Tuesday, August 8, 2017

MINI-REVIEWS: Candis Terry, Anna Harrington, Lucy Parker

A Better Man (Sunshine Creek Vineyard, #1)
A Better Man (Sunshine Creek Vineyard #1) by Candis Terry
Contemporary Romance
Avon -- March 29, 2016

RATING: 4 STARS
Hockey star Jordan Kincade wasted no time ditching Sunshine Valley and everyone who mattered for a career in the NHL—a truth Jordan confronts when his parents’ deaths bring him home. Now he’s back to make amends, which begins with keeping his younger sister from flunking out of school. It’s just his luck that the one person who can help is the girl whose heart he broke years ago.
Lucy Diamond has racked up a number of monumental mistakes in her life, the first involving a certain blue-eyed charmer. She has no intention of falling for Jordan Kincade again, but when he shows up asking her to help one of her students, Lucy just can’t say no. Worse, the longer he’s back, the more she sees how much he’s changed. And so when a blistering kiss turns to more, she can’t help but wonder if her heart will be crushed again . . . or if she’ll discover true love with a better man.
A Better Man is the start of the Sunshine Creek Vineyard series which focuses on the Kincade siblings whose lives are thrown for a loop when their parents are killed in an accident and they must come together to save the family business.  I thought both Jordan and Lucy were really well-written.  They were relatable and I wanted them to be happy.  They each had their own issues to deal with (Jordan developing a new role within his family and Lucy trusting someone with her personal feelings) and I thought those were handled well within the overall storyline.  I thought the romance was very sweet and I could tell how much they suited one another.  I also really liked the secondary plot involving Jordan's family and their reactions to their parents' deaths.  The lone girl, Nicole, is especially intriguing to me and readers get to see her a lot in this book since she is the catalyst for Jordan and Lucy's reunion.  I am definitely looking forward to more stories about the Kincade clan.  This was my first experience with Candis Terry's writing and I can definitely tell why her contemporaries are so beloved.

I received a free copy of this book via the Avon Addicts Program in exchange for an honest review.

***********

If the Duke Demands (Capturing the Carlisles, #1)
If the Duke Demands (Capturing the Carlisles #1) by Anna Harrington
Historical Romance
Forever -- February 28, 2017

RATING: 4 STARS


Miranda Hodgkins has only ever wanted one thing: to marry Robert Carlisle. And she simply can't wait a moment longer. During the Carlisle family masquerade ball, Miranda boldly sneaks into his bedchamber with seduction on her mind. Soon she's swept into rock-hard arms for the most breathtaking kiss of her life. But when the masks come off, she's horrified to find herself face-to-face with Sebastian, the Duke of Trent—Robert's formidable older brother.
Shocked to find Miranda in his bed, Sebastian quickly offers her a deal to avoid scandal: He'll help her win his brother's heart if she'll find him the perfect wife. But what begins as a simple negotiation soon spirals out of control. For the longer this reformed rake tries to make a match for Miranda, the more he wants to keep her all to himself.

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book because of the premise and the beginning, but it ended up being really engaging to me.  There were a lot of tropes that I tend to enjoy like childhood friends, class differences, forbidden love, and matchmaking.  I thought Miranda and Sebastian had good chemistry, physically and emotionally.  Sebastian is sweet and helpful for most of the book while Miranda is lively and entertaining without being annoying.  It was fun to see them realize their feelings for one another throughout the course of the story.  I could have done without the unnecessary snobbery from Sebastian towards the end, but, overall, I thought this was a cute and surprisingly dramatic romance.  I am intrigued enough by the depictions of the other Carlisle brothers to return to this series in the future.

I received a free eARC of this book from Forever via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

***********

Pretty Face (London Celebrities, #2)
Pretty Face (London Celebrities #2) by Lucy Parker
Contemporary Romance
Carina Press -- February 20, 2017

RATING: 4.5 STARS
It's not actress Lily Lamprey's fault that she's all curves and has the kind of voice that can fog up a camera lens. She wants to prove where her real talents lie—and that's not on a casting couch, thank you. When she hears esteemed director Luc Savage is renovating a legendary West End theater for a lofty new production, she knows it could be her chance—if only Luc wasn't so dictatorial, so bad-tempered and so incredibly sexy.
Luc Savage has respect, integrity and experience. He also has it bad for Lily. He'd be willing to dismiss it as a midlife crisis, but this exasperating, irresistible woman is actually a very talented actress. Unfortunately, their romance is not only raising questions about Lily's suddenly rising career, it's threatening Luc's professional reputation. The course of true love never did run smooth. But if they're not careful, it could bring down the curtain on both their careers…
I fell in love with Lucy Parker's writing in Act Like It and had high expectations for this book.  Thankfully, I found this book to be even more enjoyable and am happy to have found an author who has hit it out of the park twice.  I thought Lily was amazing.  She had to deal with a lot of crap in her job yet still kept going out of determination and pure strength of character.  Luc was a bit of an asshole, but I ended up finding him very likable by the end.  He is definitely a character that requires time to really get and I thought the author did well developing him.  The romance between Lucy and Lily was super hot and very easy to get wrapped up in.  I usually am not a fan of external conflict affecting the love story, but I thought it worked really well in the context of this book.  I also continue to love the insight that Lucy Parker is giving into the acting world.  I want more from this author and this series!

Friday, August 4, 2017

MANGA REVIEW: Ouran High School Host Club, Volumes 1-18 by Bisco Hatori


Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 1 (Ouran High School Host Club, #1)TITLE: Ouran High School Host Club, Volumes 1-18
AUTHOR(S): Bisco Hatori

GENRE:
Shoujo Manga
PUBLISHER: Hakusensha (Japan); Viz Media (U.S.)
PUBLICATION DATE: August 2003 (Japan); July 2005 (U.S.)
FORMAT: Print
SOURCE: Library
LENGTH: 18 volumes (approximately 180 pages each)
DATE READ: 2008-2017


TROPES: Romantic Comedy, High School Setting, Family, Heroine in Disguise, Love Triangle

OVERALL SERIES RATING: 5 STARS

SUMMARY:
In this screwball romantic comedy, Haruhi, a poor girl at a rich kids' school, is forced to repay an $80,000 debt by working for the school's swankiest, all-male club-as a boy! There she discovers just how wealthy the six members are and how different the rich are from everybody else...
MY THOUGHTS: 

Ouran High School Host Club is an 18 volume, 83 chapter manga series that follows the adventures of Haruhi Fujioka, a scholarship student at a prestigious high school in Japan.  Haruhi is determined to be a lawyer like her late mother and believes that an education from Ouran Academy will help her achieve that dream.  But, things get tough when she comes across the Host Club and is forced to work for them to pay off a significant debt.  And, to make things more complicated, she has to pretend to be a boy in order to work as a host.

The premise for Ouran is far-fetched, but that is par for the course with most manga that I have read.  There is just something so fun and genuine about this series that makes me happy.  It mostly focuses on Haruhi and her time at Ouran, but also provides plenty of background and adventures for her schoolmates especially the other members of the Host Club.  There is just so much going on in this series that I think it could appeal to many readers with the comedy, character development, romance, friendship, and social commentary.

The main characters of Ouran are, for me, the real stand-outs of the series  Almost every person is fully fleshed out and, no matter their page time, given a great deal of respect by the mangaka, Bisco Hatori.  The members of the Host Club are given the most development and I was fascinated by the way they were written.  Everyone is unique and given a chance to shine from the straightforward heroine (Haruhi) to the vivacious president whose past doesn't quite jive with his happy-go-lucky attitude (Tamaki) to the mischievous twins attempting to break out of their self-imposed shells (Hikaru and Kaoru).

I have give a personal shout-out to Kyoya, the super serious club VP who always seems one step ahead of everybody else and who is my personal favorite character.  And, of course, I can't forget Hunny, the cake-loving third year who hides some amazing physical abilities, and Mori, Hunny's stoic and loyal sidekick.  There are also plenty of intriguing side characters that Bisco Hatori uses to further the series plot and flesh out the school.  I am especially partial to Renge, the club's obsessive manager, Ritsu, the tough guy who just wants to make friends, and Nekozawa, the president of the Black Magic Club.

