Saturday, February 27, 2016

Book Tour - Excerpt and Review: TIED BOND by Emma Hart

Tied Bond
by Emma Hart
Book 4, Holly Wood Files 

Holly Woods is going to hell in a handbasket—but this time, Satanists aren’t to blame. Halloween is.

Nonna doesn’t understand why there are skeletons and demons everywhere. Mom is threatening to stitch a devil into Nonna’s pillowcase if she doesn’t shut up. Bek is bumbling over a date with Jason, the handsome FBI agent who conveniently got himself relocated to Austin, and I… Well. I’m considering running away to a town without the crazies.

Nothing new here.

Everything is going smoothly—too smoothly—and I can’t shake the feeling that something is about to happen. Drake insists I’m being paranoid… But when a body turns up at the Holly Woods Halloween party, we have a whole lot more than a murderer to worry about.

Because the prime suspect is his mom.

And it’s my job to prove she’s innocent.


The Holly Wood Files series reminds me of the first time I tried truffles.  The first few bites were amazing, the best thing I ever tasted.  The last few bites, I could barely finish. It was simply too rich, too much of a good thing. I hit that saturation point in the last book.  Noelle was getting on my one last nerve with her cupcake eating and her TSTL antics.  But I love Noelle when she is with Drake.  I love how they feed off each other. I also love Noelle’s family.  Their interactions are no-holds-bar and on more than one occasion they have been the source of some serious snorting.  

I confess I didn’t like the beginning of this book.  Everything that bugs me about Noelle is upfront and in my face and I cringe each time I heard her mention cupcakes, yoga pants, and coffee.  It’s just too much.  Too many indulgences.  I want my heroines to have a little more discipline than having to run out for cupcakes every time she runs into an obstacle.  But ultimately, I am thrilled that I finished this story, for just when I thought I couldn’t take any more, I had a snort-water-through-your-nose belly laugh moment.  Just two words:  cars and condiments.  This interaction at the car dealership loosened up the screws for me and made me realize why I love this series.  The banter is fun.  Whether it is with her boyfriend, Drake, her grandmother, Nonna, her bestfriend, Beks, or any other her brothers, the wit is infectious.  Okay, sometimes if is sophomoric, but still in a fun-loving way.  This is where Emma Hart shines in her writing.  

The other upshot is again Noelle and Drake.  Drake has more voice in this book.  Noelle is such a wild character sometimes she overshadows Drake.  Here, he has more presence in the relationship and we get to really know how he feels about Noelle.  It is absolutely dreamy.  

If I could change one thing about Noelle, I would ask Ms. Hart to consider giving Noelle a little more confidence.  She is constantly complaining that she gets little respect, especially from her brothers, but then she second-guesses herself on every occasion.  I understand that it is a show of vulnerability, but in this book, the scale is constantly tipped toward self-doubt and find myself yelling at her to get a grip. 

Again, the secondary characters really shine in this book.  Over the top Nonna is a real standout.  I did want to see more of Noelle’s brothers, but we already have a crowded field of characters and since there is more of Drake, I can wait until the next book to get more of Brody, Devon, and Trent.   

This one is too fun to pass up.  

“Kellie! You put-a that-a devil-a down!”
“It’s not a devil, Liliana. It’s a demon. Once that will find its way into your bedroom if you don’t get. Off. Of. It!”
I fold my arms across my chest and lean against the front door. Have you ever seen an elderly Italian woman and a fifty-something year old woman playing tug of war with a decorative demon? No?
Lucky you.
“I do not-a care! It is-a not-a going on-a my-a house-a!”
“It’s my house!” Mom yells. “You haven’t paid rent for ten years!”
My eyes widen. Oh boy. Here we go.
“I no need-a pay-a rent! I cook-a, I clean-a! That-a is-a my rent!”
“You clean the kitchen, you crazy old lady!”
Nonna gasps, her hand flying to her chest in dramatic horror. “I am-a not-a crazy!”
“You’re so crazy you’re lucky you’re not in a home!”
“Noella!” Nonna spins, pointing a wrinkled finger in my direction. “Am-a I crazy?”
Way to put a girl on the spot, Nonna. “Well…” I say the word slowly. “Crazy is a strong word…”
“But then again, so is normal.”
“What? You asked, I answered.”
She sniffs and pulls her light wrap around her shoulders. “Why-a you-a here? Don’t you-a have-a to feed-a your man?”
“No. He’s working.”
“Ah-ha! I will-a call-a Drake and report this… This-a merda!”
Mom staggers back, her jaw dropped. “Liliana! That language is not appropriate!”
“Neither is-a your-a demons!” Nonna finally manages to wrench the demon away from Mom and waves it enthusiastically. “Pah!”
Then, to Mom’s undisguised horror, she throws it onto the ground. My eyebrows shoot up, and I step to the side as Nonna storms toward me. Well, as quickly as an old woman with a cane can storm, that is.
“Liliana! You pick that up right now!”
“No! I call-a the police-a!” Nonna frowns and waves her cane in Mom’s direction. “You-a disturb-a the peace!” She turns and shuffles into the house.
“She’s not actually going to… Never mind,” I say, hearing her yell down the phone. Yep, she’s actually calling the police station.
That’s a new one, even for the Bonds.
“She’s crazy!” Mom’s face is bright red as she bends forward to pick up the demon Nonna defiled with dirt. “She needs putting in a home!”
“You’d need to get her sedated before you try that.” I straighten a pumpkin Nonna apparently knocked over. “Just put the demons somewhere she can’t see them and then the problem is solved.”
“Oh yes?” Mom raises her eyebrows then pulls out a giant cloaked figure. “What do I do with Lucifer?”
I stare at the five-foot tall devil decoration that usually spends the holiday hanging on the tree at the bottom of the yard. Its motion-sensor makes it moan every time you walk past it, and the long robes are forever getting caught on the bush beneath the tree. “Mom, you might give her a heart attack if you hang him this year.”

“Good,” she mutters. “I might get some peace, then.”

By day, New York Times and USA Today bestselling New Adult author Emma Hart dons a cape and calls herself Super Mum to two beautiful little monsters. By night, she drops the cape, pours a glass of whatever she fancies - usually wine - and writes books.
Emma is working on Top Secret projects she will share with her followers and fans at every available opportunity. Naturally, all Top Secret projects involve a dashingly hot guy who likes to forget to wear a shirt, a sprinkling (or several) of hold-onto-your-panties hot scenes, and a whole lotta love.
She likes to be busy - unless busy involves doing the dishes, but that seems to be when all the ideas come to life.

New Release Updates: 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

ARC Review: BITTER BITE by Jennifer Estep

Bitter Bite
by Jennifer Estep
Elemental Assassin, book #14

Which is stronger: blood ties or a battle-tested friendship?

It’s not easy being queen bee of an underworld abuzz with crooks and killers. Wielding my potent Ice and Stone elemental magic will only get me so far—my real secret is my tight-knit makeshift family, a motley crew of cops and criminals, dwarves and playboys. My foster brother Finnegan Lane is my right-hand man, but when his suddenly not-dead relative comes back into the picture, I’m the one on the outside looking in. 

It’s funny how life works: one minute your best friend is rock-steady, and the next he’s doe-eyed and buying into this whole loving-relative routine to the point of ignoring you. I’d like to be happy for Finn, I really would. But all of my instincts are telling me that beneath the syrupy sweet demeanor and old-fashioned charm, this sudden interloper is planning something. The whole shtick leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. This person might have avoided the grave once, but I’ll put anyone who hurts Finn in the ground—for good. 

One of the things I love most about this series and specifically, Gin Blanco, is her unwavering loyalty to her friends and family.  It is her strongest characteristic and what brings me back every time.  Which now explains why I had so much anxiety about reading this book.  It pains me when someone close violates that trust.  

Finn, for all intents and purposes, is Gin’s brother. All of his life he believed that his mother was dead and then one day he discovers that his new client is actually his mother.  Despite his friends’ warnings to Finn to be careful about trusting her, he falls head over heals in love with her.  Jennifer Estep does a good job conveying Finn’s child-like yearning for a mother.  A yearning so fierce that he puts his relationship with Gin at risk to give his mother the benefit of the doubt.  Gin, trusting her intuition, refuses to let down her guard with Deirdre.  Gin knows the sting of betrayal.  Her current boyfriend, Owen, dismisses Gin’s warning about his ex-girlfriend in a previous book. Yup, that book was devastating to me too.  Maybe because this happened before, but I instead of being wrecked by Finn’s action, I am more disappointed in him.  Didn’t he learn a thing from what happened to Owen? 

At the end of the day, the real purpose of this book is to introduce the presence of a long-standing secret society called The Circle in Ashland.  Ms. Estep throws out just enough line for me to bite.  I cannot wait to see where she takes this next. 

This is a strong addition to the series. Not as action packed as some in the past, but I think testing the relationship between Gin and her brother, Finn is a good turn in the series. 

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

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

ARC Review: FULLY IGNITED by Shannon Stacey

Fully Ignited
by Shannon Stacey


When Jamie Rutherford takes a temporary assignment as lieutenant of Boston Fire’s Engine 59, she doesn’t anticipate any problems. She’s been in the fire service for a long time and, even though she’s fairly new to Boston, she knows how to make any firehouse her home. What she’s not prepared for is her reaction to firefighter Scott Kincaid.

Scott is looking for a wife. It’s been a fun ride as a single guy, but he’s tired of being the third wheel, and nearly losing his brother-in-law finally made him realize just how much he wants a family of his own. When the new guy at the firehouse turns out to be a capable, confident and very attractive woman, his plan is completely derailed.

Hooking up with a fellow firefighter has never been part of Jamie’s plan, but she’s tempted by Scott—even though getting involved with him could tarnish the reputation she’s worked so hard for. And Scott can’t stop thinking about Jamie, despite the fact that she’s his superior and not sticking around. Chemistry can crush the best-laid plans, though, and while Jamie and Scott might not be each other’s future…there’s no resisting the right now.

I don't know if this is unfair, but I have high expectations for books that feature reformed playboys.  Because of their doggish ways. I want them to fall hard, but I want them to struggle to get there and, if possible, I want them to have a good grovel.  Unfortunately, although this was a nice contemporary, it did not meet my expectations.

Scott is a legacy firefighter.  Having watched his best friend fall in love with his sister and one of his supervisors take the plunge, he is feeling the void in his life.  He wants a wife, so much so that he has put a moratorium on dating.  Then enters Jamie Rutherford, a fill in lieutenant for an ailing Danny.  He's immediately attracted to her, but is also sensitive to her wishes to not get involved with someone she is supervising.  But, of course, that doesn't last very long.

I think there could've been far more tension in this story.  The relationship, the capitulation is far too easy. I think she gives in to the physical attraction way too easy, especially given everything that is at stake with her career.  I can't help but think that it is much harder than it is portrayed for a female fire fighter, especially given the fact that fewer than 4% of firefighters are women. There is so much built in drama, and I think this is a missed opportunity.  

This is not a horrible book, but I believe the weakest in the series so far.

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

Thursday, February 4, 2016

ARC Review: COLD EVIDENCE by Rachel Grant

by Rachel Grant
Evidence series #6

The frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest are about to get hot… 

The only thing Navy underwater archaeologist Undine Gray fears more than facing former SEAL Luke Sevick is never scuba diving again. But when a dive on a Cold War-era US Navy submarine ends with an accidental explosion, she’s terrified of going into the deep, forcing her to beg the most experienced diver she knows to take her back to the bottom of the cold Salish Sea. 

Luke wants nothing to do with the woman who destroyed his career a dozen years ago but finds it impossible to turn his back on her plea. Caught off-guard by an attraction he doesn’t want to feel, he’s eager to be done with this mission of mercy. But when they dive on the wreck, he only gets sucked in deeper. Someone has been digging on the Navy sub…and it appears the explosion that almost killed Undine was no accident. 

To find the truth, Undine must navigate murky waters and the unexpectedly hot undercurrents swirling between her and Luke. Worse, divers are searching for something lost in US waters during the Cold War, and they’ll do anything to keep Luke and Undine from finding it first.

In the past I have noted that Rachel Grant writes my favorite kind of heroines – intelligent, quirky, courageous, and just this side of dorky.  But I also appreciate that Ms. Grant always infuses history into her stories as well.  It’s not the kind of history that focuses on names and dates, but history as the study of human choices.  

