BOOKS I DNFed OR PUT ON HOLD
I rarely post reviews of books lower than 3-stars because usually I can’t be arsed to finish them. Also, I’m such a mood reader that sometimes, no matter how good a book is I still couldn’t finish it if I’m not feeling right.
So here are some books I keep promising I would get back to…
Rocket Science by K.M.Neuhold
Relationships aren’t rocket science. If they were, I might stand a chance of figuring one out.
Normally, I’d be all over the awkward nerdy types but unfortunately, I wasn’t connecting with either MCs. I read up to the middle up but I’m not sure I would continue with this one.
NoX by Adrienne Wilder
One is a dying man.
The other is a man who died to live.
This is a really good take on the shifter trope and a very gripping story too but all the intensity, the haunted memories and primal lust was too much for me. I kept imagining how these people stink to high heavens with their 15-man orgy and being cooped up in a van. I got tired of people going on and on about Luca’s brother Koda. He took over the story but I wanted more focus on Luca and NoX. I wanted Dr. Dante to have a happy ending too.
I started this last year and kept promising to get back to this but up until now, I’m still stuck in the middle.
Criminal Past by Gregory Ashe
It all starts to go wrong at the shooting gallery.
I love this series. I love Hazard and Somers. I simply got tired of Hazard’s ‘voice’ and thought processes. This series is written in dual POV but it’s really Hazard’s story. Which means from his POV, everybody was described in unflattering ways except Somers who is all sunshine and rainbows.
I am a pessimistic person myself but jeez, lighten up will you..
The Seven of Spades has upped the ante. If Levi and Dominic don’t play their cards right, they’ll end up losing everything.
This picks up after Levi and Dom’s break up which was kind of stupid really because they still end up having sex when they bump into each other. This is fine.
What I didn’t like was how everybody was poking their noses on Levi and Dom’s business. I know their friends mean well, but I didn’t feel like going through all their nagging. I’m putting this on hold until I’m in the right headspace. I’ll still continue with this because I need to see if my guess as to the identity of the SOS is on the money.
Thrown to the Wolves by Charlie Adhara
Agent Cooper Dayton is going to meet his boyfriend’s werewolf family. Unarmed. On their turf.
And he’s bringing his cat.
I was on my shifter binge when I started this. Unfortunately, the mood petered halfway. I will pick this up again when the mood strikes again. I had enjoyed the first two books so far so I know I’m gonna like this too.
How do you feel about DNFing a book? Are you a mood reader too?
REVIEW: Can’t Hide From Me by Cordelia Kingsbridge
Can’t Hide From Me – Cordelia Kingsbridge
Charles Hunter’s team is on a mission to extract an unidentified ATF agent from an undercover job gone wrong. All they’ve got to go on is the rendezvous location—until Charles recognizes the ex he hasn’t seen in years. Their “simple rescue mission” is about to get a lot more complicated.
For Ángel Medina, adjusting to life after his cartel nightmare is hard enough without confronting memories of a failed relationship. All he wants is a fresh start. But when a violent stalker lashes out from the shadows, Ángel realizes his nightmare is far from over.
As the stalker’s obsession escalates and bodies start dropping, Charles and Ángel are thrown together in a desperate search for the culprit. Tempers flare and old passions reignite, drawing them back into the same turbulent relationship that once ended in disaster.
But the stalker isn’t letting go—and the next strike might hit straight through the heart.
The thing with mysteries is that whenever a non-spoiler spoiler says, “I guessed the unsub the moment the character was introduced”, I immediately zero in on the suspect. This does not necessarily ruin the reading experience, especially if the writing is engaging but well, I already know what to expect.
This is the case for Can’t Hide From Me, a standalone novel from the author of Seven Of Spades, Cordelia Kingsbridge. The stalker’s identity became obvious when I got the hint but this book is as gripping as her famous series. She writes suspense with a deft hand and she was able to keep those edge-of-my-seat feels going until the last page.
Emotions ran high as tension of every kind filled the scenes from page one. ATF undercover agent, Angel Medina barely escaped the clutches of the cartel when his extraction nearly went haywire at the start of the story, then immediately right after, found himself the target of a dangerous stalker. As if he did not have enough problems, he and Charles Hunter, also ATF, had a bitter breakup two years prior and ugly feelings resurfaced after they met again and worked in the same team. At the same time, their attraction remained as strong as ever and both were powerless to resist.
Charles glanced sideways, watching Ángel curled up comfortably on his couch, barefoot and wearing Charles’s T-shirt. How could he haver ever talked himself into believing this was going to work? He’d never been able to spend any length of time in Ángel’s company without fucking him, fighting with him, or doing both simultaneously. Ángel had set Charles on fire the moment they’d met, and while those flames had banked and flared over the years, they’d never been extinguished.
There were some unwise decisions from both parties that complicated the already volatile situation. One particularly stupid move was Angel hitting the clubs just hours after his extraction, fully aware he had a target on his back because that’s how badly he needed to get laid. Charles claiming he had self-control when they know he had zero when it comes to Angel. So he just had to invite Angel to stay in his apartment with the intent of keeping him safe (that’s what he told everybody and himself). Both threw professionalism to the wind because they simply can’t keep their hands off each other. So now they’re both targets of the stalker. Fan-fucking-tastic.
I liked how the author developed Charles and Angel individually and as a couple. Charles is more level-headed, serious and a closeted bi while Angel is more spontaneous, hot-tempered and openly gay. The latter also has a degree on psychology(?) and was not afraid to use psychological tactics when it suits him. For the most part, it seemed that their connection was only sexual but a closer look revealed deeper feelings running underneath.
I also liked how the issue of Charles coming out as bi was incorporated into the story, not just making it the usual coming out woes, but that it’s something that actually affected the course of events and had serious consequences for the MCs. This revelation came as a bigger surprise to me and made me see Charles and Angel in a different light.
The chemistry between the two men was undeniable although I’m not sure they’re healthy for each other. One manipulated the other, the other was also a prick and there was too much history between them. It wasn’t until the end when they let it all out that the two of them together finally felt right.
In keeping with her other books, CK created a diverse and interesting cast with emphasis on giving many important and relatively atypical (for MM) roles for her female characters. And if you have read her other books, you know what that usually means to the story. (^_−)☆
Narrator Nick J. Russo did a great job as usual. Each character stood out and his female voices were convincing and varied. His Mexican accent for Angel was beautiful! I think that was the best rendition of the accent I’ve heard so far. I’m kind of not sure about the pronunciation of the name though. He pronounced it as ‘an-hel’, I thought it should be ‘ang-hel’. Maybe Mexicans say it differently from us despite similar Spanish influences. Anyhoo…
I might not love it as much as SOS but overall, Can’t Hide From Me is a well-written and highly entertaining action/mystery story with a tumultuous romantic side plot. Recommended if you’re looking for steamy, suspenseful stories about feds fucking and fighting (crass, I know but that’s what they did)
Cordelia Kingsbridge books here
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
Soundtrack: No One Knows
Artist: Queens Of The Stone Age
Album: Songs For The Deaf
“What is it about me that’s always scared you so much?”
“You make me want to break the rules.”
REVIEW: Cash Plays by Cordelia Kingsbridge
Seven Of Spades: Cash Plays – Cordelia Kingsbridge
The Seven of Spades is back with a vengeance—the vigilante serial killer has resumed their murderous crusade, eluding the police at every turn. But a bloodthirsty killer isn’t the only threat facing Sin City. A devious saboteur is wreaking havoc in Las Vegas’s criminal underworld, and the entire city seems to be barreling toward an all-out gang war.
As Detective Levi Abrams is pushed ever closer to his breaking point, his control over his dangerous rage slips further every day. His relationship with PI Dominic Russo should be a source of comfort, but Dominic is secretly locked in his own downward spiral, confronting a nightmare he can’t bear to reveal.
Las Vegas is floundering. Levi and Dominic’s bond is cracking along the seams. And the Seven of Spades is still playing to win. How many bad hands can Levi and Dominic survive before it’s game over?
I know that the things that happened with Levi and Dom here were big, but can we stop first and take a moment to appreciate the bittersweet romance between the Slavic Collective boss Sergei and his boy Rocco? They need their own book!
Also, somebody give Stanton some love. The poor man has a good heart, he deserves an HEA. I liked him since book 1.
So Levi and Dom…
It started very sparkly and lovey dovey with the two men taking a long vacation, flowers and exchanges of I-love-yous, also meeting Levi’s parents. Levi’s mom declared Dom Levi’s bashert which means soulmate. All very squee-tastic and heartwarming. It will lull you into thinking that everything’s coming up roses. But I KNEW!!! Shit’s going down!
Dom landed a case of a missing woman. The investigation took him to a hidden casino and Dom was recovering from his gambling addiction so gadammit Dom, WALK AWAY NOW!!!
Meanwhile, the Seven of Spades was uncharacteristically quiet for weeks but LVMPD is ramping up the investigation by bringing in the Feds. FBI profiler Rohan Chaudhary came in, dazzled Levi with his good looks and put his moves on Dom. He also detailed the profile of the SOS which unfortunately fit Levi to a T. It didn’t help that that Levi’s anger issues were getting harder and harder to control which was obvious to everyone.
“I can’t invite that kind of darkness inside myself. I don’t know what it would do to me, and I can’t risk finding out…”
All in all, they were not in a good place.
