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Review – Come Home to Me – Brenda Novak

come home to meCome Home to Me
Author: Brenda Novak
Series: #6 in the Whiskey Creek series

Review Copy Provided by the Author

Description:
Home is where her heart is…

When Presley Christensen returns to Whiskey Creek with her little boy after two years away, she has completely changed her life. She’s made peace with her past and overcome the negative behavior that resulted from her difficult childhood. Now she’s back in the small town that was the closest thing to “home” she ever knew—the town where she can be with the sister who’s her only family.

There’s just one catch. Aaron Amos still lives in Whiskey Creek, at least until he moves to Reno to open a branch of the Amos brothers’ auto body shop. And no matter how hard she’s tried, Presley hasn’t been able to get over him. Seeing him again makes the longing so much worse. But she hopes she can get through the next few months, because she can’t fall back into his arms…or his bed. She’s come too far to backslide now. And there’s a secret she’s been guarding—a secret she’ll do anything to protect.

Review:
!This review includes spoilers!

I think I sub-consciously knew going into this book that I was going to have issues with it. Mostly because of how the storyline featuring Presley played out in a previous book in the series (#2 When Snow Falls). I knew there was going to be a secret baby theme and I hoped that I was going to be ok with it and for the most part I was…it wasn’t that part of the story that I had issues with, although I did feel as though the relationship between Presley and Aaron kind of took a backseat to other interactions between Presley/Cheyenne (her sister); Cheyenne/Aaron; Aaron/Dylan (his brother) and Cheyenne/Dylan. This book felt much more like a women’s lit rather than a traditional romance and while Presley/Aaron did get their HEA (although it felt more like a HFN).

My biggest issue with the book in general was the whole behavior of Cheyenne and the lengths that she would go to, to get what she wants. If the fact that she would ask her husband’s brother to donate his sperm so that she could have a baby, wasn’t bad enough, the fact that she did it without letting her husband know – that it was done all covertly – it was just wrong on sooo many levels. In fact, if this had been in print, the book may have gone flying across the room…it felt like the story basically consisted of the Cheyenne/Aaron storyline with just tidbits about Presley/Aaron which disappointed me – it was like they got gypped of their story.

This is by far my least favorite in the series so far and looking back, I almost wish I hadn’t read it, because it kind of ruined the previous books that I enjoyed. I’m honestly not sure if I will continue the series or not because of my disappointment. Overall, I gave Come Home to Me, 2.5 stars, but rounded up to 3 on GR, because I can’t deny that Ms Novak can write in a way that sucks you in, it was just the storyline that didn’t work for me.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society – Darien Gee

avalon ladiesThe Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society
Author: Darien Gee

Narrator: Tanya Eby
Run Time: 14hrs and 16 minutes
Producer: Tantor Audio

Review Copy of Audiobook Provided from Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
Welcome to Avalon, Illinois, Pop. 4,243

At Madeline’s Tea Salon, the cozy hub of the Avalon community, local residents scrapbook their memories and make new ones. But across town, other Avalonians are struggling to free themselves of the past: Isabel Kidd is fixing up her ramshackle house while sorting through the complications of her late husband’s affair. Ava Catalina is mourning the love of her life and helping her young son grow up without his father. Local plumber Yvonne Tate is smart, beautiful, and new to Avalon, but finds that despite a decade of living life on her own terms, the past has a way of catching up—no matter where she goes. And Frances Latham, mother to a boisterous brood of boys, eagerly anticipates the arrival of a little girl from China—unprepared for the emotional roller coaster of foreign adoption.

Enter Bettie Shelton, the irascible founder of the Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. Under Bettie’s guidance, even the most reluctant of Avalon’s residents come to terms with their past and make bold decisions about their future. But when the group receives unexpected news about their steadfast leader, they must pull together to create something truly memorable.

Review:
I’m really conflicted over my review for this book. I really enjoyed the premise behind the story and the story itself, but I really struggled with the writing style. There was something cozy about getting to know the citizens of Avalon, Illinois (although, I was kind of bummed to see that it wasn’t a real town because I wanted to pick up and move there). Darien Gee did a great job in developing her characters – I felt like I had grown up with them, that I was a citizen of the town.

But at the same time, I really struggled with the writing style. Specifically, that it was written in this weird third person, present tense – and it felt awkward. My editor in my brain wanted me to go through with a red pen and either put it in first person, alternating POV or third person, past tense. My other issue was that at the same time, while I loved the wide variety of characters, a few times there were too many…I wish that she had stuck to the main women – there were a few cameos where someone was introduced and then nothing was ever mentioned about them again…it kind of felt disjointed and missing something. I would also caution that if you haven’t read Friendship Bread, that you might feel like you are missing something – I know that I haven’t and there were a few places where I was scratching my head.

I also strugged a few places with the narration. I don’t know if its because I’ve been spoiled recently by multiple narrators in audiobooks, but I wanted more. This would have been, (IMHO) a great opportunity for a multiple narrator book – with each main character having a different person narrate it. My mind just wasn’t transiting well between the voice for Betty (a 70 year old woman) and Ava (a mid-20’s young woman) to Isabelle (early 40’s)…but I will admit that it could got better as the narration progressed – so maybe it was just a matter of re-accustoming my ears to a single narrator. It would probably also good that there were limited male voices and those that there were, were mostly cameos – there were no main male characters.

Overall, I gave the writing/story 2 stars (mainly due to my struggles with the writing style used) and the narration 3 stars, so 2.5 stars overall. Which is kind of disappointing because I thought it had so much potential (maybe I had hyped it up to myself a bit too much…)

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – For Everly – Raine Thomas

for everlyFor Everly
Author: Raine Thomas

Review Copy Provided By Author via Sisterhood of the Traveling Book (Goodreads)

Description:
Determined to overcome a dark and tragic past, college student Everly Wallace is only months away from earning her degree in physical therapy. She’s consumed with school, caring for her ailing grandfather, and figuring out how to pay the next bill. The last thing she wants is a relationship, but it just might be the one thing she needs.

Major League pitcher Cole Parker hasn’t fought for anything in his life. He went from a privileged upbringing to a multimillion dollar All-Star career. But when his pitching shoulder starts to give him trouble at only twenty-four years old, he faces the possibility of his injury becoming public knowledge and costing him everything.

In a desperate bid to save his career, Cole decides to hire someone to treat his injury, someone who will keep things off the record and out of the media. He finds the perfect solution in Everly. As mysterious as she is beautiful, she provides an enticing distraction from his pain. Soon, physical therapy is the last thing on his mind.

When an act of betrayal brings the truths they both fear to light, Cole will have to fight for the first time in his life…not just for his career, but for Everly’s love.

Review:
I’m going to be brutally honest up front, I tend to struggle with books that are labeled “New Adult,” because most of the time they are just ehhh – to down-right horrible…IMHO it is a reason for an author to take a book that would normally be marked as YA, add some sex and some angst to it and market it to a different sub-set of people (or maybe the same, since lots of YA readers also read adult and also read this New Adult)…but yeah, I struggle with it being defined as a genre (which is really isn’t…adult (in terms of reading level isn’t a genre); YA isn’t a genre and neither, in my mind is New Adult…) – but that is a story for another day.

I gave For Everly 2.5 stars overall, which to me means it was ok, not really good and definitely not great – I finished it. My main issue with the book was with Everly herself. I just struggled with her as a character – she seemed too perfect – major trauma in her life (don’t worry, I won’t say what it is), graduated high school early, worked her way through college and now at the tender age of 22/23 is finishing up her PhD in Physical Therapy (which by the way is a DPT or DPhysio, not a PhD)…right there, that was almost a stopping point for me…see, I am a PhD student – it might not be in physical therapy – but I had a hard time seeing someone her age in a program and that far advanced – most 22 year olds are just finishing college (assuming that they start at 18). And the programs themselves are typically 3-4 years on top of that, which would put her even being generous and assuming no break in education in the 24-27 year range (factoring in early graduation from college, and 3 years in a program) – I know this might be nit-picky, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. Almost as much as her agreeing to practice her therapies off the books and unlicensed…which was the main point behind the story…I guess in order for the story to work, this had to be done, but the ethical side of me is screaming no no no…heck, as a PhD student, I am not even allowed to mention that in a resume because people may be confused and think I have my degree already and yet she is practicing without a license)…

And then there is Cole…the baseball player – I mean, what’s not to love…and yes, I get that being injured and in the year your contract is supposed to expire would suck – but why would you risk your career on someone not qualified to treat you…asking the question – What if something had happened and he could no longer play because he used an unqualified therapist…and a very slight gripe – I really hate it when authors use REAL teams in their stories – because anyone that is a fan of said team (or even if they are not) can easily call BS…I would prefer for authors to make up their own teams – use a known location, but imaginary team please)

However, for my griping, the writing style wasn’t bad and the mystery was paletable – I kind of wondered the who done it and figured it out a chapter or so before the reveal – but the whole family situation/angst thing was a bit overdone for my liking (and yet another sign of the stereotypical New Adult storyline). I wish I had liked it more because I do think that the author has potential with her writing style – this book just didn’t do it for me…

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Suddenly, A Knock On The Door – Etgar Keret

the audies

suddenly a knockSuddenly, A Knock On The Door
Author: Etgar Keret

Narrated by: Ira Glass, Adam Thirlwell, Dave Eggers, Nicole Krauss, George Saunders, Ben Foster,Mathieu Amalric, Aimee Bender, Miranda July, Ben Marcus, Willem Dafoe, Stanley Tucci, John Sayles, Gary Shteyngart, Robert Wisdom, Stella Schnabel, Michael Chabon, Lorin Stein, Rick Moody, Nathan Englander, Scott Shepherd, David Rakoff, Michael Chernus, Shea Wigham, Josh Charles, Michael Buscemi, Neal Stephenson, Mark Duplass, Shalom Auslander, Todd Hasak-Lowy, Josh Radnor, Ira Glass, Jonathan Safran Foer, Etgar Keret
Run Time: 5 hours and 7 minutes
Producer: Macmillan Audio

Description:
A man barges into a writer’s house and, holding a gun to his head, demands that he tell him a story, something to take him away from the real world. A pathological liar discovers one day that all the lies he tells come true. A young woman finds a zip in her boyfriend’s mouth, and when she opens it he unfolds to reveal a completely different man inside.

Suddenly a Knock on the Door is at once Keret’s most mature and most playful work yet, and establishes him as one of the great international writers of our time.

Review:
I have to say upfront that this book really wasn’t my thing – I would compare it to some of the work by David Sedaris – it takes a (IMHO) a different type of individual to like the short stories put forth – the slices of life (for lack of a better word). Added to that, I think that some of the potency of the stories was lost in translation. In fact, it took me probably a good half of the book to realize that the stories were set in Israel – which kind of changed my opinion of the writing – and it was harder for me to find similarities with some of the stories, because I couldn’t draw on similar experiences. They also seemed really short – since I was listening to the audiobook the vast majority of them didn’t exceed more than about 10 minutes of listening – which is somewhere between 5-15 pages (depending on the speed of the narrator).

My other complaint was actually about the narration. Individually, the narrators were all fine, I don’t really have any complaints – although, I will say that the shortness of the stories, didn’t necessarily allow for them to show their wares when it comes to narration skills – but with each story being as short as it was, and then there being a different narrator for each story – my mind had a hard time processing what was going on. The various narrators weren’t actually described anywhere in the production either – maybe that would have helped me come to terms with the different stories – but I don’t know. Overall, this was a disappointing listening experience – maybe the authors work is better being read than listened…or maybe it would be better with a more limited cast of narrators (rather than the 15-20 that I think it had). I don’t know. All I know, is that I gave it 2.5 stars, and can’t say that I will be in too much of a rush to read/listen to any more of the authors stuff – no matter the accolades he has received.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Brody – Emma Lang

BrodyBrody
Author: Emma Lang
Series: #2 in the Circle Eight series

Review Copy Provided by the Author

Description:
A year after their family was brutally torn apart, the Graham siblings begin to put their lives back together at their ranch in East Texas. With their parents gone, their bonds will truly be tested…

Olivia Graham has worked hard to take care of her family at the Circle Eight Ranch. But their family circle was broken when their young brother Benjy disappeared. Liv can’t shake the feeling that he must be out there, somewhere.

Brody Armstrong, a handsome but rough-around-the-edges Texas Ranger, has been working on their case for months, and now he has a promising lead.

As Liv follows him across the rugged Texas landscape and into Mexico, she’ll begin to find the answers she needs—as Brody finds a passion he didn’t know he wanted…

Review:
So my biggest issue with this book stemmed from my extreme dislike of Olivia that started in Book 1. There was just something about her in Matthew’s book that rubbed me the wrong way – but I was hoping that the author would be able to redeem her as a character (I mean, I have seen it done successfully before – Sebastian, Viscount St. Vincent from Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflowers series – as an example). Unfortunately, I spent probably 70% of the book, alternately wanting to either reach through the pages and strangle her, or slap her silly. It was an interesting position that I found myself in…

Normally, I would commend an author who made me so emotionally involved with a character that I wanted to harm them, but ultimately, Olivia was forgettable – I don’t care what happens to her in the future (although, I am sure she will make an appearance in later books) – which for me is significant when it comes to my reading experience. I can’t say anything bad about the writing style, my issues with the book are solely character based. While I did like Brody, the Texas Ranger, it just wasn’t enough to counter what I am terming the “Olivia Effect.”

Hopefully, I will enjoy the next book in the series a bit more. 2.5 stars, but rounding up to 3 because it wasn’t horrenous…

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Funnel Vision – Chris Kridler

Funnel Vision
Author: Chris Kridler

Review Copy Provided by Author

Book Description:
Kansas photographer Judy Hale loves to chase storms, but at the heart of her passion is a fear she longs to quell, born of the tornado that destroyed her childhood. Handsome, devil-may-care tornado researcher Jack Andreas wants nothing better than to forget the past in his dangerously close encounters with the twisters he chases for science. He also chases women, and when he and Judy meet, sparks fly.

But Judy and Jack have dueling destinies as they cross paths with Judy’s sister Shannon, a directionless coquette; a clueless newbie storm-tour operator named Brad Treat; geeky, likable chaser Robinson Marvell; and a bevy of other storm chasers as they pursue the gorgeous, violent storms of Tornado Alley. Their stories intertwine as they chase the monster storm that forces Judy to confront her deepest fears and Jack to find the courage to face the ultimate twister.

Review
I’m always bummed when a book that I was looking forward to reading didn’t quite live up to the hype that I had placed on it. For me, Funnel Vision was one of those books. I have to admit, that since Twister, came out when I was in high school, I have been intrigued by storm chasers and what they do, and even considering getting into meteorology at one stage (unfortunately, my science grades in college were just not good enough). So when this book was offered up by the author in one of my goodreads groups, I was intrigued. The premise sounded entertaining, and since it was based on the authors experiences, I figured it would be a good read. Here is, for me, where it splits…the story regarding the storm chasing itself, I really liked. I thought that the author did a good job of detailing the adrenaline that these chasers must feel – both the official ones and the non-official “Weekend Chasers” (I don’t know if that is the right term, but it works for me). I think I might have enjoyed it more, if the drama of some of the characters lives had just been completely left out of it (and this is coming from someone who is an avid romance reader – yes, I admit it).

It was mostly the character interactions on the personal level that bugged me the most. When I see the phrase in a description, “sparks fly” I am expecting some kind of tension, interaction, development of a relationship, but for me, it was more like sparks fizzle. That and the development of the character as a skirt-chasing playboy – just pissed me off. Especially when you think that (hover here for spoiler). I also threw the book across the room at that point, I was so fustrated. Yes, I know that it wasn’t specifically marketed as a romance, but the description kind of led me to expect more. I guess if you don’t like the touchy-feeley romance stuff, you might like it, but if you are a romance reader, I would avoid it (and I don’t say that lightly). I also had an issue with how an issue played out later in the book, but I am waiting on a response from some law enforcement friends with an answer to my question before I vent…but essentially (hover here for spoiler)

But I am having a hard time rating this book, I would probably only give it 2.5 stars overall, mostly because of the issues that I mentioned above – but at the same time, it was very well written and you could tell how much the author knew about the topic, so I am conflicted. I may end up changing my review, but right now, I am going to leave it at 2.5 stars. But I am curious about what the author might write in the future.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2012 in Book Review

 

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Review – Quarantine – John Smolens

Quarantine
Author: John Smolens

Review Copy Provided via Netgalley by the Publisher
Expected Publication: September 15, 2012

Book Description
The year is 1796, and a trading ship arrives in the vibrant trading town of Newburyport, Massachusetts. But it’s a ghost ship–her entire crew has been decimated by a virulent fever which sweeps through the harbor town, and Newburyport’s residents start to fall ill and die with alarming haste. Something has to be done to stop the virus from spreading further. When physician Giles Wiggins places the port under quarantine, he earns the ire of his shipbuilder half-brother, the wealthy and powerful Enoch Sumner, and their eccentric mother, Miranda. Defiantly, Giles sets up a pest-house, where the afflicted might be cared for and separated from the rest of the populace in an attempt to contain the epidemic.

As the seaport descends into panic, religious fervor, and mob rule, bizarre occurrences ensue: the harbormaster ‘s family falls victim to the fever, except for his son, Leander Hatch, who is taken in at the Sumner mansion and a young woman, Marie Montpelier, is fished out of the Merrimac River barely clinging to life, causing Giles and Enoch who is convinced she ‘s the expatriate daughter of the French king to vie for her attentions–all while medical supplies are pillaged by a black marketer from Boston. As the epidemic grows, fear, greed, and unhinged obsession threaten the Sumner family and the future of Newburyport itself.

Review
I had previously listened to and reviewed Smolen’s book, The Schoolmaster’s Daughter, so when Quarantine showed up on Netgalley I jumped on the opportunity to read and review it. Having grown up outside of the US, I never really studied US history until college and then it was limited to very specific classes – so my knowledge of the fever that struck the east coast of the US in the late 1700’s is relatively little – most of what I know, I gained from reading Laurie Halsie Anderson’s Fever 1793

There were a variety of things that I enjoyed about the book – specifically the details about how the various medical practices from the time were incorporated into trying to save the town from the fever. I actually felt that if the focus had been solely on the struggle of the town and the quarantine, then the book would have been much better than it was. Unfortunately, it was the other story lines – the town surgeon and his fractured relationship with his family, the relationship between the women who could be construed as the town matriarch and her son and their scheming ways. I also have to admit, when I reached the last page of the book, I was confused with the outcome – yes, they managed to survive the fever and the town moved on, but all the other various plot lines, it was almost like the author had reached a page limit and decided to end it – I just felt like there wasn’t much resolution…

Overall, I don’t think I could give this book more than about 2.5 stars and while I don’t know of any fiction books similar to the subject, aside from the YA by Laurie Halsie Anderson, I would have a hard time recommending this book to many people, unless they were looking for this very specific event. That being said, I am more curious about the time period after reading this, so I am going to see about maybe picking up a non-fiction that discusses the period to read some more.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Book Review

 

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Review – The Night Ferry – Michael Robotham

One of my pet peeves when it comes to books is authors who double-dip characters in books that aren’t part of series, because I feel like I am always missing something. That was precisely the case of what happened with The Night Ferry. I knew that the author had written a series, but for my purposes, I wasn’t looking to starting a new series, so I opted to read what I assumed to be a stand-alone. Unfortunately, I soon found out that while The Night Ferry was technically a stand-alone, the author did refer back to events that had occurred in previous books. So I ended up spending a good portion of my time, puzzling that out (my library didn’t have any of the other books in audio format and I was looking specifically for an audiobook at the time). When viewing other reviews of this book after finishing it, it does appear as though I wasn’t the only person who felt that way, which was nice to see.

Overall, I liked the story that was presented, although at the same time it did seem to be very obvious from the beginning as to where the whole storyline was going. I wasn’t surprised by any of the twists in the story as they occurred. Based on my experiences with this book, I am not sure whether I will rush out to try this author again, but at the same time, I do have my standard, at least two books by an author prior to giving up on them. so maybe I’ll check out one of the books in the series and see how that plays out.

This is the first time that I have listened to a narration by Clare Corbett but I ended up enjoying it. I felt that she had a good range of voices that she used through-out and I didn’t feel like any of the voices had been over-done or repeated through-out the various characters. I will likely pick up other books narrated by her in the future to see if she can maintain this ability in other books.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Book Review

 

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Review – Last Rituals – Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

I’ll admit that I fell for the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo craze when it was released…although I did wait until all three books were out before I read any of them.  Ever since then I have been on the look out for new Scandinavian authors to check out.  I am a regular participant on Goodreads and on there, moderate (along with my co-hort in crime, Naomi Blackburn – A Book and a Review) a Nordic Noir group.  Every month we feature a different author within the genre as a way to find those hidden gems.  For May, the author was Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, so to try her out, I started with the first book in her Þóra Guðmundsdóttir series, Last Rituals.

I was hoping for a fast moving, exciting kind of Noir, similar to Larseen, Fossum and James Thompson – unfortunately, I was to be disappointed.  The plot was rather slow moving and in general it didn’t feel like there was much character development, or even explanations as to why certain characters acted the way they did.  You find out early on that she has an issue with the secretary at her law office, Bella…but aside from the statement that she came with the building, you don’t know much else aside from the animosity that is between the 2 characters.  While I have been in situations before where I have had extreme conflicts of character with co-workers, this one just didn’t seen to be as developed as it could have been.  In the end, while I didn’t quite see the whole who done it when it was revealed, I also just wasn’t that surprised with the ultimate reveal (how is that for a bit of a convoluted sentence).

Based on my experiences with this book, I honestly don’t know if I will be rushing out to read any more in the series, and since my library only had the first book in the series – I wouldn’t be buying them, even if I was interested…she will remain firmly on the library borrow list in the future.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2012 in Book Review

 

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