Tag Archives: TBR Challenge

[November] Team TBR Challenge Not Review: Single and Ready to Jingle by Piper Rayne

Single and Ready to Jingle by Piper Rayne
Contemporary romance released by Piper Rayne on November 15, 2022

The girl who loves Christmas falls for the Grinch—it’s a Christmas miracle.

What started as a dumpster fire of a blind date turns into a deal.

In truth, it probably didn’t help that I showed up dressed like an elf but that’s a story for another time. Our start was rocky at best which is why it’s so frustrating that I can’t stop thinking about his sexy British accent. Or the way his chest and arms fill out his suit. Or his perfect hair with that single streak of grey at the front.

Santa likes lists and so do I, so here’s all the reasons why Andrew and I aren’t right for each other:

He’s my brother’s best friend
He’s the biggest grump I’ve ever met.
He hates Christmas.

That last one is big for a girl like me who thinks that the entire month of December should be a national holiday. So, when he calls for my help in planning his firm’s holiday party, I can’t pass up the opportunity to grow my small business. Bonus, we make a deal, and he agrees to attend three holiday events with me so I can make him fall in love with Christmas. As if I’d pass up an opportunity to make a Grinch’s heart grow three times its size.

It isn’t long until I discover Andrew has a very real reason to hate Christmas and I start to see him in a different light. That’s when the Christmas miracle begins.

Ok first of all, let’s just pretend it’s still November, shall we? Because somehow this week got away from me. (Like all the other weeks and years…) Anyway. secondly, I want to say overall I enjoyed this book. I’m not at all mad I read it. That being said though, there are some things that bothered me about it. And I’m just … too crushed by endless migraines to write a real review right now. So we’re going with just the lies in the book. (ETA the November TBR Challenge “prompt” was “Lies.”)

I picked up Single and Ready to Jingle because I’ve enjoyed some Piper Rayne books in the past, and “best friend’s sibling” is one of my romance catnip tropes. The heroine is 28 (god forbid she be over 30, right?) And the hero is 34. They get matched on a dating app, and realize he’s her brother’s best friend. But the thing is – they don’t exchange actual names until the actual date. (They’d also never met prior to this first date.) As the blurb says, it goes badly. With good reason. I have to admit I’m leaning a bit towards Andrew’s side on this one because Kenzie shows up at a posh Manhattan restaurant literally in full Christmas elf getup with literal bells on.  Why… not just message you’ll be late? And change?

Both characters have a lot – a lot – of understandable baggage. I totally was okay with that. November’s TBR challenge prompt was lies … so I guess I’ll discuss the two biggest ones in the book that I remember. Continue reading

Really Super Late Not TBR Review: on Carter’s Flame by Tiffany Patterson and The Story of Yanxi Palace.

To be honest, I had thought I had a review on hand for October … but it turned out to be not a review. And then I haven’t felt like I’ve been reading much lately. Some good books but more books that were just okay in that I wasn’t mad I read them but … I don’t know that I’d recommend them widely. I have however, but re-reading a lot of books this year … and recently began another binge re-watch of The Story of Yanxi Palace. This … very well may be my seventh (if not more) rewatch. Granted certain parts I forward through – but it’s an intensive experience.
Anyway, the October suggested prompt was “Flirting with Danger” … and I thought about it for a bit, and felt like the closest recent book I’ve read, or more accurately re-read would be Carter’s Flame by Tiffany Patterson. Although I think it’s more a straight contemporary romance than a romantic suspense. The hero is former special forces, and currently a firefighter working in the rescue squad. He meets the heroine when he rescues her from her car after a crash.
Carter and Michelle are great. Michelle is a single mother, and Carter goes all in on having a built in family. If you like really possessive alpha heroes, than Tiffany Patterson will be your new catnip. I personally love smitten heroes, so when I first discovered Tiffany Patterson’s book, I literally read her entire backlist in one go. (At the time it was a little over 30 books and I think it took me about three to four weeks.) What I like about her heroes is that they’re smitten and jealous, possessive but not controlling. They’re very “hey back off my woman, asshole” … but they don’t try to control her. For her part, Michelle “flirts with danger” because the father of her son is someone … well, it’s a spoiler but not a major factor – someone she thought she was in a relationship with, but she was actually his sidepiece. (She was only 19, he was a predator. She was vulnerable and obviously young. Thee ex provides for her son in paying for the tuition of his very expensive private school… and that’s it – however he threatens her with withdrawing that support or worse taking custody if she dates anyone else. This actually really annoyed me because it would be highly unlikely for a court to take away a child from his sole custodial parent, but it becomes a whole thing. I get the drama but I irked me. While this isn’t my area of legal practice, I know more about it than the average [legal] bear. Carter’s “flirting with danger” is pretty obvious what with running into burning buildings and such.
For the relationship itself, there’s very little danger. Like I said, Carter (and most Patterson heroes) are all in once they meet their loves/are ready for a relationship, and they will systematically destroy any barrier to it.
As for The Story of Yanxi Palace … it’s a Chinese historical drama set during the Qing dynasty. The heroine is a palace maid set on revenge, and honestly her entire life is just careening from one danger to another. She’s very bold, angry and petty in the best ways … and smart. She can’t stand injustice and is so steadfast. Yingluo is crafty but also lucky. Help comes when it’s most needed, but things are not easy for her – at all. It’s probably my favorite series ever though, so I’ve rewatched it a number of times since first seeing it. I watched it shortly after it first came out … I know Ilona Andrews watched it (I think some time in 2019 and blogged about it but for the life of me I can’t find details now…) Anyway the fact that it has a happy ending is a big part of why I like it so much. And I’ve a vengeful bitch so playing the long revenge game is something I respect. Fully.
Here’s the cover and back cover copy of Carter’s Flame if you’re interested.

Carter's Flame by Tiffany Patterson book coverI was born into a world of wealth and privilege. My birthright was to be at the helm of one of the world’s leading energy companies. But that wasn’t my purpose in life. Sitting behind a desk of a fortune 500 isn’t what gets me going. I’ll leave that life to my brothers. No. It took me years to find my true purpose. Saving lives. Walking into the depths of hell to pull out survivors. It’s what gets me out of my bed in the morning, and eventually, it’s what led me to her.
On a day that, to her, must’ve seemed like the wrong place and wrong time, is where I met my destiny. Michelle Clarke. Our worlds collided and I knew instantly that she was mine. Everything in my life up until this point has been preparing me for her.
My childhood.
The eight years I spent in special forces.
And the last six years spent as a proud member of the Williamsport Fire Department’s Rescue 4 squad.
All of it was preparation for her. And nothing, not her reluctance, not my brother, and not even her son’s father will stand in the way of what belongs to me. My job is to rescue people and put out fires, but I will set anyone who stands in our way, ablaze. I will happily pour the gasoline and light the match and set all of this shit aflame, just to ensure she is where she belongs … with me.

And if you’re interested …

Here’s a link to start you out on Yanxi Palace. From what I’ve seen of it the translations are overall quite good. This is actually my first time watching the series with English subtitles. There are a few things I’d quibble about but all told they aren’t that serious. And they’re much better than many others I’ve seen generally. (Definitely whatever was put up on Amazon Prime is some like terrible bootleg version.)

Anyway I’d love if more of you read Tiffany Patterson and watched Yanxi Palace because I have things to discuss.

Team TBR Challenge Review: Oak King Holly King by Sebastian Nothwell

Oak King Holly King by Sebastian Nothwell
Fantasy romance released by Sebastian Nothwell on February 14, 2022

Shrike, the Butcher of Blackthorn, is a legendary warrior of the fae realms. When he wins a tournament in the Court of the Silver Wheel, its queen names him her Oak King – a figurehead destined to die in a ritual duel to invoke the change of seasons. Shrike is determined to survive. Even if it means he must put his heart as well as his life into a mere mortal’s hands.

Wren Lofthouse, a London clerk, has long ago resigned himself to a life of tedium and given up his fanciful dreams. When a medieval-looking brute arrives at his office to murmur of destiny, he’s inclined to think his old enemies are playing an elaborate prank. Still, he can’t help feeling intrigued by the bizarre-yet-handsome stranger and his fantastical ramblings, whose presence stirs up emotions Wren has tried to lock away in the withered husk of his heart.

As Shrike whisks Wren away to a world of Wild Hunts and arcane rites, Wren is freed from the repression of Victorian society. But both the fae and mortal realms prove treacherous to their growing bond. Wren and Shrike must fight side-by-side to see who will claim victory – Oak King or Holly King.

It has been so long since I bought this one that I actually don’t remember why I picked it up, other than I am always a sucker for a good shifter romance. (My assigned theme for this month was “animals” and I’m going to say two characters named after birds one of whom IS a bird is, uh. close enough.) Anyway – love a shifter romance, also love a historical romance, historical + shifter + supernatural shenanigans = autobuy, for me. Also the cover is beautiful. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: Love Notes by Christina C. Jones

Love Notes by Christina C. Jones
Contemporary Romance released by Christina C. Jones on February 2, 2018

Love Notes by Christina C. Jones Book CoverLove that says something, instead of just looking like it. Love you can always trust to feel like home. For both of them, it’s something that has always been just outside of their peripheral, something to be observed rather than experienced. A depth of feeling reserved for people who were “into” that, those with a different outlook, those more… deserving. Until their paths cross. Lines are crossed. And maybe the stars are crossed too, because the connection and chemistry are so off the charts that they can’t stay away from each other, can’t avoid it… even if they think they should.

I haven’t read blue collar romances in a long time, partly because I realized that a lot of them were about secret rich people and I find that premise less interesting. If you’re going to write about rich people, then write about rich people, don’t try and disguise them. Anyway, I struggled a bit when trying to meet the prompt for this month’s TBR because it was for a blue collar romance and I had been reading entirely outrageous (in the best way) paranormal romances for the last few months. I got this book because Limecello recommended it when it was on sale a few weeks ago. And here we are. This was a fun book, and its warmth and feeling of community balanced out the darker elements. The book talks about child sexual abuse, and it is an important part of one of the love interests’ backstory. Jules is moving back to her old neighborhood and opening up a photography studio when she meets Troy, who manages a barber shop across the street from where her studio will be. Both Troy and Jules go through some character development during the book. Honestly, this is a lovely book to read. And Limecello really likes the audiobook version. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: Servant Mage by Kate Elliott

Servant Mage by Kate Elliott
Fantasy released by Tor on January 18, 2022.

Servant Mage by Kate Elliott book coverIn Kate Elliott’s Servant Mage, a lowly fire mage finds herself entangled in an empire-spanning conspiracy on her way to discovering her true power.

They choose their laws to secure their power.

Fellion is a Lamplighter, able to provide illumination through magic. A group of rebel Monarchists free her from indentured servitude and take her on a journey to rescue trapped compatriots from an underground complex of mines.

Along the way they get caught up in a conspiracy to kill the latest royal child and wipe out the Monarchist movement for good.

But Fellion has more than just her Lamplighting skills up her sleeve…

This book kept calling to me ever since Limecello assigned me this month’s TBR theme, which is “after the war.” This book is not a romance, but I think it does a wonderful job of exploring the nuances of what comes after a revolution and how it isn’t as clearcut as we might expect. It is set in a fantasy world, where there is magic, and where a revolutionary war recently took place. The main character, Fellion, has magical abilities over fire, and is working at an inn when the book begins. A major issue I had with this book is that while there are clues to Fellion’s background and motivations, we don’t fully understand them until almost the end, so that the tension between the choices she has at the end of the book hadn’t built up enough for me to be fully invested either way. I think you could say this is a coming-of-age story, though Fellion’s age was never entirely clear to me, other than young but not a child, so I hesitate to stick the book with that descriptor. Lest you be misled by the blurb, this is not going to be a rags to riches story. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: The Storm’s Whisper (The Broken Lands Book 5) by T.A. White

The Storm’s Whisper (The Broken Lands Book 5) by T.A. White
Adult high fantasy romance released by T. A. White on January 22, 2022

The Storm's Whisper by T. A. White book coverThe path to peace is never easy.

As the first Caller in living memory, Eva struggles to find her footing as the bridge between her chosen people and the mythological race known as the Kyren.

When unexpected arrivals threaten to test the newly formed alliance, Eva and her protector, Caden, fight to hold together the fast-fraying bonds before peace unravels and war once again returns. Should she fail, bloodshed the likes the Broken Lands haven’t seen since the cataclysm will stain the ground red.

The mysterious abilities that lie at the heart of Eva’s power will be her salvation or lead to her becoming an evil far worse than anything seen before. Will this land fall or be reborn into a new age?

I’ve really enjoyed the Broken Lands books and was very eager to read more about Eva and Caden. The first three books are about Shea and Fallon, books four and five feature Eva and Caden. To be honest, I’d been slightly reluctant to recommend the series because although the books and stories are very enjoyable, the first three have editing issues, and I know there are people who find it quite off putting. I don’t know if the author has found a new editor, or made other changes, but I didn’t notice that while reading The Storm’s Whisper. I also want to re-read all the books now. It’s been a while since I’ve read the whole series, and I think it’d be really enjoyable to read through as book five has a rather final ending, although there are tendrils to follow. (And I REALLY HOPE THEY ARE FOLLOWED! I’d love to see more in this world.) Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: Evil Twin by Kati Wilde

Evil Twin by Kati Wilde
Released by Kati Wilde on July 31, 2021

Bane should have been king…

But he was born four minutes too late. Though it was Bane who’d led armies to victory against the scourge of the undying, now he must watch as his undeserving twin claims yet another throne through marriage to a princess of a neighboring kingdom. A kingdom that Bane had saved.

That throne should be his. So he’ll take it.

All Bane must do is deceive his twin’s innocent bride. He’ll trick her into his bed, and once he’s planted his seed, the bride—and her kingdom—will be his. With such a prize in hand, he won’t care if she ever forgives him for his deception. It hardly matters if she does, because his evil plan doesn’t include falling in love.

But his bride has a few plans of her own…

If you know anything about my reading tastes you know I love me some adult high fantasy romances. The February theme for the TBR Challenge was “fairy tale” and … close enough. While this is an entirely (as far as I know) new story not based on anything, it does take a number of fairy tale tropes – the [evil] twin, magicked land, who is deserving etc, etc. And a lot of the usual tropes are turned on their heads, as one might expect from Kati Wilde. If you’re interested in reading a sexy good time romp, you should pick up a copy. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Not Review! On Comfort Reads and the Sexiest Seemingly Tame [Scenes]

Hi friends! So I was all “I’m definitely going to be on top of writing TBR Challenge reviews in 2022!” And like … I just hesitated typing 2022 because my fingers wanted to type 2021 and that’s how things are going, described in the gentlest way.

I’ve been doing very little reading the past few months, in a way. And in another … well, I’m fixating – hard. I listened to the same audiobook, once a day if not more, for well over a month. I’ve shifted to the same audiobook for a week (or so), on repeat, but they’re comfort re-reads. In January I went back to Beverly Jenkins historicals. <3 (IndigoVivid, Night Hawk…)

Which … gets me to this. While my TBR both languishes and grows – you’re all readers – you get it – I just … have no focus. And I’m not even branching out on comfort reads because what if I pick up a book I loved 20 years ago but it’s just terrible now? (Maybe it just wasn’t that good, maybe it was super racist and I had no idea. I don’t know.)
… So yeah. You’re almost paralyzed with “what ifs.” But also trying a new book just … is too exhausting and what if it’s not good and then you wasted time and then also have to figure out what else to read to avoid it.

That’s enough of that.

ANYWAY. I said I went back to Beverly Jenkins re-[and re and re and re] reads…. and what came to mind for “the sexiest low key scene” – I mean it’s a grand gesture but it’s not something you’d normally think of as sexy. It’s when Galen quotes scripture to Hester in the church.

… if you’ve never read Indigo you might be thinking “uhhhhhh Lime?” But come on. Imagine it’s 1858, and the most handsome man you or anyone else has ever seen stands up in church and quotes.

“Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse…thou hast ravished my heart… Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense …” “Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue…Thy navel is like a round goblet which wanteth not liquor…The joints of your thighs are like jewels…”

Which are from Chapters 4 and 7 of Song of Solomon. It made me think of the infamous Darcy hand flex in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice that is regularly trotted out in social media and people lose their minds over. It’s iconic.

So my question is … what is the tamest/most innocuous yet sexiest/most “*fans self*” scene you’ve ever read? What’s your favorite one in a book or movie?

Inquiring minds wish to know!

And if you’ve never read Indigo … do yourself the favor and start now. Now!

Indigo by Beverly Jenkins book coverAs a child Hester Wyatt escaped slavery, but now the dark skinned beauty is a dedicated member of Michigan’s Underground railroad, offering other runaways a chance at the freedom she has learned to love. When one of her fellow conductors brings her an injured man to hide, Hester doesn’t hesitate…even after she is told about the price on his head.

The man in question is the great conductor known as the “Black Daniel” a vital member of the North’s Underground railroad network. But Hester finds him so rude and arrogant, she begins to question her vow to hide him.

When the injured and beaten Galen Vachon, aka, the Black Daniel awakens in Hester’s cellar, he is unprepared for the feisty young conductor providing his care. As a member of one of the wealthiest free Black families in New Orleans, Galen has turned his back on the lavish living he is accustomed to in order to provide freedom to those enslaved in the South.

However, as he heals he cannot turn his back on Hester Wyatt. Her innocence fills him like a breath of fresh air and he is determined to make this gorgeous and intelligent woman his own…

Yet…there are traitors to be discovered, slave catchers to be evaded and Hester’s heart to be won before she and Galen can find the freedom that only true love can bring.

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

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