Tag Archives: 2021 Review

Team TBR Challenge Review: True Dead by Faith Hunter

True Dead (Jane Yellowrock Series) by Faith Hunter
Urban Fantasy released by Ace on September 14, 2021

True Dead by Faith Hunter book coverJane Yellowrock goes back to the city where it all began in the newest installment of this thrilling New York Times bestselling series.

Jane used to hunt vampires, but now she’s their queen. She’s holed up in the mountains with the Yellowrock Clan, enjoying a little peace, when a surprise attack on her people proves that trouble is brewing. Someone is using very old magic to launch a bid for power, and it’s all tied to the place where Jane was first drawn into the world of Leo Pellissier—the city of New Orleans.

Jane is compelled to return to NOLA because someone is trying to destabilize the paranormal world order. And because she now sits near the top of the vampire world, the assault is her problem. She will do what she must to protect what’s hers. Her city. Her people. Her power. Her crown.

This is, according to Amazon, book number 14 in the Jane Yellowrock series. This is not actually the longest series I’ve stuck with–Nalini Singh currently holds that prize–but I know people have strong feelings about series. This is not the last book in the series, so if you want to wait for that book to come out, I certainly won’t judge you. There is some romance in this book, but not like Ilona Andrews or Jeaniene Frost levels, so I won’t really talk about Jane’s love interest in too much detail. This book would make much more sense to readers who have read the series before, and I don’t recommend starting with this book, because the world Hunter has built and a lot of the main characters, including Jane, have changed over the books. Jane is, like it says in the blurb, still figuring out what it means to be Queen of the vampires, even though she is not a vampire; this is heightened when she uncovers another plot to try and dethrone her (figuratively speaking). Continue reading

Review: A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
Steam punk SF released by Tor on May 11, 2021

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark book coverNebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns to his popular alternate Cairo universe for his fantasy novel debut, A Master of Djinn

Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.

So, when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world forty years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.

Alongside her Ministry colleagues and a familiar person from her past, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city—or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…

I have to thank Nalini Singh and her newsletter, which is where I first learned about this author’s work. I read the two novellas that are prequels to this novel (A Dead Djinn in Cairo and The Haunting of Tram Car 015). I think you could read this novel and enjoy it without reading the novellas before, but the novellas are really good and they also give you context for Fatma’s relationships–like the person from her past and her colleagues. This book was also one of my anticipated books for 2021, and I am here to tell you that I was not disappointed, except that the book ended and I had to put it down then. This book has a romantic subplot, but the main focus of the book is the case Fatma is solving. Clark uses ideas of decolonialization, class, racism, and power in the book, weaving them into your typical procedural science fiction/urban fantasy story (think Ilona Andrews and Meljean Brook). The evil is stopped, but Fatma has to acknowledge some things about herself before she can stop it. The book ends on a bit of a cliff hanger, but it isn’t too painful. Continue reading

Review: The Perfect Escape by Suzanne Park

The Perfect Escape by Suzanne Park
Contemporary Young Adult released by Sourcebooks Fire on April 7, 2020

The Perfect Escape by Suzanne Park book coverNate Jae-Woo Kim wants to be rich. When one of his classmates offers Nate a ridiculous amount of money to commit grade fraud, he knows that taking the windfall would help support his prideful Korean family, but is compromising his integrity worth it?

Luck comes in the form of Kate Anderson, Nate’s colleague at the zombie-themed escape room where he works. She approaches Nate with a plan: a local tech company is hosting a weekend-long survivalist competition with a huge cash prize. It could solve all of Nate’s problems, and she needs the money too.

If the two of them team up, Nate has a real shot of winning the grand prize. But the real challenge? Making through the weekend with his heart intact…

This was a lovely read, with understandably flawed characters that grow over the book and scenes that were by turns funny, poignant, and a little violent. The pacing felt a bit off to me, and this is more of a happy for now than a happily ever after kind of romance, but that’s okay because these are teenagers. Also, there are robot zombies, not real zombies. We know almost from the beginning that Nate and Kate are more of an opposites attract than a birds of a feather kind of a match, but it takes a while for the characters to really get this; they also have to work out family issues and some peer pressure issues on Nate’s part. Both Kate and Nate are driven, but their goals look different. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: Light My Fire by G.A. Aiken

Light My Fire by G.A. Aiken (Dragon Kin, #7)
Paranormal romance released by Zebra Books on November 25, 2014

Dragon Kin by G. A. Aiken book coverThe trouble with humans is that they’re far too sensitive. Forget you put a woman in the local jail for a few months—and she takes it so personally! And yet she is the one trying to assassinate the queen. And now I’m trapped with Elina Shestakova of the Black Bear Riders of the Midnight . . . gods! That endless name!

But what am I to do? I am Celyn the Charming with direct orders from my queen to protect this unforgiving female.

