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Oct
17

Review: Fish out of Water by Hailey Edwards

Review: Fish out of Water by Hailey Edwards Fish Out of Water Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: If you haven’t been following my reviews of Hailey Edwards’ Black Dog books, GO! GET ON THAT! Fish Out of Water is a plot resolution from the spinoff Gemini series, featuring Cam. It DEFINITELY needs to be read after Hell or High Water—seriously, don’t mess with the series order, folks. I had a lot of questions about Harlow at the conclusion of the third title in the Gemini series, and Fish Out of Water clears them all up for me. It was super nice to see Harlow again. I must admit, I really adore her. Her snark and personality are intact (eventually) and I liked being in her head. It was a great way to see what makes her tick. I will admit, I’ll never look at mirrored aviators the same way again. **swoons** It’s no secret that I’ve worked with a large mental health population in my real life. When we were introduced to the Edelweiss Mental Institution, the setting of the novella, in one of Cam’s stories, I was cool giving it a shot. After all, it’s a place for paranormals and isn’t going to parallel life at all, right? Well, because this is a spoiler-free zone, there’s a megaton of parallels to real life—with a paranormal twist…and that’s all I can say. If I’m looking for a great paranormal read, I know I can count on Ms. Edwards to deliver. With a host of paranormal baddies—and good guys, too—I actually adore the world-building. Harlow’s story here was no different. I though the plot picked up nicely where Harlow stepped out of the Gemini series—and the end of Hell or High Water—and led us to the ‘here and now’ well. You guys, I had a DEEP need to know what happened to Harlow. I feel like a kid in a candy store after reading this title. And…the first Lorimar Pack book, Promise the Moon, is slated for publication at the end of October. **grabby hands** YAY! More Dell!!! My Rating: A+ Personal Favorite About the Book: Harlow Bevans was a changeling mermaid working as a diving consultant for the Earthen Conclave. Then he came along. Charybdis. A serial killer who possessed her body and wrecked her mind. Now she’s an inmate—patient—at Edelweiss Mental Institution.  When a haunting song lures her to the scene of a brutal murder, the calm of the past...
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Oct
10

Blog Tour + Review: Pansies by Alexis Hall

Blog Tour + Review: Pansies by Alexis Hall Pansies Author: Alexis Hall Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: As has been the case with every story I’ve read by Alexis Hall, I find myself unable to write this review without a great deal of regard and admiration for both story and author. Mr. Hall is as thorough in Pansies as ever, writing in layers that are at once complex, philosophical, and literary, yet which are presented through the reassuring familiarity of sensation, sound, and color. I don’t think that there is a single, exclusionary truth within the narrative, but, rather, a unique kind of acceptance that is difficult to explain. I don’t believe it’s exactly right to say that Pansies is the story of two people with a shared past, because it is so disparate in the experience of the main characters. The setting is the same, as are many of the key players, but the summation of its pieces has wildly different effects on Fen and Alfie. What I took from their respective histories is that the past is never a singular, weightless construct. It is as fractured as the lens of a kaleidoscope, each contributor’s perspective unique to every other. And as long as a single person’s shoulders are bowed under the weight of it, all are indefinitely accountable. Perspective, in general, is another important component of the story, and how the same quantity of time can be experienced in entirely different ways by two (or more) people. Fen and Alfie both left South Shields, but there’s a significant distinction between “having to” and “wanting to.” Change is presented similarly, and might be viewed as the crumbling of foundations vs. the awareness of possibility. One of my favorite things about Pansies is the enticement of the senses that seems to be present in all of Mr. Hall’s books. The smell of flowers and sex. The taste of wine and the salt spray of the ocean. A warmth strong enough to touch the chill that has nothing to do with the weather. And there are constant bursts of color—the red-black of butterfly wings, purple silk, and sea glass green—flung with all the moments they attend against grey skies. These are magical stories. While Pansies does have its share of serious themes coursing through it, it is also fairly packed with humor—side-splitting, tears-streaming, cackling-out-loud humor. Alfie is a mess. There’s not much about him that isn’t a mess, and occasionally that manifests in truly bizarre...
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Oct
10

