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May
30

Review: New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan

Review: New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan New York, Actually Author: Sarah Morgan Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Unknown to all but four people, Molly is actually the popular relationship expert, Aggie. With a well-liked, successful blog and best-seller to her name, Molly has finally found peace-of-mind after upending her life and moving from London three years ago. As long as nobody discovers her real identity nor the horrors of her past, she’ll be perfectly content with her life and one love, Valentine the Dalmatian. Daniel is a highly motivated, premier divorce lawyer. He loves to be with women – giving them what they want – without strings. And when he sees Molly running with Valentine in Central Park day after day, he goes after her; however, the only way to get her attention is to borrow a dog to walk in the park. Now that he’s got Molly’s attention, he needs to figure out how to get her to open up and let him in. New York, Actually is another wonderful romance in Ms. Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series. I was concerned at the beginning that I wouldn’t like this book because it has themes that I don’t really enjoy, like dishonesty, holding secrets to “protect” the other, and a set up for potential public humiliation. However, Ms. Morgan eased all my fears and wrote a wonderful story. She never avoided the set up she put in place, but rather allowed her characters to mature and develop genuine feelings for one another. She afforded them the opportunity to feel the angry, hurt, joy, etc. and then let them think about it and come back around. I absolutely enjoyed it! Daniel and Molly are a perfect match. She always breaks hearts and he doesn’t have a heart to break. Due to Molly’s wariness, the couple was forced to take time and start the friendship process before acting fully on their mutual attraction. The missteps and falters were needed, but together, the pair used their hearts, experiences, and their brains to move past the hiccups. I am thankful that Molly’s identity was revealed to Daniel in the middle of the book, rather than at the end. Instead of everything going swimmingly until BAM the big conflict at the end, the pair dealt within increasingly difficult issues until the climax, but by then they were prepared to deal with the issues head on. I also enjoyed all the little tie-ins to the first three...
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May
29

Review: Trust Me by Farrah Rochon

Review: Trust Me by Farrah Rochon Trust Me Author: Farrah Rochon Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: At one point, Mackenna (Mack)Arnold was one-half of New Orleans’ Power Couple. But after 15 years of problems and lies, she left her husband. Now she sits on the New Orleans City Council, dedicating her time to helping the city she loves. Unfortunately, her best friend’s little brother, Ezra Holmes, an investigative report, has set his sights on uncovering supposed corruption in Mack’s office. Ezra Holmes is a conflicted, even troubled man. The woman he’s crushed on for years may be using her position on the City Council to line her pockets. Also, he recently trusted the wrong source, costing him his job with the newspaper. So instead of making his way onto the national news spotlight, he’s teaching journalism at a local college. When Mack approaches him about possible corruption in the mayor’s office, he isn’t sure if he can put aside the past and trust that she’s not in it for her own, selfish reasons. The aptly named Trust Me is another entertaining story in Ms. Rochon’s Holmes Brothers series. The book is a standalone romance and story; however, we were introduced to the two main characters in the previous book, where their conflict first came to light. This title is a bit more serious and has a more of an edge to it than the prior title, which took place during a family vacation. I liked the change in scenery and tone; although I worried a bit how the characters would get their “happy ending” with so much at stake. Ezra’s obsession with Mack was a little creepy at the start. The man was determined to prove she was crooked, even while day dreaming about her fine body and beautiful face. I attribute his behavior to a classic case of never being noticed by Mack all those years his sister brought Mack home with her during college. Whether it was misplaced anger or the only way he felt he could “be with her,” I was disturbed by his driven nature to find her guilty. So it was a big relief that the author addressed the issue early in the book, putting the pair on the same page. Although Mack and Ezra shared a passionate desire, they were both extremely cautious with their hearts. Trust was difficult and was only earned as the book progressed. There was a lot of back and forth; give...
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May
24

Review: Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

Review: Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton Dragon Teeth Author: Michael Crichton Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Dragon Teeth is a wonderful historical fiction set in the old West during the time of the infamous Bones Wars; a time when two great paleontologists raced to uncover and collect the most impressive dinosaur discoveries. Released almost ten years after the author’s death, Dragon Teeth has the feel of a genuine Crichton story. I don’t know how much of the book was edited and filled in by a ghost-writer, but it was done very much in the vein of his body of works. The story follows Yale freshman William Johnson, who decides to worm his way into Professor Marsh’s government-funded expedition to dig for fossils. Why would this carefree and somewhat reckless young man take on such a dangerous journey in a time when tensions are high between the white settlers and Native Indians? Because of a bet. Yep… a bet that changed his entire life. Professor Marsh is a highly suspicious, nearly mad man who assumes the poor, naïve Johnson is a spy for his adversary, Cope. This leads Marsh to abandon Johnson in Cheyanne. So when Professor Cope shows up and offers Johnson a spot with his crew, he feels he has little choice. And although they are forbidden to head out from Fort Benton, Cope and crew slip out to dig bones. The story follows Johnson has he experiences firsthand how difficult life in the West was during the late 1800’s. Yet Johnson finds a way to persevere, developing an unhealthy fixation on protecting the dinosaur bones in his care. I empathized with poor Johnson, who is naïve and in way over his head. He’s an unknowing pawn that could be crushed in the race for supremacy between two Barons of Bones. His demeanor and the situations he’s placed in created an emotional tie to his character, keeping me invested in his entire story from beginning to end. Dragon Teeth is a highly interesting and engrossing tale. I have always loved Crichton’s matter-of-fact writing style, and I can’t distinguish between fact and fiction. It’s a gripping way to tell a story. Crichton also adds details that make the scenes pop and come to life. The story is that of a young man’s rough journey to becoming his own man. He had a summer that changed him, and hopefully his life will be richer for it. The book is all about the journey,...
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May
23

Review: Dating the Undead by Juliet Lyons

Review: Dating the Undead by Juliet Lyons Dating the Undead Author: Juliet Lyons Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: It’s been awhile since I’ve read something paranormal. I miss it. I was really excited about reading Dating the Undead, the first title in the Undead Dating Service / V-Date.com series. I wasn’t disappointed. Ms. Lyons did a fabulous job setting up her vampire world so readers would easily buy-in and suspend belief for the rules of her universe. Which is important when there’s human-vampire interaction going on. Silver is an independent young woman and she is sassy, stubborn, pretty much fearless, and able to function on her own without the assistance of a man. I love her unique way of dressing, and her thought process. Silver is who I imagine myself to be, were I 20-something and on the market 🙂 We get a lot of information about her, too. I like knowing her background and how she came to be the way she is. Logan is a vampire. He’s almost 200 years old. He’s not afraid to tell Silver about his past, either. Mostly. What I like about Logan is that he’s honest with Silver (to a point). He is a bit of an AlphaMale, but I don’t think he crosses into alpha-hole territory. Which is important. Although, he does have a few missteps with regard to info that should have been divulged to Silver much sooner—but then again, it creates conflict and we all need conflict in our books! Not only were the sexy times super hot and well-written, but I definitely saw the relationship build between Logan and Silver. Initially, it felt like a huge case of doing-it-like-bunnies lust, but the intimacy between the couple increased in wonderful ways that made the ‘I love yous’ believable. I really was impressed with the whole vampire world. The hierarchy. The rules. It all made so much sense to me. While there was some suspense tossed in along the way, it enhanced the plot and the overarching romance for me. I can’t wait to read the next installment of Undead Dating Service—and I hope we get to see more of Silver and Logan. A second title in the series is due out October 2017. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: When Silver Harris kisses sexy Irish vampire Logan Byrne on New Year’s Eve, she knows other humans just won’t suffice. Convinced she’ll never see him again, she joins the uber-popular vampire dating site,...
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May
22

Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews

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

Review: Enemies Like You by Annika Martin & Joanna Chambers

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

Review: Owl and the Electric Samurai by Kristi Charish

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

Review: How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall

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

Review + Giveaway: Firestorm by Nancy Holzner

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

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

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