Category Archives: romance

The Winner’s Crime, by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Crime, by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Crime, by Marie Rutkoski

In April of 2014, I reviewed a book titled The Winner’s Curse, by a Marie Rutkoski. Ms. Rutkoski was a new author for me, and I wasn’t thrilled by the cover of the book, which seemed overly girly and screamed “Teen warrior chick romance.” But her book blew me away with its meticulous plotting, beautiful prose, and complex, intelligent characters. I had stumbled upon a true gem, and I eagerly awaited book two of this series. Well, book two is here, and all I can say is that it is sooooo much better than book one, and that is saying something.

The Winner’s Crime continues the story of Kestrel and Arin from the first book. Kestrel is now living in the royal palace, engaged to prince Verex, son of the Valorian emperor. Arin, now the Herrani governor, still longs for Kestrel, but feels she’s betrayed him in a quest for power. The truth is that Kestrel is playing a bigger game than anyone imagines. Under the watchful and malevolent eye of the emperor, she must find a way to help the Herrani, stay true to her father, and keep hidden her deep feelings for Arin. A novel of intrigue, well-crafted lies, and soul-searing love.

I won’t say any more than that about the plot. It is rare, for me, that I find a series that gets better as it moves along. Often, I read book one, and then read half of book two, disappointed by the author’s story choices. With The Winner’s Crime, I literally could not read the book fast enough. Brava, Ms. Rutkoski, for your brilliant work. The series shines on so many levels; world-building, character development, pacing, plotting….both books are simply marvelous.

Read my review of The Winner’s Curse here. 

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The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman loves Rosie Jarmin, and they have been married for almost a year. Their wonderful, unexpected, and hilarious romance unfolded in The Rosie Project, a book I reviewed here and a book I have recommended to many other people. Don Tillman is a genetist, and studies alcoholic mice. He also has Aspergers Syndrome, though he is completely oblivious to that fact. Rosy is study to be an MD, and is Don’s opposite in almost every way. While Don is organized and follows a strict schedule, Rosie is messy and spontanious. Don has trouble making small talk, and needs help with social skills. Rosie is carefree and handles social occasions with less stress and more fun. Yet, somehow together, they make it work. Don and Rosie are living in New York, and Don is working as a visiting professor with Columbia university. Life seems to be going on very well, until one day…Rosie tells Don that she is pregnant.

While Don is shocked, Rosie is clearly off balance as well. She seems determined that she will just continue as she has been. She will work on her thesis, and work at her part-time job, and once the baby is born, maybe take a week off. Don, who freaks out more than a little bit over the news that his wife is in the family way, seems to come to terms with the situation more quickly than Rosie. The issue? Neither member of the couple seems to be able to communicate their thoughts clearly to the other over the whole baby issue. Don is terribly worried that he won’t be a good father. Rosie seems to feel that she’s somehow failed Don by getting pregnant, and since her father wasn’t present for her, she seems to expect Don to leave her. Don, being Don, tries very, very hard to help Rosie, help himself, and to keep the family together. Can he do it? It seems an impossible task. Hilarity, misunderstandings, and moments of true love combine to make a complicated, funny, and enjoyable tale. I particularly enjoyed the aftermath of Don’s attempt to learn about children by filming them “in a natural setting” on the playground. Wow, but Don even manages to resist arrest in the most amusing way possible. If you enjoyed The Rosie Project, then you will enjoy this book.

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The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

Do you like Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory?” I love Sheldon, with his arrogant sureness that he is always right, with his regimented way of doing things, and with his casual put downs of his friends and enemies alike. But you know, if you read that list of characteristics and didn’t know who I was talking about, you might wonder if I was crazy for liking Sheldon at all. He sounds like a regular killjoy. How can anyone enjoy such a person? And yet, with Sheldon, to know him is to love him. His antics bring me great joy.

Don Tillman is like Sheldon, without physics and string theory and comic books. Instead, Don has genetics and cooking and a black belt in Aikido. Don also has Apserpers, but has no idea that he does. (The ironic humor of this strange gap in Don’s knowledge is a funny thread running throughout the book.) Don has had trouble finding a proper girlfriend. So many women start out to be promising, but then fail in one critical category. You see, Don has a list of requirements. The perfect girl will be punctual, logical, will not smoke, drink, or be a barmaid, among other things. Don develops a questionnaire, and he is going to find a proper girl to become his wife by screening those girls he dates. This looks like the perfect plan until Don meets Rosie Jarman. Rosie asks Don to help her locate her biological father by using his genetics knowledge. Rosie, who smokes, drinks, is a barmaid, and is never on time, is clearly not wife material, but Don  is intrigued by her family quest. And soon, Don finds himself attracted to this unsuitable woman, thrown out of his comfort zone again and again and again by her unpredictable antics. Whatever is he to do? He is clearly stepping into the realm of madness, and can’t seem to stop, no matter how hard he tries.

This is a romantic comedy book, yet a very clever one. Don and Rosie are exact opposites, and yet together they become something more. Don shows himself to be one of the most romantic men on the planet as he struggles with how to deal with this enigma of a woman. Rosie is one lucky girl, and thankfully, she seems to know it. From the outside, Don might look like Sheldon…a regimented killjoy. This book shows his soft, gooey center, so that you can know and love him as Rosie comes to love him. Warm-hearted, funny, and very, very smartly written, this is a very enjoyable book, and soon to be followed by a second book titled “The Rosie Effect.”

 

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Fortune’s Pawn, by Rachel Bach

Fortune's Pawn, by Rachel Bach

Fortune’s Pawn, by Rachel Bach

Deviana Morris has one goal: to become a Devastator, an armored guard and fighter under the direct command of the Sainted King of Paradox. But to become a Devastator, a girl has to get a serious reputation, so Devi sets out to do just that. With her own Lady Gray armor, Devi can kick ass better than just about anyone. She joins Captain Cardswell’s ship, The Glorious Fool, because he has a reputation for finding himself in the deepest of trouble, and overcoming trouble will help Devi achieve her goal. At first, Devi is sure she’s made a mistake, as her first days on the ship are boring, without a hint of trouble in sight. But then, trouble arrives, and in spades. Devi soon finds herself dealing with angry aliens, mysterious missions, invisible creatures, and muddled memories. And to top it all off, Devi finds the most confounding trouble of all: Devi finds love with the hunky ship’s cook, Rupert. Can Devi manage all of the drama and turmoil and stay alive to become a Devastator? Can she and Rupert be happy in spite of it all? Devi is sure going to give it her best effort, but even her best effort may not be good enough.

I loved this book! This is a space opera with interesting aliens, love, and lots and lots of fighting. This was the type of story that made me fall in love with science fiction stories in the first place. As I read, I had that giddy, happy feeling that I felt while reading my favorite Andre Norton books when I was younger. I know that the latest scifi books try to be different–grim and gritty or stories told from an unusual point of view. I like those, yes. But I loved the scifi of decades past, and this book recaptures all the best qualities of some of those books. I look forward to more titles from Ms. Bach. I’ve already read the second book in this series, titled “Fortune’s Knight.” It’s just as good, and I’m ready to dive into the third book, “Heaven’s Queen.” Very enjoyable, and highly recommended.

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Stolen Songbird, by Danielle L. Jensen

Stolen Songbird, by Danielle L. Jensen

Stolen Songbird, by Danielle L. Jensen

Cécile de Troyes has her whole life ahead of her–she is just about to turn 17, and now she is old enough to join her mother in the city and learn to sing for the stage. Cécile has a beautiful voice, and while she loves living with her family on their farm, she is eager to sing, to use the talent she’s been given. Except, of course, life seldom works out as you expect. Instead of celebrating her birthday with her family and friends, Cécile is kidnapped and taken far underneath a local mountain. She has been sold, it seems, to trolls. Now, in a city that never sees the sky, Cécile is a prisoner to beings of darkness and magic. The trolls are trapped in their mountain city, trapped by the curse of a human witch, and the centuries of their captivity are taking a toll. Cécile, a girl of flaming hair and the voice of an angel, has been prophesied to be the key to unlock their terrible cage. The only catch is that in order to unlock the mountain prison, Cécile must become the wife of the troll prince, Tristan.

This debut title is an exceptional start to the Malediction trilogy. I immediately liked Cécile, for while she is young, she isn’t stupid. Though frightened, she keeps a clear head and treats the trolls with respect. By keeping her wits about her, she begins to see that the trolls aren’t simply evil creatures with deceitful hearts, as myth portrays them. Rather, she sees that many of the trolls are kind, caring, and trying desperately to do the right thing, for both their own people, and for the humans that inhabit the world outside of the mountain. She is instantly attracted to prince Tristan, not only because he is handsome, but he is trying to become a proper leader for his people. And it is Cécile, and not Tristan, who truly thinks his people belong once again in the light.

This is a marvelous book, and I read it obsessively. The world building is very good, and I liked the entire cast of characters, including the more…evil ones. The storyline is complex–there are no easy answers here, and I applaud that. The system of magic, especially the magic used by witches, is not as well defined as I’d like to see, but I have hope that this will be rectified in the next book.  And really, I enjoyed the first one so much that the next book can’t come out too soon!

Stolen Songbird is available now, both in paperback and ebook editions. The Kindle version is priced at only $5.79, so really, you have no excuse. Buy it now!

 

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We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

This is a first for me: I don’t know how to review this book. I don’t even know how to begin without spoiling this haunting, suspenseful story. But I’ll begin this way: “We Were Liars” is the story of three teen-aged cousins—Johnny, Mirren, Cadence—and their good friend, Gat. Together, they are the Liars, and they spend their summers together on a private island owned by Cadence’s grandfather. Johnny, Mirren, and Cadence are Sinclairs, part of a rich, distinguished family that lives by the ideals and mottos of their patriarch. The story opens during Cadence’s fifteenth summer on Beechwood Island, the summer she falls deeply love with Gat. During the summer, Cady suffers a head injury, and is whisked away. But what exactly happened? Cady can only remember bits and pieces of the summer, and her family seems reluctant to fill in the gaps. And Cady herself is changed. She has debilitating migraines, and starts giving away her belongings. She dyes her blond hair—a symbol of pride among the tow-headed Sinclairs—black. When she returns to the island two years later, she is resolved to finally discover what happened. As her memories begin to return, the truth of her fifteenth summer begins to be revealed.

This is beautiful book. The language is spare, almost poetic. The characters are complex, and I dearly loved the Liars. I never saw the ending coming…I never even came close. And it was perfect; stunningly, achingly, heartbreakingly perfect. This book will stay with me for a long time to come. This book does not come out until May 13th, 2014, but when you see it in your library and in your bookstores, you will remember this review, and you will pick it up. I am absolutely sure that you will love Cady Sinclair and the Liars as much as I did.

I received my advanced copy from Edelweiss at abovethetree.com.
We Were Liars, forthcoming May 13, 12014

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Archetype, by M. D. Waters

Archetype, by M.D. Waters

Archetype, by M.D. Waters

Emma Burke wakes up in a hospital, with no memories of how she got there and of her life before. As she becomes stronger, her husband Declan and her doctor fill in her past, telling her she was attacked by enemies of Declan. These enemies are fighting Declan’s company, and are against his plan to improve the fertility rates among women in a world where babies are an increasingly rare thing. Declan is handsome and charming, and seems to genuinely care about Emma; surely he cares about others as much as he cares about her. But Emma’s dreams hint of a darker, harsher reality, one where girls are trained in large camps to be wives, and where the world is caught up in the turmoil of war. When Emma picks up a paintbrush and starts painting, it as if she is painting directly from the life of another. A man named Noah Tucker seems to recognize the memories captured on Emma’s canvases, and she is shocked to realize that her dreams may be the key to changing the world.

Archetype is a rare book: it’s a brilliant blend of science fiction, romance, and mystery. The writing is fresh, and the storytelling inventive. You uncover the truth of Emma’s life as she does, and see, through her eyes, as her reality begins to unravel, revealing something new and unexpected. I won’t spoil it by giving away any more than that. Read it and enjoy it. I am already looking forward to the second book, titled Prototype, coming out in July.

My copy of Archetype was provided through Edelweiss at abovethetreeline.com. This title will be available on February 6, 2014.

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