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Saturday, May 20, 2017

REVIEW: Dating You, Hating You by Christina Lauren

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Expected publication: June 6, 2017

All’s fair in love and work. 

Dating You, Hating You is the first standalone novel by writing duo Christina Lauren. The novel is a contemporary romance that is as sexy as fan would expect but also filled to the brim with humor and sassy dialogue that will keep readers hooked from start to finish. 

Despite the odds against them from an embarrassing meet-awkward at a mutual friend’s Halloween party, Carter and Evie immediately hit it off. Even the realization that they’re both high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood isn’t enough to squash the fire.

But when their two agencies merge—causing the pair to vie for the same position—all bets are off. What could have been a beautiful, blossoming romance turns into an all-out war of sabotage. Carter and Evie are both thirtysomething professionals—so why can’t they act like it?

As I reader, I nearly gobbled up the book in one sitting. The story pulls you in based on the the characters and plot. There is a little War of the Roses mixed with Office Space. While both characters have their flaws, and I wanted to smack Carter a few times, I really enjoyed the overall narrative.  As a duo, the writers explore character voice, POV and relationship tensions well. 

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Firestorm by Nancy Holzner

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC*

When Vicky allowed an ancient goddess to possess her, she had no regrets—it was the only way to protect the people she loved. But now Ceridwen, locked in a power struggle with the Hellion that long ago claimed Vicky with its mark, refuses to leave. Both beings believe controlling Vicky is the key to winning the coming war for the human realm.

Despite the forces pulling her apart, Vicky needs all her wits about her. The demons of Hell are growing bold and she can barely keep up with the attacks plaguing the city: sirens in the Mystic River, goblins snarling traffic on Storrow Drive, imps tearing the gold from the State House dome. As the signs of war multiply and Hell threatens to overrun its boundaries, Vicky finds herself torn between her duty to save the world and her desire to save something of herself.

The series ends with a strong finish. Vicky faces her literal and figurative demons to not only save herself, but those she love and pretty much the whole world. She does it with her expected humor and some assistance from her allies. The ending is appropriate and satisfying if a bit bittersweet since I always feel this way at the end of a series.

I commend Holzner for her writing and determination to publish this book despite personal tragedy that threatened to keep her from ever writing this final installment in the first place. I think her husband would be proud of her accomplishment.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, April 27, 2017

REVIEW: Dogs of War by Jonathan Maberry

*Thanks to Netgalley & St. Martin's Griffin for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Robots are no longer science fiction. Autonomous, programmed to react like animals: fast, relentless, deadly. From microscopic nanobots to massive self-guided aircraft. This technology is here, it’s accessible, and it’s dangerous. What’s even scarier is that almost anyone can get their hands on it.

A freelance terrorist uses the latest generation of robot dogs to deliver WMDs into cities across America. Sophisticated military weapons systems turn on their human masters. A technological apocalypse is coming and we may be too late to stop it.

Joe Ledger and a newly rebuilt Department of Military Sciences square off against this new and terrible threat.

Dogs of War is another pulse pounding, action packed bio-terrorism thriller in the Joe Ledger series. What is not to love:







I loved everything about the book, both in print and in audio (seriously Ray Porter is a narrative genius!). Predator One and Kill  Switch were heavy and the fallout for the characters is still very real. None of them are on their game when this new threat comes into play.

Maberry is a fantastic action writer and excels at pacing, character building, dark humor and just general great storytelling. His villains are legendary as are his heroes. My only problem now is that I've gobbled up this new release and have to wait for another!

Final rating: ALL THE STARS!!!

Monday, April 17, 2017

REVIEW: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane explores the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter, who has been adopted by an American couple from California.

Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea as well as strict Akha traditions and superstitions. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever this way for generations. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate—the first automobile any of them have seen—and a stranger arrives.

Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city.

This is the defining moment of Li-yan's life. While she attempts to adhere to tradition and some semblance of 'normal' happiness, fate intervenes and leads her on a dynamic journey beyond her village and into the modern world.  Her narrative is intertwined with vignettes regarding the adolescence of her daughter and the beautifully written way in which tea binds them together.

I was mesmerized by the story, especially the harshness of the traditional rituals observed by the Akha and Li-yan's slow metamorphosis as she attempts to honor her origins but embrace the modern world and many of its practices. This is a compelling story not only of culture but of love, family, identity and responsibility.

