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Bookish Memes Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Standalone Novels I Recommend

Top Ten Tuesday blog post

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but is now run by That Artsy Reader Girl.


Do you prefer standalone novels or series?

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday was a freebie, so the theme of my list is a recommendation list of my favorite standalone novels. I actually made a top standalone list way back in a 2017 post – it has changed drastically!

I enjoy both standalones and series equally and read from each about the same.

I like standalones because they’re one, singular moment versus a story that spans several books. These tend to be longer but well-worth it reads. They work best when every comes full circle into a satisfying conclusion. And with standalones, you never have to worry about cliffhangers or waiting a whole year – which is like waiting forever and a day – to continue the story. It’s one and done. Perfection.

Romance novels are my preferred standalones to read, but I’m still on the lookout for more really good fantasy standalones. The latter are so hard to find – such rare gems!

I also like reading series where each book can be read as a standalone because you get to really know more characters in their own books. Sometimes you can read them out of order with a few minor spoilers. But other times it’s better and necessary to read each book in order because they are connected by an overall story arc, which is an equally awesome thrill ride.

Here are 10 five-star standalone novels I recommend:

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Genre: LGBTQIAP+, New Adult, Contemporary Romance, Enemies to Lovers

"Red, White, & Royal Blue" by Casey McQuiston (cover)
Image via Goodreads

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
Genre: LGBTQIAP+, Contemporary Fantasy

"Under the Whispering Door" by TJ Klune (cover)
Image via NetGalley

The Green and the Gray by Timothy Zahn
Genre: Science Fiction

"The Green and the Gray" by Timothy Zahn (cover)
Image via Goodreads

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

"Sorcery of Thorns" by Margaret Rogerson (cover)
Image via Goodreads

The Right Side of Reckless by Whitney D. Grandison
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Own Voices, Black voices

"The Right Side of Reckless" by Whitney D. Grandison (cover)
Image via NetGalley

Turning by Joy L. Smith
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Black voices

"Turning" by Joy L. Smith (cover)
Image via Goodreads

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala
Genre: LGBTQIAP+, Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

"Be Dazzled" by Ryan La Sala (cover)
Image via Goodreads

At Summer’s End by Courtney Ellis
Genre: Historical Romance

"At Summer's End" by Courtney Ellis (cover)
Image via Goodreads

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson
Genre: Historical Romance

"A Countess Below Stairs" by Eva Ibbotson (Cover)
Image via Goodreads

By A Thread by Lucy Score
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance, Office Romance

"By a Thread" by Lucy Score (cover)
Image via Goodreads

AS ALWAYS, HAPPY READING!!!
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ARCs Book Reviews

ARC Review: Home for a Cowboy Christmas by Donna Grant

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

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Home for a Cowboy Christmas is set to be published October 26, 2021.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Tis the season—for everyone except Emmy Garrett. She’s on the run after witnessing a crime. But when it becomes clear that trouble will continue following her, the US Marshal in charge takes her somewhere no one will think to look–Montana. Not only is Emmy in a new place for her protection, but now, she’s stuck with a handsome cowboy as her bodyguard…and she wants to do more than kiss him under the mistletoe.

Dwight Reynolds left behind his old career, but it’s still in his blood. When an old friend calls in a favor, Dwight opens his home to a woman on the run. He tries to keep his distance, but there’s something about Emmy he can’t resist. She stokes his passion and turns his cold nights into warm ones. When danger shows up looking for Emmy, Dwight risks everything to keep her safe.

 

My Review: Home for a Cowboy Christmas was an enjoyable, fast-paced, sugary-sweet, suspenseful, and thrilling contemporary romance.

After witnessing a murder and nearly being killed while in the witness protection program, Emmy Garrett now finds herself hiding and in the care of ranch owner Dwight Reynolds. On the one hand, someone wants her dead so she can’t testify. She isn’t trying to get her hopes up that she’ll live long enough to do so. Meanwhile, she’s also dealing with PTSD symptoms. On the other hand, both Emmy and Dwight find themselves unexpectedly drawn to each other.

It’s brave of Emmy to want to testify at all despite how turbulent her experience has been so far in the witness protection program. She tries her best to keep calm and carry on, but every once in a while feels intense fear and anxiety. That is strength to admire. Luckily, Emmy is able to find safety and comfort in Dwight and his adorable and intelligent dog, Sam.

Having served in the military, the FBI, and Homeland Security, Dwight knows what he’s up against, is very capable of handling whoever after Emmy, and can empathize with the mental trauma she is going through. He’s so protective of and smitten with her from the start that I’m surprised with how long it took them to share their first kiss. Although Emmy too struggles not to get too close or attached since staying with Dwight is temporary, his kindness and patience allowed her to process things at her own pace, which was very helpful. I also like how close Dwight is with his sister, Victoria, and his ranch employees.

