Dec 14

A Holiday by Gaslight

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

A Holiday by GaslightA Holiday by Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella by Mimi Matthews
Published by Perfectly Proper Press on November 13, 2018
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 172
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads five-stars
two-flames


A Courtship of Convenience

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He's grim and silent. A man of little emotion--or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she's ready to put an end to things.


A Last Chance for Love

But severing ties with her taciturn beau isn't as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there's Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What's a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there'll be no false formality. This time they'll get to know each other for who they really are.

I saw this book and wanted it. Instantly. THAT COVER. Who doesn’t want to dress up in a sweeping, rich red gown with Christmas green trim? Clearly I was born in the wrong century. I had never heard of Mimi Matthews and while I am typically suspicious of historical romance books, my lovely experience with Someone to Trust made me willing to give this one a try as well.

The premise was intriguing enough – a woman willing to sacrifice her own happiness for her family, but only so far. Sophie has standards. She is more than fine frills and ballrooms. Mr. Ned Sharpe recognizes that almost at once upon meeting her. Before long he is head over heels – but will he ever find his tongue? Though very short, this story was absolutely delicious. I loved the science brought into it as the characters were discussing Darwin’s then-new theories, loved the descriptions of modernization, and I especially loved the major hat-tip to Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, which is one of my most loved classic books!

I can totally see Ned as perpetually frowning as Mr. Thornton.

Sophie has just about given up on Mr. Sharpe, but in an effort to please her parents she makes one last ditch attempt to get to know him – just to know him! that’s all she wants! not even to be attracted to him! – and invites him AND his parents to her family’s Christmas party at their country estate. Given their aristocratic status and his family’s merchant background…things may not go as smoothly as could be hoped. But Sophie is determined to try to like the man who is willing to save her family from her father’s ill-advised spending, and what results is a lovely little romance that builds as the two come to understand each other better.

If you’re familiar with North and South, you will definitely see the similarity between Mr. Thornton and Mr. Sharpe, which wasn’t really all THAT obvious until the mother came into play. I loved it. It was sweet, and lovely, and can we have a full length novel with Sophie and Ned?

^From the North and South movie, which was amazingly good and true to the book! I think it might be time for a re-watch.

5/5 stars, because while there isn’t a whole lot here, it seems meticulously researched, the characters are alive and vibrant and seem ready to walk off the page, and, well, they’re just adorable somehow. Also snow and Christmas, because apparently I am ALL ABOUT the holiday cheer this season.

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five-stars

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Dec 13

Review of Someone to Trust

Book Reviews 1 ★★★★

Review of Someone to TrustSomeone to Trust (Westcott, #5) by Mary Balogh
Published by Berkley on November 27, 2018
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 400
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads four-stars
three-flames

During a rare white Christmas at Brambledean Court, the widow Elizabeth, Lady Overfield, defies convention by falling in love with a younger man in the latest novel in the Westcott series.

After her husband's passing, Elizabeth Overfield decides that she must enter into another suitable marriage. That, however, is the last thing on her mind when she meets Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, at the Westcott Christmas house party. She simply enjoys his company as they listen to carolers on Christmas Eve, walk home from church together on Christmas morning, and engage in a spirited snowball fight in the afternoon. Both are surprised when their sled topples them into a snow bank and they end up sharing an unexpected kiss. They know there is no question of any relationship between them for she is nine years older than he.

They return to London the following season, both committed to finding other, more suitable matches. Still they agree to share one waltz at each ball they attend. This innocuous agreement proves to be one that will topple their worlds, as each dance steadily ensnares them in a romance that forces the two to question what they are willing to sacrifice for love...

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I picked this up because of the glowing review from Reading Reality. Many thanks for putting this series and author on my radar! I will definitely be coming back when I get the itch for a historical romance again, especially since this was the 5th in the Westcott series. All the previous relationships and people are well explained so that it CAN be read as a standalone, but it really made me curious!

Someone to Trust is the perfect holiday book for the Austen-inclined reader! I thoroughly enjoyed this historical romance, with its unique characters and large, warm, overarching family story. This was particularly refreshing because it was DIFFERENT. Instead of your typical young-couple-meets-and-falls-in-love (naturally with a few obstacles thrown in their way, but nothing they can’t overcome), the heroine is actually a widow, and somewhat old for a Regency era heroine at that. Ok, not just somewhat old, but unheard-of old at thirty-five! And the hero is…twenty-six. GASP!

Elizabeth has been unlucky in love, but she is reconciled to her life. She is still a vibrant, intelligent, warm-hearted woman but has determined that

Contentment would be good enough, even preferable to exuberant happiness, in fact. Happiness did not last. There was more stability in contentment.

