Friday, November 29, 2019

Review: The Ghost of Christmas Past

The Ghost of Christmas Past The Ghost of Christmas Past by Angie Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was another good quick read that takes place in the Southern Ghost Hunter world. For the adventurous among us, this may be able to be read as a standalone, but we've got a lot of the world built at this point, so it would be best to start at least 1 book previous.

We join Verity on Christmas Eve. She's still reeling from the wild and crazy ride her last ghost job took her on, some secret revelations, and, of course, some boyfriend mother drama. I'm not saying there shouldn't be drama, because that's pretty much a given when you've traded one son for the other, but this takes it to another level. Verity's southern sensibilities are truly tested by a strain on family and finances at the hand of Virginia.

After some very necessary but jarring words are exchanged, Verity ends up on her own Christmas eve, until the ghosts have their way. There's ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. Oh, and wild animals - because nothing about Verity is ever normal. Through the magic of mostly ignoring family drama (in the true spirit of Christmas), Verity is able to pull out a successful Christmas gathering.

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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Review: Peace, Blood, and Understanding

Peace, Blood, and Understanding Peace, Blood, and Understanding by Molly Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK, if you are this far into the series, you should know what to expect. There's going to be sarcastic, witty dialogue, quirky and wonderful characters, and some form of mystery that needs to get solved. This story fits the bill, and goes back to the combination I'm not really fond of: annoying jerk + brand new character. I guess at some point we run out of characters to pull from, but I was slightly less invested in this story than the others, especially since Erik wasn't my favorite.

Meadow is a relatively new joiner to Half-Moon Hollow. She is on probation due to some badness and anger issues right after her rather traumatic turn. She's been taken on by Jane, because she's awesome and still co-runs the council here with Dick. As part of her new start, she's focusing on being a pacifist, working soothing teas that leverages her vampire skill, and avoiding her parents. She went so far as to change her name to avoid discovery from the evil parents that ended up getting her turned. All these stories have parent issues, which are very relatable.

All seems to be going well until an auditor for the council shows up in the form of a big jerk named Erik. I get it, we're supposed to see him change and get redeemed but... I don't think we really ever get there. While there is attraction and romance, I wasn't really sold on his redemption story. Meadow ends up doing all the heavy lifting in the relationship, her personal life, and solving the mystery of incidents happening at the council building (and she's not even mentioned in the book blurb!). Overall, this still is my happy place, where we get to visit with our familiar friends and characters, but it left me feeling a little ... sad? Meadow grows but I almost wish she ended up alone, single, and awesome, rather than strapped to this jerk.

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Review: Wicked Night

Wicked Night Wicked Night by Evi Rhodes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is the start of what is clearly going to be a much larger series. The world that gets created here is unique and compelling, filled with vampires, demons, and other mythical creatures.

Gwen is the central character in this universe. She's had a bit of a shock when her emotionally distant parents inform her that she's actually the product of her mother's affair with the leader of the vampires. As a half-breed, she will soon go through a change, either killing her or making her into a vampire herself. She has also been assigned a mentor, in the form of Wicked (yes, that's his name, they all have new names after transition and they are all similar to that). Their first meeting doesn't really go well, and while they are both attracted to one another, that relationship is frowned upon so Wicked decides to push her away rather harshly.

Wicked is next in line to take over as leader. As such, he's got oodles of pressure on him, including pairing up with a good queen. While Gwen would fit in quite nicely, being the daughter of their current leader, he is way too stubborn to admit it. It takes 100% of the other people in the house falling in love with her (which was a bit... odd) to make him get jealous enough to claim her. There is a lot of build up in their relationship, but things, of course, can't go smoothly for main characters. There's a lot of evil machinations that try to get in there way, and still may succeed in future books.

We spend a lot of time learning about the history of their race, how training works, how much all the other warriors are falling in love with Gwen, and also band practice (?). This book switches POVs a lot, giving us a look inside just about everyone's head, which was a little confusing at first. It took a large part of the book before I got used to these switches and started to get sucked in. The ending resolves the more romantic issues, but leaves me with so many questions! When will we meet her dad? What is happening with Gwen? What will happen with Wicked's second in command? What about the big bads? What about the demons? We almost learned too much in this first installment and I don't even know where to begin hoping for more in the second.

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Review: Chosen Mate

Chosen Mate Chosen Mate by Katie Reus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series is fantastic and so super quick to read! You can jump in and out of the series as needed, because it's pretty much standalone for each book. While the larger group of characters and world building does grow with each book, I invite you to start wherever you want in the series - as long as you start it!

This book was about Leslie and Malcolm. Leslie has a bit of a darker past, in that she joined the pack after being rescued from an abusive mating. She and her mate had an idyllic courtship, but things went quickly downhill after they became mated. The control and dominance, coupled with threats to her mother and her unborn child, kept her in place for way too long. Now, free of that influence and starting to become her own person, she finds herself hopelessly attracted to Malcolm, the pack alpha.

Malcolm is pretty much the perfect alpha. He's protective, almost to a fault. He doesn't want to have Leslie feel like she has to accept his advances, but he's also not sure how long he can hold off claiming her. Lucky for them both, the pack is pushing them together, whether they like it or not. It definitely helps matters that Leslie's son adores Malcolm. If you're wondering where the tension comes in - this story does have a bad guy. There's a wolf invading their pack lands, but the pack is rallying to get to the bottom of the mystery. Throw in some action, some sexy times, and a much deserved HEA and you've got a wonderful and satisfying read.

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Review: The Cuffing Season

The Cuffing Season The Cuffing Season by Tawdra Kandle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a short, cute, holiday themed romance that, while not YA, is younger than me, so I'll call it youngER adult romance. It can definitely be read as a standalone, even though it takes place in a larger world that's already been built.

Harry is a single guy, still living with his parents, who has yet to find a job in his chosen career field. He's managed to find a solid support system, though, in the form of his 2 close friends. They encourage him to follow his dream and, through some fortuitous timing, he ends up taking over a recurring column that his old mentor has to take a break from writing. His content, however, will revolve around "the cuffing season."

I had no clue what that was (or what a "yee" was, either), but it's explained as essentially the time before the holidays where you want to establish a relationship so you're not alone for them. Harry goes on a journey to find the "yees" and go on dates, but it ends up much as you'd expect. All the while, he continues telling his story to his supportive friends and family, all while missing the obvious.

Was it obvious from the start where we were going with this? Yes. Did I still enjoy the journey? Also yes. Sure, Harry isn't exactly the most likeable guy and I'm still not sure I think he deserves this HEA after all the mucking up he does along the way, but it's the holidays, so people get the benefit of the doubt here. Some highlights were more realistic journeys of his friends and their struggles along the way. Preston in particular was a gem of a side character and balanced Harry's relentless pursuit of "yees" nicely.

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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Review: The Lion, The Leopard and The Wolf

The Lion, The Leopard and The Wolf The Lion, The Leopard and The Wolf by Eliza March
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is off the charts sizzling hot (sometimes literally) and had just enough weird quirkiness to keep me completely interested in the story, too!

Mackenzie is coming out of a relationship where her self-esteem took a hit. In an effort to get her friend to loosen up and try new things, she gets gifted a trip to a "no rules" free love type resort on a ski slope. She's also got baggage around skiing and finds herself getting clumsier by the second due to some weird dizziness, but she packs up a suitcase and heads out. Upon arrival, though, she ends up hurting herself. The owners, a pair of partners (Adam and Trent) offer to take care of her in all the sexiest ways.

There are lots of sexy times, lots of hints at a shared relationship, and then *bam* shifters are involved. And then a mythical being. And... I'm stunned but yet not hating any of this. If you want a super sexy read that will light your kindle on fire - check this one out. It's weird, unique, and guaranteed to be an unexpected ride.

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Review: The Christmas Witch

The Christmas Witch The Christmas Witch by Carla Caruso
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has a sprinkle of Christmas magic in with some plant witchery to make for an interesting twist on your typical paranormal romance.

Mina is a plant witch and comes from a line of very quirky and strange witches. They blend with their neighbors as much as some very interesting folks could, but they are forever making mistakes and having to cover their powers. A group of evil witches in town, however, are blending in some bad and very wrong ways. Mina, as ever the peacekeeper, is working at a local antique store, planning bridal activities for her sister's upcoming wedding, and trying to hide her attraction to her new temporary boss, Jadon.

