Book Review – Tuesday’s Child: Psychic Visions, Book 1

Author: Dale Mayer
Book Name: Tuesday’s Child
Series: Psychic Visions
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Paranormal
Rating:  Okay/Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:

What she doesn’t want…is exactly what he needs.

Shunned and ridiculed all her life for something she can’t control, Samantha Blair hides her psychic abilities and lives on the fringes of society. Against her will, however, she’s tapped into a killer—or rather, his victims. Each woman’s murder, blow-by-blow, ravages her mind until their death releases her back to her body. Sam knows she must go to the authorities, but will the rugged, no-nonsense detective in charge of tracking down the killer believe her?

Detective Brandt Sutherland only trusts hard evidence, yet Sam’s visions offer clues he needs to catch a killer. The more he learns about her incredible abilities, however, the clearer it becomes that Sam’s visions have put her in the killer’s line of fire. Now Brandt must save her from something he cannot see or understand…and risk losing his heart in the process.

As danger and desire collide, passion raises the stakes in a game Sam and Brandt don’t dare lose.

I have really mixed feelings about this one. I love the basic concept this story is built on, but there are things about it that I really struggled with when it came to overcoming disbelief. Sure, as a paranormal book, that is kind of a requirement, but there still has to be a way for the reader to believe the events/scenarios are possible in the world that is created.

The first issue I had wasn’t with the visions Sam has, but with the physical manifestation of those visions in such a way that make this more than just a paranormal concept. The physical, mortal wounds that miraculously heal within minutes was a really hard one to swallow because there is no logic or explanation given to make it a believable concept. If this were a full on fantasy, it could be because of some magical component or a natural aspect of some fantastical being, but that isn’t the case here. Sam is just a human with psychic abilities, yet has this other seemingly miraculous additional ability. As a reader, you are just required to completely accept it as fact without question.

There are also parts that seem oddly out of place or that feel like they weren’t fully fleshed out. One example would be when Sam’s coworkers found out about her abilities. It was mentioned, the reader is told they talked but isn’t given any details of the conversation, just that every single person just went about it like it was no big deal and Sam is totally accepted by every one of them and everything is fine. No real tension or doubt, no real questioning of her abilities. Just “Oh, you’re psychic. Okay.” Several of the conversations and emotional situations throughout the book are handled in a similar way making it really difficult to believe the emotions of Sam or Brandt. The reader is given a small sentence or two of information and expected to just accept it at that face value.

Those things made it harder to sink into the rest of the book leaving me with kind of a “meh” reaction to the whole. It does appear that this book has the lowest rating of all the others in the series, so I’m willing to give the next one a try to see if those things are handled better because I do still really like the basic psychic concept that seems to be the foundation for this series.

Book Review – Why We Fight: At First Sight, Book 4

Author: TJ Klune
Book Name: Why We Fight
Series: At First Sight
Order: #4
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb:

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Corey Ellis sure doesn’t. Oh, everyone around him seems to have found their happy ending, but he’s far too busy to worry about such things. He’ll have plenty of time for romance after he survives his last summer before graduation. So what if he can’t get his former professor, Jeremy Olsen, out of his head? It’s just hero worship. And that’s the way it should stay.

Except that this summer, bigender Corey—aka Kori—is interning at Phoenix House, a LGBTQI youth center that recently hired an interim director. And because life is extraordinarily unfair, the director just so happens to be a certain former professor, now current boss.

Desperate to keep things professional as he and Jeremy grow closer, Corey makes a major mistake: he turns to his friends, Paul Auster and Sanford Stewart, for help.

But Paul and Sandy have some ideas of their own.

Set in the summer of 2016, Why We Fight is a celebration of queer life and being true to oneself… no matter the cost.

I was so excited to see this one was coming out, it went on preorder for me the moment I saw it was available. As always, TJ Klune is a master at over the top, ridiculous humor threaded through with weightier, heartfelt emotions.

You absolutely get classic TJ Klune snark in this book, but you also get more of the deep, insightful aspects as well. There are points, though not a lot, that are heavy in social commentary about the LGBTQIA community and the current political climate (or where we were in 2016), but it doesn’t ever delve into ugliness, only focusing on the stronger, more positive aspects of being yourself and fighting for your right to be that self. In a way, that is kind of what the whole book is about, but it’s mostly done through the lens of the developing relationship between Corey/Kori and Jeremy.

Corey’s/Kori’s character was also a part of the Bear, Otter and the Kid series. I think of all the books in the At First Sight series, this one reminds me more of BOatK because it does ride the balance closer to the heavy emotions side of things rather than the humor side, as most of the other AFS books seem to do (though they also have that emotional side and is why I love them so much).

I think the end of a deeply loved series is always going to have those heart tugging emotions because you know you won’t get any more from those characters. I love the fact that this book brought on the happy tears with the crazy humor, though I really, really wasn’t ready to let go of all the amazing characters in this one. Honestly, I want to be an Auster. Everyone needs a family like that.

 

 

Book Review – Phoenix Unbound: The Fallen Empire, Book 1

Author: Grace Draven
Book Name: Phoenix Unbound
Series: The Fallen Kingdom
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital–her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion–and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will abandon everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more

It took me a while to get through this, but I’m pretty sure that is just because my brain has been utterly scattered lately. There are a few parts, mostly towards the middle, where this slowed down for me, but I easily got back into it once I got over that tiny hump.

