What happened to 2015?!

book meme 6So…wow! The year’s end already? I’m a bit stunned, but also grateful. Some years whoosh by like a snowplow burying me under, but this year I’ve had the opportunity to read some really fun books, travel and interact with fantastic authors and review-types, like myself, and enjoy many moments along the way.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I also write, and I’m at the point of sending out a manuscript to agents coming next week. Fingers crossed that I’ll have the chance to promote some of my own fiction one day soon!

Book meme 3For the blog, I’ve gotten some great stats. Nearly 13,000 pages views this year. Not bad for a relatively unknown chick who drones on and on about books. If you’ve signed up to get my posts emailed, you’re in good company–140 of you special folks right now. Thanks for joining me on this madcap escapade! Lots of people are finding my reviews, and reading them/sharing them. I appreciate that so much, because it’s not easy reading and writing content to support the blog. It takes hours and hours each day, in fact. My hubs will attest he’d much rather I gave (most of) it up, so I could just sit and veg out watching TV with him…crossing his fingers that that might ever happen. TV is not really my thing.

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Goodreads tells me I read 375 books this year, but it’s been more. I didn’t log all my reads, though there are few that didn’t get reviews there. I have had a great time working with Joyfully Jay Reviews, picking up some excellent reads through their platform and generally interacting with those lovely folks. Authors have reached out to me and I’ve reached back, supporting their fiction in the best way I can. That’s a wonderfully rewarding experience, emotionally, and helps my pocketbook from getting TOO frayed. Yes, there are books that I do buy, and I cherish all my books–whether they were purchased or gifted for my review.

As this is a year’s end recap, it’s apt to highlight some books/series that got into my brain in the past 12 months.

Best read of the year:
No question it was CARRY THE OCEAN by Heidi Cullinan. This book touched my soul and left it altered for the better. Having suffered depression in my life, and having close friends/family with kids on the Autism Spectrum, this plain-spoken M/M romance between a brilliant autistic man and his depressive neighbor was spectacular.

Best YA read:
NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST by Eric Lindstrom. Touching tale of an orphaned blind girl who learns to “see” everyone she knows in the best light–even herself.

Best YA series:
I’ve really enjoyed reading the Backstage Pass series of contemporary YA romances between the members of the boy band Seconds To Juliet and the smart, worthwhile girls the boys all fall for. There are five books in the series, and I think I reviewed 4 of them…
Abby and the Cute One, Mia and the Bad Boy, Anya and the Shy Guy, Daisy and the Front Man.

Book Meme-1Best Adrenaline Rush:
KICK AT THE DARKNESS by Keira Andrews, a zombie apocalypse M/M romance kept me glued to my iPad long into the night, and the next day.

Best SciFi series:
I’ve really enjoyed the AI world carved out by Susan Kaye Quinn’s Legacy Human series. It’s a bit dystopian, a bit tech and a bit romance. And I love all those bits! Looking forward to reading more of this in 2016. THE LEGACY HUMAN, THE DUALITY BRIDGE, STORIES OF SINGULARITY.

Best contemporary New Adult series:
Karen Stivali’s Moments in Time series is really a must read for me. This is a contemporary M/M romance which is emotional and sexy, at the same time. I’ve loved all four Moments books so far, and eagerly anticipate the next release. MOMENT OF IMPACT, MOMENT OF TRUTH, MOMENT OF CLARITY, and MOMENT OF SILENCE.
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Best Paranormal Romance:
THE SECRET CASEBOOK OF SIMON FEXIMAL by KJ Charles rocked my world and set it right again. Historical M/M paranormal romance that kept me turning the page long after I went to bed.

Most Resilient Heroines: (Teen)
Ivy in THE REVOLUTION OF IVY by Amy Engel–She takes on her entire desolate town and finds the true love of her life. YA dystopian.

Lulu in MY BEST EVERYTHING by Sarah Tomp. West Virginian high school senior Lulu’s college fund has dried up, but she can’t bear to stay in her small town any longer. So, she enlists the help of Mason to make a fortune selling illegal moonshine. YA contemporary.

