Review: One Lucky Night by Various Authors

One Lucky Night by Various Authors

Title: One Lucky Night
Authors: Aria Kane, Grace Teague, Ana Blaze, Constance Phillips, Melinda Dozier
Genre(s): Adult Romance Short Story Collection
How To Purchase: Kindle (Forthcoming) | Paperback – Amazon (Forthcoming)

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of One Lucky Night in exchange for an honest review.

One night can change everything…

The crew at Boston’s Brazen Head Pub hasn’t been very lucky in love. Can a mysterious visitor inspire them to look past old hurts and misconceptions and give romance a chance? One Lucky Night is a collection of five sexy interwoven novelettes by Aria Kane, Grace Teague, Ana Blaze, Constance Phillips, and Melinda Dozier.

One Lucky Night is a compilation of five contemporary romance short stories / novellas, all by different authors. Every story, at least in part, takes place in a pub where the main characters either work or are regulars. And every story has the same mysterious stranger that appears briefly to talk to at least one of the characters.

I was swayed to read these stories by the mysterious stranger bit, but I was disappointed in its execution. He interacts with the main character, always talking about the fledgling romance but never enough to affect the outcome of the story. Every couple seems destined to be together, by their own histories and their own attraction to one another, so the stranger is simply a bystander, offering some advice or encouraging the conflicted person to move forward, take a chance, give in to love. He doesn’t play a large role, and we only learn a few tidbits about his life.

Other than that, the stories were typical contemporary romance. Hot guy, hot girl, kept apart by their own stubborn refusal to give into love until … tonight. Tonight, they all work through their baggage, and tonight, they all get lucky.

I don’t normally post favorite lines (although maybe I should–there are a few that have struck me in previous novels I’ve reviewed that I could have shared), but here is one that I liked. The female main character of one story was describing another male character, not her love interest, but another gal’s love interest. She said that he had “a jaw sturdy enough to ride side saddle on.” It’s an entertaining metaphor, but part of my infatuation with the line is that I can’t decide if it’s dirty or not. What do you guys think?

If you’re a fan of contemporary romance, you’ll probably like this compilation. I personally am not a romance fan–I had visions of intrigue when contemplating the role of the mysterious stranger–so you can’t really take my lack of enthusiasm as meaning anything. One Lucky Night is cute, has plenty of sex when the main characters finally give into their passion, and is a good read if you want to discover a new favorite romance writer.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

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Cover Reveal: How To Reprimand Your Rock Star by Mina Vaughn

Mina Vaughn, author of the fun and sexy paranormal erotic romance How To Discipline Your Vampire, my first review on this blog, has written a follow-up! How To Reprimand Your Rock Star is releasing later this year, and I’m pleased to be able to take part in the cover reveal.

How To Reprimand Your Rock Star by Mina Vaughn

Summary:

In this fun and saucy romance novel, all-star college basketball player Thea dominates on the courts—and off—with a rock star who is determined to win her over.

Thea is a star basketball player at UConn on track to be Rookie of the Year. That is, if she can stay focused on the game. Lately that hasn’t been going so well, as her knee has been bothering her. But that’s not the only thing on her mind…

Ever since rock star Keaton Lowe surprised her in the girl’s locker room, Thea can’t stop thinking about him. On top of his status and enticing ways, he seems to know everything about her. But some of his actions cross the line, and Keaton needs to be punished. Will Thea keep her head in the game, or get distracted by her other favorite pastime—reprimanding her rock star?

Excerpt:

Set up: College basketball star Thea is surprised in her locker room after a shower.

The tall, gorgeous man stared at me with a smirk. Some fucking punk, sitting under my name and number and pulling a cigarette out of his thick leather jacket. He looked bad, dangerous, and delicious and my body reacted to seeing him with a jolt of fear and euphoria. I skittered back and covered my nakedness, hoping he hadn’t seen me fully naked. I peeked around the corner to get another look at him. I couldn’t help myself.

