Monday, July 31, 2017

Review: The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
Book One of the Girl Meets Duke series
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules… 

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
- They will be husband and wife by night only.
- No lights, no kissing. 
- No questions about his battle scars.
- Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
- They will have dinner together every evening.
- With conversation.
- And unlimited teasing.
- Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

What I Liked:

You know those readers who have this author they love and they seem to LOOOOOOVE everything the author writes? And in your head you're like, chill, we know you're a huge fangirl/fanboy, you would never dislike anything that author wrote. Yeah, sometimes I catch myself rolling my eyes at people like that (you know, when you're like okay Jan we already know you're going to love the book, we get it). That is terrible of me and I should really stop that because I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. When it comes to Tessa Dare? I have yet to read a book of hers that I didn't absolutely love (or at the very least, adore). Granted, this is only the seventh book of hers that I've read... well, I guess that's a lot. She has written twenty, if I've counted correctly. Anyway. The lowest rating I've given any of those seven books is four stars and that is pretty much the definition of fangirling. I love this author's books. I can't help it. I know I'm not alone. Please don't judge me!

The Duchess Deal is book one of a brand-new, unconnected series by Tessa Dare. The Duke of Ashbury came back from war horribly scarred, due to a rocket blowing up in his face. It destroyed much of one side of his face, and all down that side of his body. His engagement to a lady of good societal status has been broken. His estate is not in the best shape, due to him being gone at war for so long, and then in recovery when coming back from the war. Ashbury needs a wife, and a desperate one, at that. What does he do when Emma Gladstone, seamstress of the wedding dress that Ashbury's ex-fiancee was to wear? Well, he marries her, the seamstress, who was in need of a bit of money. Emma isn't repulsed by the Duke's scars - if anything, she is intrigued by them. She agrees to marry him and to follow his terms. She'll get pregnant and move into the country house, where she'll give birth and raise the child. No affection, no kissing, no lights on when they have relations. But both of them will discover that falling in love isn't something they can control, and all of Ash's rules won't stop love.

I don't even know how to write this review! This book was fabulous - can I leave it at that and call it a day? This book made me smile, giggle, swoon, fan myself, and swoon all over again. I adore marriage of convenience stories, and this one did not disappoint. Of course it didn't! Tessa Dare never disappoints. (Unrepentant fangirl here.)

I felt like this book was more about Ash than it was about Emma, though the story was told from both of their POVs and both of them had huge stakes and backstories and roles in this book (not just one or the other). The author spends a lot of time characterizing and perfecting Ash's personality, demeanor, self-loathing... trust me, you'll want to hug this guy over and over, while reading this book. Ash seems like a moody, grouchy, cold recluse, but he is so noble and selfless. He thinks of everyone before he thinks of himself - his tenants, his estate/staff, his dukedom (hence the haste to marry - to produce an heir so the dukedom will go to a suitable heir), random strangers in the streets of Mayfair. Ash is so misjudged, and it hurt me to see how badly he thought of himself. He thinks he is a monster because of his scars, and he never goes out to town or to societal events that a duke should attend. I feel so bad for him, because he totally has the right to wallow, but at the same time, you want him to think more highly of himself and to stop letting his ex-fiancee's treatment of him affect his attitude towards himself.

Yeah... the ex-fiancee is a terrible person. Ash is the one who broke the engagement, but because the ex-fiancee couldn't stand the sight of him. How awful of her. 

Emma is almost like the opposite of Ash. She is a ray of sunshine, a dash of positivity, a parcel of happiness. She agrees to marry him for several reasons, one of which is that she can't stop thinking about him, after their first meeting. Emma is so selfless and kind, and like Ash, she wants to help others more than she wants to help herself. The difference is that Ash does a lot in secret, whereas Emma is more direct and deals with the people she helps. I love how Emma is so accepting of his appearance, his grouchiness, and his stubbornness. She never thinks to abandon him and leave him to his fate - in fact, she always hopes that he won't send her away to the country house when she becomes pregnant (which was their agreement). Emma is patient and sweet, exactly what Ash needs.

I loved the staff of Ash's house! Khan is hilarious in his stoic way - a true companion to Ash, though he has served in the duke's house longer than Ash has been alive. The staff of the house are always plotting to force Ash and Emma together in some uncanny situation, like luring them into the attic and locking it, and leaving them at the country house with no carriage. They are desperate for Ash to fall for Emma because he needs someone, and Emma is a good "someone" for him.

Also, the cat. Let's not forget the cat, Breeches. I didn't totally like him at first, but I love how the cat latches on to Ash (who is grumpy and hates the cat). Ha!

The banter between Ash and Emma is so great! Sometimes is so sarcastic, sometimes light and witty, sometimes teasing. Ash is mostly grouchy, but as the story goes on, he becomes more open and outwardly kind. I love the playfulness that exists between them, even in the early times of their relationship when it wasn't quite playful yet.

