Friday, September 30, 2016

seriously romantic: when snowflakes fall by tara wyatt

while i'm not entirely sure i'm ready to be thinking of christmas, you can't deny that the winter holidays are a wonderful season to set a romance in. fresh fallen snow, twinkle lights, cuddling up to the one you love--it's the perfect atmosphere for love. in when snowflakes fall we are introduced to the grayson brothers, identical twins who've both had some rough divorces and are a little cautious when it comes to the idea of love. luke grayson has been too busy raising his young son alone and running his contractor business to focus on himself. but when his son is brought to the e.r. after falling on some ice, he is disconcerted to realize that he is interested in the pediatrician examining ethan.

dr. christie harmon has just moved to cheyenne to escape a bad breakup and a scandal that left her reputation in tatters. she's not looking to meet anyone. but she felt the sting of attraction when she met luke and keeps running into him in the days that follow. even though she's so afraid that her past will come between them, she can't help give this thing between them a chance to grow. pretty quickly they find themselves in a relationship, but christie resists coming completely clean to luke, because she's so afraid of his reaction. of course when he does find out there is a complete miscommunication.

will it work out? obviously it does, because it's christmas and falling in love just makes it that much sweeter. the characters are well-developed given that this is novella length and it's a quick, sweet read.

**when snowflakes fall will publish on october 25, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's (swerve) in exchange for my honest review. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

simply trying to dispel the myths

i was texting with my sister and brother today about politics. which is obviously never a good idea. but i was surprised to learn how my brother has bought into the narrative that hillary clinton is a criminal who should be locked up.

there are so many articles and investigations that provide evidence that this narrative is a vicious lie. but it's one that is so ingrained in people's minds that the mere fact that you are innocent before proven guilty, never mind that in all the investigations into hillary she's been proven innocent or at least not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, seems to escape people's minds entirely.

i've been struggling with what this election has brought out in this country. i am not saying that hillary clinton is the perfect candidate. i don't always agree with her voting record. i think she is human. as a masterful politician i think she is opportunistic and bends the truth to her advantage (and let's be clear, she does this less than most other politicians, since she is rated the second most truthful major political candidate at the moment).but i think she cares deeply for our country. i think she believes she can make a difference in people's lives. she has made a difference in people's lives in her long political career. and the anger and disrespect and vitriol towards her just speaks of such awful misogyny and sexism.

it's stuff i can't believe is so prevalent in this country. but then there are white boys who assault an unconscious woman who get three months in jail because their future is somehow more important than their female victim's. and when i think that there is this woman who is more qualified than anyone else ever to run for office, this woman whose opponent is a sorry excuse for a human being, barely qualified to be the noxious reality television star that he is, and that this woman is attacked for not being attractive enough. as if looks ever meant anything regarding smarts or one's ability to govern. we don't vote for president based on attractiveness. (except maybe jfk, and really that's the only reason his myth lives on because he was actually a fairly mediocre president).

there's this one ad that hillary's campaign put together that is basically all the disgusting things donald trump has said about women. as a woman it terrifies me that this man could be the next president of the united states. i will do anything to stop that from happening. i'd move to fucking florida to have a vote that really counted. but mostly i'm going to vote. i'm going to make sure that my voice is heard. and i'm going to pray with everything i've got that my voice is part of the majority. for the future of this country, for my children's future i'm praying that donald trump comes no closer to the white house than the hotel he is building on pennsylvania avenue.

something from the archives: headlong - part 7

parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 can be found at the links, part 7 is after the jump.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

seriously romantic: rogue by karen lynch

book 3 of the relentless trilogy wraps things up nicely for sara grey and nikolas danshov. rogue picks up right where refuge left off, with sara escaping westhorne along with jordan, roland, and peter and following madeline's trail. they only have a few hours head start before the mohiri, before nikolas, is on the hunt too. and while they get close, madeline proves more elusive than they expected, and as they travel to albuquerque and the los angeles, they leave a trail of dead demons and vampires that can't be ignored. i wasn't too happy that once again sara and nikolas are separated after making so much progress in their relationship in the second novel. but the wait proves to be worth it because when they are reunited it is amazing.

because there is never any doubt that sara and nikolas are meant for each other. the lack of romantic triangle really endears these books to me. i like to see a relationship grow and the characters grow alongside it. and that is what we get here. as the bond between sara and nikolas strengthens we see them grow too. sara's progress as a warrior makes her a formidable opponent in battle, even though her methods are different from what the mohiri usually do. and nikolas learns to trust that sara can fight her own battles. just as sara comes to understand the protectiveness that nikolas feels.

out of the three novels this one really progressed the romance, while balancing and concluding the larger mythology that ties the books together. eventually sara and nikolas confront madeline, a meeting that ends up being somewhat anti-climactic and resolves less than you would expect from a character whose absence loomed so large over the series. the reveal of the master is worth not spoiling, i had guessed one thing correctly, but not the identity and that was a good and satisfying twist. and the last confrontation was suspenseful and dramatic and resolved in a way that made total and complete sense.

knowing that there is a sequel that tells the story from nikolas's perspective intrigues me. but i still worry that the things that i found frustrating about sara will frustrate me more in a novel told from his perspective. i'll still probably read it. because nikolas is dreaminess personified.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

seriously romantic: to love and to cherish by lauren layne

the final book in the wedding belles series, to love and to cherish, brings us the story of logan and alexis. these two have been slow-burning the whole series. that flame has been so obvious since we were first introduced to them in the first book. but it's a banked flame.

