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Nov
23

Review: Controlled Burn by Shannon Stacey

Review: Controlled Burn by Shannon Stacey Controlled Burn Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: As a lieutenant with the Boston Fire Department, Rick Gullotti is surrounded by his makeshift family of firefighters. Additionally, he has rented the third floor of Joe and Marie Broussard’s home for years, making him part of their family, especially since their only child, Davey, left in his early twenties and never returned, cutting Joe and Marie out of his life. So when Joe takes a fall, Rick rushes to the hospital to help out, knowing that the phone call to Davey will do no good. Jessica Broussard is the VP of her father’s financial services firm. While he is unavailable and out-of-touch, she takes a call that tells her the grandparents she’s never met may need help. On a whim, she decides to fly out to Boston to meet the people her father hates, to find out if they even know about her, and try to help them plan for their future as they age. Once again, I found myself completely wrapped up in Ms. Stacey’s Boston Fire world, which focuses on family – both biological and those we make for ourselves. In Controlled Burn, the Broussard family takes center stage, as Joe and Marie meet and adjust to the granddaughter they never knew existed. Meanwhile, they struggle with the very real issues of growing older and living in a big home that requires a lot of upkeep. On its own, these issues make for an engrossing story; however they also play into the romantic storyline, putting Jessica and Rick together, for better or worse. Luckily it’s all very, very good! Jessica has always been there for her father, as he has been there for her. Being raised by a single dad, Jessica never really questioned her father’s intent and motives. Although she recognizes his faults and doesn’t necessarily make excuses, she tends to go along with his judgement because overall, he’s a good man. I don’t know how things were before this book, but I do like what I see in Jessica once she arrives in Boston. Needless to say, when her father discovers her trip to his parents home, he’s not happy. But Jessica handles herself well with her father. She recognizes when he’s trying to manipulate her and balances her wants and needs with his position as her boss. She plays him well and makes a small stand while keeping her...
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Nov
19

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Dresden Files #3 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: purchased Grave Peril The third title in the Dresden Files, Grave Peril, marks a noticeable shift in the world of Harry Dresden; so much so that the author, Jim Butcher, voices a forward at the beginning of the audiobook suggesting something to that effect. It’s not that everything is completely different, but it’s definitely not the same series that I fell in love with when listening to the first title. The story opens with Dresden recalling the recent uprising of spirits in the Chicago area, and how he and his friend, Michael, a Knight Templar, have been working tirelessly to keep the peace. This is the first evident change – who is this Michael? In the previous books, Dresden didn’t have other supernatural-fighting buddies. He worked solo and brought in help reluctantly, yet in Grave Peril, we are told they’ve been working together for a while. When Michael and Dresden take on a particularly nasty ghost who is trying to kill a bunch of newborns in the hospital, the pair have to follow her over into the never-never, the place where the supernatural reside. Once there, we learn that Harry is fearful of seeing his Godmother, a beautiful and deadly female fae who owns Harry’s sole. *raises eyebrow* Say what?! Where did this Leah come from? The story is told as if everyone knows about Leah (who is anything but motherly as she tries to seduce and capture Dresden), yet in the first two titles there is NOTHING mentioned about her. I understand that we will learn bits and pieces about Harry as the series unfolds; however, this feels like a contradiction to the background of Harry presented in the first two titles. In book 2, Fool Moon, Harry learns a small hint that his mother *may* have been a practicing witch and *possibly* was into the dark side; but this time around, Harry talks as if he knows more and that his mother assigned Leah as his Godmother. It felt like such a left turn from the direction the story was taking after two books, that it rubbed me the wrong way. While the story itself was good; albeit a bit gruesome at times, it had a very different feel than in previous books. In the first two...
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Nov
17

Review: Strings Attached by Stephanie Julian

Review: Strings Attached by Stephanie Julian Strings Attached Author: Stephanie Julian Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Trudeau Morrison manages and runs ManDown Films for famous producer Greg Hicks. She is a self-made woman, who has a plan for her life and is determined to work hard to make it happen. However, ever since Greg hired rock star Sebastian Valenti to score his latest film, Tru has found it more and more difficult to stay on task. After years of mega-stardom as the guitarist for Baseline Sins, Sebastian Valenti almost lost his life in an accidental overdose and breakdown about a year ago. While staying with the Golden Brothers at their ritzy hotel for a much needed break, Baz befriended Greg Hicks and eventually started working for him. But now Baz realizes he’s starting to miss his bandmates and friends, and wonders if he is too broken to have that rock star life again. While Strings Attached is listed as the first book in the new Baseline Sins series, it is actually the fifth book in Ms. Julian’s Salon Games series. While one could jump in and read the book as a standalone romance, I feel readers would really miss out on much of the world building and character development of the supporting cast if they skipped reading the original series. I was immediately sucked in to Tru and Baz’s story because I’d read about both characters in the previous books. Although Tru and Baz are like oil and water and bicker constantly, they have great chemistry. The “opposites attract trope” is at its best as we witness the pair combust under an intense mutual attraction fueled by a genuine concern for each other. All it takes is seeing one another outside the usual work environment to ignite the flames. But it’s not all sunshine and roses, as Tru’s brain overrides her sexual desire and need. Tru is all the more real to me, as she tries to remember what her life plan is and why she needs to stick with it. I’m very much the same Type-A, planner persona, and can relate to her internal conflicts as she pushes forward, trying to understand and deal with (in an orderly manner) her own emotions. What makes this story so enjoyable are the supporting characters who surround this couple. They aren’t just window dressings, showing up from book to book, but rather, confidants who help the main characters better understand their own actions...
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Nov
16

Review: Hidden Impact by Piper J. Drake

Review: Hidden Impact by Piper J. Drake Hidden Impact Author: Piper J. Drake Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B+ What We’re Talking About: Although Gikany and Una are not huge romantic suspense readers, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read PJ Schynder’s new series (written under the shiny new alter ego, Piper J. Drake).  Even though the romance may have moved a little too quickly (something Gikany and Una debated), the tension-packed storyline was incredibly gripping.  Hidden Impact is a stunning new start in the passionately suspenseful Safeguard series. We won’t lie, the lust starts early, but thankfully it is lust with the possibility of more.  Maylin is looking for a distraction and some comfort, and indulging in the attraction she has for Gabe (and since Gabe feels the same attraction and passion, he doesn’t refuse).  They don’t instantly fall in love.  They take the time to get to know each other.  However, Una thought this took place over a longer timeline than Gikany.  Either way, they take steps towards a true relationship which we really liked.  We liked how they do question themselves and what they want.  They both think about what the ramifications of a relationship would mean and what the future might hold for them.  These thoughts, along with the time spent, really grounded the characters, giving the romance an honesty we respected. What we enjoyed, though, was that Gabe and Maylin’s romantic journey was nicely woven with the plot of Maylin’s missing sister.  The complexity of the situation and the planning and research were fascinating to experience.  This was the strongest element of the story, with the romance being just a sweet treat along the way.  The balance between these two major plot lines was perfect, they were woven seamlessly together, and we really liked how it felt like each was equally important.  The realism of Gabe’s work felt grounded and well researched.  The tension and suspense of finding Maylin’s sister was well done and we found it was difficult to put the novel down. Hidden Impact is a great start to what may be a gripping and fascinating new romantic suspense series with a military flair.  It’s a great read to take with you and escape the world for a bit.  We can see ourselves reading it again because we really enjoyed the varied characters, the action and drama and the world that Ms. Drake created.  We eagerly look forward to the next installment in this new Safeguard series. Our...
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Nov
12

Review: Edge of Danger by Katie Reus

Review: Edge of Danger by Katie Reus Edge of Danger Author: Katie Reus Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B- What We’re Talking About: Overall, we liked the latest installment in Ms. Reus’s Deadly Ops series, Edge of Danger.  The political suspense drama kept us glued to the pages even though the romantic journey struck an odd chord with us. After the last novel in the Deadly Ops series, we wondered who the newest big bad would be and what would happen next.  We were not disappointed.  Having the DEA agents we briefly met in the previous novel, Shattered Duty, take point in this one was a nice transition.  Tucker was a fascinating character in Shattered Duty and we liked getting to know him better.  However, having it start with the death of his mentor, Max, and his team targeted by assassins wasn’t quite what we had in mind.  As the story slowly unfolded, it was gripping to watch as Tucker tries to protect his team while clearing their names and finding out the truth behind Max’s death.  This overall plot that resolves at the end of the novel was interesting.  Even though we have the point of view of the villains, it was still mesmerizing to watch the team work to identify, locate, and apprehend them. What felt a bit odd was the romance between Tucker and Karen.  Although we appreciated their journey, it just happened so fast.  Considering it started with Tucker kidnapping Karen, we were surprised at the instant lust that was burning between them and how quickly the passion blossomed.  In the course of a week, Karen and Tucker go from kidnapper and victim to being in love.  It was a bit of a stretch for us.  However, the epilogue redeemed their love story for us.  We found the epilogue (which occurs six months later) to be funny, passionate, and sweet.  It was a delightful end that also showed that they had continued to date and get to know each other before jumping into anything. Overall, we liked Edge of Danger.  The political suspense was gripping, and although the romance moved too quickly for our tastes, the epilogue redeemed their story.  We look forward to more in this Deadly Ops series and can’t wait to see who will be the focus of the next novel. Our Rating:  B- Liked It, but we had a small issue About the Book: When an assassin tries to kill undercover DEA agent Tucker Pankov the same week...
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Nov
12

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dresden Files Part 1

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dresden Files Part 1 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Dresden Files #1-2 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: purchased Storm Front (#1) Wow! Just… wow! I was pleasantly surprised and extremely impressed with the audiobook of Storm Front, the first story from the Dresden Files series by James Butcher. I really didn’t know much about the series, never watched the show, and had no idea what to expect, other than I’d heard the books are good. Harry Dresden is a wizard for hire – think private investigator with a bit of a twist. No one really believes him, but there are the few who either heard rumors or are desperate enough to seek his help. Most people don’t believe in magic or the supernatural, and those that do, don’t know the full extent of its reaches. Harry works in and around both kinds of people, helping where he can. He even helps out the police special investigations unit from time to time, and their current case is one that leaves even Harry a bit disturbed. Storm Front is, at its core, a paranormal whodunit, and a complex and engrossing one at that. Told from Harry’s perspective, the listener is privy to supernatural details the average person wouldn’t pick up on. I loved how Harry’s brain works as he puts the pieces together. What I enjoyed even more were the compromises Harry must make with himself in order to do what is right in the grand scheme of things. Harry has a dark past and is subject to close scrutiny by the White Council, a sort of policing agency for wizards. Harry struggles with the best way to save those who need help, without endangering his own well-being. Unfortunately, the decisions he makes, while probably best in the long run, sometimes alienate those closest to him and even put him in the line of suspicion. What makes this book even better is the sublime narration by James Marsters. Best known for his role as Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, long gone is his cockney accent. Instead, listeners enjoy a deep, rich, soothing voice that embodies all that is Dresden: his worries, triumphs, fears, and celebrations. His cadence is extremely fitting, full of sighs, lip smacks, and pauses, creating the illusion that I’m actually inside Dresden’s mind as he works his way through the case and life. While he...
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Nov
9

Review: Found at the Library by Christi Snow

Review: Found at the Library by Christi Snow Found at the Library Author: Christi Snow Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Writing science-fiction novels might keep him mostly single, but that dedication has brought Robert McIntyre a great deal of success. He’s a little self-absorbed, maybe, but, when his muse is talking, and the deadlines are looming, he figures it’s to be expected. But, when he gets the chance to redeem himself after a bad first impression, he falls for the gorgeous man who’s upended his world more than he ever thought possible. If only holding on to him could be so easy. After many years of loving the books that his dyslexia prevented him from reading, Tommy Garrett has made a place for himself creating a different kind of art out of the pages themselves. It may not be the way he wanted things to be, but with the help of his collection of audiobooks, all of those other settings and characters have come to life for him anyway. Although falling for an author was never part of his plan, nothing could have prepared him for the quirky sci-fi writer who (literally) broke into his life and turned it inside out. I thought Mac and Tommy were both very interesting characters from the beginning of Found at the Library, and they became even more so as the story progressed. While I’ve often heard that being involved with someone who earns their living in a creative profession carries with it the potential for a variety of issues, Ms. Snow illustrates some very difficult ones here. Initially, their professions—as an author and artist, respectively—make Tommy and Mac perfect for each other. Despite their mutual need to withdraw from all forms of human interaction when they are working on a project, they are generous and considerate of the other’s obligations and needs, and seeing the way they cared for one another was my favorite part of the story. That’s not to say that things are always easy between the two. In fact, their relationship does not begin well at all. Despite an obvious and immediate physical connection, they manage to thoroughly offend one another and generate a startling amount of ill will in the process. Of course, that they do have such an undeniable carnal attraction makes the next few chapters quite a lot of fun. And since neither man is very good at expressing himself verbally, I found it especially endearing that they are best able...
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Nov
9

Review: By Hook or By Crook by Eleri Stone + bonus review

Review: By Hook or By Crook by Eleri Stone + bonus review By Hook or By Crook Author: Eleri Stone Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Note: The author and Carina Press put out a free prequel novella, The Adventures of Cassius Flynn and Molly McGuire, which I recommend reading prior to By Hook or By Crook, as it shares quite a bit of the couple’s mutual history. I’ve included my review of the novella at the end of this post. Cassius Flynn and Molly McGuire have always made good partners. So out of a sense of debt and because she still cares for him, Molly agrees to help Flynn on a spy mission for the Rangers, even if it means she has to pretend to be a lady and mingle with the Scrapers. Having recently turned from his smuggling ways, Flynn is trying to create a life that is stable and one which Molly would be proud of. He thinks having her come up into the cities will give her the chance to relax and enjoy how the other half lives. After following Molly and Flynn dance around one another through a couple of the Reaper titles, I was very excited to read their romantic story. I am happy to report that By Hook or By Crook did not disappoint. Molly and Flynn’s journey is sweet, passionate, and an exciting adventure! Ms. Stone drops readers right into high adventure and action as Molly and Flynn attempt to secure a treasure left in a Reaper-infested town. Right from the start I was on edge; the tension is high and well detailed. Flynn is an interesting character who started life as a wealthy scraper, then turned his back on his corrupt stepfather, Stark, to become a smuggler on the plains. But Flynn never could just walk away from Stark, taking every opportunity to needle him and hamper his business efforts. This need for continual vengeance is what ultimately puts Flynn and Molly back in Scraper territory and in danger. Yet, Flynn loves Molly with all his heart and wants to be a better man for her. These conflicting drives and emotions are what makes Flynn the man he is, and unfortunately, sometimes blinds him to the truths around him. Equality as complex and exciting, Molly is fairly content with her scavenging lifestyle. She’s had a tough life, yet while those around her always let her down, she refuses to allow the actions of others dictate who she wants to be...
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Nov
5

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Brighter Than the Sun by Darynda Jones

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Brighter Than the Sun by Darynda Jones Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Brighter Than the Sun Author: Darynda Jones Narrator: Lorelei King Listening Speed: 1.25x Audiobook Source: purchased What I’m Talking About: Brighter Than the Sun is a story for fans and readers of the Charlie Davidson series by Darynda Jones. Told in the first person, present tense voice of Reyes, the novella recounts his life from Charlie’s birth to a point sometime within the first book of the series. I don’t recommend this story for those who have not read the series because, although it is a prequel of sorts, knowledge of the two main characters, Charlie and Reyes, is what makes the story interesting and why it worked for me. The narrative voice is very odd, in that it is told in present tense, but it is a history of Reyes’ life. It mostly worked, but I felt like I was being taught a history lesson rather than experiencing an actual story with a plot. With that said, some of Charlie’s humor still works its way into the tale, even though it is generally a much darker story. Reyes doesn’t have share Charlie’s ADD tendencies nor her sarcastic outlook on life, which makes the story is very straight forward, and I really liked seeing certain events from Reyes’ POV. My biggest complaint, which really irritated me, is that Reyes makes an off-the-cuff comment about the impending horrible future of one of the major characters in the series. WTH?! Why toss something that big out there as a small footnote in a side novella? This is the second story in the Charley Davidson series that I’ve listened to rather than read, and I find that I’m enjoying the stories more this way. The narration by Lorelei King is good, although I still hear Mercy and Adam from the Mercy Thompson series because I have listened to several more of those titles. But Ms. Lorelei is a master at her craft, and she truly helps bring to life these stories. Overall, Brighter Than the Sun is an interesting tale but not a genuine story. It’s a history lesson told in present tense. I liked it, but it’s not a standalone story in that knowledge of Charlie and Reyes is needed to really embrace this tale. And since I fall into that category, I enjoyed this short journey into the mind of Reyes. Story: B- Narration: B+   About the Book:...
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Nov
3

Review: The Exhibitionist by Tara Sue Me

Review: The Exhibitionist by Tara Sue Me The Exhibitionist Author: Tara Sue Me Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: I’ve been reading Tara Sue Me’s Submissive series for a while now. I’ve loved it because it shows how a real couple, albeit a *rich* couple, navigate a relationship. That’s why I fell in love with it. Today, after reading The Exhibitionist and sleeping on it, I’m still pretty much stuck as to why I’m not feelin’ this title. I think it’s the conflict. Like in some romance titles, there’s internal conflict. Nothing that’s *really* external for both Nathaniel and Abby. I’m pretty sure that was it, because the issues didn’t *seem* that big. Maybe it’s because of my own relationship with Mr. VampBard that this really annoys me. Abby has something that bothers her. Remember Charlene from previous books? Yeah. She’s still hanging around. Abby’s jealousy is, I think, her conflict, whereas Nathaniel’s conflict is wondering if he is enough. There are some seriously hot play sessions, as well as some sweet sex in this title. I felt like I was hopping from one sex scene to the next, and the connective tissue was superficial in many cases. We learn more about Jeff & Dena, and I’m glad—I needed to see their HEA after reading their book. We learn in the end matter that Sasha & Cole get a book (or maybe I’m just reading into the foreshadowing in the book as well as the sneak peek). I know not every relationship is picture-perfect. It’s gotta be hard for authors to keep coming up with stuff readers want. I actually understand the reason for a book like this. It’s important to relate the exhibitionist side some people have. Many of us are more demonstrative in public, versus keeping all that for behind closed doors. One thing I think was covered well in this title was the way people continue to grow and change. It’s important that we recognize these changes in our significant others, and TALK about it. Needs, wants, and desires change over time. How we evolve as a couple, in the face of these changes, is what matters. I think that element of the internal conflict could’ve been handled better. I’m still interested in picking up more titles in the Submissive series. I’m not breaking up with the series or anything. This title just didn’t do it for me. My Rating:  B- Liked It, but I had a few small issues About...
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