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Sep
18

Review: Too Beautiful to Break by Tessa Bailey

Review: Too Beautiful to Break by Tessa Bailey Too Beautiful to Break Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I’m not crying, you’re crying. That sniffle? Gotta be my allergies. Maybe it’s my present state of mind, but Belmont and Sage’s book got to me. I mean, all of the previous titles in the Romancing the Clarksons saga got to me a little, but there’s been a build-up through the series to Bel’s book—and not just because it’s the end of the journey the sibs’ mother charged them to take as her dying wish. AKA, read this series in order. It is SO worth it. It’s probably because I closely identify with the characters. Oh, not because of how I was raised or some freak accident when I was a child. Because of how Bel & Sage are as people. “You didn’t even have to tell me that,” she whispered. “I already knew Because you’re a man who values everyone’s happiness above himself. And that’s what makes you the greatest man any of us will ever know. There’s never been anyone like you, Belmont. There never will be again. How lucky am I that I get to love you?” Let that sink in for a minute. The above passage is a little spoilery, but not really—we know from reading Rita, Aaron, and Peggy’s books that Bel & Sage have it bad for one another. Seeing it on the page though? That floored me. Like a lot of things did as I read Too Beautiful to Break. His black coat blew out behind him in the cold wind, but he seemed untouched by the weather. He was the weather…he was everything. And his arms were wide open for her. I guess I never really saw Bel like this before. Looking at him through Sage’s eyes really made me see him. He reminds me of a gunslinger from the old west, strolling into town and ready to take on anyone and anything for a good reason. Learning about why Belmont is rather closed off from his siblings floored me, and I honestly cried for Bel as a child. It explains how he is, and the presentation was well done after such a stupendous lead-up. Her hazel eyes were wide on his. “No more waiting to touch now. Everything about us is…right.” She laughed and shook her head, a tear sliding down her cheek. “Isn’t it?” Belmont pressed his mouth to her forehead. “More than right,...
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Sep
14

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Falling From the Sky by Sarina Bowen

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Falling From the Sky by Sarina Bowen Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Falling From the Sky Author: Sarina Bowen Narrators: Tanya Eby, Aiden Snow Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Gravity #2 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Blunder Woman Productions The second story in Ms. Bowen’s Gravity series opens about a year after the conclusion of  Coming in From the Cold, with Dane, Willow and their new baby living out West, thus leaving behind best friend Willow. During one of the couple’s visits back to Vermont to sell Willow’s farm, they introduce Callie to snowboarder Hank, who proceeds to have a career-ending accident on the slopes. Fast forward nine months: Callie is the director of a rehabilitation study at her hospital and Hank is one of its participants. Hank is drawn to Callie and looking to be more than friends, but Callie is ready to start a new life and move to California. I absolutely adored Callie and Hank’s story. What could have been predictable and ordinary is exciting and romantic. Right from the start, their mutual attraction causes both to toss caution to the wind and give something “more” a try. However, due to certain “issues” Hank experiences, things go south quickly. Luckily both are able to move past their insecurities and fears to open up a genuine dialogue and develop a true friendship. I like that both the male and female narrators are different in book 2 than in the first title, especially since the story focuses on two new feature characters. I found both narrators to be a bit better suited to the characters and enjoyed them more than the first go around. I noticed I prefered the female narrator at 1.25x and male narrator at 1.5x but kept the playback speed at 1.5x. The male’s voice is deliciously deep with a rich timbre. It’s a great voice for Hank, who is a huge man with intense emotions. Similarly, the female narrator is a good fit for the intelligent, yet worrisome Callie. I did find Ms. Eby’s male voices are a bit on the feminine side, but not bad. Falling From the Sky is a delightful romance that warmed my heart. Ms. Bowen gives Callie and Hank a HEA without the need to fix all their issues. The story brings humor and heart, taking me on an emotional journey from highs to lows. My Rating: A- Male Narration: B+ Female Narration: B+ Review copy provided by Blunder Woman Productions About the Book:...
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Sep
11

Review: How to Save an Undead Life by Hailey Edwards

Review: How to Save an Undead Life by Hailey Edwards How to Save an Undead Life Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Hailey Edwards has a new series out!!! **muppet flail happy dance** I’ve been chomping at the bit to get my grubby little hands on How to Save an Undead Life since Ms. Edwards announced the project and started dropping hints. This is the first of three (currently) planned titles in the Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy series, and I’m already all grabby hands for book two. We’ve got some awesome vampire lore here, and the world is well-developed so it’s easy to see the hierarchy. First, supporting characters. Boaz: this guy is Grier’s bestie’s big bro and her long-time crush—I definitely see something happening here down the road, in the series arc.  Woolly: the house, you guys…I love its personality and I think it plays a pretty significant role as Grier’s safety net. Amelie: Grier’s bestie and Boaz’s sister who lives next door with her parents. Neely: Grier’s personal designer (i.e., he does her hair and makeup for work and personal stuff when she needs a spectacular look) has a purpose (beyond the obvious) I haven’t quite figured out yet. Volkov: this dude? I’m pretty sure we’ll see more of him. Linus: dude makes me antsy. I really love Grier. The way her character was fleshed out in this first book of the series was engaging and I was able to connect with her immediately. This is a first person POV—which I sometimes have trouble reading/getting into—and I think this deep, personal POV was really effective for the story. This girl has every reason to be sitting under her kitchen table, rocking back and forth, having the BIGGEST pity party for herself, but she has that kick-ass-and-take-names attitude I admire in so many of Ms. Edwards’ characters. She’s not a wilting damsel in distress waiting for her hero to rescue her—except in dire situations. Grier has managed to win me over in book one of the series because she’s a problem-solver. While she was locked up for five years in paranormal prison, she’s been exonerated and has returned to her old life. Sort of—you’ll find out when you read it. I’m super stoked to learn more about the supporting characters and see where Ms. Edwards takes us on Grier’s journey in the Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy series. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: Grier Woolworth spends her nights weaving spooky tales...
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Sep
6

