Undying Legion: Crown & Key, Book 2

Undying LegionAuthor: Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith
Book Name: Undying Legion
Series: Crown & Key
Order: #2
Genre: SciFi/Fantasy/Historical/Steampunk
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: With a flood of dark magic about to engulf Victorian London, can a handful of heroes vanquish a legion of the undead?

When monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane comes across the gruesome aftermath of a ritual murder in a London church, he enlists the help of magician-scribe Simon Archer and alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther. Studying the macabre scene, they struggle to understand obscure clues in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the victim’s heart–as well as bizarre mystical allusions to the romantic poetry of William Blake. One thing is clear: Some very potent black magic is at work.

But this human sacrifice is only the first in a series of ritualized slayings. Desperate to save lives while there is still time, Simon, Kate, and Malcolm–along with gadget geek Penny Carter and Charlotte, an adolescent werewolf–track down a necromancer who is reanimating the deceased. As the team battles an unrelenting army of undead, a powerful Egyptian mummy, and serpentine demons, the necromancer proves an elusive quarry. And when the true purpose of the ritual is revealed, the gifted allies must confront a destructive force that is positively apocalyptic.

Review: Started out as expected after the last one, just jumping right in to the action.  Then it slowed down quite a bit for a little while before picking back up again.  I didn’t see quite as much action in this one as the last.  Also got way more on the gadgets and stuff and really not a whole lot on either the alchemy or the magic from our main characters which was a little bit of a let down.

This just had a slightly different feel to it than the first book.  While still really good, it just wasn’t quite the same, so not quite as good.  I’m hoping the next one is more in line with the first.

Fever: Phoenix Rising, Book 1

FeverAuthor: Joan Swan
Book Name: Fever
Series: Phoenix Rising
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/SciFi
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Dr. Alyssa Foster will admit to a bad boy fetish. . .

But when she finds herself face to face with a convicted murderer with a ripped body, a determination for freedom and an eye on her as his get out of jail free card, Alyssa knows she’s in deep trouble. . .. Not just because Teague Creek is a prisoner desperate for freedom, but because his every touch makes her desperate for more.

A man with a life sentence has nothing to lose. . .

Teague Creek has one shot at freedom, but his plan to escape with a hostage develops a fatal flaw: Alyssa. On the run from both the law and deadly undercover operatives who know of his strange abilities, he needs to avoid trouble, but every heated kiss tells him the fire between them could be just as devastating as the flames that changed him forever.

Review:  I really didn’t know what to expect with this book.  I’d never read anything from this author and I’d actually passed over this a few times as I’m not a huge fan of the prison theme.  Have to say that I’m thrilled that I took the chance on this because it was way more than I thought.

This was the complete package.  Kick ass characters, cool and unique story that you start reading and look at the clock and realize that hours have gone by without a thought, very well thought out build on the romance part of the story and that is balanced with the rest of it so that no one aspect overrides the others.

Teague is a bad guy that is actually really a great guy willing to do some questionable things to protect what matters to him.  I love the fact that he is battling with his morality and trying to balance that against what he needs in life.

Alyssa is so not a cupcake pushover.  She is loaded with personality and her own sense of doing what is right.  Her reaction and views towards Teague are spot on all the way through the story, forcing both herself and Teague to be completely real.

Even though my library didn’t have this classed as SciFi, it actually is.  It isn’t dripping in it, but it is definitely part of the backbone of the story.  That aspect along with conspiracy, relationships with friends and family (loved Mitch!) along side the romance helped to completely round out the story.

While this is one of those stories that spans only a handful of days, the way the author writes this makes the romantic relationship work.  She took the time to develop a trust between the characters, not magically making it just happen.  There is absolutely doubt and mistrust in the beginning and makes her characters work to prove they are worthy.  I cannot say how refreshing it is to read an author that takes the time to put the details in the story to make me believe it.  Sure, there are a couple of things that are just a tiny bit on the lucky/convenient/perfect side, but even those are done well enough to still work.

Needless to say, I loved this book.  I’ve already got the next one in my queue and will probably end up bumping its way to the top of that list.

The Remedy for Love: Bill Roorbach

The Remedy For LoveAuthor: Bill Roorbach
Book Name: The Remedy for Love
Series: **
Order: **
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  When the “Storm of the Century” threatens western Maine, Eric closes his office early and heads to the grocery store. In line ahead of him, an unkempt and seemingly unstable young woman comes up short on cash, so Eric offers her twenty bucks and a ride home. Trouble is, Danielle doesn’t really have a home. She’s squatting in a cabin deep in the woods: no electricity, no plumbing, no heat. Eric, with problems of his own, tries to walk away, but finds he can’t. Fending off her mistrust of him, he gets her set up with food, water, and firewood, and departs with relief. But when he climbs back to the road, his car is gone, and in desperation he returns to the cabin. As the storm intensifies, these two lost souls are forced to wait it out together.

Deeply moving, frequently funny, The Remedy for Love is a story about the secrets revealed when there is no time or space for anything but the truth.

Review:  This is absolutely a departure from the typical types of books I’d pick up.  That made it hard for me to decide where I wanted to rate it.  Though a bit difficult to get into and figure out the flow of the writing style, it was a really well written book.  For that, I could have easily rated this higher.  But from a personal preference standpoint, there were things that I just wasn’t a fan of.

