#T5W – Books for my younger self

I’m a bit late posting for #T5W, considering it’s now Friday here in New Zealand, but oh well.  I was a bit stumped on this prompt.  Books for my younger self.  I was a voracious reader.  My mother tells me that I was so desperate for reading material that I would read the backs of cereal packets, and once she even caught me trying to read the shredded newspaper we were using to insulate the house that we were building.  It’s not that my parents denied me books, but we didn’t have a lot of money, and I went to a very small rural school.  It didn’t take me long to read my way through the library there.  I remember that going to high school was amazing because they had this huge library that I could explore.

So I read anything I could get my hands on, but I did tend to favour fantasy novels.

In high school, the first books I remember really enjoying were Anne McCaffrey’s talent series and ship series, both of which I enjoyed.  I never got as much into her dragonrider series, which is crazy, because it seems ideal for me.  I read her crystal series and freedom series too.  And then I really enjoyed Jean M Auel’s earth’s children series.

After high school I read a lot of Mills and Boons, partly because they were cheap and plentiful.  You could pick up stacks of them for really cheap.  Win!  Eventually I grew out of those and started looking for romance novels with more depth, and I’ve stayed there ever since.

So…  I have no idea what to recommend to my younger self.  Am I only recommending books that were available back then?  Or ones that I wish had been?  I’m leaning toward the latter.

I’ve actually bought a heap of books for my kids over the years.  Neither of my kids are quite as manic about reading as I was, but I think that’s because they have the internet and I didn’t.  Although we had a computer at home in my later years of primary school, we didn’t get internet until I was 17 I think.  My son is definitely into fantasy, and my daughter prefers feel-good, happy stories, although I’ve noticed she also leans toward fantasy, with fairies and mermaids and things.

So, these are books I’ve bought for my kids.  Which I guess I wish someone had bought for me when I was a kid, except of course they weren’t published then!

The Dragon Defenders (The Dragon Defenders Trilogy, #1)

We lucked out when we bought my daughter’s copy of this book, because the author is a local and he’d signed the book!  Win!  This book also contains digital content that you can scan with an iphone or ipad, using the app.  Very cool, and a way to mix up the two technologies for modern kids.

Blurb:  When evil boss The Pitbull discovers that dragons exist on Flynn and Paddy’s island, he sends his men to kill one, and to bring him back a dragon’s egg. It will take all of Flynn and Paddy’s skill, bravery and cunning to stop them.

This is a trilogy and all three books have been published.


The Lost Twin (Scarlet and Ivy #1)

Blurb: Ivy, I pray that it’s you reading this. And if you are, well, I suppose you’re the new me…

When shy Ivy’s troublemaking twin Scarlet vanishes from Rookwood boarding school, Ivy is invited to “take her place.” But when Ivy arrives, she discovers the school’s true intention; she has to pretend to be Scarlet. She must think like Scarlet, act like Scarlet, become Scarlet. What on earth happened to the real Scarlet, and why is the school trying to keep it a secret?

Luckily for Ivy, Scarlet isn’t about to disappear without a fight. She’s left pieces of her journal carefully hidden all over the school for Ivy to find. Ivy’s going to figure out what happened to Scarlet. She’s got to.

But the staff of Rookwood is always watching, and they’ll do anything to keep their secrets buried…

There are five books in this series so far.


The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)

Blurb: The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

There are four books in this series so far, with a fifth one scheduled for release next year.


Skulduggery Pleasant (Skulduggery Pleasant, #1)

Blurb: Meet Skulduggery Pleasant

Ace Detective
Snappy Dresser
Razor–tongued Wit
Crackerjack Sorcerer
Walking, Talking, 
Fire-throwing Skeleton

—as well as ally, protector, and mentor of Stephanie Edgley, a very unusual and darkly talented twelve-year-old.

These two alone must defeat an all-consuming ancient evil.

The end of the world?

Over his dead body.

There are eleven books in this series so far.


The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice, #1)

Blurb: They have always scared him in the past — the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied….

There are twelve books in this series, but then there’s also seven books in John Flanagan’s Brotherband Chronicles which are a spin-off, and my son seems to enjoy them just as much.


So there you go.  Not five books, but five series!  Of all of them, I know my son has enjoyed the John Flanagan books the most, but then, he’s a more avid reader than his sister, and I think he didn’t outgrow those ones as quickly as the Skulduggery Pleasant ones.

#T5W – Favourite friend groups

This week’s prompt for Top 5 Wednesday is favourite friend groups.  Ooh, fun!  There are a number of series that follow various family members, but also a whole bunch that follow different friends.  It’s going to be hard to choose.

The Truth As He Knows ItThe World As He Sees ItThe Heart As He Hears It

You’ve got Noel and Tristan, who have been friends since college, and Shane, Gabe and Jon who all know each other from their work with Charles, who has his own story in the Us series.  It’s actually quite common for A M Arthur’s characters to show up in other series.  For example, Will from the All Saints series is connected to James from the Restoration series.  It’s kind of like all of her characters one big group of friends and friends of friends, all connected by various degrees of separation.  When you read a new book, it’s like old friends stop by and say hello, and characters who were on the edges of previous stories step forward.  I love it.  And while I was looking up covers, etc., for this post, I found two more A M Arthur books to read.  Win!  If you like m/m books with powerful emotions, check out the Perspective series.

Darkness DawnsNight ReignsIn Still DarknessDarkness RisesNight Unbound

Roland, Seth, David, Marcus, Ami, the d’Alencon siblings, and the others who join them along the way.  I love the way they bicker like siblings and have each other’s backs the same.  Yet, apart from the d’Alencons, they’re not related.  Oh, there might be one of Roland’s descendants in the bunch somewhere, but these guys and gals are banded together through a sense of united purpose and even more, a sense that they belong and the others understand them.  Even the self-destructive, angry ones, like Marcus and Bastien understand that they need people who ‘get’ them.  They’re all there for each other, and every one of them has another person or more in the group that they truly connect to and call a true friend.  My favourite bond is the one between Ami and Zach.  If you like paranormal vampire novels, this is a pretty epic series.

A Better ManA Hunted ManA Restored ManA Mended ManA Worthy Man

I know, it’s no secret that Cole is my favourite, but Jaime Reese does a great job with the characters from The Men of Halfway House series.  Even Aidan, the asshole, wins us over.  Julian and Matt are kind of the glue that helps keep the group together (and sane), but everyone is tied in.  If you didn’t have Hunter, you wouldn’t have Aidan and Jessie, and if you didn’t have Aidan, you wouldn’t have Ty, and if you didn’t have Ty, you wouldn’t have Drayton and Vann…  Drayton and Vann are sort of on the outskirts of the group a little, but they definitely have their place.  And when they all congregate at Halfway House, it’s so awesome to see them all together.  Some amazing people in that group.  Although I’m glad I read the first two books, they’re weren’t five star reads for me.  The third and fourth books though….  If I could have given them more than five stars, I would have.  Seriously good.  I’ve reviewed both of them in this blog before, but yeah, if you like m/m books, these guys are worth reading.

Angels' BloodArchangel's KissArchangel's ConsortArchangel's BladeArchangel's Storm

I’ll try not to gush about Illium too much, although I do adore him.  I can’t wait to read his book.  Nalini has hinted that he’ll have one…eventually.  I’m just about to start book six in this series, and I’m loving the Seven.  Dmitri, Galen, Jason, Venom, Illium, Aodhan and Naasir.  A very strong group of friends, with some very contrasting personalities.  I’m particularly looking forward to reading more about Aodhan and Illium.  The series features archangels, angels, vampires and humans, and there are a few paranormal twists.  And bonus, written by a New Zealander who I got to meet at the Auckland Writer’s Festival one year.  If you’re going to read this series (and I definitely recommend it), check out the audio books.  The narrator does a fabulous job.

When You DareTrace of FeverSavor the DangerA Perfect StormWhat Chris Wants

Dare, Trace and Chris are the center of this group, but they’re all a tight knit bunch, including the wives.  Not that Arizona would like being referred to as ‘one of the wives’.  She’s more like one of the guys.  Chris is my favourite of the group, but I think Dare and Arizona’s stories are the ones I’ve re-read and enjoyed the most.  Dare and Molly also have a connection to the characters in the Love Undercover series.  Apart from What Chris Wants, which is a novella, these are all m/f stories with a mercenary/paramilitary kind of theme.

All of these series feature multi-dimensional, unique characters who stand out and are memorable.  The authors put serious work into these characters and it shows.  Some fabulous reading.

