Sunday, December 31, 2017

Bambi's Top 10 of 2017

Hiya my lovely readers!
This was a big year for me personally, culminating with a huge move across the country. While this was great and I'm so excited for the new adventure - it put a dent in my reading time. This is actually the first year since I graduated law school that I have read less than 200 books! However, despite the quantity being lower, my reading list did not suffer from quality. I added a number of new reads to my favorites list this year, and they are listed below in no particular order. As in year's past - rather than numbering my favorites from 1 to 10, I prefer to say why they made such an impact.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser

Pub. Date:July 20, 2017
Publisher:Tantor Audio
Narrator:Mary Sarah
Length:8 hrs 15 min

I'm not a huge reader of young adult books, but this story had such an interesting premise that I just couldn't resist. Imagine if you could transport yourself to the fictional world of any story that you read? I mean isn't that the bibliophile's dream? If I was granted a superpower, that would probably be what I would pick.

So Amy Lennox and her mother leave Germany in the doldrums and return home to the Lennox ancestral estate in Scotland. The estate is on the island of Stormsay with very few inhabitants, just two families who have the magical literary ability. Amy first learns of her family's ability when she arrives on Stormsay, and she takes to it with aplomb. She soon finds herself traipsing through magical and literary worlds of The Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, Metamorphosis, The Odyssey and many others. I was so jealous of this ability and thought it was so freaking cool! 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

ARC Review: The Art of Running in Heels by Rachel Gibson

Series:     Chinooks Hockey #7
Pub. Date:Dec. 26, 2017
Length:384 pgs

In the latest installment of the Chinooks Hockey series, The Art of Running in Heels, we are returning to a favorite family of the past - the one that started it all - The Kowalsky's. It's not necessary to read the entire series before starting this book, but I highly recommend that you read Simply Irresistible, so that you have the back story on our heroine's parents and remember her adorably precocious personality as a child.

Little Lexie Kowalsky is all grown up and following in her mother's footsteps. She has carried her zany sense of style and love for animals into adulthood and turned it into an entrepreneurial venture. Lexie is the proprietor of Yum Yum's Closet, an online and burgeoning retail chain featuring clothes and accessories for canines inspired by her uber-sensitive Chinese Crested, Yum Yum. It was therefore a shock to her parents when Lexie suddenly turned up Gettin' Hitched, what I can only describe as a redneck version of The Bachelor. Lexie is suddenly wearing daisy dukes and wrestling pigs on national television in a bid to win and marry the chosen bachelor... but she takes after her mother in more ways than a crazy personality and voluptuous figure. A la Georgie in Simply Irresistible, Lexie pulls a runner and finds herself escaping in the company of a high profile hockey star. Lexie was a ridiculous heroine, but a lot fun. You couldn't not like her or the crazy train she rode in on.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

ARC Review: If Ever I Should Love You by Cathy Maxwell

Series:     Spinster Heiresses #1
Pub. Date:Dec 26, 2017
Length:368 pages

If Ever I Should Love You kicks off a new series, the Spinster Heiresses, by renowned historical romance author, Cathy Maxwell. The premise of the series involves three heiresses whose blood is just not quite blue enough for the bon ton, and who are each quite picky in their prospects for marital bliss. Unfortunately for our girls, their fathers are determined to sell them off in exchange for a title.

Our first spinster heiress is Leonie Charnock, whose name you might recognize as the chit who was jilted by the Duke of Baynton in A Date at the Altar. Although Leonie wasn't all that upset at being overthrown for an actress, as she harbors guilt, shame and fear over what was wrought by a foolish decision in her past, and it has caused an aversion to marriage and "man things." I had a hard time with Leonie at first. I did not like how she treated our hero and seemed not to think about the consequences her actions had on his life. However, I did try to make allowances for her past, and then I grew to like her flawed character. I got wrapped up in her turmoil and tippling, and I felt sorry for her. I also loved the cover of this book, and it fits our heroine perfectly.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Audiobook Review: Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

Pub. Date:Oct. 31, 2017
Publisher:Macmillan Audio
Narrator:Evan Morton
Length:8 hrs 8 min

Mr. Dickens and His Carol is the debut novel by author Samantha Silva, and offers a biographical fiction of Charles Dickens and how he developed one of his most popular works, A Christmas Carol. I thought this would be the perfect audiobook to listen to on my road trip home for the holidays, and I was right. 

Charles Dickens is surprised by the news that his novels are not selling and his publishers have demanded that he write a Christmas story, to be read in a few weeks time. Despite a long tradition of grand Christmas celebrations, Charles is not feeling in the the holiday spirit this year. His wife has birthed his six child and is determined to spend lavishly for the holiday and their annual holiday party, and people seem to be coming out of the wood work to prey on Charles' good fortune. Between the financial strain and a bad bout of writer's block, Charles is becoming more and more Scrooge-like.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Audiobook Review: Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Series:     Elder Races #1
Pub. Date:July 18, 2011
Publisher:Tantor Audio
Narrator:Sophie Eastlake
Length:12 hrs 59 min
Source:Audible Romance Pkg

I got behind on this series and as I tried to get caught up, I realized that I didn't remember the world building sufficiently, so I'm doing a quick re-read of the earlier books. I'm so glad that I did because I realized very quickly how much I had forgotten! And how much I loved the growly Dragos and luminous Pia. Because I'm re-reading the series and short on time, the reviews will be short and sweet.

Pia Giovanni is a lonely young woman, living alone in the city and finding herself in a bind after trusting the wrong guy. That is Pia finds herself on the run after stealing from the hoarde of Dragos, the biggest baddest scary dude/dragon around. I really liked Pia. She is a unique half-breed (human and wyr)... so unique that she has spent her whole life learning how to hide and not really realizing what her wyrkind self is. I liked that she was quietly a kickass heroine without hanging it all out there. I like the strong and capable heroines, but I like some diversity in how they present themselves to others. Pia's quiet strength was a nice change. 

Dragos Cuelebre is a very old dragon who has grown bored with life. When a beautiful blonde dares to steal from him and has the audacity to leave behind a note, Dragos is not bored for the first time in millenia. He hunts down Pia with a single-minded determination and is caught up in an instant attraction that brings all his protective instincts to the forefront. Dragos is a great growly hero, and everything you would expect in a dragon. He is an arrogant alpha with an army of dangerous wyrkind at his beck and call. 

This is a fated mates story, so the relationship was hot and heavy early on - and that was just fine with me. I like the fated mates trope and the instant lust and love is so much easier to understand when you are dealing with animal instincts. Pia and Dragos are perfect together. She stands up to him like no one else dares, and he treats her like his precious hoarde. 

The world building in this series is partially urban and partially fantasy. Dragos and Pia live in New York, but the world has pockets of the Other World, which is similar to Faery. This story has awesome secondary characters which make up our heroes and heroines of later installments, and I love all the different breeds of wyr. Dragons and griffons and thunderbirds, oh my!

This book was available via the Audible Romance Package as of the date of this review.

Purchase Links

Elder Races

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

ARC Review: The Hookup by Kristen Ashley

Series:     Moonlight & Motor Oil #1
Pub. Date:Dec. 19, 2017
Length:358 pgs

I don't know whether to sigh or swoon. This book was all the best things... sweet, sappy, a little sad, and definitely steamy. I can't tell you how excited I am about a new series from the Queen, Kristen Ashley. The Moonlight and Motor Oil series promises to be just as captivating as The Burg and Colorado Mountain has been, with lots of endearing characters and small town charm. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

ARC Review: A Deep Dark Call by Rose Vane

Pub. Date:Dec. 4, 2017
Publisher:Carina Press
Length:133 pages

I'm not quite sure what to say about this one. This is my first read from this author, so I can't compare A Deep Dark Call to her other works. But this one didn't work for me for several reasons.

I did like the setting of Wallachia/Romania, as that is still somewhat unique when it comes to the staging for romance and paranormal stories. And given the release date, I was happy that this was set around Christmastime with lots of snow. But that is about where it ended for me.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Audiobook Review: Smoke and Sin by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake

Series:     Perfect Gentlemen #4
Pub. Date:Nov. 21, 2017
Publisher:Tantor Audio
Narrator:Greg Boudreaux
Length:11 hrs 3 min

Shayla and Lexi have been extremely evil with this series - giving us the teases of Mad and not answering the question of "is he or isn't he?" But I have been riveted to this series arc as they have dribbled out the facts of the conspiracy and huge political secret. I think it speaks to the quality of the writing that I have enjoyed this series despite being overtired of everything political over the past year.

The Perfect Gentlemen up in this installment is Roman Calder, right hand to the president, Zack Hayes. Roman is known around the White House as the Hitman... protecting the president with an iron hand. It seems that Roman's entire existence (at least since prep school) has been aimed at getting Zack Hayes to the White House. Nothing, and no one, is more important than his friend Zack. His single-minded focus has turned him into an asshole playboy, refusing to get serious about any woman unless she fits his cookie cutter mold for the perfect political wife. Unfortunately, when he found that woman, she was married to his best friend. He left a lot of broken hearts in the dust, including that of our heroine. I really had a hard time liking Roman... he seemed cold and manipulative, and he was very slow to learn a lesson from past mistakes. There were many times that I wanted to tell him to STFU and pay attention!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

ARC Review: Amid the Winter Snow by Grace Draven, Thea Harrison, Elizabeth Hunter & Jeffe Kennedy

Pub. Date:Dec. 12, 2017
Length:454 pgs

That blood red cape on the white snow is such an eye-catching image... I feel like I need one of those capes now! Not to mention that this anthology is written by some of the hottest names in fantasy and paranormal romance - I was stoked to get an advanced copy.

All of the stories are set in a fantastical or alternate realm where magic abides and anything seems possible.

Berkley Bookmas Giveaway and Highlight: Someone to Care by Mary Balogh

Bambi Unbridled is so excited to participate in Berkley Bookmas. Today we’re hosting Mary Balogh and an excerpt from the upcoming Someone to Care

Berkley Bookmas is chock full of exclusive content from authors like exclusive excerpts, deleted scenes, author recipes and more! 

Check out the calendar of events below: 

Someone to Care
by Mary Balogh

Marcel Lamarr, Marquess of Dorchester and Viola Kingsley have both found themselves stranded by carriage woes in a country village where a fair is about to take place. Marcel had made advances to Viola fifteen years before, when she was the married mother of young children, but she had repulsed his advances. Now he persuades her to spend the day at the fair with him and the evening at a dance on the village green:

They joined the lines for a country dance, less vigorous, more intricate than the reel. He was an elegant, accomplished dancer, as Viola well remembered. He also had a gift for focusing his attention upon his partner, even when he was performing some figures of the set with another.
How wonderful it was, she thought as she danced, the cool evening air on her face and arms below her shawl, to be someone's focus of attention, to be made to feel even for just a short while that she was the only person in the world who really mattered. It was not that she craved attention all the time. Far from it. She never had. But oh, sometimes it felt wonderful. They were surrounded by pretty, laughing young women, several of whom were darting half frightened, half appreciative glances at the formidable stranger in their midst, but he appeared to see no one but her.
It was all artifice, of course. It was all part of his appeal, and part of the danger. But it did not matter. She was not for a moment deceived by it. When the dancing was over for the evening, or perhaps even before it ended, they would return to their rooms at the inn, and tomorrow they would be on their separate ways and would very probably never see each other again. She did not mingle with the ton any longer.
So tonight—this evening—was to be enjoyed for what it was. A brief escape offered by fate.
All the sets were country dances or reels. They were what the villagers and farmers from the surrounding countryside knew and wanted. Viola and Mr. Lamarr—Marcel—danced two of them and watched a few more. But when one tune started he lifted a finger as though to stop her from saying anything, listened intently for a moment, and then turned to her.
"One could dance a waltz to this," he said.
She listened too and agreed. But no one else was waltzing. The dancers were in line, performing steps with which Viola was unfamiliar.
"We will waltz." It was an imperious command.
"Oh, hardly," she protested.
But he was holding out a hand for hers. "I believe waltzing is something you and I never did together, Viola," he said. "We will right that wrong. Come."
"Marcel." She frowned.
"Ah," he said. "I like it—the sound of you speaking my name. But come." He took her hand, and she did not resist as he led her about the green to the side nearest the church, where there were no people, perhaps because full night had fallen and the light from the lamps did not penetrate this far. Here there was heavy shade, though not total darkness. It was a clear night, illumined by both moonlight and starlight.
"You will waltz with me here," he said. It was still not a question. He was offering her no choice. Neither, of course, was he coercing her.
"But people will see," she protested.
"And?" She was aware that his eyebrows were raised. "They will see us dancing together. Scandalous goings on indeed."
"Oh, very well," she said, raising her left hand to set on his shoulder as his right arm came about her waist. How could she possibly resist? She had always thought the waltz the most romantic dance ever invented, yet there had been no such thing when she was young. There were still people who thought there was something scandalous about it, a man and a woman dancing a whole set exclusively with each other, face to face, their hands touching each other.
He took her free hand in his, listened a moment, and then led her into a waltz, twirling about the uneven ground of the village green, the sounds of voices and laughter seeming far away though they were only just beyond the shadows. She was very aware of his hands, the one resting firmly against the arch of her back at the waist, the other clasped about hers. She was aware that there was only an inch of space between his evening coat and her bosom, that their legs occasionally touched, that he was looking down at her, that she was looking back. She could not see him clearly in the darkness, but she knew his eyes were on hers. She could feel his body heat, smell his cologne, feel his magnetism. She could hear his breath.
She did not know how long it went on. Probably no longer than ten minutes. The dance had already been in progress, after all, when they started. It might have been forever. Viola forgot everything except the waltz and the man with whom she danced it in silence.
"Viola," he said softly next to her ear when the music stopped. He did not immediately release her, and she made no move to extricate herself from his arms. "Let us go see what is behind the church, shall we?"
A churchyard, she supposed. But actually there was a sort of meadow beyond that, sloping downward to a river she had only half noticed this morning from the carriage window. A willow tree leaned over from the bank and almost touched the water. A humpbacked stone bridge crossed the river a short way to their left. It must all be very picturesque in the daylight. But so was the rest of the village.
They stood halfway between the low churchyard wall and the river, which winked in the moonlight, and listened to the slight rushing sound of water. The music began again, but the sound of it and of voices and laughter seemed far away now, part of some other world that did not concern them. His arm, through which her hand had been drawn, came about her waist to draw her to his side, and she wondered idly, not if she ought to allow it, but if she would. She made no move to bat his arm away or to take a step to the side. Rather, she leaned against him.
She would allow it, then. But she was in no danger. She knew what he was about. She understood. It did not matter.
He nudged her head onto his shoulder, lifted her chin with his long fingers, and bent his face to hers to kiss her.


$100 Giftcard, and a book/galley/manuscript by each of the author's participating

For tomorrow’s fun, head to one of the following blogs:
·         SmexyBooks
·         That's What I'm Talking About
·         Fiction Fangirls 

Monday, December 11, 2017

ARC Review: Holiday Wishes by Jill Shalvis

Series:     Heartbreaker Bay #4.5
Pub. Date:Nov. 7, 2017
Length:128 pgs

Imagine yourself snowed in at a gorgeous B&B in Napa Valley right before Christmas... doesn't that sound wonderful!?! Now imagine you are there with your first love... could be heaven or could be hell, right?  Well its a little of both for our heroine and B&B proprietor, Charlotte "Lotti" Hartford.

Sean O'Riley is headed to Napa with the wedding party for his brother Finn and fiance, Pru. Sean feels like he has a lot to make up for and is obsessive about things being perfect for this wedding to pay Finn back for all the times he bailed Sean out of some trouble. But Sean is really too hard on himself and I found him to be a good hero overall. He did hurt Lotti when they were young... young being the key term. That happens with immaturity and inability to deal with adult relationships. Now he has grown up and become a responsible and caring adult, and I liked him quite a bit.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Audiobook Review: Dragon Foretold by Eve Langlais

Series:     Dragon Point #4
Pub. Date:Sept. 12, 2017
Publisher:Tantor Audio
Narrator:Chandra Skyye
Length:6 hrs 37 min

I went into this book expecting it to be the last of the series with our golden Dragon Foretold. However, Eve Langlais has gotten good at surprising twists that extend the series past the anticipated series arc. If you like these kinds of twists, I urge you to try her Space Gypsy Chronicles.

We met Sue-Ellen in previous books, and I remembered her as Brandon's bratty sister. The one who rebuffed him cruelly when he came to rescue Sue-Ellen from her sadistic Uncle Parker. But now that Parker is dead, Sue-Ellen is still hanging around, staying for the sake of young love, but starting to chafe at the bit of the situation to which she obligated herself. Of course just when Sue-Ellen is ready to return to the bosom of her reptilian family, things go awry, as they tend to do. For the most part, I liked Sue-Ellen as a heroine. There were a couple of times where she ran or turned away from our hero, which I'm not a fan of... but those instances were kept to a minimum and didn't set the tone for the romance.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Review: Simply Irresistible by Rachel Gibson

Series:     Chinooks #1
Pub. Date:March 20, 2012
Length:400 pgs

I haven't read Rachel Gibson in a few years, but I have had the Chinooks series on my TBR for a very long time. I'm glad that I'm finally starting it... and man did this book make me nostalgic. With glimpses into the 70s, 80s, and mostly taking place in the 90s - this story generated fond memories of the days of cassette tapes, walkmans, and no cell phones. 

Georgeanne "Georgie" Howard is a southern girl from McKinney, Texas with big hair, a big heart, and the gift for gab. As a dyslexic, Georgie grew up thinking that because she had trouble in school, her only option was to find a husband to take care of her. She excels at southern charm, cooking, and other "wifely" pursuits for her time, but she gets flustered and the words don't always come when she needs them. Marrying a man old enough to be her grandfather felt like a good option for Georgie, but when she gets cold feet on her wedding day, Georgie's life turns in a new direction. She meets a man that will impact her future in many different ways. I was so proud of Georgie when she decided to make a life for herself instead of looking for a man to take care of her. Being a single mom had to be extremely difficult for Georgie, but she handled it well and she had an awesome relationship with her daughter, Lexie. Lexie was also pretty cute for a kid, and I loved her little girl chatterbox ways.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

ARC Review: Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter

Series:     Soulwood #3
Pub. Date:Dec. 5, 2017
Publisher:Ace/Roc Books
Length:368 pgs

The Soulwood series is so freaking unique and captivating that I simply cannot get enough of it. The diverse cast of paranormal characters, supernatural abilities, and action and suspense keep me glued to the page from the first word to the very last. I definitely recommend that you start this series from the beginning so you have the full story on our diverse cast of characters.

Nell Ingram, our special agent and widder woman from East Tennessee continues to surprise and evolve from her cult/church upbringing. I have really enjoyed watching Nell blossom (literally) and grow into an independent woman, who has become slightly more worldly with each book. Her common sense approach to life is refreshing, and her new experiences out in the world away from the church are usually humorous as all get out. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

ARC Review: Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Elizabeth Hoyt

Series:     Maiden Lane #12.6
Pub. Date:Dec. 5, 2017
Publisher:Forever Romance
Length:92 pgs

I believe this is the final book of the Maiden Lane series, which makes me very sad. Luckily, I have not read all the books yet so I still have a few to tide me over until Elizabeth Hoyt gives us another stellar series to moon over. 

Because I haven't read the entire series yet, I am unsure if these characters have been previously introduced. Our hero is Adam Rutledge, Viscount d'Arque. I just love his title! Adam is a notorious rake that just loves using flattery to make females fall at his feet and annoy their jealous husbands to no end. When a winter storm and carriage accident strands Adam and his beloved grandmother, Lady Whimple, Adam finds himself stranded in the family home of the one woman who isn't phased by his charm - Miss Sarah St. John.

Monday, December 4, 2017

ARC Review: A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase

Series:     Difficult Dukes #1
Pub. Date:Nov. 28, 2017
Length:400 pages

Shockingly, this is the first time I have read Loretta Chase... and I liked this one so much that now I am excited to tackle the backlog of her published works! A Duke in Shining Armor kicks off a new series, the Difficult Dukes, featuring the three Dis-Graces, the Dukes of Ashmont, Ripley and Blackwood. These three Dis-Graces and their scandalous antics are well known around the ton, and historically they have not cared a whit what anyone thought or said about them. But that all seems to be changing. Blackwood has married Ripley's sister, Alice, and Ashmont is set to marry Lady Olympia Hightower. Or is he?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Audiobook Review: Highland Mist by Donna Grant

Series:     Druids Glen #1
Pub. Date:Oct 17, 2017
Publisher:Tantor Audio
Narrator:Ruth Urquhart
Length:8 hrs 39 min

The Druids Glen series brings the magic of the Highlands to life with druids, fae and the magical mists that are so prevalent in Scottish folklore. The narrator, Ruth Urquhart, did a good job with the narration. She has great performance ability and is able to handle male and different female affectations with ease.

This series starts off with a prophecy and the brutal murder of the Sinclair clan and kidnapping of the youngest daughter, Glenna, by the ruthless MacNeil laird. Thinking to use Glenna for her druid abilities, MacNeil raises her in his cruel household and she remains ignorant of her origins. Luckily the life of strife and oppression did not crush Glenna's spirit, and I was happy she took charge of her fate when the time was right. Glenna took a big risk putting her trust in an enemy Highlander, but she followed her instinct and never looked back. Glenna was a decent heroine. She was determined to learn, both about her past and about her druid origins and powers. She also stayed positive, for the most part, where her relationship with our hero was concerned.