I loved Elizabeth so much. She has a backbone of steel and a heart of gold. Despite her misfortune, se is not closed off or unreachable or wallowing. I think it safe to say it is all of those underlying qualities that most attract the young Lord Colin Hodges, much to his own amazement. Colin does not waste much time fretting over what society will think of his inappropriate attachment – no Mr. Darcy scruples here – but determines to win Elizabeth’s heart. Of course, true love’s path never runs smooth, as his own mother (and LORD WHAT A MOTHER) conspires against him, along with the rest of society and Elizabeth’s own belief about herself and what she deserves out of life.

This book is so far removed from what I usually expect from books labeled historical romance. It is full of solid, steady, but also heart-fluttering love. The characters are mature and make decisions that MAKE SENSE, both for the time and for the story. There was none of the ridiculous swooning and obsession that so often marks romances.

4/5 stars, because I did feel that some of the dialogue was really too modern and felt removed from the time period. Didn’t detract from the story itself, just from my absorption in it. Still highly recommend!

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Dec 11

Blog Tour and Review of Fianna’s Awakening

Book Reviews, Book Tours 0 ★★★½


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Blog Tour and Review of Fianna’s AwakeningFianna's Awakening (Warriors of Myth and Legend, #1) by Ron C. Nieto
Published by Victory Editing NetGalley Co-Op on November 13, 2018
Genres: Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 308
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads three-half-stars
one-flame

Outcast. Betrayer. Chosen.

After five years being a Fianna, Aisling O’Malley still has to prove herself every day. The sins of the father weigh heavily on her shoulders, and no matter what she does, her fellow warriors regard her as the undeserving one. It doesn’t help that one of the four mythical treasures of Ireland has turned up under her nose, leaving her none the wiser. If by any chance the touted Spear of Lugh up for auction is indeed the legendary Spear of Victory, she needs to get her hands on it before anyone else does—and be spectacular enough about it to make the rest of the Fianna forget she almost missed the artifact in the first place.

Exile. Betrayer. Forgotten.

After spending twice as long undercover as he ever lived at home, Ronan no longer knows where he belongs to or where he’s actually exiled from. He can’t return to his people, not unless he collects the four artifacts of power the Tuatha Dé lost when they were forced to leave Ireland, and three millennia after the fact, he’s pretty sure they’re going to remain lost. Except one of those ancient treasures has landed in his lap—or could land in his lap, if he brings himself to work with the spunky young woman who wants to hire him to consult on the Spear’s authenticity.

Can two broken people learn to trust one another? And even if they can, will it be too late to save Ireland… or themselves?

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Fianna’s Awakening is the first in an urban fantasy series about the Fianna, a group of people who are chosen to be the guardians of Ireland. Aisling O’Malley is the only – perhaps first – female Fianna, and as such the demands on her are even heavier than most, because she must constantly prove to the others that she is as worthy as they.

Things I Loved:

“I’m fast,” she said. “And strong. And tough, and resilient.” A shrug. “I can tell when danger of the creepy kind is around, most of the time.”

“Danger, but not the spear? So an invincible artifact of untold power isn’t dangerous?”

Well, put it like that and it does sound like I got a malfunctioning superpower…

  • Um, well – Ireland! I might be slightly obsessed. There is a little bit of Irish mythology worked into this book, but none that I was particularly familiar with so I’m not sure if it was made up by the author or just obscure.
  • The magic system is VERY intriguing and I really hope it’s explained in more detail in the next books! Also I want to know more about the process of becoming a Fianna…that was never really explained.
  • Aisling – despite years of belittling and posturing from the rest of the Fiannas, she’s still stubborn as a mule and confident in her own abilities. Hell. Yes. I love strong female characters. By contrast Ronan seems a bit hapless and awkward. I’m not sure he’s the right one for her…
  • The humor!! Oh my gosh, the wry, sarcastic bits got me so much.

Small Complaints:

  • Need. More. Details. I felt like most of the magic and history was only half explained! Like this Sword of Lugh…where did it come from? Why was it made? By whom? I’m aware of the traditional Celtic god Lugh, but the book never really talks about Celtic deities in detail so I’m just…up in the air. PLEASE TELL ME MORE.

“You know, handing out prophecies of doom and gloom and then going skimpy on the details is not an attractive trait.”

  • Romance…where? So Aisling and Ronan apparently had a kind of attraction thing going on, but it was most present in their first meeting and then fizzled. I didn’t feel any kind of chemistry. They’re both extremely interesting characters on their own, so you don’t really NEED a romantic subplot here, but…*points at description and cover* Doesn’t that look romantic to you?

3.5/5 stars. I’ll definitely be giving the second one of this series a shot, because I’m intrigued by how the author is bringing Celtic legends through to the modern world.

1/5 flames. Eh, I would love to see some more sizzle between Aisling and Ronan, but if not, they’re still both interesting characters in and of themselves.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

 

Author Bio:

Ron C. Nieto is a fantasy and romance author who has been writing in her secluded fortress for the longest time. Recently, she had a talk with her cat and decided that she should share her creations, because it was selfish to hoard them all for herself.

If you would like to know more about her, please visit her website.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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three-half-stars

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Dec 10

Book Tour and Review of The Fog

Book Reviews, Book Tours 0 ★★★½

Book Tour and Review of The FogThe Fog (A Berry Springs Novel) by Amanda McKinney
Genres: Modern, Mystery, Romance, Thriller
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads three-half-stars
two-half-flames

Former Marine turned ballistics expert, Wesley Cross is known around town for two things, his rugged good-looks and cocky attitude—until he finds his ex-girlfriend lying in a puddle of blood in his basement. The scene screams setup, but the discovery of a rare gem and a puzzling autopsy suggests the murder goes much deeper than that. Wesley will do whatever it takes to clear his name, including calling in a notoriously headstrong—and sexy—scientist.

While most little girls were playing dress up, Gwyneth Reece was digging in the dirt collecting bugs. Now one of the top forensic entomologists in the country, Gwen reluctantly accepts a job from a pushy cowboy and travels to the small, Southern town of Berry Springs. Heavy storms are brewing, and when she’s forced to check into the creepiest hotel she’s ever seen, she instantly regrets her decision to help out the former Marine.

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Fog is the 4th in the Berry Springs series by Amanda McKinney, and can be read as a standalone. I flew through this little novella (at 225 pages it makes for a quick afternoon or before bed read) and am considering picking up the other three at some point!

Things I Loved

  • Gwyneth is described as having sexy BROWN eyes. Hell yes, let’s have some love for a shade that isn’t blue!
  • Gwyneth is also scientist and a damn good one. Love that she has a career and goals and is doing whatever it takes to reach them. Wouldn’t mind reading more about her background, and Wes’s for that matter!
  • Believable vendetta against Wes. I was kind of worried about this being something silly, but it wasn’t.
  • Atmospheric – yes please. I happened to read this on a rainy day, which was just PERFECT for the last part of the book…made it seem very real. Remind me to never check into a hotel during a storm. Yikes.

Small Complaints

  • Predictable – well, it’s romantic suspense. If you didn’t end up with what you were expecting you’d be disappointed, yes? Still, there were a couple parts that – as far as the forensics – made me roll my eyes because I thought the “big discovery” was SO obvious.
  • I thought the insta-attraction was a little much, as well as just HOW FAST they progressed…but again…how else are you going to bring everything to a conclusion in such a short book?
  • Wes was a little over the top dominant in some ways. It was annoying. At least our girl Gwyneth was there to straighten his ass out. 😉

3.5/5 stars. This is an enjoyable, fast read if you want a little romantic action and a little suspense!

2.5/5 flames. There’s attraction and action, and Wes is great and all, (and I did LOVE that while he is very attracted to Gwyneth, she’s not described as having a supermodel body), but it just didn’t quite do it for me. They’re a cute couple but I guess I wanted MORE of them, more depth!

 

Goodreads / Amazon

 

Author Bio:

Award-winning author of romantic suspense and mystery, Amanda McKinney wrote her debut novel, LETHAL LEGACY, after walking away from her career to become a writer and stay-at-home mom. Set in small, Southern towns, Amanda’s books are page-turning murder mysteries peppered with steamy love scenes, and include the BERRY SPRINGS SERIES and the BLACK ROSE MYSTERY SERIES, with many more to come.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook

 

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three-half-stars

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Dec 06

Review of Dark Arts and a Daiquiri

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Review of Dark Arts and a DaiquiriDark Arts and a Daiquiri (The Guild Codex: Spellbound, #2) by Annette Marie
Published by Dark Owl Fantasy Inc. on November 16, 2018
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads four-half-stars
two-flames

When I found myself facing down the scariest black-magic felon in the city, practically daring him to abduct me, I had to wonder exactly how I ended up here.

It all started when I accidentally landed a job as a bartender—but not at a bar. At a guild, populated by mages, sorcerers, alchemists, witches, and psychics. Good thing this lame-o human is adaptable, right?

Then my favorite guild members—three sexy, powerful, and intermittently charming mages—asked for my help. Did they want access to my encyclopedic knowledge of cocktails? Oh no. They wanted to wrap me up in a pretty ribbon and plunk me in the crosshairs of a murderous rogue to lure him out of hiding.

So that's what we did. And that's why I'm here. About to be kidnapped. Oh, and our grand plan for safely capturing said murderous rogue? Yeah, that completely fell apart about two minutes ago.

Why did I agree to this again?

--Note: The three mages are definitely sexy, but this series isn't a reverse harem. It's 100% fun, sassy, fast-paced urban fantasy.


Tori has no problem getting herself into trouble in every book in the Guild Codex series, but each one is a complete adventure—no cliffhanger endings.

--THE GUILD CODEX: SPELLBOUNDThree Mages and a Margarita (#1)Dark Arts and a Daiquiri (#2)Two Witches and a Whiskey (#3)

So excited that this book published right on the heels of the first one! I was anticipating a long wait, but it was only about two months. And the third one is due to be out February 8th…be still my heart! Also please tell me it is NOT the last one…after the way this one ended, I don’t see how everything could possibly be wrapped up in only one more book.

Dark Arts and a Daiquiri picks up just a few weeks after the events of Three Mages and a Margarita, and we jump right into the action as Tori and the guys set up an exorcism for a faery spirit haunting the apartment she wants to rent. Much hilarity ensues, and then sadly the apartment and the faery are abandoned while they all become involved in hunting down this big-huge-black-magic-bad-guy that is stealing magically inclined youngsters. And by hunting down, we mean using Tori as bait. Things do not go as planned. Things – and people – are not what they seem.

I loved this one just as much as the first, even if some things I was hoping for didn’t happen. I snickered and giggled my way all the way through, as well as having a few moments where I simply couldn’t read fast enough.

Characters

I planted my feet, hands clenched as I glared at him, silently daring him to blast me into Tori goo.

Tori is the same smart-mouthed chick we met in the first book. We learn a very little bit more about her past, but mostly the story was moving along so quickly there wasn’t a whole lot of time for reflection. There are some new characters, Nadine, Echo (I don’t care what anyone says, I am INTRIGUED), and perhaps most interestingly, Zac. Oh! And Harry. Can’t forget Harry. Yes, I am being intentionally vague because this book is VERY easy to spoil.

“Sorcery,” he interrupted irritably. “Not sorcerer-y.”

In Tori’s words:

“You are a supreme dickhead and I haven’t forgiven you for anything.”

Actually, you know what? I just want to be able to come up with this smart-mouthed retorts like Tori. My daily life would be so entertaining.

“I don’t think you’re as bad as you think you are.”

“I told you not to get the wrong idea.”

“Oh, sorry. What I meant to say was you’re an evil bastard and I can’t wait to see you burnt at the stake for your evil crimes of evil.”

I don’t know exactly why this particular exchange struck me as so funny, but I laughed until I had tears running down my cheeks.

Also, I am in awe of the author’s ability to make me care about ALL these characters. Usually when I read a book I’m only really invested in one or two. Not so with these. Which is why I was very disappointed that we didn’t see much of the three mages in this book. They were there, but just not nearly as much, and I reeeeeeally wanted to find out more about their backstories!

Plot

If you’re hoping for some resolution of previous things, forget it. This book is an entirely new can of worms, and we only barely see the house-haunting faery that appear in the very first chapter! It does seem like it will play a larger part maybe in a later book, but damn.

Also, there are now dragons – including baby dragons – and I want to see more of them.

“For the blood of my blood’s life, I will aid you again – but only once.”

With so many loose ends, this seems like it could be a fantastic series of at least five or six books. Can we please go back to Ezra’s story? I want to know why everyone seems to be afraid of him when he really seems like such a nice guy.

Oh, and Zac. I really want to know more about him too.

Flame Rating:

More sexual tension, but not as much as in the first. Come oooooon, girlfriend. Tori’s obviously got the hots for Aaron but I’m still Team Ezra.

Minor Complaints

As already mentioned, lack of screen time for the three mages. Also the unfair teasing with the house faery. Then…does Tori have to immediately get into a confrontation with every other woman she meets? I thought she and the witch from the first book were going to be friends, but she only appeared in passing in this one…does it have to be all guys?

4.5/5 stars. Great second book, can’t wait for more!

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Dec 03

Review of Red River Resistance

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review of Red River ResistanceRed River Resistance by Katherena Vermette, Scott B Henderson, Donovan Yaciuk
Published by HighWater Press on November 15, 2018
Genres: Graphic Novel, Young Adult
Pages: 48
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads five-stars

Echo Desjardins is adjusting to her new home, finding friends, and learning about Métis history. She just can’t stop slipping back and forth in time. One ordinary afternoon in class, Echo finds herself transported to the banks of the Red River in the summer of 1869. All is not well in the territory as Canadian surveyors have arrived to change the face of territory, and Métis families, who have lived there for generations, are losing access to their land. As the Resistance takes hold, Echo fears for her friends and the future of her people in the Red River Valley.