His blue eyes twinkled at me and he grinned. A lopsided, roguish grin that begged you to join him in sharing the mirth. But I wasn’t about to smile at this fool who was taking up residence in front of my locker. Especially while I was naked. He didn’t look like a student—a few years too old and a few drinks too seasoned, and from the rebellious appearance of his black-polished fingers and calloused hands. His hair, a mess of black roots and blue spikes arranged into a halo of sharp peaks, didn’t look very UConn at all. He looked as if he belonged in a tattoo parlor, not here in my locker room. For a moment, I imagined shoving him against the tile wall and punishing him for transgressing into my domain.

“It’s all right, love, I have your towel right here,” I heard him tease in a smoky, tempting voice.

My heart raced. All I had to do was scream loud enough and Matt would be down here in a flash. I didn’t want to, but it was an option. Just keep it together.

Keeping my nude form out of his sight, I shouted to the intruder. “What exactly do you think you’re doing?”

A white towel sailed my way and I stuck my wet arm out to grab it. I wiped myself off and discreetly examined the very bad boy who was about to stink up my precious domain.

“I needed a butt,” he said, placing a cigarette between his mocking lips. His sexy, curvy lips that went so well with his stubbly jaw and sharp features. Shit, what was wrong with me? He was invading my turf. He was also unashamedly checking me out from head to toe.

“Take your butt and get out of my locker room,” I growled.

With a flick of his fingers, the unlit cigarette disappeared. I assumed up his leather jacket’s sleeve, but I couldn’t be sure. His leather pants were far too tight to hide a cigarette, and I caught myself staring. Under his leather jacket was a threadbare tee that hugged his lean muscles tightly. I wanted him to take the jacket off. Hell, all of it.

“Whatever you say, Goddess,” he replied. I noted a slight accent, but couldn’t place it. Possibly British. “Is this seat taken?” he asked, looking behind him at the name on the nameplate and the name embroidered on my jacket.

I emerged, pretending to be unfettered by the whole bizarre situation, and nodded. “That’s my locker.”

“Is it now?” he asked, British accent coming through clearly now.

“Thea Papastathopoulos, future Rookie of the Year, and I need my clothes. And my lucky tape.”

His eyebrow quirked up. “Tape, eh? What’s a nice girl like you need something like that for?”

I hugged the towel closer to me and tried not to join in his contagious grin. He was such a scamp, this carefree weirdo sitting in the women’s locker room, about to light up. “What’s wrong with tape?”

I didn’t notice his hand reaching around to my supply, but within seconds he was holding my lucky roll in his right hand. “This stuff is far too naughty for a good girl like you. A goddess of war and wisdom.”

I felt my mouth dry up at the oddly accurate yet strange observation. I am a classics major, and Thea is short for Athena. “I need it for my knee,” I said, holding out my hand, keeping my towel pinned with my armpit. “I have some big games coming up. We made it to the tournament.” I nearly clutched my head with embarrassment. How would a punk like this know what the tournament was, or the significance of it? I was making myself out to be an idiot, but I didn’t care. I didn’t go for his type, the gothic, pierced, tattooed kind of guy.

“I like games,” he said, tossing the roll into the air and catching it behind him with a flourish.

“And yet you clearly don’t respect rules, given that you were about to smoke in our locker room.”

He waved his hand dismissively. “You going to show me how you use this tape, Goddess? Although I admit I’d rather see it binding my wrists rather than wrapped around your pretty knee.”

I reached forward and attempted to take the roll, but he just tossed it in the air again and caught it in his other hand before I could take a swipe. He shrugged off his leather jacket and exposed his muscular arms, which were ensleeved in tattoos. Not wanting to stare, but unable to stop myself, I admired the artwork. Swirling waves up his left arm, words spiraling his right.

