Friends by Nora Phoenix

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary:

Coulson is straight. So why was he checking Seth out?

Seth is an out and proud Secret Service agent. When he’s asked to assist the FBI on the investigation into the presidential assassination, he meets FBI agent Coulson.

Coulson is straight, or so he says. Seth has no reason to doubt that, not even when they become close friends.

Until he finds himself checking Coulson out a little too closely—especially certain over-sized body parts—and Coulson doing the same to him. For someone who’s straight, Coulson shows a lot of interest in Seth’s dating life, his preferences, and his hook ups. Could it be that he’s not so straight after all?

Meanwhile, every discovery they make in the investigation leads to even more questions. Who killed the president and how did they manage to pull it off? And more importantly: are they done killing…or will more attacks follow?

The Review

After the assassination of the President, Seth and Coulson are set to work together for their respective agencies. Seth is with the Secret Service and Coulson is with the FBI. There is something about them that clicks, making it easy for them to work together. They are friends and the longer they work together, the stronger their bond becomes. They push each other to use their strengths while working and they are there for each other in their off hours.

            Seth was out and proud, he didn’t let his job force him into the closet, and I loved a character like him. He lived his life how he wanted to live it and didn’t let his sexuality hamper that. Which is how life should be! He had all these career goals, and nothing was going to stop him.

            Coulson hadn’t considered a relationship with a man before. The more time he spends with Seth, the more interested he becomes. It’s hard not to fall in love with someone like Seth. They have fun with each other, even when they aren’t doing anything but spending the evening on the couch. You don’t find that with just anyone. Yet there they were.

            The action in this one was not as intense as in book one. It picks up at the assassination of the president and we’re given a glimpse into the investigative process and a little background on the agencies that are involved. I loved seeing Seth’s mind work through all the information he came across. Coulson was the perfect complement to Seth’s process. Coulson didn’t let anyone discredit Seth either. Which melted my heart just a little bit.

            The chemistry between them was off the charts, even before they acknowledged their romantic feelings for each other. Probably one of my favorite scenes was the scene Set realized how deep his feelings were for Coulson from the help of his family. That scene is what I immediately thought of while sitting down to write this review.

            I loved being able to see two strong, alpha males who were amazing at their job, fall for each other.

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I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

EVERY MISSING PERSON HAS A STORY.

In her small town, seventeen-year-old Delia “Dee” Skinner is known as the girl who wasn’t taken. Ten years ago she witnessed the abduction of her best friend, Sibby. And though she told the police everything she remembered, it wasn’t enough. Sibby was never seen again.

At night, Dee deals with her guilt by becoming someone else: the Seeker, the voice behind the popular true crime podcast Radio Silent, which features missing persons cases and works with online sleuths to solve them. Nobody knows Dee’s the Seeker, and she plans to keep it that way.

When another little girl in town goes missing, and the case is linked to Sibby’s disappearance, Dee has a chance to get answers with the help of her virtual detectives and the intriguing new girl at school. But how much of her own story is she willing to reveal in order to uncover the truth?

Review

Dee Skinner’s life changed the moment she witnessed her best friend getting abducted at seven years old. Ten years later, she still lives in the same town, but in a different house. Sibby is a ghost that haunts Dee every day. She’s the girl who wasn’t taken. That guilt weighs her every action down.

She wasn’t able to help Sibby, but she finds a way to help others who have gone missing. As an anonymous podcaster, the Seeker, she hosts a true-crime podcast called Radio Silent. She focuses on missing person cases and works with the Laptop Detective Agency to find new leads and to find the missing.

Nearly ten years to the day, another girl goes missing in her town.

Dee struggles, wanting to stay away from the case but at the same time wanting to help find the missing girl. Is Sibby’s abduction related to Layla’s? A well-timed e-mail sends her down the rabbit hole to find out what has happened to both girls.

What I loved about the format of this novel, was the fact that the podcast scripts were included. I’m a huge true crime junkie and podcast lover. Being able to see how Dee worked to keep herself anonymous but she worked hard to help get answers from these families was exciting. She was determined to find answers and finally put in the work that her Laptop Detective Agency had been doing since episode one.

