Return (Coming Home, #1), by Meli Raine

returnBlurb: MY HEART WANTS A KIND OF JUSTICE THE LAW CAN’T GIVE.
On a dark, rainy night I drove my overstuffed junker car back to a town I never expected to see again.
And when I needed a rescue by the side of the road, a six-foot tall piece of hot, unfinished business named Mark was what the universe sent me.
Three years earlier I’d fled town (and Mark) to follow my wrongly-convicted father to his federal prison, working crappy jobs to stay afloat and visit him every second I could. But now Dad’s dead and I’m mysteriously offered the best job of my life at the college where his life blew up when he was accused of a crime he didn’t commit.
Someone wants me here. Desperately.
I’m hoping it’s Mark.
Because if it’s not, I’m in more danger than I ever imagined.
And if it is?
Mark may be the most dangerous choice of all.

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Favorite Quote: 

There’s a certain class of people in this world who take a deep joy in watching other people suffer. Sometimes they’re the same people who teach Sunday School, who volunteer to run school groups, and who are pillars of the community. Not all of them, of course. But all it takes is one.

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4 stars

This book is perma free.

This was a quick suspenseful read.  It had lots of sensual steaminess as well.  The plot was a bit hard to follow and I felt the characters could have been fleshed out a bit more but with it being such a short book I forgave that.

I was a little upset how the book ended with no real closure. I get that authors want to entice the reader to purchase the next book but I have a rule that if SOME of the plot isn’t resolved in the end then I won’t read the next one.  And that was the case with this one.

However, I had to know what happened in the subplot romance so I purchased the next one for JUST that purpose.  Call it cheating or whatever but the steamy scenes were well written and I needed closure!  LOL, I honestly don’t predict I will be reading anymore by this author because I was so disappointed with the ending but who knows..

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First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson #1) by Darynda Jones

FGOTRBlurb: A smashing, award-winning debut novel that introduces Charley Davidson: part-time private investigator and full-time Grim Reaper Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light”. But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e. murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice.
Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an Entity who has been following her all her life… and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely.

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3 stars

I listened to this audio book free through my Overdrive app.  This book was funny to me at first.  The MC was witty, sarcastic and clairvoyant.  I laughed quite a bit.  But, then her growth started to stagnate and her sarcasm started to get annoying.

The plot started out pretty easy to understand, which was good considering the story itself was meant to be a quick read.  About halfway through the book though, the author seemed to change her mind and added a bunch of stuff that I felt was unnecessary to the story.  I got a bit confused as to the whys of some of it, thereby losing interest even more.

I hated the ending because I didn’t get any kind of closure that I felt was needed.  The minor plot was tied up but the major one was left hanging.  When I went to see how long the series was, I realized I didn’t have the stamina or the patience to get any deeper into this series so I could find out what happens.  Which is a shame.

If you want a long series to savor, this is for you. If you are like me and crave near instant gratification, I’d pass.

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Revenge (Coming Home #2) by Meli Raine

revengeBlurb: MY HEART WANTS A KIND OF JUSTICE THE LAW CAN’T GIVE
Everything I know about my life is a lie. The more I dig into my father’s death the more I find myself in peril.
Mark turns out to be a liar, someone I thought I could trust. He’s not what he seems, and worst of all, a part of me can’t let go.
My boss might be an international drug lord disguised as a dean at one of the top five universities in the country.
Like anyone’s going to believe me if I try to out him?
But I can’t help myself. I should learn to keep my mouth shut.
Someone’s decided to do that for me.
Make me quiet once—
And for all.

 

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DNF

The previous book ended in a cliffhanger. And I had to know what happened between Mark and her so I purchased this book.  Well, I got to find out what happened between them pretty early on. Then my interest waned pretty quickly, mostly due to the sharp turns the mystery was taking.  And it started to get confusing so I ditched it.

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The Prince & The Player by Tia Louise

Blurb:
34305655Let the games begin…

Runaway Zelda Wilder will do whatever it takes to secure a better life for her and her sister Ava. Crown Prince Rowan Westringham Tate will do whatever it takes to preserve his small country.

