Tag: Guest Review

Guest Review: Darkness by Karen Robards

Posted October 31, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: Darkness by Karen RobardsReviewer: Jen
Darkness by Karen Robards
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: March 29th 2016
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 384
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three-half-stars

New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards continues her penchant for “fantastic storytelling” (RT Book Reviews) with this next heart-pumping romantic suspense novel, the tale of a brilliant ornithologist trapped on the remote Attu Island in Alaska, fighting for her life—and that of a handsome stranger—before they’re swallowed up in darkness forever.

BOOM. That’s the sound that changes everything for Dr. Gina Sullivan, a renowned ornithologist on a group research grant trip on the remote island of Attu, Alaska. When an everyday outing turns sinister at the onset of one of Attu’s infamous storms, Gina expects thunder and lightning—but what she doesn’t see coming is the small jet plane that drops out of the sky and into the water mere feet from her boat. Even more unprecedented: there’s a sole survivor from the crash, and he needs Gina’s help. But it turns out that rescuing the stranger and getting them both out of the oncoming storm is just the beginning. Because the more Gina learns about James “Cal” Callahan, he of brooding eyes and muscled frame, the more she fears—for herself, and for him.

Cal has made a career of trading on government secrets and emerging unscathed—until a routine pickup goes horribly wrong and lands him in ice-cold water. Literally. He knows the plane crash was no accident and that there could very well be an enemy force currently combing the Alaskan island ensuring there were no survivors. Now if only the arrestingly beautiful bird-watcher with the clear-blue gaze would stop watching him, well, like a hawk. Cal convinces Gina to return to base camp and help him covertly get off the island. But when Gina makes it safely back to camp and finds her entire team murdered, all bets are off, and as darkness envelops the island, she must decide: trust a man she barely knows, or go it alone and risk running straight into the arms of a killer?

Gina is an ornithologist who’s come to a remote Alaskan island to study the local wildlife. While out alone on a boat, a small plane crashes nearly on top of her, and she manages to save one very intense and handsome man. Cal’s in some deep shit. He was on a secret mission that went horribly wrong. He’s been shot, fell out of sky in a plane crash, and was submerged in freezing water for a ridiculously long time, so Gina’s help is the only thing that stops him from dying right there in the water. Still, he doesn’t trust her and she doesn’t trust him, but because of an intense storm moving in they are stuck with each other overnight. When Gina eventually makes her way back to her research station and finds all her colleagues murdered and bad guys searching for her, she and Cal have to go on the run. With no way to communicate with the outside world, they have to survive on the cold, unforgiving island until they can figure out a way to escape.

The details in this book get pretty ridiculous. First and foremost, Cal is freaking superhuman. He’s on the brink of death, which is understandable SINCE HE WAS IN A PLANE CRASH. He has no winter gear or shoes, and nothing but the most basic first aid supplies. Yet after just one night of sleep, he’s able to make a strenuous 5 hour hike through unfamiliar terrain, then fight off a bad guy, run away, and hike up a mountain. (And of course he still has plenty of strength for sexxxing.) Riiiiight. Gina also gets the hots for him too early. I liked that she was wary, but then she ruins that by getting all hot and bothered as he’s patting her down against her will to check for weapons, or admiring his abs as she’s wondering why he got shot before his plane crashed. Lots of convenient stuff happens, like Gina and Cal finding a ridiculously well-equipped and comfortable cave and a 70 year old parachute in working condition. The bad guys and their plans are kind of fuzzy and glossed over. Overall, there’s not a lot of attention given to the larger story, just to Gina and Cal’s fight for survival. 

But you know what? I loved this book anyway. I am always a sucker for wilderness survival stories, so this was right up my alley. I also liked Gina and Cal as characters. Gina has had some serious trauma in her life, and while she has learned to cope she probably hasn’t faced it as directly as she needs to. I appreciated that Cal recognized her pain and genuinely wanted to be there for her. I liked Cal’s suspicious and gruff nature, too. While he’s a good person, he’s not cuddly, and he doesn’t make many connections with others. He’s in a tough and dangerous business, and it makes sense that he’d be the way he is. But when he realizes he is starting to care about someone else, he doesn’t push it away, give some BS excuse like his lifestyle wouldn’t allow him to be with anyone, or decide he’s too manly for The Feels. He is a little spooked but he goes with it, and he isn’t afraid to tell Gina that he wants something more. I liked seeing his sensitive side, and I liked the two of them together.

While it might have issues (hence the less-than-perfect grade), this book was thrilling for me, and I ended it completely satisfied.

Grade: 3.75 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Guest Review: Driven to Temptation by Melia Alexander

Posted July 26, 2016 by Ames in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Driven to Temptation by Melia AlexanderReviewer: Ames
Driven to Temptation by Melia Alexander
Publisher: Entangled
Publication Date: June 13, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 200
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three-half-stars

Aidan Ross might be an engineering genius, but people skills? Not this soldier’s forte. Thankfully, a trusted friend is accompanying him to a make-or-break tradeshow…but then a bubbly redhead hops into his truck, claiming to be his new road trip buddy. She’s a gorgeous distraction he can’t afford. Or ignore.

Delaney Harper comes from a family of engineers—male engineers. With several impressive projects under her belt, she’s on a mission to prove she can hang with the big boys, too. But cracking the sexy, closed-off CEO is tougher than she expects…and hotter than she could have imagined.

With the tempting woman disrupting his carefully planned schedule, Aidan can’t focus on the road, much less their upcoming presentation. The future of his company is riding on this trip, and if they’re to land a huge account, he has to keep his head—and his heart—in the game…

Two things ticked my happy reader list with the blurb for this book. A socially awkward hero and a woman trying to make it in a profession that’s previously been dominated by men. And Driven to Temptation lived up to my expectations.

Delaney Harper comes from a family of engineers. Her mother would rather she marry an engineer than be one, but Delaney wants to prove her mother wrong. When her boss gets sick, she jumps at the chance to take his place with Aidan Ross, the co-owner of the company, on a road trip to a conference. Aidan is not good with people and rarely comes into the office. So he doesn’t even recognize Delaney as his employee when she starts loading up his truck. He really doesn’t want her to tag along and the beginning of their road trip only reinforces that feeling. Aidan comes across as a bit anal and his ex-wife called him the Ice King. Despite his awkwardness, Delaney keeps making an effort to get to know him. Eventually Aidan stops seeing Delaney’s actions as annoying (like eating in his truck, stopping to rescue dogs on the highway, etc). He likes how she shakes up his life and even though their schedule has been shot to hell, he can’t deny that its been fun. She even fixes a situation that could have derailed their presentation at the conference they’re attending.

I liked Delaney and Aidan. They complement each other. Delaney is a bit of a tomboy who thinks her looks should have nothing to do with how well of a job she does. She’s quite driven and smart. Her one blind spot is her looks. She’s not a hag, but she doesn’t dress to impress. She’s more comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans. Being an engineer, that’s a more practical outfit than a skirt and heels. And Aidan. He knows people aren’t his strong suit and he can tell what he should do in a given situation but he just can’t (who can’t relate to that?). Delaney’s personality draws him out and he becomes more approachable. Knowing Delaney is his employee, he fights the growing attraction he feels towards her. That obviously doesn’t last and he and Delaney get to know each other very well at the conference.

Because of the ensuing conflict and resolution, I did not have a problem with Delaney being Aidan’s employee. My only quibble with the book was the length. It was a quick 215 pages (according to Entangled’s website) and a lot of story was packed into those pages. I felt that Aidan and Delaney fell for each other a bit quickly but I did not doubt their feelings. I would have liked to have seen that part of the story expanded a little bit. Overall, I enjoyed the characters and the story. There was character growth with both Aidan and Delaney and I like seeing a woman be successful in engineering.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Guest Review: Under the Wire by HelenKay Dimon

Posted June 30, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Under the Wire by HelenKay DimonReviewer: Jen
Under the Wire (Bad Boys Undercover #4) by HelenKay Dimon
Series: Bad Boys Undercover #4
Publisher: Harper Collins, Avon
Publication Date: June 28th 2016
Format: eARC
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 384
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five-stars
Series Rating: five-stars

The Bad Boys of the Alliance—a top-secret military security agency—are back for more in HelenKay Dimon’s sexy, action-packed series.

Only one thing could pull Reid Armstrong away from a vacation he’s earned with every muscle in his finely honed body—learning that his former fiancée has disappeared on a top-secret science expedition in the middle of nowhere. Second chances don’t come often in Reid’s business, and he needs to prove his worth to Cara Layne or die trying.

Waking up to find her camp destroyed and her colleagues missing, Cara is a walking target. She can’t trust anyone, least of all Reid. Even if his skills get them out alive, he’s a heartache waiting to strike twice. Yet being in close proximity proves their connection burns hotter than ever.

The body count is rising, the enemy is getting closer, and soon Reid will be right back in the position that cost him everything—forced to choose between the woman he loves, and the job that’s his only hope of saving them both . . .

I’ve been dragging my feet on reading the rest of the books in this series after how much I really disliked Book #1. (It’s the kind of dislike that has only grown over time the more I have thought about that story and how much that hero pissed me off. Grrr.) Something about the blurb on this one grabbed me though, and I generally like Dimon’s voice, so I gave it a shot. Woo, it was awesome!

