Beacon by Callaghan Grant

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This is an enjoyable continuation of Erinn’s story. It is an easier read since the first book has a lot of background information, the two books tie nicely together. She is continually surrounded by several lusty Vampyres and by this time she has become one herself, as Michael had intended. While she is still the same Erinn, she is also a blood-thirsty, sexpot Vampyre leaving dead bodies in her wake.

I found it interesting how the author worked around what must have been a very revealing conversation between Michael and Erinn, without actually writing it. I was glad for this fact, because it would have felt like backtracking. So, moving forward, she discovers that he is extremely possessive when it comes to her unrecalled memories of her times with him and what transpired.

Thankfully, there are new characters involved that help alleviate some of the mental weight left over from the first book. This provides a much needed time for Erinn to try and come to some reasonable conclusions regarding her new life. However, so far, she doesn’t seem to have a reasonable bone in her body as she refuses to follow Michael’s instructions, putting them both in jeopardy. She remains as rambunctious as ever, but at least some of the time she stops to consider her actions before doing what she had intended anyway.

I have to speak about the dream sequence, but it’s not possible to give anything away; you have to read it. I’ve never dwelled much on the metaphysical, but that is the only word I can think of to describe it. The reason behind the dream is up for interpretation, but it must be important because it happens twice. She crosses over into worlds unknown, to places she knows yet doesn’t, and it’s all a confusion that I could have gone without. However, I must mention that it held my attention as I tried to muddle through it to find the author’s true meaning and reason behind it.

Michael tries desperately to follow her, as she continues to run away in her own desperate attempt to flee. When he finds her, she is no longer the Erinn he knew and loved. This entity tells him that she is his twin, his wife, and guide. Initially, he doesn’t have a clue what is going on. Neither do I. Be prepared for words like “lateral realms” and “astral realms,” as they just dig a deeper hole for the reader to climb out of. That said, it was a very well done, if weird, bit of writing.

Being Vampyre means the ability to be overwhelmingly athletic, telepathically gifted, stronger than any human, and able to stare down anyone. I rather like these talents and the fact that they make her a woman that is not to be trifled with. The men in her life haven’t quite figured that out yet, but they better get on page soon or there’s going to be a great deal of regret.

This is an interesting read and flows smoothly. There’s a lot of action that kept me engrossed. I cannot begin to fathom where the author is taking us, but this book was a great follow-up and I was more than willing to stay with it.

Now the rating:

  • Genre and general audience – mystery/sci-fi for mature audiences only.
  • Level of sexuality – There is definitely sex, some of which is rather graphic.
  • Graphic language – Not enough to make me notice.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Is this part of a series? Yes. This is the second book in The Vampyre Episodes. Cannot be read as a stand-alone.
  • Level of character development – The characters are a bit one-sided. Michael is a large man with the urge to kill without fear, if need be. Erinn is so in love with him that she makes unwise actions without thinking about the consequences, sometimes leading to dire situations. She is working on this issue, but not very quickly.
  • Did I laugh? No.

I give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

This book is unpublished at the time of posting.

Breaking Lucas by Amanda Kaitlyn

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This is one of those reviews that is really painful to write. We don’t pass out five stars easily, nor do we carelessly toss out twos or threes. We understand that authors try to put a part of themselves out for the world to enjoy, but sometimes it needs to be re-evaluated before it’s set free. By no means am I saying that books should be trashed, just that they need to be thoroughly thought out and edited. This is one of those books that skipped that step.

There were multiple frustrations throughout the entire story. Often times a book will start rough and get better, or the editing will get worse in the second half for some odd but frequent reason. This started rough and maintained it all the way through. The editing was basically nonexistent. Which brings me to my first topic on this book.

Books should be edited. Period. This book had no editing at all. In fact, I wonder if it was read more than once by the author. I can only speculate as to why none of the beta readers pointed out that typos are distracting and improper grammar is obnoxious, especially for grammar freaks. That lack of honesty is bad for readers and authors. It’s normal to have a few slips, that’s usually not a problem. Breaking Lucas is one long typo. I found myself rereading the same passages over and over, because the grammar was so bad that I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. From the get-go I had to force myself to continue through, constantly flipping back. I wept over the lack of editing and the vexation it caused.

