Category: 18 and up

Blood Vow, by J.R. Ward


Ward is at the top of her game with this, the second in the Black Dagger Legacy series, and there wasn’t a single one of her many storylines that I wanted to skip over. So in this novel we have in play Axe, a tough but wounded guy, and one of the trainees in the Brotherhood’s training classes for new soldiers. We also have Rhage and Mary, adjusting to new life adorably with their adopted teen, Bitty. And finally we have Elise, and member of the aristocracy, who is struggling to get out of her father’s restrictive traditionalism by earning her PhD.

I enjoyed spending time with all these folks, and we still had fights and romance galore. Excellent installment in the series from Ward. For 18 and up.


Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame, by Mara Wilson


This slight book of essays covers quite a bit of ground, from Wilson’s childhood movie acting and her neurotic childhood, to her teen dating and her increasing interest in storytelling as an adult. She writes most clearly of her growing understanding of who she is and how she becomes at peace with her life and her choices.

Overall a really lovely memoir both for those who remember Mara’s youthful fame and also for those who don’t. Her work is specific to her life, but it would be a jaded reader indeed who would not find resonances in his or her own life. For 18 and up.

Stiletto, by Daniel O’Malley


Another fantastic book about the British secret agency, The Checquy. Author O’Malley delights with his insight into government bureaucracy, his unexpected monsters, and the wonderful female friendship that is at the heart of the book. The Checquy is attempting to merge with its arch-enemies, and when one of its female soldiers is assigned to bodyguard one of the visiting Grafters, their mutual hostility is at war with their innate politeness to amusing results. You don’t have to have read book 1 to follow Stiletto, but it helps. I love this series with a fiery passion. For 18 and up, due to violence and disturbing supernatural manifestations.

The Short Life and Tragic Death of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man who left Newark for the Ivy League, by Jeff Hobbs


An extraordinary look at the life of one young man, born in a rough part of Newark, educated at Yale, and dead at 30. Author Hobbs (Peace’s roommate at Yale) makes us so intimately acquainted with Peace’s East Orange neighborhood that we care deeply about not only Rob Peace, but also about his relatives, his best friends, and his small prep school that caters to young men of color. Rob’s tragic flaw is his investment in his neighborhood, and his inability to leave it contributes to his death.

It has taken me several days to write this review, because I genuinely grieve for the loss of Rob, not only because he is exceptional, but also because he represents so many other young black men who don’t even make it that far, but all of whom are cut down too soon.

The musical Hamilton says it is those who are left behind who determine “who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” Rob Peace will never die because Jeff Hobbs told his story.
A must-read.

Once a Soldier, by Mary Jo Putney


Handsome Brit Will Masterson has fought against Napoleon and is ready to head back to England when he is sent to analyze the situation in a small (fictional) country that is open to invasion by roving bandits. While there he meets tall and opinionated Athena Markham, who has been working there as an aide to young princess Sofia.

While this novel has a couple of steamy scenes, but Putney is much more interested in the adventure of the historical era and the threats to her fictional nation. It makes for a nice slow-boil romance and some great supporting friendships that more than pass the Bechdel Test. Excellent read, for 18 and up.


A Feast for Crows, by George R. R. Martin


Another strong entry in this series, although this one dragged more for me than the others have. Tyrion was deeply missed in this book (his adventures continue in the next), and we had only Brienne to identify with. Of course, this era in Westeros is dragging for the characters as well, and perhaps some of that carried over into my reading. For 18 and up, as ever. Martin’s torture and threats of rape make me blanch, and I read several books in between the books in this series, so that I can recover from my time in his stories. These are very much worth the read for adults, but it is oppressive.


Angels of Darkness, by Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Sharon Shinn & Meljean Brook


An excellent collection of four PNR shorts, featuring two of my favorite authors, Ilona Andrews and Sharon Shinn. Their stories are the strongest, but the other two are good as well. Singh’s is strong enough that I may give her writing a try again. For 18 and up.

A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas


This stunning second novel is even more powerful than the first, with reveals about the first book that make me want to read it again. Our heroine, Feyre, is deeply changed after the events of the first book, and her post-traumatic stress sends the first ripples of stress through her relationship with the High Fae lord she loves. Simply a scorcher of a story, but for 18 and up, due to very explicit sex scenes (much more so than the first book.) Heck, I’ve read adult romance novels that weren’t this graphic. NOT a YA book.


How to Dazzle a Duke, by Claudia Dain


This was a bodice-ripper, but it was handled differently than most. An arch, very humorous tone was maintained throughout, and the entire first section takes place in one continuous scene, which was very well done. It is not as steamy as most, but our prim and forthright heroine, Penelope Prestwick, is perfectly lovely in her determination to marry a duke. Her intention to marry a specific duke even though she has caught the attention of another one, makes for many comic interludes. For 18 and up.

Come the Spring, by Julie Garwood


I loved the first book in this series, but the short stories that followed were hit or miss, so I had my fingers crossed for this final book, focusing on Cole, the fastest draw among the brothers, who is often mistaken for a gunslinger. In this novel he joins with a U.S. Marshal to run down a murderous gang of bank robbers. The search for the criminals and the protection of a witness to their crimes leads him to meet Jessica, a young mom who is one of three women targeted as a possible witness. There is more than one romance in the book (including a steamy scene), but much of the story is about crime-fighting in the vividly drawn Wild West. I enjoyed this very much, though I would have loved more time with Cole’s family, whom we met in the first novel. For 18 and up.