“Playboy Prince” MacCallum Lockwood Tate will do whatever it takes to steal Zelda’s heart…

When Zee is blackmailed into humiliating the brooding future king, she never expects to be pulled into a web of international intrigue–or to fall for Rowan’s naughty younger brother Cal.

Cal is determined to capture the sexy player, but Zelda is in over her head with very dangerous men. Time is running out, and it may be too late for the prince to save this player.

Cinderella meets Ocean’s Eleven in this CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE featuring secrets, lies, royal high jinks, scams and double-crosses; breathless, swooning lust, cocky princes, dominant alpha future-kings, and crafty courtiers, who are not always what they seem.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — This one started a bit slower for me, I was enjoying it, but it wasn’t blowing me away.  It ended with a blast though!  It just sped right up and kind of overwhelmed me!  But strangely, even though it ends on a cliffhanger, I haven’t decided if I’ll continue.  Probably not.  While I thought the plot/action was very intriguing, I wasn’t completely sold on the romance and characters, which are kind of the things that most draw me into a story.

I had a few problems with the romance, and I think one of those problems stems from the fact that there are TWO love stories in this book, and that while it is dual POV, we get to read from the heroine of ONE COUPLE and the hero of the OTHER COUPLE.  Which is kind of cool and unique, but ultimately not satisfying for me.  Basically I didn’t really get to focus on either couple well enough, and since I didn’t get to see both sides of each love, I didn’t really buy into the emotions necessarily.  Obviously some romances are written in single POV, so you don’t need to see both sides to buy a love, but then the author really needs to show me what the other half is feeling through our POVs eyes, kwim?  Does that make sense?  And I really did not get a feel for what Cal or Ava were feeling…  Ava maybe a bit moreso, but honestly I felt like I didn’t really get much from that love story at all, it felt more pushed to the background.  So it kind of felt unnecessary.

And BOTH couples suffered from a lot of lust that didn’t transform into love for me at all.  I guess Ms. Louise was trying to go for insta-love or something, and I definitely felt the lust, but I have NO IDEA what drew them to each other (BOTH COUPLES) other than physical attraction.  I guess I don’t mind that quite as much if we get that development later in the relationship, like I’ll give it a pass.  But I NEVER really got a feel for what they were so infatuated with wrt their partner, besides the physical attraction.  I really needed more emotion.  Maybe it’s because the love story I felt I got more of was Zee and Cal, and he was just so blunt and dirty talking and kind of forceful, that I didn’t understand what made Zee different to him than the others.

And I guess that’s the other thing.  While I didn’t dislike any of the main characters, I also did not fall in love with any of them.  They were all ok, but maybe because the narrative was split between 4 main characters, I never really got a lot of development of any of them.  And I must say that they all acted a lot younger than their ages.  The girls felt like teenagers (particularly Ava, who is supposed to be 21), and the boys felt like college age.  *shrugs*  Which, some people really do behave that way at those ages, but I don’t understand why in their particular case.

And while I felt like Zee was a bit naive with Reggie, I did end up enjoying the suspense and action that the book ended with.  I was on the edge of my seat wanting to see how it was going to play out.

So yeah.  Not a bad book, just didn’t have enough of what *I* personally enjoy the most in my favourite books to keep me captivated.  Oh well, not every book is a match for every reader.

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See No Evil by Jordan Ford

Blurb:
32308922All Christiana wanted was a little flirty fun.
What she got was a one-way ticket to her own personal nightmare.

Her friend is dead…and she knows who did it. Now a key witness in a murder trial, she’s been hidden away in the one place no one will think to look for her: Eton Preparatory School for Boys.

It’s a stupid move. Insane. But she doesn’t have a choice.
Instead of completing her senior year with the popular crowd, she’s being forced to hide in a school with exactly zero XX chromosomes. Even worse, she’s somehow supposed to act like the Neanderthals walking the halls.

