Tag: romance

Review – The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows

Posted October 30, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, by Olivia WaiteThe Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, Olivia Waite

I picked up The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows from where it had been patiently awaiting me on the shelf more or less on a whim… and got immediately sucked in. At first I couldn’t quite see how Agatha and Penelope were going to work — and in that sense the book was very much a slow burn and definitely put the work in! I believed in it without question by the end, for sure — and I also believed that they would be good for one another.

Agatha and Penelope are both rather independent, but each in their own way, bringing their own strengths to the partnership. Agatha is practical, focused on her goals of managing her business and her son as he comes of age-but she lacks idealism and joy. Those things aren’t lacking around Penelope, though she has yet to find her voice and her joy. From being quite unlike, you quickly come to understand why they complement each other and work well as friends — better than they might have imagined.

They are the main characters, of course, but there’s much to enjoy in the supporting cast: Penelope’s ‘husband’ and his real relationship with Penelope’s brother; the shocking and unrepentant poet, Joanna Molesey; Sidney, Agatha’s son, and Eliza, his lover… the supporting cast all have their charms and their stories, and help to bring the story to life.

Another aspect some readers will be keen on is the fact that Agatha and Penelope are mature women: Agatha has an adult son, after all! This isn’t a story of blemishless, stunning young women, but one of women who have lived, and enjoy that in one another. Pretty as the cover is, too, it’s misleading — Agatha and Penelope are average women, not higher class debutantes.

To my surprise, the book fell together for me very well, despite my initial scepticism about the characters and how they’d fit together. And their little revenge against closed-minded prigs in their community is rather enjoyable…

Rating: 4/5

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Review – One Last Stop

Posted October 27, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of One Last Stop by Casey McQuistonOne Last Stop, Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop was a lot of fun. I thought that the blurb itself kind of spoiled part of that fun, though: there’s very little mystery about… let’s call it the central problem of the book. If you read the blurb, the first 90 pages of the book may be lacking something for you, since you know something the characters can’t know. On the one hand, you might not quite figure out the genre of the book, since it reads as plain ol’ contemporary romance, and on the other, well, plenty of romance has that kind of plot device. (Thinking of Susanna Kearsley here…)

There’s plenty to love other than that, of course: the lovable cast of characters (especially Niko) are basically the queer found family that many queer people in their 20s dream of, and the ups and downs can be both funny and painful, sometimes at the same time. In some ways, I suppose it tries very hard to be acceptably quirky and to make the found family feel very relatable… but that’s all part of making you feel part of it.

Sometimes I felt like the pace was a bit off, and that time would pass in these big jerks that get covered by a paragraph… but it took me longer to read it than I’d have liked, only to end in me mainlining the last 100 pages in an evening, so part of that is also my reading pace.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Triumphs

Posted October 16, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Triumphs by Ilona AndrewsMagic Triumphs, Ilona Andrews

Welp, that certainly was a finale!

Again, it’s difficult to review without being either incomprehensible (to those who haven’t read any of this series) or spoilery (for those who have). There are some twists that are quite anxiety-making, some developments that have been a long time coming, and some moments where you think everything is surely about to go terribly wrong (and some moments where things do go terribly wrong). That’s not saying much about the book, though, since it’s true of many books and definitely of every book in this series — but the fact that all those elements are there keeps the pages turning swiftly, almost too swiftly, toward the end.

I love how far all the characters have come, and how much more the world has been developed, and the subtleties in relationships that have developed and changed since the first book. You wouldn’t expect to arrive here, starting at the beginning, but each step along the way has made sense.

I’ll probably read some of the other books in this world in the end, but not yet. For now I want to let it sit.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Slippery Creatures

Posted October 7, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Slippery Creatures by K.J. CharlesSlippery Creatures, K.J. Charles

One of my least favourite things in any story is when the plot is driven by miscommunication/lack of communication… but though this is true of Slippery Creatures, I can’t ding the story for it. The lack of communication is built into the characters, and how they react to it is totally consistent, and makes sense with who they are. It would be more frustrating if they weren’t bouncing off each other, because it wouldn’t ring true. Kim is messed up, and Will is horribly stubborn, and the story would be far too easy without them.