I had no idea what to make of him, other than the fact that he annoyed me with his don’t-give-a-fuck attitude and absurd hotness I wanted so badly to ignore. Maybe it was just my nakedness that was making my body think this way. And by that I meant slamming him against the tiles under the water’s spray and relieving him of his leather. I felt my heart pound and I rejected the fantasy. He was an intruder. How did this guy get past security if they stopped me?

I leaned toward him. “My friend upstairs, Matt, is a security guard. All I have to do is call up to him and he’ll be hauling your punk ass out of here. But I won’t do that if you just give me my goddamn tape so I can fix my bum knee and get home to watch the game.” I wasn’t about to ask him about my clothes, so I pretended I was totally cool with being in a towel and waited for his response.

He studied me for a moment, all sexy grin and naughty blue eyes. Baby blue, like the color of clothes you buy a newborn. Powder blue, impossibly clear. Ringed with a smudge of black liner, the color popped even more. And his face, despite being in his twenties or maybe even thirties, had a youthful, almost kiddish quality when he smiled that softened the harsh angles of his nose, cheeks, and jaw. He tossed me the tape.

“What’s your name?” I asked, curiosity overtaking my anger.

“Keaton Lowe,” he said, dipping his voice an octave as he said his last name.

He looked at me expectantly.

I stared back, hot breath flooding in and out of my nostrils.

“Well,” he said, stretching his toned arms and lacing them behind his head, “this tape isn’t going to bind itself.”

I wanted to wring his neck but kiss the smile off his mouth. “What are you talking about?!”

“I might as well do it myself,” he said, and turned away from me. He spun and showed me his handiwork—his wrists were taped together behind his head. My body reacted with a flood of tingles from my hairline down to my panty line. Had I been wearing any, that is.

I looked down. My tape was no longer in my hands. My body took over my mind and I stood over him, looking down at him through a cascade of damp brown curls.

“Have a seat,” he rasped.

Some primal part of me wanted to sit my bare legs down on his lanky, leather-clad body. I wanted to get rough with him, pin him down, and have my way with him. Another part of me didn’t want him bossing me around. It should be the other way.

“No, you stand,” I replied.

His blue eyes sparked and he met my request with a smile that left me dazed and breathless. I felt the towel slide incrementally down.

“I’m glad you want to call the shots, darling.”

I placed my hand on his chest. “Don’t call me darling.”

“Goddess, then.”

Giveaway:

Win a copy of How To Discipline Your Vampire, a pre-order of How To Reprimand Your Rock Star, and a $50 giveaway. Follow the the Rafflecopter giveaway link!

Pre-order How to Reprimand Your Rock Star:

About the Author:

Mina Vaughn

Kink with a wink! Mina Vaughn is an international woman of mystery and a shoe whore with a heart of gold. When she’s not writing her unique brand of fun smut, she’s plundering Sephora for any pin up girl makeup she can find. Mina’s debut novel, an erotic comedy entitled How to Discipline Your Vampire is about a punishment-seeking vampire who meets a quirky Domme with a serious role play fetish, available now from Simon and Schuster’s Pocket Star. How to Reprimand Your Rock Star, a sexy New Adult contemporary romance about a basketball phenom and a world-famous rocker, arrives Summer 2014.  How to Punish Your Playboy arrives Spring 2015. Find her on Twitter.

Review: Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead by Christina Miller

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead by Christina Miller

Title: Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead
Author: Christina Miller
Genre(s): Adult Urban Fantasy
How To Purchase: Kindle

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

A little magic can go a long way — to really screwing up a girl’s life!

Mara is having the worst month of her life. At least, that’s what her cards tell her and they’ve never been wrong. She’s evicted from her apartment, loses her job and is banned from Beverly Hills. So when the tarot cards predict her imminent demise, she uses a little magic to make her world right.

Suddenly, an aunt she’s never met dies, leaving Mara as her sole heir. But when Mara moves into her inherited home, she discovers Aunt Tillie never moved out. She’s still one pissed-off old lady, even post-mortem, and she blames Mara’s magical meddling for her death.