This is a second chance love story, between Reid Armstrong and Cara Layne. Reid is a member of the top secret Alliance agency. He heads to the Russian wilderness because Cara, a geologist and his ex-fiance, failed to check in with her brother while on an expedition. (Yes, Reid literally flies around the world and illegally sneaks into Russia, dragging his colleague Parker along, to see if she’s ok. It’s a bit flimsy, but just go with it!) When he gets there he finds her (absurdly easily), but the rest of her team has disappeared. When she comes clean about the fact that their expedition was about more than just science, Reid, Cara, and Parker get embroiled in something, though they can’t quite figure out what happened to the science team, who is after them, or why. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, Reid and Cara have some massive baggage between them after Cara abruptly broke off their short engagement a year ago and smashed Reid’s heart to pieces. They have to stay alive long enough to solve the puzzle of what is going on as well as work through their personal issues.

The thing I loved most about this book is the way it balanced the action with the relationship development. Though I love them, romantic suspenses/adventures are not always great at tackling emotional development and character growth, but Dimon does it beautifully in this book. Cara and Reid have so much hurt and mistrust between them. At first, I was 100% team Reid. He obviously loved Cara deeply. They were only together during a short and stressful time, but he never doubted his love for her, which is why he proposed so quickly. As the reader, it was so clear that it wasn’t a whim to him; he was in it for the long haul. He simply grabbed what he wanted immediately because, given his dangerous job and terrible childhood, he knew you have to take your happiness when you find it. When she dumps him, it shatters him, and that didn’t endear Cara to me. But little by little, we get to hear more about Cara’s side of the story, and her reasons for leaving were valid, too. Both of them made mistakes and let their own insecurities and hang ups get in the way of their relationship, but they don’t magically fix it with just one conversation. The two of them slowly chip away at the pain and misunderstandings through the course of the book, and seeing them come to a place of love and forgiveness at the end was a great payoff.

The plot is exciting and kept me guessing too. There are so many players involved, and untangling their motivations kept Reid, Cara, and Parker on their toes. There are tons of dead bodies (but not tons of gore), some explosions, hiding in caves, spies and secret agents, and a doomsday bomb. Certainly Reid and his colleagues are larger than life and do the action-movie heroics, but nothing felt so crazy or unbelievable that it yanked me out of the story. Plus, we spend a lot of time with Tasha in this book. (She’s the head of Alliance and the heroine from Running Hot, the prequel to the series.) To be honest, I’d be happy to read an entire series just of her kicking ass and taking names, so I was thrilled to get so much time with her in this book. Smart and lethal woman who can lead a group of the toughest men on the planet–what’s not to love?

I know this book has some small flaws, but it hit so many of my favorites in one story: a brilliant scientist heroine, a hero madly in love, international intrigue, funny dialog, a snarky friend for the hero, adventure through a remote countryside, and some very steamy moments. It’s definitely the best adventure romance I’ve read in a while, and I’m so happy I decided to give the series another chance.

Grade: 5 out of 5

*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

five-stars


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Guest Review: Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

Posted June 14, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah MorganReviewer: Jen
Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan
Series: From Manhattan with Love #1
Also in this series: Sleepless in Manhattan, Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love, #2), Miracle on 5th Avenue, Miracle on 5th Avenue

Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Format: eARC
Pages: 464
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan introduces a sizzling new trilogy about three best friends embracing life—and love—in Manhattan.

Cool, calm and competent, events planner Paige Walker loves a challenge. After a childhood spent in and out of hospitals, she's now determined to prove herself—and where better to take the world by storm than in the exhilarating bustle of Manhattan? But when Paige is let go from the job she loves, she must face her biggest challenge of all—going it alone.

Except launching her own events company is nothing compared to hiding her outrageous crush on Jake Romano—her brother's best friend, New York's most in-demand date, and the only man to break her heart. When Jake offers Paige's fledgling company a big chance, their still-sizzling chemistry starts giving her sleepless nights. But can she convince the man who trusts no one to take a chance on forever?

Yay, a new series from Sarah Morgan! This series is set in New York City and follows three childhood friends starting an event planning/concierge business. The first friend is Paige Walker. When the book opens, Paige and her two friends get laid off from their jobs (they all worked at the same event planning company). Feeling guilty because she’s the one who convinced her friends to join the company, Paige is sulking until her brother’s friend, Jake Romano, suggests she start her own business. With some help from Jake, Paige is determined to make the business a success, but working with Jake is tough because he broke her heart when they were younger. Jake too has been half in love with Paige forever, but he’s determined to remember that she’s his best friend’s sister. Obviously, that doesn’t work so well.

This was a sweet book. Paige was smart and driven, and she would do anything for those she loves. She had some serious, life threatening health issues as a child, and she spent her life having everyone around her coddle and shelter her. What few of them realized, though, was how she was the one doing the protecting, trying to hide her problems so no one would worry. She did the same thing when her friends lost their jobs–she wanted so badly to succeed in her new business not because she wanted it for herself but because she wanted it for her friends. I loved her determination and her fierce devotion to those she loved. Plus her friends and family are devoted right back, especially her brother, and seeing her and her friends together was lovely.

Jake was less interesting to me. He’s a hot shot bachelor millionaire…whatever. I’m also getting tired of “I can’t get involved because she’s my little sister.” Grow up, dude. (Though I liked her brother, he could have stood a good slap upside the head too for being so overprotective.) I didn’t really get why Jake was dragging his feet so much, except that he was kind of a dick. I felt like he jerked Paige around more than he should have, and while I didn’t hate him, I didn’t love him either.

I loved the strong family and friend relationships, and I loved the New York setting, which Morgan uses to great effect. I did feel like there was a little something missing, some spark to make the book feel fresh that I’ve come to expect from Morgan’s books, but that may have been mostly because of my ambivalence towards Jake. Regardless, this book is a perfectly pleasant read.

Grade: 4 out of 5

*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

four-stars


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Guest Review: Deep Dark by Laura Griffin

Posted May 23, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 10 Comments

Guest Review: Deep Dark by Laura GriffinReviewer: Jen
Deep Dark by Laura Griffin
Series: Tracers #10
Also in this series: Stone Cold Heart

Publication Date: May 24th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Fantasy
Pages: 368
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three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

“If you like CSI and well-crafted suspense, don’t miss these books” (RT Book Reviews)! The tenth novel in the New York Times bestselling Tracers series is a gripping romantic thriller from the author who “never fails to put me on the edge of my seat” (USA TODAY).
The moment detective Reed Novak steps onto the crime scene, he knows the case is going to rock his world. A beautiful young woman murdered at home. No sign of forced entry. No motive. She’s obviously not the killer’s first victim, and Reed’s instincts tell him she won’t be his last. Reed’s first clue comes via a mysterious text that links to a dating profile, but even more intriguing than the clue is the person who sent it.
As a white-hat hacker in the Delphi Center’s cyber investigation unit, Laney Knox sneaks into some of the deepest, darkest corners of the Internet looking for predators. Laney would prefer to stay away from Austin PD’s most recent murder case, but she can’t ignore the chilling similarities between that crime and her own brutal attack years ago. Laney offers to help the sexy lead detective, but he wants more from her than just a promising tip—Reed wants her trust. Laney resists, but as their relationship deepens she’s tempted to reveal the closely guarded secrets that could make her a key witness…or the killer’s next victim.

Time for another Tracers book! This time we have Reed Novak, a detective with the Austin PD, and Laney Knox, a white hat hacker for the Delphi Center. When Laney hears about a recent murder that bears a striking similarity to an attack she experienced years ago, she contacts Reed and wants to help. She doesn’t trust him and he’s not sure how much he trusts her either, but as they both pursue the investigation, they start to uncover dangerous information that could put Laney at risk.

I thought the suspense aspect of the book was great. The villain is creepy and disturbing, and there are lots of twists and turns here as Reed and Laney close in on him. As usual, Griffin includes lots of details from the investigation to make the book feel realistic and based on science. Whether that’s actually true, I don’t know, but I love the geeky details she sprinkles in! We get to see some glimpses of other characters too, and I always enjoy that because, realistically, many of these investigator-types working in a medium-sized city would know each other, right?

The relationship between Reed and Laney just didn’t do it for me, though. First, Reed is fifteen years older than Laney, not a trope I love. I could get over it if they felt in sync, but I didn’t get that here. Reed is cynical and hardened and a very seasoned professional, but he meets Laney and he starts breaking protocol left and right for her. (I’d say he was largely thinking with his…lower brain.) Laney acts her age–she’s immature, rushes into things without thinking about the consequences, and behaves more like an infatuated girl than a grown woman. Sure, she’s also cynical based on her past and her work hunting online predators, but when it comes to general life skills she shows her age. The two had chemistry, but I didn’t feel a deeper connection, at least in this book. And the age thing isn’t really explored in great depth. Come on, 15 years is a long time! Some serious conversation seems in order.

Am I getting tired of this series and therefore being too harsh? I don’t know! I did really enjoy the last book in the series, and I haven’t hated a Tracers book yet, including this one. The storylines and suspense elements are always thrilling, and the science of investigation keeps me hooked.

I have no problem suggesting that everyone who enjoys this series read this one, and I’ll be first in line to keep reading future installments.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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