The difficulty to actually get into it was kind of a big one.  I came close to not finishing because of that and the fact that it seemed to move so slowly.  This is more of a cerebral type of read rather than a truly emotional one.  There is definitely emotion, but you have to connect with it from a more intellectual standpoint.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it just isn’t typically the type of book that I want to read.

I was really confused at lots of points because the writing left things feeling rather vague.  The reader was responsible for reading between the lines in a lot of places and it wasn’t always possible to really get the full gist of what the author was trying to convey.  While it left the door open for all kinds of possibilities, sometimes that was just too many variables.  At one point, with my twisted imagination, I had the heroine in the story fixed in my head as an abused spouse that broke and rather gruesomely murdered her husband.  We never really know if she is truly insane or just a little messed up.  There was just so much there that isn’t defined, leaving the potential for the reader to go off in a completely wrong direction and when they find out that it is wrong, struggling to get back on the correct path of the story.

Since I was reading the digital version, you can only assume that the end of the book is somewhere around the 100% mark.  So, I’m getting near the end, see I still have about 10% left of the book, turn the page and I’m at the acknowledgements.  Over and done and I have no clue how that happened.  I even went back thinking I did something weird to flip to the next page and jumped to the end.  Nope.  It just ended, at a really odd point, without any real resolution to several of the smaller, but still important plot lines that were developed in the rest of the story.  Sure, as a reader that leaves the ending up to your own imagination, but to me, that is less than satisfying.

With that lack of a solid ending and so much of the vagueness throughout the rest of the story, if I think back on it as a whole, it was actually kind of boring.  Sure there was drama and some heavy issues, but the lack of actual substance sort of negates that.

Will I read other books by this author?  Maybe.  If I’m in the mood to challenge and push my intellect.  Since I usually choose books for entertainment or emotional reasons, the chances of that just aren’t that high.

 

Deep: Stage Dive, Book 4

DeepAuthor: Kylie Scott
Book Name: Deep
Series: Stage Dive
Order: #4
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Positive. With two little lines on a pregnancy test, everything in Lizzy Rollins’ ordinary life is about to change forever. And all because of one big mistake in Vegas with Ben Nicholson, the irresistibly sexy bass player for Stage Dive. So what if Ben’s the only man she’s ever met who can make her feel completely safe, cherished, and out of control with desire at the same time? Lizzy knows the gorgeous rock star isn’t looking for anything more permanent than a good time, no matter how much she wishes differently.

Ben knows Lizzy is off limits. Completely and utterly. She’s his best friend’s little sister now, and no matter how hot the chemistry is between them, no matter how sweet and sexy she is, he’s not going to go there. But when Ben is forced to keep the one girl he’s always had a weakness for out of trouble in Sin City, he quickly learns that what happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay there.  Now he and Lizzie are connected in the deepest way possible…but will it lead to a connection of the heart?

Review:  This book pissed me off.  It is often a goal for authors to generate a strong emotional response to a book in their readers, but I doubt the goal is to generate that response with regards to one of your main romantic characters.

I did not like Ben.  He was a serious jackass with no redeeming qualities what-so-ever.  At first, he came across as a sort of quiet, but loyal guy that had loads of potential.  That lasted about 3 seconds and then you realize he is a self absorbed SOB.

The fact that Lizzy cannot seem to get enough of his BS ticked me off even more, which made it incredibly difficult for me to like her.  The fact that all we really get from her about her attraction to Ben is that he is tall, hot, has cool tats and is a rock god just makes it even worse.

It also drives me crazy when an author uses either character’s lust as an excuse for a lack of back bone and we see loads of it in this book.  Sorry guys, no sex is worth the emotional abuse that this guy is putting out.  It also doesn’t make it all okay when said jackass finally decides to say “I love you”.  Actions speak louder than words and I saw absolutely no actions to say that he is anything other than a complete jerk.

The book is far from all bad.  There are lots of places where the humor is awesome and Lizzy shows some spine, but just not enough.  I do have to give kudos to the rather hilarious, yet totally yuck birth scene.  That one got a few chuckles out of me and kept me from tossing the book across the room (which would have been really bad since it was on my Nexus).

Bad Nights: Rockfort Security, Book 1

Bad NightsAuthor: Rebecca York
Book Name: Bad Nights
Series: Rockfort Secruity
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:   You Only Get a Second Chance…

Private operative and former Navy SEAL Jack Brandt barely escaped a disastrous undercover assignment, thanks to the most intriguing woman he’s ever met. When his enemies track him to her doorstep, he’ll do anything to protect Morgan from the danger closing in on them both…

If You Stay Alive…

Since her husband’s death, Morgan Rains has only been going through the motions. She didn’t think anything could shock her—until she finds a gorgeous man stumbling naked and injured through the woods behind her house. He’s mysterious, intimidating—and undeniably compelling.

Thrown together into a pressure cooker of danger and intrigue, Jack and Morgan are finding in each other a reason to live—if they can survive.

Review: This entire story, plot, romance, everything was lukewarm at best.  There was so much that just didn’t mesh for me that I kept getting pulled out of the story with a “That would so never happen!” reaction and I struggled to get through the whole thing.

The romance part was totally unbelievable for me.  Even with the supposed intensity level of the situation, which there just wasn’t enough to justify the level of connection the story expects the readers to go for, I just cannot fathom any realistic level of trust, let alone affection or love that could have come from that situation in the incredibly short amount of time this story takes place in.  Morgan supposedly lost her husband a year and a half ago and is so broken by the loss that she is barely living, yet can absolutely and totally fall into love with a complete stranger in under 48 hours.  Not buying it.

The plot that the romance is supposed to be based on, while is kind of intense, has very little actual interaction and conversation between the characters or really any kind of situations that would truly force two people to trust each other they way this story wants you to believe.  There are a couple, but the very few that are there are also mostly counteracted with events that look untrustworthy.  Morgan is supposed to be a PhD in psychology, but comes across as gullible and really kind of stupid as everything that she is presented with gets a “Sure, okay” reaction from her.

Jack is a former Navy Seal, yet is so far from an actual badass that is is kind of funny.  The fact that he got caught, didn’t know he was being followed by people that end up looking like bumbling fools by the end of the book is ridiculous.  He comes across as being pretty stupid for someone that is supposed to have had some seriously elite military training.  You can’t just say someone is a Navy Seal in a book without backing that up with the actual talent and have the story work.

The author also committed a cardinal sin in my book with regards to a romance and allowed her characters to have unprotected sex (which I was kind of wondering why these parts were even in the story as they were far from steamy and really bland, more like filler).  Again, the characters didn’t even know each other for barely over a day and it wasn’t even discussed?  Hell, they weren’t even in the middle of crazy action and thinking they were going to die.  They had made it to a safe and secure location, there was nothing currently going on, yet they so didn’t even think about it.  Before or after.  Multiple times. Another example of them both being incredibly stupid characters.

Everything in this book felt forced and that the thoughts for the plot and romance of the story were far from fleshed out.  There was an awful lot of time spent with the bad guys and not much of that seemed all that relevant to the plot, again, filler. So yeah, I think that lukewarm is probably a compliment.

 

Garrett: Cold Fury, Book 2

GarrettAuthor: Sawyer Bennett
Book Name: Garrett
Series: Cold Fury
Order: #2
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:   Carolina Cold Fury star Garrett Samuelson never wants to miss out on a single minute of fun. Whether he’s playing hockey, hanging out with friends, or walking the red carpet with a new date on his arm, he lives every day to the fullest. When he meets Olivia Case, he sees someone who’s exactly his type—confident, sexy, smart . . . his next fling. But the more he pursues her, the more Garrett shares a side of himself that other women don’t normally get to see.

Olivia has been keeping a secret. While Garrett lives for the next thrill, Olivia’s not sure she’ll live to see the next day. She’s undergoing treatment for some serious medical issues, and she doesn’t have time for a relationship with no guarantees—especially one with a hot-as-sin womanizer who won’t take no for an answer. But as she gets to know the real Garrett, Olivia can’t help falling for him . . . hard. To reveal the truth would mean risking everything—but you can’t score without taking the tough shots.

Review:  This came across as a pretty new and fresh take on a romance story from the start.  I definitely got into it and believed the connection between the characters.  It absolutely tugged at me from an emotional standpoint.

But…  and I hate that there is a but because I did love the story… I felt a little let down at what ended up being a pretty standard break up/get back together ending.  I felt that since this had such a different vibe from the standard that it should have a non-standard ending.  The characters we see towards the end just don’t feel like the same amazing characters that I saw through the rest of the book.  All the emotional momentum that was built up through the rest of the story kind of popped like a balloon and was just gone at the very end.  There were so many possibilities for a unique ending with this story and we get the standard instead. *sigh*

Again, the story was really good until that point.  Even though it was standard, it was still good, but I had really expected more.

Cover Your Eyes: Mary Burton

Cover Your EyesAuthor: Mary Burton
Book Name: Cover Your Eyes
Series: Morgans of Nashville
Order: #1
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Don’t Look

At first, they struggle to escape. Then a torrent of blows rains down upon their bodies until their eyes cloud over in final agony. The killer shows no remorse–just a twisted need to witness each victim’s last terrified moments.

Don’t Speak

Public defender Rachel Wainwright is struggling to reopen a decades-old case, convinced that the wrong man is in prison. Homicide detective Deke Morgan doesn’t want to agree. But if Rachel’s hunch is correct, whoever fatally bludgeoned young, beautiful Annie Dawson thirty years ago could be the source of a new string of brutal slayings.

Just Prepare To Die

Rachel’s investigation is about to reveal answers–but at a price she never thought to pay. Now she’s become the target of a rage honed by years of jealousy and madness. And a murderer is ready to show her just how vicious the truth can be. . .

Review:  This was a seriously intense read with lots of twisty and unexpected turns that left me constantly trying to guess where it was going to go next.  There were lots of different characters and it got confusing a couple of times, but there really weren’t any that didn’t end up being important in one way or another to the story.

Both Rachel and Deke were very well written characters.  Both having their own issues, neither being perfect, but they were both solid in the characters that were created for them.  While the romance between the two was far from the focus, it was given just the right amount of attention without taking shortcuts and giving it the quick, perfect, hearts and flowers ending in the last couple of pages.  It deals with their interest in each other and their willingness to explore that, but doesn’t force the idea that it was a romance story perfect relationship.  It showed the potential for a great relationship that was different and special, but it was also very real.

In the end, we do get a lot of the bad guy giving it all up kind of a situation, but not every last crumb of the mystery was resolved in those moments.  Some came earlier from good old fashioned observation and smarts, some came in the big reveal and some was shown to be discovered by connecting some of those loose strings after the fact, so it makes the revelation scenario a bit more believable.

Just really enjoyed this one all around.

