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Twimom227

That's What I'm Talking About

I generally review romance, paranormal and urban fantasy. I tend to pick review books that I want to read, so generally my reviews will be positive. I always give my honest opinion: good, bad, and indifferent. 

 

Note: on my blog I use a letter grading system. I've listed the ratings below. For sites with stars, I have listed the equivalent rating. If I didn't finish the book, I will not rate it with stars.

 

A+  Personal Favorite (5 stars)
A    Loved It (4.5 or 5 stars)
A-   Enjoyed A Lot (4 or 4.5 stars)
B+  Liked It A Lot (4 stars)
B    Liked It -- Recommend (4 stars)
B-   Liked It -- But I had a few small issues (3 or 3.5 stars)
C+  Liked It -- But I had issues (3 or 3.5 stars)
C    Finished It -- Liked some, didn't like some (3 stars)
C-   Finished It -- Liked a little, didn't like a lot (2 or 2.5 stars)
D    Not A Big Fan (2 stars)
E    Don’t Waste Your Time (1 star)
----
TW: Reading this book was like watching a Train Wreck
DNF: Did Not Finish

 

updated July 9, 2015

Currently reading

Operation: Endgame (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Book 6) (English Edition)
Philippa Ballantine, Jeanne H. Ballantine, William Morris
Just You and Me (A Contemporary Romance Collection)
Fiona Miers, Caitlyn Lynch, Liz Durano, Deelylah Mullin, Cate Farren, Jacquie Biggar, Vicki Batman, Kate Richards, Brenna Zinn, Dalton Diaz, Tierney O'Malley, Desiree Holt, Nicole Morgan, Ashlyn Chase
Bitter Bite: Elemental Assassin, Book 14
Audible Studios, Jennifer Estep, Lauren Fortgang
Progress: 27 %

Taking a leave from Booklikes...

I hate to do this, but it's time I take a break from Booklikes. 

 

I joined Booklikes back when it first started. I loved its unique format for posts and the blog-like feel. I loved having an alternative to Goodreads. I loved the interaction I had with other users. Even with the ups and downs, it was still a good place to go.

 

However, in the past year or so things began to change. Almost every book I want to add to my shelf didn't have a cover. So I started manually adding every cover by downloading a file from Goodreads and then uploading it here. I don't know why the covers weren't showing up, especially since the overwhelming major of the titles I was reading could be found on Amazon.

 

But in the last couple months, it's become increasing difficult to even find a book I'm listening to or reading in the Booklikes library. The past three audiobooks I've listened to were not found. The current book I'm reading isn't found. These are widely-available books that are for sale on Amazon, B-N, and others.

 

When I first came across a book not found in the Booklikes library, I added the book, thinking it was a fluke, or perhaps it was because the book wasn't out yet (I had an ARC). But now it has happened four times in a row, with books that are currently being sold, it's time for me to stop the extra work. While I like Booklikes, it's become entirely too much effort for me to keep up what should be the website's job. I shouldn't have to be adding books to a book review website. It's not worth it.

 

So, sadly, I am packing my bags and moving on for now. I may return down the road, but right now, it's just not worth my effort. I hope you will continue to enjoy my reviews at my blog: http://twimom227.com or on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4017411-jen-that-s-what-i-m-talking-about

 

Thanks, Jen

#Audiobook Review: Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston

Hot and Badgered (The Honey Badgers) - Shelly Laurenston

Hot and Badgered, the first book in Ms. Laurenston’s new Honey Badgers Chronicles is a crazy ride full of over-the-top shifters with a thirst for blood… and honey. While it is a new series, I learned from others after I started listening, that it is set in the same world as and features characters from her Pride series. Perhaps I would have enjoyed Hot and Badgered more had I read the earlier series, because one of my issues was the sheer volume of characters and side stories. It was confusing and difficult to follow at times. The story is shared from multiple POVs and can make your head spin a bit.

 

Hot and Badgered is billed as the romance between Honey Badger/Wolf shifter, Charlie MacKilligan, and Bear shifter Berg Dunn; however, there is very little romance in the book. The story follows Charlie and her half sisters, Max (full Honey Badger) and Frankie (Honey Badger/Tiger), as the run for the lives from an array of dangerous threats. Their father is a major lowlife, who is constantly putting his own kids’ lives in danger, and the Irish MacKilligans are a crime family. So… there is a lot to run from. Good thing Charlie and her sisters know how to fight and take care of themselves. Their adventures are outlandish and there is never a moment’s rest. Eventually, there is a bit of courting between Charlie and Berg - who are adorable together - but the romance is a very small part of the overall story.

