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Aug
10

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Hidden Legacy Series Book: White Hot Author: Ilona Andrews Narrator: Renée Raudman Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Hidden Legacy #2 Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance Source: purchased White Hot Listening to the audiobook of White Hot is a “reread” for me. I reviewed the book in May 2017, and my review still stands as I originally wrote it. Here is an excerpt from my original review: “The overall and book-specific stories are both equally engrossing. The layers and complexity make the book fascinating rather than confusing. The conspiracy and plot are smart and interesting. The action is solid and edge-of-your seat. “The romance between Nevada and the little understood Rogan also blossomed during White Hot. Rogan continued his relentless pursuit, but also opened up to Nevada, realizing she can match him. She may not be his equal, and he sometimes does things to “protect” her which only frustrated her, but he’s learning how to allow her to make her own decisions. There are many hurdles to jump, and I really want them to make it.” By listening to the book, I picked up plot nuances that I missed when reading the book the first time. However, It is Renée Raudman’s performance that makes the story so much more. While the writing team of Ilona Andrews is an amazing storyteller in its own right, Ms. Raudman adds so much feeling and emotion to their stories that I can’t help but get choked up every time I listen to one their books. She breathes life into these amazing characters and tales, making them ones I would listen to again and again. She takes an A book and makes it an A+. In the end, White Hot is an amazing, entertaining story, and coupled with Ms. Raudman’s talent, the book is unforgettable. My Rating: A+ Narration: A+ About the Book: Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she’s used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family’s detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor “Mad” Rogan. Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally...
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Aug
9

Review: Rogue Desire Anthology

Review: Rogue Desire Anthology Rogue Desire Author: Various Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I didn’t have time to read all the titles in this collection of stories—but those that I did, did something for my perspective. It isn’t a She Persisted thing anymore, folks. It’s a We Persisted thing. I may have had moments of despair for the past nine months, wondering what kind of world my kids were going to have to live in, but if these inspirational—absolutely filthy—stories are any indication, there’s a world of hope out there. Maybe all we have to do is grab on to our own little slice of it. In Adriana Anders’ Grassroots, I may have fallen in love with Zach and Veronica. Zach was a deep character and Veronica was complex and able to navigate turbulent political waters. Dakota Gray’s Deep Throat alludes to the Nixon administration, but is definitely not all about that life as Davis and Hayley navigate dangerous waters to play for the good guys. In Resistance  by Amy Jo Cousins, I fell in love with Kaz and Will as Kaz fought for what he thought he believed in while saving Will from himself…or for himself. Ainsley Booth penned Personal Disaster which happened to be my personal fave of those I read—but it’s definitely a HFN, which I usually don’t enjoy. But, it was a sip that drew me in. Life, Liberty, and Worship by Tamsen Parker is a wonderfully complex story about Paige and Carter and how nothing is as it seems…at least initially. I’m a little sad I didn’t have more time to read the stories by Emma Barry, Stacey Agdern, and Jane Lee Blair. I just plain ran out of time 🙁 But, I think I may go back and read them when I get time. If they’re anything like the other titles in this collection, they’ll be great for a sexy little boost when I feel like everything in the world is totally screwed. My Rating: A+ Personal Favorite About the Book: When all else fails, find love. Eight brand new romances for fans of the West Wing, fired-up #resistance fighters, and everyone who ever had a crush on that guy at a protest… GRASSROOTS by Adriana Anders Veronica Cruz is in the fight of her life for a seat on the city council. Meeting reclusive finance genius Zach Hubler should be a stroke of good luck—he has the power to sway public opinion. But when...
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Aug
2

Review: Strangehold by Rene Sears

Review: Strangehold by Rene Sears Strangehold Author: Rene Sears Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Strangehold is a fascinating series debut.  I enjoyed this introduction to a world of witches and Faerie and look forward to more. Let me say first that this novella could have been a full novel.  There is such a rich world with fascinating characters and politics, some elements could have been stretched out a bit in the storytelling.  That being said, the story wasn’t lacking despite its shorter length.  In fact, I’d say the book had a succinct feeling – the story flowed and conveyed the twists and turns without a lot of embellishment.  I enjoyed Ms. Sears’s writing style and felt that it was a refreshing narration. The story is predominately told from Morgan Tenpenny’s point of view.  Morgan is a witch who lives as a guardian of one of the gates between the mortal world and Faerie.  For the last half century, there is a treaty in place between the Fae and the witches – but it seems that someone is trying to destroy that.  Morgan discovers what appears to be a sickness killing witches while investigating why the gates have all been closed; she befriends a cursed fae, Falcon.  As the two team up to stop the sickness and open the gates, we learn much of the world and the politics. Again, the world is fascinating and I really enjoyed the mythology.  The little bit of romantic plot thread between Falcon and Morgan was an intriguing touch as well.  I look forward to learning more about Falcon, the connection between him and Morgan, and seeing if this romance blossoms (I just love slow burn romances!).  The creation and existence of the Strangehold realm is fascinating as well.  I hope we will see more of it in the future novels.  Though the “evil” is thwarted at the end, there are still some plot lines unresolved.  I eagerly look forward to seeing what happens next for Morgan’s sister, her nieces, and the treaty between mortals and Faerie. Strangehold is a captivating and straightforward debut novella in the Crossroads of Worlds series.  I liked Morgan’s character and look forward to seeing what happens next for her family and Falcon.  The mythology was intriguing as was the balance of power between witches and Fae.  I eagerly look forward to the next novel in the series. Our Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Morgan Tenpenny has retreated...
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Jul
31

Review: Luca by Sarah Castille

Review: Luca by Sarah Castille Luca Author: Sarah Castille Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Sarah Castille has done it again. I have a secret love for mafia stuff, and romantic suspense is the perfect outlet for me to feed my need. We met Luca in Nico’s book, and I loved that one, too. Part of the reason I loved Nico so much was because I needed to know more about Luca. One of the most awesome things we get in Luca is that we get kick-ass Gabrielle. She is definitely no shrinking flower, and doesn’t need a man to take care of her. What I love the most about Gabrielle’s character is that she ALLOWS Luca to be a Mr. Bossypants. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the way to write an Alpha male. Pull out your stereotypes about mafia dudes. Got ‘em? Okay. They’re all supposed to be full of themselves and their heritage. That is a thing in this series, but I love the way that Ms. Castille has managed the over-the-topness with Luca. Because there’s no way Gaby is going to put up with a chest-thumping, hard-headed Italian going all Caveman on her. Dear Gaby has a ton-o-crap going on, too. Through all of it, she believed in herself and her ability to do what needed to be done. Um. The end? I did NOT see that coming. Not until the end. Maybe I should’ve picked up hints earlier, but I was too engrossed in Luca and Gaby. They’re a wonderful couple, and I hope you fall as hard for them as I have. And…I can’t wait until the next title. According to Ms. Castille’s GR profile, Frankie’s book is next. **fangirls** My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Luca Rizzoli was nearly destroyed by a brutal betrayal that cost him his family. Now a ruthless crime boss in the city of sin, he lets nothing touch his frozen heart–until a smoldering encounter with a beautiful stranger ignites his passion. One night isn’t enough for a man who takes what he wants, but his mysterious temptress has slipped away. For two years police detective Gabrielle Fawkes has lived for revenge. But a night of indulgence with a sexy stranger changes everything. Powerful, charming, and deliciously dangerous Luca, has his own private reasons for offering to help her pursue the drug lord who killed her husband. There’s a lot Luca isn’t telling her and the more she...
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Jul
27

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: By Familiar Means by Delia James

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: By Familiar Means by Delia James Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Reviews: Witch’s Cat Mysteries By Familiar Means Author: Delia James Narrator: Elise Arsenault Audio Listening Speed: 1x Series: Witch’s Cat Mystery #2 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Cozy Mystery Source: Tantor Audio By Familiar Means is another delightful read in the Witch’s Mystery Cat series.  I enjoyed the continuing journey of Anna as she learns more about her heritage, her abilities and the community of Portsmouth. The novel begins a few weeks after the conclusion of the previous novel, A Familiar Tail.  Anna is settling into the house she is renting along with the coven of Portsmouth.  She is excited that her Grandma BB is coming to visit her.  What makes this so momentous is that her Grandma hasn’t been back to her home town since she left during a town-wide feud.  As Anna is looking forward to this visit, she is also looking forward to a new job painting murals at a new coffee shop in town. However, as things did in the previous book, things do not quite go as Anna anticipates. I love how much Grandma BB brought to the humor and character development of Anna.  It was fascinating to watch old wounds begin to heal and people come together.  Anna has a truly unique group of friends around her in Portsmouth.  I especially enjoyed seeing that Alastair has friends of his own as well.  The little bit of romantic thread that is developing is also a delightful side element to the overall story.  I’m really enjoying following Anna. She is a caring and vibrant character and I look forward to watching her grow in Portsmouth. Though like the previous novel, the “who” of the “who-dun-it” was simple to figure out, there were other twists that added to the revealing of motive and such.  I really enjoyed how Anna investigated this one; not quite as reckless as before, but just as impulsive.  It was interesting that the magic can and does seem to affect Anna, possibly increasing her impulsiveness.  There are several different threads being woven nicely together; the mystery, the family/friends drama, the romance, and Anna’s own growth in her heritage.  I find this series absolutely enchanting and enjoyable.  I now understand the term cozy mystery.  Again, it’s something I can enjoy without worrying about my kids listening with me in the car. I enjoyed Ms. Arsenault’s performance a little more this time around.  It could be...
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Jul
26

Review: Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine

Review: Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine Ash and Quill Author: Rachel Caine Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Rachel Caine has done it again!  Ash and Quill is another outstanding novel in The Great Library series.  Gikany and Una found themselves lost in the world and utterly gripped by the cliffhanger ending.  We eagerly await the next installment. This story immediately begins where our heroes were last left.  Betrayed by Jess’s father, the band of library rebels are in the hands of the Burners in Philadelphia – the heart of a Burner stronghold under siege by the Library’s forces.  Despite the hopelessness of their situation, they never give up.  It is compelling to see how each one is willing to sacrifice for the others.  It is as Khalila says – they are a family.  This family seeks to right the Great Library by removing the Artifex Magnus, the leader of the Great Library. Once freed from the clutches of the Burners, Jess and his friends find themselves in another conflict.  They truly illustrate the old adage, out of the frying pan and into the fire.  From the beginning we have always feared for the survival of this group.  So far, fate has smiled upon them, but we fear that once all is said and done some beloved heroes may be lost.  In all great stories in history drastic change requires the ultimate sacrifice. This world and these characters completely suck you in.  The mythology, the premise, and the personalities of the characters are all enchanting and they truly come alive. 5Gikany and Una are completely hooked on this series and we cannot wait until the next installment is out.  If you want to read something truly unique, gripping, and intricately woven with politics, action/adventure, and heart, you seriously should pick up this series. Our Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Words can kill. Hoarding all the knowledge of the world, the Great Library jealously guards its secrets. But now a group of rebels poses a dangerous threat to its tyranny… Jess Brightwell and his band of exiles have fled London, only to find themselves imprisoned in Philadelphia, a city led by those who would rather burn books than submit. But Jess and his friends have a bargaining chip: the knowledge to build a machine that will break the Library’s rule. Their time is running out. To survive, they’ll have to choose to live or die as one, to take the...
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Jul
25

Review: A Kiss Before Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton

Review: A Kiss Before Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton A Kiss Before Doomsday Author: Laurence MacNaughton Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: A Kiss Before Doomsday is the same fun, campy energy that we found in the first book, It Happened One Doomsday.  The world that MacNaughton built in the first book, takes off now that we know the rules.  He takes his characters and runs with them, building on the story of the first book (definitely read these in order) and creating something bigger. I love that main character Dru continues to be genuine.  She really does want to help people, especially those she loves, and although she’s a crystal sorceress and hangs out with some very unusual people, she’s somehow entirely relatable. For as frail as she sometimes seems, especially in comparison to other characters, MacNaughton did a very good job of making her both vulnerable and strong—she both saves and gets rescued.  She and love interest Greyson balance each other well. I appreciated that making him strong did not require Dru to be weak nor did making Dru shine require that Greyson be less masculine. Although Dru and Greyson are clearly in love, the only romantic action in this read is a kiss at the end.  MacNaughton inserts a surprising, if unnecessary, scene that will at least make female readers chuckle. It was entertaining in the same way watching Carrie Bradshaw pack up her closet was on Sex in the City.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eo3vHKimpi4 There is a sarcasm that I enjoyed, comedic in the same way Pirates of the Caribbean walks the line between conceivable and hokey, staying this side of believable.  Gore Verbinski should direct the movie.  It’s a world where lines make sense like, “She already ate half the box [of donuts].  Then she went out for smoothies. Said she’d burned too many calories in the cannonball fight.” Chapters are short and keep the action moving which makes for a relatively fast read despite the plot depth which is still present. I have to knock a few points down for one or two parts that may come off as predictable to regular sci/fi readers.  It makes the mental movie easy to visualize. There are no real secondary plots which keeps the focus tight.  Good read and I’m looking forward to the next one. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: When an undead motorcycle gang attacks Denver’s sorcerers, only one person can decipher the cryptic clues left behind—Dru Jasper, proprietor of...
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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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