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Nov
25

Review: Heart Legacy by Robin D. Owens

Review: Heart Legacy by Robin D. Owens Heart Legacy Author: Robin D. Owens Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Robin D. Owens continues to keep the world of Celta alive and—hotly—kicking with her newest Celta’s Heartmates release, Heart Legacy. As the fourteenth book in the series, I always wonder how an author can breathe new life into the same world. Ms. Owens managed to keep me hooked from first word to last. I was happy to revisit the world of Celta, as it’s one of my favorite magical places to go. One of the great things about this series is getting to see the progeny of main characters from other books. I appreciate the fact that Ms. Owens hasn’t created a spin-off for these sons and daughters. In Heart Legacy, we get to learn more about Draeg Blackthorn. Oh. My. He’s a bad boy that is conflicted. Watching him grow—first as an undercover spy to discover what the deal is on the Yew estate, and then as his love for Lori matures—was… different. Many times, I wanted to shake this hunk-o-man that was so clearly smitten with Lori. Other times, I wanted him to admit his deception and clear the air with her. As I read each of his interactions with people he’d grown to care for, I realized how truly damaged he was as a hero. The heartbreak he’d endured. I found I empathized with his character, and had a common kinship because he played a role in which he had to hide away who he *really* was. Lori also drew me in. Many of the same things I liked about Draeg were paralleled in Lori. Ms. Owens crafted these characters so they would have several integral emotional traits in common, creating believable characters in her world of Celta. I think what connected me most with Lori was how she hid her true self from her family—a fact Draeg couldn’t grasp. Lori knew her family, and what they expected of her. She played a role, and had a function within the Yew family unit. What made her believable to me was her connection with animals—they seemed to be her place of peace, especially when her family pressures became too much. She found something from which she could derive joy and drew from that joy in times of upheaval. Another thing I really liked about Lori was the way she developed a plan to leave the only home she’d ever known, and stuck with...
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Nov
12

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dresden Files Part 1

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dresden Files Part 1 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Dresden Files #1-2 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: purchased Storm Front (#1) Wow! Just… wow! I was pleasantly surprised and extremely impressed with the audiobook of Storm Front, the first story from the Dresden Files series by James Butcher. I really didn’t know much about the series, never watched the show, and had no idea what to expect, other than I’d heard the books are good. Harry Dresden is a wizard for hire – think private investigator with a bit of a twist. No one really believes him, but there are the few who either heard rumors or are desperate enough to seek his help. Most people don’t believe in magic or the supernatural, and those that do, don’t know the full extent of its reaches. Harry works in and around both kinds of people, helping where he can. He even helps out the police special investigations unit from time to time, and their current case is one that leaves even Harry a bit disturbed. Storm Front is, at its core, a paranormal whodunit, and a complex and engrossing one at that. Told from Harry’s perspective, the listener is privy to supernatural details the average person wouldn’t pick up on. I loved how Harry’s brain works as he puts the pieces together. What I enjoyed even more were the compromises Harry must make with himself in order to do what is right in the grand scheme of things. Harry has a dark past and is subject to close scrutiny by the White Council, a sort of policing agency for wizards. Harry struggles with the best way to save those who need help, without endangering his own well-being. Unfortunately, the decisions he makes, while probably best in the long run, sometimes alienate those closest to him and even put him in the line of suspicion. What makes this book even better is the sublime narration by James Marsters. Best known for his role as Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, long gone is his cockney accent. Instead, listeners enjoy a deep, rich, soothing voice that embodies all that is Dresden: his worries, triumphs, fears, and celebrations. His cadence is extremely fitting, full of sighs, lip smacks, and pauses, creating the illusion that I’m actually inside Dresden’s mind as he works his way through the case and life. While he...
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Nov
11

