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Ami's Hoard

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Stage Fright (Adam Carpenter)

Stage Fright: The Jimmy McSwain Files #3 (Volume 3) - Adam Carpenter

3.75 stars rounded up

In Stage Fright, book #3 in The Jimmy McSwain Files series, P.I. Jimmy McSwain is hired by T. Wellington “Welly” Calloway, owner of the Calloway theater, to find who has been sending Casey Crais (writer of the upcoming play, Triskaidekaphobia) threat letters. On the other case, Jimmy is contacted by the sister of Rashad Assan, who killed Jimmy's father fifteen years before, who gives further clues that may be, his father is stumbled into a conspiracy within the NYPD...

I enjoyed this third Jimmy McSwain book better than the previous two. Jimmy wasn't consumed as much with his father's case this time -- probably because the murderer has been killed in the previous book. Although there seems to be a bigger conspiracy at play, but I felt that it didn't take the front seat.

I liked the case involving the theater people. At first it was only about the threatening letters -- I totally guessed the case right! -- but then someone was murdered, on stage!! So that upped the ante a bit. I also guessed where this one case went ... though I didn't expected the twist related to the victim.

It seemed that Jimmy and Frank's relationship now hit the full stop. I kind of expected it, with Frank's unwillingness to come out at work, and his ambition to reach the top. But I couldn't deny that I liked Jimmy and Frank together. There was this melancholic tenderness throughout the book and of course, I was a sucker for that.

Will definitely check out book #4 :)

Hexmaker (Jordan L. Hawk)

Hexmaker (Hexworld Book 2) - Jordan L. Hawk

Hexmaker is the second book in Jordan L. Hawk's latest series, Hexworld, which deals with witches and their familiars. This time, the couple in the spotlight is Malachi, a thief and fox shifter who becomes a witness of a murder, and is Dr. Owen Yates, forensic hexman for the Metropolitan Witch Police.

Well, I loved this! I might even -- dare I say it -- at the moment loving this world better than Widdershins. I know, blasphemy!

The thing is, I found Hexworld to fit more with my taste of paranormal/fantasy/mystery books. It has police department (I'm such a sucker for cops or detectives)! It has tons of familiars (animals sightings!). Plus it features different couple in each book.

Don't get me wrong, I love Whyborne and Griffin, but sometimes all those weird fantasy creatures just went over my head. Plus I was annoyed with Whyborne in the last book.

Despite the timeline being relatively short, but I felt that Owen and Malachi truly had the chemistry and connection. Never for once I felt that this one was rushed or the love came instantly. I loved that they worked together well, despite the difference of class and occupation. I even enjoyed the touch of D/s between the two.

I also loved the villains better here compared to Widdershins' series -- why? Because

I felt that the villains have a very compelling reason for doing what they do. Familiars are considered second class. They can be abused by their witches, and no rules will stop it. So I can somehow understand if the familiars are wanting revenge. It's an unfair treatment to familiars

(show spoiler)

. I like that it's not simply a black and white / bad guys vs. good guys situation.

The only thing that I wasn't sure about was the fact that

Owen was practically engaged with another woman, while he pursued his sexual encounters with Malachi. I guess I have never been 100% comfortable with this kind of situation

(show spoiler)

Verdict: Shiny new series which falls right into my taste ^^. Can't wait to see who's next. I hope it's Isaac.

Carved in Bone (Jefferson Bass)

Carved in Bone  - Jefferson Bass

Didn't meet my expectation -- I was expecting heavy investigation related to Body Farm. But the first part was boring, in addition there was drama (the father-son relationship -- what the hell was that? -- the whole younger female students infatuation) that I thought was off-putting. Not interested with the next books.

