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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Highlighted Reads - December 2017

Southern Eclectic #0.5

Molly Harper is back with another charming southern based series full of wit, romance and enough crazy characters to keep readers laughing and begging for more.  Welcome to the charming small town of Lake Sackett, Georgia!

Carl and Marianne were high school sweethearts, loving the way only teenagers can—with no thought to logic or pride, just a bone-headed, optimistic frenzy of unicorns and hormones. That was all they needed. Or so Carl thought.

Scared of being stuck in Lake Sackett, like so many of her friends—without a real shot at a future or achieving her own dreams—Marianne panicked and bolted to college after stomping Carl’s heart. But when she returns for the summer with her family after years away, she and Carl are drawn together like moths to a flame. As they rekindle their old romance and remember what it was like to be in love, they have to wonder: is this, finally, their real chance at happiness?

Everything a Harper fan could ever want in a short story--good structure, memorable characters, humor, romance, a bit of angst and a happy ending! The story's only downside is that is I was left wanting more. I love Carl and Marianne and wish they had gotten their own full length book rather than this little nibble. Audiobook fans will be pleased to know Amanda Ronconi is back for another fantastic performance!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Southern Eclectic #1

(Publisher's Summary) -- Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town's most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?

(My Thoughts) -- Let me count the ways I loved this book! 
1) Amanda Ronconi narrates the audiobook. She's perfect as usual.  
2) The humor - no one writes charming, wacky characters and families quite like Harper. 
3) The romance - the perfect blend of fun, angsty, a little sexual tension and a fairy tale ending.
4) The setting - what a great little fictional southern town full of great narrative potential!

I can't wait for the next book!!!!

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Oberon's Meaty Mysteries #2

Oberon is off to Portland to smell all the things with canine companions Orlaith and Starbuck, and, of course, his human, ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan. The first complication is an unmistakable sign of sinister agendas afoot: a squirrel atop the train. But an even more ominous situation is in store when the trio plus Atticus stumble across a murder upon arrival at the station. 

They recognize Detective Gabriela Ibarra, who’s there to investigate. But they also recognize the body—or rather that the body is a doppelganger for Atticus himself. The police, hampered by human senses of smell and a decided lack of canine intuition, obviously can’t handle this alone. Not with Atticus likely in danger. Oberon knows it’s time to investigate once more-—for justice! For gravy! And possibly greasy tacos!

Together they navigate by nose through Portland to find a bear-shifter friend with intel, delicious clues at the victim’s home, and more squirrels. Always more squirrels!

This is another super fun  novella meant to serve as a companion read to the Iron Druid Chronicles. Oberon remains one of my favorite supporting characters in any series I read.  His narrative voice (as written by Hearne and literally voiced by Luke Daniels) is honest and hilarious--basically how I imagine Scooby Doo might be if he lived with a 2000 year old Druid rather than a stoner. What's better is Hearne's ability to give each canine their own distinctive personality.  I always love Atticus too, but he really takes a back seat in these mysteries. 

A superb, fun, novella perfect for a hilarious but well developed read.  The audiobook is a real treat too!

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Hercule Poirot #10

What more can a mystery addict desire than a much-loathed murder victim found aboard the luxurious Orient Express with multiple stab wounds, thirteen likely suspects, an incomparably brilliant detective in Hercule Poirot, and the most ingenious crime ever conceived?

This read satisfied part of my 2017 Reading Challenge and is our Third Monday Book Club selection for January 2018.  I knew the basic premise of the story even though I'd never read the book or seen any of the film adaptations.  Basic plot - there's a murder on the Orient Express with a limited number of  Poirot is conveniently there to conduct an investigation!

Overall, it is a great basis for a mystery; however, I'm less of a fan of how antiquated and stereotypical Agatha Christie's novels feel in the year 2017. I dislike the biased and rather prejudice voice and characterization that occurs throughout this book and others I've read.  For me, it dampers my ability to connect with the story. I am curious to finally watch the various film versions.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Crown & Key #2

When monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane comes across the gruesome aftermath of a ritual murder in a London church, he enlists the help of magician-scribe Simon Archer and alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther. Studying the macabre scene, they struggle to understand obscure clues in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the victim’s heart—as well as bizarre mystical allusions to the romantic poetry of William Blake. One thing is clear: Some very potent black magic is at work.
But this human sacrifice is only the first in a series of ritualized slayings. Desperate to save lives while there is still time, Simon, Kate, and Malcolm—along with gadget geek Penny Carter and Charlotte, an adolescent werewolf—track down a necromancer who is reanimating the dead. As the team battles an unrelenting army of undead, a powerful Egyptian mummy, and serpentine demons, the necromancer proves elusive. And when the true purpose of the ritual is revealed, the gifted allies must confront a destructive force that is positively apocalyptic.

The series hits its stride with book 2--the characters have developed and are really beginning to function as a group and even like a family. There is romance and some good flirtation between Kate and Simon.  I particularly was intrigued by Malcolm's struggle to accept those he would previously consider monsters. Altogether, this was a fun read that is just the kind of imaginative Victorian steampunk that I enjoy.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Crown & Key #3

Gaios, a deranged demigod, who is hell-bent on summoning the elemental forces of the earth to level London and bury Britain. The Crown and Key Society, a secret league consisting of a magician, an alchemist, and a monster-hunter, is the realm’s only hope—and to stop Gaios, they must gather their full strength and come together as a team, or the world will fall apart.

