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Jul
7

Review: Ink and Shadows by Rhys Ford

Review: Ink and Shadows by Rhys Ford Ink and Shadows Author: Rhys Ford Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Beautiful and alone (and most likely insane), Kismet understands exactly why he doesn’t belong anywhere. Having a childhood scarred by loss and neglect, combined with the ability to see the dark things that lurk in the shadows, hasn’t made him fit for anything but his own solitude. Yet, when the impossible happens, and he’s caught in the middle of a fight between immortals, Kismet not only gains an unlikely ally, but the deepest friendship he’s ever known. As Pestilence, the youngest of the Four Horsemen, Mal gets that he has a lot to learn. Still, it would be nice if the other Horsemen understood him a little better. The simple truth is that he just doesn’t feel like he belongs. But, when an unknown force threatens the boundary between mankind and the creatures that hunt them, the Four discover that a very special human is the key to unraveling the mystery, and, for the first time, Mal finds something that’s truly worth fighting for. When I saw Ink and Shadows, the first in a new paranormal series by Rhys Ford, in a list of upcoming releases, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of a twist on the Four Horsemen. The blurb and cover were enough to further pique my interest, but after hearing what else was said about Ink and Shadows, my curiosity increased exponentially. I’ve never reviewed a title that came with a disclaimer from the publisher about the things the novel isn’t before. A suspense story with LGBTQ characters, but no promise of a “happily ever after?” Count me in! The author has attempted an expansive undertaking that covers all kinds of phenomena and myths—from Vices and Virtues to the Sidhe courts of the Fae, and, most especially, to the Four Horsemen themselves. Saying that nothing is as it seems in Ink and Shadows is an understatement, but attempting to explain the intricacies of the story in detail would give too much away. The world Ms. Ford has created is complicated and richly textured, and learning about it through the eyes of the characters was an enormously satisfying part of reading the book in the first place. While it isn’t a romance, Ink and Shadows is certainly not devoid of romantic moments. In fact, the novel’s treatment of intimacy, in its many different forms, provided some of my favorite scenes. The personal interactions...
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Jul
2

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Cat & Bones Get Good!

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Cat & Bones Get Good! Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook reviews: Night Huntress series Author: Jeaniene Frost Narrator: Tavia Gilbert Audio Speed: 1x Series: Night Huntress #5-#6 (Night Huntress Universe #7-#8) Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased NOTE: These reviews may contain spoilers from the previous books in the series. This Side of the Grave (NH #5 / NHU #7) After a two book hiatus from Cat and Bones’ adventures, the Night Huntress universe returns to its roots with a first person narrative told from heroine Cat’s POV. Chronologically, the book takes place after the two spin off stories, and having read them will fill in a lot of backstory that is assumed in This Side of the Grave. The story picks up with the ghoul uprising lead by Apollyon, a ghoul bent on killing Cat and attacking the vampire nation. Masterless vampires are being picked off by ghouls and our dynamic duo turn to the ghoul queen of New Orleans for some hints as to what is going on. Soon the pair are deep into the ghoul uprising, trying to predict where they will next strike. I absolutely enjoyed this story! This Side of the Grave is hands-down the best book in the series so far. The book genuinely embraces its urban fantasy roots and gives readers a smart adventure, full of action, romance, and humor, not to mention sexy good guys and dangerous bad guys. The story is well executed, with Cat having to use both brains and brawn to stop her enemies. The fight scenes are kick-ass, but there are so many tender moments as well. I love how Cat struggles with her growing powers, but gets through it because she’s tough and determined. Some of my biggest issues with the earlier stories have all been addressed in This Side of the Grave. Previously, the pair didn’t work together, letting jealousy, deception, and stubbornness get in the way of a healthy relationship. This time around, the pair is a team, sharing in the ups and downs, shouldering responsibilities, and genuinely loving one another. They are a tight-knit pair, considering the other and their relationship before decisions. They listen to one another and the book is so much better for it. Additionally, I am happy that Cat finally deals with once-friend Tate and his inexcusable behaviors. This is something that should have happened 4 books ago! I enjoyed seeing Cat back with her old team, and some of the changes going on are downright fun! I hope we see...
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Jun
29