In all, I really liked this story and the characters. While it carries a thread of never ending obstacles or impossible odds, I was pleased with how the story wrapped up in the end because I really wasn’t certain how everything would play out. I will definitely be watching for the next book in this series.

Book Review – Playing With Fire: Magical Romantic Comedies, Book 1

Author: R.J. Blain
Book Name: Playing With Fire
Series: Magical Romantic Comedies
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/Paranormal/Urban/Fantasy
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:

What do you get when you mix gorgons, an incubus, and the Calamity Queen? Trouble, and lots of it.

For Bailey, catering to the magical is a tough gig on a good day, but she has few other options. She can either keep spiking drinks with pixie dust to keep the locals happy, or spend the rest of her life cleaning up some of the world’s nastiest magical substances.

Years after helping Police Chief Samuel Quinn escape an unhappy marriage, Bailey is once again entangled in his personal affairs. To make matters worse, Quinn’s ex-wife is angling for revenge, tossing Bailey into the deep end along with her sexiest enemy.

Warning: This novel contains excessive humor, action, excitement, adventure, magic, romance, and bodies. Proceed with caution.

This was full of snark and humor in an over the top kind of way, but knowing it was over the top makes most of the ridiculous even more funny. It never really settles into any level of serious, maintaining that crazy, snarky vein throughout the entire book.

It takes a slightly different perspective from the typical in the magical and creature concepts that fantasy/paranormal worlds are built on, which I found really refreshing. By the time I got to the end of this, I was really wishing it delved a bit more into that world because it was different and interesting.

This was also very light on the steam factor, so if that is what you are looking for, you won’t get it here. Nothing at all against steamy, but I did love that there wasn’t so much page time dedicated to overly wrought steam scenes because it left more time for snark and ridiculousness and frickin’ flaming unicorns that think napalm is fun to eat. In this case, I’ll take the flaming unicorns.

Book Review – Upside Down, N.R. Walker

Author: N.R. Walker
Book Name: Upside Down
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/MM
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: Jordan O’Neill isn’t a fan of labels, considering he has a few. Gay, geek, a librarian, socially awkward, a nervous rambler, an introvert, an outsider. The last thing he needs is one more. But when he realizes adding the label ‘asexual’ might explain a lot, it turns his world upside down.

Hennessy Lang moved to Surry Hills after splitting with his boyfriend. His being asexual had seen the end of a lot of his romances, but he’s determined to stay true to himself. Leaving his North Shore support group behind, he starts his own in Surry Hills, where he meets first-time-attendee Jordan.

A little bewildered and scared, but completely adorable, Hennessy is struck by this guy who’s trying to find where he belongs. Maybe Hennessy can convince Jordan that his world hasn’t been turned upside down at all, but maybe it’s now—for the first time in his life—the right way up.

This was cute and sweet and seriously funny. One of those warm, fuzzy reads. Come one, who isn’t going to crack up at the perfect visual of “feline buttholitis of the face.” Both of the main characters were adorable, but I really loved Jordan.

I think the only reason I’m not giving this the full five stars is because it does ride that line of being syrupy, perfect sweet, but it is still a really awesome book and is exactly what I was in the mood for.

Circle of the Moon: Soulwood, Book 4

Author:  Faith Hunter
Book Name: Circle of the moon
Series: Soulwood
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb: Nell can draw magic from the land around her, and lately she’s been using it to help the Psy-Law Enforcement Division, which solves paranormal crimes. Joining the team at PsyLED has allowed her to learn more about her powers and the world she always shunned–and to find true friends.

Head agent Rick LaFleur shifts into a panther when the moon calls him, but this time, something has gone wrong. Rick calls Nell from a riverbank–he’s naked, with no memory of how he came to be there, and there’s a dead black cat, sacrificed in a witch circle and killed by black magic, lying next to him.

Then more animals turn up dead, and team rushes to investigate. A blood-witch is out to kill. But when it seems as if their leader is involved in the crime, the bonds that hold the team together could shatter at any moment.

One of the best days ever is release day for a new book in a favorite series. Yesterday did not disappoint.

I cannot state it strongly enough, but I LOVE this world. Every single thing about it. I love it even more that there are two distinct but tightly intertwined threads, the original Jane Yellowrock series and Soulwood. Technically, you do not have to read the Yellowrock series to be able to read and follow the Soulwood series, but you will miss out on some really important nuances that fill in gaps if you don’t. The farther along in this series you get, the bigger some of those gaps can become.

This book addresses issues with Rick that were initially introduced in the Yellowrock series. They have been covered in this series as well, but there is some not critical information that you would only have gotten by reading the first series. Heck, there is even a Rick short story flying around out there that I haven’t read yet that probably gives readers and even deeper look into those issues. Still, you don’t NEED to have read any of those.

I don’t think that there is a significant character in this series that I don’t like. The team is amazing, so it is going to be interesting to see how they move forward with the changes that are going on by the end of this book. I never disliked Rick, but he was also never a favorite from the Yellowrock series. I do really like him in his roll here, though. The changes he goes through in this book could become really interesting for both series.

