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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

Chasing Destiny (Silver Tip Pack Book 2)
Megan Erickson
The Silver Skull: The Elemental Web Chronicles, Book 2
Henrietta Meire, Anne Renwick, Tantor Audio
Frank Herbert, Simon Vance
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 %

#Audiobook Review: Besieged by Kevin Hearne

Besieged - Luke Daniels, Kevin Hearne

Besieged is a collection of tales all set in the Iron Druid world. All but the last few are not directly related to the current storyline. Many are fun recountings of events in the long lives of these characters. 


*Note: I could not find a listing of the story titles within the book, so I did my best trying to catch the names when listening to the audiobook.


"Eye of Horus"

This is a story Atticus shares with Granuaile and Oberon; told between Tricked and Two Ravens and One Crow, when Granuaile is still an apprentice. 


Atticus narrates a story from back in the third century when the Celtic god Ogma wants Atticus to steal some books from the library in Alexandra. We find out that the Egyptian and Celtic gods do not get along. It was an interesting side-story about a much younger Atticus and how he first meets the iron elementals. The story makes direct reference to another short story, “Grimoire of Lamb,” which I haven’t read so I may have missed a joke or two.


"Goddess at the Crossroads" 

Another story shared by Atticus during the same time period as the previous book, that is actually a recounting of a story from long ago.


This one takes place during time of Shakespeare, just after the death of Queen Elizabeth. Atticus links up with Shakespeare for an adventure during the time he was writing MacBeth. It doesn’t have any relevance on the current series, but was fun.


"The Demon Barker of Wheat Street" 

This one takes place two weeks after “Two Ravens and One Crow,” and was originally published in the Carney Punk anthology.


The tale is a bit of a non sequitur about a trip to a fair where demons and ghouls are feasting on humans. The story takes place in Granuaile’s hometown as she attempts to visit her mom. The story felt a wee bit gorier and darker than the usual stories, but was interesting.


"Gold Dust Fairy"

This one is another recounting of a story during Atticus’s history. He shares it shortly after the time of the previous “Demon” story. 


Atticus is called to California during the gold rush because Gaia sensed a dangerous demon is loose and causing problems. I liked this tale because it shared more of what it’s like to be a Druid protecting Gaia and Atticus’s life on the run from Angus Og. 


"The Boogie Man of Boora Bog" 

The book shifts gear and moves to a tale narrated by Owen. This story takes place after Staked but before Oberon's meaty mystery story. 


Owen tells Greta about how he came to be Atticus's arch Druid. Once again we have a story that is actually a retelling of past events. The story is about when Owen was younger and was sent to save Gaia from the clearcutting behaviors of some villages. He meets another Druid who is kidnapping and eating children. In the aftermath he meets a young Atticus. He tells Greta that the events at the bog changed him and therefore changed how he taught Atticus, which may be why he is the way he is. I like the insight it provides, and it also sets up Greta and Atticus being able to work together again (coming up).


"Cuddle Dungeon" 

This short is narrated by Perun and takes place after The Purloined Poodle.


The story follows Flidais and Perun as they explore new sexual fantasies at a dungeon in Scotland. However unbeknownst to Perun, Flidais uses him to trap a nymph. I really enjoyed this one because it directly related to parts of the overall storyline and is current in the series order. I loved learning more about Perun and his complex personality.


The next three stories are all current and take place between The Purloined Poodle and the upcoming Scourged.


“Blood Pudding”

Narrated by Granuaile, the tale picks up during her time in Poland. While working at her job in the local pub, Granuaile is visited by a vampire on the eve before all vampires are to leave Poland. We get to see Granuaile in action as a full Druid and taking care of business without the support of Atticus and Owen. I really like the story because it moves forward the overall series as it approaches the final story.


"Hunted Devil" 

Next, it’s Owen’s turn to share what he goes through as we approach the final book. He gets a call for help from Tasmania (same as Atticus, which was mentioned in “Blood Pudding”). Owen and Greta prepare his six apprentices to help heal cancer-stricken Tasmanian Devils. The story is great for we finally get to see Greta and Atticus working together again. It also foreshadows the upheaval awaiting as Loki starts Ragnarok.


"The End of Idols”

And finally, we get Atticus’s version of events as we lead up to the end of the series. He and Oberon are still in Tasmania, healing the Devils, when the Morrígan comes to Atticus in a dream. Atticus also shares with Oberon what happened to his first and only other long-term animal companion. 


The tale is not really a complete story, but rather it sets the stage for the final showdown between Atticus and Loki, and what could be the end of the world. It’s a bit of an emotional tale because Atticus seems to be saying goodbye to Oberon as he prepares for what could be his own death.


I really enjoyed listening to Besieged. Luke Daniels has come to be one of the all-time best narrators I have ever heard. His range of voices is truly unmatched. I loved listening to him give life to so many different characters. Overall, the stories are mostly interesting and fun to listen to, however the last three stories were the best because they set the stage for the final book, Scourged


My Rating:  B+

Narration:  A+


Review copy provided by Penguin Random House Audio


Of note: I change my listening speed from my usual 1.5x down to 1.25x. I don't recall exactly when, but it was because the vehicle I drove in for much of the book seemed to play the stories a bit faster than when I listen via headphones.

