Review – ‘The Queen of Ieflaria’ by Effie Calvin

Title: The Queen of Ieflaria
Author: Effie Calvin
Genre:  Fantasy, LGBT, Romance
Date of Publication: 19th February, 2018
Page Count: 182 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Princess Esofi of Rhodia and Crown Prince Albion of Ieflaria have been betrothed since they were children but have never met. At age seventeen, Esofi’s journey to Ieflaria is not for the wedding she always expected but instead to offer condolences on the death of her would-be husband.

But Ieflaria is desperately in need of help from Rhodia for their dragon problem, so Esofi is offered a new betrothal to Prince Albion’s younger sister, the new Crown Princess Adale. But Adale has no plans of taking the throne, leaving Esofi with more to battle than fire-breathing beasts.

This had a rough start and I put it aside for a long while because I wasn’t feeling it, but the allure of a f/f pairing in a fantasy setting was too much to give up on that easily, so I came back determined to continue with this and ended up really enjoying it! I’m so glad I persevered because The Queen of Ieflaria has such a good-natured humor and charm to it with an endearing ship, and I would’ve been sadly missing out.

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ARC Review – ‘A Devil of a Duke’ by Madeline Hunter

Title: A Devil of a Duke
Author: Madeline Hunter
Genre:  Romance, Historical
Date of Publication: 24th April, 2018
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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HE MAY BE A DEVIL

He’s infamous, debaucherous, and known all over town for his complete disregard for scandal, and positively irresistible seductions. Gabriel St. James, Duke of Langford, is obscenely wealthy, jaw-droppingly handsome, and used to getting exactly what he wants. Until his attention is utterly captured by a woman who refuses to tell him her name, but can’t help surrendering to his touch . . .

BUT SHE’S NO ANGEL EITHER . . .

Amanda Waverly is living two lives—one respectable existence as secretary to an upstanding lady, and one far more dangerous battle of wits—and willpower—with the devilish Duke. Langford may be the most tempting man she’s ever met, but Amanda’s got her hands full trying to escape the world of high-society crime into which she was born. And if he figures out who she really is, their sizzling passion will suddenly boil over into a much higher stakes affair . . .

This is a difficult review to write for me because my feelings towards the book are very tepid; it was a so-so read for me. If something is 1 or 2 stars, I have passionate dislike for it and usually many things to rant about; if something is 4 or 5 stars, I can write essays rhapsodizing over my love for it. But I found A Devil of a Duke to be firmly middle-of-the-road.

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ARC Review – ‘The Duke of Ruin’ by Darcy Burke

Title: The Duke of Ruin
Author: Darcy Burke
Genre:  Romance, Historical
Date of Publication: 27th March, 2018
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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With her betrothal to a duke in tatters and scandal imminent, Diana Kingman has two choices: live in certain ignominy or flee into obscurity. Diana wants solitude. She never wished to wed in the first place. However, her father will stop at nothing to betroth her to one of the finest titles in the realm…no matter how loathsome the bearer. Escape is Diana’s only option, and she’ll pay any price to achieve freedom.

Universally blamed for the death of his wife and unborn child, Simon Hastings doesn’t dispute his guilt over an accident he cannot even remember. He hasn’t had a drink since, nor a moment’s peace. Determined to be a better man, Simon rescues a young woman in need—only to be accused of kidnapping. They must marry to save him from prison. But how can a man haunted by the love he lost and a woman afraid to get too close find happiness together?

After being unable to finish a different regency romance, this was a wonderful change! It’s the first book I’ve read by this author, but it certainly won’t be the last! I love this sub-genre, but sometimes I hit a streak of poorly written novels with shoddy characterization and think that maybe I need to move on, then I’m lucky enough to happen upon a gem like The Duke of Ruin that re-establishes my faith and optimism. I raced through this over the weekend due to the heartily entertaining story-line and endearing characters.

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Book Review – ‘The Queen’s Rising’ by Rebecca Ross

Title: The Queen’s Rising
Author: Rebecca Ross
Genre:  Fantasy, Young Adult
Date of Publication: 6th February, 2018
Page Count: 464 pages (hardcover edition)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

It’s only February, but The Queen’s Rising is already a contender for favorite read of the year! This book was an amazing nostalgic return to my youth – I used to binge on high fantasy that had inspiring female protagonists (most from modest backgrounds), journeys to defeat a corrupt ruler or great evil and perhaps a hint (or more!) of mentor/protege romance.

In more recent years, I haven’t come across many books that ticked all those boxes (The Queen of Blood is closest in feel, but doesn’t feature a romance) and I feel the market is more saturated with elves and assassins and love triangles and heroines with a bad attitude who are supposedly kickass but need their love interest to save them from their own follies. In that context, The Queen’s Rising felt like chicken soup for the soul. The story didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it was a delightful remix of tropes and themes I love, so it was perfectly suited to my tastes.

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Review – ‘The Bookworm & The Beast’ by Charlee James

Title: The Bookworm & The Beast
Author: Charlee James
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Date of Publication: 4th December, 2017
Page Count: 172 pages (Kindle edition)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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When quiet, bookish Izzy Simon accepts a two-week assignment as an assistant for an author of children’s books, it seems like the perfect way for her to make some much-needed extra money, but the grumpy author claims he doesn’t want or need her services. He might be as handsome as a storybook prince, but his prickly personality and resistance to all things Christmas are sure to make for a chilly holiday season.

Derek Croft never agreed to the cheery temp his staff arranges for him while they’re on vacation. Izzy is his polar opposite, but Derek soon realizes she could be the perfect solution to his interfering family…if he can get her to agree to pretend to be his live-in girlfriend. Before long Izzy’s sweet disposition and unflappable optimism has him decorating a tree and looking forward to late night hot cocoa, but he’s all too aware their time together can’t last.

I requested this out of the desire for a sweet Christmas read featuring a Beauty & The Beast retelling – it’s now nearly mid-February, which speaks volumes about how difficult I found it to get through this story. The blurb promised all my favorite tropes (fake relationship! forced proximity! grumpy-curmudgeon-with-a-heart-of-gold! bookish-nerd-falling-for-her-boss!), but unfortunately ‘The Bookworm and the Beast’ didn’t live up to expectations.

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ARC Review – ‘Zero Day’ by Ezekiel Boone

Title: Zero Day
Author: Ezekiel Boone
Genre:  Horror, Science-Fiction
Date of Publication: 27th February, 2018
Page Count: 336 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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In the thrilling, nerve-wracking finale of Ezekiel Boone’s “hair-raising” (Parade) Hatching series, the United States goes to war against the queen spiders that threaten to overtake the human race forever.

The world is on the brink of apocalypse. Zero Day has come.

The only thing more terrifying than millions of spiders is the realization that those spiders work as one. But among the government, there is dissent: do we try to kill all of the spiders, or do we gamble on Professor Guyer’s theory that we need to kill only the queens?

For President Stephanie Pilgrim, it’s an easy answer. She’s gone as far as she can—more than two dozen American cities hit with tactical nukes, the country torn asunder—and the only answer is to believe in Professor Guyer. Unfortunately, Ben Broussard and the military men who follow him don’t agree, and Pilgrim, Guyer, and the loyal members of the government have to flee, leaving the question: what’s more dangerous, the spiders or ourselves?

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I was so excited to read this, you would not believe my hysteria when I got my hands on an advance copy, I nearly hit the roof with SHEER JOY. And thankfully, this lived up to expectations! If only I had been able to pace myself instead of staying up past midnight to devour it, but I had zero willpower, it was so enthralling that I couldn’t stop reading!

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ARC – ‘Keeper’ by Kim Chance

Title:  Keeper
Author: Kim Chance
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date of Publication: 30th January, 2018
Page Count: 408 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

After consulting a psychic, Lainey discovers that she, like her mother, is a Keeper: a witch with the exclusive ability to unlock and wield the Grimoire, a dangerous but powerful spell book. But there’s a problem. The Grimoire has been stolen by a malevolent warlock who is desperate for a spell locked inside it—a spell that would allow him to siphon away the world’s magic.

With the help of her comic-book-loving best friend and an enigmatic but admittedly handsome street fighter, Lainey must leave her life of college prep and studying behind to prepare for the biggest test of all: stealing back the book.

Okay, so this is not the optimal way to start off the New Year, but unfortunately ‘Keeper‘ is a DNF for me. I try not to quit on books, especially ARCs, as it makes me feel guilty, but my resolution this year is to give a fair go and then bail if I’m not enjoying myself. I made it to 57%, so I put a fair amount of effort into trying to invest in the story and characters, but it was such a relief to decide I was done with it.

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Book Review – ‘Burn For You’ by J.T. Geissinger

Title: Burn For You
Author: J.T. Geissinger
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Date of Publication: 17th October, 2017
Page Count: 348 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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The marriage is fake. But for a sassy chef and an arrogant billionaire, the sparks are real…

Jackson “The Beast” Boudreaux is rich, gorgeous, and unbelievably rude to the staff at Chef Bianca Hardwick’s New Orleans restaurant. Bianca would sooner douse herself in hot sauce than cook for Jackson again, but when he asks her to cater his fund-raiser, Bianca can’t refuse, knowing the cash will help pay her mother’s medical bills. Then Jackson makes another outrageous request: Marry me. The unconventional offer includes an enormous sum—money Bianca desperately needs, even if it does come with a contract—and a stunning ring.

The heir to a family bourbon dynasty, Jackson knows the rumors swirling around him. The truth is even darker. Still, he needs a wife to secure his inheritance, and free-spirited, sassy Bianca would play the part beautifully. Soon, though, their simple business deal evolves into an emotional intimacy he’s built walls to avoid.

As the passion heats up between them, Bianca and Jackson struggle to define which feelings are real and which are for show. Is falling for your fake fiancé the best happy ending…or a recipe for disaster?

I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it has everything I look for in a romance – a witty capable heroine, a dark brooding hero with a heart of gold, the marriage-of-convenience trope executed to perfection and slow-burn development from enemies-to-friends-to-lovers. AMAZING.

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ARC Review – ‘A Bride At His Bidding’ by Michelle Smart

TitleA Bride At His Bidding
Author: Michelle Smart
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Date of Publication: 16th January, 2018
Page Count: 192 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Book Depository)

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Hired by her enemy. Yet tempted to say “I do..”. Billionaire Andreas Samaras is nobody’s fool. And his beautiful new employee, Carrie Rivers–an undercover journalist–is playing a dangerous game. He’ll keep her at his command until he can expose her deception… But when her ruse is revealed, there’s only one way to protect his spotless business reputation: blackmail innocent Carrie to the altar!

This is a thoroughly delightful romance story and I enjoyed every moment of it. The author subverted so many tropes and specifically addressed a lot of the issues I’ve had in the past with romance novels, it’s almost uncanny how this seems to be written specifically to please me!

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Book Review – ‘Chimera’ by C D Bell

Title:  Chimera
Author: C D Bell
Genre:  Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Date of Publication: 10th October, 2017
Page Count: 432 pages (ebook)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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The forest is full of secrets.

Nessa Kurland is adjusting to life as a weregirl—she is transforming with ease and running with a pack she cares for deeply. Her boyfriend Luc is a fellow shifter, and Paravida, the corporation responsible for unethical genetic experiments on the residents of Tether, has pulled out of town, leaving the community safe.

But that’s just how it appears on the surface.

Nessa returns home from a run with the pack to find an FBI raid and the shocking news that her mother Vivian is being held without bail for violations so serious she may be facing life in prison. What did Nessa’s mother, a small-town vet tech, do to threaten Homeland Security? Vivian’s secret past leads Nessa to discover there is more to her own story than she ever imagined.

The wolves that are running through Tether’s woods are not the same pack Nessa knew before. These are not all natural wolves. And they are breeding.

Nessa’s transformation is only just beginning.

In CHIMERA, the second installment in the Weregirl trilogy, Nessa confronts the truth of who she is, where she comes from, and what she has to do to survive.

I haven’t read the first book in this series, but that didn’t hinder my reading experience with Chimera. Obviously there was some backstory I wasn’t familiar with, but it was fairly easy to fill in the blanks. I’m very picky about the YA books I choose to read because there are a lot of toxic tropes and unfortunate themes prevalent in the genre, but fortunately Chimera ticks all the right boxes to make this an enjoyable read.

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