Lone Star Round-Up: Round One

I’ve spent a long time struggling with how to review books I don’t like. Once upon a time I would gleefully rip them apart… but in my zeal I once admitted that it was cathartic to rip apart a book and was blasted for it.

I felt horrible after and stopped reviewing books that I didn’t like.

The problem with that is that people I care about would then buy those books and hate them as well and dammit, I could’ve prevented that if only I’d spoken up!

Then there’s the added pressure of reviewing ARCs. Do I release a bad review on release day? Do I zip my lip? Do I post it on goodreads and not the site?

Finally I came to a compromise with myself (and my conflicting guilts.) I would post my bad reviews once a quarter, sharing the bad, the worse, and the…

*clears throat*

These are in chronological order by date read, and you’ll notice that my criticism gets more pointed towards the end, when I ran out of fucks for bad books.


It’s funny, isn’t it? How when something is either really good or really bad it can be described in the same way.

“This book was just… jaw-dropping. I don’t even know where to begin in my review. I’m just blown away.”

See? It sounds like that’s good… doesn’t it? But it’s not.

Oh god, it’s not…


The Damned V. 1 Three Days Dead by Cullen Bunn

Synopsis: During prohibition, gangsters grew rich on our vices, and rivalries between criminal organizations resulted in open war. But unknown to the masses, a more sinister power controlled the crime cartels, using greed, gluttony, lust and other sins to fuel a more lucrative trade: mortal souls. Enter Eddie, a mortal who lost his soul long ago. Caught in the middle of competing demonic families, any other human would’ve gotten the ax long ago. But Eddie’s got a special talent that keeps him on his feet. One man’s curse is another man’s gift.

THE DAMNED is hard-boiled noir with demons, and the team behind THE SIXTH GUN is bringing it back with new colors, a new format, and a new ongoing tale of tommy guns and hellfir

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: So I enjoyed this book right up until the final panel, at which point I decided it was a vile piece of trash. Violence against women isn’t a convenient plot device. It’s not a shocking ending. Instead of recommending the book I’m forced to give it a giant thumb’s down. Do not recommend.

(The last panel has the main character’s former lover who betrayed him naked in a fetal position at the mercy of demons and we’re left to assume she has been raped and will be raped again.)

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Brass Automaton (Clockwork Tales, Book 1) by Mark Gardner, D. Paul Angel

Synopsis: A steampunk Terminator/Snow White mashup in novella form. 29,000 words – about 160 pages.

“This story happened when His Majesty was still a young man, a huntsman to be precise. It is the tale of a clockwork machine from the future, with a mission to terminate His Majesty to prevent him from meeting his future queen.” Jarvis paused for effect. “Then, she was known only as Snow White.”

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: At first, I marked the book as DNF, but then I felt bad so I kept reading…

While the idea had promise, in execution it ended up jumbled. The chapters seem to be trying to one-up each other and it leads to the story feeling very disjointed. I wasn’t even sure who the villain was supposed to be, and I’m very familiar with both snow white and the terminator. And then there were several moments where I thought for sure the authors hated women because they were just terrible. Simply fucking awful.

It was bizarre, and I’m afraid I cannot recommend it…

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


She Wolf by Sheri Lewis Wohl

Synopsis: For five centuries, Lily Avergne has hunted and destroyed preternatural creatures that prey on the unwary and the innocent. Vampires, werewolves, and witches all fall at her hands. Danger is her constant companion, and to keep her own secret safe, she dares not love another. Until now. Jayne Quarles takes her by surprise and touches her heart in a way no one has been able to do in five hundred years. Suddenly, what she fears the most may come to pass. The hunter becomes the hunted, and the love so newly discovered may be lost before it has a chance to bloom.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I was not a fan of this book. At first I thought it just was a meh title. Which led me to think long and hard about reviewing books that are just meh. Do I bother? I mean, it’s not like there was enough to warn people away from it…

Except that it repeated itself in places. Which, as we all know, is hella obnoxious. I know how you feel about outsiders in your small town. You told me in seven thousand words two chapters ago…

And there was the fact that occasionally the repetition contradicted itself, causing me to flip back those two chapters as I said “wait a minute…”

There are two romances featured, but both are handled poorly. I don’t for a second believe that Ava loves Kyle. Kyle feels more infatuated with Ava than in love with her. And by the time we got to Jayne and Lily I had stopped caring.

So this title wasn’t just meh. It didn’t leave me feeling nothing. I felt a lot of things, in retrospect, and none of them were good. I mean, the idea of the story was there, and the ending wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t worth it to read to that point…

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Royal Disaster (Royal Scandal #2) by Parker Swift

Synopsis: Dylan and Lydia’s story continues! “Emotional, intense and beyond sexy. Dylan Hale will light your panties on fire, not that you’ll be allowed to wear them anyway.” – New York Times bestselling author Helena Hunting
“He’s not who you think he is . . . “

Meeting Dylan Hale has turned my life upside down. I’m dating an actual duke who’s devastatingly handsome and deliciously naughty. On the surface, I’m living the high life. But this surreal world of royalty and paparazzi is getting out of control.

Someone knows way too much about Dylan and me-about the moments when we’re alone, about how his hands leave a trail of fire over my skin . . . about the complete control he has over me between the sheets. And worse, it’s starting to become clear that Dylan’s keeping secrets from me, too . . .

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Before I get into the review I wrote previously, can I just say my panties were never once on fire? Sorry, just saw the blurb again and had to point that out.

I only made it about 25% before I gave up. Life’s too short to read bad books…

Before I gave up, I noted that this book has a very similar feel to fifty shades. The writing was better than fifty shades, but it couldn’t hold my interest as well. (Which, ironically, kept my interest for another five percent or so. How can it be better and yet not at the same time?)

In the end, it was the misogyny and slut shaming that got me. I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time for that bullshit anymore. I don’t have time for bad BDSM practices, “we have to get you waxed again,” using someone else for a physical release, or being upset about your partner’s previous partners. From either party.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Breakwater by Catherine Jones Payne

Synopsis: A red tide is rising.

Jade, a seventeen-year-old mermaid in the underwater city of Thessalonike, finds her world upended when her fiancé murders a naiad. As tensions surge between the mer and the naiads, Jade must navigate murky waters, negotiating her responsibilities as the daughter of one of the king’s most trusted advisors and her budding friendship with a naiad. But as she tries to fight the tide of anger in a city that lives for scandal, she discovers that danger lurks in every canal. If she fails to mend the divisions between their worlds, the upwelling of hate will threaten to rip apart everything she loves.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: What the fuck did I just read? I mean, it was compelling enough to keep me flipping the pages in the hopes it would get better… but… it didn’t. It moved too quickly in places, jumping from point to point so rapidly the story stuttered. In other areas it dragged.

And I cannot unpack the idea that this is a white savior story wrapped up in a mermaid’s tale (get it) because that’s not my lane. But every time the character mentioned her casual racism, the overt racism that wasn’t called out, the “saviors” blaming the naiads, and the slave trade of naiads… I felt sick. And if my lily white ass feels sick to my stomach over the racial injustice, you’d better believe a POC would be offended as fuck…

I just cannot even with Jade. With her martyr complex and self-importance. And then the way she meets the character we’re introduced to halfway through the book that she purportedly loves but treats like shit and then pushes away before the cliff hanger I literally no longer cared about because Jesus fuck I cannot even.

I cannot even.

My even cannot.

I can’t even fix any grammatical or spelling errors here. It’s just… save me from your white savior storyline and please stop ruining mermaids for me.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Brimstone Bride by Barbara J. Hancock

Synopsis: Stranger, Seductress or His Salvation?

One hundred years ago, Adam Turov, master of Nightingale Vineyards, bartered his soul for freedom from the Order of Samuel and their Rogue daemon allies. But he didn’t know true damnation until Victoria D’Arcy crossed the billionaire vintner’s threshold… Sworn to protect her, Adam must resist with every fiber of his being a voice that sounds like an angel singing and her potent charm.

An unwilling pawn of the Order, Victoria must betray Adam to save her young son. Yet the more time she spends at his estate on her clandestine mission, the harder it becomes to deny the Brimstone heat scorching a path of desire between them…

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: The novel was circular, repetitive, and the characters lacked any real depth. By the time they started to develop into actual people, I’d lost interest in the novel. So while it had an interesting concept, it needed some serious editing to polish the prose. Give it a pass. Life is too short for mediocre books.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Hard Stick: A Breakaway Novel by L.P. Dover

Synopsis: He carries a big stick. And he’s not afraid to use it.

On the ice, I’m Kellan Carter, powerhouse enforcer for the Charlotte Strikers. Off the ice, I’m just a regular guy. The last thing I want is to get mobbed by a bunch of groupies who are only after me for my fame and money. My ideal woman knows how to enjoy a little good, clean fun—and maybe some not-so-clean fun too. That’s the kind of girl I’d never let go.

When Kristen Robinson, the gorgeous, down-to-earth bartender I’ve been crushing on, agrees to let me take her out, I’m thrilled. We have an amazing night together, culminating in the most electrifying kiss of my life—and that’s it. Kristen tells me we can’t see each other again, but I know that kiss meant as much to her as it did to me. What I don’t know is that Kristen has a dangerous secret. . . .

I’ve proved to Kristen that she can trust me with her body and her heart. But when her past comes back to haunt her, I need to prove that she can trust me with her life. And I might have to get my hands dirty after all.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I… uh… I couldn’t actually finish the book. Because:

• clunky and poorly constructed prose
• sexual assault that’s ignored
• eye-rolling plot lines
• sneer-inducing murders
• that’s not how hockey works
• tired cliches
• and finally more bad prose…

all by 20%

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Seduced by the Tide by Sean Michael

Synopsis: Meet the Beteferoce brothers. Five dragon shifters, each with a strong elemental power. And each with a fierce desire to find his soul mate…

Deke has yet to meet a man who gives him a rush. Coast Guard rescue has kept the dragon shifter busy, but there’s no harder work than finding a mate. Then comes Bryan. Bearded and inked, the personal trainer turned mechanic smells of grease, sweat and red meat. How irresistibly human can you get? And when it comes to hot, slamming sex, they’re the perfect fit. Now all Deke has to do is to tell Bryan what he really is, and what he has planned for them.

Bryan has never met anyone like Deke, a consuming lover with a body so arousing it damn near hurts. And he knows how to use every inch of it. Yet he can’t shake the feeling that Deke is hiding something. Just not this—the stud he’s falling for is a centuries-old dragon who has marked him as a mate.

