Category Archives: Book Reviews

Hard Time by Cara McKenna

Hard Time


ORDER A COPY: Hard Time

Publisher: Intermix
Publishing Date: April 15, 2014
ebook: 304 pages

Rating: 5 stars


Annie Goodhouse doesn’t need to be warned about bad boys; good sense and an abusive ex have given her plenty of reasons to play it safe. But when she steps into her new role as outreach librarian for Cousins Correctional Facility, no amount of good sense can keep her mind—or eyes—off inmate Eric Collier.

Eric doesn’t claim to be innocent of the crime that landed him in prison. In fact, he’d do it again if that’s what it took to keep his family safe. Loyalty and force are what he knows. But meeting Annie makes him want to know more.

When Eric begins courting Annie through letters, they embark on a reckless, secret romance—a forbidden fantasy that neither imagines could ever be real…until early parole for Eric changes everything, and forces them both to face a past they can’t forget, and a desire they can’t deny.


Cara McKenna takes us back to the Town of Darren, Michigan, but instead of the psychiatric ward of Larkhaven, we are going into the dangerous corridors of Cousins Correctional Facility. A medium security facility where criminals are doing time for drug charges, assault, rape, and various hard core offenses.

Annie Goodhouse is the new hire at the library so it falls to her to take over the library’s education program at the prison. She hopes to make it back out without being verbally or physically assaulted. Cousins is the last place she would ever believe she would find a man who stirs her fantasies for the first time since she left her ex five years ago.

Stephen’s abuse started slowly with a pinch or a taunt but there was no question that when he drank, the violence was getting gradually worse. Until that last time, when he dislocated her jaw and ruptured her eardrum. Although it was truly painful, it was the wake up call that she needed to walk away. But Annie has been hibernating from the world and men since then.

When she walks into Cousins she meets the eye of Eric Collier and there is no question that there is an instant connection between the two of them. While Annie has been in her self-imposed prison, Eric has been behind bars for assault. For the first time in five years, both Eric and Annie have found themselves thinking of someone in a sexual way.

Eric may have approached her to get his help with his writing, but his practiced correspondence becomes more and more erotic and as Annie and Eric discuss their fantasies, they each once again awaken desire in each other.

But when Eric gets an early parole, what happens to their fantasies when the real world creeps in?  Will they have the courage to embrace their growing feelings or will the ability to date in the real world, take away the safety that distance allowed?

THOUGHTS:
Cara McKenna writes such interesting and unusual characters and obviously takes us to interesting places to tell her stories. After Hours took us to a psychiatric ward and now, we are at the local prison. These are not rich, affluent people. No tie me up billionaires in her stories. These are everyday people, some with less than average upbringings and circumstances, just trying to get by.

You can’t help but fall for Eric. There is no question that Eric is dangerous. He is in prison for assaulting a man with a tire iron, and although he declares that the man deserved it, it does show he has the ability to reach that level of violence. Even though he says he would do it again if the circumstances called for it, there is definite growth in Eric from the young man who was originally incarcerated. He understands what he wants to do with his life when he finally get out. And he also understands that a woman like Annie is too good for someone like him, but he wants to be the kind of man she would deserve.

There is such a strong connection between the two main characters here but when Eric is paroled, it takes the safety of the fantasy away from Annie. She is not jumping up and down when she finds out, and poor Eric is heartbroken when she is not ready to start a real life romance with him upon his release.

Although their letter writing was very erotic and in one way bonded them, I was disappointed that there wasn’t even some attempt made for a real ‘get to know you’ in their letters. Obviously, these letters were all part of the fantasy between them, especially since Eric expected to be locked away for a few more years.  They weren’t meant to be indepth philosophical discussions.  The purpose of the correspondence was simply to fuel each other’s fantasy life.  I loved that Annie would dress up and put on make up and perfume to read Eric’s letter.

Once Annie works past her fear of the real world with Eric, it is almost a redo of the story as they get to know the person behind the letter.

This was wonderful storytelling and such interesting and unforgettable characters.

Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Scene:

I could only image how he might be, in real life—how he’d treat me if we were alone together. Happily there was no possibility of us, alone together in real life, and so I imagined everything, every possible flavor, relieved to know my hypotheses would never be proven right or wrong. That he’d never get a chance to disappoint me.

I spent so much time fantasizing about him, it occurred to me on Friday morning that I had no idea how to act toward him if he approached me again. Play dumb, pretend I really did think that letter had been meant for some other woman? Be stern, shut him down before he grew bolder?

I knew what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to tell Shonda or any other CO about it, but I also knew I wouldn’t be doing that. Selfishly, I wanted the letter for myself. And recklessly, I even hoped maybe he’d want to tell me more.

It was insane, of course, but when you’ve not felt sexual hunger for months, for years…The idiotic risks people take in the midst of affairs made sense to me, suddenly. Nothing felt as good as this wanting. Logic was impotent. Flaccid. A pitiful, powerless thing.

I saw Collier as I passed through the dayroom, and it was recognition as I’d never felt it. I’d lived out a thousand imagined intimacies with this man, and when our eyes met it felt as though he must have lived them too.

It was muggy and brutal that day, leaving inmates and staff alike punchy. The convicts bickered and baited, but it was for the best—the discord kept me on my toes, kept my mind off Collier through Literacy and Composition, kept my eyes off him for the most part during Book Discussion.

As always, though, he caught me during the afternoon Resources block. I had to wonder if that was on purpose. If he wanted to be my final memory of the day when I left this place.

Oh, the meaning I read into every crack and crevice of our encounters.

Attendance was down. The Resources room wasn’t air-conditioned, and apparently the allure of ogling my breasts and butt wilted some when the temperature flirted with the triple digits. Men still came and went, and most showed up for their computer slots, but for the first time I had a bit of free time, myself, and I used it to make a list of things I’d need to implement Karen’s unrealized plan of starting a cell-to-cell book cart service. I’d nearly begun to think I could put off choosing my stance toward Collier another week. Or indefinitely. Maybe he pulls that “help me write a letter” shit with every librarian. Maybe he’d never come calling again.

Foolish me.

