Anna Edwards-Zhanzhi

Anna Edwards has spun us a beautiful fairy tale in Zhanzhi. This is part of a collection of fairy tale retellings. Anna chose to tell us Mulan. And can I tell you that the whole time I was reading this that I had I’ll Make a Man Out of You from the original show. That’s my favorite song from the movie. I totally enjoyed the hell out of this story.

Instead of being in ancient China, we’re in modern Chinatown in San Francisco. Lia and her family are part of the Yu Shi which is a triad that is in control of California from SF to all points north. They have an enemy that wants to take over their territory. Now, triad are generally associated with the criminal underworld, but they were also organizations that helped out immigrants from the old world back in the day. Anyway, the Yu Shi helped Lia’s grandparents get from China to the US, and her family have sworn their fealty to the group for forever. So, any time they call for the oldest male of each family to come fight the war, they have come. Only now, the oldest male member of her family is Lia’s father, he has no sons, just two daughters, and he has a damaged leg, and if he goes to war, he’ll probably die. Lia begs him to not go, and to let her go instead. He’s been training her for the majority of her life, and she’s an excellent fighter. And of course, you know what’s happening here.

Jaxon is one of the generals in the Yu Shi army. He’s not Chinese, but he’s sworn to the family. His father brought him to the head of the family when he was a child, and Jax swore to follow him always and to follow the rules of the Yu Shi, which he does. When it’s time to recruit for a new war, Jax went around and told all the families and neighborhoods in Chinatown that they needed to send their oldest male family member to be trained. At his last stop, there was a man who had an injured leg, who he knew would probably die at the first sign of fighting, but the man had no sons, so what could he do? He wanted to make an exception, but it doesn’t work that way.

The next morning, he oversleeps and wakes up to find the 4 trainees he’ll be working with, including a mere slip of a boy named Zhan, who he is pretty sure will die immediately. But, he’s surprised to see how good a fighter Zhan is. Guess who?

The Mulan story, if you look at the original Chinese tale, focuses on a strong woman who goes out and follows her heart and does what she feels what she needs to be done. Lia/Zhan does not fall far from that tree. She is an extremely strong character. She has a hard time being a woman in her world, because all she’s supposed to be is the wife of a Yu Shi man and the mother of the next generation, but she’s so much more than that. She’s always felt like that, and the fact that her father taught her to fight and she’s just so good just reinforces that. It isn’t until she cuts her hair while she’s becoming Zhan that she actually starts to feel like who she is. I mean, she has a whole journey she has to go through to finally figure out who she is, and I was totally here for it.

You know, Jax, the Blond Demon, doesn’t have to go through as much as a journey as Lia does. He is pretty much a complete person from the beginning. I mean, he does have things that he has to work through, but they aren’t really finding out who he is. He’s a really, really good man, who has to occasionally has to do some really bad things, but his goal is always to protect and care for his people instead of trying to expand territory or kill people just because. I think that he’s just a great character.

I think every version of Mulan would be really happy with Anna and her book. Well, might be a little much fucking for Disney.

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Lia made some hard choices in this, and one really, really hard one that I don’t think I could’ve made.

OK, that’s all I have to say about this one. Go check it out! Happy reading!

Anthology-The Institute

Welcome to the Serenity Institute. Dr. Ansel Sterling started The Institute after seeing his mother suffer with her own mental illness. Now, he has created a safe place for other people to come and get treated. So, we have 6 stories written by 6 fantastic authors, 2 of whom are new to me. Without any further ado, let’s get into the stories, shall we?

Dani Rene-Echo

Dani gets the book started for us. She introduces us to Dr. Sterling and his special patient, Katya. Katya suffered a traumatic event and she broke into pieces, including one named Rose. Now Dr. Sterling is trying to treat her. So, the whole time I read this, I wondered if Katya or Rose was the real one, and what Ansel was going to do with them. Excellent. I mean, damn. This was definitely a great Dani story.

Anna Edwards-Marbh

Anna gives us Marbh, whose name means Death, and is a 500 year old assassin. She is currently locked up at Serenity because people are sure that she’s delusional. She just wants to get back to her Laird. The ending of this was spectacular. It is one of those that left me wanting and made me happy all at the same time. I often say that I would like to see more of a particular couple, but I think that this was perfectly perfect.