The eighteen volumes of Ouran High School Host Club are chock full of comedy and heart.  There are a multitude of chaotic adventures that are balanced with some more serious moments that often veer into social commentary especially regarding economic differences and family responsibilities.  The romance is very sweet and, to me, it is obvious who will ultimately end up together.  But, the journey is a lot of fun and I was on the edge of my seat waiting for certain people to finally take the chance.  And, for people who have read manga before, there are some delightful parodies that just add to the overall enjoyment.


Because manga also involves artwork, I have to mention the series visual aspects.  It is beautiful and full of detail.  The way the school is designed showcases the expensive taste of many of the characters and also provides a dream-like quality that works well for the story.  The characters are pretty distinct though I will admit that some of the Host Club's customers did run together in my mind.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who likes romantic comedies and wants to give manga a try.  It is entertaining and has enough interesting characters that many people can relate to...even if they are super-rich and destined to be heads of major corporations.  And I have to also give a shout-out to the twenty-six episode anime series that just brings the story to new heights.

BOOKS IN THE SERIES:


Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 1 (Ouran High School Host Club, #1) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 2 (Ouran High School Host Club, #2) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 3 (Ouran High School Host Club, #3) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 4 (Ouran High School Host Club, #4) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 5 (Ouran High School Host Club, #5) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 6 (Ouran High School Host Club, #6)  Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 7 (Ouran High School Host Club, #7) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 8 (Ouran High School Host Club, #8) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 9 (Ouran High School Host Club, #9) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 10 (Ouran High School Host Club, #10) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 11 (Ouran High School Host Club, #11) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 12 (Ouran High School Host Club, #12) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 13 (Ouran High School Host Club, #13) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 14 (Ouran High School Host Club, #14) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 15 (Ouran High School Host Club, #15) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 16 (Ouran High School Host Club, #16) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 17 (Ouran High School Host Club, #17) Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 18 (Ouran High School Host Club, #18)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

REVIEW: Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas


Devil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3)TITLE: Devil in Spring
AUTHOR(S): Lisa Kleypas
SERIES: The Ravenels #3

GENRE:
Historical Romance
PUBLISHER: Avon
PUBLICATION DATE: February 21, 2017
FORMAT: Print
SOURCE: Avon Addicts Program
LENGTH: 370 pages
DATE READ: March 22, 2017

CHARACTER ARCHETYPES: Alpha Hero, Scandalous Heroine
TROPES: Opposites Attract, House Party, Scandal

RATING: 4.5 STARS

SUMMARY:
An eccentric wallflower…

Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger.

A cynical rake…

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught-by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.

A perilous plot…

After succumbing to Gabriel’s skilled and sensuous persuasion, Pandora agrees to become his bride. But soon she discovers that her entrepreneurial endeavors have accidentally involved her in a dangerous conspiracy -- and only her husband can keep her safe. As Gabriel protects her from their unknown adversaries, they realize their devil’s bargain may just turn out to be a match made in heaven... 
MY THOUGHTS: 

Why I Read It...
Why wouldn't I read this?  It is Lisa Kleypas doing historical romance and(!) the hero is the son of Evie and Sebastian from Devil in Winter, one of my all-time favorites.

What I Liked About It...

1. Pandora has always been the most interesting of the Ravenel family for me and she definitely lived up to her previous appearances.  I appreciated that Ms. Kleypas didn't shy away from her oddities, but also didn't overdo it.  I admired her desire to be independent and her interest in being an entrepreneur.

2. Gabriel was everything I could have expected from Sebastian and Evie's son and more.  I liked the slowly revealed complexities within his character and how they were a result from his upbringing.

3. The romance was super engaging and I thought it was fun that most of the time was spent on Gabriel trying to sell the idea of marriage/love on Pandora.

4. Gabriel's siblings were fascinating to read about and I want book about them now.  I especially am interested in his older, widowed sister.

What I Disliked About It...

1. I could have done without the external plot that popped up halfway through.  I feel like Pandora and Gabriel's story didn't need it.  They were fascinating on their own.

Would I Recommend It...

Absolutely!  It didn't have the magic of Devil in Winter, but I didn't have that expectation.  For me, this book is an example of why Lisa Kleypas is so beloved in historical romance.  There is just something about her writing that appeals to me.

BOOKS IN THE SERIES:


Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels, #1) Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels, #2) Devil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3)