While the ending is beautiful and more than fulfilling, I found myself not wanting the story of these two women to end.  I wholeheartedly recommend the audio as narrated by Ruthie Ann Miles and Kimiko Glenn. Their performances are truly engaging.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, April 16, 2017

REVIEW: Euphrates Dance by Hussein Hussein

Expected publication: May 15, 2017

The narrative follows the life of a young Iraqi man in his search for peace, faith and the pursuit to live a happy and fulfilling life despite a significant series of challenges. The story balances itself in the real while steering toward the mystical with deeply psychological roots.

I originally received a copy to review as a possible book with YA appeal. As contemporary fiction, the narrative, themes, and sometimes sexual content don't lend this to be a teen read. That being said, this is a well written and thought provoking read about a region and culture that I'm not all that familiar with.

Recommended for those seeking a deeply psychological and philosophical coming of age exploring culture, religion and finding meaning when life brings extraordinary challenges.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Dragonmark by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Centuries ago, Illarion was betrayed– a dragon made human against his will, then forced to serve humanity as a dragonmount in their army, and to fight for them in wars, hating everything about them. He's enslaved and separated from all family, even forced into a fey realm. Illarion's life will change when he meets his mate; however, lies, betrayal and more loss will plague their lives before they can find a chance at happiness.

I'm torn with Dragonmark. I enjoyed it so much as a good chunk of it is a POV retelling of Dragonbane. I will always admire Kenyon for her creativity and imagination to create such a detailed and connected world of characters; however, the narrative is becoming to complicated and at the same time formulaic.

Illarion is another tortured hero who has faced unimaginable heartache.  Enter the woman who will change all that. 

But wait!  Something horrific happens and they're separated :(

Time passes....

Then all is well!

I know this is the format for typical romances but the past few Dark Hunter books lack the umph of earlier titles in the series.  And at least for me, these aren't the page turners that I loved back in the day.  I still love to see appearances by favorite characters but I want a return to more focus. 

My complaint is that readers should have to have a chart to keep characters unraveled.  That Dragonmark is #27 of Dark Hunters, #1 in Dragon's Rising, and #5 in the Avalon series is just too confusing.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Saturday, April 8, 2017

REVIEW: Hamilton--The Revolution

Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary for audiences since its debut.  The hip-hop infused story of a poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, revitalizes Broadway and brings the history of American Revolution to viewers in a far more compelling way than any of us remember enduring in school.

Hamilton is amazing on its own but I have to say it is even more compelling for me since I live in a town named after him. I've been putting off listening to and immersing myself in this musical world, but now I'm hooked. I think the experience is enhanced since I didn't listen before reading this book. I heard the musical influences more clearly having the knowledge from the book already in mind. 

Hamilton-The Revolution also puts the historical context in perspective for fans. Let's face it, learning about the American Revolution in school was a pretty dreadful and boring experience but in this incarnation, it is as exciting as it is information.

I highly recommend the audiobook as narrated by Mariska Hargitay.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Read All The Things, Reading Recap, Vol 6

This third book in the Saints of Denver series follows Church and Dixie.

Everyone else in Dixie Carmichael's life has made falling in love look easy, and now she is ready for her own chance at some of that happily ever after. Which means she’s done pining for the moody, silent former soldier who works with her at the bar that's become her home away from home.

Denver has always been just a pit stop for Church on his way back to rural Mississippi. Church finds himself having to get out of Denver fast and back home. He asks Dixie to come with him and she accepts. When Dixie and Church find themselves caught up in a homecoming overshadowed with lies and danger, they both realize that falling in love is easy but making it stick is hard work.
I loved every word that Crownover writes and Riveted was no exception. We've been waiting for Church and Dixie's story for far too long now. Super sexy and engaging with just enough hints of danger and intrigue.  I can't recommend the audiobook enough.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Operator is the sequel to first in series, The Drafter.
Betrayed by the man she thought she loved and the agency that turned her into the very thing she fought against, Peri abandoned the wealth and privilege of Opti for an anonymous life riddled with memory gaps and self-doubt. But when a highly addictive drug promises to end her dependency on those who’d use her as a tool for their own success, she must choose to either remain broken and vulnerable or return to the above-the-law power and prestige she once left: strong but without will—for whoever holds her next fix, will hold her loyalty.

The narrative of this book is compelling and keeps reader's on their toes.  It is difficult to conceive time travel in most writing; however, Harrison's perspective as well as the abilities pitfalls make for an intriguing read. I like Peri and her band of misfits. It is a challenge to keep track of who to trust and what is real.

Final rating: 4 out 5 stars

Bastien Cabarro survived the brutal slaughter of his entire family only to have his wife pin their murders on him. Made Ravin by The League, he is now a target for their assassins-in-training to hunt and kill. The average life expectancy for such beings is six weeks. But defying the odds is what this Gyron Force officer does best, and Bastien won’t rest until he lays his betrayers in their graves.

Ten years later, he has one chance to balance the scales of justice, provided he relies on his former wingman— the very sister of the woman who testified against him.

Much of this Kenyon book is predictable:

1) Romance (a bit watered down of late)
2) Tortured hero
3) Severe family issues
4) Ongoing war between The League and the rebellion
5) Cameos from other series characters which fit into the growing mythology of the world building

Born of Vengeance wasn't stellar but it is what fans have come to expect of the series and Kenyon's current writing. I feel in a rut when I read this last few publications and wonder if the author doesn't as well. Again, if you are looking to continue the stories already established and want the comfort of Kenyon's style, then pick up this latest title. Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

For nearly six hundred years, Vlad Tepesh cared for nothing, so he had nothing to lose. His brutal reputation ensured that all but the most foolhardy stayed away. Now falling in love with Leila has put him at the mercy of his passions. And one adversary has found a devastating way to use Vlad’s new bride against him.

A powerful spell links Leila to the necromancer Mircea. If he suffers or dies, so does she. Magic is forbidden to vampires, so Vlad and Leila enlist an unlikely guide as they search for a way to break the spell. But an ancient enemy lies in wait, capable of turning Vlad and Leila’s closest friends against them…and finally tearing the lovers apart forever.

I'm a little sad that the Night Prince series has concluded but it was a great ride.  This book has everything Frost fans love - humor, adventure, action, super-sexytime AND Ian! (who still needs his own book btw!!!!)

The overall plot is strong. Good pacing and character progression plus appearances by series favs. Love the audio by Tavia Gilbert.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Twist by Kylie Scott

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Expected publication: April 11, 2017

When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot, bearded, bartender extraordinaire, Joe Collins, only intends to log into his account and shut it down. Until he reads about her.

Alex Parks is funny, friendly, and pretty much everything he's been looking for in a woman. And in no time at all they're emailing up a storm, telling each other their deepest darkest secrets... apart from the one that really matters.

And when it comes to love, serving it straight up works better than with a twist...

I adored this book from the first page. It's smart, sexy and fun to read from start to finish.  The premise works for a great, contemporary romance. There is just enough tension, fun flirtation, down to it sexy-time and narrative tension to entrance any reader and keep them coming back for more. 

Like with most of Scott's books, I gobbled Twist up in nearly one setting. Joe is the kind of book boyfriend we all dream of and I just loved Alex, issues and all. 

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, March 12, 2017

REVIEW: Snared by Jennifer Estep

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Expected Publication: April 25, 2017

Snared ironically finds Gin Blanco aka "The Spider" snared in another's web.  As she continues to investigate the mysteryious members of the Circle and their connection to her family's deaths, Gin must use all her skills to help save a missing girl from a vicious serial killer.

Her search sends her to the vicious streets of Ashland and has all her friends and confidants equally searching for clues.

A series of clues leads Gin down an increasingly dark, dangerous path, and that the missing girl is really just the most recent in a long tangled web of evil. Gin is used to facing down the dregs of society but even this one surprises her. 

I did want a bit more with the Circle but Estep is pacing this arc for readers. The burn is slow but will be worth it in the end.

Snared has everything fans of this urban fantasy series loves: action, good plot, great characters, romance, mystery and sly humor. It is a fast pacing, thrilling read.

Love it! Love Gin!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Souljacker by Yasmine Galenorn

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

The first in a new series, Lilly Bound, is a succubus owing her own sex salon in the Blood Night District of Seattle. When one of her clients ends of up dead via vampire her livelihood is at stake; however, with the discovery that the 'Souljacker'--an old, tattoo artist friend--has escaped an institution and is hellbent on 'reclaiming' all his artwork, Lilly realized that she and her closest friends are in danger. She hires Archer Desmond, a chaos demon and PI, to track the vampire down before he tracks her. But she didn't expect to fall for Archer nor to receive a new and dangerous job assignment from the Fae's Winter Court.

Souljacker is a fun, engaging and sexy read from Galenorn. Fans of her other books will enjoy the new characters and world-building.  I think Lilly is interesting and we'll see how her character develops with her new professional roles.  I like Archer but this relationship needs work since I felt like the attraction and connection were a bit too rushed.

Overall, this is a great read for Galenorn fans and for those who enjoy urban fantasy with spicy romance.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars