...Bookfanatic

 

Happiness is a cup of coffee and a really good book.

I probably should have quit while I was ahead...

Something's Brewing at Joe's - SJD Peterson, Wayland Johnson Chase

I first read this book back in early July of this year and I guess I went into this thinking that this story might work better for me on audio...it happens. What doesn't happen very often is that things go from well...bad to worse. 

My original feelings about this story haven't changed. So here's my original review if you want a refresher...

There's more than just coffee brewing at Joe's, that's for sure... 
Murphy and Joe first meet when they hook up at a club shortly after Murphy has arrived in Tampa. Neither man is looking for more than a little no strings attached stress relief.

Joe's frustrated with his 'forced' vacation and he's decided that a night out for a few drinks, some dancing and with any luck a little something more with a hot body is just what the doctor ordered. 

When Murphy moves to Tampa on the promise of his dream job being told that said job is on hold is not what he's expecting to hear. He doesn't want to go back to Michigan only to hear a chorus of 'I told you so's' from his family and friends and decides that he's going to find something to keep him afloat until things get sorted out, but being a little frustrated and stressed out over the news pushes him to decide he needs a night out to relax, unwind and just forget about everything for a few hours. 

Needless to say there wasn't a lot of personal information exchanged during their one night stand so it's no wonder that Joe's more than a little surprised when he returns to his coffee shop and finds out that his assistant Kallie has hired someone to renovate the upstairs apartment that Joe's been talking about fixing up for as long as Kallie can remember and that someone turns out to be none other than Joe's one night stand Murphy. 

Both men decide this isn't going to be a problem...after all they're mature adults right? And just because Joe wants a repeat of what he and Murphy shared and Murphy's determined that things need to stay strictly business...*spoiler alert* willpower...Murphy has none...seriously NONE!!! his determination didn't last a day...wait, I'm not even sure it lasted an hour forget a day. As soon as these two laid eyes on each other again it was game on.

Now I realize this kinda' leads to the thought of 'what the hell?' these two can't keep their hands off of each other and there's roughly 200 pages here, but there's more to this story than just a case of boy-meets-boy, boy-jumps-boy and they all lived happily ever after because let's face it that's sweet but pretty dull when you've got 200 pages to fill, so luckily there's that job...you know the one that Murphy moved to Tampa for...yeah, it's a bit complicated and makes things a little tense between Murphy and Joe. 

I really enjoyed this part of the story...or at least the idea of it and to a degree the execution of it worked. More often than not when a story has this type of plot line to it I like a bit of tension and conflict...more so than what was here and while this was ok, for me it would have worked better if things had been not quite so easily resolved. 

So along with that, here's the reason this one only got 3 stars from me...it was the sex...seriously 'you know you have too much sex in a story when one of the MCs is complaining that the other MC 'broke his wanker'? and then cuts him off for a couple of days because 'said wanker' is sore...ok, he tried but it was Murphy and as I've already said "Willpower...he has none." I can honestly say I'm not sure that I've encountered a lot...if any stories where an MC is complaining about too much sex and trust me there was...even the bunnies of the world were cringing...forget jealous I'm pretty sure they were with me wondering 'How the hell does anyone have this much sex and accomplish a damned thing?' Thankfully some of it...just some mind you, was not actually on page for which I am grateful because I can honestly see how poor Murphy's wanker got broken...just sayin' 


I honestly figured at the very least this was going to remain a 3 star read for me...what I wasn't counting on and please believe me when I say this is a really, really subjective opinion here, but bizarrely enough this one got knocked down a notch because try as I might I just couldn't get past the narrator's voice. Now it's not that it's bad or that I couldn't understand him or any of that and honestly I can see where other people will probably be thinking that maybe Karen's a little cray, cray, but the thing is for me there were times when I'm sure that Joe and/or Murphy were meant to sound all sexy and passionately growly and to me it was more like an angry, ragey growl. In other words for some reason the emotion that was being conveyed wasn't the emotion that I was picking up on...hopefully this makes sense. 

So anyways, not to belabor the point I'm just going to summarize by saying Chase Johnson was the narrator for this one and for whatever reason this narrator's voice doesn't work for me and if I'm listening to what's suppose to be an intense, intimate scene between two people it just yanks me out of the story when I feel like one of those people is really angry rather than really passionate...it's me and I'm totally owning this one folks...like I said very, very subjective opinion here. 

I highly recommend checking out the audio sample if this one is of interest to you. After all, you never know...you may find you really like this narrator's voice and really that's all that matters at the end of the day is what works for any of us as individuals.



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A audio book of 'Something's Brewing At Joe's' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

If loving one man's hard...is loving two even possible?

A Bolt of Blue - Nicky Spencer

Ian and Mitch have been friends for most of their lives and for a lot of that time Ian's been in love with Mitch but to scared of losing his best friend to tell him. Mitch can't imagine his life without his best friend in it but it's only Dusty who makes him want forever...or at least that's what he thought until he finds himself face to face with Ian and thoughts of how his lips would feel and what it would be like to wake up next to him start creeping into Mitch's brain.

But he's so sure about how much he wants Dusty...so how can he want Ian too...it's not possible to love more than one person, right?

I'm more than a little impressed with this one. Nicky Spencer isn't just a new to me author...she's a new author and while there were things about this that weren't perfect for me there was a lot that I liked. I've read a few books where the author wrote each chapter from the POV of one of the MCs and yes, those books were written about traditional pairings of 2 people so I have to admit when I saw that this was done that way but alternating between 3 MCs my brain might have stuttered a little but when I took a deep breath and thought about it I decided that reading it certainly couldn't be harder than writing it and it wasn't...for me it actually worked well since I tend to enjoy stories told from alternating points of view. Spending too much time in one person's head space more often than not tends to be annoying, disconcerting frustrating or some combination of those things for me so alternating POVs usually works best. 

I found the dynamics between these three men interesting...Mitch and Ian are both college students Mitch comes from a family that's fairly well to day. His parents pay for his schooling, his condo, provide an allowance and gifted him with a nice car, he's on a sports scholarship for baseball...yep, basically Mitch is one lucky dude and in a lot of ways I got the impression that he doesn't take this for granted, he knows he's lucky so I like that about him. But at the same time I didn't feel like I could relate to him. For me Mitch just seemed to wear his rose colored glasses too much when it came to how he viewed life in general and there were times when he was a little to quick to pass judgement on things when he didn't really know all the facts.

While Ian's had a very different life. He's studying to be a nurse and he works as a CNA (certified nurse's aide) to help pay for this, he rides the bus to get where he's going. Ian's been raised by a single mom and an absentee dad that he learned long ago not to rely on. I really liked Ian, I'm not even 100% sure why I liked him so much but I did. He came across as cute and funny, a bit of a nerd but a sexy one and a really loyal friend.

Lastly we have Dusty. Dusty's a bit older than Mitch and Ian. He's working as bartender at 'Angel's' when he meets Mitch and they're one night stand turns into a relationship. Dusty turns out to be the grounding force for this trio. He's a little more mature and that's partially due to his age but it's also because of his life experience and yet, ironically in some areas of his life Dusty has definite issues with self-esteem and confidence.

I can't say that the dynamics between the three of them didn't work for me but more like...it wasn't quite what I expected. I was really surprised to find that when all was said and done I felt that while Dusty and Mitch seemed to still loved each other. The relationship that I really felt and bought into was Ian and Mitch. I just really, really liked and enjoyed the interaction between these two men, it felt more natural and realistic. Which also leads me to feel that Dusty was actually what pulled the three of them together and yet when I take everything into consideration logic tells me it should be Mitch or even Ian but when I break it down and look at Mitch & Dusty/Ian & Dusty/Mitch & Ian (and I have to admit I wasn't feeling this last pairing at all) things just kept coming back to Dusty.

The other part of this menage that strangely enough I was ok with was the fact that there isn't a perfect balance between these three...realistically even a relationship involving only two people doesn't have perfect balance at all times...it's give and take and when that happens quite often the balance shifts back and forth...that's just how it goes as long as one person doesn't always seem to hold the control in a relationship I'm ok with things shifting around. 

I really enjoyed this story. While it wasn't perfect for me there was definitely more good than not in it. It held my attention and I had no problem with involved with the characters and the events of the story. There were some things that I would have enjoyed more of such as maybe a bit of Mitch and Dusty pre-Dusty-meets-Ian or a bit more Erik and Ian...just to be clear, we're talking a purely platonic friendship here. I'd love to see more of these two interacting and maybe even eventually becoming friends. I'm pretty sure the worlds not ready for that but it'd sure be fun. The one thing that I would have been ok with less of was April...but that's a very, very subjective opinion so we won't worry about that one. 

Last but not least I really enjoyed the author's writing style it worked for me and I found myself easily about to re-engage with the story whenever I was able to resume reading...pesky RL is pesky. I'm impressed with this author's first time story and I look forward to finding out what she has planned for the future.

If you're looking for something new...check it out, it's being released today...'A Bolt of Blue' by Nicky Spencer...curled up in a comfy chair with 3 hot men...it's definitely my idea of a good way to spend a cold winter's day.



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A copy of 'A Bolt of Blue' was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

More fun with James and Derek...

Law and Disorder  - Brooke Edwards

'Law and Disorder' basically picks up where 'Mens Rea' ended and while James and Derek's relationship continues to move forward it's not without obstacles. But when you're a police chief and an assistant USDA those obstacles take a lot of different forms. James catches the bad guys and Derek tries them and bad guys they don't care about quality time for people in love...not that anyone's used the 'L' word yet. 

But it's not until James is called to the scene of his latest crime...a whole lot of dead sparrows all neatly lined up on the Justice Building that Derek and James begin to find out what busy means because those birds are just the beginning of a crime spree that's going to confound them all and happily me too. I love it when I solve the crime with the characters and not ahead of them...leaving me to wonder why these characters that I've come to like aren't smart enough to figure out what for me was the obvious. Happily that did not happen here and I was left to solve this with New York City's finest. As events progress it does become increasingly clear that things are personal and whoever is behind the unusual events that are leaving everyone more than a little confused has someone specific in mind.

