Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Protector for Hire by Tawna Fenske

Title: Protector for Hire
Series: Front and Center (#4)
Author: Tawna Fenske
From: Netgalley
Genre: Romance, Suspense
Release Date: 30th June 2015
Challenges: COYER Summer Scavenger Hunt, 2015 Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge, 2015 New Release Challenge, 2015 Prequel & Sequel Challenge (2 points)
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

Graphic designer, Janelle Keebler has regretted her choice of husband since she discovered that he was actually a drug lord and witnessed him murdering someone in front of her. Now divorced and on the run, she finds herself hiding out with one of her brother-in-law's brothers, Schwartz. Schwartz has shut himself away in the Motana countryside with only his dog Sherman for company for 10 years because of what he experienced in Iraq. But now his family needs his help, and he finds himself taking in Janelle and protecting her...except that that's not all he wants to do to her. As time passes it becomes harder and harder to ignore the attraction pulsing between them and there's only one thing left to do; give in.

I had forgotten quite how much I love Tawna Fenske's writing. Like the other two books in this series that I've read, Marine for Hire and Fiancée for Hire, Protector for Hire had me laughing from the random comments and the banter between the two lead characters. If you never thought that pop tarts could be sexy, then think again!

I loved the interactions between Janelle and Schwartz. There was attraction there and it was obvious, but especially in the earlier parts of the book the focus was more on getting to know each other, and that included inneuendos and banter. It was enjoyable and felt very different from most books easily seduced characters.

Because they were in the middle of nowhere, other characters in the book were sparse, and this made room for one of my favourites; Sherman the wolf-husky cross. I loved how both Schwartz and Janelle got comfort from his presence. I definitely felt that Sherman got his own personality, loveable and protective at the same time.

All the way through the book there was a sense of danger as posed by Janelle's ex, and towards the end of the book the suspense kicked up a notch. It left me with moments where I wanted to yell at the characters for being idiots I admit, but that just showed how much I cared about them!

This is a great series, I love the banter between the characters!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Point of No Return by Mandy M Roth

Title: Point of No Return
Series: Project Exorcism (#3)
Author: Mandy M Roth
From: Review Copy
Genre: Romance, Erotica, Sci-fi
Release Date: 18th May 2010
Challenges: 2015 Prequel & Sequel Challenge (1 point)
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

Head of the Guards, Nina, takes nothing from noone. But she goes through painful cycles where the shifter in her craves her mate. But since Jordan Vasil arrived on the planet she hasn't been able to use any of the men around her, and now her body has gone into overdrive. Jordan has never felt the way he feels about Nina before, and even though the two of them try to deny the pull between them, and what everyone else is trying to tell them, fate doesn't always do what people want...

I love the way that Roth creates her worlds, and the Project Exorcism series was one that I was excited to get back to. The space elements of the series are more pronounced than in some of her other series and I like that. Though there is still focus on shifters and shifter culture.

The shifter culture was one completely different than any I've come across before, and even in the Project Exorcism world I hadn't really come across it before (because none of the previous characters I've read about have been born shifters) and I really liked it. Particularly the complexities caused by not being with a mate.

Nina and Jordan were both strong personalities, and that caused them to have a slightly more explosive chemistry than some other couples. For them it worked and there was definitely giving and taking on both sides. Their banter filled interactions definitely made for an enjoyable read!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Mighty Hunter by Michelle M Pillow

Title: The Mighty Hunter
Series: Lords of the Abyss (#1)
Author: Michelle M Pillow
From: Review Copy
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Release Date: 10th July 2010
Challenges: N/A
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

When a Science expedition goes wrong and Bridget's boat is capsized, the last thing that she expects is that she will be saved by a Merman. Caderyn is a Merr, one of the curse men that lives in the land commonly referred to as Atlantis by legends. Now a Hunter for the Merr race, he hunts monsters haunting the seas and is required to save any woman that is left to drown. Bridget doesn't like how drawn she is to Caderyn, but sometimes all that is needed is time...

I loved having a heroine like Bridget. She was smart as well as feminine, but she wasn't willing to give up her career for anything. And when the idea of that threatened she works to find her way around it and that determination to make her own path was what made her such an enjoyable character to read.

I also liked how the Merr people were ill adjusted to modern information, to the point where they sometimes sounded awkward to people such as Bridget when they first arrived. It made for some funny interactions, and some strange shyness from Caderyn at some points.

The chemistry between Caderyn and Bridget was definitely there. I liked how the two of them weren't all that sure how to deal with it and that they didn't have ultimate confidence in the others feelings from early on, it added to the drama!

There was also a clear wider story arc which worked well. Though some things were dealt with within the story, others were left unclear and that has me intrigued for the rest of the story!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter (June TBR)

Title: A Hidden Fire
Series: Elemental Mysteries (#1)
Author: Elizabeth Hunter
From: Amazon
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal
Release Date: 18th October 2011
Challenges: June TBR Meme, COYER Summer Scavenger Hunt
Links: Goodreads - Amazon 

Beatrice, known as B to her friends, never thought that working at a library would lead her to the ever so sexy, and ever so dead, Giovanni. Giovanni puts up a cold exterior, but he can't help but let Beatrice break through it. Faced with a mystery involving missing family memebers and mysteriously appearing letters, they are thrown into an adventure that could have severe consequences for the two of them...

Firstly, A Hidden Fire is the oldest unread book on my kindle, which was what I was aiming for with my TBR list, hosted by Michelle @ Because Reading, and I am almost ashamed to admit that this book has been sitting there for nearly three years waiting to be read. I'm an idiot, it was fantastic and any one else who one clicked really needs to get reading it!


Anyway, where to start with my review itself...as I mentioned on the COYER fb group, there were several moments where I found myself laughing aloud at this book (my favourite moment being when Beatrice asked Giovanni if he was Batman! Which then became a running joke throughout the entire book). I loved the comic moments but there was also more to it. 

The mysteries in the book were varied and not actually very easy to guess at, which I loved (I really like it when I can't work them out!) and most of the answers were given when Beatrice herself worked things out. Not only did the origin of the letters become a mystery, or what happened to Beatrice's family, but even Giovanni's identity was a bit of a mystery. 

I also liked that Beatrice reacted as could be expected in real life when things went very badly. Not necessarily in the scared way, but more of the retreating into herself way. She also didn't just forgive Giovanni for his bad decisions, she made him work for it. 

The vampires in A Hidden Fire were also REAL vampires. As in couldn't go out in the sun, some of them are really evil, kind. I liked the more dangerous edge to them rather than the more 'normal' modern take. I really want to read more from this series now, I can't believe I waited so long to read it! 

Friday, 26 June 2015

Confessions of a Virgin Sex Columnist by Kay Marie

Title: Confessions of a Virgin Sex Columnists
Series: Confessions (#1)
Author: Kay Marie
From: Netgalley
Genre: Romance, New Adult
Release Date: 18th May 2015
Challenges: 2015 Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge, 2015 New Release Challenge, COYER Scavenger Hunt
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

Skye has a new job...she's the new sex columnist for the newspaper she was interning at. Except that she has a secret; she's a virgin sex columnist. With her old crush, and her best friend's brother, now living with her, and her dating life on the up, things start to get more complicated in Skye's life. From plotting sisters to disastrous dates, Skye lives it all while writing about her completely fictional love life...

Number one thing that I loved about Confessions of a Virgin Sex Columnist was that the ending, while somewhat predictable in nature, actually took me by surprise! It worked out the way I wanted with the guy I wanted it to, but there were several elements that made it 'messier' and I liked that, it made the story feel more like real life.

The book is written almost (but not quite in a diary style). For the most part it was like the inner monologue that would be going through any girl's head, right down to zoning out on what people were actually saying to her! There were several parts where I laughed out loud at things that were going through Skye's head, and the situations that she managed to get herself into!

The chemistry between Ollie and Skye was subtle. It was clear that there was something between them but the reader didn't actually find out what until about half way through the book, and that meant that it was kind of minor. As the book progressed there was definitely more of a focus on how Skye's feelings resurfaced.

I loved the friendship between Bridget (Ollie's sister) and Skye as well, it felt like they'd been friends for years and they had all the cute traditions that friends should have after that time! There was also the way that Skye interacted with the women at work, the rivalry with Blythe and the quasi-friendship with Rebecca. For me it really worked!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Seduction of the Phoenix by Michelle M Pillow

Title: Seduction of the Phoenix
Series: Zhang Dynasty (#1)
Author: Michelle M Pillow
From: Review Copy
Genre: Sci-fi, Romance
Release Date: 26th December 2011
Challenges: N/A
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

Prince Jin is all about tradition and upholding it, something which the Zhang dynasty has a lot of. At one such tradition, Jin finds himself announcing he has chosen his wife after being possessed by one of his ancestors. Francesca promised her late master that she would steal the Jade Phoenix from the Zhang family and get revenge for him. And she will do anything to get it, even if it means betraying her own heart when she realises that she may just be falling for the man that claimed her...

I read Temptation of the Butterfly (the second book in this series) first, which meant that I knew exactly how this book would turn out. That didn't prepare me at all for how it would happen! I was constantly taken by surprise by this book and I really enjoyed it. Reading them out of order also meant that I could see some interesting foreshadowing going on and it was also interesting to see Fen in a different light.

The chemistry between Jin and Francesca was strong, but thaat wasn't all there was to their relationship. There was the banter there for definite, and there was a slow build of trust. I think it worked well considering what was going on in the background.

Francesca was one of those heroines that wasn't afraid to own it. She had a job to do and she got on with it, even if that meant hurting herself. Of course those were also the moments I wanted to yell at her for being an idiot, but it all worked out anyway!

The culture in Seduction of the Phoenix is rich, though unlike book 2 there was more of the sci-fi elements interwoven. Whereas in Temptation of the Butterfly I could find myself getting lost in the Chinese style culture, in Seduction of the Phoenix I was marvelling at just how well Michelle M Pillow can blend two cultures and two styles.

Yet another good Michelle M Pillow read!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Twisted Reflections by Shay West

Title: Twisted Reflections
Series: The Adventures of Alexis Davenport (#2)
Author: Shay West
From: Netgalley
Genre: Sci-fi, Young Adult, Time Travel
Release Date: 24th July 2014
Challenges: 2015 Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge, 2015 Prequel & Sequel Challenge (2 points)
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

Alexis Davenport is a Protector, someone who travels through time to protect it from things going wrong and changing the time line. With her life moving forward with driving, a new boyfriend and school, Alex just needs to sort out the travelling. But while in Egypt she finds the unexpected; a fellow traveller. Now having some of the answers for definite, Alex puts into practice what she knows and continues to thwart Drifter's plans.

Alex is younger than most of the heroines I like to read (I think I grew out of my YA phase for the most part) but there is something about this series that dragged me back almost straight away. Where the first book was good, this book was even better and it continued to tell the story both of Alex as herself and growing up, and the story of her travelling.

The historical settings are rich and well described, making it seem as if you're really there. The author very clearly did plenty of research when she wrote them and even included some historical figures without them seeming out of character. The observations of the other historical figures around Alex as well seem to fit. Whereas the author could quite easily have focused on the majesty of Pharoh Tutankhamun, she focused instead on his youth. For me it really worked.

I also liked how Alex's home life was going on. The author doesn't gloss over the issues facing 15/16 year olds, Alex has a boyfriend but admits she's not ready for sex despite the fact that everyone talks about it. To me that felt real. I also liked the fact that things weren't perfect with her boyfriend and it isn't implied that he is her 'forever'/

The same can be said of her relationships with her friends and her Mom. They weren't perfect and there were arguments, and that made Alex's life seem far more real.

I am defintiely looking forward to seeing more from this series. It has me intrigued for certain!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Princesses Don't Fight in Skirts by Aya Ling

Title: Princesses Don't Fight in Skirts
Series: The Princess Series (#2)
Author: Aya Ling
From: The Princess Series Box Set 
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Release Date: 19th October 2013
Challenges: 2015 Prequel & Sequel Challenge (2 points)
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

Princess Arianna likes being a Princess. A traditional Princess that is rather than the current norm of warrior Princesses. But when her Aunt, Lady Mathilde, the first warrior maid, comes home to find her niece not wanting to even pick up a sword, she is sent off to the Riviera Academy for the Fighting Arts. While there Arianna discovers more about herself than she ever imagined, and she meets Prince James, the second son of the Rivieran King.

I was a little hesitant to pick up Princesses Don't Fight in Skirts after feeling a little disappointed in Princesses Don't Get Fat (which I did enjoy just not as much as I had expected) but I am so glad that I did. I loved Princesses Don't Fight in Skirts and was definitely more impressed by it than by the first book!

Part of the reason I liked Princesses Don't Fight in Skirts so much was Arianna. In so many books you have a heroine that wants to be able to fight the bad guys but can't, whereas Arianna doesn't actually want to. Yes at points she came across as vain and spoiled (but come she was 15 what do you expect!) but she grew as the book progressed.

