I'm an animal lover, unapologetic genre reader and quiet goodreads exile still trying to figure this whole blog thing out. :)  I read across a lot of genres but mostly romance, mystery & fantasy (urban & epic). 

The Hostage (Great Chicago Fire Trilogy #1) - Susan Wiggs

This books starts a little slow but the second half really makes up for it.  Deborah starts off the book not so much spoiled as just oblivious as to how other people live and how to take care of herself.  I saw other reviews where they disliked her for this but for me it was realistic as to how she would be.  Something bad has happened between her and her fiance and although the story doesn't come out for a while if you've read a fair amount of romance (or even just read a fair amount) you'll figure out what happened.  Deborah's journey from sheltered and scared to self sufficient and confident is really the story of the book.


Tom Silver is wonderful hero but his emotional journey isn't nearly as compelling.  He needs to get over grieving and love again but who he is basically is the same throughout the book.  That said his physical journey to reach Deborah when her life is endangered is pretty awesome.


I have to admit that I got a little teared up at the end but still given the slow beginning this probably would have been 4*s, even with the strong second half.  But I was really excited to read a historical set in the US that wasn't a western.  Nothing against westerns or the typical London set historical, I've read and enjoyed both.  But there's a rich history in this country (and obviously in other settings) that gets ignored for the same regency ballroom setting.  This book is actually a nice bridge between the typical and the unusual.  Deborah, although from Chicago, is very much from the world of ballrooms and entertainments that wouldn't feel out of place in a typical regency.  However, Tom is a very American frontier type character.  And the winter challenges that they face are definitely not from London. 


I'm definitely intrigued by the next two in the series as well.

Obsidian - Jennifer L. Armentrout

To quote Randy from American Idol - this one was just OK for me.  There was a bit too much of a Twilight vibe going on.  And Daemon was a bit too much controlling, alpha jerk for me as well.  I think as that character type has gotten more and more popular I'm losing my patience completely with it. 


I mostly did like Katy and that she often stood up to him and his crap.  But even in her head there was too much "What a jerk! He's so hot! What a jerk! But maybe there are hidden depths!" for me.  And just once I'd love for the controlling hero to tell the heroine not to do something, have her do it and it turns out OK.  I guess that wouldn't be such a dramatic scene and it wouldn't give him the chance to rush in and rescue her but, you know, men don't always know best.


Anyway, that's basically my issue with this book.  I'm giving it the 3 stars because I did really like the friendships.  Despite all the GIF filled squeeing "he's so hot" reviews the romance was my least favorite part.  But I could have read about Katy, Dee, Lesa and Carissa hanging out, shopping and talking all day.  There's enough here that I'd give book 2 a shot but it's not jumping to the top of Mt. TBR.

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover - Sarah MacLean

I enjoyed this return to the Fallen Angel and Pippa & Cross's story.  Pippa is a bit like Callie from Nine Rules in that she's systematically looking for information that sheltered young ladies didn't have in the 19th century.  As we know from book 1, Pippa is engaged to a man who, while exceedingly nice, is much more dull witted that she is.  I have to admit, I felt for Castleton more than I think I was intended to.  At one point, I was more worried about him than about Pippa or Cross.  He's a very kind man, if not a scintillating conversationalist and sometimes I think kindness doesn't get the respect it deserves.  But it's a romance so I'm not spoiling anything to say it turns out OK for everyone.


While Pippa approaches Cross looking for information, she is nervous and curious about the intimate side of married life, Cross actually makes the longer emotional journey throughout the book.  I'm not a big fan of the "I'm not worthy" trope of keeping the lovers apart.  But in this case Cross really does have some skeletons that make him feel not worthy, so it's fitting that Pippa decides they should be together first.  


I've enjoyed pretty much everything I've read by Sarah MacLean.  Although I think Nine Rules is still my favorite, the others have all been entertaining reads.  I'm looking forward to visiting The Fallen Angel again and getting Temple's story (although the mysterious Chase is still the one I'm really anticipating).

Deception Cove - Jayne Castle

I find Jayne Castle (and JAK/AQ) books to be such comfort reads for me.  I know they don't work for everyone, I know that there's a bit of a formula, I know that they're low angst (actually that's a plus for me) and there aren't a lot of hurdles typically to the relationship.  But I find them so entertaining that none of that matters to me.


This one was typically entertaining for me.  Alice is plucky and a bit down on her luck.  But she has one of my favorite dust bunny companions ever in Houdini.  Drake has been burned (somewhat literally) by a relationship before but can't help but be intrigued by Alice.  He comes to her for help because he needs her type of talent to help stabilize what's been happening in the Preserve.  While I think you can read the Rainshadow Island books separate from the other Harmony books, I would read the other books in the series first.  You don't need the background for the romance but the larger plot had been developing over the course of the series.


So Alice, Drake & Houdini make their way to the island, have adventures and fall in love (Drake & Alice that is, not sure about Houdini but her certainly makes some friends at least).  The mystery plot of what's been happening in the preserve and who is behind it spools out at a good pace.  I can't glom these books because then the similarities do stick out more for me but I do enjoy them whenever I do read them.

Red Velvet Revenge - Jenn McKinlay Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule - Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero, Sara Quin

Jenn McKinley is one of my favorite cozy mystery writers.  Her lead characters are likable, the secondary characters quirky enough to be interesting but not ridiculous and the mysteries are solid.  In this one Angie & Mel leave the cupcake shop for the rodeo and it's fun to see the gang on the road. 


I was concerned at first that one of the people they meet at the rodeo looked to be turning into stock vegan character #3 (spoiled girl who doesn't understand how the real world works) so I was very happy when that got turned around a bit.  Also, vegan cupcakes are made, declared delicious and a recipe provided.  I'll definitely be trying it out and we'll see how it stacks up against my ultimate vegan cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World!  But enough about vegan cupcakes.


Relationship wise things finally seem to resolve for Angie and Mel & Joe continue to be a great couple. 


I was also surprised by the murderer and that person turns out to be very sympathetic. 

[/spoiler]  Overall, I really enjoy this series and look forward to the next installment.

Twice Bitten - Chloe Neill

Good entry in the series.  Merit's done some growing up and is a much more mature character here than in the first two.  I liked the reconciliation with Mallory and how she handled herself with the Ethan situation (although my heart broke for her a bit).  Ethan himself? Meh, I get that I'm supposed to think he's super hot but it could just be that I don't really like well coiffed blondes.  Don't get me wrong, he's OK and his behavior is kind of understandable given his position.  I do enjoy this series and I was glad to get back to it.  It's one that I sometimes go too long between entries.  Too many books, too little time!

Alpha Instinct - Katie Reus

There are some 3* reads that for me are 3* because they are fine books.  Nothing that I love, but nothing that I really didn't like either.  This isn't one of those books.  This is a 3* read where it averages out to 3.  There are thinks I really liked and things that didn't work so well for me.


I enjoyed the world building in this one.  The Shifters have been out and known in the wider world for about 20 years and although things were OK at first there is now backlash against them starting.  I liked how the shifters interacted with the town and townspeople, some of whom were tolerant and friendly, some standoffish and some joining hate groups.  There are a number of story lines going on but I never felt shortchanged and the focus is definitely on the main couple. 


As for that couple, I had some issues but they totally relate to what I like in a book.  Ana and Connor were likable and sympathetic but my real issue in the book is the gender dynamics and they are also troublesome for me in their relationship.  I know that some people love a possessive, alpha guy and if you do I think it would work better.  I like an alpha and all but I like them more protective and not possessive and controlling so it didn't work that well for me here.  It was stated over and over that the males are possessive and controlling with their mates but they'd never hurt them.  I just had a hard time buying that with how possessive they were.  I think my brain can't shut off the typical reality of that type of relationship and enjoy the fantasy. 


Still I'm intrigued enough by the world that I'll read the next one.  But I already know that I'll have to be in the mood to tolerate a stalkerish lead. 

First Lord's Fury - Jim Butcher

4.5 *s but I'm rounding up because I really enjoyed the whole series.  I have to say that the ending of this one fell a little flat for me.  Maybe my expectations were just too high but there were so many great moments throughout the book (and the series) and the final battle between Tavi & the vord queen didn't quite match some of them.  Still it was an excellent end to a series that I thoroughly enjoyed.  My only issue is that I'm current out of Butcher to read!

The Woman Who Died a Lot - Jasper Fforde

Another fun entry for Thursday Next.  This one takes place totally in the "real" world, much like the last one took place in the book world.  I'm finding that I prefer the books that travel back and forth between the two.  I like getting both the political and the literary satire. 

Cam & Gina & Sebastian & Esme

Duchess in Love - Eloisa James

Remember those 70s movies like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice about those sophisticated 70s type people all coupling up and then re-coupling.  This book reminded me of them.    There are 3 different couples here, I actually thought some of them were being set up for sequels but at least 2 of them have a pretty settled ending so I don't think that's the case.  There's some fun banter but, much like those 70s movies, there isn't always as much heart.  While I didn't particularly dislike any of the characters, I wasn't particularly itching for them to end up together either.  There were also a lot of crazy schemes to get people together when a simple conversation would have been a better choice. 


I think this was Eloisa James' first novel and there is still a lot to like.  The dialogue is fun and friendship between the women was well done.  Although I'm a bit troubled by the fact that the one woman who was truly "loose" is the one who ends up alone.  Nope, never seen that message before.  I haven't checked out who is featured in any of the upcoming stories so she may end up with her HEA after all.  I have no issue thinking that a woman who wanted to remain single is happy being single, but it seems like she was forced into it not that she wanted it.


Mostly enjoyable, if not a favorite.  It was my first Eloisa James and I will read more.

Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun - Victoria Laurie Not currently reviewing due to change in Goodreads review policy. May revisit later.
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements - Sam Kean Not currently reviewing due to change in Goodreads review policy. May update later.
Mark of the Demon - Diana Rowland Not currently reviewing due to change in Goodreads review policy. May revisit later.
Books Can Be Deceiving - Jenn McKinlay Nice start to a cozy mystery series. Likable characters and setting.
Always a Scoundrel - Suzanne Enoch I realized something while reading this one. When I read a historical romance my thoughts depend so much on the heroine and her support network. When a heroine has a great supportive family, like the Bridgertons, the Bedwyns or the Hathaways, I can get carried away in the "romance" of the times. Horseback rides! Carriage rides! House parties! It sounds so exotic compared to my freeway commute, reality tv and bill paying. But when the heroine has a crappy family, or little in the way of support, I'm so thankful that I live in an age where I can earn my own living, make my own decision and even own my own property.

So, this was one of the latter situations. Betrothed to a psychopath to cover her brother's gambling debts, I have to admit that I don't think I would have been as brave as Rose and I would have run away as soon as Bram suggested it. But obviously, there's no romance in girl meets boy, girl runs away so Rose sticks it out. Of course, a sheltered woman of the time like Rose has no real idea what she's getting into with Cosgrove but the modern reader has seen enough Law & Order:SVU (or even the news) to understand the direness of her situation.

Knowing Cosgrove, Bram understands it. Bram feels like he's cut from the same cloth as Cosgrove but really, there's a difference being enjoying your pleasures without apology and actually enjoying another person's fear. Bram's an ass when the book starts, there's no doubt. He's rebelling against his father long past the point where he should have grown up. But he's never cruel for cruelty's sake. Rose also begins their acquaintance thinking that Bram and Cosgrove are more alike. But as she comes to know him she realizes that Bram is a much better man before he does.

Once Bram is fully on board with getting Rose out of her situation, the romance takes off and the two are well matched. There were some lighter touches to balance the darkness of Rose's situation. I loved Bram's conversations with his servants and how every commented when his attire started to change. And I loved the way Rose could deflate him from his "prince of darkness" routine with common sense. The series wrapped up nicely and I'm looking forward to more Suzanne Enoch.
Borrower of the Night - Elizabeth Peters This was a decent mystery but I didn't love Vicky the way I love Amelia Peabody. I've heard that the series picks up after this one so I'm definitely up for further reading.

Currently reading

4:50 from Paddington
Agatha Christie
Along Came A Duke (Rhymes with Love, #1)
Elizabeth Boyle