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Apr
5

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston Welcome to our feature that focus on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Hot and Badgered Author: Shelly Laurenston Narrator: Traci Odom Audio Speed: 1.25x + 1.5x Series: Honey Badgers Chronicles #1 Source: Tantor Audio Hot and Badgered, the first book in Ms. Laurenston’s new Honey Badgers Chronicles is a crazy ride full of over-the-top shifters with a thirst for blood… and honey. While it is a new series, I learned from others after I started listening, that it is set in the same world as and features characters from her Pride series. Perhaps I would have enjoyed Hot and Badgered more had I read the earlier series, because one of my issues was the sheer volume of characters and side stories. It was confusing and difficult to follow at times. The story is shared from multiple POVs and can make your head spin a bit. Hot and Badgered is billed as the romance between Honey Badger/Wolf shifter, Charlie MacKilligan, and Bear shifter Berg Dunn; however, there is very little romance in the book. The story follows Charlie and her half sisters, Max (full Honey Badger) and Frankie (Honey Badger/Tiger), as the run for the lives from an array of dangerous threats. Their father is a major lowlife, who is constantly putting his own kids’ lives in danger, and the Irish MacKilligans are a crime family. So… there is a lot to run from. Good thing Charlie and her sisters know how to fight and take care of themselves. Their adventures are outlandish and there is never a moment’s rest. Eventually, there is a bit of courting between Charlie and Berg – who are adorable together – but the romance is a very small part of the overall story. While the tale itself was somewhat interesting, definitely exciting, and mostly entertaining, the characters could be mildly annoying. They are always fighting, and they are all completely over-the-top. Everything is outlandish and dramatic. I will admit that after a LONG while, the Mackilligan sisters and Dunn triplets grew on me, but the story went on way too long and had too many side characters and subplots. The narration from Ms. Odom was solid. She used distinct voices for each character, easily recognizable whenever I picked up the book and started listening. Some of the voices felt cartoonish or exaggerated at first, but as the book went on, I realized that those voices fit the nature of the characters. She pulls of several accents, some better than...
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Apr
4

Review: Blow Down by JL Merrow

Review: Blow Down by JL Merrow Blow Down Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Several months have passed since Tom Paretski got engaged, saw his best friend married, found out his “Dad” wasn’t really his biological father, and became the resident hero by saving a barmaid from dying in a fire. Now something of a minor celebrity thanks to news coverage exposing his psychic “gift,” he’s in demand for more than his plumbing skills—this time finding himself obligated to unearth a stolen necklace for a recently-wed, high-ranking member of the local diocese (who nobody seems to like very much). At least his life’s not boring. As was the case with the previous titles in the series, Blow Down begins with the discovery of a corpse. Poor Tom’s knack for finding dead bodies hasn’t subsided at all, and has once again placed him in the crosshairs of a murderer. With multiple suspects all capable of rampant greed, hatred of the deceased, or both, this was an interesting crime for Tom and Phil to crack. Although, in truth, I had more fun waiting to see what they, and the other returning characters would do than I did trying to puzzle out the mystery itself. One aspect of the earlier stories I wasn’t sure about, but which I thought was among the most enjoyable parts of Blow Down was Tom and Phil’s relationship. While they’re still learning about each other outside of their shared past, I found the teasing, protectiveness, and fondness that’s so evident between them to be endearing. In fact, the entire narrative is more affectionate than its predecessors, yet it maintains the familiar and comforting level of snark that has so strongly contributed to the personality of the series as a whole so far. Though I wasn’t able to get quite as wrapped up in the mystery of Blow Down as I was in the previous stories, it moved things along just fine. Despite the entirely new group of characters introduced for the purpose, there were somewhat limited options when it came to the sinister narcissism that seemed most indicative of the killer. While there’d be no story without the whodunit, it felt more like a vehicle for everything else that’s going on with Tom, rather than the objective of the narrative. Having missed the original publication of The Plumber’s Mate Mysteries, I admit that it has been nice to read them so closely together. As someone who is unfamiliar...
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Apr
3

Review: Play for Keeps by Maggie Wells

Review: Play for Keeps by Maggie Wells Play for Keeps Author: Maggie Wells Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Play for Keeps, the second book in the Love Games series by Maggie Wells is good, but I did not like it as much as the first book, Love Game, because the relationship between public relations genius Millie Jenkins and basketball coach Ty Ransom is very messy. Their love story takes a much longer, and possibly unnecessary arc before we reach a happily ever after.  Some readers will think it’s perfect, others will be disappointed where it went. If you life is already pretty messy, you don’t necessarily want your fantasy life to be messy too.  Wells had an option; she took her characters down the harder—some might argue more interesting—path. I liked Ty.  With heroic patience, he commits himself to a course and doesn’t waver.  We like a steady guy, no matter what other characters throw at him.  He was always trying to do the right thing and Millie puts him, and herself, through the ringer.  With such a large personality, she seems to need a large obstacle to overcome before there can be a conclusion.  There is one, but it’s not the obvious one.  As is the case with stubborn personalities, she is her own worst enemy. Millie’s friends, prominent in the first book, are a little cliche’d in this installment.  There is a true Gilmore Girls moment that made me chuckle as much as roll my eyes. Wells substitutes wine for cookie dough, although I don’t know why you couldn’t have both, and does go on to justify the nod very respectably with some significant growth on Millie’s part. There is hot, steamy sex in this book.  A lot of it.  If it weren’t for the plot at the beginning, end, and tie into the first book, it might—probably would—fall over the line into erotica.  Ty goes along with all of it because even though it’s a sexist thing to say, he’s a guy with a pulse.  Ty wants Millie though, and he’ll take her any way he can get her.  My favorite quote in the book, and there were several, appeared fairly early on.  Ty says to Millie, “The first time I saw you, I recognized you.  Not your face, but you.  All I could think was, ‘Yes, there you are.’” *swoon* Millie is messed up emotionally and rather than dealing with it, she keeps it all pushed down with ludicrous...
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Mar
29

Review: Dearest Ivie by J.R. Ward

Review: Dearest Ivie by J.R. Ward Dearest Ivie Author: J.R. Ward Reviewer: Una Rating: A-/B+ What I’m Talking About: Dearest Ivie is a novella in the world of Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB).  I enjoyed this short story of romance that alludes to a previous novel but instead of following the heartbreaking ending, this one is happy and hopeful. I really enjoyed Ivie’s character.  She is a nurse working in Haver’s clinic.  Though a commoner and more mainstream “American” than members of the aristocracy, I liked her strength of self.  She is unapologetically Ivie, daughter of a biker and a forthright and intelligence female.  Though we encounter a few of the mainstream BDB characters, the story truly is focused on Ivie and Silas. It is an attraction of opposites as Silas is an aristocrat, older and moneyed.  Ivie is compassionate and outspoken, definitely not a wilting, wealthy female.  Through this whirlwind romance, Silas learns everything about Ivie, while keeping himself shrouded in mystery.  But when his secrets come out, it is a heartbreaking realization.  Yet, Ivie is a fighter and her determination and willingness to speak and work to find a solution is endearing.  The happy ending was worth the anxious tension while reading. For fans of the series, this is a must read.  I am overjoyed that love wins in the end and there is a happily-ever-after.  I eagerly look forward to catching a glimpse of Ivie and Silas in future BDB world novels. My Rating:  A-/B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: The last place Ivie expects to be approached by a devastatingly handsome male is in a crowded, smoky cigar bar rarely frequented by vampires—yet here he stands. Silas is flirtatious, gallant, and, above all, mysterious. Ivie is anything but. A nurse at the healer’s clinic and the daughter of a biker, Ivie is accustomed to speaking her mind. So she does. Since aristocrats rarely pick up females of her class, Ivie asks Silas just what kind of game he thinks he’s playing. Despite her guarded exterior, Ivie surrenders to the fierce desire she feels for Silas. And yet, just as their courtship is heating up, he reveals that it cannot last, for he is bound to return to the Old Country. Their bond only deepens as they make the most of their precious time together. But when she learns the truth, Ivie must find a saving grace—before all is lost. . . . Release Date: Ballantine Books Publisher: March 13, 2018...
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Mar
26

Review: Can’t Stand the Heat by Peggy Jaeger

Review: Can’t Stand the Heat by Peggy Jaeger Can’t Stand the Heat Author: Peggy Jaeger Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Stacy has successfully produced three cooking shows for the EBS network and is known for being able to get the job done. She recently pitched a new idea for her own show, one her boss is interested in, and tells her he’ll green-light it, if she’ll produce a show for him in Montana. Figuring she can deal with eight weeks on the road, Stacy agrees, only to discover after that the director is one of the best and most difficult in the business. Nikko doesn’t need anyone from the network looking over his shoulder and making changes to his program, so he was ready to hate Stacy the minute he saw her. However, she’s unlike anyone he’s worked with before and his daughter seems to like Stacy, and the more time he spends around her, Nikko realizes he needs Stacy for more than just his television show. Can’t Stand the Heat is the third, standalone story from Ms. Jaeger’s Will Cook for Love series. While characters from the first two titles make an appearance in this title, and we originally meet Stacy in the first book, having read the previous books isn’t necessary to enjoy Can’t Stand the Heat. Unlike the first two books (and much to my joy), this story is straight up contemporary romance, without any bit of suspense or danger tossed in. The story focuses on Nikko and Stacy—getting to know one another and learning how to move on from past heartache and pain. At the start, Nikko is an ass, not just to Stacy, but to all those he works with. He’s a perfectionist and master of his trade, but he’s unkind. His demeanor is in part due to his control freak nature, but also partly due to the physical pain he endures, stemming from a car crash that killed his ex-wife (the mother of his teenage daughter) less than two years prior. Worry for his daughter, whose life was completely rearranged by the death of her mom, provides additional stress, making Nikko unbearable most of the time. Yet, he is a smart man, and he recognizes the truth in Stacy’s kindness and learns how to become a better man by accepting her generosity, which allows him to grow. Meanwhile, Stacy has her own demons that drive her work ethic. However, she’s balanced, using yoga as an outlet for stress...
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Mar
19

Review: Guardian of Darkness by Katie Reus

Review: Guardian of Darkness by Katie Reus Guardian of Darkness Author: Katie Reus Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Vega is the half-werewolf, half-vampire daughter of two very powerful supernaturals and has long been the darling of her father’s pack. When we met Vega in the first Darkness book, she was a teenager, and although we didn’t see most of her years since then, she’s now a recent college graduate who is ready to make her mark in the world. Knowing her parents may object, Vega joined a secret government supernatural Black Ops team and is heading out on her first mission. Gabriel has known Vega is his destined mate long before he even met her, and when his feelings started to become more-than-a-Guardian in nature, he put distance between himself and Vega. He thinks staying away from her will prevent the vision of her death coming true; however, when he sees her strike out on her own with a dangerous group, he is compelled to intervene. Now he’s part of her Black Ops mission and heading straight into the heart of his former home, where he foresaw Vega die. Ms. Reus’s Darkness series is a favorite of mine. I enjoy the breadth of the mythology, bringing in all types of supernatural beings, including different half-breeds, each unique and with interesting abilities. Vega is a wonderful example; she was something different and new to the Pack when we first met her, and her abilities continue to evolve as she matures. One thing I adore about Vega and Gabriel’s story is the straightforward nature of relationship. Don’t get me wrong – there is subterfuge, and both keep secrets, but once they are together and working on the mission, they open up. For example, Gabriel’s vision was used in the past as a way to keep the pair apart, and could have easily continued to remain a secret, but he shares with her his knowledge and concerns rather than allow them to fester. Likewise, Vega could have hidden her sleuthing activities from Gabriel, but she is honest, and they work as equals on a team. The mutual respect and admiration ignites their sexual chemistry, and they cannot keep their lust at bay. Guardian of Darkness introduces several new interesting individuals to the Darkness world, each with ties to existing characters. While the addition of so many new players could feel cumbersome, Ms. Reus integrates each with a solid storyline, and in the process has created several...
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Mar
8

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs Welcome to our feature that focus on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs Author: Patricia Briggs Narrator: Holter Graham Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Alpha and Omega #5; Mercy Thompson World #15 Source: Penguin Random House Audio With Bran away, Charles is charged with looking after his pack. Danger strikes close to home, endangering the Wildlings, lone wolves who are too wild to be part of the pack, but remain under Bran’s protection. Unable to reach Bran, Charles and Anna are left of save and protect the Wildlings while trying to uncover who within the pack is a traitor. While Burn Bright is the continuation of Charles and Anna’s story, the series on whole is deeply connected to its sister series, the Mercy Thompson series, and this story takes place following and refers to the events in Silence Fallen (Mercy Thompson #10/#14). Bran remains away after helping Mercy escape her captors in Europe, but lied about his location to Charles. So when things go sideways and Bran is unreachable, Charles begins to suspect more is going on than a random attack on isolated wolves. I mostly enjoyed the story as it alternates between Anna and Charles’ POVs, revealing bits and threads that begin to show something larger happening around the pack. The series is at its best when Anna and Charles are in sync, working together to solve a bizarre mystery. And although Charles and Anna work separately for a bit, the trust and love they share makes the pair much stronger than the individuals. And watching them try to figure out who is attacking the Wildlings while trying to understand what secrets Bran has hidden for them to uncover was exciting and engrossing. We meet several new characters that I hope turn up in books down the road. Unfortunately, there is one part of the book that really bothered me, even though I tried hard to understand why Ms. Briggs would have included it. Specifically it has to do with the relationship between Bran and his foster daughter, Mercy, who doesn’t even make an appearance in the story. Anna and Charles discuss the bond between Bran and Mercy, and the impacts to Bran’s own mating bond with Leah. The implications are upsetting and disturbing, and I feel there was no reason to include it. However, I did enjoy learning more about Leah (later in the book) and her motivations. It made her character more relatable and three-dimensional. The story is...
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Mar
7

Review: Heat Trap by JL Merrow

Review: Heat Trap by JL Merrow Heat Trap Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Having enjoyed the first two Plumber’s Mate Mysteries a great deal, I was happy to jump into Heat Trap fairly soon after finishing the second story. And while the half-year interim in the timeline is plenty long in some ways, certain aspects of Tom’s life appear not to have progressed much at all. Granted, Tom was dealt a tremendous shock at the end of Relief Valve, but I was left feeling uncertain at times as this narrative unfolded. Tom continues to be a likable character, even though I was disappointed by some of his reactions, especially towards Phil. The two have been together for more than six months at this point, during which time they’ve exchanged both house keys and “I love you’s,” and are making plans for the near future. Rather than appearing more solid, however, it felt as if Tom’s faith in him was too easily shaken when tensions began to escalate, resulting in him keeping Phil at a distance in the process. Phil, on the other hand, I liked more than ever. While I was initially skeptical of his interest in Tom—his seeming lack of regret over his earlier treatment of Tom being a sore spot—his affections in Heat Trap are indisputable. He has the anxious, yet hopeful demeanor of someone who has already put his heart on the line unreservedly, and I couldn’t help but be firmly in Phil’s camp for most of the story. Happily, some of my other favorites are back, and better than I remembered. Darren and Gary, in particular, are delightful in their pre-wedding bliss, and I honestly would have been glad to see them turn up in even more scenes. Tom’s sister, Cherry, is also a more constant presence in his life now, and was a lot of fun when she popped up. The mystery in Heat Trap involves some noteworthy characters from Tom’s preferred pub, “The Devil’s Dyke,” and it was nice to gain more insight into their roles, as well. Overall, I had mixed feelings about Heat Trap. While I don’t think it shows Tom in an especially favorable light at times, I was thrilled with the way things seemed to be going for him and Phil by the end of the story. The mystery itself was likewise interesting, although it felt secondary to the relationship struggles Tom is trying to come to terms with....
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Mar
5

Review: As the Devil Dares by Anna Harrington

Review: As the Devil Dares by Anna Harrington As the Devil Dares Author: Anna Harrington Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: In an effort to seek the approval of his deceased father, Robert has spent the past two years planning for the chance to be part of Winslow Shipping and Henry Winslow’s partner. The catch: Robert must find a husband for Winslow’s unruly daughter, Mariah, aka the Hellion. Mariah grew up without her mother, at her father’s side at the docks and shipyard. She knows Winslow Shipping inside and out and hopes to run the family business someday. But her father wants Mariah to be a proper lady, and instead seeks to find a partner outside the family. She’ll do everything she can to foil Robert’s plans to marry her off and take the company for himself. As the Devil Dares is a fun story with an enemies-to-lovers romance. Robert and Mariah are at odds from the start – both vying for her father’s attention and a piece of Winslow Shipping. Each is running from their own demons, having solid reasons for wanting to hold Winslow’s favor. But placing Robert in charge of Mariah’s season and finding her a husband creates a forced proximity with hilarious consequences. Mariah does everything she can to go along with the plan, while simultaneously working against the idea of marriage. As the pair spends time together, they start to get past their ambitions and see true natures beneath rough exteriors. They learn about one another, finding commonality in the death of a parent. Both are motivated and can appreciate the drive of the other. However, as all good stories go, mistakes made prior to their friendship developing come to light, causing conflict and drama. While it was obvious from the start that the conflict would occur, Ms. Harrington weaves a solid and entertaining story that kept me engaged. In the end, I enjoyed this third story in the Capturing the Carlisles series. Ms. Harrington has become a must-read author for me. I love her unconventional, strong-willed women who defy their time and go after what they want, and As the Devil Dares is another delightful example. Mariah and Robert are the perfect pairing, finding true love after learning to be friends then lovers. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Whether it’s business or pleasure, Lord Robert Carlisle never backs down from a dare. But finding a husband for scandalous Mariah Winslow? It’s one challenge he...
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Mar
5

Review: Bad Bachelor by Stefanie London

Review: Bad Bachelor by Stefanie London Bad Bachelor Author: Stefanie London Reviewer: Nima Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: I liked Bad Bachelor by Stefanie London much more than I expected to.  Reformed bad boys are a popular, possibly overdone, trope in contemporary romance and it takes skill to do it well.  The difference for me was that I genuinely liked all the characters in Bad Bachelor.  London successfully managed to create conflict without any real bad guys.  There was no one I wanted to hate or inflict with bodily harm for being a jerk or worse, being immature.  All the characters had jerk moments, but it didn’t consume their character.  London carefully walked a line of not letting the jerk moments turn her characters into cliche’d charactures, while still maintaining tension. Bad Bachelors is an app that let’s women rate and review their dates.  Bad boy Reed McMahon is on the top of their hit list and it’s starting to affect more than just his dating life. He and the reader are left to wonder who created the app and the source of his or her personal war with Reed.  Really good twist there.  I love it when I didn’t see something coming. Darcy Greer is a combat boot wearing, tattooed, take-no prisoners—librarian.  The woman with a pierced tongue who can quote Shakespeare is a wonderful contradiction, but not.  She is a complete character and by the end of the book, we wouldn’t change a thing. The way that she and Reed approach their association and eventual relationship works. There is some explicit sex, but it’s not the focus of the story, the relationship is paramount.  Darcy described it perfectly when she said, “How was she supposed to tell the guy that her relationship with his son could be described as work with a side of smut?“  As London walks us through it, she is often very insightful, “…she saw something else: a man who was frightened of connecting.  Who rolled in on himself so the spikes faced outward, scaring off anyone who might dare get close.“ I appreciated that the plot was well thought-out and developed.  There were only a couple minor things that interrupted my flow, one being a word choice I despise and another a few repetitive phrases.  Neither was unforgivable.  Overall, I very much enjoyed this read. My Rating: B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Everybody’s talking about the hot new app reviewing New York’s most eligible bachelors. But why...
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