Sunday, September 30, 2018

Review: Surviving and Thriving with an Invisible Chronic Illness: How to Stay Sane and Live One Step Ahead of Your Symptoms

Surviving and Thriving with an Invisible Chronic Illness: How to Stay Sane and Live One Step Ahead of Your Symptoms Surviving and Thriving with an Invisible Chronic Illness: How to Stay Sane and Live One Step Ahead of Your Symptoms by Ilana Jacqueline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have never been one to read anything labeled self help and typically stick to contemporary paranormal romance with few exceptions. After a particularly bad instance of freaking out while trying to self-inject, I decided to look into possibilities for audiobooks that might boost my "endurance" during this RA "race."

Again, I admit to being very hesitant. I've had experiences with support groups online where it just turned into victim blaming - "You need to avoid eating X and you will cure yourself!" or "You need to take Jesus into your heart in order to heal yourself" - so I tried to screen my first self help book pretty carefully. I didn't want to read about "magical cures" or some sort of anti-science garbage, and this book totally fit the bill. It had enough positive messages, scientific references, and general ideology to have me focusing on the message (sometimes even taking notes!).

The chronic illness she talks about is general enough that people of a wide variety of ailments can relate to her story and her recommendations. The recommendations even range from youth into adulthood. I don't think anything contained in here is really shocking or radical, but I was definitely in a bit of a rut and this may have helped me at least have some new brainstorming ideas to discuss with my doctor. I'd recommend this as a quick read (only 5 or so hours in audiobook) for anyone looking for a different perspective on their illness.

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Review: Otherworld Secrets

Otherworld Secrets Otherworld Secrets by Kelley Armstrong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this anthology because coming back to this world is warm and comforting. I love the characters and feel familiar with them. Even though I'm not typically one for short stories, this seemed like a nice collection.

The mix of new/old is fairly heavy on the old side, but old enough that I didn't really remember most of them. There's all the usual cast and characters from the werewolves to the witches and the necromancers. We even get a vampire story thrown in. If you are an insane completionist like I am (must... read... all... in... series) then you'll obviously be picking this one and the next in this trilogy up either way. It was fun to go back into this universe and most series readers will appreciate it.

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Review: Race of Thieves

Race of Thieves Race of Thieves by S.M. Reine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a die hard Reine fan and have read all the previous books in this world/universe/timeline/etc. That being said, I think you can pretty much dive into this world wherever as it resets and changes dynamics continually. Yes, there are references or names I caught and had a little smile or chuckle over, but it's 100% not necessary for bizarre enjoyment of this book.

This book is definitely the start of a whole new series. The feel, the amount of smut, the witty banter all combines to a bit of a new take on this post-genesis world. Shatter Cage is a shifter with delusions of being a soon-to-be hero. He's hiding his squirrel shifter heritage behind the mask of a phoenix and he's living like a millionaire in a rundown movie theater. His partner, Vex, was a highlight for me, and helped me crawl through the frustrating parts of Shatter's story. His small-time stealing ends up showing some real promise at attracting a dream job, but he isn't the only "applicant."

Brigid is a fellow thief who shared a sordid past with Shatter, complete with whips and chains. The rivalry between them is constantly escalating and it was 100% enjoyment to watch. This book read like a comedy, an action heist flick, and a paranormal romance gone awry. I'm not even sure I can sum up the actual plot, but the characters were so unique and interesting that the pages flew by. If you have any interest in any of the above genres, then this is definitely worth a read. Fair warning - there are some yucky parts, some dark parts, and some smutty parts thrown in here. If any of those things aren't for you, you've been fairly warned!

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Review: Kiss of the Fallen: A Sensual Urban Fantasy

Kiss of the Fallen: A Sensual Urban Fantasy Kiss of the Fallen: A Sensual Urban Fantasy by Kharma Kelley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are three secret races, vampires, werewolves, and witches, all vying for dominance in this world. At the top of all of these races is a sort of demon cop-type, called a Black Blood Slayer. Tristan is the vampire commander who is one job away from retirement. He’s tasked with keeping the companion of one of his rulers. She’s been making some headway in peace talks between the races, but with that comes death threats from those that like the status quo. Tristan selects some of the strongest fighters and is determined to survive this one last gig. It is unfortunate that he is one of the only survivors. This incident starts filling Tristan’s mind with suspicions and doubt surrounding his leaders and their ulterior motives.

Zoe is not your typical Black Blood Slayer. Instead of being a mindless killer, she actually cares about each of the races and the balance between them. Through a mysterious series of events, she ends up chained to Tristan’s bed after his horrible night of betrayal. They obviously meet one another with a great deal of skepticism, but it seems like they are on the same team. Strange things are afoot in the vampire leadership. Of course, there is attraction, smutty goodness, and twists and turns, but we ultimately end up with a satisfying ending for everyone (except the poor sacrificial lamb at the beginning).

