Thursday, February 28, 2019

ARC Review: The Pioneer by Bridget Tyler

The Pioneer
Author: Bridget Tyler
Publication: HarperTeen (March 5, 2019)

Description: Packed with action and unexpected twists, this addictive page-turner is perfect for fans of Illuminae and Defy the Stars!

When Jo steps onto planet Tau Ceti e for the first time, she’s ready to put the past behind her and begin again. After all, as a pioneer, she has the job of helping build a new home away from Earth.

But underneath the idyllic surface of their new home, there’s something very wrong. And when Jo accidentally uncovers a devastating secret that could destroy everything they’ve worked for, suddenly the future doesn’t seem so bright.

With the fate of the pioneers in her hands, Jo must decide how far she’s willing to go to expose the truth—before the truth destroys them all.

My Thoughts: This excellent space adventure introduces readers to Joanna Watson. Jo has been training to be a pioneer for all of her life. Her parents are involved in the program to resettle on a newly discovered planet as are her sister and brother. Jo is a cadet pilot when the story begins. Of course the story also begins with a near tragedy on their spaceship which results in the death of her brother Teddy and enough damage to Jo's heart and lungs that she can never be a pilot again.

Jo has to readjust her plans when she can no longer do the job she has trained for. She is still excited about the beauty of their new home on Tau Ceti e. She's fascinated with the flora and fauna. But things are not as Jo believed them to be. According to their charter, they are not supposed to settle on a planet that already has sentient life.

When Jo goes off exploring with her sister Beth, young Marine Jay Lim, and Chris, she doesn't expect to find the remainders of the first group to explore the planet. She believed, and was told, that they were off exploring further after okaying the planet for settlement.

Finding a flex (wrist computer) left by the first explorers, Jo is determined to explore it to find out what happened to them. Following the clues lead to a clearing with three graves, leaving questions only about what happened to Dr. Lucille Brown. While at the gravesite, they are attacked by heavily camouflaged predators and rescued by another group of aliens.

Dr. Brown was also rescued by the same group and has sworn allegiance to the leader of these underground dwellers who use sound and echolocation to navigate their dark underground world. The leader Ord has a plan. Dr. Brown knows that Jo's sister Beth has developed a genetically tailored bacteria to make the planet more ready for earth-based plants. What none of the new arrivals knows is that the Stage Three bacteria will kill the phytoraptors who are the enemy of Ord and his people. Of course, then it will likely go on and kill the trees Ord's people depend on but Ord won't see that part.

Jo has to prevent the Stage Three bacteria from getting into Ord's hands, save the phytoraptors, and save her fellow pioneers. She doesn't know why her mother agreed to carry on with the settlement when she must have known about the intelligent life already on the planet. There's a reason that changes everything.

This was exciting and filled with action. It even has a little romance. It also has a lot of growing up for Jo and her friends. I enjoyed it very much.

Favorite Quote:
"Walk in the present, Joey. That's the only way we get to see the future."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Book Review: A Willing Murder by Jude Deveraux

A Willing Murder
Author: Jude Deveraux
Series: A Medlar Mystery
Publication: MIRA; Original edition (September 18, 2018)

Description: New York Times bestselling romance author Jude Deveraux makes her debut in the world of mystery with a story of old secrets, deadly grudges and an improbable group of friends who are determined to uncover the truth regardless of the consequences…

Sara Medlar is a household name in romance, with millions of books sold. But lately, retirement has been boring her and she’s found herself back in her hometown of Lachlan, Florida, remodeling the grand old mansion she’d admired as a child. It’s much too big for her alone, but she’d die before letting anyone in town know that.

Then Sara’s niece Kate is offered a job in Lachlan—a start in what could be a very successful career in real estate. She accepts immediately, but with so little saved up, she’ll have to approach her estranged yet incredibly famous aunt for a place to stay while she gets herself settled. But when she arrives at Sara’s home, she finds she’s not the only long-term houseguest. Jackson Wyatt already has his own room, and though it’s impossible to deny his good looks and charm—he’s clearly got her aunt wrapped around his finger—she’s also never met anyone who irritates her quite like Jack does.

However, when two skeletons are accidentally uncovered in the quiet town, this unlikely trio is suddenly thrust together by a common goal: to solve a mystery everyone else seems eager to keep under wraps. United by a sense of justice and the desire to right old wrongs, Sara, Kate and Jack will have to dig into Lachlan’s murky past to unravel the small town’s dark secrets and work to bring the awful truth to light.

My Thoughts: Kate Medlar is a real estate agent who learns that her aunt is famous author Sara Medlar. Wishing to get away from her three domineering uncles and her dependent mother, she accepts a job in Lachlan, Florida where her Aunt Sara has retired. Her mother does all she can to prejudice Kate against her aunt, but Kate is eager to see for herself. She also hopes to find out about the father her mother never talks about from his sister Sara.

When Kate arrives, she finds a pleasant and welcoming aunt who has a house guest. Jackson Wyatt is the contractor who remodeled Sara's home and is a sort of adopted grandson, the grandson of Sara's first love. Jack is in a cast from a recent accident that killed his younger brother and left him with a broken leg.

Unknown to the town's residents, Sara is Jack's silent partner in his remodeling business. The two of them take Kate to a recent purchase of Jack's to get her opinion as a realtor. It is an important house in Jack's memory since it was the home of his childhood crush Cheryl Morris. His eleven-year-old heart was broken when the sixteen-year-old and her mother disappeared on her birthday.

They arrive to find that weather has taken down a tree near the house and tangled in its roots are the skeletons of Cheryl and her mother Verna. Since the police aren't interested in the old crime, believing that Jack's biological father was likely the killer, Sara, Kate and Jack put on their detective clothes and decide to solve the case themselves. Unfortunately, someone doesn't want the case solved and soon there more deaths surrounding their investigation.

I enjoyed this story even though I had a pretty good idea of who the murder was rather early in the book. I liked the relationship between Sara and Kate. I also loved the relationship between Jack and Kate. Their bickering was amusing. I can't quite decide if there is a romance in their future or not and am eager to read more in the series to find out.

Favorite Quote:
"Everybody has problems, Jack. It's just what you do with them that makes the difference."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

YA Book Review: The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

The Vanishing Stair
Author: Maureen Johnson
Series: Truly Devious Book 2
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (January 22, 2019)

Description: In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel in the Truly Devious series, there are more twists and turns than Stevie Bell can imagine. No answer is given freely, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.

The Truly Devious case—an unsolved kidnapping and triple murder that rocked Ellingham Academy in 1936—has consumed Stevie for years. It’s the very reason she came to the academy. But then her classmate was murdered, and her parents quickly pull her out of school. For her safety, they sayShe must move past this obsession with crime.

Stevie’s willing to do anything to get back to Ellingham, be back with her friends, and solve the Truly Devious case. Even if it means making a deal with the despicable Senator Edward King. And when Stevie finally returns, she also returns to David: the guy she kissed, and the guy who lied about his identity—Edward King’s son.

But larger issues are at play. Where did the murderer hide? What’s the meaning of the riddle Albert Ellingham left behind? And what, exactly, is at stake in the Truly Devious affair? The Ellingham case isn’t just a piece of history—it’s a live wire into the present.

My Thoughts: This is the middle part of the Truly Devious trilogy. It answers some questions and raises quite a few more.

When the story begins Stevie is back home in Pittsburgh and willing to do anything to get back to Ellingham. She misses her freedom and her friends and, most of all, the chance to solve the Truly Devious case. But being willing to do anything means that she will have to take a favor from Senator Edward King, a man she despises and a man who is her new friend David's father.

She agrees to keep an eye on David who is an accident ready to happen and to not tell him that her return had anything to do with his father. She comes back to a campus dealing with the loss of one student and the disappearance of another. Both of them were also residents of Minerva along with Stevie, David, Nate who gained fame for writing a book as a teenager and who is struggling with writing a second book, and Janelle who is a mechanical genius.

Things seem to be working in Stevie's favor when she is hired as a research assistant to Dr. Fenton who is working on a new book about the Ellingham kidnapping case. But Fenton, as she prefers to be called, is a confusing character - alcoholic and paranoid - who claims to have new information that will help solve the case.

The story also has flashbacks to 1936 when the kidnapping happened which introduce us to Francis Josephine Crane and Edward Pierce Davenport. Frankie and Eddie want to be like Bonnie and Clyde. Frankie has a fascination with explosives and crime and Eddie is a bad poet. We learn their role in the kidnapping.

We also see in flashbacks more about Mr. Ellingham and a codicil to his will that was hidden by his secretary after his death. Fenton seems to have found about about the codicil and that information aids Stevie's investigation.

This was a wonderfully plotted and twisty story with a mystery in the past and mysteries in the present too. I loved Stevie who deals with anxiety and has a dogged determination to solve the Ellingham case. I can't wait for the next book. I have so many questions!

Favorite Quote:
In life, the murderer is anyone. The reasons, the methods, the circumstances - the paths to becoming a murderer are as numerous as the stars. Understanding this is the first step to finding a murderer. You have to shut down the voices in your mind that say, "It has to be this person." Murderers aren't a type. They're anyone.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, February 25, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Feb. 25, 2019)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I will be combining my YA and adult reading and purchases on this one weekly roundup.

Other Than Reading...

Snow returned this week. This is Saturday noon and I haven't heard yet whether we broke the February record. It snowed on Wednesday which brought to half an inch below the record. It snowed again last night but I haven't heard an amount yet. It is also supposed to snow again tonight.
I did get to Curves on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday this week. Otherwise, I've been hanging out at home reading. Later this afternoon I'll be able to watch my first Spring Training baseball games. Baseball on TV is what I do from now until the World Series is over in October. 

A local church sold pasties this week. That's what we are eating today before my brother goes off to work at 4:30 today. He's hoping the new snow doesn't start until he gets home. I'm hoping that the new snow stays well south of us since it is supposed to be a rather nasty storm with lots of snow and strong winds. We are still predicted to get the winds. Even with no new snow, the loose snow can blow around and make some pretty spectacular drifts. 

Read Last Week

If you can't wait until the review shows up on my blog, reviews are posted to LibraryThing and Goodreads as soon as I write them (usually right after I finish reading a book.)
  • Sherwood by Meagan Spooner (YA Review; March 19) - Entertaining retelling of Robin Hood with a female Robin. My review will be posted on March 12)
  • The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst (Review; March 19) - The author returns to her fantasy world of Renthia with the entertaining story. My review will be posted on March 13.
  • Secrets Never Die by Melinda Leigh (Review; March 19) - The fifth Morgan Dane was an excellent romantic suspense story. My review will be posted on March 14.
  • Geekerella by Ashley Poston (mine) - A retelling of Cinderella with strong ties to fandom and surprising depth. My review will be posted on March 16.
  • Killing November by Adriana Mather (YA Review; March 26) - A boarding school mystery with a secret society, danger, and a mystery. My review will be posted on March 20.
  • An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber (Review; April 2) - The latest Lady Darby mystery is filled with great period detail and an engaging mystery. My review will be posted on March 27.
  • Legacy (The Sharing Knife) by Lois McMaster Bujold (mine) - I decided to reread and finally review The Sharing Knife Quartet after reading a new novella that shares the world. My review will be posted on April 9.
  • Beguilement (The Sharing Knife) by Lois McMaster Bujold (mine) - My review will be posted on March 21.
DNF
  • Smoke & Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg (Mine) - I read 27% of this one before setting it aside to read the Bujold books. I do plan to get back to it one day.
  • Winter War Awakening by Rosalyn Eves (YA Review; March 19) - I abandoned this one early when I realized that I was completely lost. This is the third book in a trilogy and, though I have read, I don't remember the previous books well enough to read this one.
Currently
Next Week
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?
What was your week like?

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Book Review: The Harwood Spellbook Stories by Stephanie Burgis

Spellswept
Stephanie Burgis
Five Fathoms Press (October 30, 2018)
90 pages

Description: In the world of the Harwood Spellbook, 19th-century Angland is ruled by a powerful group of women known as the Boudiccate - but in order to become a member of that elite group, any ambitious young politician must satisfy tradition by taking a gentleman mage for her husband.

Amy Standish is a born politician...but Jonathan Harwood is her greatest temptation. On the night of the Harwoods' Spring Solstice Ball, in an underwater ballroom full of sparkling fey lights and danger, Amy will have to fight the greatest political battle of her life to win a family and a future that she could never have imagined.

It will take an entirely unexpected kind of magic to keep everything from crashing down around her.

My Thoughts: Amy Standish is a well-to-do orphan who has been passed around her family like some unwanted parcel. She's never been neglected but no one has ever loved her either. Now she has a change to further her political ambitions as the secretary to Miranda Harwood who is one of the most respected members of the Boudiccate.

Her path is clear. Learn everything she can from her mentor, make the contacts she needs to further her political career, and find a magician to marry. But Miranda's son Jonathan is a possible roadblock on her path to success. He has stubbornly refused to follow the path set by generations of Harwood men before him. He refused to study magic and is instead a notable historian.

Now that the time has come for the annual Harwood ball in the underwater ballroom created by Miranda's late magician husband. Amy has planned every detail including her proposal to Lord Llewellyn, a promising young magician. But before that can happen, she has to deal with a possible failure of the spell that created the ballroom and the political upheaval of discovering that Miranda's thirteen-year-old daughter Cassandra is the one who has inherited the family's magic.

This is a story about love and the things one must be willing to do for it, magic, and politics. It was witty and exciting and romantic. In 90 pages, Burgis manages to create an alternate England with gender role reversals and magic. It was engaging and fascinating.

Snowspelled
Stephanie Burgis
Five Fathoms Press (September 4, 2017)
168 pages

Description: Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life.

Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fianc√©, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good.

But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks...and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago.

To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness.

A witty and sparkling romantic fantasy novella that opens a brand-new series for adults from the author of Kat, Incorrigible, Masks and Shadows and Congress of Secrets

My Thoughts: Cassandra isn't at all eager to attend the Winter Solstice party hosted by Lady Cosgrave. Since she behaved recklessly and almost died, she can no longer do even the simplest spell. The loss of her magic caused her to break her engagement to Wrexham and is leaving her at a loss about what she will do for the rest of her life.

She arrives at Lady Cosgrave's estate in the middle of a raging snowstorm only to find out that a small group of other guests have gotten lost in the snow. She is one of the people who are tasked to go out to see if she can find them.

While searching, she runs afoul with an arrogant, anti-human elf lord. Lord Ihlmere tricks Cassandra into making a promise to find out who is causing the magical storm which is hurting the elves' pets and ruing their hunt. She has a sennight to find the answer or become the object of the next hunt.

Just when she is rebuilding her relationship with Wrexham, her life might be coming to an end. Of course he agrees to help her and together they interview the extremely quirky weather mages in attendance at the party. But none of them have the capability to do such a complex spell.

It isn't until she finally confides in her politician sister-in-law and her historian brother that she finds an answer to her question. She also finds a new course for her life.

I love the relationships in this story. I like the gender reversals with Wrexham in danger of being compromised by Cassandra and women running politics because men are too emotional. I liked the world building in the story which includes an interesting social order, interesting magic, and treaties with elves.

Thornbound
Stephanie Burgis
Five Fathoms Press (February 25, 2019)
186 pages

Description: Cassandra Harwood scandalized her nation when she became the first woman magician in Angland. Now, she's ready to teach a whole new generation of bright young women at her radical new school, the Thornfell College of Magic…

Until a sinister fey altar is discovered in the school library, the ruling Boudiccate sends a delegation to shut down Thornfell, and Cassandra’s own husband is torn away from her.

As malevolent vines slither in from the forest and ruthless politicians scheme against her, Cassandra must fight the greatest battle of her life to save her love, her school, and the future of the young women of Angland.

My Thoughts: Things don't go easily when Cassandra Harwood tries to set up a school for magically inclined young women. The Boudiccate has very reluctantly given permission for the school but has sent a investigative team including Cassandra's greatest enemy to give final approval.

That is only one of the problems though. Cassandra has been plagued with nightmares of thorn strewn vines entangling and strangling her, her husband has been kept so busy by the Boudiccate that they haven't been able to spend any time together since their marriage, and someone has created an altar and made a bargain with the fae in her library. Oh, and the only wizard she could convince to take a role as a teacher in her school is an arrogant blowhard who couldn't find a job anywhere else.

Cassandra does have the support of her brother Jonathan and his wife Amy but fears that her goal of starting a magic school for young women has wide consequences for their future. Amy has already lost her political career. Cassandra's afraid that her goal will ruin her husband's bright future too. And when he goes missing, Cassandra learns that she doesn't have to do everything herself. It is okay to rely on her family and her young students for help.

This was an entertaining and quite emotional story about love, family, and ambition. I loved a further look into this alternate history world and look forward to more stories set there.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Book Review: Connections in Death by J. D. Robb

Connections in Death
Author: J. D. Robb
Series: In Death (Book 48)
Publication: St. Martin's Press (February 5, 2019)

Description: In this gritty and gripping new novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, Eve Dallas fights to save the innocent―and serve justice to the guilty―on the streets of New York.

Homicide cop Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband, Roarke, are building a brand-new school and youth shelter. They know that the hard life can lead kids toward dangerous crossroads―and with this new project, they hope to nudge a few more of them onto the right path. For expert help, they hire child psychologist Dr. Rochelle Pickering―whose own brother pulled himself out of a spiral of addiction and crime with Rochelle’s support.

Lyle is living with Rochelle while he gets his life together, and he’s thrilled to hear about his sister’s new job offer. But within hours, triumph is followed by tragedy. Returning from a celebratory dinner with her boyfriend, she finds Lyle dead with a syringe in his lap, and Eve’s investigation confirms that this wasn’t just another OD. After all his work to get clean, Lyle’s been pumped full of poison―and a neighbor with a peephole reports seeing a scruffy, pink-haired girl fleeing the scene.

Now Eve and Roarke must venture into the gang territory where Lyle used to run, and the ugly underground world of tattoo parlors and strip joints where everyone has taken a wrong turn somewhere. They both believe in giving people a second chance. Maybe even a third or fourth. But as far as they’re concerned, whoever gave the order on Lyle Pickering’s murder has run out of chances…

My Thoughts: The story begins with Eve and Roarke going to a fancy cocktail party at Nadine's new home. It is interesting to see Eve realizing how many people are now a part of her life. And it is rather dismaying for Eve too.

Eve meets Rochelle Pickering. She's a child psychologist who is dating Crack who is one of Eve's friends from even before she met Roarke. Roarke is planning to hire her to be the head therapist an An Didean - a residential project to help young girls. Naturally being Eve, she takes an opportunity to check her out for any criminal past.

The next thing she knows, Crack is calling her because they have found Rochelle's younger brother dead of an apparent overdose when they return home. Rochelle doesn't believe that Lyle killed himself. He did have a troubled past with gang involvement and drug use but prison and rehabilitation worked for him. He's clean, he's working, he's happy and rebuilding trust with his family.

It doesn't take more than a brief look for Eve to realize that Lyle was murdered instead of falling off the wagon and overdosing. Her investigation takes her deep into the Bangers - Lyle's former gang - where she uncovers much more than the usual gang violence. There is dissension in the ranks, a corrupt disbarred lawyer, and plots and betrayals. There are also a whole bunch of stupid members of the gang.

While the case is pretty easily solved and lots of gang members are taken off the street, Eve is generally sad. She begins to think that the system that is her moral center has failed. It takes Roarke's support and his own explanation for why he helps her solve her cases before Eve regains her balance.

This was filled with the usual snarky banter between Eve and Peabody. It also explores more of Eve's unique viewpoint regarding social things and her usual mangling of idioms. Her relationship with Roarke and her friends remains strong and gives her emotional support as she does a difficult job.

The series continues to be strong even in this 48th episode.

Favorite Quote:
"We should do a girls' night," Peabody said. "Go to a club and -- no, a piano bar! Classy. We could all have fancy drinks, and --"

"Consider this conversation the closest you'll ever get me to a piano bar with a bunch of women drunk on fancy drinks. Who's on the mother?"
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Friday Memes: Connections in Death by J. D. Robb

Happy Friday everybody!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City ReaderThe Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Beginning:
The legalized torture of socializing lined right up with premeditated murder when you added the requirement of fancy shoes.

That was Lieutenant Eve Dallas's stand on it, and she should know. She was a murder cop in fancy shoes about to socialize.
Friday 56:
She let out a puff of air. "If I'd known there was trouble for him, I'd've called the police. The man I had the bad sense to hook up with when I was younger than that boy in there had some run-ins with the police, and they weren't much good to me back then, either. But I'd have called you in to help Lyle and his sister."
This week I am spotlighting the latest in the In Death series by J. D. Robb - Connections in Death. Here is the description from Amazon:
In this gritty and gripping new novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, Eve Dallas fights to save the innocent―and serve justice to the guilty―on the streets of New York.

Homicide cop Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband, Roarke, are building a brand-new school and youth shelter. They know that the hard life can lead kids toward dangerous crossroads―and with this new project, they hope to nudge a few more of them onto the right path. For expert help, they hire child psychologist Dr. Rochelle Pickering―whose own brother pulled himself out of a spiral of addiction and crime with Rochelle’s support.

Lyle is living with Rochelle while he gets his life together, and he’s thrilled to hear about his sister’s new job offer. But within hours, triumph is followed by tragedy. Returning from a celebratory dinner with her boyfriend, she finds Lyle dead with a syringe in his lap, and Eve’s investigation confirms that this wasn’t just another OD. After all his work to get clean, Lyle’s been pumped full of poison―and a neighbor with a peephole reports seeing a scruffy, pink-haired girl fleeing the scene.

Now Eve and Roarke must venture into the gang territory where Lyle used to run, and the ugly underground world of tattoo parlors and strip joints where everyone has taken a wrong turn somewhere. They both believe in giving people a second chance. Maybe even a third or fourth. But as far as they’re concerned, whoever gave the order on Lyle Pickering’s murder has run out of chances…

Thursday, February 21, 2019

YA ARC Review: We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

We Set the Dark on Fire
Author: Tehlor Kay Mejia
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (February 26, 2019)

Description: In this daring and romantic fantasy debut perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Latinx authors Zoraida C√≥rdova and Anna-Marie McLemore, society wife-in-training Dani has a great awakening after being recruited by rebel spies and falling for her biggest rival. 

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children. Both paths promise a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.

Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society.

And school couldn’t prepare her for the difficult choices she must make after graduation, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio.

Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or will she give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

My Thoughts: This fantasy sets up a very different world. It has an island society with a sharp division between the rich and the poor. Based on an ancient religious myth, high society gentlemen take two wives. The young women are trained in exclusive schools to be either Primera - the wife who is her husband's advisor and the social face of the marriage - or the Segunda - the wife is centered around the home and children. Both sets are trained in the same school.

Daniela Vargas is the school's top student in the Primera track. But Dani is keeping a major secret, her whole life is a lie. Her parents snuck into the correct part of the island and Dani is at school under forged identity papers. On the verge of graduation and marriage, Dani is approached by a young man who introduces himself as Sota and who knows way too much about Dani's hidden past. He blackmails her into working for the Resistance which creates difficulty for Dani. She has been following the plan to marry into power in order to provide a better life for her family and to achieve the life her parents want for her - despite not wanting the life for herself.

Making her life even more complicated is that the Segunda chosen for their marriage is a long-time rival of hers from school. Carmen as bullied and belittled her for almost their whole school career though they did begin as friends.

Dani finds herself in a marriage to a man she doesn't like who also isn't following the rules about these sort of marriages. She is supposed to be his adviser and partner but he is treating her as a not very bright minion. And Carmen is behaving strangely too. All of sudden not only does she want to be Dani's friend but she is encouraging romantic relationship between the two of them. Dani falls in love with Carmen despite not knowing whether or not she can be trusted.

This story is filled with twists and turns and people with secrets and their own hidden agendas. Dani has a terrible time trying to decide what to do and who, if anyone, she can trust.

The world building was engaging and Dani was a character that I was engaged with. I kept hoping that things would go well for her. This is apparently the beginning of a series because the ending lacks resolution to many of the plot threads. I'll be looking forward to more to find out how things work out for Dani.

Favorite Quote:
It took Dani a moment to turn to stone this time. A hundred shades of girl, he'd called her, and though she hadn't appreciated the delivery, he'd been right. Dani slid into her lies like second skins. It was part of survival. She had no doubt she could do what he was asking her to do. The only question was, what would she be setting in motion if she did?
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

ARC Review: My Favorite Cowboy by Donna Grant

My Favorite Cowboy
Author: Donna Grant
Series: Heart of Texas, Book 3
Publication: St. Martin's Paperbacks (February 26, 2019)

Description: New York Times bestselling author Donna Grant rounds up the hottest cowboys in Texas in her latest novel of no-holds-barred passion.

Audrey Martinez is a veterinarian who has devoted her whole life to the care and protection of horses—even if doing so leaves her little time for meeting a man. Who would have thought that a strange case of criminal horseplay would lead her to falling deeply, wildly in love? If only the man who makes her heart race faster than a wild mustang would let his guard down, that is. . .

Caleb Harper is no ordinary cowboy. Sure, he wears his hat, boots, and jeans like a second skin, and displays an easygoing charm that comes from years of working on the ranch. But with his military background, and Army buddies at his side, he is tried-and-true Texas tough. Audrey knows she can trust a man like Caleb to help her save horses. But can Caleb trust himself to resist his attraction to Audrey—or will the sparks of their desire end up getting them burned?

My Thoughts: This romantic suspense title was filled with melodrama and insta-love.

Audrey Martinez is an equine veterinarian who is called to a friend's auction yard when some of his horses are sick. Audrey loves horses and has a reputation as an excellent vet, but their illness baffles her. Audrey has been focused on her career especially since the death of her mother and her father's decision to leave the family. It is just Audrey and her younger sister Maddy now.

Caleb Harper is a local ranch owner who has made a name for himself as a horse trainer since he left the Army and came back to begin his ranch with his brother Brice. He was raised by his sister Abby after his mother deserted the family when Caleb was six and Abby had just graduated from high school. Times were hard for them until Abby fell in love with rich rancher Clayton who helped her raise her brothers.

Both Audrey and Caleb are relationship-shy. Caleb's sense of abandonment shows in his history of having one-night stands and not having any relationship last more than a day or two. Audrey has also had a series of short-term relationships. Maddy says that it is because she is looking for Prince Charming and no real man can measure up to her ideal man.

But Caleb takes one look at Audrey when he comes to the auction barn and is fascinated. When Audrey is attacked and has her office ransacked, Caleb and his whole family take her and her sister under their wings and offers their protection.

While trying to solve the mystery of who is poisoning the horses and why, Caleb and Audrey fall in love. Naturally, given their histories, there are bumps in the road.

This was a nice romance albeit a little melodramatic. It is also third in a series but stands alone quite well.

Favorite Quote:
She didn't know why they hadn't killed Maddy, but she was thankful for that at least. But the attackers had done enough damage to her sister. It wasn't just Maddy's face and body that were bruised, it was her spirit, as well. Her bright, shining soul was dimmed, and Audrey feared that it might never glow again.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Book Review: Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

Foxglove Summer
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Series: PC Peter Grant, Book 5
Publication: DAW; Reprint edition (January 6, 2015)

Description: When two young girls go missing in rural Herefordshire, police constable and wizard-in-training Peter Grant is sent out of London to check that nothing supernatural is involved.

It’s purely routine—Nightingale, Peter’s superior, thinks he’ll be done in less than a day. But Peter’s never been one to walk away from someone in trouble, so when nothing overtly magical turns up he volunteers his services to the local police, who need all the help they can get.

