Book Review: Sparrow – L. J. Shen

synopsis single

Troy Brennan

Every southie in Boston knows that name. The son of a dead mobster. The heart throb with steel blue eyes. “The Fixer” who can make or break you in this city. 

Oh, and my new husband. 

Sparrow Raynes

That’s me. No one seemed to remember my name up until he barged into my life. 
But then he caged me.
Kidnapped me.
And killed every chance I had to runaway from the place where we grew up.
Put simply, Troy Brennan clipped my wings.

I have dreams, big ones, but I doubt he’d ever let me chase them. I have no idea why he’d decided to take me as his wife. But I do know this: pissing off this man will not do me any good. At all.


Warning Label Copied From Goodreads
Sparrow is a standalone, full-length novel. It contains graphic violence and adult situations some may find offensive.

 

My Thoughts 2

I think I would have had a different reading experience if I had read `Sparrow` by L. J. Shen before I read the authors other, more recent mafia romance novel The Kiss Thief. 

I enjoyed reading `Sparrow`. I liked how dark it was and how vivid the author had Sparrowpainted her scenes for her readers. The only thing that bothered me ( and this is just my personal feeling ) was that I felt this  one wasn´t as strong as The Kiss Thief. If I compare the two books ( which I can because they´re very much alike ) I can say that `Sparrow` felt more like a test version for me. And this isn´t a negative thing.

 

What I appreciated most…

  • The writing. L. J. Shen is a master of her craft. Her stories are clear and straight forward. The author’s ability to create just enough angst to keep a reader on the edge of their seats is great. Good writing is the key to good story telling.

 

  • The story. I´m a sucker for mafia romances. Everything is fierce. Fierce love. Fierce hate. Fierce relationships…  In `Sparrow`everything was fierce and dangerous. I didn´t quite get the Scarface – Tony Montana vibes but there were some things I really liked about the mafia world the author created.

 

 

Unfortunately, the good always comes with the stuff I didn´t quite like:

 

What I didn´t appreciate…

  • The characters lack of feelings. This is not to say they were emotionless. The Hero and Heroine had their fair share of feelings but for me, this couple… they were too tough. Tough cookies are great but I need that emotional balance. I clearly saw the affection these characters had for each other and I understood how these people came to be who they were but I needed some softness to even out the toughness.
  • The ending. There was nothing wrong with the ending. It was completely fine. Just not something I like to see happen for characters. The ending wasn´t for me.

 

With that being said – I still enjoyed `Sparrow`. I think it´s a great, exciting dark romance with juicy bits that´ll get any romance reader hooked.


Would I recommend this book? Yes.

Would I reread this book? Probably, yes. There are parts that are totally reread worthy.


 

The Cover – 2 Stars:  The flames. I´m not sure why they needed to be on the cover because the wing works wonders on it´s own. The blue background, the black feathers with the white font would have been a total eye catcher.

The Story – 4 stars:  What can I say that I haven´t said already? I liked it. Dark, gritty, fierce and sexy.

The Characters – 3 stars:  That extra softness was missing. But other than that I enjoyed their characters.

My emotional state after finishing this read:  Satisfied.

 

3 stars

 

You can purchase `Sparrow` by L. J. Shen by clicking here.


 

Thank you for reading. I hope you have a lovely day.

Much love,

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Book Review ( Before & After ): Dirty Angels ( #1 ) – Karina Halle

synopsis single

For Luisa Chavez, a twenty-three year old former beauty queen, a better life has always been just out of her reach. Sure, she’s had men at her feet since she was a young teenager but she’s never had the one thing she’s craved – security. Having grown up in near poverty, her waitressing job in Cabo San Lucas can barely let her take care of herself, let alone her ailing parents. Every day is another unwanted advance, every day is a struggle to survive.

When Salvador Reyes, the depraved leader of a major Mexican cartel, takes an interest in her, Luisa is presented with an opportunity she can’t afford to pass up. She’ll become Salvador’s wife and exchange her freedom and body for a life of riches – riches she can bestow upon her deserving parents. But Luisa quickly finds out that even the finest wines and jewels can’t undo the ugliness in her marriage, nor the never-ending violence that threatens her every move.

Soon, Luisa is looking for an escape, a way out of the carefully controlled life she’s leading. She finally gets her wish in the worst way possible.