India R. Adams-Hostile Illusions

Vera has amnesia. She is covered with scars, but only on her left hand side. This story. OH. MY. FUCKING. GOD. That is all.

Jennifer Bene-Mr. Cat Is Not Real

Nina is at the institute because she has hallucinations, and dangerous things have happened around her. But she’s not the one who does them, it’s always Mr. Cat. I thought that the treatments that Dr. Nickelsen gave Nina were… interesting. I do kinda think that Mr. Cat is real, though.

Murphy Wallace-Release Me

Brynn has a thing when it comes to sex. She’s what they call hypersexual. That means she likes it. A LOT. But she also blacks out sometimes, which causes her to end up at the institute, with Dr. Dick. I like Brynn, and I kind of agree with her about a doctor.

Sian B. Claven-Sanitorium

Molly’s identical twin sister, Lizzie, is a nurse at the institute, so they have permission for Molly to be treated there, since Lizzie has been taking care of Molly because of her illnesses over the years. Molly is so very sweet, and I just want her to be all kinds of happy. Sian was another new author to me, so I’ll be looking for more. The whole time I was reading this story, Metallica’s Sanitarium kept running through my head.

So, there are our 6 stories. They are all disturbing to some extent, some more than others. Some of them left me nearly destroyed. They were all fantastic though.

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Anna Edwards-Frozen Sector

Frozen Sector is the first book in the shared world series Zombie Year 2099. I think, don’t 100% quote me on this, but I think they are all standalones. I have more of them that I’ll be reading, so as soon as I read the next one, I can tell you for sure. Anyway, Anna gets us started off.

So, here’s our world. In 2099, zombies took over the world. These aren’t your Night of the Living Dead “They’re coming to get you, Barbara” zombies that are just going to shamble around and then eat your brains. No, these motherfuckers are truly nasty little things. They are smart, well as smart as they were in real life at least, they can talk, and they still want to eat you. And not in the good way.

Five years ago, the zombies came to the North Pole. Santa disappeared and the elves fought as valiantly as they could, but they weren’t able to get free. Fraeya was the princess of the elves, and she fought at her fiance’s side, Vaegon. But, all of a sudden, while they were trying to fight off the zombies, their magic completely disappeared. They could no longer control the ice and snow, and the elf knights could no longer call their swords to them so that they could fight. Without their magic, they were an easy target for the zombies.

In the years since, Fraeya and the other females have acted as “wives” to the zombies. For wives read slaves. They were stuck having to do everything that the zombies wanted them to do, including having to take care of the humans that the zombies want to eat, and even choosing out the humans. Fraeya tries to avoid that as much as possible, but the lead zombie, Rott, makes her do it as often as he can, and if she doesn’t or if she tries to protect the other elves, she gets punished. At least she’s still at the North Pole.

Then we have Vaegon, the love of Fraeya’s life. They have been each other’s everything for years, and they were going to be married. Then, zombies. The zombies didn’t want to the guys to stay near their women, because that would be bad. They also didn’t want to leave the males near them. Weak or not, the zombies wanted to make sure that there was no way in hell that Vaegon and his guys could even think about fighting for and with Fraeya and her ladies. So they sold all the male elves down to Mexico, to work in the fields for werewolves. It’s hot and nasty and disgusting and the ice elves hate it because, well, ice elves in Mexico.

After 5 years, Fraeya is about to take all her ladies and escape. She thinks that she feels Vaegon for the first time years, and she just can’t handle any more. She manages to escape, and she gets to Vaegon. Then all the things happen.

Fraeya has got ovaries of steel. She really does. And I like her a lot. She doesn’t take a lot of shit that she doesn’t have to, and she will go and do the things that she feels are right, even if other people, like, oh say Vaegon, doesn’t think that they are the right thing to do. She will also go out and fight like the queen that she is.

Vaegon is a good guy, and a great leader. He wants to make sure that all his elves are OK, and he will put himself on the line in order to make sure that they are. Not only will he, but he actually does put himself right out on the line. He and Fraeya are a good match. They are both strong in ways that complement each other very well. It’s a very good balance for them, which is what makes them very efficient leaders.

