Thursday, April 30, 2015

Swoon Thursday (#118): Rook by Sharon Cameron

Swoon Thursday is a hot meme hosted by the fabulous ladies at YA Bound!

- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting

This week, my swoon is Rook by Sharon Cameron!

Her breath was so short she could hardly speak. She had one hand on his chest, the rhythm of it fast and hard beneath her palm. He was so beautiful, and so unsure, and she had never been more so.

"Sophia...," he whispered.

She slipped her other arm around his bruised neck and put her lips on the pulse at the case of his throat.

He made a noise somewhere deep in his chest, and then he had his mouth on hers, hard, holding her head still as she was pressed back, rattling the shelves, and then back again until she hit the wall. All at once she was boiling, frantic, trying to kiss him more, hold him closer with fistfuls of his shirt, pinned by his body to the painted plaster. He seemed to have forgotten his worries about noise. It was a long time before his lips broke away and he put his forehead against hers, breath coming fast.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen

Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen
Book Three of the Scarlet trilogy
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

The eagerly-awaited conclusion to the Scarlet trilogy delivers another action-packed and romance-filled adventure.

Scarlet has captured the hearts of readers as well as the heart of Robin Hood, and after ceaseless obstacles and countless threats, readers will finally find out the fate of the Lady Thief.

Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape from the Prince's clutches, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine demands a service Scarlet can’t refuse: spy for her and help bring Richard home safe. But fate—and her heart—won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long, and together, Scarlet and Rob must stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England. They can not rest until he’s stopped, but will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

What I Liked:

Eh. I'm feeling kind of meh about this one. On the one hand, I can see why people are loving this one. It was good! But for me, it wasn't great, and the entire series has been okay at best for me. I thought Scarlet was pretty good (the romance is weird though. If I remember correctly, there was a love triangle in book one, but not in book two). I didn't like Lady Thief very much at all - I gave it two stars. But this one was okay. It was a good trilogy conclusion novel. 

This novel starts with Scarlet in Prince John's dungeons. She's been held captive for three months. With the help from a strange source, she escapes, and tries to figure out her best plan of action. He grandmother, the lady Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, wants her to go to Ireland safely. But Scarlet can't stay away from Nottinghamshire, especially since Rob thinks she's dead. But the fight to keep Richard alive and bring him back safely is bigger than any one person, and stopping John is the most important thing. Scarlet will have to make difficult decisions, with or without Rob.

One thing that I really liked about this book is how easy it is to slip back into the world of Marian (Scarlet) and Prince John's schemes and the poor. I barely remember anything from Lady Thief (to be honest, I remember nothing at all). I remember a little from Scarlet. But it was nice that I didn't feel lost in this book, though the beginning took me by surprise (I forgot that Scarlet was taken by Prince John?). 

The romance is better in this book, or maybe I simply can't remember how "bad" it was in Lady Thief. Either way, I wasn't nearly as bothered with the romance as I was in Lady Thief. Actually, the romance was probably my favorite aspect of the book, and I really enjoyed seeing Scarlet and Rob take things up a notch. Or ten. The romance definitely worked in this book, and quite frankly, I kept reading the book for the romance. But over one hundred pages into the book is when Rob makes his first appearance. Just a warning.

Read on for things that didn't work! There aren't many, but this one still ends up with a three-star rating.

What I Did Not Like:

I just wasn't interested in this book. I'd been pushing off reading it for a while now, but I told myself, I need to read it now. I picked it up and wasn't totally sucked in. It wasn't until Rob finally appeared in the book that I perked up a little bit. But then I settled back into the story and was a little bored again. I feel like a lot focused on the romance (which is fine), a subplot romance (between two characters other than Rob and Scarlet), and not enough attention was focused on the bigger picture.

At the same time, the bigger picture definitely was addressed. Scarlet and Robin have to raise enough money to pay the taxes for Nottinghamshire, in order to help pay the ransom for Richard. I guess I wanted more from the historical side of things. Richard isn't in this book at all, and the parts relating to Prince John just aren't that interesting.

Prince John felt like a cartoon villain character, especially in the last scene of the book. His dialogue is so cliche and cartoon-like! His character in general is very one-dimensional. I think I remember thinking that Robin is a bit one-dimensional in Lady Thief. I think Robin is less one-dimensional, but Prince John is definitely a flat and underdeveloped character. Not to mention he speaks like he came out of a really bad cartoon for tiny children.

The ending wasn't fulfilling for me, as you can probably tell. The ending is literally the climax, and there is not epilogue, or at least an ending scene that ISN'T part of the action of the climax. I don't really like it when books that are conclusion novels to a series don't end with some sort of epilogue ending, in which all loose ends are definitively tied. 

