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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

A Shot at Love (Will Cook for Love)
Peggy Jaeger
The Ghoul Vendetta: An SPI Files Novel
Audible Studios, Lisa Shearin, Johanna Parker
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: P.S. From Paris by Marc Levy

P.S. from Paris: A Novel - Tim Campbell, Marc Levy, Sam Taylor

Finding fame with his unintentionally written first novel, Paul escapes his life as an architect in San Fransisco, moving to Paris where he spends the next seven years writing in solitude. Worried about their friend and feeling that fate needs a little help, his best friends sign up Paul for an online match-making service. What begins as an awkward misunderstand blossoms into a true and meaningful friendship with Mia.

 

World-renowned actress Mia can’t pretend to be happy with her cheating husband any longer, running to stay with her best friend in Paris. There she struggles with her lingering love and hurt, trying to find meaning for her life, when she strikes up an unlikely friendship with an America author. Soon she and Paul work hard to convince themselves that their bond is nothing more than that between close friends.

 

I absolutely enjoyed listening to the audiobook production of P.S. From Paris. The book opens with two separate stories - the events surrounding Paul and the events surrounding Mia. We learn how lonely Paul is and how he tries to convince himself he’s okay. On the other hand, Mia knows how miserable she is but is frightened to take any risks. They live parallel lives until “fate” (in the form of Lauren and Arthur) push them together. I love how awkward and similar the two are. They seem like a great fit, but they work so hard to convince themselves they are just friends. Yet through this guise, the pair open up and learn to trust and eventually love.

 

What I love most about this story is the movie screen feel of the romance. It truly is a bit over-the-top and larger-than-life. I can see a young Audrey Hepburn playing Mia, so full of hope, not letting circumstances pull her down. She’s charming and silly all at once. Her behaviors mimic those of a pampered movie star, but she’s got a heart of gold. I love that both best friend Daisy and new friend Paul are able to see the internal spark under Mia’s shiny facade. 

 

The overall plot is a bit extravagant, but that opens the story up to silly misunderstandings and outrageous mix ups. But these situations aren’t always light, and there is one huge twist that changes Paul’s life profoundly. Yet as implausible as some of the circumstances may seem, it all fits within the perimeter and tone of the book and Mr. Levy’s writing style.

 

The narration by Mr. Campbell makes the story. While I have to admit, at first I didn’t care for Mia’s voice, but as I got to know and understand the character, I realized how much his interpretation fits the actress. His performance captures both Mia and Paul’s loneliness, and as the story progresses, he emanates their excitement, heartbreak, and joy. Mr. Campbell has a good range of accents, which suits this multi-national cast of characters. He easily moves from scene to scene and “head to head” - the book has a few different POVs, with an almost omnipresent narration. 

 

Reminiscent of romance from the Golden Age of Cinema, P.S. From Paris swept me away with the tale of Paul and Mia. Simultaneously grand and intimate, the story relays the larger-than-life romance between two lonely soles on a scale of little gestures and stolen moments. The story evolves slowly, yet I found I couldn’t tear myself away. 

 

My Rating: A

Narration: A-

 

Review copy provided by Brilliance Audio

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

Review: Archangel's Viper by Nalini Singh

Archangel's Viper - Nalini Singh

Holly, a series’ fringe character who was brutally terrorized by the archangel Uram back in the beginning of the series, was left for nearly dead and Made into something not quite right. She now serves Raphael’s Tower under the close supervision of Dmitri and the Seven. However, after a kidnapping attempt, the gang discovers there is a bounty on Holly. With Viper back in town, it’s up to him to keep her safe. Figuring out who is after Holly and what she’s becoming are the focus of Archangel’s Viper.

 

The story takes place concurrent in time to the previous book, Archangel’s Heart, while Raphael and Elena are far from Manhattan. Dmitri is left in charge, and with the support of Illium and Viper, they keep the territory safe while their sire is away. This allows room for Holly to explore her otherness and the changes happening under her skin without fear that Raphael will end it prematurely. 

 

With so much of the book’s plotlines focused on Holly, Archangel’s Viper isn’t really Viper’s story. This one belongs to her. Nearly broken after her capture by Uram, she’s evolving into something other, and Viper is the one person who can relate. During the story they bond - deepening a friendship born out of respect and understanding. They also explore their sexual chemistry, but this is secondary to Holly’s coming-of-age tale. I enjoyed watching Viper and Holly piece together what has happened to and what is becoming of Holly. However, I was a little bit frustrated with the kidnapping storyline, because it dropped off, taking a backseat to her evolution, shortly after it began. 

 

While I still classify Archangel’s Viper a paranormal romance, the romance piece is very slow-burning and not the primary focus of the book. Yet, it doesn’t matter to me because I enjoyed the interactions between Viper and Holly, regardless of how mild or flirty. These are two characters we know little about, so watching them develop before my eyes and learn so much more about both was entertaining.

 

All in all, Archangel’s Viper is another exciting, engrossing story in one of my favorite series. Ms. Singh gets an A+ for her world-building and character development, with each book in the Guild Hunter series adding so much to the overall picture. I look forward to each installment and cannot wait to see what she cooks up next!

 

My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot

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

Review copy provided by publisher.

#Audiobook Review: Falling From the Sky by Sarina Bowen

Falling From the Sky: Gravity, Book 2 - Blunder Woman Productions, Aiden Snow, Sarina Bowen, Tanya Eby

The second story in Ms. Bowen’s Gravity series opens about a year after the conclusion of  Coming in From the Cold, with Dane, Willow and their new baby living out West, thus leaving behind best friend Willow. During one of the couple’s visits back to Vermont to sell Willow’s farm, they introduce Callie to snowboarder Hank, who proceeds to have a career-ending accident on the slopes. Fast forward nine months: Callie is the director of a rehabilitation study at her hospital and Hank is one of its participants. Hank is drawn to Callie and looking to be more than friends, but Callie is ready to start a new life and move to California.

