Friday, April 28, 2017

Review: Sweet Tea and Spirits

Sweet Tea and Spirits Sweet Tea and Spirits by Angie Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These books never disappoint and always manage to leave me with a smile on my face. I’m pretty sure you could pick them up at any point and dive in, but to get the complete story, I’d recommend starting from the beginning.

We meet back up with Verity, now an official ghost… helper… of sorts. She’s come “out of the closet” about dating her ex-fiancĂ©’s brother and is now only slightly less repugnant to the social leaders of the community. This latest adventure begins with a phone call from a ghost. The ghostly call appears to have originated from the historic society, which is where a lot of the action takes place in this book.

Teamed up with her faithful, although reluctant, partner, she heads out to investigate. That curiosity ends up uncovering even more than Verity hoped to find. It seems like as soon as Verity gets involved, everyone finally gets to learn the truth about some long held Sugarland belief. No wonder her boyfriend’s mother cannot stand her (among other reasons). Along with the usual murder mystery gig, we also get a healthy dose of romance in the most unlikely of places. This book was truly enjoyable from start to finish.

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Review: Luther's Return

Luther's Return Luther's Return by Tina Folsom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Remember Luther? Okay, to be honest, I didn’t really remember him. Turns out we met him way back in the day and since I read these books at random intervals, I had to really refresh my memory. This book is the first in a new set, taking place a handful of years beyond where the previous book ended. The benefit? This gives us a new generation of vampires, while still keeping the original ones in play.

Katie we have apparently heard of before, too. She’s the sister of guys who have played major roles in previous books. She hasn’t gotten her mate, so that obviously leaves her “up for grabs.” She has befriended and taken under her wing the very familiar daughter of Samson and has cast her in a starring role of a play. With all the familiar faces in attendance, and a much older Blake running the security, she somehow manages to get kidnapped. Too bad for Luther, this also happens to occur when he wanders into town after his prison release.

Coincidence is never something that the Scanguards vampires acknowledge, so this throws Luther into a pretty big mess. That doesn’t appear to matter to Katie, though, as she is instantly smitten with the bad boy. Talk about sizzle! While I was eager to see Samson get his daughter back, I was more interested in these two Romeo and Juliet types to work it out. This was a nice redemption story that I completely wasn’t expecting. I can’t wait to see what the author does with this “time hop.”

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Review: Hunter's Trail

Hunter's Trail Hunter's Trail by Melissa F. Olson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I still really enjoy the sarcastic, punchy, love-triangle-prone character of Scarlett, I’m eager to take a little break before coming back to her after this adventure. Where the last book focused an awful lot on driving, this one was all about her knee. I’m kidding, of course, but it still should get listed as a co-star of the book.

This book, the end of the trilogy, definitely wraps things up in a nice way. We join Scarlett in the aftermath of the impulsive decision made at the end of the last book. If you’re just joining here… don’t. This is not the place to start. With all the baggage leading up to this installment, you’re better off diving into the next trilogy, or starting at book 1. That being said, so Scarlett did that thing. It apparently messed up the thing I would least expect – her knee. Who knew? After these few books with her ramping up from normal damage to Dresden-like damage levels, I guess everything is fair game.

So the big bad in this story has to do with the werewolves. There’s some murdered women showing up on the alpha’s doorstep (literally) and somehow Scarlett has gotten tasked with solving it. Together with dark cloud/constantly conflicted man, Jesse, they have to put themselves into pack drama while avoiding talking about Eli and his mysterious disappearance. Can you tell I’m kind of sick of Jesse, too? At some point he has to make a choice, and I’m getting really tired of him painting himself as the good guy and the bad guy at the same time.

So obviously they end up solving the mystery and avoiding certain doom. That wasn’t really my main focus, of course. I was more interested in some sort of resolution for Scarlett. Her decisions, while always infuriating, were slightly less so in this book. I’m especially fond of her new pet, who I saw in later books and was slightly spoiled about. As a person who must complete a series, this was a nice way to end the trilogy, even if I was reluctant to read this one. I’m happy where everyone ended up but would expect better from Jesse in the future.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: Drakon's Prey

Drakon's Prey Drakon's Prey by N.J. Walters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book might be even better than the last one in the series! This world is so unique and different that I am really loving learning more bit by bit. If you read the previous book, then you knew that this one had to be about Valeriya, the sister of the head of the Knights of the Dragon.

Valeriya is a children’s book author who is doing her best to avoid the drama tied to her sister. She’s determined to make amends (or try to) and part of that is warning the drakon that is in her sister’s sights. When she arrives at her destination, however, it is very clear that there’s nobody around to warn. Even more determined to help, she decides to camp out a bit waiting for something to come about. Her instincts are almost never wrong.

Tarrant is the reclusive computer genius that we’ve met previously. It seemed like he wouldn’t have his match found for him… ever. Somehow, though, he finds himself smitten with the tenacious woman who simply will not leave him alone. He’s moved to the point of kind-of kidnapping her and taking her into his underground lair. While neither really knows one another, nor even can begin to know all the secrets they’re hiding, they still cannot deny the attraction. They’re drawn to each other and it seems like fate is at play.

These two are now my favorite couple. I love the spunky nature of Valeriya and I really loved the protective nature Tarrant had hiding in him. If this is any indication of how the rest of the series will go, I can’t wait to watch the rest of the drakons pair off!

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: Once Bitten

Once Bitten Once Bitten by Heather McCorkle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was definitely a different spin on your classic werewolf paranormal romance. There’s still a boy, a girl, and some werewolves, but that’s about where the similarities end.

Sonya is an overworked med school student who makes one bad decision – taking home the bad boy from the bar she works at. This particular bad boy, however, is using her to try to get out of an arranged marriage in a pretty dramatic way. After a surprise bite, she’s suddenly dropped into a world where werewolves are real and she’s going to turn into one. She’s also been paired off with an instructor of sorts, Ty.

Ty is a trainer who has never trained a new initiate before. He’s still learning while at the same time trying to fight his undeniable attraction to his trainee. It’s forbidden, of course, but that doesn’t stop the budding relationship. Oh, and to make matters worse, there’s a whole bunch of warring packs trying to get to Sonya.

There are a bunch of twists and turns, but at the core of this is the romance. These two are a great couple to watch and I found that to be the driver for finishing this book. At the end of this book we are left with the start of yet another journey for Sonya. Not quite a cliffhanger, but we certainly don’t have an entirely standalone story here.

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Review: Fated

Fated Fated by Lauren Dane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Poor Megan. We’ve watched her grow and develop through the other books in the series. She’s been through a lot and getting a mate doesn’t really make things easier.

Megan’s sister’s anchor arrives and needs a ride from the airport. This seemingly simple task ends up jumpstarting a relationship that neither really expected. Shane is the most reluctant wolf we’ve met so far. He’s been traumatized and has a lot of baggage because of it. He lives as a human doctor and isn’t really open to accepting such a drastic change. That doesn’t, however, stop him from claiming his mate.

Megan is almost the complete opposite of Shane. She’s 100% wolf and completely committed to her pack. Shane does something that seemed impossible – make her doubt herself. It’s sad to watch them struggle through this, but I guess nothing Megan got could really be easy. These two are a good match and it was nice to visit with everyone else we’ve met before.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review: Cain's Identity

Cain's Identity Cain's Identity by Tina Folsom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book kind of completes the series focusing on the “older” vampires before fast forwarding 20 years. I didn’t actually realize this when I started reading, but it makes all the references to the future a lot more relevant.

Cain is a bodyguard with amnesia. He’s been doing his best, working with Scanguards to at least put his mysterious fighting skills to good use. That doesn’t stop his dreams from showing him a life he doesn’t remember. The dreams also star a woman who he feels extremely drawn to. The mystery begins to unravel when a vampire turns up, claiming to be the leader of his guard – the king’s guard. Who knew that Cain could be king somewhere?

Faye, also known as the mysterious woman in the dreams, has mourned the loss of her king and lover for almost a year now. They were all told that Cain was murdered, but she hasn’t given up hope. Cain’s brother, Abel (obviously), is clearly up to no good in this whole situation. While almost blackmailing Faye into accepting his proposal of marriage, he’s also not a very good leader. It takes over a year to allow for a new ruler to be crowned, so it’s a good thing Cain shows up. Between revenge plots, assassins, and not being able to trust anyone, Cain really does a pretty good job balancing his kingly life with re-courting Faye.

While not a very Scanguards-ish book, this one was still really good. It was almost like a road trip novel, where a few characters travel to another place for the length of the book. While Cain wouldn’t have been my pick for such a book, it really worked. I found myself rooting for this mystery man and hoping for a really great ending (and was rewarded with one, too).

