The V Card by Lauren Blakely and Lili Valente

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When you think about how easy it is to lose keys, phones, sunglasses and your dignity on social media, you might figure it’d be a cinch for me to ditch my V Card. 
You’d be wrong.
At 25, I run a successful business, live in a fantastic apartment, and have fabulous friends to go out with any night of the week. And yet I’m still a card-carrying member of a club I don’t want to belong to anymore. Good thing I know just the man for the deflowering job—my brother’s business partner and best friend. 
Graham Campbell is charming, smart, and, I’m told, oh-so-skilled in the sack. As long as I keep my eyes on the prize, there’s no way this pluck-the-flower project could possibly complicate matters.
***
Work and pleasure. As the CEO of a fast-growing company, I’ve been enjoying both to the fullest. What do I do when the board throws me for an unexpected loop so I can keep my business in my hands? I enlist the help of my best friend’s little sister since she holds a big stake in the company. But then I learn there’s another big stake she wants. 
The one between my legs.
I can do this. Seven nights to teach her everything I know in the bedroom. There’s no way I’ll fall for her, even though she’s earning top grades in every single sinfully sexy lesson. And turns out I’m learning something too. The trouble is I don’t have the answer key to what to do when I fall hard for her.
And that throws a whole new hitch in my plans.

I have no idea why I bought this. It seemed like a good idea at the time (I think I saw it on a blog). You see, lately I deliberately choose books that won’t get me too involved, especially audiobooks as I like to listen while working but for it to work it needs to be something that doesn’t engage the full capacity of my brain. So romance (particularly contemporary and historical romance) and re-reading is great. It also works wonders for the rating of a book as because I’m splitting my attention I’m not so focused on plot holes, inconsistent characterization and even if a characters is a moron every once in a while I might miss it/pay little attention to it. 

All of this being said even that couldn’t save this book. It was so damn cheese I wanted to puke at times. My eyes hurt from all the eye-rolling. there’s predictable and then there’s this. The most original thing in this book is that the hero owns a lingerie business. Everything else was so formulaic that it felt more like a bad fanfic. I’ve watched porn with better plot and more originality. Being predictable isn’t a bad thing by itself. But to pull it off you have to get the readers involved with good writing and making the journey different enough to not feel like a waste of time. And ultimately despite the few funny and sexy scenes I felt like I’ve flushed 5.5 hours down the drain.

On the plus side the narrators (Andi Arndt and Sebastian York) did a pretty decent job bringing this train wreck to life. I admire their ability to read those lines without laughing their heads off. Though maybe they did have to try a few times before they manage that feat 😉 I really liked Sebastian York’s voice and I’m a bit disappointed that he mostly does romance books as I tend to prefer to read-read those vs listen-read. Same goes for Andi Arndt though she’s branched a little over to sci-fi. If I’m ever unsure if I should pick an audiobook up and see that one of them is the narrator I’ll definitely give it a chance.

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7) by Sarah J. Maas

Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to assassin to queen reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world … 
She has risked everything to save her people – but at a tremendous cost. Locked in an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will to endure the months of torture inflicted upon her. The knowledge that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, but her resolve is unravelling with each passing day…
With Aelin imprisoned, Aedion and Lysandra are the last line of defence keeping Terrasen from utter destruction. But even the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save the kingdom. Scattered throughout the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian must forge their own paths to meet their destinies. And across the sea Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen – before she is lost to him.
Some bonds will deepen and others be severed forever, but as the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight if they are to find salvation – and a better world.

What an amazing ending! I had high expectations and Kingdom of Ash delivered big time.

At the end of Empire of Storms Aelin was imprisoned by Maeve and knowing what she is from the events of Tower of Dawn I was terrified for her. The parts where Cairn and Maeve tortured Aelin were among the roughest, most emotionally draining of the book and there were a lot of those moments in this book. And to be honest most of them weren’t even about the death of a character. Mostly those moments came about when the war took its strain on the characters and it made them show both the best and the worst in them. 