But Simon, the Crown and Key’s leader and the last living magician-scribe, has lost his powers. As Gaios searches for the Stone of Scone, which will give him destructive dominion over the land, monster-hunter Malcolm , alchemist extraordinaire Kate, gadget geek Penny, and Charlotte the werewolf scramble to reconnect Simon to his magic before the world as they know it is left forever in ruins.  

This book is a page turner from beginning to end. Will Simon get his powers back?  Will the Society save Britain? Will Kate discover a cure for her sister?  So many questions!  Luckily, they are all answered and then some :)

The only downside to this book is that it seems like the final one in the series! I wanted more--there are hints that the Society's mission will still continue but we'll have to wait and see if we ever get any of those stories in the future.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

REVIEW: The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen

*Thanks to Netgalley and Tachyon for an ARC in exchange for a review*

Enter the Emerald Circus and be astonished by the transformations of your favorite tales. Ringmaster and internationally bestselling author Jane Yolen (Briar Rose, Sister Emily’s Lightship) spins modern fantasy classics in tales that go well beyond Wonderland and Oz, down the rabbit hole and back again.

Where is Wendy? Leading a labor strike against the Lost Boys, of course! A girl blown away from Kansas returns as a sophisticate with unusual gymnastic abilities. A talented apprentice, forging her first sword, is suddenly left to the mercies of Merlin. Alice’s infamous nemesis has jaws and claws, but also lacks the essential: a sense of humor.

Witty and bold, and unexpected, these tales go well beyond the rabbit hole and back again.

Table of Contents

Andersen’s Witch - I enjoyed this one and it's rift on Hans Christian Andersen
Lost Girls - quite possibly my favorite of the whole book besides the reimaginings of Oz and Alice.
Tough Alice - LOVED IT!
Blown Away - LOVED IT!
A Knot of Toads - I was very surprised by this story but enjoyed it.
The Quiet Monk - not a standout for me as a reader
The Bird - quite mysterious, loved the Poe vibe!
Belle Bloody Merciless Dame - just okay for me
Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown - same, just okay not a favorite
A Gift of Magicians - not a standout for me as a reader
Rabbit Hole - another favorite.
Our Lady of the Greenwood - a spin on Robin Hood
The Confession of Brother Blaise - not a standout for me as a reader
Wonder Land - short but packs a punch.
Evian Steel - extremely intriguing and engaging, sort of a prequel to King Arthur
Sister Emily’s Lightship - Emily Dickinson!!!! 

Overall, this was a well written collection of stories.  Yolen is a master of her craft.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, December 11, 2017

REVIEW: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

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

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Into the Drowning Deep was a stellar horror novel with a truly inventive foe. I'm from the generation where mermaids should be red haired, sing, collection flatware and be BFFs with fish, crabs and seagulls.  Grant has deftly crafted a dark, suspense filled addition to the horror genre that echos Hans Christian Andersen's macabre classic fairy tale, "The Little Mermaid." 

Excellent pacing and build of intriguing characters surrounded by uncertainty and some truly creepy creatures.  What I did like was Grant's ability to give the mermaid/sirens depth and develop the idea that they might be intelligent and deadly but only out of necessity as the characters (and the readers) learn more about them and why they behavior the way the do.  I'm looking forward to the develpment of this as a series since there is huge potential for more narrative based on Into the Drowning Deep's ending. 

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

REVIEW: The Hunt by Chloe Neill

When bounty hunter Liam Quinn discovered that Claire Connolly was a Sensitive and infected with magic, he should have turned her in to be locked up in the prison district known as Devil's Isle. Instead, he helped her learn to control her power and introduced her to an underground group of Paranormals and humans who know the truth about the war and those who fought it.

Now the weight of Liam's own secrets has forced him into hiding. When a government agent is killed and Claire discovers that Liam is the prime suspect, she races to find him before the government can. But she'll discover proving his innocence is no simple matter. Their enemies are drawing closer, and time is running out.

The Hunt picks up several weeks after the end of book two. Liam is MIA after his magical pick me up, Claire is feeling uncertain but readers hope those two will actually communicate and figure out they are better together. Our heroine is also in for some harsh truths about her past that shed light on their current predicament and the future of NOLA and the world itself.

This was an entertaining installment to the series and a good set up for a lot more to come in following books. I did find Liam's last line a bit corny but it works for the next book. Well developed urban fantasy with a post apocalyptic twist. Neill continues to write quality, original works.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sunday, November 26, 2017

REVIEW: The Shadow Revolution by Clay & Susan Griffith

As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his layabout mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.

The Shadow Revolution marks the beginning of the Crown & Key series from Clay and Susan Griffith. Set in Victorian London, the novel dabbles in magic, mystery and the perfect amount of entice steampunk. The audiobook held my attention as the story progressed.

Loved the spin on the classic werewolves in London! Definitely a multitude of creepy villains and other monsters.  

