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Jul
24

Review: Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

Review: Wildfire by Ilona Andrews Wildfire Author: Ilona Andrews Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Wildfire opens immediately after the conclusion of the previous book, White Hot. Rogan and Nevada return from their mini-vacation to tell her family about Victoria Tremaine trying to buy out their company. However, when Rogan and Nevada arrive, Rynda Charles, Rogan’s ex-fiancee (arranged marriage when he was three) and daughter of Olivia Charles (the baddie from book 2) is waiting for the pair. Her husband is missing, and no one will help her because of her mother’s disgrace. Nevada takes the case, starting the next round in the ongoing war with the unknown group of Primes looking to cause chaos in Houston. This book is not a standalone and should only be read following the first two books in the series. While billed as a romance, Wildfire is much, much more, and I would argue that the romance is not the primary aspect of the book and series (which is why I label it urban fantasy). With that said, the relationship of Rogan and Nevada continues to evolve, intensify, and mature. I adore their journey. Individually, each is learning how to adjust their own behaviors to better fit as a couple, while simultaneously working to accept the other’s idiosyncrasies and persona. I LOVE how they take turns helping each other get past emotionally difficult places. This time around, Rogan lets Nevada rage and then tells her he loves her and together they will make it. Other times she’s doing the same for him. It goes far to create such three-dimensional, likable characters. There are three major, overarching storylines which are furthered during the telling of Wildfire. First, we finally meet and learn much more about Nevada’s paternal grandmother, Victoria. The authors wow’d me with this character who appears to be both bad and good. I felt like I was on a roller coaster as Nevada experiences a range of emotions, learning more about Victoria. Closely related this is Nevada and the Baylor family’s decision to become a House. The motivation behind the move is protection from Victoria, and as we learn more about her, I can see why this course of action, no matter the risks, is probably for the best. I was so worried during the entire process that something would go wrong – whether intentionally or coincidentally, and without giving spoilers, I will say, the entire journey was well-written and thrilling. Additionally, Nevada and Rogan...
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Jul
24

Review + Giveaway: When I Need You by Lorelei James

Review + Giveaway: When I Need You by Lorelei James When I Need You Author: Lorelei James Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Life for Rowan Michaels has always been fairly straightforward: first comes her son and second her career. There isn’t room for anything or anyone outside her family. Yet, befriending Jensen Lund makes her realize she is missing something in her life, and he could be the perfect fit. Breaking down walls can be scary, but Jensen may be worth it. Coming off a near-career-ending injury, Viking’s starter Jensen Lund has a new outlook on life, one that involves interests after his football days are over. So even though Rowan Michaels breaks all of his rules for dating, Jensen recognizes she, and her son, are special enough to break the rules. When I Need You is another wonderful love story in the Need You series. Lorelei James knows how to capture my heart; her characters are honest, caring, wonderful people who love with their whole being. Jensen and Rowan may not believe they are the perfect fit for one another because of self-imposed rules and rocky histories, but Ms. James shows readers how they are actually two halves of a whole. While I love pretty much every aspect of When I Need You, it is the fact that Ms. James creates a strong bond of friendship between Rowan and Jensen and then grows the romance slowly, that gives their story a solid foundation. I loved that external factors aren’t used to create conflict. It would have been so easy to use Jensen’s past, his fame, the no fraternization rule, or any number of other issues to drive a wedge between the pair. Yet instead, the author gives her characters inner-strength and integrity to examine their own choices and life decisions, then make the changes necessary to be happy. Both Jensen and Rowan are kind, giving, caring people, and the author uses this to bolster their romance, rather than take advantage of it to cause problems. When I Need You focuses on Rowan and Jensen’s romance. Shared in first person, alternating POVs, there is little room to develop an external plot; however, the author does sew seeds for future couples and books. I found that I enjoyed remaining focused on the couple, seeing all aspects of their fledging romance, understanding their fears and concerns, and applauding their courage to open up with honest, heartfelt dialogue. It drew me in and kept me glued to the pages...
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Jul
19

Review: Pieces of Me by Shiloh Walker

Review: Pieces of Me by Shiloh Walker Pieces of Me Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Pieces of Me is a book about survival, first and foremost. Well, to me, anyway. Shadow Harper is living with the hell her ex created, and she’s learning to move past it—using whatever coping strategies she needs to use. Readers need to know that there’s a lot of domestic abuse and emotional abuse flashbacks in this book, and it isn’t for the feint-hearted. I was really conflicted and made to think while reading this title, however. I think that Shadow did herself a solid—so readers will see a survivor. What I wasn’t so keen on was how it seemed like she let Jenks in pretty fast, but I could overlook that in the name of the ‘leap of faith’ I try to use when reading. I thought a lot, that’s for sure. I’m not even really sure her relationship with Jenks is important enough to legit be on the table. It’s the act of trusting again and finding balance that was important, in my opinion. I struggled with the ending—things aren’t tied up in a neat little bow. I wonder if Ms. Walker is going to give us another title in this universe. There’s enough room for that to happen. As is customary when I review a romantic suspense, I can’t write a lot in my review without spoilers, so I don’t. Just know this is an important story, and one that needs to be told. I was riveted to the page from beginning to end—in typical Shiloh Walker style. My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Obsession can be deadly…  Nobody knows that better than Shadow Harper. It seemed like a dream come true when a rich, suave older man noticed her during her second year of college. Stefan Stockman seemed to love her obsessively. He came into her life and swept her off her feet, seduced her, married her…and then slowly, eventually, that dream come true became a living nightmare. Now, three years after she finally escaped him, she’s trying to put her life back together. Haunted by memories, struggling with post-traumatic stress, she spends most of her time locked away in her home on Pawley’s Island, a small town on the South Carolina coast. Her rare moments of joy come from her trips to the nearby beach. She compulsively checks the locks on her doors, makes sure she has her cell...
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Jul
13

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: A Familiar Tail by Delia James

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: A Familiar Tail by Delia James Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Reviews: Witch’s Cat Mysteries A Familiar Tail Author: Delia James Narrator: Elise Arsenault Audio Listening Speed: Series: Witch’s Cat Mystery #1 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Cozy Mystery Source: Tantor Audio I am delighted that I picked up this audiobook, A Familiar Tail.  On a whim, I thought I would enjoy a story that blends mystery with magic.  Overall I really enjoyed both the story and the narration and can’t wait to listen to the next Witch’s Cat Mystery. Though the story was a tad sluggish in starting because Anna was slow in getting into the magical pool, I enjoyed learning along with Anna about Portsmouth and especially the local witches’ coven.  What first began with Anna going to visit a friend for a little bit, turns into a huge life changing event.  Anna was a mostly carefree spirit, able live her gypsy-esque life as an artist while hiding her vibe ability.  Until this fateful visit, when she discovers her family’s roots, a persistent cat, and a murder mystery only it seems she can solve.  It seems Anna is descended from a magical family, and this vibe (her ability to perceive events that occurred or will occur in a particular space) is a gift of heritage. I really enjoyed the detective bumbling of Anna as she tried to figure out who killed the local witch.  Though it was somewhat easy to figure out the “who,” the motive was elusive until the end.  I did really enjoy how Anna thoughtfully progressed through her investigation.  The plot was gripping, and I found it difficult to stop listening.  I also enjoyed that this was an audiobook I could listen to while in the car taking kids to school.  It’s akin to watching my beloved Hallmark Murder and Mysteries, nothing graphic or too mature for little ones to see or hear.  In fact, my son enjoyed asking questions about Alastair the cat. The coven members and Anna’s friend, Martine, are all wonderful supporting characters.  Each seems unique and added their own energy and support to Anna’s investigation and new found roots.  But Alastair, the cat, was my favorite supporting character.  Though he cannot talk, I really enjoyed how he communicated with everyone, especially Anna.  Ms. Arsenault did a fabulous job in portraying Alastair’s personality and communicative skills. Speaking of the narration, I did like Ms. Arsenault’s performance. Though some voices blended a bit, making it...
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Jul
12