Forbidden Highlander: Dark Sword, Book 2

Forbidden HighlanderAuthor: Donna Grant
Book Name: Forbidden Highlander
Series: Dark Sword
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Fallon McLeod has gifts any warrior would covet—fierce strength, unmatched skill, even immortality. But those gifts have come at a price that puts everyone he loves at risk. Only when his brother, Quinn, is taken captive does Fallon leave the seclusion of his Highland home to seek the king’s aid. And though every woman at court would gladly be his for the asking, one alone causes desire to roar to life within him: beautiful, mysterious Larena Monroe.

Rumors swirl around the castle about “The McLeod” but Larena knows the truth. Like Fallon, Larena is searching for a way to vanquish the evil Druid who wants to wreak havoc on earth. Drawn to Fallon in spite of her fear, she surrenders to a passion that shocks them both with its raw intensity. But Larena dares not hope for more—not when she holds a secret that could turn her fiery Highland love against her forever…

Review:  As with the first book, it came across as a pretty decent story, but honestly?  Nothing that was all that special or knocked my socks off.  The characters in this book seemed a bit wishy washy and not that solid, so I didn’t get that into them.  For me, this really was just an okay read.  I am planning on reading the next one because this one left a whole lot open, but after that I’m not sure I’ll read more.

 

Never More: Gray Court, Book 6

Never MoreAuthor: Dana Marie Bell
Book Name: Never More
Series: Gray Court
Order: #6
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Amanda Pierson’s long-overdue holiday at the Dunne farm unexpectedly turns into a working vacation when she’s roped into throwing together a last-minute dream wedding for Michaela Exton and Robin Goodfellow. No biggie for one of the best party planners at Fantasy Events, Inc., right?

Right.

A monkey wrench lands with a thud when the groom’s son—who’s been watching her every move—declares they were meant to be together. Raven Goodfellow is everything she doesn’t want in a lover. Brash, bold and goth. Yet there’s something almost…magical about their attraction.

The moment Raven saw Amanda’s picture, he had suspicions. Now that he’s seen her in person, he’s certain. She is his truebond, though it will take a delicate, feather-light touch to bring her into his world.

Love takes wing faster than a bird in flight. But when the Dark Queen sends agents to destroy him, Raven finds himself in a desperate fight to protect all he holds dear…or the Dark Queen may succeed where so many others have failed.

Review:  Never More is another fun, sexy addition to the Gray Court series.  Both Raven and Amanda are quirky and playful and you can’t help but grin at their punny banter.

As with other Gray Court books in the series, we still get time with some of our other favorite characters, though I think I would have liked a little more time with Raven and Amanda rather than quite so much focus on the other characters.

This one also left me feeling as though it was really kind of unfinished.  The major dramatic parts, especially towards the end, felt a little flat, especially when compared to some of the other books.  By the time I got to the epilogue, I was thinking “That’s it?” because there were some major plot pieces that were totally left open.

So, while I did enjoy this book, it isn’t my favorite of the series so far.

 

Night Huntress: Otherworld, Book 5

Night HuntressAuthor: Yasmine Galenorn
Book Name: Night Huntress
Series: Otherworld
Order: #5
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  We’re the D’Artigo sisters: sexy, savvy operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. But being half-human, half-Fae means our supernatural talents always go haywire at the wrong time. My sister Camille is a wicked good witch who attracts men like honey attracts flies. Menolly’s a vampire who’s still getting the hang of being undead. And me? I’m Delilah, a werecat who’s been marked by the Autumn Lord as one of his Death Maidens. And wouldn’t you know it, Karvanak–the demon general who stole the third Spirit Seal–is back.  And this time, he’s out for blood…

The Hags of Fate enjoy seeing me squirm.  First, my boyfriend, Chase, mutters another woman’s name in his sleep.  Then I discover the Autumn Lord has a very special plan for me.  But things go from bad to deadly when Karvanak–the Rāksasa–returns.  In order to get his greedy hands on both the fourth Spirit Seal and his former associate, Vanzir, he kidnaps Chase. Now, we have to find a way to rescue the man I love without risking the safety of both Otherworld and Earth…

Review:  I finally had to drop my rating for one of the books in this series because all the things that bothered me in the first few books are still there and absolutely aren’t improving.  Mainly, the utter lack of ability to connect to the characters with regards to their romantic relationships.

It just isn’t all that entertaining to read a story that is supposed to have a romantic aspect to it and have that romance entail the main connection not only cheat, but lie about it completely, then admit that he just felt like it (and for no other reason than that he is a pig), then have the woman pretty much shrug and say “Okay, I forgive you”.  No matter if the “culture” is all about open relationships.

I have no problems what-so-ever with stories about poly or multi-partner relationships.  I don’t even have problems with stories about casual relationships.  But I’m just not buying the openness that is supposed to be a part of the fae culture that the main characters are from.  Not the way it is being written.  It just does not come of as genuine.  I haven’t felt it in the other stories, but this one was the absolute worst.  Openness does not equate a lack of respect for the parties involved in the relationship and that that lack of respect is okay.

Really, the whole relationship part of this book kind of killed what I liked about the rest of it because it was just so incredibly off for me I couldn’t get past it.  Honestly, it was enough that I really should probably even give it a lower review than I did.

I don’t know if I will bother with any of the other books in the series if this is what I have to look forward to.  Yes, I want to read about all the mystical parts of the story as well, but if I dislike so much of the rest of the book, then it becomes a chore rather than a pleasure to read.

 

I’ll Find You: Nancy Bush

I'll Find YouAuthor: Nancy Bush
Book Name: I’ll Find You
Series: **
Order: **
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb: Only Killing Stops The Pain. . .

