Tag: Four Stars

January 23, 2017

Review | Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Review | Dragonfly in Amber by Diana GabaldonDragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #2
Publisher: Bantam, August 2001
Pages: 743
Format: Paperback
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 With her now-classic novel Outlander, Diana Gabaldon introduced two unforgettable characters—Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser—delighting readers with a story of adventure and love that spanned two centuries. Now Gabaldon returns to that extraordinary time and place in this vivid, powerful follow-up to Outlander.  DRAGONFLY IN AMBER  For nearly twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones... about a love that transcends the boundaries of time... and about Jamie Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his.   Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart... in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising... and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves.

Claire Randall Frasier has lived the past twenty years believing that Jamie was dead. And finally, she has gathered the courage to go back to Scotland for the first time in nearly two decades to discover what happened to him at the Battle of Culloden.

Dragonfly in Amber is, quite simply, an emotional roller coaster ride. Gabaldon’s narrative switches between 1968 Claire, a woman who is trying to make it work after she loses the love of her life and 1740s Claire, trying desperately to stop the fall of Scotland. While the same women, these two characters are vastly different. It’s hard to believe t

While the same women, these two characters are vastly different. It’s hard to believe that 1740s Claire could be considered naive, considering what happens to her in Outlander, but she embodied it again and again as they worked to stop Charles. Yet naive doesn’t mean stupid. I loved how she stood up for herself and others in a society where women weren’t often allowed or encouraged to do so.

On the other hand, 1968 Claire was charming, engaging, and initially allowed a little of her sorrow to show. All naivete was gone, erased by the loss of her husband, a scar she hid well. It’s this Claire, this dynamic, fascinating character, that was the star of Dragonfly.

She was cool and composed on the outside, an exterior that hid rioting emotions: guilt, wistfulness, joy, and sorrow. It was only once she, Brianna, and Roger started their hunt for Jamie that this calm composure began to crack.

It’s been a while since a book made me feel the way Dragonfly did. From the battle scenes of 1740s Scotland to the drafty graveyards of the 60s’, Gabaldon tugged – no, YANKED – at the heartstrings.

Yet the second Outlander installment did have its faults. There were pages of information, large sections filled with what felt like the most minute details of the French court, the Scottish towns, and everywhere in between, that could have been summarized or possibly skipped entirely. Maybe this is more of personal preference; I wanted the story to get on with it.

In retrospect, that was a minor detail. The beauty of Dragonfly in Amber isn’t in the particulars of the setting or the descriptions of dress. Instead, it lay in Claire, a woman torn between two marriages, two times, and two worlds.

4 Stars

Posted January 23, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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November 7, 2016

Review | Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank

Review | Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover SwankTwenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank
Series: Rose Gardner Mystery #1
Publisher: Createspace, July 2011
Pages: 374
Format: Paperback
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For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad even before she sees a vision of herself dead. She's had plenty of visions, usually boring ones like someone's toilet's overflowed, but she's never seen one of herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered on her sofa instead, two things are certain: There isn't enough hydrogen peroxide in the state of Arkansas to get that stain out, and Rose is the prime suspect.
Rose realizes she's wasted twenty-four years of living and makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt: twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true. She's well on her way with the help of her next door neighbor Joe, who has no trouble teaching Rose the rules of drinking, but won't help with number fifteen-- do more with a man. Joe's new to town, but it doesn't take a vision for Rose to realize he's got plenty secrets of his own.
Somebody thinks Rose has something they want and they'll do anything to get it. Her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in the Fenton County jail isn't her biggest worry after all.
Winner of The Beacon 2010 Unpublished Division, Mainstream Category

Rose Gardner doesn’t want to make a fuss. She would rather go completely unnoticed, thank you very much. After living her twenty-four years with her overbearing, bossy mother, Rose finally loses her patience. Storming out of the house, Rose makes a list of 28 wishes, 28 things she wants to do before she dies. And since she just had a vision of her death, it’s time for Rose to strike out on her own. Unfortunately, the very day Rose declares her independence, her controlling mother is found dead…and all fingers are pointing at Rose.

Rose is, without a doubt, one of the most naive characters I’ve come across, but it worked for her. She’s sweet, innocent, and the highlight of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. Her character journey, from a young, innocent 24-year-old girl to a slightly-less-innocent but more independent woman is the star of the story. I loved her. Her gentleness and sweet nature creates her problems, but also gives her allies. It was a perfect balance, only going into overly sweet every once in a while.

I accidentally picked up Thirty-Five and a Half Conspiracies from the library a few weeks ago, not knowing it was part of a series, so I had a clue that the hunky next-door neighbor Joe McAllister wasn’t what he seemed. But, oh, I loved every damn scene that he was in. There was something so obviously off about him (his secrecy, his intimate knowledge of Rose’s murder case, and his middle-of-the-night activities) but his sweetness and obvious attraction to Rose made me rush to the end to make sure they had a happily-ever-after.

The romance of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes is a winner in my book. Soft and sweet, but tense and hot, it quickly won me over, despite Joe’s secrecy. It brought me into Rose’s world, and I can’t wait to return in Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons.

4 Stars

Posted November 7, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 20, 2016

Review | O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton

Review | O is for Outlaw by Sue GraftonO is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton
Series: Kinsey Millhone, #15
Publisher: Ballantine Books, January 2001
Pages: 354
Format: Hardcover
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Through fourteen books, fans have been fed short rations when it comes to Kinsey Millhone's past: a morsel here, a dollop there. We know of the aunt who raised her, the second husband who left her, the long-lost family up the California coast. But husband number one remained a blip on the screen until now.
The call comes on a Monday morning from a guy who scavenges defaulted storage units at auction. Last week he bought a stack. They had stuff in them—Kinsey stuff. For thirty bucks, he'll sell her the lot. Kinsey's never been one for personal possessions, but curiosity wins out and she hands over a twenty (she may be curious but she loves a bargain). What she finds amid childhood memorabilia is an old undelivered letter.
It will force her to reexamine her beliefs about the breakup of that first marriage, about the honor of that first husband, about an old unsolved murder. It will put her life in the gravest peril."O" Is for Outlaw: Kinsey's fifteenth adventure into the dark side of human nature.

Oh, Kinsey.

O is for Outlaw might have broken her heart. And mine.

As I put this book down, I remembered writing how I wished Kinsey showed more of herself in the novels, letting us as readers get to know her better. I got my wish.

Kinsey Millhone was married twice (and prefers to be single, thank you very much). We met her second husband in E is for Evidence, but her first is rarely mentioned…until we get to O. In Outlaw, Kinsey finally reveals their relationship when news arrives that Mickey Magruder, the pointedly-ignored first husband, has been shot and is in a coma in Los Angeles.

I’ve always wondered at Kinsey’s determined lack of information about her relationship with Mickey and her reaction to his condition solidified my theory: he was her first love. You know, that one we’re always slightly irrational about, even years later? Mickey Magruder, a paranoid vice cop a decade her senior, was the guy who broke Kinsey Millhone’s heart.

Being Kinsey, she can’t help but start investigating, despite the investigating cops’ warnings. She unravels the life of a serial playboy, a man destroyed, and an addict in recovery. In discovering so much about Mickey’s current life, she understands his past a little better and finally comes to terms with their relationship. But it’s the last scene that had me sniffling back tears.

The mystery in O for Outlaw was up to par, and Kinsey’s snooping nature brought light into an otherwise emotionally heavy story. The difference? Mickey’s shooting rocked her to her core, so her typical unbiased perspective was deeply slanted.

I wanted to know more about the characters, their situations, and their relationship to her, but there was only so much room in the book. Still, O is for Outlaw was a surprisingly intense story, one that I’m thrilled finally was told.