In some ways this felt like a more appropriate story for a 15 year old than most. Arianna grew as a person, and discovered that she actually enjoyed parts of both traditional and warrior culture, and that came across well. She was also resourceful, and even when she was still being kind of spoilt she was looking into how she could do things herself.

The romance was a very small part of the story, and it didn't end in an over the top way. James and Arianna were friends, they worked well together and got on well together, which was pretty much all that there was to it. The main story was about Arianna, getting the Prince was only a very small part of that.

I enjoyed this book better than the first it must be said, though if you were put off by book 1 I would say give this one a go!

Monday, 22 June 2015

A King's Ransom by Reagan Hawk

Title: A King's Ransom
Series: Masters of Pleasure (#1)
Author: Reagan Hawk
From: Review Copy
Genre: Erotic Romance, Sci-fi, Paranormal
Release Date: 22nd April 2013
Challenges: N/A
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

When King Kritan travels to Tamonius to find his long lost brother, he is captured and sold to be a slave in the gladiator rings. The last thing that he expects in the kingdom full of debauchery is to find himself attracted to the virginal Surina. Surina knows that she is somewhat naive, and for her kingdom she is an innocent, but there is a part of her that wants more, that wants a man. Surina's head guard, Rawlin, would love to be that man, but sometimes fate doesn't quite play in their favour...

Fair warning before I properly start my review, A King's Ransom has several erotic scenes, one of them being a threesome involving the two main characters, and several group sex scenes that don't (but are watched), though the latter are brief. The latter are also part of setting the scene which actually I found quite interesting.

So the scene setting sex. I know that sounds like a kind of strange concept, but Kritan was in a rival kingdom whose society basically was very lax, there was a lot of sex and a lot of corruption and some incidents of such were described. I did think that it was interestingi how those worked and felt very different from how the scenes between the two main characters worked out.

One thing that I really picked out as enjoying scene setting wise, was the fact that this world is set after space travel and now space travel is basically frowned upon. Technology has been banned and the people's lives have reverted somewhat. To some extent the society reminded me slightly of Ancient Roman times with some of the culture (though I'm not saying that all Ancient Romans had massive orgys, I'm more talking about the things like clothing, food and society structure).

The political aspects of the book were quite prominant and I liked that, though it did feel like they were only getting started and I would like to know more about where the tensions are going and why certain events were playing out like they were.

There was some insta-love going on, though the two main characters were fated mates (makes it more acceptable) and they both actually thought about it before spurting out that they loved the other person, which was a good change from just randomly saying it first!

I enjoyed A King's Ransom, I thought it worked well on several levels!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Dangerous Reflections by Shay West

Title: Dangerous Reflections
Series: The Adventures of Alexis Davenport (#1)
Author: Shay West
From: Netgalley
Genre: Time Travel, Young Adult
Release Date: 16th June 2014
Challenges: 2015 Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

Alexis Davenport has lost it all. Her father walked out on her and her Mom and now they've had to move in with her Aunt. Meaning a new home, a new school and a new life. Just as Alex starts settling in things start to change; she sees strange women in mirrors and after a while she finds herself transported through time. While there, Alex has to use her knowledge of history to set the events right, whether that is hiding a religious text, or preventing a famous historical figure from dying.

Dangerous Reflections sounded interesting in the blurb, and as soon as I started reading I was transported to Alex's world. The story was half coming of age, half time travel and they wove together well, giving enough details of both Alex's 'normal' life and her adventures in time. The balance was good and thouroughly enjoyable, even though Alex is a younger character than I normally like reading (she was only 15).

There was only one down point I have about Dangerous Reflections and it is only minor. But every now and again there was a sentance that just felt clunky to me. There wasn't any pattern to it, and it is highly likely that that was because of the way that my brain was working rather than the actually writing itself!

I thought that the historical elements of the book were well written and I liked the way that Alex interacted within them. She didn't forget that she was from the modern world, and she wasn't the women themselves but she was able to call on their local knowledge and lives. Each time period felt different and relevant, adding to the story. Though this was very clearly a 'first step' book, and it did end on a cliffhanger.

There were plenty of friendships in Dangerous Reflections, partly brought on by the fact that Alex had moved to a new town, and I liked that she wasn't one of those characters that became instantly popular but at the same time did manage to find people that she got on with.

I also really liked the fact that Dangerous Reflections had a bit from the bad guy's point of view. They're so often neglected that it was interesting to see not only his point of view, but a little bit into his motivations, I'm excited to learn more about him. The other advantage of having Drifter's point of view was that he knew more about Travelling that Alex did, giving the reader more of a knowledge about what was going on.

This was a great first book, I'm looking forward to reading more in the series!


Saturday, 20 June 2015

Book: Solo Tu by Mandy M Roth

Title: Solo Tu
Author: Mandy M Roth
From: Review Copy
Genre: Paranormal, Romance
Release Date: 25th January 2006
Challenges: N/A
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

Five years ago, Dante started the mating process with Francy, the woman that he knows is his true mate, but he didn't want to deprive her of her own life and stopped himself. Having stayed away for five years, Francy is now back and having to face Dante and tell him that she is engaged to another man, a vampire named Ivon. But things don't turn out quite how she was expecting...

I do like the quick reads that Mandy M Roth does. They seem to provide an interesting story with depth, if a limited cast, and yet don't feel like they're missing anything. Sometimes a quick easy read is what I need (particularly after a work shift) and books like Solo Tu defintiely provide that.

There was also the added tension of Ivon in Solo Tu. At first this was just because Francy had to tell Dante about him, but it became clearer as the book progressed that there was going to be more to it. I did wonder for a short time if it was going to turn into a ménage romance (which it didn't) but the turn that it did take took me very much by surprise (and I liked it).

The chemistry between Francy and Dante was there even before they were both on page, and I liked the way that it built between them. There was also clearly a lot of emotion between them and not just love in a sexual way, but a connection that went deeper than that, and I liked it.

Solo Tu was a great quick read, I really enjoyed it.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Book: Silevethiel by Andi O'Connor

Title: Silevethiel
Series: Vaelinel Trilogy (#1)
Author: Andi O'Connor
From: Netgalley
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: 24th December 2013
Challenges: 2015 Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge, 2015 Reading Assingnment Challenge
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

When Irewen's father is murdered her cousin, Elthrad sends her to seek the protection of the Wood Elves, only to have his men betray her and leave her for dead. Found by the Wood Elf Prince, Laegon and his Guardian companion, Brégen (a lion), just in time, they nurse Irewen back to health, only to realise that she is much more pivotal in the greater scheme of things than either of them anticipated...