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Review: The Boss

The Boss The Boss by Abigail Owen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an excellent start to what will hopefully be a series with plenty of books! Firefighters, dragons, tough chicks, and some smutty goodness round out this fun and engaging read.

Finn is the leader of a group of elite dragon shifters, stationed and tasked with monitoring for rogue dragon fire and helping hide their race from humans. He has had a tough life, having thought he found his mate only to result in her death. Sure, he could blame the system for identifying mates (which is archaic and not always right) but instead he blames himself, swearing off women and especially any possible mates. Enter Delaney – a tough woman who has been on the run from a stalker ex who definitely has some more supernatural elements up his sleeve. She is also sort-of running from the inexplicable fires that seem to follow her during black-outs. After Finn’s people come in to fight a fire that has erupted near her, she finds herself drawn into their strangely comforting world of the unbelievable.

Obviously they immediately pin her as a possible dragon mate but things just don’t seem to add up. Either way, Finn and Delaney are drawn to one another. While there is some reluctance to give in, they ultimately make a really great team. All of the rest of the guys in the “crew” deserve a shout out, too, because I cannot wait until they all get their turn with mates. The writing was great and the world building had me begging for even more time there. This was a surprising and wonderful book that restored my faith in paranormal romance.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: What Does This Button Do?: An Autobiography

What Does This Button Do?: An Autobiography What Does This Button Do?: An Autobiography by Bruce Dickinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this for much the reason probably everyone reads this book - I really enjoy Iron Maiden. Admittedly, I was even really aware of Iron Maiden until my husband introduced me to the band. Since then, I've gone to concerts, watched Flight 666, and suddenly found myself a big Iron Maiden fan. Bruce Dickinson has been a mystery to me, what with his interesting collection of hobbies and interests on top of being an insane heavy metal lead singer. I was happy to share this audiobook with my husband and have yet even more Iron Maiden discussions.

So, full disclaimer - I listened to this rather than regular reading it and I think that really helped. It is read by the man himself, and he is a great storyteller. You get a lot of history on his time at school, how he learned and developed his fencing skills, and (of course) how he ended up a pilot in varying degrees of certification. I did notice the lack of mention of any relationships and kids along the way (I'll have to go check the wikipedia page), but he discusses that in the afterward.

The life he has had (and he's not done yet) is amazing. I loved the stories, the history, and the passion he tells it all with. As my typical type of book is paranormal romance, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to have myself sucked into this autobiography. I'd even say that I would recommend it to non-Iron Maiden fans, if only for the interesting story that is included here.

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Review: Companion Pieces: Stories from the Old World and Beyond

Companion Pieces: Stories from the Old World and Beyond Companion Pieces: Stories from the Old World and Beyond by Melissa F. Olson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This set of short stories was a really nice mesh of stories I may not have even known I wanted. I'm familiar with this Old World (and you should be, too, if you're reading this one), but this gave some "behind the scenes" looks at some stories that either we saw from another side or beyond where the story ended.

While I've already read "Malediction" and "Sell-By Date" but the rest were so... fun. Even a story that I really thought I wouldn't enjoy - Scarlett giving birth - was silly and fun enough that I completely enjoyed it. If you are looking for a unique blend of stories that helps round out the sets of series, this is definitely worth it. You even get some bonus material at the end, if you're interested in other works by the author.

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Review: Bloodsick

Bloodsick Bloodsick by Melissa F. Olson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was somewhere between a short story and a compilation of chapters. If you've read other books in this universe, this is definitely a much read. I swung back around to this short story when I was reading another anthology. I have always been interested in Will and Sashi and this gives you their full history.

I would recommend reading this at some point during your experience in the Old World, but I'm not exactly sure where it would fit best. Maybe after we meet Sashi? It would certainly help you feel a little more sympathetic for their situation. I both loved and hated that I knew where they would end up, but it was still totally worth the read.

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Review: Magic Triumphs

Magic Triumphs Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admittedly was dragging my feet at reading this one. I was sad to say goodbye to these characters, even if I get to see more in the Hugh universe (Hughniverse?). I love Kate for so many reasons and this book delivered.

As if Kate's life wasn't threatened enough by her own father, she has even more problems to deal with (what else is new?). Kate and Curran are now parents, and as much as I usually hate the new kid storyline, I really loved it here. Their kid is exactly what I'd expect from them - already getting into trouble and breaking through boundaries. They are both hiding things (as usual) but still in their awesome relationship. So what's the big bad? Well, here's a hint - it involves fire and lots of death. Destroying their enemy means they have to call in all their favors and create some sort of mega-alliance. It's a nice ending to the series, getting to see all the familiar faces and watching them work with (or fight) one another.

There are some twist and turns, some surprises, and some secrets around how the two sets of books work together, but all in all, exactly the type of ending this series deserves. Things are relatively wrapped up, at least for Kate, and I guess we get more books from yet another narrator? That remains to be seen. There were some characters I wish we had spent more time with, but I am still hoping we get to circle back around at some point. I was particularly bummed about a few off-screen death scenes that seemed like cheating the reader a bit, but what do I know about writing big battle scenes? I'm happy with where the pieces fell, not too sad about the body count, and looking forward to more from this author in the future (with this set of characters, probably).

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Review: Hell in a Head Gasket

Hell in a Head Gasket Hell in a Head Gasket by G.A. Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was filled with alternate dimension demons, motorcycles, and bounty hunting. While this is the first book of this series, it read almost like a sequel.

This story just throws you right into the deep end. I ended the book with way more understanding of the universe than when I started, but found myself getting a little frustrated by my lack of knowledge along the way. We join Sere, who has a magical affinity for snakes, kicking butt, and healing herself from large injuries. She is this world’s version of a demon (of sorts) and is tied to her “real” – another identical body that has her own life. If that wasn’t complicated enough, she’s also the daughter of “the devil.” Or something. I’m still not 100% on a lot of things in there.

The larger story (aside from grasping at details about this unique universe setup) is about a “demon” who has escaped from the same place Sere is from. It’s a little unknown how he gets out, or what his real end game is, but Sere has appointed herself as the hunter for this prey. The hunt involves a stalker-ish bartender with a motorcycle, a gigantic hell gator, disguises, gruesome murders, New Orleans, and an accountant. Along the way, like I said, you get dribs and drabs of information about how this world is set up and exactly how it came to be, but I am left wanting so much more! Sere eventually grew on me, as most gritty tough chicks do, so I kind of want to know what happens next in her story.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Review: Hot and Badgered

Hot and Badgered Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Holy crap there were a lot of characters and storylines jammed into this book! I guess I wrongly assumed I could start at book 1 of a new series and not be lost but, wow, I was totally lost and overwhelmed from the start.

We dive into this world filled with *so many characters* that there must be a bunch of books before this that I have not read. Each character is totally developed with a personality, backstory, and history with all these characters that I know I’m missing something. About halfway through, I think I started to get the hang of the craziness (on top of crazy behavior) and was able to focus more on the main story. That being said, the main story is bananas!

Charlie is the eldest daughter of a jerky womanizer. She’s got two other insane (in different ways) sisters that each have their own buckets of problems. They’ve got a super tight bond and some shared honey badger DNA, but are perpetually on the run from something or other, usually tied with their deadbeat (and largely criminal) father. A group of trained assassins end up chasing Charlie into a bear shifter named Berg. Not much shocks him, but when Charlie ends up naked, disarming guys with guns, it gets him to raise an eyebrow. When he ends up running into her a second time at a random apartment, it must be fate.

These two are adorable in their love of family, ability to battle almost anything, and awkward nervousness about their romance. While their romantic storyline was a highlight, it got a little bogged down in so much other story and character. I guess I was expecting something a little lighter, but went into this world blind, based on an amazon recommendation.

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Review: Claiming His Lioness

Claiming His Lioness Claiming His Lioness by Kerry Adrienne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have only read one previous book in this series, but was able to jump in here to the drama that these shifters are in now without any issues. This book had shapeshifters, evil human plots, environmental groups, and mystical seers galore!

Mason and Lara have been sniping at each other since Mason took over leadership (reluctantly) from his recently deceased father. He rules with his twin, which is probably his saving grace. Lara, the pride’s enforcer, is constantly bucking at the rules Mason puts on her. His chauvinistic attitudes only make her job harder. Determined to prove herself deserving of her position, she stumbles upon a plot to run an oil pipeline directly through their Deep Creek sanctuary. The ramifications could be catastrophic, so the entire pack (and all the shapeshifter clans) must work together to get them out.

There were a few elements of this story that overlapped. First, there’s the stubborn fighting/romance between Mason and Lara. These two are obviously destined to be together, but they are fighting tooth and nail. The fated mate aspect is just as sudden and abrupt as usual, but a nice relief from the fighting. Second, there is the evil human corporation that is lurking in the background. When Lara is captured by these hunters, there is a surprise shifter in the mix with maybe even more secrets than Lara herself. Lastly, we get to see the mystical inner workings of the magical cave. That all ends up rolling together to bring some unity to the packs. While this book was a little light on romance, it was nice to see where all the characters are in their lives and get a taste for all the different packs (even if I am just an evil human).

