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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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Sep
20

Review: Too Wild to Tame by Tessa Bailey

Review: Too Wild to Tame by Tessa Bailey Too Wild to Tame Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Please don’t tell Mr. VampBard. Seriously. My one-click finger is getting a serious workout as I find more and more authors with an awesome backlist to meander my way through. Tessa Bailey is on the short list. Not kidding here, folks. I really wish I could provide you with some wonderful excerpts from Too Wild to Tame, but all the poignant ones are revelations during sexytime. They’re laced with innuendo and dirty-talking. Definitely my cuppa. I’m pretty sure some of the text in this title were flame-thrower status. Even if you haven’t read Too Hot to Handle, the first title in the Romancing the Clarksons series, you won’t be lost (I did read Rita and Jasper’s story, but I haven’t written a review… yet). While there’s a common thread—four siblings wending their way across the country from California to New York—each sib gets their own story. And their own HEA. They may not be pretty, and they may not be perfect, but the road to happiness is seldom an easy path to travel. These sibs have found their dearly departed mother’s diary—or a series of dialogues she has with herself on paper—about each of her kids. As a parent of grown (and nearly-grown) children, I often think about how they perceive me as well as themselves. I’d love to think I’ve raised them to be self-assured and confident in themselves—that their persona isn’t merely a façade to cover up a shortcoming of mine. I think that’s a fear all parents have, to be honest. One of the best gifts a parent can give their child is the gift of their words. Letting them know how we really saw them. What we caught when they didn’t think we were looking… Enough mushy stuff. We need to talk politics for a minute. No, I’m not going to endorse a presidential candidate, although that’s exactly what Aaron Clarkson does. He’s this supremely drool-worthy guy that has a silver tongue (pulling my mind out of the gutter…) and he uses it to endorse political candidates, assessing which demographic need his special brand of attention, and then launching an attack the populous never sees coming. He’s a love-’em-and-leave-’em kinda guy. Until…he falls from GRACE and has to fight his way back to the top. After all, with his powers of persuasion, this should be an easy task, right? There’s...
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Sep
20

Review + Excerpt: Strung Up by Lorelei James

Review + Excerpt: Strung Up by Lorelei James Strung Up Author: Lorelei James Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A-/B+ What I’m Talking About: Creston “Cres”, the youngest Grant brother, and until recently, a closeted gay rancher, is still coping with the sudden death of the love of his life over two years ago. In an effort to get him out of his funk, Cres’s brothers and sisters-in-law take him out to a big party where he runs into Breck Christianson, a sexy hookup from Cres’s past. Breck has spent the last two years of his life riding a crushing wave that ended his successful career and left him with few friends. Seeing Cres Grant serves to remind him of the “one that got away,” yet gives him hope for the future. I have to admit, the opening prologue of Strung Up both surprised and crushed me. I am not one to read book blurbs before I dive into a story, so it came as quite a shock that Cres’s hero is Breck, and not someone else. For those who’ve read the previous two 1,001 Dark Nights/Blacktop Cowboys tales, I think the prologue will hit you equally as hard. However difficult and shocking the opener was, it effectively drew me into this wonderful story and created a deeply emotional connection to Cres. I immediately grew to care about him and his future. Cres and Breck made for a wonderful pair. Right from their initial encounter, the couple shared an intense sexual attraction, something stemming from their brief history and made even stronger over time. I liked how the pair opened up to each other about the pain in his past, and how it impacted his life in the now. Yet no matter how honest they were with one another, each continued to hide his true feelings towards the other. This duality of honesty created delicious tension and drew out the romance just until the point where it could have become tedious. Ms. James created a perfect match with these two pained souls. Overall, Strung Up is a sexy love story about second chances. I liked the emotional intensity of the tale. It never felt rushed because the characters have been around and have an established backstory. The couple had electric chemistry both in and out of the bedroom, adding to the heightened emotional content. My Rating: A-/B+ Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Rancher Creston Grant retreats from the world after he loses the love of his life… Can his...
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Sep
15

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: White Night by Jim Butcher

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: White Night by Jim Butcher Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Book: White Night Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Dresden Files #9 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: library loan White Night Opening nearly a year after the previous book, Harry and fledgling apprentice Molly Carpenter are investigating a rash of suspicious murders at the request of and along with Karen Murphy. Someone or something is killing off practitioners of magic, some with barely any perceptible power. Unfortunately, it looks like Harry’s half-brother, Thomas, may be involved. As Harry digs deeper, he finds layer upon layer of subterfuge and evil. I think White Night may be one of my favorite books in the series. First of all, the story returns back to the series roots, bring back into the mix gentleman Johnny Marcone, Chicago’s notorious underworld boss. I’ve always enjoyed Johnny’s dark character. He’s not a good man, but he still makes noble gestures and has a heart under the slick surface. His actions are always made with a self-serving endgame in sight, but he also has secrets that motivate him in unexpected ways. Events in White Night suggest we will see more of Marcone in the titles ahead. Second, I found the balance of dark and light within and around Harry, ideal. The book’s mix between action and storytelling emphasizes this underlying struggle that Harry faces every tale. With the shadow of a manipulative fallen angel inside of Harry, I constantly worry that a point will come when Harry can no longer resist the temptation and take up the coin, bringing power and possession with it. I found this particular storyline extremely exciting and engaging this time around. There are other characters from the past that resurface in White Night, which was both interesting and frustrating. Interesting was the plot and subplots involving the characters. However, I was frustrated because I couldn’t always place the characters, only that I know I’d heard of them before. Yet, Mr. Butcher weaves a strong tale, keeping me just enough in the loop as to not worry about the past so much. As always, James Marsters works his own magic, bringing Dresden to life with his top-notch performance. However, this time around, I accidentally listened to the book at 1.5x speed instead of my usual 1.25x speed. I thought things sounded a little off once and a while, but by the time I realized why (the faster...
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Sep
7

Blog Tour + Review: Shatterproof by Xen Sanders

Blog Tour + Review: Shatterproof by Xen Sanders Shatterproof Author: Xen Sanders Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Unique and evocative, I found Shatterproof to be both difficult in many ways, yet important, as well. Rich with imagery—from the brushstrokes of Grey Jean-Marceline’s paintings and water drops forming on Saint’s hands, to descriptions of a cold so deep I felt it through my own skin—it is a beautiful, yet precariously balanced examination of one man’s struggle with depression. Immediately in favor of the story as a whole is the thoughtful forward by the author which gives forthright caution with regard to the various trigger warnings present in the narrative. These should absolutely be heeded, but I still felt that Shatterproof is a wonderful story. Though dark in theme and setting throughout most of the story, Shatterproof is also filled with color, both symbolic and literal. The author expertly paints each chapter with many incarnations of that darkness and their counterparts—black canvas and vibrant oils, the night sky split by flashing lights, and the “ebonwood and silver and gold” of Grey himself. And still, even the varying hues of the unspoken stories that crowd every surface in Saint’s room aren’t enough to “fix” what’s really troubling Grey. A big, fascinating part of Shatterproof has to do with Grey’s love of his heritage and his faith. Despite my own ignorance of Catholic vodou, the beauty of Grey’s reverence was clear throughout the narrative, and I was grateful for the author’s often lyrical explanations of the loa, particularly as they seem to come to life on Grey’s canvasses. Unlike the erroneous depictions used in most “Hollywood” versions of the religion, these spirits are earthy and approachable, and have far more in common with those who would seek their aid than might be expected. Unlike a lot of multitasking novels I’ve read in the past, Shatterproof manages to bring together different matters of consequence without losing the impact of any single one of them. A blend of religious symbolism, Celtic mythology, and the brutally specific nature of depression, among a few other things, it is also an unflinching view of the need to address the severe lack of support for those who live with depression every day, particularly among underrepresented groups. Though dark, Shatterproof isn’t without its moments of hope and love, while reinforcing the belief that learning self-acceptance just might be the most important step of all. My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Saint’s afraid...
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Sep
6

Review: Silk Scarves and Seduction by Shiloh Walker

Review: Silk Scarves and Seduction by Shiloh Walker Silk Scarves and Seduction + One Night with You Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Silk Scarves and Seduction: I don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll lead with: I wanna be Blush. If you’ve ever had a crush on someone but not known how to tell them, this title is definitely for you! Shiloh Walker packs a lot into this novella—it’s around fifty pages. We get to really delve into Blush’s character and find out what makes her tick—about what makes her uniquely her. We also learn a lot about Marc—because he’s no innocent babe-in-the-woods, either. Neither are without their secrets, and I think that’s what makes Silk Scarves and Seduction all that much more delicious. Be sure you have a cool drink and a fan, because this title will have you on fire! My Rating: A, Loved It One Night with You: Even though this is a short little read (~1 hour), One Night with You packs a punch. As a great friends-to-lovers story, we see a lot of sexy times—the focus of this story is running away from intimacy. As per normal Shiloh Walker rules, I’m was on the edge of my seat as to whether Bo would ultimately succumb to Logan’s super hot sexiness. The perfect read for a quiet Sunday morning on a holiday weekend. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: Silk Scarves and Seduction: Marc has a secret admirer…or maybe not so secret. The black and white photographs were the first clue. The silk scarf was the second. Marc didn’t need any other hints. The sensual, secretive gifts were all Blush Taylor. Blush-the girl who had driven him crazy since high school. The question is…why is she taunting him with these sexy gifts? And why now? One Night with You:  Logan knew from the first time he saw Bo Martin that she was the one for him. They were just teenagers then, but he knew. He spent years quietly waiting for her to grow up and when he finally made his move, he moved too fast and scared Bo away. She stayed away for four years but circumstances outside his control kept him from going to her when she finally returned.Now it’s too late. Bo’s engaged to one of Logan’s best friends. But he’ll be damned if he lets that wedding happen. All he needs is a little bit of luck, and one night to...
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Sep
5

Review: Fast Connection by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell

Review: Fast Connection by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Fast Connection Author: Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: 3/10/2018 Edited to Add: Please note, this review was written and posted prior to the occurrences brought to light in recent days (https://goo.gl/Y7WB7F). The book was read and reviewed in good faith and as presented at the time. The posting of this review in no way condones the actions of author. ======== Unwilling to remain stagnant like the majority of his peers, and lacking other options, Dominic Costigan joined the Army straight out of high school, any “growing up” he had to do being done with a gun in his hands on the front lines of war. Now that he’s back, he’s quickly discovering that the home he knew, and most of those in it, is more foreign and ill-fitting than ever. Lonely and eager to explore his newfound sexual interest in men, he decides that a no-strings, internet-spawned hookup would be a fine place to start over again—especially if it means protecting his already battle-worn heart. Luke Rawlings is done with relationships. Out of the two he’s had that mattered, one ended with two amazing kids and an incredible ex-wife, while the other resulted in his being discharged from the Army and his former boyfriend briefly kidnapping his children. All he wants, or needs, now is to make sure his landscaping business stays profitable, to take care of his teenagers, and keep his sexual engagements as impersonal as possible. Lucky for him, Grindr was made for exactly that. After eagerly anticipating the release of Fast Connection, the second story in the Cyberlove series by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell, I was both pleased and unsurprised to find that it was as fun and thoughtfully written as I imagined it would be. Whereas Strong Signal, the first in the series, didn’t explore the mingling of the virtual world with the “real” one until later in the narrative, Fast Connection takes place amid the interchange of one with the other throughout, handily reaffirming the validity of online relationships along the way. In a testament to the authors’ writing abilities, Dominic transformed from an abrasive, insecure bully with a serious control problem into a thoughtful, insecure survivor who wants a better future for himself and his family. In Fast Connection, that earlier façade is given a degree of substance I hadn’t expected, and appreciated all the more for it. Dominic doesn’t make excuses, which I...
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Sep
1

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Curse of the Tenth Grave by Darynda Jones

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Curse of the Tenth Grave by Darynda Jones Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Curse of the Tenth Grave Author: Darynda Jones Narrator: Lorelei King Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Charley Davidson #10 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased After spending the previous book lost in Sleepyhollow with no memories, Charley is back at home and working as a private investigator. Meanwhile, she’s trying to learn more about the three gods sent to kill her daughter, and if Reyes, her beloved husband and the son of Satan, knows he was formed from one of those gods. For those who have followed my reviews, you know that I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Charley Davidson series. I felt the books became too confusing, with too much going on and some huge inconstancies over the course of the series. Another big issue I’ve always had is the lack of personal growth in Charley and the fact that she would make the same mistakes over and over. So I was a bit surprised that I actually really enjoyed The Curse of the Tenth Grave. It didn’t feel as convoluted as several of the previous titles. Charley was back to solving insolvable crimes, and there weren’t a dozen storylines running at once. But the biggest improvement is that there was substantial relationship and character growth for Charley and Reyes. Things like open communication, helping one another, and trust. Things that should have happened books ago. Additionally, this book cleared up a lot of the mythology, as well. What I didn’t care for was the apparent changing of the rules, again. The little inconsistencies that drive me insane about this series. The convenient way the rules and mythology change to suit the current storyline. Details forgotten or adjusted to fit. Which then got me thinking about open storylines that never closed the loop, or if they did, I missed it. This series is far from perfect when it comes to the little details; however, when the story is strong, as this one was, those type of little issues have a way of melting into the background. So I was able to forgive and move on because I was so engrossed in the tale. Once again, humor is central to Charley’s interactions with all she comes into contact. Lorelei King’s performance of Charley only enhances the wit and humor in the story and strengthens Charley’s narrative voice. Ms. King raises the level of the storytelling and also allows me to forgive and move...
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Aug
31

Review + Blog Tour: Looking for Group by Alexis Hall

Review + Blog Tour: Looking for Group by Alexis Hall Looking for Group Author: Alexis Hall Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Beginning with what is essentially a “job listing” in a fictional MMO, Looking for Group is one of the most unique and fun stories about falling in love that I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a very long time. Told exclusively from Drew’s perspective, it’s a noteworthy lesson, not only about accepting others for who they are, but being honest with ourselves, as well. There’s actually much more to it than that, but it’s better to just read it firsthand. One of the most fascinating things about Looking for Group is what felt like a fairly thorough immersion of the reader in the gameplay of the fictional MMO, Heroes of Legend. Though Mr. Hall clearly took as many facets of his audience as possible into consideration when writing the game scenes, I was still thankful for the glossary at the end of the story. If you don’t already speak MMO, this should definitely be read first. Aside from being very helpful in following along in HoL, it’s an extremely entertaining feature in its own right, and, in general, I thought it was a nice touch. As he’s the only narrator, we see the world of the story through Drew’s eyes, and there were several moments when I wished with all my heart that I could derail certain trajectories he’d flung himself along before it was too late. But, Mr. Hall is an excellent storyteller, and that would have been too easy. Instead, we’re given the chance to ask ourselves what the term “real” actually means, and hopefully acknowledge that our definition isn’t likely to be the same as anyone else’s. And that’s okay. Despite Drew’s best intentions, there simply isn’t a universally applicable pie chart for “The Equitable and Acceptable Distribution of Self.” As usual, Mr. Hall has created an entire cast of vivid and engaging personalities in Looking for Group, each unique and “alive,” whether secondary or no. Drew and Kit are each completely wonderful, and witnessing them banter with each other was a real pleasure, although it was Kit who really stole my heart. The other characters are no less remarkable, however, and I appreciated the variations in the ways we get to know them (online vs. “in the flesh”). Looking for Group is a fine story with some delightful twists, and I loved every moment I spent grumbling and gesticulating at...
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