Saturday, March 25, 2017

House Rules by Chloe Neill (audiobook)


Title:  House Rules
Author: Chloe Neill
My Rating: A-
Narrator: Sophie Eastlake

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Chicagoland Vampires #7
Main Characters: Merit and Ethan
Release Date: March 2013 (audiobook)
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
In a city full of vampires, trouble never sleeps.

At the tender age of twenty-seven, Merit became a sword-wielding vampire. Since then, she’s become the protector of her House, watched Chicago nearly burn to the ground, and seen her Master fall and rise. Now she’ll see her mettle—and her metal—tested like never before.

It started with two . . . Two rogues vanishing without a trace. Someone is targeting Chicago’s vampires, and anyone could be next. With their house in peril, Merit and her Master, the centuries-old Ethan Sullivan, must race to stop the disappearances. But as they untangle a web of secret alliances and ancient evils, they realize their foe is more familiar, and more powerful, than they could have ever imagined.
My Review:
Overall: 4.25
Performance: 4.5
Story: 4.0

It's been a couple of years since I read one of the Chicagoland Vampire books, although it is easily one of my favorite urban fantasy series. I decided recently to pick up again via audiobook...and I'm so glad I did. I've missed Merit. 

In this book, Cadigan House is on the cusp of the ceremony breaking all their ties with the GP, so nerves are very high. Add to that, there appears to be a vampire serial killer on the loose and Merit still hasn't come clean with Ethan that she's joining the Red Guard. There's a whole lot of stress on Merit...and Ethan. 

But with all that going on, I really like where Merit and Ethan are. There's no doubts between them anymore (for the most part) and they are a united front in trying to do what's best for Cadigan House and the vampires in general. It feels like Merit finally has earned the respect she deserves...not only from Ethan, but from the majority of the vampires. Yes, she's still young, but she's strong and willing to do what she needs to that gets the job done. They recognize that in her now...and this series is even better for it. 

I also really like where the series is going overall. The separation from the GP for Cadigan House is not going to be easy, but I foresee that creating some great drama in the future. It will be interesting to see what happens with the other two houses in Chicago. 

Overall, I just really enjoy this series. This book was action packed and riveting. I listened to it in just two days because I didn't want to step away from the story.

And the best part now...since I took a break, I can devour several books in the series back to back.

Friday, March 24, 2017

F*ck Club: Con by Shiloh Walker

Title: F*ck Club: Con
Author: Shiloh Walker
My Rating: B+

Genre: Erotic Romance 
Series: (F*ck Club #2)
Main Characters: Con and Shawntell
Release Date: March 2017
Publisher:  Shiloh Walker
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: erotic

Story Overview:
Rule #2…Respect the ladies.

Conner Steele has nothing but respect for ladies. He absolutely adores them and takes more than a little bit of pride in his job—or rather, his former job.

After a run-in with a cop, former male escort Con, along with his brother Riley and best friend Shame, decided it might just be best to hang up their…hats and retire from the business of being paid to pleasure.

After all, they have a profitable business going with their new pub. No reason to ruin a good thing and Con is more than happy to keep pleasing the ladies—just…no longer as a job. Finding a date or company for the night has never been an issue for him, either. He’s been told more than once that he can charm a tiger out of its stripes. But lately a new hire at the bar is turning the tables on him—she is the one charming him, twisting him up into knots and getting him so worked up, he can barely see straight.

In his rather expert opinion, Shawntelle Callahan is nothing less than a queen.

And she’s a queen on a mission, too. Even as tangled up as he is over her, he can see that. First she tries to coax him out of retirement for one last engagement. When that doesn’t work, she sets out to drive him crazy. After finally admitting that she’s a writer who’s looking to do a story on male escorts, Con realizes it will be best to just stay away from Shawntelle. Sure, she says she’s just looking for some hands-on information but he knows there’s more to it than that. There are secrets in her eyes, barely hidden lies and doubt.

My Review:
The premise of this story...male prostitutes...seriously, I think that's so hot. But as of now, these three guys are retired, although no one has forgotten just what they were doing before. They had to stop after it became too well-known and they were in danger of getting in real trouble. 

