The Layaway Dragon
Review
3.5 Stars
The Secret of a Heart Note - Stacey Covington-Lee

I feel in love with Stacey Lee's second novel, Outrun the Moon. I was super excited to have won an ARC copy of her newest book, The Secret of a Heart Note.

 

  • I love the herb alchemy
  • BFF is <3. She helped save the book when I was annoyed with Mimosa. 
  • It has all the typical cute, angst-y, confused, awkward, and adorable romance troubles. 
  • The twist was really obvious. It made the story feel a bit long and Mimosa a tad irritating. Like, just wanted to shake her and her mom so badly sometimes!
  • Mimosa's old school mom was realistically annoying and stubborn. She's good and loves her daughter but is her own person with her own issues. I'm really glad how their relationship was done all the way through. 

 

The Secret of a Heart Note is good and cute, perfect for all the YA contemporary fans wanting a little drama and magic. The Secret of a Heart Note has a unique premise with a typical plot and diverse characters with standard relationships. 

 

While I enjoyed The Secret of a Heart Note, it didn't capture me like Outrun the Moon

 

I adore Stacey Lee's writing and skill, so I'll be reading her other book Under A Painted Sky and anything new. 

Review
4 Stars
Las Vegas Tales
Las Vegas Tales - Amber Malloy

Buy Las Vegas Tales from:

Changeling Press Amazon Barnes & Noble

Excerpt from The Guardian


(Las Vegas Tales 1) by Amber Malloy


All rights reserved.Copyright ©2017 Amber Malloy
 









 


About the Author:




Amber Malloy dreamed of being a double agent but couldn’t pass the psyche evaluation. Crushed by despair that she couldn’t legally shoot things, Amber pursued her second career choice as pastry chef. When she’s not writing or whipping up a mean Snickers Cheesecake, she occasionally spies on her sommelier. Amber is convinced he’s faking his French accent.


Amber loves to talk to her readers and can be found at www.ambermalloy.com



Heads up for a couple of things before I get to the story by story breakdown:


  • Sexily explicit. This feels like a "duh" but just to be extra clear...

  • Great, if you like... Brown beauties with coke bottle figures, men who lavish them and squirting. There's all kinds of positions, and places. I like how it's not drawn out sessions; There's several instances of “wish I could've lasted longer but...” and that unable to hold it back passion is HOT. 

  •  All of these stories switch POVs between the man and woman.

  • All of the stories are straight, one man and one woman. I was honestly really disappointed. I don't think BW + BW/WOC get enough attention or stories. I have to admit, this is my biggest complaint.

  • The food comparisons for skin tone is prevalent. I know it's problematic AF when white people, but given Amber isn't and the majority is pussy eating related, I just want to give a heads up for BW who can't/don't want to read books including such descriptions. Further reading on the subject can be found here:


  • I've been informed video interracial porn uses phrases certain racial  phrases that I'm uncomfortable even repeating. Thankfully, none of that nonsense here. Here's the best least problematic example I found to share from Yo, Is This Racist? 


Story by Story Review:



  1. The first story, The Guardian, threw me for a loop with what was happen. I know two high school flames are locked together in a safe house while one sells a casino. It was hot, but what they were talking about? Not a clue. Just enjoy it. 

  2. High Art, the second story following a painter and her deceased benefactor's husband is my second favorite and it's a really close, almost tied for my absolute favorite. But more on that in a min. I LOVED Bebe's painting style and subject matter, A+. And her social skills are not a gimmick. How she met the “what's wrong with you questions?” head on and her “if that's what you mean response”, A+. I also have a soft spot for the deep throating scenes. The only thing that still bothers me is WTF happens next?! Are they okay together? They broke or what?!? This open ending is irritating and it's best for me not to think about it more. 

  3. Beauty & The Boxer is the third story and my FAVE. Like want a full book following their next steps kind of favorite. It's starts off as the morning after with The Boxer telling The Baker what whirlwind they went through together the night before. They immediately hooked me and I loved how the story unfolded. Her worry about sitting on his face? The baking show competition? Money worries and goals? Being the “black sheep” of the family status? Her retro style and insecurity? Their relationship? Just ALL the LOVE. They are so adorable and sexy and I am SO in their corner. 

  4. Run, Pussycat, Run is the final story in this collection. Set in the mob days of Old Las Vegas in the clubs featured in The Guardian during their glamours heydays. I will admit I had slight problems following this one as well, the logistics...it just seems like so long, and so bad and so easy to get out of trouble. But everything else, them being a long standing couple and fighting for each other? D'AWWWW





 

This review was originally posted on The Layaway Dragon
Review
0 Stars
The Day Job Is Murder
The Day Job Is Murder - Carolyn Arnold

The Day Job is Murder Review:


The Day Job is Murder is a novella setting up the McKinley Mysteries series. Sarah is dealing with the case mostly on her own, while Sean is pining and grieving.  Sean is proudly old school, perfect if you like the chivalrous type. Sarah is a classic-type lady who happens to wear pants and solve crimes.

I can see them being like Castle and Beckett, except they hit the lottery and bounce out the department. If you're looking for that push-pull banter, there isn't much here since it's so short. Skipping to the second installment when they're honeymoon is easy, and preferable if you liked Castle once they got together.

McKinley Mysteries series is perfect if you like clean cut characters, a sweetheart romance, having the money to follow your dreams, and crime-solving abilities.  All the installments are on the short side, perfect for brief escapes and bingeing the series.

Series Information


Romance. Humor. Murder. Are you looking for a murder mystery without all the graphic violence and foul language? Something that you can enjoy in an afternoon and walk away feeling good about afterward? How about a dash of humor and romance? If so, meet former detectives Sean and Sara McKinley. When a billionaire leaves them all his money, they no longer have to work, but they find themselves sticking to what they’re good at—solving murders. Undercover, off the books, and around the world, they’ll get to the bottom of things…and romance it up along the way.

This is the perfect book series for fans of Hart to HartCastleColomboMonkRockford FilesPsych, and Magnum PI.

Book Overview (in published order)

  1. The Day Job is Murder (2014)

  2. Vacation is Murder (2014)

  3. Money is Murder (2014)

  4. Politics is Murder (2014)

  5. Family is Murder (2014)

  6. Shopping is Murder (2014)

  7. Christmas is Murder (2014)

  8. Valentine’s Day is Murder (2015)

  9. Coffee is Murder (2015)

  10. Skiing is Murder (2016)

  11. Halloween is Murder (2017) – the cover will be available by the end of May/June, with some retailer links coming through in July, the rest in August.


 

 

Author Bio


Carolyn Arnold Author Picture CAROLYN ARNOLD is an international bestselling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has four continuing fiction series—Detective Madison Knight, Brandon Fisher FBI, McKinley Mysteries, and Matthew Connor Adventures—and has written nearly thirty books. Her genre diversity offers her readers everything from cozy to hard-boiled mysteries, and thrillers to action adventures.

Both her female detective and FBI profiler series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining, leading her to adopt the trademark: POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™.

Carolyn was born in a small town and enjoys spending time outdoors, but she also loves the lights of a big city. Grounded by her roots and lifted by her dreams, her overactive imagination insists that she tell her stories. Her intention is to touch the hearts of millions with her books, to entertain, inspire, and empower.

She currently lives just west of Toronto with her husband and beagle and is a member of Crime Writers of Canada.

Connect with CAROLYN ARNOLD Online:

Website – http://carolynarnold.net/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Carolyn_Arnold

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCarolynArnold

And don’t forget to sign up for her newsletter for up-to-date information on release and special offers at http://carolynarnold.net/newsletters.

 



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This review was originally posted on The Layaway Dragon
Review
1 Stars
Mars Girls
Mars Girls - Mary Turzillo
I won an e-copy through a LibraryThing Giveaway.

Basically: cool and different world-building and style, but wasn't engaging and I DNF it.

I was really excited for Mars Girls after reading Books, Bones & Buffy's 4 star review. However, I couldn't finish reading it. I found it dull and didn't care about the characters.

I made it to page 70 and put it down, and didn't want to go back. I have no desire or need to find out what happens next.

It's written from the POV of both girls, with the slang (mears instead years, etc.), and technology. However, that authentic voice and style might be a turn off for people, including me. At first, it seems cool, but annoying and a barrier, TBH.

The L.D.S Jesuit religious temple and devotees were interesting and I'm happy to see authors exploring religion evolution in the future. It was very weird and I had no idea what was going on with them, besides the creepy cult feeling.

I'm sad I didn't enjoy this one. but...*shrug*
Review
4 Stars
Better Off
Better Off - Yesenia Vargas
"Like Fear (1996) but Chilled Out"

Trigger Warning: Douchebag BF with anger & violence tendencies.

I received a free Audible copy for review from the author.

