Title: Saved by the Cowboy
Author: A.J. Pine
Genre: romance; family
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Once upon a time, Sheriff Cash Hawkins left his simple life for something bigger—and came home with a broken heart. Now he has everything he needs right here in Oak Bluff, California—his job, his dog, and a quiet ranching town best explored on the back of a horse. Olivia Belle believes in fairy tales—just not for herself. So when her boyfriend drops to one knee at his sister’s wedding with a proposal that is more business than romance, she hightails it out of San Francisco in search of the only evidence she knows that true love exists—her grandparents’ lost love letters from fifty years ago. When Olivia speeds into his town like a modern-day Cinderella in her ball gown and glass slippers, Cash’s careful existence is finally thrown for a loop. Maybe the answer Olivia’s looking for is in Oak Bluff, but the life she ran from is more than 200 miles away. As for Cash . . . he knows a thing or two about being left on bended knee. Olivia Belle could be his happily ever after . . . if this runaway bridesmaid doesn’t run off with his heart.
Review: This novella was a quick fling. I was intrigued by the description, but it took me a few chapters to actually get into it. I didn’t realize going in that this was part of a series, and perhaps that’s why it felt like there was too little development in the beginning. Oak Bluff seems to be this special place, but it never really gets the drawn out detail it deserves, especially since it’s Olivia’s first time there. Cash seems to be a feature character, but even he and his dog don’t get that much description. I couldn’t actually picture what he looked like, which for a romance novel, seemed a tragedy indeed.
While I thought generally, the descriptions could have been much, much better, more detailed, and given more time to grow, what I did like was the love story. Cash didn’t expect Olivia to change for him, and she didn’t expect him to change for her. There wasn’t this idea that one had to give anything up for the other. In many romances, the woman (more generally) is asked to give up something to be with the man of her dreams, or, more recently, has had to give up something in order to find the man of her dreams. That wasn’t the case in Saved by the Cowboy. Although the title suggests that Olivia was this woman who needed saving, I would argue that both characters save each other in the end.
I would imagine that someone who’d read the other texts in this series would enjoy this more than I did, but it was sweet and quick, and overall, a fun journey.
*Special thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Genre: fantasy; young adult; LGBT; paranormal; fiction
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation… And she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo she can’t trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.
Review: While reading this, the first thing that came to mind was, “heck yes, a Latinx bruja story!” I legit haven’t seen many of these on the market and with paranormal fantasy as big as it is, that’s a tragedy. That said, I am happy to report that Córdova has opened up this niche market to the wider audience with her first book of her Brooklyn Brujas series. Authors like Isabel Allende and Cristina Garcia have been bringing powerful Latinx women to the written page for decades and with Labyrinth Lost, Córdova puts herself on that list of authors too — for a young adult audience.
Alex is an interesting narrator for this first installment. She is written like a perfect middle child — I am one, I know what it feels like, okay! — Somewhere between knowing everything and getting away with everything, Alex is just looking for ordinary in a family that is anything but. Like any true YA heroine, doubt and panic lead to major second guessing which leads to a major lack of communication between mother / daughter. (Really, between the whole family.) This is my only gripe with this book. Had ONE of the 400 years of brujas and brujos in Alex’s family told her what she needed to hear, many of the conflicts would have resolved themselves. But as I continue to think about this, I think, what sixteen-year-old girl talks to their parents about the stuff that matters? And there are a few instances where she tries and gets brushed off, so I take away this gripe. But I don’t erase it. Because it was there.
That said, the storyline was beautifully written. Woven like an Ancient Greek tapestry by Penelope herself, Córdova takes you into Los Lagos, the In Between as it were, and writes three dimensional characters all the way through. The villain is interesting. The plot is too. Alex’s character development is both realistic and touching. I like Nova as a character. I like Rishi, but less than I like Nova. Alex does something really impulsive for Rishi that I think is counterintuitive to her character’s whole motivation. In fact, when this particular scene happened, chapter 33, I was riding on a train from Cavaillon to Salon in Provence and I slammed my book down in my lap in a most dramatic fashion. My fellow French passengers were not amused. Je suis désolé. Like my earlier gripe that I took back because she’s sixteen, I think I have to use that same card here too. What do you think?
I’ve already put in an order for the second book and can’t wait for it to arrive.
Title: A Court of Frost and Starlight
Author: Sarah J Maas
Genre: fantasy; faerie; romance
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) The Winter Solstice. In a week. I was still new enough to being High Lady that I had no idea what my formal role was to be. If we’d have a High Priestess do some odious ceremony, as lanthe had done the year before. A year. Gods, nearly a year since Rhys had called in his bargain, desperate to get me away from the poison of the Spring Court to save me from my despair. Had he been only a minute later, the Mother knew what would have happened. Where I’d now be. Snow swirled and eddied in the garden, catching in the brown fibers of the burlap covering the shrubs My mate who had worked so hard and so selflessly, all without hope that I would ever be with him We had both fought for that love, bled for it. Rhys had died for it.
Review: I preordered this book and anticipated this release so so heavily. I thought I was getting the next full installment of the series, not a 3.1 “day in the life” kind of novella. Maybe that’s my fault. I loved getting back into the characters and their lives, and I am glad I spent the time to preorder it, but it was not everything I hoped for. Some people really enjoy these types of books, the kinds that give their characters a semblance of normalcy after a long battle or a hard heartbreak, and typically, I am those readers. But this time, I was just expecting more.
I wanted this to be the fallout of the Battle of Hybern, and instead, I got the story of recovery after trauma. The varied POV changes also threw me a little. I wonder if this is to set up a series of spin offs from the characters in the future? Anyway. I’m still going to be ordering the next one, so ….
Title: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
Author: Balli Kaur Jaswal
Genre: contemporary; mystery; romance
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a “creative writing” course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community. Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind. As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s “moral police.” But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.
Review: Recommended to me by a friend, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is definitely a departure from my regularly scheduled reading. This is no YA Fantasy, that’s for sure. But! I LOVED IT. It was fast paced and fun to read. The storylines are pieced together in a really beautiful way. I especially loved Nikki – a die-hard feminist looking to make a difference in the world – in her world. I laughed out right at some of the Punjabi stories, just as I imagine Nikki would have. The mystery element, at first threw me, but again, I was surprised at how well it was woven into the contemporary story of a woman finding her place in the world.
Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses [Book I/VI]
Author: Sarah J Maas
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price … Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jeweled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.
Review: Recommended to me by one of my friends, this book was interesting to get into. It’s very much a fantasy book, but it reads more like a coming of age novel with a strong and stubborn female lead. This lead, Feyre (pronounced fay-ruh), is caring and wise, and as a reader, you root for her success.
As an avid reader, I was impressed with the author’s ability to create a character like Feyre. She feels intense emotion, she doesn’t make all the right decisions, and she’s driven by instincts and the goodness in her heart. She felt so real and authentic that I couldn’t wait to keep reading. It was obvious to me that this was a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but at no point did I feel like I knew what was coming. Instead, I fell in love with Feyre and Tamlin along with the rest of the Spring Court and counted on Feyre to conquer all.
Title: A Court of Mist and Fury [II/VI]
Author: Sarah J Maas
Genre: Fantasy; Action; Adventure; Romance
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) SPOILERS FROM BOOK 1
Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people. Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.
Review: This book has all of the things I’m looking for in a good novel — it has a great plot line, amazing subplot lines, organic and realistic characters, and the suspense factor that makes you turn the page. Now, from the reader and ACOTAR fan in me, I love this book because the main characters are so, so, so lovable and believable. I like when I can get behind a character and fall in love with their arc. That’s exactly what has happened here. The characters you love in ACOTAR are built upon and made more complex in this second installment. The characters you meet in ACOMAF are strong and fun and interesting. Maas has a gift for character development and shows that most clearly through Feyre’s development. Plus. Yummy Rhysand, amiright?
The Persephone and Hades subtext was not lost on me. I loved that so much. Maas is great at turning what I loved about ACOTAR on its head. Feyre is still Feyre, but she’s seeing through new eyes and without the constant fear of dying at Amarantha’s hand, she can begin to see clearly.
I cannot wait for book 3.
Title: A Court of Wings and Ruin [III/VI]
Author: Sarah J Maas
Genre: Fantasy; Romance; Adventure; War
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit—and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords—and hunt for allies in unexpected places.
Review: As with ACOTAR and ACOMAF, Maas clearly understands the written word. She has brought us back into this Prythian universe, into the heart of the battle, and all the while we know exactly what we’re in for, because we know Feyre. A character as complex and daring as any heroine I’ve ever seen, Feyre can handle everything thrown at her, without the savior that most female heroines are bent on having in books elsewhere. She’s flanked by powerful characters on all sides. The depth of the relationships all intensify and become much more realistic in this third installment of the series. The Feyre and Rhysand relationship intensifies in the most delightful way. He’s everything I look for in a male lead. He’s tender, loving, and trusting. He’s strong and selfless, and at times, you want to knock him upside the head because he’s being too selfless. All that being said, I quite enjoyed the diversity of the minor characters in this one, more so than the others. The yummy Helion, the sweet Tarquin, and Mor! OMG Mor….All that’s to say that I can’t wait for Book 4 in the ACOTAR series.