But then she meets the guys next door—the smoking-hot ones. And it doesn’t help that one in particular could unravel her in a heartbeat… and potentially blow her cover. How’s she supposed to resist Trey Calloway, the star hockey player who never backs down from a fight…and who never takes no for an answer?

She’s supposed to be focused on staying safe, not on the guy who’s getting under her skin. Her chilling past isn’t going to suddenly disappear.
In fact, it might just be catching up with her.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

OMG, this book had so many layers of goodness!!  I don’t read a lot of romantic suspense…which is kind of weird, b/c I actually really enjoy it.  I used to read the Harlequin line, but perhaps it’s that I’m kind of picky and really need to get sucked in to this genre, so I guess I don’t trust just anyone to give me what I want.  Well Ms. Ford has definitely succeeded for me.  It’s not the whole believability aspect…because I think in romantic suspense you often have to suspend some of your disbelief.  It’s more that I want to *want* to suspend my disbelief if that makes sense.  I want to read it like I’d watch a good action movie, and that’s what happened for me in this book.

When I first saw the teaser video for this book, and learned about its premise, all I could think about was the movie She’s the Man, and that made me excited (b/c I’m a fan).  But while it may have a similar setting, the set up for this story is ENTIRELY different, and so has a very different feel.  My heart was taken through the ringer at times with our characters.  They all have some heartbreaking backstories, and the struggle that Chris goes through over what is the right thing to do, and having the strength to stick it out and do that right thing is very well executed.  I will say that I was SUPER surprised with some of the twists to her side of the story!  I did not see them coming, but I felt like they really added.

I occasionally wish we saw a bit more from Trey and his backstory…I’m not sure why, but it kind of came out of left field for me (even though I think I saw it in character profile teasers), and I just…wanted something more for some reason.  I really loved Trey, but sometimes I felt like what we saw of him was mostly surrounding Chris and her storyline…but you know what?  That’s not even true.  So I have no idea why I feel this way.  Hmmm…  Anyways, Trey was an intriguing character for me, b/c he had some very real Alpha tendencies, but he was really sweet and caring and protective too.  I loved that he was drawn in by Chris, even when Chris was a “boy”.

I really enjoyed the chemistry between Trey and Chris, though I think I had a hard time getting into the romantic part at the beginning…I was totally sucked in by their friendship chemistry, but it was hard to feel the passion for that first kiss (at least for me).

I LOVED the whole dynamic of the Brotherhood.  I loved their friendship, and what they would do for each other.

I honestly had no idea how the other stories in this series were going to work, but then Ms. Ford just threw me for a freaking loop with that ending!!  I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING!  She went in a whole new direction from what my boring mind had predicted, and now I’m clamouring for more!!  I also find it interesting that I still have some questions about certain aspects of Chris and Trey’s story…so I’m curious to see if they come into play in the future.

So yeah, thoroughly enjoyed this one.  Occasionally I wanted a bit more romance, but that’s just because I’m a romance junkie and not because we didn’t get enough.  Sooooo looking forward to the next book and finding out what happens with Kade!!!

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Unthinkable by Nina Croft

Blurb:
31838433.jpgJake Callahan, leader of the Tribe, has always believed he’s one of the good guys. Now, hunted by the government he used to work for, he’s taking a crash course in being bad. What he desperately needs is a bargaining tool, and that’s unfortunate for Christa Winters, daughter of Jake’s former boss.

Christa is a scientist, a total geek, and a good girl with a secret hankering for bad boys. Which turns out to be embarrassingly inconvenient when she’s kidnapped by a stunningly gorgeous—but obviously bad-to-the-bone—man intent on using her against the father she loves. A man with a seemingly uncanny ability to know exactly when she’s thinking about kissing him—which is most of the time.

But people are dying, and it becomes clear that the stakes are much higher than Jake ever imagined. Someone is out to obliterate the Tribe and everyone associated with it, including Christa. Only by working together to uncover the secrets behind the past, can they ever hope to have a future.

