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Stormy Nights, by Jules Jones and Stormy Duffy

17 May

There really is no rhyme or reason why books languish in my physical and digital TBR Cordilleras of Doom.

Case in point: it had been a long while since I read anything by Jules Jones, though what I have read, I have liked, and there are a number of her works in my digital TBR pile.

So why I haven’t read more of her stuff? (I got nothing¹)

At any rate, back in August 2017, Ms Jones very kindly sent me a copy of this anthology for review. And while my reading has been iffy at best for a long time now, I read all nine stories in the book in one sitting just a few days after that.

Sadly, then the “can’t write to save my life” curse struck, fueled by current events, and here we are now, nine months later. ::guilty wince::

Warning: there is explicit sex and some light kink in all of these. If that’s not your thing, stop here. None of these are genre romance stories, with HEA/HFN, though all are full of hope and joy. Also, Jules Jones and Storm Duffy are two writing facets of the same author.

Stormy Nights, by Jules Jones and Stormy Duffy

This is a collection of nine short stories of varying lengths and genres; some are very romantic, some are more short erotic vignettes than stories, and one is an incredibly poignant fantasy with very strong romantic elements. There are merpeople, and fae, and just plain contemporaries.

In competition for the shortest blurb EVER:

Sex and love, lies and truth, shades in between. Happy endings and might-have-beens. Nine tales of these things between men.

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Someone to Love, by Mary Balogh

16 May

This is my (very) late entry in SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for February. As with my January read, I actually managed to read the book on time¹ but I just haven’t been able to string more than a couple of sentences together for months.

Ah well, c’est la vie, non?

Warning: otherization/fetishization of the one Asian character in the novel.

Someone to Love, by Mary Balogh

This is the first novel in a series about the family of the late Earl of Riverdale, and how his death–and the secrets he kept until then–have affected their fortunes and their very lives. I found the premise very intriguing and read the book quickly and with general enjoyment.

While we are introduced to a rather large cast of characters (I had to check the family tree a couple of times during the first few chapters), as the author is setting up a series of books, the story moves along smoothly, at a sustained pace, to the last chapter or so.

But more on that below. Here, have a blurb:
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“Ready to Roll” by Suzanne Brockmann

19 Apr

I first got this novella sometime in early 2017, but I was lucky enough to attend RWA National Conference in Orlando that year in July, and I snagged a signed copy at the literacy signing.

Then it languished in the TBR room¹ until January this year, when I read it for SLWendy’s TBR Challenge.

Sadly, what with one thing and another, the review was not written on time :head hanging in shame:

Ah well, in the ‘better late than never’ category, here you have it.

Warning: one of the characters lives in an abusive situation, another (minor) character is the victim of spousal abuse; there’s homophobia and general bigotry. Oh, and some cursing.

“Ready to Roll” by Suzanne Brockmann

This novella is the third in a trilogy of short-ish stories set in the Troubleshooters’ world, centered on SEAL Izzy Zanella. The three stories take place within a year of the events in Breaking the Rules, which was the last novel in the series for half a dozen years,² until Some Kind of Hero came out.

Here’s the blurb from my print copy (yes, the repetitions too):
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Silver Master, by Jayne Castle

19 Jan

While I was still indulging in the great Harmony series listening glom, back in August (ye, gods, it’s been almost five full months!), I listened to the next few titles in the series, though I agree with Wendy the SuperLibrarian: there is danger in glomming. Smaller irritants can become major annoyances, and things one does not notice while breezing through one novel, can stop one dead after seeing them repeated in four or five.

Warning: evil is explicitly equated with mental illness–for both villains.

Oh, and there is sex on the page.

Silver Master, by Jayne Castle

This is the four novel in the Harmony series. It’s also the first one in the series that clearly links this world back to the Arcane Society universe, of which I am most definitely Not. A. Fan. Oh well.

We are back in Cadence, with two new characters and new dust bunnies. Here’s the blurb (from the Fantastic Fiction website):
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“Unlocked” by Courtney Milan

28 Aug

UnlockedBona, a fellow TBR Challenge participant, posted a review of this story over a year ago, on her blog. As I mentioned here, her review led me to–finally–reading this story.

Which in turn, leads me to a confession: I do have a few Courtney Milan stories in the digital TBR.

But, I hear you say, aren’t you the one singing Ms Milan’s praises and telling us how wonderful her writing is?

Yes, yes, I am one of the many who do these things–because pretty much everything I’ve read of hers, I’ve liked very well indeed.

However, well before I fell into the dreaded reading slump from hell, almost two years ago (dear dog, shoot me now!), I already had accumulated scarily ginormous TBR mountain ranges (both print and digital), so really, it’s not surprising some of Ms Milan’s stories had gotten lost in the shuffle there.

Be warned: there are people in love and sexytimes in here, so if you don’t care to read about either, you may want to stop reading here. You may also keep in mind that this story deals with the aftermath of bullying.

“Unlocked” by Courtney Milan

This story is set in the same ‘universe’ as the Turner brothers stories, and it’s about a fairly minor secondary character introduced in Unveiled, the first novel.

While this story is definitely shorter than, say, Proof of Seduction or Trade Me, it didn’t read like a novella. By which I mean, despite the lower word count, the pacing and structure of the story allowed me to believe in the characters’ feelings about themselves and each other, and how these changed over time.

Here, have a blurb:

A perpetual wallflower destined for spinsterhood, Lady Elaine Warren is resigned to her position in society. So when Evan Carlton, the powerful, popular Earl of Westfeld, singles her out upon his return to England, she knows what it means. Her former tormenter is up to his old tricks, and she’s his intended victim. This time, though, the earl is going to discover that wallflowers can fight back.

Evan has come to regret his cruel, callow past. At first, he only wants to make up for past wrongs. But when Elaine throws his initial apology in his face, he finds himself wanting more. And this time, what torments him might be love…

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“River of Teeth” by Sarah Gailey

19 Aug

Update: edited on May 24 2018 to change pronouns to those preferred by the author.

Last year I became aware of Sarah Gailey on twitter (see here and here). Though I haven’t shared them here, I have very much enjoyed their pieces on Tor.com (she wrote a whole series on The Women of Harry Potter, starting with Hermione, and then there’s “In Defense of Villaineses”, and “Do Better: Sexual Violence in SFF”).

Anyway, I finally snagged a copy of “River of Teeth,”  their debut novella, based on something that really almost happened. (Check out The Atavist piece that was the inspiration, or this Wired article for a summary.)

Beware: there’s violence, gore and death on the page. I wouldn’t say it’s lavishly described, but it’s graphic. Oh, and this is not a romance.

“River of Teeth” by Sarah Gailey

This is an alternative history set in the 1890s. In this timeline, H.R.23621 (aka, the Hippo Bill) actually passed, so that hippopotamuses were imported into the US to breed–for meat–in the marshy areas of the Gulf Coast. However, shit happens (doesn’t it always?) and what we have now a body of water where feral hippos roam, a blight on the country and a danger to both the environment and the populace.

Here, have a blurb:
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Vanguard, by Ann Aguirre

17 Aug

Please be advised: back in 2009, I was Ms Aguirre’s virtual assistant, for about ten months. I was also one of the first beta readers for Razorland, the manuscript that became Enclave, the first novel set in this world.

Despite how much I like Ms Aguirre’s work, I have not reviewed any of the novels in the series, or anything else by her written or published after 2008, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Given that said relationship, as well as my beta reading any of her work, ended about eight years ago, I decided I would review this novel, no matter what. Keep in mind that we are still friendly online.

I was lucky to get an ARC about three weeks ago; I really wanted to publish this review on release day, but…well, you know what happens to plans.

Caveat: there is some violence on the page, as well as violence in most of the characters’ past.

Vanguard, by Ann Aguirre

This story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is recovering from, basically, a zombie plague. (Except these are not truly zombies.)

If you have not read the Razorland books, you will definitely have questions about what happened before, especially because there are repeated references to past events, by pretty much all characters. You will also have questions because the world is presented with very little background explanation. It’s not hard to extrapolate and come up with your own conclusions as to what brought the world to this point, but if you truly want all the whys and wherefores, you will end up reading the rest of the series.

Which is pretty damned good, so it’s a win-win.

If you are a fan of the Razorland series, you should know that this is not the beginning of a second trilogy; it is not even a direct continuation of the original trilogy. You should also know that Vanguard is told in third person, from three deep points of view. This is Tegan’s story–one I had very much hoped to read since meeting her in the ruins, during the events narrated in Enclave.

Oh, alright; it’s also about Szarok and Morrow, but the best parts are about Tegan.

Here, have a blurb:
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