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Aug
29

Review: Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

Review: Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis Snowspelled Author: Stephanie Burgis Reviewer: Una Rating: A  What I’m Talking About: Snowspelled is a delightful and intriguing short introduction to a fascinating world.  The Harwood Spellbook series has hooked me, and I eagerly await the next story. Though only a novella, I was thoroughly captivated by Cassandra and the world she lives in.  Angland is an interesting twist on a historical England.  The rigid roles of men and women – the social rules – all beautifully contrasted with a stubborn and oddly magical woman, Cassandra.  In this world, men have and wield the magic while women are the political juggernauts.  However, it’s not only the politics of people they have to worry about, but those of the Fae as well. I enjoyed watching how Cassandra tries to balance the threat/promise to the Fae Lord, her conflicting emotions concerning her ex-fiance, Wrexham, and her own meddling family.  The characters were delightful, and I loved the contrast between feelings and decorum.  I really enjoyed the juxtapositions between male and female roles as compared to our own historic understanding. Snowspelled is a delightful and gripping introduction to the world of the Harwood Spellbook series.  I eagerly look forward to following more of Cassandra’s adventures as well as the romantic conflict with her and Wrexham.  If you like an alternate historical fantasy with mystery and adventure, studded with wit, you should pick this series up. My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: In nineteenth-century Angland, magic is reserved for gentlemen while ladies attend to the more practical business of politics. But Cassandra Harwood has never followed the rules… Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life. Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good. But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks…and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago. To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness. A witty and sparkling romantic fantasy novella that opens a brand-new series for adults...
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Aug
28

Review: When the Scoundrel Sins by Anna Harrington

Review: When the Scoundrel Sins by Anna Harrington When the Scoundrel Sins Author: Anna Harrington Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The book opens six years in the past, at Annabelle’s London debut. Unfortunately, Quinton (Quinn) Carlisle couldn’t stop teasing his long-time acquaintance, leading to misunderstanding, scandal, and heartbreak. Fast forward to a month before Belle’s twenty-fifth birthday, by which she must marry, or lose her home and security. Quinn is beguiled by Annabelle, and he loves to tease her to light her inner fire. He can’t explain why she holds such attraction to him. Seeing her now, six years older, he is taken aback by the woman she’s become. But Quinn is heading to America, to keep a promise he made to his deceased father, and he will never allow himself to fall in love anyhow. Lady Ainsley, widowed caretaker and mother figure, wants love for Annabelle, but knows Belle’s security is more important. She wants/needs Annabelle to find a match, so she calls in her grand-nephew, Quinn, to help sort out proper suitors from fortune hunters, putting the pair together for the first time in six years. I absolutely adored When a Scoundrel Sins and it’s two main characters, Belle and Quinn. It’s obvious to everyone but the pair, that they are two peas-in-a-pod and meant to be together. However, Quinn is so wrapped up in his fear of love that he uses his promise to go to America as a wedge to drive Belle away. Yet he’s so inexplicably enamored by Belle that he can’t stop touching her and sending other suitors away. “But this, this wasn’t just a kiss. This was so much more. “Those other kisses didn’t leave him trembling the way that he trembled now. They didn’t intoxicate him with the wild scent of the highlands and heather. They didn’t leave his gut twisting into knots and his head spinning, or make the the world fall away until he was aware only of the warm sweetness of her breath tickling at his lips, her soft body leaning into his innocent invitation. But Belle’s kisses did just that.” The boy has it bad but refuses to acknowledge his love. Then there is Belle who knows she has feelings for Quinn, but keeping her home is more important than a marriage based on love. She tries to convince Quinn that they should marry for convenience – she’d even let him go to America – but he’s so stubborn. So she continues...
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Aug
24

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Accidental Sire by Molly Harper

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Accidental Sire by Molly Harper Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Accidental Sire Author: Molly Harper Narrator: Amanda Ronconi Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Half-Moon Hollow #6 Genre: Paranormal Romance Source: Purchased Accidental Sire opens at the conclusion of Big Vamp on Campus novella. Series part-timer Ben is smitten with Ophelia’s human friend Megan. But just as they say goodnight, Megan is accidentally struck by a heavy weight and killed. A volunteer vampire agrees to sire her and then vanishes. When Megan wakes after only 24 hours and has two sets of fangs, Jane Jameson and the Vampire Counsel swoop in to discover what is going on and mentor the newly made vampire. It’s been a few books since the story has focused on the original Jane Jameson group and Half-Moon Hollow, but Accidental Sire brings back all the favorites of Half-Moon Hollow and the Council offices. Whether or not it is the return to the familiar setting and characters, Accidental Sire just feels good. Little issues I’ve had with the previous books were nonexistent. The story is tight and the characters likable, without annoying habits or too-stupid-to-live flaws. While Ben and Megan’s story is on the light side, it’s very much appropriate for the college-aged couple. They have an adorable meet-cute, but the whole being turned into a vampire thing puts a damper on their budding romance. I enjoyed the slower pace, which was filled with laugh-out-loud moments. A Molly Harper audiobook wouldn’t be the same without the terrific work of Amanda Ronconi. She has the perfect amount of southern charm, bundled with sharp wit and droll sarcasm to fit Ms. Harper’s characters. I swear I can see Ms. Ronconi roll her eyes when portraying Jane. However, while I love Amanda’s narration, it is very difficult to hear differences between her characters at times. This is compounded by the fact that each Half-Moon Hollow book is written in first person narrative, with each book featuring a different female lead. So it makes for some difficulty following who is speaking at times, most noticeably between the female characters. Accidental Sire is a wonderful mix of Molly Harper’s trademark humor, a sweet romance, and an intriguing mystery. I laughed out loud more than once at silly jokes referencing pop culture and people just being silly. Every character has a bit of snark, and Amanda Ronconi gives the dialogue just the right emphasis, pulling off the sarcasm seamlessly. Story Rating: A- Narration: A- About...
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Aug
23

Review: Holiday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan

Review: Holiday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan Holiday in the Hamptons Author: Sarah Morgan Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Fliss and Seth share a history that was left in the past ten years ago. He broke her heart, she broke his, and they walked away from their brief but passionate love. However, now Seth is in Manhattan, working at the vet office Fliss and her twin/business partner, Harriet, frequent with the animals they care for. Since talking to Seth would be too difficult for Fliss, she flees the city only to end up in Seth’s arms. Right from the start, Holiday in the Hamptons sets the stage perfectly for the emotional journey that is Fliss and Seth, and I fell in love with the idea of Fliss and Seth. Teenage crushes, first loves, broke up for all the wrong reasons. This second-chance romance brings together two people who have always been in love, but lack of communication and some other external issues tore them apart. The opening prologue set the stage for what I knew would be both a heart-wrenching and heart-warming story. I love that their relationship brought readers some of both. This is probably the slowest slow-burn romance I’ve read, but it’s just marvelous. The emotional connections are worth it. I was concerned with Fliss’s idea of pretending to be her twin, Harriet, as I am not a fan of the mistaken-identity trope. But my worries were for naught, because the author has fun with the situation, yet never lets it get out of hand. I mean… if you are related to someone, can you really fool them by pretending to be another? There are several silly moments, but there is a larger benefit to Fliss’s efforts. When pretending to be Harriet, Fliss doesn’t have to have her walls up, and she can talk to Seth. While they don’t share anything earth-shattering, it creates the foundation for their new friendship, something that wouldn’t have happened without the protection of pretending to be Harriet. Fliss had a rough childhood, and many of her issues with personal connections stem from her upbringing. I admire that the author demonstrates how tough it was through flashbacks and ties it into her difficulties as an adult. I also love that Fliss is a work in progress – committing to changing, and that there is no pretty bow put around her issues. We know there is still work ahead. Which is also why I had a...
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Aug
22

Review: So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn Sparks

Review: So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn Sparks So I Married a Sorcerer Author: Kerrelyn Sparks Reviewer: Una Rating: A-  What I’m Talking About: The Embraced series is so far a truly fascinating mythology.  So I Married a Sorcerer is an exciting and thrilling sequel to How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days. First, I really enjoy this world.  Those born on a night when the two moons are touching (so called “embraced”) are born with special abilities.  Unless born on this night, you will be a normal human person.  The main continent is predominately ruled by men and the culture worships the sun god.  They kill those that are embraced.  On a small island, cloisters of women who worship the twin moon goddesses live in relative isolation.  It is here where those families will abandon their embraced children in order to keep them safe if unable to keep them safe themselves.  A group of young woman, embraced orphans on the island is the focal of this series. Brigitta and Rupert’s journey was a fascinating one.  I enjoyed this tale of a dreaded pirate that wreaks havoc on the seas.  However if a closer look is taken, Rupert’s piracy has a very particular focus and an even more noble goal.  Brigitta learns that she is the younger sister to an evil king, as it turns out the same King that the pirate Rupert targets exclusively.  As Rupert first sees Brigitta as a means to an end, it goes from using her to keeping her safe from a brother that will ultimately abuse and destroy her.  I enjoyed watching Brigitta’s fortune unwind.  The attraction and tit-for-tat between her and Rupert was captivating. The side story of the nun that accompanies Brigitta was a fun and intriguing side story.  I enjoyed the comic relief that Sister Fallyn provided, as well as her own self-journey.  Sister Fallyn’s fear of pirates was a witty backdrop while they are held captive by Rupert.  Though this story can be read as a standalone, it is much richer and more enjoyable to follow each sister.  The previous couple and other sisters do make appearances in this story.  It is wonderful to be able to see the “after” the happily-ever-after ending. If you enjoy a well-balanced fantasy and romance novel with a fascinating mythology, you might want to pick up The Embraced.  I recommend starting with How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days so you can fully enjoy So I Married a Sorcerer....
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Aug
17

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Wildfire by Ilona Andrews Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Hidden Legacy Series Book: Wildfire Author: Ilona Andrews Narrator: Renée Raudman Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Hidden Legacy #3 Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance Source: purchased Wildfire Listening to Wildfire is my “re-read” of one of my favorite books of 2017. To recap: the book opens immediately after the conclusion of the previous one, with fears that Nevada’s paternal grandmother, Victoria Tremaine, has located the Baylors and wants to take the girls away to become part of her own House. Additionally, we discover that, Rynda Charles, Rogan’s ex-fiancee and daughter of Olivia Charles (antagonist from book 2), wants to hire Nevada because her husband is missing. Add to it the budding romance between Rogan and Nevada, a huge conspiracy to overthrow the existing government, and some crazy family issues, and you’ve got an amazing story! As with my audiobook review of White Hot (book 2), there isn’t much more I can add about Wildfire that I didn’t say in my original review. From that review: “The relationship of Rogan and Nevada continues to evolve, intensify, and mature. I adore their journey. Individually, each is learning how to adjust their own behaviors to better fit as a couple, while simultaneously working to accept the other’s idiosyncrasies and persona.” “Wildfire is a wonderful story in an amazing series. The authors have taken incredible care to create a whole set of characters beyond just the hero and heroine. I have become attached to each member of Baylor clan, and I adore that every character has purpose, each with their own story. While the action is intense, the emotional depth takes this story and series from great to amazing. I highly recommend reading the entire three-book Hidden Legacy series from the beginning.” As I have stated numerous times, the addition of Renee Raudman’s narration takes any book up a notch. By now, her unique and separate voices for each character have become so familiar to me, and listening to her read the story is a comfort, like hearing my mom’s voice on the phone after not talking for a while. But more than the voices, it’s the emotion she puts behind every performance that blows me away. From anger to fear, from joy to sorrow, I feel the power of her performance deep inside my heart. She takes the already amazing characters and makes them real. Wildfire is simply amazing and one of my favorite...
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Aug
16

Review: The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith

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

Review: Soul Redeemed by Keri Lake

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

Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

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

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

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