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    SERIES REVIEW: The Vampire’s Club Books 6-7 by X. Aratare

    The Vampire’s Club 6 – X. Aratare

    Lucas Daniels knows that witches and vampires are real.

    Lucas has discovered that witch blood flows through his veins and he can perform magic, but it is hardly within his control. And the more he delves into his gifts, the more dangerous they appear.

    Count Konstantin “the Wolf” Volk must keep Lucas’ parentage a secret from the Nomad while searching for a way to free himself and Lucas from Gaia’s plot. But how can he succeed when the Nomad sees and hears all?

    NOTE: THIS NOVELLA SERIES HAS CLIFFHANGERS! EVERY BOOK WILL END ON ONE. THAT’S MY NATURAL WRITING STYLE. IF YOU DO NOT LIKE CLIFFHANGERS, WAIT UNTIL THE WHOLE SERIES IS PUBLISHED TO READ. THANKS FOR THE SUPPORT


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

    Soundtrack: Bloodstream
    Artist: Stateless
    Album: Stateless


    The Vampire’s Club 7 – X. Aratare

    Lucas Daniels is a vampire… and a witch.

    Can he use his newfound powers to help Konstantin “the Wolf” Volk, the dangerous and mysterious Nomad, and the witch, Gaia, to stop the destruction of all vampires by the coven leader Rachel?

    If Lucas does, he’ll have to convince the Nomad that he is not a threat to Konstantin. While Konstantin wants only to protect his very new and special fledgling from the dangers that Lucas wants to help him face.

    The end of The Vampire’s Club Series!


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

    Soundtrack: Sore wa Matta Betsu no Ohanashi
    Artist: Amazarashi
    Album: Yuuhi shinkou higashizumu 


    When it was first released in 2019, I was ridiculously obsessed with The Vampire’s Club. The books had such intense level of USTs and squee-tastic moments I was reduced to incoherent gushing emojis. However, the start of Book 6 wasn’t working for me, so the series was stuck in TBR limbo.

    Recently, I had a sudden urge for vampire romance and decided to pick up where I left off. This time, Book 6 had me completely engaged.

    Admittedly, the emotional distance created by time reduced the impact the books had on me. I wasn’t a gushy stan anymore. I was more aware of how cringey some of the scenes were. Cringey like having Lucas’s mother speaking inside Konstantine’s head while the boys were having sex.

    Having read the author’s other works, The Fall and The Bodyguard, I’ve recognized certain themes and tropes they like to employ. The stories are dark and sensual, conjuring images of luxurious, dimly lit rooms heavy with musk.

    The stories feature relationships that are vaguely incestuous involving father figures. For instance, here we have Lucas’s stepdad attempting to molest him. The vampires use terms such as Childe, Sire, and Grandpere when referring to their creators and fledglings who are usually also their lovers.

    The heroes tend to be barely legal, naive, or innocent young men paired with a much older, worldly love interest. The series underscores that by having centuries-old Konstantine fondly calling college-age Lucas “nevinovnyy”, the Russian word for innocent.

    By Book 6, Lucas is not so innocent anymore, fully aware of what he can do, who his real mother is and what Konstantine is. Meanwhile, Konstantine agonizes over the fact that Lucas is the key to lifting his curse, but then his boy would have to pay the prize should the vampire turn him to save himself. The witches are also making their power move to destroy the vampires.

    Where the first five books were merely dark and gothic, Books 6 and 7 nearly crossed over to horror because now there’s blood, gore, rape and torture (the latter two were off page). Lucas unleashed was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before, a powerful killing machine who can go toe to toe with eldritch monsters from other worlds. And our boy hasn’t even showed 100% of his powers yet!

    Konstantine unlocks magical abilities like his Sire, The Nomad, is known for. Then realizes The Nomad’s secret identity. This part I cheered the most because Konstantine was abandoned by his Sire for centuries. Little did he know, The Nomad had always watched over him. The little tidbit I found really endearing was The Nomad was secretly Club Dyavol’s first customer!

    Much of the series was spent building tension, both the sexual and the deadly kind, so the big showdown when it exploded sent shockwaves that swept everyone. The fight scenes were thrilling and spectacularly gruesome!

    Some of the casualties were especially tragic, like Lucas’s foster mom. This part could have been written differently, less tragically, but I guess it was the way it was to completely cut off Lucas’s ties to the mundane world.

    Another gripe is that there were too much dialogue on what should have been a time for action. It happened when Lucas and his real mother teamed up. They received texts that Konstantine and The Nomad were in grave danger and needed to be rescued ASAP. Mother and son then proceeded to have pages of dialogue, all the while mentioning the urgency of the situation. It was like those scenes where a character is dying, but still managed to have a lengthy monologue. Meh!

    The Vampire’s Club 6 and 7 wasn’t quite what the first books were, but this finale pulled out all the stops! Lucas reclaimed his heritage and became so much more than anyone could have predicted. Konstantine reclaimed his Sire and his best friend, his beloved nevinovnyy, and his home Club Dyavol. A fairy tale ending for the vampire romance of my dreams!

    Overall, The Vampire’s Club is a heady mix of fluff and steam, dark and sweet. It’s pure escapism, seductive, enthralling, dangerous. Yes, exactly like our favorite undead creature.

    P.S.

    The Vampire’s Club is a serial. The books are meant to be read in order because seriously, that dream sequence and the elevator scene are two of the most unforgettable scenes of my entire reading life!

    Incoherent squees a.k.a. reviews:
    The Vampire’s Club
    The Vampire’s Club 2 
    The Vampire’s Club 3
    The Vampire’s Club 4
    The Vampire’s Club 5


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    SERIES REVIEW: Secrets and Scrabble Books 3-5 by Josh Lanyon

    Secrets and Scrabble: Mystery at the Masquerade – Josh Lanyon

    Love is in the Salt Sea Air–and So is Murder!

    Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, reigning Scrabble champion, and occasionally clueless owner of the village’s only mystery bookstore, the Crow’s Nest, is both flattered and bemused when he’s invited to the annual Marauder’s Masquerade, the best and biggest social event of the season in the quaint seaside village of Pirate’s Cove, Rhode Island. The event is hosted by the wealthy Marguerite Bloodworth-Ainsley—a descendant of the famed pirate Tom Blood.

    Ellery doesn’t even know Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley—nor, it turns out—does Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley know him. But Marguerite’s son, Julian wants to know Ellery. Julian, handsome, rich and engaging, is a huge mystery buff. In fact, he’s bought quite a few books at the Crow’s Nest bookstore, but never quite worked up the nerve to ask Ellery out.

    As his relationship with Police Chief Carson seems to be dead in the water, Ellery is grateful for a little flattering attention from the village’s most eligible bachelor, but any hopes of romance hit the shoals when Julian is accused of murdering his mother’s unlikable second husband during the Masquerade’s annual ghost hunt in the family’s spooky cemetery


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

    Soundtrack: Only for You
    Artist: Heartless Bastards
    Album: Arrow


    Secrets and Scrabble: Scandal at the Salty Dog – Josh Lanyon

    Mystery Stalks the Cobbled Streets of Pirate’s Cove

    Who or what is haunting elderly recluse Juliet Blackwell, what does it have to do with mysterious goings-on at the Salty Dog Pub–and why is any of it mystery bookshop owner Ellery Page’s problem? According to sometimes boyfriend Police Chief Jack Carson, it’s not Ellery’s problem, and Ellery should stop asking awkward questions before it’s too late.

    Ellery couldn’t agree more, but it’s hard to say no when someone is as frightened as old Mrs. Blackwell. Mrs. Blackwell insists the ghost of long dead pirate Rufus Blackwell has come to avenge himself on the last member of his treacherous clan.

    Before Ellery can say, “Yikes!” Mrs. Blackwell takes a tumble down the grand staircase of her spooky mansion, and it’s up to Ellery to find who is trying to kill his eccentric customer.


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

    Soundtrack: Now That I’ve Found You
    Artist: Liam Gallagher
    Album: Why Me? Why Not.


    Secrets and Scrabble: Body at Buccaneer’s Bay – Josh Lanyon

    Dead Men Tell No Tales

    Mystery Bookshop owner Ellery Page and Police Chief Jack Carson are diving for the legendary sunken pirate galleon Blood Red Rose when they discover an old fashioned diver’s suit, water-damaged and encrusted with barnacles. Further examination reveals the 19th Century suit contains a 21st Century body.

    Who is the mysterious diver? No one seems to be missing from the quaint and cozy town of Pirate’s Cove. Was he really diving for pirate’s gold? And if not, what exactly did he do to earn that bullet hole in his skull?


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

    Soundtrack: Every Side of You
    Artist: Vance Joy
    Album: In Our Own Sweet Time


    Secrets and Scrabble is a cozy mystery that is as adorable as advertised. The first two books, Murder at Pirate’s Cove and Secret At Skull House, I was admittedly not that into the series just yet since the first 2 cases were similar. Our hero Ellery Page was accused of murder twice.

    The third time’s the charm because Book 3, Mystery at the Masquerade, I was all in! Here, reluctant amateur sleuth Ellery was asked to prove his masquerade ball date’s innocence. This had him crossing paths with the one-time date and more-than-friend friend, Police Chief Jack Carson.

    Each mystery put one of Buck Island’s founding families under scrutiny and took Ellery to midnight forays in centuries old crypts, tunnels, and old houses. I totally love the setting! Buck Island was founded by pirates who built grand houses, and secret tunnels. It’s a great place to explore.

    To live in? I’m not sure. The series is chockful of very spry, very gossipy septuagenarians, and as per Ellery, it’s a fishbowl. Nosy as they are, the supporting cast is very entertaining. At this point, the initially maligned Ellery, a transplant from New York but a descendant of the founding father, Horatio Page, is now a respected member of the community.

    The next two books, Scandal at the Salty Dog and Body in Buccaneer’s Bay, Ellery is roped in to investigate since he now has the reputation as an amateur sleuth. To me, the hallmarks of a great mystery novel is how much I enjoy tagging along with the detective, regardless of whether or not I care about catching the culprit. And Secrets and Scrabble made it so much fun to tag along with Ellery and experience Pirate Cove through his eyes.

    Ellery is a fantastic MC for a cozy! Lovable, kind-hearted, loyal, and always willing to lend a hand even if greatly inconvenienced. Not overly quirky or introverted, abysmally bad actor, okay playwright, a struggling bookstore owner, and a devoted human to Watson, the black mixed-breed puppy. (I audiobooked this and narrator Matt Haynes’s Watson barks are ridiculously adorbs!)

    He went through the trademark Josh Lanyon hot/cold treatment in love interest Jack. The whys of this were later revealed in the last part of Book 3 through Jack’s impassioned speech about his tragic past. The chief is one the best cop boyfriends in the author’s roster of gruff cop boyfriends because he’s not an asshole like the others. The romance might be low-key but certainly very cute!

    Secrets and Scrabble is a pirate-flavored cozy mystery series that continues to charm me with intriguing cases, quirky characters, lovable MCs and an island full of secrets and hidden treasures yet to be discovered. With a delightful slow-burn romance as the cherry on top, I’m completely onboard for the rest of the journey!

    P.S.

    Secrets and Scrabble should be read in order. Witness a pirate cosplay murder in Murder at Pirate’s Cove. Find out how Ellery fared as a suspect in yet another murder in Secret At Skull House.


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    MYSTERY AT THE MASQUERADE
    SCANDAL AT THE SALTY DOG
    BODY AT BUCCANEER”S BAY

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    SERIES REVIEW: The Spectral Files by S.E. Harmon

    The Spectral Files: P.S. I Spooked You by S.E. Harmon

    SSA Rain Christiansen used to be the agency’s golden boy. It just takes one moment of weakness, one slight, tiny, itty-bitty paranormal sighting, and all of a sudden he’s the agency’s embarrassment. His boss gives him one last chance to redeem himself—go down to Brickell Bay, play nice with the local police, and leave the ghost sightings behind. Rain is determined to do exactly that, even if it kills him.

    Cold-case detective Daniel McKenna’s latest investigation is going nowhere fast. Five years earlier, high school student Amy Greene went missing after leaving her part-time job and was never seen again. Daniel is glad to finally have the FBI help that his department requested, even if it does come in the form of his ex.

    It doesn’t help that Rain is pretty sure he’s falling in love with Danny all over again—if he ever stopped. Add to that the frustration of seeing ghosts at every turn while he works a case that’s stalled in its tracks, and Rain is starting to wonder if second chances and happy endings are just for fairy tales.


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

    Soundtrack: Light Up
    Artist: Mutemath
    Album: Vitals


    The Spectral Files: Principles of Spookology by S.E. Harmon

    No one said being a medium would be easy.

    Rain Christiansen, former FBI agent and current cold case detective, is starting to think it’s the hardest job he’s ever had—and the most important. He’s determined to accept all the changes in his formerly well-ordered life, but that means embracing a whole lot of weird. There’s no instruction manual for meshing his work with his medium duties, and he’s painfully aware that he’s flubbing the job. So are the ghosts, who are becoming increasingly impatient. And stronger.

    To complicate matters, he’s not sure what these spooktacular developments mean for his relationship. It certainly seems like Daniel McKenna, his partner in work and life, is in it for the long haul. But Rain can’t help but wonder how long that patience will last…and what he’ll do if Danny decides the intrusive ghosts are just too much.

    Rain thought accepting his supernatural gifts would be the solution to his troubles. But he’s starting to realize his problems are just getting started.


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

    Soundtrack: Beautiful Mistake
    Artist: Hudson Taylor
    Album: Singing to Strangers


    The Spectral Files: Spooky Business by S.E. Harmon

    Being insatiably curious is a good way to end up dead.

