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review 2018-02-11 00:59
ARC Review: Blackbird In The Reeds by Sam Burns
Blackbird in the Reeds (The Rowan Harbor Cycle Book 1) - Sam Burns

This, ladies and gents, this is how you write the first book in a new series. The world-building and character development in this book are absolutely fabulous. There is absolutely no info dump. Each piece of new information is revealed via the plot progression, and while I still had no idea what was actually going on at about 30% in, I couldn't wait to find out.

Devon Murphy, from whose 3rd person POV the story is told, rushes home to Rowan Harbor, Oregon, at the request of his grandmother. Who never asks for anything. Some years ago, Devon fled his hometown because everyone knew everyone, and everyone had their nose in everyone else's business. But now Gran needs him, and Devon rushes home. He's in such a rush that he gets into a car accident not far from town and comes face to face with a massive wolf. 

I'm not going to give away the plot - you should read this book yourself to find out what happens within. I will however tell you that this series is planned for 9 books, and I cannot wait to devour each one. This author mixes a suspenseful whodunit with a paranormal romance, and it all fit exceptionally well together. I was on the edge of my seat more often than not, and grinned and giggled when Devon gets zapped by Wade Hunter, and then comes to terms with what that means. 

Supernatural politics? A town council? The Knit Nights? Devon being treated like the town's long lost son, without having any idea why? Each step forward in unraveling the mystery surrounding this small coastal town only poses more questions, with some hinting at things to come in future books.

The romance itself was more subdued and doesn't really come to fruition until the latter part of the book, which made sense to me, considering the many things Devon has to explore and figure out. While there was some mating compulsion at play here, there was no insta-love, and while the book doesn't end on a cliffhanger, there's no HEA - obviously. I did believe though that Devon and Wade will get their happy ending, once the series runs its course, and I had no doubt whatsoever that they are truly in love, but still need to learn so much about each other. 

This author is quickly becoming one of my favorites. The first series, Wilde Love, was obviously very different from this one, but Sam Burns is an author to watch and I will gladly read anything they decide to publish. 

Fabulous, just fabulous. Go get yourself a copy, stat!



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

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review 2018-02-09 20:41
A book strong on plot and fast action and full of information about la Santa Muerte.
Freaky Franky - William Blackwell


I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

I have been reading a book called Paperbacks from Hell and when I saw this book, it reminded me so much of many of the covers and topics I had been reading about that I could not resist, although I was not sure about the title (was it horror, humour, or something else entirely?).

The novel begins with quite a bang. A strong scene where we are introduced to la Santa Muerte (Saint Death) a religion/cult (depending on whose point of view you take) that has flourished in Mexico and is spreading to many other places. Although we all have heard about the Mexican Día de los Muertos, this might cover new ground for many of us, but the author is well informed and provides good background into the history and the various opinions on Saint Death, that is an interesting topic in its own right.

But don’t get me wrong. This book is not all tell and not show. We have a number of characters who are linked (unknowingly at first) by their devotion to Saint Death. What in the beginning seem to be separate episodes, which show us the best and the worst consequences of praying to Saint Death, later come together in an accomplished narrative arc. Whilst praying for health and good things can result in miracles, praying for revenge and death carries serious and deadly consequences.

The story, written in the third person, alternates the points of views most of the characters, from the main characters to some of the bit actors, good and bad (although that is pretty relative in this novel) and it moves at good pace. It is dynamic and full of action, and this is a novel where the plot dominates. The characters are not drawn in a lot of detail and I did not find them as cohesive and compelling as the story, in part, perhaps, because they are, at times, under the control of Saint Death (but this is not a standard story of satanic possession). Although none of the characters are morally irreproachable,  Anisa and Dr. Ricardo are more sympathetic and easier to root for. Yes, Anisa might resent her missed opportunities and the fact that she is stuck in Prince Edward Island looking after her son, but she goes out of her way to help her friend Helen and her brother Franklin and warns them not to pray for revenge. Dr. Ricardo threads a fine line between helping others and protecting himself, but he does the best he can. Franklin, the Freaky Franky of the title, is a much more negative character and pretty creepy, especially early in the novel. Although we learn about his past and the tragedies in his life, he is Anisa’s brother, and she’s also gone through the same losses, without behaving like he does. He uses Saint Death’s power mostly for evil, although he seems to change his mind and attitude after Anisa’s intervention (I was not totally convinced by this turn of events). I found Natalie, the American tourist visiting the Dominican Republic with her fiancé, Terry, difficult to fathom as well. Perhaps some of it could be explained by the love/lust spell she is under, but she clearly suspects what Franklin has done to her, and her changed feelings towards a man she has known for five minutes makes no sense, at least to me (sorry, I am trying to avoid spoilers). Much of the action and events require a great deal of suspension of disbelief, but not more than is usual in the genre.

The novel keeps wrong-footing the readers. At first, we might think that everything that is going on can be explained by self-suggestion and that all the evil (and the good) is in the mind of the believer. These are desperate characters holding on to anything that offers them a glint of hope. And later, when bad things start to happen, it seems logical to believe that the characters we are following have acted upon their negative thoughts and impulses (and even they have doubts as to what they might have done). But nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems.

Although there is plenty of explicit violence and some sexual references (those not as explicit), I did not find it frightening or horrific as such. However, it is a disquieting, dark, and eerie book, because of the way it invites readers to look into the limits of morality and right and wrong. Is revenge ever justified? Is it a matter of degrees? Who decides? It seems la Santa Muerte has very specific thoughts about this, so be very careful what you wish (or pray) for.

An eye-opener with regards to the Saint Death cult and a book that will be enjoyed by readers who don’t mind supernatural novels with plenty of violence, and prefer their plots dynamic and action-driven.

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review 2018-02-08 05:00
The Puritan Pirate (Pirates of Port Royal #1) by Jules Radcliffe
The Puritan Pirate - Jules Radcliffe

3.5 stars I think is a fairer rating. 

Everything goes oh too well for our characters. Even the most evil event leaves (physically) only bruises and sore muscles. Not that I am complaining, mind you. 

Another minus for me is the unfinished business. Killjoy, Chacal, Spanish in general - those are still loose ends. I almost wish there was less talk and love making.... oh, who am I kidding!

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review 2018-02-08 04:51
Eternal Samurai by B.D. Heywood
Eternal Samurai - B.D. Heywood

I didn't like Koji, I couldn't connect with Tatsu whose annoying overuse of Japanese made him even less appealing to me, I did not understand Arisada's love for a traitor and a cheater, I couldn't figure out why some of the characters were in the book to begin with, even less so why they deserved their own POV. Editing was poor. As in you're/your poor. Half imaginary star (since GR doesn't deal in halves) to make it up to 2 is for the truly evil villain. I liked him.

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review 2018-02-01 01:49
ARC Review: Heard by A.M. Arthur
Heard: An Omegaverse Story (Breaking Free Book 3) - A.M. Arthur

This series just keeps getting better and better.

In this 3rd installment, the main couple is Jax Orris, a widowed omega who was previously mated and has a baby son from that marriage, and Karter Jenks, a young constable who had a supporting role in the previous books.

Karter has recently undergone a change of mind after witnessing Kell Iverson's trial (from book 2) and has opened his eyes to how badly many omegas are treated by alphaholes. He's slowly becoming woke and has started to rebel against his own father's conservative views. He's still relatively young, and fairly new to being a constable, so he's not looking for his mate but fate has other plans.

Jax and his baby managed to escape from an illegal fight ring where he's been held captive since shortly after his husband died. Forced to bulk up with daily protein shakes and workouts, Jax has the appearance and stature of an alpha. Homeless and penniless, he's forced to break in to homes and steal supplies for his baby and himself. And a botched surgery has also left him mute.

Karter is investigating a recent break-in and is shocked to find the young omega is his bondmate. Jax cannot believe he isn't being hauled to jail immediately upon his capture and has no intention of trusting the constable, but also cannot deny the pull he feels toward the man fate intended for him.

This book cannot be read as a standalone. While it focuses on the relationship development for the main couple as part of the plot, there is too much backstory from the previous books to make it readable on its own. Some specific plot points from the previous books are also further developed and explored in this one, and I expect that to continue into future books. The characters from the previous books all make an appearance, and it's important to know their stories to fully understand and appreciate this one.

I cried a lot. A lot, a lot. When Jax's story comes out, as he tells Karter about his time in captivity, the consequences of losing a fight, the cruel and inhumane treatment he received because of his omega status, his fears for his baby, his willpower to survive, his inner strength - I alternately cried in anger and in joy. 

The author writes with so much emotion, and the world she's built is colorful and vivid and horrifying and believable. There are parallels to be drawn to our own society. There are people fighting for equality and there are people pushing these fighters back down, to keep the status quo, to keep the oppressed under their thumbs. It's an interesting comparison to our current political climate where some folks aren't viewed as human beings by those in power, because of the color of their skin, their gender, or their sexual orientation, their country of origin or ancestry. The author created a world in which alphas hold all the power and most of the well-paying jobs, while omegas aren't even guaranteed a driver's license but expected to be the little house-husband, taking care of the kids and their alphahole's every need, including spreading their legs whenever their alpha so desires, and their own wishes and dreams don't matter none to anyone. 

These aren't easy books to read. The author doesn't shy away from being explicit in the descriptions of the violence perpetrated by alphas against helpless omegas, but she also shows that it can be different, and that a bond-mated couple can be truly in love and deeply care about each other, and that an alpha who loves his mate is capable of treating his mate with respect and dignity. 

The horror is mellowed to some degree by the love that exists between Jax and Karter, Kell and Ronin, and Braun and Tarik. That loves gives hope to others, shows them that they don't have to accept the status quo, and that the fight to make a better world for all is in everyone's best interest and totally worth it. I loved how Jax learned to communicate in sign language, and how Karter tried and tried and tried to win his trust. I loved how Karter grew into his own person in this book, how he moved past his father's views and stood up for himself and his mate and became a better person for it. I loved how supportive Kell and Braun were with Jax, how Tarik and Ronin helped where they could, and how Serge and Dex continued to be awesome friends to them all. The characters are all fully fleshed out and carefully crafted, with realistic and reasonable personalities that all felt authentic and believable. 

This was an edge-of-your-seat read from start to finish. Have tissues ready. Wine and chocolate is also useful.

Highly recommended that you read this series. The next book is going to come out soon. 

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

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