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Nov
6

Review: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

Review: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield Bellman & Black Author: Diane Setterfield  Reviewer: Nima Rating: B, 3 stars What I’m Talking About: Having loved Diane Setterfield’s debut book, The Thirteenth Tale, I waited anxiously for her to give us a second offering.  During that lengthy six year wait, I recommended it to others, reviewed it for book club, and extolled the virtues of Setterfield’s craftsmanship with words.  Really, that book was an ode to the love of reading. With that as predecessor, Bellman & Black had a lot to live up to and the longer the wait, the higher the expectations.  Fair or not, for me, Bellman & Black did not quite rise to the occasion. What I did want most and got was Setterfield’s methodic way of observing and describing people, moving within the spheres of their influence.  In this book she highlights how they overlap now and again, exhibit strengths and weaknesses, and within a generation or two are all but forgotten. I especially loved this passage: Dora’s nights of remembering grew less profitable as time passed.  She still did it sometimes, but the practice gradually lost its ability to comfort.  In part, she told herself, it was because she had worn the memories thin from overuse.  Like some of the coins they used to clean, the relief had been worn away. It’s a book that whispers rather than yells, making the point, if none other: that what you do in life matters more than the pace at which you accomplish it.  Bellman works at frenetic pace, making sacrifices right and left that impact his health and relationships.  He doesn’t do it because it makes him happy per se, but rather as payment for the happiness he has previously enjoyed and the success which seems to follow him in everything he does.  If he pays enough, can he cheat death?  Can he so justify his own existence that he puts death at bay? His happiness and his success, which he had taken to be solid things, hewn out of his own effort and talent, had proved as fragile as a dandelion clock; all it took was for this unsuspecting competitor to release his breath and the seedhead disappeared. As much as I enjoyed chewing on her apt descriptions and felicitous characterizations, the story dragged slower and slower until its conclusion. Think Meet Joe Black, but without the love story—more Hitchcock, more cerebral.  Still, its worst crime is that it opens itself to multiple questions...
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Oct
30

Review: Captive by A.D. Robertson

Review: Captive by A.D. Robertson Captive Author: A.D. Robertson Reviewer: B. Rating: B, 3 Stars What I’m Talking About: The first book in an adult trilogy under the pen-name A.D. Robertson (by YA author Andrea Cremer), Captive is a good beginning for this spinoff to the popular Nightshade series. Sarah is an accomplished “searcher” at the age of twenty-one, and a loyal soldier for her side in the Witches War, a battle to save the earth from the dark forces of the “nether realm.” Eager to the point of recklessness to take on the most dangerous task she’s been assigned yet, she has no idea that she’s charging headlong into her own destiny, and that the war she’s been fighting her entire life will reveal secrets and desires she may not be ready to face after all. As much a prisoner within the stark, island castle he inhabits as he is Keeper of it, Tristan has lived a life of solitude, surrounded only by Guardians and servants, as well as the occasional assigned companion. His greatest worry is the seemingly endless, unchanging years to come, until a beautiful enemy is captured entering his home. Eager to prove himself to his deadly benefactor, he assumes responsibility of the beautiful prisoner, unknowingly setting in motion a chain of events that may change the course of the War itself. The premise behind Captive is an intriguing one, and the introductory narrative provided a brief, yet thorough overview of the war the main characters are embroiled in. While the initial scene involving Sarah and her team captured my attention and opened the door to more questions I was eager to discover the answers to, I found Sarah herself a little difficult to connect to. She is young and tough, both fitting characteristics for a warrior on the front lines of a battle of this magnitude, yet her inconsistencies in the middle of the narrative made my support of her efforts feel somewhat obligatory, rather than enthusiastic. She vacillates between a determination to do her duty and self-doubt caused by the inappropriate desires of her heart more readily than her fortitude at both the beginning and end of the story would seem to indicate she is capable of. Ms. Robertson has made up for it with plenty of other winning characters in Captive, however. Tristan, for one, has multiple internal conflicts to contend with, yet he takes each step with a sincerity that made me want things to turn...
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Oct
17

