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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

Operation: Endgame (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Book 6) (English Edition)
Philippa Ballantine, Jeanne H. Ballantine, William Morris
Just You and Me (A Contemporary Romance Collection)
Fiona Miers, Caitlyn Lynch, Liz Durano, Deelylah Mullin, Cate Farren, Jacquie Biggar, Vicki Batman, Kate Richards, Brenna Zinn, Dalton Diaz, Tierney O'Malley, Desiree Holt, Nicole Morgan, Ashlyn Chase
Bitter Bite: Elemental Assassin, Book 14
Audible Studios, Jennifer Estep, Lauren Fortgang
Progress: 27 %

#Audiobook Review: Man Hands by Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby

Man Hands - Blunder Woman Productions, Sarina Bowen, Erin Mallon, Tanya Eby, Luke Daniels

Brynn’s life sucks. Recently divorced, she left her husband and loveless marriage. The moment the papers where signed, she lost her job as a writing professor, where her former father-in-law was her boss. Stuck in a rut, her BFFs tell her she needs to go for a man that is the complete opposite of her normal type for a single night of fun. And after a couple drinks… she does.

 

Tom is working hard to keep a low profile after his very public break up six months ago. Star of his own home repair show, he’s working on renovating his place in Michigan while the network decides if he’ll get another season. However, he tosses his plans for a year of celibacy out the window when a beautiful stranger throws herself at him at a party. Now he can’t stop thinking about her, hoping for a repeat experience.

 

Man Hands is an absolute joy to experience! Not only is a sweet and sexy romance, but the humor is laugh-out-loud funny. Brynn and Tom are adorable together. Stemming from bad breakups, each has lost confidence in love and relationships. Yet in order to move forward, they must pretend to be in one - which isn’t a hardship for either since they are extremely attracted to one another. It also helps that both are genuinely good people who don’t want to hurt the other. And of course, they have friends pushing them together, which makes for some fun times. The supporting cast is equally as intriguing as the main couple, and I look forward to their stories with anticipation. 

 

The authors do a fabulous job of breaking convention and typical romance conflicts with their storytelling. I admire and appreciate the direction they took the story as I listened to it. More than once I was thinking I knew what would happen next - how a character would react to a situation, but the authors pleasantly surprised me each time. What could have been typical is instead sublime!

 

The story is brought to life by the narrators. I enjoyed both tremendously. Ms. Mallon brings just the right amount of perkiness to Brynn. She is able to convey a wide range of emotions and alters her tone to make each character distinctive. And listening to Mr. Daniels in a romantic roll was such a delight. After tying him to Atticus and Oberon from the Iron Druid Chronicles (urban fantasy), hearing him as the romantic lead was awesome. Only a few times did I hear his UF characters in his performance. He nails the wit and humor of Tom’s character, but is also tender and endearing. My only issue with the narration, is that Ms. Mallon was best at 1.25x and Mr. Daniels at 1.5x. Normally I pick one and go with it, but the speed made a big difference in my enjoyment, so I had to keep switching the speed back and forth each time the narrator changed. 

 

In the end, I loved listening to Man Hands; it will definitely be in my Top of 2018 list! The story is fun and sweet, and I simply loved Brynn and Tom. Both hurting, both kind, both nervous, they make the perfect couple, and the perfect story to read.

 

My Rating: A

Narration (both): A

 

Review copy provided by Blunder Woman Productions

#Audiobook Review: Villains Pride by M. K. Gibson

Villains Pride: The Shadow Master, Book 2 - Amber Cove Publishing, William Gibson, Jeffrey Kafer

Jackson Blackwell is back again and looking for a new adventure while awaiting fatherhood. However, when his beloved tosses him out of his own dimension, finding a place to spend time isn’t easy. That is until King Stanley provides him a place in his comic book realm.

 

After completely enjoying the first book in this series, I came into Villains Pride with high hopes. Unfortunately, I felt the first half of the story was poorly written, stuffed with filler material. It wasn’t until the last third that the story itself came together with a solid plot and supporting action. 

 

What I did love: the play and fun on the various famous comic book heroes. No one is sacred, from Iron Man to Batman, from Superman to Wolverine. Mr. Gibson nails each persona in a witty and fresh way. I also really enjoyed the superhero war which takes place well after the midpoint of the book. This is when Jackson’s plans really start to take shape and mean something, and when the story took off and had focus.

 

My biggest issue with Villains Pride is the entire first half or more of the book. I felt there was little point or purpose. It was repetitive, and I felt like the author was using Jackson as a soapbox. In the first book the jibes were more subtle and less frequent, making them sharp and witty. This time it felt like a constant rant, lecturing the listener. It got old very quickly.

