Monday, February 12, 2018

Shot on Gold

Shot on Gold (A Play-by-Play Novel) by [Burton, Jaci]
















Shot on Gold (Play by Play series)- Jaci Burton
Berkley/Penguin Group
Release Date: February 13, 2018

Rating:
📚📚📚

Warning: Potential Spoilers Ahead!

Synopsis:  Will "Mad Dog" Madigan is making his second trip to the Winter Games, and he couldn't be happier. Hockey is his life and playing for the U.S. team is a privilege. Then he meets U.S. figure skater Amber Sloane. She's beautiful, ambitious and driven--everything Will desires in a woman. He would love to show Amber how hot life off the ice can be. 

Amber has skated her entire life, sacrificing everything in the hopes of one day winning gold. Now she's competing for the third and final time. She intends to win, and nothing's going to get in her way--until she meets Will. He's an irresistible charmer, and before long Amber is wondering if this sexy hockey player is the perfect guy to show her some moves outside the rink.

But after all the medals have been awarded, Will and Amber will have to decide if what they have together is just a fling or a real shot at true love.


____________________________________________

Amber Sloane has focused on figure skating her entire life.  At 24, she knows this year's Olympics will be her last and she's determined to do things differently.  Instead of closing herself off she begins making friends and emerging from the isolated cocoon her mother has forced her to stay in her whole life.  Romance has never been in the plans, but hockey player Will Madigan may just change her mind.

Shot on Gold is a sweet romance out just in time for this year's Winter Olympics.  Burton captures the excitement and camaraderie of the athletes and readers get as caught up in the excitement of the games as they will watching their winter sport of choice.  Amber is a sweet girl who is experiencing many things for the first time- despite this being her third Olympics.  With a domineering stage mother pushing her nonstop, she's spent her whole life working towards a gold medal.  There are plenty of times you just want to slap her mother for her attitude, but Amber somehow manages to be friendly and normal despite her mother's example.  When Amber begins to fall in love with Will, she discovers that friendship and romance complete her and make her a better skater instead of distracting her as her mother fears.  But a relationship in the bubble of the Olympic village is different from in the real world and Amber isn't sure that will work.  Will is a guy with a refreshing attitude towards life: live hard, work hard, play hard, but be open to the idea of love because it's real.  He's seen it in his parents and is sure he'll find it for himself some day.  It frustrated me at the end that it looked like Will might not be willing to fight for a relationship with Amber, despite all his big talk.  When she gets cold feet, he accepts that and walks away instead of pushing back.  I was glad Amber was brave enough to (eventually) give them a chance, because they had a great chemistry between them and really brought out the best in each other.  

While a good story, Burton's writing was often repetitive and I found myself skimming some sections because of that. I also kept waiting for more of a conflict than ever really came up.  However,this was still a fin book.  Despite being part of a series, this is a stand alone book and readers won't need to have read any other books in the series to enjoy this one (I haven't, yet).  Shot on Gold was fast paced and fun, a light romantic read perfect to get readers in the mood for this year's Winter Olympic Games.  


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Shelter for Sophie

Shelter for Sophie (Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Book 8) by [Stoker, Susan]


















Shelter for Sophie (Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Book 8)- Susan Stoker
Amazon Digital Services
Release Date: August 15, 2017

Rating:
📚📚📚📚

Synopsis: She’s shy, he’s stoic…not the hardest personality traits to overcome, but Sophie Carson and Roman “Chief” Proudfit have their work cut out for them.

Sophie has a crush on the silent-but-studly firefighter next door. She’s been pining away silently while secretly helping the hardworking man by mowing his lawn—which he thinks is being done by her nonexistent husband and/or boyfriend. He’s definitely not big on neighborly chitchat, but with her stutter, that suits Sophie just fine. But now a misunderstanding at a bar has put him even further out of her reach.

Roman’s difficult upbringing on an Indian reservation is a sore spot, so when he thinks Sophie is taking advantage of poor people for medical trials at her workplace, he lets her know exactly what he thinks. But when he discovers he misunderstood, he’s man enough to admit it…and also that he should have opened his eyes to his beautiful, sensitive neighbor sooner. 

As the couple gets closer, each helping the other overcome lifelong pains, for the first time in years, Roman has something to live for other than his job. And, as he discovers when Sophie puts herself in danger, something even bigger to lose… 

__________________________________________


Opposites attract when Sophie and her next door neighbor Roman "Chief" Proudfit connect.  Sophie's had a crush on her neighbor since he moved in a year ago but is too shy and insecure to do anything about it.  A lifelong stutter makes her self-conscious about meeting new people and she can't imagine why anyone as good looking as Chief would be into her.  Chief pretty much ignores his neighbor until he misunderstands something he overhears her say in a bar.  Sparks fly but can they overcome misunderstandings and danger to reach a happy ending?