Callie Cantrell has only fragmented memories of the car accident that killed her husband and son. One year later, she’s still trying to start over, yet she can’t shake her unease. Especially when former LA cop West Laughlin barges into her life, searching for his young nephew. At first he thinks Callie’s lying about who she is and what she knows. But soon it’s clear that Callie and West are linked by a killer who has bent others to his twisted will. The worst night of Callie’s life was just the beginning of his vengeance. And when her turn comes again there will be no escape. . .

Review:  For the most part, this was a pretty good book.  The balance between the suspense and the romance was well done and the storyline itself was interesting enough to keep the pages turning.

That said, there were a couple of things that were irritating enough that it dragged me out of what I was reading long enough for me to lose the flow a few times.

The first one wasn’t huge, but considering it got my brain going along that path rather than where the story was supposed to take me was enough to mention it.  That is the huge number of personal connections between the various different characters and the possibility that things could have actually played out the way they did.  In most cases, the meetings that happened between characters, while hugely coincidental, were mostly justified, even if we didn’t figure out that justification right away.  I was able to get my brain past thinking, “Well, that was convenient” most of the time, but the final straw came at the very end.  No matter how well explained all the other potential meets came out, the last connection was so not realistic, especially with all the other connections in the story that it kind of killed it for me at that point.

Also, not a huge fan of the bad guy(s) spilling their guts at the end to explain everything in the last 15% of the book.  No matter how inventive or creative you get in the rest of the story, I tend to lose a bit of respect for the creativity if that is how things get wrapped up, no matter how you get those character’s to spill.  It is taking the easy way out.

Finally, this book hit on one of my peeves in writing.  It had a huge, glaring, neon sign contradictory back story for one of the big baddies.  I knew I’d read one thing early on and then read something totally different later.  At first, I thought maybe what I’d read actually applied to another character, then decided to go dig to make sure I wasn’t completely losing my mind (thank goodness I was reading on my Nexus and could search out terms to find what I was looking for).  Sure enough, early on in the book, the bad guy supposedly whacked his abusive dad on the head with a rock and then drown him when he was 9, followed by the mom pretty much wasting away after the death.  Then, towards the end, the same character supposedly had that same dad, who was apparently loved by lots and lots of women along with the mother (so not the image of a vicious abusive ass) die of cancer when he was 16 and then kept in contact with the mother until her own death much more recently.

No, neither back story was really critical to the plot of the story, but it was supposed to help explain a bit of the crazy for this particular bad guy, which in the end didn’t actually matter at all and could have been left out entirely.  The fact that it was not only not cut, but not caught was seriously annoying as it totally pulled me out of the story to go fact checking.  After that, little things bugged me even more, like the personal connections, and I ended up not liking the book as well as I could have, because other than those things, it was a good book.

Trailer Park Fae: Gallow and Ragged , Book 1

Trailer Park FaeAuthor: Lilith St. Crow
Book Name: Trailer Park Fae
Series: Gallow and Ragged
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like/DNF
2+stars

 

Blurb: Jeremiah Gallow is just another construction worker, and that’s the way he likes it. He’s left his past behind, but some things cannot be erased. Like the tattoos on his arms that transform into a weapon, or that he was once closer to the Queen of Summer than any half-human should be. Now the half-sidhe all in Summer once feared is dragged back into the world of enchantment, danger, and fickle fae – by a woman who looks uncannily like his dead wife. Her name is Robin, and her secrets are more than enough to get them both killed. A plague has come, the fullborn-fae are dying, and the dark answer to Summer’s Court is breaking loose.
Be afraid, for Unwinter is riding…

Review:  I could not force myself to finish this.  The writing style came across as someone with grandiose plans of writing high literary fiction.  Considering that is not at all what is expected when reading the blurb, it was incredibly disappointing.  Most people pick books like this up to read for entertainment, not a reminder of high school English and the Shakespeare unit they had to plow through.

The vague and archaic style that this book was entirely written in made reading it a chore rather than a joy.  If I have to spend tons of time while reading a few sentences to try and decipher the meaning, and even then it is only a guess, then it is a complete waste of that time.  Again, I’m reading for entertainment, not a class credit.

Whiskey and Wry: Sinners , Book 2

Whiskey and WryAuthor: Rhys Ford
Book Name: Whiskey and Wry
Series: Sinners
Order: #2
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: He was dead. And it was murder most foul. If erasing a man’s existence could even be called murder.

When Damien Mitchell wakes, he finds himself without a life or a name. The Montana asylum’s doctors tell him he’s delusional and his memories are all lies: he’s really Stephen Thompson, and he’d gone over the edge, obsessing about a rock star who died in a fiery crash. His chance to escape back to his own life comes when his prison burns, but a gunman is waiting for him, determined that neither Stephen Thompson nor Damien Mitchell will escape.

With the assassin on his tail, Damien flees to the City by the Bay, but keeping a low profile is the only way he’ll survive as he searches San Francisco for his best friend, Miki St. John. Falling back on what kept him fed before he made it big, Damien sings for his supper outside Finnegan’s, an Irish pub on the pier, and he soon falls in with the owner, Sionn Murphy. Damien doesn’t need a complication like Sionn, and to make matters worse, the gunman—who doesn’t mind going through Sionn or anyone else if that’s what it takes kill Damien—shows up to finish what he started.

