Author: Casee

Sunday Spotlight: The Sinner by J.R. Ward

Posted March 22, 2020 by Casee in Features, Giveaways | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight: The Sinner by J.R. WardThe Sinner by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #19
Also in this series: Lover Unbound, Lover Avenged, Lover Unleashed, Lover at Last, Lover at Last, The King, The Shadows, The Beast, Lover Enshrined, The Chosen, Lover Mine, The Thief, The Savior, Where Winter Finds You
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: March 24, 2020
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 512
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Series Rating: three-stars

A sinner’s only hope is true love in this passionate new novel in J.R. Ward’s #1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

Syn has kept his side hustle as a mercenary a secret from the Black Dagger Brotherhood. When he takes another hit job, he not only crosses the path of the vampire race’s new enemy, but also that of a half-breed in danger of dying during her transition. Jo Early has no idea what her true nature is, and when a mysterious man appears out of the darkness, she is torn between their erotic connection and the sense that something is very wrong.

Fate anointed Butch O’Neal as the Dhestroyer, the fulfiller of the prophecy that foresees the end of the Omega. As the war with the Lessening Society comes to a head, Butch gets an unexpected ally in Syn. But can he trust the male—or is the warrior with the bad past a deadly complication?

With time running out, Jo gets swept up in the fighting and must join with Syn and the Brotherhood against true evil. In the end, will love true prevail...or was the prophecy wrong all along?

Excerpt

Route 149
Caldwell, New York

Behind the wheel of her ten-year-old car, Jo Early bit into the Slim Jim and chewed like it was her last meal. She hated the fake-smoke taste and the boat-rope texture, and when she swallowed the last piece, she got another one out of her bag. Ripping the wrapper with her teeth, she peeled the taxidermied tube free and littered into the wheel well of her passenger side. There were so many spent casings like it down there, you couldn’t see the floor mat.

Up ahead, her anemic headlights swung around a curve, illuminating pine trees that had been limbed up three-quarters of the way, the puff y tops making toothpicks out of the trunks. She hit a pothole and bad-swallowed, and she was coughing as she reached her destination.

The abandoned Adirondack Outlets was yet another commentary on the pervasiveness of Amazon Prime. The one-story strip mall was a horseshoe without a hoof, the storefronts along the two long sides bearing the remnants of their brands, faded laminations and off -kilter signs with names like Van Heusen/Izod, and Nike, and Dansk the ghosts of commerce past. Behind dusty glass, there was no merchandise available for purchase anymore, and no one had been on the property with a charge card for at least a year, only hardscrabble weeds in the cracks of the promenade and barn swallows in the eaves inhabiting the site. Likewise, the food court that united the eastern and western arms was no longer offering soft serve or Starbucks or lunch.

As a hot flash cranked her internal temperature up, she cracked the window. And then put the thing all the way down. March in Caldwell, New York, was like winter in a lot of places still considered northerly in latitude, and thank God for it. Breathing in the cold, damp air, she told herself this was not a bad idea.

Nah, not at all. Here she was, alone at midnight, chasing down the lead on a story she wasn’t writing for her employer, the Caldwell Courier Journal. Without anyone at her new apartment waiting up for her. Without anyone on the planet who would claim her mangled corpse when it was found from the smell in a ditch a week from now.

Letting the car roll to a stop, she killed the headlights and stayed where she was. No moon out tonight so she’d dressed right. All black. But without any illumination from the heavens, her eyes strained at the darkness, and not because she was greedy to see the details on the decaying structure.

Nope. At the moment, she was worried she was about to provide fodder for True Crime Garage. As unease tickled her nape, like someone was trying to get her attention by running the point of a carving knife over her skin—

Her stomach let out a howl and she jumped. Without any debate, she went diving into her purse again. Passing by the three Slim Jims she had left, she went straight-up Hershey this time, and the efficiency with which she stripped that mass-produced chocolate of its clothing was a sad commentary on her diet. When she was finished, she was still hungry and not because there wasn’t food in her belly. As always, the only two things she could eat failed to satisfy her gnawing craving, to say nothing of her nutritional needs.

Putting up her window, she took her backpack and got out. The crackling sound of the treads of her running shoes on the shoulder of the road seemed loud as a concert, and she wished she wasn’t getting over a cold. Like her sense of smell could be helpful, though? And when was the last time she’d considered that possibility outside of a milk carton check.