Bryan has to admit that something inside him is changing. For the first time ever, he’s satisfied, body and soul. If Deke really is telling the truth, this could be his destiny—if he’s ready to face it.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I was nervous from the first page when one character thought he was “sweating like a whore in church” and when the prose remained clunky and repetitive I gave the book a hard pass.

Life is too short for poorly written books…

(addendum: I still feel a little nauseated thinking of this title. The couple from the previous book kind of melts into a puddle of sticky sweet goo all over each other. Both dragons act like chest pounding alphas without higher brain functions. Just… no, bro. No.)

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Semper Fi Cowboy by Heather Long

Synopsis: A Leatherneck by any other name can still kick ass, which is just what retired United States Marine Corps Captain Tanner Wilks plans to do when he returns to his Texas family ranch to care for his ailing father. And nothing will stop him from achieving his mission—not even a lithe, brown-eyed town veterinarian who seems hell-bent on driving him wild.

Captain Tanner Wilks, honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps, returns home to find his father struggling after his latest heart attack. Worse yet, Julia Heller—the sexy new girl in town that he once spent a hot night with—is the resident veterinarian who’s made a home for herself at Round Top ranch, and doesn’t seem to be in a rush to repeat their time together.

It falls on Tanner’s shoulders to take on the ranch and keep an eye on his father before he falls victim to another heart attack. But Julia doesn’t appreciate Tanner coming in or pursuing her. Even if he’s hot as hell and can make her quiver with just a look. Ousting her may give Tanner the leverage he needs to corral his father, but first he has to wrestle with his own heart.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: God save me from alpha assholes…

It wasn’t a terrible title, it just wasn’t very good either. The prose was clunky and the pacing was off. The characters were wishy-washy in places, stating the same circular arguments over and over.

We get it. You don’t date ranchers but can’t resist this rancher but you should but you can’t… You’ve said it. A million times. Stop wasting words. Same goes for you Mr. I feel bad about not giving her options but in the next sentence, I’m going to make demands without giving her options.

There were also moments of internalized misogyny, but I don’t have the time or energy to unpack that.

Life’s too short to spend on mediocre books…

(addendum: holy shit, I’ve typed that a fuck ton in the past six months…)

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Scandalous Ever After by Theresa Romain

Synopsis: Does love really heal all wounds?

After being widowed by a steeplechase accident in Ireland, Lady Kate Whelan abandons the turf. But once her mourning is complete, her late husband’s debts drive her to seek help in Newmarket amidst the whirl of a race meet. There she encounters antiquities expert Evan Rhys, her late husband’s roguish friend—whom she hasn’t seen since the day of his lordship’s mysterious death.

Now that fate has reunited them, Evan seizes the chance to win over the woman he’s always loved. But once back within the old stone walls of Whelan House, long-held secrets come to light that shake up everything Kate thought she knew about her marriage. Now she wonders who she can trust with her heart—and Evan must decide between love and a truth that will separate him from all his heart desires.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: While it wasn’t a bad book, it wasn’t precisely a good book either. And I blame the word count. Had I been an editor for this novel, it would have been dripping with red ink by the time I was done. Not because of errors, but there were so many superfluous words. So many words.

Why are there so many words?

Honestly, a good fifty pages could’ve been cut and it would’ve been just fine. I wouldn’t have such heavy eyelids. I might care a bit more about the story…

Because in the end, those extra words sapped my energy. I couldn’t manage to care about Kate and Evan. There were just so many of the same words repeated over and over until it finally mattered and Evan abruptly changed tack and then they all changed right back for happily ever after.

So while the ending itself was cute and full of hope and more mystery, I just… *yawn* …I need a nap.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Lip Action by Virna DePaul

Synopsis: Marissa

Appearance is everything to my upper-crust mother, but when she insists I take back my pedigreed-but-cheating ex? I’d rather stab myself with a salad fork. So I blurt out I’m dating someone new. Someone like…that smoking-hot, vaguely familiar guy across the restaurant, who could be the next James Bond.

Turns out he’s the star of my favorite, cheesy, sci-fi soap opera. (Don’t judge me.) One minute I’m fantasizing about Borg and his green-hued abs. The next, Simon Dale is making me an offer my sex-starved body can’t refuse.

Simon

I’m up for a breakout movie role that’ll launch me off the B-list, but I don’t need a script to read the scene between Marissa and her mum. Even though I’m a London gutter rat who never rubbed elbows with a Royal, I easily slip into the role of Marissa’s doting boyfriend. Why? I need a favor in return— a steady girlfriend, just long enough to convince the producers I’ve changed my wild ways.

Trouble is, I’m going all Method on this relationship—and close to losing the one thing that could break me. My heart.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Secret relationship is one of my favorite tropes, but bad writing ruins that here. I wanted to give it to 20% to give it a fair shake, but once it switched to Simon’s POV I couldn’t. I was too busy throwing up in my mouth. Alpha assholes are bad enough without being poorly written on top of it.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Train Wreck by Elise Faber

Synopsis: train wreck
noun

1. A chaotic or disastrous situation.
2. An utter catastrophe or mess.
3. A devastating calamity or source of trouble.
4. Pepper O’Brien.
As the daughter of a famed film producer, Pepper O’Brien is Hollywood royalty.

Also, her life sucks.

Because, unfortunately for her, the old adage is true: money can’t buy everything—including grace, true love, or the ability to not screw up every single opportunity her life has brought her.

After her latest disaster, Pepper moves across the country to start over but, as usual, her life has other plans, namely in the form of Derek Cashette, her former teenage crush and now ridiculously handsome friend of her older brother.

Derek is determined to salvage the train wreck of her life and Pepper’s determined not to let him. Her life is her problem and, dammit, why can’t she be her own hero?

But sometimes fate has other plans. Or maybe it’s hormones. Especially when her rescuer comes with a killer smile, a chest Thor would be jealous of, and a butt that any girl just wants to—

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Had this novel been written five years ago, it would’ve been a perfect piece of romantic fiction. The characters had depth, the prose was solid, everything was golden… until the pacing started to drag. Entire sections could have been removed. Then there were the “not like other girl” comments and the mentions of “man cards” and just…

Listen, academically the book is fine… a little long winded, but fine. I just don’t have any time in my life for internalized misogyny in my fiction. It’s 2017, do better.

(I actually got to the end, and it’s absurd. Also, you should feel ashamed for maligning sharks like that)

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Resilient A True Brothers MC Novel by Gillian Archer

Synopsis: Every loner needs a family—and a heart to call home—as a strong, silent type shows the right woman that he can speak the language of love.

“The sexy, alluring bad boys of the True Brothers MC will make your mouth water.”—New York Times bestselling author Heidi McLaughlin

With her lowlife father in prison for manslaughter, Nicole Walker keeps her distance from the biker scene—until she meets the stud running security at her best friend’s wedding. “Tank” is big, mean, and trouble from every direction. Yet Nicole can’t take her eyes off his chiseled body, or deny the pure electricity she feels when he returns her gaze. Guys like Tank are supposed to be a one-way ride to heartbreak. So why, after a scorching night in his bed, does Nicole only want more?

From his tour in the Marines to his sister’s disastrous marriage, Tank has seen the worst that life has to offer. Ever since his father’s death, Tank’s been fiercely protective of his family—and the True Brothers have always had his back. But nothing could prepare him for a woman like Nicole, who’s determined to break down the walls around his heart. When violence strikes, placing Nicole in harm’s way, Tank digs deep to find the courage to keep her safe—and the strength to love without limits.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I should have known from page one… On the very first page of the prologue, the main romantic love interest describes his usual casual sex partners as “club pass-around girls.” I threw up in my mouth…

Let me make one thing clear: I have no problem with casual sex. Just as long as people are respectful of their partners. Even in their own head. The way Tank described his partners is not respectful.

I don’t have time in my life to read books about misogynistic (ableist, racist, homophobic, etc) male leads. Even if terms of a redemption arc. I wanted to chuck the book because of this misogynistic language, but I went over to Goodreads to see what other people were saying. Skimming I didn’t find anyone calling out the misogyny, so I figured this was just a one-time slip-up.

It’s okay, we all make mistakes. Mine, in this case, was not trusting my gut.

You see, the misogyny was not a one-time thing. Every time the men were together, they were calling each other pussies, ladies, or insinuating that someone had grown a vagina for talking about their feelings.

This is misogyny.

And before you say “but Ginny, it’s a book about an MC. What were you expecting?” just save us all the time and don’t. For starters, that’s maligning all bikers by assuming they’re all assholes. Secondly, how can we expect an end to the patriarchy in real life we can’t even write it in our romantic fiction?

How can we expect an end to toxic masculinity if we’re giving a pass to all heroes that are bikers, billionaires, SEALs, Marines, cowboys, cops, and other assorted “real men”?

If we continue to ignore our own internalized misogyny and the allow the misogyny of other women to shape our fantasies, we’re protecting the status quo. We’re damning our daughters.

It’s twenty-fucking-seventeen. Do better.

(FWIW: The plot line wasn’t terrible. I couldn’t stand Nicole’s friends… I feel like if you’ve spent 20 years being someone’s bud you don’t suddenly decide they’re too bitchy. You maybe ask why they’re so violently opposed to the men in your life.

I don’t feel like Tank and Nicole actually fell in love. Not to say they couldn’t… just show your work. A few bouts of sex and some late night talking does not a relationship make.

Tank’s sister was a bitch… actually, all the women were kind of horrible to each other. How much internalized misogyny can we have in one book?

And fuck the emotional climax of the book. Fuck it right in it’s ear. You dump all this patriarchy on me and then you *spoiler removed*? Really? That’s how you’re gonna play this?)

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin

Synopsis: Mitchell Morrison and Josie Sedgwick have spent their whole lives at the Indian Paintbrush Community Village, a commune full of colorful characters tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, and they aren’t particularly close–at least, not anymore. Josie wishes she could spend all of her time at Paintbrush planting tomatoes, hiking the trails, or throwing giant communal birthday parties, while Mitchell can’t wait to escape the bizarre spiritual sharing and noisy community dinners. Luckily for both of them, high school graduation is just around the corner.

But when Mitchell’s mother makes a scandalous announcement that rocks the close-knit Paintbrush community, and Josie’s younger sister starts to make some dangerously bad decisions, the two find themselves leaning on each other for support – and looking at each other in a whole new light. Their childhood friendship blossoms in to something more as they deal with their insane families, but as graduation approaches, so does life in the real world, forcing Josie and Mitchell to figure out what, exactly, their relationship is – and if it can survive their very different plans for the future.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: It’s cute… I’ll give you that. Adorable, sweet, a light easy read with some heavy family drama. But…

Josie isn’t like other girls…

And I’m done with a book the second it dips a toe into the ~*~Special!Girl~*~ trope.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


The Dragon’s Price (A Transference Novel) by Bethany Wiggins

Synopsis: Fans of Julie Kagawa’s Talon and Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn will devour this action-packed fantasy adventure about a girl who chooses to surrender herself to a deadly dragon rather than marry an enemy prince.

When two warring kingdoms unified against a deadly menace laying waste to both their lands, they had to make a choice: vow to marry their heirs to one another, or forfeit their lives to the dragon.

Centuries later, everyone expects the sheltered princess Sorrowlynn to choose the barbarian prince over the fire-breathing beast—everyone, that is, except Sorrow, who is determined to control her own destiny or die trying.

As she is lowered into the dragon’s chamber, she assumes her life is over until Golmarr, the young prince she just spurned, follows her with the hopes of being her hero and slaying the dragon. But the dragon has a different plan. . . .

If the dragon wins, it will be freed from the spell that has bound it to the cave for centuries. If Sorrow or Golmarr vanquish the dragon, the victor will gain its treasure and escape the cave beneath the mountain. But what exactly is the dragon hiding?

There are no safe havens for Sorrow or Golmarr—not even with each other—and the stakes couldn’t be higher as they risk everything to protect their kingdom.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Let’s just start off with the largest problem, shall we?

The main character repeatedly calls people from the other kingdom “barbarians” and “savages.” When we’re really lucky she calls them “savage barbarians.”

Right there, the book is disqualified. If you cannot grasp how calling people with tanned skin and dark hair this is offensive, we should just part ways now.

But I kept reading…

The main character is a sixteen-year-old girl who was rarely allowed out of her rooms, yet somehow was able to kill a dragon, save the savage barbarian warrior prince she falls in love with, go on an epic journey, and win the love and respect of the entire court of … well, she doesn’t call them names anymore because they were nice to her…

The story had a few continuity errors, the characters didn’t always act consistently, and it was just… It was disappointing. Because it was obvious that the author was going for a whole Daenerys Targaryen, but it fell way short.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


The Library of Light and Shadow by M. J. Rose

Synopsis: In this riveting and richly drawn novel from “one of the master storytellers of historical fiction” (New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams), a talented young artist flees New York for Paris after one of her scandalous drawings reveals a dark secret—and triggers a terrible tragedy.

In the wake of a dark and brutal World War, the glitz and glamour of 1925 Manhattan shine like a beacon for the high society set, desperate to keep their gaze firmly fixed to the future. But Delphine Duplessi sees more than most. At a time in her career when she could easily be unknown and penniless, like so many of her classmates from L’École des Beaux Arts, in America she has gained notoriety for her stunning “shadow portraits” that frequently expose her subjects’ most scandalous secrets. Most nights Delphine doesn’t mind that her gift has become mere entertainment—a party trick—for the fashionable crowd.

Then, on a snowy night in February, in a penthouse high above Fifth Avenue, Delphine’s mystical talent leads to a tragedy between two brothers. Devastated and disconsolate, Delphine renounces her gift and returns to her old life in the south of France where Picasso, Matisse, and the Fitzgeralds are summering. There, Delphine is thrust into recapturing the past. First by her charismatic twin brother and business manager Sebastian who attempts to cajole her back to work and into co-dependence, then by the world famous opera singer Emma Calvé, who is obsessed with the writings of the fourteenth-century alchemist Nicolas Flamel. And finally by her ex-lover Mathieu, who is determined to lure her back into his arms, unaware of the danger that led Delphine to flee Paris for New York five years before.

Trapped in an ancient chateau where hidden knowledge lurks in the shadows, Delphine questions everything and everyone she loves the most—her art, her magick, her family, and Mathieu—in an effort to accept them as the gifts they are. Only there can she shed her fear of loving and living with her eyes wide open.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I’ve always heard wonderful things about M.J. Rose and so I went into this book with high expectations. I should no better than that by now because it always bites me in the end.

While Rose’s prose is flawless, the story simply did not resonate with me. I found it hard to engage with the characters, sections dragged, and I found myself losing interest in the story. I clung to hope for the romance, but even that felt off. Though it could be that by the time it finally rolled around I’d lost interest.

So while the book has a beautiful backdrop of New York and France in the 1920s and exquisite prose, it was not for me. Sample before you buy.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Misconduct: Birmingham Rebels by Samantha Kane

Synopsis: The Birmingham Rebels play both sides of the field, proving that the hottest action isn’t always in the arena.

Rookie running back Tom Kelly loves the perks of football stardom. Men, women—there’s no shortage of companionship for a pro athlete who’s hot, young, and willing, and Tom is definitely willing. But deep down he wants a committed three-way relationship, especially if the female in the middle is Carmina de la Cruz. The undeniably sexy Army veteran may not say much, but her body speaks loud and clear.

After a traumatic tour in Afghanistan, Carmina is struggling to regain her speech and rebuild her life. More than anything, she wants to feel like a woman again. Tom may be a wholesome All-American, but he knows just how she needs to be touched—and he’s not the only Rebel who arouses her interest. With his scorching intensity, Tom’s best friend leaves her wondering if two players might be better than one.

Danny Smith is no stranger to his team’s kinky reputation. He gave in to temptation once, but he’s not going down that road again. Sure, Carmina’s curves promise pleasure, but her eyes guarantee it comes with baggage—and Danny has enough of his own. Still, giving up control can feel so good. And when it comes to everything Danny craves, Carmina and Tom make the perfect team.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I only made it as far as chapter two before I hit this gem:

Okay… lemme break this down:
• Gay sex isn’t forbidden and titillating. It’s not a fetish for you to exploit for bored white women who want to read scandalous fiction
• I am married to a straight cisgendered allosexual man. We’re monogamous. And yet, this is a bi relationship because I am bisexual. That’s what makes a bi relationship. That’s it. I also do bi grocery shopping and do bi laundry and have bi sex because I’m bisexual… (pansexual, actually, but still…)
• What this character is looking for is a relationship with two partners who are also involved with each other. A form of polyamory I refer to as a triad, though it’s probably wrong. (See previous: monogamist.)
• But this character specifically wants a man and a woman so he can continue fucking pussy and ass. Making the most important characteristic in potential life partners their genitals. Something that is not only gross (I am more than my vagina, thank you) but transphobic as fuck.

So I won’t be reading anymore of this book. To do so would not only be a colossal waste of my time but risk further bouts of having to swallow down rage.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


One More Kiss by Samantha Chase

Synopsis: Matt Reed was living the dream until a bad career move sends him back to his hometown for much-needed privacy. Instead, he finds someone he never expected: the woman whose steamy kiss he remembers like it was yesterday.

Vivienne Forrester finally has her life in order… until Matt moves back to town. She doesn’t want to think about the time she threw caution to the wind with him, but running into him everywhere, it’s impossible not to…

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: well… now I understand what the term “bored to tears” means…

I couldn’t really tell you what happened other than a mislabeling of OCD near the beginning and a kiss so earth shaking Matt totally forgot he’d seen Viv only two years before and he let her be hauled out by security.

It was just… *yawn*…

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Ensnared by Rita Stradling

Synopsis: A Near Future Retelling of Beauty and the Beast

Alainn’s father is not a bad man. He’s a genius and an inventor. When he’s hired to create the robot Rose, Alainn knows taking the money is a mistake.

Rose acts like a human. She looks exactly like Alainn. But, something in her comes out wrong.

To save her father from a five year prison sentence, Alainn takes Rose’s place. She says goodbye to the sun and goes to live in a tower no human is allowed to enter. She becomes the prisoner of a man no human is allowed to see.

Believing that a life of servitude lies ahead, Alainn finds a very different fate awaits her in the company of the strange, scarred recluse.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Lorcan has a girlfriend. Lorcan and Alainn kiss anyway. But it doesn’t count because he doesn’t see his girlfriend irl…?

Newsflash. It counts. Your hero is a cheating cheater who cheats and your heroine is someone who pursues a man even though he’s in a relationship. While I acknowledge that this happens irl, it’s not something I want to read about being glorified in a romance novel.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Elisha Mancer by E.C. Ambrose

Synopsis: Elisha Mancer is the fourth novel in the Dark Apostle historical fantasy series set in an alternate 14th-century Europe.

Elisha was once a skilled barber-surgeon, but healing is no longer his finest art. After discovering his exceptional potential for a singularly deadly magic, Elisha has slain a king, stopped a war, and even had the regency thrust upon his own commoner’s head until he could rescue the true heir, Thomas. With Thomas back on the throne of England, Elisha must now work on his king’s behalf to fight an even greater threat than civil war: the specter of the necromancers, a shadowy cabal that has already corrupted priests and princes, and that may have even grander, darker plans.

Elisha travels to the continent to warn England’s allies of the mancer threat, as well as to discover the full extent of the mancers’ plans. But it soon becomes clear that if he is to have any hope of stopping those plans from coming to fruition, he must forge new alliances in unexpected places—as well as embrace the terrifying magical abilities in his possession, a move he fears will make him into just the kind of man he strives against.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I much start this review with two important facts.
• I did not realize this was the fourth book in the series when I requested it.
• I am agnostic. (In the sense that I believe there is probably a higher power, but instead of worrying about what form it takes I just try to lead as good a life as I can.)

Alright, let’s begin.

I had no idea what was going on. This supposed pacifist is on a boat contemplating how the king is married to his brother’s widow who is pregnant with the main character’s baby but in a coma and so his child may be the future king of England and he’s the king’s friend but didn’t mention this fact and oh yeah, she’s in a coma because he put her there when she blamed him for trying to burn her and…

*blinks*

Just when I felt like I started to have a grasp on the plot… the antisemitism started. And while I feel like I should be fair and state it wasn’t the main character being antisemitic, that doesn’t mean it was chill. It was so pervasive in the text that I lost all interest in continuing. I’m certainly not going to go back to start from the beginning. Which is too bad, because it had an interesting concept. I just…

Listen, as I said before I am agnostic. Even if I wasn’t, my family is Catholic going back generations. Since I’m not Jewish I cannot offer a complete breakdown on this representation and its harm. It’s not my lane. I can tell you that as a neutral third party, it made me extremely uncomfortable and for that reason- amongst others- I cannot recommend it.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Locked in Temptation by Brenda Jackson

Synopsis: His job is to protect her…no matter the cost

Police detective Joy Ingram’s connection to elite security expert Stonewall Courson is instant. Undeniable. Electric. But her commitment to protect and serve has always come first. Everything else is secondary—especially when she uncovers an underground surrogate baby-making ring. Joy can’t risk a distraction during the most important case of her career, not even one as sexy as reformed ex-con Stonewall.

