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Jun
1

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Skin Game by Jim Butcher Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Book: Skin Game Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Dresden Files #15 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: purchased Skin Game Skin Game opens with Harry on Demonreach, a place he’s been living alone for the past year. He can’t leave until he removes the parasite from his head, and it’s clear that Mab has been running interference when he tried to reach out to his friends. Harry spent the time learning more about his new job as the prison warden and perfecting his parkour moves. When Mab finally shows up, she tells Harry his next task is to work as her emissary helping Nicodemus. I have always been a bit fearful of the stories revolving around Nicodemus and the Blacken Denarius. The stories tend to be a bit darker, and Skin Game is no exception. However, I have to say that even with my initial apprehension and the terrible violence of the book, I think this was my favorite Blacken Denarius story. The book is filled with plot twists and gritty action, but also tender moments (Harry and Maggie finally connect!!) and Harry’s trademark humor. Overall, I enjoyed Skin Game. There were great highs, but some very dark lows. The darkness of the mood and malice found in several scenes was a bit much for me at times. I loved several of the changes; most notably what happens with Butters, the changes between Karen and Dresden, and Harry uniting with Maggie. I also loved the addition of Goodwin Gray and Hades, and would love to see them again in future titles. Harry is finding his way again, learning to trust both himself and his friends. There was a lot of positive emotions in the underlying storyline message. But the gruesome scenes were hard to handle at times. James Marsters turns in another amazing performance. Expanding his cast of voices with the addition of several new characters. The voice for the evil forest creature was ominous and dark, the voice for mercenary Gray was laid back and charming. Perfect. Now that I’ve finished Skin Games, I’m 100% caught up and have nothing new. With the delayed and unknown release date for the next title, I’m a bit sad. My Rating: B+ Narration: A...
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May
29

Review: Trust Me by Farrah Rochon

Review: Trust Me by Farrah Rochon Trust Me Author: Farrah Rochon Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: At one point, Mackenna (Mack)Arnold was one-half of New Orleans’ Power Couple. But after 15 years of problems and lies, she left her husband. Now she sits on the New Orleans City Council, dedicating her time to helping the city she loves. Unfortunately, her best friend’s little brother, Ezra Holmes, an investigative report, has set his sights on uncovering supposed corruption in Mack’s office. Ezra Holmes is a conflicted, even troubled man. The woman he’s crushed on for years may be using her position on the City Council to line her pockets. Also, he recently trusted the wrong source, costing him his job with the newspaper. So instead of making his way onto the national news spotlight, he’s teaching journalism at a local college. When Mack approaches him about possible corruption in the mayor’s office, he isn’t sure if he can put aside the past and trust that she’s not in it for her own, selfish reasons. The aptly named Trust Me is another entertaining story in Ms. Rochon’s Holmes Brothers series. The book is a standalone romance and story; however, we were introduced to the two main characters in the previous book, where their conflict first came to light. This title is a bit more serious and has a more of an edge to it than the prior title, which took place during a family vacation. I liked the change in scenery and tone; although I worried a bit how the characters would get their “happy ending” with so much at stake. Ezra’s obsession with Mack was a little creepy at the start. The man was determined to prove she was crooked, even while day dreaming about her fine body and beautiful face. I attribute his behavior to a classic case of never being noticed by Mack all those years his sister brought Mack home with her during college. Whether it was misplaced anger or the only way he felt he could “be with her,” I was disturbed by his driven nature to find her guilty. So it was a big relief that the author addressed the issue early in the book, putting the pair on the same page. Although Mack and Ezra shared a passionate desire, they were both extremely cautious with their hearts. Trust was difficult and was only earned as the book progressed. There was a lot of back and forth; give...
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May
25

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Cold Days by Jim Butcher Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Book: Cold Days Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Dresden Files #14 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: purchased Cold Days Cold Days opens with a fully alive, yet still recovering, Harry under the care of Mab, who is determined to shape him into her active Winter Knight. It takes a few chapters, but eventually, Harry makes his way back to Chicago and reunites with his friends and brother. Cold Days tackles a lot! Not only is Harry back from the dead, but he’s taken on the mantle of the Winter Knight. He’s got to figure out if he should and how to fulfill Mab’s first task for him, save Demonreach from exploding, which in turn will save all of Chicago, deal with a new and extremely powerful player on the paranormal scene, and by the way, he has a parasite stuck in his head. Honestly, it was all a bit too much for me at times. That, coupled with the several too-close calls, made the book drag a bit because it was over the top. Yet, it was filled with undeniable wit and a sense of humor that complements Harry’s new found fearless attitude.  My new favorite word may just be Vajazzled… referring to the “costume” of jewels Mauve wore along her woman parts (and nothing else). The best parts of the book came when Harry reconnected with his friends, most especially the scene with Thomas. I was in tears. And Karen… she’s really changed since his death. But I was so glad to see she and Harry working together. The narration was excellent. There were times of fast-paced bantering, when dialogue tags were dropped, and I clearly knew who was who. There were scenes of heighten emotions that were so palatable, my own heart nearly broke. The inner battle of Harry the Wizard vs Harry the Winter Knight rivaled Andy Serkis’s performance as Smeagol/Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The vast array of voices, both human and other, are unique, distinct, and perfectly formed. Listening to James Marsters is like listening to a cast of dozens. In the end, I enjoyed Cold Days, even though I felt it went on a few too many chapters. But knowing I only have one book left until I’m caught up leaves me a bit melancholy. I’ve enjoyed exploring this series and don’t want to...
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May
24

