Friday, March 30, 2012

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose

* * 1/2


Jac L’Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances – and of her mother’s suicide – she moved to America.

Now, fourteen years later she and her brother have inherited the company along with it’s financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing – leaving a dead body in his wake – Jac is plunged into a world she thought she’d left behind.

Back in Paris to investigate her brother’s disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L’Etoile has been espousing since 1799. Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation – or is it just another dream infused perfume?

The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra’s Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet’s battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac’s quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.


TBLF has a promising start, especially with a very captivating first chapter featuring Jac’s ancestor Giles who is in Egypt with Napoleon unearthing and exploring tombs. Upon uncovering one tomb in particular, Giles comes across the sarcophagus of what appears to be two star-crossed lovers, each clutching a pot containing a potent fragrance that can trigger past life memories.

Fast forward to the present moment; the House L’Etoile is facing a financial crisis. Jac’s brother Robbie believes he has the key to return the family to prosperity because he has found the legendary pottery shards from the tomb that Giles had discovered. The pottery shards contain the recipe for the mythical "memory" fragrance. It's believed that the ancient Egyptians were so adept at creating fragrances that they had discovered a way to trigger past-life memories through scent. To go public with such a discovery would be earth-shattering. The book has many subplots happening simultaneously between various characters, all inter-connected and every one of them facing different ramifications if reincarnation is proven to be possible. Most notably, the biggest would be the political impact on Tibet, the succession of the Dalai Lama and China’s desperate measures to both contain and control that region.

TBLF has so much going for it – mystery, intriguing historical references leading back to the time of Cleopatra and a political undercurrent that gives it an extra edge. Unfortunately it also suffers from too much storytelling, bogged down by needless detail. Too often in the initial chapters the characters will reminisce about something as a means of explaining their situation or their personalities but it just halts the flow of the story. This is especially the case with Jac who is besieged by various issues that it became tedious to the point that I found my interest waning. 

Things did pick up half way through the book such as when Jac succumbed to the "memory" fragrance. Or when all the characters were allowed to move forward and actually do something rather than just sift through their memories. 

While I wasn't exactly blown away by this book, I do still think that its premise is worth checking out. The historical references and past life collections are fascinating and thrilling once you move past the excess details.

~ Bel

Thursday, March 29, 2012

White Witch by Trish Milburn

**1/2
From Bell Bridge Books:

Witchcraft Is Her Family's Business.
No One Quits the Family and Lives To Tell About It.


"Jax” Pherson has power, enough power to know her future will end in service to the dark coven her father controls. Unless she can stay hidden in a small community in the mountains of North Carolina. She must find a way to live without magic and deny the darkness she feels welling up inside her—the same dark power that fuels the covens around the world.
All she wants is a normal life. A boyfriend. Friends. Some place to belong, but all too soon Jax’s barely begun new life hangs in the balance when she discovers that the boy she’s attracted to is sworn to kill her kind. He’s a hunter with good reason to kill everything that goes bump in the night.
Even the most fleeting use of her power is tantamount to signing her death warrant and will bring both hunter and coven down on her. But can she walk away when her friends are threatened by an old evil? Something created by the magic of witches? Jax’s only hope of survival is to convince the boy she loves to forget everything he’s ever been taught and help her find a way to fight the covens. To believe there is some good in her.

The Bad:
White Witch was rushed; therefore, the story felt a little disjointed.  As if the author was trying to force everything into too few pages.  The galley we received from was 188 pages, so it is a relatively short book and might have drawn me in more if the story were a little more flushed out. 

The Good:
While White Witch felt disjointed, I thought the concept was great - a witch who refuses to use her powers to beget more power and harm the helpless.  I was caught in between liking the story and wishing more of the back story and details were told.  I loved Toni - the Joss Whedon worshipping new friend.  She's sassy, fun and I want her t-shirt collection. 

White Witch is the first in the Coven Series.  According to Bell Bridge, the second book in the series is Bane and the third is Magick - release dates were not listed, but I will definitely read Bane.  I look forward to seeing what happens next.

~Shel

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Starters by Lissa Price

* * * *

Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.


He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . . .(Taken from GoodReads)


Starters is an unbelievably fast-paced Sci-Fi/Dystopian adventure. The story takes place in a world in our not too distant future. A future where movies have developed into holos but cars are still cars that are just faster and sleeker. It’s a future that is believable which makes the story that much more disturbing. If the reader can believe what this future looks like, then they can also believe that what the Antagonist, the company Prime Destinations, is doing is possible. And that is what makes for a truly disturbing and excellent read.

A vaccine to protect people from the Spore Wars was only provided to the old and the young. Now with the middle-aged working population mostly obliterated by the Spore Wars, the country is being run by Enders, the elderly population. Thanks to modern technology and medicine, Enders can now live upwards of 200 years old. They have taken over the workforce by default. The Starters are all those kids under 20 that have survived the Spore Wars and are now parent-less. Almost all Starters are parent-less, the exception being those that are lucky enough to be claimed by an Ender relative. If not claimed, Starters have two options. Be a squatter that is constantly on the run from the police or live in one of numerous Institutions designed to house unclaimed Starters and force them into work.

Callie and her brother are unclaimed Starters. And they are squatters that are constantly on the run. Callie has heard about Prime Destinations and the price they will offer if she would be willing to rent out her body to an ender - a price that would pay for a home and food for her and her brother. She decides to take the risk only to find that Prime Destinations plans for the Starters bodies they rent out is more nefarious than she imagined.

This story really makes you think. What price would you pay? How far would you be willing to go to recapture your youth? As much as I joke about recapturing my teen years, I realize that I truly am just joking. When faced with the question as to whether I would be willing to take over someone else’s body if it meant living a longer and fuller life, the answer is, without a doubt, NO! Who are we to take the precious privilege of living away from someone else? The idea is reprehensible.