#T5W – Favourites I’d like to revisit

Just five?  Seriously?  I don’t know how to narrow it down to just five!  Argh!

Idle Bloom

Vivian is gorgeous, sexy and confident, but hides emotional and physical scars.
Oliver was a successful lawyer until his whole world disintegrated. Now he’s a broken man, intrigued by the sexy chick on his morning train commute. Man, the things she can do to a doughnut! But can she save him?
The characters are strong, funny and endearing. The plot is well written so that we cry with the characters, but also enjoy the funny, happy moments and the book isn’t too dark. The characters stay ‘in character’, reacting as we come to expect them to, and the twists and turns of the plots are believable.
I haven’t read other reviews, but I can imagine that some might feel that Oliver was ‘healed’ too swiftly, but if you look back over the story, it is a slow healing that reveals itself in lots of little small advances and moments – I can’t be too specific or I’d spoil it for others. I did find it to be believable though.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it kept me hooked from start to finish. The supporting characters were well written and added support, laughter and drama. Overall, a fantastic read.  Five stars.

Let It Go

Every time Eli and Creed come near each other, they end up in a brawl. Finally a judge sentences them both to house arrest…in the same house. He figures they’ll either kill each other or they’ll learn to get along, Either way, they’ll stop wreaking havoc in bars.
Eli is hiding secrets, and Creed is the last person he would share his secrets with.
Creed is hiding secrets, and Eli is the last person he would share his secrets with.
What happens when they find out each other’s secrets…and realise they were both hiding the same secrets all along?
The characterisation was well done. Creed has endured so much that he has learned to lock away his pain and feelings and be emotionless, but now he struggles to break out of that and open his heart to anyone. Eli has also endured a lot, but he has coped by becoming angry and violent. There was enough humour to break up the darker parts, and the quiet times helped the reader to fall in love with the characters and want them to find their happily ever after. There was just enough sexual tension for the overall romance to be believable, although the focus was more on emotion than sex.
I struggled to accept the sheer amount of abuse that Creed in particular had endured. I don’t think it was unrealistic necessarily – the world can be a terrible place – but perhaps there was more than the reader needed..or that Creed needed in order to become who he was in the story.
A few aspects of the plot were predictable near the end of the story, but I didn’t feel that the two main characters were, and on the whole I couldn’t predict what how things were going to turn out. I found it hard to put the book down. Five stars.
Note for those with triggers: Both of the main characters suffered from abusive childhoods, and there are flashbacks to these. There is also violence and abuse in the current storyline.

A Taste for Scandal (Sealed With a Kiss, #2)
I loved this book.  The novel is set in the late eighteenth century in London, England and stars a young English lord and a common girl who runs her own bakery.  The author uses food very creatively and a lot of the action happens in the kitchen.  One of my favourite moments is when the spoiled English lord is given a baking lesson and discovers it is not as easy as it looks.

Getting into the spirit of the challenge, his sister snapped up her bowl, and together they began to whisk.  The uneven scrape of metal on metal gave testament to the fact that he had no idea what he was doing, but, by Jove, he would do it with gusto.
The egg went from clear to frothy fairly quickly, but seemed to linger in that state no matter how fast he moved. In less than two minutes, his arm began to ache from the unfamiliar motion, and Bea had already switched hands twice. Finally, she gave up, plunking the bowl down on the table with a thud.
“I can’t possibly go on,” she panted, dropping onto one of the kitchen stools.  The sunny curls framing her face were looking decidedly droopy.  “Miss Bunting, I do believe you are my hero.  I honestly don’t know how you do it.”
“Nothing more than practice, my lady.”  Kindness warmed Jane’s tone as she reached across the table for the abandoned bowl.  “Only half my work takes any amount of skill.  The rest is nothing more than endurance.”
Richard paused to brush his forearm over his brow.  Truer words, and all that.  His shoulder burned like the fires of Hades. He boxed regularly – he should at least be able to outlast his baby sister.
“Giving up as well, Lord Raleigh?”
Did she know how husky her voice could get when she teased him? He did his best to look as though his arm were not about to fall off. “Of course not.”
She grinned, effortlessly swishing the whisk all the while.

Yeah, an excellent portrayal of a young nobleman falling in love with a tradeswoman. Very well done. It not only made me want to read more of the author’s work, it made me want to write, and it made me want to bake! *Laugh*

Morganna (The Brocade, #4)

The screams faded away by midday, leaving the groans of the dying.

Now does that sound like the beginning of a romance novel to you?  Not so much.  But this is an historical novel that really captured my attention.  I first read it a long time ago.  I read science fiction in my teens, particularly the works of Anne McCaffrey.  Then I moved on to Mills & Boon books, which I read for a few years.  Finally I started reading longer romance novels, and this was one of them.  So I probably first read it in my late teens.
When I was reading actual physical books, I used to run out of room and periodically I’d have to ‘downsize’ my book collection.  We just didn’t have the room for a library or even a large bookcase.  But further back then that, back when I was single, I was ‘flatting’ with some friends.  Flatting means we lived in the same house, paying a portion of the rent each for use of a bedroom and the communal areas.  Like housemates.  I don’t know what they call it overseas.  Anyway, I had a tiny little bedroom, the smallest in the house.  And I simply didn’t have room for a large book collection.  So I downsized, getting rid of a lot of the books I’d read.
Afterwards, one of the books played on my mind.  ‘Lady of the Knight’ by Jackie Ivie.  I wished I hadn’t given it away.  *Sad*  After that, I started writing on the covers of the books I particularly liked – ‘Return to Elle’, so that a) people I lent the books to would return them to me and b) so I wouldn’t accidentally give them away or sell them.  I’ve never been particularly precious about books – I fold corners to mark my page, I place the book down open which cracks the spine…  But I don’t usually write in them or on them, but this book played on my mind a lot.  I don’t do it anymore though, the writing on the covers thing.
Some years later, I was taking my kids to a book sale.  A local charity runs a book sale once a month where they sell books from the local library that are either in a condition that means they can’t be lent out anymore, or they aren’t popular enough to warrant shelf space.  All books are $1 each, which makes it easy for people of lower means to stock up on books for themselves and their kids.  I used to give the kids $10 or $20 and let them choose a bunch of books to take home.  One day I was browsing through the books and I found a tired copy of ‘Lady of the Knight’.  I was ecstatic.  My husband didn’t understand.  *Laugh*
Now it’s been released as an ebook under the title Morganna.  So I’ll never lose it again.
It’s the classic ‘girl dresses as a boy’ trope, but in this case, the hero starts falling for her while he thinks she’s still a guy.  He even kisses her, thinking she’s a guy.  He’s so adorably confused. There was only one part of the book that I really didn’t like, and that’s the trigger for Morganna to reveal her true identity to him.  It didn’t ring true.  But it’s a fantastic book.  I’ve read it so many times, and I think I must be due to read it again.

Whispers in the Dark (KGI, #4)

Nathan was captured in Afghanistan and at the start of the book, he is suffering – from captivity, from torture and from the loss of his comrades. Suddenly, he hears a voice in his mind. He thinks he is going mad, but even so, the voice and her ability to take his pain away, helps. He thinks maybe it’s a coping mechanism his tortured mind has created.
She talks to him, and asks him how she can let his family know where to find him. He gives her the information (in his mind) and after escaping, finds out that his family really did receive an anonymous tip. She must have been real. But how is that possible?
Time passes and Nathan struggles to recover from his ordeal. One day, the voice returns, begging for his help. He throws disbelief (and possibly sanity) to the wind and goes to help her. His family aren’t far behind him. Can he save her? Does she really exist? And if she is, can they have a happily ever after?
A lot of this story (and the whole series) is told from the male point of view. Generally mainstream novels are told from an entirely female point or view, or 50/50. I loved the masculine tone of this book (even though I’m a woman) and I simply couldn’t put it down. I read this book in one sitting. Then I went and found the rest of the series!  This isn’t the first in the series, but each can be read as a stand-alone book. There’s no real disadvantage to reading them out of order except that you might see a character living their happily ever after before reading their story, but that wasn’t an issue for me.  When I finished, I really wanted to know what happened to Grace and waited VERY impatiently for Grace’s story to come out (lucky you, it’s out now!). There were other characters whose stories I wanted too.
It’s emotional, it’s dramatic, it’s satisfying, it’s action-packed, it’s strong and you won’t be able to put it down.  Don’t pick this up until you have time to read the whole book, cover to cover. Get comfortable.
Having said that, if you can’t suspend your disbelief that there are paranormal abilities in this world (our world), then this isn’t the book for you. Some of the other books in the series have no paranormal aspect to this, but this one does, as does the next in the series.

What are your favourite books to re-read?

Book review of Auctioned by Cara Dee

Auctioned (8392, #1)

This book features Gray who is an ordinary college student.  Except Gray is abducted by human traffickers and that changes everything.  Literally everything.  His life becomes about survival, and the bonds he forms with the other boys he comes into contact with affect him on a level he could never have expected.  And then there’s Darius, who has been sent to save Gray, but has to do it by becoming Gray’s new owner.

This is a seriously powerful book.  If you’re triggered by any kind of violence, sexual or otherwise, or by psychological cruelty, don’t read it.  But wow, it’s good.  It finishes on a sort of ‘happy for now’ ending, but there’s a sequel coming.  I thought the author did an amazing job of showing how unstable Gray became, how easily his emotions were manipulated and how difficult he found it to trust even while he was desperate for hope.  There’s no way that Gray was ready for a relationship at the end of this book, which is why I’m kind of glad that there’s a sequel and the author didn’t just brush off all the trauma Gray has had to deal with.  No one comes through that kind of thing intact.  And some of the scenes were seriously heartbreaking.  It’s incredible well written though.  Seriously, go read it.

#T5W – Redemption arcs

Angels' Blood (Guild Hunter, #1)

When Elena first meets Raphael, she’s not impressed.  Okay, she is, because he’s an archangel, and she’s a mere human.  He rules New York and all the angels, vampires and humans in it.  He’s lived so long and seen so much, seen so many come and go, that the life of a mortal seems woefully insignificant.  But all that makes him an arrogant, demanding asshole.  Elena’s not stupid enough to say no to the archangel of New York but he’s sending her on a suicide mission and she doesn’t have to like it.  Or him.

Five stars, and the beginning of an epic series.


Keep Me Safe (Slow Burn #1)

Ramie has a gift that helps her find missing people.  But the gift takes a heavy toll on her, and she can’t take anymore.  She goes into hiding, but Caleb Devereaux will do anything to find his younger sister, and that means hunting Ramie down and forcing her to help him, regardless of what it costs her.  But when he witness the price she has to pay, he realises how much he owes her.  Ramie isn’t interested in repayment though.  She just wants to be left alone.

Five stars, and a powerful read.


A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles, #1)

He literally kidnaps her.  Griffin is a warlord without magic, in a world where magic is power.  Cat has magic. So he kidnaps her, intending to use her to help him maintain power.  But it’s not really that simple.  He’s not really that kind of man, and well, she’s not really the ‘sit down, shut up, you’ve just been kidnapped’ kind of girl.  And she’s damn well gonna make Griffin work for his redemption.

Five stars, and the whole trilogy is a fantastic five stars.  Read it.  If you like fantasy and/or paranormal, then read it.


Hold Your Breath (Search and Rescue, #1)

Callum isn’t interested in making friends.  Or being nice.  Or smiling.  He barks orders, and people do what they’re told.  And that’s how he wants it.  But Lou is like nobody he’s ever encountered before, and suddenly she’s turning his orderly world into chaos.

Five stars.  Read it because it’ll make you smile.  And everyone needs to smile.  Even Callum.


A Mended Man (The Men of Halfway House, #4)

This is the fourth book in the Men of Halfway House series, and by the end of the third book, the reader is well aware that Aidan Calloway is an asshole.  Even his friends, few that they are, know he’s an asshole.  If you’ve read A Restored Man (the book before this one in the series) and I recommend you do, then you can’t forget the scene where Aidan punches Cole.  I was NOT expecting to enjoy this book.  But Jaime Reese, the author, weaved some serious magic.  Honestly, if you’re going to read any book with a redemption arc, let it be this one.  It’s raw, it’s gritty, it’s gut-wrenching…  Big tough Aidan and sweet Jesse will take you on a serious emotional roller coaster, and you’ll be surprised by which parts hit you the hardest.

Five stars, no questions.  But seriously, read A Restored Man first.  Cole is worth it, but it’ll also set you up to truly appreciate Aidan’s redemption.

Book review: Mackerel Sky by S. Jade Castleton

Mackerel Sky

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book ever since I interviewed S. Jade Castleton in July 2017.  I’ve also read her amazing short story Fire Red Leaf before and know that her writing is phenomenal, so my expectations were pretty high.

The story centers around Owen, who is 16 when the story starts.  Following the death of his mother and the departure of his father, Owen is the head of his family and must provide for his younger brothers and sisters.  This means leaving school and getting a job to pay the bills and put food on the table.  But life isn’t that easy, especially when you’re 16 and have no qualifications.  The authorities haven’t been any help either.  When Owen is at his lowest, and genuinely doesn’t know how he’s going to put another meal on the table, someone offers him a job.  Owen is grateful and relieved, only to come crashing down hard when he realises that the job is to sleep with Andrew Gordon for money.  Andrew might be happy to pay for sex, but he’s not happy about taking advantage of a 16 year old boy who is in desperate straits.  And thus starts Andrew and Owen’s relationship.

There are a number of things I loved about this story.  Firstly, the characters.  They were all so brilliantly portrayed that they felt real.  I felt like I knew them. Owen was a favourite, but so was his brother Jamie.  They weren’t perfect, they were real.  At the end of the book, the author notes that her mother said ‘I wanted to know what happened to them after that, then I remembered they were all fictional’ and I wanted to shout ‘YES!  That’s exactly how I felt!’  I felt like I knew them all and was invested in their lives, their happiness.  I cared about them.

Secondly, just as I expect from this author, the writing was excellent.  So easy to read.  You just dive in and don’t want to come back out.  I don’t recommend starting this late at night, because you won’t want to put it down.  Not necessarily because it’s got action that keeps you turning the page, but rather because you’ll feel like you’re there, like if you put the book down while Owen is upset or Jamie is angry, then they’ll have to stay like that until you pick the book up again, and that’s not fair to them.

There were a couple of things that niggled me about the book and prevented me from giving it a full five stars.  I’ll try not to give away any spoilers here.

I didn’t like that (at least once) Andrew slept with Owen even when Owen was clearly not in a good frame of mind.  Don’t get me wrong, it was consensual.  But I felt like Andrew should have said no.  Been the bigger man.  It was clear that Owen wasn’t in the right head space for sex, and yet they did it anyway.  It bugged me.

The relationship between Andrew and Owen develops over time, and at the end of the book, their feelings towards each other are fairly clear and the reader can be satisfied that they are going to be a couple going forward.  But the sexual relationship between the two hasn’t moved forward at the same pace.  Dammit, I don’t know how to say this without giving a spoiler!  I needed Owen’s level of participation in the sexual side of their relationship to be further advanced then it was at the end of the book.  I’ve been more explicit in my Goodreads review if you want to check that out (because I can hide spoilers there).

This isn’t a happily ever after book, but I didn’t feel like it ended on a cliffhanger either.  It was more of a ‘happy for now’ and there is definitely a sequel coming.  And I’m definitely buying the sequel and reading it.  I need to know what happens next!  I hope Jamie gets his own story too, even though he is in a stable romantic relationship right throughout Mackerel Sky.  He’s just such a strong character that I want to read his story.

#T5W – Books I liked with tropes I usually hate

I’ve just joined the Top 5 Wednesday group. I found them when I read Sionna’s response to this topic over at Books In Her Eyes. I like books and I like lists, so this group suits me well. I wish we had the freedom to go back and answer whatever random past topics appealed to us, but we’ve been told to ‘be patient, they’ll eventually come around again’, so I’ll try and just stick to August’s topics for August. I will do last week’s though, just because I can.

So, five books that I enjoyed that used tropes I usually hate.  Let’s see…

Second chances

Burn (Brothers of Ink and Steel #2)

I dislike the second chances trope, because I’m inclined to think that if it didn’t work out the first time, it wasn’t meant to be.  There’s definitely part of me that resents all the wasted time too, time that could have been spent together as a couple.  But Burn by Allie Juliette Mousseau is well worth the read.  It’s the second book in the Brothers of Ink and Steel series, but can be read as a standalone.  Liam and Quinn met on the streets, living rough, and quickly formed a powerful bond.  They finally find safety and a group of close friends in Cade North’s group home but Liam and Quinn have a special connection.  They’re going to get married when they turn eighteen.  Then tragedy strikes and Quinn leaves, and Liam is left alone.  When they meet again, they have to decide if they can set the past at rest and create a new beginning.  Five stars.


A Sorceress of His Own (The Gifted Ones, #1)

It’s not really obvious at first glance, but there’s definitely instalove in this book.  Alyssa fell in love with Dylan the first time she saw him, even though she was far too young to even know what love was then.

He turned to her, his features alight with curiosity. “Know you of love, then?”
Aye, ever since she was a child and had witnessed – from a distance – his kindness toward her grandmother, his defence of her when others repudiated her.

It’s made very clear that Alyssa takes the job as Dylan’s seer because she’s in love with him.  But the story is very cleverly told, and the story is told over quite a long time (although perhaps only months if you take out the first chapter).  Alyssa works for Dylan for years before he learns the truth about her.  There’s an aspect of paranormal, it’s set in medieval times, and it’s a damn good read.  It’s also a prelude to Dianne Duvall’s fantastic Immortal Guardians series, which is also well worth reading. Five stars.

Misguided motives

Shattered Dreams

Misguided motives is where one person agrees to do something in order to get some reward, and then of course the other person finds out they were only in it for themselves and ends up hurt.  It’s very closely tied to ‘If only they’d talked’.  Ugh.

I think one of the things that helps this story do well is the ‘imperfectly perfect’ trope.  Wait, how many tropes can a book have?  Ha ha!  Lady Elyssa has a limp, and at her level of English society, that means she is destined to be a spinster.  It’s a sad truth, and to cheer her up, her younger sisters create a fictitious secret admirer for her.  Her brother is appalled, and seeing disaster looming, he decides to host a house party.  He convinces a friend to pay attention to Elyssa over the duration of the house party in the hopes that it will get her mind off the secret admirer.  Yeah, sure, that sounds like a good idea.  Not.  So the Earl of Charfield figures showing a young lady some attention is easily worth the chance to sire a foal on her brother’s prize Arabian horse.  Sigh.  I’m talking myself out of the book here, because I just detest this trope so much.  But bear with me.  I gave this book five stars.  The way this couple interacts, and the activities they get up to, make up for all the rest.  It’s a great read.  Give it a chance and see what you think. Five stars.

If only they’d talked

Tall, Tatted and Tempting (The Reed Brothers, #1)

Since I mentioned it above, this seems a good one to go with next.  Kit is hiding a major secret.  And she refuses to tell Logan who she is, her real name, or why she’s hiding from her past.  Eventually, of course, both Logan and the reader finds out all her secrets.  And we’re left shaking our heads as to why it was such a drama in the first place.  And why she felt like she couldn’t trust Logan.  Buuuuut, this is a fascinating story.  Logan is deaf, and hasn’t talked in eight years.  He communicates by sign language, and where that fails, with written notes.  But Kit can’t speak sign language, and she’s dyslexic, so she can’t read his notes.  But this connection between them is worth a little extra effort…  This story ends on a cliffhanger and finishes in the next book.  Cliffhangers are a pet peeve of mine, but this one’s worth the read.  The second book isn’t as good as the first, but it’s worth reading to find out how their story ends.  And by then you’ll have been sucked in and want to read the stories of all of Logan’s brothers.  Ha ha!  Five stars.


My Dragon Masters (Sanctuary, Texas, #2)This is probably my most hated of all tropes.  I’ve said before that I struggle even with stepbrothers and stepsisters or stepfathers and stepdaughters or whatever, but having two blood-related siblings in the same bed is icky.  Icky.  It shouldn’t happen.  Ever.  Not even in fiction.  In this story, Miles and Eli are twin brothers who are also dragon-shifter kings.  They’re waiting for their soulmate.  The seers have predicted she will return to them, but she has been gone a thousand years.

All Diana knows is her prison cell.  She dreams of men and dreams of a baby, but has no knowledge of the world beyond her cell.  When Diana escapes, the world is a chaotic mystery.  She knows nothing of modern, everything things that we take for granted.  And everything she touches turns to ice.  That means she is leaving a very obvious trail for those who wish to capture/recapture her.  She follows the tugs on her heart, but will she find what she’s looking for before it’s too late?  And how can she, when she doesn’t even know what she’s looking for?  Four stars.