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May
10

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Off Kilter by Hannah Reed

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Off Kilter by Hannah Reed Welcome to our feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Off Kilter Author: Hannah Reed Narrator:  Angela Dawe Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Scottish Highlands Mystery #1 Genre: Contemporary, Cozy Mystery Source: Tantor Audio Eden Elliot has had a crappy year. Her husband divorced her and her mom died. So best friend, best-selling romance author, Ami Pederson, sent Eden on a 6-month vacation to a small town in the Scottish Highlands, and won’t take no for an answer. Eden not only needs the relaxation, but she’s under contract to write her own romance novel, which happens to be set in the Highlands.  On the plane, Eden befriends Vicki MacBride who is on her way to the same small town for her father’s funeral and to take over her large inheritance, much to the dismay of her half-siblings. Treated as an outsider, Vicki finds little comfort in her new home, and once she discovers the murdered body of the local sheep shearer, she’s considered a prime suspect. Unfortunately for Eden, she’s caught in the middle of the mess, and won’t leave her new friend out to hang. Off Kilter is an exciting cozy mystery set in the picturesque town of Glenkillen. Although the murder mystery is serious and Eden faces true danger, the story is light, as a good cozy mystery should be. I like that Eden isn’t really a sleuth, but has an inquisitive mind, and is only trying to help her friend. She isn’t out to prove she’s more knowledgable than the police, and the local law enforcement is top notch. Even though the murder is the focal point of the plot, the story provides slower moments which are the times we learn more about Eden and her surroundings. She takes time to appreciate the local scenery and befriend the residents, most specifically the hunky stranger who rescues her on the way into town. She and Leif spend a bit of time together, and I hope to see more of the pair in the next title.  One of the reasons I picked up Off Kilter was because of Angela Dawe. While I’ve never listened to a book narrated by her before, I’ve heard a lot of positive things. Since the story is shared from Eden’s point of view, her pleasant voice is used for most of the book, only changing for dialogue. I was very impressed with Ms. Dawe’s work, most especially all of the accents – each a...
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Apr
25

Review: Bound To by Sionna Fox

Review: Bound To by Sionna Fox Bound To Author: Sionna Fox Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Having lived her entire life in a small college town where she never really fit in, Jolene Mae Whitford finally decided to make a fresh start for herself in Boston. But, living nearly rent-free in her former roommate’s spare room, without a steady job, while constantly dreading her next anxiety attack isn’t working out so well, either. The only bright spot was meeting Matthew Ward—the older brother of another college friend—and realizing that he she needs to give him control during sex as much as he needs to accept it. In fact, submitting to Matthew is the only thing that has felt good in years. But, what is she supposed to do when even that’s not enough? Told entirely from Jolene’s perspective, Bound To explores not only the “awakening” of her physical desires, but her evolution and redefinition of self. It isn’t that Jolene is a “mess” or in need of “fixing,” it’s that she’s not who she’s supposed to be. She’s never had the determination or opportunity to find out before. One of the things I felt this story did well was acknowledge that people are meant to change, and that it’s not shameful to accept help from others along the way. Something else I appreciated is that Jolene’s anxiety isn’t treated as an inconvenience for Matthew (or anyone in their group of friends for that matter) to accept or “cure.” Not that his attempts to help weren’t without some missteps, but mostly Jolene had to be ready to figure out what she needed for herself. Which can be a very difficult thing to do. Though the primary emphasis of Bound To is about more than sex, Jolene’s induction into the world of dominance and submission occupies much of the narrative. Matthew is honest from the start about what he wants, which is exactly what she needs, but didn’t know how to look for. Every encounter is very explicit and highlighted by the heady enticement of finally exploring what feels right to Jolene, not just good. And while the author makes sure that each one is framed by thoughtfulness, responsibility, and care, it’s also made clear that all relationships are different, and that the “rules” that Jolene and Matthew initially agree on are allowed to evolve. In the end, Bound To covered a lot ground in a compact narrative. Though it seemed a little textbook...
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Apr
11

Review: Peachy Flippin’ Keen by Molly Harper

Review: Peachy Flippin’ Keen by Molly Harper Peachy Flippin’ Keen Author: Molly Harper Reviewer: Jen Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: I’m going to put this out there right up front… I am giving this book a C+, even though I really liked the main charters, and I found the story engrossing and dialogue sharp. But here is why it’s not getting an A or B… Peachy Flippin’ Keen starts the story of Frankie McCready and Eric Linden, but comes no where close to finishing it. Peachy Flippin’ Keen is a fantastic beginning, but without the closure of the primary plot nor an HEA/HFN.  Told exclusively from Frankie’s POV, we learn about newcomer Sheriff Linden, who inherited a mess and is trying hard to make his office and position respectable again. He’s a bit cold with Frankie, but that’s probably because the weekend before he arrived in Lack Sackett, the pair had a one-night-stand, and Frankie Uber’d her way out in the middle of the night without saying goodbye. I enjoyed watching the pair tiptoe around each other, marking territory and setting the stage for what hopes to be a promising romance. But by the end of the book, the two aren’t even friends.  Equally entertaining and frustrating is the plot surrounding someone playing pranks on the McCready Family businesses. While Frankie is certain it’s a troublesome teen whose parents think the sun revolves around him, there is no evidence as to who may be playing the bothersome jokes. Unfortunately we still have no clue by the end of Peachy Flippin’ Keen.  It’s not that the book is a cliffhanger. It’s not. But it’s not a complete story either. It’s more like the first eight chapters of the next full-length title, Ain’t She a Peach, which is scheduled for release on June 12th. My recommendation is to wait until June to read this one so you can finish Frankie and Eric’s story without the wait.  My Rating:  C+ Liked It, but I had issues About the Book: A prank war erupts in Lake Sackett, Georgia and coroner Frankie McCready has to turn to the gorgeous but surly new sheriff for help in Molly Harper’s newest Southern Eclectic novella, perfect for fans of Kristan Higgins and Amy E. Reichert. The McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop has crickets running rampant in the store and hot sauce in the Snack Shack’s ketchup bottles. But as the county coroner, Frankie has enough on her plate without worrying about...
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Apr
9

Review: A Nantucket Wedding by Nancy Thayer

Review: A Nantucket Wedding by Nancy Thayer A Nantucket Wedding Author: Nancy Thayer Reviewer: Nima Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: A Nantucket Wedding is a story about the family drama that always surrounds large family events like a wedding.  The wedding serves to focus a spotlight on the relationships of key characters.You’d think a book about a wedding would be a romance.  It is romantic, but not a romance.  Everyone in this story is already in an established relationship, some of them rocky. What this book is, is women’s fiction.  I keep trying it and I continue to be disappointed.  This one is better than some I’ve read, there isn’t as much whining and over-thinking every nuance of anything anyone ever said.  Unfortunately, drama aside, there isn’t much in the way of plot.  It’s slice of summer life. Thayer specializes in the island of Nantucket.  That part she does really well.  I felt the sun on my face and the sand under my feet.  I yearned to get in the car and spend the day at the beach.  I was transported back to my summers of family reunions where we rented a house and everyone slept on every surface, we ate too much, played board games on rainy days, and performed ritual sunblock application. Little tip:  Put a bucket of baby powder by the door to take the sand off feet before entering the house.  It does a better job than water.  Then you can rinse the powder.  But I digress… A Nantucket Wedding is billed as a stand-alone, but it didn’t leave me with a satisfying ending.  A stand alone should wrap up all it’s threads in a nice bow.  The resolution of at least one storyline wasn’t happily-for-now, it was just for-now. It was the storyline that probably had to most drama and feeling to it so to have it just sitting there largely unresolved at the end was awkward. My Rating: B- Liked It, but I had a few small issues About the Book: A few years after losing her beloved husband, Alison is doing something she never thought she would do again: getting married. While placing the finishing touches on her summer nuptials, Alison is anxious to introduce her fiancé, David, to her grown daughters: Felicity, a worried married mother of two, and Jane, also married but focused on her career. The sisters have a somewhat distant relationship and Alison hopes that the wedding and the weeks leading up to the...
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Feb
6

