Tuesday, November 30, 2021

ARC Review: Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon

Ice Planet Barbarians

Ruby Dixon
Series: Ice Planet Barbarians (Book 1)
Publication: Berkley (November 30, 2021)

Description: Fall in love with the out-of-this-world romance between Georgie Carruthers, a human woman, and Vektal, an alien from another planet, in this expanded edition with bonus materials and an exclusive epilogue—in print only!

You’d think being abducted by aliens would be the worst thing that could happen to me. And you’d be wrong. Because now the aliens are having ship trouble, and they’ve left their cargo of human women—including me—on an ice planet.

We’re not equipped for life in this desolate winter wasteland. Since I’m the unofficial leader, I head out into the snow to look for help.

I find help all right. A big blue horned alien introduces himself in a rather . . . startling way. Vektal says that I'm his mate, his chosen female—and that the reason his chest is purring is because of my presence. He’ll help me and my people survive, but this poses a new problem.

If Vektal helps us survive, I’m not sure he’s going to want to let me go.

My Thoughts: This series began as a self-published experiment by a NYT Best-Selling author under the pseudonym Ruby Dixon. She wanted a change of pace and decided a Sci-Fi Alien Romance was just what she was in the mood to write. The first two books were serialized and gathered some online fans. When the stories started trending on Tik Tok, the author was both surprised and pleased. twenty-two books later, they are still fun to write and now have quite a large audience. Berkley is coming out with a print, paperback edition this November of this, the first book in the series.

The author decided to write about so many of her favorite tropes. Twenty-two year old Georgie Carruthers is a bank teller in Tallahassee, Florida, when she is abducted by aliens. She joins a number of other young women of around the same age who were also abducted. They are kept in the hold of a spaceship and guarded by brutal aliens. When the ship encounters some sort of mechanical failure, the hold in abandoned on an ice planet. 

Since the most of the women were hurt in the crash and left with insufficient clothes and scant food and water, Georgie who has become the de facto leader decides to venture out to see if she can find help. The only clothing she has is that of one of the guards that the women managed to overwhelm and kill during the crash. She immediately knows that she's on another planet; the two suns and extra-large moon are the giveaways.

Georgie finds herself on a mountain in a cold and alien environment. She also finds herself caught in a snare which at least lets her know that there are thinking beings on the planet. 

Now, Vektal enters the story. He is big and blue, has horns and a tail, and is the chief of his tribe. He also has a khui - a symbiont that lets him survive the harsh conditions. His khui immediately begins to resonate when he finds Georgie. That resonance is a sign that he has found his mate. Despite not speaking the same language, their romance gets hot and heavy right away. Note: If you don't like frequent sex in all sorts of positions and variations, this is NOT the book for you. 

Georgie needs to find a way to convince Vektal to help her rescue the other girls. It helps that one of the hunting shelters that they use along the way is actually the ship that brought Vektal's ancestors to the planet the girls have named Not-Hoth. After chipping away some ice, she wakes up the ship's artificial intelligence which gives her the history of her rescuer and a linguistic upload that gives her Vektal's language.

Now able to communicate, they head to Vektal's home, gather more hunters, and go off to rescue the other girls who are in bad shape when they arrive. They also need to hunt down an animal to get symbionts for all of the humans. They can only survive on the planet for a week without them. But having the symbiont also means that they can't leave the planet again. 

The story is told alternately from Georgie's and Vektal's points of view. It was interesting to know how both Georgie and Vektal are reacting to things that happen. While I thought their romance happened awfully fast and Georgie dealt perhaps a little too well with all the changes in her life, it was an engaging story. A devoted science fiction fan might have quite a few quibbles about many things, i.e. how a small group of aliens managed to survive on a planet that was so harsh or how two such different sorts of beings were sexually compatible and interfertile, but readers who are in it for the romance will enjoy the story and be looking to read more in the series. 

Favorite Quote:
Now you might be thinking, Nothing says love quite like a parasite that induces you to mate, but I swear it made sense in my head, and I figured it was just for me anyhow.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: How to Book a Murder by Cynthia Kuhn

How to Book a Murder

Cynthia Kuhn
Series: A Starlit Bookshop Mystery
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (December 7, 2021)

Description: To help save her family’s floundering Colorado bookstore, Starlit Bookshop, newly minted Ph.D. Emma Starrs agrees to plan a mystery-themed dinner party for her wealthy, well-connected high school classmate Tabitha Baxter. It’s a delightful evening of cocktails and conjecture until Tabitha’s husband, Tip—hosting the affair in the guise of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective C. Auguste Dupin—winds up murdered.

In a heartbeat, Emma and her aunt Nora, a famous mystery writer, become suspects. Emma is sure the party’s over for Starlit events, until celebrated author Calliope Nightfall, whose gothic sensibilities are intrigued by the circumstances, implores the bookseller to create a Poe-themed launch event for her latest tome. Throwing a bash to die for while searching for additional clues is already enough to drive Emma stark raven mad, but another shocking crime soon reveals that Silvercrest has not yet reached the final chapter of the puzzling case.

Someone in this charming artistic community has murder on the mind, and if Emma cannot outwit the killer, she and her beloved aunt will land behind bars, to walk free nevermore.

My Thoughts: Emma Starrs, recently minted Ph.D. in English, is back at her home in Colorado helping her sister run the family bookstore which has hit hard times since their parents' deaths. When a former classmate comes into the store for a prop for her upcoming murder mystery dinner and complains that the organizer has backed out, Emma volunteers to step in and run the mystery part of the evening. 

Things do well despite the bad relationship between Emma and Tabitha Baxter until the body of Tabitha's husband Tip is discovered to have been strangled. Since Emma's aunt Nora was seen arguing with Tip earlier in the evening, she is considered a suspect. Emma becomes a suspect because Tabitha keeps blaming her. 

In order to clear their names and preserve their bookstore. Emma has to turn amateur sleuth. She has to delve into English Department politics since both Nora and Tip were engaged in a discussion there. She also has to look into other possible suspects including Tabitha and her cronies. Meantime, she is also planning a book launch event for Calliope Nightfall who is another very eccentric member of the English Department. 

There were lots of great characters in this story. There were also a number of clues and red herrings for everyone to try to solve. It was a fast-paced cozy and the beginning of a new series. 

Favorite Quote:
"You have to admit, it looks a little unusual."

"I agree, but I don't know how to prevent myself from finding something that I didn't set out to find, especially if I don't know that there's something to be found before finding it."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, November 29, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (November 29, 2021)

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.

Want to See What I Added to My Stack? links to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Marlene at Reading Reality.

Other Than Reading...

This was a quiet Thanksgiving week. My brother and I shared out the cooking duties for our Thanksgiving dinner with me doing the dessert and the sweet potato casserole and him doing the turkey breast, Stovetop stuffing, gravy from the gravy packet included with the turkey, and vegetables. It turned out to be a nice meal with a planned repeat today (Saturday) which should take care of most of the leftovers. 

I did a lot of adding to my TBR mountain this week between Audible's Black Friday sale, the Audible Plus catalog, and checking Amazon for audiobooks included in my membership. I also got a few books I had preordered and took advantage of a few deals from Amazon, BookBub, and The Fussy Librarian emails. 

For my reading this week, I did manage to read two books that have been hanging around on TBR mountain since 2008. I still have 43 books that are on that list but am gradually chipping away at it. I have been trying to read one or two each month along with newer additions to TBR mountain and my review books. It's lucky that I read fast because I seem to be adding to the TBR pile even faster. 

My brother got his new work schedule for the week starting December 5 and, as we had anticipated, four of his five shifts have him working until Midnight. Apparently working that late isn't a popular shift. He stays up late anyway and doesn't mind. Of course, he also sleeps in the next day. He doesn't often wander out of his room until 10 AM or so if he doesn't have to work an earlier shift. It does mean that we aren't able to eat dinner together on those days and means that I have to cook for myself. Bummer!

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.)

