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Apr
18

Review: Running the Risk by Lea Griffith

Review: Running the Risk by Lea Griffith Running the Risk Author: Lea Griffith Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: After watching the love of his life die a year ago, Jude continues his work with Endgame Ops, although there is a huge whole in his heart. That is until he sees Ella alive and working with their enemy. Since then, a mix of dark emotions war within Jude, causing him to track Ella down and eventually confront her.  Ella hates deceiving her Endgame teammates, but she firmly believes in the mission-within-a-mission that their leader, the Piper, set in motion. However, the deeper Ella dives, the more convoluted the mission and motives appear. Yet, she is determined to stay put within the enemy camp until she determines who Dresden works for, placing her at odds with the man she loves and his personal mission to save her. Overall, I found Running the Risk to be a thrilling story and passionate romance. Ella and Jude share a strong history, which makes their connection extremely emotional, which worked for me. Theirs is a deep and lasting love, one that the author planted reminders of throughout the book. One of my favorite passages was when Jude brings Ella to his home after taking her from her undercover job. She does something mundane like brushing her teeth, and it triggers a memory of how Jude would make fun of how much toothpaste she uses. It’s a great reminder that although things have changed between the pair, the solid core remains. While I really enjoyed the romantic storyline, I found the suspense side a bit more difficult to follow. First, I was a bit put off by Ella’s conviction to trust her shadowy boss rather than her teammates and Jude. The author does a good job of making a case for Ella at first, but after a while, it felt flimsy. Especially when Ella figures Dresden knows she’s still with Endgame. Why would she fight so hard to go back to the monster? Additionally, there are so many players in motion and dead teammates who may not really be dead. There are too many characters for me to keep track of, which makes the story hard to follow when things start to get intense. I tried to follow the actions of Ella and Jude only, letting the rest fall away in the periphery. It mostly worked, even though I am generally someone who likes to piece the puzzle together on...
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Apr
13

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Scourged by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Scourged by Kevin Hearne Welcome to our feature that focus on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Scourged Author: Kevin Hearne Narrator: Luke Daniels Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #9 (Final book in series) Source: Penguin Random House Audio I have so many feelings. I’s overwhelming. Saying goodbye to a favorite series is like saying goodbye to a beloved friend when they move across the globe; you hope you’ll see them again, but you are pretty certain you won’t – and if you do, it won’t be the same. Yes, Hearne is writing more Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries (THANK GOD!!), but those are standalone, amazingly entertaining stories, and not the Iron Druid Chronicles.  Scourged is the story it needed to be, and it was everything a series-ending book should be… we visit all of the characters, both big and small, and readers are subtly brought up to speed on where everyone is and what they are doing. Storylines from as early as the first book are mentioned, and readers are left knowing the end results. The story has such a sense of full circle and closure throughout the entire book. However, that doesn’t mean I loved everything about Scourged. It’s the tale that had to be told, and the one I didn’t necessarily want to hear. Ragnarök has arrived early all because of the decisions made and actions taken by Atticus, starting way back at the beginning of the series. Luckily, he now has two other Druids (his apprentice/lover Granuaile, and his arc-Druid/teacher Owen) to help defend the earth. And yes, there are entire pantheons of gods and goddess along with a slew of other supernatural beings who are also fighting Loki and Hel. But in the end, it’s all on Atticus to stop Loki and save Gaya.  Along the way to the final battle, the book follows all three Druids as each embarks on separate journeys. Owen is tasked to save Gaya where she needs the most help – where other creatures are taking advantage of the choas of Ragnarök. He is reawakened to the beauty of Gaya, and his mission to raise a grove of new Druids is reaffirmed. He befriends a sloth in the Amazon and takes her for adventures. I loved watching Owen reconnect to the Earth in ways he hasn’t in centuries. I also adored Slo-mo the sloth, although I was a bit bothered by how easily he could communicate with her, especially after learning from Atticus how difficult it is to...
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Apr
11