If I had anything negative to say about this (besides the fact that there always has to be a final page that means I’ve finished a book), and it is really kind of a tiny one at that, it is the fact that, so far, Nell is the one to always figure things out/solve the problems, even when she isn’t the expert. Don’t get me wrong, I adore her character and her abilities. It just sometimes rides the boundary of her being too perfect, especially because she isn’t the head or lead of the group and there are others that are more likely to have the knowledge and/or the skills. It is something that I didn’t really notice or pick up on when I read all the books the first time through, but caught it when I reread before this one came out.

I think the next book in this series may see some definite changes from things we’ve seen so far. I’m interested to see what direction those changes take.

 

 

 

Straight From The Heart: Wilde Love, Book 1

Author: Sam Burns
Book Name: Straight from the Heart
Series: Wilde Love
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

Blurb:

On the same night that Alex finds himself disowned and sleeping on his best friend’s couch, he meets Liam, who saves him from being mugged. It’s a strange time for him to be starting a relationship, but everything about being with Liam feels right. When it becomes apparent that Liam isn’t exactly the prince charming he seems to be, Alex has to deal with some hard truths about not just his new boyfriend, but his own history as well.

Liam is just trying to do his job, but everything keeps getting in the way. First he gets assigned to watch some stranger, then somehow, he finds himself dating the guy. Even if it doesn’t offend the boss, Liam knows the wrong thing to do when he does it. He finds himself wondering, though: is his job really the most important thing in his life, or can he walk away from it all for a brand new relationship?

 

I hesitated on reading this at first because the blurb made me think this was going to be a pretty heavy, darker read. I was pleasantly surprised that it really wasn’t. It was sweet and funny, but still balanced with enough of the deeper stuff to make it pretty well rounded.

Though Alex can come across as a little simple and naive, I still really liked his character. I especially liked Liam, though I can’t quite put my finger on why. He just came across as this genuine, yet conflicted guy. I think I liked the sense of humor the two shared together.

Some of my favorite books are those that can portray their characters with that kind of lighthearted banter that actually works without coming across and cheesy or trying too hard. This one really made it work.

A Slight Change Of Plan: Dee Ernst

Author: Dee Ernst
Book Name: A Slight Change of Plan
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

Blurb: Kate Everett is about to begin her “second act.” She’s been a widow for eight years and thinks it might be time to start looking for someone to share her life with again. She quits her high-pressure job for something that will allow her more leisure time. She gets rid of the huge family home and moves into a fabulous condo that’s smaller and easier to manage. She’s pretty much got the rest of her life figured out. All she has to do is sit back, relax, and let the pieces fall into place.

But her real life never gets the memo. First, her son moves back in with her—along with his girlfriend. Her dream job falls through, leaving her unemployed. Her mother, whom she hadn’t spoken to in years, can no longer live alone and has to move into her basement. And her only daughter is planning the smallest and simplest wedding in the history of all weddings, much to Kate’s dismay.

Kate thinks that she and Jake, her former college love who has reemerged on an online dating site, of all places, can build something real, and that maybe her happy ending is in front of her at last. But the arrival of Edward, her daughter’s future father-in-law, presents Kate with an unexpected choice.

It looks like real happiness may require a slight change of plan.

I liked the idea of a book centered around adults in this age range, so was excited when I picked this up. Sadly, the attitude and actions of most of the characters put their maturity level back in their late teens to early twenties rather than in their 50’s so I might as well have been reading a new adult book, except the characters all have older/adult children.

I could have gotten past that and enjoyed the story if this book had been able to evoke even a lick of emotional response from me, but… nada. I felt nothing other than irritated with the relationship between Kate and Jake and there was absolutely nothing to suggest that Kate and Edward had anything stronger than a friendship. Everyone, including Kate, Edward and Jake just left me feeling rather meh. It was just incredibly bland.

When I finally got to the ending, I was kind of “Wait. That was it? Um… why did I read this?”

So this was one of those I didn’t hate it but didn’t particularly like it either books.

 

Ghosted: Rosie Walsh

Author: Rosie Walsh
Book Name: Ghosted
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

Blurb: When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.
Sarah’s friends tell her to forget about him, but she can’t. She knows something’s happened—there must be an explanation.
Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

**Spoilers**

It is kind of impossible to review this without giving spoilers because those very spoilers are what dropped this from a good book to only okay for me.

I honestly cannot imagine a scenario in reality where ANYONE would legitimately blame Sarah for the accident that happened. Maybe Alex’s mom, in her grief, and Sarah feeling guilty (a typical survivor’s guilt) and blaming herself, but that is about it. The blame getting laid on her by pretty much everyone around her, including her apparently very close sister is completely unbelievable. If there is any blame to be laid on anyone other than the idiotic driver, it would have been Hannah, not Sarah. Because of that, the entirety of what this story is based on kind of falls flat and Eddie’s reaction becomes unreasonable.

While I liked the fact that the reader’s perspectives and assumptions got turned around, that turn around worked against the grain, again, because of the attitudes toward Sarah. Going from feeling sympathetic towards her to having the author try and make her out to be the bad guy, when she REALLY isn’t left a bad taste in my mouth over a story that I had been liking up to that point.

I don’t think the story was awful, but it fell apart and didn’t work for me by the time it was over. Especially when everything gets tied up so cleanly and neatly without any actual work through that the reader gets to experience first hand. They just get told it worked out and are expected to accept it without details. So, I didn’t dislike this, but I didn’t particularly like it either.

Fighting For You: Fighting For Love, Book 1

Author: J.P. Oliver
Book Name: Fighting For You
Series: Fighting For Love
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

Blurb: Luke’s life couldn’t really get any worse. His parents have died, his family bar is failing, he’s had to drop out of college, and he’s now engaged in a custody battle with his grandparents over his younger brother.

Adam is a drop-dead gorgeous lawyer, representing the grandparents in the custody battle. He isn’t pleased to be representing such snobby clients, and he’s definitely miffed to be shipped out to the Midwest for this case. But all that changes when he meets Luke. He’s handsome, charming… he gets Adam’s sense of humor, and definitely deserves to win the case.

They’re not supposed to even be talking to one another, much less dating, but both Adam and Luke feel a connection they can’t ignore. Can they figure out a way to make it work? Or will the case – and the things they have to do to win it – tear them apart?

This just barely hit the okay mark for me. Honestly? I was bored and ended up skimming through a lot of this book because there just wasn’t anything overly believable or emotionally stimulating here.

I love books about kids and families, yet this book uses the kid, Seth, as a prop and an afterthought when he should be the underlying focus of the story since that is the whole premise. Luke behaves and makes decisions like there isn’t even a kid in the picture at all, let alone one that he is willing to fight for. For someone who is apparently desperate to keep his brother with him, he sure as hell doesn’t act like it outside of a few pat sentences provided as a way of saying “See, this IS a book about battling for custody.” The kid is 12 and yet Luke apparently leaves him alone pretty much 100% of the time, treating him like he is much older and nearly ready to be living on his own instead of like a young kid that just lost both of his parents. There isn’t even any kind of cover like calling to ensure Seth knows where Luke is or checking in to make sure Seth is okay. That aspect of the story just flat out fails on all fronts.

The whole legal issue and sabotaging the case thing is so outside of the realm of believability as to be laughable. The fact that there were zero consequences for that ridiculous mess makes it all even more unbelievable.

Throw in some really meh or unlikable characters, even some of the peripheral ones (are they ALL fallen down drunks? Really?), and you aren’t left with much that is worth the time unless you just enjoy fluff stories with little to no substance.

A Family For Keeps: Rheland Richmond

Author: Rheland Richmond
Book Name: A Family For Keeps
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

Blurb:

Tristan was devastated when his sister died. His only consolation was her newborn daughter. He promised to take care of her like she was his own, but he’s broken that promise.

After growing up in foster care, Nathaniel’s finally built the life he’s always wanted. Now one case of human error could tear it all apart.

An unthinkable mistake that could never be rectified. Two men. Absolute strangers until tragedy and unforeseen circumstances bind them together. They must now find a way to co-parent and make the best of a bad situation. With no shared history to help them and two little girls caught in the middle, they now have no choice but to make it work. What could possibly go wrong?

Can two men put their differences aside for the sake of their children? They both have difficult choices to make, or what they love most will be taken away.

When I first read the blurb for this, I was pretty excited because it checked a lot of boxes for me on things I love in a good story. The premise and idea behind the story is really good, if maybe a little bit over the top. Sadly, the execution of that idea kind of flopped. There were just too many things that kept yanking me out of this story for me to ever really sink into it emotionally and I hated that.

The majority of this book is contained inside the characters heads, giving the reader very little dialog. Even a lot of character interaction is handled this way, even several situations being a character’s remembrance of scenarios instead of allowing the characters to experience them as a natural flow of events. That hampered my ability to connect with the characters and feel their connection with each other. This is a classic example of needing to show, not tell.

What little dialog you get was painfully one sided. There was almost no actual back and forth conversation, only one character speaking without getting any feedback, either in words or actions, from the other character(s) in the scene, leaving you with this bizarre kind of monologue. The few times you do get a little back and forth between characters, it is nearly impossible to tell who is speaking, which made all the dialog scenes even more convoluted because you couldn’t always tell if it was a monologue or back and forth. I honestly got lost several times in the dialog parts.

This is written in a dual POV between the two main characters. Sections were made clear as to who’s POV the reader was getting, yet there were still these random jumps where we get a tiny bit of perspective that came out as the other character, lasted maybe a sentence or two or even a paragraph before shifting back to the designated character’s POV. These always tripped me up and I had to go back and reread to try and figure out if I misread something or had missed a noted POV switch.

While I do really like the concept idea of this story, the details to make it happen are just too pat. Both main characters are stupidly good looking and stupidly wealthy. Tristian has the added benefit of being surrounded by stupidly good looking, talented, equally stupidly wealthy friends and adopted family. The kids are all insanely perfect, docile little dolls that roll with every single change like it is nothing. Anyone that has kids or even knows a kid will tell you this is straight up fantasy, because that would NEVER happen no matter how you work to justify it. Yes, there are a few historical challenges and difficulties as well as the issue of the medical thing (which also turns out perfectly), but… there just are no character imperfections to make them feel realistic, believable or relatable. Even the one real struggle towards the end seems overly simplistic.

And as much as I hate harping on editing mistakes… this just had too many obvious and annoying ones that just made all the other annoying issues combine to make me just not enjoy the story. I’m pretty sure I even ran into a few character history/background contradictions (massive peeve of mine). This story is okay, but this is one of those books that could have been really good if some of those issues had been noted and fixed before someone hit publish.

The Last Time I Was Me: Cathy Lamb

Author: Cathy Lamb
Book Name: The Last Time I Was Me
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb: I wrapped up my grandmother’s tea cup collection and my mother’s china, then grabbed a violin I’d hidden way back in my closet that made me cry, a gold necklace with a dolphin that my father gave me two weeks before he died of a heart attack when I was twelve and, at midnight, with that moon as bright as the blazes, I left Chicago.

When Jeanne Stewart stops at The Opera Man’s Cafe in Weltana, Oregon, to eat pancakes for the first time in twelve years, she has no idea she’s also about to order up a whole new future. It’s been barely a week since she succumbed to a spectacularly public nervous breakdown in front of hundreds of the nation’s most important advertising and PR people. Jeanne certainly had her reasons–her mother’s recent death, the discovery that her boyfriend had been sleeping with a dozen other women, and the assault charges that resulted when Jeanne retaliated in a creative way against him, involving condoms and peanut oil.

Now, en route to her brother’s house in Portland, Jeanne impulsively decides to spend some time in picturesque Weltana. Staying at a B&B run by the eccentric, endearing Rosvita, she meets a circle of quirky new friends at her court-ordered Anger Management classes. Like Jeanne, all of them are trying to become better, braver versions of themselves. Yet the most surprising discoveries are still to come–a good man who steadily makes his way into her heart and a dilapidated house that with love and care might be transformed into something wholly her own, just like the new life she is slowly building, piece by piece.

The good: I liked most of this author’s style. The books was funny in a lot of spots, which I often find hard to pull off. The humor being snarky and so “wish I could come up with those lines on the spot when I really need them” kind of things. Jeanne was a character that you could easily empathize with on most levels.

The not so good: I just could not get past how over the top crazy Jeanne got at times and got away with it. Yes, you can totally empathize with her. You can even understand her and why she does the things she does. It was the absolutely unbelievable level of “she is so cute and adorable in her snarkiness and everyone loves her so everyone just lets her do whatever she wants” kind of thing that forced me to drop my rating on this. Sure, this is fiction. It is not real life. But… I have to believe in the situations and the characters. There is absolutely zero real consequence for her actions going on here and it just made it all too much and negated all the things that made her feel human and relatable.

I also got sick of the regular future sneak peaks the reader was given as to what was going to happen later in the book. One or two of those might have been okay, but they happened a few too many times and made the story feel a bit jumpy because of it.

I’m really torn about those “not so good” parts because I really did enjoy this book otherwise.

Daddy Issues: Seth King

Daddy Issues
Daddy Issues

Author:  Seth King
Book Name: Daddy Issues
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBTQ
Rating:  Didn’t Like

2+stars

 

 

Blurb:

Their bond is forbidden. Their relationship could upend lives. But their love? It’s a force of nature…

Ten years ago, a desperate and confused Robert Glazer briefly married a woman before confronting his sexuality and starting his life as an out gay man. They divorced and lost contact – until now.

Today, a sudden family death throws Robert and his ex-wife back together for the first time. That’s where Robert meets her son Eliot, who was raised with his own father and is now a gorgeous – and openly gay – adult. And to Robert and Eliot’s surprise, sparks fly.

Passion ignites, then threatens to explode. Soon Eliot knows three things. One: Robert is not his father figure, and never was – in fact, he barely remembers him. Two: news of their union would still rock his whole world. And three: he craves Robert more than anything he has ever wanted. And as suspicions arise, their attraction only grows…

This was kind of a train wreck. I came so close at least a half dozen times to putting this down and walking away, but kept at it wanting to see why it was so highly rated (Amazon).

There were so many things about this one that just drove me up the wall. A big one, which confuses the hell out of me because apparently the author is gay himself, is the way he drops almost every negative gay stereotype into this story in such a way that he turns being gay into an ugly caricature. Then, he turns around and seems to get on his soap box about how bad life can be for gay men and how they are treated by the world around them. It is a glaring contradiction, being this incredibly strange cross between preachy and offensive at the same time.

I had a terrible time trying to overlook some of the errors in scene specifics or contradictory plot elements. You could read something in one chapter/paragraph/line and in the next, you would read something that appeared to be the opposite of what was mentioned previously. I found myself flipping back to reread several times to to check that I didn’t miss something or read it wrong, but it was just two very different versions. One in particular dealt with a character having put clothing on then the next mention, there isn’t any and it just killed the entire scene.

I get that authors have habits or phrases that they like to use. Often, they are done well enough that they are either not noticed or are not annoying, but this one drove me up the wall because because it was used in nearly every single dialog scene in the book. “… he said soon.” or some version of that phrase. For one, this extreme level of repetition shows a lack of depth, but it also very often didn’t even work for how it was used and made the already choppy dialog even clunkier. Dialog that often left me feeling as if I’d missed huge chunks of the conversation. What makes all that even worse is that there is so little dialog in the first place. Nearly this entire book happens inside the characters heads and there is a lot of history dumping and even repetition that had me skimming through parts of this.

The scene/timing transitions also often left me confused because most of the time they didn’t flow between one and the next in a smooth way so I wasn’t sure that the scene had even shifted or how much time that had passed between one scene and the next. Toss in a sudden POV shift from the two main characters to a third character somewhere in the 60% range, only to go back to the two main characters, never getting the POV of that third again, only to then be tossed into a 4th POV a few chapters later and you get the readers version of whiplash. Don’t even get me started on the convoluted, crazy mess that was the last couple of chapters.

Neither of the main characters showed any level of believably or maturity, no matter their age. It was like watching extremely immature 16 year olds rather than adults, let alone someone that is supposedly in their 40s. The yo-yoing is off the charts and makes it all that much worse.

Even though I’ve pretty much blasted this book, there are tiny parts that are genuinely good, but they aren’t nearly enough to make up for all that isn’t.

One Man’s Trash: The Heretic Doms Club, Book 1

One Man's Trash
One Man’s Trash

Author:  Marie Sexton
Book Name: One Man’s Trash
Series: The Heretic Doms Club
Order: #11
Genre: Romance/LGBTQ
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:

After four tours in Afghanistan, Warren Groves couldn’t settle into civilian life. For the last twelve years, he’s survived by working odd and often illegal jobs for some of Denver’s less fortunate. His personal life is equally unsatisfactory. He can barely remember the last time he had sex, let alone the last time he got to use somebody hard and rough, the way he likes. Fate intervenes when a favor for a friend leads him to a pretty young rentboy named Taylor Reynolds.

Taylor’s spent the last few years on his own, working as a hustler, going home with anybody who’ll give him a warm meal and a place to sleep. He enjoys having a bit of force used against him, and he makes Warren an offer he can’t refuse — all the sex he wants, as rough and dirty as he likes, in exchange for room and board.

At first, Warren thinks he’s struck gold. Taylor’s the perfect roommate — he cooks, he cleans, and he’s dynamite in the sack. But Taylor has some dark demons in his head and some even darker cravings. Falling for somebody as volatile as Taylor is dangerous enough, but when Taylor’s urges turn truly self-destructive, it’ll be up to Warren to decide just how far to let things go. 

*Potential Minor Spoilers*

First off, no matter how I feel about this book, it is absolutely not one for everybody. It runs along a very dark side and deals with some seriously ugly subject matter that will just flat out be unappealing to some (addiction and abuse for some specifics). That said, that dark is liberally laced with spots of brightness and the better aspects of humanity shining through.

I thought this was beautifully written, no matter the subject matter. It pinged on several concepts of right and wrong that I’ve been pondering a lot lately, so some of those background themes really resonated with me. Even though I don’t usually go for dark books like this, I did really like it. Probably because of how many of those issues were presented and dealt with. There was no preaching to either direction, side, or right or wrong, simply presented as just the way it is.

The very imperfect humanness of the characters and their situations made them feel real. That kept me skirting this edge of compassion and understanding for them. It didn’t tip me into being overly emotional about them. That and the darker side that isn’t my favorite kept this from getting that slightly higher rating.

Even with the heavier nature of this, it does have a positive ending for the main characters. That is probably the other reason why this did work for me. I wouldn’t have like it even a fraction as much if this had not had that kind of ending.

Dark Queen: Jane Yellowrock, Book 12

Dark Queen
Dark Queen

Author:  Faith Hunter
Book Name: Dark Queen
Series: Jane Yellowrock
Order: #12
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars


 

 

Blurb:

As Enforcer to the vampire Master of the City of New Orleans, Jane Yellowrock stakes her reputation and her life on keeping her territory safe. But Leo has been issued a blood challenge by the emperor of the European vampires, who seeks to usurp all of his power and possessions. If Leo loses the match to the death, the city will be forfeit, and the people of New Orleans will suffer the consequences. Jane can’t let that happen.

Preparing for the duel requires all of Jane’s focus, but with so much supernatural power in play, nothing goes according to plan. She has to rely on herself and the very few people she knows she can trust to stand and fight. Only two things are guaranteed: nothing is sacred, and no one is safe.

There is really only so much one can say about the 12th book in the series that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before. That is also only if an author is talented enough to keep a series going strong for that long, which in and of itself is exceptionally rare in my opinion. Keeping the series going strong has not been an issue with this series. It still falls solidly into that rare category of one of my favorites, one I’m willing to read over and over again. This book is no exception.

I kind of wish I’d taken the time to reread all the books leading up to this one because this ties up a lot of threads from past books and I didn’t remember some of those threads getting pulled. I wasn’t lost because of that, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if all of that had been fresh. Not a problem though. I will probably go back and do a full read through of the entire series, including this book, even though I just finished this. That is how much I like these books.

When I finished reading this, I had to go and do some hunting to find out if this was actually the last in the series. I’ve seen mentioned that it isn’t, which is wonderful. In part because I don’t have to be mad at the author for the way this book ended. Some will argue, but there is a bit of a cliffhanger in this. If that had been it for the series, I would have been hugely disappointed, but… fingers crossed that what I’ve seen is right and we will be seeing more of Jane soon.

*Potential tiny spoiler*

Favorite line of the book has got to come from Leo and mostly because it is Leo and… who would have ever predicted those words to come from his mouth?

“Titus! Come on up, dude. We have beer.”

Forever With You: Londra Laine

Forever With You
Forever With You

Author: Londra Laine
Book Name: Forever With You
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Okay/Didn’t Like
2+stars


 

 

Blurb:

Kelly Brooks Montes is only nineteen years old and just starting college in New York City when tragedy strikes, and he becomes a single dad to his toddler brother. Four years later, Kelly and his baby brother, Jaylen, are doing well, though Kelly leads a double life to make ends meet. He’s a high-level administrative assistant by day and a racy go-go boy by night. Between raising his brother, dancing, and trying not to run afoul of his new boss, Kelly doesn’t have time for a boyfriend. Even if he did want a man in his life, a past trauma makes him question whether he can ever trust a man with his body or his heart. But then Kelly receives an unexpected but steamy birthday kiss from his boss, a man he was sure hated him, and he begins to wish for things he knows he shouldn’t.

Andrew Whitman knew from the moment he held Kelly’s hand that the man was special, and it both annoyed and terrified him. Kelly makes him feel a little out of control and Drew is a highly controlled man. He has to be to keep his sexuality a secret from his father, a conservative politician. And he is OK with that. He has a perfectly good, mutually beneficial, life plan with his best friend, Lex. A long time ago, he’d made his peace with the fact that he’d never find a man worth turning his life upside down for. Then he ends up with his capable and gorgeous assistant under him on top of his desk, and his life plans change. Drew can’t seem to get out of his own way when it comes to the quiet, sexy, and surprising single dad, but he can’t stop himself from falling for Kelly and his sweet baby brother. And just when it seems that Kelly has worked through his past hurts enough to let Drew into his body and his heart, manipulative family and words unspoken threaten to tear them apart. But after getting a taste of a life he never thought he could have, Drew won’t let anything tear his fledgling family apart.

***Please be aware that this book contains a flashback of and several references to sexual assault that may be triggering to some readers.***

Andrew, aka Drew, killed this book for me. He is an absolute a**. He started out that way so much so, that I nearly didn’t finish the book. Towards the middle, it became better and I thought he might, just might, redeem himself. Then it all went down in flames towards the end with his ridiculous excuse for his deception. There was absolutely no realistic or believable reason for that deception. It was childish and inane. When you look at that on a balance with what Kelly trusted him with, it makes Drew an absolute selfish douche, putting him on par with Kelly’s past abuser.

The only reason I could give this two stars instead of one is because Kelly was a pretty decent character and I liked Jayden, but they weren’t enough to overcome how awful Drew was.

TJ Klune: Author/Series Review; Bear, Otter, and the Kid

I am kind of kicking my own butt over how long it took me to actually pick this series up and read it. I’ll say straight up that my reasons for not doing so look pretty stupid at this point, but they seemed valid at the time.

Continue reading “TJ Klune: Author/Series Review; Bear, Otter, and the Kid”

Ashes of Life: Erica Lucke Dean

Ashes of Life
Ashes of Life

Author: Erica Lucke Dean
Book Name: Ashes of Life
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Literature/Family Drama/Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like

2+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Married for just three months, Alex Barrett is stunned when her husband, David, dies in a tragic accident. And the absolute last thing the pregnant young widow wants is to take on responsibility for his teenage daughter, Maddie. Reeling from loss, Alex struggles to deal with her grief and her troubled stepdaughter, but one question haunts her: why was David with his ex-wife when he died?

All Maddie Barrett wanted was for her parents to get back together, but an icy road took that dream away. Afterward, Maddie is riddled with guilt that she can’t share with anyone. Feeling angry and alone, she lays all the blame on Alex.

Alex and Maddie must find a way to move past their pain—shared, yet separate. Thrown together in an untenable arrangement, they fight through a frozen landscape of sorrow and redemption while redefining love, forgiveness, and family.

I just was not a fan of this. Neither of the two main characters were likable. No matter their situation, they were both pretty self absorbed, bratty and unwilling to look outside of their own bubble of existence. I really wasn’t a fan of the romantic relationships on either of their parts either. Way too much yo-yo action going on. To the point that if these characters existed in real life, they should probably be seeking help for mental disorders.

The writing itself wasn’t bad, but I won’t enjoy a book if I don’t like the characters or the believably of their situations. This just didn’t do anything other than irritate me.

Archangel’s Viper: Guild Hunters, Book 10

Archangel's ViperAuthor: Nalini Singh
Book Name: Archangel’s Viper
Series: Guild Hunters
Order: #10
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Once a broken girl known as Sorrow, Holly Chang now prowls the shadowy gray underground of the city for the angels. But it’s not her winged allies who make her a wanted woman—it’s the unknown power coursing through her veins. Brutalized by an insane archangel, she was left with the bloodlust of a vampire, the ability to mesmerize her prey, and a poisonous bite.

Now, someone has put a bounty on her head…

Venom is one of the Seven, Archangel Raphael’s private guard, and he’s as infuriating as he is seductive. A centuries-old vampire, his fangs dispense a poison deadlier than Holly’s. But even if Venom can protect Holly from those hunting her, he might not be able to save himself—because the strange, violent power inside Holly is awakening…

No one is safe.

Years of reading and loving Nalini Singh has left me with certain expectations from one of her books. This is probably one of my least favorite in the Guild Hunter series.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great book (see all those stars), but, for me, I just struggled to really feel or get any chemistry from this pair. I liked them both, but this didn’t quite grip me emotionally like pretty much every single other Nalini Singh book out there. What I did get, and it was there, seemed to come way late and with not quite enough going on between the two to make the fast turn around work as well as it could have.

