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Jan
5

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Side Jobs by Jim Butcher

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Side Jobs by Jim Butcher Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Book: Side Jobs Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Dresden Files #12.5 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: library loan Side Jobs After the cliffhanger-esque ending of Changes, I wasn’t sure I wanted to sift through a “side story” rather than going straight to the next book to find out what becomes of Harry. However, I am so glad I took the time to listen to this wonderful anthology from the Dresden Files. The book contains a set of mostly previously released short stories and novellas, ranging chronologically from before the first Dresden book up to a brand new story that takes place after the conclusion of Changes. The stories cover a variety of subjects and star a range of characters. All but two of the stories are shared from Dresden’s traditional point-of-view, some more humorous than others. I loved seeing Harry react as Harry would in different settings and shorter, less dark adventures. Additionally, much can be learned about those side characters Harry considers friends and family. While it’s very difficult to pick my favorite of the bunch, the two stories not told from Harry’s POV stand out the most. The first is “Backup,” a novelette told from Thomas’ POV, where he must protect Harry from an ancient evil, without Harry knowing he was doing it. The story shares Thomas’ struggles with his vampire monster, and the reader glimpses how much Thomas actually feels under his tough guy, nonchalant persona. The other highlight in this anthology is the final, all-new novella, “Aftermath.” Told from Karen’s POV, we find out what happened the hours after the shocking conclusion of Changes. No only was the story extremely adventurous and exciting, but the emotional content was powerful as Karen and Harry’s friends deal with Harry’s disappearance. Each story is narrated by the fabulous James Marsters, who gets kudos for maintaining consistent voices for a wide range of characters, taking place over the course of several years. I especially enjoyed his work in the two stories not told from Dresden’s POV. Side Jobs is an amazing treat for fans of the Dresden Files and it SHOULD NOT be overlooked and passed by for the full-length titles. While one could read/listen to it at anytime after Changes (if one wants to avoid spoilers), the timing coming after Changes was ideal. It was a great way to review Dresden’s history and life thus far, because things are going to be much different...
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Jan
3

Review: One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Review: One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews One Fell Sweep Author: Ilona Andrews Reviewers: Jen & Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: Opening three days after the conclusion of the previous book and just days before Christmas, an unauthorized Ku alien makes a ruckus in Dina’s neighborhood, bringing word to Dina that her sister is in grave trouble and needs help. And that’s just the start of Dina’s troubles. Soon she finds herself in the middle of a holy war, with her guests the primary target. One Fell Sweep is another exciting tale set in the wholly original world of the Innkeepers. The unique mythology, complex plotlines, and captivating characters draw us further into this world with each subsequent read and listen to these books. And by the conclusion of One Fell Sweep we were ready to jump into the next story immediately – do we really have to wait another year? So much happens in this title, we won’t even begin to try and summarize the various plot and subplots. However, there is tremendous growth and forward movement for the characters by the end of One Fell Sweep. First, Dina is reunited with part of her family: sister Maud and niece Helen. Last Dina knew, her sister was happily married to a ranking officer from one of the Vampire families. However we quickly learn her husband is dead, and the pair returns to Earth with Dina. Having Maud and Helen reenter Dina’s life was one of the best parts about the story. Dina has been alone for too long, and allowing her to let her guard down and connect with those she trusts and understand what her life entails was rewarding. Additionally, Maud provides comic relief as only a sibling can. Maud is also an excellent tool for putting an end to Lord Arland’s silly obsession with Dina, squelching any potential love triangle storylines (amen!). Though Una thinks that there wasn’t much of a triangle (but that could have been her optimism at work). Witnessing Arland’s fall as he gets to know Maud is perfect. She is everything he has been looking for in a woman, and it confuses and excites him. His interactions with Maud and Helen are fabulous. We are also happy to report that Sean is solidly in the picture the entire story this time around. We both appreciate and admire how the authors have grown his character from the first book through the conclusion of One Fell Sweep. Sean had to explore...
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Dec
29

