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Currently Browsing: sci-fi/fantasy
Jun
28

Review: Addicted by Elle Kennedy

Review: Addicted by Elle Kennedy Addicted Author: Elle Kennedy Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: If you love dystopian stories, but want the romance element a little more *ahem* adult—and smokin’ hot—, Elle Kennedy’s Outlaws series should be on your reader radar. In Addicted, we get a phenomenal friends-to-lovers story that runs us through a multitude of emotions and is a gripping story I couldn’t put down. Okay. I had to pace myself, because I actually had stuff to accomplish. While it isn’t totally necessary to read the first title in the series, Claimed, I’d recommend it. It’s a good story, and after reading for a few minutes, all the great characterization and world building came back to me—along with all the feels. I also remembered what I really liked about this universe: the ‘free love’ feel. I was a child in the ‘70s, and a teen in the ‘80s. I was probably born in the wrong decade. I was drawn to the Outlaws’ way of life from the first time I cracked open the first book of the series. Addicted continues my fascination. They’re highly sexual characters, and—for me—there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re not into multiple pairings (m/f/m, f/f/m, etc… Oh! And there’s a little m/m stuff, too), this might not be a title for you. The secondary plot line in Addicted was…complex. The over-arching storyline for the series hit a few bumps in this title. It made me think, and by the time we reached the reveal, I hadn’t figured out what the big deal was, and why it had to be a secret. As for the secondary characters, we saw a lot of Rylan and Reese. And Beckett. Yeah. I am intrigued by Beckett. Xander, too. I have this intense need to know more about them. Sloane, Reese’s ‘shadow’? What’s up with him? I think most of these characters built the intrigue surrounding the safety—and sanctity—of Foxworth, Reese’s little settlement. There’s also a couple deaths that take place in Addicted that ripped my heart out. There’s not just sex in Addicted, though. We get to see relationships building between different groups of people, different types of people. These Outlaws seem to have a code of their own, and they follow it. There’s action/adventure-y stuff going on, too. Fighting. Killing. Really, this title is actually several sub genres, and was difficult for me to categorize. On Amazon, it’s in post-apocalyptic, romantic suspense, and contemporary(?!). Oh, and did I...
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May
25

Review: The Pages of the Mind by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: The Pages of the Mind by Jeffe Kennedy The Pages of the Mind Author: Jeffe Kennedy Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B+ What We’re Talking About: The Pages of the Mind is the debut novel of the Twelve Kingdom spin-off series, The Uncharted Realms.  Overall we enjoyed the first book in the beginning of a new series. Gikany and Una love the world that this series takes place in.  It is not imperative to read the Twelve Kingdoms series first; however, you will have a stronger understanding and appreciation if you do read the previous series (and you should because it is good).  You will also have a much stronger connection to Dafne.  For fans that have followed the previous series, it is exciting to learn more about the world and surrounding kingdoms. Dafne was introduced at the beginning of the Twelve Kingdoms series.  She was a quiet librarian who had access to knowledge that each princess needed.  She was a rock of support and strength and a steadfast advisor to each of them.  Dafne isn’t afraid to show her backbone and speak her mind.  We liked her immensely and have eagerly looked forward to her romantic journey.  We couldn’t have imagined the direction her life would take.  We loved seeing the journey Dafne takes and watching her struggle between her heart and her sense of duty.  Her ability to wield the pen far more mightily than the sword was breathtaking. Overall, we liked the journey between Dafne and Nakoa, even though we thought there were some off-notes in it.  Although they did not detract from our enjoyment, they were noticeable.  We were surprised that Nakoa could be so devoted to Dafne and then abruptly write her off, not trusting her.  His belief that she should automatically know who he is and fall into the role as queen coupled with the odd ultimatum to choose him (who she’d only known three days) over Ursula (who she’d known her whole life) was a bit of a stretch.  We were surprised that although he understands (and we assume) speaks Dasnarian, he never tried to communicate with her in it, but instead insisted that she learn to communicate in his language. Overall, we really liked The Pages of the Mind, abrupt moments and all.  The passion and connection between Nakoa and Dafne smoothed over those rough patches.  Gikany and Una are biting our nails in anticipation of the next novel, which will center on Jepp and Kral.  If you enjoy...
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May
20

Review: Head Above Water by Hailey Edwards

Review: Head Above Water by Hailey Edwards Head Above Water Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Head Above Water is… awesome. I was really excited to get back to Cam and Graeson. Their story is compelling, wrought with sexual tension, and contains a twist in their romance I did NOT see coming!!! The over-arching series conflict with Charybdis continues to build and puzzle Cam, as well. I may have devoured this title in one sitting, had life not happened. I love the theme of ‘family’ in this title. Part of what we get to see involves Cam, Aunt Dot, and Cam’s cousin, Isaac. Blood relatives. The family dynamic is unique, and also draws parallels to a more traditional family structure. We also catch a glimpse of the Warg pack structure, which is also family. These opposing dynamics change and evolve through the story, and at the end I was left with this: family are those people who love you unconditionally, and always have your back. Not necessarily blood, but they can be. Pack, however, has its own set of rules. I wasn’t a fan (just because I didn’t like what happened, and it ticked me off on Cam & Graeson’s behalf), but they certainly propelled the story forward and added another layer to the conflict. I liked learning more about Dell in this title. I’m not sure exactly where her character is headed, but her tenacity, fierce loyalty, and her loving nature are definitely something to watch in future Gemini titles. Isaac got more page time, too. We learn about him and his thoughts about Gemini using their magic. He seems like he wants to connect with Cam, but doesn’t know how—like there’s this big chasm between them since she lost her twin. We got to see some members of the Warg pack, too. Their Alpha, Bessemer, is not on my list of favorites. His…consorts (yeah, I’ll use that word…) aren’t up there, either. By design, the Alpha was bossy as all get-out, and implemented archaic practices that were dangerous, and—to me—seemed uncaring and steeped in tradition, versus taking the health of the pack into consideration. Typical of pack structure dynamic/hierarchy. And, we get to see Thierry and Mai. 🙂 Grief does strange things to people. Support systems are super important. When there’s a breakdown in supports, it does wacky things to a person. In the first Gemini title, Graeson’s sister, Marie, was missing and found dead—a victim of Charybdis. As...
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May
4

Review: The Crown of the Queen by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: The Crown of the Queen by Jeffe Kennedy The Crown of the Queen (from For Crown and Kingdom) Author: Jeffe Kennedy Reviewers: Gikany & Una Rating: B & A What We’re Talking About: What a treat for fans of the Twelve Kingdoms series!  The Crown of the Queen is a novella that transitions from the Twelve Kingdoms series to the new Uncharted Realms series.  This is also a nice introduction to Dafne, the heroine of the first book in the Uncharted Realms series, The Pages of the Mind. This novella takes place shortly after the conclusion of The Talon of the Hawk.  We witness the aftermath of it all: the reconciliation of the sisters, the strength of the bonds between the previous couples, and the beginnings of recovery for the realm of the Twelve Kingdoms.  The banter we enjoyed between our beloved main characters from the previous novels continues.  Watching Dafne deftly guide Ursula through the pomp and circumstance required to satisfy politics was enjoyable. This is a must-read for fans of the series, but it wouldn’t be the best introduction to those new to the series.  Gikany and Una do not, however, agree on a rating.  Although we both liked it, Una enjoyed it more and was completely satisfied with it in this form.  Gikany would have preferred that this novella had been included at either the end of The Talon of the Hawk or at the beginning of the upcoming The Pages of the Mind.  She typically does not like short stories or novellas, as they tend to leave her wanting more. All in all, this is a fabulous diversion in this rich and fantastic world.  The mythology continues to be enthralling, the wit and banter of the characters engaging, and the flow of the story gripping.  We look forward to the next novel in this world, The Pages of the Mind. Gikany’s Rating:  B, Liked It Una’s Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Dafne Mailloux, librarian and temporary babysitter to the heirs to the High Throne of the Twelve – now Thirteen – Kingdoms, finds it difficult to leave the paradise of Annfwn behind. Particularly that trove of rare books in temptingly unfamiliar languages. But duty calls, and hers is to the crown. It’s not like her heart belongs elsewhere. But how can she crown a queen who hesitates to take the throne? Release Date: May 24, 2016 Publisher: self-published Series: The Twelve Kingdoms #3.5 / The Uncharted Realms #0.5 Genre: Fantasy, novella Format(s): e-book...
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Apr
6

Review: Blazing Earth by Terri Brisbin

Review: Blazing Earth by Terri Brisbin Blazing Earth Author: Terri Brisbin Reviewer: Una Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: In this third installment of the Stone Circles, the tone of the novel changes. Though I liked the journey of Tolan and Thea, there was a more somber feeling and desperation to the world.  It seems the plight of our heroes has reached a pinnacle in Blazing Earth. ***Please note that this series builds upon the previous novel.  Therefore there may be inadvertent spoilers in this review.  You have been warned.*** This is a tough review to write because I do not want to spoil the novel, but I do feel as if the progression of this novel is very different from the previous ones.  Though there is a logical conclusion that brings about a higher tension to the impending final confrontation, it was still in some ways a tough read.  Tolan and Thea must work though some emotional baggage that affects their actions and choices in this journey.  I love how they overcome it, but their story is so bittersweet.  Death and loss has always been a part of this series, but I found it much more poignant in this installment.  Maybe it is due to the outcome of events, but although Tolan and Thea do end up together (I hope that isn’t too spoilery for a romance novel) the course of their romance took me by surprise.  It makes me nervous and eager for the next novel. I continue to enjoy this world and the mythology associated with it.  The different bloodlines that are tied to the Old Ones (old gods) and how they are vessels for these past gods to protect the world from Chaela.  The manifestation of powers and the mixing of the religions are fascinating.  I also enjoy the contrast as these bloodline carriers discover and learn about these traits they have inherited.  The legend of the Warriors of Destiny is thrilling as each book adds the next players.  It is clear that we are heading into the final battle and I cannot wait to see if our heroes will triumph over evil.  I’m thinking they will, but I wonder how much heartbreak, tension and suspense I’ll have to endure before we get there.  I really do like how the stories do not always progress as I expect – especially in Blazing Earth. Tolan and Thea’s romantic journey is compelling.  Though bittersweet in moments, their connection is steel.  They are passionate...
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Mar
31

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop Author: Anne Bishop Narrator: Alexandra Harris Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: The Others #4 Source: loan Marked in Flesh is the fourth title in Anne Bishop’s amazingly interesting and utterly unique fantasy/urban fantasy series know as The Others. For newcomer’s to the series: you cannot start here, in fact, if you’ve missed any titles, I strongly urge you to read all the books before cracking open Marked in Flesh. This book is the culmination of all that has come before, in the previous three books. The books are all interrelated and build upon one other, making it important to start with the first book in the series, Written in Red. Ms. Bishop has developed a world where creatures known as the terra indigene, or Others, are Mother Earth’s favored creations and the top predators on the food chain. The Others have the ability to shape shift into forms such as wolves, crows, bears, and even vampires, and those are the most tame of the Others. After befriending Meg Corbyn, a special human known as a cassandra sangue, the Others in the Lakeside Courtyard continue to adjust to having a “human pack” within their own, even learning to trust and care about these humans. Tension is at an all-time-high, as Nicholas Spark and his Humans First and Last (HFL) movement become irresponsibly aggressive in attempts to claim the land of the terra indigene. With events occurring simultaneously across the land, the story is shared from multiple points-of-view, with focuses in Lakeside (Meg, Vlad, Simon), Sweetwater (Jackson Wolfguard, Hope), and Prairie Gold (Joe Wolfguard, new Intuits). Additionally, there is follow up from Great Island and Talulah Falls, where there was much action and strife in the previous book. Marked in Flesh is my favorite book of the series by far. Finally, we see all the working parts of the story come together for what looks to be the final showdown between the humans and Others. Ms. Bishop is able to capture the fears of the human pack and Intuits as they process just what it means to face extinction. Conversely, I loved seeing the Others, most especially Simon, struggle with how much human to keep – whether it be human traits, human-run business, or actual humans. The time spent pondering these questions is both thought-provoking and utterly engrossing. Yet it is the characters, who I’ve come to...
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Mar
15

Review: Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer

Review: Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer Quantum Night Author: Robert J. Sawyer Reviewer: Nima Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Author Robert Sawyer takes us through a really interesting intellectual exercise in Quantum Night. While it is a fictional story with a beginning, middle, and end, I felt more like I was sitting in a college philosophy class playing “what if” with the professor. What if… you could identify psychopaths with the accuracy of fingerprints?  What if… you could change their mental wiring so that they’re 100% “cured?”  What if… you had to trade places with the psychopath to make that happen?  What if… your child did?  What if… you discovered you had committed felonious acts, but didn’t remember them?  Would you turn yourself in?  What if… what if… what if…  This is how the story unfolds itself, answering one question and moving forward by addressing the consequences philosophically until another choice is presented.  Sawyer moves through the work of multiple psychologists and physicists in the process.  Sawyer clearly did his research. Main character Jim Marchuk is a Canadian psychology professor who lives his life by the philosophy of utilitarianism, meaning he makes choices based on maximizing happiness for the greatest number of people, even if it requires sacrifice on his own part.  This alone makes him a controversial character because that utility translates into actions like giving a generous portion of his income to charity, but wanting his wife to get an abortion when they discovered their unborn son has Down syndrome and he would be a drain on too many public and private resources.  He relates to all the other characters that come and go from his life from this same perspective of utility and more than once I found myself arguing with his logic. At times he is sympathetic and at times he’s really not.  Sawyer is great at playing devil’s advocate through his characters. Religion, as one would expect, is lacking from the scientific discussion.  Marchuk describes the majority of humanity as soulless apes with a monkey see, monkey do reflex.  In one particularly arrogant passage, Marchuk says, “The role of God has gone unfilled for too long… it’s high time someone got the part.”  This is an especially troubling remark coming from a man who often puts himself in the position of making choices for others based on his own value system. There is a background romance that is weak at best.  Explicit sex would be out of place, but...
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Mar
7

Review: Trapped by Alison Aimes

Review: Trapped by Alison Aimes Trapped Author: Alison Aimes Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I’m going to put this right up front because Alison Aimes’ debut book Trapped actually came with a warning right up front.  I was puzzled by it. It doesn’t read like a trigger warning, instead, sounding more like a promotional blurb.  At the outset there is an unequal power structure between her two main characters and the sex that takes place within it.  That relationship changes over the course of the book, but if there was concern about criticism for it, don’t write it.  Don’t come up with a premise and then apologize for it. If she feels it needs a trigger warning, put it out there simply and don’t dance around it. Here’s the thing though, it would appear that Aimes set out to write an erotic romance set in space, but that’s not what she did.  She actually wrote a very good science fiction novel where, dare I say it, the sex was almost superfluous.  Not in its entirety, some would have been fine here and there to support the romantic elements, rather than use it to create them.  To me, it almost felt out place in what was otherwise a well written book with good world-building and sufficient conflict to support multiple sub-plots.  She probably could have dropped fifty-percent of the sex and expanded the epilogue.  At only 220 pages, there was lots of room for more description, more dialog, more stress, more relief and I would have happily come along for the ride. She successfully creates an alpha-male who comes off sympathetic, even scared, without losing any of his masculinity.  It was nice to have such a prominent character be so un-full of himself.  Convict 673 aka Caine completely lacked the cockiness of most alpha-males prominent in today’s romance literature.  His female counterpart, Cadet Annabella “Bella” West, is intelligent.  She makes choices for her survival, keeps her bargains, shows integrity, and doesn’t apologize for the consequences. She’s was a survivor even before she crashed into Caine’s life so her actions were consistent, even if they seemed extreme to her. I like these two characters and I like them together.  I just wish I had more of them and not just more of them in bed. One criticism was that in having her story thousands of years into the future, Aimes fell short in the cursing department.  She developed a system of travel, government,...
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Feb
4

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Claimed by Elle Kennedy

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Claimed by Elle Kennedy Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Claimed Author: Elle Kennedy Narrator: C S E Cooney Audio Speed: 1x and 1.25x Series: Outlaws #1 Genre: Futuristic Fantasy, Erotic Romance Source: Tantor media Forty years ago, the world went to war with itself, releasing bombs and destroying much of the planet. After the chaos, The Global Council took charge, creating mandatory communes, making everyone equal. Those who live outside the cities are outlaws, and are either assimilated or killed. Connor and his men are an outlaws, living day-to-day, enjoying what they can when they can. But Connor wants to find and destroy the head Global Council enforcer, Dominick, the man responsible for killing his family. Hudson escaped the city and Dominick to become an outlaw. When a group of bandits attack, she convinces Connor to give her protection. Although he says it will only be for one night, Hudson will do anything to convince him to let her stay longer. And using her sexuality to get into his bed is just one way she’ll convince Connor. I have very mixed feelings about Claimed. The futuristic world and concepts were interesting and engaging. I found that by the end, I wanted to know how the world will deal with the obvious problems within the World Council. But… I didn’t care much at all for the characters and their stories until the last quarter of the book. After listening through the end of Chapter 8 (49%), I had to stop the book, and I almost DNF’d it. The combination of the narrator’s soft-spoken, laid back voice for Connor and his asinine dialogue got to me. Connor is a strong, dominant man, and the voice selected just didn’t fit. Also, the entire plot for the first half revolved around constantly thinking about, having, or complaining that they aren’t having sex, and it was beyond annoying. I mean… they were on an important and dangerous mission, and Connor starts messing around with Hudson. It was ridiculous. Yet about Chapter 15 or so, the sex wasn’t as frequent, allowing the story to pick up and finally move forward. At this point, I actually began to care what was going on. The narration is a huge part of the problem I had with the story. I started listening to the book at 1x speed, but after the halfway point, I picked up the pace and listened at 1.25x speed. It didn’t help much. C S E Cooney’s...
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Jan
27

Review: Dead in the Water by Hailey Edwards

Review: Dead in the Water by Hailey Edwards Dead in the Water Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: You. Guys. I’m not kidding here. I actually growled when one of the kidlets interrupted me while I was reading Dead in the Water. This is Ms. Edwards’ Gemini series, a spin-off of the Black Dog series. Yes. You should probably read the Black Dog series before you read this one. Otherwise, if you go back, you’ll have read spoilers. Dead in the Water takes place after Old Dog, New Tricks, the fourth title in the Black Dog series. Not gonna lie. I adore Cam and the way she handles everything. Ev.Er.Y.Thing. I am looking forward to learning a TON about her in the Gemini series. As usual with Ms. Edwards’ books, there isn’t a lot I can talk about without giving away part of the plot. I did love the humor, though. “You don’t play fair.” He placed his hand at the small of my back and pressed. “Fair doesn’t taste like bacon.” I couldn’t argue with that logic.” Infused throughout the story, humor is what propelled me forward as a reader. Even during dark moments—and they were many—the major characters all seemed to have a sense of humor, even if was self-depreciating. Graeson, Harlow, and Dell provided support throughout the book. They were absolutely adorable, and I can’t wait to see more of them. Especially Graeson. *rawr* He’s a warg, and they’re wolf shifters. I affectionately call him Hottie McFurpants. I have theories about Cam & Graeson. Oh, yes. Lots of theories. Harlow was a bit of an enigma to me. I want to say she’s a support and a foil to Cam’s professional efforts, but that’s not exactly right. I really liked her as a character, and I want to see how her story turns out. Dell is also a warg, and it was interesting to see her interact with Cam: “The idea of a random stranger walking up to me one day and saying, ‘Hey, baby, you smell like forever. Let’s do it,’ isn’t all that appealing honestly.” I’m sure you can see why I liked her sass. Cam herself is riddled with a past that doesn’t become clear until well into the title. When we finally learn why she’s actually on all these cases for the Earthen Conclave, I’ll admit I had an emotional moment. While Cam is actually pretty independent and self-sufficient, she has strong familial connections. I...
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