3 star review

Review – If He’s Wicked by Hannah Howell

If Hes Wicked

Hannah Howell is comfort reading for me, and she is one of those historical authors that I have reread so many times. But I’ll admit, when she left the Murray/Macenroy families I kind of just stopped. I wasn’t sure I wanted a new commitment, and a new family. So I just kind of avoided her for the past 6 years, until earlier this year when Highland Guard came out and it reminded me why even the books that don’t blow me away make me so happy to settle in and read them. So I looked around and realized Oh heck, there’s like 7 books in this “new” series, where do I even start? Well at the beginning actually, so I got my Houston library card and settled myself on the waiting list.

And once I started reading this, I remembered the other reason I passed this book over, and consequently the series as a whole. It was my old bugaboo; spousal infidelity. Granted, in this case Julian’s wife is one of the most evil women imaginable, but yeah, this is not my favorite trope. It wasn’t so bad, because Beatrice is so completely, irredeemably, evil, but that is kind of another issue for me, the cardboard evil woman. But, we never see them living as husband and wife, so it is not the worst handled way for this trope. I judged it tolerable.

Honestly, I don’t have a ton to say about this book. The paranormal aspects are fun and like the Murray’s times 100, plus it looks like we have a fun cast of familial characters to dig into. I liked the hero and heroine though they might be a tad too blandly perfect. And the story was oddly happy despite any horrible things that happened. So it was a pleasant way to while away a few hours. I don’t regret reading it and would recommend it to fans of wall paper historicals who like to glom series, as I will likely keep reading the rest of it.

If He's Wicked (Wherlocke #1)

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4 star review

Review – A Lady’s Guide to Skirting Scandals by Kelly Bowen

Ladys Guide to Skirting Scandals

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Lady Viola Hextall is bored – of the sea, her chaperones, and the woeful lack of available dukes on the ocean voyage from London to New York. Scrambling for any diversion short of jumping overboard, Viola strikes up a conversation with the ship’s rough-hewn, blue-eyed surgeon – and discovers an immediate cure for what ails her…

To Nathaniel Shaw, Viola has the bearing of a lady and the spirit of an adventurer – an unlikely combination that he finds utterly irresistible. So he’s hoping to convince Viola to leave the stifling ballrooms of London high society behind because there is a big, wide world just waiting for them to explore – together.

I’ve kind of gone about this series all backwards, the first book I read in this series was You’re the Earl That I Want, which is the third book in the series. I enjoyed it and felt it worked well as a stand alone, so now I am working my way backwards I guess. I suppose I could have slipped this review in before publishing the other, but since that wasn’t the way I read them, it isn’t the way I’m going to present it. (Does that sound snarky? I swear I heard neener-neener-neener in my head as I wrote it.) Apparently my beleaguered brain finds posting reviews of a series out of the order I read them an even more abhorrent thing to do than actually reading a series out-of-order.

This I suppose could be considered a New Adult, but I would consider it significantly more successful than my last foray. While Viola is a bit of a twit at the start, she’s also sort of charming and funny. And in this case, I kind of think having read these out-of-order was a good thing. Since this is a short story, there wasn’t a ton of room to flesh out backgrounds and characterizations, so already knowing a lot more about the Hexall family, I think let me understand and appreciate Viola more. She is so clearly a young woman on the brink of adulthood, trying to figure herself out. I am sure I have read historicals with heroines as young before, but they always seemed more adult-like, or maybe just reading this directly after thinking about New Adult stories and themes just made me aware of her young age more.

But I especially enjoyed Nate, he was so earnest about being the best surgeon he could be, that I found him absolutely adorable. And he was so passionate about the perils of basing society on the assumed merits of the aristocracy, and I do so enjoy historicals where everyone isn’t an aristocrat.

As for the plotline, yes Viola was young, but Nate always treated her as an autonomous thinking adult woman. In fact he treated her like more of a sentient being than she seemed to think of herself. And much like the other Bowen book I read, this took a hefty dose of willful suspension of belief, especially pertaining to how quickly they bonded and started being intimate, but neither of them seemed like cardboard cutouts of characters, they felt very real.

All in all, I found this short story fairly delightful and would recommend it to anyone who might enjoy a fairly ridiculous historical with two very endearing, if not entirely believable, characters.

A Lady's Guide to Skirting Scandal: A short story (The Lords of Worth)

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DNF

Review – To The Moon And Back by Jocelyn Han

To the Moon and Back

After her father’s death, the last thing Ava Windsor wants is to leave Earth and move to an Elite colony on the moon for the next ten months. Nicolas Carter, a man she doesn’t even remember meeting, is to be her custodian until she reaches the age of twenty-one. Until then, she is not allowed to touch the money her dad has left her. Being the only child of a disowned Elite father and a common mother just got a lot more complicated.

But surviving among the Luna Six Elitists who treat commoners as servants should have been the least of Ava’s worries. Nicolas Carter is nothing like she expected. He condemns the Elite lifestyle, he is a lot younger than her father, and he is definitely way sexier.
Ten months on the moon seem like an eternity if you know you shouldn’t be falling for your guardian… but just can’t help yourself.

A sweet, steamy romance novella for lovers of New Adult with a hint of Futuristic.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

I picked this up because New Adult is just insanely ubiquitous, and I figured I can’t keep avoiding it like the plague. It sounded interesting, and while the falling in love with you guardian trope is not my favorite, I do tend to tolerate it more when it is in a non-contemporary setting. I was also hoping that having the hero be a bit older might make it a good transition into NA for me, and since the heroine is almost 21, and age gap wasn’t likely to bother me.

Stop now if you’d rather not be spoiled……………………………………………..

I got two percent in and found something that absolutely did bother me. Turns out the hero is her uncle. An adopted one apparently, but I have too many adopted family members to not get squicked out. Heck, I’m not even a fan of the step brother trope. Adding this to the guardian trope was just not something I could tolerate. So I took a look at other reviews to see if there was anything that would ameliorate this for me, and it turns out that this is a reprint or amended version or something to a work originally titled Fly Me To the Moon, which was published December 2013. Going by the reviews, in the original story he may have been her half uncle, but adopted is still kin as far as I am concerned. I went ahead and skimmed, but it looks like the hero/uncle is dating someone else for a good chunk of the time too.

So this really wasn’t the right book for me at all. I hate to DNF, but I really couldn’t read this one. From what I did read, it seemed well written and there weren’t any obvious editing flaws. This is probably a case of it being me rather than the book, but it is a detail I wish had been included in the blurb.

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5 star review

Review – Breakout by Ann Aguirre

Breakout

It is finally here! After Perdition and Havoc, the conclusion is finally here! Can you tell I am excited?

All hell is breaking loose in the edge-of-your-seat follow-up to Havoc and Perdition from New York Times bestselling author Ann Aguirre…

The prison ship Perdition has become a post-battle charnel house with only a handful of Dred’s soldiers still standing and now being hunted by Silence’s trained tongueless assassins. Forging an uneasy alliance with mercenary commander Vost—who is their only chance at escape—the Dread Queen will do whatever it takes to end her life sentence on Perdition and keep the survivors alive long enough to cobble together a transport capable of getting them off station.

If Dred and her crew can win the deadly game of cat and mouse, the payoff is not only life but freedom—a prize sweeter than their wildest dreams. Yet the sadistic Silence would rather destroy Perdition than let a single soul slip from her grasp…

Seriously, look at that cover and that blurb, and my love for the other books in this series. I so wish I could have taken the day off work to read this, but alas, that wasn’t an option and I had to wait. This is the sort of book that really irks me about Tuesday release days. Seriously, Saturdays or Sundays would suit me much better.

But back to the book. There may be spoilers for at least the previous books, so stop here if you haven’t read them yet. I’ll try not to spoil anything since this is worth the ride, but no promises.

The intrepid band of murderers have just made an unholy alliance with the remaining mercenaries who were sent to kill them all. That unfortunately leaves Silence and her acolytes to deal with, no easy task, and then things go from bad to worse.

Seriously, the hard hits just keep coming at our crew, and the plot twists strike like lightening out of no where. It is a rush and I kept finding myself leaning forward like somehow my forward momentum would push me thorough it faster. It was literally painful to see what some of the characters went through, and to get into some of their back stories. Literally painful, heartbreaking even, and I am telling you again, Aguirre has some sort of magic to make the readers care so about murderers. And character growth enough to make you weep. Not too long ago I was reading a post about genre fiction vs literary fiction, and if you can read this series and not see how the characters grow, how their ideals change, and if you can’t feel the emotions just pouring off the page, then I sincerely doubt your ability to actually read or to learn anything from any sort of fiction. It isn’t highbrow, I doubt anyone but me (well and other science fiction fans) would consider it “literary” whatever the hell that means. But it is the kind of thing that puts you right there and makes you question yourself. What if? What if that were me, what if I were in that position. I’ll take my social commentary, political criticism, and focus on an individual to explore parts of the human condition, wrapped up in a shiny and gritty (yes I think it can be both) science fiction package thank you very much. Moments of emotional truth indeed.

Something else that was pleasing was an additional minor tie-ins to the Sirantha Jax series. Since I have read those I can’t gauge the impact on someone who hasn’t read them, but for me it made one of the characters just that little bit more poignant. I can imagine that if you haven’t read the other series it would seem bland, but since it is a very small part of this story, don’t feel you have to read that series, though I sincerely recommend it.

The first three quarters of the story were full of adrenaline fueled action that further honed our main characters. The last quarter was almost like an extended epilogue. I can imagine that some people might find that slightly irksome, but personally, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. If there was one complaint that I had about the Sirantha Jax series it was that the series cut off when the main action was resolved. I understand that Aguirre purposefully set it up to let Sirantha live the rest of her life off page, but it was a bit disappointing for me at least. I like the slow down and the look inside the calm, it feels like the book version of aftercare, and I missed it. But Breakout provided it spades, and I found that infinitely more satisfying than more action packed adventure. Things were neatly tied and comfortable by the end of it. Not everyone got happy endings, but I think everyone got the right endings.

In the end, for me, there was only one wrong note. A cameo that kind of made me cringe slightly, because the timeline of the story made me unhappy with how other events must have shaped up, so it was unsatisfying rather than the boon I was sure it was meant to be. Honestly though, that is just sour grapes on my part. And it made me realize how much I honestly like, respect and prefer Jael and Dred than them, so at least that clarified it for me. If that seems overly cryptic, well you’ll just have to read both series to see what I mean.

Despite that one false note though, I was completely satisfied. I unreservedly recommend this series to science fiction fans, particularly ones who like the gritty and emotional with a heaping helping of romance and ones who enjoy the after care of an emotionally gripping story. I am giving this entry 5 stars and suggesting reading this series all at once like one epic book, I think it is more satisfying that way then splitting it out and thinking of each book as a separate thing, because Havoc FEELS like the middle of a book. And since the flavor of each of the books is different due to changes in the characters, this isn’t likely to burn you out like gloms of some series tend to.

Breakout (Dred Chronicles, #3)
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4 star review

Review – The Last Time I Saw Her by Karen Robards

The Last Time I Saw Her

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

In the sizzling new novel from New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards, Dr. Charlie Stone must prove the innocence of a dangerously sexy condemned man, or lose her one chance at true love.

In this world, Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Stone skillfully probes the twisted minds of incarcerated serial killers to better understand what makes them tick, and to help nab those who remain at large. But in the next world, Charlotte’s ghostly lover—convicted killer Michael Garland—is facing death yet again. It seem the only way Charlie can snatch Michael from the jaws of oblivion is by proving his innocence. And this dead man’s dead ringer may just be the key.

A mysterious stranger has turned up in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and Charlie is shocked to realize he could be Michael Garland’s identical twin. But she suspects the resemblance is only skin deep—and that behind the handsome face may lurk the perverse mind of a killer. While using all her keen profiling gifts, Charlie risks her life to discover the shocking secret that will clear Michael’s name.

Then a breakout at Wallens Ridge State Prison forces Charlie to contend with a sudden swarm of psychopaths bent on spilling blood. No one has a better chance of tracking down the deadly fugitives than Charlie—unless the rampaging killers manage to find her first and make this case her last. But Michael will move heaven and hell—and even make a devil’s bargain—for the chance to save Charlie’s life, and feel her touch once more . . . if only for the final time.

I have read all these books, and the verdict is in! I am thrilled by this serious. This is my one truly crazy sauce series that I simply must keep up with. And Karen Robards definitely did not let the crazy sauce levels abate. Seriously, this book is the biggest head trip of the series, which if you’ve read the previous books is truly saying something.

Charlie Stone is depressed since her lover was sucked back to Spookville. She is trying to get through each day one day at a time, without much success, when in walks Michael Garland’s doppelgänger (or maybe his evil twin) with a subpoena for her files on him. In the midst of her meeting with him, and while a Scared Straight group is touring the prison, the serial killers she has been studying stage a prison break and kidnap her, the kids, and the doppelgänger. Charlie’s terror drags Michael back, and so starts our story.

Michael spends a good bit of his time in the doppelgänger’s body, so him being corporeal makes for a nice change, but at times the ethical considerations of utilizing another person’s body like that kind of gave me the heeby-jeebies. But once I put that to rest it was all hot and sweet. But seriously, don’t ponder that aspect too much it completely ruins the rest of the vibe. This was much more of a relationship book than a romantic suspense book. I mean there was plenty of action and mystery to go around, but it happened to them more passively than being an active mystery they were trying to solve this time. WHich was probably just as well since there was SOOOO much relationship angst. A serious eff-ton of relationship angst all piled on top of the crazy sauce train. It was the express train too.

We also got some more Lena and Buzz time, which was as always a delight, though their page time was short.

When it comes to the ending and the resolution of the Michael thing though, that is where the real head trip comes in. What? Did anyone reading this review seriously think that a ghost seeing forensic psychic who is in love with a serial killer and whose best friend is an honest to goodness psychic would be enough for me to call this a head trip at this point? Lets be real, it certainly was not. But this ending came right out of left field. I did not see it coming and I can not quite decide if Robards went into this series not quite knowing where she’d end up and how she’d get out of the set-up, or if she is simply brilliant. It was just about the most novel way out of the ghost hero trap that I think is possible to dream up, anad I have read a few ghost heroes. A bit of a deus ex machina I suppose, but a fun way out nevertheless.

Seriously, if crazy sauce is your thing this is a don’t miss series. Looking back, at previous reviews, I think I was maybe not as consistent of a grader as I am now. So honestly, while this isn’t a perfect series, and sometimes it felt like we readers were being jerked around, now that the payoff is here it was absolutely worth it and I am so glad I stuck around.

The Last Time I Saw Her (Dr. Charlotte Stone, #4)

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3.5 star review

Review – You’re the Earl That I Want by Kelly Bowen

Earl That I Want

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

I broke a personal cardinal rule here, I started in the middle of a series. Now I didn’t realize it was a series when I requested it, the heroine just intrigued me so I grabbed it. But when I went to put it into Goodreads to track it, I definitely saw that it was a series. The heroine, “brilliant, beautiful chaos in a ball gown” still demanded I read her though (when the predominant description is intelligence-yeah, an author likely has her hooks into me for it), so I went for it.

And I am happy to say that this can indeed be read as a stand-alone. You can tell that there are books before it, and those stories are mentioned, but it didn’t feel like there was anything we missed regarding the two main protagonists, so I was satisfied with my choice to start here. I will say though, willful suspension of disbelief is an absolute requirement here, so if that isn’t something you can manage, this may not be the book for you.

Josephine “Joss” Summerhall is not your average English lady. She’s widely traveled, knows multiple languages and has worked as an interpreter, and she reads widely and has opinions on most any topic under the sun. She’s smart, almost fearless, and definitely relentless and dauntless. Which is hardly surprising with an eccentric mother who carries around live chickens. Don’t worry she has her reasons too, and she is the main reason I am so inclined to read the preceding books.

Heath Hextall however, far from being the teasing youth who put toads down her dress when she was younger, has turned into something of a stuffy prig and thinks he wants to find a nice, boring, respectable wife. Unfortunately for us, he remains wrong-headed for entirely too long, but I will admit that isn’t entirely his own fault, Joss helped keep that unsettled for entirely too long as well.

The book focuses mainly on their relationship and them learning what they thought they saw and knew of each other wasn’t entirely accurate, and the romance portions of it were quite sweet, even when you wanted to beat some sense into their heads.

Where willful suspension of disbelief comes in is with the mystery. That was some crazy sauce, and the shenanigans surrounding it were quite insane, particularly Joss’ parts in it. But if you are prepared to put that aside, then it was a fun, mysterious romp that has the potential to keep you entertained throughout. Just don’t take it too seriously and I think you’ll find it an enjoyable read.

You're the Earl That I Want (The Lords of Worth, #3)

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4 star review

Review – Havoc by Ann Aguirre

Havoc

This is the second book in the series, and it was a little harder for me to rate and review than Perdition. I still really like Dred and Jael, and how they as individuals and their relationship is growing. And the politics and war on the ship were fascinating, as were the secondary characters. But it just didn’t quite give me the same kick in the gut that Perdition did, nor did it feel so intimate and involved. I think the influx of new characters in the form of the mercenary team, while likely necessary to the overall plot and goals of the individuals, changed the dynamics in a way that I was just not entirely ready for.

It is interesting, because since I read them back to back with no participation in the hype, I am not sure I had the same feelings as I would have, had I had to go through the interminable year long wait for this book and then another wait for the third book. It is all so near for me. But in essence, this really feels, for me, like it could and should have been an epic 1000+ page single book. Havoc just really felt like the middle of a single book to me. But I can understand that would have been a hard, if not impossible sell, even if that is how the author felt too.

I liked it very much, and it definitely made me impatient for the third book. So this is weird to say. It didn’t disappoint me, really, really didn’t disappoint me but I can’t rate it as high as I did the first one, since I base my rating on how likely I will be to read it. Perdition will absolutely get reread, in fact by the time this post actually goes live I will probably already have reread it. Havoc at this point will likely only get reread if I am doing a reread glomm on the series.

Yes, I am a strange reader, don’t let this review dissuade you if you are on the fence, because I highly recommend the series so far. I am just champing at the bit for the conclusion and kind of wishing I hadn’t become so impatient with waiting and had held out on reading until the weekend prior to the release of Breakout.

I am also ridiculously curious if Jael will get the opportunity to meet back up with Sirantha and Vel. I hope so, even though I doubt the series will require it.

In the end, this has pointed me to an editor I must follow, and Aguirre has the distinction of being the only author who has tempted me to look back into her YA/NA offerings. I haven’t done it, but I will admit to being tempted. And now I am just rambling because I am putting off finishing this review because then all I will be left with is how much I want that last book, dang it.

Havoc (Dred Chronicles #2)

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