Review: Relief Valve by JL Merrow

Review: Relief Valve by JL Merrow Relief Valve Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Still recovering from the last case he helped solve, as well as trying to settle into his new relationship with Phil Morrison (a private investigator and former bully), psychically-gifted plumber Tom Paretski could really go for some quiet time and a pint or two at his favorite pub. But, between his best friend’s engagement, the death of a family friend, and his sister’s poisoning (at her own engagement party, no less), he’s not likely to find peace anytime soon. Good thing the pints are a viable option, at least. As much as I liked Pressure Head, the first in the series, I had a truly excellent time reading this story. Despite the grim circumstances surrounding the darker aspects of the narrative, I thought Relief Valve was downright hilarious. Tom’s at his best when he finds himself trapped within the failings of etiquette in the face of death, literary duplicity, and romance, and I couldn’t help snickering and cackling all the way through at his expense. I even guiltily found his discomfort with regards to his own affections nearly priceless. Not just a funny bit of storytelling, Relief Valve is also a gratifying suspense. With questions surrounding the target of the crimes in addition to the identity of the perpetrator, there’s plenty to here to keep readers guessing for quite a while. Although I wasn’t really shocked by the ending of the story, getting there was definitely entertaining. One of my favorite things about this story was the developing romance between Tom and Phil. With their backstory a little less glaring, it was easier for me to more readily support them both, even though I could still appreciate the apprehension expressed by Tom’s family and friends. Tom is an endearing character, making their protectiveness seem more understandable. Speaking of wonderful characters—Darren and Gary continue to be two of my favorites, transforming every scene they appear in into a delight. There’s no way to do them justice here, but I absolutely adore them both. Tom’s sister, Cherry, won me over early, as well, and I even developed a reluctant fondness for the “Worryingly,” “Helplessly,” and “Terrifyingly Reverend Greg” (there are twelve of these constructions in my copy—each more amusing than the last). One of the best sequels I’ve read in a long time, Relief Valve is a strong addition to what has so far been an intriguing series....
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Nov
3

Review: Third Rail by Santino Hassell

Review: Third Rail by Santino Hassell Third Rail Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: 3/10/2018 Edited to Add: Please note, this review was written and posted prior to the occurrences brought to light in recent days (https://goo.gl/Y7WB7F). The book was read and reviewed in good faith and as presented at the time. The posting of this review in no way condones the actions of author. ======== Beginning just after Interborough, and supplementing the numerous hints scattered throughout Concourse, this quick, sexy collection of shorts is the perfect precursor to the sixth book in the Five Boroughs series, Citywide. Having been charmed by Chris way back in Sunset Park, and left scrambling for whatever details I could glean about both Aiden and Jace after being officially introduced to them in First and First, I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to experience this part of their journey through Third Rail. These three have always been favorites of mine, and I couldn’t have been happier when it was hinted that they’d have their own HEA. Sweet and a little bit shy, Chris has always revealed a significant amount of insecurity in himself that felt unfinished on the perimeter of others’ stories. In contrast, Aiden and Jace’s narrative might have been self-contained, if not for the realization that they, too, have more to experience in the wake of a sexual intersection with Chris. And although I’ve fallen for quite a few of the characters throughout this series, I want these guys to find their way very, very much. Easily read on one sitting, Third Rail requires little investment for the insightfulness its bound to contribute to the series overall. And while it might be fun on its own, it really does belong within the context in which it was intended. Each of the Five Boroughs stories has affected me in different ways, and I’m proud to have them on my physical bookshelf, as well as in other formats. This delightful offering from the author is a much-appreciated gift that shouldn’t be ignored. My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Christopher Mendez has always known his sexual identity had a swerve. No straight guy would have low-key lusted after his childhood best friend, right? Unfortunately, a combination of insecurity and overall lack of game has prevented him from further exploring his sexuality. That changes once he agrees to participate in a photoshoot for a queer dating app and meets Jace Fairbairn. Jace is beautiful,...
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Mar
14

Release Day Review: The Hard Way by Annika Martin

Release Day Review: The Hard Way by Annika Martin The Hard Way Author: Annika Martin Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: NOTE: Although each story in the Taken Hostage by Kinky Bank Robbers is standalone, the romance of the four main characters has developed over the course of the series, with deeply emotional roots and revelations along the way. Additionally, the events in prior books impact the events in this book. For these reasons, I do not suggest starting the series with The Hard Way. The first book in the series, The Hostage Bargain is currenly free! The story opens with the God Pack honeymooning in Rome for the past month. Although they know they cannot stay for long in one place, and in fact had to give up so much of their normalcy in escaping ZOX, the gang indulges in daily routine and the temptations of Rome. However, when Isis learns that her sisters’ farm is in trouble and her eldest sister, Vanessa, is charged with manslaughter, the guys whisk Isis back to Wisconsin. Investigating the alleged crime incognito, the gang promises to save Isis’s family. There is so much to love in this series, and The Hard Way is another wonderful addition. First, the title’s opening sex scene (there is certainly more than one!) is one of the dirtiest yet in the series. And even when the guys are worshipping their goddess, the author always finds ways to slip in her amazing, dark humor. I just died when Thor asks “Um, did you guys just have some sort of mystical butt-f**king experience?” The timing of Ms. Martin’s offbeat humor is always impeccable. I think I laughed out loud every time the group found themselves in the cupid-infested B&B. Loved. It. Next, The Hard Way is emotionally satisfying. Although every book centers on the foursome and their deepening love and commitment, each title tends to focus a little bit more on one of the characters, and in this light, I would say The Hard Way is Odin’s story. But you can’t think of this series as one that has a beginning and end point for each character. While the story looks deeper into Odin’s time as a captive, he’s not suddenly “cured” of his horrors by the end of the story – not even close. However, we witness tremendous growth in the relationship between Isis and Odin as she gets him to open up. She comes to understand that no matter how much she wants...
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Jun
21

Review: By the Numbers by Jen Lancaster

Review: By the Numbers by Jen Lancaster By The Numbers Author: Jen Lancaster Reviewer: Nima Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: I was attracted to By the Numbers because I have arrived in the sandwich generation and my older brother is an actuary.  Main character Penny Sinclair is an actuary at the highest fellowship level who’s ready to move on from a painful divorce and embrace being an empty-nester.  Her parents and her children have other plans and issues with appropriate boundaries.  For those of you who don’t know what an actuary is (we had to look it up when my brother came home from college and announced that’s what he wanted to do with his life,) it is someone who analyzes the financial consequences of risk.  They are calculating ninjas.  This kind of work is especially cogent to the insurance industry where most actuaries are employed.  They are the ones who figure out how long you’re going to live. Becoming an actuary is a brutal process.  They sit for multiple, lengthy exams twice a year.  Each exam is like taking the bar and the process can take anywhere from six to ten years to complete.  They make pretty good money because, yeah, math.  We have a family joke that actuaries are the people who didn’t have enough personality to be accountants.  We can say that because my father is an accountant and truthfully, they both have a great sense of humor.  So my interest was piqued to see what Lancaster would do with a female actuary. Penny’s character borders on being a stereotype, but really, since so few people know what an actuary is, I’m not sure the word “stereotype” really applies.  The average reader will see her as financially obsessive compulsive.  She studies statistics and plans accordingly.  She reminded me of my father who, trying to plan for every possibility, actually budgeted for both he and my mother to get one speeding ticket the first year they were married.  The preparedness thing is probably Penny’s most endearing quality. This is how she does her best by her family. The book opens with emails going around among Penny’s family members about the upcoming wedding of her daughter Kelsey.  They are snarky and even rude. Penny’s own mother is described as a “lesser Disney villain.”  I very nearly DNF’d the book because there was no way I could trudge through an entire novel of these self-centered brats.  Thankfully, we got to Penny’s narrative fairly quickly and...
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Jun
13

Review + Giveaway: All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher

Review + Giveaway: All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher All The Wrong Places Author: Ann Gallagher Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Despite the risks of his career as a semi-pro skateboarder, most things in Brennan Cross’ life are good. He’s got a job he likes, good friends, and is working towards his dream of competing in the X Games someday. Even though his personal life is a little shaky at present, his biggest problem isn’t that his girlfriend cheated on him—it’s that she’s the third one to do so. And the fact that all three have blamed Brennan’s inability to meet their sexual “needs” has left him more than a little confused. Now, Brennan has questions. Where better to find some answers than the local sex shop? As a single father and a Muslim working in an adult toy shop, Zafir Hamady knows he’s an anomaly. Being asexual as well just adds to the list of complications that has kept him single for so long. Sure, he’s lonely, but all he really wants to do is give his son a good home and every opportunity to have a better life. The last thing he needs is to fall for the seemingly straight, yet very lost, skater who wandered into his store right after an ugly breakup. Too bad his heart has other ideas. I’ve been very excited to see an increase in Ace titles and characters in the last year or so, and not at all surprised to see the topic addressed so well in a Bluewater Bay story. Asexuality is a broad, multifaceted, yet little-explored topic, but I think that the author of All the Wrong Places approaches quite a few of these issues with compassion and respect that I appreciated a great deal. I liked both Brennan and Zafir a great deal, even though they are about as different from one another as possible—at least in the beginning. As the vehicle for self-discovery, I thought Brennan was very likable, for the most part, and was especially pleased to see that he was both serious and introspective, rather than a flaky caricature of skateboarding culture. It is Zafir, however, who is the heart of the story, and it was his cautious yearning and affection that really drew me in. While this story could easily have turned into a “How to be Asexual” pamphlet, I found it to be so much more. From the support group where Brennan begins to feel less isolated to Zafir’s...
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Feb
7

Sunday Snippet: Extreme Control by Tilly Greene

Sunday Snippet: Extreme Control by Tilly Greene  About the Book Extreme Control Authors: Tilly Greene Publisher: Self-published Series: Control Duet Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance Released:  January 10, 2016 Snippet Finishing her shower, she donned a robe and went into the kitchen. She scrounged through the multitude of leftovers in the fridge and decided to reheat fried rice with a glass of white wine to drink. Tomorrow she was taking for herself and only going to the festival for the evening crowd. There was only so much polite talk about art one could do and she deserved time to recoup. Watching the council meeting on the local cable station had always been a secret thrill for her. Small town politics was the best entertainment and free, but reading the police blotter in the Coastline newspaper, also free, offered more fun. Lia had curled up on her elegant beige chenille covered couch. Eating and her enjoyment with local politics were suddenly interrupted by a loud thump on her door. The artist enclave she lived in was a hive of activity twenty-four hours a day, but no one purposely disturbed a neighbor unless it was an emergency. They might disrupt the muse and the group knew doing it was a cardinal sin. The knocking on her door sent her dashing to see who it was, only to leave her stunned speechless. Staring at her was a strong, gorgeous man leaning heavily on crutches and a tired smile. It was Kirk, the guy who’d callously broken her heart over the phone. Lia stared at him, her mind whirling a dozen different ways. She wasn’t sure she wanted to see him, only his sexy Scottish lilt was her weakness. Hurt was all she knew. “Can we talk?” After a few long moments, she nodded and opened the door wider for him to come inside. She looked her fill as he moved to settle himself on the large winged chair. Before shutting the door, she noticed a posh car with a driver leaning against the hood waiting outside the main wall. Giving the man a small wave of acknowledgement, she shut the door and turned to face her unexpected guest. “Would you like a glass of wine?” she asked, twisting a loosened lock of hair around her finger. Apparently falling back on old habits and the polite hostess took over. “Got anything harder?” “Whisky?” “Perfect.” Moving over to the space designated as the kitchen, she reached into the cupboard above the sink and removed a...
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