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May
22

Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews

Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews White Hot Author: Ilona Andrews Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: White Hot is the second story in the Hidden Legacy series, building upon the exciting escapades of Nevada Baylor. This is NOT a standalone book. The series, a mix of urban fantasy and romance storylines, is set in an alternate Houston, where magic (psychic powers) is prevalent in some families. If one is powerful enough, s/he is designated Prime. Have enough Primes, and your family is a House. We learned in the previous book, Burn for Me, that a faction of powerful, secretive Primes/Houses is trying to disrupt status quo and create confusion in Houston; however Nevada and Rogan can’t figure out the “why.” White Hot is an excellent story, not suffering any “sophomore slump.” Everything literally explodes open. We learn so much about Nevada and her true nature. Her powers are strong, something she’s been hiding her whole life, and with time and training, she could be extremely dangerous. Also, Nevada and Rogan have discovered more about the mysterious plot to create chaos in the Houston/Texas region. They are getting closer to the truth, but much remains to uncover and learn. However, now that their enemies realize what a powerful team they make, things will only become more difficult! Additionally, there is a new enemy on the horizon, someone that threatens Nevada’s family. The overall and book-specific stories are both equally engrossing. The layers and complexity make the book fascinating rather than confusing. The conspiracy and plot are smart and interesting. The action is solid and edge-of-your seat. I loved seeing all of Nevada’s family join the fight, and learning about the hidden talents of her sister and cousin. She’s a good leader and compassionate soul. But she’s willing to make hard choices to protect what is hers. I love that she is also becoming a strong kickass heroine; growing, learning. The romance between Nevada and the little understood Rogan also blossomed during White Hot. Rogan continued his relentless pursuit, but also opened up to Nevada, realizing she can match him. She may not be his equal, and he sometimes does things to “protect” her which only frustrated her, but he’s learning how to allow her to make her own decisions. He is realizing if he supports her, she’ll come to him; trust him. There are sexy times, filled with emotions that made my belly flutter. They are a great match, and I hope the...
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May
22

Review: Enemies Like You by Annkika Martin & Joanna Chambers

Review: Enemies Like You by Annkika Martin & Joanna Chambers Enemies Like You Author: Annkika Martin & Joanna Chambers Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: NOTE: The authors recently released a free “prequel” novella, Enemies with Benefits, prior to the release of this book. It is actually the first eight chapters (about 25%) of Enemies Like You. So if you have read the prequel, the authors direct you to start at Chapter 9, which is what I did. If you have not read the prequel – no need to pick it up. CIA operative Will is set to kill his enemy, Polzin. It’s a personal kill since Polzin is responsible the deaths of so many of Will’s brothers-in-arms. Kit has been deep undercover for two years, forced to protect Polzin as his bodyguard. Kit must keep the dirty Russian alive until he completes his own, secret objective: locate the Roc file. Now the pair face off in a deadly match that neither can walk away from. Will and Kit begin the story as two sides to the same coin. Both ultimately after the same goal – eliminate Polzin – but with opposing methods and reasons. I’m glad that through their relentless pursuits, each learns the truth about the other, allowing the pair to team up and work together. I appreciate that the authors didn’t drag out the stand off between the pair, rather they used each encounter between Kit and Will to slowly wear both down. This ultimately changes both men, giving them the space to grown and open up. And I loved watching the pair evolve before my eyes, maturing and joining. I loved how each scene brought them closer together and changed each just a little bit, until they are a solid couple in love by the end. I look forward to more challenges and Kit’s “Kate persona” taking on Will, but I like that Kit has a soft, vulnerable side as well. The espionage story is a good one. Like a classic spy thriller, there are several players in action, and the reader doesn’t fully understand all the pieces until nearly the end. I enjoyed watching Will and Kit figure out every step and finally getting to the end game. I was, however, a bit disappointed in the ending. I felt there was a distinct lack of closure on a specific character and what happened after the final showdown. Whether the authors were deliberately obtuse, or I was supposed to make assumptions based on...
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May
17

Review: Owl and the Electric Samurai by Kristi Charish

Review: Owl and the Electric Samurai by Kristi Charish Owl and the Electric Samurai Author: Kristi Charish Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I have missed the adventures of Owl.  I don’t know why it feels as if it has been years since I’ve read Owl and the City of Angels but I was excited to finally know what happens next.  Owl and the Electric Samurai did not disappoint! When we last saw Owl, she had lost custody of her beloved Mau cat, Captain, to Lady Siyu, while also receiving a mysterious offer from the IAA. I had no idea what to expect when I started on this novel, but watching Owl trying to actually track down Shangri-La and prevent IAA from getting their hands on the World Quest game developers was more than I imagined.  Though she has questionable morals at times, Owl’s heart is in the right place and she does strive to do the right thing.  Though the right thing is not always something you can live with, nor what you end up with – no matter how hard you try. While Owl is trying to find and help the gamers, the red dragon sends her on an errand for the elves – to find a magical armor that has been lost for centuries.  As she starts out on the journey, Rynn and Owl are aware of the supernatural politics – the war between supernaturals remaining myth or being revealed.  However it seems there is much more going on than it appears and no one can be trusted. I enjoyed the emotional rollercoaster that seemed to permeate this novel.  As Owl and Rynn’s relationship progresses, there are still bumps and adjustments along the way.  Though, it seemed working with your significant other has benefits – it also has drawbacks.  I enjoyed the give and take between them.  I liked how they made a better team as they both learned to trust each other.  I did miss Nadya as she was off solving a problem at her club. The novel ends with a tremendous cliffhanger, one that has me emotionally in knots, especially after the epilogue.  I’m left with so many questions, but I don’t want to voice them as they could spoil.  Suffice to say, I wonder what is in store for Owl next, and if we will see what happens to several others in the next novel.  This novel felt almost even more gripping with the strain between Rynn and Owl, the race to...
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May
17

Review: How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall

Review: How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall How To Bang A Billionaire Author: Alexis Hall Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Beginning with an enigmatic and somewhat dark farewell, How to Bang a Billionaire explores the inception of the “arrangementship” between Arden St. Ives, imminent graduate of Oxford University, and Caspian Hart, billionaire, immovable personality, and magnet to Arden’s desires. Both men are contradictions—Arden for being completely undone by his own honesty while trying to be someone else, and Caspian for only coming off as “monstrous” while acting on his determination not to be a monster. This would be enough of a puzzle to draw me in, regardless, but there are many other things to consider here, as well. Alexis Hall is one of my all-time favorite authors, and is among the most gifted writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. By the time I’ve finished, his books are nearly always covered in highlights (if electronic) or filled with random bits of paper (if in print) which I’ve shoved in at the binding to mark all the things I don’t want to forget. Unsurprisingly, I think How to Bang a Billionaire is a fantastic story, interweaving science, history, philosophy, art, humor, hurt, and sex into a narrative that I found beautiful. For all the above attributes, How to Bang a Billionaire is also incredibly romantic. Arden occasionally envisions his reactions through an old-Hollywood lens, complete with Hepburn smiles, the “flare of amber” warming Caspian’s face in the dark, and so on. Caspian, by contrast is likened unto the harsh inflexibility of metal: “Sculpted in silver and steel, a man so coldly perfect he was barely real at all.” And yet, it is Caspian’s unexpected laughs and bashful grins, and especially the hungry growls and unraveling control, that threaten to steal Arden’s heart completely. Later, it gets even better as they negotiate needs and boundaries, and how much of themselves they might be able to give. There are more than a couple of swoony moments, without a single “precious” in sight. I still tend to skip reviewing the sexual relationships in many of the books I read, but that wouldn’t be right in this case. There’s a lot going on sexually in How to Bang a Billionaire, but Caspian’s struggle with the connection of sex to self, and the importance of being honest about that, was both frustrating and heartbreaking. Additionally, the narrative is prefaced with what appeared to me to be a misunderstanding...
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May
16

Review + Giveaway: Firestorm by Nancy Holzner

Review + Giveaway: Firestorm by Nancy Holzner Firestorm Author: Nancy Holzner Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: It’s been 3.5 years since the release of the previous Deadtown story, Hellhound, and I’ve been stalking the author, er… um… patiently waiting the release of the sixth and final story of Vicky Vaughn’s tales. As always, the story opens with Vicky in action, this time trying to banish a group of sirens who are causing people to plunge to their deaths off the Tobin Bridge and into the Mystic River. Aunt Mab is still around, there to help Vicky prepare for the upcoming final showdown with longtime demonic nemesis, the Destroyer. Firestorm is the exciting climax of and fitting conclusion for Ms. Holzner’s amazing Deadtown series which features a “Buffy-like chosen one” set to save the world from evil forces. The book is the culmination of every title that came before it, so you definitely want to start back at the beginning. I was concerned that with so much time passed and the intricacies of this urban fantasy arcing plotline, that I would be completely lost and playing catch up. But between reading my previous reviews and the author’s expertly placed reminders of important events, I was able to jump right into the story. In the previous book, Vicky allowed the Goddess Ceridwen inside her, and now both the Destroyer and Ceridwen are fighting for control of her body. It’s a seesaw battle, and poor Vicky is the one suffering its impacts, like when the goddess took over and when on a tear through the bars of Deadtown. The back and forth wreaks havoc on Vicky’s mental and emotional states, leaving her vulnerable and open to making poor decisions. She feels like she’s constantly being played or used and that she’s fighting against her own destiny. I liked that Vicky had to go through this final set of trials, helping her to realize what is truly important. I also appreciated that the author made sure to tie up all the loose ends with the major characters. No spoilers, but I was happy with everything! Because the focus of the book is the FINAL BATTLE, Firestorm didn’t have a standalone mystery or storyline like each of the previous titles, and I missed that aspect of Ms. Holzner’s storytelling. At times I felt the storytelling suffered from ADD because it jumped from one thought to the next, and the plot wasn’t as complex as previous tales. However, the...
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May
10

Review: Dog Eat Dog World: Limited Edition Bundle by Hailey Edwards

Review: Dog Eat Dog World: Limited Edition Bundle by Hailey Edwards Dog Eat Dog World: Limited Edition Bundle Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: It’s no secret how much I adore the Black Dog Universe. I gush over them every chance I get. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, Hailey Edwards has released a LIMITED EDITION bundle with every previously released story (except Over the Moon, Gemini #6, the upcoming title due out this summer), including the shorts she’s had in other collections. And I’VE READ THEM ALL…now you can, too! Below are some quickie comments for the short stories in the collection I hadn’t reviewed and a complete reading order—with linked reviews—appears below that. Dog Days of Summer (A Black Dog Short Story) When a fan boy goes missing, all evidence points to a warg being responsible for the crime. Thierry is called to lead the hunt for the rogue, but the closer she gets to locating the boy, the further she gets from the truth. This Thierry and Shaw short story is—in true Hailey Edwards form—suspenseful. I love learning about new creatures, and the way I can feel Thierry’s disgust at times over the new one 🙂 As always, the connection between Theirry and Shaw is intense. My Rating: A+ Personal Favorite Out for Blood (A Gemini Short Story) White sand beaches, fresh tropical drinks…and three exsanguinated bodies. So much for Marshal Ayer’s transfer to the island of St. Kitts being a vacation. Marshall Eileen Ayer spent some time in Edelweiss Mental Institution, and when she returned to duty she was stationed in the Caribbean. Called in to help with the investigation of a couple murders, she’s on the receiving end of the attentions of one Taye Jones. First, I loved seeing Marshall Ayer again. I’d wondered what had gone down with her. Second, I’m diggin’ Taye. Third, vampire and chupacabras. My paranormal heart is beating a rapid rat-a-tat-tat. My Rating: A+ Personal Favorite The Bakers Grimm (A Gemini Short Story) When two struggling business owners compete for the contract of a lifetime, it’s all bakers on deck. Mix in a dollop of rivalry, a tablespoon of romance, and a pinch of magic, and you’ve got the recipe for one heck of a bake-off. May the best decorator win! Here’s a cute little short—a Rumplestilskin-inspired tale—set in the Gemini branch. We’re dropped back into Wink, TX at a cookie shop called Lookie’s Cookies. Our main character is Millie—Decker Comeaux’s daughter, from other...
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May
10

Review: Marry in Haste by Anne Gracie

Review: Marry in Haste by Anne Gracie Marry in Haste Author: Anne Gracie Reviewer: Ang Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I really enjoyed Marry in Haste. Cal and Emmaline are a good match even though they don’t realize it at first. Emm is spirited and strong. She knows when to fight a battle and when to let something slide, which is a must for a military man like Cal who is used to people jumping when he says jump. I appreciated the chemistry between the all the characters, and that as usual, Ms. Gracie doesn’t just throw sex in for the sake of sex. The scenes make sense to the novel and add to the plotline. I also enjoyed the way Emm and Cal’s wards come together to make a family, pulling Cal back to his roots in the process. I would have enjoyed more time with Emm and Cal rather than focusing so much on the wards and the history/lack of relationship between them and Cal. And there were a few spots where things dragged on as if Ms. Gracie wasn’t sure how to bring things together. But overall she found her stride and brought nearly everything together in the end. She even included a cameo from one of my favorite Chance sisters, Daisy. Despite its few flaws, I had a difficult time putting Marry in Haste down. The characters were fun, complex, and engrossing, making the entire experience delightful. I’m looking forward to the next book in the new Marriage of Convenience series, and believe if you enjoy Ms. Gracie’s work or a marriage of convenience novel you will enjoy this one. Reading it was a great way to spend my day. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Major Calbourne Rutherford returns to England on the trail of an assassin, only to find he’s become Lord Ashendon, with the responsibility for vast estates and dependent relatives. Cal can command the toughest of men, but his wild half-sisters are quite another matter. They might just be his undoing. When he discovers that Miss Emmaline Westwood, the girls’ former teacher, guides them with ease, Cal offers her a marriage of convenience. But strong-minded and independent Emm is neither as compliant nor as proper as he expected, and Cal finds himself most inconveniently seduced by his convenient wife. Emm knows they didn’t marry for love, yet beneath her husband’s austere facade, she catches glimpses of a man who takes her breath away. As pride, duty...
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May
9

Review: Concourse by Santino Hassell

Review: Concourse by Santino Hassell Concourse Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Amid the shining lights and luminaries of New York, Ashton Townsend glimmers more brilliantly than the rest. Young, rich, and undeniably beautiful, he’s either desired or envied—or both—by just about everyone. He’s also lonely and brutally aware that nobody really knows who he is beneath the façade he’s created. Nobody except his most cherished friend, and most elusive desire, Val. Valdrin Leka, on the other hand, is a broodingly handsome competitive boxer on his way to going pro for all the wrong reasons. His mother’s full-time position as nanny for the extremely wealthy, entitled Townsend family made growing up in their shadow a bitter pill to swallow—the only exception to that opinion being Ashton. But, as much as he’s always wanted Ashton, letting himself fall completely would surely be a one-sided heartbreak waiting to happen. Or would it? While I’ve loved each of the Five Boroughs stories—and have a particularly soft spot for the first two—Concourse is exceptional. I liked both characters tremendously from the beginning, and I could not stop worrying about them throughout the entire narrative. The tension that had been building between Ashton and Val for years off-page was a nearly tangible thing, their behavior towards one another practically screaming its veracity and making their shared history easy to accept. The weight of Val’s secrets was likewise dark and viscous, threatening at any moment to destroy the happiness they were so close to realizing. I also found the writing itself in Concourse to be about as perfect as I could have hoped, and there were quite a few passages that tugged at my heart during my reading. Val and Ashton’s shared hunger for affection is indisputable, and Mr. Hassell once again rips away any artifice with an emotional simplicity that was both irresistible and believable. “There would have to come a point when I drew boundaries about all this touching, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it yet. Not when he was the only person whose touch I actually felt.” In addition to Val and Ashton, Concourse introduced some interesting new characters as well as allowed me to get to know some of the others who have piqued my curiosity for a long time now a little better. Val’s sister Hana, his friend Matt, and even Luis, his main competition at the gym, were all welcome additions. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing more...
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May
8

