Review: The Hating Game

hating-game-theSally Thorne, The Hating Game

If Lucy Hutton is certain about anything in her life, it’s that she and Joshua Templeman hate each other. As executive assistants to the co-CEOs of their company, they’ve been professional rivals for years, and each of them knows exactly how to get under the other one’s skin. Now they’re both up for the same promotion, and Lucy is determined to beat out Joshua for the job. If that means spending all her energy in coming up with passive-aggressive ways to annoy him, so be it. But when a particularly vicious argument somehow turns into an explosive kiss, everything changes. As Lucy reevaluates her history with Joshua, she realizes that maybe her intense feelings for him can’t entirely be explained by hatred. And maybe, contrary to her longstanding belief, Joshua doesn’t actually hate her at all. But will Lucy have the courage to change the game?

This book may be a giant predictable cliché, but it’s so well written that I don’t even care! I was so invested in Lucy and Joshua’s relationship, and I loved the pace at which it unfolded. The sexual tension between them is immediately obvious, so the author wisely doesn’t string it out too long; the kiss occurs quite early in the novel. But the heart of the story is the slow, tentative transformation from hate-fueled lust to genuine love and affection. I especially liked seeing Joshua gradually open up to Lucy, revealing the reasons for his former rude behavior. Ultimately, this book exceeded my expectations, which were already pretty high since I’d heard a lot of good things about it. I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to fans of romance, especially those who enjoy the hate-to-love trope. It looks like the author has another book coming out this summer, and I’ll definitely be purchasing it!

Review: Crosstalk

crosstalkConnie Willis, Crosstalk

In a near-future society, people are looking for ever more efficient ways to communicate and connect with each other. A new experimental procedure, the EED, allows couples to feel each other’s emotions and thus (theoretically) strengthen their relationship. Briddey Flannigan is thrilled when her boyfriend Trent asks her to get an EED with him, but her nosy family doesn’t like the idea, nor does her reclusive colleague C.B. Nevertheless, Briddey goes ahead with the procedure, only to discover that something has gone terribly wrong — she’s now connected to C.B., not Trent. Moreover, she doesn’t just sense his emotions; she seems to be able to read his mind. Now, with C.B.’s help, Briddey must figure out why this connection occurred and learn how to break it, before the negative effects of their telepathic connection cause irreversible damage.

I’m huge Connie Willis fan, so I had high expectations for this book, and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed! This novel has just as much humor and romance as her other light novels, with an added dash of commentary on the negative aspects of incessant communication. I really enjoyed the little asides about past scientific research into telepathy, as well as the speculation that famous historical figures who heard voices (most notably Joan of Arc) might actually have been telepathic. I do think the plot had a few too many twists and turns at the end; the book’s length could have been trimmed somewhat. But I was having such a ball following Briddey and C.B.’s story that I barely noticed at the time! To be fair, the book does have its flaws, which I think the NPR review covers quite well — I can definitely see the reviewer’s point. But I still loved the book, and I would definitely recommend it to Willis fans! Newcomers to her work might want to start with To Say Nothing of the Dog or Doomsday Book (although the latter is much darker) instead.

Top Ten Tuesday: 2017 debuts

Top 10 TuesdayI must admit, I don’t normally seek out debut novels unless I hear a lot of good buzz about them; the 2017 releases I’m most excited about are from authors I already know I like. But this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic intrigued me enough to see what I could find, and sure enough, there are several upcoming debuts that look really interesting! Here they are, in publication order:

1. Katherine Arden, The Bear and the Nightingale (1/10/17, Del Rey) — This novel is a historical fantasy based on Russian folktales, and according to the cover blurb, it’s perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. In other words, the perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter’s night! Find more info on Amazon here.

2. Kristen Orlando, You Don’t Know My Name (1/10/17, Swoon Reads) — I’m a sucker for books about spies, and this one is about a teenage spy-in-training who falls in love with the boy next door. Find more info on Amazon here.

3. Caroline Leech, Wait for Me (1/31/17, HarperTeen) — A World War II novel about the forbidden romance between a Scottish girl and a German POW? Yes, this is relevant to my interests. Find more info on Amazon here.

4. Elan Mastai, All Our Wrong Todays (2/7/17, Dutton) — This book is set in an alternate universe where all those 1950s predictions about “the future” (flying cars, colonization of the moon, etc.) came true. But the main character somehow ends up in our universe instead and must figure out how to get home — or whether he actually wants to. Find more info on Amazon here.

5. Sandhya Menon, When Dimple Met Rishi (5/30/17, Simon Pulse) — The Amazon summary says this is “a laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.” I find the tradition of arranged marriages to be fascinating, so I’m definitely interested in reading this one! Find more info on Amazon here.

6. Tiffany Pitcock, Just Friends (8/1/17, Swoon Reads) — I’m not quite sure I follow the plot of this book, but it seems to involve two teens who accidentally become friends and/or whose relationship begins as a ruse. I really enjoy both the “friends to lovers” and the “fake relationship becomes real” tropes, so this one looks very interesting. Find more info on Amazon here.

7. Katy Upperman, Kissing Max Holden (8/1/17, Swoon Reads) — Another teen romance about friends who fall in love. Okay, so my tastes are a bit predictable. Find more info on Amazon here.

What other 2017 debuts should be on my TBR list?

Bout of Books 18 Progress

Bout of Books 18Bout of Books 18 starts today, and I’ll be tracking my progress in this post. As I mentioned in my sign-up post, my goals are to read at least two books and participate in at least one Twitter chat. If I pick shorter books, I should be able to do it! Happy reading, everyone!

Monday, January 2

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis and The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I read most of Crosstalk on January 1, so I won’t count it toward my goal of two books during Bout of Books. But I really enjoyed the book, so it was the perfect way to kick off this readathon! I also LOVED The Hating Game and will definitely be reading Thorne’s next novel, which comes out this summer!

Currently reading: I’ll be starting Alan Bradley’s latest Flavia de Luce novel, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d.

Mini-challenge: We’re asked to introduce ourselves in six words. Here’s my answer, which I posted on Twitter also: “Books and music are my life.” I think this is accurate. 🙂

Tuesday, January 3

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.

Currently reading: About to start Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley.

Wednesday, January 4

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.

Currently reading: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley — hoping to finish tomorrow!

Thursday, January 5

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.

Currently reading: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley

Friday, January 6

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.

Currently reading: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley — about 125 pages left. I haven’t read much (maybe at all) in the last couple days! *blush*

Saturday, January 7

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne; Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley.

Currently reading: I’m starting Belgravia by Julian Fellowes.

Sunday, January 8

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne; Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley.

Currently reading: Belgravia by Julian Fellowes.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2016

Top 10 TuesdayI realize I’m almost a week behind at this point, but I really wanted to do this Top Ten Tuesday topic and list my 10 favorite books of 2016. My list is not exclusively 2016 releases; any book I read this year is fair game. Here’s the list, in no particular order:

1. Helen Simonson, The Summer Before the War — A lovely, character-driven novel about romance and politics in an English village in the months leading up to World War I. My mini-review is here.

2. Alice Tilton, Beginning with a Bash — A Golden Age mystery that feels like a screwball comedy, complete with fast-talking dames and gangsters galore. My mini-review is here.

3. Lucy Parker, Act Like It — An utterly charming contemporary romance that has me impatiently awaiting Lucy Parker’s next novel (which fortunately comes out in February!). My review is here.

4. Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven King — A fitting conclusion to the wonderful and unique Raven Cycle, which contains a surprising number of Owen Glendower references for a young adult series. My mini-review is here.

5. V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic — A compelling fantasy novel with a fascinating premise (parallel universes with varying degrees of magic) and well-fleshed-out main characters. I can’t wait to read the sequels! My mini-review is here.

6. Genevieve Cogman, The Invisible Library — Another great fantasy premise: there are an infinite number of universes whose only point of connection is an invisible central library that collects and preserves the literature from each world. My review is here.

