Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Hot Point by ML Buchman

Hot Point by ML Buchman


The elite firefighters of Mount Hood Aviation fly into places even the CIA can't penetrate.


Master mechanic Denise Conroy--with a reputation for being as steel-clad as the aircraft she keeps aloft--shuns useless flyboys who don't know one end of a wrench from the other.

Firehawk pilot Vern Taylor--known for unstoppable charm and a complete lack of mechanical skills--proves his talent for out-of-the-box thinking with every flight.  He's a survivor and a natural-born heli-aviation firefighter.

When Denise and Vern crash together in the Central American jungle with wildfire on one side and a full-fledged military coup on the other, their newly forged partnership is tested to the max.  They have each other, but not even their formidable skills combined can protect Denise and Vern from the conflagration sweeping the jungle...and their hearts.

First thing--the above blurb is really misleading and in some cases wrong.  First: Denise doesn't shun flyboys but she is newly out of a relationship where she was emotionally manipulated at best and abused at the worst making her hesitant about starting a new relationship with anyone not just a pilot.  Due to her ex, she is convinced that she is not feminine or womanly enough and that she is better off alone.  Second: Vern is not known for a lack of mechanical skills and at one point actually works with Denise to keep the birds flight ready.  Third: there is never a crash into the jungle...and by the time they get to the military coup Vern and Denise are extremely committed to each other.  

If you are looking for a great romantic adventure with really likable characters, this is the book for you (it stands alone well in the series but I am glad I had read the other two only because it gave me great insight into the secondary characters and added another layer of richness).  Denise has always felt different, she is a master mechanic who lost her mother to violence as a child and whose father never really recovered.  Add in relationships that never really went anywhere until the latest which went to hell and she is fine keeping to herself and not joining in with the other members of MHA.

When Vern brings in his new firehawk trailing black smoke on his second day flying it, he is sure that Denise is going to skin him alive.  She is very protective of her helicopters and he doesn't want to piss her off by breaking one.  For the past eighteen months that Vern has worked for MHA, Denise has been intimidating despite her slight stature and Vern is sure he is about to get it...what he gets instead is a brief glimpse behind the shields that Denise has gotten used to hiding behind.  And Vern wants to see more...As new facets of Denise's personality are revealed, Vern finds himself more and more intrigued and pretty soon both Denise and Vern are totally committed to finding out how much more they can be together.

Denise and Vern really compliment each other while also continuing to surprise each other.  I loved watching their relationship develop--Denise is more complicated but while Vern is extremely easy-going in most ways, he would continually surprise me (and Denise) with his emotional depth.  Add in great secondary characters from the first two books (as well as from the NightStalkers series) and you have one great book.  Like the first two books, the actual amount of page space dedicated to the more covert CIA-type work was rather slim and happened at the tail end of the book, but it doesn't matter because once again, the storyline revolving around fighting fires was fascinating and has yet to feel repetitive or old, but instead is as fresh and fun as it was the first time I read about the MHA.  Another recommended read by ML Buchman.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Her Fierce Warrior by Paige Tyler

Her Fierce Warrior by Paige Tyler

Minka isn't sure she should trust the sexy Special Forces soldier who found her.  Subjected to horrors, on the run from scientists set on locking her in a cage, Minka is terrified of the monster she's becoming...and somehow, Angelo is the only one who can calm the beast inside her and make her feel safe.

But can she trust the way he makes her feel when she's not even sure she can trust herself?

Another fantastic book from Paige Tyler!  I don't know how she has done it, but this series is getting better and better.  Minka was grabbed when on the way to work and subjected to horrible tortures.  She was also injected with something that has caused her to develop a beast--and it's very angry!  Unfortunately, Minka has found that any time she is scared, worried, angry (which is almost all the time anymore) the beast is in charge and she is helpless to stop it from wrecking havoc.  When she finally escapes, she is forced to scavenge for survival and is unsure of her reception at home--she fears her family would rather she be dead than be a monster.  Before she finds out the truth, she is accosted by some men who make it clear they do NOT have her best interests at heart and her beast comes out to "play" once again.

It is during this even that Angelo Rios discovers Minka while deployed with his Special Forces unit in Tajikistan.  He has seen hybrids before but was definitely not expected to come across one in this part of the world.  He is even more surprised when his very presence allows Minka's beast to retreat allowing the scared young woman to come to the forefront although she still has very limited control.  Soon Angelo and Minka are on their way to the DCO, a covert organization trying to prevent the creation of hybrids while protecting and helping those which are found.  Angelo and Minka basically live in each other's pockets while the DCO tries to discover who created Minka's beast, if there might be other hybrids out there, and where the doctors might be now.  

In addition, the DCO is worried about a traitor or traitor's on the committee who oversees their operations, relationships new and old continue developing, and hints are given about possible future story lines.  Add in a rather intense search and retrieve mission, a very uncertain future regarding a special ops soldier and the hybrid who has become less reliant but no less emotionally attached, and Paige Tyler has crafted quite the page turner.  If you have not read the other books in this series, I would not start with this one.  Do yourself a favor and begin from the very start--you'll race through them so quickly you'll be ready for this one in no time!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal.  She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast.  But Dina is...different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and things for itself.  Meant to be lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristrocrat who can't leave the grounds because she's responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight.  Under the circumstances, "normal" is a stretch for Dina.

And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night...Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved.  Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans--and alpha-strain werewolf--and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe.  But the enemy she's facing is unlike anything she's ever encountered before.  It's smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might cost her everything.

This was my very first Ilona Andrews novel but it won't be my last.  From the first page I was sucked into the world that the authors created.  Dina is a magical innkeeper who's sentient bed and breakfast hosts beings from across the galaxies.  We only meet a few such characters in this book which worked for me as it kept me from getting overwhelmed and/or confused.  Two of the "others" that we meet, the werewolf and the vampire have fascinating histories and cultural norms that I really enjoyed learning about.  I also loved the humor that was introduced through the dialogue that was another tool used to allow me to connect with the characters even when they were not of this world.

As an innkeeper, Dina should remain neutral but with a predator attacking her neighbors' dogs and her inquiry that the local werewolf do something about it being ignored, she feels that she must step in to preserve the secrecy of the (literally) alien things happening.  When the werewolf, Sean, gets wind of her interference he isn't happy about it.  The first few scenes with Sean had him being much more foe than friend, but watching that slowly change was enjoyable.  Adding in Arland just upped the yum by a factor of ten.  The inn itself is another rich character that was fascinating--I loved Dina's relationship with her inn (and vice versa).  And her broom?  Too cool!  

This book had an amazing balance of world building, which was so smoothly and richly done...some areas had tons of details while others (like Her Grace's character) had fewer but the overall tone was one in which I never felt lost.  I also enjoyed the humor, the romance, and the action.  This book really did have it all...I am happy that I am catching this series towards the beginning stages so I feel like I am getting in on something special at the ground floor but I am also disappointed that there aren't ten books that I can glom one after the other.  As it is, as soon as I finished the last page, I immediately visiting my library's web site to put book two on hold.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Reading Assignment Challenge: A Thread of Deepest Black by Finn Marlowe

Reading Assignment Challenge: A Thread of Deepest Black by Finn Marlowe

When his mortal enemy, the handsome and deadly Colton Decarie, shows up on his doorstep asking an unspeakable favor, Killian Frost is cautious--and curious.  What could drive a shape-shifter to beg a werewolf for an honorable death in the line of duty--defending humans from soul-stealing Lycans?  Moreover, why ask Killian, who has kept his own feet off that dark path?

Colton's conflicted heart can take no more of the violence that consumes more of his humanity with every hunt.  Even now, Killian's werewolf scent makes him burn with the instinctive urge to shift and destroy.  Death would be a mercy, but the price is impossibly simple: one night of submission in Killion's bed.

Yet as Killian extracts payment in flesh and pleasure, Colton finds himself giving all that's demanded of him and more, feeling something he hasn't felt in a long time.  Alive.  And Killian discovers the hidden cost of sleeping with the enemy.  To keep the balance between light and dark, Bella Luna binds his Lycan blood with a quest to unravel a conspiracy threatening all his kind.  If he's brave enough, he'll discover a love that means more than the power of a dead man's soul.

An intense read right from the start, A Thread of Deepest Black was nothing like I was expecting--it was so much more.  This entire story feels as if there is a flashlight shining on it...wherever the flashlight is focused, usually Colton and Killian, things are clear and sharp and all the details are visible.  The further from Colton and Killian the story got, the Lycans and shape-shifters in general, the politics of their world, those things were shadowed and not as clear.  Usually I like my world building to be more solid, but the nebulousness in this book worked for me.  I loved that my focus was always on Colton and Killian because both men were complicated, layered, nuanced.  Written in third person, parts of the story come from Killain's perspective and others from Colton's so that I felt that I got a handle on not only what was going on in each character's head but also how they specifically viewed and interpreted the other character.  

This is another book where it is best going in not knowing much...having it on my Kindle, I didn't even read the book blurb before I began and I'm glad I didn't, although reading after I finished, I don't know that it would have made a lot of difference to my enjoyment of having things unfold with no knowledge of what was to come.  While the blurb is actually very accurate to what happens in the story, there is so much more than that which really makes this book an incredible pleasure to read.  According to the author's note, this was Finn Marlowe's debut and what a knockout of a first book it is, too.  I have read another title by this author (Not His Kiss to Take) but it was long ago and I am thinking about rereading just so I can revisit this author's voice.  I read a lot of books about shifters and the paranormal world and A Thread of Deepest Black stands completely on its own in terms of shifter lore and style--I haven't read another book like this one before which is one of the best compliments I can give it.

This is one of those books where the characters aren't going to stay within their confined pages, but will take over my head and live there for a while.  I have found myself thinking about of them both together and individually since I finished reading...turning over little details and turns of phrase (and that title? the way it works into the story is exquisite!).  I am continuing to discover connections the more I think about the story and the thoughtfulness, cleverness, and sheer playfulness with which Finn Marlowe writes is breathtaking and delightful.  I am definitely going to be seeking out more of Marlowe's work soon...I encourage you to do the same!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Polar Bared by Eve Langlais

Polar Bared by Eve Langlais

What's a bear to do when a human has a polar-izing effect?  When Vicki accidentally slides into the side of a polar bear, she doesn't expect to fall in love.  Eaten yes, perhaps used as a chew toy, but become the object of a bear's affection and lust?

Crazy! Almost as crazy as the fact the polar bear turns out to be a man.  A sexy man.  A man who growls and roars and does everything he can to chase her away.

Only to come back.

Gene has only one things on his mind, vengeance, until Vicky crashes into his life.

After the pain and betrayal he suffered in the war, all he wants is vengeance against the brothers who left him behind.  But he's confused when, instead of wanting to punish him for his evil acts, they offer him forgiveness.

As if that weren't annoying enough, the cutest geek he ever met--with caramel-kissed skin covering a lush, rounded figure and wearing the sexiest dark-rimmed glasses--won't leave him alone.  Or more like, he can't seem to stop following her.  And it isn't just because someone is out to hurt her.

He wants her.  But does he want her more than vengeance?

Another incredibly enjoyable entry in the Kodiak Point series.  Gene was the villain of books one and two but there were hints in book two that not all was as it seemed...we got an intriguing glimpse into his pain and rage.  Finding out he was the hero of book three wasn't surprising but it was certainly intriguing as I really love the idea of redeeming him.  The big worry wasn't having a villain-turned hero but rather if the heroine would live up to Gene's bigger-than-life and rather complicated self.  Spoiler alert: Vicky was perfect for Gene!!

Vicki is left monetarily well off after her parents, and later on husband, pass away leaving her as the sole heir.  Considering that both her father and her husband were verbally, and at times physically, abusive, she is quiet, introverted, and when scared has a tendency to faint.  So when she decides to live life large and goes on an Arctic trip to do research for a paper on polar bears, slipping off the side of an ice cliff only to sled right into the side of a polar bear has her face planting in the snow quicker than you can say "Boo!"  

