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Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Wildfire by Ilona Andrews Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Hidden Legacy Series Book: Wildfire Author: Ilona Andrews Narrator: Renée Raudman Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Hidden Legacy #3 Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance Source: purchased Wildfire Listening to Wildfire is my “re-read” of one of my favorite books of 2017. To recap: the book opens immediately after the conclusion of the previous one, with fears that Nevada’s paternal grandmother, Victoria Tremaine, has located the Baylors and wants to take the girls away to become part of her own House. Additionally, we discover that, Rynda Charles, Rogan’s ex-fiancee and daughter of Olivia Charles (antagonist from book 2), wants to hire Nevada because her husband is missing. Add to it the budding romance between Rogan and Nevada, a huge conspiracy to overthrow the existing government, and some crazy family issues, and you’ve got an amazing story! As with my audiobook review of White Hot (book 2), there isn’t much more I can add about Wildfire that I didn’t say in my original review. From that review: “The relationship of Rogan and Nevada continues to evolve, intensify, and mature. I adore their journey. Individually, each is learning how to adjust their own behaviors to better fit as a couple, while simultaneously working to accept the other’s idiosyncrasies and persona.” “Wildfire is a wonderful story in an amazing series. The authors have taken incredible care to create a whole set of characters beyond just the hero and heroine. I have become attached to each member of Baylor clan, and I adore that every character has purpose, each with their own story. While the action is intense, the emotional depth takes this story and series from great to amazing. I highly recommend reading the entire three-book Hidden Legacy series from the beginning.” As I have stated numerous times, the addition of Renee Raudman’s narration takes any book up a notch. By now, her unique and separate voices for each character have become so familiar to me, and listening to her read the story is a comfort, like hearing my mom’s voice on the phone after not talking for a while. But more than the voices, it’s the emotion she puts behind every performance that blows me away. From anger to fear, from joy to sorrow, I feel the power of her performance deep inside my heart. She takes the already amazing characters and makes them real. Wildfire is simply amazing and one of my favorite...
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Review: A Fine Mess by Kelly Siskind

Review: A Fine Mess by Kelly Siskind A Fine Mess Author: Kelly Siskind Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Lily has been living in break-up limbo for a year. She and boyfriend Kevin have been together for 11 years, but the relationship has turned comfortable and loveless. Finally getting the courage she needs, she ends things with Kevin. The primary push to finally make the break generated in her feelings for her friend and boss, Sawyer, whom she met nine months ago on a girls’ weekend in Aspen (My Perfect Mistake) The spark between the pair made her realize how much she doesn’t love Kevin any longer. Sawyer is head-over-heels for Lily since the moment he met her almost a year ago. They have so much in common, and she’s become his sounding board, muse, and best friend. But she’s got a boyfriend, so he’d never push for more, instead drowning his feelings in endless one-night stands. Yet when Lily calls to tell him she’s ended things with Kevin, he gets scared that his family’s history of broken relationships will doom any future he may have with Lily. I absolutely loved A Fine Mess. Plain and simple, Lily and Sawyer’s story was fabulous. The friends-to-lovers trope being one of my favorites, I loved that their story begins in the previous book and takes time to develop, so when they make that leap to be lovers, you know they are already in love. But theirs isn’t an easy road, and I honestly hated Sawyer at the beginning of the book. A Fine Mess is shared in dueling first person POVs, so readers understand the motivations, histories, and feelings of both Lily and Sawyer. I’m starting to become a fan of this method of storytelling for these very reasons. I was put through both highs and lows as the characters come to terms with their issues, both mental and emotional. Sawyer comes from a long line of broken marriages and men who cheat. He honestly believes he will inevitably hurt Lily someday, so he’d rather never start anything than break her heart. Understanding his pain makes some of his less desirable behavior a bit more tolerable for me. Lily struggles with change and saying goodbye. She deals with her emotions though shopping and hoarding. It’s a real problem, one that she’s hidden from family and friends, and I adore that Sawyer understands this and doesn’t make light or run away. In fact, Sawyer is beyond...
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Review: Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt

Review: Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt Duke of Sin Author: Elizabeth Hoyt Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Bridget Crumb is a housekeeper of impeccable credentials. She was hired on to the Duke of Montgomery’s staff just over two weeks before he was banished from and supposedly left England. Bridget has her own secrets and motivations for working for Montgomery, and now that the Duke is back, she’s got to work harder than ever to find what she needs before she’s caught, or she gives in to the dark temptation that is the Duke of Montgomery. Although banished from his home,Val Napier, Duke of Montgomery, has been hiding in the walls of his estate for the past three months, collecting secrets so that he can blackmail his way back into society. What he didn’t expect was to come across his newly hired housekeeper snooping around his home. Discovering Bridget’s secrets just may become Val’s favorite new hobby. Although Duke of Sin is the tenth title in Ms. Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, I was able to pick it up and enjoy it without any prior knowledge of the series. And oh how I enjoyed it! Not only is the overall story engrossing, but the romance is spectacular. As an anti-hero, Val shines, and Bridget is his perfect counterbalance while standing out in her own light. Like Capt. Jack Sparrow, Val’s moral compass is skewed. His horrible upbringing shaped him into a man who believes power over others is the only way to survive. He does what he wants, motivated by lust and pleasure. Uncaring of what others think, he thinks only of himself. Yet, his Bridget captivates his mind, heart, and soul. She shows him kindness and love, but is equally clever and devious, which Val understands and respects. “This is who I am, Séraphine. Naked, with blade and blood. I am vengeance. I am hate. I am sin personified. Never mistake me for the hero of this tale, for I am not and shall never be. I am the villain.” While he is motivated by power, Bridget is motivated by goodness and kindness. That doesn’t mean she is pure – anything but. Yet she gets through to Val. I love watching Val struggle with Bridget’s ideals and morals: first brushing them off, then listening. However, what I love most is that Val never strives to be a better man; he just wants to be a man Bridget will love. As Bridget and...
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Review: Dirty Rowdy Thing by Christina Lauren

Review: Dirty Rowdy Thing by Christina Lauren Dirty Rowdy Thing Author: Christina Lauren Reviewer: Jen Twimom My Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Harlow Vega is having a bad day. After a less than memorable one-night-stand, being awakened by said boy’s mother at 6:00 am, and then running into her ex-husband (of 12 hours), Finn at Starbucks, she finds out her mother has stage 3 breast cancer. Needing to take the edge off her life and forget her troubles, she reengages with Finn for some mind-blowing sex. The problem is, she can’t get Finn, the sexy Canadian fisherman, out of her head. Finn Roberts thought he knew Harlow, with her rich parents and larger-than-life persona. He didn’t mind being her sexual distraction until he started to know the real Harlow. Now he’s falling for her and doesn’t know what to do. Dirty Rowdy Thing is intense! I absolutely love Harlow and Finn, both individually and together. They compliment one another so well, and it’s heartbreaking when they both realize it and chose to step back. Neither is ready to deal with the overwhelming emotions that begin to surface as they spend more and more time together, both in the bedroom and out. And WOW! in the bedroom, the pair are smoking hot! Their sex is incredible: hot, naughty, and powerful. Of all the books, I think Dirty Rowdy Thing has the most intense and detailed sex scenes of the series. But it’s not sex just for the sake of sex, regardless of what the pair thinks. The scenes provide windows into the characters’ hearts and souls. They are literally laid bare to the other. As much as I used to dislike the alternating first person POVs, I am now a fan when it’s done right, and in this series, it is done right. I realized after the fact (and even while reading the first book), that I missed it terribly with Mia and Ansel’s story. I love knowing that the guy is falling as hard as the girl. I love getting his prospective on the relationship and the sex. It makes the book so much more fulfilling. Another thing I love about this series, and Dirty Rowdy Thing in particular, is how the authors don’t rise to a quick climax (pun intended) and ending. The conflict builds over time, and the characters are given space to think, react, and resolve the issues without feeling rushed. It’s wonderful storytelling. And the romance is made better for it....
