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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

Blood Guard: A Mission Novel
Megan Erickson
Dune
Frank Herbert, Simon Vance
Just You and Me (A Contemporary Romance Collection)
Fiona Miers, Caitlyn Lynch, Liz Durano, Deelylah Mullin, Cate Farren, Jacquie Biggar, Vicki Batman, Kate Richards, Brenna Zinn, Dalton Diaz, Tierney O'Malley, Desiree Holt, Nicole Morgan, Ashlyn Chase
Bitter Bite: Elemental Assassin, Book 14
Audible Studios, Jennifer Estep, Lauren Fortgang
Progress: 27 %

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

Review: When I Need You by Lorelei James

When I Need You - Lorelei James

Life for Rowan Michaels has always been fairly straightforward: first comes her son and second her career. There isn’t room for anything or anyone outside her family. Yet, befriending Jensen Lund makes her realize she is missing something in her life, and he could be the perfect fit. Breaking down walls can be scary, but Jensen may be worth it.

 

Coming off a near-career-ending injury, Viking’s starter Jensen Lund has a new outlook on life, one that involves interests after his football days are over. So even though Rowan Michaels breaks all of his rules for dating, Jensen recognizes she, and her son, are special enough to break the rules. 

 

When I Need You is another wonderful love story in the Need You series. Lorelei James knows how to capture my heart; her characters are honest, caring, wonderful people who love with their whole being. Jensen and Rowan may not believe they are the perfect fit for one another because of self-imposed rules and rocky histories, but Ms. James shows readers how they are actually two halves of a whole.

 

While I love pretty much every aspect of When I Need You, it is the fact that Ms. James creates a strong bond of friendship between Rowan and Jensen and then grows the romance slowly, that gives their story a solid foundation. I loved that external factors aren’t used to create conflict. It would have been so easy to use Jensen’s past, his fame, the no fraternization rule, or any number of other issues to drive a wedge between the pair. Yet instead, the author gives her characters inner-strength and integrity to examine their own choices and life decisions, then make the changes necessary to be happy. Both Jensen and Rowan are kind, giving, caring people, and the author uses this to bolster their romance, rather than take advantage of it to cause problems.

 

When I Need You focuses on Rowan and Jensen’s romance. Shared in first person, alternating POVs, there is little room to develop an external plot; however, the author does sew seeds for future couples and books. I found that I enjoyed remaining focused on the couple, seeing all aspects of their fledging romance, understanding their fears and concerns, and applauding their courage to open up with honest, heartfelt dialogue. It drew me in and kept me glued to the pages of my ebook.

 

Lorelei James has scored another touchdown with When I Need You. Overall, the Need You series is a winner, and you will not be disappointed picking up these standalone romances. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist… you’ll see when you read the book!)

 

My Rating:  A, Loved It

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

Review copy provided by publisher.

Review: WILDFIRE by Ilona Andrews

Wildfire - Ilona Andrews

Wildfire opens immediately after the conclusion of the previous book, White Hot. Rogan and Nevada return from their mini-vacation to tell her family about Victoria Tremaine trying to buy out their company. However, when Rogan and Nevada arrive, Rynda Charles, Rogan’s ex-fiancee (arranged marriage when he was three) and daughter of Olivia Charles (the baddie from book 2) is waiting for the pair. Her husband is missing, and no one will help her because of her mother’s disgrace. Nevada takes the case, starting the next round in the ongoing war with the unknown group of Primes looking to cause chaos in Houston. This book is not a standalone and should only be read following the first two books in the series.  

 

While billed as a romance, Wildfire is much, much more, and I would argue that the romance is not the primary aspect of the book and series (which is why I label it urban fantasy). With that said, 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. I LOVE how they take turns helping each other get past emotionally difficult places. This time around, Rogan lets Nevada rage and then tells her he loves her and together they will make it. Other times she's doing the same for him. It goes far to create such three-dimensional, likable characters.

 

There are three major, overarching storylines which are furthered during the telling of Wildfire. First, we finally meet and learn much more about Nevada’s paternal grandmother, Victoria. The authors wow’d me with this character who appears to be both bad and good. I felt like I was on a roller coaster as Nevada experiences a range of emotions, learning more about Victoria. 

 

Closely related this is Nevada and the Baylor family’s decision to become a House. The motivation behind the move is protection from Victoria, and as we learn more about her, I can see why this course of action, no matter the risks, is probably for the best. I was so worried during the entire process that something would go wrong - whether intentionally or coincidentally, and without giving spoilers, I will say, the entire journey was well-written and thrilling.

 

Additionally, Nevada and Rogan learn more about the group of Primes looking to create a new world order in Houston and beyond. This story is closely tied to all other aspects in the book. We start to see much more of the bigger picture; however, the ending is left WIDE open with many details of the overarching plot line still unknown. This did not read like the final book in a series, and I pray it is not the end. While it is an amazing story, and there is definite conclusion to much of the story, there is still a lot left to be told.

 

Of course, I went straight to Twitter because of this and felt a measure of relief when the author shared they hope to write one more.

 

In the end, 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.

 

My Rating:  A, Loved It

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

Review copy provided by publisher

#Audiobook Review: Besieged by Kevin Hearne

Besieged - Luke Daniels, Kevin Hearne

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

 

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

 

"Eye of Horus"

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

 

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

 

"Goddess at the Crossroads" 

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

 

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

 

"The Demon Barker of Wheat Street" 

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

 

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

 

"Gold Dust Fairy"

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

 

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

 

"The Boogie Man of Boora Bog" 

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

 

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

 

"Cuddle Dungeon" 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Blood Pudding”

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

 

"Hunted Devil" 

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

 

"The End of Idols”

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

 

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

 

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

 

My Rating:  B+

Narration:  A+

 

Review copy provided by Penguin Random House Audio

 

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

Review: The Darkest Promise by Gena Showalter

The Darkest Promise - Gena Showalter

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My Rating:  B-

Review copy provided by publisher

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

Review: The Mech Who Loved Me by Bec McMaster

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

Review copy provided by author

Review: The Highland Commander by Amy Jarecki

The Highland Commander (The Highland Lords) - Amy Jarecki

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Review copy provided by Publisher

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

#Audiobook Review: Buns by Alice Clayton

Buns - Alice Clayton, Jason Carpenter, Louise Elizabeth Rorabacher

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My Rating: A

Narration: A 

Jason Carpenter epilogue: B+

DNF Review: Dating You / Hating You

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My Rating: DNF

Female Narration: A+

Male Narration: A+

 

Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster Audio.

Reading progress update: I've read 57%.

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

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

#Audiobook Review: Snow Falling on Bluegrass by Molly Harper

Snow Falling on Bluegrass - Molly Harper

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My Rating: B+

Narration: A-

#Audiobook Review: Rhythm and Bluegrass by Molly Harper

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My Rating: B

Narration: A-

#Audiobook Review: My Bluegrass Baby by Molly Harper

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My Rating: B+

Narration: A-

Review: The Highland Duke by Amy Jarecki

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Review copy provided by publisher

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