Tag Archives: 3.5/5

A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean

A Scot in the Dark (Scandal & Scoundrel #2) by Sarah MacLean
Published on August 30, 2016 by Avon.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: historical romance.

My rating:

Lonesome Lily Turned Scandalous Siren … Miss Lillian Hargrove has lived much of her life alone in a gilded cage, longing for love and companionship. When an artist offers her pretty promises and begs her to pose for a scandalous portrait, Lily doesn’t hesitate…until the lying libertine leaves her in disgrace. With the painting now public, Lily has no choice but to turn to the one man who might save her from ruin.

Highland Devil turned Halfhearted Duke … The Duke of Warnick loathes all things English, none more so than the aristocracy. It does not matter that the imposing Scotsman has inherited one of the most venerable dukedoms in Britain—he wants nothing to do with it, especially when he discovers that the unwanted title comes with a troublesome ward, one who is far too old and far too beautiful to be his problem.

Tartan Comes to Town … Warnick arrives in London with a single goal: get the chit married and see her become someone else’s problem, then return to a normal, quiet life in Scotland. It’s the perfect plan, until Lily declares she’ll only marry for love…and the Scot finds that there is one thing in England he likes far too much…

srcek

I’m a big fan of Sarah MacLean, so I had a preorder out for this one for a long time. I was so excited to read it! I loved the first book of the Scandal & Scoundrel series, The Rogue Not Taken, though for some reason I never reviewed it here on the blog. *shrug*

A Scot in the Dark (I just love her titles) is a tale of Alec, one gruff Scot who inherits a dukedom after a series of misfortunate events eliminates seventeen of previous heirs. And nobody informs him that he also inherited a ward, one Lillian Hargrove, muse to the most famous painter in London.

After a scandal breaks out – Lily posed for a portrait thinking the painter would be the only one who’d ever see it, so you can imagine what kind of a portrait it is – Alec is summoned to town to help her and clear her name (somehow). This is, for him, an equivalent of pulling teeth, as he hates everything to do with England, however, he soon finds out that Lily has plans of her own – plans that don’t necessarily match his own.

Naturally, the two feel a powerful attraction to each other, you can’t have it any other way in romances, but I did find the love part a bit rushed – they’ve only known each other for ten days. But hey, that’s all you need sometimes.

Alec is one of those huge, hulking heroes that can be hit or miss for me. He’s gruff and powerful – but luckily doesn’t act like a total Neanderthal (with the exception of breaking down one door). I’m saying this because I recently read a novel (a contemporary, even) where the hero was basically an ape with (questionable) speech faculties and I hated the cliché so. much. I didn’t even want to write a ranty review, I was so disgusted. Alec, however, resents the public opinion that has formed around his big stature and goes to great lengths to prove that he’s not actually a brute.

I’m not a huge fan of “I’m not good enough for you so I’ll find you a better husband” trope but even that didn’t lessen my enjoyment. MacLean’s writing is just that good. Her romances are always on top of my to-buy list and this one was just perfect for my last evening as a pregnant lady. :)

I am very excited for her next book, The Day of the Duchess, which is supposedly coming in April 2017! Thank the skies for romance authors who actually write fast and publish two books a year! :)

srcek

Have you read A Scot in the Dark? What did you think?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis

Sweet Little Lies (Heartbreaker Bay #1) by Jill Shalvis
Published in June 2016 by Avon.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (for Kindle).

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Choose the one guy you can’t have . . . As captain of a San Francisco Bay tour boat, Pru can handle rough seas—the hard part is life on dry land. Pru loves her new apartment and her neighbors; problem is, she’s in danger of stumbling into love with Mr. Right for Anybody But Her.

Fall for him—hard . . . Pub owner Finn O’Riley is six-foot-plus of hard-working hottie who always makes time for his friends. When Pru becomes one of them, she discovers how amazing it feels to be on the receiving end of that deep green gaze. But when a freak accident involving darts (don’t ask) leads to shirtless first aid, things rush way past the friend zone. Fast.

And then tell him the truth. Pru only wants Finn to be happy; it’s what she wishes for at the historic fountain that’s supposed to grant her heart’s desire. But wanting him for herself is a different story—because Pru’s been keeping a secret that could change everything. . .

srcekIf you’ve been around my blog for any length of time, you’ll have noticed that I have a deep affection for Jill Shalvis’s books. You can check out my reviews of Simply IrresistibleThe Wilder seriesSecond Chance Summer, and My Kind of Wonderful. I also wrote an author addiction post about her last year. That said, not all her books are equally good, as you can well expect from a writer who has more than 20 books under her belt. The Cedar Ridge series, for example, was my least-favourite so far, but this new series, Heartbreaker Bay, is shaping up to be better.

I liked both main characters a lot. Pru is a good person and she has her heart in the right place, and Finn is a typically gorgeous, strong Shalvis hero with a steady character and a good dose of pride. Their story was sweet and funny and I rooted for them from the beginning.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. I thought the big secret Pru is keeping should have been told a lot sooner, especially since the two of them got pretty serious pretty fast. I’m a big fan of honesty and communication in relationships, so this was the biggest reason for my slightly lower rating.

There’s also the fact that Shalvis usually takes some time to set up her series and I never like the first book of her series the best. So I’m hoping for an even better romance in The Trouble with Mistletoe, which is coming sometime in late 2016. I really liked the group of friends and neighbors we met in Sweet Little Lies, especially the ladies. There’s some chemistry between the characters already, so the situation is bound to get interesting.

Shalvis remains one of my favourite romance authors and her books are still auto-buy for me. It’s like they’re the perfect fluffy read and I love that I can count on her to deliver a solid love story without too much drama – and without making me cringe and roll my eyes like I do with some other popular romance writers that will remain unnamed. :)

srcek

Have you read Sweet Little Lies? What did you think?

Who are your auto-buy authors? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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A Batch of YA Mini Reviews

I’ve had these written up and sitting around for a while and I really think it’s time for me to publish them. It may look like I’ve had the two ARCs for years because of their publication dates but I only received them last year, so I’m not that horrible.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Published in 2011 by Walker Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (Slovenian hardback).

Genre: MG urban fantasy/magical realism?.

My rating:

I enjoyed Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy a lot. I even saw him when he visited a book festival in Ljubljana – he’s one of the few authors who did. I read both that trilogy and A Monster Calls in Slovenian translations, which are very good. But while I liked A Monster Calls, I didn’t love it like I expected to. Maybe my expectations were too high?

In any case, this is a good story about a boy dealing with grief, it’s an important story to have if you need to offer it to a child/young person dealing with a similar situation. I guess we all deal with loss in our lives, in one way or another; hopefully not too often, but such is the way of life. I thought Ness did a credible job of working through the issues of denial, anger, and helplessness that come with such a life situation. I know a lot of people absolutely adore this book, so I urge you to give it a try, especially if you’ve already read Ness’s other stories and liked them.

The artwork is also absolutely brilliant, I think the story wouldn’t be half as good without it. Jim Kay is the man who’s working on the illustrated versions of Harry Potter, but his style is completely different here, it’s dark and scary.

zmaj-desno

Thorn by Intisar Khanani
Published in 2012 by Intisar Khanani.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: author via NetGalley. Thank you Intisar Khanani for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA fantasy/fairytale retelling.

My rating:

Uh, this is one of my old ARC debts… I read Thorn last year as a part of the Fairytale Retelling Challenge, though I never got around to reviewing it. *sigh* I find it hard to write about books I neither actively liked nor disliked, I never know what exactly to write about them. I did enjoy Thorn, it’s a retelling of “The Goose Girl”, where a princess is unlawfully replaced by an evil impostor and has to prove her worth even though she’s now stripped of her royal status. I liked the story, it doesn’t rely on privilege and birthright to show a character’s strength, but I felt like the author didn’t really add anything important to the original story. The plot is essentially the same, only the decor is different. I liked the slightly Oriental vibe, but I found the princess’s reliance on God to be overwhelming, I prefer it if characters primarily believe in themselves and other people. It’s just one of those personal pet peeves, what can I say. I also missed more fantasy elements – I know fairy tales don’t necessarily feature them but this story did, to an extent. So I wished for a more pronounced world-building and/or magic system. This wasn’t a bad story but I wish it was executed more thoughtfully.

zmaj-levo

Shadows (The Rephaim #1) by Paula Weston
by Text Publishing.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Text Publishing for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA paranormal fantasy.

My rating:

Well, what can I say, I’m a sucker for YA paranormals. Ever since I read Twilight, I’ve been searching for good stories (YES, I know, it’s horrible of me to say that but it’s true. I refuse to feel ashamed.) that would break the mold. And… Shadows doesn’t, really. I mean, it’s always nice to read a story where angels aren’t the good guys, though I think Laini Taylor took excellent care of that with her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. Shadows is decidedly darker, more violent and kind of mysterious, but it has the requisite hot guy who knows too much about the heroine, the jealous ex-boyfriend (who is also gorgeous, hello, he’s an angel!) and a heroine who kicks ass even though she can’t remember where she’s learned it all. I liked the twin angle – she’s grieving/missing her twin brother, I think that if the story will develop that part, it might get really good. I’ll probably pick up the sequel one day, I’m just not in a huge rush to do so.

zmaj-desno

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Do you have any fairytale retelling of paranormal fantasy recs for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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A Batch of Romance Mini Reviews

This is a mixed bag of romances, two rather good ones and one that was decidedly underwhelming. See if anything catches your fancy!

 

The Princess Wore Plaid (The Oxenburg Princes #2.5) by Karen Hawkins
Published on March 21, 2016 by Pocket Star.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Pocket Star for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: historical romance.

My rating:

This is a novella from The Oxenburg Princes series and it was actually my favourite story so far. I usually dislike reading novellas because the characters or the story always feel underdeveloped, but this certainly wasn’t the case here! The novels focus on the brothers – princes – of the royal family of Oxenburg, a made up East-European country. They somehow end up traipsing through Scotland and falling in love. This novella features their royal cousin, the princess Tatiana and a recluse of a Scottish Lord. I didn’t enjoy the princes’ stories as much because they were domineering and very alpha, but Lord XX is a damaged man who allows XY into his life and heart despite his opinion that a young woman has no business spending time with a crippled loner. The heroine has been in a carriage accident and has suffered some memory loss, and is now employed at a country inn as a kitchen maid. I liked how she thought about her life as a royal and the things that made a person good, she really changed and grew up as a character, which, as you know, is very important to me. I’ve read most of Karen Hawkins’s books, so I’ll most definitely be reading the last part of this series as well – it’s the crown prince’s story! :)

zmaj-desno

Sweet Ruin (Immortals After Dark #16) by Kresley Cole
Published in December 2015 by Gallery Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Gallery Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: paranormal romance.

My rating:

Oh, Kresley Cole… I have such a love-hate relationship with her. I absolutely adore the first… eight or so instalments of her Immortals After Dark super-series. Though her heroes are alpha males (yes, males, they’re demons and werewolves and whatnot) and often overbearing and insistent to the point of being pushy, her heroines definitely knew how to handle themselves and mostly kicked the men’s asses into submission, rarely taking shit from them. But once Cole started writing NA paranormals (seriously, don’t even bother with those, they’re horrible, or at least the first one is, I never continued with the series) and erotica (which kind of made me want to wash my eyeballs), the quality of her characters has slipped, I think. 

I… read Sweet Ruin in a day or so, the story is still good and the writing pretty addictive, but I wish for more truly independent women, not just superficially “strong” heroines who conform to their partner’s wishes. Eh. Also, this one opened up the world of the Lore, which is already complicated as fuck, to a whole other dimension of super deities, which worries me a lot, because it looks like we’re in for another sub-series of crazy-powerful individuals, who are mostly male, which always troubles me when they’re paired with women who can’t really cope with that kind of strength. I mean, before, the couples in her romances were valkyrie and a werewolf, for example, both were immortal and the woman was more than capable of slapping the man around. But now … things just aren’t so level anymore, and I never like such imbalance. Eh. We’ll see where the series goes, I might give the next part another try for old times’ sake.

zmaj-levo

Playing For Her Heart (Gamers #2) by Megan Erickson
by Entangled Publishing.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Entangled Publishing for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary romance/erotica.

My rating:

Ooh, another ARC debt. I actually enjoyed this one a lot. It’s a contemporary romance bordering on erotica with some role playing involved. The couple hooks up at a SFF convention (I really want to visit ComiCon or something someday, not for the sex, obviously, but for the amazing cosplay!), they are dressed as characters from the same video game, and the sex is off the charts hot. But then the girl disappears from the room and the guy is left wondering if he’ll ever see her again. He does, of course, as she’s his best friend’s shy sister – she only lets go when she’s playing a role, so he accepts that, but knows he wants more than just games from her (he’s playing for her heart, hint hint). Anyway, this was a nice surprise, as I haven’t had much luck with Entangled romances in the past (which hasn’t prevented me from reading them, *sigh*). 

zmaj-desno

Did you read any of these? What did you think?

Do you stay loyal to authors even after they’ve disappointed you?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace #1) by Erin Bow
Published in 2015 by Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Margaret K. McElderry Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA post-apocalyptic sci-fi.

My rating:

Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the

Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power

As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.

zmaj-desno

Going into books blind seems to be a theme lately. I recently reviewed Illuminae, a book where I knew absolutely nothing about the plot before I started reading it, and it really didn’t turn out all that well. I requested Scorpion Rules on Netgalley after I saw an author I admire call it fantastic and I also didn’t read anything about it before plunging straight in. I’m wondering now whether this is a good tactic – I liked this one okay but didn’t love it. 

Scorpion Rules is the beginning of a post-apocalyptic series that’s different from others of such type I’ve had the (dis)pleasure to read. The premise is quite similar to Hunger Games or Divergent, with the world divided into new countries, the life conditions perilous, the political situation uncertain – but this time, the world is controlled by an artificial intelligence system which made peace by blasting several large cities off the world map until people started paying attention to it. 

Now, children of the rulers of each of the world’s countries are taken (a person can’t rule a nation without having children) and they spend their time in camps, waiting to see if their illustrious parent will start a war. If this happens, the child is taken and executed for their parent’s sin. 

When we meet Greta, she’s almost old enough to be released from this obligation, she’s living in the middle of a desert with other children of peace, trying to keep her head down, hoping her mother, the queen of one of the largest territories that also has large supplies of the most coveted resource: water, won’t start a war or enter one if attacked. That’s when Elián lands there, he’s the grandson of a general of a new country that borders Greta’s. He doesn’t know how to behave, is reckless and gets punished constantly by the robotic guards and instructors running the facility. 

Now, you may be rolling your eyes at this, suspecting the plot is surely very predictable from here on out: the girl and the boy fall in love, he makes her see that fighting for the right cause is good, they run away together and fight for a better future for all humanity. Well, not quite. First of all, the love triangle (yes, there is one) here is much more interesting than usual, mostly because it involves a same-sex relationship without giving it labels and without making a fuss about it. I know coming-out stories are extremely important, that having openly gay characters deal with the problems in the society is necessary, but it’s also nice to see a relationship where being gay is… not extraordinary. Or rather, it’s nice to read a book where gender isn’t the deciding factor for choosing one’s partner. 

Anyway, if you like post-apocalyptic sci-fi and you’re tired of angsty teenage stories, this is a good book to check out. I was a bit thrown by the ending (I can’t really see how the story will continue with things being as they are) and I thought the pacing was too slow at times – the tone is much more… contemplative than is usual for YA (not necessarily a bad thing, I just wished the story moved on faster because I wanted to know what would come next). These are the reasons for my lower rating – purely personal. So if the premise sounds interesting to you, give it a try, by all means, because it’s really nice to read something that deviates from the mould from time to time.

zmaj-levo

Have you read Scorpion Rules? What did you think?

Do you have any good postapocalyptic recs?

I’d love to hear from you!

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The Readers of the Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

The Readers of the Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
Published on January 19, 2016 by Sourcebooks Landmark.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Sourcebooks Landmark for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary / women's fiction.

My rating:

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory. All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town.

srcek

I didn’t know this was a translated book before I started reading it. I don’t think that this fact changed my reading experience much, the translation is very good (at least as far as I can tell as I can’t speak Swedish), so I wouldn’t have noticed at all if I didn’t read the very first page(s). I can now count this towards my goal of reading more non-English books (even though it’s actually in English – I wouldn’t have been able to read it in Swedish, after all).

I liked The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. It’s a heartfelt story with interesting characters and I found myself wondering what I’d do in a similar situation.

Sara arrives in Broken Wheel, Iowa, which is essentially the synonym to “the middle of nowhere”, only to discover that her dear pen pal, Amy, has just passed away. She is told by the people attending the funeral that she should most definitely stay in Amy’s house, which is exactly what she does because she is too confused to do anything else. It looks like Amy had been sick for a long time, so Sara doesn’t know why she invited her over in the first place.

But Sara’s life back in Sweden doesn’t really hold much appeal at the moment – she’d lost her job because the bookstore she’s worked at for years has closed. Her family isn’t all that supportive of her new adventure – her parents constantly underestimate her and she feels like nobody would really miss her if she just stayed here.

And she does. The town seems very reluctant to accept a stranger at first but the people somehow end up adopting her all the same. It’s baffling to her that no one allows her to pay for anything, even when she sees they could clearly use some money, and she finally finds an interesting way of paying them back.

I really enjoyed this story. Sara was a great character, too, it was really nice to see her emerge from her introverted cocoon and unfurl her wings. I did, however, have a complaint or two about the story’s execution: mostly, I was bothered by the unnecessary descriptions of books that Sara and Amy have read. Hello, could you not write down the entire plot of Jane Eyre without warning?! Gah. I have been spoiled for this book before but now I know the entire synopsis and it’s just… WHY?!

I also found myself skimming over the letters that Amy wrote to Sara prior to her death. So I think the story would have benefited from a sharp knife to cut some unnecessary bits and it would have been wonderful. But that’s a personal preference. I saw other positive reviews (here and here), so you might want to give those a read if you’re undecided on whether this book is worth it!

If you read this one and are looking for more – try Little Beach Street Bakery or The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris.

srcek

Have you read The Readers of the Broken Wheel Recommend? What did you think?

Do you have any good chick lit recommendations? I haven’t read anything in this genre for a while.

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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