Author Archives: Babs

Redux Review: The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier
High fantasy released by Penguin on September 3, 2019

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier book coverEighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and is a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan’s burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the kingdom will be thrown into disarray. Faced with plotting courtiers and tight-lipped druids, an insightful storyteller, and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realizes an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision—and the consequences may break her heart.

This fantasy novel is well written but wasn’t for me. I enjoy fantasy novels and this has spies, traveling bards, druids, fairy folk, and more. I really wanted the story to work for me but it didn’t. I stopped reading just past the halfway point. I expect others might like it though.

Content warning for descriptions of past child abuse and associated trauma, current child abuse, and attempted sexual assault.

The Harp of Kings is told from the points of view of three characters. Point of view changes with each chapter. The three POV characters are around 18 years old and on a mission (with two experienced spies) for this gang of spies/warriors they’re hoping to join. Brocc and Liobhan are siblings and Dau is the third spy-in-training. Dau and Liobhan have a pretty intense rivalry among their group of trainees and they have to work together on the mission despite that. Continue reading

Review: The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken

The Blacksmith Queen (The Scarred Earth Saga, #1) by G.A. Aiken
Adult High Fantasy published by Kensington on August 27, 2019

The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken book coverThe Old King Is Dead
 
With the demise of the Old King, there’s a prophesy that a queen will ascend to the throne of the Black Hills. Bad news for the king’s sons, who are prepared to defend their birthright against all comers. But for blacksmith Keeley Smythe, war is great for business. Until it looks like the chosen queen will be Beatrix, her younger sister. Now it’s all Keeley can do to protect her family from the enraged royals.

Luckily, Keeley doesn’t have to fight alone. Because thundering to her aid comes a clan of kilt-wearing mountain warriors called the Amichai. Not the most socially adept group, but soldiers have never bothered Keeley, and rough, gruff Caid, actually seems to respect her. A good thing because the fierce warrior will be by her side for a much longer ride than any prophesy ever envisioned …

I have been waiting not so patiently for this book since it was announced and I was not disappointed! I love the zaniness of the author’s Shelly Laurenston urban fantasy/paranormal romance books and am just now making my way through her fantasy romance Dragon Kin series as G.A. Aiken. The Blacksmith Queen has family squabbles and insults aplenty like the other series. To me the silliness is a little dialed down from the Dragon Kin series or the Shelly Laurenston books but the book is still funny and overall delightful! There are plenty of battles and fantastical creatures although it’s light on kissing and sexy times in case that’s something you’re after! Continue reading

Release Day Review: Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy, #4) by Ilona Andrews
Urban Fantasy published by Avon on August 27, 2019

I’m a huge Ilona Andrews fan and the Hidden Legacy series is probably my favorite. The writing and story pacing are just spot on. Sapphire Flames takes the series to another level and it was already fabulous before.

Fair warning—the blurb for Sapphire Flames spoils some events from the first books in the series so I strongly recommend reading the 3 full length books and one novella (Burn for Me, White Hot, Wildfire, and Diamond Fire) before reading Sapphire Flames. I’ll reference things from the blurb but try to avoid other potential spoilers. Nevada and Rogan aren’t part of Sapphire Flames but their books set up where Sapphire Flames picks up. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Contemporary romance published by St. Martin’s Griffin on May 14, 2019

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston book coverWhat happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

I’m reviewing this for the July #TBRChallenge. While it’s a fairly recent release, I feel like I’ve waited forever to read it. If unrequited love, enemies to lovers, and friends to lovers are things you like in a romance, then this book is for you. It has all of these tropes and more between one couple and it’s delightful. Pretty much all of this story worked for me. Alex and Henry are lovely main characters, the secondary characters are so compelling. I feel like I got enough information for them to be fully developed but at the same time there’s potential for other stories in this world involving these great characters. A big component of the romance between Alex and Henry is epistolary—they communicate via text and email, initially getting to know each other more then it evolves into love letters. It’s so romantic y’all. Continue reading

Release Day Review: Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep

Protect the Prince (A Crown of Shards book 2) by Jennifer Estep
Adult High Fantasy romance released by Harper Voyager on July 2, 2019

Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep book coverMagic, murder, adventure, and romance combine in this second novel in the exciting Crown of Shardssaga from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep.

Everleigh Blair might be the new gladiator queen of Bellona, but her problems are far from over.

First, Evie has to deal with a court full of arrogant, demanding nobles, all of whom want to get their greedy hands on her crown. As if that wasn’t bad enough, an assassin tries to kill Evie in her own throne room.

Despite the dangers, Evie goes ahead with a scheduled trip to the neighboring kingdom of Andvari in order to secure a desperately needed alliance. But complicating matters is the stubborn Andvarian king, who wants to punish Evie for the deaths of his countrymen during the Seven Spire massacre.

Dark forces are also at work inside the Andvarian palace, and Evie soon realizes that no one is safe. Worse, her immunity to magic starts acting in strange, unexpected ways, which makes Evie wonder whether she is truly strong enough to be a Winter Queen.

Evie’s magic, life, and crown aren’t the only things in danger—so is her heart, thanks to Lucas Sullivan, the Andvarian king’s bastard son and Evie’s … well, Evie isn’t quite sure what Sullivan is to her.

Only one thing is certain—protecting a prince might be even harder than killing a queen…

I loved Kill the Queen, book 1 in this series and Protect the Prince is more of the same. Jennifer Estep has created a great world and I love the tone and structure of these books. To me the pacing and content are like action movies in book form and I just want roll around in them for days. There’s two royal courts, a little road trip, political machinations abound, skulking through secret passage ways, sleuthing to find spies and assassins, magic battles, and romance?! The best things ever all in one package in my opinion! Perfect summer reading. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Crashed Out by Tessa Bailey

Crashed Out (Made in Jersey #1) by Tessa Bailey
Contemporary romance published December 7, 2015, by Entangled: Brazen

Crashed Out by Tessa Bailey book coverJasmine Taveras is the reason Sarge Purcell grabbed his six-string and bailed the hell out of New Jersey four years ago. She’s the fuel for every song he’s ever written-each one laced with bitter, hard-edged, hungry lust. Now, with his hugely successful band on temporary hiatus, Sarge is determined to prove to Jasmine that he’s turned into every inch the man she’s always needed…

Men are slim pickings for a single factory girl in Hook, New Jersey…until tall, broad-shouldered hotness walks—or rather storms—into Jasmine’s life. Sarge’s return shouldn’t affect her this way. He’s her best friend’s much younger brother, and the kind of rough, gritty, sexiness Jasmine has no right to taste for herself. Even if he lets her.

But lust is a blinding, insatiable force. And when it crashes, it will take both Sarge and Jasmine down with it…

I read Crashed Out for the April TBR Challenge—Something Different. I hoped for a fun read based on the premise of this book. Older woman/younger man, best friend’s little brother, and a rock star romance?! Unfortunately I’m disappointed. Very sexy but I wanted more conversations between Jasmine and Sarge about who they were and what they saw in each other, not just dirty talk. The story seemed very superficial and I wasn’t in the mood to accept two or three days of fabulous sex and a couple “grand gestures” was enough for Jasmine to fall in love with Sarge. Continue reading

Review: Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
Contemporary romance novellas released by Avon on January 8, 2019

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole book coverWhile her boss the prince was busy wooing his betrothed, Likotsi had her own love affair after swiping right on a dating app. But her romance had ended in heartbreak, and now, back in NYC again, she’s determined to rediscover her joy—so of course she runs into the woman who broke her heart.

When Likotsi and Fabiola meet again on a stalled subway train months later, Fab asks for just one cup of tea. Likotsi, hoping to know why she was unceremoniously dumped, agrees. Tea and food soon leads to them exploring the city together, and their past, with Fab slowly revealing why she let Likotsi go, and both of them wondering if they can turn this second chance into a happily ever after.

This is a lovely novella in the world of the Reluctant Royals series. It’s a second chance romance between Likotsi and Fabiola. They find each other again unexpectedly when they both have a day off and end up spending the day together in New York City. The story alternates between present day (their day together in NYC) and when they were together before. It’s adorable and broke my heart a few times. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: A Daddy Sent by Santa by Susan Carlisle

A Daddy Sent by Santa by Susan Carlisle
Contemporary category romance released by Harlequin Medical on October 16, 2018

A Daddy Sent by Santa by Susan Carlisle Book CoverWhen a small-town mom…

Falls for a big-city doc…

Nurse Lauren Wilson is used to doctors coming and going in her Oklahoma town — and doesn’t expect prestigious Boston doc Paxton Samuels to be any different. Until they’re snowed in together and their sensual tension reaches boiling point! But knowing Paxton is due to leave after the festive season, can Lauren risk giving him her heart and her little boy a daddy for Christmas?

This book was in my physical TBR pile and I received it in a book subscription box. I did not finish this book. I read a little past the halfway mark then couldn’t take it anymore. I would be hate-reading if I kept going. I underlined more and more sentences in disgust? Outrage? Disappointment? All of the above? These characters and story did not work for me. Continue reading

Release Day Review: Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Kill the Queen (Crown of Shards #1) by Jennifer Estep
Fantasy published by Harper Voyager on October 2, 2018

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep Book CoverGladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance.

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.

Fan-freaking-tastic! I would have finished this in one day if I didn’t have to do grown up stuff after I started reading. Great characters, awesome world building. Jennifer Estep got me to care about gladiators when fighting is not my thing at all—no interest in WWE, MMA, UFC, etc. But I had a running montage in my head of the fight sequences while Evie, the main protagonist, and the troupe are training and during the gladiator shows (“Are you not entertained?!” Came to my mind several times). All the best elements of action movies—this book was like a summer blockbuster movie (think of Gladiator, the Thor: Ragnarok Thor versus Hulk battle) to me, only in book form. Shifters and magic abound in this world on top of traveling gladiator troupes putting on shows for the masses. If all this sounds appealing to you, this is the book for you. Continue reading

Babs’ Books Read January-June 2018

Hi friends! Me again and my bad, jumping on on Babs’ list, which she :X sent me back on 7/11. I hope you’re enjoying these lists, that you can maybe add (or take!) from your TBR – and possibly find a reviewer that your book taste lines up with. 😀 Cheers!

Babs’ Books Read January-June 2018
January
Flame in the Dark (Soulwood #3) by Faith Hunter B+ (The mmpb at $7.83 is actually a smidge cheaper than the kindle version, and I don’t know if this is universal but the page is also showing me there’s a 48¢ extra coupon.)
Beyond the Empire (The Indranan War #3) by K.B. Wagers B+
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Vol. 1: BFF by Amy Reeder B+
Faith and the Future Force #1 by Jody Houser B (You can get 1-4 in paperback for just $7.40 right now!)  Continue reading