Aedion hit a particular low and I’m not sure I can forgive him for the way he treated Lysandra. Yes, I get that he was mad at both her and Aelin but his behavior was appalling. I know he felt hurt and betrayed but I just can’t excuse his casual cruelty. Had that not been the last book in the series I would have liked to see him grovel for a lot longer before Lysandra forgave him. On the other hand seeing as this is war and the survival of either of them is not a certainty I understand why Lysandra went so easy on him. That being said she wasn’t a doormat that forgave the moment he started acting like a decent male again. Even a few days after I read these events I’m still pissed at him. But I sympathize with his pain and fear, with his feeling of helplessness.

As in Empire of Storms I had a lot of issues with Lord Darrow and his high-handedness while reading the book. Because of the way we experience the events through the eyes of Aelin, Rowan, Aedion, etc we’re biased. We’re also all too aware of what the main characters are planning but in reality they keep their plans mostly to themselves, especially Aelin, and it would be extremely hard for an outsider like Darrow to simply trust that they will do what’s best for Terrasen and Erilea. So a few days to think things over I still wish Darrow acted differently but I see where he comes from and that the brash actions of the main characters probably terrified him. I’m glad that in the end he saw the light so to speak. 

Manon and Dorian’s arcs were pretty impressive. For a while their paths intersected and I enjoyed how they push each other. Similar to the relationship Dorian had with Celaena in the beginning Manon just brings out a side of him I adore. But mostly I loved how they compliment each other and force the other to want to be better. And this is particularly important when it comes to Manon who started off as sort of a villain and thought of herself as a heartless monster for most of her life. Theirs is a strange but nevertheless beautiful love. 

I expected more of Erawan to be honest. He was kind of gullible and not the villain he was build up to be. I loved the way he was ended. It was so damn fitting but at the same time I felt a bit bad for him. In a way he just wanted to see his family again. He was a monster and would have doomed Erilea in pursuit of that but it’s a motivation everyone can understand. Maeve proved to be the true antagonist of this story though I can also understand some of what drove her. And had it stayed at that – her wanting to escape her husband – I could have felt bad for her. If it wasn’t for her incredible greed and the unspeakable things she did in pursuit of power that is. I wanted her dead so much! Especially after watching what she did to Aelin, how she broke her just for fun. Erawan might have been the more immediate threat to Erilea but she was the most dangerous thing to happen to the world. 

Talking about worlds I will share my favorite scene of this book. It’s a minor spoiler and I’ll keep the details to a minimum so not to spoil the experience too much for any new readers. I believe this was included purely for the benefit of us fangirls. Here it comes – Rhys and Feyra from A Court of Thorns and Roses show up for just a few moments. I fangirled like a 13 year old seeing her celebrity crush for the first time. 

Reading Kingdom of Ash was a slow process. It often overwhelmed me and I had to take frequent breaks. At the end I felt like I’ve been through a meet grinder and am still trying to extricate from that world. It’s not really a book hangover because I have no problem reading other books but I feel a bit empty inside and keep thinking of ways things could have gone differently so more of the characters would have survived or would have been saved the suffering they went through. And that ultimately is why I think this book and the series was amazing despite the many flaws.

Pain (Curse of the Gods #5) by Jane Washington & Jaymin Eve

Willa Knight: The saviour of both worlds, or the destruction of everything? 
Sometimes history lies, and the tales of Minatsol and Topia are no different. Since the birth of Topia, Staviti has woven a web of deceit around the truth of Creation, striving only to maintain his power while destroying anything that gets in his way. Now, Willa and the Abcurses are determined to strip back the layers, to uncover the truth, and to understand the true nature of the two worlds before it’s too late. The only problem? Any wrong step in their quest to restore balance might have terrible repercussions. Every single being-living or dead-might have to pay the price. 

Initially I planned to wait for the audio book but found some time to squeeze in some actual reading in December. I was curious to see how Curse of the gods will be wrapped up and if everyone survives. I’m not really sure if I made the right decision but you know what they say about curiosity and the cat. In this case instead of a cat we have my limited time for reading-reading vs audio-reading.

Pain left me with conflicting emotions – I’m both sad and ridiculously happy that the series is over. I really like the series and I’ve come to love all the main characters but at the same time Willa is overwhelming and most of the time not in a good way. I’m actually glad I didn’t read it the moment it was released because with the burnout I had from the previous books I’d probably have ended up hating it. And it doesn’t deserve it.

To be honest what really annoyed me was the epilogue. Everything was more or less great prior to it. I disliked the way the final stand-off with Staviti was rushed, especially considering the build up of five books but I could live with that. After all I didn’t expect some masterpiece, just some more or less mindless entertainment. In fact I enjoyed the first 3 books a lot more despite Willa being a lot more annoying in them because they were more focused on the relationship she had with her five guys. This one was trying too hard to wrap up everything and it fell short. But I could live with that if Jane Washington and Jaymin Eve hadn’t decided to end things with the biggest cliches of them all. Maybe I’m so disappointed because I was hoping that considering how young Willa is and how irresponsible they would choose to end it on a different note and I ended up feeling meh. 

Plot wise it probably had a gazillion plot holes but thankfully I managed to sufficiently suspend the analytical part of my brain so I didn’t really notice them. But in the interest of not destroying my mostly good opinion I will never reread this. I might reread Trickery but will probably never go beyond that.

Audio Review: First Drop of Crimson (Night Huntress World #1) by Jeaniene Frost

The night is not safe for mortals.

Denise MacGregor knows all too well what lurks in the shadows – her best friend is half-vampire Cat Crawfield – and she has already lost more than the average human could bear. But her family’s dark past is wrapped in secrets and shrouded in darkness – and a demon shapeshifter has marked Denise as prey. Now her survival depends on an immortal who craves a taste of her.

He is Spade, a powerful, mysterious vampire who has walked the earth for centuries and is now duty-bound to protect this endangered, alluring human – even if it means destroying his own kind. Denise may arouse his deepest hungers, but Spade knows he must fight his urge to have her as they face the demon nightmare together…

Because once the first drop of crimson falls, they will both be lost.

First Drop of Crimson is a spin-off from the Night Huntress series and it can’t be read as a standalone. I mean, sure you could, but you’ll have a hard time figuring out what is going on. Also if you’re reading the main series you can’t simply skip this one as some of the events from this book impact the overall story. 

I loved the plot of this book! The introduction of demons to this world made it even more fascinating. So it was plenty fun. We got to explore a different part of the vampire world and to see both Spade and Ian in different light.

Spade is an interesting character and I liked him a lot since the beginning. He has a very tragic backstory. And I felt so bad for him. So I was very happy when he hooked up with Denise in this book. What I didn’t like was that there was more than a bit of relationship drama. I hate, hate, hate the Big Misunderstanding trope! But compared to Destined for an Early Grave it was drama-free! 

I loved Denise and how she was portrayed. What happened to her in the previous books was extreme. And I liked that she didn’t just shrugged it off! She was suffering from PTSD for most of the book and she had to fight with herself to be around Spade. She had a lot of baggage surrounding her actions around Randy’s death and seeing how much this whole mess with the demon made her change and realize her own strength was quite inspiring. Denise deserved a happy ending and the honor and duty oriented Spade was just the male for her.

Like the rest of the Night Huntress books First Drop of Crimson is narrated by Tavia Gilbert. I still have trouble with the way she narrates Bones but because he didn’t play a major role in this one I found myself enjoying the audio quite a lot.

Tower (Ever After #2) by Measha Stone

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I took Azalea from her tower. She didn’t come willingly, but she’s not going anywhere. She’s staying right where I have her – no matter her demands for freedom. 

Azalea thinks the world outside is full of wonder and beauty. She has no clue about the danger that lurks within every shadow – and hell if I don’t want to keep her from finding out. 

She’s sheltered but not stupid – and damn is she gorgeous. That long stark blonde hair and those crystal blue eyes – hit me in the gut every time I look at her.