Sophie is a sweet, likable woman who you can instantly relate to.  She's shy, and is convinced that no one could like her because she stutters. But she goes out of her way to help everyone she meets, from cutting her hot neighbor's grass when he's not home to buying food and blankets for homeless people who stay near her work.  I also really liked Chief, although in the beginning I wanted to smack him upside his head.  A firefighter who grew up on a reservation in New Mexico, Chief is sensitive about others being taken advantage of- and is convinced he's right all the time.  A misunderstanding about Sophie's work brings home to him that he might be more judgmental than he wants to be, and that he owes Sophie a big apology!  But he mans up and not only apologizes, but finds he wants to get to know his shy neighbor a whole lot better.

Shelter for Sophie was a great book, with delightful chemistry between Sophie and Chief.  Stoker obviously did her homework about Navajo culture and seamlessly blended pieces into the novel.  Both Sophie and Chief changed for the better as the book went on, becoming more comfortable not only with each other but also with themselves and their place in the world.  

Susan Stoker (Rescuing Kassie) is becoming a go-to author for me, and Shelter for Sophie didn't disappoint!  A part of the Badge of Honor series that follows a group San Antonio firefighters and law enforcement officers, but like most of Stoker's books it can be read as a standalone book.  If you like your firefighters hot and your heroes hotter, this is one for you!


received this book from Instafreebie in exchange for an honest review 


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

His Sinful Touch


His Sinful Touch (The Mad Morelands) by [Camp, Candace]

















His Sinful Touch (Mad Morelands #5)- Candace Camp
HQN Books
Release Date: January 30, 2018

Rating:
📚📚📚📚

Synopsis: When a mysterious gentleman arrives on his doorstep, Alexander Moreland is astonished to discover that the stranger is not a gentleman at all, but a beautiful young woman disguised as a man, and in great need of assistance. The woman remembers nothing except her own name, Sabrina, and has only the contents of her pockets as clues to her identity: a handkerchief, a pocket watch, a leather pouch, a torn scrap of paper and a gold ring.

Sabrina is certain that she is on the run from someone, or something—how else to explain the bruises on her face and the pervasive sense of dread she feels? She’s also certain that she trusts Alex to help her, and she can’t deny the sparks that fly between them. As they race through the English countryside, Sabrina and Alex must solve the mystery of Sabrina’s past—before whatever she’s running from catches up to them.

___________________________________


The infamous Moreland twins Alexander and Constantine are all grown up and continuing the family tradition of being unconventional.  Con runs the family investigation agency and Alex is an architect.  When a young woman shows up at the agency dressed as a man and with no idea who she is, it's a case that's impossible to turn down.  Especially when the young lady is someone Alex instantly feels a connection to.  It's said Moreland men fall in love at first sight, but can Alex help Sabrina recover her identity, her memories, and stay safe from the hidden threat chasing her long enough to convince her to give him a chance?

I've always loved the Moreland family (Mesmerized, Beyond Compare, Winterset, An Unexpected Pleasure) for their egalitarian approach to people, their unusual interests, and their joy in life. Readers of the series have watched the twins growing up and knew if they ever got their own books they would be just as unconventional in their love lives as the rest of their family.  Alex goes first, with characters in His Sinful Touch clearly setting up Con's book (His Wicked Charm out March 27).  As in most of the Moreland series there is a touch of the psychic to Alex- he has a form of psychometry that allows him to gain information about people based on touching objects.  But readers who aren't interested in a heavily paranormal theme will still enjoy Sinful and won't have to worry about paranormal elements overtaking the book.  It's a genuine adventure story as Alex and Sabrina try to trace her movements and her past, discovering surprises at every turn while very naturally building the bond of friendship, respect, and love between them.  

Alex and Sabrina are a perfect match right from the start.  Although it might seem natural for Alex to shelter Sabrina and keep her safely locked up at home, he doesn't.  From the beginning Alex proves himself a true Moreland, treating Sabrina as an equal and including her every step of the way.  Sabrina has the backbone to demand she participate and even when she's being threatened she manages to stand up to the fear instead of hiding and letting Alex do all the work. 

Readers new to Candace Camp don't need to have read the rest of the series to enjoy this latest adventure.  Although the rest of the family make appearances and some events are mentioned, you don't need to be familiar with them to enjoy Alex's story (although it is fun for readers familiar with the Moreland to catch up with favorite past characters).  His Sinful Touch contains all the elements of a first rate Candace Camp book: fast-paced action, sparkling humor, and perfect romantic chemistry.  Brilliantly written and impossible to put down, His Sinful Touch keeps readers enthralled from start to finish and leave them eagerly awaiting the next book! 

received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts by [Hammer, Joshua]

















The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: and their race to save the world's most precious manuscripts- Joshua Hammmer
Simon & Schuster
Release Date: April 19, 2016

Rating:
📚📚📚📚📚

Synopsis:  In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that were crumbling in the trunks of desert shepherds. His goal: to preserve this crucial part of the world’s patrimony in a gorgeous library. But then Al Qaeda showed up at the door.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu tells the incredible story of how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu, became one of the world's greatest and most brazen smugglers by saving texts from sure destruction.  With bravery and patience, he organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 377,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali. This real-life thriller is a reminder that ordinary citizens often do the most to protect the beauty and imagination of their culture.  It is also the story of a man who, through extreme circumstances discovered his higher calling and was changed forever by it.
______________________________________

The diverse and beautiful history of Western Africa- Timbuktu in particular- and its influential role in science, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, and music is little known to the Western world. But the role of Timbuktu both past and present is celebrated here in Joshua Hammer's outstanding The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu.  This is the story of Abdel Kader Haidara, who becomes obsessed with the manuscript legacy of Mali and Timbuktu in particular.  From the 1980s on he worked to convince local families who had, for generations, guarded treasured, fragile manuscripts that it is time for the manuscripts to be protected in modern ways. 45 libraries were built in Timbuktu to house and conserve over 377,000 manuscripts written on goat, sheep, even fish skin.  Some are loose pages while others are bound and decorated with gold and illustrated in vividly colored geometric designs. From the twelfth century onwards, these manuscripts contain generations of writings on Sufism, music, law, astronomy, and history.  Haidara works with professionals from across the globe to perfect conservation methods for these texts and almost single handedly helps revitalize the cultural and scholarly importance of Timbuktu.

But then in 2012 came Al Qaeda: Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, Iyad Ag Ghali and their jihadi extremists. Timbuktu is taken and becomes a center for their push to control all of Mali and develop a modern day caliphate.  Everyone knows what Al Qaeda does to art, manuscripts, and the beauty of past ages that does not line up with their view of the world.  It was only a matter of time, Haidara knew, before the treasured texts were destroyed.

And so begins the story of how Haidara, his co-workers, and everyday citizens of Mali worked to smuggle over 377,000 texts out of the libraries they had built in Timbuktu and to the safety of Bamako in Southern Mali.  Perhaps one of the most dangerous and large-scale modern day smuggling operations used cars, donkey carts, boats, and anything else they could find to rescue this incredible cultural treasure.  Part history, part modern journalism, this book is a brilliant, true-life adventure story celebrating the bravery of ordinary citizens who believe passionately in doing the right thing- and that protecting beauty and history is worth overcoming all odds.  It is a triumph of good over evil,  while reminding us that these dangers are still very much present.

Hammer's familiarity with the region through multiple trips helps him bring to life Timbuktu's colorful story.  This brilliantly written, fast-paced page turner lives up to its name and will keep readers on the edge of their seats from start to finish, leaving them both thrilled and inspired by this group of devoted librarians, who are truly bad-ass in the best sense fo the word.      

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Rescuing Casey

Rescuing Casey (Delta Force Heroes Book 7) by [Stoker, Susan]

















Rescuing Casey (Delta Force Heroes #7)- Susan Stoker
Amazon Digital Services
Release Date: January 16, 2018

Rating:
📚📚📚

Warning: Potential Spoilers Ahead

Synopsis: One minute, Casey Shea was minding her own business, doing her job, teaching entomology to college students, and the next she was in the middle of the Costa Rican, jungle fighting for her life. 

Troy “Beatle” Lennon has watched his friends fall head over heels in love, but never thought it would happen to him. Until he sees a picture of his teammate’s sister. That was it. The absolute joy in her eyes calls to him in a way he can’t understand. 

But that joy is currently being threatened by an unknown person who had Casey kidnapped and hidden deep in the jungle. It’s up to Beatle to find her and keep her safe until the threat can be neutralized. Surviving the dangers of the jungle turns out to be the easy part…staying ahead of the killer is much more complicated…and deadly.

_______________________________________

College professor Casey Shea is researching insects in Costa Rica with three students when they are kidnapped.  It takes two Special Forces teams to rescue everyone and Casey is nearly dead by the time they find her.  She uses the training her protective Delta Force brother Blade gave her to hang on as long as possible until the team can find them.  Based on Blade's stories, teammate Troy "Beatle" Lennon is already attracted to Casey, but meeting her in the flesh seals the deal.  She's his and he'll do whatever he needs to keep her safe and get her out of the jungle.  But can they sort through the different lives they lead to come together, or will logistics and a crazy kidnapper tear them apart?

