Reading Challenge: Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge

Review: Switch Hitter by Sara Ney

Posted December 17, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Switch Hitter by Sara NeyReviewer: Holly
Switch Hitter by Sara Ney
Narrator: Erin Mallon, Jacob Morgan
Series: Jock Hard #0.5
Also in this series: Jock Rule

Publication Date: March 15, 2018
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Escape
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
Pages: 146
Length: 2 hours and 29 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Series Rating: four-stars

I knew something was wrong the second she walked in the door tonight; I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
Same hair color. Same legs. Same face.
Except…I look harder. At the small dimple beneath her lip that wasn’t there the last time we went out. And her laugh—that laugh isn’t as loud.
This isn’t the girl I’ve gone out with the past few weeks. It’s her twin sister, and they’ve switched places on me.
Only I’m not quite ready to let them switch back.

Switch Hitter is a sweet contemporary sweet novella I found while browsing the “Nice Guys” section of Audible Escape. I really liked the romance and especially the hero, who was, as advertised, a nice guy. I liked the banter they had and their chemistry, but the premise was kind of frustrating.

Amelia gets suckered by her twin sister, Lucy, into pretending to be her (Lucy) for a date. Amelia ends up having great chemistry with the guy, and she really likes him, but he thinks she’s Lucy. Dash wasn’t interested in the too-aggressive Lucy, but this new version is pretty amazing. As he tries to get to the bottom of her abrupt personally change, Amelia vows to walk away from him and never pretend to be Lucy with him again. Until Lucy calls and begs her to break things off with him for her…

I never understood why Amelia agreed to pretend to be Lucy. I ended up thinking less of Amelia for going along with Lucy’s plan. I wanted her to stand up to her twin and tell her no, but instead she kept going along with the whole thing. First the date, then breaking up with him. It was silly.

Despite that, I still enjoyed the story as a whole (mostly because of Dash). This is my first story by Ney, and I’m definitely interested in reading more.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Jock Hard


Tagged: , , , , , ,

Review: The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb

Posted December 16, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy WebbReviewer: Holly
The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb
Narrator: Kirsten Potter

Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Audible Escape, Library
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Gothic, Mystery
Pages: 344
Length: 8 hours and 53 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books

From award-winning novelist Wendy Webb comes a spine-tingling mystery about family secrets set in a big, old haunted house on Lake Superior.
Grace Alban has spent twenty years away from her childhood home, the stately Alban House, for reasons she would rather forget. But when her mother's unexpected death brings Grace and her teen-age daughter home, she finds more haunting the halls and passageways of Alban House than her own personal demons.
Long-buried family secrets, a packet of old love letters and a lost manuscript plunge Grace into a decades-old mystery about a scandalous party at Alban House, when a world-famous author took his own life and Grace's aunt disappeared without a trace. The night has been shrouded in secrecy by the powerful Alban family for all of these years, and Grace realizes her family secrets tangle and twist as darkly as the secret passages of Alban House. Her mother was intending to tell the truth about that night to a reporter on the very day she died - could it have been murder? Or was she a victim of the supposed Alban curse? With the help of the disarmingly kind--and attractive—Reverend Matthew Parker, Grace must uncover the truth about her home and its curse before she and her daughter become the next victims.

The Fate of Mercy Alban came up in my recommended reads in Audible Escape so I decided to give it a try. This is my first book by Wendy Webb. The beginning really grabbed me and I found myself at the library requesting the ebook so I could finish it faster.

Grace Alban hasn’t been home to Alban House in twenty years, since her younger brothers and father died. When her mother passes away, she and her daughter Amity, return for the funeral and to take care of things at the estate. Almost from the moment they return home strange things begin happening. There’s something going on at Alban House, something related to the death of a famous writer there some fifty years ago, and Grace is determined to get to the bottom of what it is. With the help of the local Reverend and the long-time employees of the manor, Grace and her daughter will need to figure it out quickly…before it’s too late to save any of them.

As I said, the beginning of this book was fabulous. About 1/4 of the way through the book, things slowed down. Grace started making some questionable decisions that really pulled me out of the story, and the story moved kind of slow. Grace would ask questions and demand answers, then just shrug when no one was forthcoming. Things like that. I actually did better with the audiobook. The narrator, Kirsten Potter, did an excellent job of keeping Grace from edging too far over the “WTAF ARE YOU DOING” line for me.

In the end the mystery portion was fairly predicable and I wasn’t surprised at all with how things turned out. I did enjoy Alban House itself. The manor really came to life for me, and that’s what prompted me to keep going.

Other reviews mention this not being Webb’s best effort, so I may pick up another soon.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5


Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

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: Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
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



Tagged: , , , , , , ,

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: Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
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


Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Review: The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith

Posted October 21, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 3 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: Holly's 2019 Historical Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
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)


Tagged: , , , , , , , ,