Book Review: Shadows of Ghosts

review-cover-shadows of ghostsTitle: Shadows of Ghosts

Author: L.A. McGinnis

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Dark Fantasy

Rating: 3 Stars (2.5)

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Description/Synopsis:

Driving to South Carolina to claim an inheritance from a total stranger didn’t figure into Logan Dean’s long term plans. But she’d be a fool to pass up an opportunity, and her mother didn’t raise any fools. Now she’s fighting to stay alive in the middle of a vampire war. Thankfully, she’s discovered an ally in mysterious Ian Grant. As her feelings for Ian grow, Logan realizes if she wants the love she deserves, she’ll have to fight the demons of her past.

For over a hundred years, cynical Ian Grant swore to never love another woman. But from the first time he saw Logan, he knew an ancient part of his history had come back to haunt him, and the one thing he doesn’t want becomes the one thing he has to have.

Two irreconcilable lives, five hundred years of history, and all they have to do to live happily ever after is defeat the evil that threatens to tear them apart

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I certainly have mixed feelings about Shadows of Ghosts by L.A. McGinnis. Although the writing was mostly easy to read with a clear narrative voice, there were quite a few typos that really should have been cleaned up before publication. The plotline was interesting, as well as the many characters—I really enjoyed Logan as the female lead… but this book suffered from one major problem.

Pacing.

This book moved incredibly quickly from plot point to plot point. Conversations, action, and basic periods of time were flipped through one after the other. Unfortunately, this gave the book a rushed feel, and it made it harder to follow along with what was happening, as well as to grow attached to the characters. The romance, the friendships, the drama… it didn’t feel believable because of how quickly everything was moving. It felt like one moment Logan was discovering the brooding male lead, and then the next she was in Scotland with his friends (who, as far as I can recall, she was never introduced to), and then they were back home. The drama and romance came off as cheesy and fake because there was no time to soak in the sexual tension or the conflict in the relationship.

I think this book could have been really spectacular as a paranormal romance read, but the pacing just absolutely killed it for me. Overall, it was an okay read. I was entertained, I liked the characters, and the plot was interesting and well-thought out… I just wish the author had slowed down to let me enjoy it.

Book Review: My Soul To Give

review-cover-my soul to giveTitle: My Soul To Give [A Demon’s Love 1]

Author: Magali A. Frechette

Genre: Dark Romance, Contemporary, Fantasy

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When Celina Leviet escapes the brutal home invasion that kills her husband, she’s left with a bullet in her gut and vengeance in her heart. An alluring demon, Mekaisto, offers an irresistible deal—in exchange for her soul, he’ll let her live long enough to get her revenge, but she must hunt and kill the murderers herself.

After sealing the contract, Celina digs into her husband’s past for clues about his murder, and what she uncovers makes her question everything she thought she knew about him.

His company never existed.

His family history was a lie.

And he was involved with The Lumen, a shadowy religious order whose members know too much about demons. As the life she thought she knew crumbles around her, Mekaisto’s charms become harder to resist. Forced to face a horrible truth, Celina struggles against her late husband’s betrayal and the dark seduction of the devil she knows.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ll admit it. I have a thing about demons in my romance fiction—I love the danger of the forbidden relationship they represent, and the tension in trying to figure out if they can truly be trusted at their word… so it should be no surprise that I enjoyed My Soul To Give by Magali A. Frechette. There was certainly an aspect of danger and the forbidden to its characters and plotline, even crossing over the line a little too far at times. This was definitely not your conventional romance.

The characters were interesting, complex, and compelling. Their romance was steamy, a bit taboo, and sweet at the same time. The mystery and aspects of the murder plotline kept the story jaunting along, and I couldn’t help but get sucked into the narrative.

I don’t think this story is going to work for everyone though. There are definitely a lot of questionable aspects of the characters and plot that aren’t going to sit well with some readers, especially those who are firmly religious. If you’re one of those people, this book is not going to be for you—and it’s not meant to be.

If you’re into dark fantasy, I highly recommend you pick this one up. It was certainly a captivating read, and the ending was one I didn’t see coming!

Free Fiction Friday #94

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #94! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays—every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre, and on sale for less than $5.

I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: Dark Fantasy!

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: Sinful Vices

review-cover-sinful vicesTitle: Sinful Vices

Author: Heather West

Genre: Romance, Thriller, Dark

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

I’m no saint. She’s no angel. This is a match made in hell.

Cassidy is the one girl forbidden to me.

The one I’d sworn never to touch.

But when her father demands that I be her bodyguard, I can’t say no.

I should stay away.

I should leave her be.

But I can’t.

The temptation, the hunger, the need…

It’s too much to resist.

She’s so supple in my hands, so easy to bend to my will.

Owning her is ecstasy.

Until her father founds out what I’ve done.

Now, I’ve been exiled.

