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Book Review: The Scandalous Vixen by Tracy Sumner

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"The Scandalous Vixen" by Tracy Sumner (cover)
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Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Duchess Society #2
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: In this enemies-to-lovers Regency romance by award-winning author Tracy Sumner, a bold lady and a ruthless duke realize they need to agree to an ardent alliance to get what they want.

He knew at first sight.
She knew at first kiss.

Helena Astley, Lady Hell to the ton, has plans. To control her father’s shipping business, to live her way, by her rules. Her plan is going remarkably well until one ill-advised kiss invites the duke she doesn’t want but cannot resist into her life.

Hardnosed Roan Darlington, Duke of Leighton, cares little for society or finding a duchess. The only person ever to challenge him is the incorrigible, infuriating Helena Astley. The one woman he’s never been able to forget. When they’re caught in a ruinous situation, Roan offers her an alternative. A sham engagement she can break off after Christmas.

As they discover a world of forbidden pleasure, Helena must decide if she can relinquish a heart she vowed to withhold from the only man powerful enough to seize it.

And Roan must decide if falling madly, passionately in love is worth the risk.

 

REVIEW: Another exciting read from Tracy Sumner! An enemy-to-lovers romance was the perfect addition to the The Duchess Society series.

Book two was more toned down than the previous, but still sensual, thrilling, and had lots of pining. You have a reluctant, defiant duke and one helluva businesswoman constantly competing or at each other’s throats while simultaneously longing for the other. How enchanting!

Helena is very independent and a caregiver, proudly living life as she pleases while managing her father’s shipping business. But beneath her steel exterior is a vulnerability that keeps her on the outside looking in.

Roan is a charismatic nerd who loves archaeology. I loved when he would go off on nerdy tangents. He protects his heart by surrounding himself with a chosen family. Being unmarried and on the outside of society suits him just fine. It was love at first sight for this caring, intelligent man. He becomes smitten, a goner, unable to stay away from the firestorm that is Helena Astley.

I loved Roan and Helena together. They have more in common than they think. Both don’t fit in with society’s expectations, leaving them to feel not good enough for society or love. To compensate, they live life on their own terms. Even after a falling out ten years ago they can’t seem to stay away from each other, immensely attracted yet unable to properly show it.

Spending the Christmas holiday together allows their relationship to grow, but also forces them to confront the reasons why they’ve always fiercely guarded their hearts. Then it becomes a question of who they will be and what they’re willing to risk if at all for love.

I liked reuniting with characters from past books who helped elevate this story. Pippa – Roan’s little sister – and Theodosia – Helena’s younger half-sister – were so delightful. And I loved all of Xander’s parts in this story because he’s such a roguish charmer and complex character with a mysterious, deep-seeded hatred of the ton. I’m even more excited to read his story in book three.

I really loved The Scandalous Vixen. It was an entertaining, romantic, and pleasant read.


More by Tracy Sumner

The Duchess Society
The Brazen Bluestocking (#1)


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Book Review: Pete the Cat and the Supercool Science Fair by Kimberly Dean and James Dean

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"Pete the Cat and the Supercool Science Fair" by Kimberly Dean and James Deam (cover)
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Genre: Picture Book
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: In Pete the Cat’s Supercool Science Fair from New York Times bestselling author-illustrator team Kimberly and James Dean, Pete the Cat and his friends are excited to build the coolest volcano ever for their school’s science fair.

After a few unexpected mishaps, the team is finally ready. Yet after seeing their other classmates’creations, they can’t help but wonder: is their volcano good enough to win first place?

Thankfully, Pete has a sparkly surprise up his sleeve!

 

REVIEW: This was a simple and pleasant read! Pete is excited for the science fair on Friday and getting the chance to be a scientist. His group – Pete, Gus, Squirrel, and Callie – decides to build a volcano.

Pete and his friends do a good job demonstrating teamwork and how good scientists conduct an experiment. The story also inspires creative thinking and makes you want to do a science experiment too. Readers are bound to enjoy this supercool story as well.


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Book Review: A Griffin for Christmas by Zoe Chant

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"A Griffin for Christmas" by Zoe Chant (cover)
Image via Goodreads

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Shifters for Christmas #1
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: A curvy animal rescue worker who hates the holiday season…
A hot shifter cop who never takes a day off…
Together, can they overcome the danger that threatens their merry Christmas?

Emilia Lopez has hated the holiday season ever since she got her heart broken on Christmas Eve. Now, she relies only on herself as she cares for the rescue dogs she’s taken in. There’s no room in her busy life for anyone else – until the hottest guy she’s ever seen crashes through her shed roof in the middle of a snowstorm.

As an agent of the elite Shifter Patrol Corps, griffin shifter Rowan Stanton doesn’t take days off. How can he, when there are shifter criminals to bring to justice? But in hot pursuit of his latest foe, a raging snowstorm and an unfortunate encounter with a roof send him tumbling into the arms of the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen… who just happens to be his fated mate.

Sizzling attraction flares into white-hot romance – but with a dangerous criminal closing in, how can Rowan protect the stubbornly independent Emilia? He might have destroyed her shed, but can he break down the walls she’s built around her heart?

 

REVIEW: This was a fun, shifter romance read! Right away, I liked the unexpected circumstances that brought Rowan and Emilia together at just the right time. Though both are dedicated to their jobs, the instant attraction can’t be dissuaded and soon the two find themselves conflicted.

Rowan is adamant about recapturing an escaped criminal. As much as he rejoices in finding his fated mate he doesn’t know how to tell her about himself and his world or if his life would put her in danger. Emilia is not feeling the Christmas spirit and wants nothing to do with love so she can focus on finding animals a loving forever home. But she can’t deny how much Rowan seemingly fits in her life.

These were not the best criminals as I’m pretty sure a few Criminal 101 rules were broken in a ridiculous but amusing way. But I liked how level-headed and helpful Emilia was when danger came calling and the suspense still made the story enjoyable.

I loved that Emilia rescues all kinds of animals and that her home is filled with them (goals!). It was so cute how taken with Rowan her fur babies were. I loved Rowan’s backstory of what led him to become a Shifter Patrol Corps member. It rounded out his character and made me love him even more. And I really loved the scenes where Rowan and Emilia were getting to know each other, especially since Rowan doesn’t know much about human customs like Christmas.

Short and enjoyable, A Griffin for Christmas left me wanting more (in a good way), so I can’t wait to read the rest of this series and more of Zoe Chant’s backlisted titles.


More by Zoe Chant

Fire & Rescue Shifters: Wildfire Crew
Wildfire Griffin (#1)

Shifters for Christmas
A Dragon for Christmas (#2)


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Book Review: Line Mates & Study Dates by Eden Finley & Saxon James

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"Line Mates & Study Dates" by Eden Finley & Saxon James (cover)
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Genre: New Adult, Sports Romance
Series: CU Hockey #4
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: ASHER

Hockey, studying, and school runs. That’s my life now.

After a tragic accident that took our parents’ lives, it’s up to me and my big brother to take care of our five younger siblings.

In between burning their meals and keeping them from killing each other, I’m supposed to get a college degree. It’s hard when I don’t have time to breathe let alone study, and if I don’t get my grades up, I’m in danger of losing the one thing that makes me happy: my spot on the hockey team.

Which is why when the new equipment manager offers to tutor me, I really can’t afford to say no. Even though I should.

He’s Coach’s son and way too tempting.

KOLE

As this year’s equipment manager for Dad’s hockey team, I’m expected to deal with sweaty jock straps and herding hockey players to their rooms at away games.

The job is easy, but babysitting Asher Dalton is not supposed to be a part of it.

So why, when his brother asks me to keep an eye on him, do I agree?

Why, when he’s struggling in classes, do I offer to help?

And why, when we’re studying, do I suggest a reward system that lands us squarely in bed?

Asher’s trouble, I know he is. But there’s something about him that makes it impossible to stay away.

 

REVIEW: My heart loved this story! Asher and Kole are a beautiful and sweet couple – so loyal, compassionate, and loving.

Asher had to put his NHL dreams on hold to help his older brother take care of their five younger siblings after the death of their father and stepmom. Asher is angry and bitter, engaging in self-destructive behaviors as a coping mechanism. But you can tell how deeply he cares about his siblings. He struggles to form genuine connections with others and is in danger of being kicked off the hockey team for poor grades. Until he meets Kole.

Kole is the coach’s son and the new, temporary manager for the hockey team. A skilled hockey player himself, Kole quit years ago when the line between father and coach began to blur. Now his focus is on studying medicine so he can help others. Until Asher becomes an irresistible distraction who is more than the gruff asshole he appears outwardly.

Asher and Kole’s physical attraction towards each other was scorching! I did not expect such a high level of heat. There were some steamy pages throughout.

They form a sincere bond that is utterly beautiful. Kole sees Asher for who he is. Asher finds the love, care, and attention in Kole that he’d been missing since taking on the monumental responsibility of co-caring for his siblings. Within each other they find someone special who is worthy of unconditional love and perfect in all the ways that count. Their relationship is captivating, charming, and hilarious. Through the good times and bad and the threat of what they might lose if they’re caught, I was enthralled by every moment. Asher and Kole were made for each other.

This book can get messy (in a good way). From grief over the death of loved ones to dashed dreams. To have to grow up too fast to feel like you’re a disappointment. And so much more. These conflicts played a huge role in who the characters have become and what they could be/have in the future. It’s heartbreaking and I felt like crying at times. But the end results were truly satisfying.

I like how teamwork develops for the hockey team. It’s a prime example of no “I” in “team.” That you have to set aside your differences and work together towards the common goal: making the Frozen Four and winning the whole thing. It’s a life-long lesson that I enjoyed seeing mixed with the plot, forcing certain characters to be better and think of others.

This story had plenty of light-hearted moments. I loved the banter between Kole and Asher. It showed how well they clicked and brought out the softer side of Asher. My favorite scene was definitely Christmas lunch. I was nervous but excited for it because it could have gone so horribly wrong. Instead, it was amusing fun for the reader and awkward stressfulness for the characters involved.

Line Mates & Study Dates was a joy to read and a well devised story that hooked me from the get-go. Asher and Kole stole my heart and made the story something special. If you like new adult, forbidden romance, and/or sports fiction, this is the story for you!


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Book Review: What If, Pig? by Linzie Hunter

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"What If, Pig?" by Linzie Hunter (cover)
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Genre: Picture Book
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: You’re not going to find a more heartwarming dynamic duo than Pig and Mouse! Join Pig as he learns how to turn his “what if” worries from anxiety to optimism, all with the help of his loving friend Mouse.

Mouse has never had a friend quite like Pig. Pig is so incredibly kind, fabulously fun, but he also has a big secret—he’s a tremendous worrier!

When Pig gets the brilliant idea to throw a party for Mouse and their friends, he can’t help but think of everything that could possibly go wrong. After all, what if a lion eats all the invitations? What if nobody comes? Or worse, what if everyone comes and has an awful time? In this adorable story, Linzie Hunter’s charming, bright illustrations pair perfectly with her sweet and funny story about friendship and the endless wonder of “what if” that readers of all ages can relate to. This picture book is a great conversation starter in the home or classroom.

 

REVIEW: What If, Pig? was absolutely magnificent! I loved this story and could relate to Pig so much.

I love how effortlessly the book demonstrates and emphasizes the idea that everyone is fighting some silent battle you know nothing about. For Pig, this is true. On the outside, Pig is kind, fun, generous, and well-liked by others. But on the inside, he worries a lot. “What ifs” plague his mind in an endless spiral.

I like how the book encourages readers to open up about whatever’s bothering them. That they’re not alone and that it’s okay to not be okay. That they are not less than because of their feelings. And I love how Pig’s friend, Mouse, helps Pig turn negative “what ifs” into positive ones to see the bigger, brighter picture.

I adore the illustrations! They’re so cute and precious and colorful. I love how the author transforms the text and expresses the story’s main idea through thoughtful images and precise word choice with each “what if” question posed.

This book felt like a warm hug. It’s the perfect addition to any personal or classroom library and a great conversation starter. Such a lovable, empathetic read!


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Book Review: The Brazen Bluestocking by Tracy Sumner

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"The Brazen Bluestocking" by Tracy Sumner (cover)
Image via Goodreads

Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Duchess Society #1
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: A defiant society outcast.
A forbidding rogue who doesn’t believe in love.
And a passionate wager.

Daughter of an earl, Lady Hildegard Templeton hasn’t conformed to what society expects from a woman of her station. Industrious and unique, she’s created an emboldened organization for women on the cusp of marriage, The Duchess Society. Called a bluestocking to her face and worse behind closed salon doors, she vows to marry for love. And nothing but. Although the emotion has never shown itself to her. Until she meets him.

Bastard son of a viscount and king of London’s sordid streets, Tobias Streeter has spent a lifetime building his empire, and he needs the Duchess Society to find a suitable wife. An asset to expand his worth in society’s eyes. But he vows his search will have nothing to do with love and everything to do with vengeance. Until he meets her.

Soon, Tobias and Hildy’s plans are in turmoil as they choose between expectation, passion, and love.

 

REVIEW: One of my favorite reads of 2022 so far, The Brazen Bluestocking was a highly enjoyable and steamy historical romance. I was immediately hooked. Things got better, spicier, suspenseful as time went on.

Hildy (aka the Mad Matchmaker) and her best friend (Georgiana) formed The Duchess Society to help women receive fair marriage contracts. It’s Hildy’s only source of income to continue paying for the estate and elderly staff she was left to care for after her brother’s death. Mix in childhood trauma and Hildy still has a lot to deal with. Her instant attraction to an infamous rogue – who also happens to be her client – doesn’t help either.

Scorned by a father who never wanted him, Tobias (aka the Rogue King) used what he learned from the streets and shipyards to build his shipping empire. He seeks a marriage of convenience so he can live out his architectural dreams. The beguiling fire he feels towards Hildy was never a part of his plans.

Hildy and Tobias are such an adorable pair. They are smart, capable, determined, and big-hearted. Despite being social outcasts, they’ve managed to build a life for themselves on their own terms (to a certain degree). Their flirtations and to-do list were joyously hysterical parts of their relationship. The sexual tension between them was high and pushed against boundaries that would see both their plans ruined. It’s an irresistible, forbidden romance that progressed really well.

I like that you get to see so many different sides of the characters. I felt like I really got to know and connect with them.

I love that Hildy goes against the grain to improve the lives of women and at her own expense. She’s worked so hard to keep her head above water that she wholly deserved an HEA. It warmed my heart to see how much Hildy was loved, appreciated, and valued.

Tobias has many layers too. Society sees his diluted bloodline when deep down he is so much more: a good man. Even though he is a self-made man, wealthy, charitable, and a skilled architect, he still longs to be acknowledged and (secretly) loved unconditionally despite his background.

The Brazen Bluestocking is one of those books that pull you in so deep into a story that you forget the world around you for a time. It’s a perfect example of what makes historical romance so enticing. I was enamored with this story and can’t wait to read more of this series.


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Book Review: Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug by Jonathan Stutzman, Illustrated by Jay Fleck

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"Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug" (Tiny T. Rex #1) by Jonathan Stutzman, Illustrated by Jay Fleck (cover)
Image via Goodreads

Genre: Picture Book
Series: Tiny T. Rex #1
Rating: ⭐⭐☆☆☆
Recommend to Others?: No

ABOUT: Tiny T. Rex has a HUGE problem. His friend Pointy needs cheering up and only a hug will do. But with his short stature and teeny T. Rex arms, is a hug impossible? Not if Tiny has anything to say about it! Join this plucky little dinosaur in his very first adventure—a warm and funny tale that proves the best hugs come from the biggest hearts. Introducing an unforgettable character on the picture book scene, Tiny T. Rex will stomp into the hearts of readers in this winning new series.

 

REVIEW: Tiny T. Rex has tiny arms that make hugging impossible, but he is determined to learn how so that he can make his best friend, Pointy, feel better.

I loved the colors and the illustrations. Tiny T. Rex is adorable and I like how much he cares about his best friend. However, the story fell flat for me, especially in the first half. The start of the journey wasn’t as worthwhile as a the second half. A couple of the situations Tiny found himself in were amusing. By the end, the journey didn’t feel complete.

This was an okay story with delightful illustrations and a cute main character, but it mostly didn’t work for me.


More by Jonathan Stutzman

A Llama Book
Llama Destroys the World (#1)
Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse (#2)


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Book Review: A Home Again by Colleen Rowan Kosinski, Illustrated by Valeria Docampo

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Cover of "A Home Again" by Colleen Rowan Kosinski, Illustrated by Valeria Docampo
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Genre: Picture Book
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: After the last brick is laid, a family moves into a brand-new house. As the family grows, the house delights in the sound of laughter echoing in its halls and the pitter-patter of little feet traversing its floors and realizes it is no longer just a house. It has become a home—their home. One day, the family packs up, and with tears in their eyes, they say goodbye. The house doesn’t know if it can ever be happy again until two men appear. It begins to feel a sliver of hope about this new family…perhaps it can become a home once more.

Told from the perspective of a house, this story’s heartfelt text and beautiful illustrations convey a warmth of feeling as two families change and grow at different times within the same four walls.

 

REVIEW: A Home Again is a cozy story about how a house becomes a home that warmed my heart.

I love that this story is told from the perspective of the house. The people, the laughter, the smells, the sounds, the personal touches all work in concert to create a beautiful, loving home.

I felt every emotion the house was feeling: from happy to confused, from sad to joy and love again. The house’s journey is mesmerizing and well developed.

I really loved this book! The rich vocabulary and smooth, bright illustrations made the story come to life. Things ended so satisfyingly hopeful. I would certainly recommend A Home Again!


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Book Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

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DAY 25

Cover of "All Systems Red" by Martha Wells.
Image via Goodreads

Genre: Science Fiction
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #1
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: “As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

 

Light blue text that says "Book Review" over a stem of while orchids.

All Systems Red was an excellent, fast-paced, captivating story with perhaps one of the best/unique main characters I’ve ever read. I don’t read sci-fi often and it’s rare to find a gem like what Martha Wells has created.

Could you ever imagine a robot built for mass murder turn out to be a socially awkward turtle who just wants to watch serials (media) all day? I couldn’t. Murderbot’s clients can be a hit or miss on the quality scale (not that it cares).

Murderbot is currently working as a SecUnit for a group of scientists studying an uninhabited and mostly unexplored planet. It does it’s job (for the most part) but keeps itself separate from the humans unless needed. The scientists view Murderbot in varying degrees, from a person with thoughts and feelings to an object/tool to be used as directed. As unknown danger mounts, it’s interesting how far it is willing to go to protect it’s clients (a curious thing for Murderbot to feel towards humans).

Murderbot has a fascinating personality despite it’s indifference and frankness. It is independent and has wants and needs, but stays within the human expectations of a robot. It is courteous in different ways towards humans to make it’s life easier and keep clients satisfied.

The ending was surprisingly emotional. I did not expect – even though I should have – Murderbot to make the choices it did. But I’m really intrigued about where Murderbot’s journey takes it next as it continues to discover itself. All Systems Red lived up to the hype and I would highly recommend it as well.

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Book Review: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Clement Hurd

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DAY 23

Cover of "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Clement Hurd
Image via Goodreads

Genre: Picture Book
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: In a great green room, tucked away in bed, is a little bunny. “Goodnight room, goodnight moon.” And to all the familiar things in the softly lit room — to the picture of the three little bears sitting on chairs, to the clocks and his socks, to the mittens and the kittens, to everything one by one — the little bunny says goodnight.

 

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A classic that never gets old! Goodnight Moon is the ideal bedtime story to wind down the night with.

It’s a slow, gentle, peaceful descent, grounding the reader into the story. It’s incredibly engaging as the cute, little bunny says goodnight to various things and sounds. I like how the story pretty much gives a room tour to the reader and allows the reader to take in every detail of the illustrations. My favorite lines: “Goodnight stars/ Goodnight air/Goodnight noises everywhere.”

Goodnight Moon is a must-have for one’s personal library.