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Friday, December 30, 2016

REVIEW: Betrayals (Cainsville #4) by Kelley Armstrong

Betrayals is book 4 of 5 in the Cainsville series from Kelley Armstrong. Here's the story thus far:

  • Olivia discovered she was not the adopted child of a privileged Chicago family but of a notorious pair of convicted serial killers!
  • She found a refuge in the secluded but oddly welcoming town of Cainsville, Illinois
  • She discovered the truth about her parents' crimes in an investigation that also revealed the darker forces at work in the place that had offered her a haven (cue eerie supernatural music!)
  • Olivia also found out that she, Gabriel and her biker boyfriend Ricky were not caught in an ordinary sort of love triangle, but are hereditary actors in an ancient drama in which the elders of Cainsville and the mysterious Huntsmen who opposed them had a huge stake. (Talk about a complicated love life!)

For this installment, readers learn that someone is killing young women living on the street , and the police have tied Ricky to the crimes. Setting out with Gabriel's help to clear Ricky's name, Olivia once again finds her own life at risk. Soon the three are tangled in a web of betrayals that threatens their own strange relationship, pushing them toward a hard choice.  They must decide if they will fulfill their destinies by trusting each other and staying true to their real bonds, or if they'll succumb to the forces trying to win an eternal war by tearing them apart.

Armstrong is a terrific writer known for her character development, world building and stellar narratives.  I love this series because it is rooted in the supernatural but reads like a great mystery/thriller.  While I enjoyed the book, I'm antsy for the series resolution.  As a character, Gabriel is making great strides, but I want more. I didn't see that ending coming and right now it doesn't sit well with me. We'll have to see what come of it with the final book in 2017.

Another slight grumble is the lack of an audio edition thus far to go along with the others.  An oversight which has been promised will be fixed before the release of the last book. I missed the feel of the narrative I've experienced with the audio of Omens, Visions, and Deceptions

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @KelleyArmstrong

#cainsville #betrayals #mystery #romance #supernatural #suspense #books

REVIEW: Outsider by Olivia Cunning

Reagan Elliot knows she should be living her dream...touring with renowned rock group Exodus End as their fill-in rhythm guitarist; however, she still feels like an outsider.  She knows she should be happy with the fame, success and love from not one, but two gorgeous and devoted guys, but the world sees things differently, often wanting to destroy anything it doesn't understand.

The crux of this second novel in Cunning's Exodus End series (and sequel to the Sinners book 5 Double Time) is this theme of being on the outside looking in. Reagan loves both Ethan and Trey. Their relationship works for them but there is fear on her part, as well as Ethan's, should the truth become public knowledge. She's not sure she is ready for the backlash from fans, friends or family.

Can their relationship weather this storm of media frenzy or will it crash and burn?

I enjoyed the book. Warning, it is smokin' hot, so readers shy on the sexytime and a polyamorous relationships should jump ship now. There is depth to the characters and plot. I adore Trey.  My one criticism is I thought the book was a little too long.  Some editing could have helped to tighten the narrative, reaching the conclusion more succinctly.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @oliviacunning

#Outsider #DoubleTime #ExodusEnd #SinnersOnTour #OliviaCunning #hotrock #romance #erotic

Thursday, December 29, 2016

REVIEW: Body Movers 6.5 and 7 by Stephanie Bond

Several year ago a great friend recommended the Body Movers series to me. I immediately gobbled up books 1-6, heartbroken that there weren't any more at the time and because there was a pretty epic cliffhanger. I learned that Bond's publisher decided not to keep the series but now she's self publishing and back to the series. I'm thrilled!

6 1/2 Body Parts supposes what Carlotta Wren's life might have been like if her father hadn't been accused of embezzling and her parents hadn't disappeared leaving their eldest daughter to raise her brother Wesley.