Dee meets Sarah, the attraction is immediate, but they balance each other. Where Dee is headstrong and throws caution to the wind, Sarah talks her off the ledge and finds a way to make sure they are safe from harm. Their romance takes a backseat to the plot, but the relationship was normalized in a way I wished my high school years could have been. She and Sarah got to go to the Winter Formal together, her parents didn’t make her sexuality seem anything but normal.

The action was a bit slow in the beginning, but once it got going? I couldn’t put the book down. I needed to find Sibby and Layla. I needed to make sure Burke was going to be okay by the end of it all. I had an inkling of who took Sibby, but the result for Layla? I wasn’t expecting that at all.

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Hell and Gone by Tal Bauer

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Five out of Five Stars

The Summary

Two vanished cowboys.
Three hundred missing cattle.
The Crazy Mountains are devouring everything they see.

Everett Dawson, Montana’s newest Stock Detective, has been sent from Helena down to the Crazy Mountains. Cattle are going missing in the Crazies and Everett is charged with finding these modern-day rustlers and bringing them in.

When he arrives, he finds a hanged cowboy and a heap of questions. Was it suicide or was it murder? Why are cowboys fleeing the Crazies? Far from a simple investigation, Everett’s case plunges deep into the mountains’ dark past.

Lawrence Jackson, the bad boy who runs the Lazy Twenty Two, was the last man to see the dead cowboy alive. There’s a whole forest fire of smoke swirling around Lawrence, and where there’s smoke, there’s flame… and maybe even murder.

But Everett is drawn to Lawrence, and if he takes the risk Lawrence offers, will Everett find what he craves, or will the Crazies claim their next victim

The Review

Tall Bauer has created another picturesque, gritty and thrilling western set in Montana. Everette is fresh out of the military and headed right into the Crazy Mountains were cattle have gone missing, and ranch hands are slowly starting to disappear.  Lawrence Jackson is beyond frustrated with the lack of investigation happening and doesn’t believe a green Stock Detective, Everett Dawson, is going to make much headway in the investigation.

Let me talk about Lawrence and Everette for a moment. Both men distrust each other from the beginning, but as time passes that distrust develops into trust. Everett recognized that frustration in Lawrence and after hearing everything, his mind starts connecting the dots. Once they start working to trust each other, the chemistry between them ignites.

Everette has flashes of PTSD and they felt genuine. There were subtle triggers that put him back in the desert and deep in his memories. The void that had been in him since his military tours, was finally being filled by one hell of a stubborn cowboy, Lawrence Jackson. I loved that stubborn, take no shit attitude that Lawrence had. He was a modern cowboy, who worked hard and loved harder.

I grit my teeth, felt the frustration that Lawrence had, connected the dots just as Everette did, and melted into satisfaction.

Get your copy here

Hush by Tal Bauer

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Five out of Five Stars

The Summary:

A federal judge running from the truth.
A U.S. marshal running from his past.
A trial that can plunge the world into war. 

Federal Judge Tom Brewer is finally putting the pieces of his life back together. In the closet for twenty-five long years, he’s climbing out slowly, and, with the hope of finding a special relationship with the stunning Mike Lucciano, U.S. Marshal assigned to his DC courthouse. He wants to be out and proud, but he can’t erase his own past, and the lessons he learned long ago.

But a devastating terrorist attack in the heart of DC, and the subsequent capture and arrest of the terrorist, leads to a trial that threatens to expose the dark underbelly of America’s national security.

As Russia beats the drums of war, intent on seeking revenge, and the United States struggles to contain the storm before it races out of control, secrets and lies, past and present, collide in Judge Tom Brewer’s courtroom. With the world’s attention fixed on Tom and this case, he suddenly discovers he may be the only person who can put everything together in time to stop the spark of a new world war.

The Review

I don’t think I have read anything by Tal Bauer that I haven’t loved. Hush was no different. It is a political thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was really going on all the while I was melting from the heat and romance between Tom and Mike. This is definitely a book that I want a physical copy to have on my shelf.

Federal Tom Brewer has been in the closet for twenty-five years and Mike Lucciano, the U.S. Marshal assigned to him, is the first man who has made him want to take a chance on and to step out of the closet. As their relationship grows, a terrorist attack in Washington DC and arrest of said terrorist, makes it difficult for Tom to be the man he wants to be when he’s thrust into the spot light. All eyes are on him as he sits as judge for the trial and being with Mike is harder than ever.

Mike and Tom are real. Mike is very active in the LGBT community, participates in a volleyball league and slowly pulls Tom away from his fear and teaches him that its okay to be who you are. Mike’s friends never pressured Tom to do more than what he was ready for. They didn’t make a big deal of the fact that he was a federal judge and that served to make Tom comfortable.

Tom was a bit shy, but once his affections were earned, he was so sweet. I loved that they held hands, cuddled, shared soft kisses throughout the entirety of the novel. That affection didn’t disappear after they had bone melting sex. There was a heat to their touches and conversations. They were a gorgeous couple.

So besides the heat factor (which I’m going to rate 10 out of 10), the political thriller plot held my attention as much as Tom and Mike’s growing relationship. It was something that (sadly) you could see happen in today’s political atmosphere. It felt real. The stress, fear, anxiety, anger – all of it was fitting and true.

Do yourself a favor and give this one a read.

Get your copy Here

 

A Ferry of Bones & Gold by Hailey Turner

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Five out of Five Stars

The Summary:  When the gods come calling, you don’t get to say no.

Patrick Collins is three years into a career as a special agent for the Supernatural Operations Agency when the gods come calling to collect a soul debt he owes them. An immortal has gone missing in New York City and bodies are showing up in the wake of demon-led ritual killings that Patrick recognizes all too easily from his nightmares.

Unable to walk away, Patrick finds himself once again facing off against mercenary magic users belonging to the Dominion Sect. Standing his ground alone has never been a winning option in Patrick’s experience, but it’s been years since he’s had a partner he could trust.

Looking for allies in all the wrong places, Patrick discovers the Dominion Sect’s next target is the same werewolf the Fates themselves have thrown into his path. Patrick has been inexplicably attracted to the man from their first meeting, but desire has no place in war. That doesn’t stop Patrick from wanting what he shouldn’t have. Jonothon de Vere is gorgeous, dangerous, and nothing but trouble—to the case, to the fight against every hell, and ultimately, to Patrick’s heart and soul.

In the end, all debts must be paid, and Patrick can only do what he does best—cheat death.

The Review

This is the first time I’ve read anything by Hailey Turner. Obviously, I have been missing out because I need more! Especially, in concern to Patrick and Jono. Jeez, those two fellas, I just fell in love with them.  I was enchanted with the entire world. There were Gods, mages, sorcerers, werewolves, werecreatures, seers, vampires, demons, and more.

Patrick is a red-headed, stressed out and annoyed mage who has been through hell and back. He gets sent to New York to help investigate a series of extremely violent crimes, where supernatural forces have been involved.

Jono is a werewolf from London, who bartends at a local supernatural bar. But there’s a bit more to him than everyone knows.  He is one hell of a guy. He’s very protective, strong and smart.

Both Patrick and Jono’s lives are influenced by the Gods. Patrick has a debt to pay and Jono, I have a feeling we’ll be learning more about how the Gods influence him in future books. They worked together, not just the police but the supernatural community to stop any catastrophic disaster from hitting New York City from Ethan Greene who will do whatever it takes to become a God.

I’ve been on a paranormal, procedural, romance kick. This book spoiled me rotten. Not only was there a case that needed to be solved but it all played into something much bigger than those cases.  The action of the scenes were vivid, fast paced, and had my heart pumping. I had to know what was going on with Patrick and Jono and the rest of the crew. I NEEDED TO KNOW.

The romance between Patrick and Jono wasn’t the main focus. There were a couple of intense scenes and you could feel the buzz of attraction throughout the novel.  I feel like I’m about to keyboard smash from how much I enjoyed these two men. They were both strong, honest, and willing to fight for each other. Like I said, I loved them and all the other characters.

So the question is, should you read this? OMG YES. I’m actually going to check out the other books Hailey Turner has penned. Because damn, this book was good.

 

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Blackout by Kit Mallory

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Five out of Five Stars

The Summary: For 16-year-old Skyler, fear is a way of life. For three years, since the Wall split the UK in two, her survival as an illegal Northern refugee in the South has been a perilous balancing act between staying in the shadows and clinging to her reputation as the South’s best hacker.

Fellow refugee Mackenzie is a ghost from her past she’d rather ignore. But when their paths collide unexpectedly, Skyler sees an opportunity to exact revenge on the brutal regime that destroyed her home and family – even if it means she goes down with them.

Forced, with extreme reluctance, on the run together, Skyler and Mackenzie, along with enigmatic contract killer Angel, must find a way to outrun not only the Board and the South’s most sadistic crime lord, but their own personal demons. If they can manage to not end up murdering each other in the process, that’ll be a bonus.

But more is at stake than any of them realise. And Skyler, who has long believed she has nothing left to lose, is about to discover just how wrong she is.

 

The Review

Blackout by Kit Mallory is a post-apocalyptic story of survival, fighting for what is right and friendship. Skyler is an illegal Northern refugee who has been living in the South as a hacker. She’s been living in the cellar of one of the most ruthless of men in the North in order to continue living on the inhabitable side of the wall. When the opportunity comes knocking with the possibility of taking down the people who destroyed the North, how can she pass it by? Even if she goes down with them?

She can’t help but steal the extra drive off of Mackenzie. She gets far more than she ever thought she was end up with. She’s on the run from both the Board and Daniel Redruth’s men as she tries to find enough electricity, someone to fix her gear and a safe place to extract all the information that she can in order to make a move.

During the process Skyler ends up with a group of people who are just as dedicated to taking the Board down as she is. There’s Angel who is a contract killer and a healer, the twins, Mackenzie and others on the seedier side of the law who all aim to help. They each have their own history and reason for wanting to take down Redruth and the Board.

What I enjoyed about Blackout was the fact that I was able to get lost in the story. I was there with Skyler, Angel and Mackenzie. I could feel the tension, the anxiety and the fear that each of these characters felt throughout the book. The further along in their plans, the more and more I could see the attraction between Skyler and Angel. It was a subtle undercurrent. They cared about each other from the first meeting, developed a friendship and it ultimately culminated in a romantic attraction.

There are time jumps throughout that told as memories. These scenes are situated in a way that reads fluidly and helped push the story along. Usually I’m not a fan of this kind of writing but it helped me understand the motivations and how these teenagers grew to who they are.

And that ending?! Wow.

The romantic relationship isn’t the shining star in this novel but don’t let that stop you from reading this. I really enjoyed every page of this book.

 

Bonus, questions with the author, Kit Mallory!

 

Where did your inspiration for Blackout come from? I see parallels to events today and in the past but I wonder what sparked this for you?

 

I started writing Blackout back in 2012, and the original concept for the setting grew out of a few things. One was a long-standing fascination with the Berlin Wall and what that must have been like for the people who lived through it – it seems like such an outlandish concept, and yet it happened so recently – the Wall didn’t come down until after I was born.

 

The other big influence was the North/South divide in the UK, which is a thing that’s often talked about here – I spent a long time living in Yorkshire and it’s very clear that in many ways London and the south-east have access to a lot of finances and resources that are more limited in other areas. And finally, of course, there’s been an awareness for a long time that fossil fuels are a finite resource and that we over-rely on them, and ever since I was a kid I’ve wondered about what the eventual consequences of that might be.

 

Several people have commented on how the setup in Blackout seems increasingly plausible, and one of the most unsettling things for me is that although what happens in Blackout seems very extreme, we know that governments absolutely do do terrible things to their own people (Syria being an obvious current example, but there are dozens more, of course) and the political landscape in the UK and the US has changed so dramatically since I started writing Blackout in ways I would never have imagined were possible. It makes me think anything is possible, and not in a good way.

 

Are you working on or planning any future projects?

 

I’m working on the sequel to Blackout right now! I couldn’t possibly leave the gang there, haha. I am TERRIBLE with giving away spoilers so I won’t say too much about it, but it’s definitely coming! I’m aiming to have that out in the next 12 months. I’m also working on a YA contemporary fantasy series and another standalone book that’s technically YA fantasy but is turning out much darker and more of a psychological thriller. All of them are f/f.

 

Blackout is due out May 8, 2018 and is available for pre-order here !! 

Curses, Foiled Again

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary: Felix is a vampire—a fierce creature of the night who strikes terror into the hearts of everyone unlucky enough to become his prey. Or at least, that’s what he thought was true, until he met John. John is completely unimpressed with Felix, much to his dismay. Felix becomes fixated on proving his ferocity to John—and when that doesn’t work, he strives to make any impression on him at all.

John is a witch, and as all witches know, vampires are notoriously stupid creatures who only have the power to hurt those who fear them. Besides, he’s under a curse much more frightening than any vampire. Felix’s desperate attempts to impress him annoy John at first, but gradually, they become sort of endearing. Because of his curse, John has pushed everyone in his life away. But Felix can’t be hurt, so there’s no harm in letting him hang around.

Felix is technically dead. John has nothing left to live for. But together, they might have a shot at life

The Review

 

Curses, Foiled Again features a cursed witch (John) who is not at all impressed with the vampire (Felix) that has focused on him. Eventually, John can’t help but be won over by Felix’s determination.

This is going to be an interesting review. At times I absolutely loved this book. Then there were times I got bored and set my reader down in favor of watching prison shows on Netflix. At times it felt like I was reading three different books featuring the same characters in each book.

The beginning I found funny. There was a vampire who was trying so hard to be scary it was comical. When John gave in, he gave in fast. The tone shifted to more of a contemporary romance kind of vibe. I was down for it. I like my romance any way I can get it. But after reading a little more, BAM! tone shift to the dark, thriller aspect I had expected since the beginning of the book.

I understand the curse, the spell Richard preformed between John and Felix changed John but, I didn’t like how rushed those last chapters felt. I feel like I missed a few chapters. I didn’t. I checked.

BUT!

I don’t think I ever met characters like John, Felix, or Lo. They were unique and I loved them. Lo kicked ass and had a mine like my own. Felix I adored. He made me laugh, hide from second-hand embarrassment, and how sweet he became with John made my heart melt. John, I related to him and his predetermined fate with his curse. Sometimes, with a chronic illness, I think why bother? John did this A LOT and I could completely understand that. John found a reason why he should bother in Felix.

So I was on the fence with this one and will give the author another go if I see something by her but I’m not rushing out to the store.

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Obsession by Theophilia St. Claire

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary: Nick has a hard life. Not only is he working at an East Harlem bar to make ends meet and pay for his sister’s medical expenses, he’s also on the run from a shady past that’s surely catching up to him.

Most people think Claude has it easy due to the money and luxury surrounding him. But they would be wrong. Firmly trapped beneath his stern father’s thumb, Claude’s pre-determined life took a nosedive when his lover, Christian, left him a year ago.

When the two meet, sparks do not instantly fly between them. Claude thinks Nick is his ex-lover returned to him. Nick thinks Claude is crazy.

However, circumstances bring these two men together. And despite Claude’s jealousy and possessive nature, Nick is falling for him. Sick of being mistaken for Claude’s ex, Nick is willing to find out what happened to him—the real Christian. He’ll have to if he wants a stable relationship with Claude. How Claude takes the truth, however, is the only thing that scares him.

The Review

Obsession is the story of Nick, Claude and the dangerous romance they find themselves immersed in. But is all the danger a physical threat or perhaps a psychological whirl wind as well. Nick works at Jen’in’s Bar for minimum wage and crappy tips in order to help pay his sister’s medical bills. Ever since his childhood, he’s faced abuse and desperation, so it isn’t new for him to face precarious situations and to take advantage of them

Claude is a wealthy, business man who sees Nick during a client meeting and believes Nick to be his ex, Christian. It becomes an obsession for Claude. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to get Nick’s attention, keep it and to have him forever.

My first thought as I read was, how could Nick entertain Claude believing him to be a different person. Then I started to understand it. Claude had everything Nick could ever want and he’s willing to please Nick in any possible way; romantically, monetarily, and sexually. Nick developing feelings for someone showering him with that much attention was completely understandable. That would be hard to walk away from.

I thought I would absolutely hate Claude but as crazy as it sounds, I empathized with the psychotic man. There was something about it that made me hope that Claude would see Nick as who he truly was sooner rather than later. There was something about Eric, for as good as he was, that made me weary.

It wasn’t until close to the end that I came to the right conclusion about “Christian” and what had happened to him. I liked how St. Claire kept me on my toes the entire time. I kept asking myself question after question. When was Claude going to lose it? How was he going to lose it? Where was Christian? Was he going to show up? Obsession kept me on the edge of my seat wanting to know what was going to happen.

It broke did break my heart, just a little bit, how everything turned out. But I feel like St. Claire did the story line justice.

Would I recommend this to other readers? Oh yes! I’m looking forward to reading more from St. Claire.

Expected release date: December 4, 2017 from NineStar Press