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Aug
30

Review: Three Player Game by Jaime Samms

Review: Three Player Game by Jaime Samms Three Player Game Author: Jaime Samms Reviewer: B. Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: While I generally like the Bluewater Bay series, and even though I found the previous story that revolved around these characters (How the Cookie Crumbles, Bluewater Bay #12) to be sweet as well as charming, I was considerably more conflicted about Three Player Game. As intricately tied to its predecessor as it was, I ended up stopping to do a thorough reread—which I actually enjoyed very much—in order to fill in some blanks that came up early in this story. Despite that necessity, however, this resulted in a more severe comparison between the two, which might have done more harm overall. Initially, I had a difficult time reconciling the Lee and Vince in Three Player Game with the conniving and “mousy” (respectively) personalities they exhibited in How the Cookie Crumbles. Early in Three Player Game, Vince claims that he’s more than what anyone else believes him to be, but, his saying so wasn’t enough to outweigh my doubts. It took a little while, but those misgivings were ultimately replaced by varying degrees of fondness for all three men, although Pete and Lee were my favorites. Another problem that I never was able to see past was that both Vince and Pete seemed to view Lee as a target or acquisition—no matter how precious to them he might be. Having said that, the lack of pre-existing definitions, in conjunction with Pete’s raw earnestness, helped make the affection between Pete and Lee feel more honest and easy to me. In contrast, Vince deliberately—though not with any force—overstepped Lee’s boundaries more than once, which kept me from fully accepting their connection as an entirely healthy one. Regardless, the “means to an end” nature of their actions was uncomfortable at times, and affected the entire narrative for me, as a result. Although I had a difficult time with several elements of Three Player Game, there were quite a few things that I liked, as well. One of the most important, I believe, is that the narrative doesn’t gloss over the complexities a polyamorous relationship likely entails. I felt that, while the issues these characters face are worthy of serious consideration, the author didn’t insinuate that they are applicable to everyone. I also appreciated that, while the three men eventually form a cohesive unit, the individual relationships in play within it are unique and must be treated as such by all...
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Aug
29

Review: Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

Review: Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis Snowspelled Author: Stephanie Burgis Reviewer: Una Rating: A  What I’m Talking About: Snowspelled is a delightful and intriguing short introduction to a fascinating world.  The Harwood Spellbook series has hooked me, and I eagerly await the next story. Though only a novella, I was thoroughly captivated by Cassandra and the world she lives in.  Angland is an interesting twist on a historical England.  The rigid roles of men and women – the social rules – all beautifully contrasted with a stubborn and oddly magical woman, Cassandra.  In this world, men have and wield the magic while women are the political juggernauts.  However, it’s not only the politics of people they have to worry about, but those of the Fae as well. I enjoyed watching how Cassandra tries to balance the threat/promise to the Fae Lord, her conflicting emotions concerning her ex-fiance, Wrexham, and her own meddling family.  The characters were delightful, and I loved the contrast between feelings and decorum.  I really enjoyed the juxtapositions between male and female roles as compared to our own historic understanding. Snowspelled is a delightful and gripping introduction to the world of the Harwood Spellbook series.  I eagerly look forward to following more of Cassandra’s adventures as well as the romantic conflict with her and Wrexham.  If you like an alternate historical fantasy with mystery and adventure, studded with wit, you should pick this series up. My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: In nineteenth-century Angland, magic is reserved for gentlemen while ladies attend to the more practical business of politics. But Cassandra Harwood has never followed the rules… Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life. Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good. But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks…and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago. To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness. A witty and sparkling romantic fantasy novella that opens a brand-new series for adults...
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Aug
28

