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Pucked by Helena Hunting

Purchase Pucked here

5/5*

Pub May 2015

I owe a huge thanks to my friend C, who recommended it to me when we were recently talking books because I have never laughed so damn hard while reading a romance. I would be reading in bed on my phone and then I start to snicker, and would have to cover my mouth so I wouldn’t wake my husband up.

Pucked is the first book in the series by the same name. It stars Violet, the stepsister of the newest member of the Chicago NHL team and Alex, the captain of said team. Sparks fly, then they get to kissing, and when they hang out all bets are off–and all the clothes, too.

This is a fast, hilarious read with outstanding sex. But it’s not without its drama–like when Alex says they’re “just friends” at the advice of his agent on television after pestering Violet to move in with him just hours before and dating for several months by that point.

I liked pretty much everything about this unreservedly, minus a few misogynistic statements Violet makes about other women (puck bunnies, prostitutes) and one “joke”(?) about being transgender, which I’m going to chalk up to 2015. Not that it was okay then, but rather than our public sentiments have changed.

One regard in which Hunting was way ahead of the curve is the emphasis on consent. Part of what wins Violet and the reader over is Alex’s checking in with her throughout the process of sex, ensuring that he’s not doing more than she wants and that she’s enjoying herself.

If you want to mix hilarity and smokin’ sex, get your copy today.

Book Review–The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Lee

Buy The Epic Crush of Genie Lo here

5/5*

Pub Aug 2017

 

I’m very late to the party on this book, and I wish I’d read it before now. I *need* a sequel, STAT.

TLDR–LOVED this book. Full on considering re-reading it right away loved it. Couldn’t go to sleep until I finished it so I didn’t get much sleep and now have a book hangover loved it. Put down writing my book to finish this one loved it. Like, really, really, really loved it.

Genie Lo is a Chinese American teen in the Bay Area of California (near San Francisco) whose biggest concern is getting into an Ivy League college…until Quentin shows up to tell her he’s the Monkey King and she’s his staff, reincarnated as a human. She thinks he’s out of his mind, and rightfully tells him to go away. Until a demon shows up, and all of this Monkey and Staff thing starts to sound a little more plausible.

The story uses Chinese mythology to fuel the magic, and it’s nice to see a break from Western mythos. To be fair, though, for me Chinese mythology is the next most familiar thing after Western because of living in Singapore for seven years and participating in Chinese culture.

Genie is a great, relateable character. She really just wants to live her life, be a good friend to her bff Yunie, and get into a good college. She’s frustrated by her Chosen One-ness, especially when it starts to interfere with her schooling, her friends, and her family. For adult readers, it will feel familiar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, down to the snappy dialogue.

Maybe he thought I’d stay quiet in front of my mother for the sake of decorum. That a boy’s good name was more important than a girl’s safety. If so, he was dead effin’ wrong.

and

“My true name,” he said, “…is SUN WUKONG.”

A cold wind passed through the open window, rustling my loose papers like tumbleweed.

“I have no idea who that is,” I said.

Quentin was still trying to cement his “look at me being serious” face. It took him a few seconds to realize I wasn’t flipping out over whoever he was.

“The Sun Wukong,” he said scooping the air with his fingers. “Sun Wukong the Monkey King.”

“I said, I don’t know who that is.”

His jaw dropped. Thankfully his teeth were still normal-size.

“You’re Chinese and you don’t know me?” he sputtered. “That’s like an American child not knowing who Batman is!”

“You’re Chinese Batman?”

“No! I’m stronger than Batman, and more important, like–like. Tian na, how do you not know who I am?”

I didn’t know why he expected me to recognize him. He couldn’t have been a big-time actor or singer from overseas. I never followed mainland pop culture, but a lot of other people at school did; word would have gotten around if we had a celebrity in our midst.

Plus that was a weird stage name. Monkey King? Was that what passed for sexy among the kids these days?

Quentin, for his part, is a great foil. He imparts knowledge, but not in a boring exposition-y way. But he’s also fallible, and a bit of a douche at times. I like that he’s not perfect, that he sometimes (maybe more than sometimes) complicates Genie’s life like crazy.

There are two gods hanging around as secondary characters. One is Guanyin, who achieved enlightenment, but turned her back on it to help humanity. The other is Erlang Shen, the nephew of the king of the gods, The Jade Emperor. They are often..helpful, but not in the ways that Genie hopes. For one, neither is going to directly interfere to help catch the ~100 or so demons running around the Bay Area.

The non-celestial-being secondary characters are well fleshed out–we understand, more or less, why her parents broke up and what sort of relationship they have now, what Genie’s BFF’s hopes and dreams are and how their friendship works.

The pacing is solid, the setting is well described (I do live in the Bay Area, so take that one with a grain of salt), and I think the book has broad appeal. The prose sparkles.

Seriously. Go read it. You won’t regret it.

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 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.