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    One Line Reviews Of Some Books I Read This Year (April – June 2022)

    This is a round up of the books I read on the 2st quarter of this year that I’m too lazy to do a full review.

  • Uncategorized

    One Line Reviews Of Some Books I Read This Year (January – March 2022)

    This is a round up of the books I read on the 1st quarter of this year that I’m too lazy to do a full review.

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Madison Square Murders by C.S. Poe

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    Memento Mori: Madison Square Murders – C.S. Poe

    Everett Larkin works for the Cold Case Squad: an elite—if understaffed and overworked—group of detectives who solve the forgotten deaths of New York City. Larkin is different from others, but his deduction skills are unmatched and his memory for minute details is unparalleled.

    So when a spring thunderstorm uproots a tree in Madison Square Park, unearthing a crate with human remains inside, the best Cold Case detective is assigned the job. And when a death mask, like those prominent during the Victorian era, is found with the body, Larkin requests assistance from the Forensic Artists Unit and receives it in the form of Detective Ira Doyle, his polar opposite in every way.

    Factual reasoning and facial reconstruction puts Larkin and Doyle on a trail of old homicide cases and a murderer obsessed with casting his victims’ likeness in death. Include some unapologetic flirting from Doyle, and this case just may end up killing Everett Larkin.


    Two things that always make me think of C.S. Poe are New York and neurodiverse detectives. Even before knowing she lives in the city, I always felt a distinct vibe with how she writes about NY. She has also created sleuths who have narcolepsy and color-blindness.

    Madison Square Murders is the first book of Memento Mori, a police procedural that introduces us to Detective Everett Larkin. Larkin has Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), a condition where his memory works like a Rolodex. It’s useful in investigations but a curse most of the time because he is doomed to recall past traumas in perfect detail.

    The story opens with a skeleton unearthed under an uprooted tree in Madison Square Park. A death mask was found with the remains. This brought Larkin to a forensic artist, Detective Ira Doyle.

    I was a bit hesitant to read this at first because I’m not too keen on reading a romance with the MC already in a relationship with another person, even if it’s a failing marriage. The author had partnered with Gregory Ashe in another series. I felt she took inspiration from some of his works by making Larkin already married and infusing the story with a hefty amount of angst and suffering.

    Larkin is a very compelling character. He took it upon himself to investigate the thousands of cold cases in NY because he wanted the victims to be remembered. He knows exactly how many cases are there.

    “Remembrance is the greatest act of love there is. Because… because no one is truly dead and gone, so long as someone remembers them.”

    The story is told from his 3rd-person POV. His cold and blunt personality was one of the main things that drove the story. I felt empathetic because I could relate to the mental struggles and the lone wolf-ism. I felt sorry for him most of the time. I don’t dislike him, but I couldn’t say I actively liked him either.

    Doyle is Larkin’s complete opposite. Friendly and very flirty, he always has a smile ready. And he’s way smarter than he lets on. He was so into Larkin from the get-go but took a step back when he realized the man was married. I liked how we see Doyle’s obvious attraction through Larkin’s aggressively objective perspective.

    Not much to say about the romance because it is barely a romance at this point. Rightly so, or it would have been outright cheating. They had a thing where Doyle calls Larkin ‘work husband’. It’s cute, but I couldn’t squee yet cuz Larkin has an actual husband.

    I liked how Larkin’s and Doyle’s abilities and personalities complemented each other, especially during the investigation. This book is very much about the mystery. It was super into the nitty-gritty of the police work that there was even a point where I tuned out. The amount of research for this must have been astounding. However, it grabbed me back into focus soon after a breakthrough. I was pretty much riveted after that. The story kept me in the dark right to the point Larkin realized who the killer was.

    Objectively speaking, Madison Square Murders is a strong start to a very promising mystery series. It is a very well-written story with solid police procedural and fully flesh-out characters in complicated relationships. The stellar GR ratings are a testament to that.

    Subjectively though, it’s difficult for me to write this review because I felt a nebulous meh-ness towards the book I’m struggling to articulate. It’s not the lack of romance because this one did a great job laying the groundwork for a future love story. I guess it’s pretty much how I feel about Larkin. Intense, emotional, compelling, intriguing, even magnetic, but not necessarily likable.