Gene can't believe that in all the arctic, this small, crazy woman has to crash into him.  Watching her try to save herself with dismal results tugs at his very rusty morals and he finds himself rescuing her.  In the course of getting her back to her group's camp, someone takes a shot at them.  Gene is sure that it is an enemy coming after him, but repeated attempts soon show it is Vicky that is the target.  Despite not wanting anyone in his life, Gene and his bear agree that the only way to keep Vicky safe is to keep her with them.  The fact that she smells good, tastes better, and causes the word "MINE" to spontaneously flash through Gene's head is beside the point.  

This book could stand on its own but I recommend reading it in the series order.  Knowing the bad-guy background made Gene's journey to acknowledging and later accepting not only Vicky in his life but the teammates and clan he though he wanted no part ofs reentry into his life all the sweeter.  As was watching Vicky discover and utilize her backbone...she went from beaten down to stubborn and sassy and I (and Gene) loved it.  The entire book was a very quick read (maybe a couple of hours) which I couldn't put down.  Eve Langlais's writing just works for me and this book was another example of how to write a sexy, suspenseful, clever, funny, action-packed romance.  I can't wait to visit Kodiak's Point again, but it is going to be tough for any couple to top Gene and Vicky.  So far they are my favorite of the series (which is saying something because I thoroughly enjoyed both couples from previous books!)  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Keeping Sweets by Cate Ashwood

Keeping Sweets by Cate Ashwood

Days away from high school graduation, with hardly a penny to his name, Evan Lowry needs to earn money for college.  When he comes across an ad for modeling, he things his luck has changed--until he learns he's interviewing for an adult film and will be expected to have sex.  On camera.  With other men.

For gay porn star Brandon Court, the shine has worn off of regular shoots.  He and his producer, Les, decide to try something new: a reality-show porno set at a beach house.  When he meets wide-eyed and naive Evan for the first time, Brandon isn't sure if he wants the kid to get lost or get naked.  Naked wins.

On set, Brandon takes Evan under his wing, and over the next month, they are thrown together in every intimate way conceivable--except emotionally.  Both Brandon and Evan are terrified of trying for anything deeper, and insecurities and doubts wear on their hopes, but the chemistry between them won't let them slow things down.

Keeping Sweets is another wonderful example of why I love Cate Ashwood's writing so very much.  Evan's always-drunk stepfather has made it clear that as soon as Evan has his diploma in hand he is no longer welcome in the house that hasn't really been home for years.  He has worked his keister off for years to be accepted into a good university with scholarships, but he still has to pay for living expenses.  With no degree and few resources, Evan stumbles across a site for modeling and only after being accepted for an interview does he realize it is an adult modeling site.  Evan has nothing to lose by simply seeing what they might want from him, so he agrees to the interview.

Bran, who has always gone by the screen name of Noah, is rapidly tiring of the porn industry.  After ten years, he is starting to think that he is trapped--he doesn't have any other training or a college degree, but at twenty-seven he is getting older in an industry of mostly younger guys.  The new project he is undertaking with his producer, and surrogate dad, Les, will allow him to have some time behind the cameras and on the production end of things.  Now if they could only find six guys to hire...problem is most of the interviews have featured men with more attitude and ego than warranted and Bran is able to be picky at this point in his career.  And then Evan walks in...all nerves and big eyes...and somehow snags Bran's interest even though Bran KNOWS he should steer clear of this innocent kid.  And then Bran discovers exactly how innocent Evan really the time they do an interview and a little "hands-on" auditioning, Bran is hooked.

Evan is equal parts thrilled and scared to be chosen for Bran's big project.  He finds himself drawn to Bran but realizes that his emotions are most likely not wanted and definitely not returned.  When Evan and Bran start to hang out together, they both find something in the other that they have been looking for but the future does not seem to be in their favor...What do an aspiring college kid and a getting-too-old-for-this-shit adult film actor have in the way of true prospects?  Both determine that they will live in the moment but it quickly becomes clear that neither are interested in being with the other guys at the house where they are filming even if it is only an act--it feels like a real betrayal.  

For a book set in the porn industry, this book was truly sweet.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that all of the guys making the film together were likable.  We don't get to know all of them that well (hoping that changes as this is the first in a series), but while they were all in the project for different reasons all of them seemed genuinely interested in having a good time and getting along.  There wasn't any unnecessary drama-queen attitudes or other problems from the other people in the house and it wasn't missed.  Bran and Evan had enough problems without adding any of that into the equation.  I will say that personally I think a good sit-down conversation between the two MCs might have solved a lot of problems and prevented a lot of the end-of-book angst, but I wasn't annoyed by the way things ended.  I look forward to reading Resurrecting Elliott soon as I can't wait to revisit this author and the world she has created.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge: Full Blaze by ML Buchman

Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge: Full Blaze by ML Buchman

These wilderness firefighters battle more than flames

The elite experts of Mount Hood Aviation fly into places even the CIA can't penetrate.

She's just jumped square into the heart of the blaze

When Australian helicopter pilot Jeannie Clark rescues wildfire photographer Cal Jackson from a raging burnover, she doesn't know she's bringing aboard a firebrand.  Cal is quickly recruited for the MHA's covert operations that reach far beyond the flames.  Together Jeannie and Cal are assigned to an overseas operation with a lot more at risk than burning trees.  And they'll need all the skill, love, and trust they can muster if they're going to survive the heat of this jungle battle.

Cal has been on his own since the age of sixteen, and the years before that consisted of a series of foster homes.  He lives a simple lifestyle with few possessions following wildfires and working as first a firefighter and later as a fire photographer.  All that he owns can fit into a couple of backpacks and he hasn't had a permanent address...ever.  When his life is almost snuffed out by the very fire he makes his living by, he is amazed that his savior is a beautiful Aussie pilot who really gets under his skin.

Jeannie lost her house in a huge fire in Australia and her father has never recovered.  She loves flying her helicopter in the battle against similar fires in the states and is thrilled to be a member of MHA.  She is determined to learn all she can and often underestimates her own skills.  When she saves a photographer, she doesn't realize that the man entering her space will change her vision of herself and her future.

Cal and Jeannie are great together...Cal isn't so sure about commitment and there were many times when he knew he had to walk away before he got in over his head, but he never actually does.  Jeannie is sure that she needs to steer clear of this hotshot who is just like countless other males she's known her entire life until she realizes he isn't anything like them and that he is just what she needs.  Cal is a self-made man who truly sees Jeannie as she is: an incredibly skilled pilot whose commitment to her job is second-to-none.  Jeannie sees that Cal is scarred physically and emotionally by his past and that he doesn't see himself as the incredibly intelligent, observant man that she knows him to be.  It is only through comments to each other that they start to see these things about themselves.  Both of them are amazed and, at first, convinced the other is nuts in their beliefs but slowly Cal and Jeannie begin to expand their self awareness and in doing so become more ready to be in a committed relationship.

Once again the strength of Buchman's writing lies in making me feel as if I am right there next to the characters whether in the helicopter, on the Australian outback, or in an island hiding from rebel soldiers.  This is the second Firehawks novel and I think I liked it even more than the first.  From the relationship between Jeannie and Cal that would get close to becoming predictable before spinning in a direction I absolutely didn't expect to the crazy action that just did not let up, Buchman created two characters that I wish were real people.  Even if I never met them, it would be nice to know that such smart, decent people are a part of the world.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hunted by Rebecca Zanetti

Hunted by Rebecca Zanetti

Moira Dunne is a witch--the quantum physics kind.  Time and space are her playthings.  Which might explain why her one-night stand from a hundred years ago has turned up to "claim" her--and request her family's assistance with the war he's brewing.  But the more she learns about Connlan Kayrs, the more she comes to think this is normal behavior for him...

When Conn and Moira tumbled on the moonlit grass, Conn hadn't meant to mark her as his mate for all time.  She was only twenty!  But it wasn't easy to wait for her.  It was even harder to forget her.  So when he finally returns for his wicked-hot witch, he's ready to let the sparks fly.  Even if he burns up in flames...

Why did I wait so long to read this book???  (And yes, I know I say that a lot...the consequences of starting so many different series while finishing very few and also of me being a chicken who always fears that later books won't match up to the wonderfulness of the first one or two I read...often the stakes get a lot higher in book three and I am a wuss who fears that the world will get too dark or things will fall apart or take a turn I don't like or...or...or.)  This book was fantastic...maybe even better than the first two.  I didn't realize that I had accidentally skipped over a between the numbers novella but will be going back to rectify that as soon as it comes in at the library. much happened in this book.  I'll do my best to give a coherent overview without spoiling things so bear with me.  

Moira and Conn mated a century prior to this book beginning but with Moira being the Seventh (the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter) she needed time to grow into her powers so Conn signed an actual treaty promising to back off for a century.  When they meet up again, Moira soon learns that she wasn't the only one learning--Conn has lots of new tricks under his belt as well.  While Moira will eventually be expected to take a seat with the Coven Nine, the witch equivalent of a ruling council, she is trying her best to avoid that as she enjoys her job as an enforcer and enjoys her freedom even more.  

Conn wants Moira to come back with him to his family's stronghold so she will be protected.  He is worried that the Coven may be trying to part ways with the Realm...if they side with the other demons it could go poorly for all involved.  He is also trying to deal with attacks from a variety of other sources while keeping his ever-expanding family safe.  Thank goodness he excels at multitasking!  However, Moira does not make things easy as she is equally passionate about keeping her fellow witches safe which is getting increasingly difficult as someone has figured out how to use a portal to teleport witches agains their will and has been targeting members of the Coven Nine.  To add extra stress, it looks as if a hidden weapon that can be used against witches has been discovered and might once again be used to weaken them.  

With the race to cure the mysterious virus that strikes mates still raging on and the factions involved splintering in more and more directions, things are looking bleak for a happy, peaceful future but there are bright spots as well.  Cara is close to giving birth, Moira and Conn find that their mating has made them both stronger, and while enemies are ever near, the Karys clan and their allies are still holding strong.  Now I have to work the courage up to see what happens in book four...things are heating up and getting ever more complicated.  I worry about a dark turn before things get better and yet I know once I start, my eyes will be glued to the pages until I finish the very last one.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Croc's Return by Eve Langlais

Croc's Return by Eve Langlais

Welcome to Bitten Point, where the swamp doesn't just keep its secrets, it sometimes eats them.

Take one deadly bite and, bam, a man's life is changed forever, or so Caleb discovers when a loss of control leads him to joining the military and leaving everything behind.  Now that he's back, making amends his harder than expected.

His ex-girlfriend, Renny, is not interested in excuses.  Caleb might have returned but her plan is to keep him at arm's length.  Only she can't.  Her son deserves a chance to get to know his father, but that doesn't mean Renny is letting Caleb back into her heart.  Now if only her heart would cooperate.

Things get dangerous when a mysterious being starts stalking the residents of Bitten Point.  When the monster threatens his son, Caleb knows it's time to unleash his dark inner beast so he can snap at danger, and take a bite out of life.

Coming home doesn't always solve things...but it does pave the way for second chances.

Croc's Return is the first book in the Bitten Point series but I have to admit, while reading, it felt like there were things that I was supposed to know that I didn't.  Eventually things were cleared up (the last few chapters of the book) but until then, rather than feel like the author was cleverly hiding clues it felt as if there was a short story somewhere I had missed.  There was a reference to Kodiak Point, another series I have only read two books so perhaps there was info there.  I just don't know.  Besides the fact that I was confused about Caleb's past, I did enjoy this story of a man trying to find forgiveness from those he left high and dry years earlier when he up and left to join the military.  Finding out he is a father is not at all what Caleb expects but he is ready to take up the mantle of responsibility and hopes that his ex-girlfriend Renny is willing to have him in his son's life.  

Renny has not had an easy time of it since Caleb left.  Being a single mother is hard; missing so many firsts because she is working two jobs to pay the bills makes it even harder.  When Caleb comes back, Renny is sure he is going to continue to ignore Luke, their son.  After all, he never responded to the letters informing him he was a father.  When it comes out that he never read the letters and is very invested in being a permanent, vital part of Luke's life, she isn't sure what to think.  True kuddos to Renny for wanting what is best for her son, even if that is letting in a man she would prefer to pretend didn't exist anymore.  She doesn't let wounded pride stand between her son and his father which takes some real cajones...I've read a lot of romance books with the surprise trope and Renny was probably the most levelheaded and honest about allowing Caleb into her child's life.  

Add in a "dinosaur" that is hunting humans and shifters alike, some intriguing secondary characters (who scream sequel-bait), one of the least annoying child characters I have ever read, and a corporation who might be involved in incredibly shady-doings with ties to almost every family in town, and you have the recipe for a great story.  Add in Eve Langlais's characteristic snarkiness and this was another winner...and yet I didn't love it as much as other books by her that I have read.  At times the story felt both too busy and not solid enough...this improved as the book progressed and hopefully will not be an issue in future installments.  I will be looking forward to reading A Panther's Claim as this series definitely holds promise.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Bodyguard by Jennifer Ashley

Bodyguard by Jennifer Ashley

Elizabeth Chapman is saved from an armed robber by a giant Kodiak bear who shifts into a large, well-muscled, and fully naked human male.  But when it's revealed that the robber is the brother of a dangerous criminal, Elizabeth finds herself the target of a vendetta.

Ronan, the Bear Shifter, takes her to Shiftertown for safety, where Elizabeth learns that the mateless Ronan, alone in the world, takes care of Shifters who have also been left on their own.  Having grown u in foster care, Elizabeth can only admire how protective Ronan is.

But Ronan will only let Elizabeth leave the confines of Shiftertown if he becomes her 24/7 bodyguard.  Elizabeth chafes at the restriction, but agrees.  The trouble is, the sassy human Elizabeth is triggering Ronan's long-buried need to find himself a mate.

I was pleasantly surprised recently while perusing the shelves at my local public library when I came across bodyguard and realized it was a between-the-numbers Shifters Unbound novella.  I immediately added it to my stack of books to check out and finally got to it this past weekend. I must say I enjoyed it from start to finish--it was a great addition to the series and since I had already gone on to read Wild Cat it was great to go back to visit Liam, Sean, Andrea, Kim, and the rest of the gang in Austin's Shiftertown.  The focus here is Ronan, who was a great addition to the first two books in the series, and his mate-to-be Elizabeth.  

Elizabeth has had a tough life, always fighting to survive in foster homes while keeping herself from being separated from her sister.  She has finally found stability in her home and business which is threatened when a punk with a gun comes in to rob her and possible leave her dead.  Before things can reach a violent conclusion, Ronan comes to the rescue.  Due to the assailant's relationship with a leader of a local gang, it is decided that Elizabeth should stay in Shiftertown for her own safety.

Ronan appoints himself her bodyguard and the two find themselves opening up to each other in ways they have never been able to do with anyone else.  Elizabeth respects Ronan's solid sense of responsibility and his care of the bears shifters he has collected and taken into his care.  Ronan is proud of Elizabeth's ability to build a life for herself and her sister from practically nothing as well as her ability to stand toe-to-toe with him, despite the fact that he is both huge and a deadly shifter.  

When outside forces ranging from the gang-leader trying to protect his brother to Elizabeth's past in the form of a deadly adversary all combine to create a tangle they might not survive, Ronan and Elizabeth both vow to do whatever it takes to stay with the one person who is their other half.  It isn't going to be easy, but luckily they have all of Shiftertown watching their backs...

Friday, March 18, 2016

Reading Assignment Challenge: Lord and Master by Jules Jones

Reading Assignment Challenge: Lord and Master by Jules Jones

When Mark's PhD supervisor sent him for a job interview with an old university friend, he didn't mention that the friend was devastatingly handsome.  he also neglected to mention to either that the other is gay.

Steven was just looking for a young scientist to train as PA to help him run his technology company.  No extra services required.  But watching other people react to a young, pretty man playing secretary to an openly gay CEO amused them both.  Watching people wonder if they were having an affair was an entertaining game.

But when the game became real and caught them up, Mark was left wondering--how real?  Because he's the one PA in the building who can't marry the boss.

This was a very enjoyable book about a young man who openly acknowledges his preference for older men becoming a PA for a man who ticks all of his "yum-factor" boxes.  Mark is working on his PhD thesis but is intrigued by the idea of being a PA to gain management experience while also being able to use his science background doing research for his new boss.  The fact that his new boss is completely sexy is a great bonus, but in the beginning Mark really is just focused on doing a great job for a man he respects and keeps his fantasies just that--to himself.  

Steven, whose point of view we only really get through conversation, is aware of what the gossips will say when he hires a very pretty boy to be his PA.  He warns Mark that his brains will not be people's first guess when they ask themselves why Steven hired Mark.  When he and Mark begin indulging in office hanky-panky, Steven and Mark discuss often the possibility of their secret getting out and how it could impact them both, although Mark is by far the more vulnerable.  When they go to Paris for a weekend in preparation for a business meeting they decide to take their relationship into the real world, to take the next steps in becoming serious about each other.  It was at this point that I felt the book really hit its stride.

I never felt that I lost myself in these characters or in this book, but I did enjoy the time I spent reading it.  However, when it came time to put the story down for real life, it wasn't difficult to do so.  I didn't really think about the book again until I picked it back up.  That being said, it was very easy to sink right back into the story of Mark and Steven and I was satisfied when I finished it.  There is a sequel but I don't think I will be reading it.  I enjoyed this one but feel happy with where the characters are now.  I don't feel compelled to find out what happens next for them.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Darkness Everlasting by Alexandra Ivy

Darkness Everlasting by Alexandra Ivy

Darcy Smith always sensed she was different from everyone else--if only she knew how different.  Possessing a secret strong enough to end an entire race of demons, Darcy unwittingly becomes a pawn in an epic battle between the vampires and the weres as she discovers a new world filled with ecstasy--and dark passions...

Consumed with lust for Darcy, Styx--the Anasso of vampires--will do everything in his power to keep her out of the lair of Salvatore Giuliani, the deadly leader of the weres.  But protecting the woman he loves could cost Styx the ultimate price...

Salvatore Giuliani knows time is running out for the weres.  Pushed to the brink of extintion, he will stop at nothing to make Darcy his ultimate conquest and queen--for she alone holds the key to his survival.  But which of these men can Darcy truly trust?  For all it takes is one bite to plunge her into a lifetime of servitude--or a lifetime of pleasure...

I found the blurb on the book to be rather misleading as I was expecting a love triangle but it is clear within the first couple of chapters that this book is about Darcy and Styx.  It is true that Salvatore is interested in capturing Darcy for his own interests but he is written in a way that he is clearly not hero material--at least not in this book.  He might be redeemed later on in the series, but Alexandra Ivy will have some work on her hands to make him palatable as a hero.  He is much to interested in backhanding his fellow weres and has a bad habit of making it clear that the majority of weres are beneath him as they are not pureblooded but rather turned by a bite and given the truly awful name of "cur".  

Salvatore, for reasons we don't learn for quite a long time in the book, is very interested in acquiring Darcy who grew up in a large number of foster homes before leaving to survive on the streets at the age of sixteen.  Despite the rough start, she is not afraid of hard work or of having dreams--specifically of owning a health food store.  Unfortunately, that dream is some time away as she is currently both a waitress and bartender to make ends meet.  When a man in an Armani suit approaches her one evening while working and insists that she leave with him, she prudently waits for a possible distraction and then tries to make a getaway.  Unfortunately for Darcy, there was another player in the chess game that her life is becoming.  

When Styx discovers that the king of the weres is desperate to get his hands on a young woman in Chicago, he determines he will get to her first and use her as a bargaining chip to get information from Salvatore as well as to prevent the weres from trying to declare war on the vampires.  When Darcy flees from Salvatore, Styx is able to step into her path and snag her, bringing her to one of his coven's homes.  When Darcy finds that she has jumped from the frying pan to the fire, she is surprisingly level-headed about it all.  She has always known that she isn't like most humans, she can heal instantly, hasn't aged since she turned 18, and is faster and stronger than most humans.  To learn that there are vampires, weres, and more isn't that difficult to take in.

Unfortunately, Salvatore is still out there planning ways to get to Darcy as she is believed to be the key to stopping the weres' slide into extinction.  Styx is finding he has feelings for Darcy and that she may even be his mate, the one woman who he could bind himself to for eternity but she is also an important pawn in a game with deadly consequences.  Darcy herself is finding she is falling for her captor as well as the others in the demon world that she may or may not belong to.  When Styx consistently goes out of his way to make her life in captivity easier, Darcy has to remember that technically she is still a prisoner.  

This is the third book in the Guardians of Eternity series.  I read the first two a year ago, but I was able to seamlessly fall back into the world of demons thanks to Ivy's strong world-building.  I very much enjoyed this book that didn't always proceed in the direction I expected.  There is a lot going on here and the ending left several possible directions for the series as a whole to go.  I can't wait to dig into the next book and am determined not to let another year go by before I do so!  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

TBR Challenge: Sustained by Emma Chase

TBR Challenge: Sustained by Emma Chase


When you're a defense attorney in Washington, DC, you see firsthand how hard life can be, and that sometimes the only way to survive is by being harder.  I, Jake Becker, have a reputation for being cold, callous, and intimidating--and that suits me just fine.  In fact, it's necessary when I'm breaking down a witness on the stand.

Complications don't work for me--I'm a "need-to-know" type of man.  If you're my client, tell me the basic facts.  If you're my date, stick to what will get you off.  I'm not a therapist or Prince Charming, and I don't pretend to be.  

Then Chelsea McQuaid and her six orphaned nieces and nephews came along and complicated the ever-loving hell out of my life.  Now I'm going to Mommy & Me classes, One Direction concerts, the emergency room, and arguing cases in the principal's office.

Chelsea's too sweet, too innocent, and too gorgeous for her own good.  She tries to be tough, but she needs someone to help her, to defend her...and the kids.

And that--that, I know how to do.

This book was on a ton of Best of 2015 posts on various book blogs that I follow so when the TBR challenge monthly motif was recommended read, I decided to pick up what should be a sure winner.  While it didn't live up to all of my expectations, I am still glad that I finally read the book that seemed to get everyone talking last year.

Jake is all about no complications...he does his job really well, has an eye on partnership in fact, and spends his spare time looking for his next hook up.  He is forced to take a two-week hiatus from his usual nocturnal activities when a previous lover comes to his office and informs him she has syphilis.  I'll be honest, at this point I didn't really like Jake but his voice was so great that I continued reading.  Soon after his two week affair with Hanna Hand, he is accosted by a short pickpocket; pissed that the kid targeted him, he charges after him.  Turns out his thief is Rory, one of six children who have recently lost their parents in a car accident and who are now under the guardianship of their Aunt Chelsea.

When Chelsea learned that her beloved older brother and his wife died, she packed her things, broke the lease on her apartment, dropped out of graduate school and moved across the country to take care of her nieces and nephews--all of the family she has left.  With ages spanning from six months to fourteen, Chelsea's world has turned upside down and she is doing the very best that she can but feels overwhelmed 99% of the time.  The other 1% she is sleeping the sleep of the exhausted.  When Jake shows up at her door with Rory, the pickpocket, she doesn't realize that she is looking at the man who will soon be helping her shoulder the responsibilities that have taken over her world.

Jake can't quite figure out how he went from taking a pickpocket home to chaperoning teenage girls to One Direction concerts, teaching a nine year old how to defend himself from a bully, playing nursemaid to a house full of sick kids (and a sick aunt), and being perfectly happy to just kiss a beautiful woman (of course, he would like more than kisses, but if that is the limit of what Chelsea will give him he'll make it be enough).  Every once in a while the seriousness of what he is getting himself into hits him and he feels the need to back off, but generally he finds himself going back for more.  When he isn't with Chelsea and the kids, he's thinking about them.  He is a defender and he has chosen to defend them.

I loved the dialogue in this one--Jake has quite the potty mouth and even around the kids he doesn't rein it in, but somehow it works.  While I love the dynamic between him and Chelsea, his conversations with the kids far outshine the romantic banter.  Each of the kiddos have very distinct personalities and all of them interact with Jake in unique and varied ways...even Ronan, the infant gets his share of page time with Jake.  When Jake tries to cool things off with Chelsea, he knows that he can't just walk away from the entire family; watching him babysit while Chelsea goes on a date with another man was poetic justice.  When Jake finally pulls his head out of his ass, he does a good grovel and I truly believe in his HEA with Chelsea, Riley, Rory, Raymond, Rosaleen, Regan and Ronan.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Monthly Motif Reading Challenge: No Quarter by Christine d'Abo

Monthly Motif Reading Challenge: No Quarter by Christine d'Abo

When bounty hunter Gar Stitt is given a simple locate-and-retrieve mission, he's convinced it's a waste of his skills.  His success rate is legendary, after all, and Captain Faolan Wolf isn't hard to find.  He's the most notorious pirate in the galaxy, and when he shows up planetside to take his pleasures, he's far from subtle.

Faolan never expected a hot but tightly wound hunter to walk into his private party and try to apprehend him single-handedly.  And when an unexpected betrayal forces them to work together, Faolan's even more suprised to find himself drawn to Gar personally--especially since neither of them do personal.

Gar had intended to put Faolan in prison.  Instead he finds his solitary existence shaken by his desire for the pirate.  And when the bounty hunter becomes the hunted, he must put his faith in Faolan and his pirate crew, or run the risk of ending up dead.

Fun!  This entire book was a ton of fun.  Gar is not happy to be retrieving Faolan but his boss asked him to take charge of this particular pirate and Gar owes Jason for saving his life when he was fourteen.  After losing his family to violence, Gar does not open up to anyone because he is not interested in feeling that level of pain ever again.  So when, despite Gar's best efforts, he finds himself beginning to like, even care for, the notorious pirate who is sharing Gar's small spaceship with him, he fights it tooth and nail...but not very successfully.

Faolan is great at putting on a good front.  He appears carefree (even careless) but that only hides the deep loneliness inside him.  Faolan has an extremely loyal crew who he cares for deeply, but nobody who has ever known him down to the core...when it looks as if Gar might be the man to finally dig deep enough to know the whole Faolan, it leaves Faolan both hopeful and shaken.  To further complicate matters, Faolan knows he is not a good bet for anything involving the future--he would end up being just another person to leave Gar and Faolan is beginning to realize that the young bounty hunter may not be able to handle much more pain.

When the betrayal mentioned in the blurb occurs it both drives Gar and Faolan together but also serves as a point of contention when it comes to dealing with the betrayer.  Neither wants the other in danger, and yet both realize the skills and competency of the other is needed in order to make their crazy plan for survival work.  And even if they both make it out alive, it still doesn't ensure they have a future together.  

Whew...watching Gar and Faolan begin to dig beneath each other's layers was so rewarding.  Gar has chosen to hide behind an icy, rigid facade of control and routines while Faolan is hiding behind a devil-may-care attitude and an anything-goes philosophy.  As the layers slowly peel away two men who are perfect for each other begin to emerge but then the external pressures of betrayal and past actions begin to put pressure on their fragile connection.  Watching them deal with and work through their conflicts was fantastic.  These two characters are one of the more balanced relationships I have read about--while they would have both been able to function independently you could see that they were much happier and healthier together.  They actually listened to each other's ideas and compromised when needed.  All in all, a fantastic read.  

I read this as my March Monthly Motif selection.  The topic: Take a Trip.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

Tournament of Losers by Megan Derr

Tournament of Losers by Megan Derr

A once honorable event has become the domain of the desperate, the pathetic, and the foolish.  And Rath is painfully aware he's all three...

All Rath wants is a quiet, peaceful life.  Unfortunately, his father brings him too much trouble--and too many debts to pay--for that to ever be possible.  When the local crime lord drags Rath out of bed and tells him he has three days to pay his father's latest debt, Rath doesn't know what to do.  There's no way he can come up with so much money in so little time.

Then a friend poses an idea just ridiculous enough to work: enter the Tournament of Losers, where every seventy-five years, peasants compete for the chance to marry into the noble and royal houses.  All competitors are given a stipend to live on for the duration of the tournament--funds enough to cover his father's debt.

All he has to do is win the first few rounds, collect his stipend, and then it's back to trying to live a quiet life...

What an utter delight!  Megan Derr has made it onto my favorite authors list with this book.  The world building was amazing--so clear and understandable without a single info dump--just details seamlessly woven into dialogue and descriptions that brought everything to life.  Rath is an amazing character; he has not had an easy life of it, at times living on the streets with his mother and doing what it takes to survive.  He has worked on the docks, pick-pocketed, and worked both in a brother and on the streets.  Life would be easier if he didn't always have to pay, often literally, for his father's mistakes.  

When his father's latest problem threatens to land Rath in a world of pain, he enters the Tournament of Losers in order to raise the money needed to repay Friar, the local crime boss.  Rath plans to get through a couple of rounds and then "lose" in order to return to his normal life.  However, when it comes down to it, he can't do anything less than his best...something stubborn in him won't just let him wimp out and surprisingly he finds himself one of ten people out of thousands of hopefuls competing to win the hand of the prince.  Considering that Rath has recently taken to hanging out with a High City noble, he has mixed feelings about doing well in the tournament.  As much as he knows he doesn't have a future with Tress, he can't help but hurt at the thought that Tress as a noble is open to marrying someone who wins the tournament...someone not Rath. 

To complicate matters, one of the other competitors is angry at Rath's success and hires thugs to try to take him out.  Add that to everyone hoping he does well and his increasing doubts about even staying in the tournament and Rath just wishes he could go back to his quiet, mostly peaceful life.  And yet, quitting just doesn't seem like the thing to do.  Why should he reward the person hiding behind violence?  Why should he worry about Tress when Tress seems fine to let him go?  And will Rath really be happy if he wins the tournament?  If he doesn't?  

Oh the feelings in this book--parts of it were painful, both physically and emotionally while others were by turns tender, funny, infuriating, sweet, and more.  I was rooting for Tress and Rath to make it work although it became increasingly difficult to see how it could end well for them...I was also rooting for Rath to finally come out on top whether that meant him winning the tournament or not, I just wanted him to be happy because nobody deserved it more than him.  He never pitied himself for having to deal with hardships; instead he got on with living his life, being a good friend, a better son, and a stranger willing to help those in need even if he had never met them before.  