Review: One Touch More by Mandy Baxter

Review: One Touch More by Mandy Baxter One Touch More Author: Mandy Baxter Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Parker Evans has been undercover for the U.S. Marshals long enough that he’s having trouble separating the “real” Parker from his undercover persona, Damien. He chooses to be called Damien and suppress his emotions so that he won’t become soft, making it difficult to fit in with the criminals when he goes back undercover. His current task is to try to capture an elusive drug dealer. Working as an assistant manager of a suites hotel, Tabitha Martin is trying to put herself through nursing school. She has a thing for bad boys, but unfortunately, her ex-boyfriend, Joey, is truly no good. This drug-dealing ex is blackmailing her into allowing deals to take place at her hotel. So when super-hottie Damien starts working for Joey, Tabitha tries her best to stay away from the trouble he will bring into her life. Unfortunately, that’s not as easy as she would hope. Although I’ve liked the previous two titles in the U.S. Marshals series, they both were lacking a bit. Well, I figured out what the series has been missing… Damien Evans. Holy hell! He is a tattooed-bad-guy bit of yumminess. So long undercover, he’s seen and done things he can’t ever forgive. But his heart of gold shines when he finally meets the one person who makes his messed up world make sense. Damien is full of passion that infuses everything he does from taking out the criminals to loving his woman. And WOW do the sparks fly between Tabitha and Damien. Additionally, the overall action and undercover plot were exciting and seemed more realistic than the prior two stories, which made me very happy. Equally spectacular is Tabitha. She’s hard, tough, yet full of love. She protects what is hers and helps those who need it, even if they don’t deserve it. And she’s extremely perceptive and smart, which not only creates an interesting and engaging persona, but also prevents a story that could have easily been filled with one misunderstanding after another. I love that although both Tabitha and Damien have secrets, each allows the other to see bits and pieces of the real person below, leading to a deeper relationship. In the end, I really loved reading this story. One Touch More is an action-packed ride; utterly sexy, hot, and full of intense emotions. Having the story shared from dual POVs kept everything...
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Nov
10

Review: Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

Review: Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews Sweep in Peace Author: Ilona Andrews Reviewer: Una Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The Innkeeper Chronicles is just one of those solid urban fantasy/science fiction series that I enjoy. Sweep in Peace was a nail-biting and intriguingly fascinating mystery/action/drama.  This series is on my reread list, and it should be on yours. Note: This story was originally released as a serial on the author’s website.  Once completed, it was taken down, edited and prepped for release.  I did read it as the serial and now as an ARC.  There may have been typographical type changes but, in my opinion, the overall story remained unchanged. This series centers on our main character, Dina, who is a down to earth and relatable person.  I respected her need to find her family, her determination to make her inn thrive, and her loyalty to not just her duty, but to those she considers hers.  She has a deep sense of right and wrong and it leads her to do risky things because it is the right thing to do — even when it hurts.   But she isn’t perfect, and it is those flaws that make her shine even brighter.  In this edition, we watch her struggle with trying to achieve the impossible – brokering peace on a planet that has three groups hell-bent on their own destruction (even if the price they will pay is too high). The world of the Innkeeper Chronicles continues to evolve, and I just love the mythology.  It is loosely woven, providing enough rigidity for a sturdy foundation, yet flexible enough to allow the world to expand.  I love that the authors are able to weave in characters from previous series. It’s great to revisit beloved characters and see how they are faring in the future.  For example, the cleverness of the arbitrator was fascinating, but if you know who he is from reading The Edge series, you will totally not be surprised and will thoroughly enjoy this inclusion. Another great aspect of the Innkeeper Chronicles is the supporting characters.  In this edition, we got to know Her Grace, Dina’s permanent resident of the inn, much better.  We learned more about the Merchants and the Holy Anocracy (the space vampires) as well as being introduced to new characters liked the Soul-Crushing Horde and Orro.  I especially loved Orro.  The different personalities add so much to the overall feel of the novel.  Though there is suspense, horror...
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Nov
6

Review: Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance by M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker

Review: Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance by M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance Author: M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Warning: Potential Spoilers. I absolutely love a good suspense wrapped around a fabulous romance. M.S. Parker and Shiloh Walker have created an intriguing story with a well-crafted plot that kept me riveted to the page. Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance leads the reader down a trail, splits the path, and hops on a highway. The best kind of suspense. Carly grew up the daughter of a famous musician. I connected with her in a lot of ways—not that I have money or anything—but because she lived in a shadow, and had to put on a facade for the public. People didn’t *really* know who she was—only what she let them see. Watching her evolve from a cantankerous, saucy girl into a woman that cared deeply about things was one of the highlights of the book for me. Can’t discount Bobby though. After living through a stint in prison for killing a man—in a self-defense situation—he did his time and was paroled. Doesn’t mean it didn’t screw up his life. Doesn’t mean he didn’t have regrets. Doesn’t mean he didn’t still think he was a piece of crap, and didn’t deserve happiness. Bobby is the character I really connected with. As he grew through the book, learning to trust and learning his own value, he started to care for people. Sometimes, we don’t realize our own value. We don’t have to go through something like Bobby did—life just hands us a bad hand and we have to deal with it. And we have to deal with the aftermath. Taking a character that’s had it rough and persevered to become a beautiful person gives me hope with the students I teach, too. Watching Bobby and Carly develop as a couple was pretty spectacular, too. There’s one character, a father-figure for Carly, that we lose through the course of the story, and if you follow my reviews at all, I nearly had to put this title down. He dies from cancer, and that’s a HUGE trigger for me. We’re talking down the proverbial rabbit hole for days. I may have some fallout from that little foray, but it wasn’t a big part of the story (the cancer itself), so I’m thinking it’ll be okay. Probably. The reaction of Carly and Bobby to the death of this character was… unique. The suspense part… threats against an...
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Nov
4

Review: Stygian by Santino Hassell

Review: Stygian by Santino Hassell Stygian Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: As soon as I heard that Mr. Hassell was writing a story for Halloween, I was extremely eager to see what sort of creation he’d come up with. I simply knew this would be different. That my request to review it was met with a warning that he’d never tried anything like Stygian before was a temptation that I didn’t want to resist. I was absolutely delighted to find that whatever expectations I did have were quickly surpassed, and I fell into the narrative with a greedy focus that led to sleep deprivation, as well as a few less than gracious sentiments regarding any interruptions from the world outside of the story. Stygian is the story of an up-and-coming band of the same name trying to break through to bigger and better things. Yet, to say that they’re dysfunctional is an understatement. Collectively, the band is carrying around a freight train worth of hurt, guilt, and memories, and the weight of it all is about to tear them apart. Jeremy, the youngest member, is in an especially precarious position, having recently joined the band after the death of their previous drummer. Told from Jeremy’s perspective over the course of a summer “retreat” the guys have embarked on in an attempt to pull things together, Stygian, as it turns out, is far more than just a horror story. One of the things I loved most about this story is that the characters, along with the experiences that have shaped them to this point, are one-of-a-kind. It isn’t just what’s happened to them all, but how they’ve dealt with the blows. Isolated and “different,” I found Jeremy to be the easiest to become attached to, his role as narrator, notwithstanding. Quince, however, absolutely broke my heart as the story progressed, while Kennedy gradually earned both my respect and admiration. As to the lead singer, Watts…well, he and I never really did get on well, and I say that in appreciation of his complexity and the fact that he left his mark on the narrative as irrevocably as the others. Even the monsters in Stygian stood apart from others I’ve encountered in my reading. Though they preserve enough expected characteristics to be creepily familiar, Mr. Hassell’s vampires are still atypical and unique, each retaining distinct personalities in spite of what they’ve become. While they are certainly insidious, they are opportunistic,...
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Oct
30

Blog Tour + Review: Dead Ringer by Heidi Belleau & Sam Schooler

Blog Tour + Review: Dead Ringer by Heidi Belleau & Sam Schooler From the Authors: Hi, and welcome to the DEAD RINGER release tour! We’re Heidi Belleau and Sam Schooler, here with more DEAD RINGER B-roll footage and DVD extras than you can shake a stick at. Stay tuned for author commentary, posters and info about all of James Ringer’s movies, classic Hollywood factoids, and, of course, some sweet prizes! As part of our tour, we’re sharing the beautiful set of five movie posters that the amazingly talented Vivian Ng designed for us! We both love commissioning art for our books, and we knew that Vivian, who designed Heidi’s REAR ENTRANCE VIDEO series covers, had a style that was perfect for what we wanted. James Ringer is an enormous presence throughout DEAD RINGER, and we wanted to do our part to commemorate his—as Percy would describe it—“completely brilliant” filmography. So we asked Vivian to design a poster for each of James’s five movies, and wrote a synopsis for each one, too! We’re featuring all five movies in chronological order, one per post, so be sure to follow along with the rest of our tour to see the rest of the James Ringer filmography! And, as one of our tour grand prizes, you can win a postcard set of the five posters—be sure to leave a comment below! The Easy (1953) James Ringer’s last—and most stunning—role! Soft-shelled Blake Lawrence (Ringer) isn’t keeping up with the times. In a town full of folks willing to show any curious man that looking in the wrong place will get him a knife in his gut, he’s got too many morals to make it as a private eye . . . and his boss knows that. After he loses his job, he stumbles on the case of a lifetime—a young woman (Jackie DeGroot) squirreled out of her family fortune by her dastardly uncle (Christopher Muldoon). The girl is desperate to reclaim her father’s money . . . and her mother’s priceless jewels. There’s a big payday in it for Lawrence if he can track down the missing riches. But when getting them back means committing the ultimate sin, will he have the guts to find his glory? Thanks to our generous blog hosts, and thanks to you for hanging out with us! Be sure to check out our full list of tour stops so you can see the rest of our extras and snag yourself more chances to win our giveaway! Review: Brandon Ringer, the look-alike...
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Oct
28

Review: Written in the Stars by LuAnn McLane

Review: Written in the Stars by LuAnn McLane Written in the Stars Author: LuAnn McLane Reviewer: Ang Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Written in the Stars is a fun, flirty, fall read about second chances and learning to love, even when it is scary. And Cricket Creek couldn’t be a more perfect setting. As usual, the characters are spunky and spicy with the perfect amount of chemistry right from the start. Grace, with her English upbringing, is an awesome counter balance to Mason and his down home southern ways. Their struggle felt real without being overly heavy, and I loved the theme of finding home in unexpected places. The secondary storyline involving Becca and Jimmy could have been developed bit more, but I really enjoyed the glimpses we did get of them. Thankfully we weren’t left wondering what would happen between them, as has happened in previous stories. Overall, Ms. McLane gives us a story filled with the perfect blend of southern charm, spirited banter, and just the right amount of heat, as Grace and Mason learn that sometimes home is a person and not a place. My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: No one is more shocked than Grace Gordon when her cosmetics line makes her a millionaire in need of new investments. Bailing out Mason Mayfield’s Cricket Creek craft brewery seems like the perfect solution. It doesn’t hurt that the sexy country boy makes her weak in the knees… Sure, Mason is grateful to Grace for saving his brewery. But her upscale marketing plans for his down home business are driving him crazy. She needs a good man to reel her in, and he happily takes the job—especially since it’ll involve some time behind the brewery’s closed doors. Unfortunately, Grace has never been good at staying in one place. And now that she’s thinking about leaving, Mason has to convince her to call Cricket Creek home—and admit their love was written in the stars… Release Date: October 6, 2015 Publisher: Signet Series: Cricket Creek #9 ISBN: #978-0451470508 Genre: Contemporary Romance Format(s): paperback (304 pages), e-book Book Source: Publisher Purchase Info: Written in the Stars (Cricket Creek #9) Reviews in the Series: Whisper’s Edge by LuAnn McLane (Cricket Creek #4) Moonlight Kiss by LuAnn McLane (Cricket Creek #5) Wildflower Wedding by Luann McLane (Cricket Creek #6) Sweet Harmony by LuAnn McLane (Cricket Creek #7) Walking on Sunshine by LuAnn McLane (Cricket Creek...
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Oct
28