Suddenly Yours (Jacob Z. Flores)

Suddenly Yours (Dreamspun Desires Book 20) - Jacob Z. Flores

3.5 stars

When I still read a lot of category M/F romance from Harlequin, accidental marriage (usually involves waking up in Vegas with hangover) is one of my favorite tropes. What draws me to this trope is how the couple might be forced by a situation to stay married, but over time, realize that they are actually falling in love with one another and it’s more than just a good sex experience, of course. It’s a ‘backward’ tale of falling in love and to me, that’s interesting.

Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly find that kind of conflict in this book. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it … but I just didn’t find the ‘progress’ from not feeling anything to falling in love with these guys. Why? Because I felt that it was clear from the beginning how Julian and Cody are a perfect fit for each other; they have a great amount of chemistry… I was having difficulty believing that they weren’t on their way to falling in love right from the start.

It was easier to see that Julian might not feel the same towards his ex … but to Cody? Hell, Julian is romantic to Cody, he is protective, he wants Cody to have everything, and he tries to make sure that Cody is happy. Julian keeps saying how Cody is different than any other man for him. To me, Julian is already there … in love with his husband.

I might understand that Jacob Flores tries to separate affection and love, and that one can be married with affection but without love … but here, I felt that Julian and Cody have both already! So the conflict wasn’t there to begin with.

Having said that … I was still fabulously entertained! Flores’ brand of humor fits me. I found myself smiling and all-in-all overjoyed. Both men are likable, although Cody is definitely the sunshine of this book. His carefree attitude, his witty one-liners, his determination to make Julian less of an ass-tight man … it is all a gorgeous package that made me fall in love with Cody. Julian might be a little clueless when it comes to his own feelings but I must admit that his love declaration is GRAND. Kudos Julian.

Verdict: cute, light angst, low steam level (Cody wants to have six months marriage trial without sex! *lol*), and delightful read. It makes me happy for sure.

A Guest Review for The Blogger Girls

The ARC is provided by the publisher for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

Promise of Wrath (Steve McHugh)

Promise of Wrath (The Hellequin Chronicles) - Steve McHugh

3.75 stars rounded up

I felt that some parts were dragging the story down (initially, wasn't a huge fan of the alternate realm plot); plus it had TOO MANY new players added; McHugh probably setting it all up for the next book as the final one. But I'm still rounding it up because the last 1/3rd was too much awesomeness...

+ Mordred. I was highly excited with this new development of him. I loved reading him partnering with Nate
+ Francis and Brutus' death. Those were jaw-dropping moments.
+ Finding out Kasey's elemental power in addition to her being a werewolf.
+ We finally found out that Nate's mother was a Valkyrie, Brynhildr
+ Nate gained another power, shadow magic, and it KICKED ASS (the wraith is awesome)
+ Merlin supports Hera. He is a total douche and he proves it more and more in each book

I am thinking about who's behind everything. I mean, Hera's is quite the "top goddess". If she works for this "My Liege" character, then he (or she) must be someone so powerful that even Hera follows him (or her) around. So all I could think of is a Titan. Like

Kronos (or Gaia, because let's face it, Rick Riordan showed that Gaia could be crazy as well). That is the only possibility I can think of. Unless if McHugh decides to bring king of demon like Lucifer to this series as well.

(show spoiler)

Of Love and Corn Dogs (Parker Williams)

Of Love and Corn Dogs (Of Love And... Book 1) - Parker Williams, Jae Ashley


Honestly, I found this dry (the writing) with a side of boring (the storytelling/plot). Probably it's one of those "me not the book" situations *shrugs*.

The Weight of It All (N.R. Walker)

The Weight Of It All - N.R. Walker

Some parts of this book were VERY relatable for me. I started to work out (jogging/running, to be exact) last year, when I got an epiphany about my weight. I didn't go to the gym or hired personal trainer; but I made sure that I had morning run every week since then. I was able to run 10k first time earlier this year, and before the year is over I will try if I can run 15k.

So what Henry was experiencing ... I've been there, even if my reason for exercising didn't have anything to do with relationship or self-esteem. I knew how good it felt when I had to buy new smaller clothes size. I could somewhat relate to what Henry was feeling.

And I loved that epilogue, it was sweet.

BUT, there is a reason why I no longer read N.R. Walker. I find her writing to be repetitively boring for my current taste. I skimmed this story a LOT because it felt redundant (after a while, the whole thing of "I'm dying" from Henry was grating on my nerves), it was going on and on and on, and I didn't find Henry as hilarious ... I found him trying to hard and I didn't smile/laugh even once over his jokes.

So, it was just an okay book for me, mainly because despite the theme, I didn't click with Walker's writing style anymore *shrugs*

Crime Wave (Adam Carpenter)

Crime Wave - Adam Carpenter

3.5 stars

Jimmy McSwain is back ... this time he deals with a case that is closed to home (his sister's boyfriend is accused of murder) and another case that reminds him of his father's murder fifteen years previously. In between, Captain Francis X. Frisano of the NYPD is also making his move towards Jimmy.

I thought this was an enjoyable mystery with gay protagonist. I liked it, although at times I thought Jimmy has too much of internal monologue when it comes to relationship as well as his father's murder that keeps haunting him. Oh, and I also thought that the story was getting closer to the ... "every suspects/victims are gay trope" that I commonly found in MM mystery. Does a gay P.I. only take cases with LGBTQ clients? Just wondering.

Anyway, I definitely will read the next books. Might not be my 4-stars material as of now but still likable for me. I like having an MM-mystery series to follow.

Hidden Identity (Adam Carpenter)

Hidden Identity: The Jimmy McSwain Files - Adam Carpenter

3.5 stars

I stumbled to the review of the latest Jimmy McSwain Files series over at The Blogger Girls. I just finished Neil Plakcy's Ghost Ship so I was in the mood for another mystery book that didn't focus on romance. Based on the review, this sounds like it fits with what I am looking for.

And it was...

There were two 'cases' that Jimmy McSwain, openly gay private investigator, must taken care of. First case, he is hired by the Rothschilds to find their son, Harris. Then the second case became somewhat related when Saul Rothschild, Harris' father, was murdered after Saul met with Harris.

I really liked it. The cases are pretty straightforward, not very complicated, but still enjoyable for a mystery fan like me. Jimmy does his thing where he gathering up information, talks to the people involved ... and even if there is a side-plot of Jimmy having sexual entanglement with an Englishman but the book never focuses on any kind of romantic relationship.

I also liked Jimmy's background -- his father was murdered when Jimmy was fourteen years old and the police never caught the murderer. It somehow shaped Jimmy to become the person he is right now at twenty-nine, and I can see that his father's unsolved murder case will be the big arc to the whole series.

Jimmy's family is also an interesting bunch. His mother works as head usher at a Broadway theater, his sister works for a law firm, and his other sister also works at the theater. Growing up in theaters sure helps Jimmy with his first case with the Rothschild's son.

Anyway, I am definitely going to read the next books. It's nice to have a mystery mystery series with gay-character-lead to follow -- rather than mystery that has too many romance plot :)

Beyond the Grill (by Tracey Michael)

Beyond the Grill - Tracey Michael

I hate to say it, but Beyond the Grill is one case where the blurb is more exciting than the story itself and I struggle to find something good to say about it. I think I had a big issue with the writing – there isn’t enough characterization and relationship building. It felt on the humdrum side of storytelling as well.

I felt like I was being shoved into a story without context, where any development resided solely in the author’s head. I didn’t get any background information about either Justin or Shane. There isn’t enough chemistry showing between the two men.

When the ex-boyfriend appeared on page, he was almost like a cartoon villain: two-dimensional with an evil plan that was a combination of over-the-top dramatic and unreasonable motive (again, probably because not enough given to building the suspense for it). Of course it didn’t help that Justin and Shane easily fell into the ‘lack of communication’ trap.

I am a bit reluctant to recommend this novella – but hey, maybe someone else will enjoy this more than I. If you like blue collar men or being surrounded with cars, you may like it.

