April 21, 2017

REVIEW: The Dead List

The Dead List, by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publish Date:
April 25, 2017
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the author
Genre: young adult horror/suspense
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4.5 STARS

(Synopsis) It's Ella's senior year of high school and she and her best friend Linds plan to make it the best year ever. At Brock Cochran's end of summer pool party, the girls vow to have as much fun as possible before they head off to different colleges next fall. But when Ella is mysteriously attacked on her way home from the party, everything changes. Ella's carefree senior year plans disintegrate as she finds herself at the center of an attempted murder investigation.

Ella tries to move on, but her attacker isn't done yet. He shows himself in the form of horrifying signs and symbols: a clown mask strewn on her bed, a dead bird in her backpack, a shadow moving past her window in the night. And as the weeks pass, it turns out that Ella isn't the only one being tormented.

With the help of an old flame, Jensen Carver, and her friends and family, Ella tries to attain some sense of normalcy, but she can't seem to shake the feeling that there's a dark pattern hidden in the killer's every move. Suddenly, even those in her innermost circle seem suspicious. In her seemingly safe West Virginia town, Ella starts to wonder who she can trust.
Suspense and horror lovers - have I got a book for you. The Dead List is all that and more. Originally released on Wattpad last year a few chapters at a time, it's now coming out for the first time in paperback, and if you haven't yet experienced how well Jennifer Armentrout can make you afraid, now is the perfect time to do it. 

I didn't read The Dead List when it first came out. I'm glad now for that. I don't know how anyone could read just a few chapters at a time, and then wait to see what happened next. This is a book that catches you up in the backstory and the twists and turns and, yes, the romance, so that you don't have a prayer of putting it down until you know EVERYTHING. 

Seventeen-year-old Ella was once best friends with Jensen before a tragedy rocked their young world and they grew apart. Now, they're reconnecting over the fact that some lunatic in a clown suit tried to kill Ella a few nights before her senior year starts. It soon becomes clear that she's still not safe, and Jensen vows to protect her until the killer is caught. 

The Dead List was a perfect blend of horror, suspense and romance. Nothing seemed forced or unbalanced. The main point of the story is the killer in the clown suit and what he may or may not have to do with the events that drove Ella and Jensen apart four years earlier. That remains the driving force through the entire book. The side stories of Ella's former relationship with Gavin and her current relationship with Jensen don't cause you to lose focus, but rather give you moments to take a breath before the suspense and terror pick up again. 

I always need at least a little romance in my books, and Ella's budding relationship with Jensen gave me butterflies. Jensen was heroic and romantic and utterly perfect. I loved them together.

"I want to be that guy - the one that when your phone rings, you hope it's me. The one who holds your hand in the hallway and at lunch. The guy who gets to hold you. I want to be the one who gets to touch you," he whispered against my cheek. "I want to be yours."

To say there were twists, turns and questions everywhere is a gross understatement. I thought I had it all figured out through most of the book, but in the end I was blindsided, which I absolutely loved. 

The Dead List is another winner from Jennifer Armentrout, but you might not want to read it late at night when you're home alone. 

April 20, 2017

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Cut & Run (Cut & Run #1)

Cut & Run (Cut & Run #1), by Abigail Roux and Madeline Urban
Publish Date:
September 30, 2008
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Format: audiobook, purchased
Genre: adult m/m crime suspense
To Buy: Amazon

Rating: 4 STARS

(Synopsis) A series of murders in New York City has stymied the police and FBI alike, and they suspect the culprit is a single killer sending an indecipherable message. But when the two federal agents assigned to the investigation are taken out, the FBI takes a more personal interest in the case.

Special Agent Ty Grady is pulled out of undercover work after his case blows up in his face. He's cocky, abrasive, and indisputably the best at what he does. But when he's paired with Special Agent Zane Garrett, it's hate at first sight. Garrett is the perfect image of an agent: serious, sober, and focused, which makes their partnership a classic cliche: total opposites, good cop-bad cop, the odd couple. They both know immediately that their partnership will pose more of an obstacle than the lack of evidence left by the murderer.

