Friday, December 30, 2016

What I've Been Reading Lately {12.30.16}

Friday, December 30, 2016 with 4 comments

Wow. So, I basically took a month-long hiatus from blogging for all of December. And you know what? I don't regret a thing. I've actually been looking forward to posting here for what feels like the first time in awhile, so I'm going to make the most of it while I still have the motivation. :)

I've been doing a lot of family stuff lately, what with the holidays and such, but I've also been reading quite a bit. Some really amazing books, too. So I'm going to try to catch you up on everything I've read and listened to since the last time I posted one of these. Which was...over a month ago. Oops.

And I'd planned on doing a section for holiday reads, but alas, by the time my holds came through for some of the titles I'd hoped to feature, the holidays were past and I was long past wanting to read any of them. Oh, well. Maybe next year. ;0)

More on why I've gone to this format here. And without further ado, here's what I've been reading lately...

Y O U N G   A D U L T

Bound by Blood and SandDiplomatic ImmunityDisruption (Disruption, #1)Corruption (Disruption, #2)

Bound by Blood and Sand - One of those cases where I really should have checked GR first so that I'd have known going into this book that it was the first book in a series. Not that I'm going to be clamoring for the sequel any time soon. It's off to an auspicious start, but by no means was I as captivated by the plot as I'd hoped to be. Ah, win some, you lose some. 🌟🌟🌟

Diplomatic Immunity - I think I was expecting a little more thriller, a little less contemporary with this one, a la The Embassy Row series by Ally Carter. It was cute and romance-y but nowhere near as captivating as Ashton's previous series. The MC was mildly annoying and the other characters were all very one-dimensional. The premise sounded good but the execution just fell flat for me. 🌟🌟

Disruption - I love discovering books not because they're being promoted but because other readers are simply enjoying them and sharing the love on Goodreads. I probably would have dismissed this book without a second thought because it sounded a little too dystopian for my tastes, but it is sooo much more than that. The utter mind-fuck that Maggie pulls over on Quentin, the infiltration, the romance, the utter chaos of it all...I am so glad I didn't have to wait for the sequel like so many others complained about after that killer cliff-hanger. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Corruption - Never have I been so glad to be an audiobook listener than with this series. The first book only recently released in the US, but both books have been available on audio thanks to the Australian publisher for ages, so I immediately downloaded this sequel. Another plus, it's only a duology. And as I said, it's from the land down under, and I've never met a book from an Australian author that I didn't like. But this series? This series is phenomenal. If I thought the first book was insane, I was nowhere near prepared for this conclusion. The absolute brilliance of this series leads me to believe that I must, at all costs, read everything else Jessica Shirvington has ever written. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Dark Unwinding (The Dark Unwinding, #1)A Spark Unseen (The Dark Unwinding, #2)All In (The Naturals, #3)Lusus Naturae: A Lord Carlston Story (Lady Helen, #1.5)

The Dark Unwinding - After loving Rook and The Forgetting, I decided to check out Sharon Cameron's backlist. I can't say that it was my favorite of hers, but I can see how this debut led to her success later on. It was less steampunk-y than I expected - which worked out well for me - but it was also rather slow and methodical in the storytelling. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

A Spark Unseen - I could have left it at The Dark Unwinding and never looked back, but I do so like to finish a series, especially when it only consists of two books. And this sequel was mysterious and clever enough to hold my attention, yet I still feel like there were things left unanswered...things that were hinted at that I never actually saw fully developed in the story itself. I am also still not fully sold on the romance, especially as I rather liked a certain suspicious Frenchman who reminded me a lot of the love interest in Rook. 🌟🌟🌟

All In - I love revisiting old favorites, but what I like even more is getting to new installments in a favorite series. I can't believe I only just read this one, but I am SO glad I did as I immediately wanted the next book in my hands. (I'm reading it right now, btw, and it's kind of breaking my heart.) Each book in this series has surprised me, has thwarted my theories and left me with new ones, but I think this one takes the cake by far. I usually find books like these predictable, but Cassie and her gang of Naturals keep me guessing -- and gasping -- in earnest. I'm not ready for it to be over.

