Review: Contaminated by Em Garner

Contaminated by Em Garner

Title: Contaminated
Author: Em Garner
Published: July 23rd 2013 by EgmontUSA
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian / Zombie Apocalypse
Source: Provided by the Author/Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

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After the Contamination—an epidemic caused by the super-trendy diet drink ThinPro that turned ordinary citizens into violent, uncontrollable creatures—the government rounded up the “Connies” to protect the remaining population. Now, two years later, the rehabilitated are being allowed home, complete with shock collars that will either control, or kill, them.

Velvet Ellis has struggled to care for her ten-year-old sister since her parents were taken in the round up. When she finds her mother in one of the “Kennels,” Velvet resolves to do whatever it takes to put her family back together. But the danger isn’t over. It’s beginning all over again…

This is less a story about zombies, and more a story about survival. The outbreak happened, the government is attempting to clean up afterwards, and everyone is slowly trying to put their lives back together. For Velvet Ellis this is not so easy, she lost both her parents to this crazy disease, and she’s had to quit school and start working full time in order to keep herself and her 10-year-old sister afloat. But all is not lost. The contaminated in this story aren’t zombies in the true sense of the word, they’re not dead. And a way has been found to neutralize them and make them (mostly) safe to take home. Something Velvet fully intends to do once she’s found her mother.

If you’re looking for high action, high stakes, this is not the book for you. If you like something with a slow burn that’s more character driven, go ahead and give it a try.

I really like this take on the zombie story. I like that it tackles issues of the ethical treatment of the contaminated, or “Connies” as they are called. I like that Velvet does the best she can with very limited resources. She’s little more than a kid herself, but despite all the backlash and hardships she’s had to face, she’s soldering bravely on.

The story reads like the first part of a series, or at least something with a sequel in the works. The story really hits its stride in the last couple of chapters, when… well, I can’t tell you what happens, obviously. Let’s just say it pinged my conspiracy theory buttons. And then it cuts off abruptly.


Em Garner writes books.

She began writing at a very young age, always preferring the stories about what goes bump in the night. An avid reader of horror, science-fiction and fantasy, she first turned her hand to short stories about the sorts of things that hide under the bed…and she kept right on going.

Now Em spends most of her time in front of her computer, writing away at all the ideas she has swirling around in her head and hoping she can get them into a story before she forgets them.

She loves zombies, unicorns, and rainbows, the color purple and the smell of roses. She hates the smell of lilies, the feeling of corduroy and biting sandpaper. (Well. Who doesn’t?)

She lives at the beach with her family, where she spends a lot of time reading and sticking her feet in the sand. She is afraid of sharks, but that doesn’t stop her from going in the water.

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Review: Sideshow of Merit by Nicole Pietsch

Sideshow of Merit by Nicole Pietsch

Title: Sideshow of Merit
Author: Nicole Pietsch
Published: September 16th 2013 by Namelos
Genre: New Adult / Young Adult Historical
Source: This book was provided by the Author/Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

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You couldn’t call Mount Rosa Hospital a good place to be in 1957, when you were fourteen. But it’s where Tevan George was, and James Rowley too, “convalescing” from tuberculosis. And it’s where both boys were abused by an older boy–although neither of them did much talking about it, then or later. Shut up! That’s what Tevan did. James too, but he never said much about anything anyway.

Nine rocky years later, on the run together since they skipped out on a medical checkup at Mount Rosa’s in 1961, Tevan and James emerge early one morning from the ’55 Chevy they’ve been living in and come across Buddy Merit setting up his “Ten in One” sideshow on a fairground in Ontario. They can’t do magic. They can’t foretell the future. They can’t swallow swords. What Tevan and James decide they can do is a stunt they’ve done only in private, in the dark-a stunt that, performed in public for the marks, takes on a life of its own and surprises even the two young men who perform it. In the company of the misfits and reprobates and losers who make up Buddy Merit’s sideshow, Tevan and James act out the central trauma of their lives until they get to a place from which they can’t go forward and they can’t go back.

