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Aug
17

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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Aug
16

Review: The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith

Review: The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith The Happy Chip Author: Dennis Meredith Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I really liked The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith. The strength of this book is its premise.  You know how you search for something online and then every margin advertisement on every webpage that shows up is about that thing?  Online retailers track everything you buy, the wish lists you make, and the things you search on.  Meredith’s characters wisely quip, it’s like Amazon knows more about what I like than I do.  We already wear watches and wristbands to track our activity levels, heart rate, and sleep patterns.  It’s not even a stretch to imagine a nanotechnology, a biologically safe computer chip, branded as “the Happy Chip,” which can passively monitor all those things plus hormone levels, insulin, and any other chemical in the body.  With a phone app synced to the chip, you’d know immediately how you felt about a food, a person, or the movie you’re watching—you would know what you like.  What if you took all that data and merged it with other people’s results for the most accurate database of recommendations conceivable?  Unlike Yelp or TripAdvisor, it would be impossible to have a troll driving down results or artificially inflating them. Sounds great, right? Meredith successfully takes that thought and carries it out to a dramatic conclusion.  Anyone who likes a good conspiracy theory will enjoy this book.  It’s fast-paced and props to Meredith for giving his main female characters a brain.  They are not just window-dressing, but intelligent, active participants in the story. The book reads very much like an action movie, and frankly, I think it would be even better told in a visual format.  I could totally see someone like Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Lee Pace in the role of Brad Davis, the technical writer who’s hired to write the biography of the Happy Chip’s inventor. Of course, what he discovers is terrifying to think about. As technology continues to shrink and become more cost effective, I have no doubt that we will continue to see books like this being written the way artificial intelligence made for a slew of science fiction offerings in late 1970’s most famously with HAL in 2001 and into the 80’s. How many Terminator movies are there now?  The Matrix, AI, I Robot… we seem to love exploring our relationship with technology.  Meredith has just made it more personal. My only frustrations with...
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Aug
15

Review: Soul Redeemed by Keri Lake

Review: Soul Redeemed by Keri Lake Soul Redeemed Author: Keri Lake Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for more Sons of Wrath! The goodness that Keri Lake puts into these books—they’re sexy, fun, hoooottttt, and balanced with heart-wrenching angst—makes reading a compulsion…but I wanted to savor every word. I guess I was as conflicted as the characters! Calix and Ava. Yessssss! We knew it was coming. I can honestly say I’m SO happy with how this book played out. Obviously no spoilers, but here’s the low-down: I wish I’d had a consecutive 6+ hours to read this book. Then again, I liked reading in little bites so I could mull over the possibilities before taking my next nibble. Such a double-edged sword. Ava seriously screwed up, but one theme that’s consistent through this title is forgiveness. And, not just Ava’s forgiveness. I **literally** cried at the end. So, Ava was infected with the Sang virus. Ol’ Ollie went all mad scientist and everything. Obviously, this state would affect Ava’s relationship with Calix. What I liked about the virus aspect is that it’s consistent through the titles and that we keep learning more and more about it. I also love that it wasn’t beleaguered in this title—we’ve already learned a lot about it, and we just see what’s going on in the **ahem** lab when it’s integral to the plot. I also loved how realistic Ava’s thoughts were regarding whether she should be forgiven by the Brothers—especially Calix. When we believe we’ve wronged someone, sometimes it’s hard for us to forgive ourselves—and that’s something we kinda need to do before we can accept anyone else’s forgiveness. I also loved how Calix was driven to be faithful—even when it was against his nature. I loved his determination and how he was so invested in Ava that he couldn’t bear the thought of slaking his incubus hunger with just any ol’ dame. Fernlo. **sigh** I think the minor characters in this title—including Logan and Calla and Xander…and, to a certain degree, Zayne. As matter of fact, I’m pretty intrigued by his storyline right now. I really am shipping Fernlo + Thais (Thalo) hard. Soul Redeemed was a wonderful, long-awaited addition to the Sons of Wrath series. I could seriously devour these books and crave titles featuring each of the brothers—we’ve got at least three left 🙂 Can’t wait until the next one! My Rating: A, Loved It About the...
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Aug
14

Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell Illegal Contact Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Santino Hassell has been a favorite author of mine for some time now, and, while I fully expected to like Illegal Contact, I wasn’t prepared for how much I completely loved it. Having been raised on college football in the South, I wondered if my own limitations might affect my reading of a story about a pro team in NYC. Turns out, I needn’t have worried. Mr. Hassell made the whole affair feel both technically sound, as well as inviting, allowing the personalities of the characters to take center stage. Punnily-monikered tight end Gavin Brawley could very easily have been a stereotype of every “misunderstood-angry-athlete” ever written, but that wasn’t the case. Despite the technical applicability of all three of those things, Gavin deserves a full retraction of the hyphens and quote marks, his cynicism about the press and the public proving just as well earned in the present as it was in his past. Disinterested in either fame or retribution, however, his true love is simply playing football. He knows how slim the odds are that he was able to find salvation in the sport, and, as long as he has it—and the loyalty of his two best (and only) friends—that’s all he really needs. At least until Noah arrives. After having been recently fired from his job at an LGBT Youth Center in NYC due to his own choices and the bias of those in charge, Noah Monroe is more than a little bitter. Yet, from his first inner snipe about Gavin appearing to be the “ideal candidate for society’s irritating version of masculinity,” it’s clear that Noah has some prejudices of his own. Still, he is fiercely protective of those he cares about—one of several traits he and Gavin share—and, even though he might be preemptively defensive, he’s willing to really listen and open his carefully guarded margins to include others. Though it certainly doesn’t ignore familiar headlines often associated with professional sports—players’ reputations, public opinion, privacy (or the lack thereof), money, etc.—Illegal Contact gets its heart from its attention to the things you don’t normally see. Gavin’s anger over the exploitation he’s not supposed to notice, Noah’s determination to avoid repeating the past, and their mutual aversion to and unwillingness to play “the game” all coalesced into what amounted to a wonderful reading experience. Another element I appreciated about Illegal Contact is...
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Aug
10

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Hidden Legacy Series Book: White Hot Author: Ilona Andrews Narrator: Renée Raudman Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Hidden Legacy #2 Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance Source: purchased White Hot Listening to the audiobook of White Hot is a “reread” for me. I reviewed the book in May 2017, and my review still stands as I originally wrote it. Here is an excerpt from my original review: “The overall and book-specific stories are both equally engrossing. The layers and complexity make the book fascinating rather than confusing. The conspiracy and plot are smart and interesting. The action is solid and edge-of-your seat. “The romance between Nevada and the little understood Rogan also blossomed during White Hot. Rogan continued his relentless pursuit, but also opened up to Nevada, realizing she can match him. She may not be his equal, and he sometimes does things to “protect” her which only frustrated her, but he’s learning how to allow her to make her own decisions. There are many hurdles to jump, and I really want them to make it.” By listening to the book, I picked up plot nuances that I missed when reading the book the first time. However, It is Renée Raudman’s performance that makes the story so much more. While the writing team of Ilona Andrews is an amazing storyteller in its own right, Ms. Raudman adds so much feeling and emotion to their stories that I can’t help but get choked up every time I listen to one their books. She breathes life into these amazing characters and tales, making them ones I would listen to again and again. She takes an A book and makes it an A+. In the end, White Hot is an amazing, entertaining story, and coupled with Ms. Raudman’s talent, the book is unforgettable. My Rating: A+ Narration: A+ About the Book: Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she’s used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family’s detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor “Mad” Rogan. Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally...
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Aug
9

Review: Rogue Desire Anthology

Review: Rogue Desire Anthology Rogue Desire Author: Various Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I didn’t have time to read all the titles in this collection of stories—but those that I did, did something for my perspective. It isn’t a She Persisted thing anymore, folks. It’s a We Persisted thing. I may have had moments of despair for the past nine months, wondering what kind of world my kids were going to have to live in, but if these inspirational—absolutely filthy—stories are any indication, there’s a world of hope out there. Maybe all we have to do is grab on to our own little slice of it. In Adriana Anders’ Grassroots, I may have fallen in love with Zach and Veronica. Zach was a deep character and Veronica was complex and able to navigate turbulent political waters. Dakota Gray’s Deep Throat alludes to the Nixon administration, but is definitely not all about that life as Davis and Hayley navigate dangerous waters to play for the good guys. In Resistance  by Amy Jo Cousins, I fell in love with Kaz and Will as Kaz fought for what he thought he believed in while saving Will from himself…or for himself. Ainsley Booth penned Personal Disaster which happened to be my personal fave of those I read—but it’s definitely a HFN, which I usually don’t enjoy. But, it was a sip that drew me in. Life, Liberty, and Worship by Tamsen Parker is a wonderfully complex story about Paige and Carter and how nothing is as it seems…at least initially. I’m a little sad I didn’t have more time to read the stories by Emma Barry, Stacey Agdern, and Jane Lee Blair. I just plain ran out of time 🙁 But, I think I may go back and read them when I get time. If they’re anything like the other titles in this collection, they’ll be great for a sexy little boost when I feel like everything in the world is totally screwed. My Rating: A+ Personal Favorite About the Book: When all else fails, find love. Eight brand new romances for fans of the West Wing, fired-up #resistance fighters, and everyone who ever had a crush on that guy at a protest… GRASSROOTS by Adriana Anders Veronica Cruz is in the fight of her life for a seat on the city council. Meeting reclusive finance genius Zach Hubler should be a stroke of good luck—he has the power to sway public opinion. But when...
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Aug
2

