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May
17

Review: Owl and the Electric Samurai by Kristi Charish

Review: Owl and the Electric Samurai by Kristi Charish Owl and the Electric Samurai Author: Kristi Charish Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I have missed the adventures of Owl.  I don’t know why it feels as if it has been years since I’ve read Owl and the City of Angels but I was excited to finally know what happens next.  Owl and the Electric Samurai did not disappoint! When we last saw Owl, she had lost custody of her beloved Mau cat, Captain, to Lady Siyu, while also receiving a mysterious offer from the IAA. I had no idea what to expect when I started on this novel, but watching Owl trying to actually track down Shangri-La and prevent IAA from getting their hands on the World Quest game developers was more than I imagined.  Though she has questionable morals at times, Owl’s heart is in the right place and she does strive to do the right thing.  Though the right thing is not always something you can live with, nor what you end up with – no matter how hard you try. While Owl is trying to find and help the gamers, the red dragon sends her on an errand for the elves – to find a magical armor that has been lost for centuries.  As she starts out on the journey, Rynn and Owl are aware of the supernatural politics – the war between supernaturals remaining myth or being revealed.  However it seems there is much more going on than it appears and no one can be trusted. I enjoyed the emotional rollercoaster that seemed to permeate this novel.  As Owl and Rynn’s relationship progresses, there are still bumps and adjustments along the way.  Though, it seemed working with your significant other has benefits – it also has drawbacks.  I enjoyed the give and take between them.  I liked how they made a better team as they both learned to trust each other.  I did miss Nadya as she was off solving a problem at her club. The novel ends with a tremendous cliffhanger, one that has me emotionally in knots, especially after the epilogue.  I’m left with so many questions, but I don’t want to voice them as they could spoil.  Suffice to say, I wonder what is in store for Owl next, and if we will see what happens to several others in the next novel.  This novel felt almost even more gripping with the strain between Rynn and Owl, the race to...
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May
17

Review: How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall

Review: How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall How To Bang A Billionaire Author: Alexis Hall Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Beginning with an enigmatic and somewhat dark farewell, How to Bang a Billionaire explores the inception of the “arrangementship” between Arden St. Ives, imminent graduate of Oxford University, and Caspian Hart, billionaire, immovable personality, and magnet to Arden’s desires. Both men are contradictions—Arden for being completely undone by his own honesty while trying to be someone else, and Caspian for only coming off as “monstrous” while acting on his determination not to be a monster. This would be enough of a puzzle to draw me in, regardless, but there are many other things to consider here, as well. Alexis Hall is one of my all-time favorite authors, and is among the most gifted writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. By the time I’ve finished, his books are nearly always covered in highlights (if electronic) or filled with random bits of paper (if in print) which I’ve shoved in at the binding to mark all the things I don’t want to forget. Unsurprisingly, I think How to Bang a Billionaire is a fantastic story, interweaving science, history, philosophy, art, humor, hurt, and sex into a narrative that I found beautiful. For all the above attributes, How to Bang a Billionaire is also incredibly romantic. Arden occasionally envisions his reactions through an old-Hollywood lens, complete with Hepburn smiles, the “flare of amber” warming Caspian’s face in the dark, and so on. Caspian, by contrast is likened unto the harsh inflexibility of metal: “Sculpted in silver and steel, a man so coldly perfect he was barely real at all.” And yet, it is Caspian’s unexpected laughs and bashful grins, and especially the hungry growls and unraveling control, that threaten to steal Arden’s heart completely. Later, it gets even better as they negotiate needs and boundaries, and how much of themselves they might be able to give. There are more than a couple of swoony moments, without a single “precious” in sight. I still tend to skip reviewing the sexual relationships in many of the books I read, but that wouldn’t be right in this case. There’s a lot going on sexually in How to Bang a Billionaire, but Caspian’s struggle with the connection of sex to self, and the importance of being honest about that, was both frustrating and heartbreaking. Additionally, the narrative is prefaced with what appeared to me to be a misunderstanding...
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May
10