Review: Dark Heart of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Review: Dark Heart of Magic by Jennifer Estep Dark Heart of Magic Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una really enjoyed Cold Burn of Magic, the first book in the Black Blade series by Jennifer Estep. The sequel, Dark Heart of Magic, was even better. We loved it and look forward to more. We enjoyed Lila’s humor and down-to-earth nature. Through her journey in this novel, we watched her grow in maturity. There are some world-shattering secrets Lila uncovers in Dark Heart of Magic that completely change her perspective. As Lila matures, she is able to see beyond some of the facades that easily deceived her in the first book. Despite her all consuming goal of avenging her mother, Lila finds herself a part of the Sinclair Family, not just as a bodyguard, but also as a friend and valued family member. It is fascinating how this coming of age story is entwined with the plot of murdered monsters, the Tournament of Blades, and the ongoing plot of the Draconi Family. It kept us glued to the pages, watching to see what happens next! The supporting characters are just as loveable and memorable as Lila. We love Oscar, the pixie with “style”, who cares for Lila in his own way. Lila’s friends Felix, Mo, and Devon add variety and depth to Lila’s world. They are truly colorful characters (Mo in more ways than one), and it is captivating to see Lila slowly change from a loner into a loyal friend. It was fascinating to see Deah humanized in this sequel. We liked how she went from being an aloof, spoiled heiress to a victim trying to get by. Dark Heart of Magic was a nail-biting and enjoyable read. Although the identity of the saboteur was easy to figure out, the saboteur’s motivations were not as cut and dry. We liked how the story played out along as the revelations were made. We are eagerly anticipating the final book in this series Bright Blaze of Magic. If you haven’t picked up the Black Blade series yet, you definitely should. Our Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: As a thief, I stick to the shadows as much as possible. But when the head of the Sinclair Family picks me to compete in the Tournament of Blades, there’s no escaping the spotlight—or the danger. Even though he’s my competition, Devon Sinclair thinks I have the best shot at winning what’s...
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Oct
27

Review: Defending Hearts by Shannon Stacey

Review: Defending Hearts by Shannon Stacey Defending Hearts Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Alex Murphy is a photojournalist who finds himself burned out after a teenager’s cellphone picture went viral instead of his professional shots. He’s restless and needs a place to start over, so he decides to head back to his home town, Stewart Mills, to chronicle the efforts to save the high school football team and get the town’s economy moving again. Not planning to stay long, he rents a room from Gretchen Walker, a former classmate. Gretchen Walker is a farm girl, homebody who helps take care of her grandmother and works the farm she grew up on. Unfortunately, they are struggling to make ends meet, especially after adopting a chocolate lab named Cocoa, so Gretchen agrees to bring in Alex Murphy as a border. His not-quite-a-friend-not-quite-a-stranger.relationship is something Gretchen thinks she will be able to tolerate in a tenant, until things heat up between the pair. After enjoying, but not loving Under the Lights, the first book in the Boys of Fall series, I was pleasantly pleased with the romance and events in Defending Hearts. This second offering finds a better balance between the romance and the condition of the town than the first book. The focus of the story is on the couple and their relationship, with the financial difficulties and plight of the town as the setting rather than the driver of the plot. And yes, there were a few moments reminiscent of Ms. Stacey’s Kowalski series, but overall the book and series stand separate as a small town under hard times romances rather than mostly light and fluffy. This balance afforded me the opportunity to create a strong emotional connection to the characters, which made for a wonderful read. I absolutely adored Gretchen and Alex. Individually, they are both strong, ethical people who enjoy their lives and jobs but find something lacking. Right from the start the pair has wonderful chemistry, and never has opening a jar of pickles been so sensual! The romance is slow building because neither feels they can cross the landlord-tenant line, yet each wants to. This slow-simmering attraction makes for an explosive first kiss that knocked my socks off. I appreciated the time it took to get to that first kiss, but also loved that once they decided to go for it, they let their passions take over. And while we all knew (to include the...
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