I guess this was just missing that bit more spark I’m used to.

Bright Side: Bright Side, Book 1

Bright SideAuthor: Kim Holden
Book Name: Bright Side
Series: Bright Side
Order: #1
Genre: Literature/Romance*
Rating:  Really Good*
4+stars


 

Blurb: 

Secrets.
Everyone has one.
Some are bigger than others.
And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

Kate Sedgwick’s life has been anything but typical. She’s endured hardship and tragedy, but throughout it all she remains happy and optimistic (there’s a reason her best friend Gus calls her Bright Side). Kate is strong-willed, funny, smart, and musically gifted. She’s also never believed in love. So when Kate leaves San Diego to attend college in the small town of Grant, Minnesota, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with Keller Banks.

They both feel it.
But they each have a reason to fight it.
They each have a secret.

And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

*Possible Spoilers*

I have never once written a review and rated a book that I’ve had to note with an *, yet this is the second one in a very short period of time. This was so hard to figure out how to rate this.

If you are looking for a happy book with a nice happy ending, don’t read this because this is so not that book. This is just incredibly sad. I will say straight up that this is really well written and that it can wring some deep emotions from the reader, and it is for that that I’ve given this the rating that I have.

That said, I struggled with this. I didn’t really know what to expect with this, but it wasn’t what I got. I didn’t expect to struggle to read the last half of the book because I was trying to do so through tears, and not happy tears.

Before that, I seriously struggled to like Kate because she is unbelievably perfect, the stereotypical saint that everyone loves and gravitates to, she is perfect at everything she does and is the kind of person that is just too good for this flawed world we live in. There were several times I came close to not finishing because I just really didn’t like her all that much. Even after the big reveal when you gain a bit of understanding, I still just couldn’t believe her.

In the end, I’m not sure what I got out of this besides a serious crying headache. There really weren’t any feel good kind of feelings by the time the story wrapped up. I have no clue if I I will be reading the other books in this series. I liked some of the other characters that those books would follow, but I’m just not a fan of depressing reading and anyway you look at it, that is what this was. Sure there was love, both romantic and friendship, but it is all lost and that is just depressing.

Some Kind of Hero: Troubleshooters, Book 19

Some Kind of HeroAuthor: Suzanne Brockmann
Book Name: Some Kind of Hero
Series: Troubleshooters
Order: #19
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

Blurb:

Navy men don’t come tougher than Lieutenant Peter Greene. Every day he whips hotshot SEAL wannabes into elite fighters. So why can’t he handle one fifteen-year-old girl? His ex’s death left him a single dad overnight, and very unprepared. Though he can’t relate to an angsty teen, he can at least keep Maddie safe—until the day she disappears. Though Pete’s lacking in fatherly intuition, his instinct for detecting danger is razor sharp. Maddie’s in trouble. Now he needs the Troubleshooters team at his back, along with an unconventional ally.

Romance writer Shayla Whitman never expected to be drawn into a real-world thriller—or to meet a hero who makes her pulse pound. Action on the page is one thing. Actually living it is another story. Shay’s not as bold as her heroines, but she’s a mother. She sees the panic in her new neighbor’s usually fearless blue eyes—and knows there’s no greater terror for a parent than having a child at risk. It’s an ordeal Shay won’t let Pete face alone. She’s no highly trained operative, but she’s smart, resourceful, and knows what makes teenagers tick.

Still, working alongside Pete has its own perils—like letting the heat between them rise out of control. Intimate emotions could mean dangerous, even deadly, consequences for their mission. No matter what, they must be on top of their game, and playing for keeps . . . or else Pete’s daughter may be gone for good.

It is kind of funny, I rarely still like any books in a series by the time you get past book 4 or 5, let alone any deeper because it always seems like the author just no longer has anything new or interesting to add. This seems even more apt when talking about romance books because they tend to become cookie cutter, fill in the blank books. This is probably one of the very few book series that I can easily say doesn’t fit the standard in any way and that is a very good thing.

One of the things that I like so much about Suzanne Brockmann and why I still, after all this time pick up any of her books, is that her characters are always strong, especially her female leads. Too often in romance, the women suddenly become weak and needy when an alpha  male comes into the picture and they need the cliched rescue. Not so with Brockmann’s characters. They are always capable of standing on their own, even when they do need a little help. It is rare you will see a weak, ditzy character. The times it is touched on, that character is never genuinely weak, just less confident in that strength.

I also love that her alpha males are never these overbearing, borderline assholes. They are true badasses that do not diminish their romantic counterparts. Both sides fully complement the other, no matter who they are.

Her characters are also extremely varied. Yes, this series focuses almost exclusively on SEALs, but outside of that restriction, you will find characters of all shapes, sizes, races, physical abilities and sexual preferences. Not only does this give the reader variety, but it opens the door to different challenges for the characters to overcome, which is part of why this series hasn’t gone stale.

This book fits perfectly into the mold that Ms. Brockmann set from the very beginning of this series. Strong, capable characters from both sides of the romantic relationship. A truly enjoyable story that keeps you turning the page every step of the way. It does run just a little bit into the romance novel trap of “too perfect”, but sometimes that is exactly what you want and need. Something light and fun tossed with a bit of intense action.