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Thursday, November 19, 2015

REVIEW: Bitter Bite by Jennifer Estep

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC*

Expected publication: February 23, 2016

Bitter Bite is the 14th installment to Estep's Elemental Assassin series and is another action packed adventure for Gin Blanco aka "The Spider" and her friends navigating the treachurousness that is Ashland, North Carolina.  A new threat is in town, but one that will test her relationship with foster brother, Finn.  A powerful ice elemental, Deirdre Shaw, has arrived in town and Gin doubts her motives, especially since she's Finn's long thought dead mother.  Their relationship is put to the test given Gin's mistrust and Finn's longing to bond with the mother he never had. The true question is whether blood-ties will prove stronger than years of battle-tested friendship.

After so many novels, a series can wane.  However, I've always been pleasantly surprised by Estep's ability to keep this series fresh while still including characters and elements readers have grown to expect. I alway appreciate the author's vivid character development and descriptions whether it is the physical description of a character, the lush description of food or the gritty take on the action sequences. 

I loved the Finn centric plot line and the not so welcomed blast from the past.  More interesting for me was the tie of Shaw to Gin's mother and Mab Monroe. Furthermore, the introduction of an even more powerful foe--one who has been pulling the puppet strings all along--should make for interesting reading in the next series installment.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#jenniferestep #elementalassassin #bitterbite #UF #netgalley #bookreview

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

REVIEW: Thinning the Herd by Adrian Phoenix

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

Expected publication: January 4, 2016

Hal Rupert fancies himself the hero of Eugene, Oregon.  Too bad he's just works for animal control.  However, his fellow townspeople are unaware that he keeps them safe from werewolves and other supernatural creatures running a muck. When hippies and fortune tellers start turning up dead, Hal is convinced its his job to save the day and to protect his true love, Goth goddess, Desdemona from harm.  It's just too bad she thinks he is a creepy, loony stalker.

What I liked...

Thinning the Herd is an interesting take on the urban fantasy genre. There are certainly humorous moments which are highlighted by the author's character development.  I rather liked the sidekicks, Galahad and Nick, more than the protagonist.  Nick--a werewolf obsessed with squeaky toys is a riot. The setting is unique as is the 'magic' surrounding the supernatural groups introduced.

What I didn't like...

I realize that Hal's quirks are meant to be humorous and endearing; however, I just found him irritating and still rather creepy.  If a man acted like this toward me in real life, I'd call the police and file a restraining order.  It's not cute. It's alarming.  Furthermore, I just couldn't take Desdemona's about face toward his behavior and that they end up actually entangled in some sort of romantic relationship.

Plot wise the novel felt all over the place and rather disjointed. While reading, I felt as if I was in the middle of the series, oblivious to important world-building details. This bothered me since Thinning the Herd is the first in a new series. When the 'big bad' is revealed I found myself saying, "Huh?" It all just doesn't seem to fit together. Now, maybe it will since events are probably going to have greater consequences in other books. Either way, I felt like there were too many supernatural elements going on.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars (just because of Nick and the hilarious bicyclist)

#netgalley #adrianphoenix #thinningtheherd #urbanfantasy #UF #bookreview #werewolves

Monday, November 16, 2015

REVIEW: Bones in Her Pocket by Kathy Reichs

This novella falls between Bones are Forever and Bones of the Lost. Dr. Tempreance Brennan is called in to identify remains found in the foothills of North Carolina. While the identity of the victim is easily discovered, the circumstances surrounding the death and additional surprising evidence lead the case in an unexpected direction.

What unfolds is an edge of your seat thriller.  I was shocked when the true motive for the crime was revealed. ONCE AGAIN Brennan runs head first into danger, fails to secure backup and of course FORGETS HER PHONE! I realize that the character is not a cop; however, surely she must learn from her mistakes over this length of time....sighs. Regretfully, no she doesn't.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed this entry to the Brennan series.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

#forensics #kathyreichs #temperancebrennan #bones #northcarloina #owls #animalrights #bookreview

REVIEW: Swamp Bones by Kathy Reichs

Once again, Dr. Temprance Brennan's attempt for a relaxing vaction goes awry. Set in the Florida swamps, Brennan is all set for a nice visit with her friend, an orinthologist dedicated to researching the impact burmese pythons pose to bird species in the Everglades.  When bone remains turn out to be human and a murder victim to boot, Brennan becomes embroiled in a competitive snake hunt and some of the swamp's darkest secrets.

As a continued fan of the series, this novella hit all the high notes.  The detailed, face paced, thrilling mystery had me second guessing the motives of all the characters.  I always appreciate Reichs' approach to science and how she novelizes her real life experiences. I'm still creeped out by snakes, so this wasn't my favorite addition to the series.

What I did like were all the hints related to the unrest Brennan feels about her relationship with Ryan and how that will impact the next book.  "Swamp Bones" is technically number 16.5 and the prequel to Bones Never Lie where an old case comes back to haunt Brennan and she has to draw Ryan out of his self imposed exile to catch a deadly foe.

Frustrating again was Brennan's tendancy to wander into dangerous situations alone. It happens every time and I'm starting to equate her behavior with Rick on The Walking Dead telling Carl to 'stay in the house.' It just isn't going to happen.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

#forensics #kathyreichs #temperancebrennan #bones #swamp #everglades #audiobook

Sunday, November 15, 2015

REVIEW: Born of Defiance by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Born of Defiance is a compelling prequel to Kenyon's bestselling League series. Talyn Batur, born an outcast, without the proper family lineage--after all an Andarian without a father is a label no one wants--his many professional accomplishments go unnoticed and he is constantly ridiculed and sabotaged by a commander hell bent to destroy Talyn bit by bit.  Given his station, his only hope for romantic intimacy in any fashion is to contract a paid companion.  

Determined to be a doctor, Felicia's only hope of paying for medical school is to enter into the contractual obligation of a paid companion.  She never planned to like Talyn, much less fall in love with him.  When her own troubled family woes entangle Tayln in a plot to overthrow the Andarian crown, he has to make some hard choices concerning his feelings of loyalty, justice and doing what is right.

Believe me, any fan of Kenyon's knows that the plot is much more intricate than my brief summary can surmise.  Needless to say, the events of this book shed light on key events in the series. Furthermore, Talyn Batur is Fain's son and Dancer's nephew. The implications for Born of Betrayal are significant considering that this is Fain's story.  Readers will have to see how this all works out.  It will be lengthy and painful but worthwhile.  Kenyon's tortured warriors usually get a happy ending in time. 

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

#league #sherrilynkenyon #bornofdefiance #futuristic #romance #sciencefiction

REVIEW: Beautiful Secret by Christina Lauren

Beautiful Secret is the fourth installment in writing duo Christina Lauren's Beautiful Bastard series.  Ruby Miller is a young American interning for her chance at a prestigious spot studying in Oxford.  When her boss announces that she'll be going to NYC on an extended business trip, she's stunned.  More so when Ruby learns she'll be accompanying the company's top urban planning exec, Niall Stella aka THE HOTTEST MAN ALIVE!

Niall Stella is as handsome as he is conservative. Still nursing the wounds of a new divorce, he doesn't have romance on his mind. Until his flirt filled plane ride with Ruby on the way to NYC. Their attraction builds, eventually mixing business and pleasure. Neither can quite label their new found relationship but when both personal and professional waves surface, some difficult choices have to be made.

One criticism is the frustrating stall to this relationship.  Its finally getting somewhere and then Niall and Ruby (both equally at fault) have to go and throw a monkey wrench in the whole thing. Admittedly, Niall needed closure but didn't handle it well. Ruby makes her own decisions but when she doesn't get the reaction she wanted things go awry. This part of the book was rather irritating.

Overall, I liked this entry to the series but my favorite is still think Beautiful Player is my favorite.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#beautifulsecret #christinalauren #romance #contemporary #erotic #bookreview

REVIEW: Dark Wild Night by Christina Lauren

Dark Wild Night is pretty much the book Christina Lauren fans have been waiting for in the Wild Seasons series.  After that wild night in Vegas, Lola and Oliver were the only newlyweds to not act on their initial attraction. Instead, they've spent the past eight months developing a uniquely deep friendship and fighting equally intense feelings of attraction.

Once they do admit their feelings, things take a super spicy turn. Oliver openly admits he's full on in love with Lola but her emotional hangups and growing career pressures strain the relationship from the beginning. Lola has some soul searching to do lest she loose Oliver entirely.

My fondness for the series grows with each book.  I still don't love book 1's (Sweet Filthy Boy) couple (Ansel and Mia). For me, that one was just okay. I really liked book 2 (Dirty Rowdy Thing) featuring Harlow and Finn but the real anticipation was for Oliver and Lola's story.

As a reader, I wasn't disappointed.  However, I had more than a few moments of wanting to strangle Lola over all her issues given how seemingly perfect Oliver is for her. It worked out in the end as these stories mostly do; but, the frustration level was there.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#darkwildnight #christinalauren #wildseasons #romance #erotic #contemporary #bookreview

REVIEW: Working for Bigfoot by Jim Butcher

Working for Bigfoot is a fun Harry Dresden short story collection. Comprised of three separate yet interconnected stories, Dresden is first hired by the infamous 'Bigfoot' in "B is for Bigfoot" originally available in the anthology Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron. However, I believe I read it from Jim Butcher's website eons ago.  When Papa Bigfoot's young son, Irwin, attracts the attention of a bully, its up to Dresden to discover the threat and save the day.

In the second story, "I was a Teenage Bigfoot" (originally published in Blood Lite 3), Dresden is once again called to aid Irwin.  Away at an elite boarding school, Irwin has fallen ill for the first time.  It turns out that supernatural forces are at work and Dresden nabs the culprit in the nick of time before Irwin's life force is siphoned to the brink of death.

Lastly, "Bigfoot on Campus", finds Irwin all grown up and a freshman in college.  He's facing some of the same challenges as any college student--classes, sports, and romance.  Irwin is certainly hot and heavy with his first serious girlfriend; too bad neither he nor she knows she's a White Court vampire.  Its a good thing Dresden arrives one more time to run damage control.

Readers can never go wrong with Dresden.  This collection has all the characteristic charm associated with Butcher's Dresden Files--humor, magic, mystery and adventure--while also presenting larger themes concerning the responsibility of fatherhood (i.e. Bigfoot's lack of physical presence in Irwin's life, Dresden's fathers death) and the difficulties of growing up for any kid much less one with supernatural DNA.

As expected, the audio of this collection, masterfully narrated by James Marsters, is utter perfection. I highly recommend this to any fan of the series or for readers and listeners looking for a great story.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#dresdenfiles #jimbutcher #workingforbigfoot #bigfoot #supernatural #bookreview #humor #magic

REVIEW: The Martian by Andy Weir

Astronaut Mark Watney is part of the first successful expedition to Mars when disaster occurs. Presumed dead, he's abandoned by his team and mourned by his friends, family and country. However, Watney is nothing if not resourceful as he colorfully beats the odds in this funny, thrilling adventure that has readers on the edge of their seats to discover our protagonist's fate.

I can't say much more than hasn't already been said by so many others regarding this book by Andy Weir. I loved the pacing blended with sarcastic humor and science.  While I haven't seen the film starring Matt Damon yet, I've heard its good and that he does the character justice.

For audiobook listeners, I wholeheartedly recommend the production with R. C. Bray as narrative.  His portrayal of Watney is fantastic as are the other characters. I marathoned the audio in just a few days, staying up late at night since I couldn't wait to see what next challenge Watney would face head on with such charm and humor.

The Martian is definitely worthy of all the praise!

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#themartian #andyweir #mars #survival #humor #audiobook

Friday, November 13, 2015

REVIEW: What You Need by Lorelei James

Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a review!

Expected publication: January 5, 2016

What You Need is the first in a steamy new romance series by bestselling author Lorelei James. The Lund's are the next new family readers will fall in love with following James' immensely popular Rough Riders series and the exploits of the McKay cowboys.

Brady Lund is the CFO of Lund Industries. He's smart, devastatingly handsome and a woeful workaholic.  Brady notices co-worker Lennox Greene but can't bring himself to make a move until a staged 'get a life' intervention by his brothers brings them face to face at local bar.  Gone is the conservative blonde from the office. In her place is the rebellious, sexy and flirty Lennox that she tries hard to keep under wraps in an effort to be professional and hide from her troubled youth.

Unable to fight their attraction, Brady and Lennox delve into a relationship built not only on the lure of passion but also a deeper understanding of what is lacking in each of their lives.  Despite insecurities and a few ups and downs, they learn that what they really need is each other.

I'm a huge Lorelei James fan and she can pretty much do no wrong in my book.  I enjoyed this book quite a bit.  It is a departure from the raunchy Rough Rider cowboys and the even darker and erotic Mastered series.  While still super sexy, there is more emphasis on the relationship outside of the bedroom. I look forward to more books featuring the other Lund family members.

Recommended for Lorelei James fans and readers who've enjoyed books by Christina Lauren, the Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward and other steamy, contemporary romances in the workplace setting.

Follow the author on Twitter: @loreleijames

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#loreleijames #whatyouneed #romance #netgalley #bookreview