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Aug
7

Review: SEAL Wolf Undercover by Terry Spear

Review: SEAL Wolf Undercover by Terry Spear SEAL Wolf Undercover Author: Terry Spear Reviewer: B. Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: I was very excited when I first learned that Ms. Spear would be intertwining the worlds of her wolf and jaguar shifter stories. Having read so many of both series, combining the two seemed like the perfect next step. And even though there was a good deal that I enjoyed about SEAL Wolf Undercover, I admit that my feelings are somewhat mixed. On the plus side, many of the more prominent things that appealed in earlier stories—including errable but lovable alpha males falling for tough, capable women—are present in SEAL Wolf Undercover. Jillian is confident, strong, and perfectly able to take care of herself. Vaughn is mostly a loner, a little arrogant, and can’t help but be instantly attracted to Jillian the moment he sees her. The feeling is mutual, though, and the inevitability of the two main characters getting together is something of a hallmark of the companion series. Additionally, Ms. Spear incorporates familiar characters and a healthy dose of humor into this new world, which is something I’ve always appreciated. Vaughn and Jillian’s introduction isn’t at all how most couples would get their start, but it creates a running gag throughout the story that establishes surprisingly solid footing for the rest of their relationship. Carrying the original groundwork and characters of the “United Shifter Force” into SEAL Wolf Undercover also provided a recognizable foundation on which additional stories might build. Although SEAL Wolf Undercover is consistent with the others in the series I’ve read, there were a few concerns that made it difficult for me to fully settle into the story. Various technical issues that hadn’t been addressed in the ARC I received for this review were hard to ignore, but will hopefully be resolved in the final version. Repetition of phrasing, occasionally confusing establishment of the chain of events, ambiguity in regards to which character is speaking in some scenes, spontaneous POV shifts, and so forth, all kept the narrative from feeling as solid as some in the past have been. Though it has a rough patch or two, SEAL Wolf Undercover has many other good things to recommend it. Like the other stories, it includes a mystery to be solved, a whirlwind romance, and a loving forever that fans of the series are sure to enjoy. Regardless, the introduction of the groups of shifters has unlocked an expansive set of new...
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Jul
18

Review: Escaping Indigo by Eli Lang

Review: Escaping Indigo by Eli Lang Escaping Indigo Author: Eli Lang Reviewer: B. Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Escaping Indigo is a fairly brief, emotional study of the pitfalls of love, loss, anxiety, and misunderstanding. Micah is living a fan’s dream when he’s hired as a roadie for a band he’s loved for quite some time. But, being with them all long-term on a tour bus alters things, and his perspective of the individual members—Bellamy, in particular—begins to change. Unfortunately, both Micah and Bellamy have too many wounds that are still raw and aching to find an easy path to one another, and trying to hold onto something so fragile could cost them everything. As much as I loved the premise of Escaping Indigo, there were a few things that I had a little trouble with. Micah’s constant worry over Bellamy leads to several moments of repetitive inquiry that made Bellamy seem more fragile than he was in other scenarios within the narrative. I also had some difficulties with Micah’s somewhat contradictory stance on Bellamy’s anxiety. While he claims to acknowledge and accept Bellamy’s determination to deal with his issues on his own, he frequently pushes the idea of therapy (including medicinal treatments, to which Bellamy is adamantly opposed). There were other small issues, as well, but they didn’t stop me from wanting the best for these two characters. Romantically, I generally enjoyed the slow build between Micah and Bellamy. There were moments throughout the beginning and into the central part of the narrative where I wasn’t sure about Micha’s stance on the situation as a whole, but things did fall into place later on. Micha’s awareness of Bellamy outside of their roles as lead singer and roadie was very sweet at times, however, and when they truly connected with each other, the story came alive. Aside from these issues, Escaping Indigo makes several important points about relationships. For starters, people aren’t always what they appear to be. Getting to know someone’s truths can be precarious business, and trying to manipulate the outcome is seldom advisable. Another thing that I appreciated was that it’s made abundantly clear that one person cannot “fix” another. There are myriad problems just waiting for anyone who tries, and Micah treads that line a little too closely more than once. In the end, I’m somewhat conflicted when it comes to Escaping Indigo. On the one hand, there were several things that could have been addressed that would have made...
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Jun
22

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… The Adventures of Owl series Book: Owl and the Japanese Circus Author: Kristi Charish Narrator: Christy Romano Audio Speed: 1.25x and 1.5x Series: The Adventures of Owl #1 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: Purchased Audiobook review: Owl and the Japanese Circus Owl (former archeology student Alix), is a well-paid antiquities thief. A year ago, she stumbled into the hidden world of supernatural creatures, accidentally killing a vampire in the process. Now she’s on the run, and it looks like her only way out of the mess is to make a bargain with a powerful dragon. Trusting only her best friend, Nadya, and a man who could break her heart, Ryan, she sets off on a dangerous journey, one that most likely will leave her dead. Follow review teammate, Una, raves about this unique and interesting urban fantasy series, so I decided to give it a try on audio. Overall, I enjoy the mythology and storyline behind The Adventures of Owl series. I appreciate that Owl is a flawed human and makes mistakes. She is intelligent, but not always smart, which makes her a more realistic heroine. However, the very things I like about Owl also caused problems for me. She can be reckless and juvenile at times. Her character is inconsistent: at times smart and others not as much. She doesn’t seem to learn from her missteps. For example, the fact that she doesn’t walk away and hide from an online “friend” makes NO SENSE. She’s super careful, private, and protective, yet keeps going back to him, even though he is stalking her. Also, knowing how concerned she is with privacy, how can she NOT have any security lock on her phone? Again, an inconsistency of character. The narration by Christy Romano was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed her narrator voice, which is fitting for the first person heroine. I started listening at 1.25x speed, but upped it to 1.5x after about five chapters. Ms. Romano does well with accents, however, at times they seems to drop. So when the dialogue is quick and clipped, both Nadya and Ryan’s voices sound very much the same. Also, Ryan loses his masculine sound at times, and it sounds like Owl is talking to herself. Overall, I like most voices, but the only voice I’m not fond of is the Red Dragon. It’s described as perfect Western with no hints of Japanese. But it’s too feminine....
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Jun
21

Review: The Highland Duke by Amy Jarecki

Review: The Highland Duke by Amy Jarecki The Highland Duke Author: Amy Jarecki Reviewer: Jen Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: The book opens with healer Akira finding the badly injured Geordie on the battlefield. Unwilling to provide his name because he’s a Duke who just rode against Queen Anne’s army, Geordie is smitten with the wisp-of-a-girl who is like an angel. Due to the determined redcoats hunting him, Geordie must take Akira with him as he escapes. Soon the pair is running for their lives, yet neither is willing to walk away. The Highland Duke held a lot of promise, and by the conclusion, I was satisfied with the story. However, a slow and rocky start almost made this book a DNF for me. In the end, I enjoyed the pairing of Akira and Geordie, but it took a long time for me to get on board with their romance. Akira is a young, innocent, poor girl with Romany heritage. This makes her and her family shunned. Yet she remains hopeful and helpful despite those who treat her poorly. She’s a solid character, yet her naivety creates a huge unbalance when matched with the powerful Duke of Gordon. Geordie is weathered and rough. He’s lived a full life, having divorced, fought, etc. He’s easy around the ladies and just comes off so much older than Akira (he is ten years her senior). She’s SOOOO young and naive. She’s a virgin and never been around any man in an intimate capacity. Not even hugged by her father, as he was never in the picture. It was difficult for me to get into their story, for rather than sexual tension and sparks, I saw an “old man” who is lying to a young girl that he lusts after. Another concern I had was that Geordie uses his position as an injured soldier to “tease” Akira. But to me it is sexual harassment as he uses his knowledge and power to put her into compromising positions; ones that Akira feel are improper behaviors. It’s not cute or fun, to me it’s destructive because she is so innocent. It really isn’t until after 50% mark that the book started working for me. Once Akira started standing up for herself and exerting confidence, she becomes her own person—one strong enough to stand up to and match Geordie. While I continued to struggle with her naivety, which was too much for my tastes, she finally becomes a worthy heroine. In the...
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Jun
20

Review: At His Mercy by Shelly Bell

Review: At His Mercy by Shelly Bell At His Mercy Author: Shelly Bell Reviewer: VampBard Rating: C What I’m Talking About: While At His Mercy held promise for me, I struggle with many issues while reading it. I honestly try to leave my ‘editor eye’ out of it when I review a book. It’s…difficult, at best. I overlook typos, usage, and misplaced punctuation all the time. I mean, ARC copies can quite possibly be sent out prior to final proofreading. I know how the publishing industry works. But I struggled with this ARC. Next, a romance title can’t be all about sex scenes. While they’re a nice ‘frosting on the cake’, it can’t be the drift-from-one-sex-scene-to-the-next type of story or that makes it flat-out erotica. While we’re told that there was a veiled romance element in this title, I didn’t actually witness it myself. /soapbox. Okay. A solid Dominant/submissive relationship takes time to establish. If it’s a one-night stand, that’s one thing. However, jumping into a relationship without knowing the other person is just bad form and completely unsafe. I mean, Isabella didn’t let anyone know where she was going!!! For all she knew, Tristan was some psycho wack-job—she’d picked one before, who’s to say she didn’t pick one again? Isabella ranks up there in my Too Stupid to Learn heroines, and I didn’t feel a bit badly at the end for her. /off soapbox Tristan, for being an experienced Dom, is incredibly stupid. There’s lots of reasons, but listing them all would be spoilery. Lastly, there were plot inconsistencies. I can overlook a few here and there, but there were entirely too many going on—so much so, that I actually had to flip back in the book to make sure I wasn’t crazy several times. After all, there couldn’t be THAT many of them in the book, right?!?! Wrong. While I’m really intrigued by the premise for this title and the subsequent title(s), I think I’ll pass. My Rating: C, Finished It – Liked some, didn’t like some About the Book: Angel in his arms . . . Devil at her heels  One last, no-strings night of indulgence. That’s all Tristan wants before he begins a much-needed new chapter in his life. Instead he finds an innocent angel in pink who brings him to his knees. Isabella is done hiding from the world . . . and her haunting memories. Discovering courage in the arms of a perfect stranger, she finally lets go and sheds...
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Jun
6

Review: Toughest Cowboy in Texas by Carolyn Brown

Review: Toughest Cowboy in Texas by Carolyn Brown Toughest Cowboy in Texas Author: Carolyn Brown Reviewer: Jen Rating: C What I’m Talking About: Lila Harris and Brody Dawson were teenagers in love, albeit quietly and secretly. But the night he stood her up and she left town was then end of their romance and friendship. Twelve years later, Lila returns to Happy, Texas, to help sell the cafe her mother once ran and still owns. When Brody shows up, they realize their chemistry hasn’t faded after all this time, but can broken hearts be mended? Toughest Cowboy in Texas is a sweet cowboy romance, but not necessarily right for me. Although I’m not a “cowboy romance” fan, I’ve read and enjoyed other books about cowboys (Lorelei James), working on a ranch (Jill Shalvis) and farmers (Alice Clayton). Yet Ms. Brown’s storytelling and subject matter just didn’t gel with me. First, she relies heavily on country music references, and since I absolutely do not like country music, this not only annoyed me, but left me confused as I didn’t understand the references. She used songs and lyrics to help set the mood or explain feelings, all which was lost to me. Second, there were references to events, like one of the town’s folk disappearing years before, which were written in a way that confused me – wondering if it was something from another book/series – and why it was even part of the story since it seemed to have little impact. There was another scene that featured Lila’s former boyfriend, who is her boss, that also felt contrived and unnecessary. Finally, I didn’t care for some of the side characters – like both “mamas,” who feuded with one another and disapproved of Lila and Brody’s relationship. I felt their reactions and snide remarks were over the top. With that, I did enjoy Brody and Lila together. I loved that they were able to look beyond the their pasts, right the wrongs, and work on a relationship like the adults they are now. Both had matured a lot, yet kept their youthful joy. Brody’s work on the ranch gives him responsibility for his actions – something he knows now he messed up in the past. And Lila had to learn to stand up for herself, that she’s normal and not some messed up, crazy teenager. In the end, Toughest Cowboy in Texas will probably hit all the right notes for many. It’s a sweet story about forgiveness and second...
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Apr
26

Review: To Me I Wed by K.M. Jackson

Review: To Me I Wed by K.M. Jackson To Me I Wed Author: K.M. Jackson Reviewer: Jen Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Two peas in a pod are Lily Perry and Vincent Caro. Both struggling small-business owners who are happy with their relationship-free lifestyles. Lily is a successful event planner who has pulled off amazing parties for her several sisters, living up to the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” lifestyle. Vin recently opened his own restaurant in memory of his mother who always shared her joy of cooking with him. The pair hooked up a while back, and even though it was an intense evening, neither called for a second chance. However, when Lily sees Vin at her sister’s wedding, sparks ignite and neither can rest until they see the attraction through. To Me I Wed is the second story in Ms. Jackson’s Unconventional Bride series, and unconventional is the best word to describe Lily’s plans. Doing research, Lily comes across an article how a woman, ready to show the world she’s good just as she is, married herself. At first Lily sees this as a potential business opportunity – which I can appreciate. But then she internalizes it, seeing herself in this woman. She gets swept up in the idea, immediately calling her assistant, Tori, and getting Vin’s restaurant to host it! I have to say, I struggled with Lily. I understood her desire to show the world she’s all good as is. But I had a lot of trouble getting behind the concept of marrying herself. I had hoped it would have been a funny/silly storyline, but Lily was kind of obsessive about her life and the wedding. It was an “I’m gonna show them” kind of thing. She was so serious, not having fun with it at all, which actually made her come off as desperate – not for a man – but for people to believe she’s “okay” as she is. Similarly, we got a lot of how “okay” Vin is, yet he’s clearly still dealing with his mother’s death and his own father-issues. I loved that he genuinely cares for Lily and pushed her until she gave into her desire. But then their relationship coasts… and when one got too close to the other, they would blow up and push apart. As much as they were falling into one another, they both had serious walls. And we didn’t really see them ever open up to one another. They danced around...
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Apr
24

Review: Hard-Hearted Highlander by Julia London

Review: Hard-Hearted Highlander by Julia London Hard-Hearted Highlander Author: Julia London Reviewer: Jen Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Rabbie Mackenzie longs for the days before the Scots and English were at war, a time before his beloved was murdered and worse. Nearly suicidal: he doesn’t want to live, but doesn’t have the courage to die. Set to fulfill a family obligation by marrying a very young English bride, he finds little joy except when in the company of Bernadette Holly. Miss Bernadette Holly has her own secrets and cross to bare. She works for Lord Kent, serving his daughter, Avaline as her maid and confidant. Torn between saving Avaline from a horrible marriage to Laird Mackenzie and her own haunted past, Bernadette finds solace on her long walks and surprisingly, in conversation with Rabbie. Hard-Hearted Highlander starts a couple years after the conclusion of the previous title in the Highland Grooms series. We discover that life as a Highlander has become rough and even dangerous, as the war with England is not going well. The Mackenzies are struggling and many of their neighbors have fled to safer lands. In order to protect their interests, they strike a marriage bargain with Lord Kent. However, his younger daughter (17, to Rabbie’s 35) is a selfish child and Lord Kent is a monster, and this causes a lot of difficult and awkward interactions. Both Rabbie and Bernadette are jaded survivors. Their backstories are similar, both losing much. Yet when Rabbie turned inward and contemplated death, Bernadette dove into her work and pushed the past away. Both live each day with holes in their souls, and it isn’t until they see past the surface into one another that they finally begin to heal. While Rabbie and Bernadette are perfect for one another, I struggled with the story and romance between the pair. The first quarter of the book was slow moving and confusing as it was full of political maneuvering. Additionally, it took at least that long before the pair even had a civil conversation. However, the largest hurdle that I struggled with was the simple fact that Rabbie is engaged to Bernadette’s charge and friend, regardless that it is an arranged marriage and neither party wants to go through with it. Bernadette experiences tremendous guilt over her feelings and actions, which really dampened any of the butterflies she feels from her attraction to Rabbie. Once the wedding was finally called off, the book was nearly over. Yet...
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Mar
30

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Into the Fire by Jeaniene Frost

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Into the Fire by Jeaniene Frost Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Night Prince Series Author: Jeaniene Frost Narrator: Tavia Gilbert Audio Speed: 1.25x and 2x Series: Night Prince #4 (Night Huntress Universe #13) Genre: Urban Fantasy, romance Source: HarperAudio NOTE: This review may contain spoilers from the previous books in the series. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to any of the titles in the Night Huntress Universe, and when I found out that Ms. Frost was wrapping up the Night Prince series with Into the Fire, I was quick to pick up a review copy. I honestly couldn’t recall what had happened to Vlad and Lelia until I started the book, and the narrator quickly filled me in. The story opens about four months after the conclusion of the prior book. Leila and Vlad’s step-son nemesis, Mircea, are still magically linked so that harm and damage done to one is repeated on the other. Mircea is able contact Leila psychically, yet Leila cannot use her abilities to find Mircea. In the process of taunting Lelia, Mircea is kidnapped, and the abductees threaten to kill him (which would in turn kill Leila) if Vlad doesn’t do as they require. This ramps up the efforts to break the magic link between Leila and Mircea, leading Vlad and Leila to Ian for assistance. While I started having issues with this series in the previous book, I wasn’t prepared for how much I would be annoyed by the two main characters. Leila is amazingly whiny. And her “dreaded inner voice” is annoying. Her life is hard, she whines, she cries, she accepts it, she rationalizes it, then we move on to the next issue. And Vlad is too far gone – too dark – to be an enjoyable romantic lead/hero. He is made of ice and vengeance, and while he cares for some individuals, he’d willingly kill those he cares about if it means keeping Leila alive. It’s taken to an extreme this time around. And the lies, which are rationalized, just make it so frustrating and annoying. It’s basically the same issues over and over again, and I had a very difficult time enjoying the book. Honestly, if Into the Fire wasn’t the last book in the series, I would have DNF’d in and moved on. With that said, the last third of the book was much better than the front parts. Once the action started and the plot moved forward, it was...
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Mar
29

Review: Royally Roma by Teri Wilson

Review: Royally Roma by Teri Wilson Royally Roma Author: Teri Wilson Reviewer: Ang Rating: C What I’m Talking About: I was super excited to read Royally Roma. It’s advertised as a retelling of the classic romance Roman Holiday – a movie I ADORE!!!!!  It’s clear the author loves Audrey Hepburn as much as I do and that she has a major crush on Prince William, which I can totally respect—I mean he’s a cutie pie. But I felt like rather than work with the romance & chemistry that Roman Holiday offers, Ms. Wilson relies way too much on sexual references. I understand that Julia and Nico have massive chemistry. That is clear from the open scene when he’s lying asleep and naked in her bed, but I felt like much of the story was missed because they were so caught up in the heat that was between them. References to her pert, round bottom and his arousals were plentiful, but I felt like they weren’t necessary. I mean, I understand that we are dealing with a couple hot and horny millennials; however, I feel like a well placed kiss and a side-long glance, at least in a few places would have relaid the same message as him needing to adjust his expensive trousers to hide evidence. I’m sorry, maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned, but I feel like sex in a story should be like sprinkles on a cupcake. They offer, color, texture, maybe a little flavor, but no one wants to bite into a cupcake filled with hard, crunchy, weak-flavored sprinkles that distract from the fun & flavor of the cake and frosting. Royally Roma had some great cake and frosting to offer along side of some seriously beautiful scenery. Ms. Wilson does an AMAZING job describing Rome. The dialogue both inside the main characters’ heads and between the pair is fun and witty and lets us see a side of Nico we’d all like to see of Prince William. But overall, the book relied so heavily on sex that I missed the story for the sprinkles, and that’s a bummer because Roman Holiday really is a wonderful and classic story. My Rating:  C, Finished It – Liked some, didn’t like some   About the Book: In this charming, modern retelling of the classic Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday, a royal prince tries to escape his hectic and rigid life and ends up leading a young graduate student on a chase through the Eternal City. Julia Costa...
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