Review: The Darkest Promise by Gena Showalter

The Darkest Promise - Gena Showalter

Cameo, the keeper of Misery, remembers forgetting someone. A dark man who made her... happy?! She thinks it could be Lazarus the Cruel and Unusual, but her demon has blocked it from her memories. She has found her way to Lazarus's realm using the Paring Rod in hopes of finding out the truth. 


Lazarus is stuck in a land of the dead, but he is not dead; sort of. His thoughts revolve around vengeance: to kill his father, Hera, and the harpy who banished him to this realm. He found his "one true mate" in Cameo, and he is obsessed with finding her after she left his side never to return. He is also slowly dying from crystallized veins, something that occurs once the male of his species finds their “true mate.” Now he’s torn between his need for vengeance and desire for Cameo, which is killing him.


Due to the fact that The Darkest Promise follows a couple story arcs that began a few books ago, I don’t recommend anyone new to the Lords of the Underworld series start here. It is probably the best of the most recent books, as it mostly stays focused on the romantic storyline and only one overarching plot line, keeping the book moving without creating a lot of unnecessary confusion. I am especially thankful that the book didn’t spend time on the Gilly/William issues.


Cameo and Lazarus are good together and “meant to be.” I enjoyed their back and forth, and the fact that both wanted to protect the other more than life itself was rewarding. Many times, I got the mushy, squishy heart feeling because of an action or words thought/spoken. Both Cameo and Lazarus have personal issues they must hurdle in order to get to their HEA. Calling this “Cameo’s book” would be unfair, as it is equal parts Lararus’s story. 


Outside of the primary romance, the book addressed more in the on-going war between Hades and Lucifer. I honestly can’t recall how this story started, and I still wonder what happened in the “real world” with the rise of the Titans. I know the Lords took down the leadership, but aren’t there temples or something out there? I don’t know how the Sent Ones (from the spin off series) and all the conflicting mythologies tie in together, but I just go with the flow of the story.


Overall, I’m glad I read Cameo’s book, but honestly, the series is kind of going past me. I found it hard to get into The Darkest Promise primarily because I don’t really remember where there series is heading. (NOTE: there is a "timeline" at the end of the book; a listing of the key events of each book. I discovered about 50% through The Darkest Promise. It was cryptic but useful in recalling past events.) The mythology is branching out rapidly with a haphazard feel to the direction. The overall cohesiveness and connectedness of the series has been lost, leaving me apathetic towards the outcome. Diehard fans of the series will undoubtably enjoy Cameo and Lazarus’s tale, but it was just okay for me.


My Rating:  B-

Review copy provided by publisher

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

Review: The Mech Who Loved Me by Bec McMaster

The Mech Who Loved Me (The Blue Blood Conspiracy Book 2) - Bec McMaster

We first met Ava McLaren, blue blood and former Nighthawk, when she was captured and tortured in Perry’s book, Forged by Desire. Hague infected her with the craving virus and replaced her heart with a working, clockwork heart. She was recruited by Lord Malloryn as part of the Company of Rogues. Ava had been crushing on the only man who was nice to her after her ordeal. However, Byrnes’s wedding to his love, Ingrid, is where The Mech Who Loved Me opens, about six weeks after conclusion of previous book. While Ava may be a bit forlorn, she confides in Perry she has had recent feelings towards fellow Rogue, Kincaid.


Liam Kincaid spent much of his life as a slave to the blue blood Echelon after receiving his mech arm. He blames the blue bloods for the deaths of his brother and sister, leaving him to ponder why Malloryn recruited him as a Rogue. He finds Ava attractive, but the fact that she’s a virgin, wants to marry, and is a blue blood is enough to keep him away. Yet the more time he works with Ava, the less cynical he becomes.


The second story in the continuing tales of blue bloods and humans in an alternate London is a hit! Ms. McMaster continues her exciting, well-spun storytelling with another beautiful, sexy romance, while continuing to unfold the mysteries of the Sons of Gideon, Lord Ulbricht, and the secretive dhampirs. The overarching storyline involving a plot against rogue blue bloods and humans alike progresses nicely. But the heart of the story is the romance between shy Ava and weathered Kincaid. The pair is simultaneously sweet and sexy; reserved and passionate. 


Ms. McMaster started with two very interesting characters in Ava and Kincaid, then allows each to grow and develop over the course of The Mech Who Loved Me. Watching both find their own way in this new and changing world was rewarding; seeing them find friendship and love was wonderful. Theirs is a relationship of give and take, until they find their own new normal, accepting the other as both a whole, yet their own missing half. 


The mysterious and complex plots to bring about chaos and anarchy gain momentum and focus over the course of the book. I like that the story took one avenue of this conspiracy to its end, while leaving open other threads for further development.


