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Staff Book Reviews by Genre: Romance

Heartless
Meyer, Marissa
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

In Marissa Meyer's (The Lunar Chronicles) new standalone novel, she explores the Queen of Heart's origin story. Lady Catherine Pinkerton wants nothing more than to open her own bakery with her maid, Mary Ann. But as the Kingdom of Hearts operates in a style similar to that of Victorian England, Catherine finds herself without the money or permission to do so. Worse yet, she's being courted by the king, a silly man that she has little interest in marrying, though she is under constant pressure from her mother to accept his advances. And then, at a royal ball, a hot new court jester with murky motivations appears alongside a Jabberwock and Catherine's life and the Kingdom of Hearts will never be the same.

This was a pretty hotly anticipated read for me, as I adored the Lunar Chronicles. And a lot of the best things about the Lunar Chronicles were present here too: Wonderland and its delightful, sinister, and delightfully sinister characters are definitely a part of the story without overwhelming the character development or seeming trite. It was brilliantly executed. The romance, for me, was just a bit overbearing, and I had a hard time investing in Jest, the love interest. He was introduced as a magician, and then all I could envision whenever he was around was GOB Bluth dancing around to Final Countdown. Decidedly not sexy. We also didn't really learn enough about him for me to ever really care about his fate. I really enjoyed the other parts, though - Catherine's struggles to do right by her parents while preserving her dreams of opening a bakery were realistic and relatable, and her transition from hero to villain was pretty believable in the context of everything that happened. Warning: the food is well described - this book will make you eat any and all baked goods in your house. Oh, and the last 100 pages, the end game, was fantastic. It's a lot of fast paced action laced with emotion, and it's marvelous.

While there was a bit too much romance in this one for my taste, I think those that enjoy a bit more romance in their fantasy reads, or those that love a well-written, somehow inventive fairy tale retelling will love this one. I liked it - 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Vinegar Girl
Tyler, Anne
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Vinegar Girl is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. In this version, Kate Battista lives a stagnant life - she got part of the way through her college degree, works a job that she hates, and lives with her scientist father and younger sister, Bunny. Kate's father starts to shake things up when he suggest that Kate marry Pyotr, his research assistant at the lab who is in desperate need of a green card.

I was pretty curious about how this book was going to shake out as the very premise is extremely offensive in modern times - it's really unpalatable to think of a strong woman being "tamed" by her husband. And unfortunately, the book does sort of go there. Pyotr did and said a few things that made him Dead To Me, and on the whole, I found most of the characters to be pretty unlikable. Kate herself was interesting and relatable much of the time, though the circumstances of her situation were pretty avoidable. The epilogue was cute, the writing fine, and the narration was great. I just think it could've been better - after all, 10 Things I Hate About You (don't judge) was a pretty successful modern retelling of the story. Sadly, for me, this book was just ok. 2 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
Genres:
After You
Moyes, Jojo
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

It’s been 2 years since Will Traynor’s death. Louisa Clark traveled for a while, but now she is stuck in a bad job and just treading water. Even surviving a fall from the rooftop of her apartment building doesn’t shock Louisa into wanting to experience more of life. Louisa joins a support group to deal with her grief and develops a relationship with the paramedic who saved her. However, it’s the arrival of teenage girl with a link to Louisa’s past that sets her life into a spin and changes it in more ways than she could ever have imagined. After You, Jojo Moyes’ sequel to Me Before You, is a well-written, realistic look at dealing with grief and all the curves life throws at a person. Fans of the first book will feel like they are catching up with an old friend. Be prepared to cry and laugh out loud as you spend more time with this loveable character.

Reviewer's Name: Milissa
Carry On
Rowell, Rainbow
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Rainbow Rowell's "Carry On" had me laughing and tearing up and cheering along the protagonists like a crazy person, which -- as I listened to the audiobook in my car -- I'm hoping didn't concern my fellow drivers. This book is not only a clever love letter to the Harry Potter universe/the concept of a "chosen one" narrative, it's one of the cutest teen fiction romances I've read in a long time. I'm going to try not to spoil anything, which is why this review is so very, very short, but... Awww. What a simultaneously goofy and emotional book.

