Breaking the Surface by Rebecca Langham

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Alessia is an Outsider—a member of the not-quite-human community that has recently been released from their underground prison. Shortly after their liberation, Alessia is given an ultimatum: obey all the United Earth Alliance’s demands, or her mother will forever remain a hostage—a mother she’d believed dead for fifteen years. Reluctantly, she agrees, though she has no idea what those demands may be, or how she will balance her obligations to the UEA with her responsibilities to her people and her family.

As the UEA tightens its grip on humans and Outsiders alike, it becomes clear that meaningful social change will not be possible without a revolution. Alessia and her peers embark on a mission to discover just how far the government is willing to go to maintain their monopoly on power.

What Alessia and her comrades discover, however, goes much deeper than they’d ever anticipated. Who are the Outsiders, really? What secrets of their destiny lay hidden within a top-secret space station? And why are the Outsiders linked to an emerging disease the UEA seems desperate to keep secret? As they delve deeper, it isn’t only Alessia’s identity that will be called into question, but the fate of the entire planet.

Review

Breaking the Surface is the second in Rebecca Langham’s Outsider Project series. One thing I would recommend is reading this series close together. If you don’t, you may find yourself a little lost with everything happening in this book.

With that said, this was a great sequel. Not only was I glad to find out what was in store for Alessia and Lydia, but we were allowed to see all the characters that I fell in love with in the first novel. Each character grew and adapted to the life they had been thrust into.

The romance between Alessia and Lydia took a back seat to the main plot. I liked the moments between Lydia and Alessia, but we got to see them develop as characters distanced from each other.

I zipped through the last 40% of this book. I was completely engulfed in learning the history of the Celestials. It was startling, but it was very much possible in this universe. Hell, I could even say something like be possible in our world.

If you are a sci-fi fan, then this series is a definite must read.

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Spellbound by Jackie D and Jean Copeland

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary: Hazel Abbot spent her whole life unaware she was a witch. When a spell thrusts her great-aunt Sarah Hutchinson forward from the Salem witch trials of 1692 and lands her in Hazel’s bookstore, everything Hazel thought she knew about herself changes. Complicating matters, Raven Dare, a supernatural hunter, informs her that they’ve all been summoned by the Queen Witch, Morgan le Fay.

Morgan compels Hazel, Sarah, and Raven to correct the shift in the realms of good and evil by ridding the world of the evil that followed Sarah into modern day. If they fail, the forces of white magic will be extinguished forever. But completing the perilous mission, convincing Sarah to return to Puritan life, and resisting their growing attraction for each other might prove more difficult than Hazel and Raven ever anticipated.

Review

Don’t let the cover of this book put you off. I’ve found many of the Bold Strokes Books don’t have the typical exciting covers, but the stories inside are well written. I’m going to be completely honest in this review. I enjoyed aspects of Spellbound but I felt there was a lot of potential that was left unexplored.

Time travel pulls Sarah and Ayotunde out of the middle of the Witch Trials and into present day America. They, along with Sarah’s descendent, Hazel, are pulled into a fight they had no idea idea was happening. There were some interesting takes on hellhounds, demons, witches and supernatural hunters.

Sarah and Ayotunde and Hazel and Raven were paired together as romantic interests, but there wasn’t as much development as I liked. It was very insta-love, with the typical character that creates jealousy, but in the end turns out to be a great person.

The connections between the love interests were, eh. That’s legit all I can say about it. I didn’t relate well with any of the characters and I think that may have influenced me. It didn’t feel chemistry between any of them and it was disappointing. I honestly can’t recall much about this storyline, just that I spent a lot of time trying to make my way through it.

Maybe I chose to read it at the wrong time? It just wasn’t one that I immediately wanted to tell people to go out and get a copy of it.

 

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Grimmer Intentions by Jodi Hutchins

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary: She screwed up. She broke protocol. She saved a life. Grim Reaper Margo Petrov may have resurrected a drowned surfer on the brink of death, but she isn’t earning any awards or receiving employee of the month from Corporate; she’s under more scrutiny from the Grim governing body than ever before. Since she has a massive secret that could spell disaster if revealed, she sure as hell doesn’t want to be in the spotlight, in any form.