Lusus Naturae: A Lord Carlston Story - I really loved The Dark Days Club. In fact, I'm preparing for a re-read in anticipation of The Dark Days Pact, which should be in my hands any day now. So, when I saw a short story from Lord Carlston's perspective pop up in my GR feed, I couldn't resist. I had to search it out. And it was lovely, showing a side of Lord Carlston that I knew was there but that we rarely get to see in the first book. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

R E - R E A D S

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire (Untitled, #1)Erased (Altered, #2)HeartlessKiller Instinct (The Naturals, #2)Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird, #2)

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire - Even though this is not my favorite of Hodge's novels, I still find this story exquisite. And haunting. And I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing it again via audio. It's different and compelling and I can't wait for the sequel. That ending was...not nice. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Erased - I enjoy re-reading books, especially when doing so means I can finally get to the last book in a series. I liked all the answers we got in this sequel, especially as I'd forgotten quite a bit in the years since I originally read it. But knowing the final book is more Nick's story...I'm still not sure I'll pick it up. I like Nick. He reminds me a lot of Ronan, actually. But my library doesn't have the final book on audio, and I'm not sure I'll love the book enough to own it myself. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Heartless - Just as heartbreaking as my initial read-through, except this time, Rebecca Soler narrates the heartbreak with utter precision. It was still so hard to see Catherine's transition from sweet, in love baker to the Queen of Hearts. But I still think Meyer did a remarkable job with the story, especially as there was nothing that could have swayed me to like Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles, but every fiber of my being was rooting for Catherine. *sobs* 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Killer Instinct - This series will always be one of my favorite psychological thrillers. It never disappoints and it always keeps me guessing. And in this installment, we get some more background on Dean and his serial killer father, plus that pesky love triangle has a resolution. I'm so glad I finally decided to re-read the first two books so that I could continue the series. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Ten Thousand Skies Above You - I re-read this one via audio, fully intending to read the final book next, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I kind of really detest the MC after my re-read. How did I enjoy this series so much before? Maybe I simply overlooked the MC in favor of the alternate universe travels? I don't know...but I think I'm done. 🌟🌟🌟


A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1)Grim Shadows (Roaring Twenties, #2)Do You Want to Start a Scandal (Spindle Cove, #5)Starry Night

A Promise of Fire - That was fucking fantastic! Magic and mythology and BANTER and it was perfect! I could not stop listening to the audiobook once I started. I can't wait to read the next book! Reminded me of how I felt after The Winter King…like, where has this book been all my life?!? 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Grim Shadows - I loved the first book in the series, but I wasn't expecting a companion novel. Guess I should read those summaries better. At any rate, I really liked the couple featured in this book, as well as the problems they faced with the supernatural. I also couldn't help picturing Garrett Hedlund as Lowe, which didn't hurt matters. I hope I can find the third book available on audio... 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Do You Want to Start a Scandal? - Tessa Dare is my go-to author for some swoony historical romance. I have now read NINE of her novels this year, and they are ever so much fun. While my love for the Spindle Cove series started to wane after the 3rd book, this installment has renewed my love for it. So swoony. So romantic. So scandalous! :D Also, I can't help singing the title to that now infamous song from Frozen. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Starry Night - Cute and swoony but still not the Christmas-y story I've been looking for. The narrator is a favorite, though. Short and sweet and perfect to put you in the spirit but not as full of Christmas cheer as I'd hoped. 🌟🌟🌟

Lord of Darkness (Maiden Lane, #5)An English Bride In Scotland (Highlanders, #1)Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels, #1)

Lord of Darkness - The idea of a masked crusader guarding the streets of 18th century London highly intrigued me. Especially as he was thought to have murdered his wife's former lover. I've never read anything by Elizabeth Hoyt prior to this book, which is #5 in the Maiden Lane series, but I vow to read them all now. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

An English Bride in Scotland - I just cannot help loving a story set in Scotland. But this one was fabulous. I've read others where an English lass was made to wed a Scottish laird, but this is probably my new favorite. I loved the growing kinship between the newlyweds, loved how Annabel easily became part of his clan because of her easy way with them...I even loved how the author brought Annabel's sister - and the woman Ross was supposed to marry - back into her life. This was my first Lynsay Sands book, but it will not be my last. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Cold-Hearted Rake - Oh, I just love a hate-to-love romance. Probably my favorite trope ever. And this one was exemplary, especially with so many complications involved. I know sooo many who just adore Lisa Kleypas' books, and I'm so glad I finally gave one a try. But now I'm in utter misery because the next book in this series released in May of this year and yet I am still #6 on the waitlist at the library. *dies* 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Some Girls Bite (Chicagoland Vampires, #1)Friday Night Bites (Chicagoland Vampires, #2)Twice Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires, #3)

Chicagoland Vampires, books 1-3 - These books were a fun foray into the world of vampires, which I have not found myself a part of much in recent years, and they made for an excellent distraction. Yet, if my library does not take my recommendation to purchase the rest of the series on audio, I doubt I'll finish them. 🌟🌟🌟

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

Until next time! Happy reading!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Title: A Study in Scarlet Women
Author: Sherry Thomas
Narrator: Kate Reading
Series: The Lady Sherlock series, book #1
Length: 11 hrs 0 mins
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Source: ARC received from publisher via Goodreads giveaway, audiobook borrowed from library
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas turns the story of the renowned Sherlock Holmes upside down…

With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

I absolutely adored this gender-swapped Sherlock Holmes story featuring the odd duck Charlotte Holmes as the madame detective. I've read - and watched - a lot of Sherlock retellings over the years, but recently, they've just been outstanding. And they only keep getting better! From Cumberbatch's portrayal to Ellie Marney's EVERY series to William Ritter's Sherlock/Doctor Who mash-up...I just can't seem to get my fill.

But a retelling in which, gasp, the detective of the hour is female, albeit secretly so? Now that's unique. And in immediate need of my attention. Especially the way in which Charlotte is able to pull off the deception and the way in which familiar characters are introduced to the story. It's like coming home to find that someone has rearranged all your furniture. Familiar and yet not.

The streets of London are in the capable hands of Charlotte Holmes with Sherry Thomas at the helm, though. I was a bit confused at first, what with the flashbacks and, erm, the shocking events that led to Charlotte pretending to be Sherlock, but soon all became clear and the real mystery was afoot. And it was rather ingenious, the way it unraveled.

I've thoroughly enjoyed the bit of Sherry Thomas' writing that I've read so far, including her YA series and one of her historical fiction novels, and I cannot wait to continue her Lady Sherlock series. I liked the small taste of romantic tension we got in this first installment, especially considering that love is probably at the very BOTTOM of Charlotte's list of priorities, and I can't wait to read more of her adventures and romantic liaisons...especially the scandalous ones!


GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

Sherry Thomas is one of the most acclaimed romance authors working today. Her books regularly receive starred reviews from trade publications and are frequently found on best-of-the-year lists. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.

English is Sherry’s second language—she has come a long way from the days when she made her laborious way through Rosemary Roger’s Sweet Savage Love with an English-Chinese dictionary. She enjoys digging down to the emotional core of stories. And when she is not writing, she thinks about the zen and zaniness of her profession, plays computer games with her sons, and reads as many fabulous books as she can find.

Find Sherry:

Website | BlogTwitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Title: The Diabolic
Author: S.J. Kincaid
Narrator: Candace Thaxton
Series: stand-alone
Length: 12 hrs 30 mins
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Source: ARC & audiobook received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

Add to Goodreads
A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for. Nothing else.

For Nemesis, that person is Sidonia, heir to the galactic Senate. The two grew up side by side, and there’s no one Nemesis wouldn’t kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the Imperial Court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia.

She must become her.

Now one of the galaxy’s most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced Senators’ children, and Nemesis must find within herself the one thing she’s been told she doesn’t have—humanity. With the Empire beginning to fracture and rebellion looming, that could be the one thing that saves her and the Empire itself.

Before I even started The Diabolic, I knew I was going to love this book...I just wasn't aware how much I'd enjoy it. I had an ARC, but once I realized Candace Thaxton was narrating the audiobook, I decided I'd go that route. Candace also narrated one of my favorite books ever -- The Sea of Tranquility -- and does a great job of portraying Nastya, another girl who doesn't allow herself to feel. So I knew she'd do a fabulous job performing as Nemesis, a ruthless killing machine who only cares about one person: her master and charge. And, honestly, it was better than I could have imagined.

This was a book that I started listening to at work and continued listening to on my way home. Then I took my daughter to the park and cracked open my ARC while continuing to listen and followed along that way. And I continued listening while I was cooking and washing dishes. Then I went back to reading and listening after dinner. I just could not put this book down. I finished The Diabolic in one day and I regret nothing.

The Diabolic was damn near perfect. It had everything I was looking for: political intrigue, characters with violent tendencies, forbidden, it's set in SPACE. I don't think I picked up on that in the summary the first time I read it, but yes, political intrigue of galactic proportions. SO MUCH YES!

But probably my favorite aspect of this novel was that of a cold, calculating being having to come to terms with her humanity and actually allow herself to feel things. And it was glorious! She freaks out when she laughs by accident. She bonds with a mutant dog-thing and it's ridiculously adorable. And she allows herself to love, which is no small feat. I just adore characters who basically start out as robots and are a big ole pile of mush by the end of the story.

Even when they're being exceedingly violent. Especially then. Like, you read all the time about badass characters who do violent things but you never actually experience any of that once the story gets going. Not so for Nemesis, whose philosophy in life lies somewhere just shy of Kill or be killed. There is all manner of brutality between the pages of this book, and it was gory but also awesome.

Also, I SHIP IT. So hard. It's pretty much forbidden. Except she's pretending to be someone she's not, so it's kinda okay and accepted? But it starts out as a partnership in a revenge plot. Then they become sparring partners. And then friends. And, well, it just snowballs from there. It's only a little angsty, and mostly because Nemesis is SO freaked out by all these new feelings she's experiencing. And she's afraid. But they are such a good pair because they've both done unconscionable things, in the name of the greater good and those they love. And it just works.

So...yay for evil tendencies? At any rate, this book was amazing, plain and simple. And it's a stand-alone! Which makes it an even more perfect fit for me because I hate waiting for the next book. :P I highly recommend the audiobook version, but whichever route you go, I guarantee you won't be disappointed with The Diabolic.

GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

S.J. Kincaid was born in Alabama, grew up in California, and attended high school in New Hampshire, but it was while living beside a haunted graveyard in Scotland that she realized that she wanted to be a writer. Her debut, Insignia, came out in July of 2012. The second book in the series, Vortex was released in July of 2013. The final book in the trilogy, Catalyst, came out October 28, 2014. Her standalone novel The Diabolic will be released in fall 2016.

Find S.J.:

WebsiteTwitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Tumblr | Facebook

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Title: Seven Days of You
Author: Cecilia Vinesse
Series: stand-alone
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days…until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.

Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?

I really wanted to like this book. I was looking forward to reading it so much that I read it a whole four months early. And yet, it just wasn't what I had been hoping for.

Seven Days of You read like my high school journal. Literally. And that makes sense when you think about the characters and the point at which they are in their lives. But it made me cringe...a lot. I think it was more the writing style that I was uncomfortable with than the characters' actions. It was a lot of awkward dialogue and emphatic statements.

The writing felt especially sparse when it came to depicting Tokyo. I've never been there but I wanted to feel like I had through the pages of this book...and I just didn't. Naming things left and right does not put you in a particular place, especially when the descriptions just aren't enough for you to visualize the setting. Tokyo felt like more of a backdrop when I wanted the city to act almost as another character.

Also disappointing was the fact that based on the summary, I was expecting an epic hate-to-love romance, a real whirlwind love affair since it occurs in the span of a week. What I got instead was a saccharine-sweet romance based on a ton of misunderstandings. It wasn't terrible because the love interest was nerdy and super adorable, but I had been expecting some type of bad boy who really had to work at gaining Sophia's affections.

I did really appreciate the emphasis on family and where you call home...and who or what makes up home. At this pivotal point in Sophia's life, she doesn't know where or to whom she belongs with, and I liked seeing that explored in her relationships, as well, with everyone kind of questioning where they go from here.

But I think my biggest beef with this story is the fact that the author forgot the epilogue. I'm all for open endings with a big dose of hopefulness, but after pretty much pining for each other for three solid years only to reunite for a week, I was expecting more from the ending.

All in all, this was a light, fluffy story about love and friendship and family in a foreign setting and it was cute. It just wasn't make-everyone-you-know-read-it cute. It was the sort of novel that I couldn't put down, even as my husband was asking why I was growling at the book, if that tells you anything. :)

GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

I'm Cecilia Vinesse, and I wrote a book about saying good-bye to high school friends and staying out all night and the dizziness of falling in love and the deliciousness of ramen.

I was born in France but then moved to Japan. And then to the States. And then back to Japan. And then back to the States. When I was 18, I moved to New York where I was homesick for nearly seven years. After that, I got a job in a cold, snowy city in northern Japan and, from there, I headed to Scotland where I got my master's in creative writing and lived off tea, writer tears, and Hobnobs.

I still live in the U.K. and spend most of my time writing, reading, baking, and getting emotional over Tori Amos albums. Hobbies include pretending Buffy the Vampire Slayer is real, collecting a lipstick to match every Skittle flavor, and listening to a thousand podcasts a day.

A pup named Malfi and a Renaissancist named Rachel are my favorite things in the world. That, and books. I should probably mention the books again.

Find Cecilia:

WebsiteTwitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Tumblr

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