• featured,  Uncategorized

    LAST YEAR I WAS READING…(June 29, 2022)

    Here are the rules:

    Take your current read and compare it to what you reading this exact time last year. Which one do you like better? What is different about the books? Any special facts/things you want to make note of or bring attention to?

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    SERIES REVIEW: Panopolis Books 1 & 2 by Cari Z

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    Panopolis: Where There’s Smoke – Cari Z

    Panopolis is a rough place to be an average Joe. I came here looking for adventure and excitement, but nobody cares about one more normal guy in a city filled with super-powered heroes. The closest I’ve come to glory is working in a bank that villains often rob.

    But then I maybe accidentally-on-purpose helped a villain escape the hero who was trying to save the day. Imagine my shock when, a week later, that villain asked me out for coffee. One date turned into more, and now I’m head over heels in love with Raul.

    Falling in love with the guy dubbed the Mad Bombardier isn’t without its downsides, though. I’ve had to deal with near-death encounters with other villains, awkwardly flirtatious heroes who won’t take no for an answer, and a lover I’m not sure I can trust. It’s getting to the point where I know I’ll have to make a choice: side with the heroes, or stand fast by my villain.

    Either way, I think my days as a normal guy are over.

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    Panopolis: Where There’s Fire – Cari Z

    Making a name for myself as a Villain in Panopolis is hard work. Six months ago, my boyfriend broke me out of jail. Now he’s spending most of his time defending our turf against other Villains he accidentally freed along with me. And my new psychic powers are not only impossible to control, but they’re also giving me migraines.

    But it’s not all doom and gloom. My skills are improving every day, and Raul—aka the Mad Bombardier—and I have never been happier. That is, until my first solo job is interrupted by a mysterious woman who tells me that Raul has been kidnapped by a ruthless new Villain. The only way to free him is to do a job for Maggot, a man with scary ideas and an even scarier superpower.

    I can’t go to the cops or a Hero for help. Odds are they wouldn’t listen to me anyway. If I fail, Raul will be killed. If I succeed, we’ll both be bound to a man who’ll stop at nothing to put Panopolis on the path to civil war.

    It looks like the only way to win is to take out the competition.


    When I was working as an ESL tutor, my Japanese student and I talked about anime. I told him I was almost always fascinated with the villains and asked why anime stories usually show the villain’s backstory. I asked because most western cartoons don’t do that. He told me it was because the Japanese believe an enemy today could be a friend tomorrow.

    Panopolis by Cari Z is a great example of of the shifting lines between villainy and heroism. Sometimes, it’s a matter of perspective. This underrated series deconstructs the superhero and supervillain tropes.

    I came into this thinking I would get a cartoonish, comical romp, something along the lines of Despicable Me or The Incredibles. I got a dark, sinister tale of highly unethical science, mind control and oppression, torture and terrorism, politics and conspiracies, and the collateral damage that is conveniently ignored in the name of saving the day.

    Panopolis is a mega-city with an unusually high number of supers. Time-honored tradition dictates it’s always heroes vs. villains. The good guys have corporate sponsorships and all the perks. The baddies are mostly after money and make the heroes look good. The fights get a lot of tv coverage, usually as entertainment.

    Where There’s Smoke opens the series with a bank heist by one of the city’s most notorious villains, The Mad Bombardier. It happens to be the bank where Edward Dingle works. He’s a kind, mild-mannered guy. So kind he couldn’t resist covertly helping the very villain robbing his bank because he saw The Mad Bombardier needed a hand.

    Intrigued, The Mad Bombardier, a.k.a. Raul, sought Edward out again. Their first date was cute! They eventually started dating. The story breezed through the early parts of their relationship and fast-forwarded to them being an established couple.

    Raul is a total sweetheart, and his costume is supercool! He became a bomb expert due to a rather atypical upbringing. He wears a helmet with numbers counting down. It looks ominous, but it’s actually his little joke. He’s also the only top villain with no body count under his belt so far.

    Book 1 is a 2-hour audiobook, so the plot moved fast. The story is told from the 1st-person POV of Edward, tackling the moral dilemma and the consequences of dating a supervillain. It shakes an already precarious situation by having that supervillain’s superhero nemesis crushing on Edward and persistently asking him out. Edward is also slowly learning what those corporate sponsorships really entail.