Review: The Shift of the Tide by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: The Shift of the Tide by Jeffe Kennedy The Shift of the Tide Author: Jeffe Kennedy Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una were anxiously awaiting Zynda’s story.  The Shift of the Tide is utterly compelling and may have replaced Andi’s (The Mark of the Tala) as our favorite book in this series. Zynda has always been a bit of an enigma character.  She is beautifully mysterious and you just know there is much more going on in her head than she lets on.  Zynda is an amazing shapeshifter — the pride of her people, and she is a relative to the previous Tala Queen, Salena. Regardless, Zynda has a secret mission to save her people. This mission will require her to sacrifice her life as she knows it – to give up everything.  Zynda is prepared to make that sacrifice – she has prepared herself for most of her life.  However, her focus and dedication take a severe hit when Marskal is assigned as her watcher. Marskal is a fascinating character.  We absolutely loved his charm, patience, and wit.  Though charged with protecting Zynda, he never underestimates her.  We loved the give and take that Marskal abides with Zynda.  As Zynda never noticed him prior, he was (or has) been a part of the series since the beginning.  We loved their banter and especially the time spent with Marskal’s family.  He is a truly remarkable and endearing character.  Zynda was not the only one falling for him. The journey that Marskal and Zynda embark on is more than physical – more than her mission.  Zynda’s journey is not only external but internal.  The closer she comes to her goal, the more torn up inside she becomes – the more she questions the sacrifice required.  We loved how these two conflicts wove together becoming almost a single conflict.  It was utterly gripping and pathos riddled full of heartwarming moments. Though this novel is transitional in the battle against the Deyrr, it was still gripping as other issues in the realm are explored.  We loved the journey of Zynda and the heart wrenchingly romantic tale between her and Marskal.  We continue to enjoy this world and eagerly look forward to the next story in it. Our Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: A QUICKSILVER HEART Released from the grip of a tyrant, the Twelve Kingdoms have thrown all that touch them into chaos. As the borders open, new enemies emerge to...
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Sep
4

Review: Disorderly Conduct by Tessa Bailey

Review: Disorderly Conduct by Tessa Bailey Disorderly Conduct Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I love reading book series. It’s honestly one of my favorite things. I get to meet some characters, get to know them, have some sh*t happen, and then it gets fixed (or the author is mean and leaves us hanging…) and they live happily for now. Until the next book in the series comes out and there’s another crisis. OR…we meet ‘supporting cast’ members in the first title who become the leads in a subsequent book. The Academy series by Tessa Bailey is the latter. Slated for three titles, the first two titles are about police academy recruits/students…whatever you call them. The third? I’ve heard is about a grumpy part-time instructor. But, we’re here to talk about Disorderly Conduct today. And, oh…my. This title is a five-alarm-fire-in-your-panties hot. I mean, when things start as super casual-slash-friends-with-benefits, it’s gonna be hot—especially since Tessa Bailey is the author. I loved the pacing and the entire premise of the title—I mean, who wouldn’t? Casual nookie that turns into something more? *fans self* Yeah. That’s the best. One thing I wasn’t too keen on, but got over, was the way Charlie handled the entire situation. The deception and lies—nothing dangerous, just a breach of trust he has to redeem himself for later. I know a book needs conflict, and if we just had Charlie and Ever shift their relationship from F*ckBuddies to Friends and eventually transition to a couple, there’s nothing that would tear them apart and put them back together—the thing that holds the reader’s interest (besides phenomenal characterization and writing). So, I understand why it was done…and it was done well. It worked as an excellent plot point. Ever is a great, independent character that doesn’t NEED a man to be complete. I mean, throughout the title she talks about a bunch of things that makes her seem like she needs to be in a relationship, but it’s really only her falling for (or realizing she’s fallen for) Charlie. This isn’t an in-your-face OHMYGODILOVEHIM romance. There’s a slow burn that made me want to yell at the characters (may have done this…) and/or skip to the end to make sure they made it through okay (I trust Tessa to give me at least a HFN, so I didn’t). And, here’s the thing about Ever. She starts out with ‘rules’ about her relationships. As in, there IS no relationship....
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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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