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Sep
29

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book: Hounded Author: Kevin Hearne Narrator: Luke Daniels Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #1 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: contest win Hounded The Iron Druid Chronicles follow the life of a 2,000+ year old Druid named Atticus O’Sullivan (not his given name, but most recent alias). Atticus is the only remaining Druid from a time long gone by, hiding out from Angus Og, the Celtic god of love and youth, who wants to kill Atticus for a perceived wrong-doing. In Atticus’s world, every deity, Fae, witch, and paranormal creature is very real. Posing as a twenty-something new-age bookstore owner, Atticus has remained hidden in the East Valley/Tempe region of Arizona. However, powerful Fae are playing a game of politics, and Atticus finds himself in the center of their machinations. The Iron Druid Chronicles were recommended to me by a couple of my urban fantasy-audiobook friends, and I am happy to report that so far, it’s a winner. Although I was expecting something along the lines of either the Mercy Thompson series or the Dresden Files, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a unique and interesting mythology. This first offering, Hounded, serves to develop the extremely detailed mythology and introduce what I assume with be the key players throughout the series. The primary focus of the story is the impending battle between Angus Og and Atticus, with each step serving to share more of the Iron Druid’s world. Although I would have like a little bit stronger story, the fresh and unique mythology kept me more than interested in the tale. Additionally, I enjoyed Googling the different Celtic deities to find out more about each and add that knowledge to the context of the story. The story (and series) is read by Luke Daniels, a new-to-me narrator. Overall, I felt he did a solid job. His performance as the narrator/Atticus is spot on; a youthful voice, tempered by years of knowledge and wisdom. I also found his voice for Atticus’s more-than-a-dog, Oberon, perfect with a gruffness one would expect from a dog that can (mentally) speak. Sometimes I found Atticus a bit too calm, but not negatively so. Daniels has a nice range for both female and male, human and non-human characters. Overall, Hounded is a good start to an interesting UF series. I enjoyed the world development and character interaction. I really liked Atticus: a...
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Sep
28

Review: School Ties by Tamsen Parker

Review: School Ties by Tamsen Parker School Ties Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: When I started reading School Ties by Tamsen Parker, I thought I was going to have to tap out about halfway through. Erin is a math teacher at a private boys’ school. She has the hots for one of her students, but does nothing about it (good girl, Erin). Since it’s a dual POV story, we find out Shep (nickname) is seriously crushing on her, too. And **something** happens almost immediately after Shep graduates. But I didn’t tap out. I did have the heebies (um, hello?!? Teacher), but got over them pretty quickly once I hit the second half of the book. I’m glad I trusted Ms. Parker to be sure her readers knew if there was something with extra squick factor. Readers also need to be aware of a miscarriage. Both Shep and Erin had HUGE phases of growth through the title. I was impressed at how realistic things were and ended up cheering for them to get together. Erin is a bit like me, I’ll admit. She has this huge sense of propriety while she’s working, and hides a curiosity for BDSM—in a collection of novels underneath her bed. Her positive outlook—although it gets a workout during the story—seems to be one of her strengths. Her responsibilities are to herself and to Hawthorne, the school where she teaches. Her memories of being on campus keep her rooted there, as she grew up the gypsy lifestyle. She endures several situations during the story to get her HEA. And OMG! I was totally cheering her on in several places. I adored her strength and her ability to move on. However, she does allow past experiences to cloud her vision when it comes to Shep a few times. Shep is pretty much the polar opposite of Erin. He’s heaped with self-placed responsibility from the get-go due to his family and financial situation. Also, at school, he’s a leader in both the academic and athletic communities, and needs to live up to those expectations. When he graduates and goes off to college, we end up seeing the real Shep in brief glimpses. He’s the perpetual do-gooder. Seriously. He manages to fall into an experience that helps define his life, and readers are only treated to glimpses and shadows of his three years of college—but it’s enough. Broody, and Alpha, Shep has a plan. Oh. Did I mention he’s...
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Sep
27

Review: The Goal by Elle Kennedy

Review: The Goal by Elle Kennedy The Goal Author: Elle Kennedy Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Everyone who has followed the Off-Campus series knows about the huge bomb dropped at the end of book three, The Score. With the biggest of all spoilers already out there, where did Kennedy have to go?  Everyone already hated Sabrina James; how do you make her sympathetic?  Everyone already loved gentle, pink-aproned John Tucker; how do you hoist someone like Sabrina on him and justify it? Leave it to the skill of Elle Kennedy to make it work.  I think she knew right where this story was going way back in book one, The Deal. The timeline in The Goal overlaps The Score, Dean and Allie’s story, running nearly parallel and up to the point of the epilogue in book two, The Mistake.  Significant details in that installment are significant in this one as well, we just get to see them from other perspectives. The expansion gives more depth to both books. In The Goal, we learn about Sabrina’s motives and how her life has shaped the person who has had venomous interactions with Dean.  She becomes sympathetic as soon as we see her in her home environment. The reader is rooting for her before she knows it.  Like Tucker who sees through her hard shell of independence, we know she’s hiding a soft, vulnerable interior.  In fact, I wanted to tell Dean, who is my least favorite of the four roommates, to pull his head out.  Given his stellar fall into stupidity in The Score, he’s the last person who should be passing judgement on others. Thankfully, she has Tucker. John Tucker.  Sigh.  Up until this book, Tucker has mostly been a peripheral character.  Gingers have not typically been written as the erotic hottie so if your imagination needs a little help, just Google images of Seth Fornea or Matthias Panitz. Better yet, check out Thomas Knights Red Hot Exhibition.  Then add the patience of Job and southern accent. How did this Texas born southern gentleman, who loves his mother and respects women, end up with an ice hockey scholarship in Massachusetts? What on Earth does he see in Sabrina James?  We get answers to these questions and more. If there’s anything that Kennedy does well, it’s to write authentic emotions.  She always gets that spot on. Of course she does it with her trademark humor.  Kennedy seems to have a hilarious understanding that penises...
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Sep
26

Q&A + Review: The Bloodsworn by Erin Lindsey

Q&A + Review: The Bloodsworn by Erin Lindsey The Bloodsworn Author: Erin Lindsey Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A-  What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una have waited somewhat impatiently for the final book in this Bloodbound trilogy.  We were not disappointed.  The Bloodsworn is our favorite book of the series. What makes this series so captivating is the characters.  All three main characters (Alix, Liam, and Erik) developed over the course of the three novels.  Gikany and Una enjoyed discussing the changes that Alix, Liam and Erik each underwent as the series progressed.  We watched them grow in both confidence and decisiveness.  The heartache they felt after making tough choices grounded the novel.  Not only do the characters have depth, but their individual journeys also help connect the reader to the story. A theme that runs through the entire series is the necessity of choosing to be a good man or a good king.  Sometimes the choice a king faces means deciding between doing what his conscience dictates and what is best for his kingdom.  At first glance it seems they would be the same thing, but this series explores how it is not always so.  It was fascinating to watch as Alix and Liam not only supported Erik as he faced these decisions, but as they faced them as well. We enjoyed the multifaceted mythologies, politics, and cultures of Alden and the surrounding kingdoms.  It was gripping to watch as Alix navigated another kingdom and its culture as she tried to save her king and kingdom.  The suspense of her adventure behind enemy lines was nail biting. The Bloodsworn is an engrossing and captivating final novel.  We were on the edge of our seats while our heroes fought against formidable odds to save Erik and the kingdom.  Their loyalty and courage were awe-inspiring.  If you enjoy suspenseful fantasy with politics and war, you should read the Bloodbound series.  We look forward to more from this author. Our Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot Our Series Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot / B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: The bonds of family, love and loyalty are pushed to their limits in this thrilling conclusion to the epic saga started in The Bloodbound… As the war between Alden and Oridia draws to its conclusion, the fates of both kingdoms rest on the actions of a select group of individuals—and, of course, the unbreakable bonds of blood.. Unbeknownst to most of Alden, King Erik, in thrall to...
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Sep
26

