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Feb
25

Review: The Unicorn by Delphine Dryden

Review: The Unicorn by Delphine Dryden The Unicorn Author: Delphine Dryden Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Mara Tyndall is unhappy, but she tries to fill the void in her life with scenes at Club Onyx and her beautiful ex. Knowing Mara is unhappy, Mistress Amie pushes Mara into trying out a new club, where she may be able to figure out what she wants from life. Daniel and Delia are happily married, but lately, they feel something is missing in their relationship. While they are exploring their mutual desire to add kink into their sex lives, they are struggling to make it all come together. When it is suggested they try a new club in town, they decide to take a chance, and after spending one evening with Mara, they both know they want more. The Unicorn shares the story of an unconventional romance, pushing the definition of love beyond society’s norms. Daniel and Delia are in love, but recognize that they want more, and each is secure in their love to explore possibilities. With the story shared from all three character’s POVs, it allows the reader to grasp a better understanding of each person’s fears and desires. While communication break downs lead to a deeper anxiety, it is completely normal and relatable. While a reader may not be able to relate to the situation, I feel that most people will be able to relate to one of the characters. First there is Mara who is comfortable with her sexuality, but missing love. She can’t marry her dark needs for pain and submission to finding a partner whom she can also just snuggle with and love. Then there is Delia, the wife who is always in charge of the day-to-day and can’t let go when she most needs it. She has trouble seeing her husband as her Dom because her mind can’t shut down, always worrying about things like the HOA or if she put the wet clothes into the dryer. Finally there is Daniel, who is afraid of showing his true inner self and needs because he’s been conditioned it’s wrong. He lacks the self-confidence to explore those desires, therefore his inner-Dom suffers. Each character is missing something and it isn’t until the three are together that the pieces begin to click and fall into place. And once that happens, not only do they find complete sexual satisfaction, but their lives become richer and fuller. The Unicorn is an erotic...
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Feb
25

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Mercy Thompson Universe Author: Patricia Briggs Narrator: Lorelei King + Alexander Cendese Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Mercy Thompson, Alpha & Omega Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased Shifting Shadows Shifting Shadows is a multi-story anthology of tales from the world of Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series. The book really isn’t meant for those who aren’t familiar with the series, and some of the tales will be spoilerish if you haven’t read/listened to the books through Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8). The stories are told in chronological order, with some narrated by Alexander Cendese (AC) and others by Lorelei King (LK). In between each story, Lorelei King narrates a short message about the upcoming story written by Ms. Briggs. Here are my thoughts on each story. While I listened to the stories in order (numbered below), they are listed as they appear in the book blurb. This book includes the new stories… 1) “Silver” Narrator: AC This is an origin story and a long, long ago prequel to MT #5 Silver Borne. It shares how Bran and Samuel became werewolves and outlines the first time Samuel and Ariana met and fell in love. The tale is dark and haunting, but the way it is written and narrated, it felt more like a recounting of history instead of a solid story with a plot; like I’m being told a story rather than immersed in it. The narration was good but nothing great. I liked the Cornish accents. The story was left very open, but having read the series, I know what becomes of the characters.. B/B- 7) “Roses in Winter” Narrator: LK Takes place between Bone Crossed and Silver Borne. It’s the story of Cara who’s dad appealed to Mercy for help in second book, Blood Bound. Cara was attacked and turned into a werewolf when she was only ten and survived. She’s now living with Bran’s pack and is befriending the lone wolf, Asil. This is absolutely one of the best stories of the bunch. It is the tale of two lost souls finding happiness and comfort together as Asil takes Cara under his wing and shares his garden. It is very emotional and powerful, but more so because I know the characters having listening to both series. I loved this one. A+ 9) “Redemption” Narrator: LK This one is all about Ben, one of Adam’s wolves who is sort...
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Feb
24