Margo vows to keep her head down and stay out of trouble, reaping her quota of spirits lest she cause more problems for herself and the woman she saved with an illegal blood bond. She certainly shouldn’t be opening doors to the Fae lands or offering her neck to an Empusa woman suffering from bloodlust, but Margo’s laundry list of bad decisions keeps growing. With the threat of becoming decommissioned by Corporate looming in her periphery, Margo stumbles deeper into the politics of her people and soon realizes their intentions are far worse than she initially thought.

The Review

First things first, I friggin’ love Margo and if you haven’t read the first book in the Tales from the Grim series, Grim Assistant, then this review is going to spoil the heck out of it for you. Go read the first book and then read the this one. If you enjoy sarcastic, genuine characters and need a fresh take on Grim Reapers, this series is for you.

After reading the Grim Assistant I e-mailed Jodi Hutchins and shared my love for Margo. Finding out that she was getting her own book was beyond exciting. I needed to know how she came to be a Grim and what her life was like before she got to this point. I needed more Margo in my life, because I feel like she’s my spirit-Grim. AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I GOT!!

What I enjoyed about this book was the more intensive background that was given on how a person becomes a Grim, what each of their roles were, the different supernatural beings (Empusa, Djinn, Fae, Grim … ), and how they all interact with each other. There was a much fuller picture of that world and the politics that comes with being a Grim and dealing with Corporate. I was able to see why Margo was so closed off, why she hides behind her knife sharp wit.

Margo’s got a soft side to her, especially when it comes to Jackie. Surprisingly, they get along with each other well. The two kind of misinterpreted each other when the first met each other and it carried over because they’re STUBBORN. But once they spend more time around each other, Jackie sees how kind Margo is when she works, they click and balance each other out. Both Margo and Jackie learn to trust the people in their lives with information they thought they couldn’t.

There was something about this book that just reeled me in and I wanted to stay with Margo. It’s not often I could say that the second book in a series is better than the first, but I feel like this surpassed the first novel. Now I’m ready for the next book!

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Flesh and Gold by Ann Aptaker

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary:

Havana, 1952, a city throbbing with pleasure and danger, where the Mob peddles glamour to the tourists and there’s plenty of sex for sale. In the swanky hotels and casinos, and the steamy, secretive Red Light district of the Colon, Cantor Gold, dapper art thief and smuggler, searches the streets and brothels for her kidnapped love, Sophie de la Luna y Sol. Cantor races against time while trying to outrun the deadly schemes of American mobsters and the gunsights of murderous local gangs.

The Review

Flesh and Gold was much more than I expected. Cantor Gold, a thief and smuggler, arrives in Havana searching for the love of her life, Sophia, but trouble follows Cantor wherever she goes.

Now, the first thing you need to know is that this is not a romance (like my usual reads). It is the ultimate love story though, seeing the lengths that Cantor was willing to go to find Sophia.

This is very much a crime noir, think mobsters and dens of ill repute (I don’t know how else to say it). Every time I thought I had a line on who was playing who, everything flipped upside down. It’s the best kind of mystery to read.

I like the fact that everything and everybody felt important to the storyline. The detail was rich enough that I could feel the balmy humidity of Havana. I could feel the way passersby stared at Cantor and her suits and masculine attire. The attitudes, language, and buildings placed me in 1950s Havana. There was a bit of violence, some of it a little unbelievable, but Cantor does live on the darker and more dangerous side of the life.

If you enjoy crime noire, this is definitely a series you’ll want to pick up and read.

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A Hive of Secrets and Spells by Ellen Jane

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Four out of Five Stars

Except and Giveaway at the bottom!!

The Summary:

Cupcakes, romance, and lovable canines abound in Heather and Sinead’s next adventure, but it isn’t all fun and games. The girlfriends are investigating a very personal kidnapping, and the threatening notes left behind accuse Sinéad and her punk-rocker twin brother of hiding something.

But after solving their first mystery together last Christmas, this one should be a piece of cake.After all, no one’s been murdered this time, and their witch-sorcerer rivalry is a thing of the past.Except it turns out there is a murderer, and a jewel thief as well, and why on earth does everyone keep talking about bees?

It appears Starford is a lot more exciting than Heather’s home town of Old Wetchhaven, and Sinéad’s insistence that Heather move in with her brings a whiff of trouble to their private paradise. Can Heather adjust to life near the big city? Or will the mounting secrets prove too much and turn their second case into their last?

A Hive of Secrets and Spells is a witch cozy mystery with a sweet lesbian romance and heart-warming magic.

The Review

If you are a fan of cozy mysteries then  A Hive of Secrets and Spells, the second novel in the Cupcakes and Sorcery series by Ellen Jane, will be right up your alley.

Being in Starford with Sinéad was supposed to be a vacation for Heather. They are still getting to know each other’s quirks and enjoying the newness of their relationship when crime strikes again in the form of a jewel thief and a murderer. This should be easy after the case they handled last Christmas. Right? Toss Cian, Sinéad’s twin brother, into the mix and it couldn’t get anymore complicated for the pair.

What I loved about A Hive of Secrets and Spells is the fact that it is a cozy mystery! I honestly think this is the first cozy mystery I’ve read in the LGBTQ genre. Heather and Sinéad feel real. Heather battled with not being the stereotypical “U-Haul” lesbian throughout the novel. Sinéad very much marched to the beat of her own drum. I feel like they leveled each other out. Heather and Sinéad continued to develop and grow. We learned more about their past and how it influenced their actions now. It made me believe there would be a realistic future in the cards for them.

The secondary characters were phenomenal. It’s not often I can say that, but Cian? He was so unique, sassy, and one hundred percent himself. I can’t wait to read more about him. I could hear his voice in my head and he had me cracking up at certain points. The bees? Well they were very important and I don’t want to spoil it for you, but they were very much a character to keep an eye on.

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Check out the GIVEAWAY and EXCERPT below!!

Giveaway:

Win one of 2 packages with e-copies of Magic, Murder & Mistletoe, A Hive of Secrets and Spells & A Match Made at Christmas by Ellen Jane.

 

To the GiveAway

 

Continue reading “A Hive of Secrets and Spells by Ellen Jane”

Slammed by Lola Keeley

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary:

World No. 1 tennis star Elin Larsson is in hot pursuit of a record number of Grand Slam titles. But between pressing injuries and growing anxiety, it’s starting to feel like her heart isn’t in it.
Gorgeous rival player Toni Cortes Ruiz bursts onto the scene, chasing her first slam.
As their paths keep crossing in big matches, a growing attraction starts to burn between the competitive women.
Elin’s used to winning—but not when the woman she’s falling for is on the other side of the net.
As scandals, the media, and the world starts closing in on them, Elin and Toni need to decide whether they’re competitors or on the same side.
A sparkling lesbian tennis tale about rivals and romance and putting everything on the line.

The Review

Slammed by Lola Keeley was such a fun read. I was unsure that I would enjoy it because I know absolutely nothing about tennis, but while I was reading I felt like it was a sport that I had grown up with. It was easy to get lost in and I connected with Elin and Toni from start to finish.

Elin is at the top of her game, nursing an injury, and working to break a record. Toni has just come back to the sport after rehabbing a injury and is slowly working her way up the standings. Elin finds herself attracted to Toni, but it is a slow burn between them. The best kind of romance. Now I will say, tennis was the main focus here. The romance was secondary, but there were scenes filled with chemistry, flirtation, and intimacy between Elin and Toni. They were so sweet and supportive of each other (I do this happy little sigh when I think of them).

While Elin is pursuing her ultimate goal, there was more to this story than playing tennis and finding love. Elin makes a move to do the right thing when she sees inequality in the tennis world she takes a stand. It made me proud that a woman of her stature wouldn’t ignore what was happening to her colleagues. It’s how we should all strive to be.

I love sports romances, and finding a new sport and author to read was awesome. Even if you don’t know anything about tennis (like me), give this one a read. This book is one that I’ll probably end up rereading because that’s how much I enjoyed it.

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The Bachelorettes by Maria Jackson

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary:

Stuck in a cabin alone for three months, Claudia and Miriam compete to win a cash prize. The reality show only has one rule: they can’t fall in love. Claudia can barely stand the arrogant supermodel, and Miriam only wants to seduce the annoying bookworm. Will these bachelorettes hate each other by the end of the filming? Or will they end up breaking all the rules?

The Review

Claudia and Miriam are both in a competition for the money but along they way they find more than they ever expected. This was a quick, easy, and light read. I think I was expecting more than what was written. The competition or challenges that they faced, weren’t all that challenging. They were tasked with games that you could see at kid parties or outdoor company picnics. It didn’t force them into close proximity like you would have thought if the challenge was not to fall in love.

I will admit that I did have a difficult time connecting with both Claudia and Miriam. Claudia felt too perfect and Miriam was too flawed. The chemistry that I hoped they would have, I didn’t feel it until the very end.

The title and cover was misleading. It’s very pretty and eye catching, but not what the book is about.

If this would have been longer and there would have been a bit more character development I probably would have enjoyed this a lot more. That being said, I did like this book. I just wanted and expected more. It may be your cup of tea though, give it a try if you want.

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The Grim Assistant by Jodi Hutchins

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: Postal carrier and amateur surfer, Samantha Diaz, lives an uncomplicated life. Well, other than helping her sister with childcare, crushing on her unavailable customer, Lauren Brennan, and catching as many waves as possible before hurricane season begins. Suffice to say, she isn’t looking for much more, but when Lauren invites her to a monthly game night at her house, Sam happily agrees.

When Sam sets out on an early morning surf, the last thing she expects to do is die, but a sudden thunderstorm thrashes offshore, creating a riptide that steals Sam’s life. She awakens to a snarky woman named Margo speaking cryptic nonsense. Not only does she claim to be one of the many Grim Reapers, or Grims, in the world, Margo makes Sam an offer: she’ll bring Sam back from the dead, as long as she becomes Margo’s temporary assistant. Sam accepts but soon realizes the deal was too good to be true, and the consequences she faces may be worse than the death she dodged.

The Review

Samantha Diaz, a postal carrier and amateur surfer, likes the life she’s got. She works, looks out for her sister and nephew, surfs in her free time, and has a bit of a crush on one of the residents living on her postal route. Sam’s morning surf doesn’t go as expected when a freak thunderstorm rolls in that creates a riptide that pulls Sam under to her death. When she wakes up on in the hospital, the last thing she expects is for a random woman named Margo to be spouting information about Grim Reapers. Margo offers Sam a deal, become her assistant or pass on to wherever it is the dead go. Sam accepts the offer and enters into a world she never expected.

First, Grim Reapers are my jam! Like I immediately related this to the television series Dead Like Me. It’s got a dark, witty humor to it that I LOVED. The Grim Assistant. Margo is such a sassy ‘boss’, I started reading it more like she and Sam were on equal footing. They worked together to help lost souls move on. It was done tastefully, and it didn’t shy away from the fact that it isn’t only ‘good’ people who die that need help crossing over.

The relationship between Sam and Lauren felt very organic. They had been flirting with each other over as they swapped books, which omg my little nerdy heart loved. They moved slowly, they fought the urge to move quickly, and then they gave in. *happy sigh*.

With all the good, there is bad that no doubt has to happen. Sam’s secret Reaper status being discovered by the higher ups, Lauren finding out that Sam’s big secret and having to come to terms that there is more to this world than what meets the eye. I did get annoyed by Lauren’s reaction but that’s because I’m so pro-Reaper I couldn’t help myself.

What’s even better is the fact that there’s going to be more in this series!! I’m so looking forward to the next book.

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Perfect Match by Mildred Gail Digby

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Three out of Five Stars

The Summary: After a tragedy derailed her life, Dr. Megan Maier crawls back to the land of her birth to take a job in a private Jewish hospital. There, she meets Syler Terada, a pediatric surgeon with a brash attitude and a lack of respect for authority who incidentally rocks a tuxedo. She captivates Megan with one glance. Conservative culture and rules against fraternization can’t stop Megan. However the secrets she’s running from can.

The Review

Perfect Match by Midred Gail Digby is a medical romance, featuring two female doctors navigating the waters at a private Jewish hospital in Japan and discovering a romantic connection between them. Dr. Megan Maier took a new job at a private Jewish Hospital in Japan after facing tragedy in her personal life. She is still learning how to cope with that when she becomes enchanted by fellow doctor, Syler Terada.

The two women are immediately attracted to each other, but they don’t just jump into a relationship. Which I liked. The intimacy between the two women slowly builds. Syler believes that Megan was straight, and a lesbian relationship is something completely new to her. She lets Megan set the pace and slows them down at times to make sure that Megan is okay with moments they are sharing. They took the time to discover each other’s wants and needs within a relationship and that was sweet. It’s what everyone wants for themselves in a relationship. It was great to see it written out in the way it had been.

What was surprising about this book, was the culture that I had never heard about. I didn’t know there were strict roles in the lesbian lifestyle that are held to and if you don’t fit into that mold, then if feels as though you’re looked down on. Almost as if you aren’t a ‘real’ lesbian.

There were a few things I had a issues with. The terminology. There were bits of different languages sprinkled throughout. It is representative of the characters and the setting and it served to put you further into their world. My problem was that I had to stop and look terms up because I couldn’t figure out what they meant via context clues. (The author does provide a link to the terminology on the GoodReads page) I also had a hard time figuring out what Megan and Syler looked like. Yes, I got that Syler was androgynous and slim, but I felt like I had an incomplete picture in my mind.

I was not expecting this to end when it did. It left me a little baffled and then I figured out there was going to be a second book continuing this story line. (I know, I should have figured that out with the face that the title says ‘Book One’. Don’t judge.) There were a lot of unanswered questions which I feel like will be resolved in book two.

Overall this was a pretty good read and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to read it. There is a lot about the LGBTQ+ culture that is different from region to region, and it was enlightening to see it written out. It sparked the need to broaden the novels I read even further than what I currently read.

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Gotta Catch Her by Kelly Haworth

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Three out of Five Stars

The Summary: Who says phone games are only for kids? Sometimes they give just the respite you need from a hectic life. At least, that’s the way Ann feels about Ani-min Move, an AR mobile game full of cartoon animals caught with nets. Legendary raids have just launched, and Ann arrives at a nearby park to find it full of people of all ages playing the game, including Rachael, a kind, attractive single mom. And sweet! Rachael is more than willing to teach Ann the proper way to spin her nets to snag the raid boss.

Back in reality, Ann has a lot on her plate: a full workload as a project manager, finding the energy to walk her dog, Franny, and now trying to figure out if Rachael is queer. And how does Ann converse with Rachael about her six-year-old son when she doesn’t know a thing about parenting?

Ann is lost as to how to proceed until Rachael takes the guesswork out of the equation by proclaiming she’s bi—right when Ann gets a massive work assignment that consumes way too much of her time. Life/work balance was never Ann’s forte, but between caring for her sweetheart dog and figuring out how to navigate a relationship with a single parent, Ann’s determined to make it work, especially before Rachael gets cold feet and leaves Ann playing by herself.

The Review

Gotta Catch Her is a novella featuring two women who meet by chance playing a phone game call, “Ani-Min Move”. The game serves as a break from the reality that our ladies are going through in their every day lives. Ann is a project manager undertaking a massive audit at work, while Rachel is a single-mother running after he young son in the park. I was stoked to see a story featuring a premise like this one. Two characters meeting due to a video game.

The pair meet up with each other during raids a few times before Ann decides to ask Rachel out for coffee. Due to commitments at work and commitments at home, several of their dates get canceled, cut short, or interrupted. It’s how life truly is, but it got frustrating because the point of a romance is for there to be romance! Right?

I feel like if this had been longer, there would have been more interaction between Ann and Rachel this would have been a real treat. Almost all of the scenes revolve around Ani-Min Move and even their first ‘date’ included them playing throughout. Call me old fashioned, but if my date is on their phone its probably because they aren’t interested in me.

Ann and Rachel were just starting to get to know each other and then book ended. There was a romance scene that felt out of place for me, but that’s totally probably a just me thing. It would have read just as well if that scene hadn’t been included.

Did I enjoy it? Yeah, it was a good, quick read. It just left me wanting more for Ann and Rachel.

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