Mandated Disclaimer / Explanation of Ratings

The books (television series and films) that I review here are usually purchased by me, won in a giveaway, or provided free of charge by the authors or publishers in exchange for a fair, honest review.  I am NOT paid for a review by anyone, author or publisher.  Nothing will affect my review and/or rating, not even friendships with the authors.  Obviously these reviews are my own opinion and doesn't have to be agreed to by anyone else.  That is the fun of opinions, we all have them.

Rating System

1 - Severely flawed.  Not worth the paper it is printed on. Might be DNF (Did Not Finish).
2 - Problematic.  A struggle to finish.
2.5 - Still a struggle to finish, but the potential is there.
3 - Enjoyable, a pleasant read.
3.5 - Perfectly lovely to read.  Well worth the time.
4 - Something special that has captured my interest/attention. Compelling, good enough to recommend to others.
4.5 - As close as you can get to perfect, but still may have missed a spot. It can be something jarring, something that pulled me out of the story. It is unexplainable, but just isn't the perfect score.
5 - As perfect as perfect can get for me. It hits all my buttons, emotional and otherwise. These are the keepers.

Erotic means the heat factor is beyond graphic, very explicit descriptions.
Hot is just below erotic.  While there may be some invention involved in the lovemaking, it is mostly normal with some additional descriptive factors.
Sweet can be little or no sex, general descriptions.

Book Review: Once a Crooked Man by David McCallum

An overheard conversation in New York City has struggling actor, Harry Murphy, flying to London to try and prevent a murder.  Things turn very complicated, very fast.  The mob, cops on both sides of the Atlantic, blackmailed financial adviser, the IRA, and more all combine into a perfect storm of danger.

David McCallum, accomplished actor and musician, adds another title to his CV, author, with this intricate tale that harks back to some of the best caper/crime novels of the past.  Harry is a delightful character whose heart is pure gold.  His acting background allows him to draw upon his many talents to stay alive.  Lizzie Carswell was a most unusual character, very free-wheeling and cocky.

One of the biggest problems that I had was a scene between [SPOILER ALERT]  Max and Lizzie.  To put it succinctly, Max rapes her.  McCallum has Lizzie reluctantly aroused by that act.  Maybe that was McCallum prettying it up due to how the two characters wind up, but it is still rape.  This scene brought the easy flow of the read to a screeching halt for me.  It took some time to get back into it again which is why the rating dropped half a point.  I do hope to see more from Harry and a comment on McCallum's Facebook page indicates he might be writing more about the adventures of Harry.  4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Astronaut Mark Watney is left behind on Mars after his crewmates believe he is dead.  Without any way to communicate with them or Earth, he must find a way to survive until the next mission arrives in four years. Of course, that is complicated by the fact that he only has one year max of food and a few potatoes, so Mark has his work cut out for him.

I have not seen the film yet.  The book, however, has been on my TBR list for some time.  My first reaction?  Why the hell did I wait so long?  Actually, I know why.  I was afraid that I'd be disappointed.  I am anything BUT.  Sure, there are some scientific screwups, but it is mostly fairly accurate as far as this child of the program can tell.

My biggest complaint isn't the bogus storm on Mars, an impossibility, but good for the story setup.  It is JPL taking charge.  Nope, not happening.  They might be part of the decision making process, but they definitely wouldn't be in charge.  No way NASA would allow that.  Doesn't matter, however.  The writing is great, the characterization is spectacular, and the plot totally engrossing.  Watney's irreverence and occasional vulgarity is pure old style test pilot astronaut.  These are the guys I grew up seeing around Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach before shots.  The various people, both on the ground and in Hermes, are as real as any you could hope to see.

Some of my favorite lines?  "Rich Purnell is a steely-eyed missile man."  That is the highest compliment you could give anyone in the space program and few have earned it.  If you're interested in someone who truly was a steely-eyed missile man, check out John Aaron and his actions during Apollo 12.  And the truest statement of all time.  "Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped."

If the movie is even half as good, it might be worth seeing.  I wish I could give the book higher than 5 out of 5.

Book Review: Dragos Goes to Washington by Thea Harrison

Elder Races 8.5

The recent events of violence and death among the Nightkind have humankind in arms, so a meeting is being held in D.C. to iron out differences.  The leaders of all the Wyr Demesne are present, including Dragos and Pia.  Things aren't going well, between the protesters and the fact that Dragos is in mating mode, but it gets even worse fast when there's a murder at Dragos' Washington mansion.

I will never get tired of checking in with this couple.  An attempt for a new baby, the Right to Privacy movement, Pia's hives and nausea, everything weaves together into a most satisfying story.  Short it may be, but definitely packed with fun and excitement.  4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Bloodline by James Rollins

Sigma Force 8

When the President's pregnant daughter is kidnapped, Sigma sends Gray Pierce, Seichan, and Joe Kowalski to find and rescue her. On the way to Somalia, they pick up Tucker Wayne and Kane as their secret weapon. The search may also be the key to finding the power behind the Guild, if they can survive that long.

A horrific tale regarding the search for immortality without morality. If you're squeamish, you might want to skip this one. Because the science is real, it is all the more frightening. The pursuit of science, of discovery, of power, can be a heady thing and cause a locked-in laser focus, losing the humanity and morality on the way. There must be oversight, there must be care.

There are also lots of changes coming to Sigma and its personnel, both personally and professionally. I have to say that I approve of it all. Kat and Monk, Painter and Lisa, Gray and Seichan, it's all good! I've also come to have a new appreciation for both President Gant and his brother. The President himself I always considered self-centered and weak. Boy, was I wrong! He's anything but when it comes to someone he loves. A fantastic read, as always, from Rollins. 5 out of 5.

Book Review: Forever Your Earl by Eva Leigh (aka Zoe Archer)

The Wicked Quills of London 1

Daniel Balfour, Earl of Ashford, doesn't want the owner of the Hawk's Eye, a scandal sheet, focusing too closely on his activities, afraid it will be discovered that he is actually searching for a missing friend.  His idea is to distract Eleanor Hawke by inviting her to accompany him to various events from gambling dens to illegal races to masquerade balls.  Neither one expects to be attracted to the other, much less to respect each other.

The thing I love most about this author's novels, whether as Zoe Archer or Eva Leigh, is the depth of the characters, both main and peripheral.  This isn't just a fluffy Regency romance.  The plight of returning soldiers dealing with the horrors of war; the difficulties of making a living as a woman without family or connections; the waste of talent and intelligence among the nobility who are unable to engage in anything resembling work; she shows it all in stark relief.  Not in a preachy way, but eye-opening nonetheless.

I adored Eleanor and Daniel from the first minute I met them.  Both strong, both determined to achieve their goals, personal or professional.  Their relationship is not easy, nor will their marriage be a breeze.  But Daniel had it right, if they are strong and secure in their love, supportive in each other, and not needing the approval of others, they could have a very good chance of making it.

It won't be an easy road for Jonathan, and I hope we get to see more of him and his struggle to regain his life.  I cannot wait to see Maggie's story (I love the hero she will be set up with).  And I have to guess that the third installment will be A Lady of Dubious Quality.  Because how can I not want to read about a woman who signs her erotic novels with that?  Perhaps she will be with Jonathan?  5 out of 5.

Book Review: Lodestone by Terry Rissen

Alchemy Jones needed money and he needed it fast.  His spaceship was in dry dock needing more repairs than his funds could cover.  He never expected to meet another in the same situation, much less an instant attraction to Nicholai Royce.  Nick was also a para, one that was searching for a place that their kind to live in relative peace.  He had no time for a man like Al in his life.  But as the old saying goes “the best laid plans…”.

This story ticked all my Favorite boxes:  m/m + science fiction + paranormals.  Romance and adventure for fans of any of those three genres.  The characters are wonderfully done, the depth in the story magnificent.  I would recommend this one across the board.  I was lucky enough to read this story before publishing, and actually read it twice in succession, savoring the words and the universe created.  I definitely hope that this is the start of a long series as I want to know more about the Search for a Homeland.  I also want more of Alchemy and Nicholai.  There is so much more to tell.  Brilliant work, absolutely brilliant!  5 out of 5 without a doubt.

Book Review: Naughty Chances (collection)

Seven tales of romance ranging from historical to contemporary to futuristic to supernatural.  The pairings are equally wide-ranging and can be any combination.  Overall I would give the collection a 3.7 out of 5.

"Sophie's Christmas Gargoyle"   by Katherine Kingston  
(m/f)  Abuse survivor Sophie and the mysterious Mark Devane meet up to protect Ellie from her abusive husband.  After Ellie is driven to safety, Mark insists on staying around, afraid the angry man will retaliate.  Gargoyles have always been favorites of mine, both in real life and in literature.  I found the story very enjoyable.  Although I did wonder what Sophie wrote on the slip of paper that she gave to the husband.  I laughed when Mark got indignant about everyone immediately assuming that all shapeshifters are werewolves.  Sophie's response was perfect.  "Apparently werewolves have the best PR."  4 out of 5.

"Winter Interlude"   by Regina Kammer
(m/m, m/f/m; m/f discussed)  An American Revolutionary novelette.  Captain Sam Taylor and First Lieutenant Patrick Hamilton had discovered that they had more in common than just fighting for the cause of freedom.  Now, a year later, they discuss what happens in the future.  Both men appear to be bisexual.  Sam is with Clara, who Patrick had an affair with.  Patrick is engaged to a former working girl who is currently pregnant.  I'm more a fan of "one man/one woman" or "one man/one man" stories, so this was not my cup of tea.  Erotic, with a touch of kink.  While the writing is good, this is not my kind of story.  3 out of 5.

"Your One and Only"   by Nicole Austin
(m/f)  Hybrid Mates.  Aspiring artist Harper is on her way to a very important interview when her car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.  Out of cell range, she starts walking.  The hot Texas sun and lack of water soon forces her to seek shade under a nearby stand of trees.  When a black lion appears, she is certain that she is hallucinating.  She passes out, only to wake in Zander's bed.  I really have come to love Austin's Hybrid Mates series, but this is the first time we've been given a non-shifter mate.  The relationship develops quickly, as is usual for shifters.  Harper's doubts are realistic for a human, but are well addressed by Zander.  A lot of heart and heat in this one.  4.5 out of 5.

"Take a Chance"   by Alexa Silver
(m/f)  It had been a miracle landing, with only minor injuries instead of the multiple deaths expected.  Every year after, the passengers and crew would meet to celebrate, to remember, and for a type of group therapy with the other other people who could understand.  This year is harder for former First Officer Hunter Zane due to the death of his good friend and Captain of the flight.  Passenger Lani Kolbiaw might just be what he needs to get past the pain and back to the love.  There's a sweet awkwardness between Hunter and Lani in this tale of loss and discovery.  It has a slow and steady pace that allows the passion time to build.  There was an amusing and unexpected scene at the end that, while not needed, was still a wonderful coda.  3.5 out of 5.

"The Moon Maiden's Mate"   by Suz deMello
(m/f)   Previously published as "First and Last".  At 24, Shayna Goldstein has run out of time to find a mate.  If she fails, she must leave the Jewish outpost of New Brooklyn on Luna and move to Earth.  She reluctantly agrees to an arranged marriage, but is shocked when told her love and future life will be in Farside, an outpost populated by more than just Jews.  Could she find someone as wonderful as her first crush, Gideon Landers?  A most unusual story with a tragic backstory about why there is a Jewish outpost on Luna.  A Jewish heroine and hero is very rare in romances, much needed to represent all the readers out there.  I'm pleased to see deMello give us this diversity.  Shayna has a lot of growing up to do, even at 24, but her development is well shown, even in a story as short as this one.  Lots of sex in this one.  Lots.  But there is still a good strong plot to go with it.  3.5 out of 5.

"Perfectly Presented"   by Berengaria Brown
(m/m)  Blake Kendrick's dinner date takes an unexpected turn when Xavier Kurnow discovers that there are six tags still remaining on the "Adopt a Child" tree, six children who would face Christmas without a present.  Christmas is changing the relationship between Blake and Xavier, deepening the friendship and casual sex into so much more.  There is quite a bit of insecurity by both men regarding their future.  Lots of sex, some kink.  I liked the characters, but I think the constant sex scenes hurt both the story as well as the feeling of love.  It distracted me from the romance, almost becoming "how many different ways can they get off".  2.8 out of 5.

"The Nightwind's Gamble"   by Charlotte Boyett-Compo
(m/f)  Ardian Cree had been playing Quint, a card game he isn't familiar with, when he draws the Oblesik card.  It can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how it is drawn, but Ardy doesn't remember.  The others inform him that it means a visit from the Nightwind Prime, Syntian Cree.  If the Prime comes to punish Ardian for ignoring his summons, he could demand what Ardian loves most, his life-mate Margeaux.  If I hadn't read all the previous stories in this Universe, I would've been overwhelmed with all the characters.  Loved the story, loved checking up on Ardy and Margeaux, previously seen in "The Nightwind's Visit" from the Naughty List collection.  4 out of 5.

Book Review: The Strange Case of Finley Jayne by Kady Cross

Steampunk Chronicles .5
Shortly after being fired for hitting an abusive governess, Finley Jayne is hired to be Lady Phoebe's companion.  Engaged to the much older Lord Vincent, Phoebe is actually in love with another man.  Finley is determined to help the trapped young woman and her mother.  She goes to investigate the Earl, but what she finds is beyond belief.

You don't often see steampunk gothic horror.  And when you do, it is rarely well done.  In this novella introduction to Finley Jayne, Cross has done a bang up job of dealing with Finley's unusual talents, her meeting with Mayfair society, and how her inner moral code remains strong.  I'm definitely interested to see if the series lives up to this wonderful and creepy start.  4 out of 5.

Story Review: Driver by John M. Floyd

Michael Morgan had been loaned to Senator Raymond Grant and his wife to drive them back to the city.  On the back roads, a deer runs into them, causing the car to veer into the lake.  Michael manages to rescue both of his passengers.  Lonni Grant, frustrated that her husband is losing in the election, comes up with an idea that will turn everything around.  Only someone else seems to know the truth and wants to be paid.

Double cross and triple cross, schemes and plans, it all swirls around the three people involved in a simple deception, one that turned a victim into a hero.  Would make a great episode or even a film.  This story can be found in the Feb-May 2015 issue of The Strand Magazine.  4.5 out of 5.