Review: Into the Thinnest of Air by Simon R. Green

Review: Into the Thinnest of Air by Simon R. Green Into the Thinnest of Air Author: Simon R. Green Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: B  What We’re Talking About: After the revelation in the previous Ishmael Jones novel, we were surprised by Into the Thinnest of Air.  We weren’t expecting an intermission. Simon Green’s witty mystery/suspense series with a science-fiction twist has fascinated us for four novels.  Ishmael and Penny brave the strange and horrific, sleuthing out the culprit(s) while maintaining witty banter.  After the hint given in the previous book we had hoped to learn more about Ishmael’s mysterious past or see if Ishmael decides to dig into it.  What we didn’t expect is for Penny to surprise him with a holiday weekend.   Into the Thinnest of Air felt like a break in the overarching plot of Ishmael’s past.  Penny and Ishmael go into the country for a fun weekend, visiting a group of Penny’s father’s old friends.  However, nothing for them is ever as it seems and people begin to disappear after dinner.  With no bodies to examine and nothing in the way of clues left, Penny and Ishmael are lost as they try to figure out what is going on.  The majority of the novel is mostly the remaining members of the group arguing about if the disappearances are the work of the supernatural or a more mundane monster.  This group of friends is made up of a handful of once young-dreamers now resigned middle-aged adults chained to the fate that a bad decision left them.  The revelation of the mystery is as fascinating as it is chilling heinous, but it felt as if Penny and Ishmael spent most of the novel either chatting, arguing, or running around in circles.  As a standalone mystery, it is interesting but as the next novel in this series, we were a bit let down.   Although this is our least favorite story in this series, we still really like this series and are eager to see what happens in the next installment.  The mystery/drama may have been a little lackluster, but the humor and wit was still strong.  Hopefully it will be less a battle of words and suspicions and more battling of the evil forces in the world in the upcoming story.  Our fingers are crossed that more of Ishmael’s background will come into play in the next Ishmael Jones novel. Our Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are attending...
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Apr
10

Review + Blog Tour: Once Burned by L.A. Witt

Review + Blog Tour: Once Burned by L.A. Witt Once Burned Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: On the surface, Once Burned has all the elements this series has been built on: undeniable physical temptation that evolves into real affection, the Navy’s unyielding and destructive rules, and an eventual path to happiness for the two heroes. Unlike its predecessors, however, this story not only concerns Naval policy, but also delves into the even more infuriating topics of immigration and veterans’ rights. While there’s no denying the physical—and later emotional—connection Diego and Mark share, the familiar feeling of time running out was much more palpable here than in previous Anchor Point titles. Though it is certainly a romance, complete with a HEA, the real purpose of Once Burned is to highlight the predicament faced by too many U.S. veterans. Without knowing the specifics of the author’s research, Diego’s situation reads as a conglomerate of other potentially true stories that absolutely engaged both my heart and my anger. At one point, Diego remembers his employer stating that it’s not “right for a man who’s been shot at for his country to be screwed by it—” a sentiment I found easy to agree with. There were a few details in Once Burned that seemed somewhat implausible, but which still highlight the desperation and unfairness of Diego’s situation. One that I had trouble with was Mark’s invitation to Diego to attend a “Hail and Farewell” party, disregarding that it would be fairly callous given Diego’s experience, as well as being overly risky with the other personnel likely to be in attendance. So much importance is placed on the threat of deportation throughout the narrative—Diego can’t even go to the VA for medical assistance—that moments like these stood out. While it has a few uncomfortable scenes (i.e. Mark’s role as savior, even though he tries to minimize the fact), Once Burned served as a launch pad into a problem that I’m eager to learn more about. While researching the topic for this review on my own, I quickly realized that one evening (which turned into two) wasn’t remotely enough time to scratch the surface of the issue. Fortunately, a bill was introduced in the House last year—H.R.3429, or the “Repatriate Our Patriots Act”—that shows promise, but who knows when, or if, it might ever become law. On the plus side, the author has pledged half of her royalties from the sale of Once Burned “to charities supporting U.S....
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Apr
9

Review: A Nantucket Wedding by Nancy Thayer

Review: A Nantucket Wedding by Nancy Thayer A Nantucket Wedding Author: Nancy Thayer Reviewer: Nima Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: A Nantucket Wedding is a story about the family drama that always surrounds large family events like a wedding.  The wedding serves to focus a spotlight on the relationships of key characters.You’d think a book about a wedding would be a romance.  It is romantic, but not a romance.  Everyone in this story is already in an established relationship, some of them rocky. What this book is, is women’s fiction.  I keep trying it and I continue to be disappointed.  This one is better than some I’ve read, there isn’t as much whining and over-thinking every nuance of anything anyone ever said.  Unfortunately, drama aside, there isn’t much in the way of plot.  It’s slice of summer life. Thayer specializes in the island of Nantucket.  That part she does really well.  I felt the sun on my face and the sand under my feet.  I yearned to get in the car and spend the day at the beach.  I was transported back to my summers of family reunions where we rented a house and everyone slept on every surface, we ate too much, played board games on rainy days, and performed ritual sunblock application. Little tip:  Put a bucket of baby powder by the door to take the sand off feet before entering the house.  It does a better job than water.  Then you can rinse the powder.  But I digress… A Nantucket Wedding is billed as a stand-alone, but it didn’t leave me with a satisfying ending.  A stand alone should wrap up all it’s threads in a nice bow.  The resolution of at least one storyline wasn’t happily-for-now, it was just for-now. It was the storyline that probably had to most drama and feeling to it so to have it just sitting there largely unresolved at the end was awkward. My Rating: B- Liked It, but I had a few small issues About the Book: A few years after losing her beloved husband, Alison is doing something she never thought she would do again: getting married. While placing the finishing touches on her summer nuptials, Alison is anxious to introduce her fiancé, David, to her grown daughters: Felicity, a worried married mother of two, and Jane, also married but focused on her career. The sisters have a somewhat distant relationship and Alison hopes that the wedding and the weeks leading up to the...
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Apr
5

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston Welcome to our feature that focus on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Hot and Badgered Author: Shelly Laurenston Narrator: Traci Odom Audio Speed: 1.25x + 1.5x Series: Honey Badgers Chronicles #1 Source: Tantor Audio Hot and Badgered, the first book in Ms. Laurenston’s new Honey Badgers Chronicles is a crazy ride full of over-the-top shifters with a thirst for blood… and honey. While it is a new series, I learned from others after I started listening, that it is set in the same world as and features characters from her Pride series. Perhaps I would have enjoyed Hot and Badgered more had I read the earlier series, because one of my issues was the sheer volume of characters and side stories. It was confusing and difficult to follow at times. The story is shared from multiple POVs and can make your head spin a bit. Hot and Badgered is billed as the romance between Honey Badger/Wolf shifter, Charlie MacKilligan, and Bear shifter Berg Dunn; however, there is very little romance in the book. The story follows Charlie and her half sisters, Max (full Honey Badger) and Frankie (Honey Badger/Tiger), as the run for the lives from an array of dangerous threats. Their father is a major lowlife, who is constantly putting his own kids’ lives in danger, and the Irish MacKilligans are a crime family. So… there is a lot to run from. Good thing Charlie and her sisters know how to fight and take care of themselves. Their adventures are outlandish and there is never a moment’s rest. Eventually, there is a bit of courting between Charlie and Berg – who are adorable together – but the romance is a very small part of the overall story. While the tale itself was somewhat interesting, definitely exciting, and mostly entertaining, the characters could be mildly annoying. They are always fighting, and they are all completely over-the-top. Everything is outlandish and dramatic. I will admit that after a LONG while, the Mackilligan sisters and Dunn triplets grew on me, but the story went on way too long and had too many side characters and subplots. The narration from Ms. Odom was solid. She used distinct voices for each character, easily recognizable whenever I picked up the book and started listening. Some of the voices felt cartoonish or exaggerated at first, but as the book went on, I realized that those voices fit the nature of the characters. She pulls of several accents, some better than...
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Apr
4

Review: Blow Down by JL Merrow

Review: Blow Down by JL Merrow Blow Down Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Several months have passed since Tom Paretski got engaged, saw his best friend married, found out his “Dad” wasn’t really his biological father, and became the resident hero by saving a barmaid from dying in a fire. Now something of a minor celebrity thanks to news coverage exposing his psychic “gift,” he’s in demand for more than his plumbing skills—this time finding himself obligated to unearth a stolen necklace for a recently-wed, high-ranking member of the local diocese (who nobody seems to like very much). At least his life’s not boring. As was the case with the previous titles in the series, Blow Down begins with the discovery of a corpse. Poor Tom’s knack for finding dead bodies hasn’t subsided at all, and has once again placed him in the crosshairs of a murderer. With multiple suspects all capable of rampant greed, hatred of the deceased, or both, this was an interesting crime for Tom and Phil to crack. Although, in truth, I had more fun waiting to see what they, and the other returning characters would do than I did trying to puzzle out the mystery itself. One aspect of the earlier stories I wasn’t sure about, but which I thought was among the most enjoyable parts of Blow Down was Tom and Phil’s relationship. While they’re still learning about each other outside of their shared past, I found the teasing, protectiveness, and fondness that’s so evident between them to be endearing. In fact, the entire narrative is more affectionate than its predecessors, yet it maintains the familiar and comforting level of snark that has so strongly contributed to the personality of the series as a whole so far. Though I wasn’t able to get quite as wrapped up in the mystery of Blow Down as I was in the previous stories, it moved things along just fine. Despite the entirely new group of characters introduced for the purpose, there were somewhat limited options when it came to the sinister narcissism that seemed most indicative of the killer. While there’d be no story without the whodunit, it felt more like a vehicle for everything else that’s going on with Tom, rather than the objective of the narrative. Having missed the original publication of The Plumber’s Mate Mysteries, I admit that it has been nice to read them so closely together. As someone who is unfamiliar...
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Apr
3

Review: Play for Keeps by Maggie Wells

Review: Play for Keeps by Maggie Wells Play for Keeps Author: Maggie Wells Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Play for Keeps, the second book in the Love Games series by Maggie Wells is good, but I did not like it as much as the first book, Love Game, because the relationship between public relations genius Millie Jenkins and basketball coach Ty Ransom is very messy. Their love story takes a much longer, and possibly unnecessary arc before we reach a happily ever after.  Some readers will think it’s perfect, others will be disappointed where it went. If you life is already pretty messy, you don’t necessarily want your fantasy life to be messy too.  Wells had an option; she took her characters down the harder—some might argue more interesting—path. I liked Ty.  With heroic patience, he commits himself to a course and doesn’t waver.  We like a steady guy, no matter what other characters throw at him.  He was always trying to do the right thing and Millie puts him, and herself, through the ringer.  With such a large personality, she seems to need a large obstacle to overcome before there can be a conclusion.  There is one, but it’s not the obvious one.  As is the case with stubborn personalities, she is her own worst enemy. Millie’s friends, prominent in the first book, are a little cliche’d in this installment.  There is a true Gilmore Girls moment that made me chuckle as much as roll my eyes. Wells substitutes wine for cookie dough, although I don’t know why you couldn’t have both, and does go on to justify the nod very respectably with some significant growth on Millie’s part. There is hot, steamy sex in this book.  A lot of it.  If it weren’t for the plot at the beginning, end, and tie into the first book, it might—probably would—fall over the line into erotica.  Ty goes along with all of it because even though it’s a sexist thing to say, he’s a guy with a pulse.  Ty wants Millie though, and he’ll take her any way he can get her.  My favorite quote in the book, and there were several, appeared fairly early on.  Ty says to Millie, “The first time I saw you, I recognized you.  Not your face, but you.  All I could think was, ‘Yes, there you are.’” *swoon* Millie is messed up emotionally and rather than dealing with it, she keeps it all pushed down with ludicrous...
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Mar
29

Review: Dearest Ivie by J.R. Ward

Review: Dearest Ivie by J.R. Ward Dearest Ivie Author: J.R. Ward Reviewer: Una Rating: A-/B+ What I’m Talking About: Dearest Ivie is a novella in the world of Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB).  I enjoyed this short story of romance that alludes to a previous novel but instead of following the heartbreaking ending, this one is happy and hopeful. I really enjoyed Ivie’s character.  She is a nurse working in Haver’s clinic.  Though a commoner and more mainstream “American” than members of the aristocracy, I liked her strength of self.  She is unapologetically Ivie, daughter of a biker and a forthright and intelligence female.  Though we encounter a few of the mainstream BDB characters, the story truly is focused on Ivie and Silas. It is an attraction of opposites as Silas is an aristocrat, older and moneyed.  Ivie is compassionate and outspoken, definitely not a wilting, wealthy female.  Through this whirlwind romance, Silas learns everything about Ivie, while keeping himself shrouded in mystery.  But when his secrets come out, it is a heartbreaking realization.  Yet, Ivie is a fighter and her determination and willingness to speak and work to find a solution is endearing.  The happy ending was worth the anxious tension while reading. For fans of the series, this is a must read.  I am overjoyed that love wins in the end and there is a happily-ever-after.  I eagerly look forward to catching a glimpse of Ivie and Silas in future BDB world novels. My Rating:  A-/B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: The last place Ivie expects to be approached by a devastatingly handsome male is in a crowded, smoky cigar bar rarely frequented by vampires—yet here he stands. Silas is flirtatious, gallant, and, above all, mysterious. Ivie is anything but. A nurse at the healer’s clinic and the daughter of a biker, Ivie is accustomed to speaking her mind. So she does. Since aristocrats rarely pick up females of her class, Ivie asks Silas just what kind of game he thinks he’s playing. Despite her guarded exterior, Ivie surrenders to the fierce desire she feels for Silas. And yet, just as their courtship is heating up, he reveals that it cannot last, for he is bound to return to the Old Country. Their bond only deepens as they make the most of their precious time together. But when she learns the truth, Ivie must find a saving grace—before all is lost. . . . Release Date: Ballantine Books Publisher: March 13, 2018...
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Mar
26

Review: Can’t Stand the Heat by Peggy Jaeger

Review: Can’t Stand the Heat by Peggy Jaeger Can’t Stand the Heat Author: Peggy Jaeger Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Stacy has successfully produced three cooking shows for the EBS network and is known for being able to get the job done. She recently pitched a new idea for her own show, one her boss is interested in, and tells her he’ll green-light it, if she’ll produce a show for him in Montana. Figuring she can deal with eight weeks on the road, Stacy agrees, only to discover after that the director is one of the best and most difficult in the business. Nikko doesn’t need anyone from the network looking over his shoulder and making changes to his program, so he was ready to hate Stacy the minute he saw her. However, she’s unlike anyone he’s worked with before and his daughter seems to like Stacy, and the more time he spends around her, Nikko realizes he needs Stacy for more than just his television show. Can’t Stand the Heat is the third, standalone story from Ms. Jaeger’s Will Cook for Love series. While characters from the first two titles make an appearance in this title, and we originally meet Stacy in the first book, having read the previous books isn’t necessary to enjoy Can’t Stand the Heat. Unlike the first two books (and much to my joy), this story is straight up contemporary romance, without any bit of suspense or danger tossed in. The story focuses on Nikko and Stacy—getting to know one another and learning how to move on from past heartache and pain. At the start, Nikko is an ass, not just to Stacy, but to all those he works with. He’s a perfectionist and master of his trade, but he’s unkind. His demeanor is in part due to his control freak nature, but also partly due to the physical pain he endures, stemming from a car crash that killed his ex-wife (the mother of his teenage daughter) less than two years prior. Worry for his daughter, whose life was completely rearranged by the death of her mom, provides additional stress, making Nikko unbearable most of the time. Yet, he is a smart man, and he recognizes the truth in Stacy’s kindness and learns how to become a better man by accepting her generosity, which allows him to grow. Meanwhile, Stacy has her own demons that drive her work ethic. However, she’s balanced, using yoga as an outlet for stress...
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