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Sep
19

Review: Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

Review: Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews Magic Binds Author: Ilona Andrews Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Nine books in and the Kate Daniels series continues to be one of the best and most original out there. Magic Binds ushers in some big changes for the series and its characters, while maintaining a level of familiarity that grounds the reader as she goes on another fantastical ride with Kate. Kate and Curran are within two weeks of their wedding and of course, Kate’s malevolent father is causing problems and making life difficult. Roland oscillates between trying to goad Kate into battle and inserting fatherly concern over her upcoming nuptials. Roland’s duality, and its effect on Kate, made for some humorous moments. Unfortunately for Kate, Roland kidnaps one of Atlanta’s citizens, and, therefore, Kate must defend her people by getting him back. Walking a fine political line, Kate must juggle her own morality and magic against how best to resolve the issues. While continuing the series in a very familiar way, Magic Binds felt very different to me. Usually Kate is battling creepy-crawly, evil creatures on behalf of others, and each book focuses on her personal journey as she goes through these trials. Yet Magic Binds is all about Kate. From her growing powers to her wedding to her battle with Roland, the entire book is extremely personal. Yet even with the change in the aura surround the series, certain things remained the same. The underlying humor that permeates Kate’s dialogue and thoughts is utterly sublime. I smile, snicker, and laugh so often when reading these books. Another constant is the caliber of the action sequences. Never over the top or gratuitous, until they need to be, the fight and action scenes are perfectly choreographed, keeping me on the proverbial edge of my seat. The attention to detail, coupled with the emotional intensity as Kate struggles, brings to life each confrontation. The biggest drawback of Magic Binds is the ending. No spoilers here. However, I felt like the main story just ended, and I was left unfulfilled. It was an extremely full story, but the ending was very sudden and too abrupt. The authors do provide a lovely epilogue that buffered the rough edges of the main story, and I loved it, but even the epilogue has a bit of a jaw-dropping aspect to it. Additionally, I felt that there were a couple of BIG unanswered questions – things that were directly part...
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Sep
14

Review: The Claiming by Tara Sue Me

Review: The Claiming by Tara Sue Me The Claiming Author: Tara Sue Me Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Before I even start, readers need to be warned that the last thirty-ish minutes of reading on this story is a preview of The Exposure, releasing October 4, 2016. I did NOT read the preview, folks. I resist the urge to do that—especially since you can come back on release day to read my thoughts on Meagan and Luke’s story. I was really geeked to get back to Cole and Sasha. I mean, Sasha has had such a difficult row to hoe after all that stuff… Anyway, it seems we finally get to see her HEA here…even though it seems as though we may have already seen it. Learning more about the super hot and super British Cole Johnson’s roots made this read for me, to be honest. Catching a deeper glimpse of his past was a bit telling for me, to be honest. My first thought was, “Is this type of thing what makes a good Dom?” But naturally, I debunked my posed question. Totally not required. It does, however, make for a good story, and naturally readers always want backstory. Maybe that’s just a me thing… I was intrigued by the scenarios Cole set forth for Sasha in The Claiming, book 7.5 in Tara Sue Me’s Submissive series. With Sasha’s baggage, we got to see some of her internal thought processes that brought her full-circle for me. I think the fact that she implicitly trusts Cole to know her needs—even after a horrific experience at the hands of another Dom—is very telling, and a perfect example of an appropriate D/s relationship. This is something that keeps me coming back to this series—the realistic view the author brings to BDSM. While The Claiming is just a 92-ish page novella, it’s a great way to reconnect with Cole and Sasha—and see where they are now. We get some reconnection with Nathaniel and Abby, as well as Daniel and Julie which makes my over-arching plot heart happy. Readers of the Submissive series will definitely want to pick up this title, as it’s a great glimpse at how far Sasha has come. And, if you can’t wait for The Exposure to release in like a month, there’s a taste at the end. My Rating: B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Submitting is just the beginning… Sasha Blake never thought her emotional wounds would heal—that they...
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Sep
14

Review: Devils and Details by Devon Monk

Review: Devils and Details by Devon Monk Devils and Details Author: Devon Monk Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B What We’re Talking About: Devils and Details is the second book in the fascinating world of Ordinary, Oregon.  Though Una and Gikany are a bit split on our rating, suffice to say we both liked it and look forward to more. ****If you haven’t read the first book (Death and Relaxation), this review may contain spoilers.  Read at your own risk – you have been warned!**** Gikany and Una love this world.  The varied paranormal creatures intermixed with gods and humans allows for a rich cast of characters.  In this installment, we see and learn more about the world’s mythology, while Delaney tries to find lost god powers, heal her broken heart, and find a murderer.  Oh, all while keeping humans in the dark about their more otherworldly friends and neighbors. The feel of the novel bounces between light-hearted and serious.  It’s a nice mixture of both, though it is not quite as humorous as the previous novel.  It could be due to the nature of the murderer and what danger he poises.  Not to mention, only the killer’s identity is revealed by the end of the book, but his story is not over. In the previous novel, Ryder (Delaney’s never-ending crush from her youth) and Delaney have their long awaited fling – only to have it come crashing down.  Ryder was swathed in mystery and we find out through the course of Devils and Details who his really is and what he does for a living.  Through the course of this novel, Una sees Ryder apologizing for being an absolute jerk, several times over.  It is plain that he loves Delaney and realizes he made the biggest mistake ever.  However, Gikany feels that Ryder crossed a line – one that no apology can make up for considering how he ended things with Delaney.  Gikany holds out hope that Delaney will end up with someone better, while Una is waiting for Ryder to stop apologizing and start redeeming himself.  Though, to do that he would need to start actually listening to Delaney and her advice… The characters are so vibrant in this series – it’s what makes the series work.  In particular, we love the relationship between Delaney and her sisters.  All three are working as the law in town to keep people safe (and blissfully unaware), while also ensuring the gods enjoy a little R&R as...
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Sep
9

Review: Sunset in Central Park by Sarah Morgan

Review: Sunset in Central Park by Sarah Morgan Sunset in Central Park Author: Sarah Morgan Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Sunset in Central Park is the second book in Ms. Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series. The contemporary romances share the lives of three best friends: Paige, Frankie, and Eva, who are making their way in Manhattan after growing up on a small island off the coast of Maine. After recently losing their jobs, the friends started their own event-and-concierge business. Frankie’s expertise lies in gardens and flowers, so she spends much of her time creating masterpieces for bridal showers and weddings, which is extremely unfortunate for the anti-relationship Frankie. Paige’s big brother Matt, who also happens to be the girls’ landlord, just lost his best employee and needs help with a challenging rooftop garden. It’s a job he knows will be perfect for Frankie, the woman he’s been in love with for years. He’s given Frankie all sorts of space, knowing her rocky history and fear of romance, but Matt’s done waiting for Frankie to come to him. Sunset in Central Park is an enjoyable, light-hearted romantic read. Its best features are the three best friends and their deep and true bonds. Each woman felt genuine to me and treated each other with the utmost love and care. It was their connections that drew me into the story and kept me reading. And although this is standalone romance and I didn’t need to read the first book, I found that I wish I had read it. I wanted to get to know the girls better, and I felt like I would have known more about them if I’d read the first title. Matt is the perfect guy… not just for Frankie, but in general. Good looking, successful, caring, generous… need I go on? And as much as Frankie tries to push Matt away, he is understanding of her reasons, not letting her “get away” with her behavior. He pushes just enough, confusing Frankie, as her mind, body, and emotions don’t know how to process Matt’s actions. Watching Frankie get flustered and turned on by Matt was entertaining. But also heartbreaking, as she slowly revealed her insecurities. Each layer pulled back brings with it pain for Frankie. Memories she needs to get past in order to learn to love. Matt is just so incredibly sweet, that when he finally hits his limit, my heart broke for him (and Frankie). I was ready to...
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Sep
2