The story progressed quickly but not much so that it felt like something was missing or incomplete. Every moment counted and connected. There was an abundance of action, humor, and tenderness. The climax was absorbing, oh my goodness! I had no idea what to expect. Things tied up nicely in the end, but I was sad that the story was over.

Home for a Cowboy Christmas was a great romance read and just another reason why I love Donna Grant’s books.


More by Donna Grant

Heart of Texas
A Cowboy Like You (#4)
Looking For A Cowboy (#5)
A Cowboy Kind of Love (#6)

Reaper
Dark Alpha’s Awakening (#7)
Dark Alpha’s Redemption (#8)
Dark Alpha’s Temptation (#9)

A Dark Kings Novel
Fever (#16)
Flame (#17)

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About Books Spotlight

BEST OF 2020: First Book of A Series & Standalone Novel

 

 


*images via Goodreads and NetGalley*


As Always, Happy Reading!!!
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Book Reviews

Book Review: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes
Favorite Quotes: “Nathaniel’s expression grew odd. ‘You like this place?’ ‘Of course I do. It has books in it.’ ”

” ‘But I see now that you are not the same as the other humans…you are different, somehow…yes, a true child of the library…'”

” ‘I knew you talked to books. I didn’t realize they listened.’ ‘They do more than just listen.’ ”


ABOUT: All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

 

My Review: Sorcery, demons, talking grimoires and libraries? Yes, please!

Sorcery of Thorns is a dazzling fantasy standalone novel complete with a fierce book nerd, a tender, slow burn romance, sorcery and danger, all compiled into a vividly told story that gives you all the feels.

There is a lot to love about this book:

I love Elisabeth for her kindness, wild nature, and unwavering determination to stop the thief/murderer and finally prove her worth.

Nathaniel I have a lot of respect for based on his backstory, how he currently comports himself, and how Elisabeth’s “menacing” existence challenges his self deprecation and secrecy.

Elisabeth and Nathaniel are so cute together! Their slow burn romance was everything – lighthearted but chaotic. They kind of remind me of Brienna and Cartier from The Queen’s Rising duology (a series I recommend): Trying to find a place to belong. Unable to shake the demons of the past.

I am completely charmed by Silas and appreciate his unapologetic self. I loved any scene he was in, one of my favorite moments being when he was hugged.

Nathaniel and Silas remind me so much of Ciel and Sebastian (respectively) from Black Butler (a show and manga I also recommend). I think that association also contributed to my love of this book. In Sorcery of Thorns, these two are quite the pair and bring humor, darkness and clarity to the story.

Rogerson is an incredibly talented storyteller and she made it so easy to immerse myself into this magically unique world. I love her take on grimoires having personalities, and how they think, live and feel the same way humans do. It’s such a cool and ingenious idea.

The climax was epic, wondrous and thrilling!

I am so happy to have read Sorcery of Thorns and enjoyed every moment of it.

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Book Reviews

[My 200th] Book Review: “Glow of the Fireflies” by Lindsey Duga

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: Briony never planned to go back to the place she lost everything.

Firefly Valley, nestled deep within the Smoky Mountains, is better kept in her past. After an unexplained fire gave Briony amnesia, her mother disappeared and her dad moved them to Knoxville.

But now her grandmother needs a caretaker and Briony’s dad volunteers her to help. The moment she returns, her whole world shifts. She feels a magical connection to this valley, as if it’s literally part of her somehow.

And when she meets a hot guy who claims he was her childhood friend but now mysteriously keeps his distance, Briony starts piecing together her missing past…and discovers her mother didn’t leave to start a new life somewhere. She’s trapped in the hidden world within the valley.

Now, Briony will do whatever it takes to rescue her, even if it means standing up against dangerously powerful nature spirits. Even if it means giving up her first love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Review:
Glow of the Fireflies is a must read, new young adult fantasy book. I adored the story, loved the characters, and thought the writing was captivating.

The cover is absolutely gorgeous and, I will admit, was what first piqued my interest. I love fireflies; they’re so pretty. Combined with the aesthetically pleasing artwork and you get one resplendent cover art.

It’s been a long time since I’ve fallen deeply in love with a story’s plot. Glow of the Fireflies was put together so well. I like how the book starts out so seamlessly innocent inciting incident and then quickly turns into chaos.

Briony thought she might get some answers to questions that have haunted her for years. Well she gets that and so much more than she (or the reader) could have ever guessed. Once Briony and Alder, her long-ago childhood friend, come to a major decision, it took too long to get to something new. Things got repetitive.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by all the plot twists but I was and pleasantly so. Glow of the Fireflies had the right amount of tension, the right amount of danger, and the right amount of romance. This was a good read that I wish there had been at least another 30-50 pages more of. The book is a magically perfect YA fantasy standalone novel. I want to read more books by Lindsey Duga.

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About Books Anticipated Book Releases Bookish Lists

November 2019 – Upcoming Anticipated Book Releases

NOVEMBER 5

The Deep by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes

Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.