The characters are equally intriguing and sometimes sassy. I'm curious about the 'key' and unlocking the secrets that link Simon and Kate together for the subsequent books.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Highlighted Reviews, November 2017

Welcome back to the Point.

Noe Lee made an enemy of Snowden Stark when she robbed his apartment. In major trouble with some bad people after her, Noe has no one else to turn to for help. 

Stark did not expect to see the tiny, mighty homeless thief, and his first reaction is refusal. However, Stark has second thoughts, but Noe is kidnapped and tortured before he can help her.  To right his wrongs, Stark becomes invested in trying to get her back safe and sound. 

True to Crownover's past characters, both Stark and Noe have their fair share of personal demons. Stark is good with computers, but not necessarily people. While he's super sexy and a bit of a geek, he also has guilt from his past and has kept his emotions buried so he is more machine than man. But something about Noe and his guilt from refusing her brings out more of his emotions.

Noe has had her own painful past. She is a survivor, and is strong, smart, and resourceful. She is a talented techie in her own right so can appreciate Stark's skills. She is good at running and disappearing, but this time she is in way over her head. What they both learn from each other is that sometimes the only solution is to not hide any longer and to face obstacles head on.  They find strength in each other.

I loved Dignity just as I do all Crownover's book.  Excellent characters with depth, intrigue, suspense and detail plus good steamy bit!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Saving It by Monica Murphy is a cute young adult romance about a girl helping her best friend find someone to help him lose his virginity but instead finds themselves falling for each other instead. The novel is cute and angsty if a bit predictable. 

Eden and Josh are bestie who haven't really thought about each other as anything more than friends until they do. Changing emotions set new jealousies into motion, invite drama and lead to more than one falling out before the couple can admit their feelings.

I liked the book. It was a good, quick, easy read. Appropriate for a teen reader and those transitioning toward the new adult genre.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Never challenge a cowboy to a little naughty competition… 

A flirty game of sexual truth or dare between best man, Wynton Grant, and maid of honor, Melissa Lockhart during their BFF’s wedding reception results in a steamy hookup. 

But their plans for a one and done change when a family crisis leaves Wyn shorthanded at the Grant Ranch. Experienced horsewoman Mel volunteers to help out and gets way more than she bargained for living under the same roof as the sexy rancher. Playing house has never appealed to Wyn…until now. 

James never disappoints. This is another steamy but well written and developed novella from the Blacktop Cowboys series.  I liked Mel and Wyn, although knowing so many people with diabetes, I wanted to smack Mel more than once for her secrets that could have killed her.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .


The premise may sound intriguing but I pretty much hated this book. I couldn't engage with any of the characters.  The change in POV each chapter makes it difficult to follow and I couldn't remember the laundry list of characters and how they connected.  I didn't feel bad for any of the dearly departed.

I'm not alone. The entire book club felt the same. 

All in all, not my cup of tea and I won't plan or reading any of her other works.

Final rating: 2 out of 5 stars

The Shadow Land is an engrossing novel that spans the past and the present and unearths the dark secrets of Bulgaria, a beautiful and haunted country. 

A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes. 

As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by oppression and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger. 

I enjoyed this engrossing tale, especially the audiobook. It was a surprising departure to most fiction I pick up but I was a fan of Kostova's The Historian, so I thought I'd give this a try.  I'm glad I did.

The attention to detail, slow build of the narrative, complex characters and plenty of surprise revelations had more enthralled with the story.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

REVIEW: Bourbon Kings #2 & #3 by J.R. Ward

The Bradfords hold the upmost tier to high society and a bourbon empire; however, the apparent suicide of the family patriarch is starting to look more and more like murder…

No one is above suspicion—especially the eldest Bradford son, Edward. The bad blood between him and his father is known far and wide, and he is aware that he could be named a suspect. As the investigation into the death intensifies, he keeps himself busy at the bottom of a bottle—as well as with his former horse trainer’s daughter. Meanwhile, the family’s financial future lies in the perfectly manicured hands of a business rival, a woman who wants Edward all to herself.

A lot happened in Book 2, but I found the pacing and the whole drama of it all too much. Honestly, it was like being stuck in an a combination between a Dynasty and a Dallas episode. Who shot JR?--er, no what happened to William?

I don't love this family, the setting or the characters but I kept reading because I want to know what happened and IF anyone in this familly might have a happily ever after.

The audiobook was a HUGE disappointment. I really disliked the narrative performance and found the use of character voice inflection distracting and a bit silly.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

At first, the death of William Baldwine, the head of the Bradford family, was ruled a suicide. But then his eldest son and sworn enemy, Edward, came forward and confessed to what was, in fact, a murder. Now in police custody, Edward mourns not the disintegration of his family or his loss of freedom . . . but the woman he left behind.

Lane Baldwine was supposed to remain in his role of playboy, forever in his big brother Edward’s shadow. Instead he has become the new head of the family and the company. Convinced that Edward is covering for someone else, Lane and his true love, Lizzie King, go on the trail of a killer—only to discover a secret that is as devastating as it is game-changing.