While the relationship between James and Derek is an important part of this story, I can't honestly say that I'd call this a romance novel it's really more of a mystery/thriller story with secondary story line of romance. But having said that the romance between these two is also a solid constant part of the story.

If I liked the first story...I loved this one. The banter between James and Derek for me is delightful. The fact that these two men with busy and stressful careers have so little time together...well...that's reality and honestly it just made me appreciate how much more precious their private time was. 

While the usual cast of secondary characters are present we also have the addition of Briony, Derek's assistant and Peter Saracen who for some reason seems to really get under Daniel's skin...mmmm...I wonder what's up with that and best of all we get to meet Derek's parents. 

As the story progresses along with the questions of who and why things are happening there's also a question of will James and Derek's relationship survive. James's protective instincts are in overdrive and Derek's habit of distancing himself and handling things on his own are putting them at odds with each other and causing a rift one that James will need to bridge because Derek's reaching his limits on how much he can take.

I really like this author's writing style. While the story moves at a good pace and there's a lot going on I was kept interested and my mind was engaged from start to finish without being overwhelmed. It was nice not having to wade through a lot of unnecessary details trying to sort through them and figure out what mattered nor was it so sparse that things were blatantly obvious.

My one and only niggle and really it was a small one because...greedy me I wanted a bit more of Derek and James after all was said and done and the dust had settled but having said that we did get a complete story, Derek and James are left in a good place and there's no cliffs anywhere in sight so...what can I say..."I'm greedy. I like these two and I just wanted more time with them...maybe in the next story with any luck they're bound to take a vacation eventually, right?"

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A copy of 'Law and Disorder' was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Nothing makes for a better buddy read than a 'Psycho Romeo'...or in plain English...

Psycho Romeo - Rinda Elliott, Jocelynn Drake

a bat-sh*t crazy stalker. 

If you love Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott's 'Unbreakable Bonds' series than this is the perfect way to continue that love affair. 'Psycho Romeo' is the first book in 'Ward Security' the spin-off series to 'Unbreakable Bonds'. Rowan Ward is the owner of 'Ward Securities' and one of the original group of four friends from 'Unbreakable Bonds' giving the reader the opportunity to get glimpses into the ongoing lives of the men from 'Unbreakable Bonds' and a whole new collection of fascinating men.

We were originally introduced to both of the MCs in 'Psycho Romeo' in earlier books. Geoffrey Ralse is rich and the life of the party according to his social media accounts. But he's so much more than he appears to be and the only person who seems to truly see this is his brother and Protective Agent Sven Larsen, whom we also met in the original series. But Sven's got his own issues and he's determined to keep his distance from Geoffrey. Which is a lot easier to do when his only contact is teaching Geoffrey self defense classes...it's when Geoffrey gets a stalker and hires Ward Security for protection. Insisting on Sven as his body that Sven's defenses begin to crumble.

While 'Psycho Romeo' was an awesome read in and of itself, I have to say sharing this reading experience with my reading buddy besties...Christelle, Josy, Simone and having the lovely Jan jump on board just made the story a whole lot more fun. 

The romance between Geoffrey and Sven for me was simply adorable and sweet. I loved these two as a couple they were incredibly sweet together and loved the interaction between them and how each man so readily came to the other's defense...it was just sweet, sweet, sweet!...and hot, did I mention these two men are scorching HOT!!!

As for the mystery...it had it's good points and was definitely the high-light of much discussion during our buddy read. While there may have been some weak points to this part of the story and not all of it sat well with everyone in our group for different reasons...some of us may have pegged who the stalker was a little early in the story. I care not I still enjoyed it and overall it added interest and was the vehicle that moved Geoffrey and Sven into close proximity allowing their relationship to progress.

This was an awesome start to this spin-off series and I'm looking forward to seeing what come next...I know it won't be Royce but I've got my Buddy Read Besties to keep me company while we read whatever comes next and wait for Royce. 

Once again my friends thanks for a good time and I'm definitely looking forward to whatever comes next.

Well that was a fun little 'pleased to meet you'...

Mens Rea - Brooke Edwards

'Mens Rea' is our introduction to 45 year old James Foster, veteran of the NYC police force and 29 year old Derek Moore assistant USA attorney and the beginnings of their relationship.

 

At only 25 pages Ms. Edwards has made every word count. James meets Derek when they both work on the same case and he finds himself fascinated with the younger man but he's also conflicted by their age difference and he believes Derek is involved with Daniel a fellow officer who works with James. But at the same time he gets glimpses of what he thinks is interest from Derek. Needless to say James is both uncertain and at times confused by this.

 

I was really impressed by how much story we're given in so few pages and by the fact that things didn't feel rushed but at the same time the story of how James and Derek's relationship begins feels complete.

 

We're also given a cast of secondary characters who add both depth and interest to the the story...Derek's sister Lara and her fiance, Ben, his best friend Daniel. James's partner Daniel, his best friend Melanie, his son Sam and Sam's girlfriend Lydia and Kay, James's admin assistant.

 

Add in a touch of humor and you've got me hooked...seriously this story was worth the read just for the banter between James and Derek it's entertaining and that first meeting of Derek with James's son was hilarious to say the least something that I could so easily see happening.

 

'Mens Rea' was a perfect introduction to a new series and its author. While there's definitely relationship between James and Derek and it's a solid constant in the story. 'Mens Rea' is much more than a romance story it's a story about two men with very busy demanding lives that frequently intersect and connect these men both professionally and personally. I found that there was a lot packed into this one including potential.

 

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A copy of 'Mens Rea' was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Let's go fishing...

Ebb and Flow  - Andrew  Grey, Greg Tremblay

One man worships at the temple of the almighty dollar the other man worships in the house of god...both men were given sons...kind and gentle souls to nurture and guide in a world that can be less than kind...both men failed.

 

Neither man truly understands the value of what they have. Billy Ray is the son of a Baptist Minister...man who has raised him to believe that he is less than he is. He loves working on the water as a part of the crew of one of Mike Jensen's Apalachickola Fishing Tour boats (we met Mike in Setting the Hook, book 1 in this series) and he has hopes of captaining his own tour boat one day. But growing up in a home where he's been made to feel like he's not good enough, smart enough...just never quite enough hasn't done a lot for his confidence and he knows that having his parents...especially his father find out who he truly is...that he's gay, is something that can never happen if he doesn't want to lose their love.

 

Skippy was born in Boston. The son of a successful lawyer. He's spent his whole life trying to get his parents approval. Sent away to private schools at the age of 8. He's worked hard to get his father's attention...earning a law degree from Harvard he then joins his dad's law firm and becomes one of their top producing lawyers, all in an effort to get his father to notice him...to just tell him that he's proud of him. Dad knows he's gay but like everything else about his son he doesn't acknowledge it and he keeps his son busy too busy to have a life. 

 

Billy Ray and Skippy (and yes this is  a nickname) meet when Skippy is sent to Apalachickola, Florida to provide legal representation to a client. Skippy takes some time for vacation and hauls the rest of his 'gay family' back to the house that they rented on their last trip there (it's all in the first book). When Skippy and his friends go out on a fishing tour with Bubba and Billy Ray as their guides they once again invite their Florida friends back to enjoy the bounty of their day giving the two men a chance to get to know each other.

 

Billy Ray and Skippy may come from different worlds but as they get to better acquainted what they discover is that their lives really aren't worlds apart.

 

I loved Skippy and Billy Ray, in their own way each man was very different but at the heart of each of them was a kind and gentle soul that had never been shown the love it deserved. That each of them became someone who was capable of showing such kindness to other people in spite of the poisoned environments that they grew up in only showed that we are each the makers of our own destiny.  They could have chosen to be bitter, negative people emulating what they were raised with but they didn't. They chose to be their own person...someone who was good and kind and gave back to the world rather than taking from it. Exemplifying that you get back from this world what you give to it. 

 

We first met William and Mike, the owner's of Apalachickola Fishing Tours along with Bubba, Skippy's gay family in 'Setting the Hook' and I loved the strong secondary role that all played in this book. Series like this where I get new MCs in each book and they become secondary characters in subsequent stories so that we don't really have to say good-bye to anyone are like catnip for me...they leaving me purring and content by giving me something new and shiny that's been surrounded by a touch of the old and familiar. 

 

I first started this series on audio and quite honestly I was so enchanted with both the story and the narration that I decided to continue it this way. Once again Greg Tremblay has added depth to the emotions of the characters brought them to life as he shares their story with the listener. 

 

I wish I could say that I had some insider knowledge on this and that I knew for a certainty whose story we will get next in this series...sadly, I do not, but I do know that I am hopeful that we will see Alex, Skippy's assistant, as one of the MCs in the next story and dare we hope that he will find some happiness with one of Skippy's friends? I guess only time will tell.

 

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An audio book of 'Ebb and Flow' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wow...apparently if Santino Hassell writes it, I'll read it...

Stygian - Santino Hassell

So in a nutshell 'Stygian' is the kind of book that normally gets a bit "No thank you." from me and then I move on. But, I loved ICoS, got hooked on 'The Five Boroughs', adore the Barons, have 'The Community' quayed up and ready to go and don't get me started on the 'Cyberlove' series he co-writes with Megan Erickson...ok, point made 'the author made me do it'...sorta'?

 

As scary books go this definitely wasn't the scariest that I've ever encountered...but I can't say that I didn't have a chill running up and down my spine on more than one occasion. While rock bands aren't at the top of my reading list they're not a deal breaker either. So I definitely went into this one eyes wide open...I knew there was a rock band, I knew they were going to end up at a big ole' deserted mansion with mysterious owners...cause that didn't scream...haunted and creepy...damn straight it did.

 

While the setting for this story was definitely Halloween worthy there's a lot more to this story than a scare or two...there's more than one person who's ready to either implode or explode...depending on what triggers the event. 

 

The plan was for the band to go on a retreat focus on creating some new music together get ready for the next phase in their career...well we all know what they say a bout the road to hell...right? It's paved with good intentions and these guys are heading there from the minute they arrive at the Carroway mansion because it was all down hill. There's misunderstandings, miscommunication, lies are told, secrets are kept and everyone seems to have an ulterior motive.  Nothing was as simple as it seemed in this one.

 

I really enjoyed all aspects of this story. Whether it was the big ole scary mansion and it's secrets or the dynamics between the characters in the story. It all worked for me. For someone who's not a big fan of horror 'Stygian' proved to be a good choice. Yes it gave me a chill or two but no nightmares...yes, I can seriously get these if the story's scary enough and well written...what can I say I apparently have a vivid imagination... anyways, this one kept me sitting on the edge of my seat without being afraid to go to sleep at night.  The dynamics between the  band members and how they came to be where they're at was another aspect of this story that easily held my attention and honestly one that I'm not going to delve into because 1. complicated and 2. by the time I finish explaining it you may as well just read the book.

 

I listened to the audio version of this book and it was narrated by new to me narrator Geoffrey Alan and I have to admit, while I think this is mostly me, if I'm rating just the narration for this one, it's going to get 3 stars at best from me. I just wasn't connecting with this narrator. I can't say that there was anything about the narrator that I didn't like or that bothered me but I just wasn't connecting with the voices and at times it felt like they were becoming a bit monotone...almost like someone was reading an itemized list. I didn't find this narrator's voice to be the worst that I've ever experience by any means and I probably would give them another listen on something else in the future...just a side note here that when I checked for more titles narrated by Geoffrey Alan there was only one other audiobook and it's not one that would interest me...so maybe, a new narrator and I'm willing to wait and see what the future brings.

 

However, if you're a fan of Santino Hassall or you like a solid story line with an added hint of horror to it, I strongly recommend checking this one out. It was a 4 star listen for me and for a book that sits in a genre that's in the 'no fly' zone for me. That's pretty impressive.

It's time to...see the pyramids along the Nile...

The Jackal's House - Anna Butler

‘The Jackal’s House’ is the second book in Anna Butler’s amazing series “Lancaster’s Luck” but before I get into trying to explain why it’s amazing without giving away anything about the story. I’m just going to do a bit of housekeeping here…first for anyone who’s familiar with steampunk it won’t come as any surprise that it has a bit of a language that’s all it’s own and at some point during the reading of this book I realized that when I did my review for ‘The Gilded Scarab’ the first book in the Lancaster’s Luck series I forgot to mention that the author has conveniently placed a glossary at the end of the book to assist the reader in clarifying those ‘what- does-that-mean?’ words…you may even want to have a peek at it before you start reading the book.

 

The other thing I want to say is if you haven’t read the first book…seriously reconsider starting with this one. Lancaster’s Luck is a series that needs to be read in order. There’s a lot in ‘The Gilded Scarab’ that connects to this book and I’m not sure that I would have enjoyed this story nearly as much without having read the first book.

 

Ok, now let’s see if I can do justice to this book. Because while I really, really liked ‘The Gilded Scarab’ this book…well damn this one just blew it all out of the water for me. ‘The Jackal’s House’ for me was totally a 5 star read…only because they tell me that’s all the stars I can give it, otherwise there’d be a hella’ lot more of them up there at the top of this review.

 

Unlike the first book most of this story takes place in Aegypt as Rafe accompanies Ned on his next archeological dig. Going with Ned isn’t an easy decision for Rafe to make…he’s got responsibilities, but eventually the idea of being parted from the man he’s come to love and has only had back in his live for a few short months tips the scales and Rafe agrees to go not wanting to miss out on the opportunity for them to have more time together…an opportunity that allows them to have some distance from their responsibilities and the pressures of their lives in Londinium.

 

While the adventure part of this story got a little bit of a slow start once it got started it kicked into high gear fairly quickly and honestly, I loved the first part of this book as much as the last. We’re given more of Ms. Butler’s amazing world building as she moves us from the steampunk world of Londinium to that of Aegypt and its ancient mysteries.

As Ned and Rafe dig to unearth the treasure of Aegypt’s past…things are happening in both Londinium and Aegypt that could affect the present and the future that they want together in ways that neither man has anticipated and ways that have given this story a whole new and intriguing potential.

 

As with the previous book this book has a story that is essentially complete but with threads that connect to an overall story arc that extends to the next book…and please, oh please let there be a next book…because there are things that in my heart I just know are lining up to happen. There was a lot that happened in this story by no means an overwhelming amount but some of saw closure to certain events and some things laid the ground work for new possibilities and I am so on board for all of it.

 

While I’m not a huge fan of historical novels the addition of this being set not in Victorian times but steampunk Victorian times has only added to this story giving it more interest and an entirely unique feeling for me and when it comes to steampunk ironically the Victorian era is my favorite…I’m a total fan of ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentelmen’ or the more recent ‘Sherlock Holmes’ movies staring Robert Downey Jr. and while Will Smith did an admirable job in ‘The Wild, Wild West’ for me nothing compares to the original television series starting Robert Conrad. I’m by no means an expert when it comes to steampunk but I am an expert on what I like and the fact that these stories fit so easily onto the virtual shelf where I keep my favorite steampunk movies and shows…things that have been longtime favorites of mine, is for me indicative of the fact that “Lancaster’s Luck” is a series that has struck just the right cord with me and I have no doubt that if someone were to ask me tomorrow, next week, next year or years down the road for an example of what I like when it comes to steampunk this series will be on that list.

 

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An ARC of ‘The Jackal’s House’ was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Sometimes you find love where you least expect it...

We Found Love - Kade Boehme, Allison Cassatta, Michael Ferraiuolo

Riley's had the life that no child deserves...kidnapped at an early age and held hostage for 4 years, rejected by his parents when he's finally free of his kidnappers, he spends the rest of his childhood going back and forth between foster homes and institutions finally ending up in Hartfield as a lifer.

 

Hunter finds himself in Hartfield after spinning out of control leading to what Hunter claims was an accidental overdose. While his brother calls an ambulance, his sister claims it was attempted suicide leading to Hunter being admitted to Hartfield where he and Riley meet and quickly drawn to each other.

 

Two men both damaged, emotionally fragile, grieving loss in their lives. It's a bad situation to start a relationship in and as Hunter and Riley become closer and get to know each other, they also begin to realize things about themselves as well. It's the realization that in order to love someone else you have to care about yourself that forces both men to look at their lives with honesty and come to the realization that need to commit to themselves and fix their own lives before they can truly commit to a relationship.

 

There was a lot about this story that I enjoyed. I loved Hunter. Sure he was broken and emotionally fragile, but what he wasn't was self-centered. In spite of everything going on inside of him. He wasn't oblivious to what was going on with others and I really loved that in the end Hunter had the strength to do what he knew he needed to do to get himself to a better place even if it meant keeping distance between himself and the man he was falling in love with.

 

And Riley...he's probably one of the most heartbreaking characters I've encountered in a long time. I loved the way Riley was presented and that in spite of all he'd endured while he might have lost his way in the end he still found the strength start living his life and taking care of himself so that he could have a life...a good life.

 

And then there's Riley and Hunter together. They were cautious, sweet and so fragile even as a couple. Sometimes loving someone is about putting yourself first and making the hard decisions because you know it's what's right for both of you.

 

There were a lot of secondary characters in this story that I really liked as well...Hunter's brother, Bubba (Shane) another person that Riley and Hunter met at Hartfield. The nurses and doctors throughout this story. While they weren't all wonderful and some were definitely better professionals than others...that's how it is in the real world too and I liked that for me it added a layer of realism to the story.

 

This wasn't a happy, cheerful story...it wasn't a story filled with fun and fluff but it was a story that had hope and possibility and in the end there was love and all that it can offer when it's good and right.

 

This was all given depth and made even more enjoyable for me through by the narration of Michael Ferraiuolo. This is not the first audio book narrated by Michael Ferraiuolo that I've enjoyed and I have to admit that Hunter's voice was very reminiscent of one of my favorite audio characters from The Five Bouroughs' yeah...that's right we're talking about Oli here...I loved Oli's voice and Hunter's voice is so like Oli's...and this made me a happy girl.

Well that's another thing done...

Barrel Proof - Layla Reyne

'Barrel Proof' is the final installment for 'Agents Irish and Whiskey' and like the first two books in this series 'Barrel Proof' is 100% smooth.

 

We get answers to the events of the past and Aidan and Jamie continue to work through their obstacles making the bond between them stronger. I loved the ending for these two. Yes, they got their HEA and it was tempered with a nice touch of realism. 

 

And for this final story I was once again treated to Tristan James bringing the voices of Aidan, Jamie and the rest of the characters in this story to life. 

 

I guess my only real problem here is that I'm at the end of the journey with these books...for the first time around, but I have zero doubt that this will become one of my go to listens I just want to hear an awesome story read to me by an awesome narrator...nope, I'm not done with Agents Irish and Whiskey by any means we're just taking a short break while I listen to a few more books and then I'm gettin' back together with these two hot as hell men for another listen.

So that thing I did...well, there's more...

Cask Strength - Layla Reyne

'Cask Strength' is the second book in 'Agents Irish and Whiskey' and definitely every bit as good as the first one. 

 

Aidan and Jamie take a step back to the life that Jamie came from as Jamie goes undercover in the sport of basketball. What starts out as an investigation into illegal betting and identity theft soon turns out to be more with possible ties into another case that Jamie and Aidan have been investigating...something that ties into the death of Aidan's husband nearly a year ago.

 

Once again Tristan James's narration only helped to enhance my enjoyment of this story giving even more dimension and depth to the story and the characters. 

 

As the mystery surrounding the death of Aidan's husband and his former partner grows so do the feelings that Aidan and Jamie share for each other. Agents Irish and Whiskey is a fast paced and intense story and the danger, mystery, intrigue and passion in these stories are all off the charts. 

 

Highly recommended!

So I did this thing...

Single Malt - Layla Reyne, Tristan James

I've heard so many good things about this series and when I saw them for sale as audio books my 'buy-now' finger went to work and that was all she wrote, the deal was done and they were mine. 

 

Action, intrigue, romance...it's all here and I loved it. Aidan Talley and Jameson Walker were for me a totally perfect pairing and I was all in from the word go with this series. 

 

Layla Reyne has created an intriguing story filled with a collection of interesting and unusual characters that were brought to life for me by the awesome narration of Tristan James. 

 

So there you have it short, sweet and to the point I loved the characters, the story and the audio narration only made it all that much more enjoyable and of course I happily went on to  'Cask Strength' the next book in this wonderful romantic adventure.

And yes, it was another awesome Dragon story!!!

Shadowspire - Jaye McKenna

So me and my dragon cyber child have continued on with this incredibly good series...

 

'Shadowspire' is the third book in this series and it's Jaire's story. We met Jaire in the first book. He's the younger brother of Wytch King Jaire and his wytch power is that he's an empath. As a powerful empath Jaire senses feelings even those of some one who's been trapped in the mythe for centuries. As Jaire begins to learn about his 'mystery ghost' he learns that his new friend is in fact Prince Vayne a member of the royal family that was destroyed by the Wytch Council and supposedly wiped out and more importantly he holds secrets from the past that have the potential to change the future for an entire kingdom.

 

I loved Jaire and Vayne. Jaire was so sweet and naive. He's never had a relationship and this came through in their relationship as these two became closer. There were some incredibly sweet and dorky moments...like when Jaire wanted to show Vayne 'one of his books'...yeah, damn straight that was a euphemism. It totally worked for these two and had me giggling like a 12 year old...it was awesome.

 

In between these sweet dorky moments though there was an awesome story fraught with danger and intrigue as the tension between the Wytch Council and the Wytch King Gerrick and his allies builds...there's a war brewing as the Wytch Kings prepare to defy the iron grip of the council and with the arrival of Prince Vayne the tide has changed and when the battle comes the council may be in for a surprise but what remains to be seen is if it will be enough to ensure the Wytch Kings are successful in their bid for freedom and trust me...I am so there. Me and my awesome cyber child will be continuing on with this amazing  series not just for the coming battle but until the war is won...so bring on the dragons...all the dragons!

So what's a unicorn to do when...

By Fairy Means or Foul - Meghan Maslow, Greg Boudreaux

he loses his horn...well, he goes to a private detective of course and not just any private detective but one who's the offspring of a dragon and a fairy and when he can't pay the P.I.'s fee of course you offer up your sex slave who just happens to be a wizard who well...can't wizard because he can't seem to find a familiar...it's a long story and if you want to make this even more fun you listen to it on audio.

 

So right about now you're probably wondering 'Seriously Karen are you for real?' and in answer to that question...Yes I am, is this book...no, it's total fantasy and humor from start to finish and of all the things in existence humor is probably the most subjective thing going and honestly what's funny for one person this week may not be funny to that same person next week but for me this week, this one was funny. Some parts were obviously funnier than others and the parts that I found funny may not be what amuses someone else...although there was a pretty epic magic carpet ride that happened.

 

'By Fairy Means or Foul' is an amusing, tongue in cheek adventure set in the world of the fae and other mystical creatures. It's tongue in cheek humor that's over the top and I have to admit I'm not sure I would have found it as entertaining if I hadn't been listening to the audio book. Greg Boudreaux (also known as Greg Tremblay) was the narrator for this story and as always he did an excellent job with this one offering up a variety of very entertaining voices.

 

'By Fairy Means or Foul' is a story that's pure fun and entertainment and seriously when you have a story that starts with a unicorn who's lost his horn and has a non-wizard wizard sex slave going to a dragon/fairy PI to hire him to retrieve said horn and leaves his aforementioned sex-slave as payment, not to mention that said unicorn is just not a nice dude add in an epic magic carpet ride, knitting trolls, cross-stitching dwarves and other creatures of dubious origins who our PI also known as Twig and the non-wizard wizard known as Quinn encounter in their efforts to retrieve the missing unicorn horn and well really there's no serious moments here but you can be prepared for some fun and maybe even some sexy times.

 

This may not be everyone's cup of tea but it worked for me and I have to admit this story on audio was purely delightful and I was laughing out loud on more than one occasion.

 

An audio copy of this book was gifted to me by my awesome friend Jewel who won a copy generously provided by the author at GRL this year. Thank you to both of these lovely people for providing me with hours of listening fun.

This was good...like really, really good...

The Gilded Scarab - Anna Butler

While I really enjoy steampunk, I have to admit I'm kinda' picky about what I  read. I've had this book for a while now and I kept doing that thing where I squirrel off to this and that but when I saw that a second book was being released I decided that it was time to buckle down and get it done and I am more than a little happy that I did.

 

'The Gilded Scarab' is my first time reading a book by this author and let me just say 'not only is this Ms. Butler's wheel house she is in the driver's seat' and before the end of the first chapter I was more than a little confused as to why I didn't read this sooner.

 

I was totally enamored with both the world building and the character development. The world building in this story was huge which can sometimes be an obstacle for me because I admit I can become bored in spite of the fact that world building especially in genres like scifi, fantasy or steampunk can be as crucial to the story as the characters and plot but  Ms Butler has created a story here that perfectly mixes the development of plot, characters and world building both getting and keeping my attention no matter what the story focus was at the time. 

 

Rafe Lancaster is the main character and the focus of much of this story and he's awesome.  Rafe became a fighter pilot in an effort to remove himself from his families influence and basically because flying is his passion. Unfortunately the resulting injury from an accident forces Rafe out of the Aero Corps and into making some life changes...one of which is his return to Londinium. 

 

Rafe's return to the place of his birth also brings him under closer scrutiny from  his house...houses are the social system that this society functions under and their influence over the individual members is both considerable and unwanted by Rafe.  

 

When Rafe takes his maiden journey back into society he meets one Ned Winters. It's just suppose to be casual, no attachments, an evenings dalliance. But as their evening progresses each man realizes that they want more than one night and how much they enjoy each others company...unfortunately Ned is an Aegyptologist and about to leave for Aegypt for a few months separating him and Rafe before things can really even start between them. Rafe's efforts to reintegrate himself into society and rebuild his life goes from challenging to more than a little complicated as new people enter his life and old friends re-emerge.

 

With Ned gone Rafe throws himself into rebuilding his life and becomes the owner of a coffee house...how can you not love a man who appreciates coffee? Personally I'm not even going to try and honestly I just like Rafe. He's someone I'd sit down and have coffee with. With the successful launch of his coffee house Rafe again ventures out into society looking for company and finding an entanglement that may be a whole lot more than he'd bargained for...especially once Ned returns. Things begin to get more than a little bit complicated and interesting as Rafe and Ned are reunited and realize that one night months ago was only a small sample of what they could have and despite the obstacles both men want more.

 

I was so enchanted with this story it's twist, turns and complexities drew me in and kept me both interested and wanting more.  This is neither a simple nor easy story it's filled with twist, turns and complexities as the story unfolds while this story contains two plots the first one being an over all arc that begins with this book but continues, the second plotline is contained within this book but still connected to the overall story arc and the growing relationship between Rafe and Ned. 

 

As the first book in Anna Butler's series "Lancaster's Luck"...'The Gilded Scarab' undertakes a big task setting the scene for a series that's filled with a diverse group of characters, it's own unique settings, social structure and story lines that take the reader to a different place and time, but it's a task that's been accomplished and has left this reader wanting more so I'm definitely on board for whatever comes next at the Lancaster's Luck Coffee House...anyone care to join me for a little adventure and a cuppa'?

 

There's late and then there's...I might have gotten lost along the way...

Racing for the Sun - Russo Nick, Amy Lane

I have to admit this was one Amy Lane book that for whatever reason just never really caught my eye until I read the second book in her  series "Fish Out of Water" and Jackson and Ellery pay Sonny and Ace a visit in search of some information and now I'm interested..and even then there's been a few side trips along the way before I truly reached my destination...but I'm here at last and...

 

I soon discovered that the quickest way to truly reach my destination, by that I mean get into this story, of course, is via audio book and when I saw that it was narrated by Nick J. Russo well problem solved since he is absolutely one of my favorite narrators when it comes to audio books... so audio book purchased and destination reached.

 

I loved this story. Yes there were some questionable moments, a f*k-ton of angst and at times...well lets just say that the hinges on Sonny's door are definitely coming loose and the fact that it's Ace who keeps him on any kind of an even keel is abundantly clear as is the fact that there are really no limits on what Ace will do to protect Sonny. 

 

Would this kind of relationship work for me in the real world? Hell NO!!! But, in the world that Ms. Lane has created I was so on board with Sonny and Ace...just think of me and the middle-aged lady sitting front and center in their cheering section. 

 

Including this one I've listened to 22 audio books narrated by Nick J. Russo and I've enjoyed the hell out of his performances on every one of them and more than once on most of them, but I have to say I think this is going to be one of my favorites. He totally nailed the voices for both of the MCs but especially Ace. 

 

Ok, so I'm keeping it short and sweet today because honestly there's already a lot of good reviews out there for this one both the e-book and the audio...I was definitely more than a little late to the party when it came to this book. But 'Better late than never' as the saying goes and I'm so behind on my TBR list, I know I'm never going to get caught up...but a girls gotta' try, right?

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