Review: The Spring Bride by Anne Gracie

Review: The Spring Bride by Anne Gracie The Spring Bride Author: Anne Gracie Reviewer: Ang Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Those that regularly read my reviews know that I am not new to Anne Gracie or the Chance Sisters series. After the second book in the series, The Autumn Bride, left we wanting, I am happy to report that was not the case with The Spring Bride. The warmth and banter that I have come to love from Ms. Gracie was back as Jane and Zachary get to know each other mainly through long walks around Berkeley Square. The inner struggles and unloading for life’s lessons and baggage was addressed and happily ever after was achieved. It was a lovely read filled with well written characters that kept me engaged and smiling. I enjoyed getting to know Jane better and seeing her come to terms with the baggage left from her difficult childhood and realizing that love and security can, in fact, come at the same time in the same package, if she allows herself to trust someone outside of her sisters and Lady Beatrice. Her struggle is well played and wonderfully written as she realizes that she is in fact in love with Zachary. She is smart, spunky, and spirited and willing to do anything for those she loves. Zachary is a funny, engaging rouge who comes to realize that he can go home again. He has a tender heart, a fierce desire to do right, and is quick to protect women and animals, which won me over immediately. He stands strong and steady as he fights for his inheritance, his freedom, and Jane’s heart, all while keeping his sense of humor. I enjoyed watching him come into his own as he discovered and fought for Jane’s heart. His attraction to Jane is evident from the moment they meet, and it was easy to feel their chemistry throughout the novel. One of the things I really enjoyed in the book was that the chemistry between Zach and Jane was real and intense, and it wasn’t shown through sex scene after sex scene. It was subtle a look here and a touch there, making it lovely. I never had to worry about leaving my book open where my kids might see because the emotion and heat was written in such a manner that is wasn’t offensive to the more gentle of people, and I appreciated that. As usual Ms. Gracie sprinkles her story with fun,...
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Jun
26

Review: Fandemic by Jennifer Estep

Review: Fandemic by Jennifer Estep Fandemic Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Fandemic is the fifth novel in Ms. Estep’s wonderful Bigtime series.  If you love fun, exciting, quirky, colorful superhero type worlds, then you are seriously missing out if you haven’t picked up this series yet. Ms. Estep delivers another well written, joyously fun, and exciting novel in the Bigtime series.  We loved Piper!  She is a normal girl in a superhero world.  She loves following the superheroes, and cleverly figures out who some of them really are, but loyally and trustworthily keeps this highly prized information to herself.  It backfired on her when she confessed to her boyfriend, Kyle, that she knew he was secretly the superhero Swifte.  Despite suffering that blow to her heart, Piper continues on, trying to mend her broken heart after Kyle ends things with her.  It is hard to move on when your heart still yearns, but she manages until she discovers a nefarious plot and the next victim is Swifte. It is easy to inhale these novels, which is okay because they are just as much fun to reread.  Gikany and Una feel this is one of our favorite series.  Ms. Estep masterfully creates and presents this colorful, fun, and exciting world through down-to-earth characters that nicely contrast with the over-the-top colorful and expressive superheroes and villains.  However, what makes Fandemic standout from the previous novels is the theme of “it’s okay to be yourself” woven in.  We loved how Piper dreams of being a superhero although she is pretty super just as herself.  Kyle and Piper’s love story is sweetly and passionately woven within the exciting plot of evil villain hell-bent on his dastardly goals. If you haven’t picked up this series, you should.  You can jump in with Fandemic, but the world and characters will have more meaning if you start with the first novel, Karma Girl.  You won’t be disappointed, trust us! Our Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Piper Perez has always wanted to be a superhero. Always wanted to wear a cool costume, have amazing abilities, and save the day. There’s just one problem—Piper doesn’t have any superpowers.  So she focuses on other things. Facts, figures, memorabilia. Piper knows and collects it all, about both the superheroes and the ubervillains who roam the streets of Bigtime, N.Y. Piper’s friends jokingly call her a fandemic—someone who is a superfan of all things superhero. The...
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Jun
25

Listen Up! #Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 8-9

Listen Up! #Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 8-9 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Kowalski Family Series Author: Shannon Stacey Narrator: Lauren Fortgang Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Kowalski Family #8-9 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: purchased Taken with You Although I wasn’t won over by the opening scenes, Taken with You is definitely one of the best in the Kowalski Family series. While still set in Whitford, Maine, the series shifts to a non-Kowalski pairing between town librarian Hailey Genest and new-comer Matt Barnett, the “hot game warden” assigned to Whitford. The story hits all the right notes for me, and I adore how Hailey and Matt learn to love despite their differences. Hailey has watched all of her friends fall in love while she remains single and alone. Feeling like she really doesn’t have time to fool around, Hailey is determined to find the “9-to-5” man who will sweep her off her feet and be the father of her children. And although she’s got chemistry with her new neighbor, with his love of the outdoors and unpredictable job, Hailey feels Matt is all wrong for her. Meanwhile, Matt has been burned in a previous relationship by a woman who didn’t appreciate his outdoorsy nature and wanted to change him into something he’s not. He carries that baggage with him into every new potential relationship, setting himself up for failure before there is any chance of being hurt. I completely adored Matt and Hailey’s romance as they try to convince themselves that they are only friends with benefits. The pair have amazing chemistry, even when they are pushing each other into potentially disastrous situations (like a 4:30 AM outdoor date or a dinner at a fancy bistro). What I love most is the genuine feel of the romance, which doesn’t tarnish the happy ending. Their love comes from sexual chemistry and true friendship, but they do have to compromise, and their path isn’t easy. I laughed and cried during the book, which I found emotionally fulfilling and ultimately rewarding. Narration by Lauren Fortgang is once again superb. However, I noticed that (to me) Hailey’s voice had changed from earlier books. It’s not a huge thing, but it sort of bugged me, especially in the beginning scene involving Tori and Hailey. Eventually as the story moved forward, I forgot about it. Overall, Taken with You is a sweet, fun, sincere romance that swept me off my feet. A must read! Rating: A Narration: A- Falling For Max Falling for Max is the final tale from...
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Jun
24

Review: The Deep of the Sound by Amy Lane

Review: The Deep of the Sound by Amy Lane The Deep of the Sound Author: Amy Lane Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Before he was left to care for his great-uncle, Nascha, and little brother, Kier, when his parents died, Calladh McCorkle had been destined for scholarships, college, and a future as bright as he could make it. Though he’ll do anything for his family, he can’t deny that the losses still hurt, and the passing years have made him angry, bitter, and just plain tired. But, when he offers to give a stranded, rain-soaked stranger a ride to town, Cal’s life seems like it might be changing for the better–if only he can find the courage and faith to follow his heart one more time. Taking chances isn’t something Avery Kennedy ever thought he knew how to do well, but getting away from his jerk of an ex-boyfriend and determinedly oblivious parents is a great motivator. Having a broken down car and an unexpected financial crisis, however, are nearly enough to send him scurrying right back home. But Avery is nothing if not determined. It also helps that Cal is everything he’s ever dreamed of in a lover and partner. What Avery wants could be the answer they’ve both been looking for, and he’ll fight anyone who tries to get in their way—even the man he’s come to love. While quite a few of the characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading have had painful backstories, I can’t think of many who have been as embattled as Calladh. We first saw Cal in Nascha, from the Lights, Camera, Cupid! anthology, when he was severely ill and Nascha was lost in his own memories. The Deep of the Sound gives us much more of Cal’s story, including that same night from his own perspective. At the age of twenty-four he’s already taken on more responsibility than most people have to face in a lifetime, and, like Nascha, he can’t see any way out. Theirs is a legacy of loss and self-sacrifice, and the effect these burdens have on Cal is heartbreaking. Avery, on the other hand, comes from such a different place that it’s a wonder that he and Cal are able to understand each other at all. In fact, Avery provides a fair amount of the levity in The Deep of the Sound. While Avery’s life has been complicated in many respects, he still hasn’t had to deal with everything that Cal has. Rather...
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Jun
19

Review: One Night with a Billionaire by Jessica Clare

Review: One Night with a Billionaire by Jessica Clare One Night with a Billionaire Author: Jessica Clare Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: FINALLY! Cade Archer has been so entirely screwed over in this series. I couldn’t wait until he got his own happily-ever-after. Could. Not. Wait. But when I realized Daphne didn’t get clean—and I want to state, for the record I’m okay with that—I got a bit giddy. Okay. Maybe that was a little spoilerish. But…but…the blurb talks about Kylie. So I didn’t *really* spill the beans, right? So, throughout the entire series, Cade has been in love with Daphne, rock star diva. If you’ve read the Billionaire Boys Club series, you know all about the whole thing going on with Cade and Daphne. His pining for her, and that totally unhealthy relationship. In Reese and Audrey’s book, I thought I’d go nuts with how things played out (also, if you HAVEN’T read Reese & Audrey’s book, you should). This book was full of awesome. Seriously. By the time I reached the end, I had a silly grin on my face, and all the feels. It felt like the end of the series—all the Brothers have their HEA. I am content. Enough of my gushing…on to why! Cade. I loved seeing him lose control. I loved watching him fall for Kylie. It was a reckless, all-encompassing free-fall for him. With the whole Daphne thing, it was beautiful watching him ‘wake up’. The way he was so immediately enraptured, yet taking care of business. He preoccupation with Kylie. It was refreshing, and not at all stalker-ish. Billionaire stories can get that way. One scene, however, made me absolutely joyful. Cade’s never been the typical alpha. Initially, this *specific* scene made me wary, but as it went on, Ms. Clare was artfully depicting Cade’s drive to possess Kylie. It was raw, it was alpha, and I had goosebumps. With all Cade endured to be with Kylie, I was so glad when the end came. Each turn of events, each element that drove them apart only served to steel Cade’s resolve to be with Kylie. That, ladies and gentlemen, is one thing I truly love about this man. He Never. Gave. Up. Kylie had a rough upbringing. She is paying for a nursing home for her grandmother with dementia. Her parents died when she was young. Raised by a resentful grandmother, she has serious self-esteem issues. She is hired to be Daphne’s makeup artist on tour, because...
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Jun
17

Review: For Real by Alexis Hall

Review: For Real by Alexis Hall For Real Author: Alexis Hall Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Though he’s young, Toby Finch knows exactly who he is, even if he doesn’t know where he’s going. His desires have never been so much imagination as they are instinct, and he can see no reason why he should wait another twenty years to pursue them. His biggest problem is that he’s a nineteen-year-old Dom with a very specific idea of the kind of sub he needs. But, who would ever take a “kid” like him seriously? For Laurence Dalziel, the BDSM scene hasn’t held any meaning in years. Seeing the same faces, playing the same games leaves him lonely and unfulfilled. What he wants no longer exists, and it just isn’t something he can make himself do anymore. Or, so he thinks, until the most unlikely Dom he’s ever seen (literally) brings him to his knees. As has been the case with everything else I’ve read by this author, I absolutely loved For Real. While it is a BDSM story, and most certainly kinky, it isn’t what I’d call “smutty.” There’s so much emotion and introspection involved throughout the narrative that it’s easy to accept these scenes as the stage for the characters’ self-discovery, rather than the summation of everything that they are. But, other moments with Toby and Laurie carry the same sort of openness and intimacy as well, and they are consistently themselves, regardless of the specific situations they find themselves in. Toby and Laurie are a fascinating pair, not for the most obvious differences between them (age, upbringing, and wealth), but for the things they keep to themselves. Laurie has been openly successful on the accepted path he was supposed to follow. Toby was unsuccessful in living up to others’ expectations, but has made a different life for himself, regardless. What they each love about what they do, however, is far more personal and complex than they think anyone else will ever understand. As is the nature of their sexuality. Theirs is an intriguing tangle, to say the least. A majority of For Real is an unwaveringly forthright exploration of two very specific incarnations of kink. Both Laurie and Toby’s needs are extremely precise and subtle in different ways. Laurie is well aware of the particular melding of things that will give him what he desires, but has given up on ever finding them again. Toby’s efforts, on the other hand, are...
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Jun
16