Even more shocking, this unforgiving female is completely unimpressed by me. How is that even possible? But I know what I want and, for the moment, I want her. And I’m sure that she, like all females, will learn to adore me. How could she not when I am just so damn charming?

The August #TBRChallenge theme is Author with More Than One Book in TBR. I was late to reading G.A. Aiken’s Dragon Kin series and am drawing out my first read of the series with two more books in the series remaining on my to-read list. Light My Fire is a super satisfying read, exactly what I was looking for and expecting. The Southland Dragons are a trip and I greatly enjoy reading their antics. Celyn finally gets his romance and it’s with Elina, a new character to the series. I enjoyed their kind of hate-to-love romance. Continue reading

Release Day Review: Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas

Devil in Disguise (Ravenels Book 7) by Lisa Kleypas
Historical romance released by Avon on July 27, 2021

Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas book coverNew York Times bestseller Lisa Kleypas returns with an enthralling and steaming romance between a Scot with a mysterious past and strong-willed lady looking for adventure—and love. 

“The devil never tries to make people do the wrong thing by scaring them. He does it by tempting them.”

Lady Merritt Sterling, a strong-willed young widow who’s running her late husband’s shipping company, knows London society is dying to catch her in a scandal. So far, she’s been too smart to provide them with one. But then she meets Keir MacRae, a rough-and-rugged Scottish whisky distiller, and all her sensible plans vanish like smoke. They couldn’t be more different, but their attraction is powerful, raw and irresistible.

From the moment Keir MacRae arrives in London, he has two goals. One: don’t fall in love with the dazzling Lady Merritt Sterling. Two: avoid being killed.

So far, neither of those is going well.

Keir doesn’t know why someone wants him dead until fate reveals the secret of his mysterious past. His world is thrown into upheaval, and the only one he trusts is Merritt.

Their passion blazes with an intensity Merritt has never known before, making her long for the one thing she can’t have from Keir MacRae: forever. As danger draws closer, she’ll do whatever it takes to save the man she loves . . . even knowing he might be the devil in disguise.

      I realized as I started reading this book I couldn’t remember what the blurb said – but I was both too lazy to go looking for it, but also I didn’t want to go looking for it because I wanted a [relatively] blank slate. And … this book made me so happy, you guys. <3 I was a little apprehensive about Merritt’s story. I remember the blurb and thinking “I’m interested but … Lillian and Westcliff were never my favorites…” (and I wondered about this being another Ravenel book instead of a spinoff…) I don’t know that I can discuss a major factor without spoilers, so I’m going to try to dance around it. However, I really hope you read this book and come back so we can discuss it.
      I have a confession to make – Lillian is probably my least favorite wallflower. And when the blurb starts out with Lady Merritt Sterling is “strong willed” I was a bit apprehensive we might be getting a mini Lillian. However, that’s not the case. We get almost the best of Lillian – and Marcus – in Merritt. Lillian and Marcus (and Evie and Sebastian) do such a wonderful job raising their children – and it was (beyond all the loveliness) I’m sure helpful that all the children had each other, growing up. Anyway Kier calls her a “wee bully” and … it’s true. She’s so affable she tends to get her way – even outrageous things people would normally never agree to. And beyond that, those being “managed” are happy about it. Merritt is the oldest sibling and she’s been a peace keeper. Being widowed, she’s also a bit older, wiser, and less constrained than many other historical romance heroines we see. (That and the fact that she has a very supportive, very powerful family and circle.)
      For Keir MacRae – look. I love me a growly, smitten, romantic hero. Throw in the fact that he’s a whisky distiller? I mean – if not for the fact that he and Merritt are perfect for each other I’d be elbowing her out of the way. I’m laughing to myself as I think about why Keir keeps a beard. You just … have to read it. (I’m a little sad we never got to see him interacting with his friends. Honestly I would not have been mad if this book was so much longer. While it’s not rushed – but I did feel in part it did end a little ~abruptly.)
      Aside from the characters, what stood out to me about this book is how sexy it is. There are definitely explicit scenes – but it’s also sensuous. Devil in Disguise is hot, romantic, fun, and honestly – at times comical, which I loved. I threw “fun” in that list – but it’s true. Keir and Merritt have excellent sex but also laugh with and at each other during sex if or when it’s called for. I found myself laughing out loud at times. I think what (also) struck me is … how much I enjoyed this book “despite” it having a lot of tropes that I’d normally say “aren’t my cuppa.” First of all, the Scottish hero. Scottish brogue in books often is just too much for me – but it wasn’t an affect here – it’s entirely who Kier is, and his dialogue just flows. Some of his sayings and terms were just so charming – and my god the man has poetry in his soul. He claims he’s this rough, uneducated, loutish type … but he’s pure romance. Anyone should be so lucky as to be wooed by a Kier.
      I was also pleasantly surprised to be wrong about an issue – as soon as this blip happens I knew there was more to X (although I definitely didn’t guess the all of it) – and I was like “ugh oh no – please don’t tell me this 😒 thing will be a huge dark moment.” I was right in that it is brought up as a roadblock – however it isn’t drawn out – Kier reacts in the most perfect way – and reassures Merritt. (Then also I just knew this other thing would happen – a bit of an eyeroll but … I was okay with it too. And there’s a fun/cute/quippy line at the end Kleypas fans will enjoy.)
      Another point … I can’t/won’t discuss without spoilers – so … *clenches fists* I really want to spill the beans but I also don’t want to but I just need to say I’m so glad to see something like this finally happen and it was so lovely and it was perfect for the characters in question – in how they handle things, and that it isn’t all easy and nice but they roll with it with grace and love. Honestly I can’t wait to see more of these characters in the upcoming books.
      This is a romance with low angst, but a lot of entertainment value. The relationship develops fast. They fall in love in a week – and Merritt even basically has the historical romance equivalent discussion of “insta-love” (my god I hate that term…) with Phoebe … and it’s handled so well. And normally I’m a skeptic like Phoebe (or – she more says you can have instant attraction or lust, but it’s not love because you don’t know each other and can’t possibly know a person that deeply in a week. And she’s right – and it’s true. But there’s the connection and I definitely could see it and believe it between Keir and Merritt. (And I love that he nicknames her Merry!)
      Just thinking about this book put a smile on my face. I know I’m absolutely going to be re-reading this book, and it’s one of my favorite in the series. Honestly my biggest “complaint” is … I was desperate for Keir to meet Gabriel and am crushed it never happened. Maybe we’ll get to see that/their interaction in the next book(s) – and I really hope so because … I think it’d be glorious.
      I read this book in a few hours, and it makes me want to re-read Devil in Winter, Devil in Spring, Chasing Cassandra … and honestly maybe even all the other Wallflower books too. Devil in Disguise  is a really lovely, well written, feel good historical romance and it’s not to be missed. (Seriously, Kleypas takes all these tropes that normally I personally would be like “ennh … >.> pass” about – and of course she makes it work. She not only makes it work, she makes it delightful.) Seriously. I need you to read it and come back so we can talk about this book. And admittedly, Sebastian is one of my most favorite romance heroes ever – so that’s definitely part of it too.
Grade: A-
You can read an excerpt here, and buy a copy here.

Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole

Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole
Contemporary romance released by Avon Impulse on March 19, 2019

Regina Hobbs is nerdy by nature, businesswoman by nurture. She’s finally taking her pop culture-centered media enterprise, Girls with Glasses, to the next level, but the stress is forcing her to face a familiar supervillain: insomnia. The only thing that helps her sleep when things get this bad is the deep, soothing voice of puzzle-obsessed live streamer Gustave Nguyen. The problem? His archive has been deleted.
Gus has been tasked with creating an escape room themed around a romance anime…except he knows nothing about romance or anime. Then mega-nerd and anime expert Reggie comes calling, and they make a trade: his voice for her knowledge. But when their online friendship has IRL chemistry, will they be able to escape love?

This book has been on my TBR pile and got bumped up in the pile after it was mentioned in a Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcast episode. And then I got to pick a novella for this month’s TBR Challenge, and I picked this book, and I only regret not reading it sooner. Reggie was first introduced to us in A Duke by Default, and the events in this novella happen parallel to those in that book. Most of the focus is on the relationship between Reggie and Gus but we do get doses of other relationships Reggie has, especially those with her sister and her parents. This is probably what I would call insta-love in terms of how the romance works, but the fact that the speed with which it’s acknowledged and the misunderstanding is also cleared up worked, and it didn’t feel rushed or forced. Continue reading

Review: Shatter the Earth by Karen Chance

Shatter the Earth (Cassandra Palmer Series Book 10) by Karen Chance
Urban fantasy/paranormal romance released by Karen Chance on February 4, 2020

Shatter the Earth by Karen Chance book coverIronically for the time traveling, chief seer of the supernatural world, time has never been on Cassie Palmer’s side. There has always seemed to be too much to learn, too much to master, and never enough hours in a day. But the tables have now turned, and the fluctuating timelines of earth and faerie are diverging, slowing time in faerie relative to earth, and giving humans an advantage for the first time in their war with the fey. It is one they desperately need, for a literal war of the worlds is about to take place.
To win, or even to survive, Cassie and her allies, the powerful vampire senator Mircea Basarab and the formidable war mage John Pritkin, will have to pull off their greatest feat yet. And find a way to become more than the sum of their parts.
[Also] The exciting continuation of the Cassie Palmer series! A literal war of the worlds is about to take place between Earth and Faerie. To win, or even to survive, Pythia Cassie Palmer and her allies, the powerful vampire senator Mircea Basarab and the formidable war mage John Pritkin, will have to pull off their greatest feat yet. And find a way to become more than the sum of their parts.
This is the next book in the Cassie Palmer series. It’s got all the things we’ve come to know about Chance’s world, and it ties up some important things that the books have been building towards. There are still some bad guys kicking around by the end, but not extreme cliff hanger levels. Cassie and Pritkin’s relationship solidifies, and Cassie continues to settle into her job.

