3.5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Mischief by Amanda Quick

Mischief

Imogen Waterstone has always prided herself on being a thoroughly independent young woman, but now she needs a man of implacable will and nerves of iron. That’s why she invited Matthias Marshall, infamous Earl of Colchester, to her home in Upper Strickland. Who better than the legendary explorer to help her lay the perfect trap?
Her scheme is simple, really: She plans to let it be known that when she inherited her uncle’s collection of antiquities, she also inherited a map to a fabulous ancient treasure. She’s sure that her enemy would risk financial ruin in pursuit of the mythical artifact. And to make doubly sure the scoundrel took the bait, she wants Colchester to pretend that he’s out to seduce Imogene so that he, too, could get his hands on her map.

Yet in all of her plotting, Imogene never anticipates Colchester’s violent reaction to her request or her own electrifying reaction to him. Neither does she expect that a malevolent threat would emerge from the labyrinth of London–sinister enough to endanger her and Colchester’s lives.

It was bound to happen sooner or later when I am on a comfort reading binge. Amanda Quick has been a shelter in the storm for me for a long, long time. I read them new, and I read them old, and I re-read them regularly whenever life happens. So it is actually kind of surprising that it has taken me so long to get back to her this time.

This is yet another one that is available on OpenLibrary, and again, I am reading my personal copy so I can not vouch for the scan (though all the ones I have borrowed form OpenLibrary have been good), and I highly suggest you borrow the PDF version and not the EPUB, unless you like playing the OCR text recognition atrocity game.

As with many of Quick’s books, the heroine belongs firmly in the competence porn category, along with a helpful dose of naivete and fresh faced innocence. Imogen is a blue stocking who was raised by her Original parents as something of a social experiment, and in many ways it shows. She is a confusing mix of over-educated bluestocking and completely uneducated socially. But she goes full tilt to whatever she believes in. Heroines like this are why Quick is comfort reading for me. It is pleasant to be in the head of a capable woman (rather than a damsel in distress) who also still has some happiness and lightness to her, who can see the good in life despite negative circumstances.

Colchester is the stock Quick hero, technically brilliant, removed from life, dark, and recognizing rather early how much he needs the heroine in his life. Quick’s heroes are stock wish fulfillment.

So basically I have blathered on about how stock and typical and cut from the same cloth Quick’s stuff is, which is true (Duh, comfort reading), but what gives it that little edge, for me, is how charming the characters are, and all the little details that suck me into their stories.

The problems are always different, but there is nothing that comes up that can’t be solved with a little logic and some fortitude, and love is transformative in lovely little ways. Quick’s books, especially the older ones, tend to leave me with a rosy little glow. I couldn’t say there’s any one thing in this one that makes it stand out more than her other historicals, it is just that it is just enough different to not be the same one, if you see what I mean. So, I’ll just bask in my after glow and drink my tea while contemplating the next one I’ll read.

Mischief

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3.5 star review

Review – Duke of My Heart by Kelly Bowen

Duke of My Heart.jpg

Scandal can be handled…
Captain Maximus Harcourt, the unconventional tenth Duke of Alderidge, can deal with tropical storms, raging seas, and the fiercest of pirates. But he’s returned home from his latest voyage to find a naked earl – quite inconveniently deceased – tied to his missing sister’s bed. And he has only one place to turn. Now he’s at the mercy of the captivating Miss Ivory Moore of Chegarre & Associates, known throughout London for smoothing over the most dire of scandals.

Miss Moore treats the crisis as though it were no more serious than a cup of spilt tea on an expensive rug. As though this sort of thing happened on the job every day. Max has never in all his life met a woman with such nerve. Her dark eyes are too wide, her mouth is too full, her cheekbones too sharp. Yet together, she’s somehow…flawless. It’s just like his love for her, imperfect, unexpected – yet absolutely true.

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 Kelly Bowen’s other works have brought a smile to my face. They are over the top ridiculous, but a ton of fun too. And I just can’t resist a competent, take charge woman. And Miss Ivory Moore totally rocks it in the competence category.

This is pure escapism. We have a secretive agency that makes scandals go away, a dead earl, a nasty wager, and a convoluted plot-so very, very convoluted. It is delightful, so long as you can hold onto your willful suspension of disbelief. And believe you me, the willful part is necessary, this is wallpaper historical at its finest.

The plot is almost insanely entertaining, and I do hope we get Beatrice’s story eventually, but Ivory is what makes the story. She’s frightfully competent, clever, headstrong, and a damsel who doesn’t need rescuing, though she appreciates it when it happens. Max was fun and sweet, and clever too, but…how to put this, while I liked him and liked him for Ivory, he wasn’t remotely why I liked the story.

It is kind of weird, but I think I’d have enjoyed Ivory in a Chegarre and Associates mystery story with no hint of romance. It is a head scratcher. In any event, Duke of My Heart is a pleasant diversion to while away an hour or two, and I look forward to reading more from Bowen.

Duke of My Heart (A Season for Scandal Book 1)

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4 star review

Review +Giveaway – Mercury Striking by Rebecca Zanetti

VT-MercuryStriking-RZanetti_FINALMercury Striking

With nothing but rumors to lead her, Lynn Harmony has trekked across a nightmare landscape to find one man—a mysterious, damaged legend who protects the weak and leads the strong. He’s more than muscle and firepower—and in post-plague L.A., he’s her only hope. As the one woman who could cure the disease, Lynn is the single most volatile—and vulnerable—creature in this new and ruthless world. But face to face with Jax Mercury…

Danger has never looked quite so delicious…

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley and with Tasty Book Tours, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review. Additionally, there is a giveaway associated with this book blog tour, scroll down to the bottom of the review to find it.

            She fumbled in refastening her shirt. “I’ll teach you everything I know about the illness, and you provide temporary protection and one kill.” The mere idea she was contracting a murder banished the desire humming inside her and replaced the heat with a lump of cold rock.

            A veil fell over Jax’s eyes. “What makes you think we don’t know everything you do about the illness?”

            She shrugged, wondering if he knew what kind of information he might have stored away just from his ransacking labs. “The Internet went down fast, much faster than anyone would’ve thought, and the news and television thereafter. No way do you know what I know.”

            He watched her patiently, as if waiting to strike. “The Internet went down because of a guy named Spiral.”

            She blinked. Wow. So Jax Mercury had some seriously good intel. “True. He was infected with the illness and then reacted by creating a world-class computer virus. Figured if bodies died, so should technology, since it got us in this fix in the first place.” Her instincts hummed. Underestimating Mercury would be a colossal mistake. Suddenly, and for the first time in way too long, hope struggled to unfurl within her. “I still know more about the illness than you do.”

            “Probably.” He studied her for a few moments longer before cocking his head to the side. “What else?”

            She cleared her throat. “I assume you’ve scavenged the area you control?”

            His chin lifted. “So?”

            She swallowed, her body stilling. “Did you scavenge the emergency CDC outpost on the southeast side of L.A.?” Her blood pumped so fast she could feel a vein in her neck bulging.

            “Yes. Why?” he asked softly.

            The softness contained a deadly intent that rippled a shiver down her spine. Her fingers fidgeted. “They had the most recent research, and combined with mine, we might have hope.” They also had intel on where Myriad, the ultrasecret lab, might be located.

            He studied her. “We raided the CDC outpost and took all medical supplies and paper records. Our limited medical personnel went through the files looking for cures, but I have to be honest, none of them are researchers with your background.”

Lynne leaned forward. “I’m happy to go through all the information and decipher it for you.” Oh God. Maybe the risk of heading into Mercury’s territory would actually pay off . . . if she could find Myriad. “Could I look through the data?”

            He leaned back and studied her. “Sure. Are you telling me there may be a cure?”

This is the first complete book in Rebecca Zanetti’s new series The Scorpius Syndrome. The intro novella is in On the Hunt which I didn’t manage to get my hands on before reading this. However, I did read her Sin Brothers series, so I knew I liked her writing style. Plus, I am a sucker for post apocalyptic dystopians.

And this is a rather good one. A plague, plague ridden zombies (the science and the effects on this one are pretty novel and interesting) the scientist plague bringer, the rugged special forces former gang member hottie (who likes to cuddle), the government conspiracy, it all adds up to a compelling tale.

Analyzing my love with post-apocalyptic dystopians, I think part of why I enjoy it so much is that it gives a reasonable and concrete explanation for short cutting typical social mores, in a way that just irks me when it comes to contemporaries. Romances novels often take short cuts to feelings, but it feels irritating and contrived in contemporaries, whereas when the world is ending it just feels more reasonable. I don’t know, but it works for me, and Lynn and Jax are crackling together right from the start.