Next, a book should be written in one tense. I lost count of how many times I came across sentences like, “The hem of my shirt was tugged down and my shoulder is exposed.” This is a whole different breed of typo. There’s grammar and then there’s tense. Since the entire book is written this way I’m guessing that she decided to change the tense later on in the book and attempted to switch to past tense without fulling getting rid of the first. That’s what I’m hoping, but that would mean that she read through it again. The plethora of errors says otherwise, so I’m frustratingly confused all over again.

By far the biggest complaint of this book is that the timeline is all over the place. It should have been easy. Settle on how long they knew each other, then how long they dated, then how long they were married, then how long he was gone, and finally, settle on how old their daughters are. Not only did I have to reread passages due to grammar, but I had to go back entire chapters. After many wasted hours of trying to settle this issue, I came to the conclusion that even the author couldn’t keep track. Perhaps there was a time machine that wasn’t mentioned or an alternate universe, which a sci-fi book would explain, but this is romance. Here’s a frustrating example: it is stated that they knew each other for ten years. Sounds simple, but that is maybe or maybe not before they married. They dated anywhere from birth to several years; it was never definitively stated, but they did apparently know each other “forever”, or maybe ten years or maybe since junior high. These are actual references from the book. In another example, she remembers him dropping off their daughter at kindergarten after they’d been married a few (don’t ask what a few means) years, yet by one account their daughter is eighteen months when this occurs. Last time I checked, kindergarten started at five, maybe four years old. Eighteen months wouldn’t even be preschool; it would simply be daycare. Perhaps, Illinois is the exception. Later, Lucas’s father comments on it being their six year anniversary, yet their daughter is ten. Who knows how old the second one is, because both of the main characters keep flip-flopping between his disappearance being from four to six years, which doesn’t add up if the first was truly eighteen months when he vanished. In another case, she holds her oldest child on her hip. Now, if that kid is ten she’s got to be at least forty pounds, probably more. That would topple over our dainty heroine.

Moving on. The book has a lot of regurgitation. At least one third could have been safely shaved off. When a book starts having the exact same sentences and inner dialogues repeated over and over, the reader either stops all together or starts skimming. Kaelyn goes on about how he left her for (insert random number) of years, yet he’s her heart and soul. In the span of one paragraph she goes from never forgiving him to him being the great love of her life whom she cannot live without. It felt as though the author copied and pasted this throughout. Then there’s Lucas. One second he’s adamant that he left to protect her and the next he’s determined to win her back. Again, this felt copied and pasted.

Here’s a big issue for everyone who is human: when your “true love” abandons you that basically says he doesn’t want you around. Do either file for divorce? That would be the sane thing to do, for either party, but it doesn’t happen. He leaves without a word of explanation and she just keeps on hoping he’ll come back from wherever he has magically disappeared to, while at the same time her hatred festers. After at least one year the abandoned party would probably think about moving on, yet she never does. As for Lucas, he left for the world’s dumbest reason: he had cancer. It’s during hardships like this that family needs to stick together the most. It makes no sense, and what’s worse, is that he stays away. He’s cured in a few months, but never goes back. One must question as to why. After all, she is the love of his life. I’m positive she would have forgive him for his ridiculous thinking and for being gone four months. Yet, he never returns and I’m clueless as to why.

I hate to say it, but the book lacks all credibility. He moves to No Name City, Texas to get more cancer treatment (more on that in a sec) at the exact same time that she moves to No Name City, Texas to run her family’s coffee shop?? They’re all from Chicago, so I am utterly confused as to how the planets aligned in a random place in Texas and this cafe that’s been in the family for decades mystically appears. Backstory could have cleared up the coffee shop at least. Next, he’s battling cancer and is so weak he cannot open a child-proof bottle of pain killers. His father sees him struggle and opens it easily. The very second Lucas downs his opiate he hops on his Harley and drives off with his father. I can’t decide which is more disturbing, the fact that he’s riding intoxicated or the fact that a man who couldn’t open a bottle of pain killers is now cruising around town on a machine that weights up to a thousand pounds. Both sound like a recipe for disaster, yet fit in with the overall story. After all, he’s bald from chemo, but chiseled from his daily workouts. I can’t begin to explain that contradiction.

This next part is still about the lack of credibility, but it deserves a paragraph all of its own. I wondered repeatedly if he was secretly the president or a movie star incognito, because every single time he trekked down to MD Anderson he was ushered into his doctor’s office within thirty seconds. The cold hard truth is that even dying people wait their turn, unless its in the ER. But he was never in the ER. After one particularly ridiculous account of him storming out of the doctor’s office like an angry child who doesn’t like his options, he comes back the same day demanding that they perfom the surgery that could leave him with no memories. Kaelyn’s professed love was suddenly worth the risk. The kicker is that when he saw the doctor during that morning’s impromptu visit, he was told that it would take several days to prep the OR. That’s believable and true; those rooms are booked in advance. The only place surgery happens immediately is, again, in the ER. Except for Lucas. They literally strap him to a gurney in the waiting area for all to see. Surely the people hooked up to their chemo bags are wondering why he gets to jump to the front of the line. And apparently, he didn’t need to fast for brain surgery, which is surprising. Even a lumpectomy requires fasting and that’s typically general anesthesia.

Which brings about another painful issue; the one concerning his cancer. He watched his mother die a horrible death from lymphoma, which is supposedly why he was “protecting” Kaelyn by vanishing. It’s not genetic, yet at one point he had it too. But then he says that it started as a pain in his shoulder. Then it was suddenly throughout his entire body and doctors believed it started in his stomach and stretched all the way through his digestive track. If he was riddled with cancer, his chances of survival were probably less than half a percent. Somehow he’s cured. I’m not sure how many times he had cancer, but it was a lot. His latest form of cancer comes in the shape of a brain tumor, hence the potential for memory loss from surgery. I’m speculating, but my guess is that the author doesn’t know about cancer personally or just couldn’t settle on one, because they all sound so exciting in their own horrific way. The lack  of research and seriousness given to this delicate topic was tragic, and as one reader who has seen first-hand the effects of cancer and chemo, who has loved and lost, it was very hard to choke down.

The end was a complete let down. In Texas, Lucas had his dream record company and Kaelyn was fulfilling her own dream by running the family coffee shop. Yet, they go back to Chicago where they buy a huge ranch and leave behind their success. No reason is ever given and it felt like a quick jaunt back to their home town because that’s where this kind-of-almost-wanna-be series is based. Essentially, their entire families moved to Texas to be with them and they found happiness, so I’m confused yet again. The question is, why move when all your dreams have come true and you are surrounded by loved ones?

In my opinion, the only thing that could have saved even a fraction of the book is if he had died. I hate to say it, but it’s one of those Titanic moments where the book would have been given meaning by his death. Unfortunately, cookie-cutter romance never ends with death and that’s a given. I could list a dozen other books and movies where the deeper meaning and saving grace was someone’s death. Life is short and love is what gives it meaning. Death enforces this fact. I found that this book was neither short nor a testament to love.

Now for the ratings:

  • Genre and reading age – obviously it is aiming for romance and the audience is mature.
  • The level of sexuality – there was some, but it lacked creativity and I skimmed most of it.
  • Was there graphic language? Of course. Not so much in Kaelyn’s case, but what is a stereotypical hero without the frequent use of the f-word?
  • Did I cry? Only tears of frustration.
  • Is it part of a series? Sort of. It’s supposed to be part of a group of books based out of Chicago, but the entire thing is in Texas. Except for the ranch at the very end, which is located in the heart of Chicago??
  • Level of character development – they were hollow from the beginning, which leaves lots of room for improvement, but they stayed the same people from start to finish.
  • Did I laugh? No. Like I said, I cried.

The brutal, honest truth: I tried desperately to get into this book, especially with an author breathing down my neck. I gave it chance after chance to turn around. The plot had potential, but the writing was weak and confusing. Not once did I feel any emotion towards the characters, except exasperation. Even the daughters were empty and usually kids can boost an otherwise shallow book. I sadly give this book ⭐️ star, because I doubt the effort put forth towards the writing in comparison to the time spent garnering positive reviews. I’m not going to lie, though. A serious overhaul could change it all around and maybe that’s what will happen in the future.

Available here on Amazon

Born Sinner by S.L. Jennings

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This book started out with a bang, that fizzled just a bit, and then picked up again about half-way through. It’s definitely not hard-core romance, but has the feel of a romance novel. Only there is so much more going on.

It begins with Eden, a broken, creepy girl who can tell people what to do. Literally. She tells someone to take a walk and they stroll in front of a bus. After that, you know she’s not going to be a simple character. The author gets right down to the story, no ambling beginning or unnecessary scenes. With a few riveting pages, she delves right into…something. I wasn’t sure what exactly, but either Eden is taken captive by angels or demons. It could have gone either way and, thankfully, I wasn’t kept in the dark for long.

Here’s where the beginning started to look like a typical formula romance novel: she’s abducted and while her captors are discussing whether or not to kill her, she’s mesmerized by one guy’s beauty and perfection. In the span of one paragraph, she is terrified but also envisions him ravishing her. That lost me a little and I rolled my eyes heavily, but then in storms L, an even more complex character with a ton of secrets that I was dying to find out. The first of which was, “What does L stand for?” The author made me wait for it, but it was better than anything I could have guessed.

The draw between L and Eden is palpable. I could feel it and at times it was frustrating and at others it was sweet. I can’t call it attraction, because to do so would be to do their relationship a disservice; it encompasses so much more than lust. It felt one-sided/mystery until almost the end, but that is in part because the story is told from Eden’s perspective. She’s lost and confused and has no idea who or what she is. For some reason, she immediately latches onto him. And while he’s cool, he certainly doesn’t push her away. I was certain that he loved her in some way, that is one of the criteria of being a romance, but he was a stereotypical alpha male denying his emotions for too long. It was a relief when the true L started to shine.

The book is about angels and demons, so some readers might find it a delicate topic. The author gives us a bit of her idea of heaven and hell. I admit, I was intruiged, especially since I couldn’t quite decide on who Eden really was and how she fit in with it all. The truth was a hard pill to swallow, because I’d grown rather fond of her, but was given away with still a huge chunk of story left. So, there’s hope. The first half was a little slow, but it was a finely-crafted setup for the second half. I devoured it in a day, desperate to know the truth about angels and demons, according to Jennings.

WARNING: Spoiler paragraph ahead that gives story detail without ruining the end. There is no way to write a review about this book without some spoilers. The entire premise is based on the fact that L and his six “siblings” are demons trying to find redemption. They hunt down what Eden calls “Lucifer’s sleeper cells” and eradicates them from the face of the earth before they can blow up buildings or go on a mass-murdering rampage. Eden is not just any sleeper cell, though, because she has been given the gift of controlling people with just a few words. That means she’s a big one that needs to be dealt with, since she could tell everyone to go home and slaughter their families and they would. The se7en, especially L, are desperate to save her and throughout their search they find out that she is meant to be Lucifer’s bride. Honestly, it is obvious from the beginning that it is going to be about the devil, but to what extent is left unclear til about sixty-percent in. They’re then told that it is inevitable and L is willing to die for her, so that means lots of drama.

Spoiler over. There are seven, obviously, which I found to be about three too many to keep track of. For the most part, the rest of the group fades into the background and are in a few scenes. They’d pop up and surprise me, because I had forgotten all about them. I’m not sure if they’re just filler, so that they can be seven, which is a biblical number, or if they will have more story later on. The bulk rests on Eden, L, Phenex, and Lily. And don’t forget Lucifer, who is a vital part of this story even though he had little face-time. The book is very well-written and kept me glued after a bit of a slump. The main characters are exceptional, especially L. It left me hanging and desperate for the next book. Sadly, it has not been published yet. So, you might want to put this on your shelf and hold off a little longer until the next one is around the corner. I’m glad that I read it, but now begins the agonizing wait.

One important aspect of the book that needs to be aired before the rating, is the fact that the book is extremely sexual. Not just romance book status, but over-the-top everything in this book revolves around sex. The angel catching a ride inside of Eden puts everyone in a sexual furor, which leads to a lot of tension. Later on some magic is called upon and the result, of course, is more horny. It’s even going on in heaven and the party that they go to is teeming with humping angels, demons, humans, and miscellaneous whatnot. It’s everywhere. Consider yourself warned or titillated, whichever you prefer. There are a few spots that are more erotica than romance.

Now to rate it:

  • Genre and general reading age: romance/erotica/supernatural. I’m a grown woman and this book made me blush. I would only suggest this for readers who are adults and not shy about what happens in the bedroom. Or in the case of this book, just about anywhere.
  • Level of sexuality: through the roof. If you don’t like reading about orgies, you might want to look the other way for a few pages. In general, it’s well written and considering just how graphic it is, it was surprisingly good. There was a lot of emotion to the actual sex scenes and none of the cheesy lines that seem to proliferate romance novels of all genres.
  • Was there graphic language? With all the sex how could there not be? But in comparison, it’s rather tame.
  • Did I cry? My eyes got a little misty at the end, but no tears.
  • Is this part of a series? Se7en Sinners. Book one is all there is so far. I’m hoping for a quick sequel and plan on stalking the author on social media for any clue as to when it will be coming.
  • Level of character development: The main characters were fantastic, strong emphasis on Eden and L. The ones who played sidekick were a little bit lacking, but so much of the story is focused on the couple, there isn’t much room for anyone else. Aside from Phenex and Lily, the other characters were more walk-on walk-off with varying levels of importance.
  • Did I laugh? I chuckled a few times. Eden has a way of turning something scary into something slightly funny.

This is a strong start to what will hopefully be an incredible series. It is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, especially since it concerns religion. I am salivating for the next and I am thrilled to give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars.

Available here on Amazon

Protocol One by Jacqueline Druga

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I was initially drawn to this book by the humorous dialogue between the main characters, Anna and Tony. Sadly, the book quickly lost that humor and became less entertaining. Even though the story is driven by a comet about to hit Earth and destroy life as everyone knows it, I still think a little humor would have gone a long way, especially since it started out funny.

I did not find Anna to be a sympathetic character. For one thing, she unquestioningly follows the orders of her EX-husband (you heard me right, not her current man, but her long-time ex) and buys obscenely large amounts of aluminum foil and cardboard, shipping these truckloads all around the country. Who in their right mind wouldn’t ask why? She doesn’t and that says a lot. Of course, at this point she has no idea what is going on, but that is no excuse. Curiosity killed the cat, but this cat would have been safe in wanting to know the reason behind the world’s strangest request.

As the story progresses, she becomes completely wrapped up in the self-serving idea that she is always right, saving everyone, and knowing what is best for all involved. Does she take into account what others say? No, she ignores all questions and concerns. Sounds like a hero complex to me. She certainly means well, but her arrogance got old really fast. I’m stunned that her boyfriend, Tony, didn’t get sick of it as well. After all, they’re about to be roasted by a comet, perhaps he should have put in his two cents and stood by it.

Traveling across country, picking up specific “special” people sounds promising, but suddenly she gets a mind of her own, and decides to take charge, letting everyone she wants to hop on board the savior bus. But there’s only so much space and food in a bunker. That’s just common sense. She blindingly followed the orders of her EX before, so why she ignores him now is beyond me. Needless to say, she winds up with too many people crammed into a space meant for a fraction of them, due to her staunch administration and refusal to listen to anybody besides herself. She tries to base her decisions on the needs of the group and not of the one (Star Trek reference for all the Trekkies out there). Unfortunately, her drive for sainthood just endangers them all on more than one occasion. Am I being too harsh on Anna? Possibly. She is the leader of this story, whether I like it or not, but it doesn’t mean I have to like her.

