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That's What I'm Talking About

I generally review romance, paranormal and urban fantasy. I tend to pick review books that I want to read, so generally my reviews will be positive. I always give my honest opinion: good, bad, and indifferent. 

 

Note: on my blog I use a letter grading system. I've listed the ratings below. For sites with stars, I have listed the equivalent rating. If I didn't finish the book, I will not rate it with stars.

 

A+  Personal Favorite (5 stars)
A    Loved It (4.5 or 5 stars)
A-   Enjoyed A Lot (4 or 4.5 stars)
B+  Liked It A Lot (4 stars)
B    Liked It -- Recommend (4 stars)
B-   Liked It -- But I had a few small issues (3 or 3.5 stars)
C+  Liked It -- But I had issues (3 or 3.5 stars)
C    Finished It -- Liked some, didn't like some (3 stars)
C-   Finished It -- Liked a little, didn't like a lot (2 or 2.5 stars)
D    Not A Big Fan (2 stars)
E    Don’t Waste Your Time (1 star)
----
TW: Reading this book was like watching a Train Wreck
DNF: Did Not Finish

 

updated July 9, 2015

Currently reading

The Highland Commander (The Highland Lords)
Amy Jarecki
Dating You/Hating You
Deacon Lee, Christina Lauren, Shayna Thibodeaux, Simon & Schuster Audio
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: The Goal by Elle Kennedy

The Goal - Audible Studios, Susannah Jones, Elle Kennedy, Andrew Eiden

After the pregnancy bombshell delivered at the end of the previous book, The Goal actually goes back a bit in time and begins when Tucker and Sabrina first meet. Readers/listeners relive certain scenes and moments from the The Score, with a new perspective and focus, as well as several new scenes. 

 

Tucker is probably the most likable, easy-going guy we’ve met thus far in Ms. Kennedy’s Off-Campus series. He’s genuine, and while he’s easy on the eyes, he’s not all about scoring with the ladies. When he first lays eyes on Sabrina, he senses she is something special. I adore everything about this guy. He’s nearly perfect and has the patience of a saint. He never takes his eye off the end goal of making Sabrina his, but he allows the ebb and flow of life to take its course along the way. 

 

On the other hand, all we knew about Sabrina before this book is that she is Dean’s educational nemesis, and his perception is that she is a cold-hearted bitch. Ms. Kennedy removes that mantle from Sabrina immediately, by showing us Sabrina’s deplorable home life and the motivations behind her desire to achieve perfection at Briarwood. I fell for Sabrina’s flawed character hard. She’s driven and sometimes too focused, but she has a heart of gold underneath the layers of protection she’s built. 

 

Sabrina and Tucker make a great couple. There is insta-lust and sexual chemistry big time, creating an immediate interest in the pair. I like that they have time to fall a bit for one another before the baby news comes. I also appreciate that there are several ups and downs. It's very realistic with a happy ending. 

 

While I enjoyed their story, and I’m thankful to finally have Tuck's book, I was overwhelmed by the amount of focus on the pregnancy/baby storyline. Don’t misunderstand, Ms. Kennedy does an amazing job with the baby storyline; she didn't sugar coat what it's like to be pregnant and have a child. She also didn't minimize the impacts on the parents' lives and their relationship. However, it's too much baby for me. I am just not a fan of baby-romances.

 

Generally, the narration is good; better than book 3, but still not as great as the first two books. The male narrator, who also read The Score, has great drawl and perfect laid-back attitude for Tuck. At times, I felt certain words held too much of a Boston accent, but overall he is consistent. Mr. Eiden does a great job distinguishing between all characters and has a solid feminine voice. Similarly, the female POV narration is good, especially after I sped it up. (I varied between 1.25x and 1.5x.) I enjoyed her voice for Sabrina right from the start. She gives Sabrina a perky, upbeat air, yet is able to add the weight of life into her voice when called for. My biggest complaint is that Ms. Jones had extremely long pauses between dialogue and paragraphs which became annoying right away. Increasing the listening speed helped with that.

 

Overall, I enjoyed The Goal, and look forward to hopefully more stories in the Off-Campus series. Although there was too much baby storyline for me, and I missed the laugh-out-loud humor and silly moments found the previous three titles, Tucker and Sabrina make a wonderful couple with an entertaining romance.

 

My Rating: B

Male narrator A-

Female narrator B+

 

Review: Silver Silence by Nalini Singh

Silver Silence - Nalini Singh

Valentin Nikolaev is the alpha of StoneWater clan, the dominant bear shifters that surround Moscow. He is a fairly new alpha, one of a fractured clan, and who is trying to adjust to this new and changing world. Valentin recognizes that the icy and powerful Silver Mercant, Kaleb Krychek’s right hand, is his mate. He’s trying to woo Silver by being sneaky like a cat (he knows that Lucas was able to win the heart of his own Psy, so he’s trying to be both a bear and a cat). 