Review: A Covert Affair by Katie Reus

Review: A Covert Affair by Katie Reus A Covert Affair Author: Katie Reus Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B What We’re Talking About: A Covert Affair is the fifth offering in the Deadly Ops series.  This romantic suspense series follows ultra-secretive NSA operatives as they combat evil (both domestic and foreign) while finding their soulmates along the way.  Gikany and Una overall liked the story of Nathan and Amelia. In this installment we follow Nathan, an operative who was wounded in the previous novel.  He has recovered and is returning to duty on a mission that reconnects him to his lost love, Amelia.  When they were young, Amelia broke Nathan’s heart and it seems neither of their hearts has recovered.  Nathan wants to know why Amelia ended things so they can have a fresh start.  Amelia is afraid once Nathan knows the truth, she will lose him forever.  Further complicating the rekindling of their romance, Amelia is connected to a suspect and Nathan’s boss wants to use her to gain information about him.  Although Amelia is a civilian, she is tough, smart, determined and capable of handling this subterfuge.  However, there is more at play than it seems and someone has Amelia in their deadly sights. We truly enjoyed Amelia and Nathan’s journey.  Their previous connection gave a foundation and depth to the sizzling attraction we experienced.  Although the reason for Amelia’s abrupt dissolution of her relationship with Nathan was easily figured out, Nathan’s reaction was not.  We liked that what Amelia feared would be an unforgivable offense was neither trivialized nor overly played.  Both showed maturity, though they did lack some open and honest communication, and being privy to their individual thoughts gave credence to their reactions.  Their story is what kept Gikany and Una glued to the page. The story about the missing women, however, was not quite to our liking.  This was partially due to how the plot line played out, but mostly because the motivation behind the missing women was depraved and creepy.  Without giving anything away, it seemed the antagonists did not thoroughly grasp the ramifications of their nefarious plot.  It would have made more sense to have preserved more of the victims, thus keeping their operation better hidden.  The mastermind behind the operation was surprising, however.  Although it is well foreshadowed, it was easy to dismiss this character. Although it is not clear whom the next book will focus on, we look forward to reading the next suspenseful installment in...
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Feb
24

Review: Strong Signal by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell

Review: Strong Signal by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Strong Signal Authors: Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Garrett Reid has a long way to go until the end of his latest—and last—deployment. All he wants to do is to put in his hours working on the vehicles at the base and log some time on his favorite MMORPG. But, the untimely demise of his character at the hands of a ringer leads him on a quest for payback that turns into something entirely unexpected. Gamer extraordinaire Kai Bannon is mostly happy in his carefully constructed world. He’s got a highly successful Twitch stream, a steady income from several gaming companies, and a loyal following that provides him with plenty of backup whenever the creeps come out to play. But when a surly Army mechanic reaches out from halfway around the globe, Kai can’t help but want more of what the man is offering. It would be perfect if the idea of venturing beyond the walls of his apartment didn’t leave him shaking in a cold sweat. I had been itching to get my hands on this story since the moment it was teased online a couple of months ago, and I’m very happy to say it was better than I imagined it would be. Strong Signal absolutely nails the intricacies of online relationships, and wonderfully validates the potential to form genuine connections with others that would never be possible in the “real world.” As someone who has made several of my most meaningful friendships via the internet, I couldn’t agree more. In this first offering from what is sure to be an exceptionally relatable and compelling series, Ms. Erickson and Mr. Hassell tackle a lot of simple truths about the bonds that are sometimes formed on the internet, and do so in a matter-of-fact way that made perfect sense to me. The emotions themselves might be complicated, but the fact that they manifest legitimately is not. Though it certainly isn’t a flawless system, the boundless essence of the internet offers Kai and Garrett more opportunities to explore their own natures in ways that simply aren’t possible where an abundance of physical proximity extinguishes the desire or ability to do so. Fairly early in the story, Garrett says: “But things were different via email. The words just came out.” I found both Garrett and Kai to be frustrating, entertaining, and enormously likable characters. They are so different in many ways, and yet they...
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Feb
23

Review: Fully Ignited by Shannon Stacey

Review: Fully Ignited by Shannon Stacey Fully Ignited Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Following along the heels of the previous two books, Fully Ignited opens about six weeks since Engine 59 lieutenant, Danny, was injured on the job and is still out recovering. Scott Kincaid recognizes the crew misses Danny and has no chemistry with the current temp lieutenant, so he’s happy to find out a new temp is set to fill in at E-59, even when he discovers Jamie is a woman. Jamie Rutherford is the new temporary lieutenant for E-59. Being a ranking female in a primarily male-dominated field, she knows she has to be above the board at all times, or her reputation will be questioned and suffer. She is immediately accepted by the guys (because they are all the good ones!), and she feels comfortable with the group. She’s also aware that she’s attracted to one of her guys, something that’s never happened before. Now Scotty and Jamie must to decide if exploring their mutual attraction is worth the risks. Okay, I need to say this right up front. I seriously cringe when a book features an employee-employer romance. There are so many reasons it can and should go wrong, and often authors don’t treat the situation with the seriousness it deserves. However, Ms. Stacey does a wonderful job addressing the potential pitfalls and develops a wonderful story along the way. I love Jamie. Not only is she a strong female character, she is a wonderful role model. She doesn’t kid herself when it comes to the discrepancies between males and females in her position, fully understanding and reluctantly accepting of the unfairness as part of the job. I also love that she realizes she has no coping mechanisms for dealing with her attraction to Scotty. She makes no excuses, and her team respects her for it. As does Scotty, so when he screws up, it hurts Jamie even more than if it had been anyone else. And wow, does Scotty blow it! I was a little frustrated that he did what he did and didn’t communicate better, because they’d been up front with one another for most of the book. But I’ll tell you right now, I cried big, sloppy tears. There is a scene in this book that is utterly amazing, seriously a work of genius; however, I won’t quote it for fear of spoilers. But it’s honest-to-goodness one of the best...
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Feb
22

Review: You and Only You by Sharon Sala

Review: You and Only You by Sharon Sala You and Only You Author: Sharon Sala Reviewer: Nima Rating: B- You and Only You was originally published as the stand-alone book, Curl Up and Dye, released in February 2014. It appears that Sala is going forward with this as the first book in her new Blessings, Georgia series, named after the small town where her characters call home.  Unfortunately after a weak opening paragraph, the story really doesn’t get much better.  It is filled with clichés, repetition, and caricatures. LilyAnn Bronte lost her high school sweetheart and then lost herself. Everyone around her treats her like a child and this goes on for y-e-a-r-s. In all that time, no one, including her parents, seems to push her into adulthood.  In the name of compassion, she’s allowed to wallow, let herself go, and drift through her life. Meanwhile, her next door neighbor, Mike Dalton, has been pining for her since the 10th grade.  He does pull off sympathetic, but sometimes crosses over into the stalker zone as he skirts LilyAnn’s world without ever making his case.  There just isn’t a lot of character depth with LilyAnn, Mike, or any of the other townsfolk. It reads sweet.  It’s not a hot and steamy novel although there is some sex in passing.  There is also a rape which felt too harsh for the overall tone of the book.  Either it’s edgy or it’s not. Trying to be both doesn’t really come off well. The overall story isn’t bad.  It has potential which I hope will be realized with some more depth in future books, but this one was just “okay.” My Rating: B- Liked It, but I had a few small issues About the Book: Mike Dalton has secretly loved LilyAnn Bronte since they were all children together in the small town of Blessings, Georgia. But one fateful day T.J. Lachlan roars into town and starts showering LilyAnn with his charm, and Mike feels his dream of them being more than friends slipping away. LilyAnn, as anyone in Blessings will tell you, let herself go after her fiancée was killed in Iraq. The attention of the handsome new guy shocks her into a revelation: she’s ready to live again, and maybe the best is yet to come. The thing is, everybody in Blessings is sure it’s Mike and LilyAnn who belong together-and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make LilyAnn realize the love of her life has been by...
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Feb
18

