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Dec
5

Review: A Kiss Under The Christmas Lights by Peggy Jaeger

Review: A Kiss Under The Christmas Lights by Peggy Jaeger A Kiss Under The Christmas Lights Author: Peggy Jaeger Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Set to take the CPA exams and start her career, Gia San Valentino is thrown for a loop when she finds herself instantly attracted to and completely taken with the wrong man. Unable to shake her feelings, Gia is emotionally torn because of an unknown, yet simple misunderstanding. Constantly surrounded by her family, Gia is worried the horrible truth will soon come out. A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights is a delightful holiday novella centered on a large Italian family and its traditions. I thoroughly enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Gia’s life. The author invests time developing the San Valentino family, bringing heart to the story, and Gia’s loving, meddling family provides tender moments with a healthy side of humorous embarrassment. Told from Gia’s first person POV, we get to experience every laugh, fear, and joy along side her. While this story isn’t an instalove tale, it is evident right from the start the Gia and Tim share something special. The love-at-first-meeting attraction comes across as right and true. However, due to a misunderstanding, Gia is emotionally wrecked and guilt-ridden over her attraction. After a while, it became stressful for me. It’s obvious to the reader what is going on, but Gia thinks she’s got the hots for an unattainable man. While the author does a great job of keeping Gia’s physical attraction appropriately compartmentalized, after their third meeting, I wanted her to be able to enjoy her feelings for Tim without the guilt. With that said… the author successfully keeps the mood light, even when the book deals with serious situations. And while the romance is a huge part of the story, there are other things going on in Gia’s life, keeping the focus off her guilty conscience. A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights is a sweet, light-hearted read. This holiday novella is a perfect gift to enjoy snuggled on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: With Christmas just a few weeks away, Gia San Valentino, the baby in her large, loud, and loving Italian family, yearns for a life and home of her own with a husband and bambini she can love and spoil. The single scene doesn’t interest her, and the men her well-meaning family introduce her to aren’t exactly the happily-ever-after kind. Tim Santini...
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Nov
30

Review: Snowed In by Jenna Bayley-Burke

Review: Snowed In by Jenna Bayley-Burke Snowed In Author: Jenna Bailey-Burke Reviewer: Nima Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: There isn’t much to tell you about the plot of Snowed In that’s not in the blurb—or the title for that matter. What I can tell you is that I genuinely liked this story when I had admittedly low expectations. Just a few weeks ago I reviewed a novella, Like Fresh Fallen Snow, with a very similar premise: successful independent woman works hard, goes to a large event at a hotel, gets snowed in with the man of her dreams, tries to remain independent and ignore her feelings. The set-up in both cases feels entirely contrived. Then again, when the title can serve as the description, you can’t fault it for false advertising. So why did I like Snowed In when I was disposed not to? Scott Parker. Scott is the best thing about the book. Even if he weren’t tall, dark, and handsome, there’s nothing so attractive as a man who’s in love and desperate to commit. Bayley-Burke puts it beautifully in her dedication, “For everyone who’s ever been burned by a stupid boy. May you find love with a smart one. Let’s hope he’s gorgeous and rich, tall and sporting a six-pack, with captivating eyes and a penchant for saying, ‘I love you’ at random moments. Bonus points if he does the dishes and has memorized Ian Kerner’s She Comes First.” The female lead as the aggressor isn’t the original twist it once was, but Scott still seems to hold all the cards, even when Marissa is the one coming on to him. Scott doesn’t just want a post wedding fling with Marissa Clark, he wants to keep her for the long haul. Marissa has been hurt in the past and the wedding they’re both attending is all kinds of awkward because of it. When they get snowed in together, Marissa just wants to blow off some stress between the sheets before she goes back to her regularly scheduled life. Scott has other plans and uses the time to make his case. It’s clear to the reader, even if Marissa hasn’t figured it out, that the reason she’s so stubborn when it comes to Scott isn’t because she doesn’t have time for a man in her life, she’s dated since the painful incident, but rather she knows instinctively that Scott matters. She must discover how to integrate the person she was with the one...
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Nov
29

Review: Daring Fate by Megan Erickson

Review: Daring Fate by Megan Erickson Daring Fate Author: Megan Erickson Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Reese and younger brother Jude have escaped their werewolf pack and its sadistic alpha, Xan. However, their sister remains behind, and with the threat that Xan will mate her in a month, the pressure is on Reese to save her. The problem: Dare, the alpha of the Silver Tip Were pack. When his Pack Guard found and rescued two werewolves from the Noweres, the last thing Dare expected was to find his True Mate. But Dare embraces Reese as his mate and over time, the pair form a deeper bond beyond the sex of mating. As Reese learns more about the once-feared Silver Tip Alpha, he is torn between protecting his mate and adopted pack and rescuing his sister. Daring Fate is the first book in Megan Erickson’s new Silver Tip Pack series. Ms. Erickson successfully introduces readers to a twist on the shifter mythology. A century ago, there was a virus that killed all of the humans and two-thirds of the Weres… but those Weres that died became Noweres, an undead version of the warrior Were form. Werewolves and Weres live in isolated packs, remaining fairly solitary and at peace with one another, as long as they leave the one another alone. What remains after the virus are three species: werewolves, who shift between human and a wolf; Weres, who shift between human, wolf, and a huge wolf/human hybrid; and Noweres, the undead monsters. Dare and Reese are a rare True Mated couple. While Reese’s werewolf parents were True Mates and equal lovers, he wasn’t old enough to understand what the bond meant before they were killed before his eyes. Dare knows of no True Mated Weres, and neither know of a cross-species situation. This leaves both men lost, without a clue what is normal or to be expected with True Mates, and I like that both are a bit terrified of doing something wrong. I feel the story was made stronger with both Reese and Dare fully accepting and embracing the mating bond, and that the mating was done right up front, rather than a constant, reluctant pull throughout the story. They are completely sexually compatible, and as time goes on, they discover they are compatible in all important matters of the heart. The True Mate aspect, as well as the complex shifter mythology, give the story a strong sense of a traditional...
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Nov
22

Review: Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan

Review: Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan Miracle on 5th Avenue Author: Sarah Morgan Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Eva Jordan LOVES snowflakes, Christmas, and all the holiday hoopla. Although she continues to suffer the loss of her grandmother just over a year ago, Eva owes it to her grandmother to live each day to its fullest. She’s agreed to prepare food for and decorate the apartment of bestselling author Lucas Blade at the request of his grandmother, Mitsy. Eva and Mitsy have become friends over the time Eva and her friends started their event planning and concierge company. Lucas Blade hates snowflakes, Christmas, and all the holiday hoopla. Three years ago, his wife was killed in a car accident on a snowy night. It’s the anniversary of her death. He’s told his family and agent that he’s on a writing retreat in Vermont, but instead, he’s hiding in his Manhattan condo. He hasn’t even started his latest book, which is due Christmas Eve, and no one knows. He’s consumed with grief over Sallyanne, his late wife. Miracle on 5th Avenue is another delightful romance from Sarah Morgan. Her small-town-turned-big-city trio of best friends warmed my heart with their journeys through life as they each find their romantic partners. Eva is no exception. She is sweet and kind; she believes there are happily-ever-afters and sees good in everyone. Meanwhile, Lucas is jaded and cynical; he’s lost in love and deals with the pressures of fame on a daily basis. Although they are complete opposites, something sparks between the pair, and their mutual desires are palpable. Each draws out the best from the other – challenging the other to think outside their individual comfort zones. They are seduced by intellectual and titillating conversation, eventually giving into physical desires. Ms. Morgan does a fabulous job developing Eva and Lucas, giving them strong, realistic personalities and character traits, with actions that stay true to those natures. Overall, the romance is sweet and gentle, with enough bumps in the road to make it gripping. However, I was put off in the start of the book when Eva mistakes Lucas for an intruder. I get this is a light contemporary romance, but there is NO WAY Eva should be ogling and smelling the man who attacked her… She doesn’t know it’s Lucas and honestly fears for her life. She should be mindlessly scared, not noticing his smoldering eyes. Miracle on 5th Avenue is a sweet and uplifting...
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Nov
18

Review: Holiday with a Twist by Shannon Stacey

Review: Holiday with a Twist by Shannon Stacey Holiday with a Twist Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Leigh Holloway is back home for the holidays, and she’s hiding a big secret from her family. Not wanting to upset the apple cart at Christmas, Leigh hides the fact that she broke things off with her fiancé and quit her job in Houston two months ago. However, meeting up with childhood friend Croy stirs up all sorts of feelings, and now she’s trying to keep their holiday fling under wraps until she can get back to Houston and get on with her life. Holiday with a Twist is an enjoyable holiday novella, complete with warm fuzzies and family fun. Leigh and Croy share a history, and although their friendship has been on hold for several years, I like that they fell into an easy camaraderie from that first night she walked into his bar. Ms. Stacey builds their shared past through recollection and dialogue, keeping the reader in present day while filling in the missing pieces. Falling for someone who was once a close friend gives the romance more weight and substance within the confines of the shorter space of a novella. While the perceived need for Leigh to keep her relationship status a secret could have grown out of control, it was never overused, with her secrets unraveling before I got annoyed by her lack of honesty. Her reasons for her actions felt very real and relatable, and we all know, once a lie is out there, it’s hard to be forthright. Luckily, this is Christmas in small town New Hampshire, where everything works out as it should! Holiday with a Twist is a wonderful holiday treat. I highly recommend curling up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy this sexy, sweet novella from Ms. Stacey. My Rating: B, Liked It About the Book: After a messy breakup, Leigh Holloway is ready to start her life over. Until her parents put the family home on the market and call her back for one final, memory-making Christmas. The last thing she wants to do is deprive her mom of the perfect holiday, so she’ll lie her way through the visit and worry about her future in the New Year. Too bad the only bar in town is owned by a guy she seriously wronged in high school.  Leigh’s best friend broke Croy Dawson’s heart, and Croy knows it...
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Nov
17

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Score by Elle Kennedy

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Score by Elle Kennedy Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Score Author: Elle Kennedy Narrator: Savannah Peachwood & Andrew Eiden Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Off-Campus #3 Genre: NA Contemporary Romance Source: purchased Allie Hayes has had it with her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Sean, and finally breaks it off for good. With her past behavior of giving into Sean’s apologies, she turns to best friend Hannah for help staying away from Sean that first weekend. Unfortunately, Hannah is out of town with her boyfriend, but they insist she hideout at Garrett’s house with his roommates. Hockey stud and all-around player Dean Di-Laurentis knows his best friend’s girlfriend’s best friend Allie is off limits when she shows up looking for a place to hide from the temptation of getting back together with her ex. But isn’t rebound sex the best thing for getting over an ex? However, now that he’s been with Allie, he can’t shake her out of his system. Having absolutely loved the first two books in Ms. Kennedy’s Off-Campus series, I was chomping at the bit waiting for The Score to finally make it to Audible. Although she changed her narrator for this one, overall, the wait was worth it. Ms. Kennedy has a knack for telling humorous, heartfelt stories that make me both laugh and cry. Allie and Dean are well matched. They are both so passionate, and with the freedom of labeling their relationship a fling, they explore each other in open and honest ways. However, they keep the fling a secret, which leads to some hilarious moments, and it places pressure on the pair which I feel helps the relationship in the long run. And while there is a lot of exploration, the pair grows close because of a developing friendship which bolsters each other in surprising ways. While there were times that the overall story was a little predictable, I didn’t care. I was so wrapped up in Dean and Allie’s story that I just listened and enjoyed. I laughed out loud and I got teary eyed. It’s just fun, high-quality storytelling. And I appreciate that the book is really about two young people trying to figure out who they want to be, and be okay with the fact it may not be what they were planning all along. I was disappointed that Lorelei Avalon was replaced as the sole narrator for the series. Savannah Peachwood & Andrew Eiden hold their own and do a respectable...
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Nov
10

Review: One Snowy Night by Jill Shalvis

Review: One Snowy Night by Jill Shalvis One Snowy Night Author: Jill Shalvis Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Picking up from events started in the previous full-length book, it’s Christmas Eve and both Max and Rory want to get home. Rory, who ran away at 17, hasn’t been back to see her family since she’s gotten her life straighten out. Rory’s friend and boss asks Max to drive her from San Francisco to Tahoe, unaware the pair shares a history. Unknown to their friends, Max and Rory went to high school together, and they themselves don’t ever talk about it. While Rory was a quiet kid with a huge crush on big-time jock Max, she remains unaware of the events she triggered just before she left town, changing the course of Max’s life forever. Now the pair must overcome hours in a car together while fighting an undeniable attraction. Rory and Max were adorable in the previous book, The Trouble with Mistletoe, and so I was excited they got their own book. The story was fast-paced and generally lighthearted, with just-a-touch of Christmas romance. However, I felt the entire relationship moved a tad too fast for my liking. I appreciate that Ms. Shalvis built a past for the pair, and seeing them make eyes for each other in the previous book, helped validate their passion. Yet, the couple goes from flirting to forever in a matter of hours. Overall, One Snowy Night is very quick and easy to read, although you may need to suspend reality for a bit. Rory and Max’s story is uncomplicated and breezy, despite their history and the weather. The drama is a bit over the top and the relationship goes from zero to 100 in a very short period. But still, it is an enjoyable, lighthearted story that I finished in one setting. Warning: The digital ARC copy I read had a lot of backend material, with the novella actually ending at the 58% mark. My Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: It’s Christmas Eve and Rory Andrews is desperate to get home to the family she hasn’t seen in years. Problem is, her only ride to Lake Tahoe comes in the form of the annoyingly handsome Max Stranton, and his big, goofy, lovable dog Carl. Hours stuck in a truck with the dead sexy Max sounds like a fate worse than death (not), but Rory’s out of options. She’s had a crush on Max since...
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Nov
10

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: About a Dragon by G.A. Aiken

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: About a Dragon by G.A. Aiken Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Dragon Kin Series Book: About a Dragon Author: G.A. Aiken Narrator: Hollie Jackson Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Dragon Kin #2 Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy Romance Source: Tantor Audio Talaith lived the same dead-end life, day after day for sixteen years, with the town’s people afraid of her and a dimwitted husband who thinks she’s the devil. She’s been sent to this little town by her goddess, waiting for the day Talaith is called to perform an act of sacrifice on her behalf. But the day that Briec passes through her town, everything changes. Briec, a powerful and arrogant dragon, sees Talaith and demands she join him, even after she tells him she’s married. Right from the start he finds himself obsessed with her and wants his own human plaything. And when the town’s people decide to riot and kill Talaith, Briec gets his chance, saving her and stealing her away. About a Dragon picks up about three years after the first book, with Annwyl the Bloody as queen, and dragons and humans forming an alliance. However, none of this news reaches Talaith’s small town, and as the book unfolds, we learn how Talaith’s human goddess has manipulated events in Talaith’s life. Likewise, we learn more about the dragon deities, and the history of the dragons. This expansion of mythology is equally interesting and exciting. It gives the book weight and increases the fantasy appeal. Although still not one to rate in my top of lists, the Dragon Kin series, its characters, and even the narration have grown on me. I enjoy following the adventures of this crazy, unconventional family. Their rudeness and barbaric, bloody behaviors make it a unique and compelling listen. However, after three pairs of males and females who constantly argue, I really hope for something a bit different stories. As the book went on, I grew to like Talaith, especially as her motives were unveiled. She’s a strong woman, as are most in this series. I also like that Annwyl’s character didn’t grow softer, if anything, she’s more crazy as she leads the kingdom these days. Additionally, the introduction of Izzy brings promise of fun adventures in the future. The males of the series, including Briec, seem a bit rough around the edges, yet are mesmerized and perplexed by their chosen females. I enjoy that they succumb to their feelings and revel in being with strong females. The narration by Hollie Jackson still isn’t my favorite, but by...
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Nov
7

Review: Take Me Home by Lorelie Brown

Review: Take Me Home by Lorelie Brown Take Me Home Author: Lorelie Brown Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Lorelie Brown is a new author for me, so I was excited to read her newest addition to the Belladonna Ink series. Keighley is a twenty-three-year-old accountant who isn’t exactly looking forward to Thanksgiving with the family. Though her mother is very supportive, her Christian fundamentalist aunt gives them both a lot of grief because Keighley is a lesbian. Fed up with the whole situation, the solution quickly becomes clear: bring a date to dinner. A Craigslist ad then leads her to the perfect “girlfriend” for the occasion. In contrast, Brooke is a twenty-four-year-old tattooist with no real family ties whatsoever. With her bright pink hair, tattoos, and rapid-fire snark, she quickly became my favorite character in the story. Solitary in the extreme, Brooke’s independence cloaks a heartfelt longing for acceptance that she never had growing up, and she thinks that being invited to share Keighley’s will satisfy that need just a little. She also loves dogs, which completely sealed the deal for me. While I liked this story a great deal, there were a couple of issues that niggled at me during the course of the novella. Keighley’s mother, who seems completely wonderful in many ways, consistently tolerates the antagonistic aunt, but is then fine with Keighley’s plans to stir things up during Thanksgiving dinner. It appears to be a case of “keeping the peace,” and it was a well-written scene, but I just couldn’t easily reconcile the disparity. Later on, Brooke says that Keighley’s desire for a tattoo is sudden, but Keighley begins pondering getting one before they even meet. There were a few others as well, but, overall, these discrepancies were small, and didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. Having said that, there was a lot to like about Take Me Home. Keighley’s mind is a very busy place, which is kind of funny much of the time, particularly when she’s trying to make a good impression on Brooke. Though they’re only a year apart in age, Brooke seems more mature and complex, while still clearly searching for something to fill the absence of really belonging. There are plenty of other great moments, care of Keighley’s sister and the neighbors, and, especially, Bennet the dog, who is my other favorite character in the story. The intimate scenes between Keighley and Brooke occupy a significant portion of the novella, and I think...
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Nov
7

Review + Giveaway: Belle Chasse by Suzanne Johnson

Review + Giveaway: Belle Chasse by Suzanne Johnson Belle Chasse Author: Suzanne Johnson Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Warning: Spoilers from the privious book, Pirate’s Alley, included in this review. Belle Chasse opens shortly after the surprising conclusion of the previous book, with our heroine, DJ, on the run with her pret friends. She was stripped of her wizarding license by current leader Zrakovi and given a death sentence. Now somewhat safely in the Beyond, in Old Barataria with Jean Lafitte and her friends, she works on a way to clear her name and get back her life, especially since her love, Alex, has remained behind, trying to change the rot from the inside. Like the book before it, Belle Chasse is more about the overall and continuing story arc surrounding the rising tensions between the different preternatural sects than an individual, self-contained tale. Readers of the series will enjoy the forward momentum and line-in-the-sand moments; however, anyone new to the series shouldn’t start with this title. While I miss the inclusion of those standalone stories from the earlier books, I still found myself glued to the pages, anxiously witnessing the fate of DJ and so many key characters. Due to the nature of Belle Chasse, it is difficult to compose a spoiler-free review that delves into the specific plotlines of the book. As the book unfolds, events in the pret community turn dire, and by the end, everyone must take sides. Some long-standing loose ends are tightened and some bonds are strengthen, while other relationships fall apart and true natures are revealed. To find out who does what, you have to read the book! In the earlier titles, and throughout the first parts of Belle Chasse, I felt DJ was too much of a pleaser to be a solid UF heroine. In fact, for a bit, I felt she’d regressed, as DJ constantly filled her thoughts with “if only’s” and regret. DJ was too busy trying to please the wrong people and compromising her morals in the name of peace. However, as the story progressed and the looming war, DJ finally grew a backbone of steel, and took action to do what she felt was best. And although filled with action, the book isn’t without a tender moment or two. Overall, I enjoyed DJ’s latest adventure, complete with its ups and downs. Although Belle Chasse really isn’t a standalone story, I liked how it tied up some loose ends and bridges the...
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