Monday, July 22, 2019

Book Review: Summer Bucket List by T.K. Rapp

Title: Summer Bucket List
Author: T.K. Rapp
Publisher: Self
Pages: Paperback; 221
Release Date: July 15th 2019
Source: Xpresoo Book Tours
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who love a sweet, happy, summer romance.
Recently graduated from high school, Holland Monroe had no expectations for her last summer before heading off to college to be anything but ordinary.
Until she got a job as a waitress at the local country club to make extra money for school.
Milo Davis was smart, cute, and absolutely not interested in Holland. At least that was what she believed. But the day she started working at the restaurant, everything changed.
Finally together, they were left with only three months to spend time together before she moved away.
Good thing they decided to make their time as memorable as possible.
But will they remain friends? Or will checking off items on their summer bucket list lead them to something they didn’t expect — Falling in love.
Add It: Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

What a delightful summer treat this book turned out to be. While there's not a lot of surprises per se, the story of Holland and Milo finding each other is sweet and full of young hopefulness.

Holland's character is a pretty typical popular kid in high school. She fits in with most social groups and enjoys being friends with lots of people. Milo is a quieter sarcastic character who keeps to himself. Despite having classes together Holland still feels that Milo has a sense of mystery about him. He never really opens up to her the way most people do, so of course that drives her crazy.

Cue graduation, parties, and then working together. Milo and Holland get to know each other and decide to date knowing that summer would mean the end of things, enter the bucket list idea. Super fun ideas peppered through this coming of age story.

I recommend this book if you're in the mood for a fun, sweet, young adult romance. Summer romances are built up so much in high school, it's rare to find one that will last after.

T.K. Rapp is a Texas girl born and raised. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from Texas A&M and it was there that she met the love of her life. He had a contract with the U.S. Navy that would take them across both coasts, and ultimately land them back home in Texas.
Upon finally settling in Texas, T.K. worked as a graphic designer and photographer for the family business that her mom started years earlier. She was able to infuse her creativity and passion, into something she enjoyed, but something was still missing. There was a voice in the back of her head that told her to write, so write, she did. And, somewhere on an external hard drive, are several stories she started and never finished.
Now at home, raising her two daughters, T.K. has more time to do the things she loves, which includes photography and writing. When she's not doing one of those, she can be found with her family, which keeps her busy, hanging with family and friends, and mostly relaxing. She is a lover of raunchy humor, gossip blogs and a good books.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Book Review: Kill The Queen (Crown of Shards #1) by Jennifer Estep

Media Type: Print Book
Title: Kill The Queen
   * Series: Crown of Shards #1
Author: Jennifer Estep
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Pages: Paperback; 416
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who love vivid characters, who actually grow during a story, and fast paced action!

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.
This was pretty much a perfect book for me, dear friends. In fact, it was perfect to the point that my headphones died with only 3 minutes left to go in the audio version, and I audibly yelled at them. You know those endings that make you feel just a little more powerful, and all but push you into buying the next book in the series? That's Kill The Queen. Consider yourself warned that is one addictive read.

I can't praise Estep enough for the character that she's created in Evie. My favorite characters are always the ones who rise up from the ashes, reluctantly, and claim what is rightfully theirs. Friends, this is Evie through and through. Her persona at the beginning of the book was so much different from the one presented at the end of the book. However, at her core, she was still Evie. She was still kind, still always thinking of others, still full of quiet strength. I adored that she didn't completely morph but, instead, became the most powerful version of herself possible. I cheered for her. I cried for her. I was so in love with her character that I couldn't stand it. Remember how I said that I needed the next book in the series, stat? This is why.

That's not to say that the plot isn't absolutely excellent as well. In fact, the amount of tension that is slowly ramped up in this story is breathtaking. From the first line, I was hooked. Court intrigue, bloody coups, and the perfect amount of simmering possible romance touch each and everyone one of these pages. Between reading a print copy, and listening to the audio book, there were so many times that my hands were clenched and I was breathless with anticipation. Readers, you will find yourself so immersed in Evie's world, so a part of the little family that she finds for herself, that I promise you'll be reluctant to let go at the end. Thank goodness that there is another book, because I'm already missing my new friends.

Outstanding female relationships, realistic self growth, and perfectly tempered romances are just some of the wonderful things that you'll find within these pages. If you love Fantasy, and are looking for something new to get lost in that already has a sequel out, Kill The Queen needs to be next on your list. I loved this book so very much. Time to see what happens next!

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Book Blitz + Giveaway: Summer Bucket List by T.K. Rapp

Happy Tuesday friends. What could be better than a sweet summer romance to kick off the week? This new release is sure to spark your teenage angst and swoon worthy feelings. Don't forget to enter the giveaway! You won't want to miss this. Review coming soon! 

Summer Bucket List
T.K. Rapp
Publication date: July 15th 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Recently graduated from high school, Holland Monroe had no expectations for her last summer before heading off to college to be anything but ordinary.
Until she got a job as a waitress at the local country club to make extra money for school.
Milo Davis was smart, cute, and absolutely not interested in Holland. At least that was what she believed. But the day she started working at the restaurant, everything changed.
Finally together, they were left with only three months to spend time together before she moved away.
Good thing they decided to make their time as memorable as possible.
But will they remain friends? Or will checking off items on their summer bucket list lead them to something they didn’t expect — Falling in love.