There are explosions, violence, assassination attempts, magical mayhem galore—all the things you should expect in a Cassie Palmer novel. The fun part for me was that even though Cassie continues to be overwhelmed by her job, she also is trying to be more proactive about some of her problems, and is better able to react to all the magical mayhem at occurs. Pritkin doesn’t handle this development very well; he has a few my-lover-is-in-danger related scenes, but he eventually gets with the program and recognizes that Cassie’s ability to handle herself and others has improved. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: Spellbound by Allie Therin

Spellbound by Allie Therin
Paranormal Historial Romance released by Carina Press on July 29, 2019

To save Manhattan, they’ll have to save each other first…

New York, 1925

Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.

Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.

Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.

I picked this one in part because I was looking for a book with a one word title,since
that was the theme of the TBR Challenge for this month, but also because I love both paranormal romances AND old New York. So a paranormal romance in New York City
in 1925 seemed like it would be perfect . .. and it kind of was. Continue reading

Guest Review: When Sparks Fly by Kristen Zimmer

When Sparks Fly by Kristen Zimmer
[Contemporary F/F YA/NA romance] released by Bookouture on April 28, 2021

Britton Walsh has never had a home. After a lifetime in the care system, she doesn’t expect she’ll ever find one. But beginning her senior year with new foster parents in a new city, means starting over yet again. Tom and Cate Cahill seem okay. The hitch? Their daughter, Avery.

Beautiful, popular and cool, Avery is everything Britton is not. She’s all Britton could ever ask for in a sister, or even a friend––but having survived without either for so long, Britton knows the way her heart races whenever Avery enters the room can only mean one thing…

But Avery has a secret. Something that is eating away at her and stopping her letting anyone in, least of all Britton. Will Avery’s insistence on punishing herself for a mistake in her past make Britton’s last year of high school, and finding a place to call home, impossible? Can two such different people ever find common ground, friendship, or maybe even something more?

An unforgettable new adult lesbian romance for fans of Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters, Her Name in the Sky by Kelly Quindlen, or Nancy Garden’s classic young adult coming out novel, Annie on My Mind.

New Adult novel: recommended for 17+ due to mature themes and sexual content.

Pre-pandemic I co-hosted my library’s romance book club. For June, which is Pride Month, we asked book club members to read a LGBTQIA+ book of their choosing. I selected two, one of which was The Gravity Between Us by Kristen Zimmer. It was a cute friends to lovers lesbian romance that I enjoyed quite a bit. When I heard she was publishing a second book I knew I had to read it hoping it would be as good as the first. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole

How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole
Contemporary romance released by Avon on December 1, 2020

When Shanti Mohapi weds the king of Njaza, her dream of becoming a queen finally comes true. But it’s nothing like she imagined. Shanti and her husband may share an immediate and powerful attraction, but her subjects see her as an outsider, and everything she was taught about being the perfect wife goes disastrously wrong.

A king must rule with an iron fist, and newly crowned King Sanyu was born perfectly fitted for the gauntlet, even if he wishes he weren’t. He agrees to take a wife as is required of him, though he doesn’t expect to actually fall in love. Even more vexing? His beguiling new queen seems to have the answers to his country’s problems—except no one will listen to her.

By day, they lead separate lives. By night, she wears the crown, and he bows to her demands in matters of politics and passion. When turmoil erupts in their kingdom and their marriage, Shanti goes on the run, and Sanyu must learn whether he has what it takes both to lead his people and to catch his queen.

This book has been on my TBR pile (digitally speaking) for a while. I was hesitant to read this because Alyssa Cole often described it as a “Bluebeard” retelling, and that is not one of my favorite tales. However, I’m here to say that this isn’t a creepy or gory retelling, it is focused on the emotional structure of the story. The only tricky part for me about this book was fully comprehending Chanti’s motives, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the book and cheering at the happy ending. Plus, we meet a secondary character that is hilarious and acts as a sort of catalyst, and for fans of Cole’s Reluctant Royals series, there are cameos by a lot of characters in this book. Chanti has a lot of drive, but she doesn’t know what she’s walking into when she agrees to marry Sanyu, who is not emotionally ready to be king or husband but who is willing to learn. This book is set in a fictional country on the continent of Africa and is interwoven with the places Cole has created in her Reluctant Royals series. Continue reading