Review: Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

Review: Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton Dragon Teeth Author: Michael Crichton Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Dragon Teeth is a wonderful historical fiction set in the old West during the time of the infamous Bones Wars; a time when two great paleontologists raced to uncover and collect the most impressive dinosaur discoveries. Released almost ten years after the author’s death, Dragon Teeth has the feel of a genuine Crichton story. I don’t know how much of the book was edited and filled in by a ghost-writer, but it was done very much in the vein of his body of works. The story follows Yale freshman William Johnson, who decides to worm his way into Professor Marsh’s government-funded expedition to dig for fossils. Why would this carefree and somewhat reckless young man take on such a dangerous journey in a time when tensions are high between the white settlers and Native Indians? Because of a bet. Yep… a bet that changed his entire life. Professor Marsh is a highly suspicious, nearly mad man who assumes the poor, naïve Johnson is a spy for his adversary, Cope. This leads Marsh to abandon Johnson in Cheyanne. So when Professor Cope shows up and offers Johnson a spot with his crew, he feels he has little choice. And although they are forbidden to head out from Fort Benton, Cope and crew slip out to dig bones. The story follows Johnson has he experiences firsthand how difficult life in the West was during the late 1800’s. Yet Johnson finds a way to persevere, developing an unhealthy fixation on protecting the dinosaur bones in his care. I empathized with poor Johnson, who is naïve and in way over his head. He’s an unknowing pawn that could be crushed in the race for supremacy between two Barons of Bones. His demeanor and the situations he’s placed in created an emotional tie to his character, keeping me invested in his entire story from beginning to end. Dragon Teeth is a highly interesting and engrossing tale. I have always loved Crichton’s matter-of-fact writing style, and I can’t distinguish between fact and fiction. It’s a gripping way to tell a story. Crichton also adds details that make the scenes pop and come to life. The story is that of a young man’s rough journey to becoming his own man. He had a summer that changed him, and hopefully his life will be richer for it. The book is all about the journey,...
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May
22

Review: Enemies Like You by Annika Martin & Joanna Chambers

Review: Enemies Like You by Annika Martin & Joanna Chambers Enemies Like You Author: Annika Martin & Joanna Chambers Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: NOTE: The authors recently released a free “prequel” novella, Enemies with Benefits, prior to the release of this book. It is actually the first eight chapters (about 25%) of Enemies Like You. So if you have read the prequel, the authors direct you to start at Chapter 9, which is what I did. If you have not read the prequel – no need to pick it up. CIA operative Will is set to kill his enemy, Polzin. It’s a personal kill since Polzin is responsible the deaths of so many of Will’s brothers-in-arms. Kit has been deep undercover for two years, forced to protect Polzin as his bodyguard. Kit must keep the dirty Russian alive until he completes his own, secret objective: locate the Roc file. Now the pair face off in a deadly match that neither can walk away from. Will and Kit begin the story as two sides to the same coin. Both ultimately after the same goal – eliminate Polzin – but with opposing methods and reasons. I’m glad that through their relentless pursuits, each learns the truth about the other, allowing the pair to team up and work together. I appreciate that the authors didn’t drag out the stand off between the pair, rather they used each encounter between Kit and Will to slowly wear both down. This ultimately changes both men, giving them the space to grown and open up. And I loved watching the pair evolve before my eyes, maturing and joining. I loved how each scene brought them closer together and changed each just a little bit, until they are a solid couple in love by the end. I look forward to more challenges and Kit’s “Kate persona” taking on Will, but I like that Kit has a soft, vulnerable side as well. The espionage story is a good one. Like a classic spy thriller, there are several players in action, and the reader doesn’t fully understand all the pieces until nearly the end. I enjoyed watching Will and Kit figure out every step and finally getting to the end game. I was, however, a bit disappointed in the ending. I felt there was a distinct lack of closure on a specific character and what happened after the final showdown. Whether the authors were deliberately obtuse, or I was supposed to make assumptions based on...
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May
16

Review + Giveaway: Firestorm by Nancy Holzner

Review + Giveaway: Firestorm by Nancy Holzner Firestorm Author: Nancy Holzner Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: It’s been 3.5 years since the release of the previous Deadtown story, Hellhound, and I’ve been stalking the author, er… um… patiently waiting the release of the sixth and final story of Vicky Vaughn’s tales. As always, the story opens with Vicky in action, this time trying to banish a group of sirens who are causing people to plunge to their deaths off the Tobin Bridge and into the Mystic River. Aunt Mab is still around, there to help Vicky prepare for the upcoming final showdown with longtime demonic nemesis, the Destroyer. Firestorm is the exciting climax of and fitting conclusion for Ms. Holzner’s amazing Deadtown series which features a “Buffy-like chosen one” set to save the world from evil forces. The book is the culmination of every title that came before it, so you definitely want to start back at the beginning. I was concerned that with so much time passed and the intricacies of this urban fantasy arcing plotline, that I would be completely lost and playing catch up. But between reading my previous reviews and the author’s expertly placed reminders of important events, I was able to jump right into the story. In the previous book, Vicky allowed the Goddess Ceridwen inside her, and now both the Destroyer and Ceridwen are fighting for control of her body. It’s a seesaw battle, and poor Vicky is the one suffering its impacts, like when the goddess took over and when on a tear through the bars of Deadtown. The back and forth wreaks havoc on Vicky’s mental and emotional states, leaving her vulnerable and open to making poor decisions. She feels like she’s constantly being played or used and that she’s fighting against her own destiny. I liked that Vicky had to go through this final set of trials, helping her to realize what is truly important. I also appreciated that the author made sure to tie up all the loose ends with the major characters. No spoilers, but I was happy with everything! Because the focus of the book is the FINAL BATTLE, Firestorm didn’t have a standalone mystery or storyline like each of the previous titles, and I missed that aspect of Ms. Holzner’s storytelling. At times I felt the storytelling suffered from ADD because it jumped from one thought to the next, and the plot wasn’t as complex as previous tales. However, the...
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May
11

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Staked by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Staked by Kevin Hearne Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book: Staked Author: Kevin Hearne Narrator: Luke Daniels Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #8 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased Staked Warning: Spoilers of events from previous books are included in this review. Staked opens with Atticus back in Toronto, a place he swore he’d never visit again. He’s there to steal the list of all vampires in the world. While there, he runs into Joseph – the head of Hammers of God, who has retired and married. Atticus learns that Joseph has seen the errors of his youth, and now Joseph wants to help Atticus kill off the vampires. We also finally learn what happened when he was in Toronto years ago, under the name of Nigel. Meanwhile, Granuaile is in Asgard with Oden, working on a way to remove Loki’s mark. And Owen has moved to Flagstaff with Greta, where he plans to train six young humans to become Druids. As with the previous book, Staked is shared in three different POVs: Atticus, Granuaile, and Owen. This time around, there are actually three separate stories, as each of the Druids is on his/her own journey. I wasn’t as confused this time around since I was used to the jump from character to character. While I truly enjoyed listening to Staked, Atticus’s life weighs heavily on his soul, and it brought me down at times. Also, I continued to worry about what would happen to the characters, especially with Jesus’s dire prediction in the previous title. I was waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop, and didn’t feel lighten by the end of the book. I don’t like feeling this way. But as Owen would say, Atticus has really cocked things up, and I fret at how far-reaching his actions will reverberate. Although at the beginning of the book I felt the narration was off, it settled back into its usual patterns after a couple chapters. Mr. Daniels’ voices are all pretty consistent from the last book – Granuaile’s voice remains not as light as she was when we first started hearing it – and I think it’s because she’s not the same wide-eyed girl she once was. But Luke Daniels continues to provide a top-notch performance, and he does a great job with all the voices, especially the trolls. Staked is emotionally dark at times, which makes for a gripping, if not heart-wrenching,...
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May
4

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Shattered by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Shattered by Kevin Hearne Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book: Shattered Author: Kevin Hearne Narrator: Luke Daniels Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #7 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased Shattered Warning: Spoilers of events from previous books are included in this review. Shattered opens with the exciting addition of Atticus’s arch-druid, Owen, fresh off one of the time islands and unaware of the millennia that have past since he was last awake. As Atticus and Oberon work to acclimate Owen to the twenty-first century, Granuaile takes her own Druidic journey and heads to India to meet up with Latcha and save her father from a demonic possession. So much happened in Shattered! It was exciting to listen to; however, it did get confusing at times. This time around the story is shared by three voices (Atticus, Granuaile, and Owen) and two different POV tenses (Atticus in past tense, while Owen and Granuaile are present tense). Additionally, there are time lags and overlaps between the different narrators which left me scrambling at times to keep up. The overall stories of the Tuatha Dé Danann chasing after Atticus AND Loki’s intentions for Ragnarök, seem to take a backseat in this one… at first. But then the pieces of the puzzle slowly lock into place until BAM! two huge reveals and a lot of forward momentum. In fact, the events are so huge, that there will be impacts from the revelations for a long time. I loved the addition of Owen, Atticus’s arch-druid, who is now physically younger than Atticus (even tho he looks older) by a couple millennia. Atticus helps restore his body to a more youthful state and acclimate him to the modern times. His POVs add additional comic relief and thoughtful insight to the tale. Allowing the pair to come to terms over their past filled a void I didn’t realize was there. Watching teacher become student was humbling for both. I also enjoyed the addition of Orlla, Granuaile’s Irish wolfhound, and look forward to the time when she and Oberion can speak together. I spent a lot of the book fretting for Granuaile. Between the ominous predictions from Jesus and Granuaile’s own hindsight on her actions, I seriously was afraid of what would happen by the end of the book. No spoilers – something significant does occur, and I survived the tale. haha. But not since the battle with the Norse pantheon in...
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May
3

Review: Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller

Review: Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller Borrowed Souls Author: Chelsea Mueller Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Callie’s brother Josh is in trouble and the only way to get him back alive is to do the bidding of drug lord Ford. For her task, Callie must borrow a soul from the Soul Charmer and commit a crime. But it’s not that easy. The Charmer insists Callie work for him for two weeks in exchange for the soul saying she doesn’t have enough cash to outright loan it. The Charmer is intrigued by Callie’s soul, and Callie may be getting way more than she bargained for. In Ms. Mueller’s fascinating new Soul Charmer series, souls are pawned for cash or other favors. The Soul Charmer is able to wield “soul magic,” allowing him to take souls from and place souls in bodies. One can trade their for a short time to get cash, or borrow another to sin without repercussions on your own soul. The mythology is completely unique and unlike anything I’ve read before, which is one of the reasons I was drawn to Borrowed Souls. As the first book in a new series, there is a lot of world-building, but it’s not heavy-handed or shared via info-dumping. The author leaves clues about the world in dialogue and descriptive scenes. The reader learns about soul magic as Callie is exposed to this dangerous trade. Callie is rather naive at times, even though she comes from a rough childhood and her mom is a bit of a con artist. I like that Callie has to work for her badass UF heroine status; she’s not born with powers or have innate fighting abilities. Try as she might, Callie just can’t be mean, which gives her a soft edge. Callie makes mistakes, sometimes costly ones, but she seems to learn from her situation and move forward. Callie works as part of a soul repo team for two weeks to earn a day use of a soul. The Soul Charmer pairs Callie with Derek, the muscle to shake up those who are delinquent on returning borrowed souls. Derek is the strong, silent type, but Callie forms a bond with the big guy fairly quickly. She also has difficulty hiding her attraction to Derek, and soon the pair find themselves a couple. I LOVE Derek. He’s kind and good, giving someone for Callie to trust. She’s got so little good in her life, and Derek fills all...
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Apr
27

Review: The Chosen by J.R. Ward

Review: The Chosen by J.R. Ward The Chosen Author: J.R. Ward Reviewer: Una Rating: B What I’m Talking About: The Chosen is a novel that I have both wanted and dreaded.  This fifteenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series was to be a make or break book for me.  Suffice to say, the WARDen found and worked that special magic.  Though there are some highs and lows, overall I liked it – my crack is back! ****Needless to say, this is the 15th book in the series…if you haven’t read the series, there will be spoilers.  If you haven’t read through The Beast, there will be spoilers.  There are a few elements to the plot I will hint at since I can’t review the novel without it.  You have been warned.**** From the beginning I have never been a fan of the pairing of Layla and Xcor.  Romeo and Juliet had a more promising future than these two.  At the beginning of the series, Layla was endearing.  Quirky and sickeningly sweet, she was the poster girl for a Chosen.  Once liberated by the Primale, Layla floundered.  However, she still seemed to have the best interests of the species at heart. Once she was duped by Xcor, however, and all but threw herself into his machinations, I was irritated.  Layla went from being selfless to selfish.  I kept waiting for her liaisons with Xcor to be discovered, her betrayal of her “family” brought to light, the train she fought so hard to get on was going to wreck, it was just a question or when and the amount of collateral damage.  It does early in the novel and it is HUGE.  I found myself torn from feeling sorry for Layla and being angry. Xcor rubbed me the wrong way from the first moment we met him.  I did not believe that I could understand him nor root for him.  As the novel begins, we experience Xcor’s parents at the dawn of his birth.  I never thought Xcor’s life would have been easy, I expected it to be tragic – I wasn’t prepared for how awful it was.  Xcor is a male of worth from birth, but the environments he was raised in, honed him into the male he became.  I feel that it was not his meeting Layla that transformed him, contrary to his belief.  It was the revelation in Payne’s book that he is not the son of the Bloodletter that is the catalyst...
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