Thursday, May 31, 2018


Some months, I go on a re-reading binge. Others, I spend all my time with historical romance. This month, I binged every single one of Mariana Zapata's novels and I have zero regrets. Some were funny and some were kinda sad but all of them had MZ's trademark slow-burn romance and apparently, I just couldn't get enough of it.

I read 33 books this month and caught back up to my unofficial goal of a book a day. Which puts me at 60% of my GR goal of 250 books and 49 books ahead of schedule, at that. Go me! I owe it all to audiobooks. =D And with the intense heat wave kicking right now and probably right on through summer, I expect to be able to maintain this level of reading.

And without further ado, here's what I've been reading lately...

(More on why I've gone to this format here in lieu of traditional reviews for each.)




Y O U N G   A D U L T


The Key - This book definitely could have used some more editing and I would have enjoyed it infinitely more if it had felt more...eloquent. It's supposed to feel medieval, with castles and sword-fighting, but the dialogue is so modern, with the exception of a "my lady" thrown in here and there. But otherwise, I loved the sassy heroine and the prince whose loyalty was being tested and just the overall premise, though it's definitely not the first time I've read about a kingdom overthrown by another power-hungry king who thinks he's annihilated all of the previous royal family and any potential heirs only to discover that, oops, one survived sparking a revolution in their name. This first installment left off on such a cliffhanger but I ain't even mad because the series is finished and I can pick up the next book when I get home...or, ya know, sneak some in at work today. ;) 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Red - So, I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first book, mostly because of all of the declarations of love being thrown around. I think it's obvious that I like a little romance with my story, but there also still needs to be a story. The basic gist of this series so far seems to be about moving the lost heir from one secret place to another until everyone decides how best to use her. And for the longest, she doesn't even know that she's the heir everyone's been talking about. It's quite frustrating at times. But I'm still here for it, especially after yet another cliffhanger ending. 🌟🌟🌟

War - Finally, some real twists I can get on board with, some of them predictable but otherwise intriguing. And all through the series, I've marveled at how few people the heroine has lost on her way to the throne. Shouldna done that. ;) I really would have liked to see more development in the characters and their relationships, so that I could feel the trust and loyalty instead of being told about it. And I could have done with a longer book. This finale just felt rushed. 🌟🌟🌟


Opal - "She had no lust, because Ronan hadn't dreamt any for her, but she also had no shame, because Ronan hadn't dreamt any of that for her, either." Hehe...that just about sums up Opal. She's kind of like Ronan and Adam's adopted child...except with very hairy legs and hooves. So...maybe more of a pet. :) Oh, that was just lovely. I'm itching for a Raven Boys re-read now. I loved revisiting the Barns and Ronan and Adam and the peek at what's to come in Ronan's trilogy. I can't bloody wait! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Keturah and Lord Death - I do so adore a good tale steeped in folk lore with Death as a character. This one was lauded as a Beauty and the Beast retelling in a review, which enticed me, but I stuck around for the Scheherezade/Persephone aspect. Death wants to keep Keturah but she offers up a story and tells him she'll finish the tale the next night and so on and so forth. From beginning to end, this story was hauntingly beautiful and full of magic and intrigue and it completely lived up to my expectations. I can't believe I'd never even heard of this book until recently. I'd definitely recommend it for fans of The Bear and the Nightingale and Uprooted. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟



*ARC received from publisher for review purposes. This does not affect my review in any way.




A D U L T


Silent on the Moor - This was definitely my favorite of the series! So many more details revealed about Brisbane and his past, though I did think the mystery aspect of this installment was a little more predictable than the previous books. Still. I loved it. I had planned on starting the next book, but I feel like it's going to start a new story arc and I'm terribly content with how this novel left things. I'll definitely be coming back to the series to read the next two books, but I want to bask in the sense of fulfillment a little longer first. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Beau and the Belle - R.S. Grey's books are always kind of palate cleansers for me. I read them after darker or more challenging books because they're usually pretty adorable and the dramatics are kept to a minimum and they're just...fun. This one was a sweet second-chance romance set in New Orleans, and I kind of felt like I was there experiencing it. If I remember correctly, the previous books I've read by this author were all set in Texas, and it was the same. Of course, I live in Texas, but she just depicts the setting so well without being overly descriptive. Also, the voice of Lauren as a teenager was just so genuine as she crushed on an older guy, but her voice as an older, somewhat insecure woman was also realistic. As for the love interest, he was just yummy; I don't know what more to say about him. ;) All in all, a very pleasant reading experience and one I've come to expect from this author. 🌟🌟🌟

The Hooker and the Hermit - Sometimes you just need a good romantic comedy, ya know? I gave this one a chance because I kind of adored Reid's Knitting in the City series, especially the earlier books. I found this story to be remarkably similar to the first book in that series, specifically the dynamic between the heroine and the love interest: terribly introverted but stunning woman randomly makes the acquaintance of a handsome and well-to-do man hell-bent on sweeping her off her feet and coaxing her out of her comfort zone. And, sure, that's the premise of a lot of romance novels, but with this one, well...it was just so damn funny. And it has both perspectives, with the male narrator having an Irish accent, and well, be still my heart. I'd like to say I'm going to continue this series, but honestly, I have no desire to read about that asshat Sean Cassidy. 🌟🌟🌟🌟


Walk of Shame - Okay, so that was super adorable. Which I kind of expected, based on my previous experience with the author's work and my GR friends' reviews, but still: so stinkin' cute. It was a tad predictable and the main character seemed pretty shallow and mildly annoying in the beginning, but she grew on me, plus I can take predictability when the drama level is this low. ;) Also? Banterfluff. It's my weakness. Well, one of many, but give me witty banter and adorable meet-cutes and I'm all set to swoon. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Three Blind Dates - This book was utterly delightful in every possible way. I don't think I've swooned or laughed so much at a story in quite awhile. And the You've Got Mail angle! Le sigh. I remember that movie releasing when I worked at a video rental place in high school -- yeah, I'm totally showing my age here -- and taking it home with me on more than one occasion. It was and still is a favorite to this day, and the fact that the main character loved it so much just endeared her to me that much more. The three guys were each awesome in their own right, but I knew who I wanted her to end up with. ;) The cast of secondary characters was absolutely hilarious; I was in tears I was laughing so hard. And now I can't wait to read the rest of the series! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Radiance - I'd seen people raving about this author's work recently and decided to give this novel a chance, most especially because it's kind of like Beauty and the Beast, except both characters are reviled and seen as hideous among the other's people. I loved that though they were both being forced into a marriage for an alliance, they became great friends almost immediately and that blossomed into a more lasting relationship. This book checked all the boxes for a great slow-burn romance, but I also liked the fantasy elements and the fact that if you don't read the epilogue, it could almost be read as a stand-alone. ;) 🌟🌟🌟🌟


A Sorceress of His Own - The beauty of the Audible Romance Package is that it allows me to listen to awesome books that I otherwise would not have given the time of day...or wasted a credit on. As much as it pains me to admit it, I am guilty of judging a book by its cover, and have probably passed on many a great novel because of it. Novels like this one. :( I'd never even heard of Dianne Duvall previously, but you'd better believe I'll be checking out her other books now after having enjoyed this one so much. A warrior. A sorceress. An undeniable attraction...well, once Lord Dillon discovers that she's not the old hag she's portrayed herself to be for the last seven years of their acquaintance. ;) And then there's the magic and the consequences that come with it. It was a balm to my soul to find a new fantasy series, as I've been disheartened by YA fantasy after recent reads and was beginning to think that it was a lost hope, that maybe I'd fallen out of love with the genre. I'm ecstatic to realize that's not the case. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Rendezvous With Yesterday - I almost didn't read this one once I read the synopsis and saw the bit about time travel, but I really liked Robert from the first book, so I grudgingly gave it a chance. Don't get me wrong, I love time travel novels for the most part, but I just wasn't sure how well it would play out with a headstrong 21st century woman visiting medieval England. It worked, though. Beth is sassy and Robert was, well, just as perfect as he was in A Sorceress of His Own. I really enjoyed his story and how lovely these two characters were together. And I loved getting a bigger peek at the world of the Gifted Ones. I hadn't been sure if I would read the Immortal Guardians series because it features vampires as well as the Gifted Ones, but after seeing what Duvall has done with this book and series, I have to satisfy my curiosity. Even if she did make me cry at the end of this one. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Beauty of the Beast - I will read pretty much anything boasting of being a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Except this. The writing is excruciatingly bad. The characters are one-dimensional, cookie-cutter stereotypes. The prologue intrigued me, with the would-be Beast's entire family being murdered in the name of revolution, but it was still not good. And then enter the Beauty, her daft father, her horrible stepsisters (did the author forget that she was writing a BatB retelling, not Cinderella?), and the villainous swain intent on capturing Beauty's hand...all of them so over the top and immature in their dialogue and mannerisms. I knew then at 8% into the book, I could go no further. Also, I thought this was supposed to be an adult read, but it didn't read as such...at least up to the point at which I stopped reading. DNF


Broken Harbor - I love these books. Tana French is absolute genius at creating characters and weaving backstories that just captivate. But UNGH, they kill me. There's no fast and neat ending. There's no tying up of loose ends. There are just cops that fuck up their cases royally, by letting their pasts get in the way or missing something vital or just plain trusting the wrong person. Or in the case of Broken Harbor, all of the above. I thought Mik "Scorcher" Kennedy was kind of a prick in the last book, but he was only a side character in Faithful Place, an antagonist to our hero Frank, and so he wasn't as fully developed as he is in this one. His voice at times -- both narrative and audio narrator -- reminded me a bit of Frank, and though I didn't exactly like him, I did want him to get his (wo)man. All of the Dublin Murder Squad books are disturbing in their own way, but this one takes the cake. I finished this last night way before bed, but I still woke up wondering what the hell was up with that animal in the attic. I think that's one of the things I love (and hate) most about Tana French's novels: the lingering questions and doubts. Nothing's ever quite finished. Except the careers of those who join the Dublin Murder Squad. 😉😂😭 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Lies Jane Austen Told Me - It's true. Jane Austen has given a whole slew of us really, really high expectations for men and love in general. ;) When we meet the heroine of this book, though, she's kinda over it. She no longer trusts Jane and has given up on love completely. Until someone shows her that the Mr. Darcy's and the Mr. Knightley's of the real world are still out there. It's sweet but also kind of bland; I like a little more zing in my romance. Also, I feel cheated because I could have liked this a smidge more if I had realized it was narrated by Justine Eyre -- my least favorite female narrator of all time! -- and read it instead of listening, but that's my mistake. 🌟🌟🌟

Lord of Scoundrels - This was apparently my first experience with a Loretta Chase novel, though I find that hard to believe with as much historical romance I've read in recent months. At any rate, this one was pretty par for the course with a scandalous rogue who's met his match -- i.e. turned into a slavering idiot -- in a bluestocking beauty set on disentangling her brother (and his finances) from said rogue. The banter was witty, especially on the part of the heroine. The sexual tension was fine. I even laughed some. But there was just nothing that stands out about this novel, nothing I haven't seen before in some shape or form. 🌟🌟🌟


Darkness Dawns - So, as I am wont to do, I read these two series backwards. But by having done so, I already knew about Marcus and Bethany and Robert, and had I not read Rendezvous With Yesterday first, I think I would have been confused or at least mildly irritated at the mention of that situation without completely comprehending it. Anyway, this book focuses on Roland, whom, if you read the books in the order I did, you would have met very briefly in A Sorceress of His Own, and he is described as looking very sad. And in this book, you find out his tragic backstory. I have a feeling ALL of the Immortal Guardians are going to have similar tales. Even so, I really enjoyed this book. Vampirism as a disease. Hot immortals protecting humanity. And special abilities. The only thing I really disliked was the picture-perfect ending, but I'm actually kind of already used to that from this author because of The Gifted Ones series. 🌟🌟🌟

Pestilence - A series about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse coming to earth to destroy all of humanity but being tempted away from that task by love? Yes, please! However, every time the Stockholm syndrome would rear up and make me a little iffy on the romance aspect, I'd remind myself that the book did start with the heroine shooting and then setting Pestilence on fire, so at least they were on a more even playing field. Mostly. I mean, he was raining death and disease down among us mere mortals like nobody's business, but being with Sara saw him grow and learn to identify with humanity, so there's that. Also, I can't help adoring complicated villains. I loved the brief glimpse we got of Death in this book, and I can't wait to read War now! 🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me - This had to be one of the slowest slow-burn romances I've ever read, and it was so sweet. I liked the characters. I liked the premise. And the fact that this isn't even anyone's favorite of Mariana Zapata's novels leaves me even more excited to read the rest of her work. I'll be honest, the names and covers of her books have always kinda put me off, but now I know better. ;) 🌟🌟🌟🌟


Mother of Shadows - If I had had the forethought to queue up another audiobook for my commute home, I wouldn't have finished this book. This was one of those "prophesied one" stories where the girl is so perfect and everyone wants to be her or be with her. She picks her mate from a line-up, gets a magical flying cat-thing, and then promptly loses said mate. And that's basically all that happens. I won't be picking up the rest of the series. 🌟

Rhythm, Chord & Malykhin - Gawd, this book was funny. I was legit cracking up the whole time I was listening to it. All of the relationships were just so genuine and the humor, god, the humor! Bodily function jokes. Snarky banter. Sexual innuendo. And it all took place on tour, which I thought would lead to all kinds of drama because that's usually the territory with rock star books, but there wasn't even a single paparazzi issue or tabloid scandal. It was just a bunch of guys on tour and Gaby and fart jokes and soccer balls to the face and the sweetest rock star love story I've ever read. I think Mariana Zapata is my new author crush and I'm probably going to spend the rest of the month reading her novels until I've read them all. But I'm saving Kulti for last because it's apparently everyone's favorite and I like saving the best for last. ;) 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

A Dangerous Seduction - This was an adequate second-chance romance. Nothing more, nothing less. I enjoyed the first half much more because of the build-up and the flashbacks to what once was, but the second half really fell flat. One minute Owen is accusing Scarlett of murdering her husband, and the next, they can't keep their hands off each other. Have some self-respect, woman! Scarlett wasn't the most likable of characters, especially because of her tendency to jump to conclusions and her inability to see what's right in front of her. Also, I just didn't feel the attraction between Owen and Scarlett. But, I'm willing to give this author another chance, so I've already downloaded A Dangerous Proposal, which features Felicity and Felix from this book. Now there are two people who have chemistry! Let's just hope it holds up in the next book. 🌟🌟🌟


Under Locke - So, this definitely isn't going down as my favorite MZ novel, but it was still alright. Try as I might, I'm just never going to get the appeal of a complete alpha asshole. The main character was too naive for my taste, as well. She'd attempt to stand up for herself, only to back down each and every time. That said, I'm not the biggest fan of stories featuring biker boys or guys tattooed to within an inch of their life, but I do think I liked this one more than the rest I've read. 🌟🌟🌟

Runaway Groom - I'm not a fan of The Bachelor, so I went into this book with pretty low expectations. But I liked previous books by the author and I read an excerpt from this one that made me think it was worth a shot. And it was pretty cute. Not too over the top, though the antics of other contestants made me wonder if anyone really wants to find love on a show like that. I mean, I wouldn't, but that's not the point. This book was just a nice, fun way to pass a spring afternoon...though it already feels like summer in Texas. *weeps* 🌟🌟🌟

Lingus - I was very hesitant to read this novel, despite having loved pretty much everything else I've read of MZ's so far. I still have a few left at this point, but I just really, really enjoy this woman's writing. It's funny, it's poignant, and there's always this achingly lovely slow-burn romance. And this one was kinda painful while also being really eye-opening, especially as to the way we treat and judge others. I really wasn't sure what to expect with regards to this book. I'm not a prude, but I expected it to be kinda sordid, but it was really, really sweet and a romance that was based on a real friendship above all else. So, yeah...it's gonna be pretty tough to pick my favorite MZ book when I've finally made my way through all of them. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


Kulti - So, I've finally read the MZ novel that so many call their favorite. And I get it. Brooding Kulti was hot AF. Jealous Kulti was sizzling. But sweet, gentle Kulti who hugs even when he doesn't appear to know how? Sigh-inducing. I laughed and awwed my way through this book. I enjoyed it immensely, especially when he calls Sal schnecke. I loved it when Kulti was grumpy and when he stood up for Sal. In truth, I'm having a hard time finding anything I didn't love about this book. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

From Lukov With Love - I just love a good hate-to-love romance but especially one where maybe it was never hate but the inability to articulate one's true feelings that caused such animosity. As a little girl, I thought figure skating was one of the most glorious things I'd ever seen. What little girl didn't, right? But aside from the romance, this book shows how much work goes into those beautiful routines, how challenging it is mentally and physically, and it only added to the story. I definitely appreciate that aspect of all of MZ's books. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Dear Aaron - This is an epistolary novel, which I tend to love. It starts out with emails and transitions to text/IMs, with no other character interactions. We're told everything that happens in the pen pals' lives for nine months, until Aaron's return to the States after his tour of duty is over. It's funny and sweet but also it never really gets any deeper. Not until Aaron's back home, anyway. And then so much happens in such a short span of time that it was a little overwhelming. I liked the story, I just didn't love it as much as I'd hoped to. 🌟🌟🌟

Wait For It - I think this might have been the saddest of all of MZ's books. So much grief and loss and love and family. Most of her books are romantic comedies but this one? This one brought me to tears. There were moments of levity to even it out, especially when it came to the boys, but man, this one tugged on my heartstrings. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

So, here's what I've learned from reading bingeing Mariana Zapata's entire backlist -- out of order, I might add: a) her books are very formulaic, but it didn't detract from the stories for me one bit, b) they're all companion novels of sorts, so you'll see characters again, c) they're like potato chips, you can't read just one, d) she really favors athletes and military men (but who doesn't?) who are older than her twenty-something protagonists, and e) my two favorites were about a rock star and a porn star...go figure. :D Oh, and she uses Texas as her setting. A lot. Which endears her -- and her stories -- to me that much more.


The Secret Place - I always go into a Tana French book knowing I'll probably have more questions than answers when I'm finished, but this one actually ended with some semblance of a resolution. I liked that this story was broken down into the here and now, with Detective Stephen Moran interrogating the possible witnesses of a murder from a year ago, and contrasted with the girls' perspectives from the months before the murder. I also appreciate how talented French is as misdirection and foreshadowing just enough but not so much that the story leans toward predictable. I'm always right there with the detectives as they put the pieces together, never a step ahead or behind. And I love it. This wasn't my favorite Tana French novel, but it was damn good and the series still ranks among my favorites. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Monster Garden - I liked this author's Lovely Vicious series and I am very excited about her new YA Bring Me Their Hearts, so when this popped up on Kindle Unlimited, I grabbed it. I'm also kind of enraptured with all things fae, so that aspect didn't hurt either. But while this story has potential, the writing wasn't very tight and it needed another (dozen) round(s) of editing. And I don't just mean punctuation or grammar; I'm talking referencing the wrong character name and giving another (side) character a point-of-view chapter -- just one -- solely for the purpose of showing that yes, the love interest does care for the heroine but he has reasons for not acting on it. The story was weird and predictable at times but also just too much, going in too many directions for its own good. 🌟🌟

Someone to Love - Meh. I think I was being altogether too hopeful in my review of the only other Mary Balogh book I've read. Because again nothing much happens in this book, but despite the caliber of writing, I can't get past that fact this time. I was bored, so very bored, and I think it only made this Tuesday after a holiday weekend that much longer. It was perfectly sweet but there was just nothing else to the story. 🌟🌟




Have you read any of these? What did you think? Find any new titles to check out? ;0)

Until next time! Happy reading!



4 comments:

  1. The Key, Red, and War all sound interesting. I may have to check them out. Looks like you've had a good reading month!
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

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    Replies
    1. It was a pretty good reading month, thanks! I hope you enjoy that series if you do check it out. I believe it's still free on Kindle Unlimited.

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  2. I have been wanting to read Keturah and Lord Death for ages and your brief words about have my heart longing for it even more. This is just one of those books that I know I'm going to love, but I can't ever find a copy.

    Mary Balogh isn't a writer for me. I read Someone to Hold (I think that's the one I read) and I was so bored by it. I'm not giving up entirely on her, but I just feel like she is one of those HR writers that I won't be able to get into to.

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    Replies
    1. DO IT! It's such a beautiful story. My library didn't have it either so I bought the audiobook through Audible. Worth it!

      Yeah, I agree. I just don't think Mary Balogh is for me, either, despite how many friends I know who love her books.

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