Monday, March 27, 2017

Audio Review ~ Highland Spy ~ Madeline Martin #AudioChallenge

Highland Spy (The Mercenary Maidens, #1)Highland Spy by Madeline Martin
Narrated byDave Gillies
Release Date: January 10, 2017
Genre: Adult, Historical Romance
Source: I received a complimentary copy from Tantor Media
Rating: 4 Bookworms
Challenges: Audio Challenge, #2017NewRelease, #ShelfLove

Ariana Fitzroy has lost her family and her fortune. The fight for survival leads her to the shadowed card games of court, where she discovers she has quite a talent for slipping cards into her favor. While the winnings are enough to sustain her at present, they will not last forever...Connor Grant, trainer of the fallen women from the English court and personal assassin to the king, is just as broken as the women he trains. After losing his own land and all his people in a brutal attack from a trusted friend, he has no choice but to rebuild any way he sees possible-even if it means going against everything he's ever believed in. After catching Ariana cheating at cards, Connor has a new trainee to instruct at one of the king's many confiscated castles. In the dilapidated ruins, he discovers Ariana is more than she appears and falls in love with her incredible tenacity and dedication-a love that is challenged by Connor's chance at reclaiming the inheritance he once last and has sought so desperately to regain.

Highland Spy was a thrilling listen! It's set against the backdrop of King James' reign and his attempts to keep the Scots under his rule. He's using Scots as spies to keep tabs on the powerful, even creating a spy/assassin ring of women!

Connor Grant is the ring leader of this group and takes great pains in choosing the women he takes under his wing. He trains them well but keeps their souls clean by never pushing them too far. He's close to his girls, caring and loyal. But he's kept his distance for obvious reasons. Until Ariana.

Ariana Fitzroy, a young woman from a once noble family, has resorted to being a card cheat in order to pay her few remaining staff. One night, she's caught and has to choose between going to work for Connor or being turned over to the authorities. The choice is simple.

Watching as these two fall for one another was at times gut-wrenching and at others heartwarming. Connor, having lost his clan and lands (his father was laird) on top of the sins he's committed for the crown, feels he has nothing to offer Ariana. Ariana, having lost her family before she could ever know any sort of love, simply wants her feelings for Connor reciprocated. These two had an uphill battle, not only in their profession, but also in an attempt to be together.

The politics and court intrigue added this whole other layer to the story that only amplified my enjoyment. Really, it was more central to the story than the romance! *gasp* King James was a crafty bugger and when the reveals came about I felt for Connor to have had his loyalty repaid - even bought - in such a way. The secondary characters - particularly the other maidens - were fairly well fleshed out. They're all unique and have their own stories - stories I'm eager to learn.

Dave Gillies' narration was well-done. He's Scottish, so of course his accents were impeccable. He also did a fine job of not only conveying proper emotions but also in keeping the pacing smooth. His cadence took a bit of getting used to but his delivery held my interest.

This was my first read from Martin and my first listen with Gillies. I intend to continue this series, especially if Gillies narrates, as well as look for more from Gillies.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

My TBR List Review ~ March ~ Crash Into You ~ Katie McGarry


My To-Be Read List is a meme hosted by Michelle @Because Reading. I think it's a fabulous idea because it gets y'all in the game and it helps me knock off some of the many, many books on my TBR list. You're more than welcome to join in the fun! I've included the basic rules below but you can click on the graphic above to hop over to Michelle's site where you can find all the details. 

Crash into You (Pushing the Limits, #3)Crash into You by Katie McGarry
Pushing the Limits #3
Release Date: November 26, 2013
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: Borrowed from Library
Rating: 5 Bookworms
Challenges: #TakeControlTBR

The girl with straight A's and the perfect life--that's who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy family...and she's just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker - a guy she has no business even talking to. But after the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can't get him out of her mind.

The last thing Isaiah needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks. But when their shared love of street racing puts their lives in jeopardy, Isaiah and Rachel will have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they'll go to save each other.

This book.... THIS. BOOK. I. LOVED. IT! The end. :D

Caution: Gushing ahead...

Really I could just say that I love everything about it and be done. But I didn't love everything because I hate thinking about a system that creates situations like those Isaiah and Noah lived in. I hate thinking about there being families like Rachel's - seemingly having it all and yet being so inherently broken. However, McGarry's writing, her storytelling skill, wrapped both these things into a story around Isaiah and Rachel that was riveting. I didn't want to put it down! say this guy just can't catch a break would be an understatement. He's been in the foster system since he was 6, bouncing from home to home, suffering both physically and emotionally. He's learned in 11 years that nothing stays constant and he's beginning to believe his own hype - that hs'e someone to steer clear of, never risking his heart. Then he meets Rachel. This girl after his own heart - one who's into cars and sees past his facade to the real guy he is.

Rachel...oh man. This poor girl. I can't imagine living a life knowing you're a replacement for a child who didn't live, feeling like you'll never measure up, having to who you really are so everyone else will be happy. Gah! I wanted to shake every single family member. On the surface, her life looks perfect, but all she wants is to be able to be validated for who she is, what she likes...and to work on her car. Then she meets Isaiah, a guy who's a little rough around the edges, but one who, upon closer inspection, is so much more. He takes the time to look, really look, at Rachel.

These two together make little sense and at the same time, they're perfect together. They both have lessons to learn - Isaiah to figure out that not everything is in his control and Rachel to stop hiding who she is - and they stand by one another on this journey. There were hiccups, of course. An edge of danger. Together though, they could weather anything.

Besides Isaiah and Rachel, what I enjoyed most was the huge cast of characters in Crash Into You. Not only do we spend time with Noah and Echo, Beth and Ryan, but Logan is features, as well as Abby and Rachel's brothers, West and Ethan. I felt the cast added that much more depth to the story. And I hope to get more from more than a few of them.

So yeah, the story was excellent...realistic, gritty, exciting, and heartbreaking at times. I can't wait to see what McGarry has on tap next!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Audio Review ~ The Playboy Pilot ~ Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland

Playboy PilotPlayboy Pilot by Sabrina Jeffries
Narrated by: Andi Arndt and Sebastian York
Release Date: September 21, 2016 (audio)
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: I received a complimentary copy from Tantor Media
Rating: 4.5 Bookworms
Challenges: Audio Challenge, #ShelfLove

Money or love? Which would you choose?

You probably just answered the question in your head thinking it's an easy decision.

For, it's not. Did I mention it's a lot of money? A hell of a lot.

I needed to go far away to think it through.

As I embarked on an impulsive trip, I hit a detour when I met sexy Carter in the airport lounge. We struck up a heated conversation.

Then, he left.

I thought I'd never see him again.

But fate had other plans.

Surprise! He was the pilot of my flight.

The bigger surprise was the adventure that followed after the plane landed.

Carter was dangerous and always on the move.

Even though our connection was magnetic, I knew it was only temporary.

He would give me tickets, and I would follow him around the world to exotic places.

A bevvy of flight attendant exes and rumors about Cater's reputation were never far behind.

I didn't know what to believe.

But I was addicted. Nothing else mattered anymore. And I was going to get hurt. Because a part of me wanted to be the one to finally ground the playboy pilot.

At the very least, he was taking me on a thrilling ride.

All good things must come to an end, right?

Except our ending was one I didn't see coming.

This writing duo is the bomb! Their stories are riveting and along with the spectacular narrating, I was loathe to remove my earbuds.

Kendall and Cater meet in an airport bar. She's trying to decide on a place to travel to where she can make an important decision about her life. Carter, well I think he was mostly playing at scoring with Kendall. Their meeting was life changing for them both.

Kendall ends up deciding on a locale at Carter's suggestion. It's only later she finds out he's a pilot. Thus begins their adventure together - getting to know each other as well as themselves.

I enjoyed watching as they evolved both as individuals and as a couple. Kendall is at a crossroads in her life, needing to make a decision that will impact her life in a huge way. I liked her spunk and it said a lot about her that she was considering the decision - it wasn't an easy one. Carter has spent his professional life being a playboy pilot - moving through women and never getting close to anyone. He experienced something in his youth - teen years - that had a profound impact and he's kept himself distant from anything deep. Until Kendall.

I liked how Keeland and Ward had these two find one another an I enjoy how they always surprise me with the conflict - the bump in the road - their couples encounter. I also like where these two end up and how they get there. It's not pretty or clean but it felt authentic.

Andi Arndt and Sebastian York embodied Kendall and Carter - made me feel everything they each were going through. They make a phenomenal narrating duo, not only fleshing out the characters but also keeping the pacing perfect.

