5 star review

Review – Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston

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It’s not every day that a beautiful naked woman falls out of the sky and lands face-first on grizzly shifter Berg Dunn’s hotel balcony. Definitely they don’t usually hop up and demand his best gun. Berg gives the lady a grizzly-sized t-shirt and his cell phone, too, just on style points. And then she’s gone, taking his XXXL heart with her. By the time he figures out she’s a honey badger shifter, it’s too late.
 
Honey badgers are survivors. Brutal, vicious, ill-tempered survivors. Or maybe Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan is just pissed that her useless father is trying to get them all killed again, and won’t even tell her how. Protecting her little sisters has always been her job, and she’s not about to let some pesky giant grizzly protection specialist with a network of every shifter in Manhattan get in her way. Wait. He’s trying to help? Why would he want to do that? He’s cute enough that she just might let him tag along—that is, if he can keep up . . .

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

It has been a long few months as my previous post noted and that created the blogging slump to end all previous slumps. I have a number of books that I embarrassingly flaked out on because I just couldn’t seem to find any gumption to do anything. I won’t say this book has changed everything, but the blurb and teaser chapters did give me enough of a chuckle to pull the blanket off my head, crawl out of the blanket fort, and ask and give it a shot. So I respectfully suggest this book is worth 137 stars, because I laughed so much, so take that into consideration as I squee my way through the ridiculousness.

This book is a spin off series from Laurenston’s bawdy and hilarious Pride series which ended with the book Bite Me (turns out I never did review it though I have read it 8 times now-was kind of perturbed by the end of the series, but I did review the next to the last). This one starts a few years after that and there are some pretty hilarious cameos from fan favorites from that series, particularly Hannah “The Destroyer of Worlds” (super great to see she found her center) and Dee-Anne Smith (who is handling what has come up exactly the way I would have expected). If you haven’t read that series I don’t think the cameos are distracting and that series probably isn’t necessary to read this one, but I do highly recommend it.

Anyway, premise of the original series is that shifters wander among us in semi hiding, publicly living their lives but hiding what they are. They have cultures and packs and their own sporting teams (DNA testing made that necessary), and hilarious shenanigans. Once the series got rolling there was a whole arc about human big game hunters who know about shifters and like to hunt them ala The Most Dangerous Game. The last couple of books introduced us to the most volatile and separate shifter species-the always entertaining HONEY BADGER! And then it closed the arc and broke my heart forever.

This series jumps back on the Honey Badger train and I can’t be more thrilled, especially since it features siblings so we know were are in for a romp with characters we have already gotten to know and enjoy.

Plus, Laurenston pairs our honey badger heroine with a bear shifter, and if I have to have a second favorite shifter it has to be bears…or at least bears as Laurenston writes them. Thoughtful, serious, honey loving bears!

Basically, this book hits all my high points. Women who have lives, families, and friends outside of the love interest. A cast of characters who actually matter instead of card board cutouts that interact around the main couple. Fun, excitement, and bawdy foul mouthed banter. A couple who gets to know each other some before just hopping into bed. And two main characters who don’t have to sacrifice themselves or change to have each other and the lives they want.

Basically it is pretty much perfect for me. It opens up the world into new and interesting directions so that the series doesn’t have to get stale, and it does so in a way that the new characters can bump along aside of the old ones without either set feeling shoehorned together. The only thing that disappoints me is that the next book and main character hasn’t been released yet. All I can say is that if you have’t read Shelly Laurenston yet, and you like ridiculous over the top hilarity, sarcasm, and a bit of gratuitous violence, well you just don’t know what you are missing because this author is phenomenal…like I said at the start, 137 stars and I will not budge from that.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

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4 star review

Review – Seashells, Spells & Caramels bu Erin Johnson

Seashells Spells and Caramels

Imogen’s spent her twenties in Seattle, saving every penny and missing every party, to follow her dream of opening her own bakery.

When that dream goes up in flames, she accepts a spot in a mysterious baking contest—one she doesn’t remember entering. She travels to a bustling, medieval village off the coast of France and discovers an enchanting world of magic and mystery, and learns that she, too, possesses powers.