Stripped of my patch, my pride, and my woman, I’m a lost soul.

But I won’t be humiliated that easily.

I’m coming back.

I’m coming to take what’s mine.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Sigh. I can’t even with this book. I wanted to like it—I really did—and I did manage to finish it… but this is what I’d call a fluff book. It had plot, characters, conflict… but entirely lacked any sort of grounding. As much as I liked the main characters, their romance and the overall arch of the story, the dialogue, actions, and decisions of the characters were so ridiculously unbelievable that it ruined the book for me.

The worst perpetrator of this was the father of the main female lead, who talked like an old mob-boss. He was so over-the-top dramatic all the time that he made me want to roll my eyes. His dialogue was some of the most unrealistic I’ve ever read.

I don’t know if the author just rushed through this book in order to get it published as quickly as possible, or what—but it was definitely sub-par to the sort of care and craft I generally look for in a romance.

If you’re just looking for a fun, quick read to while away the time, this book is probably fine… but it’s not something I’d pick up if there were any other romance book within arm’s reach. I expected more.

Book Review: Caged

review-cover-cagedTitle: Caged [Caged 1]

Author: D.H. Sidebottom

Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Erotica, Ménage, Dark

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Judd Asher was taken from his front garden when he was just four years old. After an extensive search he was never found.

Twenty-one years after a random call out, Judd is found chained and beaten in the basement of an old rundown farmhouse where he has lived the life of an animal for the last twenty-one years.

Kloe Grant is assigned as Judd’s personal therapist. It’s her job to rehabilitate him, to guide him back to normal life. But as Judd’s only emotion is rage, Kloe finds it both heart-breaking and challenging mending a soul that’s not only broken but caged inside him by the demons of his past.
However, when Kloe’s relationship with her patient raises some eyebrows, Kloe can’t fight against the powers that want to see her fail, and with an arm behind her back, she walks away, leaving behind a man who has come to live life again for her.

Four years later Judd, now known as Anderson Cain, the darkest and most formidable cage fighter in a world where violence and crime are the only way to keep breathing, Judd finds there’s not a lot in life that can abate the rage that still twists and prowls beneath his skin.

Not until a chance encounter brings him to her door. To the woman with the bluest eyes and the most stunning smile, the woman who took his hand in the darkness and led him through the door into the sun.

But Kloe Grant left him when he needed her the most. She took the only shred of hope and trust he had left and annihilated it. She starved his belief, and she fed his fury.

She owes him. And he’s going to make sure that this time, she pays. In blood. In lust. In pain. And with her soul.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I should have done way more research on my reading choice before I picked up Caged by D.H. Sidebottom. It looked like a bit of a dark romance when I picked it up and based on the description, I had hopes of an interesting if somewhat dark read. This went far beyond that.

Technically speaking, the book was well edited. There weren’t a lot of noticeable typos, grammar issues, or sentence structure problems. The writing was easy to read and follow, and I sunk into the story easily. Does that mean the book was written well? No—but we’ll get into that.

The book was dark—some would say depraved. So if you need a trigger warning, this is it: There is a lot of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in the book. There is torture, murder, stalking, kidnapping, dog mutilation, and rape. There are M/M/F, M/M, and M/F explicit sex scenes which for the most part includes anal, both consensual and nonconsensual to the point of actual bloody harm. This is not going to be a book a lot of people will enjoy.

Still with me? Good. So here’s the issue with this book: if you like horror and dark thrillers, you may get some sort of perverse pleasure out of reading this book. It’s a bit like watching a train wreck because you’re curious to see the dead bodies. It is an interesting book if you in any way enjoy the dark thriller tone. It is not, however, a well-written book. The characters are unrealistic and shoddily slapped together. Kloe was supposed to be a personal therapist for heavily damaged people, and at first she was set up to be just that, but not too long into the book she clearly steps over the line with her patient, Anderson, and it seemed totally at odds with how her character was set up until that point in time. Anderson functioned too well, too quickly for a man that spent 20 years abused, raped, and chained in a basement. Halfway through the book, the story changes into an entirely different one as four years have passed, and Kloe suddenly becomes the kidnap victim of Anderson, and Anderson is now a fairly well-adjusted cage fighter. It’s like the author wrote two books with the same characters, mildly tied together and decided to just make it one. It was weird and clunky, and I didn’t like it. The book was a mess.

Overall, it wasn’t a book I can easily recommend. If you enjoy very dark thrillers or horror, you may enjoy this book, but it certainly isn’t going to be for everyone, or even most people. Read the trigger warning beforehand.

Book Review: Witch Hunter

review-cover-witch hunterTitle: Witch Hunter [Witches of the Woods 1]

Author: Steffanie Holmes

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Historical

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Europe – 1351. Centuries ago a curse was placed on Ada’s family; every seven days a woman from her line must sleep with a man – any man – or the entire coven will lose their powers forever. As a fledgling witch, it is Ada’s turn to continue the seven-day cycle, but with the plague wiping out more men every day, who will she find to take into her bed? BBW Ada goes to a sacred grove to perform a ritual to bring a man to her, and a man appears. But he is as dangerous as he is handsome …

Ulrich of Donau-Ries is a battle-scarred witch hunter, tired of the stranglehold the church has over his destiny. His heart hardened by violence and the woman who betrayed him, Ulrich is determined to never again fall in love. But that all changes when he finds Ada, naked and waiting for him. She is the first woman to loosen the chains around his black heart.

When Ada is accused of witchcraft, Ulrich seizes his chance to be close to her once more. In Ulrich’s dungeon, they find solace in each other, and innocent Ada learns to embrace her lover’s dark fantasies. But will Ulrich’s heart thaw in time to save Ada from being burned alive at the stake?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m actually a little surprised to say that I really enjoyed this book. I’m not huge on BDSM or dungeon play in my romance. I don’t particularly have a problem with it, but I don’t actively seek it out, and it’s always left me feeling a little uncomfortable when it pops up in my romance reading, so when I went into Witch Hunter by Steffanie Holmes, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about that aspect of the plot. Surprisingly, I was completely fine with it—though I know there will be some people out there that won’t. So before I get much further into this review and waste your time, let me say that there are quite a few scenes held within this book where the main female lead is strapped into or onto torture devices. She was in pain… BUT she was also consenting and enjoyed herself. If that isn’t your thing, then feel free to move on.

That being said, even though there was a fair bit of somewhat torturous BDSM involved, I never felt like Ulrich was being intentionally cruel or harmful to Ada, even when she was in genuine pain. I never questioned that she was happy to be put in the situation she was in and she enjoyed it. The situation was tricky, though. She was, after all, in a real dungeon dealing with a man who “tortured and burned witches at the stake” for a living, and I can understand how some more sensitive readers may find this book a little much to handle. To each his own, right?

Personally, I thought the story was fabulous. I loved Ulrich as the dark and brooding anti-hero and Ada as the sadly naïve newbie witch. The characters were colorful and distinct, and though I didn’t like all of them (I’m looking at you Bernadine), I felt they were necessary to the plot and well written.

Now, I was holding onto an ARC copy, so there were a few typos here and there (all of which I turned into the author/publisher), but none of them were distracting or particularly detrimental to the story. For the most part, the writing was clean, easy to follow, and well paced.

My only nitpick was one particular scene where Ada had been held in a dungeon for days on end before she was ravished by Ulrich, and I just kept thinking “omg… I bet she smells so bad right now.” She’d had rotten food thrown at her, she’d been locked in a damp cell with little food or water, and she certainly hadn’t had a bath… and I’m sure the guy loved her dearly…but… ew.

Overall? I really enjoyed the book. It was a great romp into medieval paranormal fantasy. If you’re a fan of Dark Romance, give it a try. You may really enjoy this book! If BDSM/Dark Romances are your thing,  you may want to look for something a little fluffier…but you’ll be missing out. Personally, I can’t wait to read further into this series, and I look forward to the next book!

Review: Dark Wolf

ImageTitle: Dark Wolf [Spirit Wild 1]

Author: Kate Douglas

Genre: Paranormal, Erotica, Romance, Shape-Shifters, Fantasy

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Sebastian Xenakis is still coming into his power as a wizard. He can shapeshift by magical means and runs as a wolf using the power he draws from the elements. But young women are dying—raped by a human and then slaughtered by a wolf. Suspicion falls on the shapeshifting Chanku, but Sebastian wonders if he might somehow be guilty of the crimes.

Then he meets Lily Cheval, the uncrowned princess of the powerful Chanku, and realizes he will do whatever it takes to clear his name and win her love. But evil walks where Sebastian goes, and there are mysteries neither Lily nor her father, the powerful wizard, Anton Cheval, cannot unravel. Is Sebastian the perfect mate for Lily, or is he instead, one she should fear?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

First off, I need a disclaimer. I don’t read a lot of erotica. I don’t particularly care for it, because usually what I’m looking for in a romance, is the actual romance – not necessarily the sex. unfortunately, I didn’t realize this was an Erotica when I picked it up, so I was a bit thrown at first when I discovered it was.

Overall, this was a good book. There was intrigue, obviously bad guys, and some wonderful world building that I enjoyed. I did find the sex scenes a bit blunt for my liking, but again, I’m not a huge fan of erotica. I got used to it after awhile, and it didn’t really detract from the story for me – but usually I do prefer my sex-scenes to be integrated a little more smoothly into the story. With this book, it seemed there was a sex-scene just about anywhere one could reasonably be thrown in.