4 Stars

Posted October 20, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 17, 2016

Review | The Game Plan by Kristin Callihan

Review | The Game Plan by Kristin CallihanThe Game Plan by Kristen Callihan
Series: Game On
Publisher: NLA Digital LLC, November 2015
Pages: 331
Format: Ebook
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A beard-related dare and one hot-as-hell kiss changes everything.
NFL center Ethan Dexter’s focus has always been on playing football and little else. Except when it comes to one particular woman. The lovely Fiona Mackenzie might not care about his fame, but she’s also never looked at him as anything more than one of her brother-in-law’s best friend. That ends now.
Fi doesn’t know what to make of Dex. The bearded, tattooed, mountain of man-muscle looks more like a biker than a football player. Rumor has it he’s a virgin, but she finds that hard to believe. Because from the moment he decides to turn his quiet intensity on her she’s left weak at the knees and aching to see his famous control fully unleashed.
Dex is looking for a forever girl, but they live vastly different lives in separate cities. Fi ought to guard her heart and walk away. But Dex has upped his game and is using all his considerable charm to convince Fi he's her forever man.
Game On

I forget how much I love sports-centered romances until I get my hands on one. Ever since Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Lady Be Good, I’ve been hooked on them. There’s an intensity about professional athletes, a passion that fits in perfectly with the plots of today’s contemporary romances. Kristen Callihan’s The Game Plan is no exception.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think about Dex, but the more time we spent in his head, the more I loved him. Despite the aggression required for his job, he has a quiet intensity about him that draws you. He’s a man of secrets, rare smiles, and an incredibly gentle heart. The contrast was borderline hypnotizing. I loved the quiet (and sometimes not-so-quiet) passion that ruled him, whether it was about Fiona or football. He was the fairy tale prince we all hope will arrive on our doorstep one day, but with enough flaws that he wasn’t unreachable.

In contrast to Dex’s romantic nature, Fiona is a pragmatist. She’s honest (except when it comes to her job) and doesn’t have a problem saying what’s on her mind (again…that job). I liked her realism and how her heart warred with it: despite knowing a long distance relationship with a famous football player might not work out, she never entirely gives up.

My only issue with Fiona was how she acted in – you guessed it – her job. See, Dex falls in love with her for her almost brutal honesty, but when it doesn’t transfer to her professional life, it felt off. How would a girl, so vocal about everything else, roll over in her particular situation?

The plot’s tension was tangible. I found myself running back to the office from my lunch break after getting hooked into the story. The Game Plan had this sweet yearning, born first of secret love, then a long-distance relationship. Even after it evolves from that (sorry, no spoilers), the yearning is still there, the search to find an authentic connection. That’s the magic of Callihan’s story: even when the characters should have everything finally go right, someone throws a monkey wrench, messing it up in the best way possible.

4 Stars

Posted October 17, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 10, 2016

Review | Armageddeon Rules by J.C. Nelson

Review | Armageddeon Rules by J.C. NelsonArmageddon Rules by J.C. Nelson
Series: Grimm Agency, #2
Publisher: Ace, February 2015
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
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Marissa Locks, newly appointed partner of the Grimm Agency, has a reputation for making a mess of magical matters—although causing Armageddon is a new low, even for her…
Marissa is due for a little happily ever after. After all, she did kill the evil Fairy Godmother, end a war, and snag a sweet promotion within the Fairy Godfather's magical-problem-solving Agency. But between maintaining a relationship with someone whose amorous advances can cause third-degree burns, dealing with a killer-poodle infestation, and helping her best friend, Princess Ari, learn to wield spells more powerful than curing a hangover, she’s not getting as much peace and quiet as she hoped.
When an enemy from her past appears to exact a terrible revenge, Marissa’s life goes from hectic to hell on earth. With Grimm inexplicably gone and Ari trapped by a sleeping spell, Marissa decides to fight fire with hellfire—and accidentally begins a countdown to the apocalypse.
With the end of days extremely nigh, Marissa will have to master royal politics, demonic law, and biblical plagues in a hurry—because even the end of the world can’t keep the Agency from opening for business…

I was stunned to discover a light-hearted book about Armageddon, yet Nelson’s Armageddon Rules is exactly that. It’s light, silly, a little fluffy, and just fun.

In her mind, Marissa Locks has paid her due. She saved the day in Free Agent and is looking forward to a little relaxation – well, as much relaxation as a partner in Grimm’s agency can get. Loaded down with evil poodles, lost princesses, and lusty princes, Marissa has her hands full. Then the world erupts in chaos.

Grimm is unreachable, and soon, Marissa finds herself trapped into organizing the beginning of Armageddon.

Normally, I wouldn’t find Armageddon funny, but I loved the hilarity that Nelson brought to it. Everything, from the demons orchestrating it to Marissa’s take on the dreaded plagues, was just funny. It also brought out a deeper side of not only Marissa but Grimm, the all-knowing fairy godfather. I loved the depth that the lighthearted nature of the book brought to their relationship and how it intensified the characterizations. Instead of simply being the man in the mirror (hah), Grimm became a person of emotions and history.

I didn’t like how quickly Marissa’s relationship had progressed with Liam, her cursed boyfriend (no, the girl does nothing halfway). When we left them at the end of Free Agent, they were just starting a relationship. In Armageddeon Rules, their relationship has moved up multiple levels, leaving me feeling like I had to rush to catch up. I felt like I had missed out on crucial parts of their relationship, parts that I would have loved to read.

Armageddeon Rules is first and foremost a humorous urban fantasy. I love the world that Nelson has created: the magic hiding in plain sight only empowers the storyline. There’s one final book in the Grimm series, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

4 Stars

Posted October 10, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 3, 2016

Review | The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Review | The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle, #1
Publisher: Scholastic Press, September 2012
Pages: 409
Format: Hardcover
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Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.
His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

Blue Sargent wants nothing to do the raven boys, the prized students of the local rich-kid academy who run through Henrietta, Virginia like it’s their playground. But when her amplifier gift (to improve the psychic gifts of those around her) brings her face-to-face with the spirit of a raven boy, Blue is hooked. Who is he? How can she save him? Despite herself, Blue is soon caught up in a world of intrigue, long-lost kings, mystical favors, and hidden magic.

The thing about Blue is she seems pretty normal for living in a house full of psychics. She may not bat an eye at the tarot card readings, the random mumblings of her mother’s best friend (who also lives there), or think to gather the names of the soon-to-be-dead weird, but at heart, she’s a typical teenage girl. One who wants to find her place, something we can all understand.

Except Blue has a secret or, rather a curse. If she kisses her true love, he’ll die, but the spirits don’t share how. To take precautions, she’s just not kissing anyone. It’s this combination of pragmatic and mysticism that makes Blue so enchanting. But don’t get me wrong – The Raven Boys isn’t about her.

The stars of the novel are, without a doubt, the four Raven Boys: Gansey, the get-along guy driven to discover the secret of Glendower; Ronan Lynch, the brawler haunted by a horrible secret; Adam Parrish, the local scholarship student trying to find a way to fit in; and Noah, the quiet, unassuming one. Their internal relationship dynamics are fascinating reading; add in Blue’s sensibility, and you’ve got quite the story.

The paranormal aspect brings The Raven Boys to a whole new level. When Blue sees Gansey’s spirit on the corpse road, she can’t stop thinking about him. And when she meets him in real life, her determination to protect him solidifies. The complexity of teenage angst and romance set against the paranormal history and the mystical quest to discover Glendower creates a world that I just didn’t want to leave.

4 Stars

Posted October 3, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 2, 2016

Review | Tempt Me by Twilight by Lisa Kleypas

Review | Tempt Me by Twilight by Lisa KleypasTempt Me at Twilight by Lisa Kleypas
Series: The Hathaways, #3
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks, September 2009
Pages: 373
Format: Paperback
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He was everything she'd sworn to avoid.
Poppy Hathaway loves her unconventional family, though she longs for normalcy. Then fate leads to a meeting with Harry Rutledge, an enigmatic hotel owner and inventor with wealth, power, and a dangerous hidden life. When their flirtation compromises her own reputation, Poppy shocks everyone by accepting his proposal—only to find that her new husband offers his passion, but not his trust.
And she was everything he needed.
Harry was willing to do anything to win Poppy—except to open his heart. All his life, he has held the world at arm’s length…but the sharp, beguiling Poppy demands to be his wife in every way that matters. Still, as desire grows between them, an enemy lurks in the shadows. Now if Harry wants to keep Poppy by his side, he must forge a true union of body and soul, once and for all...

At first, I didn’t know how to feel about Tempt Me at Twilight‘s romantic hero, Harry Rutledge.

Scratch that.

For the first half of the novel, I didn’t know how to feel about Harry Rutledge.

He’s ruthless, especially when it comes to getting what he wants. A self-made man, Rutledge has created his success and is therefore fiercely defensive of it. He thrives on his business and vice versa. He has reached his wildest dreams: to make his mark among the rich and famous. So when he sees something he wants, he takes it.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Poppy Hathaway, it doesn’t work the way he planned.

I loved Rutledge at first. He was the hardened businessman, the one that never believed in love, especially not for himself. He was the reluctant underdog, the one fighting to win the chance at her hand. Then he made what I would consider some pretty bad decisions. I have to admit; I was close to putting this book down. But it was Poppy who saved both Rutledge and Tempt Me at Twilight.

Poppy is Rutledge’s foil in every sense of the word. Where he’s a tough-minded businessman, she’s a softer, family-focused woman. It’s this simple yin yang that adds life to both the narration and its hero. She makes him relatable, forgiving, even kind.

Like Poppy, I struggled with Rutledge, but also like her, I found the soft in him. It was the saving grace of Tempt Me at Twilight, the element that made me stay up half the night to finish it; that had me setting aside the book with a sigh when I finished. Their relationship creates this magic that brings the whole novel alive.

Despite the hiccups with Rutledge in the beginning, I fell madly in love with both him and Poppy. Tempt Me at Twilight brought all the charismatic, vibrant characters and the romantic storyline that made Kleypas a household name. And I loved it.

4 Stars

Posted October 2, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 28, 2016

Review | N is for Noose by Sue Grafton

Review | N is for Noose by Sue GraftonN Is For Noose by Sue Grafton
Series: Kinsey Millhone, #14
Publisher: Fawcett, January 1970
Pages: 322
Format: Paperback
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Tom Newquist had been a detective in the Nota Lake sheriffs office --- a tough, honest cop respected by everyone. When he died suddenly, the town folk were sad but not surprised. Just shy of sixty-five. Newquist worked too hard, drank too much, and exercised too little.
Newquist's widow, Selma, didn't doubt the coroner's report. But still, she couldn't help wondering what had so bothered Tom in the last six weeks of his life. What was it that had made him prowl restlessly at night and brood constantly? Determined to help Selma find the answer, Kinsey Millhone sets up shop in Nota Lake, where she finds that looking for a needle in a haystack can draw blood --- very likely, her own ...

Slipping back into Kinsey’s world is like returning home. It’s comforting, despite the murders and violence that undoubtedly appear in each installment, and familiar. When she undertakes a case on the road as a favor for her friend (is he her friend? Not sure) Robert Dietz, Kinsey finds herself in arguably the biggest mess she’s dealt with.

Tom Newquist was an all-around popular guy in Nota Lake, so when he’s found dead in his truck on the side of the road, the town reels. Even though he was one of two police investigators in the area, no one seems to hold a grudge against him, yet Selma, Newquist’s bizarre widow, can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to the story. Enter Kinsey.

N is for Noose isn’t a cut-and-dried murder mystery, at least, not in the beginning. Instead, Kinsey faces the wild dynamics of a small, tight-knit town, an employer whom she’s pretty sure doesn’t tell the whole truth (only when it suits her), and a nagging feeling in her stomach that just won’t go away. There’s something definitely wrong in Nota Lake…but what it is?

While Tom’s murder was the initial hook for the mystery, I was drawn into the town vs. Kinsey dynamic that permeated the pages. Kinsey was an outsider, asking questions that wasn’t any her never mind. Small towns generally don’t take too kindly to that. The friction and tension in the atmosphere created this draw, this intense need to read the next page, to know what happened.

N is for Noose had even more surprises lying in wait. After reading 13 of Grafton’s other books, I thought I had her pattern down pretty well. I even thought I knew who the killer was and why.

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Won’t make that mistake twice. She blew me away. The killer, the motive, the method…that final scene was just simply amazing.

4 Stars

Posted September 28, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 25, 2016

Review | Lord Dashwood Missed Out by Tessa Dare

Review | Lord Dashwood Missed Out by Tessa DareLord Dashwood Missed Out by Tessa Dare
Series: Spindle Cove, #4.5
Publisher: Avon Impulse, December 2015
Pages: 144
Format: Paperback
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A snowstorm hath no fury like a spinster scorned!
Miss Elinora Browning grew up yearning for the handsome, intelligent lord-next-door…but he left England without a word of farewell. One night, inspired by a bit too much sherry, Nora poured out her heartbreak on paper. Lord Dashwood Missed Out was a love letter to every young lady who’d been overlooked by gentlemen—and an instant bestseller. Now she’s on her way to speak in Spindle Cove when snowy weather delays her coach. She’s forced to wait out the storm with the worst possible companion: Lord Dashwood himself.
And he finally seems to have noticed her.
George Travers, Lord Dashwood, has traveled the globe as a cartographer. He returned to England with the goal of marrying and creating an heir--only to find his reputation shredded by an audacious, vexingly attractive bluestocking and her poison pen. Lord Dashwood Missed Out, his arse. Since Nora Browning seems to believe he overlooked the passion of a lifetime, Dash challenges her to prove it.
She has one night.

Fueled by the rocketing emotions of a broken heart (and a few glasses of sherry), Miss Elinora Browning puts pen to paper to explain just why the dashing Lord Dashwood, childhood friend and longtime crush, missed out when he left her behind to explore the high seas. The last thing she expects, however, is to be face-to-face with him on her travels to Spindle Cove…or for the carriage to break down in the middle of their journey. Backed against a wall by Dashwood’s demands for clarification, her own heart, and the past, it’s up to Nora to show him just what he missed out on.

I’m not a huge fan of novellas. Normally there isn’t enough room to develop the characters, to create a believable story, a realistic world, to make me fall in love. Thankfully, Lord Dashwood Missed Out not only met but beat my expectations on each score.

Dare created their relationship so perfectly that I never questioned it. Dashwood and Nora’s conversations about their past, combined with their separate narrative flashbacks, built up their backstory and created the perfect environment for their story to continue.

While both Nora and Dashwood fit character stereotypes, there wasn’t much typical about them. While most of us have emotion-fueled letters to our exes in our diaries, most of us today don’t share them, let alone publish them. For a woman to take such a stand, especially against a member of the aristocracy, in that time period was something, and I adored Nora for it. Dashwood, in turn, was just as complex. I loved the surprising twists to his character, the romantic hidden behind the hard exterior.

Lord Dashwood Missed Out was clever, funny, and simply fun to read. I loved their story, and wished for it to be a full-length novel. I wanted more of the banter, the bickering, the romance, the friction that was constantly between Dashwood and Nora. By far, Lord Dashwood Missed Out is my favorite novella.

4 Stars

Posted September 25, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 22, 2016

Review | The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Review | The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani ChokshiThe Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Star-Touched Queen, #1
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin, April 2016
Pages: 342
Format: Hardcover
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Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

The Star-Touched Queen blew me away.

Really. It is quite that simple.

See, I knew Chokshi and I were soul sisters when I read her biography in the back of the book (I showed up to lit class too many times in pajamas, to my mom’s chagrin). But it was her masterful retelling of Persephone and Hades that grabbed me.

Maya, a daughter of the Raja, is cursed. Her horoscope, predicting a disastrous marriage, has cast her out for life, whispers and hated looks following her wherever she goes. Despite it, she studies, learns, and tries her best to ignore the whispers. But when her father demands she give her hand in marriage to avoid war, her entire world changes.

I didn’t feel much for Maya until Amar, the mysterious Raja of Akaran, sweeps her away. Once he did, she and I alike were stunned, trying to take it all in. She and I became one, looking for the answer to the oddly-empty halls, the strange but kind scribe, and to where Amar, her now husband, disappears to at odd hours.

But it wasn’t just our shared curiosity that brought me around on Maya. It was her determination, as the story progresses, to right wrongs and injustices, and her intrinsic desire to save. Soon, The Star-Touched Queen turned from a romance to a heroic journey. (Side note: best sidekick ever.)

I fell in love with this world, built from a mythology that I knew little about but quickly entranced me. I loved the tapestry, the different perception of Hades, and the grand battle between love and evil. It was enchanting, engaging, and kept me up late at night, hoping I could finish it before my eyes slid shut.

The biggest win for me was Chokshi’s decision to make The Star-Touched Queen a standalone. Instead of leaving me on a cliffhanger (and there were plenty of opportunities to), she wrapped it up beautifully. It’s a book that I can’t wait to read again.

4 Stars

Posted September 22, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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