Review + Blog Tour: All Wheel Drive by Z.A. Maxfield

Review + Blog Tour: All Wheel Drive by Z.A. Maxfield All Wheel Drive Author: Z.A. Maxfield Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Diego Luz had a plan of his own before an accident caused a spinal injury that cost him the use of his legs. Losing his vibrant, wild, beautiful mother shortly afterward was too much for him to take. Relocating to Bluewater Bay was the perfect way for him to start over—and hide from his mother’s legacy. At least, until a haggard, broken survivor shows up on his doorstep looking for some shelter of his own. Born a genius who always knew the direction his life would likely take, Healey Holly wasn’t prepared for the day that script would be utterly destroyed. Now, hurt and lost, he’s struggling to get back to a place where things make sense, even though his “home” belongs to someone else. But, some families are just as good without a permanent zip code, and even a heart that’s been shattered can love again. As should be expected from this series by now, All Wheel Drive left me with a lot to think about. Having first been introduced to Healey in Hell on Wheels, I couldn’t help but be extremely curious about Nash Holly’s intriguing twin brother. Officially meeting Healey as he is in the beginning of this story was a shock, and I felt off balance (in a good way) for the duration. There was nothing easy about Healey’s experience, but I think the story wouldn’t have meant as much any other way. Diego Luz is just as complex, if not more so, but in vastly different ways. Between his heritage and upbringing, his pride and independence, and the obligations he struggles with, he’s a complicated character, and I liked him a great deal for it. He’s unapologetically cynical for much of the story, making his grudging willingness to open his heart and life to another even more remarkable. As has been the case with many of the Bluewater Bay stories, All Wheel Drive tackles some exceptionally difficult topics that most series wouldn’t attempt. As a paraplegic, Diego’s sexuality could have been approached in ways that might have been more “delicate,” but wouldn’t have made nearly the impact as it did here. Healey is absolutely the perfect match for Diego in that respect, but the candid nature of the discussions and mechanics involved felt both necessary and right. Despite the importance of the message of this story, All Wheel Drive still...
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Jul
11

Review: Grave Ransom by Kalayna Price

Review: Grave Ransom by Kalayna Price Grave Ransom Author: Kalayna Price Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: Fans of the Alex Craft series rejoice – this book was definitely worth the wait!  Gikany and Una enjoyed this fifth novel in the adventures of grave witch, Alex Craft.  Grave Ransom was an intriguing and gripping urban fantasy detective drama. We need to preface this review by stating that since it has been some time from the last book, Gikany reread the previous novels before jumping into this latest release.  Una being Una, jumped right in.  It took Una a bit of time to acclimate to the mythology and where we were with Alex.  Gikany had no such trouble and followed right through.  If you have the time, definitely reread the series, some major things happened in book 4 and the ramifications ripple through this novel. The plot of the “not-quite-zombies” was fascinating.  Chasing down the necromancer was intriguing, especially since Alex had to partner with Briar, her occasional adversary.  We enjoyed how the plot thickened once Falin and Briar’s partner Derrick were added to the mix.  There were a few twists and turns and we liked how the plot strands ended up intertwining.  Once the necromancer was located, we really enjoyed how it wrapped up.  Interestingly enough, Falin was more partner than adversary to Alex in this one, but we are not sure how long that will last.  The time is ticking on Alex’s temporary reprieve and the Winter Queen is not known for her generosity. Alex’s love life is one of the overarching plot lines.  In this novel, her personal life is still adjusting to previous events.  The relationships between Alex and Death and Alex and Falin have always been unbalanced and we hope to see someone new to tempt Alex.  No matter what, we look forward to seeing where Alex goes next, what the future holds for her, and our wish for her to find some long-term happiness. Overall, we enjoyed Grave Ransom and we eagerly look forward to the next novel in the Alex Craft series.  If you want something a little different, check out this urban fantasy series that follows a grave witch detective with ties to the fae. Our Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Grave witch Alex Craft is no stranger to the dead talking. She raises shades, works with ghosts, and is dating Death himself. But the dead walking? That’s not supposed to...
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Jul
10

Review: The Legend by Donna Grant

Review: The Legend by Donna Grant The Legend Author: Donna Grant Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: As always with military romance, there’s an element of suspense. The Legend is no exception—and I love the way Ms. Grant weaves pieces of the information we’ve already learned through the previous two books in the series as reminders, or for readers that are new to the Sons of Texas books. This book was about the third Loughman brother, Wyatt. Now, until this point in the series, Wyatt has been pretty aloof, and I definitely had a driving desire to know more about him and his ‘tortured hero’ status. Because, we ALL want to know more about the tortured heroes. 🙂 As the leader of a Delta Force squad, he’s used to people A) listening to him/taking orders from him, and B) having the loyalty of his men. I think that’s one of the big things about Wyatt that I liked seeing. How he handled different things—not just the romance part of the storyline. He’s a thinker, and I felt like he was honest about parts of his life and held back on others—i.e., romance with Callie. Because, he screwed up once, right? Callie Reed comes from a ‘mafia’ family. They have wanted Callie back in their clutches for over a decade—since she escaped them. What I love most about Callie’s character is the way she relates to Wyatt while still protecting herself. Callie’s gifts & talents make her an asset in the battle against the Saints—the baddies we met in the first book of the series who are waaaayyyyy more than originally thought. As always, with RS, I’m not going to give a lot of details because it’s spoilery and I don’t roll that way. But…I definitely need MORE ORRIN!!! The patriarch of the Loughman family NEEDS at least a novella My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: A LONE STAR LOVER Callie Reed doesn’t need a man to protect her. An expert sharpshooter and renegade hacker, this Texas-born spitfire’s got the skills and the courage to stand up to any danger―no matter how deadly. But when she becomes the target of a shadowy organization known as the Saints, Callie is forced to team up with the one man she can’t outshoot: the gorgeous, and infuriating, Lone Star legend named Wyatt Loughman… A Delta Force Colonel with a rock-hard body and stone-cold heart, Wyatt has been teasing and tormenting Callie since they were playmates...
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Jul
5

Review: Over the Moon by Hailey Edwards

Review: Over the Moon by Hailey Edwards Over the Moon Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I think Over the Moon is an excellent end to the Lorimar Pack books in the Black Dog universe. Don’t get me wrong—I’m definitely up for more books in the universe—as matter of fact, I think Ms. Edwards sets us up well for at least a novella for Theo—but Dell’s story arc feels complete in a satisfying way. That makes sense, right? You guys know what I’m talking about. I’ve been very vocal about adoring the Black Dog universe since it started. The world-building is killer, and any time I have questions, I can guarantee they’ll be answered by the end of the plot arc for the main character. And the end of Dell’s books is no exception. As matter of fact, I think a lot of things are tied up in a neat little bow at the conclusion of Over the Moon. What killed me: Making hard choices in the best interest of the pack—and Earth. What wrecked me: “How do you do that?” I wondered. “How do you always know?” “You’re my heart, Dell.” His fingertips skated down my arm. “You think I can’t tell when it’s aching?” What finally made sense: Dell’s revelation about Abram. What I loved the most: How all the beloved characters from the series rallied during a time when they could’ve all just hid away to keep their own safe. But, most of all, I loved the relationship between Dell and Issac—and, the interplay with Theo (who I still have questions about). Readers will get the most out of Over the Moon if they read all the Black Dog books first. Thierry and Shaw as well as Cam and Cord have a HUGE role in this book. We even get to see a little kitsune and her mate 😉 But, the appearance of other favorite fey & shifters doesn’t overshadow the whole aspect of Dell’s growth. When we first met Dell, she was a shell of herself. She was hiding from who she really was in an effort to protect herself. After she leaves Bessimer’s pack, she falls naturally into the leadership role of Beta for Lorimar. However, there’s still things—even though she’s mated to Issac—that need resolution for her. She needs to feel like she can stand on her own and that she has value. I think Ms. Edwards did a phenomenal job with Dell’s character arc,...
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Jun
29

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Buns by Alice Clayton

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Buns by Alice Clayton Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Reviews: Hudson Valley Series Buns Author: Alice Clayton Narrators: Elizabeth Louise with Jason Carpenter Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Hudson Valley #3 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Purchased Clara lives for her job, going all around the world, rebranding and restoring resorts to their former glory. Her latest job is in the Catskills at the Bryant Mountain House. She excited to tackle the project, but the owner’s son, soon to be sole manager, Archie, fights Clara at every turn. Luckily she’s near her two besties, who have settled in nearby Bailey Falls. Archie’s life is the Bryant Mountain House, and ever since his wife passed from cancer, he doesn’t do anything but ensure this regal resort runs smoothly. So when an outsider comes in and not only starts making all sorts of changes, but ignites feelings that he’s not experienced since his wife, he can’t help but butt heads with the gorgeous, vivacious Clara. Now he must decide if making changes is the only way to survive in modern times. The third book in Ms. Clayton’s utterly delightful Hudson Valley series, Buns takes readers on a journey of friendship, romance, and love. Both Clara and Archie have strong reasons not to trust or get involved, so when they start to have the feels for one another, it’s conflicting, sweet, and sexy all at once. Despite (or maybe because of) their constant bickering, Archie and Clara are soooooo hot together. They both want the forbidden sexual fruit. Their constant tango of attraction and stepping back rivets the sexual tension to such incredible heights. Each feels something more than attraction and lust, and it scares them both. Yet once they give in and start a secret affair, they still hold so much back. It truly hurt my heart to listen to Clara refuse to open up, choosing to keep her guard firmly in place, even when Archie tries his best to coax her out. Their romance is genuine and the connections strong, but it’s two-steps-forward-one-step-back until they finally realize what each wants out of life. Jobs and the hotel are important, but so is friendship and love. Elizabeth Louise’s performance is solid and highly enjoyable. I’ve not listened to her work before, but she sounds very familiar. She’s easy to listen to, reminding me a lot of Amanda Ronconi, but without the southern twang. The familiar feel allows me to connect to Clara quickly. Ms. Louise...
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Jun
28

Review + Blog Tour: Oversight by Santino Hassell

Review + Blog Tour: Oversight by Santino Hassell Oversight Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: After falling in love with Insight, the first in the Community series, I had high hopes for this story—and the end result far exceeded any expectations I might have had. In fact, I believe that Oversight has elevated the entire series by several degrees, and there’s still one more book to go. With a mix of characters both familiar and new, Oversight is filled with some of the most vivid personalities ever—some good, some bad—and, as was the case in its predecessor, it can be difficult to tell the difference sometimes. Although I didn’t care for Holden in Insight, a more thorough examination of his adolescence and the tactics and motives of the Community gave me a much greater appreciation for him and what he’s currently going through. It was Sixtus, however, that won me over completely. His unique talent is a perfect disguise for what simmers beneath the surface, and I found him to be utterly mesmerizing. Mr. Hassell has given life to someone truly remarkable in Sixtus, his gifts as intriguing as the man himself. He’s an immediate favorite, one who makes the entire novel worth a reread as soon as possible just to ensure that I didn’t miss a single detail. I absolutely adored him. While Nate’s story kept me invested from the beginning, the conspiracy that unfolds throughout Oversight felt even more urgent at times, the building suspense making getting through those moments a white-knuckling affair in all the right ways. From the first chapter, the momentum crescendos in extremely well-timed sequences of recollection and desperation, and once I hit the midway point, the narrative owned me until the very end. Although I think it would be enjoyable regardless, Oversight isn’t a standalone. There’s a momentum that was introduced in the first story that works its way to a frenzied pace here that I couldn’t look away from. The return of quite a few characters from book one means that this series needs to be read in its proper succession, but it’s well worth it. There are layers of secrets and machinations that are uncovered methodically through the experiences of these characters, and it’s been a real pleasure to watch things unfold to this point. Oversight is an oftentimes terrifying view of what is at stake when good intentions give way to the commodification of the very people most in need of help...
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