Some Bugs (Angela DiTerlizzi, Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel)

Recommended, Repeatable

(great for 2-4 year olds)

This is a charming book — it’s one of those books that’s fun to read, that makes you just want to keep flipping the pages to finish the rhyme, and there’s just so much going on in every page that it’s sure to keep your kids completely entertained.

It’s a short, quick read, but one that my toddlers have asked for time and again.The words are fun and memorable (it quickly made it onto my son’s “completely memorized” list), the drawings are bright and whimsical, and there’s a last couple of pages of just bugs and bugs and bugs (that your kids will pore over and really, really concentrate on…)

Thief of Shadows (Elizabeth Hoyt)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:

Some nice characterization, some very intense sexual chemistry, and a lot of nice twists here and there: she’s the wealthy and experienced one, he’s the virgin with no real position. The background intrigue is just so-so (I often find it hit-or-miss) and the story-within-a-story was similarly just… ok and the Maiden Lane series with its many, many Ghosts of St. Giles is not holding together as believably as I’d like now that I’m a few books in. Still, the core romance is strongly written and has believable dips and climaxes that keep you entertained and emotionally involved.

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The Ideal Bride (Stephanie Laurens, Cynsters #11)

1.5 out of 5 stars

Definitely a disappointment…

This novel follows Michael Anstruther-Wetherby (he was tangentially introduced in Devil’s Bride, as he’s Honoria’s younger brother)during his search for the perfect political wife… someone who is passably pretty, who is a talented hostess and will help him in every step of his career. We’ve got the normal “what I think I want” vs. “what will make me happy” tension in that he originally picks a young, malleable gal and eventually sees the error of his ways, and there’s the trademark Laurens sensuality as well as the typical mystery/back story (spoilers below). The problem is… this was actually a very boring novel. Micheal is so supercilious about all-things-political that it was hard for me NOT to roll my eyes whenever we were following his thoughts…  also, because political careers are at stake, it’s all about not only social machinations, but the theories behind what it means to be diplomatic, and unobtrusive, etc, etc. It just… doesn’t have the normal depth of heat of her other novels, and is definitely a skippable-entry in the Cynster series.

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A Week to be Wicked (Tessa Dare, Spindle Cove Series)

3.5 out of 5 stars

This is one of those books that you really have to be in the mood for — not just that it’s romance, but that there are so many silly, inconceivably ridiculous twists and turns that fall flat (unless you’re perfectly in the mood for really over the top contrivances. The main characters are, themselves, interesting: the prototypical bookworm who runs into tree branches while reading and the charming rake with the tortured past.. They’ve always teased and fought with one another, but it’s during their week of traveling (and sleeping together, initially platonically!?!?) that they fall in love. While there are moments of sparkling dialog, for me, the crazy twists and turns were just too much, and I spent more time feeling exasperated than moved or involved.


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Leopard Prince (Elizabeth Hoyt)

3.5 out of 5 stars

This book has intense sexual chemistry, pretty decent character growth, some seriously interesting side characters, and a meh intrigue-danger side plot. Though I really enjoyed the book overall, it’s getting the slightly lower rating because I think there were some missed opportunities here. The difference in class (she’s the lady! he’s HER servant!) was super interesting, and could and (perhaps relative to the time period they’re living in) should have been explored more thoroughly. The emotional part of their relationship really felt contingent and dependent on some of the physical chemistry, and though it was enjoyable, it didn’t seem as good as it could have been.

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And Then She Fell (Stephanie Laurens, Cynster Sisters Duo, Cynsters)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
If you generally like Stephanie Laurens, this will be an enjoyable read. It won’t be particularly memorable, but it will be reminiscent of her stronger Cynster novels in terms of both sensuality (lots of it), the main conflict (they just can’t admit to love/give into something that could be dangerous), as well as the secondary conflict (a mystery in the form of a serial killer). The things that make this interesting also make it a slower read than usual. There’s a little too much of her tried and true formula, and the tension between the main characters feels a) less interesting (they are more or less together by the end of the first half, they just haven’t really admitted they truly, truly love one another) and b) less unique (there’s so much referencing back to other Cynsters that you’re constantly reminded that these two are a bit derivative). Still, it was fine, not at all memorable, far from her worst, and also… far from her best.

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The Ideal Wife (Mary Balogh)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This isn’t going to be for everyone — especially because it’s the old she’s-impulsive-and-reckless whereas he’s patient-and-understanding trope done to the point where she’s almost scatterbrained and he’s much, much more mature and knowing. I’m sure the feminist in me should be protesting… Still, I was kind of captivated by the writing and story, all of which I found really sweet! The writing makes you really believe in what would have otherwise seemed caricature-like tropes, and most of it feels completely grounded within the time period. The end of the story is a little taken over by misunderstanding-misunderstanding-missed-opportunity, but I don’t think it detracted from just the general sweet-and-lightness of the story. It’s well written, the characters are believable, there aren’t any truly-terrible-villains (blackmail as opposed to murder, etc) which meant that this was a light, airy, quick read that was completely satisfying and awesomely escapist in the old-Cinderella theme. It’s not intense (sexually or emotionally) but it left me smiling and in a happy mood… isn’t that what we want our romance to do?