I do enjoy their relationship, and their characters, even though Kim unquestionably brings it all on himself and puts Will in terrible danger by misreading him and his motivations, and then not being straightforward with him. But I really enjoy Phoebe and Maisie, and I’d love to know more about them — they both play small but emotionally significant parts in the plot, and I love them.

The end of the book is very much not a happy ending: Slippery Creatures is the start of something, not the end. For that reason, it’s a little rough to say how much I’m going to enjoy this series as a whole — but I suspect it will be a lot.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Binds

Posted October 2, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Binds by Ilona AndrewsMagic Binds, Ilona Andrews

Magic Binds would be an impossible read without all the previous books building up the story, laying the groundwork for the relationships, and painting the world Kate works in. When you think about the progression from Magic Bites to this, it’s pretty staggering — the whole scope has changed, the stakes are huge, and there are so many characters of all kinds to love and hate.

I think one of the best things about this book is the nuance it brings to the relationship between Kate and her family. From her heritage being almost completely hidden in the first book to the reveal of what she’s been raised to do to her claim on Atlanta to this… I won’t say too much, but there’s a surprisingly moving scene with someone who you don’t expect to have a quiet moment with. Actually, a couple of moving scenes with very unexpected people, honestly. And some very interesting developments with Christopher…

The ending feels a little cut off at the knees; the book accelerates toward the ending and then, of course, stops. And the next book doesn’t pick straight up from there or something — it’s quite the anticlimax. It feels like there was too much ending to do in one book, so then it just kind of abandons ship.

It gets harder with each book to do reviews without spoilers, and this is not a book where anyone could jump in, pick it up alone, and understand what’s going on. I highly recommend the series, but don’t start here!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Shifts

Posted September 28, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Shifts by Ilona AndrewsMagic Shifts, Ilona Andrews

Magic Shifts is the last book of this series that I’ve read before, and it’s very difficult to review without spoilers for people who haven’t read the previous books. There’s a “monster of the week”, of course, in that Eduardo gets kidnapped, so Kate and Curran have to dig into what happened there, figure out who/what is spawning weird giants that metamorphose into other animals, and find Eduardo. There’s also some background information about djinn and their place in the world, and about ghouls (only briefly mentioned before, if at all).

There’s also a lot of development for the changes to the Pack composition begun at the end of the last book, and a lot of personal changes for Kate and Curran. Like, you know, having to get used to living in suburbia with a nosey neighbour who wants Curran to avoid walking around in his lion form.

And then there’s the fallout of the previous book, and some hints about where things are going… And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Like the previous books, there’s a lot of action, the plot moves quickly, and Kate is a bit better at investigating things than she says she is. Some things fall into place beautifully, and there are some really nice character moments.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Tears of Pearl

Posted September 24, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Tears of Pearl by Tasha AlexanderTears of Pearl, Tasha Alexander

It took me a bit longer to get into Tears of Pearl than with the other Lady Emily books, and partly that’s because Emily arrives in Constantinople and is promptly a total British tourist and has the most typical imaginable reactions to everything, including her opinions on the treatment of women. Sure, it mentions the relative freedom some of the women have, but… it all felt really shallow.

It’s also a bit weird to read this book and find it so similar to Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamour in Glass in terms of Emily’s thoughts and fears about pregnancy and childbirth. It makes total sense that it was a preoccupation for women at that time, and these books already inclined more toward historical mystery than romance, so an exploration makes sense… and even the end of the book makes total sense as the obvious thing to happen (trying to be vague here, because of spoilers), but I’ve read that plot before in a book that I love, so it kind of hit weirdly for me.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll stick with Lady Emily; I do enjoy her preoccupation with classical things, and her unconventionality, and her warmth for her friends — and of course her funny dialogue with Colin. But I struggled to get started with this one, and got involved more with how the mystery was solved than with the emotional stuff going on. It’s too soon to say if I’ve fallen out of the series, and I’ll give it another book at least — especially since I read two-thirds of this book almost all in one go… but I’m wondering.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Magic Breaks

