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tellulahdarling

Tellulah Darling

Tellulah Darling writes YA & New Adult romantic comedy because her first kiss sucked and she's compensating.

Sassy girls. Swoony boys. What could go wrong?

Hockey m/m romance book crack

Breakaway - Avon Gale

I would rather stick hot needles in my eyes than watch any kind of team sports, so the fact that I love love love hockey romances, especially m/m ones, is a mystery to me. I blame it on some kind of hard-wired Canadianness.

 

My favourite m/m hockey romances are written by Sarina Bowen, so when she recommended Avon Gale's romances, I knew I'd be checking them out.

 

Lane is the best. First off, he's Canadian, which yay! But he's so socially awkward. This kid just does not have a filter button, which I love, and yet he makes everyone want to both hug him and punch him at the same time. I don't know how Gale pulled this character off, but she did it brilliantly.

 

Jared is about 11 years older than Lane. The veteran player. I usually cringe at this age gap, but again, it worked and I totally rooted for them. Both of them are at very different places in terms of their sexual identities and experience and Gale really brought a genuineness to her exploration of that.

 

There's not a lot of worry about what will happen with Lane and Jared. They get together quite soon on and it's more going along for the ride in their relationship than nail biting "will they overcome all these horrible things and finally get an HEA."

 

Breakaway is a totally satisfying standalone but I bet that like me, you'll be buying book 2 as soon as you're finished. I'm almost done that one as well, and yeah. Just as good.

The White Hot sizzle of Ilona Andrews' magic

White Hot - Ilona Andrews

White Hot was worth every second of the wait. The second book in a trilogy can be tricky because it can feel like filler for the final showdown. That does not happen with a master like Ilona Andrews. If there is a gold medal podium for urban fantasy authors, this husband and wife writing team are standing on it.

 

I tend to go on at length when discussing Andrews about her incredible world building skills, but come on. Her mythologies are fascinating, original (not an easy feat in the crowded UF market) and have me flipping the pages to learn more just as much as her characters do.

 

And speaking of characters, the MC Nevada, is a joy to read. What I love most about her is not, shockingly, her snark or kick-ass abilities, it's how close she is with her family. From the get go there is this mutual love and respect with all the members of her extended family. And she never has Too Stupid To Live moments. When she does keep things from them, I understand why, and honestly, most of the time, she's upfront about everything.

 

Then there's Mad Rogan. Can I honestly say I'm crushing on a psychopath with off-the-charts magic power? Why yes, yes I can. See, the thing is, Rogan is a product of his environment and in Andrews' hands we are exposed to not just Mad Rogan the monster and the legend, but Connor, the man. My heart broke in several places during this second book as we develop a whole new understanding of him.

 

I basically put my evening on hold and devoured this next installation, and it is with great relief that I only have to wait a couple of months for the finale instead of 2.5 years. But again, I know it will be worth it.

I had a Strange and wondrous dream

Strange the Dreamer - Laini Taylor

Taylor is one of those authors whose writing is so lush and evocative and gorgeous, that I sit there wondering why I bother to tell stories and Strange the Dreamer is no exception. I loved the world of Weep so damn much. It's classic storytelling, using a ton of archetypes and mythology/fairy tale tropes, which in the hands of someone as skilled as Taylor feel fresh and unique.

 

I know this is frustrating, but I kind of don't want to tell you anything about it. I didn't know anything beyond the synopsis and I think that's the best way to go into this. (Along with the realization that it's just book 1.) Lazlo is a fabulous character, I adored the blue-skinned goddess, and really, there's not a boring person in the bunch. It's fitting how they all have their personal demons, yet there is so much light and wonder with these characters.

 

You will laugh, you will sob, it's truly epic storytelling.

 

So, yeah, I'm going to be totally coy but trust me: let the secrets of Weep unveil themselves to you, page by page. Don't read other reviews. But absolutely read this book.

Sad I could only read this for the first time once

Black Iris - Leah Raeder

Confession time. The only reason I read this book was because I was at the library, it was sitting there on the shelf at eye level and I was facing a bookless bus ride home. To say my enthusiasm for diving in to this story that I'd so actively opted not to read so many times was low, would be generous.

 

Hi. I'm Tellulah Darling and I'm an idiot. I don't know what my problem was because I'd read Raeder's Unteachable about a student/teacher relationship and if (I'm going to refer to the author as Elliot Wake now because he has transitioned), he could get me fully onboard with that subject matter and loving that book, my reticence here was a mystery. Wait - no it's not because I just re-read the synopsis and I thought it was every NA that I was tired of reading.

 

Oh, how wrong I was.

 

Black Iris is stupendous! I read it in about 3 hours, ignoring my entire family to do so. Dark, haunting, twisted, sublime, lush, this book has taken root in my brain and I suspect it will be a long time before I stop thinking about it. Where I expected it to zig, it zagged, when I was sure I understood a character, a bombshell was dropped on me. I couldn't set my smug reader expectations on this book and it was fabulous.

Take a primal revenge story, birth it in the devastation of mental illness, wrap it in several layers of sexual identity and heartbreaking homophobia and then shine it to a high gloss with the brittle beauty of Laney and Blythe. This book nails every single dizzying element. So don't be like me, go read it immediately, and bow before Wake's writing prowess.

A must-read thriller

Emma in the Night - Wendy   Walker

I'm fascinated by narcissism in its psychological disorder sense, not the "vain" way it's commonly used. It's a condition that leaves a legacy of abuse, so combined with the hook of this child who disappeared coming back, I couldn't wait to dive in.

 

I couldn't flip the pages fast enough to watch this story unwind. Cass is an unreliable narrator with an murky agenda that I couldn't wait to decipher. Like Abby, the forensic psychiatrist, I kept trying to sort the nuggets of truth from this spiderweb of a tale.

 

Heartbreaking, enthralling, and a definite must-read, if you enjoy getting lost in a thriller, you'll want to pick up Emma in the Night. I got an ARC so you'll have to wait until August 8, but trust me, the wait will be worth it.

 

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Never been so surprised to like a book so much

Time Served - Julianna Keyes

I get the Smart Bitches Trashy Books newsletter (as many of us do), and Time Served was advertised as being on sale. That first sentence of the synopsis just hooked me and I like second chance romances so decided to buy it. In full disclosure, there were several elements in this story that made me deeply uncomfortable including revenge sex and a desire to humiliate the female main character. That is normally not anything I have any desire to read.

 

But I have to give Keyes a lot of credit, she not only kept me reading, I felt like she found a way in to both her romantic leads to make this situation believable. The fact that the MC was also questioning her choices around this guy helped. I was uncomfortable but I was completely engaged and on this erotic ride until the end.

 

Not only did I enjoy the tangled web of emotions and baggage, but Rachel is a lawyer and I really enjoyed the storyline around her professional goals. It didn't always go the way I expected it to, which was nice. The entire book was a really pleasant surprise and I'm happy to recommend it to all of you.

I got my grabby hands on the latest Santino Hassell

Concourse - Santino Hassell

 

I'm a self-admitted junkie for anything Santino Hassell writes. And I get it. My expectations of brilliance are a lot to put on a guy who's already given me both Michael & Nunzio, and David & Raymond. But geez, Hassell, it's your fault for creating these fine and foxy couples who give me all the feels.

 

Ash and Val were good. And if this had been my first Santino rodeo, it may have merited 5 stars. But, they only get 4. Sorry, boys. Still a damn fine read. Just, you know, Not MNDR level.

 

Thanks to NetGalley and Riptide Publishing for a chance to read in exchange for an honest review.

A great and beautiful drift

A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki

This is a story about drift. Drift in the sense of ocean currents that wash artifacts up on a distant shore. Drift in the sense of our lives, as we bob along, hopefully keeping our heads above the waves but sometimes finding it easier to let ourselves sink down to the bottom. And I think that the best headspace to read this book in, is to allow yourself to drift through the story.

 

It is a story that winds the lives of our two narrators, calling into question the role of reader and storyteller by way of quantum physics and Buddhism. Curious? Confused? Either you'll really get into A Tale for the Time Being, or it won't be your cup of tea. I suspect that fellow Murakami lovers will enjoy the existential nature of it.

 

So I'm not going to tell you any more. I'm not going to dissect character or give you more plot than you already have. Get comfortable, open it, take a deep breath, and plunge.

NOOOO! DON"T END!

A Conjuring of Light - V E Schwab

At the moment, I'm a broken puddle of feels, writing this through drying tears. THIS SERIES WAS SOOOO GOOD! Let's break it down, shall we?

 

Incredible mythology featuring alternate Londons? Check!

 

Cross-dressing thief, pirate, and magician who is the female I want to be in my fictional (yes, okay, and real) life? Check!

 

Two princely brothers bound so fiercely by their ties, yet so fascinating and amazing, with such different journeys? Check!

 

Gorgeous, sumptuous writing that is, with the slightest turn of phrase, so evocative or dryly funny? Check!

 

Adventure after adventure that leaves your heart pounding and your fingers flipping the pages as fast as you can read? Check!

 

And then there are the love stories... *swoons*

 

If you love the Raven Cycle, and really, what's not to love, you need to treat yourself and dive into this trilogy. I promise you will love this just as much. 

Fall down the rabbit hole with The Mirage

The Mirage - Matt Ruff

Ruff’s first novel Fool on the Hill is one of my favourite all-time books while his Bad Monkeysis an acid trip of a read. (In a good way.) But I wasn’t sure how The Mirage would land. Well, he did a brilliant job. I love books featuring alternate histories or even just alternate cities. Ruff took the events and major players of 9/11 and created this mirror world version. It’s still the same events and the same major players yet he cleverly and chillingly re-interprets their role and positions in this world.

 

Our main character Mustafa al Baghdadi is a good cop trying to do the best he can in a post 11/9 world (Yes, you read that right.) He can’t figure out though, why sometimes he seems to suffer from a type of vertigo: a feeling like this world is not quite real. There are his feelings of camaraderie with total strangers and glimpses of a city with Baghdad’s familiar twin towers.

 

This political thriller is a fascinating look into this tragedy and absolutely part of the hook is seeing where these familiar figures, whether Arab or American, end up in this version. For all the fun of the high-concept, it was really the core characters that made this novel shine for me, because ultimately, it’s the story of people trying to make sense of a horrific event. Trying to understand hate and greed, struggling with oppression–be it religious, sexual, or gender-based, struggling with loss, and figuring out how to live in accordance with their faith and moral codes.

 

If you like The Man in the High Castle, you’ll really enjoy this.

Sexy sweet m/m romance does the trick

Gone for You (Wild Side Book 1) - Riley Hart

For the second week it's friends to lovers here on Curl Up. I'm such a sucker for these stories, probably because that's the path of my personal love story. Also, dense people who finally wise up about THE ONE who's been right before their eyes all these years are delightful to read about when done well.

 

Hart does this very well. Oliver and Matt have been best friends forever and forever is exactly how long Oliver has been in love with Matt. Here's the key to a great friends to lovers story: we have to root for the friendship beyond anything. Sure the sexytimes is fun but the HEA is specific to these two because they are so great as friends and we can see how that friendship would form the basis of a brilliant romantic relationship. Note: this is not true of all friends. Not every pair needs to be shipped, people.

 

Oliver and Matt are perfectly imperfect and imperfectly perfect for each other. I have to say, it was a bit more angsty then I generally go for. I usually prefer the books that are rife with smart (smartass?) banter. This shocks you darlings, I know. But Gone for You was a one sitting read for me and I'm going to happily check out the other books in this series.

Two for two in HR with Marquess

When a Marquess Loves a Woman: The Season's Original Series - Vivienne Lorret

I love friends to lovers stories so friends to enemies to lovers is even better! Plus it's a second chance romance. This story is just so delicious. It's sly and wicked and sexy and so so much fun. Max and Juliet are smart characters and that comes out in their constant push/pull of banter and oneupmanship. They are the best of adversaries and wow, do sparks fly.

 

I like the fact that Juliet is a widow. I like these historical heroines who have a bit more freedom to engage in a sexual liaison and are old enough to perhaps know what they want. Perhaps.

 

Fighting disguised as foreplay. What's not to love?

Breaking my HR slump

Sinful Scottish Laird (The Highland Grooms) - Julia London

You know when you love a certain type of book but you feel like you’ve read all the good ones because everything else of that type that you pick up leaves you meh and tossing it aside unfinished? That’s been me and historical romance for a while. Which was sad because HR is one of my favourite types of romance.

 

Then this book popped up. I looked at the title, looked at the author, sent up a small wish to the book gods that it would be good and wouldn’t you know it, my prayers were answered! If you’ve ever read a Julia London book, you know to expect great banter, sizzling tension and hot sexy times. Again, lots of HR novels have those, I needed to fall in love with the characters. Daisy and Cailean gave me what I needed. First of all, it was such a joy to read about a woman who embraced her sexual desire. Who wanted to feel passion and yup, just have sex. Obviously, she’s a widow because we couldn’t have a “young miss” in this time period behave this way, but even widowed characters don’t often show the same degree of enjoying their sexuality as Daisy.

 

Cailean hit all those wonderful hot Scottish Laird tropes but he was also so delightfully unrepentant about so much of himself even while he battled his own issues. The two of them lit up the pages. This is a devour it in one-sitting read.

 

Thank you to NetGalley and HQN Books for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

You'll never think about WMD the same way again

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy - Cathy O'Neil

Weapons of Math Destruction is a fascinating – and terrifying – read. I love titles that work on many levels and this one is brilliant. Brilliant pun and yet incredibly relevant once you start reading about the damage these mathematic models are doing to society in all areas from the justice system to education to consumer profiling.

 

These models, used in all walks of life, supposedly to streamline or enhance an area are built with inherent biases, resulting in incredible damage to many people, often the most marginalized among us. And because there is no transparency in how these models are determined or even, in many cases, an awareness that people are being modelled, there are no opportunities to push back. Even those that do demand accountability tend to be dismissed because, well, the model has spoken, and is taken as the word of God.

 

I had no idea how widely or how perniciously these models are being employed. This is a very important book that I think all us of should be reading. I appreciate how O’Neil lays these concepts out in an easy-to-follow manner, with plenty of real-world examples. Plus, she gets into the ethics of this kind of data mining and possible ways it could be used for good. It makes for an engaging read. I don’t read non-fiction all that often but this was one of those books like Freakonomics or The Brain That Changes Itself that will stay with me for a long time.

Feversong ends with a bang

Feversong: A Fever Novel - Karen Marie Moning

Let me recap my feelings for the other books in this series:

 

Books 1-5: Brilliant! The series could have ended there and it would have been perfection.

 

Book 6: Some rather large WTF moments.

 

Book 7: Just nope.

 

Book 8: Back on the love train! Wheeeee!

 

Book 9: Exceedingly doubtful for first few chapters, then turning pages faster and faster, sobbing my eyes out towards the end, and finishing up with a giant smile on my face as I pressed the book to my heart.

 

For those of you who have yet to pick up this series, I can’t stress doing so enough. Even with the books 6&7 mishaps. This is a brilliant urban fantasy series set against a fascinating and original mythology of fae, Dublin, and other things that go bump in the night. Then for our main character, we have MacKayla Lane, on the hunt to find out who murdered her sister, and about to have a hell of a coming-of-age story. (She’s in her early twenties and this all takes place over 1 year.)

 

Next up, is the enigmatic Jericho Barrons, my (note the possessive because I will hurt you) book boyfriend, who keeps her on edge even as he pushes her to be more, do more and generally annoys the crap out of her but always has her back. Or does he? Mwah-ha-ha.

 

There isn’t a dud secondary character in the batch. And actually the death that hit me hardest in book 9 was a character who started out as relatively minor.

 

Eminently satisfying. There will be many re-reads in my future.

5 brilliant books and done!

Etched in Bone  - Anne Bishop

You know how with a lot of series, the last book is all about the big battle, and then there’s only a small section of emotional wrap up? Not here, baby! The big picture stuff was pretty well resolved in book four, leaving Bishop free to go back to the core relationships in the Lakeside Courtyard. And since I love these characters beyond belief, I was a very happy camper.

 

Yes, there is still peril to the Meg, humanity and the smaller shifters, but the focus stays on our main cast. The world building in this series is brilliant, the characters, both human and shifter are treated with poignancy and heart. They experience such aching growth and the interpersonal dynamics and romance will have you longing for more.