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Aug
8

Review: Urban Enemies Anthology

Review: Urban Enemies Anthology Urban Enemies Author: Edited by Joseph Nassise (authors listed below) Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: “Even Hand” by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files) This story is shared from Dresden’s long-time nemesis, John Marcone. Justine shows up with a baby and asks for sanctuary from Mag, a powerful fomor wizard. Marcone isn’t one for making bad business decisions, but takes Justine in because one of Marcone’s rules is no harm to children. Mag is extremely determined to get back Justine and brings all his power to bear down on Marcone, Gard, and Hendricks. While the tale doesn’t directly tie into the overall Dresden story arc, it gives great insight into the warped mind of Marcone, reminding readers he isn’t anybody’s hero. I love he remains the bad guy, even when saving Justine. And his plans for Dresden left me shivering. “Hounded” by Kelly Armstrong (Cainsville series) Never having read this series, Ms. Armstrong does a great job giving readers just enough information to understand the short without going into the entire series background and history. The Cwn Annwn are the Hunters of the Wild Hunt. “Hounded” follows one Huntsman whose hound was taken from him and was cut from his pack for reasons we discover as the story unfolds. Unlike the previous story, where a bad guy does a good deed, this Huntsman is not good, and we witness how he corrupts a woman, bending her will to suit his needs. Very well done and a bit creepy! “Nigsu Ga Tesgu” by Jeff Somers (Ustari Cycle story) Once again, the author does a great job giving readers a blurb about the world and antagonist featured in this anthology. Mika Renar is a magician, and she is one of the most powerful and dark ustari in the world. The first line in the story tells us she killed her father, and thus starts our lesson of how wicked magicians truly are. Told in first person, present tense, “Nigsu Ga Tesgu” shares an attack meant to destroy Mika. While I had no problems following the storyline, I found that it held little interest for me. Maybe if I knew more about Mari, I would have been more invested in her survival. However, she is an evil, selfish woman, one I didn’t care about. “Sixty-Six Seconds” by Craig Schaefer (This story contains characters from two interconnected series: Harmony Black and Daniel Faust.) Fontaine and his new apprentice, Rache, work for hell...
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Aug
3

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Silver Skull by Anne Renwick

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Silver Skull by Anne Renwick Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Elemental Web Chronicles Book: The Silver Skull Author: Anne Renwick Narrator: Henrietta Meire Audio Speed: 1.25x & 1.5x Series: Elemental Web Chronicles #2 Genre: Steampunk Romance Source: Tantor Audio The Silver Skull As the daughter of a prominent Duke, Lady Olivia is expected to marry, produce heirs for her husband, and run a successful household – all things she was taught to do. Except Olivia is also a Queen’s agent, trained to marry a politically motivated target and report on his activities. Olivia sees this as a means to an end; becoming a widow and then a field agent. Tired of waiting for field assignment, Olivia takes matters in her own hands when she decides to follow Lord Ian Rathsburn. Ian is a man with a tarnished reputation; a former Queen’s agent whose life work was stolen and is being developed by the enemy: Germany. Yet when his enemies kidnap his sister, Ian must act traitor to his country and help the Germans further develop his ideas, working along side his former friend – the man who stole his work. Finding stowaway Lady Olivia on his dirigible, Ian isn’t certain if she’s a bubble-headed woman looking for a husband, or an agent of the Queen looking to bring him in. The second story in Ms. Renwick’s wonderful Elemental Web Chronicles is equally exciting and doubly adventurous as its predecessor. The story not only takes readers across the sea to Germany, but also opens up the setting to the much larger world. The world building continues as new characters are introduced, some with long-term potential. I feel like the entire Elemental Web Chronicles universe has expanded immensely after just one additional book. Even though things are growing within the series mythos, The Silver Skull is a tightly-woven story. The author does a fabulous job bring her world and characters to life without overwhelming readers/listeners. The romance between physician Ian and engineer Olivia is entertaining. I love the use of “scientific exploration” as a means for examining their mutual and intense attraction. They banter and play as only two geeks could, which is very enduring to me. I appreciate the conundrum of being spies and the need to keep secrets versus creating a solid rapport  based on honesty. Their romance burns slowly, but the unfulfilled desire keeps pulling the two together. At first I was concerned that the similarities between The Silver Skull...
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Aug
1

Review: In His Hands by Adriana Anders

Review: In His Hands by Adriana Anders In His Hands Author: Adriana Anders Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: When I was reading In His Hands, I felt like I was transported up a lonely mountain and planted in a vineyard. The feel of the vines and the selection process—which to cut and which to leave—reminded me of working with my grandmother on the concord grapes she had in her back yard. I’d listen to her talk about pruning the canes back and making sure the vines stayed on the fencing she’d made my dad set when he was a kid. As an adult, I lived in her house and tried to reclaim the vines after years of them running amok. It wasn’t an easy job. But, my nostalgia left as soon as I figured out what the heck was going on, on the top of that mountain. It…wasn’t pretty, but Ms. Anders didn’t focus on the abuse Abby suffered at the hands of others. The story focused on trust. Not the cult in which Abby was raised and how twisted and backward their beliefs were. I may have thrown up in my mouth a little during a few memories. Abby is a little spitfire. I’m not sure whether I can fully stomach the  whole cult mentality. I’m pretty sure I would’ve been down off the mountain before I’d been married off to some old geezer. I get the ‘only way out is death’ mentality, though. It’s just super hard for me to connect with. Which brings me to Luc. As a recluse and neighbor to the cult, Luc’s lack of experience with positive relationships in his life played out beautifully in this story. I felt a true connection to him because he listened to everything his grandfather said about growing grapes—and he applied it to the small crop of grapes he cultivated every year to sell to vintners in the area. I could almost hear my grandmother saying some of the same things about her vines. I’m not sure if I missed how long Luc had been on the mountain or if I wasn’t able to retain it due to nostalgia. It felt like he’d been there a few years, though. I even got the whole family thing—but for entirely different reasons. What I adored about Luc even more than the trip he took me on down memory lane was the fact that he was FRENCH. Ugh. My weakness. Even though Abby was...
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Aug
1

Review: Chasing Destiny by Megan Erickson

Review: Chasing Destiny by Megan Erickson Chasing Destiny Author: Megan Erickson Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Bay has had something missing in his life since losing his best friend and future mate when they were teens. But to lose Nash again after he was rescued then sacrificed himself to save the Silver Tips from a Nowere attack, left Bay empty and near ruin. Volunteering for a highly dangerous and potentially deadly scouting mission, Bay finds life again when he discovers Nash living in isolation with the Whitethroats. Nash has spent over half of his life in deplorable conditions as a prisoner; used for experiments and worse. Now that Bay has found him, he’s torn between his love for Bay and a pack long forgotten and the need to protect them from his once captors. With warring emotions, Nash walks the fine line between redemption and hell. Fans of good ol’ shifter romance and sizzling m/m lovin’ rejoice! Ms. Erickson’s Silver Tip Pack series is just what you need. After enjoying the world building and character development of first book, Daring Fate, I found Chasing Destiny all the more intense and exciting. The raw need between Nash and Bay is tangible: emotional and sexy. The years of unfulfilled lust and love explode as the pair reconnects. It’s a push and pull story, with a solid foundation established when the pair was younger. While Nash can do little to control his body’s need to be with Bay, his heart and head push him away, thinking he is too broken to be loved by Bay. Their story is emotionally gripping and satisfying. While the romance between first book couple Reese and Dare was the “True Mate” kind, I am thankful that Ms. Erickson did not utilize the same for Nash and Bay. True Mating is rare and special, but the author shows us that it isn’t necessary for true love to develop between a couple, leaving no question of how exceptional Bay and Nash relationship is. Additionally, I appreciate that the author gives Nash the time he needs to be with Bay, rather than skip over his years of physical and mental abuse. Yet, they are firmly a couple before the big climax of the book, solidifying their connection in a powerful way. Ms. Erickson continues to develop her world, as we learn more about surrounding Were and werewolf packs, making connections with other packs, and witnessing anomalies involving the zombie-like Noweres. Having to spend...
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Jul
27

Review: Gods and Ends by Devon Monk

Review: Gods and Ends by Devon Monk Gods and Ends Author: Devon Monk Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: B+ What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una are delighted that there will be more in this world.  Especially since the subsequent novellas or novels will have a different viewpoint.  We really liked this final novel from Delaney’s perspective. Since this is the third book in this series, we can confidently say we like Delaney.  Her heart is always in the right spot – she loves her town, her family, and especially the gods and monsters that call it home.  However, she is far too impulsive; something that is especially shown in Gods and Ends.  The plot wove itself nicely, but Delaney needed to slow down and think before she jumped.  Although some of these decisions cost her greatly, she never regretted her decisions.  It was touching to see how much the gods and monsters care for her and her family. In our previous reviews you will note that Ryder was not our choice for Delaney.  Despite their lackluster romance in this novel, Ryder did move up in our opinion.  We still think he has much to make up for, but their happily-for-now was satisfying.  Ryder’s care and concern for Delaney was better illustrated in this novel.  We also enjoyed watching how Ryder is paying for not heeding Delaney’s warnings in the previous book.  It was a bit endearing, as it seemed Ryder was chagrined about the price he is paying for being Mithra’s warden. What keeps us gripped by this the story is the mythology.  We love the idea of a place where gods vacation and monsters live in harmony.  The relationship of Delaney to the some particular gods and monsters is heartwarmingly unique and quirky.  We especially loved Death and we hope to see more of him in the upcoming stories.  We truly enjoyed watching the wolves and vampires come together for their own.  Instead of fighting and tearing two lovers apart, the two groups came together to support and aid the lovers.  It was truly captivating and heartwarming.  We hope to see more of these families as well. Ordinary Magic is a unique and imaginative mythology that we absolutely enjoy.  This final installment in Delaney’s story was our favorite of the three books; although we still think that Delaney could do better than Ryder.  We are very happy that this is not the end.  Like the gods in this story, we eagerly look forward to...
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Jul
25

Review + Blog Tour: Get a Grip by L.A. Witt

Review + Blog Tour: Get a Grip by L.A. Witt Welcome to the Riptide Publishing/L. A. Witt blog tour for Get a Grip, the latest Bluewater Bay story! Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice of two eBooks off my backlist (excluding Get a Grip) and a $10 Riptide Publishing store credit. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 29th, and winners will be announced on July 30th.  Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. More info at the end of this post Review: Get A Grip Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: insert your letter (only) grade rating What I’m Talking About: Like anyone else would surely be, Shane Andrews was completely unprepared to be a teenaged dad, especially when he ended up raising his daughter alone. Now, two more kids and two divorces later, he’s ready to reach beyond his role as the responsible father and experience some of the fun and sexual abandon he missed out on all those years ago. When an unexpected disaster on the Wolf’s Landing set brings him together with a sexy firefighter, Shane gets more than he bargained for. Having been burned in the past in more ways than one, Aaron Tucker gets his kicks via random hookups, rather than jumping into fires—or relationships. Casual suits him just fine, thanks. Until the lonely father of three he wanted in his bed suddenly claims a piece of his heart without his noticing. But, Aaron’s new longing for a commitment with Shane can’t go anywhere if the latter won’t stop running. Get a Grip, the latest in the Bluewater Bay series, has a lot going for it. I thought Shane was pretty relatable as a single father of three who had to grow up too fast, and is trying to work through the guilt and accept his own desire to play for a while, now that his kids are getting older. Aaron was just as intriguing, if not more so, given his openness, enthusiasm, and increasing affection for Shane. And while it wasn’t without an awkward moment or two, there were plenty of very nicely written scenes in the story that kept me involved and eager to stick with the narrative to the end. Even though the protests from both Shane and Aaron became a little too rote towards the end of the story, I still found it extremely rewarding when they both realized they’d been in an accidentally successful monogamous relationship the entire time....
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Jul
20

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Besieged by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Besieged by Kevin Hearne Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book: Besieged  Author: Kevin Hearne Narrator: Luke Daniels Audio Speed: 1.25x + 1.5x Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #8.5 (but contains tales #0.3, #4.7, #8.6) Genre: Urban Fantasy Source:  Penguin Random House Audio Besieged Anthology Warning: Spoilers of events from previous books are included in this review. Besieged is a collection of tales all set in the Iron Druid world. All but the last few are not directly related to the current storyline. Many are fun recountings of events in the long lives of these characters. *Note: I could not find a listing of the story titles within the book, so I did my best trying to catch the names when listening to the audiobook. “Eye of Horus” This is a story Atticus shares with Granuaile and Oberon; told between Tricked and Two Ravens and One Crow, when Granuaile is still an apprentice. Atticus narrates a story from back in the third century when the Celtic god Ogma wants Atticus to steal some books from the library in Alexandra. We find out that the Egyptian and Celtic gods do not get along. It was an interesting side-story about a much younger Atticus and how he first meets the iron elementals. The story makes direct reference to another short story, “Grimoire of Lamb,” which I haven’t read so I may have missed a joke or two. “Goddess at the Crossroads”  Another story shared by Atticus during the same time period as the previous book, that is actually a recounting of a story from long ago. This one takes place during time of Shakespeare, just after the death of Queen Elizabeth. Atticus links up with Shakespeare for an adventure during the time he was writing MacBeth. It doesn’t have any relevance on the current series, but was fun. “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street”  This one takes place two weeks after “Two Ravens and One Crow,” and was originally published in the Carney Punk anthology. The tale is a bit of a non sequitur about a trip to a fair where demons and ghouls are feasting on humans. The story takes place in Granuaile’s hometown as she attempts to visit her mom. The story felt a wee bit gorier and darker than the usual stories, but was interesting. “Gold Dust Fairy” This one is another recounting of a story during Atticus’s history. He shares it shortly after the time of...
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Jul
19

Review: The Darkest Promise by Gena Showalter

Review: The Darkest Promise by Gena Showalter The Darkest Promise Author: Gena Showalter Reviewer: Jen Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Cameo, the keeper of Misery, remembers forgetting someone. A dark man who made her… happy?! She thinks it could be Lazarus the Cruel and Unusual, but her demon has blocked it from her memories. She has found her way to Lazarus’s realm using the Paring Rod in hopes of finding out the truth. Lazarus is stuck in a land of the dead, but he is not dead; sort of. His thoughts revolve around vengeance: to kill his father, Hera, and the harpy who banished him to this realm. He found his “one true mate” in Cameo, and he is obsessed with finding her after she left his side never to return. He is also slowly dying from crystallized veins, something that occurs once the male of his species finds their “true mate.” Now he’s torn between his need for vengeance and desire for Cameo, which is killing him. Due to the fact that The Darkest Promise follows a couple story arcs that began a few books ago, I don’t recommend anyone new to the Lords of the Underworld series start here. It is probably the best of the most recent books, as it mostly stays focused on the romantic storyline and only one overarching plot line, keeping the book moving without creating a lot of unnecessary confusion. I am especially thankful that the book didn’t spend time on the Gilly/William issues. Cameo and Lazarus are good together and “meant to be.” I enjoyed their back and forth, and the fact that both wanted to protect the other more than life itself was rewarding. Many times, I got the mushy, squishy heart feeling because of an action or words thought/spoken. Both Cameo and Lazarus have personal issues they must hurdle in order to get to their HEA. Calling this “Cameo’s book” would be unfair, as it is equal parts Lararus’s story. Outside of the primary romance, the book addressed more in the on-going war between Hades and Lucifer. I honestly can’t recall how this story started, and I still wonder what happened in the “real world” with the rise of the Titans. I know the Lords took down the leadership, but aren’t there temples or something out there? I don’t know how the Sent Ones (from the spin off series) and all the conflicting mythologies tie in together, but I just go with the flow of...
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Jul
12

Review: The Mech Who Loved Me by Bec McMaster

Review: The Mech Who Loved Me by Bec McMaster The Mech Who Loved Me Author: Bec McMaster Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: We first met Ava McLaren, blue blood and former Nighthawk, when she was captured and tortured in Perry’s book, Forged by Desire. Hague infected her with the craving virus and replaced her heart with a working, clockwork heart. She was recruited by Lord Malloryn as part of the Company of Rogues. Ava had been crushing on the only man who was nice to her after her ordeal. However, Byrnes’s wedding to his love, Ingrid, is where The Mech Who Loved Me opens, about six weeks after conclusion of previous book. While Ava may be a bit forlorn, she confides in Perry she has had recent feelings towards fellow Rogue, Kincaid. Liam Kincaid spent much of his life as a slave to the blue blood Echelon after receiving his mech arm. He blames the blue bloods for the deaths of his brother and sister, leaving him to ponder why Malloryn recruited him as a Rogue. He finds Ava attractive, but the fact that she’s a virgin, wants to marry, and is a blue blood is enough to keep him away. Yet the more time he works with Ava, the less cynical he becomes. The second story in the continuing tales of blue bloods and humans in an alternate London is a hit! Ms. McMaster continues her exciting, well-spun storytelling with another beautiful, sexy romance, while continuing to unfold the mysteries of the Sons of Gideon, Lord Ulbricht, and the secretive dhampirs. The overarching storyline involving a plot against rogue blue bloods and humans alike progresses nicely. But the heart of the story is the romance between shy Ava and weathered Kincaid. The pair is simultaneously sweet and sexy; reserved and passionate. Ms. McMaster started with two very interesting characters in Ava and Kincaid, then allows each to grow and develop over the course of The Mech Who Loved Me. Watching both find their own way in this new and changing world was rewarding; seeing them find friendship and love was wonderful. Theirs is a relationship of give and take until they find their own new normal, accepting the other as both a whole, yet their own missing half. The mysterious and complex plots to bring about chaos and anarchy gain momentum and focus over the course of the book. I like that the story took one avenue of this conspiracy to its end, while...
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Jul
5

Review: Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt

Review: Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt Pounding Skin Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Picking up shortly after Back Piece, the first story in the Skin Deep, Inc. series, Pounding Skin introduces readers to jet pilot Jon Russell and inker Matt Huffman, whom we briefly met before. Although the pairing of a member of the military and a civilian employee of the tattoo shop is the same, the characters are so different that there’s very little repetition. While familiar within those parameters, this sequel feels brand new in plenty of other ways, making the entire series better overall. Even more than the first story in this series, Pounding Skin is a tale in which “opposites attract.” Jon throws his candor, which was downright abrasive on occasion, before him as if it were a shield he can hunker down behind, while still feeling blameless for anyone else’s hurt feelings. Matt, on the other hand, seems so genuine—even when he’s clueless—that I worried for him for the duration of the novel. Of the two, I couldn’t help the fondness I felt for Matt from the start, nor the protective irritation that was repeatedly inspired by Jon’s behavior. Nearly all of the emotional ballast is on Matt’s side, but it ended up working out well that way. Although I enjoyed Pounding Skin as a whole a great deal, there were some instances that I found distracting (but not particularly troubling). The sudden reversal of Matt’s old, alcohol-induced amnesia about an important moment with his college roommate; certain phrasing that’s repeated nearly verbatim; the suggestion that women are more easily “charmed” than men when it comes to sex, etc., did pull me out of the narrative on occasion. These moments are few, however, and are nicely balanced out by the more positive aspects of the story. Pounding Skin is a well-crafted second in the Skin Deep, Inc. series, and one I feel certain I’ll revisit soon. While I was never able to fully sympathize with Jon, I felt that Matt was a truly wonderful character. More than a romance, however, Pounding Skin examines the ways we are shaped by our experiences, sculpted by many other hands in addition to our own. I was also very glad to see more of Colin and Daniel from Back Piece, and every bit of the affection I have for them both was not only remembered, but magnified. The tattoo shop seemed like a real family this time around,...
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