There are several other characters, including Tony, that I think could have added to the story and made it more interesting, but they’re just sidenotes. Maybe the sequel will give them a chance to shine, instead of being backup for the Anna Show. There is a certain amount of suspense, which I liked and I think the author was clever in her development of the story’s timeline. Overall, I enjoyed the central theme, which is, “let’s survive this comet and make a new world.” It’s not necessarily a bad story and the next book might prove worth reading, especially since the last chapter has a few enticing spoilers. Of course, that means cliffhanger. However, this wasn’t enough to really draw me in and the likelihood of me continuing with this series is next to nil.

For the rating:

  • Genre and general audience: science fiction fit for just about anyone.
  • Level of sexuality: very, very mild.
  • Was there graphic language? Not overwhelmingly so, which is surprising since they’re about to meet their maker.
  • Did I cry? Not once.
  • Is this part of a series? Yep. The Protocol One Saga.
  • Level of character development: Basically none.
  • Did I laugh? As I said, the beginning is funny, but it dies quickly.

Overall, my rating for this book is ⭐️⭐️ stars. A genre I usually love, but a lackluster book. The author tried and that’s obvious, though, so there is hope for the future.

Available here on Amazon

Arisen: Nemesis by Michael Stephen Fuchs

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Staff Sgt. Kate Dunajski is military through and through. Eighteen months ago she was in the reserves, hoping to pay for school. Then she was called upon to serve in Afghanistan and finds, after three deployments, that her niche is helping the people of that country. Instead, the military decides she belongs in Somalia, Africa. This is where it starts.

Her arrival is met with utter chaos, spilling throughout the town and a certain amount of confusion at Camp Lemonnier, her station. People are firing guns and fighting to get through the gate, onto the base. Helicopters are bringing in wounded soldiers and suddenly the bullets are coming her way. About this time I was able to put myself in her shoes and wonder, “What would I do in this situation?” She does the same thing I would have. She ducks and hides. After that she makes the decision to run for the JOC, or Joint Operations Center. FYI: There are a ton of acronyms in this book, so you might want to jot them down for reference.

At first I was completely confused, until I realised, just keep your eyes on the people; that’s where the action is. Bullets herald her boisterous entrance into the building, but the numerous people around her, sitting at tactical stations, hardly take notice. Each person has a specific job and each is utterly absorbed by it. Thankfully, she is approached by a soldier who introduces himself as her teammate, Elijah. He takes her under his wing and she is able to observe, without the fear of being shot.

From this point on, the story becomes more about the team. All, except for Kate, have been together for a long time and know each others’ quirks, vices, and aspirations: the fun they have quoting movie lines that fit any given moment in their daily lives, to knowing that when times are frighteningly serious they can count on each other to have the primary goal of protecting the team.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. There is a lot of action and it’s not just about Kate. It’s about her blending into the unit and being a soldier just as much as anyone else. It’s about these capable men realizing that she is as driven as any other soldier when it comes to the fight. The title alone informs readers that there is a nemesis. However, is it Triple Nickel or is it someone else? That question is part of the excitement of the book. Even though there is an epidemic and, unfortunately, there are zombies running around, that is not the focus of the story. This is a large series with plenty of room for zombies and everybody else. The undead do affect how some things get accomplished or not, but I recommend this book for several other reasons. First, the action is a huge draw, then there are the exhilarating wins and devastating losses, and overall, I wasn’t bored for a single minute. The characters were engaging and the ending was a surprise. Although, I did find that the epilogue is just a lead-in to the next book and it was not particularly interesting.

My rating:

  • Genre and reading age: Definitely action. I think a teenager interested in military action would enjoy this book and, of course, adults.
  • Level of sexuality: Very little.
  • Was there graphic language? Some, but not too bad.
  • Did I cry? No. It’s almost as if the story prepares you for the fact that there are losses in battle. Was I saddened? Absolutely.
  • Is it part of a series? Yes, there are several other Arisen novels, including a prequel.
  • Level of character development: It was very well done.
  • Did I laugh? The subject was serious, but there were a few grin-worthy moments.

Overall, I give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon