Refugee Road by Nikki Landis

Too much violence

This book needs to come with warnings. There are really a few things that grate on me here, the first being the amount of domestic violence, which we have absolutely no warning about in the blurb. We are told that Darren is dangerous, but not how dangerous and violent he is. He also isn’t the only one, with another character injuring Lizzie for the fun of it as well. If you have any issues with any of this, best to walk away and stay away.

The next is that, after three years, two people suddenly seem to decide that they’re in love with Lizzie, and want to make their intentions known, just at the point she rediscovers the one she lost, who she fell in love with at 15. It’s damned confusing! Lizzie obviously chooses Alec, as the blurb indicates, but Darren appears to use his sudden increased interest as an excuse to dominate her, and physically punishes her, despite his declared feelings, for insubordination.

Then there’s the timeline. I misread it at first. I assumed that it was all supposed to be taking place around 1945-6, but then Lizzie’s home on the Militia base doesn’t add up to that – domestic appliances that wouldn’t have been available then. So I went back and reread the description: “It was nineteen forty-five, or similar enough.” The Militia movement has been going on since then, when Hitler apparently surrendered and WWIII started. So this war has been fighting for all those decades up until the modern era. The USA is in ruins, with the President firmly in charge of the Militia, who control everything. Except the Refugees. But they try. But this is the thing that gets me most: if they’re stuck in this time warp, how on Earth do they have mobile phones, modern appliances, etc.? They have antibiotics, modern medicines, sonograph. It’s extremely confusing. Yet they still apparently dress like it’s 1945, too.

The romance itself was great, but would have been so much better if it wasn’t for the distractions mentioned above. I was actually shocked by the domestic violence. Now I can cope with it if prewarned, but I don’t expect to be thrown into someone being abused. As I mentioned above, for those triggered by these sorts of scenes, there really needs to be some warnings.

Lizzie settles into domestic life quite easily, despite the fact that she used to train daily, keeping fit to a high level. But, of course, everything is far too easy…

Really, this needed a far more concrete background. All the scenes were descriptive, but those little niggles kept me from enjoying the story completely.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Road Rage by Jessica Veen

What happened there?!

First off, I’ll start by commenting on the author, as she is listed as Jessica Veen on Goodreads and Amazon, but as Scarlette Hunt on NetGalley. There is an older book around written under the second name, so I assume that either can be an alias.

Anyway, on to the story itself. Well, it’s a… It’s… Yeah, it’s that. Pretty much. That’s to say that it had interesting parts, but was for the most part unbelievable. I mean, seriously, Rand is the only one that knows anything is off with this guy? And she is recruited by the FBI just like that, just because she happened to bump into and start a “relationship” with a guy who’s on the hunt for the same guy she is. And her first “mission” is something ridiculous to put her not only in danger, but at odds with everyone. Right, yep, that goes. Then there’s the time jumps, meaning that we learn more of what happened before, in a sort of chronological way, but at later points. There is no overall chronological story arc, which might have made it easier to read.

The story had potential but, to put it bluntly, was a raving mess! It’s supposed to be some sort of action-adventure-crime-thriller. OK – there’s crime, check. There’s action, check. Adventure? Thriller? Perhaps a little bit of thriller, but not so much. I think with how unrealistic everything was, it detracted from its thriller potential, big time. I ended up more bored at points than waiting with my heart racing for the next to happen.

With everything considered, there is nothing that surprises me about the book’s average rating.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆ – Disliked

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

My Way to You by Catherine Bybee

Glorious

This book is half based on reality, centred around the events of the Californian wildfires of 2016, which the author personally lived through. From an outsider’s point of view, it is impossible to imagine, even when viewing the photos of the event, as it doesn’t give you even a small idea of the heat and ash, or the crazy mudslides afterwards. I haven’t even a clue of what the Californian countryside is like, either. But the author gives such vivid descriptions, that it pulls you in and puts you there at the scene.

Amongst all this craziness and disaster is a young woman, just 25, forced to grow up early after tragically losing her parents and as a result becoming responsible for her younger siblings, and a chance encounter with a Public Works supervisor, who is determined to save her home from impending floods and mudslides. Yes there is a little bit of insta-attraction here, but it takes time for a relationship to slowly develop as Parker slowly eases up on her control and gives in to Colin.

Parker has gotten so used to doing everything on her own, Colin nicknames her “Annie Oakley” as a homage to her gun-wielding independence and steadfastness. Parker quite happily shows herself all woman by nicknaming him in turn “TDH” (aka, “Tall, Dark, and Handsome”). But just because she finds him attractive, doesn’t mean that she’s giving him a single inch of her hard-won control.

Two very independent characters, set amongst a deluge of disasters.

Alongside them all are Parker’s siblings, who are surprisingly well behaved considering their respective ages. Although that is a lot down to Parker, giving up her sibling responsibility in exchange for a parenting one. Then there’s Erin, a frightened young woman who starts to settle and shine as the story moves on. Plus Colin’s ever-loving family, who play a strong side roll.

But despite all the good, there were a couple of disappoints for me. Firstly, it took a while before we learnt about what happened to Parker’s parents, and even that wasn’t a true answer. Then there was Erin, always looking over her shoulder, but nothing ever came of that thread. I was also expecting something more to happen with the strange man who suddenly appeared in their yard.

A story filled with grit and determination that, despite my minor niggles, I really enjoyed.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

The Gamble by Tara Crescent

Plenty of hotness in a second-chance romance with a twist

This is a new reworking of the book Gambling with Gabriella. I hadn’t read this book, so everything inside is completely new to me. I actually read it in pieces, as part of a newsletter release. Not something I’ve actually done before, so I got to submit a couple of corrections, and enjoy the book as each part came out.

Moving onto the story itself, wow does that contain some huge hotness! As my title says, it’s a second-chance romance with a twist – Gabriella had a one-night stand with two hot guys, which was wonderful, but at the time she wasn’t up for anything else. Yet, there they are, still in her mind. And it appears that they can’t stop thinking about her, either.

A complete chance meeting happens as she is given a PR assignment in Atlantic City, and just happens to be staying in the very hotel that these two hot guys, Dominic and Carter, own. With a little bit of awkwardness at first, it’s only a matter of time before these three hook up again. Yet, is it a match for life, or just another night of fun…?

And of course, there are plenty of twists and turns. Carter is at risk of losing the nephew he’s looked after for so long for good. And Gabriella has a nasty secret of her own – she’s gotten herself addicted to underground gambling as a way of earning enough to start her own business, threw all caution to the wind in one night of madness, and ended up seriously in debt.

As each storyline twists and brings our three MCs together, they end up saving each other in more ways than one.

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free digital ARC via the author and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Burn the Dark by S.A. Hunt

Poor Start to Near-Epic Finish

This book started off with a bunch of bad sayings, that made no sense whatsoever. Well, it was a review copy, so may have been updated by the time the book was released, but there is nothing more off putting (well, perhaps there is) than a bunch of author-created nonsensical sayings.

But, once I got into the book, despite the horror edge to the story, I actually quite enjoyed it. A few laughs, a few gory moments. A few excellent characters to top it off, with a few interweaving storylines.

The witches themselves are devious. And there is just something not right about that house… Yet Robin manages to go back to where she grew up and find out more about her past than she could have wished for, gaining a handful of trusty sidekicks along the way.

I might not understand much about the background or culture (typical Brit trying to watch US TV dramas and failing to get the context), but all in all it wasn’t bad at all.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Statuesque by Chera Zade and Fanny Mills

Yet more Infernalis fun!

As to be expected from the Infernalis Club books, this was not shy on fun and detail. I’ve been loving all the books in the series so far and, whilst it helps to have some background knowledge of the main characters, it shouldn’t spoil the read if you haven’t yet read any other books in the series.

In this edition, we have young Gillian, currently living with her strict aunt and uncle after her parents died and left her penniless. Being the poor relation, she gets treated as a lesser being, being made to look ugly and unpresentable at balls, so that her cousins (who she also has to wait on) are chosen first.

But, oh, poor Gillian doesn’t know what she’s in for one evening, when deciding to confine herself to her rooms rather than put up with her family’s demands. Sneaking out of her room so she can hear the music better gets herself into more trouble than she ever expects, after discovering a rather delicious gentleman engaged in acts she couldn’t even dream of!

Yet Gillian, even upon discovering the Infernalis Club after deciding to follow the carriage of the one who taught her a lesson, is kept perfectly intact, apart from the severe bottom bruising. Lord Standish, ever inventive, finds a way of allowing her to participate whilst allowing her to keep her precious flower… Although, we all know that that’s unlikely to last for long!

Great fun with plenty of heat, it should keep you panting for more!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Back to September by Melissa Brayden

Romance not necessarily at its best

There were many brilliant moments inside this, but just as many terrible ones. To start with, a book about books should be exciting, especially with people who absolutely love books and reading, and share that as much as possible. All the geeky stuff, the shared knowledge to help people find their “perfect book match”. That was wonderful. It was the romance aspect that let this all down.

One thing I found difficult to handle was that there was more than one “high” point. We have everything going brilliantly, switching to things fading out, switching to things going fantastically brilliantly again (eked out so far that it became boring), up to things going dramatically badly, but ending with an HEA. I’m sure huge chunks of this could have been cut out, as it’s not the idea that the reader gets bored in the middle. So the dramatic part (which didn’t feel so dramatic), which is supposed to hit at two thirds, actually felt like it came late.

The HEA, once it finally did come (after we had a fake HEA before that) was a great ending. It’s just the journey to there that was far too messy for my tastes.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Feline The Heat by Lacey Carter Andersen, L.A. Boruff, and Laura Greenwood

Too much fun!

Ooooh, now this one happened to hit me in just the right way. I mean, naked firemen? Who don’t notice you ogling because you’ve shapeshifted into a cat? Ha! And best of all, because your changing into a cat is part of a curse, they don’t even notice that you’re a shifter!

This was extremely fun, funny, with definite laugh-out-loud moments, but also with a bit of seriousness. And of course, Callie wanting to find out the source of her curse and if someone can fix it is most definitely going to get her into trouble, whether she’s in cat or human form. Let alone the firemen who have taken a very definite liking to her, in both forms!

With an interesting little mini cliffhanger, this is definitely going to be a series to follow.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Ghosted by Chera Zade and Fanny Mills

Yes and no

Cover

OK, I will start by saying that understand some people’s POVs that there is “slut shaming” going on, but it is hardly done in a way that’s completely derogatory. The girls say it of themselves, to further excite themselves. In this context, I have no problem with it.

My actual issues with this was that it, for me, wasn’t concrete enough. The storyline itself was quite flimsy, with the sex scenes not quite as hot as I’ve come to expect from a Zade-Mills combo. This incredibly short story was fun in its way, but could have been so much more.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

*I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Hammers, Strings, and Beautiful Things by Morgan Lee Miller

Hard hitting

I was drawn to this book first by a GR friend’s review, then by the beautiful cover and finally the description. I expected much from it, yet it has to come with some warnings – the alcohol and drug abuse is written so well, that you can feel the pain coming from all sides.

I guess, even with knowing that, I hadn’t expected it to be so hard hitting. Blair might seem to come off as quite selfish, as she sinks into despair, but the truth is she’s been trying to handle anxiety and depression in an extreme way. None of her friends have any real understanding of what she’s going through, placing the blame firmly on her side, which in the beginning just makes things worse. It takes her hitting rock bottom to truly be able to find a way out, whilst completely leaving her on her own once more.

This book shows the price of fame, whilst also showing humanity at its best and worst. Whilst I can be disappointed at the reaction of the side characters to Blair’s condition, it wasn’t at all surprising considering general opinions of addiction. The only way out is with support and help, which she was forced to find herself.

Running along behind all this is the romance element. Blair opens herself up to someone new, but neither is truly able to handle all of it until she’s clean. Luckily there is a HEA to be found behind all the drama and destruction, as things pull good in the end. But considering how hard won it is, I am surprised that Blair doesn’t have any bitterness towards those that let her down whilst she was letting herself down.

For me, I did find it well written, as well as enjoyable and relatable. The only thing I personally didn’t like was the awkwardness of some of the sex scenes. They didn’t always flow as well as the rest of the book did.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*