    I love how the story blurs the lines. Along with Edward, we question who is the hero? Who is the villain? Who is the criminal? Who is the victim? And who the hell is really in charge? This novella laid out a fantastic foundation for the follow-up. It’s best to have the next book on hand before starting this because the ending turned Edward’s world upside down. You’ll be grabbing that sequel immediately!

    Where There’s Fire picks up on the aftermath of all those explosions. This is where those foreboding thoughts about Panopolis became harsh reality. What was only hinted at and glimpsed in the periphery came out in the open when Edward and Raul met with the villains. It’s where the series became truly dark.

    It’s also the part where I was seriously torn. One hand, I felt sorry for these villains because of what they had gone through. It was pretty nasty! I also understood their cause, their fight to right the wrongs done to their ilk. But then, them being what they are, they get a little too Machiavellian. Poor Raul had to suffer for it!

    This is the part where Edward embraced who he really was. How he saved Raul was brilliantly executed! It’s like the man conquered the city by making people feel and being his kind self. He was awesome!!!

    This is longer than the 1st book, so things were more fleshed out. The tension is tight throughout the story. The suspense ratcheted up several notches when our boy Edward took on the entire city. Edward’s trick on the boss fight scene was super clever!

    I tried not to give too many details here because it’s best to go in knowing only the minimum details. The Cari Z books I’ve read are those she has written with L.A. Witt. I need to read more of her solo works, as well, because she’s a very talented writer. I could tell she really knows her stuff when it comes to supers.

    Panopolis is the perfect example of that. It is an action-packed, sometimes sweet, thought-provoking, and uniquely fascinating take on heroes and villains. A potent reminder that with great powers comes great headaches.

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Villains
    Artist: Delta Spirit
    Album: One Is One

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: How Villains Are Made
    Artist: Madelen Duke
    Album: Talking To Myself


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of Where There’s Smoke and Where There’s Fire. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    Where There’s Smoke: US | UK
    Where There’s Fire: US | UK

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  • Uncategorized

    LAST YEAR I WAS READING…(March 9, 2022)

    Here are the rules:

    Take your current read and compare it to what you reading this exact time last year. Which one do you like better? What is different about the books? Any special facts/things you want to make note of or bring attention to?

  • Uncategorized

    LAST YEAR I WAS READING…(February 23, 2022)

    Here are the rules:

    Take your current read and compare it to what you reading this exact time last year. Which one do you like better? What is different about the books? Any special facts/things you want to make note of or bring attention to?

  • book,  Uncategorized

    SERIES REVIEW: Bad Behavior Books 5 & 5.5 by L.A. Witt & Cari Z

    Note: another long post so you can skip to the end for the tl:dr version if you want. looks like this is turning out to be a series review month

    Bad Behavior was one of the best series I’ve read back in 2018. This gritty, partners to lovers, police procedural cemented L.A. Witt and Cari Z‘s status as one of the best writing duos for me. Just when I thought Andreas and Darren’s story was over, we get another awesome installment and a floofy floof short story.

    This is a review of Books 5 and 5.5.


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    Bad Behavior: Protective Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z

    Detective Mark Thibedeau is perfectly happy doing his job in Internal Affairs and going home to his cat. Still, when his assistant wants to set him up on a blind date, he can’t help but be intrigued.

    Dr. Ryan Campbell loves the frenetic pace of working in an emergency department. He likes his life and doesn’t need anyone. But that guy his colleague wants him to meet does sound pretty interesting.

    It’s instant chemistry when they meet—and instant chaos.

    That chaos isn’t just phone calls interrupting dates. When a patient comes into the ED rapidly bleeding out from a gunshot wound, Ryan suddenly finds himself in possession of evidence that could very well put two white cops in jail for killing an innocent black man in cold blood.

    Not sure what else to do, Ryan takes the evidence to the only cop he can trust—Mark.

    Now Mark is investigating a delicate case, and Ryan is a material witness, and putting their fledgling relationship on hold is the least of their problems. Dirty cops stalk Ryan and his colleagues. Higher-ups question Mark’s investigative integrity at every turn. Worse, he’s tugging at threads of a citywide systemic problem of cops getting away with racially motivated murder.

