Vicious (Sinners of Saint #1) by L J Shen

Book Description:

Published: December 27, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

Emilia

They say love and hate are the same feelings experienced under different circumstances, and it’s true.The man who comes to me in my dreams also haunts me in my nightmares. He is a brilliant lawyer. A skilled criminal. A beautiful liar. A bully and a savior, a monster and a lover.

Ten years ago, he made me run away from the small town where we lived. Now, he came for me in New York, and he isn’t leaving until he takes me with him.

Vicious

She is a starving artist. Pretty and evasive like cherry blossom. Ten years ago, she barged into my life unannounced and turned everything upside down. She paid the price.

Emilia LeBlanc is completely off-limits, my best friend’s ex-girlfriend. The woman who knows my darkest secret, and the daughter of the cheap Help we hired to take care of our estate. That should deter me from chasing her, but it doesn’t. So she hates me. Big fucking deal. She better get used to me.

Review –

I always love a good “love/hate” relationship in my books and this one has it in spades !!!

Barron Spencer, more commonly known as Vicious, is a great anti-hero.  HE IS NOT A NICE MAN.  He’s not a good guy in disguise, he’s never redeemed, and he’s never apologetic for the cruel things he does, the cruelest of which is to Emilia, the heroine.

The story starts in the past.  Emilia is the daughter of ‘the help’ who looks after the home Vicious lives in.  She overhears a conversation he is having with someone and from that moment on he is determined to get rid of her.  He’s afraid she heard something he didn’t want her to know.  There is another issue, though, and that is that Vicious is attracted to her.  They are in the same grade at high school.  But when she starts dating one of his good friends, that’s it, he blackmails her into leaving her home, her family, and everything she loves.

The story picks up years later when Vicious runs into her at a bar she’s waitressing at and he decides he’s going to meddle in her life again and then sets about it.  He makes her an offer she can’t refuse, working for him, and he proceeds to run her life.  The reason Vicious has pulled her back into his web is to use her in a revenge plot.  The only reason Emilia allows it is that she has always had feelings for Vicious and sees a side to him that he hides from the rest of the world.  Since the story is told in first person in alternate POV, we get to see the same glimpses Emilia does.

I found this book a very compelling read, though not the easiest  at times. Although Vicious has no real redeeming qualities, Emilia sees him for exactly who and what he is.  She doesn’t connect the dots until later, but goes into the relationship with both eyes wide open and prepared for heartbreak.  I like her as a heroine, I really do.  She’s been through fire because of Vicious and has come out very much stronger because of it.  I give huge kudos to the author for writing such a controversial yet gripping male protagonist.

 

 

 

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Stinger by Mia Sheridan

Book Description:

Published: September 23, 2013

Format: Audio/Audible

Grace Hamilton was the girl with a plan. She knew exactly where her life was going and prided herself on always achieving her goals. It was who she was, and how she lived her life. She never stepped outside the lines, and never considered what she might desire and whom she was actually trying so hard to please. Until him . . .

Carson Stinger was a man who didn’t play by any rules except his own. Working in the adult entertainment industry, he didn’t care what others thought, and took each day as it came, no direction, no plan. He knew what women wanted from him and believed it was all he had to offer. Until her . . .

When circumstances forced them to spend several hours together, they walked away changed. But for two people who never should have meshed, overcoming the reality of their vastly different lives wasn’t possible. At least not yet . . .

THIS IS A STANDALONE SIGN OF LOVE NOVEL, INSPIRED BY SCORPIO. New Adult Contemporary Romance: Due to strong language and sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.

Review –

This was my first reading by this author and she  weaves a wonderful story of two polar-opposite people, who are in the wrong place at the wrong time or, maybe, the right place at the right time. It all depends on how you look at it. Porn Star meets Law Student. Definitely not something I would normally be drawn to, but how about ex-porn star turned Navy SEAL meets law student, turned D.A., now there’s a story!

The story itself spans years, but we keep tabs on both players and what is going on in their lives. I absolutely love the romantic scenes and the shift from sex to love. Carson and Grace are a perfect couple, even if it takes a five years to figure it out. The bond that they created years before shifted how they saw themselves and the choices that they made. All because of one weekend. LOVED IT!

 

Unmasked Volume Three (Unmasked #3) by Cassia Leo

Book Description:

Published: August 15, 2014

Format: Audio/Audible

My entire life has been unmasked.

Everything I thought to be true has been called into question.

Whom do I trust? What do I believe?

With two men promising to keep me safe and one promising to give me my life back, which path do I choose?

Masked or unmasked?

Review –

Volume Three opens with Daimon showing Alex that he is alive, that he still loves her, and he knows that she is carrying their baby. Daimon tries to tell her the more of her past and the truth about her parents and the prince and princess. Daimon tells her that Nick is a bounty hunter but Alex does not believe him until things start to fall into place.

Nick and Alex are on a boat racing to get to the plane to take her to meet her parents. But Nick slips up and calls her Alex. Can someone please tell me if that was a flaw on the writers part because I remember Nick telling Alex that he knows her name is not Alyssa and is Alex and that her parents are the prince and princess. So my question is even though he continued to call her Alyssa how was that a slip REALLY. I think Alex confirmed the information when she agreed to meet her “parents”.

That was just one thing that bothered me in this installment. The rest are too numerous to mention, surficce it to say, I’m glad I’m done with this series.

 

Unmasked, Volume Two (Unmasked #2) by Cassia Leo

Book Description:

Published: June 25, 2014

Format: Audio/OverDrive

I left my former life – and my mask – behind.

Running from a past where I was born unloved. A past where I was betrayed by love.

Running from an organization with limitless power and stealth. Running for my life.

I never expected to find love on the run. Not in a tiny seaside town on an island in the middle of nowhere.

Not without my mask.

But it seems as if my sad story is being rewritten with someone else’s pen. But whose pen is it?

This question haunts me day and night. And I get my answer on a perfectly decadent evening. When I come home to find my bedroom perfumed with the scent of death.

He’s here.

Review –

Like the first book this one is all over the place and a little difficult to follow but hang in there, answers start to come when the book changes to Diamon’s point of view and  Alex’s world starts to turn upside down!

Alex is now going by the alias Alyssa, hiding out in the Canary Islands, trying to figure out her past. Diamon led her to believe she is the kidnapped daughter of the Princess of Monaco – so ridiculous, but could Diamon be telling the truth and she killed him anyway? Who exactly were her parents then? Now she has time to think and  isn’t one hundred percent sure she killed Diamon.

She is incredibly suspicious of everyone, especially Nicholas, the beautiful Spanish man who befriends Alex. I think since Alex was locked in her basement as a girl, then trapped in her apartment as a young woman, her senses are heightened. She can smell Diamon in her house and on her clothes and it turns her on completely! God knows Nicholas doesn’t do anything for her. Alex’s world will never be the same – her body is changing, she is out in the open without her thick mask of makeup, & her feelings about Diamon are torn – she called him “my protector & my enemy.”

I didn’t like this installment nearly as much as I did the first and wasn’t sure if I’d finish the series, but WTH, I might as well.

 

 

The Last Days of August by Jon Ronson

Book Description:

Published: January 3, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

In December 2017 the famous porn star August Ames committed suicide in a park in the Conejo Valley. It happened a day after she’d been the victim of a pile-on, via Twitter, by fellow porn professionals – punishment for her tweeting something deemed homophobic.

A month later, August’s husband, Kevin, connected with Jon Ronson to tell the story of how Twitter bullying killed his wife. What neither Kevin nor Ronson realized was that Ronson would soon hear rumors and secrets hinting at a very different story – something mysterious and unexpected and terrible.

In The Last Days of August, Ronson unravels the never-before-told story of what caused this beloved 23-year-old actress’ untimely death.

Review –

Until Ronson, a Welsh author, starts digging, the popular theory surrounding Ames’ suicide is that she died in response to being dragged on Twitter after making homophobic comments.

Ronson delves into these comments, gradually revealing what was said, who @’d whom, and whether Ames even saw the most vicious tweets before she died. Ames’ widower Kevin Moore has some cockamamie reasoning for why he doesn’t think the tweets were homophobic (they were), but that’s not the real issue in the podcast.

The real issue appears at the first episode’s end, when Ronson drops an interview with Ames’ friend and fellow porn actress Emma Hix. Hix says Moore had asked her to “hold a lot of things in” and not expose Ames’ “dirty little secrets.” And we’re off to the races! Except that Ronson opens the next episode with an attempt to contextualize the blood-chilling audio—deus ex machina-style—from his perspective at the end of the podcast’s investigation phase, 10 months in the future: “This will not turn out to be a murder mystery,” he says. I think that may be a big reason we all like Ronson so much—he’s got one hell of a story to tell us, but he doesn’t want to unfairly smear Moore as a murderer, in case you don’t finish all seven episodes.

The twists and turns of The Last Days of August exhausted me. Ronson runs back and forth between subjects like a reality show producer; Moore won’t let Ames hang out with her friends, Moore says Ames’ friends are pressuring her to do drugs, and so on. It feels like nothing solid ever comes out of the interviews. I can’t promise you’ll finish August feeling like a great veil has been yanked back from what Ames was thinking or what truly happened to her. But August is a fascinating show that manages something truly curious: It presents people from the porn industry quite nakedly, and you never even see them.

At the end of this sad tale nothing has been solved. No one truly knows by August Ames decided to hang herself on a stormy night in December of 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above, August Ames with husband, Kevin Moore in 2016.

Complicated by Kristen Ashley

Book Description:

Published: May 2, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

When small-town Nebraska sheriff Hixon Drake meets Greta Dare, the connection couldn’t be stronger, but the timing couldn’t be worse.

Dealing with the fallout of a divorce he never wanted and setting up a new home for his kids, Hix becomes that guy, that one he never wanted to be, and puts a stop to things before they can even start. Protecting his kids and himself is his only priority.

Greta, on the other hand, has found the place for her and the brother she adores that’s perfect for them – a sleepy little town in Nebraska. She’s learned from life that there are no hopes and dreams. The only thing to look forward to is peace. And that’s what she works hard to build for herself and her brother. Right up until Hix walks into her life.

Hix can’t fight the pull and stay away from Greta for long. And Greta’s finding it hard not to hope for something more with all the promise that is Hix.

But when the first murder that’s happened in over five decades rocks his small, sleepy county, Hix has got to learn to trust again, convince Greta to take a shot with him, and at the same time catch a killer.

In other words, things are definitely Complicated.

Review –

Complicated was a luscious standalone gem from an author that is new to me and I’ve heard can be  hit or miss. This one was definitely a HIT full of later life dreams come true.  The book is full of all sorts of interesting plot threads that radiate out from the two main characters.  They were likeable and lovable and they both had lives that marked them so their character depths were well-deep and many faceted.

On the surface, it could be reduced down to two divorcees- one recent and one a few years old finding a connection, but not expecting the connection or what follows when small town friends and family are also involved.  That was pretty good, but what took this one deeper for me was that the author took the time to tease out what killed the old relationships and what built this new one that was stronger and richer for the pair of them.  There are exes, conflicted children, interfering parents, and all sorts of small town stuff including their separate friends and places of employment.  The mystery is interesting and Hixon is the sheriff so he must deal with that, but it was interesting in the sense, too, of how it hit the community and the family of the victim.

This author seems to know how to make ordinary people with flaws and their simple, but flawed lives fascinating and story-worthy.   Hixon and Greta were a surprising pair in some ways.  But after a few false starts, they really make sense- the devilishly handsome family man county sheriff with the hair-stylist lounge singer once trailer trash woman with an adult brother with disabilities and a crazy-wacko mother.

Characters didn’t get lost in their heads or unnecessarily drama this up.  There are sections of character development and reflection as well as action which was a great balance.  These characters were mature (well, the ones who were meant to be portrayed as mature) and acted like it.  And while this was long,(over 18 hours on audio) it did not drag.  There is a lot going on and it all was natural to the story and equally engaging.

This is an Audible exclusive release and I was thrilled to encounter a new pair of fantastic narrators in Lance Greenfield and Erin Mallon.  Sections were told by Hixon with Lance taking the lead and then sections by Erin.  Both were a great match for their particular character counter-parts and did a great job with the large cast of characters ranging from kids to older folk.  There are many emotions to portray and changes in mood that were transitioned well.  Humor, sadness, and firework-worthy passion was superb.

I really enjoyed this book and I call it “soft smut” because although there is plenty of HOT sex and STEAMY sexual chemistry, it isn’t all up in your face and along with the sex is a very believable storyline with engaging characters.

This was my first listen to a book by Kristen Ashley and I’ll be adding more of her books to my TBR list.

Five stars!

 

Unbeloved (Undeniable #4) by Madeline Sheehan

Book Description:

Published: June 23, 2014

Format: Audio/Audible

Dorothy Kelley is a born romantic, searching for her prince. Instead she finds herself pregnant at fifteen, and in a loveless marriage by the tender age of eighteen.

Then hope comes riding into her life on a motorcycle and within weeks, Jason “Jase” Brady, a member of the Hell’s Horsemen Motorcycle Club, sweeps Dorothy off her feet.

But nothing is ever simple for Dorothy. Jase is married with children. And as Dorothy patiently waits for Jase to give her the happily-ever-after she’s been dreaming about, James “Hawk” Young, a member of the Hell’s Horsemen with secrets of his own, sees an opening into Dorothy’s life and takes it.

Carrying on two secret affairs is no easy feat. As Dorothy tries to dig herself out of the mess she’s created, covering one mistake with another, tragedy strikes, nearly costing Dorothy her life and that of her unborn son.

What follows is a long and painful journey of self-discovery and forgiveness, as Dorothy comes to realize that home was exactly where she’d left it, and the love she’d forever craved had always been within her reach.

This is the story of Dorothy, Jase, and Hawk.

We are all born pure; it is our journey that burdens us and leads us astray. Our mistakes that beat us down and cover us in guilt and shame, burying us a little more with each passing hardship. It is up to us to dig ourselves out, to come to terms with our faults, to embrace not only our imperfections but those of the ones we love, and to once again find the path we strayed from.

Warning: This is not a conventional or predictable love story. It involves one woman and two men bound by a love so destructive it spans two decades, pitting brother against brother, and shattering the lives of those touched by it.

Review –

This book is such an emotional ride about so many broken individuals that it left me feeling a bit sad about the hardships they faced, the things they missed, the bumps they hit.  No, some things may not seem fair.  Love isn’t easy for them.  But true love stayed true ’til the end.  Through the good and the bad.  Dorothy’s story is not the same as the others in the series.  And I was perfectly ok with that.

As much as I cared for Dorothy before, I truly came to understand her and feel for her in this book.  Her life, her emotions, her wants and needs.  What a life she’s had!  Then there’s Jace who might’ve broken my heart too.  And lastly there’s Hawk.  Who stole my heart!

Another job very well done for Madeline Sheehan who manages to suck me into her world with every installment in new ways.  And what about the CLIFFHANGER ending!!!!!!!!    OMG! No spoilers, but I can’t find the next book FREE so I’ll have to wait awhile, but no matter how long it takes I will not forget any of the characters that I have met in this series.

 

Undeniable (Undeniable #1) by Madeline Sheehan

Book Description:

Published: December 20, 2012

Format: Audio/Audible

Warning: This is not a typical, sappy love story. This is an all-consuming, soul-crushing, tear-your-heart-into-pieces story. It’s intense, gritty and raw, dark and disturbing, and it doesn’t happen overnight. This is an epic love story that knows no boundaries and has no time limits. It grows and develops-with hurt, sacrifice, and heartache-over the span of a lifetime. Eva Fox is the princess of the Silver Demons Motorcycle Club. Growing up with bikers in the club lifestyle is all that she knows. When she’s a young girl, Eva meets the reason for her existence. Deuce West is the sexy, biker bad-ass of the Hell’s Horsemen Motorcycle Club. Like Eva, he was born and raised in the club-but that’s where the similarities end. Their first meeting is innocent, but as Eva matures into a woman, their chance reunions evolve into a fit of lust and love. Fate continues to bring them together time and time again, but their twisted journey is filled with pain, betrayal, and bloodshed that could tear them apart. Eva sees in Deuce what he cannot see in himself-a man worthy of love-and Eva spends her lifetime proving to him that her undeniable love is the one thing he can’t live without. This is Eva and Deuce’s story. It wasn’t easy. Nothing worth doing ever is. And love is worth everything.

Review –

First new series of the year and I love this first installment.

This book is so wrong that it just seems right. Older man, younger woman, (like an eighteen year age difference) meet when she’s five and he’s twenty-three at a prison, where they are both visiting their fathers.  Eva’s father is the president of an MC and Deuce is about to inherit that role of a rival MC when his father dies. Right from the get go, Eva is in love with Deuce and she has caught his eye. They meet sporadically over the years until Eva is sixteen, and Deuce, thirty-four, and they become intimate(not full on intercourse)and he eventually takes her virginity at eighteen – I mentioned the wrongness right?

The book is set in the badass world of Motorcycle Clubs and it’s raw, rough, edgy to say the very least as the story absolutely hurtles along like a runaway train out of control. It practically pulsates with an energy, a life force of its own. Deuce behaves like a jerk to Eva for nearly all the book but true love is undeniable and, despite everything that goes down and boy does it go down, their feelings for one another completely outweigh time and everything that happens.

If you are offended by the word f*ck, DO NOT read or listen to this book because it’s used her and over and over again. If you love hot, steamy sexual chemistry and love that endures time, DO read this book.

I loved it and can’t wait to read more in this series.

 

 

The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin

Book Description:

Published: May 19, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

The truth hurts…

Erin and Roisin were once friends until a fatal accident ruined both their lives. Now, Roisin has discovered a secret—one Erin has kept for over a decade—and she’s determined to make Erin pay for her lies.

Erin wants nothing to do with Roisin. She has a new life in London and no intention of going back home. Yet when her father is mysteriously and critically injured, Erin has no choice but to return and face Roisin—and her past. Erin knows if the secret of what she gave up got out, the consequences could be devastating.

When Roisin suddenly disappears, suspicion soon lands on Erin. She would do anything to protect her family, but just how far is she willing to go when time is running out…?

Review –

This is the story of Erin, partly written in first person and told over a dual timeline. Sixteen year old Erin is in love, pregnant and being told what is best for her by adults. They all make sense but she doesn’t want to hear it.

Present day, ten years later, Erin is living in London working at a beauty salon when she receives a blast from the past phone call from her old school friend, Roisin, in Ireland. The call is disturbing and unsettling for Erin and within hours she receives another urgent call from her sister, Fiona, informing her that their father is in intensive care with a serious head injury. From here Erin is forced back to Ireland to be with her family and knows she will also have to face the dreaded Roisin who she knows she will bump into in the small village they live in.

Sue Fortin writes beautifully and competently with unease and tense moments at each chapter ending. Her characters are realistic and visual with enough description to make them authentic without becoming mundane or boring. There is just the right amount of teasing romance to add to the suspense but without distracting from the gripping storyline. The text is rich and written with depth and meaning, and several times I thought I’d guessed what was coming, sometimes I did guess correctly but it didn’t spoil the outcome at all because there was twist and revelation, one on top of another. I found the book totally compelling and couldn’t put it down.

I would highly recommend it for anyone who likes psychological suspense.

My first five-star book of the year!

The Hanging Girl (Department Q #6) by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Book Description:

Published: September 8, 2015

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In the middle of his usual hard-won morning nap in the basement of police headquarters, Carl Mørck, head of Department Q, receives a call from a colleague working on the Danish island of Bornholm. Carl is dismissive when he realizes that a new case is being foisted on him, but a few hours later, he receives some shocking news that leaves his headstrong assistant Rose more furious than usual. Carl has no choice but to lead Department Q into the tragic cold case of a vivacious seventeen-year-old girl who vanished from school, only to be found dead hanging high up in a tree. The investigation will take them from the remote island of Bornholm to a strange sun worshipping cult, where Carl, Assad, Rose, and newcomer Gordon attempt to stop a string of new murders and a skilled manipulator who refuses to let anything—or anyone—get in the way.

Review –

This is by far my least favorite book of the Department Q series and I hoping it’s just a problem with the translation because I really do enjoy this series.

Presumably Carl Mørck, head of the Q Department, is the protagonist, but he comes across as lazy and disagreeable. Perhaps that is how he is supposed to be portrayed, but there is very little reason to cheer for him. Adler-Olsen’s other characters have little, if any, dimension; visualizing them is difficult, (not usual for this series).

There is some description given of Mørck’s assistants Assad and Rose and she has some job responsibilities with her computer knowledge and organizational skills. Assad appears to be the comic sidekick who can’t seem to get the words right: strawstack instead of haystack. Considering that both of these characters have appeared in previous Department Q stories, it must be assumed that the author’s fans are already familiar with them and details are not needed. The other characters in the story all seem to be angry or manipulative—it’s hard to find anyone likable.

The premise of the story—a cold case file that has driven a police officer to suicide, but not until he has left clues for Mørck and his assistants to find in order to keep the cold case alive—would be workable if the story followed that line with fewer diversions.

The Department Q gathering of the mountain of information from the deceased police officer’s home is a little hard to fathom. With the information described as boxes and boxes of papers, magazines, books, letters, photos, etc., all neatly organized by Rose in an extremely short time span, it’s hard to believe that any organization could suddenly reveal the small clues and evidence needed to solve this crime.

Initially, the story does little to encourage the reader to continue listening. The storyline jumps forward and backward in time, and it almost seems that at the beginning of the story there is another storyline with no connection. This is a side story that starts at an earlier time and involves an alternative religious (cult) group. The scenes around this group are more interesting than those about the cold case file, and one must trudge through half of the book before the two issues begin to knit together in the story.

Although Adler-Olsen does a satisfactory job of tying up loose ends, the whole purpose of the story remains elusive. It’s hard to understand why a policeman would gather this large amount of information and leave it behind for others to explore, when the reality is that the police officer already knew the sad answer.

One interesting turn that is difficult to understand is what the author  does with Mørck’s assistant Rose at the end of the book. She has appeared in previous Department Q books, and if his purpose was to write her out of the series, presumably he has succeeded, and she may not be returning in any subsequent Q Department tales. Of course, fiction being what it is, she might come around again. . . . and I hope she does, because I don’t know what Carl and Assad will do without her.

Considering Adler-Olsen is a popular crime writer in Denmark one can only hope that with The Hanging Girl the translation to English is faulty, and in his own language he has painted a much more interesting and vivid picture.