 

While the tale itself was somewhat interesting, definitely exciting, and mostly entertaining, the characters could be mildly annoying. They are always fighting, and they are all completely over-the-top. Everything is outlandish and dramatic. I will admit that after a LONG while, the Mackilligan sisters and Dunn triplets grew on me, but the story went on way too long and had too many side characters and subplots.

 

The narration from Ms. Odom was solid. She used distinct voices for each character, easily recognizable whenever I picked up the book and started listening. Some of the voices felt cartoonish or exaggerated at first, but as the book went on, I realized that those voices fit the nature of the characters. She pulls of several accents, some better than others, but again, narration suits the craziness of the characters. 

 

In the end, I found myself enjoying Hot and Badgered, silliness and all. It was a rough start and a bumpy journey, one that I wish had fewer supporting characters and storylines, but I found it entertaining, and anticipate I will pick up the second book.

 

My Rating: B-

Narration: B

 

Review copy provided by Tantor Audio

Review: LICKS by Kelly Siskind

Licks - Kelly Siskind

Growing up as neighbors, Gwen never told her best friend August that she was in love with him. And instead, stopped talking to him in high school when he started dating someone else. After a year and a half of the silent treatment, Gwen drunk texts August on her birthday, which leads to a mistake that ends their friendship for good. 

 

Fast forward nine years later. August is a full-time musician touring in Europe, and he never got over his feelings for Gwen. He returns home to see Gwen because he has an important message for her from her deceased mom. As one serendipitous event leads to another, the pair begin a 36-hour quest to discover the identity of Gwen’s father.

 

What can I say about Licks other than it is one of the best stories I’ve read? There are so many things that are perfect about this story, it’s hard for me to capture my emotions and thoughts in a review. Right from the opening chapter, I had all the feels for Gwen and August. Their history is gutting, and so relatable. And as I read each page, every chapter, I fell hard for August and Gwen. I was flooded with emotions and the need to keep reading because I had to know they would make it.

 

It’s always difficult for me to write a review of a book I just absolutely adored. How do I express why I liked a book that I connected with down to my very soul? But that’s just it… I found that I connected with every aspect of the story. Everything Ms. Siskind created resonated with me. The character’s emotions, from joy to despair, from heart ache to love… I’ve felt them all, and they are written so genuinely, so sincerely, that I experienced them along side Gwen and August.

 

While the romance is utterly emotional, both tender and gritty, the plot to uncover the name of Gwen’s father is captivating. The unexpected turns shocked me, taking my breath away. There are plot twists that feel as natural as they are surprising. And the whole quest gives Gwen and August a route to emotional clarity and freedom from their past mistakes.

 

The dual aspects of the plot—unrequited, unrealized romance and the search for Gwen’s father—played together perfectly, weaving and dancing around one another and together with sublime effect. Following the clues Gwen and August find in her mother’s diary leads the pair on a scavenger hunt, bringing them closer together as Gwen runs the gamut of emotions.

 

Licks is hands down one of the best books I’ve read. The characters come to life in an intense, emotionally packed journey that captivated me from the first paragraphs all the way to the closing epilogue. Gwen and August’s story will stay with me for a long time to come.

 

My Rating:  A+ Personal Favorite

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

Review copy provided by blog tour

Review: Can't Stand the Heat by Peggy Jaeger

Can't Stand the heat - Peggy Jaeger

Stacy has successfully produced three cooking shows for the EBS network and is known for being able to get the job done. She recently pitched a new idea for her own show, one her boss is interested in, and tells her he’ll green-light it, if she’ll produce a show for him in Montana. Figuring she can deal with eight weeks on the road, Stacy agrees, only to discover after that the director is one of the best and most difficult in the business. 

 

Nikko doesn’t need anyone from the network looking over his shoulder and making changes to his program, so he was ready to hate Stacy the minute he saw her. However, she’s unlike anyone he’s worked with before and his daughter seems to like Stacy, and the more time he spends around her, Nikko realizes he needs Stacy for more than just his television show.

 

Can’t Stand the Heat is the third, standalone story from Ms. Jaeger’s Will Cook for Love series. While characters from the first two titles make an appearance in this title, and we originally meet Stacy in the first book, having read the previous books isn’t necessary to enjoy Can’t Stand the Heat. Unlike the first two books (and much to my joy), this story is straight up contemporary romance, without any bit of suspense or danger tossed in. The story focuses on Nikko and Stacy—getting to know one another and learning how to move on from past heartache and pain.

