2013 – A bookish year

 So another year is behind us and in spite of the personal life stuff going on resulting in the dearth of reviews, reading was still going on behind the scenes.

So what books made us sit up and beg?

Grete

The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett – The fantastic third book in the Demon Cycle.

Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole – Military sci-fi with superheroes.  This second book was an excellent addition to the Shadow Ops series.

Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey – This series needs to be on either the big or small screen – any screen!  Until then it’s an amazing sci-fi story and this third book was a brilliant addition to the Expanse.

Parasite by Mira Grant – An amazingly creepy but riveting novel. If you liked her Newsflesh trilogy, you are going to love this!

Kevin HearneThe Iron Druid Chronicles was a series that entranced me so much, I ended up romping through and didn’t take time to review.  It’s a fantastic series and one I will be re-reading, slower this time, so I can actually do reviews!

Bound by Night by Larissa Ione – The first in a new series by Larissa and just as exciting as her Demonica/Lords of Deliverance.  Speaking of which, the next book in that series, Reaver, is on this list too as it was utterly fantastic and had my jaw dropping several times as things were revealed.

Fifth Grave Past the Light by Darynda Jones – This is another series I love so much that I keep racing through them and end up not reviewing.  It’s a habit I really have to stop as my memory is just not up to it these days!  Charley Davidson is one of my favourite paranormal heroines and I just can’t get enough of her!

Styxx by Sherrilyn Kenyon – I loved, loved, loved this book.  I cried, I laughed, I may have shouted a few times.  A worthy companion to Acheron and a brilliant addition to the Dark-Hunter’s series.  It does take you through the wringer though!

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty – I absolutely loved this light hearted approach to the paranormal and look forward to the next one, out this year!

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan – A gritty and powerful epic fantasy debut.  I loved the magic system he devised and I hold high hopes for the second book.

Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin – First in a new series by Gail and it’s off to a promising start.  I loved her two previous series a lot so it had a lot to live up to!  Looking forward to book two!

J.D. Robb – Thanks to Tracey, I discovered the In Death series and devoured the whole lot one after the other.  It amazed me how good they are and how, even 35+ books in, they are still extremely enjoyable and great reads.

Watch Your Back by Karen Rose – So many of Karen’s books have characters that appear or are related to people in other novels and this one felt like it had been a long time coming.  It was utterly amazing and prompted me to go back and read ALL the previous books!

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan – This book honestly surprised me and I’m annoyed at myself that I didn’t do a review after I read it, as it so very much deserved it.  It’s an amazingly gritty fantasy, written with a single focus and I urge anyone who loved David Gemmell’s work to pick this up.  I will be re-reading this (and reviewing this time, dammit)!

Unseen by Karin Slaughter – Every time I think Karin has outdone herself, she releases the next book and raises the bar even higher.  I can’t get enough of Will Trent and Sara Linton!

Lover at Last by J.R. Ward – The latest book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series was hotly anticipated and I was not left disappointed!

Tracey

While my list has some similar ones to Grete, I also have some totally different genres to her.  Being much more of a romantic sap, it will come as no surprise that I have a number of romances on my list.

The books I share Grete’s love for are :

Styxx of course – the most anticipated book of the year for me and one that did not disappoint. Probably my book of the year!

Reaver by Larissa Ione – another eagerly awaited novel that ticked all the boxes for me.

The In Death series by J.D. Robb – I read all 35 books in 4 weeks and absolutely loved them.

For me though the year was all about romance! There were books from my favourite romance authors: Stephanie Laurens, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, Sarah MacLean and Sarah Morgan.

I really cannot express all the books that I loved this year, I read well over 100 of them! Since I tend to read books I know I will enjoy, it is so hard to only pick a few.

If I was to recommend a few books to other readers I would go with the following:

Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan – I have been a fan of Ms. Morgan for many years, reading all her Mills and Boon books and it was great to have a longer book to enjoy. This is romance at its best and a great start to a new series.

Nora Roberts has featured heavily in my reading this year but a trilogy I particularly enjoyed was the Key Trilogy – Key of Light, Key of Knowledge and Key of Valour. This has a paranormal slant with Ms. Roberts’ usual excellent romance story.

Sarah MacLean’s Rules of Scoundrels series is recommended reading, particularity if you enjoy historical romance. I have loved all the books in this series and look forward to the next one hopefully coming in 2014!

Will definitely be doing more reviews this year, even if only a few lines, there are so many great books I want to share my love of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Upon a Tower

 Gowan Stoughton, Duke of Kinross is used to having everything he wants, and after meeting Lady Edith Gilchrist, he wants her as his duchess. As with everything else in his life it is sorted quickly and efficiently. While they are very compatible outside the bedroom, inside it just isn’t working, cracks start to appear and communications break down culminating in a locked tower and a stormy night.

