Review of “The Fairest of Them All” (Marrying the Duke #2) by Cathy Maxwell

Maxwell, Cathy. The Fairest of Them All. New York: Avon Books, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-238863-6. Print List Price: $7.99.

3 stars

As a second installment in the Marrying the Duke series, I found this story interesting, but not as wonderful as the first one. While, like many romance novels, it can be read as a stand-alone, I personally found reading The Fairest of Them All after The Match of the Century a lot more of an enriching experience.

For one, we need to talk about Gavin. He was the rival in the first book, but he was still likable and charming enough that even though you wanted Elin and Ben together, you still feel a pang that Gavin is left alone. But in this one, some of his behavior rubbed me the wrong way. There are some cute moments on his part, like when he confides in Jack about his lack of experience, but the fact that he is so infatuated with Charlene and so afraid of the fact that she is in love with Jack that he not only sabotages the meeting Jack was meant to have to discuss American-British relations (leading to the War of 1812), but has him confined and tries to force him to leave, is so infuriating, and triggers everything I hate about love triangle storylines where the third person in the relationship is kind of an asshole. The one saving grace for this aspect is that Maxwell hints that he will find love where he least expects it with the last woman he could ever think of to marry, leading to the premise of his own book.

As for the romance between Jack and Charlene, it was cute and sweet, and, as the title suggests, there is a fairy-tale-like quality to their bond, which she has been looking for since she was a child. But other than that, the chemistry between the two did not resonate with me quite as much as the first book, and I didn’t really feel a spark there.

Review of “The Match of the Century” (Marrying the Duke #1) by Cathy Maxwell

Maxwell, Cathy. The Match of the Century. New York: Avon Books, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-238861-2. Print List Price: $7.99.

5 stars

I had previously read one or two Cathy Maxwell books, but I did not keep up with her, a fact which I now regret. I found the premise of this series engaging, and as a first book, it was very well executed.

Romances where the plot revolves around a love triangle can be somewhat hit-or-miss, especially as the “other person” who is keeping the couple apart is often portrayed as vile and two-dimensional. But Maxwell, with the plan of making the duke a hero, makes him sympathetic and, despite initially seeming like the stern duke (one of the reasons I tend to dislike duke books), you get a sense that this is something Gavin was conditioned to be, not who he truly is. And you can already tell he is going to be a unique romance hero, in that, unlike many of his peers in Romancelandia, he is a virgin hero who believes in love.

Ben, while much wilder at the outset, is much the same in that aspect. I was unsure how much I would like him when I first read the account of what happened between them in the past from Elin’s perspective, but I felt that Maxwell crafted realistic enough circumstances to tear them apart, then bring them back together.

I loved Elin, especially her love for her family. I did think the parents were kind of hypocritical, but especially since the mother’s choice to marry beneath her did pay off. But it did feel believable that a family would try to better themselves through their child’s marriage, so it wasn’t something that massively bothered me.

Review of “A Court of Wings and Ruin” (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Maas, Sarah J. A Court of Wings and Ruin. New York: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-1-61963-448-0. Print List Price: $18.99.

4.5 stars

This book was wonderful. It’s high action and high drama, with a moment near the ending that had my jaw dropping and heart seizing. While I did not enjoy it as much as its predecessor, I still felt that this book was a wonderful conclusion to this particular arc of the story, with the promise of more to come in the future.

I love that we finally get to see more of many of the supporting characters we met in the prior books. My favorites are Mor and Lucien. With Mor, without intentionally spoiling to much, I will say that the twist with her character is one that I did not see coming, but I feel it is one that is a positive thing for diversity with literature for young adults. I hope we will see Mor get her own story in future installments.

With Lucien, since he won me over from book one, I was a bit hesitant about the idea of Feyre wreaking havoc in the Spring Court. But I loved seeing the friendship between the two, especially in the beginning of this book, when they are on the run. And getting to know a bit more about his backstory, and why his father and brothers hate him made me feel sympathetic for him.


Review of “A Murder in Time” (Kendra Donovan #1) by Julie McElwain

McElwain, Julie. A Murder in Time. 2016. New York: Pegasus Books, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-1-68177-363-6. Hardcover List Price: $25.95.  Paperback List Price: $14.95.

5 stars

The premise of A Murder in Time caught my attention due to it containing some the key aspects that draw me to a story: the Regency setting, the mystery, and the supernatural element in the form of time travel. And this book proved to be exemplary on all counts.

Something that made it different in comparison to some of the other time travels I have read is that Kendra is in no way a historical enthusiast, although she clearly has some basic knowledge. It is fun to see someone who is clearly out of her element in most aspects of Regency life, but is savvy at solving a crime, with the focus being more on the latter than a sort of wish-fulfillment storyline, as has been done before in other time travel works.

The mystery itself is riveting, and the plot twist at the end regarding how many people were involved in the crime was something I did not anticipate. While I did not expect the mastermind to be who it was at first, I began to realize that it seemed somewhat obvious upon going through the evidence McElwain had previously revealed about his character. The true extent of his backstory, however, was shocking, evoking even parallels to at least one real-life serial killer who left his own mark on pop culture.


Review of “The Storm Sister” (The Seven Sisters #2) by Lucinda Riley

Riley, Lucinda. The Storm Sister. New York: Atria Books, 2016. ISBN-13: 987-1-4767-5992-0. Hardcover List Price: $24.99. Paperback List Price: $16.00.

5 stars

The Storm Sister is a wonderful book, both as a stand-alone novel and a second installment in the Seven Sisters series. Riley again transplants the reader to a new location, this time weaving her fictional characters into the historical world of the music scene in 1870s Norway and Germany.

This book does deviate from Riley’s other books as neither the contemporary nor the historical arcs have a romance in the traditional HEA sense, and in fact, the modern arc, which is typically the more romantic, is the one where we see Ally grappling with the grief of losing someone she loves, and it is much too soon to tell if she will meet someone else, especially as she has other things to think about. But we do see love in the more familial sense, as she discovers her roots, beginning with an instant bond she feels soon after arriving in Norway.

The historical arc and the way Riley constructed the plot twists where those characters were concerned was very well done. She concludes that arc with the inexplicable reunion between Jens and Anna, after he effectively abandoned her, and readers will already know (based on the family tree at the beginning) that they seem to have had a living child after seven years after their first child, and the reveal as to how all of that came to pass was jaw-dropping, especially considering the involvement of Edvard Grieg in their lives.

Review of “Last Night with the Duke” (The Rakes of St. James #1) by Amelia Grey

Grey, Amelia. Last Night with the Duke. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-1-250-10249-2. Print List Price: $7.99.

3.5 stars

Amelia Grey is a new-to-me author, and I picked this one up due to winning an ARC of the forthcoming second book, To the Duke, With Love, in a contest recently. And while the title did give me pause, especially when paired with that series title and that blurb, I found that the actual plot was nothing like I was expecting.

I liked all of the main characters, especially the heroine, Esmeralda. The banter between her and Griffin made this book for me, especially as they battled about how things would go in terms of her employment. And while I wasn’t massively wowed by Griffin as a hero, he still proved that, despite his past mistake, he has a code of honor, which keeps him in check throughout the book.

It was both of their younger sisters that really stole the show, and I hope that someday there will be a spinoff series for at least the twins, and maybe Josephine later down the line. The moment where Josephine loses Napoleon, but decides she doesn’t want to take him away from another girl was one of the sweetest moments for me.

But this book is not without its flaws. I know this book isn’t billed as a mystery in any sense, but the reveal of who was the culprit in the revenge plot felt predictable, given that the character wasn’t really well-drawn, except in terms of his material assets, so we don’t get a chance to really get to know him.

I also felt that there could have been more closure for Esmeralda and Josephine with their family. It’s hinted at and discussed, but the only thread resolved there is the Josephine’s issues with her father and poetry.

Review of “A Court of Mist and Fury” (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Maas, Sarah J. A Court of Mist and Fury. New York: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-1-61963-446-6. Hardcover List Price: $18.99. Paperback List Price: $10.99.

5 stars

When I first started A Court of Thorns and Roses, I was told by book club friends that even if I didn’t like that one, I should still pick up this one. And despite the rough start the first time I tried to read it, I now see why.

This book is even better than the first one. While Feyre is a bit of a “crappy heroine” in the beginning, I feel like she grew on me a lot more this time around. While in the first one, some of her decisions were dumb, I felt she had grown a lot more this time, and by the end, I believe she is up for what she had planned.

But the real star of the show is Rhysand. While I griped in a previous review about other popular YA series baiting readers with a love triangle, which readers knew was going to be resolved exactly the way you expect, making shipping pointless, (*coughTwilightcough*) Maas adds a twist with Rhysand and Feyre’s developing relationship, and highlighting Tamlin’s dark side until the point of his ultimate betrayal. As for Rhysand himself, I did not expect to love him as much as I did. There are these little moments of humor that endeared me to him, but it was hearing about his past that made me feel for him.

I am also pleased that we are seeing more of Nesta and Elain, with hints of romance with Fae men for both of them. I can’t wait to find out how things will be resolved for both of them, especially considering Elain’s Fae-hating fiancee.

Review of “The Seven Sisters” (The Seven Sisters #1) by Lucinda Riley

Riley, Lucinda. The Seven Sisters. New York: Atria Books, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1-5990-6. Hardcover List Price: $24.99. Paperback List Price: $16.99.

4 stars

I adored Lucinda Riley’s first four books, but I didn’t keep up with her once she started the Seven Sisters series. And despite something of a slow start, this one proves to be just as good as her previous work.  Riley does have a sort of “formula” with a double love story: a past one that ends sadly, and a present one connected to and learning from the past. But while her books are somewhat predictable, they are no less heart-wrenching in their portrayal of human emotions.

Maia is a great modern heroine. Even though I haven’t gone through the same experiences, I can relate to her and the journey she goes on. I find it fascinating how her story had parallels with those of the women in her birth family, but also noted where it diverged, in terms of the decisions they made. And despite her arc being told entirely through her perspective, I truly felt that Floriano was a great romantic interest and an ideal match for her.

The historical arc felt a bit lacking, particularly in the romance department. I was fascinated by how Riley situated it within the construction of Christ the Redeemer. But when it came to the romance between Bel and Laurent, I just did not get it. I mean, he’s a nice guy, and I get that artists are romantic. But if she actually left her privileged life to be with him, would she find the lifestyle romantic in the long run?

And at one point she says she is beginning to detest her husband, Gustavo. While at first he seems awful, Riley does make a point of humanizing him, instead of making him an antagonist, so it’s not another Cal Hockley situation. I honestly felt sadder when I heard about what happened to him than what happened to her in the end.

Review of “Immortal in Death” (In Death #3) by J.D. Robb

Robb, J..D. Immortal in Death. New York: Berkley, 1996. ISBN-13: 978-0-425-15378-9. Print List Price: $7.99.

4 stars

This is hard to rate, because while the plot was hard to get into, and outright confusing at times, I still found the characters and the writing engaging. I enjoyed seeing the characters develop, with Eve and Roarke getting ready for their wedding, and seeing other relationships between major characters grow. Mavis is now one of my favorite characters, and I was glad to have a story where she plays a significant role.

However, I had a hard time investing in the plot, and figuring out the timeline of events. There is a victim killed prior to the events of the book, and most of the book follows the investigation into his murder and the murders of the two subsequent victims. The tie-in with the world of illegal drugs and the quest for eternal youth threw me, as I felt like these substances and their connections to immortality (with one even being called Immortality) weren’t really explained.


Review of “Ryan Higa’s How to Write Good” by Ryan Higa

Higa, Ryan. Ryan Higa’s How to Write Good. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-0-316-46407-9. Print List Price: $19.99.

4 stars

I am a longtime fan of Ryan’s videos, and while at first I was unsure about him jumping on the bandwagon of being another YouTuber who writes a book, I took a chance on it when I saw it displayed in the library. And while it’s not exemplary writing, it is a humorous and relatable read, especially for teens going through the problems he details in his book, like bullying and struggling to find their niche in school and in life.

The book takes the form of a combination between prose telling his life story and interwoven conversations between him and his ghostwriter, told through comic strips. And as the title suggests, the format parodies a writing manual, following the very meta narrative of “a college dropout who struggled in basic-level English classes” as a he tries to write his book.

While some of the content with the text is stuff he’s talked about in a few of his videos, the extent through which he dealt with issues relating to mental health in middle school is much more detailed, and reading about how he overcame the issue, even knowing how he turned out prior to reading the book, will bring hope to others who are going through the same thing.