 

At the start, Nikko is an ass, not just to Stacy, but to all those he works with. He’s a perfectionist and master of his trade, but he’s unkind. His demeanor is in part due to his control freak nature, but also partly due to the physical pain he endures, stemming from a car crash that killed his ex-wife (the mother of his teenage daughter) less than two years prior. Worry for his daughter, whose life was completely rearranged by the death of her mom, provides additional stress, making Nikko unbearable most of the time. Yet, he is a smart man, and he recognizes the truth in Stacy’s kindness and learns how to become a better man by accepting her generosity, which allows him to grow.

 

Meanwhile, Stacy has her own demons that drive her work ethic. However, she’s balanced, using yoga as an outlet for stress and physical pain. She is open and giving, and great at her job. She refuses to let Nikko scare her off. Yet, she’s strangely attracted to the man, and absolutely adores his daughter. She’s so good-natured, there really isn’t anything bad to say about the woman.

 

When each started showing an interest in the other, I have to say I struggled with their relationship. As much as I liked both, at first their story was all say instead of do: we didn’t see them growing close, we were only told they each felt a physical attraction. Their interactions were toxic mostly, so the attraction felt off. Yet as the book progressed, Nikko and Stacy spend more time together, and we got to know them better, and we saw barriers come down.

 

In the end, I really enjoyed Can’t Stand the Heat, and it’s my favorite in the series to date. I appreciated seeing Nikko and Stacy become friends and grow close. I loved Stacy’s connection with Nikko’s daughter. Generally, the characters are good people, and they deserve good things. The ending really warmed my heart.

 

My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

Review copy provided by NetGalley

Originally Posted at That's What I'm Talking About

The Demon You Know  - Julie Kenner

Enjoyable short story about a demon-hunting mom and her teenage daughter. No knowledge of the series is needed to enjoy. It's short and to the point - reminiscent of a Buffy episode. Narration was well done. Narrator does great job switching between mom and daughter as point-of-view. All voices age and gender appropriate.

 

My Rating: B

Narration: B+

#Audiobook Review: Axel by Grace Burrowes

Axel - Grace Burrowes

Axel opens with Axel recently returning home from the holidays at his brother’s home (Matthew, previous book). He is called to his closest neighbor’s home in the middle of the night because Mrs. Stoneleigh found her elderly husband shot dead in his study. Presuming it was suicide, she’s a bit shocked when Axel, the neighbor and Magistrate, tells her it was murder. 

 

To keep her safe from potential threats, Axel invites Abby to stay at his home while he solves her late husband’s murder. Soon the pair strike up a genuine friendship and uncover several crimes committed by the late Stoneleigh himself. With propriety saying they should stay apart, can Abby and Axel accept their love and move forward?

 

Axel is the third book in the Jaded Gentleman series, but the fourth I’ve read. I don’t know if the formula of the books (unconventional woman, jaded gentleman) started to wear on me or if it was just this story, but I didn’t find Axel to be as engaging as the other three books. I did enjoy that the mystery opens this one. And what a mystery it is - murder! It lended a bit of urgency to the storyline. However, things really slowed down shortly after the start. While normally I enjoy the slower pace of the series, I got a bit frustrated with this one. At only a third of the way into the story, I was able to see the foul play afoot, and I just want the story to move forward. Unfortunately, Axel has a way of giving extra insight and taking a meandering path to make his points. Additionally, the climax of the mystery was overly complicated and unnecessarily drawn-out.

 

Mr. Langton’s performance was once again perfect in tempo and cadence for the story at hand. However, I noticed a distinct change in the voices of both Matthew and Sir Nick, and although those characters are found only in supporting roles, I was annoyed every time their parts came up in the story.  

 

Overall, Axel is a good story, albeit a bit long and drawn-out. After listening to four books, the series has run its course for now. (I started with book 4 of 4). Although each had a unique story, the formula was very much the same. The long, drawn out pace of this one got to me at times. But I genuinely enjoyed both Axel and Abby. I loved their dialogue and joint discovery of love and pleasure. The mystery of who killed her husband and why was a little too convoluted and led to some of my bother.

 

My Rating: B/B-

Narration: B/B-

#Audiobook Review: Matthew by Grace Burrowes

Matthew: Jaded Gentlemen Series, Book 2 - Tantor Audio, Grace Burrowes, James Langton

Picking up shortly after the conclusion of Thomas, Matthew opens with Thomas’s sister Theresa and her daughter Pricilla taking care of his estate while Thomas is away on his honeymoon travels. Running into difficulties with a mare, Theresa calls on Thomas’s neighbor, Matthew. Both Theresa and Matthew are lonely soles (she spending 8 years in self-inflicted exile, he the widower magistrate with bothersome in laws), and the pair strike an early friendship.

