Tag: Holly’s Reviews

Review: Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews

Posted August 23, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Sweep of the Blade by Ilona AndrewsReviewer: Holly
Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #4
Also in this series: Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles, #1), Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles, #1), Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles, #2), One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles, #3), Clean Sweep
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: July 16, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Pages: 315
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Maud Demille is a daughter of Innkeepers—a special group who provide ‘lodging’ to other-planetary visitors—so she knows that a simple life isn't in the cards. But even Maud could never have anticipated what Fate would throw at her.

Once a wife to a powerful vampire knight, Maud and her young daughter, Helen, were exiled with him for his treachery to the desolate, savage planet of Karhari. Karhari killed her husband, and Maud—completely abandoned by his family—has spent over a year avenging his debts. Rescued by her sister Dina, she's sworn off all things vampire.

Except... In helping Dina save the world, she met Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr, one of the most powerful vampire houses. One thing led to another and he asked for her hand in marriage. She declined. Arland is not used to hearing the word ‘no;’ and try as she might, Maud can't just walk away from Arland. It doesn't help that being human is a lot harder for Maud than being a vampire.

To sort it all out, she accepts his invitation to visit his home planet. House Krahr is extremely influential and Maud knows that a woman—a human, with a very questionable past—who's turned down a proposal from its most beloved son won't get a warm reception. Maybe she’s not sure about marrying Arland, but House Krahr isn’t going to decide for her. Maud Demille has never run from a fight, and House Krahr will soon discover that there's a lot more to Maud than they’re expecting.

Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews is the 4th book in the InnKeeper Chronicles. Books 1-3 were told from Dina’s point-of-view, and were centered in her Inn, Gertrude Hunt, in Red Deer, Texas. This novel takes us into the Holy Anocracy, as Maud travels there to see if she can make a life for herself and Helen with Lord Arland, Marshall of House Krahr. I read this as a free serial on the author’s website, but this review is for the expanded, fully edited version. I’ve been anxiously awaiting the full release for months. This is my favorite of all Andrews’ series (maybe) and I adore Maud, Arland and Helen.

Maud DeMille, daughter of Innkeepers, has spent the past two years surviving on a hellish planet, paying a blood debt after her husband gets them all banished from his House and eventually ends up dead. As the human wife of a Vampire, she had to work hard to prove herself to House Ervan, and now that her husband is dead and her sister rescued her from Karhari, she isn’t keen to put her or her child back in with another House. But Arland, Lord Marshall of House Krahr, makes her feel things she never thought she’d feel again. So she’s back in the Holy Anocracy, trying to decide if she can earn a place in his clan, or if she’ll have to walk away from him forever.

…they pitched forward and conquered the final stair. “As I was saying,” Arland said, a sheen of sweat covering his face, “if I had to fight nine knights every week for the pleasure of you berating me, I would do it gladly.”

“You are an idiot. I abandoned my sister and a perfectly good inn and traveled halfway across the galaxy for an idiot.”

Arland’s devotion to Maud and Helen came across so well it was hard not to want Maud to fall right in with his plans for her to marry him. But I understood her hesitation completely. She’d been burned once and lost – literally – everything when her husband betrayed not only his House, but her and their daughter as well. Her need to take things slow and go cautiously with their future made perfect sense. I loved Helen in the previous books, and she was just as wonderful here. I also loved Maud’s devotion to her, and how well developed their relationship was.

“And he said I wasn’t good enough to be his enemy. And I said, ‘I’ll punch you so hard, you’ll swallow your teeth, worm.’”

Maud hid a groan. “Where did you hear that?”

“Lord Arland.” Oh goodie.

The political intrigue, evil vampire machinations and kickass fight scenes only amplified an already amazing story. The world-building is so detailed I honestly felt like I was right there on the planet with them. Watching Maud find her place with Arland amongst his clan was lovely. She’s so kickass, I can’t help but adore her.

“They did call me something on Karhari.”

“What was it?” “Maud the Sariv.”

“What does that mean?” Karat asked.

