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Review – The Changeup – Rhonda Shaw

the changeup The Changeup
Author: Rhonda Shaw
Series:#1 in the Men of the Show series

Description:
After nine years of striking out in the dating department, Maddie Hamlin is throwing in the towel. But just as this mom resolves to remain single, she meets sweet and sexy pitching phenom Chase Patton at a family dinner. He’s perfect for her–aside from the fact he’s only twenty-two.

Chase knows he should be focusing on his rookie year with the Detroit Rockets, but he can’t stop thinking about Maddie. He doesn’t care that the beautiful school counselor is twelve years older, and he’s already lost his heart to her adorable daughter. When an incredible date leads to an incredible night of passion, he knows he never wants to let her go.

But dating in the media spotlight is a whole new ball game. Maddie quickly discovers that not everyone accepts their unconventional relationship and that finding love may mean losing everything else.

Review:
So normally I’m a sucker for sports romances – I mean, hot sweaty guys (or girls) participating in feats of athletic prowess…I mean, who wouldn’t be. And to top it off, it was an older woman/younger man storyline which I am normally a fan of (it isn’t my favorite romance trope, but I often enjoy it). And while the Changeup worked for me on the level of a sports romance, it was how one of the main characters acted and the secondary characters that I had the biggest issue with. But I did love Chase until the very end…

Unfortunately, I don’t think Maddie deserved him – she was too weak-willed and a doormat – I swear, if I had to hear/read about her questioning him or his motives again, or doing her woe is me, my ex dumped me behavior, I was going to reach through my kindle and bitch-slap her. And then there were her daughter, who was supposed to be 9 if you read her description, but I don’t remember the last time I met a 9 year old who acted like her. In fact, the daughter acted much more like a 4/5 year old (grabbing Chase’s hand to go and play toys; wanting to be swung between Maddie and Chase when they were out) – I mean, its been a while since I was 9, or hung out with a 9 year old, but most I know are more likely to be in the pre-teen/sullen phase. Honestly, it just didn’t work for me

And then there were the antagonists – don’t worry, I won’t spoil the story for you by revealing how they are – I’ll just say that for me, it didn’t work – yes, I know this is fiction, but this forced me to suspend disbelief just a little bit too much on how everything played out and how it was just executed perfectly…ugh!

Overall, a disappointing read for a book that seemed intriguing and I could tell when it came to baseball, that the author had done her research because while I know little about baseball, what I did know seemed to show up in the book. A disappointing 2 stars.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Down and Out in Bugtussle – Stephanie McAfee

bugtussleDown and Out in Bugtussle: The Mad Fat Road to Happiness
Author: Stephanie McAfee
Series: #3 in the Mad Fat Girl series
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Run Time: 9hrs 43 minutes

Review Copy Provided by Tantor Audio

Description:
When her dream life in Florida with her now-ex-fiancé goes south, so does Ace — she moves back home to Bugtussle, Mississippi, and into her late Gramma Jones’ little house. But even though her best friends, Lilly and Chloe, are thrilled that she’s returned home, not everything is smooth sailing. Ace wants her job back as art teacher at the high school, but the beautiful Cameron Becker has no plans to relinquish that position. Although Ace wants to run Miss Becker out of town, she accepts a job as a substitute teacher. On top of her job woes, Ace’s friends keep setting her up on blind dates when all she really wants is for people to stop meddling in her love life.

In her quest to find inner peace, Ace takes up gardening and discovers old love letters in her grandmother’s well-worn gardening book. With her faithful chiweenie, Buster Loo, by her side, Ace is determined to get to the bottom of her Gramma’s secret life, all while hoping her own doesn’t implode.