 

Following the mold of the preceding book, Matthew tells the tale of an unconventional woman who defies the times and a jaded gentleman who discovers a new joy in life with the help of the right woman. I like Theresa a lot. I like that despite the hardship of her past and the unkindness of her brother, her only living relative, she remains kind-hearted and gentle. Matthew is a true gentleman who recognizes the wrongs places upon Theresa, and defends her every action to both her brother and to Theresa. Through his love, she learns to accept her own faults and appreciate the person she’s become. 

 

The only real negative I had was with Priscilla, who is mostly lovely and an excellent supporting character. However, the author shares a few sections from her point of view, and she is entirely too astute for to be an eight-year-old. Although her observations are spot on, I just didn’t like that they came from an eight-year-old.

 

Once again, Mr. Langton provides the narration for the tale. His voices, expressions, and characterizations have become familiar and enjoyable. His cadence is well-suited for the slower-paced and historically-set romance. 

 

Even though Matthew is the second book in the Jaded Gentlemen series, it’s the third title I’ve listened to, and I continue to enjoy the titles. The book was delightful and lovely. I like that Theresa and Matthew find love early on, and it’s solving the mystery that delays the HEA.

 

My Rating: B+

Narration: B+

#Audiobook Review: Lake Silence by Anne Bishop

Lake Silence - Anne Bishop, Alexandra Harris

Spinning off from and taking place several months after the conclusion of the original Others series, Lake Silence shifts from the activities of the Lakeside Courtyard, to a human settlement, Sproing, located in the Finger Lakes region of the Wild Country. The story centers on Vicki DeVine, a recently divorced human who received a rundown, rustic “campground” known as the Jumble in Sproing as her settlement. After suffering ten years of emotional and mental abuse by her ex, Vicki enjoys a quiet life rebuilding her property. However, when her tenant, Aggie Crowe (a member of the Crowguard), discovers a dead body on the adjacent property, Vicki and her lodge become the center of much attention, with Vicki a suspect. Soon Vicki finds herself entangled in a fight with her ex and his partners to keep the Jumble. And Vicki also discovers she has a number of Other allies, bringing her face-to-face with the predators living around Sproing.

 

Lake Silence introduces readers to an entirely new set of characters, location, and a new species of Other; however, there is mention of a few key players from the original series. And although the book doesn’t open with the “history of the world” as did the previous books, there is enough backstory and history woven into the plot that a newcomer to the series could enjoy the book without having read the first five books (but you should!) The narrative is first person when shared by Vicki, with all other characters shared in third person. There is a bit of jumping back and forth between characters and locations, with each perspective adding a piece to the larger picture.

 

I was a bit apprehensive when starting Lake Silence, because I had grown to love the residents of Lakeside and was concerned I wouldn’t like moving away from Meg, Simon, and the gang. I’m happy to report that my concerns were for naught. I quickly became attached to Vicki, Aggie, and the other residents of Sproing. The story starts with the same premise as the original series: a damaged girl/woman being hunted/harassed, while the Others, Intuits, and humans rally to protect her. Yet, even with the similarities, the story is fresh, exciting, and engrossing. Vicki may not be able to stand up for herself, but she is smart and understands what is happening to and around her. I enjoyed watching her grow and strengthen over the course of the book. Through the development of friendships with both humans and Others, Vicki develops a sense of self and learns to better deal with the abusive tactics used by her ex and his cronies. 

 

As with the original series, Alexandra Harris provides the narration for Lake Silence. Her performance is familiar, yet different, and Ms. Harris is the voice of the series for me. I like that I never was confused that I was listening to the characters from earlier books, yet each voice still felt well-known. Vicki is different than Meg and her voice was older, more mature, yet still tentative when anxious. The Crow and Sanguinati voices are similar to previous books. Additionally, many of the Others are more primitive in this area-unused to human interaction-and their voices and speech patterns mimic this. 

 

In the end, I found Lake Silence an thrilling and very enjoyable story. There is some of the same, but enough differences from the original series to make it engaging and not repetitive. While I was concerned I wouldn’t like the change in location, meeting a whole new set of characters was exciting, and I’ve already become attached to several. Vicky is a work in progress; she did some growing, but has a lot more to do to heal the wounds her ex inflicted, and I hope we will see more of her and the settlement of Sproing in future titles.

 

Story: A-

Narration: A

 

Review copy provided by Penguin Random House Audio

#Audiobook Review: The Way You Look Tonight by Bella Andre

The Way You Look Tonight  - Bella Andre

Life has gotten to Rafe. He works tirelessly and is one of the best PIs in the business, but his cases, which primarily consist of cheating spouses, has hardened Rafe, leaving him worn-out and cynical. When his baby sister calls to tell him he is buying the family’s old cabin on the lake, he’s cautious, but eventually approves of the idea. He likes it even more when he arrives at the lake and finds his old neighbor, Brooke, all grown up and absolutely stunning. 

 

Brooke has finally found her happy place, living at her grandparents’ old lake home and making chocolate truffles. Although Brooke is successful and content, seeing Rafe rekindles her crush and ignites a desire to walk on the wild side. Instead of playing coy, she goes for it, telling Rafe exactly what she wants. Soon the friends embark on a summer fling that quickly evolves into something more.

 

After reading some positive reviews for Ms. Andre’s Seattle Sullivans series, I picked up the first full-length book. On paper, the book has pluses, including a somewhat second chance romance and a small town feel. At first, I liked both Rafe and Brooke, each with a bit of history and in need of saving. I appreciated Brooke’s direct approach with Rafe, rather than dropping hints and playing hard to get.

 

However, once the book got going, I started to find certain aspects annoying. First, I was irritated with Rafe’s constant stance that a little “kink” (being tied up) would “dirty” or “corrupt” Brooke. I felt his attitude was a bit outdated for the situation, and potentially harmful to Brooke’s self image. Second, I was exasperated by the constant in-the-head evaluations of their relationship by both Rafe and Brooke. Rather than talking to one another, or even another friend, their internal monologuing was non-stop. I was trapped as a third party, silently listening to both sides go on and on. And of course, Rafe makes a stupid decision that I saw coming a mile away. At least Brooke was mature enough to talk to him about it after a cooling-off period.

 

The narration was enjoyable and very familiar. So much so that I searched the internet for possible pseudonyms and discovered Ms. Kaminsky narrated another book I’ve listened to. Ms. Kaminsky is best when portraying female characters, with her male voices appropriately but not overly masculine. She adds a touch of emotion into her reading, which adds value to the overall enjoyment.

 

In the end, The Way You Look Tonight was a mixed bag for me. I liked it and was really into it at first, but then it grew repetitive and tired. I didn’t enjoy it after a while and speed it up until things started moving again.

 

My Rating: B-

Narration: B

Review: Guardian of Darkness by Katie Reus

Guardian of Darkness - Katie Reus

Vega is the half-werewolf, half-vampire daughter of two very powerful supernaturals and has long been the darling of her father's pack. When we met Vega in the first Darkness book, she was a teenager, and although we didn't see most of her years since then, she's now a recent college graduate who is ready to make her mark in the world. Knowing her parents may object, Vega joined a secret government supernatural Black Ops team and is heading out on her first mission.

 

Gabriel has known Vega is his destined mate long before he even met her, and when his feelings started to become more-than-a-Guardian in nature, he put distance between himself and Vega. He thinks staying away from her will prevent the vision of her death coming true; however, when he sees her strike out on her own with a dangerous group, he is compelled to intervene. Now he's part of her Black Ops mission and heading straight into the heart of his former home, where he foresaw Vega die.

 

Ms. Reus's Darkness series is a favorite of mine. I enjoy the breadth of the mythology, bringing in all types of supernatural beings, including different half-breeds, each unique and with interesting abilities. Vega is a wonderful example; she was something different and new to the Pack when we first met her, and her abilities continue to evolve as she matures. 

 

One thing I adore about Vega and Gabriel’s story is the straightforward nature of relationship. Don’t get me wrong – there is subterfuge, and both keep secrets, but once they are together and working on the mission, they open up. For example, Gabriel’s vision was used in the past as a way to keep the pair apart, and could have easily continued to remain a secret, but he shares with her his knowledge and concerns rather than allow them to fester. Likewise, Vega could have hidden her sleuthing activities from Gabriel, but she is honest, and they work as equals on a team. The mutual respect and admiration ignites their sexual chemistry, and they cannot keep their lust at bay.

 

Guardian of Darkness introduces several new interesting individuals to the Darkness world, each with ties to existing characters. While the addition of so many new players could feel cumbersome, Ms. Reus integrates each with a solid storyline, and in the process has created several new intriguing avenues for the series. I’m most interested in August, the bear-hybrid shifter and leader of Vega’s Black Ops team.

 

In the end, Guardian of Darkness is an enjoyable, exciting addition to one of the few paranormal romance series I continue to read. The mythology is both traditional and inventive, and with the introduction of so many new players, I continue to look forward to each new title.

 

My Rating:  B, Liked It

Review copy provided by NetGalley

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

#Audiobook Review: A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wind in the Door - Listening Library, Jennifer Ehle, Madeleine L'Engle

A Wind in the Door is the follow up story to one of my favorite books, A Wrinkle in Time. Moving forward in time a couple years, we catch up with Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace as they take on another cosmic adventure. This time around, Charles Wallace is very ill, and Meg and Calvin meet new beings who help them try to save him.

 

Once again, I listened to the book with my 11-year old daughter (after reading it several times in my youth and as an adult). We both found the story somewhat interesting, but not nearly as good as the first book. I felt the story tries too hard to get across its messages of "everything is connected" and "love everyone." The concepts used became increasingly repetitive and unnecessarily confusing. We both became bored with the Meg's tests, meanwhile, we both were able to figure out and solve Meg's problems well before she did.

 

Ms. Ehle does a good job with her narration, although I did enjoy Ms. Davis's performance in A Wrinkle in Time a bit more. At first, it was hard not to compare the two performances, but after a while, I could appreciate Ms. Ehle's work on its own merit. She has a calming presence and captures the exuberant nature of Meg.

 

In the end, I enjoyed the experience of listening to A Wind in the Door with my daughter, but we both agree the book had a few issues.

 

My rating: B-/C+
My daughter: 3.4 stars

 

Narration: B
My daughter: 4 stars

Review: On the Brink of Passion by Tamsen Parker

On the Brink of Passion - Tamsen Parker

Jubilee, a veteran SIGs pairs figure skater, has returned to the spotlight with new partner, Beckett. She was the SIGs four years ago with her husband as her partner, but shortly after, he suffered an untimely death. Vowing never to lose so much all at once again, Jubilee appreciates Beckett because he is hard working, dedicated, and has no desire to her friend.

 

Beckett missed out on the SIGs four years ago, after which his then partner and lover, Sabrina, dumped him. Finding Jubilee was a godsend, and the fact that they are favored at the SIGs after only two years together is almost a miracle. Beckett is looking forward to the competition, and everything (and everyone) that comes along with the ride. 

 

Through a mistake in room assignments, Jubilee and Beckett are placed in the same suite, and neither is happy. Jubilee needs her downtime and private space. Beckett needs to get laid, but the Ice Princess won’t allow him to bring anyone back to the room. So on a dare/joke, the pair decide to sleep together.

 

On the Brink of Passion is a wonderful, amazing story and by far my favorite of the Snow and Ice Games series. It works for several reasons, namely it punches all my yes buttons. I enjoy books where the primary couple already has a strong sense of an established, non-sexual backstory, which is especially important when characters fall deeply in love on a shortened timeline. I also love books that pull at my heartstrings, allowing me to feel the heartache and/or suffering of one/both characters, but also brings me up so high in their love. Finally, the story is well-written, lacking any side stories or distractions that detract from the ebb and flow of the book.

 

The romantic journey begins well before the book starts - even though neither Beck nor Jubilee recognize it. The pair meshes perfectly on ice, creating an intimacy even though they aren’t friends or lovers. This gives the book a solid foundation for which their love affair can grow. The ludicrous start, being placed in the same suite and having sex on a dare, creates a forced proximity and more intimacy, once again, even though the characters attempt to keep a distance. 

 

Beckett is strong and kind, funny and determined. There were times I was laughing out loud at his thoughts and actions. He had trouble with past partners and has finally found the perfect match in Jubilee. And once they break out of their standard routine and he gets inside of her mind and body, he realizes he loves her. But Jubilee is so determined for history not to repeat itself that she refuses to acknowledge the strong bond and love she shares with Beck. The give-and-take between the two pulled at my heart, causing me to become emotionally connected to the pair.

 

On the Brink of Passion follows Beckett and Jubilee as they go from platonic partners to lovers. Watching them grow closer, even though Jubilee is determined not to see history repeat itself, warmed my heart. Their story shares heartache and triumphs in equal measures, giving me all the feels. I absolutely adored their romance and highly recommend it to any and all.

 

My Rating: A, Loved It

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

Review copy provided by Netgalley

#Audiobook Review: Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

Burn Bright - Patricia Briggs, -Penguin Audio-, Holter Graham

With Bran away, Charles is charged with looking after his pack. Danger strikes close to home, endangering the Wildlings, lone wolves who are too wild to be part of the pack, but remain under Bran’s protection. Unable to reach Bran, Charles and Anna are left of save and protect the Wildlings while trying to uncover who within the pack is a traitor.

 

While Burn Bright is the continuation of Charles and Anna’s story, the series on whole is deeply connected to its sister series, the Mercy Thompson series, and this story takes place following and refers to the events in Silence Fallen. Bran remains away after helping Mercy escape her captors in Europe, but lied about his location to Charles. So when things go sideways and Bran is unreachable, Charles begins to suspect more is going on than a random attack on isolated wolves.

 

I mostly enjoyed the story as it alternates between Anna and Charles’ POVs, revealing bits and threads that begin to show something larger happening around the pack. The series is at its best when Anna and Charles are in sync, working together to solve a bizarre mystery. And although Charles and Anna work separately for a bit, the trust and love they share makes the pair much stronger than the individuals. And watching them try to figure out who is attacking the Wildlings while trying to understand what secrets Bran has hidden for them to uncover was exciting and engrossing. We meet several new characters that I hope turn up in books down the road.

 

Unfortunately, there is one part of the book that really bothered me, even though I tried hard to understand why Ms. Briggs would have included it. Specifically it has to do with the relationship between Bran and his foster daughter, Mercy, who doesn’t even make an appearance in the story. Anna and Charles discuss the bond between Bran and Mercy, and the impacts to Bran’s own mating bond with Leah. The implications are upsetting and disturbing, and I feel there was no reason to include it. However, I did enjoy learning more about Leah (later in the book) and her motivations. It made her character more relatable and three-dimensional.

 

The story is narrated by series-veteran, Holter Graham. I have always enjoyed his performances, although I felt sometimes he had a stereotype-Native American accent for Charles. However, in Burn Bright, Mr. Graham changed up his voice for Charles quiet a bit. So much so, that it sparked a big discussion among my friends on Twitter. While the change was distracting at first, it didn’t take me too long to settle into the new voice and enjoy the performance. Overall his voices remain solid and character appropriate, adding in a touch of emotion when needed.

 

In the end, I enjoyed finally getting back to Anna and Charles after a three-year break. It doesn’t seem like the story was as strong as previous tales, but that may have more to do with the shift away from the Fae, giving the book a transition feel. The story builds upon what I love most about this series - the dynamic between Anna and Charles, their bond and love. I liked getting more about Leah; I liked understanding her and her feelings a bit more. The Wildlings piece was interesting, and I hope well see more of them in future titles. 

 

My Rating: B 

Narration: B 

 

Review copy provided by Penguin Random House Audio

Review: As the Devil Dares by Anna Harrington

As the Devil Dares - Anna Harrington

In an effort to seek the approval of his deceased father, Robert has spent the past two years planning for the chance to be part of Winslow Shipping and Henry Winslow’s partner. The catch: Robert must find a husband for Winslow’s unruly daughter, Mariah, aka the Hellion.

 

Mariah grew up without her mother, at her father’s side at the docks and shipyard. She knows Winslow Shipping inside and out and hopes to run the family business someday. But her father wants Mariah to be a proper lady, and instead seeks to find a partner outside the family. She’ll do everything she can to foil Robert’s plans to marry her off and take the company for himself.

 

As the Devil Dares is a fun story with an enemies-to-lovers romance. Robert and Mariah are at odds from the start - both vying for her father’s attention and a piece of Winslow Shipping. Each is running from their own demons, having solid reasons for wanting to hold Winslow’s favor. But placing Robert in charge of Mariah’s season and finding her a husband creates a forced proximity with hilarious consequences. Mariah does everything she can to go along with the plan, while simultaneously working against the idea of marriage.

 

As the pair spends time together, they start to get past their ambitions and see true natures beneath rough exteriors. They learn about one another, finding commonality in the death of a parent. Both are motivated and can appreciate the drive of the other. However, as all good stories go, mistakes made prior to their friendship developing come to light, causing conflict and drama. While it was obvious from the start that the conflict would occur, Ms. Harrington weaves a solid and entertaining story that kept me engaged. 

 

In the end, I enjoyed this third story in the Capturing the Carlisles series. Ms. Harrington has become a must-read author for me. I love her unconventional, strong-willed women who defy their time and go after what they want, and As the Devil Dares is another delightful example. Mariah and Robert are the perfect pairing, finding true love after learning to be friends then lovers.

 

My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

 

Review copy provided by Netgalley

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

Review: DEAD EYE by Alyssa Day

DEAD EYE: A Tiger's Eye cozy paranormal mystery (Tiger's Eye Mysteries Book 1) - Alyssa Day

Tess has lived in Dead End her whole life. Although the town is no stranger to the weird and unexplained, she’s a bit of an oddball; able to see a person’s death when coming into contact with another. She runs a pawn shop, which she is now partial owner, and genuinely loves her job.

 

Jack, a tiger shifter, has been away for ten years, leading the human resistance against vampires and working side by side with the Atlanteans. He recently discovered his uncle (and only family member), Jeremiah, was murdered, and after being back in Dead End for less than a day, another dead body is dumped at the door to his deceased uncle’s pawn shop. Now Jack is determined to figure out what’s going on.

 

I absolutely enjoyed reading Dead Eye, the first in Ms. Day’s new Tiger’s Eye Mysteries (although the book was previously released). The story is shared by the first person POV of Tess, and features Jack, one of the heroes from the Warriors of Poseidon series. There are so many delightful surprises in this one... and not at all what I expected after reading the Warriors of Poseidon. Dead Eye is filled with light-hearted humor and has a cozy-mystery vibe.

 

The mystery of who killed Jeremiah and what is happening in Dead End builds slowly and clues delivered sporadically. Tess and Jack do a great job of seeing the interconnected strings that tie everything together. While it’s not a surprise who did what and why by the time the master plan is revealed, it unfolds in a way that is thoughtful and interesting. 

 

Tess is a great heroine. She’s an “average Joe” (with a weird gift of being able to foresee a person’s death), who rises to the occasion. She finds courage when she doesn’t expect it. She’s kind and good, but has a wicked side when it comes to seeking vengeance against those who’ve done harm to innocents. Jack compliments her in many ways,  bolstering her and allowing her to be more. Their attraction is slow-burning but obvious to the reader. 

 

Dead Eye is a fabulous, engrossing story filled with great humor, interesting adventures, and a hint of romance that has the potential for some serious heat. I found myself cheering for Jack and Tess. I enjoyed meeting all of Dead End’s denizens, with all their quirks and flaws. The core group is solid and will look out for one another, which sets this up to be a wonderful series.

 

My Rating:  A, Loved It

Review copy provided by NetGalley

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

#Audiobook Review: Murder's a Witch by Danielle Garrett

Murder's a Witch: Beechwood Harbor Magic Mysteries Series, Book 1 - Danielle Garrett, Tantor Audio, Amanda Ronconi

Holly, a powerful witch, has been tossed from the Haven, a secret system of living for paranormals. She’s been placed in a communal home for displaced paras, living in the small town of Beechwood Harbor. Working at a coffee shop to make ends meet, Holly is shocked when she shows up for work only to find her grumpy boss Peg murdered in the back alley. When her best friend is named as the primary suspect, Holly uses her witchy ways to get to the bottom of this mystery.

 

Murder’s a Witch is a fun, entertaining story. This is the first time I’ve selected an audiobook primarily because of the narrator, and I’m glad I did. I enjoyed the small-town, cozy paranormal mystery with a slight blossom of romance. Even though at first, I found the house infighting annoying, and the characters a bit over-the-top, I grew to like the residents of Beechwood Harbor. 

 

Holly is a bit of a mess, and she has secrets, of which we learned very little. Hopefully those answers will come in time, but the immediate mystery of who killed Peg was engrossing. I liked listening as Holly worked to put all of the pieces together. I loved the light-hearted nature of the story, watching friendships develop, seeing Adam’s genuine interest in Holly, etc. Some of the storylines were a bit cheesy - like the vampiress beauty queen, but mostly it is a good mix of fun. 

 

As I mentioned, I picked up this story because while it looked interesting, the narrator is one of my favorites: Amanda Ronconi. She does a wonderful job with the story, creating and maintaining unique and fitting voices for each character. Ms. Ronconi succeeds with the quirky, first-person female lead, and Holly is no exception. I’ve become familiar with most of her voices, yet never did I confuse Murder’s a Witch with another story.

 

In the end, I enjoyed my first visit to Beechwood Harbor. I like that there is still a lot of unknown around Holly, like why she was kicked out of the Haven system, and with town newcomer, Nick… I feel like there is more to him than meets the eye. I will definitely pick up future titles of the Beechwood Harbor Magic Mysteries with Amanda Ronconi narrating.

 

My Rating: B
Narration: B+

 

Review copy provided by Tantor Audio