Book 43 of 2015: Dark Escort by E.L. Todd

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Standalone. No cliffhanger. HEA. Other books in the series can be read in any order.
Abiding by the rules has never been a struggle for Cato. Being an escort is strict and professional. He clocks in and clocks out like a regular job. He poses as a boyfriend or husband for those who need it, and with his charm and good looks he does it well.
And he doesn’t break the rules.
No Kissing.
No Feelings.
And No Sex.
Ever.
There’s an endless line of beautiful women outside of work, so temptation has never been an issue. They come to him quicker than he can even look in their direction. And as soon as he kicks them out the following morning, he can’t even remember their name.
But when an old flame becomes his new client, someone he let slip through his fingers, will he be able to keep his resolve? Or will he crack?

Dark Escort is a contemporary romance centering on an escort business and the women who turn the escorts’ worlds around. I received this book from the author for an honest review.

I don’t really know how to begin this review. On one hand, it was better than the second book, but on the other hand, it wasn’t. Alright, let me start on the romance and work my way around that.

The romance wasn’t half bad. I couldn’t really see the couple as a long lasting couple, but I did like Katarina. She had a spunk to her that set her apart from the other two female leads. Not so apart that she was in a different league. Just apart enough that she had something more going on.

I don’t care for the male lead. He felt too insecure. Yes, that insecurity does make a tad bit of sense. However, the Kat didn’t know what Cato was talking about on numerous occasions and he basically broke everything off like a little girl over a misunderstanding. On the other hand, he expected her to forgive him fairly easy in comparison.

I did like that there was more description going on. I could actually feel like I was in the book versus just being told what was going on or reading a manuscript of dialogue. Not that E.L. Todd has done that, I’m just using that as an example.

All in all, it wasn’t my favorite because of Cato, but I do like Kat. The romance was okay, but my feelings of Cato did hinder that a bit.

Book 42 of 2015: The Temple of Kian by M.D. Bushnell and A.R. Voss

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Akkadia is rife with betrayal and rumors of rebellion, as Aldrick, Garrick and Aelianna learn that in order to fulfill their destiny, they must journey to the edge of the known world. While they don’t fully understand their enigmatic quest, they do know its successful completion is the only hope of stopping the spreading blight of the Destroyer.
Danger lurks everywhere; they must struggle through haunted forests and ancient ruins, overcoming sorcerers and monsters, if they are to have any hope of unlocking the ancient secrets hidden within…
…The Temple of Kian.
Coming May 21st to Amazon.com
The Temple of Kian is the 3rd and final book of the first trilogy of the Key of Creation Epic Fantasy series, which began with Rise of the Destroyer, and Journey to Khodara (available now!)

The Temple of Kian is the third book in The Key of Creation series. I received a copy from the authors for an honest review.

The first book was a good read. The second book fell short and bored me. The third book was somewhere in between. I’m not sure how I’m going to write the review, but I think a Pros and Cons list may be the best way.

Cons:

The authors kept “telling” when it came to the large group of traveler’s except when a bit of action was happening. It bored me and I really didn’t care to continue on with their journey. I also didn’t care for the character Dathan. I wanted someone to shove a sword down his windpipe. He kept using “bloody”. Now, I understand the usage of that word as profanity, however, I wish he had more profane words in his arsenal.

For instance: “It’s bloody freezing on top of this bloody mountain. Why can’t we just bloody leave and get a bloody blanket? I’m bloody cold, bloody hungry, and I need a bloody bath.”

No, that wasn’t a direct quote, but you get the picture? He sounded like a prepubescent who just learned the word “damn” could be used as profanity. I didn’t like him and he made the group’s journey even more unbearable.

Pros:

The authors did a good job at presenting more conflict. Shit was going down in Akkadia. There were also issues going on with the group. All of these were interesting. Add in the main bad guy and the epilogue, something interesting is brewing.

I believe the authors intend on revisiting the world and that wouldn’t be too bad. However, I don’t know if I could handle Dathan or the “telling” whenever a journey is afoot.