Another great book from Eloisa James, she always manages to evoke strong emotions in me. I sobbed in parts during this, and my heart was breaking for Gowan and Edie. At other times Gowan made my heart melt, “You’re my lodestone and my North Star”, how perfect is that?

Both Edie and Gowan have issues relating to their upbringing and are both very young and inexperienced. At 19 and 22 respectively, this leads to a number of misconceptions about marriage. Usually all the crossed wires and misunderstandings annoy me, but for some reason with this story, it didn’t as much as usual.

In the historical romances I tend to read it’s very unusual to find the hero under the age of 30 and usually they have years of sexual experience to bring to the marriage. I liked the fact that they were learning together (or should have been!) and Gowan wasn’t the experienced rake about town.

There is another side story here involving Edie’s father’s marriage to her stepmother, Layla.  Their marriage isn’t running smoothly and again it’s the lack of understanding that marriages need to be worked at and love is not always enough on its own. Layla is a great character and has a large part to play in Edie and Gowan’s marriage – not always providing the best advice!

Chapters 39 and 40 in particular rank among the most heart wrenching, emotional, yet romantic chapters I have ever read and I could not tear myself away.

I love how Eloisa James brings the early 19th century to life and has lots of interesting information – for example, did you know that playing the cello was seen as entirely inappropriate for women due to the leg position required?

If you like your romances with murders to solve or a suspenseful element then you will be disappointed with this, but if you are a true romantic at heart you cannot fail to enjoy this and the roller-coaster of emotions it produces.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Eloisa James
  • Series: Happy Ever After (5)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

As You Wish

 As You Wish contains four novellas – Seduced by a Pirate and With This Kiss Parts 1, 2 and 3.  All I can say is thank god they were all together, as I think I would have died if I’d had to wait between each part, based on where each novella finishes!

Seduced by a Pirate involves Sir Griffin Barry, a character who first appeared in The Ugly Duchess.  Having been given a full pardon by the crown after years of privateering, and sporting a leg injury, Sir Griffin decides to return home to Pheobe, the wife he last saw fourteen years ago after the total failure of a wedding night.  He arrives home to find three children significantly younger than fourteen years old, and a wife who wants nothing to do with him.

I loved this novella, and while I haven’t yet read the Ugly Duchess, I don’t feel I missed out on anything. In fact, the only reason I knew was due to the authors note at the front. Phoebe is strong and takes no crap from Griffin but she does of course find herself physically attracted to him, after all who wouldn’t! Griffin doesn’t do much to help himself, calling her Poppy which he assumed was her name. “He must have misheard during the wedding ceremony. Bloody hell”. Particularly funny since he had not only named his ships after her but he also had a poppy tattooed on his face!

Ms James again manages to produce a wonderfully romantic story and my only disappointment is that it was too short, so everything happened so quickly. Definitely a recommended read if you are in the mood for some romance.

With this Kiss, Part 1 remains with the family but focuses on Colin Barry, the eldest adopted son of Sir Griffin, and Lady Grace Ryburn who is the daughter of his cousin and  fellow ex-pirate, The Duke of Ashbrook.

This is a story that starts in childhood and continues during adolescence and into adulthood. It’s fraught with miscommunication and misunderstandings which ordinarily would annoy me, but With This Kiss is so well written that it didn’t. If I’d had to wait between novellas mind you, I might have said something different!

The first novella in particular was extremely emotional and I wanted to kick Colin up the backside at times. Grace is very much a wallflower, always overshadowed by her younger sister Lily, but surprisingly I did not hate her. Lily is very likeable and naturally effervescent, having no idea how her sister feels. I was close to tears at times and the ending of With This Kiss is not somewhere I ever want a book to finish – thank goodness I had the next one available to read immediately.

In Part 2, both are older and wiser. Grace is certainly much more able to stand up for herself and appreciate her own talents. Colin has returned from sea injured, battle weary and has finally wised up to his feelings, but doesn’t think to tell Grace and in desperation she takes matters into her own hands.

There again follows some very well written emotional scenes which tugged at my heartstrings for both of them, although if they had just communicated properly all would have been well – but then the book would have been shorter and far less interesting! Again this novella ended in a most unsatisfactory place leaving me definitely wanting more, so I swiftly moved onto the next.