As you may or may not know, "Carry On" takes place in the universe Cath is fangirl-ing over in Rowell's other novel, "Fangirl," but I'd say it works very well as its own independent story. You could read it as a set with "Fangirl," or just read it for its own sake, I imagine both ways are fun and interesting for different reasons.

Categories: Teen Fantasy, Just Plain (?) Fantasy (if you love the Harry Potter books, this is kind of intended for you, I think, regardless of age), GLBTQ Fiction, Humor (?), Romance, Satire/Reinterpretation

Reviewer's Name: Kate
Nine Women, One Dress
Rosen, Jane L.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I have to admit, I chose to read this book based on the title alone! I liked the title and I loved the book. Classic chick-lit. The main character of the book is the LBD (Little Black Dress) of the season. The dress that every woman, no matter her age or size, wants! The dress affects the lives of not only the nine women, but a few men too! If you are looking for an easy read, this book is for you! It made me laugh and smile. A fun read! I can't wait for Jane L. Rosen's next book.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Awards:
The Thorn Birds
McCullough, Colleen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is an epic love story that spans, not only generations in Australia, but follows them around the world. Yes, it was made into a mini-series in the 1983 (worth watching), but you would be doing yourself a disservice if that is your only exposure to The Thorn Birds.

Reviewer's Name: Jennifer
Genres:
P.S. I Like You
West, Kasie
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Lily is a hopeful songwriter who is struggling in chemistry. After her teacher bans her from having her notebook in class, she writes on the desk instead. This sparks an ongoing conversation through notes with an unknown pen pal. As the letters continue, more and more personal information is shared, and more feelings surface inspiring Lily to write lyrics. With a typical cast of characters – the best friend, the mean girls and boys, the crush(es) – P.S. I Like You isn’t anything too different from many of the other cute, light romances, but it’s still a quick, enjoyable read.

Reviewer's Name: Becca
Genres:
Empire of Storms
Maas, Sarah J.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Book 5 (Empire of Storms hereafter EoS) picks up right where book 4 left off, and the action quickly ramps up. At the beginning of EoS, most of our heroes are together after the events that unfolded at Rifthold, and, to a lesser extent, Morath. After defeating and destroying the King of Alderan, Aelin travels to Terrasen, and after receiving no help or support from the various Dukes/Earls or whatever, Aelin opts for some different kind of support. The kind of support that comes from pirates. So Aelin and her merry band of heroes (well, some of them are pretty angsty, actually) depart to get support from Aelin's old "friend", the Pirate Lord Rolfe.

I was kind of expecting to not like this book as I seem to only like every other Throne of Glass book (I really like 2 and 4 and didn't care much for 1 and 3), but this entry in the series defied my expectations in a good way. The action is fairly constant, and the characters continue to develop and act in ways consistent with their current development. Things that annoy me about Aelin continue to annoy me - she makes really key decisions without informing or soliciting advice from her much more seasoned travel companions/court, but a reveal at the end made Aelin a more compelling character (although still, girl, COMMUNICATE). The real fun in the books, for me at least, comes from Aelin's surrounding cast of characters. Even though many of them took a back seat to Aelin in this book (Chaol is unheard from) their interactions were delightful to read, and I will never be sorry spending time with my favorite, Manon. Lysandra also gets a time to shine, and Elide starts to come into her own as well. There are some new characters that wouldn't be new to those that read the prequel novellas, so if you have not read those yet, I strongly suggest reading them before you embark on the 700 pages of awesomeness that is EoS.

On the downside, there was a bit too much romance in the book for me. Like, EVERY character doesn't need to pair up. Especially since they are all hetero-normative (even though there is some discussion of characters being bi). Also, the sex scenes were fairly repetitive and at times unintentionally hilarious (a character literally BURSTS INTO FLAME). I mean, there was a ton of:

Claiming of mouths (what does that even mean and ew)
Going over the edge
"Maleness" (I'm not sure about this one either but probably ew)
Heating at one's core (I'm pretty sure your core is your abs, but whatever)
Nipping at necks

Right. So that all happens a lot.

Oh, and consider yourself warned, this book ends on a cliffhanger.

Anyway, overall, EoS was a great entry in the series and a strong fantasy story. I really really really cannot WAIT for the last one. 4 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
The Dark Days Club
Goodman, Alison
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Lady Helen has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of her dead, treasonous mother. Because her mother did some shady stuff before she died, Helen has had to be the perfect demur lady, no small task for a quick witted woman in the Regency period. But as new information comes to light surrounding her mother's life and death, Lady Helen realizes that her mother had magical powers...that she passed along to her daughter. Soon, Lady Helen finds herself pulled into the dark underbelly of London as she works with the Dark Days Club to try to keep Londoners safe from a group of demons.

I really enjoyed the beginning of this book. There's a lot of world building, and Lady Helen is a very likable character who I think behaves in ways that make sense given the time period. There's a great build up to the reveal of the demons, and the mystery of Helen's mother and her powers unfolds very slowly and deliciously. The problem arises when the demons themselves are revealed. While I'll give Goodman points for originality with the demons and how they interact with humans, really, as villains go, they were pretty low-stakes and unfortunately kind of lame. I don't know, I mean, most of them follow rules and don't do anything bad, but they are hated by humans in the know just by virtue of the fact that they are human parasites, which really, isn't their fault. Things get a little more high stakes by the end, but I really couldn't make myself care. I actually put the book down for a week or so because I wasn't dying to know what happens, which is pretty rare for me.

I liked the setting, world-building, and the characters, and would maybe give the next book in the series a shot as the villains get a bit more villainous and less lame by the end. That and Goodman can write. She also clearly did her Regency homework. Overall though, for me this was just ok. 2 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
A Court of Mist and Fury
Maas, Sarah J.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

For whatever reason, Sarah J. Maas has mastered the second book slump that seems to hit other authors. Thus far, the second books in her series have been my favorites (tied with book 4 in the ToG series).

I basically didn't like the first 2/3 of the last book (A Court of Thorns and Roses), and LOVED the last 1/3, and I'm here to report that book 2 is consistently awesome throughout. Without getting too spoilery, there was a relationship that really bothered me in the first book due to the male character being super controlling and emotionally abusive, but that thing implodes within the first 50 pages or so, and then the rest of the book is just funfunfun. 5 stars, and I can't wait for the next one.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
The Coldest Girl In Coldtown
Black, Holly
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Imagine waking up from a high school party to find that all of your friends now littering the house around you attracting flies. Then you hear a noise and realize you are not alone. Upon exploring the house you discover your friend chained to a bed and a vampire chained beside him—just out of reach. What happened while you were blacked out in the bathroom is a chilling story. Readers might find it shocking, but for Tana vampire attacks are an all-too-common occurrence. Not all of the monsters can be contained in the Coldtowns created to preserve the vampires and protect the population. The all-night parties within the walls are streamed live as reality entertainment that gives the vampires a rock-star quality. Those who escape are featured on the daily bounty hunter programs. These parallels to real life, as well as the characterizations of the vampires make them seem approachable and almost amiable. How close can Tana get before she is in danger?

Reviewer's Name: Renee
Book Review: Don't Breathe a Word
Cupala, Holly
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Wow. This book sucked. Stifled teenager runs away from loving family to escape abusive boyfriend. Why did she do this? Because she met a homeless boy whom she thought could 'save' her from this situation. Seriously?! How about having the abused girl save herself?! Homelessness is romanticized as she becomes part of a loving rascally unkempt band of misfits. Okay folks, let's get this straight. Being homeless sucks. If you have a loving family, like the main character does, there is no reason at all to be homeless. The main character is annoying and overly melodramatic. In fact, all of the characters are two dimensional and stereotypical, without exception. The symbolism is pedestrian and heavy handed. Even the "shocking" elements of the story seemed to be put in there as if the author was thinking,"Ooh, this is shocking! Let me put it in here to prove how edgy this novel is!" The ending was contrived and very unrealistic for a supposedly realistic novel.

Usually I won't finish a book this crappy, but I felt compelled to do so in this case just to have the satisfaction of skewering it. I do feel better having done so.

E-format only, thankfully.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Camden, Elizabeth
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Reviewed for Bethany House as a free advance copy in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.

Mollie Knox never imagined her precise, orderly world would ever shatter, but shatter it did, on a dry day at the beginning of October in 1871 when fire ignited all of the Chicago skyline. Running her father's watch business might have never been something she would have chosen for herself, but she excels at the fine craftsmanship and, better yet, the accounting aspect of the 57th Illinois Watch Company, named after her father's time during the Civil War.
That night, as the fire blazes, Mollie finds herself fleeing for her life with Zack Kazmarek, the attorney for Hartman's, Inc. who purchased the majority of her watches for resale. Yet, despite the upheaval of losing almost everything, Mollie determines to start her life afresh, refusing to wallow in self-pity, she determines to rebuild her father's company, although now she has a little matter of Zack's unexpected adoration for her to contend with.

I'm a romantic in some ways, but not in others. I fear that for me Elizabeth Camden's main mistake was having a hot-headed hero. Don't get me wrong, I sometimes enjoy that type of hero, and I liked Zack very much by the end, but it was a long time in coming. I expected him to be cool and collected, logical, which is the persona he presents to the reader up until we realize he is almost goofy with love over Mollie. Goofiness in the male hero has never entirely been my cup of tea. Especially when halfway through the novel, a second man is introduced, Colonel Lowe, who I liked much more. I didn't buy into the author's storyline for him because it just not seem plausible so a little of the magic for me was lost right there.

However, with that out of the way, apart from the generally overdone romanticism near the first 3rd of the novel, I was quite thoroughly enchanted by Elizabeth Camden's story. She has a charming way with words that really paints a vivid image in the reader's mind of this historic setting and the fire as it destroys Chicago. The imagery is quite breathtaking. I couldn't ask for a better heroine than Mollie, who I respected as a strong woman, and I especially loved the little character of Sophie, the child Mollie and Zack find during the fire and care for until her family finds her. She is such a horrendous brat but only because she has nothing to do, nothing to occupy her time, and I loved Elizabeth Camden's gentle nudge that children need something to occupy them and they must not be too spoiled or it will ruin their character. That's a fantastic message she incorporated and I applaud her for it.

So, overall, a very enjoyable read. I wouldn't mind picking up a few of Camden's other books when I have the time.

Reviewer's Name: Carissa
Genres:
Kurland, Lynn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If you enjoy historical romance that's more about the relationship and the time period than the bedroom scenes, this is a fabulous book! Part of Lynn Kurland's paranormal romance series with the MacLeods and the DePiagets, this is a fun, light-hearted time travel experience. Jennifer is a 21st century girl who ends up in 1229 England, and lives to tell about it!

Reviewer's Name: Deb
Davies, Jocelyn
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

While this paranormal romance begins like "Twilight," there's new twists to keep this original. (Spoiler alert--there are no vampires to be found) Perfect for fans of "Fallen," and the "Hush, Hush" saga. It also takes place in Colorado, which is pretty cool.

Reviewer's Name: Shannon
Sawatzki, Diane
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book mixes western, historical fiction, fantasy, adventure, and romance in a unique and exciting way. The main character gets transported to a different time and has to figure out a way to make it back, all while trying to stay alive. This author is also from Colorado and has based the story in the local area.

Reviewer's Name: Tori
Shapiro, Barbara A.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is a wonderful story that mixes mystery and romance with the world of art and artists. What I found especially interesting were the details about the forgery of paintings and the inner workings of art galleries and museums.

Reviewer's Name: Ric
Genres:
Johnson, Jean
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A curse and being exiled to a land where women are forbidden should drive any man crazy. In Nightfall Isle, there are eight men, all brothers and all four sets of twins, starved for women's attention. The only problem is that there is a curse looming over their heads that states that if a woman comes into their lives, let alone eight women, it will be the end of the land of Katan. Saber, former Count of Corvis, and the Eldest son of the eight, knows this more than any for it is HIS curse that is supposed to wreak that certain Destruction should he find his Predestined Bride. So when a certain Kelly Doyle, from Earth, happens to magically drop in to their castle, he wants nothing more than to rid him and his brothers of her immediately. Complications rise and feelings twist. Can Kelly Doyle somehow manage to find a place in Saber's heart or will he do EVERYTHING in his power to change destiny and reject his "Predestined Bride?" The first book of the Sons of Destiny is a delightful book with humor, romance and even some serious catty fights. The ending definitely leaves you wanting to rush to your bookstore or library and pick up the second.

Reviewer's Name: Katrina
Genres: