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May
20

Review: Head Above Water by Hailey Edwards

Review: Head Above Water by Hailey Edwards Head Above Water Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Head Above Water is… awesome. I was really excited to get back to Cam and Graeson. Their story is compelling, wrought with sexual tension, and contains a twist in their romance I did NOT see coming!!! The over-arching series conflict with Charybdis continues to build and puzzle Cam, as well. I may have devoured this title in one sitting, had life not happened. I love the theme of ‘family’ in this title. Part of what we get to see involves Cam, Aunt Dot, and Cam’s cousin, Isaac. Blood relatives. The family dynamic is unique, and also draws parallels to a more traditional family structure. We also catch a glimpse of the Warg pack structure, which is also family. These opposing dynamics change and evolve through the story, and at the end I was left with this: family are those people who love you unconditionally, and always have your back. Not necessarily blood, but they can be. Pack, however, has its own set of rules. I wasn’t a fan (just because I didn’t like what happened, and it ticked me off on Cam & Graeson’s behalf), but they certainly propelled the story forward and added another layer to the conflict. I liked learning more about Dell in this title. I’m not sure exactly where her character is headed, but her tenacity, fierce loyalty, and her loving nature are definitely something to watch in future Gemini titles. Isaac got more page time, too. We learn about him and his thoughts about Gemini using their magic. He seems like he wants to connect with Cam, but doesn’t know how—like there’s this big chasm between them since she lost her twin. We got to see some members of the Warg pack, too. Their Alpha, Bessemer, is not on my list of favorites. His…consorts (yeah, I’ll use that word…) aren’t up there, either. By design, the Alpha was bossy as all get-out, and implemented archaic practices that were dangerous, and—to me—seemed uncaring and steeped in tradition, versus taking the health of the pack into consideration. Typical of pack structure dynamic/hierarchy. And, we get to see Thierry and Mai. 🙂 Grief does strange things to people. Support systems are super important. When there’s a breakdown in supports, it does wacky things to a person. In the first Gemini title, Graeson’s sister, Marie, was missing and found dead—a victim of Charybdis. As...
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May
17

Review: Wedding Girl by Stacey Ballis

Review: Wedding Girl by Stacey Ballis Wedding Girl Author: Stacey Ballis Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Wedding Girl is a delightfully indulgent book. All in one, it’s an ode to comfort food, old black and white movies, specifically The Little Shop Around the Corner, and family. The Little Shop Around the Corner (1940) was remade into the 1998 blockbuster You’ve Got Mail and Wedding Girl gives nods to them both. It was a slow seduction, but Ballis totally won me over. The story begins with a personal disaster.  Sophie Bernstein, the child of nurturing, successful hippies (think of Sandra Bullock’s parents in Two Weeks Notice,) has her perfect life mapped out with the perfect man.  The reader arrives on the day of her perfect wedding when Mr. Perfect not only leaves her, and all of the bills, at the altar, but elopes with their business partner to St. Barts. Feeling hurt and embarrassed is not a good combination.  Sophie goes into a depression and lashes out at people who’ve been good to her.  It results in getting herself fired.  With massive debt to pay-off, Sophie sells her condo and moves in with her grandmother.  Her behavior has gotten her black-balled so her only shot at some income is the forty year old neighborhood corner bakery.  Her talents are sorely wasted on two kinds of cake, butter cookies and rye bread. But it’s a job.  Sophie sums it up when she says, “I think maybe after everything that happened last year, after everything that was leading up to what I always thought was my dream fell apart—my dream job and my dream guy and my dream life—I just don’t know if I have it in me to dream that big again.”  From there Sophie begins to rebuild her life and her skills, finding love along the way. Unlike petite Margaret Sullavan and Meg Ryan, our heroine is a size sixteen.  I loved that it was not an issue for anyone, including her love interest.  In fact, she’s an emotional eater and actually gains some weight while she goes through life-changing stress. Sophie describes herself as, “…officially beyond voluptuous and well into lumpy.” She finds it inconvenient, but it’s blissfully not a major story point.  It was a pleasure to read about someone talented and normal who wasn’t obsessed with her weight.  Furthermore, long sections are devoted to menus, ingredients, cooking, and eating.  I felt like I gained a couple pounds just from the...
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May
4

