Author: Jen

Guest Review: Every Last Breath by Juno Rushdan

Posted May 15, 2019 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: Every Last Breath by Juno RushdanReviewer: Jen
Every Last Breath by Juno Rushdan
Series: Final Hour #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 418
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

48 hours2 covert operatives1 chance to get it right

Maddox Kinkade is an expert at managing the impossible. Tasked with neutralizing a lethal bioweapon, she turns to the one person capable of helping her stop the threat of pandemic in time: the love of her life, back from the dead and mad as hell at her supposed betrayal. Recruiting Cole to save millions of lives may be harder than resisting the attraction still burning between them, but Maddox will do whatever it takes...even if it destroys her.

When Maddox crashes back into Cole Matthews' life, he wants to fight back. He wants to hate her. But the crisis is too strong to ignore, and soon the two former lovers find themselves working side-by-side in a breakneck race to stop a world-class killer with a secret that could end everything.

It’s a secret agent book! I am always down for a good spy thriller, and this book didn’t disappoint.

Maddox Kinkade is an elite operative with a covert government organization trying to stop a bioterrorist attack. The problem is, the person they need help from is none other than the fiance she thought dead. For his part, Cole Matthews let Maddox think he was dead because she betrayed him. He doesn’t particularly care about helping the US government, but he doesn’t want to look the other way as people are murdered. Plus, he finds he’d still do anything for Maddox. They have to move beyond their past together and go all in to find and stop the terrorist threat.

Maddox is my favorite kind of heroine–she’s prickly, smart, and so very capable. She can fight with the best of them, and I adored seeing Cole slowly realize he didn’t need to protect his little woman. Cole was even pricklier, however. He feels so betrayed and hurt by Maddox, and it makes him snippy and mean at first. To be honest, the whole betrayal was a bit vague in my mind–it had something to do with Maddox telling her CIA father information about Cole’s Russian organized crime family. However, to me it seemed more like the real issue was that her family was in law enforcement while his were in crime! “Betrayal” or not, it didn’t seem realistic that they could have worked out when they were so young. They both needed to grow up and get the perspective of a little time and space.

The terrorist plot was great. You know who they’re chasing, and you get lots of scenes from his perspective. I love the cat-and-mouse story, where the killer seems to always be one step ahead. I also love a good “traitor in our midst” plot, and this book had that as well. In short, the plot ticked my buttons!

As with most action romances, there were some things that didn’t quite make sense. I didn’t know why the agency let Cole in on the operation. I get that they don’t have to follow the “regular rules” of law enforcement, but no way would they let a civilian (and one connected to organized crime no less) in on a case like this. Plus Cole’s family and their crime connection was not well explored. His dad was supposedly trying to go legit, but his brother is not, and what exactly did Cole have to do with anything? There’s also a little bit of melodrama in Maddox’s past. (Small SPOILER ALERT for a content warning: there’s talk of miscarriage in the book.) But listen, I don’t read action romance for the accuracy or relatability. None of this bothered me enough to diminish my enjoyment of the book!

This was an excellent story from a new author, and I cannot WAIT to read more.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Final Hour

four-stars


Tagged: , , , , ,

Guest Review: Stone Cold Heart by Laura Griffin

Posted April 25, 2019 by Jen in Reviews | 3 Comments

Guest Review: Stone Cold Heart by Laura GriffinReviewer: Jen
Stone Cold Heart by Laura Griffin
Series: Tracers #13
Also in this series: Deep Dark
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

When local rock climbers stumble upon abandoned human bones in a remote Texas gorge, Sara Lockhart is the first to get the call. She has a reputation as one of the nation’s top forensic anthropologists, and police detective Nolan Hess knows she is just the expert he needs to help unravel this case. Although evidence is scarce, Nolan suspects the bones belong to a teenage climber who vanished last summer.

But as Sara unearths strange clues, she finds chilling similarities to a case from her past—a case that now threatens to rock Nolan’s community. While Sara digs deep for answers, the stakes rise higher as another young woman disappears without a trace. Investigators work against the clock as Sara races to discover the truth, even if her harrowing search brings her face to face with a stone-cold killer.

In the latest Tracers book from Laura Griffin, we’re back following a Delphi Center employee. This time it’s Sara Lockhart, a forensic anthropologist.

There’s not much to say about the plot of the book that isn’t in the cover copy or that doesn’t spoil some of the mystery. This is a much more twisty, turny mystery than some of the other Tracers books, and I enjoyed that about it. Sara’s expertise and instincts are invaluable to uncovering the extent of the crimes and piecing together who might have done it. It’s a fun ride, but not necessarily a solution you can “guess” (or maybe I’m just not clever enough, haha). I love the nerdy investigation details that Griffin uses in this series, and Sara is a prime example of that.

The romance between Nolan and Sara is a fine little love affair, though not exactly a passion for the ages. Sara is pretty reticent to get involved with Nolan because of a bad past relationship. It’s a bit cliche and does perhaps go on too long, but I did appreciate that she wasn’t whiny or angsty about it. She just wants to focus on her career and not get distracted by a relationship. I like that she’s confident and smart and happy with that. Nolan is fine, too. Pretty stereotypical cop character, although he does totally respect Sara’s expertise and autonomy which is always good to see. There’s no getting around that their relationship is a bit of a slow burn, and I felt like they don’t get much past the beginning embers in this book. I have hope for them in the future, though!

I enjoyed this book and am always happy when we veer back into the smart science nerds at the Delphi Center. I think it would be a fun read for Tracers fans, and even readers new to the series should be able to pick up this book with no trouble.

Grade: 3.5 out of 4

Tracers

three-half-stars


Tagged: , , , , , ,

Guest Review: In a Badger Way by Shelly Laurenston

Posted April 24, 2019 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: In a Badger Way by Shelly LaurenstonReviewer: Jen
In a Badger Way by Shelly Laurenston, Charlotte Kane
Series: Honey Badger Chronicles #2
Also in this series: Hot and Badgered (Honey Badgers Chronicles #1), Hot and Badgered (Honey Badger Chronicles, #1)
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 410
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Petite, kind, brilliant, and young, Stevie is nothing like the usual women bodyguard Shen Li is interested in. Even more surprising, the youngest of the lethal, ball-busting, and beautiful MacKilligan sisters is terrified of bears. But she’s not terrified of pandas. She loves pandas.

Which means that whether Shen wants her to or not, she simply won’t stop cuddling him. He isn’t some stuffed Giant Panda, ya know! He is a Giant Panda shifter. He deserves respect and personal space. Something that little hybrid is completely ignoring.

But Stevie has a way of finding trouble. Like going undercover to take down a scientist experimenting on other shifters. For what, Shen doesn’t want to know, but they’d better find out. And fast. Stevie might be the least violent of the honey badger sisters, but she’s the most dangerous to Shen’s peace of mind. Because she has absolutely no idea how much trouble they’re in . . . or just how damn adorable she is.

More honey badgers! That should honestly be the tag line for this book, because anyone who glimpsed the MacKilligan sisters in Hot and Badgered should pretty much know what that means: lots of fighting and violent but devoted sisterly love.

This book is about Stevie MacKilligan. Stevie is the genius in the family, the one who is both a world-class scientist and a world-class musician (so far). She also has some pretty severe anxiety problems and turns into a giant raving hybrid monster when provoked. You know, as you do. There are some more fishy things happening to hybrid shifters in the world, and Stevie has to help put a stop to it. Luckily, she has Shen to help her. Shen is a panda shifter who likes his life filled with quiet and all the bamboo he can eat. The more time he spends with Stevie, though, the more he realizes he may be ok with a little disruption.

Stevie isn’t my favorite MacKilligan sister. I wasn’t that interested in her in the first book, and I still wasn’t that interested in her after her own book. It’s not that I didn’t like her, but I did think she was a bit immature. Her romance with Shen didn’t have much substance to it either. Laurenston’s books do share focus between plot and romance in largely equal measures, and this book follows that pattern. The problem was, I didn’t really see a huge connection between Stevie and Shen. Shen seemed too old, too mature for Stevie, and I didn’t really see where they could go by the end.

The plot, though, was fun. The villain is pretty cartoon evil, and it’s always fun to see Laurenston’s villains get their comeuppance. I really enjoyed Stevie’s friendship with Kyle, too. He’s another prodigy, and a very obnoxious one at that, but he actually had some personal growth in this book. He and Stevie were odd friends but they somehow worked, and it was fun to read about. I also loved seeing more of the MacKilligan sisters and glimpses of past couples from Laurenston’s other series.

There is a lot of talk about mental health because Stevie has some serious issues. The book makes a big deal about how she gets treatment, both therapy, and medication. Even her sisters seek some treatment in this book, and that’s not something you normally see in a wacky paranormal romance. It normalizes seeking help, which I like. If those topics are triggering for you, though, you may want to steer clear of the Honey Badger books.

Even my least favorite Laurenston books are always a good time. I’ll just keep waiting anxiously for the next book.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

Honey Badger Chronicles

three-half-stars


Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Guest Review: Crazy Cupid Love by Amanda Heger

Posted February 22, 2019 by Jen in Reviews | 5 Comments

Guest Review: Crazy Cupid Love by Amanda HegerReviewer: Jen
Crazy Cupid Love by Amanda Heger
Series: Let's Get Mythical #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: January 29, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 416
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Eliza Herman has spent years avoiding her calling as a Descendant of Eros. After all, happily-ever-afters are a myth. But when a family crisis requires her to fill in at her family's Cupid-for-hire shop, Eliza finds herself enchanting couples under the watchful eye of her mentor, Jake Sanders.

After Eliza accidentally enchants Jake instead, they set rules to keep his arrow-struck desire at bay. But some rules are meant to be broken, and before long Eliza is rethinking her stance on true love...until they discover a conspiracy that could destroy thousands of relationships--including their own.

Want to know a sure fire way to get me to read your book? Describe it as “Percy Jackson for romance fans” and I WILL buy it with lightning speed (see what I did there?). Crazy Cupid Love is lighthearted and funny and does indeed have some echoes of my beloved Percy Jackson, albeit for grown ups. There are some hiccups, but overall it’s a promising start to new series.

In the world of this book, there are descendents of Greek gods living in our times. Most of them hide their true nature; the only ones who have been “outed” to mortals are the Cupids–descendants of Eros who can do love enchantments. Eliza Herman comes from a long line of Cupids, and her parents and brother own a family business selling love enchantments. Eliza, however, is not a part of the business. She is seemingly hopeless at all of it, and her life has been spent accidentally enchanting people with disastrous consequences. When circumstances force her to join the family business for a while, she has to turn to her childhood friend and fellow Cupid Jake Sanders for help getting the necessary state license. Jake has long had a crush on Eliza, but when she accidentally enchants him, it seriously complicates her personal and professional life. Even worse, just when Eliza thinks she’s finally getting the hang of being a Cupid, she finds out there are bigger problems afoot.

What I liked most about this book was the world building. We’ve seen books about descendents of gods before, but this still managed to feel fresh and interesting. I especially enjoyed the love enchantments. The enchantments don’t turn people into mindless zombies who are unable to resist. Cupids don’t so much make people fall in love as just temporarily supercharge whatever attraction/pull they may already feel towards each other. Even better, when Jake accidentally gets enchanted I totally appreciated that he a) stays fully aware of what happened and b) still retains his self control. He doesn’t get overbearing and start pressuring her to do anything. He has been enchanted before and knows how to handle it, and he’s pretty matter-of-fact about it. In other words, he doesn’t fall in love with Eliza because of the enchantment, though that does enhance things. I really liked that.

I also really liked Eliza and Jake. Jake in particular is pretty dreamy. He’s hot and smart and funny, and I like that he has goals to help make the world a better place. The book is mostly told from Eliza’s point of view, but there are a handful of very short chapters in Jake’s perspective. It was a little unusual, but I liked that we heard from him so we could tell how he really felt, since Eliza spent much of the book misreading the situation. I liked Eliza as well. She’s funny but a bit hapless, and she’s a major klutz. For me it didn’t get too ridiculous, but I suspect for other readers it might be too much. The one aspect of Eliza I didn’t love was how she let her confidence be destroyed for so long. Most of her family was not particularly supportive, and I wanted her to stand up to them more.

There were some other things I didn’t love about the book, too. While I liked the world building that did exist, I wanted some aspects of the world to be fleshed out more (Jake’s former job, the Council thing, what other Descendents are/what they can do, etc). I also thought Eliza’s family was pretty one-note. I couldn’t understand why her supposedly close brother never stood up for her, or why he didn’t tell her about any of the stuff happening with the family business. Her mom treated her pretty cruelly and constantly belittled her for most of the book, but then she does a huge 180 at the end that didn’t make sense. The drama with her parents marriage also felt forced, simply there to give Eliza a weak reason to drag her feet with Jake. That was probably my least favorite part of the book–how long it took Eliza to commit. I could believe Eliza might not be a strong believer in love–I assume her line of work would encourage cynicism–but it went on too long. Jake was literally perfect and made it clear what he wanted. It was hard to believe that once the enchantment wore off Eliza wouldn’t accept that everyone’s feelings were real and that they could try and build something together. There is a valid reason for her acting pretty irrational towards the end of the book, but she spent a big chunk of the earlier book waffling for no good reason as well. It got a bit frustrating.

And yet…I had so much fun reading this book. I laughed out loud on many occasions, and I really liked seeing Eliza and Jake end up together. My head would probably grade this book a 3, but I so enjoyed my afternoon reading this that my heart wants to give it a 4–I’m averaging that out to a 3.5. I am interested to see what this author will do with this premise in the future.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

Guest Review: The Fearless King by Katee Robert

Posted February 5, 2019 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: The Fearless King by Katee RobertReviewer: Jen
The Fearless King (The Kings, #2) by Katee Robert
Series: The Kings #2
Also in this series: The Last King
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Third Person
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 368
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: five-stars

Fake boyfriend. Real danger.

Journey King is an expert at managing the family business. But when her father returns to Houston hell-bent on making a play for the company, Journey will do anything to stop him, even if that means going to Frank Evans for help. Frank deals in information, the dirtier the better. Rugged and rock solid, he’s by far her best ally—and also the most dangerous.

Frank knows better than to get tangled up with the Kings. But something about Journey’s rare vulnerability drags him deep into enemy territory . . . and into her darkest past. Pretending to be her boyfriend may be necessary for their plan to work, but Frank soon finds helping Journey is much more than just another job—and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe.

The Last King by Katee Robert was one of my favorite books of 2018, so I was beyond excited to get a hold of The Fearless King. I wasn’t disappointed!

Frank Evans appeared in book 1 as Beckett’s best friend. He’s a real estate mogul and general financial powerhouse in Houston, and he has an extensive network of information gathering and general badass employees across the city. In other words, he gets things done. Journey King is Beckett’s estranged cousin, and after Beckett drove her mother out of town in the last book, the energy company the family runs has been scrambling to adjust. Journey and Frank clearly have some unacknowledged attraction, but they try to stay far away from each other. When Journey’s father shows back up and puts their control of the company in jeopardy (and terrorizes Journey in the process), she turns to Frank for help.

This series is not too melodramatic or cheesy to be tolerated, but it does include piles of drama for a rich Texas family. For me, it strikes the right balance between soap opera and romantic suspense. You do have to suspend a bit of disbelief, however. You have to believe that these families could really be so cold and calculating, and you have to believe that there won’t be any serious legal or social consequences for anyone at the end of the book. I was down with it; you may not be.

Journey’s father is a straight up garbage human being. Trigger warning: Journey and her siblings were physically abused by their father as children. There are no graphic descriptions given; in fact, no one says much beyond acknowledging the abuse (and mentioning it was not sexual). The book is not abuse porn! In some ways, though, the lack of description makes it a bit harder to understand Journey’s terror. She is clearly terrified of her father and has suffered severely because of the abuse for her entire life. Her father’s mere presence sends her into an emotional and physical tailspin, which is what leads her to seek help from Frank. We just have to trust that something very, very messed up happened in Journey’s childhood.

My favorite part of the book is Journey’s growth. She starts the book constantly calling herself “the weakest link.” She believes she is broken and incapable of standing up to her father as a result of his emotional abuse. He conditioned her to believe she was weak. As the book goes on, however, Journey starts to believe in herself again. She realizes she has a role to play in protecting her family and Frank, and that gives her a sense of purpose and courage. I just loved seeing her transformation! I also love that while Frank’s support is a comfort and helps her see herself through new eyes, he is not the one who “fixes” her.

I also appreciated that this book acknowledges that Frank, an African American, faces racism, and that that racism has shaped his choices and his personality. His father went to prison unfairly because of a justice system biased against him, and Frank is always aware that no matter how much money he makes, he will always be looked down on by racist Houston socialites. Kudos to Katee Robert for not glossing over Frank’s skin color and for acknowledging that racism exists, even in Romancelandia.

While I’m not quite as in love with this book as I was with book 1, I am 100% here for the King family and this series.

Grade: 4 out of 5

The Kings

four-stars


Tagged: , , , , , ,