I loved this! It's very refreshing and realistic. I can easily see Arianna living in the better neighborhood near me. Myra reminds me of my best childhood friend.

I loved how Facebook and texting were included, how their relationship moves slowly through the awkward getting to know each other and nervousness.

The narrator did an amazing job with Arianna and Myra. Her voice changed and dragged out slowly for the guys, which was realistically annoying. Dudes, just spit it out!

The only thing is it's a contemporary romance "with a not so conventional HEA". But it's not an actual happily ever after with a couple like most would expect from romance. It's a happy ending that I loved but the real HEA comes with the first book, Without You.
Review
5 Stars
Everything I Never Told You
Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng
I listened to an audio copy borrowed from my local e-library.

I was immediately hooked in and loved pretty much everything about it. Delving into all the history, little details, and the descriptions won't be for everyone though.
Review
0 Stars
Bollywood Babes (Bindi Babes)
Bollywood Babes (Bindi Babes) - Narinder Dhami
I found this scrolling through my library's electronic catalog. I listened to it in one sitting while I was working on birthday presents for a friend. After I was done, I immediately went searching for more, but this was the only one they had :(
Review
5 Stars
Knit One, Girl Two: a sweet Jewish f/f contemporary romance
Knit One, Girl Two: a sweet Jewish f/f contemporary romance - Shira Glassman, Jane Dominguez, J.L. Douglas, Áine Noonan
ADORABLE HAPPINESS SQUEEE

Everything about this was amazing. I've been a huge fan of Shira's on Twitter for awhile now and really, really needed a quick dose of happy today.

She delivered in spades! It's all so cheery and real but like a better real. Not my reality but someone else's and knowing it's out there makes me feel so much better.
Review
5 Stars
Saga Vol. 2
Saga Vol. 2 - Brian Vaughan, Fiona Staples
Lots of Action & Plot Twists

WOW what an ending! That last bit with the Robot Prince was brilliant. The robots still freak me out.

The missile turn of events and the ex showing up... Well, there's nothing to be bored with here!

Loving the little munchkin and her weird family. I can't wait to see how it goes from here.
Review
0 Stars
Amina's Voice
Amina's Voice - Hena Khan
Just flew threw this one the other day. <3

I'll be back with notes and a review later.
Review
5 Stars
The Hearts We Sold
The Hearts We Sold - Emily Lloyd-Jones


 

I LOVED Hearts We Sold!

  1. Both of my parents are addicts, my father an alcoholic and my mother self-medicated with drugs. Dee's home life with the emotional and psychological neglect and abuse is scarily accurate. My heart broke for Dee, understanding all too well <3

  2. Dee's best friend & roommate who is understanding and supportive but doesn't push. She gets it without having to have it spelled out. Some people can't deal with our hang ups and messed up families. She's the amazing kind of friend I'm -used to having, rare as they are.

  3. Loved the present POV of Dee and the separate interspersed past tense for the background info, especially on James.

  4. Love how the first time romance isn't hung up on virginity and purity. She's sure, she wants it, it happens, she's happy.

  5. I don't want to give it away, but the reasons why they become heartless are amazing. I'm SO WITH IT!

  6. Daemon who Knits. Portals. Nerd Crews. Burrowers. Unique paranormal set up with a public Deamon population.

  7. Great mix of inter and intrapersonal drama and progression with action and unraveling the mystery of the Heartless, Daemons, and portals. -


 

The only thing that really bugs me is HEARTS AREN'T ALL INTERCHANGEABLE. Yes, magic, blah, blah, blah. But nope, that's too far. I can't accept it. It hurts to think about, my brain just screams in protest.



I was quickly sucked into Hearts We Sold and devoured it. There's great style, substance, and a more than typical cast of young adults. Beside the one hang up, I have no issues or complaints, not even with the adorable and quick instalove with Shaggy-like James.

 

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This review was originally posted on The Layaway Dragon
Review
4 Stars
Finding Audrey
Finding Audrey - Sophie Kinsella
I flew through this book in one sitting. I woke up early on Saturday before work since my sleep scheduled was all messed up for the weekend. I had just finished the audio book of Torch Against the Night and was WRECKED. I need to get my mind off of it and relax, I needed happy and light.

Feeling depressed and anxious more than usual because of work, which just caused my doctor to increase my meds last week actually.

I picked Finding Audrey pretty much randomly and wondered if I made a good decision when I remembered Audrey's dealing with some heavy shit.

