Review: Queen Move by Kennedy Ryan

Note: I was provided with an advance reader copy by the author. It was my decision to review the novel and receiving a copy in no way influenced my opinion of the novel or this review. 

I am a sucker for a second-chance-at-love story. It’s one of my favourite tropes. Queen Move by Kennedy Ryan definitely fits the bill.

Early on, the reader gets to see how Kimba and Ezra first meet and become best friends as children. Their friendship and their loyalty to one another is intense and a precursor to love. Life separates them as pre-teens, and it’s many years later when they’re reunited. From there, we’re pulled into a very intense and gratifying love story.  

What I loved about Queen Move: Kennedy is a master at creating credible and three-dimensional characters who are so strong, so well-drawn that they seem to have lives of their own. They live, they breathe and you believe in them completely. Whether it’s her protagonists, Kimba and Ezra, or her secondary characters, you believe in them. I also love how she weaves in history in this story — for those of us who were children during the time of Atlanta child murders, we remember the fear and how it left a pall over a part of our childhood. Kennedy weaves this into the beginning of the story, reminding us of how fearful and watchful black parents especially were even in the days following the arrest of Wayne Williams. 

But what I appreciate most is that Queen Move is a very realistic love story. Like real life, Kimba and Ezra’s story is not always smooth sailing. It’s messy, full of twists and turns. It’s two adults dealing with everything that life and love throws at them. 

My rating? 5 stars.


Highly recommended.

Review: The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell

I am a big fan of gothic mysteries and intricate storylines, and The Caretakers delivers in spades. 

I wanted a book I could really get lost in, with plenty of suspense and realistic and compelling characters. I especially loved delving into Tessa’s story. Her guilt and how she struggles to deal with it at the same time as she deals with the loss of her mother and the familial tension that ensues, is riveting. 

The Caretakers is the sort of book that keeps you up at night – you want to know what will happen next, so you keep turning the pages without caring a jot about the time or where you have to be the next day,

One of the things that I loved with The Caretakers was the attention to detail. Maxwell does a fantastic job of describing the setting, of taking her time to pull the reader into the story so that it has an almost cinematic feel. 
And, unlike many other books in this genre, the ending is perfectly paced and satisfying. 

So far, The Caretakers is one of my favorite reads of 2020. Highly recommended!

Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links. If you choose to click and purchase from the link, I will receive a small commission which will help with paying for the costs of running this site.

Review: The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts

Imagine you work for a magazine called Posh! and your boss asks you to interview the most eligible titled bad-boy bachelor in the country? That’s Polly’s situation in The Plus One. We follow the previously unlucky at love reporter as she embarks on a whirlwind relationship with Jasper Milton, a sexy and too handsome for his own good aristocrat who’s got a reputation for being a playboy. 

The Plus One is a total rom-com with a fun and irreverent tone of voice and relatable characters. I thought the premise of how Polly and Jasper meet worked really well and hooked me from the beginning. However, the last few chapters left me feeling like something was missing, or as though the ending was rushed — which is a little frustrating since I enjoyed the rest of the book. 

And because the last third of the book felt so rushed, I give the book three stars. Would I recommend the book? Yes. It was a fun read and I really liked the characters and the premise. It was fun and frothy with just enough serious bits.

I just hated the ending.

Review: The Wicked Sister by Mary Lancaster

Another winner from Mary Lancaster! I’ve truly enjoyed the Blackhaven Brides series, and the Wicked Sister is a worthy finale to the series. 

When Maria, returns from London with a scandal (stemming from a misunderstanding) behind her, she expects to be punished by her mama and scolded by her older brother, Gervaise, Lord Braithwaite. She doesn’t expect to cross paths with Michael Hanson, who happens to be Gervaise’s personal secretary and something of a radical. He’s highly unsuitable – but when did that ever stop a flirt…or the possibility of love?

Add to it political intrigue as news of an impending battle with Napoleon Bonaparte threatens to tear Europe apart again…well, you’ve got yourself one hell of a fun page turner.

Great characters whom you instantly empathise with and the setting of Blackhaven is as wonderfully described in Book 13 as it was in the earlier books in the series. I feel as though I have been there many times. 🙂 

Loved it from start to finish. Highly recommended!

Review: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I’ll receive a commission–at no additional cost to you–if you click on them and make a purchase. 

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 20.40.51

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Release Date: 9 May 2017

Synopsis

He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last?

Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story–their story–at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated–perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

Review

Some books tell stories that are bound to make you a little (or, okay, extremely) emotional. And you have to simply accept that it will happen. You’ll re-read passages, feel completely immersed in the scenes and wonder if everyone else who’s read it experienced the same thing. For me, this was the case with Jill Santopolo’s The Light We Lost. I’d heard a lot about the book, I’d even 1-clicked it for my Kindle but never got around to reading it until last week.

Wow. I loved following Lucy and Gabe’s story. Theirs is not a conventional love story. There is no HEA. I’m putting it out there for you now. If that’s what you want, this is not the story for you, but it is a heart wrenching portrayal of love found, love lost and what happens in between as these two lovers find themselves separated by distance, by principles and sometimes by other people.

What I especially liked with The Light We Lost was how flawed both Lucy and Gabe are as characters. Yes, they are both selfish sometimes and they will do things that will often leave you wondering why you even empathise with them, but ultimately they stand by the choices they make and, for me as a reader, I could completely understand their reactions and decisions, even when I could not imagine myself doing the same.

I just read that The Light We Lost is in development to be a movie. It will be interesting to see who they cast to play Lucy and Gabe.

Anyway, I loved The Light We Lost. I will probably re-read it in a few weeks just because. Do I recommend it? Absolutely. But bear in mind that, even those this is a romance, it’s more in the lines of One Day or Me Before You. And if you’ve read either of those, you know exactly what I mean.

My rating?

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 16.39.30

Disclaimer: The links included in this review are affiliate links.

Review: Strings of Subversion by K. Victoria Chase

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 15.31.15

Title: Strings of Subversion

Author: K. Victoria Chase

Genre: Historical Fiction, IR/Multicultural Historical Fiction

Release Date: 30 April 2017

 

SYNOPSIS

Based on true events.

Berlin 1935

On the eve of the Olympics, musician Willie Cooper is banned from performing her beloved jazz. With her half-German niece and nephew in need of food and shelter, she turns to the music underground to earn money. Each illegal gig brings the feared SD closer to her people, who are needed for an experiment only spoken of in feared whispers on the streets.

British Intelligence Agent Klaus Hummer’s mission is to observe and report as a journalist for Das Schwarze Korps, the Nazi’s premiere newspaper. The immersion into Nazi propaganda and culture reveals an alarming agenda that will put him on a path to sacrifice the life of a beautiful jazz singer for an assignment that cannot fail.

REVIEW

I love historical romance, so when a friend recommended K. Victoria Chase’s Strings of Subversion, I was intrigued.

You could say that Strings of Subversion is a forbidden love story: it’s set in Nazi Germany in 1936, just prior to World War II, with Germany preparing for the Berlin Olympics. Willie, an African-American jazz singer and violinist is living in Berlin with Margot, the German common-law wife of her uncle John, and their two children, Johannes and Dorotea. Though the Nazis are making life ever more difficult for all who are not “aryan” enough, Willie doesn’t want to leave Margo and her children on their own–especially with John out of the country performing and funds being low. So Willie and her musician friends do what they can to make ends meet, performing jazz (which has recently been forbidden by the Nazis) in underground clubs as well as German classical music in clubs that will still allow black and Jewish musicians to perform. Into the fold walks Klaus Reithoffer–handsome, charming…and possibly a Nazi. Or is he…? One thing is certain: sparks fly between Willie and Klaus, even when both have good reason for keeping their distance.

What I enjoyed about Strings of Subversion was how Chase weaves so many layers of intrigue into the story. Chase does a very good job of sketching her characters so that you can picture them and understand most of the motivation for their actions. I thought she did an especially good job of clueing us into Klaus, who proves that looks can be deceiving. I also loved the slow burn between Willie and Klaus and how not everything was as it appeared to be. I could easily see this story as a movie.

So why am I giving this story a 4-star review and not a 5-star review? Two things ate at me a bit while I was reading: Willie’s refusal to leave Berlin even when she understood how dangerous and inhospitable it was becoming, and the way the story ended. I know we need to have a strong-willed heroine, but I sometimes had a hard time believing that a sensible woman like Willie would remain in a country that was falling under the thrall of Hitler and the SS’s propaganda. Also, as the story came to a close, I’d expected that book #1 would tie up any loose ends and we’d get the rest of the story in the upcoming instalment. However, the ending came rather abruptly and was a cliffhanger. I’m not against cliffhangers, but this one took me by surprise.

Still, even with these two quibbles of mine, I really enjoyed reading Strings of Subversion and look forward to reading Book 2 in the series once it’s released.

Highly recommended!

My rating?

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-07-29-41

 

 

Review: Saints & Misfits by S.K. Ali

Screen Shot 2017-06-24 at 19.58.48When I stumbled upon S.K. Ali’s Saints and Misfits a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was such a delight to read that I wish there still more chapters to read. Saints and Misfits shares the story of Janna, a hijabi teen whose Indian father leads a secular life while her Egyptian mother continues to be a practicing Muslim. Janna is dealing with criticism from some of her Muslim friends for hanging out with non-Muslims, lack of understanding from some non-Muslim friends who don’t understand why she wears a hijabthe fear and frustration of being sexually assaulted by Farooq, the cousin of one of her closest friends and the sort of “perfect” boy that all parents adore. Farooq spends the better part of the novel stalking Janna and doing everything he can to make sure that he can have some influence over her. And then there is Janna’s crush on Jeremy, a non-Muslim boy at her school, her older brother moving back home and deciding to court Sarah–who’s just a little too perfect and has secrets of her own, Tats–one of Janna’s non-Muslim friends who is just a little boy-crazy and trying to play matchmaker between Janna and Jeremy, And Sausun, her badass niqab-wearing friend who is trying to change the way people think of niqab-wearing girls with her YouTube channel, Niqabi Ninjas.

I love how Ali makes sure that the reader understands that Janna’s situation isn’t very different from any other teenage girl: Janna is Every Girl, dealing with her own identity crisis, with wanting to fall in love, with worrying about if she is popular. And I loved how effortlessly this was conveyed to the reader. I also loved how Ali convey’s Janna’s struggles with her faith. This is handled so deftly, without ever veering into the heavy-handedness one often sees in stories that touch upon faith and any doubts related to it.

Another wonderful thing about Saints & Misfits is the characterization. Each character in the story is so well-portrayed and unique. You never have that foggy sensation of not knowing who is who. They all stand out. And I loved the portrayal of Janna’s relationship with Mr. Ram, whom she takes to the senior citizen center every week. Even when Janna sometimes took their friendship for granted, it was obvious that she cared about him and paid heed to the advice he gave her.

Would I recommend reading Saints & Misfits? You betcha! And not only would I recommend it–if I were still teaching, it would be required reading for my students *and* their parents. Definitely a 5-star read!

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 16.39.30

Review: End of the World by Nesly Clerge

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 15.52.22Imagine a future where you are always connected and there is no need for TV or printed books or even the internet as we know it–the chip inside you knows everything, keeps track of your finances and even orders taxis for you. It knows when you need to order groceries, it knows when you are unwell. It knows *everything*–except what you’re thinking. This is the world scientist Gayle Conyers lives inhabits in Nesly Clerge’s End of the World: The Beginning with her two daughters and nanny/home help. In this world, those who are chipped are privileged. Those who are not are hunted down by the Order and “reformed” (or made into food a la Soylent Green, depending on who you ask).

Gayle is, for the most part, perfectly happy in this world. She likes her job, she doesn’t really question much the way things are, though she wishes she had more resources for her research into HIVm, a mutation of the HIV virus. After watching a debate between Dr. Armstrong, a renowned, agnostic scientist who claims he’s made a scientific breakthrough in successfully transplanting the brain intact to another body, and Dr. Kingsley who believes that the end of the world is coming and is being brought on by those in power (and those who are chipped) who are unwittingly worshipping at the altar of Lucifer when they think they are the enlightened ones. The next day, Gayle is contacted by Dr. Armstrong, who makes her an offer she cannot refuse. And then she is contacted by a rebel called Michael who wants her to spy on Dr. Armstrong and find out everything she can about his research.

Not a lot happens in the story–there are long discussions about religion and science with the rebels on the side of religion trying to convince Gayle that everything she knows and believes in is wrong or is part of a plan to deceive her and others–and this is what ultimately lead to a 3-star rating from me. I think the story has potential, but I wanted more of Gayle discovering whatever is the truth on her own rather than having two (actually three, counting Kingsley) men constantly telling her what they believe in and assuming she will bend to whatever it is that they’ve deemed the truth.

Since End of the World is billed as a sci-fi thriller, I was expecting more excitement and more things to happen. I also wanted Gayle to be more proactive in the story. And while I like the premise of the story, I felt like the religious aspects of it ended up taking up way too much of the story and bogging it down.

What worked for me was Gayle’s growing distrust of being under constant surveillance through the chip implanted in her and through the nanny who acts as a caregiver to her children. The more she learns (through Armstrong and Michael), the more she does not trust KATE (the system that watches over everyone and everything), but she must keep up a facade. I also liked how Gayle doesn’t feel she can trust any of the men trying to convince her to join their side–no matter which side seems to be more “right”.

End of the World is an interesting novel, but–if you’re looking for an action-packed story, it’s probably not the story for you. If you are interested in religion and discussions of good versus evil, then you’ll probably be pulled into the story. This is the first book in a series, so be forewarned that there is a cliffhanger-style ending.

My rating? 3 stars

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 15.50.57

Book Review – An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 06.50.37Alyssa Cole has done it again: written a historical IR romance set in a tricky time period and done so with amazing aplomb! I am usually skeptical about IR romances set during the American Civil War. This is due to too many of them romanticising the master-slave relationship in a way that, for me, feels disingenuous. In An Extraordinary Union, Cole takes the completely different angle to her story.

Instead of giving us the stereotypical master and slave who fall in love trope, we get something far more exciting–two Union spies in the Loyal League infiltrating the household of a Confederate senator. One of the spies is Elle, a free Black woman with the gift of being able to remember *everything*; as a spy, she puts her life on the line by going to Richmond, Virginia to pretend to be a mute house slave to get information that will help foil the Confederacy. The other spy is Malcolm, a Scottish immigrant pretending to be a Confederate soldier who manages to get close to the senator for the very same purpose–to get whatever information he can about the Confederates’ plans in order to bring them down.

Of course their paths cross in a not-so-meet-cute, but it’s exciting and it sets up the story well. We are reminded constantly of the dangerous situation that Elle and Malcolm are in–if they are found out, they will be tortured and/or killed. And for Elle, who has seen the horrors of slavery as a child and has willingly put herself back in the same situation for the sake of the Union, she is not willing to give in to the attraction she feels for Malcolm–initially she does not know he is also a spy, but also because she has seen the reality of her situation face to face–she and other slaves are property, they are seen as breeders, less than human, disposable. And she’s seen it from the side of slavery and from the abolitionists, some of whom view abolishing slavery as a mission while not caring about or even respecting the very people they claim to want to help. Malcolm’s own experiences in Scotland at the hands of English tyranny have left an indelible mark on his life and that of his family. And while he knows it cannot compare to what Elle has seen and experienced, it does make him more aware of the reality they face and it strengthens his conviction that this is not the sort of world–where men can deem other men as being less than human, buy and sell other men, rip apart families, even kill other men with no fear of the law–he wants to live in.

Cole has woven an exciting story that hooked me from the first page. And my skepticism was completely blown away thanks to her writing a story that does not shy away from the harsh realities of slavery and racism. I used to live in Richmond, Virginia–the capital of the Confederacy–so it was nice being able to picture the story taking place there.

Highly recommended! I am definitely looking forward to the next instalment of this series.

My rating?

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 16.39.30

Release Blitz: The Marriage Pact by K. Larsen & Mara White

3DTitle: The Marriage Pact

Author(s): K. Larsen & Mara White

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Genre: Contemporary Romance

 

Synopsis:

Ryan Walters and Jackie Bowen became instantaneous friends during their wild and free years of college. He, the rugged, yet all American football player from a stable family fell hard for Jackie, the exuberant, spontaneous girl from a broken home who lived and loved life to the fullest. Too young to commit and wary of damaging the unique bond they shared, the friends to lovers make a pact promising to find one another again at the age of thirty and marry—if not already committed.

TMP teaser

Years apart, after much growth and change, the two best friends seek one another out. In college, neither Jackie or Ryan could possibly know that every relationship to come would fall short of the one they’d shared together all those years ago.

When the two meet again, love and chemistry soar beyond their wildest dreams and they agree to make good on their promise. But a second chance at love can be fickle and fleeting.

The Marriage Pact is a story about letting go and loving with your whole heart no matter the circumstance—or how much it hurts.

The Marriage Pact, the second book in The Viral Series following Missed Connection, by romance authors K. Larsen and Mara White is based on a heartbreaking viral Reddit post. Each book is a stand alone novel.

Purchase Links

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2nOUZxD
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-marriage-pact-k-larsen
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-marriage-pact-9
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-marriage-pact/id1220146402

 

tmpteaser (2)The Review

The Marriage Pact is one of those novels that will tear you up inside. This is the story of two people who are meant to be but fear of commitment and other issues always seem to get in the way. Jackie and Ryan, our couple in question, are not a love at first sight couple. This is more of an easing into love…at least for Ryan. They’re friends, they are also something more, though neither puts it into words at the beginning.  But Jackie plays too many games with Ryan in an attempt to hold him at arm’s length. So why is it called the Marriage Pact? The two made a pact that they’d marry one another if they hadn’t found the One by the time they turned thirty. And since we follow these two from their youth to adulthood, we have plenty of time to see the progression and the pitfalls of their relationship.

I am a huge fan of Mara White’s writing, and I really enjoyed Missed Connection, her previous novel co-written with K. Larsen. This is an emotional rollercoaster of a read with the sort of flawed characters I love reading about and who may not always be likeable but whom you eventually come to love.

Highly recommended!

My rating?

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 16.39.30