Review–Cash by Cassia Leo

Cash by Cassia Leo

3/5*

Published November 2018

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cash is a billionaire playboy in danger of being pushed out of his family business if he doesn’t stop womanizing and partying. He’s been in the tabloids so much that they consider him bad for business. Kara is a blackjack dealer desperate to make enough money to cover her father’s gambling debt and healthcare bills. In a desperate move to keep his job at the company, Cash offers Kara a million dollars to pretend to be his fiancee at a board retreat in three weeks.

Told in present tense, alternating first person point of view, the book unfolds over the course about a month. Both characters are fairly well developed, each with a complex back story. Perhaps too complex because at times things are a little muddled–there’s a scene where Cash does something that should’ve been splashed across the media per earlier in the book and it doesn’t happen. Cash also has a dream of clean energy in Africa, but that’s a fairly flimsy secondary plot line.

The sex is scorching.

Things that I found problematic were the occasional racial signifier like “slanted eyes,” and that there are several instances where the couple semi-breaks up for a good reason. In fact, the reasons are often so good it’s hard to swallow them getting back together over and over. That’s the big drag on my star rating. I’m not actually sure that they belong together. And if I can’t root for the couple in a romance, then I have a big problem.

ARC review-The Fearless King by Katee Robert


The Fearless King by Katee Robert4.5/5*

Publication date–Feb 5, 2019

I received The Fearless King from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to start my new year’s reading off with a bang, and after two sweet romances without any sex, I was ready for some scorching romance. The Fearless King did not disappoint.

The Fearless King is the second book in the King series by Robert. I had not read book one prior to reading this book, but The Fearless King works as a stand-alone. Having finished it, I did go back and buy book one because I want to read the story that informed this one.

Journey King is the COO of Kingdom Corp, a family business. Her mother was forced out of town (this is the story in book 1) but she and her older brother have taken over the company. Things are going along well…until her father returns to town, hell bent on taking over the company. As it turns out, their father’s family had given their mother the cash to start Kingdom Corp and are now the main shareholders.

But it’s so much worse than her father coming back into her life at work. He abused her and her siblings as children, and he’s playing the same psychological games, and Journey feels like everything is slipping away. So she turns to the only person who might be able help.

Frank Evans is not Journey’s friend. He helped run her mother out of town. He won’t sell her real estate she wants. He’s ruthless, and trusting him with her secrets and asking him to help her oust her father is possibly a step too far, but he’s her last resort.

Frank knows that he shouldn’t care about Journey. Shouldn’t want her. But, against his better judgment, he does. When he agrees to help her, his condition is that they pretend to have a relationship so he can get closer to her family and her company. Things turn real very quickly when her father makes it clear that he’ll take the company–at any price.

I read the first two chapters, turned to my spouse, and said “now that’s how you start a book!” I was sucked in until the next thing I knew, it was four a.m.!

Journey is well written, both in her moments of strength and her moments of terror. She is vulnerable, sassy, strong, and even when her demons are riding her, she is compelling. Frank is more of an enigma, but his jagged pieces fit Journey’s. You see the struggle within him to From the moment he summons her to his office in the nightclub to the first bout of oral sex to the incredibly suspenseful ending, you don’t just want them to be together, you need it.

The sex is scorching. Incredibly satisfying, captures the mood and tone perfectly, as well as capturing the personalities involved.

I liked that it is an interracial romance, and that race was actually discussed. People harass Journey over her relationship with Frank on a number of levels, but race is absolutely one of them. For his part, Frank is also pragmatic and realistic about his skin color and the impact that has on him being one of the richest developers in Houston. The racial dynamics were also well done–there’s no fetishizing skin tone, but you don’t forget it either.

My only real complaint is that the fake relationship (one of my top three favorite tropes) doesn’t really go anywhere. It never really gains enough steam, or has enough emphasis on it in the way I usually see the trope done. I would call this erotic romance, or maybe suspenseful romance, but I wouldn’t immediately think of it and go “oh, yeah, a fake relationship book.” But this is a minor complaint–for all that it was a big part of why I chose it on Netgalley, I was happy enough with the story that I don’t care that the fake relationship was such a minor component.

4.5 stars, which I’ll round to 5 when reviewing. Pre-order it here.

Best Books I Read in 2018

According to Goodreads, I’ve read one hundred fifty books this year.

Having read so many books, which were the best ones? The ones that stuck with me, that I want to grab you and tell you to read this book now. Here are ten, in no particular order.

Buy Hamilton’s Battalion here

This is an anthology of three novellas perfect for the Hamilton fan in your family. All the stories touch upon Alexander Hamilton, but they are not about him. Rather he serves to act as the connecting thread through three very different stories.

My favorite is Promised Land by Courtney Milan. It’s the story of Rachel, a woman serving in the continental army as a man and Nathan, who she tackles, thinking him a British spy. Reasonable, given his sympathies when they last spoke. Awkward, given that her husband thought she’d died of yellow fever. Rachel and Nathan are both great characters, and they have issues to work through (even putting aside the failed her own death thing) that make the story compelling.

Buy A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole here

A Princess in Theory is the first book in the Reluctant Royals series by Alyssa Cole. I couldn’t put this book down. Ledi and Thabiso’s story is part modern fairy-tale (a prince in disguise) part secret identity exposed (prince? Or fuckboy?) and a hell of a lot of fun. I love that the heroine is a scientist and completely dismissive of Prince Thabiso, who has never been treated that way before. When an unknown disease hits Thesolo, Thabiso convinces Ledi to go there with him and help find a cure. Oh, and they’ll need to pretend their childhood engagement is back on. (I love the fake relationship trope)

Book 2 in the series was great, and I’ve pre-ordered book 3 (April 2019) and the novella that will act as book 2.5 (Jan 2019).

Buy Rosemary and Rue here

So I’m actually going to use this space to encourage you to read the entire October Daye series–I devoured the first twelve books in only a few weeks. I will say that books 1 and 2 are good but a little shaky, but once they take off in book 3 they only get better and better. October Daye is a half-human half-fae in this urban fantasy series.

It opens with her on a case as a private detective–but instead of recovering the missing people, she is turned into a fish for fourteen years. That loss of time informs the rest of the series because her partner moved on, and her daughter wants nothing to do with her. She turns her back on the world of Fae until she’s dragged back into that life by a binding spell. The secondary characters are compelling, Toby is a flawed but awesome heroine who anchors the series. I love Seanan McGuire’s books almost without exception and I’m already dying for book thirteen.

Buy Puddin here

If you’ve read or seen Dumplin’ (and you SHOULD), you’ll want to read the sequel, Puddin’. If you haven’t, Puddin’ works as a solo book, but Dumplin’ is so good, I encourage you to read both. Puddin’ is the story of Millie Michalchuck, who has gone to fat camp every year, but is determined to go to a journalism camp this year instead. Callie Reyes is in line to be the next dance captain until she leads an act of vandalism, and Millie identifies her. Callie has to work with Millie at her uncle’s gym as her punishment. An unlikely friendship forms…until Callie finds out that Millie is the one who turned her in. Millie has to battle her mother and the world’s expectations of fat girls to follow her dreams. Julie Murphy is great.

Buy Me Talk Pretty One Day here

This is actually a recommendation for the audiobook rather than the physical book. While reading the essays can give you a giggle, it’s hearing David Sedaris’s voice with all of its inflections as he reads his work that will make you die of laughter. I recommend all of his books, and just finished Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls on audiobook about a month ago.

Buy Heretics Anonymous here

When an atheist is enrolled at a Catholic school, how will he ever make friends or fit in? How will he survive any day without his eyes rolling out of his head? This is a great YA novel about faith, falling in love, and growing up. Definitely worth a re-read.

Buy Big Fat Bitch here

I gave a rave review to Big Fat Bitch here, but my fast review is that this slow burn romance is a great take on Beauty and the Beast. I love that the “beast” in this book is the woman. But it’s so much more than a romance. If you like deeply complex narratives, love stories, and books making you cry, pick this one up.

Buy Media Darling here

I reviewed Media Darling here, but my fast pitch is that this f/f romance between a movie star and a media writer is possibly my favorite romance of the past year, period. Both Emerson and Haley are well written, three-dimensional characters. They make mistakes, make love, and while it’s hard fought, they get their happy ending.

Buy The Autumn Bride here

I got this book from The Ripped Bodice (indie romance bookstore–buy from them!) as a “blind date with a book.” I haven’t read much Regency era romance, but it was my blind date, so I decided to give it a chance. Abigail and her three closest friends are practically starving. So Abby does something she’d never imagined–she goes over some rooftops and breaks into a house, desperate to find something to buy–or eat. Instead she finds Lady Beatrice, an old woman being abused by her servants. Abigail and her friends save Lady Beatrice from her servants and are promptly adopted as her “nieces”–the Chance sisters.

When her real nephew, Max, returns from abroad, he’s certain that the girls are gold diggers at best. Sparks fly between him and Abigail, and the rest is history. Each of the four books (Autumn Bride, Winter Bride, Spring Bride, and Summer books) works as a stand alone, but they’re better read back to back as a series.

Buy Nate Expectations here

Nate Expectations is actually the third book in Tim Federles’ series about Nate, a small town boy who becomes a Broadway Actor. In this book, Nate’s show closes down and he has to go back to small town life. When he’s assigned a project on the book Great Expectations, he decides to put on a musical. The book centers around this. There’s great secondary characters and Nate continues on his journey to figuring out who he really is.

You don’t need to read the first two books in the series, but if this book appeals to you, read them first.

 

What was/were your favorite book/s of 2018

 

 

 

ARC–Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant

Purchase The Kingdom of Needle and Bone

5/5*

Publication date Dec 31, 2018

 

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t know how Mira Grant does it, but she’s created another horror novella that is just as gripping as her other work. I enjoy her work as Mira Grant, and I enjoy her work as Seanan McGuire. The Mira Grant titles are all horror, and I’m not generally a person who enjoys that genre.

Lisa Morris isn’t feeling so good. But she’s at a Florida theme park, and she wants to enjoy her last day there. So she doesn’t tell her parents, and when they take her, she unintentionally creates a cascading infection of what will eventually be known as Morris disease–a highly contagious virus that mimics measles, but that kills many and leaves those who have survived it as immunocompromised for the rest of their lives. Vaccines will no longer work on them.

The story plays out against the all too real fights over vaccination and herd immunity. It also throws in the question of bodily autonomy–where’s the line between the public good and being forced to do something (abortion being the obvious connection–can and should the state force a woman to carry a pregnancy she doesn’t want to term).

It’s a well written story with a complex main character–Isabella, a pediatrician and Lisa’s aunt–who we’re never quite sure of. She’s a gray character. The length of the story means that side characters aren’t super developed, but enough is there that they’re interesting.

I can’t give away too much. It’s a fast read, and if you like horror, or books that just f* with your head, then Mira Grant is always a good choice.

ARC review–The Chance of a Lifetime by Kendra Smith

The Chance of a Lifetime by Kendra Smith

2/5*

Published 2018

 

I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange of an honest review.

I didn’t like this book. If I had picked it up on my own, I would not have finished it.

The protagonist is Katie, a Brit who is dragged to Australia by her husband’s career and debt. She is miserable in her new country, but just as she’s starting to make her peace with Australia, she learns that her husband has been unfaithful.

As a former expatriate myself–I lived in Singapore from 2010-2017–some of Katie’s angst rang true. The longing for home and the way that it’s easy to build up home as a paradise when the truth is that our problems follow us no matter where we go rings very true. The struggle to make new friends. Trying to redefine yourself in your new country. The way it feels to go back “home” and find out everyone has moved on and changed without you. All of that is something any expat will relate to. It is the *only* reason I gave the book two stars instead of one.

Katie is not a pleasant person. I did not root for her. I didn’t care that her husband cheated on her, especially when she made out with another guy before they left England, and they almost hook up again when he and his wife come visit them in Australia. She loves a grudge. She’s whiny, far past the point where a writer could demonstrate that she was sad and missing England and struggling to cope with life in a new country.

Moreover, her husband isn’t someone I’d root for either. He faked Katie’s signature on the immigration paperwork, saying they were moving there permanently instead of the one to two years he’d told Katie it would be. He cheat on her. He effectively disappears for a huge chunk of the book.

Side characters are sketches rather than developed characters. I couldn’t even keep track of which kid was which with the exception of the new baby.

Plenty of the book played out in incredibly predictable ways. I don’t mind tropes, but there’s a difference between executing a trope in an original/interesting way and just being predictable.

I finished the book because I felt obligated to do so as I’d received the arc in exchange for the ARC. I would not have done so otherwise. In my opinion, this one is well worth a pass.

ARC review–A Season to Dance

Buy A Season to Dance here

4/5*

Publication date–Dec 2018

 

I received this book as an Advanced Reader Copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

After Olivia’s mom dies, Olivia must return to her hometown. The prima ballerina is recovering from a torn Achilles heel, and might never dance again, which is ironic because her mother leaves Olivia her dance studio. Olivia decides to stay on through the annual recital, and then plans to sell the studio after.

Zach returned home to keep an eye on his father. After years on the Atlanta PD, he’s become the chief of police in his hometown. When Olivia returns to deal with her mother’s estate, it’s like a knife to his heart.

Olivia and Zach were in love in high school, but Olivia left to pursue her dream of becoming a professional ballerina, which broke Zach’s heart. He’s still in love with her. And she has never gotten over him.

Watching the two of them long for each other, but pulling apart so that they can guard their hearts is a great read. You root for them from the beginning, and when they finally come together, it’s very satisfying.

There is a subplot about vandalism, and Olivia is targeted. Unfortunately, for the reader it’s beyond obvious who is behind the attacks on Olivia’s dance school.

The sex is well done.

I recommend this book if you like the tropes of rekindling love with an ex or hometown romance.

ARC review–Cocksure by Shiloh Walker

There’s only eight days left in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and although I’ve already “won”–written 50k words–I want to finish strong. I completed the long novella/short novel I’d started prior to NaNo, and I’m almost done with a story I was a few k words to it. Neither technically follows the rules of NaNo as I didn’t start fresh with a new work. But nonetheless, I’ve still accomplished so much, and that was the point of doing NaNo for me–How much can I get done when I limit my other distractions?

But soon I’ll be back to a more regular posting schedule.

Buy Cocksure Here

4/5*

Published November 2018

 

I received a free ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cocksure is a romance between a movie star and his personal assistant that features a fake relationship that turns real.

Luke is a movie star with a secret he’s ashamed of in his past. When he’s caught in a threesome, the media goes wild. But he doesn’t have time to deal with the media frenzy because his mom gets sick. He asks his personal assistant, Sabrina, to come home with him and help ensure he can be with his mom. After his mom is in the hospital, Luke blurts out that he’s engaged to Sabrina. Perhaps because lately he can’t stop thinking about her.

Sabrina has been Luke’s P.A. for five years, and been in love with him for most of it. She’s not amused when Luke tells her what he’s done and begs her to play along. Things get confusing when Luke kisses her, and then more. Soon it’s hard to tell where truth ends and fiction begins.

Told in alternation first person points of view, this is a well crafted story. You get to see into both characters’ heads, and understand their motivations. Readers will figure out Luke’s secret, but only through small drips and drabs, before he tells Sabrina, but I think that’s part of what works. Walker gives us just enough to understand where the characters are coming from.

Both characters are flawed, although Luke much more so. Sabrina can–at times–be a bit of a Mary Sue, but is still interesting enough to carry her half of the story.

Sabrina is a plus sized woman (at one point she says she fluctuates between a 14 and a 16) and at times she has trouble believing that Luke would want her, but she does not magically lose weight. He appreciates and adores her curves. I like that the book does feature a heroine who looks more like the average woman (who is a size 14), and that she doesn’t have that magical slimming that too often has happened in the past.

This is the first of a series, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next book. The series is called the Cochrans of Cocker County, and since Luke has a number of siblings, the series has quite a bit of potential.