“On Karhari there is a summer wind that comes from the wastes. Nobody knows how it forms, but it comes out of nowhere and it picks up thorny spores from local weeds. When you inhale sariv’s breath, the spores enter your lungs and cut you from the inside. There is no escape from this storm. If you are caught in it without protective gear, it will kill you. They called me that because I paid the blood debt I owed to my husband’s killers.”

I also loved what an asset she was as Maven, and how we got to see Nuan Cee again. The way she was with the Tachi, and her knowledge of so much, was wonderful.

Vampire worldview, condensed into three sentences: If it’s not food or a pet, kill it, because it might be poisonous.

There’s quite a bit of humor, along with a whole heaping lot of fight scenes with just enough romance thrown in to keep my heart happy.

Overall, this was another stellar Innkeeper novel. I can only hope the authors continue the series. I want more!

“What I’m trying to say is, I see you. I would love you if you were a vampire or a human, because of who you are. You don’t need an inn or a broom to fascinate me. You only have to look my way and you’ll have all of my attention.”

Something fluttered in her chest. Something left over from before Karhari and her marriage.

She tilted her head and gave him a narrow smile. “What if I were a werewolf?”

He sucked in air, pretending to think it over. “I would love you still.”

Rating: 4 out of 5

Innkeeper Chronicles

four-stars


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Summer Reading Challenge Review: The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran

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

Summer Reading Challenge Review: The Duke of Shadows by Meredith DuranReviewer: Holly
The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: May 8, 2010
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 388
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge, Holly's Summer Reading Challenge, New to Me Challenge, Summer Reading Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars

In a debut romance as passionate and sweeping as the British Empire, Meredith Duran paints a powerful picture of an aristocrat torn between two worlds, an heiress who dares to risk everything...and the love born in fire and darkness that nearly destroys them.

From exotic sandstone palaces...

Sick of tragedy, done with rebellion, Emmaline Martin vows to settle quietly into British Indian society. But when the pillars of privilege topple, her fiancé's betrayal leaves Emma no choice. She must turn for help to the one man whom she should not trust, but cannot resist: Julian Sinclair, the dangerous and dazzling heir to the Duke of Auburn.

To the marble halls of London...

In London, they toast Sinclair with champagne. In India, they call him a traitor. Cynical and impatient with both worlds, Julian has never imagined that the place he might belong is in the embrace of a woman with a reluctant laugh and haunted eyes. But in a time of terrible darkness, he and Emma will discover that love itself can be perilous -- and that a single decision can alter one's life forever.

Destiny follows wherever you run.

A lifetime of grief later, in a cold London spring, Emma and Julian must finally confront the truth: no matter how hard one tries to deny it, some pasts cannot be disowned...and some passions never die.

I remember when The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran was first released. There was much fanfare and everyone seemed to love it. I often have bad luck when it comes to books everyone else loves, so I put off reading it. Years went by and, though it’s been sitting in my TBR pile for a decade, I never did read it. Casee chose it as one of her picks for me for our Summer Reading Challenge, so I dug it out. It turned out to be a lovely read.

This is a dark, complex read. Emmaline, our female lead, suffers much trauma. A shipwreck, then war in India. She is much affected by her trials and tribulations, and that came across well on page. I was fully wrapped up in her journey. Part one, especially, was hard to get through. So much violence. There was somewhat of a disconnect in Part two, however. I found myself getting impatient with the story, and also struggling to readjust to life in London ballrooms. Which, I think, speaks well of the author and how well she brought me into Emma and Julian’s story in India.

As for the romance, I truly felt the connection Julian and Emma had. I also felt their anguish at all that had come between them. I did find some of their actions not in keeping with their characters, however. Especially when they reunite in England. But I was able to move past it. Something I had a harder time moving past was all the exclamation points Duran used! They were relentless! Sometimes two or three per paragraph!