A Guest Review for The Blogger Girls

The ARC is provided by the publisher for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

Curran POV Collection (Gordon Andrews)

Curran POV Collection - Gordon Andrews

Probably will have to be read by Kate Daniels fans at one point (at least before the series is over for sure) ... but personally, these are way too short for me to make impact what-so-ever.

The story that I liked best is the last one, "Awake", which happened when Curran finally awoke from his coma in Magic Bleeds.

Ghost Ship (Neil S. Plakcy)

Ghost Ship (Mahu Investigations) (Volume 10) - Neil Plakcy

3.75 stars rounded up

There is a four-years jump between this latest book of Mahu series and the previously released one, Children of Noah. So Kimo and Mike's twins are now four years old (though mostly live with their mothers, so they are not on page a lot), and their twenty-year-old foster son Dakota a sophomore at the University of Hawai’i.

The book itself focuses more on Kimo and his partner of nine years (work partner, not life partner) Ray, to investigate who is responsible of sending hazardous material via ship that killed a family of four. This investigation takes Kimo and Ray across cities and continents, from Hawai'i to Japan to Seattle to Idaho.

I liked that it focused on the investigation. I thought Kimo and Mike's relationship had been going on for a decade and was solid enough, that I didn't need a lot of romantic moments between them. ALTHOUGH, it was clear that Mike wasn't too happy with Kimo's work as an FBI, because he could stay quite a long time from home to catch the bad guys. I could understand that -- and heck, Ray's wife, Julie also felt the same. I thought it felt quite down to earth; I am sure that being FBI's spouses are not an easy feat.

I'm quite interested in where Placky will take this series, actually, if he decides to continue. Kimo and Ray seem to think about doing other jobs now, one that make them closer to their family. Mike also seems to think about doing something else. These guys are in their 40's now, with kids on their tails, so probably they will end up getting a job that doesn't feel too dangerous? I don't know, I'm very curious about their future decision. Although I do hope that Ray doesn't follow Julie and his plan to leave Hawai'i. I am going to miss him, he's been Kimo's work partner since book #4!

I deducted the rating a bit because there was a moment where I was a bit annoyed with Kimo's way of thinking about how to deal with terrorists. Not going to discuss it much but I thought it felt arrogant ...

Taming the Wyld (Lucie Archer)

Taming the Wyld (States of Love) - Lucie Archer

2.5 stars

The idea was intriguing -- I sure like to read about playboy being reformed. But the execution was lacking.

I know that the idea was probably to make Jake worked on this new relationship with JD. However, I didn't feel the chemistry or the sexual tension, and it seemed that Jake and JD (urgh, two MCs with same letter to start their name) spent more time apart rather than building up the relationship. I felt that Jake had more time shared with his best friend rather than JD.

So, the romance was MEH ... I reached around 1/3 before I started skimming. Also the Alaska setting didn't come fully alive in my humble opinion. Which was too bad, since the setting was one of the biggest reasons of my choosing this.

Delaney and the Autumn Masque (Bonnie Dee & Summer Devon)

Delaney and the Autumn Masque (Victorian Holiday Hearts Book 4) - Summer Devon, Bonnie Dee

3.5 stars

I think this might be the last book of Dee/Devon Victorian Holiday Hearts novella series; it featured Delaney Andrews one of the Andrews' foster kids. I really enjoyed the first part where Delaney and Bartholomew met on the masque party. There was something quite sensual about it, when you met the strangers while using masks.

The relationship progress was lovely and I was happy that Bartholomew was able to live doing what he enjoyed doing (making jewelry!!) :)

One More Taste (Melissa Cutler)

One More Taste: A One and Only Texas Novel - Melissa Cutler

I highly enjoyed One Hot Summer, the first book in the series and was pretty excited to read this sequel. The reason is that Emily Ford, the temperamental and passionate chef, is starring as the heroine here. Imagine this, she spills peach soup all over Knox right in the first chapter! I was curious to see how Knox could soften her up.

