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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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Feb
1

Review: The Master by Tara Sue Me

Review: The Master by Tara Sue Me The Master Author: Tara Sue Me Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I’m a big fan of Tara Sue Me’s Submissive series. While I may not have raved about every single title, they all have a special place in my heart because each book has some poignant lesson I can apply to my own life. The Master is no exception. While many people read for specific purposes (predominantly, to escape reality), a single title can fill several roles. It’s always fun to immerse myself in some well-crafted characters and a substantial plot. But the books that make me think and reflect on my own life are those I’ll keep on the back-burner for a good ol’ fashioned comfort read when life just gets too overwhelming. The Master is going on that list. Readers of the Submissive series have already met Sasha and Cole, our main characters for this title. As Sasha’s plot line wove through previous books, I was really curious as to how she would get her HEA. Stop. Rewind. If you *haven’t* read the previous books, The Master could be read as a stand-alone. However, I think there’s deeper meaning and understanding as a reader with the more in-depth background information supplied in previous titles of the series. The author does a great job of ‘reminders’ throughout the book, but it’s surely no substitute for actually reading the prior six novels. For readers of the series, and actually, the blurb, Sasha is re-entering the BDSM world after a play session with her Dom went horrifically of-the-rails. She is re-joining the Partners-in-Play BDSM group, and she requires retraining in order to overcome the abuse she sustained. She needs to learn to trust herself again, while playing, after such a traumatic experience. Here, the parallels with life overwhelmed me, to be honest. So many people are involved in either physically or emotionally abusive relationships—it made my heart hurt just thinking about it. How do those people manage to find the yin to their yang? Someone that simply *gets* them, even if they’re really broken? That’s today’s society, unfortunately. Everyone has baggage, and seeing Sasha’s baggage laid before us, the readers, drove home exactly how fortunate I am to have Mr. VampBard. As we watch Sasha go through her ‘process’, it gave me hope. Hope that someday, I’ll be able to put behind me the rest of the baggage I brought into my marriage. Hope that other people—still...
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Jan
5

Review + Excerpt: Headed for Trouble by Shiloh Walker

Review + Excerpt: Headed for Trouble by Shiloh Walker Headed for Trouble Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Shiloh Walker. I should know better than to read one of her books and expect a casual read. Call me Holiday Impaired, or whatever, but I picked up Headed for Trouble expecting to sit down and read for a while, you know, before I started doing what I needed to accomplish for the day. Nope. DEVOURED IT. Good thing I didn’t have anything super important on the schedule, because I’m pretty sure I would’ve been that girl who canceled plans because she needed to sit on her couch, wrapped in a blanket, finishing a phenomenal book. I’m not sure how Ms. Walker does it; she manages to find a way to really connect with me at least once a year. I’m pretty sure Headed for Trouble is that book for 2016. In 2013, it was Beautiful Scars and Wrecked. 2014 brought Razed, and 2015’s book was Busted. And, I’m not sure exactly how to write this review without spoiling the intense plot. But I’m going to try. I really liked all the characters in Headed for Trouble, the first title in Walker’s new McKays series. Brannan and Moira McKay, Gideon, Hannah—I’m pretty sure readers have been set-up for the entire series with these intense and relatable characters. I’m also pretty sure we know who hooks up with whom, as well ☺ I like going into a series with predictions, and I trust Ms. Walker to take me on a rollercoaster until they reach their happily ever after. Brannan and Moira are Neve’s siblings, and play a major role in this title. I think we learned a lot about their personalities—especially Brannan—and have a great foundation for the development of future titles in the series. Gideon and Hannah are great characters, and support a host of purposes in Headed for Trouble, besides setting up future titles. Ian, one of our main characters, is a Scot in a kilt with a brogue. Panty. Melting. I think I fell so hard for him as a hero because he reminds me a lot of Mr. VampBard. He’s supportive, and he listens to Neve. He reads her body language. Most of all, I think I really connected with him because he didn’t let her wallow in a pool of self-pity. He made her want to be a better person, and I think everyone involved—especially her family—saw that as a good...
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Dec
22

Review: Calling the Play by Samantha Kane

Review: Calling the Play by Samantha Kane Calling the Play Author: Samantha Kane Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Tyler Oakes knows he’s on his last chance to make it as a pro quarterback, so he’s toned down his partying and is trying to focus on playing the game. But sometimes he needs to scratch an itch, and it doesn’t matter to him if companionship comes from males, females, or both at the same time. But when he meets undercover cop Randi McInish, he knows he wants more than just one night with this foul-mouthed sex pot. And then there is the Rebels’ new quarterback coach, Brian Mason, who shares a history with Tyler. When it’s clear that the two men have unspoken issues to resolve, can Randi step aside and let them discover love? Despite struggling with some issues while reading the first book in the series, I decided to give Calling the Play a shot. Unfortunately, after only hitting the 10% mark, I had to stop reading for two reasons. First – it was pretty obvious that this story was once again going to include a romance between a player and a coach. I had issues with how this was handled in the first book, and I was already cringing at the replay of this dynamic. Second – I couldn’t stand the heroine. She was simply obnoxious. I admire women who are all about “this is who I am and this is what you get,” but it was over the top. Her vocabulary pretty much only consisted of multiple 4-letter words strung together. I don’t mind a potty-mouth, but there is a time and place, and this felt forced. However, after taking a break from the book for a few weeks, I decided to pick it up again, and I’m happy to report, ended up enjoy it – more so than the first book. While I still had some issues with the book and the characters, overall, I liked the story and romance of Tyler, Randi, and Brian. While Randi still bugged me from time to time, I liked that she was protective of Ty, and eventually Brian. Additionally, as the story progressed, her level of unpleasantness toned down considerably. Meanwhile, the coach-player issue didn’t play out as it did in the first book, and I found I wasn’t irritated by the Brian-Tyler dynamic because 1) they have a history and 2) it’s still preseason and they aren’t in a player-coach...
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Dec
21

Review: Stuck Landing by Lauren Gallagher

Review: Stuck Landing by Lauren Gallagher Stuck Landing Author: Lauren Gallagher Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: After the long, painful dissolution of her previous relationship, Anna Maxwell isn’t in a hurry to jump into any new attachments, much less with anyone involved with Wolf’s Landing. But, when the tough, gorgeous stunt coordinator Anna has had a crush on for months suddenly breaks up with her boyfriend and makes it clear that she’s more than willing to help work off their mutual frustrations in bed, Anna sees no reason not to take her up on the offer. Even though Anna’s determined not to fall for a bisexual woman again, Natalya Izmaylova seems to be everything Anna has ever wanted in a partner. And while walking away should be easy, Anna is quickly learning that it most certainly is not. Told exclusively from Anna’s perspective, Stuck Landing follows the developing relationship between two wonderfully tenacious, extremely capable women who are perfect together—if they don’t self-destruct along the way. One thing I was especially pleased about is that both women are so open about what they want sexually. Anna and Natalya like and want sex, and it was nice to see that out there so matter-of-factly. Regardless, the chemistry between them is so obvious and undeniable that every scene they have together practically vibrates with it, whether they’re having sex or not. I was glad, but not at all surprised, to see biphobia addressed so unapologetically in the Bluewater Bay series, and by this author, in particular. As has been the case with just about every other story I’ve read in this collection, the stumbling blocks Natalya and Anna face seemed real, and were far from easily overcome. Biphobia is a serious problem that doesn’t get enough attention in literature, in my opinion, but Ms. Gallagher dissects the issue both thoughtfully as well as candidly, and I appreciated both very much. Once again, the Bluewater Bay series has proven that beautifully written, thought-provoking fiction is alive and well. Stuck Landing is frank and occasionally harsh, yet manages to be evocative and incredibly sweet in places, too. Ms. Gallagher has repeatedly demonstrated that she is an impressive storyteller, and makes quite a few good points here in a relatively short narrative. Although it can be read as a standalone, I recommend reading all of the Bluewater Bay stories, since each is unique, yet often interconnected. The entire series has a lot to offer, and is one...
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Oct
20