He came for me at twenty minutes to five. I felt him step through the door, a heat wave and a cold front all wrapped inside one man. He strode to where I was sitting, lazy as you please, and I knew it was him without even looking up. He stood across the tabletop from me. behind an empty chair, his big fingers curled over its back. I raised my chin. Played it cool aside from the pink I felt stinging my cheeks.

“Hi there.”

“You free?” he asked, in that voice that had whispered the most brilliant, disgusting secrets in the privacy of my head this past week.

“Sure.” I nodded to the chair and he sat. He pulled a folded piece of paper from his back pocket, and a knot formed in my middle. Another letter?

“I was hoping you could read something for me?” he said, gaze on my hands. “Something I wrote.”

“Sure.” I realized in that moment, I knew exactly where the nearest officer stood, and not for my own protection. I knew it the way every one of these cons must. The way a criminal keeps his radar tracked on witnesses and cameras when he knows he’s on the brink of wickedness. I took the paper from him, but he stopped me before I could unfold it.

“Not now. But maybe you could take it with you. Take your time. It’s real important. I want to make sure I say everything right.”

Thump, thump, thump “Um…Yeah. Sure. I can do that.” It was lined paper, and I could see the impression of his handwriting. Lots of it. “Whether it needs rewriting or not, this was good practice writing it all out,” I offered.

He nodded. “I used that machine. I wrote it on that, and it fixed my capital and spelling. Then I copied it down on paper. I didn’t have to rely on my head, to know which way all the letters went.”

“Smart.”

Collier’s brown eyes swiveled, seeking the guards. Finding them busy with the now departing inmates, he leaned a bit closer. “I’ll make this real easy for you,” he said.

I felt my brow rise and my heart tumble into my shoes. “Easy?”

“I’ve got stuff to say. To you.” He tapped the paper, his voice barely a whisper. “If you want to hear more, next week, you wear red.”

“Wear red?”

“You show up next week wearing red, I’ll know what I’ve got to say is okay by you. You wear any other color, I won’t even bother you again. Not about typing or anything else. I won’t be angry or anything. But if you wanna hear, wear red.”

“Collier!” The guard shot him a look. “Check your posture, loverboy.”

Collier sat up straight, drawing his crossed arms away. “Red,” he said. “but only if you want to hear more.”

I nodded, tucked the folded paper in my note book along with a couple other convicts’ letters I’d promised to drop in the mail room.

He watched my hands then stood. “‘Preciate that,” he said at a normal volume, and pushed his chair back in.

Friday Giveaway – Hope Ignites by Jaci Burton

Hope Ignites (Hope, #2)

Happy Friday! It’s here again! Whoo-hoo!!  This week’s giveaway ends Thursday, April 17th. Open to US residents, 18 years and older.  Simply leave a comment below to be entered.

Logan McCormack likes his isolated life on the ranch, until a movie crew starts filming there. When actress Desiree Jenkins blows into his life, she wrecks it harder than the Oklahoma winds with her brutal honesty and soft touch. Des knows this is a temporary stay, but she loves the open freedom of the land, and for the first time in her life, Des feels like she might have found a place she can call home, with a man she might be falling in love with. But Logan’s heart is tougher than the soil beneath them—can she convince him that they belong together?

Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan

Reason to Breathe (Breathing, #1)


ORDER A COPY: Reason To Breathe (The Breathing Series, #1)

Publisher: Skyscrape
Publishing Date: June 4, 2013
Paperback: 377 pages

Rating:  4 stars


“No one tried to get involved with me, and I kept to myself. This was the place where everything was supposed to be safe and easy. How could Evan Mathews unravel my constant universe in just one day?”

In the affluent town of Weslyn, Connecticut, where most people worry about what to be seen in and who to be seen with, Emma Thomas would rather not be seen at all. She’s more concerned with feigning perfection while pulling down her sleeves to conceal the bruises – not wanting anyone to know how far from perfect her life truly is. Without expecting it, she finds love. It challenges her to recognize her own worth – but at the risk of revealing the terrible secret she’s desperate to hide.

Reason to Breathe is an electrifying page turner from start to finish, a unique tale of life-changing love, unspeakable cruelty, and one girl’s fragile grasp of hope.


This is a young adult book. Its very well written. It will make you cry, laugh, smile and it will generate feelings of anger. It’s a book about a teenager named Emma. Her father died as a child and her mother is a drunk. Therefore, she is forced to live with her aunt and uncle who already have two much younger children. Her Aunt abuses her every chance she can. Her uncle is oblivious. She’s a beautiful girl who is best friends with the most popular girl in school. No one knows of her home life and her best friend, Sara, suspects but never pushes too hard and is always there for her.

Emma always hid behind her books and homework in school. She tried her best to go unnoticed. Until Evan Matthews comes along and breaks her out of her shell and makes her want to have a better life. Now, to avoid any spoilers I will end on this…this book will guide you thorough the journey of Emma’s love life, and her home life. Will she ever escape the wrath of her aunt or will she die trying to live?


Favorite Scene:

“Still not doing a very good job fading,” his voice said from behind me.

The paintbrush froze in my hand mid-stroke and started shaking. My heart stopped in my chest. I didn’t know if I could turn around to face him.

I forced my legs to swing around to the other side of the stool.

“Hi.” He smiled. My heart released a brief flutter.

“Hi,” I whispered, forcing myself to breathe.

“When you weren’t in the cafe, I figured you’d either be here or the Journalism room.”

I could only nod, searching for my voice.

“What are you doing here?” I forced the words from my mouth. My question was barely audible since I still wasn’t breathing properly.

“Looking for you,” he answered with his familiar grin. My heart picked up its pace, filling my cheeks with a rush of color. All I could do was stare into his blue eyes, afraid that if I looked away, he’d be gone. Please convince me I wasn’t hallucinating.

“Sorry to hear that the basketball team lost in the semi’s,” he offered casually. He’s talking about basketball? I definitely wasn’t hallucinating.

“Thanks,” I said, forcing my lips to resemble a smile. Come on brain, don’t fail me now – say something!

“Not sure what to say, huh?” He smirked, amused by my inability to form a cohesive sentence.

“I’m glad I can…” I threw my hands in the air, forgetting that I had a paintbrush in my grasp, the green paint flung across his grey t-shirt. He looked down at the streak with wide eyes. I held my breath, pressing my lips together. A stifled laugh escaped from behind my pursed lips. Then I started laughing harder.