Still, all in all, I think Casee chose well for this one. Shocking, I know.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: Untamed Delights by Suzanne Wright

Posted August 21, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Untamed Delights by Suzanne WrightReviewer: Holly
Untamed Delights by Suzanne Wright
Series: The Phoenix Pack #8
Also in this series: Wild Hunger, Wild Hunger , Carnal Secrets
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication Date: July 16, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 381
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Return to the sensual and feral stirrings of the Phoenix Pack as a woman who’s already bound to one man is tempted by a wolf who’s bound only to his nightly desires.

Cat shifter Mila Devereaux can’t help but see it as a betrayal. That her one true mate imprinted himself on another female was hard enough to accept. Struggling to be at peace with her loveless fate, she doesn’t fight the suggestion of entering an arranged mating. Then she meets Dominic, a pack enforcer with a notorious reputation. It’s in his very scent. This irresistible playboy—and delicious badass wolf—is making Mila’s fantasies come alive again.

Alarming, compelling, and heady with sensual energy, Dominic is an expert at making women shed their inhibitions. Now everything about him—his killer smile, his perfectly sculpted body, and his smooth-as-honey voice—is drawing in a captivating new catch. But for the first time in his life, Dominic is feeling more than a fling. He finds himself tantalized by a female who makes him think of forever. He wants all of Mila and won’t be satisfied until he has it.

As the passion grows wild, so does the risk. They’re falling in love in the shadows and secrets of their pasts. And it’s threatening to destroy everything Mila and Dominic are fighting for. And are destined for.

Untamed Delights is the final book in Suzanne Wright’s Phoenix Pack series. I’m sad to see the end of it, but I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next from Wright.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting Dom’s book. He’s the one who constantly tossed cheesy lines at all the women in previous books, but you could tell there was more to him.

Mila Devereaux, a Pallas cat, knows who her True Mate is, and she and her cat are salty because he imprinted on someone else. She wouldn’t accept him now even if he did come for her, because she feels he betrayed and abandoned her by choosing someone else. She wants him to be happy, but that doesn’t lesson the feelings of betrayal. She’s having a hard time living as part of her Pride, since she’s in constant contact with her True Mate and the shifter he chose. Dominic isn’t interested in finding his True Mate. He wants a partner, and he’d rather do the choosing than have fate choose for him. He’s wanted Mila for years, but after they spend a little more time together he knows he has to have her. He sets out to win her and her cat over.

I really liked the way he and Mila chose each other, though I did struggle with the whole fated mates aspect. Dominic choosing to be with her, despite knowing he has a True Mate somewhere in the world was sweet, but I was mildly bothered by the fact that Mila was just okay with it. As someone who felt betrayed by her True Mate choosing someone else, I thought she should have felt some kind of way about doing that to someone else.

That aside, I liked their relationship and watching them come together. I liked watching Dominic fall for her, and go all in. They had great banter and a lot of chemistry. It was also great seeing some of my favorite past characters, though I could have done without Greta and her constant sniping. That was funny 15 books ago. Now, not so much.

I didn’t care for the “villains”, but then I rarely do when it comes to SW’s books. Still, Wright always gets me wrapped up in her world, and this book was no exception.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Phoenix Pack

four-stars


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Joint Review: Never Have I Ever by Lauren Blakely

Posted August 20, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Joint Review: Never Have I Ever by Lauren BlakelyReviewer: Holly and Rowena
Never Have I Ever by Lauren Blakely
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi, Jason Clarke
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: July 30, 2019
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Escape
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Length: 8 hours, 20 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
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What happens when two frenemies can't stop pushing each other's buttons? Find out in this tender, laugh-out-loud funny romance from number-one New York Times best-selling author Lauren Blakely, available in audio first!

Never Have I Ever been so infuriated by a man I wanted to kiss.

They say opposites attract, but I beg to differ. Combust is more like it. Because every single time I talk to Zach Nolan, I see red.

The too-good-looking, too-smart, too-effortlessly-charming single dad who works down the hall from me has turned getting under my skin into a sport. Call it the battle of wits between the wedding planner and the divorce attorney. Trouble is, when we’re forced into closer quarters, planning an engagement party for our best friends, I start to see his other sides.

And I fear I’m falling for the enemy.

***

I’m not out to make friends. My goals are simple -- fight till the end for my clients, and my family. The last thing I need is a vibrant, outgoing, snarky, and surprisingly big-hearted wedding planner to spend my precious free time with…except, watching Piper bond with my daughter just might break down the cinder block walls I’ve built around my heart these last few years. Second chances don’t come around for guys like me…or do they?

Rowena: Never Have I Ever is the latest contemporary romance released by Lauren Blakely and, honestly, it’s the Single Dad romance that Holly and I wanted back when we were thirsting for a good Single Dad romance. Lauren Blakely shows us again why she’s so good at her job.

Single Dad Zach Nolan is a divorce attorney who has his hands full. With his clients, his two kids and now, his best friend’s wedding. He’s only a little annoyed that this wedding is going to put him into the path of Piper Radcliff, the woman that annoys the shit out of him and has for quite some time now. They share a lot of friends and a lot of animosities as well. They’re office neighbors and Piper sparks up a friendship with Zach’s daughter so they’re in each other’s personal space a lot. When wedding preparations for their friends amp up, they get closer and that fire turns to an attraction neither of them was expecting but aren’t willing to walk away from.

Alright, what did you think, Holly?

Holly: I’ve come to expect a great story from Lauren Blakely, but honestly this one was everything I didn’t know I needed and more. I absolutely loved Zach and his kids. This is definitely the Single Dad romance I’ve been looking for.

Rowena: I haven’t read very many books from Lauren Blakely and I don’t even have a good reason. I’m just super happy that I took the time to actually listen to this because I adored it from beginning to end. I thought both of the narrators were fantastic throughout the entire story and it was by far, my favorite narration job of all of the audiobooks that I’ve listened to so far. Jason Clarke??? I need to listen to more of his books.

Holly: I really loved the narrators, too. I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks narrated by Amanda Ronconi, but this is one of my favorites. Jason Clarke was great, too.

Rowena: Like you, I absolutely adored Zach and his kids. I loved that they had such a great relationship and that being a father was important to Zach. I also really loved that Zach didn’t make his kids the only part of his life. They were super important to him but when he finally decides to move on from his late wife, I’m glad that he didn’t use the kids as a way to keep Piper at arm’s length.

Holly: Yes, I loved that Zach put his kids first, but didn’t make his kids his whole life. He may have struggled a bit with balancing his personal life at first, but I loved how he decided he needed to open up to a future with more, then did it. But Rowena, seriously. The kind of father he was? It melted me.

Rowena: I also really enjoyed the romance between Zach and Piper. I loved that Piper’s friendship with Zach’s daughter was something that outside of her relationship with Zach. I loved that her friendship with Zach’s daughter was important to Piper and that everything felt organic and real and I just super duper loved it all.

Holly: There was a part where he was reflecting on what his life was about and I swear, my heart grew two sizes during his internal monologue.

She’s in her element. My element, it’s back in the hotel with two rugrats. It’s the courtroom. It’s the gym. It’s the couch with a book and a glass of scotch late at night. It’s boxing gloves to fight like hell for my clients. It’s math problems and Goosebumps and taekwondo and Lucy’s list of things she wants to do for the summer.

Rowena: Yep. I was right there with you on Zach’s inner monologue. I remember texting you while I was listening to this one about how cute this book was and it was because I was grinning like a maniac over something Zach had just thought and like you, my heart exploded with love for every little thing in this book.

Holly: I just loved his daughter, Lucy, and how well she and Piper connected. Some of my favorite parts of the book featured Piper and Lucy. GIRL POWER!

Rowena: YESSSSSS!!! I loved Piper and Lucy’s girl power friendship. I also loved that Piper did everything she could for Lucy because she wanted to, not because she felt like she had to because she was her boyfriend’s daughter. The letter thing in the end? I freaking loved it. I swear I don’t think there was any part of this book that I didn’t like.

Holly: Oh man, that letter thing at the end reduced me to a pile of goo. Gah, I just loved Lucy. She was so smart and thoughtful.

Rowena: Even the parts of the book where both Zach and Piper were being jerks to each other, I liked…because their issues with each other were relatable. I understood where they both stood on those issues and I loved seeing them figure their shit out…together. There was no going back and forth, when they decided to be all in, they were all in and figuring everything out together.

Holly: I agree about Zach and Piper’s issues being relatable. You know what I loved, even when they “hated” each other, they were still adults. They still worked together in the same building and attended the same functions, and they didn’t make it awkward or uncomfortable for anyone else. They bantered and poked at each other, but at the end of the day they were both still adults who acted like adults.

Rowena: This book was the bomb. I loved it all. This book gets 5 out of 5 stars from me. Period. You?

Holly: I loved this book, too. I loved Piper and Zach and how their relationship developed. I liked Piper and Lucy’s friendship. I loved how Zach was as a father. I even loved the secondary characters. I’m going to give this 4.5 out of 5.

Final Grade

Holly: 4.5 out of 5
Rowena: 5 out of 5


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Review: Most Valuable Playboy by Lauren Blakely

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

Review: Most Valuable Playboy by Lauren BlakelyReviewer: Holly
Most Valuable Playboy by Lauren Blakely
Narrator: Zachary Webber
Series: Ballers and Babes #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: September 1, 2017
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Escape
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 306
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Hands down, my favorite thing in the world is to score. Touchdowns.

Don't let the fact that I'm the leading pick in the Most Valuable Playboy charity auction fool you. These days, I'm only a player on the field. I've kept my pants zipped all season long because nothing's more important than leading my team to victory every week. Except maybe escaping from the team owner's recently-widowed and handsy-as-hell sister who's dead set on winning more than a date with me.

Enter Violet and a well-placed Hail Mary.

She's my best friend's sister with a smile as sweet as cherry pie and a mind that runs quicker than the 40-yard-dash. After Violet saves the day with the highest bid, I don't even give her a two-minute warning before I kiss her in front of the whole crowd and then announce that she's my girlfriend. Which would be fine except my agent tells me we have to keep up the act while he's negotiating my contract.Violet takes one for the team and pretends to be mine, but our boyfriend-girlfriend scrimmage quickly turns into a full contact sport, and I want it to go into overtime. The problem is--I've been riding the bench for years.

How can a guy like me, who finally has a chance to prove his worth on the field, convince the girl she's most valuable to his heart?

*MOST VALUABLE PLAYBOY is a brand new standalone sports romance written in the guy's POV!*

Most Valuable Playboy is the first book in Lauren Blakely‘s Ballers and Babes series. I listened to the prequel novella last week, which is told solely from Violet, the heroine’s, point of view. This is told solely from Cooper’s point of view. This is an Audible Escape (formerly the Audible Romance Package) find. It was a cute, light listen. I really like Zachary Webber as a narrator. He did a great job with the story.

Cooper is finally where he wants to be professionally – the starting quarterback for the San Francisco Renegade’s NFL team. He was a first round draft pick, but he ended up sitting on the bench while the man he thought he’d replace continued to dominate. He has some big shoes to fill, and his entire career is riding on him doing well this season, especially since his contract is up for renegotiation. When the owner’s sister gets a little too handsy and makes it known she wants more than a platonic date when she wins him in a charity playboy auction, he asks his best friend’s little sister to rescue him. He’s known Violet since second grade, they’re great friends and both know the score. So he has no trouble asking her to play his girlfriend for the rest of the season to keep the owner’s sister away.

I’ve come to expect a fun, easy to fall into story from Blakely, and she easily delivered here. Cooper and Violet’s friendship came through well, and I loved how they came to know each other in a more intimate way. I liked the progression of friends to lovers and how the fake relationship turned into a real one. Violet was a lot of fun, but I think I got more out of the story for having listened to the prequel novella, Most Irresistible Guy, first. It gave me a better understanding of where she was at with Cooper and why she agreed to the charade.

There isn’t a ton of football in this book, but there was enough with the team and coaches to make this feel like a well-rounded story. I’m looking forward to the next book.

If you’re looking for a sweet, fun romance, this is the one for you.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Ballers and Babes

four-stars


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