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Currently Browsing: Rating B
Mar
19

Review: Guardian of Darkness by Katie Reus

Review: Guardian of Darkness by Katie Reus Guardian of Darkness Author: Katie Reus Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Vega is the half-werewolf, half-vampire daughter of two very powerful supernaturals and has long been the darling of her father’s pack. When we met Vega in the first Darkness book, she was a teenager, and although we didn’t see most of her years since then, she’s now a recent college graduate who is ready to make her mark in the world. Knowing her parents may object, Vega joined a secret government supernatural Black Ops team and is heading out on her first mission. Gabriel has known Vega is his destined mate long before he even met her, and when his feelings started to become more-than-a-Guardian in nature, he put distance between himself and Vega. He thinks staying away from her will prevent the vision of her death coming true; however, when he sees her strike out on her own with a dangerous group, he is compelled to intervene. Now he’s part of her Black Ops mission and heading straight into the heart of his former home, where he foresaw Vega die. Ms. Reus’s Darkness series is a favorite of mine. I enjoy the breadth of the mythology, bringing in all types of supernatural beings, including different half-breeds, each unique and with interesting abilities. Vega is a wonderful example; she was something different and new to the Pack when we first met her, and her abilities continue to evolve as she matures. One thing I adore about Vega and Gabriel’s story is the straightforward nature of relationship. Don’t get me wrong – there is subterfuge, and both keep secrets, but once they are together and working on the mission, they open up. For example, Gabriel’s vision was used in the past as a way to keep the pair apart, and could have easily continued to remain a secret, but he shares with her his knowledge and concerns rather than allow them to fester. Likewise, Vega could have hidden her sleuthing activities from Gabriel, but she is honest, and they work as equals on a team. The mutual respect and admiration ignites their sexual chemistry, and they cannot keep their lust at bay. Guardian of Darkness introduces several new interesting individuals to the Darkness world, each with ties to existing characters. While the addition of so many new players could feel cumbersome, Ms. Reus integrates each with a solid storyline, and in the process has created several...
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Mar
8

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs Welcome to our feature that focus on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs Author: Patricia Briggs Narrator: Holter Graham Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Alpha and Omega #5; Mercy Thompson World #15 Source: Penguin Random House Audio With Bran away, Charles is charged with looking after his pack. Danger strikes close to home, endangering the Wildlings, lone wolves who are too wild to be part of the pack, but remain under Bran’s protection. Unable to reach Bran, Charles and Anna are left of save and protect the Wildlings while trying to uncover who within the pack is a traitor. While Burn Bright is the continuation of Charles and Anna’s story, the series on whole is deeply connected to its sister series, the Mercy Thompson series, and this story takes place following and refers to the events in Silence Fallen (Mercy Thompson #10/#14). Bran remains away after helping Mercy escape her captors in Europe, but lied about his location to Charles. So when things go sideways and Bran is unreachable, Charles begins to suspect more is going on than a random attack on isolated wolves. I mostly enjoyed the story as it alternates between Anna and Charles’ POVs, revealing bits and threads that begin to show something larger happening around the pack. The series is at its best when Anna and Charles are in sync, working together to solve a bizarre mystery. And although Charles and Anna work separately for a bit, the trust and love they share makes the pair much stronger than the individuals. And watching them try to figure out who is attacking the Wildlings while trying to understand what secrets Bran has hidden for them to uncover was exciting and engrossing. We meet several new characters that I hope turn up in books down the road. Unfortunately, there is one part of the book that really bothered me, even though I tried hard to understand why Ms. Briggs would have included it. Specifically it has to do with the relationship between Bran and his foster daughter, Mercy, who doesn’t even make an appearance in the story. Anna and Charles discuss the bond between Bran and Mercy, and the impacts to Bran’s own mating bond with Leah. The implications are upsetting and disturbing, and I feel there was no reason to include it. However, I did enjoy learning more about Leah (later in the book) and her motivations. It made her character more relatable and three-dimensional. The story is...
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Mar
7

