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Jun
21

Review: Death and Relaxation by Devon Monk

Review: Death and Relaxation by Devon Monk Death and Relaxation Author: Devon Monk Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Death and Relaxation is a new urban fantasy series from Devon Monk.  It has down-to-earth characters, humor, mystery, and action with a splash of romance.  What’s not to like? This is a fascinating world with a mix of mythologies.  In the small town of Ordinary, Oregon, gods and monsters secretly mix with mortals.  The mortal Police Chief, Delaney Reed, is in on the secrets since it’s her job to police both groups while keeping mortals unaware.  Although the monsters live as part of the community, the gods are only there for a vacation.  However, a vacation for a god can last decades.  There is so much to this world and we’ve only been given a taste. Gikany and Una really enjoyed this first glimpse into the world of Ordinary Magic.  Although some of the themes can be quite heavy, the humor and banter lighten it up.  You don’t want to miss the Rhubarb Concoctions judging scene (it is hilariously funny). We laughed out loud many times while reading this novel and we found it difficult to put down.  Death and Relaxation was a quick read since we were equally engrossed in both the detective drama and in Delany’s love life.  Delany shares a rich camaraderie with both her family and with the gods and monsters of the town. Although there is some foreshadowing, the ending has a few surprises.  Delany may not have been able to connect all the pieces as quickly as we did, but considering how full her plate is, and how new she is to the job, it was understandable.  Her humanity was a refreshing contrast to the paranormal backdrop.  The mystery of the murder and its ramifications are resolved at the end, but we are left with some interesting questions about Ryder.  We also cannot wait to see how Death enjoys his vacation and want to learn more about the mythology of the individual monsters.  This series has staggering potential. Death and Relaxation is a strong start to what could be a quirkily fun and fascinating new series.  We loved the world that Ms. Monk has created: one that is rich in nuances and is bursting with humor.  Gikany and Una look forward to the next novel in this series, Devils and Details due out in July of this year. Our Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Police...
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Jun
21

Review: By the Numbers by Jen Lancaster

Review: By the Numbers by Jen Lancaster By The Numbers Author: Jen Lancaster Reviewer: Nima Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: I was attracted to By the Numbers because I have arrived in the sandwich generation and my older brother is an actuary.  Main character Penny Sinclair is an actuary at the highest fellowship level who’s ready to move on from a painful divorce and embrace being an empty-nester.  Her parents and her children have other plans and issues with appropriate boundaries.  For those of you who don’t know what an actuary is (we had to look it up when my brother came home from college and announced that’s what he wanted to do with his life,) it is someone who analyzes the financial consequences of risk.  They are calculating ninjas.  This kind of work is especially cogent to the insurance industry where most actuaries are employed.  They are the ones who figure out how long you’re going to live. Becoming an actuary is a brutal process.  They sit for multiple, lengthy exams twice a year.  Each exam is like taking the bar and the process can take anywhere from six to ten years to complete.  They make pretty good money because, yeah, math.  We have a family joke that actuaries are the people who didn’t have enough personality to be accountants.  We can say that because my father is an accountant and truthfully, they both have a great sense of humor.  So my interest was piqued to see what Lancaster would do with a female actuary. Penny’s character borders on being a stereotype, but really, since so few people know what an actuary is, I’m not sure the word “stereotype” really applies.  The average reader will see her as financially obsessive compulsive.  She studies statistics and plans accordingly.  She reminded me of my father who, trying to plan for every possibility, actually budgeted for both he and my mother to get one speeding ticket the first year they were married.  The preparedness thing is probably Penny’s most endearing quality. This is how she does her best by her family. The book opens with emails going around among Penny’s family members about the upcoming wedding of her daughter Kelsey.  They are snarky and even rude. Penny’s own mother is described as a “lesser Disney villain.”  I very nearly DNF’d the book because there was no way I could trudge through an entire novel of these self-centered brats.  Thankfully, we got to Penny’s narrative fairly quickly and...
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Jun
20

