Bark's Book Nonsense

Stay chill, it's only a silly book review.

I read the good, the awful & all of the "meh" in the middle. Mostly horror & romance of all kinds.

Emphatic by Kaylee Ryan

Emphatic  - Kaylee Ryan, Jillian Macie, Nelson Hobbs

3 1/2 Stars

Emphatic is a sweet romance about a rock star and a beautiful girl next door type who fall madly deeply, emphatically in love but don’t truly get together until the book is almost finished. Their romance starts out hot and heavy but then turns into one of the slowest of slow burns I think I’ve ever read in this genre.



Logan has just graduated college and has wisely dumped her cheating loser of a boyfriend and is ready to start a new life and a brand new job. But first she heads to Hawaii with her best friend to celebrate and maybe have a well-deserved fling. There she meets a gorgeous hunk of friendly tatted up man who calls himself Michael (but is really named Kacen). A hot and heavy sexy time ensues. She leaves sated and ready to begin life as an adult but you’ll never, ever in a zillion years guess who her new boss turns out to be . . . Yep, that dusty old-school romance trope is shined up and put to use here. Things like this make me feel like I’ve read entirely too many books. If you can’t guess, you probably haven’t read enough romances yet so get going on that!

What follows is a very sweetly developed romance between Logan and the rock star who loves her to pieces from the first moment he meets her. Even though he can have anyone he chooses he thinks she is the most beautiful girl in the world and loves that she isn’t after him for the fame. He falls hard and fast and he never sways. She, however, has been emotionally wounded by her ex and fears the pain of getting entangled with anyone, never mind a gorgeous rock star so he must wait ‘til she comes around.



Do you think there is such a thing as a hero who is too emphatically in love? I didn’t think so until I read about this guy. He lavishes Logan with sweet (and often sappy) words, stolen butterfly kisses and he always seems to be hovering around with his undying devotion. Some girls love this kind of thing but I’m not that kind of girl and to me it was almost smothering. Maybe I’m just too old to appreciate that kind of touchy feely kind of loving especially when it’s one-sided for so long.



Narration Notes: The story is told in first person, alternating between Logan and Kacen’s POV and each have their own narrator. Logan’s narrator has a lovely voice which gets sultry when it needs to. She does justice to the male characters too. Kacen’s narrator has a soft southern accent which, at first, didn’t seem to fit and then I remembered/realized they were in Nashville so I went with it. Honestly though, I preferred the female narrator but I can see why they went with one for each POV because it would’ve been very confusing otherwise.

I liked the writing despite all of my complaints about the story. The author has an easy, down to earth style and though nothing truly exciting happens despite the fact that this book features rock stars (no drugs, no debauchery!), it was never boring – if that makes any sense. The characters were all decent people just falling in love and hanging around. If you want a sweet, slow-burn and like this kind of hero give it a go!

 

I received a copy of this unabridged audiobook from Tantor Media. Thank you Tantor, I hope you don't regret it!

Strangers of the Night: Touched by PassionPassion in DisguiseUnexpected Passion - Megan Hart

I'm reading a real book today since the IPad is not sun friendly. I didn't realize how much I missed holding an actual book in my hands!

Hell Cat of the Holt (a novella): supernatural horror in the Shadow Fabric mythos - Mark Cassell

Currently . . .

 

Patrick never lets me down!  And this, friends, is why I get very little reading done!

Two Spicy Freebies

Boo to you Amazon! The price drop filter is still missing but worry not dear friends, I found two promising freebies for you.

I've read Kiss of Moonlight by Stephanie Julian and it was some cheesy fun so I'm looking forward to An Indecent Proposal. I haven't yet read Andrew Grey but he has written a huge number of books and they get pretty high scores from my bookish friends.

 

An Indecent Proposition by Stephanie Julian
Erotic Novella 58 Pages
Amazon ♦ Goodreads
This is not just a love story, it's an obsession...

Two men. One woman. Half-a-million dollars.

Keegan and Erik want one night with the beautiful Julianne, but both men have scars, physical and emotional. Neither can believe Julianne will agree to take their money to spend one night with them. But they can hope...

Julianne has a mountain of debt and five-hundred-thousand dollars would go a long way toward clearing it and setting her up in a new life. All she has to do is sleep with a stranger. Make that two... 
 
