Information comes so quickly and from so many different sources that I had to stop a few times when a character’s name was mentioned and think about who they were and what their relationship was to Nate.

This was a great first installment to The Community series, and I can’t wait to see where Hassell takes his readers next.

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Review: The Shadow Mark by Mason Thomas

4 stars!

I loved this one! In fact, I didn’t take my first full breath until 20% of the way through this book. After that, maybe only in spurts and gasps. What a ride!

513oa0zdculAuraq Gravestone is journeying to the city, hiding from his fate and past sins, when Kane and his companion, Old Tan, stumble upon him. They agree to travel together when they are attacked. Auraq barely escapes with his and Kane’s life, and he promises Old Tan he’ll deliver Kane safely to the city. If only it could be that easy. The mark on Kane’s forearm is of the Shadow realm, and Auraq must keep Kane safe at any cost. Even when Auraq’s own secrets come to light.

But the enemy is an order of assassins and foes lurk around every corner. Who can they trust? And as Kane’s health deteriorates, will they be too late?

“Friend, I know you not, but the strangest thing, I can see your soul now…It’s a glorious thing to see.”

Auraq is the only narrator in this story. I wanted more of Kane’s insight – his story – but after reading the last page, I understood the importance of making this Auraq’s story.  He’s bound by a sense of duty and loyalty. He takes his vow seriously, and little by little, we get to dissect his character as he fights off one foe for another. I adore his strength. How could Kane not fall for him?

Kane doesn’t have the military training or self-defense skills that Auraq has, but he’s far from a weak character. He’s quite adept at pestering Auraq until he’s let in.

“So, I’m to put my life in your hands without question, but I’m not allowed to know anything about you. That sounds reasonable.”

I simply could not put this book down. Auraq’s personal issues are just as exciting as the mystery of the enemy. When Kane’s health suffers as the mark spreads, the intrigue grows tenfold. It catapults from a cannon and doesn’t slow down until the very end.

Then there are epic descriptions peppered throughout the story:

“He felt empty inside, like a wineskin wrung dry.”

Now, the romance. For the most part, it is non-existent until halfway through. Auraq is outright oblivious to his own appeal, and he almost comes across as an asexual character.  When Kane makes a move, the romance connection finally ignites even though it’s not front and center by any means. I still ended the book with a huge smile on my face.

The Shadow Mark is a fantasy novel that kept me riveted to the page (and that cover! Gah!). If you can overlook that the romance is relegated to the background, I’d give this one a read. Auraq is a hero for the books.

*Originally posted on the Alpha Book Club and cross-post can be found here.*

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