There are few things Stonewall values more than a strong woman. But when Joy’s investigation draws her into a deadly conspiracy that goes deeper than she ever imagined, he must convince her that he’s the best man to protect her. And while he puts his life on the line to save hers, the insatiable attraction between them becomes the one danger neither of them can escape.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I’ve always heard good things about Brenda Jackson so when the chance came to review her work, I took it. The thing is, it’s a lot wordier than I like my romance. It felt bogged down by how much text there was surrounding the key bits of the story and I was unable to finish it.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks

Synopsis: From the brilliant imagination of Kerrelyn Sparks comes a bold new fantasy romance series in which passion and magic collide. Behold the Embraced…

As one of the Embraced—one born with magical powers—the beautiful, innocent Luciana escaped certain death after her father hid her away on the Isle of Moon. Now, nineteen years later, her father has returned with a frightening request. He will be executed unless Luciana returns to the mainland and marries a man feared throughout the land: a terrifying brute known as the Beast.

Luciana accepts her fate and agrees to wed the Beast—Lord Leo—in order to save her father. Soon she learns that her betrothed is also one of the Embraced. With the ability to wield lightning, Leo’s immense power strikes fear into the hearts of men. . .and his mere touch can put an end to a woman’s life. But Luciana cannot deny the passion that burns between them. How can she resist the man who scorches her soul and makes her feel intoxicated with desire—even if surrendering to him could destroy them both?

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: The pacing of this book felt a bit like pushing a snowball up a hill. At first, it wasn’t so bad. After all, I enjoy a slow burn as much as the next girl. Then the snowball started to get heavier and heavier. Finally, you reached the apex and…

The plot went racing out of control in a rush to cram way too much in before reaching the finish line. There was just a lot to take in. Especially once I reached 75% and the pretty enjoyable story had ghosts threatening to rape first the main character if she died and then the small boy ghost that came to help her.

And then there were half a dozen or more major plot points combined with all the sex in the world… because our snowball had snowballed out of control.

So while it was pretty fun and engaging, I disconnected at the rape threat and stayed disconnected as it spun out of control. Which was too bad, because I was sort of hoping we’d get a book about Brody at some point.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Cross Check A Bayard Hockey Novel by Kelly Jamieson

Synopsis: A party girl and a clean-cut college hockey player discover that they’re not so different in this sexy, soulful Bayard Hockey novel from the bestselling author of Shut Out and the Heller Brothers series.

Ella Verran has three goals this semester: get off academic probation, repair her relationship with her friend Skylar, and take some responsibility for her life. All of which are hard enough without hot, snobby hockey player Ben Buckingham around to distract her. Ella can’t stand Ben, and she knows the feeling is mutual. But he’s best friends with Skylar’s boyfriend, so he’s always around—taunting and tempting Ella in ways she never thought possible.

As the star forward of the Bayard College hockey team, Ben has goals too, like playing well enough to land a spot on an NHL roster. Ben is perfectly poised on the ice, so why can’t he keep his cool around Ella? Her wild behavior rubs him in all the wrong ways—and a few of the right ones. But as they skate around each other, Ben learns that there’s more to Ella than her bad reputation. And when the line between love and hate starts to blur, he can’t resist crossing over and sweeping her off her feet.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: So imagine that a high school peer outreach group decided to write a book on depression and slut shaming and produce their own play to show their school at an assembly.

That’s what this book is.

There are long swaths of dialogue without prose to fill in the spaces. They keep saying slut shaming is bad but bring it up once a chapter at least. They handle it poorly when they do. They don’t have a firm grasp on mental illness.

Let me break here for one second: HAVING A MENTAL ILLNESS DOES NOT TURN YOU INTO A RAPIST.

They don’t handle rape culture well. They fetishize gay sex. They don’t stop their friends from being misogynistic toolboxes. They are misogynistic toolboxes. They like the Buffalo Sabres.

And all with disjointed and clunky writing.

Was there an editor for this book? It certain as fuck didn’t feel like it.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Tougher in Texas by Kari Lynn Dell

Synopsis: He’s got five rules
And she’s aiming to break them all

Rodeo producer Cole Jacobs has his hands full running Jacobs Livestock. He can’t afford to lose a single cowboy, so when Cousin Violet offers to send along a more-than-capable replacement, he’s got no choice but to accept. He expects a grizzled Texas good ol’ boy.

He gets Shawnee Pickett.

Wild and outspoken, ruthlessly self-reliant, Shawnee’s not looking for anything but a good time. It doesn’t matter how quickly the tall, dark and intense cowboy gets under her skin-Cole deserves something real, and Shawnee can’t promise him forever. Life’s got a way of kicking her in the teeth, and she’s got her bags packed before tragedy can knock her down. Too bad Cole’s not the type to give up when the going gets tough…

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: There are times when I wonder if I’m looking for reasons to dislike books. Then they include trans-exclusionary text where they equate genitals to gender. Or they talk about the autistic male romantic lead as if it’s such a miracle he’s so normal. Or they say that he puts the ass in Asperger’s. Or they use infertility as this deep dark secret and then use that as the motivation to end the relationship. Or they try to convince you that the guy in his early twenties is actually in love with a sixteen-year-old and isn’t it sad they had to split up…

And I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry. This shit isn’t acceptable anymore. Autism and infertility aren’t just dramatic plot points you can throw into your book. They’re real issues that affect real people. They don’t need you throwing stereotypes around and adding to their stigma. Even if you had the best intentions… they weren’t handled well. It’s 2017, do fucking better.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson

Synopsis: Gork isn’t like the other dragons at WarWings Military Academy. He has a gigantic heart, two-inch horns, and an occasional problem with fainting. His nickname is Weak Sauce and his Will to Power ranking is Snacklicious—the lowest in his class. But he is determined not to let any of this hold him back as he embarks on the most important mission of his life: tonight, on the eve of his high school graduation, he must ask a female dragon to be his queen. If she says yes, they’ll go off to conquer a foreign planet together. If she says no, Gork becomes a slave.

Vying with Jocks, Nerds, Mutants, and Multi-Dimensioners to find his mate, Gork encounters an unforgettable cast of friends and foes, including Dr. Terrible, the mad scientist; Fribby, a robot dragon obsessed with death; and Metheldra, a healer specializing in acupuncture with swords. But finally it is Gork’s biggest perceived weakness, his huge heart, that will guide him through his epic quest and help him reach his ultimate destination: planet Earth.

A love story, a fantasy, and a coming-of-age story, Gork the Teenage Dragon is a wildly comic, beautifully imagined, and deeply heartfelt debut novel that shows us just how human a dragon can be.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: So Gork hatches from an egg on Earth after his parents crashed there and died. He’s alone until the ship (an organic sentient one that is, of course, female) comes back online and helps raise him. Until age three. When his grandfather shows up. Gramps threatens the ship, smashes a hole in her walls, rips out her heart, and crushes it in his fist in front of Gork and I throw up.

6% in, and not off to a great start.

Then there’s a lot of pressure on mating and talking about women with banging bodies and a startling level of casual violence and cannibalism. By 20% I was already done. I flipped to the end to learn that it turns out basically like I expected…

I know other reviewers praised the world building in this book, but where? What world building? The heart crushing in front of a child? The misogyny? The violence and cannibalism? The use of shitty prose in the name of humor?

Just… no.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


The Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo

Synopsis: Chin up, Princess, or the crown will slip.

A theme park princess must put her life back together after her happily ever after falls apart in this contemporary YA romance from Karole Cozzo, author of How to Keep Rolling After a Fall and How to Say I Love You Out Loud.

Everything was supposed to be perfect. Alyssa has a job she loves, working as Cinderella at her favorite theme park; a fantastic group of friends; and a boyfriend who will no longer be long distance. But as the summer progresses, her prince becomes less charming and more distant, and Alyssa’s perfect summer falls apart.

Forced to acknowledge that life is not always a fairy tale, Alyssa starts working to pull her herself back together. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to do it alone. With her friend Miller’s support, she’s determined to prove that she’s more than just a pretty princess. And with his help, maybe she’s finally ready for something better than dreams. Maybe she’s ready for something real.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: So I know that at 56% in (give or take) Cinderella claims not to have an eating disorder (Miller asks) but when page one she’s calculating the calories burned in all her workouts week to date in her mind so she can figure out if she can afford to eat the fancy dinner she’s making for her obviously cheating boyfriend and turning her back on a loaf of bread?

That’s an eating disorder, yo.

There is also internalized misogyny including girls insulting other girls looks, for not being girlie enough, for being too girlie, and giving men a pass for being shitty as fuck…

Because that’s how guys are.

I just… I just can’t even with this anymore. I’m too tired for this bullshit.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.


The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

Synopsis: They say it’s not the fall that kills you.

For Josette Dupre, the Corps’ first female airship captain, it might just be a bullet in the back.

On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat, a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. Bernat’s own secret assignment is to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision.

So when the enemy makes an unprecedented move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself?

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: The story had real promise. If it wasn’t for the fact that every character hated women…

See, the whole point of the book is that men don’t want women in the armed forces. The female POV did something amazing off camera before the book started and got her own command direct from the crown because of it. The General takes offense and sets about bringing her down by installing his nephew as a spy on the ship. He’s our male POV.

Now, if this was a story about overcoming misogyny, that would’ve been one thing. It wasn’t, though. Instead, the bulk of the book was spent hating women. The men hated the women. The women hated the women. The inanimate objects hated the women. Everyone hates women.

Until at a certain point it just stops being mentioned because: battle.

One the captain has to win or she’ll be shipped off to some backwoods outpost that needs Quartermasters and “whores.” Apparently, the army can’t just order you to fuck. So, you know, institutionalized rape.

And while we’re on sex as a weapon… I’m not sure if the male POV fucks the female POV’s mother. It’s heavily implied that he does and he does not confirm or deny. He does have a history of bedding older women, though. Now don’t get me wrong, sex is great. I try to be sex positive as much as possible. But fucking the mother of a woman you’re trying to get fired and have an antagonistic relationship with… makes it feel like this was just another way to stick it to her.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

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