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Saturday, April 30, 2016

REVIEW: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

After Alice supposes how 1860 Oxford, England reacted to Alice's disappearance. Ada, a friend of Alice's mentioned briefly in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives too late.  Tumbling down the rabbit hole herself, she has her own set of adventures and is constantly one step behind her friend. 

Back in England, readers follow a parallel narrative as friends and family realize both Alice and Ada are missing. Maguire adds characters within the frame of Carroll's original work while also exploring some themes of disability, women's roles and racism.

After several failed attempts, I have to concede that Gregory Maguire and I are never going to be the best of friends.  On the surface you'd think he'd be my author knight in shining armor--with a slew of bestselling works surround my most beloved favorites, The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. However, try as I might, Maguire's writing style and my personal preferences just aren't a good fit. For me, there is a lack of fluidity and ability to engage with his plots or characters.  As much as I adore the Broadway musical Wicked, I loathed the book and have never read any others in the series. Likewise, I've attempted to read Mirror, Mirror and Confessions of an Ugly Step-Sister to no avail.

I always leave feeling disappointed and underwhelmed.  Furthermore, I often find myself interpreting that the author has a quite negative view of women. Overall, he took a story filled with imagination and made it rather boring.  I trudged through to the end, hoping to find redemption but, for me, there was none. 

Final rating: 2 out of 5 stars

#AfterAlice #AliceInWonderland #GregoryMaguire #classic #retelling #books

REVIEW: Monday by E.L. Todd

A big THANKS to @inkslingerpr and author, E.L. Todd for the review opportunity!

Expected publication: May 3, 2016

Fallen Publishing - buy it here.

Francesca aka 'Frankie' is a twenty something college student working as a barista at the local coffee shop, 'The Grind'. School is just a means to an end before she endeavors to live her true dream: opening a bakery in Manhattan.  Frankie is no stranger to tragedy or emotional loss, having lost both her parents at a young age. She isn't necessarily looking for love, but when fate intercedes, Frankie finds her soulmate.

Hawke is as gorgeous as he is troubled.  Working as an intern and hell bent on succeeding in the cut throat money trading world, his player attitude and behavior is a defense mechanism wrought from surviving an abusive, turbulent childhood.  Hawke can't escape and put his past behind him since his mother refuses to leave the violent situation--one in which Hawke fears he won't be fast enough to save her one time.

When Frankie and Hawke meet, the attraction is instant.  He pushes her away for fear that he'd hurt her. However, destiny won't be ignored. As their paths cross again, a deep bond of friendship and intimacy neither has experienced before plants the roots for a relationship that is as tumultuous as it is passionate. Sometimes love just isn't enough.

I devoured Monday in virtually one sitting. Todd's characters and their stories are compelling.  There is a nice balance of timely humor, angst and realistic relationship woes mixed with intensely hot, passionate love scenes and a rise in climatic plot tension as everything in Hawke's life seems to explode. I both loved and hated the ending.  As I neared the finish, I was worried that all the problems would be magically solved in a few pages.  That isn't the case. Instead, Todd leaves readers wanting more with a well crafted relationship cliffhanger.  Hence why I 'hated' the ending a little bit too.

That being said, Frankie and Hawke's story continues in Tuesday and Wednesday. True Timeless series fans will be thrilled that Marie and Axel get two books of their own, Thursday and Friday. Publication for all titles is May 3, 2016.


Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @E_L_TODD

#Monday #Timeless #ELTodd #romance #NA #inkslingerpr #erotic #books

Friday, April 22, 2016

REVIEW: Blood Kiss (Black Dagger Legacy) by JR Ward

Blood Kiss is the first in a spin-off series of Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood. Plagued by the continuing war between the Omega and the Lessening Society, the BDB have opened training to vampire aristocracy and civilians. Enter Paradise, blooded daughter to the king's First Advisor.  She is ready to break free from the restraints of being an aristocratic female and is determined to succeed in order to learn to defend herself, think for herself and be herself.

While a solid plan, nothing is as simple as it seems. School is highly challenging and Paradise did not foresee falling head over heels in love with fellow recruit, Craeg.  As a civilian, Craeg has his own reasons to despise the glymera; however, he can't resist the pull toward Paradise despite their differing backgrounds.

Blood Kiss follows a similar pattern and is mostly couple-centric for Paradise and Craeg but in typical Ward fashion, she weaves other story lines into the narrative while setting up future arcs.  This novel is just as much about Butch and Marissa navigating some turbulent relationship waters. What works is how these two plots eventually meet up as circumstances turn violent.

I admit that I was a bit surprised by the big reveal. That being said, I don't think it held up to my expectations.  I felt as if the ending wrapped up a bit too quickly and was too convenient.  I'm used to Ward torturing her characters a bit more before the happily ever after. I expect that there is more in store for Paradise and Craeg, given the anger her feels for her family's deaths. Other characters introduced were intriguing so I'm pretty excited to get Axe's book (Blood Vow 12/16) next.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @JRWard1

#BDB #BDLegacy #BloodKiss #vampires #romance #erotic #mystery #books #JRWard

REVIEW: Feverborn by Karen Marie Moning

In Moning's 8th Fever book, Mac is back along with Barrons, Ryodan and Jada (aka Dani) plus a slew of other enemies and allies. Dublin is still in chaos since the wall between Faerie and the human world was destroyed, leaving the very fabric of the universe damaged and the Earth slowly vanishing.

Without giving spoilers, lots of crazy stuff is happening! There is drama within "The 9" that involves Christian. Will Jada ever remember being Dani? Will she finally hook up with Ryodan? Will Cruze escape? Is the entire world going to get sucked up into a black hole??

Feverborn was not my favorite of the series; however, you might ask: why the 5 star rating? I had to bump it up because of the ending.  Moning sure knows how to lure readers in for the kill and then shock them wholeheartedly with a stunning cliffhanger. Years later, I've never truly gotten over the end of Faefever or Iced.  I enjoyed the book as a whole but did feel as if it is just another bridge for the next book. I wanted to see more about the King and the song of making/unmaking but I know Moning is moving toward this big finale. I get so wrapped up in this world and characters that I just want more. NOW!

On to the audiobook about which there was much debate this time around. Starting with book 4, Dreamfever, there has been shared narration between Natalie Ross and Phil Gigante, who is facing criminal charges.  And so, this book is well narrated by Jill Redfield and Luke Daniels, who happens to be one of my top male narrators of all time. Therefore, I loved the change and preferred this performance to the others.

Overall, I loved the book (even if others didn't) but am desperate for Feversong!

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author and narrators on Twitter: @KarenMMoning @LuckyLukeekul

#fever #feverborn #FeverSeries #Fae #romance #KMM #books #audiobook

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

REVIEW: Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs by Molly Harper

Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs is the first Jane Jamison novel set in Half Moon Hollow, KY. Jane is a youth services librarian who finds herself unemployed. After wallowing in pity at the local bar, she heads home, suffers a car breakdown and mistaken for a deer is accidently shot and left for dead.  Luckily, a handsome and mysterious vampire happens by, thus turning her and beginning the hilarious and entertaining folly that makes this series so endearing.

“You can take the girl out of the library, but you can’t take the neurotic, compulsively curious librarian out of the girl.” 
I adore Jane and all the supporting characters including Gabriel, Zeb, Mr. Wainwright, Andrea, creepy Ophelia, and of course, Dick Chaney!  Having already read the series, it was fun to return where it all started in order to prepare for our April discussion in Positively Paranormal book club.

Harper is truly gifted when it comes to writing seamless humor which adds unique flare to the plot and character development. I love that Jane doesn't have much of a filter between her brain and her mouth.  She's smart and sassy but also lovably realistic in her flaws despite immortality.

The audiobooks to the series and all of Harpers books are stellar. Narrator Amanda Ronconi breather such life into the performance that listeners will be hooked.  I laughed till I cried (again) and truly believe fellow drivers on the road think I am a lunatic.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @mollyharperauth

#JaneJamison #NiceGirlsDon'tHaveFangs #HalfMoonHollow #MollyHarper #romance #mystery #humor #vampires #audiobook

Monday, April 11, 2016

REVIEW: The Beast by J.R. Ward

With The Beast, J.R. Ward is back with the 14th title in her bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  This book is Rhage and Mary centric but continues the multi-perspective storytelling Ward has adopted over the course of the series.  Rhage and Mary will both admit to feeling a disconnect to their relationship--the love and passion is there but so is a grey space.

Mary is engrossed with her work as a counselor at Safe Place, a sanctuary for women and children suffering from domestic abuse. One case in particular touches her and has a significant impact on the rest of the book, Mary's relationship with Rhage and their future. Rhage has a similar epiphany after a rather traumatic event which alters his outlook.

Parallel storylines lead readers back to the ongoing arc featuring Layla and Xcor with some surprising revelations hinted at in books to come.  Ward continues to explore Assail and a burgeoning role with the Brotherhood as well as introduce new players with interesting pasts and who are connected to some much beloved characters.

Reading The Beast felt like coming full circle.  Way back when, Lover Eternal--book 2 in the BDB series--was my first introduction to Ward and the BDB.  I have a certain soft spot for Hollywood and his Mary.  That being said, this latest installment wasn't my favorite of the series even though I found it engaging. I kept waiting for more to happen and overall feel that while still exploring an important new phase for Rhage and Mary, the rest of the ongoing arc seemed to stall. There are a few surprising developments that will no doubt be important for what is to come but Ward leaves readers begging for more.

Now all I have to do is wait not so patiently for The Chosen in 2017, which is promised to be Xcor and Layla's book. FINALLY!!!  Plus I can console myself with the new Black Dagger Legacy books Blood Kiss (2015) and Blood Vow (December 2016).

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @JRWard1

#TheBeast #BDB #review #romance #vampires

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

REVIEW: Welcome to the Point #1-3 by Jay Crownover

Welcome to the Point--a dark, dangerous and seedy fictional city at the heart of this compelling, mysterious and sexy series from Jay Crownover.

Better When He's Bad introduces audiences to the Point and ultimate bad boy, Shane Baxter.  Bax is not only a bad boy, but a boy who is just plain bad.  With a history as a thug, criminal and brawler, he is fresh out of a 5 year prison sentence and looking for answers, namely from his former best friend--Race Hartman--as to what really went down the night he was busted. Bax doesn't care who he has to take on to get answers but with Race incognito, he stumbles upon an unlikely key player, Race's half sister, Dovie Pryce.

Dovie is no stranger to the harsh life of the Point or the difficult decisions that come with survival.  Worried about Race, she's been told to trust Bax despite his terrifying demeanor. Dovie is everything he isn't --compassionate, innocent and good down to her core. When things in the Point go from bad to worse, Bax is the only one who can keep Dovie safe. She quickly discovers that some boys are just better when they're bad.

Bax is one of those character who is initially hard to like.  He isn't a nice person. True, he's lived a tough life and made decisions in order to survive, but underneath he isn't a compassionate, charming hero. Bax is bad and isn't likely to change his ways but when it comes to Dovie he finds a soulmate with the ability to keep him human.

I liked the overall plot, characters and development of this unlikely relationship.  It isn't perfect but it is raw, passionate and realistic. Bax and Dovie are my favorite, complicated couple of the series. Having read this twice, I think this is also my favorite book of the series too.

Final rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

In this second book in the Welcome to the Point series, Race Hartman had decided to pick up the pieces and make his move to become the new player in the Point. Race is young, smart, bold and wickedly sexy. His desire to run the city means that he can at least control the badness and minimize the devastation.

Brysen Carter is a beautiful college co-ed and Dovie's best friend. Her life is in shambles since her mother's depression, tragic accident and workaholic father's withdrawal has forced her to move back home to care for her teenage sister. Try as she might to resist Race's charms, when she starts receiving threatening texts and is nearly run down in a parking lot, Brysen turns to Race for help and protection.

Their chemistry is electric and there is no denying that the connection is there. What Brysen has to decide is if she's cut out for living within Race's dark lifestyle.  Her resolve is tested, especially when tensions within the Point rise and Brysen is surprised to learn that her own family has some dangerous ties to the Point.

Better When He's Bold picks up right where the first book left off. I like the juxtaposition between these two characters. Both know what it is like to grow up on the Hill, but Brysen's perspective of the Point is far different from Race's. I liked their banter and growing relationship. There's some pretty good twists to the plot, appearances by beloved characters, and plenty of sexytime.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Better When He's Brave is the final installment to this first part of the series.  Titus King is a dedicated cop, committed to uphold the law and make the Point a little bit safer--pretty much the complete opposite of half brother, Shane Baxter.  All of the city is on high alert with the mysterious new player in town hellbent to exact vengeance over big bad Novack's demise in book 1.

Reeve Black doesn't have too many fans in town.  Following her previous actions which led to Dovie's kidnapping and injuries, Reeve has been whisked away to protective custody pending the trial of Novack's associates.  When she realizes she has key information to bring down the threat trying to destroy the Point, Reeve arrives back on the scene to help and repent her sins.

Their attraction has been undeniable since first sight.  Titus hopes to use Reeve as bait to lure the big bad out of hiding but things while things heat up in his personal life, the danger outside might be too much for them to handle.

This book brings the story arc to an end but also hints at future books centering around other possible couples. What I found interesting with this book is that Reeve is the bad girl seeking redemption. She's the one willing to do some pretty awful things and sacrifice herself for those she cares about. She's made some tough decisions with regrettable outcomes but is working to atone. As with most of Crownover's characters, Reeve and Titus balance each other well. I was certainly surprised by some plot developments and couldn't stop reading! All of the other fan favorite characters are back and will keep readers asking for more :)

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @JayCrownover

#WelcomeToThePoint #romance #erotic #JayCrownover #thriller #badboys #audiobook

REVIEW: Deep by Kylie Scott

Deep is the fourth Stage Dive novel by Scott and centers around the tumultuous relationship between bass player Ben and love interest Lizzy.

The attraction and interest between Ben and Lizzy is instantaneous.  Too bad both have been warned against each other from the start.  Lizzy is Ben's best friend's younger sister in law and as such strictly off limits but Lizzy is determined to change Ben's mind.  Despite his best efforts, Ben can't seem to stay away, especially when he has to keep Lizzy out of trouble in Vegas.

After a passion filled night ends in heartache, Liz is resigned to move on until two little red lines change her world forever. Pregnant, both have to figure out the future, what it means for their little "Bean" and whether love will play a role. There are plenty of cameos from other series favorite characters plus some good drama along the way.

I enjoyed Deep and the series as a whole.  I liked this story's pacing and the structure--beginning with the pregancy reveal, flashbacking back to the start of their romance, and then moving on to dealing with the fallout and rebuilding a relationship.  Ben and Lizzy aren't necessarily my favorite couple of the series but I adore Lizzy's voice and spirit.

Deep and the Stage Dive series are definitely for fans of the erotic "hot rock" romance genre. Who doesn't love sexy, broody but sweet rockers finding true love?

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @KylieScottbooks

#Deep #StageDive #hotrock #erotic #romance #books

Monday, April 4, 2016

REVIEW: Wicked Sexy Liar by Christina Lauren

Wicked Sexy Liar is the fourth in the Wild Seasons series by the duo writing as Christina Lauren.