As Lane rushes to discover the truth, and Sutton finds herself irresistibly drawn to Edward in spite of his circumstances, the lives of everyone at Easterly will never be the same again.

The final stretch! I was relieved to find out whodunnit but albeit surprised by the big reveal. I won't spoil it for those planning to read but it was a bit of a jolt. I'd figured out much of the other big reveal toward the end. It was nice to see Richard get the boot and for Gin to have an epiphany.  Lane and Edward were less interesting for me and I really felt that Max wasn't done justice with the storytelling.

Overall, it was just an 'okay' series for me. I prefer Ward's take on the supernatural to Kentucky bourbon.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: The Trouble with Twelfth Grave by Darynda Jones

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

Ever since Reyes escaped from a hell dimension in which Charley accidentally trapped him, the son of Satan has been brimstone-bent on destroying the world his heavenly Brother created. His volatile tendencies have put Charley in a bit of a pickle. But that’s not the only briny vegetable on her plate. While trying to domesticate the feral being that used to be her husband, she also has to deal with her everyday life of annoying all manner of beings—some corporeal, some not so much—as she struggles to right the wrongs of society. Only this time she’s not uncovering a murder. This time she’s covering one up.

Throw in helping Cookie's daughter Amber and Quiten's start-up P.I. business and keeping the Vatican from snooping into the existence and whereabouts of Charley and Reyes' daughter. But when someone starts attacking humans who are sensitive to the supernatural world, Charley knows it’s time to let loose her razor sharp claws. Then again, her number one suspect is the dark entity she’s loved for centuries.

Can Charley bring Reyes back from the brink? Can she discover the killer in time? Can she recover from breaking the unforgivable rule????

The Trouble with Twelfth Grave is another wickedly funny and hot fantasy ride with plenty of intrigue, characters we love and great storytelling. Narrator Lorelei King does another stellar job with the audiobook. You'll laugh, you'll cry!

Quite possibly the best moment of the entire series is homeless 'stripper' Cookie. I laughed so hard!

The ending had me reeling and waiting with anticipation for the next book!

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, November 4, 2017

REVIEW: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit who collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. She's sarcastic and withdrawn, feeling outshined by others in her family.

While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.

Hoover does what she does best, write about interesting characters who wriggle under the readers' skin and make an impact with their biting humor, significant and unique world struggles. Merit is uniquely likeable in her own unlikeable way. Readers feel for her but want to shake her at the same time. 

Without Merit itself fits as a new adult romance/YA crossover book. I'd recommend it for YA readers transitioning to adulthood but have liked Sarah Dessen, Katie McGarry and other similar writers.

I enjoyed this wacky, dysfunctional family despite the book's imperfections.  There's a lot going on here including themes like mental illness, sexuality, suicide, abuse, even the Syrian refugee crisis while meshing it all with a romance plot. Sure, there are imperfections but I found this to be an engrossing, quick read. The audiobook narration by Candace Thaxton was excellent.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Send Me An Angel--highlighted reviews

As an Agent of Death, Madeline Black is responsible for escorting the souls of the dearly departed to the afterlife. It's a 24/7 job with a lousy benefits package.

Maddy's position may come with magical powers and an impressive wingspan, but it doesn't pay the bills. And then there are her infuriating boss, tenant woes, and a cranky, popcorn-loving gargoyle to contend with.

Things start looking up, though, when tall, dark, and handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in Maddy's building. It's probably just a coincidence that as soon as he moves in demons appear on the front lawn. But when an unholy monster is unleashed upon the streets of Chicago, Maddy discovers powers she never knew she possessed. Powers linked to a family legacy of tarnished halos.
Black Wings has been on my radar for a while and I finally got to it. This was a quick, enjoyable read. I could certainly tell it is the first of a series as well as one of Christina Henry's earlier novels.  I've read later works in her twist on Alice in Wonderland. She continues to hone her craft.

There was enough 'meat' to this first book, development of an arc and great tension for the romantic relationship that I will definitely pick up the rest of the series.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Archangel's Enigma is the 8th in Singh's Guild Hunter series.  She continues to build upon the rising tension as Archangel Lijuan plots to kill the Ancient Alexander.

Naasir is the most feral of the powerful group of vampires and angels known as the Seven, his loyalty pledged to the Archangel Raphael. When rumors surface of a plot to murder the former Archangel of Persia, now lost in the Sleep of the Ancients, Naasir is dispatched to find him. For only he possesses the tracking skills required - those more common to predatory animals than to man.

Enlisted to accompany Naasir, Andromeda, a young angelic scholar with dangerous secrets is fascinated by his nature - at once playful and brilliant, sensual and brutal. As they race to find the Sleeping archangel before it's too late, Naasir will force her to question all she knows...and tempt her to walk into the magnificent, feral darkness of his world. But before they can give into their newly developed feelings, they'll have to face unparalleled dangers as the power balance in throughout the world continues to shift.

I really enjoyed this book because they narrative was compelling as was the character development. It is a try mystery/thriller with the addition of romance but was not overtly focused on so much of the sexual dynamic between the potential couple. Sure, the tension and banter is there but there are more important tasks to focus on throughout the journey.

And what an ending!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

*Thank you to Netgalley and Del Rey Books for an ARC in exchange for a review*

A Plague of Giants marks the start of a new series by the New York Times bestselling author Kevin Hearne.  Rather a departure from The Iron Druid Chronicles, Hearne creates an unforgettable fantasy world . . . one that is forever changed when an army of giants invades. The kingdom's only hope? The discovery of a form of magic that will call the world's wondrous beasts to fight by the side of humankind.

Fans of epic fantasy with strong characters and world building will flock to this book.  Hearne continues to establish himself as a master storyteller. What I loved most were the echoes to the great oral masters in history--Homer, Ovid, & Virgil.  Plague reads in much the same way as the episodic nature of The Odyssey and I loved the way that the structure of the novel and its chapters support this homage.

A true shining star is the audiobook as narrated by Luke Daniels and Xe Sands.  Through their performances, the characters truly come to life and enhance the reading experience.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Highlighted Reviews--Catching up 2017

A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she's sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she'll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble's disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

This was an AMAZING first in series by recommendation of a close friend. What I loved about this book was the authentic characterization plus the inventive twist on fae-lore connected to our world.  All of the characters are fascinating and well depicted, making the reader want to know more about them and follow their journeys. 

5 out of 5 stars

Heir to Lund Enterprises and ladies’ man Jensen “The Rocket” Lund has three conditions when it comes to dating:
1) No single mothers
2) No cheerleaders
3) No medical personnel
So it makes no sense that he’s wildly attracted to Rowan Michaels, who breaks all three.

Rowan Michaels didn’t pass the rigorous requirements to become an athletic trainer and Vikings cheerleader in the hopes of landing a pro athlete: been there, done that, and she has a young son as proof that football players and fidelity don’t go hand in hand. When Rowan learns her new neighbor is Jensen Lund, the smoking-hot tight end who takes being neighborly to a whole new level, she’s grateful for the team’s strict “no fraternization” policy because the sexy man defines temptation.

This is the fourth book of the series and includes everything you love about a great Lorelei James book--characters, family relationships, good plot tension, banter--oh and yeah its super steamy!

5 out of 5 stars

Jeremy Gallow is just another construction worker, and that's the way he likes it. He's left his past behind, but some things cannot be erased. Like the tattoos on his arms that transform into a weapon, or that he was once closer to the Queen of Summer than any half-human should be. Now the half-sidhe all in Summer once feared is dragged back into the world of enchantment, danger, and fickle fae—by a woman who looks uncannily like his dead wife. Her name is Robin, and her secrets are more than enough to get them both killed. A plague has come, the fullborn-fae are dying, and the dark answer to Summer's Court is breaking loose.

This satisfied by 'book recommended by an author' for this year's Pop Sugar reading challenge.  Recommended by Kevin Hearne, I enjoyed this very different take on fae urban fantasy.  It is always an adjustment acclimating to a new author's style.  The plot was creative and I enjoyed the character development plus the building of intrigue.  I'm curious to see where this series goes and will definitely seek out the second book.

As an audiobook, I was less impressed with the narrator and production, having to relisten to entire sections since I 'zoned out' at times.

3 out of 5 stars

Angels are falling from the sky in New York, struck down by a vicious, unknown force.

Vampires are dying impossibly of disease.

Guild hunter Elena Deveraux and the Archangel Raphael must discover the source of the wave of death before it engulfs their city and their people, leaving New York a ruin and Raphael’s Tower under siege by enemy archangels.

Archangel's Legion was another great entry to the series. Full of action, intrigue and super hot romance from Elena and Raphael.  It is always amusing that they can find time for togetherness even when NYC is under attack and their whole world seems to be falling apart.

My favorite part was the end, I won't ruin it--but the new surprise visitors will definitely impact future books.

4 out of 4 stars

In the wake of a brutal war, the archangel Raphael and his hunter consort, Elena, are dealing with the treacherously shifting tides of archangelic politics and the people of a battered but not broken city. The last thing their city needs is more death, especially a death that bears the eerie signature of an insane enemy archangel who cannot— should not—be walking the streets.

This hunt must be undertaken with stealth and without alerting their people. It must be handled by those who can become shadows themselves…

Ash is a gifted tracker and a woman cursed with the ability to sense the secrets of anyone she touches. But there’s one man she knows all too well without a single instant of skin contact: Janvier, the dangerously sexy Cajun vampire who has fascinated and infuriated her for years. Now, as they track down a merciless killer, their cat-and-mouse game of flirtation and provocation has turned into a profound one of the heart. And this time, it is Ash’s secret, dark and terrible, that threatens to destroy them both.

I loved this addition to the series following the epic events of Archangel's Legion.  This one fits within the fallout but is essentially a standalone paranormal romance within the Guild Hunters world.  Ash and Janvier have a dynamic relationship which builds nicely, especially since Ash is too afraid to tell him to truth behind her family legacy. I found the mystery/thriller plot engaging as well and loved that the couple showed a bit of diversity.

4 out of 4 stars

Kera Watson never expected to face death behind a Los Angeles coffee shop. Not after surviving two tours lugging an M16 around the Middle East. If it wasn’t for her hot Viking customer showing up too late to help, nobody would even see her die.

In uncountable years of service to the Allfather Odin, Ludvig “Vig” Rundstöm has never seen anyone kick ass with quite as much style as Kera. He knows one way to save her life—but she might not like it. Signing up with the Crows will get Kera a new set of battle buddies: cackling, gossiping, squabbling, party-hearty women. With wings. So not the Marines.

But Vig can’t give up on someone as special as Kera. With a storm of oh-crap magic speeding straight for L.A., survival will depend on combining their strengths: Kera’s discipline, Vig’s loyalty… and the Crows’ sheer love of battle. Boy, are they in trouble.

This has been in my 'to-read' pile for eons.  I liked this Norse mythology twist.  Decent characters and plot engagement but it dragged at times.  I'm curious enough to try book 2 but do not need to rush to do so.

3 out of 5 stars

Karen Marie Moning returns with the epic conclusion to her pulse-pounding Fever series, where a world thrown into chaos grows more treacherous at every turn. As Mac, Barrons, Ryodan, and Jada struggle to restore control, enemies become allies, right and wrong cease to exist, and the lines between life and death, lust and love, disappear completely.

Black holes loom menacingly over Dublin, threatening to destroy the Earth. Yet the greatest danger is the one MacKayla Lane has unleashed from within: the Sinsar Dubh—a sentient book of unthinkable evil—has possessed her body and will stop at nothing in its insatiable quest for power.

The fate of Man and Fae rests on destroying the book and recovering the long-lost Song of Making, the sole magic that can repair the fragile fabric of the Earth.

SO MUCH HAPPENS! Part of me is glade this phase of the series has come to an end.  Moning wraps up most story arcs well.  I spent a good portion of the book in dire distress for Mac's soul, but she's tough and I had faith that Barrons and the rest of the crew would prevail.  There's some HUGE implications for the next books and I'm extremely looking forward to finally seeing what happens for Dani and Ryodan.

But can we talk for a minute about the soul crushing devastation for the lost of THAT character!!!!  No spoilers but I was wrecked.  Full sobs and heartbreak :(

4 out of 5 stars

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

I loved and adored everything about this third in the series. However, I postponed reading it for months because I was so terrified by what might happen--would Feyre reunite with Rhys? ALL THE FEELS!

I certainly wasn't disappointed!  The lush world building! Character development! Action! Steamy romance! Magic! Betrayals!

So, so, so good!  I need another book!

5 out of 5 stars

Ben, Gigi's old boyfriend, must find a way to save his new love after a freak Ultimate Frisbee accident. But will she want to live after she finds out how Ben had to save her?

In this exciting addition to Molly Harper’s beloved Half-Moon Hollow series, the focus is on Gigi’s ex-boyfriend Ben. When his new girlfriend is killed in a freak Ultimate Frisbee accident, he’s determined to save her, no matter the cost, even if it means bringing her into the darkness of vampire life!

Molly Harper is my humor based urban fantasy hero.  I love the comedy, the plots and the romance.  I laughed out loud during this tale--especially since the audio narration was once again done by Amanda Ronconi.  Genuine. Fast paced, sexy and sweet.

4 out of 5 stars

For twenty-one-year-old Sydney, being in love with Kyler isn't anything new. They'd been best friends ever since he pushed her down on the playground and she made him eat a mud pie. Somewhere over the years, she fell for him and fell hard. The big problem with that? Kyler puts the 'man' in man-whore. He's never stayed with a girl longer than a few nights, and with it being their last year in college, Syd doesn't want to risk their friendship by declaring her love.

Kyler has always put Syd on a pedestal that was too high for him to reach. To him, she's perfect and she's everything. But the feelings he has for her, he's always hidden away or focused on any other female. After all, Kyler will always be the poor boy from the wrong side of tracks, and Syd will always be the one girl he can never have.

But when they're stranded together at a posh ski resort due to a massive Nor'easter, there's nothing stopping their red-hot feelings for each other from coming to the surface. Can their friendship survive the attraction? Better yet, can they survive at all? Because as the snow falls, someone is stalking them, and this ski trip may be a life-changer in more ways than one.

Again, I'm a sucker for friends to lovers romance. I liked this quick read; however, there was a point where I thought too much was happening. I'd been okay with just the relationship developments and the typical insecurities before the happily ever after.  The development of danger is this mystery/thriller arc just didn't work for me.  I get that it is a vehicle for more character angst, but found it unnecessary.

4 out of 5 stars


Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

This was a book club title and conveniently came at a time when racism is at the forefront of the new in North Carolina and across the country.  I was engaged with the book and the story, mostly frustrated by it all.

I didn't LOVE this book. In fact, I found its praise for the author's exploration of racism rather stereotypical and trite. I felt like it was trying too hard to make a point and actually missed the mark.

3 out of 5 stars

Meet Katy Peacock. She has a fun-filled life as colourful as her name, and you can always rely on her to be the life and soul of any party. And it’s a good job too, given she spends her weekends photographing other people’s weddings.

Yet underneath it all, things aren’t so good. Her wedding photography business has fallen on tough times, and she’s had her heart broken more times than she cares to remember.

But she’ll get through it, she knows she will. She just needs to avoid best men, bad men, and ushers of any variety.

I had high hopes for this since it is tagged as a laugh out loud comedy. However, I was bored and couldn't engage at all. Pacing was too slow and was the rare DNF for me.

1 out of 5 stars

Sloan will go through hell and back for her little brother. And she does, every single night.

Forced to remain in a relationship with the dangerous and corrupt Asa Jackson, Sloan will do whatever it takes to make sure her brother has what he needs.

Nothing will get in her way.  Nothing except Carter.

Sloan is the only good thing to ever happen to Asa. He knows this and he never plans on letting her go; even if she doesn't approve of his lifestyle. But despite Sloan's disapproval, Asa knows what it takes to get what he wants. He knows what he needs to do to remain on top.

Nothing will get in his way.  Nothing except Carter.

I'm typically a huge Colleen Hoover fan but I supremely disliked this book.  It felt rushed--even though I know it was written in parts on Wattpad.  The entirety of the novel felt like a rough draft.  I couldn't stand any of the character or their behavior.  I'm actually pretty haunted by the sour taste this novel left for me.

2 out of 5 stars

Beautiful red-haired and blue-eyed spitfire, Leora, ‘Leo,’ was wooed by her best friend to embark on a girls’ getaway to escape her post-break-up blues for the adventure of a lifetime, leaving the East Coast behind to conquer the Wild West of Wyoming for a week. One ranch run by three stunning Warner brothers, cowboys but not quite.

One almost-cowboy but with the looks of a Viking, Cyrus ‘Cy’ Warner, a grizzly, gruff, and gorgeous man of towering strength and pure ‘Renaissance-sculpted’ muscles was the perfect distraction that Leo did not know she needed.

Danger strikes, threatening to derail to red hot attraction building between Cy and Leo before they have a real chance to explore their feelings. The threat pushes them together yet adds more complications for if what develops might be real.

I love Crownover's writting and ability to create dynamic characters who experience a roller coaster of feelings and situations. I enjoyed this book and look forward to the next of the series.

4 out of 5 stars

The terrifying king of hell...

As a boy, Abyssian "Sian" Infernas had his heart shattered by a treacherous fey beauty who died before he could exact vengeance. Millennia later, a curse has transformed him into a demonic monster--just as she's been reincarnated. Sian captures the delicate but bold female, forcing her back to hell.

Meets his match.

Princess Calliope "Lila" Barbot's people have hated and feared Abyssian and his alliance of monsters for eons. When the beastly demon imprisons her in his mystical castle, vowing revenge for betrayals she can't remember, Lila makes her own vow: to bring down the wicked beast for good.

Can two adversaries share one happily-ever-after?

Typically I like the Immortals After Dark series but it is growing rather tiresome.  There wasn't anything special about this book--just more of the same formulaic narrative common to this series and similar books.  I'm ready for something drastic to happen with the Lore for the series to progress.

3 out of 5 stars

Highlighted Reviews--author Jennifer Probst

Miranda Storme never expected to see Gavin Luciano again. Three years ago, they had an intense affair—and then he bolted. Now he’s back, and Miranda has the pleasure of a little payback: a scathing review of his restaurant. Revenge is a dish best served the first chance you get…

Perhaps my least favorite Probst book to date. It lacks something for me, maybe since it is a standalone. I couldn't really engage with the plot or characters. 

2 out of 5 stars

Aidan Hunter is tired of city living and shallow women who only want to date him for his money and family legacy. He hopes to meet a woman who will love him for who he is…but he never counted on a certain schoolteacher to throw his world into chaos.

Isabella Summers is shocked at the sexual attraction she feels for the rude worker on the Christmas tree farm. But when he shows up at a friend’s party and seeks her out, she finds she no longer wants to fight their attraction…but she never counted on love with a stranger carrying a secret.

This was an entertaining holiday romance. I liked the short story format with good pacing and character development.  

4 out of 5 stars

The Billionaire Builders Series

Ever the responsible eldest brother, Caleb Pierce started working for his father’s luxury contracting business at a young age, dreaming of one day sitting in the boss’s chair. But his father’s will throws a wrench in his plans by stipulating that Caleb share control of the family business with his two estranged brothers.

Things only get more complicated when demanding high-end home designer Morgan hires Caleb to build her a customized dream house that matches her specifications to a T—or she’ll use her powerful connections to poison the Pierce brothers’ reputation. Not one to ignore a challenge, Caleb vows to get the job done—if only he can stop getting distracted by his new client’s perfect…amenities.

These books are like the Property Brothers meets contemporary romance. I enjoyed this book. Caleb and Morgan have great chemistry. There is a good build of romantic tension plus incorporation of character development for the later books in the series.

4 out of 5 stars

When she was a teen, Raven Bella Stratton’s father was killed in a horrible car crash. The bigger shock was the discovery of a woman with him—Diana Pierce—and their two fully packed suitcases with airline tickets to Paris. Devastated by her father’s betrayal, Raven went to live with her aunt, never truly overcoming the traumatic event. When she discovers that the mysterious woman had a family with a husband and three boys, Raven vows to leave the memory of her father behind.

