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ARC Review: To Love and to Loathe by Martha Waters

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed to Have and to Hoax, but this one was even better. Possibly because I am eternally a sucker for an enemies-to-lovers dynamic.

Jeremy and Diana had so much chemistry (hidden under poking and teasing at one another) that their interactions were a lot of fun to read. I loved seeing them banter and tease and bait one another mercilessly, while also connecting in private and realizing that there was more to each of them than the carefully crafted lazy personas they showed the world. I found myself laughing over and over again at their ridiculousness.

Lady Helen was truly inspired, and I loved Jeremy’s grandmother. All of my favorite regency romances have a sarcastic, matchmaking grandma or great aunt involved, it seems.

One thing I really liked about this book was how even Jeremy and Diana’s closest friends sometimes couldn’t see beneath their masks, when it was so easy for Jeremy to see the real Diana and vice versa as they continued their liaison.

Also I am greatly looking forward to Lady Emily’s book. I assume that will be the next one, (unless it’s Sophie and West which would be just as good really) and I can’t wait. Really curious about Diana’s brother, though. His entire group of friends is pairing up, but so far I haven’t seen a whiff of a partner for him. Curious…

*Thanks to NetGalley and Atria books for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: One Thing Leads to a Lover by Susanna Craig

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was delightful and I loved it. I needed a good regency romance with a bit of spy action to get me through a day spent stuck in bed, and this didn’t disappoint.

Amanda was stifled and frustrated with her overbearing mother and suitor, the Magpie was a master of disguise and excellent with her children, and the romance and adventure were swoon-worthy.

I loved watching Amanda come into her own and give herself permission to live and have some adventure, and I loved seeing the Magpie as he came to care about her and her children and protect them.

The actual spying takes a backseat to the romance a good bit of the time, but as it’s what I wanted I definitely didn’t mind. There’s also enough intrigue going on to add some extra flavor to the romance.

I will definitely be seeking out more of Susanna Craig’s books, since I enjoyed this one and Who’s that Earl so much.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC DNF Review: Go the Distance by Jen Calonita

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Well, that was disappointing. I had high hopes for this one for two reasons. First, I adore the movie Hercules. Second, I read the Mulan retelling from this series written by Elizabeth Lim and loved it. I hoped this one would be as good. Buuuuuuut… it’s not.

The writing is… not good. It reads young – much younger than in the Mulan retelling – but also is just sort of clumsy. Lines and nicknames and attitudes were all lifted from the movie, which meant they didn’t really fit in with the story around them. The rest is a ‘he said this, then he did this, then she did that’ sort of thing which grates on my nerves. Then there’d be a ‘Wonder Boy’ or ‘it’s been a real slice’ thrown in in an attempt to capture Megara’s saucy personality. Needless to say it didn’t work.

The good thing here is that I read an arc rather than spending money on it. Because if I had I would be pretty annoyed right now. More annoyed than I am at wasting my time trying to give this one a chance.

Thanks to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Scoundrel of My Heart by Lorraine Heath

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this one. I read it in a day (gotta love romance novels for giving me a breather between huge fantasy novels with world-ending stakes) and definitely felt all the feels. In fact, I found myself slowing down in some parts, rereading paragraphs and pages to savor the emotions. Especially the moments of heartbreak. Why do I love to savor those so?

This was my first book by Lorraine Heath, and it probably won’t be my last, because I did enjoy it so much. But. I do have a few quibbles:

First, the writing was overdone and threatened to trip up the storyline in places, and the sex scenes were sort of cringe. That could be me though. I generally prefer sex scenes that are fade-to-black with writing that isn’t quite so overwrought. I considered putting it down in the first 15% or so, until it hooked me, because of the writing. Once I was hooked, though, it became easier to ignore the bits that annoyed me about the writing.

Second, what the heck was up with that time skip? Things are cruising along and then suddenly whoops Griff and his brother are taken to the Tower because of his father’s treason and we get a “ten months later” and are supposed to buy that Griff went from spoiled second son to suspected traitor to penniless dockworker to scarred proprietor of his new club? There’s no way he acquired all of his scars in ten months, much less completed building his club. I don’t think it’s even physically possible.

I did enjoy our glimpse into the Duke of Kingsland’s side of things at the end – he’s like a blank wall for most of the book and the reveal of the motives behind some of his actions was delightful. I look forward to reading more about him in the future.

The chemistry between Kathryn and Griff was undeniable from the first pages, though obviously it changed after his return from exile, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading their love story, with all its ups and downs.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Avon for providing an e-arc to review.

ARC DNF Review: She’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I missed that this was a thriller somehow when I requested it. I saw LGBTQ, artists, California, Picture of Dorian Gray…. and I requested it because it sounded amazing.

I can definitely say it’s good – it’s very well-written, it’s definitely compelling – but I’m stopping at 40% because I can say for absolute certainty that this book will mess me up if I keep reading. It’s already done so a bit – I think I’ll have to read an old favorite before bed as a palate cleanser.

I feel for Mick; no one seems to understand her. There’s a darkness to her that makes her seem dangerous but also draws you in. Veronica has no idea what she’s gotten herself into. And Nico – Nico gives me the creeps. I would definitely not want to be alone with him.”

This whole book reads like razor blades and matches and destruction. I have a feeling people will love it.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing for providing an e-arc to review.

ARC DNF Review: The Unbroken by C. L. Clark

Rating: 1 out of 5.

If I’d known ahead of time that this was military fantasy I probably wouldn’t have requested it, as that’s not generally my thing. I did try to like it, but it was not to be.

The worldbuilding was… sparse. No, pretty much nonexistent actually. The character relationships are likewise not shown but sort of told about and then characters die and you’re like, why should I care? I can’t keep the side characters straight anyway?

The only characters with real personalities were Touraine, who can be summed up as internalized racism and a wish to keep her head down and hope to keep existing, and Luca, who is willing to sacrifice just about anything to gain her throne from her uncle. That’s it.

I kept reading and reading without feeling any interest because there was the tiniest spark there – mostly just a good writing style – that kept me going, but alas I have to stop. From other reviews, I gather that none of my issues with the story really get resolved, so why keep putting myself through a book I’m not even enjoying?

*Thanks to NetGalley and Orbit books for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Namesake, by Adrienne Young

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This duology has the best covers!

I knew going in that I would love this book, after being blown away by Fable, and I was right. I love this book. Fable faces some serious challenges here, and there are some hefty revelations.

The crew of the Marigold didn’t play as large a role in this one, which I was a bit disappointed about, but it also felt like the right decision, what with all the other plot going on here. Though, I did enjoy seeing another side of Koy.

Fable grows as a character, and she and West have their relationship sorely tested by both their actions and choices and revelations about their pasts. West makes some questionable decisions but he does so with Fable in mind, so I forgave him for it.

My favorite things about this novel are Fable’s evolving relationship with Saint and her memories of her mother. There is so much more to both that I won’t give away, because spoilers, but let’s just say there were a few moments near the end that had me crying. And I absolutely, completely love how things wrapped up.

I will keep my fingers crossed for more pirates from Adrienne Young, but at the very least she’s going on my must-read list.

*Thanks to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for providing an e-arc to review.

February Wrap-Up:

I read a staggering 17 books in February and loved and would definitely recommend almost all of them. I mean, I gave 14 of the 17 five-star reviews which should tell you how much I enjoyed them.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – 5 stars (audio reread)
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta – 5 stars
Ashlords by Scott Reintgen – 5 stars (reread)
Bloodsworn by Scott Reintgen – 5 stars (arc)
To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters – 5 stars
Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft – 5 stars (arc)
Tell no Tales by Sam Maggs – 2 stars (arc)
The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman – 5 stars (reread with my kiddo, arc)
The Rake Mistake by Erica Ridley- 5 stars
Scoundrel of my Heart by Lorraine Heath – 4 stars (arc)
One Thing Leads to a Lover by Susanna Craig – 5 stars (arc)
To Love and to Loathe by Martha Waters – 5 stars (arc)
Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke – 5 stars (arc)
Castle in the Air by Diana Wynn Jones – 4 stars
The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick – 5 stars (arc)
When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – 5 stars
The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian – 5 stars (arc)

ARC Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was absolutely delightful! I was a little concerned at first because it’s a VERY slow start, but once Wren accepted Lowry’s invitation I was hooked.

I’m going to add a disclaimer before this next comment: I adore fanfiction. I love it. I read it, I write it, it’s fantastic.

This book reads like my very favorite kind of slooooow-burn enemies-t0-lovers postwar fanfiction. The kind where two members of opposing sides are forced into close proximity and slowly, slowly learn that the other is not a heartless monster, and inevitably falls for them. I can’t get enough of that dynamic in fanfiction and it was a delightful surprise to find it in this book.

I felt for Wren. She’s sympathetic and determined and has so much heart. And I felt for Hal, who was forced to kill and kill and kill again when he was no more than a child, who regrets all the killing and wants nothing more than to make amends and shift his country away from war. They’re a perfect match.

The villain is nearly at cartoon-villain status, but the way he morphed his demeanor to show concern, caring, humor, and darkness all within seconds was chilling. As was the atmosphere in the manor Hal and Wren were trapped in.

Wren’s love for Una was beautiful and heartbreaking, as first loves so often are. Wren and Hal’s attraction came on slowly and lingered, gradually strengthening in a way that made it all the more believable. I loved their interactions, their dynamic, the way they were drawn together.

The ending was perfection, wrapping it up and tying a neat bow around the whole delicious package. I hope there’s a sequel because I definitely want more.

*Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: I Think I Love You by Auriane Desombre

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was such a delightful summer queer romcom! The matchmaking plots were a bit… obvious but I loved the rival short film plot and also Sophia and Emma’s turn from constant fighting to realizing they actually liked one another. It was sweet. Also the ‘coming out as bi’ scene and Emma’s reaction to her parents’ reaction was very relatable.

Sophia and Emma were both believable teen characters, and while the side characters weren’t fleshed out as much, they made up a realistic group of friends.

I just saw in another review that it’s a spin on Much Ado About Nothing which… duh me, it totally is. Which probably explains how much I enjoyed it as I love the play.

I actually think this would make a great movie, which is fitting since they spend the whole book attempting to make a gay romcom short film.

*thanks to NetGalley and Random House Children’s for providing an e-arc for review.