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review 2018-03-23 20:07
ARC Review: Fox And Birch by Sam Burns
Fox And Birch - Sam Burns

The third installment of the first trilogy of trilogies in the paranormal Rowan Harbor series focuses on Fletcher Lane, one of the town's deputies, who featured to some extent in the first two books (more so in book 2, actually). He's friends with Devon, works with Wade, and was heavily involved in the events of book 2. 

The story picks up right after the second book ends. Fletcher, instrumental in getting rid of the bad vampire, is now sort of possessed by the spirit that lived inside the magic book Isla has been hiding from Hector MacKenzie. Obviously, having someone whisper to you in Gothic all the time isn't fun.

Additionally, Fletcher has had a traumatic experience when he was younger, one that cost him his mother and has left both him and his father scarred. 

Somewhat timid and lacking a healthy dose of self-confidence, Fletcher finds it rather difficult to make friends, always wondering if he's a bother. In that aspect, his shyness is indicative of his shifted form as a fox. Socially a bit awkward, Fletcher seems never sure of what to say. 

I really loved how the author fleshed out the character, made him real and oh so likable, with all his awkward dorkiness. 

Fletcher is a really nice guy, kind and unassuming, and the people of Rowan Harbor look out for him and his dad. 

We are introduced to the bounty hunters, Frank, Bob, and Conner, who roll into town looking for the bad vamp. Or so they say. Conner is younger than the other two, and also much kinder. He takes a liking to Fletcher, which slowly develops into a romance. 

We get to visit with Wade and Devon from the first book, who are still together, as well as Isla and Oak, and other familiar supporting characters from the preceding books. 

As the story unfolds, we watch Fletcher struggle to control his own magic as well as the uninvited magic he now carries, trying to focus and center himself so the uninvited guest doesn't wipe out who Fletcher is. We get to watch Fletcher come into his own, with a little help, and finding his way to become who he was meant to be. 

I would have liked to have learned a bit more about Conner. We get a bit of his background story, but other than being a likable guy, I really didn't get a good feel for him. Perhaps that will come out in future books. He's nice, don't get me wrong, and I think he really does fall for Fletcher, and of course that thing he does toward the end basically cemented for me that he needs to be in Rowan Harbor long term, but I would like to see more of him and learn what really makes him tick.

As with the two previous books, we get a strong HFN, as their story is not done. I'm good with that and can't wait to read what the author still has in store for them all.

These book cannot be read as standalones and must be read in order, as each builds on the previous one and continues the overall plot. I'm good with that too.


** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions as part of this review tour. A positive review was not promised in return. 

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review 2018-03-22 12:37
El Cajon- Joel Shapiro

     One thing is for certain- this book gives El Cajon, California one heck of a reputation and one no city would want. Another thing, for certain- people don’t do well when addicted to Vicodin. Opiate addiction is very topical. One can only hope the medics and pharma people get a conscience before too many more people have their lives torn apart by addictive prescription drugs. But what the heck has that got to do with this book. Well, apart from the fact that Haim, the first-person narrator, is still somehow alive and even gets a few things right, there is a serious warning here. We see a few heroic deeds, but not from an actor one would ever wish to emulate. He is the very antithesis of John, Die Hard, McClane. A film about Haim Baker would not create quite the same sort of wannabe buzz.

     Before you take a first overdose on opiate-based medicines, read this book. However, don’t read this book if you are planning a trip to San Diego County, unless you are open to having your mind changed.

     This is a book which quickly becomes hard to put down, but not necessarily because you are enjoying it. Frustration with the first person, no hoper is going to drive you to distraction. Like the effect of the dumb principle in the high-tension film drama, one can’t believe the stupidity for walking into trouble, while not being quite irritated enough to switch channels. Actually, that is probably not so different to having a mild addiction to Vicodin.

     This book is extremely violent and at times exceedingly crude. Urine and blood seem to be constantly pouring in equal and often mixed volumes. And this book gets the near fatal stages of opioid addiction about right- except that PI Haim Baker somehow still manages to function, and even kill the right bad people. The book also highlights the terrible world of people trafficking, focussed here on girls bashed and drugged into the sex industry. Actually, that part of the book is particularly sickening. Sickening for the sane and those merely into substance rather than people abuse, that is! But, just as we know that nearly every neighbourhood has an addict at deaths door, we also know that not all our children are safe wheresoever we live. I choose to see a second serious message from Shapiro. That even in places with a veneer of respectability such abuses can be hidden.

