Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Devilish by Maureen Johnson

Devilish (2006) (HarperCollins Children's Books)
Maureen Johnson
Grade: C-
Genre: young adult
Source: own
Young adult RBC 2014: A book with magic 

Jane Jarvis is something of a certified genius: one of those annoyingly naturally gifted students, St. Teresa’s Prepatory School for Girls isn’t exactly the most intellectually stimulating of environments for a person of Jane’s abilities. Nevertheless, she’s got the company of her best friend Allison … who suddenly starts acting decidedly un-best friend like. Ally has attracted the attention of new girl, Lanalee and is more than happy to show her the ropes. Overnight, Ally is dressing better, has new things and is ditching Jane more and more … some dark forces are definitely at work …

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Total Eclipse by Rachel Caine

Total Eclipse (2010) (ROC)
Rachel Caine
Grade: A-
Genre: urban fantasy
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own
Weather Wardens: (1) Ill Wind, (2) Heat Stroke, (3) Chill Factor, (4) Windfall, (5) Firestorm, (6) Thin Air, (7) Gale Force, (8) Cape Storm, (9) Total Eclipse
Romance RBC 2014: A book with magic 

Joanne Baldwin used to be one of the Wardens’ most powerful assets – able to control the Weather, Fire and Earth – but her powers have come at a cost. In a world where a select group of gifted individuals have the ability to manipulate the earth’s elements in order to control natural disasters and save millions of innocent and otherwise ignorant lives, Mother Nature is striking back. The human race has damaged the world beyond repair and Mother Nature is beyond angry. Harnessing the Djinn’s power for her own, forest fires are destroying huge swathes of land, oceans are putting countries under water and in the midst of everything, the human race is becoming desperate …

Having exerted their powers too far, Joanne and husband Djinn David have now lost their abilities and are helpless in the face of Mother Nature’s fight back. Sent on an expedition to communicate with the Mother via the Oracles, they are up against a ticking time bomb as the poison that is seeping through the earth is wreaking havoc in its wake: stripping powers from those who have they and bestowing magic on those who least expect it … whether they manage to stop Mother Nature or not, life on Earth will never be the same again …

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

Waistcoats & Weaponry (2014) (Orbit)
Gail Carriger
Grade: A
Genre: steampunk / young adult
Source: own
Finishing School: (1) Etiquette & Espionage, (2) Curtsies & Conspiracies, (3) Waistcoats & Weaponry
Young adult RBC 2014: A book set in another world 

At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, Sophronia Temminick and her friends are trying to finish their education in espionage to the best of their abilities (i.e. by flaunting the rules as much as possible), but school isn’t quite the same as it was. After an experiment gone wrong, their vampire teacher Professor Braithwope has gone a little loopy in the head, Sophronia’s friend and resident scientific and technology whiz Vieve has sneaked off under the guise of a boy to get her own education at Bunson’s School for Evil Geniuses, and despite the fact that they’ve yet to learn the fine art of seduction techniques, Sophronia continues to receive (not wholly unwanted) advances from two wholly unsuitable suitors: Lord Felix Mersey, beautiful peer but unforgiveably, son of a Pickleman, and Soap, sweet sootie from the Academy’s engine room. Fortunately, Sophronia has now found her deadly weapon of choice: the steel-tipped fan and is eager to get as much practice as she can – including thinking of new places to hide one about her person.

When Sophronia’s friend Sidheag, Lady Kingair, is called away from school in a pack emergency that threatens the continued existence of the Kingair pack, Sophronia can’t just stand idly by and watch the country’s werewolf population destroy itself. Along with her best friend Dimity, the ever-competing Lord Mersey and Soap and Sophronia’s trusty mechanimal, Bumbersnoot, the haphazard group are hot on Sidheag’s heels. Requisitioning a train for their journey to Scotland, they inadvertently stumble upon some vampire drones carrying out a plot to take over the country, and put into practice more skills and espionage techniques than Sophronia (and her teachers) ever dreamed of using …

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

The Blue Sword (1982) (Firebird)
Robin McKinley
Grade: C+
Genre: fantasy / young adult
Source: own
Damar: (1) The Blue Sword
Young adult RBC 2014: A book with an incredible fight scene

 When orphaned Homelander Harry Crewe is sent to live with an adopted family in Istan, she settles surprisingly well into her new home. She feels a strange affinity for the deserts that surrounds the town and she’s delighted to be reunited with her brother, Richard, after he was sent away for military service. She can’t explain her insatiable curiosity about the Hillfolk – natives of the Damar land who have taken to living in the hills when the area was colonized by Homelanders.

