Donna Reads: Beard Science (Winston Brothers, #3) by Penny Reid

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Beard Science by Penny ReidJennifer Sylvester has always been a bit of a joke, the town’s banana cake queen. Totally controlled by her parents, Jennifer has been told what to do, what to wear, what to say, and even what color to dye her hair. I felt sorry for Jen. She had no life. She was always baking for the family bakery, a job for which she was never paid. She had no life.

Cletus Winston is the Winston brother who is quirky and odd. His quirky, oddball facade covers his wily intelligence. Cletus plots and plans and there are reasons for everything he does. In the series thus far Cletus has been the Winston brother who’s been amusing and not much else. In this book we get to know Cletus and find out how smart he really is. He observes and collects information on everyone in town.

When Jennifer’s mother decides to make her daughter a television celebrity, Jennifer finally rebels. She turns to Cletus for help.

Jennifer was sweet and likable. I liked her growth over the course of the book. Cletus encourages her to change, and she sets out to find herself.

My only (minor) complaint with this book was that Cletus was a lot different from what I expected. He was almost simple in the other books. Here he comes off as shrewd and calculating. At times I had trouble reconciling him with the Cletus I knew and loved thus far in the series. He was more manly and romantic here, almost a different person. I liked him, but he wasn’t Cletus to me.

Donna Reads: Louder Than Love (Love & Steel, #1) by Jessica Topper

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Louder Than Love by Jessica TopperKatrina Lewis is a widowed mother. Grieving and lost when her husband died suddenly, she left her librarian job in New York City and returned to her childhood home in Lauder Lake where she’s spent the past three years just living her life. Her four year old daughter, Abbey, is a huge fan of a PBS children’s show about a cartoon detective cat, and the theme song is sung by a British musician. When Katrina decides to try to find the musician for a presentation at the small town’s library, she is surprised when he agrees to it and then shows up late and drunk. She’s even more surprised when he proceeds to charm the entire crowd.

Adrian Graves has a secret. He was once a world famous guitarist and part of a heavy metal band, but he’s run from that life. He spends his days hiding from life, a recluse. When he agrees to Katrina’s offer to sing and perform some silly songs from a children’s program, he never expects to find his way back to life again.

What I liked about this book:

1. That they were older. He was in his 40’s; she was mid 30’s.
2. Its sweetness. The love story is slow paced and slow to develop.
3. The little girl. Abbey was charming and never annoying.
4. The whole aging rockstar vibe was different and frankly, a welcome change.

What I didn’t care for:

1. Katrina’s friends. They were too high-schoolish and immature. I had trouble keeping track of who was who and/or caring. They weren’t integral to the story and some parts with them could’ve been edited out.
2. The whole no one knew who Adrian was thing. That got old. Her brother was a HUGE fan of the band. His old bedroom at Katrina’s parents’ house was covered with old band posters. Abbey was afraid of them. Somehow it escaped everyone’s notice who Adrian was? Come on. I’m not buying it. She would’ve recognized him immediately.
3. The fact that Adrian lived in New York City and no one noticed him. Then he steps on stage one time in one club, and he’s being chased down the street by rabid fans. That was a little far fetched, too.

Overall, I highly recommend this one, though. It’s a great but different rockstar romance.

Donna Reads: Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant, #1) by Ilona Andrews

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Iron and Magic by Ilona AndrewsI will state up front that I have never read the Kate Daniels series. I have the first several books, but for some reason at the time the first book didn’t hold my interest. Now I’m thinking maybe I should’ve read them, just because I liked this one so much.

I went into Iron and Magic not knowing anything about the characters, the history or the world they inhabit. I’m happy to state that this book stands alone. I didn’t need to have read any of the other books.

Hugh D’Ambray has been cast aside. Once a great warlord and leader of men, he’s broken and beaten. The story opens when his soldiers come to find him. Someone is killing off each of them, one by one, and they need Hugh.

Elara Harper is known as the white witch. She and her people have been driven out of one place after another. They have finally found a home, an abandoned castle they inhabit. Now someone wants the castle and the land, and they are determined to have it.

Hugh and his army are starving and need a home. Elara and her people need protection. To unite and present a cohesive front against a common enemy, they marry. It’s a marriage in name only, and they are constantly sniping at each other.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. I liked Hugh a lot. Elara was harder to get to know. When the book ends, we’re still up in the air as to exactly what Elara is. Even Hugh doesn’t know for sure.

The book is filled with vampires, necromancers, druids, witches and shapeshifters. Parts of it were gruesome but easily skimmed over. The romance part was a long time in coming and pretty brief, but I understand that’s typical of this husband-wife writing team.

I prefer more romance and less sci-fi/fantasy in my books, but it was still a great read. I look forward to the next book in the series. I wish I didn’t have to wait until 2019.

Donna Reads: Bad Rules (A Wild Minds Novel) by Charlotte West

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3AA1C408-8E00-4627-B2A4-B76197BD153BI was given an ARC by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

I love Charlotte West’s writing. Her books are usually an easy read for me with great dialogue and thoughtful character development. Her books are a must read for me. 

In Bad Rules (A Wild Minds Novel), Lily Phillips-Thomas, best friend of Addison Price, our heroine from Book One in the series, has been raised by nannies in lieu of her absentee parents, anthropologists who travel the globe. Lily and Addison at one point in the past followed Wild Minds, a rock band, across Europe, and Lily who was never shown love or tenderness by her parents, began to fall in love. Things didn’t work out, and she and Addison ran. In present day Addison is pregnant by her rock star husband and needs Lily to come with her on tour again, putting her in direct contact with her ex. Although this is a rock star romance there is little of the usual rock band part of the story. I forgot half the time what the hero’s “job” was. 

I never once connected with Lily. She was a feminist, and that’s all she was. She was so one dimensional. I got sick of hearing her spout her vitriol about feminism and smashing the patriarchy and blah, blah, blah. It got old. And what was up with the seventeen marriage proposals? Every guy who meets her within ten seconds wants to marry her even though she’s telling him he’s a pig and all men are jerks. We kept hearing how smart she was, yet she was so stupid. 

I get that she was abandoned and damaged by her idiotic parents, but why did she spend the entire book chasing after them still seeking their approval? Her mother was a true bitch yet Lily was just like her. Wouldn’t she have bent over backwards to distance herself from that nonsense? I didn’t “get” Lily at all. 

I loved that the hero, Asher did, however. He was crazy about her. I spent the entire book feeling sorry for this man. From the video he had playing on repeat on his phone while he slept, to the women he had visiting his hotel room and the reason why, to his telling Lily “I’m into whatever you’re into”. He was so obviously in love with her and destroyed by the fact that she couldn’t love him back that he turned to alcohol. He broke my heart. 

I would’ve loved to have had more of him in the story and less of Lily and her constantly interacting with other men. Ash deserved better. This read was worth it for me solely because of the hero.