Overall, I found The Mech Who Loved Me an entertaining read. I enjoyed Ava and Kincaid’s story, and loved that it ran parallel to the deepening plot of Ulbricht’s attempt to create chaos. Neither storyline overtook they other, and I felt they complimented each other. I look forward to the next installment of Ms. McMaster’s wonderful series.


My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

Review copy provided by author

Review: The Highland Commander by Amy Jarecki

The Highland Commander (The Highland Lords) - Amy Jarecki

Aiden Murray is the second son to Duke of Atholl. He is the first lieutenant and master of the watch aboard the Royal Mary, a queen’s vessel operated by Scottish sailors. Having spent time with many Scotsmen, Aiden’s becoming sympathetic to their plight, which puts him in direct opposition of his father.


Lady Magdalen Keith (Maddie) is the illegitimate daughter of the earl William Keith. He is a stanch Jacobite who is accused of treason against the Queen, sending Maddie to London to plea for his life. The gifted harpist unintentionally catches the eye of the Queen, pulling her into the unkind world of her court.


Maddie and Aiden are both wonderful characters. They are both young and innocent (yes, they are BOTH virgins!), but life hasn’t always been what they would like it to be. As the illegitimate child of an earl, Maddie dealt with disgust and disdain her entire life. Although her father recognizes her and gives her the title of Lady, she is shunned by peers and her own stepmother. And don’t get me started on how she’s treated once she gets to London. It’s all very realistic and definitely unromantic. Yet, she remains kind and hopeful. She does whatever is needed to help her father and country. She’s got a spine of steal and heart of gold.


Being the second son of a Scottish Duke isn’t all roses for Aiden either. He’s content to be the hidden son, commanding a ship of Scots and living his own life. But Maddie has him completely befuddled, and watching her personal battles with the Queen’s court only strengthen’s his resolve to live a live different from his father. This creates an engaging character, one I’m interested in following.


As much as I enjoyed following Maddie and Aiden as they grew closer and explored their sexual chemistry, I had a couple issues. First, I felt like The Highland Commander was a bit too political for my tastes. I liked that the author wove actual history into the story, but I wanted more focus on the characters and their romance! Second, I had serious concerns about the events that take place while Maddie captured (leave this spoiler-free). It was too severe, and I seriously doubt Maddie would have had the fortitude to survive and then flourish after her release.


In the end, I enjoyed The Highland Commander, even though I had a few issues. I give props to the author for her attempts to make the story realistic, and for attempting to address the mental and physical outfall of Maddie's incarceration and overall treatment. However, since I prefer my historical romances with a bit more fluff and less realism, I don’t know if I will continue the Lords of the Highlands series at this time.


My Rating:  B- Liked It, but I had a few small issues

Review copy provided by Publisher

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

#Audiobook Review: Buns by Alice Clayton

Buns - Alice Clayton, Jason Carpenter, Louise Elizabeth Rorabacher

Clara lives for her job, going all around the world, rebranding and restoring resorts to their former glory. Her latest job is in the Catskills at the Bryant Mountain House. She excited to tackle the project, but the owner’s son, soon to be sole manager, Archie, fights Clara at every turn. Luckily she’s near her two besties, who have settled in nearby Bailey Falls.


Archie’s life is the Bryant Mountain House, and ever since his wife passed from cancer, he doesn’t do anything but ensure this regal resort runs smoothly. So when an outsider comes in and not only starts making all sorts of changes, but ignites feelings that he’s not experienced since his wife, he can’t help but butt heads with the gorgeous, vivacious Clara. Now he must decide if making changes is the only way to survive in modern times.


The third book in Ms. Clayton’s utterly delightful Hudson Valley series, Buns takes readers on a journey of friendship, romance, and love. Both Clara and Archie have strong reasons not to trust or get involved, so when they start to have the feels for one another, it’s conflicting, sweet, and sexy all at once. Despite (or maybe because of) their constant bickering, Archie and Clara are soooooo hot together. They both want the forbidden sexual fruit. Their constant tango of attraction and stepping back rivets the sexual tension to such incredible heights. Each feels something more than attraction and lust, and it scares them both.


Yet once they give in and start a secret affair, they still hold so much back. It truly hurt my heart to listen to Clara refuse to open up, choosing to keep her guard firmly in place, even when Archie tries his best to coax her out. Their romance is genuine and the connections strong, but it’s two-steps-forward-one-step-back until they finally realize what each wants out of life. Jobs and the hotel are important, but so is friendship and love.


Elizabeth Louise’s performance is solid and highly enjoyable. I’ve not listened to her work before, but she sounds very familiar. She’s easy to listen to, reminding me a lot of Amanda Ronconi, but without the southern twang. The familiar feel allows me to connect to Clara quickly. Ms. Louise has a solid range for both male and female roles. However, there are a few times when Clara is speaking to herself, and it was hard to tell if she was actually speaking out loud or if it was a private dialogue in her head. As with the previous two titles, there is a short epilogue from the male point of view, and narrated by a male. I don’t really feel there is a need to change to a new narrator for one small section, but Mr. Carpenter does an adequate job with his short role.


Buns is a wonderful, feel-great story with a slow burn romance and through-the-roof sexual tension that explodes. The pacing is perfect, taking the pair from annoyed partnership to friendship to lovers. I enjoyed nearly every moment of the book, and I sincerely hope Ms. Clayton continues to share stories from Bailey Falls.


My Rating: A

Narration: A 

Jason Carpenter epilogue: B+

DNF Review: Dating You / Hating You

Dating You/Hating You - Deacon Lee, Christina Lauren, Shayna Thibodeaux, Simon & Schuster Audio

What to say about Dating You / Hating You? I really, really wanted to love this book, but I didn’t. Christina Lauren authors some of my favorite titles, but this unfortunately isn’t one of them. And rather than continue to listen to it, I decided to call it quits at the 57% mark (through Chapter 15). Let me tell you why…


Carter and Evie are wonderful characters who have a beautiful initial chemistry. They are adorable together, both a bit shy and unaware of how sexy they are. And while their jobs as talent agents in LA have kept each from relationships in the past, the instant connection the pair feels compels them to make a go of things. They have one great date and a hot make out session until everything falls apart. 


When Evie’s firm buys out Carter’s firm, the pair is forced to compete to keep a job in the LA offices. While it isn’t certain either would be let go or asked to relocate to New York, their asshole boss, Brad, along with their individual competitive natures creates bitterness and conflict, setting up the need to vie for the job. And things fall apart quickly from this point. Carter and Evie are both underhanded, doing things to make themselves look better while potentially sabotaging the other. It’s not horrible at first, but a poke here and a poke there creates such animosity that I cannot stand to listen to it. I finally gave up after a rather silly, yet cruel exchange of pranks involving coffee and hand lotion.


It was a tough decision for me to stop listening. The narration is actually part of the reason I went as long as I did. Both Ms. Thibodeaux and Mr. Lee are fantastic! Both have very clear, sharp voices that are simultaneously relaxing. Ms. Thibodeaux gives weight and maturity to Evie, while Mr. Lee brings manages to get adorkable for Carter. Both narrators have excellent narrative voices and a range to fit a variety of both male and female rolls. 


In the end, Dating You / Hating You had too much Hating You and not enough Dating You. I’m guessing at some point, the couple works out their issues and hopefully ends up together, but the conflicts were so difficult for me to listen to, I just couldn’t keep going. I may pick it up again in the future, but for now, it’s a DNF.


My Rating: DNF

Female Narration: A+

Male Narration: A+


Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster Audio.

Reading progress update: I've read 57%.

Dating You/Hating You - Deacon Lee, Christina Lauren, Shayna Thibodeaux, Simon & Schuster Audio

Taking a break from this one. Although the title indicates the rocky relationship between the h/h, it doesn't go far enough to explain the animosity between the pair. There is simply too much Hating You and not enough Dating You for my enjoyment.

#Audiobook Review: Snow Falling on Bluegrass by Molly Harper

Snow Falling on Bluegrass - Molly Harper

Jumping back into the office shenanigans of the Kentucky Commission on Tourism, Snow Falling on Bluegrass sets up listeners/readers for the potential romance between Kelsey and Charlie. Since the first book in Ms. Harper’s Bluegrass series, we’ve known Kelsey has it BAD for Charlie, but stayed with her loser live-in boyfriend because she felt she didn’t deserve better. Well, loser Darryl got a “better offer,” leaving Kelsey weeks ago, and it finally sunk in how horrible of a man he was. Now, off on a long-weekend work retreat, Kelsey is looking for some rebound action, and park ranger Luke, may be just the one to fulfill her needs.


Picking up after the events of the first two books, the KTC staff is back together and trapped without power when a freak snow storm hits Kentucky. After missing most of the characters in the previous book, I was both thankful and happy to have Sadie, Josh, the "nerd herd," and even some new employees, all together again. They play off one another in the silliest of ways, and their situation is ripe with hilarious opportunities. 


I appreciate that although the book blurb and earlier parts of the story set the stage for a love triangle, the focus truly is on Charlie and Kelsey. I love Josh's character and would have loved for him to have his own book... maybe someday *sigh* 


I do like Charley and Kelsey together. They had some good-sized hurdles to jump, and therefore, I appreciate that their story ends with an HFN and a promise of more to come. Between denying their own feelings for years and the fear of losing a friendship, both characters have made some poor decisions over the past three years. I was not happy at the continual delays in get it all out, but in the end, I liked the way it all went down.  


Once again, the book is narrated by Amanda Ronconi. While I noticed that the three primary females (Sadie, Bonnie, Kelsey) all have very similar voices, each fitting for a first person POV, as well as, the individual characters, who were all similarly silly and somewhat neurotic, Ms. Ronconi did an excellent job mixing up the male voices. She kept Josh, Will, and now Charlie, consistent from book to book, each easily identifiable and mostly unique. I enjoy Ms. Ronconi’s narration, so the fact that the characters tend to bleed over doesn’t necessarily bother me, it just made it difficult to discern who was talking sometimes. But overall she does a great job with Ms. Harper’s characters, giving them wit, sarcasm, and soulfulness.


Overall, Snow Falling on Bluegrass is yet another enjoyable, silly romp into Western Kentucky with some extremely likable characters. This third, and presumably final title, in the series was probably my favorite, as I had come to know the characters, becoming invested in their well-being. I liked that Charlie and Kelsey finally got their feelings out in the open, but didn’t rush into forever, knowing they needed to take it slow and savor every moment.


My Rating: B+

Narration: A-

#Audiobook Review: Rhythm and Bluegrass by Molly Harper

Rhythm and Bluegrass - Audible Studios, Molly Harper, Amanda Ronconi

The second story in Ms. Harper’s entertaining Bluegrass series follows Bonnie Turkle, a historian with Kentucky’s Commission on Tourism. Although the story is loosely tied to the first book in the series, it is completely standalone, and I think it takes place before the first book, as it mentions her boss’s boss, Ray, who retires in book 1: My Bluegrass Baby.


Bonnie loves history, especially preserving small town Kentucky’s unique stories. So when she discovers how amazing the closed down McBride’s Music Hall truly is, she opts to preserve and protect it, even if it means putting a road block in the way of a new underwear manufacturing plant. Although Bonnie’s had no intention of actually stopping the plant, her actions were proclaimed devious and underhanded by her man-crush and town mayor, Will McBride. The story tells how Bonnie makes it through the troubles and delivers on her promises to her adopted home, Mud Creek.


Overall, I enjoyed Rhythm and Bluegrass more for it’s silly stories and look at preserving history, rather than the romance between Will and Bonnie. I loved following Bonnie as she unravelled the mysteries of and pieced together the stories behind McBride’s. Her passion for her work and the discoveries was contagious. I also enjoyed the developing friendships with her landlady, the local sheriff, and the town’s librarian. They were organic and true, adding depth to the characters and plot line. 


While Will and Bonnie were cute together, I felt that their relationship was a bit weak. They started as flirtatious friends, even enjoying a very passionate kiss that made my belly flutter. However, Will’s desire to protect his town and the people in it lead him to do some pretty awful things to Bonnie and her reputation. Although Bonnie felt some of it was deserved, I didn’t. I felt it crossed a line. Bonnie rather, continued to look up to Will, seeing the good in him. Eventually he did apologize, but honestly, it was too late in coming. Their book ends with an HFN, which suits the story.


I always enjoy Amanda Ronconi’s narrative voice and overall performance a lot. Her style gels well with Molly Harper’s offbeat characters and silly humor. However, I don’t like that Ms. Ronconi uses the same narrative voice for each of the first person characters, who are different in every book, especially since I tend to listen to the books back-to-back. It’s not enough to diminish my rating, but it does take me a while to adjust to a new character without thinking of the previous book’s main character. I did enjoy her voice for Will, which was the perfect blend of southern charm and small town drawl. 


In the end, Rhythm and Bluegrass is a cute and entertaining story. While it’s not overly romantic or sexy, it was fun to listen to and enjoy.


My Rating: B

Narration: A-

#Audiobook Review: My Bluegrass Baby by Molly Harper

My Bluegrass Baby - Audible Studios, Molly Harper, Amanda Ronconi

Already a fan of Ms. Harper’s Jane Jameson and Half-Moon Hollow series (also narrated by Ms. Ronconi), I knew I needed to try her contemporary Bluegrass series. The first book sets up the world of Sadie Hutchins, the assistant director with the Kentucky Tourism Commission. While there are no vampires or shifters, I felt like she could have been friends with Jane and lived her world, as the quirky characters and silly shenanigans were very similar.


Sadie’s boss, Ray, is retiring, and she is ready to step into his shoes. She loves her job and cannot wait to take things to the next level. That is until Ray tells her big-city Josh was promised the job by the Commissioner himself. So Ray sets up a competition for the job, with the winner getting the promotion. 


What seems like a difficult situation for a romance plot, the battle for the job creates hilarious situations and, eventually, a reason for Josh and Sadie to get together. I appreciated that they fought their mutual attraction for as long as possible for the sake of fairness and such. The pair’s back-and-forth nature was entertaining and created wonderful sexual tension. And when they finally gave into their passion, it was explosive. The fact that they were coworkers, and eventually one would be the others boss, was handled well, until the end, when it really became a bit unrealistic.


Amanda Ronconi has that perfect southern charm for her narrative voice. She varies her tone just enough to create a handful of characters. While the familiarly had me thinking of the Jane books, after a while I was in Sadie's story. The timbre and pace was familiar and comforting, wrapping me up in the story without lulling me to sleep.


Overall, My Bluegrass Baby is a delightful, happy romance with all of Ms. Harper's trademark humor. She creates the most interesting, unique characters and brings them to live via silly escapes and fast-paced banter. The story is an escape. It's joyous and full of life. 


My Rating: B+

Narration: A-

Review: The Highland Duke by Amy Jarecki

The Highland Duke (Lords of the Highlands) - Amy Jarecki

The book opens with healer Akira finding the badly injured Geordie on the battlefield. Unwilling to provide his name because he’s a Duke who just rode against Queen Anne’s army, Geordie is smitten with the wisp-of-a-girl who is like an angel. Due to the determined redcoats hunting him, Geordie must take Akira with him as he escapes. Soon the pair is running for their lives, yet neither is willing to walk away.


The Highland Duke held a lot of promise, and by the conclusion, I was satisfied with the story. However, a slow and rocky start almost made this book a DNF for me. In the end, I enjoyed the pairing of Akira and Geordie, but it took a long time for me to get on board with their romance.


Akira is a young, innocent, poor girl with Romany heritage. This makes her and her family shunned. Yet she remains hopeful and helpful despite those who treat her poorly. She’s a solid character, yet her naivety creates a huge unbalance when matched with the powerful Duke of Gordon. 


Geordie is weathered and rough. He’s lived a full life, having divorced, fought, etc. He’s easy around the ladies and just comes off so much older than Akira (he is ten years her senior). She’s SOOOO young and naive. She’s a virgin and never been around any man in an intimate capacity. Not even hugged by her father, as he was never in the picture. It was difficult for me to get into their story, for rather than sexual tension and sparks, I saw an “old man” who is lying to a young girl that he lusts after.


Another concern I had was that Geordie uses his position as an injured soldier to "tease" Akira. But to me it is sexual harassment as he uses his knowledge and power to put her into compromising positions; ones that Akira feel are improper behaviors. It's not cute or fun, to me it's destructive because she is so innocent.


It really isn’t until after 50% mark that the book started working for me. Once Akira started standing up for herself and exerting confidence, she becomes her own person—one strong enough to stand up to and match Geordie. While I continued to struggle with her naivety, which was too much for my tastes, she finally becomes a worthy heroine.


In the end, I enjoyed the historical references and lovely Scottish Highland scenery that is the base for The Highland Duke. And despite the difficulties I had with the first half of the story, I found the action and romance of the second half of the book an enjoyable read.


My Rating:  C+ Liked It, but I had issues

Review copy provided by publisher

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

#Audiobook Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus

Owl and the Japanese Circus - Audible Studios, Kristi Charish, Christy Carlson Romano

Owl (former archeology student Alix), is a well-paid antiquities thief. A year ago, she stumbled into the hidden world of supernatural creatures, accidentally killing a vampire in the process. Now she’s on the run, and it looks like her only way out of the mess is to make a bargain with a powerful dragon. Trusting only her best friend, Nadya, and a man who could break her heart, Ryan, she sets off on a dangerous journey, one that most likely will leave her dead.


Follow review teammate, Una, raves about this unique and interesting urban fantasy series, so I decided to give it a try on audio. Overall, I enjoy the mythology and storyline behind The Adventures of Owl series. I appreciate that Owl is a flawed human and makes mistakes. She is intelligent, but not always smart, which makes her a more realistic heroine. 


However, the very things I like about Owl also caused problems for me. She can be reckless and juvenile at times. Her character is inconsistent: at times smart and others not as much. She doesn’t seem to learn from her missteps. For example, the fact that she doesn’t walk away and hide from an online “friend” makes NO SENSE. She’s super careful, private, and protective, yet keeps going back to him, even though he is stalking her. Also, knowing how concerned she is with privacy, how can she NOT have any security lock on her phone? Again, an inconsistency of character.


The narration by Christy Romano was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed her narrator voice, which is fitting for the first person heroine. I started listening at 1.25x speed, but upped it to 1.5x after about five chapters. Ms. Romano does well with accents, however, at times they seems to drop. So when the dialogue is quick and clipped, both Nadya and Ryan’s voices sound very much the same. Also, Ryan loses his masculine sound at times, and it sounds like Owl is talking to herself. Overall, I like most voices, but the only voice I'm not fond of is the Red Dragon. It's described as perfect Western with no hints of Japanese. But it's too feminine. It doesn't suit a bad ass dragon.


Overall, I liked Owl and the Japanese Circus and the premise behind the series enough that I want to listen to the second book. I’m hoping Owl will begin to mature and develop into a more solid character, which seemed to be lacking in this first title.


My Rating: C+

Narration: B-

#Audiobook Review: The Goal by Elle Kennedy

The Goal - Audible Studios, Susannah Jones, Elle Kennedy, Andrew Eiden

After the pregnancy bombshell delivered at the end of the previous book, The Goal actually goes back a bit in time and begins when Tucker and Sabrina first meet. Readers/listeners relive certain scenes and moments from the The Score, with a new perspective and focus, as well as several new scenes. 


Tucker is probably the most likable, easy-going guy we’ve met thus far in Ms. Kennedy’s Off-Campus series. He’s genuine, and while he’s easy on the eyes, he’s not all about scoring with the ladies. When he first lays eyes on Sabrina, he senses she is something special. I adore everything about this guy. He’s nearly perfect and has the patience of a saint. He never takes his eye off the end goal of making Sabrina his, but he allows the ebb and flow of life to take its course along the way. 


