Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Reading Lists

Reading List by Sunita for September

Reading List by Sunita for September

While perusing Netgalley as well as recommendations from trusted sources, I discovered that a few of the books I was interested in were the second, third, or even later installments of a series. Then my list got longer when Carina Press put a slew of their mystery series’ first volumes on sale at $ .99. Being someone who likes to read in order, I went back to the beginning, and I had a great time.

 

Cornick Lady and LairdThe Lady and the Laird by Nicola Cornick

I reviewed and recommended one of Cornick’s other historical romances at the beginning of the year, and I finally got around to the first in her newest series. I’m mostly not reading Historical Romance for reasons I’ve written about elsewhere, but Cornick often works for me, especially her early 19thC-set books. This series revolves around the MacMorlan sisters, with the first installment featuring a marriage of convenience story. Lady Lucy MacMorlan finds herself blackmailed into marriage by Robert, Marquis of Methven, who needs a wife and an heir within a short period of time if he is to keep his inheritance intact. Both Lucy and Robert are scarred by tragedies in their past, and despite their long-ago attraction to each other, neither wants to marry. But marry they do, and the second half of the story has them learning to trust each other enough to love, facing the fears born of their pasts, and vanquishing a villain. Cornick does a terrific job of bringing to life a Scotland we see all too infrequently in Historical Romance: don’t be fooled by the tartan on the cover, this isn’t Ochlassieland, it’s Scotland. I liked both Lucy and Methven, although both do a couple of things that seem plot-driven and out of character with their otherwise intelligent portrayals, and the misunderstanding that stretches out the last third of the story is briefer and more organic than in the last book. Grade: B

AmazonBNKoboARE HQN


Claverton Binary WitnessBinary Witness by Rosie Claverton

I saw a cover on Netgalley that really grabbed my interest, but when I read the blurb I realized it was the second in a series. Mulling it over, I checked out the first book and discovered it was only $ .99. I downloaded it, started reading, and was hooked. Amy Lane is a computer whiz who helps the Cardiff, Wales police force in their investigations. She is agoraphobic, so her sister arranges for her to have a cleaning service. Jason Carr shows up to clean her house, she reluctantly lets him in and a tentative friendship begins. Jason is an ex-con who needs a job and Amy needs both a clean apartment and a leg man. When women start disappearing, Amy and Jason combine forces to investigate, using Amy’s computer skills and Jason’s knowledge of Cardiff. The style is occasionally bumpy; it reads like a debut novel. I’m not a big fan of serial killer or women-in-jeopardy plots and this one took a long time to unspool. But I liked Amy and Jason so much I didn’t care. There is no romance between them, but it doesn’t seem out of the question for the future, so I hold out hope! Claverton is a hospital psychiatrist and both the Cardiff setting and Amy’s condition seemed very well done to me. I’m really looking forward to the next book, Code Runner. Grade: B-

AmazonBNKoboARE HQN


Murder-by-the-Seaside lindseyMurder by the Seaside by Julie Anne Lindsey

This is another first in a series from Carina, also $ .99, and it is most definitely a cozy mystery. Patience Price is a Human Resources professional who has been laid off from her job at the FBI. She comes home to Chincoteague Island, where her hippie parents still live, to set up a psychology practice. Her arrival coincides with a murder and her high-school flame is the most obvious suspect. Despite still being furious with him for the way he left town after graduation, Patience agrees to help find out what happened. This puts her in constant danger but it also integrates her back into the town. The writing is smooth and assured, and Patience has a very enjoyable voice. There are not one but two romantic possibilities, each different from the other, and Patience’s parents and friends, as well as the townspeople, are sketched deftly and with humor. This is not a city-awful, small-town-wonderful book; Patience goes back because she’s broke, and there are both good and bad people to deal with. I don’t know that I could read a ton of these types of light cozy mysteries in a row; there an awful lot of eccentric people and crazy events. But I enjoyed this one and have already added the next installment to my TBR. Grade: B-

AmazonBNKoboARE HQN


Wells Presumed DeadPresumed Dead by Shirley Wells

This is the third of my Carina $ .99 specials for the month (just call me Pavlov’s dog). This was written back in 2010 and is the first of the Dylan Scott mystery series. Scott is a policeman who lost his job for using excessive force on a suspect and went to prison for it. His wife has thrown him out of the house and seems ready to make it permanent, his mother has moved into his tiny new flat, but at least his son still loves him and he suddenly has a job offer to find out what happened to a woman who went missing thirteen years ago. I found Dylan really annoying in the first few pages, as he mentally insulted women drivers and talked about his wife as if she were a stereotype rather than a person he knew intimately and loved. I almost didn’t keep going, but I liked Wells’s voice, and Dylan improved immensely. He’s a bit of a clueless type when it comes to women, but he respects them more than I initially thought. The mystery itself is interesting and the missing woman comes to life as a sympathetic person over the course of the book. Dylan’s impromptu partnership with a retired policeman was enjoyable, and I especially liked his relationship with his son (despite their love of Arsenal). Both Dylan’s mother and wife are revealed (to the reader and to Dylan) to be complex and layered by the end, and the door is open for a reconciliation. The Lancashire setting was well depicted, and I’m looking forward to the next in the series. Grade: B-

AmazonBNKoboARE HQN


The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1) by Sarina Bowen The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen

I bought this book because I couldn’t resist Jane’s money-back guarantee, especially given how many of my other DA and Twitter buddies had raved about it. I thought that if any NA book could work for me, this one would. And to some extent it did. I can see what readers have loved about it so much. Corey and Hartley are completely appealing, and Corey’s matter-of-fact approach to her disability is a refreshing change from genre fiction’s standard treatment of such issues. I agree that for someone who was injured so recently and whose life was turned upside down, her equanimity seems a bit overdone, but I’d rather have that than the angst-fests and appropriation I more often see. The depiction of the unnamed Ivy League institution is very well done, as is the general feel and rhythm of college life. I’m glad I read the book, but I’m not going on to the next in the series. One reason is that I grew tired of the narrator’s voice even though I didn’t get tired of her, if that makes sense. There is an artlessness to the writing that made it almost monotonous to read. I rarely find myself wishing for more complex prose in genre fiction, but here I did. The second reason is not about the book, it’s about me. As a college professor, it feels voyeuristic to read about the personal lives of students who are all too similar to the ones I see every day, and I can’t get them fully out of my head when I should be immersed in the story. That said, it feels like a very good example of the genre. Grade: B

AmazonBNKoboARE HQN

 

Reading List by Rose for July and August

Reading List by Rose for July and August

this wickedThis Wicked Gift by Courtney Milan

I read the enhanced version that Milan recently published, since that’s apparently the only way to get this story on its own. I usually find Milan’s novellas more enjoyable than her full-length novels – The Governess Affair is one of my favorite romances in recent years, and there are few authors as good as she is with this format. You can tell that This Wicked Gift is an earlier effort; her focus on social issues has become more marked, and I’m not sure a Milan hero circa 2014 would do some of the things that William Q. White does. But I enjoyed it very much, and that’s not something I can say about many Christmas romances. This one conveyed the spirit of the holiday without being obvious about it. B+.

AmazonBNKoboARE HQN


never beenNever Been Kissed by Molly O’Keefe

The title led me to expect something fluffy and sweet, but Never Been Kissed has more depth than that. I liked it, and appreciated what O’Keefe did with the heroine: Ashley has been traumatized but doesn’t give up, she discovers that she likes small towns but not because of any idealized perceptions, she learns how to stand up up for herself and she was a virgin, but not with the usual baggage that a virgin has in a contemporary romance (I don’t think that this is a spoiler). Brody had a more interesting background, but his role in the story was more conventional (I’m so damaged, I don’t deserve this amazing woman/anyone’s love etc.). Still, an enjoyable romance. B. I later read O’Keefe’s Between the Sheets, which was also good.

AmazonBNKoboARE HQN



suffragetteThe Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

I generally agree with the points brought up by Willaful in her review, but liked it less than she did. Great dialogue, interesting characters, I enjoyed the publishing aspects, but it was occasionally too clever for its own good and there were quite a few characters so progressive that they would fit better in a more contemporary setting. I also felt cheated of a better epilogue: I think readers deserved to see Free vote, or even be elected for office. B-

AmazonBNKoboARE HQN



The Great Escape by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsThe Great Escape by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I liked it in parts – mostly when Lucy was figuring out who she was rather than acting like a bratty teen. Awful ending, though, because of Lucy acting like an idiotic brat and then an overly sweet epilogue. It would have probably worked better as women’s fiction, as the friendships were often more interesting than the romances. B-

AmazonBNKoboARE HQN



blood-of-tyrantsBlood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

When I last put together a reading list, I’d just gotten started with Novik’s Temeraire series, which I’ve enjoyed pretty much throughout (well, maybe not the Bunyips). The most recently published entry manages to put an amnesia plot to good use (!), as it shows how far William Laurence has come from his navy days and how his perception and moral views have changed through his experiences as an aviator. One thing Novik does that I find interesting is the different treatment of dragons in different societies – from honored nobility down to servants and even slaves – and the way this affects relations within these societies as well as the course of her alternative history. I didn’t find the Russian section of the book as engaging, and I didn’t expect what was essentially a cliffhanger ending (although we know what happened to Napoleon’s army in reality, this isn’t actual history…) but I’ll still read the final book once it’s published, of course. B.

AmazonBNKoboARE HQN



Red Dirt Duchess cover - CalbreRed Dirt Duchess by Louise Reynolds

I read this one for review, and felt it had more potential than Reynolds was able to realize.

AmazonBNKoboARE HQN



The Hidden Blade by Sherry ThomasThe Hidden Blade by Sherry Thomas

I read this and My Beautiful Enemy back to back, so I’m going to treat them as a single entry. On their own, both books are very good – I could have done with less confusing action at the ending of The Hidden Blade and tighter flashback sections in My Beautiful Enemy, but these are minor issues. Looking at both parts together, this is my favorite romance so far this year. It’s original, beautifully written, features interesting characters and is very emotional. I strongly recommend that anyone thinking of skipping straight to My Beautiful Enemy reconsider, and read the prequel first; it’s a richer (and less confusing) experience that way. A-.

AmazonBNKoboARE HQN



HAMW - Goodreads imageHeroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I picked this one up for review because I thought it might be fun. It was not fun.

AmazonBNKoboARE HQN



harderHarder by Robin York

Harder is more West-centric, and given that I found West less interesting than Caroline in Deeper, I guess it was to be expected that I’d like it less. His relationship with his sister was well-written and the book became much better once he started trying to figure out his life and his goals, rather than falling back on self-pity (justified as it may have been). Caroline wasn’t given that much to do here, and her POV was often unnecessary – I love West, I need West, I miss West, West was mean to me, I wish I could have sex with West, etc. I could have done with less of that and more action and interaction. B-

AmazonBNKoboARE



The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1) by Sarina Bowen The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen

Jane’s review convinced me to give this one a shot, and I’m glad I did. The characters come across as realistic and their issues were not the usual NA thing. Well, at least Corey’s weren’t, and it was good that she was neither overly angsty nor miraculously healed; she works hard for the progress she makes and to get what she wants. I also liked the way the relationship developed, though maybe less bitchy girlfriend in the background would have been better. The ending was a bit too neatly wrapped up for my liking. B+

AmazonBNKoboARE