Review:  This is actually the first book in the series that I read (silly me didn’t realize there was one before this… sheesh!), but I didn’t end up feeling lost.  There were a few bits that it probably would have helped to have already read, but it wasn’t enough to take away from me being able to sink down deep into the story.

I really enjoyed this one quite a bit.  It was a tad crazy on the… well… crazy that was coming after our main character, Damien.  That dude was just seriously sick.  I probably could have done with a little less of that brand of crazy, but it still fit into the storyline pretty well.  I do think a bit more focus on the romantic aspects rather than the crazy might have fixed a couple of issues I had later in the story.

Both Damien and Sionn started out as really intriguing characters and I was drawn to them both right away.  I kind of lost that connection with Damien later in the story for some reason, though.  I totally got Sionn and felt his emotional connection to Damien, but lost something of that connection on Damien’s side.  It felt a little lacking.  It wasn’t a lot and it didn’t keep me from still enjoying the characters, I just think I needed to see more from Damien.

This was definitely a read that kept me really involved in the story the whole way through.

 

Where Secrets Sleep: Marta Perry

Where Secrets SleepAuthor: Marta Perry
Book Name: Where Secrets Sleep
Series: **
Order: **
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb: In small town Laurel Ridge, not everything is as simple as it appears

After a terrible betrayal, Allison Standish flees Philadelphia for the small Amish village of Laurel Ridge to claim an unexpected inheritance. Allison intends to sell the mansion housing various shops on Main Street–until she meets Nick Whiting, a single father and tenant of Blackburn House, who challenges everything she believes about her estranged grandmother and the Amish community.

Strange stipulations in her grandmother’s will soon bring distant relatives and seething townsfolk to Allison’s door. As anonymous threats escalate, Nick grows protective of Allison, and she finds herself falling for the handsome carpenter… But then she discovers her grandmother’s death may not have been accidental, and someone wants Allison gone. Permanently.

Review: I really wasn’t jazzed by this book.  While the basic story with regards to the mystery/suspense part of the book was pretty well done, it totally lacked the support of the romance aspect of it.  That came across as something of an afterthought on the author’s part.  You would be reading along and getting into the story and then it was as if the author remembered that this was also supposed to be a romance and threw those characters together for a brief moment before getting back to business.

I don’t need a book to have loads of steamy for me to classify it as a romance, but you absolutely need more personal interaction than a few tiny kisses here and there for me to believe the emotion behind a relationship.  You definitely need more than a few hours together over a few weeks for me to believe that your characters are deeply, emotionally connected to each other no matter what else may be going on in the story.  Heck, even if those personal interactions are just conversations and time spent doing anything together, it works way better than the effort that was put into this.

I used to really love the mystery genre, but I haven’t been all that interested lately.  I picked this up because I  wanted something different for a change.  The potential for a good mystery romance seemed to be just want I was looking for.  Since the romance totally fell flat for me, I hoped I’d get a lot more out of the mystery aspect of the story.  While it was decent, it wasn’t awesome and definitely didn’t make up for the missing romance.  Besides, there are only so many times when the bad guy spills his guts at the end to wrap everything up nicely in a bow before it becomes a cookie cutter ending to a mystery and leaves the reader half expecting to here “… darn meddling kids!”

 

The Magpie Lord: A Charm of Magpies , Book 1

The Magpie LordAuthor: KJ Charles
Book Name: The Magpie Lord
Series: A Charm of Magpies
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb: Exiled to China for twenty years, Lucien Vaudrey never planned to return to England. But with the mysterious deaths of his father and brother, it seems the new Lord Crane has inherited an earldom. He’s also inherited his family’s enemies. He needs magical assistance, fast. He doesn’t expect it to turn up angry.

Magician Stephen Day has good reason to hate Crane’s family. Unfortunately, it’s his job to deal with supernatural threats. Besides, the earl is unlike any aristocrat he’s ever met, with the tattoos, the attitude…and the way Crane seems determined to get him into bed. That’s definitely unusual.

Soon Stephen is falling hard for the worst possible man, at the worst possible time. But Crane’s dangerous appeal isn’t the only thing rendering Stephen powerless. Evil pervades the house, a web of plots is closing round Crane, and if Stephen can’t find a way through it—they’re both going to die.

Warning: Contains hot m/m sex between a deeply inappropriate earl and a very confused magician, dark plots in a magical version of Victorian England, family values (not the good kind), and a lot of swearing.

Review:  The irreverence in the attitude of the characters in this book charmed me from the very beginning.  I couldn’t help but love them.  Toss in a really fun magical twist and I was sold.

I loved how the story and plot were a huge focus in this with the flirting and romance being twisted in elegantly along the way.  It wasn’t too heavy or too light on either side, both being well crafted and executed.

This was an incredibly entertaining read and I’m hooked in to grab the next book as soon as possible.

 

 

 

The Cake Therapist: Judith Fertig

The Cake TherapistAuthor: Judith Fertig
Book Name: The Cake Therapist
Series: **
Order: **
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Claire “Neely” O’Neil is a pastry chef of extraordinary talent. Every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, but Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss.

Maybe that’s why she feels the need to go home to Millcreek Valley at a time when her life seems about to fall apart. The bakery she opens in her hometown is perfect, intimate, just what she’s always dreamed of—and yet, as she meets her new customers, Neely has a sense of secrets, some dark, some perhaps with tempting possibilities. A recurring flavor of alarming intensity signals to her perfect palate a long-ago story that must be told.

