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Mar
22

Review: His Custody by Tamsen Parker

Review: His Custody by Tamsen Parker His Custody Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I don’t even know where to start. I have to admit I may have had a seriously uneasy feeling at the beginning of this story—until about the halfway mark. But, I trust Tamsen Parker to deliver a deep, thoughtful read that pushes me past my personal limits. And, this title **really** pushed me for a plethora of reasons. There’s a huge age discrepancy between Keyne (pronounced Cain, like Cain & Abel) and Jasper. That isn’t a problem for me, normally. I love me a good May-December romance. This title falls more under the barely legal, though. I deal with teenagers every day, Monday through Friday. I might have gotten a little squicked out. Initially. But I pushed past that and looked at what was really happening in this story. Age took a backseat. Because, really, it doesn’t matter. This. Story. Is. Freakin’. Brilliant. This review, beyond this point, is slightly spoilery. The blurb hints, but doesn’t come right out and say some of the things I’m about to disclose, so if you don’t want any spoilers, go get your one-click on. However, the spoilers aren’t that bad and don’t really reveal a lot you can’t pretty much guess from the blurb. <spoiler> Jasper and Keyne’s parents were life-long friends. Keyne was dating—inseparable from—Jasper’s younger brother. Keyne was the sole survivor of an accident. Yeah. And she was only seventeen, so she needed a legal guardian—and someone to wade through all the emotional stuff something like that would leave behind. My heart literally broke for Keyne. I seriously sobbed a few times. I wondered how Jasper could handle all the crap being thrown at him while wading through his own grief. I wanted to build a blanket fort and snuggle in it with them both. One thing that I thought as I was reading that a tragedy such as this would naturally draw two grieving people together, and I wondered whether that’s what was happening here. Whether something would happen and the spell between Jasper and Keyne would be broken. Because that’s exactly what it seemed like. This magical thing between two people—that when you watch it unfold from the outside, it takes your breath away. <end spoiler> The pacing in His Custody was perfect. I was drawn through every word in the story, and I definitely stayed up reading entirely too late. I was really sad...
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Mar
20

Review: If the Duke Demands by Anna Harrington

Review: If the Duke Demands by Anna Harrington If the Duke Demands Author: Anna Harrington Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Miranda grew up with the Carlisle siblings, living with her aunt and uncle as tenants on the Carlisle family land. Always closest with middle brother Robert, Miranda wants him to see her as more than the girl next door. However, in her efforts to woo Robert, she mistakenly tries to seduce the Duke of Trent, eldest brother Sebastian. Weight of family obligation and dukedom on his shoulders, Sebastian longs for the carefree life he once lived. But duty comes first, which includes courting and marrying a daughter of a Peer and producing a suitable heir for Trent. Spending the season in London to find the proper duchess, it is Miranda who opens his eyes to joy again, seeing life through her unfettered eyes. I absolutely adored If the Duke Demands! Sebastian and Miranda are two halves of whole. The conflict of love versus duty plays out perfectly as Sebastian attempts to live up to his father’s legacy. The guilt over missing his father’s death because of his dalliances haunts Sebastian daily and controls his every action. It takes the exuberance and love of a strong woman to help him find the man who died with his father two years ago. The book grabbed my attention right from the start with its mistaken identity twist, followed by the pact that Sebastian and Miranda create. Not only does this ensure that they will spend alone time together as they plot, the secretive nature of their agreement lends itself to create a strong bond between the pair. This allows them the freedom to open up to one another, sharing things they never would have otherwise. Additionally, it gives Miranda the freedom to be herself and challenge Sebastian’s ambitions and goals. I love that they banter like a couple of equal standing. As the pair becomes comfortable around one another, their mutual interest deepens and grows. My heart raced as I also became caught up in their passion. Their inappropriate conversation in public at the opera, the stolen kisses… the author does an amazing job building sexual tension and desire, and I found myself completely head-over-heels for this couple. Yet, Sebastian’s misguided intentions and guilt prevent him from completely giving himself to Miranda, even as she risks her heart, surrendering fully. If the Duke Demands is an absolute delight. Ms. Harrington puts forth solid, strong characters who worked...
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Mar
15

Review: Madly by Ruthie Knox

Review: Madly by Ruthie Knox Madly Author: Ruthie Knox Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book. I loved, loved, loved About Last Night.  While it’s not directly attached to the New York Trilogy, main character Winston Chamberlain is the brother of About Last Night’s Nev Chamberlain.  Winston’s love interest Allie Fredericks is the sister of May Fredericks, from Truly, the first book in this trilogy. Madly is an odd little read. It can be a stand-alone, but is complimented by About Last Night and Truly. Don’t get me wrong, I read it beginning to end in a day because it was compelling.  It just didn’t fall neatly into a typical category.  It’s definitely a romance, but unlike other offerings by Knox that I’ve read, it could almost be called “women’s fiction” as the characters work through significant emotional baggage.  I like Knox too much to stick her with that label though. The characters are completely mismatched by age and temperament—but they work.  Winston is British and old enough to have a college-aged daughter, goes through as much self-discovery as Allie does.  Allie is in her mid-twenties, an insecure mid-westerner, who’s as impulsive as Winston is restrained.  That these two hook up and help each other through significant personal crises, is as unlikely as their continued relationship.  But they do. I adored Winston.  He was Rupert Penry-Jones in every Hallmark and period BBC movie you’ve ever seen.  Allie is likable because she always means well and is more perceptive than she thinks.  Many parts of the book are introspective and Allie comes off as a bit of an old soul when she reassures Winston about his age, “You know you’re just whatever age you are, right?  It doesn’t mean anything except that it’s taken you this many years to be the you who you are right now.”  Think about it for a while.  I liked the thought.  Allie’s father was also an unexpected gem. A lot of the book dealt with the idea of being authentic with yourself and others.  Knox was inspired by an essay by Glendon Doyle Melton which you can READ HERE. It would never work as a movie, I think the self-examination that made it work in print wouldn’t translate to the screen, but I loved the movie in my head. True to form, Knox comes up with a big ending.  It wasn’t as surprising as some of her previous novels since we had a...
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Mar
14

Release Day Review: The Hard Way by Annika Martin

Release Day Review: The Hard Way by Annika Martin The Hard Way Author: Annika Martin Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: NOTE: Although each story in the Taken Hostage by Kinky Bank Robbers is standalone, the romance of the four main characters has developed over the course of the series, with deeply emotional roots and revelations along the way. Additionally, the events in prior books impact the events in this book. For these reasons, I do not suggest starting the series with The Hard Way. The first book in the series, The Hostage Bargain is currenly free! The story opens with the God Pack honeymooning in Rome for the past month. Although they know they cannot stay for long in one place, and in fact had to give up so much of their normalcy in escaping ZOX, the gang indulges in daily routine and the temptations of Rome. However, when Isis learns that her sisters’ farm is in trouble and her eldest sister, Vanessa, is charged with manslaughter, the guys whisk Isis back to Wisconsin. Investigating the alleged crime incognito, the gang promises to save Isis’s family. There is so much to love in this series, and The Hard Way is another wonderful addition. First, the title’s opening sex scene (there is certainly more than one!) is one of the dirtiest yet in the series. And even when the guys are worshipping their goddess, the author always finds ways to slip in her amazing, dark humor. I just died when Thor asks “Um, did you guys just have some sort of mystical butt-f**king experience?” The timing of Ms. Martin’s offbeat humor is always impeccable. I think I laughed out loud every time the group found themselves in the cupid-infested B&B. Loved. It. Next, The Hard Way is emotionally satisfying. Although every book centers on the foursome and their deepening love and commitment, each title tends to focus a little bit more on one of the characters, and in this light, I would say The Hard Way is Odin’s story. But you can’t think of this series as one that has a beginning and end point for each character. While the story looks deeper into Odin’s time as a captive, he’s not suddenly “cured” of his horrors by the end of the story – not even close. However, we witness tremendous growth in the relationship between Isis and Odin as she gets him to open up. She comes to understand that no matter how much she wants...
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Mar
13

Review: Insight by Santino Hassell

Review: Insight by Santino Hassell Insight Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: If being raised in the intolerant, judgmental suburbs of Houston, Texas hadn’t been difficult enough, Nathaniel Black also had to bear the stigma of his family’s name. Though most of them are “gifted” with varying psychic abilities, they are better known for the resulting mental instability, addiction, and suicide that seem to accompany those talents. Nate would rather just avoid them all as much as possible. But, when the death of his identical twin brother, Theo, is labeled a suicide, Nate will do anything to discover the truth, even if it means embracing the very thing he hates most. Having read many of this author’s other titles, I’ve been very excited about Insight for quite some time. Not surprisingly, to say that I enjoyed reading it would be an understatement. While I’ve liked many books in the romance and paranormal genres, I simply can’t resist a good suspense or mystery story, and Insight kept me on edge from beginning to end. In fact, there was so much going on in this story, that this review has to be fairly limited in an effort not to ruin it. One of my favorite things about Insight is that, although there are many layers in the plot, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by a profusion of obvious distractions, which can sometimes be problematic with stories that combine elements of multiple genres. Despite the very “busy” nature of this story, however, every scene appeared to be deliberate, if not economical, in its implementation, while consistently providing enough rich detail and imagery that immersing myself in the narrative was effortless. While Insight should certainly be categorized as “Suspense” or possibly a “Thriller,” there’s no denying the significance of its romantic elements, as well. I found both Nate and Trent to be equally likable, and thought the complimentary nature of their developing relationship fit the story very nicely. Nate’s journey is one of self-acceptance as much as it is about discovering the truth, and watching him learn that he truly can be loved was a highlight of the novel for me. Overall, I think Insight is a finely-crafted exploration of a world where truths and monsters dwell beneath the skin. Nate is an intriguing protagonist, and he and Trent each won me over with little effort from the very first chapter. The many twists and turns proved to be consistently riveting, the tension building...
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Mar
13

Review: Truly by Ruthie Knox

Review: Truly by Ruthie Knox Truly Author: Ruthie Knox Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: “May Fredericks hates New York.  Which is fair enough, since New York seems to hate her back.” May doesn’t just hate New York in Truly, the first book in Ruth Knox’ New York Trilogy.  May hates her body, her life, her indecision, and all the choices that have landed this Wisconsin girl in New York in the first place.  What she hates the most, however, is herself for all the things she imagined it would be when reality turned out to be so much less.  In some cases, just awful.  Every girl wants the love of her life to propose by telling her and the world in the most public way possible that she’s utterly forgettable, right? *eye roll* Still, New York doesn’t seem to break her of the fantasy habit.  May was in crisis mode so she complained a bit much, but I have to say, I liked her anyway because I’m a chronic fantasizer.  Without conscious thought we mentally adjust to the way we think things are going to go every time we’re presented with a choice, or new variable, or opportunity.  We think we’re doing it to be prepared, but more often than not, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.  Reality slapped me in the face this week when even though my youngest son applied to four colleges and got in to three, he didn’t get into my alma mater. I was angry and disappointed about something I didn’t even realize mattered to me.  Without even being conscious of it, I had imagined visiting him on campus, setting up his dorm room, and hearing all about my favorite haunts as he lived around the campus that I had enjoyed as a student. As I stewed in my anger, I was truly surprised that my fantasy was so detailed.  Needless to say, I wholly identified with May who did this repeatedly. Enter Matt Hausman, chronic grump.  Picture an angry Daniele Liotti or Luca Calvani in a hoodie, jeans, and an expression that says “go away.”  Being from Wisconsin also, Matt should be a kindred spirit.  He is not.  Matt couldn’t wait to get out of the Midwest and has built a life in New York.  In a first for me, our leading man is an urban bee keeper and gardener—a refreshing change from billionaires, lawyers, ex-military, FBI, and cowboys.  More than that, he’s a talent...
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Mar
8

Review: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop

Review: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop Etched In Bone Author: Anne Bishop Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: After surviving the recent devastation that was brought down on the city of Lakeside by oldest and deadliest of the terra indigene, Meg Corbyn, along with the other residents of the Courtyard, has been busy adapting to the new version of the world that remains. Compared to the rest of the continent of Thasia, they’ve been lucky. But, simultaneous visits from both an unwanted human and the Elders just might turn an already delicate balance into something deadly, and even “Namid’s teeth and claws” must learn that everyone has a price to pay eventually. Regardless of the themes that have been explored by The  Others stories, it has always revolved around the two main characters, Meg and Simon. Etched in Bone brings their mutual journey to a satisfying, if gratifyingly predictable, close. What began as an entertaining and antagonistic friendship has deepened into something far sweeter, and I’ve enjoyed the evolution a great deal. While there are many thoroughly fascinating characters in this series, I felt that the real standout in Etched in Bone is Captain Montgomery’s mother, Miss Twyla. Officially introduced in the previous book, Marked in Flesh, she is the Courtyard’s stern, loving “Grandmother”—and elder of the human pack—and everyone (most Others, included) rightly defers to her judgment. Like the shifters, she is able to make tough choices for the benefit of the whole Courtyard, regardless of the cost to herself. I think my favorite thing about her, however, is that she knows the difference between kindness and pity, and, by putting that conviction into practice, leaves no question about which will leave the recipient’s dignity intact. Part of the fun of these novels for me has always been the suspense that exists, despite having a main character with the “gift” of prophecy. Even with Meg’s ability to see the future, along with the multiple POVs the author uses throughout, I was still unable to do much more than wait for the bad things—which seemed to accumulate—to happen just as the other characters involved did. As a result, I found Etched in Bone especially difficult to put down during my initial reading. As has been the case with the other novels in the series, Etched in Bone is a lesson in consequences. Whether they are the result of random decisions, Meg’s prophecies, or the “irreproachable” will of the Elders, every choice made by...
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Mar
7

Review: Haunting Highland House by Kathryn Hills

Review: Haunting Highland House by Kathryn Hills Haunting Highland House Author: Kathryn Hills Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Wait. What just happened here? Kathryn Hills is a new-to-me author and this is her debut novel If you adore well-written prose that’s descriptive and not over-done, she should be on your TBR. Her voice—and that of her characters—captivated me, and kept me entrenched in the story. Bonus points for distracting me from The Walking Dead. It seems like there’d be a lot going on, what with the whole ghost thing and the time travel thing. Seems like it’d be easy to gloss over things, or have aspects underdeveloped. TOTALLY not the case here. There are a lot of threads flapping in the wind with this title, but the knotwork Ms. Hills skillfully managed—to tie everything together—is impressive, to say the least. I loved the set-up for the story. When I read a PNR, I need that. It helps me learn the world as well as the characters. Let me tell you, I adored both Sam and Robert. When I was reading in their POVs, I felt as though I was IN the story. I felt what they felt. Their experiences were vivid, and emotional. The secondary characters were so well developed I can’t wait to see more of them, and I may be jumping up and down because Haunting Highland House is the first book in A Time Traveler’s Journey series. This is one of those complex, intertwining plots. There were layers of plot and character building that eventually revealed all the things I wanted to know. Ms. Hills definitely captured me as a reader, and at the end? **blinks** That’s where the ‘What just happened here?’ comes in. I could’ve been knocked over with a feather. Fans of paranormal romance—especially ghost stories—with historical and time travel elements should DEFINITELY get their one-click on for this title. I know I can’t wait for the next book in this series. My Rating:  A+ Personal Favorite About the Book: She’s looking to escape her man troubles. Instead, she finds the man of her dreams. There’s only one problem – he’s dead. Living in a haunted house and uncovering a gateway in time were not in the job description when Samantha Merrill agreed to be the property manager of Highland House. Old photos of the reclusive master of the manor captivate her, yet she’s terrified when he appears out of nowhere. How can Robert Pennington be making...
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Mar
7

Review: Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

Review: Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs Silence Fallen Author: Patricia Briggs Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: As complete and utter Mercy Thompson fans, suffice to say we loved Silence Fallen.  However, it was a bit different, not only where the story goes, but in the telling. Adam and Mercy have come a long, long way.  They are an awesome team.  But a lot of time has passed since Mercy has had to truly face trouble on her own.  In Silence Fallen, Mercy does just that.  She is abducted and held against her will in another country.  As she strives to escape, Mercy finds herself from one hot pan into another.  We really enjoyed how she is still able to survive on her own.  But it was tempered in her desire to not only return to Adam and the pack, but to ensure they knew she was okay.  Her unwavering belief that they would come for her gave her the extra courage and determination to survive.  It was awe-inspiring to watch her survive but still remain true to herself. What is different in this novel is that the novel is told only about half from Mercy’s point of view, with the rest told from Adam’s.  What makes this tricky is that the timelines overlap.  We understand they whys, but still feel that the chapters could have been spliced a little differently so the timeline did not jump around as much.  That being said, make sure to read those little musings at the beginning of each chapter….they really do help ease the affected flow of the story. As always, this novel was a gripping read.  There is so much we always want to talk about but can’t because we’d hate to spoil this great novel for all of you.  However, at the end there are a couple revelations which are surprising.  What Gikany and Una enjoyed most was discussing and wondering who exactly orchestrated what.  One thing is for certain, upon finishing the novel we both wanted to reread it immediately… to see if there was possibly something we missed.  Yes…yes, it IS that good. If you haven’t read this series, please jump out from under that rock and start reading the first book, Moon Called.  This is the bar at which Gikany and Una have been known to rate other urban fantasy series.  It is truly that well written, the mythology that fascinating, and the characters that endearing.  As we eagerly...
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Mar
1

Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks

Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days Author: Kerrelyn Sparks Reviewer: Una Rating: A What I’m Talking About: After enjoying several of Ms. Sparks vampire series, I thought I would check out her new paranormal/fantasy series.  The Embraced series is off to a great start with How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days. This world is intriguing: though it is fantastical in nature, it has a bit of a historical feel.  I enjoyed the mythology of the embraced moons.  In this world, a child born is born with special abilities if born on the night of the embraced moons (when the two moons eclipse).  These special children are called the embraced.  One would think that they would be revered when in fact they are reviled.  If the nobility discover them, they are typically killed.  Many who are unable to kill their children have secretly exiled them.  The world is composed of a series of patriarchal continental kingdoms, which worship the sun god, and one island kingdom that is matriarchal and worships the moon goddess.  It is there on the island that such embraced orphan children are hidden away. Luciana is one of these orphaned children.  Raised with several other young embraced girls, they consider themselves family.  Each girl has a special ability but all seem to have a touch of foresight to some degree.  Luciana’s ability is to commune with the dead.  She is able to converse with spirits, which comes in quite handy when her father comes to have her fulfill the king’s decree that she marry his nephew, The Beast of Benwick (Leo).  She must hide the fact that she is not only embraced, but is actually a twin of the intended sister.  Twin embraced children are even more feared by the patriarchal society.  Her father comes for her only because her twin sister has died and he must have his daughter marry Leo or lose all his holdings to the king. Leo is also an embraced child, but due to his ability to absorb and harness the power of lightning, he has been allowed to mature.  The king has used him since he was a young teenager as his warlord and pawn.  Leo has yearned for a woman of his own but due to his abilities he is unable to touch another without killing them.  He is loyal to his people and diligent in his duties.  Watching as Leo met his match in Luciana...
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