While nobody wants to be kidnapped, I think everyone hopes they would be Casey in a kidnapping scenario.  She keeps her calm, keeps her students calm, then manages to use Blade's survival tips to stay alive while basically being buried alive waiting for rescue.  Smart, level headed, and stubborn, Casey is an excellent and enjoyable heroine.  It's only natural that she fall for a soldier nicknamed "Beatle" who's afraid of bugs.  Beatle is tough yet sensitive, kind yet kick-ass, smart without being a jerk.  Just about all you can ask for in a hero.  He's also learned enough from watching his friends fall in love to value communication.  From the beginning he not only tells Casey how much he likes her and is attracted to her, he tells her how much he respects her strength- whether that is surviving being buried alive or trekking injured through the Costa Rican jungle.

Despite liking both the main characters, I have to admit I didn't feel that instant chemistry they supposedly had between them.  In fact I felt almost no spark between them for most of the book.  Great friends and partners, sure.  Insanely instantly in love? Not so much.  I wanted to feel it, but the connection was only ever vaguely there for me.  Partly this might have been from the distraction of feeling like I was re-reading the same thing over and over. Stoker had a tendency to repeat herself in Casey that I haven't noticed in her other books (Rescuing Kassie), making it feel like I was plodding through a jungle of my own to get to the story.  

When we figure out the mystery of the kidnapping it is both completely ridiculous and terrifyingly possible at the same time.  People are willing to do anything for themselves and their careers and the motive behind the kidnappings brings that home in a way that is almost more frightening than the more 'traditional' kidnapping motives like ransom or blackmail.  I kind of wish we'd gotten to see more of the 'bad guys' (not going to give away who did it even with the "Spoiler Alert" at the top of the post!) than we did, although at the same time I think it worked better the way Stoker kept it in the background until the very end.

All of the Delta Force series can be read as standalone books, although all of the team members and their significant others do appear in each book.  Rescuing Casey was a good addition to the series (which I admit I have not yet read all of, but I'm working on it!), though not destined to be my favorite.  Still, well-developed, realistic, and likable characters with both humor and common sense made this a book well worth reading. 

I received an ARC of this book from InstaFreebie in exchange for an honest review

Monday, January 8, 2018

Lost Plot


The Lost Plot (The Invisible Library Novel) by [Cogman, Genevieve]
















The Lost Plot (Invisible Library #4)- Genevieve Cogman
Ace/ Penguin Group
Release Date: January 9, 2018

Warning: Possible Spoilers Ahead

Rating:
📚📚📚📚

Synopsis: In a 1920s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force; fedoras, flapper dresses, and tommy guns are in fashion: and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon political contest. It seems a young Librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him, there could be serious repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai are locked in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They’ll face gangsters, blackmail, and the Library’s own Internal Affairs department. And if it doesn’t end well, it could have dire consequences on Irene’s job. And, incidentally, on her life...


_______________________________________

After the excitement and near-death experiences involved in taking out rogue Librarian Alberich in The Burning Page, Librarian Irene is hoping for a few quiet days reading a good book.  Unfortunately, Irene has a talent for innocently involving herself in major plots- and this time dragons are involved.  The Library's neutrality is being threatened in a power contest between two dragons and Irene and Kai need to contain the damage before the Library, other Librarians, and an entire world are destroyed.

In an interesting change of pace, in Lost Plot Genevieve Cogman leaves her traditional steampunk Victorian-era London for a 1920s New York.  With mobsters, Prohibition, guns and fedoras, it's a world we'd call pretty 'normal'.  Cogman doesn't give us overly detailed descriptions of this world, which works well for maintaining the fast pace of the book but is a shame since it means her fantastic world-building skills aren't particularly used here.  Maybe Irene can go back in a later book so we can enjoy more detailed descriptions of the time period.  Although by the end of Lost Plot, that New York was a little shaken up and might not welcome Irene back.

I enjoyed watching Irene work through this new set of problems and seeing her character grow even more.  She's gaining a Harry Dresden-like talent for balancing between the rules of different magic users while still getting to what she wants in the end.  And I like seeing her continue to grow from a "books only" focus- by the end of Plot she can put into words what she's felt instinctively for awhile: if you're willing to risk everything for a book, shouldn't you be willing to do the same for a person?