When Mara accidentally releases a demon and awakens the spirit of the most powerful witch in history, Tillie’s ready to kill her — literally. It’s the only way she can think of to save the girl from herself. The witch and the demon, however, have other plans for Mara’s body.

Another one of my Bookbub finds, Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead is not quite as good as I had hoped it would be. Written with an engaging voice, the story is interesting but meandering.

I’m going to get technical here for a moment. Novels have a certain structure, which you can learn in a novel-writing class or one of the thousands of books written on the subject. Certain things need to happen at approximately a certain percentage through the story, or it comes out feeling like the story is going on for way too long or is way too rushed. Unfortunately, this novel drags on in the beginning and then rushes through the ending.

All of Part One should have been chopped down to only a few chapters and much of the back story cut. Part Two has an abrupt shift halfway through it, the tone going from light and airy and goofy to somewhat dark and sinister. Then the ending, the big fight with the malevolent spirit that wants to take over Mara’s life, is packed into too few chapters. The result is that the book feels inconsistent and messy.

The good thing about it, though, is that I really enjoyed the main character Mara. Her voice was interesting, her perspective and knowledge of Pagan rituals, and her earnest discussion of the supernatural goings-on was endearing. Except for her fear of rodents, she was pretty brazen and unflinching in the face of all this trouble.

I can’t say the same for her best friend, Gus. I’m sure Ms. Miller was attempting to create a sassy, fun gay California man, but to me, he was a complete jerk. He insulted Mara’s weight, made fun of her lack of boyfriend, and when she was being evicted from her apartment in an unfair situation, never once offered to help her, instead picking on her throughout. I was pleased when Part One was over and I didn’t have to put up with his jackassery any more. Mara, honey, you deserve respect, and you can do so much better than being a hag to nasty old Gus.

If you’re looking for something different in the paranormal vein and don’t mind some of the foibles of a disjointed-feeling book, I would suggest Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead. The detail about witch accouterments and rituals is fascinating in and of itself–perhaps even worth wading through Gus’s terrible attitude.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: Running into the Darkness by D. A. Bale

Running Into Darkness - DA BaleTitle: Running into the Darkness (The Deepest Darkness #1)
Author: D. A. Bale – Blog | Twitter
Genre(s): Adult Thriller
How To Purchase: Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Running Into Darkness in exchange for an honest review.

“I never intended to kill the President. As a doctor, I swore an oath to protect life – not take it. But that was before…”

Second year resident, Dr. Samantha Bartlett, is swept from the frigid New York winter to once again confront the sting of death back home – and face those she left behind. But she’s not alone. A strange man she dubs Shades haunts her every step as she seeks answers to the inferno which claimed her grandmother, an eerie reminder of her parents’ deaths. The secrets Samantha uncovers forever changes her image of those she only thought she knew.

Confronted by Shades, Samantha joins a secret underworld known only as the Elite, where a web of power and control is woven deep within governments worldwide. Their sights are set on the power structure of the United States, and Samantha becomes the unlikely key to infiltrating the White House at its most intimate levels.

The quest for blood threatens to destroy Samantha. From the darkness there is no escape.

Running Into the Darkness is a thriller with medical advancements and tech that, as far as I’m aware, are just outside the range of what’s possible now. Then again, what do I know about what the most shady government divisions have? Probably some interesting stuff, just like the tech in the book. I guess it says something more about me than about the book to say that I wish there was a little more of that. But the story itself is about Samantha and her world getting turned upside down when her life starts to crumble around her.

I’ll get this out of way early on, since no review would be complete without mentioning the incest. For other reviewers, this was a complete turnoff. I can’t say that I liked it–I mean, ew–but it served a purpose. It showed how the main character Samantha was able to become another persona. It also opens up a question as to what constitutes incest. She never knew her father, so he wasn’t a “dad” to her. He was just another guy, one who’d done a lot of bad things, and one she wanted revenge on. I still can’t wrap my head around why the Elite would insist she go through with sleeping with him, but she is the perfect person to hate him enough to kill him.

While incest is a darker subject, I didn’t feel like the book was dark enough, especially for one with “Darkness” in the title. I didn’t quite feel Samantha’s angst with her. I understood it, but it wasn’t gritty enough for me. I saw it, from the outside, but I didn’t have much of an emotional reaction. I wasn’t there with her. I did like the book well enough, so maybe the sequel brings us into the depths of emotional despair.

If you’re looking for a thriller-like contemporary read with elements of sci-fi, you’ll like Running Into the Darkness. The sequel, Piercing the Darkness, is out, so if you hate waiting for the next installment, fear not, it’s available. The third and final book is releasing soon, so you hopefully won’t have to wait for long until it’s out.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: Futurity by Michael Bunker

Futurity by Michael BunkerTitle: Futurity
Author: Michael Bunker
Genre(s): Adult Science Fiction
How To Purchase: Kindle | Kobo

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Everyone wants to travel to the past. Not Malcolm. He wants to go into the future… and he’s just found out that Dr. Paulsen, Professor of Optics at Rochester-Finney University has figured out how to do it. Malcolm is a third year physics student and a gamer. He’s about to get more than he ever bargained for and he’s going to take you along for the ride.

I really liked Futurity, really, really a lot. It was something I’d been craving for awhile–a science fiction grounded in real science–so I was happy to find it in my pile of Bookbub bargains. There was so much of it to like: The only slightly fictional science unfolded amid an interesting plot and likable main character.

At times, protagonist Malcolm reminded me of myself, the young and eager physics student who wants to unlock all the mysteries of the universe. (Yes, I was all those things ten years ago, believe it or not.) At other times, his cheerful density–college age guys, so clueless when dealing with their girlfriends, *rolls eyes and smiles*–was frustrating but completely endearing.

I completely agreed with Malcolm’s interest in the future. When spending lazy nights talking over time travel with my physics friends, I’d look forward to the future, not the past, as many others do. The future is where the interesting stuff happens! The past is, well, the past. Before you ask, yes, Part II was my favorite Back to the Future movie. So I enjoyed the time spent on developing “the pinnacle of technology” that Malcolm travels to in the end.

While I enjoyed the culmination of the story, the heavy-handed morality lesson got under my skin. It’s been done … and done … and done … to compare our society of people disconnected by technology to the collapses of other empires. I would have liked to see the book end on a different note than “and so the world’s gonna end cause we don’t ‘see’ each other any more.'” I will, however, admit that it was done in a surprising and unique way.

I sat down and read this book in one session, which is something I don’t do much any more. It helps that it was short. The author himself notes that it evolved from a short story to a short novel. If you like science fiction and time travel stories, you’ll like Futurity. Just steel yourself for the lecture at the end.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: The Well of Being by Jean-Pierre Weill

The Well of Being: A Children's Book for AdultsTitle: The Well of Being: A Children’s Book for Adults
Author: Jean-Pierre Weill
Genre(s): Adult Non-Fiction Picture Book
How To Purchase: Amazon

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of The Well of Being in exchange for an honest review.

The Well of Being: a children’s book for adults is an illustrated inquiry into the pursuit of happiness, and what it means to be radically alive in our daily moments. This adult picture book takes its reader on a quest for well‐being and self‐acceptance, following the story of a wondering everyman. The projective tale summons the reader’s inner child as a complimentary vehicle to drive the plot through bold reflection and earnest doubt. Assisted by cosmic perspective, the faceless protagonist sets out to retrieve the deep self-comfort and inner wellness lost along life’s way.

I like quirky and strange things. The Well of Being isn’t strange, but it is an off-the-beaten-path kind of book, one that defies a simple description.

