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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

Snared (Elemental Assassin)
Jennifer Estep
Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels
Bitter Bite: Elemental Assassin, Book 14
Audible Studios, Jennifer Estep, Lauren Fortgang
Progress: 27 %

Review: All You Need by Lorelei James

All You Need - Lorelei James

Annika Lund has an Ice Queen reputation because she works hard for her family's company, always doing what is best for the family, even if her personal life takes a back seat. But until she started spending time with Axl, she hadn't been with a man who was worth the distraction. Now she's found a guy who matches her word for word and makes her toes curl in the process. If only she could share it with others. 


Axl Hammerquist is much more than the handsome, rough, playboy hockey player he portrays, but why let anyone see the real man when they don't expect anything more from him? However, when his agent insists on a public image makeover, it is his attraction to and respect for Annika that gets him to change his mind. So when his agent decides it's time to publicly end Axl's PR relationship with Annika, he realizes he's in way more than he ever planned. 


All You Need is a wonderful, feel-good romance that hits all the right notes for me. Axl and Annika are equals from the start, and while there is some minor jockeying for position, their relationship isn't a power play struggle for dominance. I admire that both have serious careers and neither has to compromise his/her work ethic or ambitions, rather, both support the other along the journey. 


But their story is far from all work and no play! The couple starts off on the wrong foot, as Axl drives to challenge Annika's PR abilities, causing trouble just to see how she'll react. He recognizes her intellect and admires her strength, and he has fun creating situations for her just so he can watch her work. Their silly name calling and hockey puns give rise to entertaining conversations. Equally enjoyable is their mutual attraction which creates wonderful sexual tension. 


While there are several things that worked for me in the title, it's the fact that once Annika and Axl became a couple, they stayed a couple, that made their story shine. Although these two alphas butted heads at the start, they were upfront not only about their issues with the other, but their mutual attraction as well. Yes, they did try to fight the sex appeal, creating wonderful sexual tension and moments of witty banter, but they both recognized right away that they weren't going to be able to keep this PR relationship strictly platonic. Both characters are honest and upfront about their mixed emotions, and both are such genuinely good people beneath the surface that they work well together. And due to the circumstances that drove them together, they become an "us versus them" team, sticking together despite or rather because of what others say to them. The more time the pair spent together, the closer they grew. 


By no means is their journey a smooth road to happily ever after. They come across road blocks and difficulties, issues that in other titles have caused breakups and mayhem. But it's how the couple handles the bumps that makes their story so amazing. Rather than allowing external factors best them, they were patient, communicated openly, and worked through the problems. 


All You Need is a wonderful romance about two equals who go from coconspirators to friends to lovers. I admire that both Axl and Annika possess honorable fortitude and genuine hearts, sharing of themselves with one another. Their journey is an enjoyable ride, and I look forward to discovering what is next for the Lund Family.


My Rating:  A, Loved It

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

Review copy provided by publisher

#Audiobook Review: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop

Etched in Bone: A Novel of the Others - -Penguin Audio-, Anne Bishop, Alexandra Harris

Etched in Bone is the fifth and final book in the utterly amazing, wholly original The Others series by Anne Bishop. The story picks up just after the conclusion of powerful events of the previous book, and is the culmination of everything learned since Meg arrived in the Lakeside Courtyard way back in the first book. 


Etched in Bone deals with the limited transportation and food shortages created when the Elders culled many humans and took back human-controlled towns. The new living situation brings out a different kind of human "predator,” and the Elders must determine how much human they want to keep in the world. Having two Elders observe the Lakeside Courtyard places Simon in a precarious situation; he must allow a dangerous human (Officer Montgomery’s shady brother, Jimmy) to stay in near the Courtyard so the Elders can figure out what makes him a bad type of human (and therefore they will be able to destroy those humans that are a threat). Simon, along with the other Terra Indigine and some of the more astute humans like Burke and Monty, recognize that the fate of all humankind depends on what happens in Lakeside. This sets up a number of situations that endanger the lives and wellbeing of many of the Lakeside Courtyard residents, weaving a sense of urgency around the moments of everyday living.


Like all the previous books in the series, readers (listeners) are privy to an unpleasant series of events that unfold over the course of Etched in Bone and witness how the Terra Indigine react. Although is it evident where the story is headed, it's still gripping. This time around, I liked how well the Others and humans worked together, but I also like that the Lakeside residents are now able to recognize a human predator. The introduction of Monty’s mother, Twyla, adds a missing human/pack grandmother component. She is able to understand the ways of the the Others and put her own way of handling a situation into their framework. Her presence is calming, knowing that she is able to handle the craziness with a firm but caring hand.


Additionally, Etched in Bone progresses the unique relationship between Simon and Meg. By now, it is evident to all, expect Simon and Meg, that the pair are in love. Because love between a human and Other hasn’t existed before, and due to Meg’s abusive history, the couple’s dilemmas are different than expected. I absolutely love that Simon gets advice on how to navigate his relationship with Meg through "kissy books!” 


After messing with the speed over the course of the series, the narration works best for me at 1.25x speed, and I will freely admit that I am now a huge fan of Ms. Harris’s performance in the series. I've grown to love every voice Ms. Harris performs, each as familiar as the characters themselves. The narrator continues to keep the joy and nativity of Meg, and the gruff predator of Simon. She nails the creep factor of mooch Jimmy, the whine of Jimmy's wife, and the confidence of Burke and Kowalski. 


