Tag Archives: Review

Release Day Review: Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews

Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews
Urban fantasy published by NYLA on January 12, 2021

Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews book coverFrom award-winning author, Ilona Andrews, an all-new novel set in the New York Times #1 bestselling Kate Daniels World and featuring Julie Lennart-Olsen, Kate and Curran’s ward.

Atlanta was always a dangerous city. Now, as waves of magic and technology compete for supremacy, it’s a place caught in a slow apocalypse, where monsters spawn among the crumbling skyscrapers and supernatural factions struggle for power and survival.

Eight years ago, Julie Lennart left Atlanta to find out who she was. Now she’s back with a new face, a new magic, and a new name—Aurelia Ryder—drawn by the urgent need to protect the family she left behind. An ancient power is stalking her adopted mother, Kate Daniels, an enemy unlike any other, and a string of horrifying murders is its opening gambit.

If Aurelia’s true identity is discovered, those closest to her will die. So her plan is simple: get in, solve the murders, prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled, and get out without being recognized. She expected danger, but she never anticipated that the only man she’d ever loved could threaten everything.

One small misstep could lead to disaster. But for Aurelia, facing disaster is easy; it’s relationships that are hard.

I was super excited to read this book and it was awesome! I found myself sitting up on the edge of my seat on the couch several times as I was reading this and it was hard to stop to do normal, boring adult stuff like stand when my Apple Watch buzzed me every hour. I was sucked into the story immediately. I got to the last 15% or so and held off reading the big battle until the next morning so I could savor it. So good; a great first read of the new year! Continue reading

Release Day Review: Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire

Across the Green Grass Fields (Wayward Children Book 6) by Seanan McGuire
Fantasy released by Tor on January 21, 2021

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire book coverA young girl discovers a portal to a land filled with centaurs and unicorns in Seanan McGuire’s Across the Green Grass Fields, a standalone tale in the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Wayward Children series.

“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”

Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.

When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines—a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.

But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…

This is a poignant coming of age story, that depicts the realistic setting and the fantastical with equal, aching clarity. It is part of a series, but can be read alone, since characters from the other books in the series don’t make an appearance in this book, just a form of magic that is common to all the books and which is fairly easily explained. The cover copy describes Regan’s friendship situation as “complicated,” which I think is a bit of an understatement. Also, I felt worried for Regan at the end of the book, because I wasn’t sure how she would fit into a world that had not been easy for her before she went through the door into the Hooflands, and probably won’t be any easier for her on her return to this world. Mcguire handles topics like being intersexed, different forms of relationships, and making hard choices with aplomb. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Princess Knight by G.A. Aiken

The Princess Knight (The Scarred Earth Saga #2) by G.A. Aiken
Adult High Fantasy released by Kensington on November 24, 2020

Gemma Smythe dedicated her life to the glory of battle. With her fellow War Monks, she worshipped the war gods, rained destruction on her enemies, and raised the dead when the fancy took her. Until her sister Keeley became the prophesied Blacksmith Queen, and Gemma broke faith with her order to journey to the Amichai Mountain and fight by Keeley’s side.

The Amichai warriors are an unruly, never-to-be-tamed lot, especially their leader-in-waiting, Quinn. But when the War Monks declare support for Gemma’s ruthless younger sister Beatrix, the immaturity of her key ally is the least of Gemma’s problems. She has to get to the grand masters, dispel their grudge against her, and persuade them to fight for Keeley and justice. If her conviction can’t sway them, perhaps Quinn’s irritating, irreverent, clearly unhinged, ferocity will win the day . . .

Another entertaining G.A. Aiken story and great sequel to The Blacksmith Queen (read my review of The Blacksmith Queen here). My favorite parts of this book (and really all G.A. Aiken/Shelly Laurenston books) are the humor, snappy dialogue, found family, unique magic, and powerful, competent women. This is a fast-paced, action packed ride that keeps building out the world of this series. Continue reading

Review: Ten Things I Hate About the Duke by Loretta Chase

Ten Things I hate About the Duke by Loretta Chase
Historical romance released by Avon on December 1, 2020

Ten Things I Hate About the Duke by Loretta Chase book coverThis time, who’s taming whom…

Cassandra Pomfret holds strong opinions she isn’t shy about voicing. But her extremely plain speaking has caused an uproar, and her exasperated father, hoping a husband will rein her in, has ruled that her beloved sister can’t marry until Cassandra does.

