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Jul
24

Review: Caged by Lorelei James

Review: Caged by Lorelei James Caged Author: Lorelei James Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: I could seriously look at Caged as a study in symbolism. From the title alone, we can draw conclusions. Knowing, however, that Deacon is an MMA cage fighter, seems to superficially take away the mystery. Superficially. This fourth offering in Lorelei James’ The Mastered series is anything but superficial. There was a LOT going on in this book. I didn’t need a scorecard or anything; this couple—Deacon and Molly—seemed to have one thing after another come up. With so much going on, and having these threads expertly twisted into a thick plot rope, it was super difficult to put down Caged once I started reading. Stupid meals that don’t cook themselves. Stupid work. I really want to give some little nibbles of the plot. *sits on hands* But that would be spoilery, and I don’t roll that way. Oh! The pacing is fabulous. I was invested in the characters from the beginning, and knew it would be a good story. Especially when Deacon told Molly, “We’re gonna happen.” I totally believed him, and questioned why we needed to read around 400 pages more. As far as I was concerned, once the couple agreed to go out, they were goners. Molly has appeared in previous titles in the series as a minor character. She was attacked, and took a class at the dojo so she could protect herself. It was really cool to see Molly as a main character in Caged, because she has had tons of growth across the series. She’s no longer the mousey, scared-of-her-own-shadow, girl we met at the beginning of the series. Even within this title, Molly had a ton of growth. I like her. A lot. She speaks her mind, and doesn’t allow herself to be treated like a doormat. Any more. Even though she battles some of her own demons, she’s really strong. I’d totally hang out with her if we were neighbors or worked together. Deacon is the epitome of tortured alpha. He resembles Ronin’s emotional behavior a lot and has other parallels, which was a bit of an irritant at a couple points through the book because I felt it cheapened Deacon for me. Regardless, what made me fall for Deacon is his focus, tenderness, and his growth. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that he’s a big guy and tremblingly gorgeous. I adored his confidence with regard to his relationship...
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Jul
23

Review: Sarai’s Fortune by Abigail Owen

Review: Sarai’s Fortune by Abigail Owen Sarai’s Fortune Author: Abigail Owen Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B What We’re Talking About: Sarai’s Fortune is the second novel in the Shadowcat Nation series.  Gikany and Una liked this novel more than the first novel and look forward to more in the series. First, the world-building was much better.  We were able to stay fully immersed in the story while learning about the world at the same time.  Through Sarai, we learned more about the Kuharte, those shifters that have a little extra supernatural ability such as healing, seers, etc.  Zac introduced us to the polar bear Timiks and culture.  But this was much more seamlessly woven into the story and less noticeable.  Plus it is interesting to see how this new Shadowcat Nation is still growing and changing. Second, we enjoyed the slowly burning romance between Zac and Sarai.  Although their story didn’t go in the direction we anticipated, we enjoyed the journey.  Zac and Sarai are bounded by loyalty to their individual groups, but they find a way to be together.  Their communication and their give and take as they danced closer to each other was captivating. Lastly, we enjoyed learning more of the overall plot against the Shadowcat Nation.  We were introduced to an overall ‘big bad’ that we assume will continue through the series.  However, the story of Kyle was resolved and we liked how poetic justice was served. All in all, we liked Sarai’s Fortune and look forward to continuing the Shadowcat Nation series.  If you like slower paced but action filled paranormal romance, you might just want to pick up this new series. Our Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: Zac Montclair’s first priority is to protect his people. With the escalating war between factions of shifters over land and resources, he has agreed to an alliance between his polar bears and the Shadowcat Nation of cougar shifters. But the treaty comes with a condition…he must accept one of their Seers into his Timik and put her under his personal protection.  Sarai Bouchard doesn’t need her supernatural gift to know that Kyle Carstairs’s obsession with controlling her ability will eventually result in her misery and demise. Her power is essential to her people’s survival, so when Kyle goes rogue, she’s sent to Zac Montclair to keep her safe. However, her visions reveal that while staying will lead to their becoming lovers, it also leads to his death. Leaving Zac will...
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Jul
22

Review: Spider’s Trap by Jennifer Estep

Review: Spider’s Trap by Jennifer Estep Spider’s Trap Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Note: due to the nature of the Elemental Assassin series, this review will have spoilers from previous books. It’s been a few weeks since Gin took down her latest nemesis, MMM, and reluctantly took over as the boss of Ashland’s seedy underworld. She’s mediating her first dispute, one between Dimitri Barkov and Luiz Ramos for the purchase of a coin-laundry business owned by Lorelei Parker. Bored with the squabbling, Gin notices something amiss with one of the waitstaff and realizes a bomb is set to go off during the meeting. Not one for sitting still or letting an attack go unpunished, Gin begins a hunt to exact revenge. Spider’s Trap starts strong and is another fabulous story in the Elemental Assassin series. Right from the start, the author tosses Gin, and therefore the reader, into high-stakes action, and once again, when Gin saves the day, she finds herself in the middle of a mystery. First, I enjoy watching Gin as she works her way through her new role as Queen of the Underworld. She’s uncomfortable and slightly outside her element when forced to play by the unwritten rules. But luckily for the reader, Gin enjoys doing her own thing and making her own rules. Having Silvo, her self-appointed assistant, try and keep her on track makes it all the more enjoyable. I also appreciate when another mob boss calls Gin out as not being suited to lead, giving Gin something to think about while she works out how best to deal with the latest threat in Ashland. Second, I love watching Owen and Gin work as a team. We’ve seen Gin get help from her friends, but now she’s actually relying on them; integrating them into her plans. Gin’s been through so much in the past couple of books, and seeing her move on, succeed, and grow is absolutely rewarding for me and long-term fans of the series. Ms. Estep is a master at keeping Gin and company fresh and exciting, while allowing their core nature to stay grounded and stable. While overall, I enjoyed the story as Gin pieces together who is behind the attacks and the very important reasons for his actions, I was a bit annoyed at how often Gin struggled with her inability to recall familiar people and actions. I understand a lot as happened to Gin since becoming an assassin;...
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Jul
21

Review: Harmonized by Mary Behre

Review: Harmonized by Mary Behre Harmonize Author: Mary Behre  Reviewer: Una Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: For fans of the Tidewater series, I think Harmonized is a must. It can be read as a stand-alone novella, but it is much richer knowing Zig from the previous novel, Spirited. I enjoyed revisiting with Zig and seeing him have a happily ever after. I liked Karma as well and felt that she and Zig complemented each other.  It gives a nice background to what I assume will be the serial killer plot in the next full novel, but I don’t believe that it is vital to read Harmonized before the next book.  However, for those who enjoyed seeing Zig in the first novel, it’s great to see him again, healing and doing better.  Plus, the tension between Zig and Karma is well worth it. The premise of the missing child was compelling and I enjoyed how it played out.  Though it didn’t go as I was expecting, I really liked how Ms. Behre resolved the mystery.  Although the story moves quickly, with the past history between Karma and Zig, the pacing felt right.  The urgency to find the child helped to add to the tension and keep my fingers glued to the page. Again, for fans of the Tidewater series, I think you will enjoy seeing Zig again and watching him find his happily-ever-after.  For those who are thinking of trying the series, you can try this novella out, but know you might not have as deep a connection to Zig or understand the full ties between him and some other characters that make an appearance. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: After nearly dying on assignment, Tidewater police officer Zig Harmon has been awarded the Silver Star and desk duty. But handling every case that walks through the door while his entire department is out hunting a serial killer is nothing compared to dealing with his former flame, Karma De La Cruz. As much as she hates it, Karma knows that her best chance of finding the kidnapped baby haunting her visions is the man she once left behind. Forced to work together, Karma and Zig start to realize that they may have let go of something incredible. But now, time is running out, both for the missing infant and for their chance to start again… Release Date: July 21, 2015 Publisher: Intermix Series: Tidewater #2.5 ASIN: #B00NMPN2NW Genre: Paranormal...
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Jul
16

Listen Up! Vlad gets his own book! (#Audiobook Review)

Listen Up! Vlad gets his own book! (#Audiobook Review) Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Once Burned Author: Jeaniene Frost Narrator: Tavia Gilbert Audio Speed: 1x Series: Night Prince #1 (Night Huntress Universe #9) Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: library loan NOTE: This review may contain spoilers from the previous books in the series. Once Burned #Audiobook After a terrifying accident killed her mother and left Leila with bizarre electrical powers, she ran off to the circus and became Frankie the carnie worker. The electrical currents that run through her body make touching another human nearly impossible; however, if she does make connections, she will see a person’s worst sins and possibly even their future. When a dangerous vampire learns about Leila’s talents, he orders her kidnapped and forces her to help locate his enemy, Vlad Tepesh. Vlad is no stranger to dangerous enemies, but when an intriguing female finds a way into his head and sees into his soul, he takes a chance and believes her when she says that she is searching for him against her will. Once he saves Leila from his enemies, his interest transforms into sexual desire, and he is confident he will have Leila in every way. While she turns his world upside down, he finds a way to help her accept her powers and reshape her into a powerful woman in her own right. Once Burned is the first story in the Night Prince series, but falls as book 9 in the overall Night Huntress Universe. Although Cat and Bones and a few others make a brief appearance in the book, knowing the history of the Night Huntress world has little impact on this story. Once Burned can be enjoyed without having read any of the prior novels; however, I found it more enjoyable having witnessed Vlad in previous situations and adventures. Overall, I really enjoyed Once Burned, mostly for the in-depth character development of Leila and her relationship with Vlad. Since the book is shared from the first person point-of-view of Leila (which was surprising to me since the series is named for Vlad), we spend a lot of time “inside her head,” learning her past, her fears, and her interests. I like that she’s a survivor, and rarely listens to that dark inner voice of doubt. She’s already been at her lowest point and decided to live and persevere, which gives her the toughness I love in UF heroines. She’s extremely interesting and not the least bit whiny....
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Jul
15

Review: Back to Us by Christi Barth

Review: Back to Us by Christi Barth Back to Us Author: Christi Barth Reviewer: Nima Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Christi Barth is another new-to-me author and may I say, “So far, so good.”  After reading Back to Us, book three in the Shore Secrets series at Barth’s request, I wish I had read the first two.  The story can absolutely stand on its own and doesn’t require reading from the start of the series, but Back to Us is on the short side at under 300 pages.  I had the sense that reading Up to Me and All for You would have filled out the book with history and sub-text in a way that didn’t require more pages. The story itself is somewhat unremarkable as romance novels go, friends become lovers, but Barth shines with her command of dialogue.  The banter was outstanding and I would even dare to compare her to Gilmore Girl’s Amy Sherman-Palladino.  I genuinely enjoyed phrases like, “male-patterned obtuseness” and “Latin’s a dead language—there are no emergencies in Latin.”  My favorite quote was, “Why can’t college kids ever find a bathroom…. That ought to be a half-credit class:  acceptable bathroom substitutes as an adult.  Woods?  Yes.  On the hubcap of a forty-thousand dollar vehicle? No.” I will say that having grown up in California’s wine country, Back to Us sucked me in faster than it otherwise might have.  Although Back to Us was set in the Finger Lakes district at the other end of the country, it was easy to bring up memories of walking among the rows and rows of grapevines.  Also, there was a reference to hand folding a thousand paper cranes with twenty-seven steps each that had me cracking up.  My sister-in-law really did this for her sister’s wedding, folding about 500 that left her fingers bleeding.  A pure act of love, because who else but your sister or best friend would do such a thing?  Clearly Barth was pulling from enough reality to ground her characters well. With such a compact story, there is only one real moment of stress and it doesn’t last long.  I liked that the book is upbeat and the characters proactive.  I liked both the main characters, Piper and Ward, and found neither of them to be whiny or annoyingly immature.  When it threatened, friends stepped in to verbally slap them upside the head—as they should.  Rather, Piper and Ward dealt with an appropriate amount of self-consciousness and pride for their...
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Jul
14

Review: SEAL Wolf Hunting by Terry Spear

Review: SEAL Wolf Hunting by Terry Spear SEAL Wolf Hunting Author: Terry Spear Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Lori Greypaw has never been subordinate to anyone. Fiercely protective of those she loves, she has always known just what to do to when any of her pack needed comforting. Even as a cub, she was able to soothe the grieving, headstrong son of their fallen leaders. Now, she’d be happy if she could do the same for the man he’s become. Paul Cunningham is alpha to the core. A highly capable SEAL, he’s no stranger to threats and has never backed away from a challenge–especially the she-wolf who has captivated him all his life. Still, settling down wasn’t something he thought he’d ever be able to do. That is, until a visit home proves that a true leader will always have things that are worth fighting for, and that he could have everything his heart desires, if he’s just strong enough to stay. It seems like ages since I’ve read about Ms. Spears’ SEAL wolves, so I was very happy to see that SEAL Wolf Hunting was available for review. This series is expansive, and ranges over several continents, but many of the characters are related, either by family, circumstance, or both, so reconnecting the links between these specific stories wasn’t too difficult. As I’d hoped, this newest entry in the Heart of the Wolf series was packed with romance, humor, and suspense. The affection that is evident between Lori and Paul was definitely one of my favorite things about this story. Their interactions shift from playful to serious and mildly antagonistic to passionate, their lifelong camaraderie making the transitions seem effortless. Theirs is a relationship built on loss and perseverance, but most of all, faith in each other. The undeniable lust that is smoldering between the two of them only adds to it, and is a highly enjoyable bonus. While I enjoyed seeing the wolves face down their enemies, I felt that the bad guys might have benefitted from a little more duality. They were so obvious and shallow that the rest of the wolves spent much of the story waiting for them to do worse and worse things. Which they did. On the other hand, there was an additional mystery playing out in parallel, and the resulting conflict brought the entire narrative to an excitingly satisfying end. I have yet to read a Heart of the Wolf story that I didn’t like...
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Jul
13

Review: Under Contract by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: Under Contract by Jeffe Kennedy Under Contract Author: Jeffe Kennedy Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: It is not Celestina Sala’s best day. As a waterscape landscaper in the middle of a California drought, she lost her job. Everything has gone bad for her lately, and losing her job was the proverbial straw. She’s in debt and living well beyond her means; however, it wasn’t a life of excess, but rather a series of unfortunate events that landed her there. Now she has to figure out what is best for herself and her two nieces she is raising alone. Ryan Black, an eccentric tycoon, thinks it’s serendipitous seeing Tina the day she loses her job. When she did work for his company a few years ago, only her wedding band kept him from acting on his desires for her. Now she’s in trouble, and he’s got a solution to both of their problems: he’ll pay her to be his sexual playmate. The plot line for Under Contract isn’t necessarily new, but how main character Ryan views his “payment for services” adds an interesting and unique element to the story. This story is not that of Indecent Proposal. This is a man who wants a woman, but discovers she’s not in a place in her life where he can take her to lunch and sweep her off her feet. Ryan is not black and white and doesn’t see his proposal how Tina does: prostitution. Rather, to him it’s a win-win, and no one needs to label it. What makes Ryan’s proposition palatable is that 1) Ryan intrigues Tina, 2) he gives her complete control, and 3) Tina’s problems are serious and real. She’s borderline desperate. Ryan makes her see the truth of her situation, which is utterly dire. The author does such a fabulous job outlining Tina’s financial troubles that I felt her desperation and was stressed out. So when Ryan makes her a deal, I love Tina’s honest reactions ranging from disgust with herself for being a prostitute to being seriously turned on by Ryan. She’s out of her league and knows it, but also realizes she’s got to do something to change her situation. I’ll admit feeling a bit uncomfortable in my skin because Tina feels that way. Ms. Jeffe doesn’t sugar coat her story or the proposal: it is prostitution, but Ryan wants to possess Tina and sees it as a means to the end. Under Contract explores a...
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Jul
9

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Night Broken

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Night Broken Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Night Broken Author: Patricia Briggs Narrator: Lorelei King Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Mercy Thompson #8 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: borrowed NOTE: This review may contain spoilers from the previous books in the series. I started to listen to Night Broken almost eight months ago and quit after the opening scene. I realized that I needed a break from the Mercy Thompson series because I couldn’t take the pack’s treatment of Mercy any longer. The fact that after seven books and the countless times she’s helped them, the pack still treated Mercy with utter disregard and dislike completely ticked me off. This, coupled with the introduction of Adam’s ex-wife, told me a break was needed. So when I picked the book up again recently, I skipped the opening scene and jumped in where I’d left off all those months ago. And I’m glad I did. Night Broken is another well-developed, exciting tale in the Mercy Thompson world. The enemy is unique, aggressive, dangerous, and just plan bad. I enjoyed listening to Mercy, along with her mate, Adam, her friends, and even newcomers, figuring out the pieces of the puzzle and determining how best to take on a god-like entity. I also love that Coyote is back, and he even displays some affection for Mercy, in his own twisted way. Background storylines weave in and out, some which started several books back, and even one that originally came from Mercy’s sister series, the Alpha and Omega. All of this, plus the introduction of two new characters made this one of my favorite Mercy titles. While I didn’t forget what turned me off from the book all those months ago, time away from the series brought fresh air and a new perspective. Mercy had a couple great heart-to-hearts with some of the pack, conversations that warmed my heart and gave me hope for Mercy’s place among them. I know she’ll never be buddies with everyone, but Mercy knows this too, and is okay with it. I’m also hopeful that having the pack see Mercy in action and listening to her expose hurtful lies may help her cause among the pack. Additionally, Mercy and Adam have to deal with his ex-wife coming into the picture. We know from earlier titles that she’s not the best mother and can be a horrible manipulator. This was very evident during the book, and I did get ticked off...
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Jul
8

Review: Beyond the Darkness by Katie Reus

Review: Beyond the Darkness by Katie Reus Beyond the Darkness Author: Katie Reus Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Keelin is a dragon shifter who recently awakened from Protective Hibernation. Although she’s considered royalty among her pack and is sister to the pack alpha, she was sheltered her whole life by parents. After surviving an attack (in the previous book), she decided it was time to live life on her own terms and has moved to Finn Stavros’s wolf pack, working at Bo Broussard’s bar, striking out on her own while her parents are still in Protective Hibernation. One month ago while helping Keelin’s pack, Bran Devlin, alpha of another dragon clan, recognized that his dragon wants to mate with Keelin. Although she rebuffed his advances previously, he’s come to town to find her and win her over. However, when it becomes evident that Keelin’s life is in danger, Devlin’s dragon decides it is time to take Keelin sooner rather than later. Although Beyond the Darkness is the third book in Ms. Reus’s paranormal Darkness series, the story is written so that one can enjoy it without knowledge of the previous two titles. The author works in enough backstory and world-building to engage new-to-the-series readers, but it is not overly repetitive for those who have read the earlier titles. The story and romance are standalone, without any over-arching plot between books in the series. The story elements are typical of paranormal romance, including shifters, danger, an alpha male, and the insta-love mating that drives the couple together. However, that’s where the similarities end. What I enjoyed most about Beyond the Darkness was how atypical Bran’s alpha male is when relating to Keelin. He recognizes her need to have freedom of choice and be an equal among warriors, and his motivations to win her over follow. He never once “dumbs down” his efforts to woo her, yet he uses his fierce desire to show Keelin that respects her needs and wishes. I really like Bran and Keelin as a couple. Not only are they well-balanced and respectful, but they are smokin’ hot. The pair has an immediate attraction that kicks off the mating process right from the start. There is conflict, however, because Keelin doesn’t care for an over-protective alpha male or any mate, ever. I like the back and forth play that the pair go through until they find compromise and learn to believe and trust in the actions and words of the...
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