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Death Masks by Jim Butcher

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Death Masks by Jim Butcher Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Dresden Files #5 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: purchased Death Masks Death Masks is my favorite Dresden Files book to date. Bringing together a good mystery, freaky supernatural beings, and all my favorite characters, Death Masks brings home a solid story with heart. Ortega, Duke of the Red Vampire Court, comes to town to kill Dresden and stop the war between the Red Court and the White Wizard Counsel. He vows that if Dresden accepts a fair duel (to the death), and Dresden wins, Chicago will become a neutral territory, with his friends off limits (as long as they are in Chicago). Suspicious of his true intentions, Harry feels him must accept the terms Ortega offers. Meanwhile, the Vatican sent a priest to Chicago in hopes of retrieving a famous artifact that was stolen from Northern Italy and brought to Chicago. Against the direct recommendations of his friend Michael and fellow Knights of the Cross, Harry accepts the task of finding the missing shroud. Toss in the fact that Harry’s lover, Susan, has returned to town to say goodbye, and Harry finds himself in yet another crazy mess. Not only are the two stories equally compelling, but the overall book is full of heart. Dresden has cleaned up his act, and learn from his last adventure that friends do matter. Harry hasn’t changed significantly, but he’s no longer isolating himself. He has wonderful dialogue and scenes with other characters that add tremendous value to the stories. Additionally, more emotion in Dresden translates into more emotion in me, causing me to care deeply about what happens to the various characters. The other positive in Death Masks is that we see hidden sides and different aspects of several characters. The added depth makes me only want more and more. Plus, there were bits and pieces tossed out there, never really addressed, leaving openings for many potentially wondrous and horrible things to come. Once again, the narration by James Marsters is amazing. His performance of Harry alone is sublime, but his range of voices and depth of expressions only seems to be expanding. Mr. Marsters really nailed young children and various accents in this one. In the end I really, really enjoyed Death Masks! We got to see a more human and emotional Dresden. I was completely engaged both with both...
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Feb
17

Review + Excerpt + Giveaway: Bitter Bite by Jennifer Estep

Review + Excerpt + Giveaway: Bitter Bite by Jennifer Estep Bitter Bite Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Note: this review contains spoilers from the end of the previous book, Spider’s Trap. Finding out that her foster brother, Finn’s mother is alive after believing she was dead his whole life, Gin debates on how to best share the news with Finn. However, mommy-dearest doesn’t stay away from Ashland for long, and soon Gin must figure out what Deirdre is up to before she destroys Finn in the process of her latest scheme. Yet, maybe for once, Gin’s suspicions aren’t well-founded, and Finn will finally have the mother he’s longed for his entire life. Nah… Gin’s always right, isn’t she? Bitter Bite is the fourteenth title in the always exciting Elemental Assassin series. The books blend action and adventure with smart plot development and amazing storytelling, to give readers a thrilling ride. I honestly love each book, and Bitter Bite is on par with its companion stories. However, reading it was so stressful: in my head, I knew everything *should* work out in the end, but while reading, I was worried what the cost would be to Gin – physically, mentally, emotionally.  Ms. Estep keeps her stories fresh and entertaining, even though each book tends to have a few repetitive qualities. What I love is that in Bitter Bite, Ms. Estep actually brings up Gin’s predictability in a clever, round about way. And I sincerely hope it gives Gin pause in the future as she contends with a new big bad, introduced at the end of the book. I will admit that about one-third of the way thought the book, I started having doubts as I witnessed Finn ignore Gin’s concerns over his mother suddenly appearing back in Ashland. I thought to myself, not again – we’ve been through this before, most recently with Owen. But once again, Ms. Estep takes something obvious and puts a unique spin on the story. I loved that she addresses my concerns via a wonderful scene involving Owen and Finn, and later in the story, when Finn and Gin have a heart-to-heart. Similarly, what could have been a repeat of a robbery scene from a previous book was taken to a whole new level in Bitter Bite. What I love most about this series, and what made Bitter Bite all the more (better), is watching Gin grow and mature over the course of fourteen titles. It’s amazing to...
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Feb
16

Review: The Shadow by Sylvain Reynard

Review: The Shadow by Sylvain Reynard The Shadow Author: Sylvain Reynard Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: There’s a few things that will keep me reading a book and/or series. One of them is referencing historical figures in an alternate manner/universe. Author Sylvain Reynard has piqued my interest with The Florentine series. The second full novel in the series, The Shadow, makes reference to a plethora of interesting historical figures I’ve studied either in college or independently (because I’m a geek like that). By putting several historical figures, including William of York and Niccolo Machiavelli, in vampyric roles, my mind tends to wander and easily buy-into the world-building. This is by no means a work of historical fiction—The Shadow, and all of The Florentine series thus far, is set in modern times. Oh. And the series needs to be read in order. Don’t jump around. As vampyres, York and Machiavelli maintain their archaic language patterns, tempered by the modern-day setting. While readers won’t enjoy the hilarious image of either exclaiming, “YOLO!”, those enjoying more formal language will be completely engaged…or maybe it’s only me. I’m weird that way. I found myself flip-flopping a lot while I read The Shadow. I was still completely enamored by William and Raven’s romance, and the fact that William was so besotted by Raven. I still find it interesting, their relationship, because they seem such an unlikely couple. Don’t get me wrong—they’re a believable couple, just not the pairing I’d make. It seems they have a few extremely different beliefs regarding several things. But, I am still in leap-of-faith mode regarding this series, so it works for me. I think one of the reasons the series works so well for me is bits like this: “Love is deep.” His rich voice echoed in the bathroom. “Love is having the power to destroy another person.” William stepped closer. “Are you afraid of being destroyed?” “Destroyed, consumed, betrayed.” She [Raven] fidgeted with the neckline of her gown. William placed his hand over hers, stilling it. “Love creates; it doesn’t destroy.” While these are really global statements that could be made by any two main characters in a romance novel, they’re especially poignant coming from William and Raven. As they navigate the rekindling of their romance, forces beyond their bubble of happiness threaten to blow things to smithereens. I think the parts that were ‘the best’ for me were those involving William and Raven. While I liked learning some of the...
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Feb
16

Review + Giveaway: How the Cookie Crumbles by Jaime Samms

Review + Giveaway: How the Cookie Crumbles by Jaime Samms How the Cookie Crumbles Author: Jaime Samms Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Having survived an adolescence filled with loss and uncertainty, Frederick Jackson thought he’d seen his share of heartache. But, being betrayed by the man he’d grown to care for—along with getting cheated out of a well-earned win on a popular cooking show—proved him wrong. Running away to build his dream in the small town of Bluewater Bay seemed like a great idea. At least, until his past not only catches up with him, but moves in across the street. Blaire Caruthers might have been raised by a domineering, unscrupulous father, but now all he wants to do is escape the man’s control and right the wrongs of the past. Of course, winning back the man he sold out for a flashy diversion and higher ratings is at the top of his list. But, no matter how deeply he regrets the harm he’s caused, Blaire learns that trust broken isn’t easily restored, and that some battles simply aren’t his to fight, much less win. Not surprisingly, I found Frederick to be the easier of the two main characters to like. He’s a survivor, and he inspires a fierce loyalty in those who know and love him. He’s also thoughtful, compassionate, shy, determined—nearly perfect as sympathetic characters go. Far from being predictable or two-dimensional, however, Frederick is also fighting a very personal demon of his own, the nature of which the author allows to build gradually, until I felt like I could truly appreciate the scope of what Frederick is constantly battling. Blaire, on the other hand, I absolutely loathed by the second chapter. His shared history with Frederick ensured my opinion of him as the “bad guy,” an impression that took quite some time to reverse. He has no excuses, but, to his credit, Blaire doesn’t really try to make any. He wants another chance, even though he knows he doesn’t deserve it. Still, if it’s possible to earn forgiveness, then he does about as well as anyone in his situation could. Though he makes mistakes, he comes through for Frederick when he needs him most, which went a long way towards winning me back over. In the end, I couldn’t help but wish that everything would work out for Blaire as much as Frederick. The Bluewater Bay series has provided some wonderfully memorable characters, and this addition is no exception. I’m always excited when...
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