Hunks, Hammers, and Happily Ever Afters – Anthology

HunksHammersAn anthology of novellas about hunky blue collar, hammer wielding heroes and the women who tame them. Stories are by USA Today Bestselling Authors Cari Quinn, Cathy Clamp, and Anna J Stewart, and featuring authors Jodi Redford, Amie Stuart, Leah Braemel, and Chudney Thomas.
Get down and dirty with this sexy blue collar bundle featuring seven original contemporary romance novellas that range from sweet to sizzling.

This must be the year of anthologies. I think I’ve read more this year… at least at the end of this year, than I’ve read in quite some time. Hunks, Hammers and Happily Ever Afters!! is another one that’s pretty much full of ‘new to me’ authors. But see, the thing about anthologies is that they give you a taste of authors and genres that you may not have noticed or thought about before. Not that I need any more books or authors added to my TBR list, but I can’t just skip a story in an anthology just because I’m not familiar with the author. What if I miss out on my next great read? What if I’m not introduced to a character that may turn into my next BBF or BFF? Plus, I’m nothing if not a conscientious reader. Once I start reading I just can’t stop. So… you’ll find my mini-reviews for all the books in Hunks, Hammers and Happily Ever Afters!! below, along with the short descriptions found at Goodreads for each.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1KNOCKOUT – Cari Quinn
All Emerson Knapp wants…is everything he shouldn’t have. When all his secrets come to a head, the only question left is how much he’s willing to lose.
Review: Knockout is part of Cari Quinn’s Tapped Out series. I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t missing anything by not having read any of the previous books, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to read more now that I’ve had a taste… and what a taste Knockout was… Lily, Jase and Emerson definitely kept things interesting.

HOT SUMMER NIGHTS – Cathy Clamp
Sophie Green is smart, gorgeous, and good with her hands. Can Gabe convince her to make her stay at the Starlight Motel a permanent one?
Review:
I was really excited about this one. I loved the characters and the writing was spot on… and then… ugh! My opinion changed as soon as they didn’t even give a condom a second thought from their very first encounter. It can be forgiven if there is remorse or an OMG! moment afterward, but that didn’t happen. Sorry, but regardless of how the rest of the story goes, that pretty much turned me off from the start. It’s a shame too, because the premise, chemistry between the characters and the set-up was great. *sigh*

MARKED FOR LOVE – Anna J. Stewart
Overworked pub manager Regan Murphy is about to have her hands full with Lantano Valley newcomer and tattoo artist Brodie Crawford: a sexy single father who is far too distracting.
*this version of MARKED FOR LOVE is a spiced up version of the original sweet novella of the same title. Includes a never before published epilogue, available ONLY in this boxed set.
Review:
There’s something to be said for a sweet romance, centered around broken characters who live for their families. That’s exactly what Marked for Love was and I loved it. Just a little smexiness, a lot of denial, a misunderstood teenager and a couple of adorable, well written kids…. perfect!

KNOTTY MAGIC – Jodi Redford
Hormones be damned, Tully Eastwood won’t succumb to her attraction for a sexy lumberjack—until she finds herself trapped overnight with him in the woods.
Review:
Jodi is the only author in this anthology that I’ve read. Knotty Magic was full of the snarkiness, humor, wit and smexiness that I’ve come to expect from her. A spunky girl who’s passionate about things that are important to her. A grizzly man who’s afraid to commit because he’s been burned and doesn’t want to put his heart through that kind of pain again. Add to that a forest full of magic that is determined to bring these two crazy kids together and the combination is golden.

AGAINST THE WALL – Amie Stuart
Construction Supervisor Lexi Kimball is the one person everyone loves to hate. Everyone except a sexy foreman with an adventurous streak, that is.
Review:
The down side of reading a novella? Sometimes you don’t get enough time to relate to a character. That’s how I felt after I finished Against the Wall. I liked this one, but I think I would have liked it a lot more if I had more time to get to know Lexi and Wade.

UNASHAMED — Leah Braemel
Two sexy construction workers double Hayley O’Connell’s fun. But can they convince her the fun should last forever?
Review:
Awww… I loved these three. Granted, since it was technically a novella, parts of it were a little rushed, but it was much more than a menage. It was a sweet story about childhood friends to lovers and common love for a girl that brought them all together. It also included a jerk of a father and a loving, accepting family that totally made up for it. Too bad it came to a satisfying end, because I could definitely go for some more time with Hayley, Mac and Noah. 😉

LOVE IN AN ELEVATOR – Chudney Thomas
Mica Lawson is a failure and a flake; at least according to her family. Then one stalled elevator, and a sexy repairman, change her life.
Review:
There were things about this story that I really liked and other things that drove me nuts. I really liked Cam, Mica was hard to figure out. Things that set her off weren’t really a big deal and kinda made me shake my head. Also, editing issues usually don’t bother me, but there were so many in this one I can’t help but mention them. Lots of potential here, just didn’t quite hit the mark for me. *sigh*

DragonFlyRating4

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Nightshade – Urban Fantasy Anthology

NightShadeAnthology17 original stories by some of today’s bestselling urban fantasy authors.