    And there are cops with blood on their hands who will gladly kill to keep that system running.

    CW: Racially motivated violence, white-cop-on-black civilian violence

    This book is #5 in the Bad Behavior series, but can be read as a standalone.


    I read in L.A. Witt‘s post somewhere that Protective Behavior began as series narrator Michael Ferraiuolo‘s suggestion. This book was a pleasant surprise. It’s a story I didn’t realize I wanted because I didn’t really pay that much attention to IA Detective Mark Thibedeau. After learning of its existence, I was like, oh yeah, about time we have a book about Internal Affairs cops.

    We first met Mark in Book 1, Risky Behavior, as the IA detective who thought Andreas was a dirty cop. He and Andreas were both grumpy assholes who butt heads all the time. Andreas’ daughter Erin later worked as Mark’s assistant. She wrangled him into a blind date with a doctor friend, Ryan.

    Mark and Ryan are two very busy men who had no lives outside work. They immediately hit it off but barely got around to their second date, let alone some smexy times, due to ongoing investigations and medical emergencies. They tried. Boy, they really tried but the call of duty always had impeccable bad timing.

    I felt their initial meeting was, deliberately, a conventional blind date, perhaps as a reminder that they were really just ordinary people cockblocked by extraordinary circumstances.

    Some time after they began dating, Mark found himself investigating a suspected murder of a black man by white cops. The more Mark uncovers, the more he realized this could very well be a systemic problem.

    The case was brought to his attention by Ryan. The doctor was the one who attended the victim. The man handed him a recording of the incident as he lay dying . This makes Ryan a witness and thus off limits for any romantic endeavors. It also made him a target of the psycho cops who were looking to get rid of evidence.

    I might have initially overlooked him before but the authors did a good job making Mark a likable character here. He’s not a flash and bang guy. He’s more of a solid, dependable, dogged determination gets the job done kind of guy. He goes home to a spoiled cat. A dead giveaway that this hardened detective is really a softie.

    Ryan’s more of the same, albeit more playful and flirty. Right away, they understood the kind of high stress, demanding job the other man had. They made their relationship work despite those hurdles. I liked that they were kind of low-key compared to the flashier Andreas and Darren because it feels right to their story. I also appreciated that they were both in their 40s and this is not an age-gap romance.

    The story is first and foremost, a police procedural. I really enjoyed this because it’s my first time to read a book that focuses on Internal Affairs. IA investigations are trickier than normal cases. Cops don’t snitch on other cops. Especially their partners.

    The plot was well-written. It was easy to follow but still giving plenty of twists and turns that kept me at the edge of my seat. Any police procedural aficionado would love all the nitty gritty investigative stuff.

    This is a very timely book that reflects real life events, specifically racism and Black Lives Matter. These issues were handled well. I read one review that says the story tries too hard to make a point. I did find some parts repetitive but not preachy.. All in all, gripping and relevant .

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bit

    Soundtrack: Matter
    Artist: For King & Country
    Album: Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.


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    Bad Behavior: Cuddly Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z

    Detective Andreas Ruffner is less than thrilled when his husband and partner, Detective Darren Corliss, announces they’ll be cat-sitting for a couple of weeks. He’s even less pleased when he realizes the cat in question is a large grumpy thing with razor-sharp claws and no regard for personal space.

    When Darren deploys the puppy dog eyes, though, Andreas is powerless to say no, so they’re on kitty detail… and despite his best efforts, Andreas is a sucker for the critter shedding all over his apartment and stealing his husband’s affection.

    It’s only for two weeks. Plenty of time for the cat to get on his nerves, but not nearly enough for her to trick him into falling in love with her. Right?

    This 15,000 word short story is Bad Behavior book 6, and is best read after Protective Behavior. 


    So I mentioned above that Mark goes home to his cat. The cat is Harley, a giant hairy ball of fluff with no regard for personal space. She jumped on an injured Mark and opened his stitches. So she was sent to live with Andreas and Darren for a couple of weeks while Mark recovers.