The fire in her spirit only makes me crave her more.  But, there are secrets in her world – secrets I intend to uncover and protect her from. What’s not a secret? Azalea will belong to me.

I liked the first book of the series enough to get the second one and almost as soon as I started reading it I regretted it. 

You see, what I liked most about the first book was that Ellie had choices. They were not always palatable ones but she could walk away from Ash had she been prepared to face the consequences. Azalea doesn’t have that luxury. She’s a prisoner throughout 90% of the book – initially she’d imprisoned by her “mother”, then Peter kidnaps her and keeps her prisoner in Ash’s mansion and than she’s again imprisoned by her “mother”. 

Tower is a retelling of Rapunzel so some things were a given – like the fact that Azalea’s mother wasn’t really her mother. Or that her mother would end up being a really bad person. So I’m going to ignore her imprisonment under mommy dearest and talk about her time as Peter’s kidnap victim. He can rationalize his decision to take her away from her home as much as he want, and believe me, he does – “she was a prisoner in her own home!”, “there’s something fishy about that I must save her, etc. And that would have been all okay because ultimately he was right and had she stayed at her home she would have ended up in a really nasty situation. But once he “saved” her he keeps her confined and under watch in turn even when she repeatedly says that she wants to leave. He punishes her (and in my book this is sexual assault because she didn’t explicitly agree to it in the beginning) for trying to escape and for talking about going home. He’s a virtual stranger at the time and just because it ends up being the best thing that could have happened to Azalea (more about that later) it tainted the book for me. Even when things improved and she agreed to play ball, I couldn’t shake the feeling of distaste. 

WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD!

As with any fairy tale retelling just knowing which tale a book is based on is a big spoiler for things to come. Knowing that this is based off Rapunzel I figured out the big twist pretty early on. And no it’s not the Azalea’s mother is not her mother. However, based on a few comments thrown in the book I knew what Bellatrix planned for her virgin “daughter” way before I hit the midway point. It’s an awful thing one can do to a person she’s watched over since childhood and it turned my stomach even through I knew it was coming. And had Peter not kidnapped Azalea and fallen in love with her as a result her fate would have been horrible. But as this is a book he, of course, managed to save her from her evil “mother”. Somehow that didn’t make me feel better about what Peter did in the beginning. Actually it made me feel like the author was trying too hard to make what he did seem like a good thing and it just plain left me feeling a bit nauseated.

Review: Beast (Ever After #1) by Measha Stone

Wouldn’t you give up everything for the one you love?
When Ellie’s father is taken by a group of thugs planning to take his life in exchange for his debts, it’s no surprise she goes running straight into the beast’s lair. After all, Ellie Stevens has been her father’s keeper for as long as she can remember.
However, Ashland Titon isn’t a man of mercy. If you owe, you pay. End of story. His unrelenting control has built his empire, and he’s not going to give over that power now. But when Ellie charges into his life with her demands and possibilities of sweet surrender, her offer proves too tempting to pass up.
Yet there’s more at play here than just working off a debt. There are secrets buried in the shadows, and dangerous desires to be explored. While the two of them dance to an erotic beat, outside forces threaten Ashland’s empire and Ellie must decide where her heart truly lies – and what she’s truly willing to risk for love. 

I picked this up because it was marketed as a Beauty and the Beast retelling and I love those. Also it was discounted or free on Amazon at the time and between the title (which on Amazon includes A Dark Beauty and the Beast Retelling) and that cover it was way too tempting not to click on the buy button. 

I went in blind not having a clue about the setting, I didn’t even know if it’s contemporary or some sort of fantasy. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that it features one of my favourite tropes -the girl paying her father/brother/boyfriend dept with her body. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine but damn I love it and it took me an embarrassing amount of time to figure out why this particular scenario always appealed to me. But than again in my teen years I was not so prone to analyzing my psyche and finding the hidden connections. It was after I was in my mid twenties when I finally connected the love of this particular scenario with my favourite fairy tale. 

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If you’re familiar with this trope you won’t find any surprises. I won’t go into trying to figure out if Ellie truly loves Ash by the end or it’s just a form of Stockholm Syndrome. I choose to believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. I want to talk about Ash and why this wasn’t as creepy cringey as most of these books usually are.

Most of the dark romance novels make me want to kill one of both main characters because while I might have some submissive tendencies myself I go into a rage over rape and most of the standard BS of the genre. After all I have my pride and most often than not when reading one of those books I end up thinking that I would kill myself rather than let that overconfident jerk order me around. Dammit I would do it just to deny him his fucking prize. But I digress. Ash coerced Ellie, there’s no going around that fact. But she had a choice. In each moment she could walk away and let her worthless father reap what he sowed. In fact I was a bit annoyed when she kept forgetting that little fact and acted childish in the beginning. Ash didn’t force her and if this was real world she would have ended up gang raped at best and gang raped and sold into slavery (possibly killed) at worst. He provided everything she needed except contact with her father. Which ended up to be for her own sake as he proved to be an even bigger piece of shit than I thought. 

It was Ash’s change in thinking that was most fascinating. I loved how much he struggled with accepting his own feelings. It was this slow realization that loving doesn’t make you weak that really made this stand out for me. Yes, he was a jerk and his behavior frustrated me to no end at times but he has his own set of morals and he sticks to them. He provides a safe environment, frees her from the biggest stress factor – her father, his gambling and lies. What I liked from the start about Ash is that it was in his interest to simply take Ellie as a form of payment from her father as she would have been able to make him the money her old man owed him, one way or another. However, he had no intention of doing that and if she hadn’t offered herself he would have simply ridden the world of one human waste of space. 

I know it all sounds as if I’m rationalizing things and looking for a reason to like an asshole. However, I’m aware that he’s not the good guy and that what he did was wrong. I’m just saying that he didn’t abuse her when he could have and instead let her spread her wings in ways she never expected to be able. Some of the things he did are still a form of rape but she could have walked away. There would have been consequences but knowing what I know about her father I can’t help but feel that either way she would have won.

There are elements of BDSM in this book. And those scenes were pretty hot and really graphic. I liked that there was a good balance between the sex and the plot, which isn’t usually the case with a first in a series book.

ARC Review: Silk and Steel by Ariana Nash

The Dragon Queen’s reign is one of darkness and death. Humans have vanished under the rubble of their world and if the queen has her way, elves will be next. 

Eroan, one of the last elven assassins, lives for one purpose: kill the queen. 

He would have succeeded if not for her last line of defense: Prince Lysander. Now, captured and forced into the queen’s harem, Eroan sees another opportunity. Why kill just the queen when he can kill them all? It would be simple, if not for the troubled and alluring prince. A warrior, a killer, and something else…, something Eroan finds himself inexplicably drawn to. 

Trapped in a life he despises, Lysander knows his time is running out. 

If the queen doesn’t kill him for his failures, her enemies will. There’s nothing left to live for, until an elf assassin almost kills him. A stubborn, prideful, fool of an elf who doesn’t know when to quit. An elf who sparks a violent, forbidden desire in Lysander. 

If Lysander can’t save himself, maybe he can save the elf and maybe, just maybe… one stubborn elf will be enough to bring down the queen before she kills them all. 

Duty demands they fight for their people. Love has other plans.

TRIGGER WARNING! ATTEMPTED SEXUAL ASSAULT AND DUBIOUS CONSENT!

When Ariana Nash first said she is planning on writing a dark M/M fantasy/romance book I was really worried. First because I’m not all that into M/M. Usually the story has to be really good for me to ignore the fact that the sex scenes make me uncomfortable and most often than not manage to turn me completely off. I know this is a bias and that if it’s a conventional romance I would let a lot more slide plot-wise than when I’m reading M/M. I do try to keep an open mind and always think how my gay friends have amazing mental stamina to get through the M/F scenes that are the norm. Basically homosexual scenes do nothing for me so I tend to only read the dialogues and focus on the relationship. The romance itself is no problem for me, I get just as involved emotionally and I root for the couple and feel all mushy inside when they get their happy ending. So I was aware that agreeing to receive an advance copy of this and review it is a risk for both the author and me as I’ll be a lot more critical than usual. In fact I spend a lot of time contemplating my rating. Five stars is too much but four starts just aren’t enough, so I settled for 5 and I’ll tell you what swayed me in favour of giving the higher rating. Remember that I told you that M/M sex scenes do nothing for me? Up until reading this series (I read the prequel when it was released) that was 100% true. Until this. Boy, some of the scenes were HOT (though I would have preferred it if one of the guys was a girl but hey it’s the way I’m wired!) and for the first time ever I didn’t skim read them. So bonus a fraction of a start for that.

My second concern when I learned of this book was that I know how dark and twisted Nash’s other books are (this is a pen name for one of my favourite authors Pippa DaCosta), having her warn us this will be dark made little warning lights go off in my head. If you somehow skipped the Trigger Warning in the beginning, let me tell you this – by God, this was twisted and screwed up on so many levels. I was actively uncomfortable through much of the book because the things that happened to the characters both on page and implied, past and present are seriously fucked up. So if you have a weak stomach stay away. If sexual abuse in any form triggers a bad memory stay away. If implied child abuse sickens you to the point where you can’t take a breath stay away. This is not a book for you. But if you can stomach all that and want to see characters that fight to survive it and be free, free from their abusers, from a society that tells them that who they love is wrong, characters who not only survived the abuse and constant pressure to conform but didn’t let it twist them and turn them ugly inside, this book is for you. Reading it won’t be easy, there’ll be rough moments when putting it down and taking deep breaths is the only way to silence the rage and bone deep sorrow at what’s done to these characters. But for me at least, it was worth it to have the chance to accompany Eroan and Lysander on this first part of their journey.

I received this eARC from the author in exchange for an honest revi

Destined for an Early Grave (Night Huntress #4) by Jeaniene Frost

Her deadly dreams leave her in grave danger
Since half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her undead lover Bones met six years ago, they’ve fought against the rogue undead, battled a vengeful Master vampire, and pledged their devotion with a blood bond. Now it’s time for a vacation. But their hopes for a perfect Paris holiday are dashed when Cat awakes one night in terror. She’s having visions of a vampire named Gregor who’s more powerful than Bones and has ties to her past that even Cat herself didn’t know about.
Gregor believes Cat is his and he won’t stop until he has her. As the battle begins between the vamp who haunts her nightmares and the one who holds her heart, only Cat can break Gregor’s hold over her. She’ll need all the power she can summon in order to bring down the baddest bloodsucker she’s ever faced . . . even if getting that power will result in an early grave.

I dreaded rereading this particular installment of the Night Huntress because I really hate relationship drama and if I have to sum DfaEG in two words those would be my top choice. I can’t properly explain how frustrated it all made me feel. It was so unnecessary and painful and I wasn’t sure which one I wanted to strangle more – Cat or Bones. Because they’re both to blame for the twisted, nerve wrecking clusterfuck they created out of an already a fucked up situation. 

A little background so if you haven’t read this book just stop now and come back when you have.

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! 

A vampire named Gregor has a power similar to that of Mencheres and saw Cat in all her vampire glory in one of his visions. So he decided that he wanted all that power for himself despite seeing her with Bones in his visions and kidnapped her when she was a teen. He managed to convince her that he was only trying to help her avoid the fate of being forced to become a killer by a monster named Bones. To thwart Mencheres he married Cat and as we know there are no divorces in the vampiric world. As if that would stop the crafty old Egyptian bastard! *snort* So Mencheres found them, imprisoned Gregor for interfering with his long planned plot to be rid of his own meddling wife, green-eyed Cat into forgetting anything ever happened and delivered her back home so she can meet Bones a few years later. 