Practically before their special assignment starts, the murderer strikes again this time at them. Now on the run, trying to track down a man who has focused on killing his pursuers, Grady and Garrett will have to figure out how to work together before they become two more notches in the murderer's knife.

I've had my eye on this book for a very long time, but just never found the time to get to it until now. I love a good crime suspense novel, and the m/m romance angle was an even bigger plus for me. I finally pulled the trigger on the audio version of Cut & Run so that I could finally experience this book that I've heard so many talk about while taking my springtime walks around my neighborhood. 

On the whole, I really enjoyed Cut & Run. It centers around an unlikely partnership of two salty FBI agents as they team up to try and figure out who a nasty serial killer is in New York City. Both men come to the partnership with their own respective demons and rather large chips on their shoulders. In the beginning, they're combative, angry, insulting and all that results in them being mostly unproductive as they try to solve the case. 

I knew from talking to friends that, eventually, these two men got together, and honestly for the first 30% or so of the book, I couldn't imagine how it would happen. Ty and Zane didn't even remotely like one another. I wouldn't say there was a slow burn, because there really was no flame at all that I could tell. The beginning was spent laying the groundwork for the case and listening to Zane and Ty trade insults. 

But, as I always say, passion takes many forms. In Zane and Ty's case, it manifests in open hostility for awhile before it absolutely erupts into some toe-curling sex. After that, things take off - the murders pick up, the sexual tension increases and the danger to both men reaches critical levels. 

The pace of Cut & Run ebbs and flows along with Zane and Ty's relationship. There are times when the story speeds along, and other times when it sort of stalls a bit - almost like the book is taking a breather before gearing up for something big. There's no doubt that the ending was crazy exciting as the serial killer is revealed and Zane and Ty fight for their lives for the hundredth time. 

The audio version of Cut & Run wasn't my favorite that I've listened to. I thought that the narrator, Sawyer Allerde, sounded a bit like a newscaster. He read mostly in a monotone voice and there wasn't much inflection in his voicing of different characters. Although his performance wasn't what I would've liked, Cut & Run was a long book, so I had plenty of time to get used to it. And I did. Although, I think that when I get into the next book in this series, I may just read it instead of listen to it. And I do intend to continue with the series - something tells me that although Zane and Ty aren't even close to romantically inclined, I have a feeling there's a lot more coming for them, and I want to see where it goes. 

April 19, 2017


This enemies-to-lovers rom-com from Emma Hart was GOLDEN. Check out the excerpt below for a little taste as to why...

Mixed Up, by Emma Hart
Publish Date:
April 18, 2017
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the author and Inkslinger PR
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(Synopsis) Hiring my brother's best friend was not on my to-do list.

Neither was he.

Expanding my dirty cocktail bar into food was supposed to be easy, except finding a chef in my little town of Whiskey Key is anything but.

Until Parker Hamilton comes home--bringing his Michelin starred chef's hat with him.

He has no work. I need someone like him in my new kitchen.

There's just one problem: I hate his cocky, filthy-mouthed, sexy-as-hell guts.

Even if I might want him. Just a little...

Working for my best friend's sister? Not on my to-do list.

She's another story.

Whiskey Key was supposed to be a relaxing vacation, except I haven't reached the heights I have by lying in a hammock drinking cocktails. So when Raven Archer is desperate for a chef, I offer up my skills.

I'm bored. She needs what I can give her.

Except there's a problem: I've always hated her.

Her and her big, blue eyes, sassy mouth, and killer curves.

If only I didn't want her.

I love enemies-to-lovers stories, because the one thing they all seem to have in common (at least the good ones do) is PASSION. The two MCs focus so much of their emotions into hating each other, until one day all that emotion bubbles over and crosses the line from hatred into something else. Those moments are the best parts of these types of books. It certainly was my favorite part of Mixed Up. 

I truly loved both MCs in Mixed Up. In one corner you have feisty half-Greek spitfire Raven Archer, a bar owner and master mixologist who has passionately hated her brother's BFF for most of her life. She's decided to start offering food at her establishment on the Florida Keys, but is having trouble finding a chef that's up to snuff. In a final act of desperation, she asks the bane of her existence - who happens to be a Michelin-star chef - to help her out.