    This short story is full of adorable cat antics and besotted humans. It is a demonstration of how cats can win over even the most anti-cat person. Witness grizzled detective Andreas being trained by the cunning Harley to become her personal seat cushion, much to the delight of his husband, Darren. Photographic evidence was promptly obtained for posterity.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bit

    Soundtrack: Cuddles
    Artist: The Tired Flames
    Album: Cuddles


    Michael Ferraiuolo was right on the money when he suggested Mark’s book. Protective Behavior certainly added another dimension to the series by giving us a peek at the inner workings of the Internal Affairs Department. It is a solid police procedural tackling real life issues with a gentle, low-steam romance that goes perfectly well with the story’s vibe. Cuddly Behavior is the squishy cherry on top, a veritable catnip to all cat lovers.

    Protective Behavior can be read as a standalone but why stop at one? Experience all the different ways to misbehave in the first four Bad Behavior books: Risky Behavior, Suspicious Behavior, Reckless Behavior and Romatic Behavior.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of Protective Behavior and Cuddly Behavior. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    Protective Behavior: US | UK
    Cuddly Behavior: US | UK

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    Protective Behavior


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    REVIEW: Double Or Nothing by Cari Z & L.A. Witt

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    Double Trouble: Double Or Nothing – Cari Z & L.A. Witt

    Rich Cody joined the U.S. Marshals to hunt down bad guys, not babysit witnesses. Orders are orders, though, and now he’s protecting a hacker with ties to the Albanian and Sicilian mobs. It’s just another exciting day in WITSEC.

    Leotrim Nicolosi was born into a world of crime and bloodshed. When that bloodshed hits too close to home, taking down Leo’s boyfriend—the son of a notorious mob boss—Leo is determined to destroy the Grimaldi family. He’s got evidence that will send every last Grimaldi to prison, he’s got the family’s wealth in an electronic chokehold, and he’s got a vendetta that can only be settled with the blood of the man who killed his lover.

    When a routine transfer to a safehouse goes horribly wrong, Rich and Leo narrowly escape with their lives. With the Marshals compromised and Leo being framed for murder, he and Rich are on the run from criminals and law enforcement alike. They have no one to trust except each other, and nowhere to go that their enemies can’t reach.

    And the only way out might mean making a deal with the Devil.

    This novel is approximately 77,000 words.


    How far will you go to keep a witness safe?

    Rich Cody found out exactly how far the hard way when he was assigned Leotrim Nicolosi, a hacker holding information that will bring mafia families down. His transfer to a safehouse went to shit and the Marshal and his witness found themselves on the run from not only the Albanian and Sicilian mob but from several law enforcement agencies as well. There was no one they can trust, not the police nor the US Marshals, nor the FBI. The mob has a long reach.

    Double Or Nothing hit the ground running with a shootout that set the fast-paced action/suspense vibe throughout the book. There was no rest for the weary, Rich and Leo were constantly on the move, driving from one point of the American heartland to the opposite end. The only downtime they had was in the missile silo/bunker when they asked Rich’s marine buddy for help.

    I loved how the authors kept several levels of tension going. The book was very effective in the giving off that constant sense of danger hanging like the Sword of Damocles over Rich and Leo’s heads. Meanwhile, the sexual tension was a simmering slow burn that went nuclear in the missile silo.

    Beyond their romantic connection, there was Rich’s unwavering loyalty to his witness and his duty as a Marshal. I loved his dogged determination to see things through to the end. Grieving the loss of his lover, Leo is equally determined to bring down his killers. The two men took on an entire mob. They didn’t hold anything back.

    The book would make a great action movie. There’s a lot of explosions and gunfights and car chases that will keep you on the edge of your seat. There were twists and turns, double crosses and close calls. It was one heck of a mission.

    There was one scene at the end, where they both just went through hell and Rich thought he lost Leo. That part where he was hugging him while shaking with shock and exhaustion was one of the most poignant moments. You can really feel his heart exploding with emotions. Mine did just that.

    So just how far will you go to keep a witness safe? For US Marshall Rich Cody, all the way.

    P.S.

    Double Trouble is a duology and best read when you already have both books in hand. Double Or Nothing ends with a cliffhanger. Rich and Leo’s mission continues in Doubling Down.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Run
    Artist: Foo Fighters
    Album: Concrete and Gold


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to get your copy of Double Trouble books. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    KINDLE
    KINDLE

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    DOUBLE OR NOTHING | DOUBLING DOWN