 

Snow White with the Red Hair (Volume 4) by Sorata Akizuki

Manga, Graphic Novel, Shojo, Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy

A romantic retelling of a classic fairy tale about a beautiful herbalist and a lovestruck prince.

Shirayuki is an herbalist famous for her naturally bright-red hair, and the prince of Tanbarun wants her all to himself! Unwilling to become the prince’s possession, she seeks shelter in the woods of the neighboring kingdom, where she gains an unlikely ally—the prince of that kingdom! He rescues her from her plight, and thus begins the love story between a lovestruck prince and an unusual herbalist.

Shirayuki is determined to help Kiharu and her bird Popo prove their necessity to the kingdom. She even goes so far as to risk her life to see Popo home! When she succeeds, Zen kisses Shirayuki for the first time! Now she can’t get that kiss out of her head. Will she be able to keep her cool around the man she’s falling for?

 

NOVEMBER 19

Crying Laughing by Lance Rubin

Young Adult Fiction

Winnie Friedman has been waiting for the world to catch on to what she already knows: she’s hilarious.

It might be a long wait, though. After bombing a stand-up set at her own bat mitzvah, Winnie has kept her jokes to herself. Well, to herself and her dad, a former comedian and her inspiration.

Then, on the second day of tenth grade, the funniest guy in school actually laughs at a comment she makes in the lunch line and asks her to join the improv troupe. Maybe he’s even . . . flirting?

Just when Winnie’s ready to say yes to comedy again, her father reveals that he’s been diagnosed with ALS. That is . . . not funny. Her dad’s still making jokes, though, which feels like a good thing. And Winnie’s prepared to be his straight man if that’s what he wants. But is it what he needs?

Caught up in a spiral of epically bad dates, bad news, and bad performances, Winnie’s struggling to see the humor in it all. But finding a way to laugh is exactly what will see her through.

 

NOVEMBER 26

The Little Book of Big Feelings by Maureen “Marzi” Wilson

Graphic Novel, Nonfiction, Self-Help

We’ve been conditioned to think that the most acceptable response to “How are you?” is, “I’m fine.” But our emotions are much more complicated than that! Sometimes we feel a little annoyed, or elated, or afraid. And you know, that’s okay!

In The Little Book of Big Feelings, Maureen “Marzi” Wilson takes us on a journey of self-acceptance and validation. After all, our emotions are only reactions to experiences that we can learn from; there’s no such thing as a “bad” emotion. It’s okay to be scared, it’s alright to feel hopeful, and it’s perfectly fine to feel both at the same time. There is a wide range of human emotions, and it’s time we start embracing each one!

 

A Cowboy Like You by Donna Grant

Adult Contemporary Romance, Western, Fiction

In the Heart of Texas, a heartthrob cowboy may get his second chance at love…

Danny Oldman, the handsome Lone Star sheriff, is still single. He tells himself, and anyone who asks, that he is married to his job―and what matters most is keeping the people of his beloved Texas hometown safe. The truth? Danny still hasn’t gotten over his high school crush. She moved away after graduation and took Danny’s heart with her.

Skylar Long never thought she would have to flee Houston and return home―where it all began for her. But that’s what happened after the man of her dreams turned out to be an actual nightmare. Now, Skylar is desperate to escape her obsessive boyfriend. Nothing shocks her more than seeing Danny again and realizing that their long-ago attraction is more powerful than ever. But can she and Danny find a way to fight against Skylar’s wealthy, powerful ex who is dead set on tearing them apart?

Categories
ARCs Spotlight

Happy Book Release Day! to “Fever” by Donna Grant

Thanks again to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the e-ARC to read and review.

Image via NetGalley

FEVER
by DONNA GRANT
(my review)

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: A Dark Kings Novel #16
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: His kiss was fire and passion. She shivered, wondering how he knew just how to touch her, to
send her spiraling into an abyss of pleasure…

For centuries, the Dragon Kings have lived among mortals, forsaking their true selves. But for Kelton, hiding in the realm of shadows—and existing only in the world of dreams—is no longer an option. A human woman claims to know that he, like other dark warriors of his kind, is real. That the legends about these powerful, seductive men with hearts ablaze are true. And that, with just one embrace, Kelton could destroy her…or love her until the end of time.

Bernadette Davies is an anthropologist who knows better than to fall into the arms of a Dragon King. But how can she resist Kelton when he’s so willing to share his secrets and bare his soul? He hasn’t met a beautiful, trustworthy woman like Bernadette in…forever. But once they give into their mutual desire, their worlds will never be the same. Soon Bernadette must face her dilemma: Should she expose the truth about Kelton in the name of science? Or join him in his battle with the dark forces—in the name of love?


More by Donna Grant (reviews)

Dark Alpha’s Awakening (Reaper, book 7) (ARC review)

Dark Alpha’s Redemption (Reaper, book 8) (ARC review)


 

AS ALWAYS, HAPPY READING!!!!

 


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