Part 3 was all about the happy ever after (and some great sex), and it was definitely worth waiting for! Having followed them through their lives I felt very invested in them. The entire three parts to the story totalled just over two hundred pages but it seemed so much longer and a lot was packed in without compromising the story. The epilogue was hilarious and I do hope we get to see more of Portia – maybe she will have her own story at some point.  I can but hope!

Overall, With This Kiss was wonderful, emotional and very romantic. A perfect book (in its entirety) for a miserable winter afternoon.

Book Information
  • Author: Eloisa James
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Tracey’s Week in Books – Week 11, 2013

 This week started with a thriller by Greg Iles called Dead Sleep. Wow that was good, see my full review here, but suffice to say I want to read more by this author, and I’d give it 4.5 stars.

Feeling like a bit of romance I picked up a Mills and Boon I had sitting about called The Surprise of her life by Helen R. Myers, it was the story of ex-neighbours who moved away when their respective spouses married each other, only to find they had taken up residence in the same town! This was okay, satisfied the romance craving – I would give it 2.5 stars.

The next book plucked from the pile was an Erica Spindler one – Forbidden Fruit. I did not think this was as good as some of her other books. There was a lot of background to the characters built up during the book but it was chapter 38 before we got to the present day. While the back story was very relevant to the overall story, it resulted in the actual thriller aspect of the book being very rushed and almost an afterthought to what was going on with the characters. I also felt there were some loose ends not tied up. Having said that it was a good read just not what I have come to expect from this author – 3 stars.

It was a quiet week for reading this week but my last read of the week was As  You wish by Eloisa James – this includes the novella Seduced by a Pirate and With this Kiss parts 1, 2 and 3. I absolutely loved this, keep an eye out for my 5 star review appearing later this week.

I seem to have been very busy with all sorts of stuff this week leaving me with little reading time!


Tracey’s Week in Books is a regular blog post from Tracey, catching up on everything she’s read recently.

The Duchess Quartet

This review is a series review of the four books that make up the Duchess Quartet by Eloisa James.

The books in order are

  • Duchess in Love
  • Fool for Love
  • A Wild Pursuit
  • Your Wicked Ways

The books revolve primarily around three women of the Ton, very different to the regency misses I usually read about.

 We have Ambrogina (Gina), Duchess of Girton – married as a child to the 18 year old Camden Serrard, now the Duke of Girton, who promptly ran away to Greece before consummation. Twelve years on she wants an annulment, leaving her free for a proper marriage. Cam takes one look at her and starts to think marriage might not be too bad after all.

The ‘Infamous’  Esme Rawlings is also estranged from her husband and has created quite a reputation for taking lovers herself while her husband lives with his mistress. Esme takes great delight in behaving outrageously in public and flirting at every opportunity, but when she decides she wants a child she needs to review her lifestyle and identify her priorities.

Helene, Countess Godwin has a husband who kicked her out and moved his mistress into her bedroom three years ago. They are incapable of speaking to each other without arguing and being in the same room is an ordeal. She has been the epitome of respectability although her situation is the topic in many a parlour. Helene is desperate for a baby, and when her husband will not divorce her she takes drastic action, deciding that no more will she be respectable Helene. She will find a man to father her baby, divorced or not.

 Esme has her story running through the first and second books before finally getting her ‘happy ever after’ in book three. This would have frustrated me were it not for the fact I had all four books, so I could read them one after the other. Helene gets her happy ending in book four but again, her story builds all the way through the series. Because of this it would be very annoying to read them out of order so I would suggest start with the first one, otherwise you will have no idea what is going on!

In each book we have a number of different story lines going on and it was sometimes hard to remember  who was doing what with whom. Book one covered Gina and Cam’s romance primarily, but also involved another friend of hers – Lady Carola Periwinkle who is estranged from her husband Lord Tuppy Periwinkle.  Having realized she is still in love with him, her friends start giving advice on how to seduce Tuppy back into her bed. I enjoyed this book although it wasn’t my favourite of the series. Ms James has a wonderful way of writing which is at times humorous, but is always descriptive. There is sex of course and the sex scenes are written well without being too crude. Gina is a strong character but because of this I find it hard to understand why she imagines herself in love with Lord Bonnington who is a total bore and prude.

 In book two, there is the continuing story of Helene and her scandalous husband and while Esme also features heavily, the main happy ever after is between her nephew by marriage Simon Darby and Lady Henrietta McLellan. Henrietta feels she will never marry due to a deformity which could kill her, as it killed her mother if she were to ever have a child. What man would want to marry someone who could not have children. Along comes Simon with no paternal instincts but guardian to two adorable little girls – adorable in Henrietta’s eyes if not Simon’s.  Henrietta dares to believe she could find happiness until her dreams are shattered following a conversation with her step-mother. This was probably my favourite book of the series and I particularly enjoyed a well bred lady trying to bring up the subject of a sheath without actually saying what it was.

In book three we reach the conclusion of Esme’s story and also have a side story involving Stephen Fairfax Lacey and a ‘fallen woman’ Lady Beatrix Lennox.  Now this is where it really does get confusing, with Stephen at one point being ‘engaged’ to Esme, ‘lover’ to Helene and smitten with Bea – quite an achievement for a staid Member of Parliament. It does of course get worked out in the end but I cannot say too much more for fear of ruining Esme’s ending.

Book four focuses on Helene and was my second favourite of the series.  Throughout the other books Helene is seen as some downtrodden wife who is too weak to do anything about her errant husband. In this book however the tiger turns – well, partly. I found some of Helene’s decisions surprising, but I guess after being put down for so many years it takes more than a new haircut and wardrobe. Rees really is portrayed as a total jerk in previous books and indeed for the first half of this book he stays true to that persona. He is a selfish musician who thinks only of his own needs, including in the bedroom – no wonder Helene detests all that ‘bedding’ business. As the book progresses though we get to understand some of his reasoning and it all seems to come back down to parents – parents in the 19th century have a lot to answer for it seems.

With these four books, no matter what my initial feelings for the characters were, by the end of the series I was in love with all of them. Because the books were all linked, the three main characters popped up all the time so we get flashes of their lives and their sexy husbands! Poetry, Shakespeare and the Bible are all quoted with frequency – usually appropriately but at times it did become a bit tedious – I am not a fan of any of those!

 These books give a fascinating insight into what life was like for women in this time. For example, a woman cannot divorce a man for adultery (after all it is expected) and a woman can only get divorced if there is public proof of her adultery, and then only if her husband allows it. If she wishes to get remarried following divorce it requires an act of parliament! It also made a refreshing change to read about women who were less than perfect, even scandalous, in marriages that were definitely not perfect. However, I still expected it to all turn out happily ever after in the end and the author does not disappoint.

Overall I loved this series, I enjoyed having more than one romance  going on in each book (seven happy endings for the price of four) but am very glad I had them all available to read at once. These are full length books which are available as e-books for only £2.99 each (as at Jan 2013) an absolute bargain and definitely worth a purchase if you enjoy historical romance, particularly if you want a change from the virginal debutante and the rake.

Book Information
  • Author: Eloisa James
  • Series: The Duchess Quartet
  • Format: Kindle
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

 

When Beauty Tamed the Beast

Linnet Berry Thynne was ruined in the eyes of the ton. Caught kissing a prince who then wants nothing to do with her, not to mention it wasn’t even all that pleasant! Wearing a gown that makes her look pregnant, her humiliation and ruination is complete.

Piers Marchant a doctor and Earl has a fearsome reputation and a temper to match which has earned him the nickname of the beast. Injured as a child he is supposedly unable to perform (if you get my drift)!  With no prospect of an heir in sight his father jumps at the chance of his son having a bride, already with child and a royal one at that.

Being a medical man it does not take him long to realise things are not as they seem and despite Linnet’s beauty, he is determined she will never marry the beast.

This is another great book by Eloisa James and I really enjoyed it. It is supposedly a very loose adaptation of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast, and if the title had not indicated so, I would not necessarily have thought to associate it.

I loved the characters, Dr Piers is hilarious – his bedside manner leaves much to be desired and you get the impression his life would be much simpler if his patients died so he could cut them open and see what was going on.  Sarcasm seems to be his forte and he does not care who he upsets or what he says. Linnet is feisty, just as sarcastic and gives as good as she gets, almost enjoying taunting him. This leads to some funny conversations between the two of them.

The story is almost exclusively set in Wales and it was great to have a setting other than the traditional London for a regency romance. I found the snippets about medicine and treatment fascinating but how accurate they are I am not sure, Piers did seem ahead of his time in some aspects of his treatment. Historical accuracy is not a strong feature of this book but to be honest it was not a problem for this story. Some books need rich historical description, others don’t, the characters easily carried the story no matter how historically inaccurate some of their behaviour was!

Of course it is based on a fairytale and fairytales always have a happy ending so I got the warm fuzzies which I like in my books. It wouldn’t be an interesting or entertaining story however if there were not a number of obstacles and incidents before we reach that point.

If you are looking for a romance with accurate historical descriptions and behaviour this may not be you, if however you like a touch of humour, strong characters and can overlook the historical licence – read it!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Eloisa James
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)