Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Review: Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck

Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck by Molly Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not sure what the right order to reading these books is, but I went back here after reading book #1 (which works, I think, since now I know everybody).

This book is set before Book#1, timeline-wise, so we get to go back in time to watch the epic southern romance that is Marianne and Carl. We join Marianne while she is still in law school mode, coming back home at the insistence of her mother for a long summer break. She dumped Carl before heading off to school, so there is awkwardness for miles when Carl ends up giving her a ride to town after her accident.

Don't worry, we don't spend too much time watching him date other women or having oodles of misunderstandings, but we still have to go through some stuff to get our HEA. Don't expect big, dirty scenes of sexiness and car repair, either. This one is romance only, no naughty bits. It was nice to see their back story, pre-kids and general life stuff. Onwards to the next book!

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Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy

Sweet Tea and Sympathy Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have found an author that I will gladly read anything from. This, combined with the excellent audiobook narrator, means I am rapidly working my way through this collection (quicker than I can review).

This is the "first" (not counting a short prequel) book in the "Southern Eclectic" series. Set in the small town of Lake Sackett, Georgia, we get to meet a nice, random assortment of characters. The main character, Margot, has become recently unemployed as a fancy party planner thanks to a "flamingo incident." This, due to the meme-able nature of the incident, has made her essentially unemployable in her typical social circles. Enter her long lost/estranged family, offering her a job at McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. Not her first choice, but it's pretty much her only choice at this point.

She really quickly ends up being a great experience for Margot, no matter how much she fights it. New bonds are formed, life lessons are learned, and she even finds a hottie to hook up with along the way. I was happy that this is less about Margot deciding her future based on a guy and more her finding herself. I'm in for all the books in the series, especially if I get to watch the other wild and crazy characters pair off.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Review: How to Lead When You're Not in Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority

How to Lead When You're Not in Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority How to Lead When You're Not in Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority by Clay Scroggins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I always finish books, even the bad ones, but I just couldn't get through this one. I ended up exchanging it through audible (thanks!) because it was definitely not what I signed up for.

This book is first and foremost a book about being a Christian (which I'm not). I'm someone who is not in charge but wants to leverage my influence. I thought I could ignore the verses and the bible talk, but it was 90% bible and "followers of Jesus" lead-ins with very little actual practical advice. I got about 50% of the way through and it seemed to be getting even heavier on the god and lighter on the practical advice. I'm very sad because the topic is something I'm really interested in. There has to be a way to write a book for all audiences that still covers the same topic, right?

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Review: Blood & Ash

Blood & Ash Blood & Ash by Deborah Wilde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the best book I've read in a while, and I never give out 5 star ratings. If you took Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan and Jessica Jones, and they had a wonderfully snarky woman-baby, Ash would be it!

Ash is a mundane (or at least we all see her start the book that way) private investigator, in a world full of magical people. They are divided into Houses, and her old frenemy, Levi, is the leader of the local one. While following one of her client's kids on a failed B&E, she gets bonked on the head, starting an awesome and terrifying series of events. What began as a simple "is my kid doing drugs" case turns into a magical kidnapping ring investigation. Throw in mysterious powers manifesting, magical smears, and enough sexual chemistry to light the world on fire and you've got the very busy life and times of Ash.

This book built a world that had me completely hooked. There are alternate dimensions on top of what is already a rich and magical universe. There is a wonderful combination of theology and fantasy without jamming it down your throat. There was enough steampunk to be believable without it being obnoxious and silly. I could go on forever! I would read this book again and again, but instead will eagerly await the next installment. There's another one, right? Please?

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Review: Southern Ghost Hunter Series: 5th Anniversary Special Edition

Southern Ghost Hunter Series: 5th Anniversary Special Edition Southern Ghost Hunter Series: 5th Anniversary Special Edition by Angie Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Limited edition bonus material? Sign me up!

I've previously read these stories when they were originally released, but who doesn't love a special edition? I mean, except Star Wars, right? There is a nice sprinkling of extras throw into this 5th Anniversary Special Edition release that should appeal to all sorts of different fans of these books.

The stories themselves are a lovely blend of mystery, romance, and southern charm. Having them all stacked one after the other allows you to pleasantly binge them on a snowy weekend. And that's before we even get to the bonus features!

There is a nice behind the scenes look at how we ended up with the covers we know and love (and what came before!). There are nice little snippets of character bios and drawings to go along with the settings. And, lastly, there are a handful of deleted scenes, one of which may or may not give us some extra knowledge to be used in later books. As someone who is familiar with and loves this world, I will eagerly gobble up more content any time it is available! Happy 5th Anniversary!

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Review: Where Winter Finds You

Where Winter Finds You Where Winter Finds You by J.R. Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read these books without even looking at the synopses now. That is my mistake, because when I learned this was a book about Trez, I was so very disappointed. The book itself was OK - we got to where we needed to, but, jeez, this guy can't catch a break.

We join Trez while he contemplates suicide. Seriously. This book is filled with the suicide talk. I get it, they did him wrong and he's the only guy to not get a HEA at the end of his story. I knew we would eventually need to get there, but, gah, this hurt. Therese is a girl who looks exactly like Trez's lost love. This has obviously made this super weird for everyone who knew the old lady love and now meets this one. Also, Trez is 100% cool with shacking up with her, assuming she's the replacement lady love. Weird, but OK. There is a lot of hand wavey timey wimey business at play here, so just go with it.

For once, it was almost like we focused on a single story here, for good or bad. We learn very little about the happenings outside of Trez's trainwreck of a love story. Do we finally get a HEA for him? Yes. Does it feel slightly dirty(not in a good way)? Yes. Will I continue to read all these books? Again, yes.

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Review: Demon Bound

Demon Bound Demon Bound by Chris Cannon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a rollercoaster ride! I don't think I was ready for the winding path we took from start to finish here, but I'm firmly hooked.

Meena is a simple girl - give her books, her cats, and she's happy. Unfortunately, to feed her book addiction, she is forced to look for summer work. Said summer work comes in the form of housekeeping staff to the local shut-in. Carol, the shut-in, is actually a witch who hunts demons, and things spiral out of control from there. Meena ends up bound to a demon, collecting souls and learning way too much about the town's demon and supernatural addictions.

The one bright spot in all of this much is Jake. He's dragged into all sorts of supernatural nonsense. For a guy in town for the summer, he gets put through the ringer a whole bunch in a short amount of time. He does get to meet Meena and they have a drama-filled love affair. There's so much jammed into this story - fairies, vampires, cats, demons, ice cream, blue hair, witches, suicide, love, lust - that there is absolutely so simple way to sum it all up. I'm in, though. Give me more of this insane world and I'll happily gobble it up.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Review: The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate

The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate by Fran Hauser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I grabbed this book from audible when the title and description came up on my suggested reads. Specifically, "achieving a career you love without becoming a person you hate." I'm a career driven woman, and have often been told to be meaner, to yell, to get angry at someone to accomplish something. It took me a while to become confident in myself to know that I don't want to be that person and I'd rather go about it in a way that I can respect and live with myself afterwards than to please what others perceive as "powerful."

This book covers a little bit of everything. While not that much was particularly new to me, the way it all leveraged having a core of "niceness" helped me frame it all in a different light. I got some "to-do"s out of the read and some development goals, which was my ultimately reason for reading this. It's good that I'm getting reinforcement for some core values I've been living with, and it's always good to get tips and tricks from someone who has "made it."

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Review: Dark Alpha's Temptation

Dark Alpha's Temptation Dark Alpha's Temptation by Donna Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This world is so vast and has so many moving parts, but somehow this author manages to focus in on new pairings each time, while simultaneously moving the larger storyline along.

If you're joining this story already in progress, welcome! There are dragon kings and reapers, fae and "Others," all fighting for different things. We go by TV show rules, where if you don't see a body, chances are good that someone is still plotting and lurking. We also believe that everyone is fated to be mated, and we will find a way to pair everyone off, even if it takes 100 books! In this one, we get Dubhan, a reaper who I'm sure I am not pronouncing right. He's gruff and determined to be the best reaper for Death, but he is also strangely drawn to his latest stalker, Kyra.

For those of you who didn't go through all the Rhi drama, there was a big fight at the end of a previous book, where the reapers stepped up to fight on the side of good instead of remaining impartial. This particular fight is what Kyra magically witnessed, and where she first saw Dubhan. There's a lot wrong with what happened, but the right thing is her magical pull towards him. These two are seriously fated mates, so if you're looking for a drawn out courtship, this ain't it. There's some sexy times, lots of quick love declarations, and ultimately a lot of big plot reveals! Who doesn't love that combo? I do, so I'm all in for the rest of this world.

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Review: Better Homes and Hauntings

Better Homes and Hauntings Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a self-proclaimed Molly Harper addict. After working through much of her other books, I discovered this one dangling all out here on its own. A standalone? I'm in!

This story involves many different perspectives, from the good guys to the bad guys and everywhere in between. It all revolves around the renovation of a house in the middle of nowhere that is believed to be haunted and/or cursed. No big deal, right? Well, in the group of "good guys" is a gardner named Nina, a master black belt organizer named Cindy, a construction leader named Jake, and a billionaire and owner of the haunted house named Deacon. We are later joined by Deacon's quirky cousin Dotty, who is a haunting believer and master mystery solver.

So, why's the place haunted? Well, there is a mystery in the form of Catherine (the homeowner's wife) and her unsolved murder. Don't worry, we get to the bottom of that, but first we get to meet and learn way more than you could ever possibly need to know about all the house's guests. Most notably we get to watch the budding romance between Deacon and Nina, which was adorable. As a murder-mystery, it definitely surprised me, so that's a step in the right direction. It as a very entertaining read and made me a little sad it was a standalone. I enjoyed all the characters and their quirks, as I've come to expect from the author.

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Review: Jessie's Harem: A Paranormal Reverse Harem Novel

Jessie's Harem: A Paranormal Reverse Harem Novel Jessie's Harem: A Paranormal Reverse Harem Novel by Mandy Rosko
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a reverse harem with some dirty business, some evil wizards, dragons, and werewolves. Oh, and there's a succubus/ghoul, too!

Jessie is the succubus/ghoul. We meet her as she is enslaving the alphas of warring dragon and wolf shifters, which then grows into enslavement of their second in commands, making 4 total enslaved shifters. Why? Well, she's trying to escape from her evil "master" and generally bad wizard dude. What's everyone's names? Maybe I'm not so smart, because I had some serious trouble keeping them all straight. I also didn't necessarily care about each of them as individual characters, since they mostly act as a group.

Let's go back to Jessie, though. She's had a rough life, but rather than explaining that, it comes out in some truly awkward times and has to be forcefully extracted from her. I had a really hard time feeling bad for her or even feeling good about where this book takes us. The consent is murky at best and generally left a bad taste in my mouth. Usually I'm game for all sorts of strange paranormal romance stories, but something about this never quite grabbed me.

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Sunday, January 5, 2020

Review: Beaus and Arrows

Beaus and Arrows Beaus and Arrows by Rashida T. Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever wonder if Cupid hated his job like we all do? Well, Emory, the lead character here, is proof positive.

Emory has taken up the mantle of Cupid (with a fancier species name) to replace his dad, after he lost motivation to do the job properly. He isn't super motivated and mainly makes matches to watch the fireworks play out (for good or bad). All of that gets put under a microscope when he gets notified of an upcoming audit of his work. The possible punishment for misuse of his powers? Getting sent where his dad went, being exiled away from all his creature comforts. He probably could've faked his way through it if it wasn't for Blair.

Blair is a free spirit, quick to fall in love, easy to recover from a broken heart, but one bad relationship too many puts her in a sort of numb state. It's this state that makes her immune to Emory's arrows, no matter how desperate he is to remedy his mistake. Forced to out himself to her, they form a budding relationship (strictly friendship at first), that gives Emory a glimpse into his "target"'s hearts and minds. Through their shared experiences, he is finally able to appreciate the importance of making the correct matches and when he should quit forcing things.

I'll admit, in the beginning I really did not like Emory. He's arrogant and just... a jerk. He grows a lot, though, mostly through Blair's guidance and some hard lessons learned. He definitely redeems himself by the end, and we get a good HEA.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Review: Bewitched, Blooded and Bewildered

Bewitched, Blooded and Bewildered Bewitched, Blooded and Bewildered by Robyn Bachar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These books are so weird. I still don't know how I feel about them. The previous book was so good and then we flip back to a different POV and I'm ... lost again.

So, we join Lex and Cat, who are still struggling with Cat and Zach's blood connection. One good thing to come out of that relationship? Faust. He is totally the star here, but I digress. There were rumblings in previous books about some magical folks disappearing at the hands of black ops types and that continues here. What's the one thing that can get supernatural folks over their petty issues? Nothing, but, well, maybe this. As the disappearances continue to climb, Cat and Lex are forced to gather their varied resources. Oh, and, yeah, the blood link that was so impossible to break and might never let them be free? That is addressed quickly in the first part of this book.

Sooooo, act 1 shows us how silly we were for believing that the "big thing" was so big. Act 2 begins with a resolution to the other "big thing" - Riley's challenge to Cat's authority. Also resolved here. Also stupid quick. That left just the big bad in the form of kidnappings and general end of the world level stuff. I won't say that was easy, because it wasn't and there's a lot of carnage, but that's pretty much still in the same place at the end here, waiting for another installment (which, of course, I will read with my book club ladies).

Overall impressions? Maybe I'm just bad at spotting what the big story line is? Or overly grossed out by gross questionable consent things? Either way, I think the previous book was still my favorite here. Can we go back to Riley?

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Review: Career Recharge: Five Strategies to Boost Resilience and Beat Burnout

Career Recharge: Five Strategies to Boost Resilience and Beat Burnout Career Recharge: Five Strategies to Boost Resilience and Beat Burnout by Beth Benatti Kennedy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was gifted this book during a leadership program through the HBA. We were assigned reading and, while I'm usually a strictly electronic book gal, I kept at it with the paper (albeit at a slower pace than digitally). I'm not going to go through each chapter one by one, but I will summarize the book as a whole and give you some thoughts on the idea in general.

This year (or last year, rather), I went on a big of a personal development journey. I was tasked with developing my own career pathway, and that led to taking on a lot of leadership classes and reading. This book was a good addition to those, helping to decode what your body and mind need to succeed. It's always good to get different opinions and ideas when it comes to bettering yourself, so this book is definitely worth checking out. If you are feeling a bit lost, maybe overwhelmed, or like you just don't have the energy you used to - I would pass this book along to you. It's a somewhat easy read, with some ideas and exercises at the end of each chapter that are fun and simple to complete. I'll definitely be sharing this with my colleagues now that I'm done.

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