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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Review – Take Me Home For Christmas – Brenda Novak

Take Me Home for ChristmasTake Me Home For Christmas
Author: Brenda Novak
Series: #5 in the Whiskey Creek series

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
Too bad all memories aren’t pleasant. Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town’s Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned.

But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions. The man she did marry was rich and powerful but abusive. So when he goes missing, she secretly hopes he’ll never come back—until she learns that he died running from an FBI probe of his investment firm. Not only has he left Sophia penniless, he’s left her to face all the townspeople he cheated….

Sophia is reduced to looking for any kind of work to pay the bills and support her daughter. With no other options, she becomes housekeeper for none other than Ted, now a successful suspense writer. He can’t bring himself to turn his back on her, not at Christmas, but he refuses to get emotionally involved. He learned his lesson the last time.

Or will the season of love and forgiveness give them both another chance at happiness?

Review:
So I don’t know if i’m the only blogger out there that does a happy dance when popular/well-known authors ask me to review their books, but I was totally doing that when the email from Ms Novak showed up a few weeks ago (yes, i’m a dork and I admit it!). But I will admit to being kind of concerned that this was book 5 in a series that I hadn’t read yet – although the author assumed me it could be read as a stand-alone (which I both agree and disagree with – but more of that later). Anyways, after I read the description and also the novella that kicked the series off (you can see that review on the blog also), I decided to take a chance on the book.

My initial thoughts with the opening of the book was that it reminded me of the Ashley Judd movie, Double Jeopardy – where the husband disappears and no one knows what happens – what is planned/foul play etc. But more so, the story focused on the after effects…how the “golden boy” of the town deceived everyone and how, as is human nature, people want to find someone to blame, even if the person is innocent. I really felt bad for Sophia for about 70% of the book. Although, it was nice seeing her change and become stronger through-out.

I will admit that i had issues with Ted though – I thought that he came across as an arrogant jerk for a good part of the book (and now that i’ve read previous ones in the series, that belief has solidified a bit more). I really wanted Sophia to bitch-slap him a few times (what can I say…lol). He did get better – but you could still see that there was quite a bit of baggage between them. I don’t know if, ultimately, I fully believed their HEA – it seemed more of a HFN (happy for now) – but i’ll be interested to check up on them in future books.

As to my comment about being read as a stand-alone or not – it is book 5 in the series and while Ms Novak does a good job of filling in the back-story (and I didn’t feel really lost during the reading), now that I’ve gone back and read the previous four books, this would have been a much more richer experience. Having gotten to know all of the characters – many of whom were only really cameo’s in this book, came to life in previous ones.

Overall, I gave Take Me Home for Christmas 3.5 stars, but I have gone back and read previous books in the series. Personally, I would recommend people read the other books (or at the very least book 1) before this one, just to get more of a feel of Whiskey Falls – you find out so much more about the town and the people.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – The Chosen – Annette Gisby

chosenThe Chosen
Author: Annette Gisby

Description:
The neighbouring kingdoms of Oscia and Arcathia have been at a tentative peace for three years after centuries of warfare. Prince Severin of Arcathia has been brought up to put duty before all else and as the only son of the King and Queen, it is his duty to marry and produce an heir. His parents want him to marry an Oscian princess to cement that tentative peace. Unfortunately Severin isn’t interested in princesses. Now, if he had his pick of princes that would be another matter.

Havyn has been a slave all his life. When his aptitude for wizardry is discovered, he finds himself purchased and freed by Prince Severin and apprenticed to the royal wizard, Ildar. His duty is to stay chaste to keep his powers strong, but his feelings for Severin sorely test his resolve.

With kingdoms at war, the throne hanging in the balance, magic in the air, and outside forces trying to keep them apart, can the two men find happiness together, or is duty more important than love?

Review:
When this book first popped up as a promo tour book, I was intrigued and when I took a look at it on Goodreads and saw that only a few people had read it (even though it was published a few years ago originally), I was even more intrigued. I love finding those hidden gems – books that no many people have read, but that should be read. While I can’t say that The Chosen quite reaches the OMG, everyone has to read level, it is definitely a book that I’m surprised more people haven’t read. If I try to think of something comparable in the m/m realm, it kind of reminds me of Eresse’s Chronicles of Ylandre series in world building, with a bit of Maculategiraffe’s Slave-breaker’s feel. I really enjoyed both of these series, so I hope that other readers of them, might like The Chosen.

The relationship between Severin and Havyn (although, i’m not exactly sure how to say his name – haven maybe) was sweet and the romance progressed at an even pace. While there were definately some hot moments between the two, it wasn’t overly angsty or torturous like some romances can be. And the supporting cast were interesting – I really liked the female body guard because it was nice seeing a non-bitchy female in a major role in a m/m romance (the use of the bitchy female is normally something that irks me) and the old man Wizard (Ildar) was very traditional, in a good way (I think).

Anyways, i think this is a book fans of m/m romance and fantasy would likely enjoy. Overall, I gave it 3.5 stars.

About Annette:
Annette Gisby grew up in a small town in Northern Ireland, moving to London when she was seventeen. Being a very small town there were no bookshops and a small library. When she’d devoured every book she could get her hands on in the library, she started writing her own stories so she would always have something to read later.

When not writing she enjoys reading, cinema, theatre, walks along deserted beaches or wandering around ruined castles (great places for inspiration!) New Zealand is her favourite place and she hopes to travel back there one day. She’s a fan of Japanese Manga and Anime and one day hopes to learn Japanese.

She currently lives in Hampshire with her husband, a collection of porcelain dolls and stuffed penguins and enough books to fill a small library. It’s diminishing gradually since the discovery of ebooks but still has a long way to go.

Excerpt:
At the large wrought iron gates, they were stopped by two guards who crossed two lances in front of them.
“Halt! Who goes there?”
“Chayal, is that any way to greet your prince?” growled Ildar, glaring at the guard.
“By the Raven! It is you.” Chayal and the other guard sank to one knee, bowing their heads, the sun glinting off their metal helmets.
“Get up, you two,” said Severin. “You know I hate all that.”
The guards got up and grinned at the party. “Kelandra’s going to kill you, you know that, right?” asked Chayal.
“What are you on about now, Chayal?” said a female voice from behind them. The woman had dark auburn hair done in two braids hanging down over her chest. On seeing the three of them beyond the guards, she stopped dead in her tracks and just stared.
Unlike any other woman Havyn had ever seen, she wasn’t wearing a gown, but wore a pair of breeches and an over tunic like the guards. Whereas their tunic was white with the black raven, hers was red with a golden sword on it. A sword hung from her left hip in a leather scabbard.
“Hello, Kelandra.” Severin bowed from the waist.
“Don’t you ‘hello Kelandra’ me,” she snarled, her hands on her hips. “What got into you? You were supposed to wait for me before you went on your journey. Running off like that without your guards. It’s a wonder you weren’t killed! Your father blames me for not going with you. He didn’t want you to go without a guard.”
“You were just there,” said Severin. “You know it’s me he’s angry with.”
“Kelandra, let me introduce Havyn. He is to become my new apprentice,” said Ildar.
Kelandra looked at Havyn and smiled.
“Forgive my bad manners, Havyn. Be welcome in Arcathia.” She crossed both arms over her chest and bowed to him. Havyn stared. No one had ever bowed to him before.
“Pleased to meet you, Princess Kelandra,” said Havyn, returning the same gesture.
From the way she and Severin talked to each other, Havyn guessed they were brother and sister.
Kelandra laughed. “Oh, I’m no princess, Havyn.”
“Kelandra is a Daughter of the Sword,” said Ildar. “She’s one of Prince Severin’s bodyguards.”
“A girl bodyguard?” blurted Havyn before he could stop himself.
She laughed again. “Indeed, Havyn. You have a lot to learn about Arcathia.”
“Kelandra, can you take Havyn to my mother? He was injured and may need some more tending,” said Severin. “I had better face my father.”

Annette in Social Media
Website: http://www.annettegisby.n3.net
Twitter: https://twitter.com/havyn
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/252221.Annette_Gisby

Buy Links:
The Chosen (Kindle)
The Chosen (Paperback)
Barnes and Noble
Smashwords

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Book Review

 

Review – Cut to the Bone – Jefferson Bass

cut to the boneCut to the Bone
Author: Jefferson Bass
Series: #.5 in the Body Farm series

Review Copy Provided by Author via Sisterhood of the Traveling Book

Description:
In the summer of 1992, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and Tennessee Senator Albert Gore begin their long-shot campaign to win the White House. In the sweltering hills of Knoxville at the University of Tennessee, Dr. Bill Brockton, the bright, ambitious young head of the Anthropology Department, launches an unusual-some would call it macabre-research facility, unlike any other in existence. Brockton is determined to revolutionize the study of forensics to help law enforcement better solve crime. But his plans are derailed by a chilling murder that leaves the scientist reeling from a sense of déjà vu. Followed by another. And then another: bodies that bear eerie resemblances to cases from Brockton’s past.

The police chalk up the first corpse to coincidence. But as the body count rises, the victims’ fatal injuries grow more and more distinctive-a spiral of death that holds dark implications for Brockton himself. If the killer isn’t found quickly, the death toll could be staggering. And the list of victims could include Brockton . . . and everyone he holds dear.

Review:
After a bit of a disappointing read in the previous book in the series, I have to admit that I was a bit scared to pick up this one. But I was pleasantly surprised. This book took the reader back in time, a time when Dr Brockton’s wife is still alive (for those who have read the series, you know how that plays out) and a time when his relationship with his son was less fractured/ more like what you would expect a father son relationship to be like. It also featured many of the secondary characters who have appeared through-out the series from Art Bohanan (the fingerprint technician who plays a significant role in most of the books) to the disgraced (well, in the later books) Medical Examiner Garland Hamilton. It was really weird not to have Miranda though because she is one of the characters who has made the series for me, although I didn’t mind Tyler (although, I can’t remember if he has appeared in later books).

One of the interesting things to me was seeing how far that study of forensic anthropology/body decomp had developed from the time period when this book was set to the more modern books in the series. How, (while the authors admit in the author’s note that the timing was a bit different to how the body farm came about in real life (the real farm was established much earlier), the body farm was actually established – trying to get a space to conduct these often gruesome experiments, figuring out how body’s decompose (which i can’t say is something that I would actually like to study, but hey, to each their own right?). The experiment with the flies wearing Tennessee orange just made me giggle (but you have to read the book to see what I mean).

Anyways, overall, I gave Cut to the Bone 4 stars and felt that it was a big improvement on the previous book in the series that was released. This would be a good book for either someone starting the series as a brand-new reader, or someone well-established in the series.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2013 in Book Review

 

Review – The Pieces We Keep – Kristina McMorris

the pieces we keepThe Pieces We Keep
Author: Kristina McMorris

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

Description:
Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes’s grief over her husband’s untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying—but it’s just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him.

As Jack’s fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack’s dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound—and perhaps, at last, to heal.

Review:
To say words have defied me once i finished reading Kristina McMorris’ latest book is an understatement. I was literally jumping with joy when it showed up in the mail but I forced myself to wait to read it on the metro the next week. And I devoured it – in fact, I realized about 20 seconds prior to the train leaving the station that I needed to get off if I wanted to make my connection…(and I totally tweeted that to Kristina). But I had to ponder my review – not because there were many negatives, but rather because I had so many strong emotions during the reading, that words can’t really describe how it made me feel. She made me laugh, she made me cry, she made me suffer from a severe book depression when I realized that it was over and I wouldn’t visit with the characters again.

While all of her previous books have been set in the past, Kristina took a different route with this story, using an alternating POV with one set in contemporary US and the other WW2 U.S. (which is the setting of her previous books). I will admit that sometimes I find this type of writing style hard to read because it doesn’t always flow well, and the voices of the POV’s sound the same. But that wasn’t the case. Both the voices of Audra (present) and Vivian (past) were unique. I think it also helped that the publisher used two different type-faces for the POV’s. So not only did they sound different, but they also looked different (to geek out a bit, it potentially got rid of the cognitive dissonance from the same format writing but different POV’s).

I could probably go on and continue gushing about the story and how it blew my mind, but I’ll save that for others. But before I close out this review, I wanted to tell a story that reading this reminded me off. When I was in high school, the Holocaust was a major subject of interest for me. In fact, if I had ever decided to pursue graduate education in history, the Holocaust probably would have been my main focus. Anyways, when I was doing my senior English project, I spent time interviewing survivors and talking about how their survival had impacted their lives. One of the survivors I had talked to, survived the Auschwitz Death Marches. In fact, the only reason he survived the initial arrival at Auschwitz was because he was wearing long pants and was put to work, the rest of his family died that day. Post war, he never really talked about his experiences until he started having nightmares several decades later. Then he talked about his experiences to his family and to others, he even started traveling and talking to school groups. When he did this, he found that his nightmares went away.

Reading The Pieces We Keep reminded me of his story and the idea of how dreams and nightmares can tell the story of our experiences, or if you believe in the idea of reincarnation, others. Gushing aside, a solid 5 stars for this book and now begins the torture of waiting for her next book (and its going to be a very long wait)…

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – When We Touch – Brenda Novak

when we touchWhen We Touch
Author: Brenda Novak
Series: #.5 in the Whisper Falls series

Description:
You’re invited to a wedding in Whiskey Creek, Heart of the Gold Country
Unfortunately, it’s the wrong wedding. Olivia Arnold is arranging the festivities—and it’s the hardest thing she’s ever done. Because she should be marrying Kyle Houseman. They were together for more than a year…. But her jealous sister, Noelle, stole him away—and now she’s pregnant.

All their friends in Whiskey Creek know as well as Olivia does that Kyle’s making a mistake. His stepbrother, Brandon, knows it, too. But Kyle’s determined to go through with it, for his child’s sake.

Olivia’s devastated, but surprisingly Brandon—the black sheep of the family—is there to provide comfort and consolation. The intensity between them, both physical and emotional, shows Olivia that maybe Kyle wasn’t the right man for her…
But is Brandon?

Review:
This was my first exposure to Ms Novak’s books and if she hadn’t actually approached me to review her newest book on my blog, I probably never would have picked it up. And then I never would have discovered the world of Whiskey Creek. My initial thoughts up after finishing this short story, was that it kind of reminded me of the Virgin River books by Robyn Carr, but more developed and less preachy (its hard to explain what I mean here, so just trust me).

When We Touch is what I would describe as a slice of life type book – it was short (I think only about 100 pages), so it didn’t have the fully fleshed out feeling of a traditional length romance, yet at the same time, it felt complete. There were a beginning, middle and end. I wasn’t left wanting over how the story worked out, but I was left wanting, wanting to know more about the town and its inhabitants.

The basically premise of the story, kind of reminded me in part of the movie, The Wedding Date, starring Debra Messing, minus the date for hire (although, he was soo hot in the movie). But the returning home to the wedding of a sister, who is marrying someone the person used to date (there is off the scene cheating in the story, involving the main character, but Olivia the mc didn’t cheat). Then there is the guy who comes out of nowhere to rescue her (in this case, the step-brother of the guy who cheated on Olivia). And to top it all off the guy who rescues her is not just hot and nice, but all a champion skier recovering from an injury, which makes for some nice added tension. So overall the story was nice and convoluted and awesome.

When We Touch definitely made me want to go back and visit Whiskey Creek in the future – and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series. Overall, I gave it 3.5 stars and would recommend to people who like cute contemporary romances.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2013 in Book Review

 

Review – The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith

the cuckoo's callingThe Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
Series: #1 in the Cormoran Strike series

Description:
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

Review:
I’ll be the first to admit, I probably never would have picked up this book if it hadn’t been revealed that the author was J.K. Rowling. I’ll also admit that while I loved the Harry Potter books, her other book (A Casual Vacancy) got put aside before I hit 100 pages, because it wasn’t working for me. But after seeing several good reviews from people I trust on Goodreads, I decided to give it a go and I wasn’t disappointed. That being said, if you are looking for a very fast paced mystery, you aren’t going to get one. It would much better be described (and i’m stealing words from a friend here) as a character study wrapped up in a mystery.

The mystery itself was really straight forward – who killed Lula Landrey – an up and coming star, who was believed to have committed suicide. But that honestly wasn’t the most interesting part of the book, in fact, I actually figured out the who-done-it about half-way through (don’t actually ask me how, because I don’t think there was anything that actually pointed to the answer, it was just a feeling), but rather the development of the characters and how they all interacted with each other. In fact, I think one of the most impressive parts of the story was how there were characters who we never actually met (Charlotte, Michael and Cormoran’s father) but who all played significant roles and had profound influences on the intricancies in the storyline. They were often used to highlight weaknesses in characters, or internal conflicts that might not otherwise have been revealed.

While I didn’t enjoy The Casual Vacancy because it was heavy on characterization without much moving the plot forward, I liked The Cuckoo’s Calling because there was a story being told, as the characters were being developed. Overall, I gave Cuckoo’s Calling 4 stars, but like stated above, if you want a fast paced mystery, this isn’t the book for you.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – The Inquisitor’s Key – Jefferson Bass

the inquisitor's keyThe Inquisitor’s Key
Author: Jefferson Bass
Series: #7 in the Body Farm series

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

Description:
Miranda Lovelady, Dr. Bill Brockton’s protégée, is spending the summer helping excavate a newly-discovered chamber beneath the spectacular Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France. There she discovers a stone chest inscribed with a stunning claim: inside lie the bones of none other than Jesus of Nazareth.

Faced with a case of unimaginable proportions, Miranda summons Brockton for help proving or refuting the claim. Both scientists are skeptical–after all, fake relics abounded during the Middle Ages–but evidence for authenticity looks strong initially, and soon grows stronger.

Brockton and Miranda link the bones to the haunting image on the Shroud of Turin, revered by millions as the burial cloth of Christ, and then a laboratory test finds the bones to be two thousand years old. The finding triggers a deadly tug-of-war between the anthropologists, the Vatican, and a deadly zealot who hopes to use the bones to bring about the Second Coming–and trigger the end of time.

Review:
I’ve been making my way through this series during the course of the year, mostly because I saw that book 7 was going to be one of the traveling books in Sisterhood. And I really enjoyed the vast majority of the previous ones, but I don’t know if it was the religious mystery in this one or what seemed to be the changing relationship between Bill and his mentee, Miranda, but I just wasn’t excited to finish reading this one. In fact, at one stage, I actually put it aside for a few days because I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to read it.

I’m not saying the writing style was bad, it just wasn’t working for me at the time. But I’m still interested in seeing where the series goes in the future. In fact, I’m reading the newest release by the writing duo right now, although its a prequel to the rest of the series. The Inquisitor’s Key (or The Bones of Avignon as it was released in the US) had the typically Bass writing style – its actually really hard to tell (unless you know prior to) that it is actually a writing duo. There is something that just flows smoothly – I honestly have no idea where one starts and the other ends. I also liked how while there is a significant amount of science-y type stuff in the storyline, it never really seems to get too deep/confusing or too geeky.

Overall, I gave The Inquisitor’s Key, 3.5 stars but I know I will be continuing the series in the future.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Book Review

 

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