Book 41 of 2015: Gorgeous Consort by E.L. Todd

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Standalone. No cliffhanger. HEA. Other books in the series can be read in any order.
Being an escort comes with predetermined rules that can never be broken.
No kissing, no feelings, and definitely, absolutely, no sex.
But what will Troy do when Harper, a beautiful blonde, walks into his life. Still suffering over the lost of his long-time girlfriend, Troy is trying to move on and find his place in life. He still doesn’t understand why the relationship ended or why she cheated. As a result, love is off the table.
When Harper hypnotizes him with her beauty, sass, and remarkable intelligence, what will he do? Will be able to keep his promise to himself?
Or will he break every rule?

I received this book by the author for an honest review.

Gorgeous Consort  is a standalone contemporary romance centering on the men of an escort company and the women who flip their world. This is the second in a series, but you don’t need to read the first one to understand this one.

Troy is a guy who likes to pretend he’s a playboy. Why? Because his heart was broken a while back and was never put back together. Harper is a girl who just wants her parents to stop comparing her to her model sister. The two make a deal to help each other out. Harper will help Troy get over that girl and Troy will pose as Harper’s boyfriend. Naturally, drama ensues.

The romance between the two wasn’t bad. It took a while for them to consumate and announce their feelings. I liked the progression and the speed it was going. It felt believable in that way.

However, I felt the book comprised mostly of dialogue. I wasn’t able to see what was going on, learn their mannerisms, fall in love with them as characters. It helped I read the first book where both play good supporting roles. I could see who they were in that book, but this one fell flat.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad romance, but it wasn’t a favorite.

Book 40 of 2015: Key of Creation: Journey to Khodara by M.D. Bushnell and A.R. Voss

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“Journey to Khodara,” second book of The Key of Creation series: Aldrick faces the most difficult decision of his life. Brodan, current regent and his life-long friend, has claimed he is the rightful king, and yet Gilmoure, who is a man with a secret, is the rightful holder of the crown. With the rule of Asturia on the line, who will Aldrick side with? Aldrick and his new-found companions, including a beautiful, mysterious warrior from the exotic desert lands to the south, must then face a long and arduous… …Journey to Khodara. Journey to Khodara is the 2nd book in the Key of Creation Series, which began with Rise of the Destroyer. The Temple of Kian, which concludes the first trilogy, is scheduled to be released on May 21st, 2013.

Journey to Khodara is the second book in The Key of Creation series. I received this book from the authors as a compilation of the first three books for an honest review.

My thoughts about this book is less than the first. Let me start by saying that the first book had a good amount of action and the characters were getting interesting. I was thinking they would center the series on Aldrick and so far, that is true. However, I had some reservations about the sequel.

The book starts off where the first one ended. We see the events of book one unfold slightly, but not enough to give the reader a clear picture of everything. Which is a pro to this series. I like that it’s an intricate unfolding. It adds suspense and gives the world some kind of leverage.

There are some new characters added into the series as well. We see more of Dathan, the soldier who is sent by King Zalaban to find Prince Garrick, as well as a wandering warrior woman named Aelianna. I believe she’s on a type of soul searching journey that entails finding a “lost prince”. Sure rings a bell.

What I didn’t care for in this book is the writing style, which is a shame since the first book was well done. This book felt more like a person sitting by the campfire telling the story than the reader living the experience with the characters. However, this doesn’t happen all the time. I’ve noticed that we are “told” what is going on when there is a group of people moving from point A to point B. When there is a moment going on in the cities or just with one individual, the “telling” isn’t often.

My guess this is because it’s harder to show a group doing something versus telling. Though this does make some sense, it loses it’s effect on the reader. I became bored and tired of the moments of “telling”, then dialogue, only to go back to “telling”. I found the chapters concerning Brodan or the mysterious evil to be more enjoyable because of this.

All in all, it wasn’t as good as the first one, but you may want to read it if you are planning on reading the rest of the series.

Book 39 of 2015: Beautiful Entourage by E.L. Todd

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Standalone. No Cliffhanger. HEA. Remaining books in the series can be read in any order.
Being a professional escort comes with its vices. To keep women from getting too clingy, stop them from dropping their panties, and silence them before they can blurt the L word, Rhett has made certain rules. He never breaks them.
Ever.
1. No Kissing.
2. No Feelings.
3. And definitely, absolutely, no sex.
But when Aspen, a beautiful brunette, hires him to help repair her image to her family, things get complicated. Rhett’s never had a problem separating work from pleasure. But now work and pleasure seem to be one and the same.

I received this book and the other four in the series from the author for an honest review.

I love E.L. Todd as an indie author. She churns them out like a crazy woman and her contemporary romance has great characters. Sure, there are a few that I liked less than others, but overall, I love her as an author.

That said, Beautiful Entourage was different from most of her books. Most of her books have a long series involved where you end with a cliffhanger and need to devour the next. What I love is that this one, and the others that follow it, are stand alones. You don’t have to read them in order. You aren’t going to get confused. You are still going to get the delicious drama, but it will end with the last word printed.

An interesting twist with this series is that it centers on a business of male escorts. Here’s the thing, they aren’t sexing up their clients and sometimes their clients aren’t asking for dates, but just a helpful ear. The idea is different from most of what I read by E.L. Todd and it instantly drew me in. I never thought of a romance series centering on an escort business, but it’s a fun concept, right?

Okay, so, I love this book. This is by far my favorite by Todd. Well, so far. I still need to read the other ones, but right now, my favorite by her. The characters are lovable, except for the ones meant to be nasty and they are great mean people too. I loved the connection and strength this book had on friendship and family. Todd is good with that.

Rhett is delectable and a sweetheart through and through. Which just makes him even more delicious. Aspen is a woman with a plan. She isn’t hardened and she’s not quite balls to the wall, but she has a strength of her own that shows she isn’t one to mess with.

The romance is a long one. You aren’t going to see them say “I love you” right away and the kiss doesn’t happen until later. That said, I loved that. I love romances that take a while to happen. It isn’t rushed and it feels natural.

I really don’t know what else I can say without giving more about the story. Just know that the characters are great and that the drama is wonderful, but not too over the top.

Book 38 of 2015: Key of Creation:Rise of the Destroyer by M.D. Bushnell and A.R. Voss

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It has been five centuries since a well-placed arrow put an end to the reign of terror brought by Sargon the Destroyer. Time passed, and the wounds of the land healed while magic was forgotten. Now, Aldrick and his family enjoy a peaceful journey to the Tournament of the King. He could never have imagined on that beautiful spring day, that his life was about to change, or that his destiny might be to face… …The Rise of the Destroyer.

 I received this book from the author for an honest review. Actually, I received it in a compilation of the trilogy, but I like the idea of breaking the large compendium into its separate parts for this review. That said, let me begin…

The Key of Creation is a fantasy trilogy. The first book, The Rise of the Destroyer, centers on Aldrick, an investigator from a small town.

What I liked about this book is that there is a number of mysteries added with an interesting world. As a reader, you aren’t going to get this long exposition about the world before even figuring out the main characters. Though I love LOTR, it was something I didn’t care for. Luckily, Voss and Bushnell don’t dwadle in exposition land. No, you are shoved right into the mystery and action.

The first mystery is what is going on with the country Illyria and how does that tie into the large scheme. You are introduced to this mystery very early on. Though you don’t get much on what is going on, the authors do give enough background (through mythic storytelling) to give you an idea of what may happen in the future.

The other and more pressing mystery are the deaths of nobles during a tournament. What I love about this tournament is that it is to determine who will be king. Pretty neat and not something usually done. I really liked that tidbit of the world. It gave the country a custom and added onto something more.

So, without giving anything away (hopefully), Aldrick, our main character, is trying to figure out mystery number 2. What’s great is that I’m not sure if all of mystery number 2 is its own mystery or a part of mystery number 1. That bit of secrecy is well placed and does keep me wondering.

Aldrick is an interesting character. Someone, a reviewer I read, compared him to Sherlock. Whereas I love Sherlock and Aldrick does solve crimes for a living, I wouldn’t say he’s a Sherlock. I liken him as his own type of crime solver. He does rely on his wits and knowledge, but even he is the first to admit that he isn’t going to know everything off the bat. He has humor and is very loving to his family. That dynamic and his lack of navigational skills make him an interesting and endearing character.

The other characters we are introduced to are equally as interesting and you can see their own quirks. However, it is Aldrick that this book centers on. I’m not sure about the other two, but that won’t be long.

In all, I liked the fact that this fantasy was more of a mystery in a fantasy setting. No, the mysteries haven’t been solved, but I believe that’s because they are integral to the rest of the series. With that, I actually welcomed the cliffhanger ending.

This is a short book that you do get pulled into. It has little things that strengthen the storytelling and make you want to know more about the world. I will be reading the other two books and luckily, I have them to read them.

Book 37 of 2015: Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington

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When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the school’s weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn’t be happier. For the first time ever, she has her own studio, her own supply of paints. Everything she could want.
Then she meets Malcolm Astor, a legacy student, a fellow artist, and the one person who’s ever been able to melt her defenses. Liv’s only friend at Wickham, fellow scholarship kid Gabe Nichols, warns her not to get involved, but life is finally going Liv’s way, and all she wants to do is enjoy the ride.
But Liv’s bliss is doomed. Weeks after arriving, she is viciously murdered and, in death, she discovers that she’s the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that has claimed many lives. Cursed with the ability to see the many ghosts on Wickham’s campus, Gabe is now Liv’s only link to the world of the living. To Malcolm.
Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham. But Liv must fight alone to come to grips with the ultimate star-crossed love.

I want to start this review off by saying that there is a small number of books that made me want to cry. The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of those books and now, I can claim Liv, Forever is another one.

This book seems to have it all. There’s teen angst, there are corrupted rich people, ghosts, serious creep value, and a romance that definitely pulls the heartstrings and makes you swoon. There is music and art. There is also the firm notion that being different is a great thing and shouldn’t be contained, but set free.

I got this book for the blurb alone. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I cracked it open. I was surprised. So surprised that I postponed another book I’m reading just to finish this one. It may not be rare for me to read a young adult book in a day, but one that had this much emotional value for me? I can’t pin another book down on that off the top of my head.

Liv Bloom is a introverted artist. She lives for her art. It’s the one thing that keeps her sane and alive. She’s a girl from a foster life turned adoption, but never felt truly alive aside from making art. Being a writer, I can understand her. I’m an introvert and I can’t even think of a day where I don’t want to write something. When you have a passion like that, you are special. But, does Liv feel special in her new prestigious school? Not so much.

Enter Malcolm. Yes, he’s cute and definitely a legacy kid. This guy is from money and it shows in his demeanor. However, there’s a simplicity to him; a Romantism to him (the “r” is capitalized for a reason). There’s more to him than the cute face or richly lined pockets. What’s even better is his eyes catch onto Liv.

Now, yes, there is a romance, but this isn’t a romance book. A romance book implies they end up together and that there is a happy ending. I don’t think I’m spoiling that Liv does die in the book. Within the first quarter in fact! You aren’t going to see them holding hands and planning out their future. HOWEVER, there is a Romantic (there’s that capital r again) and natural way to their relationship. I felt moved in a way that Romantic poetry moves me.

And here’s what I really love, the creep value and ghosts. YES! There are ghosts in this book. Every few chapters are divided into italized chapters where we learn the story of a few of the ladies. The manner of their deaths is integral to the story and adds on to the creepiness that is them. They are haunting and beautiful, damning and wonderful. Each girl’s story is heartbreaking in its own way.

This book paid homage to my favorite Romantic authors and some artists I’ve grown to love; all the while twisting a tale of conspiracy, murder, and a priveleged life. You feel the underbelly of a private boarding school that holds as many secrets as there are ghosts.

It didn’t really take long for me to figure out what was going on, but the way the book is written was like the way a painting is painted. You see the full story early on, but by looking at the different brushstrokes or observing a subject you find somehting you might just cast aside. The way Liv, Forever is written it is a journey of emotions and something deeper than the storyline. I can’t really place it.

Honestly, if you love ghosts stories, art, or even a young adult book that spurs so much emotion you don’t know where to place it; read Liv, Forever. I’m keeping my copy and I know it’s a book I’m going to want to revisit time and time again.