London Hughes is a new college graduate unsure with what she wants from life. She's content to surf, do a bit of graphic design and bartend before jumping headfirst into adulthood. Burned by an unfaithful ex, London isn't ready for any sort of relationship but often feels like the third wheel to friends Mia, Harlow and Lola whose wild night in Vegas led to meaningful hot guy hookups and true love.

Enter sexy and charismatic Luke Sutter. Their chemistry is electric and what is a super hot one night stand could be more until London learns Luke is her friend Mia's ex. She struggles to honor the "Girl Code" but when even Mia and sharp tongued Harlow give her the all clear, London can't help but fall hard for Luke. However, her feelings aren't without trepidation given Luke's reputation as a player. Luke's breakup with Mia wasn't ideal and he's been adrift in meaningless hookups for far too long. Once he realizes that London is the one to make him change his ways, Luke steps up his pursuit to prove to her that they are meant to be.

Wicked Sexy Liar is everything fans have come to expect from the authors. Super sexy but with good character development and an engaging plot.  This is a fitting conclusion to the series but I will note that London was perhaps my least favorite female protagonist of the four. I can't quite put my finger on it as to why I felt this way but I just didn't engage with her as much as let's say Lola.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @ChristinaLauren

#WildSeasons #WickedSexyLiar #erotic #romance #audiobook #books

Sunday, April 3, 2016

REVIEW: Built by Jay Crownover

Built is the first in the Saints of Denver series.  We first met family law attorney Sayer Cole in Rowdy. She's characteristically cold on the inside as a sense of survival given her harsh upbringing at the hands of a ruthless and domineering father. Free from his bonds, her wounds still run deep as do the emotions she feels about her mother's suicide. It is easier to lock it all away into a diamond hard exterior, but the ice is slowly melting as her brother Rowdy and others like Salem, Poppy and drop dead sexy contractor, Zeb Fuller insert themselves into her life.

Zeb's life hasn't been easy, especially following a jail sentence for protecting his sister and niece from an abusive beau. He's content running a successful restoration business but Zeb can't stop thinking about a certain sexy blonde lawyer.  He's determined to win her over and just might have the chance when his past comes back to haunt him.  Zeb will need Sayer's professional advice to put things right and in the process they jut might build a love meant to last.

Built was amazing! I love all Crownover's books but this one is special. Both Sayer and Zeb have compelling stories.  The plot and overall character develop feel authentic. I enjoyed the sweeping metaphor that sometimes wall have to be literally and figuratively knocked down before you can build something new and beautiful. Zeb and Sayer together are HOT, but there is more too it than that which ultimately illustrates to readers why Crownover is such a fantastic writer. Built as well as her other books push romance beyond the superficial, giving readers not only the steamy romance they crave but doing so with gritty, compelling, likeable and genuine characters.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @JayCrownover

#Built #SoD #JayCrownover #romance #erotic #realistic #bookreview

REVIEW: Leveled by Jay Crownover

Leveled is the prequel novella in Crownover's Saints of Denver series, a spin-off of the much beloved Marked Men series. Still recovering from wounds inflicted while on duty, Dominic Voss can't wait to get back to work on the police force.  He's ready for the grueling physical therapy dished out by Orlando Frederick. Their mutual attraction pushes any chance at a professional relationship to the limit; however, each just might be what the other needs in order to overcome past tragedies and embrace the future.

Fans of Crownover's work have long awaited a full circle story not only for Royal's best friend and ex-partner Dom but also for Lando, Remy's former partner who has trudged through the grief and pain of losing Remy is such a tragic way.   Leveled is characteristic of Crownover's style and intricate character building. The novella is just as much about these two men's identity seeking as it is an erotic romance. What follows is a steamy same sex courtship, so readers not prepared for this be forewarned.

I enjoyed the story for its sense of closure and hopefulness regarding these two characters. It does help set the stage for the spin off series since Built's female protagonist, Sayer, makes an appearance as do a few other fan favorites.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @JayCrownover

#Leveled #SoD #romance #erotic #relationships #bookreview