And the Kitchen Sink

I enjoy all kinds of books, mostly romance and mysteries but I read just about everything..
Nightkeepers - Jessica Andersen

The writing is unfocused and jumps between points of view, varying between dizzying information overload and dry, boring lecture-mode. The romance is uneven at best rushed at the beginning and rushed at the end and zilch in-between. Relies too much on tell rather than show and digs in trying to get readers interested in the others with no discernible reason other than trying to encourage people to buy other books in the series. Which met with zero success on my end. Time will tell if I'm masochistic enough to brave the following books, but it won't be because of anything in this one. TL;DR - Great premise wasted on a barely mediocre book with a romance that left me cold, not wanting more.

The Tea Rose - Jennifer Donnelly The Tea Rose was wildly melodramatic, far too reliant on Deus Ex Machina, and overstuffed with too many points of view; it was also a terrific ride, full of incredibly vivid places, and an absorbing read. I would have loved to give this book five stars for the time and places Donnelly evoked. East London has never seemed so alive, so real as when Donnelly's prose is describing it. New York is bustling, fresh with promise, and the late Victorian setting burst to life. Most of the characters are endearing in some way or another, however, some seem entirely superfluous to the story and plot and the constant POV change sometimes dragged me out of the story I wanted to be reading.

Fiona does come across a bit Mary Sue-ish, and there are too many turns of chance - for good or ill - that move the plot along rather than any organic feel to it. Still, I found myself drawn to the book and for all the dramatics, the story is so brimming with passion and exuberance that I couldn't help but to be dragged along with it. For everything else, The Tea Rose is not a boring story. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, flaws and all, but I can't help but wish that it could have been a little bit more. A little more thoughtfully plotted, a little more tightly edited, and a little bit more within the realms of credibility. I read to be swept away, though, which this book certainly did, and if you enjoy a sweeping, epic novel that succeeds despite it's weaker moments you will most likely enjoy this book as much as I did.
For the Roses - Julie Garwood I found this book extraordinarily charming. Garwood's historical romances showcase her ability to weave an incredible love story around wonderfully human characters, each with their own sense of humor, flaws, and vulnerabilities. This book took me on a journey together with the Claybournes, four lonely, stubborn, and discarded boys (except for Adam, their leader) who find a baby in the trash and band together to raise her. When Harrison MacDonald comes into town his sole motivation is to find out if the woman they've raised, Mary Rose, is the stolen daughter of his employer. Along the way, he discovers that sometimes the family you find is the one that matters most in your heart.

All the brothers, Mary Rose, and Harrison are distinct characters and I couldn't help but enjoy the journey with them all. By the end of the book I had fallen in love with each one of them and found myself rooting for them, against all the odds stacked against them in the book. They love, bicker, and make-up like a family and the story held my interest the whole book through. While there were some historical niggles through-out the book (Harrison referring to Mary Rose as "baby" took me out of the story a time or two and did not seem at all in character or in keeping with where he was from and the time period) they didn't dim my enjoyment one bit. I love that Mary Rose is feisty and independent with strong opinions and a mind of her own. She's no push over or wilting flower. I appreciated that while Harrison and her weren't always on the same page, and often misunderstood each other this wasn't a book of "big misunderstandings". They clearly loved each other, and it was clear why. I enjoy the humor throughout the book as well, even though the book touches on some very serious things. Overall, this book was, personally, the exact book I wanted and expected to read when I picked it up. Garwood is wonderful at making me become personally involved with all her characters and since I first read "The Bride" she has made me feel at home whenever I pick up one of her books. This book met my expectations, opened it's arms, and welcomed me home.
Soulless - Gail Carriger Great book that blends steampunk and paranormal perfectly. This book is very inventive and a breath of fresh air in a crowded field. In Victorian England werewolves, vampires, and ghosts are all a functioning part of society and Alexia Tarabotti is the only antidote, the lone preternatural in all of London. Simply put, she has no soul, which is the exact opposite of the supernatural creatures which have an excess of soul. The world building and mythology of this book is fascinating and carefully laid out, and incredibly detailed. I loved the premise and the story/mystery itself was very engaging.
To Seduce a Sinner - Elizabeth Hoyt This is the second in the series about a group of soldiers who survived a massacre and torture in the Colonies during the French and Indian War. The hero, Lord Vale, is determined to find out who betrayed him and the others, near to the point of obsession. Although, as the books progress you can see why these survivors have such single minded determination. On the day he's about to be married, his fiancee leaves him at the alter and Melisande steps up and asks to marry him instead. Vale is floored but agrees.

I found both characters rather sympathetic and enjoyed the way they grew to know one another. The ending seemed somewhat abrupt, but still was satisfying enough. The continued plot about the search for the traitor still keeps my interest and I'm very curious about who it will be in the end. The romance itself is less dramatic, a sort of cat and mouse game between the two characters, which I thought served as a nice counterpoint to the revenge/mystery plot running through the series. A lovely story.
Stray - Rachel Vincent The first half of this book was very difficult to get into. It's told from the first person perspective of Faythe Saunders, a werecat, who has been running away from her responsibilities for five years. At first I wanted to smack Faythe around, she's whiny, pouty, and childish in the way she deals with her family and those around her. She feels like she is in an untenable situation, but instead of acting like an adult and sucking it up every once in a while she just acts extremely selfishly and with little regard for who she steps on in her single minded quest to escape. I found extremely difficult to sympathize with the character and her POV grated.

After the action kicks in, though, things improve drastically. Forced to act, the character gets much better and certainly becomes an easier narrator to tolerate. The situations and violence in this book are, at points, horrific. This book is gritty and unflinching in those regards. However, by the end I was drawn into the world and grudgingly drawn to Faythe. That's quite an accomplishment for Vincent to take me from near loathing of the main character to acceptance, and a credit that the darkness of the story never feels exploitative or over the top.

I definitely feel that the book and series is worth a shot and that the first half is worth plowing through to get to the end.
Jacob - Jacquelyn Frank Very good paranormal romance with interesting world building and great characters. Both the hero and heroine were extremely likable and the secondary characters were just as intriguing. The story managed to move along at a brisk pace and none of the world building felt like a complete info dump. I really liked the premise of this series and I am looking forward to the next ones very much.
A Flaw in the Blood - Stephanie Barron This book was a fascinating "what if", and a plausible theory regarding the true cause of the hemophilia in Queen Victoria's children and descendants. There was quite a good final twist in the book, and though parts seemed to drag at times, the ending made the journey worthwhile. I very much enjoyed the employ of the Queen as one of the narrators, casting her not as the typical Queen Victoria so often portrayed, but rather more flawed and human. Overall a very good mystery and an excellent historical view of the Victorian era.
Talk Me Down - Victoria Dahl I really enjoyed this book. The heroine, Molly, was fun and realistic and the hero, Ben, was a genuinely good guy. This book was an easy, enjoyable read from start to finish. I actually loved the characters, who were well drawn and never veered into caricatures. Their issues were real and believable and their HEA felt honest and down to earth. Great contemporary read.
Led Astray by a Rake (Husband Hunters Club, Book 1) (The Husband Hunters Club) - Sara Bennett I didn't really care much for the heroine, who at times did completely stupid things to get her way and seemed to not think through the consequences or care. Which made her seem immature and selfish. The hero was alright, but something of a stereotype - the tortured rake. In the end I thought the plot stretched beyond credibility and into the melodramatic, and other plot threads were tied rather too neatly. In fact, I could have done without the one minor plot and instead given the main characters more depth. It wasn't a terrible book, but it wasn't good, either.
The Kindness of a Rogue - Nancy Butler I enjoyed that the hero and heroine were different in this book than the typical Regency hero/heroine. The hero isn't titled or wealthy and the heroine isn't an heiress, spoiled, or quirky. They are two ordinary people thrown into extraordinary circumstances. The plot itself focuses on the trafficking of young women to brothels in London, and the ending seemed a little bit too drawn out and far-fetched, although it didn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the book. The epilogue, however, I could have done without entirely. I understand that the author wanted to tie it all up neatly and give the villain a just dessert, but it took away from the HEA a bit in my opinion. Still, overall I liked it and thought it was a satisfying book. Good if you like historicals but would like a change of pace from all the aristocrats that populate so many of them.