Tag Archives: Babs’ Review

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

Release Day Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven
Adult high fantasy romance released by Penguin on September 25, 2018

Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven Book CoverA woman with power over fire and illusion and the enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital–her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion–and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will abandon everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more.

Fans of fantasy romance rejoice! Another great book (and new series) by Grace Draven is here! I was so excited for this book I begged for an ARC! This story has great world-building and a complex romance. I enjoyed the very slow burn romance with a great payoff at the end. Azarion and Gilene are multi-faceted characters who go through a lot and grow in this story. Azarion’s mother, Saruke, and sister, Tamura, are awesome secondary characters along with traders and other clan members. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Tropic of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent by by Marie Brennan

The Tropic of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent (A Natural History of Dragons Book 2) by Marie Brennan
Historical fantasy published by Tor on March 4, 2014

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan Book CoverThe thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan’s Tropic of Serpents . . .

Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

For August’s TBR challenge, I read book 2 in the Memoirs of Lady Trent series. I loved the first book, A Natural History of Dragons, and enjoyed The Tropic of Serpents. Isabella lives with locals to get close to dragons in the swamp. She’s exorcised of “evil energy” and learns secrets about swamp-wyrms, flies across dragon-infested waters, and is involved in political machinations. All great stuff and an exciting read. Continue reading

Release Day Review: Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai

Hurts to Love You (Forbidden Hearts #3) by Alisha Rai
Contemporary romance released by Avon on March 27, 2018

Well-behaved women don’t lust after men who love to misbehave.
Heiress Evangeline Chandler knows how to keep a secret . . . like her life-long crush on the tattooed hottie who just happens to be her big brother’s friend. She’s a Chandler, after all, and Chandlers don’t hook up with the help. Then again, they also don’t disobey their fathers and quit their respectable jobs, so good-girl rules may no longer apply.

Gabriel Hunter hides the pain of his past behind a smile, but he can’t hide his sudden attraction to his friend’s sheltered little sister. Eve is far too sweet to accept anything less than forever and there’s no chance of a future between the son of a housekeeper and the town’s resident princess.

When a wedding party forces Eve and Gabe into tight quarters, keeping their hands off each other will be as hard as keeping their clothes on. The need that draws them together is stronger than the forces that should shove them apart . . . but their sparks may not survive the explosion when long-buried secrets are finally unearthed.

I’m a big fan of Alisha Rai. A Gentleman in the Street, Serving Pleasure, and The Fantasy Series were some of my favorite reads the years I read them and I can’t recommend them enough to readers who like hot romance. Before I dive in, first things first—if you haven’t read the first two books in the Forbidden Hearts series (Hate you Want You and Wrong to Need You), stop right now and go fix that. Because they’re awesome books and need to be read immediately. Oh, and also I think it will help frame the story in this book since some events have been building up and the couples from the previous books feature prominently in this story. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
Historical romance with magical elements released by Tor on August 3, 2010

Shades of Milk and Honey CoverThe fantasy novel you’ve always wished Jane Austen had written
Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.

Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right-and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

I read this book for the TBR Challenge Sugar or Spice. This book falls solidly in the Sugar category. There are no sexy times at all, not even ardent embraces or stolen kisses until the end! This is a Regency historical romance with magical elements. I’ll get more into the magic later. Except for the magic it’s solidly in the Regency romance category in all other elements of the story. This was an ok read for me made better by learning the hero and heroine are the main characters of the rest of the books in the series. More on that below. Also my first Mary Robinette Kowal read. I’ve had this book on my Goodreads to-read list for YEARS (almost 5 to be precise) so very nice to read it for this challenge and get started on the Glamourist Histories series. Continue reading

[Belated October] Team TBR Challenge Review: Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger

*I would like to note that all the blame goes to me for this post being tardy. Babs sent me this review on October 15th, to go live the 17th. My apologies to Babs, and to you all.

Romancing the Inventor (Supernatural Society, Book 1) by Gail Carriger
Paranormal F/F romance with steampunk elements published by Gail Carriger on November 1, 2016

A steampunk lesbian romance featuring a maid bent on seducing an imprisoned cross-dressing scientist who’s too brokenhearted to notice. Or is she?

Imogene Hale is a lowly parlormaid with a soul-crushing secret. Seeking solace, she takes work at a local hive,only to fall desperately in love withthe amazing lady inventor the vampires are keeping in the potting shed.

Parlormaid versus vampire!

Genevieve Lefoux is heartsick, lonely, and French. With culture, class, and thelady herself set against the match, can Imogene and her duster overcomeall odds and win Genevieve’s heart, or will the vampires suck both ofthem dry?

This is a stand-alone LGBTQ sweet romance set in GailCarriger’s Parasolverse, full of class prejudice, elusive equations, and paranormal creatures taking tea.

Delicate Sensibilities?
This story contains women pleasing women and ladies who know what they want and pursue it, sometimes in exquisite detail.

Supernatural Society novellas can be read in any order. Look for surpriseappearances from popular characters and the occasional strategicapplication of cognac.

I thought this was an adorable read. I read this paranormal for the TBR Challenge and because the second book in the Supernatural Society series releases in a few weeks. This is a lovely little add-on story to the Parasol Protectorate series, one of my favorites. Madame Lefoux always intrigued me and Imogene is a great partner for her. The romance is delightful and hit all the right notes for me.  Continue reading

Review: Silver Silence by Nalini Singh

Babs’ review of Silver Silence by Nalini Singh
Paranormal romance released by Berkley Books on June 13, 2017

Nalini Singh returns to her extraordinary Psy-Changeling world with a story of wild passion and darkest betrayal…

Control. Precision. Family. These are the principles that drive Silver Mercant. At a time when the fledgling Trinity Accord seeks to unite a divided world, with Silver playing a crucial role as director of a worldwide emergency response network, wildness and chaos are the last things she needs in her life. But that’s exactly what Valentin Nikolaev, alpha of the StoneWater bears, brings with him.

Valentin has never met a more fascinating woman. Though Silver is ruled by Silence–her mind clear of all emotion–Valentin senses a whisper of fire around her. That’s what keeps him climbing apartment buildings to be near her. But when a shadow assassin almost succeeds in poisoning Silver, the stakes become deadly serious…and Silver finds herself in the heart of a powerful bear clan.

Her would-be assassin has no idea what their poison has unleashed…

I’m a huge Nalini Singh fan and loved this book. I was super excited when it was announced this would be Silver Mercant’s book and include bears! Things move quickly from the very beginning and don’t really slow down. Valentin, the alpha of StoneWater bear changelings, has bear stuff he’s dealing with. His crush on Silver is cute and his playful pursuit of her is the only time he gets away from Denhome. I love that through everything, he always believed Silver could do anything. Silver is changing careers, standing up a new organization under the Trinity Accord, and cementing her place in the Mercant family hierarchy. Basically being a badass. Both the Mercant family and the bears fascinated me. I hope we get more of both in this new arc, Psy-Changeling Trinity. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: A SEAL’s Salvation by Tawny Weber

Babs’ review of A SEAL’s Salvation by Tawny Weber
Contemporary romance published by Harlequin Blaze February 1, 2014

Subject: Navy SEAL Petty Officer  Brody Lane

Current Status: On leave

Obstacle: The one girl who was off-limits…

Where Navy SEAL “Bad Ass” Brody Lane goes, trouble follows. Being run out of his hometown years ago for misbehaving with Genna Reilly—the sheriff’s daughter—was one thing. Now Brody is about to step into real danger. Not the suggestive letters he’s been exchanging with Genna, but the kind of trouble that can send a soldier home injured and broken inside…

Genna’s entire life has been orchestrated by her family. The  right job. The right friends. Enough! Brody’s return offers the promise of lust-filled pleasures. Of flesh teased and tasted. She’s not expecting to find a soldier with distant eyes who has secluded himself from the world. But this good girl knows exactly how to bring a bad boy back to life….

Uniformly Hot!  The Few. The Proud. The Sexy as Hell.

A SEAL’s Salvation is a very satisfying read. The chemistry between Genna and Brody is off the charts. Besides friend’s brother/sister trope (one of my favorites and favorite trope is the TBR challenge theme for June), there’s also the “bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks with the town princess” thing, a dash of second chance romance, and “we’re just going to be friends (but not really)”. While “bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks” doesn’t always land well with me, it definitely worked here. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the GraveBabs’ Review of Silent in the Grave (Book One of the Lady Julia Grey series) by Deanna Raybourn
Historical fiction with romantic elements released by Harlequin on December 19,  2006

“Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.”

These ominous words are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.

Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth. Determined to bring her husband’s murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward’s demise, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.

I’ve had Deanna Raybourn on my radar and to-read list for awhile. Most recently I was looking forward to her new Veronica Speedwell (adventurous heroine!) series after I heard her describing it on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books podcast. After checking my library, I’m on the waiting list for A Curious Beginning but Silent in the Grave was available so I started the Lady Julia Grey series. (I love Overdrive—free ebooks to read in just a few clicks!) Continue reading

Review: Nuts by Alice Clayton

Babs’ review of Nuts by Alice Clayton
Contemporary romance released by Gallery Books on October 20, 2015

NutsRoxie Callahan is a private chef to some of Hollywood’s wealthiest, and nastiest, calorie-counting wives. After a dairy disaster implodes her carefully crafted career in one fell ploop, she finds herself back home in upstate New York, bailing out her hippie mother and running the family diner.

When gorgeous local farmer Leo Maxwell delivers her a lovely bunch of organic walnuts, Roxie wonders if a summer back home isn’t such a bad idea after all. Leo is heavily involved in the sustainable slow food movement, and he likes to take his time. In all things. Roxie is determined to head back to the west coast as soon as summer ends, but will the pull of lazy fireflies and her very own Almanzo Wilder be enough to keep her home for good?

Salty. Spicy. Sweet. Nuts. Go on, grab a handful.

Nuts is my first Alice Clayton read and the first book in the Hudson Valley series. I have had Alice Clayton’s Wallbanger on my to-read list for awhile now. I started seeing Nuts talked about on Twitter. Other reviewers were saying great things about it. I honed in right away on references to how funny it was. There’s no way I could not try it. Add a bearded farmer and a chef which guaranteed food references? Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! Continue reading