Review: Cold Blooded by Amanda Carlson

Review: Cold Blooded by Amanda Carlson Cold Blooded Author: Amanda Carlson Reviewer: Twimom Rating: B-, 3 Stars What I’m Talking About: The third story in the Jessica McClain series picks up immediately after the conclusion of the previous book, Hot Blooded. Jessica, her mate Rourke, and their various pack mates and friends have just survived a nasty encounter with the crazed goddess Selena. Now the group is being questioned by a powerful witch, Tally, on the disappearance of her niece, Jessica’s friend Marcy. Marcy was kidnapped by a group of sorcerers wanting to get at Jessica. Quickly, the entire situation escalates, and Jessica and Rourke go on the run to escape and re-group. Cold Blooded is a high-octane ride, filled with crazy action and fights with several close calls. Jessica is coming into unimaginable power and has been quick to adjust, learning how to wield it with ease. While this helps Jessica and her friends as she journeys to save not only Marcy, but her father as well, sometimes I felt that solutions to problems came a little too easily for Jessica and the others. Apparently, none of the new supernaturals have learning curves if Jessica and newly made vampire Ray are examples. While Jessica did have two previous novels to work through some of the issues, in reality, only a few days to weeks have passed since she became the only female werewolf. I would have liked more failures or at least a few more struggles for Jessica as she learned about the supernatural world and her own internal controls. Jessica does wage through multiple battles before she can save Marcy or her dad.  She faces several foes this time around; it was almost too many to keep straight. The action is pretty intense and even a little gruesome at times. I enjoyed the battles most when Jess and her friends worked together as a team to defeat whatever was happening. This was one of the things I liked most about the second book: the teamwork of Jessica and her friends. This time around it felt more like Jessica was the alpha and everyone just did what she said. There wasn’t as much camaraderie. In addition, I didn’t feel as invested in her journey because something always happened to make things easy for her. There was the mysterious child prophet who gave Jessica answers and it felt a little to convenient. Then there was a friendly ghost, a crazed vampire seer, witches with spells,...
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Oct
9

Review: Her Ladyship’s Curse by Lynn Viehl

Review: Her Ladyship’s Curse by Lynn Viehl Disenchanted & Co., Part 1: Her Ladyship’s Curse Author: Lynn Viehl Reviewer: Twimom Rating: Stand alone: B, 3 Stars Part of larger book: A-, 4 Stars What I’m Talking About: Her Ladyship’s Curse is actually the first part (of two) of the upcoming title, Disenchanted & Co., the first novel in the Disenchanted & Co. series by Lynn Viehl. Fortunately, I was able to read both parts back-to-back, and knowing that they were two halves of a whole makes this review difficult to write. Therefore, I am giving this story two ratings: one as a stand alone story and the other as the first half of a bigger book. The story is set in an alternate timeline where the colonies did not win the Revolutionary War and are now the Provincial Union of Victoria. Times are hard, and society supports a wealthy class, a working class, and a group of undesirables. The Native Americans have some rights, but are still looked down upon. Women – especially ones like Kit who are trying to make it on their own – are on the lowest rung of society. While the author promotes the book in the steampunk genre, I feel there isn’t enough steam technology to support this label. With that said, it doesn’t matter what genre you want to label the book, it is a fascinating, well-developed world that I highly enjoyed reading. Miss Charmian “Kit” Kittredge doesn’t believe in curses or magic, yet she is surrounded by believers. Therefore, she has opened up her own “private eye” business (not something looked highly upon by society) called Disenchanted & Co.. While Kit feels she is debunking myths and uncovering false magic, everyone else believes she is the best dispeller of magic. Lady Diana Walsh, the young trophy wife to the wealthy Lord Nolan Walsh, thinks she’s been cursed by her husband’s deceased first wife. Terrified by the mysterious events plaguing her, she turns to Kit in secrecy, hoping Kit will put an end to the curse. However, when Kit begins to uncover the facts, the ominous nature of the truth begins to turn on Kit, placing her in mortal danger. As I mentioned earlier, writing a review for one half of a story is difficult. However, as a stand-alone book, Her Ladyship’s Curse provides an exciting glimpse into an adventurous new world. Ms. Vielh does a marvelous job setting the stage by developing her world and creating interesting characters. The...
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Oct
2

Review: A Lady’s Secret Weapon by Tracey Devlyn

Review: A Lady’s Secret Weapon by Tracey Devlyn A Lady’s Secret Weapon Author: Tracey Devlyn Reviewer: Ang Rating: B, 3 Stars What I’m Talking About: A Lady’s Secret Weapon is the third title in the Nexus series, and I wish I had realized that going into the book. That knowledge would have saved me chapters of frustration because I could have either found the previous two books and caught up on the story line. OR known going in that a variety of relationships and other questions were going to be left unanswered, and I could have accept that and enjoyed what was in my hands. Tracey Devlyn gives us a well-written book with strong characters whose chemistry is tangible right out of the gate, and whose back stories are as interesting as the current story. She uses the similarities and differences between the characters to bring flavor and spice to a story that could easily be stiff or so far fetched it lacked plausibility. She delivers a storyline with interesting twists without going too far or playing it too safe, which is a nice change from the other books I’ve read of late. All of which were wonderful additions to world of historical fiction. Then the end happened, and although the final twist was interesting, it almost felt like a cop out, and it was one of many issues with the book’s conclusion. I read romance novels for the escape, which this book definitely gave me, but I also read it for the happily ever after, and I’m not sure I got that with this book. The side characters we follow and get to know through this book get no resolution. Giles and Latameyer disappear, Amelia and Mac what happens to them? Do they find their happily ever after together? apart? Does Mac find healing? What of the Nexus? As I was reading this book I was given no indication that this book is part of series and even as it ended I was not given any hint that another book would be coming to offer answers. Although the main characters Ethan and Sydney get their happily ever after, but I felt that there wasn’t enough story to give me the complete picture. Overall, I felt that despite its many assets, there were far too many unanswered questions for me to give this book an A. Was it fun? Certainly. Could many of my questions be answered by reading the other books? Possibly. Will I ever find...
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Sep
24

Review: Blood Bond by Jeanne C. Stein

Review: Blood Bond by Jeanne C. Stein Blood Bond Author: Jeanne C. Stein  Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: B, 3 Stars What We’re Talking About: Blood Bond is the latest installment in the Anna Strong Chronicles, and it seems to be a transitional novel to the next story arc.  Although it is an emotionally charged novel, we felt a bit distanced from the storyline. We must make it clear, Gikany and Una started this series two books ago, with Crossroads.  Therefore we do not have a strong connection to Anna’s family, their situation and, most importantly, her relationship and history with Frey.  Blood Bond is the culmination of the history of Anna and Frey. Frey and Anna have decided to choose each other above all others.  There are many moments where Anna talks about being so utterly in love with Frey.  However, Gikany and Una feel that although they are explosive in the sack…sex is not the foundation of any long term relationship.  We do not doubt the personal connection they may have.  It is just that we do not see it.  Maybe it would be more noticeable to those that started the series from the beginning.  However, for the duration of Blood Bond the majority of their time together was slicked between the sheets.  Thankfully it was not overly graphic, but hotly passionate.  That being said, and noting that when vampires feed they require sex as part of the act, it should not have been the primary “quality” time they spent together.  We do have a few moments of “dating” but they were squashed between errands for the wedding, dealing with an overzealous detective, and grumpy old world European vampires. Maybe we would have been given more courtship at the beginning of Blood Bond if right after Frey and John-John arrived, Anna had not gotten THE call.  The most dreaded call – her mother is dying and it is time to be there.  This portion of the novel was very emotionally trying for Gikany and Una.  As some of you faithful TWITA followers know, I lost my mother to cancer.  Gikany has lost her father to a long illness several years ago, and her mother is currently battling cancer.  Needless to say, this was a very rough portion of the novel for both of us.  We are grateful to say that we feel it was handled well.  At least the family handled it well.  We liked that for her mother, Death was not the end...
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Sep
3

Review: The Wife He Always Wanted by Cheryl Ann Smith

Review: The Wife He Always Wanted by Cheryl Ann Smith The Wife He Always Wanted Author: Cheryl Ann Smith Reviewer: Ang Rating: B-, 3 Stars What I’m Talking About: I want to like Cheryl Ann Smith’s novels. She steps out of the box and mixes Victorian period romances with decent mysteries. My struggle is that in every book I’ve read of hers one side of the story or the other suffers, The Wife He Always Wanted was no exception. It starts out strong. Rough and rowdy cowboy shows up at the door rescue the struggling and starving maiden and sister of his best friend, except he isn’t a cowboy–he is a gentlemen, and off they go on an adventure to find love in a marriage of duty. Pretty typical historical romance and Ms. Smith did a fine job with the romance side of the story. Sarah is sweet and it is fun to watch her come into her own as she learns to be a wife, a lady, navigate society and seduce her husband. Gabriel is kind and caring and works hard to be a good husband as he works through a few issues of his own. All-in-all they are charming couple to watch, with a family full of interesting characters that adore them both. This in and of itself would have made a fine novel but between the family references and the mystery of Sarah’s father’s death in the mix things got mucky. First, The Wife He Always Wanted is the last book in a series. I now have read two of the five books in the series, and it was frustrating for me because throughout the book there are references to things that have taken place in the past. While these issues were likely addressed in other books and clearly relate to the character or characters presented at the moment, I felt a bit lost and only got veiled references or a hint, but nothing solid. I don’t need a complete retelling, but I feel like more information into their back stories would have been helpful to catch me up. Second, The mystery of Sarah’s father is dealt with throughout the book, but her brother and his past is never dealt with. We know he died in America, but never do we get so much as a flashback to tell us what he was like with Sarah or Gabriel or what happened to him in America other than he died. Given that this is last novel in the series...
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Aug
30

Review: Single Wolf Female by Jessica Sims

Review: Single Wolf Female by Jessica Sims Single Wolf Female Author: Jessica Sims Reviewer: Twimom227 Rating: B-, 3 Stars What I’m Talking About: After her alpha male brother Cash died suddenly, Alice, the alpha female is left trying to hold the Savage pack together. However a pack must have an alpha male and female, and unless Alice finds an alpha mate before the full moon, she will find herself the unwilling mate of nasty Roscoe (and let me tell you, based on some of his actions, he is creepy!) Since time is of the essence, Alice turns to shifter-friendly dating service, Midnight Liaisons. The only alpha at Midnight Liaisons is the mysterious Jackson. Way too laid-back and terribly easy on the eyes… Is he truly the alpha Alice is searching for? Jackson and teen Dan are the only two wolves left after their former pack was killed by a fire. They’ve been on the road for about a year and like the idea of settling down. Single Wolf Female is a playful novella with shifters at the heart. I enjoyed the light-natured banter between Alice and Jackson. I did like both characters and felt eventually, they made a perfect match. The slow, smoldering path that brought them together as true alpha mates was both smexy and sweet. I really liked Jackson from the start, and he honestly was too good to be true! On the other hand, I did take some issue with Alice. I understand that she is grieving horribly, but Alice is a complete wreck. Her own life is in such a disarray… Garbage rotting for weeks, dirty dishes, unfinished laundry. I’m horrified by her house and life! I wanted to know what made her an alpha. She comes across insecure and scatterbrained. She’s a virgin who has been hiding behind her alpha brother. At one point her instinct is to chase after her beta to smooth things over. She doesn’t like or want confrontation. To me, all of these behaviors are not those of an alpha. With that said, I liked Alice in spite of and because of her quirks. She may not have come across alpha, but I enjoyed her motherly and nurturing instincts. I also appreciated her strong will and her desire not to have to take a mate in order to remain the alpha female. Single Wolf Female is a good novella. It is fun and light, but I found Alice a little annoying and Jackson almost too good to...
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Aug
26

Review: Heat Wave by Taryn Kincaid

Review: Heat Wave by Taryn Kincaid Heat Wave Author: Taryn Kincaid Reviewer: Twimom227 Rating: B-, 3 Stars What I’m Talking About: Zena Night, sister of Lily and Dagney (from previous stories), is a succubus who is happy with her life of one-night stands and anytime-she-wants-it sex. But then she encounters Bhyrne Raines, head of the Queen Succubus’s guard, and suddenly she wants more. Bhyrne, a fire demon and cousin to Max Raines (previous story), worked his way up the ladder as a free demon and prides himself on his cold, stone demeanor. But after one look at Zena, he is precarious close to throwing it all away. Not only is she extremely tempting, but as Bhyrne enters his “breedspawn,” his biological drive to take a mate may crumble his last defense. So cousin Max sets Bhyrne up with Madame Eve and 1Night Stand. Heat Wave is the fourth novella in the enjoyable Sleepy Hollow series. Like its predecessors, the story focuses on a pair individuals, each using 1Night Stand (1NS) to find a hot date or companion. However, Heat Wave veers off in a different direction in that Bhyrne and Zena are both put into situations that mostly force them to find a mate. I felt that the use of 1NS in this story was a bit contrived and almost an after-thought, rather than the driving force bringing together the couple, and possibly would have been better without it. With that said, the Zena and Bhyrne made a fun pair, and the duo is hot together. Their coupling is intense, although not overly romantic or passionate. I think that is due to the fact that they basically found themselves forced into the mating situation, rather than being free to have time to develop a deeper relationship first.  But they do share an immediate and powerful mutual attraction, which is why their relationship works. One thing though, I would have liked to see the repercussions resulting from their mating. One of the things I loved about the novella is the Black Dagger Brotherhood references! First in the name “Bhyrne” whether intentional or not – it’s such a Brotherhood name. He’s a fire demon and his name is “burn” with an “h” and a “y.” Second, there is mention of consuming Lagavulin with passing reference to a tough vampire that drinks it. Finally, the “breedspawn” state is eerily similar to the “needing” that the female vampires experience in the BDB series. I found these and a couple...
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Aug
20

Review: Under a Spell by Hannah Jayne

Review: Under a Spell by Hannah Jayne Under a Spell Author: Hannah Jayne Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: B, 3 Stars What we’re Talking About: Under A Spell is the fifth book in the Underworld Detection Agency series.  Sophie is out to uncover a deadly coven and hopefully save a missing teen – by going back to her own personal hell, high school.  It is blatantly clear that the worse part of Sophie’s childhood was high school, and she has absolutely no desire to ever revisit that portion of her life again. First, we liked the last book, Under The Gun, even though we had jumped into the series with that novel.  We must stress again, to better enjoy this series, please start from the beginning.  Gikany and Una haven’t yet been able to go back and read the previous novels.  Because of this, we feel we are not as invested in the characters and are feeling a little lost to the references to previous occurrences.  There are numerous times that Sophie makes references to previous events that continue to be lost on us, although they continue to encourage us to go back and read the earlier titles. As we were reading Under A Spell, we kept comparing it to the previous novel.  It has some of the same cultural references and humor that we enjoyed.  Sophie has a unique personality and we enjoy her banter and current cultural references.  The first part of the book shows Sophie having an anxiety attack over returning to her high school, albeit as a substitute teacher.  It felt over-played, and we started interpreting her fears and anxiety as more of whining that she expected to be treated as she had in high school.  This seemed just a tad ridiculous to us.  She is going back as a teacher… why would she be treated as the pariah outcast student as she once was?  Once Sophie finally put on her big girl panties (at least the ones she could find…) we had the Sophie we enjoyed from the previous novel once again.  Something else that we wondered (that may be explained in previous novels) is how someone that is 100% human possibly related to Satan.  Also, how could spells affect someone whose sole reason for working for the Underworld Detection Agency is the fact that she is immune to magic?  This was never really explained. The continuing of the love triangle between Sophie, Will and Alex seemed to change a bit...
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