“Have you ever gone swimming at night?” he asked.

Slowly I shook my head and looked over at him. All my fears, real and completely irrational, were beginning to choke me.

“No.” It was the only thing I was able to eke out.

“You don’t like it,” he questioned, but it was more of an observation.

“I’m terrified,” I admitted.

“But you can swim, right?”

I laughed, thankful he had lightened the mood. I nodded and turned my attention toward the dark abyss in front of me.

“What scares you?”

“Whatever might be in the water. Like the Loch Ness Monster.”

Milo laughed and reached for my hand. “Not real.”

“I know that,” I scoffed. “Doesn’t make me any less scared.”

“I’ll protect you.”

Milo opened his door, and reluctantly I opened my own. As I stepped out of the car I felt the fear travel up my spine, but I wanted to overcome it. He stood at the front of his car and waited for me to join him. Every step I took toward Milo felt heavier than the last until I finally reached him. He took my hand in his and carried a large backpack over his other shoulder.

“What’s the bag for? Are you going to kill me?”

Milo threw his head back and laughed hard. “You’re awesome. And no. It’s towels and some snacks.”

“Why night swimming? Isn’t it dangerous?”

“Well yeah…that’s why it’s the perfect date,” he answered.

My stomach flipped, and not because he was holding my hand. I found my nerves were working overtime and a flood of possibilities came to mind.

“Doesn’t sound so perfect.”

“Trust me,” he said as we continued to walk.

When we got to the shore, the water looked like glass, barely a breeze to make the surface move. Milo spread out a large blanket and set the backpack on top of it while I looked out at the horizon. In the distance, I could see the lights shining from homes across the way. The lake had few public spots that were accessible, and the park always closed at ten. I glanced at my watch and sighed because it was only eight. We had plenty of time to drown before anyone found us.

Milo pulled off his T-shirt and tossed it to the side by the bag. I tried not to look, but when I was caught staring at his stomach, I was thankful for the moonlit darkness.

“Are you going to get in?” he asked.

“I’m not sure.”

I figured he would be frustrated or that he would sulk because I didn’t jump at the chance to go with him. Instead, he walked over and kissed my cheek before walking toward the water.

As he took his first steps into the inky darkness, I watched his figure, admiring the way the moon illuminated his physique. Milo was not one to show off the muscles that he wore beneath his clothing, but they were on full display for me. I wanted so badly to follow him and let go of my fears, but all I could think of were the wild creatures that I saw in movies.

“It’s a little chilly,” he said as he stood waist deep, looking back at me.

“Not helping,” I laughed.

“Not trying to,” he answered with a chuckle.

I grabbed one of the towels that he had set out and opened it up so I could sit down. The warm air covered my body and I started to sweat. Maybe I was sweating because I was nervous, but whatever the reason I began to grow increasingly warm. Milo was still walking deeper into the water when I took off my cover-up, revealing my black bikini.

“Grow up,” I muttered to myself, hoping to gain some courage.

“How you doin’ over there?” Milo asked from the water.

“Great,” I said unconvincingly before laughing softly. “How ‘bout you?”

“Not too bad.”

His body disappeared beneath the water and I watched, waiting for him to come to the surface. When he didn’t come up right away, I sat up a little taller to see if there were any ripples in the water. Panic began to course through my veins and I started to get up as I searched for him in the darkness.

“Milo?” I called out, trying to contain my fear.

I walked toward the shoreline, the water lapping at my feet. Just as I started to take a step in, he surfaced with a loud splash.

T.K. Rapp is a Texas girl born and raised. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from Texas A&M and it was there that she met the love of her life. He had a contract with the U.S. Navy that would take them across both coasts, and ultimately land them back home in Texas.
Upon finally settling in Texas, T.K. worked as a graphic designer and photographer for the family business that her mom started years earlier. She was able to infuse her creativity and passion, into something she enjoyed, but something was still missing. There was a voice in the back of her head that told her to write, so write, she did. And, somewhere on an external hard drive, are several stories she started and never finished.
Now at home, raising her two daughters, T.K. has more time to do the things she loves, which includes photography and writing. When she's not doing one of those, she can be found with her family, which keeps her busy, hanging with family and friends, and mostly relaxing. She is a lover of raunchy humor, gossip blogs and a good books.

Monday, July 15, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (7/15/19)

It is Monday once again friends, and hopefully it's treating you kindly.

I apologize for being so scarce around here lately. I was burnt out, I went on vacation and had a blast, and then I came back and I still can't seem to get back into the groove of things. Trust me, I'm trying! It's just going slower than I'd like. So if you see a bunch of pre-made posts for a bit, that's why. Thanks in advance for cutting me some slack.

That being said, I've started reading in earnest again and I am actually excited to share with you what I've been tackling. So here we go!

Last week I powered my way through The Ballad of Black Tom when my phone reminded me that it was due back to the library at the end of the day. Hahaha. Luckily this was a novella, AND it was a stellar read. I love when shorter stories pack a punch, and this one does that in spades. Dark, gritty, full of atmosphere, and all kinds of fun to read. Pick this up if you love underdog characters getting their due.

Last week I also finished Dead Man's Song by Jonathan Maberry, the second book in the Pine Deep series. This was my audio book while I was flying between CA and NY, and then back again, and it was a great listen! I admit that this second book was a little slower than the first one but, thankfully, the tension ramps up in the middle in the best way possible. I finished this book and immediately borrowed the next one. It was too good to pass up.