 

Silver Mercant is the heir to the Mercant clan, currently run by her grandmother, Ena. They are a strong family unit, one that has survived through Silence with more “life” than most other Psys. And although the world is starting to shift away from Silence, it is not a choice for Silver who lives with a genetic defect. Yet, she feels her walls breaking every time she’s around Valentin.

 

Silver Silence is the first book in Ms. Singh’s Psy-Changeling Trinity series which continues the Psy-Changeling story in a post-Silence world. While one could start their journey into this wonderful world with this book, I feel that the first 15 titles are equality important in setting the tone and feel for this new world - one with human, Psy, and Changeling turmoil and celebrations. 

 

I absolutely adore Valentin, who has known Silver is his mate since he met her ten months prior. He’s utterly adorable as he attempts to win her over with his treats and notes. He knows Silver is Silent, but that there is more to her than the cold, emotionless facade, and he gets his chance to see more with the attempt on Silver’s life at the opening of the book. Forced to move into Denhome for her own safety, Silver must adjust to being around the emotional bears. I love that Valentin pushes Silver - challenges her to see if there is another way than Silence now that she is an adult. And Silver takes up his challenge.

 

Silver is the perfect match for Valentin and visa-versa. They are both strong “alpha” characters that carry the weight of their respective families on their shoulders and in their hearts. They understand one another and the responsibilities that come as part of the package, which allows them to bond through opening up and sharing common experiences. Silver honestly wants to challenge herself to love her bear, and when things don’t go as expected, my heart broke wide open. The only small negative about the storyline is that it somewhat mirrored the backstory of Valentin’s parents; however the outcome is completely different.

 

Opening up this new territory to her readers, Ms. Singh introduces a slew of new characters, locations, and even concepts. I did get confused a couple times, but took lots of notes to help me learn the new parts of this changing world. There is a lot of momentum with the Human Alliance and also the mysterious Consortium, which is exciting for those who’ve been with the series since the beginning. I like the added human elements and adore the Human Alliance leader Bo Knight. 

 

One of my absolute favorite new characters is that of Ena, Grandmother Mercant. She’s wise and strong, and not particularly Silent when around her own family. She cares for Silver and wants her to succeed and be happy. She’s so smart and sneaky - I really hope to see more of her in future titles. Here is just one of the many quotes I highlighted when reading:

 

[Valentin is talking to Ena about Silver’s safety] 

“Are you asking me to kidnap your granddaughter?”  

“Let’s call it an enforced move out of the field of danger.”

 

In the end, Silver Silence holds much promise for the future of one of the best PNR series out there. Ms. Singh has expanded her original mythology without losing site of the core essence of her books: romance. The match between Silver and Valentin is familiar, yet unique. There is the warmth and comfort of the early Changeling-centric stories, but takes the world in a new direction that puts Psys, Changelings, and Humans on a level playing field. I completely enjoyed my time in Denhome and learning all about the StoneWater Bears. There is no party like a bear party, and I look forward to many more stories!

 

My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

Review copy provided by publisher

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

#Audiobook Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews

White Hot: A Hidden Legacy Novel - Ilona Andrews, Renée Raudman

Listening to the audiobook of White Hot is a “reread” for me. I reviewed the book in May 2017, and my review still stands as I originally wrote it. Here is an excerpt from my original review: 

 

“The overall and book-specific stories are both equally engrossing. The layers and complexity make the book fascinating rather than confusing. The conspiracy and plot are smart and interesting. The action is solid and edge-of-your seat. 

 

“The romance between Nevada and the little understood Rogan also blossomed during White Hot. Rogan continued his relentless pursuit, but also opened up to Nevada, realizing she can match him. She may not be his equal, and he sometimes does things to “protect” her which only frustrated her, but he’s learning how to allow her to make her own decisions. There are many hurdles to jump, and I really want them to make it.”

 

By listening to the book, I picked up plot nuances that I missed when reading the book the first time. However, It is Renée Raudman’s performance that makes the story so much more. While the writing team of Ilona Andrews is an amazing storyteller in its own right, Ms. Raudman adds so much feeling and emotion to their stories that I can't help but get choked up every time I listen to one their books. She breathes life into these amazing characters and tales, making them ones I would listen to again and again. She takes an A book and makes it an A+. 

 

In the end, White Hot is an amazing, entertaining story, and coupled with Ms. Raudman’s talent, the book is unforgettable.

 

My Rating: A+

Narration: A+

 

#Audiobook Review: The Golden Spider by Anne Renwick

The Golden Spider: Elemental Web Chronicles Series, Book 1 - Henrietta Meire, Anne Renwick, Tantor Audio

Set in a time when England and Germany have heightened tensions, spy networks are vast, and the ton continues with its balls and social obligations unaware of the secrets around them, Lady Amanda wars with her father, the Duke, over her ability to attend medical school. Amanda is driven by her keen intelligence and a guilt over her brother’s injured leg, to produce a clockwork device to repair nerve damage. Under pressure to find a husband within the year, Amanda courts a classmate, but finds no sparks. However, when her work captures the attention of Lord Thornton, noted physician and neurologist, Lady Amanda finally knows what it is like to have her mind appreciated.


Lord Thornton lives with the guilt over the betrayal of his best friend in his damaged leg that will never heal. As a spy for the Queen herself, he finds Amanda’s work to be the break he needs in a rash of Gypsy murders. However much he is attracted to both her brain and her body, Thornton must keep the relationship professional, especially since he’s not on the market for a wife.

 

The Golden Spider is a delicious treat for fans of gadgets, science, and steampunk romance! Right from the start, I was drawn into this exciting mystery, trying to discover who is behind the Gypsy murders. Watching Amanda’s mind work to piece the puzzle together is fascinating, and made all the much better as she and Thornton grow closer. I love the science of the story - the author does not brush over Amanda and Thornton’s work, but rather gives listeners the details of both test subjects and gadgets. 

 

While the engineering, science, action, and adventure is completely fascinating, it is the romance between Lord Thornton and Lady Amanda that gives The Golden Spider heart and makes it such a wonderful story. The pair are meant for one another; not only do they share a passion for science and ingenuity, but they are able to openly be themselves with each other. Thornton doesn’t trust easily, but he finds a confidant in Amanda. Working side by side, their passion grows until they finally give into their burning desires.

 

The story is read by British-born actress Henrietta Meire, who embodies the Regency Steampunk setting perfectly. She modulates her tone to fit both high society snobbery and working class Roma. Her narrator tone is mostly neutral, but seems to be a tad bit softer when expressing Amanda’s POV than Thornton’s. I enjoyed all of her voices, although it took a while for me to warm up to Thornton’s speaking voice, which came off robotic. As I got to know his character, I became accustomed to his unique voice, and it even softened some as he grew closer to Amanda. Ms. Meire also tosses in German and French accents wonderfully.

 

In the end, I enjoyed devouring The Golden Spider. A wonderful mix of mystery, adventure, steampunk, and romance, the story unfolded at a thrilling pace, building passion and excitement along the way. I cannot wait for the second title, The Silver Skull, to be released in audiobook format.

 

My Rating: A

Narration: A-

 

Review copy provided by Tantor Audio

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

Review: Somehow, Some Way by Jennifer Probst

Somehow, Some Way: A Billionaire Builders Novella - Jennifer Probst

Architect Brady Heart has been a series background character as a partner of Pierce Brothers Construction. In and out of different scenes, I’ve always seen Brady as a nice guy, good friend type of character; however, reading Somehow, Some Way, I got a whole new sense of who Brady is. He is a control freak and has some pretty “traditional” views of what he seeks in a marriage. And the man is ready to find that perfect wife to marry and raise his children, like yesterday. On the other hand, I feel we got a good look at Charlie Flower’s free-spirit in Any Time, Any Place, where she played a pivotal role for Dalton. Charlie is determined to make it on her own, and reluctant to accept help. So when her new family at Pierce Brothers insists that Brady help Charlie on a renovation in a dangerous part of town, she is anything but cooperative or appreciative.  

 

I honestly did not see how Brady and Charlie were going to work at first. Frankly, Brady was an arrogant ass. He looked down on Charlie, even though he respected her work ethic and felt an insane attraction to her. His views on dating an woman were very 1950s, yet he never pushed his views on marriage, only asking she respect what works for him. However, I completely sided with Charlie as he continually seemed so condescending. I didn’t like Brady much at all. Yet, as the book moved forward, and he grew closer to Charlie, I saw him open up and change.

 

I loved the point when Brady realized he could no longer ignore his obsessive attraction to Charlie. The whole story turned on edge as the pair began to work together and argue less. They were playful, rather than mean-spirited, and they enjoyed being with each other. That was when the real emotions began to develop and grow. Brady’s self-examination of his long-held views and Charlie’s ability to finally let someone in and help her gave the story depth. Their unlikely romance blossomed.

 

Somehow, Some Way is an enjoyable, fun novella set in the Billionaire Builders series. It is a treat for fans of the series; however the book can be read and enjoyed as a standalone by those new to the series.

 

My Rating: B, Liked It

Review copy provided by blog tour company

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

Review: Toughest Cowboy in Texas by Carolyn Brown

Toughest Cowboy in Texas: A Western Romance (Happy, Texas) - Carolyn Brown

Lila Harris and Brody Dawson were teenagers in love, albeit quietly and secretly. But the night he stood her up and she left town was then end of their romance and friendship. Twelve years later, Lila returns to Happy, Texas, to help sell the cafe her mother once ran and still owns. When Brody shows up, they realize their chemistry hasn’t faded after all this time, but can broken hearts be mended?

 

Toughest Cowboy in Texas is a sweet cowboy romance, but not necessarily right for me. Although I’m not a “cowboy romance” fan, I’ve read and enjoyed other books about cowboys (Lorelei James), working on a ranch (Jill Shalvis) and farmers (Alice Clayton). Yet Ms. Brown’s storytelling and subject matter just didn’t gel with me. First, she relies heavily on country music references, and since I absolutely do not like country music, this not only annoyed me, but left me confused as I didn’t understand the references. She used songs and lyrics to help set the mood or explain feelings, all which was lost to me.

 

Second, there were references to events, like one of the town’s folk disappearing years before, which were written in a way that confused me - wondering if it was something from another book/series - and why it was even part of the story since it seemed to have little impact. There was another scene that featured Lila’s former boyfriend, who is her boss, that also felt contrived and unnecessary. Finally, I didn’t care for some of the side characters - like both “mamas,” who feuded with one another and disapproved of Lila and Brody’s relationship. I felt their reactions and snide remarks were over the top.

 

With that, I did enjoy Brody and Lila together. I loved that they were able to look beyond the their pasts, right the wrongs, and work on a relationship like the adults they are now. Both had matured a lot, yet kept their youthful joy. Brody’s work on the ranch gives him responsibility for his actions - something he knows now he messed up in the past. And Lila had to learn to stand up for herself, that she’s normal and not some messed up, crazy teenager.

 

In the end, Toughest Cowboy in Texas will probably hit all the right notes for many. It’s a sweet story about forgiveness and second chances. The main characters are likable, strong, and generous. It’s just the country and western emphasis, along with the side characters and unnecessary scenes that bogged the book down for me.

 

My Rating:  C, Finished It - Liked some, didn't like some

Review copy provided by NetGalley

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

#Audiobook Review: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files, Book 15 - James Marsters, Jim  Butcher

Skin Game opens with Harry on Demonreach, a place he’s been living alone for the past year. He can’t leave until he removes the parasite from his head, and it’s clear that Mab has been running interference when he tried to reach out to his friends. Harry spent the time learning more about his new job as the prison warden and perfecting his parkour moves. When Mab finally shows up, she tells Harry his next task is to work as her emissary helping Nicodemus. 

 

I have always been a bit fearful of the stories revolving around Nicodemus and the Blacken Denarius. The stories tend to be a bit darker, and Skin Game is no exception. However, I have to say that even with my initial apprehension and the terrible violence of the book, I think this was my favorite Blacken Denarius story. The book is filled with plot twists and gritty action, but also tender moments (Harry and Maggie finally connect!!) and Harry’s trademark humor. 

 

Overall, I enjoyed Skin Game. There were great highs, but some very dark lows. The darkness of the mood and malice found in several scenes was a bit much for me at times. I loved several of the changes; most notably what happens with Butters, the changes between Karen and Dresden, and Harry uniting with Maggie. I also loved the addition of Goodwin Gray and Hades, and would love to see them again in future titles. Harry is finding his way again, learning to trust both himself and his friends. There was a lot of positive emotions in the underlying storyline message. But the gruesome scenes were hard to handle at times. 

 

James Marsters turns in another amazing performance. Expanding his cast of voices with the addition of several new characters. The voice for the evil forest creature was ominous and dark, the voice for mercenary Gray was laid back and charming. Perfect. 

 

Now that I’ve finished Skin Games, I’m 100% caught up and have nothing new. With the delayed and unknown release date for the next title, I’m a bit sad.

 

My Rating: B+

Narration: A

Review: Trust Me by Farrah Rochon

Trust Me (The Holmes Brothers Book 5) - Farrah Rochon

At one point, Mackenna (Mack)Arnold was one-half of New Orleans’ Power Couple. But after 15 years of problems and lies, she left her husband. Now she sits on the New Orleans City Council, dedicating her time to helping the city she loves. Unfortunately, her best friend’s little brother, Ezra Holmes, an investigative report, has set his sights on uncovering supposed corruption in Mack’s office.

 

Ezra Holmes is a conflicted, even troubled man. The woman he’s crushed on for years may be using her position on the City Council to line her pockets. Also, he recently trusted the wrong source, costing him his job with the newspaper. So instead of making his way onto the national news spotlight, he’s teaching journalism at a local college. When Mack approaches him about possible corruption in the mayor’s office, he isn’t sure if he can put aside the past and trust that she’s not in it for her own, selfish reasons.

 

The aptly named Trust Me is another entertaining story in Ms. Rochon’s Holmes Brothers series. The book is a standalone romance and story; however, we were introduced to the two main characters in the previous book, where their conflict first came to light. This title is a bit more serious and has a more of an edge to it than the prior title, which took place during a family vacation. I liked the change in scenery and tone; although I worried a bit how the characters would get their “happy ending” with so much at stake.

 

Ezra’s obsession with Mack was a little creepy at the start. The man was determined to prove she was crooked, even while day dreaming about her fine body and beautiful face. I attribute his behavior to a classic case of never being noticed by Mack all those years his sister brought Mack home with her during college. Whether it was misplaced anger or the only way he felt he could “be with her,” I was disturbed by his driven nature to find her guilty. So it was a big relief that the author addressed the issue early in the book, putting the pair on the same page.

 

Although Mack and Ezra shared a passionate desire, they were both extremely cautious with their hearts. Trust was difficult and was only earned as the book progressed. There was a lot of back and forth; give and take. Additionally, Ezra had concerns over a conflict of interest sleeping with a source/politician. Working through their rough spots gave the story a more serious tone, yet made their eventual union more fulfilling. And the somber storyline the pair worked on only added to the tone.

 

Overall, Trust Me is an entertaining read. With the darker storyline of corruption, I wondered how it would resolve; I was expecting a blowup, but was pleasantly surprised. Ms. Rochon created a beautiful love story from a place of suspicion and mistrust. Trust Me, and the rest of the Holmes Brothers series, makes for an enjoyable summertime read.

 

My Rating:  B, Liked It

Review copy provided by author

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

Review: New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan

New York, Actually: A Romance Novel (From Manhattan With Love) - Sarah Morgan

Unknown to all but four people, Molly is actually the popular relationship expert, Aggie. With a well-liked, successful blog and best-seller to her name, Molly has finally found peace-of-mind after upending her life and moving from London three years ago. As long as nobody discovers her real identity nor the horrors of her past, she’ll be perfectly content with her life and one love, Valentine the Dalmatian.

 

Daniel is a highly motivated, premier divorce lawyer. He loves to be with women - giving them what they want - without strings. And when he sees Molly running with Valentine in Central Park day after day, he goes after her; however, the only way to get her attention is to borrow a dog to walk in the park. Now that he’s got Molly’s attention, he needs to figure out how to get her to open up and let him in.

 

New York, Actually is another wonderful romance in Ms. Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series. I was concerned at the beginning that I wouldn’t like this book because it has themes that I don’t really enjoy, like dishonesty, holding secrets to “protect” the other, and a set up for potential public humiliation. However, Ms. Morgan eased all my fears and wrote a wonderful story. She never avoided the set up she put in place, but rather allowed her characters to mature and develop genuine feelings for one another. She afforded them the opportunity to feel the angry, hurt, joy, etc. and then let them think about it and come back around. I absolutely enjoyed it!

 

Daniel and Molly are a perfect match. She always breaks hearts and he doesn’t have a heart to break. Due to Molly’s wariness, the couple was forced to take time and start the friendship process before acting fully on their mutual attraction. The missteps and falters were needed, but together, the pair used their hearts, experiences, and their brains to move past the hiccups.

 

I am thankful that Molly’s identity was revealed to Daniel in the middle of the book, rather than at the end. Instead of everything going swimmingly until BAM the big conflict at the end, the pair dealt within increasingly difficult issues until the climax, but by then they were prepared to deal with the issues head on. I also enjoyed all the little tie-ins to the first three titles, yet the book expands into a new subset of friends and experiences.

 

New York, Actually has a lot of heart. It is a little messy, but filled with genuine and caring kindness. It is a feel-good romance which has to work for the HEA, making it all the more satisfying. 

 

My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot

Review copy provided by NetGalley

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

#Audiobook Review: Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Cold Days (The Dresden Files, #14) - James Marsters, Jim Butcher

Cold Days opens with a fully alive, yet still recovering, Harry under the care of Mab, who is determined to shape him into her active Winter Knight. It takes a few chapters, but eventually, Harry makes his way back to Chicago and reunites with his friends and brother.

 

Cold Days tackles a lot! Not only is Harry back from the dead, but he’s taken on the mantle of the Winter Knight. He’s got to figure out if he should and how to fulfill Mab’s first task for him, save Demonreach from exploding, which in turn will save all of Chicago, deal with a new and extremely powerful player on the paranormal scene, and by the way, he has a parasite stuck in his head. Honestly, it was all a bit too much for me at times. That, coupled with the several too-close calls, made the book drag a bit because it was over the top. Yet, it was filled with undeniable wit and a sense of humor that complements Harry’s new found fearless attitude.  My new favorite word may just be Vajazzled… referring to the “costume” of jewels Mauve wore along her woman parts (and nothing else).

 

The best parts of the book came when Harry reconnected with his friends, most especially the scene with Thomas. I was in tears. And Karen… she’s really changed since his death. But I was so glad to see she and Harry working together. 

 

The narration was excellent. There were times of fast-paced bantering, when dialogue tags were dropped, and I clearly knew who was who. There were scenes of heighten emotions that were so palatable, my own heart nearly broke. The inner battle of Harry the Wizard vs Harry the Winter Knight rivaled Andy Serkis’s performance as Smeagol/Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The vast array of voices, both human and other, are unique, distinct, and perfectly formed. Listening to James Marsters is like listening to a cast of dozens.

 

In the end, I enjoyed Cold Days, even though I felt it went on a few too many chapters. But knowing I only have one book left until I’m caught up leaves me a bit melancholy. I’ve enjoyed exploring this series and don’t want to have to wait for more chapters from Dresden’s life.

 

My Rating: B

Narration: A+

Review: Enemies Like You by Annika Martin & Joanna Chambers

Enemies Like You - Annika Martin, Joanna Chambers

NOTE: The authors recently released a free “prequel” novella, Enemies with Benefits, prior to the release of this book. It is actually the first eight chapters (about 25%) of Enemies Like You. So if you have read the prequel, the authors direct you to start at Chapter 9, which is what I did. If you have not read the prequel - no need to pick it up. 

 

CIA operative Will is set to kill his enemy, Polzin. It's a personal kill since Polzin is responsible the deaths of so many of Will's brothers-in-arms. Kit has been deep undercover for two years, forced to protect Polzin as his bodyguard. Kit must keep the dirty Russian alive until he completes his own, secret objective: locate the Roc file. Now the pair face off in a deadly match that neither can walk away from.  

 

Will and Kit begin the story as two sides to the same coin. Both ultimately after the same goal - eliminate Polzin - but with opposing methods and reasons. I’m glad that through their relentless pursuits, each learns the truth about the other, allowing the pair to team up and work together. I appreciate that the authors didn’t drag out the stand off between the pair, rather they used each encounter between Kit and Will to slowly wear both down. This ultimately changes both men, giving them the space to grown and open up. And I loved watching the pair evolve before my eyes, maturing and joining. I loved how each scene brought them closer together and changed each just a little bit, until they are a solid couple in love by the end. I look forward to more challenges and Kit's "Kate persona" taking on Will, but I like that Kit has a soft, vulnerable side as well. 

 

The espionage story is a good one. Like a classic spy thriller, there are several players in action, and the reader doesn’t fully understand all the pieces until nearly the end. I enjoyed watching Will and Kit figure out every step and finally getting to the end game. I was, however, a bit disappointed in the ending. I felt there was a distinct lack of closure on a specific character and what happened after the final showdown. Whether the authors were deliberately obtuse, or I was supposed to make assumptions based on the little information offered, I felt it was almost anticlimactic after so much effort and time went into finding the Roc file. I just felt a lack of closure on the storyline, but maybe that is on purpose and subsequent titles will go into more detail. Or maybe it is supposed to be enough that Will and Kit ended together and have their HFN. But I wanted more, now!

 

Enemies Like You is a promising, sexy start to what I hope will be a formidable series. I don't read a lot of suspense romance, but this story had a great balance between action, suspense, storyline, and romance. The pair can be dangerous and have an edge, but also be generous and kind to one another.

 

My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

Review copy provided by author

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

Review: Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

Dragon Teeth - Michael Crichton

Dragon Teeth is a wonderful historical fiction set in the old West during the time of the infamous Bones Wars; a time when two great paleontologists raced to uncover and collect the most impressive dinosaur discoveries. Released almost ten years after the author’s death, Dragon Teeth has the feel of a genuine Crichton story. I don’t know how much of the book was edited and filled in by a ghost-writer, but it was done very much in the vein of his body of works.

 

The story follows Yale freshman William Johnson, who decides to worm his way into Professor Marsh’s government-funded expedition to dig for fossils. Why would this carefree and somewhat reckless young man take on such a dangerous journey in a time when tensions are high between the white settlers and Native Indians? Because of a bet. Yep… a bet that changed his entire life.  

 

Professor Marsh is a highly suspicious, nearly mad man who assumes the poor, naïve Johnson is a spy for his adversary, Cope. This leads Marsh to abandon Johnson in Cheyanne. So when Professor Cope shows up and offers Johnson a spot with his crew, he feels he has little choice. And although they are forbidden to head out from Fort Benton, Cope and crew slip out to dig bones. 

 

The story follows Johnson has he experiences firsthand how difficult life in the West was during the late 1800’s. Yet Johnson finds a way to persevere, developing an unhealthy fixation on protecting the dinosaur bones in his care. I empathized with poor Johnson, who is naïve and in way over his head. He's an unknowing pawn that could be crushed in the race for supremacy between two Barons of Bones. His demeanor and the situations he’s placed in created an emotional tie to his character, keeping me invested in his entire story from beginning to end.

 

Dragon Teeth is a highly interesting and engrossing tale. I have always loved Crichton's matter-of-fact writing style, and I can't distinguish between fact and fiction. It's a gripping way to tell a story. Crichton also adds details that make the scenes pop and come to life. The story is that of a young man’s rough journey to becoming his own man. He had a summer that changed him, and hopefully his life will be richer for it. The book is all about the journey, and I enjoyed going along for the ride. 

 

My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

Review copy provided by Edelweiss

Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews

White Hot - Ilona Andrews

White Hot is the second story in the Hidden Legacy series, building upon the exciting escapades of Nevada Baylor. This is NOT a standalone book. The series, a mix of urban fantasy and romance storylines, is set in an alternate Houston, where magic (psychic powers) is prevalent in some families. If one is powerful enough, s/he is designated Prime. Have enough Primes, and your family is a House. We learned in the previous book, Burn for Me, that a faction of powerful, secretive Primes/Houses is trying to disrupt status quo and create confusion in Houston; however Nevada and Rogan can’t figure out the “why.”

 

White Hot is an excellent story, not suffering any “sophomore slump.” Everything literally explodes open. We learn so much about Nevada and her true nature. Her powers are strong, something she’s been hiding her whole life, and with time and training, she could be extremely dangerous. Also, Nevada and Rogan have discovered more about the mysterious plot to create chaos in the Houston/Texas region. They are getting closer to the truth, but much remains to uncover and learn. However, now that their enemies realize what a powerful team they make, things will only become more difficult! Additionally, there is a new enemy on the horizon, someone that threatens Nevada’s family.

 

The overall and book-specific stories are both equally engrossing. The layers and complexity make the book fascinating rather than confusing. The conspiracy and plot are smart and interesting. The action is solid and edge-of-your seat. I loved seeing all of Nevada’s family join the fight, and learning about the hidden talents of her sister and cousin. She’s a good leader and compassionate soul. But she’s willing to make hard choices to protect what is hers. I love that she is also becoming a strong kickass heroine; growing, learning.

 

The romance between Nevada and the little understood Rogan also blossomed during White Hot. Rogan continued his relentless pursuit, but also opened up to Nevada, realizing she can match him. She may not be his equal, and he sometimes does things to “protect” her which only frustrated her, but he’s learning how to allow her to make her own decisions. He is realizing if he supports her, she’ll come to him; trust him. There are sexy times, filled with emotions that made my belly flutter. They are a great match, and I hope the authors allow us to see what happens to them down the road. There are many hurdles to jump, and I really want them to make it.

 

I look forward to discovering more about Nevada, seeing her in action, learning of her decisions, and watching her fall in love. I cannot believe there is only one book left in this thrilling series.

 

My Rating: A, Loved It

Review copy provided by Publisher

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

#Audiobook Review: The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne

The Purloined Poodle - Kevin Hearne, Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels

The Purloined Poodle is a delightfully entertaining tale shared from the point of view of series regular, Oberon. Yes… Oberon the Irish wolfhound. As readers of the Iron Druid Chronicles know, Oberon has gained the ability to think and understand with humanlike intelligence thanks to his human, Druid Atticus O’Sullivan. When Oberon and Atticus discover that someone has been dognapping prized hounds in the Pacific Northwest, Oberon compels Atticus that it is their responsibility to save the hounds and get to the bottom of this mystery. 

 

Oberon has become my favorite character in the Iron Druid Chronicles. I’ve enjoyed watching him learn more and evolve as his life is extended well beyond that of a normal wolfhound. His sense of humor and lack of human pettiness endears him to me, but in The Purloined Poodle, it is also his sense of right and wrong, along with his insight that make him the perfect narrator for this tale. 

 

I enjoyed getting Oberon’s take on everything he and Atticus run across as the zigzag across both Oregon and Washington state to uncover what happened to Jack, the prized poodle, as well as several other missing dogs. The addition of the Boston terrier Starbuck was entertaining, even though we have no idea what he is thinking or feeling. He is Watson to Oberon’s Holmes, and shines through both Atticus and Oberon’s impressions of Starbuck. I hope we’ll see him in future tales.

 

Luke Daniels absolutely shines with his narrative performance in The Purloined Poodle. Maintaining his silly, yet houndish, voice of Oberon for the entire story, I honestly felt like I was inside the dog’s head. The narration only adjusted when one of the other characters spoke aloud, and even then, Mr. Daniels used the perfect voice for each new character.

 

Although it could be enjoyed as a standalone mystery, The Purloined Poodle is a treat for those who’ve followed Oberon and Atticus since their start. Additionally, the epilogue wraps up a few things for Atticus that were left open at the conclusion of Staked (IDC #8). I highly recommend this mystery to all!

 

Rating: A-

Narration: A+

Review: Firestorm by Nancy Holzner

Firestorm - Nancy Holzner

It’s been 3.5 years since the release of the previous Deadtown story, Hellhound, and I’ve been stalking the author, er… um… patiently waiting the release of the sixth and final story of Vicky Vaughn’s tales. As always, the story opens with Vicky in action, this time trying to banish a group of sirens who are causing people to plunge to their deaths off the Tobin Bridge and into the Mystic River. Aunt Mab is still around, there to help Vicky prepare for the upcoming final showdown with longtime demonic nemesis, the Destroyer. 

 

Firestorm is the exciting climax of and fitting conclusion for Ms. Holzner’s amazing Deadtown series which features a “Buffy-like chosen one” set to save the world from evil forces. The book is the culmination of every title that came before it, so you definitely want to start back at the beginning. I was concerned that with so much time passed and the intricacies of this urban fantasy arcing plotline, that I would be completely lost and playing catch up. But between reading my previous reviews and the author’s expertly placed reminders of important events, I was able to jump right into the story.

 

In the previous book, Vicky allowed the Goddess Ceridwen inside her, and now both the Destroyer and Ceridwen are fighting for control of her body. It’s a seesaw battle, and poor Vicky is the one suffering its impacts, like when the goddess took over and when on a tear through the bars of Deadtown. The back and forth wreaks havoc on Vicky’s mental and emotional states, leaving her vulnerable and open to making poor decisions. She feels like she’s constantly being played or used and that she’s fighting against her own destiny. I liked that Vicky had to go through this final set of trials, helping her to realize what is truly important. I also appreciated that the author made sure to tie up all the loose ends with the major characters. No spoilers, but I was happy with everything!

 

Because the focus of the book is the FINAL BATTLE, Firestorm didn't have a standalone mystery or storyline like each of the previous titles, and I missed that aspect of Ms. Holzner’s storytelling. At times I felt the storytelling suffered from ADD because it jumped from one thought to the next, and the plot wasn't as complex as previous tales. However, the story as shared was appropriate since it is the series end. There were very few side stories except for Mab's sacrifices and Vicky's decisions. There was a lot of action, some of it violent, but never gratuitous. Also, the story took some dark turns. At one point, I wondered how the world would be able to recover from the events and how there could be a happy ending. But readers were left with closure, and a suitable, solid, happy ending. And we got to see

 

In the end, I am SOOOOOOO grateful that this book was finally written and released. Firestorm is an appropriate end to Vicky's story, but the door was left open for the reader's imagination to plan many more adventures. Deadtown is one of my favorite urban fantasy series, and I highly recommend you check out this quirky, humorous, complex series!

 

My Rating:  B, Liked It

Series: A- Enjoyed it a lot

 

Review copy provided by Publisher

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

#Audiobook Review: Staked by Kevin Hearne

Staked - Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels

Staked opens with Atticus back in Toronto, a place he swore he’d never visit again. He’s there to steal the list of all vampires in the world. While there, he runs into Joseph – the head of Hammers of God, who has retired and married. Atticus learns that Joseph has seen the errors of his youth, and now Joseph wants to help Atticus kill off the vampires. We also finally learn what happened when he was in Toronto years ago, under the name of Nigel.

 

Meanwhile, Granuaile is in Asgard with Oden, working on a way to remove Loki’s mark. And Owen has moved to Flagstaff with Greta, where he plans to train six young humans to become Druids.

 

As with the previous book, Staked is shared in three different POVs: Atticus, Granuaile, and Owen. This time around, there are actually three separate stories, as each of the Druids is on his/her own journey. I wasn’t as confused this time around since I was used to the jump from character to character.

 

While I truly enjoyed listening to Staked, Atticus’s life weighs heavily on his soul, and it brought me down at times. Also, I continued to worry about what would happen to the characters, especially with Jesus’s dire prediction in the previous title. I was waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop, and didn’t feel lighten by the end of the book. I don’t like feeling this way. But as Owen would say, Atticus has really cocked things up, and I fret at how far-reaching his actions will reverberate.

 

Although at the beginning of the book I felt the narration was off, it settled back into its usual patterns after a couple chapters. Mr. Daniels’ voices are all pretty consistent from the last book – Granuaile’s voice remains not as light as she was when we first started hearing it – and I think it’s because she’s not the same wide-eyed girl she once was. But Luke Daniels continues to provide a top-notch performance, and he does a great job with all the voices, especially the trolls.

 

Staked is emotionally dark at times, which makes for a gripping, if not heart-wrenching, story. I loved the reintroduction of the Witches and Rabbi Joseph. And while I enjoyed the various journeys each Druid took, I really want the trio – or at least Granuaile and Atticus – to work together, and not be separated for most of the book.

 

Rating: B+
Narration: A-