Saturday, January 6, 2018

Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier

4 Stars

Blackthorn and Grim - Book 1

One of my Christmas books, Dreamer's Pool had been on my TBR list for quite a while.  Recommended by my buddy, author Allison Temple, as one of her favourite reads , it sounded like something I would enjoy and I waited for it to go on sale in ebook.  It never did.  *LOL*  So Michael bought me the mass market paperback for Christmas.  Bit of a brick, it is!

But it was really really good!  It was not what I was expecting.  I had thought it'd be something like Grace Draven's Master of Crows, a romance with fantasy woven in.  What I got was more along the lines of Blair MacGregor's - one of my favourite fantasy authors -  Desert Rising books. Fantasy for grown-ups with mature themes and thoughtful, learning, growing characters.  At least the main story about Blackthorn and Grim.  Two amazing characters that are so broken and beaten you wonder how they've managed to survive past the first chapter! And while there might not have been romance as I had expected, there is certainly love in this book.

At least in the main story about Blackthorn and Grim.  Two amazing characters that are so broken and beaten you wonder how they've managed to survive past the first chapter!  But both Blackthorn and Grim have a thread of steel in them.  A core of good.  And maybe even a bit of altruism on top of that. We discover more and more of this as the book goes on, which is a delightful journey.  But dear Lord, when we first meet them they are quite at the nadir of their lives.  Don't mistake me though, Blackthorn is as prickly as her name and I love her for it - and Grim, well, I do want to know about his past and what has brought him to be the Grim he is now.

The book rotates 1st person POV between three characters: Blackthorn, the wise woman, Grim, her erstwhile friend and protector, and Oran, the prince of Dalraida.  Oran is a sweet fellow.  Scholarly almost.  And he's waiting impatiently for the arrival of his bride, Flidais, who, when she arrives, is not quite as expected and thereby hangs the tale.  I will admit, for the first half of the book I was not thrilled with Oran.  I found him quite bland and even whiny.  But then he sort of woke up and he got better.  Never as enthralling as Blackthorn or Grim, but bearable at the very least.  :)

I like the way Juliet Marillier writes. I realised that every time I had a spare 5 minutes I was sneaking in a few more pages, a sure indication that I was quite entranced.  Be sure I'll be reading the next two books!


Monday, January 1, 2018

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

4 Stars

The Invisible Library - Book 1

My first finish of 2018 and what can I say?  I really really enjoyed it! 

I think this book first came to my attention on one of the book blogs I follow when I read the blurb and found it had tons of things I enjoy.  Books, libraries, undercover agents, secret societies, magic and chaos. 

The main character is Irene, a journeyman Librarian, or as she's described in the afore-mentioned blurb - a professional spy for the mysterious Library.  I liked her.  She was competent in her job, yet not infallible.  She was likable and funny.  And while she was clever and able to get out of some bad situations, there were times when she made mistakes and bad assumptions and needed a hand.  There's a lot more of her to discover, I think, in further books, and I'm looking forward to doing that. 

I also loved the character of her assistant, Kai.  He's a tad mysterious and is definitely not coming clean on some stuff, but I never got the sense or feeling that he was one of the baddies.  There's also a lot more of him to discover in the books to come. 

The plot was complicated and interesting once we got into it.  Lots of twisty-turnies and surprises. It kept me turning the pages, that's for sure.  And the last couple of chapters had some intriguing questions set up that weren't answered and some outcomes and explanations that I wasn't quite expecting. 

So in the end, this Christmas gift from my son, Michael, was a winner.  I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the ongoing adventures of Irene and Kai and the others.  A good way to start of the reading year of 2018!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Come Sundown by Nora Roberts

3.5 Stars

I generally really enjoy Nora's stand-alone big suspensy type novels, but this one just took SO long to get going I was afraid it might even become a DNF!

First off, maybe it's just me, but has Nora become rather enamoured of the woman kept prisoner by the loony-tune guy over the past few books?  That's the basis for the suspense here. 

The first... oh, almost 55% of the book is spent getting to know the characters, and getting to know how the resort works. We see Nora building her trio of couples - another of her tropes that seems to now have made it's way into the one-of books.  And there wasn't even any friction or anything between the heroine and the hero.  Just alot of dancing around each other in a very pleasant bantery sort of way.  It was at this point that I was about ready to throw in the towel and that's rare for me, especially with a Nora book.  But all of a sudden, things actually began to happen! 

I devoured the last 40% of the book today.  Couldn't put it down. Even enjoyed the twist at the end which really shouldn't have been a twist but she got me anyway.  *LOL*

So in the end, it was far from the best Nora I've read, but still worth a 3.5 star rating. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

4 Stars

Winter Trilogy - Book 1

This was not the book I was expecting but I quite enjoyed it!

I was expecting a heart-warming romance, typical of the season, but what I got was a family story filled with love, humour, drama, whimsy and fun. 

The characters of the Quinn family are real and flawed and quite perfect in some ways.  All I can tell you is that I loved reading about them.  Dysfunctional doesn't quite cover it.  *LOL*  Oh, but they're a lot of fun, really.  I wanted to see the Christmas movie made of this novel.  It'd beat the Hallmark Christmas movies all to hell, I'm sure! 

So, not quite a romance and not really a family saga.  It's a heart-warming novel, as they say, about a family coming home for Christmas and I found it hit the perfect spot.  And as such, this will close my Christmas reading for the year.  Always good to close on a good note.  😊

All I Want for Christmas by Clare Lydon

3 Stars

All I Want - Book One

Just not for me.  I liked the premise, woman wants a girlfriend for Christmas and goes about seeking one out, with commentary from her best friend and roommate.  She has misadventures, says clever things, does a lot of moaning and groaning about her lot in romantic life and can't see what's in front of her face.

It reads too much like chick lit for me to enjoy, really.  New Adult chick lit.  *sigh*

Now, don't get me wrong, the author does a wonderful job in her chosen genre/voice.  I just didn't like it much. 

I like my romances to have obstacles and hurdles for the couple to overcome, on their own and together.  I haven't found many f/f romances that manage to do that.  They all seem either tortured or bland. I shall continue to hunt, but I am getting a bit discouraged. 


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Homecoming by Beverly Jenkins

3 Stars

This is the first novel by beloved doyenne of the historical romance genre, Beverly Jenkins, that I have read.  I was concerned.  Everyone loves her so much and my track record with hugely loved and highly touted works is iffy at best.

Well, I liked the premise.  A second chance at love type of thing, with a school teacher, headmistress, and a buffalo soldier.  Mature characters both.  Lydia comes back to her childhood home from Chicago and crosses paths with Gray Dane, her first love.  Turns out that his love for her as well as hers for him hasn't dimmed, but most probably grown.  So we have some angst, some winsomeness, sexiness, and some humour.  It should all work.  Yet...

I wish I could say I adored the book, but colour me not overly impressed. Mostly with the style of writing.  Very flowery, especially in the love scenes.  For instance, I don't think I'd ever heard/read about one's nipples being dazzled by a lover's fingers, but now I can say that I have.   Also, some of the dialogue didn't work for me, at times I found it stilted and at times it just sounded a wee bit too modern.  And I don't know, there was just something about the writing that felt dated and unrefined (?) to me.  (And not because it's a historical, sillies!)  So I checked.  This novella was published in 2007 according to the author's website, as part of the Gettin' Merry anthology.  Okay, 10 years ago.   Maybe that's why.

Anyway, I have another Beverly Jenkins in my TBR, a more recent one - Forbidden - from 2016.  Hopefully I'll enjoy it more.  :)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

This Christmas by Jeannie Moon

3.5 Stars

Christmas in New York Book 1

This is a charming novella-length love story filled with romance tropes which I didn't mind at all.  The heroine, Sabrina, Bree, is the single mother of an almost 10-year old daughter and the hero, of course, is the father, Jake Killen, pro hockey player. 

There's not a lot of real angst as Bree and Jake readily admit their past and the fact that their feelings haven't died.  Well, not to each other of course.  We need a bit of conflict!  The electricity between them is still there.  Their daughter, Charlie (Charlotte), has inherited her mother's looks and her father's hockey talent.  She loves her mom and she quickly comes to love her dad.  Her one wish for years has been to have her father back and whatddya know, this Christmas it happens!

We have Bree's parents who are suspicious of Jake at first and Bree's crew of girlfriends who have her back.  There are the obligatory confrontational scenes between them and Jake.  There is also an obligatory ice-skating scene.  A father-daughter dance.  Some not-really-needed bullying at school and a side sort-of plot concerning the local lighthouse that I thought could have been built upon more.