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: I Remember
    Artist: Deadmau5 & Kaskade
    Album: Random Album Title


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    US | UK

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    Madison Square Murders

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    REVIEW: The Former Assassin’s Guide to Snagging a Reluctant Boyfriend by Alice Winters

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    The Former Assassin’s Guide to Snagging a Reluctant Boyfriend – Alice Winters

    Cassel
    When I gave up life as a hitman, I thought everything was going to be better. I was going to become a PI, help people, and live normally… and then I met Jeremy, the most perfect man to have ever saved my life (I mean, he might be the only one who has saved my life, but he’s still the best at it). From that point on, it was all over for me—I knew we were meant to be. The issue is that he doesn’t… quite seem to realize that. But when he’s targeted by criminals (literally, someone just shot at his head), he needs to rely on someone, so why not me? He might not know about my past as a hitman or that I don’t need to be protected, but I’m prepared to do everything I can to save the day.

    Jeremy
    When my past comes back with a vengeance, I’ve never felt so alone and out of my element. That is, until Cassel offers me information that I desperately need, forcing me to drag him straight into danger. The issue is that he’s too sweet and innocent for this world and I’m not sure that I’m strong enough to protect him, but I can’t bring myself to push him away. As truths come to light, I realize that maybe Cassel isn’t quite who I thought he was, and maybe we’re not so different after all.

    While you can read The Former Assassin’s Guide on its own, you’ll get maximum enjoyment by reading The Hitman’s Guide series first. This book contains speedy car chases and not-so-speedy ATV rides, a wager Cassel is determined to win even if it kills him, and way-too-tight sparkly spandex suits.


    The wacka-doodle gang of reformed hitmen is back!

    The Former Assassin’s Guide to Snagging a Reluctant Boyfriend is the spin-off of The Hitman’s Guide series. We have Cassel, short, highly skilled, and hopelessly in love with a policeman. We first met him as Leland’s housekeeper, also, as a former protégé of Leland’s dead mentor. 

    Cassel has been flirting like mad with Jeremy, the officer who saved his life in the previous books, but the man seemed oblivious to his signals. Then one day, Jeremy was almost shot. Cassel takes it upon himself to help Jeremy find out who’s after him. And, hopefully, win his guy’s heart along the way.

    I was immediately drawn to Cassel. He’s similar to Leland but more insecure and definitely less exhausting. It makes him an easier character to get along with, both for the readers and the other cast. He has an inferiority complex when it comes to Leland, having been told again and again by their mentor how good the hitman was. In truth, Cassel is just as deadly. He certainly lived up to his assassin name, Reaper.

    Jeremy is perfectly likable. He keeps a low profile because of a secret past that now comes biting him in the ass. The thing with him is that, while it is his past that drives the story forward, Jeremy tends to take a backseat in many scenes. More often than not, he ends up getting saved or just standing by. He even pointed it out. He might be under-utilized but what I appreciated most about him was that he recognized how amazing Cassel was, even under Leland’s more dominating presence.

    I loved the first parts of the story the most. It felt more focused. From the halfway point, it sort of meandered. The plot became a convoluted mess. The gang was going around in circles.

    To make matters worse, there was too much Leland bulldozing his way through the scenes. I love this guy, but, he should be deployed in small doses. Also, there’s the inclusion of tiresome gags for gag’s sake that did nothing for me. This is par for course for this author. Although, she toned it down a bit compared to the original series.

    The romance was also sadly under-developed. I loved the pining and the way the story brought Jeremy and Cassel together. However, there was too much focus on solving the mystery, which was a long-drawn-out affair that could have been executed better. I spent most of it skimming, not caring too much about the big reveal. But I did enjoy the OTT action scenes. Expect a lot of things going BANG!

    In the end, what kept me reading was my love for these dysfunctional characters. Husbands Jackson and Leland are always a welcome sight, no matter how Leland-y Leland gets. But again, small doses, yeah? Police chief and group daddy Henry is a delight as always.

    And I might loved Cassel juust a bit more than Leland probably because he felt more relatable. Even Jeremy completely won me over at that last part where he had all these dates lined up to make up for the years of normalcy he and Cassel missed.

    The Former Assassin’s Guide to Snagging a Reluctant Boyfriend may have held out on the romance but, it readily delivered more of our beloved characters, some mystery, ridiculous antics, and gun-slinging action. All in all, it did not blow my mind but, it scored some hits 

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
    Artist: The Rubinoos
    Album: The Rubinoos

    P.S.

    Truth be told, I only read The Hitman’s Guide to Making Friends and Finding Love because I found its sequel repetitive. I highly recommend the moony meeting between Jackson and Leland here.


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    REVIEW: Wood by A.E. Via

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    A True Lover’s Story: Wood – A.E. Via

    This isn’t a romance about billionaires, movie stars, or models. This is a story of two ordinary, working-class men, dealing with life’s real problems, and trying to find love along the way.

    It’s been a long seventeen years but Herschel Wood Jr. is finally a free man and he’s looking forward to reconnecting with his old cellmate, Bishop Stockley, who promised him a place to stay and some help getting back on his feet. Wood had a good life once upon time when he’d owned one of the most successful tattoo shops on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront – until a fatal accident that was his fault cost him everything.

    Now at forty-six years old, all Wood wants is to work in another shop on the beach and find a mature, easygoing man to settle down with. But when he gets to his new place and finds he has to share the small trailer with Bishop’s childhood friend, he wasn’t expecting a sexy, smart-mouthed brat that enjoys pushing a man to his limits.

    Wood pressed in tight until there was only misunderstanding between them, his mouth mere inches from Trent’s parted lips. “You wanted to get a reaction out of me you annoying, immature little shit… now you’ve got one.”

    Trent Armstrong has never been considered a catch. He’s a twenty-nine year old laborer, an ex-con, and not the easiest person to get along with. He’s used to being the one people cast to the side when they’re done with him. Everyone he’s ever cared about has walked out of his life without a backward glance, so he’s used to the loneliness. His foul mouth and quick temper are a great defense mechanism and an easy way to hide his hurt.

    From the moment the tattooed, silver-haired man walked into the house there had been nothing but tension, side-eyeing, and sparks between them. Trent has always held back a side of himself that he’s terrified to explore, and without warning Wood’s voice, his maturity, that maddening scent, and even his damaged past all trigger feelings that Trent thought he’d buried deep long ago.

    Trent went completely still when Wood dragged his nose over his forehead and down the side of his face. His voice was shaky, and his breaths were hot and swift along Wood’s throat. “What the hell are you doing?”
    “I’m doing what you want me to do.” Wood whispered. “I’m playing your bullshit game, Trent.”

    The True Lover’s Stories are connected standalones. Each title features a different couple but will contain previously mentioned characters.
    No multiple pairings. No cliffhangers. Ends with a HEA.
    Note: This is a steaming agnsty, age gap, new-to-love romance.


    Trigger Warning: AA Recovery 


    Wood is the second book of the True Lover’s Stories. Readers of Book 1, Bishop, knew Trent Armstrong as the titular character’s hot-headed, mouthy bestfriend. By all accounts, the man was into girls. It took a silver fox ex-con with beautiful tattoos for him to admit, that might not be exactly the case.

    Herschel Wood Jr was mentioned in the first book as Bishop‘s beloved mentor. After almost two decades, he was finally released from prison. Now it’s time to pick up whatever’s left of his old life. Bishop‘s dad, Mike, offered to rent him his trailer. He’s to be rooming with a young ex-con who hated him at first sight but was also giving that certain unmistakable look that pinged Wood’s gaydar.

    I was excited for Trent’s story. He was an interesting character. He’s practically a brother to Bishop and a second son to Mike. He’s doofus and has a temper but his antics were entertaining. I wanted to see how this dork deals with his gay-for- you moment.

    I loved how Wood and Trent found their common ground despite their many differences. One was a mature, levelheaded former tattoo artist who wants to reclaim his lost art, the other was a bratty construction worker with a penchant for jazz music. Both a bit broken and a little lonely and realized they enjoyed each other’s company if they, well, Trent really (because this guy is an idiot), were honest with themselves.

    I really liked Wood’s explanation when said he would choose a cactus tattoo to represent Trent and it’s not because he’s prickly. It showed how perceptive the older man was, seeing through Trent’s bluster to his core.

    For all his faults, Trent’s loyalty shone through. When Wood’s demons got the better of him, it was him who doggedly nursed the other man back to health. Those scenes were the best parts of Trent.

    For Wood, the author went out of her way to emphasize the age difference, giving descriptions of how prison aged the character. This is different from the usual route most authors take where they tend to highlight how youthful the older man looks despite his age. It’s also more realistic which I appreciated.

    Wood has gone through and done a lot but he’s not jaded. He still has some optimism left, enough to give him strength to start anew. He has the kind of grace that comes with age and wisdom. Fine wine indeed. With that, he’s also in denial about his alcoholism.

    The book tackled the struggles ex-cons go through once they regain their freedom. We follow Wood as he goes about finding a job, deal with discrimination, meet people from his past, and tie up the loose ends. The story executed this theme well.

    I wanted to like this story more but unfortunately, the thing plodded along oh so slowly, especially the first half. If I thought Bishop was slow, the pace here made it a real struggle to keep going. I even put the book on hold for a couple of months.

