03 August 2017

The Catching Kind



FYI: Caitie Quinn is the pen name for Bria Quinlan. This cover is a little outdated -- Bria is moving to put everything under her own name now.

From Goodreads:

"Hailey Tate thought she was worth more than a straight flush.

Apparently not.

When camera-shy author Hailey Tate's agent loses a bet and brokers a deal, it leaves Hailey in the last place she wants to be: backed into the corner of Publicity and Paparazzi. Now, thanks to her girl-next-door image and role as pretend girlfriend to a womanizing shortstop, she's getting the attention she always managed to avoid.

Connor Ryan is not only America's Sexiest Athlete, he's also the current Bad Boy of Baseball. But when he goes a base too far, management wants to bench him...permanently. One thing he never counted on? Falling for his sweet, fake girlfriend. He's the guy who can catch anything and now she's next on his list."

***

This was a fun read. I really liked Hailey and Connor and their spunky personalities and how even though they seemed like very disparate people, they were the same underneath. It was sweet watching them resist coming together, and yet learning that the other had unexpected depths. Very well written, Bria.


Gentle Reader Alert: There may have been a couple of mild swears. I honestly don't remember.

26 July 2017

Celebrity Superhero



From Amazon:

"When Anna Eom isn’t reading fantasy novels, she’s obsessing over her favorite K-pop group, SUPER. Each boy in the group has a different superpower, but Sungwook stands out from the crowd with his super-speed and super-strength, not to mention his super-hotness.

The day that SUPER’s latest music video drops, Anna’s mom does the worst thing imaginable and cuts the wi-fi to make her clean house instead. All because some old family friends are visiting them from Korea. Not only are the almost-strangers cutting her time short with her favorite K-pop group, but she knows she’s going to be thrown together with a boy she only remembers as a bully. Caleb might be her age, but the last time she saw him ten years ago he stole her precious Disney princess necklace. What’s worse is Anna’s mom has threatened to clear her bookshelves if she doesn’t greet the old friends at the door with a fragile vase as a gift.

Anna complies, planning on getting back to her books as soon as she can, but when her parents open the door it’s not Caleb standing on the other side, but Sungwook from SUPER. Judging by the way he caught the vase she dropped with lighting speed, his super-powers might not be fiction."

***

I love Jennie Bennett's novellas. They're such fun, light reads. There aren't a lot of entries in the kpop romance genre, so I'm extra glad to have these!

Anna and Caleb are pretty well-developed characters, given the limited space Ms. Bennett is working with. There's great push-and-pull between them and I love that flustered Anna finally finds her feet. Rounding out the story is an obnoxious childhood friend, a dance-off with sasaengs, and a satisfying amount of character growth. Definitely worth a read!

Thick as Thieves



From Goodreads:

"Deep within the palace of the Mede emperor, in an alcove off the main room of his master’s apartments,. Kamet minds his master’s business and his own. Carefully keeping the accounts, and his own counsel, Kamet has accumulated a few possessions, a little money stored in the household’s cashbox, and a significant amount of personal power. As a slave, his fate is tied to his master’s. If Nahuseresh’s fortunes improve, so will Kamet’s, and Nahuseresh has been working diligently to promote his fortunes since the debacle in Attolia.

A soldier in the shadows offers escape, but Kamet won’t sacrifice his ambition for a meager and unreliable freedom; not until a whispered warning of poison and murder destroys all of his carefully laid plans. When Kamet flees for his life, he leaves behind everything—his past, his identity, his meticulously crafted defenses—and finds himself woefully unprepared for the journey that lies ahead.

Pursued across rivers, wastelands, salt plains, snowcapped mountains, and storm-tossed seas, Kamet is dead set on regaining control of his future and protecting himself at any cost. Friendships—new and long-forgotten—beckon, lethal enemies circle, secrets accumulate, and the fragile hopes of the little kingdoms of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis hang in the balance."

****

OH MY GOODNESS. I've got to widen my book news circles, because I had NO IDEA this book was coming out! I've been a huge fan of the Attolia series since I first picked up The Thief back in 2010. The publisher will try to convince you that these books can be read out of order.

Lies.

Such lies.

Enjoy the series in the order it was intended to be read:
The Thief
The Queen of Attolia
The King of Attolia
Conspiracy of Kings
Thick As Thieves

And if you don't absolutely delight in Eugenides by the end of the third book, I will seriously have to question our friendship. Or accept that people have different tastes, but that's not strong enough for me. Eugenides is one of the most smartly-written, deviously intelligent characters I've ever read. My favorite thing about him is his relationship to the divine. He's such a fantastic character.

ANYWAY.

Thick As Thieves is not about Eugenides. I expected to be disappointed by this, but I was not, as the story featured some of my favorite side characters. Kamet is Nasuresh's snarky but submissive servant from Queen of Attolia, and I was sad not to see more of him in the following books. I am SO GLAD he got a story of his own, and it was completely worth it. The friendship he develops with his Attolian ... compatriot, handily highlighted by the almost Grecian stories they tell each other to pass the time as they travel, is very worthy of the story it's built upon. I love reading about a good male friendship, especially as its tried and tested and found to be stronger than the circumstances surrounding it. See also: The friendship between Michael and Fisk in Hilari Bell's Knight and Rogue series or Goblin and Reaper's friendship in the Korean drama Goblin: The Great and Lonely God.

But I should not bring kdramas into this, because they have a tendency to take over EVERYTHING, just as they have taken over my life.

Read this book. You won't be disappointed.

06 July 2017

Whatever After


From Goodreads:

"Chloe’s got it all: a happy marriage to Hollywood A-lister, Jason Vanderholt, her first child on the way, and the chance to be the maid-of-honor in her best friend, Lori’s, upcoming wedding. The stresses of the past year are behind her… almost.

Chris Winters, Chloe’s half-brother, still isn’t in jail, even though he’s the main suspect in a double homicide. The police don’t have enough hard evidence to charge him with the crime, but Chloe is certain it was him. After all, he tried to kill her when she was a child.

When Chris begins to stalk Lori, Chloe is furious and decides it is past time he was locked up for good. She has the best security team money can buy, yet she knows they’re missing something, and mistakes in this business can be deadly. The deeper she digs, though, the less the facts add up.

Chloe’s got mere weeks to figure out how to keep her best friend safe, save the wedding from disaster, and get Chris back in jail where he belongs. That is, if she can gather enough evidence before he strikes again."

***

My goodness, I love the cover to this book. It perfectly captures the personalities of calm and stoic Chloe and bubbly Lori. The story itself is an excellent entry into the Someone Else's Fairytale series, providing layers to the mystery surrounding Chris and wrapping it up fairly well, with a villain who was unexpected, but absolutely made sense in the context of the story. And that villain was downright freaky.

As with the last couple of books, most especially My Wicked Half-Sister, the story relies heavily on dialogue to move forward. Personally, I don't find this appealing--I want action!--but it doesn't take away from the plot.

I really enjoyed Lori's musings on "happily ever after" versus "whatever after"--basically, the difference between movie endings and real life. In real life, the happy couple has to recommit to choosing to love each other all the time. Movies are one-and-done. But I digress. The book made me hungry for a good chili and wrapped up well. I really enjoyed it.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

23 June 2017

Southern Spirits



From Goodreads:

"When out of work graphic designer Verity Long accidentally traps a ghost on her property, she’s saddled with more than a supernatural sidekick—she gains the ability to see spirits. It leads to an offer she can’t refuse from the town’s bad boy, the brother of her ex and the last man she should ever partner with.

Ellis Wydell is in possession of a stunning historic property haunted by some of Sugarland Tennessee’s finest former citizens. Only some of them are growing restless—and destructive. He hires Verity put an end to the disturbances. But soon Verity learns there’s more to the mysterious estate than floating specters, secret passageways, and hidden rooms.

There’s a modern day mystery afoot, one that hinges on a decades-old murder. Verity isn't above questioning the living, or the dead. But can she discover the truth before the killer finds her?"

***

This story gripped me from the very beginning. I really loved that Verity wasn't some mystic or new age believer, but a woman with a normal life who got sucked into events beyond her ken. The supernatural elements weren't cartoon-ish, either, which made the story even better. Verity's connection to Frankie, the 1920s-era gangster, was fun and charming.

The romance wasn't neglected, either, and it's of the slow-burning kind, which makes me happy beyond words. This is a great coming-together story for Verity and Ellis and I'm very intrigued to see what happens next. I was also surprised by the villain, but said villain wasn't unrealistic.

The whole book was sweet and well-written. I really enjoyed it.

Gentle Reader Alert: There were a few swears, including one f-bomb.

Her Imaginary Husband



From Goodreads:


"In an effort to ward off the unwanted advances of the womanizing football coach, Nikki Fallon comes up with the perfect plan. She pretends she's already married. There's only one problem. When she meets the honorable campus cop, she wishes she hadn't started the lie. How can she get rid of an imaginary husband?"

***
I love it when I take a chance on a book and it pays off! This one had a lot of laugh out loud moments. It was fun and absolutely delightful. Nikki balanced well between Coach Carlin and Officer Ross and it was sweet to watch her try to figure out how to relate to the two of them. Her best friend, Janna, was a great friend and well written. These characters were very REAL and the plot was very well done. It was an enjoyable read--great for curling up with on a day when you don't want to go anywhere else.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

Kpop Romance Series by Jennie Bennett




(Click the cover to be taken to the synopses on Goodreads.) I was very fortunate to win these three novellas in a Facebook contest. Having been recently converted to kpop myself, it's interesting to see what other fans do with their obsession.

I read the books with two filters in place--I ignored the insta-love and the lack of depth--because these are novellas and there just isn't room to develop more here. With those in place, I thoroughly enjoyed them all! They are fun, fluffy beach reads, with a good plot hook to keep me drawn in and characters that felt realistic. Undercover Fan is definitely the strongest of the three and my favorite, but they are all a good way to pass the time and indulge in a little kpop wish fulfillment.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

07 June 2017

The Ghost of You and Me


From Goodreads:

"The tragic death of Spencer Schott unravels the lives of the two people he loved most—his girlfriend Bailey and his best friend Wes. Secrets and guilt from that fateful night keep both Bailey and Wes from overcoming Spencer’s loss and moving on with their lives.

Now, nearly a year later, both Bailey and Wes are still so broken over what happened that Spencer can’t find peace in the afterlife. In order to put his soul to rest, he’s given one chance to come back and set things right...even if that means setting up his girlfriend with his best friend.

With the emotional resonance of Jellicoe Road and the magical realism of The Lovely Bones, The Ghost of You and Me is a story about overcoming grief, finding redemption for past mistakes, and the healing power of friendship and love."

***

This is newest book from one of my favorite authors! It's very serious, which is to be expected, given the subject matter, but still light-hearted in all the right places, demonstrating Kelly's talent with balancing tone. It's really a great story about grief and love and understanding and the power of true friends. The voice is excellent and drew me in. The compelling emotions of everyone involved made me cheer Spencer on and root for his success as he tried to help the loved ones he'd left behind. The Ghost of You and Me was an emotional journey and COMPLETELY worth it.

Gentle Reader Alert:  A few PG-level swears.

Stage Kissed


From Goodreads:

"Sixteen-year-old Kate knows how to juggle. From basketball practices to her shifts at Jamba Juice, Kate flies through her days wondering if she got a decent meal. When she lands a role in the school play, adding yet another task to her already full schedule, Kate starts fumbling through her routine, resorting to desperate measures to get the grades expected of her.

Co-worker and classmate Seth isn’t much of a juggler. Crowds and attention? Not his thing. So witnessing Kate’s ability to handle it all leaves Seth in awe. He could never do it. But then one of the leading actors in the play gets tonsillitis days before opening night, and Kate volunteers Seth to replace him. With his eidetic memory and killer dance moves, Seth’s the obvious choice—if it weren’t for his social anxiety.

With Seth’s growing—and unwanted—popularity and Kate spreading herself too thin, they start to wonder if their friendship will even last through the performances. But putting these two into a romance on stage has an effect neither of them could predict."

***
This was such a charming and wonderful book. TOTALLY worth the sleep I sacrificed for it. I loved Kate's bluntness and fresh voice. I saw the effect of her flaws, but she made realizations and determined to fix them on her own. SO. SPLENDID. She didn't have anyone beating her over the head to make better life choices, which was very in line with her character.

Seth was a fantastic character--he didn't need to change, but got out of his comfort zone nonetheless for Kate. I loved the balance of his highly analytical side with his ability to laugh with Kate and finding ways to teach her.

The relationship built slowly and was beautifully done--the groundwork was laid subtly and well. Kate and Seth complement each other and don't try to change each other--they work with the other person's limitations instead of against them.

This was a really, REALLY well-written story. I read it in one sitting because I loved the characters so much. I highly recommend it.

Gentle Reader Alert: A few PG-level swears.

Blissfully Married


From Goodreads:


"Sidney’s matchmaking business is suffering. When her best friend convinces her to put on a fake engagement ring to boost customer confidence in her, she reluctantly agrees. Couldn’t hurt to try, right? And when her childhood crush comes walking in, she’s glad to have her fake engagement as an excuse not to get involved with him. He shattered her heart ten years ago, and she can’t take another painful Blake incident.

Blake can’t believe it when he sees Sidney, all grown up. She looks amazing. But she’s also off limits, or so he thinks. When he finds out she’s not really engaged, he’s confused as to why Sidney would lie to him. He makes it his goal to coax the truth out of her, even if he has to go to great lengths to do it."

****
Blissfully Married has a good, solid plot, likable characters, and resolves neatly. There's nothing gripping, make you stay up all night and sacrifice your sleep to get to the end, or exciting--it's a perfectly lovely fluffy read, with just enough resistance to Blake by Sidney to keep the reader hooked. There's a certain reliance on telling instead of showing, which will always stick out to me because it drives me nuts, but it doesn't detract from the delightful push-and-pull between our leading guy and gal. Definitely give it a shot when you're in the mood for something light.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

Senior Year Bites

From Goodreads:

"Senior year is supposed to be fun: boys, dances and graduation. It’s significantly harder to enjoy it when you’re dead.

Thanks to an innocent game of Truth or Dare, I wound up sleeping in a graveyard. Probably not the brightest thing I’ve ever done, but thanks to a couple of well-placed fangs, I’m here to tell the tale.

Vampires might stalk pop culture, but they’re just myths, right? Yeah. Not so much…

Everything seems a lot more difficult when you’re a nocturnal creature of the night, especially school. I was managing, but couldn’t keep it hidden from my friends. Steph decided that we should be cool, like superheroes, and fight crime.

I’m a vampire, not a hero. Living in a sleepy New England town, crime is a little harder to come by. At least it is until a serial killer moves into the area. He’s got the authorities stumped, but then again, the cops don’t have a teenage, blood-sucking, non-hero on their team. It doesn’t take long for me to discover the world is full of monsters. I may be one of them…but will I turn out to be the hero, or the killer everyone is looking for."

***
This was fun and gripping--the characters were great and the plot was tight. Meg is genuine and smart, Steph and Ann are great friends and their loyalty to each other was refreshing. The characters that Meg ended up meeting as a result of her transformation were unexpected and turned out to be pretty awesome--I loved the way her new friends rallied around her. The story has good layers and an excellent ending. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Gentle Reader Alert: There is some language, including a few f-bombs.

Perfectly Oblivious



From Goodreads:
"Cameron Bates (Cam) could have almost any girl at Franklin High School…except for the one he wants. Unfortunately Bebe seems to be immune to his flirty charm and good looks, which means one of two things: a) she’s completely oblivious to how he feels, or b) she’s just not into him. If that’s the case, declaring his love would be disastrous for their friendship.

Bianca Barnes (Bebe) has a huge problem: the universe hates her. Every time she admits feelings for a boy, he ends up falling for her sweet, popular, and beautiful sister Beth. To avoid a broken heart, Bebe has sworn herself to secrecy. Nobody can know how she feels about Cam…Ever!

Neither person wants to confess their feelings, but the universe has its own plan. Out of the blue, Bebe is courted by a secret admirer. Cam has to step up his game and Bebe has to make a choice. Play it safe and accept the affections of her mystery man or challenge fate and take a chance on the boy she loves."

***
This is a charming debut novel by Robin Daniels, sister of Kelly Oram (the writing gene is strong with this family!). The tension between Bianca and Cam, created by their own ridiculous personal rules that sprang from their own very believable insecurities, was taut and well-played. I loved Bianca's spunk and Cameron's cocky confidence--their characters were very well-rounded. Even Cam's overly feminine attempts at wooing--most likely brought on by the fact that he's surrounded by females ALL THE TIME--worked, and worked well. The high school setting was believable and the ending was a good combination of convoluted and fun. I really enjoyed this novel.

Gentle Reader Alert:  There were some PG-level swears, but that's it.

17 May 2017

Cinder Heart


From Goodreads:
"Sixteen-year-old Gabriella just wants to finish high school without ticking off her stepmom and being forced out of her father’s house. When she finds out she’s the girl prophesied about in the fairytale Cinderella, her world gets turn upside-down.

Things get worse when the cute senior, Hal Charm, finally discovers that she exists. Add a fairy godmother, the powers of fire and speed, and a villain other than her stepmom and Gabbie’s life goes up in flames.

Now she's forced to decide between ignoring her destiny to save her friendships, or risking discovery to become the hero she needs to be."

***
Oh, how I wanted to love this book! The idea was interesting and I wanted to see how it all came together. But the execution was choppy and erratic, there was far too much telling and not enough showing, and it ended up not being a pleasant read at all. The characters seemed interesting and the story really could have gone somewhere. It had potential. Unfortunately, that potential needed to be brought out with a lot more polishing.

05 May 2017

Silver Screen Kisses


Buckle up, because here's the *synopsis* of this 400+ page book from Goodreads:

"Silver Screen Kisses is a collection of stories inspired by movies from everyone’s favorite list. Written by award-winning and bestselling authors, these contemporary romances take the reader back to Echo Ridge in the spring, when the promise of new love is budding just like the tulips around the Emerald Inn Bed & Breakfast.

My Fair Lacey by Janette Rallison
 Lacey Johnson has dreamed of opening a restaurant for years. All she needs is one little loan to make it happen. But with the way Lacey talks and dresses, she looks more like someone who would hold up a bank than someone who’d ever get a loan from one. When Garrett Halifax, her roommate’s Harvard-educated brother, volunteers to change her image and teach her to speak correctly, she jumps at the chance. But she quickly finds she’s in over her head. Pretending to fit in with the town’s elite is harder than she thought, and despite her best efforts, she’s falling for Garrett. Could someone who is handsome, rich, and educated ever consider her as more than just a project? A contemporary twist on My Fair Lady, this is a story that is sure to please Echo Ridge fans.

You’ve Got Email by Heather Tullis
 Maria never expected to fall in love with a man she’d never met, but she can’t wait to get to her laptop every night to chat with Bobwhite67. She would be happy to focus on getting to know him better, but her two jobs and two sons keep her ridiculously busy. Then there’s her ex-husband’s bookie, who’s impatiently waiting for the last couple payments on his debt.

Bret can’t help but notice how hard the beautiful Maria works and the similarities she has with the Zoomama he’s been talking with online. Though he really wants to make things easier for her, Bret accidentally gets her in hot water with both of her bosses. Can he get Maria to give him a chance in the real world and not just online?

The Princess Bride of Riodan by Rachelle J. Christensen
 When a mysterious man offers to help Elise redecorate the old Bed & Breakfast, she gladly hands him a wallpaper steamer. After she discovers his true identity, she doesn’t know whether to curtsy or run and hide. Unfortunately, hiding isn’t an option because her heart is already tangled up with the handsome prince. At the same time, Elise’s old crush from high school wants a relationship and she’s forced to decide whether to chase after a fairy tale ending or stay grounded in reality.

My Best Man’s Wedding by Cami Checketts
 Jessica Mason made a vow to marry her best guy friend, Josh, when they turned thirty. When Josh calls with the news that he's coming home to Echo Ridge for his wedding, Jessica is determined to break up the happy couple and take her rightful place as his bride. Gentry Trine, a coworker, agrees to pretend to be her fiancĂ© to stir up feelings of jealousy. However, Jessica didn't realize fake fiancĂ©s could kiss like champions, and make a girl smile nonstop. Can she figure out which is the right man for her before she loses them both?

While You Were Skiing by Lucy McConnell
 Mia Davis’s new job in guest relations at Ruby Mountain Ski Resort gets complicated when the gorgeous Ryder Montgomery falls off the ski lift, tells everyone they are engaged, and then loses consciousness. Worried about a head injury, Mia plays along, making him lunch, kissing in the front entryway and planning a future together; a future Mia wants with all of her heart. Things become all the more complicated when Ryder’s estranged family gets involved. Caught up in the fantasy and romance, Mia has to tell the truth or risk losing a part of herself and the man she loves forever."

***

My Fair Lacey--As always, Janette Rallison's writing cracked me up. I love reading her books for the tremendous humor as well as the sizzling romance. This My Fair Lady knockoff has great characters and a fantastically tight and twisty plot. Loved every minute of it.

You've Got Email was good set up and looked to be suspenseful. I wondered how the characters were going to get themselves out of the situation, but then it just...fizzled. Missed opportunity for great suspense and relationship building.

The Princess Bride of Riodan--Oh my. Such good characters! Elise, the heroine, was a little bland but I found myself rooting for her anyway. LOVED the inclusion of iconic Princess Bride lines and the fantastic way they were worked into the dialogue in situations that had nothing to do with the movie.

My Best Man's Wedding--So, the best man came out of nowhere, but the guy friend and the romance sizzled. Loved that the heroine got over herself quickly and followed her generous heart. Good read.

While You Were Skiing--This was a great story. Characters had depth, the plot was well done without being a carbon copy of the inspiration movie, and I actually wasn't sure who was going to get the girl at first. Loved the inclusion of the WYWS lines and actions (post it notes for important documents FTW!). Adorable story.

I loved how the stories tied each other together, but stood well on their own. They were all clean reads that still had smoldering romances. Well done anthology. I highly recommend it.

20 April 2017

Republic/Diplomats and Fugitives





















From Goodreads:

REPUBLIC: "After the notorious outlaws Amaranthe and Sicarius helped overthrow the corrupt faction controlling the empire and brought in a great war hero to lead the nation to prosperity, they finally earned their pardons--and some time off. A tropical vacation cruising around in a private submarine? Perfect. But their trip is interrupted by a summons from the new president: they're needed back at home. Trouble unlike anything they've ever dealt with threatens to destroy the capital city and throw the fledgling republic into chaos."

DIPLOMATS AND FUGITIVES: "Even though Basilard is the official Mangdorian ambassador to the Turgonian Republic, he still isn’t fully trusted by his pacifist people. After he was enslaved and forced to entertain spectators in pit fights that left him scarred and mute, his kin turned their backs on him, condemning him for choosing violence. They don’t let him travel home without supervision, and he isn’t allowed to see his daughter.

When trouble arises in his homeland, a mysterious blight that could cause widespread starvation for his people, he’s invited to take several old friends to travel to his country to investigate. If Basilard can solve the problem, perhaps his people will finally realize he’s not a bad influence on his family. But unlikely obstacles stand in his way, including a strange Kendorian woman that he’s ordered to take along on the mission.

A Kendorian fugitive hiding in Turgonia, former tracker and assassin Ashara Longbow wants to start a new life, so she can sneak her children out of her country to join her in the republic. Not only is she hunted back home, but the Kendorian ambassador in Turgonia has learned she exists and wants a favor in exchange for keeping her secret. If she doesn’t help him thwart Basilard’s mission, she may never see her children again."

***

Lindsay Buroker has built an intriguing world. The idea of people striving to do good in a place where religion has been banned and being the best version of themselves without divine guidance--and how they interact with those who do have beliefs--creates an interesting interplay. Republic and Diplomats and Fugitives continues the story of Amaranthe and her crew as they try to find their places in the new democratic country of Turgonia. Entertaining as always, they deal with the challenges in front of them and their city without expectation of reward (except for Maldynado, but he expects to be rewarded for EXISTING. Good thing he’s charming!) and performing heroic feats of derring-do. The blend of magic-fuelled technology and a steampunk society creates an interesting dynamic as well.

But most of all, there’s the original characters. Maldynado and Basilard and Amaranthe and Sicarius shine (or glower darkly) and it’s just wonderful to go on adventures with them once again. With the added dry wit of Sespian and the sparkle of Mahliki and the fantastic relationship of Admiral Starcrest and his wife Tikaya, the stories continue to have depth and humor. I do love this series and I’m glad Ms. Buroker extended it.

Gentle Reader Alert: You know that non-religious society? Yeah, the characters don’t have the same morals I do and they’re pretty frank about it. There is some innuendo, but nothing graphic. I’d still put this at about a PG-13 level.

31 March 2017

Unexpected Love



From Goodreads:
"Around the turn of the century, matches were made for all sorts of reasons--whether to keep a family together or simply to make ends meet. But love has a way of turning up in the most unexpected places! With four historical romance stories in one, this fun anthology will sweep you from the dance floors of aristocracy to the hearths of country living, leading to love through the most unusual circumstances."


*****

Unexpected Love is full of sweetness and growing love, which always makes me happy. These lovely authoresses have taken great care to get the historical details of their chosen time periods right. Their characters are likeable and charming by turns, and I always found myself rooting for them and their success. I especially enjoyed The Price of Her Heart by Mandi Ellsworth--Faye McKinney's sassy voice breathes a massive amount of sparkle into the piece. I absolutely adored her by the end of the first page.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

21 March 2017

Operation Prom Date


From Goodreads:


"Kate ships tons of fictional couples, but IRL her OTP is her and Mick, the hot quarterback she’s crushed on since, like, forever. With only one semester left of senior year, it’s now or never if she wants to land him in time for prom. Since she’s flirtationally challenged, she enlists Cooper Callihan, the guy who turned popular seemingly overnight but who used to be a good friend.

Cooper lives and breathes rowing, but his partner just broke his wrist. When he remembers Kate’s good with a set of oars, he strikes a deal: help him train, and he’ll make sure her crush notices her. Only he didn’t know how addicting spending time with her would be. Or how the more successful the Operation is, the more jealousy he experiences.

The mission has been set. The troops have their marching orders. But what if the target is the wrong guy all along?"

*****

Operation Prom Date was absolutely effervescent. It was charmingly adorable, with a great plot and SUCH well-drawn characters. Cindi did a great job of getting me into her character's heads and loving Kate and Cooper both. Kate's unabashed geekiness and her sardonic sense of humor led to flashes of great personal courage. Cooper's humility and desire to do what Kate wanted, valiantly resisting his own feelings, made me an instant fan--he was so gallant and unselfish! And then I wanted them to get together SO BADLY. I read the entire book in one sitting--it was very much worth the lost sleep!

Gentle Reader Alert: Some swearing.

15 March 2017

Falling for the Beast


From Amazon:

"Aribelle is backed into the position of cleaning house for the horrible Mr. Thaddeus Walker. Not only is he rude, he's dangerously secretive, going out at night and coming home with injuries which seem to heal mysteriously fast. She should be keeping her distance, not trying to break down his barriers. But the more she uncovers, the more attracted she becomes until the cost of exposing his secrets fades behind the risk of losing her heart.

Thaddeus knows he should have sent the girl away instead of allowing her into his home. Now she's asking questions he can't answer. And the more time they spend together, the more he wishes he could pull her close and kiss her. But he can't afford to do that. Beautiful Aribelle could never love a beast."

*****

Falling for the Beast is a clean romance. The setting is good and the characters seem very true to the Disney original, just moving in an updated world. On the other hand, there is a lack of depth to this book that really niggled at me--there was nothing that created emotional resonance for me. I didn't feel like I ever got into the characters' heads, as most of the story was *told* to me, instead of shown to me. For me, that is a make it or break it point. Other than that, the story moves quickly and hit all the right plot points. If you're looking for a sweet take on a modern Beauty and the Beast retelling, this will fit the bill.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

09 March 2017

SERIES REVIEW: Cassidy Jones





Many moons ago (or in 2013, as Goodreads tells me), I encountered Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula. At this point I couldn't even tell you how I got into it, but I am SO GLAD I did. Here's a synopsis of the first book (via Goodreads):

"One Girl. One Accident. One Incredible Superhero.

Cassidy Jones is your typical fourteen-year-old--that is, until a seemingly harmless accident in the laboratory of a world-renowned geneticist turns her world upside down.

Discovering incredible strength, speed, and enhanced physical senses that defy logic, Cassidy embarks on an action-packed adventure that has her fighting for answers…and for her very life."

I couldn't get to the rest of the series fast enough after finishing The Secret Formula and was absolutely delighted to spend time in Cassidy's world. Cassidy has an authentic 14-year-old's voice, prone to the emotional rollercoaster most teenagers are, but she is balanced by a strong desire to help other people and a self-awareness that makes her much more tolerable than other young teenage protagonists I've read. Her love and concern for her family, her willingness to accept help when needed, add to that and are balanced by her stubbornly independent streak. She feels very real--I really like that. The magic system, for lack of a better term, is also very well thought out. Cassidy can't do EVERYTHING and there are consequences when she uses her newfound abilities. The villains she deals with are a bit cartoonish, but much like the original Batman series, they still pose a plausible threat to the people she loves.

SO. The point is, I love this series. The writing keeps getting better and better and the characters continue growing and developing in reasonable and logical ways. You really should go pick up a copy.  You should really, REALLY read the rest of the series before you read the rest of my review, because there are SPOILERS A-PLENTY. Remember that growth that Cassidy experiences? Yeah. Go experience it with her, then come back and read my very happy review of Cassidy Jones and the Eternal Flame.
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I'll wait here.
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Well, this post will, anyway. I have other things to do. Books to read and so on.
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Have you read it? If not, proceed at your own risk. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
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*rubs hands together gleefully* OK! Here we go.

So Cassidy has finally fessed up to her parents and everyone is aware of her superhero exploits. Joe is now living with the Phillips and making sure everyone is fed well, and Jared and Cassidy are not dating, but they're definitely boyfriend and girlfriend, which is making Emery crazy. What are you going to do? She's got a crush who likes her back. Give it time, friend Emery. (Yeah, I'm Team Emery. So is Cassidy. She just doesn't know it yet.)


Anyway, here's the synopsis of the book, from the author herself:

"Some boundaries should never be crossed…

The diabolic Metal Woman takes three people hostage. Her ransom demand: the location of a mysterious and unprecedented weapon, rumored to have been a gift to the Third Reich from Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.

When a rescue attempt goes sideways, Cassidy Jones seeks justice. Her quest leads her to the Seattle Underground, where she falls into the grip of an inexplicable evil. Cassidy learns too late that her desire for revenge may cost the life of someone she loves."

Yikes, right? In true Elise Stokes fashion, the Metal Woman is cold, heartless, and psychopathic. No wiggle room in that villain. And now that she has metal skin, Lily White (aka Metal Woman) is very evenly matched with Cassidy Jones, the only mutant on earth who can stop her. Much like the Luminous, there is no way for Cassidy to win without help. So she turns to her boys--Jared and Emery--who have talents of their own, and they do their best to take on Lily and her diabolical goons.

I absolutely LOVED reading Eternal Flame. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but there is a LOT of heart-pounding action and running around the tunnels under Seattle. Cassidy grows closer to the people she loves, but at the same time, she sees the toll that her secret life is taking on her family and friends. And I love her for it! Her eyes are open and she does her best to balance the two. In fact, I would say that this entire series is about finding balance--balance between friends and family, between your hobbies and your regular life, between your self and your beast. Hm. Maybe that last one is just Cassidy.

The tangled triangle of Cassidy and Jared and Emery is also balanced. This is not Twilight because Cassidy's heart is not torn in two, but it is a precise balance between first crush and best friend. I *love* romance in the books I read--makes my reading world go 'round--and it can be anything from  awkward beginner experience to finding THE ONE. These kids are a bit young to be finding "the one" yet, but Stokes deftly writes that awkward beginner stage in a way that tugs mightily at my heartstrings.

There you have it: heart-pounding action, tugging at the heartstrings--this book has a LOT of heart. The whole series continues to grow in complexity and the stakes are raised ever higher--it's a great adventure and a worthwhile read. I enjoyed it immensely and I would happily hand off to my 13-year-old daughter. Well done, Elise. Looking forward to the next one.

03 March 2017

The Light Trilogy: Renegade Red


From the publisher:
"Reckless, desperate, and distraught, Noa Sullivan leaps into a collapsing Portal in the explosive finale of Shattered Blue "the jaw-dropping, award-winning first installment in The Light Trilogy” in wild hope of rescuing her little sister Sasha. Now Noa and the Fae brothers who love her--Callum and Judah Forsythe--must find a way to survive not only across worlds but between them, in places so treacherous and deceptive their own minds are twisted against them. As the three fight to survive their passage, they battle not only enemies but themselves, and their darkest, most difficult secrets.

Surviving, however, is only the beginning: Noa needs to find Sasha. That means becoming a warrior herself, one just as fierce as the magical brothers battling for her love. Across broken cities, underground labyrinths, rushing floods and endless skies; in the face of legions of armies, horrifying tyrants, and the most deceitful of friends, can Mortal Noa rescue her sister--and understand her own heart--in time to escape the most deadly of magic realms?"

***

I loved last year’s Shattered Blue. The poetry, the drama, the pull Noa felt to both brothers--I was wrapped up and intrigued. And the ending was so unexpected! It was a thrilling ride.

Renegade Red definitely builds on those thrills. As Noa navigates her way through the In-Between, I began to clearly see where her heart truly was oriented--not with either Callum or Judah, but with little sister Sasha, the girl-beast who taught Noa how to fight and be brave just by being herself. Noa’s love for Sasha carries the story, and I loved the depiction of how family love can be true love. The idea of love is thoroughly explored in Renegade Red--what will people do in the name of love? How will their idea of love twist their perspective? Do love triangles actually exist? Is love more powerful than pride and ideology? Noa’s experience in the In-Between and in Aurora was heart-pounding and intense. I found myself gripping my tablet tightly often. The ending was surprising and twisty and left Noa standing on her own two feet, but I loved it even as my heart was breaking for everyone else.

Truly an imaginative, poetic read. I highly recommend the trilogy and can’t wait for next year’s installment.

 Gentle Reader Alert: A few mild swears--nothing too shocking.

20 February 2017

The Fill-in Boyfriend


From Goodreads:

"When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship."

***

Kasie West’s books were recommended to me a while ago by a good friend, and I am SO GLAD she was! The Fill-in Boyfriend was charming and funny and heartfelt. I loved the sly geek references and the way that Gia ended up taking a good look at herself and her priorities. She wasn’t necessarily a bad girl or a mean girl, but I love how she moved from being a shallow high school princess to someone with substance by the end of the story. And Mr. Fill-in Boyfriend grew too. Life is about growth and change and improving ourselves, and stories whose characters remain static are so much less fulfilling than ones where the characters strive to be better versions of themselves. That’s why I comment on it so much--it’s THAT important.

So, take the time to dig into The Fill-in Boyfriend. I think you’ll love it.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found no items of concern.

19 January 2017

Plucking One String


From Goodreads:

"Vera Henley has pulled the strings of the Lutheran Ladies Circle for years; now everything has unraveled. A new, young pastor is altering traditions, and the independent Circle women are cheering the changes—all except for Vera. When her high-maintenance, crazy aunt introduces even more rebellion and chaos, Vera must choose which thread of change to pluck—and which to let go."

***



I don’t often go in for contemporary stories, much less Christian contemporary stories--they want to beat you over the head repeatedly with the morality stick and I am quite comfortable in my convictions, thank you very much. But Plucking One String sounded charming, so I gave it a shot.

I am so glad I did. The characters in the Lutheran Ladies Circle feel realistic. There are no stereotypical “wandering single mom” or “overbearing matron” or “mousy single lady” tropes. There are characters who fit that description, but they change. They grow. Their stories move in unexpected ways that delighted me and kept me reading. And the conversations on faith that these lovely ladies had resonated with truth and experience. I found myself nodding along with their sentiments more than once, then later chuckling at the antics of the congregation as they tried to work together. They were so HUMAN. Very much worth the reading time, Plucking One String was reaffirming to my beliefs and made me think more charitably about the people around me. I recommend it.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.