Review + Excerpt: The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis

Review + Excerpt: The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis The Trouble with Mistletoe Author: Jill Shalvis Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Willa Davis, lover of animals, runs a successful pet boutique. She had a rough childhood, in and out of foster care, but she’s turned her life around; seeing the positive in everyone and everything. She believes in second chances, except maybe when it comes to Keane Winters, the boy who stood her up in high school, regardless of how sexy he is now. Keane Winters, now a successful contractor, was just a teen when he stood up Willa for the Sadie Hawkins dance her freshman year of high school. The funny/sad thing is… he doesn’t recognize Willa one bit. Has no clue of their history or why she would be short with him. However, her feisty attitude is only one of the many things he finds attractive. The Trouble with Mistletoe, Ms. Shalvis’s second offering in her delightful Heartbreaker Bay series, shares the story of Willa and Keane, two individuals with enough baggage and cynicism to keep away anyone looking for a long-term relationship. However, the power of attraction, on both a physical and emotional level, punches through their tough exteriors, allowing for a friends-and-lovers situation. I admire both characters’ independence, coupled with strong friendships, that they’ve used to help cultivate a healthy adulthood. Both genuinely generous and kind, they vacillate between mutual feelings of one-night-stand lust and wanting more-than-friends, not wanting to hurt the other, but not wanting to be hurt. Their relationship takes time to develop, which is appropriate both because of their individual histories and fear of relationships, as well as the desire to be friends and like one another before acting on their desires. I appreciate that both characters are open and honest to a realistic degree (we all keep somethings to ourselves), and don’t seem to judge each other based on the past or potential misunderstandings. The only somewhat negative on my end is that Willa and Keane’s relationship has a lot of back and forth, hot and cold. It is understandable, given the individual histories of both involved; however, near the end I became tired of the wishy-washy feelings expressed by both Keane and Willa. They shared an immense attraction and the fear of being hurt and/or commitment is legit, but the back and forth went on about one too many times. In the end,The Trouble with Mistletoe is a sweet and spicy contemporary romance. Don’t let...
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Sep
22

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Small Favor by Jim Butcher

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Small Favor by Jim Butcher Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Book: Small Favor Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Dresden Files #10 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: library loan Small Favor Once again, Harry Dresden, Wizard and Protector of Chicago, finds himself under the service of the Fae Winter Queen, Mab. This time around, she’s summoned him to find newly-minted Baron Johnny Marcone, who was kidnapped by an ancient enemy. However this puts him at odds with the Summer Queen, who has sent her champions to slay Harry. Oh I did enjoy Small Favor, even during the times I was confused and a bit lost. Harry’s world is slowly changing in fits and starts, and I am enjoying the journey. Harry’s fallen angel nemesis is back with an entourage, and meanwhile, he must also fight off the Fae and work with Marcone’s top enforcers. There was a lot going on, and sometimes I needed to rewind and listen again to make sure I had it all. On top of figuring out how to get back Marcone AND stay alive, Harry realizes his friends don’t necessarily trust him. This, along with having Kincaid back in Murphy’s life, created a lot of emotional content, and I will admit that I found myself tearing up (and down right crying) at times. I loved the mix of the strong emotional pulls, strung together with high action, dry humor, and clever storytelling. And I honestly didn’t think that James Marsters could improve his work as Harry Dresden, but I was wrong! There is more than one highly emotional scene in Small Favor, and Marsters elevated his performance to match the content. In particular, there is one extremely powerful scene that brought me to tears as Marsters bellows Harry’s frustrations and fears. You could hear and feel the anger and grief in his voice. Simply amazing. Small Favor brings about more of the changes that seem to be surrounding Harry. I like that his friends have his back, even if it’s in question during this adventure. Although there is a lot going on, carrying some confusion with it, the emotional intensity elevated Small Favor to one of the best in the series. Story: A Narration:...
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Sep
21