Whew, this book. I was so excited to read The Grand Dark that I audibly squealed when I found out that I got approved for it. I love dark, mysterious reads and Richard Kadrey is such a great world building author. I am loving every minute of this book, and how immersive it is. Alas, because it is lengthy, I've had to set it aside a few times for promised review books. Soon though, soon I'll be able to devote myself just to this. I'm so ready.

I'm also so excited to be reading Fortuna Sworn by K.J. Sutton. I LOVE Sutton's writing. All of it. This book is outside of what she normally writes, and yet I love it even more for that. This is the world of Fae that I love. Dangerous, glittering, full of violence and beauty in equal measures. Fortuna is my new favorite girl, and I can't wait to see how the ending of this plays out.

Next up is Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep, which I'm so stoked for! I've been on a YA hiatus on purpose these last two months. I needed more strong women, but I've kind of been missing Fantasy. I'm  hoping that this scratches that itch. I have the second book in the series for review too, so I can't wait!

That's it for me this week!
What are you reading?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Book Review: Storm Blown by Nick Courage

Media Type: Print Book (ARC)
Title: Storm Blown
Author: Nick Courage
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: Hardcover; 352
Release Date: July 16, 2019
Source: Publisher
Content Screening: Mild Injuries / Tense Situations

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who are looking for an extremely well written look at hurricanes, and the ways that they affect people and animals.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
A major hurricane is raging across the southern United States, and two unsuspecting kids are about to have the adventure of a lifetime! Perfect for kids who love high-stakes plots and natural disaster movies, and anyone interested in extreme weather!

A little rain and wind don't worry Alejo--they're just part of life at the beach. As his padrino says, as long as there are birds in the waves, it's safe. When people start evacuating, though, Alejo realizes things might be worse than he thought. And they are. A hurricane is headed straight for Puerto Rico.

Emily's brother, Elliot, has been really sick. He can't go outside their New Orleans home, so Emily decides to have an adventure for him. She's on a secret mission to the tiny island Elliot loves. She's not expecting to meet up with an injured goose or a shy turtle. And nothing has prepared her for Megastorm Valerie. Soon Alejo and Emily will be in Valerie's deadly path. Who will survive?
Where was a book like this when I was a middle grade reader because, wow, this was an adventure and a half! Natural disasters have always fascinated me. I think it was that if I knew more about them, they were less scary. Or, well, maybe the same amount of scary but I at least felt informed. Either way, I would have loved reading Storm Blown as a young reader. As it stands, I loved it a whole lot as an adult reader as well.

Nick Courage pits a whole cast of characters against the might of Megastorm Valerie. I could only watch in mixed parts horror and awe as the storm raged, and lives were put in the way of it. I loved how Courage doesn't just show how storms of this magnitude affect people and their cities, but also how they affect animals in their wake as well. It was also so refreshing to see people making realistic decisions because, as we all well know, people don't always evacuate when they're told to. Those decisions, and the consequences that came along with them, were half of the draw of this book. It's not hard to love characters when they feel like real people that you'd honestly be worried about.

As for the plot, well it flies by so quickly that there isn't time to blink. Courage manages to ratchet up the tension, without making things too scary for the younger set of readers that might pick up this book. That's not to say that there aren't times were things feel a bit dire. The end of this book had me so tense that I thought I might fall of the bus seat I was sitting on. However there's always a little inkling of hope. Just enough to keep you rooting for the character, person or animal, and hope that they come through everything okay. I teared up at the ending of this book y'all, and I make no apologies for it.

The science of storms is well mapped out in this book, for sure. If you've ever been interested at all in how megastorms develop, or the type of damage that they can cause, this is absolutely a story that you'll love. It's nice to be reminded that the majesty of nature contains things that are infinitely beautiful, and also absolutely terrifying. It's that balance between the two that makes living on our planet such an amazing experience.

Read this! Read it with your young reader and discuss it, read it by yourself, or read it with a book group. Trust me, you won't be sorry. This story is exciting, and also timely I think. As our climate changes, and storms like this become more normal, I think they need this kind of discussion. I honestly hope to see more from Nick Courage very soon.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Book Review: Storm and Fury (The Harbinger #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Media Type: Print Book (ARC)
Title: Storm and Fury
   * Series: The Harbinger #1
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Pages: Hardcover; 512
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Source: Publisher / TLC Book Tours
Content Screening: Mild Violence; Sexual Content

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Everyone! I'd never read the series this is a spin-off of, and it held up perfectly as a standalone!

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Eighteen-year-old Trinity Marrow may be going blind, but she can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her unique gift is part of a secret so dangerous that she’s been in hiding for years in an isolated compound fiercely guarded by Wardens—gargoyle shape-shifters who protect humankind from demons. If the demons discover the truth about Trinity, they’ll devour her, flesh and bone, to enhance their own powers.

When Wardens from another clan arrive with disturbing reports that something out there is killing both demons and Wardens, Trinity’s safe world implodes. Not the least because one of the outsiders is the most annoying and fascinating person she’s ever met. Zayne has secrets of his own that will upend her world yet again—but working together becomes imperative once demons breach the compound and Trinity’s secret comes to light. To save her family and maybe the world, she’ll have to put her trust in Zayne. But all bets are off as a supernatural war is unleashed…
Oh, wow. Friends, I went on a two week hiatus from reading. Between traveling, being in a wedding, and then sightseeing around Manhattan, I didn't touch a book for two straight weeks. So you can imagine how nervous I was to come back and pick up this tome of a book. 512 pages is not a light read, and I hoped so much that I would end up falling in love with Armentrout's story. Honestly, I shouldn't have worried. I've never read the series that this is a spin-off of. I've never met a Warden before this book, or been introduced to any of the characters. None of that mattered. This book was an instant hit, and 512 pages flew by like it was nothing. To say that I was pleased that this was my first read after a hiatus? Well, that's an understatement. Storm and Fury was an absolute delight to read.

First off, I have to give so much love to Trinity as our main character. Lady leads are hard for me sometimes, particularly in Fantasy books, because I expect so much from them in the growth department. Again, I really shouldn't have worried. Trinity is instantly likable, and relatable, because she's any of us at eighteen years old. She has crushes, worries about friendships, and puts herself in questionable situations. The fact that she just so happens to have special abilities that cause her to be protected at all costs? Well, that's the icing on the cake. Even in the midst of being squashed down by those who thought they were protecting her, Trinity was brilliant. She was bold, brave, and full of so much inner light. I especially liked how Armentrout gave Trinity retinitis pigmentosa, but didn't use it to define her. If anything, Trinity was more because of her RP, and it was fabulous.

That's not to say that the other characters in this book are ever outshone by Trinity. Misha and Zayne had their own distinct personalities and, even though I was meeting him them for the first time, even Roth and Layla were stunningly written. I do understand why a lot of reviewers said that they felt like they were missing some previous information, but that didn't deter me in the least. This book is written in a way that still gives the reader plenty of information about the characters who came from the first series. Roth was still full of swagger and sass, as I've been told he should have been. If I missed a little of who he was, all that did was give me an incentive to go back and read the first series. Not a problem, at all. This is a solid standalone.

Add in the facts that the plot moves at a manic pace, there's sweet and sexy scenes in here, and the fight scenes are to die for, and you have my heart. I didn't give this a full five star rating, only because there were some dialogue scenes that dragged on a little longer than I wanted, but overall this was a fantastic read. Zayne and Trinity have my attention! I'm not only planning on going back and reading the books this came from, but I'm definitely planning on reading the next one of these as well. So much fun! An excellent book to start my reading back up with after a long time away!

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Book Review and Giveaway: She's a Spitfire by Chloe Liese

Title: She’s a Spitfire
Author: Chloe Liese
 Series: (Tough Love #2)
Publication date: June 24th 2019
Pages: Paperback; 263
Release Date: June 24, 2019
Source: Xpresso Tours / Author
Content Screening: Mild Violence, Adult Language

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy reading about passionate relationships with a side of mysterious trouble.

Add It: Goodreads / Amazon
One fiery-haired, sexy scientist finds her perfect complement in a dark and handsome soccer star. Opposites attract, and they’ve got chemistry that’s explosive—literally.
Physics calls it entropy. Philosophy calls it Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, eventually it will. Professionally and personally speaking, Zed’s familiar with the principle. After a decade of trying to alter the atomic makeup of the mafia from its nucleus, now he’s set on leaving The Life and pursuing his heart. Problem is, the sassy, hot-headed spitfire he can’t quit is meddling in his slow burn escape plan, and turning it into full-on combustion.
Not to mention, Nairne’s got a painful history she won’t talk about and more secrets than she has lab instruments—which is really saying something. In an ideal world, the bad boy footballer would follow the brainy beauty overseas and they’d live happily ever after. But Murphy’s Law is proven true, as Zed finds his world imploding and his escape plan foiled. These enemies turned lovers end up discovering how costly it can be to meet the right person at the wrong time.
A present he can’t escape.
A past she can’t forget.
A future they won’t stop fighting for.
They say all’s fair in love…and war.
Book Two in the Tough Love Series—an enemies to lovers, suspenseful romance, full of sexy Italians, feisty heroines, globe-trotting action, and an ending that’ll both satisfy you and leave you ready for more!
This story picks up right where He's a Brute left off, so make sure you read that one first. The history of Zed and Nairne's dynamic is important to the story. Full disclosure, I didn't read book 1 first and that may have skewed my enjoyment of She's a Spitfire a bit. I did go back and read it and it helped me enjoy/forgive some aspects that I didn't initially like. This review is my thoughts having read both books now.

I have to say I really enjoy Nairne as a character. She is smart, feisty, determined, loyal, and doesn't take shit from anyone. Even in the face of thinly veiled threats she manages to let Zed know that she cares. Nairne knows what she is and isn't capable of and doesn't let that stop her from enjoying her life and following her dreams. She is the epitome of handicapable.

Elodie is one of my favorite sidekicks. Not only does she fiercely protect her best friend, she also calls her out when she's being unreasonable. Best friends need to call you out on your shit and know you'll be friends afterwards. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Nairne and Elodie and I think it was very well written.

Zed is not my favorite person. Despite his deep devotion and moral compass I just can't get behind how he talks to Nairne. I understand it's part of their dynamic and they enjoy each other but it is definitely not my cup of tea. To each their own.

Overall I did enjoy the twists and turns of this suspenseful story. It was a fun exhilarating journey with two people who love to hate each other. Zed and Nairne's passion for each other and for life is enough of a story, add in some mafia ties and a stalker and things get heated pretty quickly. I recommend this book if you don't mind some crass language and some very stubborn main characters. 

Chloe’s always been a sucker for a suspenseful steamy romance, ever since she managed to find the one saucy mystery series hiding in her high school’s prim little library. Nothing drives her crazier than a story that cranks up the heat, then closes the door on the reader’s face, so don’t read her books if you don’t want to know what actually happens when the lights fade to black…
When she’s not writing, Chloe’s busy reading books of all genres, rereading Harry Potter (which she can’t help but make her characters similarly obsessed over), and playing catch-up with her bad@$$ little girls. She’s also been known to scramble around the pitch for a pick-up soccer match and run along the river while dreaming up her next book.


FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Book Blitz + Giveaway: Vampire Detective Midnight by JC Andrijeski

Who's ready for a brand new vampire story? I know I am. Grab this new release today and get ready to dive in to start your weekend. 
Vampire Detective Midnight
JC Andrijeski
(Vampire Detective Midnight, #1)
Publication date: June 27th 2019
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy
Vampire with a past and homicide detective, Naoko “Nick” Tanaka just got transferred to the NYPD, where he works as a “Midnight,” or vampire in the employ of the human police. Like all state-registered vamps, he gets his food delivered to his door, lives in government housing, and basically can’t sneeze without the U.S. government knowing about it.
Still, he’s determined to play by the rules. More than anything, he just wants to be left alone, to finish out his immortality in peace… but he’s barely there two weeks when things already start to go sideways.
It starts with a weird case involving inexplicable paintings that predict murders before they happen.
Between his mystery painter, a bunch of dead hybrid-humans, a conspiracy involving the richest families in New York, and a school principal who has an unsettling effect on him, Nick finds he can’t get personally uninvolved with any of it.
Instead, he gets sucked in even deeper, until he’s pretty sure he’ll end up forcibly reprogrammed by his human masters — assuming they don’t just rip his heart out of his chest and be done with it.
VAMPIRE DETECTIVE MIDNIGHT is book #1 of a gritty, romantic new series set in a futuristic, dystopian New York, involving vampires, humans and psychics trying to rebuild their world after a devastating race war that nearly obliterated all of them.
Add it: Goodreads / Amazon

He smelled the blood, even before he turned the corner into the alley.

He heard them talking about him only a few steps after that.

That was the problem with working with humans.

One problem, anyway.

They had shitty hearing, so they assumed everyone else did, too.

“Where’s Midnight?” he heard the lead detective say.

Nick heard the man’s clothing move as he looked around, maybe making sure a random vampire wasn’t lurking next to him already, or that he didn’t see Nick himself walking towards him in the dark.

“I thought he was coming to this?” the detective muttered, taking a sip of something—something hot from the quick, cut-off way he sipped it, likely artificial coffee given that Nick could make out the faint, bitter-tinged odor of that, too.

Of course, no one called it “artificial coffee” anymore.

They just called it coffee.

But Nick remembered real coffee, well enough to know the bilge they drank now wasn’t it. It was an insult to coffee.

The lead detective glanced around where he stood a second time. He checked his watch again.

“Where the hell is he?” he muttered. “We could use a blood-sniffer right now. Christ. Look at this mess.”

The man standing next to him grunted. “Fucking bloodsuckers. He’s probably paying a blood whore to jerk him off while he drains her dry in a dark alley somewhere…”

The man trailed, mid-thought, flushing as Nick rounded the corner of the building.

Nick stepped deliberately into the light, right as he entered the narrow alley where they were all crouched, standing over something he could smell but not yet see.

He’d been right about the artificial coffee.

The detective standing closest to the scene, closest to the female tech leaning over the nearest body, collecting samples and photographing it from all angles, took another sip of the watered-down crap, gripping one of those semi-organic, morphing cups in his left hand.

Damn, Nick missed real coffee.

He knew it wouldn’t taste right to him anymore, not as a vampire, but he missed it anyway.

Only the truly rich could afford real coffee these days. The few plants still in existence were tended meticulously in greenhouses run by boutique farmers who catered exclusively to the super-rich—the same handful of people who basically ran everything.

“You’re late,” the lead detective, a tall, scarecrow-thin black man with gray hair named Morley, declared neutrally.

Nick ignored the dig, looking around the scene.

Six. He smelled six.

He only saw five bodies, three female and two male, but he smelled six different types of blood, six different DNA imprints. The sixth, another female, could be one of the killers, but it didn’t smell like it.

She smelled dead.

“Check the dumpster,” he said.

He motioned towards the bin shoved against the wall to the left and a few meters behind where the techs and detectives were focused.

“You’ve got six bodies,” Nick added, hands still in his pockets.

He continued to walk the scene, his nose wrinkling as he got closer.

As he did, he was even more sure of the sixth body.

He was still looking around, smelling the air, when he felt his fangs start to extend.

In reflex, he clenched his jaw, repressing it. Even as he did, he glanced around surreptitiously, checking faces, although the likelihood one of the humans might have noticed was pretty much nil.

Fuck, had he come here hungry?

Why was his stomach getting weird on him all of a sudden?

Shoving the thought from his mind before it started to affect his eye color, or his overall demeanor, he focused his attention back on the scene.