I enjoyed Silevethiel but unfortunately for me something just didn't quite click for me. I can't really explain it and it wasn't a big enough thing for me to want to stop reading, but rather just something that led me to be a bit distracted in places and start reading other books. Part of this could have been simply down to the formatting of the copy provided by Netgalley, for some reason odd words were linked together and there wasn't classical speech marks used rather a system using a dash to start the speech and two lines to end it.

The romance between Irewen and Laegon fell a little bit flat for me. It wasn't that I didn't think that they could fall in love, because actually I thought they were quite similar in character and actually they spent a lot of time together. However neither of them really explored exactly what it was that they felt about each other and seemed to realise that the other loved them without any real show or tell of it. Unless I missed something, which is possible!

One of the best bits of this book was Brégen. He was comic relief in his interactions with Laegon. There was always some smart comment or joke coming from the lion and he made me laugh a few times. Though he was also highly loyal and would do anything to protect Laegon and his friends. I also thought it was really sweet that there were a few hints of romance between him and the lioness Silevethiel.

The interactions between the Protectors (Elves) and the Guardians (Lions) was a central part of the plot and was an intricacy that was well explained and highly intrigueing. It made the story very interesting. This went along with political intrigue and some action scenes. I thought that those two concepts were really what moved the book along more than anything else.

I enjoyed Silevethiel but it did miss that special something for me. However I can see how it would appeal to other readers more.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Book: Demonic Desires by Mandy M Roth

Title: Demonic Desires
Author: Mandy M Roth
From: Review Copy
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 26th September 2007
Challenges: N/A
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

Donatus is the ultimate bad boy, a reformed Demon now devoted to not allowing the devil to overtake the world. When a new lecturer turns up at the college he works at, Donatus is shocked to discover it is the woman he had claimed in a dream the night before. Ava has no idea that it was Donatus that was with her in her dream, by speaking the incantation she had summoned him in Demon form, but that doesn't stop her from feeling drawn to him and feeling comfort when he is around. Even with her gut feeling, Ava struggles to accept that Donatus is more than human, despite her not being herself.

I need more! I've enjoyed many of Roth's books but Demonic Desires is definitely up there with the best of them, and I was gutted to find out that it wasn't a series! Particularly because there did seem to be some strong chemistry between some of the secondary characters!

One of the things I like about Roth's worlds is that several of them could overlap (as in the mythologies and lore line up) but they could also exist on their own. Each book has such strong world building that I feel truely transported to her alternative existance, and it doesn't take a series to do it.

I loved Ava! She was a kick ass heroine from the very beginning of the story, and she wasn't going to let a man fight her battles for her. Even better than that, Ava was determined to save the male characters around her (admittedly she thought they were only human but still!) and she did it. I liked seeing such a strong female lead even around alpha male characters.

The chemistry between Ava and Donatus was definitely there, and as a reader you're thrown straight into the action. I did also like reading about the not so sexual affect they had on each other, things like Donatus forgetting how to speak properly and Ava saying what she was thinking aloud. I thought it was cute and added something else to their relationship.

I really enjoyed Demonic Desires, and even thought the books don't exist, I really hope for more!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Book: Princesses Don't Get Fat by Aya Ling

Title: Princesses Don't Get Fat
Series: The Princess Series (#1)
Author: Aya Ling
From: The Princess Series Box Set 
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
Release Date: 24th August 2013
Challenges: N/A
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

Princess Valeria has it all. A life of idleness, with no need to do anything but eat the delicious food that is prepared for her. As one of the only Princesses actually on the marriage market, Valeria's mother has hopes that her daughter's size won't put suitors off, until proven otherwise. With no other choice Valeria's mother sends her to the Royal Riviera Academy for Fighting Arts with the order not to return until she was slimmer. But while there Valeria discovers a talent for recipe creation and finds herself occupied in the palace's kitchens.

Princesses Don't Get Fat is one of those books that I've wanted to read for absolutely ages, and since reading Aya Ling's newest book, The Ugly Stepsister, and loving it I thought that now was the time to give it a go. Except I couldn't help feeling a little underwhelmed. I did enjoy Princesses Don't Get Fat but something didn't quite click for me, maybe it was simply that Valeria didn't quite have the same amount of spunk that Kat did.

I did like that the majority of the story was based on Valeria accepting who she was rather than the romance between her and Prince Ralph (more on that in a moment). From the start of the book Valeria seemed fairly happy with how she was, and her size, but by the end I felt she'd totally embraced it rather than just accepting it though. Which at least shows that it is ok for women to feel good about themselves no matter what they look like. Well I say women, Valeria was only actually 16 in the book.

But honestly I felt more of a connection to Valeria finding her path in life rather than accepting and embracing her weight. (And that was done with a fitter lifestyle). Instead of accepting the path that other's chose for her, Valeria went down her own path and discovered what she wanted, and I liked seeing that role model.

The romance in the book was barely there, despite the fact that it's clear from the beginning that Valeria would get the Prince. I did like that the relationship between Ralph and Valeria was shown as a friendship, and there were some hints of a deeper relationship, but other than that it was mostly all at the end where things got serious.

Princesses Don't Get Fat was good but not quite what I expected. I'll still be reading the sequel though!

Cover Reveal: Agent N6: Dylan by Joni Hahn


Agent N6: Dylan McCall 
Credentials: 
• Third generation Marine 
• Mongolian prison survivor
 Enhancement: 
• Nanorobotics

 Third generation Marine Dylan McCall has only one goal in mind: revenge. Armed with a new, scientific enhancement, he won’t rest until he destroys Cyrus Matheson’s plans. Geneticist Teague Hamilton wants nothing more than a healthy baby of her own. Raised in a girls’ home, she knows Cyrus’s genetic engineering technology is her only chance at gaining the family she wants. Dylan can’t get enough of D.I.R.E.’s confident, sexy-as-hell geneticist, even though his gut tells him she’s hiding something. He won’t rest until he tames her and brings her deception to light. When Cyrus draws Teague out of D.I.R.E.’s protective custody and takes her to the past, she uncovers lies that prove she’s never controlled her own destiny, while Dylan travels back in time to save her before its too late. Can Dylan rescue Teague in time, or will he lose the woman he loves forever? 


Chapter 1

Dylan pulled a pair of handcuffs from a bag. She held out her wrists in invitation. He stared at her with narrow eyes. “You’re not going to fight me?” Shaking her head, she said, “No. I realize that will only prolong my release.” Latching one cuff around her wrist, he hooked the other around his own. No. She thought he’d cuff both wrists, not cuff her to his wrist. She already felt too on-edge in his company. Dylan McCall was far too potent, too appealing to be locked beside him for any length of time. Tugging on the cuff, she tried to squeeze her hand through the hole. “Is this really necessary?” Stepping close, he towered over her, his body heat fogging her glasses. She took a deep breath and let it out. “Yes. I don’t have time to chase after you.” But, what if I let you catch me? “I haven’t done anything wrong.” “That’s a matter of opinion, Doctor, and frankly, yours doesn’t count.” floors as she bounced against his muscular back. Yanking open a door, he rushed into a hallway filled with fragments of sheetrock, plaster and other debris. Men and women stopped to stare, some laughing, others slapping him on his free shoulder. She was a world-renowned doctor of genetics, for cripes sake. Her education and position as one of the leading scientists in genetic engineering warranted more respect than a sack of flour on this Neanderthal’s back. Walking into a room, he lowered her to the floor. People packed up test tubes, vials and other samples into liquid nitrogen tanks and biohazard containers, others throwing medical supplies into boxes. A musty smell of alcohol and sheetrock dominated the wrecked laboratory, the taste of bile rising in her throat. Teague stared at the obvious, her heart heavy. Was this Cyrus Matheson’s genetic engineering lab? The place where she’d thrown all of her life’s dreams, her future - into this pile of rubble and debris? How would she ever manipulate her genetic code without his resources? Without them, she had no hope of overcoming her family’s medical history, no hope of ever conceiving a healthy baby of her own. She had no choice. She had to follow the technology. glass crunching beneath his rubber soles. She shoved against his chest. “You’re crazy if you think I’m going anywhere with you.” Reaching a door off the back hallway, he opened it and lowered her to the cool concrete of a cavernous stairwell. “You don’t have a choice.” With a gentle shove, he motioned for her to precede him. She wouldn’t budge. “I told you, I’m not going anywhere until I get some answers.” He lowered his face within inches of hers, his minty breath washing over her heated cheek. Dammit, why couldn’t she breathe? “Yes, you are,” he said. She gritted her teeth. “No, I’m-“ Bending low, he pushed a shoulder into her middle and tossed her over his shoulder. She gasped, nearly swallowing her tongue. His large, warm hand cupped her upper thigh, sending sparks of arousal straight to her core. Holy crikey. Now is not the time to get turned on, Teague. “Put me down.” She pounded a fist against his back. “I plan to… in a minute.” Taking the stairs two at a time, he raced down three face him. He lifted her into his arms. She gasped, his close proximity stealing her breath. “What are you doing?” His strong arms cradled her to him. Her fingers speared the red curls brushing the neckband of his t-shirt, the scent of sweat filling her nose. “Put me down.” She pushed away from him. Gleaming white teeth shone through a false smile, laugh lines bracketing his gorgeous mouth. “Okay.” He dropped her legs. Her feet slipped to the jagged shards of glass. Wincing at the slight sting, she clung to his neck and curled up her legs. “That’s what I thought.” He gave her a deadpan stare. Forget it. She’d walk through the cut glass rather than give him the satisfaction. Settling her feet on the spiky surface, she took a deep breath and let it out. If she could get around him, she could make a break for the beach. She glanced up at him. He cocked an eyebrow. Dammit, she would do this. Gritting her teeth, she turned away and took a step. “Stubborn woman…” Scooping her into his arms, he marched across the floor, answered. If she fought him, she had a feeling she’d end up going with him, anyway. She had to try. Whipping around, she took two steps before Dylan snatched her wrist. He yanked her against the hard wall of his chest. She sucked in a breath as tingling sprouted in her chest and trickled throughout her body. Loathing swam in his narrow eyes, his grip on her wrist vice-like. “My pleasure,” he said. “Out.” Adjusting the tote bag on her shoulder, she said, “I’m not going anywhere until I know what the hell is going on.” “You’re about to find out.” He led her over the front door threshold and stopped short. A massive, crystal chandelier lay in glistening splinters on the foyer floor, a jagged hole in the ceiling above it. Conversation carried in the distance. “What happened?” she said. “More of what you saw on the beach.” Glancing at her polished peach toes, he said, “I should make you walk.” She had made it through life on her own up to this point. She’d be damned if she’d accept his hostile assistance now. “I’ll go back to the beach and get my shoes.” Turning around, she took a step, before he swiveled her back to hibernating erogenous zone in her DNA. Steering her away from the unconscious man, he escorted her through the rock-filled foliage. A concrete sidewalk led to blue doors at the mansion’s face. He spoke into an armband strapped to his left forearm. “Mitchell…” “McCall. What’s going on?” His tall, lean frame exuded energy as he rushed her up the walk. “Two agents down. We have a person of interest.” She snatched away her hand. He made her sound like some kind of suspect. Of what, she wasn’t sure. Mitchell’s voice carried over the band. “Who is he?” Dylan gave her another perusal, this one slower, more… pronounced. She refrained from fanning herself. “He is a she, Mitchell.” His direct gaze sent a shiver down her spine. “Who are you?” Feeling small in her bare feet, she straightened to her full height before yanking down the hem of her blouse. “Dr. Teague Hamilton. I’m supposed to start work here today.” “Bring her in.” Mitchell barked the order without hesitation. Bring her in where? She looked at the mansion. If she went with Agent McCall, at least she’d get some questions cheekbones complementing his small, angular nose. His nearness sent a shock of awareness through her heated body, kicking her already-pounding heart into overdrive. Gorgeous seemed too clichéd for this man’s appeal. Too inadequate. From a geneticist’s perspective, Teague decided God had perfected the genetic code with this one. He gave her huddled form a quick once-over. “Agent Dylan McCall. Can you stand?” Pushing up her foggy glasses, she gave him an uncertain nod, her eyes straying to the unconscious man lying a foot away. “Yes.” “Good girl.” Girl? She hadn’t been called anything but doctor or Teague in a long time. She hadn’t really felt like a girl since she lost her parents as a child. Then again, she’d never been held at gunpoint. Still, something in his deep voice spoke of command, of a confidence she sorely lacked at the moment. It rang of the unspoken knowledge that he had everything under control and would take care of her. She knew better. Holding out a hand, Dylan helped her to her feet, his big, rough palm unyielding around hers. Heat sizzled up her arm and rushed through her body, awakening every than the one in her mind’s eye since childhood. “What do you want from me?” she said. He nudged her head. “Mr. Matheson wants me to take you in.” “Mr. Matheson?” Her new boss? “I thought he lived here.” “He’s been evicted.” Like a cheetah after its prey, the redhead sprang from the top of the retaining wall, stretching over her head like an athlete over a hurdle. Sailing through the air, he landed on top of the man and dragged him to the ground. They struggled amongst the grass and rubble, fists flying, before her champion clamped a hand around the attacker’s gun. With stiff, shaking hands, they wrestled with the weapon. The redhead snapped back his arm and dismantled it in two, giving the attacker a shot at his profile. The redhead’s face whipped to the side, but didn’t slow him. With continual fists to his jaw, he rendered the attacker unconscious, his head falling limp in the grass. Breathing hard, he turned to her, his blue-green eyes glittering with adrenalin. They dominated his face, swirling in shades of teal and aqua, reminding her of the mood ring her mother gave her as a child. Red stubble dotted his upper lip and square, cleft chin, subtle these men were, or what was going on. She didn’t know if any of them worked for Cyrus, or if they were the authorities. The only thing she did know was that they used real bullets. Picking up the gun pieces, the redhead assembled it and jumped onto the boat’s bow, a gun in each hand. He shot down at the men on beach, picking off attackers with deft precision, gunshots zinging past him without notice. Emptying both chambers, he threw down the guns and leaped off the boat. He rushed toward a fistfight and jumped on an assailant’s back, twisting his neck. The man fell to the sand. He grabbed the dead man’s sidearm and fired at the main rotor on one of the helicopters. The chopper went into a wild tailspin, reeling and whirling, before diving sideways into the ocean. Water gushed high in the air, sprinkling the beach, fire mushrooming in its wake. Flames danced on the water’s surface amongst the wreckage. Something cold and hard butted against the back of her head. She stiffened, straightening her back. “Get up.” Hands in the air, she rose to her feet with slow movements, her face toward the beach. She didn’t want to see her attacker, didn’t want to give death a face other pointed at her chest. She stopped short, her heart continuing on in staccato beats. His handsome face held no evil or warmth, just matter-of-fact business. Her body shook with mild tremors. “Dr. Hamilton, come with me.” He held out a hand. “I don’t think so…” Two shots rang out. A red-haired man hurried past, the smell of suntan lotion splashing over her. The blond dropped to the sand, blood at his temple. “Stay here, against the wall.” His face a blur, the man shoved her through the hole in the gate. Ducking between the retaining wall and the fence, Teague peeked through the bars. The red-haired man wore nothing more than athletic shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt, yet he charged into the gunfire as if he wore a suit of armor. He fired to his left, hitting a man between the eyes. Whipping to his right, he grabbed the barrel of an assailant’s gun and dismantled it in one, quick sweep, the pieces falling to the sand. He slammed the butt of his gun against another’s temple. Dropping to the ground, the man shook his head as if to clear it. The redhead launched two rounds against his forehead. Okay, Teague, you have to get out of here. Somehow, she had to get to the boat. She had no idea who His urgent tone betrayed his calm demeanor. Pulling her toward the gates, he rushed up the incline. “What about my suitcases?” She glanced back at the boat. A sharp ping pounded against the boat’s hull, then another. Her driver jolted, then fell overboard into the shallow water. A bullet hole pierced the side of his bald head. “Oh, my god…” “Run,” the man said in a raised voice, as he dragged her toward the entrance. “Stay low.” Losing her shoes, she crouched and ran up the beach. Helicopter blades droned in the overhead sky, rousing the sand into tornado-like fury. Gunfire peppered the beach behind them, groans and return fire piercing the air like a violent hailstorm. Her escort arched his back, before dropping to the sand. Oh, my god. Oh, my god… She ran for a hole in the fence bars, near the retaining wall. Her lungs heaved for breath, her legs shaking. God help me. What have I found? She’d wanted to escape the lab, but this was more than she bargained for. A blond man dropped from the sky in front of her, gun The decision to leave Sacramento and live off the coast of Hawaii was a no-brainer. Add the opportunity to work with fully funded, genetic-enhancement research and she’d had her bags packed before the ink dried on the contract. “One moment.” Tapping a finger to his ear, the man turned and spoke in a low voice. The eight men lining the beach at regular intervals held themselves at military ease, their eyes scanning the open water and partly cloudy skies. Two standing near the boat studied her with keen interest. A whir of helicopters sounded in the distance. In unison, they looked up at the sky. The man that greeted them looked over his shoulder. His low voice carried in rushed tones. “We have incoming. Two bogies, ten o’clock.” Bogies?! Her heart pounded against her ribs wild beats. Excitement and danger were things she only read about in books or saw in the movies. They did not happen to dull, laboratory hermits. Two, dark helicopters approached. The hum of their rotors grew louder by the second, disrupting the early morning quiet. The man clutched her arm from behind. “Come with me.” “Don’t call during Nova. Tonight is the show on nanotechnology.” Right. Don’t want to miss a show on scientific advancements that will never see their potential because of political bureaucracy. Teague said to the driver, “Stay. I need to find out what happened.” He gave her a brief nod. “As you wish.” Cutting the engine, he scanned the beach. Small waves lapped against the boat hull as it settled to a stop parallel to shore. Lifting the hem of her ivory pencil skirt, Teague took the driver’s hand and stretched a leg over the side. She tugged down her coral, button-up blouse and marched toward the man, her heels sinking into the soft sand. He held out his hands to block her. “I’m sorry, ma’am. You’re not allowed on the island.” She did not come all this way to be turned away. Her future depended on this job. Digging inside the large tote on her shoulder, she pulled out the employment contract signed by Cyrus Matheson, Esquire. She handed it to him. “This contract says not only am I allowed on the island, I live here.” the lab almost as long as Teague, and never waivered from her routine. “Forget about that job offer.” Teague stifled the urge to sigh as she spoke through the Bluetooth at her ear. “So I can stare at test tubes all day and make up stories about the patients behind them? I’m done with that.” Sniffing, Amy adopted a brittle tone. “I thought we had fun.” They did – until now. Learning she had multiple sclerosis had changed her perspective on life. “You know why I’m doing this. Dr. Capri will never get research funding for anything more than our current program. I need something more.” Teague lowered her hand as the Samoan driver edged the boat close to the shore lined with people. Yellow tape stamped with the words “Do Not Cross” stretched from a retaining wall, across a bent wrought-iron gate, to a brick wall on the opposite side. A dark-haired man wearing sunglasses and shorts signaled the driver to turn around and leave. No, no, no, no, no. I can’t go back. She held two fingers to her Bluetooth. “I have to go. I’ll call you later.” Chapter 1 With your looks, it’s a good thing God gave you brains. Teague Hamilton willed away Mrs. Burnett’s words, the winds lashing at her upswept hair like her former guardian’s razor-sharp tongue. As the boat drew closer to the private island off of Oahu, even she questioned her intelligence. What was sold to her as an island paradise looked more like World War II France after the Germans trampled through it. One corner of a grand, Modernist mansion was gone, the grounds surrounding it covered in rubble. This was Cyrus Matheson’s idea of paradise? Sure, she’d wanted to escape the doldrums of Dr. Capri’s lab, but this looked more like a war zone than a tropical utopia. Shading her eyes over glasses sprinkled with saltwater, Teague braced her high heels against the ridged floor of the boat. Her stomach turned like a pig on an open fire. Stickiness covered her face and bare legs, the smell of tobacco wafting back to her from the driver’s spit can on the dash. “You need to turn around, T.” Her former co-worker and best friend, Amy Garland, could make a living as a professional worrier. She’d worked at 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Tour: Healed by Love by Melissa Foster

Title: Healed by Love
Series: Love in Bloom; The Bradens (#13)
Author: Melissa Foster
From: Review Copy (Blog Tour)
Genre: Romance
Release Date: 11th June 2015
Challenges: 2015 New Release Challenge, 2015 Prequel & Sequel Challenge (2 points)
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

For years Nate Braden has been putting off coming clean about his feelings for his best friend's sister, Jewel. Now, two years after Rick's death, he is still putting it off, not wanting Jewel to turn him away. Since the death of her brother, Jewel has gone through life doing everything she can for her family, though after a kiss shared with Nate at New Year, she can't stop thinking about him. And now that he's back from the army for good, maybe they have a chance.

Melissa Foster does it again! I always know as soon as I open one of her books that I'll enjoy it, and that her characters will take me on a journey with them. Healed by Love was probably one of her more hard hitting books, with both the main characters suffering grief at the loss of Jewel's brother, Rick, and in Nate's case, guilt for potentially having caused it while out in Afghanistan. I found the book was both emotional and touching, particularly when they both began pushing through their grief.

On top of the grief element, the main focus seemed to be with Jewel and Nate going from friends to more. Though there was a lot of focus on the fact that their families were close and they should have been like siblings, it was clear that they'd never really been like brother and sister to one another. I think there is something extra special about friends to lovers and it made me enjoy Healed by Love more.

As with many of Foster's books there was a definite focus on the family bond, both on Jewel and Nate's sides of the story. I do think that it adds that something unique to the story and adds to the emotions that the characters are feeling. Not all of the things that Jewel and Nate had to deal with were good in relation to their families, but that made it feel more realistic.

The chemistry was there between Nate and Jewel, and though Jewel was a virgin I didn't feel thaat that had a big impact on her actions (in fact she didn't make a big deal out of it at all). There was something sweet about their relationship as well as sexy and I liked it!

Healed by Love is yet another great installment from Melissa Foster, and I look forward to what she writes next!



HEALED BY LOVE

The Bradens (at Peaceful Harbor)
The Bradens at Peaceful Harbor are the newest addition to the award-winning Braden series and the Love in Bloom family, joining the Snow Sisters, the Bradens, the Remingtons, & Seaside Summers, (Voted BEST BOOK SERIES by Supportive Business Moms, UK).
Fall in love with Nate Braden & Jewel Fisher in Healed by Love.
Nate Braden has loved his best friend’s younger sister Jewel for as long as he can remember, but between their age difference and his respect for Rick, he’s always kept his feelings at bay. Now he’s back in Peaceful Harbor, and Jewel is no longer sixteen years old—but there’s an even bigger obstacle standing in his way. Nate and Rick joined the military together eight years earlier. Nate came home a hero, but Rick didn’t make it out alive.



BUY LINKS

ABOUT MELISSA FOSTER
Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes contemporary romance, new adult, contemporary women’s fiction, suspense, and historical fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Her books have been recommended by USA Today’s book blog, Hagerstown Magazine, The Patriot, and several other print venues. She is the founder of the  World Literary Café and Fostering Success. When she’s not writing, Melissa helps authors navigate the publishing industry through her author training programs on  Fostering Success. Melissa has been published in Calgary’s Child Magazine, the Huffington Post, and Women Business Owners magazine. 
Melissa hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa lives in Maryland with her family.
Visit Melissa on social media. Melissa enjoys discussing her books with book clubs and reader groups, and welcomes an invitation to your event.
Authors Links:
Sign up for Melissa's newsletter to stay up to date with releases and giveaways


GIVEAWAY
3 ecopies of GAME OF LOVE


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Monday, 15 June 2015

Book: Pike's Peak by Mandy M Roth

Title: Pike's Peak
Series: League of the Unnatural (#1)
Author: Mandy M Roth
From: Review Copy
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Romance
Release Date: August 2006
Challenges: N/A
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

At 18 all Adira wants is her brother's best friend, Pike, and though he wants her too he knows that if he does he'll claim her as his own forever. 10 years later and Pike still yearns for the woman that he sees as his, but when an attractive woman turns up to become a part of the League of the Unnatural he finds himself instantly drawn to her, little realising that Adira has just returned...

Pike's Peak is a quick read, one that focuses on very few characters but still provides a fair bit of world building. Sometimes I do wonder how that is possible and yet Roth seems to make it work! (Though this could be due to the fact that I've read several of Roth's books and so know what to look for). The balance between the various character relationships and the action was defintiely there.

I loved the interactions that surrounded Adam. He had a natural reaction to the idea of his baby sister with anyone and I really felt that he cared for her. Honestly I'd react the same if anyone tried to be with my younger brothers that I didn't feel was suitable. Well except that I have no super powers!

Adira was actually a pretty kick ass character herself. Not only did she know exactly what she wanted and go for it, but she also got some good action scenes going on, proving that women are just as good as men at beating the bad guys!

Pike's Peak was the perfect filler book, something that was quick and easy to read while having substance to it!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Audiobook: The Lady Meets Her Match by Gina Conkle

Title: The Lady Meets Her Match
Series: Midnight Meetings (#2)
Author: Gina Conkle
Narrator: Marian Hussey
From: Review Copy
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: 7th April 2015
Challenges: 2015 New Release Challenge 
Links: Goodreads - Amazon - Audible

Claire Mayhew is a woman determined to prove herself, despite London's poor view of women in business. Cyrus Ryland is not a man known for supporting women's rights, so Claire does the only thing she can think of; she steals his signature. Though Claire knows that there could be dire consequences to her actions, the last thing she expects is to meet Cyrus and feel the attraction that blossoms between them. While Cyrus and Claire explore the pull towards each other, they realise that there may be more to it.

Firstly, Marian Hussey's narration. What I didn't realise until I started The Lady Meets Her Match was that I would have thought it wrong to hear an American narrating (can't explain why if I'm honest) so I was very glad of Hussey's accent. I thought that the performance of the various characters was fantastic and it was very easy to determine which character it was that was speaking simply by listening to the voice (though weirdly I found the voice that Hussey used for Claire the most annoying). I thought that Hussey did a great job of setting the scene and the characters, it made The Lady Meets Her Match very enjoyable.

I couldn't help that notice that there were some points in the story that it seemed like there were a lot of things repeated. In a way this was good because it took me a lot longer to finish an audiobook than it would a normal book, so being reminded of little facts was important, but there was a small amount of frustration linked into that. I was also a bit wary of how I would feel listening to more sexual scenes, but because they weren't many in this book I didn't find them bad at all.

Claire was a great character. She was a determined woman who wanted to prove herself, but she was well aware, and accepting, of the restraints put on women in the era. Despite the fact that she was a progressive heroine, I actually felt that the book was more era appropriate than a lot of similar plot lines. Both Cyrus and Claire acted within the constraints the time would have given them.

There were some hints of Cinderella in The Lady Meets Her Match but I did think that they were only slight and though interesting and enjoyable to pick up on, they weren't central to the story. Nor were they overwhelming. This wasn't a retelling of Cinderella, rather it was a book with some elements added in. I liked that (not that I don't like fairy tale retellings, I actually love them).

This was an enjoyable listen, and has further encouraged me when it comes to my opinion on audiobooks!

Saturday, 13 June 2015

TBR List Winner (June)


Thanks to Michelle @ Because Reading for hosting. Rules are that on the first Saturday of the month participants pick three books and hold a vote. The winner is announced on the second Saturday and the review posted on the last Saturday of the month!

For this month I have gone right back to when I first got my kindle and am picking out three books that I simply never got around to reading! (OOOPS!) Interestingly this did lead to me questioning whether I'd read some books or not (turns out some of them I genuinely don't remember but have read...weird!)

The three books were: 


And it will surprise absolutely no one that this month I am reading: 

"No secret stays hidden forever."

A phone call from an old friend sets Dr. Giovanni Vecchio back on the path of a mystery he'd abandoned years before. He never expected a young librarian could hold the key to the search, nor could he have expected the danger she would attract. Now he and Beatrice De Novo will follow a twisted maze that leads from the archives of a university library, through the fires of Renaissance Florence, and toward a confrontation they never could have predicted.

A Hidden Fire is a paranormal mystery/romance for adult readers. It is the first book in the Elemental Mysteries Series.

Goodreads Amazon

Average Goodreads Rating: 4.09

Though both The Pearl and Drowning Mermaids did manage to get 1 vote a piece! 

Book: The Winner's Curse by Maria Rutkowski

Title: The Winner's Curse
Series: The Winner's Trilogy (#1)
Author: Marie Rutkoski
From: Netgalley
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: 4th March 2014
Challenges: 2015 Netgalley & Edelwiess Challenge
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

As an infamous General's daughter, Kestrel knows that he expects her to sign up to the military. Knowing that she ahs to make her decision on whether to enlist or marry by 20 just makes it harder. While at the market one day, Kestrel pays above the odds for a slave that she feels akin to. Arin has a plan, but it didn't involve the beautiful girl who is now his mistress, nor did it involve the intrigue she poses...

I didn't know quite what I expected when I picked up The Winner's Curse but it certainly wasn't that. From what other reviewers have said I was expecting a solid fantasy read, with good characters and a sturdy plot; what I got was so much more.

I love complex characters, and The Winner's Curse definitely supplied those in the form of Kestrel and Arin. Though the two of them did seem attracted to each other, both physically and more emotionally, that was the only simple bit of their relationship. They weren't able to fully accept each other because of their different heritages and the 'sides' that they were on, though this did lead to some interesting decisions that were made for the good of the other person. It made their relationship have a sligtly sweet edge to political manoeuvering.

Politics! I love a good sense of politics in a book. I thought that The Winner's Curse was actually more overt with its use of politics than many books, and most of it was done in terms of military strategy. This went all the way from big decisions to each character squaring off against others in the day to day life of society.

The concept of seeing a revolution from both sides was super intrigueing for me. I found myself captivated by the way that Arin's people overtook Kestrel's, and yet it was nowhere near as clear cut as that. There was a hesitancy on both sides about what to do next, which added a complexity and made the characters seem more real.

I really enjoyed The Winner's Curse, to the point that the formatting of the ARC didn't put me off (whereas it would have done if the book hadn't been as strong!)

Friday, 12 June 2015

Book: The Ugly Stepsister by Aya Ling

Title: The Ugly Stepsister
Author: Aya Ling
From: Netgalley
Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
Release Date: 12th June 2015
Challenges: 2015 Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge, 2015 New Release Challenge
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

When everyday girl, Kat, wakes up in a fairy tale she is told that the only way to break the curse is to follow through the story until she reaches the happily ever after. The only problem is that Kat is ugly stepsister while her sister, Biance, is drop dead gorgeous, Cinderella (Elle) has a mother and two brothers, and the fairy Godmother seems to be AWOL. Then she meets Prince Edward. While she tries to make Edward interested in Elle, she can't help but be interested in him herself and Edward seems more interested in her than in his traditional love...

The Ugly Stepsister turned Cinderella up side down, inside out and back to front, and I loved every second of it! Part of that was Kat, she didn't put herself down too much like many YA heroines do, and she stood up for what she believed in. She did what she thought was best even when it made her life harder, and she formed bonds rather than just flitting through.

The world that Kat was transported to reminded me rather of Regency/Victorian settings, with the back drops of the Season and the Industrial revolution. I prefered this to a more medieval setting though I can't really say why! I liked that Kat got fed up with all the parties and social events, as much as many girls would love to go to all those balls and parties I do imagine that they would get a bit annoying after a bit! And then there was her social consience. A lot of the things that we take for granted; women's equality and the outlawing of child labour being the main two; were big parts of the culture and Kat did a lot in an attempt to make those things better.

There were two main romances going on it The Ugly Stepsister, though the main one that was focused on was Edward and Kat's relationship. It budded slowly and it was clear from early on what they were going to mean to one another, but at the same time Kat tried to keep him at arms length due to her not being Cinderella. Then there was Elle (Cinderella) and Henry (the Prince's cousin)'s relationship which was a more distant thing but clearly there.

There were elements of Kat's story where she took on parts of Cinderella herself, though I don't think she quite realised that. And it was quite clear from early on the way that the fairy tale was going to end. But I lliked that, I thought it made the whole thing more complex!

I loved this take on Cinderella, it was different and exciting and I just loved Kat! (And Edward!)