Review: Strangehold by Rene Sears

Review: Strangehold by Rene Sears Strangehold Author: Rene Sears Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Strangehold is a fascinating series debut.  I enjoyed this introduction to a world of witches and Faerie and look forward to more. Let me say first that this novella could have been a full novel.  There is such a rich world with fascinating characters and politics, some elements could have been stretched out a bit in the storytelling.  That being said, the story wasn’t lacking despite its shorter length.  In fact, I’d say the book had a succinct feeling – the story flowed and conveyed the twists and turns without a lot of embellishment.  I enjoyed Ms. Sears’s writing style and felt that it was a refreshing narration. The story is predominately told from Morgan Tenpenny’s point of view.  Morgan is a witch who lives as a guardian of one of the gates between the mortal world and Faerie.  For the last half century, there is a treaty in place between the Fae and the witches – but it seems that someone is trying to destroy that.  Morgan discovers what appears to be a sickness killing witches while investigating why the gates have all been closed; she befriends a cursed fae, Falcon.  As the two team up to stop the sickness and open the gates, we learn much of the world and the politics. Again, the world is fascinating and I really enjoyed the mythology.  The little bit of romantic plot thread between Falcon and Morgan was an intriguing touch as well.  I look forward to learning more about Falcon, the connection between him and Morgan, and seeing if this romance blossoms (I just love slow burn romances!).  The creation and existence of the Strangehold realm is fascinating as well.  I hope we will see more of it in the future novels.  Though the “evil” is thwarted at the end, there are still some plot lines unresolved.  I eagerly look forward to seeing what happens next for Morgan’s sister, her nieces, and the treaty between mortals and Faerie. Strangehold is a captivating and straightforward debut novella in the Crossroads of Worlds series.  I liked Morgan’s character and look forward to seeing what happens next for her family and Falcon.  The mythology was intriguing as was the balance of power between witches and Fae.  I eagerly look forward to the next novel in the series. Our Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Morgan Tenpenny has retreated...
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Jul
31

Review: Luca by Sarah Castille

Review: Luca by Sarah Castille Luca Author: Sarah Castille Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Sarah Castille has done it again. I have a secret love for mafia stuff, and romantic suspense is the perfect outlet for me to feed my need. We met Luca in Nico’s book, and I loved that one, too. Part of the reason I loved Nico so much was because I needed to know more about Luca. One of the most awesome things we get in Luca is that we get kick-ass Gabrielle. She is definitely no shrinking flower, and doesn’t need a man to take care of her. What I love the most about Gabrielle’s character is that she ALLOWS Luca to be a Mr. Bossypants. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the way to write an Alpha male. Pull out your stereotypes about mafia dudes. Got ‘em? Okay. They’re all supposed to be full of themselves and their heritage. That is a thing in this series, but I love the way that Ms. Castille has managed the over-the-topness with Luca. Because there’s no way Gaby is going to put up with a chest-thumping, hard-headed Italian going all Caveman on her. Dear Gaby has a ton-o-crap going on, too. Through all of it, she believed in herself and her ability to do what needed to be done. Um. The end? I did NOT see that coming. Not until the end. Maybe I should’ve picked up hints earlier, but I was too engrossed in Luca and Gaby. They’re a wonderful couple, and I hope you fall as hard for them as I have. And…I can’t wait until the next title. According to Ms. Castille’s GR profile, Frankie’s book is next. **fangirls** My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Luca Rizzoli was nearly destroyed by a brutal betrayal that cost him his family. Now a ruthless crime boss in the city of sin, he lets nothing touch his frozen heart–until a smoldering encounter with a beautiful stranger ignites his passion. One night isn’t enough for a man who takes what he wants, but his mysterious temptress has slipped away. For two years police detective Gabrielle Fawkes has lived for revenge. But a night of indulgence with a sexy stranger changes everything. Powerful, charming, and deliciously dangerous Luca, has his own private reasons for offering to help her pursue the drug lord who killed her husband. There’s a lot Luca isn’t telling her and the more she...
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Jul
27

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: By Familiar Means by Delia James

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: By Familiar Means by Delia James Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Reviews: Witch’s Cat Mysteries By Familiar Means Author: Delia James Narrator: Elise Arsenault Audio Listening Speed: 1x Series: Witch’s Cat Mystery #2 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Cozy Mystery Source: Tantor Audio By Familiar Means is another delightful read in the Witch’s Mystery Cat series.  I enjoyed the continuing journey of Anna as she learns more about her heritage, her abilities and the community of Portsmouth. The novel begins a few weeks after the conclusion of the previous novel, A Familiar Tail.  Anna is settling into the house she is renting along with the coven of Portsmouth.  She is excited that her Grandma BB is coming to visit her.  What makes this so momentous is that her Grandma hasn’t been back to her home town since she left during a town-wide feud.  As Anna is looking forward to this visit, she is also looking forward to a new job painting murals at a new coffee shop in town. However, as things did in the previous book, things do not quite go as Anna anticipates. I love how much Grandma BB brought to the humor and character development of Anna.  It was fascinating to watch old wounds begin to heal and people come together.  Anna has a truly unique group of friends around her in Portsmouth.  I especially enjoyed seeing that Alastair has friends of his own as well.  The little bit of romantic thread that is developing is also a delightful side element to the overall story.  I’m really enjoying following Anna. She is a caring and vibrant character and I look forward to watching her grow in Portsmouth. Though like the previous novel, the “who” of the “who-dun-it” was simple to figure out, there were other twists that added to the revealing of motive and such.  I really enjoyed how Anna investigated this one; not quite as reckless as before, but just as impulsive.  It was interesting that the magic can and does seem to affect Anna, possibly increasing her impulsiveness.  There are several different threads being woven nicely together; the mystery, the family/friends drama, the romance, and Anna’s own growth in her heritage.  I find this series absolutely enchanting and enjoyable.  I now understand the term cozy mystery.  Again, it’s something I can enjoy without worrying about my kids listening with me in the car. I enjoyed Ms. Arsenault’s performance a little more this time around.  It could be...
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Jul
26

Review: Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine

Review: Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine Ash and Quill Author: Rachel Caine Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Rachel Caine has done it again!  Ash and Quill is another outstanding novel in The Great Library series.  Gikany and Una found themselves lost in the world and utterly gripped by the cliffhanger ending.  We eagerly await the next installment. This story immediately begins where our heroes were last left.  Betrayed by Jess’s father, the band of library rebels are in the hands of the Burners in Philadelphia – the heart of a Burner stronghold under siege by the Library’s forces.  Despite the hopelessness of their situation, they never give up.  It is compelling to see how each one is willing to sacrifice for the others.  It is as Khalila says – they are a family.  This family seeks to right the Great Library by removing the Artifex Magnus, the leader of the Great Library. Once freed from the clutches of the Burners, Jess and his friends find themselves in another conflict.  They truly illustrate the old adage, out of the frying pan and into the fire.  From the beginning we have always feared for the survival of this group.  So far, fate has smiled upon them, but we fear that once all is said and done some beloved heroes may be lost.  In all great stories in history drastic change requires the ultimate sacrifice. This world and these characters completely suck you in.  The mythology, the premise, and the personalities of the characters are all enchanting and they truly come alive. 5Gikany and Una are completely hooked on this series and we cannot wait until the next installment is out.  If you want to read something truly unique, gripping, and intricately woven with politics, action/adventure, and heart, you seriously should pick up this series. Our Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Words can kill. Hoarding all the knowledge of the world, the Great Library jealously guards its secrets. But now a group of rebels poses a dangerous threat to its tyranny… Jess Brightwell and his band of exiles have fled London, only to find themselves imprisoned in Philadelphia, a city led by those who would rather burn books than submit. But Jess and his friends have a bargaining chip: the knowledge to build a machine that will break the Library’s rule. Their time is running out. To survive, they’ll have to choose to live or die as one, to take the...
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