From what he could tell, apart from the woman they’d thrown in the dumpster, the killers didn’t get near enough to touch any of the other five bodies. They didn’t leave much in the way of trace imprints as a result. They definitely hadn’t gotten into any kind of physical fight with the victims, not enough to leave blood, or anything with DNA.

At best, the techs might find some fibers or a few stray hairs in the mix.

Nick had his doubts they would.

Whoever these assholes were, apart from the anomaly with the woman in the dumpster, they seemed to know what they were doing. Anyway, if there was hair here, he likely would have smelled that, too, despite the overpowering smell of blood.

Sniffing the air again, he frowned.

The blood in the alley was really damned pungent, even for how much of it there was. It struck him as somehow more pungent than usual.

It bothered him, how pungent it was.

Shoving the thought from his mind, he focused back on whoever had done this.

He smelled four of them.

He smelled someone else, as well.

Someone more recent.

“The scene’s been contaminated,” he commented sourly.

Without waiting for an answer, he walked past the other detectives, aiming his feet for the dumpster he’d motioned towards earlier. He wasn’t thrilled with rooting around a dumpster that smelled like dead blood, or even being this close to a bunch of dead bodies, but the sooner he got his part of the job out of the way, the sooner he could get the hell out of there.

Like most vampires, he hated being around dead things.

The irony didn’t escape him, which is why he didn’t bother to mention that fact to most humans.

Most of them would look at him like he was nuts.

Well, that, and, generally speaking, explaining to a human how differently their blood smelled to him alive, versus how their blood smelled to him dead, tended to make most humans more than a little uncomfortable.

Donning latex gloves of his own, he lifted the lid of the dumpster gingerly once he got close enough, and stared down at the contents.

A clump of black hair greeted him, long and tangled over a back wearing a faux-leather jacket with a brightly colored, virtual reality (VR)-enhanced cartoon dog on the back.

Someone had thrown her into the dumpster, face-down.

The cartoon dog bounced around her back in the dim light, oblivious to its owner’s death. When Nick lifted the lid higher, it triggered the VR sensors a second time, and the cartoon dog started barking at him, wagging its butt and tail playfully.

It didn’t make any sound.

Something about that silent, dancing cartoon dog and the crumpled corpse smelling too-pungently of blood and death made Nick grimace.

Holding his breath, he lifted the lid higher.

Definitely a woman, from the curve of her hip in the form-fitting, shiny pants she wore, and the high-heeled, VR-enhanced pink and purple boots.

She smelled relatively young.

Twenties. Possibly early thirties.

He sniffed again and frowned.

It wasn’t fake leather. It was the real thing.

He glanced down the rest of her clothes, taking a second look at her metallic-sheen pants. They fit her perfectly. The pants also had a more subtle virtual enhancement, one that sent shimmers of sparkles down her long, toned-looking legs and curve of well-exercised butt.

Her knee-high boots looked expensive, and shimmered with virtual cartoon dogs that matched the one on her real-leather jacket. The boots might be real leather, too, under the VR panels. Her hair, where it wasn’t matted with blood, was silky and expensively cut.

Whoever she was, she had money.

He glanced around the rest of the dim space of the dumpster.

It was empty.

No purse. No headset, or armband.

The only thing in there was the woman.

So why had they bothered trying to hide the body?

He squinted down at her, tilting his head to see her from the side, to try and get a better look at her profile.

“They destroyed her face,” he announced after another minute. “Her teeth, too, it looks like. They might have even removed them. I don’t see an ident-tat.”

Frowning, he leaned closer, squinting down at one of her leather-clad arms. He stared down at the hand at the end of that arm.

“…They took her fingers, too,” he added.

“Fantastic,” Morley muttered from behind him.

Nick carefully lowered the lid to the dumpster, stepping back.

“Better photograph it,” he said. “Whoever she was, she had money. Someone’s probably looking for her.”

Three police techs in white, semi-transparent decontamination suits were standing at a safe distance behind him, presumably waiting for him to move away before they started photographing and taking samples.

One of them cleared their throat, speaking up.

“Those too,” she said, blanching when Nick turned.

She motioned towards the bodies on the floor of the alley.

“…They have money, too,” she clarified. “Expensive clothes. Manicures. Some plastic surgery treatments. At least one pair of diamond earrings—”

“They left all that?” the younger detective said, puzzled. “Why?”

The tech looked at him, then back to Nick.

She didn’t answer.

Realizing he stood between the techs and the woman in the dumpster even now, Nick backed off to give them room. From the looks on their faces, they weren’t about to approach with him standing there, no matter how fuzzy and cute he tried to make himself.

Frowning up and down the alley, he looked for signs of tampering with the scene.

Who was the contaminant? Did a beat cop walk through here?

It didn’t smell like a cop. He couldn’t quite explain that to himself, not in so many words, but cops had a particular imprint, and he didn’t get it off this person.

He didn’t like the anomaly of the woman.

“It’s likely she was the primary target,” he muttered, mostly to himself as he continued to scan the scene. “The others may have been incidental.”

“Cause of death?” Morley said, his voice pointed. “They all die by plasma rifle? Or did the one in the dumpster die by something else?”

Nick glanced at him, then frowned.

“Plasmas, yes. The woman in the dumpster, too. They hit her in the face.” He motioned towards his own face in rote. “That doesn’t strike me as an accident. They tried to use the rifle to hide it, but the superficial damage to hide her ID all looked post-mortem to me.”

Still thinking, he added,

“At least one of the killers carried an old-school projectile. He shot the one in the dumpster at least once, possibly twice. At least once in the head. That shot didn’t go all the way through.”

At Morley’s puzzled look, Nick jerked his chin towards the metal container.

“I can smell the metal slug,” he explained. “Smells different than blood.”

Morley grimaced.

Turning away, he muttered something in Russian, sipping at his coffee.

Nick pretended not to notice the grimace, or the Russian, or that both things were aimed at him.

Stepping back into the main part of the alley, he went back to walking the scene. Using his eyes now, as much as his nose, he carefully skirted the pools of blood and smaller chunks of flesh to keep it off his shoes.

He frowned down at the next body he encountered, a male, adding,

“I don’t think you’ll find much DNA from the killers, not even with them having screwed around with the one body.”

He motioned behind him vaguely, in the direction of the dumpster.

“This looks to me like a professional hit. At the very least, these are smarter than average killers. They wore gloves—real ones, the kind we use. That, or they’ve had their fingerprints professionally removed. I don’t smell hair or skin fragments. I don’t see any shoeprints, so they must have known to wear flatteners. That, or they had someone come clean up, but I don’t see any evidence of a blower.”

Nick motioned towards the walls, where the blood-spatter remained intact.

“See that? That’s natural blood spray,” he said. “A blower would have pitted all of that with dirt, and fucked up the pattern. I don’t see any of that here.”

He saw Morley and the younger detective follow his pointing fingers.

The younger one scowled, as if annoyed he hadn’t noticed that yet, or, more likely, annoyed a vampire noticed it before him.

Nick blew that off, too.

“No,” he continued, frowning. “It’s more likely they didn’t leave tracks to begin with. I would bet on expensive, untraceable flatteners, possibly full-prosthetics and blood patches, professional level non-residue gloves, at least one antique gun… maybe an old school sniper rifle, or even a shotgun…”

Again, he motioned vaguely in the direction of the dumpster.

“…the plasmas all look like close-contact hits, maybe after they had them cornered in the alley, or maybe after they felled some of them long-distance, using the antique rifle. It’s the only reason I can think of for someone to use one of those… it’s why I wondered if it was a sniper. Unless they’re just attached to that particular weapon for some reason.”

Thinking about this, Nick shrugged.

“The slugs will tell you for sure,” he added. “…In terms of the weapon. Whatever the exact scenario, I’d look for pros. Which means either some kind of militia—maybe a political one, given the wealth class of the victims—or someone hired them. I don’t know of any amateurs who could do that to a body and not leave more physical traces of themselves.”

Again, Nick motioned vaguely at the dumpster.

“Most amateurs are idiots,” he added, unnecessarily, given who he was with. “They stick around, touch things, step in things, leave bits and pieces of themselves everywhere. I don’t see any stupid here. Plus, what they did to the woman in the dumpster, it was thorough. Which means they knew how to disguise her ident, and came here planning to do it.”

Nick exhaled, still thinking.

The exhale was more show than need, since he didn’t have to breathe.

He’d learned a long time ago, the more he could imitate human mannerisms and body functions, the more humans tended to relax around him. They probably didn’t even notice he was doing it, but some part of them reacted to it anyway, animal-to-animal.

Of course, he learned some of that back in the early days.

Back then, it was more of an aid in hunting.

Now he used it to reassure his human coworkers that he wasn’t actively thinking about eating them. He did it to reassure them they had something in common, that he wasn’t so different from them… that he wasn’t about to eat them.

Exhaling again, he added,

“Given where it is, and the exposure risk, it was likely a fast job, in and out. They didn’t make chit-chat with the victims prior to the kill, or—”

“But why?” the younger detective asked.

Nick recognized him from his first day on the job, two weeks back, when he’d been first introduced to his new precinct.

His remembered his name, even.

Damon Jordan.

Like Morley, he was dark-skinned, what used to be called black or “African-American.” He was about thirty years younger than the senior detective, though.

This was the first time Nick had dealt with him on an actual case.

They’d mostly farmed him out to smaller jobs these first few weeks, probably to check him out since he was new.

“Why?” Jordan asked again. “Any idea of motive? What was the point of this?”

Jordan had been the one talking about blood-whores before.

Nick gave him another glance, looking over the man’s muscular, broad-shouldered form. He looked like a fighter, like he spent a fair bit of time in the ring. He was young for a Detective II. He must have a decent mind on him, even if he was a racist fuck.

“How would I know?” Nick said mildly. “I just got here. Right now, I can tell you what I’m telling you. No tracks. Four killers, three males, one female. Probably three plasmas, and at least one antique combustion weapon, firing ammunition that used to be considered armor-piercing… although it wouldn’t do much to the organic shielding we have now.”

Exhaling again, if only to try to put them more at ease, he added,

“I’d guess a semi-modified assault rifle, probably something late 21st Century. That, or a shotgun, like I said. Something with some kick. Definitely not a handgun. Six victims, as we can all now plainly see, four female, two male. And there was an eleventh person who was here, who stepped in the blood…”

He pointed at the track he’d seen.

“…Male. Young. Maybe early twenties… at most. I can smell him, but I don’t think he was involved in the killing. He’s the only signature out here that left traces of himself everywhere. My guess is, he stumbled on the scene afterwards, walked around in it, maybe in shock, then bolted. If an anonymous tip brought you here, it was probably him. You’ll want to run him down, though. If only to eliminate his DNA and other trace evidence from the scene.”

Jordan stared at him with dark brown eyes.

They shimmered at Nick while he watched, almost in an amphibious way. That shimmer briefly illuminated a ring around the edge of the iris, a narrow line of pale blue.

Enhanced eyes. How had he missed that?

Those couldn’t have been cheap.

“You telling me how to do my job, Midnight?” Jordan said.

Nick held his stare.

He knew his vampire eyes would unnerve the other man.

It was their instinct to be afraid of him… just as it was his instinct to view them as food. He didn’t usually pull dick moves around that fact, but this time, he used it without thought.

“I’m giving you suggestions,” he said. “Midnights are consultants. I’m assuming you want my opinion, or I wouldn’t fucking be here—”

“Yeah, yeah, okay.” The other waved him off in annoyance, looking away from Nick’s eyes even as he clenched his jaw. “Whatever, man. And you’re sure this ‘contaminant’ wasn’t with the killers?”

Nick shrugged. “Reasonably sure, yeah. He smells more recent. Not a lot more recent… but maybe a few hours after.”

Thinking, Nick glanced up and down the narrow alley.

Something still bugged him about the smell of all that blood.

Worse, it was making him aggressive.

Even as he thought it, he scowled at Jordan.

“…Unless you had another cop in here,” he said. “Did you have another cop in here, Jordan? Someone too stupid to know not to fuck with a multiple homicide scene?”

The detective scowled back at him, his enhanced eyes growing hard.

“You sure this asshole was human, Midnight?” Jordan retorted.

“I’m sure he wasn’t vampire, Damon,” he said. “Want me to explain how our blood smells different than yours? I can tell you… yours smells a lot better.”

Jordan’s pale-blue ringed eyes grew cold as metal.

Nick didn’t flinch, but continued to hold his gaze.

That time, however, he found himself regretting his words, at least a little.

He was too new here to be picking fights, especially given how he’d ended up in New York in the first place. They’d have every reason to distrust him here. He was an involuntary transfer, sent over by his superior officers in L.A., who essentially “sold” him—sold his government contract, at least—to get him out of their hair.

No doubt, all the detectives here knew his history.

They knew he was essentially booted for being a problem.

He wasn’t doing himself any favors, acting like an arrogant prick. He wasn’t doing himself any favors projecting their worst stereotype of a vampire, either.

He needed to feed.

It was putting him in a foul mood.

That, and all this fucking blood…

Nick frowned, staring around at the alley floor.

It hit him again.

There was something wrong with this blood.

It smelled too fucking good.

It smelled way too fucking good.

That couldn’t all be Nick’s hunger.

“Anyway, that’s what I can tell you so far,” he said, making his voice deliberately casual. “Without knowing who the victims are, or what brought them to this alley, it’s pretty hard to speculate on motive, but…”

Nick hesitated then, realizing something.

Frowning, he stepped closer to the pools of blood.

Nose wrinkling, he crouched down so he could smell it from closer, even though the scent was overpowering, even from a lot further away. Taking a few full whiffs, he felt his fangs begin to extend in earnest.

That time, he couldn’t pull it back.

A flush of heat hit his gut and chest, burning in his throat. It was intense enough, he almost got hard, but he’d gotten pretty good at squelching that reaction, too.

He stood up at once.

Really, he lurched back.

It happened so fast, that smell and his reaction to it, Nick forgot to modulate his body’s natural reflexes to accommodate the people around him. He was up and moving in a heartbeat, darting back in pure instinct, without slowing his movements at all.

He moved fast enough to make the humans around him freeze.

Instantly, they turned into prey.

Ignoring them, and ignoring their deer-in-headlights reactions to how he’d just moved, Nick backed away from the pool of blood with a scowl.

He backed away from the human detectives and tech team, too.

“They’re hybrids,” he said, emotion reaching his voice.

He turned around, staring at the humans sharing the alley with him.

The stared back at him, faces blank, eyes holding flickers of fear.

Frustrated, wanting to smash through that frozen prey look, Nick let his voice turn into a harder growl.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Nick said. “Did you hear me? They’re all fucking hybrids.”

When they still didn’t speak, he averted his gaze with a scowl. His eyes returned to the alley. Staring around at all of that blood, it sank in what it really represented.

Once it had, he couldn’t help but feel sick.

JC Andrijeski is a USA TODAY and WALL STREET JOURNAL bestselling author who writes paranormal mysteries and apocalyptic fiction, often with a sexy, romantic and metaphysical bent. JC has a background in journalism, history and politics, and loves martial arts, yoga, meditation, hiking, swimming, horseback riding, painting… and of course reading and writing. She grew up in the Bay Area of California, but travels extensively and has lived abroad in Europe, Australia and Asia, and from coast to coast in the continental United States. She currently lives and writes full-time in Bangkok, Thailand.
Current series include: Vampire Detective Midnight, the Bridge & Sword series, the Quentin Black Mystery series, The Morph series, and the Alien Apocalypse series. She’s also written a number of standalone novels, novellas and short stories, as well as nonfiction articles and essays.

To learn more about JC and her writing, please visit



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