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review 2017-11-10 00:33
ARC Review: Birthday Presents by Dianne Hartsock
Birthday Presents - Dianne Hartsock

This is NOT a romance. This is a horror story. I knew this going in, and I was still pretty horrified while reading. 

Birthday Presents is dark. It contains rape, torture, and death. The villain is seriously disturbed. There are explicit scenes that are difficult to read. This book is not for the faint-hearted. 

The plot is fairly straight-forward, and we know from the get-go who the villain is. Spending time in Crimson's mind made me want to bleach my brain to get the disturbing images gone - he's vile and insane. He's a hunter, he is a murderer, and he has no conscience. He lives for the hunt, for the kill, for the depravity of his actions.

There's an attempt at making the reader sympathize with the villain, though that didn't work with me - I am firmly in the camp of not believing that a rough and abusive upbringing excuses the actions of our villain. 

I appreciated that the author gave the victims strength and allowed them to be more than just simpering damsels in distress. They fight for their survival, they do what they must to live. 

There's a bit of a mystery as to who's helping the villain, though I wasn't completely shocked to find out who the mystery person was - there were sufficient hints along the way. Still, that was a well-done plot point that kept me at the edge of my seat.

I hope that Tracey and Kyle get the psychological help they both need after living through these horrors, but I felt confident that they will both get through this. As for the little bit of romance we get toward the end, between Gene and his co-worker - that development came a little out of left field for me, and I didn't quite buy the long-time pining that's insinuated here. 

The writing was inconsistent in some instances, and I had to reread a few passages to understand what the author was trying to tell me. I also thought that the characterizations were uneven, and in some moments, the characters' actions didn't make sense to me. YMMV.

 

 

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-09-25 00:56
ARC Review: Pins And Needles by A.J. Thomas
Pins and Needles - A.J. Thomas

This is only my 2nd book by this author. The title is apt - I was on pins and needles for most of the time while reading this excellent story of suspense, intrigue, and romance among the ruins. 

Okay, so that latter part is a bit hyperbole - there are no actual ruins, per se. What is in ruins however is a promising career, a father/son relationship, and an invention that could revolutionize a part of the oil industry.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

This is a complex story, and it would behoove the reader to read slowly and carefully, much in line with the slow progression of the story. As it is so often the case, all is not what it seems, and it takes some time to untangle the many threads that make up this particular plot.

The book begins by introducing us to Nate Delany, a young lawyer working for his father's well-known company, who is basically the do-boy for another lawyer, and whose briefs, as eloquent and well-researched as they are, are not getting credited to him, but the "supervising" attorney. Nate is frustrated, especially as his father doesn't seem to realize that the brilliant briefs "written by" the supervising attorney are actually his son's work and believes that Nate is just a slacker, unable to run the company himself. At the end of his rope, Nate quits. 

On his way out, his assistant gives him the name and number of a man who had an appointment with the supervising attorney, but who was apparently deemed too rough, with too many tattoos, to warrant the jerk's time. 

Nate makes a call. Nate makes a visit to the hospital where he meets Sean Wilkinson, whose former foster father Hawk was the man rejected by Nate's father's lawyer. As Nate hears what happened to Sean, he can't help but be intrigued by the young man who after a terrible accident lost not only his leg, but also his livelihood and his career as a petroleum engineer.

Hounded by his employer's lawyers to agree to a ridiculous settlement after the accident, Sean needs someone in his corner to help him navigate these new rough waters. And Nate is just the guy to do that.

Both MCs have their own personal struggles and rather different personality-wise. 

Sean, with his difficult early life and rough upbringing, isn't quick to trust anyone and plays his cards rather close to his chest. He's not only a brilliant engineer, but also a fantastic tattoo artist, who learned the craft in his foster father's shop. Hawk is perhaps the closest thing to a real father Sean has, and their relationship is very close and supportive. He doesn't have any close friends; in fact even the people with whom he spent months at sea don't really know him at all, including his boss, with whom Sean has had an affair since he interned with the company at 19. 

Nate, on the other hand, had a rather normal, if affluent, childhood and appears to most people as someone who had everything handed to him - with his last name being so well-known and the assumptions which come with that. His personal struggles aren't as obvious, but they're just as real. Nate has to prove himself repeatedly at his father's company, more so really than any other newly minted attorney would have to, because he's his father's son. In addition, his parents have more or less forsaken him because their older son is a bigot and doesn't want his children or his wife anywhere near Nate. Since, you know, homosexuality clearly rubs off and we must think of the children. For years, Nate hasn't been able to spend holidayrs or any quality time with his family; it's as if he's been erased. No photographs of Nate are displayed at their house - it's as if he doesn't even exist. His name isn't ever mentioned around the older son, and his brother's kids have zero relationship with him. 

Taking on Sean as his first client after quitting his father's firm seems like a great idea at the time, even if it's just fighting for Sean to get the biggest possible settlement for the accident that cost him one of his legs, but there's a lot more to their case than just that. See, Sean invented something that's been used on the ship, and the case now also involves intellectual property rights. 

And someone may be out to kill Sean to silence him.

The romance that develops between Nate and Sean is by design a super slow burn. Not only is Sean seriously injured and still recovering from the accident, but he's also Nate's client, and there are a bunch of ethical issues to consider before the two of them can be together. As an added detriment, when Nate tries to find another law firm to represent Sean and remove the ethics issue, he finds that many firms will not even consider taking him on, because of who Nate's father is. No matter how brightly the attraction burns between them, Nate must first and foremost consider that any romantic relationship they might have could adversely impact Sean's day in court. 

Underneath all the suspense and intrigue, the point this book drives home time and again is that of family. Not necessarily the one you're born into, but the one you choose, the one you make for yourself. And for that, Sean had a great example in Hawk, his mother's ex-boyfriend, who took him in, no questions asked, when Sean was kicked out at home for being gay. A man who never asked for anything but was there time and again when Sean needed him. A man who not only gave him a home but also a way of paying the bills, when he taught him the fine art of tattooing. Nate has an example too, really - that of how NOT to treat your family. While I believe his parents loved him, they never even considered how hurtful their behavior was when they excluded Nate to appease their older son's homophobia and bigotry. 

My only niggle came toward the end of the book, during the big reveal as to who was behind all the bad things that happened. It felt a little over the top, and the villain really came out of left field, to be honest. Sure, the explanation made sense, but the way it all went down was a little... too much, I guess. 

Still, this was definitely an enjoyable read, with a satisfying HFN, and I would recommend you give this book a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-08-30 02:44
ARC Review: Sins Of The Father by Sam Burns
Sins of the Father (Wilde Love Book 2) - Sam Burns

This is the 2nd book in the Wilde Love series, and it's rather different from the first one. This one was a bit more quiet, if you can call it that, considering that it still has mobsters and family ties, and an FBI investigation. And guns. 

Keegan Quinn, whom me met in the first book, quit his father's business six years ago, after a shootout with the Russian mob left him near death, and lingering pain and stiffness from the injuries still plague him. He's since built a successful business with his restaurant Wilde's. Of course, while he may be out of the family business, he's not out of the family, and he still loves his father. 

Jon Brookfield is an FBI agent tasked with interviewing Keegan to see if he can find out anything about the father's business/crimes. He didn't expect to want to climb Keegan like a tree upon first meeting him, but then the heart wants what the heart wants, and since this series is tropey and OTT and unrealistic, Jon's boss tells him he can quit that part of the investigation and date Keegan.

I didn't actually care about realism while reading, since I didn't expect any to begin with. What I did expect, and what the author delivered, was a grand romance, with a bit of angst, a bit of action, and some hot shmexy times.

I got all that in droves. The book is highly entertaining, the writing flows well, and the story line was well paced, without any lulls or massive time jumps. The supporting cast was fabulous, especially the people at Keegan's restaurant, except for the ex-boyfriend who got what was coming to him, and I enjoyed every minute I spent reading this book. 

I especially enjoyed how much emotions the author gave the characters, and how well the family connections were portrayed. While the actual plot was unrealistic, the relationships weren't. Keegan and Jon begin dating and falling in love, and while their romance was high-speed, it didn't feel insta-lovish. There also was very little relationship angst - when they decided to be together, they were in it for good, and neither doubted the other's commitment. The only thing that might have derailed them was Keegan's father's illness, but even then they fought for what they wanted. Their communications were honest and mostly straight-forward. I liked that a lot.

I'd say, suspend your disbelief while reading, but read it anyway. Sam Burns' books are sweet but not cloying, with great characters, some snark, and hot sexy times - ergo, excellent comfort reads.

I need the next book in this series, like, yesterday! Keep 'em coming! (pun intended)


** I received a free copy of this book from its author. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-07-24 01:17
Ride the Pink Horse-Atmospheric noir
Ride the Pink Horse - Dorothy B. Hughes

Ride the Pink Horse is all about atmosphere.  You see the whole setting and the characters in black and white as you read.  You can smell the sweat and you can feel the heat. Along with the sweat and the heat, the feeling of anxiety, helplessness, and despair are palpable.  I’d never read anything by Dorothy B. Hughes before, but this story shows her to be a master of the noir genre.  My highest compliment to a book is that you are there while reading it and this one puts you there. It wouldn’t have worked anywhere but in the time and place that Hughes put it. The setting, a fiesta in New Mexico, is as clear as if you were watching it on television.  The reader is deeply inside the head of the protagonist, a petty thief from Chicago.  You find yourself feeling anxious along with him and hoping for the downfall of the crime boss (a senator) that he is pursuing. 

This book is of its time and there are some racist passages so read it with the understanding that it was published in 1946. 

This book was provided by Netgalley which does not affect my honest review and rating of it.

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review 2017-07-16 02:58
Release Day ARC Review: All In (Wild Cards #3) by Ava Drake
All In (Dreamspun Desires Book 38) - Ava Drake

On his way back to NYC to attend the meet-sees hoping for a job or three, Zane Stryker, fashion model, nearly 30, is detained at the airport because his suitcase was flagged for possible contraband. Inside the interrogation room, Zane meets Sebastian Gigoni, formerly British Special Forces, who asks that he opens the suitcase.

Inside are two metal tablets and a suit - none of which belong to Zane. 

From there, the story takes off as Sebastian and Zane try to work together, though their goals may be at odds, in foiling the plan of the international crime syndicate from the previous installment of this loosely connected series, with a little help from one of Zane's friends, Sebastian's brains, Zane's ability to think on his feet, and the super-sekrit British organization for which Sebastian now works. All while falling in love, because this is a romance, after all. 

The reader needs to suspend disbelief for most of the novel - realistic, this is not. However, it's definitely a fun ride, in and out of the bedroom. There's intrigue, mystery, an inside look at a fashion shoot, bad mob-like dudes with guns, good dudes with guns, a couple of major crime bosses, and a super hawt romance as well.

The attraction between Zane and Sebastian burns brightly from the start, and this book is probably one of the raunchier titles in the Dreamspun Desires series. I'm not complaining, hahaha. The sexy times were hawt! 

Seriously, I had a blast reading this, and I think you will too. This can be read as a standalone, no problem, but I think to get the full impact, you'll want to read the first two books as well. The writing is crisp and well-suited to the story, and there wasn't a dull moment to be found within. 

Nicely done! 


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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