Until Dalton Pierce visits one night and suddenly her past challenges her future...

Leaving his life in California behind to run Pierce Construction with his two older brothers, Dalton Pierce has enjoyed returning home and studying his passion of woodworking. But when he visits the local bar with his brothers one evening, he’s immediately drawn to the smart-mouthed, badass, sexy bartender who sets his body on fire. Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem as intrigued by him, and his multiple advances are met with rejection. When he offers to restore the bar back to its original glory, he begins to work with her on a daily basis, and falls harder.

This second book has more depth and a heavier storyline since it is dealing with grief and other complicated feelings surrounding tragedy. I like Raven and Dalton has a couple, perhaps my favorite of the series.

4 out of 5 stars

Tristan Pierce left the family business to carve out a life of his own, but never forgot his passionate affair with the much younger, inexperienced Sydney Green, or the hurtful break-up that tore him apart. When he’s forced to return home and face his past, will he be able to carve out a future, or will lies ruin his second chance at love?

Sydney Green loved Tristan her entire life, but when he left, he took not only her heart, but her trust with him. Now that they’re together again, it’s time they both face the biggest secret of all….

I had high hopes for this third book especially since Probst was building toward the relationship between Tristian and Sydney. Some good twists but she lost me when Tristian started to be such an arrogant, misogynistic ass--forcing Sydney into situations she wasn't ready for solely because he felt wronged and 'wanted' her to do what he perceived was right for their 'family.' That behavior was a real turn-off to the whole relationship for me as a reader and ultimately jaded the whole book for me.

3 out of 5 stars

The Searching For Series

This series is loosely tied to the Marriage to a Billionaire series with some cameos and character interaction in later books.  The premise is the three friends start Kinnections dating service. The first three book center around pairing for these three ladies--Kennedy, Kate and Genevieve--with short stories still connected by secondary characters.  

I've previously read Searching for Someday (Kate's book) and Searching for Perfect (Kennedy's) book over the past few years and enjoyed them for there characters, pacing, general storyline and steamy romance.

"Searching for You" is a short story set between books 2 and 3 and originally published in the anthology Baby, It's Cold Outside.  When a high-powered CEO and a playboy billionaire get stranded in a snowstorm, sparks will fly…if they can make it through the night together! 

This is one of those fun, snowed in romps where old classmates rekindle their attraction after a surprising and disastrous blind date. It is a quick, sexy read full of great banter, tension and romance.

4 out of 5 stars

Genevieve MacKenzie has her life completely under control. About to wed the charming Chief doctor at the local hospital, she’s an up-and-coming surgeon with everything she could ever want. Until an escape through the church window on the day of her wedding sends her life into a tailspin...and flings her right into her best friend’s arms. When Wolfe catches his best friend falling out a window on her wedding day, he doesn’t ask questions. He whisks her away, determined to watch over her and discover the truth behind her desperate escape. But when his feelings turn more than platonic, he realizes he may risk his most important relationship in order to protect his damaged heart, and the woman he loves.
Can Genevieve and Wolfe’s friendship turn into something deeper—or is it already too late for true love?

Fans of the Marriage to a Billionaire series have been waiting for Wolfe's story a long time.  Readers certainly won't be disappointed, especially if you are a sucker for best friends turned lovers romances like I am.  Wolf is still the super sexy bad boy with a secretive past but he adores and cherishes is friendship with Genevieve. He is there for her when her life spirals out of control.  This was by far my favorite book of the series!

5 out of 5 stars

She’s an expert in helping others de-stress, but Arilyn Meadows is running on fumes. Along with her job counseling singles seeking soul mates at the Kinnections agency in Verily, New York, she’s a yoga teacher, animal shelter volunteer, anger management therapist, and helping hand to her beloved grandfather. No time to find Mr. Right—but after discovering her yogi boyfriend in a compromising situation, Arilyn would rather dog-sit for her honeymooning friend Kate than risk her heart on another downward dog. And when police officer Stone Petty—radiating masculinity and bad-boy attitude—is sent to her for mandatory lessons in cooling off when the job gets too hot, Arilyn vows to ignore his seductive glances and sexy grin. But there’s no halting their sizzling flirtation—a red-hot, high-speed chase that’s breaking all the limits. 

I enjoyed this book and the character development but it wasn't my favorite.  The couple do have good banter and chemistry but I wasn't engaged as a reader like I have been with Gen and Wolf's story.

3 out of 5 stars

When Isabella MacKenzie tries to move on from her disastrous past, Officer William Devine is determined to show her that love is the only way to heal. This sexy enovella, the final installment in Jennifer Probst’s heartwarming Searching For series, follows the high-powered women of the popular matchmaking agency Kinnections, located in the small, picturesque town of Verily, NY.

Isabell is Gen's twin sister. She's had her own troubles with drug use and is determined to move on from her mistakes and have a bright future. One of her biggest regrets is the ending to a life-changing one night stand years ago.  Fate intervenes and places her back in the path of William Devine, now a cop.  These two get a second chance for forgiveness and finding happiness.

4 out of 5 stars