This story had some hints of real romance, but was more of a mystery than anything else. Some bad things are happening in Mina's town, and she has somehow become the only person who can stop them. She's got to do this, of course, while still being in her sister's non-magical wedding, keeping her job, and balancing good and evil. No big deal, right? Ultimately, we get a Christmas miracle that saves the town and he relationship.

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Review: An Impish Christmas

An Impish Christmas An Impish Christmas by Angel Leya
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Woops! I joined this series already REALLY in progress. We're talking a lot of stories, world building, and character development! It says this can be read standalone, but I'm sure you would appreciate a lot of what happens more if you knew these characters better.

Kenzie is a selkie shifter who is a bit of an outcast at school. She has a core group of friends and a boyfriend, but appears to feel very alone, especially when nobody wants to join in with her christmas celebration and decorating. One random person who appears suspiciously interested in helping her is a mer-shifter, who also happens to hang around her biggest bullies. Trevor, said mer-person, obviously shows interest in Kenzie, and I was a little torn about rooting for him when she was apparently mated to Wes (previously mentioned boyfriend).

Things go from bad to worse when Kenzie accidentally casts a "helper" spell that causes someone to be compelled to make all sorts of mischief. There's a lot of boyfriend drama, friend drama, misunderstandings, and christmas related destructions. All in all, we find our way to a happy ending, but jeez it takes a lot to get there.

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Review: Diamond Fire

Diamond Fire Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK, I get why people were reviewing book#4 the way they did. Having started at book 4, with Catalina as the narrator, I didn't realize the jarring difference between the two voices of Nevada and her sister. Now that I've gone back to the start, I can understand some of the angst. That being said, if you're looking for the pivot point -this is it.

This short story somehow manages to help me accept Catalina as a grown up, even though she is portrayed as a very young girl in the first trilogy set in this world. Here, we get to start with the familiar Nevada, beginning her new journey into marriage and being the head of the house. Seeing her from the outside is definitely weird, but you easily fall into step with Catalina as she takes on the lead investigator role here.

The big story is around Nevada's wedding. Catalina becomes the head wedding planner somehow and also gets dragged into a mystery. A stolen wedding tiara is missing and obviously one of the jerks in Rogan's family is a suspect (which leaves lots of suspects). There's the usual misdirection, drama, attempted murder, and everything we've come to expect in this world. There is also some surprise reveals at the end. Oh, and we even get to see what happens to a familiar face, and start to maybe hate certain people slightly less. Overall, this is a necessary read before you begin book 4 (oops for me!).

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Review: Wildfire

Wildfire Wildfire by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

God, I love these books. They come in three's, so I knew that this would be the end of the Nevada/Rogan storyline, but it was still bittersweet. I will miss being with these two!

This book picks up immediately after the previous one. There has been a slow build towards Nevada forming a house and accepting her feelings for Rogan. At the end of the previous book (did I mention you should start from the beginning at this point?), we saw what could be their happily ever after, if her evil grandmother (not the awesome one) didn't spoil her fun. She's tasked with coming back to inform her family that they need to move forward with house formation to protect themselves, only to discover Rogan's ex-fiance in her kitchen. Obviously, a case forms (as one always does for Nevada) and she is tasked with helping Rhynda get her supposedly kidnapped husband back.

As usual, things are not straightforward. There's a lot that comes out during the investigation, lots of relationship-related misunderstandings, but ultimately we resolve almost everything. If you're worried about the transition between this trilogy and the next - have no fear! The resolution of one of the "big bads" happens in the short story immediately following, and we get a transition between narrator voices, too.

So, to sum up this trilogy, I would definitely recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in paranormal romance. It was well written and totally addictive! While there were your typical misunderstandings and false starts, it always delivered. The mysteries were also really interesting and never easily solved. This series was so good - and I'm glad I went back to start it from the beginning.

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Saturday, November 9, 2019

Review: Immortal Born

Immortal Born Immortal Born by Lynsay Sands
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK, let me start off by saying that at book #30, you know what you're getting. I'm sure these could each be read as standalone novels, but I applaud the author for trying to loop in longer running storylines for the people who have traveled through all the stories.

This book starts with Allie, a bit of a recluse with a muddled history. She befriends a recovering rogue vampire with a baby and promises to take care of little Liam if anything happens to his mom. Of course, something happens and she begins her life on the run from the rogues who want to take him. Enter Magnus, who, due to magical matchmaking, has been pushed to meet Allie, who is hospitalized for a failed act of theft from the blood bank (long story).

There's a lot of running and trust issues, but these two do end up making it work. I'm not usually one for stories with kids, but this was pretty heartwarming. It was also nice to catch up with some familiar characters as they have grown older. I hope they all get their own stories one day in the near future. As I said, at this point you know what to expect, but this had the added benefit of giving some conclusion to a familiar big bad story.

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Review: Blood, Smoke and Mirrors

Blood, Smoke and Mirrors Blood, Smoke and Mirrors by Robyn Bachar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book ranks somewhere around 3.5 stars for me. As a first book, I'm curious enough to read on, and am especially happy that the next book is not in Cat's head.

We join Cat, magical outcast, waitress, and generally bad witch. She's carved out her own unique spot in the world and surrounded herself with people who will tolerate a "bad witch." One of her closest friends (apparently, we join the show already in progress) is the current liaison between the midwest and the fae. This is, I guess, some sort of high ranking spot, but when we find out that this person has been murdered, Cat is one of very few people who can for some reason take her place. OK.

There's more drama rolled into this, though, because her ex, who happens to be the magic police (there's a better name), is the one to inform her of her friend's death and her need to fill this spot. Oh, and I forgot to mention that he's the reason she's got the "bad witch" designation. Well, stress, the trials, hearing she's lost her other best friend, and all sorts of fae drama ends up pushing her back into his arms (have you no self respect, Cat?!?). Just when I was starting to sway on to team Lex (the ex) and Cat, there's more twists.

One of these twists puts Cat agreeing to stay with a big bad vampire, attending fancy dinner with him, and ultimately falling under his spell. There's soul mates, vampire magic, fae trials, and weddings thrown all in to what was a seemingly quick ending. I have zero understanding of where we could go from here, but apparently there are more books! Sign me up!

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Review: Fever

Fever Fever by Donna Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Admittedly, I've jumped in and out of this world and its related series a bit, so I might not have as much riding on this big showdown as the rest of the readers. But it was still so satisfying! I don't think you should necessarily start here (is that hypocritical?), but boy is it good to get here!

This story is not entirely centered on Rhi's big showdown, but that's what this is all leading up to. The previous few books have been building to a big battle, but have centered around a mated pair (or unmated, or whatever). This book is about Bernadette and Kelton. Kelton, as all good Dragon Kings, does not want a mate. Sigh. Bernadette has had some unfortunate magical nudges to try "outing" the Dragon Kings. Throw them both into the same room and the sparks fly!

Bernadette was a nice surprise in the form of a tough heroine who ends up not needing rescuing as much as most, even though she's stomping around in a world she doesn't quite understand. Kelton was frustratingly blind to his situation until too late. Their love story might still be early on, but it was still good and sizzling.

Now, on to the larger investment - Rhi! Sure, we get some progress from other stories and characters, but we all want to see the battle that will be between Rhi and her previous queen. The Others have lurked in the shadows for a while but this book gives us more information than before, and should, hopefully, send us into a endgame scenario (right?). We get the battle, don't worry, but I feel a little... unsettled after that. You'll see what I mean. All in all, though, it was satisfying.

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Review: Listening skills and Emotional Intelligence Box set

Listening skills and Emotional Intelligence Box set Listening skills and Emotional Intelligence Box set by Michele Gilbert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I grabbed this audiobook box set as a quick addition to my leadership training for work. Overall, if you're looking for a refresher or introductory set to both topics, this would work for you. As someone who is familiar with both, it worked as a refresher but not much else. Also, a little off-putting was a hard sell on signing up for the mailing list for free books at the end of each section. Prepare to skip a bunch, so the total amount of time to listen is significantly less than it looks like.

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