Unable to so much as cast a spell, Imogen struggles to keep up with the other witches and wizards who have come from all over the magical world to the Water Kingdom’s big competition. She juggles relationships with a sweet new friend, a snarky baking fire, and a brooding, handsome baker. As Imogen falls for this bewitching world, she fears she won’t master her magic in time to win the job of Royal Head Baker, and will be forced to return to the shambles of her non magical life.

It only gets worse, when a competitor drops dead in the middle of the big white baking tent, and Imogen’s the prime suspect. Now, she’ll not only have to survive the vampire and psychic judges, but also clear her name by finding the real murderer, before they strike again.
With a killer on the loose, a missing prince, and the Summer Solstice Festival fast approaching, Imogen will have to bake like her life depends on it- because it just might.

I received an ARC of this book from the author, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

I’ll admit, while I was intrigued by the blurb, the very shallow reason I took the author up on it was because we share a first name. And I was more than repaid in spades with a very funny and lighthearted story. When you find yourself giggling out loud in the first chapters, then you know you are in for a treat.

Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day ain’t got nothing on poor Imogene’s travails. And the way it all went down really resonated with me…I have those sort of life altering catastrophes myself. Admittedly though, my mayhem is just a little less magical.

I enjoyed the world building quite a bit, and I didn’t figure out the mystery until near the very end. The writing was quick and kept my attention centered on the characters. And the two female protagonists have a very Lucy Rucardo and Ethyl Mertz sort of vibe, which I was digging. There was also quite the nice little spark between the Imogene and the love interest.

The only “negative” is where the romance was at the end of the book….and that isn’t because it ended badly or anything, it just doesn’t neatly fit into my personal preferences. That being said, it looks like the second book should be coming out shortly and so I shouldn’t have to wait too long to see how Johnson pulls this off. I am definitely looking forward to the next entry in this magical world she has created.

Seashells, Spells & Caramels (Spells & Caramels, #1)

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5 star review

Review + Blog Tour – Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

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From Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times bestselling author, the thrilling conclusion to her Hidden Legacy series, as Nevada and Rogan grapple with a power beyond even their imagination…

Nevada Baylor can’t decide which is more frustrating — harnessing her truthseeker abilities or dealing with Connor “Mad” Rogan and their evolving relationship. Yes, the billionaire Prime is helping her navigate the complex magical world in which she’s become a crucial player—and sometimes a pawn—but she also has to deal with his ex-fiancée, whose husband has disappeared, and whose damsel-in-distress act is wearing very, very thin.

Rogan faces his own challenges, too, as Nevada’s magical rank has made her a desirable match for other Primes. Controlling his immense powers is child’s play next to controlling his conflicting emotions. And now he and Nevada are confronted by a new threat within her own family. Can they face this together? Or is their world about to go up in smoke?

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss and Tasty Book Tours, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review. And the usual Ilona Andrews disclaimer applies, I bought it anyway. +Giveaway!!!

I will admit, I have become a little obsessive over this series.

Wildfire Readings

Wildfire

I post that to show you that it is barely possible that I might not be entirely reasonable when it comes to this series. Seriously, I just want to squee and squee for days over this delightful confection. It has the best of both urban fantasy (clear and intricate world building and action and crazy sauce) and Paranormal Romance (magic and tightly plotted relationship with happily ever after).

This is however the third book in the series and it is definitely not a series you can read out of order. Think of this as one giant, epic fantasy book that just happens to have been released in three installments, and read accordingly. That being said, while I will attempt to not spoil THIS book, spoilers for previous books are highly likely. You have been warned.

The Hidden Legacy series is in a divergent world where in 1863 we discover a serum that unlocks untapped magic potential. Shenanigans ensue and the world decides this is much too dangerous to be let loose and so put a lock on the serum. Of course, there are all the people who have already had the serum, and these traits are passed down genetically to their offspring; so magic, and thus power, prestige, and money are concentrated into the hands of these families, known as Houses.

That is how it all starts, so seriously pick up this series and read it, I doubt you will be disappointed because there is a little something in it for most fiction readers.

On to the show. Those genetic connections however bring both pitfalls, and opportunities, and Nevada bears the brunt of both. She is riding the crest of a vast and catastrophic conspiracy hoping to untangle it before everything goes to hell. Meanwhile she has two sisters and two cousins, a mother and a grandmother who are also subject to the decisions she may make.

We’ve seen Nevada in hiding from the world of power, and Nevada making her initial hesitant entrance,  now we get to see Nevada stepping up to make her own place in this world, on her own terms. She rocks and is one of my favorite all time heroines. She doesn’t wander through the world as some sort of Mary Sue with the intrinsic knowledge that her basic (but humble) perfection will change the world to suit her, nor does she bust up the world order just because she can. She walks the balance.

Meanwhile in relationship land, Nevada and Rogan struggle to navigate their personal relationship in the midst of all this trauma and drama. Genetics, and boundaries, and competing relationships oh my! That sounds ridiculously cliched and soap-opera-esque, but it really isn’t.

But when you boil everything down, it all circles back to relationships and the people in ones life. Do you want something for someone in your life that current circumstances dictate they can’t have? Do you want something for yourself, and others are trying to stop you? It all really boils down to those desires and impediments and Ilona Andrews navigates through these competing desires in complex individuals to build a compelling tale. And that is what makes this so good and so much more intricate than your average romance novel, the rest of the people aren’t just stage dressing, they are as much real characters as the main protagonists. And they have real consequences and real effects on the story trajectory, whether the initiating event came from Nevada or themselves. It makes it, as I said before, compelling.

And while this arc is categorically concluded, there is a nice wide door to continuing further adventures in this world, which I sincerely hope happens. Leon, Bern, Cornelius, Catalina, Arabella, Victoria Tremaine, and a few others too spoilery to even speak of right now…all I could see could easily support more stories. Hell, I would even read some NA/YA in this world.

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4 star review

Review – A Merciful Truth by Kendra Elliot

Merciful Death

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Raised by a family of survivalists, FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick can take on any challenge—even the hostile reception to her homecoming. But she’s not the only one causing chaos in the rural community of Eagle’s Nest, Oregon. At first believed to be teenage pranks, a series of fires takes a deadly turn with the murder of two sheriff’s deputies. Now, along with Police Chief Truman Daly, Mercy is on the hunt for an arsonist turned killer.

Still shunned by her family and members of the community, Mercy must keep her ear close to the ground to pick up any leads. And it’s not long before she hears rumors of the area’s growing antigovernment militia movement. If the arsonist is among their ranks, Mercy is determined to smoke the culprit out. But when her investigation uncovers a shocking secret, will this hunt for a madman turn into her own trial by fire?

I didn’t think it was possible, but I find that I may just enjoy this series even more than the Callahan & McLane series, and that is saying something. There is something just so fantastically comforting and soothing about stepping into a world where adults are ADULTING. I know, it is weird right, but nowadays I tend to find myself doing some mental gymnastics trying to keep my head into a story about the young ones when I just want to scream at the book: “Love him?! You don’t even know him, you’re still just a child!” There is none of that here, just delightful characters who actually make sense to my brain.

This book is a continuation of the series, and while it may be possible to read it as a stand alone, I highly suggest reading at least the previous book if not even the other series too.  That is because there were inexpertly mended relationships that we get to see continue to grow and change, and that makes is really fascinating and lovely to watch. Additionally, I think the relationship between Mercy and Sheriff Truman Daly is a lovely and warm slow burning fire that deserves all the page time. Did I have my qualms in the last book? Absolutely. Did Elliot justify my faith in her capability to make me buy in? Again, absolutely.

Beyond the primary relationship though, there are a variety of other relationships to flesh out the human dynamic. Mercy’s brother, sister, and niece all got a significant amount of page time, but it was done in a way that further the overall plot well. And the plot served well to further the changing relationship dynamics. Ilona Andrews recently posted on the topic of episodic vs progressive series, that really re-framed how I am looking at series right now. And this is definitely progressive. The stakes are real and so is the character growth. None of these people are the same as when they started the first book.

