Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Baking Lessons by Katie Allen

Baking Lessons by Katie Allen
Series: Off Guard, Book 2
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781488081156
Release Date: March 12, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Leah loves everything about her bakery—the heavenly smells, the satisfaction of feeding people and, of course, unlimited cookies. The only thing she doesn’t like is her uptight landlord’s daily visits. Sure, the man’s drop-dead gorgeous, but for someone with an insatiable taste for treats, he’s anything but sweet.

Army vet Hamilton knows he comes off as rigid. He just can’t seem to bite his tongue around Leah—he might be a virgin but he can imagine a dozen better ways to use his mouth. But when the woman he considers absolutely delicious is threatened by an unwanted admirer, Hamilton intervenes, captivating Leah with his softer side.

Now the man Leah couldn’t avoid is swiftly becoming the one she can’t resist. Unrelenting temptation soon overwhelms them both, leading to an indulgence in everything they’ve been craving. But when past actions bring a fallout neither imagined, they’ll be forced to confront whether their affair is half-baked—or something to savor forever.

Baking Lessons is fricking adorable! It’s sweet and fun and sexy all rolled into one.

Leah is a talented baker who is as sweet as the treats she makes. She may tweak Hamilton’s nose as often as she can in the beginning of the story when he’s merely her uptight landlord, but she also can’t resist feeding him. She’s a friendly, funny heroine with boatloads of charm and a good heart. Not to mention her baking skills will make you wish her shop was real. As for Hamilton… Katie Allen made me sigh over him. He’s sexy, intelligent, protective, and incredibly sweet (I know I keep using that word, but it fits this book and its characters perfectly). He’s also so precise in every way and I adored it, even though I could see why Leah wanted to good-naturedly mess with him. But beneath his formal and Thor-like exterior is a socially awkward man who truly has difficulty with things being messy. Leah is the first person he’s ever wanted to “get messy” with, and I loved that she (1) worked to understand him instead of trying to change him and (2) helped him feel safe enough to move out of his comfort zone with her.

The first half of Baking Lessons flies by as Leah and Hamilton tease, flirt, and get to know one another. I can’t count the number of times the two of them made me smile and the way they fell for one another felt organic. There’s no false drama, no game-playing and it was incredibly easy to root for Leah and Hamilton to get together. Once the sexual tension boils over and they hit the sheets (and the shower, the stairwell, etc.) Baking Lessons gets seriously steamy. When Ms. Allen turns the heat on high the book is still fun, but I felt like some of the momentum of the first part was lost. I also kept hoping we’d see more of Hamilton’s background and that we don’t is a missed opportunity. Even with these few quibbles, I adored Hamilton and Leah and their romance was a delight. I’ve never read Ms. Allen’s books before, but now I will definitely keep an eye out for her work.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Review: Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega, Book 5
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780425281314
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok's pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.

With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf--but can't stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills--his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker--to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn…

Charles Cornick is less than thrilled to be left in charge of his father’s pack while Bran is away, but when the wildlings – the werewolves too broken to live safely even among the Aspen Creek pack – are attacked, the Marrok’s absence becomes an even bigger problem. For Charles and Anna are about to discover that the attack on the wildlings isn’t random, isn’t a crime of opportunity. There’s dark magic at play and the clock is ticking. Charles and Anna must use all their power to unravel a plot that could tear the heart of those they hold dear.

Burn Bright is part mystery, part fairytale, part action-packed adventure. It’s imaginative and interesting, as one would expect a Patricia Briggs story to be. I adore Charles and Anna and they are as solid as ever, so any time spent with them is time well spent.

Burn Bright keeps Charles and Anna closer to home and I loved getting to see more of their pack, the interactions among members, and the internal politics. Also, the fact that the newest attack against werewolves is in the heart of the Marrok’s territory gives the threat an added intensity. Characters we know and care about are in danger and it made me incredibly eager to jump into this book’s mystery. The one downside of this story is that – after the initial attack – it does take a while for momentum to build. At times the book seems to meander into side stories, but keep with it because Ms. Briggs makes sure the climax packs a punch. I likely had a death-grip on my book for the last quarter of the story – it was just that exciting. I wish I could say more, but I want to avoid spoilers since every detail plays into the resolution of the mystery.