As it is, being the wife of Salvador makes her an ideal target for rival cartels and there’s one particular man who needs Luisa as part of his cartel’s expansion. One particular man whose quest for power has destroyed lives, slit throats and gotten him out of an American prison. One particular man who will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants.

That man is Javier Bernal. And he wants Luisa. He wants to take her, keep her, ruin her.

Unless she ruins him first.


 

***WARNING***

This book deals with drug cartels and as such it contains a lot of sex and violence and some violent sex. It can get pretty ugly, pretty dark and pretty crazy. There is drug use, abuse, a bit of torture and dubious consent. The hero is not a hero and the villains…well, they’re even worse. If this sort of thing bothers you, PLEASE DO NOT READ IT. This ain’t no cupcake farting unicorn kind of book. If you are even a bit squeamish about violence, brutality and rape, this is your warning to stay away from a book that you certainly will not like (and why read books that you know you won’t like?)

 

Copied from the `Dirty Angels`( Dirty Angels #1) book description on Goodreads

 


 

before and after

 

It´s been close to 5 years when I first laid my hands on this gem. Back in 2014 I was all hot and bothered to read this promising and much talked about dark romance.

Word had it ( back then ) that `Dirty Angels`was the latest shocker. Dirty, filthy, brutal and just one of those reads where you get riled up, all while falling helplessly in love with the romantic clusterfuck. dirty angels

Love / hate. Despise / adore. Exciting / shocking. `Dirty Angels` was that all that and so much more.

I´ve always been a sucker for gritty romances. The more triggers dark romances had the more intrigued I was. Did I get my money´s worth? Did my fellow book bloggers promise too much when they said this book should be approached with caution? Yes. YES. Y. E. S!

32 year old me loved this read. I remember the overnighter I pulled because I couldn´t put the book down. I remember suffering a week long book hangover after I finished the book. I remember calling my husband at work, telling him I needed to find more books like `Dirty Angels`.

I even found my 2014 review on my old blog! You´re welcome.

 

review old
Please excuse the review. It´s old and orange. Don´t know what was wrong with me back then. 

 

See? Literally the slow motion train wreck you couldn´t pull your eyes away from.

Back in 2014 I gave `Dirty Angels`( Dirty Angels #1 ) by author Karina Halle 5 out of 5 stars champagne glasses.

 

5 years later…. 

 

37 year old me decided it was time to do some `Dirty Angel`rereading. It´s been a while and I wanted to know if I still felt the same.

In a way- I do. My general feelings for the story haven´t changed. I still believe the story is just as great as it was back in 2014. For me, this book is a timeless dark romance because it still tugs at all the “right” emotional strings. Even 5 years later I still feel very strong for the characters and what they´ve been put through.

 

Do I think this book is worth the warning label? The answer to that is complicated.

2014 was the year for dark romances. Authors were testing new waters and began publishing the “mind fuck” stories. Didn´t bother me one bit. But in 2014 there weren´t many offended readers. The triggered groups were smaller. Also, in 2014 reviews looked a little different. You either enjoyed the brutal romance or you didn´t. You either accepted the warning and felt warned or you didn´t.

These days, a book can´t have enough warning labels because there are far too many reviewers who are easily offended by the slightest event.

 

I can say, without a shred of doubt, that `Dirty Angels` by Karina Halle is still a fucking awesome twisted dark romance. One readers should treat as a work of fiction.

 


Would I recommend this read? 32 year old me would have. 37 year old me still would. I still think it would be wise to trust the warning label, though. Not everyone treats certain topics as casually as I do.

Would I reread this book? Already have.


 

The Cover – 3 Stars:     I can´t remember what I thought of the cover back in the day but now… I don´t really think it´s mind blowing. Fitting for the story, sure.

The Story – 5 Stars:     This is what I enjoy. This is how I expect my dark romances to be like. Shocking, graphic and full of “Oh hell no!”

The Characters – 5 Stars:   Nothing has changed. Javier is still a bastard I appreciate and Luisa is, by far, one of the strongest characters ever created. Bad ass all the way!

My emotional state after finishing this read- 2014: Impressed. 2019: Entertained.

 

5 stars

 


 

`Dirty Angels`can be purchased on  Amazon.com

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Review-Grievous ( Scarlet Scars #2 ) by J. M. Darhower

Book Description

Once upon a time, there was a girl who stopped believing in fairy tales after her innocence was stolen.