 

I absolutely adored Callie and Hank’s story. What could have been predictable and ordinary is exciting and romantic. Right from the start, their mutual attraction causes both to toss caution to the wind and give something “more” a try. However, due to certain “issues” Hank experiences, things go south quickly. Luckily both are able to move past their insecurities and fears to open up a genuine dialogue and develop a true friendship. 

 

I like that both the male and female narrators are different in book 2 than in the first title, especially since the story focuses on two new feature characters. I found both narrators to be a bit better suited to the characters and enjoyed them more than the first go around. I noticed I prefered the female narrator at 1.25x and male narrator at 1.5x but kept the playback speed at 1.5x. The male’s voice is deliciously deep with a rich timbre. It’s a great voice for Hank, who is a huge man with intense emotions. Similarly, the female narrator is a good fit for the intelligent, yet worrisome Callie. I did find Ms. Eby’s male voices are a bit on the feminine side, but not bad.

 

Falling From the Sky is a delightful romance that warmed my heart. Ms. Bowen gives Callie and Hank a HEA without the need to fix all their issues. The story brings humor and heart, taking me on an emotional journey from highs to lows. 

 

My Rating: A-

Male Narration: B+

Female Narration: B+

 

Review copy provided by Blunder Woman Productions

Review: Tripped Out by Lorelei James

Tripped Out: A Blacktop Cowboys Novella - Lorelei James

After leaving her well-paying corporate job, Stirling Gradsky took a chance and went into business with her brother. Now they own and operate High Society, a medicinal and recreational marijuana facility. 

 

Liam Argent has dedicated his life to understanding the chemical properties of marijuana and loves all the perks of working for High Society. But the constant head-butting and pranking with Stirling needs to end so they can grow the company.

 

While I have enjoyed the other 1,001 Dark Night / Blacktop Cowboy stories, I felt Tripped Out was not on par with its predecessors. First, I felt like I was dropped into the story with no idea what’s going on. It’s written as if I know these characters, but I don’t remember them at all, even though Stirling is sister to London, the heroine in the first novella, and we meet Stirling and Liam in the third book. I felt like I started off kilter and I never found a good balance.

 

It is evident that the author did her homework with respect to the subject matter, and I found the information on the emerging medicinal and recreational marijuana markets interesting. However, I felt that there was way too much information about marijuana use and production, making it feel like a technical report, rather than developing the characters and focusing on the romance. 

 

This leads to another issue I had with the story. The characters are big proponents of the use of marijuana, but at times, I felt that they were lecturing me, the reader, taking a holier-than-thou attitude. The two main characters have huge chips on their shoulders and their attitudes are almost condescending. Yet, then the author uses ridiculous stoner stereotypes and actions. And the way they use marijuana to “take the edge off”… needing it at the end (or even during) a stressful day, is reminiscent of an alcoholic needing a drink.  

 

As I stated, I don’t feel the author put enough into the development of the characters. While there are some funny moments and sexy situations, overall I found myself annoyed with Liam and Stirling. Their bantering, even when for fun, grated on me most times. Unfortunately, I never felt a strong romantic connection between the pair, making the story okay, but not one I’d read again.

 

My Rating: C- Finished It - Liked a little, didn't like a lot

Review copy provided by blog tour

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

#Audiobook Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune  - Frank Herbert, Simon Vance

I often say that Duke is one of the best books ever written, a "classic;" however, I hadn't read it in at least 15 years. Now that I'm such an audiobook fan, I wanted to revisit Dune to discover if I still enjoyed it. The answer is YES!

 

The story of Paul Muad'Dib, the heir to the Atreides dukedom, is one that transcends the test of time. It is as fresh and relevant today as it was 50 years ago. Each time I read/listen to the story, I find new treasures: bits of wisdom, secret meanings, insightful allegory. The writing is sharp, full of beautiful detail, if not a bit long-winded at times. However, I enjoy omnipresent multiple point-of-view narrative as it truly gives the reader a complete immersion into Mr. Herbert's complex and fascinating world.

 

The audiobook is a full cast production, with primary narration by Simon Vance. Although I looked for it, I could not find a cast listing for each character. Mr. Vance does an excellent job as the primary voice for the story. His cadence is strong, yet flexible; bending to meet the needs of each character. He alters his inflections and accent for each player. I would have enjoyed the book with Mr. Vance as the sole narrator. However, this version does have both male and female "actors" for each character, and are used most often when there is direct dialogue between two or more characters. Some of the narrators are more successful than others, my favorites being Paul and Jessica. My biggest complaint is that the use of the full cast is not consistent. There are long passages when Mr. Vance is the only voice, and then suddenly, the book goes back to a multi-cast production. While this issue did stand out because I took notice a few times, it didn't diminish my enjoyment of the story.

 

In the end, Dune remains one of my all time favorites and a book I will most certainly read (or listen to) again and again. Now if only we can get a decent movie of the book!

 

My Rating: A+
Narration: A-

#Audiobook Review: Coming in From the Cold by Sarina Bowen

Coming in from the Cold: Gravity, Book 1 - Blunder Woman Productions, Joe Arden, Sarina Bowen, Maxine Mitchell

Willow is stuck in a dream life that was never her dream. Following her then boyfriend to raise chickens on a farm in Vermont, Willow was dumped and left in debt when he found a pretty face with a trust fund, moving to California. Trying to get home one night before the blizzard gets any worse, Willow swerves off the road and is left with a sexy stranger.

 

Dane loves being an Olympic skier, but he's lonely and hiding a huge secret which keeps him from forming any attachments. Running off the road during a blizzard, Dane finds himself trapped with a beautiful woman who is willing to share one night of passion. But when a freak accident takes him out of competition for the season, he's forced to face his nightmares head on.

 

Coming in From the Cold is a cute contemporary romance that makes the hero and heroine work for their HEA. The opening scene, with the pair stuck in a jeep during a blizzard, is a wonderful way for the couple to very quickly get to know one another. They trade complaints while stuck, waiting for the plows. The situation creates a false sense of intimacy, allowing both to share secrets and do things (*cough* jeepsex *cough*) they normally wouldn’t do. One thing leads to another and soon the pair take things further than planned.

 

Dane has a HUGE chip on his shoulder, which leads to some MAJOR asshat behavior and an unintentional spill on the slopes. Being laid up and unable to compete adds to his destructive mood, and I honestly wasn’t sure he’d be able to redeem himself. But because Willow is a psychology doctoral student, she has insight as to Dane’s behavior. While she’s not ready to jump back into bed with him, she’s able to put the situation into perspective with a bit of emotional detachment, allowing me to travel her journey to forgiveness with her. She’s not unemotional and still hurts, but understands.

 

The dual POV story has both a male and female narrator for the two POVs. Both narrators are pretty good: not great, but solid. I did have an issue with Ms. Mitchell at the start. She would end of several sentences and phrases by lengthening the vowels and deepening in tone. However, the issue cleared up when I moved up to 1.5x speed and/or she just improved with time. They both did better jobs performing their own gender voices; however, Ms. Michell’s version of Dane didn’t fit his persona most times. He sounded too “boy next door” or chipper for his surly attitude.

 

Coming in From the Cold is a delightful romance with a lovely happy ending; however, there are plenty of dark moments along the journey. I like that although there are some familiar storylines, the story is not cliche or overly predictable. Dane is a real jerk, but the HEA works because Willow is a psychologist (in training) and can understand with detachment why Dane reacts as he does.

 

My Rating: B+

Male Narration: B

Female Narration: B-

 

Review copy provided by Blunder Woman Productions

Review: Blood Guard by Megan Erickson

Blood Guard: A Mission Novel - Megan Erickson

Tendra’s mom passed away in car wreck in recent years, leaving Ten all alone in Mission. Something in Ten tells her it’s time to move on, just like she and her mom moved so many times growing up. But that night, Ten’s whole world turns upside down.

 

Athan is a vampire and Ten’s blood guard. Tendra is the Sanguivita of the Gregorie vampire clan. Her mother knew all about it and was supposed to tell Ten, but was killed before she had the chance. Now Athan will escort Ten to live as his brother’s mate.

 

Blood Guard is the solid start to a unique paranormal romance series. I enjoyed the mythology which has some original components; however, it is traditional in ways that helped fill in any gaps. Some of the hallmark paranormal elements such as a prophesy and meant-to-be love gave the story a familiar feel.

 

Unknown to Ten before the night she meets Athan, there are vampires living among the humans, and it is prophesied that she will bring the Gregorie clan much power, which they will use to protect humankind. Tendra and Athan share a forbidden attraction, and being on the run together only heightens the sexual chemistry. She is destined for his brother, the future king, and immediately, she is compelled to fulfill her roll. But that attraction… it gets to be too much, and the pair fall into a dangerous liaison. Funny how prophesies tend to have a way of working out, even when a huge wrench or two is tossed into the mix.

 

While overall I enjoyed the story, I did have to make a big leap of faith with how things go down. I felt Ten was compliant without justification. She just goes along with Athan never really questioning anything. And I didn’t buy how easily she integrates herself into the vampire culture. She just accepts her duty like suddenly she belongs and it’s her life. It is all too easy. I think the second book will be strong because won’t have to world build as much. 

 

Blood Guard is enjoyable, even with my small issues, and I look forward to checking out what happens next in this new paranormal romance series.

 

My Rating: 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

#Audiobook Review: All or Nothing at All by Jennifer Probst.

All or Nothing at All: The Billionaire Builders, Book 3 - Jennifer Probst, Sebastian York, Madeleine Maby, Simon & Schuster Audio

Sydney Greene never stopped loving Tristan Pierce, even when he left their hometown to pursue his dreams in Manhattan. Before he left, Sydney discovered she was pregnant, but not wanting to trap him, she let him leave without a word. Fast forward seven years and Tristan is home, reunited with his brothers and making a life for himself. Even though the pair barely speak, his attraction to Sydney is stronger than ever, so Tristan figures it may be time to revisit their once passionate fling. Now Sydney will see if their feelings can overcome the secret she’s been hiding all these years.

 

All or Nothing at All is the third story about the sexy, wealthy Pierce brothers. I absolutely LOVED the first two books, so it is hard for me to say that I had a big issue with this one. First, what I liked… Sydney and Tristan are meant to be, but they always let external issues and a lack of communication stand in their way of happiness. I enjoyed watching the pair finally get over their initial coldness when Tristan returned two years ago. Tristan’s eyes are opened to the woman Syd’s become, and his lust for both her brain and body are genuine. I really enjoyed the first part of the book and felt it was going to be another favorite. However…

 

****NOTE some of the issues I discuss may be considered spoilerish****

 

It’s obvious from the get go, there would be an explosion between the pair once the truth about Sydney’s daughter came out. I honestly expected it to get ugly for a bit, and then we’d enjoy learning how the pair gets past the hurt. What I didn’t expect, and frankly didn’t like at all, was the mindset and actions of Tristan once he learned the truth. His hurt drives him to force Sydney into marriage and require her to sleep in the same bed as him. Sure, Sydney still feels an attraction to him, and she doesn’t just stop loving him, but his behavior is unhealthy and too much. It’s beyond my comfort level and borderline abusive in my eyes. He uses emotional blackmail and brings her sleeping body back to his bed every night. I almost stopped listening to the book because of his callous attitude and unhealthy behavior.

 

****End spoilerish section****

 

As per the previous two books, the narration alternates between male and female POVs, and I enjoyed Mr. York’s performance more than Ms. Maby’s. Mr. York has a solid narrative voice and I felt he did a fine job with most characters. Sometimes it was tough figuring out which brother was speaking when all three were together, but overall it was a solid performance. However, like in the previous titles, I don’t care for Ms. Maby’s male voices, especially the main character. It just feels off, and while I get used to it by the time I’m done listening to the book, I don’t care for it each time I hear it for the first time. Another issue I had is that during the first half of the book, there are a number of flashbacks, and the transitions from present to past in the audiobook were not adequately distinguished, leaving me confused every time. 

 

Overall, All or Nothing at All was a disappointing listen for me. Normally, I fall in love with Ms. Probst’s characters, but this time around, Tristan’s actions went too far into the realm of inappropriate for me to enjoy the romance. 

 

Rating: C+

Male Narration: B

Female Narration: C+

 

Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster Audio

 

Review: When the Scoundrel Sins by Anna Harrington

When the Scoundrel Sins (Capturing the Carlisles) - Anna Harrington

The book opens six years in the past, at Annabelle’s London debut. Unfortunately, Quinton (Quinn) Carlisle couldn’t stop teasing his long-time acquaintance, leading to misunderstanding, scandal, and heartbreak. Fast forward to a month before Belle’s twenty-fifth birthday, by which she must marry, or lose her home and security. 

 

Quinn is beguiled by Annabelle, and he loves to tease her to light her inner fire. He can’t explain why she holds such attraction to him. Seeing her now, six years older, he is taken aback by the woman she’s become. But Quinn is heading to America, to keep a promise he made to his deceased father, and he will never allow himself to fall in love anyhow.

 

Lady Ainsley, widowed caretaker and mother figure, wants love for Annabelle, but knows Belle’s security is more important. She wants/needs Annabelle to find a match, so she calls in her grand-nephew, Quinn, to help sort out proper suitors from fortune hunters, putting the pair together for the first time in six years.

 

I absolutely adored When a Scoundrel Sins and it’s two main characters, Belle and Quinn. It’s obvious to everyone but the pair, that they are two peas-in-a-pod and meant to be together. However, Quinn is so wrapped up in his fear of love that he uses his promise to go to America as a wedge to drive Belle away. Yet he’s so inexplicably enamored by Belle that he can’t stop touching her and sending other suitors away.

 

“But this, this wasn’t just a kiss. This was so much more.

“Those other kisses didn’t leave him trembling the way that he trembled now. They didn’t intoxicate him with the wild scent of the highlands and heather. They didn’t leave his gut twisting into knots and his head spinning, or make the the world fall away until he was aware only of the warm sweetness of her breath tickling at his lips, her soft body leaning into his in innocent invitation. But Belle’s kisses did just that.”

 

The boy has it bad but refuses to acknowledge his love. Then there is Belle who knows she has feelings for Quinn, but keeping her home is more important than a marriage based on love. She tries to convince Quinn that they should marry for convenience - she’d even let him go to America - but he’s so stubborn. So she continues looking for a man who will let her manage her own estate. I absolutely love how Quinn and Belle banter, flirt, and push back and forth. It’s so obvious they are in love, yet refuse to give into their feelings. This sets up for some highly emotional scenes, which pulled on my heart, giving me all the feels.

 

 

When a Scoundrel Sins is another wonderful story in the Capturing the Carlisles series. I adore Quinn and Belle, and absolutely love the feelings - their fears and passion - infused into the characters. The author so beautifully put these emotions out there, making them real and connecting me to the characters. When a Scoundrel Sins is a must read!

 

My Rating:  A, Loved It

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

Review copy provided by publisher

#Audiobook Review: Accidental Sire by Molly Harper

Accidental Sire - Audible Studios, Amanda Ronconi, Molly Harper

Accidental Sire opens at the conclusion of Big Vamp on Campus novella. Series part-timer Ben is smitten with Ophelia’s human friend Megan. But just as they say goodnight, Megan is accidentally struck by a heavy weight and killed. A volunteer vampire agrees to sire her and then vanishes. When Megan wakes after only 24 hours and has two sets of fangs, Jane Jameson and the Vampire Counsel swoop in to discover what is going on and mentor the newly made vampire. 

 

It’s been a few books since the story has focused on the original Jane Jameson group and Half-Moon Hollow, but Accidental Sire brings back all the favorites of Half-Moon Hollow and the Council offices. Whether or not it is the return to the familiar setting and characters, Accidental Sire just feels good. Little issues I’ve had with the previous books were nonexistent. The story is tight and the characters likable, without annoying habits or too-stupid-to-live flaws.

 

While Ben and Megan’s story is on the light side, it’s very much appropriate for the college-aged couple. They have an adorable meet-cute, but the whole being turned into a vampire thing puts a damper on their budding romance. I enjoyed the slower pace, which was filled with laugh-out-loud moments. 

 

A Molly Harper audiobook wouldn’t be the same without the terrific work of Amanda Ronconi. She has the perfect amount of southern charm, bundled with sharp wit and droll sarcasm to fit Ms. Harper’s characters. I swear I can see Ms. Ronconi roll her eyes when portraying Jane. However, while I love Amanda’s narration, it is very difficult to hear differences between her characters at times. This is compounded by the fact that each Half-Moon Hollow book is written in first person narrative, with each book featuring a different female lead. So it makes for some difficulty following who is speaking at times, most noticeably between the female characters.

 

Accidental Sire is a wonderful mix of Molly Harper’s trademark humor, a sweet romance, and an intriguing mystery. I laughed out loud more than once at silly jokes referencing pop culture and people just being silly. Every character has a bit of snark, and Amanda Ronconi gives the dialogue just the right emphasis, pulling off the sarcasm seamlessly.

 

My Rating: A-

Narration: A-

#Audiobook Review: Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

Wildfire: A Hidden Legacy Novel - Ilona Andrews, HarperAudio, Renée Raudman

Listening to Wildfire is my “re-read” of one of my favorite books of 2017. To recap: the book opens immediately after the conclusion of the previous one, with fears that Nevada’s paternal grandmother, Victoria Tremaine, has located the Baylors and wants to take the girls away to become part of her own House. Additionally, we discover that, Rynda Charles, Rogan’s ex-fiancee and daughter of Olivia Charles (antagonist from book 2), wants to hire Nevada because her husband is missing. Add to it the budding romance between Rogan and Nevada, a huge conspiracy to overthrow the existing government, and some crazy family issues, and you’ve got an amazing story!  

 

As with my audiobook review of White Hot (book 2), there isn’t much more I can add about Wildfire that I didn’t say in my original review. From that review: 

 

“The relationship of Rogan and Nevada continues to evolve, intensify, and mature. I adore their journey. Individually, each is learning how to adjust their own behaviors to better fit as a couple, while simultaneously working to accept the other’s idiosyncrasies and persona.”

 

Wildfire is a wonderful story in an amazing series. The authors have taken incredible care to create a whole set of characters beyond just the hero and heroine. I have become attached to each member of Baylor clan, and I adore that every character has purpose, each with their own story. While the action is intense, the emotional depth takes this story and series from great to amazing. I highly recommend reading the entire three-book Hidden Legacy series from the beginning.”

 

As I have stated numerous times, the addition of Renee Raudman’s narration takes any book up a notch. By now, her unique and separate voices for each character have become so familiar to me, and listening to her read the story is a comfort, like hearing my mom’s voice on the phone after not talking for a while. But more than the voices, it’s the emotion she puts behind every performance that blows me away. From anger to fear, from joy to sorrow, I feel the power of her performance deep inside my heart. She takes the already amazing characters and makes them real. 

 

Wildfire is simply amazing and one of my favorite books; however, I caution that it cannot be read as a standalone. The storytelling is thoughtful and complex, each thought and action having its place and purpose. And it is its characters that give this book and the entire Hidden Legacy series heart. 

 

My Rating: A+

Narration: A+

Review: Holiday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan

Holiday in the Hamptons (From Manhattan with Love) - Sarah Morgan

Fliss and Seth share a history that was left in the past ten years ago. He broke her heart, she broke his, and they walked away from their brief but passionate love. However, now Seth is in Manhattan, working at the vet office Fliss and her twin/business partner, Harriet, frequent with the animals they care for. Since talking to Seth would be too difficult for Fliss, she flees the city only to end up in Seth’s arms. 

 

Right from the start, Holiday in the Hamptons sets the stage perfectly for the emotional journey that is Fliss and Seth, and I fell in love with the idea of Fliss and Seth. Teenage crushes, first loves, broke up for all the wrong reasons. This second-chance romance brings together two people who have always been in love, but lack of communication and some other external issues tore them apart. The opening prologue set the stage for what I knew would be both a heart-wrenching and heart-warming story. I love that their relationship brought readers some of both. This is probably the slowest slow-burn romance I’ve read, but it’s just marvelous. The emotional connections are worth it. 

 

I was concerned with Fliss’s idea of pretending to be her twin, Harriet, as I am not a fan of the mistaken-identity trope. But my worries were for naught, because the author has fun with the situation, yet never lets it get out of hand. I mean… if you are related to someone, can you really fool them by pretending to be another? There are several silly moments, but there is a larger benefit to Fliss’s efforts. When pretending to be Harriet, Fliss doesn’t have to have her walls up, and she can talk to Seth. While they don’t share anything earth-shattering, it creates the foundation for their new friendship, something that wouldn’t have happened without the protection of pretending to be Harriet.

 

Fliss had a rough childhood, and many of her issues with personal connections stem from her upbringing. I admire that the author demonstrates how tough it was through flashbacks and ties it into her difficulties as an adult. I also love that Fliss is a work in progress - committing to changing, and that there is no pretty bow put around her issues. We know there is still work ahead. Which is also why I had a big issue with a very small scene at the end of the book when Seth says something to Fliss that is intended to be sweet and funny; however, with her history, and the care Seth has for her feelings, was the exact wrong thing to say. Most readers will probably gloss over it and never have an issue, but it pulled me right out of the happy moment. It wasn’t a game changer in this otherwise amazing romance, but it did give me pause right near the end of the book.

 

In the end, Holiday in the Hamptons is another wonderful story from the talented Sarah Morgan. She creates characters that I care about - ones I can relate to in some way and I want to befriend. Such is the case of Fliss and Seth. Their second-chance is full of ups and downs, and I enjoyed taking the journey with them.

 

My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot

Review copy provided by NetGalley

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

Review: Misconduct by Samantha Kane

Misconduct - Samantha Kane

Having survived a roadside bombing in Afghanistan, Carmina moved to Birmingham to be close to her best friend (and only other survivor) and to get away from her overprotective family. Now that she’s gotten on her own two feet, Carmina is ready to try dating, and sex, again. Rebels’ rookie, Tom, is the perfect man for the job, but she also can’t stop thinking about Tom’s best friend and roommate, Danny. Not sure how to proceed, Carmina rely’s on Tom’s help to move forward.