This was a great story and I am very excited that we only have to wait until this fall for part two, Enders.



Nat

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter

***      Happy Release Day to Aimee Carter!

From Harlequin:

Kate Winters has won immortality.

But if she wants a life in the Underworld with Henry, she’ll have to fight for it.


Becoming immortal wasn’t supposed to be the easy part. Though Kate is about to be crowned Queen of the Underworld, she’s as isolated as ever. And despite her growing love for Henry, ruler of the Underworld, he’s becoming ever more distant and secretive. Then, in the midst of Kate’s coronation, Henry is abducted by the only being powerful enough to kill him: the King of the Titans.

As the other gods prepare for a war that could end them all, it is up to Kate to save Henry from the depths of Tartarus. But in order to navigate the endless caverns of the Underworld, Kate must enlist the help of the one person who is the greatest threat to her future.
Henry’s first wife, Persephone.

The Good:
This is a very interesting sequel to The Goddess Test.  I thought Interrupted was better written and executed than Goddess Test.  The story moved more quickly and seemed to flow better than the first in the series.  Kate's a little whiny, but that is pretty true to a teenager turned immortal.  I thought the relationship and interraction between Kate and Persephone was fun and has the potential to become even more so in the next installment. 

The Bad:
I just cannot buy into Carter's mythology.  As an avid lover of Greek Mythology, I generally love books spinning mythology (see Greek Week posts from October if you don't believe me), but I really have a hard time with this one.  It is certainly a unique take on the Greek gods and I applaud the effort, but something holds me back from losing myself in the spin.

If you enjoyed The Goddess Test, you will enjoy Goddess Interrupted.  If you haven't checked out the series and you enjoy stories about the Greek gods, I say give it a chance and let me know what you think - am I crazy for not getting into it?

~Shel





Monday, March 26, 2012

The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards


* * 1/2

England, 1584.



When beautiful Lady Jane Rievaulx begins her service to the Queen at Richmond Palace, she is thrilled to see the court's newest arrival . . . Master James Lacey.



No matter that Jane was previously courted by the eldest Lacey brother-James is the one who has won her heart. For his part, James cannot deny his fascination with Jane; his plans, however, do not allow for love. He is about to set sail on a treacherous journey to the Americas, seeking absolution for what he sees as past sins. But when Jane is forced into a terrible situation by her own family, only one man can save her. Will Master James return to his lady before it's too late?



In the Other Countess we learned that Master James and Lady Jane have feelings for each other but neither act on those feelings due to the circumstances in which they met and part ways. In The Queen’s Lady, Lady Jane has become a widow after only a few months of marriage. Her late husband kindly arranged for her to be one of Queen Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting after his death. Master James has been serving as a scout/spy in the war with Spain. He has returned home sad and disillusioned with life and himself. Hoping that time away will heal his mental state, James’ brother and brother-in-law urge him to take part in a expedition to America. During the planning of the expedition (which is run by the Queen’s favorite, Raleigh) James spends some time at Court where he again meets the Lady Jane. After a few misunderstandings, their feelings for each other are revealed. But regardless of how he feels, James does not want to pursue a relationship while in his current mental state and Jane is left to deal with two bitter and conniving families that are each after the dowry her husband so generously willed to her after his death.

I really enjoyed the first book in the Lacey Chronicles, The Other Countess. After finishing it, I was really looking forward to reading The Queen’s Lady. Both Lady Jane and Master James Lacey were such likable and intriguing characters that I couldn’t wait to read their story. Unfortunately, their story did not meet the expectations that had been set with The Other Countess. The historical descriptions were wonderful but the story itself was slow. The action and intrigue did not really begin until about the half-way point of the book. Also, all characters in this book fell surprisingly flat. Including the Lady (now Dowager Marchioness Rievaulx) Jane and Master James. The new Marquess Rievaulx and his brothers were overly stereotypical antagonists. I found their involvement in the plot annoying rather than frightening.

And do you remember Lady Jane’s maid, Nell, from The Other Countess? In my review, I mentioned my confusion over the purpose of her character. I thought maybe there would be more to her character in The Queen’s Lady but she appears for maybe two pages and only in the role as servant in the Earl of Dorset’s household. I guess it’s possible she will have a significant role in The Rogue’s Princess, the third and last installment of the Lacey Chronicles, but I am not going to hold my breath.

On a good note, Lady Jane’s brother and father were wonderfully horrendous and evil. They truly made me nervous. They became great antagonists once the story started moving. Also, Diego, the servant that Master James acquired in The Other Countess, was a lovely diversion. He wasn’t as funny as he was before but he still had some wonderful scenes as well as a love interest of his own. Then, of course, there was the Earl of Dorset and his Countess. Their appearances were short but with the little time they were given they do make an impact on the story and the reader; particularly if you have read their story.

Unfortunately, since I didn’t start to enjoy this story until I was already half-way through, I have to put my rating between Meh and Enjoy.



~Nat

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Queens of All the Earth by Hannah Sternberg

* * * *

As her freshman classmates move into dorms at Cornell University, Olivia Somerset suffers a nervous breakdown. When months of coaxing and analyzing fail to rouse Olivia from her stupor, big sister Miranda decides the sisters should fly off to Barcelona for some "vacation therapy."


When a mistake at their Barcelona hostel leaves the Somersets in a large co-ed dorm room, Olivia and Miranda are saved by kindly Mr. Brown and his son Greg, who happily volunteer to surrender their private room. But while Olivia feels an instant connection with brooding Greg Brown, Miranda sides with fellow guest and cocky American travel writer Lenny:


The Browns are just plain weird, and must be avoided at all costs.


In the midst of urbane Peruvian priests-in-training and Scottish soccer fans, from the shops of La Rambla to the waters of the Mediterranean to the soaring heights of Montjuic, Miranda works to protect her still-fragile sister while Olivia struggles to understand her burgeoning adulthood, her feelings for Greg, and the fear that makes the next step in her life so impossible to take.


Inspired by E. M. Forster's classic novel A Room with a View, debut author Hannah Sternberg's Queens of All the Earth is a poetic journey of young love and self-awakening set against the beauty of Catalonia. Teenagers and adults alike will be riveted and moved by this coming-of-age novel about the conflicting hearts and minds of two very different sisters



I have never read A Room with a View. I have, however, seen the movie 18 gazillion times. So that is where I will make my comparisons. I apologize to anyone that is a die hard fan of the book and not the movie. I promise it is on the “To Read” list.

I don’t agree with classifying this story as a novel. At approximately 162 pages I would call it either a short story or a novella. I fully admit that while reading it, I was thinking of it as a short story which definitely affected that way I was viewing it while reading and then rating it. Viewing this as a novel would have probably made me a lot less forgiving of the lack of story development. However, in my opinion, this was completely forgivable when reading it as a short story, particularly if you are familiar with the original story.

The Queens of All the Earth is a lovely homage to A Room with a View. I think the story really lends itself to the YA category due to the instant connection these two teens feel for each other. And the change of setting from Italy to Spain was an excellent choice. I fully admit that I probably feel this way because I have always wanted to visit Spain.

I found that I was hot and cold on the characters in the story. The characters of Olivia and Greg were great modern day embodiments of Lucy Honeychurch and George Emerson. Greg’s father was just as lovely as Mr. Emerson in the original - by far my favorite character due to his unassuming kindness.

Unfortunately the other characters in this story were so unlikeable I found myself getting very frustrated. Don’t get me wrong, I know that not all the characters in A Room with a View were likeable and perfect but even I was able to find redeeming qualities in Eleanor Lavish and Charlotte Bartlett. Their modern day equivalents – Lenny and Miranda – were so mean-spirited that I failed to find any redeeming qualities at all. Miranda did save a face a little at the end but it would have been nice to see some likeable qualities earlier in the story.

Mean girls aside, I really enjoyed this story. For the setting, the main characters and more than anything, the poetic words.

“He had swallowed the sun, and he would wait in the water and glide through it until he could set his teeth in the silver of the moon.”

It is passages like this that make me want to put a copy of this book in the hands of everyone that I know.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Christmas In Lucky Harbor by Jill Shalvis (18+ Adult Romance)

* * * *

Love awaits you in Lucky Harbor . . .


Simply Irresistible


After losing her boyfriend and her job, Maddie leaves L.A. to claim her inheritance-a ramshackle inn nestled in the little town of Lucky Harbor, Washington. She sees the potential for a new home and a new career-if she can give the inn the makeover it needs. Enter Jax, a tall, handsome contractor who knows exactly what Maddie needs...



The Sweetest Thing


Helping her sister set up the family inn is just the thing to make Tara forget her ex-husband and focus on her new life. Until she meets a sexy, green-eyed sailor determined to keep her hot, bothered, and in his bed. When her ex reappears, Tara must confront her past and decide what she really wants.


If the sisters are lucky, they might just find that everything their hearts desire is right here in Lucky Harbor.



Not too long ago I reviewed Jill Shalvis’s Head Over Heals. That turned out to be the third installment in the Lucky Harbor series. Installments one and two were kindly bundled together in this lovely 2011 Christmas release which I read AFTER reading the third part in the series. Fortunately, you did not need to read these in order so none of the enjoyment was lost by reading Head Over Heals first.

The three romances tell the story of three half sisters (they all share the same mother but different fathers). Maddie is the middle sister and heroine of Simply Irresistible – the first book in Christmas in Lucky Harbor. Maddie has lost her job, her long time boyfriend and the mother that she never knew. She is hoping that the inn her mother left to her and her sisters will be the new beginning she desperately needs. What she is not hoping for is romance. After her last bad experience, she has sworn off men. That is until she meets Jax. They are both drawn to each other in a way that neither of them was ever planning on.

This was a cute story. Maddie was instantly loveable. And her love of potato chips just endeared her to me even more. Jax was lovely and his constant loving amusement over the very clumsy and adorable Maddie made him that much more darling. This one didn’t have a lot of laugh out loud moments for me but I still enjoyed it and definitely see me going back to it and some point for a quick re-read.


Tara is the oldest sister and heroine of The Sweetest Thing. She initially wanted to sell the inn but now she is helping Maddie get it ready for guests and is finding it to be the perfect escape from her previous life. The only problem? Ford. Not only is he a Lucky Harbor native but he and Tara share a past and a secret that no one else knows. 17 years later, Ford wants to rekindle their romance but Tara is hesitant. When her hot racing ex-husband shows up determined to win her back, Tara realizes that she needs to decides if she wants either of these men in her life.

This story was by far my favorite of the three. First, Ford is HOT. Actually, all Shalvis men are smokin’. But there was something about Ford…and I’m not the only one that thought so. Apparently he is highly appreciated by all the women in Lucky Harbor. A certain scene where the ladies of the Garden Society audibly admire Ford in all his sweaty shirtless glory had me laughing so hard I was crying. I somehow see the Bibliojunkies being in similar situations when we are living our Golden Girl years in our beautiful seaside condo on the Gulf Coast and our pool boys stop by and…yeah, you get the picture.