    Rain Christiansen, cold case detective and reluctant medium, is very aware of that fact. But when infamous serial killer Thomas Kane wants to meet, there’s no way Rain can say no. He also can’t refuse Kane’s offer—find his missing wife, Delilah, and he’ll reveal the location of his victim’s bodies.

    Rain has never turned down a good quid pro quo, and he doesn’t intend to start.

    The hunt for Kane’s wife leads to yet another cold case, three copycat murders, and an investigation where nothing is as it seems. Soon, Rain is dealing with a ghost unlike any he’s ever dealt with before…a ghost capable of doing things he shouldn’t be able to do. How can Rain control something he doesn’t even understand? And what will he do when the unknown threatens the safety of the most important person in his life?

    Rain is starting to realize that he can only battle the supernatural with the supernatural, and that is spooky business indeed.


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

    Soundtrack: You Are Mine
    Artist: Mutemath
    Album: Mutemath


    The Spectral Files: The Spooky Life by S.E. Harmon

    Rain Christiansen isn’t sure he’ll ever fully understand the supernatural. But he’s finally finding his groove as a reluctant medium and cold-case detective. That’s not to say everything is going smoothly—there’s a wedding in the works, after all. He’s finally taking that enormous step with fellow detective, Daniel McKenna, and he couldn’t be happier…about the marriage. Not so much the wedding. The hoopla is enough to make him wish for a quick flight to Vegas and an Elvis officiant.

    At least work is keeping Rain and the PTU plenty busy. Their latest case involves Hannah Caldwell, a silent ghost who can’t—or won’t—speak. She still manages to request that they find her dear friend, Cherry Parker, so that she can say goodbye. Piece of cake. Finding people is pretty high on the list of things that Rain does best.

    But when it comes to ghosts, nothing is ever quite what it seems. Before long, his simple missing person’s case takes a dark and twisted turn. And Rain realizes he’s been so busy trying to protect Danny that he forgot to protect himself.

    If he doesn’t turn things around—and quickly—his spooky life might be cut short for good.


    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Wedding Song
    Artist: The Psychedelic Furs
    Album: The Psychedelic Furs


    The Spectral Files is one of the more entertaining psychic procedurals I’ve read. The series stars Rainstorm Christiansen, an uptight, straight-laced federal agent turned police detective who can see ghosts. The unique name is due to his hippie-dippy, weed-growing parents, who named his twin sister Sky. His middle name may or may not be Moonbeam, depending on who’s exasperated at him. Mostly Danny. Rain is almost always exasperating and damn well knows it.

    The series opens with Rain returning to his hometown for a case and quickly butting heads with the head detective, a.k.a. the ex he ghosted seven years ago, Daniel Mckenna. The investigation forced Rain to use his much-dreaded ability, but its effectiveness yielded results that the police higher-ups couldn’t ignore. This led to Rain rethinking his career and earning a second chance with Danny.

    The books focus on a big case each while also tackling minor cases, which maybe related to it. I loved that they vary and are not always murder. The 3rd book is about a serial killer with a twist. These cases are closely interwoven with Rain and Danny’s personal lives since most of the ghosts have no concept of boundaries. Also, Danny is technically Rain’s supervisor in their newly formed paranormal unit.

    One running gag is how spectacularly inept Rain is at managing his ability. Rain is very contrary, usually difficult just for the heck of it. He’s been advised to take lessons in reining in his energy because the ghosts are getting out of hand. Poor Danny freaked upon learning these specters were watching and opining on them going at it like bunnies.

    Rain dragged his feet for as long as he could, then managed to offend all his peace-loving gurus to the point of violence. But it was obvious he’s going to settle with the whimsically named Dakota Daydream because this chill guru was described as cute, also gay and lowkey lusting after him, while the rest were funky enough to be throwaways.

    The plots document the barely perceptible progress of Rain’s psychic powers and how he finally came to terms with them in the last book. Rain is such a disaster he mostly gets by the skin of his teeth. This is funny at some points, but his performance in the last case pissed me off so much. It could have been easily avoided, if only he bothered to learn more about his abilities. The idiot got himself trapped. I thought it was pretty stupid, and I was so angry at Rain for letting it happen.

    The writing has a humorous tone, full of snarky banters and Rain’s internal jokes. Rain is an entertaining narrator but tends to digress at almost every instant. This is the author’s style, and I’m not really a fan of it. I found many of the jokes unnecessary. They mess up the pace a bit too.

    Still, I was glued to the books. Wordy as they are, they’re very riveting. The cases were tough, the character interactions were hilarious, and the investigations were fun to follow. The stories have an engaging slice-of-life quality that makes the characters feel like people I know. Danny’s team is an awesome supporting cast, especially the super laidback Kevin St. James, who doesn’t stop eating.

    Also, the author excels at writing second-chance romances, capturing that second-time-around magic and proving the sweetness in the adage. The dynamics between Rain and Danny are fantastic because Danny is a saint who can roll with Rain’s crazy and his wackadoodle family. The boys work together and live together, and still can’t get enough of each other! GOALS.

    My gripes aside, The Spectral Files is snarky, occasionally serious given the crime, and always entertaining. It is easily one of the most bingeable series out there!


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    SERIES REVIEW: Kip O’Connor Mystery Books 1-3 by S.C. Wynne

    Kip O’Connor Mystery: Last Gasp – S.C. Wynne

    Kip O’Connor lives a simple life in the little seaside town of Pearl Bay. Unless it’s tourist season, things tend to be pretty peaceful. There is, however, one never ending source of irritation in the form of Police Chief Merrick Dawson.

    Merrick is Kip’s older brother’s BFF, and nothing seems to bring Merrick more joy than nagging Kip about silly things. You’d think a Police Chief would have more important things to do than lecture Kip on parking tickets and picking up pet waste, but somehow Merrick always finds the time.

    Kip decides to take an art class at the local community college, and he’s annoyed to find Merrick has also enrolled in the course. The instructor takes a shine to Kip, and soon they become friends outside of class. Merrick warns Kip of the dangers of blurring those lines and befriending his teacher, but Kip is flattered by the attention.

    When his art teacher is found stabbed through the forehead with a palette knife, Kip is determined to figure out who killed his new friend. Merrick naturally thinks Kip getting involved in the investigation is a horrible idea, but when has Kip ever listened to that irksome, pig-headed Merrick Dawson?

    This is book one in my brand new Kip O’Connor M/M Cozy Mystery series. Each book has a cozy feel to it and there is a strong romantic story-line in each book. No on page steam but some mild violence. I hope you enjoy reading this series as much as I enjoy writing it.


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

    Soundtrack: Please Notice
    Artist: Christian Leave
    Album: Hope


    Kip O’Connor Mystery: Last Date – S.C. Wynne

    Some dates are simply murder.

    After barely surviving a terrifying stalker last month, Kip is reexamining his life choices. There’s nothing like almost dying to make you take stock of things.

    One bright spot is that the ever maddening Merrick Dawson has stopped following him around picking on him. Merrick has begun dating Peter Harris, who by all accounts is a wonderful guy. Peter is nice. He’s handsome. He’s downright annoyingly perfect.

    When Kip is asked out on a romantic sunset cruise by one of Pearl Cove’s most eligible bachelors, he decides he has nothing to lose. Unless he wants to spend the rest of his days alone, he needs to be proactive about finding love.
    But when Kip shows up for the cruise, instead of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, he finds his date dead.

    This is book two in my Kip O’Connor M/M Cozy Mystery series. Each book has a cozy feel to it and there is a strong romantic (slow burn) storyline in each book. No on-page steam but some mild violence.


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

    Soundtrack: Longshot
    Artist: Catfish and the Bottlemen
    Album: The Balance


    Kip O’Connor Mystery: Last Chance – S.C. Wynne

    Wait just a minute. A whole month has passed and no one has been murdered in Pearl Cove?

    Things are settling down in Pearl Cove as Kip and Merrick fumble their way through a new relationship. There’s no denying the two men have deep feelings for each other, but trust issues can play havoc when people don’t communicate well.

    When Kip’s office manager, Helen, has her home burgled, but nothing is stolen, the Pearl Cove PD has little interest in solving the case. Kip, Charlene, and Helen decide a little amateur sleuthing couldn’t hurt anything.

    Not surprisingly, Police Chief Dawson doesn’t agree. He wholeheartedly disapproves of his boyfriend’s plan to nab the trespasser. But if the police won’t do anything, Kip isn’t about to turn his back on his friend.

    In fact, it’s rather fun to play detective… until the thief tries to murder them.

    This is book three in my Kip O’Connor M/M Cozy Mystery series. Each book has a cozy feel to it and there is a strong romantic storyline in each book. No on-page graphic steam, but some mild violence.


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

    Album: Care for You
    Artist: Ryan Ashley
    Album: Care for You


    Kip O’Connor Mystery is your typical cozy mystery. Small town, quirky characters, frenemy cop later boyfriend, and of course, murder. The dynamics between Kip and Police Chief Merrick Dawson reminded me of Josh Lanyon‘s style, except this is much better. Merrick is more likable and less an asshole than most Josh Lanyon love interests.

    I say this is typical, but this turned out to be my favorite S.C. Wynne series. The author picked a great narrator, James Woodrich, whose delivery suited the story to a T and made Kip’s personality shine. I also liked how he voiced Merrick’s character, charming, a bit arrogant but always protective of Kip, level-headed and stern when in cop mode.

    Kip’s fantastic in his down-to-earth ways. His character wasn’t overly quirky or introverted, for which I’m glad as too many cozies tend to lean towards those. He’s an average joe who seeks contentment and a simple life. What made me love Kip is that he’s kind-hearted, loyal, and always willing to help his friends, who are also his employees. He runs a thriving dog-walking business and likes dogs so much, he volunteered a lot of pro-bono training hours just so a dog wouldn’t end up in the pound. And I was super amused at how spectacularly oblivious he was about Merrick.

    Kip and Merrick had an antagonistic relationship since childhood. Merrick is Kip’s older brother Thomas’s best friend, who tormented him as a child. As years passed, Merrick’s feelings changed, but Kip’s has not, and this led to the running gag in the first two books, where everyone knows, hints are thrown, but Kip fails to pick up or entertain because memories of bullying were hard to shake off.

    I’m not sure how to feel about Kip’s family and friends waving the trauma aside and proclaiming Merrick’s the best guy for him. However, present-day Merrick is genuinely contrite, so I wasn’t too hard on him. I loved how effectively the author created the USTs and squee factor between the two MCs, even if most of how Merrick felt was only relayed to Kip, who had a hard time believing. It took spelling out for our boy to realize what was pretty obvious to everyone. Trust is an issue but they’re working on it.

    The mysteries were intriguing, with a lot of red herrings thrown in. For the first two books, Last Gasp and Last Date, Kip is directly connected to the murder victims. One is his art teacher. The second is his Valentine’s Day date. I like that he didn’t do amateur sleuthing here because it wouldn’t have felt natural, given Kip’s situation.

    In the third book, Last Chance, his employee Charlene is burgled, and due to police neglect, Kip, Charlene, and another employee, Helen, are forced to do some amateur sleuthing. They crossed paths with some horrible people but there is a nice little resolution for Charlene at the end.

    One of the conflicts between the MCs is about police behavior. Kip’s encounters with the cops were usually unpleasant. Merrick is understandably defensive of his cops, but Kip had a point about them not doing their jobs properly and/or jumping the gun too often. However, the great thing about these two is that they might bicker and miscommunicate, but they do make it a point to talk, eventually.

    Kip O’ Connor Mystery is as cozy and entertaining as promised. Add to it the adorable doggy antics, and boy, do I want to work for Red Leash! Kip’s a super cool boss and my spirit animal in bleeding hearts for strays department. He’d be awesome to have as a friend too. All in all, great books for curling up in a corner with a canine friend or two!


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    SERIES REVIEW: Spellbound & Edge Lines by Ava Marie Salinger

    The thing with most urban fantasy/paranormal series is that the premise pique my interest, but actually putting in the work to read them or finish them, well, most of the time, I never see the end. It happened with Whyborne & Griffin (the last book! gah!) and Soulbound. It gets to the point where so many things are happening for a prolonged period that it becomes a toss-up between laziness and boredom.

    So far, Fallen Messengers is doing a great job of keeping me riveted. If this keeps up and hopefully wraps up soon, I can complete the series. I’m giving major props to narrator Alex Kydd. My first impression was he spoke too slowly. It turned out to be an advantage because his slow even delivery helps me through the info-dumps without brain overload. And he gave the million and one cast their distinct voices and personalities, which is impressive given that there are numerous female characters.

    This is a review of Books 2 and 3.


    Fallen Messengers: Spellbound by Ava Marie Salinger

    Can Cassius and Morgan overcome an elusive enemy and save a young girl’s life?

    Eden Monroe has spent her entire existence believing she has no magic. Shunned by her mother Brianna and the magical bureau Hexa, she runs away from home when she is forced to embrace a future she never chose, only to fall into the hands of ghastly monsters from the Nine Hells. After being rescued by a mysterious Dryad with secrets of his own, Eden realizes there is more to her past and future than she could ever have imagined.

    When San Francisco PD asks Argonaut to assist them in solving a series of strange bank robberies, Cassius Black and Morgan King uncover a disturbing plot that points to an unknown artifact hidden somewhere in the city. Their investigation soon has them crossing paths with a desperate Brianna, who seeks their help in finding her missing daughter. When the witch reveals the shocking circumstances surrounding her daughter’s birth as well as the deadly magic sealed inside the young girl’s body, the Argonaut agents realize their case is linked to Eden and the weapon of devastating power the bank robbers are after.

    Can Cassius and Morgan defeat the malevolent organization behind it all and save Eden from her cursed fate? Or will the young girl suffer a destiny worse than death itself?

    Spellbound is the second novel in the gay urban fantasy romance series Fallen Messengers. This is an MM paranormal adventure full of action, magic, snark, and a host of steamy angels and demons.


    Spellbound is the second book, introducing new characters and multiple POVs. I’m assuming each book will focus on one supernatural agency. Book 1, Fractured Souls, has the MC, Cassius the imperial, joining the Argonauts, the agency overseeing otherworldlies. This book features Brianna Monroe, head of Hexa, the organization of witches. She has a rather complicated relationship with her daughter Eden. The teen ran away after having had enough of her mother’s controlling ways.

    What I love most about this series is that whenever people use magic, they go BIG! Even those who just discovered they have the ability don’t start small, which makes the fight scenes super mind-blowing. Although here, it’s a tad bit less intense than in Book 1, but still awesome. Possibly because a chunk of the plot is Eden struggling to survive the streets while being hunted by monsters. Reading about people on the run isn’t my favorite thing. Also, I had to wait for events to connect to Cassius, Morgan and their team. It’s a me problem because, objectively, this sequel rocks!

    Rating:

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Bound Together
    Artist: Kate York feat. Vanyo
    Album:


    Fallen Messengers: Edge Lines – Ava Marie Salinger

    The Gods have come to San Francisco…

    Cassius Black and Morgan King’s trip to Ivory Peaks to uncover clues about their past takes an unexpected turn when a rift materializes and war demons attack the capital. Having saved one world by the skin of their teeth, they return to Earth, only to find it has been rocked by ominous quakes bearing a close resemblance to the phenomenon that nearly destroyed the Dryad kingdom.

    After defeating demons that emerge from a crevasse in San Francisco, Cassius and Morgan rescue the Wild God Pan from the bottom of a rift with the help of Victor Sloan and the city’s otherwordly. But instead of thanking them, Pan makes a startling demand: rescue his lover and prevent the Spirit Realm from being destroyed, and he will reveal the truth about who Cassius and Morgan are.

    Help comes from an unexpected source when a pair of Reapers visit the city and Cassius, Morgan, and Victor soon go hunting for a missing deity who may hold the key to saving all the realms. Can they free the immortals from their prisons and find the powerful artefact that can bend the mind and will of even a God? Or will the enemy who has long manipulated them from the shadows win this war and destroy everything they have come to care for?

    Edge Lines is the third novel in the gay urban fantasy romance series Fallen Messengers. If you like your paranormal adventures full of action, magic, snark, and a host of steamy angels and demons, then you’re not going to want to miss this enthralling, fun-filled ride!


    Edge Lines is the highly anticipated 3rd book because Victor Sloane!!!

    The story also has multiple POVs but the majority is from Cass and his angel boyfriend, Morgan. This is where gods and demi-gods make themselves known. The team, along with Victor, has to deal with rifts and war demons appearing in various realms. It has something to do with the disappearance of the winter god and Pan’s lover, the winter god’s nephew.

    As mentioned in my review of Fractured Souls, I’m not a fan of Morgan. His brand of assholery doesn’t appeal to me. Here, I go back and forth because, yeah, he’s super protective of Cass, but also an inconsiderate horndog who wouldn’t let his perpetually sleep-deprived boyfriend get proper sleep.

    I am team Victor. Cass’ demon ex is a nicer guy than Morgan. That teeny tiny glimpse inside Victor’s thoughts revealed dark possessive desires of owning Cass, mind, body, heart, and soul. I suppose this was meant to show Morgan as the better man but Victor has the goodness in him to know doing so would kill the light in Cass that he loves. If Morgan has to stay go poly, please! Love triangles are never ever fun and tiresome as fuck! This could kill the series for me if it continues.

    I’m wondering how much more epic the series could get because this one brought it up another notch! There are the crazy level-ups we love, long-awaited identity reveals that got me hyped for future events, and of course, the action scenes that always go nuclear. The writing strikes a great balance between info dumps, character progression, plot, imagery, and fight scene choreography. And with a talented narrator, this tale of the fallen and the otherworldly continues to be a spellbinding experience that kept me enthralled.

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

    Soundtrack: The Curse
    Artist: Agnes Obel
    Album:

    P.S.

    Fallen Messengers has a cute custom of giving many supporting characters their little happy endings. Cheesy but fun! So Victor might get one too, if he doesn’t end up throupling with Cass and Morgan. Can the angel and the demon share the imperial, please?

    Fallen Messengers should be read in order. The adventure stars with Fractured Souls.



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    Fractured Souls: US | UK
    Spellbound: US | UK
    Edge Lines: US | UK
    Oath Breaker: US | UK

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    FRACTURED SOULS | SPELLBOUND | EDGE LINES | OATH BREAKER

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    SERIES REVIEW: Haven Hart Books 1-7 by Davidson King

    ***Long post. you can skip to the end for the tl,dr version if preferred

    Never judge a series by its spin-off is a lesson I learned from Haven Hart.

    I read Joker’s Sin series first, and I’m sad to say, I wasn’t too impressed. I didn’t bother with Haven Hart after that. Then on a whim, I decided to pick up Snow Falling, since heck, Joel Leslie and Philip Alces were narrating, and these two are always fantastic. Plus, I was also in the mood for some mafia romance.

    I ended up binging the entire series! That GOOD!

    These are not-so-mini reviews of the seven books in the main Haven Hart universe. The books should be read in order.

    Snow Falling: A man with a dangerous past and a man with a dangerous future find love amidst murder and mayhem. But with Snow’s life being threatened at every turn, will Christopher’s best be enough to prevent Snow Falling?


    I didn’t have much expectations going in. I thought it would be the usual mafia romance. Little did I know, I would be completely charmed by the delightful titular character, Snow. This ray of sunshine also charmed a houseful of mobsters, especially the boss, Christopher Manos.

    Snow saved Simon, Christopher’s 8-year-old nephew, from a dire fate, putting himself in grave danger in return. Christopher offered the homeless Snow protection and a place to stay, hiring him as Simon’s companion.

    It was a joy to watch the much-feared mob boss, Christopher Manos, become simply Chris. I loved how he was drawn to Snow without seeming to realize it. He instinctively let him take the lead, and it was so endearing that Snow didn’t even realize how much power he had having the Christopher Manos in his corner. Our boy asked for so little, and here was Chris, ready to give him the world!

    It’s a fabulous book to open the series. It showed a glimpsed of Haven Hart from its underbelly. It touches upon some dark themes, but still relatively lighter than the other books. The plot had many surprising twists and dark secrets to uncover. I was completely riveted!

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Naked
    Artist: Jaymes Young
    Album: Feel Something


    Hug It Out: When a mole is discovered within Riordan’s organization, relationships are compromised, and people’s lives are in danger. Time isn’t on their side, and they discover answers can’t always be found by hugging it out when someone is hell-bent on eliminating each and every one of them.

    So I tried reading this a couple years back, but I wasn’t feeling it. I was a bit skeptical (and admittedly judgey) about Teddy’s job. Like seriously, a professional hugger? I don’t even like hugging my relatives.

    Second time’s the charm because past the first couple of chapters, I got the hang of it. It’s a cute story of an assassin who was gifted with a professional hugger. He didn’t know what to do with him, so he ended up falling in love.

    I wasn’t as interested in the romance as I was with Riordan’s organization and his co-workers. He works for Black, an enigmatic and intimidating Thor of a man, who suddenly discovered somebody plans to launch a hostile takeover of his assassin company. Riordan and a few other trusted assassins work to uncover who was behind it.

    This installment introduced many of the characters who star in the succeeding books. The plot is as suspenseful and more action-packed. It also hinted at the presence of the nameless, faceless, hella mysterious heir to the Haven Hart founding family via the presence of Poe. He is an artist Snow befriended, and also the Hart heir’s representative. I was dying with curiosity!

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

    Soundtrack: Bullet Holes
    Artist: Gregory Alan Isakov
    Album: Evening Machines


    A Dangerous Dance: Bill and Mace’s traitorous hearts draw them closer together no matter how hard they fight the inevitable. With the lives of their loved ones hanging in the balance, they find themselves in the middle of a dangerous dance.

    This is an enemies-to-lovers story of Bill, Christopher Manos’s underling who became Snow’s best friend, and Mace, an assassin from Black’s organization. They were forced to work together.

    I didn’t expect Bill to get his own book. He was a goon from the Russian mob who threatened Snow. He had been given a second chance by Christopher after Snow asked to spare his life. He was mostly in the background, so I was surprised that he was suddenly Snow’s best friend.

    Mace was more memorable because he’s a flashier character. That’s all I’ll say about him because he and Bill weren’t that interesting. However, both are great as secondary characters.

    Their story felt very much like a mid-series book. It picked up the threads from the previous book and ended in an HFN. Not so satisfying but understandable given how things went.

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

    Soundtrack: Born Killers
    Artist: Selebrities
    Album: Lovely Things


    From the Ashes: Unknowingly sharing the same goal—burying their own pasts deeper than the fires of hell can reach—Black and Quill are unaware that jumping into that fire will do more than ignite their feelings, it could lead to their own demise.

    I was excited about this because Quill piqued my interest when he first appeared in Book 2. I was thrilled he’s paired with Black because they’re total opposites.

    Quill is the colorfully tattooed smallish barista who latched on to Black and flirted every chance he got. Black is this grumpy giant who couldn’t understand why Quill, 20 years his junior, was interested in him. After the events in Book 3, he hired the young man to do deliveries.

    At first, the story was cute and amusing with Black trying to fend off the relentless Quill. Then things took a darker turn when it was revealed Quill was a victim of domestic abuse. Black was in full protective mode because he took such crime personally.

    Why he takes it personally was a story so tragic and horrific it triggered my anxieties. And I’m normally the type of reader who’s barely ruffled by blood and gore scenes. The author didn’t make it too graphic, it was just that terrible. You can feel how heartbreaking it was for Black to talk about it. Also, the scene where Quill was being hunted had me holding my breath. I was so terrified for him!

    My heart went out to Black and Quill! I am so glad this is romance, and the happy ending is guaranteed, or else I would be completely devastated.

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

    Soundtrack: Born In Flames
    Artist: In This Moment
    Album: Mother


    Snow Storm: The city of Haven Hart rests under the heel of Christopher Manos. Snow has found a home, a family, and the love of one of Haven Hart’s most powerful men. When Christopher and Simon are kidnapped, Snow risks everything to find his family. Snow calls in every favor he is owed, risking his life promising favors in return, all to save his family and the man he loves.

    This installment returns to Christopher, Snow, and now teen, Simon. The happy couple wants to celebrate Simon’s birthday. Chris promised his nephew the two of them would go camping so that they could spend some quality time together. En route, they were ambushed and kidnapped.

    Manos family skeletons were unearthed when Christopher came face to face with their kidnappers. The lengths Snow would go through to save his family knew no bounds. He even went so far as break his friendship with Poe by asking him to do the unthinkable, betray the Hart heir.

    This part was particularly juicy because I was hungry for crumbs about the Hart heir. Poe guarded his secrets like a dragon guarding his hoard. I’m so tempted to skip to the 7th book!!!

    Anyway, Snow was wonderfully brave and smart, even if he had to hurt Poe in process. Thankfully, they reconciled later on. With Black’s help, Snow hatched a clever rescue mission. This book also has a mid-series feel to it, bridging the past events to the present and laying down the seeds of things revealed in the next book. It’s not as dark as the previous book but still very gripping!

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

    Soundtrack: Find You
    Artist: Ruelle
    Album: Rival


    Triple Threat: Lee, Jones, and Ginger deal with dangerous situations and mounting stress daily working for the most powerful assassin organization in the world. All of those things seem like a walk in the park compared to the friction that sparks between them. When all three are assigned to the same job, ignoring the heat from the inferno of desire becomes impossible.

    Lee, Jones, and Ginger are Black’s people. Jones is the muscle and Lee’s best friend, while Ginger is the recruit. Lee is a hacker who went to the dark web to track down human traffickers who were running an auction. Then they discovered Ginger’s brother being sold and rushed to save him.

    This is a road trip poly romance running alongside a vigilante mission to take down the human trafficking ring. It had Jones and Lee pretending to be buyers while Ginger worked in the shadows since his close resemblance to his brother would give them away. They had to follow instructions and codes to various locations before they could retrieve their “merchandise.”

    Given the stomach-turning crime tackled here, the author did a good job keeping things from becoming too disturbing. The plot brings various arcs together and edges closer to the finale. I love how things are starting to fall into place. At the same time, it had me asking burning questions!

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

    Soundtrack: Bloom
    Artist: Murder By Death
    Album: The Other Shore


    Raven’s Hart: Haven Hart stands on the edge of good and evil. Having balance between the two is the only thing keeping the town from crumbling to the ground. For years, one man has been charged with maintaining that balance. Poe. The air of mystery surrounding Poe is one of necessity. Poe will need the help of his friends to fight the ultimate battle; not just save Haven Hart but everything and everyone he holds dear to him.

    Finally, Poe’s book!!!!

    I will not say much about the plot. All you need to know is that it’s so worth it to read the first six to get to this! My jaw dropped to the floor at the revelations. And that’s just in the opening chapters!

    I was also floored to know the true measure of the weight and heartache Poe carries. This guy is holding Haven Hart together single-handedly. And doing it while barely holding himself together. It’s a wonder he’s still standing, the poor man! Poe is amazing!!!

    Davidson King definitely saved the best for last! Haven Hart was never the same after this!

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: You
    Artist: Tally Hall
    Album: Good & Evil

    The Haven Hart series is about family. The good ones, the ones people found, and the ones they’d rather forget. I loved how the main characters were so alive and real, I felt like I knew them personally. Their stories moved me, scared me, amused me, made me feel like I’m part of their lives. Their stories are a delicate balance of good and evil, much like the city that gave the series its name.


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    Haven Hart Boxset 1-4: US | UK
    Haven Hart Boxset 5-7: US | UK

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    HAVEN HART BOXSET 1-4
    HAVEN HART BOXSET 5-7

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    SERIES REVIEW: Dearest Milton James & Dearest Malachi Keogh by N.R. Walker

    Dearest Milton James – N.R. Walker

    Malachi Keogh finds himself in a job he neither wanted nor asked for when his father, boss of Sydney’s postal service, sends him to the end of the business line, aka The Dead Letter Office. Malachi expects tedious and boring but instead discovers a warehouse with a quirky bunch of misfit co-workers, including a stoic and nerdy boss, Julian Pollard.

    Malachi’s intrigued by Julian at first, and he soon learns there’s more to the man than his boring clothes of beige, tan, and brown; a far cry from Malachi’s hot pink, lilac, and electric blue. Where Julian is calm and ordered, Malachi is chaos personified, but despite their outward differences, there’s an immediate chemistry between them that sends Malachi’s head—and heart—into a spin.

    To keep his father happy, Malachi needs to keep this job. He also needs to solve the mystery of the pile of old letters that sits in Julian’s office and maybe get to the bottom of what makes Julian tick. Like everything that goes through the mail centre, only time will tell if Malachi has found his intended destination or if he’ll find himself returned to sender.

    Dearest Malachi Keogh – N.R. Walker

    Julian Pollard never believed in love at first sight. That was until he met Malachi Keogh. Well, maybe it wasn’t love at first sight, but it sure was something.

    Julian had forgotten how to live, how to be happy, and Malachi changed all that. Now together for four years, Julian wants to give Malachi a Christmas he’ll never forget.


    N.R. Walker writes some of the most heartwarming, unforgettable stories. She outdid herself with Dearest Milton James. Hands down, this is one of the most adorable stories I’ve read!

    Dearest Milton James is set in Australia’s Dead Letter Office, perhaps the least likely place to find excitement or the man of your dreams. The story not only made this dull department a place of surprises and mysteries, it also housed two very inspiring, heart-meltingly sweet romances.

    Colorfully dressed, walking ray of sunshine Malachi Keogh was dumped by his father, the head of the postal service, in the Dead Letter Office as a last-ditch effort to give his son work. Boldly declaring he would not stay long, Malachi soon found himself a new family in the merry band of misfits headed by the nerdy but hottie, Julian Pollard, rocking head-to-toe brown.

    He also discovered that the Dead Letter Office was far from dead. I was just as surprised with how much activity there was. Their main responsibility is to find the sender or/and receiver. It’s work that combines detective skills and research. And opening packages!

    It’s the most fun and sometimes terrifying part because you never know what you’ll find. From heartwarming little tokens, live animals, sex toys, and even body parts. The plastic kind but still hella creepy.

    The plot is an epistolary romantic mystery of two anonymous men in a forbidden relationship in the 1970s. It sparked a present-day romance between Malachi and Julian. The department has a bundle of mysterious 40-year-old letters addressed to a Milton James. Malachi, Julian, and the rest of the gang pooled their talents to solve the mystery and find the sender.

    This part of the story completely absorbed me. I was so intrigued and heavily invested in uncovering the identity of the two men who were separated by war and societal taboos. I was prepared to be heartbroken about the outcome but the plot threw in some twists that totally caught me by surprise!

    I love Malachi! I loved how he matched his hair to his clothes. I used to dress as colorfully as him, so I was totally digging his vibe right off the bat. Our boy is prone to verbal diarrhea, and his outbursts are funny! He’s endearingly emotional and soft-hearted with just the right amount of sass. His POV was super fun to read.

    If you’re looking for a book boyfriend, Julian’s your guy. I’m a sucker for blushy seme, and he’s adorably blushy. He’s perfect without being annoying. Seeing him trying to conceal his attraction to Malachi from Malachi’s perspective worked so well in highlighting his swoony nerdy appeal

    The story hit me hard in the kokoro! From the deeply moving, beautifully poetic writing of the mysterious letter sender pouring his heart out to Milton James to the floofy gooey, super sweet connection that blossomed between Malachi and Julian, I was a mushy ball of goo!

    Dearest Malachi Keogh is the equally wonderful and floofy short story of Julian hatching a plan to gift Malachi the most unforgettable Christmas surprise of all. Everyone got involved to make it happen.

    It’s a charming little epilogue that echoes the main story. I was delighted to read Julian’s POV. This guy is everything!

    Dearest Milton James and Dearest Malachi Keogh are the perfect balance of humor, romance, and mystery. They’re light and angst-free. A magical, poignant, feel-good tale of love and friendship definitely worth writing home about.

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Dearest
    Artist: The Black Keys
    Album: Rave On Buddy Holly

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: My Dear
    Artist: The Tallest Man On Earth
    Album: I Love You, It’s A Fever Dream


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    Dearest Malachi Keogh: US | UK

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    DEAREST MILTON JAMES

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    SERIES REVIEW: Panopolis Books 1 & 2 by Cari Z

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 25369553.jpg

    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.

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 25414079.jpg

    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


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

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    DOUBLE REVIEW: Headcase & Mad Man by Onley James

    Everyone who’s heard about the Mulvaneys knows that the Mulvaney twins always come as a package. So it makes sense that I should review their books together.

    By now, the Mulvaneys need no introduction. This family of vigilante psychopaths has endeared themselves to many readers of MM romance. And I have declared my love for them ad nauseum.

    Here’s my review of Headcase and Mad Man, Books 4 and 5 of Necessary Evils:

    Necessary Evils: Headcase – Onley James

    Asa Mulvaney is half of a psychopathic whole. He and his twin brother live together, party together…kill together. In the Mulvaney family, murder is the family business and business is good. When an experiment separates Asa and his brother, Asa is forced to navigate the world on his own for the first time in his life.

    Zane Scott is a small-time crime blogger and amateur sleuth, but he dreams of a byline in a major paper someday. When he winds up at a boring fundraiser beside Asa Mulvaney, they share an intensely passionate encounter that leaves Zane with an ache in his chest and a story idea that could make his career dreams a reality.

    At a nearby college, a cluster of suicides isn’t what it seems. When Asa’s father asks him to look into it, he sees the perfect opportunity to see his little crime reporter again. And Asa needs to see him again. Zane’s suspicious of Asa’s motives, but he won’t say no to a chance to peek behind the Mulvaney family curtains.

    As the two unravel a sinister plot, Asa’s obsession with Zane grows and Zane finds being Asa’s sole focus outweighs almost anything, maybe even his career–which is good for Asa because loving a Mulvaney is a full-time job. Can he convince Zane that he’s worth navigating a family of psychopaths and his pathologically jealous twin, or will Zane learn the hard way that the Mulvaney boys always get what they want? Always.

    Headcase is a high heat, intense, lovers-to-frenemies, psychopath romance with an HEA and no cliffhangers. It features an obsessive, calculating psychopath and a wannabe reporter who will stop at nothing to earn himself a major byline. As always, there’s gratuitous violence, very dark humor, enough killers to fill an auditorium, and enough heat to melt your kindle. This is book 4 in the Necessary Evils series. Each book follows a different couple.

    TAGS: psychopath romance, Asa is bored, Avi is jealous, Zane is pretty, Adam is still a dick, August is… August, Aiden’s still missing, Lucas is concerned, Atticus plays den mother to a gaggle of murderous young adults, Asa wants Zane but knows he suspects he’s a killer, Zane wants a story but can’t keep from falling into bed with his target, extra dark humor, found family, So. Many. Murderers, mysteries abound, bad boys doing bad things and each other, high non-relationship angst, low relationship angst, shmoop, fluff, smut.

    Necessary Evils: Mad Man – Onley James

    Avi Mulvaney is many things. Son. Twin. Owner of the fashion label, Gemini. Murderous psychopath. Together, he and his brother, Asa, make one brutally efficient monster, ridding the world of predators who victimize the innocent. History proves Avi and Asa don’t do well apart, but their father has decided to test that theory.

    Felix Navarro knows exactly who he is. Baby brother. Fashionista. Vigilante. While he’s not happy that his big brother married a Mulvaney, the union has its perks. Like a paid internship with Gemini. But all good things come with a cost and, for Felix, that’s enduring Avi Mulvaney each day, which inevitably leads to thinking about him every night.

    Felix doesn’t like Avi. He’s cocky, condescending, overbearing, and inappropriate. He’s also sexy, brilliant, and twice as lethal as Felix. Still, Felix loathes him. Even if he keeps letting him kiss him. And touch him. Even if he slipped just once. It was still hate sex, and it would never happen again. Ever.

    Except, Avi’s being sent to help take down a dangerous crime ring and he’s ordered Felix to come along. Felix has vowed to stay strong. To remember he hates Avi. But they’re trapped together and there’s only one bed, and it’s so hard to hate Avi in the dark when he’s whispering how Felix belongs to him. Felix belongs to no man, but Avi is determined. He has one week to prove to Felix that he’s the exception to his rule. After all, who says no to a Mulvaney?

    Mad Man is a scorchingly hot, intense, enemies to lovers, psychopath romance with an HEA and no cliffhangers. It features a dirty talking, brutally vicious killer and a sharp tongued murderous fashionista who are both too stubborn for their own good. As always, there’s gratuitous violence, very dark humor, enough blood to film the final scene in the movie Carrie, and enough heat to melt your panties. This is book 5 in the Necessary Evils series. Each book follows a different couple.

    TAGS: psychopath, enemies-to-loves, dark humor, much violence, jealousy, bad boys doing bad things, long distance snark, only one bed, hate sex, more hate sex, hate sex that becomes apathetic sex then maybe something like love, if two killers are better than one what’s three killers, Avi is jealous, Asa is preoccupied, August is still August, Lucas is frazzed, Archer is still drunk, Thomas is at his wits end, Aiden is still in denial, Noah is still the psychopath whisperer and Adam is still a dick.


    The twins were separated by Thomas as an experiment. Neither of them copes well with separations. And a bored Murder twin always spells T.R.O.U.B.L.E.

    Asa is the dominant twin, so his book, Headcase, came first. This guy loves to hunt and play rough. That his person is a sweet and adorkable tabloid reporter plays really well into his dominant side and his daredevil personality.

    Zane, what the hell had you gotten yourself into? This dork is the luckiest unlucky tabloid reporter out there. He finagled his way into an exclusive event to get the dirt on the Mulvaneys, met Asa, was taken home, discovered exactly how rough Asa likes it. Then, realizes he just stumbled into a family of serials killers. Asa refused to let him go.

    Like the other Mulvaney boys, Asa didn’t waste time declaring Zane was his. The intrepid reporter put up a half-hearted fight before giving in because of course. Together, they try to untangle the mystery of a secret game that drives young college students to kill themselves.

    The mystery really intrigued me because it was unusual and hard to solve. It gave me the chills to find out later on, it was based on a real-life internet game that targeted children. This is the best case in the series so far. Watch out for cameos by Dmitri and his little Arlo.

    A huge chunk of the book is steam. I know Zane enjoys it, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the injury-inducing sex. BDSM is really not my thing. I kinda feel sorry for him looking like a battered boyfriend all the time. And he has to wear concealer in public, or else people would think Asa is an abuser. But, it’s their thing, they enjoy it, and they’re perfect for each other.

    While Asa was with Zane, Avi was on the other side of the country with Felix. They were helping Aidan. They were investigating a case where a seemingly random bunch of people died. Aidan found the connection and is looking for the perpetrator.

    Mad Man is Avi’s book. He is the twin who likes to serve. He enjoys pain and is also the more reckless of the two. I loved his wicked sense of humor. I could always clearly picture his glee every time they employed more creative ways to punish the bad guys.

    Felix is the diva brother of Jericho, Atticus’ husband. He interns in Avi’s clothing company. He’s deadly, sharp, and talented. And bossy too. Exactly how Avi likes it. The man has been trying to get in his pants since they met. Felix put up a good fight, but they both know it’s only a matter of when. Boy is not so secretly crushing on his boss.

    I didn’t warm up to Felix all the way. I found him too abrasive, too full of himself. It was only later on, when more of his personality and backstory was revealed, that I felt a stab of sympathy for him. Still, he’s my least favorite character in the entire series.

    My favorite part was how Felix and Zane latched on to each other. Total friendship goals! There’s no sharing, mind you. The four became a mini-family within a family, and Felix became Zane’s emotional support person. It was all very cute and cozy.

    Headcase and Mad Man is one story split in half. Asa and Avi are mirror twins. It’s very apt that their stories follow that symmetry. Each found yin to their yang without losing that special connection that makes the two of them a symbiotic unit.

    The twins came off the market at the same time. It’s brilliant how the author choreographed the plots to get to that point, juggled all the various and many larger-than-life personalities without anyone being left out, and teased a.k.a. tortured us with threads of Thomas and Aidan’s story without missing a beat.

    All in all, not perfect but you know what they say, double the trouble, double the fun!

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

    Soundtrack: I Hate That I Love You
    Artist: Jonathan Roy
    Album: My Lullaby

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

    Soundtrack: Your Surrender
    Artist: Neon Trees
    Album: Habits


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    Headcase: US | UK
    Mad Man: US | UK

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    HEADCASE | MAD MAN

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    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.


    52703097. sy475

    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.


    52899660. sy475

    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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