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review 2018-03-20 16:45
Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning
Beyond the Highland Mist - Karen Marie Moning

Thanks to a woman's pricked pride, two people from different points in time, find themselves embroiled in the battle of wills...And hearts.

Aoibheal, Queen of the Fae, decides to make her husband, the King, and her jester jealous by talking about the almost mystical prowess (both in the battlefield and the boudoir) of Sidheach James Lyon Douglas, third Earl of Dalkeith. Apparently his appendage and stamina are able to possess a woman's soul. And the Queen claims to have experienced in first hand. Which makes the King and the Fool rather peeved and intent on revenge.

Enter Adrienne de Simone, all the way from 1997, badly burned by a beautiful, deceitful man with a black soul, which makes her hate all beautiful men at large. So what is she to do, when she's thrust back into 1513 Scotland and wed, by proxy, mind you (!) to a devastatingly beautiful (both in and out) man?

This is the first book in Moning's romance Highlander series. I prefer her in the romance author guise myself, because I like my books to actually have a beginning and an end all in one book, but that's just me.

It's obvious, this is the first book, since it sports the many first-book problems. It looks like KMM was still looking for her voice, tempo, and narrative style with this one.

For starters, the conflict dragged on for too long (almost two thirds of the story) and in the end came across as more of a stubbornness issue on the heroine's part than anything else. There was nothing to the conflict really to start with. Sure, she was badly burned, but hating all beautiful men because of the action of one specimen is a bit over the top.

The second problem I have with this story is the fact, the romance doesn't really "register". It's there because it's written, the resolution comes across as plausible, believable and sweet, because of the length of the conflict, so in the end the reader wants the hero and heroine to be together just to end the idiocy of the conflict that's keeping them apart.
Unfortunately, the story is so focused on the conflict and heroine's trust issues that it never lingers overmuch on the characters, leaving the reader slightly bewildered to the fact why these two love each other so much in the end, when the reader barely knows them.

And the third problem is the antagonist, but that's just me, since I loved him in his own book that comes later in this series.

Still, the story is well-written, though slightly underdeveloped, overblown in places and rather plodding in others. It's set in Scotland (my favorite setting of them all no matter the time frame), it features a yummy Scottish, kilt-wearing laird that falls (inexplicably) head over heels for the first woman who resists him (novelty, I guess), and is filled to the brim with wonderful supporting cast.

It could be better. It should be better, but it could also be a lot, lot worse, so it gets three stars.

I like it and I won't mind re-reading it in the future.

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review 2018-03-20 16:36
Montana Born Bachelor Auction series
Bound to the Bachelor - Sarah Mayberry
Bachelor at her Bidding - Kate Hardy
The Bachelor's Baby - Dani Collins
What a Bachelor Needs - Kelly Hunter
In Bed with the Bachelor - Megan Crane
One Night with Her Bachelor - Kat Latham

***copies provided by publisher through NetGalley***


I wasn't expecting a work of art, but at least something that would've kept me engaged. It didn't.

It was filled with clichés, it was predictable, featured bland characters and a very iffy insta-love romance that failed to strike the right notes, but at least it was a quick read.


The hero was a saint, the heroine was a self-righteous bitch filled with self-pity, the plot was rife with clichés and seemed written by a high-school student.


This book was one massive clichéd rip-off of a Harlequin story (just read the blurb to know why).

The characters were poorly (or none at all) developed, the heroine's issues were annoying and the "drama" unnecessary and forced...I ended up skimming the better part of it.


If I had to use a word to describe this story it would be "simple". Too simple, in fact, with a very basic, rehashed and clichéd plot, and a cheesy, ordinary romance.
There was no conflict, no depth, no agency...It was just there, not doing anything.


Poorly written with way too much inner monologues and with even more poorly drafted characters making them difficult to understand, empathize, sympathize and/or like.
Slow, boring and firmly in the "meh" category.


Rather inconsistent (character- and their behavior-wise), and definitely nothing to write home about.
It had potential, but the author failed to bring it to fruition.

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review 2018-03-13 05:37
Review for Knox (Out of the Cage #3) by Lane Hart
Knox (Out of the Cage #3) - Lane Hart

What an adorable, sensitive, dork Knox turned out to be! I’ve read all three books in the series and I can’t really say he’s my favorite but he is definitely the sweetheart of the three!