    Trent’s development, from antagonistic to civil to interested to committed, was done believably and progressed at a good pace. It’s just that the writing made things feel slow. I gave it a go once in a while until I hit the point where things moved faster, which was around the second half.

    The last stretch could have been done better. The scheming ex felt forced, so were the petty jealousy. The most ridiculous part for me was the ending where out of the blue, Mike, who is straight and has a serious girlfriend, suddenly had the hots for a young, sex-addicted twink. It seemed like a ploy just so the next book will be connected to the rest. Do we really need another gay-for-you, age-gap story for this series?

    Wood might not have gone about it fast enough but it delivered the angst, the hurt comfort, the redemption and the happy ever after for two men who very much deserved their second chance. It didn’t exactly set my world on fire but I still liked it overall.

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: My My My!
    Artist: Troye Sivan
    Album: Bloom

    P.S.

    Wood can be read as a standalone but I recommend meeting the wonderful Edison, whose old world charm and culinary magic won the heart of an equally awesome and talented man. Bishop is really great and his story is much better. Check out my review here.


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    US: Bishop | Wood
    UK: Bishop | Wood

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    WOOD

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    SERIES REVIEW: Vigilance Books 3 & 4 by Silvia Violet

    Vigilance is an erotic romance spinoff of The Marchesi Family featuring a group of vigilantes headed by a mysterious individual simply known as X. The first book, Giorgio is a bodyguard romance involving X’s son, Lane. The followup, Niall, is an enemies to lovers story with the titular character butting heads with pawnshop owner, Marcus.

    Leo is the third book. Leo is a tattoo artist who found himself falling for his new employee, Ezra. The last book, Xavier, finally shed light on the their leader who thought himself straight until he met the young hacker, Emilio.

    The first three books follow their overarching mission to bring down a human trafficking ring. For the series finale, X had to protect Emilio from another hacker who threatened to expose their identities.

    This is a review of Books 3 and 4, Leo and Xavier.


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    Vigilance: Leo – Silvia Violet

    I used to be CIA. Now I’m a tattoo artist and a vigilante.

    When a new hire at my shop gets too curious about my less-than-legal activities, he needs all the protection I can give him.

    He wants a lot more. More than I should be willing to give. And yet, the longer I keep him close for his own safety… the more I want him in my bed.


    This is the series going slow-burn with Leo trying to resist the cute waiter turned receptionist, Ezra, at his tattoo shop. Then he caught the younger man eavesdropping on a Vigilance meeting. Ezra found himself caught up in their mission and a target of the evil villain, Swain.

    Swain was aggressively making his move, even making threats to X at his own fundraising party. Vigilance had to act and they had to act fast.

    The story wraps up the human trafficking thread. It gave a pretty satisfying resolution and I really liked that the Marchesis were there to assist. However, I don’t really care about the romance since I wasn’t drawn to either Leo or Ezra.

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: Tied Down
    Artist: Jaymes Young
    Album: Feel Something


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    Vigilance: Xavier – Silvia Violet

    I thought I was straight.
    I thought protecting my identity mattered more than anything besides family.
    Then Emilio came to me for protection.
    It’s my fault he’s in danger, and no one is going to touch him.
    No one besides me. 


    This is the book I’m most looking forward to. I was super curious about X. My enthusiasm petered out because this book fell into the same pattern as the other stories.

    There’s a threat to a young submissive man and a Vigilance member feels insta-lust and the overwhelming need to protect him. They hole up in a some isolated place, in this case X’s private island, had lots of sex, fall in love within a day or two, then a rushed action/suspense ending. There’s bisexual awakening thrown in the mix for variety but overall, it’s too similar to Giorgio and Lane’s story. Maybe, the author was going for parallels but I couldn’t help wishing that things went differently.

    Rating:
    2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like

    Soundtrack: First Time
    Artist: Josef Salvat
    Album: The Close / The Reveil


    I liked the Vigilance boys better when they’re interacting with each other. That’s when you could see more of their personalities. I enjoyed their banter and their camaraderie. With their love interests, they tend to fall into the same mold, which is why I wasn’t keen about the romance.

    All the books were into BDSM. Even if it’s not my thing, I’m ok with it. However, most of the couples here were a dominant, controlling alpha paired with a very pliant younger, smaller man. The only exception was Niall and Marcus. That’s why they’re my favorite.

    I wasn’t wowed by the series overall. As I mentioned in my review of the first two books, I am aware it would be steamy but I was hoping for a more balanced presentation. It is unfortunate that the action scenes were relegated to the endings and were over almost as soon as they started. I wanted a bit more focus on the mission.

    This is a ME problem because other people have thoroughly enjoyed the books. They are best read with the mindset that they are primarily BDSM romance with some action on the side. If this is your thing, there’s a good chance you’ll find the books a lot of fun.

    And I have to say, there was something about Vigilance that made me finish the entire thing. I guess I liked the idea of a vigilante group plus the Marchesi cameos are always an incentive. Then there goes Lancelot Theriot and his pet monkey and so here I am, excited for another spinoff series, The Theriot Family.

    P.S.

    Vigilance should be read in order. Find out how grumpy ex-military sniper Giorgio unknowingly hooked up with his very off-limits boss’s son, the sparkly and fabulous Lane, in Book 1. Also, check out Niall and Marcus’ business with the blue speedo in Book 2. Reviews here.

    While you’re at it, meet the notorious bunch who love cannoli as much as they love causing trouble, The Marchesi Family. Series review here.


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    US: GIORGIO | NIALL | LEO | XAVIER
    UK: GIORGIO | NIALL | LEO | XAVIER

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    GIORGIO | NIALL | LEO

  • book,  Uncategorized

    AUDIO REVIEW: Natural Twenty by Charlie Novak

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    Roll For Love: Natural Twenty – Charlie Novak

    Plants are easier than people—that’s Leo’s rule of thumb. After all, nobody really wants a man who looks like he belongs in a biker gang but would rather spend his time buried in books and flowers. It’s just easier to be single. Until he meets the owner of the new book shop.

    Jacob Morris knows two things: he’s really attracted to the man who runs the local flower shop, and he doesn’t date. Not when he’s still healing from a bad breakup, has a new business to run, game nights to organise, workshops to host, and a website to build.

    When friendship blooms into something more, Leo and Jay must decide whether to roll the dice and take a chance on love or keep forging ahead on their quests alone. Will their roll yield a one or a perfect, natural twenty?

    Natural Twenty is an 80,000-word contemporary MM romance featuring Dungeons & Dragons, secret flower language bouquets, a spoilt Staffy (or two), and a best friend who is basically a gothic prince. It is book one in the Roll for Love series and can be read as a standalone.


    When I picked this up, I had no idea what “natural twenty” meant. I learned later this refers to the roll of the twenty-sided dice in Dungeons and Dragons. If I understood it correctly, getting a natural twenty means maximum success.

    Natural Twenty is the first book of the geek-tastic series, Roll for Love. This is an insta-attraction, slow-burn, friends-to-lovers story of Leo, florist and Jay, bookseller. It’s packed full of all things geeky, from scifi and fantasy books, Dungeons and Dragons, cosplayers, steampunk conventions, superhero shows and pop culture references.

    Leo looks like a lion but is actually a kitten. His intimidating, taciturn exterior puts off a lot of people. They failed to notice underneath it all, there was a sweet, gentle giant who gives his heart too easily. His sole companion in life is his dog, Angie.

    Jay is an adorkable transplant from London, who left his old life after his ex cheated on him. He came to live with his friend, Edward, to mend his broken heart. Starting fresh, he bravely opened his own bookstore in Yorkshire. On his opening day, he received a welcome bouquet from Leo, who had decided to check out the new establishment in the neighborhood.

    The two struck a friendship but couldn’t deny the attraction between them. Friendship was slowly turning into an enjoyable, comfortable relationship when angst, internal conflict and struggling business got the better of Jay. He decided to put a temporary halt on things because he couldn’t handle all the pressure.

    This should actually be a more straightforward book. I couldn’t help but feel it should have been a lot shorter, perhaps a novella. Things could have been resolved a lot quicker.

    It showed Leo and Jay going about their day to day. This is fine, even enjoyable sometimes but there was too much internal dialogue. Mostly, I struggled with keeping my attention focused on the story. I felt the dreaded saggy middle. Happily, Joel Leslie’s fabulously on-point narration kept me going.

    And while I liked reading about the how-tos of running a small business, especially a bookstore, going through some business minutiae did feel a bit tedious at some points. Ditto with the Dungeons and Dragons part. Having never played the game, I couldn’t fully appreciate all the references.

    On the upside, the book had a lot of wonderful side-characters. Chief of whom is Edward, cosplayer and gothic prince, who basically stole the show. All the time I was reading, I kept thinking how much fun his book would be.

    My favorite part here was floriography, the language of flowers. Each chapter is marked with a flower and their meanings. I have zero interest in flowers but the way Leo put together his bouquets for Jay, carefully picking each flower and leaving pieces of his heart in each blossom, that was absolutely beautiful! Especially coming from a guy who struggles with words. It was such a deeply romantic and meaningful gesture. It made me appreciate flowers a little better.

    Things started picking up when Jay’s bookstore became viral. From then on, the story moved faster and I was able to enjoy it more. Despite my complaints about the draggy bits of the book, I still love the way Leo and Jay were brought together, first as friends, then as lovers and then later when they were reunited. It was a sweet, fluffy journey made more charming with some floral magic.

    All in all, Natural Twenty might not have rolled out maximum success but it’s still a good roll. Read if you love adorkable elven bards who sing Spice Girls offkey, gothic princes who drink in tea sets that match their wardrobe and most especially, gentle giants who speak in flowers.

    P.S.

    Thank you to Gay Romance Reviews and Audible UK for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: Bloom
    Artist: RKCB
    Album:


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    KINDLE
    AUDIOBOOK
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    REVIEW: Happy Endings by Alice Winters

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    Demon Magic: Happy Endings – Alice Winters

    Smart men never dabble with demons. I never claimed to be smart, but at least I’m powerful enough to control them. When I bound Havoc to me nearly three hundred years ago, I never realized how difficult he’d make my life, although “accidentally” lighting him on fire every now and then does bring a smile to my face.

    Havoc is handsome, mysterious, and somehow my closest companion, even if we don’t always get along. He’s more interested in bedding attractive women than protecting my life, which defeats the main reason a mage like me would have a demon. I even had to fight off swordsmen alone once because he was too busy betting on who’d survive.

    When fifteen people are found dead with messages from a long-extinct cult, Havoc and I are forced to face our past and sort through our differences. We start to realize that there’s something more to this relationship, something that has kept us by each other’s sides for so long. Maybe it took three hundred years to finally understand my feelings for Havoc and realize that I can’t imagine being with anyone but him. Havoc and I will do everything we can to stop the evil that is threatening the lives of the people I care about. Or destroy everything—we haven’t quite figured that out yet.

    Happy Endings is a 73k word novel that has an immensely powerful mage, a shapeshifting demon with a strong libido, a dark mage that just won’t stay dead, a spray bottle put to unusual uses, armor that is most definitely not made of dragon skin, blackmail involving an unfortunate slow-mo video, a detective being pursued by a determined minotaur, unprofessional use of illusions, and an epic walk into battle.

    *Revised and edited.


    Happy Endings kicked off Demon Magic, another Alice Winters paranormal snark-fest.

    Miles and his contracted demon go about their intertwined lives for 300 years, with Havoc sleeping with every woman he can get. Miles lets him carry on with his amorous business while very, very secretly pining for his demon.

    The mage owns a café that doubled as magic shop and home. Apart from an oversexed demon familiar, he has a witch assistant and a werewolf chef who were a couple. He was approached by two detectives about a dead body with markings similar to that used by an Inquisition-type group Miles had encountered hundreds of years ago.

    Miles and Havoc’s past was dredged up the deeper they became involved with the case. We learned about the abuse Miles suffered from his late master and how he and Havoc forged their connection. It later turned out, this very dead master might not be resting in peace after all.

    Miles is quite possibly, the most powerful mage in existence although the book hasn’t confirmed it. I always liked it when we get an established high level magic user right off the bat since I’m bored with beginners. There were a lot of magic on display which I really enjoyed. Miles can use glamour and change his appearance. He can basically do almost anything but has an affinity for fire. And he has demons at his beck and call.

    Havoc, well, he’s a piece of work. The demon is obnoxious, horny and childish. We meet a lot of his type in the author’s works. He’s tolerable but him going from chasing skirts to getting into Miles’ pants seemed to come out of nowhere. But after my confusion with his sudden turnabout wore off, I could see his complete dedication to Miles. Which is always delivered with a jibe or two to the long-suffering mage.

    This series has a great supporting cast. Standouts were Sam the detective and Iya the minotaur. I’d love to read their story. Iya is a himbo who latched on to Sam after Miles assigned him to protect the detective under strict orders not to penetrate the human unless the human said so otherwise. Trust the doofus to misinterpret that in his little demonic brain.

    At first, I was put off by the ridiculous opening scene and had to give it another try before it stuck. The author’s humor is the polarizing kind. Either you like it or you don’t. Here, it got tiresome at many points. Many lines weren’t that funny. They were trying too hard to be raunchy.

    There were also scenes that did nothing to the story, merely there to show off a gag or two. And almost overshadowed the progress of relevant events which is too bad because the core plot was actually exciting. We got necromancers, missing grimoires and political intrigues, not to mention a cute romance involving a demon. They’re my favorite kind of supernatural love interest next to vampires.

