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Friday, September 23, 2016

REVIEW: 'Strung Up' by Lorelei James


From New York Times bestseller Lorelei James…

Rancher Creston Grant retreats from the world after he loses the love of his life….Can his former flame, rodeo cowboy Breck Christianson prove he’s a changed man who can give Cres a second chance at love?

Strung Up is an enjoyable sexy novella in James' Blacktop Cowboys series.  What readers will find is the author's trend toward character building and angst which build into a plot crescendo.  James continues to weave together intricate character backgrounds and family dynamics and this story is no exception.

Those wanting to read more about some of the secondary characters should check out Ropped In and Stripped Down, each novellas in the series but published as part of the 1001 Dark Nights tales.

As always I enjoyed the book but can't wait until the next one.  Keep reading for an excerpt!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars


A white catering van had been parked near the rear exit. It appeared I wasn’t the only one seeking an escape. A big guy, roughly the same size as Sutton, rested against the side of the van, one boot heel hooked to the running board. He wore dark jeans and a plain white button down shirt with a logo on the left pocket. He’d angled his head down, obscuring his face. But with that build and that posture, I knew I was looking at a rodeo cowboy.

Something seemed familiar about him.

That’s when I noticed the poker chip in his left hand. He passed it through his fingers over and over again. I recognized that nervous tic.

My gut tightened. I took a few more steps forward, alerting him to my presence.

He palmed the poker chip before he slowly raised his head and looked at me.

Then I was staring into that face. That handsome fucking smug face.

A face I used to dream of.

A face I hadn’t seen in four years, since Sutton and London’s wedding.

I waited for the dismissive sneer to distort that perfect mouth.

A mouth I’d dreamed of nearly as often as his perfect face.

But no sneer formed.

His compelling eyes met mine.

I saw his recognition in those arctic blue depths. Followed by wariness. But no hardness. Or the mean glint I’d unconsciously steeled myself against.

He didn’t move.

Neither did I.

I found my voice. “Breck?”

“Hey, Cres.”

“What are you doin’ out here?”

“Same thing you’re doin’, I reckon. Avoiding the crowd.” He paused and dipped his chin to the empty space beside him. “There’s room if you wanna take a load off.”

I waited for the innuendo.

None came.

Everything inside me cautioned me to beat a fast retreat.

Not everything. My long-dormant libido urged me to stay.

______________About the Author______________

Lorelei James is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of contemporary erotic western romances set in the modern day Wild West and also contemporary erotic romances. Lorelei’s books have been nominated for and won the Romantic Times Reviewer’s choice Award, as well as the CAPA Award. Lorelei lives in western South Dakota with her family…and a whole closet full of cow girl boots.

From Lorelei: “Why do I have a particular fondness for all things western? Well, I’m a fourth generation South Dakotan, living in the Black Hills, which is chock-full of interesting characters, including cowboys, Indians, ranchers, and bikers. The geographical diversity of the surrounding area showcases mountains, plains, and badlands. Living in and writing about rural settings gives me a unique perspective, especially since I’m not writing historical westerns. Through my fictional world, I can show the ideals and the cowboy way of life are still very much alive.”

A big thank you to @InkslingerPR for adding me to the review and excerpt tour!

Monday, September 19, 2016

REVIEW: Vampire Empire Trilogy by Clay and Susan Griffith

By now, gentle readers, I would hope that you'd know I'm always on the prowl for the next great audiobook.  I seek out good stories but also narrators.  A while back, I discovered the Vampire Empire trilogy by Clay and Susan Griffith because it is narrated by one of my favorite actors, James Marsters. I'll always adore him as Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel but he holds legendary status for me as the narrator of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files.

This trilogy--The Greyfriar, The Rift Walker, and The Kingmakers, explores a historical fantasy world with a magic/elemental steampunk twist on the typical vampire tale. Once outed to the world, vampires have taken over much of the northern hemisphere, preferring cool places not prone to sunlight (i.e. London, Scotland). Any humans in these domains are typically slaves, little more than cattle kept alive for vampire meals. 

Human settlements inhabit the warmer regions of the world. Princess Adele is the heir to the Empire of Equatoria, a remnant of the old tropical British Empire. When she becomes the target of the London vampire clan, her only protector is The Greyfriar, a mysterious hero who fights vampires deep withing their on territories. Adele eventually learns Greyfriar's identity, a truth which will have a profound effect on the future of her Empire, love life and for vampires. LOTS more happens but I won't ruin it for you!

This trilogy is perfect for readers who love a good angst worthy romance but also like the inclusion of steampunk, magic and plenty of adventure and scheming. The principle characters wrestle a lot with identity, expectations and forging their own futures despite many obstacles. There are some truly memorable villains too!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the authors on Twitter: @clayandsusan

Follow the narrator on Twitter: @JamesMarstersOf

#vampireempire #thegreyfriar #theriftwalker #thekingmakers #steampunk #vampires #fantasy

Read All the Things - Reading Recap!!! Vol 2

Almost there! Here's a few more reviews and I'll be caught up!

Death and the Redheaded Woman by Loretta Ross is another I stumbled upon when looking for audiobooks narrated by Amanda Ronconi.  The first in a mystery series (An Auction Block Mystery), auctioneer Wren Morgan stumbles across a very naked dead guy. This murder investigation and jewel heist leads her to meet Death Bogart, a bounty hunter/private investigator who is also a down on his luck former marine. Wren and Death work together to solve the crime and find the treasure as they realize that their mutual attraction just might lead to something great for both of them.

The mystery elements are well plotted as are the primary characters.  Some of the supporting cast is a bit one note but show promise.  I enjoyed the overall story and the pacing. There's just enough humor and action.  There is a stellar cliffhanger at the end and I can't wait to get to book 2!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The second in Chloe Neill's Devil's Isle series, The Sight once again follows Claire in a post-apocalyptic New Orleans where the introduction of magic drastically changed the world forever. With Paranormals and other magic Sensitives persecuted and forcibly imprisoned, Claire is constantly looking over her shoulder now that she's learned that she too is a Sensitive capable of wielding magic. She and bounty hunter Liam have already saved New Orleans from another war; however, with a dangerous cult on the rise, they must join together with allies and foes in order to protect all that they love.

I enjoyed this - good pacing and overall plot. The build up of tension between Claire and Liam was great - I like their dialogue and interactions. There is just enough give and take plus angst to engage the reader. The secondary characters are fantastic as well--a notable strong point for all of Neill's writing. That ending is a doozie! Neill needs to hurry up with book 3!!!!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is one of those classics that I was shocked I've never read or been assigned for a class.  Her first memoir, Angelou shares stories of her adolescence that include her feelings of abandonment, racial prejudice and the brutal rape she endured at age 8, which had a profound influence on her life for years to come.

This is a beautifully written narrative, which is truthful but difficult to read at times because of its emotional stakes and content.  I admire Angelou for telling her story. Most interesting to me was not only its connections to racism but also feminism and education.

The narration of this audiobook was extra special since it was read by Angelou herself.  She has the most magnetic and mesmerizing voice! A truly powerful and inspiring read.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin was a huge disappointment for me.  Very rarely do I write...DNF; however, I could not engage with the text at all, even after starting from the beginning twice.

Someday I may try again, but alas it will be a good long while.

Final rating: 1 out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Read All the Things - Reading Recap!!! Vol 1

I am woefully behind on my reviews since my new job is keeping me more than busy.  While I haven't been officially posting reviews, I have been reading a lot.  This post is my attempt at catching up, so here we go!!!

Confess, one of Colleen Hoover's I'd been dying to read but never had. Auburn Reed thought she had her life mapped out until her first love tragically dies of cancer.  Skip forward a few years and nothing has worked out as she'd planned; however, she has a goal in mind so that her life gets back on track.  What she doesn't plan for is walking in a Dallas art studio, immediately getting a job and falling for artistic hottie, Owen Gentry. He has some major secrets and he fears the outcome once Auburn learns to truth.  That said, Auburn has some confessions of her own.

What I liked about this book is the whole notion of confessions and how they frame the narrative, both from the main characters confession to each other as well as other character confessions and how Owen's own artwork reflects this theme.  Readers are in for a treat with the additional artistic element of this book.  Don't miss out on nabbing a print copy vs. the audio so that you see the glorious pictures.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fallon, a former child star, scarred in a horrible fire, meets aspiring writer, Ben on November 9, just as he swoops in and saves her from yet another uncomfortable outing with her father. She's scheduled a cross-country move for the following day in hopes to rekindle her acting career.  There's an immediate attraction which leads the two to spend her last day in LA together.  Before long, Ben decides to use Fallon and their meeting for the creative inspiration to his novel.  They decide that they'll each meet up on November 9th.

Over time and tribulations, their relationship grows until Fallon begins to suspect that Ben has been less than truthful.  What matters is if they can move past these hurdles to build something long lasting and truthful or if lies will drive them apart.

I enjoyed this one as well but not as much as Confess.  I found myself wanting to shake Fallon and maybe smack her a bit during some of the narrative, the same with Ben; however, that is the mark of good character depictions since I was obviously invested.  I was rather surprised by the twist and enjoyed the ending. What I continue to adore about CoHo is her unique writing perspectives often not explored by other authors.  Also, I loved the character tie-in to Ugly Love, so wasn't expecting that!

Final rating: 4 out of 4 stars

The Marriage Merger is the 4th in the Married to a Billionaire series.  Julietta is a top executive running her successful family business.  She's watcher her family find their true loves, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards for her until she meets Sawyer Wells, the devastatingly handsome and sexy man who lures her out of hiding with an irresistible offer: an exclusive partnership with his international chain of boutique hotels. Julietta will find that she can't pass up the business offer nor that chance as real seduction. Perhaps what neither expected was for each to be the 'one.'

This is a fun and sexy contemporary romance.  There is a little paranormal flair since a spell is supposed to have led Julietta to her ideal man. Engaging characters and good pacing were enough to keep me interested and entertained.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Julie & Julia is the inspiration for the film released several years ago.  Blogger Julie Powell, faced with a bit of a life crisis endeavored to tackled the classic recipes of Julia Child and blog about these adventures and missteps.  What came out of the process was more than culinary prowess but also an exploration of self awareness, food, friends and family.

I enjoyed the audiobook also narrated by Powell.  This is a great memoir and is very funny.  I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the film as well as readers of Bloggess, Jenny Lawson. There is a similarity in tone and humor.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Forever With You is the 5th in Armentrout's With You series.  This is Stephanie and Nick's chance at love.  Having just moved to town, Stephanie is instantly attracted to Nick. After their initial hook up, both are eager to try to be friends even if it is uncharted territory. An unexpected secret binds them together, giving them each what they didn't know they wanted until tragedy takes it all away.

Fans of the series won't be disappointed.  Good characters and plot if at times a tad predictable. Definitely good sexy angst.  Highlights include a glimpse into the next book and characters plus cameos from series favs.

Final rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Book 9 of The League explores the story of Dagger. While he might use this name now, others remember him as Tiziran Jullien Eton Anatole the villain we love to hate. Since his banishment, life has been hard but things look up when he meets Tavali Admiral Ushara Altaan, especially when he saves her only son from a kidnapping.

However, in typical Kenyon fashion there aren't any kittens or rainbows until Dagger/Jullien shares his troubled past, finds acceptance in the arms of the woman he loves and comes full circle with his host of inner and outer demons. By the end, he's taken out his enemies, made up with his twin brother Nyk and ready to live life to the fullest and take out the League.

Born of Legend is what I expected but it was way too long, drawn out and was in dire need of an editor.  Much could have been summarized and reworked so that the finished product was far less than 736 pages.  I'll keep on with the series but this wasn't particularly special. I will continue to hold out for Nero's book.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Betsy the Vampire Queen is back in Undead and Unforgiven.  She's still in charge of Hell and quite frankly having a helluva time figuring things out. Good thing she has her friends and husband to help her out.  Too bad that her father and half sister (aka The Antichrist) have outed vampires to the whole world and now everyone is out to get Betsy. Now our favorite shoe obsessed vampire has to navigate the challenge of being the face of the vampire nation.

Not my favorite book of the series but still fun.  Truthfully, I'm ready for the series to wrap up; I think it is time.  At this point, I look forward to the secondary characters more than Betsy herself.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Trouble in High Heels follows recent law graduate Brandi Michaels. Having moved to be closer to her fiance, she learns he's been cheating and has eloped with his now pregnant girlfriend to Vegas. Brandi does what any self respecting woman would do, she pawns the ring, goes on a shopping spree, hits the spa and finds a sexy man to distract her.

However, her weekend fling turns out to be her new client, molten hot Count Roberto Bartolini and also suspected jewel thief.  With a mystery afoot and someone aiming to take out Brandi, she'll have to figure out who to trust, solve the case and take another chance on love.

I found this by accident when looking for audiobooks narrated by Amanda Ronconi. It was an enjoyable romantic suspense.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I chose Down the Rabbit Hole for curiousity and my yearly challenge of reading a book by a celebrity.  I was pleasantly surprised by the book and thought the audio read by Holly Madison was well done.  I always take memoirs with a grain of salt but I tend to believe Madison's account of the Bunny Mansion and the time she served as Girlfield #1 to Hugh Hefner.  Despite the glamorous portrayals on television, there was a dark side to the tale.

I admire Madison's truthfulness and ability to share her experience, especially the dark times as well as what she learned about the industry and herself along the way.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The yearly reading list also calls for a political memoir and another book about politics in a particular country.  Both not my cup 'o tea, so I improvised.  These two Stephen Colbert entries are unique and hilarious satires.  Definitely check out the audio for these, they are well done and highly entertaining.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

REVIEW: Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

*Thank you to Netgalley and Ace for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Expected publication: September 20, 2016

Kate Daniels is back with another highly entertaining adventure in Magic Binds.  The dynamic husband/wife writing duo of Ilona Andrews stun with not only compelling characters, dialogue and stories but also with heart pounding action, humor and plenty of angst.

Kate and Curran are still adjusting to their new roles after leaving the Pack with Curran reorganizing The Guild and Kate keeping her father, Roland, at bay despite his encroachment on Atlanta, which Kate had to claim for her own.  Tensions are high politically and personally as Roland manipulates those closest to Kate and pushes her boundaries by overstepping his place on many levels.  Finally deciding to tie the knot, Kate learns from the Witch Oracle that her impending marriage will cause Atlanta to burn and the death of the man she loves.  And the only person she can turn to for help is long dead. Fortunately for Kate, death isn't the obstacle it could be.  She'll have to learn to master her power and call upon other alliances if she stands a chance at changing her future.

I adored this book as I do all in the series! It was entertaining, funny and thoughtful. I love the continued progression of characterization as it pertains to the growing story arc.  Kate Daniels and the supporting cast remain some of my absolute favorites in any genre. This writing duo knows just how to craft a truly memorable narrative.

Honestly, I can't think of a single fault except that it is far too long until the next book is published.  I can't wait to see what is in store for Kate and Curran as well as the implications the cliffhanger has for this world.  While I loved getting to read Magic Binds ahead of time, I did miss the added bonus of listening to this on audio.  I definitely will seek it out upon its release.

Final rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @ilona_andrews

#magicbinds #ilonaandrews #katedaniels #magic #romance #humor #action #netgalley #supernatural