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review 2018-12-01 21:17
Playing in the Dark (Glasgow Lads #4)
Playing in the Dark - Avery Cockburn

When this series started, I hated Evan with a passion for hurting Fergus the way he did, skipping off to Belgium to be with some other lover. Only in Play Dead, we learned that things were not as they seemed, and I got instantly way more interested in learning more about him. And about Ben too, I guess. *whispers* I actually forgot who Ben was! shhh!

 

Evan's trying to get his life back together after a horrifying ordeal and when he met Ben in Playing With Fire, he was pretty much resigned to living a lonely life as the bad guy on the team. But he and Ben connected instantly apparently, and they pick up on that attraction here and move incredibly quickly considering the sort of life Evan lives and the secrets he needs to keep and lies he needs to make. (I should do a reread one of these days because I was having trouble keeping a lot of these couples straight ... but not straight-straight. You know what I mean.) 

 

I admit, I started getting a little worried by the halfway point about where this story might go. I don't know why, since Ms. Cockburn has always avoiding cliche pitfalls before, but there's always a first time right? Not here, I'm glad to say. This story was more about two characters learning how to be more fully themselves and realizing that in order to do that they actually had to let go of some of their previous preconceptions of who they were. That didn't stop me wanting to smack them more than a few times when they were making stupid mistakes, and there were a few chapters with a few too many sex scenes too close together at the beginning, but that evened out and we really got to see how they work as a couple and not just in the sack.

 

I did like learning about Ben's Bahá-í faith, which I never knew about before. It did feel a tad on the preachy side a couple of times though. I really would've liked to see some more of Ben's mom and Evan's family. Evan's job with MI-5 was also interesting and well-paced, with a layered quasi-mystery to drive the plot. Evan was a little reckless at times, and this teetered just over the line into unprofessional professional a couple of times, but I could understand why Evan made the decisions he made.

Though it doesn't make much sense why he couldn't tell Ben he'd been in Belfast but he could tell Fergus. I guess because Ben was getting a whole lot more details than Fergus  was.

(spoiler show)

 

I was happy where this book left them though and they're both clearly where they need and want to be by the end of it. I hope we get more of them in later books and novellas.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-10-25 04:51
Dark Economy
Dark Economy - M.J. Keedwell

This was the book that would never end. I should have DNF at 50% like I planned to, but I thought that adjusting (and lowering) my expectations would suffice. And it did get better for awhile. But then it started dragging again and I had to skim the last 5% or so to get through this because I wanted it finished tonight.

 

Maybe it was reading this while also listening to What Angels Fear, since they're roughly in the same time period (this one takes place 17 years after Angels) and they both feature amateur sleuths who pursue murders that will ultimately never see true justice done for them, but I found this book lacking. Where Angels had a protag who was interesting, versatile and charismatic, Dark Economy's MC is kind of an obnoxious git. Where Angels has an intriguing mystery within the mystery - French spies in wartime England - Dark Economy has privileged boys who couldn't wait for their allowances to buy things. 

 

You've got Cadell Meredith, the obnoxious git, whose constant back-patting made my hand itch to smack him. He's supposed to be a conscientious, top-rate medical student but he's barely in class. He decided to take it upon himself to solve the murder of a man whose body he stole from the graveyard because he obviously couldn't go to the cops with the info. He also clearly didn't know what he's doing, though he did a decent job of faking it, and I was scratching my head what he planned to do with any of the information he was digging up. Even an anonymous letter to the copper who's supposedly dogging his every step yet missing 95% of his antics wouldn't do much good since Cadell messed with most of the evidence he found. Then again, who needs evidence in Ye Olden Tymes? He kept running into one dead-end after another only to find out that it's exactly who you thought it was right from the start.

 

Then there's the "love interest," or shall I say love interests. He lusted after every other guy he came into contact with and even got a mutual hand job from one of them, but it's the copper who he really wanted. Why? I have no clue, actually. Their first interaction, Breton had broken into his home, cooked him dinner (why? IDK!) and interrogated him, threatened him, was an overall jerk and then manhandled him against the wall. I guess it was sexy manhandling??? And from this encounter on, Cadell's supposedly in lust with the guy but since he was lusting after every other guy, it was hard to see why Breton was so special. They did finally get some real interaction after the 50% mark, but most of that was so nonsensical I couldn't buy into it. They didn't actually get together until 98%.

 

The author did well in portraying what it must have been like being a medical student at a time when grave-robbing, even for medical purposes, could get you sent to the gallows, and there's a good sense of atmosphere for the time period. Unfortunately, that atmosphere was often lost by Cadell's inner-thoughts, which made him come across more like a modern-age brat than a mature medical student of the early 1800s.

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review 2018-03-13 02:15
Half Moon Chambers (Audiobook) - DNF
Half Moon Chambers - Harper Fox

I should've read the blurb. And I should've followed my gut when this started with a sex scene. But it's Harper Fox, right? Nope. Unprofessional professional. Cop sleeps with a witness. DNF. :(

 

Narrator was okay.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-01-15 17:51
Shiver (Unbreakable Bonds #1) - DNF @ 50%
Shiver (Unbreakable Bonds #1) - Jocelynn Drake,Rinda Elliott

That's three for three. What the hell is going on? I've never had this many DNFs in a row. *frustrated sigh*

 

There was some good stuff here, which is why I kept reading so long, hoping the rest of the story would catch up. But...

 

The Good:

 

~Ian seems like a fun character, though I hope he has a good manager since being a good chef isn't enough to keep a restaurant going. 

~Banner, the intrepid detective, is so dedicated to his job he goes on interviews with a flu. Because nothing will scare witnesses into giving answers than fear of getting sick. ;) Naw, that's not why he does it, he just really wants to solve his case.

~This isn't entirely GFY. Andrei's noticed guys and had some sexual encounters with them, but only when there was a woman or alcohol involved. Still, it smacks of GFY because "there's just something about Lucas" that makes him different. What that something is I have no clue. Lucas isn't a bad guy, he's just kind of jerk sometimes.

~The writing is decent and doesn't have too many typos.

 

The Annoying:

 

~Incorrect medical procedures are incorrect. There's no way the hospital would let Andrei out of there, even with a minor burn, without first dressing the burn and wrapping it up, so that whole scene that takes place after the hospital doesn't make sense; it shouldn't need to be happening. And then Lucas is putting this green gel goop on it and also not dressing it. Poor Andrei's shirts are all going to be a mess at this point.

~Speaking of, this is yet another story where the MCs are seriously injured and aside from a few aches and pains the next day, they're walking around like no big deal. At least Lucas took a couple of pills? And only one with alcohol. Yay? But Lucas has broken ribs. RIBS! And he keeps getting thrown down the ground like no big deal. If you're going to go to the trouble of trashing up your characters, can you please remember they're injured? Thanks.

~And why aren't his ribs wrapped?! Are his broken fingers even wrapped or did I just imagine that they were?

~Andrei's supposed to be protecting Lucas's life and keeps getting distracted by his lips and other stuff. Ugh!

~Insta-lust is boring to me on the best days, but when he's lusting after someone covered in cuts and bruises, I have to wonder about the character's mental state.

~Inconsistencies with established facts: Lucas's penthouse is initially described as three stories. Andrei only ever checks the first two stories. What's up with the third floor? Also, Andrei is described many times as being bigger than Lucas, but then suddenly Lucas is bigger than Andrei. Which is it?

 

The Bad:

~Rowe, Lucas and Snow (and Ian) are supposed to be these super tight BBFs but aside from Ian, all the other three seem to do is bicker, fight or strangle (yes, literally) each other at every turn. Just not feeling the unbreakable bond here.

~Lucas is so stupid that he goes off to the property he bought that's putting his life at risk to show off the night skyline view to Andrei. Andrei's so stupid that he actually takes Lucas there. 

~And that's only the first stupid thing they do in the first half. I don't doubt there is plenty more stupidity waiting in the second half.

~That sex scene up against the window is just logistically impossible the way it's written. Andrei's facing the window with his hands on the glass and Lucas is behind him. But then Lucas is suddenly giving Andrei a blowjob. How? Did he crawl between Andrei's legs when no one was looking?

~I kept hoping the glass would pop out of its casing and they'd plummet to their deaths like that Darwin Award winner, but they didn't. :(

~When I realized that I didn't even care enough to skip ahead to see who is targeting Lucas or why, I realized I just needed to put the book down.

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review 2017-06-29 18:48
Hunter of Demons (SPECTR #1)
Hunter of Demons - Jordan L. Hawk

This is an odd one. I'm going to give it four stars, because I do think it deserves it, but I'm going to put a huge caveat on that, which I'll get to in a minute.

 

Ms. Hawk certainly has a grand imagination. All her worlds, whether I can get into them or not, are well-detailed, well-thought out and the world-building is pretty smooth, giving you want you need to know when you need to know it without burying you in extraneous details. That is the same here. She's put a different sort of twist on vampires here. Certainly, vampires actually being demonic spirits isn't new, but in this world, vampires are thought to not actually exist. Ghouls and werewolves, sure. But vampires? Hah! Except they do. It's the method of transfer from one host to another that differs, and I quite thought it to be more complex and have the potential for more conflict that in typical vamp lore. We certainly get to see those conflicts emerge here and start to be explored, and since the way the possession works, you can still sympathize with Gray while understanding why Caleb is justly upset by all this. Neither of them asked for or wanted this; they're just going to have to find some way to make do. End of series spoiler:

And since this whole first series and part of the second series is already released, I know that Caleb and Gray aren't able to be separated, so I assume they will have to and do eventually come to some mutual understanding/acceptance of their fates.

(spoiler show)

I really enjoyed all the stuff that gets explored here, though I did think Caleb's trust issues with SPECTR and with John went away or started to fade just a little too quickly. I would think Caleb would be more suspicious than he ends up being, and would therefore be looking for more ways to manipulate the situation and John - but that doesn't happen. Of course, he's forced to stick around since they're hoping John will figure out a way to get Gray out of Caleb's body, but that doesn't mean that someone like Caleb, raised with a deep distrust of the system, would thaw out as quickly as he does. 

 

Now for my caveat - obviously, this is M/M(/U) (Caleb considers Gray to be "male" but Gray really doesn't have a gender), and romance is a must. There's no real romance in this first book, which is fine because that would've been misplaced. There's plenty of lusting and lusty thoughts, of course, and John gets a little too handsy with someone he's supposed to be protecting/holding in custody. John gets a wee bit unprofessional, but doesn't cross the line into totally unprofessional until they finally have sex in the last chapter. I have a couple of issues with this that prevented me from being able to like the scene, aside from the extreme unprofessionalism:

1) While they just came from a horror show of a death match with the lycanthrope and their adrenaline would be high, causing them to act rashly, I just couldn't stop thinking that Caleb's breath and mouth must've tasted like blood. Gray had just drunk a lycanthrope dry, and Caleb didn't even stop for mouthwash. Plus, even with near-instant healing powers, Caleb would've had some blood from his own injuries sustained during the fight. Shower first?

 

2) Holy consent issues! Caleb wants John and vice versa, but Gray was obviously way uncomfortable with all this and had no idea what was going on. Even though Gray's an unwanted hitchhiker inside Caleb, and Caleb was desperate to get laid for a variety of legit reasons, that still means that Gray hasn't given his consent to this. At this point, we don't know much about how this possession works. We know that sometimes Caleb is aware of Gray and can carry on discussions with Gray whether aloud or in their head, and sometimes Gray seems to "go away." But we don't know if Gray is "there" all the time or has the ability to "check out" or just makes it appear like he's checked out. Gray's had access to the memories of all his prior hosts, including their sex lives, but those were always in sepia tone, if you will, and this is the first time he's experiencing it firsthand and in technicolor with stereo surround sound. That he's subdued and quiet afterward probably just means he's processing and trying to make sense of what just happened, versus being traumatized by it, but I hope this is resolved before Caleb and John boink again. For now, I'm labeling it dubcon. YMMV.

 

3) Actually, consent is a huge issue throughout the story, what with the forced possession. Caleb doesn't want to share his body with Gray; Gray didn't intend to inhabit a body that didn't stay dead, and in fact has no control over which bodies he does inhabit. So dubcon/noncon is just a fact of this premise. Caleb's miserable, Gray's confused and doesn't know what's going on. Neither of them are really happy about this, though Caleb's pain is clearly much more prevalent and pressing. Still, it's more or less a mutually distressing experience, until the climax. Gray overrides Caleb's consent when he decides to not just kill the lycanthrope but drink all its blood. Dude! Caleb's a vegetarian! :P And also, that's gross. Gray would've even gone after Caleb's SIL if Caleb hadn't begged him not to. So maybe you don't care about #2, because Caleb's free to do what he wants with his body without having to check in with Gray - and I would agree to that IF this series wasn't sold as an M/M(/M) romance. But it is, so my issue with #2 isn't so much that it happened in this instance - because like I said, Caleb's desires were totally valid - but concern about how this is going to be handled in future installments. If you want me to believe this is a mutual romance among all three, then at some point - preferably sooner than later - the various issues of consent need to be addressed.

(spoiler show)

 

The writing is strong enough, and the characters and premise are interesting enough, I'm willing to at least give the next book a try and see how this develops from here. 

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