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Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Martian by Andy Weir Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: The Martian Author: Andy Weir Narrator: R.C. Bray Audio Speed: 1x Series: Standalone Genre: Science Fiction Source: purchased Okay friends… here is the scoop. We’ve all been hearing RAVES about The Martian, particularly in audiobook format, for months, and to be honest, when people rave that much, I tend to get disappointed. So I waited and then cautiously started listening a couple weeks ago. What did I think? THE BOOK IS WORTHY OF THE HYPE!! I was immediately engrossed and emotionally invested in the tale of Mark Watney, an astronaut stranded on Mars. While he’s not the first person to step foot on Mars (he’s the 17th), he’s the first to survive by himself and live on the planet for more than a month. I’m going to warn readers right up front that the story is uber-scientific. If you don’t like science speak, I strong urge you to see the movie instead (I haven’t seen it, but I hear it’s a pretty good one). I don’t know that I have ever recommended a movie over a book, but The Martian is really full of details. A large percentage of the book shares the intricate details of how Mark solves the problems presented, thus allowing him to survive. As a wanna be chemistry major turned engineer, I found the science utterly fascinating. I loved listening to how he figures everything out – even his failures are profoundly interesting. But what makes The Martian so great is that Mark’s journey is gripping. I wasn’t this nervous reading a book since Jurassic Park, which is still one of my all time favorites. The story is so realistic and heart-poundingly engaging. And Mark is the perfect character to be stuck on Mars, in fact, NASA even mentions that a couple of times. Yet no matter how clever Mark is, it’s his humor that steals the show over and over (and beware, his language is definitely for mature readers). While Mark Watney is the star of the title, each of the characters are three-dimensional and relatable on some level. I highly urge you to avoid spoilers, leaving you desperate to know if Mark and the crew survive, because it’s anybody’s guess right up until he very end of the book. One thing that is different about how The Martian plays out is that the author uses multiple perspectives and varying methods to share the story. The first several...
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Review: Nothing Serious by Jessica Jarman

Review: Nothing Serious by Jessica Jarman Nothing Serious Author: Jessica Jarman Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Nothing Serious by Jessica Jarman is one of those special books, when upon finishing it, all you want is to read more; you’re sad it’s over; and you find that you must squee about how awesome it is with others who’ve read it. Seriously. It is just that wonderful. Loosely connected to London Bound, the first book in the Bound series (also penned by Ms. Jarman), Nothing Serious picks up this world over eight years forward in time, where we see the original h/h, Nathan and Meg, happily married and her two college-aged children now grown and moving out on their own. The story focuses on the secret affair between Jack, Nathan’s out-of-the-closet best friend, and Meg’s son Aaron, a firmly in-the-closet ER doctor. With Aaron’s sister getting married, Jack comes to town, placing the pair in close proximity while surrounded by family and friends. Even though the pair has been meeting around the world for secret trysts for eight years, they’ve never been together around family and friends, and the stress of the hidden situation may break the pair apart for good. The story unfolds organically and beautifully, giving both Jack and Aaron time to figure out what each wants from the other and for his own life. While the couple has a history of amazing sexual chemistry, the two men are in different places in their lives, creating a tension that causes the story to hum and vibrate rather that sit stagnant. It is evident right from the get go that Jack is deeply emotionally attached to Aaron, while Aaron hasn’t really taken the time to realize what Jack means to him. Jack has always accepted this, enjoying their passionate, yet infrequent rendezvous with everything he has. He is fun and gentle, unwilling to push Aaron into something he’s not ready for, endearing him to me so very much. Their dynamic captured me completely, and I was thoroughly engrossed in their romance. What makes Nothing Serious stand out is the depth of the emotional content Ms. Jarman masters within the story. I cried fat tears of heartbreak and happy tears of joy all within the confines of the book. Jack and Aaron’s circumstances gripped me completely, not letting go until long after I was finished reading the tale. There is nothing frivolous or thoughtless tossed into the book, creating a quick read that you won’t...
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Review: Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews

Review: Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews Magic Shifts Author: Ilona Andrews Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: It’s honestly becoming difficult to write reviews for the Kate Daniels series because I cannot find the words to express how amazing the books and overall series are. The world building, story telling, plot development, characters’ relationships… every aspect of the series… it all works so well, the stories are darn near perfection. Every book, while completely original, builds upon the previous story, creating an utterly sublime experience, making me want to reread the series from the beginning each time. If you aren’t reading the Kate Daniels series, you are missing out. Note: This review may contain spoilers from earlier titles in the series. So let’s begin with Magic Shifts. It’s been about two months and Kate, Curran, and Julie are enjoying some down time in their new home in the suburbs. Curran is adjusting to retirement as best as he can, but the gang cannot step foot in the Keep or sway anyone into leaving the Pack with them. This is an important point because Mahon’s daughter, George, comes to seek help from Kate and Curran in locating her fiancé, Eduardo. Pack politics and a disapproving father have left George desperate to find the man she loves. Unfortunately, the missing were-bison is only the tip of the iceberg for the gang. Magic Shifts is a transitional book for the series, yet it is so much more. What makes this book in particular so wonderful? Kate and Curran. Now that Kate has confronted her father and laid claim to Atlanta, she no longer has to hide her magic. Plus Curran is no longer the Beast Lord, so he’s got time on his hands. I absolutely love the interactions between the couple and family dynamics with Julie. Kate and Curran’s relationship has developed to a whole new level. Their mutual respect and love grows with each interaction, making them my absolute favorite literary couple. World-building. It’s complex and so very interesting. I always admire how the authors take generally obscure and unknown mythology, twisting it to fit their magic-infused world. It becomes so logical and believable because they always cover all the basis and explain the intricacies. Magic Shifts makes me want to learn more about Arabic mythology. The characters. I have grown to care about them all. I love how in every book one or more surprise me. Only because the characters change and grow...
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Review + Giveaway: Behind the Mask by Carolyn Crane

Review + Giveaway: Behind the Mask by Carolyn Crane Behind the Mask Author: Carolyn Crane Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: As a former CIA agent and co-founder of The Associates, Zelda knows she has no choice but to step in on behalf of her twin sister Liza, who is going to be “loaned to” a Mexican drug cartel for the weekend. Although she hasn’t been undercover in six years, since the mission that broke her, she understands that getting into Brujos’ territory would save countless lives. However, when things go horribly wrong and Zelda is further traded to the dangerous El Gorrion cartel, she realizes that she may have to break cover and escape. Hugo is a loaner, but enjoys his isolated life outside of Buena Vista, Valencia. However, when El Gorrion’s men threaten the town and its rare savincas crop, Hugo knows he must resurrect a dangerous ghost from his past. When he finds an American prostitute among the men he goes after, he decides to take her captive to help him around the house, seeing something more in her eyes that the woman she claims to be. I absolutely love The Associates series, and think Behind the Mask may be my favorite title of the series. I love how the author parcels out clues and information, while the reader waits to see how it will all play out. The suspenseful storyline is intelligent and exciting. And Ms. Crane’s story makes me feel. There were parts when I was afraid to read the book because I knew it would have to get bad before it got good. Bringing me into the world and keeping me so emotionally and mentally engaged made for a very rewarding read. Additionally, there are some intense scenes between Zelda and her co-founder, Dax, that are all the more powerful for those who’ve read the series from the beginning. I completely adored both main characters. Even though she’s one of the Associates’ founders, we’ve never really known anything about Zelda, so she felt like a fresh, new character to me. She is haunted, and this journey is very cathartic. Since part of the story is shared from her POV, the reader is privy to the wide array of emotions and steps she must go through to begin to heal. Her passion and inner-fire were a complete joy to read. Likewise, Hugo had his own path of self-discovery, realizing that the ghosts he’d laid to rest are still under the...
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Listen Up! Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 3-4

Listen Up! Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 3-4 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook reviews: Kowalski Family series Author: Shannon Stacey Narrator: Lauren Fortgang Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Kowalski Family #3 & #4 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: purchased Yours to Keep (Book #3) Sean Kowalski is finally home from a 12-year stint in the Army, most currently serving overseas in Afghanistan. Not ready to go to the family lodge in Maine, Sean makes a stop over in New Hampshire to visit his aunt, uncle, and cousins. To his surprise, he finds out that Emma Shaw considers Sean her “fake” finance, telling Grandma Shaw in Florida that Sean is living with her and helping take care of her large New England home. Emma and best friend Lisa Kowalski made up her fake relationship to pacify Grandma Shaw’s concerns over leaving Emma alone when she moved to Florida. Now Grandma is coming to visit for a month and Emma wants Sean to move in with her and pretend to be the fiance Grandma believes he is. I cannot express how much I absolutely adored Yours to Keep and continue to enjoy the Kowalski family. I was a bit concerned that moving away from the original family after only two books would be too soon, but Ms. Stacey intergrates new-comer Sean perfectly into the Kowalski fold. Emma and Sean’s story is utterly adorible and simply lovely. While the fake-fiance trope could have been silly, instead, the story was full of humor and heart. At times I was laughing uncontrollably at the antics of trying to keep the various secrets straight and in place. The light-hearted humor and Kolwaski antics make this wonderful romance a perfect story. After getting over the initial shock of suddenly being with one another under false pretenses, Emma and Sean realize that they cannot hold back their mutual attraction. Of course, spending so much time together, coupled with indulging in some extracurricular benefits, the pair begin to fall in love, all the while ignoring and denying the obvious signs they are happy being a couple. The pace of their romance and the overall story is perfect, keeping my earbuds firmly planted in my ears. I fell in love with the couple as they fell in love with one another. The side plot involving Emma’s grandma, Kat, finding potential romance with old friend Russell is sweet and adds dimension to the overall story. The best side plot, however, is Aunt Mary and Kat coming together with their own, well-intentioned scheming. At more than...
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ARC Review: Black Widow by Jennifer Estep

ARC Review: Black Widow by Jennifer Estep Black Widow Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Black Widow just blew me away. Not only does it have all the usual parts that make the Elemental Assassin series one on my favorites… tough as nails Gin, witty banter, the love of family and friends. But it has so much more than any of the prior titles. MMM is unlike any villain Gin has faced before. She is one that enjoys the games and her machinations. She tears Gin apart by attacking her family and friends with red tape and legal problems, something Gin doesn’t have the means to deal with, right away at least. Gin is a “hands on” assassin, and she is made helpless by MMM. It KILLED ME to see Gin so helpless. But then MMM takes something from Gin that I wasn’t expecting – something that brought tears to my eyes and made me genuinely weep. It’s moments like these that elevated this good book to a great one. Ms. Estep has created an amazing, likable character in Gin Blanco – one that feels like a friend. I feel fortunate to see into her world, and because I feel this way, Gin’s suffering is also my own at times. The author touches on such an array of intense emotions. But the story is equality as strong. It’s not unlike previous tales, in that Gin must overcome several obstacles to triumph in the end. But I feel like it’s the first time that Gin did so feeling completely and utterly comfortable with her friends and family. They were like a well-oiled team, something that hasn’t really happened since Gin took down Mab back in Spider’s Revenge – and even then, she included her family reluctantly. This time, there was no hesitation, they are part of her and the Spider. And I adore every single one of Gin’s makeshift family. It’s grown over the course of a dozen books, but each character is important in his or her own way. I never feel like any of the characters are superfluous, and in fact, enjoy spending time with every single one of them over the course of a story. Especially this time around, when her family is there to support Gin, and not the other way around. I also enjoyed the full-circle nature of the story, and I hope that now things will start anew. And based on how the book concludes,...
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