Jax isn’t remotely a nice man, but for the most part this works in the setting and the situation, but he isn’t a one note bad boy. And even the side characters are relatively fleshed out, enough so that the losses are a punch to the gut, and I teared up more than once. Lynn is a little more opaque to me, a little harder to figure out and empathize with, despite the fact that we spend quite a bit of time in her head. But YMMV.

The actual plot to the story was also pretty compelling. There are several stories going on tied up with one big story about finding a way for humanity to survive. There is also a ton of sequel bait, but it doesn’t detract from this story. And man I enjoyed this story. It has all my favorite catnip components. My only niggle, and it is very minor, is that there were a few places where the story lagged a bit.

It is books like this that make me hate starting a series when it is just coming out. I want to binge, but there is literally nothing but tenterhooks for me to wait on until the next book, and the next one isn’t even coming out until September. How can I wait that long? What if it doesn’t come? What if the series doesn’t continue? I’d be so pissed and despondent. But seriously, this is really good, if you like post-apocalyptic dystopians, action/adventure, and plagues and science, this is the book for you. 4 stars

Mercury Striking (The Scorpius Syndrome, #1)


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4 star review

Review – Mind Magic by Eileen Wilks

Mind Magic

FBI agent Lily Yu’s mind is a dangerous place to be in the latest Novel of the Lupi…

Thanks to the mindspeech lessons she’s receiving from the black dragon, Lily is temporarily benched from Unit Twelve—until her brain acclimates and the risk of total burnout passes. At least she has her new husband, lupi Rule Turner, to keep her occupied.

But when her mentor calls in a favor and sends Lily to a murder scene, she’s suddenly back on active status—despite the hallucinations she can’t keep at bay. With one touch, Lily knows the man was killed by magic, but her senses don’t warn her how far the conspiracy goes…

A shadowy force within the government wants to take Unit Twelve down, and they don’t mind killing to achieve their goal. With none of her usual resources, Lily is up against impossible odds–because with her mind in disarray, she can’t trust anything she sees.

I’m not entirely sure why I waited so long to read this one. Some of it was me, I hadn’t been feeling well and was rather blah, but for the rest I was unaccountably nervous about this one. I was weirdly nervous about starting the last one too, but I figured it was because it was focusing on alternate characters. This one focused on Lily and Rule, so I am not sure why I was nervous, but I am starting to think it may just be this series. It makes me nervous. Even after 12 books now, it is always something unexpected (as an aside, don’t start with this book, it would be impossible). And then I read some reviews that made me more nervous. So, I kept putting it off.

Once I did get to it, the beginning didn’t begin to make me feel any better than the blurbs or the reviews I read had. It took a couple of chapters for me to really get into it because we started out in someone else’s head and I couldn’t understand why. But then once I did, it was Whoa Nelly.

There are some seriously surprising plot twists in this story, and Lily and Rule spend an unprecedented amount of time apart. But since we get to learn so much more about both dragons and brownies, it was forgivable. And those parts were amazing. I missed many of the usual characters, but their lack was only really evident in retrospect. And the one new major character is really interesting and I hope we see more of her.

And this story was really, really good. Amazing really. But I don’t quite understand how or even if this furthers the overall story arc of the series. I’m going to have to admit that I am quite baffled at this point.  I mean, I get where some of the odder threads have been leading to now, but where we go from here is slightly baffling. And there are a few threads that are far from tied up, beyond the overall story arc. But considering how Wilks has pulled it off in the past, I’ll just have to go with it. Eileen Wilks said of the differences between her initial novella and the first book, that she “can’t step into the same stream twice”, and I think that is true, maybe in more ways than she meant at the time. Most series are strongly linear, by both time and events. Hers is oddly non-linear, in a way that I can’t quite describe. I’ve described it as a tapestry before and that seems as good a description as any.

And holy heck this went to some really dark places, even compared to the places Wilks has taken us before. It wasn’t really gratuitous, but it stung a little. Some of it was expected, but the rest was almost completely out of my frame of reference.

So, where do I stand as far as opinions? It isn’t my favorite story of the series. Yes, moments were amazing and magical and fascinating, but not all of it was. And I’m not talking about the things that hurt, because they seemed necessary. But there were some rough spots. And this isn’t going to make my re-reads for any old reasons shelf. But it was certainly better than just solid, and it is very necessary for the series as a whole I think, even if I can’t quite see how right this moment. So I am going to give it 4 stars and hope the next one comes out soon.

Mind Magic (World of the Lupi, #12)

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3 star review

January TBR Challenge 2016 – Review B Cubed by Jenna McCormick

TBR Challenge 2016Topic: We Love Short Shorts! (category romance, short stories, novella etc.)

I decided to participate in a TBR Challenge this year after lurking around them for a number of years. My actual owned TBR honestly isn’t that bad as far as numbers go, because I used to be too broke to hoard, and once I could I had mainly switched to digital, so it made sense to make my TBR as virtual as my books. Where I have gotten myself in a small bit of overload is that I then discovered ereaderIQ and I uploaded my whole wishlist to it and have been picking these books up either free or when they are under a dollar, often without considering if I even want them any more.

B CUbed

Born: Natural born humans are precious few and dwell in darkness.

Bred: Genetically engineered slaves who are the protectors of the Born.

Borg: The cybernetically enhanced enclave that split from the Born humans.

These three factions are all that remains of the human race after the world stopped turning. Scavenging in the darkness for what little is left, the war between them rages on though few know why. It begins with a child’s prophesy and can only end when they unite.

Or die.

From the moment he spies her silhouette cast by the bonfire, Cormack understands what it is to yearn for something he will never possess. Breds are made to provide for the natural born humans, dig their homes deep beneath the surface of the earth and to protect them from the ever-present cyborg threat. A Bred who reaches beyond his station will be recycled immediately, yet Cormack cannot get her visage out of his mind. Until he unearths a box, buried long before the earth stopped spinning.

Task Mistress Allora has no wish to brutalize the Bred worker she finds hoarding treasure, but as a servant of the colony that raised her from infancy, she is duty bound to report anything unusual to the Overlord, even if it costs the blue-eyed man his life. Yet something about the way Cormack watches her forces Allora to reevaluate her understanding of right and wrong. For this genetically engineered soldier is her only protection against the cyborgs who seek what they have discovered, a journal written by the prophetess Cassandra and a way to end the warring between the factions forever.

This month’s theme is “We Love Short Shorts”, which I actually kind of don’t. I usually only pick them up as part of an established series I am reading and I read them immediately, so there wasn’t a lot on my TBR that fit except for serials I picked up because they were free and by favored authors (but then I never read them because I looked at how much they cost over the whole span of the serial and I gave up). So this is as close as I could come. It is 106 pages, it has been on my TBR for a  number of years, and I actually bought it 02/12/2015 when it hit the low price of free. I think as much as anything I haven’t read it because I was toying with not starting the series until I had picked up the whole trilogy, but I still don’t have the third one. The rest of it is that it just fell off my radar. No time like the present though.

So I think this went on my TBR when I was having a major love affair cyborgs. Plus it is post-apocalyptic dystopian, which we all know I can’t pass up. I wish I could remember how I came across this book, but I have only recently been tracking in any sort of way why I added something to my list, and frankly I am still pretty horrible about it.

Anyway, about this particular book. It began with a prophesy before the world as we know it. Poor Cassandra, always born knowing the future but cursed that none should believe her. Or at least most. Unfortunately it is the ones who did that spawned the wars and horrors. There is very much a chicken and egg situation here. Did the things come about because that was what was always going to happen? Or did they come about because they knew and believed the prophesy and sought to twist it to their own ends? Having read the book, I still don’t really know because we just don’t have enough information.

This book is just super short, and really I think that is a shame, because the bones were there for something rather epic. But short as it is, as much as I liked it, it still left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied. I just wanted more. Now, there are more stories in the series, but it appears they don’t focus on these two characters to further the overall plot.

As for the two main characters, Cormack and Allora are two very interesting characters with histories and futures shrouded in mystery. There are also some slightly uncomfortable power dynamics from start to finish. It is often unsettling, I mean he is a slave and she is an overseer with the power of life and death over him. You get just the barest of sketches of who they are as people, but it is just enough to make them just real enough to actually care.

The BAM! Plot twists and the story is basically over. Seriously, the book is so much shorter than I wish it were, but I’ll definitely be pulling the next book out of my stack. I can’t wait to find out what else Cassandra has up her sleeve.

 

Born (B Cubed, #1)

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Thoughts and Opinions

Comfort Reading, what’s yours?

I haven’t been posting much, because I haven’t been reading as much. Add to that the crazy sauce that is current politics and the yee-hawdists out in Oregon, and my limited attention span has been divided. And even what I have been reading hasn’t been new stuff. I have been sick, and then getting better from being sick, and dragging myself through days where even bathing seems a horrible exhausting experience. So naturally, I have been re-reading. I think I think the first sign I was in a re-reading rut was when I picked up the Harry potter series at the end of December. Here’s what I have read or re-read since the end of December:

And if this blah feeling remains I will probably go back to old school Amanda Quick or Julie Garwood, because those are very much comfort reads for me and are usually what I go to. Though I may be leaning to pick some Ilona Andrews up instead. I wonder what it says about me that this time I’ve gone for fantasy.

So what do you guys read or re-read for comfort? Or do you switch to something besides reading?

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4.5 star review

Review – Dark Deeds by Michelle Diener

Dark Deeds

Holy heck, how did I miss that this one was coming out? How on earth did I miss it getting posted to Goodreads and Netgalley? Why doesn’t Netgalley let us flag authors for alerts? I guess this one is as much of a surprise for the year as last year’s book Dark Horse, which I adored. I mean seriously adored, I’ve since read it probably a dozen times, and I am going to read it after finishing Dark Deeds. It is on sale for $0.99 for a limited time, so I implore you to pick it up, read it, and love it! Even Nalini Singh loved it. And it will likely remain on my compulsive rereads shelf for a good long while. I was in fact so excited for this book, that even though I was offered an ARC, I went ahead and bought it because I simply could not wait for the Netgalley widget.

Far from home . . .

Fiona Russell has been snatched from Earth, imprisoned and used as slave labor, but nothing about her abduction makes sense. When she’s rescued by the Grih, she realizes there’s a much bigger game in play than she could ever have imagined, and she’s right in the middle of it.

Far from safe . . .

Battleship captain Hal Vakeri is chasing down pirates when he stumbles across a woman abducted from Earth. She’s the second one the Grih have found in two months, and her presence is potentially explosive in the Grih’s ongoing negotiations with their enemies, the Tecran. The Tecran and the Grih are on the cusp of war, and Fiona might just tip the balance.

Far from done . . .

Fiona has had to bide her time while she’s been a prisoner, pretending to be less than she is, but when the chance comes for her to forge her own destiny in this new world, she grabs it with both hands. After all, actions speak louder than words.

I was nervous to start it though, as I almost always am when reading the sequel to a beloved book. Would it not live up to my expectations. Would it just be a boring clone? Would it go in a direction I didn’t enjoy? Man oh man, did this one surprise me though, but in the best way possible. Rose and Fiona are categorically different people, and their situations are also wildly different.

I don’t know what to say. Fiona is just a spitfire, and her role and relationship with the Grih is distinctly more adversarial than Rose’s. Things are really heating up with the United Council and absolutely no one is happy about it, and while the end of Dark Horse parlayed into significant gains for Rose, Sazo, and Dav, it set the stage for discontent toward other Earthlings. Completely unintended consequences, but that is truly the theme in this series.

Honestly I am just fascinated by the world and cultures Diener is creating, and how she is weaving the idea of sentience into artificial intelligence in a really relateable way. While I would describe Dark Horse as not quite a romance, I would say this isn’t a romance at all. There IS a romantic thread but the story isn’t even about their relationship (the relationship works, and works well though), really this focuses on war, society/culture, science fiction, and a stranger in a strange land. It is also much more action/adventure oriented, but that seems appropriate both due to the fact that we already have a solid hold on this world, and because of the different situations our two main characters found themselves in, as well as the general course of events and the effects these events are having on their society. As I said, despite their similarities, Rose and Fiona are two very different people, and their stories are different as well.

So what can I say? I adored this book. I could hardly put it down, in fact I was reading this while some technicians were finishing some work after my work day had ended, and I could hardly make myself put it down long enough to drive the 5 minutes to my house. It is that good. But if I have to be honest, and I always try to be, I prefer Dark Horse by just a tiny little smidge. I don’t think it is even possible for a sequel to hit with the groundbreaking intensity of Dark Horse, because part of that was how unexpected it was. So this is getting 4.5 stars from me, but I couldn’t be more thrilled with it as a sequel (even though it went in a completely unexpected direction), and when we get the next story I will be first in line to buy it. In fact, if I am not completely oblivious like I was this time I might just take a day off work to read it. This series is THAT good.

Dark Deeds (Class 5, #2)

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