Review: The Crown of the Queen by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: The Crown of the Queen by Jeffe Kennedy The Crown of the Queen (from For Crown and Kingdom) Author: Jeffe Kennedy Reviewers: Gikany & Una Rating: B & A What We’re Talking About: What a treat for fans of the Twelve Kingdoms series!  The Crown of the Queen is a novella that transitions from the Twelve Kingdoms series to the new Uncharted Realms series.  This is also a nice introduction to Dafne, the heroine of the first book in the Uncharted Realms series, The Pages of the Mind. This novella takes place shortly after the conclusion of The Talon of the Hawk.  We witness the aftermath of it all: the reconciliation of the sisters, the strength of the bonds between the previous couples, and the beginnings of recovery for the realm of the Twelve Kingdoms.  The banter we enjoyed between our beloved main characters from the previous novels continues.  Watching Dafne deftly guide Ursula through the pomp and circumstance required to satisfy politics was enjoyable. This is a must-read for fans of the series, but it wouldn’t be the best introduction to those new to the series.  Gikany and Una do not, however, agree on a rating.  Although we both liked it, Una enjoyed it more and was completely satisfied with it in this form.  Gikany would have preferred that this novella had been included at either the end of The Talon of the Hawk or at the beginning of the upcoming The Pages of the Mind.  She typically does not like short stories or novellas, as they tend to leave her wanting more. All in all, this is a fabulous diversion in this rich and fantastic world.  The mythology continues to be enthralling, the wit and banter of the characters engaging, and the flow of the story gripping.  We look forward to the next novel in this world, The Pages of the Mind. Gikany’s Rating:  B, Liked It Una’s Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Dafne Mailloux, librarian and temporary babysitter to the heirs to the High Throne of the Twelve – now Thirteen – Kingdoms, finds it difficult to leave the paradise of Annfwn behind. Particularly that trove of rare books in temptingly unfamiliar languages. But duty calls, and hers is to the crown. It’s not like her heart belongs elsewhere. But how can she crown a queen who hesitates to take the throne? Release Date: May 24, 2016 Publisher: self-published Series: The Twelve Kingdoms #3.5 / The Uncharted Realms #0.5 Genre: Fantasy, novella Format(s): e-book...
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May
4

Review: Wish upon a Wedding by LuAnn McLane

Review: Wish upon a Wedding by LuAnn McLane Wish upon a Wedding Author: LuAnn McLane Reviewer: Ang Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The premises with Wish upon a Wedding is not new. If you’ve watched the 1987 movie Can’t Buy Me Love or 2003’s Love Don’t Cost A Thing, you know the basic storyline: girl poses as boy’s girlfriend to get solve whatever the issue is. In those movies, the fake girlfriend was supposed to help with the boys’ popularity, while in this case it is Sophia who posses as the girlfriend to try to get Avery’s sister to stop trying to get him back together with his ex-fiance, who is a southern piece of work. OY!! Perfume and pearls on the outside, nettles and nastiness on the inside. There were numerous times I wanted to knock the perfectly placed smile right off Miss Ashley’s spoiled face. But then I guess that’s a trait of a good writer, to illicit strong feelings, and as usual Ms. McLane does a wonderful job of that throughout the novel. I read Wish upon a Wedding while being very distracted, and as usual Cricket Creek was a perfect escape from a rather stressful situation. The dialogue was fun and fast paced. The humor spot on and the emotion perfect; not too heavy but not so light as to not be taken seriously. The settings were as memorable as the characters, and the chemistry between both couples kept me turning pages. I thoroughly enjoyed walking down main street, visiting with locals, and taking in the scenery as I joined Avery and Sophia on their adventure. I was also thrilled that the secondary story about Carrie Ann and Easton’s storyline wasn’t neglected as tended to happened in earlier Cricket Creek novels. Ms. McLane has also become a pro at giving the reader just enough information about the town and its menagerie of characters that you don’t feel lost if you haven’t indulged in other Cricket Creek novels, but peaks your interest enough that you want to go find their stories and get to know them better. Plus, who wouldn’t love spending more time in a sweet southern town filled with people who take you in as their own regardless of where you’re from? And really I think that, coming home is the theme of the novel. Home. Sometimes it’s a place and sometime it’s a person. In Cricket Creek, it is often both, and I think that’s the beauty of the Cricket Creek novels,...
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May
2

Review: The Trouble with Temptation by Shiloh Walker

Review: The Trouble with Temptation by Shiloh Walker The Trouble with Temptation Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I have been waiting for this book. I needed to know what was going to happen with Brannan and Hannah. If you haven’t read the first title in the series, Headed for Trouble, you should get on that. The Trouble with Temptation picks up where the first title in The McKays series leaves off. Ms. Walker’s writing is engaging and drew me in from the start. We’re immediately dropped back in the world of the McKays, with our focus on Hannah and Brannan—who were introduced in the previous title. There are innumerable examples, but one of my favorite passages was Hannah’s description of Brannan at the beginning of Chapter Six: “He was too big. He was too beautiful. Even after the past few days, Hannah was hard-pressed to come up with any other summation of Brannon McKay. She wasn’t talking about his physical appearance, either, although he sure as hell didn’t lack for that, either. Everything about him was larger than life.” What we learn through the course of this title is that Hannah has amnesia and doesn’t remember the stuff at the end of the previous title. Even when she doesn’t trust herself, as a reader, I find myself rooting for her. She’s not the whiny, take-a-backseat-to-a-powerful-man woman. Nope. She knows she’s got this on her own—even pregnant. She keeps her independence through times that are *ahem* less than fun, and maintains a sense of self even when things are going well. She’s frustrated at all the right things, and while I’ve never experienced amnesia (lucky…there’s times I’d *like* to forget things…), but I hope I’d be the same. I really adore Hannah and the way her character develops and grows through this part of the series arc. Now. Brannan. If ever there were a rich Alpha male, Brannan is probably the poster child. He doesn’t throw his money around, but he doesn’t deny he’s got it, either. It’s just a part of who he is. While there’s some skeletons hanging in his closet, regarding Hannah, he really is the perfect person for her. He just isn’t secure enough in himself to ‘come clean’ with some details. I think a BIG part of what drives the plot of The Trouble with Temptation is the suspense aspect of the plot. Introduced in the first title of the series, there’s some trouble afoot, dear reader....
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Apr
28

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Animal Attraction Author: Jill Shalvis Narrator: Karen White Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Animal Magnetism #2 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Purchased Animal Attraction is the second story in Jill Shavis’s enjoyable Animal Magnetism series. Set in the small town of Sunshine, Idaho, the series focuses on the veterinary practice owned by Dell and Adam Connelly. Dell had a rough childhood, going from foster home to foster home, and to this day, hides himself behind humor and one-night stands. Yet from the moment his big-city receptionist blew into his life 18 months ago, Dell finds he cannot stop thinking about her. Meanwhile, Jade ran from her Chicago life all those months ago, finding refuge in Sunshine. Promising her family she’d return, Jade isn’t sure she can afford to indulge in her feelings for Dell. I really enjoyed my second visit to Sunshine, Idaho. Jade and Dell make for a perfect pair. Both are working through past issues and trying to come to terms with growing feelings that they’d rather ignore. Becoming good friends during her stay, the pair realize time is running out and neither wants to say goodbye. Jade’s leaving was a constant weight hanging over the pair, and it was probably brought up one too many times; however I like how the author worked it into the story and around the problem it posed. While Dell’s past is generally known by the reader, Jade’s is not. As her history is slowly revealed to the reader, it could have easily turned into a contrived, stereotypical storyline. Yet, the author doesn’t take the easy path, instead creating a more interesting and well-developed storyline. I enjoyed how Jade and Dell work through their issues together (mostly). Although, for two very intelligent and in-tune individuals, they got pretty stupid with each other there for a while. The narration by Karen White was enjoyable and easy to listen to. I enjoyed her voices, especially Jade’s. Her performance of the males were more spot on this time around, and I liked that she altered her vocalizations enough to give each character his or her own unique sounds. My only complaint comes with previous heroine, Lilah, who seemed to grow a bit stupid and shallow at times, and her voice was equally annoying during those moments. Overall, I really enjoyed Animal Attraction. Although both characters are introduced in the first book, Animal Attraction could easily be enjoyed as a...
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Apr
27

Review: Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Review: Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep Bright Blaze of Magic Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: It is always difficult to say goodbye to a great series, and that is definitely the case with this final book in the Black Blade series, Bright Blaze of Magic.  We have enjoyed Lila’s adventures and the world that she thrived in.  This final book is an exciting and wonderful conclusion to the series. In this final book Lila’s revenge is sated, those oppressed are freed, and, most importantly, Lila has found hope for the future with her new love and the family which she has become an integral part.  The final confrontation between Lila and Victor was powerful and well played. What makes this series so compelling is Lila’s plight.  When the series began in Cold Burn of Magic, Lila was orphaned and living on the streets.  Her world consisted of herself and her only friend Moe.  By the end of the series she is a part of a family and a group of friends.  She has come a long way.  Her mission to exact vengeance on the man responsible for the horrific murder of her mother unfolds and evolves over the course of the three novels. The world is rich in magic and adventure, and the characters are grounded and engaging.  It is difficult to not be drawn into this vivid and wondrous world. Bright Blaze of Magic is a marvelous conclusion the Black Blade series.  If you haven’t read this trilogy, we strongly recommend it for any fans of urban fantasy. We encourage you to pick it up and indulge in the magic, wit, and action/adventure that make this world come alive.  Although we hope Ms. Estep writes something new in this world, we look forward to the next new world and charming characters she creates. Our Rating (Novel):  A, Loved It Our Rating (Overall Series):  A, Loved It About the Book: Bad Things Always Come In Threes… As a thief, I’m good at three things: hiding in the shadows, getting in and out unseen, and uncovering secrets. I put these skills to work for the Sinclair Family, one of the magical mobs that run the tourist town of Cloudburst Falls.  Everyone knows Victor Draconi wants to take over all the other Families–and kill every last Sinclair. What they don’t know is that I’m on to him, and no way will I let the man who murdered my mom...
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Apr
27

Review: First and First by Santino Hassell

Review: First and First by Santino Hassell First and First Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: No matter how hard he tries, Caleb Stone always manages to disappoint those around him: his parents, his former work associates, his ex-boyfriend… Spending an alcohol-soaked New Year’s Eve observing the happiness of others only highlights the fact that nothing in his life has gone the way he wanted it to. It all makes the idea of giving up on romance entirely seem like a pretty good one. Of course, waking up next to a gorgeous acquaintance might not have been what he had in mind, either, but things have certainly been worse. Going from riches to rags after his parents threw him out when he was eighteen taught Oliver Buckley a lot about being independent. Being cast aside by a man who only wanted to use him for the status he no longer possessed taught him to never give his heart away again. Now, he’s got money of his own, no attachments weighing him down, and a standing invitation to the most exclusive scene parties in NYC. Everything is perfect. At least, until a one-night stand with Caleb flips his entire world inside out. Having primarily seen the worst of Caleb in Sunset Park, the previous story in this series, I was relieved to find that spark of “something else” I saw in him given a chance to take over in First and First. Caleb’s acceptance of his need for control, for things to fit what he sees as a logical order, is so absolute that it’s strangling him, as well as infecting every other relationship he has. He isn’t tyrannical (that’s his father’s job), just very, very stuck. He’s been emotionally isolated for so long that trusting others and letting go is impossible for him. Until his drunken night with Oli, anyway (which he can only remember in sporadic flashbacks). Yet, even with Oli, he initially thinks salvation might be found in following the other’s lead, only to learn that trying to shove himself into someone else’s mold won’t do him any good, either. Oli, on the other hand, has custom-built his world just the way he likes it. Happily rough around the edges, Oli could easily be dismissed as the blithely hedonistic party boy, except he’s most assuredly more than that. He and Caleb actually have quite a lot in common, but Oli’s version of control is expressed much differently. Adept at...
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Apr
25

Review: The Obsession by Nora Roberts

Review: The Obsession by Nora Roberts The Obsession Author: Nora Roberts Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Nora Roberts is a prolific writer.  As such, she is known for a certain predictability, if not being formulaic in her writing style.  Her ardent fans like this about her style.  I have enjoyed a few of her books over the years, but haven’t necessarily sought them out.  The Obsession was not at all what I expected from Roberts.  Like so many of her other books, The Obsession was not just a story of an empowered woman looking to build a new life after some kind of insert-male-oppression-here and stumbles upon a trust-worthy love. While it had those elements, The Obsession felt different in a fresh way for Roberts. Told in sections, the writing is surprisingly intimate.  While it does have some predictability, I figured out “who done it” about two-thirds of the way through, I enjoyed the metered pacing.  The addition of a murder mystery subplot dispelled the contrived feeling that can come from contemporary romance where they have to kiss by page “this” and be a couple by page “that.” Rather, the story unfolded in a cautious, true-to-life amble that lets intimacy build, even sneaking up on main characters Naomi Bowes and Xander Keaton.  I loved that Roberts even paused to give us that moment when they each knew they were in love with the other. The first section is a true departure for Roberts and sucked me in immediately.  It begins with an eleven year old Naomi, dreaming of the bicycle she hopes will be her birthday present.  On this hot, sticky summer night she wakens early, willing a breeze to break up the heat.  With her face to the window and unable to go back to sleep, she spies her father going into the woods with a flashlight.  She follows, hoping for a glimpse at the bike that maybe he has stashed somewhere to keep it a secret.  What she finds is not a dream bicycle, it is the reality that her father is one of the most notorious serial killer/rapists of all time. Naomi’s experiences, as they’re unfolded to us, step by step through the woods, felt real. The daze she’s in while she reacts to what she finds felt real.  By the end of section one, I had to finish the book. The obvious next question for Naomi is what now? She begins to  question everything she thought she knew. ...
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Apr
19

Review + Giveaway: Selfie by Amy Lane

Review + Giveaway: Selfie by Amy Lane Selfie Author: Amy Lane Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The Bluewater Bay series has continually proven to be among the best I’ve ever read, and Selfie, by Amy Lane, is one my favorites to date. Told from the perspective of Connor Montgomery, movie star and grieving “basket case,” it isn’t the tale of a Phoenix rising, or miraculous rebirth. It is, rather, a story about coping and healing, honesty and loss, and loving again. To begin with, Ms. Lane is an undeniable asset to this series, as was already proven with her previous additions, “Nascha” (from Lights, Camera, Cupid!) and The Deep of the Sound. I absolutely fell in love with these characters. Connor is, frankly, a heart-broken mess. He’s also enviably strong, quirky beyond reason, and kind to a fault. My heart ached for him over and over, but I couldn’t stop hoping that he would be okay with everything in me. As much as I liked Connor, though, Noah Dakers, local Philosophy grad and driver/bodyguard/PA/etc. for the studio producing “Wolf’s Landing,” stole my heart and kept it. Noah is gorgeous, inside and out. I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t completely love about him. He’s incredibly astute, patient, funny, brilliantly sarcastic, sexier than should surely be allowed, so loving it hurts—pretty much perfect in all the ways that make me want to read Selfie again and again. While Connor and Noah are the two main characters, it would be wrong to ignore Connor’s former love, Vinnie, as the third. He’s simply always there. One thing that I appreciated a great deal about Ms. Lane’s treatment of his memory is that it changes as Connor tries to find a way to live again. Initially, his perfection is suggested by the enormity of his absence in Connor’s life. But, that idyllic love starts to break down memory by memory, becoming something real—cracked and frayed in places, and giving Connor’s reawakening a weight it might not otherwise have had. Just as important, I think, is that, while Vinnie’s flaws are presented with a stripped-bare honesty, it is done without taking the easy out and completely vilifying him. One of the most beautiful things about Selfie is its treatment of the unquantifiable nature of grief. Through the characters’ various perspectives, Ms. Lane dissects the reality of loss and presents it as a living, evolving entity, unique to each individual, even though common threads may be shared...
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