Overall, I think my big problem with this book is a personal one - I just wasn't interested in this book. I really wanted to finish the series, but this one did not capture my attention, nor did it hold my attention while I was reading. It was an enjoyable read, but not a series I'll be reading again.

Would I Recommend It:

Again, I enjoyed this book, but the series overall gets a 2.5-3-star-rating. That being said, I probably wouldn't recommend the series. If you've come this far and have read books one and two, then you should definitely read this one! But don't start the series if you haven't already. Don't read books two or three if you've only read book one. Just move on!


3 stars. This one was okay! Just not that great. At least for me. I've seen a ton of positive reviews on Goodreads for this book. But this series never really clicked with me, so I had little expectations to love this one. If you've been liking the series, then this one will probably be good!

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Waiting on Wednesday (#122): Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm featuring:

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott
Book One of the Court of Fives series
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 18, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott begins a new trilogy with her debut young adult novel, weaving an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But at night she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best competitors. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between a girl of mixed race and a Patron boy causes heads to turn. When a scheming lord tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test Kal's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a powerful clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death. 

I haven't read any of this author's other books, but I certainly want to give this one a try!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Release Day Blitz and Giveaway: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Welcome to the release day blitz for An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir! I'm so excited to share this book with you all! Check out some neat graphics and a few words from Sabaa, and enter to win!

About the Book:

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: April 28, 2015

Official Summary:

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

A Note From The Author:

Dear Readers,
Today, my “baby” AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is final
ly out in the world! From inception to pub date, this journey took eight years. And what a journey it was: writing, rewriting, revising, editing, querying, submitting; Meeting other debuts, bloggers, booksellers and librarians, and hearing their thoughts on EMBER. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the radness.

And now, the book is here! I am so excited to see it in the hands of readers. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. To celebrate release day, I’m giving away two signed, first-edition hardcovers of the book. Details below!

All my best,

About the Author:

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

The Trailer:

The Giveaway:

2 winners will receive a signed hardcover of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. US Only.
3 winners will receive a hardcover of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES and a Sword Letter Opener! US Only.

Ends on May 9th at Midnight EST!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt
Book One of the Once Upon a Crime Family series
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.

And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever.

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.

What I Liked:

This book and had a strange encounter. I'm not quite sure if I really liked it or if I was simply reading something that I didn't want to stop reading, but really, I was feeling a bit meh towards the book. I had serious issues with the protagonist, and I feel like the book didn't live up to its full potential, but I think I enjoyed reading it as I was going (for the most part). I'm intrigued and I want to keep reading books in the series. It would be interesting to see the next books from another point-of-view, and not a continuation of Penelope's story (I'm a bit sick of Penelope). How about Garrett! Anyway.

Penelope is the daughter of Malcolm Landlow, who is a mafia boss, one of three crime lords that controls the organ transplant black market. Penelope's older brother is set to take over the Family business when their father is ready to give it to him, and Garrett Ward will be Carter's second, his right-hand man. Penelope has always wanted to feel free like Carter and Garrett - she has a rare autoimmune disease in which even the smallest touch will bruise her badly or cause her to start bleeding. When an unpredictable event happens and Penelope is stranded, she is forced to learn what life is like on her own, with no protection from the outside world. Soon, she's caught up in the Family business for real, and there is no turning back.

The first half of the book was pretty okay. The second half was fine too (ish), but there were very different. The Unpredictable Event is what divides the two halves. The Unpredictable Event is quite unpredictable, and I could not have seen that coming (neither part one nor part two). I kept waiting for Schmidt to be like, just kidding! Everything's fine! It was a hoax! Or something. So that was really dramatic and heartbreaking, and I applaud Schmidt for creating such an immense and story-shaking event, and sticking to it.

I'll get to Penelope in the next part. I didn't like her very much. Her love interest was just that - a love interest. The romance was all over the place, so I didn't like that. I will say that I thought the story was interesting and I was never in danger of getting terribly bored or wanting to put the book down. I had hoped for more crime-related activity, but I was disappointed. I think I'll read the next book(s) if they deal with primary characters other than Penelope. Like, Garrett, Carter's second. He's an intriguing guy, and the ending is definitely open enough for a story all to him.

What I Did Not Like:

Ugh, a good number of things didn't work for me. I'm not sure why I'm giving this one three stars. Maybe I'm feeling optimistic. In any case, I didn't like Penelope, I struggled with the romance, and I was disappointed by the lack of crime-mafia-mob-craziness!

My biggest problem with this book was Penelope. Yes, she has an autoimmune disease that basically has her sheltered, far away from everyone. Her family (and Family) basically treat her like she's fragile (which she is), and doesn't let her out of their compound/grounds. She has to beg her brother to let her go into New York City, or Garrett. Penelope knows little to nothing about the Family and its the current happenings of the business.

The thing is, we're supposed to feel sorry for her (I assume), but that girl really got on my nerves. She does a lot of whining, a lot of complaining, a lot of temper-tantrum-throwing. I let it go in the first couple of chapters, because she has the condition, but then it just got annoying. Condition or not, there's no excuse for being a stuck-up, annoying brat. She's constantly begging her brother to tell her what is going on in the Family, yet she makes no attempt to sit in at meetings and find out herself. All she cares about is going out in New York City, or going to school for senior year (out in the public, instead of having a tutor). Reasonable for someone who has lived her whole life in seclusion, but at the same time, you do have that condition... it's pretty serious too.

I didn't feel like Penelope grew very much as the story went on, which is a shame. I was so ready to see her do something other than moan about how useless everyone thought she was. When The Unpredictable Event happens, Penelope is left to fend for herself in New York City. She literally sits on her butt for days, does nothing to try and help her family (or Family), or at least figure out what's going on. Her whole life, she didn't want to lie low, and now that is exactly what she is doing.

Then there is the romance. In the first half of the book, we have Penelope and Garrett. I really like them together, they're sweet. They were never really TOGETHER, but Penelope had a crush on Garrett for years. Garrett cares about Penelope in ways other than as a friend. Then The Unpredictable Event occurred, and Penelope and Garrett are separated. Enter Love Interest #2, whom Penelope really, really falls for, making what was between her and Garrett seem like sibling affection. I didn't like this. I get that there was one guy at one point in her life, and a different guy at a different point, but I was annoyed that there had to be two love interests at all.

And the second romance was so insta-love-y! Penelope bumps into Love Interest #2, and it's love at first sight. Or fascination at first sight. For both of them. Just like that. Call me cynical, but it seemed too sudden and abrupt for me. I didn't like that transition at all. 

The ending is satisfying in terms of Penelope's story (sort of), but there is room for more. I really hope the next book isn't about Penelope, because I'm so over her whiny attitude. Talk about zero character development (in my opinion). The next book should feature Garrett!

And the last thing I will just briefly mention - I expected more crime! More creepy mafia encounters! More underground illegal shenanigans! The lack of the crime aspect was disappointing, because this book was hailed as a great crime novel, right? Or something.

Would I Recommend It:

Ehhh. It wasn't a good crime novel, the romance wasn't that great, and the protagonist as annoying... so probably not. Overall, it's not a bad book, but you really have to overlook some things. Like Penelope's attitude towards everything. 


2.5 stars -> rounded up to 3 stars. I think I'm being generous. I'm looking at the ending of this book optimistically - if the next book is about Garrett (or someone else other than Penelope), then I'm in!

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Review: Rook by Sharon Cameron

Rook by Sharon Cameron
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she. 

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

What I Liked:

Ah! I love Cameron's books! I'm three for three with her novels. The Dark Unwinding and A Spark Unseen were two excellent novels (a duology), and I have been excited for Rook for years! I absolutely loved Rook, possibly even more than I loved Cameron's debut duology. I've never read The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I loved Diana Peterfreund's retelling, Across A Star-Swept Sea.

The Red Rook has been spiriting away prisoners who are set to be executed with the Razor (think guillotine). LeBlanc, the minister of security of the City of Light, is not pleased. Meanwhile, Sophia Bellamy is set to be engaged to René Hasard, who is the cousin of LeBlanc. Sophia, her brother Tom, and even René are not who they seem, and as everyone converges to find the Red Rook, Sophia finds herself desperate to help herself, as well as her friends and family. The stakes get higher when someone she knows is taken to be executed. The Red Rook plans to do the impossible, but not enough LeBlanc catches this legend first.

From the start, I knew I would like Sophia. She is physically tough - she can wield a sword, climb up to roofs and walls, she's stealthy, she's fast. But she's very smart too - she can think her way through a difficult situation (which we see in the very first scene). Sophia is not passive, does not let others make decisions for her (she agrees to her arranged marriage/engaged for a good reason), she has a quick but reigned-in temper, and she has a quick tongue. She trusts no one, and she is selfless.

René and Sophie do not get along when they meet. Their engagement has been arranged by René's family and Sophia's family. Sophia is suspicious of René - he seems like a flirtatious, coy gentleman who has an empty head. But she doesn't trust this. And, as it would turn out, René is not who he seems. He is the cousin of LeBlanc (which everyone knows), and he is in on the scheme to find the Red Rook. René is wicked smart, just as clever as Sophia, and terribly good at getting himself out of sticky situations. He's also definitely a bit dreamy, and I may or may not have a slight crush on him. Wink.