Now, thanks to a certain wild-living nobleman, the last shreds of Cassandra’s reputation are about to disintegrate, taking her sister’s future and her family’s good name along with them.

The Duke of Ashmont’s looks make women swoon. His character flaws are beyond counting. He’s lost a perfectly good bride through his own carelessness. He nearly killed one of his two best friends. Still, troublemaker that he is, he knows that damaging a lady’s good name isn’t sporting.

The only way to right the wrong is to marry her…and hope she doesn’t smother him in his sleep on their wedding night.

This is a lovely retelling of The Taming of the Shrew that does not diminish either of the protagonists’ strengths as they fall in love with each other. Cassandra Pomfret is what one might consider a feminist activist, though she never uses those words to describe herself. She is not well liked for this reason. Ashmont, the duke in this story, is like many of Chase’s previous love interests–a man used to doing whatever he likes, but slowly realizing that isn’t the way to live his life. Both Cassandra and Ashmont have loving family and friends, which was great to see. My only quibble with this book, and it is tiny, is that the villains felt unequal to Cassandra and Ashmont. Continue reading

Review: Blacklisted by Jay Crownover

Blacklisted by Jay Crownover
Contemporary romance released by Forever on October 27, 2020

Blacklisted by Jay Crownover book coverDr. Presley Baskin has always lived a quiet, calm life. Unfortunately, nothing about her life in Loveless, Texas — especially not the wild, rowdy, and impossibly close-knit Lawton family who’ve claimed her — is quiet or calm. Which is how loner Presley finds herself roped into patching up local bad boy Shot Caldwell against her better judgment. Presley wants nothing to do with the dangerous, brooding leader of the local outlaw motorcycle club. But when someone starts stalking her, Shot is the only person she trusts to help. Plus he owes her one . . .
Palmer ‘Shot’ Caldwell has always known his life isn’t made for relationships. At least until shy, secretive, Presley reluctantly pulled a bullet out of him. He’s oddly protective of the pretty doctor, so when she comes to him for help, hard-hearted Shot suddenly realizes there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to keep her safe.

I have not read a motorcycle club romance in a few years, so I was curious how this one would go. On the one hand, it was fairly easy to familiarize myself with the various family and friends of both of the main characters, and the plot and its conflict did not rely heavily on events in earlier books. On the other hand, the way mental illness is used in this book left me troubled after I finished it, which is why I delayed writing a review for this book. I’m also ethically uncomfortable with how a medical examiner is in a long-term relationship with the president of a motorcycle club by the end of the book, and this is clearly not a cuddly motorcycle club (like Rhenna Morgan’s Men of Haven). Presley is the medical examiner in the novel, and Palmer “Shot” is the motorcycle club president. Presley’s growth is perhaps best seen in how she stops retreating from good things in her life as the book progresses–she also stops retreating from bad things, which maybe isn’t a great development. Shot is more difficult to explain, partly because it felt as though he already knew he loved Presley from the beginning of the book, based on the little inner asides in his voice scattered throughout the book; his character arc is that he is willing to commit to Presley and express his feelings verbally. I wasn’t necessarily satisfied by these arcs, or the general plot. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan
Historical romance released by Courtney Milan on September 22, 2020

The Duke Who Didn't by Courtney Milan book coverMiss Chloe Fong has plans for her life, lists for her days, and absolutely no time for nonsense. Three years ago, she told her childhood sweetheart that he could talk to her once he planned to be serious. He disappeared that very night.

Except now he’s back. Jeremy Wentworth, the Duke of Lansing, has returned to the tiny village he once visited with the hope of wooing Chloe. In his defense, it took him years of attempting to be serious to realize that the endeavor was incompatible with his personality.

All he has to do is convince Chloe to make room for a mischievous trickster in her life, then disclose that in all the years they’ve known each other, he’s failed to mention his real name, his title… and the minor fact that he owns her entire village.

Only one thing can go wrong: Everything.

There’s a lot I want to say about this book, and I probably won’t cover it all, but I want to first say I liked it. I think you will too.​ ​So this is how I (it) started with The Duke Who Didn’t: this book is ridiculous in the best possible way. Lighthearted and fun. A delightful confection of a book. (I was about 30% in?​ when I wrote that.​) And then just before 50% there was a literal jaw dropping moment and I had to put the book down. Just to take a few moments. Honestly I should probably sit and think about this story more, but then I’ll get too in my head and afraid I’ll mess up what I ought to or need to say … (which would actually be very fitting with these characters) – so I’ll just go with what’s off the top of my head now and let it go.​ (Although I wrote that bit two days ago.) There were definitely laugh out loud moments, and a lot to enjoy. I don’t want to get it wrong, but it’s my review so there “is no wrong.” Let’s go. ​

Continue reading

Review: Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha

Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha
Urban fantasy romance released by Tor Books on July 28, 2020

Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha book coverNina is an information broker with a mission—she and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to save the hopeless in a crumbling America.

Knox is the bitter, battle-weary captain of the Silver Devils. His squad of supersoldiers went AWOL to avoid slaughtering innocents, and now he’s fighting to survive.

They’re on a deadly collision course, and the passion that flares between them only makes it more dangerous. They could burn down the world, destroying each other in the process…

Or they could do the impossible: team up.

This is a wonderful start to what I hope will be a great series. The book deals with several issues that might be uncomfortable for some readers, and the authors have provided content warnings on their site for those issues. Generally, this is an intense book. It is set in a dystopian future on Earth where society has collapsed and is run by dangerous entities with a firm hold on everything, including technology, medical research, and information of any kind. The main characters in this series are broken down into two teams. On the mercenary side, there’s Knox and his team, who are hiding out from the big bad entity because they refuse to follow orders to kill innocent people anymore. There’s a slight hitch with that plan, which is why they end up collaborating with the mercenary librarians (which the authors described as Murder Ladies in one tweet). Nina is the leader of the mercenary librarians, and their mission is to help all the normal people trying to survive in this dystopian world. Nina is a problem solver; if you put her in a hard situation, she will figure a way out of it without sacrificing the people she holds dear and get what she originally wanted. Part of this is preparation, but the rest is thinking on her feet and thinking outside the box. Knox is a planner, and he is less used to thinking outside the box. This is the cause for a lot of the conflict between Nina and Knox, along with secrets neither of them is aware of at the beginning of the book. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand
Contemporary romance released by Laura Florand on January 26, 2015 

Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand book coverShe stole his roses.

Fleeing the spotlight, burnt out rock star Layla—“Belle”—Dubois seeks refuge in the south of France. That old, half-forgotten heritage in a valley of roses seems like a good place to soothe a wounded heart. She certainly doesn’t expect the most dangerous threat to her heart to pounce on her as soon as she sets foot on the land.

He wants them back.

Matt didn’t mean to growl at her quite that loudly. But—his roses! She can’t have his roses. Even if she does have all those curls and green eyes and, and, and…what was he growling about again?

Or maybe he just wants her.

When an enemy invades his valley and threatens his home, heart, and livelihood, Matthieu Rosier really knows only one way to defend himself.

It might involve kissing.

I’ve been hoarding this book for a moment of true need. Or at least, that’s how I’m explaining why it took me this long to read this book, considering that it’s been in my virtual TBR pile for a very long time. It was, as with other Florand books, lush, funny, and richly layered both in terms of plot and characters. I guess you could loosely describe this as a beauty and the beast retelling, in so much as we have a really grumpy love interest who has a very soft heart–Matthieu, and a love interest who is beautiful, kind and curious–Layla. But because this is written by Florand, it is more than that. It is a musician who inherits a house in France, and steps into a family involved in the perfume industry who are collectively going through some growing pains. Continue reading

Release Day Review: A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane

A Touch of Stone and Snow (A Gathering of Dragons Book 2) by Milla Vane
High fantasy romance released by Berkley on July 21, 2020

A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane book coverMilla Vane returns to a world of kings, magic, and passion in her exhilarating A Gathering of Dragons series, as a great alliance forms to stand against an evil warlord intent on their destruction.
Danger lurks in the western realms. The Destroyer’s imminent return has sent the realms into turmoil as desperate citizens seek refuge—but there’s no safety to be found when demons and wraiths crawl out from the shadows. Even Koth, a northern island kingdom left untouched by the Destroyer a generation past, is besieged by terrors spawned from corrupt magics.
When Lizzan leads the Kothan army against these terrors, only to see her soldiers massacred and to emerge as the only survivor, she is called a coward and a deserter. Shunned from her home, Lizzan now wanders in solitude as a mercenary for hire, until she encounters a group of warriors seeking new alliances with the northern kingdoms—a group that includes Aerax, the bastard prince of Koth, and the man who sent her into exile.
Though they were childhood friends, Aerax cannot allow himself to be close to the only woman who might thwart his treacherous plan to save their island realm. But when a goddess’s demand binds them together, Lizzan and Aerax must find a way to overcome their painful pasts. Or there will be no future for the western realms…

A quick note before diving into this review: one of the main characters is an alcoholic, and Vane does not hide this.

I really enjoyed this book, and think it does a great job of following up on the action in the first book of this series. That said, you don’t need to have read the first book to be able to understand what is happening, since this is set in a different part of the world from the first book, but the relations and events explained in the previous novel and novella will be helpful here. This book is also a glorious, gritty epic fantasy romance, with fantastical creatures–even the nonmagical kind, battles, and quests. The romance in this book is a second-chance kind of a romance, with a decent splash of I-hate-you-but-still-have-feelings-dammit! Thrown in. And before I forget, there is an intelligent big cat in this book, and I always enjoy a good animal appearance. When we first meet Lizzan, she is going through a very rough patch and not dealing with it in a super healthy manner, so we get to see her work her way through that as the book progresses. Aerax is not over Lizzan at all when we meet him, and we get to see him fall more deeply in love with her. However, this is not an easy romance. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Two Rogues Make a Right (Seducing the Sedgewicks) by Cat Sebastian

Two Rogues Make a Right (Seducing the Sedgewicks) by Cat Sebastian
Historical romance released by Avon Impulse on June 23, 2020

Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian book coverWill Sedgwick can’t believe that after months of searching for his oldest friend, Martin Easterbrook is found hiding in an attic like a gothic nightmare. Intent on nursing Martin back to health, Will kindly kidnaps him and takes him to the countryside to recover, well away from the world.

Martin doesn’t much care where he is or even how he got there. He’s much more concerned that the man he’s loved his entire life is currently waiting on him hand and foot, feeding him soup and making him tea. Martin knows he’s a lost cause, one he doesn’t want Will to waste his life on.

As a lifetime of love transforms into a tender passion both men always desired but neither expected, can they envision a life free from the restrictions of the past, a life with each other?

The theme for this month’s TBR challenge is “family ties” and this book has a lot of those – it’s the third book in a series about one family – reading the others recommended (they are awesome!!) but not required to enjoy this one – and heroes with complicated families, in a variety of ways. It’s also a meditation on a frequently-used Regency romance trope: the couple that is mismatched, in terms of family background, one wealthy, one poor, and the accommodations they must make for each other, and their families. Here, because both halves of the couple are male, there’s another trope maybe not inverted but flipped sideways, and that is, the man who must marry in order to maintain himself in the style to which he has become accustomed. Also readers who are into hurt/comfort, and love a good sick!fic, this is a book for YOU. So much mopping of a sweaty brow, and making of soup, and reading to a cross feverish patient! Continue reading