All in all, it was a charming read but I found myself wishing there had been less introspective inner-dialogue and more action.  And maybe a little more conflict?  Bree was a little too nice for me, I guess.  *LOL*  Anyway... a sweet holiday read. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Christmas Fling by Heidi Cullinan

4 Stars

Christmas Town Book One

The first of my Christmas books to read and ooh, it's a good one!  In The Christmas Fling, we return to Logan, Minnesota, the setting of the Minnesota Christmas quadrology.  We meet many old friends - as one does when they go home for Christmas, and we meet a pair of MCs that have issues.  Oh, they both have issues. 

The book starts of with a bang- almost literally.  Before we are many pages in, we find ourselves in the midst of a hugely satisfying, steamy, sexy scene that is really enough to curl your toes.  And a bit of a warning here, we're talking some kink, more specifically, some humiliation kink - which is not everyone's cup of tea.  It's really not mine either, in fact it usually squicks the hell out of me, but the way Heidi writes it, I found the workings of the characters' minds fascinating.  Characters are Heidi's strength and it really shows in this book. 

We have Evan, who is most likely on the spectrum, who can't really remember faces, who has a tendency to one-track-mindedness to the point of forgetting to take care of himself.  Another one who has his own neuroses, his own insecurities, his own bloody one-track-mindedness.  *LOL* 

But honestly, aside from the terrifically drawn characters, the other wonderful thing about this book, and really about all of Heidi's books, is the sense of family.  Found family and blood family.  It never fails to warm my heart and often sets me to tearing up.  And then there's Linda Kay who is right up there as fave Cullinan character of all time with Randy Jansen. 

So great start to my Christmas reading!  :)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

5 Stars

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache - Book #13

Loved it.  Pure and simple,  I just loved it. 

Again we're in the village of Three Pines, amidst the characters we've come to love - or at least like and appreciate - and there's been trouble. 

The book jumps between two time periods.  A Montreal courtroom in the depth of a hot and humid Montreal summer and early November in our beloved Three Pines.  This is usually a set-up that I'm not fond of, but in the hands of a skilled writer, like Louise Penny, it works a charm.  Scenes in the one setting set up revelations in the other and I found myself on the edge of my seat waiting for these other shoes to drop with great anticipation.  I actually found myself forcing myself to put the book down so I wouldn't gobble it up too fast. 

And the characters.  My God, you'd think that after a dozen books there'd be nothing more to learn about Gamache and Beauvoir and the rest of the crew.  But there is!  More flaws, more good things, more... well, more humanity.  Because that's the strength of these novels.  Not just the mystery or the convoluted plot, but the characters and their basic humanity.  I defy anyone to not be able to find themselves reflected in one, some or all of them. 

I cried at the end of the book.  I always cry at some point in the Gamache books.  :)  Oh, it was truly delicious!  I cannot... CANNOT wait for the next one and I don't know that Louse has even started THINKING about it!  *LOL*

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Shatter by Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott

3.5 Stars

Unbreakable Bonds - Book 2

This is my m/m romance catnip.  There's action, there's a mystery of some sort, there's a band of brothers, there's humour and there's some hot sexytimes. 

This is Snow's story.  Snow, or Dr. Ashton Frost, is, as his name implies, somewhat cold and standoffish - walls up for everyone except maybe his three closest friends.  He's a brilliant surgeon and sexy as hell.  Well, right up my alley, anyway.  A ghost from his past is haunting him and he's framed for a murder and his found family is under attack and of course he's trying to deal with it on his own.

Enter Jude Torres, paramedic whose had his eye on the good doctor for a while.  He's a big, handsome, smart caregiver and he's determined not to let Snow handle this unravelling situation on his own.  He's had a sort of crush on the good doctor for a while, but tragedy brings them together and the attraction catches fire in all the best ways. 

I like Snow and Jude together.  They are good for each other.   They have great banter, which is another of my catnips.  And they just naturally have great physical chemistry too.  Sometimes that doesn't come across in these romances, but here it's loud and clear and I love it! 

So if like me, you're a fan of Abi Roux's Cut and Run series, or any of S.E. Jakes' series or Rhys Ford's series, I think you'd like this.  I did.  :)