Review: Beg For It by Megan Hart

Review: Beg For It by Megan Hart Beg For It Author: Megan Hart Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I haven’t read a lot of Megan Hart’s work, but each time I do, I get caught up in her powerful characters and storylines, and Beg For It is no different. I was immediately drawn in to Corinne and Reese’s worlds and needed to know what happened in their past that pulled them apart. Corinna’s sadness at recalling her lost love pulled at my heart and won me over right from the start. I needed her to find love as if my own life depended on it. The characters were so compelling that I practically raced through the book to see what would happen to them. Beg For It is shared in alternating POVs between Corinne and Reese, but also between present day and before. At first I found the before jarring because rather than being told via flashbacks, the story switches from past tense in present day to present tense in the past. The first few times, the change in verb tense broke the flow of the storytelling and yanked me out of the story. However, as I became more invested in the characters, the shift between now and then and back became more seamless. Watching the past play out along side the present as more than a flashback became vital to the unfolding of Corinne and Reese’s story. While I was captivated by the romantic elements of their journey, I also enjoyed the passionate eroticism and exploration of sexual roles shared between Corinne and Reese. Their story is filled with an extremely intense sexual awakening and a healthy look at exploring one’s own desire and kink. It’s a beautiful thing when two people’s kinks match up so perfectly, but I also love that the pair communicates about needs and wants. Beg For It isn’t just a “finding lost love again” romance; it is also a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. The parallels between the before and current day are a guide in hopes that history can change. Seeing what was once, how both had changed over time, and then hoping for what could be, created a compelling story that I found difficult to put down. I became complete invested and involved with Corinne and Reese. Beg For It is a wonderful erotic romance journey. My Rating:  A- Enjoyed It A Lot About the Book: He’s gonna have to beg for it… Corinne...
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Jun
16

Review: Blood Lust by Alexandra Ivy

Review: Blood Lust by Alexandra Ivy Blood Lust Author: Alexandra Ivy Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Continuing directly from the storyline of the previous book, Blood Assassin, Bas must deal with the outfall of his daughter’s, Molly, kidnapping by supernatural forces. The events ruined his business, and he ended his roll as the leader of a renegade band of mercenary high-bloods. All he wants to do now is raise his daughter in peace, but that all changes when Molly’s mom, Myst, reenters their lives. Myst had a one afternoon affair with Bas which resulted in a pregnancy. Leaving Molly with Bas after her birth, Myst has been in hiding and impossible to locate. Unknown to Bas, Myst has stayed in contact with Molly via telepathy, and promised Molly she’d come visit after the horrible ordeal. Now that Myst is back, Bas won’t let her go. While you don’t need to have read the previous books in the Sentinels series to enjoy Blood Lust, the story arc started in the second book, which provides much of the background needed to better understand the high-blood mythology. I enjoyed reading Blood Lust and found the story easy to follow and straight-forward. Myst and Baz’s relationship had its bumps, but overall flowed smoothly. Their albeit brief shared history lends itself to a sexy reunion, fueled by the fact that Bas has longed for and searched for Myst ever since their one shared afternoon. I enjoyed watching the couple rekindle their feelings and act on their desires. I especially liked how open and honest Bas was with Myst, especially with his desires. While the romance was engaging, I had a few troubles with the suspense/action part of the story which involves the Brotherhood, a high-blood hate group populated by human fanatics. Unfortunately, the group felt like a stereotype of cliched cults. I also felt some of the scenes were too easy, with convenient weapons and perfectly timed coincidences. Additionally, I would have loved it if the part of the story I found most intriguing, having to deal with Molly herself, was explored more. Honestly, my favorite parts of the book had to do with the ongoing denial of Lana and Wolfe as they push the limits of their mutual desire. Ms. Ivy is building a wonderful, über-steamy relationship that drips with sexual tension. I want their book… I want to know more about their paths and how they can work out an HEA. In the end,...
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Jun
16

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Steel’s Edge by Ilona Andrews