The romance is lovely! Ash is attracted to Emma immediately, which is one of the reasons why he wanted to marry her from the moment he saw her. Emma is attracted to Ash, something that Ash doesn't believe at first. The two of them have such great chemistry, which leads to some pretty passionate sexy times. Guys. I feel like this is Tessa Dare's hottest book yet. Ash has a lot of pent-up intensity, and Emma... Emma loves his lovemaking. I adore this kind of physical relationship - they both come to know and understand each other's preferences, and luckily, they sync very well together. Things are hot and a little rough in the bedroom, but in a very steamy, very consensual way.

I love the myriad issues that Dare includes in this story. It's not just about Ash and Emma falling in love. The story deals with Ash accepting himself and his appearance, and gaining more confidence. It's about Ash getting past the psychological damage his ex-fiancee did to him. It's about Emma letting go of how her own father treated her when she did something that was a mistake. It's about Emma trying to help another woman who has done something similar to Emma's mistake. There is so much to love about this story. because there are so many parts of the story that come together to make a beautiful book. 

I won't say more because I think anyone who is a fan of this author and/or is interesting in this book should experience it for themselves. I want to happy-cry every time I finish a Tessa Dare book! I think When a Scot Ties the Knot is still my all-time favorite book of hers, but this one isn't far behind. None of them are!

What I Did Not Like:

There is one tiny part of the climax that I didn't love, because it involves Ashbury swallowing his pride when Emma should have also swallowed hers. I definitely agree with Ashbury manning up and doing this and that, but I also think Emma should have backed down and swallowed her pride too. This is a huge pet peeve of mine in adult romance (across all genres - contemporary historical, paranormal, etc.). Emma had just as much to apologize and fight for. 

It's not a huge deal and nothing to sink the book, just a pet peeve of mine that bothers me 99% of the time. In this case, it isn't so bad, but it's still there. Emma hurt Ashbury (in the climax) as much as he hurt her, so I wanted to see them BOTH make amends. Hence the four-star rating (as opposed to five stars).

Would I Recommend It:

I highly recommend this book to any historical romance fan out there! Start this new series and then go read some of her older books! I also recommend the Castles Ever After series and the Spindle Cove series. I need to read her books besides those, but yeah, you're pretty much safe with any Dare book that you choose. I'm loving her more recent more though! If you want fun, sweet, swoony, sexy historical romance, look no further. (Well, I could give you other recommendations of other authors' books too. But Dare does historical romance SO WELL.) 


4.5 stars. You know why I'm rounding down. But seriously, this book was magical. It reminds me of The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane by Elizabeth Boyle, with a scarred and grouchy hero and a persistent and sweet heroine who won't leave him alone. And also has an annoying (but endearing) cat. Plus the sort-of hate-to-love romance. Except The Duchess Deal involves a marriage of convenience early on in the story, and I love that trope. Anyway, this book was awesome and you should not miss it if you enjoy adult historical romance! 

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

Giveaways! So Many Giveaways!

Happy, happy Monday, bibliovores! It's also the last day of July, isn't that fun? Honestly, where has the year gone... I feel like it was just September. Or maybe December. I can't deal with time these days!

I'm doing a little bit of a round-up in this post, as well as I've got a fresh giveaway at the bottom. What motivated this? I've been doing a lot of cleaning and organizing, since I moved recently ("recently": it's been exactly one month since I moved out). I've been rearranging my life in general, since I'm finished with school and work full-time now (but don't have to deal with homework and class projects and final exams and all of that). A lot of things have changed for me, both little and big. Like...

- I graduated in May. (This isn't news though!)
- I'm working as a water resources engineer. (YAY!)
- I take public transportation to work. (And I love it so much - seriously.)
- I bought myself a smartphone. (Yup, you read that right. I didn't have a smartphone up until the end of June. I was determined to make it through college without one... it didn't end up being too difficult. The "hardest" parts were things like explaining I couldn't read group messages, or not being able to use Google Maps to get directions. Fun times!)
- I made an Instagram for my blog. (The timing seemed right. It was always something I wanted to do, but I didn't want to create yet another social media for me to manage, while still in college. So I waited until I graduated. I also got a smartphone, which helps.)

Lots of changes. Things are settling (though I'm still doing very poorly in terms of going to bed early), and I'm loving my new routines. I'm also loving all of the purging I've been doing, in terms of clothes, shoes, and yup - books. It's hard, and I hate to see certain things go, but at the same time, I love seeing things go.

So! I've got some giveaways to share. The first are a few that are already active:

(Click on the graphic to go to the post!)

Tomorrow, I'll be posting two more giveaways. One is for Ferocious by Paula Stokes, and the other is my August New Release giveaway. I'll update this post with those graphics and links.

I've got one more giveaway, piggybacking off my YA contemporary ARCs giveaway. I recognize that there are tons of followers of mine that don't read YA contemporary (or YA in general). So! Why not choose whatever book you want? This isn't helping me clear house, but that's okay. This can be my let's-celebrate-me-being-on-Instagram! giveaway. :D

So! Choose any book, up to $17 USD. INT as long as The Book Depository ships to your country. Ends 08/17, 11:59 PM EST. Good luck!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Review: Devil's Cut by J.R. Ward

Devil's Cut by J.R. Ward
Book Three of the Bourbon Kings series
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Rating: 5 stars
Source: Review copy sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

In #1 New York Times bestselling author J. R. Ward s thrilling finale of the Bourbon Kings series, the Bradford family dynasty teeters on the edge of collapse after the murder of their patriarch and a shocking arrest. 

At first, the death of William Baldwine, the head of the Bradford family, was ruled a suicide. But then his eldest son and sworn enemy, Edward, came forward and confessed to what was, in fact, a murder. Now in police custody, Edward mourns not the disintegration of his family or his loss of freedom . . . but the woman he left behind. His love, Sutton Smythe, is the only person he has ever truly cared about, but as she is the CEO of the Bradford Bourbon Company s biggest competitor, any relationship between them is impossible. And then there s the reality of the jail time that Edward is facing. 

Lane Baldwine was supposed to remain in his role of playboy, forever in his big brother Edward s shadow. Instead he has become the new head of the family and the company. Convinced that Edward is covering for someone else, Lane and his true love, Lizzie King, go on the trail of a killer only to discover a secret that is as devastating as it is game-changing. 

As Lane rushes to discover the truth, and Sutton finds herself irresistibly drawn to Edward in spite of his circumstances, the lives of everyone at Easterly will never be the same again. For some, this is good; for others, it could be a tragedy beyond imagining. Only one thing s for certain: Love survives all things. Even murder.

What I Liked:

I thought I loved The Bourbon Kings. I thought I loved The Angels' Share. I was wrong. I loved Devil's Cut so much and as much as I loved the previous two books, I loved this one more. So much love making the rounds. This final book in the Bourbon Kings series was absolutely stunning. Ward has written a true masterpiece to close out a fantastic series.

This novel picks up just about wear The Angels' Share left off. Edward has been arrested and is in jail for the murder of William Baldwine. Miss Aurora is fighting for her life in the hospital, due to cancer. Gin has married Richard Pford in a haste. And Lane - Lane is trying to dig Bradford Bourbon Company out of its current mess, though it has fallen so far, it may not be salvageable. Meanwhile, it remains unclear if Edward is actually the killer, even if he confessed to the murder. Secrets will be uncovered, revelations will be unveiled, scales will be tipped.

I don't even know where to begin with how much I loved this book. From start to finish, it captured my attention and I didn't put the book down until I was finished. Heck, I think I only shifted around to find a more comfortable position once, which is pretty rare (we bookworms know!). I was completely engrossed, desperate to know what would happen next. Ward has a way of weaving several plots together, ending one chapter on a mini cliffhanger and starting the next chapter in another character's POV. In other books by other authors, this could be distracting, but I loved how Ward set up the story. She kept me invested and wanting more!

This book is written in third-person, each chapter limited to one character's POV. Lane, Lizzie, Gin, Samuel T., Edward, Sutton, and Max are the main characters whose minds we get to peer into - though it is mostly Lane. This series has a large cast of characters but you won't ever get confused or forget a character - I don't know how Ward does it but she makes her characters (primary or secondary) seem larger than life, and unforgettable.

Lane is my favorite, though I adore Lizzie, and Edward. Lane is the former player, now the family's patriarch, the hero trying to save his family and the bourbon company from falling apart. He is stretched thin, with everything pulling him in all directions. Lane is a good Southern man with a good heart. I love how fiercely loyal and protective he is of his family, his legacy, and his love. Lane is the type of guy that makes me wish I could meet an old-fashioned yet progressive Southern boy who would sweep me off my feet. Good manners, selfless, with a little confidence and a lot of charm mixed in. Lane may have come from a super rich family, but he is good people.

Lizzie was part of the "help" - one of the gardeners of the Baldwines' estate. So in many ways she is the opposite of Lane, with a poorer upbringing and penchant for working with her hands. Lizzie is a sweetheart who doesn't like all of the drama that the Baldwine family has, but she would never leave Lane. She is perfect for him, and he her.

Their romance is so sweet and they had me sighing happily so many times. I love the direction of their relationship and the good things they have to look forward to in the future. Other romances that weren't huge in this book but got a resolution/HEA were Edward and Sutton's, Samuel T.'s and Gin's, and Max's (I won't specify his lady, but I loved this pairing!). And there was another but I won't say because that's a major spoiler. But good for her! She deserved it. I love how Ward put that relationship in this book as subtle as it was.

There is a lot of craziness that happens in this book, from abusive husbands to crazy ex-wives to shocking evidence from the murder to high-speed car chases to things involving babies/pregnancies. I hesitate to use the word "drama" but I've been throwing around the term "soap opera" when describing the other two books, so I guess "drama" does fit. It's the kind of drama that is riveting, not the kind that makes you want to scream and choke something. I was cheering for Lane to figure things out, about the company and the real murderer. I was cheering for Gin to stand up and leave her horrible new husband. I was cheering for Samuel T. for growing a backbone but also being a good man. I was cheering for Max for staying. I was cheering for Edward for doing what he did, though I wanted to shake him. You know what I mean? The drama was very good, even though sometimes it was sad (like Gin's situation).

I don't want to say more so as not to risk seriously spoiling things. But I will say that the ending is so perfect. Everything wraps up precisely and neatly, with HEAs for... most people. Well, 99% of the people. I love how Ward has set some things in place for these characters' futures, but not everything. That won't make sense unless you read the book, but basically, we get a peek into everyone's futures without seeing everything. I do hope Ward writes some sort of check-in epilogue in the future though. I adore these characters and I have a hard time letting go!

What I Did Not Like:

I can't think of anything specific!

Would I Recommend It:

I recommend this book for anyone who likes this kind of contemporary romance - it's not sexy adult romance (though there is romance, and there is vague sex). There is soap-opera-level drama in this series and it's a series set in the South dealing with bourbon, so it's not a feel-good yummy romance series . It's sometimes dense and heartbreaking, but such a good series overall. If you've read either of the previous books in the series, definitely keep going. Ward finishes off the series in a very strong way. This book is easily my favorite, with how well Ward handles the story and treats her characters (both good and bad). 


5 stars. Anyone who knows me knows that I rarely give out a five-star rating. But this book was so wonderful and I honestly can't think of a single thing I didn't like or wanted more of. Ward has outdone herself with this book. I'm glad this series is only a trilogy (not like her other series!) because I hate waiting for books to publish, but I'm also so sad to say goodbye to these characters. A true sign of an excellent series!

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

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Stacking the Shelves (#240)

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, July 23rd to Saturday, July 29th?

(all links to Goodreads are provided!)

In the mail:

WOW this book is shiny and lovely. Thank you, Bloomsbury!

Y'all... there are no words. Seriously. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of Kristin Cashore's books, and I've been on a mission to collection the ARCs of her books (I have all of the hardcovers). A few months ago, when I got the purple Jane, Unlimited cover, I figured I would hang my hat and be content. But I found out that this ARC existed, and I was able to work out a really good trade with the same person who told me about the ARC. Calla was so reasonable and kind, and I'm honestly still in shock that this has happened! Thank you, Calla!

Reviews from this week:

(Click on the covers to go to my reviews!)

I think that's it! I'm so excited about my Cashore collection. What would be even cooler is if she/Penguin did a Fall tour and she came to D.C. or Baltimore. I would find a way to be there! And I would drag all six ARCs, three hardcovers, and my preorder of Jane, Unlimited with me. And probably buy a book at the event. I don't mess around when it comes to Cashore! Anyway, I hope you all had a decent week. It started out really rough for me, but ended up being a good week overall. 

In other news - I made an Instagram! You can follow me there if you want (you totally should). =)

Have a great weekend, friends!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Review: The Way It Hurts by Patty Blount

The Way It Hurts by Patty Blount
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

There may be two sides to every story, but sometimes there's only one way to set things right...

Music is Elijah's life. His band plays loud and hard, and he'll do anything to get them a big break. He needs that success to help take care of his sister, who has special needs. So he'd rather be practicing when his friends drag him to a musical in the next town...until the lead starts to sing.

Kristen dreams of a career on stage like her grandmother's. She knows she needs an edge to get into a competitive theater program―and being the star in her high school musical isn't going to cut it. The applause and the attention only encourage her to work harder.

Elijah can't take his eyes off of Kristen's performance, and his swooning face is captured on camera and posted with an out-of-context comment. It goes viral. Suddenly, Elijah and Kristen are in a new spotlight as the online backlash spins out of control. And the consequences are bigger than they both could have ever imagined because these threats don't stay online...they follow them into real life.

What I Liked:

To say that I'm not a huge fan of YA contemporary would be a gross understatement, especially when it comes to what I call "tough-issue YA contemporary. When I decided to try one of Patty Blount's books a few years ago, I had no expectations. It was an early read, and I wasn't too sure I would enjoy the story, but I was curious about. That book was TMI, which I ended up really liking. I went on to read Some Boys, which I loved, and Nothing Left to Burn, which I reread recently and honestly I love that book now even more than I did two years ago. I may say that I don't typically like tough-issue YA contemporary, but I can always count on this author to write really good contemporary, with relevant issues that teen deal with in this time, and a sweet romance to make me smile.

In The Way It Hurts, there is Elijah, lead singer and bass guitarist of the band Ride Out, which he and two friends created when they were in eighth grade. It's a heavy metal type of band, whose music receives a lot of criticism - especially from Kristen Cartwright, a theater girl who can sing, dance, and act like she's on Broadway. But Kristen needs an edge to get into great programs. And Elijah and the band need exposure and popularity - fast. Elijah and Kristen may not agree on music preferences, but they both agree that it would be a smart move for Kristen to join the band. And she does. But at what cost? With the rising popularity of the band and the increasing number of creepy and threatening social media posts Kristen receives, maybe becoming famous isn't what Kristen wants. Especially when things catch up to her in real life.

I usually don't go after books with the "rock star" types because I don't always connect with that protagonist. But from the start, I fell for Elijah. He has a bad-boy reputation and a dangerous image, which he wants. It helps the band and he knows all about perception and illusion. Elijah isn't a punk who likes to scream into a microphone. He is creative, dedicated, and very intelligent, proving over and over that he knows his music inside and out. He is also extremely loyal and very sweet, especially with his younger sister Anna, who is autistic.

Kristen was an interesting character to watch grow with the story. At first I wasn't a big fan of hers because she seemed a tiny but judgmental and snobby (and she was!). But at the same time, I could see why she was that way. She is proud of her upbringing and her talent, and she has goals and dreams that she is determined to realize. Kristen is a headstrong and tough girl, and she handles all kinds of obstacles that are thrown her way. I really felt for her as the story went on - she didn't deserve all of the horrible things that were directed to her on social media.

That is one of the best and strongest aspects of this book - the effects of social media. Everything starts with a tweet with a specific hashtag which takes off. Suddenly it's Ride Out and a new girl named Kristen, Eli vs. Kristen. Girls hit on Eli and throw themselves at Eli, but Kristen gets disgusting tweets and nasty comments. Isn't this so true of society and fame today? Men are praised and let off the hook for many things, but when are subject to even more scrutiny and criticism, and they are expected to cater and stoop down and bend to the will of others. Blount does an amazing job of hitting on so many issues with society today, involving social media and in general. 

The character development of both protagonists is well-written. Kristen is a little stuck-up in the beginning, but by the end, she is more open-minded and realizes how wrong she was about Eli, the band, and their music. Eli has a bit of a chip on his shoulder at first, and he judges Kristen too, but by the end, he lets go of some things, and he starts to see things how Kristen saw them. I liked seeing these characters mature into better (still flawed) people.

I also appreciated the inclusion of a character on the spectrum! Anna (Eli's sister) is a big part of this story, even if she isn't a protagonist. I loved how calm and patient Eli was with Anna - almost all of their interactions are so sweet. And when Kristen meets Anna for the first time - I adored that scene!

Another secondary character that I loved was Etta, Kristen's flamboyant grandmother. She's so interesting and a little eccentric and I thought she was great! Etta is a huge source of support for Kristen, and she is also a big fan of Kristen/Eli, which I thought was funny.

You probably already guessed it, but there is a romance, involving Eli and Kristen. They seem like an unlikely pair on paper, but they are great together! They bicker, they fuss, they get very angry with each other, they hurt each other, they understand each other. Don't misunderstand - this isn't a toxic relationship. It's a very real one though - it starts as a terse partnership for the band, and then it moves into friendship, and then a romantic relationship. I liked the progression of the romance. I would have loved to see more Eli/Kristen scenes, but that's okay. No love triangle, no cheating!

The conflict of the book lies with the band involving Kristen, Kristen and the social media issues, Eli and Kristen's relationship, and Anna too. There is so much going on in this story (though not in an overwhelming way), and it all comes together in the climax. You'll have to read the book to see what happens! I liked the ending very much and really appreciated the epilogue. A great way to end the book!

What I Did Not Like:

Ehh, super major. I did mention that I would have loved more Eli/Kristen scenes, in terms of the romance. You know what I mean. But that's okay! This is a slow-burn romance, and I do like those.

I also would have looooved to know how some of those recurring social media jerks were, and the writer of the article. It seemed kind of significant, who the author would turn out to be, or who that one person on Twitter was (Mikey). But maybe these things weren't actually important. I just like to know.

Would I Recommend It:

I think any teenager/young adult should read this book (or any of Patty Blount's books). The effects of social media are so important to understand, especially the consequences of posting this or that. You don't have to be a YA contemporary fan to enjoy this book. You don't have to be a teen either - we adults could learn a thing or two from this story!


4 stars. This book has a little bit of everything for everyone! Like music in books? Check. Like romance? Check. Like bad boys? Check. Like confident heroines? Check. Like issues in the story dealing with social media? Check. Like supportive families who love each other? Check. So many aspects of this book really worked, and the book overall was extremely solid and a very good read. I highly recommend it!

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Swoon Thursday (#235): The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones

- 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 from The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones!

"Can I try something?" she asked. The words spoken aloud helped drown out her inner voice.

James looked at her. His face was serious when he answered, "Anything."

Her fingers fumbled for his shoulder, and she angled him toward her. He looked confusedly at her, but then Dee rose on the tips of her toes. She grabbed his jacket in her fist.

When she kissed him, his mouth tasted of rainwater, fresh and sharp, and the heat of his mouth was a startling contrast to the chill along her skin. He made a soft sound of surprise, but then a groan rose in his chest.

This was nothing like their first kiss - all hesitancy and fumbling attraction. It was raw and needy, a desperate desire for reassurance before stepping off a ledge into the unknown. His left hand, the one not holding the umbrella, found the small of her back and pulled her closer. He felt sturdy, warm, and solid. She tried to draw some of his wild courage into herself, and he responded in kind, his lips moving hungrily against hers. It was heady, this knowledge that he wanted her, that he had seen all of her broken edges and still thought her desirable. 

- ARC, page 277

I loved this book! It's strange and intriguing - and there is a swoony romance. Win!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Because You Love to Hate Me

Welcome to the blog tour for Because You Love to Hate Me, an amazing anthology edited by the one and only Ameriie. I've read this anthology and I absolutely loved it. I'm so excited to interview the author one of my favorite stories of the anthology (and one of my favorite authors in general) - Renée Ahdieh! Alongside Renée is her paired booktuber, Christine Riccio, who is so talented and enthusiastic. Check it out!

The Interview:

Alyssa: Hi ladies! Thank you so much for joining me today! I am a huge fan of both of you and your work, and I’m honored to have this opportunity. =) My first question – what made you decide to take part in this anthology?

Renée: Thank you so much for hosting this! It’s an honor for us, too. I knew I wanted to be part of this anthology the second Ameriie mentioned villains. I’m a huge fan of compelling villains, and I loved the idea of them taking on the central role in these short stories.

Christine: It just sounded like a really cool project that hadn’t been done before! I’ve never been asked to collaborate on a published work and a lot of great people were going to be involved! It was super exciting.

Alyssa: What inspired your specific prompt/story?

Renée: Christine sent me all these amazing prompts for the story. It was incredibly difficult trying to select just one, but I was definitely on a Star Wars kick when I made the decision. Actually, who am I kidding? I’m always on a Star Wars kick.

Christine: I mean I only wrote the prompt for the actual story. I was inspired there by Mr Kylo Ren from the new Star Wars film. My “essay,” per se, was inspired by those pieces you see in magazines like: 10 Signs Your Boyfriend is Cheating!!

Alyssa: Pitch the story to readers! For fans of ____, if you liked____ try [your story], ____ meets ____, etc.

Renée: For fans of Star Wars, if you hate to love Kylo Ren, definitely try this dark anti-hero story.

Christine: For fans of ANYTHING EVER, if you liked THAT ONE STORY YOU LOVE try [your story], RENEE’S BRAIN meets CHRISTINE’S PROMPT AND SHORT ESSAY.

Alyssa: HA! Love it. :D If you could co-write a story (whether short story, novella, or full-length novel) with one of the other contributing writers of Because You Love to Hate Me, who would you choose?

Renée: I’m a huge fan of Cindy Pon and Nicola Yoon. I’d love to write anything with either of them.

Christine: Oh my gosh that’s so hard! I admire so many of these authors, but I feel like you have to really know the person you’re co-writing with and so I’d probably join forces with my pal Jesse George.

Alyssa: Thank you, ladies! Congratulations on the publication!

Follow Renée Ahdieh:

Follow Christina Riccio:

About the Book:

Because You Love to Hate Me, edited by Ameriie
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: July 11, 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this unique YA anthology, thirteen acclaimed, bestselling authors team up with thirteen influential BookTubers to reimagine fairy tales from the oft-misunderstood villains' points of view.

These fractured, unconventional spins on classics like "Medusa," Sherlock Holmes, and "Jack and the Beanstalk" provide a behind-the-curtain look at villains' acts of vengeance, defiance, and rage--and the pain, heartbreak, and sorrow that spurned them on. No fairy tale will ever seem quite the same again!

Featuring writing from . . .

Authors: Renée Ahdieh, Ameriie, Soman Chainani, Susan Dennard, Sarah Enni, Marissa Meyer, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, Samantha Shannon, Adam Silvera, Andrew Smith, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Nicola Yoon

BookTubers: Benjamin Alderson (Benjaminoftomes), Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia), Whitney Atkinson (WhittyNovels), Tina Burke (ChristinaReadsYA blog and TheLushables), Catriona Feeney (LittleBookOwl), Jesse George (JessetheReader), Zoë Herdt (readbyzoe), Samantha Lane (Thoughts on Tomes), Sophia Lee (thebookbasement), Raeleen Lemay (padfootandprongs07), Regan Perusse (PeruseProject), Christine Riccio (polandbananasBOOKS), and Steph Sinclair & Kat Kennedy (Cuddlebuggery blog and channel).

The Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Waiting on Wednesday (#239): Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre

"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:

Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre
Book One of The Honors series
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: February 13, 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

Zara Cole has been in and out of New Detroit’s rehab facilities for treatment of her antisocial disorder. There’s no adjusting Zara’s attitude, though. A painful past has made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in the Zone instead moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell.

Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan–a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers.

Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned to along with fellow Honor Beatriz, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time, along with a devotion she’s never experienced before. Yet nothing—not her Honors training or her street smarts—could have prepared her for the dark, dangerous truths that lurk behind the glitter of starlight.

Honor Among Thieves is the first book in a daring new sci-fi series by bestselling authors Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre.

This sounds amazing! I love science fiction and I've loved many of each author's books, so I'm sure this co-written one won't disappoint. The gorgeous cover does not hurt one bit!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Blog Tour Review and Giveaway: The Hunting Grounds by Katee Robert

Welcome to the blog tour for The Hunting Grounds by Katee Robert! This is the companion sequel to The Devil's Daughter, a book I read earlier this year and really enjoyed. If you're into romantic suspense, be sure to check out this series! In this post, I've got a review of The Hunting Grounds, an excerpt, and a giveaway.

My Review:

The Hunting Grounds by Katee Robert
Book Two of the Hidden Sins series
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

For two FBI agents with a past, love becomes a matter of life and death in the new Hidden Sins novel from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Katee Robert.

Maggie Gaines used to be an FBI agent—top of her class and one of the bright, up-and-coming stars—until she spectacularly fell apart during her first high-profile case. That was eight years ago. Now she’s a ranger at Glacier National Park, and she’s found some measure of peace. But when the body of a murdered woman is discovered, she must finally put the past behind her and work with the one man she thought she’d never see again.

For months, Vic Sutherland has been hunting a killer who’s been targeting unsuspecting hikers in national parks—and now the predator has come to Glacier. Vic knows the case will bring him face-to-face with his former partner, yet nothing can prepare him for seeing Maggie again after all these years, or for the memories of passion it stirs in both of them.

As the investigation brings them closer together—and closer to the killer—Maggie and Vic fear they have only each other to trust. But even that might not be enough to make it out of Glacier alive.

What I Liked:

I'd not read too many romantic suspense novels before this year, and it never really seemed like it would be my thing. I get creeped out and freaked out easily, and suspense novels tend to get scary and creepy pretty quickly. But with Katee Robert writing this series, I knew I wasn't going to pass. Yet again, Robert has written an excellent chilling romantic suspense that is just as good as (if not better than) her previous novel, The Devil's Daughter.

Vic Sutherland was introduced in The Devil's Daughter as a secondary character. In this book, he takes front row and center when he is called to investigate a gruesome murder at Glacier National Park. This happens to be the Park at which his former partner at the FBI works. Maggie Gaines left the FBI less than a year after joining, and she hasn't looked back. Seven years at the Park has made it feel like home. But one murder, and then another, and another, and another, has made the Park feel tainted and unsafe. Vic and Maggie were former partners once, and they'll have to work together to track down the deadly hunter who shows no signs of stopping the killing.

This book has me shuddering a little! I get freaked out fairly easily but still, I have to say that Robert definitely sets the tone of this book. It is chilling and eerie, and I honestly can't say I ever want to go to a National Park to hike. Visit, yes, but not hike. The atmosphere of this book is perfect for a suspense/mystery novel.

It is clear that Robert has done her research! Everything from Glacier National Park geography to a park ranger's duties to the BAU of the FBI... this book may be fiction but Robert made the story incredibly authentic. Her efforts showed and I appreciated how much detail she thought to include.

I don't want to go into too much detail about the murders and the case, but I will say that Robert had me guessing who the unsub was until the very end. This is pretty rare for me - I tend to discern these things somewhat early on - so it goes to show how well Robert set up the case. Every time I thought I knew who it was, Robert threw a curveball in the plot.

That being sad, I was completely hooked on this story. I couldn't stop reading and stayed up late in the dark hours of the night, trying to finish this book. That didn't help with me feeling freaked out, by the way. Never read these types of books at night!

I adored the two main characters! Vic seems robotic and calm and collected and never really shows outward emotion, but he is a complicated and tough guy. I like how overprotective he is, and how much of a control freak he is. I understand the type. He and Maggie are good together. Maggie is less controlled and has to reign in her temper at times. She is a little more anxious compared to Vic (well, anyone is, because he sometimes comes across as a block of ice), but I like this about her. They are like foils, opposites, and yet their minds work similarly.

This isn't really a second-chance romance since they never dated or had any sort of romantic relationship. However, Maggie had a huge crush on Vic when they were partners. Vic was married at the time, so they were not going to happen. But fast-forward to the present - Vic has been divorced for five years, and Maggie has never really stopped having feelings for him. Vic knows he wants something with Maggie and he goes after that something. The two of them take a leap and I like where things go. Their romance is sweet and tender, and not too messy, though you'd think it would be a messy romance. I like how open and honest they are with each other.

There is one sex scene and it is adult-rated (though it's not as explicit as scenes in Robert's other books). I like the chemistry between Vic and Maggie and definitely appreciated the presence of the romance.

I was intrigued, hooked, and clueless until the very end! The ending is a big reveal and it should surprise anyone reading this book (in terms of the identity of the unsub). There are so many hints throughout the book but it's easy to look past all of them. Hindsight is 20/20, of course. Robert wraps up almost everything, though she hints at concrete things for Vic and Maggie. I would love to read an epilogue to this story, featuring the pair!

What I Did Not Like: 

That last thing I mentioned would probably be the only thing I would note here. I wanted a more concrete ending for Vic and Maggie - yes, they have the whole future ahead of them, but I wanted more specific details! An epilogue to show where they ended up together would be so nice. I adore them as a couple!

Would I Recommend It:

If you like romantic suspense, I highly recommend this novel (and The Devil's Daughter). This book is slightly different compared to the first one because the case isn't as personal to either protagonist (Vic or Maggie) as the case was in The Devil's Daughter. I found this to be a great thing. Be warned, this is a chilling story (in my opinion)! And it is definitely adult fiction.


4 stars. Is there nothing Robert can't write? I love her sexy contemporary romance novels, and her darker contemporary romance novels, and now I find myself enjoying her romantic suspense (a subgenre I never really pictured myself enjoying). I need to try her paranormal romance!

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

About the Author:

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell her stories at her grandpa’s knee. Her 2015 title, The Marriage Contract, was a RITA finalist, and RT Book Reviews named it 'a compulsively readable book with just the right amount of suspense and tension." When not writing sexy contemporary and romantic suspense, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her children, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

Praise for The Hidden Sins Series

“…a captivating read, made all the more rewarding when good triumphs.” —Washington Post 

“Robert shows off her impressive versatility in this fast-paced and inventive new Hidden Sins series. The small-town setting is a masterful blend of quaint and oppressive, which ratchets the menace and thrill factor. The protagonists carry the full weight of their pasts with them, making their growing relationship as compelling as the mystery element in The Devil’s Daughter. With plenty of twists and betrayals, this is a book that is sure to earn Robert a wealth of new fans.” —RT Book Reviews

Check out The Devil's Daughter:

(Click on the cover for more information.)

The Excerpt:

Vic’s gaze fell on his phone. Maggie’s number was now in the contacts folder. It would be easy to dial it, just to check on her. 

Except it was late, and she hadn’t asked for him to babysit her. 

He’d gone years without seeing her, and now that they were in the same general area, it was like they were two magnets that could barely resist the pull. He wanted to hear her voice, to sit her down and share a meal that wasn’t military issue, to actually talk

His phone rang, which startled him so much he almost dropped it. Vic stared at the screen for several precious seconds, wondering if he was more tired than he’d thought, because it sure as fuck looked like Maggie was calling him. 


“It’s me.” 

He sat on the edge of the bed, suddenly painfully aware that he wore only a towel. It shouldn’t matter. She couldn’t see him, didn’t know what he was or wasn’t wearing, but it did matter. “Hey, Maggie.” 

“I have to apologize.” He could almost feel her soft sigh. “You were right, and I was acting like a stubborn kid. This whole thing—the murders in the park and having to deal with my past and you—has got me all twisted up.”

Maybe it was the events of the last two days, but he was so goddamn tired of doing the noble thing. He never put himself or his personal shit before a case. Not once. 
He’d never wanted to before. 

“I twist you up?” 

“As if you didn’t know. I had something of a crush on you when we were partners—which I’m sure you knew after I threw myself at you—and apparently I didn’t outgrow it as much as I thought.” 

The dimness of the room evoked an intimacy he didn’t deserve. Was Maggie sitting in her bedroom in low light, too? He liked the picture that made. “You have nothing to apologize for.” 

“I’ve been making an ass of myself since you stepped off that helicopter.” She shifted, the sound painfully loud in the near silence. “And I’m doing it again, apparently. My whole point was that I’m sorry and I’ll be professional from now on. You don’t have to worry about any breakdowns or hissy fits.”
If he was smart, he’d take her apology for what it was and allow it to move them back to solid ground. There were lives on the line and a condensed timeline that was only going to get more condensed with each body that popped up. 

But when Vic spoke, he didn’t move them back to firm ground. He threw them right over the edge of the cliff. “Fuck being professional. I want you, Maggie. Not the former FBI agent. Not the park ranger. I want you.”

Copyright © 2017 Katee Robert

The Giveaway:

Enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card and eBook copies of The Devil's Daughter (Hidden Sins #1) from Katee Robert!

a Rafflecopter giveaway