Harry is in the centre of Homelander-Damar politics as Sir Charles, her new adoptive father, is District Commissioner of the area. She’s captivated when Corlath, King of the Hillfolk visits Sir Charles in what is ultimately a fruitless attempt at joining forces to stop the onslaught of Northern soldiers. Harry is not the only one affected by this meeting as evidenced when Corlath kidnaps her from her guardians and makes Harry part of his entourage. Time sees Harry become Harimad-sol, a King’s Rider wielding the Blue Sword, which no woman has handled since the legendary Lady Aerin …

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Command Performance by Nora Roberts

Command Performance (1987) (Mills & Boon)
Nora Roberts
Grade: C
Genre: contemporary romance
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own
Cordina's Royal Family: (1) Affaire Royale, (2) Command Performance
Romance RBC 2014: A book published in the 1980s 

Eve Hamilton has become a renowned theatre producer in America in her own right. Many dismissed her initial interest in theatre as a rich heiress’s hobby, but there’s now no question about her talents. When her presence is requested in the tiny country of Cordina by Prince Alexander Bisset, heir to the throne himself, she can do nothing but answer his summons, despite the animosity between them. Seven years ago, Eve had an embarrassing crush on Alex that he didn’t reciprocate. Alex has always been polite and courteous towards her, but it’s nothing like the friendship that she shares with his siblings, Gabriella and Bennett. Still, when Eve and her company are invited to perform at Cordina’s Fine Arts Center, she can’t say no, despite the knowledge that she and Alex will be working in close quarters.

A tiny country, Cordina is not without its fair share of enemies who wish the royal family harm. A man called Deboque, imprisoned for his crimes against Gabriella seven years earlier, seems to be orchestrating attempts against the Bisset family from the confines of his prison, despite their attempts at surveillance. Eve is determined to press on with her shows regardless, and when threats in turn come to be directed against her, she and Alex are forced to confront the reality of their feelings for each other and find a solution to this very real and pressing threat …

Monday, 1 December 2014

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

The House at Pooh Corner (1928) (Egmont)
A.A. Milne / E.H. Shepard
Grade: B
Genre: children's
Source: own
Fiction RBC 2014: A book that is more than 10 years old 

Milne takes us back to the Hundred Acre Wood with The House at Pooh Corner and to the nation’s favourite bear (with little brain). With beautiful colour illustrations by E.H. Shepard, readers are delighted to watch as Tigger hops his way across our pages, Pooh discovers a tireless new game he calls Poohsticks, a new house is built for Eeyore and many more adventures!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

The Jewel (2014) (Walker Books)
Amy Ewing
Grade: A
Genre: young adult / dystopian
Source: own
Young adult RBC 2014: A book with music 

Tomorrow, Violet Lasting will be gone forever. While living in Southgate holding facility for the last four years, Violet had her every whim catered for: the best clothes, food, the chance to learn and excel at the cello – everything but freedom. Born into the Marsh, the lowest ranking and poorest of the five circles (The Jewel, Bank, Farm, Smoke and Marsh), she’s one of many other Marsh girls born with a genetic make-up that makes them perfect surrogates for bearing the children of The Jewel’s Royalty, who are themselves incapable of bearing anything but defective offspring. Taken away from her family at puberty, Violet has seen nothing but Southgate’s walls for years. Today is her final chance to say goodbye to her family forever. Tomorrow, she becomes Lot 197, destined to be sold to the highest bidder at the annual Auction and a life in The Jewel, surrogate mother to another woman’s child.

At Lot 197, Violet is one of the most valuable of all the 200 girls up for Auction this year. Bidding is fierce as the Royal and most noble families of the Jewel vie over who will possess this violet-eyed, cello-playing girl with near perfect scores in the Auguries – talents that enable all surrogates to manipulate colour, shape and growth. Bought by the Duchess of the Lake, Violet becomes embroiled in complicated court politics and nasty family feuds, with all the surrogates finding themselves in a competition to bear the next future Electress.

When Violet meets Ash, Companion to the Duchess of the Lake’s niece, she finds someone who she’s finally able to be herself with in this vicious world. Forced to meet secretly, with the threat of execution constantly hanging over their heads, their time is limited as lives are at stake and the day looms ever closer when Violet will lose control over her own body …

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer

The Corinthian (1940) (Arrow Books)
Georgette Heyer
Grade: B
Genre: regency romance
Source: own
Fiction RBC 2014: A book at the bottom of your To Be Read pile 

Sir Richard Wyndham, notable whip, dandy and Corinthian is on his way home one evening, suitably inebriated and on the cusp of making the biggest decision of his life, when he’s met with the most startling sight. Suddenly, his imminent (and slightly dreaded) proposal of marriage to Melissa Brandon, whose family is in as dire financial straits as he is fabulously rich, doesn’t seem quite important. On a sudden whim, Richard finds himself acting as cousin, tutor and whatever other guises the journey requires as he escorts young Penelope Creed across the country.

Penelope Creed was in the process of climbing out of her bedroom window by way of knotted sheets, escaping her adopted family, when Sir Richard stumbled upon her in the act. Orphaned at twelve and sent to live with relatives, Pen is now seventeen and being ‘cursed’ with a large fortune, she’s being pressurised to marry her cousin. Deciding to escape while she can and make her way to her childhood home in Somerset, she’s waylaid by Richard who, out of a strange sense of duty, is compelled to prevent a young female from travelling across the country alone. With Pen posing as a boy and Richard as her tutor, the pair get into their fair share of trouble with a gang of thieves and a murder investigation. This isn’t the quite the anonymous journey that either of them planned!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

Frost Burned (2013) (Orbit)
Patricia Briggs
Grade: A
Genre: urban fantasy
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own
Mercedes Thompson: (1) Moon Called, (2) Blood Bound, (3) Iron Kissed, (4) Bone Crossed, (5) Silver Borne, (6) River Marked, (7) Frost Burned
Romance RBC 2014: An urban fantasy 

Mate of the local alpha, Volkswagen mechanic and coyote Mercedes Thompson is looking forward to some peace in her life. Unfortunately, peace is definitely avoiding Mercy. After being involved in a minor traffic accident with her step-daughter Jesse, Mercy suddenly can’t get in touch with her mate, Adam, or any of his pack, save Ben, who escaped injured in order to warn and protect Mercy and Jesse.

It soon becomes clear that the pack has been kidnapped, and anyone who has the strength and means to take on a pack as big and powerful as Adam’s is a serious danger to them all. With the help of her unique mate-bond to Adam and the assistance of her own powerful friends (vampire, fae, werewolf and regular human alike), Mercy must juggle the delicate strings that are werewolf and vampire relations and locate her mate and pack before their time runs out …

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Curtsies & Conspiracies (2013) (Orbit)
Gail Carriger
Grade: A
Genre: steampunk / young adult
Source: own
Finishing School: (1) Etiquette & Espionage, (2) Curtsies & Conspiracies
Young adult RBC 2014: A book set in the past 

This is a finishing school like no other. Based in a floating dirigible above the Yorkshire Moors, girls at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality don’t just learn how to curtsey and host a dinner party correctly – they can do it while throwing a knife, casing a room for hidden clues and mixing a deadly concoction of potions to take out a troublesome enemy. That’s right: this is a Finishing Academy for young spies. Having settled in and made quite an impression on her teachers and fellow spies-in-training, Lady Sophronia finds herself on the receiving end of a collective mission to freeze her out, from girls she had considered her friend.

