Tuesday, December 29, 2015

ARC Review: KILL WITHOUT MERCY by Alexandra Ivy

Kill Without Mercy
by Alexandra Ivy
ARES Security, Book 1

From the hellhole of a Taliban prison to sweet freedom, five brave military heroes have made it home—and they’re ready to take on the civilian missions no one else can. Individually they’re intimidating. Together they’re invincible. They’re the men of ARES Security.

Rafe Vargas is only in Newton, Iowa, to clear out his late grandfather’s small house. As the covert ops specialist for ARES Security, he's eager to get back to his new life in Texas. But when he crosses paths with Annie White, a haunted beauty with skeletons in her closet, he can't just walk away—not when she’s clearly in danger…

There’s a mysterious serial killer on the loose with a link to Annie’s dark past. And the closer he gets, the deeper Rafe’s instinct to protect kicks in. But even with his considerable skill, Annie’s courage, and his ARES buddies behind him, the slaying won’t stop. Now it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s next—unless they can unravel a history of deadly lies that won’t be buried
Rafe Vargas
Annie White

Kill Without Mercy is book one in the ARES Security series. 

Rafe Vargas is a member of the recently formed ARES Security.  Rafe heads to the home of his recently passed grandfather to clean out the house when he meets Annie White.  Annie has a notorious history in this town and she is brought back by the frightening dreams that are plaguing her sleep.  Her dreams are premonitions and she is fearful that these will come true.  Unfortunately, there is a serial killer in town and she is the key to finding and stopping murderer. 

This book reads more like a mystery thriller than any other that I have read by this author. I’m a fan of Alexandra Ivy’s paranormal pieces so I knew it was going to be a good story, but I didn’t expect it to be the taut thriller it turned out to be. The paranormal elements are minimal and that still works f because there is strong suspense. I welcome the killer’s perspective as it adds a creep factor that enhanced the story.  

The central characters intrigue me, especially Annie.  Being the daughter of a suspected (and convicted in the court of public opinion) serial killer, her experiences as a child are horrifying.  I can only imagine what it must have been like for her and how heavy the burden of that stigma must be.  I also liked Rafe, although he is just this side of bossy for my tastes, I appreciate his earnestness in trying to help Annie solve the mystery of her dreams.  He has a need to be the hero.  However, I question the chemistry of the two of them as a couple.  He acknowledges that she needs protection and help, but is that enough to start a long – term relationship? It seems rather one-sided. 

Because it is the first book in the series, we are introduced to team which will be the focus of the books. ARES consists of Rafe, the covert ops specialist; Max Grayson, the resident scientist and nerd; Hauk Laurensen, sniper and weapons specialist; Teagan Moore, the computer wizard and other nerd; and Lucas St. Clair, hostage negotiator.   As a team, Ms. Ivy has introduced some interesting personalities.  They are a brotherhood forged through their experience in war.  It is repeated often they are each other’s family. I’m a fan of stories featuring “teams” and I am excited about forthcoming books.

A intriguing thriller, this is a great start to a new series.  

ARC Review: MASTERED by Maya Banks

by Maya Banks
Enforcers, Book 1

What he wants, he takes with no remorse or guilt.

She stood out in his club like a gem, unspoiled and untouched. A lamb among wolves, she clearly didn’t belong. Drawn to her innocence he watched as she was surrounded by men who saw what he did—but no one but him could touch her. He summoned her to his private quarters. He sensed her fear. He also recognized the desire in her eyes. And he knew she wouldn’t leave before he possessed her. She had no need to know his secrets. Not until he had her under his complete and utter control.

What he wants, she isn’t sure she can give him.

The moment he told her want he wanted, she couldn’t resist. Instinct told her to run, but her heart said stay and walk the fine line between pleasure and pain. Though she wasn’t sure she could ever completely surrender, the primal part of her wanted to try, even knowing this man could break her in ways she never imagined. Because once he possessed her, he owned her and it would be too late to turn back. She can only pray that he doesn’t destroy her in the end.

Mastered is book one in Maya Banks’ Enforcer series.  I am a fan of Maya Banks’ KGI series.  I love her ability to write memorable characters and drive a strong storyline.  That is why am I surprised at how much I am disappointed in this book. First, this is a very familiar trope. Evangeline Hawthorne is a small town ingĂ©nue living in the big city working to support her parents back home.  After being unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend, she meets big town millionaire bad boy, Drake Donovan, at his hot nightclub. He is immediately intrigued by her beauty, innocence and lack of guile.  He offers to help her with her financial issues and introduce her to a life of luxury and privilege.   The only thing he requires in return is that she obey him in all things. Although Evangeline is not a money-grabber, she is intrigued by the possibility of dominant/submissive relationship. She moves in with him in a blink of an eye and insta-love reigns.  Soon, because of her innocent, naivety, and loyalty, Evangeline wins over all of Drake’s partners/friends. Drake is intensely attracted to her light as it contrasts to his dark.  

My biggest issue with this book is with Drake.  His character is clouded in mystery, but I didn’t really enjoy what is revealed.  First, he has open distain for the customers of his club: “He catered to exactly the clientele that Impulse attracted, but it didn’t diminish his disgust or impatience with the type of people who frequented his establishment.” Why be club-owner if he hates the people so much? I am sure there are plenty of other money-making ventures he can invest in.  Second, he is so over-the-top controlling and conceited, he is really unlikeable.  “If it made him arrogant to consider himself God, so be it, because he was God. At least in his world.” He is not even nice to his friends. It’s not very clear to me why his partners/friends are loyal to him but for the fact that he earns them money.  Maybe there is more to their relationships, but it is not clear because there is just not enough of Drake’s past in the story. Ultimately, he is a caricature, instead of a character.   

Another issue that does not sit right with me is the significantly unbalanced relationship between Evangeline and Drake.  Even in the dom/sub relationship, there is a balance. The sub has the power to make a choice to engage.  Throughout the story, Evangeline seems to be on the verge of being overwhelmed and having a “complete meltdown.” Being on such shaky emotional ground, I’m not sure that this character is strong enough to enter into such a power dynamic and that made me uncomfortable. 

In A Nutshell:
As much as I wanted to like this book, I cannot say that I enjoyed it. The story is very traditional and follows a familiar formula.  Moreover, I did not have much respect for the characters and therefore, found it difficult to connect with them. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cover Reveal: LOVE IN THE LIGHT by Laura Kaye

Hearts in Darkness Duet Banner   

A long time ago (well, it may have been 4 years ago), by chance I picked up this novella called Hearts in Darkness. It was one of the first contemporary romances I read as an adult and I was blown away.  It was intense, emotional, and so romantic.  I haven't stopped reading romance since.  So, with this I share with you the cover for the sequel, Love In the Light.  Enjoy!

Love in the Light - cover
Love in the Light
by Laura Kaye
Book 2 in the Hearts in Darkness Duet

Release Date: January 12, 2016

Cover designed by Trish Schmitt of Pickyme Artist.

Preorder your copy of Love in the Light for just $2.99 for a limited time. Price will be going up after release day!

Preorder:  Amazon | Amazon UK | iBooks | Kobo  

Add to your Goodreads  

Two hearts in the darkness… Makenna James and Caden Grayson have been inseparable since the day they were trapped in a pitch-black elevator and found acceptance and love in the arms of a stranger. Makenna hopes that night put them on the path to forever—which can’t happen until she introduces her tattooed, pierced, and scarred boyfriend to her father and three over-protective brothers. Must fight for love in the light… Haunted by a childhood tragedy and the loss of his family, Caden never thought he’d find the love he shares with Makenna. But the deeper he falls, the more he fears the devastation sure to come if he ever lost her, too. When meeting her family doesn’t go smoothly, Caden questions whether Makenna deserves someone better, stronger, and just more…normal. Maybe they’re too different—and he’s far too damaged—after all…  

And don’t miss the first book in Duet, HEARTS IN DARKNESS!

Now just $.99 for a limited time only!

Hearts in Darkness - cover

 Amazon | Amazon UK | iBooks | KoboNook 

Laura Kaye - author pic

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty books in contemporary and paranormal romance and romantic suspense. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.         

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter SignUp

  InkSlinger blogger banner

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Release Celebration, Review, Excerpt and Giveaway: PASSION BITES by Mary Hughes

Passion Bites
By Mary Hughes
Biting Love #9

Dr. Alexis Byornsson has her hands full in the ER when her patient s uncle blows into the exam room. Stitching up a five-year-old s cut is hard enough without a blond god distracting her all to hell.

To say she s furious is putting it mildly not that anyone would notice. Not with the legendary control that s earned her the nickname Dr. Frozen .

Luke Steel never knew a woman chastising him could be so sexy. But for the first time in three hundred years, passion stirs in his gut along with panic. Since his wife was taken before his eyes in a brutal attack, he s sworn he d never feel that powerless again.

Almost before either Luke or Alexis realize what s happening, they re sharing a blazing kiss that shatters her logical armor and unleashes his wholly unwanted mating instinct. And spurs a closer-than-skin enemy to put into motion a devastating plan for revenge.


I don’t know if it is a trend or just a coincidence, but a couple of the last books I read have the some of the same issues.  These authors give astute insights into their characters, but the writing and dialogue seem mismatched with the story.  Passion Bites is an entertaining PNR story. I think the characters are likable and the plot points are interesting enough to hold my attention.  The author identifies some interesting insight into friendship and partnership.  I think she is very loyal (to a fault) to her best friend.  Alexis’ whole future is wound around Lizelle. It sounds noble, but it’s really an excuse not to live her own life.  Meeting Luke changes that.  He is dealing with his own set of issues of loss.  His mate died ages ago, but since vampires mate for life, he has shunned any and all types of serious relationships.  I am surprisingly drawn into this drama. 

My biggest critique is with the language.  I’m not a huge fan of informal language if it is out of character.  Alexis is an educated doctor that speaks like a teenager:  “I’m not as beautiful as my younger sister, but I’m not dog barf.”  The dialogue feels clunky and somewhat forced, as if the author is trying to hard to be cool: “But here was a vampire, Mr. Insta-sex, dropped in my lap.  Desire rose hot and thick, more than usual, bubbling like a head of beer, foaming until it threatened to overflow.”

This is book #9 in the series and having not read the first eight books, I didn't feel too lost.  However, I think that I would've enjoyed this story a little bit more for it really connects with the previous characters.  I am sure I missed intimate connections and subtle nuances.  So, I could say it is a standalone, but expect to miss out a little on the big picture. 

It's a mix bag of clever insights and awkward dialogue couched in a good story.  

“You are not taking my townhouses.” I glared up into Julian’s blue eyes…no, actually they were a distinct shade of peeved violet.
“They’re not your townhouses.” The lawyer gritted the words around canines a mite longish, and his tone promised death and dismemberment, not necessarily in that order.
Anybody else would’ve been crapping pants’ loads of bricks.
But those voice and eye tricks reminded me of hospital administrators, focused on the almighty bottom line instead of patient care. I’d battled enough of them who’d wielded tone and expression like blunt swords. I wasn’t that impressed.
Besides, I’d had a trying night, and though I ate healthy and exercised, at thirty-nine the little aches and pains of aging were knocking at my muscles and joints.
If he was cranky, I could be cranky right back.
I kicked up my jaw and met him stare for stare. “Yes, they are. Those townhouses are mine.”
“They’re not yours until you pay for them.”
“I put down earnest money plus a security deposit. Ten thousand dollars.” My throat thickened on the words. That ten thousand was all I had. As a physician I made a fair amount, but hefty school loans and a somewhat open hand with my patients, shelters and other charities insured I’d hemorrhaged most of my savings. Yet when the opportunity came, I had to jump on it with everything I had left; Lizelle needed me. “Those buildings are as good as mine, and you’d better back off.”
“You dare to tell me I should back off?” Julian surged forward—not a psychological trick this time, but real emotion goosing him.
I flinched away.
Before he could force me off the stoop with his sheer presence, long male fingers curled around his biceps, slim but insanely strong because they immediately checked him.
My body stirred at the strength in those artistic fingers.
The face belonging to the fingers appeared in the doorway a moment later, a movie star’s gorgeous close-up framed by hair of sunshine—and eyes glittering red-gold in the electric light.
Luke Steel.
My body rose up and shouted halleluiah. I gave it an annoyed whack. Sputtered, “What are you doing here?”
Luke slid past Julian onto the stoop, a lazy smile curving his lips. “Saving you from a tongue lashing.”
Tongue lashing? If it were Luke’s hot tongue…argh. “I can hold my own in an argument.”
“Even with a lawyer?”
“Especially with a lawyer.” I glared around him at Julian.
Julian glared back, violet eyes shading angry red—until Luke popped an elbow back into his gut.
“Oof.” Julian’s eyes cooled to blue. “I don’t have time for this. Steel, deal with her.” He spun and stalked off.
Leaving me face-to-face with six-three of graceful power.

As a girl, Mary Hughes spun romantic, happily-ever-after stories to get to sleep. A husband, family, two degrees and a blackbelt later, she's delighted to spin them for readers.
She's lived with love and loss, in bright times and dark, and learned we can all use a break from reality every now and then.

So join her for action, sparkling wit and red-hot love. Strong men. Stronger women.

Author lInks: 

Monday, December 14, 2015

ARC Review: LOVE: UNCIVILIZED by Sawyer Bennett

Love:  Uncivilized
by Sawyer Bennett
Uncivilized 1.5


How did things ever get to be so difficult?

Nearly eight years of marriage.
Two kids.
Hectic careers and major life choices.

Throw in sexual frustration, doubts, insecurities and one wild man not completely tamed by society, and you have a Christmas that’s bound to get out of control. Zacharias Easton will show you just how uncivilized love can be.

This book proves again that Sawyer Bennett is dynamic writer who knows how to traverse difficult emotional terrain with insight, compassion, and drama.  Love is the follow up novella to last year’s Uncivilized.  That book explored sexual boundaries in the context of bringing back a man raised in the Amazon jungle to civilized life.  The relationship between Moira and Zach was primal and edgy.  This book explores what happens during the Happily Ever After. 

There are so many truths in this novella.  Truth #1 – Marriage is hard.  Even this fairytale couple experiences drool-worthy, frustrating, disappointing and fearful moments.  There is one particular section in the book where I became so angry; I literally cursed Zach with a four-letter word.  Zach and Moira’s love is so beautiful because of its purity.  They are so forthcoming with each other, no subterfuge.  However, even in the strongest marriages, fractures can occur. This book has painful moments because it is so real, moments of heartbreaking unease that makes your stomach dip because you realize that something so seemingly solid may not make it. 

Truth #2: Couples must remain vigilant against erosion.  Erosion in a relationship is insidious.  Mistrust sneaks in and nibbles away at confidence, openness, and benefit of the doubt in a marriage.  The issues they deal with are authentic and scary because the troubles are so normal. 

Truth #3: Couples must have the courage to communicate. The only way to overcome obstacle is be truthful with one another.  And I love the fact that Zach and Moira accept nothing less.  Whew!


Sawyer Bennett hits a vulnerable spot with this book.  Zach and Moira deserve a revisit. I highly recommend this story.

Thank you to the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.