Review: Gilt Hollow by Lorie Langdon

Review: Gilt Hollow by Lorie Langdon Gilt Hollow Author: Lorie Langdon Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Author Lorie Langdon steps away from the fun and fantasy of her Doon Series to a darker who-done-it mystery in Gilt Hollow.  Gilt Hollow is the name of a quirky little town in Ohio that embraces artistic, creative types, but still has the well-known suburban markers that govern teenage life.  Four years before the story begins, five friends on a camping trip dare each other to jump from a cliff into the river below.  One of them gets pushed, but the one who went to jail for the murder, Ashton Keller, wasn’t the one who did the pushing…or was he? As the story opens, Ashton comes back from years in juvenile lock-up a changed young man.  No longer the innocent boy who was taken away by police all those years ago, he’s determined to clear his name.  Ashton appeared to be a broody stereotype, but was in reality a sympathetic character.  I liked him and cared about the choices he was making. Willow Lamott is Ashton’s best friend, maybe only friend, in the whole wide world—and that includes his parents.  She just wants to be ordinary, go on a date, attend football games, get good grades, and not be the best friend of a murderer.  There’s still a soft spot in her heart for Ashton though and when he comes back, he turns her world upside-down.  Willow reads as smart, but not inappropriately so for her age.  She’s believable as teenager girl and comes across as entirely normal rather than a caricature of the geek that doesn’t know she’s beautiful.  Langdon successfully writes teenage longing without annoying teenage angst.  That is no small feat! The story moves at medium pace, not overly rushed at the expense of humanizing details or too slow at the risk of boring readers so that they don’t finish.  The result is an intimate, interesting book. I can’t wait to see what Langdon writes next. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Willow Lamott’s best friend is a convicted killer, and no one in the small town of Gilt Hollow will let her forget it. Over four long years, she’s tried to fade into the background—but none of that matters when Ashton Keller comes striding into school, fresh out of juvie and fueled by revenge. The moment their eyes meet, Willow no longer feels invisible. Drawn to the vulnerability behind...
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Sep
21

Review: Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black

Review: Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black Ninth City Burning Author: J. Patrick Black Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: C  What We’re Talking About: Ninth City Burning is the debut novel of J. Patrick Black.  This science fiction story was fascinating and easily visualized, if only Gikany and Una enjoyed reading it. Truly, we loved the overall premise – a science fiction story about a post-apocalyptic Earth battling back an alien species in order to avoid extinction.  The discovery of a new resource, Thelemity which most of us would describe as magic, is critical in the battle between these two factions.  It is utterly engrossing.  The novel begins with the assumption that we are winning, when in fact we discover, the hard way, we may be about to lose.  We watch as Earth makes a desperate move in order to survive the approaching alien horde.  Does this sound riveting? It was in a sense. Gikany and Una really enjoyed the overall world and the premise.  We just didn’t like reading it. An on-going preference of ours is that we prefer multiple points-of-view novels written in third person.  (We apologize if this will sound awfully academic).  In third person, it is easy to move from character to character, place to place while allowing the story to flow.  However, this is a novel from seven different character’s perspectives, all written in first person.  The story suffers from a lot of “stop and go.”  Each chapter is title with the character that will be narrating.  Now some consecutive chapters are from the same viewpoint, but not always.  The story doesn’t flow well regardless of how gripping the premise.  It was difficult in the beginning to orient to the world as we were in four different perspectives of the “current” world.  There is no background or prequel summary, we just start in the middle of each of the character’s lives.  It wasn’t until about 25% where several narrators encountered each other that we were able to fully comprehend the “what” and “where” of the story, including chronology.  Though each character was unique and fascinating, we feel that not all of the points of views were necessary. The mythology was completely fascinating and intriguing.  The science involved with Thelemity – an element that we would think similar to magic — is utilized in technically advanced engineering.  There is a pivotal moment near the end that questions the war.  With the politics we encounter, it makes us wonder if it is true...
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Sep
20