Neely has always been able to help everyone else. Getting to the end of this story may be just what she needs to help herself.

Review:  When I read the blurb for this I was intrigued.  The concept sounded like something new and incredibly interesting.  Come on, cake!  How can that not be interesting!  Sadly, the cake descriptions were probably the best parts of the book.

It felt like I was constantly waiting for something to happen.  When is the romance going to come into the story?  It IS marked as a romance (double checked other places than my library to be sure).  I was also constantly looking for a little bit more detail on Neely’s talent or what was actually going on with her life and why she moved back home or… on anything that WASN’T about cake.

By the end of the book, I was still waiting.  We did finally learn the reason for her to move and start up her business, but that issue wasn’t actually resolved.  There was a brief conversation that makes you think you know but no actual action taken towards that end.  We got a few more details about the talent that is really just the fact that she has a psychic ability that is apparently tied to flavors (which I still think is a really awesome concept, it just wasn’t fully fleshed out), but… isn’t always apparently.  Again, still not totally clear as there just wasn’t any background at all on it.

I was also still waiting for what classified this book as a romance.  If you want to call very, very brief hints and a small reveal of a bad marriage and a light interest in another person a romance, then I think it is time to rethink that because this just wasn’t a romance.

This book had so much potential, but I don’t think it lived up to it.  I probably could have given it a 4 star for creativity, but there was very little substance.  If you want a food analogy to go along with the cake, it was kind of like eating cotton candy.  Heavy on the sweet, gone in a second and left wondering what happened, and not very satisfied.

Dangerous Highlander: Dark Sword, Book 1

Dangerous HighlanderAuthor: Donna Grant
Book Name: Dangerous Highlander
Series: Dark Sword
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb: The bold and passionate Lucan MacLeod—one of three brothers cursed by dark magic for eternity—is driven by desire for the one woman he dare not let himself possess…

He is magnificently strong—and dangerously seductive. One of the fiercest of his clan, Lucan MacLeod is a legend among warriors, inspiring fear in man and woman alike. For three hundred years, he has locked himself away from the world, hiding the vengeful god imprisoned in his soul. But then, a young lass caught in a raging storm awakens his deepest impulses…and darkest desires.

Cara doesn’t believe the rumors about the MacLeod castle—until the majestic Highland warrior appears like a fiery vision in the storm, pulling her into his powerful arms, and into his world of magic and Druids. An epic war between good and evil is brewing. And Lucan must battle his all-consuming attraction for Cara—or surrender to the flames of a reckless, impossible love that threatens to destroy them both…

Review: This has the look and feel of the standard historical romance with the slight paranormal twist.  Sadly, that twist is, at its base, so very similar to another series that I read a few years ago.  For me, because I read that other series first, and liked it, it was hard to get over feeling like it was that same thing with some basic differences.

I did enjoy the story on its own and the characters were very well done.  Cara pushes the helpless boundaries, but doesn’t cross them as she does end up learning to fight for herself.

I wasn’t all that jazzed about the fact that it was glossed over about the fact that Cara was mortal and Lucan wasn’t.  It was definitely discussed, but in the end, while they get their HEA, there is no explanation as to if or how that issue is overcome.  It is possible that it will be addressed in later books, but I just didn’t really like that it was an issue that was left hanging.

This was a good story that probably could have gotten a 4 star rating if I wasn’t so stuck on similarities to another series.

Song of Midnight Embers: Maggie’s Grove, Book 4

Song of Midnight EmbersAuthor: Dana Marie Bell
Book Name: Song of Midnight Embers
Series: Maggie’s Grove
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: Fire elemental Mollie Ferguson is on the wrong side of a group of enraged shifter wolves. She’s been secretly investigating a plot that could destroy the small-town supernatural haven of Maggie’s Grove. But when a beloved pack member is killed, everyone thinks she’s the murderer. In desperation, she turns to the one person who will help her–the true mate she rejected. His presence rekindles an old, irresistible desire, and makes her wish she’d chosen differently.

Without Mollie as his lover, the dryad Greer Berkley is dying, the leaves of his birch turning to autumn shades. But he will not allow himself to fade until he has ensured Mollie’s safety. All know Greer as a healer, but few know the true depth of his power as a defender.

Greer and Mollie must complete her investigation and clear her name before the pack demands vengeance. And if they are to know each other’s touch at last, the only chance is now, before it’s too late for Greer.

Review:  Another really good one for this series.  One of the things I like about these books is that the characters are seriously quirky and fun even in the midst of all the crazy that goes on around them.  This book is no exception.

It is possible that Greer is my favorite character in this series.  His sense of humor and play is endearing and contagious.  I wasn’t as big of a fan of the back and forth doubts between him and Mollie, but that didn’t seem to last too long so it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the book.

I’d definitely like to see an end to the demon involvement and have something a bit new for the characters of Maggie’s Grove to deal with for a change, but it looks like it is something that may be there for the long haul of the series.

 

Peeves: Unlabeled Genres

There isn’t much that is more frustrating when reading a book, and about a 1/3 of the way into it, you realize the book isn’t what you expected because it was missing genre labels.  This is something that has happened quite a lot recently, though, after a tiny bit of research, I think I have to lay this particular peeve squarely on my library’s shoulders.

My library tends to omit genre labels on an awful lot of their books.  At first, I thought that was because for some reason, the publishers or those marketing the books left those labels off in an effort to gain a larger readership as some labels will keep someone from picking the book up in the first place.  But after looking at a few specific books that were missing labels at the library, Amazon had them notated correctly, so it probably isn’t anyone’s fault but the library.  The three biggest labels they tend to leave off are Young Adult, LGBT and Christian.

The LGBT label missing is frustrating because that is a genre I read and I may miss a book that I might want to read because that label isn’t there.  Honestly, if someone isn’t going to pick up a book with the LGBT tag, then they are probably the type that is going to be pretty ticked to get into the book and realize what the subject actually is.  Leaving it off is just as likely to keep readers away from it as they are to bring them in.

Both the missing labels for Young Adult and Christian tick me off because I’m just not interested in either of those genres.  The only YA books that I enjoy are those by authors that I already love, and even then it is a stretch, so I generally don’t want to pick up a YA book unless I’ve specifically looked for it.  The Christian books are much the same, but more so because I honestly don’t enjoy any book preaching to me, no matter the subject.  Since there is a specific genre for this, it should be labeled as such.  And yes, my library does have this as one of their labels, they just don’t always use it.  Same as all the others.

It gets frustrating when I feel like I’ve wasted time reading a part of a book that I picked up based on the information I had from both the genre labels and the blurbs only to find out it so wasn’t what I was expecting.  It isn’t often that I will finish books that weren’t properly labeled.  Even the times that I’ve forced myself to plow through them, I normally don’t even like what I’ve read by the time I’ve finished.

I like it even less that I now feel like I need to look up a book in multiple places to ensure that what I think the book is, actually is.  Maybe by taking the time to do this I’ll read less books that I don’t like and more that I do.

Lord of the Fading Lands: Tairen Soul, Book 1

Lord of the Fading LandsAuthor: C. L. Wilson
Book Name: Lord of the Fading Lands
Series: Tairen Soul
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb: Once he had scorched the world.

Once he had driven back overwhelming darkness.

Once he had loved with such passion, his name was legend. . .

Long ago, in the magical holocaust known as the Mage Wars, the immortal Fey and their allies fought to defeat the grasping evil of the Elden Mages and their dark-gifted supporters. During those wars, in a fit of grief-induced madness caused by the death of his mate, Fey shapeshifter Rain Tairen Soul nearly destroyed the world in a blaze of tairen fire.

Now, a thousand years later, the fierce Fey king must fight to save his race from the brink of extinction and once again stop the evil rising in the homeland of his enemies, the Eld. The key to his success lies in the mortal city of Celieria, where the Mage Wars began, and with a young woman whose soul sings to him in ways no woman’s ever has, whose presence reawakens the primal fury of the tairen within his soul, and whose vast, untapped power can either save or destroy him and his people.

Review:  This is the first book that was new to me that I’ve been willing to give a full 5 star rating to in a very long time.  I was completely stuck from the very beginning.

The characters were all excellent with lots of depth and intricacies in their personalities to make them the kinds of characters you just want more from, not just the main characters.

Ellysetta is very much on the innocent side and doesn’t fall into the stereotypes that end up feeling simpering, because while she may lack world experience, she does not lack a backbone.  We don’t see lots of it here, but enough to know that it is just going to get better as she becomes more of how she needs to be.  She is so not a Cinderella character.  She could have been, but she was written so much better than that.

Rain, is definitely your tortured soul who has suffered more than his fair share, but it is great to see how that begins to open back up as the story goes along.  There isn’t any one magical moment that fixes him.  He has to grow and relearn what it means to care again.

I even really loved most of Ellysetta’s guards and their very different personalities.  Heck, even the bad guys are really well done.

No, not totally thrilled that this is one of those stories that does not, in any way, end at the end of the book.  It does carry on to the next.  But… this was so incredibly well written it didn’t even put a dent in the 5 star placement this so well deserves.

 

Acrobat, Mary Calmes

AcrobatAuthor: Mary Calmes
Book Name: Acrobat
Series: **
Order: **
Genre: LGBT/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: Forty-five-year-old English professor Nathan Qells is very good at making people feel important. What he’s not very good at is sticking around afterward. He’s a nice guy; he just doesn’t feel things the way other people do. So even after all the time he’s spent taking care of Michael, the kid across the hall, he doesn’t realize that Michael’s mob muscle uncle and guardian, Andreo Fiore, has slowly been falling in love with him.

 

Dreo has bigger problems than getting Nate to see him as a potential partner. He’s raising his nephew, trying to leave his unsavory job, and starting his own business, a process made infinitely more difficult when a series of hits takes out some key underworld players. Still, Dreo is determined to build a life he can be proud of—a life with Nate as a cornerstone. A life that is starting to look like exactly what Nate has been seeking. Unfortunately for Dreo—and for Nate—the last hits were just part of a major reorganization, and Dreo’s obvious love for Nate has made him a target too.

Review:  Totally enjoyed this one.  Of all the various LGBT romance books I’ve read, especially in the MM genre, this has got to be one of the better ones.  The author took the time to focus on all aspects of the story, plot, characters, dialog, scenes… everything.  And it shows.

I was so completely engrossed in this story that, while reading late into the night, hours has passed before I realized how late it had gotten.  This is not something that happens to me very often, and while reading a romance of any kind, even less often.

While Nate is kind of too perfect, he is still such an awesome character that you can’t help but love him.  I was a little iffy on Dreo at first, but really got hooked on him before too long as well.

I also really like that while this was a pretty warm and sweet story, it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine perfection.  It was close, but had just enough of the tough stuff to make it more real.

I will absolutely be picking up other books from this same author in the future.