“That’s funny, huh?” I bit my lower lip, still smiling. “Let’s see if you think this funny.” He leaned over my table and rubbed blue paint on his hands. Realizing his intention, I jumped off the stool to escape retaliation.

“Evan, don’t,” I pleaded.

I rounded the corner toward the dark room when he caught me around the waist, leaving blue hand prints on my shirt. When he grabbed me, he didn’t let go. Evan turned me to face him. Still smiling, I connected with his blue eyes, unaware he was pulling me closer. Just before I registered what was happening, my heart ignited, fluttering frantically. My head swirled in a rush. He placed his damp hand on my cheek and leaned down toward me.

A paralyzing charge flashed through my body when his firm lips touched mine. I inhaled his clean scent, allowing the tingling to run through my head. When he slowly pulled away, his eyes searched mine cautiously. I blinked through the buzz, trying to steady myself.

“Emma?” Ms. Mier’s voice rang from around the corner.

Evan raised his eyebrows in surprise then slipped by me, toward the dark room. I attempted to sober up before responding.

“Hi, Ms. Mier,” my voice cracked, stepping around the corner to meet her. My face was hot with embarrassment.

“Oh, Hi,” she said with a smile of surprise. With the smile still lingering, she gathered some papers from her desk. “I needed to get a few things. Could you please lock up when you leave today?”

“Sure,” I agreed quickly.

She smiled wider.

“That’s a good color on you,” she acknowledged.

My face grew even hotter, if that was possible. I looked down at the hand prints on my white shirt.

“No, the red I mean.”

My eyes widened. I watched her walk to the door and turn the lock.

Before closing the door behind her, she glanced at me and said, “Tell Mr. Mathews I said welcome back.”

I nearly fell over. I stood there for a moment, uncertain what to do next. I decided not to think about it anymore and to do what I should have done three months ago.

I walked into the dark room. Evan was drying his hands next to the sink. I closed the door behind me and leaned against it, unable to move. He threw the paper towel in the basket and looked up, hesitating for a second.

My chest moved with an exaggerated breath. My heart beat frantically against my shirt. He read exactly what I wanted him to in my widened eyes and stepped toward me. I wrapped my arms around his neck, and he pulled me into him. I stood on my toes, extending myself to find him. He held me closer as his lips parted, and I felt the warmth of his breath. My heart released a surge that caught my breath when I felt his soft tongue. His lips were firm but gentle, pressed against mine in a slow, breathless rhythm. Tiny sparks flew through my head and down my spine – my legs trembled beneath me.

I lowered my head to his chest before my legs gave out. He kept his arms wrapped around me, resting his chin on the top of my head, while I listened to his accelerated heartbeat and deep breaths. I wiped an escaped tear from my eye, trying to remember how to breathe.

“That was worth waiting for,” he whispered and then added with sarcasm, “Missed me, huh?”

I looked up at his perfect smile and replied with a smirk, “I survived.”

“I heard.”

I pulled away and eyed him suspiciously.

“I still have friends here.” He shrugged. Just then, the bell rang, declaring the end of the school day. “What do you want to do? Do you have to go home?”

“I’m actually staying over at Sara’s tonight.”

“You are?” Evan confirmed, raising his eyebrows with a deliberate grin. “Do you think Sara will mind if I kidnap you for a couple of hours?” He casually leaned against the doorway, as I went to the sink to scrub his hand print from my face.

My heart stuttered.

“Um, I think she’ll be fine,” I replied, turning to face him. “What are you thinking?”

“We have to talk. I mean, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to be welcomed back, but I have some things I need to say before there are any more misunderstandings.”

I winced. Couldn’t we have left it at the perfect welcome? My stomach twisted, fearful of what he needed to say. I could only imagine; although it couldn’t be worse than what I’d been saying to myself since he left.

“So, you’re back?” I confirmed cautiously.

“Yeah,” he grinned. “We’ll talk about it.”

“Great,” I huffed, zipping my sweatshirt to conceal the blue hand prints and smear of green paint.

Evan laughed. “Don’t be so nervous. I’m here, right?” He grabbed my hand, the warmth from his touch spread up my arm.

Her Best Laid Plans by Cara McKenna


ORDER A COPY: Her Best Laid Plans

Publisher: Cosmo Red Hot Reads/Harlequin
Publishing Date: April 15, 2014
ebook: 85 pages

Rating: 5 stars


Imagine nursing a pint in a cozy, authentic country pub, far from Cork City’s busy pulse. Getting here took you a plane, bus, taxi, and…erm, bicycle. But just as you’re resigning yourself to drinking beside gray-haired farmers, you see him—a man with the looks and charm to soothe any heartbroken girl.

He’s your bartender. Your really, really gorgeous bartender.

For American Jamie Webb—recently dumped and housesitting for two weeks—Connor Kelleher is like a six-course feast after a 23-year starvation diet. But it’s gotta be casual. She’s just begun re-routing her life after an extended, man-related detour. Still, a sexy romp (or twenty!) with Sexy McBartender?

But what about when Jamie’s best-laid plans for no future plans with any man begin to change?


Jamie Webb put her own plans for college on hold two years ago to help support her boyfriend through medical school.  She spent the last few years supporting him through his dreams and was shocked when he suddenly dumped her.   Never again.   Jamie will be returning to college in the Fall to begin her architecture classes, and she refuses to change those plans for anyone else’s schedule ever again.

And the first step in putting her life back on track is the first real vacation she has had in years. She is housesitting for her mother’s friend on County Cork, Ireland. The scenery is beautiful, although a little desolate for a city girl like Jamie. A trip to the local pub is more like a trip to a nursing home with all the old men nursing their Guinness. She is afraid her plans for an exciting vacation fling are down the drain until the new bartender takes over his shift.

If there is only going to be one man under 30 in this neighborhood, Connor Kelleher is definitely a perfect specimen and his sparking eyes and sexy banter is just what Jamie needs to wipe away the mess of the past few years. Connor is happy to show Jamie around the town as well as the pleasure she has been missing in the arms of a passionate man.

As the time for Jamie to return home draws nearer, it is getting harder and harder to imagine parting forever from Connor, but Jamie refuses to once again set her plans aside for a man. Will her time with Connor become a pleasant memory to think back on or will walking away become Jamie’s biggest regret?