Unfortunately, this book suffered from unlikable family drama coming from the Briscoe family that sometimes eclipsed the relationship. The first book featured two people who are not family members, so the Briscoes stayed outside the periphery. Knox and Emily, however, are very close to the family. Knox himself is a Briscoe, while Emily’s best friend is Ty Briscoe’s older daughter, Carina.

So we have a LOT of family issues bleeding into the story – for example: Haylie, Ty’s youngest daughter who is in a bad marriage, then the long-time feud between Ty and Knox’s deceased father which makes Knox cut out from the ranch business from the very beginning, as well as family secrets that create the feud in the first place. In addition, Ty Briscoe is such a distasteful man!! The things he said to Knox and Emily!! I was having violent urges to beat the guy until he couldn’t stand up.

I mean, it’s not like we don’t have drama coming from the couple either – mostly Emily, since she keeps a secret from everyone, which has driven her to be wary about expanding her career and pursuing a personal relationship.

So I was alternating between feeling exhausted or annoyed most of the time. I wanted the book to focus on Knox and Emily, not sharing the spotlights with the other Briscoe family members. The ending wasn’t satisfying to me either, since the resolution to the ‘threat’ of Briscoe losing the ranch resort was a little too neat.

It was such a downer because I thought Knox was a great hero. I really loved Knox. This guy believed that his car was haunted (so amusing!), he named an attacking fish (yes, there was an attacking fish in this book *lol*), and he was really sweet to Emily, despite her penchant for running away. There were also moments between Knox and Emily together that I thought were wonderful. So Knox was the major reason why I was still able to enjoy the book somewhat; it was just too bad that Emily couldn’t keep up.

A Guest Review for The Blogger Girls

The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

Dangerously Charming (Deborah Blake)

Dangerously Charming (Broken Riders Novel, A) - Deborah Blake
3.5 stars

This curse unbroken now shall be
Down into eternity
Unless you find the pathway through
And solve the riddle with this clue
A rose’s cry at rock enchanted
The sun’s bright ray where none is slanted
A magic key to a gift divine
True love must merge when stars align

Dangerously Charming is the start of a new spin-off series from Deborah Blake, out of her previous Baba Yaga novels. Personally, I think you don’t need to read the Baba Yaga novels first because Blake gave enough information for new readers, but it will sure help give context as to why the series is titled “Broken Riders”.

On the fantasy/fairy-tale part, I thought this was definitely charming. There is a classic adventure quest to break a curse that had been cast centuries ago. Blake takes readers to visit the Otherworld, to revisit Barbara (one of the Baba Yagas), a road trip to enchanted rock, more information about Russian folklore, heck even having Mikhail involved in challenge of wits with a troll. I enjoyed that part very much. I also loved that I knew more about Mikhail and his Rider brothers this time.

It is the romance part that I wasn’t completely sold on. I thought it was rather lukewarm, and I definitely didn’t get the emotion. Which was too bad because with Mikhail having guilt after what happened with him and his brothers in the previous series, there was potential for hurt/comfort moments.

I also had issues with a couple of technical things. Deborah Blake used ‘two versions’ of referring Mikhail Day as character. When the perspective is heavily leaning on Mikhail, she uses “Day”. When it is from Jenna’s perspective, she writes it as “Mick”. That didn’t help me connect with the character. Just when I was familiarizing myself with Mick, I was ‘yanked’ out again and forced to know Mick as Day. It was distracting.

Blake also wrote a few short scenes using multiple POVs from other characters, like Barbara, Jenna’s ex, and the fairy who cast the curse. I strongly dislike multiple POVs in books with a romantic element. I want the POVs to focus only the hero/heroine. So I thought these scenes were unnecessary and disrupted the flow of the story.

Of course this could easily be my issue alone. Overall, it is a good spin-off and for those who have enjoyed Baba Yaga series, you will enjoy this one as well.

A Guest Review for The Blogger Girls

The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.