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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?

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.

Utterly charmed by this teen's diary

Diary of a Tokyo Teen: A Japanese-American Girl Travels to the Land of Trendy Fashion, High-Tech Toilets and Maid Cafes - Christine Mari Inzer

This graphic novel is totally charming! It’s a super fast read about Inzer going to Tokyo at 16 to reconnect with her family and heritage. I found her travelogue to be delightful, especially since I’d been to most of the places she describes. Wow, do I miss Japan.

 

Beyond that though, Diary reminded me of what it was like being a teenager and traveling in a culture that is familiar and yet not. She perfectly captured my memory of being somewhere (Italy, in my case) and thinking all the other teens were impossibly cool, while I was super awkward and everyone could see how I was faking any semblance of maturity or having a clue.

 

I really enjoyed seeing Japan through her eyes. If you love Japan, or even just want a fresh, fun glimpse into Japanese culture, pick this up.

 

Oh look! There's 4th book!

The Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander novel, continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series - David Lagercrantz

I need to to start by saying that I don’t generally continue with a series after the original author has passed away, because not once have I found the replacement to live up to the original. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments. That’s sort of the case here. Is this book as good as Stieg Larsson’s original trilogy? No. However, Lagercrantz does a commendable job writing these characters and achieving the tone and spirit of the previous 3 books. And let’s face it, who doesn’t want more Blomkvist and Salander?

 

Which brings me to my one gripe: there isn’t enough Lisbeth. I love that we’re returning to their pasts and that there is still so much in her history to be mined, I just wish she’d been in the books more. That’s probably the biggest downfall of Lagercrantz’ writing for me. Salander is not as richly realized as she was in Larsson’s capable hands. That said, if you want more of these characters and this world, pick it up. It’s an engrossing read. And if you haven’t yet read the original trilogy, by all means, start there. Then you’ll have four books to settle in with in these dreary winter months. Yay!

 

A reminder why Nora Roberts is the queen

The Obsession - Nora Roberts

The “who is behind this” mystery in the modern day portion of the story is not much of a mystery. Doesn’t matter because this isn’t a whodunnit. What does matter is that Roberts masterfully paints this world and then creates characters that are so compelling within it. Naomi is a photographer and all the descriptions are so cinematic and detail-oriented. It’s like Roberts herself had years of photography experience. What she does have is an innate ability to transport the reader into the specifics. The woman can write.

 

The romance is a long slow burn. These characters have issues, and in Naomi’s case, a hell of a personal history to get over. Again, the specificity of having this daughter of a serial killer avoiding getting close to people because of her fears over the “sins of the father” is heartbreaking. The connection with Xander feels so true, as does the dance they do, and the decisions they make. The serial killer thriller aspect adds the proper moodiness to an already moody corner of the world.

 

If you’ve never read one of her books, this is a good one to dive into, especially as it’s a standalone. If you haven’t read one in a while, well, now’s the time to pick one up again and be reminded of what earned this author her accolades.

The series that ruined me for all others

Captive Prince: Volume One - C.S. Pacat, S.U. Pacat

I’m not sure love is strong enough of a word to capture my feelings for the Captive Prince series. First off, let me say that despite my adoration of both fantasy and m/m romance, that between the cover and description, I still would never have picked this book up, thinking it was probably going to be earnest and over-wrought, had it not been highly recommended to me by someone I trust.

 

Pick. Up. This. Series.

 

This is a story of political power plays and king making and the level of strategy and counter strategy employed between Laurent and the Regent is dizzying. The intelligence and creativity with which Pacat wields this game playing, made Game of Thrones look like the junior leagues.

 

Then there is the writing itself, which is gorgeous and expressive, and always maintains the perfect tone and balance between detail, exposition, and inner thought. Our POV character is Damen, and he is a great character but I’m going to rave about Laurent because he may be the twistiest, most devious character I’ve come across in a long time and it was a delight to read him.

 

And then there is the sexual tension. Dear god, what a slow, delicious build. This is tension in the hands of a master and I bow low before her. A long, slow drag of tension that leaves the reader as build up, pent up, and longing for release as the characters. Seriously, I think I’m giving up writing now because after this level of brilliance, there is simply no point.

 

There is no dealing with middle book syndrome here. No feeling like book two is the filler while we wait to get to the good stuff. The Captive Prince trilogy all good stuff. Very very good, and trust me, darlings, you don’t want to miss out.

drag queens and hookers, oh my!

I Am Not Myself These Days: A Memoir - Josh Kilmer-Purcell

As hilarious as it tragic, I Am Not Myself These Days is not a read for everyone, but damn, did I love it. This is the story of a "drunk drag queen and a crackhead hooker in love". It's a memoir about misfits, about broken people, about connection, about identity, about hope, and yes, the glittering dream of NYC.

 

Josh, advertising art director by day and fabulous drag queen Aqua by night after night, recounts his time living these two distinct lives, and the very blurred lines between them, helped along by his alcoholism. In the midst of his quest to be NY's amateur drag queen du jour, he meets Jack, a male escort and so begins a tempestuous, highly dysfunctional romance.

 

The humour, like the situation, is savage. I found myself laughing out loud one moment and feeling my heart break the next. A phenomenal read.

Let me tell you how great this book is

Tell Me Three Things - Julie Buxbaum

I can’t stop crying and my heart is full of such joy. One of my top reads of the year. What I loved about this story is that in a book about loss, it is really about hope. Buxbaum deftly weaves comedy and tragedy, perfectly capturing not only teen voices but the experience of loss and grief. However, the book is funny and sweet and lovely.

 

One of the highest compliments I can pay this book is how real all the characters sound. From the first page, I was rooting for Jessie to be okay. It’s not an easy road that she has to travel, and what I loved about the journey is that each relationship is measured in the tiniest of fragile baby steps. That felt so right and true to me.

 

A one sitting read. And for those of you who have never dipped your toe in YA pool, pick up Tell Me Three Things and come on in, because the water is fine.

Try definitely succeeds

Try - Ella Frank

I'm trying to figure out exactly why a character that was so aggressive in his sexual pursuit of a straight man, so adamant in his refusal to take no for an answer, and so good at head games made me like him so much. The shallow reason is that Logan is incredibly charismatic and sexy. The deeper reason is that I really enjoyed watching the evolution of his character. The full force of his charm was heady, even as a reader.

 

I fell under his spell, and the story's as a result, and was happy to go wherever it led me, even if it wasn't necessarily that realistic. Not what I was reading this book for. I was in it for the explosive sexual chemistry, the steamy hot sexy times, the longing, the desire, the rush, and the burgeoning emotional connection between Tate and Logan.

 

For all my love of a good m/m romance, I'm not sure why this one hadn't crossed my path until now, but am very glad that it did. Will I read the next one in the series? Not sure yet but even though this wasn't a stand-alone (the ending is definitely cliff-hangery) I was pretty satisfied with it.

 

A fast read, a hot read, and a one sitting read. Settle in and make sure you won't be interrupted.

A new Santino Hassell book? Gimme!

Interborough - Santino Hassell

Santino Hassell could write a phone book and I'd be clamouring to get my hands on it. Seriously, he is now one of my fav m/m romances authors. Romance in general. I love Raymond and David and was thrilled to get to spend more time with them, tensely awaiting the resolution of their problems.

 

I have no complaints at all with the book, it's sexy, it's funny, it's heartbreaking - everything I've come to expect from Hassell. Really, the only reason its a 4 star read instead of 5 stars is simply my own personal preference for "getting together" stories vs "how are they doing" ones. Follow ups in general don't excite me as much. But that's on me. If you haven't yet discovered this author, start with book one. You won't regret it.

All hail The Raven King!

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, Book 4) - Maggie Stiefvater

Tension, elation, fear - my heart hurt reading The Raven King and I'm having trouble returning to my regular scheduled programming. Like I resent real life for intruding.

This was one of those books that I couldn't get through fast enough while wanting it to stretch on forever. And dear god, the feels! Stiefvater's writing is, in a word, gorgeous. Every word is chosen with such precise and care. Her world is so insanely evocative, the mythology is compelling, and then there are the characters. 

I don't know what I can say about our band of magicians and their king- Blue, Noah, Ronan, Adam, and Gansey. Though I must include Henry here as well. The thing about coming of age stories is that they come at the cost of a loss of innocence. There is so much loss in this book and yet so much hope. (Including a pairing that I shipped so damn hard.) Play "For Good" from Wicked because I kind of feel like those lyrics sum up this journey: "Who can say if I've been changed for the better?/ But because I knew you/I have been changed for good" Though I'd hazard to say they've been changed for the better as well.

There are zero things wrong with this book and it deserves multiple universes of stars.