THOUGHTS:
I have definitely added Cara McKenna to my list of favorite authors. This was a short story and a quick read but it was definitely enjoyable.   It didn’t feel rushed and it flowed nicely.  Connor and Jamie have a connection from the beginning and what was supposed to be a week-long fling for both leaves them wanting much more.    You definitely felt their connection as well as their pain and sadness that they found someone so perfect who they wouldn’t have a chance to truly know better.

Some of Cara’s stories leave me wanting so much more and with both Jamie and Connor with plans to start college in the Fall on different continents, I wasn’t sure if she would leave us dangling at the end, but I did enjoy where she went with it.

Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Scene:

Jamie wasn’t sure when bars officially closed for the night in Ireland, but Connor locked the door to the Crossroads just after ten, when the final regular bade him a good evening and shuffled out into the night. He flipped the dead bolt and the sign in the window, then turned expectantly to Jamie.

“Ready to redeem yourself?” she asked.

They’d been making flirtatious small talk for the past couple hours, but she still felt a ripple of nerves. Thrilling nerves–an endorsement from her intuition, not a warning.

“I’ll do my best,” Connor said, cracking his knuckles. “Though sadly you’ve already seen my best. I can only pray that whiskey’s left me with a fighting chance.”

“Sorry. I actually play better after a drink.” She fed the coin tray, setting unseen balls tumbling.

Connor flipped off all the lights save for the one above the table, seeming to close them in an intimate, dramatic little set.

He left her arrange the balls, and he broke.

Feeling cruel, Jamie took to disturbing him just before he could take his next shot, peppering him with inane questions. The fourth time she pulled the stunt, he stayed as he was, leveling her with his eyes. He looked deliciously dangerous in the stark overhead light, still poised to take his thwarted turn—brow furrowed, shoulder blades cocked, gorgeous forearms tensed and his fingers curled around the cue.

Trounce me.

He didn’t. He merely smiled some mysterious Connor smile, then finally took his turn. Her ploy worked, though–he didn’t sink a thing.

He sighed his annoyance, standing aside as Jamie got her own shot strategized. He tapped the table with the tip of his cue. “Aim about here,” he said. Tap tap tap. She eyeballed a different angle and he tapped again, in her line of vision. “Right about here, then.” Tap tap tap tap.

She flipped her hair over her shoulder and picked a ball, knocking it neatly into a side pocket. She tossed him a snotty look as she circled to find her next move. Connor rested his cue along his shoulders, gripping it with both hands. “If we’d agreed on any prizes this time, I may as well go ahead and forfeit mine.”

“I thought the stakes were rather obvious,” she said, and potted the blue ball.

Connor seemed to perk up at this. He was imaging another kiss—she could tell from his eyebrows alone, rising a fraction to betray his intentions.

“Do you now?” he asked. “And what might those stakes be?”

“Your dignity.”

He pouted, posture slumping. “I’m doomed then. Can’t we play for something else?”

She knocked a red into a pocket. “Such as…?”

“I rather liked out earlier wager.”

“At this rate, I’ll be leaving here with an entire bottle.” She eyed the yellow ball.

“Mine, not yours.”

She looked up and held his stare. “I liked your wager, too,” she admitted, her smile feeling as shy as her words were bold.

Her stepped closer, skirting the corner of the table. Goodness, those hips. This man could slink.

“If that’s the case,” he said softly, “Then maybe the snooker’s a bit of a formality.”

Friday Giveaway – Nora Roberts – The O’Dwyer Cousins

O'Dwyers


Happy Friday! We got a two-fer today. My husband brought home the plague so thankfully I had this ready to go. We’ll make it simple again. Just leave a comment below to enter to win final copies of Dark Witch (Book 1) and Shadow Spell (Book 2) of the O’Dwyer Cousin trilogy. Giveaway open to U.S. Residents, 18 years and older please. Ends Thursday, April 10th. Now back to bed. :(

Vampire’s Hunger by Cynthia Garner

Vampire's Hunger (Awakening, #1)


ORDER A COPY:

Publisher: Forever Yours
Publishing Date: April 1, 2014
Paperback: 240 pages

Rating: 4 stars


In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, civilization no longer exists, and only the strongest survive. The few remaining humans must band together with supernatural beings to battle unspeakable evil—or all hope will be lost.

Kimber Treat is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary gift: she can raise the dead. As a necromancer who works with the police, she communicates with murder victims to bring their killers to justice. But after a normal session goes horribly wrong, Kimber realizes she’s summoned something dark and sinister. She’s unwittingly unleashed the apocalypse, and everyone blames her . . . except Duncan MacDonnough, the devastatingly handsome vampire she can’t stop fantasizing about.

As society shuts down and flesh-eating hordes close in, Duncan vows to protect Kimber. He can keep her safe from others—but not from the insatiable carnal hunger he feels for her. Now racing to reverse the chaos she’s unleashed, Kimber can’t afford any distractions. But even as she succumbs to Duncan’s seduction, she fears that he has a hidden agenda. And with the line between life and death starting to blur, his secrets might kill her-or worse.


In Cynthia Garner’s new Awakening series, the police use necromancers in their murder investigations to question the deceased.  Kimberly Treat has been brought in to see who murdered Richard Whitcomb. This time when she taps into the magic of the Unseen, something dark takes a ride with Whitcomb’s soul. Before she returns his energy to the Unseen, Whitcomb bites the M.E. and begins an outbreak of a zombie virus which takes over the world.

Our story fast forwards to six months later where Kimber, her friend Natalie, are hold up in an apartment building with Duncan and his fey friend Aodhán. Supplies are running low and Duncan’s vampire Queen will offer safety to Kimber and her friends in exchange for Kimber raising her murdered vampire lover from the dead. Kimber has no desire to live in a nest of vampires, even if it is more secure and lush than her current space. Especially not after Maddalene sent her vampires to kill Kimber’s parents.

Even if Kimber wanted to help the Queen, the Unseen hasn’t acted right since that fateful day six months ago. Kimber has tried again and again to pull the zombie virus from the infected and each time she feels the pull of something dark and evil when she touches the Unseen.

When Madeline threatens the life of her friends unless Kimber comes to her compound, Kimber might just be stuck between a zombie hoard and a hungry vampire army.

THOUGHTS:
This was a quick story that draws you in and before you are ready, it’s over. Worse, when you think about it you still have questions. The good thing is that there is a Book 2, Vampire Thirst, coming out next month.

I also realized once we got to the end that there was probably as much sex as there were zombies in the story. When Kimber and the gang stayed in their apartment and kept quiet with the windows covered, they didn’t seem to be bothered by the zombies. We never saw them scouting for supplies, only traveling between the vampire compound and their apartment. There were a few zombie fights, but I never felt tension of any real danger.

There was also the added interest in blending vampires, fey, magic and zombies (but so far no sign of werewolves). Kimber and Duncan were interesting characters and we get a hint of sexual interest and snarkiness between Natalie and Aodhán.

It was a light read and I am interested enough to see where Book 2 takes us.

Received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Scene:

And that was the other thing that had changed. The two-bedroom apartment where she used to live with Natalie now housed four people from time to time—two humans, one fey warrior and a vampire who was thankfully absent for the moment. With only half a cup of coffee she wasn’t sure she’d be able to put up with bossy-pants Duncan MacDonnough.

Even if his bossiness made her want to roll over and do whatever he wanted.

She’d thought about suggesting they all get a place of their own. It wasn’t as if there weren’t plenty of empty apartments available. And she’d sure as hell thought plenty about telling Duncan to stay at his own place at Maddalene’s complex. But while having people living with her was aggravating at times, she could still recognize there was safety in numbers. If for no other reason, she and Natalie could sleep while Aodhán or Duncan kept watch, and vice versa.

From where he sat on the sofa, Aodhán said, “I know I don’t need to remind you to keep your voices down.” The lovely Irish lilt did nothing to mask the slight ring of condescension in his deep voice.

“No, you don’t,” Kimber muttered. She finished her coffee and placed the mug on the table. “Although it does sound quite lovely when you don’t remind us.”

He turned his head and looked at her. She only knew it because the light from the candles on the table glinted in his eyes.

“Oh, for crying out loud.” She picked up one of the candles and carried it carefully into the living room. She set it on the coffee table and sat down on the other end of the sofa. “I can’t even see you from in there.” Curling her legs beneath her, she rested her head against the back of the sofa and stared at him. He picked up a soft cloth and stroked it along the sword blade. She frowned. “You cleaned that thing yesterday, and you haven’t used it since.”

“A sharp, clean sword is a warrior’s best friend.” He lifted a brow. “It also makes it much easier to lop off heads. Or, if you’d prefer, I can let it get dirty and dull and then hack away at the hordes when we face them. Take five minutes to do a job that should only take a few seconds.”

“Are you sure that’s it?” Natalie asked as she walked over to them. “Or do you just like fondling your sword?”

Kimber pressed her lips together, her gaze going from Natalie to Aodhán. These two had struck sparks from the moment they’d met, and it had only gotten worse with their close living quarters. She wasn’t sure if she should fix some popcorn or take cover.

“Oh, I’m like any other man, lass,” he rejoined with a smirk. “I’m not averse to fondling my mighty sword. Of course, I’m also highly inclined to allow those of the feminine persuasion the opportunity to wrap their hands around it, to stroke along the hard shaft all the way to the tip.” He gave a lecherous waggle of his brows.

Natalie rolled her eyes and shook her head. Kimber snorted back a laugh.

Without taking his gaze off Natalie, he asked, “Do you have something against fondling a man’s sword, then?” He stretched his long legs out under the coffee table.

“I like fondling plenty. With the right weapon,” Natalie added without missing a beat. “But that’s something you’ll only find out in your dreams, fairy boy.”

Rather than be incensed by her derogatory name calling, Aodhán grinned, his teeth flashing white in the dim room.

Bite Me by Shelly Laurenston

Bite Me (Pride, #9)


ORDER A COPY: Bite Me (The Pride Series)

Publisher: Brava
Publishing Date: March 25, 2014
Paperback: 382 pages

Rating: 5 stars


Livy Kowalski has no time for idiots. When you shapeshift into a honey badger, getting through life’s irritants is a finely honed skill. Until she gets stuck housing her nutso cousin and dealing with her dad’s untimely and unexplained demise.

That’s where Vic Barinov comes in—or his house does. Vic can’t step outside without coming back to find Livy devouring his honey stash and getting the TV remote sticky. It gets his animal instincts all riled up. But he’ll have to woo her at high speed: all hell is breaking loose, and Livy is leading the charge.


Livy Kowalski is petite, shapely, vicious and all Honey Badger in Shelly Laurenston’s latest book in the Pride series.

Livy’s family is disappointed by her. From the cradle she has been taught by her family how to steal, how to pick locks, how to appraise valuables and instead of stealing art, Livy wants to waste her time  creating it. Her art is everything to Livy but with a big show coming up, and she feels like her art has dried up and if a dry spell isn’t bad enough, somehow she has been dragged in to shoot the wedding of Bo Novikov and Blayne Thorpe. Artist to wedding photographer, could things get any worse.

Oh, but they can. Someone let her cousin Melly out of prison a few months early. It seems you can get good behavior even if you fake your own kidnapping to get more attention from your boyfriend. And now Melly has decided to move into Livy’s place for now. So going home is not an option.

And that’s why Vic has found Livy hiding up in his kitchen cabinet eating the rest of his honey. He wouldn’t mind so much if she used the key he gave her, but she keeps digging holes into the side of his house and the shifter-contractors are starting the jack the price up for fixing them.

Vic is more like his laid back bear father than his tiger mother, and like most hybrids, he has a few quirks of his own. But it’s his laid back nature that makes him able to roll with Livy’s volatile and usually violent nature. She’s not one for sharing anything–emotions, feelings, thoughts…honey, yet Vic is always there when she needs him.

Vic has been sent to find Frankie Whitlan, the man who has been organizing shifter hunts.   He asks Livy to use her B&E skills to break into Allison Whitlan’s apartment to see if her father has contacted her. Livy finds something in that apartment that has her seeking out the family that she usually avoids, but Vic can’t get her to open up.

