Forbidden by Haru Ichiban

Summary

A promise of unbound carnal delights. That’s what her sultry, proud classmate Lei is to Sween. However, only known to her, much more than just lust binds her to this man.

Despite competing against a love rival which holds the upper hand, her carefree college days are full of laughter, but they hide a sinister reality: if Sween succeded in making his heart hers, being branded a criminal and relentlessly chased down by angels would only be the beginning of her problems. However, if only Lei loved her back, she would not mind breaking every law for him. No matter the consequences. Even if it meant living a forbidden love with a dubious future as she defied everyone and everything in Heaven… and everything she once stood for.

Forbidden is the first book in a long saga of romance full of sweetness and erotism, plots with substance, smart heroines, manly and sensitive heroes, morally ambiguous main characters, a mysterious supernatural world, detectives and lots of humor.

Amazon

Characters

This book is written like steaming consciousnesses every thought is on page. I could not for the life of me like Sween for most of the book. I found her over the top, obsessive, and obnoxious. I actually thought she was a very ugly person. Although later on I felt there was a clear issues with the contradiction/dichotomy between the virgin and the whore—a concept that could have been really powerful. Lei was a little easier to like because you understood he was ‘controlled’ by a demon. So his behavior, although ridiculous and cruel at times, was easier to swallow. I cannot say I liked Sween by the end of the book but I no longer disliked her as much either. There are a few supporting characters but they mostly seem to come and go.

Plot

Sween wants Lei. Wants to kill the demon controlling him and be with him. That much was easy to see. Think high school angst with mature content and a paranormal flare (interesting take on angels and demons). It felt like reading an over the top anime or manga. Sween and Lei are attending police academy and there were some very interesting facts there—almost felt out of place with the story at times, but well done there.

Overall

This book needs an editor—badly (just look at the two spelling errors in the summary above taken directly from Amazon). I rarely post this unless it is painfully apparent or detracts from the story and in this case it does. The first 20% of the book could be significantly reduced because I felt like I was stuck in a unexplained and unclear loop. Same information, actions, and no furtherance of a story. That being said—I noticed a significant shift after a scene were Lei drives her and a group (about 20% of the way in). It was the first crystal clear scene that actually sucked me in—like those bloody Buggypop were a hoot. Some of the nonsense was great and some of it was just…well nonsense. The sexy parts were decent but I had a hard time just because it felt like a fantasy (as in so far outside reality) so I ended up laughing instead.

The biggest redeeming factor for me was I could feel how much the author loves to write. I have a distinct feeling the author sees each character clearly in their mind and each scene is no doubt like a movie. There in lies an issue—the author assumes you can see what they can see. Which we, of course, cannot. It leaves a lot of context and description out. And just like that driving scene, there were some amazing concepts and ideas that really showed potential!

Rating

2 stars

Great concepts, specially on the paranormal side, so others may enjoy it but it was too unpolished for me.

Where did I get a copy?

Author provided me a copy. This review is voluntary.

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Three Incidents at Foster Manor by P.T. Phronk

Summary

An old mansion. An apocalyptic storm. Whispering voices in the air. She was right to fear the worst-case scenario.

Amy Burnett has been buried in her work as a security expert. She likes it that way—her dark past can’t invade her thoughts as long as she stays holed up in her office. So why the heck has she ended up at a gothic mansion’s doorstep in the middle of the night?

It’s because Craig Foster summoned her there. Amy’s company built the sealed chamber in his basement, for any worrisome worst-case scenario, but now the safe room has presented a scenario of its own: Craig’s daughter is trapped inside.

It should be a quick fix. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen when a stranger arrives at a remote mansion on a stormy night? An impossible mystery? A haunting? A visit from the lurking strangers in the woods? Surely not all three—that would require extraordinarily bad luck.

Unfortunately, Amy’s been short on luck lately.

Amazon

Characters

Amy is the primary character but there are a litany of supporting characters. She is an interesting character, with a lot of baggage. Despite some of her characters flaws, I quite liked her. Other characters include Caleb the needy teenager, Ash the jerk, Craig the weak-willed father, Marcus the likable dad, Jasmine the plucky one, and Trista the girl locked in the room. Each has a role to play and by saying much more I may be ruining it.