Keeland and Ward delivered another entertaining story that was deeper than I anticipated. At this point, I'll read/listen to anything these two create!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Release Review ~ Finding Our Forever ~ Brenda Novak #2017NewRelease

Finding Our Forever (Silver Springs, #1)Finding Our Forever by Brenda Novak
Silver Springs #1
Release Date: March 21, 2017
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: I received an eARC from the author. This did not affect my rating and I voluntarily provided a review.
Rating: 3.5 Bookworms
Challenges: #2017NewRelease

The search for her birth mother brought Cora Kelly to the New Horizons Boys Ranch. Getting a job there was easy enough, but confiding in Aiyana, the ranch's owner, that she's really her daughter? Cora's not sure she can do that, not unless she's confident the news will be welcomed. And once she gets to know Elijah Turner, Aiyana's adopted son and ranch manager, that decision becomes even more difficult.

Although Elijah can't deny his deep attraction to Cora, he's always struggled with trust. Anyone with his past would, and there's something about the ranch's newest employee that isn't exactly as it seems. But if the feelings she awakes in his guarded heart are any indication, she might be just what he's long been waiting for.

The premise of Finding Our Forever really appealed to me - I mean, finally finding your birth mother only to fall for her adopted son? Good stuff, right? And for the most part, it was.

Cora has always felt not quite whole having been adopted and not knowing anything about her birth mother. She's finally found her - she founded and runs a school for troubled teen boys - and she's accepted a job working as an art teacher. This will, hopefully, enable Cora to get to know her birth mother and then she can decide whether or not to tell her who she is. But she didn't count on Eli.

Elijah "Eli" Turner is the adopted son of Aiyana - a boy rescued from a terribly abusive home. He's become an incredible man, working at the school, giving to the boys there...but he doesn't trust easily. There's something about Cora, though. He's enamored.

And then there's Aiyana - this compassionate, giving woman who works tirelessly to help these boys who wouldn't have a chance otherwise. Why would she have given up her own child?

I really enjoyed my introduction to this new series and the characters of Silver Springs. The romance between Cora and Eli was heartwarming to watch develop even if I was upset with Cora for keeping her secret. I did feel the story could've had more depth if Eli's story had been explored a little more. For someone who claimed he wasn't to be trusted with Cora's heart, he certainly showed no real signs of not wanting it. I suppose when it's the one there's no stopping the heart, but still...

I also felt the reveal was a little easy and therefore anticlimactic. The emotion I was expecting would be there wasn't. But overall, the story was pleasant and compelling. I look forward to spending more time in Silver Springs, getting acquainted with the town and its inhabitants.

Monday, March 20, 2017

New Release Review ~ Anarchy Missing ~ JA Huss (@JAHuss) #2017NewRelease

Anarchy Missing (SuperAlpha, #2)Anarchy Missing by JA Huss
SuperAlpha #2
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Genre: Adult, Superhero/SuperVillain Romance
Source: I received an eARC from the author. This did not affect my rating and I voluntarily provided a review.
Rating: 4.5 Bookworms
Challenges: #2017NewRelease

Everyone wants justice.
That's what Assistant DA, Lulu Lightly, tells me.
"Cathedral City needs you to set things right," she says. "To rid this place of corruption once and for all."
I'd like to rid Lulu Lightly of her clothes. And maybe her moral superiority. But mostly her clothes.
"I want you to fight the good fight with me," she says.
Hell, yeah. I'm always up for a fight.
"We should stand up and be the voice of the people," she says.
Sur, I hear voices. Sometimes I even listen to them.
"Figure out what's good for the City and put it first," she says.
Oh, honey...what's good for the City is bad for the people. Trust me, I know. I'm Case Reider - insane Alpha, nerfarious inventor, and I understand this town better than anyone.
Cathedral City needs me all right. Just not the way you think.
I'm not the justice you're looking for, Lulu Lightly.
I'm still the same villain you left behind.
Only now... there's something very, very wrong with me.

It's been awhile since I visited Cathedral City with its mountains and spires and corruption and... superheroes. Or are they supervillains? Whichever category they fall into, Huss had me falling for this next Alpha almost immediately - despite his valid concerns about his sanity.

Reading Anarchy Missing is akin to watching a Marvel movie - riveting and exciting from the get-go. I was immersed in this world from page one where we're able to see how our Alphas attain their uniqueness, watch them acquire their girl, and deal with a crisis... all they while planning for the thing that they're really intent on accomplishing. In Anarchy Missing we meet Lulu (I LOVE her name!!), someone Case was involved with years ago. She comes back to town with a purpose - that being Lady Justice. I adored Lulu. She's intelligent and strong, and even though she wants to serve up justice, she's not so hellbent on it that she can't look deeper - consider all sides. Case is this super-talented high-tech designer/developer. He's the same loyal guy we met in Anarchy Found, yet different. He still has strong feelings for Lulu but believes he isn't good for her - especially since he keeps having this feeling...that something is wrong with him. And there just might be.

All the Alphas are very present in this installment - banding together to figure out what the latest evil invading their city is. They can't be villains, can they?!? Molly and Sheila are also present which makes the story that much more gripping because the entire cast is well-developed - even AI Sheila - and that development along with the dynamics between them all gives the story more depth.

This world Huss has created with all its unique high-tech gadgetry and medicine, its evil villains and superheroes who might be supervillains is so entertaining and fascinating. Huss is still in the building phase and I'm hopefuly we get another Alpha book this year so we can get a better idea of where the Alphas are leading Cathedral City. Plus, I want to see Thomas get his girl. *wink*

Only Huss could take me out of my comfort zone genre-wise and make me grateful for the experience. I haven't gotten my paperback yet (book buying ban) but I'm hoping it has all the hand-drawn art to complete the comic book feel. The art was a real bonus in the first installment so I hope it's carried throughout. As for the story, there are questions, of course, but I know in the end all will be answered. And so I'll anxiously await my next trip to Cathedral City.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Review ~ Rises the Night ~ Colleen Gleason #TakeControlTBR #ShelfLove

Rises The Night (The Gardella Vampire Hunters, #2)Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason
Gardella Vampire Hunters #2
Release Date: June 5, 2007
Genre: Adult, Paranormal Romance
Source: Purchased on Kindle
Rating: 4.5 Bookworms
Challenges: #ShelfLove, #TakeControl, #TravelingtotheTerminus

The saga of Victoria Gardella continues as the glorious nineteenth-century city of Rome gives rise to a new threat from the immortal undead...

Lady Victoria Gardella Grantworth de Lacy has been a vampire slayer for just over a year, balancing her life as a peer of Soceity with the dangerous role that takes her out on moonlit streets, stake in hand. She has learned brutal and heartbreaking lessons about the sacrifices that must be made in order to save humanity from the evil that secretly preys upon it, but she has not wavered in her vow to fight on.

Now, in Italy, a powerful vampire is amassing the power to control the souls of the dead. As Victoria races across Europe to stop what could be the most deadly army the Gardellas have ever faced, her unlikely companion is Sebastian Vioget--a man as tempting as he is untrustworthy.

But when Victoria discovers she has been betrayed by one of her most trusted allies, the truth will challenge all her powers as a Venator...and as a woman.

I was an instant fan of this series following the stellar first installment. Vampire hunters in Regency-era England? Yes, please. Rises the Night picks up almost a year after the end of book 1 - that heartbreaking ending. Rises the Night is every bit as exciting and fascinating, with intrigue, a new evil on the rise, and questionable loyalties.

This installment finds Victoria investigating and attempting to locate a new threat to humanity. No one has heard from Max in almost a year so Victoria relies on aid from Sebastian despite not knowing for certain if he's trustworthy.

There is danger almost at every turn - the introduction of new characters for whom it was thrilling to try to determine their allegiance, and the simmering sexual tension between Victoria and Sebastian hit the boiling point. There were also more than a few surprises, some of which left me bereft. Actually, I'm still feeling that way and am quite certain that I'll continue this series soon as I'm more that eager to know what is lying in wait for our heroine next.

As long as I'm rambling, I appreciated the change in locale for this installment. Rome and Venice allowed Victoria even more freedom as a woman and I also liked the description of the cities. Victoria also learns more about the Venators, which provided a little more history about the venerable group of hunters she's a part of. I also liked the lore used regarding this newest evil.

Overall, I'm simply enthralled. I'm anxious to learn, experience, immerse myself even more in this series!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Beyond the Books ~ Ten Things You Always Wanted to Know About Me...

Welcome to Bookworm Brandee Beyond the Books. This post was inspired by Lexxie @Unconventional BookviewsUp Close and (Un)conventional, who was inspired by Cuddlebuggery. It's meant to be a way for y'all to get to know me better on a personal level ~ Beyond the Books. ;)

...and were too afraid to ask. ;)

  • I have a degree in English Literature...and in Economics. I'd planned on going to law school but changed my mind. 
  • I'm an accomplished procrastinator. I come from a long line of procrastinators and I've ensured my legacy having progeny who also procrastinate exceedingly well.
  • I'm particular about my pens. Since I hand write my reviews as well as discussion posts, it's of special importance I have my favorite pens on hand. My favorite brand? Uniball Signo. I have them in every color.
  • Before I got married, I'd never:
    • owned a CD
    • owned a computer
    • traveled much outside the state of Texas
  • I became a coffee addict at the ripe old age of 40! I started drinking coffee in my hot chocolate, then moved to flavored creamer. Now I drink it black.
  • I'm originally from Texas (I've lived in Colorado for 18 years). I grew up with grandparents who farmed and spent a great deal of time around mud, animals, gardens, and snakes. And yet, I'd never owned a pair of cowboy boots until two years ago.
  • My grandma, mom, and I are all spaced 20 years apart, meaning my grandma is 86, my mom is 66, and I'll be 46 next month. I, however, broke the streak!
  • In my family, I've managed to get the 1/4 genetic possibilities (using simple Punnet squares)
    • green eyes - everyone else has blue or brown
    • poor eyesight - I was legally blind before I had Lasik
    • low blood pressure - they worry because it's so low
    • O Negative blood type
    • although not genetic, I'm the oddball liberal in a family full of conservatives
  • I talk to my cats...and myself. A lot. Especially myself. My kids laugh at me but, as I've told them repeatedly, sometimes I'm the only one who listens to me!
  • At one time I kept my hardback books pristine, never wanting to crease the spine, damage the dust jacket, fold a page... Now I've decided that having sticky tabs, notes in the margins, and *gasp* dog-eared pages is my way of showing my love for the book.
There you have it! Ten things you've always wanted to know...okay, maybe you didn't really know you wanted to know these things about me. But now you do. Thanks for listening reading!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review ~ Ten Reasons to Stay ~ Sabrina Jeffries #BloggerShame #COYER #ShelfLove

Ten Reasons to Stay (School For Heiresses, #2.5)Ten Reasons to Stay by Sabrina Jeffries
Release Date: May 6, 2013
Genre: Adult, Historical Romance
Source: I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley. This in no way affected my rating and I voluntarily provided a review.
Rating: 3.5 Bookworms
Challenges: #BloggerShame, #COYER, #ReadAlltheBooks, #ShelfLove, #TakeControlTBR

In "Ten Reasons to Stay," previously published in the anthology The School for Heiresses, lessons go far beyond etiquette and needlepoint. Eliza Crenshawe's lesson is to look before she leaps. But when she discovers that her new guardian plans to marry her off without so much as a Season, she forgets all that. She flees--on a horse she unwittingly steals (oops!)--from Colin Hunt, a newly minted earl who wants nothing more than for her to go home...or stay forever.

What a delightful read this was! I'm a sucker for both a feisty historical heroine and a broody hero - Ten Reasons to Stay delivered both! Even though things moved at lightning speed, I still fell for both Eliza and Colin.

These two meet under conspicuous circumstances. Eliza was intending to borrow a horse when Colin catches her. He was confounded by her appearance - she was dressed as a man - and even more so when she refused to tell him anything regarding who she was or her reasons for needing his horse. Oh but he has his ways of getting information.

Both Eliza and Colin have suffered losses. Colin has come to England from India, where he grew up. He's looking for peace. Eliza's looking for escape. But they might need one another to find what they're looking for.

I would have liked more time with these two. Time for me to get better acquainted with them and for them to become better acquainted with each other. But I did like them both. They're very spirited and fell hard and fast. The reason behind Eliza's escape attempt was solved a bit too easily for my tastes but this is a novella. And despite wanting more, I still had a good time with the story. Jeffries deftly creates engaging characters I adore spending time with as well as watching them get themselves out of situations...and always to find their HEA.