     The writing is fast paced, and generally of a good quality. However, the grammar is far from conventional. For example, the disappearance of the period, the comma, is used to convey rapid and often chaotic and stressed, stream of consciousness, thought. Shapiro writes well enough to usually pull this off. However, one would want to load up with plenty of oxygen before reading some passages aloud. Even if there was pause for breath, one would have to check the audience first. Haim isn’t exactly shy about some excruciatingly detailed body malfunctions.

     Haim is like the most down-beaten, unprepossessing, suicidally inclined private eye one has ever read about, and then some. If it wasn’t for the kindness buried in his soul and for the reported damage in his personal life which has helped draw him low, many might jettison the read unfinished. That would be a pity. But to sustain any credibility, either Haim dies next time out, or breaks his addiction.

     Yes, the book deserves five somethings, though five pain killing white tablets may be more appropriate that five yellow stars. But for those that eagerly consume thrillers in which the least bad guy eventually wins this is a good fix. I would absolutely recommend this book for those that like no-holes plugged entertainment. The pictures Shapiro paints look disgustingly real to this reader.


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review 2018-03-18 19:23
Stories Beneath Our Skin
Stories Beneath Our Skin - Veronica Sloane

This is a simple story with some great characters, and the various relationships are generally well done. I did feel like the some of the side stories, in particular the one of Joy and Cole, were lost in the shuffle, which is strange since it's needing to help take care of Cole while Joy's in rehab that acts as the catalyst for Liam and Ace to take the next step. I really liked the friendship between Liam and Ace, though I didn't really feel the romantic relationship between them. Thankfully, there was enough else going on that it didn't bother me. (Frankie and Goose had more chemistry going on, and they were just the subplot.)


I know this is a reissue and this was previously released by a publisher that I'm not familiar with. I'm going to assume that the various technical issues are due to the reissue. There were missing paragraph breaks, especially when dialogue was involved, and it made it difficult at times to figure out who was speaking when. However, there were various grammar issues too: words split in the middle, incorrect punctuation (again, usually around dialogue), missing words and even incorrect words (then instead of than, duel instead of dual, etc) and just weird word choices that I couldn't tell if the author was just trying to reinvent the wheel or really didn't know how those words were supposed to be used.


I was also expecting more detail on the tattooing, since that was a big part of the plot, but that left a lot to be desired. Oh, and how did no one correct poor Cole when he thought Mars was closer to the sun than Earth? Sure, he's four, but that's no reason not to correct him. Bad parenting, guys. Bad!


So 3 stars overall for the story, but half a star off for bad editing/formatting.

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review 2018-03-12 02:58
ARC Review: Orange by B.G. Thomas
Orange - B.G. Thomas
I'm going to first talk about the book, the story, the two MCs, and the writing. The author's typical writing style is within the pages, and its familiarity (I have read almost all of this author's books) was soothing. I also liked the plot of two very different people meeting and finding each other, finding what they needed from each other, forging a path together that will surely lead them to their happy ever after. and experiencing personal growth. Both Frank and Roy are flawed and complex, both keep others at arm's length - Frank because of what he was taught by his father Glen (more on him soon), and Roy because of shame and fear. Because he was in jail, and because he's only recently figured out that he might be gay. 

I liked Harry and Cody, and Roy's grandmother as supporting characters, who all brought something the the table, and in some instances served as catalysts to further the plot. While we don't find out a lot about Harry and Cody in this book, there are some revelations about Roy's granny that really moved the plot forward. 

I loved how the romance unfolded, how Frank was blindsided by his feelings for Roy, how he tried to deny them, and how he failed. I loved how Roy began questioning his sexuality, and how his reflections of his actions in the past helped him get a clearer picture and overcome his fear. Obviously, there's angst in this book, as the two men approach the budding relationship from two very different angles, and neither is certain early on that a pursuit of the relationship is advisable or desirable. There are missteps, there is fear, there is shame, and there is anger. But ultimately, this book is about two very different men falling and being in love, perhaps for the very first time in their lives. Their path to real love was a bit rough and had a few sharp turns, but they stayed the course.