Speaking of the plot, the suspense was well done, there were a couple of nice red herrings, and one major “you did NOT see that one coming” twist that made the mystery stand on its own rather than just being the vehicle to carry the romance. And as I said before, real stakes with real life type consequences.

I think there are a couple of things that have me edging this series ahead in my favoritism. One is that Mercy just barely edges out Ava in my affections. But two, the Callahan & McLane series focuses on the monsters. This one focuses more on relationships and the seething secrets in small town rural life. While I may not have any experience with monsters (which that fact does make that topic fascinating in its own way), I do have experience with the seething secrets in small, town rural life. So the Mercy series is a bit more like slipping into home.

Either way though, if you enjoy romantic suspense with slow burn romance and real life relationships with adultier adults, I cannot recommend Kendra Elliot enough.

A Merciful Truth (Mercy Kilpatrick #2)

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5 star review

Review – White Hot by Ilona Andrews Blog Tour + Giveaway

TastyToursReview

Review - White Hot by Ilona Andrews

Yes that original cover is as bad as you think it is, no it isn’t indicative of the quality of the story.

Ilona Andrews White Hot

Second one…not much (any) better.

This blog post has been sitting in my drafts since December 2015, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to get an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Edelweiss, through Tasty Book Tours (this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review and the usual disclaimer when it comes to Andrews applies…I bought it anyway).

Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she’s used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family’s detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor “Mad” Rogan.

Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice . . .

Oh Nevada and Mad Rogan, how do I adore thee? I’ll admit Burn for Me was a little rough at first when it came to my preferences. It isn’t so much paranormal romance (abysmal covers notwithstanding) as it is urban fantasy that you can tell will eventually have a stronger romantic component. And the hero was fairly anti at the time. But sometimes an epilogue just smacks you upside the head and shakes up all your preconceived notions about a character. So I knew I’d have to read the next one. Of course with the long wait time, I found myself going back to the first book. And much like the first Kate Daniels book, this is one that seriously improves with re-reading. It went from a 3.5 basically saved by the epilogue that bumped it to 4.5, to one of my all time favorite books.

I never dreamed it would be so long until the next one came out though (heck the links and everything were still attached to my old Blogspot). But it’s probably for the best as I said, plenty of time for me to grow my love of these characters. Plus, new covers AND books 2&3 coming out so close together? It’s like a beautiful dream, except for that wait…and except for the covers not really changing. But hell, as I have said before, the cover curse is probably part of the fun now, and I guess it is nice that some things never change 🙂

We got a glimpses of the secrets hidden in Nevada Baylor in the first book, but this one blows those secrets wide open, and I LOVED it. It wasn’t like she was hiding it from herself, so much as that in the struggle for the day-to-day you don’t always have the chance to utilize your best self, if you see what I mean. But then BAM! you get that incident where you have to reach down and pull your best self out, that is where the magic happens and it was GLORIOUS! Nevada as a heroine rocks.

But as much as I adored Nevada, honestly (excepting her taste in men…initially) I adored her in the first book too. This second book really shone the light on Rogan, and it took facts we already knew about him, and then reframed them in a light that let us know, or maybe understand, Rogan better. Absolutely heartbreaking and heart wrenching, things that were pointed out gave me a filter to kind of take objectionable characteristics he exhibited, and overlay them with the understanding I have developed for the people I have in my life who have gone through similar situations.  PTSD is a hell of a thing. That is Ilona Andrews gift, giving us the humanity in these powerful…sometimes kind of insane alpha-hole characters.

And the relationship that built between these two strong people was fantastic, and funny, and a little sad all at the same time. Instead of a one note, one hit kind of resolution, it was messy just like life. And thankfully, we had enough will they/won’t they in the last book, so all that simmering heat just burst right onto the pages in this book. Very hot. And putting it all together created a very credible relationship that left me feeling warm…like super warm. But I definitely enjoyed the ride.