Posted September 22, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Breaks by Ilona AndrewsMagic Breaks, Ilona Andrews

There is a particular scene from this book that I remembered without remembering much else, and it really seared its way into my brain — the rest of the book, even though it was a reread, was pretty unfamiliar… which meant I had a few shocks! Really, the whole thing was kinda stressful, right from the moment I read the author’s note talking about how this feels like the end of the series in some ways. And it really does — you’d walk away with questions, still, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it certainly turns a page for Kate and her family.

It’s difficult to review this without saying too much, to be honest. There are a few ways that this book is a gamechanger for Kate, and it’s probably most fun if you experience it for yourself.

Personally, I continue to love that these books aren’t straightforward to define: it’s not just a story of vengeance, or a story of a mouthy mercenary with some flashy magic, or a romance story, or a set of stories about a private investigator, or a story of post-apocalyptic survival. There’s so much going on.

To get a little more specific about this book, I love that we get to see more of Ghastek, his past and what drives him. It’s also interesting to see more of some members of the pack, particularly Robert Lonesco. I could wish for more of Andrea and Raphael in this book, but it’s also fun to change it up.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Rises

Posted September 18, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Rises by Ilona AndrewsMagic Rises, Ilona Andrews

I feel really conflicted about Magic Rises. Some really epic and amazing things happen, and there’s an undeniable emotional kick to the book — the last chapter or so are a real kick in the teeth. There’s a lot of development of Kate’s story, to the point where she can’t really hide anymore: her secrets are spilling out, both to those who will accept her and those who don’t. There’s also development in her relationship with Curran, and they have an important conversation about it.

Unfortunately, that comes towards the end of a book where Curran acts frustratingly, refuses to communicate, and in fact breaks all the rules he tries to bind Kate by. And sure, he might have the very best of reasons, but it hurts Kate like hell, and the fact remains that he doesn’t trust her. He won’t come up with a plan with her — he’ll come up with a plan that excludes her, and she’s just supposed to trust him. He breaks the rules he insisted on in their relationship, and Kate’s just meant to roll with it, for her own good. It doesn’t ring true for Curran, to be honest, when I put it like that. Sure, the rolling with it for her own good is Curran all over, but he puts rules in place for a good reason and almost always abides by them.

I guess I can see it — he fights in the Midnight Games, after all, albeit after sentencing himself to weeks of hard labour — but the way he expects Kate to just trust him when he’s doing that is just gross.

So parts of this book — and especially the last two chapters or so — are a five star. The story really starts to bite again, after Julie’s miraculous escape in the last book. And yet… miscommunication is my least favourite relationship trope in fiction, and deliberate lack of communication like this is even worse. I really dislike that aspect of this book. Arrggh!

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Magic Bleeds

Posted September 14, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Bleeds by Ilona AndrewsMagic Bleeds, Ilona Andrews

NB: this is posted out of order from my other Kate Daniels reviews, as it was in the backlog! 

Magic Bleeds is the fourth book of the series, and some things are finally really heating up — not just Kate’s relationship with Curran, although that happens, but also Kate’s secrets, her problems with the Order, her growing attachment to her friends and acquaintances. She’s in a hell of a mess, and the mess is coming for everyone she cares about.

Of course, I was also attracted by the various plagues that break out or attempt to break out in this book. The practically sentient syphilis really caught my attention, as you’d expect, and was a hell of a start to the story. Kate’s not exactly built to contain a real plague, but magically-virulent ones she can actually fight.

The book also features the arrival of a certain furry asshole, and I’m not talking about Curran.

Normally I remember the third book most fondly, but actually, I think this one is probably better. Everything starts getting somewhere, and there’s development in characters and relationships which is really important to the story.

Of course, there are also some really funny moments, but I won’t spoil the jokes.

Rating: 4/5

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