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Review – The Girl from the Savoy – Hazel Gaynor

the girl from the savoyThe Girl from the Savoy
Author: Hazel Gaynor
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Description:
Sometimes life gives you cotton stockings. Sometimes it gives you a Chanel gown …

Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but her life has been fractured by the Great War. Memories of the soldier she loved, of secret shame and profound loss, by turns pull her back and spur her on to make a better life.

When she finds employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly takes a step closer to the glittering lives of the Bright Young Things who thrive on champagne, jazz and rebellion. Right now, she must exist on the fringes of power, wealth and glamor—she must remain invisible and unimportant.

But her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to a struggling songwriter’s advertisement for a ‘muse’ and finds herself thrust into London’s exhilarating theatre scene and into the lives of celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry. Loretta and Perry may have the life Dolly aspires to, but they too are searching for something.

Now, at the precipice of the life she has and the one she longs for, the girl from The Savoy must make difficult choices: between two men; between two classes, between everything she knows and everything she dreams of. A brighter future is tantalizingly close—but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?

Review:
sometimes i have to wonder if my desires in book settings is like published somewhere…so funny(ish) story, maybe a month or so ago, I was talking some book-ish friends on facebook and mentioned that I would love to see more books that were set in the post-WW1 era, but pre-WW2 (so the 1920’s and 30’s). And then not long after, I got an email asking me if I would be interested in reviewing Hazel Gaynor’s newest book, The Girl from the Savoy. I’d first read Gaynor when I picked up her “The Girl Who Came Home” when it was on sale one day (which told the story of a Titanic survivor, interspersed with a modern day story). And who doesn’t love this cover, like I have serious cover envy right now!

The first thing that sucked me into Gaynor’s story-telling, was how I felt like I was in London during the 1920’s. I felt like I was walking into the Savoy for the first time, seeing its opulence and having Dolly (or one of her friends) being my maid. Reading the vivid descriptions of the clothes and their trips to see Loretta May perform on stage. Dolly was just a character that you could fall in love with because she was so relateable – a girl who just wants to live her dreams, but one that also has a past that she is trying to reconcile with. It took me a few chapters to realize that while the majority of the book was set in the 1920’s, that there were a few portions that were set 1919 and more immediately post WW1 (yeah, I know, sometimes, I’m a bit slow on the uptake).

There was such a cast of characters included in The Girl from Savoy – Dolly and her fellow maids, several customers of the Savoy (there was one who really gave me the heebie-jeebies) so you could see the types of people who stayed at the Savoy, to Loretta and her brother, Percy and then there was Dolly’s long-lost love, who while he came back physically from the war, was never the same. His portion of the story was probably the most gut-wrenching off all the parts in the story (I know that it was supposed to be, but maybe its because I am in the military, that it hit home even closer)…

The Girl from the Savoy makes 2 books in a row by Gaynor that I have really enjoyed and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. I’d recommend both the Girl from the Savoy (and the Girl Who Came home) to people who like historical fiction that has been extremely well-researched and just draws you in. A solid 4 stars for The Girl from Savoy and one step closer to Gaynor being added to my auto-buy list.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

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Review – The Angel Wore Fangs – Sandra Hill

the angel wore fangsThe Angel Wore Fangs
Author: Sandra Hill
Series: #7 in the Deadly Angels series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Description:
Once guilty of the deadly sin of gluttony, thousand-year-old Viking vampire angel Cnut Sigurdsson is now a lean, mean, vampire-devil fighting machine. His new side-job? No biggie: just ridding the world of a threat called ISIS while keeping the evil Lucipires (demon vampires) at bay. So when chef Andrea Stewart hires him to rescue her sister from a cult recruiting terrorists at a Montana dude ranch, vangel turns cowboy. Yeehaw!

The too-tempting mortal insists on accompanying him, surprising Cnut with her bravery at every turn. But with terrorists stalking the ranch in demonoid form, Cnut teletransports Andrea and himself out of danger—accidentally into the tenth-century Norselands. Suddenly, they have to find their way back to the future to save her family and the world . . . and to satisfy their insatiable attraction.

