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Sep
25

Review: Rank & File by L.A. Witt

Review: Rank & File by L.A. Witt Rank & File Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Although he’s never sure what kind of challenges each day will bring on NAS Adams, Senior Chief Will Curtis has always loved his career in the Navy. And, despite the toll it’s taken on his personal life, he can’t imagine doing anything else. Even so, a one-time only, forbidden hookup with a sexy younger officer might be exactly what he needs to get over his lying, cheating ex. It would have been perfect, if once had been enough. Having been surrounded by his family’s military heritage his entire life, Lieutenant Brent Jameson always assumed he’d spend the rest of his days continuing the tradition. Following any other path was, literally, unthinkable. But, choosing between a future he doesn’t believe in and the “unduly familiar” relationship that makes him happy won’t be easy—and it’s bound to hurt either way. While I’ve generally liked the other stories I’ve read in the Anchor Point series, Rank & File is my favorite yet. PTSD and alcoholism are extremely important issues, and I think the author has always dealt with them well. But, Will and Brent’s struggle to find happiness was more external and possibility-oriented, and I became increasingly invested in the outcome as the narrative progressed. Rank & File is also one of the steamier novels in the series. Brent and Will’s relationship begins with a very naughty hookup in a public place, and it’s indisputably clear that they’re both getting exactly what they want. The frequency with which their encounters continue could have strained the other aspects of the story if it was the only indication of their compatibility, but it’s not. On the contrary, sex between Will and Brent has another welcome purpose: it opens the door to the kind of intimacy they both crave, but would never explore otherwise. Another refreshing thing about Rank & File is that it handily dodges the “anything for love” trope that would likely have diluted the internal conflicts both men deal with throughout the story. The unfairness of the policy that is technically causing Will and Brent problems on the surface is certainly noted, but the narrative wisely doesn’t rely on it as a scapegoat. Each must make a difficult choice based on certain things they can’t change, even if an intersection of those paths in the future isn’t guaranteed. Rank & File is absolutely among my favorite of the...
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Sep
21

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: P.S. from Paris by Marc Levy

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: P.S. from Paris by Marc Levy Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: P.S. From Paris Author: Marc Levy Narrator: Tim Campbell; Translated by Sam Taylor Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Standalone Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Brilliance Audio Finding fame with his unintentionally written first novel, Paul escapes his life as an architect in San Fransisco, moving to Paris where he spends the next seven years writing in solitude. Worried about their friend and feeling that fate needs a little help, his best friends sign up Paul for an online match-making service. What begins as an awkward misunderstand blossoms into a true and meaningful friendship with Mia. World-renowned actress Mia can’t pretend to be happy with her cheating husband any longer, running to stay with her best friend in Paris. There she struggles with her lingering love and hurt, trying to find meaning for her life, when she strikes up an unlikely friendship with an America author. Soon she and Paul work hard to convince themselves that their bond is nothing more than that between close friends. I absolutely enjoyed listening to the audiobook production of P. S. From Paris. The book opens with two separate stories – the events surrounding Paul and the events surrounding Mia. We learn how lonely Paul is and how he tries to convince himself he’s okay. On the other hand, Mia knows how miserable she is but is frightened to take any risks. They live parallel lives until “fate” (in the form of Lauren and Arthur) push them together. I love how awkward and similar the two are. They seem like a great fit, but they work so hard to convince themselves they are just friends. Yet through this guise, the pair open up and learn to trust and eventually love. What I love most about this story is the movie screen feel of the romance. It truly is a bit over-the-top and larger-than-life. I can see a young Audrey Hepburn playing Mia, so full of hope, not letting circumstances pull her down. She’s charming and silly all at once. Her behaviors mimic those of a pampered movie star, but she’s got a heart of gold. I love that both best friend Daisy and new friend Paul are able to see the internal spark under Mia’s shiny facade. The overall plot is a bit extravagant, but that opens the story up to silly misunderstandings and outrageous mix ups. But these situations aren’t always light, and there is one...
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Sep
20

Review: Archangel’s Viper by Nalini Singh

Review: Archangel’s Viper by Nalini Singh Archangel’s Viper Author: Nalini Singh Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Holly, a series’ fringe character who was brutally terrorized by the archangel Uram back in the beginning of the series, was left for nearly dead and Made into something not quite right. She now serves Raphael’s Tower under the close supervision of Dmitri and the Seven. However, after a kidnapping attempt, the gang discovers there is a bounty on Holly. With Viper back in town, it’s up to him to keep her safe. Figuring out who is after Holly and what she’s becoming are the focus of Archangel’s Viper. The story takes place concurrent in time to the previous book, Archangel’s Heart, while Raphael and Elena are far from Manhattan. Dmitri is left in charge, and with the support of Illium and Viper, they keep the territory safe while their sire is away. This allows room for Holly to explore her otherness and the changes happening under her skin without fear that Raphael will end it prematurely. With so much of the book’s plotlines focused on Holly, Archangel’s Viper isn’t really Viper’s story. This one belongs to her. Nearly broken after her capture by Uram, she’s evolving into something other, and Viper is the one person who can relate. During the story they bond – deepening a friendship born out of respect and understanding. They also explore their sexual chemistry, but this is secondary to Holly’s coming-of-age tale. I enjoyed watching Viper and Holly piece together what has happened to and what is becoming of Holly. However, I was a little bit frustrated with the kidnapping storyline, because it dropped off, taking a backseat to her evolution, shortly after it began. While I still classify Archangel’s Viper a paranormal romance, the romance piece is very slow-burning and not the primary focus of the book. Yet, it doesn’t matter to me because I enjoyed the interactions between Viper and Holly, regardless of how mild or flirty. These are two characters we know little about, so watching them develop before my eyes and learn so much more about both was entertaining. All in all, Archangel’s Viper is another exciting, engrossing story in one of my favorite series. Ms. Singh gets an A+ for her world-building and character development, with each book in the Guild Hunter series adding so much to the overall picture. I look forward to each installment and cannot wait to see what she cooks up...
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Sep
20

Review: Death Shall Come by Simon R. Green

Review: Death Shall Come by Simon R. Green Death Shall Come Author: Simon R. Green Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una discovered Death Shall Come by accident.  We thought we were picking up a new series by Simon Green (we love his Nightside and Secret Histories series).  It turned out to be the fourth book in the Ishmael Jones series.  It is awesome! Although you need not read the first three books, Gikany did and Una got through the first two.  You can easily jump into the series with Death Shall Come, but why would you?  This series has all of the wit, horror and sublime banter that we love in Green’s other books. The mysteries are gripping and not always what they appear. In this installment, Penny and Ishmael are summoned by Ishmael’s boss, the Colonel, to his father in-law’s estate to ensure the protection of the Colonel’s wife.  What befalls is a fascinating murder with a suspect that was quite the twist.  When you think you have this one figured out, trust us, you don’t. The overarching plot line of Ishmael’s background is intriguing. Although he is not human, Ishmael has no idea where he came from or who he really is.  It is compelling how he chooses to be human.  His interactions and mannerisms could give him away and yet, they just add to his odd character.  We enjoy how Penny both humanizes him is also Dr. Watson to his Sherlock. This is truly a fun series. Gikany and Una thoroughly enjoyed Death Shall Come.  This relatively new series is a wonderful balance of murder mystery and urban fantasy with a sci-fi twist. We loved Ishmael and Penny’s witty banter as they sleuth out the clues and find the culprit – hopefully before the body count gets too high.  If you enjoyed Green’s previous books or if you are looking for a classic mystery with a modern twist, this is the series for you!  We eagerly await the next mystery! Our Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Ishmael Jones is faced with a dead body and a missing mummy in this highly entertaining, genre-blending mystery.  Death shall come on swift wings to whoever desecrates this tomb …  Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny have been summoned to remote Cardavan House, home of the world’s largest private collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts, for the unveiling of George Cardavan’s latest acquisition: a bone fide Egyptian mummy.  When a...
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Sep
18

Review: Too Beautiful to Break by Tessa Bailey

Review: Too Beautiful to Break by Tessa Bailey Too Beautiful to Break Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I’m not crying, you’re crying. That sniffle? Gotta be my allergies. Maybe it’s my present state of mind, but Belmont and Sage’s book got to me. I mean, all of the previous titles in the Romancing the Clarksons saga got to me a little, but there’s been a build-up through the series to Bel’s book—and not just because it’s the end of the journey the sibs’ mother charged them to take as her dying wish. AKA, read this series in order. It is SO worth it. It’s probably because I closely identify with the characters. Oh, not because of how I was raised or some freak accident when I was a child. Because of how Bel & Sage are as people. “You didn’t even have to tell me that,” she whispered. “I already knew Because you’re a man who values everyone’s happiness above himself. And that’s what makes you the greatest man any of us will ever know. There’s never been anyone like you, Belmont. There never will be again. How lucky am I that I get to love you?” Let that sink in for a minute. The above passage is a little spoilery, but not really—we know from reading Rita, Aaron, and Peggy’s books that Bel & Sage have it bad for one another. Seeing it on the page though? That floored me. Like a lot of things did as I read Too Beautiful to Break. His black coat blew out behind him in the cold wind, but he seemed untouched by the weather. He was the weather…he was everything. And his arms were wide open for her. I guess I never really saw Bel like this before. Looking at him through Sage’s eyes really made me see him. He reminds me of a gunslinger from the old west, strolling into town and ready to take on anyone and anything for a good reason. Learning about why Belmont is rather closed off from his siblings floored me, and I honestly cried for Bel as a child. It explains how he is, and the presentation was well done after such a stupendous lead-up. Her hazel eyes were wide on his. “No more waiting to touch now. Everything about us is…right.” She laughed and shook her head, a tear sliding down her cheek. “Isn’t it?” Belmont pressed his mouth to her forehead. “More than right,...
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Sep
14

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Falling From the Sky by Sarina Bowen

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Falling From the Sky by Sarina Bowen Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Falling From the Sky Author: Sarina Bowen Narrators: Tanya Eby, Aiden Snow Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Gravity #2 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Blunder Woman Productions The second story in Ms. Bowen’s Gravity series opens about a year after the conclusion of  Coming in From the Cold, with Dane, Willow and their new baby living out West, thus leaving behind best friend Willow. During one of the couple’s visits back to Vermont to sell Willow’s farm, they introduce Callie to snowboarder Hank, who proceeds to have a career-ending accident on the slopes. Fast forward nine months: Callie is the director of a rehabilitation study at her hospital and Hank is one of its participants. Hank is drawn to Callie and looking to be more than friends, but Callie is ready to start a new life and move to California. I absolutely adored Callie and Hank’s story. What could have been predictable and ordinary is exciting and romantic. Right from the start, their mutual attraction causes both to toss caution to the wind and give something “more” a try. However, due to certain “issues” Hank experiences, things go south quickly. Luckily both are able to move past their insecurities and fears to open up a genuine dialogue and develop a true friendship. I like that both the male and female narrators are different in book 2 than in the first title, especially since the story focuses on two new feature characters. I found both narrators to be a bit better suited to the characters and enjoyed them more than the first go around. I noticed I prefered the female narrator at 1.25x and male narrator at 1.5x but kept the playback speed at 1.5x. The male’s voice is deliciously deep with a rich timbre. It’s a great voice for Hank, who is a huge man with intense emotions. Similarly, the female narrator is a good fit for the intelligent, yet worrisome Callie. I did find Ms. Eby’s male voices are a bit on the feminine side, but not bad. Falling From the Sky is a delightful romance that warmed my heart. Ms. Bowen gives Callie and Hank a HEA without the need to fix all their issues. The story brings humor and heart, taking me on an emotional journey from highs to lows. My Rating: A- Male Narration: B+ Female Narration: B+ Review copy provided by Blunder Woman Productions About the Book:...
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Sep
11

Review: How to Save an Undead Life by Hailey Edwards

Review: How to Save an Undead Life by Hailey Edwards How to Save an Undead Life Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Hailey Edwards has a new series out!!! **muppet flail happy dance** I’ve been chomping at the bit to get my grubby little hands on How to Save an Undead Life since Ms. Edwards announced the project and started dropping hints. This is the first of three (currently) planned titles in the Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy series, and I’m already all grabby hands for book two. We’ve got some awesome vampire lore here, and the world is well-developed so it’s easy to see the hierarchy. First, supporting characters. Boaz: this guy is Grier’s bestie’s big bro and her long-time crush—I definitely see something happening here down the road, in the series arc.  Woolly: the house, you guys…I love its personality and I think it plays a pretty significant role as Grier’s safety net. Amelie: Grier’s bestie and Boaz’s sister who lives next door with her parents. Neely: Grier’s personal designer (i.e., he does her hair and makeup for work and personal stuff when she needs a spectacular look) has a purpose (beyond the obvious) I haven’t quite figured out yet. Volkov: this dude? I’m pretty sure we’ll see more of him. Linus: dude makes me antsy. I really love Grier. The way her character was fleshed out in this first book of the series was engaging and I was able to connect with her immediately. This is a first person POV—which I sometimes have trouble reading/getting into—and I think this deep, personal POV was really effective for the story. This girl has every reason to be sitting under her kitchen table, rocking back and forth, having the BIGGEST pity party for herself, but she has that kick-ass-and-take-names attitude I admire in so many of Ms. Edwards’ characters. She’s not a wilting damsel in distress waiting for her hero to rescue her—except in dire situations. Grier has managed to win me over in book one of the series because she’s a problem-solver. While she was locked up for five years in paranormal prison, she’s been exonerated and has returned to her old life. Sort of—you’ll find out when you read it. I’m super stoked to learn more about the supporting characters and see where Ms. Edwards takes us on Grier’s journey in the Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy series. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: Grier Woolworth spends her nights weaving spooky tales...
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Sep
6

Review: The Shift of the Tide by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: The Shift of the Tide by Jeffe Kennedy The Shift of the Tide Author: Jeffe Kennedy Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una were anxiously awaiting Zynda’s story.  The Shift of the Tide is utterly compelling and may have replaced Andi’s (The Mark of the Tala) as our favorite book in this series. Zynda has always been a bit of an enigma character.  She is beautifully mysterious and you just know there is much more going on in her head than she lets on.  Zynda is an amazing shapeshifter — the pride of her people, and she is a relative to the previous Tala Queen, Salena. Regardless, Zynda has a secret mission to save her people. This mission will require her to sacrifice her life as she knows it – to give up everything.  Zynda is prepared to make that sacrifice – she has prepared herself for most of her life.  However, her focus and dedication take a severe hit when Marskal is assigned as her watcher. Marskal is a fascinating character.  We absolutely loved his charm, patience, and wit.  Though charged with protecting Zynda, he never underestimates her.  We loved the give and take that Marskal abides with Zynda.  As Zynda never noticed him prior, he was (or has) been a part of the series since the beginning.  We loved their banter and especially the time spent with Marskal’s family.  He is a truly remarkable and endearing character.  Zynda was not the only one falling for him. The journey that Marskal and Zynda embark on is more than physical – more than her mission.  Zynda’s journey is not only external but internal.  The closer she comes to her goal, the more torn up inside she becomes – the more she questions the sacrifice required.  We loved how these two conflicts wove together becoming almost a single conflict.  It was utterly gripping and pathos riddled full of heartwarming moments. Though this novel is transitional in the battle against the Deyrr, it was still gripping as other issues in the realm are explored.  We loved the journey of Zynda and the heart wrenchingly romantic tale between her and Marskal.  We continue to enjoy this world and eagerly look forward to the next story in it. Our Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: A QUICKSILVER HEART Released from the grip of a tyrant, the Twelve Kingdoms have thrown all that touch them into chaos. As the borders open, new enemies emerge to...
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Sep
4

Review: Disorderly Conduct by Tessa Bailey

Review: Disorderly Conduct by Tessa Bailey Disorderly Conduct Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I love reading book series. It’s honestly one of my favorite things. I get to meet some characters, get to know them, have some sh*t happen, and then it gets fixed (or the author is mean and leaves us hanging…) and they live happily for now. Until the next book in the series comes out and there’s another crisis. OR…we meet ‘supporting cast’ members in the first title who become the leads in a subsequent book. The Academy series by Tessa Bailey is the latter. Slated for three titles, the first two titles are about police academy recruits/students…whatever you call them. The third? I’ve heard is about a grumpy part-time instructor. But, we’re here to talk about Disorderly Conduct today. And, oh…my. This title is a five-alarm-fire-in-your-panties hot. I mean, when things start as super casual-slash-friends-with-benefits, it’s gonna be hot—especially since Tessa Bailey is the author. I loved the pacing and the entire premise of the title—I mean, who wouldn’t? Casual nookie that turns into something more? *fans self* Yeah. That’s the best. One thing I wasn’t too keen on, but got over, was the way Charlie handled the entire situation. The deception and lies—nothing dangerous, just a breach of trust he has to redeem himself for later. I know a book needs conflict, and if we just had Charlie and Ever shift their relationship from F*ckBuddies to Friends and eventually transition to a couple, there’s nothing that would tear them apart and put them back together—the thing that holds the reader’s interest (besides phenomenal characterization and writing). So, I understand why it was done…and it was done well. It worked as an excellent plot point. Ever is a great, independent character that doesn’t NEED a man to be complete. I mean, throughout the title she talks about a bunch of things that makes her seem like she needs to be in a relationship, but it’s really only her falling for (or realizing she’s fallen for) Charlie. This isn’t an in-your-face OHMYGODILOVEHIM romance. There’s a slow burn that made me want to yell at the characters (may have done this…) and/or skip to the end to make sure they made it through okay (I trust Tessa to give me at least a HFN, so I didn’t). And, here’s the thing about Ever. She starts out with ‘rules’ about her relationships. As in, there IS no relationship....
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Aug
29

Review: Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

Review: Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis Snowspelled Author: Stephanie Burgis Reviewer: Una Rating: A  What I’m Talking About: Snowspelled is a delightful and intriguing short introduction to a fascinating world.  The Harwood Spellbook series has hooked me, and I eagerly await the next story. Though only a novella, I was thoroughly captivated by Cassandra and the world she lives in.  Angland is an interesting twist on a historical England.  The rigid roles of men and women – the social rules – all beautifully contrasted with a stubborn and oddly magical woman, Cassandra.  In this world, men have and wield the magic while women are the political juggernauts.  However, it’s not only the politics of people they have to worry about, but those of the Fae as well. I enjoyed watching how Cassandra tries to balance the threat/promise to the Fae Lord, her conflicting emotions concerning her ex-fiance, Wrexham, and her own meddling family.  The characters were delightful, and I loved the contrast between feelings and decorum.  I really enjoyed the juxtapositions between male and female roles as compared to our own historic understanding. Snowspelled is a delightful and gripping introduction to the world of the Harwood Spellbook series.  I eagerly look forward to following more of Cassandra’s adventures as well as the romantic conflict with her and Wrexham.  If you like an alternate historical fantasy with mystery and adventure, studded with wit, you should pick this series up. My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: In nineteenth-century Angland, magic is reserved for gentlemen while ladies attend to the more practical business of politics. But Cassandra Harwood has never followed the rules… Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life. Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good. But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks…and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago. To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness. A witty and sparkling romantic fantasy novella that opens a brand-new series for adults...
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