After weekend trip to the bear town of Honeyville (yeah, they know it’s quaint) to gorge on some gourmet honey and do a little jousting (yes, I said jousting), Livy finally confesses what she found in that apartment and it is enough to anger every shifter so that they agree to work with the honey badgers to bring in Whitlan to finally face shifter justice.

THOUGHTS:
What I love best about Shelly Laurenston’s shifter series is how true to the animal nature she keeps the characters. The bears are either laid back or loners or aggressive, depending on the type of bear. The cats are sultry and protective. The wolves stick with packs. The honey badgers are all petite and aggressive and nothing says party like a backyard full of poisonous snakes.

I love the introduction of Vic’s new partner, Shen, who is very laid back and always snacking on bamboo.

This book could be read as a stand alone, but there are many past characters who show up in this story that you won’t understand the relationships if this is your first Pride book. We even get a surprise Smith showing up.   And it is more fun when you understand that the Smith’s are the hillbilly/moonshine running wolf pack vs. the rich and powerful Van Holtz wolf pack vs. the prodigy-filled jackal family.

There is a lot of wit mixed in this paranormal series and the pack, pride or clan being featured has a lot to do with how the story goes.

Shelly Laurenston offers a lot of fun for anyone looking for a lighthearted paranormal series.

Received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Scene:

(Livy and Vic attend a Renaissance Faire in the bear town of Honeyville, and Livy decides to work out some of her aggression by jousting.)

Livy stared up at the horse one of the faire employees held for her. She glanced over and said, “You can’t be serious.”

“These are horses bred for two things. Handling the weight of big guys in armor…and not panicking at the scent of shifters. Helping some tiny feminist trying to prove something was not on our list of things to accomplish during the breeding process,” he finished.

Livy looked under the horse and asked, “Huh. What’s this? It looks bad.”

The faire employee bent down to see what Livy was looking at and that’s when she rammed the pummel of her sword into the employee’s tibia. She heard something snap, and he went down with a roar onto one knee. Before he could fall back, Livy climbed onto his shoulders and mounted the horse that was way too big for her.

She looked down at the now-sobbing bear. “Thanks for the help.”

Vic walked into the prep area and stopped when he saw her.

“Have you ever ridden a horse before?” he asked.

“No. There were horses at the private school I went to. Riding lessons were mandatory and were part of our gym grade, but every time I got close to them, the horses tried to stomp me into the ground. Eventually, I had to be excused.”

“But now you’re going to ride one that’s too big for you so you can…joust?”

“That’s the plan.” Someone put a lance in her hand. It was heavy and too long, but livy held on to it. “How do I look?” she asked again.

“Suicidal.”

“If you’re going to be negative…”

Livy moved around in the saddle.

“What?” Vic asked.

“I wish I didn’t have to wear this armor. It’s making my skin itch.”

“Take that armor off, female, and still try to joust, and I’ll beat you to death myself.”

Livy nodded. “Subtle.”

“I’m not subtle. Never said I was subtle. Worried you’re about to do something stupid? Yes. That is accurate.”

“Honey Badger’s up!” someone called out.

“I’m up.” Livy stared at the back of the horse’s head. “You can go now,” she told the beast.

Vic dropped his head into his hands.

Chuckling, she tapped the sides of the horse’s flanks with her heels and rode to the field. True, she might not have ridden the horses at her fancy private school, but that didn’t mean the gym teacher wasn’t a bitch who hated Livy so much she made the fourteen-year-old sit and watch the others for the entire period. At the time, Livy hated Mrs. Webb, but at the moment, she’d discovered a new found appreciation.

Once Livy was led into position, she looked around at the crowd. The faire was surprisingly big and had a lot of attendees. Even the cats from the town next door came to the Honeyville Annual Renaissance Faire.

And apparently the joust was the most popular attraction; the makeshift arena was already packed, with the audience continuing to grow.

“Honey stick?”

A seven-foot older grizzly stood next to her, his face obscured by an enormous beard and long brown and gray hair. Another hippie, she was guessing. Like Rita.

Livy took the offered honey stick, bit off the tip, and sucked out the honey inside while the grizzly studied her a moment before asking, “I know you honey badgers are tough and all, but you do know that we’re going to crush your tiny little body into the dirt, don’t ya?”

“Yeah. I know that.”

“You don’t mind?”

“Not as much as I probably should.” She shrugged. “Trying to work out some issues.”

“Ahhh. I see.” The grizzly leaned in. “Well, me and the guys had a thought. You see, the reason we have this first night of jousting is because we always have to work through the cats from next door before we can get to a good rousing joust with the rest of us. The felines bring a lot of money to this faire, so we put up with ‘em. But it gets a bit boring.”

Livy again looked around at the audience, which was still growing…with bears.

“You want me to take out the cats…don’t you?” Livy asked.

“Cat humiliation and bear entertainment all rolled in one. Think you can do that?”

“What do I get out of it?” Because at the end of the day, Livy was still her mother’s daughter.

“Year’s supply of your favorite honey from Rita’s story?”

Livy immediately thought of the cinnamon-infused honey and she sort of shuddered. A good shudder, though. A delicious, honey-filled shudder.

“I’m in.”

The grizzly patted her leg. “Have fun, sweetie.”

Livy planned to…

Rising Assets by Rebecca Zanetti

Rising Assets (Maverick Montana, #3)


ORDER A COPY: Rising Assets (Entangled Brazen)

Publisher: Entangled/Brazen
Publishing Date: March 31, 2014
ebook: 250 pages

Rating: 4 stars


Melanie Jacoby is in trouble. With three jobs—including running her ranch—and dwindling funds, she’s exhausted. Not to mention desperately trying to hide a secret. Unfortunately, her best friend Colton Freeze knows all too well that’s something is going on, and he won’t give up until he knows exactly what he needs to fix.

Then Colton learns the truth—that Melanie’s future happiness rests in the fickle hands of fate, and her chances for having a family are shrinking with every passing day. Her only comfort is Colton, but when a heated argument between them turns into an even hotter kiss, the boundaries of their friendship are erased, leaving only a scorching-hot hunger for more.

Every kiss—every touch—is a stolen pleasure. But will their new friends-with-sexy-benefits arrangement bring them closer together, or destroy everything they once shared?