Greater Detail:
The beginning setup is crazy, and nothing like the rest of the novel. Miles Ripley is a generally reasonable man whose life has been more or less overrun by the females in his life (his mother, his sisters) all of whom mean well, but persist in trying to manage every detail of his life (down to who he’ll marry). He’s anxious to avoid the intended they’ve chosen for him (a beauty named Frances who comes from a wonderful family, but is managing, vain and would expect him to be at her beck and call). Though he could, of course, just stand up to his relatives, he jokes that it would be far easier to just find a biddable mouse of a girl, marry her instead, and let her fade into the background.

Enter Abigail Gardiner, a distant-not-distant cousin who’s just gotten fired from her post (she gets fired defending her friend, a beautiful young governess, from the lascivious advances of their joint employer). She comes seeking a reference from Miles, he offers to wed her instead, thinking she’s a shy, retiring type.

In reality, she’s quite outspoken, and a bit of a chatterbox… but she conceals it well, and after briefly wondering if he’s insane, decides to take her chances.

Their relationship is definitely a slow boil one — she’s afraid he’s going to detest her once he finds out her many secrets (slight spoilers ahead) ranging from the fact that she loves talking nonstop to her rather disreputable family (a drunk father who gambled everything away and died in debt, two half-sisters she practically raised, etc). For his part, he enjoys finding out about her, gets used to her and even enjoys her company. Love (and eventually desire) blossom between them. Abby falls in love with him because he’s not only handsome and everything else a hero should be, but genuinely caring and protective of her, while Miles is very believably drawn to her sweetness, and the fact that she makes him laugh and brings him joy.

There are various misunderstandings near the end that keep us (momentarily) from our happy ending, but nothing overdone. The misunderstandings drag out just long enough so that you’re not rolling your eyes, the falling in love is charming and sweet. There’s nothing hugely intense or climactic, with the final villain (blackmailer) resolving off-scene, probably after the conclusion of the book. Yet… for me, all of this worked very well. It’s a good, likable story that I’ll probably go back and re-read at some point. It’s charming in a very subdued fashion, and… though I’ve said it before, sweet in a way that was very, very satisfying.

Comparison to Other Authors
Mary Balogh is very, very hit or miss for me. Sometimes I find her characters sweet, other times the pacing makes me grit my teeth.  Even in her longer works, the sensuality meter is never super-high, and initially it’s almost always more about duty and expectations of the time (that the girl will lay there and not be responsive, that showing passion might somehow be demeaning)… all of which eventually builds to a slightly-more-sensuous outcome that still feels more pastel than purple. It’s more Julia Quinn than Stephanie Laurens, but for the most part, I find her humor to be a strong point (not overdone like some of Quinn’s newer things, but more tongue in cheek like Austen, or vintage Quinn). Also, I find her settings and writing to feel more genuinely regency-era, which is rarer than you would think given the number of best selling authors whose scenes give a nob to the genre, instead of really writing within the time period.

Quiver of the Pure Heart (Burnita Bluitt, CLP Blog Tours Release Day Blitz)

About the Book

Granddaughter of a loving, but roguish businessman, Blis Dumas can’t escape a legacy of lies. The time is 1989. The place is San Francisco, where painful stories of gentrification, eviction and relocation still echo within its limits.

Clinging desperately to the Victorian home she inherited, she is confronted by a stranger that brings her a life filled with revenge, corruption, and murder. In an unparalleled twist of fate, she discovers that her predicament may have roots buried much closer to home. Blis’ world starts to crumble as she fights the Bureau to save the home she adores; fights the temptation of an incorrigible former lover; and fights the perils threatening the tender passion of a new budding romance.

QUIVER OF THE PURE HEART will appeal to readers that appreciate a social setting that illuminates the universal themes of desire, forgiveness, revenge, and letting go.  San Francisco is one of the loves of Blis’ life, and like any love relationship, it is where her emotions will be tested, where romance will live and die, and where people are not always as they seem. Burnita Bluitt offers a spirited and passionate story of love and corruption in the city by the bay.

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Mr. Wuffles (David Wiesner)

Somewhat Recommended, Somewhat Repeatable

This was actually a split decision in our family… one kid kind of loves it, and another kid isn’t interested at all. The “story” is told through truly wonderful and very creative illustrations — in an almost comic book like style, we see tiny aliens land, get tortured/played with by a household cat, and then we see how the aliens are befriended by the ants of the household, etc. For adults who like to improv/tell stories, it’s pretty fun, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

Seducing an Angel (Mary Balogh, Huxtables #4)

3 out of 5 stars

A Bit of a Disappointment…
There are a lot of interesting details in this book: the female protagonist (Cass/Cassandra) is the darker/troubled character, and is three years older than our hero, who’s at least initially the “angel” who is all lightness and goodness. They’re both layered characters (though it feels like our heroine has more dimension, especially due to her tragic past), and the supporting cast is quite excellent. That said, the beginning of the book (and parts of the middle) were really hard to get through… Cass just starts off as a barely-likable character, and it takes some effort to care enough to get to the backstory, and to have the patience to listen to her justifications. It was an okay read, and I’m happy ultimately that I borrowed, instead of bought it… (there were also some details that drove me up the wall crazy, spoilers below). Continue reading