Friday, January 31, 2014

Blood Redemption by Vicki Keire

The Basics:
Blood Redemption by Vicki Keire
Curiosity Quills
Book Three in the Angel's Edge series
Paranormal Romance
Published November 11, 2013
Source: Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

Why I picked up this book:

Had to know what happened in the end....

Deeper by Robin York

The Basics:
Deeper by Robin York
Bantam
Book One in the Caroline & West series
Romance, New Adult
Published January 28, 2014
Source: Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

Why I picked up this book:

I love romances that develop between friends. There's something much more realistic, to me, about this kind of love story than love at first sight tales.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

On My Mind (1)

On My Mind is a new feature here at To Each Their Own Reviews. Every other Thursday, I'm blogging my opinion about something book-related.

This week: Re-releases!

I'm sure this has been going on for ages, but I've become particularly conscious in the last year of the habit of re-releasing an author's early work with updated covers.

Now, I can understand if you move to a new publisher - or if you've self-published and are picked up by a publisher and the situation is such that you can put out your book with more marketing and support behind it. Then, it makes sense to re-release something. And I have no problems at all if it's something released recently - say in the last decade or so - and especially if it's clear that this isn't the first time in print.

Darkness in the Blood by Vicki Keire

The Basics:
Darkness in the Blood by Vicki Keire
Curiosity Quills
Book Two of the Angel's Edge series
Paranormal Romance
Source: Publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
Published November 11, 2013
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

Why I picked up this book:

Second in the series, I wanted to know what happened next!

Three Minutes to Happiness by Sally Clements

The Basics:
Three Minutes to Happiness by Sally Clements
Book 2 in the Logan Series
Romance
Published January 31, 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

Why I picked up this book:

I liked the cover, and the story sounded cute - couple meeting at speed dating and against all prior protests, finding love there.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gifts of the Blood by Vicki Keire

The Basics:
Gifts of the Blood by Vicki Keire
Curiosity Quills
Book One of the Angel's Edge series
Paranormal Romance
Published Nov 19, 2013
Source: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

Why I picked up this book:

Angels, paranormal romance, secrets in that paranormal vein... All this is right up my alley.

Tangled Hearts by Heather McCollum

The Basics:
Tangled Hearts by Heather McCollum
Entangled: Select
Book Two in the Highland Hearts series
Historical Romance
Publication Date
Source: Received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

Why I picked up this book:

A pirate-witch?  Yes, I think so.   

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

In the Works (Edition One)

In the Works is one of the new features I'll be posting up on a bi-weekly basis. I'll have a graphic made for it at some point - my graphics skills are weak at best so for the time being, we'll soldier on with just a title, okay?

This week's In the Works kicks off my read of Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Slow Seduction by Cecilia Tan

The Basics:
Slow Seduction by Cecilia Tan
Forever
Book Two in the Struck by Lightning series
Erotica
Published Jan 28, 2014
Amazon.ca Kobo.com


Why I picked up this book:

I liked that Karina, in the blurb, is actively going after what she wants - agency!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - January 25th edition



Stacking the Shelves is an awesome meme hosted by Tynga's Review.

Bloggers share the books they've received, bought, borrowed - and I collect more and more books for my 'must acquire' list.

Friday, January 24, 2014

When The Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jeffries

The Basics:
When The Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jeffries
Pocket Books
Book Two in the Duke's Men series
Romance
Published Jan 21, 2014
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

Why I picked up this book:

I recognized the author's name, and liked the idea of a meek wife lost only to be found much more confident later in life.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Basics:
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Harper Collins
Mainstream, Romance
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

I bought this one on sale.

Blurb:

A first-date dud, socially awkward and overly fond of quick-dry clothes, genetics professor Don Tillman has given up on love, until a chance encounter gives him an idea.

He will design a questionnaire—a sixteen-page, scientifically researched questionnaire—to uncover the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver. Rosie is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent, strangely beguiling, and looking for her biological father a search that a DNA expert might just be able to help her with.

The Rosie Project is a romantic comedy like no other. It is arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, and it will make you want to drink cocktails.

Why I picked up this book:

It seems to be everywhere, I read the inside cover and thought it sounded quirky and entertaining.

My thoughts:

Wow. Wow.  Normally I don't go in for heavily hyped books. I get excited and then am let down and why bother with that?

I'm so glad that ignored my normal policy.

The Rosie Project is a story about a quirky academic, Don, who lives by his routines and schedules and logic. He's very aware of how different he is from most people when it comes to participating in social conventions and developing relationships with other people. When he decides he'd like to find a wife, Don embarks on a journey that has repercussions well beyond those that he's planned on.    


Don is one of the most endearing characters in any book I've read in the last several years. He's so earnest, and so genuinely puzzled when his efforts aren't received as intended. I think if he only bumbled around, he might be less likeable. His desire for understanding, if not always improvement, makes him entirely loveable. His perspective and narration is so completely on point, so different from anything else I've read - thoroughly enjoyable! 

The plot line in this book is light, though it doesn't avoid heavy subjects. With some digging, you could easily discuss issues like love, fidelity, friendship, old age, memory, first impressions and stereotypes, ethics, morality and more. It's an easy book club choice and topical for anyone looking for a contemporary book for an essay (high school students, I'm looking at you). It's a quick read that will stay with you.

I want to gush about this book!

Bottom line:

Definitely recommended. I didn't intend to review this one, but it was so good, I had to toss a review up to share it with anyone who hasn't caved and picked it up yet!


5 stars
For fans of contemporary romance, quirky characters, issues with a candy coating

The Spider by Jennifer Estep

The Basics:
The Spider by Jennifer Estep
Pocket Books
Book Ten in the Elemental Assassin series
Urban fantasy
Published December 24, 2013
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

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

Blurb:


How did I end up in a career where I always have blood on my hands? Well, let me tell you a story about an assassin who thought she could do no wrong. . . . 

Ten years ago. A blistering hot August night. I remember like it was yesterday. The night I, Gin Blanco, truly became the Spider. Killing people is what I do best, especially now that I’ve honed my Ice and Stone magic. But back then, I had yet to learn one very important rule: arrogance will get you, every single time. 

This particular job seemed simple: murder a crooked building contractor with ties to ruthless Fire elemental Mab Monroe. My mentor, Fletcher Lane, had some misgivings, but I was certain that I had the situation under control . . . right up until I exposed my weaknesses to a merciless opponent who exploited every single one of them. There’s a reason assassins aren’t supposed to feel anything. Luckily, a knife to the heart can fix that problem, especially when I’m the one wielding it. . . .


Why I picked up this book:

Female assassin, urban fantasy, sounds good to me!

My thoughts:

I picked a great book for late entry into the series since this is basically a flashback!

The first chapter sets it all up - Gin's receiving roses in the present day that take her back ten years to a time when she made what she considers one of the biggest screw-ups of her life.

And because we *know* that she feels this way about it, there's a certain element of surprise lacking in the story. It's more like watching a train wreck slowly, slowly, slowly  inch towards occurring. Unfortunately, there's also a ton of spoiler-filled reviews out there, so be careful of those! Once start to read the book, you'll undoubtedly connect a few dots that Gin missed in the past, but there's no sense in ruining what little suspense there is!

I don't know Gin as a fully formed and functioning assassin, because I'm new to the series, so it doesn't bother me at all that she's not at peak form in this story. I kind of liked that this was my introduction to her as it felt like a good place to begin.

The downside of being new is that the little cameos by other characters really don't make much of an impression. Owen, who she's dating in the present, appears at an opportune moment and while I knew it for a cameo, I doubt I got the full effect or moment of joy from it. I'm sure there are other characters we were supposed to know and love, but... yeah.

There's a few great action sequences - really any time Gin is doing her thing, I enjoyed the book. She made a large number of mistakes - whether through impatience or sloppiness as she called it, or simply failing to think things through. But, it makes me optimistic about other entries in the series, when she's more seasoned. I'm also curious now about how Owen managed to break through to her well-protected heart - fans, is it a good romance?

Bottom line:

Because The Spider is a flashback and we know in advance that things are going to go horribly wrong, I didn't enjoy this as much as I might have otherwise. Knowing roughly how things would end up took a lot of tension out of what might have been a great story. That said, it was a good entry into the series for someone new to the books - I didn't have to catch up to some overarching storyline nor did I have to negotiate all kinds of current character relationships.

I'd say it's worth a shot if you're looking for new urban fantasy series, though you might prefer to go the traditional route and pick up book number one - Spider's Bite.

3.5 stars
For fans of the Elemental Assassin series, urban fantasy, kickass heroines, magic

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Reading Wishlist


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme from The Broke and the Bookish in which they post a book-related top ten every - you guessed it! - Tuesday.

This week the theme is Top Ten Things on My Reading Wishlist:

1. Clever heroines. I love smart women doing smart things, particularly when they're also smartasses. 


2. A really strong romance in a really awesome fantasy story. I haven't read one in a while - I want something along the lines of a historical romance but in a fantasy setting. If that makes sense? That amount of focus on the romance/courtship/seduction/whatever but give me something meaty alongside it - a mystery, political upheaval, revolution, SOMETHING! 

3. Alternative history books - anything grounded in the past but with a twist makes me happy. This is probably why steampunk appeals to me so much.

4. Stories involving books. Magic books, book clubs, libraries, book stores, publishing houses, book bloggers. I love books and people who love books. 

5. Female main characters in epic fantasy. I haven't read this genre in a while so if anyone has some good recommendations, please send them my way!

6. More, smart New Adult. I'm loving this genre - I think the theme of identity which seems so integral to the genre really appeals to me. I'll read anything I can get my hands on in this genre!

7. HEAs in non-romance books. I love happily ever afters - and while I don't ever need the "married with kids on the way" type ending that often exists in romance, I do prefer books with happy endings, bonus points for happy endings with couples. 

