Tag Archives: Grade B

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

Review: Counting on a Countess by Eva Leigh

Counting on a Countess by Eva Leigh (London Underground book 2)
Historical romance released by Avon on March 27, 2018

Book CoverFor a shameless libertine and a wily smuggler in the London Underground, marriage is more than convenience—it’s strategy . . .

Christopher “Kit” Ellingsworth, war veteran and newly minted Earl of Blakemere, buries his demons under every sort of pleasure and vice. His scandalous ways have all but emptied his coffers . . . until a wealthy mentor leaves him a sizeable fortune. The only stipulation? He must marry within one month to inherit the money. Kit needs a bride and the bold, mysterious Miss Tamsyn Pearce seems perfect.

Husband hunting isn’t Tamsyn’s top priority—she’s in London to sell her new shipment of illicit goods—but she’s desperate for funds to keep her smuggling operation afloat. When a handsome earl offers to wed her and send her back to Cornwall with a hefty allowance, Tamsyn agrees. After all, her secrets could land her in prison and an attentive, love-struck spouse could destroy everything.

But when an unexpected proviso in the will grants Tamsyn control of the inheritance, their arrangement becomes anything but convenient. Now, Kit’s counting on his countess to make his wildest dreams a reality and he plans to convince her, one pleasurable seduction at a time.

I’m a fan of strong historical heroines who aren’t afraid of stepping outside of gender norms and building either the lives they want or the lives they need to have due to circumstances. When I read the description of Counting on a Countess I was thrilled! The description hit many of my sweet spots. The heroine has a unique job. Check. The heroine plans to keep on doing what she does even after she marries. Check. Both the hero and heroine are looking for a marriage of convenience. Double check. I was less thrilled about the reasons for the trope, but was willing to roll with it.  Continue reading

Review: A Scandalous Deal by Joanna Shupe

A Scandalous Deal by Joanna Shupe
Historical (American) romance released by Avon on April 24, 2018

A Scandalous Deal by Joanna Shupe Book CoverJoanna Shupe returns with another unforgettable novel set in the glittering world of New York City’s Gilded Age…

They call her Lady Unlucky…
With three dead fiancés, Lady Eva Hyde has positively no luck when it comes to love. She sets sail for New York City, determined that nothing will deter her dream of becoming an architect, certainly not an unexpected passionate shipboard encounter with a mysterious stranger. But Eva’s misfortune strikes once more when she discovers the stranger who swept her off her feet is none other than her new employer.

Or is it Lady Irresistible?
Phillip Mansfield reluctantly agrees to let the fiery Lady Eva oversee his luxury hotel project while vowing to keep their relationship strictly professional. Yet Eva is more capable—and more alluring—than Phillip first thought, and he cannot keep from drawing up a plan of his own to seduce her.

When a series of onsite “accidents” make it clear someone wants Lady Unlucky to earn her nickname, Phillip discovers he’s willing to do anything to protect her—even if it requires a scandalous deal…

Yes! A heroine who is an architect. Nora Roberts does something like this in a lot of her contemporary romances, but I really enjoyed Shupe’s approach to a female architect in the 19th century. The hero—Phillip–was okay for me, but compared with the heroine, he wasn’t as compelling. He’s what we would call a developer, I think; he buys up undeveloped property and builds fancy buildings. The tension between the two is twofold; Phillip wasn’t expecting a female architect in charge of his very expensive project, and they’re both madly attracted to each other but aren’t really honest with themselves or each other about what they want from a relationship. Once the hero’s history was revealed, I felt like pulling a move from Tangled and applying a metaphorical frying pan to his head—just because one woman did something bad to you doesn’t mean that all women are to be distrusted! Continue reading

Review: Savor You by Kristen Proby

Savor You by Kristen Proby
Contemporary romance released by HarperCollins on April 24, 2018

In the next sizzling romance in Kristen Proby’s New York Times bestselling Fusion series, two celebrity chefs compete in a culinary competition, but resisting each other will prove to be the greater challenge.

Cooking isn’t what Mia Palazzo does, it’s who she is. Food is her passion . . . her pride . . . her true love. She’s built a stellar menu full of delicious and sexy meals for her restaurant, Seduction. Now, after being open for only a few short years, Mia’s restaurant is being featured on Best Bites TV. To say Seduction is a wild success is an understatement. All the blood, sweat, tears, and endless hours of work Mia has put into the restaurant has finally paid off.