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My Review:
4 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

You know, it’s actually been a while since I read a good paranormal romance/urban fantasy.  I don’t actually read a lot in this genre, but for me what makes this more urban fantasy in my head is the greater action sequences, and the sort of government/military aspect of the characters.  I don’t think that’s actually correct, but just shows where my head is at.  Regardless, those were the elements I really enjoyed about this book.  It had some great sassy characters, an intriguing paranormal aspect that looks to be setting up for a great new series (I can’t help but wonder if the next books will be about Christa and Jake, or other characters in the Tribe), and a good deal of suspense, mystery, and action.

I enjoyed being in both Christa and Jake’s heads…and I enjoyed watching Jake read Christa’s mind.  Christa was such a delight — innocent and sweet, but with a side of sassy and strong…and quite frankly her head was hilarious.  And Jake was the typical broody alpha-ish male who takes a lot on his shoulders, but is taken down by sweet little Christa.  They had great chemistry, and I thoroughly enjoyed the steamy scenes.

We had some fantastic secondary characters, especially in the Tribe members.  I can see this setting up to be a series where we get to see each Tribe members story, and I can’t wait.  There’s so many I’m curious about.

And the paranormal type aspect kept me engaged…I was definitely curious to find out what the mystery would be, and I received enough answers to leave me satisfied, but with enough still unanswered to make me want to come back for more.

Strangely enough I think I have a few Nina Croft books, but this might be the first I’ve actually read..no wait, I’ve read a short story by her in an anthology, and now that I vaguely recall, I wonder if it was about one of the Tribe.  I think I need to go reread it.  She’s very engaging, I will be looking forward to reading more of her in the future.

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The Darkest Link by Scarlett Cole

Blurb:
30111779When her car breaks down off the side of a lonely highway far from her sunny Miami home, tattoo artist Lia never expected her very own white knight to ride up on the back of a barely street-legal motorcycle…and she never expected to fall for her dark savior. After a string of failed relationships and a bruised heart, Lia is not looking for forever, and the hot mechanic, with his sexy scruff and shaggy hair, is simply impossible to resist and the perfect candidate for a mind-blowingly-perfect, no-strings-attached one night stand.

Reid left his life in Chicago far behind him and hasn’t been back, but he’s never been able to escape the guilt he feels about his own painful role in inviting a monster into his baby sister’s life. A monster who almost destroyed her. Being with Lia is an unexpected gift, one he doesn’t feel he deserves, and their one night together has him wanting more than he should. When he surprises her at her tattoo studio, Second Circle Tattoos, in Miami, he’s in for a shock – and a fist to the face – when his past and present collide.

With secrets coming to the surface, Reid and Lia are thrown into a world of betray and lies that threatens to pull them under, and the last link to his former life, may be the darkest of them all.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

This is going to be an unfortunately scattered review, b/c due to stuff happening in my personal life, this book just took me longer to read than I was expecting…so I was never really given the opportunity to get sucked in fully.  And sure, that could have been about the book itself, but I really think it was more a me thing.  I enjoyed what I read, I just wasn’t invested b/c I kept getting interrupted.

Even though I don’t subscribe to the same beauty standards as Lia, I adored all her 50s pinup girl goodness.  She rocked that look and all that went with it.  I really enjoyed the glimpses into her character, her childhood with her tyrannical father, and how it shaped her into who she became.  My heart broke for the child she was, and how her father’s verbal abuse kind of screwed her up.  It’s strange though, b/c I felt more of that for the first half of the book, and then the second half of the book I really didn’t see as much depth in Lia…but that could have been just me.  It’s like the book got caught up in the suspense part, and left the character growth part behind.

I must say that I’m not sure the twin dying in the womb thing really was necessary…it was mentioned once and didn’t really seem to affect her at all, so it seemed superfluous.  And I feel like she really didn’t need to have an older brother, otherwise I felt like he should have played some role.  No one ever talks to him, he doesn’t play into her memories at all, and I just kept wondering why he didn’t know what was going on and hadn’t also wanted to protect the mother.  In my opinion the story read as though she was an only child, so it just seems like the author should have expanded the story, or changed the details.

Reid was pretty cool too, but I felt the same lack of depth with him.  Why was he friends with Nathan?  Was Nathan different before?  We got some glimpses of his depth with his guilt over what happened with his sister, but for some reason I wanted more.  I guess I just can’t always pin down who he was.  But again, I’m having a hard time trusting my judgement b/c I couldn’t read it straight through.  Little things bothered me, like why would he go by Kenny?  Was he hiding?  And the moments when he called Harper Taylor didn’t feel authentic whoops times, b/c he would consistently call her Harper in his head.  I would assume he would mix it up in his head more.  Little nitpicky things basically.

For surface stuff this book was fabulous.  Great suspense story, even if I did guess who the culprit was.  Loved the chemistry and sexy times between Lia and Reid.  Loved the interactions with the other Second Circle series characters, even if I’ve only read the first book…  There’s great friend chemistry there, you know?  Makes me want to read the others, book 3 in particular.  I want to learn about Dred, Pixie and Petal.

So with all that nitpicking, I really did enjoy the book.  I just apparently get picky when I start writing reviews.  I was initially rounding up to 4 stars even, but reading that all over, maybe this is more of a round down to 3.  If you go into it looking more towards suspense and sexytimes, you won’t be disappointed.  It’s just that characters are my favourite part, and I wanted a bit more from them…

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Predator by Michelle Horst

PredatorBlurb: All my life I’ve been hiding, until there is no corner on this god-forsaken earth left for me to hide. I have to pay for the sins of my father. No one with Ellison blood in their veins is allowed to live, and I am the last of my bloodline.

I am kept in a container waiting for my death sentence to be carried out, when he comes. He is only known as ‘Predator’. No one knows who he works for, only that he leaves no one alive.

His every breath is filled with the last gasp of his dying prey.

But for some reason he doesn’t kill me.

I don’t know which is worse, the death sentence hanging over my head, or being at his mercy.

If you need a warning before reading a book, then this book is not for you.

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3 stars

Hmm, I don’t know about this cover. This was a pretty dark read, but I didn;t really believe it TBH.  I mean, the action was there but I found the emotion a bit lacking.  Which made me kinda roll me eyes at some of the parts that were supposed to come of and deep, intense and dark.

The beginning for example, it was way too fast, a bit more back story would have really helped me to connect with the character and form a bond.  But since I had no real connection with her I didn’t feel the empathy I needed to feel when the things started to happen to her.

And since I had no previous connection to the MC I didn’t believe the ‘Predator’s’ feelings. I think that was one of the major issues I had throughout this story.  None of the characters really called to me as a reader.  The story was a good one for sure.  I just didn’t get the feels for the MC’s.

And I found the ending to be a bit odd for me.  It would have had more impact without the graphic nature of their intimacy I think. The sex fell flat for me and sullied the power of the story for me.

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The Strongest Steel by Scarlett Cole

OK, super funny story.  I saw this as a recommended romance request on one of those NetGalley e-mails I usually ignore.  And it sounded really good, so I took a chance requesting it, even though I wasn’t sure what the publisher’s approval preferences were.  So I was pretty stoked when I was approved.  I saw the release date was only 2 days later, so I figured I should get going on it (because I feel inherently guilty when I don’t get them done in time because, you know, free book).  It was only after finishing the book today that I realized the release day was from *2015* not *2016*, so this was one of those older books on NetGalley that I’d stumbled upon.  I mean, still yay because, you know, free book…but now I feel a bit sillier for rushing.  Though the archive date is coming up, so there’s still that.  Anyways, this was just a random aside for people who like to watch me babble.  😛

Blurb:
25413371Harper Connelly never expected to find herself outside of a tattoo parlor at one in the morning, summoning the nerve to take back her past. She’s determined to forget her old life and is looking for an artist who can tattoo over the scars on her back.

Trent Andrews, local legend and owner of the Second Circle tattoo studio, has his own reasons for specializing in inking over scars. And in spite of her mysterious past and the difficult road ahead, he quickly realizes that Harper is funny, smart, and–under her ridiculously oversized clothing and SPF 100 sunscreen–totally hot. He’s happy to take on the challenge of designing a meaningful and deadly full-back tattoo for her.