Plot

It reminded me of reading horror  genre clue. A very interesting who-dunnit where it isn’t just about who…but also about the bigger mystery and the bad dudes that show up. It will keep you on your toes with constant tension. Amy is the only one you can trust so everyone else is suspect—leading to great scenes. I did figure out both aspects but it took quite a while and I wasn’t 100% spot on—there are a bit of a twist on each. This book never lets up—in a good way.

Overall

A very easy and enjoyable read. I read this in two sittings and stayed up late to finish it. Because I just had to know if I was right and turning the pages was easy. I felt I could easily have read it on the weekend in one sitting. The writing and imagery created such vivid scenes, many of which had me gripping my phone from the suspense! A real page turner!

My only compliant was—I didn’t catch onto the whole ‘rain is dangerous because this is in the future when the environment is going to heck in a hand-basket.’ So I could not understand why people didn’t just leave. It wasn’t until much later that some very subtle hints finally made sense. Some more world-building throughout would have fixed this but it wasn’t enjoy to ruin my enjoyment of the book.

Rating

4.5 (rounded up)

A great mystery suspense for an airplane ride or a quite night in. You’ll easily read this in one sitting and feel satisfied by the end of it. Be ready for one crazy ride!

Where did I get a copy?

From the author. This review is voluntary.

Flames to the Beast (Beast #1) by M.A. Levi

Summary

After the dismal slums of the city Fortaleza was aglow with the orange flickers of the tavern fire and Leonardo’s howls of death were no longer heard, Eli Santos became overridden with failure and guilt. Distraught over the death of his rouge brother-in-law, there in the darkness a figure emerged. An ally turned foe, commanding leader of the Holy army in the Order of St. Michael- Keller glorified in murdering one of Eli’s own kin after he exposed him as a werewolf. With fur as black as the night, Eli remained unseen in the shadows as he listened to Keller make a vow so vile, he dared to enact the words of an ancient and feared prophecy of his people: Flames to the Beast.

In the first installment of the Beast Trilogy, escape with Eli and Roslyn Santos from the clutches of a Half-born and his corrupted army on this fast paced journey to Michigan to gather their strongest ally, George ‘Quicksilver’ Crownwelm, and take it upon themselves to start a legacy as a means to protect themselves and ensure the existence of their werewolf brethren known in the second prophecy as Beast Bloods.

Amazon

Characters

There are three main characters in this book—Roslyn, Eli, and Keller. Keller is Roslyn’s childhood friend who decided being in the friendzone was not an option. Roslyn and Eli are soulmates. For some reason it took most of the book for me to like Eli and Roslyn. They felt a little flat at first, but they for sure grow on you by the end of the book. Keller on the other hand was vividly written. Although deranged and manipulated by an inner demon, he was a complexly written character. One of the worst aspects of this book was the head hoping—it is all over the place. One moment you are in one character’s mind and then another. It is all over the place and difficult to keep straight, especially when characters seemed to know things they shouldn’t.

Plot

It feels like a pre-story—a legend being born. A demon manipulates a man’s desire to love and be loved, and sets the wheels in motion. Set on Earth in the not too distant past (late 1800s), it gives a paranormal twist. There were a lot of paranormal differences—vampires are referenced but demons are there more often. The central paranormal creature is werewolves – or blood beasts. The twist? They are warriors of God. This is where the book takes a more biblical/dark Fantasy turn. Thankfully it isn’t overbearing and was excellently executed.

Overall

The book is for sure for adults. There is cursing and a lot of gore. The writing is a combination of vivid imagery and clumsy phrasing. Plus the setting are very descriptive and there are lots of senses engaged—creating an in-depth feeling to the world.

The intro was basically written to download the reader but is off-putting and overwhelming instead. It was meant to give backstory to the characters but is instead chock full of information dumping. Plus Leonardo is not a likable character. However, the story and action picks up pace immediately.

Rating

3.5 stars (rounded down)

Overall an unpolished gem with lots of potential and interesting concepts and themes. A mixture of paranormal and historical with religious undertones.

Where did I get a copy?

The author provided me a copy. This is a voluntary review.