Colton Freeze has just returned to Mineral Lake after obtaining his degree. He is going to take over running the family business. When he get home, he finds that one of his best friends, Melanie Jacoby, has been working herself to death working two jobs in addition to running her ranch. Melanie has been one of his closest friends almost a part of the family, since they were kids. If she was having financial problems, she should have come to him.

Melanie isn’t looking for a hand-out from Colton or his family. What Melanie needs money for is a private matter. Melanie body is working against her and is she doesn’t hurry, she will never have a child of her own. The cost of freezing her eggs is expensive but would be worth it if she has a chance to have a baby of her own when she gets married. When that doesn’t work, Melanie goes for Option 2, a trip to the sperm bank. If she tries to conceive now, she might still be able to have her own child.

Colton is shocked to find out what is happening to Melanie and upset that she didn’t turn to him for support. Having a baby is part of Colton’s grand plan after falling in love and getting married. You know, far off in the future plans. But the idea of Melanie carrying someone stranger’s baby is enough to make Colton rethink his future to-do list.

While Colton and Melanie are unsure about the changes that their friendship face if they become lovers, it seems that the whole town has been betting for quite awhile now on how long it would take for Colton and Melanie to get together.

THOUGHTS:
This was a cute romance. Colton and Melanie were likable characters. There was a strong attachment between the two and they were the only ones concerned about how attempting to have a baby would effect their relationship. But it is Colton who is giving off the appearance of wanting to help Melanie, so you can understand Melanie’s concern that at what point, if she doesn’t get pregnant, do they walk away before she feels she traps Colton and keeps him from having a future.

The only thing that bothered me and made me want to smack Colton upside the head is when he didn’t want Melanie carrying anyone else’s baby but his, but then he couldn’t image being able to be there for them long term. He can’t imagine her having someone else’s baby, but for a smart and educated man he doesn’t take that thought further that he would be okay with another man taking over his role in Melanie’s life and raising his kid? If not being the father made him crazy, he didn’t seem the type to walk away and let someone else step in to be the husband and father. That part definitely went against his character.

The town bet added fun to the story. Little old ladies offering up inappropriate dates to push Melanie and Colton together in a timely fashion to meet their bet deadlines. And there is everyone’s refusal to admit who is the bet taker in Town.

I am a big fan of Rebecca’s Dark Protectors series and her Sin Brothers series, but this story lacks the excitement of the other two series. I haven’t had a chance to read the first two of the Maverick Montana series but this one seems more in the category of a sweet romance with a background of strong rancher family. This is a series to enjoy for the strong family bonds.

Received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Scene:

“Colton.” Mrs. Hudson emerged from the coffee shop, her gray wool coat swallowing her, and a bright pink knit scarf wrapped around her neck several times. “Do you have a minute?”

He hustled toward the elderly lady. “Yes, ma’am. What can I do for you?” Last night he’d already apologized for the mix-up with Melanie.

Mrs. Hudson slipped her bony arm through his. “We can chat while you escort me toward my car.” Her worn boots matched her scarf, and he made a mental note to make sure she got some new boots before snow arrived again. From the chill in the air, it wouldn’t be long.

“I’d love to escort you.” He angled his body to protect her better from the wind. The woman lived at the end of Main Street and had driven three blocks instead of walking. Rain or snow, the woman always walked, probably so she didn’t miss anything on the way. “I noticed you drove instead of walked today. Are you feeling all right?”

“Yes, I felt like a drive today. Pus, it’s going to sleet, and I didn’t want to get caught.” She twittered and patted his arm. “You’re such a fine young man. My niece, Beatrix, is visiting at the end of the week, and I was hoping you’d take her out and show her the town.”

The woman had always been a matchmaker. He smiled. “That’s kind of you, and I appreciate your thinking of me, but I have plans.”

Mrs. Hudson slowed down. “Well, she’ll only be here two weeks, and I have to admit, she’s quite easy.”

He coughed out air and glanced down at tight, gray curls. “Excuse me?”

She looked up and squinted faded blue eyes. “Beatrix. She gets around, a lot.” Mrs. Hudson shrugged. “I thought you two might have some fun for a couple of weeks before she leaves. Just two weeks.”

Colton stopped. What in the world? Realization smacked him in the face stronger than the wild wind. “Mrs. Hudson. You wouldn’t have entered a bet regarding Melanie Jacoby and me, would you have?”

Mrs. Hudson brushed invisible lint off her coat. “Of course not.”

Colton bit back a laugh. “Tell me the truth, or I’ll go propose to Mel right now.”

Mrs. Hudson gasped, her head shooting up so she could meet his gaze. “You wouldn’t.”

“Oh, I would.”

“Fine.” Mrs. Hudson sighed. “I have St. Paddy’s day as my date, and I sure could use the money, Colton Freeze. If you’d just declare your love that day, I’d really appreciate it.”

He couldn’t believe she’d tried to bribe him with a slutty niece. Mrs. Hudson was a pimp. He laughed. “I will certainly keep your date in mind. Who’s taking he bets and keeping the money, anyway?”

“Can’t tell you,” she said sadly. “When you make the bet, you have to swear not to tell, or your forfeit your money.”

When he found out the bet taker, he was going to kick some ass.

Friday Giveaway – Jaded by Anne Calhoun

This giveway winner was:   Angela C.

Jaded (Walkers Ford, #2)

After life as a cop in Denver leaves him burned-out, Lucas Ridgeway returns to Walkers Ford, South Dakota, to serve as their chief of police. He’s hoping to start over with a clean slate and avoid any emotional entanglements—even after his next-door neighbor kisses him senseless. Alana is passionate, dedicated, and most importantly leaving town soon. So why not have some fun?

Alana Wentworth comes from a larger-than-life political family, yet all she wanted was to be a librarian. Then after an embarrassing marriage proposal from Mr. Not-For-Her, she jumps at the chance to live her dream for a few months. She wasn’t supposed to get involved with the community—or sexy, troubled Lucas. But when the time comes for Alana to put Walkers Ford behind her, she’s not ready. And Lucas may not be ready for her to go….


Board Stiff by Annelise Ryan

Board Stiff


ORDER A COPY: Board Stiff (Mattie Winston Mysteries)

Publisher: Kensington Books
Publishing Date: March 4, 2013
Paperback: 368 pages

Rating: 4 stars


Sorenson, Wisconsin’s deputy coroner Mattie Winston is back on the job. . .in a nursing home examining the body of Bernie Chase–the now former president of the Twilight Home’s board of directors–who is covered in a powder used to turn liquids to solids. The home’s residents are certain Bernie was offing the patients who cost him too much. . .and the patient that found him can’t remember a thing.


Mattie Winston has returned to her job as the Deputy coroner. Mattie had quit to fan the flames of a relationship with her investigative partner, Det. Steve Hurley a few months ago, but after they finally got to create a bonfire, the flames were doused when Hurley’s ex-wife—wife—soon-to-be ex-wife…whatever, showed up with a fifteen-year-old kid which she claimed was Hurley’s. Thankfully, Mattie’s replacement at the coroner’s office turned out to be allergic to formaldehyde allowing Mattie to return to work while Hurley figures out how to handle his new fatherhood.

But returning to the job means, Mattie is available to be dragged by Irene Keller over to the Twilight Retirement Home to check out the suddenly dead body of the owner, Bernard Chase. Nothing about the body screams accidental death and Mattie has a whole building full of suspects. Rumor has it that Bernie was killing off the bedridden clients once their care started becoming too costly so none of the residents are too sad to see Bernie kick off.

As if the list of those wanting to see Bernie go bye-bye isn’t long enough, there is a soon to be ex-wife and a secret mistress, as well as an unknown silent partner to find and add to the list of suspects.

Meanwhile, Mattie is getting dragged into her sister’s marital problems when her inappropriate and annoying brother-in-law is tossed out of the house after he made bad investments and lost all the family’s money without mentioning it to Mattie’s sister. So he pleads with Mattie to help get his family back, all without making one boob reference. He must be desperate.

Hurley and Mattie might have cooled things off for now “officially” due to Mattie returning as Hurley’s partner, but it seems no one informed their hormones and they find themselves squeezing in quickies whenever an opportunity or two or three presents itself.

Mattie needs to catch the killer while not getting caught with her pants down by her boss and friend, Izzy, or she’ll risk losing her job permanently this time.

THOUGHTS (w/ spoilers of previous books):
I like the humor mixed with the mystery which is presented in these Mattie Winston stories. You can’t help by like Mattie who is your average, everyday woman. She needs to get to the gym and lose weight but her addiction to all things calorically challenged gets in her way. Although she is not perfect, Hurley still very much in love/lust with Mattie.

The first few books teased about the sexual tension between Mattie and Hurley and an almost adolescent Mattie is constantly give us the “does he or doesn’t he like me.” At the end of book 4, Mattie gives up her job and finally jumps in bed with the very happy Hurley. Except, once the deed was done, there is a knock on the door and Steve’s wife (who he thought was his ex-wife but she never filed the papers) shows up with a daughter who she claimed was Steve’s and told him they had no place to live and could they stay with him for now. At that point I despaired that the next book would be all back and forth with Hurley and what to do about the wife, and Mattie and what to do about her job, anything to keep the two apart, and ending with Hurley ready to commit just as Mattie gets her job back. I was pleasantly surprised that Annelise Ryan didn’t torment us with such a bad plotline.

In Board Stiff, Mattie has just returned to her job while Steve sorts out his life. This is her first case back and she hasn’t seen Steve for a few months. She keeps indicating to Hurley that they need to keep their relationship professionally — although she keeps doing this while putting her clothes back on. So between quickies which are keeping us all entertained, we get an interesting investigation into the murder at the retirement home.

The Mattie Winston Mysteries are fun, lighthearted and not overly complicated murder plots, but they will keep you guessing and investigating. There are more changes in the future for Mattie and Hurley at the end of this story, and it will be interesting to see where they go in the next story.

Received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Scene:

I venture over toward the group and ask Hurley if I can speak to him a moment. This earns me several looks of contempt, and one of the women goes so far as to voice her objection.

“Hey, wait your turn, missy!” she says. The woman is well built and attractive for her age with carefully coiffed, snow-white hair, hooker-red fingernails, and a carefully made up face. She is dressed in tight black slacks, a low-cut red blouse, and shiny red pumps, which strike me as inappropriate for a women her age until I see that she is sitting in a motorized wheelchair. Hell, the woman could wear six-inch stilettos if she wanted to because she doesn’t have to walk anywhere in them.

“I’ll give him back to you,” I say. “We work together and I just need to speak to him for a minute.”

Clearly she is not satisfied with my answer because she motors toward me, grabs my arm, and pulls me aside. “You need to make it quick, darling, because I’m working my best magic on this guy and right now he’s the only man in this facility who looks like he’s capable of sustaining a stiffy for any length of time. Hell, half these guys can’t even get a stiff, much less maintain one. I once tried to talk Bernie Chase into salting the food with Viagra, arguing that it would help with is safety record because it would keep some of these old fools from rolling out of bed. But he wouldn’t go for it and now I’m stuck with a bunch of limp noodles. Don’t let this wheelchair fool you. I’m not dead in that part of my body yet, and while I’m not saying it’s been a longtime since I last had sex, I do vaguely recall seeing a T-Rex thunder by during my post-coital haze, so I’m in need here, understand?”

“And you think you can score with the detective?” I say, barely suppressing a smile.

She then does something so shocking it makes me back up a step. First, she turns her wheelchair away from the others so that only I can see her face. She contorts her lips and pops both an upper and lower denture loose, letting them stick part way out of her mouth for a second before she sucks them back in. Then she leans in closer to me and wiggles her carefully drawn eyebrows. “Play a skin flute once without the teeth and you got ‘em for life,” she whispers.

It takes a lot to shock me. If you work as a nurse in an ER for any length of time you see and hear things that would mortify most people. Despite that, Snow White’s comment makes me gasp and clamp a hand over my mouth.

Hurley hears it and looks over at us. “Did Gwen just confess?” he asks with half a grin.

“Not to murder,” I say.

Gwen gives me a smug smile and motors back over to Hurley. “I’ll share everything I know with you,” she says, stroking his arm. “You come back and find me when you’re done talking to the big-boned blonde.”

I see Hurley’s mouth twitch and know he’s trying to suppress a smile.

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