Review: Unraveled by Jennifer Estep

Review: Unraveled by Jennifer Estep Unraveled Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Picking up after the secret-revealing conclusion of the previous book, Bitter Bite, Gin is determined to discover more about the mysterious Hugh Tucker, the Circle, and the extent to which her mom was involved. When Finn receives notice that his recently departed mother left him the Bullet Pointe resort and amusement park, Gin realizes it’s a trap set by Hugh. But Gin isn’t one to run from a fight, so she and Finn, along with Bria and Owen, head to the quaint resort for fun-filled vacation. Unraveled is yet another exciting, action-packed adventure for Gin and her friends. How Ms. Estep can keep writing fresh and thrilling stories for Gin is beyond me! Yet here we are, the fifteenth book in the Elemental Assassin series, and at just one chapter in, I was not only totally surprised, but utterly hooked. What I liked most about Unraveled, is the almost standalone feel of the story. Gin and her core group travel away from Ashland for a vacation, all the time knowing it would be a trap. The change in setting, along with the smaller cast of her usual characters, gives the book an independent feel and a nice break from the craziness of Ashland. And although Gin’s purpose is to discover more about the secretive and malevolent group, the Circle, the story focuses more on a wild-west themed treasure hunt and showdown. Although, in the end, thanks to Fletcher’s own scavenger-type-hunt for clues, Gin begins to unravel some of the mystery; however, this overall storyline is far from over. Which in its own right is exciting because we haven’t really had a larger, over-arching nemesis for Gin since Mab. The only thing that bugged me, just a wee-little-bit, is the use of dreams to reveal important truths to Gin. While I mostly enjoy the flashbacks that make up Gin’s dreams in the series, sometimes (this being one), the dreams frustrate me because they come off contrived. In this case, Gin discovers that her understanding and the memories of her mother aren’t all she thought them to be… that Gin actually saw Hugh and others in her youth. It irritates me that these memories were buried so deeply, and that in the past weeks, with all the time spent around Hugh and Deidre, that she never once remembered anything. The timing of these dreams is just too convenient....
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Aug
29

Review + Excerpt: Homecoming by Shannon Stacey

Review + Excerpt: Homecoming by Shannon Stacey Homecoming Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Homecoming begins immediately following the conclusion of the previous book, where we find several of the Stewart Mills residents in the hospital following the aftermath of Coach McDonnell’s apparent heart attack on the football field. While recovering, Coach wants Sam Leavitt, former Eagles championship quarterback, to come home from Texas and coach the team. Even though Sam agrees, he does so knowing it is temporary because he will never move back to Stewart Mills, the place of his nightmarish childhood. Jen Cooper grew up in Stewart Mills and loves her job as the high school guidance counselor. After her amazing one-time hookup with Sam back in the summer when he was home (for the first time in over a decade) for the football team fundraiser, Jen never wanted to see bad boy Sam again. Yet when he shows up in Stewart Mills to stay for a while, Jen isn’t sure she can deny their strong attraction. Homecoming is the third (and presumably final) chapter in the Boys of Fall series, which features the goings-on of small-town Stewart Mills, NH. The town fell on hard times a while back, and I love how the town finds joy and regains hope through their high school football team. I like that while each book is a standalone, each builds upon the previous as far as character development. By the time we get to this third book, I care about each of the characters. I also like that we see the town mend and grow. The tone of the books progressively become more positive and hopeful because of the changing circumstances. Overall, I loved Jen and Sam individually and as a couple. Both have their heads on straight and don’t tend to do ridiculous things or make silly relationship mistakes. Jen rocks and has her life together, which I appreciate. I love that she’s smart and caring, which is perfect since she is a respected guidance counselor. What I admire most about her character is that she THINKS like a counselor. She isn’t making stupid decisions or letting Sam get away with crap. Ms. Stacey carried her personality through every action and decision. And Sam is also a good, smart guy. While he does have a rocky past, he’s learned to deal with it like an adult. He takes into consideration others and how his actions will impact those closest...
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Aug
24