SIDESHOW OF MERIT is a story of abuse and recovery, of friendship and trust, of survival, of repeated failure and ultimate success, set against a backdrop of human frailty, selfishness, greed, and vulnerability. Tevan and James’s journey of is a coming-of-age story like no other.

There seems to some disagreement on whether this book should be classified Young Adult or New Adult. While there are flashback to teenage years, the majority of the story plays off when the main characters are in their early twenties. Then again, considering the lack of childhood these boys have, they do act like teenagers at times. Angry, scared, broken teenagers. So, you know, pick whichever you prefer.

It should be said that this story deals with some downright heavy issues. We’re talking destructive behavior, sexual abuse, drug abuse, violence, prostitution, racism, homophobia. Parts of it was hard to read, though a lot of it gets implied rather than outright stated. The author gives you enough for your imagination to fill in the blanks. In many instances, I was glad for this, as there were certain scenes I definitely did not want to read in more detail. And yet, in others it was downright frustrating because the vagueness of the scene made me question if I ever knew what just happened. Perhaps that was the point.

The first 3rd of this story blew me away. I fell instantly for the main character, Tevan George, and the way he looked at this ugly, gritty world. For his smart mouth and bravado, he’s barely holding on. Barely surviving. And doing all kinds of awful things just to keep holding on. It was raw, it was powerful, it was liberally sprinkled with bad language, just the way I like it.

The relationship between Tevan and James is fascinating. Also, incredibly dysfunctional and sad. Theirs is a friendship based on shared childhood horrors and self destructive tendencies, but they are there for each other. A flickering little beacon of hope in all the bleakness.

As the book progressed, and Tevan’s world began spiraling more and more out of control, and getting increasingly desperate, the story started wobbling a little. It became a little disjointed and difficult to follow. Much like Tevan’s peace of mind, which made me think it was done deliberately.

This was a book I could have loved. I wanted to love it. I did for the longest time. Then came the last 5 or so chapters and to me it was just the most unsatisfying ending in the world. All I was left with was a crushing hopelessness and feeling cheated. I don’t know, perhaps that too was the point of it all.


NICOLE PIETSCH is a writer and youth and women’s advocate living in Ontario, Canada. Since 1998, Nicole has supported women and youth living with violence, including survivors of sexual violence. Most recently, she has worked with youth survivors of violence who are incarcerated, those living in an institutional setting, and Deaf youth. Nicole has a particular interest in the ways in which social constructs of sex, age and race inform social policy, including medicine and law.

Review: The Only Exception by Magan Vernon

The Only Exception by Magan Vernon

Title: The Only Exception
Author: Magan Vernon
Published: April 9th 2013 by Beautifully Broken Books
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Source: This Book Was Provided By The Author/Publisher Via Netgalley In Exchange For An Honest Review.

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Fiercely liberal Monica Remy prefers to blend in. Despite her tattoos, piercings, and outspoken personality, she transferred to Central to escape—before she finds out that her next door neighbor is the uber conservative governor’s son, Trey Chapman.

No matter how hard she tries to avoid Trey, he still finds a way to get under her skin. Monica can’t stand his crisp white shirts or his staunch views on women. But she can’t help counting every freckle on his face and wondering what it would feel like to have him stop talking politics and kiss her.

A class debate project forces the unlikely pair to work together, and the political lines are blurred in late-night make out sessions. But despite their fiery chemistry, Trey’s politics threatens to smother their relationship for good.

I had a lot of trouble getting into this story. When I read the premise, the political side of it sounded like a really interesting spin and intrigued me enough that I wanted to give it a go despite knowing next to nothing about American politics. Unfortunately, to me the political side turned out to be the only interesting thing to me. Everything else I’ve seen a million other times.

I liked that the attraction was based on both of them liking to argue their viewpoints. I would have liked to see this taken further. More head butting, less insta-love. Perhaps if we’d spent more time getting to know the characters for who they actually were instead of jumping right into the relationship, I’d have found more to like about them.

