All posts by skyebjenner

The Demon’s Secret by Nathalie Gray

Overview
Image result for the mammoth book of paranormal romance 2 book cover

Title: The Demon’s Secret
Author: Nathalie Gray
In: The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2 (Trisha Telep)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Demons, Paranormal romance
Dates read: 30th March 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 2010
5th sentence, 74th page: Without bothering to warm up the car, he just drove it to his temporary home at the foot of the Jacques-Cartier bridge.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

Cain is in service to a demon, but there is some hope on the horizon… if he’s only brave enough to take his chance on love.

Thoughts

From the very beginning of this story, I thought that it was that Cain. And even though I did guess this, I was still quite pleasantly surprised. After all, it’s one thing to suspect, and another to have your suspicions confirmed in the best way. Adding to that the fact that it was in such a wonderfully surprising manner, with a fantabulous twist.

This is a pretty action packed short story from the very beginning – it involves two demon bounty hunters who are collecting secrets racing against the clock. The fact that there is an extra layer of enjoyment and lust just settles you completely into the tale. And yet, even with this bit of extra lust, it doesn’t quite feel like a… lustful and sexual story. Rather, it’s all kind of sweet.

I’d probably reread this short story. It was a genuinely fun and easy read. One that swept you away, without making you forget about the realities of the world. The perfect balance for ease of access and enjoyment. And, all in all, an incredibly sweet ending.

<- Spirit of the PrairieMarine Biology ->

Image source: Amazon

Gap Year by Christopher Barzak

Overview
Image result for teeth ellen datlow terri windling book cover

Title: Gap Year
Author: Christopher Barzak
In: Teeth: Vampire Tales (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Paranormal fantasy, Vampires
Dates read: 30th March 2021
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Harper
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: Sometimes Retta just wanted more more.

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Synopsis

There’s a vampire at the school assembly. And something about him makes Retta want to break the chains of her life and live… more. Maybe she should just join the vampires on her own Gap Year.

Thoughts

This was a wonderfully different premise for a vampire story – vampires that consume feelings instead of blood. I’ve kind of thought something similar in the past, but actually reading a story about it… well, I seriously enjoyed this.

I thought that Gap Year was a brilliant Coming of Age story. One that highlights the need to grow into your own skin and find your own future and reality – it’s also a great beginning of a Gap Year. I didn’t take one myself, but I know a lot of people who did, and I thought that this was the best beginning for one ever.

The aspect of this story that I loved the most, unique vampires, etc. aside – was the fact that Retta is able to leave behind a toxic situation. There can be that moment with childhood friends when you kind of have to break free because it’s just not quite healthy for you anymore. And Retta most certainly does this. But in the most calm and respectful manner possible.

<- All SmilesBloody Sunrise ->

Image source: HarperCollins

The French Gift by Kirsty Manning

Overview
The French Gift - Kirsty Manning - 9781760528096 - Allen & Unwin - Australia

Title: The French Gift
Author: Kirsty Manning
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Family, Historical fiction, Strong women
Dates read: 23rd – 30th March 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: ARC, Novel
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Year: 2021
5th sentence, 74th page: Line your stomach before you meet those two!

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Synopsis

A forgotten manuscript that threatens to unravel the past…

Fresnes Prison, 1940: Former maid at a luxury villa on the Riviera, Margot Bisset, finds herself in a prison cell with writer and French Resistance fighter, Josephine Murant. Together, they are trasnferred to a work camp in Germany for four years, where the secrets they share will bind them for generations to come.

Contemporary Paris: Evie Black lives in paris with her teenage son Hugo above her botanical bookshop, La Maison Rustique. Life would be so sweet if only Evie were not mourning the great love of her life.

When a letter arrives regarding the legacy of her husband’s great-aunt, Josephine Murant, Evie clutches at an opportunity to spend one last magical summer with her son. They travel together to Josephine’s house, now theirs, on the Cote d’Azur. Here, Evie unravels the official story of this famous novelist, and the truth of a murder a lifetime ago.

The redemptive beauty of nature and the promise of new love offer light at the end of the tunnel in this stirring novel delving into Europe’s past.