But as much as I laughed I actually cried during this one. Not something that I do often when reading adult romances. Tara and Ford’s past is an intense one that leaves both of them changed in a way that makes you feel strongly for both them and their situation.

As I mentioned before, Jill Shalvis has become a new favorite of mine and these two stories only moved her higher on my short list of favorites

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Halflings by Heather Burch

**1/2

From Zondervan:

In the first book of the Halfling Trilogy, Nikki Youngblood discovers she’s the central force of a madman’s plan, and turns to three half-angel boys for protection. With the Halflings, she’s completely safe. Everything except her heart. And Mace’s soul. Falling for him could ensure his eternal ruin.

Description:
Split. After being inexplicably targeted by an evil intent on harming her at any cost, seventeen-year-old Nikki finds herself under the watchful guardianship of three mysterious young men who call themselves halflings. Sworn to defend her, misfits Mace, Raven, and Vine battle to keep Nikki safe while hiding their deepest secret—and the wings that come with. A growing attraction between Nikki and two of her protectors presents a whole other danger. While she risks a broken heart, Mace and Raven could lose everything, including their souls. As the mysteries behind the boys’ powers, as well as her role in a scientist’s dark plan, unfold, Nikki is faced with choices that will affect the future of an entire race of heavenly beings, as well as the precarious equilibrium of the earthly world.

The Good:
Halflings is romantic and touching.  I am as torn as Nikki is regarding her relationships with both Mace and Raven, not just because she has to choose between them, but because if she chooses either of them, it subjects the boys to eternal damnation.

The Bad:
I have been sitting on this review for over a week - unsure of exactly what to say.  I enjoyed Halflings and I will read the sequel, Guardian, actually enjoyed may be too strong.  I am torn between a Meh, and an I enjoyed it.  The story was compelling enough that I will read the sequel, but not so much that I am desperately anticipating it. 

If you enjoy angel stories, love stories or stories about the battles between good and evil (or light and dark as the case may be), then you should read Halflings.  I would put it in a similar class as Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, if that gives you a reference for comparision.

~Shel


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

13 Hangmen by Art Corriveau

* * * * 

Available April 1, 2012

“Some people won’t believe any of this story. You might be one of them. But every single word is true. Tony DiMarco does catch a murderer, solve a mystery, and find treasure – all in the first few days after he moves, unexpectedly, to 13 Hangmen’s Court in Boston. The fact that he also turns thirteen at the same time is not a coincidence.”

So begins the story of Tony and his friends – give 13 year-old boys, all of whom are living in the same house in the same attic bedroom but at different times in history! None are ghosts, all are flesh and blood, and somehow all have come together in the attic room, visible only to one another. And all are somehow linked to a murder, a mystery, and a treasure.


Is it too early to claim a favorite for 2012? 13 Hangmen was such fun reading that I can’t wait to share it with my daughter when it finally comes out.

This thrilling story combines everything described above – murder, mystery and a treasure hunt.  But the author has also added history, mythology and numerology into the mix. All of this is done so impressively that it’s thoroughly engaging reading as soon as it gets under way.

On his thirteenth birthday, Tony inherits a house that belonged to his Uncle Angelo – a man he only met once and barely knew. The inheritance comes with some odd stipulations – he must live in the house until he’s twenty-one, his bedroom must be in the attic and he cannot ever sell the house to any member of the Hagmann family who are perennial enemies of his family. This inheritance results in the uprooting of the entire family (his parents and his older twin brothers) from Detroit to Boston.

Getting used to his new digs is quite the task especially when he learns about what makes the house special.  It all starts with an old Red Sox baseball hat and from there the adventure begins. I won’t go into what happens next because it’s honestly so exciting that I don’t want to risk any spoilers. Suffice it to say that Tony somehow comes into contact with previous occupants of the house and delves into its history, the neighborhood and even a significant time in the country’s past.

Since I was a kid, I have always, always loved history and what I love about this book is how imaginatively Corriveau blends historical elements and makes them work in this adventure through time. Even though he admits to tweaking certain details to fit the story, he makes history interactive, a neat reminder that some of the greatest events come about as a result of chance encounters. And Tony, a sensible protagonist who starts out in the shadow of his more outgoing brothers, becomes the hero when he gains confidence in his own abilities to eventually save the day. 

I highly recommend 13 Hangmen simply for its good writing and inspired storytelling. I was drawn into this book, eager with every turn of the page to discover the next clue in the puzzle. Anyone who's a fan of mystery or the 39 Clues series will enjoy this. 

~ Bel

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop!



We are celebrating our Irish roots at BiblioJunkies!  This giveaway is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not a Writer, Books Complete Me & Author Cindy Thomas.  Check out the rules below - the giveaway lasts from 3/17/12 thru 3/22/12.  We were going to go with a book set in Ireland - I was leaning toward Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon, but in the end we decided to let you decide what book you wanted.  So this prize is a You Call It - Any book from Barnes & Noble up to $10.  Sorry, this one is only for U.S. residents.  But might I suggest you choose Carrier of the Mark - I really enjoyed it and it has hot Irish boys in it!

You know the drill, fill out the Rafflecopter below.  Check out the rest of the participating blogs with the linky below.  Good Luck!

~Shel, Bel & Nat




The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

***

From Hatchette Book Group:

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.
Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

With a title like this, I was expecting a lot more fluff out of Statistical Probability.  It's not really fluffy.  Truth be told, Statistical Probability is heart wrenching - following Hadley while she tries to deal with her anger over her Dad cheating on her Mom and leaving them to live in another country, confusion from meeting this boy to whom she feels an immediate and intense connection and the dread of seeing her Dad marry the "other woman" - like I said, heart-wrenching. 

The relationship between Hadley and Oliver is sweet and feels genuine.  Oliver is the type of guy you should always hope to run across in an airport!  Hadley is a little crazy, but understandably so.  Most surprisingly, this story is less about love at first sight and more about love and learning to deal with the surprises and disappointments that come with loving someone, even a parent.  Are there some things you simply cannot forgive, and is that okay?  I don't have the answers, but Statistical Probability made me ask the questions. 

Statistical Probability is the kind of story that stays with you, long after you finish it. 

~Shel

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fever by Lauren DeStefano

* * * 1/2


Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion. But danger is never far behind.

Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago – surrounding that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.

The two are determined to get to Manhattan , to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous – and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion … by any means necessary.

In this sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price – now that she has more to lose than ever.


I was so eager to read Fever that I’d forgotten how disturbing this story can be. It took me a good three chapters to get over it and allow myself to get sucked in. Where Wither took place within the secure and insulated confines of the mansion, Fever finds our heroes on the run exposed to a damaged, volatile and unsympathetic world.

Rhine and Gabriel are instantly dragged into a sinister environment in the scarlet district run by Madame, where apparently Rhine will be the new attraction in this circus-like brothel. Rhine plays along to buy time for herself and Gabriel employing the same tactic she used with Lindley – getting Madame to be comfortable with her and earning her trust. However, Madame is a very unstable character who gives Rhine plenty of the "heebie-jeebies". There were a few times when I thought things would get so wretched. Thankfully, DeStefano sidestepped a potentially terrifying scenario but she didn’t eliminate it entirely. Rhine and Gabriel eventually make their escape but not before a couple of close encounters with some unsavory people.
  
When they finally reach their destination, Rhine is destroyed to find that the home she left – that she held firm in her memory to keep her strong – is no longer the way she remembered it. And … her brother isn’t there. Scouring the streets for some clue, they end up boarding at a foster home. It’s tight quarters but it’s nice that Rhine and Gabriel have some semblance of security.

As Rhine broods over the way things have changed, Gabriel is taking it in for the first time. It's gutting to hear Rhine describe the world as it used to be through her memories and what her parents had shared with her.

Fever has some disturbing and uncomfortable moments that had me on edge but this is the world they live in. Each turn of the page like a hesitating look around the corner to see what's lurking on the other side. Even with the disappointments they've experienced, Rhine and Gabriel manage to keep their humanity intact. By the end of the book, you see how wickedly DeStefano has twisted and spun the story leading to a surprising cliffhanger!

~ Bel




Wednesday, March 14, 2012

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace

* * * *



"Sometimes at night, I wake up and stare at the heart for hours. I think of how I collected each piece from the beach, how I glued it all together into one big sculpture. I wonder if Connor realizes what it means, that he’ll always have a piece of me no matter what happens. Each piece of glass is another piece of myself that I gave to him.

It’s too bad I didn’t keep any pieces for myself."

At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and a track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved – and needed. Ann can’t recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor’s rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything – and everyone – in its path.

This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong.

But I Love Him is a very disturbing look at the descent of a relationship into violence. The first chapter opens with Ann, lying beaten and miserable on the floor after another argument on awry. This is the literal breaking point but we’re not given much else. All the pieces come together as her story gradually unfolds. Each chapter serving as a reference to a point in time in their relationship. Every so often, a chapter brings the reader back to the present.

At first, I found the jumbled chronology disorienting. There were a few times when Ann mentioned certain events and I wondered if I had missed something. But ultimately this tactic works because it narrows the focus to the history of the relationship first before anyone can point a leering finger at Anne, wondering why in the hell she remained with an abusive boyfriend for a whole year. It's written like one of those, "where did it all go wrong?" scenarios where you sift through your memories attempting to pinpoint that crucial moment in time.

Connor himself has suffered at the hands of his abusive father and watched as his mother was destroyed by it. Ann witnesses this as well. So it’s unnerving to see her make the very same mistakes as his mother did: staying with the guy, thinking it’s something she did that set them off. Such is the irony that Ann recognized those mistakes in his mother but not in herself. It’s gut wrenching to see how much Ann has relinquished from her life so that Connor can be the absolute center. Even her friends have given up on her somewhat. She knows what her life has become. She admits to the "wrongness" and stress of feeling guilt at being happy if she hangs out with a friend, or that she's scared to say the wrong thing to him. Yet she still feels she can fix things – as long as she can placate him, she can fix him.

But I Love Him is not a fun read but it’s engaging. Amanda Grace does a spectacular job of helping us to understand Ann’s psyche, why she stayed and why she felt she couldn’t leave. I wanted to read it because I wonder about people who remain in toxic relationships that are slowly ruining them. It's easy as an outsider, to think "Don't you have any self-worth? Can't you see the signs?". I could never comprehend why anyone would allow that to happen to themselves. But I suppose you don't know until you've been through it or had someone you love go through it. 

This is a very thought-provoking book that made me cringe several times. I developed great empathy for Ann and surprisingly, Connor too. I felt sadness for his pathetic and terrifying childhood, his sad excuse of a man for a dad and his hopeless mother who never chose to give Connor his best chance. And though initially I wasn't a fan of the jumbled chronology, it is in fact a genius ploy because by the very end of the book, where everything is set into motion, I was left breathless.

~ Bel






Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Head Over Heals by Jill Shalvis (Adult Romance -18+)

* * * ½

Free-spirited Chloe lives life on the edge. Unlike her soon-to-be married sisters, she isn't ready to settle into a quiet life running their family's newly renovated inn. But soon her love of trouble--and trouble with love-draws the attention of the very stern, very sexy sheriff who'd like nothing better than to tame her wild ways.


Suddenly Chloe can't take a misstep without the sheriff hot on her heels. His rugged swagger and his enigmatic smile are enough to make a girl beg to be handcuffed. For the first time, instead of avoiding the law, Chloe dreams of surrender. Can this rebel find a way to keep the peace with the straitlaced sheriff? Or will Chloe's colorful past keep her from a love that lasts . . . and the safe haven she truly wants in a town called Lucky Harbor?





I have probably mentioned before how much I love adult romance novels. I’ve been reading them since my late teens. Sometimes they are a perfect escape. As I have gotten older I have found myself sticking to the same authors (Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas and Nora Roberts) and very rarely pick up a new author. In January, Bel read her first adult romance. Jill Shalvis’s The Trouble with Paradise was recommended to her by Shel. After reading Bel’s review, I decided to give Jill a chance. I won’t deny the fact that Netgalley and Forever generously providing us with a few Jill Shalvis galleys had something to do with me choosing to take the chance with a new romance author.

And as always when it comes to recommendations from my fellow Bibliojunkies, I was not disappointed.

Head Over Heals tells the tale of the youngest of three half sisters. Chloe Traeger is the wild child. A free spirit that, much like her late mother, can’t seem to settle down in one place. And that works for her. But now she has a vested interest in the newly remodeled inn that she and her sisters have inherited and finds herself being drawn back to Lucky Harbor for longer and longer stays. A stay that she would say was born out of responsibility but might just possibly be because she has found a home with her two older sisters with whom she has built a relationship after years of being strangers.

Then enter the Sheriff. Sawyer is the best friend of each of her sister’s fianc├ęs. He has known Chloe for over a year now and has managed to keep his distance. Her roaming lifestyle and endless shenanigans don’t fit into the orderly dedicated life he has made for himself. But those same shenanigans manage to draw him until he has to figure out if he can make room in his life for the force of nature that is Chloe.

I adored this book. This was a wonderfully romantic story told with a very healthy dose of humor. Jill Shalvis seems to be the master of humor and I found myself laughing more often than not. Chloe suffers from extreme asthma. So bad that she has never had a Blue Ribbon Moment without having a horrible asthma attack. That shouldn’t be funny but Jill Shalvis manages to make it an excellent vehicle for both humor and intensity in this story and I love her all the more for it. Let’s just say that I have found a new romance author to add to my short list of favorites.



Nat

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Peek in the Biblio-Bin (20)

In My Mailbox (or as we like to call it, A Peek in the Biblio-Bin) is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. It is a way for bloggers to share what books they have won, received for review, bought from the bookstore, borrowed from the library or friend, etc.




This week Nat gives you a Peek in the Biblio-Bin!






Won:

Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James


For Review:

Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

The Punk Ethic by Timothy Decker


Purchased:

Where Things Come Back by Corey Whaley




What was in your Biblio-Bin this week?

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Wake Trilogy by Lisa McMann

* * * 1/2


NOT ALL DREAMS ARE SWEET

For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people’s dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody-notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie’s seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.

She can’t tell anybody about what she does – they’d never believe her, or worse, they’d think she’s a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, curse with an ability she doesn’t want and can’t control.

Then she falls into gruesome nightmare, on that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else’s twisted psyche. She is a participant …



The Wake Trilogy explores the very lonely and exhausting life of Janie who learns that she’s a dream catcher. As a dream catcher she is able to enter into someone’s dream and witness the dream as it unfolds. Janie is particularly susceptible to this if the sleeping person is in close proximity to her. And each time she wakes from the dream, her body and mind are completely wrecked. This has been her life for as long as she can remember. Lisa McCann eloquently builds Janie’s world of isolation and chaos. With a father who deserted the family and a mother so devastated by it that she turned to booze and mentally checked out years ago, it’s a real wonder that Janie manages to somehow hold it together and get good grades in school.

Janie is a different kind of hero – one who carries her own burden silently while simultaneously holding up the fractured remnants of her family. She deals. With her mother lost to her and only one friend who is unaware of her ability, Janie's life is a prison. It's hard to watch when she should be thriving at this time in her life.  

When she bonds with Cabel, a troubled boy from school whom she has known for a while, things begin to change for her. Despite the fact that she is used to keeping her guard up, he becomes a very important part of her life. His gentleness and sincerity are a counterbalance to her dysfunctional reality. And it's through Cabel that she thinks she can experience some sense of "normal" she didn't think possible.

The dreams are still there and when she inadvertently plunges into a horrific nightmare, she thinks she may actually loose her mind. But with Cabel’s help and his surprising story, Janie may finally get the help and support she needs.

In the next two books in the series, Fade and Gone, Janie gets to explore her ability and find a way to use it for good. Fade shows a much more lighthearted Janie even though she finds herself embroiled in a scandal that she and Cabel are investigating. This could not only compromise her safety but also expose her rare ability.

In Gone, Janie and Cabel are dealing with the fallout of the scandal and how it impacts their relationship. This book shows Janie returning to somber, guarded nature as she sadly admits that she can never be normal. Dream catching has also led to some serious side effects that are slowly affecting her. As if that isn't enough, she also learns shocking facts about her family history. By the end, Janie is at that proverbial “fork in the road” and must choose the path she’ll take. Either one leads to deteriorating circumstances but it really does come down to the lesser of two evils.

Out of the 3, I liked Fade best. It was nice to see Janie come alive somewhat and find a sense of purpose other than keeping up her grades and making sure the groceries are done. McMann doesn’t sugarcoat what she and Cabel go through. Even though this is a paranormal story, it rings true and McMann handles some really tough subjects like alcoholism with plenty of finesse.

I recommend The Wake Trilogy because Janie’s dark, twisted world is crafted so beautifully and honestly. And though Janie has a tough road ahead, there’s still some bit of hope. Is it a fun read? No. But I was riveted. And when it ended, I felt satisfied that Janie was in good hands.

~ Bel










Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal

* * * 1/2





It’s an unsettled summer for Sirena. Back in Texas, her family’s splitting apart, but here in Rhode Island, at the cottage of her free-spirited aunt, it’s a different world. There are long days at the beach and intriguing encounters with him. Pilot. He’s the lifeguard.He’s the lifeguard with shamanic skills. He both saves Sirena and makes her feel lost at sea. Sirena explores her obsession with Pilot and discovers 
his mysterious – almost magical – gifts.
  

Come on ...how many of you are staring at this cover thinking, “I want to go to that beach!”. I feel exactly the same way after reading this romantic story about a magical summer. (By the way, my husband just saw it as he walked by and said, "Really?". I feigned disinterest.)

First off, it’s a relief to have a female protagonist who is thankfully devoid of any kind of teenage angst. Sirena is just your normal girl with a normal best friend and worries about normal things. The biggest drama in her life at the moment is that her parents are divorcing. They send her to her aunt's in Rhode Island while they remain in Texas to hash out the details of their divorce. Sirena takes it in stride. She’s almost practical as she processes these changes. And while I said she’s normal, that doesn’t mean that interesting things can’t happen.

During her stay, she meets a few people who leave an impression on her like Pilot, who spends endless days at the beach, you know, as lifeguards tend to do. She can’t escape him and is conflicted whenever she’s in his presence. She’s giddy being near him and also slightly self-conscious – it’s quite cute to watch. Sirena has an innocence about her that makes you nostalgic to be a seventeen year old again. You just want to wrap yourself up in that feeling. Then there’s also Antonio, an elderly man who sits on the beach every day and paints. He becomes a mentor to Sirena who is an artist herself. With him, she feels a reassuring calm and finds herself opening up to this stranger about the changes taking place in her life. It’s a wonderful friendship that gives her some anchor while she’s there for the summer.

At the urging of her Aunt Ellie, Sirena also starts volunteering at the local hospital thinking the routine will be good for her. This in particular becomes an important catalyst in her own personal growth as she encounters illness, sadness and healing.

There’s a part of The Lifeguard that reminds me of Anna and The French Kiss – you know that feeling of falling in love for the first time; those oh so awkward moments of trying to play it cool when you’re attracted to someone. Those instances made me smile. Then there are those other moments when she’s witness to “miracles”. And they all point to Pilot who sets her imagination on fire. And where Sirena is such a delightfully straightforward girl, Pilot is elusive. But after a few life-altering events, we share in her wonderment as she discovers who he is.

The Lifeguard is very enjoyable. It was a nice change in pace to read a story that's pleasant and relatively uncomplicated but still had mystery to it. I absolutely adore Sirena and I fell in love with Pilot. It's just one of those books where you feel good at the end and you're glad you read it. And if nothing else, it'll just make you even more anxious for a beautiful summer at the beach. 

~ Bel

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (12)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that highlights future releases that we are excitedly anticipating.

This week's WoW charmed the pants of the Bibliojunkies and after seeing this book trailer we think you will agree that it looks like a super fun modern day take on Robin Hood...






By Elisa Ludwig
Publication Date: March 13, 2012

Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.


Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friend” – know to everyone as the Glitterati – without them suspecting a thing, is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls. Who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her – evening the social playing field between the have and have-nots. There’s not time for crushes and flirting with boys especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.

But when the cops start investigating the string of burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person Willa trusts most?




By Gemma Halliday
Publication Date:  March 13, 2012

She faked her death to escape life as an assassin. But now her enemies have tracked her down, and this time they want her to stay dead.

Anya Danielovich was an assassin in her former life. But that was a long time ago. Today she’s just Anna Smith—a single, thirtysomething woman living in San Francisco with a simple desire to lead a better life. But she’s still haunted by her past—the people she killed, the mentor she betrayed, the woman she was. She’s taken care to cover her tracks, but she’s beginning to feel like she’s being watched…

Nick Dade is a hired gunman—the best of the best. He’s read Anya’s file and, after weeks of surveillance, he’s ready to pull the trigger…until someone else beats him to the punch. With his agenda shattered, Nick suddenly finds himself thrown together with the woman he’s been sent to eliminate. Who is she really? Who hired the second hit? And who can he trust? Together Nick and Anna find themselves embroiled in a web of deceit and desire as an unknown enemy closes in. To unravel the truth, Anna must face her past even if that means risking both Nick’s life and her own.



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Interview with Kristen Callihan author of Firelight (Paranormal Romance 18+)


Yesterday, I shared my review of the fabulous new paranormal romance novel, Firelight. Today I am so glad to have Kristen Callihan join us to chat more about her book, her writing inspirations and the exciting sequels she has planned! 


Kristen Callihan

On your blog you mention that Firelight is a retelling of Beauty and The Beast. You also drew upon an old Norwegian folktale and threw some paranormal into the mix. How did all of this come about?


The story of Firelight came to me while my daughter was watching Disney's Beauty and The Beast. But I'm half Norwegian so I grew up with the story of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, the inspiration for the beauty and the beast tale. In that story, the heroine plays a much more dynamic role, which I appreciated. So I took elements of both tales. As for the paranormal aspect, paranormal is one of my first loves. I like the idea that there is more to this world than meets the eye. It seemed logical to wrote a beauty and the beast tale  which usually involves curses  paranormal activity should be included.

Firelight is set in Victorian England. What is alluring about that time period for you?

Shallow answer: I LOVE the dresses! But Victorian England is also so wonderfully atmospheric. The fog, the darkness and despair, and yet with all of that, it was a time of great growth, both technological and societal. In that way, the Victorian era is much like our own, and I love writing for a time in which I can relate. Also, there is something very sexy about this outward facade of staid, respectable behavior, and a hidden world of debauchery. Victorians loved their bawdy sex; they just hid it well!

Miranda and her sisters are not typical of how women were expected to behave back then. They’re quite outspoken and independent. Miranda in particular has harbored a big secret all her life, engaged in theft, and now her less than ideal father is marrying her off. Yet she still feels loyalty towards him. Where do you think she finds the ability to be compassionate even though she’s had such hardships?

You're right; they don't fit the ideal Victorian woman mold. But then there were a lot of real women of Victorian age who didn't. Life was probably harder for those women, but thank God for their independent spirit, or we women would never have gotten anywhere.

As for Miranda's loyalty to her father, yeah, that's a tough one, because looking at it from the outside, one wants to say, fry him, he's a jerk! Lol. But the truth for many of us is that we want and crave our parent's love, even if they treat us badly. It's very hard to step away from a destructive pattern like that, especially for Miranda, who feels guilty over ruining her family's fortune.

Her compassion for Archer comes from her experiences in feeling like an outsider. She sees herself in him, and understands the pain of feeling alone in the world. Had she a sheltered childhood, she might have been more inclined to believe the gossip surrounding him.

One of the best things about Firelight is the sexual tension between Miranda and Lord Archer that plays out for a good duration of the book. How much fun did you have toying with the reader like that?

Thanks! I'm glad it worked for you. The truth is, I was toying with myself. Which is to say, I have to have fun with a story. It was fun for me to keep twisting the sexual tension between them tighter and tighter. But I also knew that it had to play out like that because this is a story of trust and secrets. Miranda couldn't get busy with Archer early on because she would know what he was hiding. This was a risk, because some readers like getting the sexual payoff early, but that was the way this particular story needed to be told.

Their verbal sparring is so good and it clearly demonstrates how highly Lord Archer thinks of his wife – also something not typical of men in that era. Was it exhausting or even challenging to keep their momentum going?

With Archer, he's lived too long and complicated a life to be drawn into social conventions  something that appeals to me about paranormals as well! As for their sparring, this was actually the easiest part of the whole story. When I start writing a couple, it is their verbal foreplay that comes to me first. Dialogue is never a problem for me. I always hear my couples, and if I don't, then I know I'm in trouble.

I don't mind insta-lust  people are often immediately attracted to each other physically. But love is another matter. Love develops with connections. And connections are often discovered by people talking to one another.

By the way, does your husband ever read some of those scenes and go, “you wrote that!”?

Yes, sometimes. :) But he tends to avoid reading any sexy scenes. They make him blush. Lol.

You’ve got quite a busy year with the Darkest London series. Aside from Firelight, you also have Ember, the prequel to Firelight and then in August you have Moonglow. Can you give us a little sneak peak about the 2 books?

Ember is a short story about what happens to Miranda and Archer between the time they first meet and when Archer returned to England to claim his bride. The idea behind this story is to get to understand what makes Miranda tick a little bit better, and to learn why Archer could not stay away from her, even though he knows he really ought to. Ember isn't a love story, but the beginning of one.

Moonglow is very much a love story between Daisy, Miranda's sister, and Ian, a rather charming yet irreverent hero. Both Daisy and Ian hide behind a facade of light indifference, and it's been fun for me to see them get underneath each other's skin. In Firelight, Archer IS the mystery, but if you've read that story, you know well who/what Ian is. So then, Moonglow, while being a mystery, is more a battle between good and evil as Daisy and Ian delve deeper into a world run by lycans  werewolves who hide in plain sight amongst proper Victorian London society.

After that, it's Book 3, Winterblaze, which is is Poppy's story, and then Book 4 (untitled as of yet), which will feature characters who first make an appearance in Moonglow. These books will come out in 2013.



We BiblioJunkies have the mentality of 16 year-olds so now we move on to silly questions. Which fictional character would you love to go on a date with? And whom would you challenge to a sword fight?

Let's see, I mentioned before that I'd love to go out with Han Solo, but perhaps I need to branch out more? The problem is that depending on what I'm reading, I'll end up thinking, yeah, that guy. I mean there are SO many options, how is a girl to choose? ;-)

Sword fighting. It's funny you ask because one of the scenes that really, really killed me to cut is a sword fighting scene between Archer and Miranda. But my publisher had a word count limit and something needed to go. Still weep a bit about that one. As for whom I'd fight? Someone really bad, because I don't know how to fence at all!

If  Lord Archer were to bring you your favorite dessert, what would it be?

Something with chocolate in it. A rich, dense chocolate cake would be nice. That or a salted caramel bar. Dessert... yum ...

Finally, what do you enjoy most about writing romance? And do you think you’ll ever venture into the YA arena?

I love writing about that heady rush of emotion that occurs when one falls in love. I love the adventure of it, because after all, falling in love is one of the greatest adventures we have in our lives.

Hmm... well, I'll never say never, but the thing about writing YA is that I feel a writer has to have an inherent skill for it. It is an extremely hard genre to do well, because you have to have  a YA voice. You have to get into the mindset of a teenager and yet not be patronizing. I am in awe of my writer friends who write YA and do it so effortlessly. I don't think I have a good YA voice. But who knows? Perhaps if a good story hits me, I'll find that voice through my character.



Thank you Kristen for spending some time with us and congratulations on the book! And thank you readers for stopping by. To learn more about Kristen and The Darkest London series visit her website KristenCallihan.com and follow her on Twitter @Kris10Callihan.

Cheers!
~ Bel