&


Fire and Water by Andrew Grey
M/M Romance 200 Pages
Amazon ♦ Goodreads
Officer Red Markham knows about the ugly side of life after a car accident left him scarred and his parents dead. His job policing the streets of Carlisle, PA, only adds to the ugliness, and lately, drug overdoses have been on the rise. One afternoon, Red is dispatched to the local Y for a drowning accident involving a child. Arriving on site, he finds the boy rescued by lifeguard Terry Baumgartner. Of course, Red isn’t surprised when gorgeous Terry won’t give him and his ugly mug the time of day.

Overhearing one of the officer’s comment about him being shallow opens Terry’s eyes. Maybe he isn’t as kindhearted as he always thought. His friend Julie suggests he help those less fortunate by delivering food to the elderly. On his route he meets outspoken Margie, a woman who says what’s on her mind. Turns out, she’s Officer Red’s aunt.

Red and Terry’s worlds collide as Red tries to track the source of the drugs and protect Terry from an ex-boyfriend who won’t take no for an answer. Together they might discover a chance for more than they expected—if they can see beyond what’s on the surface. 

You're welcome!

Kindle Freebies today

Transformation - X. Aratare Forever Him (An Obsessed Novella Book 1) - Jeanne St. James

Amazon US

 

Transformation (Merman - I dare you to resist!)

 

Forever Him (An obsessed novella)

No Ifs, Ands, or Bears About It by Celia Kyle

No Ifs, Ands, or Bears About It - Celia Kyle

This book starts out adorably. Mia has just inherited her grampa’s home and is moving in when she discovers a baby bear cub running for cover.  He’s scared and, awww, he’s crying huge, scared-to-death tears. He’s no regular bear either. He’s a shifter cub.  She tries to soothe the baby bear but soon someone comes a-knocking. It’s the baby’s big, bad uncle and the cub is so terrified Mia decides to keep him (and by keeping him, I mean forever, seriously, she wants to keep him forever) and she tries ignore the clamor. Fortunately the police arrive after a nosy neighbor calls and this is how Mia meets Officer Ky.

 

Ky is also a shifter and leader of his clan. He is immediately smitten with a bad case of the insta-love for the curvy lady and tries to keep it professional but has a hard time controlling his urges. He wants her and he knows she wants him because he can smell her creamy desire . . .  They are drawn together and things are going great but then clan politics and baddies instigate to make their lives and new-found love difficult.

 

I don’t know how to say this kindly so I’m just going to be blunt. This book had zero romance development.  It relied almost entirely on the old “you were made for me, I was made for you” trope. Except in this case, it was more of the “my inner bear approves, that means you’re the One!”  If you like that, you’ll love and adore this book. Me? I’m grumpy and I need a pair to work for it. A little side of suffering never hurts either. I’d also like to get to know a bit about them in the process too. None of this happens here. The only thing keeping them apart were the clan wars, the fact that the clan members didn’t welcome Mia because she was too human and the constant coitus interruptus by clan members who kept busting in with some oh-so-important announcement or another. I need more than that for conflict and when I don’t get it this is the kind of review I have to write.

 

Narration Notes: The audio is read by Kendall Taylor. She has a happy, perky voice well suited to Mia and does a capable enough job with the many grumbly bear-men. She was great. In fact, if it weren’t for her narration, I know I would’ve put this down at the 50% mark.

 

I received a copy of this audiobook from Tantor Media. I hope they don’t regret it!

Reading progress update: I've read 51%.

The Fourth Monkey - J.D. Barker

This kids parents are NUTS and I'm loving it :)

So this amazing package arrived in my mailbox from author Megan Hart after I posted my review for Touched by Passion complaining about how Netgalley sent me a partial book. She contacted me via Twitter to see if I'd like to read the entire book and then she went and added in all of these other books. How awesome is she? Especially considering the fact that my review was, eh, honest. I always get a little nervous when an author contacts me after I write a review that is less than 5 stars (which is most of them) but she was gracious and generous when she could've easily ignored me or worse! Anyway, just wanted to let you all know that she's a good one :)  

Her Name in the Sky by Kelly Quindlen

Her Name in the Sky - Kelly Quindlen

This book started out so slow for me. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old and crotchety but reading about a group of beautiful, popular, well to do, catholic high school students getting reading for parties, ditching classes to get beignets and hanging out and getting drunk was not my idea of a good time. Nah, who am I kidding, it wouldn’t have been a good time no matter my age. I’ve always found this kind of thing boring. Give me messed up people and sticky situations any day. Somewhere along the line, maybe about a third of the way in, feelings started getting complicated and messy and I was finally all in for the angst and I am glad I stuck with it.

 

Hannah and Baker have always been the best of friends but in-between the pep rallies and beignets, Hannah starts to develop feelings for Baker, feelings she doesn’t want and doesn’t know how to deal with. She’s supposed to grow up and marry a boy. She's not supposed to fall in love with a girl.

 

Stuff and sexy times happen and that’s when things get really messy. Neither Hannah nor Baker are ready to admit that they might be falling in love and start doing what is “normal” and expected and begin dating boys but that only makes things oh-so-much harder for all of them. Oh the angst. I loved it.

 

It’s a raw and painful read and there is a lot of God talk (so if that’s not your thing, be warned) and the kids, as kids will do, make terrible choices that cause them so much inner torment. But it’s honest and the characters always felt real. Hannah, especially, feels incredibly genuine as she lashes out at those closest to her because she is in such a state of anguish over her feelings. Feelings she can’t share with anyone out of fear of being looked at differently. She tries in vain to wish it all away but life is never that easy.

 

I’m glad I stuck with the story, despite the draggy beginning, because it turned out to be a beautifully written book.

 

 

Narration Notes: Piper Goodeve has a youthful voice that suited both the female and male characters which is quite a feat. I always knew who was who even though there were many characters in their little circle of friends. If you're into audio, this is a good one!

 

I received an ARC from Tantor Media. Thanks, Tantor!

The Boyfriend Makeover by River Jaymes (audio version)

The Boyfriend Makeover  - River Jaymes

The Boyfriend Makeover is a sexed up book. If you’re listening on audio you might want to make sure you’re wearing headphones or at least close your car windows otherwise you risk scandalizing yourself to the nosy Parker’s at the stop light. There’s one section that is 30 minutes or so of straight up sexy time. I listened on the drive home from an appointment (with my windows closed and the volume turned waaay down just in case someone thought me a perv), when I got home I put in my headphones, cleaned the kitchen mess everyone had left for me (yes, I know you all want my glamorous life) and played with the dogs ‘til they were huffing and puffing and the couple were still going at it.

But it is about other things too . . .

Noah donates his time to charity events and lives off of a trust fund. He’s a charmer and a smart dresser and gets talked into making over a doctor for the “Bachelor Bid” at his upcoming event. Ky is a workaholic who prefers his cowboy boots, flannel and giant belt buckle to most anything else but he also loves his sisters and agrees to auction himself off after they talk him into it. He thinks the whole thing ridiculous and he’s very uncomfortable but he’s also a very good big brother. Awwww, Ky.

Noah, naturally flamboyant and a shameless flirt can barely contain himself when gorgeous Ky is around. Is he gay? Noah is determined to find out and find out he does . . .

This is a fun book. Noah’s dialogue is ridiculously funny and Ky balances him out. And their chemistry is something else! There’s some angst and some drama as Ky keeps his sexuality to himself for reasons. Reasons that I am not going to spill. Noah drinks too much and his humor masks some deep pain. He has some serious work to do on himself before the two will ever live out a HEA and I like that this book addresses it and doesn’t gloss over it. And then there’s sex. Whew, if you want a steamy read this one’s calling your name!

This is book #3 in a series and I’m sure I would’ve gotten more out of the appearance of the myriad number of friends who pop in and out of the story had I read their stories. It stood alone pretty good though so you’ll get none of my typical mid-series complaints here. Now I want to read the other books just to see what I’m missing.

Narration Notes: I have to say, as much as I loved the story and the characters and all their angst and sexy ways, I wasn’t too crazy about the narrator, Marc Bachmann. He sounded like a newscaster when not doing a character voice and something about his voice just didn’t seem to fit any of the characters. He’s professional and polished but maybe a wee bit too dramatic for this story, eh I don’t know. Instead of falling into the story his voice kept pulling me out.

I received a copy of this book directly from Tantor. Thanks Tantor!

Puss in Prada by Marie Jacquelyn

Puss in Prada - Marie Jacquelyn

This is an adorable little fable. It’s about a man named Alex who was turned into a talking cat by an irate witch. He’s been this way for a few years when the book begins and is living the cat life with his ex-boyfriend Ethan. Ethan was kind enough to take him in even though they were already broken up at the time because Alex was sassy, sarcastic, self-centered and snobby and an all-around dreadful boyfriend. Oh wait, he’s still all of those things! Except he’s no longer the boyfriend (that’d be too weird even for me) and now that he’s a cat, he makes good company for Ethan who prefers to stay in and watch tv after a long day of work. But Alex doesn’t want Ethan to turn into some lonely, antisocial cat man.



Not that there's anything wrong with that . . .



Still, it’s time for Ethan to put himself out there and find a boyfriend– even if the thought of Ethan with another man makes Alex a little queasy.

This story is simply delightful. If you are not a fan of m/m romances because most tend to be heavy on the angst and the sex, this is one that isn’t like the rest. It’s sweet and funny and I really enjoyed the characters. I think it will charm even those who think their heart is dead (not that I’d know anything about that . . .)

There is so much fun dialogue packed into this little novella but I think this line from Ethan describing cat Alex’s faults was my favorite.

"You also yell at the pigeons outside, watch too many cooking shows, and have a blog entirely dedicated to pictures of yourself."


Honestly, the only thing I’d change about this book is the cover. This is a book that features a talking cat who wears designer clothing and it has a generic cup of coffee on its cover? A pretty cup of coffee, sure, but seriously, what is up with that? So much opportunity squandered! I say ignore the cover and picture any of these dapper fellows on the cover instead.



Much better, right?

Touched by Passion by Megan Hart

Strangers of the Night: Touched by PassionPassion in DisguiseUnexpected Passion - Megan Hart

I requested a copy of this book from Netgalley because of the author’s previous book “Lovely Wild” . That was such a unique book. What I didn’t realize was that I was requesting only one novella in a collection called “Shadows of the Night”. From my 30 seconds of internet research, I learned there may be two other stories included in the book that I did not receive for review.



My review and my rating is for Touched by Passion and only for Touched by Passion. Sadly, this story feels like a set up for the other two and it left me hanging, not the main romance, but all of the woo-woo stuff. I have MANY questions and I hate when that happens. If you purchase the finished book you may not have any of my issues.

Because it’s roughly 100 pages, I’m going to keep most of my words to myself. Things start out fabulously with echoes of an X-Files-like plot. Samantha is a nurse (who may or may not really be a nurse) who is caring for a handsome young man who has special powers. Powers that make others very fearful of him. But she likes him and she doesn’t mind his not so covert touches to her bare skin as she examines him. His arousal kind of her turns her on, truth be told, and she takes her sweet time taking his vitals each day. Well, wouldn’t you?



Anyhow, he was apparently part of a cult where all of the children had super powers and he’s spent his life being a guinea pig and is nearing the end of his usefulness to the Powers That Be. Samantha may be the only one willing to save him.

What follows is some action, some scatterings of plot breadcrumbs and a rushed and rather disappointing sexy time but then again, I have been reading a lot of pervy books lately! It all ends rather abruptly, most likely because there are two other connected stories that I was not privy to. As a standalone? It doesn’t entirely work for me so I’m giving it a three.

Rescuing Finley by Dan Walsh (audio)

Rescuing Finley (A Forever Home Novel Book 1) - Dan Walsh

Rescuing Finley is a beautiful story about healing, second chances and the unconditional love of dogs. The best part for me was that Finley the dog was given his own point of view and he had a lot of thoughts that made me teary. I wish more writers would do that. I’d rather see the world from the dogs POV than through the eyes of some obnoxious human character.

Finley is a sweet but rowdy young golden retriever mix whose owner joins the military and leaves Finley with his mom who is not a dog person. Sad things happen and Finley ends up in a shelter, confused and depressed. His anguish is soooo hard to read but the author doesn’t linger there for long. Finley is chosen to join a prison program where female inmates train homeless dogs to become companions for soldiers with PTSD. He is paired with Amy, a young lady who messed up her life with a meth habit and poor choices. They both thrive in this program but will Amy be able to part with Finley when it’s graduation day?

The book is written pretty simply and cleanly (I later discovered Dan Walsh is a Christian author). There’s no fancy prose, humorous dialogue or action sequences that’ll make you hold onto your undies or whatnot but it worked for me. Sometimes simple is just right. When I say simple I don’t mean boring. If it were boring I’d tell you. But if you are not interested in dogs, dog training or the healing powers of love and dogs, this one might not be for you. There’s a lot of dog time here, probably why I loved it so much, as well as time spent going over training protocols, the prison dog training program and humane society intake rules, etc. Here and there I found the author repeating himself. This might’ve been more apparent to me because I was listening on audio and listening with my full attention for once!

Somehow this book manages to tackle difficult situations but it never gets too dark. There is a deep dive into the life of a soldier once he’s returned home from war and seen atrocities that follow and haunt but instead of dwelling in that dark space, this story is about how one man pulls himself out of it and decides to live his life again. The end wraps everything up in a nifty little bow which might’ve just gone a wee bit over the edge for me but you may or may not think so depending on your outlook on life.



Anyway, it’s a lovely read and the narration by Hillary Huber is excellent and very professionally done. She hits all the right notes with her performance and I have no complaints there.