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Red River Resistance is a graphic novel taking place through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl, Echo who time travels between events in the Red River area of Canada in 1869-1870. Not being Canadian, I was not familiar with the history at ALL and so greatly appreciated the timeline in the back of the book!

The story portrays the injustice done to the indigenous people throughout North America during this time in history, but focuses on the Metis people of Canada. Despite the more than a 100 years since the events, Echo – a descendent of some of the original inhabitants – still struggles with her identity and place in the world, and the effects of a corrupt government that cared nothing for the people it displaced, only for the monetary value of their lands.

The illustrations in this book suit the story perfectly. They have an overall blue/gray cast that lends itself to the mood, and there are very few words even for a graphic novel. For the subject matter, it really works. I will definitely be going back and looking for the first of this series, and hope there will be more after!

Please note: Red River Resistance is the second in a series, and it would probably be good to link the first one to it somehow (it currently does not show as a series on GoodReads): Pemmican Wars.

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Dec 01

TisTheSeasonAThon TBR!

Books/Writing 0

It has been SO long since I played in any kind of readathon, when I saw Heather @ Bookables video announcing it…I just had to. Had to! I missed doing much halloween reading this year, and I’m sort of in the mood for warm and fuzzy, feel good books, soooooo…without further ado!

The TisTheSeasonAThon is running December 3-9 (right in the middle of finals for me, hahaha how convenient), and is being hosted on Twitter and YouTube by Heather from Bookables, Kristin from SuperSpaceChick, Trina from Between Chapters, Chelsea from Chelsea Dolling, and Amy from Crowns and Quills. I’ve linked to their Twitter accounts but they all have awesome YouTube channels as well (that I never have enough time to watch)!

Oh and there’s also a bookstagram challenge (of course) that I *might* try to play along with. We shall see. I’m horrible at taking photos every day but maybe if the light is nice this weekend I might get them taken in advance…anyway, on to the TBR. 😀 Obviously most of these would cross over into the other categories…also I highly doubt I will get to them all, but I’m hoping for at least three. All covers link to GoodReads!

tistheseasonathon

TisTheSeasonAThon TBR

 

Read a book with Red or Green on the cover – I’ve picked Newness and Wonder, because there’s that fabulous tree and it’s just so pretty. Also it’s about a small town, and second changes, and…ok yes, it sounds sappy but sometimes that’s exactly what you need. I expect warm fuzzies all around.

 

 

 

 

Read something short (250 pages or less) because the holidays are crazy busy – I picked this almost entirely on the cover, because it is GORGEOUS. I swear I was born in the wrong time period because I would love to wear pretty dresses like that and have it be a real thing, not a costume. I did try the book preview and was interested enough to buy it, despite that it is – gasp – ANOTHER romance. What is happening to me?!?

 

 

Read something holiday-themed – I’ve actually already read this, but there are now three more in the series and I barely remember it at all, so I’m going to have to re-read before I can get to any of the others! It is DEFINITELY holiday themed though, I remember that much.

 

 

 

Read something while listening to holiday music – ah, one of my favorite self-spoiling things is to put in earbuds and read. Literally tuning the entire world out so it’s just me and my book. My local book club is reading this for December and it seems like the perfect thing to just sink into with some good music.

 

 

 

 

 

Read something warm and fuzzy – uhhhh well I think just about ALL of these would fit this category, but let’s add this one just in case. I would have to get a copy of this from the library, so we’ll see, but I absolutely love the original A Christmas Carol story and this sounds like a fascinating twist on it. Also it’s by Cynthia Hand, one of the fabulous ladies who wrote My Lady Jane.

 

 

A few others that are on my holiday list and could be subbed if my reading mood suits:

  

Snow in Love is the declared group read for the TistheSeasonAThon, but I don’t have a copy and the library doesn’t have it, so I feel like I probably won’t get to as much as I’d love to.

The Winter Soldier sounds fabulous but also kind of gritty and I don’t know that I’m in the frame of mind for it.

Someone to Trust I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of, and I’m probably starting it today so it won’t count for TistheSeasonAThon, but just in case I thought I’d put it up here. It’s the 5th in the series but all the other reviews I read said it could be read as a standalone.

Are you participating in the readathon? Feel free to drop me a link to your TBR below, I’d love to add some more awesome holiday books to my list! 🎄📚📚

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Nov 30

Review of Chase the Dark

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

I recently discovered author Annette Marie with the first book of her new series, Three Mages and a Margarita, and have started going through her back catalog. I’m so excited that she HAS an extensive backlist, as it seems a lot of the authors I really love are so new they only have two or three books.

Review of Chase the DarkChase the Dark (Steel & Stone, #1) by Annette Marie
Published by Annette Marie on October 17, 2014
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 302
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads five-stars
three-flames

Piper Griffiths wants one thing in life: To become a Consul, a keeper of the peace between humans and daemons. There are three obstacles in her way.

The first is Lyre. Incubus. Hotter than hell and with a wicked streak to match. His greatest mission in life is to get Piper into bed and otherwise annoy the crap out of her. The second is Ash. Draconian. Powerful. Dangerous. He knows too much and reveals nothing. Also, disturbingly attractive — and scary. Did she mention scary?

The third is the Sahar Stone. Top secret magical weapon of mass destruction. Previously hidden in her Consulate until thieves broke in, went on a murder spree, and disappeared with the weapon.

And they left Piper to take the fall for their crimes.

Now she’s on the run, her dreams of becoming a Consul shattered and every daemon in the city gunning to kill her. She’s dead on her own, but there’s no one she can trust — no one except two entirely untrustworthy daemons ... See problems one and two.

Chase the Dark seemed to be the logical place to jump in after Three Mages, while I was waiting NOT so patiently for the next in that series (which I’ve since read, and a review is coming soon!). Also, the entire Steel & Stone series is available through Kindle Unlimited, which I happened to be trying for a free month. I hesitated slightly because in my experience, often an author’s first book or even first few books are not as good as their later works. I am thrilled to report that I was wrong, and I quite enjoyed the start to this storyline.

As with any fantasy, urban or otherwise, there’s a good deal of worldbuilding setup required in the initial book. Chase the Dark is set in a future earthworld that sees traffic from daemons of various “species,” most of which take on a humanoid form during the time they spend on earth. Piper, our main character, is in training to be a consul, a go-between for the daemon guests and earth’s diplomatic figures. It is, OF COURSE, frowned on for consuls to have any kind of personal relationships with daemons, regardless of their benevolent intentions…OF COURSE. *wink wink*

The story moves fast, as Piper, with Lyle – an on-so-alluring succubus – and Ash, an enigmatic draconian daemon (which is just as interesting as it sounds) – in tow has to make a run for her life and freedom after a horrifying attack on the human embassy erupts. Naturally, law enforcement jumps to conclusions about just who is behind the attack. Things snowball from there.

Characters

I love Piper. I love her backbone, her willingness to try ANYTHING to do what she perceives as her duty, and I love how she cares about people. She’s young, but not TOO young (I do think the YA label is somewhat misleading on this series…it felt more New Adult to me, but without some of the explicit sex scenes that a lot of NA books have). She has a lot of past hurts from her parents and relationship issues, but she keeps going, chasing her dream, despite the fact that she has a sizeable obstacle in her way. Piper is haemon – half human, half daemon – through a VERY interesting set of circumstances, and as such has none of the magical capabilities that haemons usually have. She hasn’t let this stop her though, instead training ten times harder than most in an effort to level the playing field. You. Go. Girl.

Somehow, Annette Marie has managed to avoid making this feel like a love triangle. I suppose it…sort of IS, regardless, but it just doesn’t feel like a typical one. Despite Lyle and Ash both being insanely hot and there being quite a few sexy scenes. The three of them are a team, and they work best when they are ALL together…it’s not only hot, it’s funny as hell. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. One of which involves spiders.

Piper went stiff as board. Ash crouched over her, a knee on either side of her as he craned to try and spot the insect. She bit her lip so hard she tasted blood…her muscles quivered. Give her minotaurs, sphinxes, anything but spiders.

I love that they do have weaknesses. Perfect characters are so unrealistic and unlikeable.

Though if you’re wondering, Ash was my favorite of the two guys. Because I love anti-heroes. He IS a real piece of work though…which is about all I can say without spoiling anything. Also, HE HAS A DRAGONET FOR A PET AND SHE IS THE MOST ADORABLE THING EVER. Ahem. I need a Zwi in my life. Ash does seem a little too emo at the beginning, but once they start running his seeming immaturity sort of evaporates. Again also, his refusal to show his real form at ANY costs is very VERY intriguing. What can I say, curiosity killed the cat. Some of the events at the end of the book involve him in a way that pretty much had my jaw on the floor…who IS Ash, exactly? And why does he have to be my favorite? I feel like he might end up the bad guy and I would absolutely HATE that…

Plot

SO MUCH HAPPENING. I find this is usually the case in the first of a fantasy series, because as mentioned before the entire world, etc., has to be set up. I was just more and more intrigued the longer this went on, and while a few things were explained in the end, it is really just a gigantic cliffhanger that left me gasping for air. I desperately need to read the rest, and plan to do so hopefully over winter break. Piper learns a lot about herself and her family that she never knew, and basically entire pieces of her life have been a fake or a lie. Yay overprotective parents.

Oh, and there’s a freaking amazing fight scene – because Piper can kick just about anyone’s ass, be they human or daemon – that is hot. AF. Just saying.

Worldbuilding

The world is basically our current earth with some technological upgrades and the addition of daemons from both an underworld and overworld. Very fascinating, especially since the good and evil distinction does not necessarily follow the under and over bit. I loved it. I hope the next books maybe actually let us GO to these other worlds.

Flame Rating

There isn’t any actual sex, or even any real clothing removal. Just load and loads of sexual tension and some hot kissing. And the fight scene.

5/5 stars. If you like urban fantasy AT ALL, I would definitely give it a try!

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five-stars

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Nov 29

Review of The Curses

Book Reviews 0

Review of The CursesThe Curses (The Graces, #2) by Laure Eve
Published by Amulet Books on December 31, 2018
Genres: magical realism, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Goodreads

Picking up the pieces after the chilling events of the previous year isn’t easy, but the Graces are determined to do it. Wolf is back after a mysterious disappearance, and everyone’s eager to return to normal. Except for Summer, the youngest Grace. Summer has a knack for discovering the truth—and something is troubling her. After a trail of clues leads her to what could be the key to both her family’s mysterious past and the secret of Wolf, she’s determined to vanquish yet another curse. But exposing secrets is a dangerous game, and it’s not one Summer can win alone.

At Summer’s behest, the coven comes back together, reluctantly drawing their erstwhile friend River back into the fold. But Wolf’s behavior becomes unpredictable even as Fenrin’s strength fades, and Summer must ask herself whether the friend she so loves is also planning her family’s ultimate, cursed demise.

This riveting sequel to The Graces is saturated with magic, the destructive cost of power, the complications of family, and the nature of forgiveness.

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Be forewarned, there is swearing involved in this review, because, um…

What TF just happened.

I really wanted to review The Curses without giving spoilers for the first one, The Graces (please excuse the formatting on that ANCIENT review), but it’s so damn difficult because you absolutely cannot be reading this one without reading the first. Please don’t even try. So yes, there are some spoilery comments for the first book contained in this review. 

You should be tolerant of every kind of behavior…except ignorance and stupidity. No one should ever tolerate behavior that ruin the world.

This book is so much better than the first. SO MUCH. Like so much I want to hug it. Once I started it, I finished in less than a day. I could barely put it down, I wanted so much to know what the heck was going on! Considering my “meh” feelings over the first book, I am just ecstatic that this one pulled the story out off the runaway train track. In fact, had it not been for the TOTAL shocker at the end of The Graces, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up. But I think you would have to be just about inhuman to not be overcome by curiosity about that ending.

The Curses picks up a few months after the events of The Graces, and this time is written from the perspective of Summer, the youngest Grace. This was soooo much better than the narrative voice in the first book. I really hate unreliable narrators, it makes me feel like my entire life is a lie, so I was relieved that Laure Eve didn’t repeat that in this book. We also spend almost no time at the school in this one – hallelujah.

Thalia, Fenrin, Summer, River, and Wolf are all active players once again, but they are quite changed by the previous events and are all coping in various ways. Wolf’s dramatic disappearance and subsequent reappearance has cast a shadow of sorts over the entire town, and the Grace household bears the brunt of it. Everything is different, with an undercurrent of ill feeling, but no one seems able to quite put a finger on the cause. Summer, ever curious and following her gut, digs and probes until she has her siblings just as involved as herself, and eventually River gets dragged back into their circle as well.

Time had brought a folding inward instead of outward. They had trapped themselves in a relentless limbo of deliberate numbness. Too afraid to feel, too afraid to let go.

The magical realism in this story is, well…so very real. The Graces are pagan witches – which is an actual thing, and I have friends who follow practices very similar (and often with similar reactions from the general public, sadly), as far as the herbal magick and belief in binding, etc. However, none of them – as far as I’m aware – actually think there is a way, or if they did, would ever actually TRY, to resurrect anyone. Which is where the magical, or fantasy if you will, part comes into play. Also, the “power” of various witches to bend events or the future to their will (such as River, particularly) is set firmly in the realm of fantasy. The use of tarot cards, spells, wardings and bindings…not so much. Perhaps it is the slightly blurry line between the two that allows this story to pull you in so very well. At times I variously felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise, as though I’d been punched in the gut, and as if my blood was actually turning cold in my veins. Some of the events are just almost too much to bear, as the pain and loss with accompanying grief is completely palpable through the page.

My favorite part of this book though? The sibling solidarity. The Graces have each others’ backs, no matter what, and they will go down without even a peep to protect one another. Even if they fight and bicker like any siblings, if anyone else threatens one of them, the outsider quickly wishes they hadn’t. And when one of them is in serious trouble, the others think nothing of getting into trouble right alongside them.

The events really just come one right after another in this one, with none of the drag I felt in the first book. Also, the foreshadowing – maybe Laure Eve should take up writing suspense or thrillers, because OMG the cellar scene where all the lies come out was INTENSE and I was just left with my jaw hanging open…and then I realized, like Summer did, that HOLY SHIT IT WAS THERE ALL ALONG.

5/5 stars. I really can’t think of anything bad to say about this one! Which totally surprises me, given that I had quite a few bones to pick with The Graces. The Curses is full of amazing quotes and feelings, and the ending – while it left me feeling sad and melancholy – was really full of closure and not without hope. The author seems to have worked out just about all the things that made me twitch in the first book, and I was just left with a massive hole in my heart for all the things the characters went through.

Oh, and once again, let’s end with a note about this freaking fabulous cover. I am obsessed and I can’t WAIT to have this sitting beside The Graces on my shelf because they look absolutely stunning together.

 

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Nov 26

Indie Bookstore Spotlight #1 – Parnassus Books

Books/Writing 0

If you are buying all your books online, you are seriously missing out. I understand it, I really do – Amazon is almost always (like 98% of the time) cheaper than buying new from a local shop. However, as chain bookstores continue to shrink (here’s looking at you, Barnes & Noble, indie bookstores are actually growing, in part because while they may not be able to compete with the prices offered by Amazon and Barnes & Noble, they offer something worth much more, and that money can’t buy – community.

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(photo from Parnassus)

Parnassus Books is located in Nashville, TN, and owned by author Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes. It has now been open for 7 years, and is one of the most beautiful bookstores I’ve ever had the privilege to set foot in – not because of its size, because the store is truthfully only a moderate size – but you immediately have the vibe that yes, books are loved here, and when you speak to any of the employees you know that they, too, love books. Only a few years ago people were declaring local bookstores to be a thing of the past, but to quote Ann –

You may have heard the news that the independent bookstore is dead, that books are dead, that maybe even reading is dead—to which I say: Pull up a chair, friend. I have a story to tell.

Books, books, books…

Lovely collection of books from native Tennessee (Tennesseean?) authors.

Special event space! Which normally is somewhat more hemmed in, but on this particular day I was at the store a Maggie Stiefvater book event. EEEEEEEP yes.

Spectacular children’s section!

And the YA selection that nearly stopped my heart. Like my entire TBR was on these shelves. It was with GREAT difficulty that I didn’t empty my entire bank account. I still have some vague regret over that but I’m sure my utilities providers thank me.

THEY HAVE SHOP DOGS. Yes, plural. I’ve only ever seen one at a time, though (when I lived in Tennessee I went to Parnassus semi-regularly). You can meet them all if you read this page. If I have correctly identified, this particular shop dog is Bear.

Me with Maggie Stiefvater at the event (for All the Crooked Saints, obviously). It was PACKED, naturally, and so you handed off your phone to a lovely staff person who took your photo while she signed your books. This picture still makes me inordinately happy. Hehe.

Parnassus also has a fabulous event program! I swear every month there are at least three events I wish I could go to, and I only ever made it to two when I lived in the area. One of which was the before-mentioned Maggie Stiefvater event, and the other the launch party for When Dimple Met Rishi – YES, THAT BOOK. Even though I sadly do not have pics of that particular event. There is also a frequently updated blog, and they have TWO monthly book box programs, one of which is YA specific. Be still my heart…

Oh, and the decor is also fab. They have Elizabeth Hartman pattern pillows and enough bookish merch to fill my entire house. Sadly I forgot to take pictures of THOSE shelves. Also, my photos are about a year old, so if you visit now it is possible things may have changed…but I think I can say with confidence that the heart and soul of Parnassus will be the same. 🙂

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This post is the first in what I plan to be a monthly (or so) feature, as I live within 100 miles of over 20 locally owned bookstores. If you want to find local indie stores near you, use this lovely tool from Indiebound – though I warn you, it is NOT comprehensive. Within 15 miles of me I know of two local bookshops that don’t show up on my map. Indiebound doesn’t list very many used bookstores, at least not ones from my area. So be sure to check Google and local pages to see if there are any near you!

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