Then Camden Sawyer, the biggest mistake of her life, walks into her kitchen . . .

Camden’s celebrity chef status is world-renowned. He’s the best there is, and the kitchen is where he’s most at home. He can’t resist the invitation to Portland for a showdown against Mia for a new television show. Mia was in his life years ago, and just like before, he’s met his match in the beautiful Italian spitfire. The way she commands the kitchen is mesmerizing, and her recipes are clever and delicious. He’s never had qualms about competition, and this is no different. He can’t wait to go head to head with Mia. But can he convince her the chemistry they share in the kitchen would be just as great in the bedroom as well?

As Mia and Camden face off, neither realizes how high the stakes are as their reputations are put on the line and their hearts are put to the ultimate test.

There were chefs and second chance romances in this book, and it was really good. Camden and Mia have history—and not the cute kind of history. They have the I-walked-out-on-you kind of history. But not many people know about it—Camden’s sister knows, and eventually Mia’s brother learns about it, but mostly, other people have no idea why Mia doesn’t want to do a TV show with this super famous celebrity chef who is appealing to the eye. I really enjoyed how Mia and Camden talked out all of their issues—not just to work out their history, but when they stepped on each other’s feelings; they respect each other professionally and they have a network of friends/family. However, it did start to drag towards the end for me. Continue reading

Duology Review: Reign of Shadows & Rise of Fire by Sophie Jordan

Reign of Shadows & Rise of Fire by Sophie Jordan
Young adult high fantasy romance released by HarperCollins on February 9, 2016 and February 7, 2017

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan Book CoverDestiny and darkness collide in this romantic, sweeping new fantasy series from New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan.

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

And

Rise of Fire by Sophie Jordan Book CoverLuna and Fowler have escaped the kingdom of Relhok, but they haven’t escaped the darkness. When a battle against the dark dwellers mortally injures Fowler, Luna is faced with a choice: put their fate in the hands of mysterious strangers or risk losing Fowler forever.

Desperate to keep the one bright part of her life alive, Luna accepts the help of soldiers from a nearby kingdom. Lagonia’s castle offers reprieve from the dangerous outside world—until the King discovers both Fowler and Luna’s true ties to Relhok and their influence over the throne.

Now pawns in each kingdom’s political game, Luna and Fowler are more determined than ever to escape and build the life they’ve been dreaming of. But their own pasts have a tight hold on their hearts and their destinies. Luna must embrace the darkness and fire within her before she loses not only Fowler but the power she was destined to inherit.

The world is a fucking garbage fire, and it’s only gotten worse … which is why I’ve mostly been reading adult high fantasy romances. In fact it’s something I started more than a year ago, and the situation has only gotten more dire (in every sense). There is a lot more YA high fantasy romance than adult, and I think that’s a shame. In my opinion adult high fantasy romance is a huge untapped market I wish more authors would jump into. Anyway – I’ll read YA high fantasy romance when the characters are close to adult or act as if they are adults in their world. I’d say a 17 year old and a 19 year old traveling across a continent alone facing incredible danger counts. (Especially when they’re considered marriageable age and many others in that world their age already have children, etc.) I also figured, knowing Sophie Jordan wrote (writes?) romance, there would be something in there for me. And I was right.

I have a tendency to glom fantasy romance series – even more than other romance subgenres, so as soon as I finish one book I jump into the second, and oftentimes forgot where one ends and the other starts. (Which I don’t consider a real problem since so many are series …) I read both books in one day. I found the world building really interesting, and actually hope there will be some sort of novella, or vignette offering a follow up because I so want to know what else happens.
Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

Ocean Light (Psy-Changeling Trinity Book 2) by Nalini Singh
Paranormal romance released by Berkley on June 12, 2018

Ocean Light by Nalini SinghNew York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh dives beneath the surface of her Psy-Changeling world into a story of passionate devotion and selfless love…

Security specialist Bowen Knight has come back from the dead. But there’s a ticking time bomb in his head: a chip implanted to block telepathic interference that could fail at any moment–taking his brain along with it. With no time to waste, he should be back on land helping the Human Alliance. Instead, he’s at the bottom of the ocean, consumed with an enigmatic changeling…

Kaia Luna may have traded in science for being a chef, but she won’t hide the facts of Bo’s condition from him or herself. She’s suffered too much loss in her life to fall prey to the dangerous charm of a human who is a dead man walking. And she carries a devastating secret Bo could never imagine…

But when Kaia is taken by those who mean her deadly harm, all bets are off. Bo will do anything to get her back–even if it means striking a devil’s bargain and giving up his mind to the enemy…

I always know I want to read Nalini Singh’s books, but when I learned Ocean Light was Bowen Knight’s book … I kicked it into high gear to get my greedy little hands on a copy. I have no shame in telling you I shed a few tears when I thought we lost Bowen (in a previous book). Then also there’s the fact that Nalini Singh’s writing is so beautiful. It’s emotional, warm, evocative, the flow and cadence … it’s like a hug from an old friend. You feel comforted and cared for and know you’re in for a good time. I’ve been reading the Psy-Changeling series from the start, I’m on board for this spin off “trinity” series, and I will read every vignette. … Especially if it has Kaleb, Hawke, or Bowen. Ideally, all three. (Can we please make this happen?!?!) Continue reading

Review: Speakeasy by Sarina Bowen

Speakeasy by Sarina Bowen (True North Book 5)
Contemporary romance released by Sarina Bowen on May 29, 2018

Speakeasy by Sarina Bowen Book CoverSometimes you fall for Mr. Right. And sometimes for Mr. Right Now…
May

Did you hear the one about the girl who walks into a bar and catches her live-in lover kissing someone else? No? You’re the only one in town who missed it.
Luckily Alec is there to wrap me up in strong arms and carry me out the door before things get too ugly. And that’s not all Alec is good at. Our unexpected chemistry makes him the perfect rebound guy.
Alec
I should know better than to hook up with my rival’s little sister, but the fiery look in May’s eyes really turns my crank. She needs cheering up, and I’m just the guy for the job.
It’s not like I’ll fall in love. Not even after a string of scorching hot trysts, and the realization that we’re good at the same things: wild nights and familial disappointment. I don’t do love, never have, never will. So this is the perfect arrangement, for both of us.
Nobody would approve, but nobody has to know…

Speakeasy felt light, but is actually quite complex. It’s got bad bar jokes, family dynamics, addiction, and a bisexual main character. It wraps up the True North series, so if you’re the kind of reader that doesn’t like to start a series until it’s completed, then you can have at it now — if you’ve been following this series, then this is a bittersweet read. May is the heroine and Alec is the hero; we’ve met these characters before in earlier books, but if you don’t remember who they are, it’s easy to acquaint/re-acquaint yourself with them. To a certain extent, both May and Alec are concerned about their images, although they express it in different ways; May thinks people see her as the sibling that’s messed up the most in her family, and Alec is trying to prove that he is a good businessperson, regardless of his happy-go-lucky ways; and these efforts occasionally get in the way of them being honest about their feelings for each other. Continue reading

SAPAHM Review: Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau

Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau
Contemporary romance released by Jackie Lau Books on May 22, 2018

Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau Book CoverI’m a pretty simple guy. When I’m not writing a science fiction novel, I’m watching a good movie or reading a book. Alone. I like my reclusive life. That is, until my only friend asks for a favor—pretend to be his baby sister’s boyfriend on a couples’ getaway. Her ex is going to be there and she needs me as a buffer.

I should have said no, but Naomi is bubbly, energetic, and beautiful. She also means everything to her brother. But now, our fake romance is starting to feel all too real, and I find myself stuck between the promise I made to my friend and risking my heart to the one woman who might actually get me…

I read this book very quickly, and found both Will and Naomi to be sympathetic, although after a while some of the themes became repetitive. Will is a science fiction writer with a Ph.D. in physics, who is on the extreme end of introverted, and can be a little obtuse when it comes to social interactions. Naomi is Will’s best friend’s youngest sister. She’s an event planner, and bubbly—but not in an everyone-must-be-bubbly-like-me way. This is a forced proximity kind of romance, with a mini road trip thrown in for good measure. I say mini, because in my part of the world, it might take 3 hours to get across the city, if the traffic is particularly awful. Naomi is sweet, has had a crush on Will before and still finds him attractive, but is still processing her breakup with a prior boyfriend when the book begins; Will has a history of people wanting to change his way of interacting with the world, hence the “grumpy” descriptive. And yes, a fake relationship is orchestrated. Will learns that putting himself out there a little more isn’t all bad, and both Will and Naomi learn the importance of being with someone that likes you for who you are makes you be a better person. Continue reading

Review: The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale

The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale
Contemporary literary fiction released by Random House on April 17, 2018

The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale CoverWe first meet Leda in a coffee shop on an average afternoon, notable only for the fact that it’s the single occasion in her life when she will eat two scones in one day. And for the cute boy reading American Power and the New Mandarins. Leda hopes that, by engaging him, their banter will lead to romance. Their fleeting, awkward exchange stalls before flirtation blooms. But Leda’s left with one imperative thought: she decides she wants to read Noam Chomsky. So she promptly buys a book and never—ever—reads it.
As the days, years, and decades of the rest of her life unfold, we see all of the things Leda does instead, from eating leftover spaghetti in her college apartment, to fumbling through the first days home with her newborn daughter, to attempting (and nearly failing) to garden in her old age. In a collage of these small moments, we see the work—both visible and invisible—of a woman trying to carve out a life of meaning. Over the course of her experiences Leda comes to the universal revelation that the best-laid-plans are not always the path to utter fulfillment and contentment, and in reality there might be no such thing. Lively and disarmingly honest, The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky is a remarkable literary feat—bracingly funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and truly feminist in its insistence that the story it tells is an essential one.

I think that this book is exactly what the blurb says it will be—which is a wonderful thing to say about a book, because sometimes you read a blurb and you read the tiny excerpt and you get the book, and it’s not what you were led to believe it was going to be. Sometimes, that’s okay, and other times it’s incredibly frustrating. This book does indeed follow Leda—the main character—through life, starting when she’s in college all the way to her death. The epilogue is told from her daughter’s point of view, although to be more accurate, it’s in limited third person. I enjoyed the candidness of the novel; we get Leda’s occasionally illogical behaviors and her bouts with depression; we also get to talk about things that impact huge numbers of women at an individual level. Do not expect huge does of romance, or eroticism in this book—yes, people fall in love and have sex, but that isn’t the point of the book and it’s given a different kind of attention. Continue reading

Review: Tempest by Beverly Jenkins

N. R.’s review of Tempest (Old West book 1) by Beverly Jenkins
Historical romance published by Avon on January 30, 2018

Book CoverWhat kind of mail-order bride greets her intended with a bullet instead of a kiss? One like Regan Carmichael—an independent spirit equally at home in denims and dresses. Shooting Dr. Colton Lee in the shoulder is an honest error, but soon Regan wonders if her entire plan to marry a man she’s never met is a mistake. Colton, who buried his heart along with his first wife, insists he only wants someone to care for his daughter. Yet Regan is drawn to the unmistakable desire in his gaze.

Regan’s far from the docile bride Colton was expecting. Still, few women would brave the wilds of Wyoming Territory for an uncertain future with a widower and his child. The thought of having a bold, forthright woman like Regan in his life—and in his arms—begins to inspire a new dream. And despite his family’s disapproval and an unseen enemy, he’ll risk all to make this match a real union of body and soul.

I read Tempest right after it was published, while on a beachside vacation. My book still smells a bit like the ocean even over six weeks later. My intent was to get my review to Lime as soon as I returned home, but chaos ensued, as chaos is wont to do, so I’m grateful to Lime for giving me the time I needed to pull life into some semblance of order. You’re the best, and don’t forget it!

Beverly Jenkins has long been a favorite author, and my love affair with her started in 1996 when I was browsing my local library for something new and different and my librarian pointed me in the direction of Indigo. I finally got to meet Ms. Bev last summer at the RWA national conference, and clapped as hard as anyone when she accepted her RWA Lifetime Achievement award. When Lime asked me if I was interested in reviewing the final book in Ms. Bev’s Wild West trilogy, I practically jumped through the computer to grab it and read the final book in the Carmichael family trilogy. Continue reading