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review 2016-06-12 15:59
#CBR8 Book 55: Walk the Edge by Katie McGarry
Walk the Edge (Thunder Road) - Katie McGarry

Thomas Turner, better known to his fellow Reign of Terror motorcycle brothers as Razor, is conflicted. He wants to be unquestionably loyal, but when a police detective reveals new information about his mother's death, he can't leave the case alone, despite warnings from his father and other gang members. Having always believed she committed suicide, he's compelled to find out whether the Reign of Terror were in fact involved in her alleged murder.

 

Breanna Miller has always felt like an outcast, both in school and at home (she is the middle child of NINE siblings). She's super smart and dreams of going away to an elite school, where she's even managed to secure a scholarship, but is denied the chance because her parents need her at home. Her parents rely on her to help take care of her younger siblings and generally seem to ignore the fact that time and again, Breanna gives up on her dreams because of her family. Her only friend, Addison, has a lot of problems of her own, and as such, isn't someone Breanna feels she can turn to. 

 

Like everyone else at school, Breanna is initially afraid of Razor, and there are all sorts of rumours about what the members of the Reign of Terror have to do to patch in. After Razor helps her out one afternoon when her brother's forgotten to pick her up, Breanna starts wondering about the mysterious Thomas Turner, and soon the two can't stop thinking of each other. Breanna's brain is constantly looking for puzzles to solve, and Razor just happens to have some messages in code that could help him figure out what really happened to his mother. 

 

Once Breanna realises that a) Razor is not the dangerous criminal she feared, but actually a very smart and chivalrous boy and b) contrary to what she expects, he doesn't find her a brainy freak, but is fascinated by the way her brain works,, she starts warming up to him. Unfortunately, someone snaps a picture of the two of them, which out of context looks really salacious, and uses it to blackmail Breanna. She's terrified that the picture will be leaked on social media, potentially ruining her chances to get into college and away from her smothering family. 

 

There is frequently an opposites attract, protagonists from different worlds theme in Katie McGarry's books, and this one is no different. Razor is the close-mouthed, emotionally closed-off loner, a motorcycle-riding bad boy with a dangerous reputation. He's grown up among members of the motorcycle club, and would never conceive of trying to leave them to live a different life. He's always wondered if his father's love of women was partially responsible for his mother killing herself, and once he discovers that his mother's death wasn't a suicide, but that she was quite possibly run off the road, he can't stop digging into the case, no matter what the older Reign of Terror members tell him. 

 

Breanna is a loner in a different way, and despite her large family, feels like she has no one to turn to. The fifth of nine siblings, she is seen as an annoying younger sibling by the four eldest and as a nagging older sibling by her four youngest. Because she's extremely smart and well-adjusted, her parents constantly ignore her to prioritise more pressing needs in the family and rely on her for babysitting duties. She's denied her wish to go away to a prestigious private school because her parents, who both have to work full time to support their giant family, can't spare her. At seventeen, Breanna is pretty much raising her younger siblings, and that is not a job a young girl should have to have.

 

To add to her troubles, the star football player wants to pay her to write his essays for him, and when she continues to refuse, he manages to secure an incriminating photo of her and Razor together. The fact that nothing at all happened is completely irrelevant. The photo is snapped at exactly the wrong moment, and Breanna is worried that she's going to have to agree to the douchewad's demands, in order to make sure her future isn't ruined. 

 

I have yet to find a Katie McGarry book that I don't like and she tends to do excellent pairings, with deeply likable protagonists, often in interestingly fucked up situations, who find solace in each other. In this, I was furious at Breanna's parents, who so selfishly kept reproducing and expecting their children to pretty much raise each other. I honestly don't understand how Breanna's mother, who works as a nurse, could ignore contraception in such a way. As far as I could tell, they were not religious nuts who believed safe sex was a sin. Who has nine children, when it's quite clear that they can't support said children both financially and emotionally? They completely ignore Breanna and all her troubles during the first part of the book, only to go mega overboard on being protective in the second half, once they discover she's been dating a biker. They made me really angry.

 

The "we know best, just never ask any questions" attitude of the older Reign of Terror bikers was also pretty frustrating. As they are clearly set up as law-abiding and above board, despite all the rumours in the local community about them, it was obvious to me that they hadn't conspired to murder Razor's mother, but their complete inability to be open with him, and insistence on blind, unquestioning loyalty, even when the kid is clearly struggling, was baffling to me. 

 

While I care about as little about motorcycle gangs as I do sportsball players, I am a sucker for well-written, emotionally resonant romance. Because this is YA, there aren't really any smexy times, although there is some pretty impressive UST and some great smolder and kisses. McGarry keeps delivering books that hit me right in the feels, even when some parts of the story annoys me. I will eagerly await the next book in the series.

 

Judging a book by its cover: There are a number of different covers for this book, all of them variying degrees of meh to awful. The version I read actually had a pretty decent cover, which fits with certain scenes in the story. A blond guy in black jeans and a white t-shirt, walking along the train tracks on a railway bridge - this could be a scene of Razor in the book. Several of the key scenes in the story take place near just such a bridge, so I think it's quite fitting, and much better than say, the headless couple leaning against a convertible (had it been a motorcycle, it would have fit better) or the badly photoshopped couple embracing, while pouting out of the image that make up the other two covers of the book that I have seen.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/06/cbr8-book-55-walk-edge-by-katie-mcgarry.html
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review 2016-01-17 13:38
#CBR8 Book 1: Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase
Dukes Prefer Blondes - Loretta Chase

Lady Clara Fairfax, eldest daughter of the Marquess of Warford and sister to the Earl of Longmore, was raised to marry a duke. The Duke of Clevedon, to be precise, but he ended up falling in love with a dressmaker instead. Not that Clara is lacking in high-born suitors. Twice a week they show up in her mother's drawing room to ask for her hand in marriage and Clara, well bred lady that she is, politely refuses them. Clara wants to make a difference. She wants to make her mark in the world. However, no matter how wealthy and powerful her father and brother are, how rich and privileged she is, the fact remains that on her own, as an unmarried lady, there is very little she can do. She bestows as much patronage as she can on the girls apprenticed with the Milliners' Society, but when a girl comes to her, confessing that her brother's been taken in by a gang of street thieves, she is determined to get the boy back, no matter how difficult or dangerous it proves.

 

She seeks out Oliver "Raven" Radford, a barrister famous for championing the cause of the poor. Radford was a schoolfriend of her brother's, but she hasn't seen him since she was a girl, trying to pummel his unfortunate cousin Bernard for teasing him. Now the odious cousin Bernard is a duke, and through a strange set of events, Raven is second in line to inherit. He has no wish to do so, and does his very best to get his cousin's financial affairs, not to mention health in order, so the man can go on to re-marry, sire heirs and live a long life, not bothering Raven or his ailing father, who just want to practise law in peace. 

 

While most men are struck dumb by Clara's staggering beauty (and/or the overwhelming outfits she wears), Raven is merely very curious as to why she has sought him out. Highly intelligent and ambitious, he's used to being the smartest person in the room at any given time, and doesn't bother to hide his disdain for the stupidity of others. He wants to become a judge and perhaps even rise to Lord Chancellor one day, and helping Lady Clara Fairfax search the slums of London for a kidnapped street urchin is not the way to go about such things. Yet he cannot forget the little girl who jumped on his cousin's back and chipped a tooth biting him, and when Clara actually loses her carefully maintained composure and actually yells at him, confessing what a gilded cage she is stuck in, frustrated by all the unfairness in the world and unable to do a thing about it, Raven promises to help, even though he knows it's a bloody stupid idea. As they work together, Raven is surprised to discover that while she may be angelically beautiful, Lady Clara also has one of the sharpest minds he's ever encountered, often able to keep up even with him. He begins to understand how stifled she feels by society's rules for women and keeps going against his better judgement to allow her to participate in the search for the orphan boy.

 

The urchin in question is eventually rescued, but Clara pays a high price for her impulsiveness while on the rescue mission. Struck down with typhoid fever, she is close to death, and Raven, having been alerted by Clara's irate maid, takes it upon himself to nurse her back to health, as he already survived it. The high society doctors refuse to even believe a marquess' daughter could have contracted such a disease and their suggested treatments would kill her for sure. Clara's dowager aunt has no choice but to accept the obnoxious barrister's help if she wants her niece to have any chance of survival. During her long recovery, Raven and Clara's maid work in shifts to monitor and care for her. Nearly a month later, Clara is well again, and the unflappable and arrogant Raven Radford, barrister extraordinaire, has been added to the list of men who want Clara as his wife. Once Clara provokes him enough to confess his true feelings, they just needs to convince her parents that he will be a suitable match for her.

 

Lady Clara has been a supporting character in the previous Dressmaker books, but as I was extremely underwhelmed by the first two in the series, I can't be bothered to go back and re-read to see exactly how she appeared in those books. Suffice to say, you can easily read this book without any previous knowledge of the series, as it stands fine on its own. Chase has taken two characters that could be absolutely unbearable and made them not only a suitable match for each other, but very entertaining to read about. Lady Clara has been raised in the lap of luxury, always knowing that her ambitious mama wanted her to be a duchess one day. Suitors without titles or with very low ones need not apply for her hand in marriage. She has a dresses that cost enough to feed a family for a year and the freedom to move about London as she chooses. She is stunningly beautiful. Yet she's discouraged from reading and improving her mind or wanting to spend too much time bestowing charity on the poor seamstresses of the Milliner's Society. Until she gets married, she is under the control of her father and brother and once she does get married, her husband will have total power over her and the frighteningly large dowry she'll bring to the marriage. Most men see only her face and figure and completely disregard her formidable brain.

 

Clara has had many suitors and while she has been very sheltered, she knows what attraction feels like. While Raven Radford may be the most infuriating man she's ever met, he also makes her heart beat faster and after their first encounters, he actually seems to listen to her and see not just her polished looks, but Clara as a whole person. After he drops everything at his cousin's estate and rushes back to London to nurse her back to health, she has all the proof she needs that this man would make her the perfect husband. She just needs to provoke him into proposing and hope he is clever enough to win over her parents. 

 

Raven Radford was clearly an obnoxious little oaf even as a child. While he may have been the grandson of a duke, his father became a barrister and married a divorced woman, causing quite the scandal. His many rich cousins tried to make his life hell in school, without much success. Always aware that he's most likely smarter than those around him, Raven grew up to be just as arrogant and frustratingly rude as he was as a child. He doesn't suffer fools and has made many enemies as a result. He assumes Clara is a pretty, yet frivolous lady, bored with her lot in life and seeking some adventure. He keeps being proven wrong, and while he has managed to keep his baser instincts firmly buried to get ahead in life, being as frustrated by lady Clara as she is by him makes it impossible for him to retain a professional distance. Raven, rudely blunt and annoyed at the stupidity of everyone around him, reminded me a lot of Doctor Jonas Grantham, one of my favourite romance heroes. It would also not at all surprise me if Chase has modelled him on Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes - there were similarities there in both looks and demeanour. Neither of these things made him any less attractive to me.

 

The plot of the book, it must be said, is a bit all over the place. It starts out with Clara's mission to rescue the street urchin from the band of thieves, intertwined with Raven's difficulties in getting his cousin to take his role as Duke seriously. Then there's Clara's illness, followed by Raven having to win her parents over. They get married and have to negotiate married life together, all the while nefarious individuals from the criminal underworld are determined to have their revenge on Raven, and possibly his new wife. Raven's father is old and ailing, his cousin Bernard the duke is oafish and reckless. It's mentioned enough times that Raven is second in line for a dukedom that it'll come to no surprise to anyone at all, when the Radfords suddenly have a change of status. Here, at least, Clara comes into her own, having been trained from girlhood to manage large households. 

 

I can see why Chase might have thought that just having Raven and Clara meet and try to negotiate their relationship might have been a bit dull, so she had to throw in criminal court cases and police raids and vengeful crime bosses with colourful side kicks to spice things up a bit. I don't think it was necessary at all, but it didn't detract or derail the story enough that I was annoyed either. While I found it extremely unlikely that the French seamstresses of slightly dubious descent all ended up married to a duke, an earl and a marquess, it doesn't actually seem that inappropriate for the daughter of a marquess to marry a man second in line to a dukedom. While Raven doesn't hold a noble title at the point in which he proposes to Clara, he's clearly of good family and with his ambitions, would have risen to a position of prominence in society, even if he weren't likely to inherit a dukedom.

 

If you've liked Chase's books in the past, but were scared away because of the first two books in the Dressmaker series, I have good news for you. This book is, while not Chase at her best, a very enjoyable read, especially if you don't mind obnoxiously rude men being brought low by love. It celebrates intelligence in both its protagonists and continues to give insight into the truly ridiculous fashions of the late Georgian, early Victorian era. The scene where Raven falls asleep on his wedding night waiting for hours for Clara to have her gown properly removed made me laugh. Look elsewhere for your bodice ripping. 