The story behind the story is heroic.  The mystery of the Wrasse feels like a treasure hunt, not for gold, but for the truth, and this nugget feels precious. I was sucked right in. The circumstances surrounding the sinking of the Wrasse is complex. Cold War politics is insidious and the potential nuclear threat against the U.S. very real. It is a very stressful time in our history.  To that, the author incorporates more recent events from Russia's struggle to maintain its territories. As an ally, we have a level of culpability to what Russia does to its people.  We are engaged in geo-politics.  Some might find it highly detailed, but I enjoy the complexity. Maybe it is because of the submarine, but it reminds me a little of The Hunt for Red October

It would not be a Rachel Grant book without hot romance. The start of Undine and Luke's relationship is messy and complicated. I had a moment of pause when the circumstance of the initial relationship is revealed.   Luke's fury is fully justified. Undine does him wrong. I understand her explanations, but the consequences of her deception could have been profoundly bad for Luke, and it takes a while to restore my faith in her.  There is a lot of back and forth in this relationship.  Both are indecisive on what they want from each other and this continues through most of the narrative.  Perhaps for me, this is the weakest part of the book.  Nonetheless, given their really rough start, I can understand Luke’s confusion on why he is still attracted to this girl.  A relationship with her is a land mine of triggers. I give Undine a lot of credit for her bravery in trying to mend this bridge. The snappy dialogue keeps the relationship moving, and their flirting is intimate like second chance stories should be. 

After reading this book, I’m packing my bags and finding a way to get to the Pacific Northwest.  Rachel Grant paints a vivid picture of the region that is irresistible. It’s an area filled with gorgeous sunsets, a serene environment, and majestic ocean views. A stay at Hobuck cabins is on my bucket list.  

With a compelling fictional history, beautiful environment, tightly written mystery and a complex romance, Cold Evidence is a great addition to Rachel Grant’s evidence series. 

Thank you to the author for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book Blast, Review and Giveaway: AGAINST THE WALL by Jill Sorenson

by Jill Sorenson

Fans of Katie McGarry, Simone Elkeles, and Tammara Webber will love Against the Wall! As teenagers, they fell for each other despite the odds. But now that Eric and Meghan are all grown up, they’re reunited by fierce passion and dangerous secrets. Eric Hernandez is the bad boy of every schoolgirl’s fantasies—and every mother’s nightmares. But after serving time for manslaughter, he’s ready to turn his life around. He just needs a chance to prove himself as a professional tattoo artist. The one thing that keeps him going is the memory of the innocent beauty he loved and left behind. Meghan Young’s world isn’t as perfect as it looks. The preacher’s daughter is living a lie, especially now that Eric is back. Tougher, harder, and sexier than ever, he might be the only person she can trust. But there’s no telling what he’ll do to protect her if he learns the truth, and that’s a risk Meghan won’t let him take. And yet, back in the arms of the troubled boy with the artist’s soul, Meghan can’t help surrendering to the man he’s become. 

For me, one of Jill Sorenson's greatest strengths as a writer is her ability to take deep dives into her characters.  I felt so overwhelmed with these characters and their desperate desires to break a out of cycle of violence.  My heart kept breaking for Eric and his attempts to resist his old life - wanting to start fresh but being tempted again and again into his old life.  This again reminds me that meritocracy is a myth. The belief that everyone starts at the same place and life and has the exact same opportunities to make choices is simply untrue.  Some people are born into circumstances in which choices are more difficult and the price for those same choices are often higher. 

The narrative is intense.  I wondered how the author was going to resolve the issue with Eric and the gang members.  I felt stressed throughout the entire story, especially because the author made the story real.  Most of us do not deal with life and death situations everyday, but for some, the quest for survival is a daily battle.  I thought Ms. Sorenson brought the story to a satisfying conclusion.  

My one critique is that there are left over storylines that peaked my interest.  I'm hoping that the author will consider writing additional stories for Junior and Kelsea.  Crossing my fingers here. 

If you enjoy a social relevant love story with great emotional tension, pick up this book!

Author Info Jill Sorenson is the RITA-nominated author of more than a dozen romantic-suspense novels. She has a degree in literature and writing from California State University. Her books have been selected as Red-Hot Reads byCosmopolitan magazine, and have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Sorenson currently lives in the San Diego area with her family. She’s a soccer mom who loves nature, coffee, reading, Twitter, and reality TV. 

($25.00 Amazon eGift Card)