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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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May
10

Review: Marry in Haste by Anne Gracie

Review: Marry in Haste by Anne Gracie Marry in Haste Author: Anne Gracie Reviewer: Ang Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I really enjoyed Marry in Haste. Cal and Emmaline are a good match even though they don’t realize it at first. Emm is spirited and strong. She knows when to fight a battle and when to let something slide, which is a must for a military man like Cal who is used to people jumping when he says jump. I appreciated the chemistry between the all the characters, and that as usual, Ms. Gracie doesn’t just throw sex in for the sake of sex. The scenes make sense to the novel and add to the plotline. I also enjoyed the way Emm and Cal’s wards come together to make a family, pulling Cal back to his roots in the process. I would have enjoyed more time with Emm and Cal rather than focusing so much on the wards and the history/lack of relationship between them and Cal. And there were a few spots where things dragged on as if Ms. Gracie wasn’t sure how to bring things together. But overall she found her stride and brought nearly everything together in the end. She even included a cameo from one of my favorite Chance sisters, Daisy. Despite its few flaws, I had a difficult time putting Marry in Haste down. The characters were fun, complex, and engrossing, making the entire experience delightful. I’m looking forward to the next book in the new Marriage of Convenience series, and believe if you enjoy Ms. Gracie’s work or a marriage of convenience novel you will enjoy this one. Reading it was a great way to spend my day. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Major Calbourne Rutherford returns to England on the trail of an assassin, only to find he’s become Lord Ashendon, with the responsibility for vast estates and dependent relatives. Cal can command the toughest of men, but his wild half-sisters are quite another matter. They might just be his undoing. When he discovers that Miss Emmaline Westwood, the girls’ former teacher, guides them with ease, Cal offers her a marriage of convenience. But strong-minded and independent Emm is neither as compliant nor as proper as he expected, and Cal finds himself most inconveniently seduced by his convenient wife. Emm knows they didn’t marry for love, yet beneath her husband’s austere facade, she catches glimpses of a man who takes her breath away. As pride, duty...
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May
9

Review: Concourse by Santino Hassell

Review: Concourse by Santino Hassell Concourse Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Amid the shining lights and luminaries of New York, Ashton Townsend glimmers more brilliantly than the rest. Young, rich, and undeniably beautiful, he’s either desired or envied—or both—by just about everyone. He’s also lonely and brutally aware that nobody really knows who he is beneath the façade he’s created. Nobody except his most cherished friend, and most elusive desire, Val. Valdrin Leka, on the other hand, is a broodingly handsome competitive boxer on his way to going pro for all the wrong reasons. His mother’s full-time position as nanny for the extremely wealthy, entitled Townsend family made growing up in their shadow a bitter pill to swallow—the only exception to that opinion being Ashton. But, as much as he’s always wanted Ashton, letting himself fall completely would surely be a one-sided heartbreak waiting to happen. Or would it? While I’ve loved each of the Five Boroughs stories—and have a particularly soft spot for the first two—Concourse is exceptional. I liked both characters tremendously from the beginning, and I could not stop worrying about them throughout the entire narrative. The tension that had been building between Ashton and Val for years off-page was a nearly tangible thing, their behavior towards one another practically screaming its veracity and making their shared history easy to accept. The weight of Val’s secrets was likewise dark and viscous, threatening at any moment to destroy the happiness they were so close to realizing. I also found the writing itself in Concourse to be about as perfect as I could have hoped, and there were quite a few passages that tugged at my heart during my reading. Val and Ashton’s shared hunger for affection is indisputable, and Mr. Hassell once again rips away any artifice with an emotional simplicity that was both irresistible and believable. “There would have to come a point when I drew boundaries about all this touching, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it yet. Not when he was the only person whose touch I actually felt.” In addition to Val and Ashton, Concourse introduced some interesting new characters as well as allowed me to get to know some of the others who have piqued my curiosity for a long time now a little better. Val’s sister Hana, his friend Matt, and even Luis, his main competition at the gym, were all welcome additions. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing more...
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May
8

