Thursday, April 16, 2015

4 out of 5 : Dagger's Hope by S.E. Smith

Dagger's Hope

By: S.E. Smith

Published: March, 31st 2015

Book Blurb:
Dagger is a Trivator warrior. He is known for his dark and dangerous edge, making him the perfect warrior for impossible missions. He fears nothing, until he meets a young, delicate human female who wakens his heart. Her gentle touch, soft voice, and her shy sense of humor touch him in a way he never thought could happen. The thought of anything harming something so beautiful and fragile fills him with terror.

Jordan Sampson is slowly adjusting to her new life on a strange planet far away from war-torn Earth. She had been seventeen when she was brought to the Trivator’s home world of Rathon along with her older sister, Jesse, and younger sister, Taylor, a couple years earlier. Fear, confusion, and uncertainty of what the future holds threaten to drown her as she tries to fit in. There is only one hope that keeps her going. It is the handsome alien male that stirs something deep inside her and makes her feel whole.

When Dagger is captured during a mission and sold to the illegal Fight Rings, it is only the memory of Jordan that keeps him going. Time blurs as he slowly sinks deeper and deeper into a world of violence and pain until he becomes more animal than Trivator.

Jordan knows Dagger is out there, somewhere. She can feel him in her heart. The heart she gave to him the first time he held her protectively in his arms.

When she discovers where he is being held, she refuses to let anything stop her from rescuing him. What Jordan doesn’t realize is that she has been Dagger’s hope during his captivity. The one thing that holds the thin thread to his sanity.

The fight to save Dagger takes Jordan on a journey that she hopes they both survive. The star system is a dangerous place for a young human female and a damaged Trivator warrior. Can Jordan reach Dagger in time, and if she does, can she heal his shattered soul? 

Reviewed by Phoenix Andrews, 4 out of 5

Overall, I enjoyed Dagger's Hope as much as any other S.E. Smith book I've read (which is a lot). I felt connected to the hero fairly early on in the book. It was clear Dagger was damaged but redeemable, skilled and strong but not infallible. Dagger is the quintessential book boyfriend. 

The heroine seemed less approachable to me and thus I felt less empathetic toward her. She's perfect and I dislike perfection in a leading lady. Jordan is brilliant, cunning, adaptive, beautiful, petite and self-sacrificing. She waltzes through deadly situations with an unbelievable ease. If things would have been more difficult for Jordan to manage my rating would be a 5 out of 5. 

The world building and depth of character for the hero was excellent and the first 80% of Dagger's Hope flew by at a fast pace that kept me flipping pages. S.E. Smith remains on my auto-buy list. 

Reviewer, Phoenix Andrews

Sunday, April 12, 2015

2.5 out of 5 : The Closer You Come by Gena Showalter

The Closer You Come

By: Gena Showalter

Published: March, 31st 2015


Book Blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter introduces the Original Heartbreakers—three not-quite-reformed bad boys about to meet the women who will bring them to their knees 

Just released from prison, Jase Hollister has one goal: stay out of trouble. Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma, sounds like the perfect place for him and his two brothers-by-circumstance to settle down and live a nice, simple life. But model citizen isn't exactly this rugged bachelor's default setting—especially when it comes to a certain hot-blooded Southern beauty…

Brook Lynn Dillon has always been responsible. Not that it's done her much good. The down-on-her-luck waitress is broke, single and fun-deprived. Until Jase comes along. He is dangerous, sexy and tempting as sin, and the sizzling passion between them is undeniable. But can it melt her resistance? After all, the right kind of trouble might be just what they both need.

Reviewed by Phoenix Andrews, 2.5 out of 5
Let me start by saying I love Gena Showalter. I had never found a GS book I didn't devour then remember fondly...until The Closer You Come.

As I was slogging my way through this book, numbly flipping pages on my kindle with my thumb, I felt as though I was reading an author's first attempt at writing. I'm wondering now if this trilogy of books wasn't exactly that. Perhaps these were Showalter's first attempt, written long ago then shoved into a desk drawer to while away the years. Was The Closer You Come gathering dust in the dark, waiting while she cultivated her writing skills and grew her brand into a substantial base that would support and elevate these particular books? Sheesh, I sincerely hope so. This explanation is the only acceptable reason for the quality of style and plotting in this book.

Despite the hero's tragic background I never felt fully engaged with his character like the heroes in Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series. I knew I'd immediately forget this hero upon finishing the book, and that's never a good thing.

The heroine...I wanted to like the heroine. She was a bit damaged but still strong in the beginning. Then she ruined it by overreacting to everything with the shallowness like that of a teenager. 

Next, what is with this new trend in romance novels focusing on baking and/or cooking skills? The heroine had sorceress level abilities in the kitchen and of course it was sooo simple for her to turn this into a moneymaking venture. Too much of the book was spent describing her siren sandwiches and strange casseroles ensnaring unsuspecting males. 

The plot was juvenile to the point I think if the sex scenes were removed the book would be perfectly at home in a middle school library. Of course the hero and his buddies are so handsome it hurts to look at them. And of course the boys are rich beyond belief, literally, despite being in their 20's and having grownup destitute. The identity of the villain was obvious from his first appearance and I found it frustrating none of the characters figured this out until the end. 

There's a point in the book where the heroine is allowed to spontaneously take charge of the young child belonging to the heroine's rival. I have a hard time believing the kid's mother would be fine with her romantic rival absconding with her child without any plans laid out in advance. The heroine keeps the child out for something stupid like ten hours without ever contacting the child's parents. The heroine and the child traipse in at nearly midnight, carting two dogs the heroine saw fit to add to an already weird situation. Her only explanation for not contacting the parents was she had turned off her cell phone. Umm...NO. 

It doesn't take ten hours to visit the town dog shelter. 
Taking a stranger's child out for an extended adventure lasting way past the child's bedtime? No. 
Turning off your phone while caring for someone's child? No. 
I was stunned not a single character had anything negative to say about this extreme lack of common sense. 

I'm giving this book 2.5 out of 5, mostly because it was well edited for grammar and spelling. I appreciate a professionally edited book in a marketplace that's flooded with unedited first drafts riddled with errors.  

Will this book turn me off of Gena Showalter's future books? Hell, no. I love her other series. My feelings toward The Closer You Come can best be described as...befuddled.

Reviewer, Phoenix Andrews

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

3 Stars: YNYR by M.K. Eidem

Ynyr (Tornians #3)

By: M.K. Eidem

Published: February 24th, 2015

Book Blurb:
Ynyr was a third male, and while he was a fit and worthy Warrior, he had always known that no female would ever Join with him. Too many looked down on his family because of his mother’s refusal to leave his manno. He knew Ull would be able to overcome this because he was a first male and would one day be a Lord. Maybe even Vali, since he was a second male, but neither Ynyr nor his younger brother Zev would ever be acceptable to a female. The most they could hope for was to serve their House with honor... that all changed with the arrival of the females from Earth. 

Abby's life had not been an easy one, especially after the death of her family when she had been sixteen, but she had thought things were finally looking up. She was a year away from achieving her dream of becoming a teacher. Soon she would be making a difference in the lives of children others had given up on... that all changed when she was abducted by the Tornians. 

Ynyr and Abby had come together in the most unusual of ways, but that was just the beginning of their unique relationship. Together they had to do something no other Lord and Lady had... They had to take a House that had been destroyed by deceit and evil and turn it into the shining example demanded by the Emperor. 

Will the secrets left behind by Bertos and Risa tear them apart? Or will it be Abby's secret and Ynyr's reaction to it that does?

Review by Phoenix Andrews: 3 out of 5

I've been waiting for any new science fiction romance to be released so I was excited to see Ynyr pop up on my kindle. I wanted so badly to like this book and I did like certain aspects. Unfortunately, the parts I disliked were the hero and heroine. 
The hero and heroine spent the entire book telling each other how great they thought the other person was. When they weren't verbally reassuring the other person of their awesomeness I was treated to pages of inner dialogue describing, you guessed it, how super duper their new husband/wife was. There were a few ridiculous, over-dramatized "misunderstandings" between the pair but other than that there was no true conflict. I found myself skipping pages just so I didn't have to subject myself to more of the same fluffy nonsense between those two. 
The saving grace and the reason this book is a 3 star instead of a 2 was the group of secondary characters. I was drawn to the master of the house (butler) and enchanted by the group of teenage man-boys. The child also grabbed my heart from his first scene. I only wish the hero and heroine's stories had been so carefully crafted. 
I'll read future books in the series but I hope the interactions between the main characters are more natural.

Reviewer, Phoenix Andrews

Friday, February 13, 2015

4 out of 5: Hawk's Revenge by Vivi Andrews

Hawk's Revenge (Lone Pine Pride Series)

By: Vivi Andrews

Published: February 10th, 2015

Book Blurb:
Her betrayal is unforgivable. But their passion? Unforgettable.
Lone Pine Pride, Book 3

Hawk-shifter Adrian Sokolov made the mistake of trusting the beautiful Dr. Rachel Russell once—and wound up drugged, captured, and experimented on inside Organization Labs.

He isn’t about to make the same mistake again, but when she offers to help him escape this hell hole, he can’t say no. Her only condition? That he take her with him.

From the moment Rachel discovered her bosses’ true intent, she’s been secretly smuggling shifters out of the Labs. But now the higher-ups suspect they have a mole, and it’s time to flee—but not before she frees the golden-eyed hawk she was forced to betray.

When their escape goes wrong, Adrian wakes, confused and alone, in the safety of the Lone Pine Pride infirmary and realizes he may have left behind the one ally the shifters had within the Organization—the same breathtaking woman who invades his dreams.

Now he must face the Organization that destroyed him… before she pays for his freedom with her life.

Warning: This book contains betrayals, escapes, rescues, plots, double-crosses, a sexy surly hero, a heroine who deserves sainthood… and a pride full of trouble.

Review by Phoenix Andrews: 4 out of 5

Hawk's Revenge is the first book I've read in the Lone Pine Series and it worked as a standalone even though it's the third in the series. This book is well-written and well-edited; two things that should be givens when it comes to professionally pubbed books but, sadly, isn't always the case. 

I enjoyed the relationship between the hero and heroine. Their obstacles kept their evolving relationship interesting right along with the conflicts inside the suspenseful plot. I liked how they had real obstacles to overcome beyond the usual, shallow misunderstandings and irrational emotional responses I've been seeing as prevalent plot devices for adding conflict recently. 

My only complaint is I knew who the villain was for most of the story and found it aggravating the characters didn't figure it out until the last minute. This complaint is really a testament to the strength of the characters because I felt they were capable of the critical thinking required to deduce who and where the villain was way earlier than they did. 

I'm giving Hawk's Revenge a 4 out of 5 and will be looking for the other books in the series very soon. 

Reviewer, Phoenix Andrews

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2 out of 5: Last Call by Bridget Midway

Last Call

By Bridget Midway

Published: September 24, 2014

Book Blurb:
Eminence Dutton is at a crossroad. At work, she's up for a promotion that's she's not sure she can do. Her love life with her librarian has hit a wall. She gets an invitation from her former best friend to a new night club opening. Each decision has her shaking in her sensible shoes. The only thing that would complicate her life more would be to see her old high school boyfriend.

Keys "Tank" Tanksley can't believe it when he sees Eminence standing in line at Epitome. He takes that moment and his temporary bit of power as the security company owner to give her a very thorough and intimate search that brings up old, familiar feelings–feelings he never stopped having for Eminence but that she must have abandoned a long time ago.

Tank has changed, most notably, his foray into BDSM. No longer an unsure high school boy, this man does not plan on letting this woman go without being heard or without her experiencing the sting of his whip.

When Tank tries to rekindle the relationship with Eminence, one where he asks her to make a huge change, she has to wonder what's important: her dream or her heart.

Review by Scarlett Roberts, Rating 2 out of 5

I would best describe this book as…meh. I could take it or leave it. It had some good points, and a few more bad points. I like the idea that the author had going; doesn't everyone have that “one that got away”? The whole reasoning of how she got away though, was a little ridiculous, even for drama-filled teenagers. If I saw my best friend simply hugging my boyfriend, I would surely not flip-out, assume the worst, and never speak to either one of them again for 15 years. I would need a little bit (just a teensy?) more hard evidence.

One thing I did find hilarious? The reunion scene between her and her former best friend where they almost fight, and the author includes the taking off of the jewelry and shoes. Classic club-brawl actions!

I couldn't make a good connection with Eminence. Her library “boyfriend” from the beginning? Bizarre. I’m not sure what exactly was going on there. Was he a gay man in denial or hiding? I didn't understand the relationship there of him not touching or kissing her? And why Eminence made such a big deal out of it and was allowing this guy to kind of treat her like dirt after only having 5 dates? I don’t know…I didn't follow and found it weird. It was not a good way to set-up an introduction to the main character, it made me question and even maybe (just a little) dislike her.

The chemistry between her and Keys at times, was really good…other times, so-so. I can be a little picky about amorous scenes and how they are set up, something about this author’s erotic vocabulary just didn't mesh well with me.

Even though I didn't necessarily love this book, I think other readers might find it more enjoyable. It’s all about personal taste! While this book didn't resonate with me, I can see where and how it could with a different reader. My rating for Last Call, 2 out of 5.

Reviewer, Scarlett Roberts

Saturday, January 10, 2015

4 Out of 5: 3013 MENDED by Kali Argent

3013: MENDED (The Series Book #6)

By Kali Argent

Published: January 2, 2015

Book Blurb:
A scroll with exceptional abilities, Camille Brighton lived a life of wealth and privilege until tragedy changed everything. The gifts that had once made her special are suddenly a curse to be feared, and she finds herself a captive in her own home with a world of possibilities just beyond her reach. When the demons of her past return, though, forcing her to flee to the outer rim of Alliance territory, she soon realizes freedom isn't exactly the adventure she'd thought it would be.

Running from his own past on Helix, Tariq Navarra has spent the last nine years as a mechanical engineer on Beta Station 4. Life has proven the only person he can depend on is himself, and he's built an impenetrable wall around his heart, wearing suspicion and distrust like a second skin. Then a slip of a woman carrying the scent of fresh rain and lavender turns his world upside down with just a smile. He's never wanted anything or anyone more, and he'll go to the ends of the universe to keep Cami safe. With danger lurking at every turn, he may just be forced to prove it--even if that means protecting the angel from himself.

Betrayal left them broken. Can love see them mended?

Review by Phoenix Andrews, 4 out of 5
3013: MENDED by Kali Argent

The strange thing about this series is each book is written by a different author. Normally, I steer clear of this kind of thing because I don't like how different the writing style and "voice" are from book to book and author to author. I haven't found this to be the case with "The Series". Either these authors have a hive mind reminiscent of the Borg from Star Trek or there is a great deal of communication and critique happening between the group for each book, which is wonderful. 

MENDED started with a bang and moved along at a fast pace. The resolution and identity of the villain wasn't glaringly obvious throughout the story as seems to be the case with a lot of erotic romance where plot sometimes gets the back burner. I was wrong about the villain right up until the last few chapters which I really enjoyed. It's nice to be surprised when the surprise makes sense to the plot. 

The romance was great. I loved the Hero. He's the kind of man you want to hug and protect but he's perfectly capable of protecting himself and anyone else. He's the right amounts of vulnerable and alpha to make a great book boyfriend. 

My only complaint is the young age and innocence of the heroines in this and the previous books. I get that most of these "scrolls" are sheltered their entire lives but I think they could be sheltered and somehow world-weary. I feel like the heroines would need to be more mature to navigate the situations presented in the books. The Heroes are also much older than the heroines and that's not a plot point I enjoy.

I like the simplicity of the cover of MENDED. It's intriguing and congruent with the genre without being porn. 

I'm very much looking forward to reading the next book in this series. 

Reviewer, Phoenix Andrews

Monday, January 5, 2015

3 Out of 5, Luke's #1 Rule by Cynthia Harrison

Luke's #1 Rule (Blue Lake #2)

By Cynthia Harrison

Published: December 8, 2014

Book Blurb:
When Chloe’s employer amps up the verbal abuse and her ex-husband succumbs (again) to his addictions, she accepts a job offer across the country. Before starting their new lives, Chloe and the boys visit the family cottage at Blue Lake for their annual summer vacation.

When Luke meets Chloe, he’s blown away. She’s a strong, smart, gorgeous woman, and he wants to know her better. This sweet dream dies when Luke learns Chloe is a single mom. His #1 dating rule is “no single mothers.” He shuts down fast because he’s been there, done that, and has the broken heart to prove it.

Blending families and addressing addictions co-mingle with summer sunshine in a small lakeside town where the roots of love grow deeper than life’s challenges.

Review by Phoenix Andrews, 4 out of 5

Luke's #1 Rule started as a surprisingly good read from an author previously not known to me. The writing style kept me engaged and the plot flowed at a nice pace. I feel the author did an excellent job showing the dark side of addiction. 

One issue I had was the hero's judgment of the heroine in regards to her taking the kids away from her ex-husband. I side with the heroine in this case. The man endangered their children on multiple occasions. At best, he was criminally negligent. He was passed out in their presence, left drugs and booze out in the open within easy reach of the kids and dropped them off in front of a house where only a stranger was home to care for the kids. 

When the heroine decides to move on with her life, the hero and supporting characters treat her like the devil incarnate. She's a "selfish bitch" for taking her kids away from their poor father just because he has some problems. He's totally going to change! Sheesh! How can she be sooo cruel?! 

Up to this point I really liked the book. Then the hero became un-redeemable in my eyes. The heroine had already paid for and forced her ex-husband to rehab multiple times only to watch him relapse. Yes, everyone deserves a chance. However, it's every mother's job to keep her children safe and the fact is they were never safe while in his presence, even when his new wife was around. 

While I liked the writing style and flow of this book the hero ruined the ending for me. I honestly didn't want them to end up together and I wanted to reach through my kindle and strangle the life out of the heroine's ex and his new wife. 

I'm giving Luke's #1 Rule 3 out of 5 stars. I'll be looking for more books from Cynthia Harrison. I just hope this same theme isn't repeated.