Reading Challenge: New to Me Challenge

Review: Bayou Born by Hailey Edwards

Posted November 1, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Bayou Born by Hailey EdwardsReviewer: Holly
Bayou Born by Hailey Edwards
Narrator: Laurence Bouvard
Series: Foundling #1
Also in this series: Death Knell
Publisher: Piatkus
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Format: eBook, Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 329
Length: 11 hours and 15 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge, New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Her beginning may be our end...

Deep in the humid swamps of the Mississippi bayou, a mysterious, half-wild child is dragged just in time from the murky waters. She has no memories, no family and is covered in strange markings, the meaning of which no one is able to decipher. Adopted by the policeman who rescued her, Luce Boudrou follows him into the force, determined to prove herself in the eyes of those who are still suspicious.

However, there's more of a battle ahead than Luce could possibly imagine. She may be an orphan without a past, but no one - including Luce herself - could ever be prepared for the truth of her dark, powerful destiny...

Brand new urban fantasy series by Hailey Edwards, bestselling author of the Gemini and Black Dog series. Perfect for fans of Jennifer Estep, Darynda Jones and Ilona Andrews.

Bayou Born is the first book in the Foundling series by Hailey Edwards. I learned about it on Twitter and decided to give it a try after being told “It has demons and dragons..oh my”. I alternated between listening to and reading this book. The narrator wasn’t bad, but some of the voices she used for the characters weren’t good. It started off slow and didn’t really pick up until around the 1/4-1/2 mark. After that I was glued to the pages.

Luce Boudrou was found in the swamp 15 years ago. Feral, with strange markings on her arms, Luce was – and remains – an oddity. She was adopted by the cop who found her, and she has since followed in his footsteps. When she and her partner are called out on a missing persons case and they find another woman who has the same markings as Luce, she hopes this means she’ll finally get answers about who she is and where she came from.

When White Horse security turns up and claims to have a contract to protect the Jane Doe, Luce ends up working pretty closely with the whole team, but most especially their growly leader, Cole. As the case heats up and her own best friend goes missing, Luce wonders if getting the answers she so desperately craves is going to satisfy her…or blow her world wide open.

This started out slow for me. There’s a lot going on to start and the world felt a little bogged down. Once I settled into the story, however, it didn’t take long before I was totally engrossed. The mystery of Luce’s background and her strange markings, along with the suspense of who the Jane Doe was, plus the other disappearances in town, really kept me on the edge of my seat. I can’t say a lot without spoiling things completely, but the various twists and turns made for a compelling read.

Luce is a smartass, and that comes across well on page. I liked her no-nonsense approach to things, and how well she dealt with remaining an outsider and an oddity in town. There were moments of true vulnerability that really got me. There were times I thought Luce acted the fool, and other things that didn’t make a lot of sense in context. Some of the inconsistencies in her character really drove me crazy, but not so much it hurt my enjoyment in the story.

There’s just a hint of romance in this book. If they’ll be able to overcome their past to move forward is still to be determined, and we didn’t get a lot of answers about who and what they are to each other here. I’m really looking forward to the 2nd book. In fact, I immediately started it after finishing this one.

Although this isn’t a perfect book, the twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat. I can’t wait to see where Edwards takes us next.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Foundling

four-stars


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Review: Aris by Sarah J. Stone

Posted October 21, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Caution: This book may include potentially sensitive content, including but not limited to: Sexual Violence or Abuse.
Review: Aris by Sarah J. StoneReviewer: Holly
Aris by Sarah J. Stone
Narrator: Connor Brown
Series: Stratham Dragons #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: January 19, 2017
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Escape
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Length: 3 hours and 17 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge, New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
one-star
Series Rating: one-star

Aris and his brothers have been sick their entire lives. Every day Aris comes closer to finding a cure. One day his visions show him that the key is a human woman in need of help. He must find her.

Sophie has spent the last seven years of her life locked away and abused by a man who promised to always take care of her. She’s nearly given up hope on ever getting free until she makes contact with the man of her dreams. Is he actually real or is she going crazy?

Can Aris save her from herself and help her heal before it’s too late for both of them?

Content Warning: Explicit love scenes, and piles of sexy shifters. Intended for mature audiences only.

I like how the content warning in the blurb doesn’t mention the massive amounts of on page abuse and sexual assault the female MC suffers.

Content Warning: Explicit love scenes, and piles of sexy shifters. Intended for mature audiences only.

TRIGGER WARNING! Sexual assault and abuse galore.

I found this while browsing the Audible Escape package and thought I’d give it a try. The narration, blurb and cover made me think this would be a lighter PNR, but that wasn’t the case. The book opens with the heroine trapped in a basement being sore abused by her step-father. She mentally connects with our hero, Aris, who turns out to be a dragon shifter suffering from some sort of illness.

He and his brothers-of-the-heart – five boys who banded together – are all suffering from the same thing, yet none of them know why or how to fix it. Aris connects with his biological mother in a dream and learns he’s a half-breed dragon – half Black dragon and half Golden. According to dream mom, until he accepts both halves of himself and finds the missing third part of his soul (the heroine, natch), he – and all his “brothers” – will die.

Sophie has been a captive for 7 years, since she was 14 (so it says in the beginning of the book) or 15 (end of the book). She’s been plotting her escape and trying to keep hope, but she’s almost at the end of her rope. She’s been dreaming of Aris (though she didn’t know his name) for years, but didn’t think he was real until they connect in a dream and he sees her as well. Now she’s determined to hang on until he can rescue her.

I liked the premise of this story, but honestly it was a hot mess. Inconsistencies galore. At first she was raped, then not. She was in the basement for 5 years, then 7. She was severely traumatized by her abuse (understandably so!), then she was strong so it didn’t matter. Things were glossed over or hinted at. Honestly, I could have let a lot of that go, but about halfway through we suddenly switched to the step-dad’s POV and that was just too much. I ended up finishing it, because I was curious to see what would happen with Aris’ illness, but I’m sorry I wasted my time.

At first the narrator bothered me, because he’d occasionally stumble or pause in strange ways/places, but after reading some of the reviews on GR, I’m convinced it was the poor writing in the book. Needless to say, I won’t be continuing with the series.

Rating: 1.0 out of 5

Stratham Dragons

one-star


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Review: The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith

Posted October 21, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: The Vine Witch by Luanne G. SmithReviewer: Holly
The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith
Narrator: Susannah Jones
Series: Vine Witch #1
Publisher: 47North
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Format: eBook, Audiobook
Source: Kindle Unlimited, Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 263
Length: 8 hours and 42 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Historical Challenge, Holly's 2019 Historical Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge, New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy of betrayal, vengeance, and self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century France.

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley.

The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith is a debut historical fantasy novel. This was an Amazon First pick. The audio add-on was only $1.99, so I snagged that with it and ended up listening to the whole book. The narrator did a wonderful job with the story.

Set somewhere near the turn of the century in France (automobiles are just becoming popular, though the year is never mentioned), The Vine Witch follows Elena Boureanu as she beats a deadly curse and returns to family winery Château Renard, the only home she’s ever known…only to discover it’s been sold and life as she knew it is changed forever.

For seven years, Elena has been stuck as a toad, forced to eat poison to fend off a deadly curse. When she finally breaks free, she returns home to Château Renard with vengeance in her heart. She’s convinced her former fiance is the one who cursed her when she broke off their engagement, and she plans to make him pay. When she returns home she finds all of the land has been hexed, not just her. It’ll take all her skill as a Vine Witch to untangle the mess of hexes…something made more difficult by the new owner’s refusal to believe in witches.

Jean Paul left a prestigious law firm in the city to become a winemaker when he saw the renowned Château Renard was available for sale. He wants nothing more than to produce amazing wine…using science, not the superstitious “magic” the locals claim is responsible for the good – and bad – in the land. When Elena returns, he’s suspicious of her, but if she can teach him the secrets of her famed grandfather, she’ll be worth her weight in gold. As he and Elena become close, he realizes there’s more to her than meets the eye..and everything he thought he believed may be a lie….

This was a lovely fairytale-esque novel, filled with mystery, intrigue and magic. I truly enjoyed both Elena and Jean Paul, as well as the world Smith created. The melancholy of the vines, the hexed land and the shadowy figures responsible truly came to life. I figured out early on who the villains were, and how Elena came to be cursed, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the novel.

This was the fantasy Gothic novel I’ve been craving. The Vine Witch shines bright.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Vine Witch

The Glamourist (Coming 2020)

four-stars


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Review: Sweet Heat by Zuri Day

Posted October 15, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Sweet Heat by Zuri DayReviewer: Holly
Sweet Heat by Zuri Day
Series: Blue-Collar Lover #3
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 416
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge, New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

The Blue-Collar Lover Series

They don't wear suits, but the five Carter brothers work hard to earn a day's pay--and keep the right woman satisfied . . .

No one turns out luscious pies and to-die-for cakes like Marvin Carter. Few outside of the family know about his baking skills, but working as a restaurant line cook is getting old fast. Now he'll do whatever it takes to win start-up money from a major cooking contest and launch his own business. But his prime competition is making things hot for him in--and out--of the kitchen . . .

Naomi Carson is as savory as her soul food and has twice the spice. This confident, large-and-in-charge beauty also has high aspirations, and will work all her skills against the tasty Mr. Marvin to take first place--and stop living with Grandma. As their attraction burns hot, the other contestants can't take their heat nor their talent, and threaten to burn their dreams to ash. Will the desire be doused--or can Marvin and Naomi find common ground and fire up the chance of a lifetime?

ALSO IN THIS SERIES "Great escapism." --Library Journal on Packing Heat "Sexy, hot deliciousness . . . this power couple light up the page like a 100-megawatt bulb." --USAToday.com on Bad Boy Seduction

Sweet Heat is the third book in Zuri Day‘s Blue-Collar Lovers series. This is the first book I’ve read in the series. I don’t feel like I missed anything by skipping the first two. It read well as a standalone. I do want to go back to the first two, however. I plan to pick them up soon.

Naomi Wells and Marvin Carter meet at auditions for a Food Truck cooking competition. Both are looking for a boost in their careers and the $50,000 grand prize, plus a full tricked out food truck, would go a long way. They have a sizzling attraction and great banter, which serves them well as they go through the various challenges. But things aren’t simple – several contestants seem to be after them, and fraternization is frowned upon. They can’t seem to keep away from each other, though…

This was a cute contemporary story. I really enjoyed the cooking competition and the banter between Marvin and Naomi. They had strong family ties and deep connections which came across well. I especially liked the relationship Marvin had with his mother, and the one between Naomi and her Nana.

There were a couple pretty cheesy parts, and the thing with her ex came out of nowhere and made little sense in the context of the story. Those were minor concerns, however, and I ended up enjoying the book as a whole.

If you want a funny, sweet, sizzling hot contemporary romance, look no further. Sweet Heat delivers.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5

Blue-Collar Lovers

three-half-stars


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Review: First Contact by Kat Green

Posted October 11, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: First Contact by Kat GreenReviewer: Holly
First Contact by Kat Green, Kat de Falla
Narrator: Kate Tyler
Series: Haunts For Sale #1
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: August 11, 2014
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Escape
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Length: 5 hours and 25 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge, New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
one-half-stars
Series Rating: two-stars

Sloane Osborne is a paranormal realtor in the business of selling haunted houses but, in truth, she’s only searching for one ghost. And her time is running out. It’s the 366th day after her fiancé’s death. Michael used to like putting things off for “a year and a day”—so tonight’s the night. Sloane will do anything to make contact with him before the clock strikes midnight. When she gets a call to check out a home in Waukesha, Wisconsin, it’s the last place she thinks Michael would contact her. Sloane is dead wrong.

I really liked the premise of this story. A paranormal real estate agent who checks to make sure haunted houses are safe to live in before she sells them? One who is looking for a chance to contact her dead fiance just one more time? I’m here for that. Unfortunately, it wasn’t well executed. I found this on the Audible Escape package. The narrator was okay. I liked some of the voices she used for the characters, but I don’t think she put a lot of emotion into the story. Things that should have been sad, or scary, came across as kind of flat. She was also very slow. I generally listen at 1.85x speed, but I ended up bumping this one to 2.10x speed.

Sloane Osborne was on her way to pick up her marriage license with fiance Michael when they got into a car accident and Michael was killed. He always joked that everything would happen in “A Year and a Day”. For the past year, she’s been working as a Paranormal Real Estate agent. She sells haunted houses, but first she makes sure they’re safe to live in (that the ghosts aren’t evil or angry). She’s also been searching for Michael’s ghost. It’s been exactly a year and a day since the accident, so Sloane is convinced she’ll be able to finally make contact with him tonight. She got a tip about a house in Wisconsin that’s up for sale, so that’s where she heads. It turns out the house is very haunted, and she’s able to make first contact with spirits..and Michael is one of them.

More often than not Sloane was TSTL (too stupid to live). Her dead fiance’s best friend, Jonah, is a cold case investigator with the FBI, and also a strong medium. She used to hunt ghosts with him until her fiance died and she retreated into herself. She called him once she made first contact with the spirits in a house in Wisconsin, because she suspected girls had been murdered there. He asked her to wait for him before venturing back into the house, or speaking to anyone about her suspicions. She thinks to herself, “I should wait..but I’m not going to.” She also thinks to herself several times that she’s in over her head, yet she still continues on her merry way. It was no surprise to me when she ended up trapped in a hole in the floor for her stupidity.

The villains were easily picked out from the first, and honestly they were both such dumb-asses I’m surprised they got away with anything as long as they did. The only reason I kept reading was because I was interested in the ghosts themselves. I was hoping we’d see more of their backgrounds and they’d be a bigger focus of the story. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. It mostly focused on Sloane and she bumbled her way into danger.

There were also a lot of inconsistencies in the story. Michael, the dead fiance, was a paragon of male worthiness and nothing could ever live up to his memory..except he sounded like a controlling asshole a lot of the time and she even thinks to herself at one point that things may not have worked with them long-term after all. Except, wait, he was the LOVE OF HER LIFE. She was a paranormal real estate agent and, according to her, the market was hot and a lot of people wanted to buy haunted houses. Yet she hadn’t made a single sale yet and was on the brink of starving and being homeless. Things like that really pulled me out of the story and kind of drove me crazy.

I did really like Jonah, however. He kind of made the story for me, though he spent more time off page than on. Although the premise is interesting, I don’t believe I’ll continue on with the series. Watching Sloane stumble around and make dumb decisions mostly just gave me a headache.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Haunts for Sale

one-half-stars


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