She really needed to give these wild-goose chases up.

Two-strapping her backpack, she locked the car and pulled the hood of her windbreaker up over her red hair. No heel toeing. She leftright-left’d it, keeping the soles of her Brooks flat to quiet her footfalls. As her eyes adjusted, all she saw were the shadows around her, the hidey-holes in corners and nooks formed by the mall’s doorways and the benches pockets of gotcha with which mashers could play a grown‑up’s game of keep away until they were ready to attack.

When she got to a heavy chain that was strung across the entry to the promenade, she looked around. There was nobody in the parking lots that ran down the outside of the flanks. No one in the center area formed by the open-ended rectangle. Not a soul on the road that she had taken up to this rise above Rt. 149.

Jo told herself that this was good. It meant no one was going to jump her.

Her adrenal glands, on the other hand, informed her that this actually meant no one was around to hear her scream for help.

Refocusing on the chain, she had some thought that if she swung her leg over it and proceeded on the other side, she would not come back the same.

“Stop it,” she said, kicking her foot up.

She chose the right side of the stores, and as rain started to fall, she was glad the architect had thought to cover the walkways overhead. What had been not so smart was anyone thinking a shopping center with no interior corridors could survive in a zip code this close to Canada. Saving ten bucks on a pair of candlesticks or a bathing suit was not going to keep anybody warm enough to shop outside October to April, and that was true even before you factored in the current era of free next-day shipping.

Down at the far end, she stopped at what had to have been the ice cream place because there was a faded stencil of a cow holding a triple decker cone by its hoof on the window. She got out her phone.

Her call was answered on the first ring.

“Are you okay?” Bill said.

“Where am I going?” she whispered. “I don’t see anything.”

“It’s in the back. I told you that you have to go around back, remember?”

“Damn it.” Maybe the nitrates had fried her brain. “Hold on, I think I found a staircase.”

“I should come out there.”

Jo started walking again and shook her head even though he couldn’t see her. “I’m fine—yup, I’ve got the cut through to the rear. I’ll call you if I need you—”

“You shouldn’t be doing this alone!”

Ending the connection, she jogged down the concrete steps, her pack bouncing like it was doing push-ups on her back. As she bottomed out on the lower level, she scanned the empty parking lot—

The stench that stabbed into her nose was the kind of thing that triggered her gag reflex. Roadkill . . . and baby powder?

She looked to the source. The maintenance building by the tree line had a corrugated metal roof and metal walls that would not survive long in tornado alley. Half the size of a football field, with garage doors locked to the ground, she imagined it could have housed paving equipment as well as blowers, mowers, and snowplows.

The sole person-sized door was loose, and as a stiff gust from the rainstorm caught it, the creak was straight out of a George Romero movie—and then the panel immediately slammed shut with a clap, as if Mother Nature didn’t like the stink any more than Jo did.

Taking out her phone, she texted Bill: This smell is nasty.

Aware that her heart rate just tripled, she walked across the asphalt, the rain hitting the hood of her windbreaker in a disorganized staccato. Ducking her hand under the loose nylon of the jacket, she felt for her holstered gun and kept her hand on the butt.

The door creaked open and slammed shut again, another puff of that smell releasing out of the pitch-black interior. Swallowing through throat spasms, she had to fight to keep going and not because there was wind in her face.

When she stopped in front of the door, the opening and closing ceased, as if now that she was on the verge of entering, it didn’t need to catch her attention and draw her in.

So help her God, if Pennywise was on the other side . . .

Glancing around to check there were no red balloons lolling in the area, she reached out for the door.

I just have to know, she thought as she opened the way in. I need to . . . know.

Leaning around the jamb, she saw absolutely nothing, and yet was frozen by all that she confronted. Pure evil, the kind of thing that abducted and murdered children, that slaughtered the innocent, that enjoyed the suffering of the just and merciful, pushed at her body and then penetrated it, radiation that was toxic passing through to her bones.

Coughing, she stepped back and covered her mouth and nose with the crook of her elbow. After a couple of deep breaths into her sleeve, she fumbled with her phone.

Before Bill could say anything over the whirring in his background, she bit out, “You need to come—”

“I’m already halfway to you.”