Review: It Must Be Christmas Anthology

Review: It Must Be Christmas Anthology It Must be Christmas Authors: Jennifer Crusie, Donna Alward, and Mandy Baxter Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: It may seem a little early for Christmas.  I mean we haven’t even had Halloween.  But, it is certainly not too early for some fun, romantic tales set within the Christmas season.  I thoroughly enjoyed these three holiday novellas. Jennifer Crusie’s title, Hot Toy was my favorite.  I loved the humor and absurdity of it all.  The snarkiness and contrasting elements reminded me of one of my favorite Jennifer Crusie stories, Agnes and the Hitman.  Blend together hectic last minute holiday shopping with romantic pitfalls, and add a dash of espionage and action and you’ll have this laugh-out-loud holiday romp.  I picked up this anthology for this story and it was better than I anticipated.  I hope there is more to come in this world or at least with these sarcastically witty characters.  I absolutely LOVED Trudy and the amount of abuse that poor Nolan could take.  This story alone is a must read! Christmas at Seashell Cottage was a beautifully emotional tale.  Though humorous in places, Charlie and Dave’s slowly burning romance was heartfelt and honest.  I really enjoyed the nature of the story and the bit of magic (or fate) that played out.  Both Charlie and Dave had a personal, reflective journey, and I enjoyed how they handled it.  It was a stark contrast to the previous novella but was just as emotionally fulfilling.  I found myself lost in this small town, and rooting for this unlikely couple. This story’s magic truly touched my heart. The final story, Christmas with the Billionaire Rancher was sizzling and passionate.  Though Chloe and Nate start out as a one night stand, it was fascinating to watch how it expanded into being more.  I really liked Chloe’s character and her sense of honor.  When Nate and Chloe had their falling out – it really surprised me even though it shouldn’t have.  Nate’s reaction, once you learn the truth of his past, was understandable. However, I felt Chloe was justified in never speaking to him again.  That being said, I like how Nate doesn’t just say he is sorry.  He proves how sorry he is and how much she means to him.  I love how he redeems himself in time for a happy Christmas evening. All in all, three wonderful stories with the Christmas season as the backdrop.  I really enjoyed them...
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Oct
5

Review: Vick’s Vultures by Scott Warren

Review: Vick’s Vultures by Scott Warren Vick’s Vultures Author: Scott Warren Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I had some high expectations for Vick’s Vultures after reading the blurb.  It seemed like the scope promised was just too big for 223 pages.  I’m happy to report that relative newcomer Scott Warren rose to the hype.  This is a really good sci-fi read in a market flooded with the paranormal.  It embraces the traditional space opera, but brings fresh ideas to the future Warren has imagined. The writing is not only tight, it is consistent and approachable.  Warren assumes an intelligent reader, not bothering to identify common sci-fi nomenclature like FTL (faster than light) upfront, but writes in such a way that everything makes sense eventually.  He is good at showing us the story rather than telling it.  Blessedly, he stays away from information dumps and like flaws of other sci-fi writers.  Most significantly, it’s plausible—a desperately important factor if you’re going to make Earthlings your heroes. We love an underdog and Warren plays to that by making Earth the unlikely victors in a galaxy of far superior aliens with empires that span thousands of worlds. Those aliens have been in space for millennia and developed technology we can’t even dream about—which is why Captain Victoria Marin is trying to steal, or “salvage,” as much alien tech as she can and bring it back to Earth for reverse engineering. Even though Warren is a male author, he’s made his captain a woman.  Kudos.  She is also old enough to wear her authority well without playing into stereotypes of age.  Double kudos. Warren mixes races and genders in the seamless style of Star Trek.  It’s just not a thing.  Thank you for that.  All that authority and experience are called upon when Vick responds to a distress signal, hoping to salvage new tech.  She gets way more than she bargained for in the rescue of First Prince Tavram.  She’s now thrown in the political landscape of the “big three” alien races who consider the “lesser empires” to be beneath their notice.  Before the end of the book, at least one of these races will acknowledge the lesser human race. **Minor Spoiler Alert** With superior tech, the aliens have also forgotten basic hand to hand combat skills and ground warfare. Privateers like Captain Vick are backed by military personnel. Warren uses his own military background to give Vick’s crew authenticity.  Working to Earth’s advantage, the aliens...
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Oct
4