Review: Heat Trap by JL Merrow

Review: Heat Trap by JL Merrow Heat Trap Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Having enjoyed the first two Plumber’s Mate Mysteries a great deal, I was happy to jump into Heat Trap fairly soon after finishing the second story. And while the half-year interim in the timeline is plenty long in some ways, certain aspects of Tom’s life appear not to have progressed much at all. Granted, Tom was dealt a tremendous shock at the end of Relief Valve, but I was left feeling uncertain at times as this narrative unfolded. Tom continues to be a likable character, even though I was disappointed by some of his reactions, especially towards Phil. The two have been together for more than six months at this point, during which time they’ve exchanged both house keys and “I love you’s,” and are making plans for the near future. Rather than appearing more solid, however, it felt as if Tom’s faith in him was too easily shaken when tensions began to escalate, resulting in him keeping Phil at a distance in the process. Phil, on the other hand, I liked more than ever. While I was initially skeptical of his interest in Tom—his seeming lack of regret over his earlier treatment of Tom being a sore spot—his affections in Heat Trap are indisputable. He has the anxious, yet hopeful demeanor of someone who has already put his heart on the line unreservedly, and I couldn’t help but be firmly in Phil’s camp for most of the story. Happily, some of my other favorites are back, and better than I remembered. Darren and Gary, in particular, are delightful in their pre-wedding bliss, and I honestly would have been glad to see them turn up in even more scenes. Tom’s sister, Cherry, is also a more constant presence in his life now, and was a lot of fun when she popped up. The mystery in Heat Trap involves some noteworthy characters from Tom’s preferred pub, “The Devil’s Dyke,” and it was nice to gain more insight into their roles, as well. Overall, I had mixed feelings about Heat Trap. While I don’t think it shows Tom in an especially favorable light at times, I was thrilled with the way things seemed to be going for him and Phil by the end of the story. The mystery itself was likewise interesting, although it felt secondary to the relationship struggles Tom is trying to come to terms with....
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Mar
5

Review: As the Devil Dares by Anna Harrington

Review: As the Devil Dares by Anna Harrington As the Devil Dares Author: Anna Harrington Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: In an effort to seek the approval of his deceased father, Robert has spent the past two years planning for the chance to be part of Winslow Shipping and Henry Winslow’s partner. The catch: Robert must find a husband for Winslow’s unruly daughter, Mariah, aka the Hellion. Mariah grew up without her mother, at her father’s side at the docks and shipyard. She knows Winslow Shipping inside and out and hopes to run the family business someday. But her father wants Mariah to be a proper lady, and instead seeks to find a partner outside the family. She’ll do everything she can to foil Robert’s plans to marry her off and take the company for himself. As the Devil Dares is a fun story with an enemies-to-lovers romance. Robert and Mariah are at odds from the start – both vying for her father’s attention and a piece of Winslow Shipping. Each is running from their own demons, having solid reasons for wanting to hold Winslow’s favor. But placing Robert in charge of Mariah’s season and finding her a husband creates a forced proximity with hilarious consequences. Mariah does everything she can to go along with the plan, while simultaneously working against the idea of marriage. As the pair spends time together, they start to get past their ambitions and see true natures beneath rough exteriors. They learn about one another, finding commonality in the death of a parent. Both are motivated and can appreciate the drive of the other. However, as all good stories go, mistakes made prior to their friendship developing come to light, causing conflict and drama. While it was obvious from the start that the conflict would occur, Ms. Harrington weaves a solid and entertaining story that kept me engaged. In the end, I enjoyed this third story in the Capturing the Carlisles series. Ms. Harrington has become a must-read author for me. I love her unconventional, strong-willed women who defy their time and go after what they want, and As the Devil Dares is another delightful example. Mariah and Robert are the perfect pairing, finding true love after learning to be friends then lovers. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Whether it’s business or pleasure, Lord Robert Carlisle never backs down from a dare. But finding a husband for scandalous Mariah Winslow? It’s one challenge he...
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Mar
5

Review: Bad Bachelor by Stefanie London

Review: Bad Bachelor by Stefanie London Bad Bachelor Author: Stefanie London Reviewer: Nima Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: I liked Bad Bachelor by Stefanie London much more than I expected to.  Reformed bad boys are a popular, possibly overdone, trope in contemporary romance and it takes skill to do it well.  The difference for me was that I genuinely liked all the characters in Bad Bachelor.  London successfully managed to create conflict without any real bad guys.  There was no one I wanted to hate or inflict with bodily harm for being a jerk or worse, being immature.  All the characters had jerk moments, but it didn’t consume their character.  London carefully walked a line of not letting the jerk moments turn her characters into cliche’d charactures, while still maintaining tension. Bad Bachelors is an app that let’s women rate and review their dates.  Bad boy Reed McMahon is on the top of their hit list and it’s starting to affect more than just his dating life. He and the reader are left to wonder who created the app and the source of his or her personal war with Reed.  Really good twist there.  I love it when I didn’t see something coming. Darcy Greer is a combat boot wearing, tattooed, take-no prisoners—librarian.  The woman with a pierced tongue who can quote Shakespeare is a wonderful contradiction, but not.  She is a complete character and by the end of the book, we wouldn’t change a thing. The way that she and Reed approach their association and eventual relationship works. There is some explicit sex, but it’s not the focus of the story, the relationship is paramount.  Darcy described it perfectly when she said, “How was she supposed to tell the guy that her relationship with his son could be described as work with a side of smut?“  As London walks us through it, she is often very insightful, “…she saw something else: a man who was frightened of connecting.  Who rolled in on himself so the spikes faced outward, scaring off anyone who might dare get close.“ I appreciated that the plot was well thought-out and developed.  There were only a couple minor things that interrupted my flow, one being a word choice I despise and another a few repetitive phrases.  Neither was unforgivable.  Overall, I very much enjoyed this read. My Rating: B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Everybody’s talking about the hot new app reviewing New York’s most eligible bachelors. But why...
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Mar
1

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Tombyards & Butterflies by Orlando A. Sanchez

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Tombyards & Butterflies by Orlando A. Sanchez Welcome to our feature that focus on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Reviews: Montague & Strong Case Files Tombyards & Butterflies Author:  Orlando A. Sanchez Narrator:  Kevin T. Collins Audio Listening Speed: 1.25x Series: Montague & Strong Case Files #1 Genre: Urban Fantasy/Detective Source: Tantor Audio Tombyards and Butterflies is a well-balanced mixture of humor and action/drama in this new urban fantasy detective drama, the Montague & Strong Case Files series.  I look forward to listening to the next adventure of Simon and Monty.  Please note that since I am listening to the story, names and other terms may not be the correct spelling as printed. The premise and the world is an interesting mix of fae creatures, vampires, werewolves, and magic users that are mixed with mythological gods and entities.  For example one particular important character is Karma.  Yes, she is “the Karma” and she doesn’t care for how most people refer to her.  There is a connection between Karma and Simon – something with his past that binds them in a way they both dislike.  The blending of these different characters was compelling – especially as it appeared that lines between them could blur. The story begins by following Simon on a job, and we learn a bit about him as well as the world.  The story is told from his perspective and I like his personality.  There are similarities that evoke a bit of Harry Dresden, but only shadows – a compliment from one author to another.  This story felt wholly its own, unique and fascinating, as well as action packed.  Though I feel that there are some fairly strong backstories missing, those of Simon and Monty especially.  I hope we will learn more about them individually as well how they met and teamed up.  The “not-a-relationship” between Simon and Chi is also very interesting.  There might be more information that I missed simply by being so caught up in the story; those tid-bits may have flown over my head.  I look forward to listening to this novel again and hoping to fill in some of the pinprick holes. Mr. Collins did a fairly good job with his narration.  His natural pace was faster than most narrators I listen to, so I had to reduce my listening speed to 1.25x.  However, I still feel as if the story flew by – it was so exciting.  It felt as if Mr. Collins was just as swept away, as...
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Feb
28

Review: Lake Silence by Anne Bishop

Review: Lake Silence by Anne Bishop Lake Silence Author: Anne Bishop Reviewer: B. Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: As a reader who mostly enjoyed the original five stories of The Others, I was both hopeful and concerned about the direction the author might take as the series continued. Having finished Lake Silence, I still feel somewhat conflicted, even though there was quite a lot of time spent establishing the new environment and characters that will make up this part of the same universe. The glimpses of the wild country that were given before were both distant and brief, and there were even fewer details about what life would actually be like in small human (or intuit) villages, like Sproing. Overall, I liked Vicki quite a lot. She’s strong, clever, has an internally snarky—if slightly manic—sense of humor that I appreciated, and does her best to deal honestly with everyone around her. She’s also survived an awful divorce from an unrepentantly loathsome and emotionally abusive scumbag whose arrogance is as inexplicable as it is intolerable. With that in mind, I found her wariness of men, in general, to be completely understandable, but I was impressed that her acknowledgement of her own limitations was rooted more in her ability to be logical and rational than any perceived powerlessness. And that’s where parts of the narrative became problematic for me. Even though they have Vicki’s best interests at heart, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the “good guys” in the story—with the exception of Julian Farrow—“handled” her a lot during the course of the story. Vicki does have a moment or two of somewhat childish lashing out, but these instances are few when compared to her deliberate internal consideration of each increasingly alarming situation she finds herself in. Most often, she readily accepts that she needs help, and willingly lets her allies (nearly all men) take the lead. The Others, in particular, have never tried to assist any human, especially an “emotionally-scarred” one, but I think it would have been reasonable (and beneficial to Vicki in the long run) to treat her as a fully aware participant from the beginning, rather than a helpless victim. As mentioned above, Julian, one of my favorite characters in Lake Silence, points out that very problem fairly early in the story. As an Intuit and former policeman, not to mention the ties he has to the terra indigene and humans alike, he’s a key element throughout the narrative, and one I...
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Feb
26

Review: Maybe This Time by Nicole McLaughlin

Review: Maybe This Time by Nicole McLaughlin Maybe This Time Author: Nicole McLaughlin Reviewer: Nima Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Teenagers, almost all of them, go to high school.  It’s unfortunate that Twilight has ruined high school as a setting for too many authors. I confess, when I was introduced to teenage Jen MacKenzie and TJ Laughlin and the two had a crush on each other, but each thought the other one hated them, and then had to work together on a school project…yeah, Twilight.  It’s not fair, but it’s there.  Maybe in another decade my mind won’t go there immediately.  To McLauglin’s credit, I forgot about Twilight as soon as she continued to develop these characters, especially as adults.  I liked them.  I also liked that we got to skip over the fifteen years they spent after high school yearning for each other, but never acting on it.  So the reader arrives on the scene when they finally decide to do something. Maybe This Time is the second installment in the Whiskey and Wedding series. TJ is one of the owners of the boutique Stag Distillery.  Jen works for him as a bartender and temporary receptionist.  Her out-going personality makes her a natural at customer service, but she can be grumpy and bristly in private.  TJ loves having her around as well as what she can do for his business.  Unfortunately, Jen’s heart is in the performing arts and doesn’t plan to make a career out of bartending. He’s from money, she’s from the other side of the tracks.  They shouldn’t work which is why they don’t act on their mutual attraction for so long.  Once they do come together, however, they move very quickly.  Circumstances in Jen’s life force them to move even faster than she would like, but TJ is there going head to head with her to get the relationship he wants. Overall, it’s a sweet, contemporary romance between what should have been high school sweethearts.  The ending wraps up too quickly for me, but that’s kind of the definition of chick lit.  TJ makes a sweeping declaration that would probably play well in a Larry Levinson movie, but in the book where we have time and space, it felt insincere—his only moment that felt that way.  That’s not too grievous in this category of literature, but it’s not the only issue I had which brought down my overall enjoyment of the novel. One of the things Jen and TJ have...
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Feb
22

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Murder’s a Witch by Danielle Garrett

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Murder’s a Witch by Danielle Garrett Welcome to our feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Murder’s a Witch Author: Danielle Garrett Narrator: Amanda Ronconi Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Beechwood Harbor Magic Mysteries #1 Genre: Paranormal Mystery Source: Tantor Audio Holly, a powerful witch, has been tossed from the Haven, a secret system of living for paranormals. She’s been placed in a communal home for displaced paras, living in the small town of Beechwood Harbor. Working at a coffee shop to make ends meet, Holly is shocked when she shows up for work only to find her grumpy boss Peg murdered in the back alley. When her best friend is named as the primary suspect, Holly uses her witchy ways to get to the bottom of this mystery. Murder’s a Witch is a fun, entertaining story. This is the first time I’ve selected an audiobook primarily because of the narrator, and I’m glad I did. I enjoyed the small-town, cozy paranormal mystery with a slight blossom of romance. Even though at first, I found the house infighting annoying, and the characters a bit over-the-top, I grew to like the residents of Beechwood Harbor. Holly is a bit of a mess, and she has secrets, of which we learned very little. Hopefully those answers will come in time, but the immediate mystery of who killed Peg was engrossing. I liked listening as Holly worked to put all of the pieces together. I loved the light-hearted nature of the story, watching friendships develop, seeing Adam’s genuine interest in Holly, etc. Some of the storylines were a bit cheesy – like the vampiress beauty queen, but mostly it is a good mix of fun. As I mentioned, I picked up this story because, while it looked interesting, the narrator is one of my favorites: Amanda Ronconi. She does a wonderful job with the story, creating and maintaining unique and fitting voices for each character. Ms. Ronconi succeeds with the quirky, first-person female lead, and Holly is no exception. I’ve become familiar with most of her voices, yet never did I confuse Murder’s a Witch with another story. In the end, I enjoyed my first visit to Beechwood Harbor. I like that there is still a lot of unknown around Holly, like why she was kicked out of the Haven system, and with town newcomer, Nick… I feel like there is more to him than meets the eye. I will definitely pick up future titles of the Beechwood Harbor Magic...
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Feb
20

Review: The Instigator by Stephanie Julian

Review: The Instigator by Stephanie Julian The Instigator Author: Stephanie Julian Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Derek “The Instigator” Flaherty loves playing hockey and enjoys his current team, the Redtails. His dream is to play in the NHL, so he works hard and is well respected. And his teammates all love him, even though they don’t necessarily see the real guy behind the laughs and good times. But that’s okay, Derek prefers to keep things casual, never allowing relationships to mess with his head or run his life. As the baby of her family, Sophie is the good girl who does what’s asked of her. She keeps her dreams of traveling abroad to herself, rather than seeing any kind of disappointment or hurt in her family’s eyes. Working to finish her degree and putting in all sorts of hours at her dad’s bar, Sophie doesn’t have time for guys or a social life. However, when she meets Derek, she feels something stir inside of her and thinks maybe a little fun isn’t bad. Although this is the fourth book in the Redtails Hockey series, The Instigator is a standalone romance that can be enjoyed without previous knowledge of the series. Derek and Sophie hit it off right from the start, and I love their chemistry. They are almost always in sync – whether in the bedroom or not. They are the kind of couple who clicks and can have lengthy conversations like two old friends. They also have other “lengthy” activities, and their romantic encounters are pretty smokin’. The story moves fairly smoothly, filled with genuine emotions and conflict. I appreciate that their issues are common and real, and that they move past them together. Both Sophie and Derek each has some growing to do, and they start by admitting to themselves how they really feel. There are a few of hiccups along the way, including a couple of minor inconsistencies that took me out of the story. I also felt like some issues were brought up but not fleshed out enough – like why everyone kind of dumps on Derek being not good boyfriend material and Derek’s ex-girl friend, which is hinted as being a bad breakup. I kept expecting more details to fill in why maybe Derek is the way he is. All in all, I enjoyed The Instigator, and really love Derek and Sophie as a couple. They are genuine and adorable. They are scared, but move forward. They...
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