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Jun
28

Review + Blog Tour: Oversight by Santino Hassell

Review + Blog Tour: Oversight by Santino Hassell Oversight Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: After falling in love with Insight, the first in the Community series, I had high hopes for this story—and the end result far exceeded any expectations I might have had. In fact, I believe that Oversight has elevated the entire series by several degrees, and there’s still one more book to go. With a mix of characters both familiar and new, Oversight is filled with some of the most vivid personalities ever—some good, some bad—and, as was the case in its predecessor, it can be difficult to tell the difference sometimes. Although I didn’t care for Holden in Insight, a more thorough examination of his adolescence and the tactics and motives of the Community gave me a much greater appreciation for him and what he’s currently going through. It was Sixtus, however, that won me over completely. His unique talent is a perfect disguise for what simmers beneath the surface, and I found him to be utterly mesmerizing. Mr. Hassell has given life to someone truly remarkable in Sixtus, his gifts as intriguing as the man himself. He’s an immediate favorite, one who makes the entire novel worth a reread as soon as possible just to ensure that I didn’t miss a single detail. I absolutely adored him. While Nate’s story kept me invested from the beginning, the conspiracy that unfolds throughout Oversight felt even more urgent at times, the building suspense making getting through those moments a white-knuckling affair in all the right ways. From the first chapter, the momentum crescendos in extremely well-timed sequences of recollection and desperation, and once I hit the midway point, the narrative owned me until the very end. Although I think it would be enjoyable regardless, Oversight isn’t a standalone. There’s a momentum that was introduced in the first story that works its way to a frenzied pace here that I couldn’t look away from. The return of quite a few characters from book one means that this series needs to be read in its proper succession, but it’s well worth it. There are layers of secrets and machinations that are uncovered methodically through the experiences of these characters, and it’s been a real pleasure to watch things unfold to this point. Oversight is an oftentimes terrifying view of what is at stake when good intentions give way to the commodification of the very people most in need of help...
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Jun
27

Review: The Cartographer by Tamsen Parker

Review: The Cartographer by Tamsen Parker The Cartographer Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I can’t imagine Rey’s book being more perfect. If you’ve been reading Tamsen Parker’s Compass series, you know Rey Walter—the kink puppeteer/matchmaker. I’ve always been curious about Rey, but never did I imagine the revelations in The Cartographer. As always, I’m keeping this review spoiler-free. Which means it’s going to be short 😉 Allie Hart is an awesome guy. He hasn’t had an easy life but he’s responsible and committed. Not committed to someone else, though. Like, not romantically. I found myself wanting to slap Allie up-side the head and tell him to let Rey help. **pulls hair** We do get to watch Allie grow, too. I like seeing him overcome preconceived notions and become a fly on the wall when he’s with the people he cares about. I think I connected with Allie because he’s had a rough go of it, but seems to have come out the other side of his battles a better person. Rey? Oh, I love the things we learn about Rey. It’s really nice to see his Dominant, match-making tush again. I think parts of The Cartographer were difficult to read for me because I like to have some semblance of control in my life, but the way Rey handles his own control—at times—is difficult for me. I read the words and I’m the person murmuring to my book, “Oh, honey…don’t do that.” Rey has been instrumental to this series. There’s a REASON he’s the Cartographer—he’s been charting a course for everyone else all these years and it’s finally—finally—time for him to travel the road toward his own happiness. I don’t think there’s many people who can write kink the way Ms. Parker does, either. I love her imagery and the depth of the emotions during a particularly harrowing scene. And, you guys? This book is particularly smokin’ hot. But even more than how hot the sex is, and how intense the BDSM scenes are, there’s so much emotion. It’s been absolutely wonderful watching the development in Ms. Parker’s Compass series, and I’m sad to see the series end. But, this is good news for you—in the even you haven’t picked up this series, yet. IT IS COMPLETE. You may now commence the binge-reading. My Rating: A+ Personal favorite About the Book: Reyes Walter is the man who engineers everyone’s happiness, and he’s never wanted anything else. He’s got a...
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Jun
26

Review: Say Yes to the Scot Anthology

Review: Say Yes to the Scot Anthology Say Yes to the Scot: A Highland Wedding Box Set Author: Lecia Cornwall, Anna Harrington, May McGoldrick, Sabrina York Reviewer: Una Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I picked up this anthology so I could read the contribution by Lecia Cornwall.  I love her Highland Fairy Tale series.  However, the other three novellas were just as enchanting and enjoyable. How a Lass Wed a Highlander is a novella in the Highland Fairy Tale series.  I thoroughly enjoyed this reimaging of The Princess and the Pea.  I liked the interplay between Cait and the other brides.  Cait’s innate kindness was a source of inner strength for her.  Alex’s stubborn and gritty battle with himself over his bride was almost humorous as he tried to ignore what was obvious.  This was my favorite story in the collection and I look forward to more in this world This second story took me by surprise.  A Match Made in Heather was a sweet story of second-chances and of choosing to forgive rather than to obtain revenge.  Garrick and Arabel’s story was passionate and heartbreaking.  They are two people desperately in love but separated by status; broken apart only to find themselves together again.  Garrick and Arabel’s heartbreak, and healing journey was gripping and bittersweet.  I enjoyed their happily-ever-after tale. Alexander and Elizabeth’s story in A Midsummer Wedding was an exciting and witty romantic tale.  Two people, betrothed from birth, find themselves faced with the dilemma of obeying duty or following their own hearts.  However, it’s also a funny tale of how hearts can change.  The theme of “never judge a book by its cover” was cleverly portrayed in their romantic journey.  I absolutely loved this story and it is my second favorite. The Scot Says I Do was another story of a second chance at love.  Catherine was smitten with Duncan, the laird’s young groom, when she was a young girl.  However, Duncan was a bully until one day he was gone.  Years later, Catherine finds Duncan again and is in a position of being indebted to him when her brother teeters on ruin.  Duncan and Catherine’s story was sweet and passionate as they learned and fight for what their hearts knew was right.  I enjoyed this story. If you enjoy historical romances with Scotsmen, I would heartily recommend this anthology.  The stories are unique, witty and full of passion and excitement.  This would make a great summer read. My Rating:  A, Loved...
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Jun
14

Review + Excerpt: Too Close to Call by Tessa Bailey

Review + Excerpt: Too Close to Call by Tessa Bailey From New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey comes TOO CLOSE TO CALL, a novella in her Romancing the Clarksons Series published by 1001 Dark Nights! Grab your copy today! Too Close to Call Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: When we met Kyler Tate in Too Hard to Forget (Peggy & Elliott’s book) he seemed to be the sweet and innocent star on Elliott’s team. Um. Sweet and innocent are not words I would use to describe Kyler. That boy’s a dirty talker. And, he’s tenacious. That’s the thing that set’s Kyler apart from the norm. He knows what he wants—Bree—and he doesn’t stop until he gets it. We’re not just talking a booty call, either. Bree, however, makes him work for it. Not on purpose—but because it was her call to break up when he left for college. With her own set of issues to work through, Bree is…pretty much a hot mess. In Tessa Bailey fashion, things appear darkest before the dawn. And, even though Bree & Kyler were younger, they are old souls. They’re both wise beyond their years, and that makes them relatable for even this ol’ lady. Readers of Ms. Bailey’s Clarksons series won’t want to miss this one! It’ll tide us over until Too Beautiful to Break, Belmont and Sage’s book, hits the shelves in September. My Rating: A, loved it. About the Book: All-American wide receiver Kyler Tate’s life is about to change. A fairytale college career skyrocketed him to the NFL draft. Adoration and opportunity are thrown in his direction wherever he goes, thanks to being chosen in the first round by the Los Angeles Rage.  None of the accolades mean anything, though, without his high school sweetheart, Bree Justice, by his side. Four years ago, she walked away from Kyler, choosing a quiet life over the flash and notoriety his career would someday bring.  Now he’s back in their Indiana hometown, refusing to leave for Los Angeles without her. Demanding she give their life together a shot. Her heart never stopped bleeding for the love of her life, but Bree’s decision was final. Too bad their wild attraction has only been amplified by their separation, and Kyler won’t quit until Bree is wearing his ring.  Release Date: June 13, 2917 Publisher: Evil Eye Concepts Series: 1,001 Dark Nights, Romancing the Clarksons #3.5 Genre: Contemporary Romance Format(s): e-book Book Source: blog tour company Purchase Info:  Amazon...
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Jun
13

Review: Moonbreaker by Simon R. Green

Review: Moonbreaker by Simon R. Green Moonbreaker Author: Simon R. Green Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: After the last novel, Dr. DOA, we were concerned on where Moonbreaker would go.  Left with an unusual cliffhanger (for this series), Gikany and Una were nervous about what Eddie and Molly would face.  Never fear fans of the Secret Histories series, Mr. Green delivers a gripping, hilarious and fascinating action/adventure as we have not only come to expect, but love. ***Please note that the standard disclaimer for a long running series applies.  There was a huge cliffhanger in the previous book.  There will be spoilers for it here not to mention spoilers for those that haven’t read the series.  You’ve been warned… but seriously, read the series it’s awesome!*** When we last saw Molly and Eddie, they were trapped in a different dimension where the Droods had been eradicated most shockingly by Dr. DOA aka Edmond Drood (Eddie’s counterpart in this alternate dimension).  Time is ticking because Eddie is slowly dying from the poison that Edmond has slipped him.  They need to either find a remedy (which is completely unlikely) or at least have Eddie exact his revenge on Edmond.  It becomes a race against the clock as Eddie fights one battle to the next to stop Edmond before he takes his last breath. Though the action was completely gripping, the emotions were poignant in this chronicle of Eddie’s adventures.  The idea of his own mortality and the choices he makes, knowing they will be his last.  The connection and support between Molly and Eddie is as heartwarming as it is witty.  Their banter never slows down – not when they are abandoned in an alternate dimension, not in the face of danger, not when Eddie’s slow demise shows itself, not even in the middle of a battle. The humor and steadfastness of their relationship is an anchor during the chaotic nature of their lives. As for the plight of Eddie – it is well foreshadowed, he is poisoned and there is no cure, no hope, he is a dead man walking. However, in true Shaman Bond style, the poetic justice of the ending was phenomenal. It was well worth the pain and anguish of the previous cliffhanger in Dr. DOA. The story of Edmond truly evolves in Moonbreaker. It was classic and gritty and thoroughly enjoyable with all the quirks that make the Droods…Droods. We thoroughly enjoyed Moonbreaker!  The plot was well...
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Jun
8

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Golden Spider by Anne Renwick

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Golden Spider by Anne Renwick Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Elemental Web Chronicles Book: The Golden Spider Author: Anne Renwick Narrator: Henrietta Meire Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Elemental Web Chronicles #1 Genre: Steampunk Romance Source: Tantor Audio The Golden Spider Set in a time when England and Germany have heightened tensions, spy networks are vast, and the ton continues with its balls and social obligations unaware of the secrets around them, Lady Amanda wars with her father, the Duke, over her ability to attend medical school. Amanda is driven by her keen intelligence and a guilt over her brother’s injured leg, to produce a clockwork device to repair nerve damage. Under pressure to find a husband within the year, Amanda courts a classmate, but finds no sparks. However, when her work captures the attention of Lord Thornton, noted physician and neurologist, Lady Amanda finally knows what it is like to have her mind appreciated. Lord Thornton lives with the guilt over the betrayal of his best friend in his damaged leg that will never heal. As a spy for the Queen herself, he finds Amanda’s work to be the break he needs in a rash of Gypsy murders. However much he is attracted to both her brain and her body, Thornton must keep the relationship professional, especially since he’s not on the market for a wife. The Golden Spider is a delicious treat for fans of gadgets, science, and steampunk romance! Right from the start, I was drawn into this exciting mystery, trying to discover who is behind the Gypsy murders. Watching Amanda’s mind work to piece the puzzle together is fascinating, and made all the much better as she and Thornton grow closer. I love the science of the story – the author does not brush over Amanda and Thornton’s work, but rather gives listeners the details of both test subjects and gadgets. While the engineering, science, action, and adventure is completely fascinating, it is the romance between Lord Thornton and Lady Amanda that gives The Golden Spider heart and makes it such a wonderful story. The pair are meant for one another; not only do they share a passion for science and ingenuity, but they are able to openly be themselves with each other. Thornton doesn’t trust easily, but he finds a confidant in Amanda. Working side by side, their passion grows until they finally give into their burning desires. The story is read by British-born actress Henrietta Meire,...
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Jun
7

Review + Blog Tour: Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Review + Blog Tour: Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell Mature Content Author: Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: From the very beginning, the Cyberlove series has been an unflinching and welcome rebuttal to the notion that the connections, and lives, we find for ourselves online are invalid. Mature Content goes further in that the characters’ challenges, opportunities, and relationships play out where the distinction between “real life” and the internet is no longer distinct—or even relevant in many ways. Zane Brody and Beau Shields are two popular YouTubers in the LGBTQ community whose already overlapping circles are about collide—spectacularly. Beau’s online persona, Beau Starr, isn’t a lie exactly, but rather the version of himself he wants to be. Informative and validating, he tries to be the positive presence that was lacking when he was trying to figure things out for himself. The problem is that living means making mistakes, and Beau has his share like everyone else. But, the past is never very far away, and I was reminded of the Confucius quote “No matter where you go, there you are.” It’s simply too much for Beau to shoulder on his own, and the steadily increasing weight of it all was tangible as the story progressed. Zane, on the other hand, decided long before to live his life openly, his “TrashyZane” identity being the truest version of himself that he could possibly be. He is incredibly strong, unrepentantly sexual, and has an enviably good heart to go with it all. He is sometimes (justifiably) wary, but honest to a fault, and his determination not to hide who he is means that there’s nowhere for him to hide when he might have need of such. I adored Zane from the beginning, and still can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about him. In terms of sex, the aptly titled Mature Content has plenty, and I thought these scenes were some of the best I’ve read. Entire lifetimes could be spent unsuccessfully searching for the kind of sexual compatibility Zane and Beau share. That they despise one another makes the fact as perfect as it is annoying (for them, at least), but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find their mutual struggle with that reality as riveting as the encounters themselves. Saying that these two are “smoking hot” together wouldn’t be wrong, but it would be sadly inadequate for the chemistry that Ms. Erickson and Mr. Hassell manage to bring to...
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Jun
5

Review + Blog Tour: Small Change by Roan Parrish

Review + Blog Tour: Small Change by Roan Parrish Small Change Author: Roan Parrish Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Having first met Ginger in In the Middle of Somewhere I was very happy to see her get her own story. Small Change follows a parallel timeline, but to say that it is the same narrative from a different perspective would simply be untrue. Titled after the name of her tattoo shop—which is itself named after a Tom Waits album and song—Small Change introduces readers to Ginger’s world, and all the wonderful characters in it, amid a significant upheaval. The absence of her best friend, changes at the shop, and the addition of someone she’s beginning to care for (despite her reluctance to believe the truth of it) all have her off balance, but it’s precisely this unsteadiness that made Ginger seem more substantial and genuine than a lot of other characters I’ve read. Something that I particularly enjoyed about Small Change is that Ginger and Christopher’s dance towards one another raises some excellent questions that I think many will find familiar in some way. Can she be honest with herself? How much of herself will Ginger lose if she lets Christopher into her heart? If the hurts that have toughened her are flung outward in defense when someone gets too close, who else might she hurt, in turn? Ginger has spent so long fighting for everything she has—and then having to guard it against anyone who would negate those accomplishments—that she is understandably terrified about what loving Christopher could mean. Interestingly, we get to know Christopher not only by his interactions with Ginger, but through his emails to his brother, Jude. Most of the narrative is strictly from Ginger’s first person point of view, but these one-sided messages are extremely telling, and allow the reader to understand Christopher by the complexity of devotion evidenced within them. They are filled with love, hope, sadness, anger, and even loneliness, proving that he truly is as good as he seems. I also thought it especially appropriate that Ginger must face her hardest truths via Jude—who I found absolutely fascinating. Ginger identifies as queer and has dated both men and women to varying degrees of success, and I loved that there wasn’t any drama about the fact on Christopher’s part—or the story as a whole, come to that. Though the tattoo shop owes its current uptick in business to the publicity it received for being “queer-friendly” as well as...
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May
31

Review: Lessons in Losing It by Jessica Peterson

Review: Lessons in Losing It by Jessica Peterson Lessons in Losing It Author: Jessica Peterson Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I’m not even going to pretend I’m confused by how awesome Jessica Peterson’s Lessons in Losing It was. It was fabulous. The fourth title in the Study Abroad series is—like the other books—able to be read as a standalone (although I suggest reading them in order because there are characters mentioned from previous titles and they make a bigger impact if you’ve read them). There’s a special place for authors who write books about hot soccer players. Choirs of angels sing there and inspire them to write more books. I’m super sad this is the last Study Abroad title, but the back matter said there MIGHT be a spin-off series. **crosses all the things** I really like Ms. Peterson’s voice and the way she tells a story. The first person, present tense, POV is well-done and doesn’t irritate my soul. She remains solidly in one POV—even though they alternate—in each section. And, it’s truly great to get perspective from both main characters. Rachel is an ambitious woman who knows what she wants from life—professionally. It’s easy to choose what we want to do in life, but who we want to be is a little more difficult. The biggest question is who we want to spend our lives with, sometimes. When the brain overrides the heart? Well, that gets messy. My takeaway from Rachel’s character: don’t let anyone tell you who—or what—to be. It sucks way less that way. Fred? OMG. Be.Still.My.Heart. He’s such a sweetheart! I fell for him almost immediately. The way he was so honest with himself—and Rachel—instantly endeared him to me. Mostly because I want to believe I can be as authentic as he is. Fred is a great character because of his brutal honesty. Sometimes, it really sucks—if one reads to see truth—but it’s all good. He’s a true introvert and it isn’t often we see them accurately portrayed. I loved Fred and Rachel. There was something comfortable and unpretentious about them. Natural. Neither felt the need to be someone they weren’t when they were together. THEY were refreshing. And get a fire extinguisher, because they.are.hot! I look forward to reading more by Ms. Peterson in the future, and have thoroughly enjoyed her Study Abroad series. While all four titles can stand alone, I think they’re best read in order. The first title of the series, Spanish Lessons, is available...
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May
30

Review: New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan

Review: New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan New York, Actually Author: Sarah Morgan Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Unknown to all but four people, Molly is actually the popular relationship expert, Aggie. With a well-liked, successful blog and best-seller to her name, Molly has finally found peace-of-mind after upending her life and moving from London three years ago. As long as nobody discovers her real identity nor the horrors of her past, she’ll be perfectly content with her life and one love, Valentine the Dalmatian. Daniel is a highly motivated, premier divorce lawyer. He loves to be with women – giving them what they want – without strings. And when he sees Molly running with Valentine in Central Park day after day, he goes after her; however, the only way to get her attention is to borrow a dog to walk in the park. Now that he’s got Molly’s attention, he needs to figure out how to get her to open up and let him in. New York, Actually is another wonderful romance in Ms. Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series. I was concerned at the beginning that I wouldn’t like this book because it has themes that I don’t really enjoy, like dishonesty, holding secrets to “protect” the other, and a set up for potential public humiliation. However, Ms. Morgan eased all my fears and wrote a wonderful story. She never avoided the set up she put in place, but rather allowed her characters to mature and develop genuine feelings for one another. She afforded them the opportunity to feel the angry, hurt, joy, etc. and then let them think about it and come back around. I absolutely enjoyed it! Daniel and Molly are a perfect match. She always breaks hearts and he doesn’t have a heart to break. Due to Molly’s wariness, the couple was forced to take time and start the friendship process before acting fully on their mutual attraction. The missteps and falters were needed, but together, the pair used their hearts, experiences, and their brains to move past the hiccups. I am thankful that Molly’s identity was revealed to Daniel in the middle of the book, rather than at the end. Instead of everything going swimmingly until BAM the big conflict at the end, the pair dealt within increasingly difficult issues until the climax, but by then they were prepared to deal with the issues head on. I also enjoyed all the little tie-ins to the first three...
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