Review: F*ck Club: Con by Shiloh Walker

Review:  F*ck Club: Con by Shiloh Walker F*ck Club: Con Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: If you haven’t read Riley’s book, get on that. It sets up the premise for the series wonderfully. But, here’s what’s going on. Riley & Con are male escorts…with benefits. Their friend, Shame, was part of the operation. Riley concocted this business to make ends meet when he took guardianship of his two younger siblings when their parents died in a car crash as he built up their legit business, a bar. When their sketchy business fell under scrutiny of law enforcement—and Riley had a love interest come into his life (again)—the F*ck Club disbanded and they’ve flown under the radar of the cops. There’s more that happens, but you’ll have to read Riley’s book to find out. 🙂 Con is the middle child, and he’s really in-tune with what’s going on with his sibs. He sees more than people want him to, at times, and he’s learned to keep it to himself, mostly. Then, Shawntelle comes into his life as a bartender in his bar. Unfortunately, Con has vowed to never sleep with their employees (good man, that Con). And their attraction is crazy intense. Boo. But Con’s SpideySenses are all a-tingle because there’s something Shawntelle is hiding. And he doesn’t like it. He dismisses his intuition, though. Gah! It’s really hard to review a Shiloh Walker book without spoilers. What I liked about this little novella was that it was fast-paced. Before I knew it, I’d read the whole thing and had that satisfied smirk on my face. Mr. VampBard pretty much says, “Done with your book? That good?” now. I loved how the story between Con and Shawntelle played out. There were things that surprised me, and things that made me tear up. Seeing the growth in Con—as well as Shawntelle—was satisfying…and the sexy times were HOT! I honestly can’t wait to get my hands on Shame’s book after reading Con’s. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: After a run-in with a cop, former male escort Con, along with his brother Riley and best friend Shame, decided it might just be best to hang up their…hats and retire from the business of being paid to pleasure. After all, they have a profitable business going with their new pub. No reason to ruin a good thing and Con is more than happy to keep pleasing the ladies—just…no longer as a job....
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May
3

Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey

Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey Too Hard to Forget Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I may have devoured Peggy’s story in one sitting. I may have actually re-read parts, too. When reading the Romancing the Clarksons series by Tessa Bailey, I’m entranced by the familial connection, the depth of the characters, and the build up to the next book, Too Beautiful to Break—Belmont & Sage’s book. While we’re three-deep in the series already, if one were to jump in right here, there’s some lost backstory and outcomes for two other siblings—and the buildup to the final title in the series—but it could be read on its own. Readers will most likely devour not only this title—Too Hard to Forget—about the little sister, Peggy, and her football coach paramour, Elliott. Who doesn’t like a well-crafted second chance story? I know I **really** like them, and Peggy & Elliott’s story was no exception. Seems like I’m running across more and more titles that push my boundaries as a reader—which is cool. It’s no secret I’m a teacher, and I have some personal rules, if you will, about my reading. I am very careful about teacher/student titles because there’s a squick factor for me that I can’t get around. Just the way I’m wired. Now, while Elliott is NOT one of Peggy’s college professors, he is employed by the university she attends and that’s grey zone for me. But, Tessa Bailey? I’ll forge on. You know, in the interest of dirty-talking, super sexy damaged dudes. In the two previous titles of the Romancing the Clarksons series, Too Hot to Handle (Rita & Jasper) and Too Wild to Tame (Aaron & Grace), we see little snippets of Peggy—who she is, and how she handles watching intimacy. It was obvious for me that she had commitment issues, and in Too Hard to Forget we learn why. Thank the gods. Peggy’s backstory was killing me. I needed it, like, immediately after reading the first book in the series. For those that haven’t read the previous two titles in the series, the Clarksons siblings’ mother died. She kept a diary, and during each leg of this journey they’re taking across the country to do a polar bear dip in the Atlantic Ocean—at her behest—a different sibling learns what their mother thought about them. What she saw beneath the layers. For some reason, Peggy intrigued me from the beginning. And I think that what really drew...
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