In this third and final installment we get to know more about Knox and how he ended up at the house with the other kids. His backstory was not as tragic as the other’s however I think it made him more endearing and sweet. The romantic story actually takes place parallel to the two previous books so I definitely recommend reading them before jumping to this one.


I’m not really sure how to feel about Jade. There were some issues with her character that just didn’t click with me. Some of the things she did and said felt out of sync with the woman she was supposed to be. Nevertheless, the attachment she and Knox formed felt genuine and honest, so even if it all started as insta-lust, by the end of the book I could definitely tell there would be much love and respect between them.


***** This book contains what I consider a very graphic description of non-consensual sex, which in my book means rape, so heads up. *****


I received this book at no cost to me and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.

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review 2018-03-11 18:28
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
A Princess in Theory: Reluctant Royals - Alyssa Cole

Naledi (Ledi) Smith has been on her own for most of her life, bounced around in foster care after her parents were killed in a car crash. Now she's a grad student with multiple jobs and a supposedly upcoming epidemiology internship that she still hasn't been contacted about. The spam emails she keeps getting that say she's betrothed to a Prince Thabiso from some country called Thesolo do not amuse her.

As it turns out, the emails aren't spam. Prince Thabiso has been looking for his betrothed for years. He hopes to find her and either bring her back to Thesolo or finally convince himself that they aren't soulmates the way he'd been told as a child they were. His assistant, Likotsi, tracks her down, but their first meeting doesn't go anything like Thabiso expected it would. Ledi mistakes him for a new waiter named Jamal, and rather than clear up the misunderstanding, Thabiso decides to just go with it. He'll get to see how Ledi behaves around him when she's unaware that he's royalty, and being a waiter can't be that hard, right? (Ha!)

I pre-ordered this because both the cover and publisher's description made it look cute and fun. A contemporary romance in which an ordinary woman learns she's actually a princess sounded like it'd be right up my alley.

The setup was excellent, and the sample "spam" emails made me laugh. I loved Ledi, who was afraid to let her guard down and who worked so hard and was still worried that none of it would be enough. She relaxed her guard around Thabiso a bit more quickly than I would have expected, although that could have been due to the way he subconsciously reminded her of things from her childhood.

Plus, Thabiso had some great moments. He listened to and remembered the things she said. Because he knew she was always taking care of herself and everyone else, he tried to set up times that were solely about her and taking care of her. The bit with the grilled cheese sandwiches was cute (although the way the next chapter started made me think he'd accidentally burned the apartment down).

I winced every time he put off telling Ledi the truth, although I could usually understand his reasons for doing so. There was one scene that really bothered me, though. He arrived at Ledi's apartment, fully intending to tell her the truth, only to have her start kissing him. He wasn't so overwhelmed by her kisses that he couldn't think - he actually did slow things down enough that he could have stopped everything and told her right then. Instead, they had sex, he worried that she'd call him Jamal, and he figured he'd tell her sometime after they were done. It made it seem like he cared more about having sex than he did about Ledi.

This part upset me so much that I spent the rest of the book mentally rewriting it. I came up with a couple alternatives that would have still led to Ledi being hurt and angry enough for the rest of the book to happen, but would have made Thabiso a little less horrible. Unfortunately, the scene happened the way it happened. Cole dealt with it by having Thabiso make Ledi an offer she couldn't refuse, something that would force her to spend enough time with him that she'd eventually soften towards him and forgive him. She did, of course, and I could understand why, for the most part. Unfortunately, I never quite forgave him.

Although I was upset with Thabiso in the second half of the book, I still really loved the "royal life" scenes. Ledi's trip to the airport, in particular, was great. I loved her meetings with family members - I wonder if Nya will ever get her own book? - and I was glad that Thabiso defended Ledi whenever his mother started to act horrible.

For the most part, this was a really good book. It would have been an excellent one if it hadn't been for the last "trying (but not really) to tell her the truth" scene, which unfortunately slightly soured the rest of the book. Oh, and one little slightly spoiler-y complaint: why did Ledi, who should have known better,

keep taking pills without ever once asking (or even wondering) what was in them?