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Review: Zone of Action: A Career Soldier Military Romance

Zone of Action: A Career Soldier Military Romance Zone of Action: A Career Soldier Military Romance by Tawdra Kandle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These books are sexy, sizzling, super fun bite-sized stories that will leave you grinning. In this book, we follow Jake on his journey from super bachelor to inadvertently committed man.

Jake is part of the crew that went out every weekend, hooking up with different willing women each night. This seemed to be the type of life that made him happy until one seemingly normal outing to a bar introduced him to Harper. Remember Harper? If you don’t, you’re missing out on another good story. Harper used to room with Sam (another soldier’s soon-to-be-wife from another book). Sure, they’re still BFFs, but they don’t really get to see each other much due to Harper’s demanding career as a chef. On her rare nights off, she likes to blow off steam in exactly the same way as Jake.

This is where the dirty time begins. Harper refreshingly and bluntly picks up Jake after he introduces himself and they quickly progress to the one-night-stand portion of the evening. So what’s different? They both know there could be more, but ignore it in favor of their seemingly simple lifestyles… until they re-meet at Sam’s party. From there, it was really fun to watch them dance around their growing feelings and altered attitudes. This HEA was particularly satisfying and I’m happy I got to read it.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review: The Unlikeable Demon Hunter

The Unlikeable Demon Hunter The Unlikeable Demon Hunter by Deborah Wilde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, this book blew me away! There was just the right balance of crass, offensive awesomeness and smutty, paranormal-filled action to make this a thoroughly addictive read. If this is only the introduction, I can’t wait to see where this series goes!

Nava is everything I love in a reluctant hero. She’s tough, independent, and appears to have zero inhibitions. Throw in some truly epic sarcasm and comebacks and I’m in love. Sure, she’s flawed in some truly amazing ways, but that only makes me love her even more. She’s been playing second to her twin, Ari, who was chosen at birth to be part of some super-secret demon hunting organization. It’s all boys, so it was obviously never meant to be her… until things get turned on their head. During her twin’s induction ceremony, it appears that the superpower ends up with her, along with a ring that cannot be removed (no matter how hard she tries).

Since Nava hasn’t been trained from birth like her brother has, she’s got a lot of catching up to do in a short amount of time. Having magic powers only gets you so far when you can’t even tell demon from human most of the time. Oh, and then there’s the sexy, broody guardian she’s assigned, who also happens to be a retired rock god. The sizzle only amps up the building tension in Nava’s life. There is also some big bad demon out to get her because she accidently/sort-of on purpose killed his kids. The stress is high, but Nava manages to keep it together… as much as can be expected.

As I said, this book is just filled with unapologetic rudeness, horrible behavior, even worse choices, oodles of emotional baggage, and one awesome chick. If you are easily offended, what are you doing reading a book with the word “unlikeable” in the title? Seriously, this book is not for someone who doesn’t enjoy a trip into some darker books. That being said, if you are even remotely interested in someone who can backtalk with the best of them while still dealing with her own emotional issues, Nava is definitely your gal.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Review: Destined for Shadows

Destined for Shadows Destined for Shadows by Susan Illene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I should start with the fact that I have not read any of the original series, of which this world is based upon. That being said, I don’t think it hindered by enjoyment of this book. The world was rich with characters who had unique stories and you could tell that there was a history there. It was nice to get thrown right in and meet the awesomeness that is Cori.

Cori is the best. No, really, she is an absolutely wonderful main character. She’s tough, independent, and has been through an awful lot. It would take a serious strength of character to survive as a regular old human surrounded by massively powerful paranormals. To further prove her strength, she is also determined to pull a reclusive half-angel out of his shell. Bartol was tortured for way too long and now he’s got some pretty big issues with relationships of any kind. He’s built some literal and metaphorical walls around himself to ensure he doesn’t hurt others or get hurt again himself. The only person who seems to ignore them is Cori. She’s using all her considerable talent to try to lure him out.

These two are just… awesome. Sure, Bartol is gruff and stubborn, but I think that’s exactly what Cori needed. He’s the challenge that she’s sure she can rise to and he’s slowly warming to having her in his life. Of course, something forces the issue to the surface when Cori’s supposedly dead ex-husband shows up threatening her life. Who would’ve thought that the good guys in this story had such dark and disastrous pasts? It was kind of refreshing to see some damaged “heroes.” Fair warning, this book does not end with things all neatly tied up. This is clearly meant to be the start of a series that joins this story with the next. I didn’t find it jarring or annoying, just something that was a little unexpected in this world of paranormal romance.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Review: Blood Vow

Blood Vow Blood Vow by J.R. Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not sure I completely knew what the next books in this series were going to be like, but I probably should have expected that we will be watching each member of the trainee group get paired off.

This book revolves around Axe, the tough but wounded warrior who is into kinky things in his spare time. We already had a little peek into his mental state during their original interview process, but here we get to hear all about his past. Because of his mother’s betrayal, he obviously has a hard time trusting women. That doesn’t really stop him from falling head-over-heels for Elise when he first sees her. Elise is part of an aristocratic family and is obviously not expected to date anyone like Axe. She is all about pushing her independence, though, especially in the wake of her cousin’s murder. Her degree is almost finished, and she wants to do more with her life than attend parties and plan social functions.

Elise’s father is about a second away from petitioning her seclusion after he finds her sneaking in and out of the house, but they compromise with a bodyguard… who is of course Axe. These two move super quickly! I was a little startled by how quickly their relationship progresses, especially since they really don’t know a lot about one another. This, obviously, leads to a lot of miscommunication and hurt feelings. There’s also a healthy dose of “jumping to conclusions” that seems prevalent in the series. Sure, we end up with a neat and tidy HEA, but what I found myself really interested in was where we go next. We’re going to move on to our favorite “pretty boy” and the toughest trainee, right? I can’t wait to see how that goes!

Gah! I almost forgot about the Rhage storyline! See? Here’s where the books get a little muddled. The side story (or main story? I never know) is around Rhage’s adoptive daughter and their search for her family. There is a lot of pain thrown in here that was sometimes hard to get through. While we get a nice little Christmas for everyone, it was very difficult for them to end up there. I hope we’re done with that drama for a while.

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Review: Buck Naked

Buck Naked Buck Naked by Evangeline Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book throws a newb into the deep water when she realizes that the changes she’s experiencing are completely not normal. While her life is in transition, it appears her grip on reality is as well.

Sadie is starting a new chapter in her life. She’s inherited a secret cabin from her mother and decided to start her own business. Seems pretty straightforward – take advantage of the small town friendliness and begin a new life. Well, it’s pretty clear, after her first few trips into town, that not everyone wants her around. After a lot of floundering, she discovers that she might just be turning into something unbelievable. Of all people, her grumpy neighbor ends up being the one to break the news to her. All of this, however, leads Sadie to some very difficult decisions. Does she trust her heart and dive in, or does she cut her losses and run?

Mathis is trying to keep his promise to his dead wife, but his new neighbor is making it very difficult. Her allure is undeniable and he can’t help wanting to protect her from all the insanity moving through her life. These two are a reluctant pairing but, wow, they seriously light up the pages with their sizzle! Even with their attraction, however, they still have to overcome some traditional rules, some old promises, and some pretty mean cats. We somehow end up with a HEA with lots of room for her twin’s story, too!

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Review: Bitter Thirst

Bitter Thirst Bitter Thirst by S.M. Reine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These books are awesome and make my head hurt at the same time. Having read through all the other books in this universe (and does it still count as the same universe if it has been remade?), there are oodles of connections and references thrown around liberally in Cesar’s story. That being said, I’m sure I’m missing a ton of them, but I still strain to figure out all the links and timeline parallels.

Cesar is still… himself. He’s gruff and chauvinistic, but somehow still loveable. Through no devious plan of his own, he ends up thrown into some gigantic political intrigue that involves the OPA becoming a big player in a bill for preternatural registry. We (or most of us) know how this ultimately ends, but it was still nice to see the inner workings at play. I was particularly entertained by Tate, which is something I might never have expected to say. We get lots of familiar faces and even more backstabbing than before. Cesar just keeps finding new and interesting ways to be screwed in almost all situations (and even in some fun ways, too).

The overall story? That’s a little complicated. While chasing down leads for a senator’s murder case, he ends up tasked with some “off the record” work that leads him back to the evil apple group. Remember them? He’s also forced to confront the lack of any clear good/bad in pretty much all these situations. Oh, and to make matters worse, his family is up in arms about his choices lately. Poor Cesar. I can’t wait to see how his story wraps up.

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Review: Silent Bite: A Scanguards Wedding

Silent Bite: A Scanguards Wedding Silent Bite: A Scanguards Wedding by Tina Folsom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This short but sweet little story was a good glimpse into the life of Oliver and Ursula as they approach their wedding day/night (blahblahblahvampires). We also get a little bit of mystery and badness thrown around for good measure.

Poor Oliver has to worry about his tempting wife, her family coming to visit, final preparations, Chinese superstitions, and then there’s a killer on the loose! Scanguards certainly knows how to throw one hell of a wedding! It was really nice to check in with all our favorite characters as they make their way between books. They’re all growing up so fast! Oh, and don’t worry, there’s still enough pages in this book for some smutty goodness.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review: Some Practical Magic

Some Practical Magic Some Practical Magic by Laurie Carroll-Kuna
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book had some magic, some sizzle, and a big bad all rolled into a quick read.

Cassie is a witch who really feels more at home with humans. She's become relatively famous with her "kitchen witch" column, which is released in book format now. To further avoid her mother's attempts to get her to marry another witch, she eagerly joins a touring group of authors to promote her book. It's there that she meets a man who makes her sit up and take notice. Mick is only touring to assist in an FBI investigation into someone who is using his horror novels as inspiration. He's determined to make his most recent book his last and retire from the business, but can't live with himself if he doesn't try to stop this crazed fan.

When these two meet, it's clear that they are both smitten. With their different worlds, however, they won't have an easy road ahead, and that's only if they can survive a crazed killer. It was fun to watch two slightly awkward people try to navigate their complicated relationship.

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Review: Shattered Pack

Shattered Pack Shattered Pack by Aileen Erin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a rollercoaster from start to finish! Who knew Meredith would get to enjoy such craziness when she should be "settling down" for her HEA?!

In the previous books, we learned that Donovan and Meredith are the most surprising and awesome match ever (OK, maybe I'm exaggerating), but in this book we get to see the nooks and crannies of their gritty and real relationship. Coming from a pack built around protection and defense, Meredith is certainly no slacker in the fighting arena, and it's a good thing because her mate's pack is ... a mess. There were signs and people trying to warn her away, but nothing can prepare her for the insanity of meeting her future pack.

Donovan, for all his wishes to protect his mate, is really at a loss with his pack. Sure, he thought he should spend more time there, but it's clear he didn't see the poison spreading until it was too late. There's monsters, crazy jealous tactics, murder, and suspicion around every corner. Even Meredith, who isn't afraid of a challenge, is put in some really tough spots. At the end of the day, however, all of the hard work and trials end up making them an even stronger couple. I loved watching Meredith prove herself (sometimes in some crazy ways) to the pack and her mate. I cannot get enough of this world and can't wait to see what happens next!

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Review: Age of Aquarius: A Save Tomorrow Apocalyptic Novel

Age of Aquarius: A Save Tomorrow Apocalyptic Novel Age of Aquarius: A Save Tomorrow Apocalyptic Novel by Tawdra Kandle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was everything I wanted in the wrap-up of so many sets of series. If you have known these characters as well as I have, you wanted to see the end of this war as much as they did. All of their individual stories have been leading to this, and it does not disappoint.

Now that we've got all the paranormals we can handle, the big showdown can finally happen. If you're starting here, you should really go back and read from the very beginning. You can watch all of the characters grow tremendously throughout the years. For example, I used to think Michael and Tas were my favorite. Then Jackie and Lucas. Now I'm firmly in the Nell/Rafe camp. Anyway, all of our favorite characters end up joining forces (some a little reluctantly) to fight against a future where evil triumphs.

I can't go into too much detail without giving some major spoilers, but this fight is not without its casualties. The author always knows exactly how to remind you that nobody is truly safe. While they each have to set their own agendas aside to save the future, working together is anything but easy. For starters, they have to fight the past at the same time! Talk about timey-wimey-wibly-wobly!

Oh, and don't worry if this is sounding a bit heavy in the action. There is plenty of time spent with each couple, catching up, finding new stories, and ultimately giving the reader some wonderful nostalgic moments. Overall, everything gets nicely wrapped up, complete with an epilogue that had me smiling from ear-to-ear. And although I spent a bunch of time mooning over returning characters, the newbies hold their own in the story as well. I'm a sucker for a tough chick.

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