As the dirigible leaves the relative safety of their mooring for London and takes on board a group of male students from Bunson and Lacroix’s Boys’ Polytechnique, school for evil geniuses – imagine that, boys! – Sophronia has to uncover the real reasons behind their unexpected trip to London, whilst also dealing with the new sensation of flirting – and from two fronts! With her trusty mechanimal, Bumbersnoot for company and her penchant for finding and making trouble, Sophronia is in for an exciting adventure!

Friday, 21 November 2014

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We Should All Be Feminists (2014) (Fourth Estate)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Grade: A+
Genre: non-fiction
Source: own
Fiction RBC 2014: A book of non-fiction 

Watch the TEDx talk here.

Adapted from her phenomenal TEDx talk of the same name, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie draws upon her experiences growing up in Nigeria and uses her gift for storytelling to put forward a persuasive argument for why we should all be feminists and what every man, woman, boy, girl and parent can do to contribute towards the equality of the sexes.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne

The Spymaster's Lady (2008) (Berkley Sensation)
Joanna Bourne
Grade: A
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own
Spymaster's Lady: (1) The Spymaster's Lady
Romance RBC 2014: A book with a Fabio cover 

Annique Villiers is the best that France has to offer: known as the Fox Cub, she has eluded capture for years with disguises from the tempting courtesan, innocent virgin, young Gypsy boy and educated lady. Now, she’s got France’s terrible secrets weighing on her shoulders and there’s all agencies wanting to get their hands on her to reveal – or suppress – them. Annique’s got her own troubles to deal with and when she’s captured, she meets the one man who she can’t deceive …

Finding herself prisoner alongside British Head of Section Robert Grey, they form an uneasy alliance in order to break free. Grey can’t believe his good luck: having been on the Fox Cub’s trail for a good six months, his beautiful, deadly and elusive prey is now within his grasp. Fleeing their prison, Annique finds herself prisoner once more as Grey is determined to take her to England as they find themselves entangled in a complicated web of secrets and lies. Annique’s time is running out before she is forced to decide whether she will keep France’s secrets safe and condemn thousands to their death, or betray her country to the English and pursue the forbidden yet irresistible romance with Grey …

Monday, 17 November 2014

Scandal Wears Satin

Scandal Wears Satin (2012) (Avon)
Loretta Chase
Grade: A
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: hot
Source: own
Dressmakers: (1) Silk is for Seduction, (2) Scandal Wears Satin
Romance RBC 2014: A Cabin/Road Romance 

The middle Noirot sister, it is said that Sophia ‘Sophy’ Noirot could sell sand to the Bedouins. As adept a dressmaker as her sisters, Sophy’s true talents lie in writing, and she’s depended upon to infiltrate Society’s grand balls and events, to take note of every last detail of who’s wearing what and who danced with whom to write her column for Fox’s Spectacle, the gossip that everyone in London is reading. Marcelline, Sophy and Leonie need to win over more-high-ranking names in society to their shop, in particular, Lady Warford, who just happens to be their greatest enemy after Marcelline married the Duke of Clevedon, the man who was promised to her daughter.

When Lady Clara, their best and favourite customer, is caught in a compromising position, she finds herself engaged to Lord Adderley, who has his eyes set on Clara’s fortune – not her beauty, intelligence or conversational talents. When Clara runs away, it is Sophy who tasks herself with the mission of tracking her down and concocting a plan to help Clara break off her engagement. With the Earl of Longmore, Clara’s elder brother for company, the pair set off on Clara’s heels with Sophy in one of her ingenious disguises. Despite their initial clash of personalities, Harry is surprisingly adept at taking a cue and drawing upon his inner actor, finding that he's rather enjoying this adventure, in spite of the gloomy circumstances that have led to it. As Sophy and Harry make their way south, the pair are faced with the prospect of another relationship that will shock society ...

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase

Silk is for Seduction (2012) (Harlequin)
Loretta Chase
Grade: A
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: hot
Source: own
Dressmakers: (1) Silk is for Seduction
Romance RBC 2014: An Eurasian Historical 

Marcelline Noirot is the best modiste in the country – if not the World – London just doesn’t know it yet. With a modest shop on Fleet Street with her two younger sisters, the Noirots are the three daughters of Edward Noirot, of the disreputable branch of one of France’s noble families, and Catherine DeLucey, of England’s Dreadful DeLucey’s who together, cheated and swindled, lied and manipulated their way through whatever life threw at them. Their offspring are only slightly more honest, determined to see their humble dressmaker shop become the biggest and best in town. When they learn that the Duke of Clevedon is soon to be returning from Paris in order to marry, the sisters decide that this is their path to becoming London’s top dressmaker: they must dress the Duchess of Clevedon.

Marcelline sets off for Paris to ensnare the Duke – however, her methods don’t have quite the effect she intends. Clevedon is aware from the outset that this ambitious dressmaker has her eyes set on his future Duchess, Clara, who he’s been unofficially betrothed to all his life, but he can’t help the stab of lust and longing for this outrageous and daring woman who is too dangerous for her own good. Clevedon knows how to plan a seduction as skilfully as Marcelline can design and create a dress and as society gains word of their association, all Marcelline’s talents and her sisters’ quick thinking are needed if they’re going to save themselves from society’s censure … what neither expect is for their mutual longing to get in the way of Marcelline’s dressmaking and more importantly, Clevedon’s fiancĂ©e …

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Admiral's Bride by Suzanne Brockmann

The Admiral's Bride (1999) (MIRA Books)
Suzanne Brockmann
Grade: A
Genre: romantic suspense / adventure
Sex scenes: mild
Source: second-hand bookshop, Koh Tao
Tall, Dark and Dangerous: ... (7) The Admiral's Bride
Romance RBC 2014: An AAR Top 100 Romance 2000 

Dr Zoe Lange has just been presented with the biggest challenge of her career. A biological warfare specialist, she’s more than familiar with going undercover. What’s different about this mission is that she’ll be assisting Admiral Jake Robinson and they need to recover six canisters of Triple X, a deadly nerve agent that has the power to knock out entire cities. Admiral Jake Robinson is a legend – Zoe owes her very existence to him. Over 20 years ago during the Vietnam War, Jake and his elite team of Navy SEALs undertook missions that no one else dared: rescuing whole camps of prisoners of war from enemy clutches and in particular, a team of men who had been left for dead by their superiors in the depths of the forest, including Zoe’s dad.

Still distraught over the death of his wife Daisy three years ago and recovering from a recent life-threatening injury, Jake finds himself in the curious position of having to prove his mettle to his men who consider him too old for field work. When the mission requires that Jake and Zoe become husband and wife in order to infiltrate the compound where the canisters are being held, Jake is reluctant to commit despite being fully aware that this relationship will be purely superficial. As Zoe hides her true feelings, knowing that Jake is unwilling to reciprocate, their mission forces the pair into ever-closer quarters until it's impossible to deny the attraction between them ...

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Ransom by Julie Garwood

Ransom (1999) (Pocket Books)
Julie Garwood
Grade: A
Genre: medieval romance
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own
Highlands' Lairds: (1) The Secret, (2) Ransom
Romance RBC 2014: An AAR Top 100 Romance 2007 

At three-years-old, Gillian witnessed her father’s death at the hands of Baron Alford, as her father tries to send Gillian and her older sister Christen to safety with Arianna’s Box, a great treasure belonging to King John. When her father is betrayed, the sisters are torn apart. Years later, Gillian is blackmailed by Baron Alford into finding her sister and the Box so that the power-hungry Baron can gain favour with King John.

When Gillian witnesses a botched kidnapping, she sees this as her opportunity to challenge Baron Alford and break free of his clutches. Heading north to Scotland where Christen is now allegedly living, with young Alec in tow (the boy who was mistakenly kidnapped), Gillian finds allies in Brodick Buchanan, a powerful and feared laird who is also Alec’s protector, and his friend, Ramsey Sinclair. Along with her new friend, Brigid KirkConnell, Gillian finds the strength and resolve to fight Baron Alford and take control of her life