Book Review | Primal by K.A. Merikan

Jag. Uninhibited. Possessive. Walks on the wild side.

Dane. Gentle giant. Monster lover. Plays it safe.

Dane always knew his illicit fantasies of rough sex and dangerous men would one day lead him down a path of no return, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stay away.

After being beaten half to death by his ex, he wakes up in a collar, chained to a wall by a wild man who claims Dane as his property.

From the moment Jag lays his eyes on Dane, he knows he wants to keep him. Big, strong, with colorful ink all over, he is the most unique man Jag had ever seen. But Dane has to be tamed if he is to become Jag’s mate for life.

All Jag needs to do is assure Dane that he will be protected and provided for, because the sparks are already flying. But Dane keeps nagging about irrelevant things like his family, responsibilities, and the Internet. No wonder Jag needs to keep him chained for longer than he expected.

The only way out for Dane is to play the role of Jag’s obedient, loving ‘mate’, and bide his time until he can escape. But while Jag is absolutely batshit, and his junkyard den lifestyle is insanity, he also showers Dane with treats, worships the ground he walks on, and f*cks him like a monster, the way Dane always dreamed of in his most secret fantasies.

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How was it?

Primal was  a roller coaster of emotions for me, I went in blind like I most often do, and immediately started feeling really bad for Jaguar, who seemed sweet but rough around the edges. However this sweet wild man got me worried that he was slowly becoming irredeemable, because the situation he got himself in was getting from bad to worse at one point. While I understood where Jaguar was coming from, I found him brave and loved that he followed his instincts when it came to his attraction to men, I still did not excusing his actions regarding Dane.

It is real skill that Merikan has to make this crazy, f’ed up situation engaging, somewhat cute and…rational? Because I believed in Jaguar’s intentions and Dane’s feelings for him. I didn’t feel like the wrong things were getting glorified, Jaguar’s actions, as misguided as they were, seemed understandable once I got who he was. Jag left his unconventional family behind years ago, but he didn’t let go of his father’s teachings and beliefs. We may not go as in depth with Dane as we go with Jag but Dane is so much the average Joe, the guy next door, a canvas for readers to see themselves in that he didn’t need it as much as Jag did. Because Jaguar’s “crazy” needed to be explained and understood.

The second entry in the Wrong Side of the Tracks series is a book that I would have ignored because of the premise alone and maybe some of my prejudices about how romances featuring captivity or kidnapping are written and what they seem to promote. This was scary, lovely and sweet with a gem of a character that is the definition of a diamond in the rough. this book didn’t disappoint and I love how it all turned out in the end.

One thing I have to admit though, is that for a little while I thought this was a shifter romance because of how Jaguar talks and acts but he’s just a wild.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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I received an advanced copy of this book and this is my fair and unbiased review.

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Book Review | Trial by Fire by Ariana Nash

The third book in the thrilling Shadows of London series.

It’s not just Kempthorne’s secrets bubbling to the surface of London’s streets …

Outmanoeuvred at every turn by the figure known as “M”, only Alexander Kempthorne can free Dom, but juggling the horrors of his own past, containing a rising preternatural threat and the twisted machinations of “M” might just be too much, even for Kempthorne. Can Kage Mitchell be trusted to help?

Alexander Kempthorne lost an agent before. He’ll not lose another. He’ll do anything to save Dom, and if that means revealing who and what he truly is, then his time has come.

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How was it?

Twists and roller-coasters of emotions can be fun but when most of the decision making habits of the main characters you follow, doesn’t make sense to you, it’s a bit of chore. In a Tide of Tricks Kempthorne grew on me, so it was great that for almost a quarter of Trial by Fire we see life outside Wordsworth, subsequently spending more time with him, which was pretty amazing. And you know what? I did not miss Dom.

With M’s identity revealed I really thought this was going to be an engaging action-driven part of the story. Instead it was a lot – at least too much for me – going back and forth to places for dubious reasons. It almost felt like filler. Sometimes, I even felt the story edits as the flow wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be.

