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Feb
12

Listen Up! Alpha & Omega Series, part 1

Listen Up! Alpha & Omega Series, part 1 Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook reviews: Alpha & Omega Series Books 0.5-1 After picking up and blazing through the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs on audiobook, someone encouraged me to listen to the spinoff series, Alpha & Omega. I was more than a little frustrated with the Mercy series (possibly another Listen Up! post), and I was told by a number of people that they, in fact, enjoy Alpha & Omega more than Mercy. After finishing the first two stories, I can whole heartedly agree! Overall, the Alpha & Omega series has a balanced feel, sharing equal time between romance and action, as well as male and female characters. Whereas Mercy is told from the first person point-of-view of the heroine, the Alpha & Omega stories have multiple points-of-view, adding to that sense of balance. Today I’m sharing my reviews of the prequel novella and first book, and be sure to come back next week for my reviews of books 2 and 3. Note: This series can be read independently from the Mercy Thompson series, but the two series are somewhat intertwined. For more information on chronological reading order, please visit Hurog forum website. Due to the building nature of the series, each review may contain spoilers from previous books. Author: Patricia Briggs Narrator: Holter Graham Audio Speed: 1x Series: Alpha & Omega 0.5, 1 Alpha & Omega, Book 0.5 The series opens with this novella, sharing the story of how Charles and Anna meet. For those unfamiliar with the Mercy Thompson world, Charles is her adoptive brother of sorts – the son of Bran, head of all werewolves, the man that helped raise Mercy. This story takes place during the same time as the first Mercy book, Moon Called.Anna is an emotionally and physically abused female werewolf, who didn’t ask to be turned (a big no-no in this world). She knows little about her own kind except darkness and cruelty. When she realizes something isn’t quite right with her pack, she contacts Bran and shares her concerns. Charles is Bran’s second and executioner. He arrives in Chicago to discover what is wrong with the local pack, but finds himself inexplicably drawn to the timid female wolf, Anna. Anna and Charles are special right from the start. There is a huge gap in their experiences, ages, and knowledge, yet the pair click immediately – even through Anna’s fear. What I love is that instead of this being explained away...
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Feb
11

Review: The Merchant of Death by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock

Review: The Merchant of Death by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock The Merchant of Death Author: Lisa Henry + J.A. Rock Rating: A- Reviewer: B. What I’m Talking About: Picking up immediately where Two Gentlemen of Altona ended, The Merchant of Death takes us even deeper into Henry’s world, even though Mac still has plenty to worry about, too. After nearly arriving at a temporary, but seemingly acceptable, understanding about their growing attraction to one another at the end of the previous story, both men were left shaken when Henry was abruptly called away again. By the time they are reunited, along with mutually vehement expressions of “I wish I hated you” borne on a wave of fury and kisses, Mac knows he’s in serious trouble—on several fronts. We’re also introduced to Viola, Henry’s twin sister, and through her, we see the existence that he has made for himself since living on his own after their mother died. It’s not a pleasant picture, as Mac has begun to discover. Though she is now in need of full-time care, Viola is exceptional in her own right, and has a unique way of looking at her life, which is full of complexities she’s not often given credit for navigating as well as she does. Another of my favorite things about The Merchant of Death is that the fire that exists between Mac and Henry is still building, a fact that I was very relieved to see, especially after having caught up on the first book. They’re a particularly riveting couple when Henry is flirting with Mac while wearing a wig and a thin, summery dress. Or, a floral babydoll. Or, black chiffon, come to that. Mac is hilariously dumbfounded quite a bit of the time as a result, but the denial and accompanying inability to help themselves is lovely. Despite both Henry and Mac’s determination for much of the series that they are polar opposites, by the end of The Merchant of Death, they are forced to accept the fact that things aren’t that tidy anymore. As their worlds appear to merge, it seems as if it’s really just the two of them being pushed away from everything they know, and trying to gain some middle ground as they’re caught by one another’s pull. With no safe haven left, traitors all around them, and killers on their trail I’m not sure how they’ll manage to make it through. But, I can’t wait to find out. My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the...
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Feb
11

Review: Two Gentlemen of Altona by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock

Review: Two Gentlemen of Altona by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock Two Gentlemen of Altona Authors: Lisa Henry + J.A. Rock Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I actually read the second story in this series, The Merchant of Death, before going back and reading Two Gentlemen of Altona because I found Henry and Mac’s situation so intriguing that I needed to know more. Taking place during the course of the investigation of a mob boss by the FBI in Indianapolis, Indiana, this is a fast-paced, exciting tale of confusion and attraction, which tend to occur simultaneously, in this case. Additionally, several mysteries emerge during the narrative, including the identity of a mole within the FBI, an ongoing collection of threats against one of the main characters, and the biggest question, who on earth is Henry Page? Henry Page is a con man, but, for him, it’s a matter of survival, and not just his own. With at least three aliases in this story alone, he is keenly observant, lies without really lying, and yet truly seems to enjoy it when he helps others feel better—even though it also makes them easier to manipulate if they like him. While he never means to harm most people, he does what he has to in order to remain free, flawlessly becoming whomever he needs to be to get by. Henry’s self-loathing permeates virtually every scene he’s in, however, and his fear of being trapped by his own truths is an ever-present entity. Ryan “Mac” McGuinness, on the other hand, is awkward and growly, and doesn’t fit in, which he keeps telling himself is just fine. He’s a professional, after all. That he also seems troubled, if not outright resentful, about the fact is a notion that he savagely beats back with an “I don’t care” attitude that fools nobody. Especially Henry. Where Henry is elusive, mysterious, and frustrating, Mac appears to be completely transparent, and Henry’s ability to expose him so quickly and thoroughly makes him feel comically homicidal. Except that he finds Henry so vivid, mesmerizing, and alive that he can’t seem to resist the man. It’s an unaccountably charming situation, at least from my perspective as a reader, and I found Mac’s squirming and conversation-halting outbursts very entertaining. There’s so much going on in Two Gentlemen of Altona that the entire narrative could easily unravel if not for the authors’ adept handling of all the various threads being woven together. Not only is the story suspenseful and romantic, but...
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Feb
9

Review: Heir of the Dog by Hailey Edwards

Review: Heir of the Dog by Hailey Edwards Heir of the Dog Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I don’t know what it is about these Black Dog books. I Eat. Them. Up. With engaging writing, an awesome heroine, and a hint of love story, I’m enthralled each time I open up one of them. I never know which way the story will turn out until the end. Mmmhm. A smidge of suspense and unpredictable story telling. Gotta love it. When I started reading, I thought things were kicking up a notch with Shaw. Um. Not. Thierry finds herself tangled in the politics of Faerie. There’s a new guy on the scene, too. *boggle* New Dude is pretty amazing (yeah. I’m being vague). What I liked the most about him was the way he had an end-game. The whole plot drove toward his purpose. Besides being focused on the future, I liked New Dude because he protected Thierry. Even though things were a bit crazy at the end, New Dude kept things on an even keel. We learned more of Thierry’s dad, too. Which was pretty cool. He is a major player in the politics of Faerie. Unfortunately, he’s MIA and Thierry needs to step in to take his place. What stinks about Thierry having to step in to fill his shoes is that she’s only part fae. With the Hunt to determine the new king of the fae, Thierry is in peril…instead of her dad. My jaw dropped. I had to see how these things turned out, and whether Thierry’s dad showed up. Thierry is still an awesome heroine, though. She stands on her own, and looks out for her mom. She doesn’t need to be taken care of by anyone—not Shaw, not New Dude. Even in extreme danger, Thierry is able to manage and keep a cool head. She even kicks butt throughout the story, stands for her beliefs, and manages to maintain her calm, cool exterior in the face of danger. Seriously, I would have been a weeping mess. The Black Dog series is an awesome read. I love sitting down with one of these titles on a lazy afternoon. They provide me with a great way to hop back into fantasy stories, and I adore the characters. I can’t wait to see what the next two books in the series bring us! My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Faerie teeters on the brink of war and...
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Feb
5

Review: Master of Plagues by E.L. Tettensor

Review: Master of Plagues by E.L. Tettensor Master of Plagues Author: E.L. Tettensor Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una have been on pins and needles, anxiously awaiting Master of Plagues.  Ms. Tettensor did not disappoint!  Though this mystery was a bit different from the first, we still enjoyed the mythology, the world, and the twists and turns of this tightly woven story. The novel opens as a plague is starting to decimate one of the outlying areas of Kennian.  Lenoir and Kody are called in to determine if the epidemic was intentionally caused and if so who might have orchestrated it.  As the clues are slowly uncovered, our heroes find themselves in the sights of the mastermind of it all. Without spoiling the novel, let us just say it was great.  Master of Plagues takes place in the wonderfully gray world of Darkwalker.  This alternate world fascinates us with its combination of different cultures and politics.  Although the paranormal aspect that we loved in the previous novel was absent in this one, we still found it engrossing.  The prejudices that exist between the Adali and Kennians were even more poignant in this story.  The Adali have the ability to cure the plague, but the physicians dismiss their treatment as witchdoctor rubbish.  Watching as Lenoir works to ease the prejudices enough that some cooperation can exist was fascinating. What truly sets off this gray world is the contrast we have between Kody and Zach.  Kody is one of the few people who still sees the world as black or white.  He is young and idealistic – reminding Lenoir of who he once was and will never truly be again.  Zach, on the other hand, can see all of the shades of gray.  His understanding of how the world works allows him to survive and yet still dream of being a hound.  Zach adds the bulk of humor and innocence to this story.  The contrast of Kody and Zach helps to highlight the changes in Lenoir. Upon the conclusion of Darkwalker, we wondered what character growth would manifest in Lenoir as Master of Plagues unraveled.  When Una mentioned to Gikany that Lenoir seemed almost just as he was, her response was, “you were looking for miracles?”  Despite Lenoir appearing almost unaffected by his experiences, there were minute changes that could be easily overlooked.  Without Lenoir’s inner monologue, we would have continued to believe, as those around him do, that he is...
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Jan
28

Review: According to Hoyle by Abigail Roux

Review: According to Hoyle by Abigail Roux According to Hoyle Author: Abigail Roux Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: As soon as I heard talk about some of Ms. Roux’s stories being revised for Riptide Publishing, I decided to hold off on getting the ones I hadn’t already purchased, including According to Hoyle, until available from Riptide. And, while I’m positive I’d have loved it anyway, I’m very glad I did. This book is simply good, all-around fun. It’s got a little bit of everything—suspense, secret government agencies, gunslinging, mayhem, humor, romance, and more—set against the backdrop of the post-Civil War American West. The main characters of According to Hoyle are divided into two pairs: the outlaws and the lawmen. The former, made up of Gabriel “Dusty” Rose and another prisoner initially referred to only as “Cage,” are being escorted to a trial, hanging, or both by US Marshals. The Marshals, Eli Flynn and William Henry Washington, have seen more than a few battles together and know one another better than anyone else ever could. Beyond that, it would ruin too much of the enjoyment of learning about them to elaborate more on the different personalities in play, except to say that Flynn’s repeated bouts of irritation were some of my favorite moments in the story. Of course, everybody seems to like it when Flynn gets flustered, so I felt that I was in good company. In addition to creating a unique and often endearing assemblage of main characters, Ms. Roux has fashioned an inventive and suspenseful narrative, as well. At least two key machinations (one overtly referred to, one only hinted at) are in play from the beginning of According to Hoyle, and letting them unfold as they do makes this a truly clever piece of storytelling. Little nuggets of information perpetually emerge from scene to scene, constantly sifting their way through other layers to either address existing questions or create new ones. The answers are always just out of reach, and, even with a few moments of additional insight, the plot wasn’t at all obvious, especially during the first reading (I read it twice). Another thing According to Hoyle has in its favor is the subtle (and not-so-subtle) romantic elements that are present throughout the story, softening the roughest edges in all the right places. There is a quick familiarity between some of the characters that works extremely well in this case, given that the nature of the environment and situation these...
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Jan
26

Review + Giveaway: In His Keeping by Maya Banks

Review + Giveaway: In His Keeping by Maya Banks In His Keeping Author: Maya Banks Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I ate up this book. Literally. I would have read it in one sitting, if I’d had the time. That’s usually the case with Maya Banks’s titles, though. Especially the Slow Burn series. In His Keeping was no exception. Take a little Alpha male, a damsel-in-distress, some paranormal abilities, a dash of kidnapping and you’ve got the wild roller coaster that was In His Keeping. The action kept me riveted to this title, and looking forward to the next title in the series. What drew me into the story was the love that Ginger and Gavin had for Ariana. The lengths that they would go to, in order to protect their daughter. I think that the exploration of how much Ari was wanted pulled at my mom-heartstrings, and kicked in my mom-instincts as I read. It was pretty cool that Ginger and Gavin played a pretty significant role in the story, too. Ariana is super naïve when the story starts. She knows she has telekinesis, but she’s had to hide this aspect of herself for her entire life. Only her parents knew. Her over-protective parents. She’d never used her ‘gift’ purposely. She’d always been careful, so she wouldn’t be discovered. With an event that happened to bring her powers into the public eye, Gavin and Ginger do what parents do best: protect their kids. Only, things don’t go quite as planned. In the end, Ari ends up being totally kick-ass. I want her on my team. Beau. Broody, Alpha, and in control. He comes into Ari’s life at a time when she needs a protector, and someone to help her make sense of all the chaos that surrounds her. Ultimately, what I liked most about Beau is that he wasn’t afraid to let his emotions show with regard to Ari. And it was totally out-of-character for him. This tough guy, the one who is all ‘protect and serve’, is brought to his knees by a slip of a woman that has wormed her way into his heart. His worry about her is intense, and made my own gut churn with concern. What I liked most about In His Keeping was that differences were celebrated. Ari wasn’t deemed as damaged and didn’t need ‘fixing’. She was believed in and not viewed as a ‘freak’ because of her gift. The fact that she eventually embraced her gift...
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Jan
21

Review: Tales from the Nightside by Simon R. Green

Review: Tales from the Nightside by Simon R. Green Tales from the Nightside Author: Simon R. Green Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: This was a real treat to read. Tales from the Nightside is a must read for any fans of the Nightside series. For those unfamiliar with the series, you may enjoy the book, but the stories within Tales from the Nightside contain spoilers for the series…you’ve been warned. Una and Gikany are fans of Simon Green’s work. We enjoy both the Secret History and Ghostfinders series.  We discovered him after his completion of the Nightside series.  Gikany picked up the series and read them all because she was intrigued by the reference to them in the Secret History series.  Una has them on her TBR list but hasn’t been able to start them yet.  Therefore we can offer a pretty good overall review of this bonus anthology. Gikany thoroughly enjoyed Tales from the Nightside.  It not only gave background to some of the side characters, but also resolved some mysteries in the overall series.  She enjoyed having the holes filled in.  Through this collection of short stories, Green answered some of those questions while also telling stories about minor characters that made only cameos in the occasional Nightside novel. Una enjoyed the stories as well.  However, she could tell that she was missing information.  Though they work well as standalone stories, she felt she was truly missing the depth of revelations that some of the stories gave.  In fact, she was confused on a couple characters, wondering if they were the same person or not (they weren’t).  She also had a few, “what?!?” moments as her lack of familiarity with the series prevented her from understanding why certain characters were the way they were.  The relationships between some of the characters were lost on her, as was the importance of others.  Luckily for Una, she’ll soon forget all that she learned through these tales and will blissfully start on the series so she can return to this anthology at a later date and truly enjoy it for what it is. Tales from the Nightside whetted Una’s appetite for reading the series while giving Gikany the cherry on top for finishing it.  If you haven’t ventured into the Nightside, you really should.  Make sure to read the series from the beginning otherwise you may miss out on a well-crafted series. Our Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Welcome to the...
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Jan
20

Review: Soul Enslaved by Keri Lake

Review: Soul Enslaved by Keri Lake Soul Enslaved Author: Keri Lake Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I like to come up with hashtags for Keri Lake’s books. This was #GlommingGavin. I fell in love with this Son of Wrath in the first book of this series. His measured control. His compassion. All the little things that make me, as a reader, compelled to finish a book. At the loss of sleep. In lieu of meals. Hoping for a few minutes of ‘wait time’ so I could open up the Kindle app and read even a few more lines. First things first. This is a supremely dark paranormal urban fantasy erotic romance. Ms. Lake warns her readers at the beginning that this is a story that may be difficult for those that are expecting a baby or those that have suffered a loss to read. *nods sagely* Listen to the woman. Be ready for it, and be somewhere it’s okay to ugly-cry. The middle of the couch, with Mr. VampBard wrapped around me, was perfect. I think I made enough highlights and notes to write my entire review in quotes. The dialogue and narration was engaging, and there was humor in all the right places. Snarky humor, oftentimes. With all the awesome supporting characters, we get to know our main couple, Sabelle and Gavin, better. Their interactions with one another as well as with each other solidifies their ‘coupleness’ for the reader. Even though they fight their bond for a hot minute, it’s one of those ‘I don’t deserve you’ things. In the beginning of the story, Gavin was in Obsidius being tortured. However, Sabelle is taking on a risky mission to protect those she loves. Her Divine Matron (I think of her as a fairy godmother), Nola, pulls Gavin from his confines by calling in a debt owed to Sabelle (see Logan’s book). Nola wants Gavin to protect her. So, basically Gavin is dropped on Sabelle’s doorstep, still healing from the ‘ministrations’ from his captors in Obsidius. Sabelle says: “You can’t just drop him on my front porch, in the middle of the afternoon … like he’s some package I ordered from Male Depot…” Thing is, Sabelle is resisting her succubus side. With two kids—these adorable twins, Thomas & Janie—she is SUCH a momma bear it’s not even funny. I liked watching Sabelle evolve and change. Starting off as a serious hard-ass, not letting anyone in to her bubble, she began to...
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Jan
20

Review: Dead Simple by Shirley Wells

Review: Dead Simple by Shirley Wells Dead Simple Author: Shirley Wells Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Dead Simple is the last Dylan Scott Mystery, which saddens me greatly. So it is appropriate that for his final tale, Dylan heads back to Dawson’s Clough, where the series and his career as a private investigator began. He’s decided to find out who killed Stevie Greenwood, a simple-minded local who helped Dylan solve his first case. He’s doing this one out of personal motivation, driven to fill the huge void in his life left by the sudden death of his beloved wife, Bev. Dylan is a different man than he was those few years ago. He’s aged, matured, and grown a bit wiser. This is reflected in how he views Dawson’s Clough; seeing changes in the town or noticing bits and pieces he hasn’t before. Ever the astute investigator, Dylan finds a way to get the information he needs to solve his case. And this time around, he’s even willing to break a few laws to give Stevie’s memory some justice (and work out his own demons). As always, Ms. Wells creates a complex, fact-driven, detail-filled world that captivates me from the get go. Building the case from the first words on the page, she never shares extraneous information, but certainly can lead readers astray. And while it is Dylan’s tale, the story is told from multiple perspectives, which not only gives the reader a better sense of the grand picture, but creates more than one suspect and motive for the crimes. While searching for the truth about poor Stevie’s demise, Dylan stumbles onto a couple other crimes in progress – ones that even the police don’t know about. I enjoyed the multiple storylines, especially how the author ties them together rather than forces each one to stand alone. And I love reading Dylan’s train of thought – how he puts together pieces of the puzzle so logically. It’s both thrilling and nerve-wracking to see where his ideas take him. One of the best aspects in each Dylan Scott mystery is the intermixing of Dylan’s personal life with the overall story. Over the course of eight books, I’ve come to know Dylan and his family, his hopes and dreams, his fears and vices. In the previous book, Ms. Wells tossed a major curveball into Dylan’s life with the death of his wife. Left to raise his children and move on through his grief, Dylan...
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