Review:
Ok, I’ll admit it – I primarily requested the audiobook because of the word Bugtussle in the title…it just made me giggle. Unfortunately for me that book didn’t live up to the humor that I was expecting. I don’t know if it was because I hadn’t read (or listened) to the previous 2 books in the series and didn’t know/previous read about the characters or what – but it just didn’t quite work for me. One of my first gripes was with the subtitle – the Mad Fat Road to Happiness – i honestly expected someone who was happy with their body and being big (although, you never find out how big Ace is), but through-out the book, there were many instances where there was almost an unhappiness with her life and her body – comments about clothes not fitting, how she looked in clothes etc. It didn’t exactly sound happy to me…

For me, Ace also just seemed fake – a lot of her humor felt forced and not natural. It just felt like there were supposed to be funny interactions between Ace and her friends, but it was just like listening to nails on a chalkboard. I will say that Ace and her interactions with Stacey Dewberry (substitute teacher stuck in the 80’s both clothing, make-up and car wise) – were probably the most entertaining and I liked Stacey the most as a character.

That being said, I didn’t mind Cassandra Campbells narration. I thought that she did a good job of distinguishing between the characters and making them all unique. But unfortunately, good narration couldn’t improve on my lack of enjoyment with the book. Overall, I gave Down and Out in Bugtussle 2 stars and likely won’t be checking out anything by the author in the future. I would recommend if people try the books, to maybe go with book 1 first, i don’t know if that would have improved my experience or not, but now its too late to find out.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Pulled – Amy Lichtenhan

PulledPulled
Author: Amy Lichtenhan

Review Copy Provided By Author Via Goodreads

Description:
For nine years, they drift through life, unable to forget the one who holds the strings to their hearts. In an attempt to escape the pain of her past, Melanie finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage, while Daniel loses himself in a career that means nothing without Melanie by his side. Now, when their lives intersect, neither can deny the connection they felt so long ago. But will the power that drew them together be enough to heal the wounds from their past, and do they have the courage to overcome the insecurities and fears that threaten to keep them apart? Pulled is a story of attraction and separation, of destiny and duty, of a love so strong it refuses to give up even when all others have.

Review:
It always sucks when you pick up a book by an author you enjoyed before, looking for a good read, and then are underwhelmed and unfortunately, that book was Pulled for me. I had previously read Take This Regret and really enjoyed it – it was the perfect length, not too overdone in the angst, and yet, just angsty enough (yes, that is a bit of a contradiction, but hopefully you know what I mean). So I was looking forward to reading Pulled – but by the end of it, I was decidedly underwhelmed.

I think my major issue was that it was in general too long and needed to be edited down a bit. I felt like the story dragged on. It wasn’t the sharp telling that was in her other books. Now, I know that this is her first book, so that could explain it – it is just the development of her writing style over time. I think this one could stand to be re-worked and edited a bit.

My other issue was with the ages of the characters. For me, everything that had happened in the previous ten years for the characters didn’t ring true. Friends of mine always laugh because I get so involved in the book and stuff like this irked me – but to me it comes down to research. Having a friend who just finished her residency after med school, I know a little bit about how the timing works. And I was supposed to be/set aside my knowledge and take it for granted that in 10 years, the (guys name here) had gone to college (3-4 years), finished med school (4 years), completed an internal medicine residency (3 years), as well as an oncology fellowship (3 years) (info about residencies was taken from the Mayo Clinic website) – all of which would be required for him to be licensed as an oncologist as the story called for…or at least, that it what I am assuming, since he was part of his family medical practice in oncology…at a minimum that time line would be 13 years later, not 10…and from the way it was described, he was decently well established (although, come to think of it, he was never mentioned to actually be seeing patients). With brings me to another gripe – if you are going to give characters a career, then at least make it kind of important to the book. What good is it to have a doctor as a character, if you never actually see that side of him…(rant off).

The book also hit a few hot topics for me and I wish that there had been some warning as to content – when it comes to things like domestic violence and cheating, many readers, especially in a romance, want that warning – so that they know what they are getting themselves in for. Although, I think I am in the minority, because for the most part it seems people have given this 4 and 5 stars, but I’m struggling to come up with a reason that I should give it 3, and I’m leaning strongly towards 2. It’s a pity that this just didn’t work for me, because I do think that A.L. has the potential to become a great author – but I definitely, wouldn’t recommend this book as one to start with, if you are going to read her stuff. It will be interesting to me to see how her other book (Collide) stands up when compared to this one and her other one.