Burn Bright is the fifth full-length book in the Alpha & Omega series, and you should at least be familiar with the world before diving into this story. As I mentioned before, the relationships and politics of the pack play an important part in this book and that was one of my favorite aspects of it. I really enjoyed getting to see more of characters we normally wouldn’t, like Leah, Charles’s stepmother. She’s not a beloved character, but I liked getting to see a different side of her. Burn Bright is also part of the larger world of Mercy Thompson and fans of that series will likely be excited that this book is woven closely with concurrent Mercy Thompson storylines. As I have not yet read Mercy’s books, I felt like I was missing something; not enough to detract from my enjoyment of this story, but enough to be noticeable. Burn Bright did definitely make me move Mercy’s books up in my proverbial to-be-read pile so that I can go back and more fully enjoy the little things in the Alpha & Omega series I missed the nuances of.

If you’re a fan of Patricia Briggs, you definitely don’t want to miss Burn Bright. Charles and Anna are strong, engaging characters and the world Ms. Briggs has developed is – to put it mildly – seriously awesome.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Review: The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman
Series: The Invisible Library, Book 3
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 9781101988688
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Never judge a book by its cover...

Due to her involvement in an unfortunate set of mishaps between the dragons and the Fae, Librarian spy Irene is stuck on probation, doing what should be simple fetch-and-retrieve projects for the mysterious Library. But trouble has a tendency to find both Irene and her apprentice, Kai—a dragon prince—and, before they know it, they are entangled in more danger than they can handle...

Irene’s longtime nemesis, Alberich, has once again been making waves across multiple worlds, and, this time, his goals are much larger than obtaining a single book or wreaking vengeance upon a single Librarian. He aims to destroy the entire Library—and make sure Irene goes down with it.

With so much at stake, Irene will need every tool at her disposal to stay alive. But even as she draws her allies close around her, the greatest danger might be lurking from somewhere close—someone she never expected to betray her…

The Invisible Library series has been hit-or-miss for me, and The Burning Page falls into the “miss” category. After enjoying The Masked City as much as I did, I eagerly dove into Irene and Kai’s latest adventure, only to find myself bored for the majority of the book.

The biggest issue I have is that neither the main characters nor the Library itself feel fully developed. I’ve been waiting to learn more about the Library and with the institution under attack by the series’ big bad, Alberich, it felt like the perfect opportunity for insight. Alas, the threat of the destruction of the Library didn’t actually add tension to the story (not once did I actually feel like Irene wouldn’t pull something out of her hat and save the day), nor did it allow readers to go below the surface of the Library’s workings. Alberich throws out some interesting tidbits and there seems to be some internal grumblings among the Librarians, but apparently any new information will have to wait to be explored in future books. As for the characters, both Kai and Vale have grown sort of stale. Kai, who charmed me in previous books, was borderline unlikeable at times and though I allow a lot of leeway considering he’s a dragon (and thus aligned with order), his stubbornness felt like he hadn’t learned anything so far. As for Vale, he still hasn’t risen above a pale imitation of Sherlock Holmes, and when you throw in the painfully awkward forced intimacy between him and Irene, I was just left wanting more. Which brings me to Irene herself. She’s the heart and soul of this series and she falls flat as a character. I don’t need my protagonists to be likeable (she is neither likeable nor unlikeable), but I do want them to be interesting. Irene has unfortunately become a rather generic sort of hero with a possible interesting backstory (presumably to be revealed in future books) who rushes headlong into danger and relies heavily on the Language.

What captured my interest about the first book in the series, The Invisible Library, was the potential in the world. Genevieve Cogman set up a world of infinite possibilities and I was so excited to see what she would do. But the possibilities are largely squandered due to a heavy reliance on the Language, which now seems to be without limits. That’s largely why the stakes feel fairly low in The Burning Page – Irene’s use of the Language seems to fix pretty much everything.

I struggled with rating The Burning Page because it isn’t altogether bad. The beginning and the end are highly entertaining and when Ms. Cogman’s writing is focused she can deliver exciting scenes. But on the whole, The Burning Page felt like it could have been a novella and nothing would have been lost. The story was treading water for most of its length and that just doesn’t make for interesting reading. Even though this ultimately wasn’t the book for me, there’s so much potential in this series that I’ll be giving the next book a shot.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.