Tress was more difficult to get to know but he was effervescent, fun-loving, and extremely tender and kind to Rath.  I loved him for how he loved Rath...even if Rath didn't recognize Tress's feelings for what they were, it was clear that his feelings ran deeper than just some passing fancy for a Low City laborer.  The course of his relationship with Rath did not always run smoothly but it was often Tress who would extend the olive branch and begin the process of making up and moving forward.  I had my fingers crossed that somehow, some way he and Rath would be able to be together...

If you are looking for a book with great world building that feels both familiar and exotic all at once, realistic characters you can root for (and one or two you can love to hate), and a story line that keeps you guessing, try Tournament of Losers by Megan Derr.  You won't regret it!!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Guarding Kelsey by Kat Attalla

Guarding Kelsey by Kat Attalla

When an independent, blue-blooded heiress is placed in protective custody with a controlling, blue collar cop, the sparks fly.  Detective Wolf Krieger blames himself for his partner's death.  If he had followed procedure and called for back up instead of following his over-eager partner into a dangerous situation, Mark might still be alive.  Since then, Wolf has trusted nobody: Not his new partner and certainly not himself.  Remaining a loner allows him to keep his edge while working as a homicide detective.  He doesn't want to be responsible to another person.  his captain, however thinks he is a loose cannon.  In an effort to reign Wolf in, he is assigned the job of protecting a society woman who has received death threats after witnessing a gangland murder.  He should be on the streets investigating, not stuck in some penthouse, babysitting a witness.  Especially one with brains, beauty and a body that could tempt a saint onto the road to sin.  He is no saint, but he is immune.  Or, so he thinks.

Kelsey Winston is not your average heiress.  In fact, she would trade all her wealth for one more day with her father, the only decent man on earth, who died in an apparent accident three months earlier.  A short and very bitter marriage to a violent man shattered her opinion of the male species.  Her master's thesis work in the study of domestic violence hasn't helped to improve the conclusion.  And the dark, brooding detective who is assigned to protect her when threats are made against her life, is not likely to change her point of view. 

Wolf is determined to keep a cool distance from the elegant beauty despite an undeniable attraction.  Her defiant attitude with him fosters his belief that she is a spoiled princess, unconcerned about the danger her willful actions can cause herself and others.  His assignment is to keep her safe, and he will do his job his way, whether she likes it or not.

I loved the first half of the book--the action was fast-paced, the dialogue between Kelsey and Wolf was sharp and the mystery of who was behind the threats was interesting.  But somewhere around the middle of the book things changed.  That pacing slowed, Wolf fixated on Kelsey's wealth as a deterrent to her ever having "real" feelings for him and Kelsey decided that sex wasn't the same as love and then got her feelings hurt when Wolf didn't confess to loving her after they slept together.  I felt that Kelsey went from smart and capable to whiny and dependent.  Wolf went from jumping to the wrong conclusions about a stranger based on past experience to creating excuses to stay away from a woman he is coming to know very well.

Kelsey meets Wolf when he responds to a shots-fired call at a thousand-dollar-a-plate charity dinner only to meet Kelsey who is fleeing after being taken out of the ballroom by the shooter.  The shooting is deemed a mob-related murder.  When disturbing notes and items are left in Kelsey's apartment, it is thought that the murderer is mad about leaving a witness behind but something about that theory doesn't add up for Detective Wolf.  He ends up being put on protective duty.  It soon becomes clear that Kelsey's family if filled with money hungry greedy-gusses who could give a hoot about Kelsey herself but for some reason she is hell-bent on defending them.  It was then that I started to fall out of love with the book.  Her determination to not even hear Wolf out when it came to listening to the reasons her family might have for wanting her out of the picture was both stubborn and stupid.  I can forgive the former, but not the latter.  Her family has never done anything to engender such trust while Wolf has literally put his life on the line for her. 

I don't regret reading this book, but I do wish the promising beginning had not fizzled out to such a lackluster ending.  If I already have something else by this author on my Kindle I will happily try it but I doubt I go looking to purchase it otherwise.  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

Two best friends created a princess together.  Libby drew the comics, May wrote the stories, and Princess X fought monsters, ghosts, and other assorted creepazoids from her haunted house high on a hill.

Libby was in a car accident with her mom, driving across a bridge on a rainy night.  When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.

May is sixteen and lonely when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window--a figure in a gold crown, pink dress, red Chucks, and a long katana sword...

Suddenly, May sees the princess everywhere: stickers, patches, graffiti--an entire underground world built around a web comic at  The more May explores the comic, the more shocking connections she finds between Libby's death and Princess X's adventures.  And that means only one person could have started this phenomenon--her best friend, Libby, who lives.

Wow.  What a fantastic read!!!  I had read a few positive reviews on other blogs about Princess X and thought I would give it a shot.  I haven't read Cherie Priest before but I will have to rectify that ASAP based on how thoroughly I enjoyed I Am Princess X.  I settled down to read a chapter or two and stayed fused to the book until the very end...and that finale?  It had me whipping through the pages to see what was going to happen next!  From the very first line (which is great, by the way) to the last, this book was fast-paced, smart, and a lot of fun.  I thoroughly enjoyed May and Patrick, a neighbor and computer enthusiast who becomes her friend and co-conspirator in proving Libby is alive and well.  

The pacing in this book is absolutely breathtaking.  I was drawn right into the story of May and Libby's childhood friendship so when May spots the Princess X sticker I was immediately invested in finding out what could possibly be going on.  The clues in the beginning took just enough time to create tension but not so much time as to allow boredom to creep in...from there the action deepened and quickened just a bit, then a bit more, so on and so forth until finally it was a breathless race to the end.  There isn't a large cast of characters in this book but all of them are given the perfect amount of page space to effectively push the story forward...I was especially interested in Jackdaw whose back story was filled in with broad strokes with a few tiny details thrown in and I found him fascinating.  

The Princess X comics that were interspersed were fantastic and I loved the idea of weaving clues within them for May to solve.  Each time May would successfully solve one puzzle I would feel just a tiny bit of relief before the tension amped right back up again because there was still so much more to figure out.  The back story of what happened to Lily was creepy but scarily plausible.  And the villain of the piece?  Naming him The Needle Man was genius...he was truly shudder-worthy...

All in all, I can whole-heartedly recommend I Am Princess X for anyone who wants a fast-paced adventure filled with smart writing, great characters, and a mystery that will keep you guessing.