Review: Dog Eat Dog World: Limited Edition Bundle by Hailey Edwards

Review: Dog Eat Dog World: Limited Edition Bundle by Hailey Edwards Dog Eat Dog World: Limited Edition Bundle Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: It’s no secret how much I adore the Black Dog Universe. I gush over them every chance I get. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, Hailey Edwards has released a LIMITED EDITION bundle with every previously released story (except Over the Moon, Gemini #6, the upcoming title due out this summer), including the shorts she’s had in other collections. And I’VE READ THEM ALL…now you can, too! Below are some quickie comments for the short stories in the collection I hadn’t reviewed and a complete reading order—with linked reviews—appears below that. Dog Days of Summer (A Black Dog Short Story) When a fan boy goes missing, all evidence points to a warg being responsible for the crime. Thierry is called to lead the hunt for the rogue, but the closer she gets to locating the boy, the further she gets from the truth. This Thierry and Shaw short story is—in true Hailey Edwards form—suspenseful. I love learning about new creatures, and the way I can feel Thierry’s disgust at times over the new one 🙂 As always, the connection between Theirry and Shaw is intense. My Rating: A+ Personal Favorite Out for Blood (A Gemini Short Story) White sand beaches, fresh tropical drinks…and three exsanguinated bodies. So much for Marshal Ayer’s transfer to the island of St. Kitts being a vacation. Marshall Eileen Ayer spent some time in Edelweiss Mental Institution, and when she returned to duty she was stationed in the Caribbean. Called in to help with the investigation of a couple murders, she’s on the receiving end of the attentions of one Taye Jones. First, I loved seeing Marshall Ayer again. I’d wondered what had gone down with her. Second, I’m diggin’ Taye. Third, vampire and chupacabras. My paranormal heart is beating a rapid rat-a-tat-tat. My Rating: A+ Personal Favorite The Bakers Grimm (A Gemini Short Story) When two struggling business owners compete for the contract of a lifetime, it’s all bakers on deck. Mix in a dollop of rivalry, a tablespoon of romance, and a pinch of magic, and you’ve got the recipe for one heck of a bake-off. May the best decorator win! Here’s a cute little short—a Rumplestilskin-inspired tale—set in the Gemini branch. We’re dropped back into Wink, TX at a cookie shop called Lookie’s Cookies. Our main character is Millie—Decker Comeaux’s daughter, from other...
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May
10

Review: Marry in Haste by Anne Gracie

Review: Marry in Haste by Anne Gracie Marry in Haste Author: Anne Gracie Reviewer: Ang Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I really enjoyed Marry in Haste. Cal and Emmaline are a good match even though they don’t realize it at first. Emm is spirited and strong. She knows when to fight a battle and when to let something slide, which is a must for a military man like Cal who is used to people jumping when he says jump. I appreciated the chemistry between the all the characters, and that as usual, Ms. Gracie doesn’t just throw sex in for the sake of sex. The scenes make sense to the novel and add to the plotline. I also enjoyed the way Emm and Cal’s wards come together to make a family, pulling Cal back to his roots in the process. I would have enjoyed more time with Emm and Cal rather than focusing so much on the wards and the history/lack of relationship between them and Cal. And there were a few spots where things dragged on as if Ms. Gracie wasn’t sure how to bring things together. But overall she found her stride and brought nearly everything together in the end. She even included a cameo from one of my favorite Chance sisters, Daisy. Despite its few flaws, I had a difficult time putting Marry in Haste down. The characters were fun, complex, and engrossing, making the entire experience delightful. I’m looking forward to the next book in the new Marriage of Convenience series, and believe if you enjoy Ms. Gracie’s work or a marriage of convenience novel you will enjoy this one. Reading it was a great way to spend my day. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Major Calbourne Rutherford returns to England on the trail of an assassin, only to find he’s become Lord Ashendon, with the responsibility for vast estates and dependent relatives. Cal can command the toughest of men, but his wild half-sisters are quite another matter. They might just be his undoing. When he discovers that Miss Emmaline Westwood, the girls’ former teacher, guides them with ease, Cal offers her a marriage of convenience. But strong-minded and independent Emm is neither as compliant nor as proper as he expected, and Cal finds himself most inconveniently seduced by his convenient wife. Emm knows they didn’t marry for love, yet beneath her husband’s austere facade, she catches glimpses of a man who takes her breath away. As pride, duty...
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May
9

Review: Concourse by Santino Hassell

Review: Concourse by Santino Hassell Concourse Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Amid the shining lights and luminaries of New York, Ashton Townsend glimmers more brilliantly than the rest. Young, rich, and undeniably beautiful, he’s either desired or envied—or both—by just about everyone. He’s also lonely and brutally aware that nobody really knows who he is beneath the façade he’s created. Nobody except his most cherished friend, and most elusive desire, Val. Valdrin Leka, on the other hand, is a broodingly handsome competitive boxer on his way to going pro for all the wrong reasons. His mother’s full-time position as nanny for the extremely wealthy, entitled Townsend family made growing up in their shadow a bitter pill to swallow—the only exception to that opinion being Ashton. But, as much as he’s always wanted Ashton, letting himself fall completely would surely be a one-sided heartbreak waiting to happen. Or would it? While I’ve loved each of the Five Boroughs stories—and have a particularly soft spot for the first two—Concourse is exceptional. I liked both characters tremendously from the beginning, and I could not stop worrying about them throughout the entire narrative. The tension that had been building between Ashton and Val for years off-page was a nearly tangible thing, their behavior towards one another practically screaming its veracity and making their shared history easy to accept. The weight of Val’s secrets was likewise dark and viscous, threatening at any moment to destroy the happiness they were so close to realizing. I also found the writing itself in Concourse to be about as perfect as I could have hoped, and there were quite a few passages that tugged at my heart during my reading. Val and Ashton’s shared hunger for affection is indisputable, and Mr. Hassell once again rips away any artifice with an emotional simplicity that was both irresistible and believable. “There would have to come a point when I drew boundaries about all this touching, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it yet. Not when he was the only person whose touch I actually felt.” In addition to Val and Ashton, Concourse introduced some interesting new characters as well as allowed me to get to know some of the others who have piqued my curiosity for a long time now a little better. Val’s sister Hana, his friend Matt, and even Luis, his main competition at the gym, were all welcome additions. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing more...
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May
8

Review: F*ck Club: Con by Shiloh Walker

Review:  F*ck Club: Con by Shiloh Walker F*ck Club: Con Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: If you haven’t read Riley’s book, get on that. It sets up the premise for the series wonderfully. But, here’s what’s going on. Riley & Con are male escorts…with benefits. Their friend, Shame, was part of the operation. Riley concocted this business to make ends meet when he took guardianship of his two younger siblings when their parents died in a car crash as he built up their legit business, a bar. When their sketchy business fell under scrutiny of law enforcement—and Riley had a love interest come into his life (again)—the F*ck Club disbanded and they’ve flown under the radar of the cops. There’s more that happens, but you’ll have to read Riley’s book to find out. 🙂 Con is the middle child, and he’s really in-tune with what’s going on with his sibs. He sees more than people want him to, at times, and he’s learned to keep it to himself, mostly. Then, Shawntelle comes into his life as a bartender in his bar. Unfortunately, Con has vowed to never sleep with their employees (good man, that Con). And their attraction is crazy intense. Boo. But Con’s SpideySenses are all a-tingle because there’s something Shawntelle is hiding. And he doesn’t like it. He dismisses his intuition, though. Gah! It’s really hard to review a Shiloh Walker book without spoilers. What I liked about this little novella was that it was fast-paced. Before I knew it, I’d read the whole thing and had that satisfied smirk on my face. Mr. VampBard pretty much says, “Done with your book? That good?” now. I loved how the story between Con and Shawntelle played out. There were things that surprised me, and things that made me tear up. Seeing the growth in Con—as well as Shawntelle—was satisfying…and the sexy times were HOT! I honestly can’t wait to get my hands on Shame’s book after reading Con’s. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: After a run-in with a cop, former male escort Con, along with his brother Riley and best friend Shame, decided it might just be best to hang up their…hats and retire from the business of being paid to pleasure. After all, they have a profitable business going with their new pub. No reason to ruin a good thing and Con is more than happy to keep pleasing the ladies—just…no longer as a job....
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May
3

Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey

Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey Too Hard to Forget Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I may have devoured Peggy’s story in one sitting. I may have actually re-read parts, too. When reading the Romancing the Clarksons series by Tessa Bailey, I’m entranced by the familial connection, the depth of the characters, and the build up to the next book, Too Beautiful to Break—Belmont & Sage’s book. While we’re three-deep in the series already, if one were to jump in right here, there’s some lost backstory and outcomes for two other siblings—and the buildup to the final title in the series—but it could be read on its own. Readers will most likely devour not only this title—Too Hard to Forget—about the little sister, Peggy, and her football coach paramour, Elliott. Who doesn’t like a well-crafted second chance story? I know I **really** like them, and Peggy & Elliott’s story was no exception. Seems like I’m running across more and more titles that push my boundaries as a reader—which is cool. It’s no secret I’m a teacher, and I have some personal rules, if you will, about my reading. I am very careful about teacher/student titles because there’s a squick factor for me that I can’t get around. Just the way I’m wired. Now, while Elliott is NOT one of Peggy’s college professors, he is employed by the university she attends and that’s grey zone for me. But, Tessa Bailey? I’ll forge on. You know, in the interest of dirty-talking, super sexy damaged dudes. In the two previous titles of the Romancing the Clarksons series, Too Hot to Handle (Rita & Jasper) and Too Wild to Tame (Aaron & Grace), we see little snippets of Peggy—who she is, and how she handles watching intimacy. It was obvious for me that she had commitment issues, and in Too Hard to Forget we learn why. Thank the gods. Peggy’s backstory was killing me. I needed it, like, immediately after reading the first book in the series. For those that haven’t read the previous two titles in the series, the Clarksons siblings’ mother died. She kept a diary, and during each leg of this journey they’re taking across the country to do a polar bear dip in the Atlantic Ocean—at her behest—a different sibling learns what their mother thought about them. What she saw beneath the layers. For some reason, Peggy intrigued me from the beginning. And I think that what really drew...
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May
2

Review: Cold Reign by Faith Hunter

Review: Cold Reign by Faith Hunter Cold Reign Author: Faith Hunter Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: All of the familiar players are back in the eleventh story in the Jane Yellowrock series: Jane and Beast, the Youngers, Bruiser, Leo, Edmund, Derek, Grégoire, the Robere twins, Gee, Brute, Ricky, etc. Leo, of course, is so insufferably arrogant (yet necessary) that I kind of wished Jane would just kick him, but Jane’s family, Clan Yellowrock, becomes more endearing and fascinating by the minute. This growing assemblage of personalities is my favorite part of Cold Reign, and Jane is infinitely better for their presence in her life. In Cold Reign, Jane is once again trying to stop an attack aimed at Leo Pellessier, the Mithran Master of the city of New Orleans. Despite Leo’s secrecy and manipulations, Jane is now fully aware of what might be lost if Leo falls, and knows that turning her back on it all would be far too costly for everyone, including her. To say that it’s a complex situation is a gross understatement, but Jane’s learned a thing or two since her arrival and uses it to her advantage without a flinch. As to Jane, she’s become one of my favorite characters ever, and I truly feel invested in the life she’s been building for herself. She’s got scars. Lots of them. But, she’s earned every one, and has managed to find some happiness, too. No longer the obstinate, wounded loner, she’s a richer character all-around, and in Cold Reign, it seemed more evident than in any of the previous novels. Jane’s evolution is reflected in the narrative as a whole, and Cold Reign benefits from the effect it has on the other elements of the story. There are some really funny moments sprinkled throughout, made even more so because of their irreverence and borderline impropriety, thanks to Jane’s “quirkiness”—which seems to be catching. Likewise, there’s serious romance going on here that Jane absolutely deserves, even if she’s disgusted with herself just a little. I thought it was completely wonderful. Eleven books in, and the Jane Yellowrock series keeps getting better and better. And unlike many other long-running series, it has remained consistently strong and downright riveting more often than not. Jane still stumbles occasionally, but rarely now, and her determination to learn whenever she does makes me love her even more. While Jane’s understanding of the world she’s become embroiled in continues to grow, it is her own...
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Apr
27

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Hunted by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Hunted by Kevin Hearne Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book: Hunted Author: Kevin Hearne Narrator: Luke Daniels Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #6 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased Hunted Warning: Spoilers of events from previous books are included in this review. After completely enjoying the previous title, Trapped, I couldn’t wait to get into Hunted; however I was a bit apprehensive over what would happen to my favorite trio of characters as life seemed to be going “too good” for them. Of course, life didn’t stay safe, and the opening of Hunted was rather surprising as the Morgain helps fight off the Roman-Greco goddesses of the hunt to save Atticus. She confides in Atticus some rather telling information that made me relook at her character. Now Artemis and Diana are hunting Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon across Europe to seek retribution for perceived losses, and all of Europe has been struck with Pandemonium, preventing their escape to Tír na nÓg. I love that Hunted is a blend of pure adventure as well as a mystery to be solved. Someone/s is out to end Atticus and has recruited a number of players in the effort. Not only are the Olympic pantheons after him, but there are vampires, dark elves, and gods tracking his every move. Oh, and Loki is on the loose, again. Finding out that Jupiter, Zeus, and Odin are following along and watching the chase for entertainment is the perfect nod to the classic tales. The battles are epic and even a bit frightening. Meanwhile, Atticus believes a powerful fae is orchestrating the efforts against him, and his weariness and fear had me on the edge of my proverbial seat. With so much going on, I thought I’d be lost, but rather, I was completely engaged as I followed along the frantic chases. The book also treats us to chapters from Granuaile’s POV. While the first time it occurred it almost felt out of place, later I realized it was setting me up for the events to come. I enjoyed seeing life through her younger and unfettered eyes. Although, being Atticus’s apprentice and now companion has forced Granuaile to quickly mature and deal with the ugly. Granuaile’s perspective and powers, along with her powerful feelings, adds so much to the series and each story. She balances Atticus perfectly, and I simply love how much Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon have become a genuine team....
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Apr
25

Review: Midnight Target by Elle Kennedy

Review: Midnight Target by Elle Kennedy Midnight Target Author: Elle Kennedy Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: **blinks** Um. What just happened here? Readers of the Killer Instincts series are well aware of the bromance between Boston and Sully, and the super crappy stuff that happened to Sully. If you haven’t read the entire series, you really need to start from the beginning to appreciate all the careful planning that went into the series arc, the character development—and breaking down of characters—that went into writing every single book in the series. But, hey. This book is mainly about Cate and Ash, right? NOPE. Just get that notion right out of your head. This very minute. Midnight Target is so much more than military romance/romantic suspense—whatever label you want to give it. Jim’s mercenaries and Noelle’s chameleons—with a few others—have managed to create a family. And really, the overarching theme in this book is family. Whether the onus of the discussion is on Cate’s relationship with Jim or Ash’s with his family… or Boston’s relationship with his devout Irish-Catholic family or Sully’s lack of family—we always come back to that one, singular, important theme. The road to happily-ever-after isn’t paved with rose petals; often, it’s a bed of hot coals we need to walk across until we reach the other side. Cate and Ash had their trials over the course of their relationship—we get to see them in flashbacks and memories—as did Sully and Boston. With both couples, we see the give-and-take, the personal growth and acceptance that must take place before either party is ready to become part of a whole. And being part of that whole makes them part of something larger than themselves. A family can be defined by many parameters—but in the case of the operatives in the Killer Instincts series, it’s definitely defined by a group of people who have chosen to be together. And those are the best families. While Midnight Target is pretty long (464 pages), the pacing was excellent, and I pretty much devoured the book. There were times I wanted more Sully & Boston, and then I’d want more Ash & Cate as I read—but it just propelled me through the book. As did the action. Talk about edge-of-my-seat reading! Not only was there this whole drug cartel-slash-revenge plot to make the drug lord pay for Jim getting shot during the mission to extract Cate from a completely screwed up situation, but the movement between...
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