 

After nearly giving up on this series after the second title, I have to say I have rather enjoyed the last two books. Misconduct explores the aspects of a ménage within the confines of a safe and mostly accepting community. While it’s the fourth such book in the series, the story of Carmina, Danny, and Tom’s relationship is its own. With Tom as the only one ready to explore his deepest fantasies, it takes a while for the trio to form.  I like that Ms. Kane allows both Carmina and Danny to express their reluctance and fears over a non-traditional relationship, with Danny agitated and angry over unwanted advances. There is no sudden “flipping the switch,” making everything all good. It takes time. It gives the entire situation a realness that wasn’t present in the first two books of the series. 

 

I also appreciate that the focus of Misconduct is the budding relationship and connections between Carmina, Danny, and Tom. Yes, this is a football book, and the author puts her characters in the game. However, while football is the setting for the book, it isn’t a guiding force over the romance, as it was in the first two titles. Sharing the interpersonal impacts of the ménage, rather than the impact to the team, creates a more heartfelt story.

 

I like that the romance and sex scenes are driven by the characters and their desires, rather than the other way around. This is more of a “slow burn” romance, in that it takes some time for the trio to work out. However, it is still smoking hot - just give it time.

 

It could have been just another ménage story with lots of sex, but Misconduct is so much more. The author take time to develop solid characters who dictate the storyline. Outside the fame and football, Danny, Tom, and Carmina are real people, fearful of opening up and accepting something outside the norm.

 

My Rating:  B, Liked It

review copy provided by NetGalley

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

Review: Urban Enemies Anthology

Urban Enemies - Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, Kelley Armstrong, Seanan McGuire, Jeff Somers, Joseph Nassise, Jonathan Maberry

“Even Hand” by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files)

This story is shared from Dresden’s long-time nemesis, John Marcone. 

 

Justine shows up with a baby and asks for sanctuary from Mag, a powerful fomor wizard. Marcone isn’t one for making bad business decisions, but takes Justine in because one of Marcone’s rules is no harm to children. Mag is extremely determined to get back Justine and brings all his power to bear down on Marcone, Gard, and Hendricks. 

 

While the tale doesn’t directly tie into the overall Dresden story arc, it gives great insight into the warped mind of Marcone, reminding readers he isn’t anybody’s hero. I love he remains the bad guy, even when saving Justine. And his plans for Dresden left me shivering.

 

“Hounded” by Kelly Armstrong (Cainsville series)

Never having read this series, Ms. Armstrong does a great job giving readers just enough information to understand the short without going into the entire series background and history. 

 

The Cwn Annwn are the Hunters of the Wild Hunt. “Hounded” follows one Huntsman whose hound was taken from him and was cut from his pack for reasons we discover as the story unfolds. Unlike the previous story, where a bad guy does a good deed, this Huntsman is not good, and we witness how he corrupts a woman, bending her will to suit his needs. Very well done and a bit creepy! 

 

“Nigsu Ga Tesgu” by Jeff Somers (Ustari Cycle story)

Once again, the author does a great job giving readers a blurb about the world and antagonist featured in this anthology. Mika Renar is a magician, and she is one of the most powerful and dark ustari in the world. The first line in the story tells us she killed her father, and thus starts our lesson of how wicked magicians truly are.

 

Told in first person, present tense, “Nigsu Ga Tesgu” shares an attack meant to destroy Mika. While I had no problems following the storyline, I found that it held little interest for me. Maybe if I knew more about Mari, I would have been more invested in her survival. However, she is an evil, selfish woman, one I didn’t care about. 

 

“Sixty-Six Seconds” by Craig Schaefer (This story contains characters from two interconnected series: Harmony Black and Daniel Faust.)

 

Fontaine and his new apprentice, Rache, work for hell by bringing in damned souls. They are on a mission to stop the Redemption Choir, a group set on bringing down the beings of hell. 

 

The story takes place over the course of one night, while Fontaine takes on a difficult bounty with a big payoff. I like how the tale unfolds and the twist that plays out. It’s an interesting story; I wanted to know more about Fontaine and his human informant, Ada. 

 

“Kiss” by Lilith Saincrow (Jill Kismit series)

The main character in this one is Perry, a nemesis of the series heroine. 

 

Honestly, I was lost most of this story. I think Perry was the first person, “I” telling the story and he is the son (?) of Argoth. Perry is working with a hunter, his enemy, to take down Argoth.

 

It was also confusing because Perry refers to “you” and “your world,” and it’s unclear if he’s speaking to another character or the reader directly. I ended up DNFing this one after reading about half of it. It was way too confusing. 

 

“The Naughtiest Cherub” by Kevin Hearne (Iron Druid Chronicles)

This story is shared by Loki as he prepares to begin Ragnarok, and without the bounds of Fate, he approaches the Christian devil, Lucifer, for assistance in the upcoming battles. 

 

Mr. Hearne’s sense of humor shines in this short story. Both Loki and Lucifer had me smirking. Loki is growing stronger, and the time to take on Atticus, the Druids, and all of Midgard draws near. As a big fan of the series, I enjoyed this little look inside Loki’s mind. 

 

“The Resurrectionist” by Caitlin Kittredge (Hellhound Chronicles)

This story, set in the 1930’s, features a monster hunter named Lee, who is considered evil to the population of non-human beings living in this world. It’s more of an origin story about Lee. 

 

Reading this one, I was lost most of the time until the very end. I think I would have enjoyed the story much more had I been a fan of the series. With that said, Lee and his nemesis, Ava, intrigued me, enough that I’d like to check out the full series. 

 

“Down Where the Darkness Dwells” by Joseph Nassise (Templar Chronicles)

The story is narrated by necromancer Simon Logan, who is also an acolyte of the big, bad fallen angel, Ashereal, also know as the Adversary. This tale takes readers back to the time when Logan came into power. 

 

I found this dark tale interesting. It’s clear the narrator is a bad man, but I enjoyed learning about how he came to power. 

 

“Bellum Romanum” by Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Norville series)

Heroine Kitty Norville is a werewolf who has stumbled onto a rather large, evil conspiracy, and at the center of the trouble is 2,000-year-old vampire, Roman, aka Dux Bellorum. This story shares how he came into power and hints at the evil plans ahead. 

 

While I’ve never read the Kitty Norville series, I’ve heard great things. Regardless, the story was easy to follow and drew me in. I want to know more about the world and what Roman plans to do with his magic lamp. 

 

“Altar Boy” by Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger weird science thrillers)

Joe works for a covert Special Ops group that stops terrorists using cutting-edge science weapons. This story follows a reoccurring, “recovering” villain named Toys, a man who firmly believes he is damned due to his past actions. Yet a new relationship with an equally broken woman gives Toys a new outlook on life. 

 

Wow! Did I love this one. I’ve never even heard of this series, yet I found this to be a powerful story that was emotionally gripping. Toys is a complex man, one worthy of redemption, yet will never seek it. I want to read more from this author ASAP!

 

“Make It Snappy” by Faith Hunter (Jane Yellowrock series)

This story takes a small look at a backstory of Leo, the vampire Master of New Orleans. The author sets the stage at the opening, which probably makes a lot a sense to those familiar with the series.

 

Even though I was a bit lost (this series is next on my audiobook TBR), I enjoyed this short episode about Leo and his nemesis, El Mago. Leo is a just Master, but cruel when he is crossed, and this story demonstrates what happens to those who cross him. Entertaining reading!

 

“Chase the Fire” by Jon F. Merz (Lawson Vampire series)

In this world, vampires remain hidden from the world and protected by an elite cadre. However, there are some vampires who do not wish to live by the rules. Shiraz Aziz is one such creature. 

 

This story sets the stage for a large conspiracy within the ruling vampire council. Shiraz and his partner work to find an artifact and kill Lawson, and I found myself interested in their tale, despite knowing nothing about the series. The plot against Lawson appears to be rather well-thought out, and I want to know if it is successful or not. This one was an exciting tale. 

 

“Unexpected Choices” by Diana Pharaoh Francis (Horngate Witches series)

In Ms. Francis’s world, a group called the Guardians has unleashed a magical apocalypse with the hopes in killing off the humans. Giselle is a witch who formed the Horngate coven to fight on the side of humans. She foresees the need to steal something and calls upon her sometimes nemesis, Shoftiel, a righteous angel of justice, to guard her. The pair form a fragile alliance in an effort to save the world.

 

I was a bit lost with this story at first, but as I read on, the author filled in more gaps and the mythology became more interesting. What seemed like a “Kate Daniels knockoff,” became a detailed and unique world. I loved the back and forth between Giselle and Shoftiel and want to know what happens after the events of this story.

 

“Real Life” by Steven Savile (Glass Town Story)

Seth Lockwood is envious of his brother’s life. Obsessed with his brother’s love, Seth kidnaps Eleanor, and the pair live in a magical construct outside of time known as Glass Town. Seth is an evil man who enjoys causing physical and emotional pain. 

 

“Reel Life” is a disturbingly odd story. The magical construct is a lonely, desolate place with only two inhabitants; the captive held against her will and the captor now stuck in this place because of the passing time outside of Glass Town. Seth is truly evil, ruining his own life in an effort to destroy his brother. The story is creepy and distressing. 

 

“The Difference Between Deceit and Delusion” by Domino Finn (Black Magic Outlaw series)

This is the backstory of Tunji Malu, one of the first villains in the series. He is a supernatural bodyguard for a Nigerian businessman making his way in Miami.

 

Tunji is a being akin to a vampire, best I can tell. He’s a loyal bodyguard and does the things necessary to protect his boss. Yet his boss is only a means to climb out from the world Tunji once lived. In this story we get a taste of his ruthlessness and cruelty. Yet all isn’t what it seems, and by the end of the story, new alliances are formed. The tale is action-filled and exciting, yet easy to follow. I am interested in reading more. 

 

“Balance” by Seanan McGuire (InCryptid Universe)

The InCryptid universe is filled with shifters (?), humans, and non-human others. I believe it is the job of these others, cryptids, to keep humans from discovering they aren’t alone. There are also cuckoos, and I am unsure if they are related to cryptids. The story, shared in first person narrative, follows a female cuckoo who has the ability to read and manipulate the minds of those around her. She’s warped and loves messing with those around her in awful, usually deadly ways. 

 

I think in his effort to explain his world, the author confused me by adding information that was unnecessary for understanding this short tale. The narrator, Eliza, a one of many cuckoos that have invaded our world. They manipulate humans to survive, leaving them after they are used up. In this story Eliza discovers that those hunting the cuckoos have learned a new way to trap her kind. I enjoyed the story, wondering about the larger universe outside the cuckoos. 

 

“Everywhere” by Sam Witt (Pitchfork County Story)

Joe Hark, the Night Marshal, fights the forces of darkness in the world. His mentor and ally, the Long Man, became one of the monsters they fight, and Joe was forced to kill his once friend. However, the Long Man, didn’t wholly perish and has returned, looking to gain back the powers Joe took from him. 

 

Oh... another dark, yet interesting tale! The Long Man is warped... at first wanting to find eternal rest with the Father, but when turned away, his demented mind hatches plans to “save” his soul. Getting inside this dark mind reminded me of a creepy horror movie. I fear for Joe and the world he struggles to protect. 

 

Urban Enemies is an interesting look into several different worlds through short stories that center on a villain or antagonist from each series. Some of its villains are simply misunderstood or have good intentions, while others are truly evil. I enjoyed reading the several varieties of writing styles and antagonists. Even though I only follow two of the seventeen series represented in Urban Enemies, I enjoyed the book, wanting to look further into some series. I recommend this unique anthology to fans of the urban fantasy genre. 

 

My Rating:  B, Liked It

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

Review copy provided by publisher

#Audiobook Review: Th Silver Skull by Anne Renwick

The Silver Skull: The Elemental Web Chronicles, Book 2 - Henrietta Meire, Anne Renwick, Tantor Audio

As the daughter of a prominent Duke, Lady Olivia is expected to marry, produce heirs for her husband, and run a successful household - all things she was taught to do. Except Olivia is also a Queen’s agent, trained to marry a politically motivated target and report on his activities. Olivia sees this as a means to an end; becoming a widow and then a field agent. Tired of waiting for field assignment, Olivia takes matters in her own hands when she decides to follow Lord Ian Rathsburn.

 

Ian is a man with a tarnished reputation; a former Queen’s agent whose life work was stolen and is being developed by the enemy: Germany. Yet when his enemies kidnap his sister, Ian must act traitor to his country and help the Germans further develop his ideas, working along side his former friend - the man who stole his work. Finding stowaway Lady Olivia on his dirigible, Ian isn’t certain if she’s a bubble-headed woman looking for a husband, or an agent of the Queen looking to bring him in.

 

The second story in Ms. Renwick’s wonderful Elemental Web Chronicles is equally exciting and doubly adventurous as its predecessor. The story not only takes readers across the sea to Germany, but also opens up the setting to the much larger world. The world building continues as new characters are introduced, some with long-term potential. I feel like the entire Elemental Web Chronicles universe has expanded immensely after just one additional book. Even though things are growing within the series mythos, The Silver Skull is a tightly-woven story. The author does a fabulous job bring her world and characters to life without overwhelming readers/listeners. 

 

The romance between physician Ian and engineer Olivia is entertaining. I love the use of “scientific exploration” as a means for examining their mutual and intense attraction. They banter and play as only two geeks could, which is very enduring to me. I appreciate the conundrum of being spies and the need to keep secrets versus creating a solid rapport  based on honesty. Their romance burns slowly, but the unfulfilled desire keeps pulling the two together.

 

At first I was concerned that the similarities between The Silver Skull and the first title, The Golden Spider, would make for a repetitive listen; a scientist working to save a sibling, confiscation of experimental equipment, etc. However, the stories truly are very different. This story is very dark. Rathsburn’s sister, Elizabeth, is not only being held against her will but she's being experimented on, and she's been forced into an engagement to the evil faux doctor. There are several scenes that left me a bit uncomfortable because of the extent of coercion and/or “torture” involved. But with that said, the story never ventures into gratuitous violence, and there is a happy ending!

 

Once again, I adored the narration by Ms. Meire. Her “proper English” accent fits my ideas of how these ladies and lords would speak. She tosses in some lower-brow voices, as well as German and Chinese accents. Each male and female has their own, unique voice, with both genders well-presented.

 

While at first I was thrown by what appeared to be a “one-eighty” in Olivia’s character between the first and second books, I grew to appreciate the extent Olivia goes to find her own happiness out of life, regardless of her mother’s expectations and desires. Finding love despite one’s preconceived notions, while accepting someone for who they are in earnest, is the true message behind this exciting steampunk adventure. 

 

My Rating: B+

Narration: A-

 

Review copy provided by Tantor Audio

Review: Chasing Destiny by Megan Erickson

Chasing Destiny (Silver Tip Pack Book 2) - Megan Erickson

Bay has had something missing in his life since losing his best friend and future mate when they were teens. But to lose Nash again after he was rescued then sacrificed himself to save the Silver Tips from a Nowere attack, left Bay empty and near ruin. Volunteering for a highly dangerous and potentially deadly scouting mission, Bay finds life again when he discovers Nash living in isolation with the Whitethroats. 

 

Nash has spent over half of his life in deplorable conditions as a prisoner; used for experiments and worse. Now that Bay has found him, he’s torn between his love for Bay and a pack long forgotten and the need to protect them from his once captors. With warring emotions, Nash walks the fine line between redemption and hell.

 

Fans of good ol’ shifter romance and sizzling m/m lovin’ rejoice! Ms. Erickson’s Silver Tip Pack series is just what you need. After enjoying the world building and character development of first book, Daring Fate, I found Chasing Destiny all the more intense and exciting. The raw need between Nash and Bay is tangible: emotional and sexy. The years of unfulfilled lust and love explode as the pair reconnects. It’s a push and pull story, with a solid foundation established when the pair was younger. While Nash can do little to control his body’s need to be with Bay, his heart and head push him away, thinking he is too broken to be loved by Bay. Their story is emotionally gripping and satisfying.

 

While the romance between first book couple Reese and Dare was the “True Mate” kind, I am thankful that Ms. Erickson did not utilize the same for Nash and Bay. True Mating is rare and special, but the author shows us that it isn’t necessary for true love to develop between a couple, leaving no question of how exceptional Bay and Nash relationship is. Additionally, I appreciate that the author gives Nash the time he needs to be with Bay, rather than skip over his years of physical and mental abuse. Yet, they are firmly a couple before the big climax of the book, solidifying their connection in a powerful way.

 

Ms. Erickson continues to develop her world, as we learn more about surrounding Were and werewolf packs, making connections with other packs, and witnessing anomalies involving the zombie-like Noweres. Having to spend less time explaining the world allows Chasing Destiny more freedom for in-depth storytelling. I throughly enjoyed the action, as well as the quieter pack moments.

 

Chasing Destiny is a wonderful sophomore story from the Silver Tip Pack series. Filled with exciting action, intense emotions, and ultra-smexy romance, I found it difficult to put down. I eagerly await the next story from Ms. Erickson’s delightful series.

 

My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

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

Review copy provided by author