Review: F*ck Club: Con by Shiloh Walker

Review:  F*ck Club: Con by Shiloh Walker F*ck Club: Con Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: If you haven’t read Riley’s book, get on that. It sets up the premise for the series wonderfully. But, here’s what’s going on. Riley & Con are male escorts…with benefits. Their friend, Shame, was part of the operation. Riley concocted this business to make ends meet when he took guardianship of his two younger siblings when their parents died in a car crash as he built up their legit business, a bar. When their sketchy business fell under scrutiny of law enforcement—and Riley had a love interest come into his life (again)—the F*ck Club disbanded and they’ve flown under the radar of the cops. There’s more that happens, but you’ll have to read Riley’s book to find out. 🙂 Con is the middle child, and he’s really in-tune with what’s going on with his sibs. He sees more than people want him to, at times, and he’s learned to keep it to himself, mostly. Then, Shawntelle comes into his life as a bartender in his bar. Unfortunately, Con has vowed to never sleep with their employees (good man, that Con). And their attraction is crazy intense. Boo. But Con’s SpideySenses are all a-tingle because there’s something Shawntelle is hiding. And he doesn’t like it. He dismisses his intuition, though. Gah! It’s really hard to review a Shiloh Walker book without spoilers. What I liked about this little novella was that it was fast-paced. Before I knew it, I’d read the whole thing and had that satisfied smirk on my face. Mr. VampBard pretty much says, “Done with your book? That good?” now. I loved how the story between Con and Shawntelle played out. There were things that surprised me, and things that made me tear up. Seeing the growth in Con—as well as Shawntelle—was satisfying…and the sexy times were HOT! I honestly can’t wait to get my hands on Shame’s book after reading Con’s. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: After a run-in with a cop, former male escort Con, along with his brother Riley and best friend Shame, decided it might just be best to hang up their…hats and retire from the business of being paid to pleasure. After all, they have a profitable business going with their new pub. No reason to ruin a good thing and Con is more than happy to keep pleasing the ladies—just…no longer as a job....
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May
3

Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey

Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey Too Hard to Forget Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I may have devoured Peggy’s story in one sitting. I may have actually re-read parts, too. When reading the Romancing the Clarksons series by Tessa Bailey, I’m entranced by the familial connection, the depth of the characters, and the build up to the next book, Too Beautiful to Break—Belmont & Sage’s book. While we’re three-deep in the series already, if one were to jump in right here, there’s some lost backstory and outcomes for two other siblings—and the buildup to the final title in the series—but it could be read on its own. Readers will most likely devour not only this title—Too Hard to Forget—about the little sister, Peggy, and her football coach paramour, Elliott. Who doesn’t like a well-crafted second chance story? I know I **really** like them, and Peggy & Elliott’s story was no exception. Seems like I’m running across more and more titles that push my boundaries as a reader—which is cool. It’s no secret I’m a teacher, and I have some personal rules, if you will, about my reading. I am very careful about teacher/student titles because there’s a squick factor for me that I can’t get around. Just the way I’m wired. Now, while Elliott is NOT one of Peggy’s college professors, he is employed by the university she attends and that’s grey zone for me. But, Tessa Bailey? I’ll forge on. You know, in the interest of dirty-talking, super sexy damaged dudes. In the two previous titles of the Romancing the Clarksons series, Too Hot to Handle (Rita & Jasper) and Too Wild to Tame (Aaron & Grace), we see little snippets of Peggy—who she is, and how she handles watching intimacy. It was obvious for me that she had commitment issues, and in Too Hard to Forget we learn why. Thank the gods. Peggy’s backstory was killing me. I needed it, like, immediately after reading the first book in the series. For those that haven’t read the previous two titles in the series, the Clarksons siblings’ mother died. She kept a diary, and during each leg of this journey they’re taking across the country to do a polar bear dip in the Atlantic Ocean—at her behest—a different sibling learns what their mother thought about them. What she saw beneath the layers. For some reason, Peggy intrigued me from the beginning. And I think that what really drew...
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May
3

