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Review – Plum Beach Island – Holly Robinson

beach plum islandPlum Beach Island
Author: Holly Robinson

Review Copy Provided by Author via STB on Goodreads

Description:
“Your brother should know the truth.”

These are the last cryptic words that Ava Barrett’s father says before he dies. But Ava doesn’t have a brother, as far as she knows, so how can she tell him the truth? She dismisses the conversation and dedicates herself to bringing her family together for her father’s funeral. This is no easy task, since her sister, Elaine, has been estranged from the family and still harbors resentment against their stepmother and half-sister, Gigi. Ava, on the other hand, is a single mother who sees Gigi as a troubled teen in need of love and connection.

Ava, too, could use more love in her life and finds it where she least expects it. But the biggest surprise of all is that Gigi holds the key to the mystery surrounding her father’s dying words, and joins Ava in uncovering a secret that rapidly unravels the very fabric of their entire family…

Review:
When I got my first look at the cover for Plum Beach Island, my immediate thought was that it would whimsical, flirty, a light kind of read. But having previously read Holly Robinson’s work, I knew that wasn’t going to be the case – she manages to find that story that tugs at the heart-strings. And Plum Beach Island was no different, although I will admit that it wasn’t as angsty as her previous book – not that I’m complaining!

I was sucked in to the story of Ava, Elaine and Gigi from the very beginning – there is something about Holly’s writing that makes the relationship between the women so real – I mean, I felt like I was watching three sisters interact, there were happy moments, sad moments, moments where I wanted to hit one (or all three of them) upside the head. There is definately plenty of angst between the three of them, from Ava/Elaine and the sisters who grew up together, to Gigi, the interloper, trying to figure out where she fits in the family. Added to that the last words from their dying father, about a brother no one knew existed. The mystery of finding their brother played out well through the book, it wasn’t like a wham bam solve the mystery ma’am, but rather a gradual release of clues and discovery leading to the ultimate discovery. There was definately a feel-good ending to the book.

This was one of those books where you think you are just going to read a chapter or two, and then next thing you know its 2am and your alarm clock is going to go off in 2 hours…(yeah, it most definately got snoozed that morning). Its hard for me to say which authors are similar to Holly Robinson, maybe Kristin Hannah with her female relationships, but I think that Holly’s books tend to be more final at the end, whereas sometimes Ms Hannah’s leaving me feeling not quite done.

Overall, I gave Plum Beach Island (ack, why do I keep trying to type Beach Plum Island!!), 4.5 stars, but rounding down to 4 on Amazon (and up to 5 on Amazon).

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Perfect Timing – Laura Spinella

Perfect TimingPerfect Timing
Author: Laura Spinella

Review Copy Provided by Author via Sisterhood of the Traveling Book on Goodreads

Description:
What’s a Jersey Girl to do when she moves to Catswallow, Alabama? Isabel Lang finds the answer in an unlikely bond with the musically gifted Aidan Roycroft. The two share everything from a first kiss to startling family secrets. But when Aidan is accused of a violent crime, the two flee to Las Vegas where Isabel’s future comes tumbling down.

Seven years later, the past is buried, including any relationship with Aidan. Isabel is busy running a radio station and closing in on commitment with Nate Potter, a guy who defines ideal. Life seems cozy until new station management demands a sudden-death ratings grabber, putting everyone’s future on the line. What should be a simple solution leads to a stunning revelation as Isabel is forced to call on the past and the only rock star she knows.

Review:
If there is something that Laura Spinella does good, its bad boy heros and honestly, i’m a sucker for them. Her first book was a 5 star read for me, and i was eagerly waiting (ok, stalking her website for updates on new books…) – so I jumped on the opportunity to read Perfect Timing when she offered it up to one of my goodreads groups. The book arrived on a Friday and man was I glad that I didn’t have anything planned for the weekend, because I was sucked in. Admittedly, I actually finished it by Saturday afternoon with minimal interruptions but yeah. Although, I will say, it wasn’t quite as good as Beautiful Disaster, but only minutely different.

Plus along with the bad boy storyline, it also was one of second chances and I’m also a sucker for a second chance romance. Although, I did want to bitch slap Isabel because I thought she was rather selfish in her actions – yeah, I know she was only a teenager, but it still irked me. But its really hard to review this part without spoilers, suffice to say, I wasn’t a fan of her mother or other characters in her previous life. I did, however, like her friends in her new life – her father and his partner, and her co-workers at the radio station. I think the author nailed the diverse personalities that people experience in their lives.

I did feel that overall, I liked the ending in Perfect Timing better than Beautiful Disaster – it felt more complete and fulfilling. Overall, I gave Perfect Timing 4.5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who likes contemporary romances with bad-boy rock stars and second chances.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Best Kept Secret – Amy Hatvany

best kept secretBest Kept Secret
Author: Amy Hatvany

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

Description:
Cadence didn’t sit down one night and decide that downing two bottles of wine was a brilliant idea.Her drinking snuck up on her – as a way to sleep, to help her relax after a long day, to relieve some of the stress of the painful divorce that’s left her struggling to make ends meet with her five-year old son, Charlie.

It wasn’t always like this. Just a few years ago, Cadence seemed to have it all—a successful husband, an adorable son, and a promising career as a freelance journalist. But with the demise of her marriage, her carefully constructed life begins to spiral out of control. Suddenly she is all alone trying to juggle the demands of work and motherhood.

Logically, Cadence knows that she is drinking too much, and every day begins with renewed promises to herself that she will stop. But within a few hours, driven by something she doesn’t understand, she is reaching for the bottle – even when it means not playing with her son because she is too tired, or dropping him off at preschool late, again. And even when one calamitous night it means leaving him alone to pick up more wine at the grocery store. It’s only when her ex-husband shows up at her door to take Charlie away that Cadence realizes her best kept secret has been discovered….

Review:
The opening line of the description says it all… Cadence didn’t sit down one night and decide that downing two bottles of wine was a brilliant idea. I won’t profess to know a lot about alcoholism, in fact, what I do know wouldn’t fill a cup – but that one line made me wonder about the progression towards becoming that alcoholic. Many of us just think, ahhh, one drink, just one glass…but what about when one becomes two, two becomes three, three becomes the bottle. As a society, it seems like drinking is encouraged, everywhere you go, there are ads for beer, for wine, for hard liquor. I can’t even imagine what an alcoholic grows through when they are out in town and confronted with these images…and yet, it isn’t talked about. Alocholism seems to be one of those taboo topics – yes, it might be mentioned in fiction, but normally only in passing, or as a tool for the “evil” person to use…I can’t (off the top of my head) think of a fiction novel that addresses it head on like Best Kept Secret did.

There is no doubt that BKS is a roller-coaster ride of emotions – at times, I felt like I wanted to drink with Cadence or felt her struggle as her body craved the alcohol that she had become addicted to. I was also thankful of the fact that there wasn’t the expected happy ending (in fact, I was dreading that everything was going to be tied up in a pretty little bow – but having read other books by Amy – I know I should have had more faith in her). There isn’t much more I can say without going into spoiler territory – just read it…think about it…hopefully you won’t be disappointed. 4.5 stars.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Flirting With Disaster – Ruthie Knox

flirting with disaster
Flirting With Disaster
Author: Ruthie Knox
Series: #3 in the Camelot series

Review Copy Provided by the Author Via Netgalley

Description:
Fresh out of a fiasco of a marriage, Katie Clark has retreated to her hometown to start over. The new Katie is sophisticated, cavalier, and hell-bent on kicking butt at her job in her brother’s security firm. But on her first assignment—digging up the truth about the stalker threatening a world-famous singer-songwriter—Katie must endure the silent treatment from a stern but sexy partner who doesn’t want her help . . . or her company.

Sean Owens knows that if he opens his mouth around Katie, she’ll instantly remember him as the geeky kid who sat behind her in high school. Silence is golden, but he can’t keep quiet forever, not with Katie stampeding through their investigation. It’s time for Sean to step up and take control of the case, and his decade-old crush. If he can break through Katie’s newfound independence, they just might find they make a perfect team—on the road, on the job, and in bed.

Review:
Move over Molly Harper, there is a new author going on my auto-buy list (or rather, Molly and Ruthie can now share shelf space, since its fairly open up there, I have very few auto-buy authors). She just keeps getting better and better – while I enjoyed Along Came Trouble and gave it a solid 3.5 stars, Flirting with Disaster topped it significantly – it was a 4.5 star read for me.

I loved Katie from when she was introduced in How to Misbehave (albeit briefly) and even more so as her character was developed in Along Came Trouble. I just knew that her story when it was released was going to be a firecracker and man, I wasn’t wrong. And then there was Sean – who doesn’t love the geek who overcame adversities to become the guy he is as an adult. And at the same time, I loved how he wasn’t total macho-man, but that he was still a bit unsure of himself (for reasons that I won’t disclose, because it might be considered to be a bit spoilerific).

I can guarantee (or at least I hope so) that there is at least one scene that will cause the windows to steam up and anything cold to melt into puddles ;) Everyone seriously needs to run, not walk, to Amazon (or your chosen retailer) on June 10th when it is released and buy it – I don’t think you will be disappointed (but if you don’t, its not my fault – and my disclaimer says so… ;) )

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Sanctum – Sarah Fine

sanctumSanctum
Author: Sarah Fine
Series: #1 in the Guards of the Shadowlands series

Description:
“My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple.”

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

Review:
Its times like this, that I am thankful for recommendations from friends on Goodreads – because I can say for certain that I would never have found this book, let alone read it, without their recommendation. I am still conflicted over my final star-rating, but it has the potential to be one of my first 5-star reads for the year (and yes, I know its already 3 months into the year…) At first I was skeptical how the theme of youth suicide would be handled, especially when mixed with a fantasy type world – but I felt that the author managed to walk the fine line pretty well. It wasn’t until I looked at her biography and realized that she was a child psychologist that I realized why she did it so well – it (youth suicide) is obviously a topic that she is passionate about and has done research about/likely worked with children who have been affected by it.

It did raise a lot of thought-provoking ideas – most religions, if not all, have a form of heaven – but how many of them address whether people who commit suicide end up there – are they buried on un-consecrated ground (like the Catholic church) or what happened? And is there anyway for them to move from where they end up to heaven for real. I know that I had never really considered any of it until reading Sanctum – which to me is a sign of a great book.

However, about 2/3 of the way through, it did start to hit a bit on the teenage angst that was fustrating – I think the book would have automatically been a 5 star without that, and from how it ended, I have to admit that I am a bit concerned about where book 2 in the series is going to go…hopefully it will stay clear of the total teen angst/love triangle that seems to be so prevalent in a vast majority of YA books recently…Right now, I think I am going to give it 4.5, but rounding down to 4 on the Goodreads scale.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate – Jacqueline Kelly

calpurnia tateThe Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Author: Jacqueline Kelly

Narrator: Natalie Ross
Run Time: 9hrs and 1 minute
Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Description:
Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.

Review:
I have to admit that I probably would have passed over this book, if it hadn’t show up on a random book list that I was browsing one day, and then that it was readily available via audiobook from the library – so I didn’t have to wait on it. I don’t know why it is, maybe because the name in the title just made me want to chuckle and not take it seriously. Either way, if I had, I would have missed out on a brilliant YA book – it was totally worth the listen and I can see why it was nominated for the Newbury Award, even if it didn’t win.

I was immediately sucked into Calpurnia Victoria Tate’s (or Cally V’s) story – she is kind of how I imagined I would be if I had grown up at the turn of the 20th century – not wanting to be what was expected of me (a housekeeper, enjoying sewing etc), but rather wanting to play outside, into science etc. I thought that the author did a job of portraying the world how it was then – the idea that as 1900 rolled around the world might end (does this sound familiar?), the introduction of coca-cola and even the invention of the automobile. Cally’s grandfather definitely made the book all the more enjoyable – in all seriousness, he was a comic relief when needed but could also be serious as well. I loved how he was so absorbed in his own world that he often forgot what was going on around him.

There wasn’t anything really earth-shattering about how the story concluded – in fact, it was a relatively logical progression through-out and you could see how it was unfolding. I did like how the use of evolution in the title could be applied in two different ways – the study of evolution as with the grasshoppers and use of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Spieces but also the evolution of Calpurnia as a woman and a person – how she changed over the course of the 7 months that the book covered.

I love Natalie Ross as a narrator of audiobooks, she is rapidly becoming a go-to person for me. But it was funny when I first started listening to the audiobook because I had just listened to another book narrated by her recently (less than 2 months ago) and I kept hearing the voice of Dani (from Iced) in my head, because they were both young female characters between the ages of 12 and 14. I hadn’t really noticed this previously and it didn’t really bother me, just intrigued me that I could hear similarities in voice patterns even though one was an urban fantasy and the other a historical fiction. I can’t say much more about the narration – I loved how Ms Ross was able to provide so many different inflections to bring the characters to life – especially with the minutia of sounds that are part of life, but don’t necessarily show up in dialogue – like hiccups (there is a relatively memorable scene featuring these), burps etc. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I read it, but listening added a whole new dimension. It would be a great audiobook to listen to with kids on a car trip because it would suck them in (hopefully).

Anyone who loves historical fiction and YA should read or listen to this book. I give it 4.5 stars.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Deja Vu Review (2)

The Deja Vu Review is a weekly meme hosted by Brittany at The Book Addicts Guide. Its an opportunity to revisit old books you might have read before you launched your blog, but that you think should maybe still be highlighted.

A book you found by chance/by accident

When I was working the night shift a few years ago, one of the ways that I killed time was looking for book lots on ebay and sometimes buying them. Its amazing how buy clicky your finger gets at 3am when there isn’t much going on and you are struggling to stay away. One of the best deals I found online was buy 10lbs of randomly selected books (you could pick the genres) for $15. And if you bought 30lbs, you got an extra 10lbs for free (yeah, I totally got suckers into buying the 30). I ended up selected romance – and a mix of contemporary, historical, pnr and other stuff for the box.

When the box showed up wow, it was like a treasure trove and I immediately dug in. There was at least one awesome find in the box – Stormfire, written by Christine Monson. This book has been talked about on romance message boards for years – it was released in the height of the bodice ripper genre and is definitely either a love it or hate it book. What’s more, if you try to buy the book nowadays, you normally can’t find it cheaper than about $60, because only a limited print run was done, and it has not been re-released since and likely won’t. So the fact that I got it in a box that I probably only paid on average about $2 per book was pretty awesome. Oh yeah, and I feel in the love it category. But it wasn’t an easy read – it was violent, it was disturbing and by all rights, I should have hated it, but the writing was extremely compelling and sucked me in.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Blog Hop, Deja Vu Review

 

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