Review: The Country Guesthouse by Robyn Carr + Giveaway

Review: The Country Guesthouse by Robyn Carr + GiveawayThe Country Guesthouse (Sullivan's Crossing #5) by Robyn Carr
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, small town romance, women's fiction
Series: Sullivan's Crossing #5
Pages: 336
Published by Mira on January 7, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A summer rental, a new beginning…

Hannah Russell’s carefully crafted plans for her life have been upended without warning. When her best friend died suddenly, Hannah became guardian to a five-year-old named Noah. With no experience at motherhood, she’s terrified she’s not up to the challenge. She and Noah need time to get to know each other, so she decides to rent a country house with stunning views on a lake in rural Colorado.

When they arrive at the house, they are greeted by the owner, a handsome man who promises to stay out of their way. But his clumsy Great Dane, Romeo, has other ideas and Noah immediately bonds with the lovable dog. As Hannah learns to become a mother, Owen Abrams, who is recovering from his own grief, can’t help but be drawn out of his solitude by his guests.

But life throws more challenges at this unlikely trio and they are tested in ways they never thought possible. All three will discover their strengths and, despite their differences, they will fight to become a family. And the people of Sullivan’s Crossing will rally around them to offer all of the support they need.

My Review:

It has been my experience that bosses who LOVE sending their staff on lots of “team building” retreats have other bad habits. Especially the ones who send the “team” but not themselves. Hannah’s boss seems to be the exception that proves the rule – lucky for her!

In the end, the only important thing about that team-building retreat is its location. Because it’s held in photographer Owen Abrams’ beautiful house across the lake from Sullivan’s Crossing. And as much as Hannah hates the retreat, she adores the house. Her escape by way of Sully’s general store only sweetens the deal and makes her long to return.

So she does, after two crises that would make anyone need to schedule a getaway from at least parts of the real.

Hannah returns home early from that retreat to find her about-to-be-ex fiance banging Hannah’s assistant in not just their house – that Hannah pays for – but their bed. She tosses them both out on their asses, him from her life and her from her job.

But that’s not the real crisis. In the end it’s just a blip on the radar. (He’s a blip, too.) Hannah’s best friend for nearly two decades, through college and beyond, dies suddenly of complications from pneumonia. Leaving Hannah as the grieving and scared but willing instant mother of her BFF’s 5 year old son.

So Hannah and Noah “escape” for two weeks in Sullivan’s Crossing. Hannah has rented Owen’s house while Owen is supposed to be on a photo shoot in Vietnam. But the shoot has been cancelled and Hannah needs the escape too badly to take a raincheck on the Airbnb rental.

She and Owen both expect to not see much of each other while she and Noah are there. Owen expects to live in his studio, as he often does when his plans fall through but the Airbnb doesn’t.

Instead, Owen’s dog Romeo and Noah bond instantaneously – and so do Owen and Hannah.

The surprising friendship blossoms rapidly, not just between the boy and the dog – or even the one between the two love-scarred adults. In two short weeks they are well on their way to being a family – even if none of them had the remotest thought such a thing could happen.

Extending Hannah’s vacation into an entire summer only makes it clearer that this family is meant to be – and meant to be in Sullivan’s Crossing. But every paradise has its own particular snake – and Sullivan’s Crossing is no different.

But Hannah is. She’s determined to make the best life possible for Noah, no matter what ugliness from his birth mother’s past tries to take it away. With the entire town of Sullivan’s Crossing standing squarely behind her.

Escape Rating B+: Sullivan’s Crossing and the nearby town of Timberlake just seem like a great place to live. Also a nice place to visit, as Hannah discovers during her escape from that disastrous team-building retreat.

One of the things I love about this type of small-town women’s fiction/contemporary romance is just how terrific these tiny towns are. Timberlake seems to have just enough of everything to make it a great place to live. And it’s within a half day drive of Denver – at least in good weather.

Hannah brings Noah to Sullivan’s Crossing because they need to get away from the location of their recent grief – even though the grief itself comes along with them. In Owen Abrams’ house they are not confronted with every single memory every single minute. They need this chance to bond as well as this respite to heal.

One of the things that makes this story special is the way that the town rallies around them when trouble comes calling. As it inevitably does. The past may be reaching out to grab them, but everyone in town stands ready, willing and able to help them beat it back.

That the nature of the trouble is not dissimilar to previous events in the series doesn’t mean that this time around isn’t just as heartwarming. The nature of the place just seems to bring it out of everyone who stays. (And this story stands alone, but the series is simply lovely, starting with What We Find. Just saying…)

The romance between Hannah and Owen feels like it happens just a bit too quickly, especially in a situation where Hannah is in the throes of re-figuring out her entire life. Owen’s response makes more sense – he’s been carrying his baggage for over a decade and Hannah and Noah are the catalyst that finally allows him to let some of it go.

But she’s just picked hers up, along with picking up Noah and working out their new life together. She’s grief-stricken at her friend’s death, she’s scared about being an instant mother, and she’s grateful for Noah’s presence in her life. But adding a romance feels like something that she would either shy away from or would be a bit co-dependent. Possibly both.

Which doesn’t mean that the romance between Owen and Hannah isn’t sweet, because it certainly is.

The blast from the past is frightening in a very real way. One thing that was very well done was the way that the reader initially thinks the problems will be coming from Hannah’s ex-fiance. That turns out to be a bit of easily resolved misdirection. The true threat is also carefully hidden. We know that Noah’s bio-family have never been part of his life, we think we know why, then we discover that the situation is both not quite what we thought but even more dangerous than we expected.

And the dog is a delight. Owen’s big, clumsy, adorable Great Dane, Romeo, steals hearts at every turn. Romeo and his person find their Juliet in Hannah – without the messy ending of his namesake.

I always adore visiting Sullivan’s Crossing, and my trip to The Country Guesthouse was no exception. I hope my next visit will be soon!

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I’m giving away a copy of The Country Guesthouse to one very lucky US commenter on this tour!

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Review: The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman

Review: The Secret Chapter by Genevieve CogmanThe Secret Chapter (The Invisible Library #6) by Genevieve Cogman
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: alternate history, fantasy, historical fantasy, mystery, urban fantasy
Series: Invisible Library #6
Pages: 336
Published by Ace on January 7, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In the latest novel in Genevieve Cogman’s historical fantasy series, Irene and Kai have to team up with an unlikely band of misfits to pull off an amazing art heist—or risk the wrath of the dangerous villain with a secret island lair.

A Librarian’s work is never done, and once Irene has a quick rest after their latest adventure, she is summoned to the Library. The world where she grew up is in danger of veering deep into chaos, and she needs to obtain a particular book to stop this from happening. No copies of the book are available in the Library, so her only choice is to contact a mysterious Fae information broker and trader of rare objects: Mr. Nemo.

Irene and Kai make their way to Mr. Nemo’s remote Caribbean island and are invited to dinner, which includes unlikely company. Mr. Nemo has an offer for everyone there: he wants them to steal a specific painting from a specific world. He swears that he will give each of them an item from his collection if they bring him the painting within the week.

Everyone takes the deal. But to get their reward, they will have to form a team, including a dragon techie, a Fae thief, a gambler, a driver, and the muscle. Their goal? The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, in a early twenty-first century world, where their toughest challenge might be each other.

My Review:

This series is pretty much frying pans and fires all the way down, but this entry has an added fillip of archetypal James Bond movie villains to put a bit of extra zing into this increasingly wild ride of a story.

And there are dragons. There are definitely dragons. In this particular entry in the series, there are dragons on all sides. Irene is, of course, accompanied by her own personal dragon, her apprentice-turned-lover Kai.

While dragons in this universe are creatures of order, and Kai is an actual prince among his kind, the side that Kai is generally on – as well as nearly always at – is Irene’s.

But he’s not the only dragon in this one. And not all of them are exactly on the side of the angels. Or even all on the same side. In fact, it could be said that one of the dragons is more than a bit chaotic – at least insofar as anarchy generally equates to chaos – even if the dragon in question doesn’t see it that way.

The Secret Chapter is both a caper story and a followup to the previous entry in the series, The Mortal Word, without being directly dependent on its predecessor. Well, Irene’s and Kai’s actions are influenced by those previous events, but the caper they find themselves in the middle of doesn’t directly relate to the treaty between Dragons and Fae squabbled over during that story and finally signed at the end.

Instead, this one at first hearkens back to earlier books in the series – and earlier escapades in Irene’s past. Irene is sent to the lair of an archetypal fae collector and information broker – cue the James Bond music – to negotiate the acquisition of a book from Mr. Nemo’s collection that will stabilize the world where Irene went to school.

And that’s where the caper comes in. Mr. Nemo collects lots of interesting things – and people. As a powerful fae, it’s both who he is and what he does. He gets and keeps his power from embodying that archetype.

In return for the book that Irene and the Library desperately want, Mr. Nemo requires that they, along with a motley crew that he has previously assembled, steal a particular painting from a specified world and bring it back to his lair.

The caper, the theft, and the way it works – and doesn’t – may remind readers a bit of the TV series Leverage. It’s the old story of taking a thief to catch a thief, but with multiple twists – not always expected.

This is one of those stories where things are far from what they seem. The thug isn’t a thug, the prisoner isn’t a prisoner, the painting isn’t just a painting. It’s also the “secret chapter” of the book’s title. It’s a secret chapter in the history of the dragons – a secret that no dragon should ever want to let out.

But then there’s that anarchist…

Escape Rating A-: If the pattern for the previous book in this series was that of a murder mystery, the pattern for The Secret Chapter is the caper movie crossed with James Bond-type villainy. It’s the motley crew carrying off the heist for the best of all possible reasons, like Leverage. With a villain like Blofeld or Goldfinger pulling the strings behind the scenes. (I’m pretty sure I remember a Bond movie or two that included that scene with the sharks…)

But underneath that set up, there are more interesting games afoot. Or a-wing in the case of the dragon members of the barely together party.

There is more than one “secret chapter” in this story. Come to think of it, both Irene and Kai are dealing with secret chapters of their lives and histories that have all the impact of a bomb in this entry in the series.

(Take that as a hint, don’t start the series here. Begin your journey at The Invisible Library and be prepared to get lost in the stacks.)

The secrets that Irene exposes – or feels exposed by – are all personal. She and her parents have to resolve Irene’s discovery that she was adopted – and that they never told her. Her sense of herself is still reeling a bit. That the book she needs to retrieve will prevent the world where she went to school, one of the few stable places in her chaotic history, from falling into absolute chaos gives the story a personal stake for her.

At the same time, one of the many, many things in this caper that are not what they seem is the painting that they have to steal. It IS a painting – but it isn’t the painting that they think it is. Or not just that painting. Hidden underneath the masterpiece is something else altogether – a half-finished painting that is intended to undermine every so-called history that the eternal, immortal dragon rulers have ever told about themselves. Whether the revisionist history of the painting is a truth that they’ve been covering for millennia or propaganda created for the purpose of destabilizing the dragons is anyone’s guess.

From Irene’s perspective the truth doesn’t matter. Destabilizing the dragons will cause chaos throughout the multiverse that the Library protects. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, of the one – or of the truth.

I can’t wait for further truths to be revealed – or concealed – in future books in this series. Book 7 is already in the works!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 1-5-20

Sunday Post

Welcome 2020! Welcome to the first Sunday Post of the new year!

We had a pretty quiet holiday, except for the neighbors across the street exploding fireworks until, well, until much too late for the cats who spent the holiday under the bed.

This will be the first real post-holiday week. So NetGalley and Edelweiss will probably explode with new eARCS and the “Taj Mahal of dumpster fires” in Romancelandia will probably sink to new depths. I wish that second part weren’t true, but it probably is.

And in other news, this is both a leap year and a presidential election year in the US. A situation that is already heating up – literally.

Happy New Year!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the 3…2…1…Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Welcome 2020 Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the Dashing Giveaway Hop is Tracie C.

Blog Recap:

20 for 2020: My Most Anticipated Books for 2020
B+ Review: Blood and Blade by Lauren Dane
3…2…1…Giveaway Hop
Welcome 2020 Giveaway Hop
B Review: Mark of Eon by Anna Hackett
Stacking the Shelves (373)

Coming This Week:

The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman (review)
The Country Guesthouse by Robyn Carr (blog tour review)
Atlas Alone by Emma Newman (review)
The Secret She Keeps by HelenKay Dimon (blog tour review)
The Prince of Broadway by Joanna Shupe (blog tour review)

Stacking the Shelves (373)

Stacking the Shelves

Yet another short stack. Probably the last short stack for a while as the publishing world is bound to come back to work on Monday. I’m looking forward to a deluge of new books on NetGalley and Edelweiss.

Pride and Prejudice was actually a freebie from Amazon. The book is WELL out of copyright so there are free kindle versions available. I was reviewing The Other Bennet Sister for Library Journal and wanted to check a couple of things in the original. I read – or rather listened to –  P&P a long time ago. I enjoyed it at the time and the general story stuck, but the whole point of the book I was reviewing was that one sister got overlooked in the original story – which means I remembered nothing because she wasn’t memorable then. She certainly was this time around!

For Review:
Back in Black (McGinnis Investigations #1) by Rhys Ford
Last Day by Luanne Rice
The Secrets of Bones (Jazz Ramsey #2) by Kylie Logan
The Vanishing (Fogg Lake #1) by Jayne Ann Krentz
Westside Saints by W.M. Akers

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Review: Mark of Eon by Anna Hackett

Review: Mark of Eon by Anna HackettMark of Eon (Eon Warriors #5) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: science fiction, science fiction romance, space opera
Series: Eon Warriors #5
Pages: 215
Published by Anna Hackett on December 29th 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

Oil and water. Fire and ice. Terran space marine and rugged alien warrior.
Space marine Lieutenant Jamie Park has a reputation as tough as steel…just the way she likes it. A horrible childhood and her marine training have forged her into a strong woman, and she’s never seen a fight she’d back down from. Taking on the voracious insectoid Kantos is her focus, even if that means being assigned to the Eon warship, the Desteron, and working with the one arrogant alien warrior who’s seen her vulnerable and weak.

Medical Commander Aydin Kann-Ath lives to be the perfect warrior and doctor. All his life, he's worked to restore his family's tarnished honor. He has no room in his life for anything but his work, and that includes a headstrong, battle-hardened Terran who -- even when injured -- refuses to follow orders. Yet every minute he spends with Jamie, she ignites both his temper and his desire, and he can't seem to stay away.

With every interaction, Aydin finds himself fascinated by Jamie's courage and spirit, and Jamie finds herself consumed by a fiery attraction that terrifies her. On a dangerous hunt to find symbiont lifeforms that have been stolen by the Kantos, the pair can't ignore their passionate connection. But the evil Kantos threaten not only their lives, but the fate of the galaxy, unless Jamie and Aydin sacrifice it all to stop them.

My Review:

The Eon Warriors series is exactly the kind of space opera type of science fiction romance that got me hooked on SFR in general and Anna Hackett in particular. My first Anna Hackett book was At Star’s End, the first in her Phoenix Adventures series, and I think I’ve read everything since. If I’ve missed one or two, I certainly haven’t missed much.

But they’ve been all over the SFR map. Hell Squad is post-apocalyptic, Galactic Gladiators is wormholes and rescued captives, Team 52 is Earthbound Stargate. They’ve all been fun, but I’d really been jonesing for more space opera when the Eon Warriors burst onto the SFR scene with Edge of Eon. And I was hooked all over again.

The first three books in the series, Edge of Eon, Touch of Eon and Heart of Eon form a strong unit. They’re almost a single story in the way that the action follows the Traynor sisters of Earth who have been coerced/convinced/strong-armed into doing some really stupid things to people and places in the Eon Empire out of a truly desperate need to get the Eons’ attention.

That Earth needs to be that desperate because they really, seriously, totally and completely screwed the pooch in Earth’s first contact with Eons is kind of icing on the cake. Humans and their phobias can turn us into serious assholes – and that’s pretty much what happened.

The Eons and the humans have a mutual enemy – the insectoid Kratos. (Someday I want to find out that the Kratos and the Gizzida – the enemies in Hell Squad – are cousins or something. Let’s just say there’s a serious family resemblance.)

The enemy of my enemy is my friend – or at least my ally. The humans, after all, were merely assholes to the Eons. The Kratos want to conquer and destroy. Assholishness definitely takes a back seat to that.

Notice I’m not saying that the Kratos are evil per se. For that matter neither are the Gizzida as a race. They are both acting out their species imperatives. It’s just that our species imperative – and that of the Eons – is diametrically opposed to theirs.

So, in the name of fighting that common enemy, the Eons and the humans have banded together for mutual aid. The humans needs the Eons a lot more than the Eons need the humans, or so it appears on the surface.

But the humans are used to fighting against enemies who are bigger, stronger, more technologically advanced and better equipped than they are – problems that the Eons haven’t faced in millennia, if at all.

And there’s just something about humans – something that hasn’t been studied yet but hopefully will be. Eons are only fertile with their true – or fated – mates – or in a test tube. They’ve been increasingly going the test tube route because they’ve been decreasingly finding their true mates. Until those pesky Traynor sisters got involved, proving that Eons can EASILY find their mates among the human population.

And that’s where we are in Mark of Eon. The Eons and the Terran Space Marines are conducting joint operations and officer exchanges, figuring out a way to work together to take the fight to their mutual foe.

Along the way, some individual Eon Warriors and some individual Space Marines keep discovering that, while they are all far from perfect, they can be perfect for each other.

“These are their stories…”

Escape Rating B: I couldn’t resist that tagline. It just fit.

But seriously, now that all three Traynor sisters have found their mates among the Eon Warriors, the romantic action of the series has moved to the officers and crew of the Terran space fleet as they cross-train with the Eon Warriors.

A pattern has emerged in this series, as often does in a long-running series. Each story has two elements, one from the overall arc and one the individual romance.

Taking the battle to the Kratos – or at least trying to advance that initiative, is the focus of the overall arc. The Kratos are as determined and seemingly as advanced as the Eons, so that arc moves one step forward and two steps back – or the other way around – in each book. And there’s always a scene where the hero and heroine are directly in danger from the Kratos and isolated from their ship and crew to add to the tension.

The romantic pairings have generally focused on two scarred people who make each other strong in their broken places. In the case of Terran Jamie Park and Eon Warrior and Medical Commander Aydin Kann-Ath, it’s a romance between two people who have never felt like they’ve been enough and have a difficult time believing that each might be enough for the other.

I enjoyed reading Mark of Eon, just as I have pretty much everything Anna Hackett has written. Because it hews so closely to a formula that has become a bit obvious, it qualified as good mind candy for me but didn’t rise to the stellar level as the first books in this series did.

But I can always be in the mood for good mind candy, and the Eon Warriors are definitely that – probably excellent eye candy as well. I’ll certainly be back for the next entry in this series – and anything else this author wants to send my way!

Welcome 2020 Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Welcome 2020 Giveaway Hop, hosted by Review Wire Media and Chatty Patty’s Place!

Is it real yet? I mean, is it real yet that it is 2020 and not still 2019? Does it feel like a new year?

Have you made any resolutions? Have you already broken any?

Whether you are welcoming 2020 or still saying, “Bah, humbug” this hop includes yet another opportunity to win your choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository to help you start the new year right. Or lose track of your sorrows in a good book.

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For more great prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


3…2…1…Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the 3…2…1…Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

Wherever you are, HAPPY NEW YEAR! That it’s 2020 doesn’t seem quite real, does it? But here we are!

Everyone has New Year’s traditions, even if it’s just watching the ball drop  in Times Square on TV. There’s been a traditional Peach Drop here in ATL but it’s not happening this year.

Still, what’s your favorite thing to do to mark the New Year? Answer in the rafflecopter for your chance at either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more sparkly and/or explosive (hopefully not too explosive) prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Review: Blood and Blade by Lauren Dane

Review: Blood and Blade by Lauren DaneBlood and Blade: Goddess with a Blade by Lauren Dane
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, urban fantasy
Series: Goddess with a Blade #6
Pages: 384
Published by Carina Press on December 30th 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Rowan Summerwaite is ready to finish what she started in
Blood and Blade
, the next installment in the Goddess with a Blade series by
New York Times
bestselling author Lauren Dane.

It’s been only days since Rowan and her friends eliminated the immediate threat to magic users and Vampires, but they’re already back on the hunt. Rowan’s out for vengeance, and she’s never been more driven—or angry. But she’s up against a being stronger than any she’s ever fought. To bring it down she’ll need more than the powers the goddess Brigid gave her…

This time she’ll need her friends, too.

She knows her husband will always have her back. As an ancient Vampire and Scion of North America, Clive has more clout and dominance than almost anyone. Rowan’s small but trusted inner circle insist they’ll join her in the thick of the battle, even as she argues it’s too dangerous for them. She’s also got a new dog. Familiar. Whatever. Star is a magical being put in Rowan’s path to help and protect her.

The hunt for ancient evil takes Rowan and her team to London and back to Las Vegas, bringing with them an unexpected alliance. Fortified by their rage, grief and determination, Rowan and her friends will stop at nothing when they track their enemy to the high desert in a final, deadly showdown.

This book is approximately 77,000 words

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the
Carina Press Romance Promise
: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

My Review:

This is the last day of 2019 and this is my final review of the year. It seemed fitting to close out the year with this book, the sixth book in the Goddess with a Blade series. Why? Because the first book in this series, the book for which the series was named, was the first book I ever reviewed from NetGalley back in 2011 when Reading Reality first started as Escape Reality, Read Fiction.

I still remember not just the book, but the whole scene, sitting at the table in the house we were living in at the time, racing through Goddess with a Blade accompanied by a glass of iced tea and being completely sucked into the world that the author had created.

(As an aside, the cover on the left is the original cover for Goddess with a Blade. I much preferred the original cover aesthetic for the series and wish that they’d continued in that direction. My 2 cents.)

So this is a series that I read and review pretty much as soon as the next one appears on NetGalley. And here we are, six books in and Rowan Summerwaite is very much still going strong. Goddess strong.

But this is the sixth book in an ongoing series, and the events in Blood and Blade are the direct consequences of the shit that went down in the previous book, Wrath of the Goddess. And the story in Wrath of the Goddess is a consequence of what went right and wrong in the previous books.

So this one is the end of the chain. It doesn’t feel like the end of the series, but it is definitely the end of the long arc. As someone who has read the whole thing – although not nearly recently enough, it felt like I could hear the thud of one door closing echoing throughout the entire book – along with the whisper-creak of the next door being wrestled open at the other side.

In other words, this is no place to start the series. It would be like watching Avengers: Endgame without watching any of the movies that led up to it. The endgame has no resonance without knowing where the game began.

But if you’re looking for a fascinating and compelling blend of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, this series has all the mysterious mythology, arrogant but romantic vampires, ugly political infighting and kickass heroines you’ll ever want to meet.

Start with Goddess with a Blade and watch Rowan Summerwaite kick ass, take names and bring down corruption with a load of snark, a lot of deeply hidden heart, and one really big-ass sword.

Escape Rating B+: You can’t start the series here. Period. Exclamation point. It just won’t make any sense whatsoever. That being said, there is so much that still needs cleaning up that has been festering for so damn long that it was a bit difficult to get back into exactly where Rowan was at the end of Wrath of the Goddess and what’s left to clean up.

What I loved about this series from the very beginning is the depth of the worldbuilding. One of the things that I’ve always loved about urban fantasy is the way that it twists on the world we know and adds so much depth, both in its mythology and in its politics. Immortal beings tend to hold immortal grudges and I really dig on watching that play out in the modern world.

Another thing I love about this series in particular is the way that Rowan in particular, as well as her relationship with Clive, reminds me very fondly of Eve Dallas and Roarke in the In Death series. Rowan and Eve have a LOT of traits in common, to the point that if their worlds ever collided they’d either adopt each other as sisters or fight to the death because they are too much alike. But they both have the kind of no-nonsense attitude with full snarkitude, that I adore along with the brains and strength to back it up.

I compare their relationship to Eve and Roarke because Rowan and Clive also start out on what look like the opposite sides of a barbed-wire fence and work out their relationship early in the series. Dane, like Robb, does an excellent job of portraying a romance that is still sweet, hot and occasionally barbed between two strong-willed alpha personalities and that’s always fun to watch.

This series has been a wild and marvelous ride from the very beginning. It is obvious from the way that Blood and Blade ends that there are more stories to be told in Rowan’s world – and I can’t wait to read them.

20 for 2020: My Most Anticipated Books for 2020

In this final half-week of 2019 it feels like a good time to look forward to the year-to-be. With just a bit of a look back at the year that was.

Or at least the year that I thought would be this time last year.

I’m surprised to discover that out of the 19 books I said I really, really wanted to read this year, I read all but one. And the one I didn’t, Lady Hotspur, I didn’t because it didn’t happen in 2019. It is, however, definitely happening in January 2020, so it’s a repeat from last year because I still really, really, really want to read it!

Also, looking at the list for 2020, it’s clear that my reading is leaning more towards SF and Fantasy. Or, at least I have better data about forthcoming SF and Fantasy that I know I want to read. (Locus Magazine does a regular feature on Forthcoming Books and there’s an extensive list in the December 2019 issue)

A lot of the books listed are next-in-series, some in series that I’ve been following for years. Sometimes picking up the next book in a series falls victim to the “so many books, so little time” conundrum. But sometimes you just get hooked so hard that you can’t let go. Ever!

The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison
Back in Black (McGinnis Investigations #1) by Rhys Ford
A Blight of Blackwings (Seven Kennings #2) by Kevin Hearne
The Burning God (Poppy War #3) by R.F. Kuang
Cast in Wisdom (Chronicles of Elantra #15) by Michelle Sagara
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Crush the King (Crown of Shards #3) by Jennifer Estep
A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan #2) by Arkady Martine
Deal with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians #1) by Kit Rocha
Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights edited by Patrick Weekes
Driving the Deep (Finder #2) by Suzanne Palmer
The Empire of Gold (Daevabad #3) by S.A. Chakraborty
Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton
The Last Emperox (Interdependency #3) by John Scalzi
The Memory of Souls (Chorus of Dragons #3) by Jenn Lyons
Network Effect (Murderbot #5) by Martha Wells
Queen of the Unwanted (Women’s War #2) by Jenna Glass
The Relentless Moon (Lady Astronaut #3) by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Secret Chapter (Invisible Library #6) by Genevieve Cogman
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 12-29-19

Sunday Post

Welcome to the final Sunday Post of 2019. And the unofficial final post of the 2010s. Yes, I know the decade technically ends on 12/31/2020, but it just doesn’t feel that way, does it?

I’ve been following the “Taj Mahal of dumpster fires” in Romancelandia over the holidays and the hashtag #RWAShitShow pretty much sums it up. It’s a train wreck. Or a multi-car pileup on the Highway, complete with gazer block. I can’t turn my eyes away either. If you want more on this I’ve included links in my posts Friday and yesterday. And here are a couple more, a terrific summary at All About Romance and a thoughtful and personal commentary by Nora Roberts. (THANKS Arlene for the tip!)

But back to real life – or at least real blogging life. And real reading life and not just obsessively checking twitter. This past week included Xmas and most of Hanukkah, which ends tomorrow. This week is New Year’s, which doesn’t feel quite real at the moment as we’re thinking about turning on the A/C or at least running all the fans. Life goes on.

Happy New Year!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Dashing Giveaway Hop (ends TUESDAY!)

Blog Recap:

A- Review: The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
B Review: Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield
Happy Holidays 2019
Best of My 2019
A- Review: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
Stacking the Shelves (372)

Coming This Week:

Blood and Blade by Lauren Dane (review)
Most Anticipated Books of 2020
3..2..1..Giveaway Hop
Welcome 2020 Giveaway Hop
Mark of Eon by Anna Hackett (review)