Review: The Exposure by Tara Sue Me

Review: The Exposure by Tara Sue Me The Exposure Author: Tara Sue Me Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Seriously. Pulling up a book file for Tara Sue Me’s Submissive series is always a lot of joy for me. Sometimes, I get all rant-y about how people don’t do BDSM correctly, and the Dom is all risky and the sub is like a puddle of goo. Not so with Ms. Sue Me’s titles in this series. I was super excited to read The Exposure because Meagan is a switch—she will either Top or bottom depending. And, because I wanted to read Meagan’s story. Pairing her with Luke was inspired. The glimpses we’ve had of Luke in other stories had made me curious about him, and I simply needed to know more. Now, The Exposure has a bit of a romantic suspense feel—there’s blackmail happening, and it plays out in the relationship between Meagan and Luke. But, with their history, the ‘distance’ could’ve honestly been leftover from their previous entanglement. It’s also really cool to see people in the lifestyle that aren’t utter noobs. Both Meagan and Luke are ‘veterans’ and established. Many of the D/s stories have an established Dom and bring in this romantic interest who is new to the lifestyle. Meagan had a lot going on in The Exposure. Besides having to deal with her feelings about getting back into modeling and working with Luke again, she’s got the work thing and the blackmail thing. Take into account her need to both Top and bottom as a switch, and it’s pretty much a rollercoaster from Meagan’s perspective. I kinda liked that part. Usually, when there’s a Dominant character, they’re pretty much in control of everything except their love interest, which throws them off-kilter. Meagan definitely wasn’t. Luke, on the other hand, definitely seemed to be in control of everything except what was going on between Meagan and him. He’s diversified his life and made a name for himself in the world of photography as well as owning several exclusive BDSM clubs. What endeared me to Luke was the way he handled Meagan’s hesitance to become involved again. So many times we see Doms Behaving Badly—like petulant toddlers—when they don’t get what they want right away. It was really refreshing to see Luke acknowledge he needed to earn Meagan’s trust again after their previous relationship soured. I always enjoy reading The Submissve series by Tara Sue Me. Part of it is the glimpses...
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Sep
28

Review: School Ties by Tamsen Parker

Review: School Ties by Tamsen Parker School Ties Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: When I started reading School Ties by Tamsen Parker, I thought I was going to have to tap out about halfway through. Erin is a math teacher at a private boys’ school. She has the hots for one of her students, but does nothing about it (good girl, Erin). Since it’s a dual POV story, we find out Shep (nickname) is seriously crushing on her, too. And **something** happens almost immediately after Shep graduates. But I didn’t tap out. I did have the heebies (um, hello?!? Teacher), but got over them pretty quickly once I hit the second half of the book. I’m glad I trusted Ms. Parker to be sure her readers knew if there was something with extra squick factor. Readers also need to be aware of a miscarriage. Both Shep and Erin had HUGE phases of growth through the title. I was impressed at how realistic things were and ended up cheering for them to get together. Erin is a bit like me, I’ll admit. She has this huge sense of propriety while she’s working, and hides a curiosity for BDSM—in a collection of novels underneath her bed. Her positive outlook—although it gets a workout during the story—seems to be one of her strengths. Her responsibilities are to herself and to Hawthorne, the school where she teaches. Her memories of being on campus keep her rooted there, as she grew up the gypsy lifestyle. She endures several situations during the story to get her HEA. And OMG! I was totally cheering her on in several places. I adored her strength and her ability to move on. However, she does allow past experiences to cloud her vision when it comes to Shep a few times. Shep is pretty much the polar opposite of Erin. He’s heaped with self-placed responsibility from the get-go due to his family and financial situation. Also, at school, he’s a leader in both the academic and athletic communities, and needs to live up to those expectations. When he graduates and goes off to college, we end up seeing the real Shep in brief glimpses. He’s the perpetual do-gooder. Seriously. He manages to fall into an experience that helps define his life, and readers are only treated to glimpses and shadows of his three years of college—but it’s enough. Broody, and Alpha, Shep has a plan. Oh. Did I mention he’s...
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Sep
27

Review: The Goal by Elle Kennedy

Review: The Goal by Elle Kennedy The Goal Author: Elle Kennedy Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Everyone who has followed the Off-Campus series knows about the huge bomb dropped at the end of book three, The Score. With the biggest of all spoilers already out there, where did Kennedy have to go?  Everyone already hated Sabrina James; how do you make her sympathetic?  Everyone already loved gentle, pink-aproned John Tucker; how do you hoist someone like Sabrina on him and justify it? Leave it to the skill of Elle Kennedy to make it work.  I think she knew right where this story was going way back in book one, The Deal. The timeline in The Goal overlaps The Score, Dean and Allie’s story, running nearly parallel and up to the point of the epilogue in book two, The Mistake.  Significant details in that installment are significant in this one as well, we just get to see them from other perspectives. The expansion gives more depth to both books. In The Goal, we learn about Sabrina’s motives and how her life has shaped the person who has had venomous interactions with Dean.  She becomes sympathetic as soon as we see her in her home environment. The reader is rooting for her before she knows it.  Like Tucker who sees through her hard shell of independence, we know she’s hiding a soft, vulnerable interior.  In fact, I wanted to tell Dean, who is my least favorite of the four roommates, to pull his head out.  Given his stellar fall into stupidity in The Score, he’s the last person who should be passing judgement on others. Thankfully, she has Tucker. John Tucker.  Sigh.  Up until this book, Tucker has mostly been a peripheral character.  Gingers have not typically been written as the erotic hottie so if your imagination needs a little help, just Google images of Seth Fornea or Matthias Panitz. Better yet, check out Thomas Knights Red Hot Exhibition.  Then add the patience of Job and southern accent. How did this Texas born southern gentleman, who loves his mother and respects women, end up with an ice hockey scholarship in Massachusetts? What on Earth does he see in Sabrina James?  We get answers to these questions and more. If there’s anything that Kennedy does well, it’s to write authentic emotions.  She always gets that spot on. Of course she does it with her trademark humor.  Kennedy seems to have a hilarious understanding that penises...
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Sep
26

Q&A + Review: The Bloodsworn by Erin Lindsey

Q&A + Review: The Bloodsworn by Erin Lindsey The Bloodsworn Author: Erin Lindsey Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A-  What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una have waited somewhat impatiently for the final book in this Bloodbound trilogy.  We were not disappointed.  The Bloodsworn is our favorite book of the series. What makes this series so captivating is the characters.  All three main characters (Alix, Liam, and Erik) developed over the course of the three novels.  Gikany and Una enjoyed discussing the changes that Alix, Liam and Erik each underwent as the series progressed.  We watched them grow in both confidence and decisiveness.  The heartache they felt after making tough choices grounded the novel.  Not only do the characters have depth, but their individual journeys also help connect the reader to the story. A theme that runs through the entire series is the necessity of choosing to be a good man or a good king.  Sometimes the choice a king faces means deciding between doing what his conscience dictates and what is best for his kingdom.  At first glance it seems they would be the same thing, but this series explores how it is not always so.  It was fascinating to watch as Alix and Liam not only supported Erik as he faced these decisions, but as they faced them as well. We enjoyed the multifaceted mythologies, politics, and cultures of Alden and the surrounding kingdoms.  It was gripping to watch as Alix navigated another kingdom and its culture as she tried to save her king and kingdom.  The suspense of her adventure behind enemy lines was nail biting. The Bloodsworn is an engrossing and captivating final novel.  We were on the edge of our seats while our heroes fought against formidable odds to save Erik and the kingdom.  Their loyalty and courage were awe-inspiring.  If you enjoy suspenseful fantasy with politics and war, you should read the Bloodbound series.  We look forward to more from this author. Our Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot Our Series Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot / B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: The bonds of family, love and loyalty are pushed to their limits in this thrilling conclusion to the epic saga started in The Bloodbound… As the war between Alden and Oridia draws to its conclusion, the fates of both kingdoms rest on the actions of a select group of individuals—and, of course, the unbreakable bonds of blood.. Unbeknownst to most of Alden, King Erik, in thrall to...
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Sep
22

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Small Favor by Jim Butcher

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Small Favor by Jim Butcher Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Book: Small Favor Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Dresden Files #10 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: library loan Small Favor Once again, Harry Dresden, Wizard and Protector of Chicago, finds himself under the service of the Fae Winter Queen, Mab. This time around, she’s summoned him to find newly-minted Baron Johnny Marcone, who was kidnapped by an ancient enemy. However this puts him at odds with the Summer Queen, who has sent her champions to slay Harry. Oh I did enjoy Small Favor, even during the times I was confused and a bit lost. Harry’s world is slowly changing in fits and starts, and I am enjoying the journey. Harry’s fallen angel nemesis is back with an entourage, and meanwhile, he must also fight off the Fae and work with Marcone’s top enforcers. There was a lot going on, and sometimes I needed to rewind and listen again to make sure I had it all. On top of figuring out how to get back Marcone AND stay alive, Harry realizes his friends don’t necessarily trust him. This, along with having Kincaid back in Murphy’s life, created a lot of emotional content, and I will admit that I found myself tearing up (and down right crying) at times. I loved the mix of the strong emotional pulls, strung together with high action, dry humor, and clever storytelling. And I honestly didn’t think that James Marsters could improve his work as Harry Dresden, but I was wrong! There is more than one highly emotional scene in Small Favor, and Marsters elevated his performance to match the content. In particular, there is one extremely powerful scene that brought me to tears as Marsters bellows Harry’s frustrations and fears. You could hear and feel the anger and grief in his voice. Simply amazing. Small Favor brings about more of the changes that seem to be surrounding Harry. I like that his friends have his back, even if it’s in question during this adventure. Although there is a lot going on, carrying some confusion with it, the emotional intensity elevated Small Favor to one of the best in the series. Story: A Narration:...
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Sep
21

Review: Gilt Hollow by Lorie Langdon

Review: Gilt Hollow by Lorie Langdon Gilt Hollow Author: Lorie Langdon Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Author Lorie Langdon steps away from the fun and fantasy of her Doon Series to a darker who-done-it mystery in Gilt Hollow.  Gilt Hollow is the name of a quirky little town in Ohio that embraces artistic, creative types, but still has the well-known suburban markers that govern teenage life.  Four years before the story begins, five friends on a camping trip dare each other to jump from a cliff into the river below.  One of them gets pushed, but the one who went to jail for the murder, Ashton Keller, wasn’t the one who did the pushing…or was he? As the story opens, Ashton comes back from years in juvenile lock-up a changed young man.  No longer the innocent boy who was taken away by police all those years ago, he’s determined to clear his name.  Ashton appeared to be a broody stereotype, but was in reality a sympathetic character.  I liked him and cared about the choices he was making. Willow Lamott is Ashton’s best friend, maybe only friend, in the whole wide world—and that includes his parents.  She just wants to be ordinary, go on a date, attend football games, get good grades, and not be the best friend of a murderer.  There’s still a soft spot in her heart for Ashton though and when he comes back, he turns her world upside-down.  Willow reads as smart, but not inappropriately so for her age.  She’s believable as teenager girl and comes across as entirely normal rather than a caricature of the geek that doesn’t know she’s beautiful.  Langdon successfully writes teenage longing without annoying teenage angst.  That is no small feat! The story moves at medium pace, not overly rushed at the expense of humanizing details or too slow at the risk of boring readers so that they don’t finish.  The result is an intimate, interesting book. I can’t wait to see what Langdon writes next. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Willow Lamott’s best friend is a convicted killer, and no one in the small town of Gilt Hollow will let her forget it. Over four long years, she’s tried to fade into the background—but none of that matters when Ashton Keller comes striding into school, fresh out of juvie and fueled by revenge. The moment their eyes meet, Willow no longer feels invisible. Drawn to the vulnerability behind...
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