The content is an exploration of a certain philosophical view, illustrated by watercolor paintings that are quiet and emotionally evocative. I reviewed the book on .pdf on my tablet, so it loses something that would be there when the reader holds a hard copy in his or her hands. The pictures are meant to being as thought-inspiring as the words, and I felt that the author/illustrator accomplished this goal.

At the very beginning, the book explains that this is “a teaching of Ramchal, the 18th Century Italian philosopher and mystic.” At the end, further information is given on symbology in the paintings and Ramchal’s teaching. But this is a primer, something to resonate with the soul, something to pique one’s interest in finding inner peace, an offering to learn more.

The only small complaint I have is that it is, as many religion-based books, male-centric. The “representation of you” is clearly a masculine figure, as it wears a suit and tie and top hat. At the end, the book claims that the figure is androgynous, representing “Everyman and also Everywoman.” If it weren’t for the specific note, I might not even mention it, but the pictures clearly don’t represent “Everywoman.” The philosophy itself, of course, is for everyone, and I wouldn’t dispute that at all.

The book is moving in a quiet way. For some, it might awaken a desire to explore one’s inner self. For others, it might seem silly and pointless. For still others, like myself, it reminded me that life is, indeed a spiritual pursuit, and that perhaps I can find solace from busyness by remembering that more often. If any of this review or the book description has interested you, I would suggest picking up a copy of The Well of Being: A Children’s Book for Adults. The art alone is beautiful, despite the hefty price-tag. Self-published illustrated books aren’t cheap to produce, and it was courageous of the author to produce it despite how expensive it is.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: Cowards and Killers by Dennis Liggio

Cowards and Killers Cover ArtTitle: Cowards and Killers
Author: Dennis Liggio
Genre(s): Adult Urban Fantasy
How To Purchase: Kindle

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Cowards and Killers in exchange for an honest review.

Michael has died, but a mysterious voice on the phone has kept him in the world. They have a simple deal for him: kill and they’ll stop his soul from going to Hell. In a suit that conceals his identity and with a black gun that never runs out of bullets, he becomes their agent. He doesn’t want to be their assassin, but he has no choice if he wants to survive. However, he is not alone in this trap; other agents are trapped in this same dilemma. They all receive calls and must kill their targets before the timer winds down. Together with another agent, he plots to rebel against the voice. But can they really do much against their fate when the voice holds all the cards? With each kill, their humanity is slipping away. Is there a way to escape this dilemma, or do all roads lead to Hell?

I liked Cowards and Killers. I was compelled to keep reading and annoyed at my general sleepiness (recall: I’m pregnant) when trying to get through the ending the night I finished it. Enough of a mystery exist around the origin of the Voice on the phone and the killings that I wanted to keep reading, to unravel the mystery, to understand what was happening.

The problem was that this book was a little long. I think it would have been better as a longer short story or maybe short novella. Intriguing ideas bound the book together, but the actual story-telling left something to be desired.

The beginning was linear without much weaving of plot threads. Much of the middle was talking, explanation, discussion of which agents could be trusted and who couldn’t. The climax was explosive and satisfying, the ending intriguing, but the wrap-up left something to be desired. The explanation we receive on who is doing the killers and who is orchestrating the events at the end is 80% complete, but there are holes. The “big reveal” at the end as to Michael’s history and previous life left me scratching my head, since I never clued in throughout the book that we needed a big reveal. Even the mysterious informational benefactor that appears in the last 25% is left as a deus ex machina to pull together bits of the plot but not ever give a full explanation (although it’s completely obvious from his name as to who he is and what faction he represents).

I have a lot of complaints, it seems, but I still liked the book. As I said, the ideas are strong and unique, but I feel that Mr. Liggio needs to work on his storytelling. Bring the exciting parts on camera rather than telling us about them, get multiple plotlines going at once, and ensure that each bread crumb being dropped gives us a tad more than the last bread crumb. If you like heaven/hell urban fantasies, you’ll probably like this one.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.