  • Miss Frost Solves a Cold Case by Kristen Painter (Mine; Kindle & Audiobook) -- This was a fun paranormal mystery. The audiobook was free when I got it last January. My review will be posted on December 30.
  • The Missing by Shiloh Walker (Mine since December 23, 2008) -- This was an intense paranormal thriller packed with emotion and danger. Reading it removed one more book from my Added in 2008 collection. My review will be posted on December 28.
  • Murder at Greysbridge by Andrea Carter (Review; November 2) -- This was a nice mystery that is 4th in a series starring a solicitor and set in Ireland. My review will be posted on January 15.
  • Fated Blades by Ilona Andrews (Mine) -- This new short novel is set in the Kinsmen universe and was an entertaining science fiction romance. I reviewed it on LibraryThing and Goodreads.
  • In Every Generation by Kendare Blake (Review; January 4) -- This YA title returns the reader to the universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but starring the next generation of slayers. Fun story with lots of the elements that made the original a cult classic. My review will be posted on December 29.
  • Last Girl Gone by J. G. Hetherton (Mine; Audiobook) -- This thriller was a reread for me. I had the review book a few years ago. Here's my review from June 7, 2018.
  • Close Up by Amanda Quick (Mine; Audiobook) -- This was a reread of one of Quick's Burning Cove stories. I love the 1930s setting. I reviewed this one April 30, 2020. Here's the review.
  • Bread Alone by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (Mine) -- This is the latest collection of Liaden stories which includes three reprints and one new story. I reviewed this one on Goodreads and LibraryThing.
  • Pistols and Poinsettias by Bruch Hammack (Mine) -- I was looking for something set around Christmas. This one was free this week. 
Next Week

One more from my stack then it's time to start the January review books.

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

This was a massive week for me as I explored Audible's Black Friday sale and the Audible Plus catalog.

Added to TBR Mountain
  • Star Rebels by Audrey Faye - BookBub Free
  • The Body Counter by Anne Frasier - Kindle Daily Deal for $1.99; the audiobook was $1.99 too
  • The Body Keeper by Anne Frasier - Kindle Daily Deal for $1.99; the audiobook was $1.99 too
  • Girl, Alone by Blake Pierce - Chirp Audiobook was $.99; the Kindle was $2.99
  • The King of Koraha by Maria V. Snyder - this was preordered since it is by a favorite author and is 3rd in a series which I own by haven't started yet
Bought and Already Read
  • Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley -- Kindle Daily Deal for a book I reviewed last March and loved.
  • The Emperor's Wolves by Michelle Sagara -- Audible sale title of book I reviewed in October 2020.
  • Fated Blades by Ilona Andrews -- preorder from a favorite author
  • With the Lightnings by David Drake - free Kindle and cheap audiobook for a title that has been on my shelf since 2006.
  • Close Up by Amanda Quick - Audible Black Friday Sale
  • Bread Alone by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller - latest Kindle release by favorite authors
What was your week like?

Saturday, November 27, 2021

ARC Review: Last Redemption by Matt Coyle

Last Redemption

Matt Coyle
Series: Rick Cahill (Book 8)
Publication: Oceanview Publishing (November 30, 2021)

Description: Will Rick Cahill survive an insidious disease long enough to see his first-born child—or will sadistic killers murder him first?

Rick Cahill is finally living a settled, happy life. His fiancée, Leah Landingham, is pregnant with their first child and he is doing PI work that pays well and keeps him out of danger. Then a doctor gives him the bad news about the headaches he’s been suffering—CTE, the pro football disease that leads to senility and early death—a secret he keeps from Leah and his best friend Moira MacFarlane.

When Moira asks him to monitor her son, Luke—who’s broken a restraining order to stay away from his girl-friend—a simple surveillance explodes into greed, deceit, and murder. Luke goes missing, and Rick’s dogged determination compels him to follow clues that lead to the exploration of high finance and DNA cancer research.

Ultimately, Rick is forced to battle sadistic killers as he tries to find Luke and stay alive long enough to see the birth of his child.

My Thoughts: This is the eighth Rick Cahill mystery and the first that I have read.

After years as a football player, cop, and private investigator, Rick has been knocked around a lot. He has recently been diagnosed with CTE - Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, the football player's disease. His prognosis is for dementia and early death.

He has recently fallen in love with Leah and the two are expecting a child. It is a miracle for both of them since they are in their early 40s. Rick finally has a chance to focus on his future. He hasn't told Leah about his diagnosis yet since he found out just after she became pregnant. She'd had a series of miscarriages and he didn't want to trigger another one with his news.

Ha e has switched his job to doing mostly background checks for corporate customers which should protect his damaged brain. Then he gets a call from his best friend and fellow investigator Moira who asks him to check on her son Luke. She's afraid that he is violating a restraining order that his ex-girlfriend placed on him.

Rick goes to check on the girlfriend's place and sees Luke visit the house next door. He follows Luke to his employers and then to his home. The next day he learns that Luke's boss has been murdered and Luke has disappeared.

Rick wants to turn things over to the cops, but Moira is afraid for her son. The two continue investigating and soon learn that the case has many complications having to do with DNA cancer testing and manipulating a company's value. And murders of those who might get in the way of a really, really big payoff.

Rick was an interesting character. It was easy to see that he had a history as a lone wolf investigator who wasn't afraid to put himself into danger for his clients. It was also easy to see that he really loved Leah and his unborn child and wanted to do what he had to to have a future with them. 

The mystery was nicely twisty and filled with action with some violence. Fans of the series will enjoy this latest episode. It was also an intriguing story for someone, like me, who is meeting these characters for the first time. 

Favorite Quote:
It was interesting, but murder investigations were law enforcement's field of expertise.

Mine was agitating people until they showed who they really were. Sometimes that spilled over onto murder investigations. And got me into trouble.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Friday Memes: Last Redemption by Matt Coyle

 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.

Pain in my head woke me. Again.
Friday 56:
I slowly took the phone out of my pocket and turned on the flashlight app. Pain vibrated inside me with each slight movement. I pointed the flashlight at the cement driveway and searched for my glasses, one small area at a time.
This week I am spotlighting Last Redemption by Matt Coyle. This is a recent addition to my Review stack and is the eighth book in a series I haven't read. Here is the description from Amazon:
Will Rick Cahill survive an insidious disease long enough to see his first-born child—or will sadistic killers murder him first?

Rick Cahill is finally living a settled, happy life. His fiancée, Leah Landingham, is pregnant with their first child and he is doing PI work that pays well and keeps him out of danger. Then a doctor gives him the bad news about the headaches he’s been suffering—CTE, the pro football disease that leads to senility and early death—a secret he keeps from Leah and his best friend Moira MacFarlane.

When Moira asks him to monitor her son, Luke—who’s broken a restraining order to stay away from his girl-friend—a simple surveillance explodes into greed, deceit, and murder. Luke goes missing, and Rick’s dogged determination compels him to follow clues that lead to the exploration of high finance and DNA cancer research.

Ultimately, Rick is forced to battle sadistic killers as he tries to find Luke and stay alive long enough to see the birth of his child.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

ARC Review: A Swift and Savage Tide by Chloe Neill

A Swift and Savage Tide

Chloe Neill
Series: A Captain Kit Brightling Novel (Book 2)
Publication: Berkley (November 30, 2021)

Description: Chloe Neill's bold, seafaring heroine Captain Kit Brightling sets sail for high seas and high sorcery in this swashbuckling fantasy series.

Captain Kit Brightling is Aligned to the magic of the sea, which makes her an invaluable asset to the Saxon Isles and its monarch, Queen Charlotte. The Isles and its allies will need every advantage they can get: Gerard Rousseau, the former Gallic emperor and scourge of the Continent, has escaped his island prison to renew his quest for control of the Continent.

Gerard has no qualms about using dangerous magic to support his ambitions, so Kit and the crew of her ship, the Diana, are the natural choice to find him—and help stop him. Sparks fly when Kit's path unexpectedly crosses with that of the dashing and handsome Rian Grant, Viscount Queenscliffe, who's working undercover on the Continent in his own efforts to stop Gerard. But he's not the only person Kit is surprised to see. An old enemy has arisen, and the power he'll wield on Gerard's behalf is beautiful and terrible. Sparks will fly and sails will flutter as Kit and crew are cast onto the seas of adventure to fight for queen and country.

My Thoughts: The second Kit Brightling novel was filled with action and new discoveries. Kit is a Navy captain who commands a ship. She is also Aligned to the ocean. She has magical powers that let her do such things as speed her ship along and surround it with a bubble of protection. She is still learning about her magic because there are no teachers and the dangers of Alignment don't encourage experimentation.

The story begins when the former Emperor escapes his island prison and heads back to try to regain his empire. After serious failures of his land campaign, it looks like he is going to try to conquer the sea and the Saxon Isles which is Kit's home country. 

A spying expedition to Gallia to search for the former Emperor's ship leads to the discovery that an enemy believed dead was not and had harnessed a new and surprising sort of magic and was using it to further his Emperor's goals. It also leads to Kit being captured and then rescued by Rian Grant, Viscount Queenscliffe, who had been working undercover. 

Kit and Rian's relationship grows and is tested in this episode. His proposal causes all kinds of conflict for Kit who, as a foundling and a sailor, isn't sure she can be or wants to be a Viscountess and a member of the privileged upper class. Her ideas of what she thinks Rian wants are getting in her way and making both of them unhappy. She has so many questions about her past that she would like to have answered and does get one clue in this episode that can't be explored until the war is done. 

The story is filled with adventures on the sea including accidentally swimming with sea dragons and being marooned on an island. It is also filled with Kit learning more about her magic. The magical system is intriguing and unique. It is also filled with interesting characters.

This is the second book in a series and does end with a largely unresolved ending. There are still many questions to answer and battles to fight though it does look like Kit and Rian will be fighting them together. 

Favorite Quote:
"Life is deadly," he continued, "and our choices all inevitably lead from one to the other."

"That's terribly philosophical. But mostly just terrible."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

ARC Review: An Unexpected Distraction by Catherine Bybee

An Unexpected Distraction

Catherine Bybee
Series: Richter (Book 3)
Publication: Montlake (November 30, 2021)

Description: Family secrets and fresh romance collide in this heart-pounding Richter series installment by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee.

Jacqueline “Jax” Simon knows how to expose secrets: she’s a skilled operative with MacBain Security and Solutions. When Jax hears her parents are divorcing, she races to London to find out why. She’s determined to learn the truth, especially when her investigation uncovers why her parents sent her to Richter, the German military school that made her a fighter.

Andrew Craig collects Jax at Heathrow Airport as a favor. He’s heard she’s a handful, but he didn’t know she’s dangerously gorgeous too. His instant attraction could change his life…or end it.

Jax doesn’t want to fall for Andrew, but soon he’s worming his way into her life. Together, they infiltrate Richter to discover if it has returned to its covert purpose: training children to be spies and assassins and blackmailing parents to look the other way. As the attraction between the two intensifies, so do the secrets exploding all around them. How deadly are those secrets―and who will survive?

My Thoughts: The third Richter story stars Jax Simon. She is called home by her brother to let her know that her parents are planning to divorce. Jax is surprised since they seemed all right. But what would she know? She was sent to Richter at 12 and hadn't lived at home for any extended period of time since then. The last six years have been spent in California and working for McBain Security and Solutions with her best friend Claire.

McBain Security and Solutions has let her use a lot of the skills she developed at Richter. She speaks five languages, uses a gun, and is an expert computer hacker. She's a female James Bond without the government ties. 

Since Richter was outed as a school that sometimes trained students who ended up working as assassins for the wrong side, McBain has been watching it to see that it doesn't drift back to its evil ways. Now, there are hints that it may be leaning back to the dark side. Jax still doesn't know why her parents decided to send her to Richter, but the possibility of family secrets needing concealment is not off the table.

Along with her brother Harry's good friend Andrew, Jax is trying to uncover the reasons for her parents' divorce and whether those reasons have anything to do with her attendance at Richter. Jax and Andrew's relationship got off to a less than stellar beginning when he met her at the airport and she mistook him for a hired driver. The romance began after that misunderstanding was cleared up. 

This was an enjoyable, fast-paced and suspenseful romantic suspense title. I liked both Jax and Andrew and thought they were well matched despite the many differences they have. 

Favorite Quote:
In the movies, 007 was always a man and the busty blonde was the one on the sidelines waiting for the danger to pass while the man did the hard work. 

How Andrew had become the busty blonde in this scenario was beyond him.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: You'll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus

You'll Be the Death of Me

Karen M. McManus
Publication: Delacorte Press (November 30, 2021)

Description: From the author of One of Us Is Lying comes a brand-new pulse-pounding thriller. It's Ferris Bueller's Day Off with murder when three old friends relive an epic ditch day, and it goes horribly—and fatally—wrong.

Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close. Now all they have in common is Carlton High and the beginning of a very bad day.

Type A Ivy lost a student council election to the class clown, and now she has to face the school, humiliated. Heartthrob Mateo is burned out—he’s been working two jobs since his family’s business failed. And outsider Cal just got stood up . . . again.

So when Cal pulls into campus late for class and runs into Ivy and Mateo, it seems like the perfect opportunity to turn a bad day around. They’ll ditch and go into the city. Just the three of them, like old times. Except they’ve barely left the parking lot before they run out of things to say . . .

. . . until they spot another Carlton High student skipping school—and follow him to the scene of his own murder. In one chance move, their day turns from dull to deadly. And it’s about to get worse.

It turns out Ivy, Mateo, and Cal still have some things in common. They all have a connection to the dead kid. And they’re all hiding something.

Now they’re all wondering—could it be that their chance reconnection wasn’t by chance after all?

My Thoughts: This was an engaging thriller with well-rounded and interesting characters. Told alternately by Ivy, Matteo, and Cal, it is the story of a very bad day. Cal, Ivy, and Matteo used to be good friends in eighth grade. But now they are seniors in high school and they have each gone their separate ways. 

Ivy is a Type A personality who is struggling in her own mind to live up to her genius younger brother. She has just lost the election to be senior class president to the class clown Boney Maroney and knows attending her rival's acceptance speech will be nothing short of humiliating. 

Matteo's life has spiraled since their eighth grade year. His mother has developed osteoarthritis and needs an expensive medicine which is beyond the family budget since a lawsuit caused their bowling alley to go bankrupt. He's working two jobs and his cousin Autumn is working three to try to keep the family afloat.

Cal has just suffered his most recent breakup and has realized how alone he is. His circle of friends only hang out by default if they can't find anyone else to hang out with. His last girlfriend has accused him of being "not real." Fact is that he's developed a crush on a very unsuitable person and needs to keep it hidden.

The three of them meet one morning when they are all late for school and decide, each for their own reasons, to ditch school and try to recreate the happy memories of the day they ditched a field trip in eighth grade and had a great time in Boston.

Things go wrong almost immediately when they follow their new class president Boney to a location in Boston and find his dead body with a syringe beside it. The location happens to be an art studio when Cal had previously gone to meet his new girlfriend. 

Then rumors start about seeing a blond woman fleeing the scene - and Ivy's blond. The three of them don't know what to do besides run and try to figure out what happened to Boney. They are all keeping secrets about various things that could help solve the crime.

This was an excellent story. I especially loved the characters who are all realistic and flawed human beings. 

Favorite Quote:
Charlie looks her up and down, then pats the seat beside him. "Sit down for a minute. Relax. You're way too tense."

Ivy crosses her arms tightly over her chest. "Personally, I feel like I'm exactly the right amount of tense for the situation at hand," she says. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Book & Audio Review: The Wizard of London by Mercedes Lackey

The Wizard of London

Mercedes Lackey
Narrator: Michelle Ford
Series: Elemental Masters Book 4
Publication: Audible Studios (October 16, 2009); DAW Hardcover (October 4, 2005)
Length: 11 hours and 40 minutes; 388 p.

Description: The fourth novel in Mercedes Lackey's magical Elemental Masters series reimagines the fairy tale The Snow Queen in a richly-detailed alternate Victorian England

The letter that introduced twelve-year-old Sarah Jane Lyon-White to Isabelle Harton, who ran the Harton School in central London, seemed quite simple and straightforward. But it was what was not written in the letter that resonated to Isabelle’s own finely tuned “extra” senses: “Sarah has gifts we cannot train,” the letter whispered to her, “nor can anyone we know. Those we trust tell us that you can….

And it was true, for the Harton School was far from ordinary. It was Isabelle’s job to train children who possessed the odd types of magic that could not be trained by London’s powerful Elemental Masters: clairvoyants, telepaths, those with the ability to sense hidden danger, the vision to see into the past, and even that rarest of all talents: the ability to see and communicate with the dead.

But Isabelle was uneasy, for though she knew that Sarah Jane had a touch of telepathy, there seemed to be something else about the girl—something that had not yet manifested.

And Isabelle was right to be worried, for as soon as Sarah’s full talents became evident, there was an attempt made on her life. For Sarah was that rarest of magicians: a true medium, and for some reason, a powerful Elemental Master wanted her dead.

Isabelle knew that to protect her ward she would have to seek help from the Elemental Masters of the city. That meant she would also see Lord David Alderscroft, the man she had once loved, but who had inexplicably chilled toward her and broken her heart long ago—for he was the leader of the city’s Elemental Masters, the man who was now called the Wizard of London.

My Thoughts: This episode in the Elemental Masters series moves away from the Elemental Masters themselves to another group of people who have various psychic powers. Isabelle Harton was a vicar's daughter raised around those of a higher social class than her own. When her upper class beau - David Alderscroft - dropped her with no warning, she travelled to India where she learned about her own unique powers, married a man with similar powers, gathered friends, and returned to London to open a school for ex-patriot children who have Talents and powers.

Sarah Lyon-White was nine when she came to the Harton School from Africa. Her parents, both Earth Masters, know they can't train Sarah in her different gifts. Sarah looks to be growing into a true medium. Sarah does have a guardian and protector in her African Gray parrot whom she names Gray.

Nan Killian is a street kid who comes to the door of the Harton School for the daily handouts. She has a way of knowing when someone presents a danger to her. When she is almost snatched by men her gin-soaked mother has sold her to, Nan and Sarah run and are rescued by some of Isobel Harton's friends who are guards at the school. Nan is taken in at the school and becomes Sarah's new best friend. Nan also wants a bird like Sarah has, and a trip to the Tower of London finds her bringing home one of the Queen's ravens who becomes her friend and guardian Neville.

Unmasking a fake medium brings the children to the attention of an Elemental Master who has gone to the dark side. A trip to a house inhabited by an ancient evil spirit is arranged by that Master, but intervention by the Hartons and their friends, and an early onset of Nan's Aspect, manages to save them from disaster.

The disaster does manage to result in the transfer of the school to a country home for the summer where Isabelle meets David again and finds him much changed. He has fallen under the influence of the dark master and it will take everyone's efforts to free him from that influence and save him. Isabelle isn't certain that she can forgive him for what he did to her as a girl, and isn't sure she wants to save him now. But the girls, especially Sarah, sees some good in him and knows that he must be saved if the future is not to turn very, very bad.

The story is lushly told and very vivid. The characters, including the Puck, add depth and richness to the tale. The setting in a pre-World War I England, but one infused with magic, is well-imagined and drawn. 

Fans of fantasy and alternate history and stories with fairy tale influences will really enjoy this book and this series. 

Favorite Quote:
Many of these occasions involved ice creams, a treat Nan had never before encountered, which left her wondering what possible reward could be in heaven if Earth as able to provide ice creams.
I bought and read the hardcover in 2005. I bought the Kindle and Audiobook for a reread in September. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: The Christmas She Married the Playboy by Louise Fuller (Blog Tour)

The Christmas She Married the Playboy

Louise Fuller
Series: Christmas with a Billionaire (Book 2)
Publication: Harlequin Presents; Original edition (November 30, 2021)

Description: Scandal leads to wedding bells in this uplifting, emotional marriage-of-convenience romance by Louise Fuller!

The one thing not on her Christmas list?
A convenient winter wedding!

Louis Albemarle has tried to bury the pain and guilt of his father’s death with his playboy antics. So when a photo of his stolen moment with figure skater Santina Somerville proves one scandal too many for his company’s shareholders, Louis must contemplate the unimaginable: marriage!

Marrying Louis is the only way to save Santa’s pristine image. But after a past betrayal, it’s not the gossip she really fears. It’s the burning attraction between her and Louis that might just make resisting her convenient husband impossible…

My Thoughts: Santa Somerville is an up-and-coming star figure skater. She has been on the ice since she was three trying to fulfill her mother's and her own dreams. Her mother died when Santa was six; her father remarried; she has two half-brothers. Her father and stepmother have been working two jobs to support Santa's dream. Santa knows and appreciates all their hard work. Now she has gained a sponsorship with an ice cream manufacturer which is finally making things a little easier financially.

Louis Albemarle is the Duke of Astbury. The tenth duke, in fact. He has recently inherited the position after his father's death. Louis was disowned by his father when he left his chosen bride standing at the altar some years earlier. He has been forced to make his own way with the help of his beloved grandmother. Louis has developed a business from a diamond mine to a retail business and to a jewelry brand favored by A-listers around the world. He is quite close to having enough money to buy out his shareholders. He has also developed quite a reputation as a playboy.

The two meet in Switzerland where each takes an immediate dislike to the other despite being incredibly physically attracted. When the paparazzi discover him walking her home after a fancy party, rumors begin to fly that threaten her sponsorship and his control of his business. The only thing he can come up with to make things right is a marriage of convenience. Santa very reluctantly agrees.

They find themselves honeymooning at Louis's Canadian home where the attractions catches fire and the marriage of convenience and separate bedrooms become things of the past. But both are still keeping hurtful secrets. Santa is having trouble getting over the betrayal of her first boyfriend who humiliated her and wrecked her already fragile self-esteem. Louis also has to deal with his issues with his family. Each needs to support the other and help them deal with the hurtful things. 

This was an entertaining romance. The characters were well-developed and interesting people. I enjoyed the way they helped each other get through their tough pasts. I liked the way they learned to trust and love each other. 

Favorite Quote:
She was still the same lonely girl who wanted to be special for something other than her skating.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley as part of a Harlequin Blog Tour. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, November 22, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (November 22, 2021)

 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...

This was another quiet week. The weather was mostly gloomy with just a few patches of sunshine. And what's with it getting dark at 4:30 in the afternoon? I really miss daylight savings time. It is, however, great for my reading output. 

I raised my Goodreads goal again since I just blew past 325 books. I started at 240 and have increased it twice so far. This time I set it at 350 and am still 24 books ahead of schedule for meeting that goal. 

I have two books to read before all of my 2021 calendar is filled and scheduled. I did some work on my January calendar. Some posts are already scheduled since I had to move posts to fit in some review books that were recent arrivals. Otherwise, I've 11 review books on the January calendar as yet unread, 3 Kindle books (though one is already read and reviewed and ready for posting), and 11 audiobooks (with 5 of them ready for posting).

My brother and I have planned our menu for Thanksgiving and he's pulled the turkey breast out of the freezer and put it in the garage refrigerator to thaw. With the turkey, we are having mashed sweet potatoes, stuffing and gravy, and asparagus. Our dessert will be a pumpkin crumb bar. 

My brother does have the day off on Thanksgiving since Target is closed. I really don't miss the days when Target was open on Thanksgiving Day. He tells me that the store hours are expanding to 7 AM until Midnight and he has amended his data to be able to work any hour the store is open. I'm expecting that he will be scheduled to work until midnight at least a few times before the New Year. He was also told that overtime has been authorized and that he can work up to 50 hours a week if he wants to. He's still thinking about adding hours. 

There is nothing on my calendar for this coming week beyond Thanksgiving. I do not intend to do any Black Friday shopping. First of all, I hate crowds and second I only shop for a couple of people and don't know what they want yet. 

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.)
  • The Slaughtered Lamb Bookstore and Bar by Seana Kelly (Mine) -- Loved this urban fantasy with a main character who is a werewolf and a book lover. My review will be posted on December 18.
  • Instant Gratification by Jill Shalvis (Mine since July 2009) -- Workaholic doctor comes to small town to fill in for her estranged father when he has a heart attack and falls in love. My review will be posted on December 16)
  • Little Girl Gone by Amanda Stevens (Review; December 28) -- Excellent and eerie romantic suspense. My review will be posted on December 21.
  • Buried Cold Case Secrets by Sami A. Abrams (Review; December 28) -- Entertaining romantic suspense title with great characters and a fast-paced plot. My review will be posted on December 21.
  • Tall, Dark and Off Limits by Shannon McKenna (Review; December 28) -- Nicely spicy romantic suspense title. My review will be posted on December December 23.
  • Absence of Mallets by Kate Carlisle (Review; December 7) -- Nice cozy mystery with a large cast of characters and an entertaining plot. My review will be posted on December 7.
  • The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt (Mine) -- Entertaining mystery set around Christmas time. Great characters. My review will be posted on December 25.
  • The Sorority Murder by Allison Brennan (Review; December 28) -- Great characters and a twisty plot that was really engaging. My review will be posted on December 23.
  • His to Defend by Sharon C. Cooper (Harlequin Blog Tour; December 28) -- It just didn't capture my attention.
Next Week
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

  • Castle Shade by Laurie R. King (Kindle and Audiobook) -- Kindle on sale for $2.99. Keeper copy since I reviewed it earlier.
  • Fae Hunter by Sarah K. L. Wilson (BookBub; Free)
  • To Kill a Fae by Jamie A. Waters (BookBub, Free)
  • Guild Boss by Jayne Castle (Kindle) - Keeper copy since I reviewed it earlier.
  • The Bookshop Murder by Merryn Allingham (Kindle and Audiobook) -- BookBub' $.99 for the Kindle
What was your week like?