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Mar
8

Review: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop

Review: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop Etched In Bone Author: Anne Bishop Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: After surviving the recent devastation that was brought down on the city of Lakeside by oldest and deadliest of the terra indigene, Meg Corbyn, along with the other residents of the Courtyard, has been busy adapting to the new version of the world that remains. Compared to the rest of the continent of Thasia, they’ve been lucky. But, simultaneous visits from both an unwanted human and the Elders just might turn an already delicate balance into something deadly, and even “Namid’s teeth and claws” must learn that everyone has a price to pay eventually. Regardless of the themes that have been explored by The  Others stories, it has always revolved around the two main characters, Meg and Simon. Etched in Bone brings their mutual journey to a satisfying, if gratifyingly predictable, close. What began as an entertaining and antagonistic friendship has deepened into something far sweeter, and I’ve enjoyed the evolution a great deal. While there are many thoroughly fascinating characters in this series, I felt that the real standout in Etched in Bone is Captain Montgomery’s mother, Miss Twyla. Officially introduced in the previous book, Marked in Flesh, she is the Courtyard’s stern, loving “Grandmother”—and elder of the human pack—and everyone (most Others, included) rightly defers to her judgment. Like the shifters, she is able to make tough choices for the benefit of the whole Courtyard, regardless of the cost to herself. I think my favorite thing about her, however, is that she knows the difference between kindness and pity, and, by putting that conviction into practice, leaves no question about which will leave the recipient’s dignity intact. Part of the fun of these novels for me has always been the suspense that exists, despite having a main character with the “gift” of prophecy. Even with Meg’s ability to see the future, along with the multiple POVs the author uses throughout, I was still unable to do much more than wait for the bad things—which seemed to accumulate—to happen just as the other characters involved did. As a result, I found Etched in Bone especially difficult to put down during my initial reading. As has been the case with the other novels in the series, Etched in Bone is a lesson in consequences. Whether they are the result of random decisions, Meg’s prophecies, or the “irreproachable” will of the Elders, every choice made by...
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Mar
7

Review: Haunting Highland House by Kathryn Hills

Review: Haunting Highland House by Kathryn Hills Haunting Highland House Author: Kathryn Hills Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Wait. What just happened here? Kathryn Hills is a new-to-me author and this is her debut novel If you adore well-written prose that’s descriptive and not over-done, she should be on your TBR. Her voice—and that of her characters—captivated me, and kept me entrenched in the story. Bonus points for distracting me from The Walking Dead. It seems like there’d be a lot going on, what with the whole ghost thing and the time travel thing. Seems like it’d be easy to gloss over things, or have aspects underdeveloped. TOTALLY not the case here. There are a lot of threads flapping in the wind with this title, but the knotwork Ms. Hills skillfully managed—to tie everything together—is impressive, to say the least. I loved the set-up for the story. When I read a PNR, I need that. It helps me learn the world as well as the characters. Let me tell you, I adored both Sam and Robert. When I was reading in their POVs, I felt as though I was IN the story. I felt what they felt. Their experiences were vivid, and emotional. The secondary characters were so well developed I can’t wait to see more of them, and I may be jumping up and down because Haunting Highland House is the first book in A Time Traveler’s Journey series. This is one of those complex, intertwining plots. There were layers of plot and character building that eventually revealed all the things I wanted to know. Ms. Hills definitely captured me as a reader, and at the end? **blinks** That’s where the ‘What just happened here?’ comes in. I could’ve been knocked over with a feather. Fans of paranormal romance—especially ghost stories—with historical and time travel elements should DEFINITELY get their one-click on for this title. I know I can’t wait for the next book in this series. My Rating:  A+ Personal Favorite About the Book: She’s looking to escape her man troubles. Instead, she finds the man of her dreams. There’s only one problem – he’s dead. Living in a haunted house and uncovering a gateway in time were not in the job description when Samantha Merrill agreed to be the property manager of Highland House. Old photos of the reclusive master of the manor captivate her, yet she’s terrified when he appears out of nowhere. How can Robert Pennington be making...
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Mar
7

Review: Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

Review: Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs Silence Fallen Author: Patricia Briggs Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: As complete and utter Mercy Thompson fans, suffice to say we loved Silence Fallen.  However, it was a bit different, not only where the story goes, but in the telling. Adam and Mercy have come a long, long way.  They are an awesome team.  But a lot of time has passed since Mercy has had to truly face trouble on her own.  In Silence Fallen, Mercy does just that.  She is abducted and held against her will in another country.  As she strives to escape, Mercy finds herself from one hot pan into another.  We really enjoyed how she is still able to survive on her own.  But it was tempered in her desire to not only return to Adam and the pack, but to ensure they knew she was okay.  Her unwavering belief that they would come for her gave her the extra courage and determination to survive.  It was awe-inspiring to watch her survive but still remain true to herself. What is different in this novel is that the novel is told only about half from Mercy’s point of view, with the rest told from Adam’s.  What makes this tricky is that the timelines overlap.  We understand they whys, but still feel that the chapters could have been spliced a little differently so the timeline did not jump around as much.  That being said, make sure to read those little musings at the beginning of each chapter….they really do help ease the affected flow of the story. As always, this novel was a gripping read.  There is so much we always want to talk about but can’t because we’d hate to spoil this great novel for all of you.  However, at the end there are a couple revelations which are surprising.  What Gikany and Una enjoyed most was discussing and wondering who exactly orchestrated what.  One thing is for certain, upon finishing the novel we both wanted to reread it immediately… to see if there was possibly something we missed.  Yes…yes, it IS that good. If you haven’t read this series, please jump out from under that rock and start reading the first book, Moon Called.  This is the bar at which Gikany and Una have been known to rate other urban fantasy series.  It is truly that well written, the mythology that fascinating, and the characters that endearing.  As we eagerly...
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Mar
6

Review: Flash of Fury by Lea Griffith

Review: Flash of Fury by Lea Griffith Flash of Fury Author: Lea Griffith Reviewer: Jen Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Kingston McNally, ex-Navy SEAL, is the leader of a black ops team known as Endgame Ops. A year ago on a dangerous mission in Beirut, King’s group was betrayed by one of their own. Now it’s his mission to end Horace Dresden, the man responsible for the death of his teammates. However, someone has put Allie Redding in his path and her safety is quickly becoming his number one priority. Allie Redding spent the past few years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa and is looking forward to a mani/pedi and McDonald’s french fries back at home. She’s instantly attracted to the hottie in the seat next to her, and she even indulges in a little “what if” daydreaming. But her fantasies are short lived when her plane is hijacked by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Now she and her new found ally, King, are on the run while trying to figure out who they can trust. Flash of Fury is the first exciting story in Ms. Griffith’s Endgame Ops series. The story opens with a bang and never EVER slows down. As the first book in the series, the author spends a great deal of time introducing the key players and laying the groundwork for the world. Generally this is handled well in Flash of Fury, but I did get lost a few times; partially because of the volume of information, and partially because this material is just the framework for something larger to which I am not yet privy. While I liked that the author didn’t dumb down conversations for the reader, it made it difficult to follow along as there is a lot of subterfuge and layers of conspiracy in play. The overall plot line of the book is the rescue and return of Allie to her father in the U.S. It’s a good story, but there is entirely way too much running for my tastes. Seriously… every time King and Allie make it to a safe house, they are compromised. It got old after a while; I just wanted them to have a respite that lasted longer than a couple of hours (they actually do but injuries don’t count in my book!). The larger story involves weeding out the leaks that lead to the botched mission in Beirut and how it all ties in with Allie. There was significant movement...
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Mar
2

Review: Saved by Darkness by Katie Reus

Review: Saved by Darkness by Katie Reus Saved by Darkness Author: Katie Reus Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Saved by Darkness is the sixth title in Ms. Reus’ entertaining paranormal romance Darkness series. This traditional PNR features a wide variety of shifters, vampires, demigods, and demons, each with a happily ever after. While each book is a standalone romance, the characters and mythology have been developed over the course of the series, making it a richly detailed world, one which is best experienced from the start. This time around the story focuses on half-demon, half-dragon shifter Ian, whom we met a couple books ago. He fell in love with dragon shifter Fiona over fifty years ago, but she walked away from him and mated another in order to protect him from her family. Yet it’s been discovered that she’s been running a preternatural shelter for abused paranormals at the edge of Finn Stavros’s territory, a place Ian has come to live in recent months. Now that Finn is reaching out to Fiona, can Ian give her up a second time? Right from the start, I found myself fully submersed in Fiona and Ian’s story. First, I enjoyed the flashbacks to the couple’s initial meetings and early connections. Even though the reader knows the outcome of their past, it’s lovely to see how they fell in love, while running parallel to their reunion. Second, I adore how heroic and strong Fiona and Ian are, both in their mutual pasts and in current day. They each have a formidable moral compass, coupled with the need to protect those they love. Yes, a bit of maiming and killing of enemies is sometimes necessary and definitely a-okay! Fiona and Ian’s attraction and love runs deep. Demonstrated through the flashbacks to their initial meeting, we learn that they have a love-at-first sight relationship that developed quickly. This makes their reunion so much sweeter, knowing that they have experienced an unfulfilled love for over fifty years. The author does right by the pair by allowing them to express their feelings for one another early on in their reunion, rather than drag things out or keeping up pretenses. The impact is that I cheered even harder for the pair to make it through the trials they faced. Even though the love story is the most prominent part of Saved by Darkness, the couple, along with Finn’s werewolf pack, must deal with a new threat uncovered while making connections with Fiona....
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Mar
1

Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks

Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days Author: Kerrelyn Sparks Reviewer: Una Rating: A What I’m Talking About: After enjoying several of Ms. Sparks vampire series, I thought I would check out her new paranormal/fantasy series.  The Embraced series is off to a great start with How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days. This world is intriguing: though it is fantastical in nature, it has a bit of a historical feel.  I enjoyed the mythology of the embraced moons.  In this world, a child born is born with special abilities if born on the night of the embraced moons (when the two moons eclipse).  These special children are called the embraced.  One would think that they would be revered when in fact they are reviled.  If the nobility discover them, they are typically killed.  Many who are unable to kill their children have secretly exiled them.  The world is composed of a series of patriarchal continental kingdoms, which worship the sun god, and one island kingdom that is matriarchal and worships the moon goddess.  It is there on the island that such embraced orphan children are hidden away. Luciana is one of these orphaned children.  Raised with several other young embraced girls, they consider themselves family.  Each girl has a special ability but all seem to have a touch of foresight to some degree.  Luciana’s ability is to commune with the dead.  She is able to converse with spirits, which comes in quite handy when her father comes to have her fulfill the king’s decree that she marry his nephew, The Beast of Benwick (Leo).  She must hide the fact that she is not only embraced, but is actually a twin of the intended sister.  Twin embraced children are even more feared by the patriarchal society.  Her father comes for her only because her twin sister has died and he must have his daughter marry Leo or lose all his holdings to the king. Leo is also an embraced child, but due to his ability to absorb and harness the power of lightning, he has been allowed to mature.  The king has used him since he was a young teenager as his warlord and pawn.  Leo has yearned for a woman of his own but due to his abilities he is unable to touch another without killing them.  He is loyal to his people and diligent in his duties.  Watching as Leo met his match in Luciana...
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Feb
28

Review: Darkness by Kate Sherwood

Review: Darkness by Kate Sherwood Darkness Author: Kate Sherwood Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Several months into his “vacation” working as under-sheriff for his high school friend and lover, Kayla, Jericho Crewe has re-adapted to things far better than he’s willing to admit. Unlike his job as an officer among the anonymous multitudes of LA, however, Mosely, Montana lays every consequence of his actions bare and unavoidable. Much like his feelings for his other former lover, and ongoing complication, Wade Granger. The first in this series, Long Shadows, was a compelling introduction to Jericho’s story, and hooked me from the start. The second, Embers, drew me in, but I still felt like more of an outsider, possibly because of Jericho’s own fight with his own convictions. Darkness, however, was an entirely different experience for me as a reader. Jericho isn’t surrendering so much as he’s accepting the truths about himself that he couldn’t outrun. Jericho is correct when he refers to Kayla and Wade as the angel and the devil (respectively) on his shoulders. But, after three books worth of Jericho waging his own internal battle, I was delighted to see him realize they were sort of telling him the same thing: sometimes, the law can’t dictate what’s right and wrong. Sometimes, that distinction can only be found in the intentions of the actors—in the heart. While I’ve consistently found Wade to be an extremely compelling character, I was especially happy with the dynamic between he and Jericho in Darkness. For the first time, Jericho seems to understand that he has the power to truly hurt Wade with his assumptions and distrust of Wade’s intentions. Wade’s protectiveness and boundaries when it comes to his own sense of right and wrong echo Jericho’s realization that sometimes the law just isn’t good enough. The epiphany that finally allows Jericho to see what Wade really means to him, and the intimate and reflective moments that followed were some of my favorite parts of the series so far. All in all, Darkness is an excellent addition to an already strong series. My appreciation of Jericho increased substantially over the course of the novel, and my affection for Wade did much the same. These characters have definitely grown on me as I’ve gotten to know them better, and I highly recommend reading this series from the beginning. With only one story left, I can’t help but be both excited and worried to see what happens next,...
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Feb
28