Etched in Bone is another wonderful story in The Others series. The characters have grown so much, and I adore all the Courtyard residents. I've come to think of them as friends and have such an interest in seeing them succeed. I loved just listening to the day-to-day details and life of the Lakeside Courtyard, along with the new experiences for Meg, the Others, the Elders, and everyone in the mixed community. The author ended the series with many (if not all) of the outstanding details wrapped up, yet not completely finalized. After finishing Etched in Bone, I am hopeful for the future of the people/creatures of this interesting world (and really want more!).


My Rating: A- 

Narration: A-


Series: A-


Review copy provided by Penguin Random House Audio


Review: If the Duke Demands by Anna Harrington

If the Duke Demands (Capturing the Carlisles) - Anna Harrington

Miranda grew up with the Carlisle siblings, living with her aunt and uncle as tenants on the Carlisle family land. Always closest with middle brother Robert, Miranda wants him to see her as more than the girl next door. However, in her efforts to woo Robert, she mistakenly tries to seduce the Duke of Trent, eldest brother Sebastian. 


Weight of family obligation and dukedom on his shoulders, Sebastian longs for the carefree life he once lived. But duty comes first, which includes courting and marrying a daughter of a Peer and producing a suitable heir for Trent. Spending the season in London to find the proper duchess, it is Miranda who opens his eyes to joy again, seeing life through her unfettered eyes.


I absolutely adored If the Duke Demands! Sebastian and Miranda are two halves of whole. The conflict of love versus duty plays out perfectly as Sebastian attempts to live up to his father’s legacy. The guilt over missing his father’s death because of his dalliances haunts Sebastian daily and controls his every action. It takes the exuberance and love of a strong woman to help him find the man who died with his father two years ago.


The book grabbed my attention right from the start with its mistaken identity twist, followed by the pact that Sebastian and Miranda create. Not only does this ensure that they will spend alone time together as they plot, the secretive nature of their agreement lends itself to create a strong bond between the pair. This allows them the freedom to open up to one another, sharing things they never would have otherwise. Additionally, it gives Miranda the freedom to be herself and challenge Sebastian’s ambitions and goals. I love that they banter like a couple of equal standing.


As the pair becomes comfortable around one another, their mutual interest deepens and grows. My heart raced as I also became caught up in their passion. Their inappropriate conversation in public at the opera, the stolen kisses… the author does an amazing job building sexual tension and desire, and I found myself completely head-over-heels for this couple. Yet, Sebastian’s misguided intentions and guilt prevent him from completely giving himself to Miranda, even as she risks her heart, surrendering fully. 


If the Duke Demands is an absolute delight. Ms. Harrington puts forth solid, strong characters who worked their way into my heart. The story is incredibly entertaining, with the perfect amount of tension, desire, and emotion. As Sebastian works through his guilt and recognizes his true feelings, I found myself equally affected. The author balances humor and deeply emotional scenes making me both laugh and cry. I cannot wait to see what is in store for the remaining Carlisle brothers.


My Rating:  A, Loved It

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

Review copy provided by NetGalley

Review: Midnight Unbound by Lara Adrian

Midnight Unbound - Lara Adrian

A loaner and one of Dragos’s Hunters, Scythe doesn’t belong among humans or his own kind. Yet when his brother, Trygg, requests his help, Scythe agrees to protect Chiara Genova and her young son. 


Chiara’s life has been filled with danger ever since marrying her now deceased mate. When a crazed Breed breaks into her home and threatens to force her blood bond, the Order realize there is more going on than appears and send in the one male they trust to protect her.


The story of Chiara and Scythe actually begins in the previous novella, Midnight Untamed, when the pair meet and sparks are evident. Midnight Unbound completes their story as the pair is once again tossed together in a deadly situation. This time around, the pair are forced to spend days together, alone, and after a week, they can no longer deny their burning attraction and physical needs.


Midnight Unbound is an entertaining, straight-forward paranormal romance. Predictable maybe, but enjoyable certainly. He saw her and longed for her. She saw him and wanted him. He's tender and caring under his tough exterior. She isn't the fragile flower she appears to be. After being cooped up together for a week trying to fight their attraction, bam... sexual explosion and uncovering of feelings. Sharing of pasts. Working together for a future.  Midnight Unbound can be read as a standalone, although the general Breed background mythology may make it more enjoyable. I liked the straight forwardness of the tale and enjoyed the tie into the previous novella.


My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

#Audiobook Review: Hunted by Kevin Hearne

Hunted - Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels

After completely enjoying the previous title, Trapped, I couldn’t wait to get into Hunted; however I was a bit apprehensive over what would happen to my favorite trio of characters as life seemed to be going “too good” for them. Of course, life didn’t stay safe, and the opening of Hunted was rather surprising as the Morgain helps fight off the Roman-Greco goddesses of the hunt to save Atticus. She confides in Atticus some rather telling information that made me relook at her character. Now Artemis and Diana are hunting Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon across Europe to seek retribution for perceived losses, and all of Europe has been struck with Pandemonium, preventing their escape to Tír na nÓg. 


I love that Hunted is a blend of pure adventure as well as a mystery to be solved. Someone/s is out to end Atticus and has recruited a number of players in the effort. Not only are the Olympic pantheons after him, but there are vampires, dark elves, and gods tracking his every move. Oh, and Loki is on the loose, again. Finding out that Jupiter, Zeus, and Odin are following along and watching the chase for entertainment is the perfect nod to the classic tales. The battles are epic and even a bit frightening. Meanwhile, Atticus believes a powerful fae is orchestrating the efforts against him, and his weariness and fear had me on the edge of my proverbial seat. With so much going on, I thought I’d be lost, but rather, I was completely engaged as I followed along the frantic chases. 


The book also treats us to chapters from Granuaile’s POV. While the first time it occurred it almost felt out of place, later I realized it was setting me up for the events to come. I enjoyed seeing life through her younger and unfettered eyes. Although, being Atticus’s apprentice and now companion has forced Granuaile to quickly mature and deal with the ugly. Granuaile’s perspective and powers, along with her powerful feelings, adds so much to the series and each story. She balances Atticus perfectly, and I simply love how much Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon have become a genuine team.


The narration of the story is simply amazing. Mr. Daniels continues to provide constantly strong performances, with every character having a unique and fitting presence. He finds a way to add strong emotion into the story when warranted, and he often gets a chuckle or two out of Atticus when dealing with his best bud, Oberon. Additionally, this time around he narrates whole chapters from Granuaile’s POV, distinguishing these chapters from Atticus’s with his softer, feminine voice exclusively used for Granuaile. But best of all is Oberon, who’s voice is so fitting and genuine that I now assume all dogs speak this way.


In the end, I absolutely enjoyed Hunted. The only reason I gave it an A- instead of A is that I felt the story just stopped with too much left unfinished… like it was a pause in the story, rather than the finish of it. Yes, Atticus and Granuaile are safe, and the Olympians settled, but so much is still out there. I didn’t expect the story to end like it did. But WOW — I am hooked! 


My Rating:  A-

Narration: A+

#Audiobook Review: Trapped by Kevin Hearne

Trapped: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 5 - Hachette Audio UK, Kevin Hearne, Christopher Ragland

Twelve years have past since the last book, and Granuaile has finished her Druidic apprenticeship. Looking for a safe place to bind her to Gaia, the earth, Atticus discovers that Loki is free and the Olympus pantheons are plotting against Atticus. Now the pair, along with best hound friend, Oberon, are trapped between a rock and a hard place unsure who to trust, as they try to find a safe place to tie Granuaile to the earth.


Oh I really, really enjoyed Trapped. I love the deepening connections Atticus and Granuaile. The book isn’t about romance, but their love is true and a perfect addition to the overall mythology and storylines. Stories are best when the reader/listener connects with the characters, developing a relationship with them. In this case, I’ve grown to care about Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon, making their journeys more exciting and emotional. And all three characters have matured so much since the first book. Especially Granuaile, who is now a full Druid. Yet she still has so much awe for the world around her. Having Atticus reconnect and rediscover the wonders of the earth and other planes through Granuaile, in effect allows me the same discoveries and awe-inspiring experiences.


I also appreciate and am extremely thankful of the direction the author has taken with the overall story arc. Atticus continues to pay for his crimes when he chose to help Leif seek revenge against Thor instead of walking away and staying neutral. It was one thing to kill Angus Og, who had been hunting him, but to assist in and cause the destruction he did to the Norse pantheon was simply outrageous. And now, over twelve years later, his actions are still causing him problems. Atticus’s introspection over his choices is the perfect blend of regretfulness and acceptance. He understands that he may never make amends and balance the scales, but he will do his best to try. However, it seems that in his effort for atonement, Atticus continues to cause more issues, and the problems he and Granuaile face just keep growing in a trickle-down effect. 


Luke Daniels continues to surprise and amaze me with his consistently strong narration. Not only has he mastered the voice for Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon (which I completely love!), but his wealth of accents for all creatures great and small is astounding! He seems to fit each character’s personality with a slight inflection here and there, or an outrageous accent when called for. He softens his voice for gentler characters, rasps it for deadly ones, booms loudly for thunder gods, and some how works in jovial mirth into others, making each voice utterly unique and memorable. Mr. Daniels is top of his game in Trapped.


Trapped is a self-contained, wonderfully written story, but the ending makes it clear that danger is around every corner for Atticus and the gang. The story served to whet my appetite for the future tales as I wonder how Atticus can right his wrongs and save the world without dying. 


Story: A

Narration: A+

Review: The Hard Way by Annika Martin

The Hard Way - Annika Martin

NOTE: Although each story in the Taken Hostage by Kinky Bank Robbers is standalone, the romance of the four main characters has developed over the course of the series, with deeply emotional roots and revelations along the way. Additionally, the events in prior books impact the events in this book. For these reasons, I do not suggest starting the series with The Hard Way. The first book in the series, The Hostage Bargain is currenly free!  http://amzn.to/2moqOuC


The story opens with the God Pack honeymooning in Rome for the past month. Although they know they cannot stay for long in one place, and in fact had to give up so much of their normalcy in escaping ZOX, the gang indulges in daily routine and the temptations of Rome. However, when Isis learns that her sisters’ farm is in trouble and her eldest sister, Vanessa, is charged with manslaughter, the guys whisk Isis back to Wisconsin. Investigating the alleged crime incognito, the gang promises to save Isis’s family.


There is so much to love in this series, and The Hard Way is another wonderful addition. First, the title’s opening sex scene (there is certainly more than one!) is one of the dirtiest yet in the series. And even when the guys are worshipping their goddess, the author always finds ways to slip in her amazing, dark humor. I just died when Thor asks “Um, did you guys just have some sort of mystical butt-f**king experience?” The timing of Ms. Martin’s offbeat humor is always impeccable. I think I laughed out loud every time the group found themselves in the cupid-infested B&B. Loved. It.


Next, The Hard Way is emotionally satisfying. Although every book centers on the foursome and their deepening love and commitment, each title tends to focus a little bit more on one of the characters, and in this light, I would say The Hard Way is Odin’s story. But you can’t think of this series as one that has a beginning and end point for each character. While the story looks deeper into Odin’s time as a captive, he’s not suddenly “cured” of his horrors by the end of the story - not even close. However, we witness tremendous growth in the relationship between Isis and Odin as she gets him to open up. She comes to understand that no matter how much she wants to help him, Odin’s nightmares won’t ever end. But she shows him that his sacrifices weren’t all dark - his world is full of gray. The back and forth between the pair provides both heart wrenching and yet oddly comforting moments as they give of themselves out of love.


Additionally, I loved watching the gang piece together the clues and figure out what happened in the mystery surrounding the salmonella outbreak. Sure, two of the God Pack are former spies and have mad investigative skills, but even Isis notices how she too has learned a thing to two about uncovering clues. They work great together, balancing and supporting one another to discover the whole picture. 


Finally, there are some teary-eyed moments as Isis revisits the sheep farm and all she left behind. Being back in her hometown not only causes Isis to relive past events, but forces her to deal with the decisions she made, and is still holding to, when she joined the God Pack. There were a few times I found myself sniffling (okay, even sobbing) as Isis takes her journey home.


In the end, I love the Taken Hostage by Kinky Bank Robbers series hard. I take great delight in how much the characters have grown over the course of each book. I love that they care about each other so much, and how they express it. Most of all, I love that the author will allow these guys to be dark, yet their mutual love protects them from going too far. Taken Hostage by Kinky Bank Robbers series is outlandish, yet brimming with emotional depth and intelligent plots  The titles are sinful and hot, but rooted in genuine love and compassion.


The Hard Way adds much to this amazing series. Not only did I enjoy the mystery and watching the gang solve it, but I loved how we learned more about Odin and coming full circle back to Isis's town. It was satisfying to have the introspection of how there lives have changed over two years. 


My Rating:  A,  Loved It

Review copy provided by blog tour

Review: Wake a Sleeping Tiger

Wake a Sleeping Tiger (A Novel of the Breeds) - Lora Leigh

Cullen Maverick is a recessed gene Bengal Tiger Breed who has lived among and worked with the Navajo Nation as the Commander of the Navajo Covert Law Enforcement Agency. After losing his wife to cancer ten years ago, he’s kept himself closed off, even from the woman he suspects may mean more to his hidden Tiger. 


Chelsea Martinez has been in love with Cullen for as long as she can remember, and has even worked for him for the past four years. But he’s put off her need to do more than push papers in the office, so she’s decided it’s finally time to leave the Law Enforcement Agency. Yet her resignation may push the recessed Tiger in Cullen to rip free and take over.


Prior to starting Wake a Sleeping Tiger, I went back and read my notes from the previous couple titles and realized that I had all but given up on the Breeds series, as it had become convoluted, full of new characters I didn’t care about, and frankly the editing left much to be desired in the storylines. But since I’d already picked up this title for review, I decided to go in with as much of an open mind as possible, and wow, am I glad I decided to read Wake a Sleeping Tiger! Overall, the writing and story are MUCH tighter than the previous books. There wasn’t really any wandering and meandering from thought to thought, but rather the story stayed focused on the romance between Cullen and Chelsea, as well as her work and the related story of the Cerves. 


Cullen and Chelsea made a fantastic pair. Their romance was hot, and the story was filled with amazing sexual tension. And although there were definitely times when the couple kept their innermost true feelings to themselves, it didn’t dominate the story nor was it a reason they stayed apart from one another. Chelsea was very open from the beginning, telling Cullen: “Just go home and stop trying to protect me. It was never your protection that I wanted.” She shared her fears over the mating, yet didn’t fight him about it. I did get a little frustrated with Cullen because he didn’t share his fears and frustrations with Chelsea, but his inner-thougths conveyed to the reader his own fears and limitations. One thing that I’ve learned from this series is that the male Breed needs an independent female who is his equal, even though it drives him and his animal crazy. If she can’t stand up to him, she can’t handle his beast. This is very true with Cullen, as he is a Primal Breed. 


In the end I really enjoyed reading Wake a Sleeping Tiger. It was a straight-forward story and a delightful, sexy Breed romance. Whether or not it actually forwarded the story, I’m not sure, but I like that it wasn’t full of hidden plots. I was glad to see some familiar faces and I truly hope the series is back on track. Wake a Sleeping Tiger has renewed my interest in the Breeds series.


My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

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

Review copy provided by publisher

Quickie Review: Alejandro's Sorceress by Alyssa Day

Alejandro's Sorceress: A Cardinal Witches Novella (The Cardinal Witches Book 1) - Alyssa Day

Alejandro is a newbie government agent with years of vampire fighting experience. He and his partner are sent on a mission to help the Cardinal Witches with a basilisk problem. What Alejandro finds is a hot mess named Rose.


Rose Cardinal is a powerful witch who lives with her witchy-family. She spends her time helping others and caring for her community. Never giving much thought about personal time, she is shocked by her attraction to not-her-type Alejandro.


Alejandro's Sorceress is a novella-length story that spins-off a new series from Ms. Day's highly successful Warriors of Poseidon series. Although in the same world (and the bad a$$ warriors make a quick appearance), the tone of this book is much lighter than the original series.


Alejandro and Rose's romance is extremely quick. They share an insta-love that defies anything they've experienced before. But even those around them realize after just one day that the couple is destined to be mated. While I've never been a fan of quick-to-fall-in-love stories, there romance fits the mood and flow of the title, so I didn't mind it as I would in a more serious or longer book.


Alejandro's Sorceress is silly entertainment; a bit over the top, but light and humorous and done in an enjoyable manner. I liked the set up of the world, and the Cardinal family looks like a lot of fun. Reading Alejandro's Sorceress piqued my interest in checking out the next title, which I hope is a bit more developed with a bit longer storyline.


