17 May 2017

Cinder Heart


From Goodreads:
"Sixteen-year-old Gabriella just wants to finish high school without ticking off her stepmom and being forced out of her father’s house. When she finds out she’s the girl prophesied about in the fairytale Cinderella, her world gets turn upside-down.

Things get worse when the cute senior, Hal Charm, finally discovers that she exists. Add a fairy godmother, the powers of fire and speed, and a villain other than her stepmom and Gabbie’s life goes up in flames.

Now she's forced to decide between ignoring her destiny to save her friendships, or risking discovery to become the hero she needs to be."

***
Oh, how I wanted to love this book! The idea was interesting and I wanted to see how it all came together. But the execution was choppy and erratic, there was far too much telling and not enough showing, and it ended up not being a pleasant read at all. The characters seemed interesting and the story really could have gone somewhere. It had potential. Unfortunately, that potential needed to be brought out with a lot more polishing.

05 May 2017

Silver Screen Kisses


Buckle up, because here's the *synopsis* of this 400+ page book from Goodreads:

"Silver Screen Kisses is a collection of stories inspired by movies from everyone’s favorite list. Written by award-winning and bestselling authors, these contemporary romances take the reader back to Echo Ridge in the spring, when the promise of new love is budding just like the tulips around the Emerald Inn Bed & Breakfast.

My Fair Lacey by Janette Rallison
 Lacey Johnson has dreamed of opening a restaurant for years. All she needs is one little loan to make it happen. But with the way Lacey talks and dresses, she looks more like someone who would hold up a bank than someone who’d ever get a loan from one. When Garrett Halifax, her roommate’s Harvard-educated brother, volunteers to change her image and teach her to speak correctly, she jumps at the chance. But she quickly finds she’s in over her head. Pretending to fit in with the town’s elite is harder than she thought, and despite her best efforts, she’s falling for Garrett. Could someone who is handsome, rich, and educated ever consider her as more than just a project? A contemporary twist on My Fair Lady, this is a story that is sure to please Echo Ridge fans.

You’ve Got Email by Heather Tullis
 Maria never expected to fall in love with a man she’d never met, but she can’t wait to get to her laptop every night to chat with Bobwhite67. She would be happy to focus on getting to know him better, but her two jobs and two sons keep her ridiculously busy. Then there’s her ex-husband’s bookie, who’s impatiently waiting for the last couple payments on his debt.

Bret can’t help but notice how hard the beautiful Maria works and the similarities she has with the Zoomama he’s been talking with online. Though he really wants to make things easier for her, Bret accidentally gets her in hot water with both of her bosses. Can he get Maria to give him a chance in the real world and not just online?

The Princess Bride of Riodan by Rachelle J. Christensen
 When a mysterious man offers to help Elise redecorate the old Bed & Breakfast, she gladly hands him a wallpaper steamer. After she discovers his true identity, she doesn’t know whether to curtsy or run and hide. Unfortunately, hiding isn’t an option because her heart is already tangled up with the handsome prince. At the same time, Elise’s old crush from high school wants a relationship and she’s forced to decide whether to chase after a fairy tale ending or stay grounded in reality.

My Best Man’s Wedding by Cami Checketts
 Jessica Mason made a vow to marry her best guy friend, Josh, when they turned thirty. When Josh calls with the news that he's coming home to Echo Ridge for his wedding, Jessica is determined to break up the happy couple and take her rightful place as his bride. Gentry Trine, a coworker, agrees to pretend to be her fiancĂ© to stir up feelings of jealousy. However, Jessica didn't realize fake fiancĂ©s could kiss like champions, and make a girl smile nonstop. Can she figure out which is the right man for her before she loses them both?

While You Were Skiing by Lucy McConnell
 Mia Davis’s new job in guest relations at Ruby Mountain Ski Resort gets complicated when the gorgeous Ryder Montgomery falls off the ski lift, tells everyone they are engaged, and then loses consciousness. Worried about a head injury, Mia plays along, making him lunch, kissing in the front entryway and planning a future together; a future Mia wants with all of her heart. Things become all the more complicated when Ryder’s estranged family gets involved. Caught up in the fantasy and romance, Mia has to tell the truth or risk losing a part of herself and the man she loves forever."

***

My Fair Lacey--As always, Janette Rallison's writing cracked me up. I love reading her books for the tremendous humor as well as the sizzling romance. This My Fair Lady knockoff has great characters and a fantastically tight and twisty plot. Loved every minute of it.

You've Got Email was good set up and looked to be suspenseful. I wondered how the characters were going to get themselves out of the situation, but then it just...fizzled. Missed opportunity for great suspense and relationship building.

The Princess Bride of Riodan--Oh my. Such good characters! Elise, the heroine, was a little bland but I found myself rooting for her anyway. LOVED the inclusion of iconic Princess Bride lines and the fantastic way they were worked into the dialogue in situations that had nothing to do with the movie.

My Best Man's Wedding--So, the best man came out of nowhere, but the guy friend and the romance sizzled. Loved that the heroine got over herself quickly and followed her generous heart. Good read.

While You Were Skiing--This was a great story. Characters had depth, the plot was well done without being a carbon copy of the inspiration movie, and I actually wasn't sure who was going to get the girl at first. Loved the inclusion of the WYWS lines and actions (post it notes for important documents FTW!). Adorable story.

I loved how the stories tied each other together, but stood well on their own. They were all clean reads that still had smoldering romances. Well done anthology. I highly recommend it.

20 April 2017

Republic/Diplomats and Fugitives





















From Goodreads:

REPUBLIC: "After the notorious outlaws Amaranthe and Sicarius helped overthrow the corrupt faction controlling the empire and brought in a great war hero to lead the nation to prosperity, they finally earned their pardons--and some time off. A tropical vacation cruising around in a private submarine? Perfect. But their trip is interrupted by a summons from the new president: they're needed back at home. Trouble unlike anything they've ever dealt with threatens to destroy the capital city and throw the fledgling republic into chaos."

DIPLOMATS AND FUGITIVES: "Even though Basilard is the official Mangdorian ambassador to the Turgonian Republic, he still isn’t fully trusted by his pacifist people. After he was enslaved and forced to entertain spectators in pit fights that left him scarred and mute, his kin turned their backs on him, condemning him for choosing violence. They don’t let him travel home without supervision, and he isn’t allowed to see his daughter.

When trouble arises in his homeland, a mysterious blight that could cause widespread starvation for his people, he’s invited to take several old friends to travel to his country to investigate. If Basilard can solve the problem, perhaps his people will finally realize he’s not a bad influence on his family. But unlikely obstacles stand in his way, including a strange Kendorian woman that he’s ordered to take along on the mission.

A Kendorian fugitive hiding in Turgonia, former tracker and assassin Ashara Longbow wants to start a new life, so she can sneak her children out of her country to join her in the republic. Not only is she hunted back home, but the Kendorian ambassador in Turgonia has learned she exists and wants a favor in exchange for keeping her secret. If she doesn’t help him thwart Basilard’s mission, she may never see her children again."

***

Lindsay Buroker has built an intriguing world. The idea of people striving to do good in a place where religion has been banned and being the best version of themselves without divine guidance--and how they interact with those who do have beliefs--creates an interesting interplay. Republic and Diplomats and Fugitives continues the story of Amaranthe and her crew as they try to find their places in the new democratic country of Turgonia. Entertaining as always, they deal with the challenges in front of them and their city without expectation of reward (except for Maldynado, but he expects to be rewarded for EXISTING. Good thing he’s charming!) and performing heroic feats of derring-do. The blend of magic-fuelled technology and a steampunk society creates an interesting dynamic as well.

But most of all, there’s the original characters. Maldynado and Basilard and Amaranthe and Sicarius shine (or glower darkly) and it’s just wonderful to go on adventures with them once again. With the added dry wit of Sespian and the sparkle of Mahliki and the fantastic relationship of Admiral Starcrest and his wife Tikaya, the stories continue to have depth and humor. I do love this series and I’m glad Ms. Buroker extended it.

Gentle Reader Alert: You know that non-religious society? Yeah, the characters don’t have the same morals I do and they’re pretty frank about it. There is some innuendo, but nothing graphic. I’d still put this at about a PG-13 level.

31 March 2017

Unexpected Love



From Goodreads:
"Around the turn of the century, matches were made for all sorts of reasons--whether to keep a family together or simply to make ends meet. But love has a way of turning up in the most unexpected places! With four historical romance stories in one, this fun anthology will sweep you from the dance floors of aristocracy to the hearths of country living, leading to love through the most unusual circumstances."


*****

Unexpected Love is full of sweetness and growing love, which always makes me happy. These lovely authoresses have taken great care to get the historical details of their chosen time periods right. Their characters are likeable and charming by turns, and I always found myself rooting for them and their success. I especially enjoyed The Price of Her Heart by Mandi Ellsworth--Faye McKinney's sassy voice breathes a massive amount of sparkle into the piece. I absolutely adored her by the end of the first page.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

21 March 2017

Operation Prom Date


From Goodreads:


"Kate ships tons of fictional couples, but IRL her OTP is her and Mick, the hot quarterback she’s crushed on since, like, forever. With only one semester left of senior year, it’s now or never if she wants to land him in time for prom. Since she’s flirtationally challenged, she enlists Cooper Callihan, the guy who turned popular seemingly overnight but who used to be a good friend.

Cooper lives and breathes rowing, but his partner just broke his wrist. When he remembers Kate’s good with a set of oars, he strikes a deal: help him train, and he’ll make sure her crush notices her. Only he didn’t know how addicting spending time with her would be. Or how the more successful the Operation is, the more jealousy he experiences.

The mission has been set. The troops have their marching orders. But what if the target is the wrong guy all along?"

*****

Operation Prom Date was absolutely effervescent. It was charmingly adorable, with a great plot and SUCH well-drawn characters. Cindi did a great job of getting me into her character's heads and loving Kate and Cooper both. Kate's unabashed geekiness and her sardonic sense of humor led to flashes of great personal courage. Cooper's humility and desire to do what Kate wanted, valiantly resisting his own feelings, made me an instant fan--he was so gallant and unselfish! And then I wanted them to get together SO BADLY. I read the entire book in one sitting--it was very much worth the lost sleep!

Gentle Reader Alert: Some swearing.

15 March 2017

Falling for the Beast


From Amazon:

"Aribelle is backed into the position of cleaning house for the horrible Mr. Thaddeus Walker. Not only is he rude, he's dangerously secretive, going out at night and coming home with injuries which seem to heal mysteriously fast. She should be keeping her distance, not trying to break down his barriers. But the more she uncovers, the more attracted she becomes until the cost of exposing his secrets fades behind the risk of losing her heart.

Thaddeus knows he should have sent the girl away instead of allowing her into his home. Now she's asking questions he can't answer. And the more time they spend together, the more he wishes he could pull her close and kiss her. But he can't afford to do that. Beautiful Aribelle could never love a beast."

*****

Falling for the Beast is a clean romance. The setting is good and the characters seem very true to the Disney original, just moving in an updated world. On the other hand, there is a lack of depth to this book that really niggled at me--there was nothing that created emotional resonance for me. I didn't feel like I ever got into the characters' heads, as most of the story was *told* to me, instead of shown to me. For me, that is a make it or break it point. Other than that, the story moves quickly and hit all the right plot points. If you're looking for a sweet take on a modern Beauty and the Beast retelling, this will fit the bill.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

09 March 2017

SERIES REVIEW: Cassidy Jones





Many moons ago (or in 2013, as Goodreads tells me), I encountered Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula. At this point I couldn't even tell you how I got into it, but I am SO GLAD I did. Here's a synopsis of the first book (via Goodreads):

"One Girl. One Accident. One Incredible Superhero.

Cassidy Jones is your typical fourteen-year-old--that is, until a seemingly harmless accident in the laboratory of a world-renowned geneticist turns her world upside down.

Discovering incredible strength, speed, and enhanced physical senses that defy logic, Cassidy embarks on an action-packed adventure that has her fighting for answers…and for her very life."

I couldn't get to the rest of the series fast enough after finishing The Secret Formula and was absolutely delighted to spend time in Cassidy's world. Cassidy has an authentic 14-year-old's voice, prone to the emotional rollercoaster most teenagers are, but she is balanced by a strong desire to help other people and a self-awareness that makes her much more tolerable than other young teenage protagonists I've read. Her love and concern for her family, her willingness to accept help when needed, add to that and are balanced by her stubbornly independent streak. She feels very real--I really like that. The magic system, for lack of a better term, is also very well thought out. Cassidy can't do EVERYTHING and there are consequences when she uses her newfound abilities. The villains she deals with are a bit cartoonish, but much like the original Batman series, they still pose a plausible threat to the people she loves.

SO. The point is, I love this series. The writing keeps getting better and better and the characters continue growing and developing in reasonable and logical ways. You really should go pick up a copy.  You should really, REALLY read the rest of the series before you read the rest of my review, because there are SPOILERS A-PLENTY. Remember that growth that Cassidy experiences? Yeah. Go experience it with her, then come back and read my very happy review of Cassidy Jones and the Eternal Flame.
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I'll wait here.
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Well, this post will, anyway. I have other things to do. Books to read and so on.
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Have you read it? If not, proceed at your own risk. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
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*rubs hands together gleefully* OK! Here we go.

So Cassidy has finally fessed up to her parents and everyone is aware of her superhero exploits. Joe is now living with the Phillips and making sure everyone is fed well, and Jared and Cassidy are not dating, but they're definitely boyfriend and girlfriend, which is making Emery crazy. What are you going to do? She's got a crush who likes her back. Give it time, friend Emery. (Yeah, I'm Team Emery. So is Cassidy. She just doesn't know it yet.)


Anyway, here's the synopsis of the book, from the author herself:

"Some boundaries should never be crossed…

The diabolic Metal Woman takes three people hostage. Her ransom demand: the location of a mysterious and unprecedented weapon, rumored to have been a gift to the Third Reich from Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.

When a rescue attempt goes sideways, Cassidy Jones seeks justice. Her quest leads her to the Seattle Underground, where she falls into the grip of an inexplicable evil. Cassidy learns too late that her desire for revenge may cost the life of someone she loves."

Yikes, right? In true Elise Stokes fashion, the Metal Woman is cold, heartless, and psychopathic. No wiggle room in that villain. And now that she has metal skin, Lily White (aka Metal Woman) is very evenly matched with Cassidy Jones, the only mutant on earth who can stop her. Much like the Luminous, there is no way for Cassidy to win without help. So she turns to her boys--Jared and Emery--who have talents of their own, and they do their best to take on Lily and her diabolical goons.

I absolutely LOVED reading Eternal Flame. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but there is a LOT of heart-pounding action and running around the tunnels under Seattle. Cassidy grows closer to the people she loves, but at the same time, she sees the toll that her secret life is taking on her family and friends. And I love her for it! Her eyes are open and she does her best to balance the two. In fact, I would say that this entire series is about finding balance--balance between friends and family, between your hobbies and your regular life, between your self and your beast. Hm. Maybe that last one is just Cassidy.

The tangled triangle of Cassidy and Jared and Emery is also balanced. This is not Twilight because Cassidy's heart is not torn in two, but it is a precise balance between first crush and best friend. I *love* romance in the books I read--makes my reading world go 'round--and it can be anything from  awkward beginner experience to finding THE ONE. These kids are a bit young to be finding "the one" yet, but Stokes deftly writes that awkward beginner stage in a way that tugs mightily at my heartstrings.

There you have it: heart-pounding action, tugging at the heartstrings--this book has a LOT of heart. The whole series continues to grow in complexity and the stakes are raised ever higher--it's a great adventure and a worthwhile read. I enjoyed it immensely and I would happily hand off to my 13-year-old daughter. Well done, Elise. Looking forward to the next one.