2018 in Review – Best Reads

2018 Reading Stats

Goal for 2018: 50

Number of books read: 54

Number of books reviewed: 54

Best Books of 2018:

1st place goes to:

The Wake Up

Panayotopulos, Angela – The Wake Up (Dystopian) (Review)(Amazon)

Here is why: This book will rock your world. It is subtle in its complexities. Its characters are woah. Lexi is one of those characters you love, then hate, then love again and by the time it is all done…you’ll miss her. If you love Dystopian novels then you’ll love this vividly written novel with its curve balls and jump off the page feel. Those who loved novels like The Handmaidens Tale and Hunger Games, must read this book!

2nd place goes to:

Reader (Affinity Series, #2)

Lenore, J.S. – Reader (Affinity Series, #2) (Supernatural) (Review)(Amazon)

Here is why: Did I mention I love The Dresden series? Once more Dresden’s spunky love child came back with a slower burn. Reader wasn’t as much of a page turning, it really slowed down from book 1, but it packs a punch! This is a cold case and that sort of matches the quiet subdued force of this book. Picking book 2 up was like saying hello to an old friend as you get to hear the story of the fallout of book 1 and all sorts of new craziness. With more doors open, I look forward to the next book in the series!

3rd place goes to:

Lady of Justice (Justice #1)

Scriptora, Cyana – Lady of Justice (Book 1) (Young Adult) (Review) (Amazon)

Here is why: This is an author to keep an eye on. She has an amazing style that will only improve as she continues to write. Was this polished and perfect? No, but the fact that it wasn’t and left such a lasting impression to win out of 50+ books tells you that you should be reading this book. If you enjoy YA (romance/fantasy) then you should pick this book up…today!

 

Best Crime (Mystery/Suspense):

Whiskey Kills (A Top Shelf Mystery)

Powell, Lolli – Whiskey Kills (Mystery) (Review)(Amazon)

This novel will make you laugh and leave you gut wrenched. Although not the first book in the series it was penned in such a way you can just pick this one up. A complex mystery that felt like you were walking next the character as they lived through it.

Best Fantasy:

The Mosaic

Keaton, Chris & Taubold, Rick – Mosaic (Urban Fantasy) (Review)(Amazon)

This book is so vivid, I can still recall nearly the entire book almost a year later. Although it follows younger characters, they are mixed in with adult characters, for a nice rounded feeling.

Best Dystopian:

The Wake Up

Panayotopulos, Angela – The Wake Up (Dystopian) (Review)(Amazon)

This book deserves to be here because it is AMAZING! Demons and angels are within us all, we are made up of choices, so choose to read this book!

Best Romance:

Beautiful Potential

Saman, J. – Beautiful Potential (Romance) (Review) (Amazon)

My heart was bleeding in this book! It was very, very good! Plus it is a medical field romance, and I don’t get to read those much. Very refreshing!

Best Paranormal/Supernatural:

Reader (Affinity Series, #2)

Lenore, J.S. – Burner (Supernatural) (Review)(Amazon)

Loved all the twists and turns of the mystery but the supernatural aspects of this novels really made it one of the best!

Best Short Story:

Eating Crow

Buffington, J.D. – Eating Crow (Short Story Horror) (Review) (Amazon)

This is one of those books that when you get to the end you are like…’wait there isn’t more?’ Great horror read to make your hair stand on end, plus a great twist. Totally check this out!

Best Urban (anything):

Ugly Things We Hide

McIvor, M. Ocampo – Ugly Things We Hide (Fiction) (Review)(Amazon)

Woah! This memoir like story is deep. Sometimes the journey matters more than the destination. And sometimes it is the destination.

Best Young Adult:

Lady of Justice (Justice #1)

Scriptora, Cyana – Lady of Justice (Book 1) (Young Adult) (Review) (Amazon)

Book 1 is a page turner. If you like romance and fantasy YA novels, you better start reading!

 

If you loved these make sure you check the Best Books of 2016 and Best Books of 2017!

Unsung Hero of 2017:

These two book are dark, dark, dark!!

Loved By A Killer (A Sexy Paranormal Thriller, #1)Loved By The First (Book 2)

I have to put a huge disclaimer that these are not for the faint of heart. They are as bloody and violent as their series title suggests. If you like bloody, dark vampire romances, yeah, you’ll love these. Plus the author gets better by leaps and bounds between the two books.

No Songs are Sung (A Mercenary of Palladia #1) by Justin Bohardt

Summary

What Profit is There in Saving the World?

A professional hired soldier who bears the scars and cynicism of his trade, Geraghty Milliner has love for few things in the world: a bottle to numb the pain, a lady to make him feel alive, and the gold that can buy both.

After his most recent business venture lands him in prison, Geragthy sees potential profit in helping a lord’s wayward mistress named Chiara escape from her cell. Once sprung from jail by his partner-in-crime Vrodath, they escort Chiara to the sprawling city of Aethene to collect a reward large enough to keep them in riches for a lifetime.

However, when beasts from a forgotten realm, demonic creations of overthrown gods, are sent pouring forth from a tear in the fabric of reality, the length of a lifetime threatens to grow perilously short, and Geraghty plans to do the only sensible thing available: get the hell out of there. Not immune to making some gold even amidst an apocalypse, he agrees to escort Chiara, her noble lover, and Princess Emilia, seventh in line to the throne of Palladia and a powerful wielder of magic, out of the city even as they are hounded by every beast freed from perdition.

What Geraghty does not know is that an ancient enemy of the free peoples of Geoserra, one thought defeated millennia ago, has reawakened, and it is Princess Emilia alone who can assure its destruction. Geraghty will need to make the choice between saving himself and saving the world, and the right choice seems obvious. What profit is there in saving the world?

Amazon

Characters

Geraghty is nothing if not consistent. He has a noble…kinda noble…somewhat noble streak. He is in a word—bad*ss. A mercenary who loves money, loose but fiery women, and strong alcohol. He is a mans…man? Lots of races in the book—most of which reminded me more of animals. With supporting characters like Vrodoath his equally interesting partner and Chiara a kept woman that is more then meets the eye. Rounding out the secondary support is Emilia, a very strong princess and mage. A great cast of characters—it is one of the biggest strengths of the book. The biggest issues I have, besides the ‘strong’ women being objectified, is the constant head hopping. There is no rhyme or reason, it just jumps around from person to person, even in the middle of chapters, which causes a lot of confusion at time. Thankfully most of the book follows Geraghty, but when it does switch points of view, it is often jarring and confusing, so be warned.

Plot

The world is ending. A big baddie thought long dead has returned. A hero…mercenary…on a quest to stop it. Nothing new about this kind of story, but the author weaves together an interesting tale that causes the characters to sling shot around. The real piece that sets it apart is Geraghty. Mini missions and mischief abound. This has an excellent, vivid kingdom based world with a medieval/feudal feel to it. Downside, you have to survive the first few chapters of info dumping, while the author buries you under an avalanche of information. Yes, it gets better but it continues. Also yes, it is worth getting through to enjoy the rest of the story. There were a lot of interesting themes throughout as well that feed into a bigger plot.

Overall

Lots of action—almost non-stop—this book is gritty. There is also some humor, most of which hit its mark. It doesn’t play safe so don’t get too attached to any characters…you’ll never know which one will just up and die unexpectedly. Halfway through was a real turning point for me in the novel because after then it started to flow and I got into a groove. The second half of the book was much more of a page turner, so trust me the rocky start is worth sticking around for.

I don’t want to give anything away but the reason this book went from a 3 star review to a 4 star review was purely because of the ending. Instead of everything just wrapping up, Geraghty had to deal with the fallout. Emotional, physical, of what he’d survived. It brought another dimension to the book and character, which sealed by desire to pick up book two and see where Geraghty’s next adventure took him.

Rating

4 stars

A cast of interesting characters, in a rich fantasy world, with almost non-stop action and an ending that left me wanting to read the next book. It is a mans-man book for sure, so keep that in mind. If you like DnD or fantasy video games, this will be worth a try.

Where did I get a copy?

I was gifted a copy. This is a voluntary review.

Solar Scavengers by Barry L. Marshall

Summary:

He just wanted to be a pilot, and then the scavengers attacked…

Solar Scavengers are considered a security threat to the Commonwealth. StarSec has hunted them for years, but the balance of power shifts when alien technology abandoned on Mars is discovered by a faction of the scavs.

This technology could benefit humanity, but unfortunately, it falls into the hands of a tyrant named Feng who plans to use it against the Commonwealth. The solar system is plunged into war, and now, the future of the human race depends on a young man drawn into the situation by a mysterious girl…

Amazon Link

Characters:

I struggled with the characters throughout this book. Stormy was probably my favorite, but even she didn’t stand out. Cody was written like the unintended hero. I never really connected with him. Cris was a good balance when he was added. I actually really loved the idea of a handicapped main character, I only wished it had lasted longer. There were a wide cast of supporting characters. Most of the characters seemed to instantly trust everyone…which made for unrealistic circumstances.

Plot:

The winning part of this book was this books twists and turns. Honestly it lulls you into a state of predictability and then throws a curve ball. I fell for it, missed the hint earlier on about what was coming. Despite that the plot was a bit all over the place. Sometimes it felt like it was caught in a feedback loop—trust, clever idea, successfully outwit…repeat.

Excellent and very detailed action scenes. It was the winning part of the book. I could envision each moment in my mind. They were vivid and excellent science fiction scenes.

Overall:

This is a Young Adult novel to the max. Over the top villains, too trusting main character that gets everything (nearly) right. So much teenage angst! Not to mention that everyone just seemed to connect instantly. This book has a tendency to tell rather than show.

The characters were a major failing of the book but they did improve by the end of the book. The plot was much more interesting but punctuated by more than a few surprises. The dialogue is clumsy and choppy—stilted in parts. There was a lot of potential in this book but just as much wrong with it. A good start that could easily be refined.

Rating:

2.5 stars (rounded up)

A YA novel with a Sci-fi backdrop. There is as much that I liked about this book that I didn’t. That being said there is more good than bad.

Where did I get a copy?

Author provided a copy. This is a voluntary review.

A Monk’s Tail by Kyle Spencer

Summary

For Bow, a gun-toting, hard-drinking, foul-mouthed firefox monk, life as a monster-hunter is pretty straightforward. Until, that is, he runs afoul of a power-hungry warlord and gets himself imprisoned. There he helps a young maus named Susi escape, but in doing so unleashed nightmarish forces hellbent on capturing his new ward. Now, with the help of a giant bear alchemist and a violent nun, Bow must stay one step ahead of his perusers and certain death. But Susi is harboring a dark secret, one that could spell doom for them all.

Amazon Link

Characters

Quirky—that is the word that comes to mind when I think of the characters in this book.  At its lead is Bow, a charming dumba**. He is a jerk but in a mostly adorable way…mostly. Susi the second front runner and a sweetie with a secret. After Susi and Bow become fast friends there are a few others that show up. My favorite of the bunch is Talia—she is also a firefox like Bow and a good balance for him. It has a similar feel of Guardians of the Galaxy but in the fantasy genre. My biggest complaint is there are multiple points of view…all in first person. *groan*

Plot

The plot has a tendency to run all over the place. Where the main group is mostly being chased but also hunting monsters. It zigzags like a Dungeon and Dragon (D&D) campaign. Not necessarily a bad thing but it does cause lulls in a few areas that thankfully don’t detract from the story. That being said there are lots of impressive action scenes. Ones that make the pages and minutes melt away. There are a few past flash backs that didn’t really feel necessary and detracted from the story. That being said the ending is shocking and unexpected and yet realistic. People don’t always make the best choices and sometimes they make really terrible ones.

Overall

There is this kiddish charm with adult themes. Sometimes it is difficult to match the flippant attitude/feel of the book with the violence. I laughed out loud more than once. It had very vivid characters and scenes. The book is littered with fandom references. It make the world seem a little all over the place but had solid enjoyable characters to make up for it.

The author is clearly a D&D lover. It is apparent from the start. Furthermore, there is D&D overload when one of the characters plays D&D. Like D&D inception. I half expect the ending to be a critical fail on a roll because of how unexpected it was but that just added to the feel of the story. An absolute bonus! I have a feeling Bow’s adventures are far from over.

Rating

3.5 Stars (rounded up)

It was entertaining. If you love D&D and would like an amusing fantasy adventure—pick this up!

Where did I get it?

Author provided a copy. This is a voluntary review.