8. More books in which the romantic couple get together mid-way and stick it out together through the end of the book. Get their drama over in the first half and let us see how awesome they can work together!

9. Urban fantasy that doesn't involve detectives/cops/private investigators. 

10. More time for reading. There's not enough hours in the day....


I've already taken a look at a handful of top ten lists and there are some great ideas out there. What's at the top of your list?

Heart of Stone by Christine Warren

The Basics:
Heart of Stone by Christine Warren
St Martin's Paperbacks
First in the Gargoyles series
Romance
Published December 31, 2013
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

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

Blurb:
From bestselling author Christine Warren comes a thrilling new series about a young woman caught between a rock and a hard place—between gargoyles and demons…

Ella Harrow is trying to carve out a normal life for herself. Well, as normal as an art geek with psychic abilities can hope for. As museum docent and gift-shop manager, Ella is able to keep her distance from people—and her powers in check—while surrounding herself with the artifacts she loves. But how on earth is she supposed to act normal when a thousand-year-old statue on the museum’s terrace suddenly comes to life?

HEART OF STONE

Not your ordinary gargoyle, Kees has been asleep for eons, waiting for a portent of evil to wake him from his slumber. Kees isn’t a vision; he’s a bat-winged guardian created to protect the world from the seven demons of the Dark. Somehow, Ella triggered his reawakening. Maybe the demons have been unleashed? Maybe his heart is finally ready to be chiseled open? The fate of the world isn’t carved in stone… yet.

Why I picked up this book:

Gargoyle love? I was willing to give it a shot.

My thoughts:

This book starts with a bang - we're right in the action from the very start when Ella is attacked by one of the museum's patrons. And right away, I felt like this book was a little unpolished. There was something about it that felt a little bit rough, and unfocused.

I loved the concept of Guardians-as-grotesques, summoned to protect humankind from demons, locked as statues when their presence isn't needed. Competing secret societies - one pro-survival of humanity and one pro-demons - also appealed to me. There's also a seemingly non-complex magic system in place. Ella's got a natural talent for it, and describes it as mostly intent, though it seems there are also keywords necessary to trigger spells - or perhaps act as focal points for them. There did seem to be an energy pay-off for using magic, but having those consequences a bit more present in the story would have been a nice touch.

I didn't love-love either Ella or Kees - I think I preferred him slightly as he kind of bull-in-a-china-shopped around. His struggle with what he knew to be true and with what he was experiencing was reasonably entertaining. Ella had to work through some childhood issues, plus confronting the discovery that the weird power she kept trying to suppress was actually magic. (Sidenote: her incredulity when Kees explained this had me rolling my eyes. Yes, it was a weird power, but she's lived with it all her life and what else could it be, really?)

I liked the overarching story, and that we reach out to the woman who, I presume, will be the focus of the second book in the series. I'm looking forward to that one as I've actually been to Montreal and so infrequently read books set in places that I've been....

Otherwise, there's some unexpectedly graphic sex in this book - it was well written, I thought, and appropriate in context, but definitely more than I anticipated reading. I liked the explanation Kees gave for shifting into his human form - it was a nice touch and a happy way to avoid dancing around gargoyle-human sex which might not go over well with a mainstream audience.

Bottom line:

I can recommend this for fans of the sub-genre - paranormal romance, and particularly people burnt out on vampires and shifters. I'd probably align this with the angels and demons niche, because the gargoyle/guardian thing is fairly close (as long as we're not getting too Biblical!)

Felt like the beginning needed one more dose of polish, but overall, an entertaining story!

3.5 reaching ever so close to 4 stars
For fans of paranormal romance, gargoyles, something different from vampires and shifters, museums

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Silver Chain by Primula Bond

The Basics:
The Silver Chain by Primula Bond
Mischief Books
Book One of the Unbreakable Trilogy
Erotica, Romance
Published July 4, 2013
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

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

Blurb:

Bound by passion, she was powerless to resist.

One dark evening in London, photographer Serena Folkes is indulging her impulsive side with a night-time shoot. But someone is watching her – mysterious entrepreneur Gustav Levi. Serena doesn’t know it yet, but this handsome stranger will change her life forever…

Serena is fascinated by Gustav, the enigmatic owner of the Levi Gallery, and she soon feels an irresistible pull of attraction. The interest is mutual, and Gustav promises to launch Serena’s photographic career at his gallery, but only if Serena agrees to become his exclusive companion.


To mark their agreement, Gustav gives Serena a bracelet to wear at all times. Attached to it is a silver chain of which he is the keeper. With the chain Gustav controls Serena physically and symbolically – a sign that she is under his power.


As their passionate relationship intensifies, Gustav’s hold on the silver chain grows stronger. But will Gustav’s dark past tear them apart?


The Silver Chain is the first in the sexy, passionate and addictive Unbreakable Trilogy by Primula Bond. Perfect for fans of erotic romance.


Why I picked up this book:

I was intrigued by the silver chain. Such a simple thing...

My thoughts:

Surprisingly good.

Our heroine, Serena, is a photographer at the very beginning of her career. She's leaving behind a dark, dark childhood of neglect and casual abuse, to embrace the London experience. 

A chance encounter with the darkly dashing and older Gustav appeals to Serena's desire to embrace new experiences. So what if he's older, wealthy, more mature and experienced...? It also turns out that he's a patron of art and he takes her under his wing, contracting her first show with an unusual, sexual stipulation. 

Serena's an exceptionally well-written heroine - she's young and recognizes the limits of her experience, but as Gustav gets to know her, he peels back layers to reveal she's not quite as sheltered as the reader might expect. Her adventures in Venice, in particular, have helped shape (or reveal?) her own sexual longings and Gustav pushes her to explore these despite (or because of?) his own history. I loved that there was more to Serena than her innocence. She waffles back and forth between feeling powerful and confident to feeling unsure and defensive in a way that felt very authentic. Sure, she overreacts at times, and jumps to conclusions, but I think she does it in a way that's genuine rather than forced to create conflict. She's also direct, which is nice. There's not a lot of pussyfooting around, of bitten tongues and so forth - she knows exactly what she's done by agreeing to the contract, and she calls Gustav on whatever crap she thinks he might be slinging.

As for our hero, well.... I couldn't get a clear picture of Gustav in my mind. For one, the name Gustav felt too old-fashioned to me, like it belonged to a much older man - in his late fifties or sixties even.  I couldn't reconcile it with a man nearing forty, and that made it a bit more difficult for me to connect to him and his place in the story. Because he's also cast as Serena's mentor (master, patron, whichever role he seems to fill at the time), the sense of age and maturity is already heightened through the contrast. His vulnerability did appeal to me, but I still couldn't quite embrace the guy.

The sex is sexy, as it should be. There's quite a bit of kink - Gustav's need for control, the silver chain, punishment via spanking and whips, and then the running theme of voyeurism/exhibitionism. The photography, the use of a telescope, windows and doors, there's lots of opportunities to watch and be watched in this book, and it's heady stuff for a heroine who has never truly been seen. I also liked that while Gustav wants to set the pace and control the scenarios, he can be thrown off course through Serena's often small but significant efforts to resist. The first time they're together in his home, I was glad to see that he wasn't a master of self-control, as it were. It made him seem much more relatable.

The settings are gorgeously wild - each one is more *something* than the last. From richly appointed homes to the sublime cliffs and mountain sides that Serena and Gustav seem to favour, there's majesty all around these two. Artistic inspiration is easy to come by, and I think the fairy tale quality of their romance - certainly Rapunzel's name is thrown around a lot - was emphasized by these lush environments. 

I also really like how complete this story felt. Yes, there's an opening at the end to lead into a sequel, and the book is up front about being the start of a trilogy. I don't know that I really need to read more of Serena and Gustav's story. I think because I had that disconnect with Gustav, I probably wouldn't look for a sequel unless a good opportunity to pick it up arises. 

Bottom Line:

I definitely recommend this one. Despite my issues with the hero, I still really enjoyed it. I think Serena is a very appealing heroine - someone who is figuring herself out, but already has a sense of self. She's not just yearning for more, she's going out and working for it, living the life she wants to lead and not feeling guilty for it. I appreciated the novelty of it - there's no guilt here, just pleasure. That's a heady thing.

4.5 stars
For fans of erotica, punishment, voyeurism, older men, fresh starts

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - January 18, 2014 Edition



Stacking the Shelves is an awesome meme hosted by Tynga's Review.

Bloggers share the books they've received, bought, borrowed - and I end up adding a half dozen books to my 'must acquire' list. Seriously, I started a new list on Jan 1st and I'm up to 18 books, half of which have come from other StS posts!

I only bought one book this week (or two week period as I tend to StS bi-weekly) - it was on sale when I was there checking out the submission calls for Ellora's Cave:




I also received a stack of books for review - I indulged a little putting out requests for review copies this week, and I've gotten back:

The Shadow Princess by Mary Hart Perry - This one had me at London, 1888 . A Jack the Ripper investigation drawing together a cop and a princess sounded like a good romp.

Tangled Hearts by Heather McCollum - A witch, a highlander, pirates and two people forced to work together and attracted to each other despite themselves. Sounds fun to me!

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder - The cover of this reminds me of the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman (same artist, I'm going to guess). I generally like what Tor's putting out, and it's been a while since I've read something future-based.


Just One Night by Lauren Layne  - I read and reviewed two books by Lauren Layne last year and enjoyed them both. This one is a sequel and I expect good things!




What did you pick up this week?  Have you read any of the books I grabbed? What'd you think of them?  Is there something I should have picked up but didn't?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ruined by Tracy Wolff

The Basics:
Ruined by Tracy Wolff
Random House: Loveswept
First in the Ethan Frost series
New Adult, Romance
Published Jan 7, 2014
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

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

Blurb:

Fans of Fifty Shades of Grey, Bared to You, and Release Me will be hooked on Ruined, an electrifying journey of emotional and sexual discovery that pushes two damaged souls to their breaking point—and beyond.

He’s the last man Chloe Girard should love . . . but the first she ever could.

Ethan Frost is a visionary, a genius, every woman’s deepest, darkest fantasy—even mine. And, somehow, I am his.

He stole into my life like a dream. Turned my reality upside down and made my every desire come true—especially those I never knew I had. He demanded everything I had to give and gave me everything of himself in return.

But dreams don’t last forever, and ours is no exception. Because my nightmares are darker, and my wounds deeper, than I could ever reveal. And as much as Ethan wants to protect me, the secrets we we share will only tear us apart.

Why I picked up this book:

For some reason I keep giving domineering, alpha men another shot.

My thoughts:

Because of the blurb, comparing this book to Fifty Shades, I was expecting this to be erotica. It definitely had some pretty hot sex scenes, but overall, it was more romance.

So, I expected Ethan Frost to be a real alpha guy. I thought he'd order Chloe around in and out of the bedroom. That he'd get pissy when he didn't get his way, that he'd set ultimatums for her that would  put her in an untenable (for me) position.

Happily, I was wrong. Ethan is definitely a character who knows his own mind. As Chloe points out repeatedly, he wouldn't be a billionaire CEO if he wasn't quite capable of setting his own terms and getting his way and so forth. However, I found that the way he treated Chloe was not overbearing, and that he didn't behave like a pompous or arrogant jerk all the time. I quite liked him, overall.

Chloe, for her part, is presented as a smart young woman, and she seems relatively capable of holding her own. I liked that we had workplace evidence of her intelligence. She's definitely got issues, and does frequently emphasize her need to be her own person and not put her life in anyone else's control.  It could easily have just been blowing smoke to try to give this character more dimension, but I think it was put into action in the story as well, which gave Chloe real depth.

There's some inconsistency in the workplace in terms of the day to day detail we get about the other interns. The treatment of Chloe on her second day of work seems like it should be setting the bar for the two weeks that follow but there's no references to it beyond being persona non grata. I expect this to be picked up again in future books, but I was a little letdown that this thread wasn't teased out more across the last third or so of the book.

This is clearly the first of a series and there's a lot of issues that aren't resolved by the end of the book. In fact, I felt like nothing was really taken off the table - Ethan's got secrets, Chloe's shared only a few of hers and they're not really fully dealt with by the last page. The author hints at some things but Chloe, who is our narrator, hasn't hit on them yet. I'd like to read more - which is saying a lot because I quite regularly am disappointed by follow-ups in series of this nature. I must say that because I did like Ethan, I found the story much more engaging than similar works (I'm looking at you in particular This Man series).

Bottom line:

I liked this one significantly more than I have anything else in the same niche - I'm hoping lots of other people feel the same way because this is a shift in the market that I happily support. It doesn't have the same degree of kink that erotica would, but it's still quite sexy. Fingers crossed that the rest of the series lives up to the high standard set by first entry.

4 stars
For fans of erotic romance (romantica? is this really a term people are using?), alpha men who aren't jerks, contemporary romance

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Accidents & Incidents by Riley Graham

The Basics:
Accidents & Incidents by Riley Graham
Indie Inked
YA Romance
Published Nov 24, 2013
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

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

Blurb:

Sometimes finding love means taking the scenic route …

Living with her faultfinding mother has taught Leslie not to ask for much. Just watch your step, stay on the sidelines, and take what you can get. But she wants a mom who thanks her for cleaning the kitchen instead of yelling at her for missing a spot, and a boyfriend who does more than score her a seat at the popular table—someone who actually notices her sitting there.

So when Cain, the school heartbreaker, turns his Carolina blue eyes her way, Leslie can’t help but be tempted, even if he’s her boyfriend’s best friend. Things get even more complicated when Leslie strikes up unlikely friendships with Meredith, Cain’s girlfriend, and Dennis, a boy addicted to cigarettes and solitude. Despite his tough exterior, Dennis seems to understand Leslie in a way that no one ever has, and to need her as much as she needs him.

For the first time in her life, Leslie feels like she could belong. She’s just not sure where. Will she ring in the New Year with the right guy, or end up right back where she started—alone?

Why I picked up this book:

I had sympathy for Leslie after just the first paragraph of the blurb. I needed to read this with my fingers crossed that everything would turn out okay for her.

My thoughts:

I don't have a lot to say about this read, but I did think Accidents & Incidents is a really solid depiction of high school. The characters all have their own problems and agendas that seemed plausible to me.

One thing I really liked was that there was very little apology for anyone's behaviour or personality, but instead the book creates space for understanding. For example, as I learned about Leslie's mom, it was easier to understand why she talked to Leslie the way she did, even though I didn't really want to forgive her for it. There's some discussion in the book about whether understanding why people behave the way they do can help excuse that behaviour. It's an interesting question within the context of this story and I think ultimately it comes down to the individual.

I think Leslie's perspective is also fairly honest - she quite often makes assumptions about people and events based on what she sees without a lot of consideration for what circumstances may be beyond what she knows. She's human and she makes mistakes, but I think she's muddling through the best that she can, and I quite liked her. I thought that she did some things that were particularly teen-like - her crush on Cain, for example, and how that plays out.

I'm not sure this was a real standout YA book for me, but it was definitely a good read. I was hooked early on, eager to know how things would turn out for Leslie, and hoping for the best.

Bottom line:

This is a YA book that acknowledges without apology that life is messy and emotional. Sometimes there are happy endings and sometimes there are just endings. I liked that it creates space for understanding without attempting to redeem or forgive. It felt authentic to me, and I enjoyed reading it. I'd definitely recommend it to contemporary YA fans.

4 stars
For fans of contemporary YA, stories of loss, YA romance.

Salt by Danielle Ellison

The Basics:
Salt by Danielle Ellison
Entangled: Teen
YA, Romance, Paranormal
Published Jan 7, 2014
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

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

Blurb:

Penelope is a witch, part of a secret society protecting humans from demon attacks. But when she was a child, a demon killed her parents—and stole her magic. Since then, she’s been pretending to be something she’s not, using her sister’s magic to hide her own loss, to prevent being sent away.

When she’s finally given the chance to join the elite demon-hunting force, Penelope thinks that will finally change. With her sister’s help, she can squeeze through the tests and get access to the information she needs to find "her" demon. To take back what was stolen.

Then she meets Carter. He’s cute, smart, and she can borrow his magic, too. He knows her secret—but he also has one of his own. 

Suddenly, Penelope’s impossible quest becomes far more complicated. Because Carter’s not telling her everything, and it’s starting to seem like the demons have their own agenda…and they’re far too interested in her.

Why I picked up this book:

Witches and demons sounded like something I would enjoy.

My thoughts:

I was not wrong, I did enjoy this.

So Penelope's life is a complicated mess of lies - she's a witch who can't actually be a witch without a family member nearby until she meets Carter - a guy whose sitting on a bunch of his own secrets. Secret agendas abound as these two navigate the witchy world that Nons - that'd be me and you (I presume, unless you're part of the paranormal community) - know nothing about but rely on to stay safe from demons.

Yes, this book has a few cliches, but I felt like the sum of the book overcame them. I'm getting a wee bit tired of the mysterious guy who periodically pops up to save the day, and who may or may not be harbouring some serious lust/love for our dear heroine. At least the author is bold enough to evade the unnecessary love triangle - Penelope's best friend is a guy, but Ric is gay. Penelope's waffling over whether to tell Ric about who/what she really is was an interesting dilemma alongside his openness. I liked that Ric's sexuality was a non-issue, but then Penelope's witch status was a deep, dark secret.

Carter was an appropriately dreamy young man - he's got some snark, he's fully supportive, he's hot, he's powerful. He's got secrets. We know this type by now, inside and out. Carter doesn't disappoint any expectations, though he doesn't really break outside of the box at all either.

There's a lot of action in this book and Penelope more than holds her own. She's one tough lady, which is as it should be given that she's been working towards being an Enforcer since she realized it would help her towards the goal of finding 'her' demon. There's no flailing about for her - she's got moves and she uses them to repeatedly beat down the bad guys. 

Overall, I liked the flow of Salt. The pace was quick but not so hectic that I didn't have a chance to reflect on everything I was learning about the world and Penelope's unique position within it. There's a lot of good worldbuilding here.

Bottom line:

I liked Ellison's spin on the paranormal YA romance - witches and demons duking it out while humans remain clueless. There's some material left open that screams sequel: I will be watching for it.  This wasn't the most original entry in the genre, but it was a fair amount of fun, and that counts for a *lot* with me.  

I'd definitely recommend this to fans of the genre (and I'll suggest it to my family members who read this type of thing).

4 stars
For fans of YA, paranormal, witches and/or demons, young love

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Where You'll Find Me by Erin Fletcher

The Basics:
Where You'll Find Me by Erin Fletcher
Entangled: Teen
YA, Romance
Published Jan 7, 2014
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

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

Blurb:

When Hanley Helton discovers a boy living in her garage, she knows she should kick him out. But Nate is too charming to be dangerous. He just needs a place to get away, which Hanley understands. Her own escape methods—vodka, black hair dye, and pretending thepast didn't happen—are more traditional, but who is she to judge? Nate doesn't tell her why he's in her garage, and she doesn't tell him what she's running from. Soon, Hanley¹s trading her late-night escapades for all-night conversations and stolen kisses. But when Nate¹s recognized as the missing teen from the news, Hanley isn'tsure which is worse: that she's harboring a fugitive, or that she's in love with one.

Why I picked up this book:

Who doesn't want to fall in love with a hot guy living in their garage?

My thoughts:

I pick books up for the most superficial reasons, and then they turn out to be full of heartwrenching material. Up front, I read to escape. I want to enrich my life by living as many lives as possible via reading. I can fall in love for the first time over and over, rule kingdoms, learn how to cast magic, save the day, solve the murder, catch the bad guy - the sky's the limit when I read. So, as you can imagine, I have to make a very conscious decision to pick up books with heavier material in them.

This book managed to be both a fun teen read, but also about very real and heartbreaking issues. I won't spoil any of it, because part of the book's journey is working through the revelations as the characters are ready and/or forced to confront them. Certainly, there's a lot of grief and guilt and love in this book, and they're not fluffed off in favour of a romance.

Hanley's a typical teen in that she feels isolated by her own view of the world, her own experiences, her emotions. She's trying to avoid feeling anything too deep by launching herself into a world of partying and superficial friendships. When she finds Nate living in her garage, she's forced to confront some hard truths. I can only imagine what it would feel like to discover someone so like herself - a teenager from a reasonably well-off family - forced, for whatever reason, into homelessness in the middle of the winter. It strips away petty concerns, bringing Hanley's own pain that much closer to the surface.

Nate's another one of those mysterious good-looking guys with a secret. I like what this book does with his character - he's a source of emotional strength and turmoil for Hanley and I like that he's not in a position to save the day for her.

Bottom line:

I definitely recommend this one. I think that what Hanley and Nate are both going through is something worth pausing for and really considering. I'd love to sit and chat about this one with a group of friends (or fellow readers... future friends?)

4.5 stars
For fans of YA with depth, teen romance, stories of grief and loss.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard by Vanessa Kelly

The Basics:
Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard by Vanessa Kelly
Zebra
Book One of Renegade Royals
Historical Romance
Published Jan 7, 2014
Amazon.ca Kobo.com 

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

This review is my entry for the 2014 Key Words Reading Challenge hosted by Bookmark to Blog.

Blurb:
In this witty, sensual new series, Vanessa Kelly introduces the Renegade Royals, illegitimate sons of the Royal Princes who are finding their rightful places in society…

Accomplished spy Aden St. George prefers to stay away from the frivolous ton, especially after the way his mother was used by the Prince Regent. But his latest mission compels him to guard unconventional, vibrant Lady Vivien Shaw. Rescuing her from kidnappers was easy. Resisting her beauty is not. Duty demands he keep an eye on her—and naturally, his lips soon follow. For someone who views entanglements as a weakness, this is pure, delicious folly…

Though grateful for Aden’s help, Vivien has secrets she must keep hidden. Yet with her abductors still at large, she needs Aden’s protection almost as much as she craves his touch…

Why I picked up this book:

Historical romance, beautiful big dress, a spy who can't resist a beautiful woman with secrets? I'm in.

My thoughts:

This book was as much fun to read as I hoped it would be. Now, it wasn't without flaw, but they were relatively inconsequential to my reading experience. As it was, I had a really hard time putting the book down to take care of those pesky obligations like feeding myself and my children, sleeping and what not. 

Aden's a spy coming off a tragic end to his last mission. Determined to be as emotionless as possible to protect himself from making errors, he finds himself unable to resist the charms of the beautiful and lovely-on-the-inside Vivien. For her part, Vivien has reason not to put much faith in men, but Aden saves her life and seems so solid and worthy....

Of course things don't go smoothly for anyone, and that's half the fun of the ride. 

The only thing that tweaked me about this book was that other than a few spots of action, I never really got a good feel for Aden working as a competent spy. Instead, he believed Vivien's misdirection over and over, and I wanted to kick him in the shins for it. The reason provided was his love for her (and I imagine his own feelings about the match), and that was believable, but.... I guess I just wanted him a little cleverer.

For her part, Vivien is a very competent young woman. She's ballsy, taking on responsibilities that should never have been hers. She's also got a kind heart, and seems a little naive - the dangers that face her seem much more threatening over the long term than I think she grasped. 

There's a few interesting supporting cast members - Dominic who obviously should have the last romance in the series as the spymaster himself falls for a wonderful woman. I haven't read the novella prequel that contains his childhood story (or I assume it is), but I might pick it up to get myself up to speed. Griffin Steele, another royal by-blow, is also of interest and his story is the next in the series. He's got enough (criminal?) quirks that his story should be especially fun to read!

I hadn't read Vanessa Kelly before this, but I'm quite glad to have 'met' her. Her writing is in line with Julia Quinn or Victoria Alexander in terms of the quality of it, and I hope to discover that she's a reliable read as well. I can always use new reliable romance authors (as I churn too quickly through the backlists of my current favourites!)

Bottom line:

A fun Regency romp, I'd recommend this one for an afternoon spent lazing with a cup of tea. I hated putting it down, and will look for the sequel, Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom, coming in April.

4 stars
For fans of Regency romance, spy romance

Reforming the Playboy by Inara Scott

The Basics:
Reforming the Playboy by Inara Scott
Entangled Publishing : Indulgence
A Passion Creek Romance
Romance
Published December 17, 2013
Amazon.ca  Kobo.com

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

Blurb:

Five years ago, she left without a word…

Internationally-renowned artist Max Estin is as well known for his million dollar commissions as he is his partying and clubbing. But Max is hiding a secret—for almost a year he’s been completely blocked. Unable to paint. And to unlock his art, and save his career, he’s going to need the one woman he never wanted to see again.

Now, he’s determined to make her pay…

Kira Estin never told Max exactly why she left, or what secrets forced her to return home to Passion Creek so abruptly. So when a chance reunion turns to seduction, Kira is more than a little suspicious. She knows better than to trust Max, but can’t fight the fire that he lights in her body—or her heart. But when everyone is hiding a secret, can even the hottest passion survive?

Why I picked up this book:

I like the idea of two people who were once in love coming back together again. 

My thoughts:

Up front, I have to confess that I couldn't read this one linearly: So, Kira's aunt, who was her guardian, has passed away before the book starts, and she puts Kira into this awful position wherein some very revealing drawings of her, done by her former lover Max, are going to be made public if Max and Kira don't reconnect in person to exchange the images. This premise made me SO UNCOMFORTABLE. That Kira's aunt would first, create even the possibility of the images going public, and second, have the other option be handing the images over to Kira's ex.... The whole scenario made me cringe. I have no problem with the sharing of nude and/or erotic images, but to share them with other people when the subject of them is so strongly against it.  Nope.

I ended up skipping to near the end of the book, reading the climax and conclusion, skipping earlier again, and then starting over to read through until what I'd already read and them skim through the end.

Some people read books like this all the time, which is why I decided not to pass on writing a review. My discomfort was obviously an issue, and it coloured my reading of the book.  

Okay, so moving beyond the start, which I really didn't like.... The rest of the book is okay?  The threat of the pictures is always looming, particularly as Max holds onto his desire for revenge, and then his creative issues. I had a really hard time getting on board. 

I liked Kira's efforts to help Max and the way their past together was sort of superimposed on to the events of the present. This emphasized their emotional states and made the romance more plausible.

Overall, the story itself was adequate. There's a mystery around why Kira left Max in the first place, which worked for me only when factoring in these particular characters, with their personalities and backgrounds.

Bottom line:

If the premise doesn't put you off, then this is a solid romance. I suspect many people wouldn't fixate on this detail as strongly as I did (and my focus on it reminds me of the many reviews I've read where the reviewer emphasized things that I hardly noticed when I read the book myself). So this is one review where I'll underline a few extra times the "To Each Their Own" part of this blog's title.

3 stars
For fans of contemporary romance, Inara Scott.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wanted by J. Kenner

The Basics:

Wanted by J. Kenner
Random House Publishing Group - Bantam Dell
Erotica
Published Jan 7, 2014
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

Blurb:

For fans of Fifty Shades of Grey, Bared to You, and Release Me comes an all-new erotic series of three enigmatic and powerful men, and the striking women who can bring them to their knees.

He is everything I crave, all I desperately want—and he is everything I can’t have.

Evan Black embodies my every fantasy. He is brilliant, fierce, and devastatingly handsome. But he is also headstrong, dangerous, and burdened with secrets.

My family warned me to stay away, that I could never handle Evan’s dark dealings or scarred past. Maybe I should have listened. Maybe I should have run. But our desire is undeniable, and some temptations you just can’t fight.

And from the moment we touch—the passion between us consuming us both—I know that I will never be the same.

Wanted is an erotic romance intended for mature audiences.

What worked for me:

I loved this sexy novel about a woman who wants to let loose and fly and the man who understands her.

So I've written before about being at my limit for overly controlling alpha men - Evan's definitely in the alpha man camp. And he made me realize that perhaps I'm not really over alpha men so much as how they tend to be written. Because Evan was fantastic. He completely understood Angelina's need to let go of herself, to break through all the walls she forced around her true self, and simply fly on pure emotion and adrenaline.
This forms a logical basis for a relationship, one in which Evan controls the scene with the explicit goal of sending  Angelina to ever increasing heights. There seemed, to me, to be a more equal relationship between these two than I've seen in some other novels with a dominant male. Although yes, Evan did set the terms of most of their sexual encounters,  Angelina's motivation to participate, above and beyond her desire for Evan, seemed more defining in many ways. I liked that there was none of this "I take pleasure in your pain, and you'll take pleasure in pleasing me through your pain" stuff. Angelina may have enjoyed submitting, but Evan taking control was about more than that, and that is where this book really succeeded (for me).

There's also Cole and Tyler, Evan's partners and best friends, whose stories I look forward to reading. They have a role in the story that happens around the developing relationship, and I'm curious to learn more about what's really happening in their enterprises.

What didn't work for me:

Not a lot. I would have liked more insight into the dealings of the Knights, to fully flesh that aspect out - but I understand that something has to be held back for Cole and Tyler's stories.

Bottom line:

I lost sleep to finishing this book, which is the highest compliment I can pay. I was swept up in Angelina's attempts to find herself, I was touched by the way Evan provided her with a safety net so she could soar, and I will look forward to the next book in the series!

Check this one out!

5 stars
For fans of erotica and alpha men who aren't unbearable