Review:
Sandra Hill is an author who has been on my to-read pile for a while, in fact, i’d heard about her vikings series quite often (since there are very few authors who write in that romance sub-genre), so when I was approached by her publicist to review the newest book in her Deadly Angels series, I was intrigued (even if it is book 7 in a series, which made my OCD eyeball twitch just a bit)…based on the description, I was intrigued with how the author was going to try and merge the historical world of vikings with a paranormal world with demons and vampires (or rather Lucipires aka demon vampires).

But i got to be honest, I was more intrigued with the viking world that Cnut (funnily enough, I have a co-worker with a similar name) and Andrea ended up in rather than the paranormal undertones of the book. Maybe because to me that part of the story just sucked me in and i haven’t read the previous books in the series to understand the paranormal background. I’ll also say that I had a few issues with the ISIS storyline that the author chose to use, mostly because a whole secret compound in the US isn’t typically how these middle eastern terrorist groups recruit people. It was also like she tried to work in an element of romantic suspense as well with Cnut helping Andrea to find her sister. I don’t know, in general, I think if I were going to read Ms Hill’s stuff again, then i might stick to the straight historicals, like her Vikings series, rather than her paranormals, since this one just didn’t really work for me. Don’t get me wrong, fundamentally, there was nothing wrong with her writing style, it is just a personal preference. Overall, I gave The Angel Wore Fangs 3 stars, because while it didn’t necessarily work for me, it was a solid paranormal romance.

sandra hillAbout the Author
Sandra Hill is a graduate of Penn State and worked for more than 10 years as a features writer and education editor for publications in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Writing about serious issues taught her the merits of seeking the lighter side of even the darkest stories. She is the wife of a stockbroker and the mother of four sons

Connect with Sandra
Websitehttps://www.sandrahill.net/
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/sandrahillauth
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/SandraHillAuthor/
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/177305.Sandra_Hill

Purchase Links
Direct from Publisher
Amazon – Mass Market Paperback
Amazon – Kindle

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Posted by on June 15, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

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Review – Doing it Over – Catherine Bybee

doing it overDoing it Over
Author: Catherine Bybee
Series: #1 in the Most Likely To series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
Voted Most Likely to Succeed, Melanie Bartlett ended up anything but. The down-on-her-luck single mom wants a complete do-over—is that too much to ask? With her family long gone from River Bend, strong, independent Mel is as surprised as anyone to end up in the quaint small town she once called home. But with her friends, Jo and Zoe, by her side, and a comfortable room at Miss Gina’s quirky bed-and-breakfast, she just might have turned the corner on a new life.

Wyatt Gibson never liked the big city. River Bend suits the ruggedly handsome builder just fine. Wyatt knows he’s home, even if that means being charmed by the appearance of Melanie and her spunky, adorable daughter. Is Wyatt’s calm devotion—even amid a coming storm—enough to convince Mel she may have found a home to call her own, a family that never leaves, and a true love to last a lifetime?

Review:
I got to say, the idea of students being “most likely to” anything is a tradition that i don’t a) fully understand and b) and find that they might be kind of a form of reverse psychology – you tell someone they are the most likely to go jail and they use that to clean up their act; or most likely to succeed but they end up failing at that…which is where Doing It Over takes you – Melanie had been voted most likely to succeed in high school, but then a family upheaval changed the course of her life and she found herself down on her luck, scraping for every penny, driving a car thats held together by the paint on the exterior…but you know what they say, you can always go home again (or is it, you can never go home again…either way)…her home and her high school friends are where she headed when she needs to start over.

I have to say that compared to other Catherine Bybee books, this one didn’t suck me in as quickly (I mean, I devoured her Weekday Brides series), whereas with Doing it Over, I took me time with the reading. Not saying that Doing It Over was a bad book, it wasn’t, it was just that it was different to other books by her – to me it had a bit more of a women’s lit feel, in conjunction with thee romance between Melanie and Wyatt – compared to the straight romance of her other books. But that being said, seeing Mel with her friends was one of my favorite parts of the book and i really hope that they get their HEA’s in the next books in the series. There was an interesting mystery element to Doing It Over – I’ll admit that I wasn’t quite sure if it was needed and kind of saw where it was going on pretty early in the story arc.

As with her previous books, I think one of the strengths of Ms Bybee’s writing is her character development, especially her secondary characters. She has a way of writing very colorful characters who you can’t help but love – in this instance, I think Miss Gina is probably one of my favorites – she was the perfect mix of helpful small town matron and quirky bed and breakfast own (I think possibly more on the quirky site than anything else). Mel’s ex husband was a douchebag which I think the author nailed perfectly and the mystery guest…well…he definately gave me the chills at times. I also appreciated that Mel’s daughter was an integral part of the story and was a character in her own right, rather than just being an after-thought like many children in romance novels.

Overall, I gave Doing It Over 3.5 stars, but I am intrigued about where the author will take the series in later books. I’d recommend this for fans of romance with a bit of female friendship focus; also those who might like romance with a bit of mystery without going a full romantic suspense route.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

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Review – Inside the O’Briens – Lisa Genova

inside the o'briensInside the O’Briens
Author: Lisa Genova
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Review:
I’ll admit that I felt like I was one of the last people in america to read Genova’s book, Still Alice – in fact, the movie had been released and Julianne Moore had already been awarded the Oscar before I even picked up the book but it just so happened that not long after I finished reading it, when I was looking at Edelweiss one day (a place that is like crack for book bloggers), I saw that review copies of her newest book, Inside the O’Brien’s were available and I totally clicked to request it (and then promptly lost the book on the virtual straggering TBD).

Anyways, I digress…my knowledge about Huntington’s Chorea is extremely limited to basically what I learnt from watching House, when one of the doctor’s who worked for him (aka Thirteen) had a mother with Huntington’s and she had to make the decision on whether she wanted to go through the genetic tests to find out if she would get it. Because as I learnt both there and while reading Inside the O’Brien’s, if you have the gene, you will get the disease, its not a case of, you have the gene, you might get it, but rather, there is a 100% likelihood that you will develop Huntington’s and that currently there is no treatment and no cure for the disease, so a death sentence. Knowing that was the ultimate outcome in Joe’s story, I was curious to see how Genova would handle it, walking a fine line between telling a story, sucking people in and not wanting to be too dramatic (for lack of a better word). so I appreciated how she approached it – essentially alternating the story from Joe’s POV and that of his youngest daughter, Katie – who is struggling to make the decision about having the testing. I split the age between Joe and Katie, so this is a book that really struck home for me, that these are decisions that many people my age, may have to face in upcoming years, especially as genetic testing becomes more and more common and ethical questions are raised?

I know that as I was reading Inside the O’Brien’s, I posted a question on my facebook page – essentially theoretically asking – if you had to make a decision about taking a genetic test like the one for HC would you and the responses that came back were interesting. If the test comes back showing you have the genetic mutation, how do you life a life you know is going to end? How do you deal with it knowing that you may have passed the gene onto your children, if you have them? (or even grandchildren)

Its hard to call a read like Inside the O’Brien’s enjoyable for the simple reason of the topics that it discusses focuses on – i found it to be thought-provoking, and made me question for thoughts and feelings about genetic testing (although I honestly, still don’t have an answer on if I would do it or not)…it was very well written, not overly complicated/difficult but solid writing. I gave it 4 stars, but it is definately a book that has stuck with me since I read it a couple of months ago.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

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Review – A Passion to Pursue – Kelsey Browning

a passion to pursueA Passion to Pursue
Author: Kelsey Browning
Series: #2 in the Prophecy of Love series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
What if a pair of cowboy boots could foretell true love?

For years, Texas girl Greer Maddox waited to inherit her legacy as the next prophecy bootmaker. But that day never came. Now, instead of living out her rightful destiny, she’s lost, restlessly jumping from one art project to the next.

Until the day leather tooler Alejandro Villanueva strolls into town looking like ten kinds of sexy trouble.

After surviving his dark and dangerous past, all Alex wants is a quiet future. Alone, where his former life and mistakes can’t hurt anyone else. Even casually screwing around with a girl next door like Greer–whose dulce de leche voice and curvy body make him sweat–is a bad idea. But when she gets involved in his attempts to win the Prophecy Boot Company’s tooling contract, waving adios is the last thing on his mind.

Their attraction flares hot and undeniable. He wants her, and even knowing he shouldn’t have her can’t stop him from indulging in the temptation she offers. But when his past comes calling, he is forced to choose between hiding from his sins, or saving the woman he loves.

Review:
When a book has characters saying things like “I think I just orgasmed a rainbow” you know that you are going to have an enjoyable and likely laughing out loud reading experience. And that is exactly what I got when I read A Passion to Pursue by one of my auto-buy authors, Kelsey Browning. I know instinctively when picking up a book by her that i’ll likely laugh, maybe cry and just find myself in a happy place.

A Passion to Pursue takes the reader back to Prophecy, Texas where the legend of the prophecy boot is part of the town’s identity. This time we get to know Greer at a deeper level (we had previously met her as she is Cal’s sister – Cal being the hero of the first book in the series). And then there is Alex (although his real name is Alejandro – which just kind of rolls off the tongue in a sexy kind of way)…the leather carver who is being considered by Prophecy Boot Company to come on board and carve the designs in the boots that would lead people to their soul-mates (or is it sole-mates)😉 Kelsey created a character that had so many mysteries – why did he need the money that the Prophecy Boot Company would pay them? why does he have tattoo’s on half his body? Every time I thought I was beginning to understand him as a character, something else new was revealed.

I think the thing that drew me most to the story, aside from the holy hotness factor of the Greer/Alex romance, was seeing the struggle that Greer went through trying to find her place in the world. She had always been around people who knew what they were destined to be – Delaney being the Prophecy boot designer, Alex and his leather carving – but she never truly found her place in the world. Seeing her struggle with that in A Passion to Pursue made me thing about struggles that many people go through as they try to find their place – heck, i’m older than Greer is and at times, I still feel like I am trying to find my place in the world.

If you are looking for a spicy read, with a sexy tattooed artist with some serious life choice undertones, A Passion to Pursue might be the read for you. Of course, I do recommend reading the first book in the series if you want to get up to date on the series first. I gave 4 stars to A Passion to Pursue and intrigued to see where Kelsey takes the series next…she definately introduced a few characters in A Passion to Pursue who I would be interested to know more about.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

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Review – Stolen Years – Reuven Fenton

stolen yearsStolen Years: Stories of the Wrongfully Imprisoned
Author: Reuven Fenton
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Description:
There is a horrible murder in your neighborhood. You stand outside with your neighbors and watch, or maybe you peek out of your curtains. Hours pass, then days, maybe even years. Until one day there is a knock at your door, and the police take you in for questioning. Do you remember what happened? Do you have an alibi? Can you take countless hours of interrogation without breaking? Can this happen to you?

It can happen, and it happens more than you think.

From The Fixer to The Shawshank Redemption to Orange Is the New Black, books, films, and TV shows have, for decades, fed the public’s endless hunger for nitty-gritty details about prison life. Stolen Years will not deny readers those details, but it will also offer something more satisfying: the stories of ten former inmates who fended off the blackest kind of despair so they could keep fighting for freedom; the years they spent waiting for an appeal; and their struggles to get back to living after losing so many years behind bars.

Review:
There are some books that when I read them, it takes me time to decompress from the reading experience before I can write a review, Stolen Years was one of those books. I’ll admit that I’m one of those people who honestly wants to believe that those people who are in jail, especially those for long periods of time, actually deserve to be there – but with the rise of podcast’s like Serial, and the Netflix documentary, Making of a Murderer, I’ve started to question my belief of and in the legal system. Its kind of coincidental, that as I am writing this review, a Law & Order: SVU episode came on with a false accusation premise that actually echoed one of the stories in Stolen Years.

The book itself was a fairly simple read, 10 stories about different people from all walks of life: different states, different socio-economic classes; some parents, some not; some young and some old; male and female – but the one thing these people all had in common, was that they were found guilty (either via a judge or a jury) for a crime that they didn’t commit and all of whom spent significant time in prison – the least amount of time in the book was ten years, others were in the twenty year plus range. I think for me, the story that really hit me the hardest was the one about the father who spent 10 years in jail for raping his daughter, only to have her recant – her reasoning, she was angry that he wasn’t spending enough time with her and her sister. And even after his release, she continued to threaten him with reporting him again whenever she got mad at him. I was honestly just dumbstruck after reading his story, I couldn’t believe what that girl (now woman did).

One of the things that has come in some of my recent non-fiction reading has been the need for prison reform – the need to better rehabilitate prisoners who are released (either due to their sentences being complete, or in cases such as this, being found innocent and sentences vacated). The lack of social reintegration for these former prisoners was emphasized the issue even more – when you have individuals who have been in jail for sometimes decades, when they make comments like computers being very limited when they went to prison and now they are an integral part of our lives. How do you overcome something like this? Stolen Years is one of those books that anyone interested in social justice should read; it should be required reading for any student who may become involved in the legal system; people who are involved with making laws and working in the prison system. Heck, it should be required reading for pretty much anyone, I would lay odds, if you had asked any of the people who had their stories told in Stolen Years, prior to their convictions, if they would have thought this would have happened to them – and I’ll lay odds, they’d say never!

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

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Review – Try – Ella Frank

try ellaTry
Author: Ella Frank
Series: #1 in the Temptations series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Description:
Try – verb: to make an attempt or effort to do something or in this case…someone.
Sex. Logan Mitchell loves it, and ever since he realized his raw sexual appeal at a young age, he has had no problem using it to his advantage. Men and women alike fall into his bed—after all, Logan is not one to discriminate. He lives by one motto—if something interests you, why not just take a chance and try?

And he wants to try Tate Morrison.

Just coming out of a four-year marriage with an ex-wife from hell, a relationship is the last thing on Tate’s mind. He’s starting fresh and trying to get back on his feet with a new job at an upscale bar in downtown Chicago.

The only problem is, Tate has caught the unwavering and unwelcome attention of Mr. Logan Mitchell – a regular at the bar and a man who always gets what he wants.

Night after night Tate fends off the persistent advances of the undeniably charismatic man, but after an explosive moment in the bar, all bets are off as he finds his body stirring with a different desire than his mind.

As arrogance, stubbornness and sexual tension sizzles between the two, it threatens to change the very course of their lives.

Logan doesn’t do relationships. Tate doesn’t do men. But what would happen if they both just gave in and…tried?

Review:
So this is probably a book series that I never would have picked up, if one of them hadn’t been nominated for an Audie in the erotica category. However, when I saw the nominees and noticed that this was #3 in the series, I asked around to find out if that nominated book could be read alone, or if i needed to read the previously 2 first. the overwhelming response was that the series needs to be read in order because its one continuing storyline, although, several of my friends prefaced their comments with, “logan is a total man-whore” – which I’ll admit made me kind of skeptical. So i’ll admit to being pleasantly surprised when I actually sat down to read Try, so much so that I read it in like a day.

It’s been a while since I’ve found a m/m series (or trilogy) that I could get invested in, i think because I got partially burnt out, but there was something about Ella Frank’s writing that just sucked me in. I’ll admit that Gay For You is a harder trope for some authors to write, in that, its hard to make it believable…but I found Tate’s reactions to Logan’s advanced to be what I would think is realistic to someone faced with a similar dilemma. Especially since in the beginning of the book, he was just getting divorced. I think my one complaint is that once again, an author writing a m/m romance resorted to a female character being a bitch and playing an integral role in the story – which annoys me beyond all reason.

I’ll totally agree with my friends who referred to Logan as a man whore in the beginning but I loved seeing him change as he fell more and more in love with Tate as the book progressed. There was something so honest about it, I couldn’t help but like Logan. And while the focus of the book was Logan and Tate, there was something about the cast of secondary characters, specifically, Logan’s brother and his wife that made the store even more engaging. I was going to put something here about loving to read a book about the 2 of them and just found out that that book is already available (yes, I might be a dork and way excited about this).

Ella Frank had an engaging writing style that just sucked me in. I found that the story flowed well, with limited redundancy in the writing (something I’ve started noticing a lot more lately). I gave Try a solid 3.5 stars and definitely looking forward to seeing where the other two books in the trilogy take me.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2016 in Book Review

 

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