Then, this curveball happened. Now, I'm forced into spending more time with him than I'm truly comfortable with, and every time he switches that dumb little smile onto me, I'm not gonna lie, I get... tingly. 

Parker Hamilton was looking to spend the summer taking a break at his parents' house in the Keys. He didn't expect Raven to have matured so beautifully or professionally. Working for her was absolutely not a part of his summer plans. But, before he knows it, she's his boss and things are complicated. Because he actually finds that he... respects and admires her.

I had no place wanting her. She was so many different kinds of forbidden it wasn't even close to funny. My best friend's sister, my boss, the person I'd hated by whole life.

That passion I talked about earlier - these two have it in spades. They loathe each other so vehemently in the beginning. They're caustic banter was actually pretty funny and pretty consistent. But, there were a few moments where real conversation took over, and you could see there was something else there, if they could just forget about how much they were supposed to hate one another. 

Maybe it was because ever since I'd come back and laid eyes on her, I'd been unable to shake her. I wanted to know how much it would take for my lips to wipe that glossy, red lipstick off hers. I wanted to know how hard I'd have to kiss her before she'd be whimpering in my mouth. 

I loved the bar and restaurant setting. There was lots of talk of food and cocktails, which was awesome. The drink names are ridiculously obscene, and made me wish there was a real Dirty somewhere so I could go there. Raven's big Greek family is funny and meddling and wonderfully close. And the passion between Raven and Parker was so sexy and tension-laden. I loved every minute of their angry foreplay. 

Of course, the fact that Parker is Raven's brother throws another wrench into any relationship plans. As we've all seen time and again, the big-brother's-best-friend-loves-the-little-sister situation is never an easy one. As if Parker and Raven didn't already have enough roadblocks in their way, that one just adds to the total. 

Mixed Up was such a fun book. The dialog is witty and the story, told from both Raven's and Parker's POV, is fast-paced. It's also hot and sexy and pretty sweet and romantic in spots. It's the perfect book to spend an evening with - especially if you have a drink in your hand. 

I knew I was making a mistake. After what Raven said last night at dinner, I had the strongest urge to find out what her cocktail menu was. With names like Dirty Screw and The Slutwhisperer, what other gems did she have hidden on there?

Shit, what gems were hidden inside her apparently filthy mind?

I had no place to be thinking that. She was Ryan’s sister and the bane of my goddamn existence. I didn’t give a shit what was inside her head or how she came up with a filthy cocktail menu.

I was going to believe that she’d spent stupid amounts of time on the Internet coming up with those kinds of names. Seeing her in that damn short dress yesterday had already affected me enough—not to mention the fact that she’d changed since I last saw her.

I didn’t know people could change so much in only three years, but Raven Archer had. She was no longer post-grad, trying to seriously figure out what she wanted to do with her life, uncertain and serving burgers to people to make money.

She was grown-up, in more ways than just her age. She was even hotter-headed that she was back then. She seemed stronger and more stubborn, and her tongue was so sharp I probably have scars from how quickly she cut me with her words.

She was taller and fucking curvier, too.

Her lips were fuller. Her eyes were brighter. And the general air that hung about her, that hint of sass and sexiness, the very same thing that made me insult her whenever I opened my mouth almost made me want her, too.

And that was exactly why I couldn’t sit and think about what went on in her mind—filthy or otherwise.

No matter what she looked like or how fucking hot she was, she was my best friend’s sister. Nobody was more off-limits than she was. That wasn’t a new development. It had always been that way.

Thank fucking god I was only here for the summer, and only because my mother had guilted me into it.

As soon as the summer was over, I’d go for my next challenge.

I could get through a few weeks of being in the same town or two as Raven—because after today, avoidance was at the top of my life.

Otherwise, I’d go fucking insane.

Dirty was right on the seafront, only meters away from a small, sandy bay. It’d only taken me a few minutes to walk here from where I’d parked downtown, and despite the music coming from inside the bar, I could still hear the gentle crashing of the waves as they crawled up the sand. The water was right out, and I stared out at the water as I headed up the hill to the bar.

Fairy lights twinkled along the underside of the roof that jutted out over the sidewalk. It was like a goddamn princess castle from the outside, but the beachy vibe was evident. Different sized and colored shells covered the pillars that held up the balcony that jutted out over the front doors.

I pushed open the door. Cold air blasted into me, and so did the heavy bass beat of the music that blared out from the speakers just above my head. There were more fairy lights inside, but they were strung all beneath the bar, across the beams on the ceiling, and over the back wall where the spirits were on the wall. There wasn’t much else in the way of lighting, but what there was was effective enough in holding the entire space into a balance between bright and dusky.

The inside of Raven’s bar was like being outside at the moment the sun set.

I cast my gaze over the rest of the bar. The solid, wood tables and stools that lines the walls and filled the space to my left all had tiny vases of fresh flowers in. Even those were surrounded by fairy lights.

Fucking hell, did she let a class of little girls in here to decorate?

No matter what I felt about the fairy lights, it looked good. Damn good.

I stepped up to the bar and leaned forward on it. Raven was at the other end of the bar, wearing jeans and a tight tank top that tucked beneath the waistband. Strappy, silver heels on her feet glinted off the under-bar lighting, and it was all too easy for me to drop my eyes there then slowly drag my gaze up the length of her entire body.

Light bounced off the chrome cocktail shaker in her hand as she shook it. She popped off the top with one slick of her thumb, and without spilling a drop, poured the pink-red liquid into two martini-style glasses. With her other hand, she reached back to the register and jabbed at it.

Seconds later, she was handing them back their change. It all happened in a flash.

How did such she go from lost to…this…so quick?

“Raven!” A dark-haired woman sitting a few stools away from me with her friend yelled. “There’s a hot guy staring at you!”

I laughed loudly as Raven jerked around. Her gaze landed on me with what felt like a snap, and I swore she mouthed, “Motherfucker,” before she stalked to this end of the bar.
Her hands slapped on the bar in front of me. “What are you doing here?”

“I told you I was coming to check out your menu.”

“He was checking out more than the menu,” the woman’s friend giggled.

Raven held her finger up to them, and with her other hand, slapped a smooth, laminated menu in front of me. “Did you drive?”

“No, I walked all the way from Key West.” I picked up the menu. “Of course I drove.”

“Pick one,” she said, moving away. “I’m not serving you anymore than that. Make it a good choice. What can I get for you?” she asked someone else, cutting me off before I could say a word.

I raised my eyebrows.

“She runs a tight ship,” the first woman said. “Three days ago, there was a guy in here spiking drinks. She caught him and bashed him in the balls with her cocktail shaker so he couldn’t run from the security guard.”

Could my eyebrows go up any higher? “That doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. I’ve seen her do worse.”

The second woman’s eyes narrowed. “You have? You know her?”

The first woman rolled her eyes. “Of course he does, Cam. When have you seen her react to a customer like that? He obviously pissed her off in a past life or something.”

“I should be so lucky.” I smirked. “More like all in this life.”

“Her brother’s friend, right?” She tilted her head to the side. “Yeah, she mentioned she hated you.”

She’d talked about me?

“She didn’t say you were hot, though,” the second woman said.



The best friends.

“What?” Camille said. “I’m just saying.”

“No more Slutwhisperers for you,” the other woman—the one I presumed to be Lani—said, reaching for her glass.

Camille leaned over and slurped the last of the drink through the straw.

That explained the name of the cocktail.

“What are you doing?” Raven asked, stopping in front of them. “Cam? Your glass is empty. Let me refill that for you.” She winked to the other girl as she turned around.

What was she doing?

She put her back to her friends and grabbed the tequila bottle. She tipped it over a cocktail shaker without actually pouring anything into it. My lips quirked up as she put together what was some pink juice or something and blended it with raspberries.

She poured the mixture into a glass with some vigor in front of Camille.

She’d made her a placebo.

“Made your choice?” Raven turned to me, holding onto the shaker.

“No.” I spun the menu to face her. “What do you think I should have?”

Completely straight-faced, she said, “The Blue Balls.”

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.