I honestly don’t know if I would recommend Pulled to anyone. I gave it 2 stars, mostly because I finished it and there was a HEA at the end, but other than that…

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Don’t Cry for Me – Sharon Sala

Audies2013_Banner

don't cry for meDon’t Cry For Me
Author: Sharon Sala
Series: #2 in the Rebel Ridge series

Narrator: Kathe Mazur
Run Time: 11hrs and 17 minutes
Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises

Description:
Mariah Conrad has come home. Badly wounded on active duty in Afghanistan and finally released stateside, she has no family to call on and nowhere to go—until Quinn Walker arrives at her bedside. Quinn, …her brother-in-arms, ex-lover and now maybe her future.

Quinn brings Mariah to his log cabin in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky to rest and recuperate, both physically and emotionally. While she’s incredibly grateful, Mariah is also confused and frustrated. She’s always stood on her own two feet, but now even that can literally be torture. She’s having flashbacks and blackouts, hearing helicopter noises in the night. She wants to push Quinn away—and hold him closer than ever.

But will she get the chance? Those helicopters are more than just post-traumatic stress; they’re real—and dangerous. Bad things are happening on the mountain. Suddenly there’s a battle to be fought on the home front, and no guarantee of survival.

Review:
Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin on this review…while Kathe Mazur is normally a narrator that I really enjoy, even her performance couldn’t improve on the mess that was this book. This is going to be a spoilerific, rant-tastic review – so you have been warned in advance.

If this had been the first book that I listened to for my audie experience, I might have been wondering what crack the judges were smoking because it was bad. There were just so many things with the plot that irked the ever-loving bejeebers out of me – from the what could have easily been a mis-identification of Conrad (I honestly thought that it was going to be a case of mistaken identity), to the overbearingness that is Quinn Walker (how dare he make decisions about taking her out of the hospital without even talking to her and how dare the hospital even let that happen – I mean seriously, WTF!!!). To the use of PTSD – I know that it is real and valid, but how it was handled here just pissed me off – both of them are isolated, getting no help and the author doesn’t even touch on the work that stuff like the Wounded Warrior Project does to help veterans…to her being able to shoot a bear that is charging at 75 yards (ok, so maybe she could have, but it just didn’t mesh)…and all of this happened in the first 5 chapters…I didn’t think that it could go downhill from there, but it did…we even got to the TSTL heroine who decided even though she is recovering from a major injury to go searching for her partner/boyfriend in an area that she doesn’t know, going up against drug dealers…it was like she wanted to be killed (but of course, it all worked out)…

But on to the narration – like I said in my first sentence – even Kathe Mazur’s narration which I typically enjoy wasn’t enough to overcome the other issues that I had with this book. I was too distracted by yelling at them as they did one dumb/idiotic thing after another, to truely be able to enjoy it. Which is kind of fustrating. I don’t know if I have had a book that drove me this nuts while listening to it in a long time…but from what I can remember (as I tried to block parts of it out of memory), I liked her range of voices – especially Mariah and Quinn – you could tell that they were the most well-developed obviously. I also think, while I am not from Kentucky, that she did a good job of trying to capture the regional dialect (but then, I don’t really know what it is supposed to sound like, so maybe I am completely off base). Since I have enjoyed narrations by her in the past, I will be seeking out more by her, but I don’t foresee myself reading/listening to anything by the author again (I gave her 2 tries as is my rule – books 1 and 2 in this series and neither of them worked for me). Overall, I gave the story 1 star and the narration 3 stars, which gives it an average of 2.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Classics Challenge Review – Mansfield Park – Jane Austen (@ourclassicsclub)

mansfield parkMansfield Park
Author: Jane Austen

Description:
‘We have all been more or less to blame …
every one of us, excepting Fanny’

Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny’s uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry’s attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary’s dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords’ influence and finds herself more isolated than ever. A subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, Mansfield Park is one of Jane Austen’s most profound works.

Why I Chose Mansfield Park?
My previous experiences with Jane Austen consisted of Pride and Prejudice (loved it) and Sense and Sensibility (ehhh, not so much). So I was curious to see how other books written by Ms Austen would play out in the scheme of things, so I added both Mansfield Park and Emma to my list of books for the challenge. It’ll be interesting to see how Emma plays out on my list of enjoyment.

Review:
I have to say that all of three Jane Austen’s that I have read so far (yes, I know that my education is sorely lacking) that this is my least favorite. In fact, I struggle to find anything even remotely good to say about it. Well, hang on, the narrator of the audiobook was good (that counts right?) There was something dislikeable about every single character – even Fanny Price, the supposed ‘heroine’ of the story.

While the story had a similar feel to Jane Eyre – well-off family takes in poor relative and raises her (forgetting the whole school for Jane, but just the dynamics in general) – at least in JE, it was obvious and to Jane’s face, how much she was disliked and looked-down upon. Whereas, even though it was obvious, the behavior of Mrs Norris (OMG, I wanted to beat her around the head – and you can see this in my twitter feeds) with how put upon they were because the family offered to take care of Fanny and how much she owes them. I just wanted to shove a sock in her mouth to shut her up – I mean, seriously woman, guilt trip much. Edmund was maybe the one character who had some slight redeeming qualities but even then, I wanted to tell him to grow a set and stand up to the family. And WTF – it was like I blinked and missed the whole “courtship” – I mean, i saw it coming – it was obvious – but a summation of 9 years in like a page…this is a pet peeve of mine in current romance, so I find it intriguing that it appears even in fiction from the 1800’s.

Thankfully, Joanna Ward’s narration turned a pretty crappy book into a slightly less than crappy listen. I found her narration soothing, even when I had my hands clutched around the steering wheel pretending like I was strangling one of the characters. Her female voices were all easily distinguishable and her male ones while not great, were passable – they didn’t make me want to turn off the audiobook at least (unlike some other narrators). I’ll be interested to see what other stuff she has narrated for future listens.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Classics Challenge

 

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Audiobook Review – The Toll-Gate – Georgette Heyer

The Toll-House
Author: Georgette Heyer

Narrator: Daniel Hill
Run Time: 9hrs and 15 minutes
Producer: AudioGO

Book Description:
Captain John Staple’s exploits in the Peninsula had earned him the sobriquet Crazy Jack among his fellow Dragoons. Now home from Waterloo, life is rather dull. But when he finds himself lost and benighted at an unmanned toll-house in the Pennines, his soldiering exploits pale away besides an adventure — and romance — of a lifetime.

Review:
I have come to the conclusion that I am just one of those people who can’t appreciate Heyer’s work. In the romance community, she is the one recommendation that people come up with for realistic romances, but they just leave me feeling not quite complete. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t bad, they just aren’t for me. In this instance, I have to admit that I preferred the mystery aspect of the story (what happened to the Toll-Gate keeper) to the romance which was a bit ehh. It almost ended up being an insta-love situation, I never truely felt like there was any romance between the 2 main characters.

In conjunction with the iffy romance in the storyline, I wasn’t a huge fan of the narrator. I think he did an ok job with the various adult male voices, but the female ones, as well as the young kid who was fairly significant in the book were only ehhh. They all just started to blend together after a while, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. I had debated actually DNF’ing this at one stage, but decided to see it out. The ending was satisfactory with how the mystery was solved, and the narrator’s voice sorta grew on me, but not enough for me to want to seek him out again in the future. Overall, i can only give the book and narration 2 stars.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Audiobook Review, Book Review

 

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Review – Weeding the Flowerbeds – Sarah Mkhonza

Weeding the Flowerbeds
Author: Sarah Mkhonza

Book Description:
Weeding the Flowerbeds is a memoir of boarding school at Manzini Nazarene High School in Swaziland, a country in Southern Africa. In this book Sarah explores life in the boarding school at Manzini Nazarene High School, a school that produced many graduates. She explores life in an educational institution where growing up is takes place under strict hostel rules in the seventies. As young Swazi girls Bulelo, Sisile and Makhosi grow up learning about life and Christianity. They learn to love school and also to appreciate writing and literature. All the time they feel as if they are being pushed in a certain direction and it is one of the teachers Mr. Fields and others who come to the school and make them understand the importance of choosing to be free in ones spirit. With all that education they leave the school and go and live their lives

Review
As I continue my around the world in reading travels, I’ve found it harder and harder to find books for some of the more random countries. Swaziland is one of those countries – no, not Switzerland (I swear, I can spell), but Swaziland, a small country in southern Africa. But when I was browsing other blogs, I found someone else doing an around the world challenge and she also read this book as part of her challenge. It wasn’t an easy book to find (I eventually had to cave and buy it from Amazon), but it was an interesting read.

A fictionalized memoir of three girls in a church run boarding school, it details their adventures over several years, as they progress through the levels prior to graduation. I liked the idea of the book, however, to me the execution was lacking. There was quite a bit of redundancy in the writing (repeating the same information in multiple places in the same chapter) and some times where what is being said is contradicted in the next paragraph (for example, in one paragraph she is doing push-ups, then talking about how she did the best in that set of sit-ups and then back to talking about push-ups). I think this is something that a good editor could have fixed – but as the author is a professor herself, I don’t know how much it was edited prior to release. I do find it interesting that there are very few reviews for the book out there (zero on Amazon, 1 on goodreads – aside from mine).

I think this is a good read if someone is interested in learning about life in the smaller African countries and the role that the various religious organizations have played in the developing nations. however, because of issues that I had with it, I can’t give it more than 2 stars.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Around the World in 80 Books, Book Review

 

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Review – Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein

Book Description:
I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

Review:
I should have enjoyed the book more than I did. Its set during WW2 which is a time period of interest to me; it featured 2 teenage girls in interesting/difficult situations and in general, the description just sucked me in. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work. I can’t describe what it was or why I struggled with it – I just know that once I put it down, I wasn’t all that motivated to pick it up and while I did finish reading it, it wasn’t a completely enjoyable read, but it wasn’t completely horrendous either (I don’t even know if that makes sense)…

Maybe others will enjoy it more than I did, but the highest I can give it is 2 stars – meaning that it was ok but not enough for me to want to recommend it. However, if you are interested in reading it, the following are the links for purchasing it on Amazon:

Code Name Verity (Hardcover)
Code Name Verity (Kindle)

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Book Review

 

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Review – The Summer I Turned Pretty – Jenny Han

I wanted to like this book, I truly did. when I picked it up, I was hoping for a coming of age story, a la Sarah Dessen or Gayle Foreman – unfortunately, I ended up being disappointed.

The story starts off good. It follows a summer with Belly and her two family friends, Conrad and Jeremiah, at their families beach house where they go every summer. To Belly it is the first summer that she is “pretty.” And that she has decided that it is time for something to happen between her and Conrad.

To me, this was a complete let-down, Belly could have been so-many things, but ultimately, she was, IMHO, a self-absorbed teen who had no inclination of what was going on around her. So many times, I wanted to scream at her and say are you kidding me…She finds out that Conrad quit the football team, something that he loved playing, but never asked why – she is just too absorbed in her own little world. It wasn’t until the very end of the book (like the last 20 pages or so), that she became aware of what was going on around her, and then it wasn’t even that she came to the realization, but rather that someone, figuratively, bonked her on the head…

However, being as its my rule, I am going to give the author a second chance to see if she can convince me why I should actually like Belly and what happens to her in the future….so we shall see…

Add this book to your Goodreads shelf by clicking on the following:

The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer, #1)

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in Book Review

 

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