My Rating: B/B-

#Audiobook Review: Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

Silence Fallen: A Mercy Thompson Novel, Book 10 - Patricia Briggs, -Penguin Audio-, Lorelei King

Opening shortly after the game-changing previous title Fire Touched, we find Mercy, Adam, and the Columbia Basin pack happy and settled in way they haven’t been in a very long time. However their good times are short-lived when Mercy is brutally attacked and kidnapped by Iacopo (Jacob) Bonarata, Lord of Night, head of the vampires. Mercy is cut off from her pack and mate-bond, on the run, and fighting to survive in a foreign land, while Adam must play diplomat to save both Mercy and ensure the security of his territory.


Silence Fallen is the tenth title in the amazing, richly developed Mercy Thompson series. Those readers/listeners who have followed the series since the start will probably notice the book has a different feel than previous titles in the series. First of all, Mercy and Adam spend almost the entire book separated from one another, similar to what happened in portions of the seventh title, Frost Burned. Additionally, due to the circumstances, the author has split the book into sections narrated in first person POV of Mercy (her normal method of storytelling), but also the book is shared in the third person POV of Adam (and very briefly another character). The book also goes back and forth a bit in time, with Mercy and Adam’s stories running parallel, but shifted slightly in timing. This all makes for a very different feeling book. The results are mixed in my opinion.


Overall, I enjoyed the story behind Silence Fallen. Ms. Briggs deals with the fallout from Adam and Mercy’s actions in Fire Touched, and even some subsequent titles. I like that there are repercussions from their actions, and that we continue to see the world changing as it uncovers and attempts to adapt to the supernatural world. Mercy’s kidnapping is a direct result of the actions in Fire Touched, and the outcome makes for a stronger pack in the long run. I also like that we learn more about both Werewolf and Vampire global politics. Mercy’s world has always been very small geographically, with trouble coming to her. Seeing Mercy function outside of her comfort zone was rewarding. I also loved watching Adam play diplomatic games, and getting his POV while it happens gave greater insight to how his mind works. With that said, I was slightly disappointed at the lack of time Mercy and Adam spent together. The stories are best when the pair works together to face and solve issues. 


My biggest disappointment with the title is the addition of a male narrator for the parts of the book shared from Adam’s POV. While I understand the need for the dual POVs, and even like the idea, the new narrator did not work for me. Mr. Newbern is wholly new and NOT Lorelei King, who has narrated the series for the nine previous titles. Lorelei King is an amazing narrator, and she IS Mercy to me. She is also Adam, Stephan, Marcila, Ben, Elizaveta, Wolf, etc. So hearing someone else attempt “her” characters just didn’t work. 


I will say that Mr. Newbern is a talent on his own, with a fine narrative voice, excellent accents, and I would enjoy listening to his work - just not here. Adam's chapters are told in third person, not first person like Mercy, so it wasn’t even necessarily Adam relaying the events, and the story didn’t need another narrator. Part of the issue is that I enjoy Ms. King’s Mercy at 1.25x speed; however this speed didn’t work for Mr. Newbern’s Adam, and I had to switch to 1.5x for when his sections were played. Second, the newness of his voice, when I am so accustomed to Ms. King, was jarring and distracting. Initially, I spent more time analyzing his voice rather than focusing on what he was reading. It’s too bad that the publishers just didn’t have Ms. King narrate Adam. She has established his voice over the course of ten titles, and I have to ask: why change?


In the end, I enjoyed Silence Fallen, but it just wasn't the same as the previous title (which was probably my favorite), mostly because I wanted more time with Adam and Mercy together. The story was solid, and I love that the author considered the fallout from previous events when developing the story. There was a twist at the end that caught me completely off guard, and that rarely happens. It made me want to listen to certain exchanges again to see if I should have picked up on something sooner. Unfortunately, I did not like the addition of a new narrator, and it ended up bringing down the entire listening experience for me. However, the book is very good and the series is one of the best out there.


Story: B+

Female Narration: A

Male Narration: C+

Review copy provided by Penguin Random House Audio


Review: Flash of Fury by Lea Griffith

Flash of Fury - Lea Griffith

Kingston McNally, ex-Navy SEAL, is the leader of a black ops team known as Endgame Ops. A year ago on a dangerous mission in Beirut, King’s group was betrayed by one of their own. Now it’s his mission to end Horace Dresden, the man responsible for the death of his teammates. However, someone has put Allie Redding in his path and her safety is quickly becoming his number one priority.


Allie Redding spent the past few years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa and is looking forward to a mani/pedi and McDonald’s french fries back at home. She’s instantly attracted to the hottie in the seat next to her, and she even indulges in a little “what if” daydreaming. But her fantasies are short lived when her plane is hijacked by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Now she and her new found ally, King, are on the run while trying to figure out who they can trust.


Flash of Fury is the first exciting story in Ms. Griffith’s Endgame Ops series. The story opens with a bang and never EVER slows down. As the first book in the series, the author spends a great deal of time introducing the key players and laying the groundwork for the world. Generally this is handled well in Flash of Fury, but I did get lost a few times; partially because of the volume of information, and partially because this material is just the framework for something larger to which I am not yet privy. While I liked that the author didn’t dumb down conversations for the reader, it made it difficult to follow along as there is a lot of subterfuge and layers of conspiracy in play. 


The overall plot line of the book is the rescue and return of Allie to her father in the U.S. It’s a good story, but there is entirely way too much running for my tastes. Seriously… every time King and Allie make it to a safe house, they are compromised. It got old after a while; I just wanted them to have a respite that lasted longer than a couple of hours (they actually do but injuries don’t count in my book!). The larger story involves weeding out the leaks that lead to the botched mission in Beirut and how it all ties in with Allie. There was significant movement on this front, but I have to say I was disappointed in how the book ended. Without spoilers, I will just say that Allie’s actions towards the end of the story seemed highly careless in light that King’s operations is a Black Ops — off the record — team.


As for Allie and King - I liked the pair. The author builds tremendous sexual tension between the pair, which is compounded by their constant upheaval (although as I mentioned, that did get tiresome after a while). And although I’m not a fan of insta-love, I can get behind the couple. I admire Allie’s honest and willingness to selflessly protect King and his team. She understands King and is willing to be there for him, but that doesn’t mean she’ll just sit back and let him tell her what to do. I also love that the jaded King finds solace in Allie’s positive, cheery demeanor. 


In the end, I enjoyed Flash of Fury. I wanted to love it more, especially after the explosive beginning and the amazing sexual tension between the pair. However, there was just one or two too many chase scenes. I grew tired and weary of the constant betrayal of their location and the need to be uprooted and on the run. Additionally, the layers of subterfuge were too many, and I hated not being able to see the bigger picture. Something huge is going on, and I feel that we weren’t given enough clues to try and start to see that. Also, I felt that Allie’s actions once she gets stateside were reckless. I wish she’d found a different way to let King know her feelings. But Allie and King made a fantastic romantic pairing, and I am completely engaged in discovering more about Endgame Ops and its team.


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

Review copy provided by Netgalley

Review: Saved by Darkness by Katie Reus

Saved by Darkness (Darkness Series) (Volume 6) - Katie Reus

Saved by Darkness is the sixth title in Ms. Reus’ entertaining paranormal romance Darkness series. This traditional PNR features a wide variety of shifters, vampires, demigods, and demons, each with a happily ever after. While each book is a standalone romance, the characters and mythology have been developed over the course of the series, making it a richly detailed world, one which is best experienced from the start.


This time around the story focuses on half-demon, half-dragon shifter Ian, whom we met a couple books ago. He fell in love with dragon shifter Fiona over fifty years ago, but she walked away from him and mated another in order to protect him from her family. Yet it’s been discovered that she’s been running a preternatural shelter for abused paranormals at the edge of Finn Stavros’s territory, a place Ian has come to live in recent months. Now that Finn is reaching out to Fiona, can Ian give her up a second time?


Right from the start, I found myself fully submersed in Fiona and Ian’s story. First, I enjoyed the flashbacks to the couple’s initial meetings and early connections. Even though the reader knows the outcome of their past, it's lovely to see how they fell in love, while running parallel to their reunion. Second, I adore how heroic and strong Fiona and Ian are, both in their mutual pasts and in current day. They each have a formidable moral compass, coupled with the need to protect those they love. Yes, a bit of maiming and killing of enemies is sometimes necessary and definitely a-okay!


Fiona and Ian’s attraction and love runs deep. Demonstrated through the flashbacks to their initial meeting, we learn that they have a love-at-first sight relationship that developed quickly. This makes their reunion so much sweeter, knowing that they have experienced an unfulfilled love for over fifty years. The author does right by the pair by allowing them to express their feelings for one another early on in their reunion, rather than drag things out or keeping up pretenses. The impact is that I cheered even harder for the pair to make it through the trials they faced.


Even though the love story is the most prominent part of Saved by Darkness, the couple, along with Finn’s werewolf pack, must deal with a new threat uncovered while making connections with Fiona. Some unknown “big bads” have created a new drug that will kill humans. This sends a group, including Fiona and Ian, into a hell dimension to uncover the plot. Additionally, Fiona is attacked with the drug, which appears to be fatal, giving the group some urgency to uncover the ingredients and find a cure. While the action is exciting and allows the couple to experience some emotional stress, the culmination and conclusion felt a bit too easy. However, that didn’t impact my overall enjoyment of the book.


In the end, Saved by Darkness is one of, if not my favorite book of the series. The author has found her groove and creates exciting tales. The balance between romance and action is ideal, and I love that the characters continue to play important rolls in the books even after they get their HEAs. I look forward to more, especially with the strong hints of the next (?) paring!


My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

Review copy provided by NetGalley

#Audiobook Review: Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones

Eleventh Grave in Moonlight: A Novel - Darynda Jones, -Macmillan Audio-, Lorelei King

Eleventh Grave in Moonlight continues the journey of the Grim Reaper, powerful god, human P.I., Charley Davidson as she tries to protect her daughter and save the world. Charley and husband (son of Satan and also a god) Reyes are fresh from their last adventure and ready to find the second malevolent god that is walking the earthly plane. Confused? That means you haven’t read this series and truly need to start at the beginning! This eleventh title builds directly upon the events from the previous books.


Those who follow my reviews know I have a love-hate relationship with the Charley Davidson series. At its best, the books are full of amazing humor, witty banter, interesting stories, intelligent plots, and fun times. However, too often the books get bogged down by an over abundance of confusing storylines, contradictions and left turns from previously stated “facts,” and worst of all… an utter lack in character growth, most notably in the relationship and communications skills between Charley and Reyes. I am happy to report that by-in-large, many of my issues were minimal this time around; however there were still little annoyances here and there, which at this point in the series (book 11!!), added up and bothered me to no end! Let me start with the good…


I absolutely LOVED the opening as Charley relays her current issues to a very confused psychiatrist. The scene is shared in true Charley fashion — full of her ADD thought process — and it genuinely had me laughing out loud. More importantly, the listener relearned the most important recent events from the previous book in a manner that was sharing rather than telling. As the book progresses, the author does a great job staying focused on a few related issues. The primary story revolves around Reyes’s adoptive parents, the Fosters, and we finally get the whole truth of why they kidnapped Reyes, only to turn him over to the malicious Earl Walker. This story has been a longtime coming and was completely satisfying. Additionally, the book spends time focusing on the larger story arc surrounding their daughter, Beep, and the prophesied end of the world. We learn more about Jehovah and Charley’s past. Again, this is a well-written storyline.


What didn’t work… once again we find Charley and Reyes keeping secrets. ENOUGH! They literally just had a conversation about and wonderful agreement in the previous book (only days ago chronologically) not to keep secrets and to communicate. Charley even tosses that in the face of Reyes. But he continually walked away in anger rather than work on expressing himself. While the secretiveness wasn’t nearly as bad as in prior stories, I had no forgiveness because this is the eleventh book and it’s time to move past this particular character flaw. 


Additionally, I was extremely frustrated with Reyes 180-about-face when it came to Charley dying. In previous books, he obsessively worried that the human part of Charley would die, and she’d only exist on the celestial plane. In Eleventh Grave in Moonlight he suddenly has no concerns and constantly tells Charley she cannot die. What the heck? To me, this is a huge inconsistency. Add in Ubie’s attempts to keep Charley “out of danger” which were too similar to what her dad pulled on her back in the beginning of the series, and I dropped my rating a whole letter grade.


While some weren’t happy with the semi-cliff-hangerish ending, I was okay with it. Maybe because I’d been warned to look out for a harsh ending. Maybe because it is very similar to a certain TV show from the 2000’s about a vampire slayer which turned out okay. I don’t know, but it didn’t break the book for me (thank you Una for your heads up on this!).


The narration was flawless as usual. Lorelei King could read the phone book and I’d love it. Her talents go beyond words. She is consistent across the board, creating and maintaining unique and fitting voices for every character. She nails Charley’s ADD and often sarcastic conversations. I love how she puts me right inside Charley’s mind.


In the end, Eleventh Grave in Moonlight was a mostly enjoyable listen, although I had a few issues. I absolutely loved the storylines. I found Ms. Jones’s writing to be much tighter this time around. However, I was frustrated with a few small things, which added up in the long run. Even with the issues, the stories were so good that I look forward to listening to the twelfth book and discovering what happens next for Charley and Reyes.

My Rating: B-

Narration: A

Review: What it Takes by Shannon Stacey

What It Takes: A Kowalski Reunion Novel (The Kowalskis) - Shannon Stacey

If you haven’t read any of Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski Family series, stop right now and go pick up the first book, Exclusively Yours, pronto. Any format will suffice, but just grab it and start it soon! I recommend the Kowalski Family series to first-time and veteran romance readers more than any other series, and for good reasons - it is a wonderfully written, joyful, small-town romance series that gives all the feels. So with that said, if you haven’t read the series, I really don’t recommend starting with What it Takes for a couple of reasons. First, this is a “reunion” book, bringing back all of the couples and characters from the previous nine titles. Their stories will be lost on someone who’s not read the series. Second, I feel this story is the weakest of the ten books, and therefore, not a great example of how wonderful this series truly is.


Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, on to my review… What it Takes is a combination between the love story of Laney Caswell and Ben Rivers and reunion tour of the Kowalski family and friends from the first nine books in the series. Unfortunately, the book tries too hard to cover both storylines, leaving me not quite satisfied with either. I did enjoy my time back in Whitford, ME; however, I felt I had to work too hard to follow along all the going-ons, and frankly, I would have preferred a stronger romantic storyline instead of the reunion.


The book opens and closes strong, following the budding romance between Ben and Laney. Ben grew up in Whitford, and is friends with the gang. Now that Northern Star Lodge has become so popular with the 4-wheelers, Josh got the town to offer his friend a job as a paramedic helping on the trails when riders get injured. Laney recently finalized a drawn-out divorce. Now she's starting over in a camper at the Northern Star Lodge where she’s spending the summer helping out the growing business. Once the pair meets, there are sparks flying right from the start. I adore the couple’s awkwardness, especially their initial meeting when Laney takes care of Ben's cuts. The humor is spot on and exactly what I have come to expect from Ms. Stacey. 


Just as the couple show signs of a romance, the Northern Star Lodge is overrun by the annual Kowalski Family Camping Trip (of doom), and the reader is treated to a rundown on every thing and everyone Kowalski. Additionally, there is a side story involving Emma and Sean (from Yours to Keep, one of my all-time favorite books!). While I loved seeing my favorite fictional family, I felt there was too much history from other books shared. The author spent a lot of time retelling the connections between the various characters and telling readers what everyone has been up to. As a fan of the series, having read each book (some more than once), it was redundant, and took away time that could have been spent on Ben and Laney’s romance.


Back to the romance, Ben and Laney make a great pair, once we get to see them spend some quality time alone. Laney is a strong woman, but she lacks the self-confidence needed to get on with her life after her divorce. She is so worried that she'll make life decisions based on pleasing others that she forgets to look into her own heart and discover what makes her happy. Her fears are understandable so it doesn't bother me when she pushes Ben away time and time again. However because there is so much scene time spent reacquainting readers with the Kowalskis, I felt it took away from any positive progress the couple made. And it’s just too bad because these two lonely people deserved a solid story. 


With all that, I truly enjoyed my return to Whitford, ME, and catching up with the Kowalskis. The series is one of my favorites, mixing small town romance and humor; dishing out life lessons and love. While What It Takes has all the hallmark notes that makes the series so fabulous, I felt at times it was weighed down by the reunion aspect of the novel. Ben and Laney's romance often to a side or back seat to catching up with the families. It wasn't until the last 15% of the book that I finally felt a connection to the couple. 


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: Any Time, Any Place by Jennifer Probst

Any Time, Any Place - Jennifer Probst, Sebastian York, Madeleine Maby, Simon & Schuster Audio

When Raven's only parent, her loving father, was killed with his mistress in a car accident as they fled to Paris, she was left confused and alone. While Diane Pierce died a martyr of sorts, Raven's dad was cast as the villain, and Raven vowed revenge on the Pierce family for muddying her father’s good name. It wasn’t until eight months ago that Raven realized the handsome trio of brothers that came into her bar were those dreadful Pierce brothers.


Dalton Pierce was devastated upon finding out that his mother was leaving the family when she died suddenly in a horrific car wreck. Years later, he still feels a huge emptiness in his life. He's glad to be reunited with his brothers and helping to run Pierce Construction, but he feels like something of his own is missing. And the more time he spends with Raven, the more he thinks she may be what is missing.


Any Time, Any Place picks up the story of the three Pierce brothers reuniting and taking over the family construction business after the death of their father. As the youngest, he was most impacted by the loss of their mother years ago. He rebelled in his own ways, swearing never to settle down, but now finds something he wants in Raven. He senses a deeper connection and he wants to explore it, but she keeps him at arm’s length because of the secret she holds. However, Raven has let go of her need for revenge, instead moving on with her life and looking for someone special to share it with. I love how she denies herself the pleasure of Dalton, not letting her guard down because she views it as a betrayal to her father.


Both Dalton and Raven are fantastic characters. Each is strong and independent, yet sensitive and willing to anything for friends and family. Their strong wills make for excellent banter and even better sexual tension. I’ll admit that as much as I loved Dalton’s sly grin and mischievous flirting, I had a major girl-crush on Raven. She’s the owner of her own bar/restaurant, skilled boxer, talented mixologist, and she teaches the local women how to count cards so they can beat the guys in poker!


Ms. Probst does a fantastic job balancing romance and realism with her characters’ behaviors and reactions to some tumultuous situations. Raven and Dalton share a horrendous accident that marred their youth and tainted their ability to find happiness as adults. Having the story shared from both POVs helped me connect to both characters while diving into some messy emotions. I liked how the author let their story unwind and play out; not giving either an easy road.


This second title in the Billionaire Builders series is once again jointly narrated by Ms. Maby and Mr. York, and like the previous title, I enjoyed Mr. York’s performance more than Ms. Maby’s. Ms. Maby reads the story when the book is shared from Raven’s POV, likewise, Mr. York shares it when it is Dalton’s POV, and both narrators read all parts during their respective POVs. While both male and female performances work for well for the character they represent, I didn’t care much for Ms. Maby’s version of Dalton. I felt it was flat and underrepresented the magnitude of Dalton’s personality. However, Mr. York made up for it, with his deep voice echoing both Dalton’s charisma and fragile heart.


In the end, I truly enjoyed listening to Any Time, Any Place. After listening to the first title, I knew going in that Raven and Dalton wouldn’t have an easy romance, and Ms. Probst doesn’t disappoint. I felt real emotions in play as the pair worked through their difficult pasts to face a promising future. Their story made me laugh and cry, and was just what I needed. Although I wasn’t a fan of Ms. Maby’s male voices, she ran true for the female characters and Mr. York did a great job overall. I’ve come to enjoy the Pierce brothers and their group of close knit friends, and I look forward to hearing Sydney and Tristan’s story next.


Rating: A-

Male Narration: B

Female Narration: C+


Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster Audio

Review: Sinful Scottish Laird by Julia London

Sinful Scottish Laird (The Highland Grooms) - Julia London

The widowed Lady Chatwick, Daisy, while more than capable of taking care of herself and son, lives in a time where men rule. Upon his deathbed, her late husband, Clive stipulated that she must find a suitable man and remarry within three years of his death, or she forfeits her son’s inheritance, because he felt Daisy (a woman) would be unable to raise their son alone. With less than a year left to remarry and a long line of greedy suitors, Daisy finds hope in a letter from her childhood love that he will be returning to London soon and wishes to marry her.


In an effort to stave off the Bishop and his match-making, Daisy heads to the Scottish Highlands to her late husband’s neglected hunting lodge. As a member of London’s society, Daisy is looked down upon by the Highlanders, although once they hear of her fortune, she finds more suitors at her doorstep. Everyone seems interested in Daisy, except her handsome neighbor, Cairlean, the Laird of Auchenard.


Sinful Scottish Laird is a delightful historical romance that hits all the right notes for me. I love Daisy: a strong, well-educated woman who demands life be lived on her terms. Even though she is still tied to her late-husband’s commands, she takes her time to find a man that will be a good match for both her son and her. I love that she takes life by the reigns and isn’t afraid to play games or speak her mind. She’s not ignorant, but will play the part if it gets her what she wants. Coy and beautiful, she lives life to its fullest during the time she has. She’s not afraid to take risks to be happy.


On the other hand, Cailean has been burned by life and is afraid to take chances. He doesn’t trust outsiders and won’t play Daisy’s games. At first, he seems to be the wrong match for Daisy. Yet the enigma that is Daisy draws in Cailean until he cannot withstand the force of their mutual desire. He begins to see and appreciate Daisy for who she truly is, even if she drives him mad. Yet, he won’t risk his heart, or Daisy’s standing, so he allows himself to continually walk away. It’s heartbreaking, yet makes each “reunion” so passionate.


Although I know very little of the Scottish/English history, the author uses the political atmosphere to create a setting that forces hard choices, making for an exciting read. It enhances the romance by producing a solid conflict that draws the pair apart, despite their attraction and emotions.


In the end, I completely enjoyed getting lost in the Scottish Highlands with Cailean and Daisy. Sinful Scottish Laird is an engrossing, enjoyable read, filled with conflict, desire, and romance. I look forward to taking another tour of the Highlands with the next Highland Grooms title out in May.


My Rating: A- Enjoyed a lot

Review copy provided by NetGalley