Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review by Niki: Review of Cardeno C's Mates Series

Series Title: The Mates Series
Individual Book Titles:
  1.       WakeMe Up Inside
  2.       UntilForever Comes
  3.       InYour Eyes

Author: Cardeno C.
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Review:  Niki-O’s Down-low on The Mates Series by Cardeno C.

First off, let me start by telling you that even though this is a review for In Your Eyes, the third book in the series, I had to review the whole series…because I adore each and every book in the Mates Series.


Every single title in the series thus far has been pure pleasure to read. If you like, love, or are merely sitting in a ‘meh’ position on the fence of the paranormal genre, Cardeno C.’s lyrical, mystical, and gossamer web of words is sure to leave you wrapped in satisfaction. While each book can be read as a standalone, they truly shine brightest when read as a series… and I would daresay they are best read in their publication order.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, get ready for one hell of a read in the latest installment of this exquisite series. The third book in this series, In Your Eyes, is perhaps a tougher read than the first two…but like all things one has to work a bit more to acquire, the pay-off at the end is greater as well.
Pfft, whatever you do, be prepared to fall in love over and over and over again.

Publication order:

  • Wake Me Up Inside
  • Until Forever Comes
  • In Your Arms

Chronological Order:

  • Until Forever Comes
  • Wake Me Up Inside
  • In Your Arms

Overall Series Rating: 5/5 happy hearts and 5/5 destined-mate-sweet kisses

Book One: Wake Me Up Inside
Individual Rating: 4.5/5 Hearts

Blurb: Zev Hassick is surprised and confused when he finds himself attracted to his best friend. His very human, very male best friend. Zev is the son of the pack Alpha, regarded as the strongest wolf in generations, born to lead. And everyone knows a male shifter has to mate with a female of his own kind to keep his humanity. So shifters can't be gay, right?

Jonah Marvel wants a relationship with Zev, his best friend, the man he has loved since childhood. It wasn’t easy to maintain that relationship over years spent living apart while Jonah studied to become a doctor. And then things grow more difficult when Jonah becomes his own patient. Before he can make a life with Zev, he has to understand his past and cure the unexplained ailments that plague him.

Zev and Jonah know they’re destined for each other, but they’re facing traditions ingrained over generations and long-buried secrets that may threaten any future together.

Niki-O’s Down-low on Wake Me Up Inside

Cardeno C. has a rare and wonderful gift. She is fully accredited, mastery level wordsmith. No fooling. In her first venture into writing paranormal, she weaves a masterful tale of unconditional love, longing, perseverance, and the beautiful fragility of all loves, even fated ones.
Zev and Jonah are drawn with bold strokes, and Cardeno C. inveigles us into a deeply rooted fondness for these two by showing us their first meeting, with one a playful wolf pup and the other a tottering, sweet natured babe. Once she has that hook set, the ebb and flow of words flowed so naturally for me that I was never once thrown out of the story. Instead, I was continually drawn deeper and deeper into their world, Zev’s careful cultivation of first their friendship, and then of the unfolding of their continuing relationship.

What struck me most at the end of the story was that as deeply enmeshed as I became in the story, Cardeno’s style managed to feel light and easy throughout. Wake Me Up Inside became, with its first reading, an instant comfort read for me.
The only difficulty one might find in reading this book for the first time is in following the time shifts…however, I found the time shifts to be fairly easy to follow, and though at times they didn’t flow as easily enough to feel seamless, they were never rough enough to toss me out of the story. Overall, finding such a small quibble only stopped me from giving this book less than a perfect score. I still give it a hearty recommendation, and furthermore will say that it is one of those rare books that gets better with each subsequent re-read.

Book Two: Until Forever Comes
Individual Rating: 5.5/5 Smooches

*…yeah, so I know you can’t give 5.5/5…but we’re doing math of the heart here, and the rules are a teensy bit different*

Blurb: Ethan Abbatt is a wolf shifter who can't shift. Plagued by pain and weakness all his life, he hopes to find an honorable death by joining his pack mates in a vampire attack. Instead, Ethan learns two things: draining his blood releases his pain and his wolf, and he has a true mate - a vampire named Miguel.

Miguel Rodriguez is more than four centuries old. Strong, powerful, and vicious, he walks through life as a shadow, without happiness or affection. When a young shifter tells Miguel they're true mates, destined to be together, Miguel sends him away. But Ethan is persistent, and Miguel can't resist for long. Once Miguel gives in, being together comes naturally. The challenge is keeping themselves alive so they can stay by each other's side until forever comes.

Niki-O’s Down-low on Until Forever Comes

What a delight reading this story is, whether it be the first read through or the sixth. (…and yes, I really and truly liked this story enough to read it that many times since its publication)
Recall above where I called Cardeno a mastery level wordsmith? Yeah, well here’s where that level of skill becomes patently obvious. The second story in a series is critical I think, to the entire series’ success or failure. Because while a first book may be good, superb, or even stellar, the second always has to exceed that first burst of amazing wonderment, or at the very least match it. In this installment, Until Forever Comes, Cardeno C. has matched the inevitable draw and sweet comfort of the first story. Indeed, even her skillful use of dialogue and the ease of reading inherent to her first book in the Mates Series is exceeded here…and this is done while writing a main character who speaks almost exclusively in a poorly educated dialect.

Wait a second.

Hold the damn phone.

It is uncanny how much readers tend to HATE dialects showing up in stories…except when they absolutely love them. To brave that barrier in the make or break second novel of a series is brave writing indeed. Yet Cardeno C. either blithely ignored the second time is the charm factor, or simply girded her loins and like Da Vinci or Michelangelo, set about creating a pencil sketch so skillful it alone could be considered a masterpiece. She etches the mere outline of Ethan’s backwoods world, and so evokes his stubborn, unworldly sweetness. We come to see Ethan’s character through his colloquialisms and her wonderful, light rendering of his dialectic speech. That bravery, and the mind boggling skill necessary to pull off such cheek is what pushes this installment of the Mates Series into the realm of the sublime.

That done, Cardeno C. proceeds on to breathe life into a stark rendering of a wilful, haughty vampire named Miguel. He is, naturally, Ethan’s true mate…a fact of seemingly little importance in the vampire world. With every interaction, the author continues to add color and form to her already entrancing world, drawing the reader—at least this reader—deeper and deeper into her spell.
Yes, the story really and truly is worth reading six times. No fooling.

Book Three: In Your Eyes
Individual Rating: 5/5 Hearts…and 5/5 How’d-Ya-Make-Me-Love-Him Smooches


Raised to become Alpha of the Yafenack pack, Samuel Goodwin dedicates his life to studying shifter laws, strengthening his body, and learning from his father. Taking control comes easily to Samuel, but relating to people, including those he's supposed to lead, is a constant challenge. 

When Samuel meets Korban Keller, the son of a neighboring pack’s Alpha, he reacts with emotion instead of intellect for the first time in his life. Resenting the other shifter for putting him off-balance, Samuel first tries to intimidate Korban and then tries to avoid him. What he can’t do is forget Korban’s warm eyes, easy smile, and happy personality. 

When a battle between their fathers results in tragedy, Samuel and Korban are thrown together. With his world crashing down around him, Samuel must save his pack and show them he can lead. But first, Korban needs to save Samuel by inspiring him to feel. Two very different men with a tumultuous history must overcome challenges from all sides and see past the rules they’ve been taught to realize they are destined to fit together.

Niki-O’s Down-low on In Your Eyes

In this third installment of the Mates Series, Cardeno C. continues to deliver the skillfully woven web of words we’ve come to expect. Be warned however, this story is a far tougher read than the first two. One of the main characters is…let’s face it, Samuel is right beyond aggravating and on to the level of maddening. And that right there shows how brilliant the writing of this story is. Because while Samuel Goodwin is admirable, honorable, hell, every morally upright thing one could think of…well, at least all the ones that don’t involve emotion…as readers, we’re not afforded the luxury of liking Samuel until quite late in the story. And still, the author manages to drag a reluctant yet unshakeable investment in the story out of us as readers. She makes us care about him, about the people around him –

*who, right along with us, wish to bang their heads on the nearest hard surface every time Samuel misses yet another emotional clue-by-four*

—and keeps us tied to the story until the deeply satisfying conclusion. And I cannot stress enough the necessity of sticking it out with this story. Because, Holy Cracker Jacks, the pay-off at the end of the story is HUGE. 

In Your Eyes made me groan, grit my teeth, full on ugly cry, gasp, jump up shouting “Oh no he didn’t!”, and then finally, finally, make those awful, mushy, squealing sounds that one is honor bound to later claim to have been made by one’s resident guinea pigs.

 Seriously? Get this book. Read the shit out of it. And then read it once or twice more because, holy rollercoaster ride, it’s a sweet loop-de-loop of a story.


Author's website (has all links to retailers) 

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