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Oct
18

Review: Defy the Dawn by Lara Adrian

Review: Defy the Dawn by Lara Adrian Defy the Dawn Author: Lara Adrian Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Picking up immediately after the conclusion of Bound to Darkness, Defy the Dawn shares the story of Brynne, a day-walking, Breed female who was created by a madman, and Zael, an Atlantean defector who has formed a loose alliance with the Order. After losing her job for secretly helping the Order (last book), Brynne agrees to work with the Order as they go after Opus Nostrum, the terrorist group out to cause mayhem and chaos all over the globe. Meanwhile, Zael can no longer contain his desire for and admiration of Brynne, but his womanize past may keep Brynne at a distance. Defy the Dawn is the first book that features a romance between two characters with relatively no ties to the original Breeds or the offspring of the Order. I state this upfront because I believe this is part of the reason why I had a difficult time connecting to the romance and story in general. While I found the book exciting and action-packed, I struggled to stay focused on the storyline and had little investment in the outcome. And frankly, there was little progression in the overall plot involving Opus Nostrum or the fight with the Atlantean Queen. Brynne and Zael shared a passionate romance, filled with that desperate need to be with one another all the time. Yet, Brynne has a secret which keeps her at a distance from everyone. Even once Zael finds out the her hidden horror (and accepts her regardless), Brynne continues to use it as a reason to stay apart. Their romance was most enjoyable during the scenes when the pair were together, sharing and enjoying their feelings, but I got frustrated when they would pull apart and say things were a mistake. I also struggled with the ending of the story, which felt too easy. You know those times when you threaten to punish your child, but then you don’t follow through? It felt like that. Additionally, two new characters were briefly introduced in the last few chapters of the book, and I just have a gut feeling that it was a set up for the next romance. I could be wrong, but it added to the disconnect – thinking that the next book may be about two characters about whom I know nothing. Overall, Defy the Dawn is a solid story and sexy romance. There...
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Oct
18

Review: A Very Jaguar Christmas by Terry Spear

Review: A Very Jaguar Christmas by Terry Spear A Very Jaguar Christmas Author: Terry Spear Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Coming to terms with the death of her boyfriend when he was on a mission to rescue a young jaguar shifter was difficult for Demetria MacFarlane. Reconciling that loss with the knowledge that she’d always been in love with his best friend has been even harder. But, when she and her sexy JAG agent partner are charged with returning a “lupus garou” pup to his family, their world is turned completely upside down. Friendship kept Everett Anderson from pursuing the sexy jaguar Guardian he’d fallen for once she started dating his best friend, and loyalty wouldn’t let him pursue her after Matt died. But, time changes and heals, and when he’s paired with Demetria to work on a mixed-team assignment, he’s determined to win her over. Of course, he never imagined they’d bond while babysitting a member of a species they didn’t believe existed, but, if it helps him win her heart, he’ll take it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to write this review without a few spoilers. While the Heart of the Jaguar stories I’ve read to date tended to follow an enjoyable, yet familiar pattern—righting wrongs while finding a perfect lover and partner—A Very Jaguar Christmas tackles multiple plots, including a romance, all at once. Demetria and Everett must not only deal with a nefarious stepfather and a wayward teen, but also solve a mystery and fall in love. These are in addition to several other subplots threaded throughout the narrative. But what I was most excited about was the introduction of the wolves to the jaguars, and Ms. Spear didn’t disappoint. As to the main pairing of A Very Jaguar Christmas, I really liked Demetria and Everett. They both have a nice balance between caring and determination, and they’re well matched in training and abilities. Their shared history makes the attraction between them seem more like a relief than forced or convenient. There is likewise an obvious mutual respect in their consideration of one another that gentles the sweeter moments of the story into something more warm than overly eager. With so much going on in A Very Jaguar Christmas, it’s no wonder that there are also several highly memorable secondary characters throughout the narrative. In addition to the jaguars we’ve already met in previous stories, we are reintroduced to quite a few wolves from other titles in the companion...
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Oct
17