Thoughts

I received this ARC from Allen & Unwin in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Normally I struggle a little bit to get through any historical fiction books. I have plenty and till enjoy them all… but I do tend to find that they are a little bit more difficult to get through for me than some of the other genres that fill my shelves. Maybe because I’m constantly questioning what’s fact and what’s fiction. And then getting distracted by the idea of doing more research…

Again, I loved the flickering between timelines and points of view normally tend to confuse and overwhelm me. But it wasn’t the case in this story. I loved flickering between Josephine Murant and Evie. Their lives running in a parallel line with completely different battles being fought. You actually discover Josephine’s history as Evie does, which further draws you into the amazing storyline. The fact that it’s a story with two strong women as the leads… that just makes it all that much better!

I really and seriously did not see the twist at the end of this story – it was completely unexpected and seriously intense. I love when a twist comes out of nowhere and just completely smacks into you. It’s what makes me want to read another book by the same author. It is just so difficult to find surprising twists and turns!

This story is overall a tale of strong women, hope and survival. It is about finding one’s own strength, but still leaning on those you love and who love you. Whether it is a best friend, a potential new love or the child you feel pulling away from you… each and every relationship in this story is powerful. And underneath it all, there is just that amazing sense of hope that you can’t help but grin about.

I will most certainly be reading this ARC again. And again. And probably again. Not only was it an amazing journey, but I loved the strength of the women and the journey that Manning manages to take you on. Most certainly a book that will sit proudly upon my shelves.

<- More Kirsty ManningThe Lost Jewels ->

Image source: Allen & Unwin

Running Mate by Jaci Burton

Overview
Primal Heat : Sherri L King : 9781843607403

Title: Running Mate
Author: Jaci Burton
Series: Devlin Dynasty #1
In: Primal Heat (Sherri L. King, Lorie O’Clare, Jaci Burton & Lora Leigh)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Paranormal romance, Werewolves
Dates read: 30th March 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novella
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Year: 2004
5th sentence, 74th page: Didn’t want to understand.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

Senator Jason Devlin is a man with a secret. A big one that could ruin his political career and his family. He guards his secret closely, allowing no outsiders to penetrate his intimate circle. Kelsey Harper is a reporter itching for an interview with the elusive senator. When a case of mistaken identity lands her in his bed, she gets much more than an interview.

Thoughts

This is a kind of intense novella. But one that I still find highly enjoyable. Intriguing and engaging. If not a little bit too lustful and with certain… sexual interests. But, overall, this is a seriously enjoyable story!

There seems to be a bit of a trope in a lot of the werewolf paranormal romance stories that I read… anal and werewolves. I’m really, seriously not sure what it is about this trope that is so damn popular. Or recurrent them. I mean, whatever makes you happy works… but still, it just seems to be something that keeps coming up again and again in my stories. And I still just don’t quite get it…

Although I didn’t necessarily love all of the sexuality in this story, I did get pulled in from the very get-go. Incredibly happily. And it has most definitely left me intrigued to read more of this series… after all, there is something about this that has such a great potential for the rest of the series. I most certainly jumped at adding the other three books to my wishlist anyway…

This is most definitely a novella that I will look at reading again. One that I look forward to sinking my literary teeth into again and again. There are many layers which I haven’t yet managed to peel back.

<- Pack LawWolfe’s Hope ->

Image source: BookDepository

The Sisters by Sabina Murray

Overview
Image result for xo orpheus book cover

Title: The Sisters
Author: Sabina Murray
In: Xo Orpheus (Kate Bernheimer)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Mythology, Roman mythology
Dates read: 30th March 2021
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year: 2013
5th sentence, 74th page: Small stipend.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

A college professor is in the heyday of his life. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember… everything. And when he decides to finally solve a mystery of his past, he might find just a little more than he bargained for.

Thoughts

I love that this is a short story which features Bacchus and the Bacchus cults. Which, honestly, might be one of the more terrifying aspects of Roman / Greek mythology. I mean, it seems all well and good to talk about the God of Wine and Revelry… until you realise that he had cults which liked to have orgies and tear their victim’s limb from bloody limb…

Emily Dickinson is a writer that seems to come up again and again in people’s minds and memories. I don’t really know that much about her. But after reading this, I feel like I just need to know more. There is something about her that lends itself to a lot of questions and speculation. Which, in this story led to a Bacchus cult and all sorts of horrible things… I’m not entirely sure where this obsession comes from. But I know that I want to find out!

I really loved all of the twists and turns in this short story. Particularly the gender reversal of the predator and prey. It draws you in wonderfully and leaves you with goosebumps running up and down your spine.

<- ArgosSawdust ->

Image source: Goodreads

Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipovic

Overview
Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic - Penguin Books Australia

Title: Zlata’s Diary
Author: Zlata Filipovic
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, War
Dates read: 25th – 26th March 2021
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Puffin Books
Year: 1993
5th sentence, 74th page: We don’t think about the shelling or the war.

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Synopsis

I’m trying to concentrate so that I can do my homework (reading) but I simply can’t. Something is going on in town. You can hear gunffire from the hills!

This entry in Zlata’s diary in April 1992 shows how the war draws relentlessly closer to her hom ein Sarajevo. When she starts her diary, Zlata tells of her normal, happy life with her family and friends. But soon they are fighting to survive. Zlata’s very personal accoutn is a vivid portrait of an innocent child caughht up in a terrible war.

Thoughts

I put this book on my wish list because it was a book read by the Freedom Writers. I knew absolutely nothing about Sarajevo or Bosnia or the war that was occurring literally on the day that I was born. And although I still don’t know much at all about the politics of the situation and all the ins and outs. Reading about a child’s thoughts during war… terrifying.

After having read The Diary of Anne Frank, it is terrifying to read yet another tragic story. Although, admittedly, there was a much happier ending to this tale. The innocence of Zlata just shines out of the pages, and the terror and confusion that she felt… it is an incredibly uncomfortable read this novel. One that I would suggest for everyone. But still incredibly informative.

I had to read this novel in small bites – it is incredibly heart wrenching and horrifying. It is also kind of hopeful. A great reminder of the power of the human spirit. The part that I loved the most about this was the power of the human spirit. And the ways in which all of Zlata’s family and neighbourhood banded together to support one another. It’s not the kind of thing that can always be hoped for, and it is a reminder that people can survive anything.

Zlata’s diary is a powerful and wonderful read. It is definitely not a feel good story or one that I necessarily felt the need or desire to read before bedtime, but it was definitely one that I will go back to in the future. And I would most definitely recommend it to others.

<- The Happiest RefugeeThe Diary of a Young Girl ->

Image source: Puffin Books Australia

Dr. Strange Beard by Penny Reid

Overview
Dr. Strange Beard : Penny Reid : 9781635763515

Title: Dr. Strange Beard
Author: Penny Reid
Series: Winston Brothers #5
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Chic lit, Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Dates read: 15th – 25th March 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: SmartyPants Romance
Year: 2018
5th sentence, 74th page: I see your point.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

Beards, brothers, and bears, oh my!
Hunches, horse races, and heartbreak

Ten years after Simone Parton broke his heart, all Roscoe Winston wants is a doughnut. He’d also like to forget her entirely, but that’s never going to happen. Roscoe remembers everything – every look, every word, every single unrequited second – and the least thing he needs is another memory of Simone.

Unfortunately, after one chance encounter, Simone keeps popping up everywhere he happens to be…

Ten years after Roscoe Winston dropped out of her life, all Simone Payton wants is to exploit him. She’d also like some answers from her former best friend about why he ghosted her, but is she never gets those answers, that’s a-okay. Simone let go of the past a long time ago. Seriously, she has. She totally, totally has. She is definitely not still thinking about Roscoe. Nope. She’s more than happy to forget he exists.

But first, she needs just one teeny-tiny favor…

Thoughts

As usual, I love the works of Reid. She is funny, engaging, generally awesome and just all round, a lot of fun. The fact that, yet again, Reid finds characters that are not mainstream and a little in the minority… well, it just draws you further and further into the storyline. In this case, we have a POC lead female, and a male with a seriously awesome memory… one that I’m not exactly jealous of, because I can understand how painful that would probably be for him.

Roscoe is such an absolute sweetheart. He has been throughout all of the Winston Brothers books but getting to read about him as a sweetheart from the very beginning… oh. My heart just melted. Of all of the absolutely delectable brothers, he is most definitely the sweetest. Which is lovely considering that he is also the one that is in love with his childhood best friend… and the way he goes about it? Oh, honestly, once I actually got into this book and had the time to pick it up, I just devoured the whole damn story.

Although this is a contemporary romance series, Darrell Winston is a scary, horrible villain. He is just… so damn evil. And probably because he is also believable… he is also one of those villains that seriously give me the heebie jeebies. So, having a story that much more heavily featured him in the present (for the first four books he’s in jail) was… awesome. And horrible. It just made this story all that much more difficult to put down. Plus, it also is a great story point and methodology to pull Simone into the tale and the world of the Winston’s again.

Simone and Roscoe are a great couple. One that you fall in love with from the very first moment. I mean, all of the Reid couples are ones that you are pulling for from the beginning. But something about these two… it’s just wonderful. I love the stories about those who grew together as friends and become lovers. There is something just… adorable and impossible to forget about such a story line. There is a horrible cliché about falling in love with your best friend. One that is so completely true – and Roscoe and Simone definitely work with this cliché perfectly.

Not only does this story hit all of my happy points for diversity and romance. But it also helps to kind of round out the story with Darrell, who hovers throughout all of the tales. And it sets things up for the next two books – Billy’s story. I’m not exactly jumping to read Beard With Me because I know that it’s probably going to break my heart. But then, the other part of me… just can’t wait.

<- Beard in MindBeard with Me ->

Image source: Bookdepository

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey

Overview
Love Her Or Lose Her, A Novel by Tessa Bailey | 9780062872852 | Booktopia

Title: Love Her or Lose Her
Author: Tessa Bailey
Series: Hot & Hammered #2
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Chic lit, Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Dates read: 13th – 24th March 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Avon
Year: 2020
5th sentence, 74th page: “In bed or out?” Rosie said, heat staining her cheeks.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey returns with a unique, sexy romantic comedy about a young married couple whose rocky relationship needs a serious renovation.

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the prefect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be, anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When Rosie’s girlfriends encourage her to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippie. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to Rosie’s surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As the two complete one ridiculous – yet surprisingly helpful – assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.

Thoughts

As with Fix Her Up, I was completely in love with and completely pulled into this story. It was fun, light and seriously cute. Plus, I love that the angle in this romance isn’t so much about finding the love of your life, it’s about keeping them. I’ve been with my husband since we were quite young (not as young as Rosie and Dom), and I know that our relationship is a constant work in progress. So, having a story that highlights what happens after the wedding… it certainly was a fantastic alternate angle to a romance.

I’ve always believed in true love, but I’ve also believed that it doesn’t matter how much you love one another, there is much more to a relationship and marriage than love alone. I love that Bailey kind of takes the same standpoint – that Rosie deserves more than just love and needs to fight for something else in her life. It opens up this beautiful world in which love isn’t necessarily enough, there is other work involved. Believe me, a good relationship isn’t just built around love. It is about so much, much more. And that Rosie is willing to fight for this… man, I just fell for this character from the very first page.

It’s always fun when you feel like you have a lot in common with the lead character – and I certainly felt this way about Rosie. I too have a stoic, communicationally stunted man in my life. And, although she always wants him by her side, she is fiercely independent. And intelligent. And just driven. Plus, I love the level of sass – particularly in the moment when she decides to find the most “woo woo” therapist she possibly can. Not just to save their marriage, but also to try and make Dom really try. I love a woman who will occasionally go out of her way to be difficult. The fact that the therapist managed to throw in some very cool and interesting curveballs… well, it had me smiling and giggling all the way through.

Love Her or Lose Her is a beautiful romance, filled with all of the fun and lust that I enjoyed in Fix Her Up.  But I honestly probably enjoyed it just that little bit more. Simply because it deals with the day-to-day difficulties of being in a relationship. It highlights that even when you’ve had the wedding, found your happily ever after… things still take work. Plus, the inclusion of the love languages… it just reminds us to never take each other for granted and finding our happily ever after is always about work… in the best way possible.

<- Fix Her UpTools of Engagement ->

Image source: Booktopia

The Peak of Love by Langley Gray

Overview
Langley Gray

Title: The Peak of Love
Author: Langley Gray
Series: The Socialites #3
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Chic lit, Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Dates read: 10th – 23rd March 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: ARC, eBook, Novel
Publisher: Langley Gray
Year: 2021
5th sentence, 74th page: What happened to taking it easy?

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

Margot Fairchild is a woman with a plan. She’s ready to take over the family beauty empire JOLIE, until her dad informs her that she needs to prove her ability to follow-through before taking the helm. She must commit to something – anything – for 21 days, the time it takes to form a habit, in order to earn her chance. She has every confidence she can rise to the occasion, until she finds out she must date someone her friends choose for her. The man in question is a complete departure from her usual “type”; the handsome and injured, Luke Devereaux.

Luke Devereaux is a professional hockey player trying to keep out of the headlines due to a potential scandal lurking. His tattoos and bad boy looks overshadow his heart of gold, but he’s a firm believer that things will work out as they should, even with his career in jeopardy.
He retreats to the mountains of Colorado on a management-forced vacation while waiting for news about his multimillion-dollar contract renewal. He only has to keep a low profile until the decision is made. Then he meets Margot Fairchild.

Will Margot manage to take Luke’s laid-back lead?
Or will her need to take control sabotage Luke’s contract, and her ability to follow-through?

Thoughts

This is such a gorgeous and fun story. It made me smile, life and just generally had me seriously enjoying this story. Margot is an absolute pistol of a lead character, and Luke is completely adorable in his laid back, understanding mannerisms. That, and the setting of the entire romance is just… dreamy, cute and seriously beautiful. The perfect place to fall in love.

 I love that this story has a serious How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days feeling. After all, Margot makes a deal with her father to stay in a relationship for 21 days… you can just taste the fall out from that deal from the very beginning. Although, it doesn’t stop you from wanting to sink into it and find out just how that fallout is going to happen! Then, there’s the feeling that Luke also has a fair amount to gain from their blossoming relationship…

I’ve never been skiing, and it’s not something that I’m honestly all that interested in. It just seems so damn… cold! But it also seems ridiculously fun and romantic. The kind of adventure that can most definitely cement a relationship and create a bit of a happily ever after feeling. It certainly works for Margot and Luke anyhow! And it adds an extra, fun layer of spice to the whole story. One that just helps to sink you further and further into the setting, scenery and storyline.

I absolutely adored this story – the lead characters where absolutely adorable. And the secondary characters were just as much fun… there were a few calamities in their relationship along the way, which is exactly what I need in a story about relationships. But not enough to make your heart hurt. Like the other Socialites stories, this was light, fun and intensely enjoyable.

<- The Flyaway BrideUntitled ->

Image source: Langley Gray

Spirit of the Prairie by Shirley Damsgaard

Overview
Image result for the mammoth book of paranormal romance 2 book cover

Title: Spirit of the Prairie
Author: Shirley Damsgaard
In: The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2 (Trisha Telep)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: AngelsHistorical romanceParanormal romance
Dates read: 16th March 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 2010
5th sentence, 74th page: “In case you haven’t noticed,” he cut in, his humour gone.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

She’s a widow who finds herself falling for an angel. And the angel is falling for her. But, then the rules get in the way and things take a slightly more difficult turn….

Thoughts

I enjoyed this short story. It’s not the kind that I will wax on and off about it’s awesomeness. But it was most definitely enjoyable. And a wonderful diversion from reality, study and just general adulthood for a little while. Which is honestly what I’m mostly looking for in a short story…

The idea of an angel falling for a mortal and having his wings clipped is a kind of frequent trope in some of the books that I’m reading. But it still is one that I really like. I mean, giving up everything for love? That’s well worth it in my books… although, the punishment received and the reality that is thrust upon the angels in this is kind of seriously harsh…

I really enjoyed this short story, but it’s not the most memorable story that I’ve ever read either. It was fun, light and easy. It also felt nicely finished out with the ending… even if the punishment for rule breaking was yet to come.

<- Princes of DominionThe Demon’s Secret ->

Image source: Amazon