REVIEW: Bringing Down the Duke – Evie Dunmore

Title: Bringing Down the Duke (A League of Extraordinary Women #1)
Author: Evie Dunmore
Rating: ★★★★½

Another historical romance written by a debut author that absolutely thrilled me! Bringing Down the Duke had me hooked from the beginning and it was nothing short of a fun, page-turning story.  

What is this book about? Annabelle Archer, a poor vicar’s daughter, earns entrance to Oxford on a scholarship. However, in return for the scholarship she must join the women’s suffragist movement and she’s tasked with gaining the support of the Duke of Montgomery.

What did I like? There’s so much to praise about this book. The wonderful characters, the simmering attraction between Annabelle and Sebastian, the witty banter and humorous writing. Everything came together perfectly to create this very compelling story. The relationship that develops between Annabelle and Sebastian was amazing. The author did a fantastic job writing the tension and passion between the two of them and I really loved how they overcame the obstacles of their love.

What didn’t I like? I’m having such a hard time trying to think of something I didn’t like.

Overall thoughts: Bringing Down the Duke was a fun, delightful read about a bluestocking heroine with strong convictions and the duke she finds herself falling for. Everything about this debut novel was perfect and I really recommend this story for fans of historical romance!

ARC REVIEW: The Kingdom of Back – Marie Lu

34213299Title: The Kingdom of Back
Author: Marie Lu
Rating: ★★★½

ARC received through #booksfortrade on Twitter.

“And then one night you realize that you have given him so much of yourself that you are nothing but the curtsy and the smile and the quiet. That you are nothing.”

What is this book about? The synopsis is definitely a bit misleading (at least to me). I was expecting a fantasy story with musical aspects something along the veins of Wintersong. However, The Kingdom of Back is a historical fiction focused on the bond between siblings with some fantasy elements mixed in. The book follows the Nannerl Mozart and her relationship with her brother as they discover and cultivate their prodigious musical talents together.

What did I like? I’m a big enough person to admit that prior to this book, I was unaware of Wolfgang Mozart’s equally talented sister, Nannerl. Once I had read up about her on Wikipedia, I was able to better appreciate Marie Lu’s story. She gave such an important voice to Nannerl and I loved how true to history the book’s events were. Even the mention of the Kingdom of Back was really well done and did a great job giving insight to the possible thoughts and emotions Nannerl might have had about her success and place in the world compared to her brother’s.

What didn’t I like? The Kingdom of Back was a lot slower paced and longer than I had anticipated. Because it was lacking in action and focused more on Nannerl’s inner monologue, I struggled to push through parts of the book.

Overall thoughts: The Kingdom of Back was a totally different type of story than I had been expecting: the book is more historical fiction than fantasy. Marie Lu’s lyrical writing focuses on music and sibling love, however the book’s slower pace and lack of action failed to keep my attention.

REVIEW: Husband Material – Emily Belden (ARC)

42867745._SY475_Title: Husband Material
Author: Emily Belden
Rating: DNF @ 58%

ARC provided by the publisher through Netgalley. 

Unfortunately, I had to call it quits shortly after the halfway mark. I skimmed quite a few parts from the remainder of the book, so I have a fairly good idea of what happens and I’m sorry to say that had I finished it, my final opinion would have been just as bad.

What is this book about? Husband Material follows our protagonist, Charlotte, a widow who lost her husband five years ago from a freak accident. She’s made a new life for herself in LA, however, a misfortunate event causes the ashes of her deceased husband to appear at her front door five years later, along with the reappearance of his best friend. Do not let the fact that this book keeps showing up under the romance genre; Husband Material is a not a feel-good, lighthearted romance novel. I sort of feel like I misled in that aspect? Instead, the story is about grief, secrets, and forgiveness.

What did I like? Charlotte was a pretty decent character. I really felt for her throughout the story and the incredible circumstances she’s had to overcome.

What didn’t I like? The first issue I had was the overly descriptive writing. There were so many unnecessary specifics and I felt like the author kept name-dropping expensive brands just for the sake of it. A lot of time in the book was spent describing every little detail of the book and characters; I don’t need to know the color, type, and label of the pajamas the character was wearing – just say she was in pajamas in move on!

The “love interest” – if you could even call him that – was terrible. There was absolutely zero chemistry between him and Charlotte and I could not for the life of me even figure out why she would be with him or even like him?? There were hardly any genuine moments of tension or buildup between the two of them to convince me of any kind of feelings. Not to mention that he is a thief and a liar and a terrible person!! The title of this book is ironic because he is most decidedly NOT husband material.

Overall thoughts: Husband Material has been marketed as a romance book and so I was expecting an entirely different kind of novel. Regardless, between the overly descriptive writing and the horrible “love interest” this was not something I wanted to continue to read and ended up quitting halfway.

REVIEW: 10 Blind Dates – Ashley Elston

43885673Title: 10 Blind Dates
Author: Ashly Elston
Rating: ★★★½

10 Blind Dates is an absolutely delightful book sure to give readers warm and fuzzy feelings. The foundation of this story is family, friendships, and rediscovering yourself. This book is perfect for anyone who enjoys watching those heartwarming, wholesome holiday movies on the Hallmark channel!

My favorite thing about 10 Blind Dates is the large, extended family of the protagonist, Sophie. As someone who comes from a very large Italian family, it was really easy to understand how important the holidays were to Sophie and the chaos that comes with many relations all under the same roof. Growing up, Christmas Eve was always my favorite day and it was amazing to get the same feeling of nostalgia and comfort from these pages.

The blind dates Sophie’s family puts her up to and the betting chart that accompanied the schedule was so fun! You can definitely feel some of the second-hand embarrassment she must have felt being put on the spot by her family. And the main romance that develops was really cute and well-written!

Overall, 10 Blind Dates is a light, heartwarming story about family and friendships perfect for the winter holidays coming up. I definitely recommend this for anyone who enjoys stories full of cheer and happy endings!

REVIEW: Relic – Bronwyn Eley (ARC)

46218744._SY475_.jpgTitle: Relic (The Relic Trilogy: Book 1)
Author: Bronwyn Eley
Rating: ★★★½

ARC provided by the publisher.

Relic is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy that is sure to impress many readers, myself included. With a strong heroine, excellent worldbuilding, and a very interesting premise, this was one heck of an entertaining story!

The premise of Relic felt really unique and fascinating, which is what originally drew me to the story. The book follows our protagonist, Kaylan, who has been chosen to be the next shadow: a personal servant to the Lord whom basically absorbs all the negative energy and pain given off by their magical relic. The worldbuilding present in the Relic was truly excellent. It was so easy to understand how the world worked without feeling confused or overwhelmed. Bronwyn Eley did a great job with placing the necessary pieces into the story and avoiding any information dumping.

I found Kaylan to be an excellent heroine! She was smart, caring, and resilient. Family and friendships mean a lot to her and are a central part of the story. She showed a lot of grit and determination in trying to solve her predicament, unwilling to simply roll over and accept her fate. I also thought she was very astute and made good decisions. For instance, when learning about a rebellion brewing, rather than joining forces with them straight away, she makes note of the negative consequences that rebelling could have on citizens. I loved that aspect! In many YA books, the hero/heroine jump ship to the rebels without even stopping to think if they were truly any better, or to at least weigh the pros/cons first. Bronwyn Eley excelled with that part of the book.

Overall, I thought Relic was a great debut fantasy book! I really enjoyed the main character and the premise of the story. This is the first book in a trilogy and I look forward to seeing what happens next!