I’ll admit, a lot of these authors were new to me. 15 to be exact. Some of the short stories were prequels to new series. Some of them were character introductions and some of them were little treasures that added to existing series. Naturally, I enjoyed the tidbits from characters that I was familiar with, but the others gave me incentive to check out some new authors and broaden my Urban Fantasy horizons. 😉 Even if you’re not familiar with some of the stories and or authors, I bet you can find at least one or two characters in this compilation that you’d like to learn more about. Below is the list and description of the books included in Nightshade found at Goodreads, along with my mini reviews.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1The Agency by Donna Augustine: Before Karma joins the agency, she’s just another assignment handed to Fate from the Universe. But she’s destined to become more than that.
Review:
This was a fun one and definitely left me wanting more…

De Facto by Annie Bellet: Verity Li’s just a bureaucratic cog, going through the motions until she interrupts a kidnapping next door, and now all the problems are hers.
Review:
Another fun story in this anthology. I was definitely intrigued by Varity and her magic sniffing rat.

Venom by Sarra Cannon: On the run from a coven of witches determined to capture and enslave him, Rend must overcome the limitations of the human world and embrace his true demon power. But will he survive?
Review:
Venom left me wanting more. Full of fast-paced action and danger.

Honeysuckle Memory by Selene Charles: Scarlett Smith’s on a mission to track down the man who sentenced her to an eternity of purgatory, but first she needs to pass the mental health assessment board of the paranormal investigative department.
Review:
This little taste made me want to find out more about Scarlett. It’s the introduction to a new series that I’m definitely going to be looking out for.

Spirits of Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase: It’s Halloween and time to party, but when a spirit traps everyone in the past, white witch Jade Calhoun’s forced to forgo the cocktails in order to save those she loves.
Review:
Spirits of Bourbon Street is actually a novella that takes place several books into the established Jade Calhoune series. I’ve only read the first book in the series (Haunted on Bourbon Street) but this short story reminded me of why I need to pick up the rest of the series.

The Ghost & Mrs. MacKay by Kate Danley: It’s Halloween and Maggie’s mother has invited all the ghosts of the neighborhood over for a party. Unfortunately, one of the ghosts is wanted by the Other Side’s finest. It’s up to Maggie and Killian to find out what caused this soul’s unrest and return him to his happy haunting ground.
Review:
The Ghost & Mrs. MacKay is another novella that takes place mid-series, but it was such a fun read that I got up to speed pretty quick. Plus, Maggie is such a fun character and the banter between her and Killian is so witty, I’m eager to track down the rest of the books in the Maggie MacKay, Magical Tracker series.

Full Moon Mischief by Debra Dunbar: Getting summoned on Halloween isn’t any demon’s idea of fun especially when yanked from a rocking party into a coat closet. But rules are rules and Imp Sam must find a way to get rid of a gold-digger hussy then hope the pint-sized mage sends her back before the party’s over.
Review:
Before I was even finished Full Moon Mischief, I knew I wanted to get to know Sam better. Fortunately, there’s several books in the Imp series that will help me do just that.

Dog Days of Summer by Hailey Edwards: When a fae boy goes missing, Thierry is called to lead the hunt for the rogue. But the closer she gets to locating the boy, the further she gets from the truth.
Review:
This short story was from another established series, Black Dog, but it gave readers just enough to make me want to find out more about Tierry.

Victoria Gardella: Vampire Slayer by Colleen Gleason: Balls, beaux, dance cards….and stakes? Lady Victoria Gardella must juggle her responsibility as a debutante in 19th century London Society while fulfilling her family legacy as a vampire hunter.
Review:
A 19th century vampire slayer? What’s not to love? The Gardella Vampire Hunters is another established series.

Atomic by C. Gockel: Sigyn is prophesied to be the consort of a king. Instead she marries a fool. Centuries after his chaos destroys their marriage, the fallout begins.
Review:
This one was a little hard to get into, but I still enjoyed the story.

Highland Magic by Helen Harper: The Veil has kept the Highlands of Scotland free from demons for centuries, and ensured relative peace for the Sidhe Clans. However, a strange encounter on a dark, heather-strewn hillside might mean all that is about to change.
Review:
There are so many reasons why I want to continue where this story left off. It’s a great introduction to a series, not to mention heartbreaking. *sigh*

Contents May Have Shifted by Shawntelle Madison: Return to the Coveted universe in this tale featuring werewolf Natalya Stravinsky. Two werewolf shopkeepers in a mystical flea market encounter deadly merchandise that has no intention of being sold.
Review:
This short story from the Coveted series was packed full of action, humor and wit. Contents May have Shifted just added another series to my TBR pile.

Illusions by Christine Pope: Warlock Damon Wilcox is plotting to kidnap the most powerful witch in a rival clan. But Damon’s brother Connor has plans of his own.
Review:
This is actually a prequel to an established series. The Witches of Cleopatra Hill is a series that has hit my reading radar.

Dying Night by SM Reine: Hell’s trying to squeeze its way onto Earth via the Grand Canyon. Elise and James, a demon hunting team, haven’t spoken about that thing that happened in Copenhagen for six months. With all the pressure boiling under the surface, something’s sure to blow.
Review:
It probably comes as no surprise that I’m a huge SM Reine fan. Mainly because you don’t have to look very far into my reading history to find at least one book that belongs to one of her many series. The one series that I haven’t finished is Descent, which is where this short little treasure comes from. It really didn’t matter though, because I’m well acquainted with Elise and James and this story is all about them. If you are a fan of Elise and James, then Dying Night is a story that you won’t want to miss. Oh, and just an FYI – it broke my heart just a little.