So reading it wasn’t the smooth and exciting ride I wanted it to be but there was enough to keep me going. The sexual tension between Dom and Kempthorne is top notch here. In previous entries, I didn’t understand the attraction between the two and didn’t see it has necessary, whereas here it was entertaining and juicy.

Despite the twists, emotion filled reveals, and gut punches I was tempted to skim this one too many times. It didn’t totally grip me, except when it comes to the evolution of Kempthorne, and his relationship with Dom.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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Book Review | Vampire with Benefits by E.J. Russell

A match between a vampire and shifter could be deadly—but this broken beaver doesn’t give a dam.

Silent film actor Casimir Moreau had imagined that life as a vampire would be freewheeling and glamorous. Instead, he’s plunged into a restrictive society whose rules he runs afoul of at every turn. To “rehabilitate” him, the vampire council orders him mated to an incubus with impeccable breeding who’ll mold Cas into the upstanding vampire he ought to be. Or else.

As an inactive beaver shifter, construction engineer Rusty Johnson has fought—and overcome—bias and disrespect his entire life. But when his longtime boyfriend leaves him for political reasons, Rusty is ready to call it a day. Next stop? Supernatural Selection and his guaranteed perfect mate, a bear shifter living far away from Rusty’s disapproving clan.

But then a spell snafu at Supernatural Selection robs both men of their intended husbands. Rusty can’t face returning to his clan, and Cas needs somebody on his arm to keep the council happy, so they agree to pretend to be married. Nobody needs to know their relationship is fake—especially since it’s starting to feel suspiciously like the real thing.

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How was it?

This is my first E.J. Russell read and I jumped in blind not realizing that this book is the second entry in the Supernatural Selection series but that didn’t matter much since the story is easy enough to follow and got more engaging as it went along.

Cas and Rusty were great together from the start, even when they were snipping at each other, I was rooting for them. They had great chemistry and the heat was goood. I liked Rusty in an instant and he was amazing throughout. Cas also grew on me, eventually, but he got on my nerves just as much. I guess his antics added some spice to the story – it didn’t really need it – but it allowed for the ending we got, which I quite liked.

I seriously hope we’ll see more of them in future books because Cas and Rusty’s secret is very juicy, and I doubt that Rusty’s ex will let him go, in particular when it’ll come out of nowhere to him.

Vampire with Benefits is a delightful read with a snarky and sometimes annoying vampire, and this gem of a beaver shifter who can’t shift.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I received an advanced copy of this book and this is my fair and unbiased review.

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Book Review | Charlie Sunshine by Lily Morton

Sometimes love is a lot closer to home than you think.

Charlie Burroughs can’t keep a man. All he wants is a good relationship like the ones he sees his friends having, but none of the men he picks ever work out. Despite him trying to be the perfect boyfriend, the men are either threatened by his looks or his epilepsy or a combination of the two. It’s lucky that he has his best friend Misha to turn to. The two of them are closer than peas in a pod and fiercely loyal to each other. He can’t imagine his life without Misha in it.

Misha Lebedinsky is the complete opposite of his best friend. Being the support system for his mum and twin sisters leaves Misha with neither the time nor the inclination for a relationship. Quick and frequent hook-ups are his favourite means of communication and any other pesky emotional needs he has are met by Charlie, who he’s devoted to. He lives a life of happy compartmentalization with no intention of ever changing.

All of this changes when the two best friends move in together. Being in close proximity means that they suddenly start to see each other in a very different light. But Charlie struggles when his drive to be the perfect partner clashes with the fact that he’s in love with a man who knows every little thing about him. And even if he can get past that, can a relationship ever work with a man who’d need a dictionary to tell him what love means?

From bestselling author Lily Morton comes a love story about a sunny librarian who has relationship written all over him and a cynical banker who doesn’t even have it in his blurb.

This is the second book in the Close Proximity series but it can be read as a standalone. 

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How was it?

I devoured the Mixed Messages and Black and Blue series so I jumped at the opportunity to read this one. It started well and good since I love a good slow burn but the characters need to pull their weight. So when one character seems far more interesting than the other it’s not as fun.

Charlie, the title character, was not my favorite. The more I learned about Charlie, the less I connected with him, and I even started to question Misha and Charlie’s friendship. Charlie has epilepsy but he’s not really taking care of himself and that kind of put me off but the way he was written in general made him seem like different people at different times with maturity level that seemed a bit too low for me at one point.
The other odd thing for me was the underwear thing – I know it’s nitpicky and maybe weird but I know the kind of underwear my friends like my bestie in particular – it was weird that it came as a total shock to Misha.

As for Misha, I understood him, I got him and he seem consistent. He’s hands down my favorite part of the story. He made me laugh so hard at one point but even that came so late in the book. So overall it was a nice read but it didn’t fully grabbed me.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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Book Review | Paper and Blood by Kevin Hearne

Kevin Hearne returns to the world of the Iron Druid Chronicles in book two of a spin-off series about an eccentric master of rare magic solving an uncanny mystery in Scotland.

There’s only one Al MacBharrais: Though other Scotsmen may have dramatic mustaches and a taste for fancy cocktails, Al also has a unique talent. He’s a master of ink and sigil magic. In his gifted hands, paper and pen can work wondrous spells.

But Al isn’t quite alone: He is part of a global network of sigil agents who use their powers to protect the world from mischievous gods and strange monsters. So when a fellow agent disappears under sinister circumstances in Australia, Al leaves behind the cozy pubs and cafes of Glasgow and travels to the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria to solve the mystery.

The trail to his colleague begins to pile up with bodies at alarming speed, so Al is grateful his friends have come to help—especially Nadia, his accountant who moonlights as a pit fighter. Together with a whisky-loving hobgoblin known as Buck Foi and the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, along with his dogs, Oberon and Starbuck, Al and Nadia will face down the wildest wonders Australia—and the supernatural world—can throw at them, and confront a legendary monster not seen in centuries.

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How was it?

It seems like the banter is the main driving force of this story; it works at times, there’s even a few memorable quotes and pearls of wisdom in there but that’s about it. The adventure we go on this time around seemed mysterious and exciting but kind of fell flat in the end. If it weren’t for the innuendos behind some of these jokes, I’d swear this was a so-so middle grade book.

As much as I love re-entering the world of the Iron Druid Chronicles, I don’t remember it being so…underwhelming is not the right word, I guess I’m whelmed. It almost makes me doubt my fond memories of the main series. It’s the same lavish, mystical world building with Al MacBharrais having his own interesting way of using magic – through ink sigils on paper – and yet I’m hardly captivated or excited by what I’m reading. I wasn’t bored at least the book has that going for it but I’m frustrated because the way the inks and sigils work are great, the little backstories on how they’re made is interesting, and Al’s group of friends/employees are awesome – Nadia in particular. There’s also a strong supporting appearances of three, well four characters from the Iron Druid and it didn’t help as much as I thought it would. I still feel like these characters’ potential is not fully realized but I still have hope.

I may have preordered this book before reading Ink & Sigil but I’d still give a shot to the following book in the series, in hopes that the first two were intro and filler episode before a grand finale or a thrilling new entry.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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Book Review | Ghost of Lies by Alice Winters

Hiro
Though I was born with the ability to see the dead, I struggled with it until my brother was killed and his ghost was left behind. Now, I’m determined to figure out who is responsible for his death… the problem is that Detective Maddox Booker, the one working the case, is a grumpy and stubborn man who wants nothing to do with me and definitely doesn’t believe in ghosts. It doesn’t help that I keep finding myself looking ridiculous in front of the detective, thanks to interfering ghosts who enjoy laughing at my expense. Still, the more I’m around Maddox, the more I realize that beneath that surly exterior is a kind and caring man who will do anything to help.

Maddox
When another man dies, I know we have a serial killer on our hands—the same murderer who has remained elusive for a year and a half. To add to my frustration, I keep running into Hiro at crime scenes only to hear him claim that he can talk to ghosts. The words of the dead could lead us to the serial killer and even tell us who is next, but ghosts? There’s no such thing as ghosts. Hiro is determined and charming, and no matter what I do, I can’t stop letting him get involved. He’s definitely snagged my attention, but when he nearly winds up dead, I know he’s getting closer to the truth—and if I don’t do something soon, he might be next.

Ghost of Lies is full of action, mystery, humor, and romance. Though more is planned for this couple, the mystery is solved and there is a happy ending.

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How was it?

This isn’t my first rodeo with Alice Winters, it might be like my 11th book of hers that I’ve read. I found this author to have a very specific voice, it’s humour, fun with sexy banter. But sometimes her characters feel like the same people, just in different situations / universe. I first got this after The first Hitman’s Guide – which I enjoyed – and The first VRC novel – that I also enjoyed once I took it to be some kind of what if episode for Leland.

It might be because I haven’t read a book of hers in a while but I’m happy to say that these characters feel new to me, and not just a copy paste version of ones that came before. I didn’t have to tell myself: it’s like what if so and so from this previous book was a this or that. Her trademark heavy-handed sexy banter is there and nicely peppered throughout the story.

Here we follow Hiro, a 29 year old Asian American who’s always been able to see and speak to the dead. After a recent tragedy, in a life full of them, Hiro makes a point to help the only way he knows how, talking to newly minted ghosts shortly after their homicides, which puts him in the crosshairs of hunky and grumpy police detective, Maddox.

This might not sound like the most original premise, but winters’ style does bring a lighter touch to that kind of story. For a crime mystery novel, with an engaging Whodunit plot, the humor is one of the main driving force of the story. Even the parts of the story, where you might expect some drawn out drama, it’s artfully side-stepped. In particular one regarding Maddox, which almost had me roll my eye when it reared its ugly head, but the resolution was done so well that I was impressed. I also really enjoyed how Hiro’s abilities worked and the way he convinced the detectives of his abilities.

The only place where the novel faltered a bit for me was the identity of the serial killer that Hiro and Maddow are chasing. It was unnecessary, I didn’t see it coming though but I would have preferred someone else.

The first Medium Trouble novel has shades of Pandora PinesCold Case Psychic series, with a lot of banter, so if you’ve enjoyed that series you might enjoy this as well. I might actually go ahead and read that second book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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Book Review | Truckers by Johnny Hansen

Hard-driving truckers climb out of their big rigs and get down to business in this raw, lusty collection.
Truckers have long been ingrained in the American popular imagination, celebrated in movies like” Smokey and the Bandit” and many a country-western ballad. They’re also a favorite queer sexual icon, joining such types as sailors, cops, firemen, and other guys who “service society.” For some gay men, life on the road conjures up images of hairy, sweaty, blue-collar joes traveling from town to town in their big 18-wheelers, pulling into all-night diners, gas stations, cheap motels, and highway rest stops for food, rest, companionship — and sex. These erotic encounters are the subject of this collection of trucker tales. Editor Johnny Hansen has assembled 19 true stories of men who deliver much more than what’s back in the trailer. In one story, a four-way pileup in a highway men’s room gives new meaning to the word “convoy.” In another, a 19-year-old experiences first love — and lust — on a cross-country tour with a strapping Mack driver. In this one-of-a-kind collection, “good buddies” from across the U.S. reveal their hottest experiences on — and on the side of — the road.

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How was it?

I’m not sure what I was expecting but it’s a great collection of stories. Sometimes I like my stories to be pure smut, little to no plot needed. Of course some stories my speak more to some then others but I’d bet that a few of them will have an effect. Great for a fun week-end, or week night – I don’t know what your life’s like – reading session to unwind when you don’t feel like going out. It’s worth it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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