But that hasn't stopped others from coming into the bar trying to get the guys to incriminate themselves. So when they're new bartender, Shawntelle, starts asking questions, Con is on the defensive...something that is made so much more difficult by the fact that he desperately wants her. 

This book is told entirely from Con's point of view, so the reader is just as in the dark about what Shawntelle is up to as Con is...and she most definitely is up to something. 

I am enjoying this series, but gah...I wish they were longer. They just don't go deep enough for me. Shiloh Walker is such an amazing writer and she makes these work, but I always finish one wishing it had gone just into a little bit more emotionally which has kept the ratings a tiny bit lower for me. I get that they're erotic romance and the sex is hot and sexy. She fulfills that promise really well. But these boys have some deep wounds from what they've been doing. Even Con who is fairly blase about it all has moments where the word whore comes up and he's not exactly bragging. 

But I'm expecting huge things from Shame's book. He and Charli have played out in the background of both the other two books and their story promises to be incredible. I can't wait. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Imperfection of Swans by Brandon Witt

Title:  The Imperfection of Swans
Author: Brandon Witt
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: -
Main Characters: Kevin and Casper
Release Date: January 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
Kevin Bivanti’s dream is to open a wedding dress shop, a place with the stunning gowns to make every bride-to-be feel adored. At thirty-eight, he quits a successful advertising career to buy an old brownstone in a trendy Boston neighborhood and to make his dream a reality. When one of his cosigners drops out, fate intervenes, ushering in Casper James, who hopes to open his own bakery. With Casper willing to take the risk, their ambitions meld into a wedding dress and wedding cake boutique.

Extensive renovations to the brownstone, an affair with his ex-husband, family drama with his mothers, and the anxiety of significant life changes push Kevin to the brink of a nervous breakdown. In the midst of stress and uncertainty, Casper becomes more than a business partner, a mutual attraction that adds another layer of intensity and risk.

With their dreams on the verge of reality, Kevin and Casper must find the courage to face the stress of managing their attraction, the gamble of a new business venture, and the resurgence of Kevin’s personal demons.



My Review:
This book was one of those books. I started listening to it on audio on a late Sunday night....and stayed up way too late continuing to listen to it. The next day was Monday and began in just that way...so I decided to curl up with the print book and finish reading  the book while I ignored the rest of the world happening around me. 

It provided a great escape. 

This book is truly Kevin's story. The prologue starts when he's a child, showing his anxiety and eating disorder and then jumps ahead to when he's 40...still battling the same things. But the difference is...when he's 40, he's in an even harder place. He's about to abandon the career he's done for the last almost 20 years to pursue his dream of opening a bridal gown shop. But it's a dream that could cost him and all his family everything as they are all risking everything for him. 

Casper ends up coming into this venture midway...and becomes a partner, too. The two main characters stay just friends and partners in the business for a lot of the story. The difference is...Casper sees the issues Kevin is going through, and he's the only person who can see how truly serious it's becoming, too. I loved Casper for that and for his courage to face Kevin's issues. That seriously couldn't have been easy. 

Their relationship is a slow build and then it's all intertwined with what they're trying to build with the shop...so it's really so much more complicated than just trying to navigate a new romance. 

This book delves into some really serious issues, and I felt like the author did a PHENOMENAL job tackling the intricacies of the issues. The book was so, so good. Like I said, it provided me with a much needed escape and captured my attention from page one. This is my first Brandon Witt read, but it definitely won't be my last. This book came highly recommended and I definitely agree with that recommendation.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

If Not For You by Debbie Macomber

Title: If Not For You
Author: Debbie Macomber
My Rating: B

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: New Beginnings #3
Main Characters: Beth and Sam
Release Date: March 2017
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: mild

Story Overview:
An emotionally stirring novel that shows how obstacles can be overcome, differences can be strengths, and sometimes a choice can seem wrong even though it s absolutely right

If not for her loving but controlling parents, Beth Prudhomme might never have taken charge of her life and moved from her native Chicago to Portland, Oregon, where she s reconnected with her spirited Aunt Sunshine and found a job as a high school music teacher. If not for her friend Nichole, Beth would never have met Sam Carney, although first impressions have left Beth with serious doubts. Sam is everything Beth is not and her parents worst nightmare: a tattooed auto mechanic who s rough around the edges. Reserved and smart as a whip, Beth isn t exactly Sam s usual beer-drinking, pool-playing type of woman, either. 