logan has held his true feelings back from alexis for eight long years. it's not like he's kept his feelings a secret, everyone else around them knows he loves her. but for some reason this woman doesn't let herself see it. she doesn't let herself feel it. she has her reasons. alexis was betrayed by not just one person she loved, but two, her ex-boyfriend and sister fell in love with each other in front of her eyes. and that hurt. actually that devastated her. it taught her not to trust in feelings. it taught her to fear the hurt that could come from opening yourself up to someone else.

but lately she realizes something is missing. and logan realizes that it is now or never. if he doesn't make his play for her now, if he doesn't move things beyond friendship, he has other obligations in his life that he's been ignoring for far too long. the push and pull between these characters is so halting and frustrating and so hot. they obviously love each other so deeply. it's more than they can even express, especially given their need for control. logan has that stiff upper lip and alexis has taught herself to remain cool and collected.

this makes them a bit hard to get to know. there's so much that happens beneath the surface with them. when they go all in, they are all in. but it's interesting because there's still always that level of reserve. these characters hold themselves apart. sometimes from each other, but also from the reader. it's a bit strange. i predicted that the second book in this series, for better or worse, would remain my favorite, and that is true. and i think it's because heather and josh are so open, you get to feel everything they feel. the highs and the lows. and even though alexis and logan have some pretty good highs and lows, even though there is this huge well of emotion between them, because of who they are, it tends to stay bottled up. and that's totally okay. i enjoyed reading this series. this is a lovely conclusion to it. i just liked book 2 best.

**to love and to cherish will publish october 18, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/pocket books in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

seriously romantic: the right kind of guy by kerri-leigh grady

there is nothing wrong with the right kind of guy. as far as breezy, contemporary romance this fits the bill. it's supposed to be a romantic comedy, which i'm not sure i agree with. unlike hooked on love, also billed as a romantic comedy, i never laughed out loud. but i can see where the author was striving for a light-hearted tone.

the problem is that i found that tone super cringeworthy. the author's voice in the novel sounds like her voice on her blog, which is totally fine, i mean she wrote the book and she writes on her blog. but i just find it kind of...grating? and it felt weird to me that the female lead and the hero's sister would have the exact same voice. because instead of it being something unique and quirky specific to one of the characters, it was something that infused the entire novel. aaron was actually the best part of the novel. the women in the novel were all so annoying. it was just really weird to read. especially in a book written by a woman, for women (mainly).

when aaron has his inevitable blow-up with kelsey, it was so bizarre because that whole scene was exacerbated by his sister's presence. she was really the reason the two characters were unable to talk things through, and so it felt super weird that he was then forced into a ridiculous grand gesture. i really disliked his sister, jasmine. she's the reason he is in vegas, and she's acting like a lunatic, and in the end it was all on purpose to teach her brother a lesson and matchmake? she could have just had a conversation with her brother. the fact that he bears the brunt of their parents' panic and disapproval without any acknowledgement of how not cool it is from her just made me dislike her. it would have been better to just allow the attraction between kelsey and aaron grow without the appearance of intervention from jasmine. it would have happened anyway, so why does she need to take credit for it?

so, i think i would have liked this book better without the irritating secondary character. at least the cover is pretty?

**the right kind of guy will publish on october 17, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

seriously romantic: hooked on love by jennie marts

i have to confess that there were several moments in this novel where i was just laughing out loud. everything that was happening was pure physical comedy and once you get the image in your head you can't stop yourself. picture a city girl trying on a pair of waders in a small town general store. imagine that she's in her underwear. and then a snake drops into the waders. the chaos that ensues had me in stitches. it was all too ridiculous.

in hooked on love, our city girl, avery oliver, is a fish out of water. but her good humor, her easy spirit and can-do-anything attitude really make the story. sullivan reed, our hero, is surly, damaged and so insecure. he looks the part of the fierce mountain man, but inside he is a ball of goo. and somehow the combination of these two characters just works. they play off each other beautifully. there's humor but just enough poignancy that adds a little heft to the story. it's not just a frothy tale. it's a story about fresh starts, and new beginnings, and learning that the biggest adventures don't mean you have to travel the world, sometimes it just means opening yourself to another person and seeing where that takes you.

**hooked on love will publish on october 17, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing in exchange for my honest review. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

seriously romantic: sweetly, deeply, absolutely by kira archer

sweetly, deeply, absolutely sounds like just the sort of book a blog called definitely, possibly, maybe should be reviewing. it's a sweet confection of a romance. jared crew is a player. he's unapologetic about it. he's always noticed jenny boyd, but she's off-limits since her brother happens to be his best friend's husband.

but the thing about jenny is that she is as much a player as jared is. i liked that there was no judgment made on the kind of exploits that jenny got herself mixed up in. both she and jared have a long list and that's totally cool. jared never makes a big deal about it, and while jenny frets about jared's inability to commit, it's not in a way that feels hypocritical or over-the-top.

the attraction between these two crazy kids sizzles and eventually they give into it. but when the condom breaks they face a 10-day period of uncertainty. will there be consequences to their impulsive hook-up? and if there are consequences would they really be unwelcome?

as they wait out the dreaded two weeks to figure out if there is actually anything to worry about, we see their friendship deepen. both jenny and jared are good people. they are fun-loving and artistic and creative. and they have a lightness to them so that even when they are absolutely stressed, you never feel like there is only sturm and drang between them. it's great. this was just a sweet quick read. totally enjoyable. this one is actually the third book in the sweet love series, but you don't need to read the first two to enjoy it.

**sweetly, deeply, absolutely will publish on october 17, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 23, 2016

superbly suspenseful: deadly silence by rebecca zanetti

deadly silence is a romantic thriller by rebecca zanetti that further explores the world she created in her sin brothers series. i haven't actually read that series, but it isn't essential to because the characters are new and while the situation the characters are in the middle of is informed by things that were happening in the original series, you catch up as you go along and don't really feel like you are at a loss. or at least you are no more at a loss than the characters in the novel, so it's all good.

ryker jones had a terrible childhood. but in the midst of the hell that was his childhood he forged an unbreakable bond with two other boys, his blood brothers, heath and denver. together they've escaped their past, but that doesn't mean that their past isn't trying to catch up to them. they've spent their adult lives searching for the lost, searching for something they're not even sure they can find, answers they may never be prepared to handle.

even worse, everything is going crazy. the serial killer case they've been working on shows no signs of breaking open, meanwhile more red-headed girls are turning up dead. a teenage hacker has somehow burrowed through all their security and is asking them to dig into someone from their shared past. and the woman ryker has become involved with, zara, is in danger—something that tugs at his protective instincts and the heart he has tried to keep from becoming attached to anything to protect not only himself, but everything in the world he could lose.

while this is suspenseful and the characters at different points find themselves in mortal danger, this isn't unnecessarily graphic. and there is a fair amount of steaminess between the two leads, so i almost just categorized this as seriously romantic. but it's more than just a romance.

ryker and zara go through a lot and at the end the only thing that's tied up in a neat bow is their relationship. which totally works for me. i'm intrigued enough by everything else that i will be checking out the next novels in the series.

**deadly silence will publish on october 4, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/forever (grand central publishing) in exchange for my honest review. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

simply admiring the puppet mastery

so i've never, ever been an angelina fan. but i have spent the last two days admiring her balls. this woman surprised her superstar husband with divorce papers on a tuesday morning. the man was blindsided. because the fact of the matter is that no celebrity ever releases shit like this on a tuesday morning. per the court documents the date of separation was september 15th. so this is recent, but that was a thursday, and there was plenty of time to bury the story on friday. especially since this weekend was the emmys and the story would have been lost amid the talk about who won or didn't win and who wore or didn't wear what.

no, angelina fucking jolie releases her news on a tuesday morning because she wants everyone to know. and she tells us that this is for the kids. she entrenches herself in the position of hardworking mother and intimates that her co-parent isn't up to the job. she cuts him out of the picture so completely i just can't help but appreciate how she delivers this news with a hint of how she plans to play the game. and the thing is you know she's got cards to play. so we're waiting on brad's move, but without her is he able to compete?

and even though there are these swirling rumors about affairs with co-stars and prostitutes you can see already that this isn't a narrative angelina is interested in pursuing. it's not one that fits her image. she was the other woman. having the guy who cheated with her cheat on her won't work for her. she is the woman people want. she's not the woman left behind with a gaggle of kids. so even if there was cheating, and to be honest i'm fairly certain that these two people had a marriage that was fairly open to exploring, angelina isn't going to be the jilted woman. she's not divorcing brad for her sake, she's doing it for the sake of her children.

angelina fucking jolie is so noble that she will leave the love of her life because it is better for her kids. that is what she wants us to believe. is it true? who knows. that's not the point. the point is that she controls the story. and brad? well he's going to need to figure some shit out. because she's been controlling their story for years now, and if he wants to come out of this unscathed he's going to need to play the game her way. she holds all the cards. let's see if his ego realizes that before he's had a chance to make his first move, he's already lost.

eta: i wrote all of the above last night, only to wake up this morning to find out that brad pitt is being investigated for child abuse. the alleged abuse is verbal and physical, and i'm sure that there is truth to this. is it a pattern of behavior for him, maybe? we have heard from sources that they have different parenting styles; he's the disciplinarian, angelina is more laid back. could this be a way to frame divergent parenting styles, maybe? as i said above, she is controlling this narrative and she is a master at it. it's his move next, and if he settles up quickly it will likely be to preserve his reputation. i don't know that we could read more into it than that regarding his guilt or innocence. but if he decides to take a stand on this, well, this will be one divorce that will blow up pretty spectacularly. i think he caves though. he is going to lose either way.

something from the archives: headlong - part 6

um, so this part gets a bit steamy.

here are some handy links to parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. you know the drill for part 6.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

simply look at all the pretty things

i know we all say that you should never judge a book by its cover. but who are we kidding? we all love a pretty cover. as a special treat, i get to help reveal the cover to this super sweet young adult sports romance i will be reviewing soon. 

more details about the book, including the pretty cover can be found after the jump:

seriously romantic: his best mistake by diane alberts

daisy o'rourke isn't looking for a man, she had one and lost him in a senseless accident. on the two-year anniversary of his death she finds herself alone in a bar feeling unbearably sad. when mark matthews sees her, he's not just thinking about an easy lay. he sees that sadness in her and he recognizes it. he lost his wife and he knows what loss is. and when they touch each other and are shocked by the sparks, it doesn't matter what they say they don't want. it doesn't matter that it's crazy to feel something so deeply for someone whose name you've refused to learn.

his best mistake is hers too. in opening themselves up to feeling something for someone else again, both daisy and mark come alive. and the heat between them is so intense. the feelings and emotions just burn up the pages. and it's so hot and sexy and deep. because there is nothing tepid or light or easy about mark and daisy. it's complicated. but because it's so hard it means that much more. i freaking loved this book. it was so good. these two leads were so well-matched and had so much crazy chemistry. i sat down and read this in a couple of hours. and then i regretted finishing it up so quickly because sometimes things are worth savoring. but also i just really love happy endings and daisy and mark totally go through the wringer to earn theirs and it's so worth it.

**his best mistake will publish on october 3, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (brazen) in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

seriously romantic: the bachelor auction by rachel van dyken

who doesn't love a good cinderella story? i'm that girl who loves the old school disney version and the more modern live action version and the one with drew barrymore and the one in the childcraft encyclopedia set i grew up reading at my grandmother's house. i mean, ever since the grimm brothers first published the story people have been remaking it in some form or another. and i wanted to like the bachelor auction. i really did. cinderella story, yes please. pretty cover, awesome. but then you start reading and jane and brock are two of the biggest pushovers you've ever seen. so much so that instead of rooting for them you just want to shake some sense into them.

their families were each going out of their way to be so epically terrible and jane and brock just took it. and it just didn't feel believable. who would let people treat them that way? i mean, it makes it clear that these two are perfect for each other. but one of the things i like about most romance novels is that the secondary cast of characters tend to be generally great people you can also
root for. and in this one you kind of just hope esmeralda and essence, jane's horrid sisters, and bentley and brant, brock's brothers just find some cliff to drive off of so that your eyes aren't subjected to anymore of their terrible dialogue and selfish, self-centered ways.

i think if everything hadn't been so heightened, and if the characters had been drawn more realistically i would have liked this more than i did. as it stands the two leads get their happy ending, but you wonder if they'll regress into spinelessness in the near future.

**the bachelor auction will be released in ebook form on october 4, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/forever (grand central publishing) in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, September 19, 2016

superbly suspenseful: chasing truth by julie cross

my best friend has been bugging me to watch veronica mars since the show premiered way back when. but for no good reason i've resisted. reading chasing truth makes me wonder if i should rethink my decision because eleanor ames certainly owes a lot to veronica. but that doesn't mean she's some carbon copy, i think they share their sarcastic repartee and innate curiosity, but they also come from very different upbringings and the scandals and intrigue of neptune, california are very different from the ones that proliferate in our nation's captial.

ellie is a recovering con artist, brought up in a family of master swindlers, she knows everything about how to lie and cheat your way into money. after cooperating with the fbi to take down her father, she finds herself living with her sister, harper, and harper's boyfriend, aidan and trying to learn how to live life as a regular citizen. this is complicated by the fact that she has no birth certificate or social security card, because the best way to go undetected when you are a criminal is to have no identity. just when she starts feeling like a normal girl again, her friend simon dies and his death is ruled a suicide. but ellie had just been to the homecoming dance with him and nothing about that evening makes any sense.

when a new neighbor moves in, miles bennett, her spidey senses start tingling and soon miles and ellie are tripping over each other on the hunt for clues. neither believes that simon killed himself and eventually they stop suspecting one another. and when they start working together the novel really starts to click. miles is the kind of guy who lives on the straight and narrow. for miles life is entirely black and white, while ellie only sees shades of gray and this contrast between the two of them makes their partnership and the sparks between them sizzle.

as things get more heated and dangerous in the case, miles and ellie are forced to look at things in new ways, and it's wonderful to see them both grow from getting to know one another. i can't wait to see what's next for miles and ellie, they were really fun to get to know.

**chasing truth will publish on september 27, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

seriously romantic: a royal christmas wedding by rachel hauck

i only recently discovered the royal wedding series by rachel hauck. i listened to the audio book version of once upon a prince which was incredibly narrated by eleni pappageorge. one of the key things to know about these books is that they are christian romance. so the romance is sweet and very much g-rated. i saw a royal christmas wedding up for request on netgalley and saw that it was about avery and colin, who played minor roles in the first novel in the series and i decided to give it a try.

it's always a different experience to read a book when you've listened to the audio book before. while i hadn't listened to this book before, i had heard all these characters before, so eleni pappageorge's voice was very much in my head when i read this. this isn't a bad thing. it just makes for a different reading experience. knowing these characters, catching up with them five years later was good.

avery and colin were well on the road to love in once upon a prince but they were obviously too young for forever then. a royal christmas wedding is very much a novel about second chances, making amends, and making the right choices for yourself. as the final book in the series it ties a beautiful bow on these characters.  they've all grown up, found their places in the world, and avery and colin only need to let love into their hearts, have faith in their future together in order to make things right.

it's not all smooth going, and there are plenty of obstacles, but none of them are insurmountable. and when they finally figure things out together it is very rewarding. there is a lovely epilogue that jumps forward through the royal families' futures and happily ever afters. and it's just all very sweet. for a feel good, sweet romance with more faith than angst, this hits the spot.

**a royal christmas wedding is scheduled to publish on october 18, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesty of netgalley/zondervan fiction in exchange for my honest review. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

seriously romantic: lured in by laura drewry

i can't stop myself from staring at the cover of this novel, because i just keep thinking that the two models must be so uncomfortable. luckily nothing as awkward as that seems to happen in the novel, though finn and jessie both are plenty uncomfortable in their own skin when they realize they have feelings for each other.

the latest novel in the fishing for trouble series, lured in, deals with best friends finn o'donnell and jessie todd. they've known each other since they were seventeen. but the trauma of their childhood has meant that they weren't able to face the truth of their feelings for each other until now. there had always been a connection between them, a shared hurt that no one else could ever understand. but because the o'donnells don't talk about shit, everything was buried until jessie decides that it is time to face her fear of the water.

and there is only one person she trusts to help her deal with that fear. finn is beyond honored to be the person jessie trusts to help her through her phobia, he is also the best person for the job because he understands her the way no one else does. at the same time his feelings for her have been harder and harder to hold back. but his distrust of women runs so deep that it's unclear that he will ever have enough faith to believe that things can work out.

lured in is pretty emotional at times, both finn and jessie have a lot of stuff to work through. but when they get together you can feel how much they love each other from the first moment. even when they can't admit it to each other, there is so much love between them. so of course it all works out in the end. and now the only o'donnell left with a story to tell is ronan. and something tells me his will probably be a doozy.

**lured in will publish on september 27, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/random house publishing - loveswept in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 16, 2016

seriously romantic: off the hook by laura drewry

laura drewry kicks off her fishing for trouble series with middle brother liam o'donnell. the o'donnell brothers are desperately trying to save their father's small fishing lodge--the only home that any of them have ever known. but they are all stubborn and non-communicative and not big on sharing secrets from their past. so when kate hadley shows up representing the company that is ready to swoop in and take over the entire operation liam isn't sure what to do. how do you confess that you married a woman spur-of-the-moment 10 years ago, that it only lasted 5 days before you ran, and that while you've never stopped thinking of her, you've also never told anyone about it?

well there is no good way to share all that. off the hook is a great second-chance-at-love story though. the tension between liam and kate sizzles from the start, but they are all focussed on getting the lodge back in working order. the only problem is the looming tax bill due in a month. the tax bill issue provides enough of a complication that it helps inform the story, but it all reads naturally. the best part of the book is the relationship that builds between liam and kate, as well as the relationships between everyone working at the lodge. liam's brother, finn, and jessie, the long-term manager both add something more to the story. because in some way the story is not just about rebuilding this lodge. it's about rebuilding this family.

their childhood was horrid. and the boys all carry a lot of baggage. and in off the hook we get to see how liam's baggage is lightened. and i can't wait to see what the other books in the series have in store for finn and ronan, the eldest o'donnell brother.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

strictly literary: the gender game by bella forrest

in the gender game we have one seriously dystopian society. the world is divided in two according to gender, and neither society is all that wonderful. violet grew up in matrus, and while she has been raised to believe that matrian society is the ideal, she has also been ill-treated by it. her brother was taken at the age of 8 when it was decided that his personality traits were not ideal. a series of incidents that led to her accidentally killing fellow prisoners mean that she is marked for euthanasia.

when she is offered the devil's bargain, going to patrus as a spy and marrying a matrian spy already instilled in the patrian society she has no choice but to agree. there is nothing left for her in matrus. her contact, lee betrand seems nice enough, accommodating enough for someone who is a member of patrian society. as a woman who was matrian-born, she doesn't always act with the appropriate amount of meekness. her independent streak and cunning got her in trouble in matrus, and while they serve her well for this mission, it makes fitting into patrian society a difficult task. in order to ease her transition, lee sets her up with a guardian, viggo croft. violet's job is to get close to croft in order to successfully implicate him in the plot lee has cooked up.

but viggo is unexpectedly kind. and the more time violet and he spend time together, the more attraction sizzles between them. but soon lee is distrustful of their closeness, fearing that violet's feelings for viggo will put his plan in danger. it all comes to a head in spectacular fashion at the banquet planned for the laboratory lee works at, and to provide any more detail than that would spoil the cliffhanger ending. i'm looking forward to the sequel, the gender secret. and it better have more viggo in it. because the relationship between him and violet make the novel. the tension between them crackles off the page, and i'm sure they won't be in the best place at the start of the next novel.

**the gender game will publish on september 24, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/nightlight press in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

seriously romantic: all i want by nicole helm

all i want is a sweet category romance that does a good job of handling the one-night stand resulting in surprise pregnancy trope. this is not my favorite trope of the genre, but the characters work really well together and the whole story comes together in a way that is ultimately satisfying. i'd read the previous two installments of the farmer's market series, and honestly i think this was my favorite of the bunch.

charlie wainwright is such a misunderstood character, in that the world around him seems to misunderstand his hidden depths. his family in particular does this, and i had some problems with the way they treated him and how he was then the one expected to make amends, because he really wasn't the one in the wrong. meg carmichael has been misunderstood by her loved ones her whole life, something that led her down a path of substance abuse and rehab. she's cleaned herself up and runs her small business based off her goat farm. and is surprised to realize that she and charlie have way more in common than she would have thought at first glance. they hook up drunkenly one night and weeks later meg realizes there were unintended consequences.

she tells charlie and is surprised by his willingness to explore what lies between them. the fact that he wants to be involved with their child a shock. she's wary, but he somehow sneaks into every corner of her life, and the bond between them is surprisingly strong. except, she keeps her past a big secret. and i feel like it may have been more interesting to have her reveal her struggles with addiction earlier in the novel and have a bit more angst between them about that, rather than the one time charlie is acting like a jerk he throws that in her face, and actually the whole reason he was being a jerk can be laid at the feet of his family so it's just a really weird argument/complication that develops at the end. somehow everyone makes up and it works out because it's a harlequin romance.

the thing of this novel is that i really liked charlie. i liked him way more than any of the other characters in it. meg has her moments, but she also makes some really annoying choices that got on my nerves. if you've read the other novels in the series, you'll like this one.

Monday, September 12, 2016

seriously romantic: refuge by karen lynch

so i totally binge-read refuge after i finished up relentless. i don't love a ton of supernatural romance stuff, but this hits the city of bones/vampire diaries/the originals sweet spot for me. just the right amount of supernatural stuff mixed in with the angsty teen drama.

i enjoyed the second half of refuge way more than the first half, mostly because there wasn't enough nikolas in the first half. it still boggles the mind how easily sara can misinterpret how he feels about her and what he thinks of her, but it does set up the killer cliffhanger at the end of the book. rogue better not delay introducing nikolas, because his and sara's relationship elevates the books in my opinion. it's not creepy twilight-esque bella and edward stuff. sara is an actual badass. in refuge she makes some new friends and we actually get to know more about her special abilities. the things she discovers she can do are pretty cool.

but we also learn more about the bond between nikolas and sara. for the first time we actually get to hear nikolas lay out exactly how he feels. it's so obvious to everyone else but sara, but we are stuck in her head so that particular moment is so fulfilling. i mean, obviously i'm totally shipping them here, and i'm obsessed with the two of them. but the novel still d
eals with some of the themes of friendship and family that the first book did. we delve a bit more into the larger mythology being built and it's all pretty cool.

i did figure out the person who betrays the mohiri well before anyone else figured it out. but i've said before that being able to figure stuff like this out doesn't bother me, it really doesn't. though sometimes i can't help but wonder how people don't see all the signs. the red herring wasn't strong enough either.

anyway, i've already downloaded rogue. can't wait to devour it. and i might also check out warrior releasing later this year. it tells the same story from nikolas's side of things, i can't decide if i will find that enchanting or repetitive. especially since sara can be so frustrating some times and being in her head allows you some sympathy.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

strictly literary: hag-seed by margaret atwood

shakespeare's the tempest is one of my favorite of his plays, even though it is a problematic text, the reasons it is problematic make it interesting to study. in hag-seed, margaret atwood takes the basic outline and characters and thoroughly modernizes the play and allows it to stand on its own as a modern novel.

but the way she does it allows her to also explore the different textual interpretations of the play. in hag-seed you're not just reading a modern version of the tempest. you are close reading the original text. for a lit major who loved, loved, loved shakespeare and loved, loved, loved studying shakespeare it was so fun to read.

this re-telling works because it is so layered. a straightforward re-telling of the tempest would have been impossible. but the way it is framed, around the theater and around a prison, allows the author some liberties in making correlations. felix phillips aka felix duke is our prospero, but almost everyone else in the novel functions as a representation of two or three other characters. as a former student of shakespeare this worked for me, because it allowed me to make different connections and opened my eyes to some new interpretations. but if you don't know the play well and if you're not really a fan of the bard, it's still an enjoyable story about how revenge is a dish best served cold, but with lots and lots of preparation.

**hag-seed will publish on october 11, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/crown publishing (hogarth) in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

seriously romantic: good earls don't lie by michelle willingham

good earls don't lie kicks off the earls next door series from michelle willingham. in this particular novel we meet the thornton family and an irish earl named iain. he comes to their estate on the invitation of their family matriarch in the hopes of securing her assistance in finding a suitable bride to help save his family estates in ireland that have been suffering from the terrible potato blight and famine that consumed that country in the mid-nineteenth century.

unfortunately for iain, his carriage ran into trouble and his servants escaped to try their luck elsewhere while he was set upon by thieves when he went to get help on horseback. they leave him without his shoes, the shirt on his back, the signet ring that identifies him as the earl of ashton and a letter of introduction to the family. even as he swears to them that he is the earl of ashton, no one believes him. and being irish meant that culturally he had a reputation of a liar and a thief though no fault of his own.

he first meets lady rose, the invalid eldest daughter of the family. she suffered a terrible illness that left her legs paralyzed and she is dependent on her servants to get around. she is determined to walk again, but no one else believes that she will ever do it. even though she mistrusts iain at first, the more time she spends with him she believes that he can't be a simple servant. and when he does prove himself to be truthful she takes up his cause, agreeing to help him acquire the proper polish to move about in society, while allowing him to help her relearn how to walk.

this requires that they spend time together, and soon a deep affection grows between them. but rose is loathe to give up on her previous love, lord thomas burkham even though his constancy comes into question daily since he has left her to her own devices throughout her convalescence. when they come to london and everything comes to a head it is clear that lady rose and iain are meant to be together. they overcome quite a few obstacles to get there and it's a nice, sweet read. i liked iain  a lot as a character. and we got a sense of the story brewing between matthew and lily in the next novel, what the earl wants. and my guess is that rose's brother, james and her friend, evangeline sinclair round out the series, but we shall see what lies in store i suppose.

**good earls don't lie will publish on september 27, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/montlake publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 9, 2016

seriously romantic: landing the air marshal by jennifer blackwood

i was looking for a quick, easy, happy read and landing the air marshal fit the bill perfectly. abby is a control freak set designer who is terrified of flying. gage is an off-duty air marshal. when they are seated together on a cross-country trip the sparks literally fly between them. they can't keep their minds off each other, or their hands.

when they realize that they're coincidentally staying at the same hotel they decide to share a room. and when a blizzard hits new york a one night stand turns into a weekend together. being trapped in one place for an extended period of time allows the leads to spend time getting to really know each other. and both of them want to see what might happen if they were to extend their relationship beyond a weekend. but gage is afraid that the long-distance, the flying, her career needs, his career needs, the fact that their families are nowhere near each other make anything serious a non-starter.

they don't figure out everything at the end. partly because i think figuring it all out would make this a very different novel. but the leads get their happy for now ending, and i got a delightful read. so it's all good.

**landing the air marshal will release on september 12, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

seriously romantic: relentless by karen lynch

i know relentless published in 2013, but i've only just discovered the series and i need to tell you all about how good it is. if you like the shadowhunters series by cassandra clare then you'll definitely like this. there might not be angels, but there are all sorts of supernatural beings and sara grey is pretty badass even as she learns the supernatural world is even more complicated and dangerous than she thought. sara has known about the "real" world since she was a child and realized that she had the gift to heal animals. even though her healing abilities weren't able to save her father after he was killed by what she believes are vampires, she never stops sharing her gift of healing with those in need. while trying to find the truth about her father's death, sara has the misfortune of capturing the attention of a vampire. she also captures the attention of nikolas danshov, who turns out to be a mohiri warrior, part of a race of vampire hunters.

nikolas saves her from the vampire, but he realizes that there is something special about sara. he believes she is mohiri too. the scuffle with the vampire also reveals that some of sara's closest friends have been keeping their fair share of secrets too. all at once sara's world changes, and she struggles to stay true to herself and her friends. she wants to resist the pull of the mohiri, but it is an undeniable part of her. but sara is special in other ways too. and i'm not going to spoil how it is that she is special, but that twist turns out to be pretty cool.

this isn't just another supernatural romance, sara spends way more time with other characters than nikolas, who is obviously her romantic counterpart. and that's okay, but it can also be a little frustrating, because she doesn't let him and is often at cross-purposes with him, but he also isn't wrong to worry about her. she dismisses his care and attention as part of his job, but it's so obvious to everyone else that there is more to his feelings than that. and sometimes you wonder how it is possible that she is so dense about this, when she is so attuned to everything else.

i'm in the middle of refuge, which is the sequel. the nice thing about relentless is that it doesn't end on some crazy cliffhanger. but there is still obviously more to the story and i'm enjoying watching it unfold so far. also, relentless is currently for sale on amazon, it's free for your kindle. you can't lose by trying out the series at no cost to you!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

simply the end of the road

well, that's it. the summer of swoki or hiddleswift or whatever other ridiculous portmanteau you can come up with to describe taylor swift and tom hiddleston's relationship has come to its natural end. summer lovin' fades once the cool wind of fall nips at your feet. but oh, the gossip they provided without really saying anything about it. they were all about showing not telling. they were papped on a whirlwind tour of the world--who does that? i will not speculate as to the reality of the relationship, my guess is that it was real for at least one of them. and my guess is that the disparate feelings proved to be too much to overcome distance.

what makes taylor swift as one-half celebrity couple so fascinating to me, is that somehow she elevates the drama. tom hiddleston is in his thirties. he is a man. he is a fucking adult and yet somehow he became part of some ridiculous high school drama. how she manages to get guys to go down to her level almost every time is fascinating. even when no one talks. there is still so much rumor and innuendo.

like i said to my bff, my biggest problem with taylor is that she refuses to own her bitchiness. girl, #teamheartlessbitch is amazeballs. stop pretending you are such a goody-goody and i'm 100% certain people will respect you for it.

Monday, September 5, 2016

seriously romantic: one step behind by brianna labuskes

one step behind is a delightful regency romance with a little hint of mystery mixed in to spice things up. gemma lancaster and lucas stone keep tripping over each other, she is searching for her cousin's murderer and he is searching for his sister's blackmailer. when they realize their suspects overlap they join forces, using a fake engagement as a cover to comply with regency society's standards of respectability.

soon they find themselves battling more than just a murderer-blackmailer, they must fight against their own issues of insecurity and fear of commitment, because the attraction between them burns too hot and they are going to get singed--either by reputation or by a broken heart--if they don't figure things out. what's great about gemma and lucas is that they are on equal ground from the first moment they meet. and while lucas does that gentlemanly thing of trying to protect gemma, he doesn't go overboard with it either, and he surrenders to the fact that they are partners pretty easily.

i figured out who the villain was pretty early in the story, but i've read some other reviews of people who were surprised. but i am never generally surprised by plot twists, so this didn't upset me. i guessed it was the character, but i didn't have any idea as to his motivation, so i still found the sleuthing done by gemma and lucas, and george and beatrice to be of interest. all in all, if you like regency romances, you won't do wrong here. the characters are strong and the plot is entertaining.

**one step behind is scheduled to publish on september 26, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (select historical) in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

strictly literary: secrets in the snow by michaela maccoll

i think this cover is so gorgeous. and the description:

jane austen’s family is eager to marry her off. coming from a family of little means, it is the only way she can be assured of a comfortable future. jane is much more interested in writing her novels, and finds every suitor lacking in one way or another. that is, until the mysterious mr. lefroy arrives on the scene. but when her cousin is suspected in aiding the french, england’s enemy, jane is suddenly sidetracked trying to prove her cousin’s innocence, solving a murder, and ultimately facing a decision that might just cost her true love.

well, that all sounds like it's right up my alley. i so wanted to love this book, and i'm not exactly sure where things went wrong for me. so let's try talking this out. i read an uncorrected proof of secrets in the snow and there were a lot of errors to be caught. i sincerely hope that whoever proofreads the final galleys does a good job, because there were so many typos, missing words, repeated paragraphs, incorrectly identified characters that it really distracted from my reading experience. maybe other people are better about letting those kind of things go, and i get how easy it is to make a mistake. i re-read my own emails three times and then after i send it i still catch silly errors. but in this case the amount of work still needed on the manuscript detracted from the story.

and about the story, it sounds pretty juicy in the description, but it doesn't really live up to all the promised suspense. the murder mystery starts and is resolved in the last third of the novel. there is so much set up getting us to that point that the payoff isn't really worth all the effort. the parallels drawn between jane's life and her novels is at times heavy-handed, and this makes the plot of secrets in the snow suffer from predictability. and in a novel that is supposed to include some suspense this is a huge problem. i also think the stakes for the characters weren't particularly well-established.

and i think here the novel's length is part of the problem. everything happens at a breakneck pace. at one point tom lefroy complains about how quickly jane walks everywhere, the author suffers a similar problem. instead of allowing things to develop and grow we leap ahead to the next plot point without allowing any time to take things in. the novel opens with jane and cassandra visiting their elder brother and his wife. this would have been a prime opportunity to show where some of jane's wry observations of the wealthy come from, but other than jane complaining about her sister-in-law and a bizarre chat she has with one of the manservants, jane is quickly dispatched back home and we are never to see godmersham location or its characters again.

the beats that the author tries to match up with pride & prejudice and sense & sensibility also fall short. i think part of the problem is that this book is trying so hard to do something different and yet it all feels so familiar. and listen, maybe that's exactly what some people want. but for me i was hoping for a different take on austen, and instead i just got another elizabeth bennett standing in for jane austen, which is actually a characterization of austen that i don't think is entirely accurate.

in the end, this is a quick read. if you like jane austen and enjoy alternate histories of real life historical figures, this should be right up your alley. i may have wanted this novel to do more, but i will admit that what it does, it does well. and hopefully by the time it publishes all the necessary corrections will have made it into the final version.

**secrets in the snow is scheduled to publish on october 4, 2016. i receive an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/chronicle books in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

somewhat scientific: star trek beyond

growing up i was never a star trek fan. i thought the television series was boring and the one movie i recall seeing was super boring. it took place on earth and maybe kirk and spock were searching for something--but who cares? all i can tell you was that as a 10-year-old i found it beyond boring. i was always a star wars person. never a trekkie. even when i heard j.j. abrams was relaunching the franchise i wasn't all that excited about it. and i love everything j.j. abrams does. i think he's the bees knees, but was he going to get me to watch star trek? i don't think so

but when i was visiting my friend ian in l.a. a couple years ago, he suggested we go see the second installment in the new franchise, which was out in theaters. going to see movies in a theater is a treat to a parent of young children. and the night before we did that we caught up on the first installment. and i was  pleasantly surprised, while i wouldn't describe the movies as high cinema, they were not boring. i enjoyed them mightily.

so when the latest film in the franchise, star trek beyond, was released around my birthday, i had the perfect excuse to go to the movies with my husband. a proper date night--a rare treat in these parts. and it was fun. i don't love these movies for the plot, but the action and the relationships between the characters makes the experience fun. i love the humor in these films, and one of the ways the movie traded on humor and characters was by putting them in unexpected pairings. this had a way of freshening the dynamics of the franchise while giving the actors some new beats to explore. in the end this felt like it must have been a very fun movie to film, like they enjoyed filming this thing. not sure if that's true or not, but it feels that way.

i have to say i'm looking forward to the next one. these movies have definitely made me a trekkie, something i never thought i'd say.

Friday, September 2, 2016

strictly literary: an ember in the ashes by sabaa tahir

while i'm anxiously awaiting my copy of a torch against the night, i figured i'd talk a bit about the novel that started it all. i actually picked up an ember in the ashes after i started seeing it on all these young adult must-read lists. at the time it wasn't yet set to have a sequel, and when i first finished it i kept googling until i found the answer i wanted. since then it's evolved into a four-part series, which on the one hand slays me, because oh my god that means there is so much story before i find out how it all ends. but on the other hand thrills me because i loved this scary, terrifying world that tahir created and i want to spend more time with all the characters, especially elias and laia. i loved them so, so much.

the story is set in an ancient land, somewhat of a cross of the holy roman empire and the ancient middle east. the martials reign supreme, particularly with their army of masks. the lowly scholars serving as their slaves, deprived of even their names while serving within the confines of the imperial fortress. outside the fortress a resistance has formed and laia's brother is captured in a raid one night, the rest of her family slaughtered by the masks. laia escapes and finds her way to the resistance only to be sent to the fortress as a spy from within the ruthless commandant's house.

but this is not just laia's story, elias shows us life in serra from the martial perspective. and it isn't much better as a martial. forced to join an army despite his feelings he resists the process of melding with his silver mask. this resistance marks elias as different, a dangerous prospect when all the leaders want is uniformity and compliance. elias meets laia by chance and is drawn to her. but he also feels deeply for his classmate helene. he's been secretly planning his desertion but then the trials come into play and to protect the people he cares about he must participate.

i don't want to give anything else away, because the suspense of what happens next makes this book worth reading. the relationships between laia and keenan, laia and elias, elias and helene, laia and darin, elias and the commandant, are all layered and complex. i loved getting to know these characters and watching them inhabit this world. the book does end with a cliffhanger, but honestly it was the kind of ending where even if there had never been another book, i would have been okay. because i would have been able to imagine the ending i liked. but it's probably for the best that i don't have to do that. i trust tahir's talent to take the story in directions i couldn't even imagine.