Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Geekerella by Ashley PostonOMG was this a darling story. You've got Elle, fanblogger extraordinaire, and then Darien, the guy taking over her favorite character on her favorite show. Now, Elle's not in a really good place what with her evil stepmother and two evil stepsisters ruining her life. Her dad is dead and really she's just biding her time until she can get away from her "family." She's treated like the family drudge and doesn't feel appreciated by anyone. Now she learns that some popular actor from a show that her stepsisters love is going to be taking over the role of Carmindor and she is... not impressed. An excoriating review that she writes goes viral.
Darien is hurt. He knows Starfield, it was one of his favorite shows. In fact, he even went to some cons before his best friend sold him out to the paparazzi. Now, the idea of attending a con is just painful. Especially since the Starfield fanbase doesn't seem to be impressed by his resume. When he's blindsided by a promise to attend Exelsicon, he tries to contact the organizer but ends up with Elle's number instead (since her dad created the con and she inherited his phone.) From there, the two end up with a text message flirtation that starts to become something more.
I liked the alternating first-person of this story. We got to know both of the characters so they were more than just stereotypes. I didn't love the ending but it was mostly a very lovely story.

Four stars
This book comes out March 7

Monday, February 27, 2017

America's Next Reality Star by Laura Heffernan

I picked the book because the title, and then the premise intrigued me. I'm not much of a reality show watcher but I love reading blog posts the day after outlining what happened on the shows. This type of book could become catnip for me.
The back cover is a little misleading. Jennifer (Jen) Reid doesn't lose her boyfriend, job, and apartment in one fell swoop, but they do happen in fairly quick succession. So when the reality show, The Fishbowl, that she applied for sort of as a joke calls and says that they want her, Jen is ready to go -- after breaking her foot while uninsured, she could use $250,000. She, and eleven other people, are picked to live in a house that is all glass while solving puzzles (both mental and physical) in order to try not to be voted off by their fellow contestants. There's all the drama that you might expect but surprisingly little manipulation from the directors. Even though Jen has an archnemesis in the house, Arianna, somehow Arianna keeps getting voted to stay on while Jen keeps being put up for elimination by the audience. And there is a possible romance, the cute law student Justin. But is he actually interested in her? Or is he playing the reality game? If not, why is he spending so much time with Arianna?
The ending was a bit fast for me. I wanted to spend more time with Justin and Jen, to see more of their relationship develop; I was able to connect with Jen but wish there had been more to connect with Justin and with their romance. I liked the world building and am looking forward to the next book, hoping to see more of a connection between the characters.

Four stars
This book comes out March 7

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why We March by Artisan

This book is literally what the title explains; signs from the Women's March of 2017. There are some touching, some funny, and some sad. I wish there had been more exploration of the themes or maybe a quote from the specific marchers but this is a book for any of the women in your lives. Or the men. For the people who were there in person or watching from home. It's a book for those who agree and a way to talk to those who disagree. A fast read that is worth passing on.

Four stars
This book comes outMarch 7

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh

In the first book of this series, Camille Westcott discovered that, while she was pampered and haughty lady of the ton, all that could be taken away, and it was, when it was discovered that her father was a bigamist and Camille is a bastard. Of course, at this time, that meant that she immediately became an Untouchable. Okay, not that bad. But she's pushed out of the ton and the lord who had been circling her for marriage very publicly repudiates her. Camille soon learns she's stronger than she thinks and regroups, going to work in the very same orphanage that her newly-discovered half-sister grew up in. Of course, that means that she is in close contact with her sister's friend, Joel Cunningham.
Joel isn't impressed by Camille. Not at first. But as he gets to know her, through their teaching together and through her grandmother paying for him to paint both Camille and her sister. And he learns that this new Camille might be someone he could love.
I feel bad because Mary Balogh can usually hit me pretty hard in the feels. And this happened again... but... Balogh's books are usually romances. And this isn't different except that this book concentrates so much on the (amazing and heartfelt) evolution of Camille, that the romance is somewhat put in the shade. It was hard to see really why Joel's feelings changed to love. And, oh dear god, if there can ever be too much "happy" in an HEA, this book is a prime example.

Three stars
This book came out February 7
Follows Someone to Love
Followed by Someone to Wed

Friday, February 24, 2017

If the Duke Demands by Anna Harrington

Miranda Hodgkins is an orphan, living with her aunt and uncle in a small village. She grew up alongside the Carlisle boys, knowing them even before their family was elevated to an earldom and eventually a dukedom. For the past 15 years, she has loved the middle brother, Robert. But lately, he's been paying particular attention to another girl, Miranda is invisible to him. So she's come up with a plan to get him to notice her; sneak into his bed and seduce him. It's all going well until she moans his name... and discovers that the man she's in bed with is his brother Sebastian, the Duke.
Sebastian is astonished that the seductive masked woman who introduced herself as Rose is actually his brother's childhood friend. He's even more astonished when he finds himself agreeing to bring her to London with the family so that she can have a Season. And making a deal with her that, if he can help her land Robert, she will help him find a wife. Of course, fate has different plans in store for them.
There is always a lot of world building in the first of a series and that can take away from some of the story. I also didn't love either the ending of this book nor Sebastian's interminable brooding (dear God, there was so much brooding) but am very excited to read Quint's book when it comes out.

Three stars
This book comes out February 28

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Art of Vanishing by Cynthia Kuhn

Lila Maclean is just trying to regroup after discovering a dead body last semester. The chancellor still seems to have it out for her and sends her off on an errand to interview Damon Von Tussel, the famous author who will be headlining their Arts Week. Too bad the man disappears right after his talk. Unfortunately, Lila's artist mother used to date Damon so it's up to her to track him down and drag him back for his campus appearance. Lila is successful but is somewhat worried when a vague threat is emailed to everyone on the Arts Week committee to cancel Von Tussel "or else." It doesn't help that Lila's mother rushes into town putting herself in harm's way.
This is a nice series but somehow I'm just not connecting. I'm not sure if it's the writing or the story, I feel bad because I can't put my finger on it. I really hope there's not a love triangle in the offing though. That is one of my biggest pet peeves with cozy mysteries, that they start focusing more on the madcap romance than the story.

Three and a half stars
This book comes out February 28
Follows The Semester of Our Discontent

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Fatality by Firelight by Lynn Cahoon

I wish I had read the first book in this series because there were a lot of call backs to the other story in this series. Otherwise, this was a perfectly fine book, though a bit convoluted in areas. A LOT of red herrings in this book.
This is the second writer's retreat that Cat Latimer is hosting in the house she lived in with her ex-husband, the house he surprisingly willed to her. During the last retreat, one of the writers (I'm guessing from the references) ended up dead. This retreat has its own share of problems, a famous Hemingway book being stolen from the library, one participant who has a stalker and is almost kidnapped, participants who don't seem fully invested in their writing, Cat finding out that her home town is a supposed "safe zone" for mob families to send their college-aged kids, a big mob guy hitting on her... There's a lot going on.
I would probably read the next book in this series if some of the "over-arching" stories start moving a little faster.

Three stars
This book comes out February 28
Followed by Of Murder and Men

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Big Nate: What's a Little Noogie Between Friends? by Lincoln Peirce

Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce** spoiler alert ** If you love Big Nate, this book will be right up your alley. The usual stints with soccer and basketball. Photo Day is a compound threat with School Picture Guy being his usual self but then Coach John shows up as well. We also see more with Jenny and Nate when we all get the news that she is moving to Seattle.

Four stars
This book comes out February 28

Monday, February 20, 2017

What It Takes: A Kowalski Reunion Novel by Shannon Stacey

Up front, in the subtitle in fact, we're told that this is a Kowalski Reunion novel and are thus forewarned that there will be a LOT of catch up with the Kowalski family. Normally this really bugs me in a story because that means that the main story will suffer. However, Ms. Stacey manages to make the "main story" about a new Kowalski employee and a local boy-returned-home feel like a fully formed novella in amongst a rather extended epilogue for almost every other of the nine previous Kowalski books. As long as you go in expecting that this will not be a fully developed story, you won't be disappointed.
Laney Caswell just got out of a marriage where she was deeply unhappy because she sublimated her own needs for those of her husband. Now, she's spending the summer at the Kowalski camp trying to figure out who she is without a man. She definitely is not interested in getting involved with anyone. When she sees Ben Rivers and electricity strikes but Laney wants to make sure that she finds herself before she gets involved with anyone else.
Ben Rivers is thirty-eight and ready to settle down. His work as a paramedic has been hard and so he played hard too. Now that he's moved home, he's realizing exactly how much he's missed. He is incredibly attracted to Laney but is willing to step back in order to give her room to make her own decisions.
And that's why this book is so good. Both Ben and Laney have adult conversations about what they want and each respects the other. I wish we had gotten some more background on both and the myriad updates about the Kowalskis and their friends got confusing, even to someone who read all the stories, but it was overall a very nice story for regular Kowalski readers.

Three and a half stars
This book comes out February 28

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Million Little Things by Susan Mallery

I really do adore Ms. Mallery's trilogies. There's a depth to both the characters and their stores that you don't get from the average Fool's Gold romance novel (not knocking those books, I love them too, they just fulfill a different reading niche.)
We met Pam earlier in the series. Her husband died unexpectedly and it has now been a couple of years and, while she's not moving on per se, she has settled into a routine. One of the things that she has to cope with now is her daughter Jennifer.
Jen has an 18-month-old who isn't speaking and she's terrified. She's also terrified about toxins, about germs, and about her husband's new job and new partner. Just to get down to it, she's anxious, tired, and unable to sleep. Her whole world revolves around her son and the people around her are beginning to feel shut out.
One of those people, Jen's best friend Zoe, contacts Pam to see if they can maybe figure something out. It's this incident that leads Pam to very subtly set Zoe up with her son, Steven and it's going very well. Unfortunately, partway through the book, Zoe find out she's pregnant by her ex and it throws Pam off course disrupting her relationships with Zoe, with Jen, with Steven, and even the burgeoning romance with Zoe's father Miguel.
This book has a nice balance between the three main protagonists. Pam is a jumping off point but we get to see the fears behind just starting to have a family and what that can mean in today's world, a mother who is concerned for her young son, and even a mother who has grown children and is worried about them as well.
A wonderful book for those who have read the rest of the Mischief Bay series but also for those new to Susan Mallery as well.

Four and a half stars
This book comes out February 28
Follows The Friends We Keep

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Future Quest Vol. 1 by Jeff Parker

I think this may be a fun series but this book has to deal with a lot of the set up.
Jonny Quest and Hadji are testing out some sort of jet packs in Florida trying to get ahead of energy vortexes (vortices?) that are opening up all over the world. Dr. Quest is studying these as is his nemesis Dr. Zin. What they don't know is that these vortexes are actually part of an energy being that is trying to take over the world. Or all the worlds. Because not only do we see Birdman, Frankenstein Jr., and the Impossibles in this series, we get travelers from other dimensions like Space Ghost, the Herculoids, and Mightor. In other words, if you were a child of the 80s, this book is worth at least a look.

Three and a half stars
This book comes out February 21

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles

The blurb describes this as a slow-burning romance and it is certainly is. There's a bit more emphasis on the mystery in this book and I was a bit disappointed by that as KJ Charles is more of a romance writer usually. I also didn't get a real feel for the men's romance but hope that it's going to be a larger part of the continuing series.
Clem Talleyfer is a half-Indian man running a lodging house. For the most part, it is a fine life, except that he is forced by the house's owner to keep one particular lodger, Lugtrout, who is a drunken lout and makes all of the other lodger's lives uncomfortable. Luckily, there is one particular lodger who brightens Clem's days (and eventually nights), Rowley Green.
Rowley is a taxidermist, quiet and fastidious. He is attracted to Clem but feels like a moth attracted to a very handsome butterfly. When they get wrapped up in the mystery of Lugtrout's death, Rowley is happy that he is able to spend more time with Clem.
Both men are careful about starting a romance, understandable given the time, but this is a slow-burn that never really fired for me but may work for other readers, especially Charles fans. The setting was incredibly vivid though and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

Three and a half stars
This book comes out February 21
Followed by An Unnatural Vice

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

When I started this book, I was vaguely worried. "Act Like It" was such a fabulous book, would Parker be able to follow it with a book that was as wonderful? Short answer -- Yes. Yes she can.
Luc Savage is used to being in the spotlight. His longtime girlfriend just broke up with him and then married another man less than three months later. Luc isn't worried about that, he just wants to get his next play on the books. But to do that, he needs to find his Elizabeth I. The too-appealing, breathy soap actress, Lily Lamprey is not exactly his first choice. Or even on his list. But her godfather and Luc's friend/casting director are both insistent that Lily could work.
Lily wants to be on the stage. She knows that her voice will need work but she wants to act. She's used to people dismissing her because of her pretty face and large boobs but when Luc Savage does it, she's ready to fight back. Even if he does set off flutters in her belly.
There is a 13 year age gap between the two but I feel like Parker handled it well, addressing it but not making it the main premise of their relationship hurdles. I really enjoyed that Luc and Lily had grown-up conversations about how to deal with their problems. And they took their relationship slow rather than just hopping into bed. There are some rough spots but those may be ironed out by the time the final version comes out.

Four and a half stars
This book comes out February 20

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Baker Street Peculiars by Roger Langridge

This was not a good book for a 7" ereader. It was really hard to read the print, even zooming in. But since this was an ARC, I didn't base my rating on that. It would have been lower had I gotten this book another way.
Giant statues in London are starting to come to life. Rajani, Molly, and Humphrey (and his dog Wellington) are the only ones who decide to follow the giant lion statue. And that leads them right into the path of one Sherlock Holmes. Or is it? Anyway, the three team up together to try and figure out who or what is making these statues come alive and to try to stop them if they can.I liked the grouping of the kids, choosing people who would have been around in 1930s London but don't usually get a lot of attention. The story was interesting, but a little thin. And I wish he had learned more about the kids themselves.
Three and a half starsThis book came out January 31

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Brickleberry V.1 by Waco O'Guin, Roger Black

If you enjoyed the series, you will like this book. If you never watched the series... I'm not sure how it will go for you. I saw at least one review that was shocked, SHOCKED, by the violence and language. Though, how they picked up a book with the cover having a guy with a gun for an arm and didn't expect violence or language frankly stymies me.
Picking up right at the end of Season 3, we see the Steve of the future being sent back to stop the "ArMOOgeddon" by killing Woody. This volume includes all four of the previously published books in the series so we get to see the whole story including the Bovine Overlord sending back Future Bobby to thwart Future Steve, the return of the squabbits, Denzel stealing a time device so he can exploit Jesus, and many other stories including the exciting finale between our human soldiers and the cows.

Four stars
This book comes out February 14

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Mesmerist by Ronald L. Smith

Jessamine Grace and her mother make their living as mediums. They have a slick trade but it's all a ruse. Jessamine is tiring of bilking people out of their money and is more and more scared about how much time her mother is spending at the bottom of an absinthe bottle.
One day, the trick goes wrong. The slate that is supposed to have a message to their client from "his daughter" instead contains a mysterious message that makes Jessamine's mother pack her up and move them both to London. There, Jessamine discovers that the man they go to meet is half-fairy and that he fought with her parents against the evil Mephisto and that she, Jessamine, has the power to speak to the dead. Her mother leaves her with Balthazar to be trained into the new League of Ravens, the protectors of England. So it's up to Jess, Emily, and Gabe to stand for the country. Why children? They apparently have more power and it lessens in adulthood so they have to be the ones to fight. Jess is only just settling in to London when she gets some horrible news... something that makes her determined to fight what is to come.
An interesting story, definitely some interesting political commentary in the current climate. A nice start (with a few starts and stops) to some world building on what could end up being a fun series.

Three and a half stars
This book comes out February 7

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Passion Favors the Bold by Theresa Romain

We met Georgette and Lord Hugo in the last book of this duo. She is the sister of Benedict Frost and has been living with her aunt and working in what used to be her parents' bookshop. At twenty-one, her aunt will no longer be obligated to keep Georgette around so she decides to take matters into her own hands and find the brother who has only recently returned to England after being in the Navy.
Though she is dressed as a boy, she is handily recognized by her brother's friend, the third son of a Duke, Hugo Starling. From there, she convinces him to try and search for the lost gold coins. Hugo is reluctant but ends up giving in when it seems like that will be the only way to get his hospital up and running. Through a series of events, they end up posing as a married couple in order to follow a Bow Street Runner who they believe to also be on the trail of the thieves. This includes pretending to be the niece and nephew of a Northumberland land owner, Sir Frederic Chapple.
A sweet story though there are parts that stretched even my willingness to suspend disbelief. Nothing earth-shaking but I think regular Theresa Romain readers will be happy with the story.

Three and a half stars
This book comes out February 28
Follows Fortune Favors the Wicked

The Nature Fix by Florence Williams

Why are so many people becoming near sighted? Why are depression levels up? How can we solve a myriad of problems including ways to become more creative? According to Florence Williams, we need to get out into nature. She travels all over the world looking at various studies, all of which seem to point at being in nature as being a vital part of a healthy life.
She starts with her own experience (which most readers will dismiss as being WAY too small a sample size) but uses that as a jumping off place to move to Japan where people are encouraged to take forest baths (shinrin). She looks at how nature is being used in South Korea and the national parks of the United States. She looks at the importance of silence, more specifically the silence of nature that is actually filled with sound. Then there are the many studies that have shown that recuperating patients heal faster and better when they have a room with a view. Williams looks at what other things are improved when people can look out at nature.
The subject is compelling and the writing is easy to follow. Williams includes large-ranging studies as well as her own personal experiences.

Four stars
This book comes out February 7

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Goldie Vance Vol. 1 by Hope Larson

Goldie Vance is a teenager working in the hotel that her father manages. Right now she's a valet but has aspirations to be a detective. To that end, she helps the hotel's detective (whether he wants it or not) solve various cases like a disappearing necklace. But then the man who lost the necklace also disappears and the mysteries just build from there. What is the mysterious symbol on the necklace? Who is the woman romancing the hotel detective? Will Goldie and her father really be kicked out of the hotel because of her dubious methods of solving cases?
I didn't love everything about this story but it's some great world building, wonderful illustrations, and a main character who is a couple of steps left of norm.

Four stars
This book came out October 11, 2016

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Death & the Gravedigger's Angel by Loretta Ross

Death & the Gravedigger's Angel by Loretta  RossWren and Death are back, this time with Death's brother being included in the fun. The book opens with a dead, drunk man wearing an authentic Confederate coat. It seems that he stole a horse and died when his head hit a branch. Oh, and the coat has chemicals on it that make it obvious that it was recently buried on someone else. 
Death is asked to look into the murder of a bible-thumper's son. It seems that the man's church picketed a Muslim woman's death and now the son has turned up in the backseat of her husband. The supposed-murderer's friend asks Death to prove that the man committed the murder under the strain of PTSD.
Meanwhile, Wren is helping to clean out a house for auction and is running into some mysterious happenings there. And it's her handwriting that is found on a note in the drunk dead man's pocket.
I always feel like I'm missing something in these books. I have read both of the other books in this 
series and, while it seems like the information is all there... I just don't know if it's that the characters aren't quite fully developed or whether the story isn't quite finished, I don't know. I am frustrated that I can't put my finger on what it is that makes me feel like I'm only reading 90% of the story. I definitely know that I didn't feel like the stories in this book were tied together well. I'm also frustrated that we didn't get to see a lot of Wren in this story and we didn't get to know more about Randy.

Three stars
This book comes out February 8