Quickly though I found myself laughing so hard I was crying. My daughter was playing Robux on my computer and kept asking me if I was laughing at her and what I was laughing at. Finding Audrey doesn't sound like a funny book. It's not, really. It's a young woman recovering from a traumatic experience with a hectic, loving, outrageous family and falling in love for the first time.

The writing and dialogue though made me laugh. How spot on Audrey's thoughts and reactions were to the medication, the therapy, and people made me appreciate the experience more and relieve some stress for me. Kinda like if she could find the funny and appreciate it being funny, even if her body wouldn't relax enough to laugh, then I could to.

Finding Audrey had been sitting on my shelves for so long and was there when I didn't even know I needed it. It's funny, true to life, cute, sweet, romantic...Just a great read for mental health rep with a stable loving family and boy/girl romance.

I'll update later with some quotes I loved. I'm away from home right now and just wanted to update GR real quick before I forgot and found myself writing all this...
Review
0 Stars
Untitled
Untitled - Sabaa Tahir
I'mma need a minute to think about this one. I just...yeah.
Review
4 Stars
Shattered
Shattered - Lee  Winter
Review Header

Content Warning: Mentions of suicide, abuse, violence, natural disasters, 
Shattered was really easy to get into, even with the info dumping to build the world. It's too bad the world building still left me wanting and unable to see a clear series stem from it. Otherwise, it was amazing. It was an exciting, quickly read bright spot in an otherwise very stressful and busy work week.

Wonderful superhero escapism grounded in reality with a happy ending, character growth, romance, and justice.

Lena is an Unlikable Protagonist...


with a chip on her shoulder, ensconced behind walls with an attitude and consciously manipulative. She's an unhappy, suspicious cog in a terribly corrupt and unjust system.

She's got flaws, scars, and deep personal issues. Her job doesn't help matters much, though it's the one thing she excels at.

She's like oh so many Alpha Males in books that many, including me lament. Only on the surface though. Lena's faced relatable discrimination and isn't a whiny fuckboy.

Shattergirl describes Lena as androgynous (or was it the other way around?), but they both came off as butch to me, which says a lot about my preconceptions and provided a nice huh moment.

Lena and Shattergirl have similar buff, badass appearances and physique without trashing traditionally feminine or girly coded things. This is something I had to work on for awhile as I was totally a Not Like Other Girls when growing up. Oh, painful hindsight., stop kicking me already!

I didn't spot any hypocritical baggage but since I'm recovering in this area, I can't say with 100% confidence that I didn't miss anything.

POSITIVE Science and Intelligence Portrayals


Much science fiction springs from fears, extremes, and warnings. Superheros have plunged down into the muck with the rest of us with muted colors and questionable ethics.

Shattered does not follow this trend and I couldn't be happier.  It's such a relief to read a novel where scientists are positively portrayed without elitism.

They're actually doing science to expand human knowledge and improve the world. They don't look down upon others that didn't succeed in traditional schooling, instead being curious and appreciative other experiences.

Now, imagine a world led by scientists picked based on intellectual wit and stamina, willingness to learn and listen to grow, that revealed in banter and debating to find the best possible solutions....

*dreamy sigh*

Too bad it got blown to smither-fucking-reans. Instead, we're stuck with sniveling used-car salesman politicians, conspiracies, media spin and hype. Maybe, just maybe though we can get there though...

Science fiction, particularly superheros, have lost a lot of hope lately revealing in the dark and gritty. I was admittedly one of them. I'm so over it right now. It's been too dark for too long. I'm tired.

Bring me possible, probable happiness that I don't have to second guess with visible puppet strings attached.

FYI on the Sexy Times


There are erotic passages, but if it's not your jam, it's easily skippable.

While I'm not a fan of perfake sex in novels, I've become less vocally bitter about it. It helps that I'm reading less heteronormative fiction, TBH.

I've gotten used to amazing muscles, out of the world orgasims,  Earth defying physics and stamina and it's far more permissible with these two characters. However, I draw the line at not reacting at all to unexpected physical differences and instinctively knowing what to do and being amazing at it. That's just not fair. 

It came off too sudden and tacked on like an alien has to have something different about them, so ta-da!

Maybe my standards will adjust with more alien fucking in my fiction but it seriously jerked me out of the moment and made me roll my eyes.

Happy Ending Without Sugar Coating....


The published romance genre is defined by the happily ever after (HEA), but often I find the traditional HEA trite and shallow. Not the case with Shattered. It didn't leave out any "But whatdabout...?" questions that would leave them in jeopardy.

It IS happy and warm fuzzy-feeling and mature. There are so many different kinds of relationships that are sorely missed in fiction, IMHO. I just want to hug everyone involved and cheer at how it all turns out.

 



 

About the Author:


Author Lee Winters Profile Pic“Everyone deserves a hero. For all the girls, big and small, who don’t neatly fit into society’s boxes—Shattergirl is yours.” – Lee Winter

Lee Winter has worked as a newspaper journalist in almost every state in Australia for the past 28 years. In that time she has covered everything from courts, police, news, television, features, been a humour columnist and sub-editor, and of late, a newspaper glossy magazine’s deputy editor. She has won national awards for her writing and adroit headlines. When her newspaper was sold and laid off most of the staff in November 2016, she made the decision to test the waters as a full-time writer.

Prior to that she has written two books for Ylva, the Goldie-winning, Lambda finalist The Red Files, a newspaper-based mystery; and the Australian underworld crime noir Requiem For Immortals, also a Lambda finalist (finalist in Lesbian Mystery category winners will be announced in New York in June 2017). When the idea of a superheroes collection came up, Lee jumped at the chance to write a novella (Shattered) about a disaffected superheroine on the run and the woman sent to track her down. This blew out to an almost-novel at just under 70,000 words!

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Other books from Ylva Publishing I Loved:



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bewitching book tours bannerThis review was originally posted on The Layaway Dragon
Review
4 Stars
The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes
The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes - Neil Gaiman
Hmmm...A Tale As Old As Me

I borrowed an electronic version from the library.

I've heard so many fantastic things about this series that I just had to try it out. I've read other of Gaiman's work but I'm not an invested fangirl by any means.

The foreword and afterwords were extremely helpful for context and understanding. I'm such a noob when it comes to comics. I've never read a comic as old as me.

I wasn't a fan of the art style, it does repulse and disgust as the story requires. That portion hasn't aged well IMHO.

As I was about the shrug the series off as historically important but not for my reading enjoyment, I was suddenly hooked.

Then it was an edge of my seat, heart racing intriguing tale. Now I'm looking forward to suffering through the gross art for what happens next.
Review
4 Stars
The Last Gambit
The Last Gambit - Om Swami
I signed up to read The Last Gamit because I haven't read much fiction set in India, it sounded like #ownvoices, and while I can't play chess, I was hoping for a geeky, cute coming of age story.

The Last Gambit follows Vasu from his first tournament when he meets his master up to being an adult and taking on international opponents. Along the way, Master imparts chess-tinged life lessons as Vasu grows and struggles with chess being his one and only focus.

If you're not into chess, or cannot understand it like me, don't worry. The moves and numbers meant nothing to me and didn't hinder my enjoyment.

I didn't find any of his life lessons particularly illuminating but I'm over quarter-aged and bitter and white and American. They make perfect sense for the story though and might be useful for others.

My favorite part: all the character progression. 💙


Vasu feels a bit stunted for a while as everyone accommodates his obsession and dream. He does mature and own his mistakes, eventually. But I was more taken with everyone else's progress TBH. No one gets left behind. Even the romance interest's family felt unusually dynamic though they didn't actually appear in any scenes.

Sweet & Adorable..😊


I was so happy to have a supportive, present family on the page. It goes sideways for me later on, but *spoilers* and it's still better than most YA books. I adore his sister SO MUCH and his brother sounds like bro turned good.

The romance is def. cute and geeky. It's not the main focus --that's chess, of course. It didn't have as much courting as I was expecting but I'm impressed. I cared and rooted for them both, they had issues and worked it out, and minimal angst. She wasn't a cut out or a reward.

Most Surprising was...😲


finding out Chess has endorsement contracts. Everything really is commercialized.

Most Interesting Was...🤔


Finding out the background and history of the Master, Vasu's family, and his girlfriend's family. I was itching to get back to the passages that expounded on these and they were well spaced out to keep me intrigued and reading.

Throughout the whole tale I couldn't help but notice how strong, giving, and selfless the women were or had to be. They were the backbone of every family, and while Vaus and his Master had moments of realization, there isn't enough love and appreciation for them, IMHO. The ending could've been slightly altered to do it, but it closes the loop, which I'm sure others will appreciate as well.

Great Rating Graphic

 This review was originally posted on The Layaway Dragon