But when cryptic messages start appearing on Harper’s phone, strange deliveries arrive at her door, and Second Circle is vandalized, Harper is convinced that her ex-boyfriend has tracked her down, and worse, that he knows about Trent. Running was the only thing that saved her last time, but now that she’s started to put down roots in Miami, she’ll have to decide if she can finally fight back instead.

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My Review:
4 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

Thoroughly enjoyable romantic suspense!!  It kind of felt like some of those Harlequins I used to read and adore.  I understand this is the author’s debut, and I thought it was solid and engaging.  I actually thought it had an extremely strong beginning — I was sucked in and really liked the style of writing.  It wasn’t too descriptive (which I’m not fond of), but managed to balance out with enough to really give me a feel of the environment, the characters, the feelings, and all that good stuff.

It was actually setting up to be a 4.5 or 5 star read, but it fizzled out a bit more towards the end for me.  I’m still trying to figure out why, but I think I was less impressed with the relationship drama…not that there was a lot of that, it just felt a little cliched with the lack of communication and stuff.  I also kind of wanted more resolution with the Nathan storyline, but perhaps that will be hinted at in later books?  I’m definitely putting them on my wishlist.

I loved watching Harper open up and flower into the person she was meant to be — to watch her heal.  At the beginning I thought the pacing was perfect and realistic and believable….a bit later it felt a bit more rushed, but honestly, what do I know about what’s realistic in that situation?  So all in all I thought the little steps she took to reclaim her life, starting with the tattoo were perfect and rewarding and made me cheer for her.

In a similar vein, I loved how Trent was with Harper…how he tried to use humour to make her feel at ease and, quite frankly, he charmed the pants right off of me.  He was a perfect balance of sensitive, empathetic, sassy (or whatever the male equivalent of that is), and he pushed her boundaries to get her to step it up a bit at a time.  I was a bit less impressed with some of his choices and words later in the book, but that might be just me.

I will say that I was *not* impressed with Trent’s insistence that Harper needed a tan.  Both for him being so superficial to think that.  And because I have personal experience with skin cancer and truly believe there’s nothing wrong with wanting to protect yourself from it.  Mini rant over.

On a totally different aside, LOVED the tattooing aspect of the story.  As someone who is intrigued by the world of tattooing, and loves the ones I have, I loved the perspective on tattoo artists, why they do it, what they might love about it, all that stuff.

Solid cast of secondary characters.  I’m actually more interested in Pixie and Lia’s books (which are books 3 and 4) than I am with Cujo and Drea’s.  I love Cujo, but I didn’t really love the two of them together from what we could see in this book.  It’s a personal taste thing.  So we’ll see if I can score that book on sale at some point, so I can still get the full Second Circle experience.

All in all a fantastic romantic suspense.  Definitely put more books from this author on my wishlist for the future.

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Wine and Whiskey by Nikki Belaire

wine and whiskeyBlurb: No longer controlled by her mother, manager, or former fiancé, pop star Shae Armstrong steps out on her own and into the path of Nick DeMarco, a wealthy investor with alleged ties to organized crime and real childhood scars to overcome. She wants to take it slow. He needs her now, in his life and in his bed.

Nick’s enemies threaten her career, her friendships, even her sanity, but not Shae’s heart – the one thing Nick holds precious. He proves his love is real, and she stops running. Until everything around them falls apart, including him. He swore he would never hurt her. Instead, he almost destroys them both.

Shae makes a dangerous choice, sacrificing her happiness for his, just like he always does for her. Now that she’s found her own voice, can Shae survive the challenges of living in Nick’s world?

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DNF’d at 40%

I couldn’t wrap my head around her wishy washiness.  She kept changing her mind when it came to being in a relationship with him.  It was like riding a merry go round for too long.  I got tired of it.

And she allowed her friends to dictate what she should do.  She didn’t trust herself with her feelings.  It just took too long to get where it was supposed to be.  Her character didn’t grow, like, at all.  I would have thought by the middle of the book she would have picked a lane already.

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