The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 10-4-15

Sunday Post

The Books That Need More Attention Giveaway Hop started yesterday, so there’s plenty of time to enter. This seems to be hop season, as there is yet another hop scheduled for this week, and then there’s the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop starting in mid-October. This may not be Christmas yet, but it still seems to be the season to give away books and bookish prizes.

But speaking of giveaways, I don’t say this often because it feels just a bit crass, but Reading Reality is an Amazon Affiliate. Buying one of the books you find on my blog (or any other book, for that matter) by going to Amazon from one of my links nets me a few cents or a dollar per book. Those affiliate fees add up, and they are how I fund the giveaways. So I very, very much appreciate when I see that someone has bought a book through my links, both because it means that I reached that person with my review, and because it helps provide the giveaways that introduce new readers to Reading Reality. So thank you all very much.

alternate banned books banner 2015And before we end the weekend, let’s take a look at what happened last week. It was a theme week for Banned Books Week, so all the books I reviewed were on topics related to Banned Books Week in some way. One book is currently under challenge, one talks about reading the world and what breaking out of our Western, anglophone reading habits might mean. And then the recent and controversial history of one of the world’s great libraries, as well as a book about our First Amendment rights and then a book about how those rights are being eroded by ubiquitous government and commercial surveillance. The books were fascinating and occasionally frightening. And compelling enough that I only made one change from my original plan – not because I’m not planning to read Terms of Service but because I needed to carry my book around the day I was supposed to read it, and I didn’t have an ebook.

Also, I admit, Patience and Fortitude was about half the length of Terms of Service, and it was starting to matter. These were all marvelous books, but not the kind of thing that keeps one up until 3 am because you want to see what happens next. I may do this again, for next Banned Books Week if no other time. If anyone has any thoughts on the concept or how it worked, please let me know in the comments.

And next week we’re back to our regularly scheduled genre fiction! I need a break from the serious.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Books That Need More Attention Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the $10 Book or $10 Gift Card in the Rockin’ Reads Giveaway Hop is Jennifer H.
The winner of the $10 Book or $10 Gift Card in the Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop is Susan D.

immortal life of henrietta lacks by rebecca sklootBlog Recap:

A+ Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
B Review: The World Between Two Covers by Ann Morgan
B+ Review: Patience and Fortitude by Scott Sherman
A Review: Freedom of Speech by David K. Shipler
A- Review: Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier
Books That Need More Attention Giveaway Hop

books to movies giveaway hopComing Next Week:

The Guilt of Innocents by Candace Robb (review)
An Ancient Peace by Tanya Huff (review)
Christmas in Mustang Creek by Linda Lael Miller (blog tour review)
Books to Movies Giveaway Hop
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (review)
Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh (blog tour review)

Stacking the Shelves (154)

Stacking the Shelves

I have to admit, I picked up a review copy of Star Trek Sex just for the title. And I’m curious as hell. The book’s description mostly covers the original series, but there wasn’t any actual sex. There was a fair amount of romance, usually of the girl or alien of the week, but no actual sex. However, there was one episode, Wink of an Eye, from the often horrible third season. This episode became slightly infamous because it was the first episode that showed the aftermath of presumably actual sex. Kirk is seen in the lady’s stateroom putting on his boots while sitting on the edge of the bed. The presumption is that he is putting his boots on after having put back on the rest of his clothes. But even then, we assume, we don’t absolutely know. But it was always a titillating presumption. Even if the book is more of the same, it will be a nice trip down memory lane.

And over in the MUCH higher quality section of the science fiction rack, Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, the final? book in her awesome and award-gobbling Imperial Radch series, is available for pre-order. It’s scheduled to come out on October 6, and I can hardly wait!

For Review:
Controlled Burn (Boston Fire #2) by Shannon Stacey
London Rain (Josephine Tey #6) by Nicola Upson
No Shred of Evidence (Inspector Ian Rutledge #18) by Charles Todd
Otter Chaos by P.D. Singer
Rock Redemption (Rock Kiss #3) by Nalini Singh
Star Trek Sex by Will Stape

Purchased from Amazon:
Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3) by Ann Leckie
Overload Flux (Central Galactic Concordance #1) by Carol Van Natta


The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 9-13-15

Sunday Post

Last week’s schedule fell completely to bits by the end. Hopefully this week will hew a little closer to my intentions from this end of the lens. But sometimes, no matter my best inentions, a book just doesn’t do anything for me, and I drop it. Sometimes the feeling is temporary (I loved both Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh and Heartmate by Robin D. Owens on the second go around, but felt very ‘meh’ about both of them on my first try). But sometimes its permanent, and I can never make myself go back. And of course, sometimes it’s not me, it’s the book. Either it turns out not to be for me, or just plain awful. Not that I haven’t occasionally finished some of those when I think it’s going to make a scathingly funny review.

And sometimes I bounce off of one book because there’s a different one calling my name so loudly that I can’t get a stray thought in until I read it. Has this ever happened to you?

paris time capsule by ella careyCurrent Giveaways:

Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey (paperback)

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Wildest Dreams by Robin Carr is Anita Y.

autobiography of james t kirk by david goodmanBlog Recap:

Labor Day 2015
B+ Review: Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey + Giveaway
C- Review: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
D+ Review: Ryker by Sawyer Bennett
B+ Review: The Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman
Stacking the Shelves (152)



rebel queen by michelle moranComing Next Week:

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (review)
Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean (review)
Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran (review)
Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman (review)
Penric’s Demon (World of the Five Gods #3.5) by Lois McMaster Bujold (review)

Stacking the Shelves (152)

Stacking the Shelves

I have never read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, but I have heard enough about it that I knew what it was about. It’s about cancer cell research, with a dose of medical ethics. Which meant that I was beyond puzzled and well into flummoxed when I read that a woman in Tennessee was claiming that the book was pornographic and that not only should her 15-year-old son not have been assigned the book in school, but that it should be banned from the local school district.

As far a this woman is concerned, the information about the subject’s cervical cancer, which does include the information about her cervix and vagina and that all women have them, is too graphic for a high school student. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that someone thinks that a woman discovering she has cervical cancer should be called pornographic. Considering what happened to Henrietta Lacks and the cells harvested without her permission or consent, I’d use other words. Pornography isn’t even in the same hemisphere.

I’m reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for Banned Books Week later this month.

For Review:
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Burn it Up (Desert Dogs #3) by Cara McKenna
Cast in Honor (Chronicles of Elantra #11) by Michelle Sagara
Dark Secrets by Rachel Caine, Cynthia Eden, Megan Hart, Suzanne Johnson, Jeffe Kennedy and Mina Khan
The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell
Heart Legacy (Celta’s Heartmates #14) by Robin D. Owens
The Paladin Caper (Rogues of the Republic #3) by Patrick Weekes
The Prophecy Con (Rogues of the Republic #2) by Patrick Weekes
Target Engaged (Delta Force #1) by M.L. Buchman
When the Stars Align by Jeanette Grey

Purchased from Amazon:
The Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman (review)
Captured in Ink (Art of Love #3) by Donna McDonald
Diplomats and Fugitives (Emperor’s Edge #9) by Lindsay Buroker

Borrowed from the Library:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Review: Ryker by Sawyer Bennett

ryker by sawyer bennettFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: sports romance
Series: Cold Fury Hockey #4
Length: 269 pages
Publisher: Loveswept
Date Released: September 8, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The stakes have never been higher for Carolina Cold Fury goalie Ryker Evans. With his contract running out, he’s got a year left to prove he’s still at the top of his game. And since his wife left him, Ryker has been balancing life as a pro-hockey star and a single parent to two daughters. Management is waiting for him to screw up. The fans are ready to pounce. Everybody’s taking dirty shots—except for the fiery redhead whose faith in Ryker gives him a fresh start.

As the league’s only female general manager, Gray Brannon has learned not to mix business with pleasure. And yet even this tough, talented career woman can’t help breaking her own rules as she gives Ryker everything she’s got. She hopes their hot streak will last forever, but with Ryker’s conniving ex plotting to reclaim her man, the pressure’s on Gray to step up and save a tender new love before it’s too late.

My Review:

I was planning to read something different for today, and then I decided I’d rather have a fun book, because tomorrow’s is so serious. But now that I’ve finished Ryker, I’m not sure I really DID pick a fun book.

garrett by sawyer bennettI read the previous three books in the Cold Fury Hockey series, Alex, Garrett and Zack. These are the key players on the fictional Cold Fury Hockey team, and they form a tight core group for the team. In those earlier books, even when the hero is being an arsehole or an idiot, or sometimes both, I really liked the books. The stories were compellingly readable, even if, or especially because, the guy really needed work to be a decent human being.

Ryker turns out to be the opposite. Ryker Evans starts the story as a really decent guy. He’s a loving and attentive single-father, he’s a great hockey player, and he’s decent to his friends. He absolutely adores his little girls and they are clearly the center of his world. Even though he’s clear in the story that the reason his first marriage broke up was that he and his soon-to-be-ex-wife drifted apart, he acknowledges that he left all the childcare to her and that it was a mistake on his part. His life is exhausting, but he realizes that he missed out by not being more involved with his girls. Now that his ex has left them all to chase after her new lover on the hockey circuit, he’s the girls only stable parent and he’s happy to be that for them.

The concept of the heroine, Gray Bannon, was a good one, but the results didn’t wow me. Gray is the daughter of the Cold Fury’s owner, Brian Bannon. She’s also a genius with numbers and a former Olympic women’s hockey player. At the beginning of her story, her dad has just named her General Manager of the Cold Fury, making her the first female GM in pro hockey.

So of course, now that she has just taken on a high-profile and highly contentious position in sports, what does she do next? Fall in love with one of her own players, entering into a relationship that when it gets out, will cause sports pundits everywhere to question her ability to do her job, a problem she already has way too much of.

Her credibility will completely tank when their affair is exposed. This is not fair, but it is still true. Unfortunately.

So this is a story about a hidden love affair that can only come to light if either Gray gives up her job, or Ryker, who is in his early 30s and whose playing days, while still terrific, are also definitely numbered, gives up his.

They are certain that they can only be together if one of them gives up the career that makes them whole? Who will make the sacrifice?

alex by sawyer bennettEscape Rating D+: As much as I enjoyed the other books in this series, even Alex where he was an absolute bastard but still made me smile (see review), this one was not just a slog, but it actually jumped the shark for me.

The story is written from alternating first person points of view. We see the world from inside Gray’s head, and then we switch to inside Ryker’s head. Ryker’s head is pretty level. He loves his daughters, he loves playing hockey and thinks he has a few more years left, he’s happy to be at the top of his game, he’s completely over his soon-to-be-ex-wife, and he’s fascinated by Gray both intellectually and sexually.

He’s a good guy leading a great life and is hoping he can share it with someone, who turns out to be Gray.

Gray, on the other hand, is a hot mess. She finally has the job of her dreams. It’s going to be a rough first year (and possibly second year) but she has things under control. Her plan is to build the Cold Fury the same way that the general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team, Billy Beane, built the A’s. She’s going to play “moneypuck” instead of “moneyball”. Her concept of management through statistics has been proven to work in one sport, and she has the brains and the mathematical chops to try it in another.

In the middle of the toughest year of her life, she spends all of her emotional energy angsting over a relationship with one of her players. I mean she completely descends into mush and loses her edge. It’s not that I don’t want to see her get her happy ending, but her actions feel juvenile, particularly for a woman in her early 30s.

While the solution to their dilemma was very, very fictional, it also felt false. Either she is going to be pilloried in the press and lose the confidence of the board of directors, or Ryker needs to retire at the end of the season. He even offers to retire so their relationship can come out of the closet. While this is romantic, it feels like reality should bite somewhere along the way. She resigns and gets her job back, which doesn’t feel quite right. Yes, her dad is the owner and supports her, and they win the Stanley Cup, but if they don’t win it again the press will crucify her.

But if either of them gives up their career for the other, while it may be good for a while, there is a strong chance of resentment further down the road. This totally tripped my willing suspension of disbelief meter. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey + Giveaway

paris time capsule by ella careyFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: historical fiction, women’s fiction
Length: 290 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Date Released: May 26, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

New York–based photographer Cat Jordan is ready to begin a new life with her successful, button-down boyfriend. But when she learns that she’s inherited the estate of a complete stranger—a woman named Isabelle de Florian—her life is turned upside down.

Cat arrives in Paris to find that she is now the owner of a perfectly preserved Belle Époque apartment in the ninth arrondissement, and that the Frenchwoman’s family knew nothing about this secret estate. Amid these strange developments, Cat is left with burning questions: Who was Isabelle de Florian? And why did she leave the inheritance to Cat instead of her own family?

As Cat travels France in search of answers, she feels her grasp on her New York life starting to slip. With long-buried secrets coming to light and an attraction to Isabelle de Florian’s grandson growing too intense to ignore, Cat will have to decide what to let go of, and what to claim as her own.

My Review:

The premise of this story is fascinating and even more amazing because it is true.

Just as in the story, in 2010 the Paris apartment of Madame Marthe de Florian was discovered completely untouched since World War II. Marthe de Florian had been a famous, or infamous, courtesan during France’s Belle Epoque, a period of change that encompassed the final decades of the 19th century, including the period in America known as “the Gay Nineties”, and ended with a bang at the outbreak of World War I. Marthe de Florian was one of the queens of that tumultuous era, and entertained artists and especially statesmen who kept her in grand style.

But she died in 1939, and her apartment was inherited by her son and granddaughter. And that’s where things get interesting, because sometime during the war Marthe’s granddaughter closed up the apartment and left Paris. She never returned to her grandmother’s apartment, but kept it untouched until her death in 2010.

Marthe de Florian by Giovanni Boldini (1888)
Marthe de Florian by Giovanni Boldini (1888)

When the apartment was opened, it was discovered to be a treasure-trove of life in Paris during the Belle Epoque, including a undiscovered masterpiece by Giovanni Boldini, a painting of Marthe de Florian in her gorgeous prime.

The apartment was called the “Parisian Time Capsule” in many articles about its discovery and its secrets.

The author of the novel Paris Time Capsule has taken the story of the discovery and woven a fantastic tapestry of a story, as the young American woman who inherits the apartment from her grandmother’s best friend undertakes a journey to discover why this unlooked for legacy has come to her, and not gone to the descendants of the owner. As Cat Jordan follows the trail of clues to her grandmother’s past, she uncovers secrets that have remained hidden since the dark days of Paris’ occupation in World War II. And through her journey, she finally learns to listen to the secrets of her own heart.

Escape Rating B+: I had a love/hate relationships with this book. I absolutely adored the premise, and would have whether it was true or not.

In fiction, Cat’s free-spirited grandmother Virginia was the best friend of Isabelle de Florian, Marthe’s fictional granddaughter. But whatever happened in Paris between Isabelle and Virginia, Virginia never spoke about it after the war. Cat has no idea who Isabelle de Florian was, or why she left this dusty jewel-box of an apartment to Virginia’s descendants rather than her own.

Cat’s first surprise is her inheritance. Cat has always had a love of period designs and period clothing, and the apartment is an absolute treat for her. She just can’t understand how it came to her in the first place. Especially since the second person she meets on her Parisian trip is the grandson of Isabelle de Florian. Neither Loic Archer nor his mother Sylvie had any idea that the apartment existed, but they are more than willing to abide by their matriarch’s wishes and let Cat have it.

But they share with Cat a desire to understand what happened, and why Isabelle never told them of the apartment or its secrets, not in the long years when money was very tight and the sale of the apartment would have saved Isabelle and Sylvie from poverty. Something doesn’t make sense to any of them.

And this is where we get into the part that drove me absolutely bonkers. It is to be expected in a story that is set up as we have seen so far that Loic and Cat would fall in love as they search for Isabelle de Florian’s secrets. It is even not an unexpected part of this journey that Cat would discover that the life she has been leading in New York, including her brand-new fiance, would turn out not to be right for her after all.

But what drove me absolutely nuts was the way that this part of the story was handled. Or perhaps a better description would be the way that the character of Cat’s fiance Christian was portrayed. It is obvious from our first meeting with Christian that he isn’t the right person for Cat. Not because Loic is better (he hasn’t even entered the picture yet) or even because Christian and his family are extremely wealthy and Cat is scraping by in a job she hates.

No, the problem is that Christian takes every opportunity to subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) undermine Cat, her opinions, her decisions, her tastes and her ideas. He doesn’t want the Cat who actually exists, he wants a doll that he can dress up and parade around who will never challenge him because she is so grateful for his largesse. When he wants Cat’s attention, he tracks her down by GPS. When she wants his attention, he’s always busy working.

As the reader, I felt bludgeoned by just how wrong Christian is for Cat. It felt as if the author was trying to draw a parallel between the way that Christian treated Cat and the way that Marthe was kept by her gentlemen admirers. I started to feel a bit beaten about the head with the all-too-obviously drawn parallel, but it isn’t until well after Loic starts asking her questions that Cat’s self-talk finally begins to see the clue-by-four that I’ve been hit with from the first scene. It’s not just that denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, it’s that Cat doesn’t even see that she’s paddling upstream and losing ground with every stroke.

Outside of the appalling business of Cat’s horrid choice in fiance, the rest of the story is an absolute gem. I sincerely mean that. Cat’s journey, with all of its twists and turns and dead ends, is a voyage back to the dark days at the beginning of the war. When Cat finally discovers the truth about the apartment and its seemingly unusual disposition, it all makes sense. A very sad and heartbreaking sense.

We know that Cat is the rightful heir after all, and we’re glad for her and sad for the reasons why it had to be.

And thank goodness that Cat finally gets a clue about her own love life before it is too late.

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

I am giving away a paperback copy of Paris Time Capsule to one lucky U.S./Canadian commenter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 9-6-15

Sunday Post

There are just a few days left to get in on the awesome prize pack that Catherine Bybee is giving away. Who wouldn’t have a few dozen uses for a $100 Amazon Gift Card?

This is Labor Day weekend in the U.S. which means two things now that we are back in Atlanta. The number one thing is DragonCon! Downtown Atlanta has been taken over by aliens, superheroes and roving crews of spaceships from near and far. If you’ve never been, it’s fantastic. Also sometimes fantastically overwhelming.

The Decatur Book Festival also takes place this weekend. So our plan is to spend Friday and Saturday at DragonCon and Sunday at the DBF. Reality may turn out to be different, but we’ll have a blast no matter what.

And tomorrow we can recuperate and squee over all the stuff we picked up over the weekend. I really need to find something appropriately geeky to fill in the front license plate holder on my car. I wonder if anyone will be selling “My Other Car is a Starship” somewhere at DragonCon?

Current Giveaways:

$100 Amazon Gift Card (2) $20 Amazon Gift Cards and Weekday Brides Print Box Gift set from Catherine Bybee
Wildest Dreams by Robyn Carr (paperback)

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the paperback copy of If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins is Lysette
The winner if the Nina Croft first in series ebook prize pack is Jennifer

return to dark earth by anna hackettBlog Recap:

B- Review: Keeper’s Reach by Carla Neggers
B+ Review: Sloe Ride by Rhys Ford
B- Review: Wildest Dreams by Robyn Carr + Giveaway
B+ Review: Treasured by Thursday by Catherine Bybee + Giveaway
A- Review: Return to Dark Earth by Anna Hackett
Stacking the Shelves (151)




circling the sun by paula mclainComing Next Week:

Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey (blog tour review)
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (review)
The State of Play by Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson (review)
After Snowden by Ronald Goldfarb (review)

Review: Treasured by Thursday by Catherine Bybee + Giveaway

treasured by thursday by catherine bybeeFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Weekday Brides #7
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Date Released: August 18, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Gabriella Masini: She’s a woman haunted by her past, with the scars to prove it. She believes that fairy tales are for other people. An elite matchmaker at Alliance, she’s great at crunching numbers, but something doesn’t add up with her latest prospective client: a billionaire bad boy with his own secrets. When Gabi refuses to be his temporary wife, Hunter forces her hand with an offer she can’t refuse. But marriage to a man like that could never last…or could it?

Hunter Blackwell: Only his bank account is bigger than his ruthless ability to obtain anything he wants. These days, he has a secret reason to settle down, at least for a while—and he thinks the sensual and sassy Gabi will fit the bill perfectly. But when their marriage of convenience becomes downright dangerous, Hunter must decide how far to take his vow to honor and protect Gabi forever.

My Review:

Treasured by Thursday is a fantastic ending to the Weekday Brides series.

It’s also kind of a rough ride. I felt so much for Gabi that I had to stop in the middle for a bit. I like her a lot and didn’t want to see anything else bad happen to her, even on the way to her happy ending. But I couldn’t hold back long and finished the book in one evening. I just couldn’t wait to find out how the author managed the happy ending.

This is a story that starts out with an unlikeable hero, a scarred and reluctant heroine, and a whole lot of secrets. Even for a very much arranged marriage-of-convenience, it was obviously going to be an uphill battle to get to an HEA.

It doesn’t help that the hero starts out being an arrogant ass. He gets better.

seduced by sunday by catherine bybeeWe first met Gabi in Seduced by Sunday (reviewed here). In that story, Gabi is not the heroine. She’s the victim. And her victimization is what makes all the various forces of the Alliance rally round to save her from her from the mess she dropped into, and keep her brother Val and his new love Meg (the Alliance matchmaker in that case) from getting killed by the very evil dude who used Gabi.

At the end of that book, as Gabi is just barely beginning to recover from all the very serious shit that happened to her, she takes a job with the Alliance. She has to start over, away from the island where she was so protected that she was too innocent to figure out that her dead husband was using both her and her brother’s connections. She has to learn to stand on her own feet away from her brother, too.

Unfortunately for Gabi, her first attempt to handle an Alliance client all by herself almost makes her a victim again. Because Hunter Blackwell won’t take no for an answer, and is more than willing to blackmail Gabi with information about what happened to her last year. He thinks he’s giving a “black widow” just what she deserves, instead of what he is really doing, which is abusing Gabi all over again.

But Gabi, in her need to stand on her own, lets herself become Hunter’s pawn, rather than involve the Alliance or her family, who might have a chance at getting Blackwell to back down or back off.

Blackwell has no thought for the consequences of his actions to anyone but himself. He’s a selfish bastard. Whatever qualms he has about forcing Gabi into this mess he easily suppresses by believing that the end justifies the means.

But Blackwell’s motives show that he isn’t quite as coldhearted as he makes himself out to be. And Gabi’s way of topping from the bottom in all of their interactions proves that she is not the little victim she was last year.

Unfortunately for them both, her late and completely unlamented husband, or at least his nefarious business dealings, reach out from beyond the grave to ensnare Gabi one last time. And Hunter Blackwell discovers that the woman he married for his own convenience has not-so-conveniently captured the heart he thought he no longer had.

Escape Rating B+: I was thrilled to see Gabi get her own happy ever after. After everything she had to deal with in Seduced by Sunday, she certainly deserved it.

I’m not so sure about the way that it came about. As Hunter and Gabi get to know each other, and especially when Hunter forces her into their marriage of convenience, he is far from likable. He’s a bastard and an arsehole and it felt like he was victimizing Gabi all over again. He was using her, and didn’t give a damn about her feelings. He discovered just enough about her past to hold it over her head like the Sword of Damocles, but not close to enough to figure out that he was putting her in more danger and increasing her trauma. I cringed a lot during this part of the story, because I just didn’t want to see Gabi get abused again.

That standing up to him, even within the confines of their arrangement, finally got Gabi to heal all the way was a saving grace. But I never warmed up to Blackwell, even though she did.

While Blackwell did eventually save her, it was from danger that he helped to put her in. And he had help from the Alliance. I’m not sure that was enough to redeem him as a hero.

Which doesn’t mean that I wasn’t on the edge of my seat through the whole book, hoping that he would come around and that Gabi would finally get out from under the shadow of her dead husband’s criminal activities.

But I liked Gabi a lot. I also felt terribly sorry for her in Seduced by Sunday. I didn’t enjoy seeing her become a victim again at the beginning of Treasured by Thursday. But I did love seeing her finally get her own.


Treasured by Thursday tour graphic

The tour wide giveaway is for a $100 Amazon Gift Card, a print box set of the bride books, and 2 $20 Amazon Gift Cards. The rafflecopter is below…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Wildest Dreams by Robyn Carr + Giveaway

wildest dreams by robyn carrFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Thunder Point #9
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date Released: August 25, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Blake Smiley searched the country for just the right place to call home. The professional triathlete has traveled the world, but Thunder Point has what he needs to put down the roots he’s never had. In the quiet coastal town he can focus on his training without distractions. Until he meets his new neighbors and everything changes.

Lin Su Simmons and her teenage son, Charlie, are fixtures at Winnie Banks’ house as Lin Su nurses Winnie through the realities of ALS. A single mother, Lin Su is proud of taking charge and never showing weakness. But she has her hands full coping with a job, debt and Charlie’s health issues. And Charlie is asking questions about his family history—questions she doesn’t want to answer.

When Charlie enlists Blake’s help to escape his overprotective mother, Lin Su resents the interference in her life. But Blake is certain he can break through her barriers and be the man she and Charlie need. When faced with a terrible situation, Blake comes to the rescue, and Lin Su realizes he just might be the man of her dreams. Together, they recognize that family is who you choose it to be.

My Review:

The Wanderer By Robyn CarI’ve read the entire Thunder Point series, starting with The Wanderer (reviewed here) over two years ago. This is a town where people like each other and really pull together. It’s the sort of place that most of us would like to live.

Over the course of the series, we’ve gotten to know the people, so whenever there is a new book, it is great to find out how everyone is doing. Updates on everyone we already know are interspersed with each book’s particular love story.

It’s also usually pretty obvious by the end of each book who at least one of the protagonists will be in the next story. However, in Wildest Dreams there are no clues. This feels like the last book in the series, and that we’re saying goodbye to this town and these people.

If it is goodbye, it’s a pretty good one.

There are two stories competing for attention in Wildest Dreams. One underlying thread in the last three books of the series, starting with One Wish (reviewed here) is the story of Grace Dillon Headly’s mother and former coach, Winnie Banks. After a tempestuous relationship that was both mother/daughter and coach/Olympic figure skater, Winnie and Grace have finally made peace. Winnie has been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and wants to have a good relationship with her daughter before it’s too late. Grace brings Winnie to Thunder Point, and the whole town befriends the newer, more approachable, Winnie.

one wish by robyn carrBut ALS is a degenerative disease, and one of the threads of the story in Wildest Dreams is the way that Winnie, her daughter, her entourage and the whole town help Winnie cope with the inevitable.

Part of that coping is Winnie’s nurse, Lin Su Simmons and her 14 year old son Charlie. Lin Su is a single mother and an excellent nurse. Those skills have served her well, as Charlie is asthmatic and required a lot of care earlier in his life. But he’s 14 now and ready to grow up and escape his mother’s extremely tight apron-strings. He just needs to learn to manage his condition for himself, instead of by his mother’s constant nagging and worrying.

And into that particular breach steps Blake Smiley, world-class triathlete and Winnie’s new next-door neighbor. Blake is willing to coach Charlie so that he can become stronger, and inculcate the self-discipline to manage his condition and himself. It’s time for Charlie to learn, if not to fly, at least to bike and swim and run like other boys.

But in the process of befriending Charlie, Blake runs right into his beautiful and fierce dragon of a mother, who is too scared to let Charlie manage his own care, and too proud to accept help from anyone. Especially a man who might betray her just the way that Charlie’s father did.

Escape Rating B-: So in this story we have Winnie and her management of her condition, as well as how everyone around her is coping with it. We see the way that Winnie has found happiness by finally letting people into her life, while at the same time she mourns the loss of her independence. There is a lot of bitter mixed in with the sweet. And the other way around.

So many of the women in the previous stories are not just pregnant, but very pregnant as this book continues. Including Grace. They are all hoping that their children will be born together, and will become friends for life. Maybe there is a Thunder Point Next Generation somewhere down the road.

But the interlocking pregnancies give readers a chance to catch up with the other couples. One always wishes them happy.

The other main thread of the story is Charlie, Lin Su and Blake. Charlie is growing up. Lin Su isn’t anywhere near ready to cope. He was very, very sick as a baby and little boy, and she is used to being the authority on all things. But 14 is when we start breaking away from our parents if we haven’t already, and it’s time.

Lin Su has had a rough life. It’s not just that she is a single mother, but the way that it happened, and also the way that she has coped with it. She has concealed her origins from Charlie as much as possible, and refuses to discuss his father, her family or any part of the past that has made her so closed off and bitter.

At 14, Charlie is not merely old enough to challenge those assertions, but he is more than internet savvy enough to look for his own answers.

Then there’s Blake Smiley. If Charlie had been shopping for a role model, Blake would be it. But Blake’s views on what Charlie wants to do run absolutely opposite of the way that Lin Su needs to keep control. The problem is that Blake is right, and Lin Su is angry about it. Angry enough to keep pushing him away, not just his desire to help Charlie, but also his desire for her. And hers for him.

Blake is awesome. He’s a really great guy. And when Lin Su continually rejects him and rejects his help for Charlie, she shows just how angry and bitter and closed off she is. While the reasons for her behavior make sense from her perspective, I cringed every time she held Charlie back. Even with his childhood asthma, she was crippling him from being everything he could. She thought she was holding him closer, but what she was really doing was pushing him away.

Having finished the story, I’m not sure the romance was necessary for this one. And I’ll admit I didn’t feel it. While it was easy to see how Lin Su turned out the way she did, it did not make her an easy character to like. Blake’s training and mentoring of Charlie made for enough of an emotional connection that the emphasis on that part of the equation worked much better than the romance.

However, the non-romantic part of the HEA that the author gave Lin Su and Charlie packed an incredible punch.

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

I’m giving away a paperback copy of Wildest Dreams to one lucky U.S. commenter.

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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Stacking the Shelves (150)

Stacking the Shelves

I managed to resist the impulse to buy out the Dealer’s Room at WorldCon last weekend. I had a much more difficult time resisting suggestions in some of the publisher’s showcase presentations I attended. All the Birds in the Sky is from the Tor Showcase, and Fated is from the Ace/Roc showcase. Just before the Ace/Roc presentation, I finished Jim Butcher’s new steampunk book, The Aeronaut’s Windlass (awesome, the review will be up when it publishes) and I was looking for something that, honestly, I wouldn’t need to write up. I was getting lots of reading done but no time or energy to write up reviews at the end of the day. And I’ve learned that piling up six or more books to “brain dump” at the end of the week doesn’t work very well.

Adding insult to injury, I came home with “con crud”. This is not an official term, although it ought to be. When the skies over Spokane looked like Mordor on Friday due to the nearby forest fires, I thought my sore throat was just a reaction to the very bad air. No such luck. On Saturday the skies cleared up, but my throat didn’t. It’s been a long week. It’s a good thing I always have plenty to read!

For Review:
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Exit of the Ascended by Neal Tyree
Wicked Ever After (Blud #4) by Delilah S. Dawson

Purchased from Amazon:
Covered in Paint (Art of Love #5) by Donna McDonald
Cruising Speed (Art of Love) by Donna McDonald
Fated (Alex Verus #1) by Benedict Jacka