7. Jacques Philippe, Interior Freedom — A short but powerful work about letting go of anxiety and trusting in God. This was the book that most deeply affected me this year. My review is here.

8. Georgette Heyer, Envious Casca — One of Heyer’s best mysteries, combining her trademark wit and character development with a top-notch murder mystery. My mini-review is here.

9. Emma Mills, This Adventure Ends — An excellent YA contemporary that’s all about friendship, with a bonus adorable romance. My mini-review is here.

10. David D. Levine, Arabella of Mars — Jane Austen meets Horatio Hornblower in space! My mini-review is here.

2016 Vintage Mystery Challenge Wrap-up

2017 Vintage Scavenger HuntHappy New Year, everyone! I’m so excited to get started on the 2017 Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt, but before I do that, I should probably post my 2016 wrap-up! Here’s what I read for the 2016 challenge, along with the items I “found” for the scavenger hunt:

1. Georgette Heyer, No Wind of Blame – cigarette
2. Alan Melville, Quick Curtain – performer
3. Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison – bottle of poison
4. Christopher St. John Sprigg, Death of an Airman – plane
5. Alice Tilton, Beginning with a Bash – blunt instrument
6. Georgette Heyer, Envious Casca – brunette

No Wind of BlameQuick CurtainStrong Poison
Death of an Airmanbeginning-with-a-bashenvious-casca

If you also participated in this challenge, don’t forget to add your wrap-up post here!

Mini-Reviews #12: December, part 2

This is officially my LAST BATCH of reviews for 2016! I’m looking forward to starting next year (aka tomorrow) with a clean slate. These last books are all rereads, and it was lovely to revisit some books I’ve enjoyed in the past!

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Rainbow Rowell, Attachments — I’ve loved all of Rainbow Rowell’s books, but this one (her first novel) remains my favorite. It’s the story of Lincoln, an Internet security specialist whose job is to monitor all emails sent from company accounts. When the emails of Jennifer and Beth get flagged for “inappropriate” usage, Lincoln has to read them; it’s his job. But before long, he gets caught up in the women’s stories and becomes genuinely interested in learning more about them. Then he begins to fall for Beth…but how can he transform his one-sided crush into an actual relationship?

Sharon Shinn, Summers at Castle Auburn — The first time I read this romantic fantasy novel, I didn’t quite pick up on the romance and felt it was a little abrupt. I don’t know what I was thinking, because this time I was all about the romance! It’s subtle and builds slowly, which is just the way I like it. 🙂 I also really enjoyed the vivid fantasy world, and I liked the fact that the heroine truly grows and changes throughout the novel. Definitely recommended for fans of this genre!

corinthian-thebirth-of-blue-satan-the

Georgette Heyer, The Corinthian — One of Heyer’s excellent Regency romances, featuring a jaded young man and a scrappy girl (dressed as a boy) who’s running away from home. The plot gets a bit convoluted, comprising highwaymen, elopements, and even a murder. But of course, everything turns out right in the end!

Patricia Wynn, The Birth of Blue Satan — I read this book, the first in a series, a few years ago, but for some reason I didn’t continue with the series. Recently I decided I’d like to read book two, but I had to refresh my memory by rereading this one first. As a mystery novel, it’s not particularly strong — the solution basically comes out of nowhere — but I loved the period setting (1715! More novels about Jacobites, please!) and the main characters. I’m definitely looking forward to reading book two and seeing what happens next!

Mini-Reviews #11: December, part 1

I can’t believe it’s already New Year’s Eve…time to finish up those 2016 (mini) reviews before 2017 arrives!

skink-no-surrendersomebody-to-love

Carl Hiaasen, Skink: No Surrender — Teenager Richard teams up with the idiosyncratic Skink (former governor, current homeless eco-warrior) to find Richard’s missing cousin Malley. There’s no particular mystery about what happened to her, but the fun is in the journey, as rule-follower Richard finds his worldview enlarged by Skink’s more reckless lifestyle. Overall, while this isn’t really my kind of book, I did enjoy it and may read more by the author. I believe Skink is a recurring character in Hiaasen’s novels, and I’d like to know more of his backstory.

Kristan Higgins, Somebody to Love — Another light, charming contemporary romance from Kristan Higgins. Although most of her books are not serialized, this one borrows the location (and a few characters) from Catch of the Day, and it also features the couple from The Next Best Thing. Having read those two books, I enjoyed seeing how the various fictional worlds overlapped. That said, I don’t think you’d miss anything important if you haven’t read the other two books. I always enjoy Higgins’ books, but this one isn’t destined to be one of my favorites.

old-dogsenvious-casca

Donna Moore, Old Dogs — If you enjoy heist movies, you should definitely check out this book, which involves two priceless historical artifacts: solid gold dog statues. Main characters Letty and Dora are aging ex-hookers who hope to enjoy a lavish retirement by stealing the dogs from a museum exhibit. The trouble is, they’re not the only ones after the dogs…. While I didn’t find this one laugh-out-loud funny, it does include plenty of entertaining mishaps, mistaken identities, and mad schemes of vengeance. Definitely worth reading if the word “caper” appeals to you!

Georgette Heyer, Envious Casca — So far, I’ve found Heyer’s mysteries to be a bit hit-or-miss, but I think this is her best one yet! It’s an English country house murder set at Christmas. Of course, there’s a big family party, and of course, everyone has a reason to wish the estate’s owner dead. The novel is very well plotted, and the solution to the mystery is (in my opinion) utterly convincing. Even if you’ve tried another Heyer mystery and didn’t particularly like it, I’d urge you to give this one a try!

Top Ten Tuesday: Santa baby…

Top 10 TuesdayMerry Christmas, everyone! I’ll be honest: I know that Christmas is not about the presents, but I still like to receive them, especially if they’re books! Most of my family and friends don’t buy me books, oddly enough…maybe they figure I’ve already read whatever they might pick out? Anyway, here are 10 books I’d like to get from Santa, in no particular order:

1. Melissa McShane, Burning Bright — I heard about this book from inge87 at LibraryThing, who always has amazing recommendations! Also, it’s Regency-era fantasy, which we all know is my kryptonite.

2. Stephanie Scott, Alterations — I may have mentioned this one on a previous TTT list; it’s a YA contemporary retelling of Sabrina! So I obviously need to read it immediately.

3. Julian Fellowes, Belgravia — As a Downton Abbey fan despite the its many flaws, I’m very interested in reading Fellowes’s novel, which is set in the early 19th century.

4. Jessica Cluess, A Shadow Bright and Burning — Fantasy set in a school of magic in Victorian London? Romance, banter, and subversion of the “chosen one” trope? Yes, please!

5. Emma Mills, This Adventure Ends — I’ve already read this one, so technically I can wait for the paperback. But this book was so charming and good that I’m definitely going to need a copy for my own shelves!

6. Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, My Lady Jane — When I first saw this book, I frankly thought it looked awful. But then I started reading all the rave reviews, the praise of the humor and fantasy elements, the comparisons to The Princess Bride. I’ve been converted — I need to read this book!

7. Lindsey Kelk, We Were on a Break — After reading and loving two books by Lindsey Kelk, she is officially on my auto-buy list! Fans of British chick lit should definitely check her out.

8. Jane Thynne, Black Roses — Earlier this year I bought another book by Jane Thynne, only to realize that it was the third in a series! Black Roses is the first book, and it’s about a woman who becomes a spy among the Nazis in 1930s and ’40s Germany. I’m eager to read the series but definitely need to start at the beginning!

9. Rachel Bach, Honor’s Knight and Heaven’s Queen — This author also wrote a fantasy series under the name Rachel Aaron, which I LOVED. So of course I want to read her sci-fi trilogy also! I have book one but have been stubbornly waiting until I own all three books to read it.

10. William Ritter, Beastly Bones — I really liked Jackaby, a clever YA historical mystery with more than a few nods to Sherlock Holmes. I’ve been meaning to pick up the sequels for a while, so if Santa wants to leave them under the tree, I’d be fine with it! 🙂

What books are you hoping to receive this Christmas?