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/01/cbr8-book-1-dukes-prefer-blondes-by.html
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review 2015-12-31 16:31
#CBR7 Book 156: The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean
The Rogue Not Taken - Sarah MacLean

Lady Sophie Talbot is the youngest daughter of a coal miner who it's rumoured won his Earldom in a card game with the Prince Rengent. Sophie was quite happy growing up in a little village in Cumbria, dreaming of marrying the baker's boy and one day running her own bookshop. Moving to London and becoming part of the ton was never her dream, and unlike her sisters, who seem to clamber to outdo each other with regards to being seen and being scandalous, she'd rather stay in the background and read. While she hates that the gossip papers have dubbed them all "the soiled S's" (all their names start with S) and the way they speculate about how her eldest sister landed a duke, she's also fiercely loyal to her family and when she finds her ducal brother-in-law in a compromising situation with a woman most certainly not her pregnant sister, she loses her temper and shoves him in a fish pond. In front of everyone in polite society. Lady Sophie, the quiet one, just caused the biggest scandal of the season.

 

Wanting to get away as quickly as possible, she tries to persuade the scoundrelly Marquess of Eversley, popularly known as "King" to let her ride along in his carriage back to the city. She believes she may be able to blackmail him, as she caught him climbing out a window and holds his boot hostage, but he just abandons it and her, rushing away. Desperate to be gone, Sophie instead bribes his footman into giving her his livery and stows away on his carriage, only to realise far too late that it's not going back to London, it's going north. Eversley has recieved news that his father may be at death's door and cannot resist a final chance to tell his father he is never getting married and fathering heirs. 

 

Strangely, despite being in ill-fitting livery, barely anyone but King actually recognises that Sophie isn't a boy, despite the fact that she's still wearing silk slippers (the footman's boots didn't fit). He's convinced she's trying to snare herself a husband by being caught in a compromising position with him, but she denies this vehemently and does her best to get far away from him as quickly as possible. Using undeniable cleverness to best Eversley, she manages to get coach fare north, she's decided to go back to her home village of Mossband to realise her dreams, never to return to the capital. But the coach is stopped by highwaymen, Sophie throws herself in front of a pistol shot to rescue a young urchin, and despite telling himself repeatedly that he wants nothing to do with Sophie Talbot, King has to go searching for a doctor so he's not left with a dead earl's daughter on his hands.

 

Sophie and King (the reveal of his real name is excellent) pretty much loathe each other at first sight. He believes her to be a title-hunting social climber, she thinks he embodies all the things she hates most about the aristocracy. He can seduce soon to be married women and escape half-dressed out a window without anyone raising so much as an eyebrow while she was publically shunned for trying to defend her sister's honour. He's rich, handsome, arrogant and keeps saying exactly the wrong thing, sometimes directly insulting Sophie, but much of the time doing so without even meaning to. They both keep trying to remind themselves how annoying they find the other person, as they are clearly extremely attracted to one another.

 

In many ways, this book reminded me of A Week to Be Wicked, probably my favourite Tessa Dare novels, and one of my favourite romances ever. There's a road trip element, there is a lot of spirited banter, the couple have sizzling chemistry and they keep having mishap after mishap, while stuck on the road together. Both the heroes are uncomfortable travelling in small, dark, enclosed coaches. Both the heroines are highly intelligent, bookish, overlooked by everone and clearly super awesome. This book has daddy issues, gunshot wounds, occasional plot moppets (who were mostly sweet rather than annoying), assumed names, a pretend engagement, some pretty sexy times in both a carriage and a hedge maze, allusions to Greek mythology and hero, who while incredibly skilled at putting his foot in his mouth, eventually fully acknowledges what a first class idiot he's been and grovels very satisfyingly. He's not wrong about Sophie being far too good for him, but he shows signs of improvement towards the end and he's certainly not selfish in the bedroom department, which is an definite plus in a romance hero.

 

At least until I re-read One Good Earl Deserves a Lover, this is totally my new favourite Sarah Maclean and Sophie is certainly one of my favourite heroines. I do have niggles about the plot (King could have been slightly less insulting all the time, the conflict with his father could have been very easily solved if they actually just had a CONVERSATION), but they are not enough to ruin the happy glow of such a fun romance. After the most recent Milan was a let-down, I'm glad that I got to end the year on such a high note, making this the book that completed my triple Cannonball.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/12/cbr7-book-156-rogue-not-taken-by-sarah.html
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review 2015-12-31 15:40
#CBR7 Book 155: Girl Genius, vol 1: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Crank by Phil & Kaja Foglio
Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank[ AGATHA HETERODYNE AND THE BEETLEBURG CLANK ] by Foglio, Phil (Author) Oct-01-10[ Paperback ] - Phil Foglio

Agatha Clay (although I'm going to assume that this is an assumed name, since she has another one in the TITLE of the book) is one of those diligent students, who no matter how much she wants to suceed just can't seem to. She's almost constantly late, she can't really seem to make her inventions work and she's a laughing stock at the Transylvania Polygnostic University. To make matters work, during a weird electrical incident in town, she's robbed and her precious locket, with the only pictures she has of her parents is stolen. A locket pretty much anyone in authority over her is appalled is missing.

 

When the clearly powerful Baron Wulfenbach arrives at the University to inspect their progress, it turns out the headmaster, Beetle, may have been conducting unlicenced experiments and there's somewhat of a change in power. Agatha is expelled from the university and explains everything about her bad day to her guardians, who announce that they need to pack everything and leave town as soon as possible when they hear the news that Wulfenbach is in town, and Agatha's lost her locket. Her uncle, who left to go adventuring and has been gone for eleven years was very clear on the fact that she should never take it off. Likely because it acts as some sort of dampener of Agatha's inherent "spark", which only the greatest of scientists seem to have. Wulfenbach's son and heir suspect she may be more than she appears.

 

Girl Genius is a Steampunk YA adventure series, that can be read online, but a few years back, I picked up the first volume mainly on the strong recommendation of Patrick Rothfuss. I then put it on my shelf and promptly forgot about it, but needed a twelfth comic to complete my last reading challenge this year, and it seemed like a good time to finally read it. It's difficult to ascertain much about the characters from the short volume I just read, but I'm sure it can't hurt for young women to have a scientifically minded young heroine to cheer for, even if she does seem to have been given clumsiness and tardiness as her chief characteristics so far. I'm not entirly sure yet whether Wulfenbach is an antagonist or potential ally and I suppose his son could be a love interest of some sort. At least he seems clever, which is a good quality to aim for in a partner.

 

As the first volume barely starts the story, with some of the plot and action being quite confusing, it wasn't exactly the best reading experience I've had this year, but the comic has potential and I like that I can make up my mind about whether I like more or not by reading it for free online, and then buy the volumes afterwards if I decide I want to support the authors. At least I got another book knocked off my already scarily big TBR shelf.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/12/cbr7-book-155-girl-genius-vol-1-agatha.html
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review 2015-12-31 13:40
#CBR7 Book 154: Sex Criminals, vol 1: One Weird Trick" by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Sex Criminals, Volume 1 - Chip Zdarsky,Matt Fraction

What did I just read? This comic certainly is completely different from anything I've experienced before. So the first time Suzie masturbates and orgasms, it literally makes time freeze. She's not sure if it's like that for everyone and having no one to ask, and limited resources to figure things out, she's a bit lost. Then she meets Jon at a party and is surprised to discover that it's exactly the same for him. They've always believed themselves to be alone, and now, when they've found each other, they become a bit addicted to exploring the range of their "powers".

The library where Suzie works is being closed down by the bank and Jon suggests that they use their unusual ability to stop time and rob banks. Just small amounts every time, slowly getting enough to save the library. Suzie's reluctant at first, but sadness and desperation to save her beloved library makes her change her mind. Only, Suzie and Jon aren't the only ones with unusual power, their activities have been noticed and there are people close on their tail.

While the book starts on a quite depressing beat, with Suzie explaining how her father was killed and her childhood wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs, most of the comic is actually very funny. Filthy and NSFW and probably not for kids, but laugh out loud funny and creative, with a rather unique concept and very likable characters. Volume 1 collects the first five issues, where we are introduced to Suzie and Jon and learn how they both came to discover their strange superpowers. Being a huge fan and frequenter of libraries and a passionate book lover, I can't really fault Jon's plan of robbing banks to prevent the closure of one. And his job at the bank does indeed seem pretty sucky, even if I don't exactly agree with some of his coping strategies.

Issue 5 ends at a pretty dramatic point and I'm very eager to get the next volume and see what happens next. My husband and everyone else who's recommended this comic were absolutely correct. Matt Fraction's writing is hilarious and Chip Zdarsky's art fits perfectly. I will be reading more of this in the coming year.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/12/cbr7-book-154-sex-criminals-vol-1-one.html
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