Defy (Sinners of Saint #0.5) by L J Shen

Book Description:

Published: January 31, 207

Format: Audio/Audible

Defy is a smutty, insta-love, insta-lust short novella. Defy is a prequel to Vicious. It is recommended, but unnecessary, to read Defy before reading Vicious.

My name is Melody Greene, and I have a confession to make.
I slept with my student, a senior in high school.
Multiple times.
I had multiple orgasms.
In multiple positions.
I slept with my student and I enjoyed it.
I slept with my student and I’d do it all over again if I could turn back time.
My name is Melody Greene, and I got kicked out of my position as a teacher and did my walk of shame a la Cersei Lannister from the principal’s office, minutes after said principal threatened to call the cops on me.
My name is Melody Greene, and I did something bad because it made me feel good.
Here is why it was totally worth it.

Review –

I usually never read Teacher/Student contemporary romances because they are too “icky”, but this was a prequel to Vicious, which I did want to read, so I read it and I loved it.

Jamie is unlike any eighteen year old boy I knew in my teens, but this is fiction, after all. He is self-assured, cocky, hot and sexy and seems to know just what a woman eight years his senior wanted sexually. 

Melody isn’t your token stiff, boring, literature teacher and they get together when Jamie is  literally three months away from graduation. Melody was relatable in that she owned up to her lust for Jamie right away. She wasn’t a predator, she was more of the prey. Who can resist a guy like Jamie? She was in a tough position in life that makes it easy to understand why she would throw caution to the wind and consider an illicit affair with a student.

One thing I LOVED was Jamie’s unwavering devotion to Melody. He may have been so much younger than her, but he had the backbone and loyalty many full-grown men could use. He wasn’t just a teenager wanting to bang his teacher to have something to tell his pals over a few drinks. Genuine feelings took root and didn’t let go and transformed this book from just a forbidden fantasy story, to something a lot deeper and meaningful. True romance at its best. It won’t take you more than a couple of hours to read this one, so I highly recommend you pick it up right away, especially if you’re planning to read Vicious or the other books in the series.

 

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The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

Book Description:

Published: January 10, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Annalee is a sleepwalker whose affliction manifests in ways both bizarre and devastating. Once, she merely destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home. More terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River bridge.

The morning of Annalee’s disappearance, a search party combs the nearby woods. Annalee’s husband, Warren, flies home from a business trip. Lianna is questioned by a young, hazel-eyed detective. And her little sister, Paige, takes to swimming the Gale to look for clues. When the police discover a small swatch of fabric, a nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead, but Gavin Rikert, the hazel-eyed detective, continues to call, continues to stop by the Ahlbergs’ Victorian home.

As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee’s disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her father was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where was the body?

Conjuring the strange and mysterious world of parasomnia, a place somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness, The Sleepwalker is a masterful novel from one of our most treasured storytellers.

Review –

I loved the first book I read by this author, The Flight Attendant, and so was confident that this one would be just as good. I was very wrong!

I was bored to tears during most of the book and wondered if ANYTHING would ever happen. The first two-thirds of the book are spent wondering whether Annalee is missing or dead. Once we find out, the pace picks up, but the only reason the ending is a surprise is because most of the clues seeded in the first two-thirds prove to be red herrings.

Sensational subject matter aside, this thriller is a sleeper.

I will wait a while before reading another from this author.

 

 

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.

 

Unattainable (Undeniable #3) by Madeline Sheehan

Book Description:

Published: September 20, 2013

Format: Audio/Audible

Warning: This is not a virtuous and tender love story. It’s chaotic, ruthless, and tragic. This story takes love and kills its innocence, steals away the pure moments, and crushes the hearts of the broken. A story born in childhood, tying one girl to one boy, leads to a destructive path—that hurts more than it doesn’t, that shatters more than it heals—testing the love that binds the two through a lifetime.

Tegen Matthews is the daughter of Dorothy Kelley, a club whore in the Hell’s Horsemen. A plain little girl, Tegen falls into the gritty world of the motorcycle club. When she meets a sweet, caring boy, she embraces the warmth and affection he shows her. Cage West is the son of the president of the Hell’s Horsemen. Tall and blond with deep brown eyes, as he grows up Cage realizes the power of his dimpled smile and smooth drawl. With one chance encounter, Tegen becomes forever tied to Cage. Following is a wayward journey that is filled with regrets, mistakes, and heartache, pulling at the threads that hold them together. Cage and Tegen fight hard but love harder, and in the end, what matters is where the journey takes one girl and one boy, who have been twined with one another since the beginning.

This is Tegen and Cage’s story.

Love doesn’t erase a broken heart, and it sure doesn’t change people. But no matter how old, how flimsy, how frayed the rope of love is, it keeps you tethered to the people you love.

Review –

This series is not an easy one and it’s not for everyone. There’s rape, death, killing but there’s also love and laughter.  The Hell’s Horsemen are not good guys only to the eyes of the ones they know and love. We get the past, present and a glimpse into the future. How will the future go? Who knows and I’m not guessing cause I’d be wrong. Again.

A little insight to the characters…

Cage. We all know him as Deuce’s son and a man whore. You think you know him but you don’t. Changes are coming for him whether he’s ready or not.
Tegan. She’s a fire-breathing dragon who has huge balls. She lives in the past when the future is right in front of her.
Dirty. BE PREPARED. His story is NOT pretty. We get into his past and it’s brutal and ugly. He is the way he is because of it. You have to have an open mind with him. The way he thinks will gut you. His actions will slay you. His future…
Ellie. A beautiful flower that will show her beauty to the one who needs it most.
Deuce. G*d damn the man.

All the characters in the alphabet  are in the story. I’m not here to tell you when and where they pop up. You will be surprised and shocked. You will feel elation and sorrow. You will just FEEL. This is what an author should do. Make a reader step out of their comfort zone, put you in another persons shoe and make you think would you do anything different.

This is the best one yet. I found no fault in nothing and no one. The storyline was not what I expected. The characters are not what I thought them to be.The author takes us into a darker side of the Hell’s Horsemen but there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. You will shed happy and sad tears so have tissues in handy. Keep an open mind with everything and everyone and you won’t be disappointed.

 

Unbeautifully (Undeniable #2) by Madeline Sheehan

Book Description:

Published: May 13, 2013

Format: Audio/Audible

Warning: This is not a story about fate or destiny. This is a story about pain, sorrow, and suffering. This is an impulsive whirlwind romance between two lovers that are not meant to be together. Theirs is not a world with sunshine and roses. Instead, their love blossoms in a secret world full of crime, violence, and death. Their story is about what can be born from nightmares.

Danielle “Danny” West is the daughter of Deuce West, President of the Hell’s Horsemen Motorcycle Club. A sweet and beautiful girl, she loses her way, searching for things that are always out of her reach. Erik “Ripper” Jacobs is the Sergeant of Arms in the Hell’s Horsemen. Once a man who always had a smile on his face, his life takes a turn for the worst when a tragedy befalls him, leaving him scarred and broken. During a midsummer night, Danny and Ripper’s paths cross, forever changing their lives. Hastily, their lust turns to love until another tragedy forces them apart. On a journey that is marred with ugliness and chaos, Danny and Ripper must discover if their unforeseen connection can find the beauty in their world.

This is Danny and Ripper’s story.

Everything has beauty. Even the ugly. Especially the ugly.
Because without ugly, there would be no beauty.

Review –

I’ve learned that within each of the books in this series, there’s an overarching story circling around Deuce and Eva and as such must be read in order. Their story continues throughout Unbeautifully but the main focus is on Deuce’s eldest daughter Danny. The synopsis for this book reads as a warning indicating this is far from a fluffy romance!

When a family gathering unexpectedly turns nasty the bloodshed reaches beyond a beloved member requiring a long recovery in hospital. It coincides with an announcement that throws Danny and Ripper into a spin. They do the unthinkable and have to face the consequences. The story of how they all got into the mess they were currently in is explained by delving back into the years that led up to this moment.

Danny and Ripper are up against her father, his brothers and a code of rules that get in the way of a girl’s happiness! Everything that they all had attempted to protect Danny from, she manages to find no matter how much they tried. Ripper breaks the brotherhood code of asking permission before he even looks in Danny’s direction, doing a lot more than looking! His major error in judgment provides the foundation of secrets that up-heave his brothers and almost destroy Danny.

The toll of sacrifice is immense. This is the book where Cage, Danny’s brother) shows more of his caring nature towards the people he holds dear in contrast to his whoring ways that he is more commonly called out on. The moment when he surprises Danny when she needs a lift home (not going into any spoilers) is a reminder of him being as much a brother to her as he is her rock.

Great story line but I didn’t like this one as much as the first, but will continue to read/listen to the rest of the 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.

 

 

Connection (Submission #3) by CD Reiss

Book Description:

Published:

Format: Audio/Audible

This is not a pat little ending about me and Jonathan riding off into the sunset. I knew I was never destined for that, but no one warned me about the pain. No one told me about the hurt. No one told me what I’d risk for him.
I’ll do anything to make it right. Anything. You think I won’t kill for him? You’re wrong.
I have to earn my happily ever after, and we have to survive it.

Review –

Wow, what can I say other than the author really knows how to go for the gut punch in her books and this one was no exception.

I had the audio version and it was over eleven hours long but the first five were about Jonathan’s life and death situation and finding out he needed a heart transplant and then finding the right one. I thought five hours was a bit overkill. The the story jumps two years after Jonathan’s heart transplant, however, both of them are still trying to find their way back to the normalcy they once had. Monica goes back and forth with doubts about whether Jonathan wants to stay married to her seeing as he proposed and they got married while he was in the hospital possibly on his death-bed. Another hurdle they have to overcome involves their sex life. Both parties feel things have become duller but they won’t open up to each other to voice that they basically have the same fear that any sort of strenuous activity could kill Jonathan. Eventually Jonathan gets Monica to open up and they both get the opportunity to express their fears to one another and things go back to normal so to speak. Throughout the course of their marriage, Jonathan has expressed to Monica multiple times that he wants to start a family however, she is reluctant because she does not want to bring a child into a world where he or she may be left without a father if Jonathan’s heart were to give out. Jonathan almost gets his wish of being a father but then Monica has a miscarriage which is devastating to say the least. After the miscarriage, Monica realizes that she does want to have a child with Jonathan and we then fast forward 18 months later to Monica and Jonathan having a real wedding that all their friends and family can be part of and then we get a wonderful surprise when Monica is pregnant again! This baby sticks and the story has a beautiful ending of Jonathan and Monica settling into their family life.

I highly recommend this series because it is not a perfect love story, it is a story of two people being in a relationship and not always knowing what to do half the time. One thing that they can both agree on is that they will love each other till the end of time AND there is a LOT of hot sex!

 

The Hidden Child (Patrik Hedstrom #5) by Camilla Lackberg

Book Description:

Published: June 20, 2011

Format: Audio/Audible

Crime writer Erica Falck is shocked to discover a Nazi medal among her late mother’s possessions. Haunted by a childhood of neglect, she resolves to dig deep into her family’s past and finally uncover the reasons why. Her enquiries lead her to the home of a retired history teacher. He was among her mother’s circle of friends during the Second World War but her questions are met with bizarre and evasive answers. Two days later he meets a violent death.

Detective Patrik Hedström, Erica’s husband, is on paternity leave but soon becomes embroiled in the murder investigation. Who would kill so ruthlessly to bury secrets so old? Reluctantly Erica must read her mother’s wartime diaries. But within the pages is a painful revelation about Erica’s past. Could what little knowledge she has be enough to endanger her husband and newborn baby? The dark past is coming to light, and no one will escape the truth of how they came to be . . .

Review –

“Three months ago, Erica Falck asked a collector of Nazi memorabilia about a medal she found among her mother’s effects. Now he’s discovered dead from a blow to the head, and the question of who killed him is only the first of many mysteries.

Best-selling Swedish author Läckberg (The Stranger, 2013, etc.) returns with her fourth novel about the crime-solving team of Erica Falck and her husband, detective Patrik Hedström. Their adorable daughter, Maja, has just turned one, Erica’s ready to return to her work writing novels (though she won’t be going far—just to the upstairs study), and Patrik’s embarking on four months of paternity leave. But Erica can’t concentrate, because Patrik keeps interrupting her with parenting questions and her mother’s diaries tempt her like a siren’s call. Maybe the diaries will explain why her mother was so emotionally distant. They’re filled with stories about her friends back in the 1940s, including Erik, the historian recently found dead; Axel, who joined the resistance during World War II, running dangerous missions; Frans, who grew up to be a politically active neo-Nazi; and Britta, a foolish girl who adored Frans. When Patrik takes Maja out for a walk one afternoon, he stumbles upon his colleagues and joins them in examining the crime scene at Erik’s home. Patrik and Erica are pulled deeply into the developing investigation. Soon the line between good and evil blurs as they delve into the complicated history of Swedish involvement in the war. Meanwhile, Erica’s sister Anna tries to broker peace between her new husband and stepdaughter, and Patrik’s gruff boss, Mellberg, adopts a dog and takes up salsa dancing. Läckberg deftly layers the dark details of the crime upon the disturbing seeds of its origin.

Fans of Nordic noir will appreciate this taut, twisty mystery enriched with historical detail.” Kirkus Review

Love this series and looking forward to reading or listening to more installments next year.