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 fiancée …

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

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz

Blue Bloods (2005) (Atom)
Melissa de la Cruz
Grade: B--
Genre: young adult
Source: own
Blue Bloods: (1) Blue Bloods
Young adult RBC 2014: A book with a colour in the title

Fifteen-year-old Schulyer Van Alen boasts one of the most prestigious and blue-blooded names and family trees in Manhattan society, but unfortunately doesn’t have the fortune to match. Practically an orphan after her father died and her mother lapsed into a coma shortly after she was born, Schulyer has been brought up by her maternal grandmother Cordelia, who has never been a particularly loving presence in her life. A social outcast at school, Schulyer is content with the company of her best friend Oliver Hazard-Perry and new student Dylan.

When a girl in their class is found dead, Schulyer is told of her heritage – she is one of Manhattan’s 400 Blue Bloods: vampires who migrated from England in the 1700s to escape persecution, and who have been instrumental in shaping Manhattan society as it exists today. Schulyer is both disgusted and intrigued to learn the truth, but is compelled to dig deeper on discovering that someone or something is killing Blue Bloods … a haunting prospect given that they can’t be killed … and she’s potentially its next target …

Friday, 7 November 2014

What a Girl Wants by Lindsey Kelk

What a Girl Wants (2014) (Harper)
Lindsey Kelk
Grade: B+
Genre: chick lit
Sex scenes: mild
Source: library
About a Girl: (1) About a Girl, (2) What a Girl Wants
Romance RBC 2014: A book with 'girl/woman' in the title 

Not so very long ago, Tess Brookes had her life turned upside down. Her job at an advertising agency was her life, so when she’s made redundant, she thinks her life is over. This tumultuous period leads to Tess making a host of other bad decisions, including sleeping with her best friend Charlie and impersonating her bitchy housemate Vanessa and taking Vanessa’s place on a photoshoot in Hawaii. It is during this trip that Tess rediscovers her love for photography and realises that she is actually really good at it.

Fast-forward and Tess is back in London, wondering what to do with her life. From believing that her life was over a few short weeks ago, her options are now wide open. If she wants it, she’s got a dream photography gig lined up in Italy, all-expenses paid for. Since she’s been away in Hawaii, Charlie has had time to think and has come to the realisation that he and Tess belong together and should start their own creative advertising agency. Between London and Milan, Charlie and hot-but-all-time-jerk Nick from Hawaii, Tess needs to make up her mind about what she really wants …

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas

Private Arrangements (2008) (Bantam Dell)
Sherry Thomas
Grade: A
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: hot
Source: own
Romance RBC 2014: An AAR Top 100 Book 2010 

Lord and Lady Tremaine are considered to have the best marriage in the entire Ton. A love match is considered vulgar, an unhappy marriage even more so, but what the Tremaines have is a courteous marriage. Given that they haven’t spoken or clapped eyes on one another in ten years, there’s been no opportunity for them to disparage the other in front of friends and family, or for servants to witness marital spats. It is only when Gigi petitions Camden for a divorce that he leaves his new home in America and returns to British soil.

There was a time when both Gigi and Camden were deeply in love. Gigi was infatuated from the moment she set eyes on Camden and would have done everything and anything to marry him. Unfortunately, anything and everything included a deception and betrayal that came to light the morning after their wedding night, leading to the decade-long separation. Now, Camden refuses to grant Gigi her divorce lightly: in exchange for an heir, he’ll give Gigi her freedom. As truths are revealed and the fire between them is rekindled, Gigi and Camden’s new marital set-up is set to be the talk of the Ton …

Monday, 3 November 2014

Paradise by Judith McNaught

Paradise (1991) (Pocket Books)
Judith McNaught
Grade: A
Genre: contemporary romance / light suspense
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own
Second Opportunities: (1) Paradise, (2) Perfect
Romance RBC 2014: A classic romance

Young Meredith Bancroft should have it all: heiress to the Bancroft & Company empire that is Chicago’s biggest and most loved department store, she’s at the best schools and should have access to everything she desires. But her jealous and controlling father is convinced that Meredith is destined to follow in her lying and cheating mother’s footsteps, and he’s determined to oversee every aspect of her life in order to prevent this, stealing her childhood in the process. It isn’t until Lisa Pontini joins Meredith’s school that she learns what it’s like to have a true friend.

Fast-forward to graduation and Meredith is in a bitter fight with her father about what college she’ll be attending. She’s determined to get a sound business degree which will allow her to eventually take up the reins at Bancroft & Company, but her father wants her to follow her grandmother’s path and attend little more than a fancy finishing school. One night at their exclusive members’ club, Meredith is charmed and intrigued by outsider Matthew Farrell, a steelworker who has been brought to the club for less-than-honest purposes. Nevertheless, Meredith sees something of her former lonely self in Matt and decides to befriend him. Threats from her father lead Meredith to act impulsively and the scorching kiss she shared with Matt further than she would have otherwise intended, leading to a hasty marriage. With Philip Bancroft doing his best to tear them apart, their marriage is followed by a hostile and devastating divorce.