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Non-Fiction Book: The Magnolia Story Author: Chip & Joanna Gaines Narrators: Chip & Joanna Gaines Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: n/a Genre: Biography Source: purchased The Magnolia Story I LOVE HGTV’s husband and wife team of Chip and Joanna Gaines. My kids and I watch their show to see not only Joanna’s beautiful designs and Chip’s outrageous antics, but mostly because the couple and their family exude wholesome, uplifting family goodness. Upon discovering their biography, narrated by the couple, I had to listen, and I’m so thankful I did. Chip and Joanna are beautiful people inside and out. They love their family, friends, and community, placing the needs of people before profit. Listening to the couple share their story was entertaining and inspiring. I found myself holding back tears or laughing out loud at times. They share their humble beginnings, how they met and their early married life, Chip’s entrepreneurial spirit, and Joanna’s life lessons. Having the couple narrate their own story is perfect. Already familiar with the couple from TV, I could see the pair in my mind’s eye, complete with hand motions and silly faces, as they read their story. The book comes to life as the authors and subjects of the book speak their own words. It gives the feeling that they are sharing their story with me in an intimate setting over dinner. I strongly recommend this uplifting, impassioned tale to all, regardless if you have watched the show Fixer Upper or not. Chip and Joanna share their inspirational story in their own words. Their message of faith, hope, and family is a blessing during these crazy, uncertain times. My Rating: A- Narration:...
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Dec
23

Review: A Season of Spells Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Review: A Season of Spells Sylvia Izzo Hunter A Season of Spells Author: Sylvia Izzo Hunter Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: It turns out that A Season of Spells is the final book in the Noctis Magicae series.  I was surprised to discover it was a trilogy at the end.  This final book is a perfect end to this enchanting series. Note: There are spoilers from the first two books in this review, but nothing more that what the book blurbs provide. I have thoroughly enjoyed the characters and this world that Ms. Hunter has created.  The mixture of a historical setting, magic, politics and light romance was enchanting.  Though the plight of our heroes was dire at times, their adventures were gripping until the end.  Now looking back I see this series as a trilogy of Sophia bringing a new age to her world. Sophia is a powerful mage, though looked down upon by the magical authority due to her gender. It seems women with magical abilities were frowned upon during this time period in Britain.  It was compelling to follow Sophia as she goes from despised daughter to crowned princess to respected magistra.  Following her as she learned to navigate the political waters of being a long lost princess (to the king’s former wife) and the ramifications of the choices she makes.  The different mysteries she has encountered and her drive to protect not only her loved ones, but the King and her people were gripping. In this final installment, Sophia breaks through and shows her true self.  When following protocol fails, she rises to the challenge to save Britain.  Through a desire to resurrect a magical college for women, she stumbles upon the clues to save her people from invasion.  I really enjoyed how Sophia shows how much she has grown from her ability to stay calm when under duress, follow protocols, and follow not only her heart but her head.  It was especially illustrated in the separation between her and Gray. I continued to love the relationship of the varied main characters.  The conspiracies they weave in order to attain the knowledge they seek.  Seeing Lucia and Roland’s journey from arranged marriage to one of affection was sweet.  As the two follow along in Sophia’s projects, we discover they are two sides of the same coin.  I found it endearing when they realized it.  I have truly enjoyed the cast of characters in this trilogy and will miss them. Though...
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Dec
22

Review: Due South by Tamsen Parker

Review: Due South by Tamsen Parker Due South Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A  What I’m Talking About: Interested in a thrill-of-discovery / new exploration book? Due South might be just what you’re looking for. This is the secret-office-romance trope—and man, I love it. Especially when it’s taboo! The blurb gives us the basis for the plot, but what it doesn’t mention is how DEEP these characters are. Ms. Parker has done a phenomenal job with her other Compass titles, and I didn’t expect anything less from Due South. Here’s a run-down on my connection to the characters. Lucy is the typical corn-belt girl gone to make the big time in California. Her innocence is accentuated as she learns about herself and her sexuality. It’s not that Lucy is completely innocent—she’s not. She just has had less-than-stellar experiences with sex because she’s had selfish lovers. I like Lucy, and I found myself connected to her for a variety of reasons. First, I adore her fashion sense. Stockings and garters should be an every-day occurrence. Second, I admired her because she put her upbringing behind her and allowed herself to form her own expectations—even though sometimes she was at war with herself. Evans. OMG. I may have crushed really hard on his geeky uncertainty and second-guessing his words and actions. But… Oh, mama. The way he could turn on the charm? The way he was so caring right from the start? **swoon** And, that bit about family? Seriously. The man is a catch, and nobody knew! Top it off with his brain? Quadruple-threat, folks. The sex was…thrilling. I really loved the way each encounter was presented, and how the emotional aspect was front-and-center for both Lucy and Evans. Because really, the best sex happens when there’s an emotional connection of some sort. Ms. Parker definitely gave us that connection. An excellent addition to the Compass series—one you won’t want to miss. If you’ve not read the series, this title will function as a stand-alone. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: Lucy Miller has worked her way up from coffee-fetcher and copy-maker to invaluable assistant. She’s proud of her accomplishments, but she’s looking forward to a break from her demanding boss; a visit home is just the Christmas treat she needs. Diligent and unassuming, Chanoch Evans has avoided relationships not just out of shyness, but because he doesn’t feel like he has anything to offer—most of his resources are devoted to his war-veteran younger...
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Dec
14

Review: Blood Vow by J.R. Ward

Review: Blood Vow by J.R. Ward Blood Vow Author: J.R. Ward Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: The Warden has truly brought us back to essence of what made her Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB) series so addictive at its inception.  Blood Vow is an emotionally charged, grittily gripping, and darkly sensual read. ****Please note that this review may contain spoilers from the previous Black Dagger Legacy (BDL) book as well as from previous BDB novels.**** I fully admit that I am a BDB addict.  Though I was very disappointed in a previous BDB novel that I will not name, I decided to continue the series.  On a whim, I volunteered to read the spin-off series since it was a “return” to the early feel of the BDB.  Blood Kiss grabbed me from the beginning and I felt like a return to the fold of BDB.  Long term fans, you will understand when I tell you, Black Dagger Legacy feels like home. In Blood Vow we follow the romantic journey of Axe – a new trainee with the BDB and Elise, the daughter of an Aristocrat.  Though it appears to be the usual highbred daughter who falls for a commoner tale, it is more than that.  Axe bears an understandable grudge against the aristocracy and with mating in general.  However, as he grows to understand himself and mature past the anger and disappointment, he finds his true inner strength. Elise is no shrinking violet; she is not the typical aristocrat’s prized daughter.  She is striving to be more than her station would deem her, as well as what thousands of years of cultural bias expect of her.  I loved Elise.  Most couples in romantic novels suffer from not communicating.  Elise has no problem communicating, but needs to work on listening and not projecting her own opinions on others.  However, she is the first to admit fault and seek forgiveness.  Her earnestness in trying to understand others and help truly defined her.  Though Axe and Elise’s story isn’t unique, their choices and personalities make it unique.  I really loved watching both of them grow and mature. One drawback that may be a cause of annoyance to some fans will be the connection between this series and BDB.  The story of Rhage and Mary did not end in The Beast.  It is continued in this story (surprise… surprise).  If this trend continues, I could see fans being irritated that they are not truly standalone series that...
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Dec
7

Review: The Memory Thief by Sarina Dorie

Review: The Memory Thief by Sarina Dorie The Memory Thief Author: Sarina Dorie Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: The Memory Thief is a different type of steampunk series.  This Victorian era science-fiction novel is an interesting world.  Suffice to say, I enjoyed it and look forward to the next one. First, let me say that this was more mystery/adventure romance than science-fiction. Though it is science-fiction, the science and steampunk qualities are in the background. The plight of Felicity in recovering her memories is gripping. The planet and history of the Jomon people is rich and fascinating. I really loved the world I found myself in. The memory moss, the intriguing creatures, and the evolution that has obviously taken place are all quite intriguing.  I truly found myself lost in the world. The novel is told from Felicity’s viewpoint and utilizes flashbacks. Some of the flashbacks are consciously done when she is partaking in a memory swap. However, some chapters are started with a moment from the past. Though they are interesting and give background to the novel, I felt that they stunted the flow of the story a little, but not enough to inhibit my enjoyment. I enjoyed the courtship between Felicity and Nipa (the ruler of the Jomon tribe). Though some of the novel is fairly easy to figure out, I was still surprised by some of the past. Felicity’s strength of character is equal to her kindness to the indigenous people. I enjoyed her intelligence, especially when up against Nipa’s cunning. Nipa’s character was equally charming and ruthless.  I enjoyed trying to figure him out. Felicity’s intended, Merriweather, seems to be a filler character.  It is not surprising when the Jomon use him as a patsy.  However, he grew on me.  He seems very out of place in the world, and in the novel, especially in Felicity’s eyes.  He is very naïve and innocent.  More innocent than I would think an aristocratic male would be in Victorian England.  However, I think there is more to him and I hope to learn it in the next novel. I am reluctant to give anything away, but the emotions of the novel caught me off guard.  This book is about remembering and recovering from the past. The past is more than just events, but emotions as well. Once I finished the novel, I could see how the novel dances slowly to the truth. I really enjoyed the flow and the overall crafting of...
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Dec
1

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Changes by Jim Butcher

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Changes by Jim Butcher Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Book: Changes Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Dresden Files #12 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: library loan Changes Changes opens with a secret so shocking and huge that it changes Harry’s life forever. IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS – do NOT read the book blurb for this one! With this one big moment, events begin to unfold that change the face of the supernatural world forever. Duchess Arianna Ortega of the Red Court seeks revenge against the White Court for the murder of her husband, heating up the war between the two factions. The book closes in much the same manner as its opening… with completely and utterly jaw-dropping scenes that you will honestly wonder if what you just heard (read) was correct. But while the opening brought me joy, the ending irritated me. One thing I’ve appreciated about the Dresden Files is that, for most of the books, Mr. Butcher balances light with dark, and Changes is all about the light and dark within and around Dresden. For every high, there is an equal low. For every laugh, there was a sob. The emotional intensity of the story had me laughing out loud at times, while completely bawling at others. So much happens in the book, It truly is a game-changing title – one not to be missed. As always, Mr. Marsters brings to life the very essence and soul of Dresden. The intensity of Dresden’s highs and lows are perfectly projected. His performance had me weeping. I did notice one change: Marsters’s voice for Anastasia Luccio was more heavily accented and not as innocent sounding. Fellow listener, Melanie from Hot Listens, theorizes it is because Ana is no longer bespelled, and its her true self coming through after the body swap several books back. I like this theory! Changes is a gripping, emotionally-draining, utterly satisfying tale that sees the world around Dresden altered in many ways. It is a must listen (read) for fans of the series, with so many aspects of this fascinating world moving and changing before Dresden’s eyes. My Rating: A Narration:...
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Nov
29

Review: Wolf Unleashed by Paige Tyler

Review: Wolf Unleashed by Paige Tyler Wolf Unleashed Author: Paige Tyler Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una really enjoyed this latest installment in the SWAT series.  Wolf Unleashed was a well-rounded, suspenseful, and passionately sweet story. Alex and Lacey’s story sticks out as the best so far in the series.  We really enjoyed their ordinary meeting.  So far, most couples in this series have meet under nefarious conditions.  Lacey is a vet and who Alex just happened to meet when he took the SWAT pet in for his check-up.  This sweet romance was different from the previous pairings, and we enjoyed the normalcy of it.  Alex and Lacey’s experienced enough romantic complications that this normal meeting and early stirrings of romance sweetened their journey giving them a realistic foundation. Alex is a great guy.  We enjoyed his gentle determination in courting Lacey.  His devotion and patience was admirable.  He listened, giving her space and respecting the issues he sensed. Although Lacey is thrown a bit by his world, Alex never threatened her.  We understood her fear, even though we thought she was being a bit pigheaded. Gikany and Una both liked Lacey’s relationship with her sister.  Although Una thought Lacey might have been a bit clueless or naïve, Gikany enjoyed her willful disbelief when it came to the sisterly pitfalls. We enjoyed the overall plot of the dog fighting and the new dangerous drug hitting the streets.  The plot line and the suspects were compelling.  We respected Lacey’s determination to not only rescue the four-legged victims of the dog fighting ring, but her determination to bring it to a stop.  However, the connection between the different plot lines was both overly complicated in nature and awfully convenient. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed Wolf Unleashed.  Lacey and Alex’s story was a sweetly ordinary blossom in the paranormal realm.  The overall nefarious plot lines were compelling, and we look forward to the next story in this world. Our Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Wolf shifter Alex Trevino has fallen hard for veterinarian Lacey Barton. Getting her to agree to a date is a lot of work—and winning her heart proves even harder. Lacey can’t deny her crazy attraction to Alex, but she has no intention of letting herself fall for him. In her less than stellar experience, men don’t stick around. When Lacey’s sister is kidnapped, it’s up to Alex to crack the case—and prove to Lacey that...
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Nov
28

Review: Duke of Pleasure by Elizabeth Hoyt

Review: Duke of Pleasure by Elizabeth Hoyt Duke of Pleasure Author: Elizabeth Hoyt Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Hugh Fitzroy, Duke of Kyle and bastard son of the King, is the widowed father of two young boys. His marriage to Katherine had been passionate, but a disaster, and now he’s trying to rebuild a relationship with his sons. However, he’s been tasked by the King to destroy the Lords of Chaos, a deadly secretive group who will stop at nothing to keep their identities unknown. When Hugh is attacked by some ruffians, he is helped by the mysterious Ghost of St Giles. And when Hugh realizes his savior is a woman, he cannot stop thinking about her. Alf is the Ghost of St Giles by night and a teenage errand boy by day. She took over the roll of the Ghost recently (it’s like the Dread Pirate Roberts), and after saving Hugh, feels something she’s never allowed herself to feel as a woman. Now that Hugh has hired the boy Alf to help him uncover the truth, Alf the woman is frightened what will happen if her secret gets out. Although I am new to the Maiden Lane series, having started with the previous full-length novel, it has quickly become one of my favorites. The Duke of Pleasure is no exception, with its smart wit, intelligent plot, exciting action, and passionate romance. Although at first, it was difficult for me to see Alf as a woman and match for Hugh because she hid herself as a boy, her character really started to blossom once the truth was discovered. And I am thankful to the author for avoiding a pedophile storyline and any attraction of an adult Hugh with an apparent underaged boy. Ms. Hoyt unveiled Alf’s true self in an incredible sexy and appropriate manner. Alf is a wonderful character. Growing up an orphan and hiding as a boy in the worst part of London, she’s maintained a moral compass but avoided the pretentious nature of the ladies of her time. Her openness could be a deficit if she was hired by anyone other than Hugh, but with him, she is allowed to be her true self. Same goes with Hugh’s friend Iris and his men, who accept Alf as she is, and in fact, become enamored with her in their own ways. While I was enthralled with the romance behind the story, the plot following the Lords of Chaos was utterly...
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