Review: Fish out of Water by Hailey Edwards

Review: Fish out of Water by Hailey Edwards Fish Out of Water Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: If you haven’t been following my reviews of Hailey Edwards’ Black Dog books, GO! GET ON THAT! Fish Out of Water is a plot resolution from the spinoff Gemini series, featuring Cam. It DEFINITELY needs to be read after Hell or High Water—seriously, don’t mess with the series order, folks. I had a lot of questions about Harlow at the conclusion of the third title in the Gemini series, and Fish Out of Water clears them all up for me. It was super nice to see Harlow again. I must admit, I really adore her. Her snark and personality are intact (eventually) and I liked being in her head. It was a great way to see what makes her tick. I will admit, I’ll never look at mirrored aviators the same way again. **swoons** It’s no secret that I’ve worked with a large mental health population in my real life. When we were introduced to the Edelweiss Mental Institution, the setting of the novella, in one of Cam’s stories, I was cool giving it a shot. After all, it’s a place for paranormals and isn’t going to parallel life at all, right? Well, because this is a spoiler-free zone, there’s a megaton of parallels to real life—with a paranormal twist…and that’s all I can say. If I’m looking for a great paranormal read, I know I can count on Ms. Edwards to deliver. With a host of paranormal baddies—and good guys, too—I actually adore the world-building. Harlow’s story here was no different. I though the plot picked up nicely where Harlow stepped out of the Gemini series—and the end of Hell or High Water—and led us to the ‘here and now’ well. You guys, I had a DEEP need to know what happened to Harlow. I feel like a kid in a candy store after reading this title. And…the first Lorimar Pack book, Promise the Moon, is slated for publication at the end of October. **grabby hands** YAY! More Dell!!! My Rating: A+ Personal Favorite About the Book: Harlow Bevans was a changeling mermaid working as a diving consultant for the Earthen Conclave. Then he came along. Charybdis. A serial killer who possessed her body and wrecked her mind. Now she’s an inmate—patient—at Edelweiss Mental Institution.  When a haunting song lures her to the scene of a brutal murder, the calm of the past...
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Oct
17

Review: A Most Extraordinary Pursuit by Juliana Gray

Review: A Most Extraordinary Pursuit by Juliana Gray A Most Extraordinary Pursuit Author: Juliana Gray Reviewer: Ang Rating: C What I’m Talking About: If you are familiar with my reviews, you know that I enjoy Juliana Gray’s work and typically rate it fairly high. I am disappointed to say that wasn’t so much the case with A Most Extraordinary Pursuit. When I received the title I was excited to continue the adventures with the Duke of Olympia’s tribe, and although Olympia clearly has a hand in this story, I found it to be nothing like Ms. Gray’s other novels. I realize that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but I really struggled with her changed format and writing style. Although the characters had plenty of chemistry and banter, I found the storyline to be jumpy. The constant bouncing back and forth between the narrator’s current world and the “book of Hayward” was distracting, hard for me to follow, and sometimes downright exhausting. I finally had to start taking notes so I didn’t have to keep going back and forth between chapters to remember what was going on. I understand what Ms. Gray was attempting to do, but think it would have worked better if she had added these parts at the beginning or end of the chapters, rather than sprinkling it whenever and wherever. Another area that was a struggle for me was in the way some of the secondary characters were presented, for example the Queen. I have read the entire book and still have no idea what her purpose is or why she is a part of the storyline. Is she supposed to represent the mother Truelove never really knew? Is she just a figment of her imagination? I understand better why her dead father appears throughout the book better than why the Queen jumps in and out. Maybe that will be better explained in future books, but in A Most Extraordinary Pursuit I found it to be distracting and frustrating. While the dialogue between Truelove and the Queen is well written and the banter between them is even humorous at times, I’m just not sure why it’s in the story. It adds to the word count but I’m not sure it adds to the storyline. I guess my greatest struggle is that I was expecting a love story, a romance novel and although there is a love story between Tedeus and Desma and there is romance hinted at between Truelove and Silverton, it...
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Oct
13

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: All I Want by Jill Shalvis