Review: Too Wild to Tame by Tessa Bailey

Review: Too Wild to Tame by Tessa Bailey Too Wild to Tame Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Please don’t tell Mr. VampBard. Seriously. My one-click finger is getting a serious workout as I find more and more authors with an awesome backlist to meander my way through. Tessa Bailey is on the short list. Not kidding here, folks. I really wish I could provide you with some wonderful excerpts from Too Wild to Tame, but all the poignant ones are revelations during sexytime. They’re laced with innuendo and dirty-talking. Definitely my cuppa. I’m pretty sure some of the text in this title were flame-thrower status. Even if you haven’t read Too Hot to Handle, the first title in the Romancing the Clarksons series, you won’t be lost (I did read Rita and Jasper’s story, but I haven’t written a review… yet). While there’s a common thread—four siblings wending their way across the country from California to New York—each sib gets their own story. And their own HEA. They may not be pretty, and they may not be perfect, but the road to happiness is seldom an easy path to travel. These sibs have found their dearly departed mother’s diary—or a series of dialogues she has with herself on paper—about each of her kids. As a parent of grown (and nearly-grown) children, I often think about how they perceive me as well as themselves. I’d love to think I’ve raised them to be self-assured and confident in themselves—that their persona isn’t merely a façade to cover up a shortcoming of mine. I think that’s a fear all parents have, to be honest. One of the best gifts a parent can give their child is the gift of their words. Letting them know how we really saw them. What we caught when they didn’t think we were looking… Enough mushy stuff. We need to talk politics for a minute. No, I’m not going to endorse a presidential candidate, although that’s exactly what Aaron Clarkson does. He’s this supremely drool-worthy guy that has a silver tongue (pulling my mind out of the gutter…) and he uses it to endorse political candidates, assessing which demographic need his special brand of attention, and then launching an attack the populous never sees coming. He’s a love-’em-and-leave-’em kinda guy. Until…he falls from GRACE and has to fight his way back to the top. After all, with his powers of persuasion, this should be an easy task, right? There’s...
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Sep
20

Review + Excerpt: Strung Up by Lorelei James

Review + Excerpt: Strung Up by Lorelei James Strung Up Author: Lorelei James Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A-/B+ What I’m Talking About: Creston “Cres”, the youngest Grant brother, and until recently, a closeted gay rancher, is still coping with the sudden death of the love of his life over two years ago. In an effort to get him out of his funk, Cres’s brothers and sisters-in-law take him out to a big party where he runs into Breck Christianson, a sexy hookup from Cres’s past. Breck has spent the last two years of his life riding a crushing wave that ended his successful career and left him with few friends. Seeing Cres Grant serves to remind him of the “one that got away,” yet gives him hope for the future. I have to admit, the opening prologue of Strung Up both surprised and crushed me. I am not one to read book blurbs before I dive into a story, so it came as quite a shock that Cres’s hero is Breck, and not someone else. For those who’ve read the previous two 1,001 Dark Nights/Blacktop Cowboys tales, I think the prologue will hit you equally as hard. However difficult and shocking the opener was, it effectively drew me into this wonderful story and created a deeply emotional connection to Cres. I immediately grew to care about him and his future. Cres and Breck made for a wonderful pair. Right from their initial encounter, the couple shared an intense sexual attraction, something stemming from their brief history and made even stronger over time. I liked how the pair opened up to each other about the pain in his past, and how it impacted his life in the now. Yet no matter how honest they were with one another, each continued to hide his true feelings towards the other. This duality of honesty created delicious tension and drew out the romance just until the point where it could have become tedious. Ms. James created a perfect match with these two pained souls. Overall, Strung Up is a sexy love story about second chances. I liked the emotional intensity of the tale. It never felt rushed because the characters have been around and have an established backstory. The couple had electric chemistry both in and out of the bedroom, adding to the heightened emotional content. My Rating: A-/B+ Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Rancher Creston Grant retreats from the world after he loses the love of his life… Can his...
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