But if not for an awkward setup one evening, Beth might never have left early and been involved in a car crash. And if not for Sam who witnessed the terrifying ordeal, rushed to her aid, and stayed with her until help arrived Beth might have been all alone, or worse. Yet as events play out, Sam feels compelled to check on Beth almost daily at the hospital even bringing his guitar to play songs to lift her spirits. Soon their unlikely friendship evolves into an intense attraction that surprises them both. 

Before long, Beth's strong-willed mother, Ellie, blows into town spouting harsh opinions, especially about Sam, and reopening old wounds with Sunshine. When shocking secrets from Sam s past are revealed, Beth struggles to reconcile her feelings. But when Beth goes a step too far, she risks losing the man and the life she s come to love. 
My Review:
When I first began this book I wasn't sure I would be able to make it through it. Beth has a serious issue in that she's a complete pushover. Letting her mother control everything about her life until the age of 25...I just can't fathom that and even hearing about it after the fact drove me nuts. 

But while this book does touch on that dysfunctional relationship a lot, the focus for me was Beth and Sam. I love that they meet on a blind date and both agree at first meeting that there is no way they are a match. But when Beth is in a car wreck on the way home...that Sam witnesses...it connects them in a much different, deeper way. I loved that little twist and the fact that they aren't people who would normally connect. 

Because of the nature of how they connect, their relationship is a really slow build. I loved that especially since it meant Sam wasn't scared away...until he was already in too deep. I also really loved although their backgrounds and styles are completely different, they connect over music. I loved the visuals of their jam sessions in the rehab clinic. 

I also really loved the addition of Beth's aunt, Sunshine. She adds so much depth and dimension to the story. I also really love the side story that featured her. In fact, eventually I came to love all the story that featured Beth's family...especially at the end. 

The story started out really strong...with the car accident. But it lost a bit of momentum in the middle that it gained again toward the end. Overall, though, it was a good story. I enjoyed reading it. 
I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Heartbeat Hypothesis by Lindsey Frydman

Title: The Heartbeat Hypothesis
Author: Lindsey Frydman
My Rating: A

Genre: New Adult Romance
Series
Main Characters: Audra and Jake
Release Date: March 2017
Publisher:  Entangled Publishing
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
Audra Madison simply wanted to walk in the shoes of Emily Cavanaugh, a free-spirited teenager who died too young. After all, Audra wasn’t supposed to be here.

Thanks to Emily, Audra has a second chance at life. She’s doing all the things that seemed impossible just two years ago: Go to college. Date. Stargaze in the Rocky Mountains. Maybe get a tattoo. You know, live.

Jake Cavanaugh, a photographer with mysterious, brooding gray eyes, agrees to help chronicle her newfound experiences. She makes him laugh, one of the only people who can these days. As they delve into each other’s pasts – and secrets – the closer they become.

But she’s guarded and feels like she can’t trust anyone, including herself. 

And he’s struggling with the fact that his beloved sister’s heart beats inside her. 
My Review:
Seriously? How can this possibly be a debut novel for this author? This book was BRILLIANT! OMG, there is so much depth and thought to this story. It completely and totally blew me away. In fact, I'm buying a print copy of the book because I want to re-read and just pull out the plethora of incredible quotes that are in this book. Plus did you see that cover? So gorgeous!

So...enough gushing. Let's talk about this story. The premise is incredible. If you haven't done so...read that story description and let me guarantee you...it lives up to the promise of that storyline. There's a ton of emotion to this story, but you'd expect that from the premise, but the author took it even deeper. She did an amazing job with this one.

This book is all about life and death and living to our full potential with the moments we have...because you never know when they're going to end. There is a lot more than just Audra's physical condition. There are so many other stories happening alongside her condition with Emily's heart and Emily's brother, Jake. I loved it all so, so much. 

And that's before we get to Audra and Jake, both of whom have really difficult emotional scars from what they've been through. Jake, especially, is really closed off...but it's a long time into the story before all the details of that are all revealed. I had ideas of what was coming, but I didn't expect the depth of just what all the details are. It was really fabulous. But when they're together, it's magical. I loved the scenes where they were recreating Emily's done-it list. But the scenes at the piano were breathtaking too. So many scenes in this book that just took my breath away. It really was a beautiful, deep book that I can't wait to read it again.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this one. If that storyline appeals to you at all, you're going to like it. The author has such an incredible voice. I loved every minute of reading this one. Go...buy it right now. You don't want to miss this one!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Floodgates by Mary Calmes (audiobook)

Title:  Floodgates
Author: Mary Calmes
My Rating: B+
Narrator: Michael Anthony

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: -
Main Characters: Tracy and Cord
Release Date: November 2014 (audiobook)
Publisher: Dreamspinners
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: spicy


Story Overview:
Length: 7 hrs and 53 mins 

Tracy Brandt considers himself a lucky man. He has a wonderful family, good friends, and a dependable job. His love life, however, features a cheating ex who, though out of the house, is not yet out of the picture - with a past that just might get Tracy killed.

Homicide inspector Cord Nolan wants nothing more than to show his best friend's little brother that he's a reliable man, but to do that he'll have to get Tracy to look past the player he used to be. It'll be a tough sell; reputation is everything, and Cord's is tarnished by his past indiscretions.

Tracy and Cord have spent five years trying to suffocate their fiery attraction under a blanket of grudging antagonism. When Tracy finds himself with a target on his back, Cord finally has the chance to ride to the rescue and break through the dam of Tracy's reserve. But he'd better be careful: if Cord is breaking the floodgates to wash away the past, he's going to have to hold tight to Tracy to make sure they're still standing when the tumult recedes.

My Quickie Review:
Overall: 4.0
Performance: 4.25
Story: 3.75

Aww, I loved this book. There were a lot of things about this story that I loved...Cord was an awesome hero. I loved how the author showed his want through subtle things. I loved that show of vulnerability about him. 

Then there was Tracy's family...I loved them all so much. When he moves back home for his safety? Some of the best scenes in this book. 

Full disclosure...while I know that I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook...I listened to it all within a matter of two days, I put off writing the review for a few days. And now I'm having a difficult time remembering details. The story didn't stick with me. So, yes it was enjoyable at the time, but it wasn't one of those stories that stuck with me because it touched me deeply. It was fun, entertaining, and in a few months, I'll be able to listen to it again and it will be like a brand new audiobook. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Difference Between by Blake Moreno

Title: The Difference Between
Author: Blake Moreno
My Rating: A

Genre: Erotic Romance (m/m)
Series: -
Main Characters: Wade and Russ
Release Date: January 2017
Publisher:  Dark Ink
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: erotic

Story Overview:
Wade Maguire and Russ Paulson are in love. After a year of passion and happiness, they’re buying a home and moving in together. Everything is rosy for them—until a jealous and insane ex from Wade’s past puts all of that to the test. 

After being kidnapped and tortured by his deranged former lover, Wade loses his ability to engage with his own sexuality or with Russ. With the help of a psychologist, EMDR therapy, and a sex plan, they work together to overcome the damage inflicted. In the process, they discover wells of love they’ve never known before. 

As passion is reborn and their sex life reignited, Wade realizes a need to re-experience certain events in Russ’s loving arms. For Wade, the difference between pain and pleasure is love, and the difference between rape and rough sex is consent.

Dark, and yet ultimately hopeful, this book contains many emotional and graphic sex scenes, as well as some scenes of torture. This book deals with rape and rape recovery. Proceed with care.

Stand-alone with a happy ending. 78,000 words.
My Review:
Warning...before going into this book, be sure you read the story description very carefully. This is a dark, dark book that goes into vivid detail about some hard subjects. It's NOT for the faint of heart. BUT if you can get through those first few chapters, it's an incredible story about resilience and love that I absolutely adored reading. 

And dang, now I have no idea what else to write because I don't want to post any spoilers. Seriously, the author did an amazing job with her story description. Read that. Know that this is a difficult book, but I found the love story to be incredible. Both Russ and Wade are amazingly strong characters. Nothing about what they go through is easy and would break lesser men. I loved reading this story and honestly think it will make it onto my reread list because it's one of those stories that brought me to tears and moved me... a lot.

And you know what...I'm going to leave this review at that.