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Jan
7

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Bound Series

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Bound Series Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Bound Series Titles: London Bound (#1) & Drawn That Way (#2) Authors: Jessica Jarman (#1) & Bronwyn Green (#2) Narrator: Tatiana Sokolov Audio Speed: 1x Series: Bound #1 & #2 Genre: Contemporary Romance Audiobook Source: Authors When I discovered that the authors of one of my favorite series, Bound by Jessica Jarman and Bronwyn Green, published the first two books in audiobook format, I think I squealed out loud for a bit. Would I like the opportunity to review them? Hell yes! Before I get into the audio/narration part of the review, I want to state that I strongly enjoyed both books the first time around. Much of what I wrote in my original reviews of both London Bound and Drawn That Way still holds true, and I’ll summarize my thoughts on both stories as taken from my original reviews. London Bound: Overall, I found London Bound an entertaining, steamy erotic romance. While Nathan is a bit perfect, Meg is wonderfully real, creating a beautiful equilibrium. They share some intense and beautiful moments, carrying me away in their mutual affections. I needed things to work out for the couple because they make such a good match. I liked that they didn’t have a completely easy road, and it took some time to make it work. The D/s relationship and love affair are nearly perfect, and sometimes enjoying an ideal romance is just what a tired soul needs to getaway for a while. Drawn That Way: I absolutely adored Drawn That Way! Rory and Tristan make a wonderful pair, and their chemistry is palpable. I was emotionally connected to each character right from the get go; able to relate in some way or another to both. Watching each let go of their hangups and worries as they give into their mutual lust is satisfying. I also appreciated that the author addresses the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, which is a serious issue in today’s society. Overall, I totally loved Drawn That Way. While the story isn’t overly complex, it is emotionally satisfying. The characters are completely likable and grow enough to make the book fulfilling. The eroticism is equally emotional as it is sexual. As for specifics to the audiobook versions: One thing I noticed about listening to the books – I didn’t realize how much sex was in both books until listening! The first book in the series, London...
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Jan
5

Review + Excerpt: Headed for Trouble by Shiloh Walker

Review + Excerpt: Headed for Trouble by Shiloh Walker Headed for Trouble Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Shiloh Walker. I should know better than to read one of her books and expect a casual read. Call me Holiday Impaired, or whatever, but I picked up Headed for Trouble expecting to sit down and read for a while, you know, before I started doing what I needed to accomplish for the day. Nope. DEVOURED IT. Good thing I didn’t have anything super important on the schedule, because I’m pretty sure I would’ve been that girl who canceled plans because she needed to sit on her couch, wrapped in a blanket, finishing a phenomenal book. I’m not sure how Ms. Walker does it; she manages to find a way to really connect with me at least once a year. I’m pretty sure Headed for Trouble is that book for 2016. In 2013, it was Beautiful Scars and Wrecked. 2014 brought Razed, and 2015’s book was Busted. And, I’m not sure exactly how to write this review without spoiling the intense plot. But I’m going to try. I really liked all the characters in Headed for Trouble, the first title in Walker’s new McKays series. Brannan and Moira McKay, Gideon, Hannah—I’m pretty sure readers have been set-up for the entire series with these intense and relatable characters. I’m also pretty sure we know who hooks up with whom, as well ☺ I like going into a series with predictions, and I trust Ms. Walker to take me on a rollercoaster until they reach their happily ever after. Brannan and Moira are Neve’s siblings, and play a major role in this title. I think we learned a lot about their personalities—especially Brannan—and have a great foundation for the development of future titles in the series. Gideon and Hannah are great characters, and support a host of purposes in Headed for Trouble, besides setting up future titles. Ian, one of our main characters, is a Scot in a kilt with a brogue. Panty. Melting. I think I fell so hard for him as a hero because he reminds me a lot of Mr. VampBard. He’s supportive, and he listens to Neve. He reads her body language. Most of all, I think I really connected with him because he didn’t let her wallow in a pool of self-pity. He made her want to be a better person, and I think everyone involved—especially her family—saw that as a good...
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Jan
5

Review: The Mistake by Elle Kennedy

Review: The Mistake by Elle Kennedy The Mistake Author: Elle Kennedy Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Elle Kennedy did it again.  The Mistake, second installment in her Off-Campus series, is every bit as successful and enjoyable as The Deal.  The Mistake brings us the romance of John Logan, Garrett Graham’s best friend and teammate. Logan has a crush on Garrett’s new girlfriend Hannah from The Deal and more and more, he just has to stay away or else find himself fantasizing about a woman he can’t have.  He must find a way to move on without losing his best friend or drive himself insane.  To cope, he parties excessively and sleeps with almost anyone who offers.  While The Mistake is a stand-alone, being book two in the series makes it clear that Kennedy’s mastered the art of the Meet-Cute. Enter Grace Ivers. Logan meets Grace when he’s in search of a party and remembers the address incorrectly, instead ending up at Grace’s dorm room door. “Why would I? Seriously, what guy turns down Die Hard? The only thing that could sweeten this deal is if you offered me some booze.” “I don’t have any.” She stops to think. “But I’ve got a whole bag of gummy bears hidden in my desk drawer.” “Marry me,” I say instantly. Their meeting is awkward, cute, and completely out of character for Grace—or is it?  Grace doesn’t give herself enough credit. She’s nervous, has OCD tendencies, and has been under the thumb of her best friend since elementary school. She portrays herself as shy and cautious, but she’s also her mother’s daughter.  Everything she does suggests a strong, adventurous will is lurking underneath. Logan, in his confused state, sees it immediately and then seeks to exploit it which as you might imagine, ends disastrously for everyone.  With good cause, Logan wants to fix what he broke and sets out to win Grace over with a tenacity that rivals a dog with a bone.  He simply will not give up.  After months of ignoring him, Grace finally agrees to a date IF he can complete a nearly impossible list of tasks. I didn’t want to like this book as much as I did.  Too many F-bombs, too much focus on sex, but that list…THAT LIST!  That list was genius.  I loved watching Grace take back her identity and dignity.  Too many college freshmen girls give away too much of themselves for a variety of really bad reasons,...
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Jan
4

Review: What You Need by Lorelei James

Review: What You Need by Lorelei James What You Need Author: Lorelei James Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: What You Need is the first title in Ms. James’ new contemporary romance series which focuses on the Lunds, a highly successful and very wealthy, multi-generational family. Brady Lund, workaholic CFO for their multibillion dollar corporation, is crazy for the beautiful woman he’s seen from afar in the halls of Lund Industries. After ten months of watching her without approaching her, he’s finally put in a situation to meet Lennox. Lennox loves her job as a floating admin for Lund Industries, but she feels conflicted. There is also the tattooed and pierced part of her that misses her blue collar friends, but she does not miss being around her neglectful mother. When she starts to realize that there may be more to Brady than meets the eye, she decides to give him a chance. What You Need is an extremely enjoyable, easy-going romance. Although there are the occasional misunderstandings that made me want to scream, the author is quick to address them rather than allow problems to linger. Kudos to that! The romance between Brady and Lennox is pretty smooth sailing and filled with passionate flames. With its Pretty Woman vibes, the story focuses on breaking down stereotypes and learning to love oneself, as well as others. Brady and Lennox make the perfect “opposites attract” couple. I admire that they are put into situations which allow each to see the other as more than a co-worker from the office.Not that their work personas aren’t real, but rather each character is a complex, multi-faceted individual that doesn’t fit neatly into a stereotype. I adore Brady’s geekiness and lack of confidence. I love that Lennox isn’t sure of exactly where she fits in. They are giddy and cute. And what makes the story work is how honest they really are with one another. It helps them learn more about themselves. Overall, What You Need is a sexy, joyful romance with easily likable characters. While the story is somewhat idyllic, it’s okay and even enjoyable to escape into Brady and Lennox’s happiness. What You Need is the perfect story to read all cuddled up on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter day. It warmed me up from the inside out. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: As the CFO of Lund Industries, Brady Lund is the poster child...
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Dec
29

Review: The Deal by Elle Kennedy

Review: The Deal by Elle Kennedy The Deal Author: Elle Kennedy Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Please ignore the cheesy book description—seriously.  The Deal has all the hallmarks of a typical contemporary romance (i.e. insanely fit and beautiful people, wealth, talent, and unreasonably intense sexual chemistry,) but none of the cheese.  This is actually a really good read. In a surprising move for the first book in a romance series, Kennedy tackles some significant and heavy topics relating to rape and abuse.  She works with her characters to move through and dump emotional baggage in a believable way without weighing down the readers responses.  When you get to the end, you’ve been on a ride, but it is one you are compelled to complete. Best of all, it does it with wit. I appreciated so much that the writing is tight, the pacing is good, without ever making me feel like I like I was missing anything.  We get a happy ending with no loose ends.  Rather than being thick with subplots, Kennedy takes the approach of using first person, but flipping back and forth between the two main characters in a “He Said, She Said” kind of format. As the reader, we get to be in both their heads as they figure out how to go from being singles to being a couple, especially when one of them has zero interest in relationships. Check out this quote: I have to say, this is the first time a girl’s been worried about getting caught in my bedroom. Normally they strut out like they’ve just bagged Brad Pitt. Hannah takes a breath. “We studied. We watched TV. I went home late. That’s what happened. Got it?” I fight back laughter. “As you wish.”  “Did you really just Princess Bride me?” “Did you really just use Princess Bride as a verb?” Garrett and Hannah are sarcastic, funny, sexy, and entirely believable while still being unrealistically talented and good looking. Kennedy makes it work.  They shouldn’t have met, they shouldn’t be together, but they are perfect for each other. I bought the whole package.  I could nitpick over a slightly anti-climactic ending, but it’s not worth it.  The over feeling of the story is upbeat and worth my time. To emphasize my point, I reread the book immediately.  I almost never reread contemporary books. Then I bought the next one in the Off-Campus series, The Mistake, which focuses on John Logan, Garrett’s teammate and best...
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Dec
28

Review: Sunset Park by Santino Hassell

Review: Sunset Park by Santino Hassell Sunset Park Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: 3/10/2018 Edited to Add: Please note, this review was written and posted prior to the occurrences brought to light in recent days (https://goo.gl/Y7WB7F). The book was read and reviewed in good faith and as presented at the time. The posting of this review in no way condones the actions of author. ======== It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve been waiting for Sunset Park since I turned the last page of the inaugural novel of the Five Boroughs series, Sutphin Boulevard. The latter marked the beginning of what has, so far, been an outstanding couple of stories, and I was thrilled when the sequel not only lived up to my expectations, but blew them out of the water entirely. Raymond and David may have carved out a place for themselves in the first story, but in Sunset Park, they handily and conclusively outshone everyone else around them. Of the two main characters in this story, David continued to be the more difficult for me to become attached to, even though I already liked him a great deal by the end of Sutphin Boulevard. That isn’t to say that I never grew to love him, because I absolutely did, just that putting a lot of faith in David seemed to be a shaky prospect at times—which is ironic, given some of his actions and comments throughout the story. But, that’s not a bad thing, either, since the result was decidedly sweet. Choosing between stability and being happy is a gamble, and, having been hurt by “questioning” guys before, David likes to hedge his bets by eliminating as many unknowns as he can. I did think that David’s ex-boyfriend, Caleb, got this much right when he says: “and now you are trying to find rational motivation for an irrational action.” Regardless, there seems to be a big difference between David as an observer and David as a participant, and he’s overwhelmingly hyperopic when it comes to himself. Raymond, on the other hand, won me over from the very beginning. He is straightforward, thoughtful, proud, and far more capable than he’s given credit for. What you see is what you get with him, for those who bother to look without their own pre-defined filters, anyway—which most people seem averse to doing. His acceptance of the immediate status of a situation is often taken for indifference, leading to a...
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Dec
23

Review + Blog Tour: Part & Parcel by Abigail Roux

Review + Blog Tour: Part & Parcel by Abigail Roux Part & Parcel Author: Abigail Roux Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: After months of concern over so many beloved characters, and successfully avoiding all of the spoilers I possibly could, I was very pleased to discover that Part & Parcel ended up being even more wonderful than I had anticipated. Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott have been favorites of mine for ages, and the introduction of the Sidewinder stories helped ease the distress that accompanied the ending of the Cut & Run series, which I have always loved tremendously. Kelly and Nick are absolutely perfect for each other, and, while I’ve always wanted them to be happy, there was never any doubt that their path would be a difficult one. Though it is told primarily from Nick and Kelly’s perspectives, Part & Parcel is inarguably an ensemble effort. All of the surviving members of Sidewinder (and Zane) share a good amount of screen time once their (literal) journey begins—a facet of the novel that was welcome after having just said goodbye to them after Crash & Burn earlier this year. Zane, in particular, even shares narrating duties, which proved to be a very effective way of making me feel like a participant in the narrative, not merely an observer. One of the things that makes Part & Parcel unique is the combination of flashbacks and shifting narrators, along with the humor and answering sweetness and melancholy inspired by Elias Sanchez’s missives, that make up the entirety of the story. The team’s memories and Eli’s own words comfortably fade back and forth from one to the other, effectively transforming the ghost of a man who’s haunted these characters since Cut & Run into a real person within Part & Parcel’s pages. The result is that the audience is able to get to know Elias Sanchez over the course of the team’s journey, just as Zane, who is the “outsider” of the group, does. Ms. Roux is notorious for torturing her characters, and she does an especially thorough job of it in Part & Parcel. Nick and Kelly have been together long enough at this point that the issues they haven’t dealt with yet become a serious problem over the course of the story. Every single one of these men have a lot of lingering darkness from their time in service, as well as many events that followed, but poor Nick is positively drowning in it. On the...
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Dec
21

Review: Stuck Landing by Lauren Gallagher

Review: Stuck Landing by Lauren Gallagher Stuck Landing Author: Lauren Gallagher Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: After the long, painful dissolution of her previous relationship, Anna Maxwell isn’t in a hurry to jump into any new attachments, much less with anyone involved with Wolf’s Landing. But, when the tough, gorgeous stunt coordinator Anna has had a crush on for months suddenly breaks up with her boyfriend and makes it clear that she’s more than willing to help work off their mutual frustrations in bed, Anna sees no reason not to take her up on the offer. Even though Anna’s determined not to fall for a bisexual woman again, Natalya Izmaylova seems to be everything Anna has ever wanted in a partner. And while walking away should be easy, Anna is quickly learning that it most certainly is not. Told exclusively from Anna’s perspective, Stuck Landing follows the developing relationship between two wonderfully tenacious, extremely capable women who are perfect together—if they don’t self-destruct along the way. One thing I was especially pleased about is that both women are so open about what they want sexually. Anna and Natalya like and want sex, and it was nice to see that out there so matter-of-factly. Regardless, the chemistry between them is so obvious and undeniable that every scene they have together practically vibrates with it, whether they’re having sex or not. I was glad, but not at all surprised, to see biphobia addressed so unapologetically in the Bluewater Bay series, and by this author, in particular. As has been the case with just about every other story I’ve read in this collection, the stumbling blocks Natalya and Anna face seemed real, and were far from easily overcome. Biphobia is a serious problem that doesn’t get enough attention in literature, in my opinion, but Ms. Gallagher dissects the issue both thoughtfully as well as candidly, and I appreciated both very much. Once again, the Bluewater Bay series has proven that beautifully written, thought-provoking fiction is alive and well. Stuck Landing is frank and occasionally harsh, yet manages to be evocative and incredibly sweet in places, too. Ms. Gallagher has repeatedly demonstrated that she is an impressive storyteller, and makes quite a few good points here in a relatively short narrative. Although it can be read as a standalone, I recommend reading all of the Bluewater Bay stories, since each is unique, yet often interconnected. The entire series has a lot to offer, and is one...
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Dec
16

Review: Clockwork Samurai by Jeannie Lin

Review: Clockwork Samurai by Jeannie Lin Clockwork Samurai Author: Jeannie Lin Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I have waited for the sequel to Gunpowder Alchemy, the novel ended with so many questions.  Suffice to say, Clockwork Samurai does not disappoint, though I will say the plot thickens. At the conclusion of the previous novel I was left with a few questions.  What will happen between Chang-wei and Jin?  Will they be able to quell the rebels?  Will they be able to stop the British invasion?  Though none of these issues are resolved, each plot thread does progress.  The plight of Jin’s country is gripping – made more so by the issue of a source of opium that is deadly upon first use.  However it seems to not be of a concern of the powers that be – especially as Jin discovers that the Emperor is indulging in it. Jin has been promoted to a palace physician.  Though it seems like a noble post, one that allows her to give her mother and brother a better life, it is not without disadvantages. Though she is the physician in charge of the Emperor’s concubines, there still seems to be political minefields in this position.  Not to mention working in the palace means she could catch the Emperor’s eye, something Jin does not desire.  Due to fears that the Emperor is intrigued by Jin, she asks for a reassignment.  However, be careful what you ask for, her reassignment puts her back in a new adventure with Chang-wei – one that they may not return from.  The journey to Japan in hopes to make an alliance was a nail-biting journey.  The depiction of the county, the culture, and the introduction of new characters was enchanting.  Though it doesn’t go smoothly, it was a fascinating journey. I enjoyed the continuing romance of Chang-wei and Jin.  Though it is obvious they desire each other, something holds Chang-wei back.  Though it is not entirely clear to Jin, she can tell that they have a strong connection and desire for each other.  Yet, because of their positions and the turmoil, they seem unable to explore it.  This romance is well woven into the rest of the story and the balance continues to be well done.  I hope that they will find a way to be with each other.  It seems that they are well suited. The journey to Japan was utterly fascinating.  Though nothing seems to go as planned (or...
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Dec
7

Review: Stranded by HelenKay Dimon

Review: Stranded by HelenKay Dimon Stranded Author: HelenKay Dimon Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: As a trained assassin, Kyle Cabe thought he knew a thing or two about betrayal. But, getting shot and left for dead by the man he should have been able to trust more than anyone else took that awareness to an entirely different level. Now, Cabe’s ready to forget the past and start over, or so he tells himself—as soon as he finishes this one last job. Too bad his heart isn’t so easily convinced. Brax Hughes had always known that his plan to save Cabe during his last assignment would cost him dearly, but he’d never given up on trying to win him back. After all, it had been for Cabe’s own good, right? But, lies are still lies, regardless of how well-intentioned they may be, and sometimes telling the truth just isn’t enough to undo the damage. From the beginning, this story wasn’t at all what I expected. Though I was able to finish it in a single day, Stranded had a lot of twists and turns, which made it a real pleasure to read. With a cast of characters composed entirely of highly skilled, often duplicitous assassins, it certainly isn’t your average romance. Of the two main characters, Cabe won me over almost instantly. Wounded inside and out, he’s got a lot of threads to untangle, and even more bad memories to contend with. And that’s before he’s faced with an entirely different version of the reality he’s been living with for nearly a year. Hot-tempered, but extremely adept, Cabe’s loneliness is an undeniable presence throughout the narrative, and I couldn’t help wanting him to be happy. While he does technically owe his life to the apparent treachery of his former lover, I felt that his anger was well justified. Alternatively, I found Brax to be as frustrating as he is lovable, which is actually quite a bit. As the architect of the event that still haunts them both, he’s got all the answers, and the control, making every desperation-induced misstep he takes all the more painful. I thought Brax’s perspective on his faith and profession was an especially interesting facet of his character, and liked him even more for it. Although I did find his conviction in the rightness of his actions, as well as his unwavering love for Cabe, endearing, I could also understand Cabe’s recurring desire to punch him. Regardless of...
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