And now, let's talk about Glen, Frank's father. Massive mother bear rant ahead. You'll want to skip to the end if that sort of thing bothers you. Since it's also slighly spoilerish, there be some tags around some of it. 

Glen made me ragey. Here we have a man who decided to do a huge fuck-you to his ex-wife, the mother of his child, and basically city-hopped with their son from age 5 until Frank had enough of the nomadic lifestyle and forged his own path in KC. Sure, Frank's life with Glen wasn't entirely horrible, and he sure got to see some awesome places, but Glen's endless womanizing and the constant moving, really screwed with Frank's sense of self, knowing his place in the world, and his views on love and finding a life partner. I was already pissed at Glen fairly early on, when I found out about the constant moving and introducing woman after woman into the life of his impressionable son and seeming to be PROUD of that shit, but when the real truth comes out
and Frank's mother contacts him, tearfully confessing that she's been looking for him for 20 years, and that Glen kept eluding her, and then hearing from Glen that one particular woman he was romancing, with whom Frank had developed a strong relationship, was dropped because she was pregnant and subsequently had an abortion, pretty much as Glen's behest
(spoiler show)
  - well, that took the fucking cake. My status update at that point, around 60% or so (I wasn't keeping track, really, because I was so ANGRY) was fueled by RAGE and TEARS. Fuck you, Glen. You narcissistic, sociopathic, selfish asshole. 

So. There you have it. Any book that can bring out such strong emotions - it certainly deserves to have its rating rounded up. I also want to make clear that while I wanted to punch Glen on more than one occasion (and I'm not a violent person at all), I also very much appreciated how the author chose to finalize things for this character's involvement in Frank's life. Justice in this case was very sweet indeed.

As always, the author's writing style is distinctive, which may not work for everyone, but it certainly works for me. 

I don't usually comment on covers. I'm not enamored with this one, but please don't let that turn you off giving this book a chance. What's behind the cover is worth your time.

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. **


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review 2018-03-07 01:38
Release Day ARC Review: Cowboy In The Crosshairs by B.A. Tortuga
Cowboy in the Crosshairs - B.A. Tortuga

Once upon a time, i.e. 10 years or so prior, Wacey, oldest son of the local rodeo company owners, and TJ were a couple in secret. TJ wasn't ready to come out as gay in their small town and also wanted what everyone else had - a wife and a couple of kids. They broke up and Wacey left town right after, hurt and angry, and they haven't spoken since. TJ married, had two kids, and then came clean to his now ex-wife about how he likes men more so than women.

That's the backstory of their relationship. I just love the second chance at love stories, so this one was right up my alley. I also love when the romance isn't all dramatic and full of angst, and I got that here too.

The story begins with TJ, sitting in the diner, doing his Chief of Police thing with the locals, including calming down some old biddie complaining about some art work on the side of house, when he's told that Wacey got hurt real bad and is coming home to the ranch to recuperate. TJ is still mad at Wacey for not coming home for so long, and Wacey wants nothing to do with his old boyfriend.

Obviously that doesn't last for long, as weird things happening at the Bene ranch keep throwing them into each other's path.

Someone apparently has it out for Wacey.

I just love me some good cowboy loving, and this author always delivers the goods. This was such a charming romance, and I adored both MCs. Their relationship was easy-peasy, and once TJ made up his mind to woo Wacey into his bed again, he was relentless in his pursuit.

The mystery/suspense was also really well done, with the incidents getting worse and worse and the suspense building, and nobody having any idea who might be behind it all. I had an inkling about halfway through about the villain, and though I thought that the reason for the villainy might have been a wee bit far-fetched, it's hard to say what might go on in such a mind.

The author's writing style also really worked for this story, and the dialogue felt organic for the setting and the characters.

This is a feel-good second-chance-at-love story with two likable main characters and a great supporting cast. Though, naming your kids Wacey, Lacey, Macey, and Kacey - I feel I must either question your sanity or applaud your sick sense of humor.

Give this a try, y'all. Definitely worth your time.

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

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