This novella explores a dream-like, time travel theme which provides Carlotta with some important insights. Her life would certainly be different but not necessarily better despite having money and her parents present.  What she does discover is that her fates with Jack, Coop and others are entwined no matter the timeline.

I enjoyed this little detour of the overall arc but was glad it was short so that I could move on to the next book and find out what will happen to Carlotta's topsy-turvy world.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The 'Charmed Killer' is no more. Carlotta is safe. Her father is in prison and her brother Wesley is going to be a father! Poor Carlotta just can't get a break!  So when her retail job temporarily plants her in the world of wedding planning, she's happy for the distraction — at first. Because the happily-ever-after setting only heightens the stress surrounding the decisions she faces about her romantic life. The three hot men --Peter, Jack and Coop--vying for her attention aren’t going to wait forever for her answer.

Even at the bridal expo, Carlotta just can't seem to keep out of trouble, not when the model groomsmen start ending up dead! 

This was a fun mystery in a unique setting which parallels nicely with all the drama Carlotta and Wesley are facing in their lives.  I still have high hopes for Carlotta and Jack, but a new snag has put that relationship on the back burner--good for Wesley, not so much for Jack.

I can't wait for book 8, 8 Bodies is Enough because I need answers!  What's in Las Vegas? Why won't Carlotta's father talk to her? Where is her mother??!!!!!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @StephanieBond

#bodymovers #stephaniebond #romance #mystery #humor #bookreview

REVIEW: Beautiful by Christina Lauren

Beautiful marks the end to this series from Christina Lauren, introducing us to a new potential couple and reuniting us with the characters we've met in each book.

Jensen Bergstrom is a handsome, successful if workaholic lawyer in Boston, who just happens to be Hanna's brother and Will's best friend (Beautiful Player). Still burned by the sudden end of his marriage six years earlier, he decides that an extended vacation with friends might be long overdue.

Londoner Pippa Bay Cox decides that an extended holiday is necessary to cheer her up from a job she hates and the discovery of her boyfriend cheating on her in her own bed!  She crosses the Atlantic for an epic road trip with her best friend Ruby and her beau, Niles (Beautiful Secret).

“It’s too bad I’m too eccentric for you. It’s too bad you’re too busy for me. It’s too bad I’m only learning my heart and you have yours rolled up in bubble wrap.” 

Of course, it’s only once Jensen's committed to the trip that he realizes the strange girl he met briefly on the plane is coming along, too. She might be too much for him…or he might realize his life has become too small and needs her to make it bigger, crazier.

Beautiful is sexy and snarky, the perfect blend that author duo Christina Lauren have come to master over the past few years. I enjoyed Jensen's and Pippa's romantic journey as well as the bit with past characters, especially Chloe's uncharacteristic personality changes during her pregnancy. They aren't my favorite couple or book--that still belongs to Hanna and Will in Beautiful Player

It is a little bittersweet to have this series wrap up; however, the extras at the end of the book fill in some holes and bring a sense of completion.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @ChristinaLauren

#Beautiful #romance #books #sexytime #humor #ChristinaLauren 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

REVIEW: Bluegrass #1-3 by Molly Harper

My Bluegrass Baby makes the first in a trio of books by Harper centered around characters wording for the Kentucky Tourism Commission in Frankfurt. Sadie Hutchins has dedicated her professional career toward being director of marketing only to learn that she has a challenger for the position--hot shot Josh Vaughn.

Sparks fly in this adorable and humorous romance that is just the right amount of Parks & Recreations meets The Office. I always love Harper's characterizations and humor plus the narration of Amanda Ronconi. Sadie and Josh have great chemistry but I loved the quirky other characters too.

What I appreciate most is the author's ability to share the love for her own state in this fun and creative way.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Book 2, Rhythm and Bluegrass focuses on another KTC employee, Bonnie Turkle, an archivist traveling to Mud Creek in order to rescue important items from historic but now defunct McBride Music Hall. On the way, Bonnie's car bursts into flames where she is luckily saved by hunky Will McBride--good Samaritan, mayor of Mud Creek and heir to a legacy he'd like nothing more than to see bulldozed to provide much needed economic growth to his floundering home town.

Bonnie finds evidence of a legendary musical event at the music hall and her plans to turn it into a museum put Mud Creek’s economic future at risk – not to mention the growing flirtation between the two of them. If these two can't find some sort of compromise, then both the town's past and future might be lost.

This one was probably my favorite of the three. I liked the relationship between Bonnie and Will and found the cast of secondary characters the most amusing.  The plot was engaging and nothing beats Bonnie's showdown with the opossum playing opossum in the music hall!

Final rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Readers finally get to see KTC employee Kelsey kick lowlife mooch Daryl out of her life.  Traveling to a secluded hotel for the office winter retreat just might be her excuse to tell co-worker Charlie how she really feels but a storm of epic proportions turns the trip from picturesque Hallmark movie closer to The Shining in a blink of an eye. Used to micromanaging everything, Kelsey isn't sure she can cope with these unforeseen circumstances.

Charlie's jealousy at hotel employee, Luke's obvious interest in Kelsey has tensions on high but just when they finally seem to be on the same page, Kelsey learns facts which make her feels used and betrayed.  Never fear! Turn about is fair play as Kelsey is given a dose of her own meddling medicine by boss, Sadie leading to a happily ever after.

This book in particular was funny. Another opossum meeting and there is nothing quite like trapping co-workers in close quarters to see what's discovered.  This was a fitting end to an endearing series that I definitely want more of!
Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @mollyharperauth

#kentucky #bluegrass #romance #humor #audiobooks #review

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

REVIEW: Turbo Twenty Three by Janet Evanovich

Less than stellar bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is back with the gang for her 23rd adventure.  Not much has changed: Stephanie and Lula attempt to pick up skips for Vinnie--some cases more successful than others.  What remains consistent is their amusing antics and their penchant to get distracted by tasty snacks.

The main plot is that the girls stumble upon a dead guy in an ice cream truck. It's murder and Stephanie becomes embroiled in the plan to stake out the two competing ice cream companies and try to crack the case.

Fans of the series will enjoy the scenes with the parents, grandma and other recurring characters.  Not much changes as Stephanie still can't decide between Ranger and Morelli.

Not the best of the series but better than the last few.  Plenty of laughs and hi-jinx for those wanting a quick and easy read.

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

#stephanieplum #turbotwentythree #humor #mystery #newjersey

REVIEW: Hopeless/Losing Hope by Colleen Hoover

Nearly 18 year old Sky thinks she's had a pretty sheltered life--home-schooled, no phone, no internet. Until her senior year when her life takes a drastic change upon meeting Dean Holder--a guy with a reputation that rivals her own and an uncanny ability to invoke feelings in her she’s never had before. She's both terrified and captivated by him, especially since he makes her feel sparks buried memories from a past that she wishes could just stay buried. Soon Sky learns that Holder isn't who he claims to be and that her life holds far more buried secrets than she ever imagined.

Hopeless is as endearing in its romance and it is devastating for readers as the novel's characters learn the full scope of trauma propelling their lives.  This was my first Colleen Hoover book, a recent re-read, and still by far my favorite of her works to date. The characters resonate in not only their hope but hopelessness in a way not often found in typical books.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Losing Hope is partly Hopeless from Holder's POV; however, there is much more at work here for the characters and the overall reader experience. The narrative starts just after Holder's sister Leslie's suicide continuing as he meets Sky and their relationship blossoms while painful truths are revealed.

I loved Holder in the first book but this solidifies his character and sheds light on his inner pain from his childhood, loosing his sister and struggling whether to tell Sky the truth or wait to see if she remembers her past. I like the chapter structures as well--made me ball my eyes out a few times.

I've read the novella Finding Cinderella and always wondered where David fit it---now I know.

My only fault with this book is the blame and inner dialog and specific memories Holder and the others share from when they were five years old. I see the point to make the plot work but I don't find the level of detail or dialog believable from children that young since I work with kids this young each day.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @colleenhoover

#hopeless #losinghope #newadultromance #grief #repressedmemories #suicide #abuse

Monday, December 26, 2016

REVIEW: Noble Dead, Series 3 by Barb & JC Hendee

Between Their Worlds marks the first in five books meant to finish out the Noble Dead series. Magiere, Leesil, and Chap are back to help Wynn discover the locations of the remaining orbs in order to keep them from being acquired by a rising ancient power. Unfortunately, Wynn is held prisoner in her once thought home, the guild of Sagecraft.  With separate plans, Magiere, Leesil and some unlikely allies plan to rescue her as does Chane. Whether they all like it or not their stories will continue to entwine.

Interesting book if a bit slow in pacing since it all revolves around Wynn's rescue. More character and relationship building than significant arc plot but a good bridge for the remainder of the series.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

A group devided after the events of Between Their Worlds, Magiere, Leesil and Chap set sail on their quest to find the Orb of Air, none too happy about their other companion, aging elven assassin, Brot’an, distrusted by the entire group. As Magiere struggles to fight her own dark nature, readers learn more about their quest to retrieve the Orb of Fire all the while the group is determined to steer clear others who wish them harm.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Dhampir Magiere, Leesil, and Chap continue their desperate search for the Orb of Air, still burdened with the master assassin, Brot’an, and the elven outcast girl, Wayfarer. Still hunted by a team of assassins, they escape on the first available ship only to find themselves under the power of a sadistic captain. Even if they manage to survive this voyage, there is a trap waiting for them at the journey’s end that will have readers shrieking in dismay!

In the parallel story, Wynn, Chane, Osha and Shade continue to search for the Orb of Spirit. Our beloved sage struggles with her confusing feelings for both Chane and Osha. Their travels lead them to the home of a young duke acting strangely. Too soon they discover that these changes are related to their own journey as well as a dangerous foe.

The best book of this series thus far. I loved the parallel story telling! Lots of twists and turns to keep readers interested!
Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Waylaid in their quest for the orb of the Air, Magiere, Leesil, Chap, and Wayfarer have all been wrongly imprisoned. But it is Magiere, the dhampir, who suffers the most as a cloaked interrogator employs telepathic torture.

Wynn, Chane, Shade and Osha arrive, seeking the help of Domin Ghassan il’Sänke, to learn more about their quest and also save their companions. Their help is needed in turn since he domin is embroiled in a secret hunt for a spectral undead with the power to invade anyone living and take the body as its host--something Wynn knows all too much about.
This fourth book is a quick read for those wanting to make sure the crew is out of peril and back along their journey. This is a rather complicated plot with some excellent twists!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It all comes to an epic end in The Night Voice. Magiere must embark on one last journey to retrieve final orb while also resisting the Night Voice trying to lure her to its side. Rumors of undead hordes gather for an epic battle have all the companions scurrying to prepare fore war but betrayals seem inevitable when even more deadly secrets reveal themselves.

I was wholeheartedly satisfied with the conclusion. The journey is pretty epic, the battle won with plenty of sacrifices along the way. I like where the authors left these characters but admit to a bit of a breakdown during the epilogue. A fitting end to a fantastic fantasy series.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#nobledead #fantasy #magic #vampires #adventure

REVIEW: Noble Dead, Series 2 by Barb & JC Hendee

Years ago I discovered the Noble Dead series by Barb & J.C. Hendee.  Once I got into those, I devoured the six book, loving the mix of Lord of the Rings meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  While that adventure came to an end, In Shade and Shadow marks the beginning of a spin-off series with Wynn, the young sage from the previous books.  Having left Magiere and Leesil, she's returned home with text written by ancient vampires; however, these and her personal are whisked away by the elders and Wynn's tales are dismissed as nothing but delusional fantasies.

The texts are far from dismissed as the elders have been sending them out in secret to be copied.  However, a dark force begins to wreak havoc on Sagecraft with the desire to claim these scrolls for itself.  Wynn becomes convinces that the Nobel Dead are responsible for the killings and embarks on a dangerous mission to uncover the truth while also finding a few unexpected allies along the way.

I loved this tale and can't wait to finish out the trilogy.  Wynn is a loveable character and her progression throughout the series is fascinating.  Chane is another complicated character since caring about Wynn is in conflict with his vampire nature.  I look forward to the development of this relationship and what might be in store.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wynn's journey, along with Shade, Chane continues as she tries to learn more from the ancient texts discovered in a castle in the Farlands. She overhears one whispered dwarven word that suggested the "Stonewalkers" may be involved. So she journeys to the mountain stronghold of the dwarves in search of this unknown sect. During her question, Wynn discovers even more puzzles as well as learning that a deadly foe isn't as vanquished as they all wished to believe.

This second book was quite stellar. I rather liked the introduction of the dwarves and the expanded world building of their culture. Great character development and pacing to further arc in Wynn's quest to discover the locations of the ancient orbs.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The final book of this Noble Dead cycle. Wynn, Chane, Shade and one wayward stonewalker set out on yet another journey to another dwarven stronghold few have ever heard of to discover the hiding place of an ancient orb.

Whatever caused Bäalâle Seatt to fall to the enemy, Wynn knows that one mythical figure was somehow involved: the infamous Lord of Slaughter. The taxing journey holds the answers to more questions but proves to be treacherous as more enemies follow them on this quest.

This was a pretty adventurous tale with great villains and some pretty awe-inspiring revelations.  I loved the surprise visitors at the end which help readers get ready for the Series 3.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#NobleDead #fantasy #review #vampires #magic #dwarves #goodvsevil

REVIEW: Hang Tough by Lorelei James

Cowboy Tobin Hale makes sure to look out for trouble causing Mud Lily, Garnet Evans. While he knows that it may be seen as strange with her moves in to protect her from her son hell bent to run her out of her home, but nothing prepared him for the arrival of Garnet's beautiful and feisty granddaughter, Jade, who assumes Tobin must be up to no good.

Sparks fly between these two immediately, so much so, that Garnet bans them being in the same room together.  Too bad that plan goes south as attraction leads to feelings neither one can deny. Just when Tobin was prepared to leave Muddy Gap for good, he might just have found the best reason to stay.

Another excellent Blacktop Cowboys from James that is super sexy and snarky.  I'm a big sucker for the old frenemies and roommates trope so this didn't disappoint.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @loreleijames

#HangTough #BlacktopCowboys #romance #cowboys #loreleijames

Read All The Things, Reading Recap Vol 4!

This is one of those classics I can't believe I've never read. It is a compelling novella filled with suspense and intrigue characteristic of H.G. Wells' style. I'm very curious about the upcoming movie based on the story. I realize it has been done before; however, this is a timeless tale and made for the big screen.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A pretty typical romance centered around a marriage of convenience but ultimately turning into a happily ever after.  I didn't love it, nor did I hate but. That being said, there wasn't much that was overly unique or memorable. Mostly, it filled a space for me in between other books.

Final rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I wouldn't normally pick up a historical fiction book such as this except that I needed to read Circling the Sun for a book club.  I'd never in my life heard of Beryl Markham--surprising since she had success as a horse trainer in Africa and is the British equivalent to Amelia Earhart.

The novel kept my interest even though I found Beryl frustrating as a character based on fact. The writing is well composed but I agree with the book group that there was lack of depth and a sense of disconnect between parts of the narrative.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I hated this and would have never bothered except I wanted to fulfill the Oprah Book Club spot for my reading challenge. I just couldn't engage in this memoir of self discovery as the author rambles about excessive drinking leading to unplanned pregnancy, a shotgun wedding and subsequent surprise and devastation when said marriage isn't perfect and her husband cheats. But wait! Go meditate by the beach, take some yoga and therapy and then go back to the guy because 'you are a love warrior!'

No thank you! Not for me but I can see why this is an Oprah pick. It definitely fits her book club mantra.

Final rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Wells' science fiction and fantasy writing was certainly ahead of its time, which is why these are classics and still palatable to audiences today. The Time Machine is perhaps my favorite of his tales (plus I like the movie!). I love the blending of past, present and future and the general discussion about the potential future of the human race and the planet, especially what knowledge might remain and what baser instinct always re-emerge.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

And Then There Were None is another classic that I know I should have read long ago. I enjoyed this suspenseful, traditional mystery by Christie. She truly is the queen of the genre.  The story is fantastic as is the pacing. I think that is why so many others have copied the style.  Finishing this makes me want to watch and play Clue!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

On a decidedly different note, Sleeping with Strangers is the first book I've read from urban fiction author Eric Jerome Dickey and part of my 2016 reading challenge. Gideon is a for hire hitman with a mysterious and troubled past. Fleeing the U.S. after a new job turned particularly violent and way too public, he arrives in London to a whole new set of complications.

I can't say that I liked or disliked the book as a whole. The new writing style from Dickey made it hard for me to adjust. However, I'll agree that it was fast paced and held my attention, especially the cliffhanger that still has me wondering what happens.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Madison's The Vegas Diaries was a bit of a let down after finishing Down the Rabbit Hole. I still found it interesting; however, much of it felt repetitive based on what the author explored in her previous memoir.  There is much more detail about her stint on Dancing with the Stars as well as her role in Peep Show on the Vegas strip. Madison is a competent writer and I enjoyed the Wizard of Oz tie-in to her chapters.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Andres is a young man who has lived most of his life fighting depression and anxiety. Just about to give up hope, he meets a charismatic stranger named Roman. He follows Roman and his friends to an underground party only to be kidnapped and whisked away to a supernatural world where darkness and deceit prevail and human are no more than slaves meant to endure horrific torture. Andres seeks to unite his fellow prisoners in order to escape while also discovering that he might also be the prophesied savior to end the darkness for good.

Dark, fantasy and horror. This was an interest debut from Henriquez but ultimately not my cup of tea.

Final rating: 2 out 5 stars

Triangles is the parallel telling of Hopkins' YA novel Tilt. This narrative in verse follows three mothers:

Holly - filled with regret as a stay at home mom, she sheds excess weight and delves into a life of extramarital affairs which threaten to break apart her family.

Andrea - Holly's single best friend who watches her seemingly throw away a good husband and life she would do just about anything to have.

Marissa - Andrea's sister and mother to a young girl with a terminal illness and a host of other family challenges so extensive that she has forgotten to life for herself.

Triangles is very much a story of connections and disconnections told in Hopkin's riveting style which draws the reader into these characters and their lives.  It is hard, erotic, realistic and at times, overwhelmingly sad but truly a book to remember..

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Book 12 of the Otherworld series, Shadow Rising continues to tale of the D'Artigo sisters and their quest to discover seals and keep them out of hands of an evil demon lord.  Each book is told from a different sister's POV, this one by Menolly, a Fae turned vampire, devoted to her family as well as consort to a powerful vampire lord and finance to werepuma, Nerissa.  To put it mildly, Menolly's love life is complicated.

Will she and Nerissa decide on the details of their promise ceremony? What is happening to the local witches? Can they defeat Telazhar, a malevolent necromancer, dispatched by Shadow Wing?

I enjoyed it; however, the Menolly books are never my favorites.  I'm behind in the series and really need to catch up.  Great characterization and overall plot developments with that nice blend of sexy romance and urban fantasy.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars