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May
1

Review: Dragon Bites by Allyson James

Review: Dragon Bites by Allyson James Dragon Bites Author: Allyson James Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Starting within a few to several weeks after the conclusion of the previous title, Dragon Bites opens with Janet and Maya heading to Vegas for a girls weekend. Gabrielle crashes the party and insists she come along, and soon the threesome find trouble. They uncover a supernatural fight club, where Mick is an unlikely participant. Powers blazing, Janet and Gabrielle fight to save Mick and unknowingly awaken an ancient power. Dragon Bites is the next adventure for Mick and Janet; however the book really belongs to Gabrielle, who comes into her own over the course of the story. Adding to the changes in Dragon Bites, Ms. James alters her writing style to include several first-person-POVs from not just Janet, but Gabrielle, Mick, and Colby. At first I didn’t care for it, but after a while I grew accustomed to the “mind swapping” and enjoyed learning what the other characters (besides Janet) were thinking.  As I mentioned, Janet and Mick take almost a backseat to Gabrielle in Dragon Bites. While they remain major players, the story focuses on Gabrielle’s journey to break out from Janet and Grandmother’s shadows and restrictions, as she learns more about her own powers. The author is able to provide a deeper insight into Gabrielle through her first person POV. We get inside her head and learn her doubts, fears, joys, and desires. Along the way, new characters are introduced, giving Gabrielle the opportunity to prove to Janet, Grandmother, and herself, that she’s not just the crazy girl with the evil goddess mother.  My only issue with the story, if you can call it that, is the length of time in between books. While the author is good about working on this self-published series when she can, and keeping fans up to speed, in the past five years there has only been two books. It’s tough to keep invested in the characters when so much time passes, and I feel like I have to relearn them each time. I’m starting to forget what drew me to the series and why I love it so. Maybe I need a re-read. In the end, I enjoyed my time spent back in the Stormwalker world, and will continue to follow along on their adventures for now. My Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: Maya and I are just trying to have a girls’ weekend in...
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Apr
25

Review: Bound To by Sionna Fox

Review: Bound To by Sionna Fox Bound To Author: Sionna Fox Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Having lived her entire life in a small college town where she never really fit in, Jolene Mae Whitford finally decided to make a fresh start for herself in Boston. But, living nearly rent-free in her former roommate’s spare room, without a steady job, while constantly dreading her next anxiety attack isn’t working out so well, either. The only bright spot was meeting Matthew Ward—the older brother of another college friend—and realizing that he she needs to give him control during sex as much as he needs to accept it. In fact, submitting to Matthew is the only thing that has felt good in years. But, what is she supposed to do when even that’s not enough? Told entirely from Jolene’s perspective, Bound To explores not only the “awakening” of her physical desires, but her evolution and redefinition of self. It isn’t that Jolene is a “mess” or in need of “fixing,” it’s that she’s not who she’s supposed to be. She’s never had the determination or opportunity to find out before. One of the things I felt this story did well was acknowledge that people are meant to change, and that it’s not shameful to accept help from others along the way. Something else I appreciated is that Jolene’s anxiety isn’t treated as an inconvenience for Matthew (or anyone in their group of friends for that matter) to accept or “cure.” Not that his attempts to help weren’t without some missteps, but mostly Jolene had to be ready to figure out what she needed for herself. Which can be a very difficult thing to do. Though the primary emphasis of Bound To is about more than sex, Jolene’s induction into the world of dominance and submission occupies much of the narrative. Matthew is honest from the start about what he wants, which is exactly what she needs, but didn’t know how to look for. Every encounter is very explicit and highlighted by the heady enticement of finally exploring what feels right to Jolene, not just good. And while the author makes sure that each one is framed by thoughtfulness, responsibility, and care, it’s also made clear that all relationships are different, and that the “rules” that Jolene and Matthew initially agree on are allowed to evolve. In the end, Bound To covered a lot ground in a compact narrative. Though it seemed a little textbook...
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Apr
24

Review: Total Bravery by Piper Drake

Review: Total Bravery by Piper Drake Total Bravery Author: Piper J. Drake Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: B What We’re Talking About: Total Bravery is latest novel in Ms. Drake’s True Heroes series.  After it seemed like all of the men of Hope’s Crossing found their HEAs, we wondered what was next in this series.  We liked this segue into a related group. We are not fans of instant love in the contemporary romance genre.  This is a big reason why the romantic thread in Total Bravery is one of our favorites in this series.  We loved how patient and honest Raul is with Mali.  Although he is strongly attracted to Mali in a way he has never felt before, he is respectful and treats her like a lady.  It was not the right time or place, but the communication between them was strong.  We enjoyed Mali’s analytical mind.  Her reasoning and ability to observe and absorb were valuable and enticing qualities to Raul.  They worked well together and even though they have a quick tryst, they take the time to evaluate if it was a moment of trauma induced stress or something more.   We continue to enjoy the canine partners that enrich the story.  Although Taz was an integral part of the team, he was not as central to the story as some of the other canines have been.  He made a strong supporting character and we really enjoyed his unique personality. As much as we have enjoyed the suspenseful plots of the previous novels, this one just didn’t grab us like the others did.  Even though the horrific element of human trafficking was muted, it still was an uncomfortable contrast to the love story.  We also questioned the realistic viability of taking a recently traumatized civilian into a potential combat mission.  Don’t get us wrong, it was incredibly suspenseful and thrilling, but we couldn’t suspend our disbelief.   With the introduction of this new team, we look forward to more stories in this series.  We are eager to see both Mali’s sister Arin and her partner, Zu, find romance.  Both were fascinating characters.  We also wonder if we may get a prequel story that tells how Kalea and Miller met.   Our Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: True heroes will do anything to protect the women they love… As the newest recruit at Search and Protect, Raul has a lot to prove. Luckily, he’s got the best friend and partner...
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Apr
23

Review: Hot Response by Shannon Stacey

Review: Hot Response by Shannon Stacey Hot Response Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Working as an EMT in Boston keeps Cait busy. Couple that with the time spent taking care of her grieving mom and teenage half-brother, she has no time for a social life. And while she is attracted to Gavin Boudreau, he’s always gotten under her skin, especially after he referred to her as “ma’am”. But when she implies he doesn’t take his job seriously, Cait recognizes the need to make amends, offering him an olive branch in the form of breakfast. Gavin isn’t sure what he did to tick off Cait, but he’ll gladly accept a breakfast out, and then treat her to lunch. He finds Cait attractive and after spending some quality time talking, he realizes he genuinely likes her.  Hot Response is the fourth, standalone romance in the awesome Boston Fire series by Shannon Stacey. The story is a lovely mix of romance, family time, and hanging with the firefighters. The love between Gavin and Cait grows organically; it is sweet, sexy, and well-paced. There is an initial attraction that leads to physical intimacy and spending time together. The more time they spend together, the more they like each other.  Even though they have chemistry, there is room for conflict. Gavin is in a place to want more from Cait as their relationship grows. He’s frustrated with the amount of time she spends helping her family; but only because he feels she’s a crutch for her mom and brother. Meanwhile, Cait isn’t emotionally available after a certain extent. She is afraid of rocking the boat, and for good reasons, but it clouds her heart and causes problems. I like that this couple is great together, but has real problems and deals with them to get to their HEA. The story is well written and simply enjoyable.  Once again, Ms. Stacey makes big city Boston feel like small town family in Hot Response. She has created a tight-knit neighborhood filled with friends and romance. The stories are light but real, giving readers a solid love story complete with all the feels. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Gavin Boudreau lives for the job, but he also believes in “work hard, play harder.” As the youngest guy in Ladder 37, he figures he’s got plenty of time before settling down becomes a priority. Soft, pretty women who aren’t looking for promises are...
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Apr
23

Review: Loving the Secret Billionaire by Adriana Anders

Review: Loving the Secret Billionaire by Adriana Anders Loving the Secret Billionaire Author: Adriana Anders Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Loving the Secret Billionaire is actually a retelling of the same novella previously published as “Grassroots” in the Rogue Desire anthology earlier this year. Per the author’s notes, after its initial release, she realized that there was more to Zack than was originally apparent, thereby opening the door to a richer, more thorough version of Veronica’s story. While I wasn’t able to finish the original prior to this review myself, I think that the addition of Zack’s perspective did enhance the part of Loving the Secret Billionaire that I read.  The nature of the novella typically requires the abbreviation of various aspects of the story, and Loving the Secret Billionaire is likewise subject to those constraints. Though expected, yet certainly not a deal breaker, I’d have liked to see more of Veronica and Zack’s connection outside of the “Oh, my God” sex they have. I similarly wanted to know more about Veronica’s interactions with her students and their parents amid the political turmoil that fuels her desire to run for City Council. Still, the issues presented are undeniably relevant and thought-provoking, which is a considerable success on its own. With regards to the two main characters, Loving the Secret Billionaire takes a different approach than most romances I’ve read. Veronica is a preschool teacher of Guatemalan descent, who has no political experience (nor access to the huge donations that seem to perpetuate the gross monetary imbalances that cause so many problems every election cycle), but is running for city council with the intention of representing those who would otherwise have no voice. Zack is a twenty-three-year-old financial genius who lost his sight in a car crash when he was a child, is afraid to leave his house, and is a virgin. There’s more to him than that, but more details here would take too much away from the narrative. It’s a unique pairing, which I was glad to see, and one that worked out very well in the end. In a world filled with uncertainty as well as a much-needed demand for change, Loving the Secret Billionaire is a nice addition to a genre that means so much to so many readers. While unavoidably abbreviated in places, and despite the occasionally awkward dialog during some of the most explicit scenes, I found Loving the Secret Billionaire to be a hopeful, sweet narrative that won...
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Apr
18

Review: Running the Risk by Lea Griffith

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

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Scourged by Kevin Hearne

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

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

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

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

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

Review: A Nantucket Wedding by Nancy Thayer

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