There are a few more things but let’s not spoil the plot completely. This is enough to grasp that the situation was complicated enough without an added shitload of relationship drama and tears. Both Cat and Bones are stubborn, overprotective morons when it comes to the safety of the other and both have severe case of not communicating about their feelings. And while I expected it from Cat, who at times has the emotional maturity of a 5 year old, I definitely expected more out of Crispin. But the stupid stunts he pulled in this one made me rip my hair out! I usually manage to remain mostly collected when reading in public but after a particularly nasty trick of his I was crying on a bus sitting next to a total stranger who kept giving me the side eye as if I’m crazy! And don’t imagine sobs and wails, just silent tears running down my face while cursing Bones in my head. 

You see a lot of this drama was purely for drama’s sake as I know that the book could have been super interesting if Cat and Bones had held their shit together and dealt with the psycho a an united front. The only bright thing in this whole mess was Vlad and his unshakable friendship. Everyone deserves a friend like him and reading about it made me value my true friends even more. He’s devoted but not to the point when the other side starts taking him for granted. And after finally severing the tied on one of the most toxic friendships in my life I recognized the signs of healthy selfishness. So I will strive to be more like Vlad. Well at least when it comes to friendships as I’m pretty sure that if I start burning people to crisps for fun I’ll end up in jail. 

This book left me exhausted. I felt like I need a break and I was very happy when my friends and I decided to skip a week before continuing with the series. Because of the way it made me feel I deem this the lowest point of the series and I’m so happy that the next two books (chronologically speaking) don’t deal with Cat and Bones. I’m really looking forward to Spade and Denise’s book as I really need the break.

Audio Review: At Grave’s End (Night Huntress #3) by Jeaniene Frost

Some things won’t stay buried . . . at grave’s end.

It should be the best time of half-vampire Cat Crawfield’s life. With her undead lover Bones at her side, she’s successfully protected mortals from the rogue undead. But though Cat’s worn disguise after disguise to keep her true identity a secret from the brazen bloodsuckers, her cover’s finally been blown, placing her in terrible danger. 

As if that wasn’t enough, a woman from Bones’s past is determined to bury him once and for all. Caught in the crosshairs of a vengeful vamp, yet determined to help Bones stop a lethal magic from being unleashed, Cat’s about to learn the true meaning of bad blood. And the tricks she’s learned as a special agent won’t help her. She will need to fully embrace her vampire instincts in order to save herself–and Bones–from a fate worse than the grave. 

Being the Red Ripper has never been more dangerous. When you’re the only half-vampire in existence and making a living by killing the undead, it stands to reason that sooner rather than later the undead community will figure out who you are and no amount of colored contacts and hair dye will save you from being busted. And while having Bones by her side, Cat’s running on borrowed time playing bait. So it’s time to think about a change of profession. But not too drastic one as we’ll be disappointed if Cat turns to knitting to pass her time 😉

There are two somewhat distinct parts to this book. In the first one Cat is mostly dealing with the fallout of the previous book’s end and her being outed to the bigger vampire community and the animosity of her father Max. Max is a real piece of work and I hated him more with each passing page. There’s just no amount of torture he can be subjected to to make me feel he’s had enough and he can be left to finally die. His idea of a joke caused an immense amount of grief to Cat while she was growing up but he was not contented with that. No, instead of realizing that his misguided prank with Justina’s mind is the reason why Cat turned into the Red Ripper, he blames Cat for being picked on by the undead community. The scene in which he tortures both her and her mother is one of the top 10 scenes with the most emotional impact of the series. And I’ve ugly cried in public while reading the Night Huntress, so that scene had a lot of competition. 

The second part is where most of the things that impact the overall plot of the series happen. Bones’ grand-sire Mencheres is a scheming, manipulative bastard and we get the first real glimpse into his plans here. Thanks to his powers he plays the long game and maneuvers people like pawns on a chessboard. He uses the people around him and it makes a twisted sort of sense as someone as old would have trouble seeing people’s emotions as anything other than tools to move them in the positions he wants them in. In this particular case he used Bones to clean up a mess he made thousands of years ago. I can sympathize with Patra to an extend and would probably even root for her had she not attached Cat and Bones in the process of getting revenge on Mencheres. 

In this part of the book we also meet a new key player in the series – Vlad. Yes, that Vlad. The one we like to call Dracula. His steadfast friendship with Cat is one of the highlights of this series. I love their relationship as it’s not based on romantic/sexual feelings and survives even the centuries’ long enmity between Vlad and Bones. Another extremely strong (from emotional POV) scene is when Vlad talks Cat off of a ledge. He’s blunt and comes off as rude at times but he’s honest with her and helps her survive through some of the hardest moments of her life. He totally deserved a spin-off of his own!

A note on the audio: I’m still struggling with Tavia Gilbert’s narration, especially of Bones as he keeps sounding more feminine to me than not. I don’t know why this bothers me so much after 4 books (I finished Destined for an Early Gravebefore I sat down to write this review) and I still can’t get used to her version of Bones. Though I have to admit she has a terrific British accent :). Still I can’t help but wish for someone else to have been chosen to narrate. Oh well I don’t really have a choice and switching to the ebook will make finishing the series next to impossible so I’ll have to suck it up.

Review: All Things Merry and Bright: A Very Special Christmas Tale Collection

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I came by this anthology thanks to a tweet by one of the authors I follow (unfortunately I don’t remember which one) and it was really cheap so I told myself “Why not?” and hit pre-order. After all I knew I’ll be in the mood for some light and Christmas-y read in December. Since I’m not a fan of or even have read any of the series these stories are part of I didn’t have high expectations. In the end it was precisely what I expected and needed.

A de Russe Christmas Miracle by Kathryn Le Veque

I know that Christmas is all about miracles and love but this one was a bit too religious for me. Add the ‘cancer’ diagnosis of one of the characters and I was snorting in disbelief. Mind that this takes place in the middle ages and while cancer has been around since the dawn of humanity, with the first described case in Ancient Egypt, throat cancer is a bit difficult to diagnose with a simple physical exam. Still it’s possible and I acknowledge that, it’s just highly unlikely. I can usually suspend my disbelief while reading but too much modern ‘things’ in the Middle Ages tend to annoy me.

The Holly and The Ivy by Tanya Anne Crosby

At first I didn’t like this story because Alex annoyed the living daylights out of me. I was also more than a bit mad at his parents for constantly comparing him to his missing older brother and instating in him this sense of deficiency. It was only when I learned Alex’s actual age that his behavior started making sense. But his parents are still jerks for making him feel as if nothing he ever does will be good enough.

A Dukes of War Christmas by Erica Ridley 

This one I loved. It had the right ratio of teasing to good cheer and it was precisely what I wanted to read when I picked this anthology.

A Very Special Gift by Eliza Knight 

This story is an extended epilogue for The Highlander’s Gift and I’m guessing that it would have had a bigger impact had I read the novel. Still it had enough background info in it to make it enjoyable even as a standalone.

Mariote’s Christmas Wish by Suzan Tisdale 

I rated this 4 stars despite it being the story which I remember best of the anthology. It resonates best with modern times and how young people can get suckered by a stranger who has a way with words. Yes. It’s full of clichés but it was cute and relaxing and just what the doctor ordered 😉

A Very Brethren Christmas by Barbara Devlin 

Absolutely adored this one. So much that I want to read the series its part of. I just can’t decide if I want to read Admiral Mark and Lady Amanda’s story first or Eileen and George’s story. I think it’s be the Admiral’s as I got quite attached to him following his adventures in getting home for Christmas.

A Rivenloch Christmas by Glynnis Campbell 

Usually I like Viking stories but this one didn’t really resonate with me. Nothing wrong with the story I just couldn’t connect with the characters. Maybe if there weren’t so many POVs in such a short story I would have had the time to get properly inside the heads of the characters and managed to enjoy it more.

Overall rating: 3.4