Review: Midnight Captive by Elle Kennedy

Review: Midnight Captive by Elle Kennedy Midnight Captive Author: Elle Kennedy Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I thought Elle Kennedy’s Killer Instincts series couldn’t get any better. After Morgan & Noelle’s book, I didn’t think *any* hero besides D would do for me. Well, I was wrong. Sean and Bailey LIT UP the pages of Midnight Captive. Full of sexual tension and intense hotness, I don’t even know if I can pick a favorite Hottie McNaughtyBody from Morgan’s crew anymore. Oh, and suspense? I NEVER saw that ending coming. NEV-ER. I really like Bailey. With her own secrets, revealed within the novel, she is the perfect pairing for Sean. I identified with her as a character because she won’t be ‘owned’. And that’s something I’ve learned over time, and hopefully taught my girls. With her strength, Bailey also has a measure of vulnerability, however. Until now, this was one aspect of her that wasn’t seen. Her past collides with her present during the course of Midnight Captive, and tensions run high for a bit there. As she developed as a character, layers were peeled away to reveal the ‘inner Bailey’. During the course of the series, I thought she was unreachable, untouchable, and aloof. And to be totally honest, I had to be convinced she would be able to open up to Sean. Ms. Kennedy fully delivered. I ended up loving the interaction between Sean and Bailey. Between Bailey and the Dagger. And, how she handled herself against the big meanies. But, we knew she was pretty badass already. Take a set of highly intelligent twins. Add in a dash of brilliance, a hint of irreverence, and you’ve got Sean. The way he flies by the seat of his pants is nothing short of impressive. To be honest, Sean grew on me. He tugged at my heartstrings. I thought he was totally crazy. Bottom line? Sean made me fall for him. I became invested in his cause, and wanted his plan to work. I wanted him to be free to be with Bailey, and I didn’t want him hurt. There were so many times a plan could’ve gone south in this book—but Sean managed to rise to the occasion and kept those he loved safe. Sean’s capacity for love was the biggest draw for me, I think. The way he loved his twin so selflessly, how he instinctually wanted to protect Bailey. Even down to his compassion for Rabbit (you’ll find out...
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Jun
16

Review: Do Not Disturb by Stephanie Julian

Review: Do Not Disturb by Stephanie Julian Do Not Disturb Author: Stephanie Julian Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Dane Connelly is obsessed with his best friend’s (Jared “Jed” Golden) fiancée, Annabelle. We originally met this trio in the first book of the series, and three books later we learn that Dane continues to frequently participate in an M-F-M menage with the pair. He loves both Jeb and Annabelle, not romantically but as close friends, and he hasn’t found another woman who interests him like Annabelle. Talia Driscoll is a career-driven event planner, who is organizing Jared and Annabelle’s upcoming nuptials. She is hiding a long-kept secret about her family that no one, not even her closest friends Annabelle, Kate, and Sabrina, know. Whatever it is, it keeps Talia from making close ties to any man. So when she feels an itch for some hot lovin’, she knows playboy Dane will do just fine for a one-night stand. Oh Dane, poor Dane. I immediately fell hard for this sexy man who is emotionally confused and has so much love to give, as he watches all his best friends each find love and pair off. He knows he doesn’t love Annabelle or Jed as more than good friends and is aware that his relationship with them is preventing him from moving on with his own life. Not that he’s looking for any sort of romantic relationship, but with the pair getting married, he recognizes it’s time to move on. I love that he’s so self-aware and confident, making him a three-dimensional character rather than just another rich playboy. Yet when it comes to Talia, he has an edge of uncertainty as he gives her all of himself. It is refreshing to see the male lead putting himself out there without assurances that the female lead will reciprocate. Because the author does such a good job developing Talia’s character as a closely-guarded, self-reliant woman, I didn’t connect as deeply with her as I did with Dane. Tally has valid reasons to keep her secrets, and her fear of any sort of relationship with Dane is well-founded. Knowing how difficult it is for her to let down her guard makes the times she does all the more rewarding. Additionally, knowing that her secrets would eventually have to come out created a level tension to the overall story. I really enjoyed Dane and Tally as a couple. Tally is perfect for Dane and knowing she’s one of...
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