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Nov
6

Review: Holiday Wishes by Jill Shalvis

Review: Holiday Wishes by Jill Shalvis Holiday Wishes Author: Jill Shalvis Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: At first, B&B owner Lotti Harford tries to pretend she doesn’t remember her high school sweetheart Sean O’Riley. Aware of the fact she couldn’t keep up the pretense, the pair strike up an easy truce, leading to a renewal of their childhood friendship. Sean, already realizing he’s looking for a meaningful relationship in his life, regrets the way he left things with Lotti. Lotti, burned by Sean’s actions from youth, is scared to open her heart. Holiday Wishes is a wonderful standalone story centering on Sean O’Riley, brother of Finn, the series’ first book hero. The story’s setting is Finn and Pru’s wedding, which, as a regular of the Heartbreaker Bay series, I love. I so enjoy when a novella takes us back to previous couples so we can see how they are doing. Stuck at a small B&B because of the weather, the gang makes the most of their time, and even puts on a memorable wedding ceremony. The time of the romance and story is compressed, but Ms. Shalvis develops a solid shared history that rings true, and the pair reignites their still smoldering flames. It’s sweet and sexy all rolled into a fun novella. I appreciate the apprehension of Lotti, and like that the author ends with an HFN rather than HEA because of the time factor. It’s a quick, easy read, made more enjoyable because of the connections with Finn, Pru, and the entire Heartbreaker Bay gang. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: When Sean O’Riley shows up at the Hartford Bed & Breakfast for his older brother’s bachelor weekend, he’s just hoping to make it through the weekend. What he’s not expecting is to come face to face with the woman he lost his virginity to a decade ago—a woman he’s never really forgotten. The last time Lotti Hartford saw Sean, she told him she loved him while he said nothing. Now, ten years later, she’s just looking for a good time. For once, she wants to be the wild and free one, and Sean – the good time guy – is the perfect candidate. But as the weekend continues, Sean realizes that after a lifetime of being the hook-up king, he’s ready to find happily-ever-after, and he wants it with Lotti. But will she open her heart to him again? As Christmas sweeps through the little...
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Nov
3

Review: Third Rail by Santino Hassell

Review: Third Rail by Santino Hassell Third Rail Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Beginning just after Interborough, and supplementing the numerous hints scattered throughout Concourse, this quick, sexy collection of shorts is the perfect precursor to the sixth book in the Five Boroughs series, Citywide. Having been charmed by Chris way back in Sunset Park, and left scrambling for whatever details I could glean about both Aiden and Jace after being officially introduced to them in First and First, I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to experience this part of their journey through Third Rail. These three have always been favorites of mine, and I couldn’t have been happier when it was hinted that they’d have their own HEA. Sweet and a little bit shy, Chris has always revealed a significant amount of insecurity in himself that felt unfinished on the perimeter of others’ stories. In contrast, Aiden and Jace’s narrative might have been self-contained, if not for the realization that they, too, have more to experience in the wake of a sexual intersection with Chris. And although I’ve fallen for quite a few of the characters throughout this series, I want these guys to find their way very, very much. Easily read on one sitting, Third Rail requires little investment for the insightfulness its bound to contribute to the series overall. And while it might be fun on its own, it really does belong within the context in which it was intended. Each of the Five Boroughs stories has affected me in different ways, and I’m proud to have them on my physical bookshelf, as well as in other formats. This delightful offering from the author is a much-appreciated gift that shouldn’t be ignored. My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Christopher Mendez has always known his sexual identity had a swerve. No straight guy would have low-key lusted after his childhood best friend, right? Unfortunately, a combination of insecurity and overall lack of game has prevented him from further exploring his sexuality. That changes once he agrees to participate in a photoshoot for a queer dating app and meets Jace Fairbairn. Jace is beautiful, fey-like, and in an open polyamorous relationship with his gorgeous linebacker-looking husband Aiden. Once they set eyes on Chris, they’re instantly in lust and determined to broaden his sexual horizons. But what’s supposed to be a straight-forward sexual encounter gets complicated once a one-night-stand has repeat performances, and Jace and Aiden begin...
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Oct
31