Review: When the Scoundrel Sins by Anna Harrington

Review: When the Scoundrel Sins by Anna Harrington When the Scoundrel Sins Author: Anna Harrington Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The book opens six years in the past, at Annabelle’s London debut. Unfortunately, Quinton (Quinn) Carlisle couldn’t stop teasing his long-time acquaintance, leading to misunderstanding, scandal, and heartbreak. Fast forward to a month before Belle’s twenty-fifth birthday, by which she must marry, or lose her home and security. Quinn is beguiled by Annabelle, and he loves to tease her to light her inner fire. He can’t explain why she holds such attraction to him. Seeing her now, six years older, he is taken aback by the woman she’s become. But Quinn is heading to America, to keep a promise he made to his deceased father, and he will never allow himself to fall in love anyhow. Lady Ainsley, widowed caretaker and mother figure, wants love for Annabelle, but knows Belle’s security is more important. She wants/needs Annabelle to find a match, so she calls in her grand-nephew, Quinn, to help sort out proper suitors from fortune hunters, putting the pair together for the first time in six years. I absolutely adored When a Scoundrel Sins and it’s two main characters, Belle and Quinn. It’s obvious to everyone but the pair, that they are two peas-in-a-pod and meant to be together. However, Quinn is so wrapped up in his fear of love that he uses his promise to go to America as a wedge to drive Belle away. Yet he’s so inexplicably enamored by Belle that he can’t stop touching her and sending other suitors away. “But this, this wasn’t just a kiss. This was so much more. “Those other kisses didn’t leave him trembling the way that he trembled now. They didn’t intoxicate him with the wild scent of the highlands and heather. They didn’t leave his gut twisting into knots and his head spinning, or make the the world fall away until he was aware only of the warm sweetness of her breath tickling at his lips, her soft body leaning into his innocent invitation. But Belle’s kisses did just that.” The boy has it bad but refuses to acknowledge his love. Then there is Belle who knows she has feelings for Quinn, but keeping her home is more important than a marriage based on love. She tries to convince Quinn that they should marry for convenience – she’d even let him go to America – but he’s so stubborn. So she continues...
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Aug
23

Review: Holiday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan

Review: Holiday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan Holiday in the Hamptons Author: Sarah Morgan Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Fliss and Seth share a history that was left in the past ten years ago. He broke her heart, she broke his, and they walked away from their brief but passionate love. However, now Seth is in Manhattan, working at the vet office Fliss and her twin/business partner, Harriet, frequent with the animals they care for. Since talking to Seth would be too difficult for Fliss, she flees the city only to end up in Seth’s arms. Right from the start, Holiday in the Hamptons sets the stage perfectly for the emotional journey that is Fliss and Seth, and I fell in love with the idea of Fliss and Seth. Teenage crushes, first loves, broke up for all the wrong reasons. This second-chance romance brings together two people who have always been in love, but lack of communication and some other external issues tore them apart. The opening prologue set the stage for what I knew would be both a heart-wrenching and heart-warming story. I love that their relationship brought readers some of both. This is probably the slowest slow-burn romance I’ve read, but it’s just marvelous. The emotional connections are worth it. I was concerned with Fliss’s idea of pretending to be her twin, Harriet, as I am not a fan of the mistaken-identity trope. But my worries were for naught, because the author has fun with the situation, yet never lets it get out of hand. I mean… if you are related to someone, can you really fool them by pretending to be another? There are several silly moments, but there is a larger benefit to Fliss’s efforts. When pretending to be Harriet, Fliss doesn’t have to have her walls up, and she can talk to Seth. While they don’t share anything earth-shattering, it creates the foundation for their new friendship, something that wouldn’t have happened without the protection of pretending to be Harriet. Fliss had a rough childhood, and many of her issues with personal connections stem from her upbringing. I admire that the author demonstrates how tough it was through flashbacks and ties it into her difficulties as an adult. I also love that Fliss is a work in progress – committing to changing, and that there is no pretty bow put around her issues. We know there is still work ahead. Which is also why I had a...
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Aug
22

Review: Dark Rooms by Sionna Fox

Review: Dark Rooms by Sionna Fox Dark Rooms Author: Sionna Fox Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B What I’m Talking About: The word play of the title, Dark Rooms, isn’t lost on me. I actually love it and think it’s perfect for this book. This was a short—took me under two hours to read it. There were a lot of things I liked, and some things that were a little meh for me. Then again, this could be **just** me. I really liked the character development for Wes. I think we got a well-rounded story about him, and his POV was the strongest. He was my favorite character, unless you count Ed. I loved how we watched Wes develop and grow. At the beginning, he was enchanted by Aimee—but by the end, his feelings were obvious. Even when things were topsy-turvy for him, he seemed to keep his cool and roll with the punches based on what Aimee needed…or so he thought. Aimee, on the other hand, didn’t have growth through most of the story, and that bothered me. I didn’t get to see much—even in her POV—about why she was the way she was. Her change seemed instantaneous and we didn’t get to see the evolution of her thought process much. I understand a big reveal and all the plot devices rather well, but there could have been more at the end. I had a couple concerns about the portrayal of the BDSM world—specifically house parties and health concerns. However, I respect an author’s right to request a leap of faith from her readers in the interest of telling a story. Kids, if you go to a kink party, make sure there’s a mentor you get to hang out with the first time at a new place. Someone to explain house rules, etc. Oh, and test results. And don’t share toys such as floggers, etc., without knowing they’re properly disinfected between uses—one doesn’t know **where** those things have been. There’s some things in the blurb that were misleading to me as a reader, too. I felt that Wes was less experienced than indicated in the blurb based on the history presented (and that I liked a lot) in the story. I’m going to take this moment to talk about good tops. First, they’re mentored. Second, whip-wielding—this is like an event or sport one trains for over the course of YEARS. Third, I prefer to see Doms with a realistic grasp on their Dom-ness unless I’m reading...
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Aug
22

Review: So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn Sparks

Review: So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn Sparks So I Married a Sorcerer Author: Kerrelyn Sparks Reviewer: Una Rating: A-  What I’m Talking About: The Embraced series is so far a truly fascinating mythology.  So I Married a Sorcerer is an exciting and thrilling sequel to How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days. First, I really enjoy this world.  Those born on a night when the two moons are touching (so called “embraced”) are born with special abilities.  Unless born on this night, you will be a normal human person.  The main continent is predominately ruled by men and the culture worships the sun god.  They kill those that are embraced.  On a small island, cloisters of women who worship the twin moon goddesses live in relative isolation.  It is here where those families will abandon their embraced children in order to keep them safe if unable to keep them safe themselves.  A group of young woman, embraced orphans on the island is the focal of this series. Brigitta and Rupert’s journey was a fascinating one.  I enjoyed this tale of a dreaded pirate that wreaks havoc on the seas.  However if a closer look is taken, Rupert’s piracy has a very particular focus and an even more noble goal.  Brigitta learns that she is the younger sister to an evil king, as it turns out the same King that the pirate Rupert targets exclusively.  As Rupert first sees Brigitta as a means to an end, it goes from using her to keeping her safe from a brother that will ultimately abuse and destroy her.  I enjoyed watching Brigitta’s fortune unwind.  The attraction and tit-for-tat between her and Rupert was captivating. The side story of the nun that accompanies Brigitta was a fun and intriguing side story.  I enjoyed the comic relief that Sister Fallyn provided, as well as her own self-journey.  Sister Fallyn’s fear of pirates was a witty backdrop while they are held captive by Rupert.  Though this story can be read as a standalone, it is much richer and more enjoyable to follow each sister.  The previous couple and other sisters do make appearances in this story.  It is wonderful to be able to see the “after” the happily-ever-after ending. If you enjoy a well-balanced fantasy and romance novel with a fascinating mythology, you might want to pick up The Embraced.  I recommend starting with How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days so you can fully enjoy So I Married a Sorcerer....
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Aug
21

Review: Misconduct by Samantha Kane

Review: Misconduct by Samantha Kane Misconduct Author: Samantha Kane Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Having survived a roadside bombing in Afghanistan, Carmina moved to Birmingham to be close to her best friend (and only other survivor) and to get away from her overprotective family. Now that she’s gotten on her own two feet, Carmina is ready to try dating, and sex, again. Rebels’ rookie, Tom, is the perfect man for the job, but she also can’t stop thinking about Tom’s best friend and roommate, Danny. Not sure how to proceed, Carmina rely’s on Tom’s help to move forward. After nearly giving up on this series after the second title, I have to say I have rather enjoyed the last two books. Misconduct explores the aspects of a ménage within the confines of a safe and mostly accepting community. While it’s the fourth such book in the series, the story of Carmina, Danny, and Tom’s relationship is its own. With Tom as the only one ready to explore his deepest fantasies, it takes a while for the trio to form.  I like that Ms. Kane allows both Carmina and Danny to express their reluctance and fears over a non-traditional relationship, with Danny agitated and angry over unwanted advances. There is no sudden “flipping the switch,” making everything all good. It takes time. It gives the entire situation a realness that wasn’t present in the first two books of the series. I also appreciate that the focus of Misconduct is the budding relationship and connections between Carmina, Danny, and Tom. Yes, this is a football book, and the author puts her characters in the game. However, while football is the setting for the book, it isn’t a guiding force over the romance, as it was in the first two titles. Sharing the interpersonal impacts of the ménage, rather than the impact to the team, creates a more heartfelt story. I like that the romance and sex scenes are driven by the characters and their desires, rather than the other way around. This is more of a “slow burn” romance, in that it takes some time for the trio to work out. However, it is still smoking hot – just give it time. It could have been just another ménage story with lots of sex, but Misconduct is so much more. The author take time to develop solid characters who dictate the storyline. Outside the fame and football, Danny, Tom, and Carmina are real...
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Aug
21

Review: Dirty Deeds By HelenKay Dimon

Review: Dirty Deeds By HelenKay Dimon Dirty Deeds Author: HelenKay Dimon Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Cultivating a reputation for having an unflinching ruthlessness towards his competitors, family, and lovers alike has served Alec Drummond well over the years. Forgoing intimacy in favor of sacrificing himself to the recovery and increasing prosperity of his family’s business has likewise suited him fine. Yet, when a problem from his past resurfaces, dragging an annoyingly capable and sexy complication with it, his hard-won empire isn’t the only thing that’s rattled. Gaige Owens has had his fill of paying for the sins of another. Yet, here he is—again—up to his neck in lies and manipulation. Although he desperately wants his freedom, chasing that particular carrot across a tightrope strung by a covert government agency is wearing more than a little thin. Still, locking horns with the notorious eldest Drummond brother has appeal on several levels, especially in the bedroom. Dirty Deeds is the first story I’ve read by HelenKay Dimon, and, overall, I enjoyed it. As it’s a spinoff of another series I missed, I think that my reading experience might have benefitted from a little more knowledge of the characters’ backgrounds, as well as the author’s writing style, but it stands on its own just fine. I was definitely intrigued by such a unique premise, and I felt that the “whodunit” aspect of the story evolved very nicely. About midway through, Dirty Deeds really picks up its pace, and the remainder of the narrative kept me engaged until the end. Having said that, there were a couple of things that kept me from fully sinking into the story. Although the big, bad government agency blackmailing Alec and Gaige into helping easily dictated where my allegiance lay, I was never comfortable with their (Alec’s, especially) acceptance of the situation. Both are so adamant about their independence and abilities, that I wanted them to break the reins a bit sooner. Additionally, the rapidity of their trust in one another, as well as the three-week relationship incubation mandate at the end of the story, also felt a little off to me, though neither was a deal breaker. While both characters had their strong points, it was Gaige who truly stood out to me. He’s funny, intelligent, extremely capable, and his reasons for essentially recreating himself won me over without much of a fight on my part. That his participation in the events of Dirty Deeds was solely the...
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Aug
16

