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Sep
7

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Coming in From the Cold by Sarina Bowen

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Coming in From the Cold by Sarina Bowen Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Coming in From the Cold Author: Sarina Bowen Narrators: Joe Arden, Maxine Mitchell Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Gravity #1 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Blunder Woman Productions Willow is stuck in a dream life that was never her dream. Following her then boyfriend to raise chickens on a farm in Vermont, Willow was dumped and left in debt when he found a pretty face with a trust fund, moving to California. Trying to get home one night before the blizzard gets any worse, Willow swerves off the road and is left with a sexy stranger. Dane loves being an Olympic skier, but he’s lonely and hiding a huge secret which keeps him from forming any attachments. Running off the road during a blizzard, Dane finds himself trapped with a beautiful woman who is willing to share one night of passion. But when a freak accident takes him out of competition for the season, he’s forced to face his nightmares head on. Coming in From the Cold is a cute contemporary romance that makes the hero and heroine work for their HEA. The opening scene, with the pair stuck in a jeep during a blizzard, is a wonderful way for the couple to very quickly get to know one another. They trade complaints while stuck, waiting for the plows. The situation creates a false sense of intimacy, allowing both to share secrets and do things (*cough* jeepsex *cough*) they normally wouldn’t do. One thing leads to another and soon the pair take things further than planned. Dane has a HUGE chip on his shoulder, which leads to some MAJOR asshat behavior and an unintentional spill on the slopes. Being laid up and unable to compete adds to his destructive mood, and I honestly wasn’t sure he’d be able to redeem himself. But because Willow is a psychology doctoral student, she has insight as to Dane’s behavior. While she’s not ready to jump back into bed with him, she’s able to put the situation into perspective with a bit of emotional detachment, allowing me to travel her journey to forgiveness with her. She’s not unemotional and still hurts, but understands. The dual POV story has both a male and female narrator for the two POVs. Both narrators are pretty good: not great, but solid. At first, I listened to the book at 1.25x speed, and I did have an issue with Ms. Mitchell...
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Sep
6

Review: Blood Guard by Megan Erickson

Review: Blood Guard by Megan Erickson Blood Guard Author: Megan Erickson Reviewer: Jen Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Tendra’s mom passed away in car wreck in recent years, leaving Ten all alone in Mission. Something in Ten tells her it’s time to move on, just like she and her mom moved so many times growing up. But that night, Ten’s whole world turns upside down. Athan is a vampire and Ten’s blood guard. Tendra is the Sanguivita of the Gregorie vampire clan. Her mother knew all about it and was supposed to tell Ten, but was killed before she had the chance. Now Athan will escort Ten to live as his brother’s mate. Blood Guard is the solid start to a unique paranormal romance series. I enjoyed the mythology which has some original components; however, it is traditional in ways that helped fill in any gaps. Some of the hallmark paranormal elements such as a prophesy and meant-to-be love gave the story a familiar feel. Unknown to Ten before the night she meets Athan, there are vampires living among the humans, and it is prophesied that she will bring the Gregorie clan much power, which they will use to protect humankind. Tendra and Athan share a forbidden attraction, and being on the run together only heightens the sexual chemistry. She is destined for his brother, the future king, and immediately, she is compelled to fulfill her roll. But that attraction… it gets to be too much, and the pair fall into a dangerous liaison. Funny how prophesies tend to have a way of working out, even when a huge wrench or two is tossed into the mix. While overall I enjoyed the story, I did have to make a big leap of faith with how things go down. I felt Ten was compliant without justification. She just goes along with Athan never really questioning anything. And I didn’t buy how easily she integrates herself into the vampire culture. She just accepts her duty like suddenly she belongs and it’s her life. It is all too easy. I think the second book will be strong because won’t have to world build as much. Blood Guard is enjoyable, even with my small issues, and I look forward to checking out what happens next in this new paranormal romance series. My Rating: B- Liked It, but I had a few small issues About the Book: Tendra: One minute, I’m a bartender in gritty Mission City; the next,...
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Aug
22

Review: Dark Rooms by Sionna Fox

Review: Dark Rooms by Sionna Fox Dark Rooms Author: Sionna Fox Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B What I’m Talking About: The word play of the title, Dark Rooms, isn’t lost on me. I actually love it and think it’s perfect for this book. This was a short—took me under two hours to read it. There were a lot of things I liked, and some things that were a little meh for me. Then again, this could be **just** me. I really liked the character development for Wes. I think we got a well-rounded story about him, and his POV was the strongest. He was my favorite character, unless you count Ed. I loved how we watched Wes develop and grow. At the beginning, he was enchanted by Aimee—but by the end, his feelings were obvious. Even when things were topsy-turvy for him, he seemed to keep his cool and roll with the punches based on what Aimee needed…or so he thought. Aimee, on the other hand, didn’t have growth through most of the story, and that bothered me. I didn’t get to see much—even in her POV—about why she was the way she was. Her change seemed instantaneous and we didn’t get to see the evolution of her thought process much. I understand a big reveal and all the plot devices rather well, but there could have been more at the end. I had a couple concerns about the portrayal of the BDSM world—specifically house parties and health concerns. However, I respect an author’s right to request a leap of faith from her readers in the interest of telling a story. Kids, if you go to a kink party, make sure there’s a mentor you get to hang out with the first time at a new place. Someone to explain house rules, etc. Oh, and test results. And don’t share toys such as floggers, etc., without knowing they’re properly disinfected between uses—one doesn’t know **where** those things have been. There’s some things in the blurb that were misleading to me as a reader, too. I felt that Wes was less experienced than indicated in the blurb based on the history presented (and that I liked a lot) in the story. I’m going to take this moment to talk about good tops. First, they’re mentored. Second, whip-wielding—this is like an event or sport one trains for over the course of YEARS. Third, I prefer to see Doms with a realistic grasp on their Dom-ness unless I’m reading...
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Aug
21

Review: Misconduct by Samantha Kane

Review: Misconduct by Samantha Kane Misconduct Author: Samantha Kane Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Having survived a roadside bombing in Afghanistan, Carmina moved to Birmingham to be close to her best friend (and only other survivor) and to get away from her overprotective family. Now that she’s gotten on her own two feet, Carmina is ready to try dating, and sex, again. Rebels’ rookie, Tom, is the perfect man for the job, but she also can’t stop thinking about Tom’s best friend and roommate, Danny. Not sure how to proceed, Carmina rely’s on Tom’s help to move forward. After nearly giving up on this series after the second title, I have to say I have rather enjoyed the last two books. Misconduct explores the aspects of a ménage within the confines of a safe and mostly accepting community. While it’s the fourth such book in the series, the story of Carmina, Danny, and Tom’s relationship is its own. With Tom as the only one ready to explore his deepest fantasies, it takes a while for the trio to form.  I like that Ms. Kane allows both Carmina and Danny to express their reluctance and fears over a non-traditional relationship, with Danny agitated and angry over unwanted advances. There is no sudden “flipping the switch,” making everything all good. It takes time. It gives the entire situation a realness that wasn’t present in the first two books of the series. I also appreciate that the focus of Misconduct is the budding relationship and connections between Carmina, Danny, and Tom. Yes, this is a football book, and the author puts her characters in the game. However, while football is the setting for the book, it isn’t a guiding force over the romance, as it was in the first two titles. Sharing the interpersonal impacts of the ménage, rather than the impact to the team, creates a more heartfelt story. I like that the romance and sex scenes are driven by the characters and their desires, rather than the other way around. This is more of a “slow burn” romance, in that it takes some time for the trio to work out. However, it is still smoking hot – just give it time. It could have been just another ménage story with lots of sex, but Misconduct is so much more. The author take time to develop solid characters who dictate the storyline. Outside the fame and football, Danny, Tom, and Carmina are real...
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Aug
21

Review: Dirty Deeds By HelenKay Dimon

Review: Dirty Deeds By HelenKay Dimon Dirty Deeds Author: HelenKay Dimon Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Cultivating a reputation for having an unflinching ruthlessness towards his competitors, family, and lovers alike has served Alec Drummond well over the years. Forgoing intimacy in favor of sacrificing himself to the recovery and increasing prosperity of his family’s business has likewise suited him fine. Yet, when a problem from his past resurfaces, dragging an annoyingly capable and sexy complication with it, his hard-won empire isn’t the only thing that’s rattled. Gaige Owens has had his fill of paying for the sins of another. Yet, here he is—again—up to his neck in lies and manipulation. Although he desperately wants his freedom, chasing that particular carrot across a tightrope strung by a covert government agency is wearing more than a little thin. Still, locking horns with the notorious eldest Drummond brother has appeal on several levels, especially in the bedroom. Dirty Deeds is the first story I’ve read by HelenKay Dimon, and, overall, I enjoyed it. As it’s a spinoff of another series I missed, I think that my reading experience might have benefitted from a little more knowledge of the characters’ backgrounds, as well as the author’s writing style, but it stands on its own just fine. I was definitely intrigued by such a unique premise, and I felt that the “whodunit” aspect of the story evolved very nicely. About midway through, Dirty Deeds really picks up its pace, and the remainder of the narrative kept me engaged until the end. Having said that, there were a couple of things that kept me from fully sinking into the story. Although the big, bad government agency blackmailing Alec and Gaige into helping easily dictated where my allegiance lay, I was never comfortable with their (Alec’s, especially) acceptance of the situation. Both are so adamant about their independence and abilities, that I wanted them to break the reins a bit sooner. Additionally, the rapidity of their trust in one another, as well as the three-week relationship incubation mandate at the end of the story, also felt a little off to me, though neither was a deal breaker. While both characters had their strong points, it was Gaige who truly stood out to me. He’s funny, intelligent, extremely capable, and his reasons for essentially recreating himself won me over without much of a fight on my part. That his participation in the events of Dirty Deeds was solely the...
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Aug
14

Review: The Dream Keeper’s Daughter by Emily Colin

Review: The Dream Keeper’s Daughter by Emily Colin The Dream Keeper’s Daughter Author: Emily Colin Reviewer: Ang Rating: B What I’m Talking About: The Dream Keepers Daughter was an interesting and multi-dimensional read. The concepts of time travel and how the deep connection to those we love transcend place, time and logic were covered in unexpected and interesting ways. The characters were well developed and interesting right from the start, and the back and forth narration between Max and Isabel gave insights that could not have been explored if narrated another way. I also felt the way Ms. Colin explored the topic of grief and moving on was believable and distinct to the different characters and their personalities and experiences. She tackles hard topics like slavery, familial responsibility, and accountability for past mistakes with heart for both sides and manages to give closure as best as anyone can when faced with the ripple effect of choices made by those before. Overall, I enjoyed The Dream Keepers Daughter; however, that said I did have a few issues with the novel, but to explain them may be spoilerish so… ***** WARNING POSSIBLE SPOILERS ***** My first issues is that the rules of time travel didn’t seem to be consistent. Julia, Isabel’s mother disappeared 16 years ago but has only spent one in her alternate world, whereas Max has been gone for eight years in the here and now, but has only been in his alternate world for less than a month. How/why did time speed up when Max disappeared? They are in the same place at the same time, so shouldn’t the same rules apply? I mean I understand that certain things would have been much harder to believe if Finn had been sixteen years old rather than eigth, and that time was needed for Max and Isabel to form their relationship, but rules are rules and not sticking to them tends to make me a bit crazy. I also struggled with Finn’s character and the lack of explanation. Where did her special talents come from? Are they a result of genetics that laid dormant until the family was brought together? She’s such a major character but doesn’t really get the story time I felt she deserved. What about her struggle? How was she so able to accept everything happening around and to her? Child-like faith can only explain so much. Maybe the answer came in a dream, but if so show me that. Finally, I felt like the...
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Aug
9

Review: The Sweetest Burn by Jeaniene Frost

Review: The Sweetest Burn by Jeaniene Frost The Sweetest Burn Author: Jeaniene Frost Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: B What We’re Talking About: The Sweetest Burn is the long awaited second novel in the Broken Destiny series. Gikany and Una liked this second novel, as Adrian seemed to improve while the plot thickened.  Though Ivy tended to be hot and cold, she preservers through her waffling to the save the day. It could be that Gikany and Una are just older than the target audience or just more self-secure, but the foibles we perceive in Ivy and Adrian are definitely what we would consider immaturity.  Though Adrian is over a hundred years old, his over protectiveness leads him to make decisions for Ivy and himself without Ivy having a more equal say (or at times any say).  We felt that Adrian reminded us of Edward from the Twilight series, and not necessarily in the good way.  The old-fashioned high handedness is irritating for both Ivy and us.  But in Adrian’s defense, he does try… he truly does but sometimes love leads us down a well-intentioned but dangerously overprotective path. The quest for the staff was fraught with danger and overshadowed with betrayal.  We were intrigued by the journey that was required.  Through this second novel we learned more about the Archon, Zach.  He is becoming our more favorite secondary character next to Brutus, the gargoyle (whose secret identity is a seagull, trust us, it’s an awesome touch). The rules he follows and the seemingly irritating omissions are actually purposeful and necessary. We are enjoying this trilogy as it unfolds.  Though we do see some growth in our main characters, they do waffle a bit as it goes (the cha-cha of maturity).  With the foreshadowing of the epilogue, we are intrigued as to what will happen next. Thankfully, the last novel in this trilogy comes out in November. Please stay tuned for our review! Our Rating:  B Liked it About the Book: The breathtaking second novel in New York Times bestselling author Jeaniene Frost’s Broken Destiny series finds Ivy and Adrian rekindling their alliance – and passion – as the struggle for the fate of the world begins… Conquering a supernatural realm turned out to be easier than getting over a broken heart.  But her initial victory has made Ivy a target for revenge, forcing her to reunite with the dangerous – and dangerously sexy—Adrian.  Ivy isn’t sure which will be harder: finding the hallowed weapon that...
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Aug
8

Review: Urban Enemies Anthology

Review: Urban Enemies Anthology Urban Enemies Author: Edited by Joseph Nassise (authors listed below) Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: “Even Hand” by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files) This story is shared from Dresden’s long-time nemesis, John Marcone. Justine shows up with a baby and asks for sanctuary from Mag, a powerful fomor wizard. Marcone isn’t one for making bad business decisions, but takes Justine in because one of Marcone’s rules is no harm to children. Mag is extremely determined to get back Justine and brings all his power to bear down on Marcone, Gard, and Hendricks. While the tale doesn’t directly tie into the overall Dresden story arc, it gives great insight into the warped mind of Marcone, reminding readers he isn’t anybody’s hero. I love he remains the bad guy, even when saving Justine. And his plans for Dresden left me shivering. “Hounded” by Kelly Armstrong (Cainsville series) Never having read this series, Ms. Armstrong does a great job giving readers just enough information to understand the short without going into the entire series background and history. The Cwn Annwn are the Hunters of the Wild Hunt. “Hounded” follows one Huntsman whose hound was taken from him and was cut from his pack for reasons we discover as the story unfolds. Unlike the previous story, where a bad guy does a good deed, this Huntsman is not good, and we witness how he corrupts a woman, bending her will to suit his needs. Very well done and a bit creepy! “Nigsu Ga Tesgu” by Jeff Somers (Ustari Cycle story) Once again, the author does a great job giving readers a blurb about the world and antagonist featured in this anthology. Mika Renar is a magician, and she is one of the most powerful and dark ustari in the world. The first line in the story tells us she killed her father, and thus starts our lesson of how wicked magicians truly are. Told in first person, present tense, “Nigsu Ga Tesgu” shares an attack meant to destroy Mika. While I had no problems following the storyline, I found that it held little interest for me. Maybe if I knew more about Mari, I would have been more invested in her survival. However, she is an evil, selfish woman, one I didn’t care about. “Sixty-Six Seconds” by Craig Schaefer (This story contains characters from two interconnected series: Harmony Black and Daniel Faust.) Fontaine and his new apprentice, Rache, work for hell...
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Aug
3

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Silver Skull by Anne Renwick

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Silver Skull by Anne Renwick Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Elemental Web Chronicles Book: The Silver Skull Author: Anne Renwick Narrator: Henrietta Meire Audio Speed: 1.25x & 1.5x Series: Elemental Web Chronicles #2 Genre: Steampunk Romance Source: Tantor Audio The Silver Skull As the daughter of a prominent Duke, Lady Olivia is expected to marry, produce heirs for her husband, and run a successful household – all things she was taught to do. Except Olivia is also a Queen’s agent, trained to marry a politically motivated target and report on his activities. Olivia sees this as a means to an end; becoming a widow and then a field agent. Tired of waiting for field assignment, Olivia takes matters in her own hands when she decides to follow Lord Ian Rathsburn. Ian is a man with a tarnished reputation; a former Queen’s agent whose life work was stolen and is being developed by the enemy: Germany. Yet when his enemies kidnap his sister, Ian must act traitor to his country and help the Germans further develop his ideas, working along side his former friend – the man who stole his work. Finding stowaway Lady Olivia on his dirigible, Ian isn’t certain if she’s a bubble-headed woman looking for a husband, or an agent of the Queen looking to bring him in. The second story in Ms. Renwick’s wonderful Elemental Web Chronicles is equally exciting and doubly adventurous as its predecessor. The story not only takes readers across the sea to Germany, but also opens up the setting to the much larger world. The world building continues as new characters are introduced, some with long-term potential. I feel like the entire Elemental Web Chronicles universe has expanded immensely after just one additional book. Even though things are growing within the series mythos, The Silver Skull is a tightly-woven story. The author does a fabulous job bring her world and characters to life without overwhelming readers/listeners. The romance between physician Ian and engineer Olivia is entertaining. I love the use of “scientific exploration” as a means for examining their mutual and intense attraction. They banter and play as only two geeks could, which is very enduring to me. I appreciate the conundrum of being spies and the need to keep secrets versus creating a solid rapport  based on honesty. Their romance burns slowly, but the unfulfilled desire keeps pulling the two together. At first I was concerned that the similarities between The Silver Skull...
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Aug
1

Review: In His Hands by Adriana Anders

Review: In His Hands by Adriana Anders In His Hands Author: Adriana Anders Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: When I was reading In His Hands, I felt like I was transported up a lonely mountain and planted in a vineyard. The feel of the vines and the selection process—which to cut and which to leave—reminded me of working with my grandmother on the concord grapes she had in her back yard. I’d listen to her talk about pruning the canes back and making sure the vines stayed on the fencing she’d made my dad set when he was a kid. As an adult, I lived in her house and tried to reclaim the vines after years of them running amok. It wasn’t an easy job. But, my nostalgia left as soon as I figured out what the heck was going on, on the top of that mountain. It…wasn’t pretty, but Ms. Anders didn’t focus on the abuse Abby suffered at the hands of others. The story focused on trust. Not the cult in which Abby was raised and how twisted and backward their beliefs were. I may have thrown up in my mouth a little during a few memories. Abby is a little spitfire. I’m not sure whether I can fully stomach the  whole cult mentality. I’m pretty sure I would’ve been down off the mountain before I’d been married off to some old geezer. I get the ‘only way out is death’ mentality, though. It’s just super hard for me to connect with. Which brings me to Luc. As a recluse and neighbor to the cult, Luc’s lack of experience with positive relationships in his life played out beautifully in this story. I felt a true connection to him because he listened to everything his grandfather said about growing grapes—and he applied it to the small crop of grapes he cultivated every year to sell to vintners in the area. I could almost hear my grandmother saying some of the same things about her vines. I’m not sure if I missed how long Luc had been on the mountain or if I wasn’t able to retain it due to nostalgia. It felt like he’d been there a few years, though. I even got the whole family thing—but for entirely different reasons. What I adored about Luc even more than the trip he took me on down memory lane was the fact that he was FRENCH. Ugh. My weakness. Even though Abby was...
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