The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

4.5 stars rounded up to 5 because of the horses!

I love fairy tale retellings or re-imaginings and I love Russian folklore, so I was especially excited for this. The first chapter was utterly magical and held me spellbound — and then it was slow going for a while, as the evil in the woods was slowly awoken by little acts – or failures to act – over many years, on the villagers’ part. Once the action picked up again, I found myself turning page after page in my eagerness to know whether Vasya would triumph.

Things I loved:
Vasya was strong in the best sense of the word – she insisted on living her life on her terms while still remaining steadfastly loyal to her family and village.
The horses. Nobody told me this had such delightful equines in it! I’m a sucker for well-written horses.
The antagonists. Yes, there were more than one, and all of them were layered, full of believable motivations. As in real life, nothing is simple.

This well-researched and brilliantly written debut novel was a real treat to read on a cold winter night, and I’m looking forward to more from Katherine Arden.

**Disclaimer: I received a free ARC from NetGalley. This is an unbiased review and I would absolutely go purchase this novel.**

AN Unseen Attraction by K.J. Charles

5 stars because KJ Charles can do no wrong.

I absolutely loved this unconventional m/m historical.
Clem was a very untypical hero, and Rowley had a delightfully creepy occupation, but the two of them really worked well as a couple. The crime element of the story added an interesting edge. And as always, there was plenty of spark and steam between the two lovers!

Also, Clem was every bit as hot as this cover might imply. Maybe more so.
Don’t miss this one; and it’s worth your while to go get the rest of K.J. Charles’ stuff while you’re at it.

*Free ARC provided by NetGalley – review in no way influenced by this!*

If I Only Had a Duke by Lenora Bell

4 Give-Me-MORE stars!

Oh, how I loved Thea! A lady who knows what she wants, and isn’t going to let some meddling duke get in the way. Or the meddling duke’s meddling servant, who cooks up plan after plan to get them in bed together! I especially loved the “surprise” the duke’s valet had waiting for them in the carriage.

This was a five-star H/h pairing and I loved them together!

Dalton’s mysterious mission and “dark past” was a little harder to believe, and the plot did tumble into predictable toward the end with a too-easy resolution, knocking this down a star. Even so, it’s on my keeper shelf and I’ll be looking for more by Lenora Bell!

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland

4 glad-I-read-this stars!

I got this as a Kindle First book, and it’s the first of those I’ve actually finished, much less posted a review on.

I have a 14-year-old daughter and the quirks of these kids really rang true – despite these being “troubled kids” I could see a lot of normal teenager stuff in them. It was clear that the author knows teens and was writing from a place of love and caring.¬†While the characters occasionally drifted into trope-teenager land, for the most part they were original and believable and had me rooting for them.

I would have liked Bek to play a little bigger part – he was definitely the forgotten fourth in the group. The storytelling was done nicely, only a tiny heavy-handed at times and no worse than any other YA “issues” novel. The pacing was excellent and kept me turning pages and I really loved the relationships that developed.

My biggest complaint was that in the end, everything suddenly worked out – very suddenly – in such a magical fairy-tale way.

Baron by Joanna Shupe

3.5 not-into-rich-politicians stars

This was maybe not the best-timed read for me, coming as it did just before the events of November 2016. I was not inclined to kindness toward a rich politician, and really never warmed to the hero of the story as I might have in, say, 2015. I also wasn’t sold on just what the attraction was between the two of them – he seemed to dislike her so much but just had to have her anyways?
For all that, it was still a good read, and I hope to re-read it in a year or two when (if) all this has settled.

**I received this as a free NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review**