Eleven years later and there’s no doubt that Matt has left the man he was, far behind. He’s built up his company Intercorp, from nothing and his brief marriage to Meredith Bancroft is little more than an erroneous blip in his past. Meredith has worked tirelessly to earn her place on the executive board at Bancroft & Company, though she’s constantly challenged by her father and the board of directors, all questioning her management capabilities as a female. When Meredith discovers to her horror that her divorce was not legally executed, she’s forced to confront Matt and work cooperatively in wading through the mess that is their relationship. As the deception that forced them apart is revealed, both must learn to trust and even love again …

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) (Egmont)
A.A. Milne, illustrated by E.H. Shepard
Grade: A
Genre: children's illustrated fiction / classics
Source: own
Fiction RBC 2014: A book of short stories 

Winnie-the-Pooh, a bear with little brain, lives in the One Hundred Acre wood, surrounded by his friends, Christopher Robin, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl and the eternally grumpy Eeyore. This collection of stories about the world’s favourite bear follows his adventures as he goes hunting for a Woozle, tries to trap a Heffalump, meets Kanga and baby Roo, finds the North Pole and saves the day when Piglet is in need of rescuing.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic (2014) (Hodder)
Lauren Oliver
Grade: A-
Genre: young adult
Source: bookbridgr
Fiction RBC 2014: A book with a mystery

Panic started in the town of Carp, population 12,000, for two reasons: because it was summer, and because there was nothing else to do. Now, Panic has become an institution. Played by recent high school graduates, participants sign up to compete in literal life-or-death challenges for the chance to win $67,000. People have died and two years ago, a girl was left paralysed from the waist down after her car was tampered with so that she would lose at the last hurdle. Still, Panic goes on.

Heather Nill never planned on entering Panic, but once she took part in the first challenge, The Jump, there was no turning back. Her best friend Nat is furious at first, but the two put their heads together and help each other as much as they can in order to get to Joust, the final and deadliest challenge. With the help of their third Musketeer, Bishop, and Dodge Mason, a loner in their class who has a crush on Nat and ulterior motives for playing, the four can only stand by and play in what is the most dangerous game of Panic in its history. They have all to play for … and everything to lose …

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska (2005) (HarperCollins Children's Books)
John Green
Grade: B
Genre: young adult
Source: own
Young adult RBC 2014: A book set in high school 

When Miles Halter decides to leave his family and public school in Florida and set off for boarding school, he’s not leaving anything terrible important behind. His parents might miss their only child, but he’s got no friends and being a compulsive auto-/biography reader, Miles is compelled to seek out his ‘Great Perhaps’ in the words of François Rabelais. At Culver Creek, Miles find a loyal friend in his roommate Chip, otherwise known as ‘the Colonel’, who insists on giving Miles his own nickname of ‘Pudge.’ Miles is blown away by the sexy, vivacious, funny and self-destructive Alaska Young, who, like the Colonel, adopts Miles and puts him under her wing. Amid school pranks, failing pre-calc and his search for his ‘Great Perhaps, Alaska draws Pudge into her quest to find a way out of her labyrinth of suffering, introducing him to her unique perspectives on life in the process.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

The Geography of You and Me (2014) (Headline)
Jennifer E. Smith
Grade: B
Genre: young adult
Source: bookbridgr
Young adult RBC 2014: Free square 

When Lucy and Owen meet, they’re stuck in the lift of their apartment building during a blackout that shuts down the whole of New York during high summer. Lucy has lived in New York her whole life, but this is the first time she’s been alone in the city while her twin brothers are at college and her parents have jetted off to Europe on holiday. Owen has just moved in with his father, the building’s new super. They left their house in Pennsylvania to start afresh after Owen’s mum died and he’s fiercely opposed to New York.

Though their time together is brief, they’ve made a fierce connection that transcends cities, countries and even continents and the course of events takes Lucy and Owen out of the city and apartment building that brought them together. From Scotland to San Francisco, Paris to Lake Tahoe, via postcards and the occasional email, Lucy and Owen learn the tough way about first love and that home might not be where they think it is …

Friday, 24 October 2014

True Betrayals by Nora Roberts

True Betrayals (1995) (Jove Books)
Nora Roberts
Grade: A-
Genre: romantic suspense
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own 
Romance RBC 2014: A book by Nora Roberts

Newly divorced Kelsey Byden has lived a spoiled, pampered life, allowed to indulge her passion for learning and never having to settle with one job for long. All her life, she’s been told that her mother died when she was a baby, and she’s had the loving care of her father, an English Professor at Georgetown University and her stepmother, Candace. Then, Kelsey gets the shock of her life: her mother is alive and well, the owner of Three Willows, a thoroughbred farm in Virginia. The reason for the deception? Naomi was sentenced to prison for murdering her alleged lover.

Naomi might have served her sentence and re-built her reputation on the racing circuit for a long time, but this is the first time she’s made contact with Kelsey since she was a baby. Kelsey is both parts furious at the lie yet insanely curious about this woman who killed in a crime of passion. Wanting to get to know her mother, Kelsey moves to Three Willows against the wishes of her family. It is here that she meets Gabe Slater, owner of the neighbouring farm and the first man she’s desired since her separation from her husband two years ago.

At Three Willows, Kelsey finally finds her calling. The horses are just as much a valued part of her life as the people around her, and nothing gives her more joy or satisfaction as helping in the preparations for Three Willows to win the Crown Jewel in the racing world: the Derby. But there are people who are unhappy about this reunion between mother and daughter, the budding relationship between Kelsey and Gabe, as well as the prospect of Three Willows winning the Derby. As history begins to repeat itself in more ways than one, not even the horses can escape the danger that is looming …