Review: Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck by Molly Harper

Review: Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck by Molly Harper Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck Author: Molly Harper Reviewer: Jen Rating: B/B- What I’m Talking About: Heading back home to spend the summer before going to law school, Marianne begins to question her life goals and dreams. She’s always feared being stuck in small-town Sackett, Georgia, but now the idea has a little more appeal, as long as she can maintain some distance between herself and her large family. Carl and Marianne were high school sweethearts, but when Marianne thought Carl might propose before Marianne headed off to college, she panicked and left him. After four years, the sparks are still there, but can they move forward instead of looking back? Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck is a short novella that kicks off the new Southern Eclectic series by Molly Harper. While not full of Ms. Harper’s usual snark and wit, the story is sweet and charming. However, I’m a bit curious as to its place in the series. I say this because there is a HUGE spoiler in the beginning of the book: a family tree which shows Marianne and Carl married with kids, as well as the death a major character who is still alive in this story. I really wish the family tree had been left out of the novella, and added once the series had progressed to match what the graphic displays. Other than that little issue, Carl and Marianne share a sweet romance. The novella sets the stage for the upcoming series by developing the basic framework of the world. Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck was entertaining and engrossing enough that it got me interested and invested in the characters, and I want to know more about the McCready family. My Rating: B/B- Liked It, but I had a small issue About the Book: Carl and Marianne were high school sweethearts, loving the way only teenagers can—with no thought to logic or pride, just a bone-headed, optimistic frenzy of unicorns and hormones. That was all they needed. Or so Carl thought. Scared of being stuck in Lake Sackett, Georgia, like so many of her friends—without a real shot at a future or achieving her own dreams—Marianne panicked and bolted to college after stomping Carl’s heart into the high grass. But when she returns to Lake Sackett for the summer with her family after years away, she and Carl are drawn together like moths to a flame. As they rekindle their old...
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Oct
30

Review: Scavenger Girl–Season of Atchem by Jennifer Arntson

Review: Scavenger Girl–Season of Atchem by Jennifer Arntson Scavenger Girl-Season of Atchem Author: Jennifer Arntson Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Scavenger Girl is the first book in the new young adult series by the same name.  It’s told from the perspective of Una, a seventeen year old girl and member of the lowest caste in a leveled socio-economic system.  This dystopian novel is set on a planet with three moons that with their movements create five distinct seasons: Atchem, Talium, Hytalia, Toridia, and Zoetica.  The seasons correspond to the five books intended for the series. The single perspective creates a very intimate feeling with the narration.  The pace isn’t slow so much as it feels like real time, not skipping or jumping over large days or weeks. Arntson’s methodical writing style reminds me of Lois McMaster Bujold, author of the Sharing Knife series. The story is told day by day at the end of Atchem season, leading up to Talium, the dark season when the moons line up to block out the sun in a perpetual total eclipse. Nothing grows, it’s always night, and even rivers are affected by gravitational pull.  In a largely agrarian society, the ability to produce food and goods is significant. Productive farmers tend to be wealthy—if they are “citizens.” “Citizens” have standing and privilege.  They worship a pantheon of gods and approve of human sacrifice.  “Reclaimers” are those who have lost or never had a birthright.  They are not entitled to own anything, but what they can scavenge or reclaim from the castoffs and trash of citizens.  This includes their own children.  Girls reaching puberty are sold into surrogacy and slavery.  The contrast between the citizens and the reclaimers is stark, characterized by have and have-not at its basic level and graphically violent at the extreme.  That violence feels very personal since we are intimate with Una and her family.  Some sensitive readers may be triggered. At its heart, however, Scavenger Girl is a love story.  When Una has the opportunity to secure the safety of her beloved family by virtue of a betrothal to a citizen farmer, she gets to live a Cinderella fairytale—or is it?  Can she fit into this parallel culture for the sake of her family?  I have a few minor criticisms, but mostly, I was impressed.  Arntson made me remember what a teenage, real first kiss felt like.  I’ve been married 30 years so that’s saying a lot.  I read enough romance that I...
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Oct
27

Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald

Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald Blackwing Author: Ed McDonald Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Blackwing is an intriguing and engrossing new world.  Gikany and Una were captivated by this gritty and dark fantasy world, and are eager for the next novel in the Raven’s Mark series. In this bleak world people are trying to survive the magical repercussions from war with the Deep Kings.  However the war isn’t over.  The Deep Kings may have lost the last battle but they are intent on winning the war.  The only protection the people have is Nall’s Engine – a magical weapon developed by one of the Nameless, Nall.  The engine is what keeps the Deep Kings on their side of the Misery, a desolate no-man’s land full of magical fallout.  The Nameless are like gods – powerfully immortal magical beings who are mostly absent, except when they want something.  The only difference between them and the Deep Kings is that they tend to leave the mortals alone instead of turning them into mindless slaves.  Although being a servant of a Nameless is no picnic either. Ryhalt Galharrow is our hero, though he is not a pristine one.  He was once “cream,” slang for a nobleman.  But after a mistake and a duel, he restarted himself as Galharrow – a Blackwing bounty hunter.  Galharrow is a servant of Crowfoot, one of the Nameless.  He is bound to serve Crowfoot by finding and eradicating Deep King sympathizers and traitors.  While Galharrow is returning from a bounty hunt, Crowfoot manifests to command him to save a noblewoman from his past.  But as he reconnects to his young love, he learns about a conspiracy that could enslave and destroy the rest of the mortals. Galharrow believes he is not a good man.  Maybe he once was, but certainly not now.  Unwilling to give in or give up, he fights and works to be decent and drowns himself in alcohol to forget the times when he wasn’t.  The remembered time of his youth with Ezabeth is both his sweetest memory and greatest regret.  Although it takes time to find out the gist of what occurred, it is still heart wrenching to see them reunited only to know that it is too late.  Between unearthing the conspiracy and the rekindled but doomed love, it was difficult to stop reading. Gikany and Una found Blackwing to be utterly engrossing.  The author crafted the world, the language, and the...
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Oct
25

Review + Blog Tour: Kill Game by Cordelia Kingsbridge

Review + Blog Tour: Kill Game by Cordelia Kingsbridge Kill Game Author: Cordelia Kingsbridge Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Given that I had mixed reactions to the only other title I’ve read by this author, I was eager to give this new series a try—and I’m extremely glad that I did. From its quick-witted characters to a villain that I found myself sympathizing with on occasion to a plot that kept me guessing the entire time, Kill Game had everything I adore in a good suspense story. Although I did develop a particular fondness for Dominic, I liked both he and Levi a great deal. This isn’t the first time I’ve read a story involving a detective and a bounty hunter, and, while there was certainly the familiarity of strong dislike giving way to an improbable compatibility, nothing felt tired or overdone about either character. Chasing down a serial killer forces them to reexamine their own lives, more than their opinions of one another, and I enjoyed being so drawn in by the evolution of each man so far. With Levi on the verge of an engagement to his long-term boyfriend, and Dominic disinterested in any relationship whatsoever, the author incites a more thorough examination of each character than would be possible if there was a rush to an immediate HEA. Whether it’s addiction, moral ambiguity in the absence of guilt, or the pitfalls of allowing affection to devolve into a kind of currency, there’s a lot to consider here. The use of dual narrators in this case not only allows readers to get to know the characters more thoroughly, but proved to be an effective means of sharing their perceived culpability. One of the things I liked best about Kill Game is that, while the attraction between Dominic and Levi is undeniably there, this story is all about the suspense, rather than romance. Just as the killer exists between the law and “justice,” neither Levi nor Dominic seem likely to solve the mystery on their own. In fact, they make bigger strides when the lines get blurry, which kept the narrative as a whole from becoming predictable. Throughout the story, I examined and discarded plausible suspects, sometimes more than once, and was still delightedly second-guessing myself by the end. Already, Seven of Spades looks to be an exciting, well-written series, and I’m happy to watch it unfold from the very beginning. Likable and imperfect, Dominic and Levi are a great match for one another,...
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Oct
24

Review: Drop Dead Gorgeous by Juliet Lyons

Review: Drop Dead Gorgeous by Juliet Lyons Drop Dead Gorgeous Author: Juliet Lyons Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B What I’m Talking About: This is the second title I’ve read by Ms. Lyons, and I do love her voice. There’s something about reading a story set in London and having the history aspect for a vampire whose lived several centuries that makes me a bit giddy—especially when the details are on-point. I really like the premise of this series, and I hope to read more. There were a couple things I read in Drop Dead Gorgeous that might’ve been caught in another round of editing—or it’s something I missed about the world-building in the first title that I just glommed on to. Honestly? It probably wouldn’t be a big deal at all to anyone, like, ever…but I’ve recently done some world building for my own vampire book series and it snagged me and held on tight. Really—it’s insignificant and probably a ‘me’ thing. That’s the only reason this isn’t an A rating from me. Mila is an interesting character. She’s a little less self-reliant than the usual female MCs I prefer. Vincent made MY heart stop a few times, what with the chivalry and all that. But, hey. What should I expect from a dude that’s been around since the French Revolution? Even with the one teeny, tiny snag, I did adore the characters and plot from Drop Dead Gorgeous. As I read through the title, I always wished I had more time to sit and enjoy the title. I may have snapped off the heads of a few people who interrupted me (this is why there are headless people running around…) when there wasn’t blood or impending death. I think I like the change in the series name, too. My Rating: B, Liked It About the Book: SWIPE RIGHT FOR MR. BITE Mila Hart’s first experience with the hot new vampire dating site is a complete disaster. Turns out, her date is wanted for murder! But things turn around when she’s rescued by dashing vampire cop Vincent Ferrer. Dangerous and drop dead gorgeous, he’s just the vampire hottie Mila was hoping for. Haunted by his past, Vincent can’t risk falling in love again, even if Mila charms him more than anyone he’s ever met. But when the killer from Mila’s first date seeks her out, Vincent is the only one who can protect her. Protecting his heart is a different story… Release Date: October 3, 2017 Publisher:...
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Oct
24

Review: Rock Candy by Devon Monk

Review: Rock Candy by Devon Monk Rock Candy Author: Devon Monk Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: B+ What We’re Talking About: Rock Candy is a delightful novella that centers on Jean and her new beau, the baker Hogan.  Gikany and Una enjoyed this spooky seasonal read.  How could you not enjoy a romantic tromp complete with a curse, zombie gnomes, and Death stopping by to visit?!? Ms. Monk has created a unique and fascinating world set in Ordinary, Oregon.  For fans of the series, you won’t want to miss this chance of seeing Ordinary from the youngest Reed sister’s eyes.  Though Jean loves Halloween, there is one aspect that is trying – the October gnome-sitting.  For some reason, there is a curse that brings the gnomes to life every October 1st through October 31st.  It is always the responsibility of a Reed sister to ensure that the trouble the gnomes get into is minimized (if possible) and kept from the humans who are NOT in the know.  However this Halloween, the curse is ramped up due to a zombie infection that is moving through the gnomes.  Not to mention Death shows up partly for work (someone it seems will die) but also to experience the Halloween Harvest festival. This novella was a riot to read.  One of our favorite parts was the “five stages of zombie grief: denial, acceptance, hunger, more hunger, and knock-knock jokes.”  It was priceless!  Though the story moved quickly, we enjoyed how Jean chases down the (ahem) head gnome all while trying to figure out if this six-month dating anniversary with Hogan is a good milestone or an ominous one. Her inexperience with long-term relationships coupled with her own insecurities was heartening. Not only do we learn more about her personality, but also about her ability.  We hope this is not the only story told from her point of view. All in all, Rock Candy is a fabulous Halloween novella from the intriguing world of Ordinary, Oregon.  It’s a must read for fans and would be a fun introduction to those that won’t mind some mild spoilers from the previous three novels.  Gikany and Una eagerly await the next novel in the Ordinary Magic series. Our Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Just An Ordinary Halloween…  Police officer Jean Reed doesn’t normally mind pulling the graveyard shift in Ordinary Oregon, the sleepy little beach town where gods vacation and monsters reside. But October in Ordinary is anything but...
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Oct
23

Review: Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey

Review: Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey Hold Her Again Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Ava and Jace were a perfect match; young and in love with big dreams of marriage, a family, and a country-music singing career. However, that all ended the night Jace left Ava behind and headed to Nashville with a solo singing contract in hand. Now Ava has spent the past five and a half years trying to make a life for herself and getting over the one man who held and then broke her heart. Meanwhile, Jace has spent the same time becoming a music sensation with only one regret: walking out on Ava. Hold Her Again is another delightful (and probably my favorite) holiday-themed romance novella from Shannon Stacey. The night that Jace walked away to make it big was the night that Ava gave up on all of her dreams. Right from the start of the book, I was all “Team Ava”, and I couldn’t conceive of any situation that would put the pair back together. There is absolutely no doubt that Jace made the wrong choice five and a half years ago, and Ava’s hurt is deep. But Ms. Stacey puts together a genuine reconciliation that had my heart beating faster and brought a few tears to my eyes. It is hard to get over that kind of soul-deep hurt, but it is equally difficult to show honest regret and prove the apologies are sincere. Ms. Stacey won me over with small gestures, while simultaneously moving the couple closer together over a short period of time. And it works because it is obvious this couple never stopped loving one another. “The connection between them was still strong, and she thought of it like an invisible tread that was slowly darning the hole he’d left in her heart.” Ava and Jace have that true love that lasts because they are “meant to be”, and after time, they realize second chances are worth the risk. While Hold Her Again has a Christmas-themed setting, it’s a wonderful gift to give yourself any time of the year. Second-chance, feel-good romances are a weakness of mine, and Hold Her Again is a wonderful fit. My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Ava Wright isn’t happy to see her high school sweetheart rolling into their hometown a few weeks before Christmas. He’s only come back to bury his estranged father, but there’s no way she’ll be...
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Oct
23

Review: Legs by Kelly Siskind

Review: Legs by Kelly Siskind Legs Author: Kelly Siskind Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Legs is the delightful and heart-felt start to Kelly SIskind’s new One Wild Wish series. Bringing wit, a strong female lead, and a whole lot of heart to this first book, Ms. Siskind has once again created a world and group of friends I would love to be part of. At times I was laughing out loud, while sniffling during others. Set in and around the wine country of Northern California, Rachel and Jimmy meet when she shouts an embarrassing statement just as the music stops at the nightclub where she is celebrating her birthday with her BFFs. Soon the two are vying for the same sommelier position in a silly contest. What starts out as playful flirtation, turns into a intoxicating love affair, one that pushes comfort zones and tests the heart. Jimmy is a powerful man who owns his emotions, even when they get a bit out of control. Having been hurt by his family and the woman he was set to marry, Jimmy is slow to trust and isn’t looking for the sunshine Rachel brings into his life. Meanwhile, Rachel is so scared of disappointing her mother again, that she’s living an unfulfilling life and playing it safe. Jimmy shows her that it’s okay to be who she really is inside, but she often lets her fears keep him at arm’s length. I enjoyed watching the pair come together. I loved how Jimmy realizes what Rachel means to him and works hard to bring her around. Yet when he makes mistakes, it’s bad. However, between Rachel’s kind and forgiving heart and Jimmy’s own insight, the pair can move past hurts towards a better future. The story takes some ups and downs as it progresses to its HEA. One of the lows is near the beginning, after the pair’s initial hookup. *potential spoiler alert* Rachel was so inebriated that doesn’t recall their marathon all-nighter. *end spoiler* This situation is used by Jimmy to taunt and tease Rachel, and I was a little uncomfortable with the entire situation. However, Ms. Siskind spins it in such a way that eventually worked for me as it progressed. Additionally, there is a twist in the later part of the book that at first had me thinking “really?” but as it moved forward, once again worked out. I like that the author could put me in uncomfortable situations and then...
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