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Steel’s Edge by Ilona Andrews Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Steel’s Edge Author: Ilona Andrews Narrator: Renée Raudman Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: The Edge #4 Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance Source: Purchased Steel’s Edge centers around Richard Mar (introduced in book two), brother of Kaldar. Richard has been around the block, and his life hasn’t been very easy. He doesn’t necessary fit in with his family, so he’s found meaning in tracking down and destroying the illegal slave industry, which was responsible for the torture of his younger cousin Sophie. Stumbling into the Edge after being fatally wounded, he’s fortunate that Charlotte de Ney, a powerful healer, finds and saves him. Charlotte is a noble blue blood from Adrianglia who moved to the Edge after a devastating betrayal left her worried about the dark magic within her. Luckily, Charlotte was taken in by Eleonore Drayton: Rose, George, and Jack’s grandmother. After three years, Charlotte has been accepted by the Edgers and lives a quiet life. But when Richard Mar crashes into her life, everything changes. Now Charlotte is compelled to join Richard on his dangerous quest. As the final book in Ilona Andrew’s wonderful Edge series, Steel’s Edge takes readers on an exciting journey and gives closure to some long running storylines without losing site of the book’s central storyline. Richard and Charlotte’s crusade against the slavers is action-packed, edgy, and thrilling. The execution of the ultimate plan kept me glued to the proverbial pages of the book. The entire plot was well-thought out and masterfully executed. My heart was racing at times. But wait… there’s more! I adored Charlotte and Richard’s romance. They are two damaged individuals that don’t have to hide their true natures from one another. Their attraction is strong, but their love for and acceptance of the other is what makes their romance so engaging. I loved where their story ended; it was fitting for their journey. Steel’s Edge also tackles a couple storylines that have run throughout the series. The first is that of John Drayton, father of Rose, George, and Jack. He abandoned his children to find fortune and treasure after their mother died. The second is that of Spider and The Hand, the longtime nemesis of the Mar family. While neither storyline takes up much page space, the authors do great justice to both. Once again Renee Raudman works her magic with the story, bringing to life these characters. She adds just the right...
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Jun
15

Review: Dr. DOA by Simon R. Green

Review: Dr. DOA by Simon R. Green Dr. DOA Author: Simon R. Green Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: A/A- What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una love the Secret Histories series.  It is a fun, tongue-in-cheek, urban fantasy take on James Bond.  We love that no matter how grueling or arduous a mission is, Eddie always finds a way to overcome and triumph. First, let us say we continue to love the characters, the fascinating world, and the witty banter that are key elements in this series.  Eddie and Molly’s verbal volleys (along with their adventures) are gripping, humorous, and all around great fun.  No matter what mystery or mission is thrown at them, by the end they always triumph.  Although there may be overarching minor plot lines, the major plot of each novel is resolved at the end.  Until this one.  Dr. DOA ends with a massive cliffhanger.  So a word of warning to those that can’t stand them, wait until the next book comes out. This novel was incredibly gripping and filled with emotional turmoil.  Eddie is faced with his own mortality, and it is incredibly difficult as Eddie deals with it.  The tension that develops between Molly and Eddie, since she is desperate to save him at any cost, along with Eddie’s turmoil as he is forced to deal with the choice between keeping a personal vow or protecting loved ones, keeps you on the edge of your seat.  The suspense continually builds as the novel progresses with Eddie trying to find a cure, and if he cannot, revenge.  It makes those moments of witty banter rest points. The novel flows seamlessly as if a roller-coaster on rails. For fans of the series, this is a serious must read.  It is gripping, with certain minor overarching elements being exposed.  That being said, it has an incredible cliffhanger ending (yes, Gikany and Una’s screams of frustration can still be heard).  Needless to say, we are biting at the bit for the next book. Our Rating: A, Loved It until the cliffhanger ending… Then A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: The name is Drood, Eddie Drood, also known as Shaman Bond. My family has been safeguarding humanity for generations, facing the hidden horrors of the world so you can sleep at night and remain oblivious to the existence of the monstrous nightmares that walk and stalk among us.  Speaking of predatory night terrors, there is a man who gets away with murder. A man...
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Jun
15

Review: The Billionaire’s Favorite Mistake by Jessica Clare

Review: The Billionaire’s Favorite Mistake by Jessica Clare The Billionaire’s Favorite Mistake Author: Jessica Clare Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Greer Chadha-Janssen is the daughter of a multi-millionaire.  That money brings her independence to work at a job she loves, wedding planner extraordinaire. She’s also completely invisible to the love of her life, billionaire Asher Sutton.  They were roommates in college and have been close friends since, but Greer by her own description is “overlookable.”  These characters were introduced in book one, but I didn’t have the advantage of watching Greer love Asher from afar or experience the heartbreak  he went through that spiraled him into the emotional abyss he had been living in for years before Greer finally made her move in The Billionaire’s Favorite Mistake.  The plot felt highly contrived to me, but that may not be the case for someone who has followed the series. Without the advantage of the first three books, it is still a complete story arc. Despite all the manipulations of the plot, the emotions of the characters felt real, especially Greer.  She was angry and with good cause.  I liked that she was as angry at herself as she was with Asher when a seriously bad one night stand results in an unplanned pregnancy. She proves to be capable of forgiveness which makes her more human and less a caricature of an angry woman.  Greer’s charitable heart even helps to redeem a minor character before she finds her happy ending. Asher wasn’t quite as developed, but he does go through a significant transformation, even if it feels a little abrupt. Once he becomes a changed man, his charm and playfulness made it easier for us to see what Greer sees in him. His biggest flaw seems to be that where Greer is concerned, he’s overly sexual, getting aroused at completely inappropriate times.  It was amusing the first time it happened, after that it was just awkward.  Still, in their mutual attraction, they prove to be well-suited for each other. I have to give Clare props for the creation of Greer’s disinterested father.  He’s a porn magnate and lives a Scandanavian version of Hugh Hefner. Totally original.  He was as comical as he was pathetic in his single-mindedness.  He was easy to seriously dislike. The Billionaire’s Favorite Mistake is a fast read.  It’s a great book to go between longer, meatier reads.  It’s fluffy and fun. My Rating: B, Liked It About the Book: Greer has always...
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Jun
13

Review: The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Review: The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris The Ghost Rebellion Author: Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: The Ghost Rebellion is the latest exciting installment in the ultra-creative and madly crazy Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences steampunk series. Co-authors Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris take readers on a fantastical journey though an alternate history, filled with familiar names and places. This time around, our favorite Ministry agents are chasing down leads on the evil Dr. Jekyll, which takes them to India. Meeting up with an old friend, the pair gets involved in helping eliminate a dangerous rebel uprising known as the Ghost Rebellion. Once again, the authors have created a high-action adventure filled with twists and turns. However, while The Ghost Rebellion is richly detailed and full of surprises, it is not as intricately complex as its predecessors. And this is a GOOD THING, because in the past couple of books, I’ve found myself confused and lost. This time around, I felt that the story was much more straightforward, with pieces of the puzzle falling into place seamlessly (even with the twists). I was able to see some twists well in advance of the reveals, yet at times, the authors still caught me off guard. While the Ghost Rebellion mystery plays out by the end of the book, there is a generous mix of the continuing storylines involving The House of Usher, Dr. Jekyll, and Sophia del Morte. Additionally, the authors continue to toss in the entertaining “Interludes,” focusing on a side-assignment run by Agent Bruce Campbell. There are still plenty of open avenues for additional heart-stopping adventures. While the MoPO series is a steampunk adventure series, romance continues to blossom and deepen between Eliza Braun and Wellington Books, and l adore that they are finally out in the open about it. After watching the pair come together as partners and then friends, witnessing the continuing development in their relationship is emotionally rewarding. The alternating POVs between each gives the additional details that help create a well-balance, loving relationship, and a well-oiled pair of working agents. I think this line from Eliza sums up quite a bit of their relationship: “It was strange how much she had come to love Wellington Books, and yet still enjoyed working his levers.” Overall, I enjoyed my return to The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, and look forward to more adventures with Books and Braun. I get caught up in each exciting adventure, which...
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Jun
13

Review + Giveaway: All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher

Review + Giveaway: All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher All The Wrong Places Author: Ann Gallagher Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Despite the risks of his career as a semi-pro skateboarder, most things in Brennan Cross’ life are good. He’s got a job he likes, good friends, and is working towards his dream of competing in the X Games someday. Even though his personal life is a little shaky at present, his biggest problem isn’t that his girlfriend cheated on him—it’s that she’s the third one to do so. And the fact that all three have blamed Brennan’s inability to meet their sexual “needs” has left him more than a little confused. Now, Brennan has questions. Where better to find some answers than the local sex shop? As a single father and a Muslim working in an adult toy shop, Zafir Hamady knows he’s an anomaly. Being asexual as well just adds to the list of complications that has kept him single for so long. Sure, he’s lonely, but all he really wants to do is give his son a good home and every opportunity to have a better life. The last thing he needs is to fall for the seemingly straight, yet very lost, skater who wandered into his store right after an ugly breakup. Too bad his heart has other ideas. I’ve been very excited to see an increase in Ace titles and characters in the last year or so, and not at all surprised to see the topic addressed so well in a Bluewater Bay story. Asexuality is a broad, multifaceted, yet little-explored topic, but I think that the author of All the Wrong Places approaches quite a few of these issues with compassion and respect that I appreciated a great deal. I liked both Brennan and Zafir a great deal, even though they are about as different from one another as possible—at least in the beginning. As the vehicle for self-discovery, I thought Brennan was very likable, for the most part, and was especially pleased to see that he was both serious and introspective, rather than a flaky caricature of skateboarding culture. It is Zafir, however, who is the heart of the story, and it was his cautious yearning and affection that really drew me in. While this story could easily have turned into a “How to be Asexual” pamphlet, I found it to be so much more. From the support group where Brennan begins to feel less isolated to Zafir’s...
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Jun
9

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Fate’s Edge by Ilona Andrews

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Fate’s Edge by Ilona Andrews Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Fate’s Edge Author: Ilona Andrews Narrator: Renée Raudman Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: The Edge #3 Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance Source: Purchased The third Edge story, Fate’s Edge, features Kaldar Mar, the swindling, grifting cousin of Cerise, the previous book’s heroine. The story is set two years after the second book, with Kaldar working for the Adrianglian spy network, the Mirror, hoping to exact revenge on Spider and the Hand for killing his family. He’s been recruited to recover a valuable stolen artifact, which should give him the opportunity for which he’s been waiting. Audrey Callahan wants to live a normal life, working for a PI firm in the Broken and maintaining a small home in the Edge. After living a life filled with heists and disappointments, she’s left her family behind, for good. However, when her dad shows up and requests her help in “one more big job” she gives him a choice: he can either walk away and keep her as a daughter or she’ll do the job and he will no longer have a daughter, killing him if he returns. Her dad picks the heist over his daughter. Now the Hand is after her to recover the artifact, and she doesn’t know who she can trust. I am throughly enjoying my time in Ilona Andrews’ Edge. The mythology is unique and interesting, and with each passing book, the plot expands and deepens. While each story is a standalone romance with its own adventure, there is an overall urban fantasy arc. Although new characters are introduced in each title, previous characters are brought forward and sometimes play key roles. Kaldar and Audrey’s story is genuinely fun, although at times confusing and complex. The pair are con artists, working both the enemy to gain back possession of the stolen artifact, but also with each other. They play games, hiding their true feelings in an effort not to get conned and hurt. While on the surface, the plot of retrieving the items Audrey helped steal seems simple, the overall story is anything but. At one point, the pair had to steal money from a pirate to get in good with the preacher, so that they could rob him and exchange that item for an invitation to the bad guy’s auction, in order to get back the item stolen in the first place. *phew* I became tired of all of the layers of...
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