Morgan La Fey in SWORD by Realm Lovejoy. Morgan kidnaps a prince, drags him through the swamps of Camelot and helps him find Excalibur–all to thwart a murder plot. And her execution? Wow. YA fantasy.
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Best Action/Adventure:
I AM THE TRAITOR is the final installment in the Unknown Assassin series by Allen Zadoff. You really need to strap in and read I AM THE WEAPON and I AM THE MISSION, first. You’ll thank me. YA contemporary.

Best Enemies to Lovers:
TO LOVE A TRAITOR by JL Merrow really flipped all my historical British M/M romance switches…
Christmas Romance
IF ONLY IN MY DREAMS by Keira Andrews took two battered hearts and shoved them into a car on a cross-country trek to make it home in time for Christmas. Swoon.

Best erotica:
The CAUGHT ON CAMERA series by Lily Harlem is spectacular M/M romance. Just loved all the sexy sexy bits, and the romance that developed between two new-to-porn stars on a filming trip was tender and lovely.

Best Menage:
THREE TWO ONE by JA Huss. Hot and chilling, by turns. This is a dark romance and not everyone makes it out alive.
SHARING A POND by Alex Whitehall. Frog Shifters. Pretty much knocked me out. Not the sexytimes, as those were satisfactory, but the emotional issues were excellent, and I’ve got a thing for frogs, I think.
Historical M/F/M:
THE MISTRESS AND HER MEN by Julia Talbot. A sassy widow and a daring nobleman–plus some BDSM? Yes, mistress!
Historical M/M/M:
RITE OF SUMMER by Tess Bowery was so loving and tender, and troubled.

Best Near Historical:
IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT by Judy Blume, historical fiction featuring her true-life experience of living in a town where three airplanes crashed within 59 days of each other. Harrowing!

Best Recovery Story:
CLEAN by Mia Kerick. This one gave me chills. M/M YA romance between two guys who’ve been down and out and almost didn’t make it.

book-meme-8Best Subculture:
Who knew the Amish would captivate me? I adored Keira Andrew’s M/M Amish Romances A FORBIDDEN RUMSPRINGA, A CLEAN BREAK, and A WAY HOME. They really touched my heart.

Honestly, I could go on for blogs, and blogs. But I won’t; books to read, books to write after all! That said, I’m looking forward to sharing reviews for great books in the coming year and I hope you’ll enjoy reading along with me.

Feel free to send me your recommendations. Goodness knows, I’ll probably pick it up. (Fiction, and preferably romance-ish, though. I don’t review non-fiction, memoir or cookbooks.)

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!
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Cephalopod Coffeehouse May 2015–I AM THE TRAITOR

Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

As part of the Coffeehouse I’m sharing the best book I read this month, and it was the concluding book in Allen Zadoff’s Unknown Assassin series, I AM THE TRAITOR. Last summer I read both I AM THE WEAPON (originally published as BOY NOBODY) and I AM THE MISSION, and found the fast-paced stories about a 16 y/o government assassin to be pretty kickass. I was offered an advanced reviewer copy of this book, and I devoured it.

I Am the Traitor (The Unknown Assassin, #3)About the Book:
In the third and final installment in the Unknown Assassin trilogy, Boy Nobody is on the run from The Program and uncovers a secret about his past that forces him to decide where his loyalties lie.

The Program has sent Boy Nobody on countless missions, instructed to kill whichever target he was given. But now, after going rogue, he is on his own mission to rescue his friend Howard who was captured by The Program. Boy Nobody manages to free Howard as well as Tanya, a mysterious girl who was being held with him. Howard and Tanya help Boy Nobody collect information about his father, eventually revealing a dangerous secret that teaches Boy Nobody a valuable lesson — he can’t trust anyone.

My Review:
This is the third book in a series, and books should be read in order.