*I received this book from Tantor Media. I hope they don’t regret it!

Threshold by Jordan L. Hawk

Threshold - Jordan L. Hawk


I listened to this book on audio and the narrator is not my favorite. I wasn’t thrilled with his performance in “Widdershins” and it was pretty much the same deal here. He simply has no oomph to his voice, there is very little to no emotion behind any of the words and I’m a reader who needs the oomph. I don’t enjoy having a story “read” to me. I need a performance. And it’s all about me, right? Anyway, this story is good enough for me to mostly ignore the sometimes awkward/sometimes stilted delivery and the lack of tone change in most of the character voices. Christine is done right though so that’s awesome.

This time lovebirds Griffin and Whyborne and their colleague Christine are investigating strange goings-on at a coal mine. There’s some humor, dastardly humans, some spicy love making, ancient monsters with pincers and surgical skills (yes! Gross but, yes, I loved it!). What more could I want in a story? Nothing, I tell you. Ok, maybe a little angst but that’s here too as the pair have their first real fight, face some insecurities and kiss and make up.

If you don’t like horror you will need to skim and think of this during the scary bits.


This is book #2 in the series and I most definitely recommend reading them in order so you can watch the main couple fall in love and solve their first really weird case in Widdershins. I don’t follow many series because I’m too lazy to keep track of them but this is one that calls to me. I may read the rest in paper format though unless I hear that the narration gets a whole hell of a lot better . . .

Strays by Garrett Leigh

Strays - Garrett Leigh

Strays is a sexy little romance with a slight hint of danger. I needed a mini horror break but wasn’t in the mood for hearts and unicorns and this one came through for me.

Nero splits his time working at several restaurants. His life consists of waking, prepping, cooking and sleeping and he likes it that way. He’s grumpy and a workaholic and his routine keeps him from thinking too hard about anything – especially about that awful thing in his past. His grumpiness keeps most people at arm’s length which is just fine by him. When his boss (who he owes) asks him to take in a stray named Lenny his routine is about to get all kinds effed up.

“Keep Lenny close, if you can. Don’t let him be scared.” What the fuck did that mean?

Lenny is on the run from a persistent, super creepy stalker whose last letter to Lenny included Lenny’s own blue painted toe-nail clipping (ugh). The cops won’t help and he has no family support so when his kind boss finds him a safe place to land and a new place to work, he doesn’t turn down the offer. Had he known he was going to be holed up with such a prickly dude he might’ve reconsidered.

As Nero shows him the ropes, the two become friends and Nero (who is bi) finds himself wildly attracted to Lenny and quickly gets used to him being around. Wherever Nero is, Lenny is but their fast friendship and obvious adoration of each other might not last if Nero continues to keep his guard up even when it comes to Lenny. And, of course, there’s that nasty stalker . . .

Lenny is an open book and easily shares his past hurts and life with Nero and finds Nero’s crabbery amusing. He’s vibrant, artistic, sassy and used to be the life of any party. Now he’s afraid to look outside. Nero doesn’t know what to make of him and all of these feelings he’s stirred up.

Nero hung up and stared at his phone screen, wondering why Lenny’s voice twisted his insides so much. He’d started walking again while they’d talked, but he drifted to a stop now, feeling somehow . . . lighter? What the actual fuck? Nero was used to trudging through life under a cloud of temper and sarcasm, his only shield between him and a world that had fucked him over more times than he could count, not spinning giddily because of the way a bloke he hardly knew said his name.

Ah, poor Nero is a goner.

I really enjoyed this book and both of the main characters. Nero is young but very much like a crabby old man and he does not care.

"Sorry I screeched at you.”

“Don’t be. I’m a dick.”


He’s like many people I’ve met in real life and I can easily picture him as an old guy screaming at brats to get the hell off his lawn. His thoughts, his cursing and his whole way of dealing with people were very real and often funny to me. People are annoying and Nero doesn’t hide his annoyance with them. The romance builds naturally out of friendship and doesn’t suffer from the dreaded insta-lust/love thing that drives me insane. Together they are lovely and somehow their very different personalities work together.

This is book 2 in the "Urban Soul" series and there are appearances by characters from a previous book but it stood on its own just fine. I hate mid-series books that don’t make sense unless you’ve read them all and this isn’t one of them.

I may even seek out the first book now.

Currently reading

Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
The Girlfriend by Michelle Francis
Behold! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders by Doug Murano
Conjesero by Carl Alves, Carl Alves, Steve Rausch, Steve Rausch
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Progress: 110/320pages
A Bed of Spices by Barbara Samuel