    The writing wasn’t as dedicated to its world-building as it to the humor but we still more or less see an understandable picture of what’s going on. It is the kind of fantasy world where every imaginable creature exists so we get everything from paladins to archangels and things that I’m not even sure what.

    There were also explanations provided for demon summoning. Most of it were the usual ritualistic stuff but I liked that Miles is so powerful he can drop the chanting mumbo jumbo and just go with “I summon you”.

    The book also tackled the demon’s relationship to its summoner. Most contracted demons were treated nothing more than strictly controlled, often mistreated tools. Miles and Havoc’s relationship has always been special. The mage treated his demon kindly from the start. A huge risk because demons are very tricky. I love the trust they had with each other.

    Happy Endings might have gone overboard with the silly gags and could have woven a stronger world but it still had the right amount of magic, loveable demons, quirky humans and intriguing threads to propel me through to the next book.

    And so the quest continues with more misadventures, more graves turned, more misuse of glamour spells and a monster from the past making his comeback. Looks like the real fun’s just starting.

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: Stuck With You
    Artist: Upstate
    Album: Wake The Morning


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    REVIEW: To Die For by Davidson King

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    Joker’s Sin: To Die For – Davidson King

    Managing the bar at Joker’s Sin, a gay nightclub, is Max’s dream job. Where many seek fame or fortune, he’s living his best life, surrounded by family and friends. The only thing he doesn’t have is the guy to complete him.

    Lane, AKA Sparkles, sees too much of the person he used to be when he looks at Max, and none of it is good. But the stubborn man won’t let up, and when Sparkles’s past threatens to unravel his whole life, it’s Max who steps in to save him.

    Can these two opposites push past their differences to see just how right they are for each other? Will they get a chance before it all falls down around them? Or is their love one to die for?

    (While it is book 2 in the Joker’s Sin Series, it can be read as a standalone)


    When I first met dancing diva extraordinaire Sparkles and his frosty treatment of Max in Joker’s Sin book 1, My Whole World, I immediately thought of the song I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor by Arctic Monkeys. The lines “Stop making the eyes at me / I’ll stop making the eyes at you/ What it is that surprises me / Is that I don’t really want you to” is them eyefucking the heck out of each other. Well, Max did the blatant ogling and I’m pretty sure Sparkles was doing the side eye ogling now and then.

    Fast forward to book 2, To Die For, and their snarky flirting continued. The two saw each other at the club almost every night but knew little about each other. Sparkles was attracted to Max but pegged him as a manwhore and didn’t want to be just another notch in his belt. Meanwhile, Max was really into Sparkles but how to convince the pink-haired diva that he wanted more than just a quick fuck when he wouldn’t even give him the time of day?

    Things took a different turn when a monster from Sparkles’ past showed up liked he owned the town and Max’s protective instincts kicked into high gear.

    The story touches upon the enemies to lovers trope but it’s obvious they don’t really hate each other. It was more like a case of bad first impressions and seeing reminders of an ugly past one had already run away from. Unfortunately, it had a way of catching up to a person.

    But Sparkles is nothing if not a tough-as-nails survivor. He built his life in Haven Hart from the ground up and is not going to let it go that easily. His real name is Lane but to me and everyone at Joker’s Sin, he’ll always be Sparkles. Because he’s that fabulous!

    Max proved he’s more than a walking case of herpes as Sparkles loved to point out. He’s the only boy in a loud Italian family of three sisters and their mom. He’s a whiz at mixing drinks, reads classic books, drives a fast bike and lives with his mom to help her out with her living expenses. He loves his job at the club. He’s one of the big four in Joker’s Sin, along with club owner Atlas Durand, DJ Edge and head of security Zero.

    I was really looking forward to read this book because I was drawn to Sparkles from the get go. While I loved the flirting/fighting thing they had, I didn’t feel the same excitement about Max and Sparkles once they started getting along. I think it was sweet how Max was ready to jump to Sparkles defense. The chemistry was there but it lacked intensity. The pacing was great but the way the romance developed, it didn’t quite match the fire they had at the beginning. Their first date had all the right ingredients to turn magical but the execution failed to deliver.

    Even the suspense lacked bite. There were many things going on that was just…going. The bad guy was an absolute asshole. Now this one stood out. He made Sparkles’ life a complete nightmare. I was so glad when they got rid of him permanently.

    I don’t know, maybe I read this at the wrong time but To Die For didn’t really get my blood pumping as much as I hope it would. There’s nothing outright bad about it, more like, the story was kind of just there. The plot was simple and straightforward. The MCs were both likable, so were the supporting cast. And though it needed some oomph, the romance didn’t feel forced. The part I enjoyed the most were the scenes at the club. This is the heart of the series and this is where the writing really shine with how it made the pulsing club atmosphere palpable.