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: All I Want by Jill Shalvis Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: All I Want Author: Jill Shalvis Narrator: Karen White Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Animal Magnetism #7 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Library Loan After a delay (library hold list), I was finally able to listen to All I Want, the final title in Jill Shalvis’s wonderful Animal Magnetism series. This time around, we get the romantic story for Zoe Stone, the eldest Stone sibling. Now that her younger brother (Wyatt) and sister (Darcy) have found love and moved out of the ancestral home they shared, Zoe is feeling a bit lonely, although she would NEVER admit that to anyone. Determined to make her own way, she’s decided to try a few blind dates to find some one-night companionship. When one of Wyatt’s best friends needed an off-the-grid place to relax and recover from a work injury, Wyatt suggested he rent a room from Zoe. And now that he’s staying with her, he can’t stop thinking about how much he wants to get her into his bed. But Parker is hiding a number of secrets, like the fact that he’s not really a park ranger on vacation. The truth is far more dangerous, and Parker knows his stay is only temporary, so he can’t give into his feelings for Zoe. Even though this is the seventh title in the series, Ms. Shalvis has done a good job of keeping each story fresh and unique, while sticking with the small town romance formula that works. All I Want had a bit more edge and suspense to it that previous titles due to the nature of Parker’s undercover work. I enjoyed the added action and mystery solving along side the romance. As for the romance, I really liked Parker and Zoe. They shared an honesty that was touching and much appreciated. In a couple scenes, the raw dialogue was utterly heartbreaking. The author could have easily used Parker’s job and Zoe’s past to keep the pair apart, but the couple works through each bump in the road as friends fighting a strong attraction. In fact, the couple didn’t really hook up until about two-thirds through the book. It created strong sexual tension and gave me a emotional connection to the pair. I liked that the couple got to know one another and build the much needed trust before that acted fully on their lust. It works well for the pair and the story. However, I did...
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Oct
13

Review + Excerpt: Midnight Untamed by Lara Adrian

Review + Excerpt: Midnight Untamed by Lara Adrian Midnight Untamed Author: Lara Adrian Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Ettore “Savage” Selvaggio is a member of the European Order and is about to take out the infamous Breed drug dealer, Massioni, when he sees a woman from his past inside the house he’s set to blow up. Arabella “Bella” Genova has a talent for looking into the future and is forced to help Massioni or risk the lives of the only family she has left. It’s been ten years since Savage and Bella last saw each other, on the night he left her and broke her heart. Midnight Untamed is another entertaining, standalone novella set in the Midnight Breed world. While the story fits within the overall plot and timeline of the series, one can read and enjoy it without knowledge of the greater picture. Having a shared history is a big plus for Savage and Bella, making their reunion and extremely fast romance work within the limits of the novella. Additionally, the pair is open and honest from the start, both about why she’s with Massioni and why he left her all those years ago. This gets high marks from me. Ms. Adrian could have easily created one misunderstanding after another, yet instead of tossing hurdles in their path, she draws them closer through forthright sharing. Overall, Midnight Untamed is a solid, enjoyable standalone tale set in the dark paranormal series. It’s a somewhat predicable PNR with an alpha male and quick bonding, but that works for the story and within the Midnight Breed universe. It’s an entertaining, quick read that is easy to follow, regardless if you are a veteran or new-to-the-series reader. My Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: The mission was supposed to be simple. Infiltrate an enemy’s stronghold outside Rome and eliminate its leader. For a Breed warrior as lethal as Ettore Selvaggio, AKA “Savage”, stealth assassinations are only one of his many cold-hearted specialties. But the last thing Savage expects to find behind enemy lines—in his target’s bed—is a woman he once adored. It’s been years since Savage last saw beautiful Arabella Genova. Years he’s strived to banish to his past, along with the fierce desire he once felt toward Bella . . . and the irresistible calling of her blood that stirs in him even now, despite the fact that she belongs to another male. But when fate throws Savage and Bella together again in a...
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Oct
11

Review: Dangerously Charming by Deborah Blake

Review: Dangerously Charming by Deborah Blake Dangerously Charming Author: Deborah Blake Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: I must admit, I was pretty excited when I learned Deborah Blake had a new series starting. Fans of her Baba Yaga series will see familiar characters in the Broken Riders novels. However, if you’re new to this world, like me, Ms. Blake does a fabulous job of bringing her new readers up-to-speed. I really like the world-building. As I was reading, I didn’t find anything left out—everything was explained well, and wasn’t overdone. Sometimes, when I read a paranormal story, the author explains and re-explains. Um. I got it the first time; thanks for the second reminder **eyeroll** I got it the first two times it was mentioned. Not so with Ms. Blake. She gives her readers credit for being intelligent enough to remember facts, as well as figure out things on their own. I liked Jenna. She was relatable, and I connected with her immediately. She seemed grounded, and while she was dealing with her own brand of WTH, she managed to allow herself, reluctantly, to help Day deal with his demons. I seriously fell for Mikhail Day, though. All the things he went through in the Baba Yaga stories? Yeah. We get to see the aftermath in Dangerously Charming. With a penchant for damsels in distress, Mick finds himself in a situation he vowed to never become involved in again. Reading some of Day’s POV was like a punch in the gut—but after the hit, there was revelation and resolution. I found myself putting down this title several times because I had to process the goings on. Especially from Day’s POV. I had a couple unanswered questions at the end I hope will be resolved in the upcoming titles or in a ‘where are they now’ novella. Seriously. I need to know who the biological father of Jenna’s baby is! Maybe the point of the title is that biology doesn’t make a father—but I still wonder. My Rating: B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: The Riders are three immortal brothers who protect the mythical Baba Yagas. But their time serving the witches has ended—and their new destinies are just beginning… Ever since a near-fatal mistake stripped Mikhail Day and his brothers of their calling to be Riders, Day has hidden from his shame and his new, mortal life in a remote cabin in the Adirondack mountains. But when a desperate young...
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Oct
10

Review: It Must Be Christmas Anthology

Review: It Must Be Christmas Anthology It Must be Christmas Authors: Jennifer Crusie, Donna Alward, and Mandy Baxter Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: It may seem a little early for Christmas.  I mean we haven’t even had Halloween.  But, it is certainly not too early for some fun, romantic tales set within the Christmas season.  I thoroughly enjoyed these three holiday novellas. Jennifer Crusie’s title, Hot Toy was my favorite.  I loved the humor and absurdity of it all.  The snarkiness and contrasting elements reminded me of one of my favorite Jennifer Crusie stories, Agnes and the Hitman.  Blend together hectic last minute holiday shopping with romantic pitfalls, and add a dash of espionage and action and you’ll have this laugh-out-loud holiday romp.  I picked up this anthology for this story and it was better than I anticipated.  I hope there is more to come in this world or at least with these sarcastically witty characters.  I absolutely LOVED Trudy and the amount of abuse that poor Nolan could take.  This story alone is a must read! Christmas at Seashell Cottage was a beautifully emotional tale.  Though humorous in places, Charlie and Dave’s slowly burning romance was heartfelt and honest.  I really enjoyed the nature of the story and the bit of magic (or fate) that played out.  Both Charlie and Dave had a personal, reflective journey, and I enjoyed how they handled it.  It was a stark contrast to the previous novella but was just as emotionally fulfilling.  I found myself lost in this small town, and rooting for this unlikely couple. This story’s magic truly touched my heart. The final story, Christmas with the Billionaire Rancher was sizzling and passionate.  Though Chloe and Nate start out as a one night stand, it was fascinating to watch how it expanded into being more.  I really liked Chloe’s character and her sense of honor.  When Nate and Chloe had their falling out – it really surprised me even though it shouldn’t have.  Nate’s reaction, once you learn the truth of his past, was understandable. However, I felt Chloe was justified in never speaking to him again.  That being said, I like how Nate doesn’t just say he is sorry.  He proves how sorry he is and how much she means to him.  I love how he redeems himself in time for a happy Christmas evening. All in all, three wonderful stories with the Christmas season as the backdrop.  I really enjoyed them...
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Oct
10

Review: Mission: Improper by Bec McMaster

Review: Mission: Improper by Bec McMaster Mission: Improper Author: Bec McMaster Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: In the three years since the rebellion, the queen has instituted reforms that give more power to the humans, Mechs, and non-blue bloods, while diminishing the control of the Echelon. This isn’t sitting well with some, and there have been a series of unsolvable crimes aiming to lessen the queen’s effectiveness as ruler. The Duke of Malloryn has taken it upon himself to solve the mystery and put an end to the terror. He’s assembled a team of elite to find out what group has been causing riots and problems. Caleb Brynes, a highly respected blue blood Nighthawk, and Ingrid Miller, a verwulfen spy have both accepted the challenge of being part of Malloryn’s team. Mission: Improper is the first book in the new London Steampunk spin-off, taking place three years into the future after the final book in the original series. I love that the author has found a way to continue this exciting series – keeping the same formula of action-packed mystery coupled with sexually-charged romance. The mix of paranormal, alternate history, historic setting, and steampunk mech is unique and engrossing. Mission: Improper expands the established mythology, but not so greatly as to become eye-rolling. The author has added enough new, mixed with a lot of the old, to create a whole new set of concerns for our heroes. Caleb and Ingrid make for a perfect pair. I admire that the author didn’t toss unnecessary drama in their way, but let the story and characters dictate the speed and direction of the romance. They don’t have an easy path, and I like that both are uncertain about giving of themselves fully (emotionally, not physically). Each has a jaded history that puts wariness into their decision making, yet they also want to make sure not to hurt the other. It’s honest and raw emotion like this, that won me over: “I am going to pursue you, Ingrid Miller, with the intention of never letting you go. So fair warning…”  “It’s no longer about winning your body, Ingrid. When I finish these challenges, I intend to win your heart.” Ms. McMaster creates some of the best romances out there: always steamy and sexy while simultaneously emotionally gripping. However, it’s not just the love story that keeps me coming back again and again. Every story centers on some sort of mystery and huge investigation. I become...
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Oct
6

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Hexed by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Hexed by Kevin Hearne Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book: Hexed Author: Kevin Hearne Narrator: Luke Daniels Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #2 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased Hexed Having lived a somewhat quiet life hiding out in the East Valley/Tempe area of Arizona, Druid Atticus O’Sullivan has become quite popular after he killed two powerful Celtic gods. Different pantheons have been paying a visit to Atticus, either making sure he isn’t a personal threat or wanting him to knock off rivals. This includes his vampire lawyer, Leif, who is rather rude about wanting Atticus’s help to knock off Thor. However, when Atticus experiences an attack that should have resulted in his death, his attention turns to stopping a wicked coven of out-of-town witches looking to take over the East Valley. Hexed, the second title in Mr. Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, expands Atticus’s world beyond the personal grudges of the Celtic Fae, although he must still deal with the outfall of his battle with Angus Og. I really like how every pantheon, and even multiple versions of each deity, exists in this world. Mr. Hearne is able to build upon what was established in the first book, while creating new and interesting characters and mythology. Even with several new players and mythologies, I didn’t feel confused or overwhelmed. Atticus is a character that could easily walk away from the trouble brewing around him, after all, he didn’t survive for two millennia by heading head-first into adversity. So I appreciate his reason for staying around and helping to protect the East Valley, out of concern for the land that was damaged in the first title. He’s not a noble protector; rather a practical hero, which is genuine and refreshing. However, I am conflicted on his “love life,” which is very much set in the Iron Age – sex is sex, and emotions are separate. As a fan of romance, part of me wants to see Atticus find a woman to be his equal partner and love interest. The interactions with other characters and friendships Atticus develops give the series heart. His relationship with his more-than-a-dog Atticus is both sincere and entertaining. However, it’s his fondness for his widowed neighbor and his respect for her faith that truly made me smile this time around. I love how this 2,000 year old man is a “youngster” to the widow. One thing that I did not care...
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