But because the universe likes a joke as much as the next sadistic megalomaniac, Peter soon comes to realize that dark secrets underlie the picturesque fields and villages of the countryside and there might just be work for Britain’s most junior wizard after all.

Soon Peter’s in a vicious race against time, in a world where the boundaries between reality and fairy have never been less clear....

My Thoughts: Two young girls go missing in rural Herefordshire and PC Peter Grant is sent from London to check that there is nothing supernatural going on. Also, his superior Thomas Nightingale wants to take Peter's mind off the Lesley's going over to the dark side. At first, it looks like a horrifying but not magical crime until the girls' cellphones are discovered trashed in a way that indicates magic was used around them.

Between meeting one of Nightingale's old colleagues and having the chance to find out more about his mysterious boss's past and one of the missing girls' invisible friend, Peter has a lot to investigate. While Nightingale remains in London to make sure that Lesley isn't planning to plunder the Folly, he does send Beverly Brook to assist. She is a river goddess and Peter's new girlfriend and has an in with a group Peter doesn't.

Throw in changelings and encounters with the Fair Folk and you have an action-packed supernatural adventure filled with Peter's usual snark. Fans of the series will enjoy this latest episode in an engaging urban fantasy/police procedural series.

Favorite Quote:
We were pretty certain we knew roughly where he'd been, but members of the public have an unnerving tendency to switch straight from lying to your face to telling you what they think you want to hear - with no intervening period of veracity at all. That's fine when you're looking for them to put their hand up to some crimes and boost your clear-up statistics. But when the lives of two kids depends on the accuracy of the statement, you tend to be a bit more thorough.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, February 18, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Feb. 18, 2019)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I will be combining my YA and adult reading and purchases on this one weekly roundup.

Other Than Reading...

It snowed last Sunday, last Monday, and last Tuesday which kept me at home. The sun came out on Wednesday and I managed to get to Curves four days in a row. It snowed again Thursday afternoon but didn't begin until I was home from my exercise session.

My brother and I went out to dinner on Thursday to a place that has been around for years and years but had sort of slipped our memory. Bridgeman's is a local ice cream parlor but also sells food. We both had burgers and fries and one of Bridgeman's famous malted milks. He had strawberry and I had chocolate banana. I brought more than half of my malt home and stored it in the freezer for another day. Maybe today's the day! We decided that we had to come back again soon. They had so many interesting things on the menu.

I'm counting down the days until the beginning of baseball's Spring Training. I think the first game will be on TV next weekend. The Voice is set to begin a new season next week too. I'm also excited about that.

After another DNF on my review stack this week, I was wishing that a person could read a brief sample of a book before selecting it for review. It wouldn't have taken much from the one I DNFed to know that I wasn't going to get along with the style.

Read Last Week

If you can't wait until the review shows up on my blog, reviews are posted to LibraryThing and Goodreads as soon as I write them (usually right after I finish reading a book.)

  • Cast in Oblivion by Michelle Sagara (Mine) - 14th in the Chronicles of Elantra. My review will be posted on March 2.
  • Trouble on the Books by Essie Lang (Review) - So-so cozy mystery. Lots of inconsistencies in plot and characterization. My review will be posted on March 3.
  • The True Queen by Zen Cho (Review) - Historical fantasy with engaging plot and characters. My review will be posted on March 5.


  • Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittney (Review) - Historical mystery set in 1915 which begins a new series. My review will be posted on March 9.
  • Navigating the Stars by Maria V. Snyder (Mine) - Classic space opera with aliens and romance. My review will be posted on March 7.
  • Murder from Scratch by Leslie Karst (Review) - Entertaining cozy culinary mystery. My review will be posted on March 10.

DNF
The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees (Review) - I quit this one at 14%. I didn't enjoy the writing style which was too "Literary" for me. There were lots of lush descriptions and a confusing plot. 


Currently
Sherwood by Meagan Spooner (Review) - I grew up on The Adventures of Robin Hood and am enjoying this reimagining of the story.

Next Week




Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

Bought:


New Review:




What was your week like?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Book Review: The Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop

The Shadow Queen
Author: Anne Bishop
Series: Black Jewels (Book 7)
Publication: Roc (February 2, 2009)

Description: In a tumultuous world ruled by witches and warlocks who wear their power as jewels, one Queen’s chance at redemption is the last hope for a desperate people in this novel set in the world of the Black Jewels...

Theran Grayhaven is the last of his line, desperate to restore the land of Dena Nehele. But first he needs to find a Queen who knows Protocol, remembers the Blood’s code of honor, and lives by the Old Ways.

Languishing in the Shadow Realm, Lady Cassidy is a Queen without a court, a castoff. But when she is chosen to rule Dena Nehele, she must convince bitter men to serve once again.

Theran’s cousin Gray is a Warlord Prince who was damaged in mind and body by the vicious Queens who once ruled Dena Nehele. Yet something about Cassidy makes him want to serve—and makes him believe he can be made whole once again.

And only Cassidy can prove to Gray—and to herself—that wounds can heal and even the whisper of a promise can be fulfilled...

My Thoughts: This story has two main plot threads. In the largest one, Theran Grayhaven comes from Terreille to Kaeleer to call on an old favor from Daemon Sadi. He is a descendant of Jared and Lia (The Invisible Ring). He is living in a wartorn land. After Jaenelle cleansed the Blood of all of Dorothea's influence, the landen in Terreille revolted. This revolt was put down but Terreille, particularly Dena Nehele, lacks Queens. Those who survived are either to old or too young to create a court and restore the land.

Lady Cassidy is a Queen without a court. Her court was seduced away from her by a younger, prettier queen. She knows she's tall, gawky, and not pretty and her confidence has been wrecked by the desertion of the Warlords who should have stayed pledged to her. She is a friend of Jaenelle's and an excellent Queen who cares for her land and her people.

Daemon asks Jaenelle who suggests that Cassidy might be the one Theran needs. However, Theran takes one look at her and his disappointment is very clear to her. To him, her lack of beauty and power indicate a woman who won't be able to claim the loyalty of any of the Warlords and Warlord Princes who have fought to keep Dena Nehele.

Since the choice is Cassidy or no one, Theran reluctantly brings her to his home knowing that Daemon, Lucivar, and Saetan and other friends will be keeping an eye on the situation.

One of the first people Cassidy meets in Gray. Gray is Theran's cousin and a victim of the old Queens. He was captured at fifteen and tortured until he was rescued two years later. He only feels safe when he's working in the gardens at Grayhaven and still has an emotional age of fifteen. However, meeting Cassidy and falling in love with her make him willing to battle his hurts and grow up.

Meanwhile, Daemon is having a hard time convincing himself that Jaenelle can love the whole of himself. Even he has trouble with the part of himself known as the Sadist. And Saetan, who has retreated to the Keep, after giving control of Dhemlan to Daemon, finds out that even though Dorothea and her disciples are gone homegrown evil still exists which almost brings out the man who destroyed Zuulaman and almost costs him his sanity.

This was an excellent story filled with wonderful characters set in a fascinating world.

Favorite Quote:
"When a man has scars like that, there are boundaries he can't cross, lines he has to draw to keep himself whole. But those boundaries aren't as small as you might think, and a man can choose to live safe or he can choose to live right up to those lines. He might slip over a line every now and then, and that will hurt like a wicked bitch, but he might decide that what he gains will be worth the price."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Book Review: Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

Broken Homes
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Series: PC Peter Grant, Book 4
Publication: DAW; Reissue edition (February 4, 2014)

Description: A mutilated body in Crawley. A killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil, possibly an associate of the twisted wizard known as the Faceless Man. Or maybe just a garden-variety serial killer.

Before apprentice wizard and Police Constable Peter Grant can even get his head 'round the case, two more are dropped in his lap: a town planner has gone under a tube train, and there's a stolen grimoire for Grant to track down.

So far, so London.

But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans, and inhabited by the truly desperate.

Is there a connection?

And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River—in the jurisdiction of some pretty prickly local river spirits?

My Thoughts: In this episode of the Peter Grant series, Peter, Leslie and Nightingale come closer to finding the Faceless Man. First, is the case of one of the Little Crocodiles is found after a car crash with unexplained blood in the back seat of his car which leads to a body with its face blown off. Next comes a man from the town planning commission who inexplicably throws himself under a train. Then the thief who stole a rare magical grimoire is found burned from the inside out.

These things come together and lead Peter and Leslie to stake out an odd architectural structure called the Skygarden Tower that was built by Erik Stromberg, German expatriot and famous architect. The building has been listed as a historical monument which is getting in the way of developers who want to use the land for something else. It also seems to be something that the Faceless Man is very interested in.

Peter and Lesley need to find out why the Faceless Man wants the building and stop him before his plans are completed.

Along the way, there are river spirits and tree spirits and a Zach, who is half human and half something else. Then, there's Toby the magic sniffing dog.

The book has all of Peter's snarky comments and lots of action. For those reading the series in publication order, the ending comes as quite a surprise.

Favorite Quote:

"You don't call ahead if you can avoid it, on account of it always being better to arrive on someone's doorstep as a horrid surprise. Things generally go smoother if the people you're talking to don't have a chance to rehearse their alibis, think about what they're going to say, hide evidence, bury body parts - that sort of thing."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.