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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

The Way You Look Tonight
Bella Andre
As the Devil Dares
Anna Harrington
A Wind in the Door
Listening Library, Jennifer Ehle, Madeleine L'Engle
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 %

#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

Review: The Instigator by Stephanie Julian

The Instigator (Redtails Hockey Book 4) - Stephanie Julian

Derek “The Instigator” Flaherty loves playing hockey and enjoys his current team, the Redtails. His dream is to play in the NHL, so he works hard and is well respected. And his teammates all love him, even though they don’t necessarily see the real guy behind the laughs and good times. But that’s okay, Derek prefers to keep things casual, never allowing relationships to mess with his head or run his life.

 

As the baby of her family, Sophie is the good girl who does what’s asked of her. She keeps her dreams of traveling abroad to herself, rather than seeing any kind of disappointment or hurt in her family’s eyes. Working to finish her degree and putting in all sorts of hours at her dad’s bar, Sophie doesn’t have time for guys or a social life. However, when she meets Derek, she feels something stir inside of her and thinks maybe a little fun isn’t bad.

 

Although this is the fourth book in the Redtails Hockey series, The Instigator is a standalone romance that can be enjoyed without previous knowledge of the series. Derek and Sophie hit it off right from the start, and I love their chemistry. They are almost always in sync - whether in the bedroom or not. They are the kind of couple who clicks and can have lengthy conversations like two old friends. They also have other “lengthy” activities, and their romantic encounters are pretty smokin’.

 

The story moves fairly smoothly, filled with genuine emotions and conflict. I appreciate that their issues are common and real, and that they move past them together. Both Sophie and Derek each has some growing to do, and they start by admitting to themselves how they really feel. There are a few of hiccups along the way, including a couple of minor inconsistencies that took me out of the story. I also felt like some issues were brought up but not fleshed out enough - like why everyone kind of dumps on Derek being not good boyfriend material and Derek’s ex-girl friend, which is hinted as being a bad breakup. I kept expecting more details to fill in why maybe Derek is the way he is.

 

All in all, I enjoyed The Instigator, and really love Derek and Sophie as a couple. They are genuine and adorable. They are scared, but move forward. They learn to communicate. The Instigator is a nice paced, happy story.

 

My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

Review copy provided by author

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

#Audiobook Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

Down by Contact: Barons Series, Book 2 - Eric London, Tantor Audio, Santino Hassell, Alexander Cendese

Simeon and Adrián have been rivals for four years, ever since Simeon was traded from the Predators to the Barons. When the pair match up in a preseason game, the summer after Simeon came out of the closet, Adrián can’t stop himself from making jokes at the expense of Simeon’s sexual preferences. This leads to an all-out brawl, leaving both suspended for six games and forced into joint community service. Can the pair back away from their rivalry long enough to become friends? or more?

 

I have to admit, I struggled a quiet a bit when I first started Down by Contact. I was disappointed the story once again relied on an NFL suspension to make it work (which is what happened in the first book of the series). Additionally, both main characters come off juvenile and immature mostly because of their speech. The characters weren’t clicking for me, and I didn’t feel any sexual tension or connections between the pair like I did in the first book. But mostly, the narration didn’t work for me. I did not care for Mr. London’s voice for Adrián, nor his interpretation of Simeon, and at times couldn’t tell the difference between who was speaking. 

 

After taking a short break away from the story and then coming back to it, I found things turning around. As the story progresses, the characters develop and their interactions become more meaningful. I liked the play between Adrián and Simeon when they’re just being themselves. And although everything starts off as a dare and a game, real emotions surface, and I liked that the pair is accepting of what is happening. 

 

What shines in the story is Adrián’s self-reflection and analysis of his actions and ideals. And not just about being queer. But on being a better person. About thinking before speaking. About caring for others. His constant contemplation is thought-provoking. I enjoyed seeing him change most off all, and I’m not just taking about his sexuality. I mean how he becomes aware of his place in the world around him. 

 

As I mentioned above, I struggled with the narration. The narrators are the same as the prior book. Alexander Cendese, who was Gavin, is perfect for Simeon. Rough and tough, but sweet. The voice of Adrián is Eric London (who was Noah), who’s performance is way too calm for the asshole behavior of Adrián. However, as Adrián’s character changes, and the longer I listened to the book, I grew to like Mr. London’s performance more. I don’t know that he ever fit perfectly for Adrián, and he never did a great job with Simeon, but it didn’t prevent me from enjoying the story.

 

In the end, even though I struggled with Adrián and his narrator for about 50% of the book, he changed, and the narration was a better fit as Adrian became a more thoughtful individual. And as Simeon and Adrián developed a genuine friendship, I grew to like the pair and enjoy their story.

 

Story: B 

AC narration: B+

EL narration: B-

 

Review copy provided by Tantor Audio.

#Audiobook Review: How to Date Your Dragon by Molly Harper

How to Date Your Dragon - Audible Studios, Amanda Ronconi, Molly Harper, Jonathan Davis

How to Date Your Dragon is the initial offering in Ms. Harper’s new audiobook-first Mystic Bayou series. The book takes place in modern-day Louisiana, in a world where a limited number of humans know about the existence of the paranormal beings who live among us. The League for Interspecies Cooperation is one group who knows about the paras and is preparing for the day everyone else finds out. 

 

Jillian is sent to the town of Mystic Bayou by the League to study how different paranormal species and humans coexist peacefully, and catalog it so that it can be used as a guide for future towns once the general human population discovers paranormal exist. She is sent at the last minute because her boss was injured in an accident involving a unicorn. The town’s folk are generally welcoming of Jillian, most especially the mayor, Zed who is a bear shifter, and Jillian’s love interest: Bael, who is a dragon shifter and the sheriff. However, after she arrives, a few of the paranormals are murdered, putting Jillian in the middle of a criminal investigation.

 

Overall, I really enjoyed listening to How to Date Your Dragon. It’s trademark Molly Harper humor, but a little less snarky. Jillian is smart and kind; she can be precious and darling, but also a firecracker. And Bael is a perfect match for her (and she for him). Bael is gruff, but he cares about the residents of Mystic Bayou, something unique among dragons, making him a bit of an outcast in his family. I love how Bael just jumps headfirst into his feelings for Jillian, even if she’s a bit reluctant. 

 

In addition to the romance, the book features a solid mystery. Residents are being brutally murdered, something that hasn’t happened in the small town in years. I like how Bael and Jillian work side by side to solve the crimes. And then there is the aspect of the rift, about which we learned very little, but is exciting, and I hope we get more soon.

 

The narration from Ms. Ronconi is exactly what I’ve come to expect. She hits all the southern dialects and seems to alter her voice just right to fit high-speed Jillian and more laid-back Bael and Jed. I started at 1.25x speed since that’s what I always use for her narration; however, I needed to speed it up for Mr. Davis, and then just kept it at 1.5x speed. Mr. Davis’s narration took a little getting used to, probably because I’m so used to Ms. Ronconi going solo. I liked his voice for Zed and most of the males. The females are a bit soft. My biggest issue with his performance was the high volume of production errors where it is evident his parts were re-dubbed after the fact. It became very annoying. 

 

In the end, I loved listening to How to Date Your Dragon and cannot wait to see what Ms. Harper does with this wonderful new series.

 

My Rating: A

AR narration: A

JD narration: B+ / B- (the production issues are the only thing bringing down his rating)

Review: Devil in Tartan by Julia London

Devil in Tartan (The Highland Grooms) - Julia London

Aulay Mackenzie has only ever felt himself when at sea. In an effort to save his family’s shipping business, Aulay decides to make his first commissioned trip, taking on cargo for another, despite his family’s concerns over the risk. Barely away from port, Aulay comes across a distressed ship and offers assistance to its beautiful passenger, Ms. Lottie Livingstone.

 

Lottie’s clan is at the end of its rope, hoping to sell their illegal whiskey overseas, when their ship is attacked, leaving her father severely injured. Lottie’s plan to commandeer Aulay’s vessel goes smoothly, despite her attraction to its captain. However, once things start unraveling, Lottie isn’t sure she should continue with her plans.

 

Devil in Tartan is an enjoyable highland adventure. Taking place mostly at sea, Lottie and Aulay are forced to spend time together in confided quarters, allowing their mutual attraction to boil over and develop into a friendship. However, it’s not sunshine and roses. Aulay stands to lose everything due to Lottie’s scheme, and Lottie bears the weight of saving her entire clan from losing their homes and land. Aulay’s constant struggle between his duty, family, and his feelings for Lottie create incredible emotional turmoil and conflict.

 

Aulay and Lottie are both lonely souls, doing what they can for their families. But whereas Lottie sacrifices herself to keep her family together, Aulay runs away from his, not feeling worthy under his father’s roof. Yet the pair, drawn by a powerful attraction, have the time to see the real individuals beneath the layers of protective outer shell that each has built to keep themselves emotionally distant. They grow close and fall in love, even though Aulay’s hurt overshadows the love for a while. Luckily Lottie doesn’t grow bitter, and remains open and caring, allow their reunion to proceed and love to grow, even after the damage she does.

 

Overall, I enjoyed Devil in Tartan. The romance and story progress and a slow and steady pace, allowing time for both self-discovery and a deeper mutual bond.

 

My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

Review copy provided by Netgalley

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

Review: Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker

Fire on the Ice: Snow & Ice Games - Tamsen Parker

Blaze and Maisy shared three days of debauchery at the SIGs four years ago, so good that neither could forget. But it was just for fun, so they never sought each other, until they both arrive in Denver for another round of Snow and Ice Games. Picking up right where they left off, the pair shares a greedy lust, spending almost all their private time together. But each knows it’s only for the duration of the games, and real feelings aren’t an issue… right?

 

Fire on the Ice is the fourth tale to come from the Snow and Ice Games series. This time around, the story features Maisy, the shy, mostly closeted figure skater and Blaze, the loud and proud, polymorous short track speed skater. Blaze and Maisy are polar opposites, yet so much the same. They both work hard for the sport they love; never in the top but always close. They both are sexually insatiable and enjoy being with one another. But whereas Blaze basks in the public eye and loves attention, Maisy shies away, hoping to stay off the radar. 

 

I liked the pairing of Blaze and Maisy. Both have to learn to be better versions of themselves to make the relationship work. They both grow and give, and I enjoyed watching how their union developed over the short, but intense time they spent together. They both make missteps, but instead of these mistakes ending things, they help to bring the couple closer together. I also appreciate the author’s focus on the importance of strong and open communication being the key to a solid relationship.

 

The only real negative for me was the shear volume of graphic sex. I didn’t ever think I’d write those words, but honestly, after a while, I just skimmed the scenes because I wanted more of the story outside the bedroom. However, the scenes are not gratuitous because the couple’s sexual nature is important to the story. The sex scenes are used to show the common bond and ultimate trust each woman has with/for the other. They are used to show how the pair grows increasingly closer and intimate. But for me, it got to be too much and overshadowed the rest of the story.

 

Overall, Fire on the Ice is a solid story and sexy romance. I love how strongly Blaze and Maisy support one another. How mistakes are made but forgiveness is granted. How love is stronger than outside circumstances. I love seeing both grow and mature, slaying inner demons along the way. 

 

My Rating:  B, Liked It

Review copy provided by Netgalley

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

#Audiobook Review: Thomas by Grace Burrowes

Thomas: Jaded Gentlemen Series, Book 1 - Tantor Audio, Grace Burrowes, James Langton

Thomas Jennings arrives at his newly acquired estate to discover his steward has been absent for two years, leaving his more than capable daughter, Loris, to fill the roll. However, with discontent among the staff, Thomas makes changes immediately, and now someone is causing mischief on his property, leaving the unprepared Thomas dependent on Loris’s knowledge and advice.

 

Loris Tanner enjoys her position as steward despite the hard work because she loves the land. She’s comforted to realize the new owner is reasonable and plans to keep her on in her role. However, neither Loris nor Thomas planned on the growing attraction that draws the pair together.

 

Even though Thomas is the first book in the Jaded Gentlemen series, it’s the second I’ve listened to. Now that I am familiar the author’s voice and storytelling, along with the narrator’s style and vocalization, it all fell into place. I adore Thomas and Loris. I love that both are unconventional for the time. She is a strong female who uses her smarts and wit. She’s happy running the land, doing a man’s job… and she’s mostly accepted, which is not something that would have happened. Likewise, Thomas is kind and generous. He values not only Loris’s opinions but the word of all his honorable employees. He gives Loris time and comfort, recognizing that she has been hurt and needs to be in charge of her own life. 

 

The narration by Mr. Langton is comforting. His voices are soothing and familiar. While none of the characters stand out, each is just different enough that every character is unique and distinguishable from the next. While he never quite comes off as a woman, his female voices are appropriate and feminine. 

 

Even though the story takes place only over the course of a couple months, Thomas is sweeping and almost epic in nature due to the methodical approach to both the romance and the mystery of who is behind the sabotage. I like that story gives equal footing to the romance, the mystery, and the development of the two main characters. Overall, Thomas is a delightful listen.

 

My Rating: A-

Narration: A-

Review: On the Edge of Scandal by Tamsen Parker

On the Edge of Scandal: Snow & Ice Games - Tamsen Parker

Bronwyn is on the U.S. woman’s hockey team at the Snow and Ice Games (SIGs). She’s earned her spot as one of the best college players. Her boyfriend since age of 14, Brody, didn’t make the men’s squad, but he’s there to support his girl… Or is he? The guy’s a jerk, always making things about himself, and Bronwyn wishes he wasn’t in Denver. 

 

Being asked to coach the U.S. woman’s team is an honor for Ash, who loves the finesse of the women’s game. Everything is going well, except he HATES Bronwyn’s boyfriend, who makes a nuisance of himself. Ash would like to tell him to take a hike, but he doesn’t want to upset his star player, who, by the way, Ash feels deserves so much better than Brody.

 

On the Edge of Scandal is the third love story of the SIG games from Ms. Parker. Once again she finds a great pairing that is just a bit on the outside of the norm. It’s also the third story with a significant age difference between the two main characters. While I don’t necessarily mind it, I am getting a bit tired of reading that particular theme.

 

I blazed through the story, which captured me right from the start. Because Bronwyn has a boyfriend, and since Ash is her coach, the romance takes some time to develop, which is a good thing. Each genuinely cares for and about the other, with Bronwyn’s attraction falling into place after she breaks up with her boyfriend. Their story is compelling, which made for quick reading.

 

So here’s the thing… Ash is her coach, and even though their relationship is completely consensual, there is still a huge power dynamic in play, no matter what Ash and Bronwyn think. I struggled with their relationship, just as Ash experiences the same concerns and doubts, driving home the taboo nature of their attraction. Then there are times that Bronwyn shows some immaturity, which really strikes home the age difference and the whole coach-student/athlete concern, amping up the ick factor for me. And honestly, timing is probably part of the issue, because I read On the Edge of Scandal as the Larry Nassar trial was going on, and it really poisoned me to the impacts of a person in power abusing his athletes.

 

In the end, I enjoyed On the Edge of Scandal, but struggled with the coach/athlete nature of the romance. I liked the connections between Bronwyn and Ash - when they are equals. I also enjoyed Ash’s coaching persona and how much he respected his team. I appreciate that the author took time in letting the relationship play out, giving readers an epilogue that shared the couples long-term plans. But, still… he is her coach.

 

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

Review copy provided by NetGalley

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

Review: Royal Ruin by Jessica Peterson

Royal Ruin: A Second Chance Royal Romance (Flings With Kings) - Jessica Peterson

Ten years ago, Emily was an honor student at big economic school in London. Her TA was none other than a prince - and a big one, as in the Queen’s grandson. Kit is enamored with Emily, but stays away because she’s his student and she has a boyfriend. However, when Emily comes to his office, a mess after finding out her boyfriend back home was cheating on her, he gives in to temptation. 

 

Flash forward to present day and Emily has a trendy interior design firm, that is losing money. She’s going on one last interview for none other than the Royal family. While she ends up with the design contract, she also receives a proposal from Kit to be his fake fiancée for a few months. In exchange, he’ll save her failing company.

 

Royal Ruin was a mixed bag for me. There were parts that I absolutely enjoyed, but there were parts with which I struggled. First the good: I loved how much Kit admires Emily right from the start. He falls head over heels not just because of a physical attraction, but he appreciates her brilliant mind and wit. They make a good team when they gel. And when the pair get real with their feelings and passion, the story is wonderful.

 

However… I had an issue early on with Emily and it never really went away. First, ten years ago, her world falls apart because the love of her life cheats on her… so what does she do? Uses her TA, and he still has the condom on when she talks to her BF and decides they want to work it out. My thoughts went to Rachel and Ross’s “We were on a break” - one of the worst storylines in the sitcom’s (Friends) long life. Then when time moves to present day, I felt Emily continued to make some poor decisions. For example, why hasn’t she blocked her ex from the ability to call or text her? They went through a horrible divorce, yet she still has his number in her cell. And don’t get me started on the ex storyline, which felt forced and contrived.

 

Then there is the Royal family. In one breath we learn how important appearances are, and in the next, they are having obnoxious family squabbles in front of strangers. And when the Queen just says “fake engagement to Emily” will solve their problems, Kit jumps to it. I had a tough time buying this.

 

Overall, I enjoyed reading the story, however, I did have issues. The characters felt a bit immature and both had annoying traits. It was hard for me to get behind the couple and the relationship for a long time because I really didn’t care for Emily all that much. But I did like how much Kit liked Emily right from the start - it gave some credibility to his actions. I did like the emotions written into the characters as they make the decision to break up due to their respective careers and life goals. Seeing the results of that decision was the only way for the couple to have a chance at an HEA.

 

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

Review copy provided by author.

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

Quickie #Audiobook Review: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time - Hope Davis, Madeleine L'Engle

I truly enjoyed this "reread" of one of my all time favorite stories. I listened to the #audiobook with my 11-year-old daughter, who enjoyed it for the first time. The story is a wonderful blend of fantasy, hope, and adventure. While the speech and dialogue may be dated at times, the message remains timeless. The narration by Ms. Davis was excellent (my daughter gives her 5 stars). She manages to capture the wide array of emotions from joy to fear, from hopelessness to love, not only in Meg, the main character, but in each of the supporting players. She manages a large variety of voices, each fitting for each character.

 

My Rating: A-
Daughter's Rating: 4.3 stars

 

Narration: A
Daughter's Rating: 5 stars

Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date - Jasmine Guillory

Alexa is on her way to visit her out-of-town sister. Drew is in town for a wedding. The pair get trapped for a short time in an elevator, and they hit if off immediately. While there is definitely mutual desire, both enjoy the easy banter more than anything. So when Drew asks Alexa to be his date for the wedding, she agrees. What happens next is an intense attraction that neither is prepared for.

 

The Wedding Date is a cute story about two successful individuals trying to find their way through life and love. While the premise is adorable and totally up my alley, I really struggled with the characters and overall execution. For the most part, I loved Alexa. She’s real. She works hard, loves her job, has fun, and lives life. She’s smart and successful - both main characters are - so that’s why I was frustrated with the fact that both Drew and Alexa have the emotional maturity of teenagers. They have no self-confidence when it comes to relationships, and they are constantly second guessing and looking for hidden meanings in actions and words (or the absence of either). It’s exhausting. They don’t communicate at all, which I get happens in real life, but I don’t read romances to see an accurate reflection of real life. The conflict in the story was driven by the insecurities of the characters.

 

I was also frustrated with the amount of off-page action. And I’m not just referring to sex. Although, I have to admit, sometimes it was so behind-closed-doors that I missed the fact they even had sex. But In general, there are too many scenes like this one: 

 

On the way back to his apartment, they drove by the Santa Monica Pier. 

 

“I haven’t been there since I was a kid,” she said. “It was always so fun.” 

 

An SUV pulled out of a parking spot ahead of him, and he made a snap decision. 

 

“No time like the present.” He reversed into the spot and grabbed her hand. “Let’s go.” 

 

When they got back to his apartment, they were both giddy, sunburned, and exhausted.

 

If it was such a great getting-to-know you experience that helped the couple grow closer, why not share it with the reader? Scenes like this did nothing but aggravate me after a while.

 

Then comes the last 10% of the book. IT WAS PHENOMENAL! Alexa and Drew own up to their feelings and COMMUNICATE. They take risks and do something. This part of the story is full of emotion, with a strong storyline. It’s just too bad the whole book wasn’t written this way.

 

In the end, I enjoyed The Wedding Date, the debut title from Ms. Guillory; however, it took me a while to get through the book. Unfortunately, both main characters suffer from bad choices and a significant lack of confidence, which is what drives the conflict, something I didn’t care for. There are moments of good sprinkled throughout the story, and the last 10% or so is wonderful. 

 

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

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

Review copy provided by publisher.

Review: A Trace of Copper by Anne Renwick

A Trace of Copper (An Elemental Web Tale Book 2) - Anne Renwick

Dr. Piyali Mukherji, an agent of the Queen, is on her first assignment: she is sent to a small village to determine the cause of a mysterious infection. Although she’s excited to solve the challenging case, she’s on edge because her once-fiancé is the town’s pharmacist.

 

Evan Tredegar never stopped loving Piyali, however the day he returned from his travels abroad, a tragic event prevented him from contacting her. When she shows up in his small town, he realizes that time cannot erase his love or passion.

 

A Trace of Copper is a wonderful novella set in the Elemental Web steampunk world. It’s a standalone mystery/romance, and knowledge of the series/world is not needed. The main characters are smart and witty. Ms. Renwick’s storytelling is both intellectually stimulating as well as emotionally satisfying. 

 

Piyali and Evan remained loyal to one another for the years he was abroad and she was in medical school, and through the mystery of the blue frog, have a means to reconnect and rekindle their love story. The romance is always present in glances and small touches, but the pair would have to push aside feelings to work on the case. But passion can only be bottled for so long when working next to the person you love. Their love story is innocent and sweet, while the separation added a flame of heat to their romance. 

 

Solving the medical case, as well as watching all of the other pieces of the story fall into place was exciting. I so enjoy the Elemental Web world and Ms. Renwick’s writing style! I cannot wait to read (or listen to) more! 

 

My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot

 

Review copy (eARC) was provided by the author.

Review: Stud by Kelly Siskind

Stud - Kelly Siskind

Ainsley made a wish on her birthday to change her life for the better and to stop helping powerful, adulterous men cheat on their lovely wives. However, she needs the money she earns from her personal shopping business to help her parents with their bills since her dad lost his job. So in order to balance the “ick” factor, she decides to start volunteering at Habitat for Humanity. 

 

Owen moved back to San Fransisco from D.C. to get back to his roots. He’s volunteering his time and starting his own woodworking business, leaving the hustle and bustle of D.C. behind. In the middle of an ugly divorce, his ex accuses him of cheating on her and has turned all of their friends against him. He’s had no interest in women for over a year, until he meets Ainsley.

 

Stud is the second heart-warming romance in Ms. Siskind’s One Wild Wish series, which features three best friends trying to make their birthday wishes for a better life come true. The book takes place after the first title, Legs, but is a standalone story. 

 

Ainsley and Owen both have been out of the dating scene for a while, and their combination of awkward starts and eagerness make for some funny and cute moments. The best is that Ainsley assumes Owen is gay (for good reasons), so she decides to make the most of her crush by treating him as her “gay BFF,” which includes frank sexual discussions. But when the pair finally gives into their mutual attraction, the heat level goes through the roof!

 

While I love, love, love Ainsley and Owen, unfortunately, Stud uses two “tropes/situations” that I just don’t like. First, I hate stories that use “false accusations” as a means for causing conflicts. I found myself frustrated with Owen’s ex accusing him of cheating, and the helplessness he feels over the situation. Second, Owen continually keeps the truth of his situation from Ainsley, which causes a number of issues. It made me mad because she tells him point blank her trust issues, yet he still thinks hiding the truth is better. Unfortunately for this book, this is one trope I detest. It’s not bad writing or a bad story, it’s just I don’t really care for the trope. In fact, Ms. Siskind does a very good job working around and out of the corners Owen works into.

 

In the end I enjoyed Stud and loved Ainsley and Owen together. Their passionate moments were intense and deep. It was a hard read at times - hitting some of my pet peeves, but the characters worked through their issues, not always leading down the expected path each time.

 

My Rating:  B, Liked It

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

Review copy provided by a blog tour

#Audiobook Review: The Squirrel on the Train by Kevin Hearne

Oberon's Meaty Mysteries: The Squirrel on the Train - Kevin Hearne, Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels

Kevin Hearne is a mad genius for coming up with such hilarious and creative adventures for Oberon and his buddies. Having the mystery shared via his POV is masterful and so much fun. Even if don’t read the Iron Druid Chronicles, I think you would find Oberon enduring. But for those familiar with this extra special wolf hound, the story is amazing. 

 

The overall mystery is interesting and ties in some surprising aspects from Atticus’s past. I love how the hounds bring their own brand of sleuthing to the case, which truly wouldn’t have been solved without them. The humor is off the charts funny. But it’s Luke Daniel’s performance that makes this clever story an absolute joy! He has such unique voices for each character, developed and honed over the course of at least a dozen stories. I love that his character voices remain distinct and intact over the course of years. 

 

I found the audiobook of The Squirrel on the Train to be a breath of fresh air and the perfect answer to this cold and snowy day. 

 

Story: A

Narration: A+

Review: About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis

About That Kiss: A Heartbreaker Bay Novel - Jill Shalvis

Kylie and Joe have been flirtatious friends, but when the pair share a passionate kiss, neither can forget the sparks it ignited. But Kylie won’t go after “the wrong guy,” and Joe doesn’t “do relationships.” So they dance around one another, that is until Kylie needs Joe’s help to find a stolen toy her late grandfather made for her. As the pair chase down lead after lead, they find it difficult to contain their passion.

 

It’s hard for me to find much fault with any of Ms. Shalvis’s titles, and for the most part the Heartbreaker Bay series has been a huge joy to read. This definitely holds true for the fifth novel, About That Kiss. While I found the first half of the book a bit slow and lacking the emotional grab I was looking for, the second half of the book came with all the usual features I adore about this series. 

 

As Kylie and Joe work on the case, they grow closer and share more passionate kisses, as well as personal secrets... Which creates an intimacy that the unsuspecting pair is trying to avoid. In fact, seeing several of their friends pair up and find love over the past few years makes both Kylie and Joe cautious. Which is why I think I struggled a bit with the first half. They were actively working to avoid emotional attachments, leaving the romance flat. I liked Joe and Kylie together, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by their passion. However, I was interested in the mystery and trying to discover what was happening. 

 

Once the pair gives into their desires fully, the emotion ratchets up and it gets real. This is the stuff I look for in Ms. Shalvis’s stories: the give and pull of the heart. As Joe and Kylie each try to figure out what they feel and, of course, overthink everything, each discovers that they are more when together. And in the end, I appreciate that they own up to their feelings and fight for what they want.

 

About That Kiss is another delightful romance in the Heartbreaker Bay series. Filled with affable characters whom I’d love to hang out with, the stories bring me joy.

 

My Rating:  B, Liked It

Review copy provided by Edelweiss

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

#Audiobook Review: Jack by Grace Burrowes

Jack: Jaded Gentlemen Series, Book 4 - Tantor Audio, Grace Burrowes, James Langton

Bachelor Sir Jack - not a rake, and a fine gentleman, is dreading the impending visit of his mother - a woman he can never please. She’s going to be staying with him for a few months after the holidays and he’s at wit’s end. His household staff isn’t gelling, and he’s worried what will happen. He seeks advice from his friends, the Belmonts, who instead give him a solution. They offer their own Miss Madeline Hennessey to be his mother’s companion and help straighten out affairs. 

 

Madeline doesn’t want to leave her post with the Belmonts - she’s worried that the newly married widow and his wife, whom she adores, will discover her services are no longer needed. However, the coin is too good to pass up. Soon, she has Jack’s household running smoothly, she’s assisting Jack in solving the mystery of a petty theft spree, and falling for the man she never wanted.

 

I simply adored Jack and the slow-burn romance that develops between Jack and Madeline. Both strong individuals, the pair are quite equally matched, both kind and compassionate, and not of the norm for the time period. They are very attracted to one another, both in mind and body. Knowing nothing could ever come of their dalliances, the indulge in scandalous behaviors, drawing them both further into true feelings of love.

 

This is the first historical romance I’ve listened to via audiobook, so I don’t know if the performance by Mr. Langton is typical. At first I found it a little awkward, unsure if it’s only the narrator or if it’s also the writing style, but the story came off like a tale from long ago being shared with me by an wise, old man. After a while, I became used to Mr. Langton’s performance, enjoying the variety of voices he uses for the characters. While I never felt that he put me into the story or that he became the characters, I did enjoy sitting back and listening to him spin the tale.

 

Jack is a wonderful tale about an honorable man and a worthy woman finding love. Jack and Madeline make a great pair. Right from the start, we witness how well they understand one another and how they make the other a better person. Working together to solve mysteries - whether they are solving crimes or domestic issues - the pair are unstoppable. 

 

My Rating: B+

Narration: B+