Review: The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith

Review: The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith The Happy Chip Author: Dennis Meredith Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I really liked The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith. The strength of this book is its premise.  You know how you search for something online and then every margin advertisement on every webpage that shows up is about that thing?  Online retailers track everything you buy, the wish lists you make, and the things you search on.  Meredith’s characters wisely quip, it’s like Amazon knows more about what I like than I do.  We already wear watches and wristbands to track our activity levels, heart rate, and sleep patterns.  It’s not even a stretch to imagine a nanotechnology, a biologically safe computer chip, branded as “the Happy Chip,” which can passively monitor all those things plus hormone levels, insulin, and any other chemical in the body.  With a phone app synced to the chip, you’d know immediately how you felt about a food, a person, or the movie you’re watching—you would know what you like.  What if you took all that data and merged it with other people’s results for the most accurate database of recommendations conceivable?  Unlike Yelp or TripAdvisor, it would be impossible to have a troll driving down results or artificially inflating them. Sounds great, right? Meredith successfully takes that thought and carries it out to a dramatic conclusion.  Anyone who likes a good conspiracy theory will enjoy this book.  It’s fast-paced and props to Meredith for giving his main female characters a brain.  They are not just window-dressing, but intelligent, active participants in the story. The book reads very much like an action movie, and frankly, I think it would be even better told in a visual format.  I could totally see someone like Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Lee Pace in the role of Brad Davis, the technical writer who’s hired to write the biography of the Happy Chip’s inventor. Of course, what he discovers is terrifying to think about. As technology continues to shrink and become more cost effective, I have no doubt that we will continue to see books like this being written the way artificial intelligence made for a slew of science fiction offerings in late 1970’s most famously with HAL in 2001 and into the 80’s. How many Terminator movies are there now?  The Matrix, AI, I Robot… we seem to love exploring our relationship with technology.  Meredith has just made it more personal. My only frustrations with...
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Aug
15

Review: Soul Redeemed by Keri Lake

Review: Soul Redeemed by Keri Lake Soul Redeemed Author: Keri Lake Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for more Sons of Wrath! The goodness that Keri Lake puts into these books—they’re sexy, fun, hoooottttt, and balanced with heart-wrenching angst—makes reading a compulsion…but I wanted to savor every word. I guess I was as conflicted as the characters! Calix and Ava. Yessssss! We knew it was coming. I can honestly say I’m SO happy with how this book played out. Obviously no spoilers, but here’s the low-down: I wish I’d had a consecutive 6+ hours to read this book. Then again, I liked reading in little bites so I could mull over the possibilities before taking my next nibble. Such a double-edged sword. Ava seriously screwed up, but one theme that’s consistent through this title is forgiveness. And, not just Ava’s forgiveness. I **literally** cried at the end. So, Ava was infected with the Sang virus. Ol’ Ollie went all mad scientist and everything. Obviously, this state would affect Ava’s relationship with Calix. What I liked about the virus aspect is that it’s consistent through the titles and that we keep learning more and more about it. I also love that it wasn’t beleaguered in this title—we’ve already learned a lot about it, and we just see what’s going on in the **ahem** lab when it’s integral to the plot. I also loved how realistic Ava’s thoughts were regarding whether she should be forgiven by the Brothers—especially Calix. When we believe we’ve wronged someone, sometimes it’s hard for us to forgive ourselves—and that’s something we kinda need to do before we can accept anyone else’s forgiveness. I also loved how Calix was driven to be faithful—even when it was against his nature. I loved his determination and how he was so invested in Ava that he couldn’t bear the thought of slaking his incubus hunger with just any ol’ dame. Fernlo. **sigh** I think the minor characters in this title—including Logan and Calla and Xander…and, to a certain degree, Zayne. As matter of fact, I’m pretty intrigued by his storyline right now. I really am shipping Fernlo + Thais (Thalo) hard. Soul Redeemed was a wonderful, long-awaited addition to the Sons of Wrath series. I could seriously devour these books and crave titles featuring each of the brothers—we’ve got at least three left 🙂 Can’t wait until the next one! My Rating: A, Loved It About the...
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