The story itself was action packed, and aggressive, and twisty-turny enough to keep me engaged through out. Wheels within wheels conspiracies are slowly being brought to the forefront and I have a bamboozled on that one. Plus there was a ton of zany, crazy sauce Baylor family drama, which was a definite plus to me because the family dynamics were and continue to be a major selling point for this series. And man do family dynamics (not just Nevada’s) play an important role in this series-the good and the bad. Few things irk me so much as a romantic couple that seems to live in a vacuum, bereft of other family, friends, and human contact. But this book is cause for rejoicing on that front. The secondary characters in this story are fleshed out and appealing and there are a host of them I’d be thrilled to see get their own stories. Do I want Bug, Cornelius, Leon, and Bernard to get their own features? Yes, yes I most certainly do!

The story arc for this book had a highly satisfying resolution (for a blood thirsty and vengeful girl like me you really can’t get much better than the ending this book’s big bad got at the hands of the person most wronged), and the overall series arc progressed enough that I am champing at the bit for the next book…but not so much that I feel I have any true inkling of how the final show down will go. And the teaser for the next one gave me all the angsty, excited shivers.

So I am giving this book all my squee points, and thus far it has been my reading highlight for the year. Now I am off to reread these compulsively until I get my sweaty hands on the next one.

White Hot (Hidden Legacy, #2)

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2.5 star review

Review – The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick

Girl Who Knew Too Much

When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool…

The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, a scoop that Irene couldn’t resist—especially since she’s just a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag. But now Irene’s investigation into the drowning threatens to tear down the wall of illusion that is so deftly built around the famous actor, and there are powerful men willing to do anything to protect their investment.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to a master of deception. Oliver Ward was once a world-famous magician—until he was mysteriously injured during his last performance. Now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, he can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago…

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…

So I am still feeling blah, and this book didn’t help. Wasn’t even sure I would write a review, but since I did read it, and it wasn’t a re-read, I may as well.

I had hopes. Quick/Krentz/Castle is usually a sure bet for me, and the opening few pages which I had previewed seemed good. And the switch to a more modern historical setting could have been good. But after opening with a bang, we slogged through the first 10 chapters/20% of the book with a whimper…of pain…for me. It was so very boring setting up the characters and the setting.

And then once we got into the story, even though events ostensibly got more exciting, my interest never perked up. I didn’t warm up to Oliver or Irene. They were flat, and so I didn’t particularly care for their relationship or what might happen to them.

The mystery was crazy sauce convoluted, and absolutely no one was who or what they seemed. But since I neither liked nor actively despised the side characters, this did not matter to me.

Final verdict: If you are a die hard fan, pick it up at your library if you are bored and don’t have high expectations. Otherwise, maybe give it a pass.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much

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5 star review, Miscellaneous, Thoughts and Opinions

Random Re-reads: A Review January-April

I may not be reading anything new, but I am still doing quite a lot of re-reading (in fact a few books I have already re-read a couple of times just this year). And I absolutely adore that Goodreads tracks re-reads now. It is giving me some interesting insight. I base my grades on how re-readable I think a book will be, but it is absolutely fascinating just how many 3 & 4 star books I am going back to right now. Granted, many of them are 5 stars, but some of the ones I read a couple of times even weren’t. It makes a case for readjusting ratings, and I think I might do that for some of them.

Reread1Reread2Reread3Reread4Reread5

The overall theme seems to be laugh out loud until I cry, and/or women whose lives are awful outside of their own personal control. That is probably pretty telling.

And here are the 3 stars:

3star23star1

And here are the 4 stars:

4star34star24star1

So yeah, over half of my rereads weren’t even 5 stars. Maybe I just burnt out on rereading the 5 stars? Maybe where I am at in my life there are things in those books that just call to me. But overall, strong indomitable women, with problems that are not internal, and constant or near constant risk of death and dismemberment seem to be what is calling to me. That being the case it is no wonder only some tried and true authors are really calling to me.

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