“Good.”

“What’s going on—”

Jo ended the call again and got out her flashlight, triggering the beam. Stepping forward again, she shouldered the door open and trained the spear of illumination into the space.

The light was consumed.

Sure as if she were shining it into a bolt of thick fabric, the fragile glowing shaft was no match for what she was about to enter.
The threshold she stepped over was nothing more than weather stripping, but the inch-high lip was a barrier that felt like an obstacle course she could barely surmount—and then there was the stickiness on the floor. Pointing the flashlight to the ground, she picked up one of her feet. Something like old motor oil dripped off her running shoe, the sound of it finding home echoing in the empty space.

As Jo walked forward, she found the first of the buckets on the left. Home Depot. With an orange-and-white logo smudged by a rusty, translucent substance that turned her stomach.

The beam wobbled as she looked into the cylinder, her hand shaking. Inside there was a gallon of glossy, gleaming . . . red . . . liquid. And in the back of her throat, she tasted copper—

Jo wheeled around with the flashlight.

Through the doorway, the two men who had come up behind her without a sound loomed as if they had risen out of the pavement itself, wraiths conjured from her nightmares, fed by the cold spring rain, clothed in the night. One of them had a goatee and tattoos at one of his temples, a cigarette between his lips and a downright nasty expression on his hard face. The other wore a Boston Red Sox hat and a long camel-colored coat, the tails of which blew in slow motion even though the wind was choppy. Both had long black blades holstered handles down on their chest, and she knew there were more weapons where she couldn’t see them.

They had come to kill her. Tracked her as she’d moved away from her car. Seen her as she had not seen them.

Jo stumbled back and tried to get out her gun, but her sweaty palms had her dropping her phone and struggling to keep the flashlight—

And then she couldn’t move.

Even as her brain ordered her feet to run, her legs to run, her body to run, nothing obeyed the panic-commands, her muscles twitching under the lockdown of some invisible force of will, her bones aching, her breath turning into a pant. Pain firework’d her brain, a headache sizzling through her mind.

Opening her mouth, she screamed—

Black Dagger Brotherhood

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: March 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About J.R. Ward

Author J.R. Ward wearing sunglasses

J.R. Ward is the author of over thirty novels, including those in her #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood. There are more than 15 million copies of Ward’s novels in print worldwide and they have been published in 25 different countries around the world.

After graduating from law school, Ward began working in healthcare in Boston and spent many years as Chief of Staff of one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation. She lives in the south with her incredibly supportive husband and her beloved golden retriever. Writing has always been her passion and her idea of heaven is a whole day of nothing but her computer, her dog and her coffee pot.


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What Are You Reading? (520)

Posted March 20, 2020 by Casee in Features | 8 Comments

Casee: If anything good is coming out of this self-quarantine I’m in, it’s that I have an abundance of reading time. I’ve actually read two books in one week and am almost done with the third. I’m currently reading Wolf Rain by Nalini Singh. I don’t know why I didn’t read this book when it first came out. It’s a conundrum. I’m going to read Alpha Night next.

I’m also listening to Gunmetal Magic while working at home. Not sure how I feel about it yet. It’s about Kate’s best friend, Andrea. I’m sure it’ll come through because it’s Ilona Andrews.

Holly: I’ve been working my way through the Kate Daniels series. It’s been awhile since I read the series and Rowena has me binge-reading it. I read Magic Bleeds, Magic Slays, Magic Rises, Magic Breaks, Magic Shifts, Magic Binds and Magic Triumphs. I’m currently reading Iron and Magic.

Now that I’m working from home and things have slowed down, I hope to have more reading time. We’ll see how it goes.

Rowena: It’s been a slow reading week for me because I’m in self-quarantine and instead of reading, I’ve been kicking my family’s ass in Sequence and Five Crowns and getting my ass kicked in Take Two. There’s a lot of family board game nights and staying home and washing hands but I did manage to finish Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs and will start The Orchid Thorne by Jeffe Kennedy. That’s about it for me. I plan on finishing up some review books before jumping back into the Kate Daniels series. I already miss my Kate Daniels friends. Haha.

What are you reading this week? Any new favorites or books that drove you crazy? Share!


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Review: Knight Awakening by Rebecca Zanetti

Posted March 18, 2020 by Casee in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Knight Awakening by Rebecca ZanettiReviewer: Casee
Knight Awakening by Rebecca Zanetti
Series: Scorpius Syndrome #6
Also in this series: Mercury Striking, Shadow Falling, Justice Ascending, Storm Gathering, Winter Igniting
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: February 25, 2020
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Dystopian, Post Apocalyptic
Pages: 368
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Casee's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

“Sexy, tough, and deftly sprinkled with dark humor.” -- New York Times bestselling author Larissa Ione
The Line Between Obsession and Love has Disappeared
The world has changed. Any rules that might’ve been in place before the Scorpius bacterium ripped through civilization and decreased its population are no longer in place. Obsession and survival are the new reality. So, Marcus Knight, after a hellish time in captivity that stole most of his memory and all of his soul, has one focus, and that’s keeping Dr. Penelope Kim safe in the aftermath. She’d risked her life to save him once, and she’s all that matters. For months, he’s kept his distance, protecting her from afar, because he knows that one touch—one sigh—one kiss—from her will never be enough.
Passion is a Dangerous and Deadly Temptation
Penny Kim is one of the few doctors still living, and she alone holds the key to ensuring the human race continues. Several of her friends are pregnant, and the clock is ticking down on their survival. Her days are filled with experiments and hope, while her nights are consumed with visions and dreams of the hard-bodied and powerful soldier who’s made her safety his one and only mission. She should be wary of him; she should be terrified of him. Yet all she feels is an unreal craving for his touch that gets stronger every day. Life is short, and she’s unwilling to wait, unaware of the danger already hunting them both. Some risks are worth it, even in this new and dangerous world.
“Thrilling, post-apocalyptic romance at its dark, sizzling best!” --New York Times bestselling author Lara Adrian

RZ brings us back to the world of Scorpius. Scorpius has been a global killer with only a small majority of the population surviving having the virus. It was actually a little eerie reading this book considering our current circumstances (i.e. COVID-19). Creepy.

This series is set in a post-apocalypse Los Angeles. Jax Mercury is the leader of Vanguard-Merc, a ragtag group of 600 survivors of the life as they knew it. While trying to live their lives they have to deal with a crazy President, a street gang, rationing food, and a lack of water. Which is only the tip of the iceberg.

Penelope Kim was fresh out of medical school when the virus hit. Forget an internship or a residency. She was thrown from the frying pan into the fire. She took it like a champ, wanting to help as many people as she could. When she first lays eyes on Marcus Knight, she has no idea who he is. She only knows that he’s being held captive against his will and experimented on. Penelope vows to help Marcus escape before she leaves the bunker. She has no idea the shit that is about to go down.

So when Vanguard-Merc shows up at the bunker where Marcus is being held, Penelope panics. In the midst of the chaos, Penelope is infected. She survives (obviously), but Marcus still blames himself. See, Marcus had the virus and one of the side effects of surviving it is that you may become a little obsessive. Obsessed with Penny’s safety. He won’t let anything or anyone get between himself and Penny. Not even his brother. Yes, his brother is none other than Jax Mercury, the leader of Vanguard-Merc. Only problem is that Marcus doesn’t remember anything. He barely remembers his time at the bunker and his torture. Penny is in the forefront of his mind; her safety is all that matters to him.

Penelope is aware that she has her very own guard dog. But she doesn’t want a guard dog. She wants to be a partner with Marcus. Any feelings of waiting for things to happen flew out the window with Scorpius. Penelope isn’t waiting for Marcus to come to her. She goes to him. Marcus wants to take what Penny is offering badly, but he is terrified of hurting her. His obsession about protecting her hasn’t gone away. When they start their relationship it actually becomes worse.

Last night when I finished this book, I gave it a strong 4.5/5. This morning, after thinking about the book, I can’t give it that high of a grade. Based on the ending, it seems as if that is the last book of the series. I always admire an author that can bring a series to a close. Anyway, the ending was so rushed that I really felt let down. After the buildup of what was going on with the President, it was just wrapped up too neatly. That’s my only complaint about the book. I really loved it other than that.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Scorpius Syndrome

three-half-stars


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Review: Husband by Penelope Sky

Posted March 11, 2020 by Casee in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Husband by Penelope SkyReviewer: Casee
Husband by Penelope Sky
Narrator: Michael Ferraiuolo, Lia Langola
Series: Betrothed #2
Also in this series: Betrothed (Betrothed #1), Wife
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: December 10, 2019
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 314
Length: 7 hours and 27 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Casee's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

Two years of bitter loneliness have passed. The woman I love is now the woman I hate. I lose myself in beautiful women every night and tell myself that fortune reading was nothing but a scam. But then her mother asks me to marry her. I say yes. Now this woman will be mine forever. Maybe the prophecy really is true. I'm committing to a woman that will never love me in return. But it was better to be her husband than allow someone else to take my place. It was better to conquer her body every night than be lonely with someone else. Much better.

Husband picks up right where Wife left off. At the end of Wife, Sophia finds out that her mother has arranged a marriage to none other than Hades Lombardi. It has been four years since they split in a very non amicable way. It was clear that Hades hates her so she can’t imagine why he would want to marry her of all people.

When it becomes clear that Sophia needs a protector, Hades steps in. His hatred for how she treated him doesn’t surpass his need to have her. Plus, he’s not going to let anyone else have her. It’s clear that she’s against the marriage, but eventually she caves. While Hades knows that Sophia doesn’t love him, they develop a partnership that they both start to count on. Hades decides that he can accept nothing less than Sophia’s love. So he goes back to the fortune teller that told him his fortune all those years ago.

Unfortunately he doesn’t hear what he wants to hear. The old woman tells him that he can break his curse by righting the most wrong thing he has done. Hades knows the sky may as well be purple. That’s what would have to happen for Hades to get his brother to forgive him for murdering their father. Alas, he has to try.

I really liked seeing Hades and Sophia’s relationship evolve. It’s clear Sophia loves him, but she doesn’t know it. Then the unthinkable happens. Sophia is kidnapped by Hades enemy. Hades goes berserk trying to find her to no avail. Which ends this book and leads into the next.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Betrothed


four-stars


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Review: Wife by Penelope Sky

Posted March 10, 2020 by Casee in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Wife by Penelope SkyReviewer: Casee
Wife by Penelope Sky
Narrator: Michael Ferraiuolo, Lia Langola
Series: Betrothed #1
Also in this series: Betrothed (Betrothed #1), Husband
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: September 23, 2019
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 312
Length: 7 hours and 23 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Casee's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Casee's 2020 New to Me Challenge, Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

I was 21 when the gypsy read my future:

As punishment for your crimes, you will only love one woman...but she'll never love you back.

I didn't believe a word of it.

Until I met Sofia Romano almost 10 years later.

I fell hard for this woman. Would die for this woman.

But she left me.

Now, years have passed, and Sofia needs a husband. Her father is gone, and her mother is trying to marry her off to a man that can protect their family, protect their company.

She's looking for someone powerful.

Check.

Someone rich.

Check.

Someone handsome.

Double check.

Now, it's my chance to have the only woman I've ever loved...and I'll make sure she feels the same way.

I have a lifetime to make that happen.

Wife is my first book by Penelope Sky. The summary sounded very interesting to me, so I decided to give it a try. I listened to it on audio. The narrators were pretty decent. No complaints on that from me.

Sophia has planned to run her family’s hotels since she was a small girl. When her father died, her stepfather took over. Her mother wants nothing more that for Sophia to marry; and stay out of the hotel business. She tells Sophia that it’s a man’s world and that is no place she should be. Of course Sophia doesn’t listen. She starts working at the hotel under her stepfather. That’s when she learns what the hotel really does.

It’s at the hotel that she meets Hades Lombardi. Hades had his fortune told by an old woman telling him that the woman he loves will never love him back. Hades puts this out of his mind. Until he meets Sophia. He immediately falls for her, but it’s clear that she is not interested in anything other than sex.

I liked Sophia and didn’t like Sophia. Instead of coming across as a strong-willed, capable woman, she seemed more like a bitchy shrew to me. She always fought Hades, she made sure that everyone in her life knew that she didn’t need a man in her life. Until she starts needing Hades. Needing doesn’t equal love and when she shoots Hades down after he suggests a real relationship, he’s had it. Love turns to hate. It left me wondering how the two reconcile. I had to wait for the next book. You do too!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Betrothed


three-stars


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