I didn’t care for Monica, and how she kept insisting she wants nothing to do with Trey, only to flirt mercilessly every time she ran into him. The first time she met Trey, she immediately started attacking him over his father’s (and by assumed extension, Trey’s) beliefs and views. Then went on to dictate to her roommate what she could and couldn’t do in the apartment.

Neither did I can much for Trey, whose persistence and inability to accept no for an answer came across as condescending instead of charming. He just pushed too hard for my liking. I got the feeling he was that kid who always brought home straight A’s and returned to school with an apple for the teacher. I hated those goody-goody kids.

Then again, it might be that I’ve just seen enough of the hurt/comfort popping up in these new adult books and I am all read out on it. If that sort of thing is your sort of thing, maybe this story will work better for you.


Magan Vernon is a Young Adult and New Adult writer who lives with her family in the insurance capital of the world. She is in a very serious, fake relationship with Adam Lambert and constantly asks her husband to wear guyliner. He still refuses. She also believes her husband is secretly an alien, disguised as a southern gentleman.

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Blog Tour Double Feature: Barbie Girl & Barbie World by Heidi Acosta

Barbie World by Heidi Acosta

Book 1: Barbie Girl

Barbie Girl by Heidi Acosta

Title: Barbie Girl
Series: Baby Doll #1
Author: Heidi Acosta
Published: November 1st 2012
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Source: Free copy provided by author via Xpresso Book Tours


The only thing that 17 year old Barbie Starr wants to do is graduate high school so she and her little brother, Everett, can get out of Alabama. She doesn’t care about the rumors that are spread around about her like wild fire. Rumors are nothing new to her. Sure, maybe she could change her reputation, but why bother. She is leaving Alabama as soon as she can. That is, if she can pass algebra and graduate.

The only thing Dylan Knight would like to do is go through high school unnoticed; he has had enough of the drama that is high school. He took the whole of last summer to bulk-up: finally he is not being called names or being shoved into lockers. He wants to remain on the outside of the circle of constant rumors that surround the so-called popular kids who get all the attention. He would not, however, mind if his long time crush Katie took notice of him.

But it is Barbie who notices Dylan and she offers him a deal he can’t pass up: if he helps her pass algebra, she’ll help him get the girl of his dreams. Dylan agrees, but, as it turns out, nothing is simple when it comes to Barbie. Somehow, she can’t help but draw attention to herself — and to him. Soon Dylan finds himself tossed into the whirlwind of rumors that seem to follow Barbie everywhere. Can he save his reputation and still get the girl of his dreams? Or will Barbie be the one to break through his carefully-built facade?

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while now. There’s just something about a spunky looking cover girl that really gets me.

Barbie is that girl everyone talks about, and not to say nice things about. She actively encourages the rumors, building a tough veneer around herself that keeps everyone at bay. As long as they think they know her, then she’s safe, she can hide the fear and uncertainty she faces on a daily basis. No one needs to know how badly her mother has failed her. No one needs to know about the little brother she would do anything for. Her shield is impenetrable.

That is, until Dylan shows up. Well, less show up and more like he gets coerced into tutoring Barbie. She may not have the money to pay for his tutoring services, but Barbie can do one thing better than anyone else: she can make him desirable to the uptight, mean girl Dylan believes he’s in love with.

It should be an easy task, but the deeper Barbie gets sucked into Dylan’s world, the thinner her protective veneer seems. She knows if Dylan succeeds in cracking it, everything she’s worked so hard for will bleed out.

This story gets quite dark and intense in places. Barbie has had a tough life, and that doesn’t look to be getting any better soon. She goes through life pretending to be okay, pretending not to care what everyone thinks about her, but there’s a vulnerability deep down that makes it difficult not to feel for her. Dylan, on the other hand, is kind of a judgmental tool who does not in any way or shape deserve a girl like Barbie. Some of the things he says to her is downright cruel, and his Momma should slap him on the mouth for speaking to a girl like that.

Along with Dylan comes the chubby best friend, Third, who is the kind of friend everyone should have. Sure, he’s awkward and kind of a horn dog, but he has a really big heart. He’s completely enthralled by Barbie, even letting her eat off his plate, which is practically a declaration of love in the world of Third. He’s the first person Barbie can really be herself around in a long time, and for most of the book I kept hoping she would wise-up and forget the hot guy who can’t make up his mind and go for Third instead. To me he absolutely stole the show.


Book 2: Barbie World

Barbie World by Heidi Acosta

Title: Barbie World
Series: Baby Doll #2
Author: Heidi Acosta
Published: Summer 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Source: Free copy provided by author via Xpresso Book Tours


Dylan lost Barbie once before, now he is determined more than ever to win her heart and trust back. Easier said than done, especially with the new hot guy in town who is in a rock band and is the complete opposite of Dylan.

Barbie has been hurt beyond repair or so she thinks. It would be easier for heart to decide if she didn’t have to protect her little brother. And if Dylan would just put on a shirt! Dylan is not making this easy on her. It helps to have the distraction of the new guy in town cute bad boy Kai. But even though her heart is damaged it still knows what it wants.

When Barbie learns she has a family and with the help of Roxie and Kai, oh and Third and Dylan. They embark on a journey to help bring Barbie closer to a past she never knew existed.

Heidi Acosta brings you the heart felt story of friendship, love and heartbreak in the second book in of the Baby doll series Barbie World.

While the first book suffered a little from first novel syndrome, Barbie World comes out kicking right from the gate.

It picks up shortly after the first ended. Dylan had done what he felt was right, bringing Barbie’s problems under the notice of the authorities, and in doing so betrayed her trust. Stuck in a house where she feels even more like an outsider than ever before, all Barbie can do is bide her time and wait until she can take her little brother and get out. She may have been beaten, betrayed and had her heart shattered, but she’s still a fighter. She still has Third and Roxie, the pink loving goth girl, friends she can count on. Dylan on the other hand, is a different matter. She has to see him on a daily basis now, and not only does he have an aversion to shirts, but he keeps playing hot and cold with her. Kissing her one minute, running back to his actual girlfriend the next.

In a misguided attempt to appease his parents, Dylan continues to string along Katie, the girl Barbie had helped him score in book 1. He knows a relationship with Barbie is off limits, yet he can’t seem to stay away. Which leads to a lot of push and pull between them.

I found myself not really warming to Dylan any more than I had in the first story. The whole Katie thing was awful. Sure, Katie is presented as the shallow, clingy, bitchy girl, but I don’t think that justifies Dylan messing with her feelings like that. It irritated me that Barbie kept thinking she wasn’t good enough for a guy like Dylan while he’s the one making all these mistakes and not being the supposedly sweet, nice guy she thinks he is.

Third, though, still owns my heart.

I’m a little sad that this series seems to have reached its end, I would have liked to spend more time with Barbie.


Heidi Acosta was born on Long Island, New York. Moving around a lot when she was younger, she has lived in New York, Arizona, New York (again), Washington, Georgia, and Florida, in that order. Each place offered her something special, but she will always consider New York her home.

Heidi started writing as soon as she could spell. When she was three, Heidi’s mother gave her a copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods; thus beginning her lifelong love affair with literature.

Writing soon also became a form of therapy for Heidi, when she realized that no matter what was happening in her life, she could find emotional escape while writing. Some of her earliest stories featured her as a princess who explored new worlds with her horse Buttercup. If it sounds romantic, it wasn’t, there was no prince charming in those fairy lands (boys where yucky).

Heidi now resides in Florida with her husband, very active daughter, one hyper Chihuahua, two sweet cats, and one very fat moody cat.

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Review: Playing Tyler by T.L. Costa

Playing Tyler by T.L. Costa

Title: Playing Tyler
Author: T.L. Costa
Published: July 2nd 2013 by Strange Chemistry
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Source: This book was provided by the Author/Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Tyler MacCandless can’t focus, even when he takes his medication. He can’t focus on school, on his future, on a book, on much of anything other than taking care of his older brother, Brandon, who’s in rehab for heroin abuse… again.

Tyler’s dad is dead and his mom has mentally checked out. The only person he can really count on is his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, Rick. The one thing in life it seems he doesn’t suck at is playing video games and, well, thats probably not going to get him into college.

Just when it seems like his future is on a collision course with a life sentence at McDonald’s, Rick asks him to test a video game. If his score’s high enough, it could earn him a place in flight school and win him the future he was certain that he could never have. And when he falls in love with the game’s designer, the legendary gamer Ani, Tyler thinks his life might finally be turning around.

That is, until Brandon goes MIA from rehab and Tyler and Ani discover that the game is more than it seems. Now Tyler will have to figure out what’s really going on in time to save his brother… and prevent his own future from going down in flames.

I feel like the premise gives too much of the story away. Going in knowing something is up means you see most of the twists coming a mile off. Had this story been more set up like a mystery with having to discover and piece together clues along with the main characters, I would have liked it more. It might have helped to play up the thriller aspects that drew me in the first place. It fell a little flat to me, I felt that this book was trying to be more of an edgy romance than a thriller.

As for the romance? Holy mother of stalking. There’s persistent and then there’s sending your crush countless unsolicited text messages and emailing her every day for weeks. I found Tyler’s fixation with Ani more creepy than romantic.

The story also reads difficult during Tyler’s POV scenes. I get the attempt at authenticity in portraying his ADHD, but the run on sentences and lack of punctuation gave me a headache.

I did like the family drama parts of the story. Tyler comes from a very broken home indeed and the way it shapes him is fascinating to see. Brandon’s story was especially touching. Truth be told, the whole Brandon arc was the only part of the book that really captured me.

I dunno, maybe I wasn’t the right target market for this story. I didn’t hate it or anything, I just wasn’t as charmed as I’d hope to be. I wanted nail biting suspense and to be filled with conspiracy theories, not to be hit over the head with the ethics (or lack thereof) of war.


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Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

Splintered by A.G. Howard

Title: Splintered
Series: Splintered #1
Author: A.G. Howard
Published: January 1st 2013 by Amulet Books
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

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This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

I’m not really one for fairy tale retellings unless there is something very different about them to make it stand out. Splintered does just that, it takes everything you think you know about Wonderland and turns it on its head. This book gets A+ on imagery, every character is very vividly drawn. When Alyssa Gardner’s great great grandmother returned from Wonderland to inspire the story we’ve all heard, apparently her little girl mind glossed over some of the facts. This Wonderland is more like the one you find in the American McGee’s Alice video game (which I never actually finished, I might add, I was never good at swinging from vines and jumping on mushrooms, but I digress). The creatures of Wonderland are wonderfully twisted, from the skeletal gnomish creature that’s not quite the white rabbit, to the manipulative and kind of creepy hot dude that’s no longer a caterpillar (though he still likes his smoke).

Like the other women in her family, Alyssa hears bugs and plants when they speak. The very ability that has landed her mother in Soul’s Asylum, where she’s scheduled to undergo shock treatment unless Alyssa can find a way to break the Liddell curse. Determined to save her mother, Alyssa decides to go to England to find Wonderland. Only, it’s a lot closer than she knows, and she has a niggling all too familiar voice in her head to guide her towards it.

Jeb, Alyssa’s childhood crush (who still sees her as a kid), gets inadvertently dragged along on the journey. A very twisty journey full of wild goose chases and things that want Alyssa dead for what Alice did. And in the middle of it all, Morpheus, the guiding voice. Do you smell a love triangle? You should. Between the guy who’s kind of controlling, and the one who is controlling AND manipulative. And yet… I found myself liking them both. What can I say, I have a type.

Splintered is incredibly well plotted (if somewhat meandering) full of amazing imagery. It fell just a smidgen short of love for me, but I did enjoy it very much and I am looking forward to the sequel and seeing what mad shenanigans Morpheus will think up next. In this story the Hatter is quite possibly the least mad person, it’s everyone else you gotta watch out for.

Kudos to the Publisher for a gorgeous cover!


A.G. Howard is most at home when weaving the melancholy and macabre into settings and scenes, twisting the expected into the unexpected. She was inspired to write SPLINTERED while working at a school library. She always wondered what would’ve happened had the subtle creepiness of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland taken center stage, and she hopes her darker and funkier tribute to Carroll will inspire readers to seek out the stories that won her heart as a child.

A.G.’s pastimes are reading, rollerblading, gardening, and family vacations which often include impromptu side trips to 18th century graveyards or condemned schoolhouses to appease her overactive muse.

Her debut YA fantasy, SPLINTERED, a dark Alice in Wonderland spinoff, is now available from Amulet Books. The sequel, UNHINGED, is due to launch January 2014.

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Review: The Accidental Demon Slayer by Angie Fox

The Accidental Demon Slayer by Angie Fox

Title: The Accidental Demon Slayer
Series: Demon Slayer / Witch Bikers #1
Author: Angie Fox
Published: April 16 2013 (originally released July 29 2008 by Love Spell)
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance

Source: This book was provided by the Author/Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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It’s never a good day when an ancient demon shows up on your toilet bowl. For Lizzie Brown, that’s just the beginning. Soon her hyperactive terrier starts talking, and her long-lost biker witch Grandma is hurling Smuckers jars filled with magic. Just when she thinks she’s seen it all, Lizzie learns she’s a demon slayer-and all hell is after her.

Of course, that’s not the only thing after her. Dimitri Kallinikos, a devastatingly handsome shape-shifting griffin needs Lizzie to slay a demon of his own. But how do you talk a girl you’ve never met into going straight to the underworld? Lie. And if that doesn’t work, how dangerous could a little seduction be…?

Pre-school teacher, Lizzie Brown, is a too trusting, yet sensible woman on the verge of turning 30. All she wants is to enjoy her birthday and maybe get a little friendlier with the hottie from her gym. All that comes to a screeching halt when her badass Harley riding grandmother shows up with a whole heap of supernatural family baggage in tow. Destiny has come a-calling and Lizzie doesn’t have a whole lot of time to pack or ask questions.

The story starts off a little… busy, I guess you could call it. We barely met these characters and then it’s all demons, fighting, chases, mysterious love interest to the rescue. Too fast a pace makes me dizzy. It doesn’t help that the entire story plays off in a couple of days, during which Lizzie is expected to become the world’s best demon slayer with only like 24 hours of actual training, and then they will shoot her into hell to defeat a powerful demon. It’s even said that it took the previous world’s best demon slayer 10 years to master all the demon slaying techniques. All Lizzie had to do was a complete 180 on her previous personality and everything she believed in.

What I liked about this story was the really hands on magic system that Grandma Gertie’s witch coven uses. It’s all throwing jars of goop and potions made with roadkill. Anyone who knows me knows I am always delighted by an ick factor.

The Accidental Demon Slayer is humorous and lighthearted, though it sometimes take things a little far, into the ridiculous spectrum.


Angie Fox is the New York Times bestselling author of several books about vampires, werewolves and things that go bump in the night. She is best known for her Accidental Demon Slayer urban fantasy series. She is also writing a series about a group of paranormal MASH surgeons.

Angie claims that researching her stories can be just as much fun as writing them. In the name of fact-finding, Angie has ridden with Harley biker gangs, explored the tunnels underneath Hoover Dam and found an interesting recipe for Mamma Coalpot’s Southern Skunk Surprise (she’s still trying to get her courage up to try it).

Angie earned a Journalism degree from the University of Missouri. She worked in television news and then in advertising before beginning her career as an author.

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Review: Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow

Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow

Title: Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection
Series: Damned If You Do #1-4
Author: J.L. Merrow
Published: Published June 24th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
Genre: Adult M/M Romance
Source: Netgalley

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Sexy male succubus Rael has an insatiable appetite for men that gets him into all kinds of trouble. And he’s just found his favorite flavor: hunky blond detective Lars Thornsson. When those cool Nordic looks combine with Rael’s smoldering dark charms, all Hell could break loose.

Lars’s job at the Paranormal Enforcement Agency means he’s supposed to be policing demons, not falling in lust—or love—with them. But there’s something about this feisty little sex demon that hits all his buttons.

With no shortage of deadly sinners in his city, from serial-killing succubi to drug-dealing demons, all Lars can do is try to keep his private life from interfering with his work. But Rael has a knack for getting mixed up in cases that threaten both their domestic harmony and their lives.

M/M romances are my guilty pleasure, though I hadn’t exactly planned on reviewing them on this blog. Then I saw this title on Netgalley and couldn’t not request it. Look at that cover! Naughty demon with a prehensile tail, you guys. It takes a stronger person than me to resist that. And a pretty book it was too, Riptide Publishing did a real good job on the design, with little horns and pitchforks throughout.

I found the premise incredibly intriguing. Male succubus? Interesting. There is a very clear distinction made that he is in fact a succubus, and not an incubus. Oh man, how happy I was that they used succubi as the plural. The word succubusses (or incubusses for that matter) make me want to weep. What kind of bus, you say?

There are a lot of similes used, but they are all so unusual and downright amusing that it keeps it from getting old. Amusing is a good word for the story. It’s funny in parts and cute in parts. Sadly, it also reminded me why I don’t like short stories much, it gives rise to too much insta-attraction and insta-love. I’m a slow burn kinda girl.

I liked Rael, he’s the adorable kind of demon. Who just wants help out and cook the man in his life a good meal. And perhaps own a pet or two that kind burn down the house.

The way the characters speak grated a little for me. It tries to be too authentically… southern, I think. And the use of the endearment “honey” could have been cut by 50%. Perhaps if you read these stories as standalones it’s not as noticible, but when you read all of them back to back, the “honey” gets a little cringe-worthy.

Overall, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It was a fast, fun read.


JL Merrow is a very English writer of (mainly) m/m fiction who finds writing the only way to stay sane, except of course when a plot is driving her crazy. Having grown up on an island, she can’t remember a time before she could swim and prefers to remain close to water at all times. Luckily, the weather in her native land being as it generally is, this is not difficult.

She enjoys reading, martial arts, and surprising people who judge a book by its cover.

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Review: The Boy Next Door by Annabelle Costa

The Boy Next Door by Annabelle Costa

Title: The Boy Next Door
Author: Annabelle Costa
Published: December 2012 by Dev Love Press
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Source: Amazon Freebie


Through middle school, high school, bad dates, and an ill-advised punk phase, Tasha has always been able to count on Jason. Since the day he moved in next door, he’s gone from the weird kid in a wheelchair to Tasha’s most trusted friend. But lives change and the friends are going in different directions. When Jason and Tasha rekindle their friendship, sparks fly. After years of being a wild soul, now the ex-lead of a band turned music teacher is just looking for a relationship to last.

When none other than Jason introduces her to a man who can give her what she wants, Tasha is on the verge of throwing passion and love away just so she can forget her troubled past and settle down. But Jason isn’t ready to give her up just yet.

I had a lot of trouble getting into this story. It’s a quick enough read, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.

I liked that Annabelle Costa took a chance on a disabled male lead instead of just rehashing the usual flawless romance lead stereotype. Aside from being paralyzed from mid chest down since the age of 5, Jason is also interestingly nerdy and kind of a pushover. He makes his own life needlessly difficult by sabotaging every single relationship he has while he pines over the girl he could never have.

Said girl is where this story started to lose me. I did not care for Tasha. She came across as spoiled, self obsessed and generally uncaring of others’ feelings. But she’s really pretty, so that’s supposed to make it all better. We know she’s really pretty because she keeps harping on this fact, thinking back longingly on having the pick of any guy in high school, and comparing herself to every one of Jason’s girlfriends and coming out roses.

I had some trouble believing that these two remained best friends for 20 years. When they were 8 and shared a love for Transformers, sure, but then they grew up. Tasha started dissing Jason in order to look better in front of the cool people. She refused to talk to him at school. She tried to hook up with his older brother. And through all this he just waits by like a faithful puppy hoping that one day she will notice the drool for what it really meant. Poster boy for friend-zoning.

I don’t know, I found myself wanting to smack these characters more than I rooted for them to have their happily ever after.

One of the things that really bothered me was how Tasha’s younger sister, Lydia was treated. A great deal of emphasis is put on how she was the ugly sister, the one who had to marry the first man she could find because her options would never get any better. The one who couldn’t even enjoy her engagement because her older, prettier (so pretty!) sister couldn’t stand the fact that Lydia might have something she couldn’t get. Even the grandmother called Lydia ugly and desperate. It all made me respect these characters just a little less.


Review: Tamed by Douglas R. Brown

Tamed by Douglas R. Brown

Title: Tamed
Author: Douglas R. Brown
Published: February 13th 2013 by Rhemalda Publishing
Genre: Adult Horror
Source: Netgalley

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Werewolves are real.

And they make excellent pets.

Owning one of the legendary creatures is the latest fad. The WereHouse insists their werepets are loyal, docile, and 100% safe, but what happens when these gentle giants turn on their masters?

While on a routine EMS call, paramedic Christine Alt is attacked by a rogue werepet. She escapes with her life, but the encounter leaves her with more than just scars. As her body begins to change, she discovers the WereHouse is hiding a terrible secret, and they will stop at nothing to keep her from exposing them.

Werewolves are discovered, and mankind’s reaction to this? Kidnap them, enslave them, break their humanity and turn them into pets. It’s certainly a new and intriguing spin on ye olde werewulfen story. And, sadly, something I can actually see happening.

That said, I had some difficulty suspending disbelief for this one. How are the Werehouse allowed to sell seven foot tall beasts with teeth that can take off heads? Werewolf bites are infectious. It doesn’t matter how “tame” a pet is, shit happens, dogs bite people all the time. Shouldn’t there have been some kind of health and safety testing that put the brakes on this venture? It’s mentioned once that PETA isn’t impressed, but I would have expected more to happen on this front. The company is pumping out full grown werewolves, and they are all male. Did no one step in to see why? Where are the females? Where are the little ones? Is it some sort of puppymill? Granted, the wolves are crazy expensive and apparently the Werehouse has representatives everywhere and a lot of money exchanges hands, but there should still have been something. Protesters picketing.

No wild animal is ever really tame, and it doesn’t take long for things to get completely out of hand. Considering the abuses the werewolfs suffered, I’m surprised it took even that long. At this point the story turns quiet gory and action packed, which I really enjoyed. Douglas R. Brown doesn’t hold back from really putting his characters through the grinder, mentally and physically. Somewhere in the middle there is one particular scene that had me reading with one eye closed and a permanent cringe, worrying just how far he would take it.

Character wise, we have the very resourceful Christine Alt, a paramedic who gets attacked by a rogue werewolf during a routine callout and accidentally gets some of its blood in her mouth. Then there is Steve, the homeless man who has turned to alcohol to numb his memories of war and losing his family, until mysterious strangers in a van turn up and take him for a ride he’ll never forget. There is also the love interest, whose name I am not recalling at the moment, who after witnessing his beloved childhood pet slaughter his family, is brainwashed into hunting down rogue werewolves like the animals everyone thinks they are.

Oh, and if you were wondering why no female wolves, it’s because they are too stubborn and difficult to tame. Which I found very amusing.

The ending of the story was on the predictable side, and it tied things up a little too neatly. I had questions about the hows and whys there as well, but in the interest of not spoiling things, you will have to ask them yourself. Also, it has a pretty smart villain at the heart of things, for the most part.


Douglas R. Brown is a fantasy writer who lives in Pataskala, Ohio. He began writing more than five years ago as a cathartic way of dealing with the day-to-day stresses of life as a firefighter/paramedic for the Columbus Ohio Division of Fire. Now he focuses his writing on fantasy, where he draws on his lifelong love of the genre. He has been married for 14 years and has a son and two dogs

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