 

One of the highlights is once again the performance by Mr. Kafer. I loved the subtle yet distinctive changes in each male and female voice. He had the perfect fit for all characters. He really does bring to life the characters, making them people in my mind.

 

In the end, I struggled with Villains Pride. The first half to two-thirds of the story was meandering and repetitive. I felt like I was being lectured constantly. And frankly, Jackson is an asshole, which didn’t seem as funny this time around.

 

My Rating: C+

Narration: A- 

 

Review: Elizabeth's Wolf by Lora Leigh

Elizabeth's Wolf (A Novel of the Breeds) - Lora Leigh

If you’ve followed by reviews for any length of time, you know I have a love-hate relationship with the Breeds series by Lora Leigh. It’s my crack - not always providing substance, but hard to quit. I started the series with Megan’s Mark (book #7), so I missed out on a few of the early, world-building titles. Berkley Publishing and the author are re-releasing Elizabeth’s Wolf, in preparation of this fall’s release of Cassie’s book (Cross Breed). Hear the cheer from fans around the world!

 

Dash, posing as a human solider, was injured in the line of duty, losing his men at the same time. Feeling hopeless, his world turns around when he starts receiving letters from a little girl named Cassie. He knows instantly that Cassie, and her mom Elizabeth, are his to claim, but he needs to find and save them from the bad men first. 

 

Elizabeth escaped her good-for-nothing ex, but has been on the run for two years from the sadistic man who killed her ex in front of her daughter, Cassie. Cassie, with the aid of her invisible fairy friend, reaches out to Dash and is convinced he’ll help rescue them from the evil haunting her mother and her.

 

Going back in time (for me) to near the beginning, it was a fun look to see how things have progressed and changed in the Breeds series over the course of several years. I like how simple this early story is. Dash knows who/what he is, but doesn’t know about the mating issues for Breeds. He knows Elizabeth is his mate. She’s strong, and he respects that - recognizing she would need to match him and be his equal in order to fight along side of him. He is alpha, but not as much of an asshole as many of the Breeds are later in the series.

 

I love how tough the young Elizabeth is. She’s very weary of Dash, but knows that he’s their only hope, right now. She will do what it takes to keep her daughter alive. As the pair spend time together, they don’t fight their growing attraction and fall head-over-heels for one another. Their journey to HEA is relatively smooth, and I like that they don’t fight the mutual pull.

 

In the end, I enjoyed going back to the beginning. I didn’t read the original version (although I own it), so I can’t tell you what was edited or changed in this version. It follows the formulaic plots from the earlier/mid series books. The Mating Heat is still unknown and isn’t nearly as strong, and with far fewer symptoms/side effects, than later in the series. I like that Dash and Elizabeth are more equals and they work together. 

 

For newcomers to the series - it’s an easy place to start since it is only book #3, but for fans of the series, it’s fun to go back and see how it all started before we FINALLY get Cassie’s book (although from the excerpt, I found myself a bit annoyed with her attitude.)

 

The series was my crack at one point, and if the author had continued to keep the books a bit more straightforward and clean, like this one, I probably would still be sucked in.

 

My Rating:  B, Liked It

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

Review copy provided by publisher/Netgalley

Review: Fake Wife by Stacey Lynn

Fake Wife - Stacey  Lynn

NOTE: I found out after my review was posted that the name of the hero was changed from Sterling to Corbin after the ARCs went out for review. Sorry for any confusion.

 

For seven years, Teagan has followed her boyfriend around the country while he finished medical school and worked on his internship. She gave up college and her own dreams to follow their dreams. Except… she was the only one all in. After losing her job due to budget cuts, she comes home to find her boyfriend in the middle of sexing up another woman. Knowing things were over well before this moment, Teagan doesn’t even want apologizes or excuses and just leaves.

 

Sterling comes from money and has been named Most Eligible Bachelor three years running. He just laid to rest his grandmother Eleanor, the one family member he loved and trusted. However, at the reading of her will, Sterling finds out his grandmother set him up - placing a significant condition on inheriting the land and home he loves (and subsequently saving it from his father who will tear it down in the name of progress). He must fall in love and get married within six months… and stay married for two years. 

 

Fake Wife is a wonderful story about two lonely souls finding a perfect match. I absolutely love the fake-relationship genre. There is just something about playing love that always leads to finding true happiness, warming my heart in the process. Sterling needs a wife and while he isn’t looking for a someone to share his life with, he knows he can’t rely on the women in his social circle who will want more from him than two years wearing his last name. Meanwhile, Teagan is at the lowest point in her life, having nowhere to go and no one to help her. Fate truly does bring them together, and Sterling recognizes the win-win situation. 

 

I like how Teagan is weary, but also just this side of desperate to listen to Sterling’s proposal to marry him for two years, providing for her and giving her $250,000. But she also recognizes right away that it’s going to be very hard to put her life on hold for two more years to stay in a love-less, sex-less relationship.

 

And what’s not to adore about Sterling? He’s hot and cold, but he’s a kind person. When Teagan rear ends him, his first instinct is to make sure she’s okay. And after a day of trying to make things work out so he can save his home, he recognizes that he’s thinking of himself and how to make the situation work for him, rather than considering what his grandmother really wanted - for him to be happy and fall in love. When he reflects upon his grandmother’s wishes, he realizes he must take her request to find love seriously.

 

Fake Wife is a fast read. I was sucked into the story of Sterling and Teagan from the start. From the way they meet after she rear ends his car, to their genuine personalities. Both main characters are likable, and with their hard luck stories… I want them to succeed. I like that the author gives both Teagan and Sterling many layers. They are both smart - they actually think about the impacts of their actions… think through the what ifs and try to make solid plans. Yet, that doesn’t mean they don’t let emotions get the better of them. However, instead of throwing tantrums and holding grudges, the characters give thought to why they feel what they feel, and come back around stronger.

 

Fans of feel-good romances need to get their hands on Fake Wife. Sterling and Teagan make the perfect pair, and against the odds, they find their way to love.

 

My Rating:  A, Loved It

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

Review copy provided by publisher/NetGalley

#Audiobook Review: Villains Rule by M. K. Gibson

Villains Rule: The Shadow Master, Book 1 - Amber Cove Publishing, William Gibson, Jeffrey Kafer

Villains Rule is an entertaining story which shares the antics of Jackson Blackwell, aka the Shadow Master. An enterprising human, Jackson somehow created his own pocket dimension and makes a lot of money advising villains across the realms. Each realm appears to be literary world and/or genre. In this tale, Jackson finds himself back in the field rather than behind a desk, trying to assist a fantasy-realm bad guy, who ends up double-crossing him and leaving Jackson on his own in a strange land. However, Jackson understands the rules of this fantasy realm and bends them to suit his needs, proving that a true villain will do whatever it takes to win.

 

Trying to define Villains Rule or fit it neatly into any genre is impossible. The story bends and breaks established rules, with the protagonist often sharing his wisdom and knowledge directly with the listener (reader). The story mocks traditional fantasy tropes, with Jackson twisting the rules of the realm to suit his wicked plans. As a reader of fantasy books (and having seen several movies), I enjoy the ridicule of the norm and watching how Jackson works his way out of any dire situation. While he comes awful close to becoming the anti-hero, his actions always prove he truly is the bad guy.

 

Even a villain can use some help, and the supporting cast of characters is fabulous. I love his assistant Sophia, who always puts Jackson in his place and keeps him on the path to victory. Additionally, Jackson brings together a band of heroes, as the trope requires, so that he can defeat those who betrayed him. This group of would-be-saviors, with Jackson’s help, straddles the line between light and dark, but always bending to Jackson’s needs.

 

The story’s humor is amplified by the marvelous performance of Jeffrey Kafer. He’s got a voice made for television - one that seems so familiar, you’ll spend time trying to place where you may have heard it. Mr. Kafer displays a wide range of voices from Jackson’s smooth villain to his nephew’s lackadaisical drawl. He masters both male and female voices with distinction.

 

In the end, I throughly enjoyed the entertaining Villains Rule. The narration is absolutely fabulous; humor amazing. I love the sarcastic storyline and the fun had at the expense of fantasy tropes. Villains Rule is both original and fun.

 

My Rating: B+

Narration: A-

Review: The Snows of Windroven by Jeffe Kennedy

Amid the Winter Snow: A Holiday Anthology - Grace Draven, Jeffe Kennedy, Thea Harrison, Elizabeth Hunter

The Snows of Windroven by Jeffe Kennedy

An Uncharted Realms novella in 

Amid the Winter Snow Anthology

 

The story takes place just before and/or at the beginning of The Shift of the Tide (book #3/6). It focuses on the love affair between Ami and Ash - book #2 of Twelve Kingdoms, The Tears of the Rose.

 

Honestly, I didn’t know that there was more to Ami and Ash’s story. Shared by Ash (the first male POV for the series?), we learn how he is attempting to part ways with Ami, as she takes up her place as the Queen of Windroven. He feels he is unworthy of her affections and believes she cannot stay with him because he is an ex-convict. They each acknowledge they love one another, but Ash believes it’s not enough. 

 

The story is beautiful and heart breaking at times. If you haven’t read The Tears of the Rose, I don’t know if you will find the story as moving. It’s a story I wanted, but didn’t know I needed.. I assumed all was well between the pair after their book, but this solidifies their relationship status and cements their HEA. I was touched by the depth of pain consuming Ash, and was moved when he finally found a way to let it out. But it was only because of Ami’s stubbornness, determination, and love that he finds himself on the path to happiness.

 

Their original story is one of my favorites - Ami had to grow so much to learn to love herself and those around her… This novella is the perfect counterbalance to her story and a beautiful epilogue to their journey.


My Rating: B+/A-

Review: Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Elizabeth Hoyt

Once Upon a Christmas Eve: A Maiden Lane Novella (Kindle Single) - Elizabeth Hoyt

Adam Rutledge, Viscount d’Arque, loves his grandmother and will do anything to please her, including traveling in a snow storm just before Christmas. When their carriage is damaged, the pair finds refuge in the home of Godric St. John, where friends and family have gathered for the holidays, including his lovely half-sister, Sarah. 

 

Once Upon a Christmas Eve is a very quick, holiday-themed novella set in Ms. Hoyt’s Maiden Lane world. It is a standalone story featuring Adam Rutledge, Viscount d’Arque, and Sarah St. John. The pair met briefly once before, and through the innermost confessions of each, we learn there is a mutual attraction. However, because Adam is a confirmed bachelor (and rake), and Sarah is determined to find a respectable man to marry, the pair pull apart each time they indulge in their feelings even a tiny bit. 

 

The story moves along rapidly, with nudges from family members helping to bring the pair together. While I think their journey deserved more time and development, it is complete. I really like both Adam and Sarah, but felt everything was rushed a bit to fit the novella-length (or shorter?) story. 

 

In the end, Once Upon a Christmas Eve is a delightful, albeit, short historical, holiday romance. It is sweet, and a little bit sexy, with an HEA for Adam and Sarah. 

 

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

Review copy provided by Netgalley

Review: Where a Goddess Belongs by Stephanie Julian

Where A Goddess Belongs: an Etruscan Magic novel (Forgotten Goddesses Book 4) - Stephanie Julian

Kari is the Etruscan Goddess of Health, and although she and her sisters are mostly forgotten by the modern world, Kari has been able to maintain a high level of power. Allowing herself to remain captive for three months, Kari is waiting for the right time to share the truth, and her love, with the two men she knows she was meant to be with.

 

Jacoby and Den have been friends since childhood, both coming from dark magic Malandante families. They’ve kept hidden their true abilities, waiting for the best time to make a break from their evil families. Now is crunch time, and they have to decide if they can trust Kari and the Lucani wolves.

 

While it’s been a few years since the previous book, I was able to jump back into the Forgotten Goddesses series with relative ease. Where a Goddess Belongs is part of the larger series plot, forwarding the story arc and involving characters from both this series and the Lucani Lovers series. However, it’s written to be a standalone romance and contains enough backstory and detail that one could jump in with this book. As I read on, bits and pieces of the world filtered back, filling in any gaps. 

 

The romance between Kari and her men is the focus of the book. As with most paranormal romances, the characters connect quickly, as if fate brought them together for a purpose. In fact, Kari even says a quick prayer to her sister, the goddess of fate, thanking her for bringing Jacoby and Den to her. Having been their “captive” (she could have easily escaped) for a few months gives some weight to the speed at which the coupling occurs. Each had been observing the other, lusting after the other, knowing their pairing would occur eventually. (They are a ménage but no m/m.)

 

While the romance aspect of the story has a clear path, the overall story arc feels a bit incomplete, or rather like a few chapters from a larger tale. The Mal are trying to take Kari and force her powers on to one of their own children, giving them control. But we’ve yet to fully understand the Mal’s goals and intent. And while the romance finalized by the end of the book, there is no closure on much of the other elements of the book—things brought up but then dropped without further mention or follow up. I was also disappointed by the lack of insight and healing for Jacoby, who struggles with the depth of his powers and the results of his actions. Finally, there were a couple of sections that seemed contradictory and caused me some confusion.

 

In the end, I enjoyed my time back with the goddesses and Lucani. I look at Where a Goddess Belongs as a re-introduction to the series, with hopes the author continues to develop the overall story arc in future titles. 

 

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

#Audiobook Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Illegal Contact: Barons, Book 1 - Eric London, Tantor Audio, Santino Hassell, Alexander Cendese

3/10/2018 Edited to Add: Please note, this review was written and posted prior to the occurrences brought to light in recent days (https://goo.gl/Y7WB7F). The book was read and reviewed in good faith and as presented at the time. The posting of this review in no way condones the actions of author.

 

========

 

Star football player Gavin Brawley has a temper which has branded him as the bad boy of the NFL. It’s also what landed him under house arrest for six months, benched for the entire season. Recognizing he’ll need help, his manager pushes the solitary Gavin to hire a personal assistant to run the household and help with day-to-day tasks. 

 

Noah Monroe was forced out of his last job after he tried to out his boss for inappropriate behavior. Now he’s desperate to find work, and acting as a PA for a self absorbed jock will have to do. Determined to keep his job, Noah does what it takes to impress Gavin and make the arrangement work. However, when Noah learns Gavin’s secret - that he’s bisexual - Noah wonders if he can fight the constant flirting, or if he’s doomed to repeat past mistakes.  

 

I’ve been wanting to read Santino Hassell for a while now, so I jumped at the chance to review Illegal Contact. Overall, it is an engrossing story with a heartwarming, sexy romance. Gavin and Noah are like two rough-edged pieces that fit together perfectly, once you work to find how they mesh. Both slow to trust, they find common ground because they truly like and respect the other. They want to do things to make the other happy. 

 

The story starts rough. I mean, Gavin has issues. He’s angry. But every time Noah challenges him, Gavin comes back stronger and better. And Noah sees the real person in Gavin-not just some pro-athlete. He stands up for Gavin. Slowly each realizes there are real feelings forming. The characters are given time to work out feelings and issues, creating a stronger bond in the end. Additionally, I appreciate that the author doesn’t blow off the employee-boss relationship and its impact on power exchange. The pair discuss the issues and try to ensure that it’s not part of their relationship, yet it never really goes away - just gets fluffed over by their lust. 

 

Each narrator is great for his given character. Gavin’s narrator is very aggressive and rough around the edges, just like Gavin’s persona. He’s got a strong accent and can be abrasive at times. Conversely, Noah’s narrator is calm, with a softer, younger feel. It suits Noah’s easier manner. They also both do certain characters well, like manager Joe; however, both have weaknesses. Like Noah’s narrator doing Gavin’s BFF Marcus, and Gavin’s narrator doing agent Mel, as well as the passionate/heated moments of Noah. 

 

In the end, Illegal Contact is a well-written romance filled with real emotion. In a relationship that appears to be doomed before it starts, the author finds a way for love to win in the end. The book doesn’t promise HEA, but I know that Gavin and Noah’s love is strong… It will be interesting to see what happens once their relationship is out in the real world. 

 

My Rating: B+

Noah Narrator: B+

Gavin Narrator: B

 

Review copy provided by Tantor Audio

#Audiobook Review: Mercy Blade by Faith Hunter

Mercy Blade: Jane Yellowrock, Book 3 - Audible Studios, Faith Hunter, Khristine Hvam

Mercy Blade opens a month after the conclusion of Blood Cross. Jane and Rick are back at her mountain home, packing up her belongings so she can move to New Orleans to take on the job offered by the Vampire Council when the world finds out that Weres (shifters) are real. Meanwhile, Leo has been accused of murder by the U.S. werewolves and Jane has a mystery to solve.

 

So here’s the thing… I really, really enjoy the parts of the Jane Yellowrock books that revolve around the book-specific mystery, and this is especially true with Mercy Blade. I became immersed in the detective work surrounding the death of the mysterious panther-were. Following Jane’s thought process and the police procedures as Jane tries to put together all the pieces is fascinating. I love how she finds little threads and pulls until she unravels the truth. However, I have issues with almost everything else.

 

First, I feel the world building is a bit forced. We are three books into the series and no mention of the weres or the Mercy Blade before now? Maybe it was meant to be, but then, the fact that EVERYONE keeps Jane in the dark so completely is irritating and annoying. She’s supposed to be in charge of security, and I agree with her that both Leo and the police should have informed her of what is happening in NOLA. I was okay with this in the first couple books, but by now, having Jane know nothing when she starts the book and has to pull teeth for information is old.

 

Next, Jane nearly dies too often in every book. She gets mauled, shot at, and destroyed multiple times now in each book. This is old. I know she works in a dangerous profession, but can’t she just get nicked from time to time, rather than knocking on death’s door?

 

Finally, I am not a fan of Jane’s “love life.” While I don’t need romance in my urban fantasy stories, if it’s going to be included, I don’t want this… I’m too much of a romantic to follow Jane’s mish-mash of emotions and sexual cravings. I don’t like when Beast controls her - pushing her to mate with someone other than her boyfriend. I don’t like cheating. I can embrace multiple partners, but it needs to be consensual and in the open, and I feel like what happens in this book was neither. I’m greatly simplifying what is going on in Mercy Blade, but needless to say, I have issues with it.

 

On the bright side, Khristine Hvam continues to provide excellent narration. And while I was annoyed with some of her accents and male voices in the beginning of the series, I find she’s settled down and firmed up many of the voices.

 

So in the end, while so much of Jane’s story calls to me, I find myself overly irritated and frustrated far too often. Mercy Blade has some fabulous moments, but unfortunately, they are overshadowed by messy and irksome complications. 

 

My Rating: C/C-

Narration: B+

#Audiobook Review: Blood Cross by Faith Hunter

Blood Cross: Jane Yellowrock, Book 2 - Audible Studios, Faith Hunter, Khristine Hvam

Beginning shortly after the conclusion of Skinwalker, Jane finds herself working for the Vampire Council of New Orleans (NOLA), trying to track down a rogue-making vampire. Her best friend, Molly, and her two children are staying with Jane, and she’s got the head of the NOLA vampires, Leo, after her for killing the creature he believed to be his beloved son. Things are dangerous and crazy, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!

 

Starting Blood Cross, I was unsure how I felt about the Jane Yellowrock series. Mostly I liked the first book, but something about it still didn’t click with me, or rubbed at me. However, after finishing the story, I was eager to begin book three. I think part of the issue is that the world is huge and even in this second book, the author continues to add and build upon both the mythology and the political structure of the vampires. There are times I was lost trying to follow the detailed history of the vampires or had trouble recalling the political alignment of each character and clan. The world is detailed and full, making it both exciting and enjoyable, but also a lot to take in.

 

Once again, I enjoyed the base story of the adventure. Jane is solving a mystery, one that has been covered up for a while, and I enjoy watching her put the pieces together, not necessarily caring if she upsets the apple cart in the process. She pulls apart the status quo and gives readers the inside scoop as she discovers the truth behind the vampire myths and legends. The action-packed storyline is interesting, albeit a bit gruesome. I did take issue with the number of times Jane nearly dies - she’s been at this for years and now she makes mistakes that nearly cause her death several times in a short period. It felt repetitive and unnecessary after the first time.

 

The author seems to narrow down amount of side characters central to the story. I was disappointed that Katie is still MIA, with little explanation of how long her recovery will take. I did enjoy the complexity of Leo and seeing the different parts of his true nature. Beast was also featured a bit less, as was Jane’s heritage, although we do get some of both. 

 

One thing that annoyed me at first was the issue of Jane’s sex life. Granted I’m a romance junkie, and Jane’s story has nothing to do with love and everything to do with scratching an itch; satisfying Beast’s need to mate. But the oscillation between Rick and Bruiser is a game and I found it annoying. Also, the constant pull of Beast to mate clouded the first half of the story. I’m not one for triangles, so I was eventually pleased with Jane’s thought process and the outcome by the end of the book.

 

As far as narration, I don’t have much to add that I didn’t say in my review of Skinwalker. Ms. Hvam nails Jane’s tough attitude as well as her surprisingly tender moments with Molly’s kids. Since I am now familiar with her work and the characters this second time around, I didn’t notice as much of an annoyance with her accents. Her projection of each character is solidifying in my head. 

 

Overall, while I started off unsure about the series, I found myself fully invested in Jane’s journey by the conclusion of Blood Cross, and I look forward to seeing what adventures lie ahead.

 

My Rating: B/B-

Narration: B

Review: Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Elizabeth Hoyt

Adam Rutledge, Viscount d’Arque, loves his grandmother and will do anything to please her, including traveling in a snow storm just before Christmas. When their carriage is damaged, the pair finds refuge in the home of Godric St. John, where friends and family have gathered for the holidays, including his lovely half-sister, Sarah. 

 

Once Upon a Christmas Eve is a very quick, holiday-themed novella set in Ms. Hoyt’s Maiden Lane world. It is a standalone story featuring Adam Rutledge, Viscount d’Arque, and Sarah St. John. The pair met briefly once before, and through the innermost confessions of each, we learn there is a mutual attraction. However, because Adam is a confirmed bachelor (and rake), and Sarah is determined to find a respectable man to marry, the pair pull apart each time they indulge in their feelings even a tiny bit. 

 

The story moves along rapidly, with nudges from family members helping to bring the pair together. While I think their journey deserved more time and development, it is complete. I really like both Adam and Sarah, but felt everything was rushed a bit to fit the novella-length (or shorter?) story. 

 

In the end, Once Upon a Christmas Eve is a delightful, albeit, short historical, holiday romance. It is sweet, and a little bit sexy, with an HEA for Adam and Sarah. 

 

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

Review copy provided by Netgalley/Publisher

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

#Audiobook Review: Love Me by Christmas by Jaci Burton

Love Me By Christmas - Jaci Burton

Ellie Washington lost the love of her life five years ago on Christmas eve. Pregnant and alone, Ellie moved in with her brother-in-law, who was also hurting from the sudden death of his brother. Nick helped raise his nephew, and the trio grew into a comfortable life. However, feelings have been changing over the past year, and now Ellie and Nick need to decide if they can take a chance on love.

 

Love Me by Christmas is a short holiday romance about second chances. I like how the author set this up. I was concerned about any ick factor because Nick is Ellie’s dead husband’s brother. But the author creates a history, having Ellie and her unborn child move in right after John’s death, providing mutual support for five years, and finally, only in the past year did feelings change... it works.

 

The story is pretty straightforward. Nick and Ellie both care deeply for one another, and sorting out what those feelings are - untangling the bundle of emotions - is messy. Ellie is full of concern over letting go of her husband and that it’s wrong to love his brother. It’s all very understandable and real. However, it gives the pair plenty of hurdles to jump, with little forward movement. And then, after a while, Ellie’s constant consternation becomes repetitive. 

 

On the plus side, the narrator does a delightful job, with a solid cadence at 1.5x speed. The narrator’s soft voice suits Ellie well, both cautious and reserved after losing her husband so young. Additionally, Ms. Cook’s male voices are deep enough to sound masculine.

 

Love Me by Christmas is a sentimental, sweet story set around the Christmas season. I did have a few issues with the lack of action and forward momentum, then with Ellie’s constant self-lecturing about how her love isn’t right or that she’s holding back Nick. However, I the love story was still entertaining and enjoyable for the holiday season.

 

My Rating: B-

Narrator: B

 

Review copy provided by Tantor Audio

Review: Love on the Tracks by Tamsen Parker

Love on the Tracks (Snow & Ice Games) - Tamsen Parker

At only 20 years old, Rowan Andrews is competing in her second Snow and Ice Games (SIGs). She has dedicated her whole life to training for the sport she loves: luge. Entering the games as a medal contender for the United States, nothing can throw Rowan off her game. That is until she meets her celebrity crush, singer Zane Rivera.

 

Zane Rivera, lead singer for an insanely popular boy band, needs a break from his bandmates and the craziness of his life, so when the opportunity arises to surprise his fan, and SIG superstar, Rowan, he takes an impromptu trip to Denver. Once America gets a taste of Rowan and Zane together, they want more, and the pair fake a few dates, hoping to increase their social media coverage. However, the fake dates are starting to feel like the real deal.

 

Overall, I enjoyed Love on the Tracks, and found it to be a solid, entertaining start to this new series. I enjoyed the descriptions and feel of the games and what it means to be a professional/serious athlete. The author does a fabulous job putting me inside the heart and mind of Rowan, learning the ups and downs of such an intense lifestyle.

 

With that said, Rowan was difficult for me to connect with. I like that her sport comes first and that she goes after what she wants without (much) hesitation. She’s strong and unusually mature beyond her 20 years. Yet, I did struggle a bit with her age and maturity level at the start of the book. I suppose because it’s been way too long since I’ve been that age, it was difficult for me to relate to her. But she stays true to her heart and dreams, which I really liked.

 

Zane is a sweet and caring guy; not the typical Justin Bieber asshole popstar. He’s also pretty young, but at 26, and after a decade of touring, he feels like an old soul. He’s perfect for Rowan because he cares and won’t let his agent dictate all of his moves. He’s loyal to his bandmates, friends, and family, so it’s no surprise that he treats Rowan with utter respect. At first it was hard for me to get into their relationship - they felt so young, especially her, but after I got into the story, that all went away. And I really like how he doesn’t mope when things appear not to be going right… he takes matters into his own hands.

 

The story itself is short and straightforward. When issues come about, problem-solving is streamlined and everything wraps up nicely. I would have preferred no “I love you’s,” but it’s the way it goes. The story still has an HFN vibe, which is right for the romance and characters.

 

After reading Love on the Tracks, I am excited to find out more about some of the other athletes and discover what else happens at the Snow and Ice Games. With the lighter romance and shorter length, the book was a breeze to read, and it’s got me excited for the Winter Olympics coming this February in South Korea.

 

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

Review copy provided by publisher/Netgalley

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

Review: Roomies by Christina Lauren

Roomies - Christina Lauren

Holland, born in a cab and the youngest of six kids, lives in Manhattan on the support of her doting uncles, who are more like fathers. She has a masters degree in fine arts - an aspiring writing, who isn’t writing. She’s got little direction in her life, but when an accident puts her in contact with the subway busker she’s been crushing on for six months, Holland’s life turns upside down.

 

With a little bit of the 1995 Sandra Bullock movie, While You Were Sleeping, and a little bit of the 1991 film, Green Card, Roomies is a delightful romance about self-discovery and making dreams come true. When Holland finds a way to help her Uncle Robert with his broadway musical by marrying classical guitarist Calvin so he can stay in country, she decides to go for it. It’s a turning point for Holland who realizes she wants to marry Calvin because she never takes risks, and at twenty-five years old, is bored with life. She recognizes that maybe the reason she can’t write is because she’s not really living. 

 

Through Holland’s eyes we get to know Calvin, who is charming, sexy, sweet, and kind. He’s humble and gracious, and readers can tell that it’s not just Holland’s rose-colored, lustful glasses that filter how we see Calvin. There are stumbles, and yet, he continues to shine. Holland always puts the needs of others before her own. It’s through the getting-to-know each other process (for the green card application), that Holland recognizes some things about herself; that she’s a supporting character in her own life. And this is what eventually drives Holland to become more than a supporting character. 

 

Additionally, Holland doesn’t feel worthy of Calvin’s affection, and as they get to know one another, we experience the range of Holland’s feelings, most of all her uncertainty. The wondering if Calvin’s flirtatious actions are true or for show... my heart was pounding along side of Holland’s. Her flaws make her real and on some level, all of her insecurities are familiar: that piece of Holland that is always trying to help others. Who is unsure of where to go with life. Who doubts she can find true meaning and love in her life. 

 

Honestly, my only complaint is I wanted more. Although we get to see a lot of the pair as a couple and falling in love, it’s always tarnished a bit by the pressure of the fake marriage and getting a green card. Once things are real and after the pain, I wanted more. To know they are going to make it. It ended too quickly for me, but at the same time, I can appreciate that the story was over. 

 

In the end, Roomies isn’t overly complicated or complex, but it is rich in detail and has all the feels. Deep feels. The descriptions of the music, of Holland listening to Calvin play, it is more than just an appreciation for beautiful things. It is life-changing—reaching into Holland’s soul. Seeing the world through Holland’s eyes, readers get their heart broken by and fall in love with Calvin. It’s a beautiful journey, one that I highly recommend.

 

My Rating:  A, Loved It

Review copy provided by Netgalley

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

#Audiobook Review: Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines

Terminal Alliance: Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse Series, Book 1 - Rebecca Mitchell, Jim C. Hines

When a mysterious contagion turns most of the crew of the EMC Ship Pufferfish into feral zombies and kills the rest, Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos is left in charge of the few survivors. As a lowly human, she doesn’t have much access to the ship, but when Mops realizes that Krakau command intends to euthanize the human crew rather than try to save them, she commandeers the ship with the help of her minimal crew. Soon Mops uncovers a danger so big, it threatens the entire Krakau alliance, and she is faced with the decision to surrender or discover the truth.

 

Terminal Alliance is an entertaining space adventure with a spunky heroine who uses her brain and instinct when down and out. While there is much going on, the book focuses on Mops and her adventure. She is a great character: one of those underdogs who is destined for more. The David to the EMC’s Goliath. I love how Mops thinks things through and how loyal she is to her crew. She was born to be a great leader and through this series of unfortunate events, she’s coming into her own. I enjoyed sitting back and listening to Mops figure it all out, never second guessing her analysis.

 

The side characters are equally fun and interesting. They each play their part and through Mops’s leadership, form a team and family. And though working as a team under stressful situations, each character grows and matures. Additionally, the story is filled with silly humor and fun pop culture references. I love the historic human names used like Sherlock Holmes, Marilyn Monroe, Carrie Fisher. 

 

The plot of Terminal Alliance itself is engaging. The story evolves as Mops and her crew learn bits and parts behind the bioweapon attack that put her in charge of the Pufferfish. There are many layers that need to be pulled back before Mops and the crew uncover the truth; the final goal and plot. This gradual reveal, complete with twists and turns, kept my interest and pulled me in throughout the entire story.

 

Overall, the performance by Ms. Mitchell is solid and entertaining. She gives just enough variation between the different characters that I was able to know who was speaking just by voice. While the primary narrative voice felt a bit “robotic,” it suited the main character, Mops, as she tried to get through these events. Additionally, the narrator gives each character it’s own suitable flair - the “mechanical” feel of the Grom, no-nonsense from Monroe, calm wonder from Kumar, and guns-blazing Wolff. And although I didn’t find a solid link, the narrator must be Rebecca Estrella from the Princess of Hell series by Eve Langlais. 

 

In the end, I enjoyed this story… trying to uncover each piece, seeing how Mops reacts in so many different situations. To watch the small crew realize they have the potential to be more, and their joy in achieving it. It will be fun to follow the group as they gain momentum and additional support to discover the truth.

 

My Rating: B

Narration: B


Review copy provided by Tantor Audio