Now I have to take a moment to talk about the erotic side of this novel. There were quite a few sex-scenes, and that’s wonderful, this is an erotica after all. Yes, they were a little blunt for my tastes, but again, not a huge fan of erotica. I don’t think it would have bothered most readers. I do have to applaud the author for making it clear that in the Chanku society there really aren’t any reservations when it comes to gender. I sort of wish I’d been warned about the gay/lesbian/orgy scenes beforehand. I don’t have a problem with that lifestyle, but it doesn’t interest me to read about it, and unfortunately, the cues about this being normal in Chanku society didn’t appear until AFTER it had already happened. By then, it was a little too late.

The whole scenario was really written to sound blase, which I found helpful – but later when the main male character kept thinking about his first male/male encounter, I couldn’t help but feel that maybe too much of an issue was being made over the encounter. It’s hard to say “it’s not a big deal” and then turn around and make it a big deal… and then expect your readers to keep agreeing with your first message.

I also found it somewhat strange that the Chanku seemed to put importance on having “one true mate” that they were wholly devoted to, but on the other side of the coin, didn’t seem to have a problem sharing their mates (or themselves) with any person who possessed genitalia. I found it to be contradicting and I almost wish the author had just stuck with one side of the argument. Either have them sexually open, or have them devoted to one person. I’m not sure you can pull off having both at the same time. It made the whole situation very confusing.

Another point I’d like to take the time to mention is the wolf sex. I don’t know if it’s just a me-thing or a human-thing, but reading through animal-sex is not enticing, it’s gross. I could have done without hearing the intimate details of several wolf-couples mating. I really wish it had been glossed over, rather than reading through all the detailed narrative of what it’d be like to have sex as a wolf. It was a neat idea – I’m glad the author had the tenacity to write sex from an animal’s point of view – but it certainly wasn’t high on my list of things I wanted to read about.

I’ll also admit that I was somewhat thrown when I started reading a paranormal shape-shifter book only to discover part way in, that I was actually reading an alien shape-shifter book. It was only mentioned in passing that the Chanku were actually descendants of extra terrestrials from another world, but perhaps the reason I found it so jarring, was because it was only mentioned in passing. It almost seemed as if the author wasn’t quite ready to commit to the story line, so instead lots of different elements were thrown together. (Kind of like how the wolves had one-true-mate but also participated in mass origies) In this case, it seemed it wasn’t enough that there were necromancers, mages, and shape shifters, there had to be aliens too.    I think the fact that there were so many different elements to the story took some of the credibility of the story away. It didn’t feel as real and solid to me because I wasn’t sure what was going to pop up next. I didn’t get the sense that I could trust the author to stick to the world-building. Maybe that’s just because of the way it was executed, or maybe it was the number of unbelievable elements. I don’t know – but it left me with the feeling that things weren’t as cohesive as they should be.

All negative aspects aside, I did really like the characters – particularly Lily, Alex, and Annie. I wanted to like Sebastian, but he just seemed so lost most of the time that I found it hard to appreciate him as a male lead. He sort of radiated a certain weakness to his personality that didn’t convince me of his very masculine role. I certainly don’t feel he came away from the story looking anything like the guy on the cover.

Lily however, was a very strong, independent female character – and I thoroughly enjoyed her personality. Annie was adorable in a soft girl-next-door sort of way, and Alex I think fit into the male lead role very well. It’s actually a shame that he and Lily weren’t destined to be together – but on the other side of things, I really enjoyed their deep relationship. They were what friends should be. They loved each other greatly, and were comfortable enough  in their relationship to have sex, and talk about intimacies with other characters without feeling insecure or jealous. It was a beautiful relationship – and I found it endearing that Alex tried so hard to make Sebastian feel at home with their group.

I do really wish there had been more of a plot twist to the story. It wasn’t a surprise to find that the main evil guy of the story was … well… doing evil things (not to reveal too much!) It also wasn’t a surprise that rogue Chanku were helping him. The author took every opportunity to hint or explain things in a way that really didn’t leave much to the imagination as far as plot went. So when we got to the big end-all scene where the good guys fight the bad guys, it lacked a sense of satisfaction. Instead of going “omgosh I can’t believe that’s what was going on!”, it was more like “Yah yah, get the battle over so we can see the squishy romance bit at the end.”

For the most part, I enjoyed the book – mostly the character relationships and the detailed narrative that really gave me a sense that I was there. From a technical standpoint, the story was well written. On the other side of the coin though, I think a lot of things could have been written better – or at least cleaner. I’m leaving this review with a solid 3 stars. This one was a mixed bag. I’d still recommend it to anyone who enjoys paranormal fantasy stories full of magic and shape-shifting, or anyone who enjoys erotica. Just be forewarned about he gay/lesbian orgies and the animal-sex, and I think you’ll be prepared. It was a fun afternoon read, but not what I’d consider a serious fantasy novel.