Review: Spanish Lessons by Jessica Peterson

Review: Spanish Lessons by Jessica Peterson Spanish Lessons Author: Jessica Peterson Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Spanish Lessons was good read. I finished the other night and needed to let it marinate. Ms. Peterson’s voice was authentic and engaging. Overall, I enjoyed the characters—especially at the end. Part of the reason I didn’t give this title an A rating is because there’s probably a generational gap or a regional difference, and I was confused by some of the usage. For example, ‘hookup’. Darlings, I graduated from high school in 1986. When we said ‘hook up’, we meant having sexy time. I understood, by context clues and world-building this was not the case. But it bugged me a little. Probably a ‘me’ thing. Because I’m old and set in my ways. Don’t let this little thing discourage you from picking up this title, though! There was a TON I adored about Spanish Lessons, the first title in the Study Abroad series. All the art made me want to die—or visit Spain. I actually used Google Images to peruse paintings by artists mentioned in the story. I’m a geek like that. It was pretty spectacular to read about a character that is almost like the late-80s me, in some ways. Ms. Peterson’s description was vivid—which is important to me, as I’ve never had the opportunity to travel abroad. Even though I really want to, and now Spain is on my list. I liked Vivian well enough, I suppose. She vacillated on her decisions entirely too much; the inner conflict was a little overdone for my taste—but if you like your characters to work for their Happily for Now, then pick up this title. I get the whole inner conflict and the romance formula. It was really nice, however, to see Vivian grow as a person. Which is why, by the end, I felt more connected to her and was much less irritated by her waffling. Maddie, as Viv’s bestie, was distant for a chunk of the story, but we get to read about her next—Lessons in Gravity was released in April! Come back next week for my review. This brings us to Rafa. I was really glad he was depicted as a graduate student and not anything older. Then again, I might be slightly squicked out by the teacher-student relationship thing. There wasn’t as much of an age disparity, and that seemed to work for Viv and Rafa. Also, if I ever travel to...
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Aug
23

Review: Wild Embrace by Nalini Singh

Review: Wild Embrace by Nalini Singh Wild Embrace Author: Nalini Singh Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Wild Embrace is a collection of short stories and novellas that fall at different points of the known Psy-Changeling timeline, most covering one specific point, with “Dorian” spanning several years from his youth to adulthood. Each story is standalone and falls outside the overarching storylines of the series. Echo of Silence The story shares the chaste, forbidden love between a human engineer and a telekinetic Psy in the days before Silence fell. Tazia left her small village years ago, never to return. She is from a small village with a traditional upbringing, resulting in a tight moral code. But it is also an unforgiving way of life, based in her account of her family and why she cannot return. Stephan is a powerful Psy with fractured Silence due to a tragedy that left him orphaned at the age of four. The story is sweet and simple, with the focus on learning more about each other rather than their physical attraction. The tale enhances the Psy-Changeling world through demonstrating how love existed in the Psy race before the fall of Silence. In fact, it shows why Silence needed to end. Even though I know what is in store for the future of the Psy race, it didn’t effect my enjoyment of the story, which left me with a feeling of hope. Rating: B+ Dorian This is more of a short story or collection of slices of life, rather than full novella. Fans of the series will enjoy these glimpses into Dorian’s life as he struggles with and learns to live first as a dormant shifter and second as a true Changeling. I enjoyed seeing how Dorian’s pack supported him in every step of his journey, helping to create one of my favorite characters of the series. Rating: B Partners in Persuasion Felix is a submissive wolf from SnowDancer, and Desiree is a DarkRiver leopard soldier. Desiree has admired the gentle yet strong submissive wolf from afar but fought her desire to touch him until he gives her permission. Felix was burned by a dominant female in his past and refuses to consider even a fleeting relationship with Desiree. Felix and Desiree’s romance is unlike most Psy-Changeling stories in that it features a female dominant and a male submissive (these are terms for the animal, not sexual preferences). I enjoyed the dynamics and the thoughtfulness of each...
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Aug
16

Review: Oria’s Gambit by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: Oria’s Gambit by Jeffe Kennedy Oria’s Gambit Author: Jeffe Kennedy Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B+ What We’re Talking About: After the cliffhanger in the previous book, Lonen’s War, Gikany and Una were eager to start Oria’s Gambit.  We enjoyed it though it was a completely different feel from the previous novel. We go from a fast-paced novel filled with battles, negotiations, and confrontations to one that is a battlefront of politics and maneuverings filled with anxious waiting and debating.  Though it was still very gripping, it was a change from the pace of the previous novel.  In Oria’s Gambit, Oria and Lonen race to obtain the throne in Baran in order to protect Lonen’s (and Oria’s) people from Oria’s youngest brother, Yar. At first we thought Yar to be a typical youngest child, indulged and spoiled.  It was fitting he seemed entitled since he came into his power early.  However, through the course of this novel, his cruel nature comes to light (at least in Una’s point of view).  He is more than just selfish.  It is interesting to note that maybe because of Oria’s magical “flaw,” she is more compassionate and humble.  It seemed her brother Nat – who came into his power late, showed a similar humility that Oria’s other two brothers seem to lack. We continue to enjoy Lonen and Oria’s journey.  They both genuinely care for one another.  The banter between them (and including Chuffta – still our favorite character) is endearing as is the palpable tension between Lonen and Oria.  Lonen’s sensual teasing is passionate as it is sweetly compelling.  Their relationship flows just as seamlessly as the plot.  Though it does not end up where we predicted, due to another cliffhanger ending, and we are eager to see what is next. Gikany and Una continue to enjoy this world, and with Oria’s Gambit, we are further immersed in the Baran culture.  We look forward to the next novel, not only to see what happens next, but we hope to see more of Chuffta (as well as Lonen and Oria). We also hope that we will experience more of the Destrye culture.  If you enjoy fantasy with some slow-burn romance, you may have to give this series a try! Our Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: A Play For Power Princess Oria has one chance to keep her word and stop her brother’s reign of terror: She must become queen. All she has to do...
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Aug
15

Review: Can I See You Again? by Allison Morgan

Review: Can I See You Again? by Allison Morgan Can I See You Again? Author: Allison Morgan Reviewer: Nima Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Can I See You Again? is a good book, but it fell short of the potential to be more. Bree Caxton is a matchmaker based in La Jolla, California.  Her expertise is in reading body language and a wistful love of falling in love. I can identify.  This is why I like contemporary romance.  Bree is good at her job, so good that she has a 98% success rate.  Business is steady and she has a debut book ready to hit the stands.  Life is good.  Her boyfriend of four years, attorney Sean Thomas, is even going to propose—until he doesn’t.  In a Legally Blonde moment, Sean dumps her at their favorite restaurant.  It would appear that author Allison Morgan is inspired by popular movies as many more such moments creep into her writing.  Inspiration is fine, but her repetition of the Pretty Woman line “take care of you” was distracting for me.  There was even the save grandma’s house subplot right out of Happy Gilmore.  I found myself looking for similar comparisons instead of relaxing into what might have been a sweet and moving love story. Morgan’s most grievous sin was the conscious choice to end nearly every chapter with a “moment,” a cliff-hanger of sorts.  It was jarring to me, like I kept running into locked doors with my arms full.  Unfortunately, there was little relief.  The next chapter, more often than not, began hours or days later.  If there was resolution, we didn’t get to experience it, only hear about it after-the-fact as Bree processed it.  How do you drop a major bomb on a character and not have the rest of that scene? The other literary tactic that bothered me was just the opposite.  Rather than dropping bombs and holding back the explosion, Morgan just didn’t drop the bomb.  She repeatedly withheld significant information by interrupting dialog with some emergency in the same moment the words would have left a character’s mouth.  Writers of teen books often do this, and an adult writer should know better.  It didn’t build tension, it built annoyance. My final grievance was the use of clichéd characters.  How many snappy dressing gay assistants are there out there?  Bree’s new love interest, Nixon, had the potential to be really interesting.  He was even surprising on occasion, but we had so little of him, it felt...
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