That being said, the fake happy relationship and the banter was so great to read. I love those types of relationships, from hate to love, aggression to passion. René and Sophia share a lot of witty banter, and their interactions are always so entertaining. 

The story is very intricate, with several plots going on all at once. It's not a confusing mix, as each plot intersects with another and relates to each other (though it may not seem so at first). Everything and everyone is related. We have LeBlanc's third person perspective, René's perspective, Sophia's perspective, all in third person. I like that Cameron decided to write with several perspectives featured here and there. Mostly, it's Sophia's third-person point-of-view, but sporadically, there is René's and LeBlanc's and I think a few others (but I can't remember specifically).

The story is very dense, which is not surprising for a standalone novel. A lot happens in the novel, at a pretty fast past. Sophia and René have their engagement party, but then René and Sophia must flee, in order to save people they each care about. They make a tentative agreement to help each other, but neither of them trust the other. The pacing is fast but not overwhelming. There was no info-dumping, no parts where I was totally lost.

The setting is incredibly cool! This one is sort of historical fiction, but really, it's not. It's set way into the future, way past our time. Plastic and technology are things of the past, from my understanding. The world has regressed to times like the late 1800s, it seems. But we know the time is of the future because there are many mentions of things that are known to this day (I think a Nintendo is one of the artifacts). Cameron does an amazing job of building the world, creating a very unique setting that is distinct and creative.

The romance. Oh, the romance was fantastic. It's one of my favorite tropes - the hate-to-love thing. René and Sophia don't like each other at all, though they must pretend to be happy and trust each other and whatnot (they're engaged). But eventually, they learn to trust each other, and they fall for each other. Sophia's childhood friend loves Sophia, but she only loves him as a brother. The romance is solely set on René and Sophia, and I love it.

The ending is so satisfying! It's a bit sad, with some death and unexpected action, but overall, the ending is very good. René and Sophia get a fitting ending, one that I wasn't expecting to be so good! Cameron wraps things up beautifully. I love René's family (his uncles are hilarious), and while Sophia's family aren't the most exciting, they are an interesting bunch. All is revealed at the end, and the ending is quite satisfying.

What I Did Not Like:

I can't think of anything specific! I know some people complained about the length of the book, but I think if the book wasn't as "long" as it is, it wouldn't be as amazing!

Would I Recommend It:

Yes! This book is quite a fun ride! Even if you don't like "historical fiction", keep in mind that this one isn't technically historical, since it's set in the future (though society has regressed to a historic setting ish). There is a steampunk vibe, and of course, a very slow-burn and sweet romance. It's a very intelligent yet fun novel, not juvenile at all, but younger and older readers alike could read this one and enjoy it!


4 stars. This one was a very enjoyable read! I'm slightly saddened that it's only a standalone, but extremely pleased that it's a standalone. It's a great novel, and I can't wait to read more of Cameron's future novels!

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Stacking the Shelves (#122)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!

So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, April 19th to Saturday, April 25th?

(all links to Goodreads are provided!)

In the mail:

Thanks, Penguin! I've not the first one - has anyone? This one says "companion" - do I need to read the first one?

Thanks, Katie! So sweet.

From NetGalley:

I love Patty's books!

I know nothing about this book. This is peer pressure at its finest. LOL.

This week was okay. Honestly it was mostly a blur, as the semester is coming to an end and finals will start in a week or so. Ugh!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Review: Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen
Book Two of the Malediction Trilogy
Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Rating: 2 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sometimes, one must accomplish the impossible.

Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…

What I Liked:

Well, that was disappointing. I didn't completely dislike this book, but I was very, very disappointed, to be honest. A lot of factors were at play - I think my expectations were very high after reading Stolen Songbird, but this book in general was just all over the place. And kind of bad. I can't even say that this book suffer from sequel slump because it's not like this book is boring or slow or could have been skipped altogether. No no - there were serious problems with this book (for me) that went beyond your typical "sequel slump" symptoms.

In any case, this book is my Pili-Pushed recommendation for the month of April. To see all of the Pili-Pushed recommendations, like on the "Pili-Pushed" tag! It's unfortunate that I didn't like this book more, because I loved Stolen Songbird - it's my favorite Pili-Pushed recommendation to date!

It's been two months since Cécile left Trollus, since she and Tristan have been separated. Tristan is a prisoner for conspiring against the king, and Cécile is trying to have somewhat of a normal life in Triannon as a singer. But she is not content with singing anymore - she wants to find Anushka and put an end to the curse. Separated but bound together, Tristan and Cécile must work from each of their worlds to find a way out, a way through, and a way back to each other, to find Anushka. But nothing is simple or easy, and Cécile and Tristan are in much more danger than they realize.

I will say that I was never really bored while reading this book. It's loooooong, and there are times when I really felt the length, but for the most part, I thought the story had decent pacing and interesting events. The twists and turns were predictable (see below). But I couldn't not keep reading, as I wanted to know if my intuitions were correct (they were all correct, because the plot twists were obvious). 

That was really the only thing that I really *liked* about this book - it kept me reading, I kept going. Oh and no love triangle. That's always a good thing. We get Cécile AND Tristan's first-person points-of-view, which is pretty cool, and different from book one. But most of my feelings towards this book aren't all that positive. Read on!

What I Did Not Like:

Seriously, what in the world happened to this book?! Stolen Songbird blew me away! This book lacked the spark and flare that its predecessor had. I'm honestly confused by the huge difference in quality of story, between Stolen Songbird and this book. Things I didn't like: Cécile's seriously passive attitude, the constant guilt-trip-woe-is-me-martyr episodes, the predictability, certain plot arcs in general, the lack of romance. The last one isn't a sticking point, but it didn't exactly help that the romance is pretty much nonexistent in this book.

I'll start with Cécile. I really did NOT like her in this book. I liked her a lot in Stolen Songbird! But in this book, she complains a lot. She lets people boss her around, tell her what to do, tell her what's best for her. The very first few scenes features her mother harassing her into performing this or that. Or there was Chris, physically trying to prevent her from doing something, speaking over her, making decisions for her. This goes on throughout the book. Cécile's mother never stops controlling Cécile, and Cécile never stops her. Cécile goes along with it, though we know internally she gets irritated sometimes. Other times, she's all, I-love-my-mother-la-la-la-everything-is-fine.

I have so many problems with this attitude! Cécile lets everyone tell her what to do, how to act, how to run her life. Does Cécile even WANT to be a singer in Triannon? It sure does NOT feel like that from the beginning of this book, yet Cécile doesn't try to do anything different. She doesn't stand up for herself at all. Sometimes, she gets mad internally (but does nothing), but most of the time, she doesn't even know that someone is owning her like that. SO WRONG.

And tell me why she is blindly following her mother? A woman who hasn't been in her life for years? A woman who only cares about projecting her career goals on her daughter? It's obvious that Genevieve doesn't are about Cécile. Yet Cécile is constantly trying to please her, obey her, cater to her every whim. If this were MY estranged mother... please. That lady would have been shown the door. I don't tolerate people dictating my life.

Not to mention the whole martyr thing got old real quick. Both Tristan and Cécile went through some serious guilt trips throughout the book. Tristan, I was more forgiving towards him, because his guilt made sense. With Cécile, I felt like her guilt was more misplaced, and it was more of her feeling sorry for herself. She did A LOT of moping and whining and complaining and feeling sorry for herself in this book. Lots of pity parties.

This book was totally predictable. There were so many twists that you could spot from a mile away. There was a big one with Anushka that I knew from the beginning. FROM THE BEGINNING. Really obvious. This is the case with most of the "twists".

There were a lot of plot arcs that I really just didn't agree with. To begin with, separating the two protagonists for 75% of the book? I'm not okay with that. But let's pretend that one is okay. The author does certain things to Tristan, and to Cécile, and involving Cécile's brother Fred, and a lot of these events got eye rolls from me, or pissed me off. Like, OF COURSE Fred is going to do this, because he feels this guilt about this and that. It's so frustrating! There are so many plot cliches! I can't say things specifically without giving things away, but you'll have to take my word for it.

Last thing I'm going to talk about (there's more, but I'm tired) - the romance. It's basically not there. There's no romance, no chemistry, and little interactions. I don't want to spoil anything, but I was not happy with the romance.

I was also not happy with the ending, but that had nothing to do with the romance. It's a bit of a cliffhanger, but that's not what is bothering. What's bothering me is Cécile's idiot brain that tells her to do stupid and to not do smart things. Ugh. No spoilers, but... ugh.

Would I Recommend It:

Eh. If you liked Stolen Songbird (like me), then you should give this book a chance. But if you haven't read Stolen Songbird, then don't bother. Not yet, at least. Stolen Songbird was AMAZING. This book? Not so much.


2 stars. This book could have been so much better. I had expectations, but this book didn't even come close to meeting any of my expectations... this book was such a disappointment for me. I've seen others enjoy it though, so perhaps I'm just too picky!

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Blog Tour Review and Giveaway: All's Fair in Love and Scandal by Caroline Linden

Welcome to the blog tour for All Fair's in Love and Scandal! I'm honored to be promoting this fantastic novella, and series! Check out my review of All Fair's in Love and Scandal, read an excerpt, and enter to win some books!

Read my reviews of the full-length novels:

All's Fair in Love and Scandal by Caroline Linden
Book 2.5 of the Scandal series
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***

Official Summary:

Nothing wagered…

Douglas Bennet can't resist a good wager, especially not one that involves a beautiful woman. When a friend proposes an audacious plan to expose the most notorious woman in England, Douglas agrees at once. After all, it would be quite a coup to discover the true identity of Lady Constance, author of the infamous erotic serial scandalizing the ton, 50 Ways to Sin.

Nothing won…

Madeline Wilde is used to being pursued. For years she's cultivated a reputation for being unattainable and mysterious, and for good reason: her livelihood depends on discretion. When Douglas turns his legendary charm on her, she dismisses him as just another rake. But he surprises her—instead of merely trying to seduce her, he becomes her friend…her confidant…and her lover. But can it really lead to happily-ever-after…or are they about to become the biggest scandal London has ever seen?

What I Liked:

I really liked this novella! It's definitely a great addition to the series. Usually I don't bother with novellas because they're so short and not entirely necessary to read a series. Novellas in historical romance series are great though, because books in historical romance series are companion novels anyway, so no novel is necessary to read the next ones. So novellas are just short versions of a companion novel. And in this case, I really enjoyed the novella! It didn't even feel too abbreviated, which is great!

In this novella, we have Douglas Bennet - Joan's brother (remember Joan from Love and Other Scandals?), Tristan's best friend (Tristan and Joan got married at the end of Love and Other Scandals). Douglas likes to make wagers, to place a bet on everything. When he challenged to prove that the widow Madeline Wilde is Lady Constance from the 50 Ways to Sin pamphlets, Douglas accepts the challenge and immediately begins to try and woo Madeline into revealing herself. Madeline certainly has an air of mystery about her, and she seems to fit Lady Constance's profile. But as Douglas gets to know Madeline, he finds himself falling for her. While the rake and heir who claims he won't get married expose the one woman he falls in love with, as the scandalous Lady Constance?

I always liked Douglas - I felt bad for him in Love and Other Scandals. He's his family's heir (he'll be a viscount or earl or something, I forget), and he's unmarried, so his mother is always harassing him into going to balls and social functions to find a wife. He doesn't expect to fall for a widow who is possibly Lady Constance. But now that he has his eye on her, he can't help but wonder if she is just as wild as her pamphlets are. He's quite the rake himself, and he can't see himself settling down, but we all know it just takes the right woman for even the most rakish to fall.

Madeline is also quite a likable character. I don't think we've seen her in the previous books. She's very mysterious, and avoids the attention of everyone. Everyone except a bookstore owner who sells her work. Pamphlets? Newsletters? Articles? Books? What is Madeline publishing? You'll have to read the book to find out what Madeline's up to...

Madeline has every reason not to trust Douglas, and to push him away. She leads him on a merry chase, and refuses his attention as much as she can. But they fall for each other, and give in. The romance isn't my favorite romance story ever, but it was very sweet and endearing. Madeline and Douglas get their happy ending, despite several obstacles. You'll have to read the book to see how things work out with Lady Constance.

Overall, I really liked this novella! It's definitely worth reading. Douglas finally gets his own story, and hey - we get a little bit of insight into Lady Constance's mysteriousness. Not that I'm saying anything about her identity. 

What I Did Not Like:

Of course I wanted this novella to be longer. But alas, it's a novella.

Would I Recommend It:

If you've read the other books in the series, definitely give this one a shot! The 50 Ways to Sin pamphlets are what ties this series together, so this novella would the potential reveal of Lady Constance's identity is pretty significant. And like I said - you should read this one to find out the reveal of certain identities!


4 stars. Usually, I'm not one for novellas, but I'm glad I had the chance to read this one! The whole series - Love and Other Scandals, It Takes a Scandal, Love in the Time of Scandal - is one of my favorite historical romance series ever!

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The Excerpt:

“Quite a crush, isn't it?” He gave Mrs. Wilde his winning smile, the easy, friendly one that soothed anxious nerves and made women of every age and rank like him. 

She turned at his voice behind her. Something like mirth glimmered in her eyes. “Indeed.”

“I hardly know a soul here tonight.” He lowered his voice but without leaning toward her. Leaning put women on guard. A low voice made them lean toward him, which he much preferred. “It’s rather intimidating, to tell the truth.”

“You?” She arched one golden brow. “You don’t seem the sort to be easily intimidated.”

Douglas grinned. He knew he was a big fellow. Women tended to like it once they got to know him. “Rubbish. I’m petrified just looking at the elegance of this assembly.”

Her lovely lips curved. Her head tipped toward him, just a little. Her dark eyes gleamed. “I don’t believe you.”

“It’s true,” he protested. “My heart is racing, my knees are unsteady. Look—see how my hand trembles.” He caught her hand in his, tensing his muscle to produce the tiniest tremor in his hand, and then relaxing it. “Ah. Your touch has healing power, I see.”

She left her hand in his, but that slight smile tugging at her mouth grew a bit wider. “It’s not flattering to a woman, to say her touch calms a man’s heart and body. Usually she wishes it were the other way around.”

His heart did skip a beat at that. She was a flirt; excellent. He adored flirts. Douglas stroked his thumb over the back of her hand. “It only stilled the terror, my dear. I suspect you could elicit an entirely different sort of tremor.” He lifted her hand and brushed the faintest kiss over her knuckles. “We must be introduced.”

“I fear there’s no one here in this quiet corner who will do it.” Her eyes seemed to grow darker as he drew one finger across her palm.

“Then I will risk being appallingly rude and present myself.” He bowed over her hand, his eyes never leaving her face. “Douglas Bennet, at your service.”

“Yes, I know.”

“You do?” He smiled in delight. “Then we should become acquainted…”

“Mr. Douglas Bennet,” she repeated, her voice changing just enough to freeze him in place. “Son and heir of Sir George Bennet, baronet. A very handsome title, an even handsomer fortune. An unrepentant rake, gambler, brawler, and sometime rogue. Your mother wants you to marry; you couldn't be less interested. Your taste runs to tavern maids and opera dancers, preferably French. Your sister wed your bosom friend Lord Burke, much to your disgust, although no one quite knows if you pity your sister or your one-time friend more.” She tilted her head and smiled as he stared at her, blank-faced with shock that was rapidly turning to indignation. “What have I forgotten? Oh, yes—you love a good wager. What was the one that sent you over here: a wager to get me into your bed?” She slipped her fingers from his slackened grip. “If it was…you've already lost. I hope you didn't stake a large amount.”

“It was merely for the pleasure of a dance,” he said, hiding his temper behind a flat tone.

She laughed. By God, she had a beautiful laugh, throaty and soft, the sort that made a man want to amuse her so he could hear it again. “I doubt it. But then, you’re also accustomed to losing, aren’t you?” She sank into a graceful curtsey, giving him one last view of her matchless bosom. “Good evening, sir.” She turned and walked away, unhurried, unaffected.

He was still standing there, pulsing with unexpected desire and insulted pride, when Spence slung an arm around his neck. “Rough luck,” he said, his voice brimming with amusement. “She’s a cold one.” He grinned and slapped Douglas’s shoulder. “Five quid, gone in a blink.”

Douglas turned a black look on the man. “You didn't say when.”

Spence raised his eyebrows, still grinning like a cardsharp. Come to think of it, he usually looked like that, right before he took someone’s money. Douglas had won and lost to Spence with equanimity—for the most part—but tonight he wanted to punch his friend. Spence had deliberately dared him to an impossible task, sending him over to be humiliated and rejected. And now he wanted five pounds. “What do you mean?”

“You didn't say when.” Douglas bit off each word. “She rejected me tonight, but there’s always tomorrow night, and the next, and the next after that.”

A scowl darkened Spence’s face for a split second before he threw up his hand. “You’re right! I didn't. Let’s say…within a fortnight. That ought to be enough time to work up some charm and get between the fair widow’s legs.”

“You wagered for a dance, not a tupping.”

“Well.” Spence’s eyes glittered. “I thought I wagered for tonight. Allowances must be made.” When Douglas said nothing, Spence leaned closer. “You’re not afraid, are you? Not going soft in the head like Burke? The woman gutted you and denied you in front of all society, man. Look around.” He swept one arm toward the rest of the room. “Don’t you think half the people here guessed why you sought her out? And now they see her leaving alone, and you looking like she took your ballocks with her.”

Against his will, Douglas’s eyes caught on Madeline Wilde as she made her way toward the doors. Damn, she was beautiful. He had wanted to dance with her, and probably get her into bed as well, even though she was not, as she had so baldly pointed out, his usual type of woman. She was…something more. 

As if she could hear his thoughts, she paused at the top of the short flight of stairs leading out of the ballroom. She glanced back over her shoulder, and her eyes met his. For a moment he felt again a bolt of lust—unwanted this time—and her lips curved, as if she knew. She lowered her chin and smiled in a coy, entrancing way, as if they shared secrets—or as if she dared him to uncover hers. With breathtaking nerve, she pursed up her lips as if in a kiss, and touched one finger to them.

He took a harsh breath as she turned and continued on her way, her emerald skirts swaying bewitchingly. “Why her?”

“Why not her?” 

Douglas set his jaw. “You had her marked from the moment we stepped into this room. I saw you watching her, Spence. A former lover? Was I supposed to exact some revenge or retribution by asking the lady to dance?”

“The courtesan’s daughter?” The other man’s lip curled. “Hardly a former lover of mine. I have higher standards than that.”

Not really, in Douglas’s opinion. Spence liked married women who couldn't impose on his freedom, and who often wished to keep their liaisons secret. That was hardly what one could call a refined requirement. Still, Douglas hadn't known she was a courtesan’s daughter. He made a mental note to find out more about that.

“She appeared respectable enough to me,” he said.

“To you,” repeated Spence with an edge of condescension. “Compared to a tavern wench with rounded heels, she might be. To the rest of us…” He snapped his fingers at a passing footman and took a glass of wine from the man’s tray. “You really ought to improve your taste, Bennet.”

Douglas let that go. He did like tavern wenches. They were friendly and earthy, nothing delicate or prim about them. They were more willing to be adventurous in bed, and they demanded so much less of him—financially and emotionally—than any other woman would. 

“But why her?” he asked again, circling back to his main question. “Just for the sport of it? Or did you simply want the pleasure of seeing me turned down flat?”

Spence didn't reply for a moment. His eyes were sharp and calculating. “How plump are your pockets at the moment?” he finally asked.

“Reasonably,” said Douglas. He’d been gone from town for a month overseeing repairs at one of his father’s estates, to the great benefit of his purse. Still, it was a few weeks to quarter day, when his father paid out his allowance. He could always find a use for more money.

Spence lowered his voice. “I suspect our lovely Mrs. Wilde of being more than she appears. And if I’m right, there’s two thousand quid to be had.”

Douglas’s eyebrows shot up. “What is she, a spy?”

“Of some sort,” muttered Spence. “You aren't acquainted with a little piece of rubbish called 50 Ways to Sin, are you?”


“Get a copy. It’s a pamphlet of a most…intriguing nature.” A cunning smile split his face. “I suspect you’ll enjoy it.”

That smile put him on guard. Douglas might not be the most discerning fellow, but he wasn't stupid, and he knew Spence too well. “If you insist—not that it answers my question about why you wanted me to charm my way into Mrs. Wilde’s good graces.”

“The authoress is unknown. I daresay even you’ll guess why when you read it. But she’s piqued more than one man’s pride with her scandalous pen, and there’s a bounty out for her name. Mrs. Wilde seems a very likely candidate.” He shrugged. “If you can unmask her, I’ll split the bounty with you.”

Douglas folded his arms and looked at Spence through narrowed eyes. “I should seduce the woman, gain her confidence, presumably enough to be admitted to her boudoir, where I would have to search for some proof that she writes this pamphlet. And for that, you’ll take half the money? Not so, Spence, not so.”

His friend’s hooded eyes flashed. “Very well. Forget I said anything.”

Douglas shrugged. “Hard to do that. Who staked the bounty?”

Spence hesitated.

“If the bloke’s serious about finding the author, he can’t be too secretive about it.”

“Lord Chesterton,” said Spence with obvious reluctance. “He felt she identified him too clearly in one story and he’s livid.”

“Identified? She didn't use his name?”

Spence looked impatient. “No, she uses obviously false names.”

“Then how did he recognize himself?”

His friend smirked again. “Find a copy and see if you can deduce that yourself.”

Douglas wondered what on earth this story was, that would drive Lord Chesterton to such an action. The man was as correct and polite as anyone could be, distantly connected to the King and as stiff as a piece of kindling. Now he’d placed a public bounty on a woman’s head? What could Mrs. Wilde—if she was in fact the author—have written about him? Two thousand pounds was a small fortune, and certain to attract a fair amount of attention.

Of course, that also made it a much more interesting contest.

“Three to one,” he said after a moment’s thought.


“Three to one split, if we take the bounty.” He glanced at Spence. “You’re the one, obviously.”

“Two to three,” countered the other man.

“Do it yourself, then.”

Spence muttered a few curses under his breath, but stuck out his hand. “Done.”

Douglas shook on it, already anticipating his next meeting with the wily widow. “Done.”

About the Author:

Caroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a math degree from Harvard University and wrote computer software before turning to writing fiction. Ten years, twelve books, three Red Sox championships, and one dog later, she has never been happier with her decision. Her books have won the NEC Reader’s Choice Beanpot Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, and RWA’s RITA Award. Since she never won any prizes in math, she takes this as a sign that her decision was also a smart one. Visit her online at

The Giveaway: