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Jul
15

Review: Romanced by a SEAL by Cat Johnson

Review: Romanced by a SEAL by Cat Johnson Romanced by a SEAL Author: Cat Johnson Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Having watched Jon and Ali fall for one another in the first Hot SEALs book, Night with a SEAL, I was excited to read their follow up story in Romanced by a SEAL. As the book opens, Jon and Ali have been living together for a while, but their relationship is stagnant. Unknown to his teammates/friends and Ali, Jon decides to take an off-the-record job going undercover to infiltrate ISIS. Of course his secrecy is causing all sorts of tension at home. Overall, I enjoyed Romanced by a SEAL, especially since Jon and Ali’s initial story concluded with an HFN ending. The couple went through some major ups and downs in this one, tugging at my heart more than once. While the first half of the book focused on Jon’s mission and the troubles between the pair, the second half was a joy to read, following the couple as they worked through their very serious issues and communication breakdown. Once the pair started talking and working through things, I felt the tempo of the book improved, and I sunk into the story more. As per usual, Ms. Johnson’s attention to military detail is impressive. I appreciated the detail and (I’ll assume) accuracy of Jon’s situation as he went undercover. However, for me, it felt a bit misplaced in this romance story, especially since it is on the shorter side. Personally, I want more relationship building and less seriousness in the first half of the book. Jon’s situation was very delicate and extremely serious, and while the author does a very good job keeping the tone appropriate to the situation, I felt that the military storyline overtook the romance for too much of the book. In the end, Romanced by a SEAL was a delightful read, and the second half of the book made up for any issues I had in the earlier parts of the story. While I had a couple small issues, the author did a great job eventually addressing any matters that concerned me. I like that, overall, the storylines felt realistic yet HEA. My Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: As a SEAL, Jon Rudnick dodged copper and lead without flinching, but just the thought of one tiny gold band around his ring finger sends him into a cold sweat. Love is one thing, but marriage is another. He’s...
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Jul
14

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Book: Proven Guilty Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Dresden Files #8 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: purchased Proven Guilty After taking a break from the Dresden Files for a few months, listening to Proven Guilty was just what I wanted and needed from this dark urban fantasy series. The war between the Red Court and White Council isn’t going well, meanwhile the Merlin wants to find a way to remove Harry from the Council, permanently. Harry’s mentor, Ebenezer, tips off Harry that the Winter Court (fae) have not joined the war after the Red Court used their lands without permission and that there is a traitor in the Council. So Harry embarks on a secret, multi-faceted mission, where not only is his own life in danger, but that of his dear friend Michael’s daughter, Molly. While Proven Guilty continues the somber storytelling that dominates this series, I found it had a much better balance of light and dark with respect to Dreden’s mental and emotional wellbeing. There is no denying he lives in a dangerous world with the cards stacked against him, but he does have many friends, and Dresden is finally turning to them. I’ll admit that I held my breath while reading most of the first half, waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop right on top of Dresden’s head, Mr. Butcher was able to keep things from going too far, and brought Dresden back from the depths before he hit bottom. But with that said, there were a couple spots I was ready to give up, only to be drawn back in by the excellent storytelling. At the core of Proven Guilty, there is a mystery, and Dresden is back doing what he does best: piecing clues together to uncover the truth. As he does so, he discovers that the overall picture is much bigger than he initially expected, with an unknown threat that could be the ultimate foe. This journey allows Dresden to expunge some of the guilty he’s been carrying around for the past year or so, as well as strengthen friendships and alliances he’ll need to stay on “right” side of that fine line between dark and light. While we see Dresden work through his relationships with a few key characters, it is his heart-to-hearts with longtime colleague and friend, Karen, that gave me all the...
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Jul
13

Review: Ruined by Shiloh Walker

Review: Ruined by Shiloh Walker Ruined Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Love tortured heroes who get a well-deserved Happily Ever After? Shiloh Walker is the master. And, these Barnes Brothers books? They are like the how-to guide for overcoming adversity. Ruined is the fourth title in the Barnes Brothers series. While it’s not necessary to read the books in order, I recommend it. We get cameos from other couples from earlier in the series, and it’d just make more sense (besides getting to see what’s up with those previous main characters). Sebastien’s brothers, his family, are really important to him, and we see the love and nurturing from those relatives throughout the title. This is a great book to show a model nuclear family, as well. Mr. & Mrs. Barnes have raised a brood of rambunctious boys who have ended up being wonderful men. Sebastien is a great example. Sebastien Barnes was the second brother to make it big in show business. His older brother, Zach, was on a TV series and Seb was ‘discovered’. He’s been on this rollercoaster career ride, and he took it in stride—being the playboy and never outwardly wanting to settle down. While he’s carried a torch for Marin for a long, LONG time, he was unable to act on it because Marin is a… bit older than he is. They were at different places in their lives. It’s probably a good thing Marin and Seb didn’t hook up previously, to be honest. Sebastien dated this girl that ended up in a… situation. He became… involved, and ended up with a scar on his previously pretty-boy face. I pictured Seb like the boy next door. Gorgeous, well-built, polite, and able to manipulate the media like a master. It’s only natural he’d think his scar would be a career ender. Oh, and the whole ‘incident’ totally jacked with his head. He fell into this huge abyss of self-blame and had a huge pity-party for himself. Pretty natural, right? I mean, who wouldn’t? His entire life had been turned upside down. Stop. Reframe. When I have a major life-changer coming on, I am pretty good at playing recluse. THIS was Seb’s ticket to hermit-dom. I half expected a volleyball with a bloody handprint to show up because Seb put himself on a figurative island surrounded with great white sharks, man-o-war jellyfish, and every other dangerous sea creature imaginable. Enter: Marin. It’s like that girl kept...
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Jul
13

Review: The Worse for Were by Abigail Owen

Review: The Worse for Were by Abigail Owen The Worse for Were Author: Abigail Owen Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B- What We’re Talking About: The Worse for Were is the second novella in the Legendary Consultants series.  We regretfully did not read the previous novella, but were able to pick up this world quickly enough.  Even though we thought that Ms. Owen’s Shadowcat Nation series has a tighter and stronger mythology, we enjoyed this more casual approach to paranormal romance. Although The Worse for Were focuses on werewolf shifters, the mythology includes nymphs, gods, demigods, and fae.  We are not sure if there is more background information in the previous novel, but we thought that there might be some world building we may have missed.  We were able to fall into the world, although there were a couple of off-notes in the mythology that Gikany and Una were able to debate. We were distracted by the indiscriminate use of the word alpha. For us Alpha is a title while dominant denotes a demeanor or personality of the shifter. With the journey of two Alphas marrying for convenience, a prophecy, and the numerous paranormals in the mix, there was so much potential.  The personalities of Tala and Marrok, their banter and mating urge were wittily and passionately executed.  We understand that given the nature of a novella, there can only be so much background and plot weaving done.  However there is so much potential in this story we wished it had been made into a full novel.  The blending of Tala and Marrok’s packs (unless there is more to come) could have been far more complicated and intricate.  Knowing what Ms. Owen is capable of in her other series, we just wanted more.  Since this story is a novella, we can understand some of the jumps and skips. Overall, Gikany and Una liked this novella, although we thought it was noticeable that we jumped into the series.  We recommend that you read this series from the beginning.  We also thought that there was enough in the world and the plot for a fully fleshed out novel.  We are interested in reading the next story in this series. Our Rating:  B- Liked It, but we had a couple small issues About the Book: The Canis and Banes packs of werewolves have been feuding for centuries. The Hatfields and McCoys were a tea party in comparison. Until Marrok Banes, the Alpha of his pack, decides to end the fighting...
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Jul
12

Review: The Summer Bride by Anne Gracie

Review: The Summer Bride by Anne Gracie The Summer Bride Author: Anne Gracie Reviewer: Ang Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I have loved the Chance Sisters series since I read The Autumn Bride in 2013, but of all the sisters, Daisy has always been my favorite. Her spunky candor, hard-working nature, tender heart, and lioness-like protectiveness of those she loves won me over the moment I met her. The Summer Bride did not disappoint in my memories of Daisy or in my getting to know Finn, who was able to meet Miss Daisy tit-for-tat and balanced her humor while teaching her that trust is not always misplaced and it’s never a mistake to love someone. I thoroughly enjoyed Finn and Daisy’s chemistry, banter, and watching them both learn that often times what is need most is what we are most scared of. I also really enjoyed watching Finn work for Daisy and watching Daisy’s annoyance at being courted all while slowly realizing that their friendship has laid a firm foundation for an amazing and safe love. I love that Finn supported and waited for Daisy as she learned the lessons she needed to so that she could commit completely to their relationship, all while letting her think she was running the show. Because he knew she needed that control, even if he didn’t entirely understand why. I really loved Finn as a whole. He may have been raised poor, but he had the heart of a gentleman and went out of his way to protect anyone under his care, real or perceived, much like Daisy, which is one the reasons they suit one another so well. As usual Ms. Gracie gave us the perfect overview of the other sister’s stories so if someone picked up Daisy’s story and wasn’t familiar with the other girls they’d still be ok. She also continued to give us secondary characters that were well-written and added fun color to the story without diverting attention from Daisy and Finn. In some cases, those characters gave us even better insights into who Daisy and Finn are and why. Lady Beatrice continued to be the perfect balance of friend and protector, and the end of the novel made me tear up. It really was the perfect ending to this series. Overall, if you love the other Chance Sisters titles you certainly won’t want to miss Daisy, and if you aren’t familiar with the sisters I think you’ll still really love her. The Summer...
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Jul
11

Review: Unwanted by Jennifer Estep

Review: Unwanted by Jennifer Estep Unwanted Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Unwanted is a delightful novella shared from the POV of Gin Blanco’s foster brother, Finnegan Lane, as he deals with the fallout from the events of the previous full-length story, Bitter Bite. Finn is not in a good place emotionally, feeling responsible for his mother’s horrible actions. He’s shunned by his coworkers, but takes the hit because of his guilt. Gin (and others) stand by him, silently showing support, hoping he’ll recover. Meanwhile, Finn’s astute boss requires Finn to attend each and every funeral of those bank employees that lost their lives in his mother’s attempted robbery. Seeing Finn in such a low place hurt me. He’s always been such an upbeat, happy guy; the comic relief in Gin’s overly serious life. He’s genuinely a good man, so knowing what his mother’s actions did to him, was emotionally taxing for me as well as Finn. Ms. Estep does a good job bringing Finn full circle, through helping the widow of a hardworking bank guard. Finn’s protective nature and generous heart find their way to the surface as he gets himself back in the game. Unwanted is the perfect bridge between Bitter Bite and the upcoming Unraveled because it gives Finn time to deal with his state of mind before getting back in the dangerous game of life among Ashland’s underworld. While the story could be read as a standalone, I strongly discourage it. Having known Finn for 14 books is what makes his story all the more enjoyable to readers; Unwanted is a heartfelt treat to longtime Finnegan fans. My Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: The fallout from his disastrous “family reunion” in Bitter Bite has left Finn feeling hurt, angry, and depressed. He can barely stand to look at himself in the mirror, much less eat any of the delicious barbecue from Gin’s famed Pork Pit restaurant. But when the funeral for a slain security guard at his bank turns into a showdown with some nasty underworld giants, Finn knows that he must act in order to protect an innocent family. Finnegan Lane might be the most unwanted man in Ashland these days, but he’s determined to try to make amends for his past mistakes… Release Date: July 18, 2016 Publisher: Pocket Star Series: Elemental Assassins #14.5 Genre: Urban Fantasy, novella Format(s): e-book Book Source: NetGalley Purchase Info: Amazon Reviews in the Series:...
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Jul
7

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Big Vamp on Campus by Molly Harper

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Big Vamp on Campus by Molly Harper Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Big Vamp on Campus Author: Molly Harper Narrator: Amanda Ronconi Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Half-Moon Hollow #5.5 Genre: Paranormal Romance Source: Purchased Big Vamp on Campus is a fun “slice of life” with a side of growing pains. We get to see how vampire baddie Ophelia Lambert is dealing with being cut off from her precious Council. It’s definitely not the best place to start the series, although I think it can be enjoyed by a newbie as a standalone short. However, to understand the full impact of Ophelia’s banishment, one really needs to see her when she was at her prime, welding power for the Council. I didn’t think I’d ever really like Ophelia; she certainly has never been a sympathetic character. And after what she did to Gigi back in The Dangers of Dating a Rebound Vampire, I honestly wasn’t looking forward to getting a story from her POV. However, leave it to Ms. Harper to pull this off. Not only do we see some of the brilliant crazed 400-year old vamp she used to be, but we witness Ophelia learn to adjust to life outside her comfort zone, growing and developing into a relatable, likable character. As I mentioned before, the book reads more like a slice of life or a few chapters from a larger story. New characters are introduced, and some strange and mysterious things are afoot – basically par for the course for the residents of Half-Moon Hollow. It’s pretty apparent that this novella is setting the stage for a larger story; however, it’s not the next book, Where the Wild Things Bite. It looks like Big Vamp on Campus actually comes after the next book. The narration by Amanda Ronconi is highly entertaining. In the past, I’ve struggled with keeping characters straight from book to book based on voice alone because each is a different first person POV narrative. However, because it’s been a while since I’ve listened to another book in the series, I didn’t experience any of that confusion, and found the narration to fit Ophelia’s personality. With just a touch of sarcasm and a whole lot of charm, Ms. Ronconi brings the denizens of Half-Moon Hollow to life (even when they are actually students at the University of Kentucky!) All-in-all, an enjoyable listen, entertaining story, and a must for fans of the Half-Moon Hollow series. Story Rating: B+ Narration:...
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Jul
6

Review: It Happened One Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton

Review: It Happened One Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton It Happened One Doomsday Author: Laurence MacNaughton Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: It Happened One Doomsday is a quirky little read. It has sort of a campy feel to it.  Clearly this is the first in a new series and I will likely read at least the next installment when it comes out.  It’s not an outstanding first book, the writing flips between excellent description and repetitive metaphors, but it did get me to suspend my disbelief—which is no small task in contemporary fantasy.  I laughed when the main character Dru acknowledged that fact saying, “I can’t expect Nate to understand magic.  Hardly anyone believes in it, outside of actual sorcerers.”  The author has to make me believe his story is plausible and having been born in Berkeley, California, a store that sells crystals for healing and magical powers is entirely realistic.  A simple internet search will yield thousands of hits.  I allowed MacNaughton to build in my mind from that set-up. There isn’t a great deal of character development because it’s so action forward, but MacNaughton did succeed in creating sincere characters, especially Dru.  She was entirely genuine and charmingly unaware of her own talents.  Dru is also innately charitable, unable to help herself from helping others.  It’s a pleasant change in a main character.  She shares an unexpected bond with a mechanic, Greyson, who is turning into a demon because of his cursed car.  I hope we still like him when the next book comes out. The most badass character, even surrounded by demons, is a woman, Dru’s best friend Rane.  She was unwaveringly loyal, but so far one dimensional. Toss it in your pool bag, it’s a good single afternoon read for the summer. My Rating: B, Liked It About the Book: Magic is real. Only a handful of natural-born sorcerers can wield its arcane power against demons, foul creatures, and the forces of darkness. These protectors of the powerless are descendants of an elite order. The best magic-users in the world.  Unfortunately, Dru isn’t one of them. Sure, she’s got a smidge of magical potential. She can use crystals to see enchantments or brew up an occasional potion. And she can research practically anything in the library of dusty leather-bound tomes she keeps stacked in the back of her little store. There, sandwiched between a pawn shop and a 24-hour liquor mart, she sells enough crystals, incense, and magic charms to scrape...
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Jul
6

Review + Giveaway: What Remains by Garrett Leigh

Review + Giveaway: What Remains by Garrett Leigh What Remains Author: Garrett Leigh Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The only thing vibrant, independent Jodi Peters wanted from his rare evening out was to have a little fun, then go back home to his comfortable no-strings life. He never expected the captivating bouncer who tossed a small herd of drunken idiots out of a bar to walk him home. Of course, inviting the man inside certainly hadn’t been on his to-do list for the evening, either, but he wasn’t about to let the strongest attraction he’d ever felt slip away. Recently divorced and newly out, Rupert O’Neil doesn’t exactly have his life in order when he meets the hipster-scruffed, not-entirely-sober web designer outside the bar where he works on the weekends. Fighting fires is everything he wants in a day job, but it isn’t enough to keep a decent roof over his head and support the daughter he adores, especially when his ex-wife is set on making him as miserable as possible. But, as flirtation with a stranger turns into love, his world becomes as close to perfect as he ever could have hoped for—and far too good to last. Although I was only introduced to her writing recently, Ms. Leigh has quickly become a new favorite. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by her so far, even though each of those stories has broken my heart a little. Which, admittedly, is part of the draw. Not content to have her characters “merely” struggling to find love, they must fight unfavorable odds to keep it when the world seems intent on wrenching it away. Fortunately, the scale is tipped towards the hopeful side of the equation just enough in What Remains, and it works. Unlike many other stories I’ve read (irrespective of genre), I liked both main characters in What Remains equally well. Jodi and Rupert are each wonderful in very different ways. Jodi is the more open of the pair, always quick with a joke, and unabashedly determined when it comes to loving Rupert. Rupert, by contrast, is quieter—mostly, I imagine, from the responsibilities he shoulders all the time. He’s more practical and uncertain, yet he’s no less resolute in his devotion to Jodi. Jodi almost shines too brightly compared to Rupert’s more reserved demeanor, but, the combination of personalities is actually perfect. What Remains is also one of those stories that needs to be experienced and shouldn’t be reduced to a few perfunctory statements....
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Jul
5

Review: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

Review: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine Paper and Fire Author: Rachel Caine Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: A/A- What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una have really enjoyed this new series, The Great Library.  The first novel, Ink and Bone, was a captivating and thrilling page-turner.  Paper and Fire ramps it up even more, with an unexpected twist at the end. As with our review of Ink and Bone, it is very difficult for us to do our normal discussion type review.  From the beginning of Paper and Fire, the plot begins to twist and turn, revealing some truths while hinting at other plots.  It would be far too easy to spoil this novel.  So we apologize for this terse and vague review. Jess continues to be the central character.  We follow him in the new chapter of his life as part of the Library.  As a bottom-rung cadet, he has very little power, but if the Library thinks they can control him, they are very wrong.  Jess continues to seek answers, find out the truth of his friends, and search for a way to change the brutal dictatorial nature of the library.  Although he never is completely sure whom he can trust, Jess knows he will never be able to free Morgan without help. This series continues to mesmerize us.  Although it can be argued whether this is a young adult series or fantasy, there are topics that are strictly for the more mature reader: torture, rape, and war.  The nefarious plots of the different factions all weave around each other, and all seem to be against Jess.  It is overwhelmingly and incredibly addicting.  We especially enjoyed the painfully clear depiction that no matter how gilded the cage is, it is still a prison. The end came as quite a surprise to us as the novel goes in a completely unexpected direction.  But it is one that makes sense and holds an intriguing possibility.  We eagerly look forward to the next book in this series.  If you haven’t picked it up yet, you are seriously missing out on a well crafted, addicting, and suspenseful world. Our Rating: A/A-  Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good. Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is...
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