    A lot of people gave this rave reviews so it really might be a ME thing. I say, read this for the club and the people.

    P.S.

    To Die For can be read as a standalone but it’s also best to drop by Joker’s Sin and meet club owner and showman, Atlas Durand, in book 1, My Whole World. Review here.

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Rating: I Bet You Look Good At The Dancefloor
    Artist: Arctic Monkeys
    Album: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not


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    REVIEW: Headlines by Ella Frank

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    Prime Time: Headlines by Ella Frank

    USA TODAY bestselling author Ella Frank concludes the story of Sean Bailey and Alexander “Xander” Thorne in Headlines.

    Xander

    If I had to describe Sean Bailey, it would be as the sexy, caring, wonderful man I’ve gone and fallen in love with. I never could’ve imagined a world where he was my everything. But with each passing day, the connection between us grows stronger, and the idea of a world without him is something I can’t imagine.

    But Sean’s love doesn’t come without complications. As the older brother of my lifelong best friend, this new love has caused relationships to break down and communication to become stilted, and the one question that remains is: am I willing to give up the love and friendship of one for the chance of love and forever with another?

    Sean
    I didn’t mean to fall in love with Alexander Thorne, my brother’s ex and the number one prime-time news anchor in the country. I mean, no one could’ve seen that coming—least of all me. But that’s exactly what happened over these past couple of months: I fell in love.

    That’d be complicated enough, I suppose, but Xander? Well, he fell in love with me too, and while it’s caused some major upset in the dynamics around here, I have to believe that a love this real can only lead to somewhere amazing.

    This thing between us started out as a job, a friend helping out a friend. But after playing the role of Xander’s boyfriend, I find myself wanting the job full-time, because neither of us are playing anymore.

    Headlines is the final book of the Prime Time Series and should only be read after book one, Inside Affair, and book two, Breaking News.


    I was drawn to Prime Time because of its spectacular premise about an out and proud news anchor and his surly, straight detective bodyguard who’s also the big brother of his ex boyfriend cum best friend. It’s a fabulous setup that grabbed me immediately with its enemies to lovers, opposites attract, gay for you scenario.

    And the first book, Inside Affair held true to it’s promise. I was extremely wowed! However, the author tends to end her books with cliffhangers. This would have been okay had the succeeding books offer substantial plots to merit a separate volume.

    The second installment, Breaking News, moved the romance forward several notches. The rest of the book were non-events that weren’t adding anything to the story. It also ended with a cliffhanger.

    Headlines picked up on the aftermath of Sean’s younger brother Bailey finding out about his best friend and big brother. Bailey felt hurt and betrayed that the two important people in his life did not tell him about their relationship.

    Personally, I think this Bailey issue was dragged out for too long. I understand why he reacted that way but story-wise, I think this could have been resolved sooner.

    There’s not much I can say about Headlines because, again, there’s not much going on. There was a mini thread where Sean and Xander were splashed on the tabloids. I appreciated that the author did not make it into a coming out issue.

    However, it was also kind of blah because Xander immediately realized who leaked the story to the press. That it was a person he worked closely with and trusted should have been a bigger deal but it was treated as a non-event.

    I am of the opinion that the entire series could have been done as one book. Removing the fillers, all the essential plot points combined could have made it into a delicious, suspenseful slow-burn story bursting with USTs, snarky banter and first time gay revelations. Sadly, this third offering did not quite capture the magic of that wonderful opener.

    On the upside, Sean and Xander were really good together. There was an almost break up courtesy of Sean’s self-sacrificing nature but Xander kept his head. They remained solid throughout the Bailey debacle. The way they went from strength to strength as a couple and me rooting for their HEA was what kept me reading.

    The part that brought Headlines up to a 3-star rating was the epilogue. It was a lovely tribute and I think it was the perfect way to end the series.

    So do I recommend Prime Time?

    Yes, if you want to witness Sean and Xander’s beautiful romance. This was what made it worth sticking with them until the end.

    No, if you hate cliffhangers or are looking for a trilogy with solid sequels.

    P.S.

    The Prime Time books are not standalones. Check out my reviews of the first two books:
    Inside Affair by Ella Frank (4.5 stars)
    Breaking News by Ella Frank (3 stars)

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: Alan
    Artist: Perfume Genius
    Album: No Shape


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    INSIDE AFFAIR | BREAKING NEWS | HEADLINES