Review: The Single Undead Moms Club by Molly Harper

Review: The Single Undead Moms Club by Molly Harper The Single Undead Moms Club Author: Molly Harper Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Libby Stratton is a widowed, single mom fighting an incurable cancer. Faced with the prospect of leaving her six-year-old son Danny to be raised by her in-laws, Libby places an ad looking for someone to turn her into a vampire. After waking into her new life as one of the undead, Libby starts to realize the ramifications of her actions. Luckily Jane Jameson and her undead circle of friends help Libby make the necessary adjustments, and then there is Wade, hunky human father of her son’s best friend, who is willing to help Libby in ways the Vampire Council can’t. I always enjoy my time with the denizens of Half-Moon Hollow. Ms. Harper’s southern small town is filled with crazy mischief, lots of humor, good friends, and the occasional mishap or five. The regular cast of characters is extremely likable, and I want to befriend each as I cheer for a happy ending. On the flip side, her antagonists are generally despicable yet complex, and I enjoy that sometimes they aren’t as they seem. And while the Half-Moon Hollow series, as well as the original Jane Jameson series, feature the struggles of women who have been recently turned into vampires, The Single Undead Moms Club stands out because Libby must integrate herself back into the human world and raise her human son. I really enjoyed Libby and Wade as a potential couple. They shared an awkwardness and a “I don’t give a damn” attitude that bonded them right from the get go. Their initial spark smolders a bit until their passion ignites into flames. They just fit so well together, and they made me smile. I adored how much Wade cared for Libby and wanted to help her without smothering her. I also loved and appreciated Jane’s constant help, especially with the frame of reference that Jane didn’t have it when she had been turned. What I didn’t really care for was Libby’s unexplained attraction to her Sire, Finn. Having never met him, I didn’t understand Libby’s strong desire to make nice and almost please him. He came across quite creepy to me, and therefore her actions around him felt misplaced and odd. I felt similarly about his mysterious companion as well. Overall, I simply enjoyed The Single Undead Moms Club and found it to be an engrossing, quick read. Ms. Harper’s...
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Jun
9

Review: Light a Candle by VJ Summers

Review: Light a Candle by VJ Summers Light a Candle Author: VJ Summers Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Will Mitchell is a Dom who is looking for the perfect sub: someone who is challenging and self-aware; one whose needs align perfectly with the kind of dominance he has to give. While he’s become a competent Dom in Chicago, now that he’s back in Detroit, he wants to prove himself at the most selective, and desirable, BDSM club around: Club Deviant. What he never expected was to find himself face-to-face with the biggest mistake he ever made. Dustin is a sub down to his marrow. Submission centers him, thrills him, and makes him fly. As a house submissive and member at Club Deviant, he can usually find what he needs–for his body and spirit, at least, if not his heart. That was lost ten years ago to his friend and resident high school god, Will. Who promptly crushed it and abandoned the friendship they’d shared since they were kids. But, when Will turns up at the one place where Dusty can truly be himself, he’ll be tested as never before. And putting his heart on the line again might be too high a price to pay. Of the two main characters in Light a Candle, Dustin won me over immediately. Even during the flashbacks to his and Will’s high school days, he exhibits strength and perseverance that put me squarely in his corner for the entire story. Dustin describes his need for submission as being “as necessary to him as breathing,” and it’s evident in every scene he participates in. He doesn’t give in easily, but when he does, his submission is absolute and lovely. Just as importantly, Club Deviant is his “home,” in many regards, and I couldn’t help worrying for him when it seemed like he might lose it because of Will’s intrusion. Will, who often appears to be as arrogant and selfish as he was in high school, I didn’t like as much. While it may not be fair to punish Will eternally for his actions as an eighteen-year-old, his acknowledgement of his earlier cruelty to Dustin didn’t seem particularly sincere, just a means to an end. Similarly, his assumption that gaining forgiveness for the past entitles him to get his way now doesn’t exactly make him worthy of a sub like Dustin. It’s clearly not that simple. Every fear that Dustin has is absolutely valid, and I would have been...
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