Review: Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller

Review: Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller Borrowed Souls Author: Chelsea Mueller Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Callie’s brother Josh is in trouble and the only way to get him back alive is to do the bidding of drug lord Ford. For her task, Callie must borrow a soul from the Soul Charmer and commit a crime. But it’s not that easy. The Charmer insists Callie work for him for two weeks in exchange for the soul saying she doesn’t have enough cash to outright loan it. The Charmer is intrigued by Callie’s soul, and Callie may be getting way more than she bargained for. In Ms. Mueller’s fascinating new Soul Charmer series, souls are pawned for cash or other favors. The Soul Charmer is able to wield “soul magic,” allowing him to take souls from and place souls in bodies. One can trade their for a short time to get cash, or borrow another to sin without repercussions on your own soul. The mythology is completely unique and unlike anything I’ve read before, which is one of the reasons I was drawn to Borrowed Souls. As the first book in a new series, there is a lot of world-building, but it’s not heavy-handed or shared via info-dumping. The author leaves clues about the world in dialogue and descriptive scenes. The reader learns about soul magic as Callie is exposed to this dangerous trade. Callie is rather naive at times, even though she comes from a rough childhood and her mom is a bit of a con artist. I like that Callie has to work for her badass UF heroine status; she’s not born with powers or have innate fighting abilities. Try as she might, Callie just can’t be mean, which gives her a soft edge. Callie makes mistakes, sometimes costly ones, but she seems to learn from her situation and move forward. Callie works as part of a soul repo team for two weeks to earn a day use of a soul. The Soul Charmer pairs Callie with Derek, the muscle to shake up those who are delinquent on returning borrowed souls. Derek is the strong, silent type, but Callie forms a bond with the big guy fairly quickly. She also has difficulty hiding her attraction to Derek, and soon the pair find themselves a couple. I LOVE Derek. He’s kind and good, giving someone for Callie to trust. She’s got so little good in her life, and Derek fills all...
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May
2

Review: Cold Reign by Faith Hunter

Review: Cold Reign by Faith Hunter Cold Reign Author: Faith Hunter Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: All of the familiar players are back in the eleventh story in the Jane Yellowrock series: Jane and Beast, the Youngers, Bruiser, Leo, Edmund, Derek, Grégoire, the Robere twins, Gee, Brute, Ricky, etc. Leo, of course, is so insufferably arrogant (yet necessary) that I kind of wished Jane would just kick him, but Jane’s family, Clan Yellowrock, becomes more endearing and fascinating by the minute. This growing assemblage of personalities is my favorite part of Cold Reign, and Jane is infinitely better for their presence in her life. In Cold Reign, Jane is once again trying to stop an attack aimed at Leo Pellessier, the Mithran Master of the city of New Orleans. Despite Leo’s secrecy and manipulations, Jane is now fully aware of what might be lost if Leo falls, and knows that turning her back on it all would be far too costly for everyone, including her. To say that it’s a complex situation is a gross understatement, but Jane’s learned a thing or two since her arrival and uses it to her advantage without a flinch. As to Jane, she’s become one of my favorite characters ever, and I truly feel invested in the life she’s been building for herself. She’s got scars. Lots of them. But, she’s earned every one, and has managed to find some happiness, too. No longer the obstinate, wounded loner, she’s a richer character all-around, and in Cold Reign, it seemed more evident than in any of the previous novels. Jane’s evolution is reflected in the narrative as a whole, and Cold Reign benefits from the effect it has on the other elements of the story. There are some really funny moments sprinkled throughout, made even more so because of their irreverence and borderline impropriety, thanks to Jane’s “quirkiness”—which seems to be catching. Likewise, there’s serious romance going on here that Jane absolutely deserves, even if she’s disgusted with herself just a little. I thought it was completely wonderful. Eleven books in, and the Jane Yellowrock series keeps getting better and better. And unlike many other long-running series, it has remained consistently strong and downright riveting more often than not. Jane still stumbles occasionally, but rarely now, and her determination to learn whenever she does makes me love her even more. While Jane’s understanding of the world she’s become embroiled in continues to grow, it is her own...
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Apr
27

Review: The Chosen by J.R. Ward

Review: The Chosen by J.R. Ward The Chosen Author: J.R. Ward Reviewer: Una Rating: B What I’m Talking About: The Chosen is a novel that I have both wanted and dreaded.  This fifteenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series was to be a make or break book for me.  Suffice to say, the WARDen found and worked that special magic.  Though there are some highs and lows, overall I liked it – my crack is back! ****Needless to say, this is the 15th book in the series…if you haven’t read the series, there will be spoilers.  If you haven’t read through The Beast, there will be spoilers.  There are a few elements to the plot I will hint at since I can’t review the novel without it.  You have been warned.**** From the beginning I have never been a fan of the pairing of Layla and Xcor.  Romeo and Juliet had a more promising future than these two.  At the beginning of the series, Layla was endearing.  Quirky and sickeningly sweet, she was the poster girl for a Chosen.  Once liberated by the Primale, Layla floundered.  However, she still seemed to have the best interests of the species at heart. Once she was duped by Xcor, however, and all but threw herself into his machinations, I was irritated.  Layla went from being selfless to selfish.  I kept waiting for her liaisons with Xcor to be discovered, her betrayal of her “family” brought to light, the train she fought so hard to get on was going to wreck, it was just a question or when and the amount of collateral damage.  It does early in the novel and it is HUGE.  I found myself torn from feeling sorry for Layla and being angry. Xcor rubbed me the wrong way from the first moment we met him.  I did not believe that I could understand him nor root for him.  As the novel begins, we experience Xcor’s parents at the dawn of his birth.  I never thought Xcor’s life would have been easy, I expected it to be tragic – I wasn’t prepared for how awful it was.  Xcor is a male of worth from birth, but the environments he was raised in, honed him into the male he became.  I feel that it was not his meeting Layla that transformed him, contrary to his belief.  It was the revelation in Payne’s book that he is not the son of the Bloodletter that is the catalyst...
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Apr
26

Review: To Me I Wed by K.M. Jackson

Review: To Me I Wed by K.M. Jackson To Me I Wed Author: K.M. Jackson Reviewer: Jen Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Two peas in a pod are Lily Perry and Vincent Caro. Both struggling small-business owners who are happy with their relationship-free lifestyles. Lily is a successful event planner who has pulled off amazing parties for her several sisters, living up to the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” lifestyle. Vin recently opened his own restaurant in memory of his mother who always shared her joy of cooking with him. The pair hooked up a while back, and even though it was an intense evening, neither called for a second chance. However, when Lily sees Vin at her sister’s wedding, sparks ignite and neither can rest until they see the attraction through. To Me I Wed is the second story in Ms. Jackson’s Unconventional Bride series, and unconventional is the best word to describe Lily’s plans. Doing research, Lily comes across an article how a woman, ready to show the world she’s good just as she is, married herself. At first Lily sees this as a potential business opportunity – which I can appreciate. But then she internalizes it, seeing herself in this woman. She gets swept up in the idea, immediately calling her assistant, Tori, and getting Vin’s restaurant to host it! I have to say, I struggled with Lily. I understood her desire to show the world she’s all good as is. But I had a lot of trouble getting behind the concept of marrying herself. I had hoped it would have been a funny/silly storyline, but Lily was kind of obsessive about her life and the wedding. It was an “I’m gonna show them” kind of thing. She was so serious, not having fun with it at all, which actually made her come off as desperate – not for a man – but for people to believe she’s “okay” as she is. Similarly, we got a lot of how “okay” Vin is, yet he’s clearly still dealing with his mother’s death and his own father-issues. I loved that he genuinely cares for Lily and pushed her until she gave into her desire. But then their relationship coasts… and when one got too close to the other, they would blow up and push apart. As much as they were falling into one another, they both had serious walls. And we didn’t really see them ever open up to one another. They danced around...
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