This book picks up where I AM THE MISSION left off, with Zach still trying to determine if his father is dead, and to hunt down and recover his friend, Howard. Howard became friends with Zach in book one of the series, and helped him run his op in book two–all without the knowledge or consent of The Program, the government agency that procures, trains and manages this group of elite teen assassins to which Zach has belonged for five years. Ever since his father was killed.

Over the course of the books, Zach’s confidence in The Program–and his handlers Mother and Father–has slipped. Howard was Zach’s safety net, one outsider who could attest to his existence in the event that The Program tried to scrub him, but The Program learned about Howard and has taken him into custody. Zach knows they will kill him–and he’s determined to ensure that won’t happen.

Naturally, Mike–Zach’s field commander, is up on the score. Not only does Mike know where Howard is, he has a new mission for Zach: eliminate Howard. A good soldier would follow orders, and Zach knows this mission is a test–he fails it spectacularly, not only rescuing Howard but also a girl who is imprisoned with him, Tanya.

As with everything in Zach’s world, nothing is what it seems. Two things remain true, however: Zach wants to find his father, and Howard is sure he is still alive. Together, Tanya, Howard and Zach search for inroads into The Program’s files to learn the truth behind Zach’s father’s story. They investigate the news story regarding Zach’s parents’ deaths. They hijack a terminal at a high security research lab. Dogging their steps is Mike, who is equal parts ally and hunter.

It is a thrill ride, sure to keep readers turning the pages. I loved both previous books in this series, and Zach is a fascinating sociopath. Somewhere in this morass of murder and mayhem he has grown the conscience The Program believed it had snuffed out. His decisions are no longer guided by a faulty directive, and his quest to save his father and friends renders him inarguably human.

I had expected both of the big twists–with no lack of enjoyment–and gloried in Zach’s triumphs. The big themes, government intrusion, research ethics, mind control, and the growth of the industrial military complex, are all present, but are far overshadowed by Zach establishing trust, redeeming himself, putting others before his own mission. As a conclusion to this series, it is excellent.

Some readers may balk at the teen assassin aspects of this book, and how otherworldly capable The Program’s agents are, but it was akin to The Bourne Identity, for me. The pace of the book is extraordinarily fast, with not a spare word to be found. I have a hard time imagining there will be a reader over age 12 who takes more than a day to finish this book.

Interested? You can’t get I AM THE TRAITOR just yet, but it can be preordered in advance of it’s 6/9 release at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks. Or try your local library mid-June. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Hope you have a chance to hop around to my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers and find a book to intrigue you! Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!


When Terror Comes Home: I AM THE MISSION–A Review

Hi there! Couple of weeks ago I crushed hard for a teenaged assassin who had five days to kill the mayor of New York. Well, Zach’s back in Allen Zadoff’s sequel–I AM THE MISSION–and this time he’s meant to kill the head of a ultra-conservative running a military training camp for teens. Yikes!

I Am the Mission (The Unknown Assassin, #2)About the book:

He was the perfect assassin. No name. No past. No remorse. Perfect, that is, until he began to ask questions and challenge his orders. Now The Program is worried that their valuable soldier has become a liability.

And so Boy Nobody is given a new mission. A test of sorts. A chance to prove his loyalty.

His objective: Take out Eugene Moore, the owner of an extremist military training camp for teenagers. It sounds like a simple task, but a previous operative couldn’t do it. He lost the mission and is presumed dead. Now Boy Nobody is confident he can finish the job. Quickly.

But when things go awry, Boy Nobody finds himself lost in a mission where nothing is as it seems: not The Program, his allegiances, nor the truth.

The riveting second book in Allen Zadoff’s Boy Nobody series delivers heart-pounding action and a shocking new twist that makes Boy Nobody question everything he has believed.

My Review:
Sometimes sequels disappoint. Not this time.

Zach is emotionally scrambled after his last mission. Being an isolated human isn’t as fulfilling as it had been, and his doubt draws him to get close to others–to their detriment. His brief “lose himself in humanity” experiment nearly backfires when Father–his male contact and advisor with The Program–tracks him to a boys camp in the northeast. Tense doesn’t begin to describe the confrontation.

Zach’s loyalty to The Program is being tested. If he accepts the mission, he’ll have one chance to neutralize the threat–a single meeting with Eugene Moore at a recruitment event for Moore’s Camp Liberty. Under no circumstances is Zach supposed to enter Camp Liberty–a place where all communication is monitored and where a previous Program operative disappeared four months prior.

Posing as disaffected teen “Daniel”, our determined assassin watches as his one chance to prove himself to The Program slips away before he can get within striking distance. Then, he’s given the opportunity to spend the night at the camp and check it out for himself. Against his mission directive, Daniel does.

Having made it past the first levels of security, Daniel scopes chances to hit his target–they aren’t great, but Daniel has infiltrated the inner sanctum by befriending Moore’s teen children: Lee and Miranda. Moore’s bodyguard, Francisco, isn’t letting Daniel close, however.

Drawn in, Daniel goes on a couple of practice missions for Liberty–and he sees how very dangerous the man, and his camp of paramilitary teens, can be up-close and very personal. Trouble is, Daniel can’t reach his “parents”. Every chance he tries to make contact with The Program is a failure. Cut loose, Daniel reaches out to the one and only real friend he’s made in four years, a teen hacker named Howard.

This pair makes sense of the chaos the mission has become. Especially when hitting the target only escalates the danger.

I thoroughly enjoyed Zach/Daniel and his handling of the mission. He was constantly compromised, and didn’t waver for a second. His loyalties were tested completely–Francisco nearly killed him, not to mention all the snipers and “clean up” teams dispatched, and yet Zach/Daniel kept his cover and his focus. Sure, he had to call in Howard, but that (for me) signaled a level of maturity in his development. The cracks exist, however. Zach isn’t the killing machine The Program intended. Well, perhaps he is, but he’s not a mindless killing machine who simply follows orders.

Sure, he’s got skills, but he’s not prepared when he meets another operative in the field. Particularly, when Zach learns Moore knew he was an operative and accepted him into Camp Liberty in order to convert him to their cause. We see Zach’s thought processes clearly: he’ll soon be too old to be a teen assassin, and then what? What will The Program do with him? Disposal? Because it seems likely considering how efficiently they have wiped his access and left him to fend for himself. Camp Liberty holds Zach’s skills in high regard–he’d have a place of honor, and the companionship he now desires. Lee could be a real friend, and Miranda’s interested in more than that….

And, what is Mike doing? The guy kills Zach’s family and recruits him into The Program, but it seems Mike works off the grid just as much as on. He was The Program’s first operative, yet, Mike’s presence is that of an ally in a way Zach hadn’t expected and isn’t sure he can trust. Especially when Howard’s life is on the line.

Oh, and domestic terrorism, Boston bombings, and Taser-torture. So, yeah–super intense. Bit of a YA Bourne series, which is a bit of alright, in my book.

Interested? You can find I AM THE MISSION on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and probably six dozen other outlets. Even your library. I read an advance review copy via NetGalley. This is my honest review.

Allen ZadoffAbout the Author:

Allen Zadoff is the author of the new thriller series, The Unknown Assassin which earned starred reviews and has been optioned for a feature film by Sony Pictures and Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment. His YA novel, Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award and was a YALSA selection for Most Popular Paperbacks of 2012. His second novel was My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies, the story of a techie hiding from life after a family tragedy. His third novel Since You Left Me is set in Los Angeles and tells the story of a religious school student who doesn’t believe. He also wrote the memoir for adults, Hungry:Lessons Learned on the Journey from Fat to Thin.

Allen is a graduate of Cornell University and the Harvard University Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. Visit him on his website, Goodreads and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends! 🙂


Hi there! Today’s book is another YA adventure–of the killing sort. Yeah. I know. V…where’s the romance? Patience, grasshopper. I AM THE WEAPON, first published as BOY NOBODY, is a G-force thrill ride, a 7 on the Richter scale, and an F6 Tornado. It freaking blew me away.

I Am the WeaponAbout the Book:
They needed the perfect assassin.

Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school in a new town under a new name, makes a few friends, and doesn’t stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend’s family to die-of “natural causes.” Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, moving on to the next target.

But when he’s assigned to the mayor of New York City, things change. The daughter is unlike anyone he has encountered before; the mayor reminds him of his father. And when memories and questions surface, his handlers at The Program are watching. Because somewhere deep inside, Boy Nobody is somebody: the kid he once was; the teen who wants normal things, like a real home and parents; a young man who wants out. And who just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program’s mission.

In this action-packed series debut, author Allen Zadoff pens a page-turning thriller that is as thought-provoking as it is gripping, introducing an utterly original and unforgettable antihero.

My Review:
Zach Abrams is a 16 year old spook. That’s right, he’s a trained assassin, working for The Program, neutralizing threats by befriending the children of his targets before taking them out. (I’m going to call him Zach as that is his actual name–Ben is his cover name for this mission…)

I was simply astounded. The calculating precision by which Zach infiltrates his targets is clear, and his lack of a moral compass is a learned behavior–one that developed in the two years after his parents are murdered by another operative–Mike, who wormed his way into Zach’s home. Mike also inducted Zach into The Program when he was only twelve. Two years later Zach had graduated, and–in the two years since–he’s notched six authorized kills.

Now, Zach has new orders and the tightest timeframe yet. As “Ben”, Zach will befriend the daughter of NYC’s mayor. He has five days to take the mayor down. And Zach never fails.

Problem is, memories from Zach’s previous life–when he was just a normal kid–keep intruding. The mayor is extraordinarily similar to Zach’s dad, and Zach can’t help being attracted to Sam. She lost her mother a couple of years past, in an attack while visiting Israel, and she and Zach can commiserate on that level. Plus, she’s gorgeous and challenging. She won’t take any crap–and sees through Zach’s attempts at ingratiation. It doesn’t mean there is no attraction, however. Zach’s no stranger to sex, but he’s never had an emotional attachment to a girl before Sam. Also, it seems one of Sam’s ex’s is an Israeli commando. Oh, and he might just be following Zach…

Zach is messing up the mission, wanting to be close to Sam–and her Dad–prompting some tough love from The Program. Mike has been called in to ensure the job gets done–even if Zach can’t do it.

Of course, when the mission target changes to Sam, Zach’s turmoil reaches a breaking point. He’s never killed a kid before. How can he kill the girl he connects to? Zach does something he never has before–he gets outside help. And, hopefully, the computer whiz kid he enlists can help him keep Sam safe.

I thoroughly enjoyed this antihero. Zach has not questioned his role, or his job, since becoming a member of the Program. The internal battle he experiences as he chooses how to proceed with his mission is real and honest–even if Zach is a trained liar. I loved how he questioned authority, and I REALLY loved the twist about his own father–something I had expected and was delighted came to fruition. Mike, in this book, seems to be a great foil. I am hopeful that these two boys will become allies down the road. The pace is blistering. Not a spare word in the entire novel. I almost hesitated using the toilet, unable to set my pad for even that long…. Cannot wait to read the next book! I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley. And I loved every page of it!

Interested?  You can find I AM THE WEAPON on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’m also pretty sure you can find BOY NOBODY on you local library shelves. I’m prepping to read the sequel,  I AM THE MISSION, which is newly released….stay tuned for that review in a week or so.

Allen ZadoffAbout the Author:

Allen Zadoff is the author of the new thriller series, The Unknown Assassin which earned starred reviews and has been optioned for a feature film by Sony Pictures and Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment. His YA novel, Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award and was a YALSA selection for Most Popular Paperbacks of 2012. His second novel was My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies, the story of a techie hiding from life after a family tragedy. His third novel Since You Left Me is set in Los Angeles and tells the story of a religious school student who doesn’t believe. He also wrote the memoir for adults, Hungry:Lessons Learned on the Journey from Fat to Thin.

Allen is a graduate of Cornell University and the Harvard University Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. Visit him on his website, Goodreads and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!