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Jan
30

Review: Hunter Reborn by Katie Reus

Review: Hunter Reborn by Katie Reus Hunter Reborn Author: Katie Reus Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: B- What We’re Talking About: After thoroughly loving the previous novel, Avenger’s Heat, Gikany and Una anxiously awaited Hunter Reborn, hoping to learn more about vampires.  Although we got more than we expected in some ways, we were a little disappointed in others. First, we loved the story of Aiden and Larissa.  Not only did we get to learn more about the vampires, we have a vampire-shifter pairing.  We enjoyed that the estrangement of these star-crossed lovers was caused by others and that their reconnection wasn’t hampered by misunderstandings.  Larissa’s amnesia could have made the story seem very clichéd, but it didn’t.  Their love really did lead them and make their story flow seamlessly.  Larissa truly trusted her feelings and Aiden really gave her space, trying hard not to force his way and let Larissa come to him at her own pace.  Watching as Larissa awoke into her stubborn and strong vampire self was as inspiring as seeing how much Aiden longed for her to be herself.  Though he was an alpha and sought to protect her as much as he could, he also admired her strength and worked to not smother her. In addition to Aiden and Larissa, the story gives glimpses into two other budding romances on the ranch.  We enjoyed seeing Ryan and Teresa as they begin their journey together.  The connection between Jayce’s brother Aldric and Natalie was also interesting.  Gikany and Una wonder whose story will be next and if we’ll find out more about the vampire blood trafficking.  We hope the focus will be more solely on only one of them.  Though we liked having glimpses into these subplots, we felt that it took time away from the story of Aiden and Larissa, giving the novel a bit of a choppy flow.  The continued inclusion of the antagonists’ points of view is not necessary to the plot and disrupted the flow of the story.  Although this only happened a few times, it did not add anything to the overall plot or to Larissa’s history that could not have been discovered via either Larissa or Aiden’s points of view.  If anything, they interrupted the flow of the story to showcase how evil and depraved they are, which we had already figured out and could have pieced together in other ways.  However, this is the author’s style and we have come to accept it.  We...
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Jan
29

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: Murder of Crows

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: Murder of Crows Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Getting used to a narrator Last week I shared by audiobook review of Written in Red, and I gave narrator Alexandra Harris a C+ for her performance. This week, I bring to you my review of the second book in The Others series, Murder of Crows, also narrated by Ms. Harris. This time around, I found I enjoyed her delivery more, and it even felt “natural” and “the right fit” during many moments. I’ve found in general that even if I don’t love the performance of a narrator the first time, their interpretation of the characters tends to grow on me throughout the book, and even more with subsequent titles in a series. Why is this? Does the performance truly get better with each book? Sometimes, yes. I noticed that with Holter Graham’s interpretation of Native American Charles from the Alpha and Omega series. Graham slightly altered his performance between titles and created a better voice for the primary character. Other times, I think my improved rating of a narrator is because, for better or for worse, after listening to a couple of books, that narrator’s voice becomes the character for me. I think that’s true with The Others series. While I didn’t love the narration the first time around, I found that Harris’s voice for Meg became so familiar to me that it was soothing in many ways, and I can’t imagine anyone else in the roll. There are times when narrators do become more annoying upon subsequent listens. For example, I am currently listening to the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost and narrated by Tavia Gilbert. Overall, I enjoy her work, but Gilbert’s voice for Cat’s mom grinds on me, and only gets worse with each listen. However, her character is also annoying, so maybe that is the point! Whatever the reason, generally once I hear a narrator read a book in a series, I tend to enjoy his/her performance more with each subsequent title. Audiobook review: Murder of Crows Author: Anne Bishop Narrator: Alexandra Harris Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: The Others #2 Murder of Crows is the second tale from the wickedly interesting world created by Ms. Bishop. Directly following the conclusion of the first book, Written in Red, the story focuses on the Lakeside Courtyard, its human and Other residents, and how life is changing because of the Blood Prophet, Meg Corbyn. I strongly suggest reading the first book in the series prior to this...
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Jan
23

Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish

Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish Owl and the Japanese Circus Author: Kristi Charish Reviewer: Una Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: It is always exciting to start a new series and especially one by a new author.  I never know what to expect and that is part of the thrill and adventure of volunteering to read an ARC.  I had no idea what to expect, but what I found was a gripping and nail-biting adventure in Owl and the Japanese Circus. The story begins with Alix, though for most of the novel you know her as Owl.  She is on the run from vampires but won’t let it stop her from finding a spot to stop and log into her beloved RPG.  The action and tension continues to rise and fall from there.  Owl seems to travel from one proverbial frying pan to another to avoid the fire.  She does not always think before she leaps, but like a cat, always seems to land on her feet.  Think of Alice in Wonderland, falling through one rabbit hole after another.  Owl is very intelligent, but not always swift with the common sense.  Although she is a bit crass, unrefined and geeky, she deeply cares about her friends. I find her more akin to an impulsive and unsophisticated Lara Croft. I inhaled the story for the most part.  There are a few lulls but there is only so much damage Owl can take before needing a breather, though like Indiana Jones, she can take a beating and keep tomb raiding.  The world is very much like our own with a supernatural world that hides in shadows.  The connections between the archeological world and the supernatural are strong and I enjoyed the ties made between them.  What I really enjoyed is how Owl is able to hold her own as just an ordinary human.  Pitted against not only tomb booby-traps, ordinary thief acrobats and sneaking, but also against supernaturally strong and fast vampires, nagas, dragons, etc.  There were a couple moments when I was surprised at how she could keep going with the injuries she had sustained, but her sheer determination to never give up was palatable.  Despite all the times I found myself surprised and a bit annoyed at her for failing to think before she acted, she had surprisingly sharp instincts.  Her sense of loyalty and honor (for a thief) were grounding and admirable. Another great element to the story is her friends, all three,...
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Jan
22

Listen Up! Listening Speed + Review of Written in Red

Listen Up! Listening Speed + Review of Written in Red Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Listening Speed When I first began my journey into and eventual love affair with audiobooks, I was a little put off by how slow that first book was for me. It felt like I was being read to, rather than feeling immersed in the story. Let’s face it, we all read faster than we speak. Additional, most people tend to skim, even subconsciously, some text, which is something you really can’t do when listening to an audiobook. It was then that I discovered that the Audible app, as well as Overdrive and other audio playback apps, allowed me to quicken the playback speed of the narration. For example, Audible has seven listening speeds: 0.75x, 1x, 1.25x, 1.5x, 2x, 2.5x, and 3x. For most books, I like the 1.25x speed. It quickens voices just enough to feel more like a conversation, rather than being read to, but not so fast that it approaches chipmunk speed. Feeling more like a conversation is critical for my enjoyment of the book, as well as allowing me to feel like I’m part of the story. There are some narrators that I prefer to keep at 1x speed because of accents used, or their speaking speed is naturally faster. And I definitely keep the speed at 1x or less when listening to books with my young daughter because she needs extra time to process what’s being said. The bottomline is that generally, you have many options for creating a better listening experience. I suggest playing around with the speed to see if you find something that makes you more happy! Audiobook review: Written in Red Author: Anne Bishop Narrator: Alexandra Harris Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: The Others #1 Written in Red is a wonderful blend of unique mythology and extensive world-building, crossing the line between the urban fantasy and fantasy genres. Taking place on an alternate version of Earth, the book shares the story of two race of beings: the humans and the Others. The Others are shape-shifting beings who learned to “take the shape of humans” so that they could communicate and trade with the humans. But make no mistake, the Others rule the earth and consider humans prey. Meg Corbyn is a special human: she can see glimpses of the future when her skin is cut. Considered the property of her controller, Meg has been held captive her entire life and never been allowed to experience life outside...
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Jan
15

Listen Up! The Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin

Listen Up! The Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Grendel Affair Author: Lisa Shearin Narrator: Johanna Parker Audio Speed: 1x Series: SPI Files #1 Makenna Fraser is a newbie at SPI New York and the only seer in the U.S. Although she is human, she has the ability to see through all veils and illusions, allowing her to know a being’s true, hidden nature. With an unknown group of vicious monsters straight out of literature ready to slaughter the Time Square party-goers at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, Mak and the entire SPI team are on a race against time to save Manhattan, and the entire world, from the start of a deadly war between humans and paranormals. The Grendel Affair is an entertaining, humorous story, and the start to a promising new urban fantasy series. I discovered the SPI series while reading a prequel novella in the Night Shift Anthology. I liken the premise to the Men In Black movies, except with supernatural beings instead of aliens. Supernatural Protection & Investigations (SPI) operates with the purpose of protecting both supers and humans from the preternatural beings who mean to do harm. In addition, they help keep supernatural beings hidden from the general human public. Now they face a deadly adversary who wants to expose the presence of all supernaturals and feels that humans should be put back in their place as cattle fodder for the more powerful beings. I enjoyed the premise of the story, which held my attention with its high-octane plot. The author does a fabulous job of developing the world while keeping the story moving forward. Ms. Shearin weaves complexity and multiple layers into the storyline without creating confusion. The story is told via first person POV of Mak, who injects sarcasm and humor into every scene. I like that she’s realistic and knows her limitations as a “mere human.” Yet, she has an underlying strength of character that caused this reader to cheer for her when she goes head-first into the most dangerous of situations. She’s not perfect, and watching her make mistakes allows the reader a chance to relate to and develop a connection with Mak. My biggest complaint about the story is the amount of repetition throughout the tale. I am going to chalk it up to freshman story syndrome, hoping that now that the author has firmly established this new world, she won’t...
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Jan
14

Review: Blood Assassin by Alexandra Ivy

Review: Blood Assassin by Alexandra Ivy Blood Assassin Author: Alexandra Ivy Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Fane and Serra have known each other for decades, and he has always used his job as an excuse to keep his distance from her advances. As a Sentinel, Fane spent the past decade as a Guardian to Callie Brown, so when Callie’s bond was transferred to her new husband, Serra makes one last plea to Fane in hopes he’ll finally return her unrequited feelings. However, he remains stoic and instead decides to relocate back to the monastery where he was trained as a Sentinel. That is until Serra is kidnapped, and Fane can no longer keep his feelings for Serra a secret. After liking but not loving the first book in the Sentinel series by Alexandra Ivy, I was extremely pleased with the sophomore title. Blood Assassin is exciting, sexy, and romantic, just what one hopes for in a paranormal romance. There wasn’t the need for heavy world-building this time around, leaving more room for plot development and the love story. I was immediately drawn into the story. First, the author does a tremendous job creating an instantaneous emotional connection with the main characters. Ms. Ivy develops a detailed and passionate history, full of longing, lust, and heartache. Knowing the couple has a history and seeing Fane and Serra in Born in Blood creates strong chemistry right from the get go. Yet the couple grows and the relationship deepens over the course of the book. The development of their longing into love is satisfying. After the author drew me in with emotions, she hooked me with the storyline. Serra, a power telepath, was somehow compelled to leave the safety of Valhalla, and I wanted to know by whom and why! The drama unfolds at just the right pace – quick and action-filled at times, slow and thoughtful at others. I enjoyed trying to figure out who was the mastermind. In tandem to the primary story, Ms. Ivy gives readers more of Wolfe, the Tagos (leader of all Sentinels) and Lana, the Mave (head of all Vallhalla). Both are respected leaders who place their people’s needs before their own. It’s clear that there is strong sexual attraction and more, yet neither will act on it. Watching the pair work together to save humanity was thrilling and rewarding; I just hope for more in the next book! In addition, antagonist Bas Cavrilo encompasses all the darkness...
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Jan
13

Review: Dreamer’s Daughter by Lynn Kurland

Review: Dreamer’s Daughter by Lynn Kurland Dreamer’s Daughter Author: Lynn Kurland Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Dreamer’s Daughter is the last novel in the third of three interconnected trilogies, and completes the epic quest of Aisling of Bruadair and Rùnach of Ceangail. But, of all the challenges they’ve faced so far, none may be so great as Aisling’s acceptance of the birthright she’s denied until now. What began as a search to find someone else to save her homeland and return the throne to its rightful rulers has become Aisling’s own voyage of self-discovery, leading to the realization that she is much more important in the grand scheme of things than she ever thought possible. One of the aspects of this trilogy that I’ve begun to enjoy a great deal is Aisling’s reluctant, but increasing level of comfort with her changing world that has been sneaking up on her, particularly in the last two novels. At this point, neither Aisling nor Rùnach can deny the magic that she possesses, and her unwittingly easy use of it as they continue forward creates quite a few funny moments. In the Nine Kingdoms, spells equal power, and are prized as highly as the finest gems to either be inherited, won, or, at worst, stolen. So, watching the men whom Aisling has been aided by, who are supposed to be more knowledgeable and adept than she is, become dumbstruck by her innate abilities was extremely entertaining. Not having read the first two parts of the series, I still had a hard time keeping track of the various places referenced, as well as some of the other characters, but that’s no fault of the author or the series as a whole. I do think that I missed a lot of world-building that would have helped with both concerns, and I wish that I’d had the opportunity to follow along in the Nine Kingdoms from the very beginning. Aside from that, I only had a couple of issues with how Dreamer’s Daughter ended, specifically, the final battle, which was dominated by a near-slapstick breakdown of allegiances between the masterminds of the entire ordeal. The ready turnabout of Rùnach’s primary nemesis was also somewhat difficult to reconcile, although his actions did ultimately merit a degree of forgiveness. As someone with an appreciation for a little romance in the stories I read, I was very happy about the deepening relationship between Aisling and Rùnach. They joke and tease, hold and...
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Jan
12

Review: Hungry Like the Wolf by Paige Tyler

Review: Hungry Like the Wolf by Paige Tyler Hungry Like the Wolf Author: Paige Tyler Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: B What We’re Talking About: Hungry Like the Wolf is a promising debut series.  Fans of Paige Tyler’s X-Ops series should enjoy this new SWAT series.  It has an interesting and new werewolf mythology.  The novel slowly unfolds into a compelling but light paranormal romance with a bit of action. We enjoyed that this series is character driven and well balanced between romance and action.  We hope that the fascinating werewolf mythology will be further divulged as the series develops.  In this series, werewolves have a gene that is only activated when a person is facing a life or death situation.  The traumatic catalyst brings on the change, and the extent of that change varies between werewolves.  Though we only see one full shift, all of the werewolves experience the ability to do partial shifts. Though all the wolves described as Alphas, we only truly see this in Gage, our hero.  We’re not sure if there are non-alpha werewolves or even female wolves at this point, but it is early in this series.  However, we really enjoyed the camaraderie of the pack.  The personalities of the members struck us and stayed with us.  There are several we would like to see more of in future novels. Though we found the mythology and world compelling, Gage and Mac’s journey was a little clichéd.  We liked Gage and Mac.  Their journey, though slow to start, was gripping. Some of the conflicts and their resolutions were a tad predictable, but the emotions of the characters kept it from being trite.  Experiencing both Gage’s and Mac’s points of views, and being able to see both sides of the journey helping to ease the predictability of the plot.  Mac’s best friend and colleague, Zak, helped to add richness to the story as well.  We loved Zak and hope to see more of him in future novels.  He is Mac’s moral compass check and confidant, and he adds comic relief at times. Hungry Like the Wolf is the first novel in the SWAT series, and it has some real potential.  Though it started slowly, we enjoyed the fresh mythology, the characters, and the potential stories of werewolf swat alpha males finding their one true mate.  If you enjoy paranormal romance with action, you might want to pick this series up. Our Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: INTRODUCING SWAT: SPECIAL WOLF ALPHA...
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Jan
7

Review: Fragmented by Stephanie Tyler

Review: Fragmented by Stephanie Tyler Fragmented Author: Stephanie Tyler Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Brought into the Section 8 team under unfortunate circumstances, Dr. Drea Timmons decided to stick with the covert ops group to hide from her ex Danny and his motorcycle club, Outlaws Angels. However, after an accident on their last mission, Drea ended up losing many of her memories, including those of her new friends and romantic interest, Jem. With help from friends, Drea is trying to piece together her life and stay under the radar. Jem has fallen hard for Drea, but won’t make a move until she remembers everything about him, both the good and the bad. Feeling he’s unworthy of her advances and too dangerous to make a commitment, Jem fights his emotions and tries to stay focused on Section 8’s mission to stop human traffickers. But when Drea’s safety is compromised, Jem realizes he is the only one who can protect Drea, regardless of his own deadly situation. Fragmented begins immediately after the preceding story, Unbreakable, but then quickly jumps months ahead in time. One thing that I really liked about the opening chapters of the book is how the author uses Drea’s efforts to recall her own memories as a means to remind readers of the complex and complicated history of Section 8 and events from the first two books. When I originally read those titles, I found much of the world building confusing. Using Drea’s recovery flows well and allows newcomers to jump into the series as well. I really enjoyed the first half of the book as Drea slowly comes to remember her time with Section 8 and her feelings for the handsome Jem. The couple works well together; smoldering sexual tension coupled with raw and honest emotions. Jem’s conflicted feelings – pulling him towards Drea while simultaneously trying to keep her at a distance – add fabulous anticipation to the brewing romance. I also appreciate that the author didn’t wait until the end of the story for Drea to recover her lost memories. There is a big shift in the storyline midway through the book, and I didn’t enjoy the second half of the story as much as the first part. After Section 8 completes its mission, they suddenly find out that they are under surveillance and wanted by the feds and a group lead by the wealthy Ethan. In addition, the federal government is after Drea because of...
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Dec
30

Review: Redeeming Raygan by Megan Slayer

Review: Redeeming Raygan by Megan Slayer Redeeming Raygan Author: Megan Slayer Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Sent by his publisher to Zero, Ohio after a bitter divorce from his husband, Jamie Grusin just wanted to hide out and get his novel back on track. He certainly wasn’t looking for a relationship when he decided to rent the small apartment over the local watering hole. Having dealt with one high-maintenance lover who ended up cheating on him, the last thing he should be thinking about is his brooding, skeptical new landlord. But, he can’t deny that something about the man intrigues him, and if spending time together is inspiring in more ways than one, who is he to argue? Having recently inherited the Eight Ball bar, Raygan Mason has his hands full trying to modernize the place from the ground up. His new tenant’s attentions, however, are proving to be an especially irresistible distraction. Well aware that his personal history makes him a terrible candidate for anyone’s boyfriend, Raygan has sworn never to open up to anyone again. Still, there’s only so much temptation he can take, and losing this battle just might be exactly what he needs. Throughout the story, I found Raygan to be a complex, if mildly confusing, character. Initially, I had a hard time reconciling his claim of being a habitually lousy boyfriend with his current fear of rejection, but felt his straightforward observations of those around him were refreshing. I liked Jeep fairly well, too, and thought most of his actions were justifiable, particularly since neither he nor Raygan seem to be amenable to the prospect of long-term, mutual involvement at first. The erotic tension between the two of them is likewise nicely done and builds steadily from the very beginning. Ms. Slayer’s characters once again have some legitimate doubts about the concept of “forever,” but they don’t take the happiness they have for granted, and the “happy for now” ending really works here. Leon’s reappearance was a special treat, also, and I loved the way he brightened up every scene he was in. While I enjoyed Redeeming Raygan, there were a couple of moments that seemed a little awkward, and clouded portions of the story for me. As was the case with the previous story, Mixing Mike, keeping up with the time that passed was difficult on occasion, and I had to reread those sections a few times to make sure I had it right. I also...
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