(spoiler show)

I'm going to wait and see what reviews say about the next book before deciding whether to get it. I'm iffy about Portia, Ledi's friend and the next book's heroine. Almost every time Portia was mentioned, Ledi worried about the amount she drank and whether spending time with her would mean more work and anxiety than relaxation. A Princess in Theory ended with her in therapy and hopefully drinking less, but I'm still wary. Meanwhile, I'm crossing my fingers for a future book starring Likotsi, Thabiso's well-dressed lesbian assistant.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-02-25 19:14
I Am Here! (manga, vol. 1) by Ema Toyama, translated by Joshua Weeks
I Am Here! Omnibus Vol. 01 - 遠山 えま,Ema Tōyama

This is actually an omnibus collection of the first three volumes of the series. Hikage Sumino is an eighth grader who'd like nothing more than to have friends like other people do. Unfortunately for her, she's practically invisible. Even when people notice that she's in the room, they soon forget she's there. It isn't just people her own age who don't see her - adults constantly forget she exists too. She's been left behind on field trip days, ignored in restaurants, and even hit by someone on a moped when she tried to help a cat. The only times she seems to truly exist are when she's taking care of the sunflower she's been growing and when she's blogging. She has two regular commenters who encourage her: Black Rabbit and Mega Pig.

When two of the school's most popular boys, Hinata and Teru, talk to her, it starts to look like maybe Hikage can finally have her time in the sun. First, however, she must struggle against her own introversion and low self-esteem, as well as jealous classmates.

I might have liked this a lot more if I weren't a longtime manga reader. As it was, I could think of several series this reminded me of, and most of those were better. The one that came foremost to my mind, for example, was Kimi ni Todoke, which had a more believable setup and more enjoyable heroine. Toyama pushed Hikage's invisibility a bit too hard and ended up making it seem almost like some kind of unfortunate superpower. People literally didn't see her, or forgot she was there even if she was within view. Only Hinata and Teru were exempt from her powers, at least until Toyama decided that it was necessary for some of Hikage's female classmates to hate her.

The bit with the jealous girl was cliched but not necessarily bad, although, again, I preferred the similar storyline in Kimi ni Todoke because of the way it tied in with the main character's first female friendships. In this series, Hikage just went from no real-life friends to actually talking to someone for the first time and almost immediately getting dumped on by jealous girls. The scene where everyone

suddenly stood by her when she finally defended herself

(spoiler show)

was nice, but felt a bit forced.

The way the volume ended indicated that the second and final omnibus will deal with the identity of Hikage's "anonymous" online friends. Since they're almost certainly

Hinata and Teru

(spoiler show)

, I'm more interested in finding out how Hikage reacts and how they learned that "Sunflower" was Hikage. I somehow doubt that Toyama will ever explain how, out of all the blogs in existence, they became commenters on a supposedly anonymous blog written by

one of their classmates

(spoiler show)


I got the feeling that Toyama didn't have much of a concept of just how big the Internet is. The first volume of the series was originally published in 2007, so it isn't like this was written in the early days of blogging and the Internet. Toyama also didn't always think through how certain scenes were supposed to work. For example, if

Hinata was Black Rabbit, how did he comment on Hikage's blog minutes/seconds before knocking on her door? The characters in this series only had flip phones. Was it possible to use flip phones to comment on blogs? (I only ever used mine as a phone and an alarm clock, so maybe that was a function I didn't know about.)

(spoiler show)

Although this was pretty mediocre, it did remind me of my first blog, which I started back when I was in the midst of my post-grad school job hunt. It wasn't a good time in my life, and my blog was meant to serve as both a way to keep track of what I was doing to make myself a better job candidate and as an emotional outlet. In real life, I talked to maybe a handful of people a week, my parents and my supervisor and coworkers at my part-time job, and the longer I went without being able to give them good news about my job hunt the worse I felt. Unfortunately, I also felt like I couldn't talk about most of what I was feeling. My blog gave me a place where I could vent a little without worrying that I was upsetting anyone around me.

Amazingly, I got several frequent commenters and, as far as I can remember, every single one of them was kind and supportive. If you were one of the commenters on my first blog, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you. You all helped me so much.


There are various author sidebars, plus two pages of extra comics that take a humorous look at Hikage's invisibility. The sidebars reveal that Toyama had similar issues with going so unnoticed at her school that her own classmates didn't know who she was, although she admits that it wasn't on the same level as Hikage's invisibility.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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