Brea’s Tale: Arrival by Anthea Sharp: When a faerie girl is sent on a mission to the mortal world, she must learn to navigate the intricacies of life among humans – but will she survive undetected?
Review:
Evidently Brea isn’t just fae. She was a mortal first, but the world’s changed a lot since her last visit. She’s on a mission, but before she can complete it, she has to figure out how to fit in.

Angels and Demons by Colleen Vanderlinden: A mysterious woman haunts the streets of Detroit, dishing up her own version of vigilante justice.
Review:
Angels and Demons may have been short, but it wasn’t lacking in action. While Nain and his crew of demons and shifters were fighting crime, a mystery vigilante known as ‘the Angel’ was taking matters into her own hands. The only problem was her kind of power was dangerous if she decided to switch sides. 

Dragon’s Fury by Phaedra Weldon: A tragic part of Crwys Holliard’s past is revealed when his lover becomes a target in a serial killer’s vendetta against women who have crossed Crwys’ path. Unfortunately, this also makes Crwys the prime suspect in their deaths.
Review: Dragons, a unique twist on vampires, and did I mention dragons? This taste provided more than enough reasons to add any other books that include Crwys and Levi to my ever growing TBR pile.

DragonFlyRating4

Night Shift: Dirty Things Happen in the Dark Anthology

NightShiftSummer in the Big Easy is hot. Inside Tulane Medical Center the temperature is on the rise.

A doctor nursing a broken heart. A wounded warrior with no interest in love. A single father finding the girl who got away. A combat nurse trying to adjust to civilian life. Two lost souls looking for love. A former detective looking for answers and an FBI agent who finds more than he bargains for.

Desire. Lust. Excess. New Orleans will never be the same.

Six never before released stories that will leave you breathless.

Dirty things happen in the dark.

All proceeds of this book will be donated to:
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
Suicide Prevention – Keith Milano Memorial Fund
Nashville Predators Foundation

I love anthologies. They’re a great way to get a taste of authors I’ve never read or to get another short taste of authors I’m familiar with. Either way, there’s always a surprise hiding within the pages. I’ve only read one of the authors in the Night Shift anthology, but I found more than a couple new ones to follow. NOLA is the common thread in all of these stories, but so is the steamy romance that ignites between the characters. Some are looking for love, others are looking for distraction and some don’t even know what they’re looking for until they find it. Each story was unique and some I liked more than others. More than one of these stories reminded readers that #LoveisLove. If you’re lucky enough to find it, don’t question it. Just hang on tight and go with it. ❤

OffDutyOff Duty by Sawyer Bennett
There was so much more to this story than ‘the one that got away’ but that’s where it starts. Sometimes first love is as hard to shake as it is to hold on to. Holly & Tim’s story was a beautiful one and left me with a warm heart and a huge smile. 😀 #LoveisLove

Rebound by Chelle Bliss
I wasn’t sure about this one at first. I really liked Sam and Fiona, but the prologue not only made me wonder which direction this story was headed, it definitely got my attention, both of which were obviously its purpose. Once the actual story started there were no more doubts. Sometimes love at first sight really does happen (especially when it’s the last thing you’re looking for 😉 ).

WantingToForgetWanting to Forget by Toni Aleo
I’m pretty sure that the general consensus for readers is going to be that Jordie got what he deserved and Kacey is way better off without him. I may have to read their story when it’s released just to see how well Toni Aleo changes my opinion about him. Right now the odds aren’t very good, so she’s got her work cut out for her. 😉

ClosetConfessionsCloset Confessions by Kindle Alexander
Well, this is going to be a hard one to review… How about if I just tell you I loved Justin and Derek and leave it at that? LOL!
Okay, basically Justin is trying to adjust to civilian life after deciding not to re-enlist and Derek is willing to do whatever it takes to help his newest staff member feel welcome. 😉 My only complaint is that I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with these two.

Healing Touch by Brenda Rothert
Joss and Carson were another favorite couple of mine in this anthology. Not that I didn’t love them all, but some of them touched me a little bit more than others. These two both needed to get rid of the shadows in their past that kept them from trusting their feelings or hope for anyone else. They both deserved what they thought they would never have, which made their story even sweeter. 😉

Swimming in Shadows by Eden Butler
I liked the mystery that Swimming in Shadows centered on as well as the ‘voice’ of Neil. He was pretty broken… my favorite type of alpha male. 😉 Since readers are left wanting to know if the mystery ever gets solved, it’s a good thing this is Eden Butler’s way of introducing her newest series. Hopefully Shadows and Lies will answer some of those burning questions.

Beyond being a collection of hot and steamy stories, don’t forget that all proceeds from Night Shift will be donated to the charities listed above. ❤

DragonFlyRating4

Lights, Camera, Cupid (Bluewater Bay #6) Multi-author Anthology

LightsCameraCupid_400x600Cupid is visiting Bluewater Bay, and he’s leaving chaos in his wake.

Nothing’s been the same in this sleepy little logging town since Hollywood came to shoot the hit TV show Wolf’s Landing—especially Valentine’s Day.

In L.A. Witt’s Just Another Day, beloved actors Levi Pritchard and Carter Samuels have an announcement for their fans, while in Z.A. Maxfield’s I’ll Be There, actor Spencer Kepler and his boyfriend Nash Holly brave a blizzard and a fan convention to spend their first February the 14th together.

Of course, it’s not just TV stars celebrating the day. In Anne Tenino’s Helping Hand, an aspiring artist eager to escape Bluewater Bay decides he just might have a reason to stay: lust-inspiring logger Gabriel Savage. In S.E. Jakes’s No Easy Way, a local teacher reconnects with an old lover working security on the film set. And in Amy Lane’s Nascha, a Bluewater Bay elder recalls how his own unconventional family used to celebrate the holiday.

Real life may be nothing like TV, but when Cupid comes to town, there’s plenty of romance and drama to go around.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1What a fantastic Valentine’s Day treat ❤ All written by authors I know and adore. Some familiar characters and some new characters. Some laughs and even a few unexpected tears. If you’ve been following the Bluewater Bay series, you need to add this one to your TBR list.

Just Another Day by L.A. Witt

Levi and Carter were introduced in Starstruck, the first book in the Bluewater Bay series, so it was very fitting that they were included in Lights, Camera, Cupid. It was fun spending time with these two again. Being in a relationship hasn’t gotten rid of all of Levi’s little quirks, but he’s working on it. He proves in Just Another Day that Carter’s the most important part of his life and he’d do anything to show him how much he means to him.

Nascha by Amy Lane

Out of all the stories in Lights, Camera, Cupid, this one seemed the most out of place… but it really wasn’t. Nascha’s story wasn’t a happy one, but it turns out that it serves a purpose. I liked the story regardless, but I knew there was more to it than just a old man’s sorrow over what he lost. Turns out that Nascha gives readers some background for the next book in the Bluewater Bay series, The Deep of the Sound, also by Amy Lane.

No Easy Way by S.E. Jakes

This is the first time readers of the Bluewater Bay series are introduced to Cary and Dylan and I’m really hoping that we get to see more of them. Cary was the guy who had everything growing up… and then lost it all. That didn’t stop him from making something of himself. He even got over Dylan when he broke his heart by leaving him. Dylan never thought he was good enough for Cary and knew he would be better off if he wasn’t a part of his life. Nothing is ever as it seems, especially in a world that S.E. Jakes creates. (Oh, and she gets bonus points for mentioning two of my favorite characters from Burnt Toast B&B 🙂 )

Helping Hand by Anne Tenino

I liked Lucas from the time he hit the page in Helping Hand. He was bright, witty and talented and totally at odds with who he was and what he wanted. I really liked the story, but I’m not sure about the ending. I’m really hoping that there’s more to the story between Lucas and Gabe. *sigh*

I’ll Be There by Z.A. Maxfield

Oh Spencer and Nash… I love these guys. In I’ll Be There, readers are even treated to some quality time with Nash’s brother Healey and his geeky friends and boyfriend. Nash goes on a wild trip so he can be there to support Spencer. Meanwhile, Spencer comes to terms with a part of his past that he’s not exactly proud of. I loved spending time with these two again. Hell on Wheels was the third book in the series and another  one of my favorites.

DragonFlyGreen4-5

Tiny Treats – Multi-author Collection

TinyTreatsTiny Treats is a multi-author collection of holiday-themed micro-stories. These are tales that can be read in their entirety in only a handful of minutes. The stories are submitted by dozens of authors who often set them in the larger worlds of their other books.

  • Mistletoe Cowboy by Trish Milburn
  • An Ugly Sweater Christmas by Heather McGovern
  • Close to Perfect by Suzanne Ferrell
  • To Santa with Love by Lindsey Brookes
  • A Perfect Party by Anna Sugden
  • The Miracle of the Child by Bridget Hodder
  • Mistletoe Magic by D.B. Sieders
  • On This Christmas Day by Natalie J. Damschroder
  • Fashionably Late for Christmas by Tanya Michaels
  • A SEAL’s Proposal by Tawny Weber
  • White Christmas Pizza by Donna MacMeans
  • The Christmas Before Hell Froze Over by Sally Kilpatrick
  • Snowflake by Monica McCabe
  • An Unexpected Guest by Beth Pattillo
  • New Year’s Magic by Jody Wallace
  • Giving Thanks by Jeanette Grey
  • A Holiday Miracle by Michelle Monkou
  • A Bluestone Christmas Homecoming by M.J. Fredrick
  • Haintsgiving by Maureen Hardegree
  • All She Wants for Christmas by Janice Lynn
  • The Solstice Ball by Nancy Northcott
  • Zombie of Good Cheer by Gretchen Stull
  • Snow and Ghosts by Nicki Salcedo
  • A Candle in the Window by Dorien Kelly
  • In Which Miss Gardella Receives Three Gifts by Colleen Gleason
  • A Miracle for Molly by Trish Milburn

The title of this one pretty much says it all. Tiny Treats is a Holiday compilation that gives readers just a teeny tiny taste of the individual authors and some of their characters. Each story is only a couple of pages long, so it’s definitely a quick read. I’ve only read a couple of these authors, but after reading these little tidbits, I’ve found a couple more to follow.

DragonFlyGreen3-5

Twelve Shades of Midnight Anthology

12ShadesOfMidnightThe stroke of midnight ushers in many things. From hijinks and mischief to danger and evil, romance is the magic that binds these paranormal novellas together. Join 12 best-selling and award-winning authors as they explore the different shades of midnight in exclusive, never-before-released stories.

This anthology turned out to be a huge tease. I ended up enjoying most of the stories and found quite a few authors in the mix that I intend to follow. I’m just hoping that most of these turn into series or at the very least continue to full length novels. Some of these characters are too good to walk away from with just the little taste that the authors gave us.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Liliana Hart: The Witch Next Door

This is the second book by Liliana Hart that I’ve read and if she continues this series, it definitely won’t be my last. Basically this story is about three sisters, who also happen to be powerful witches entrusted with protecting the inhabitants of a town. A handsome stranger that seems to know more than he should. Toss in reincarnation, an evil force that’s getting closer, a touch of humor and nice little romance and you have a quick, enjoyable read. I can’t wait to find out what happens next because readers are definitely left hanging at the end of The Witch Next Door.

Darynda Jones: A Lovely Drop

This is my first Darynda Jones read, but she’s an author who I’ve been curious about for a while now. It was the perfect way to get a quick taste of her writing style. It’s also a story that I definitely want more of. A Lovely Drop had a unique premise and the characters had that ‘real’ quality that I really liked. This story not only has me wanting more from these characters, but has also put this author on my TBR radar.

Shea Berkley: Dark Secrets: Stone Cold Dead

Another first…. and another case of wanting to get to know characters better. This was also another unique premise. I loved the mix of vampires, werewolves and a fighter who was much more than she seemed. This one even had a couple of precocious kids thrown in to make things even more fun…. and dangerous.

Dakota Cassidy: Witched at Birth

I wasn’t really sure about this one at first. It started out almost a little too ‘campy.’ The silliness leveled off though and once the story got going I couldn’t put it down. Mystery, humor, danger, an adorable little girl, magic and romance proved to be an interesting mix. This is also the first story in this anthology that didn’t leave readers hanging. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy more from these characters….

Claire Cavanaugh: Midnight Renegade

Basically, this was a military/science experiment gone terribly wrong. A scientist trying to do the right thing for the wrong person. A daughter who was on a mission to save her dad and a deadly soldier who barely understood the powers forced on him, much less how to control them. His only goals were to find a cure, the rest of the infected soldiers he felt responsible for and seek revenge on the man who tore his world apart. Can’t wait to see where this series goes….

Rachel Grant: Midnight Sun

Possessed artifacts, helpful spirits and bad guys possessed by greed. I liked this one too. It was pretty much non-stop and I liked the paranormal twist. The romance was fun too, considering how it started. That’s something I can’t giveaway… it was just too much fun seeing them try to fight the inevitable.

Trish McCallan: Spirit Woods

I really liked this one. Of course, I wasn’t surprised because I’m pretty familiar with the author, but this wasn’t like any of the other books I’ve read by Trish McCallan. The mystery behind the magic of Spirit Woods is one that I can’t wait to continue.

Angi Morgan: Bodyguards in Heels: Hit and Run Hallie

Oh, this is going to be a fun series. The characters are just a little quirky, but not to the point of being silly. Magic, mystery, a crazy family romance… what’s not to love?

Robin Perini: Night of the Jaguar

Out of all of the books in this anthology, this one was the hardest for me to connect with. It did get better as it went along. The world building was a little confusing, but I liked the twist on the supernatural, especially the vampires and the unique breed of hunters.

Robyn Peterman: Switching Hour

I honestly thought I was going nuts when I started reading this one. The first chapter of Switching Hour is pretty much the same as the first chapter of Witched at Birth. Turns out it was planned that way… very sneaky of Robyn and Dakota. This one wasn’t quite as campy but it was just as silly in places. The main character in Switching Hour and the main character in Witched at Birth were best friends. Long story short, they were being punished for their mistakes and they both had to go their separate ways to fulfill their sentences. The first chapter in each book was told from different POVs, but they both happened right before they were forced to split. I’m sure that sooner or later these two silly but lovable witches will find their way back to each other.

Ann Voss Peterson: The School

Well, now we can add fairies to the mix. Not that any were actually seen, but they were definitely present and accounted for – and not in a very nice way. Not sure if this one is going to continue or not, but there are definitely a couple of characters that I’d like to learn a little more about.

Jenn Stark: Getting Wilde

Well that certainly was an awful lot packed into a short read. Almost too much. And, to top it all off it ended in a crazy cliff hanger. Yikes! There’s no doubt that this one will continue… hopefully with answers to a lot of question I have about the crazy alternate world created in Getting Wilde.

So there you have it. I didn’t love all of them, but I definitely added more than one author to my TBR list.

DragonFlyRating4

 

Grand Adventures (an Anthology)

GrandAdventuresOn September 1, 2011, TJ Klune wrote, “…it’s not about the ending, it’s about the journey…” in a review of Eric Arvin’s Woke Up in a Strange Place. With those words, two men began a journey of love and invited us to ride along. TJ and Eric have shared so much with us: their wonderful books, their smiles, their humor, their lives, and their inspiring devotion to each other. In December of 2013, their journey took a detour when Eric was taken to the emergency room. He survived the surgery to remove a cavernous hemangioma from his brain stem, but the challenges TJ and Eric face are far from over.

The authors in this anthology donated their talent as a way to support Eric’s continued recovery, to help bring strength to TJ, and to show both of them just how much love surrounds them. Grand Adventures is a diverse range of stories about the journey of love. We’re going on some grand adventures for a great cause. Thank you for joining us.

One hundred percent of the income from this volume goes directly to TJ and Eric.

This anthology is more than a group of short stories with a common theme. In a world where it seems everyone is focused on ‘me’ or ‘mine’ Grand Adventures is a breath of fresh air… and a lot more. This ‘grand adventure’ was a ‘grand gesture’ – it put the focus on helping, loving and supporting a pair of fellow authors.

If you haven’t been following the story of Eric Arvin and T.J. Klune, this is a perfect way to get up to speed. There is an entire community rallying around these two amazing and talented young men and it doesn’t only include their fellow authors at Dreamspinner Press. It encompasses readers, bloggers, indie authors, authors from other publishing houses and many more. Eric and T.J. have touched the lives of so many people with their story of love, humor, heartbreak, loss and most of all HOPE.

I could give a mini-review on each and every one of the short stories that are included in this anthology, but I decided not to do that this time. Some of the authors I was familiar with and some of them I wasn’t. Some of the stories made me laugh, some made me tear up just a little and some just made me smile. Some were really short and some were a bit longer. Most were contemporary but some were paranormal. Some involved characters that readers were already familiar with and some were stories featuring brand new characters. I enjoyed each and every one of them and have added several of the authors to my TBR pile. Even though I enjoyed the stories and couldn’t stop reading them once I started, what I enjoyed even more were the dedications that each author took the time to write. Just like the individual stories, some were just a few words and some were a few paragraphs. Some of the authors knew T.J. and Eric and some of them knew their story but had never met them. Each and everyone of them touched me in a different way and made their gesture even more personal.

All the authors dedicated their time and talent to this work and ALL the proceeds will benefit Eric and T.J. as they continue with the next chapter of their lives together. The list of authors and their stories is offered below along with a link to the individual authors’ GoodReads pages if they had one available. Check out their books, find their pages, stalk them and give them a virtual pat on the back or better yet a virtual hug. While you’re at it, make sure to track down Eric and T.J. and show them some love too. ❤

Let’s Go! Let’s Go! Let’s Go!

Eric Arvin: Blog • FacebookTwitterGoodReads
T.J. Klune: Blog • Facebook • GoodReads

Foreword by S.A. McAuley
An Unexpected Thing by John Amory
The Twinkie Ignition by J.E. Birk
When Friendship Becomes More by Sophie Bonaste
Isle of Waiting by Sue Brown
The Jogger by KC Burn
Holding Court by Cardeno C.
For Dear Life by Mary Calmes
Under the Full Moon by Ellis Carrington
Stripped by Shae Connor (2nd Edition)
That Place Across the Hall by C.C. Dado
Mistaken MD by Phoenix Emrys
Cops and Comix by Rhys Ford
Last First Kiss by LE Franks
Tomorrow by John Goode
From Fantasy to Friends by CR Guiliano
Witness Protected by Dawn Kimberly Johnson
Water Under the Bridge by Mia Kerick
A Gentle Shove of Human Kindness by Amy Lane
Air (Roads #1.75 million) by Garrett Leigh
An Atheist and a Yoga Instructor Walk into a Bar by Rowan McAllister
Stalking 101 by Moria McCain
Simple Desires by Tempeste O’Riley
Object of Care by Zahra Owens
Kid Confusion by Madison Parker
Fall Train by Jaime Samms
The Exhibition by Andrea Speed
What You Will by Tinnean
Prologue by Brandon Witt

DragonFlyRating5

CarniePunk (Hell on Earth) – Multi-Author Anthology

CarniePunkRachel Caine • Jennifer Estep • Kevin Hearne • Seanan McGuire • Rob Thurman • Delilah S. Dawson • Kelly Gay • Mark Henry • Hillary Jacques • Jackie Kessler • Kelly Meding • Allison Pang •  Nicole Peeler • Jaye Wells

A star-studded urban fantasy anthology featuring bestselling authors Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Estep, and Kevin Hearne, whose stories explore the creepy, mysterious, and, yes, sometimes magical world of traveling carnivals.

The traveling carnival is a leftover of a bygone era, a curiosity lurking on the outskirts of town. It is a place of contradictions—the bright lights mask the peeling paint; a carnie in greasy overalls slinks away from the direction of the Barker’s seductive call. It is a place of illusion—is that woman’s beard real? How can she live locked in that watery box?

And while many are tricked by sleight of hand, there are hints of something truly magical going on. One must remain alert and learn quickly the unwritten rules of this dark show. To beat the carnival, one had better have either a whole lot of luck or a whole lot of guns—or maybe some magic of one’s own.

Featuring stories grotesque and comical, outrageous and action-packed,Carniepunk is the first anthology to channel the energy and attitude of urban fantasy into the bizarre world of creaking machinery, twisted myths, and vivid new magic.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1

Well, this is going to be interesting to review. So many authors, so many interesting stories and the only common thread between them is a carnival… of sorts. Not the same carnival, because each story takes place in totally different worlds. Some post-apocolyptic, some present, some dream – or nightmare – depending on your view. I’ll try to review each one as I read them. So, here we go….

Painted Love by Rob Thurman 

Doodle was the main character in Painted Love. He was a traveler and learned from whoever he was with at the time. During this story he was traveling with Bartholemew and they spent their time at a traveling carnival. Doodle rarely interfered or got in the middle of things while he observed what was going on around him, but something about the girls that Bart was targeting on this trip pushed Doodle to abandon the norm.

This was the first time I had read anything by Rob Thurman. I loved the twists and turns in Painted Love and his writing style totally sucked me into the story. I think I will be searching out more books by this author.

The Three Lives of Lydia (A Blud Short Story) by Delilah S. Dawson

Another new author to me… I can see a pattern here. This book is not only going to be entertaining, it’s also going to add to my ever growing TBR list. *sigh*

Lydia was an interesting character and even with the shortness of this story I was totally drawn in by her. She was edgy and sweet at the same time and I absolutely loved Charlie. A carnival with a steampunk twist and some interesting paranormals. I liked it. This was my first trip to Sang, but it definitely won’t be my last. The Blud series is now on my reading radar.

The Sweeter the Juice by Mark Henry

Ok, it’s been a while since I’ve read a full on zombie book. I know that there is a huge fan base for zombie books. I respect that and even I have my favorites. This kind of zombie read is not one of them though. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it. It also doesn’t mean that I wasn’t cringing most of the time either. *shivers*

See, the thing about reading is that you can’t shut your eyes when it gets to the gross parts, and The Sweeter the Juice was full of gross parts. The fact that this was the norm and the characters basically took a lot of those moments as just another day’s occurrence added to the cringe factor for me. I don’t think I could have gotten through an entire novel in the world that Mark Henry created, but this short story was a perfect dose, for me anyway. What can I say? I’m a wimp 😉

The Werewife by Jaye Wells

I’m not sure why, but this one reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode. That’s not a bad thing either. I think it was the mind games, the cynical attitude of some characters, the pure evil of others and the true personality reveal of one character in particular. I could just see this played out in black and white and the swirling images and Twilight Zone theme playing in the background. It was one of those macabre reads that proves that nothing is ever quite what it seems.

The Cold Girl by Rachel Caine

The main character, Kiley, tugged at my heart in this one. It was the closest to a YA read so far in this collection, but because of some of the violence it probably falls closer to the New Adult genre. Regardless, Rachel Caine’s writing style that I’ve fallen in love with in The Morganville series was evident. Don’t expect her typical vampires in this one though. There are some interesting twists, some unlikely heroes and some really tense moments.

A Duet with Darkness (An Abby Sinclair Short Story) by Allison Pang

Okay, this author and series just landed on my TBR list. I need more Abby Sinclair, sooner rather than later. The danger of this anthology is that some of the short stories are part of a series. I’ve skipped a few as I’ve read because they are parts of series that I am currently reading and I need to catch up in those series in order to read these shorts in the order suggested. I’m not sure where A Duet with Darkness falls in the Abby Sinclair series, but I can’t wait to find out. Just a warning, I also didn’t expect any of these short stories to end in a cliff hanger. Yikes!

Recession of the Divine by Hillary Jacques

This one was confusing… I still liked it, but I was a little lost. I think I might have caught up with what was going on by the end, which may have been the author’s intention… yeah, we’ll just go with that. 😉 I get the sneaky suspicion that this may be part of a series, but I haven’t been able to track down anything else by the author. Enough happened in this short glimpse into a world of Gods and Goddesses that it has peaked my curiosity though.

Freak House (A Strays Short Story) by Kelly Meding

This has turned out to be one of my favorites. I so hope that this is the beginning of great things to come. It is the perfect set up for a series, which it very well may be. Kelly Meding has sparked my interest and anything else by her will be on my radar. The story and voice of the main character, Shiloh, kind of reminded me of Gin Blanco. Trust me, that’s a good thing. A strong female who’s not afraid to defend the people she cares about and only wants to use her powers for good. What’s not to love?

The Inside Man (A Jane True Short Story) by Nicole Peeler

Clowns. *shivers* Actually only one clown, but still. *shivers some more* I’m not a huge fan of clowns, but they don’t freak me out either. After reading this short story I will be avoiding them for a while. On the plus side though, I have found a new series to check out. I loved the characters. They were smart and witty and the paranormal aspects perked my interest.

A Chance in Hell by Jackie Kessler

Demons… always a scary concept. Jezebel was evidently a demon (a succubus, actually) turned human, which means she had a soul. Which means that there were other demons on the loose who wanted to steal it. An even more scary concept. Guess who was running the carnival in this short story? Her roommate’s attempt to help her adapt to being a human took a very wrong turn when she decided to take her to Pogo Brothers Traveling Show.

Jezebel is from Jackie Kessler’s Hell on Earth series and it is now another series that I need to check out. My TBR pile is definitely not dwindling. LOL!

Hell’s Menagerie (A Charlie Madigan Short Story) by Kelly Gay

A carnival in Hell that’s main attraction were captured animals thrown together with other supernatural creatures and beings in fights to the death? Sure, why not? For those of you familiar with the Charlie Madigan series, (which I am not) Charlie wasn’t in this short story. Hell’s Menagerie had Rex, Emma and her Hellhoud Brim on a rescue mission that turned out to be anything but routine. Needless to say, things got intense. The only thing better in a good UF than a kick-a** woman is a kick-a** teenage girl, just sayn’ 😉

Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea by Seanan McGuire

And so the last story in CarniePunk is kind of bittersweet. I liked it though. The writing was descriptive and the sense of family with this group of Carnies was the main focus. For as short as it was, the author managed to get me emotionally attached to these characters. If this one would have been any longer there would have definitely been tears. *sigh*

There are two stories from the anthology that are missing from this review. The Demon Barker of Wheat Street (An Iron Druid Chronicles Short Story) by Kevin Hearne and Parlor Tricks (An Elemental Assassin Short Story) by Jennifer Estep. These are from series that I am currently reading and I haven’t quite caught up to where they fall in the reading order. I’ll be reviewing them separately and since I’m almost caught up, it shouldn’t be long.

This collection of short stories obviously turned into a set of teasers designed to hook me into tracking down the authors and adding their books/series to my already too huge TBR pile. However, being the reading addict that I am, that is not necessarily a complaint. *sigh* Just a warning though, even though there are some YA authors in the list, there are some definite adult themes in most of these short stories.

DragonFlyRating4

Cursed! by J.R. Rain and Scott Nicholson

Albert Shipway is an ordinary guy, an insurance negotiator who likes booze and women and never having to say he’s sorry.

And he thinks this is just another day, another lunch, another order of kung pao chicken. Little does he know that he’s about to meet a little old lady who knows his greatest fear. A little old lady who knows what’s hiding in his heart. A little old lady who dishes up a big stew of supernatural revenge, with ingredients as follows: First you take one psychotic ex from a family of serial killers. Next add a pinch or two of an irrational childhood fear. Now thoroughly mix in an angry sister, a life-stealing great-granddad, and a notorious mass murderer—who happens to be dead but doesn’t know it. Let it stew and froth and bubble thoroughly….

In just a matter of minutes, Albert’s life turns upside down and he enters a world where magic and evil lurk beneath the fabric of Southern California. And all his choices have brewed a perfect storm of broken hearts, broken promises, shattered families, and a couple of tiny problems. Namely, killer mice and a baby.

Albert Shipway is finally getting a chance to right some wrongs.

That is, if it’s not too late.

Okay, after reading that synopsis and checking out the cover how could you not at least take a peek at Cursed? It may sound weird, but this paranormal murder mystery was a fun read. Who knew?

Albert isn’t your typical male hero. He’s an alcoholic, adulterer, underachieving coward. But hey, what’s not to love? He finds out within a 24 hour period that the love of his life has been murdered, his hopefully soon to be ex-wife is crazier than even he suspected, he’s been cursed by a witch and he’s a father. Needless to say this book doesn’t slow down until the final page is turned. Also, I’m not sure if I have Scott Nicholson or J.R. Rain to thank for my floor crawling nightmares, but regardless, thank you. Thank you very much! o.O

Cursed was one of those books that had a little bit of everything. It only had a hint of romance, but that’s Okay. It had more than enough humor, mystery, action, suspense and danger (and yes, there was a gross factor too *shivers*) to keep me interested.

Although this is the first book I’ve read by Scott Nicholson, I’ve several of J.R. Rain’s books, which brings me to my guilt factor confession. Looking back, I realized that this is the first of his books that I have reviewed. I guess that means it’s time for some more ‘Deja Vu’ reviews. It’s been a while – guess I’ll just have to force myself to re-read Moon Dance (Vampire for Hire #1), Vampire Moon (Vampire for Hire #2) and Dark Horse (Jim Knight Horse #1). *sigh* The sacrifices I make in the attempt to be a conscientious reader and reviewer. 😉 Stay tuned!

I read Cursed as the first book in the Dark Spells 4-Book set. I’ll be picking these up one at a time. I’ve also downloaded a couple of them separately, so you’ll have to bare with me. I’ll try not to confuse you too much. 😉

I received Cursed as part of the 4-Book set of Dark Spells from Amazon on September 2, 2012.

Once Bitten, Forever Burned by Eve Langlais & Stacey Kennedy

DEVON’S REDEMPTION by Eve Langlais

Bethany lost her one and only love to a war overseas. As if that weren’t bad enough, a brutal attack and claiming by a Lycan makes her life a living hell. She lives only for revenge until the day love comes back into her life and promises to rescue her from her misery. However, the mate who forced her isn’t about to let her go.

Devon died on the battlefield only to be reborn as a creature of the night. He fights to stay away from his one true love, but when he caves to his desire and sees her again, he discovers redemption is possible even for one who walks in darkness.

CRUZ’S SALVATION by Stacey Kennedy

Cruz understands torment. A mortal turned vampire in the war, he has suffered untold loneliness and despair. That is until he meets Kiara—a werewolf he’s forbidden to love.

Though Kiara needs Cruz, and wants him forever, werewolves and vampires are bitter enemies. To make matters worse, her Alpha, also her father, suspects that Kiara pines for a mate. Mistaking her sadness for the longing she feels for Cruz, he sets out to give her all the happiness he can provide.

Together, Kiara and Cruz will have to fight against the rules placed upon them to hold onto their love. But an unwanted visitor creates a complication neither of them planned for. Milo, Kiara’s chosen mate, has come to stake his claim. Now, not only are lives at risk, but hearts are threatened and dreams hang in the balance.

Well, this was a nice mix of vampires and werewolves. As the descriptions indicate, this is actually two novellas in one book. Although they are separate stories by two different authors, the characters are connected. It made for quite a unique reading experience.

Devon’s Redemption was probably my favorite of the two. Devon and Bethany were young lovers before Devon left to go to war and never returned. Bethany ended up going through her own traumatic experience beyond thinking Devon was killed. This story is about their journey back to each other. It was also about their denial and final acceptance of what they had become. It was a total different take on the paranormal romance and I liked it.

In Cruz’s Salvation, Kiara and Cruz were caught up in forbidden love. They had to fight – literally – to be together. I liked their story too, but the way they ended up finally together was almost tragic.

The stories are tied together by the relationship between Cruz and Devon. They were turned vampires at the same time and had remained friends. These stories just give you a taste at both of these authors’ writing. Just enough to make me want to see what else they’ve been up to. 🙂

I received Once Bitten, Forever Burned as a free download from Amazon on May 21, 2012.