While Cogman will probably never be able to top her alligators in The Invisible Library, dragon trained dire wolves get a role here and a nice scene towards the climactic battle at the end.  Plot delves into the world of dragons and dragon politics the way Masked City did for the Fae.  While we are probably never meant to know too much as mere humans, Irene is becoming an expert among Librarians- something that I can readily see getting her further into politics than she'd like in future books.

The necessity to keep the Library and dragons separate naturally means Irene worries about her relationship with Kai.  Are they just as compromised in their neutrality as the Librarian Evariste is accused of being?  Irene doesn't have much time to worry about this until the very end of the book, but it looks like something that will get much more attention in future books.  Kai doesn't get too much 'page time' in Plot (and the scenes he gets solo drag down the overall pace a bit), but you see the relationship between the two changing from student-teacher to something more like equals as Kai grows into his place among dragons.  I do hope that future books won't try to create a romantic relationship between the two because I haven't felt a single spark of convincing chemistry between Irene and Kai in the whole series.  Trying it now would feel very contrived to me and I think having them as only friends/colleagues would make them both stronger.

While each book in the series is pretty stand alone and new readers don't need to have read the rest of the series to enjoy Lost Plot, they will get more out of some of the background, characters, and conflicts if they do.  The Lost Plot lives up to the high standards Genevieve Cogman set for herself in The Invisible Library.  Fast-paced and full of twists and turns, it is a fun continuation of the adventures of Irene and the Library.


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Monday, January 1, 2018

Promise Not To Tell


Promise Not to Tell by [Krentz, Jayne Ann]















Promise Not To Tell- Jayne Ann Krentz
Berkley/Penguin Group
Release Date: January 2, 2018

Rating:
📚📚📚📚

Synopsis: Seattle gallery owner Virginia Troy has spent years battling the demons that stem from her childhood time in a cult and the night a fire burned through the compound, killing her mother. And now one of her artists has taken her own life, but not before sending Virginia a last picture: a painting that makes Virginia doubt everything about the so-called suicide—and her own past.
 
Like Virginia, private investigator Cabot Sutter was one of the children in the cult who survived that fire...and only he can help her now. As they struggle to unravel the clues in the painting, it becomes clear that someone thinks Virginia knows more than she does and that she must be stopped. Thrown into an inferno of desire and deception, Virginia and Cabot draw ever closer to the mystery of their shared memories—and the shocking fate of the one man who still wields the power to destroy everything they hold dear.


______________________________

When a friend and artist sends Seattle art gallery owner Virginia Troy a photograph of a painting, then burns her house down and throws herself into the ocean, Virginia isn't willing to accept that there isn't more to the story.  Hannah's paintings always showed the nightmares of the past, a fiery inferno with a group of children watching a demon walk out of the flames.  Virginia was one of those children.  She turns to private investigator Cabot Sutter, another one of those survivors, for answers.  Cabot and Virginia quickly find themselves involved with embezzlement, murder, and arson as past and present come together to create a mystery just as deadly today as it was all those years ago.

Promise Not to Tell is the sequel to last year's When All the Girls Have Gone, as Krentz follows three brothers who escaped a fiery death at the hands of cult leader Quinton Zane.  All three- Max, Cabot, and Jack along with their foster father Anson- are convinced that Zane is still alive.  In Promise Cabot is brought firmly into the hunt for Zane as former cult members/victims keep popping up- then dying. Virginia is convinced that her friend Hannah saw, or believes she saw, Zane shorty before her death and tried to warn Virginia through a painting.  What might seem like a string of coincidences to someone else looks sinister to anyone who survived Zane's cult.  The coincidences keep piling up when a woman shows up dead in Virginia's art storage room with Hannah's paintings.  Jayne Ann Krentz keeps the suspense going throughout Promise, ensuring that even when the reader thinks they know what is happening they are still caught by surprise.

Virginia and Cabot are well-written, likable, and complex characters written in Krentz's normal style of hero: each has some flaws and hang-ups from their past, each deals with them in different ways.  Virginia isn't content to hire Cabot and then sit back and let him do all the investigating, but is right in the mix with him the whole way and isn't afraid of saving herself when she needs to.  The writing is fast-paced, full of Krentz's trademark dry humor, quick wit, and suspenseful twists.  Secondary characters are as well fleshed out as the main characters and provide some fun alternate view points.

While I would recommend reading When All the Girls Have Gone before Promise Not to Tell in order  to get the most out of the series, both are stand alone books and a new reader doesn't have to have read one to enjoy the other.  But since Krentz is clearly setting up the next book to follow brother Jack and (hopefully) conclude the Quinton Zane mystery, and since both books are wonderful reads, I definitely recommend rereading Girls and Promise before next year's book comes out!

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review