book review

TABT…The Ivy House, by Drea Stein

Yes, it’s been FOREVER since I’ve posted a book review, but I’ve decided I’m gonna give it the old New Year’s try.

I have a SERIOUS weak spot for well-written contemporaries.  I got The Ivy House when it was free on Kindle, and it took me forever to get to because my TBR pile is ridiculous (another 2015 ‘thing to do’…I refuse to call them resolutions–LOL).  So here’s the disclaimer that I’ll post with every review…I only post 4 or 5 star/heart/whatever reviews.  Why?  Because more than once I’ve seen glowing reviews on books that were complete and utter wallbangers for me. Different people like different stuff 🙂  Not only that, as an author myself, I tend to be hypercritical, and that’s not fair to other readers OR the author if I’m being fussy.  Sooooo, only 4 and 5 star reviews from me.

Without further ado…

 

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The Ivy House is actually the third book in the series (I didn’t know that when I downloaded it), but I had absolutely NO problem in following the storyline, or even the integration of other characters/couples (who were in previous books). In fact, this has to be one of the smoothest series books I’ve read, when it comes to “getting it” without undue brain pain.

Phoebe (the heroine) is the kind of lead I love to read about. Strong, but not overly stubborn (to merely advance the plot), vulnerable, and not afraid to admit that she thinks the guy driving her absolutely nuts is hot as hell.  Chase (the hero) was interesting to me, because he was almost too perfect, too charming–until he realizes that he’s almost blown it all.  The funny part was, because his build-up was so consistent throughout the book, it was that much more heartwarming when he realized what he would be missing. Both Phoebe and Chase had to make sacrifices to be with the other, but none of them felt contrary to their characters.  The setting was gorgeous and Ivy House a character in its own right.  Add in some hot celebrity gossip/juicy past loves and you’ve got a winning combination that’s hard to put down.  Can’t wait to dive into the first book in the series to see what I missed.

 

TABT…Firelight (Darkest London) by Kristen Callihan

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This was a REALLY fun read. Kind of a Beauty and the Beast setup, set in regency London, with a definite supernatural, woo-woo bent.  Miranda was great, and I loved how she grew as a character throughout the story.  Don’t want to spoil anything, but she really shines in the end. Archer was fabulous, the kind of tortured hero with a true heart of gold romance readers love to celebrate.  And together?  Together they were magical, in more ways than one.  Can’t wait to read the next book in the series!

I’d definitely recommend this book for paranormal romance fans looking for a different venue/time period than the norm, it’s worth it!

TABT…Never Stay Past Midnight by Mira Lyn Kelly

I really enjoyed this one, more than I thought I would, to be honest. Both Elise and Levi were normal folks, with pretty normal problems, which was a really nice change from some of the heroes and heroines I’ve read about recently.

The sex is super-hot, but even more compelling was the emotional component. I *felt* the emotions of these characters, ached for them, laughed with them. Moreso than any book I’ve read recently, so I’ll definitely be looking for more of Kelly’s books.

My only quibble was with the Epilogue, which I felt was kinda cheesy, given the really contemporary tone of the book, and the introduction of characters from seemingly out of nowhere. But those are pretty minor, and didn’t really detract from the overall excellence of the book.

Talking About Books Tuesday–Geist by Philippa Ballentine

Very much enjoyed this book…once I got into it.  Fair warning to traditional romance or urban fantasy fans used to “meeting” the hero/heroine right off the bat–this is more a traditional fantasy book in that there are several chapters of worldbuilding and character introduction that kick off this book.  Once it gets going, though, it barrels along.  Sorcha’s character was totally badass, Raed was fantastic as the conflicted ship’s captain, which I totally expect in a fantasy novel.  Merrick rounds out the triad as the young mage who will need to learn and grow along the way.  While all these are recognizable fantasy tropes, Ballantine puts them together in a way reminiscent of Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, but without the confusion and giganto cast of characters (and the required syllabus that goes along with it).  There is a romance in this book, so fantasy purists, bewarned *G*.  Once I pushed past the scene building (which is necessary, BTW) this book flew by, and kept me up until I finished it.  Already put Spectyr on my to buy list!

Talking About Books Tuesday, Fate’s Edge, Ilona Andrews

I have to say, I’m enjoying the Edge books more than the Kate Daniels series right now, likely because they contain the entire romance within one book (I’ve blogged about continuation series fatigue before).  Fate’s Edge just reinforced that impression for me.  I LOVED this book.  Loved the unconventional lead characters (both grifters) and the plot, and the inclusion of more steampunkish toys than in the other books.  Honestly, part of the reason I liked this book so much was because Audrey and Kaldor were not your typical characters.  Both were what some would consider to be a villain in another context, and for me, that raised the stakes in how the authors developed the story–they had to make these two likeable *and* make me believe they were meant for each other, even though they were “bad” guys.  I bought it hook, line and sinker–because the story was so fast-paced, the relationship had to develop at that pace as well.  The writing team of Andrews could have glossed over Audrey’s past pain, and Koldar’s past lack of true depth (in relationships) and made this a less memorable story, but they didn’t.  They put the brakes on (where many other authors would have taken the easy road) and made these two characters face their very real, very painful internal dilemmas before allowing them to truly see the other.  The plot (separate from the romance) was well done and clear cut (could have been VERY confusing), and the inclusion of Jack and George rounded it out nicely *and* gave us something to look forward to in other stories.  Well done!

TABT…Song of Scarabeus

Finished this one over the weekend and really, really liked it!  Creasy has created a descriptive, vivid universe that pits the huge, unscrupulous Crib against the hardscrabble Fringers and those caught in between.  This book deals mostly with Edie, a child who’s been brought up utilize her special skills to ‘talk’ to both the bio and tech sides of terraforming and Finn, a slave forced to act as her bodyguard.  The story centers around Edie’s kidnapping by pirates, and their “mission” to recover very expensive hardware from the very first planet she helped terraform (note…this is hugely, dramatically oversimplified).

Creasey has done a fabulous job not only in universe building, but in giving us real, three-dimensional characters that we can really get behind.  From Edie and Finn’s developing relationship to the secondary characters on board the Hoi Polloi and from her past, this is an exceedingly well-drawn sci-fi story, very light on the romance (so don’t go in expecting that).

All in all, a great read, and I can’t wait to see where the next book takes us!

TABT…Show No Mercy by Cindy Gerard

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Only two things can compel journalist Jenna McMillan back to Buenos Aires after terrorists held her captive there just months before: a rare interview with a shadowy billionaire and the memory of the dark and dangerous man who saved her…  Bad guys, bombs, and bullets are Gabriel Jones’s way of life. But he’ll never forget the brash redhead he rescued not so long ago…or the passionate kiss they shared before he sent her packing… Now, forced together by a bombing at the National Congress, Jenna and Gabe confront the urgent longings that simmer between them. But this surprise meeting is no coincidence. A ruthless enemy stalks them with deadly precision. The question is…if they make it out alive, will Gabe turn his back on Jenna…again?

 

A VERY nice beginning to a new romantic suspense series that’ll have you reading long past your bedtime.  Jenna is a gutsy heroine, willing to do what it takes to win back her self-respect and the man she loves.  I found her to be a really compelling heroine, and a nice change of pace.  Gabe is darkly brooding, tortured and absolutely yummy.  I loved the chemistry between them, as well as the twists and turns the book took me through as I plowed through it in one sitting.  Pick this one up and enjoy!

TABT…Nightcap, by Kathleen O’Reilly

 

Sean O’Sullivan’s claims that his family’s landmark bar is the victim of City Hall shenanigans only means more work for Cleo Hollings, the mayor’s number one mover and shaker. Since Sean’s got her busy, she decides she’ll keep Mr. Testosterone busy, too–but between the sheets. Yet sleeping with the hunky O’Sullivan isn’t that simple. Everyone said Sean would be inexhaustible–even unforgettable. Nobody warned her he was lovable, too. Now other clubs’ drinks taste like dust. Nothing measures up to a nightcap–with a chaser of O’Sullivan stud!

The final book in O’Reilly’s trilogy, this one is perhaps the most familiar to Blaze readers in that the hero and heroine are both contemporary folks who enjoy living in the fast lane.  Sean is the adorable rake of Regency fame, a love-‘em-and-leave-‘em guy who nevertheless fosters amicable relationships with his bevy of past lovers.  Cleo’s background is a bit more complex, but she’s not about to let a hottie like Sean go when their sex is combustible…even if both know their “relationship” will never be more than a quickie in an abandoned subway tunnel (which was freakin’ hot as hell, BTW).  But both realize they could have more…if they’re willing to share their pasts, and really consider their potential future.

 

I know I’ve said it before, this is an awesome series, and the epilogue at the end of Nightcap had me crying like a little girl.  All of these books are so much deeper and well drawn than their shorter length suggests…I can’t recommend them enough!

TABT…Sex, Straight Up, by Kathleen O’Reilly

 

Meeting a handsome loner on a deserted beach in the Hamptons was like being hit by lightning. One steamy weekend in bed with Daniel O’Sullivan and Catherine Montefiore was marvelously woozy from a delicious cocktail of sun, sand and superhot sex. Abruptly, though, Catherine’s forty-eight hours of fun are at an end when her family’s exclusive auction house is hit by a very public scandal. She’s ready to step in and save the day, but she’s hoping Daniel, her hot Irish hunk, will lend a hand. After all, he’s got the necessary skills and, straight up or not, Catherine wants another long drink of Daniel before another forty-eight hours are up and her legacy is lost forever!

This book was probably the most heartrending of the series for me, and because of that, it resonates long after I’ve closed the book.  Daniel was the perfect tortured hero, but not for the reason you might think.  O’Reilly tackles the loss of someone in 9/11 with ultimate finesse, making Daniel sympathetic without overly playing the tragedy card.  Catherine was also fabulously well-drawn, with her own totally understandable insecurities and hang-ups.  Watching these two come together was freakin’ beautiful, and even though, as a reader, you know there’ll be a happy ending, I found myself holding my breath for it on more than one occasion.

 

TABT…Shaken and Stirred, by Kathleen O’Reilly

As a student and part-time bartender in Manhattan, Tessa Hart has found that a succession of roomies and cramped apartments are necessary evils in her life. Until she’s out on the street and Gabe O’Sullivan, her mentor, boss and certified babe-magnet, steps in. Any other woman would die to share his apartment–not to mention his bed–but Tessa’s determined that they should stay just friends. The fiercely independent mixologist has to prove to their skeptical coworkers at Prime–the O’Sullivans’ hot Manhattan bar–that the arrangement is strictly hands-off! But Tessa has trouble adhering to her own “no touching” rule when the actual sharing of close quarters day and night leaves her shaken and stirred…

 

This is the first book in the fabulous series by Kathleen O’Reilly.  As a reader, this seemed so much longer and more evolved than a traditional Blaze-length book, especially since so many characters were introduced and drawn so beautifully.  Tessa and Gabe are uber hot together, and when they’re out of bed, they’re truly “real” characters.  I can quite easily imagine myself bellying up to the bar at O’Sullivans and ordering a beer.  Seriously, all the characters in this series are believable, their motivations understandable, and their attraction clear.  I can’t say enough good things about this entire series, and getting to know Gabe and Tessa starts it off with a bang!