Morgan Myers is tired. So damn tired. Most people either push her around or brush her off, and she’s not putting up with it anymore. Determined to reclaim the life that had been stolen from her, she puts her trust in the last person she ever expected to: the notorious they call Scar. Morgan sees a side of him that few people seem to know—the man, not the myth. Lorenzo. And what she sees, she likes, a lot more than she thought she would.

But fairy tales aren’t real, as life likes to remind her. Some dragons, you just can’t slay, no matter how hard you fight them. And when hers comes back around, breathing fire, she’s forced to face some unimaginable horrors. But there’s a white knight in combat boots out there that isn’t afraid of monsters.

You see, it’s impossible to be afraid of something you see every day in the mirror.

My Thoughts

** ARC kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest review **

And God said, „ Thou shalt not fall in love with a fictional criminal, especially with one who´s lost all his fucking marbles.“

But, hot damn!! I´m already so truly, madly, deeply in love with Lorenzo „ Scar“. I can´t help myself. He´s probably the worst and deadliest passionate nutcase I´ve ever encountered in a book, yet here I am, a 34 year old woman, desperately wanting to become apart of Lorenzo´s world. * ugly cry* ( I definitely have to think about what went wrong in my life…* cracking up* )

The story of Lorenzo and Morgan continues. * pulling hair * And just why did everything have to end? I mean- it sure as Hell felt like the end. I´m a mess. I don´t want to be a mess. I´m supposed to be happy but I´m not. I feel like the author gave me a gift and ripped it away again with the final words of the story. Damn it. That woman better keep on writing or I´ll turn into an even greater mess, suffering from an odd book hangover for only God knows how long.

( Need to get back to the story )

Where were we? Aah, yes. The story continues with Morgan still trying to get her child back from Kassian, the head of the russian mafia. And much to Lorenzo´s delight he helps Morgan. But one does not simply walk onto russian mafia territory and kidnap the prize. No. Getting back Morgan´s child proves to be a difficult matter and it takes a whole lot of craziness to get the job done.

When two mafia bosses collide… shit´s about to get ugly.

The story was intense, ruthless and so damn awesome.

Lorenzo was his logical / illogical self, doing unpredictable stunts at every turn… all while looking like a sexy, imperfect God. I shit you not- you never knew when he was going to kill someone or not or when he was going to be civilized. The important thing to know was- never fuck with him, especially when he was in his library ( I´m going to miss reading about that room.). So, his previous boredom from the first book ( Menace ) has vanished and he was happily occupied with half blindly swinging his gun at people.

`Grievous` is packed with action, tension, betrayal, sex ( which is mighty fine, if you ask me), death, suspense, forgiveness and above all- love.

The romance between Lorenzo and Morgan is not what you´d expect. No typical knight in shining armor, not damsel in distress story. What we´ve got here is a „ You´re fucking nuts, I´m not that crispy either but we got something good going.“ type of romance. AWESOME! So different from all the other love stories I´ve read so far.

There was one line, one moment in the story where I completely lost it.

„ Morgan,“ he says, his voice quiet as he whispers my name….. „Open your eyes, baby.“

You might think that those few words aren´t really special but when you read the story and get to know these people and read what they went through together you understand the significance of those words. And when you do I dare you not to let out a little noise of disbelief. * sigh * So touching and just….$/()(/%&$%§“§$§%$&%/& Everything after that just clicks into place and you KNOW. You just know.

And the end….Holy Heaven! I loved it. I can´t say anything about it without giving the story away so you´ll just have to take my word for it. It´s so satisfying.

I might be a little over enthusiastic about this story but I don´t care. I´m in love and that might never change. This is my favoite story written by my new favorite author.

I recommend this story to everyone who wants some adventure in their romance.

The Cover – 3 stars ( Meeh, not feeling this cover much.)

The Story – 5+ stars ( I´d need to write an extra review for another round of love gushing. Great read. I´ll have to get myself the paperbacks for my sacred bookshelf )

The Characters – 5+ stars ( I love how crazy these folks acted and how normal they thought their lives were. Lorenzo is a brilliant character. )

My emotional state after finishing this read – I want to high five the author for writing such a brilliant story.

I´m giving `Grievous` ( Scarlet Scars #2 ), by the awesome J. M. Darhower, 5 out of 5 stars

Check out my review for  Menace ( Scarlet Scars #1 )

grievous To purchase this book all you need to do is go on over to Amazon.com ( or just click here ) and buy the book. Seriously. You´ll love it.  Trust me.

Menace ( Scarlet Scars, Book 1 ) – J. M. Darhower

Book Description

Once upon a time, there was a guy who got so fed up with life that he resorted to murder and mayhem just to feel alive.

Lorenzo Gambini is bored. So fucking bored. Most people either annoy him or avoid him, afraid to face him. Figuratively. Literally. With his face partially disfigured, scarred, he looks every bit the monster the stories make him out to be: the notorious menace they call Scar. They say he’s a sociopath. Maybe he’s a psychopath. Whatever path he’s on, people tend to stay far away from it.

Until one day, a young woman bumps right into him–a woman just as fed up with life, but for much different reasons. With a Scarlet Letter inked on her wrist and secrets buried deep in her soul, Morgan Myers is running from something… or maybe somebody. Lorenzo isn’t quite sure.

You can bet your ass he’s going to figure it out, though.

** ARC Kindly Provided by The Author In Exchange For An Honest Review **

My Thoughts

Dear readers, I´m in story heaven!

Bless J. M. Darhower, for that woman is one hell of a storyteller. I went through 346 pages of brilliant holy shitballs! Damn, what a story. `Menace` ( Scarlet Scars, Book 1 ) by J. M. Darhower has definitely earned a place on my sacred „Fuck Yeah!“ bookshelf.

This story is even more nail-bite-worthy than the `Monster In His Eyes` series was ( and I LOVED that story / series to bits ). `Menace` is brutal, unforgiving, captivating, unpredictable, dark, sexy as hell and filled with action. Exactly what I want in a book.

Still- I´d like to remind that this story comes with a small warning.

Scarlet Scars contains dark elements that some readers may find disturbing“

The warning is there for a reason. Although none of the dark elements disturbed me, I´m sure they could bother other readers.

Lorenzo „Scar“ Gambini, a twisted, ruthless killer / mafia boss gets bored out of his wits until he finds someone who brings the spark back into his boring world ( That, alone, screams „READ ME“ because which mafia boss ever gets bored?).

We meet Lorenzo in `Targets On Our Backs`, and even then I was 100% convinced that the passionate nutcase needed his own book. Lorenzo was so bat shit crazy and unpredictable, even I was terrified for the other characters lives.

There´s no doubt Lorenzo is one of the most mental Heros I´ve ever come across. He´s impulsive and completely disturbed and he can be scary as hell. On the flip side- Lorenzo is a clever guy with a heart hidden somewhere beneath the many layers of crazyness. He always has a good explanation for his actions ( and the explanations make sense * face palm * ). He´s just a super complex character you have to love ( no matter what crime he commits ) That character is so full of surprises.

Morgan / Scar ( Heroine )was just as out of this world cool. She has her own package to carry but she´s still a wonderful character. I fell in love with her from the start and loved her even more at the end.

I´m in love. There isn´t a thing I can complain about because this book has the whole package.

The writing is as brilliant as I expected it to be. The dialogue is fantastic. Have I forgotten to mention how in love I am? I have? Tough shit. I´ll say it over and over again just so you won´t forget it.

If you´re looking for something dark, something twisted and so full of everything then I highly recommend this intense read.

Totally re-read worthy. 

The Cover – 3 stars ( Yeah, I´m not a huge fan of the cover. )

The Story – 5 stars ( Scratch the 5 stars. I´m going for 20 stars!)

The Characters -5 stars ( * Way cool. Like- out of this world screwed up but still cool )

My emotional state after finishing this read – Still recovering. But I desperately want to become apart of Lorenzo´s gang. ( That sounds weird, I know. )

stars15

I´m giving `Menace` ( Scarlet Scars, Book 1 ) by J. M. Darhower 5 out of 5 stars.

Release date: January 16. 2017.

Make sure to get your copy on Amazon.com menace

Target on Our Backs ( Monster in His Eyes #3 ) – J. M. Darhower

Book Description

The best way to keep your word is never to give it.

Not long ago, in a chapel in Vegas, I swore to love Karissa for the rest of my days. But nobody’s promised an infinite number of tomorrows. Nobody’s promised forever. Sometimes, all we have left is today.

Carpe Diem
Seize the day.

It should’ve been over, we should’ve been happy, but people are making it hard for me to live in peace. I’ve got so much blood on my hands they’ll never be clean, and somebody out there seems to want me to pay for it. Happily Ever After always comes at a cost, one any real man would be willing to pay. But that doesn’t mean I’m just going to roll over and accept these consequences.

Because when it comes to the woman I love? The life I’ve fought for?

Nobody is safe. 

My Thoughts

Oh Ignazio, Ignazio.. How you´ve changed-  A little, or alot. I´m not sure. You´re confusing me.

`Target on Our Backs` by J. M. Darhower is the 3rd and hopefully the last of the `Monster in His Eyes` series. It´s been a while since I read `Monster in His Eyes ( book #1 review) and Torture to Her Soul ( Book #2 review) and my love for J. M. Darhowers character´s has lessened.

I mean- how can a reader unlove perfection?! Ignazio „Naz“ is one of those mind-blowing, unforgettable Heros. Badass and deadly in the finest way possible. Karissa is a strong young lady with good head on her shoulders- Together they´re one hell of a dynamic duo no matter what they go through. How is it possible to find these figures less powerful than they were?

In the beginning of this book the characters acted different.

I started and finished `Target on Our Backs` in one sitting and I was semi-happy with the way the story turned out. I was glad about the happily ever after. The rest was- good. Great. Fine.

What I love most about this series is how dangerous and mysterious the characters are and what they do to survive. We´re talking about the mob here and about 1 person who´s the ultimate killing machine ( or- he once was). Naz. In book 1 & 2  Naz was THE person no one fucked around with. When he wanted someone dead then that was it. There was no running from him. A cool, collected killer with so much love for Karissa.

In this book he made an effort to change. He wanted out of the business, wanted to try to become a better person for Karissa ( the key word is: try). But as it was- events happened and Naz was starting to disappear at night just to get some „ business“ done or taken care of.

I was sort of relieved that Naz started sneaking out because I thought the role fit him better than the role of a normal husband. He´s supposed to be the monster. Monsters don´t retire.

It didn´t take long before Naz realized he was being targeted by someone. But who? And why? Wasn´t Naz on the right track? Didn´t he want to change for Karissa?

`Target on Our Backs` is a rollercoaster ride of wanting to do the right thing but fucking up along the way. A brutal, romantic, sexy, emotional read.

Despite all the above I do have small complaints. The sex in this story- let´s say they´ve had better. I knew from book #1&2 that Naz had a hard edge to his persona and he wasn´t the lovey dovey type… but one scene in particular did nothing for me. It left me questioning the character. Some things aren´t to my liking and that special thing was included in this book.

Plus- I find the term „ submissive“ pretty boring. It´s been used to describe how Karissa is in bed and for some reason I´m just turned off by it.

I mean- is there a story out there that hasn´t gotten rid of the word yet? Everyone is using „submissive“ or some character is „submissive“….. It´s getting old. It´s obvious that a couple can´t function correctly when both are fully dominant. The visual alone is hilarious. Why point it out all the damn time?

Another thing that made me frown was the end. Book #1 and #2 both ended with a big bang. What happened with this one? Where did the spark go? I was thinking „ That´s it?“The end was too quick. Within a blink of an eye it was there and disappeared. POOF!

Anyways- `Target on Our backs` was a cool addition to the first 2 books. Maybe not as eventful, but still a good and exciting read.

The Cover- 3 stars ( Yeah, no. I´m not convinced. The image doesn´t stand out enough and if I wasn´t fully aware of this being the third book of my all time favorite series I wouldn´t have bothered)

The Story- 4 stars ( There were fantastic parts and not so fantastic parts. )

The Characters- 3 stars ( I would have loved to see Naz struggle more with his „ trying to be better“. It seemed like he had less trouble. Karissa, I loved. The sub-characters were okay. )

My emotional state after finishing this story– Happy and a tiny bit disappointed.

stars-16

I´m giving `Target on Our Backs` ( Monster in His Eyes #3) by J. M. Darhower 3 out of 5 stars

This book can be purchased at Amazon.com   target-on-our-backs

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