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May
2

Review: Cold Reign by Faith Hunter

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

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Hunted by Kevin Hearne

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

Review: Midnight Target by Elle Kennedy

Review: Midnight Target by Elle Kennedy Midnight Target Author: Elle Kennedy Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: **blinks** Um. What just happened here? Readers of the Killer Instincts series are well aware of the bromance between Boston and Sully, and the super crappy stuff that happened to Sully. If you haven’t read the entire series, you really need to start from the beginning to appreciate all the careful planning that went into the series arc, the character development—and breaking down of characters—that went into writing every single book in the series. But, hey. This book is mainly about Cate and Ash, right? NOPE. Just get that notion right out of your head. This very minute. Midnight Target is so much more than military romance/romantic suspense—whatever label you want to give it. Jim’s mercenaries and Noelle’s chameleons—with a few others—have managed to create a family. And really, the overarching theme in this book is family. Whether the onus of the discussion is on Cate’s relationship with Jim or Ash’s with his family… or Boston’s relationship with his devout Irish-Catholic family or Sully’s lack of family—we always come back to that one, singular, important theme. The road to happily-ever-after isn’t paved with rose petals; often, it’s a bed of hot coals we need to walk across until we reach the other side. Cate and Ash had their trials over the course of their relationship—we get to see them in flashbacks and memories—as did Sully and Boston. With both couples, we see the give-and-take, the personal growth and acceptance that must take place before either party is ready to become part of a whole. And being part of that whole makes them part of something larger than themselves. A family can be defined by many parameters—but in the case of the operatives in the Killer Instincts series, it’s definitely defined by a group of people who have chosen to be together. And those are the best families. While Midnight Target is pretty long (464 pages), the pacing was excellent, and I pretty much devoured the book. There were times I wanted more Sully & Boston, and then I’d want more Ash & Cate as I read—but it just propelled me through the book. As did the action. Talk about edge-of-my-seat reading! Not only was there this whole drug cartel-slash-revenge plot to make the drug lord pay for Jim getting shot during the mission to extract Cate from a completely screwed up situation, but the movement between...
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Apr
20

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Trapped by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Trapped by Kevin Hearne Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book: Trapped Author: Kevin Hearne Narrator: Luke Daniels Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #5 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased Trapped Warning: Spoilers of events from previous books are included in this review. Twelve years have past since the last book, and Granuaile has finished her Druidic apprenticeship. Looking for a safe place to bind her to Gaia, the earth, Atticus discovers that Loki is free and the Olympus pantheons are plotting against him. Now the pair, along with best hound friend, Oberon, are trapped between a rock and a hard place unsure who to trust, as they try to find a safe place to tie Granuaile to the earth. Oh I really, really enjoyed Trapped. I love the deepening connections Atticus and Granuaile. The book isn’t about romance, but their love is true and a perfect addition to the overall mythology and storylines. Stories are best when the reader/listener connects with the characters, developing a relationship with them. In this case, I’ve grown to care about Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon, making their journeys more exciting and emotional. And all three characters have matured so much since the first book. Especially Granuaile, who is now a full Druid. Yet she still has so much awe for the world around her. Having Atticus reconnect and rediscover the wonders of the earth and other planes through Granuaile, in effect allows me the same discoveries and awe-inspiring experiences. I also appreciate and am extremely thankful of the direction the author has taken with the overall story arc. Atticus continues to pay for his crimes when he chose to help Leif seek revenge against Thor instead of walking away and staying neutral. It was one thing to kill Angus Og, who had been hunting him, but to assist in and cause the destruction he did to the Norse pantheon was simply outrageous. And now, over twelve years later, his actions are still causing him problems. Atticus’s introspection over his choices is the perfect blend of regretfulness and acceptance. He understands that he may never make amends and balance the scales, but he will do his best to try. However, it seems that in his effort for atonement, Atticus continues to cause more issues, and the problems he and Granuaile face just keep growing in a trickle-down effect. Luke Daniels continues to surprise and amaze me with his consistently strong...
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Apr
19

Review: Home Fires by Kate Sherwood

Review: Home Fires by Kate Sherwood Home Fires Author: Kate Sherwood Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I’ve had the pleasure of following the Common Law series from the beginning, and I believe Home Fires to be the best yet. While I had a couple of random issues early in the series, this story brought everything together far better than I had anticipated it might. And though my fondness for Wade hasn’t lessened one bit, I’ve now fallen for Jericho, too, and feel that both men got an ending to the story that suits them very well. While the more suspenseful elements have consistently been my favorite moments of the series, Home Fires has a few that I think excel over the others. In what is arguably one of the better confrontations in the Common Law stories, whatever uncertainty still existed in Jericho’s mind is thoroughly destroyed, and I enjoyed reading it tremendously. It’s certainly among the best showdowns I’ve read in a long while. Despite the inherent battles Jericho and Wade fight within the shades of gray that surround them, the affection and wanting that simmers and flares between them is undeniable. Often teasing, but hardly ever explicit, their relationship is born of scars and memory and is as restless as the characters themselves. They’ve earned their resolution and I was glad to see them have it at last. Besides, there were plenty of other things to fight in Home Fires, so why bother? Still more to like about Home Fires is that there’s plenty of humor, albeit as dry and sarcastic as ever, if not more so. The citizens of Mosely really are Jericho’s people, and the comfort he finds in accepting it is both evident and welcome. No longer the prodigal, he’s his best self now, especially with Wade at his side. Or watching his back. Or blowing up the evidence room at the police station. Whatever they’ve figured out between them works—not just for them, but the whole town, as well. After four books, I’ve become attached to this series, and I’m very sorry for it to end. The author set a nice pace throughout, making the culmination of steps Wade and Jericho have taken seem justifiably rewarding—for the readers as well as the characters. Each story is both manageable and engaging, and I absolutely recommend reading all the books, rather than any of them as standalones. Home Fires made for a perfect ending, and I think starting the...
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Apr
12

Review: Midnight Rescue by Elle Kennedy

Review: Midnight Rescue by Elle Kennedy Midnight Rescue Author: Elle Kennedy Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: So. I missed reading the first book in the series. You guys ever do that? Know what’s cool, though? I didn’t miss not reading the first book, mostly—because Ms. Kennedy slips in these little reminders about what happened when it’s important. I really like this because sometimes I forget the important details because I don’t think they’ll BE important, which makes Kennedy a fabulous storyteller. I just finished reading the last book in the Killer Instincts series and Jen brought up that I hadn’t read/reviewed the first one, so here we are! There was one thing that bothered me as I was reading—Abby was injured at the beginning of the story, and the elapsed time didn’t give her time to heal a broken bone. While it was periodically mentioned, I would’ve thought the injury would’ve figured more prominently. That’s really my only hmmmm thing. But, it didn’t bother me enough to stop reading, nor did it detract from the story except for making me occasionally wonder how she was able to do something without aggravating the injury. I’d always wondered about Kane & Abby’s story. We do see them in subsequent titles in the series, and we would get hints here and there about them. Reading.Their.Story.Was.Worth.It. Every single word made me giggle and grin about things that would happen in future installments of the series—things that were set into motion IN THIS BOOK. I really loved the character growth of both Kane and Abby in Midnight Rescue. While both characters come to the story with some serious baggage, I was amazed at the change they both endured by the end of the book. Abby, one of Noelle’s chameleons, has lived her life by the motto: I can do it myself—better, stronger, faster. She’s kind of like the Six Million Dollar Man that way (oops…I may have just dated myself…). She’s only really been able to rely on herself, and she’s grown into a highly self-reliant woman. Which makes her the perfect option for a deep-cover assassin, right? Yeah. Until she meets her match in Kane. Now, Kane really isn’t all that screwed up. He’s had some crap luck in the romance department that’s made him clam up when it comes to women—nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? That all changes when he meets Abby, though. As far as the plot went—I loved it. It seemed like Abby...
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Apr
11

B Review + Blog Tour: For a Good Time, Call by Anne Tenino and EJ Russell

B Review + Blog Tour: For a Good Time, Call by Anne Tenino and EJ Russell For A Good Time, Call… Author: Anne Tenino, E.J. Russell Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Having grown up under the weight of his famous great-great-grandfather’s legacy, Seth Larson has learned to content himself with waiting tables and helping his beloved Grandma out at the family’s estate. In a small town like Bluewater Bay, with its communal history making everyone around him far too familiar, hooking up whenever he was in the mood for sex had always worked for him just fine. Finding someone who really mattered was never a consideration, at least until he’s knocked off balance by a stranger who makes him want more than a random encounter could ever hope to deliver. With two failed relationships in a row and a nearly-hostile connection with his famous mother still casting a shadow over much of his life, Nate Albano doesn’t have a lot of hope of being truly loved—not when his sexuality seems to inevitably drive everyone he’s ever fallen for away. Being grace is especially difficult when the heart that he can’t help but put first has already been bruised one time too many. Giving up on the idea is surely his best option. But, who would have guessed that his own expectations would be turned upside down by Bluewater Bay’s most infamous party guy? We first met several of the characters in For a Good Time, Call… in Wedding Favors, the seventh in the Bluewater Bay series. Seth played an important role in that novel, and turned out to be my favorite of the two main characters here. Seth’s main cause of stress is his relationship with most of his family, rather than a lack of romance in his life. In fact, something that endeared Seth to me from the beginning is that he experiences a good bit of slut-shaming, both active and passive, in this story, which he handles extremely well by shrugging it off, for the most part. It simply is what it is. Additionally, I thought his determination to understand and respect Nate’s specific, non-generic, sexuality was notable. Nate is grace/gray asexual, and I was happy to see the representation. The story deals with Nate’s sexuality in a matter-of-fact way, using his growing connection to Seth to answer a lot of potential questions about what it means, in this context, to be grace. In fact, it is Nate’s other relationship issues that cause a problem between he and Seth (as...
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Apr
5

Review: By Her Touch by Adriana Anders

Review: By Her Touch by Adriana Anders By Her Touch Author: Adriana Anders Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I’m an ink junkie. Anyone that knows me will tell you that. From the time I was old enough to appreciate tattoos as art, I’d wanted one of my own. I wasn’t able to get my first until around the time I’d turned forty, and now I have…a lot. ☺ They tell a story of who I have been, who I am, and who I will be. So, when I had the opportunity to read the first title of the Blank Canvas series by Adriana Anders—Under Her Skin—I jumped at the chance. I wasn’t disappointed. I was eager to read the next installment in the series…and O…M…G. I don’t think I’ve ever read a tortured hero like Clay. While George was a wonderfully rounded-out character and I was able to connect with her, have my heart break for her and her losses—her situation. The road she’d traveled to get to this moment in time that brought Clay into her life hadn’t been all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. She’d known pain. But, when we look at George as a reflection of ourselves, she had been merely a husk of a person. Seeing her character grow gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling. So. Clay. When I read a book about a guy that was trying to do the right thing and basically got screwed over, I always get a little indignant on his behalf. Why can’t the good guy ever have an easy time of it?!? Hahah. That’d be too easy. Without pain, the pleasure isn’t quite so sweet. And Clay had had plenty of pain. Emotional pain, physical pain—you name it, he’d had it. One of my thoughts was, “How can a man that’s gone through so much in his life be ready for a truly committed relationship?” Truth is, it’s hard to tell. Oftentimes in a situation like that, one can’t even recognize themselves. It’s like digging out of a pit—having to gently slope the sides to climb out and have a chance to be whole. Doing all the hard work—the digging and climbing—is part of the process, so even when someone tosses down a rope ladder, it really isn’t helping matters, much. What really drew me to Clay, though, was the fact that he carried the story of his past, present, and future. Whether he realized it or not, he bore the marks that...
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Mar
27

Review: All You Need by Lorelei James

Review: All You Need by Lorelei James All You Need Author: Lorelei James Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Annika Lund has an Ice Queen reputation because she works hard for her family’s company, always doing what is best for the family, even if her personal life takes a back seat. But until she started spending time with Axl, she hadn’t been with a man who was worth the distraction. Now she’s found a guy who matches her word for word and makes her toes curl in the process. If only she could share it with others. Axl Hammerquist is much more than the handsome, rough, playboy hockey player he portrays, but why let anyone see the real man when they don’t expect anything more from him? However, when his agent insists on a public image makeover, it is his attraction to and respect for Annika that gets him to change his mind. So when his agent decides it’s time to publicly end Axl’s PR relationship with Annika, he realizes he’s in way more than he ever planned. All You Need is a wonderful, feel-good romance that hits all the right notes for me. Axl and Annika are equals from the start, and while there is some minor jockeying for position, their relationship isn’t a power play struggle for dominance. I admire that both have serious careers and neither has to compromise his/her work ethic or ambitions, rather, both support the other along the journey. But their story is far from all work and no play! The couple starts off on the wrong foot, as Axl drives to challenge Annika’s PR abilities, causing trouble just to see how she’ll react. He recognizes her intellect and admires her strength, and he has fun creating situations for her just so he can watch her work. Their silly name calling and hockey puns give rise to entertaining conversations. Equally enjoyable is their mutual attraction which creates wonderful sexual tension. While there are several things that worked for me in the title, it’s the fact that once Annika and Axl became a couple, they stayed a couple, that made their story shine. Although these two alphas butted heads at the start, they were upfront not only about their issues with the other, but their mutual attraction as well. Yes, they did try to fight the sex appeal, creating wonderful sexual tension and moments of witty banter, but they both recognized right away that they weren’t going to be...
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Mar
23

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Others Series Etched In Bone Author: Anne Bishop Narrator: Alexandra Harris Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: The Others #5 Source: Penguin Random House Audio Etched in Bone is the fifth and final book in the utterly amazing, wholly original The Others series by Anne Bishop. The story picks up just after the conclusion of powerful events of the previous book, and is the culmination of everything learned since Meg arrived in the Lakeside Courtyard way back in the first book. Etched in Bone deals with the limited transportation and food shortages created when the Elders culled many humans and took back human-controlled towns. The new living situation brings out a different kind of human “predator,” and the Elders must determine how much human they want to keep in the world. Having two Elders observe the Lakeside Courtyard places Simon in a precarious situation; he must allow a dangerous human (Officer Montgomery’s shady brother, Jimmy) to stay in near the Courtyard so the Elders can figure out what makes him a bad type of human (and therefore they will be able to destroy those humans that are a threat). Simon, along with the other Terra Indigine and some of the more astute humans like Burke and Monty, recognize that the fate of all humankind depends on what happens in Lakeside. This sets up a number of situations that endanger the lives and wellbeing of many of the Lakeside Courtyard residents, weaving a sense of urgency around the moments of everyday living. Like all the previous books in the series, readers (listeners) are privy to an unpleasant series of events that unfold over the course of Etched in Bone and witness how the Terra Indigine react. Although is it evident where the story is headed, it’s still gripping. This time around, I liked how well the Others and humans worked together, but I also like that the Lakeside residents are now able to recognize a human predator. The introduction of Monty’s mother, Twyla, adds a missing human/pack grandmother component. She is able to understand the ways of the the Others and put her own way of handling a situation into their framework. Her presence is calming, knowing that she is able to handle the craziness with a firm but caring hand. Additionally, Etched in Bone progresses the unique relationship between Simon and Meg. By now, it is evident to all, expect...
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