But these only made the story so much more compelling and brought out strong emotions that had me hanging on to every word. I love how Cordelia Kingsbridge developed these characters. Levi’s demons, his trauma and Dom’s downward spiral, as cliche as it sounds, their struggles were real. Great representation too, in terms of racial and gender diversity, that was done in a way that was natural and realistic.
I liked how this installment slowly built up all the frustration and tension until it went nuclear. There’s so much anger in this book. Even the SOS was ragey and it showed in their work. The profiler and Levi agreed that the SOS was evolving. It was established that they were connected to law enforcement and had experienced severe trauma in the past which made them go after the bad guys who got away with their crimes. The killer’s vigilante justice earned them many sympathizers even among the police ranks. One significant fact was that many people who joined law enforcement had some past trauma which made them want to bring justice. This made practically everybody in the LVMPD suspects.
Interestingly, the serial killer seemed to have a vested interest in Levi’s love life, offering him comfort when he and Dom had that ugly fight. Theirs was the kind of blow up that caused cataclysmic cracks. And it ended with Levi walking away. Nooo!
The fact that the SOS is too attached to Levi confirmed my suspicions that it’s one of his friends from work. Coupled with the knowledge that Rebel doesn’t react negatively to them, it’s definitely someone he and Dom were close to. I hope I guessed right. I could already imagine how devastated Levi would be.
The SOS is one of those serial killers who has an omniscient presence and they are playing an even bigger game. They were not afraid to take on organized crime. Three major gangs were on the brink of an all-out gang war. This tied together with Dom’s case and his relapse but the SOS had to pull some strings to make Levi see what’s really happening. That shoddy undercover work and not having back-up was foolhardy on Levi’s part but definitely in character. Wen should really give him that talk about his poor decision making skills.
As with the other books, Cash Play is cleverly written. It’s very twisty and suspenseful. Everything came together in the most satisfying way, though in this case, you will end up in a raging fit yourself because THAT CLIFFHANGER. Fuck.
With Levi afraid and needing help and Dom eaten alive by his demons, the cards are stacked against them. It’s one bad hand after another and the SOS is holding all the aces. Time to cut losses and walk away from the game.
Seven of Spades books here
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Soundtrack: Have A Lucky Day
“Everybody has a dark side…it’s okay to take that side out for a drive every now and then. Healthy adults have this crazy thing called impulse control that tells them when and where to do that. It’s what separates us from psychotic serial killers. And teenagers.”
REVIEW: Trick Roller by Cordelia Kingsbridge
Seven Of Spades: Trick Roller – Cordelia Kingsbridge
It’s the height of summer in Las Vegas. Everyone believes the serial killer Seven of Spades is dead—except Levi Abrams and Dominic Russo—and it’s back to business as usual. For Levi, that means investigating a suspicious overdose at the Mirage that looks like the work of a high-class call girl, while Dominic pursues a tough internship with a local private investigator. The one bright spot for both of them is their blossoming relationship.
But things aren’t so simple. Soon Levi is sucked into a dangerous web of secrets and lies, even as his obsession with the Seven of Spades intensifies. Dominic knows that Levi isn’t crazy. He knows the Seven of Spades is still out there, and he’ll do anything to prove it. But Dominic has his own demons to battle, and he may be fighting a losing war.
One thing is certain: the Seven of Spades holds all the cards. It won’t be long before they show their hand.
Summer is here. Dropping by Dom and Levi. It’s good to see the two are progressing rather nicely in their relationship. They are working out the kinks and I am enjoying these moments even though I know something catastrophic happened later. Fair warning: do not read the blurbs of the succeeding books. Major spoiler alert.
Maybe Dom’s ‘talent’ for lying charmingly had something to do with their issues in the next book. Here he used it for a good cause, he was making sure Levi’s apartment was safe under the pretext of cooking him dinner, so kinda okay but then coupled with his gambling addiction, this talent thing could go spiraling downward into the abyss. Don’t go there, Dom!
I’m getting way ahead. Damn that spoiler!
Fave moment: when Levi said to Dom, “Fight me.” I got the goosies.
Loved that Carlos and Jasmine had their big moment.
Trick Roller didn’t disappoint. The Seven of Spades was presumed dead by all except Levi, who was obsessed, and Dom, who discovered the SOS got their eye on him, Levi and their friends all this time. How are they pulling it off? I think Rebel knows them or else she would have reacted aggressively. Hmm…
This installment was not as fast-paced as Kill Game but still it still grabbed me and didn’t let go. I like that there’s equal focus on the crime suspense part and the romance part. Sometimes in police procedural MM, the romance part is distracting, like I feel the MCs should be doing their jobs more and do each other less. Here, Cordelia Kingsbridge was able to give Levi and Dom their quality time together without detracting from the investigation. Great execution overall.
Another thing that stood out for me with this series in general is how the author made a conscious effort to include as many female characters as possible. I’m so used to the average MM book where you get two significant female characters or three tops, usually, a bestfriend, an ex or mom. Here, majority of the supporting characters are female, even the ‘extras’, like a random forensic tech or private detective. It’s a nice change from the usual roles women typical play in MM stories. It also supports my guess as to the identity of the SOS. I know I suck at guessing the killer’s identity but maybe for once, I’m right on the money. Maybe.
The main storyline for book two is an SOS-unrelated case of a dead doctor, assumed to be a victim of a trick roller. One of the interesting aspects of the case is that the victim was universally hated by all including his wife so that it became a question of who wanted him dead the most. Martine and Levi spent a lot of time going through a list of suspects while Dom was undergoing his internship at a private detective agency, working on a cheating spouse case. Trick Roller ended with the homicide case somehow tying in with Dom’s case and the SOS. That it happened wasn’t that surprising given that the SOS was bound to make their presence felt sooner or later but how everything came together was still believable and the twists were nicely done.
Levi, Martine and Dom were also called as witnesses to the case related to the first book. That courtroom scene was super intense! I could see why people hate lawyers. Poor Levi was painted as the bad guy. Not condoning serial killings but it felt good to see the SOS put a stop to the lawyer’s bullshit right in front of the media.
I didn’t mind that it ended with a cliffhanger. All the books are released already so you can binge on the entire thing. Seven of Spades is a highly recommended series for those looking for great crime thriller reads you can sink your teeth into. The MM romance part is just cherry on top. Also, there’s an adorable dog.
Whether Rebel knows the SOS or not, I trust her to do her job but now that all bets are off, how long can Dom and Levi stay in the game?
Trick Roller is not a standalone. I recommend reading Kill Game first, review here.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Soundtrack: High Roller
The Question wasn’t who wanted the victim dead, so much as who of those many people want it most..
Seven of Spades: Kill Game – Cordelia Kingsbridge
Homicide detective Levi Abrams is barely holding his life together. He’s reeling from the fallout of a fatal shooting, and his relationship with his boyfriend is crumbling. The last thing he’s prepared for is a serial killer stalking the streets of Las Vegas. Or how he keeps getting thrown into the path of annoyingly charming bounty hunter Dominic Russo.
Dominic likes his life free of complications. That means no tangling with cops—especially prickly, uptight detectives. But when he stumbles across one of the Seven of Spades’s horrifying crime scenes, he can’t let go, despite Levi’s warnings to stay away.
The Seven of Spades is ruthless and always two moves ahead. Worst of all, they’ve taken a dangerously personal interest in Levi and Dominic. Forced to trust each other, the two men race to discover the killer’s identity, revealing hidden truths along the way and sparking a bond neither man expected. But that may not be enough to protect them.
This killer likes to play games, and the deck is not stacked in Levi and Dominic’s favor.
Pity that the narration did not do justice to how good the story is but Kill Game is a great start to the Seven of Spades series. This is a plot-driven murder mystery and a hunt for the Seven of Spades, a serial killer known for their vigilante motives.
I love the twist and turns and while I already have my suspect, Cordelia Kingsbridge did a great job keeping me guessing. There were some subtle hints and that equal opportunity comment by Levi but whether or not I’m on the money remains to be seen because at the latest count, there are already 4 books released and another one about to come out. This hunt is going to take a while and I’m here to see it through to the end.
I liked that the setting is in Las Vegas but instead of casinos and gambling which is kind of cliche, the book is mostly about the streets, the ordinary people and of course, the police. There were also strong, well-written female characters, like Martine and Natasha. Dom’s friends, Jasmine and Carlos were also very likable people and let’s not forget Rebel, Dom’s dog and loyal protector.
The romantic subplot, well…I wasn’t so gung-ho about it at first. Levi was already in a relationship and Stanton seemed like a nice guy. At least for me, he had good intentions. Levi apparently did not like how Stanton talks about Levi to his parents and makes decisions for him. Dominic has been crushing on Levi for some time now but keeps it professional. Dom won me over for being a real nice person because instead of taking advantage of Levi’s moments of weakness, he made it clear he had no intentions of being the rebound guy. He’s a gentleman through and through and he’s serious about Levi. So yeah, I’m in their corner now.
Cordelia Kingsbridge is a new-to-me author and she didn’t disappoint. Kill Game has a great cast, very well-executed mystery and nicely developed romance. The red herrings were conclusive and the resolution felt satisfying but Dom and Levi were not convinced. The cards are reshuffled and the game is still on.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Artist: At the Drive-In
Album: Relationship of Command
Vigilantism appealed to the darker side of human nature, the thirst for primal justice that knew no constraints.Cordelia Kingsbridge