Review: A Lady in the Smoke

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Review: A Lady in the Smoke

Author: Karen Odden

Format: audiobook

Setting: 1874 England

Themes: love, family, medicine, addiction, revenge, politics, law

Lady Elizabeth Fraser and her mother are returning home after a miserable London Season only to be involved in a train wreck. Elizabeth has a minor concussion and her mother’s ankle is sprained, but she can’t manage anything without Elizabeth’s help. Only handsome Dr. Wilcox is able to provide the care her mother needs. Elizabeth is drawn to the young man, but such a match would never be permitted by Society. Elizabeth knows this, but her heart refuses to listen. She’s drawn into Dr. Wilcox’s life, his crusade for safer railway conditions, and the bitter struggle against his powerful enemies.

I found this one while browsing the titles my library had available for online audiobooks, and I have to say I was hooked. I love a good historical mystery and this one was very promising. Victorian setting, star-crossed lovers, class struggles, and a new author, it was lots of fun. Definitely recommended.

 

Review: Puss Without Boots

Title: Puss Without Boots, Fairy Tale Kingdoms #1

Author: Shari L. Tapscott

Genre: fairy tale romance

Themes: true love, magic, work, trust

Suzette, also called Etta, is the youngest child of the miller. Now that her aunt has passed, she left the mill to the oldest child, the donkey to the middle child, and Suzette – well, she gets the cat and some money – to buy boots for the cat. Suzette is less than thrilled. She uses the money to buy herself some boots.

But a few weeks later when Etta takes her first day off, she discovers that this is no ordinary cat. Puss can talk. He doesn’t mind about the boots, but he had definite plans for Etta. Plans that involve teaching her to hunt and stop spending time with the new chocolatier, Beau.

I really liked this book. After a string of books that I was only lukewarm about, this one won me over with it’s charming story and characters. Etta is such a refreshing change from so many stupid characters! And Beau, I mean come on, he has a chocolate shop! Plus their relationship developed slowly enough that I really cared about them as a couple.

This was a very quick read. I’m definitely recommending this one if you like clean fairy tale romance, and I’m pleased to see that she has several other books out. The next one is about Rapunzel.

Review: Midnight Pearls

Title: Midnight Pearls: A Retelling of the Little Mermaid (Once Upon a Time #4)

Author: Debbie Vigiue

Genre: fairy tale, YA romance

reprinted review

I am a big fan of the retold fairy tale, so I was happy to find this series of familiar tales and fables rewritten for teens. I just finished this one yesterday, and I enjoyed it. Finneas is out fishing one night when a terrible storm blows up. Just when he is ready to give up and surrender to the sea, he spots a child floating in the ocean. He rescues the girl and together with his wife, they raise the girl as their own. They name her Pearl. It’s a promising beginning, and I did enjoy the book. It’s not really anything unique, pretty much a classic tale. All the regulars from the original story are there – the handsome prince, the Sea Witch – but there are a few twists. I read it in a day, a quick fun story.

If you like this genre, I can recommend some titles from the ‘Once Upon a Time’ series. Overall, the writing is uneven. Some of the stories are really well done. My favorites are The Storyteller’s Daughter (1001 Nights), Sunshine and Shadow (The Magic Flute), and Golden (Rapunzel). Before Midnight, based on Cinderella, is my very favorite. But there are a few I just couldn’t read, one based on Little Red Riding Hood that has her falling in love with the wolf, and some one I can’t remember set in France during World War I. I got this one at the library.

 

Cover – 1, Story – 0

Emerson sees ghosts. Or something. That would be enough for any average teen to freak out a bit, but she’s also dealing with the death of both parents in a car accident. She’s been away at boarding school, but her scholarship funding ran out and now she’s back home, facing her demons. Not literal demons, unfortunately; that would have been cool. Her brother keeps trying to fix her, get rid of her visions. Medication helped, but she quit taking it. So now he’s called in the latest expert, a guy named Michael who works for a clinic or something called The Hourglass.

Michael is a hottie. And he sees the ghosts too. Turns out they’re not ghosts, they are shadows from the past. I can’t tell you much more without spoiling the plot, but let me say it becomes a lot like X-Men, but not as good. There was a love triangle like Twilight. Apparently that’s required for teen fiction now. And the whole series ends with a lot of unanswered questions, stuff about what the bad guy is really after, and something about saving the world, and something about it reminded me of Harry Potter.

I guess that was part of my trouble. It just struck me as derivative. I also didn’t like Michael, the love interest, at all. He seemed too secretive and too perfect otherwise. Every girl who sees him, and I’m not exaggerating, immediately starts drooling. I guess he’s so hot Emerson didn’t stop to think about the way he treats her like a kid and won’t tell her anything. Hm, it really DOES sound like Twilight.

Like I said, it’s the first book in a planned series, but I won’t be reading more. I wouldn’t have picked up this one either, except it’s for  book club, so I needed to read it. Looks like two duds in a row for book club. This one is not recommended. I hesitated between 2.5 stars and 3, so I split the difference and have it 2.75.

*This is an encore review, repeated here for new readers.*

The Princess Companion

Title: The Princess Companion: A Retelling of the Princess and the Pea, the Four Kingdoms #1

Author: Melanie Cellier

Setting: The Four Kingdoms, Not sure about when*

Theme: TRUE LOVE! Duh! What else? Oh, and true worth, the importance of trust and honesty, and other fairy tale stuff. But mostly true love.

Alyssa was looking for work, but she hadn’t planned on working for the Royal Family of Arcadia. Still, a job’s a job. And that hot prince is pretty nice boss.

So, what do you need to know about this book? It’s a fairy tale, with lots of fairy tale stuff – a woodcutter’s daughter, a handsome prince, his twin younger sisters, evil bad guys, and true love conquering all. The writing was good and I really enjoyed it. I would rate it as pretty solid, but not outstanding. Still, I would be happy to read the next one in the series, a twist on Red Riding Hood. And the cover is pretty cute.

*About the setting – I’m not sure when this is set. The bad guys were armed with guns, but that was the only clue. I’m guessing (and this is only a guess) somewhere around the late 18th century. But that could be way off.

This one is recommended, and it’s also clean enough for any reader.

Book Review: Sleeping Beauty

Title: Sleeping Beauty, Timeless Fairy Tales #8

Author: K M Shea

Genre: clean Fairy Tale romance

Themes: Duty vs Desire, Nature Vs Nurture, True Love

I just can’t get enough of this series! In the latest one, featuring Briar Rose or Princess Rosalinda, we get a strong, clever, brave heroine who it’s easy to root for.

It starts pretty much like the traditional story. The royal family has a new baby girl but an unexpected guest decides to throw a death curse into the mix to liven up the party. But Shea likes to weave all these fairy tales together into the story of a land that has been cursed so that everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. This one was great because not only did we get a wonderful main character, but we got to learn more about Angelique, the “enchantress in training” who’s been on hand to save the day numerous times.

I’m hoping to cajole K M Shea into doing an interview or guest appearance on my blog, so if you haven’t checked out her books, do it now and if you get a chance tell her Speedy Reader sent you. Crossing my fingers!

 

Book Review: Crosstalk by Connie Willis

Title: Crosstalk

Author Connie Willis

Genre: Science Fiction with some romance

How I heard about this book: Fan of the author

Review:

I love Connie Willis – she is one of my favorite authors. So I was super excited when I heard she had a new book out.

And it was good. Wildly inventive, totally different from her previous books, relevant, and with characters I cared about. But can I admit that I was a tiny bit disappointed? From anyone else, I might have given this 5 stars.

But this is by the author of The Doomsday Book and the Blackout duology. I wanted something – earthshattering. What I got was very good. Still, hard to complain too much. I guess I’m just spoiled. I definitely have to mention how much I love that she is still pushing the boundaries.

Book Review: Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales

Title: Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales

Authors: Elisabeth Grace FoleyRachel Heffington, J. Grace Pennington, Emily Ann Putzke, Suzannah Rowntree, Hayden Wand

Looking for a little fairy tale magic this season? This collection offers six stories which are both distinct and unique. From steampunk to western to WWII, this little book offers something for every reader. Not all of them end happily ever after, and as usual with such an anthology, I liked some stories better than others. I didn’t like the Snow White story as much, but they were all good stories. I wasn’t completely crazy about any of them, but I did like them each enough that I want to see how a full length story by these authors stands up.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review, but my opinion is my own. Verdict: worth checking out!

Book Review: Dictatorship of the Dress

dress Title: Dictatorship of the Dress: A Much ‘I Do’ About Nothing Novel

Author: Jessica Topper

Genre: contemporary romance

Setting: airports, mostly, also Las Vegas and Hawaii, modern day

Themes: taking chances, family ties

Where I heard of it: Goodreads

 

 

Laney is a graphic artist. Noah is an app developer. The two meet at an airport when both are on their way to a wedding. For Laney, it’s her mother’s, and she’s bringing the dress. For Noah, it’s his wedding, but he’s actually heading to Vegas for the bachelor party. At first, they can’t help noticing all the many flaws in each other. They plan to ignore one another, but wind up stuck in each other’s company in first class  on the flight, and then a giant storm hits and their connecting flights are cancelled. The more time they spend together, the better they get to know each other, and they more they are attracted

Pros: I liked Noah. He was not your average romance novel leading man. I liked that he was brainy, rather than macho. His friends were fun as well, but I had reservations. (see below) I also liked the resolution.

Cons: There was more profanity that I expected. Noah’s friends were loyal and crazy, but they were also crude, bordering on offensive. Yeah, I get that it’s a bachelor party, but still, it was not what I was expecting at all. It really turned me off.

Neutral: I wasn’t crazy about Laney. I started out liking her, but as I found out more about her previous relationship with the rocker, I sort of lost interest.

Overall Rating: 2.75