On the other hand, all we knew about Sabrina before this book is that she is Dean’s educational nemesis, and his perception is that she is a cold-hearted bitch. Ms. Kennedy removes that mantle from Sabrina immediately, by showing us Sabrina’s deplorable home life and the motivations behind her desire to achieve perfection at Briarwood. I fell for Sabrina’s flawed character hard. She’s driven and sometimes too focused, but she has a heart of gold underneath the layers of protection she’s built. 


Sabrina and Tucker make a great couple. There is insta-lust and sexual chemistry big time, creating an immediate interest in the pair. I like that they have time to fall a bit for one another before the baby news comes. I also appreciate that there are several ups and downs. It's very realistic with a happy ending. 


While I enjoyed their story, and I’m thankful to finally have Tuck's book, I was overwhelmed by the amount of focus on the pregnancy/baby storyline. Don’t misunderstand, Ms. Kennedy does an amazing job with the baby storyline; she didn't sugar coat what it's like to be pregnant and have a child. She also didn't minimize the impacts on the parents' lives and their relationship. However, it's too much baby for me. I am just not a fan of baby-romances.


Generally, the narration is good; better than book 3, but still not as great as the first two books. The male narrator, who also read The Score, has great drawl and perfect laid-back attitude for Tuck. At times, I felt certain words held too much of a Boston accent, but overall he is consistent. Mr. Eiden does a great job distinguishing between all characters and has a solid feminine voice. Similarly, the female POV narration is good, especially after I sped it up. (I varied between 1.25x and 1.5x.) I enjoyed her voice for Sabrina right from the start. She gives Sabrina a perky, upbeat air, yet is able to add the weight of life into her voice when called for. My biggest complaint is that Ms. Jones had extremely long pauses between dialogue and paragraphs which became annoying right away. Increasing the listening speed helped with that.


Overall, I enjoyed The Goal, and look forward to hopefully more stories in the Off-Campus series. Although there was too much baby storyline for me, and I missed the laugh-out-loud humor and silly moments found the previous three titles, Tucker and Sabrina make a wonderful couple with an entertaining romance.


My Rating: B

Male narrator A-

Female narrator B+


Review: Silver Silence by Nalini Singh

Silver Silence - Nalini Singh

Valentin Nikolaev is the alpha of StoneWater clan, the dominant bear shifters that surround Moscow. He is a fairly new alpha, one of a fractured clan, and who is trying to adjust to this new and changing world. Valentin recognizes that the icy and powerful Silver Mercant, Kaleb Krychek’s right hand, is his mate. He’s trying to woo Silver by being sneaky like a cat (he knows that Lucas was able to win the heart of his own Psy, so he’s trying to be both a bear and a cat). 


Silver Mercant is the heir to the Mercant clan, currently run by her grandmother, Ena. They are a strong family unit, one that has survived through Silence with more “life” than most other Psys. And although the world is starting to shift away from Silence, it is not a choice for Silver who lives with a genetic defect. Yet, she feels her walls breaking every time she’s around Valentin.


Silver Silence is the first book in Ms. Singh’s Psy-Changeling Trinity series which continues the Psy-Changeling story in a post-Silence world. While one could start their journey into this wonderful world with this book, I feel that the first 15 titles are equality important in setting the tone and feel for this new world - one with human, Psy, and Changeling turmoil and celebrations. 


I absolutely adore Valentin, who has known Silver is his mate since he met her ten months prior. He’s utterly adorable as he attempts to win her over with his treats and notes. He knows Silver is Silent, but that there is more to her than the cold, emotionless facade, and he gets his chance to see more with the attempt on Silver’s life at the opening of the book. Forced to move into Denhome for her own safety, Silver must adjust to being around the emotional bears. I love that Valentin pushes Silver - challenges her to see if there is another way than Silence now that she is an adult. And Silver takes up his challenge.


Silver is the perfect match for Valentin and visa-versa. They are both strong “alpha” characters that carry the weight of their respective families on their shoulders and in their hearts. They understand one another and the responsibilities that come as part of the package, which allows them to bond through opening up and sharing common experiences. Silver honestly wants to challenge herself to love her bear, and when things don’t go as expected, my heart broke wide open. The only small negative about the storyline is that it somewhat mirrored the backstory of Valentin’s parents; however the outcome is completely different.


Opening up this new territory to her readers, Ms. Singh introduces a slew of new characters, locations, and even concepts. I did get confused a couple times, but took lots of notes to help me learn the new parts of this changing world. There is a lot of momentum with the Human Alliance and also the mysterious Consortium, which is exciting for those who’ve been with the series since the beginning. I like the added human elements and adore the Human Alliance leader Bo Knight. 


One of my absolute favorite new characters is that of Ena, Grandmother Mercant. She’s wise and strong, and not particularly Silent when around her own family. She cares for Silver and wants her to succeed and be happy. She’s so smart and sneaky - I really hope to see more of her in future titles. Here is just one of the many quotes I highlighted when reading:


[Valentin is talking to Ena about Silver’s safety] 

“Are you asking me to kidnap your granddaughter?”  

“Let’s call it an enforced move out of the field of danger.”


In the end, Silver Silence holds much promise for the future of one of the best PNR series out there. Ms. Singh has expanded her original mythology without losing site of the core essence of her books: romance. The match between Silver and Valentin is familiar, yet unique. There is the warmth and comfort of the early Changeling-centric stories, but takes the world in a new direction that puts Psys, Changelings, and Humans on a level playing field. I completely enjoyed my time in Denhome and learning all about the StoneWater Bears. There is no party like a bear party, and I look forward to many more stories!


My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

Review copy provided by publisher

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

#Audiobook Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews

White Hot: A Hidden Legacy Novel - Ilona Andrews, Renée Raudman

Listening to the audiobook of White Hot is a “reread” for me. I reviewed the book in May 2017, and my review still stands as I originally wrote it. Here is an excerpt from my original review: 


“The overall and book-specific stories are both equally engrossing. The layers and complexity make the book fascinating rather than confusing. The conspiracy and plot are smart and interesting. The action is solid and edge-of-your seat. 


“The romance between Nevada and the little understood Rogan also blossomed during White Hot. Rogan continued his relentless pursuit, but also opened up to Nevada, realizing she can match him. She may not be his equal, and he sometimes does things to “protect” her which only frustrated her, but he’s learning how to allow her to make her own decisions. There are many hurdles to jump, and I really want them to make it.”


By listening to the book, I picked up plot nuances that I missed when reading the book the first time. However, It is Renée Raudman’s performance that makes the story so much more. While the writing team of Ilona Andrews is an amazing storyteller in its own right, Ms. Raudman adds so much feeling and emotion to their stories that I can't help but get choked up every time I listen to one their books. She breathes life into these amazing characters and tales, making them ones I would listen to again and again. She takes an A book and makes it an A+. 


In the end, White Hot is an amazing, entertaining story, and coupled with Ms. Raudman’s talent, the book is unforgettable.


My Rating: A+

Narration: A+


#Audiobook Review: The Golden Spider by Anne Renwick

The Golden Spider: Elemental Web Chronicles Series, Book 1 - Henrietta Meire, Anne Renwick, Tantor Audio

Set in a time when England and Germany have heightened tensions, spy networks are vast, and the ton continues with its balls and social obligations unaware of the secrets around them, Lady Amanda wars with her father, the Duke, over her ability to attend medical school. Amanda is driven by her keen intelligence and a guilt over her brother’s injured leg, to produce a clockwork device to repair nerve damage. Under pressure to find a husband within the year, Amanda courts a classmate, but finds no sparks. However, when her work captures the attention of Lord Thornton, noted physician and neurologist, Lady Amanda finally knows what it is like to have her mind appreciated.

Lord Thornton lives with the guilt over the betrayal of his best friend in his damaged leg that will never heal. As a spy for the Queen herself, he finds Amanda’s work to be the break he needs in a rash of Gypsy murders. However much he is attracted to both her brain and her body, Thornton must keep the relationship professional, especially since he’s not on the market for a wife.


The Golden Spider is a delicious treat for fans of gadgets, science, and steampunk romance! Right from the start, I was drawn into this exciting mystery, trying to discover who is behind the Gypsy murders. Watching Amanda’s mind work to piece the puzzle together is fascinating, and made all the much better as she and Thornton grow closer. I love the science of the story - the author does not brush over Amanda and Thornton’s work, but rather gives listeners the details of both test subjects and gadgets. 


While the engineering, science, action, and adventure is completely fascinating, it is the romance between Lord Thornton and Lady Amanda that gives The Golden Spider heart and makes it such a wonderful story. The pair are meant for one another; not only do they share a passion for science and ingenuity, but they are able to openly be themselves with each other. Thornton doesn’t trust easily, but he finds a confidant in Amanda. Working side by side, their passion grows until they finally give into their burning desires.


The story is read by British-born actress Henrietta Meire, who embodies the Regency Steampunk setting perfectly. She modulates her tone to fit both high society snobbery and working class Roma. Her narrator tone is mostly neutral, but seems to be a tad bit softer when expressing Amanda’s POV than Thornton’s. I enjoyed all of her voices, although it took a while for me to warm up to Thornton’s speaking voice, which came off robotic. As I got to know his character, I became accustomed to his unique voice, and it even softened some as he grew closer to Amanda. Ms. Meire also tosses in German and French accents wonderfully.


In the end, I enjoyed devouring The Golden Spider. A wonderful mix of mystery, adventure, steampunk, and romance, the story unfolded at a thrilling pace, building passion and excitement along the way. I cannot wait for the second title, The Silver Skull, to be released in audiobook format.


My Rating: A

Narration: A-


Review copy provided by Tantor Audio

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