I really like their story, and I would love for Anna to write more of them.

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Santa, Santa, Santa.

OK, that’s all I have to say about this one. Go check it out! Happy reading!

Anna Edwards-Stolen Choices

Stolen Choices is the 6th book in Anna Edwards’ Glacial Blood books. While each book focuses on a different couple, these really aren’t standalones. The overall storyline builds up on itself with each book, and if you don’t read each of them, then you are going to miss stuff. Trust me, I started in the middle of the series, and I was a little bit lost until I went back and read all the earlier books. I mean, I wasn’t horribly, terribly lost, but a little lost. I missed nuances that I might have picked up. But that’s just me.

So, let’s get into the story, shall we? We have Katia, who is a member of the Glacial Blood pack, led by Kas. Then we have Jackson, who is one of Nuka’s followers. Nuka and his evil henchman, Ciaran, have evil plans when it comes to Katia. And they want to have Jackson deal with it.

You see, Katia has a horrible past. And that horrible past keeps her alone in a pack where everyone is coupling up. Her father used her to pay debts, and she ended up being trafficked. It was horribly horrible until she managed to get free, and now she wants to have nothing to do with men, sex, or anything like that. And I don’t blame her a bit. It’s hard though, and sometimes everyone coupling up and having all kinds of crazy sex in the house where the pack lives is overwhelming, so one day, she decides that she needs to take a break and go stay in one of the cabins on the pack land.

However, it’s not that easy. It’s never that easy. Ever. Nuka and Ciaran have plans for Katia. They are going to capture her and give her back to the man who owned her and mistreated her. And Jackson is going to do it. He grabs her, and Ciaran teleports them back to the place where she was taken before. Only this time it’s even worse. Ciaran has used his evil magic to make it so that she has to do whatever anyone tells her to do. No matter what. Jackson does what he’s supposed to do, but once he leaves her, he realizes that he can’t do that, so he tries to make it right.

If you looked at yesterday’s post, you’ll see that I said that this was a redemption story, and it is. The reason it is one is because Jackson has to go through his journey to figure out what was going on and become a better person. It isn’t an easy journey, and he does have to handle a lot of shit, but it’s a worthwhile one.

I like Katia. She is so incredibly strong and fierce. She’s had to be, and that strength really helps her out a lot. She needs to have it. I think that she’s also incredibly compassionate. You can see it in how she handles Jackson. She has a really good heart. A practical heart, definitely, but a very good one.

I didn’t think I could hate Nuka more than I already did, but you know what, I do. I think that he is a huge hypocrite, but aren’t a lot of bad guys? And really that’s not the worst thing he is, or the worst thing that he does, but honestly. I’m ready for Kas to wipe him off the face of the Earth.

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Argh, Ciaran and his fucking magic, taking all kinds of choices from everyone. I have to wonder who even has their own thoughts in their head when it comes to him.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about this one. Go check it! Happy reading!

2019 Round Up-Top 10 Redemption Books Pt. 2

So, we’re back to redemption books again today. I’m hoping that you liked the first part of the list, and that you’ve liked the rest of my lists. I think, after this one, that I might have just 1 or 2 lists left. We have Omegaverse books coming and a best Daddies, I think. Maybe more, if I think of any more lists to write, or if I get any suggestions of round up lists that people want. I live to please you guys. Or at least I am going to let all y’all think that.

***Disclosure: I may get a commission from Amazon on any purchases made from the links on this post.***

Kay Elle Parker-The Shadowcrown Duet

Kay is all over my round up lists this year. And there’s a good reason for that. I love the way that she writes. I’m putting her Shadowcrown duet on this list because I think that they fit really well. I can’t put one or the other of the books on this list, because the redemption arc encompasses both books. The first book in the duet is King of Shadows and the second is Queen of Shadows. These books are the story of Alliana, Kian, and Islador. Alliana’s mother was human but her father was an archangel. She was raised by Kian, the King of Shadows, and his second in charge and best friend, Islador. Kian was raising her to be his Queen. Things happen, demons show up, Lucifer gets involved, horrible, terrible things are done to Alliana, Kian and Isla both die, and Alliana becomes the queen. There are some extenuating circumstances to why Kian did what he did, but he still needs to get redemption for it, and prove himself to both Isla and Alliana. The books are dark, but fantastic.

Anna Edwards-Stolen Choices

Technically, Stolen Choices isn’t out yet. It doesn’t come out until 1/2, and I’ll have a full review on my blog about it tomorrow, but trust me when I say that this is really an excellent redemption story. It’s part of the Glacier Blood series, and it is not a standalone. You have to have read the other books in order to understand what is happening in this one, but it’s an excellent PNR.

Nikita Slater-Luna & Andres

Luna & Andres is one of the books from the Blaire’s World shared world series. These books are spun off of Anita Grey’s Blaire books. Which I’m dying for the next one. Anyway, back to L&A. Andres is a member of a Mexican cartel and Luna is his wife. They are combustive together. In this, Luna takes their kids and runs from him. Of course, she has reasons that I think are good, but still. It turns ugly. Both Luna and Andre have to go through a redemption arc in this one, for very different reasons. The majority of this book is just the two of them, which makes it very intimate and very intense.

R. Cayden-Clark’s Bully

R. Cayden writes MM romances, usually menages. Clark’s Bully is a menage. It’s part of a series of books that take place in Seattle surrounding a particular bar and comic book shop. I happen to be reading the latest one in the series right this very second. Anyway, here’s the redemption in this one. Clark and Rip went to high school together. Clark was rather obviously gay, Rip was confused. Rip’s friends bullied Clark horribly, and he stood along with them. Years later, Rip is back with his best friend/FWB, Mars. Mars meets Clark, and sparks fly, until Clark finds out he is besties with Rip. I really like Rip. He has spent a long time thinking about what he did and making changes in himself.

Jennifer Bene-Inheritance

I debated about Inheritance, because I think that if it were written by anyone other than Jennifer, I wouldn’t consider it a redemption story, but since it is her, it is. It’s the second book in the Fragile Ties series, and it’s the continuing story of David and Lianna. David kidnapped her because of her father, and did some pretty terrible things to her. Of course, she pretty much liked those terrible things, so it worked out after all. The reason I put it in this one is because David and Lianna are working hard to put together a relationship, and David is working hard to get past everything in the past. Anyway, I think that it fits well in this.

OK, that’s my Top 10 redemption books of 2019. We have reviews coming up in the next couple of days, but over the weekend, I’ll do some more round ups. Like I said, O-verse and Daddies.

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Anna Edwards-Second Chances

This is a spin-off from Anna’s Control series. Like she says, you don’t have to have read all the Control books to read and enjoy Second Chances, but it helps. Which I can attest to since I haven’t read them all (don’t be mad at me, Anna)(I’ve read the first one and the rest are on my neverending TBR). Anyway, the main storyline of the Control books is over, and now we’re into a new storyline.

So, here we go. This is the story of Ryan and Elena. Ryan was from the Control series, and is related to James and Sophie from that series. Elena is Amy’s best friend and runs her ballet school, and Amy is James’ wife.

Ryan is learning how to be a Dom from James and Grayson, who is Sophie’s husband. He is dealing with shit, and Domming helps him control himself, and hey, he likes it. You know, as those D-types tend to do.

Elena is busy running the ballet school. She was going to be a prima ballerina until she fell and broke her leg badly. She can still dance, but her leg isn’t as strong as it used to be, so no more top ballerina. So, she teaches and choreographs instead, and she likes it.

One night, Amy invites Elena to go to the BDSM club that Grayson owns and all the couples go to. Then in walks Ryan. And boom. Elena and Ryan meet eyes across the crowded club, and it’s lust at first sight. Lots and lots and lots of lust with a capital LUST.

There is a lot that happens in this book. I mean, you are getting Ryan’s backstory as well as his POV on certain things that happened. I think that will give a lot of added dimension to the whole story. (Now I really need to read it all.) I like getting to know Ryan through this book. I think that he is a truly good guy in this book. He has to deal with a lot of difficult shit, and he could totally cave and he doesn’t.

Elena. Hmm… I don’t know about Elena. I do think I like her most of the time. There were a few times that I didn’t like her, but I don’t know how much of that is because of what was happening in the story at the time or because of her character. Elena has to handle some serious shit in this story too, and I think, overall, that she comes through it, not necessarily easily, but she does.

Thre is a note at the end of the book that there is going to be another series starting off. I don’t know if that means that this is the first book in a new series, or if this was a transition book between the Control series and the new series. I tend to think it is transitional, because I can really see it as a bridge between what happened before and what happens next. I’m not discounting Elena and Ryan’s story, because it’s an important one, but it really felt like a bridge book to me.

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The whole Victor storyline really affected me. I’m not sure what the feelings that it gave me are, but I have feelings about it. It packed a massive punch though.

OK, that’s all for today. Go check it out! Happy reading!

Anthology-Something Wicked

By the pricking of my thumbs, Something Wicked this way comes. -Second witch Macbeth, Act 4 , scene 1

This anthology is made up of 14 stories by 14 authors, some new to me, some not. They are all a version of a fairy tale, but definitely not the ones that you know. They aren’t friendly. They aren’t happy. If there is whistling and singing going on in these stories, be sure that it’s not the good guy doing it. I will say that most of the stories have an ending that could be considered happy, for a given definition of happy, and for some particular people, but I’m not really sure that I would call them HEAs.

Usually, when I get an anthology that’s more than 8 or so stories, I only mention my faves, just because it can get long, and ain’t no one got time to read a super long review, let alone write one. However, I feel the urge to give you my reactions on all of them. I don’t think it will add too many words to do that.

Missy Ann-Forbidden Queen

New to me author. Wow. I honestly didn’t expect the direction the story went. I mean, I figured for a twist, but this was a whole Mobius strip of a twist.

B. Celeste-Within These Shadows

Another new to me author. This was… disturbing in really disturbing ways. Good ways, but yeah. I would love to find out more of this world. I love the protagonist and the way that their POV was done.

Elizabeth Cash-Bittersweet Beauty

This is a prequel or intro or something like that. There is going to be more to this story, which makes me happy, because I need more of Beck, Bishop, and Jax.

A. A. Davies-Dama de Diablo

New author to me. Appropriate title. ‘Nuff said.

Anna Edwards-The Toy

Damn you, Anna. Just damn you. I really think that I want to hate you, but I’m pretty sure that I can’t because it was too good! That end, though.

Emery Leeann-Bite Me: The Cursed Evil Queen

Another new to me author. With some of the stories, it was easy to tell what the story was. It wasn’t in this one. When I found out who the person was before they are the person that they are now? Blew me away.

K. S. Marshall-The Deadly Hunt

Lots of new to me authors in this one. I honestly thought that this was going to go another way. It’s still living in my head and I’m trying to figure out some of it in my head.

Claire Marta-The Wish

I wish that Claire would write faster. I’m not sure who I trust in this story, but I can’t wait to find out what’s going on.

C.L. Matthews-The Underneath

This might be the least dark story in the entire anthology. I loved it.

TL Mayhew-Wicked Lady T

I think that I may have read some of Mayhew’s other stuff, but the consequence of reading so many books is that I sometimes forget who and what I’ve read. This might be the second least dark story. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Michelle Pace-Nights on the Round Table

I love the Arthurian tales. I can tell you most of them backwards and forwards and I know all about the various knights. This is not the Arthurian tale that you expect.

Michelle Brown-Unfortunate Souls

I was lucky enough to be one of the people who got an ARC of Michelle’s first book, and I’ve enjoyed watching her grow. Her short stories are wicked AF, and this one is no different. Amazing spin on her tale.

Ally Vance-Hellfire

I had a Disney song running through my head the entire time I read this, which is kinda weird, considering the tone of the story, but what can I say? I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens with the rest of the story.

Murphy Wallace-Prick

I love the whole Sleeping Beauty/Maleficient theme in general, and the take on the story in this one is fabulous.

I can normally pick which ones are my favorite, but I think that with each of these stories I found a new favorite. They are all twisted and dark and disturbing and wonderful and all the things that I happen to like when I’m reading. The anthology is really short for an anthology. Some of the stories are really short, and they are all pretty quick to read. That’s one of my favorite things about anthologies, the fact that many of the stories are pretty quick to read and that I can pick them up and put them down without losing the thread.

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