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: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Part 3 of 3)

Note: This is the final installment of a three part series reviewing New York Times Bestselling Author Gillian Flynn’s current releases.

Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnTitle: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Adult Contemporary
How To Purchase: Kindle | Hardcover (Amazon) | Kobo

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River.

Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

There’s little more I can say about Gone Girl that hasn’t already been said. I was engaged from the first page, and as the story unfolded, I was more and more awestruck with the tight weaving of the tale. I won’t spoiler anything in my review, but let me just say that I loved and hated both main characters multiple times as the novel progressed. Even now that I’m finished, I love and hate both of them.

Certain people are unhappy with the world. It’s like they’re born hating their very existence, perplexed why they’re here, and angry that they are being asked to live. This is who I think the book is about: Someone whose soul was tainted before they proceeded to this earth. That, quite frankly, is fascinating to me and always has been. And I will never get enough of books and movies and television shows about those kinds of people.

Before reading this, I had heard the term “unreliable narrator” applied to the book. That’s not precisely what we’re dealing with, at least not the Holden Caulfield definition. Instead, it’s unreliable storytelling, secrets within secrets, lies by omission and painting reality a certain way, all for a reason. And that reason is to make you feel about the characters. And that’s what makes me love it.

While I like speculative fiction, I like dark, thinking books more. This one definitely fills both those criteria. After I read this, I decided I was going to pick up Gillian Flynn’s other two books and devour them as quickly as this one, though I posted my reviews in the order she published them. That was my fabulous Christmas break 2013–and there’s no question in my mind as to why she’s a New York Times Bestselling Author.

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Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Part 2 of 3)

Note: This is the second installment of a three part series reviewing New York Times Bestselling Author Gillian Flynn’s current releases.

Dark Places by Gillian FlynnTitle: Dark Places
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre(s): Adult Contemporary
How To Purchase: Kindle | Paperback (Amazon) | Kobo

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.”

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.

The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club… and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.

As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.

I see glimmers of a future bestselling author in this book, but I don’t quite love Dark Places because it doesn’t deliver on some of the things it hints at. Don’t get me wrong–I still gave it 3.5 of 5 stars because I love the darkness inside Libby. But it doesn’t resonate the same way Gone Girl does.

Libby is, quite clearly, disturbed. She’s angry and doesn’t care who knows it. She’s desperate, greedy, and lazy, and willing to do anything but get a job, since getting a job means interacting with people. Of course, she can’t avoid interacting with people–but every interaction drains her and makes her hate the world more.

Quite frankly, I didn’t like Libby, not even a little bit, but I could identify with her struggles. What must it be like to become a child celebrity not for your cherubic face on the Mickey Mouse Show but because your family was brutally murdered? We see child stars become desperate, tearing their clothes off on television and humping the air (though I have a very strong suspicion that most of the time, that’s not their own desperation but their managers’/parents’, who see their cash cow drying up–but I digress). And Libby is even more desperate than that.

As with Sharp Objects, some of the big moments aren’t handled as well as I would have liked. They’re softened, blunted somehow, an “ah, I felt it all along” moment rather than an “OMG! I didn’t see that coming AT ALL!” moment. Yet with each novel, Ms. Flynn’s depiction of some of the saddest and dislikable of humanity becomes stronger, more compelling, sharper.

If you liked Gone Girl, I recommend picking up Dark Places. And next Friday, I will talk about the book that started this blog series, the one I read first, and why I loved it.

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Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (Part 1 of 3)

Note: This is the first installment of a three part series reviewing New York Times Bestselling Author Gillian Flynn’s current releases.

Sharp Objects by Gillian FlynnTitle: Sharp Objects
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Adult Contemporary
How To Purchase: Kindle | Paperback (Amazon) | Kobo

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

With its taut, crafted writing, Sharp Objects is addictive, haunting, and unforgettable.

Sharp Objects was a dark read, a tough portrayal of a woman still dealing with childhood scars. I liked it, but not as much as I wanted to, especially since I’d read Gone Girl first (which I review last in this series, since it was published last). Gone Girl was was so unrelenting that I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed.

This book was unrelenting, too, but the big reveal was softer. Suspicions bounced through my mind as I crossed the halfway mark. Camille’s realization of who the killer is was outshadowed by her fixation on who she–and everyone–thought it was. The big reveal was poorly done. If you blinked, you missed it. But then again, I’m chasing that Sixth Sense “aha” moment. Sharp Objects doesn’t deliver that.

On the other hand, I loved the portrayal of Camille’s struggles. Her cutting, her hatred of self, even her own apartment–transient, sad, empty. This is not a happily-ever-after story about a girl with a disturbing childhood. This is a gritty story about a disturbed girl with a disturbed childhood.

I had some trouble getting on board with the depiction of a small town, which distracted from my enjoyment of the story. Wind Gap, Missouri is a fictional town of approximately 2,200 people. I come from an Iowa town of 1,200 people. I know small town Midwest, and I’m sorry, but no town has eleven bars, a diner, an “upscale restaurant” (for serious, GiFly?), a hardware store, and several convenience stores. I found myself obsessing over these details way too much, going so far as to look up whether this was a real town (it’s not) and where Ms. Flynn originated from (Kansas City). If Wind Gap was a hub, then that makes sense, but she never called it out. She just blithely put it in there like it wasn’t out of the ordinary at all, which leads me to believe she’s not as well-versed in small-town America as she thinks she is. (Sorry, folks, Kansas City is not “small-town America.”)

Sharp Objects was a sharp debut from a future New York Times Bestselling Author. If you like this kind of dark, no-holds-bar story, you’ll like this book. Although I didn’t love it, I am glad I read it. I still looked forward to reading Dark Places (the next book I review in this series) and continue to look forward to whatever else she publishes in the future.

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Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel ShriverTitle: We Need To Talk About Kevin
Author: Lionel Shriver
Genre(s): Adult Contemporary
How To Purchase: Kindle | Kobo.com

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The gripping international bestseller about motherhood gone awry.

Eva never really wanted to be a mother – and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin’s horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

OK, OK, this is the second popular book I’ve reviewed that isn’t speculative fiction, but its bizarre premise made me have to read it. I’m so glad I did.

This is the story of the aftermath of a school shooting as told by the shooter’s mother. If that doesn’t make you want to read the book, nothing I’m going to say will change your mind. But I’m still going to tell you this is a must-read. It will make you think, it will make you question your assumptions, and it will make you cry. Before reading one word, the story promises to be difficult because it’s about one of the least remembered victims of a horrific tragedy.

We Need To Talk About Kevin takes us through Eva Khatchadourian’s journey to make sense of what happened. She starts before Kevin is born, agonizing over her and her husband’s decision to have children. She describes Kevin’s childhood years in detail and through the lens of the horrific thing he did. She ascribes a certain adult intelligence to him even as a toddler, calling into question her reliability as a narrator while simultaneously forcing us to see that evil glint in his eye.

Ms. Shriver does an amazing job shining a light into the nooks and crannies of Eva’s life, both past and present. This morally ambiguous picture forces the reader to confront whether Eva is the victim of her son or Kevin is the victim of his mother. Eva describes their lives and her own worries and fears, but leaves much unsaid, much for the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about. I both loved and hated Eva throughout the book, sometimes at the same time.

And I’m not kidding when I say I bawled at the ending.

Although this is not my usual fare, this book so moved me that it goes into my “top books of all time” category. It’s touching and difficult, ugly and beautiful. It makes me question motherhood–what I assumed and things I never thought about. It’s something I recommend everyone should read.

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