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Review: 12 Nights of Christmas

12 Nights of Christmas 12 Nights of Christmas by Rebecca Hunter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read only the Tawdra Kandle story in this collection (December 27: The Meant to Be Girl), so can only review that portion of the collection.

I’m an avid Tawdra Kandle fan and have devoured all of these small town stories. Even without that background, you could surely read this short and enjoy it just as much. The characters in it are genuine, real, and filled with love. This story shows the inner workings of the budding relationship fans have seen in the background. Ashley is a hard working business owner who falls in love with her salon’s customer, Zane. They skirt the issues and seem to keep missing each other, but this story gives them the perfect (and maybe magical?) way to take the next step. Who wouldn’t love a story about romance, determination, and fruitcake?

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Review: Pecan Pies and Dead Guys

Pecan Pies and Dead Guys Pecan Pies and Dead Guys by Angie Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love these adorable southern mysteries! If you haven’t yet met Verity, you can probably join at any point in the series, but to watch her grow along the way is part of the charm of the series.

Verity is still very early on in her ghost hunting career, but in order for that to work, she’s got to have access to her ghostly partner – Frankie. Sounds like an OK plan since he can’t actually leave her property without his urn, but their new ghostly companion, a deceased inspector, has other ideas. After their meeting on the train in the previous book, they are on the hook to solve a murder for him in exchange for Frankie not getting locked up (and Verity’s house becoming a prison of sorts). The murder mystery also happens to have occurred at a local estate that Verity can pull some strings to get access too.

As if Verity’s life isn’t crazy enough, Beau is also newly hooked up with a girlfriend who runs a food truck. Beau’s mother is losing her mind over him possibly quitting the law firm and has (for some reason) decided it is Verity’s fault. So much stress! Oh, and someone is trying to kill her, again. Seems like Verity can’t just catch a break and just have a relaxing, somewhat normal, couple of weeks. At least at the end of this book we are left with some real positives out of this insane outing for Verity and company. I simply devour these books at a rapid pace every time they come out! I’m torn between wanting Frankie to move on and never wanting this series to end. And I want pie.

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Review: Transmonstrified

Transmonstrified Transmonstrified by R.L. Naquin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book just so I could finally say I’d finished the entire Monster Haven series.

I had already read a few of these stories and have some experience in the Unamused Muse world, too, but these were still fun, quick stories to read. The two new stories in the Monster Haven world were about Kam and Riley. The Kam story was adorable and, having read one of the spin-off books, I wish her own series had the same light heartedness to it. She solves a sort of mystery and does her job all in one night’s work.

Riley’s story shows his start in the reaper business and actually allowed me to appreciate Art in time for the final book. I think Art is largely misunderstood as a character. Riley I still love, but since he spends the majority of the books telling Zoey that she’s trying to get herself killed, it was nice to just see Riley on his own for once.

If you (like me) are obsessed with finishing all the books and short stories in a series, reading this one will help you feel complete. If you don’t feel the need to do that, you can absolutely skip over the shorts without missing anything in the main storyline. I think they were worth the read, especially if you haven’t read the other, previously published Monster Haven shorts in this collection.

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Review: Phoenix in My Fortune

Phoenix in My Fortune Phoenix in My Fortune by R.L. Naquin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Update: As this now came at the conclusion of my re-read it was extra sad to say goodbye to this crew. Seeing the people I've come to adore find their ending (good and bad) made it hard to get through this one. Still a fun and quirky series, even at the re-read.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wow - what a wonderful end to a completely entertaining series. There are HEAs for everyone and all the loose ends are neatly tied up.

I fell in love with Zoey and her bunch of misfits from the first time I met them. They are all so unique and wonderfully witty that I have often found myself laughing and smiling along with them. If you haven't had a chance to check out this series, you should go back to truly appreciate this great read. We left these characters dealing with some loss, but worried about this "last hidden." They had a little reprieve, but things are changing rapidly.

Zoey and her mother are the last protectors around and they are tasked with something impossible - stop the end of the world as they know it. With little support from a system that is rebuilding, Zoey is the leader of an army of hidden that she has accumulated along the way. Their bond is unbreakable and they all support her as she marches against the end of an era. This last hidden has shown up too early, broken all the rules and appears just as confused as they are. The battle might not be as bloody as you'd expect, but there are some bittersweet losses. What would an ending be without some tears? The very end, though, is very sweet. I'm sad to see these characters go, but happy with the way it was done. Thanks for the wonderful series!

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