Review: What it Takes by Shannon Stacey

Review: What it Takes by Shannon Stacey What it Takes Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: If you haven’t read any of Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski Family series, stop right now and go pick up the first book, Exclusively Yours, pronto. Any format will suffice, but just grab it and start it soon! I recommend the Kowalski Family series to first-time and veteran romance readers more than any other series, and for good reasons – it is a wonderfully written, joyful, small-town romance series that gives all the feels. So with that said, if you haven’t read the series, I really don’t recommend starting with What it Takes for a couple of reasons. First, this is a “reunion” book, bringing back all of the couples and characters from the previous nine titles. Their stories will be lost on someone who’s not read the series. Second, I feel this story is the weakest of the ten books, and therefore, not a great example of how wonderful this series truly is. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, on to my review… What it Takes is a combination between the love story of Laney Caswell and Ben Rivers and reunion tour of the Kowalski family and friends from the first nine books in the series. Unfortunately, the book tries too hard to cover both storylines, leaving me not quite satisfied with either. I did enjoy my time back in Whitford, ME; however, I felt I had to work too hard to follow along all the going-ons, and frankly, I would have preferred a stronger romantic storyline instead of the reunion. The book opens and closes strong, following the budding romance between Ben and Laney. Ben grew up in Whitford, and is friends with the gang. Now that Northern Star Lodge has become so popular with the 4-wheelers, Josh got the town to offer his friend a job as a paramedic helping on the trails when riders get injured. Laney recently finalized a drawn-out divorce. Now she’s starting over in a camper at the Northern Star Lodge where she’s spending the summer helping out the growing business. Once the pair meets, there are sparks flying right from the start. I adore the couple’s awkwardness, especially their initial meeting when Laney takes care of Ben’s cuts. The humor is spot on and exactly what I have come to expect from Ms. Stacey. Just as the couple show signs of a romance, the Northern Star...
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Feb
22

Review: Just Once by Addison Fox

Review: Just Once by Addison Fox Just Once Author: Addison Fox Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Just Once is a slightly darker, definitely more serious book than the first one in the Brooklyn Brotherhood series. I liked that it was different because main character Landon McGee is very different from his professional football star turned bar owner brother Nick. Landon is quiet, a bit of a loner, and lives mostly inside his own head. Sharing anything with anyone is tough.  He’s learned to trust his adopted mother Lusia Mills and his adopted brothers, but Daphne Rossi, is going to have to work hard to earn the level of trust she wants.  Landon is going to have to learn to trust if he’s going to keep her or any woman. There was a rush to date and sex, the two becoming romantically involved shortly after a break-in at his business. No matter how self-aware she were, I think a determined police officer like Daphne would have waited longer to act on any feelings she had for Landon during an open case.  That part felt a little contrived, although it did allow for the support of being in a relationship while these two excised their demons and tried to solve the crime committed against Landon.  It wasn’t a huge mental stretch to figure out the key players, but it wasn’t an open and shut case either.  This allowed the focus to be on Daphne and Landon rather than what happened to Landon. Unfortunately, the case which brought the two lovers together didn’t get enough attention, in my opinion. I wanted a more dramatic conclusion, but it was handled as an after-thought in the epilogue. I thought Fox could have even dragged it into the next book with an even more explosive result.  Instead she kept the focus on her lovers.  I can’t fault her for that, it was a choice, but I feel that there was space to do both by making the manuscript a little longer.  Coming in at under 300 pages, I don’t think some additional length would have put anyone off reading the book—especially because Fox is a solid writer. I’m looking forward to the third installment, presumably Fender’s book since we met the target of his affection in Just Once.  That should be an interesting book with key players from completely opposite backgrounds. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Landon McGee has a past he’d rather stayed buried...
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Feb
21

Review: Daily Grind by Anna Zabo

Review: Daily Grind by Anna Zabo Daily Grind Author: Anna Zabo Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Running an independent, neighborhood coffee shop has been slowly breaking Brian Keppler for years. After a key employee is hired away by the consulting firm upstairs, he’s been taking on more and more of the work himself, spending less time on the other important parts of his life—and exorcising his frustrations on his remaining employees and anyone who tries to love him. Being bisexual and closeted isn’t helping things, either. “Miserable” sums Brian up pretty tidily these days, and having his world turned upside down by the arrival of the sexy CEO of a successful robotics company wasn’t at all on his to-do list. So, why does the idea of losing him seem like too high a price to pay? Robert Ancroft fought long and hard to make his company a success. And nearly lost himself in the process. Fortunately, he was able to find a balance that didn’t drain him to the marrow day in and day out. Watching the man who has started to mean so much to him sink into the same, endless exhaustion is heartbreaking, but Robert is trying his best to help Brian see what life could be like for them if he were willing to devote even a small part of himself to the relationship they could have. Still, everyone has their limits, and this fight may be one he just can’t win. Written in the third-person from both Brian and Rob’s perspectives, Daily Grind was a highly enjoyable read that I think definitely has a place on my “keeper” list. Both main characters are complex and I appreciated that they were able to get a chance to pursue an authentic kind of happiness after the age of thirty-five. Although the trials Robert and Brian face are the primary force driving the narrative, there are many wonderful scenes written against the backdrop of Pittsburgh (and the surrounding area) that have me itching to visit there myself. Some of my favorites are seen through the lens of Robert’s camera, and I thought it was especially sweet that their connection deepened most profoundly during these moments. Their relationship is an intensely sexual one, but the added depth provided by the other parts of the story, particularly Robert’s own complicated history and his introduction to Brian’s family, made Daily Grind all the more enjoyable for me. While Daily Grind works well as a...
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