Thursday, September 30, 2010

review: aching for always by gwyn cready

Aching for Always kicks off with murderous intrigue in the prologue and plunges into steamy romance by the middle of chapter two. It's a great beginning to another stellar time-traveling novel from award-winning Gwyn Cready. Here Joss is all set to marry her new business partner despite knowing him for only a few months (they became close while her father was in the hospital). But then Joss runs into a time-traveler who causes her to doubt everything she's ever trusted regarding her life. Soon Joss faces a major life-altering decision made all the more difficult by the new reality she must contend with.

I particularly enjoyed the way Cready wove the story of the mapmaker into the overall plot. The fairy tale, which Joss's mom told, is revealed at the beginning of certain chapters as other parts come in Joss's reflections on her virginity as well as conversations she has with time-traveling Hugh. At the end comes a nice revelation about the story.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Books.

a book invasion!

So not that I'm complaining, but books have kind of taken over my home! Although I'm fortunate enough to have some built-ins in the living room, I still need additional storage. So I started browsing the web for some options. There are the traditional shelves of course, but I kind of like console tables since they provide some versatility.

I think I've found the one that I want... It matches fairly well with what I already have and should fit nicely in the dining room. Once I get it, I'll post an update. It'll be nice to finally get the stacks of books organized!

I'll receive a free product for review from CSN Stores for making this post.

Monday, September 27, 2010

giveaway winner: the secrets of newberry

Wanda is the lucky winner of The Secrets of Newberry! Congratulations.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

giveaway: september forever romance classics

I am thrilled to host this great giveaway from Hachette. Three people will win the September Forever Romance Classics package of three books! The books are A Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore, The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt, and Hot Wheels and High Heels by Jane Graves.

Publishers Weekly about A Hint of Wicked:
"Two devastatingly handsome gentlemen vie for the love of the beautiful Sophie, duchess of Calton, in this debut historical romance, which delivers almost too thoroughly on its heart-tearing premise. Garrett, duke of Calton, returns to England barely recovered from amnesia following the battle of Waterloo and finds that after thinking him dead for eight years, Sophie has married his cousin and best friend, Tristan, now duke in his place. Sophie is torn between her sensual attraction to Tristan and her childhood love for—and legal bond to—Garrett, while the rivalry wrecks the men's lifelong friendship and pulls Sophie's two young children between their warring fathers. Haymore portrays the three so intensely and sympathetically that by the end, all of Sophie's possible choices seem guaranteed to bring misery to the lovers, leaving readers distressed and unsatisfied."

Booklist on The Raven Prince:
"After reviewing her somewhat precarious financial situation, Anna Wren comes to the conclusion that she needs a job. When she discovers that Edward de Raaf, the Earl of Swartingham, requires a new secretary, it seems like the perfect solution to her employment problem. Having already lost two secretaries because of his temper, Edward reluctantly agrees to give Anna a chance. Much to Anna's surprise, she finds she likes working for the often stubborn but unexpectedly kind Edward, and Edward soon realizes that Anna is not only an excellent secretary but also an extraordinarily intriguing woman. Hoyt's superb debut historical romance will dazzle readers with its brilliant blend of exquisitely nuanced characters, splendidly sensual love story, and elegant writing expertly laced with a dash of tart wit."

Publisher description for Hot Wheels and High Heels:
"Trophy wife Darcy McDaniel has just discovered that, thanks to her embezzling husband, her posh, upper-class life is gone for good. Now she's trading her suburban palace for a trailer park and her weekly salon appointments for a job. Darcy needs a new man--fast--one who'll keep her in the manner she darn well deserves. Problem is, the hottest prospect around is the my-way-or-the-highway hunk who's making off with her beloved Mercedes!

"Ex-cop turned repo man John Stark is sure that hiring the furious blonde in his headlights is a colossal mistake. He knows Darcy's high-maintenance, designer-labels-only type--after all, he's used to taking their cars. But he never expected this hellion to have the smarts and the spunk to go from receptionist to repo agent in record time...or to drive him insane with desire. She's the last thing this tall, dark, and dangerous loner needs...and everything he never knew he wanted."

The rules: Enter by leaving a comment to this post with your email (if I can't contact you, you can't win). You can gain additional entries by leaving separate comments letting me know that you're a follower (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on October 16. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

review: the human bobby by gabe rotter

This post contains affiliate links.

In a story about a man who loses everything when he makes the mistake of letting his childhood crush (a recovering addict) back into his life, Gabe Rotter makes excellent use of foreshadowing. While the story of lose is incredibly tragic, there were still humorous bits throughout The Human Bobby, particularly involving the happier times of Bobby and his wife.

Right up until the end, The Human Bobby was stellar, gripping, and kept me guessing. I raced through wondering how it would end. Would Bobby win back Ava by finding their son? It seemed likely as it would make for a happy ending though it would take a lot of work. But when the book did end it felt like an easy way out. And yet I hesitate to say that it was. There were a few hints sprinkled throughout that lead me to believe the ending was exactly what Rotter was working toward all along. It’s worth a second read.

One thing that I still working out is that The Human Bobby starts with Chapter 31 then goes back to Chapter 1 (this part really worked for me), but then the Chapter 31 that comes in the normal sequence isn’t the same as the one that started off the book. If other readers have thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them!
Review copy provided by Newman Communications.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

review: fly away home by jennifer weiner

According to the acknowledgments, it was ten years ago that Jennifer Weiner started writing Fly Away Home, a touching story about family turmoil that kicks off with the revelation that the Senator had an affair with a legislative aide. This just goes to show that politicians have been cheating on their wives for a long time. But the affair is not the true focus; its public announcement is simply what causes the Woodruff family to finally begin dealing with their issues.

Oldest daughter Diana has created a perfect life but it's all a façade. She's never really been interested in her husband, not even when they first started dating; she's now having an affair of her own (with a 25 year old intern at the hospital where she’s a doctor!). Lizzie, the troubled youngest daughter, is fresh out of rehab and acting as live-in nanny to Diana's only son. And with Richard’s infidelity out in the open, Sylvie escapes to her family’s isolated beach house and finally examines her life and marriage, which she must admit has not been all that she expected. After Diana confesses her affair to her husband, she packs up Milo and heads to the beach house as well; meanwhile, Lizzie has shocking news of her own that has her taking up her mom’s invitation to the beach house. That’s when everyone starts being honest.

This is one that pulls you in a bunch of different directions. Fly Away Home is sad at times (Tim telling Sylvie about the breakup of his marriage is a heart wrenching), but also quite humorous. There were times when I sympathized with the characters (and I adored Lizzie), but times when they were frustrating beyond belief (see Lizzie shutting out Jeff). In all it is an excellent novel.

Review copy provided by Engelman and Co.

Friday, September 17, 2010

giveaway: last to die

As part of the Last to Die tour, Hachette has granted me five giveaway copies!

If you read my review, you know I really enjoyed the book. Here's what Publishers Weekly said:
"Brady's second romantic thriller (One Scream Away) sports a winning combination of complex characters and intricately woven plot. Mourning the recent death of her father, Maryland police detective Dani Cole is called back to work to investigate a murder because she knows the victim, a former prostitute named Rosie whom Dani helped to start a new life. An unlikely link between Rosie and arts foundation director Russell Sanders dissolves when Sanders is also found murdered, but by then Dani has reconnected with an old flame: Mitch Sheridan, the foundation's owner. The independent, solitary cop stubbornly resists Mitch's charms, but as bodies begin to pile up, Mitch and Dani find themselves at equal risk of falling in love and being killed. There's nothing exactly new here, but Brady's deft style will keep readers turning pages."

The rules:
Enter by leaving a comment to this post with your email (if I can't contact you, you can't win). You can gain additional entries by leaving separate comments letting me know that you're a follower (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on October 2. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

author guest post: kate brady

This post contains affiliate links.

For her guest post, I asked author Kate Brady (who is a music teacher in addition to an author) what research went into creating FBI agent Neil Sheridan.

I am a musician, teacher, mom, wife. I’ll be the first to admit that I have never had any first-hand experience either knowing killers or catching them. (And, just for the record, I hope to keep it that way.) Neither do I have any background in law enforcement.

Yes, I have a friend who’s a cop and he answers a procedural question for me now and then. Yes, I occasionally attend workshops or clinics designed for authors who write crime novels. Yes, I sometimes watch one of those reality-TV shows about solving crimes.

But mostly, I just read. I read and read and read. I’m fascinated by good guys chasing bad guys. Cops, detectives, sheriffs, FBI agents. I love them all.

From mostly reading, I’ve learned a little—and little is the key word there—about how police might go about catching a criminal. But once I learned the basics, the bad news came to light: Most police work is pretty boring, at least from a reader’s standpoint. Investigators spend hours and hours sifting through files, interviewing people who know nothing, tapping other law enforcement agencies, staring at computers, driving from one place to another only to find nothing. Rarely—rarely, I say—do they get involved in high-speed chases and shoot-outs and even more rarely do they fall in love in the course of an investigation and take a moment here and there to have wild, passionate sex. The truth is, if I wrote a story that was utterly realistic about cop work, no one would read past the first page. Same goes with crimes and criminals, by the way: Most aren’t very colorful.

So along the way, I’ve had to allow myself the freedom to admit that this is fiction. For the sake of an exciting read, I allow myself to write with acknowledged inaccuracies in police procedure and with extreme characters for criminals. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent hours or days trying to make the actions in a story completely accurate and believable, only to sit down and watch a popular TV show drama where the investigators are utterly unrealistic and the criminals are larger-than-life.

That’s when it hits me that as an audience, we still buy it. If I connect with the characters and enjoy the plot, I’ll let a cop get away with doing something unprofessional or a criminal get away with doing something unbelievable—and still love the show.

This is all to say that I think research is necessary, important, and grand. Accuracy and believability are wonderful qualities in a novel. But above all, readers of suspense want the thrill-ride of a good chase, and if I sometimes have to stretch the boundaries of reality to do it, I will. After all, I’m a musician, teacher, wife, and mom. If I only wrote stories about what I truly know, I wouldn’t have many readers!

review and tour: last to die by kate brady

Whoa! In the very first pages of Last to Die, Kate Brady reveals the serial killer is a woman. Who exactly that woman is remains a mystery, but she’s hunting prostitutes who have sold their babies. That’s where Detective Dani Cole comes in. This case is important to her because one of the murdered women was someone Dani had helped turn her life around. Dani discovers yet another tie to her own life when it comes out that before she died Rosie had been in contact with Mitch Sheridan’s surrogate father, who also suspiciously dies. Mitch just happens to be who Dani dated as a teenager—a time when her family was in turmoil thanks to Dani’s crooked cop father. There are so many layers here, it would be easy to lost parts of the plot, but Kate Brady skillfully handles every element. Even better than the suspenseful One Scream Away (the first in the Sheridan series), Brady shows talent in a novel where women are at the forefront as not only victims, but also the killer and detective.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

Want to win a copy of your own? Enter the giveaway. Also, check out the other tour participants:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

review: april & oliver by tess callahan

Tess Callahan’s debut novel has this borderline icky relationship between April and Oliver, who grew up believing their fathers were half-brothers rather than stepbrothers. The two are not romantically involved, but it’s clear there are feelings there; even the woman both call Grandma seems to want them together. I had difficulty getting past the unsettling feeling that gave me. Fortunately (and yet, unfortunately), the two are in other relationships. The unfortunate part is that April’s boyfriend is abusive (and just might have killed his ex) while Oliver and his fiancée are just kind of boring and probably not well-suited for each other.

There’s a lot here, but the book centers on how messed up April is as a result of having parents who shouldn’t have been parents. Not long after her abusive father puts a teenaged April to work in his bar, she’s molested by the co-owner. Despite April’s protests to Oliver, Callahan seems to hold up this ongoing abuse as the catalyst for April’s current behavior. So there’s that issue, then there’s the reason why Oliver is back in town to setup this uneasy hint at romance in the first place: April’s brother died in a car crash. The family decides Grandma must not be told because of her fragile health, but you just know the truth is going to come out at the worst time (and it does). And Oliver has his problems too, though he seems content to ignore them and take the easy path that he’s already established (law school and marriage). There was just a little too much to adequately address in a novel with a lot of unhappiness in just over 300 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

review: girl in translation by jean kwok

Girl in Translation is about a pretty amazing immigrant named Kimberly. She arrives in America with her mother expecting that her aunt will take care of them. Her aunt has slightly different plans because she’s bitter that her sister married for love (Kimberly’s father is now deceased) while she entered into an arranged marriage with a man who could bring her to America. So the aunt provides them with a condemned apartment and a factory job that pays by the piece rather than the hour, which Kimberly later learns is illegal.

Kimberly and her mother struggle because of their limited English and subpar living conditions; but eventually Kimberly gets on track. Although subjects requiring English are difficult, she’s able to prove herself in math. When the principal of her elementary school recognizes this, she’s able to arrange for Kimberly’s application at one of the top private schools in New York City. Kimberly is so impressive that the school not only accepts her, but waives her tuition only requiring her to work in the school’s library. While this is great news, Kimberly’s aunt is insanely jealous and begins to make things worse for them. And yet Kimberly is on track to accomplish all of her dreams until the astonishing twist comes at the end. It doesn’t mean Kimberly can’t go to Yale, but she does face a difficult decision.

I thoroughly enjoyed Girl in Translation; the various relationships Kimberly forms were especially interesting. She really has two lives (home/work and school) and the sharp contrast between the two was incredible. There was one thing I found annoying about Girl in Translation although I understood what Kwok was doing. Some of the dialogue is written as Kimberly hears it. It sometimes made it difficult to understand what was being said, but then, that means the reader has the same experience as Kimberly who also had difficulty understanding people in America.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Riverhead Books.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

giveaway winners: she's gone country

Congratulations to Virginia C., Karen B, and Brenda, who each win a copy of She's Gone Country!

And be sure to catch Jane Porter on tour:
Sunday, September 12: 2-5pm
Visalia, CA

Monday, October 11: 7pm
Plano, TX

Thursday, October 14: 5-7pm
San Antonio, TX

Friday, October 15: 4-6pm
Georgetown, TX

Sunday, October 17: 12-3pm
Houston, TX

Sunday, October 17: 4:30-6pm
Houston, TX

Monday, October 18: 10am
Houston, TX

Sunday, October 24: 3-5pm
Woodinville, WA

Thursday, October 28: 7pm
Spokane, WA

Monday, November 8: 7pm
Lake Forest Park, WA

Saturday, November 13: TBA
Frankfurt, KY

Wednesday, December 8: 7 pm
Leavenworth, WA

Friday, January 14: 7 pm
Laguna Beach, CA

giveaway: the secrets of newberry

One lucky person will win a copy of The Secrets of Newberry by Victor McGlothin. Thanks to Hachette for this giveaway!

From Publishers Weekly:
"McGlothin (Sinful Too) explores themes of race in 1955 New Orleans via the spirited capers of his two protagonists, Bones Arcineaux and Hampton Bynote. Hampton, from the nearby village of Newberry, is a young and defiant black man who befriends Bones, a young mulatto dandy. They partner as cat burglars hitting affluent French Quarter residences until one heist ends in the murder of a white city politician. Back in Newberry, Hampton falls in love with Magnolia Holiday, but they're separated after the New Orleans cops, unable to nab Hampton for the murder, arrest him for a lesser crime that gets him locked up for 14 months. Jumping ahead to 1971, Hampton and Magnolia are settled with a family when Bones shows up with plans for him and his old friend, but despite their criminal association, a more ominous issue arises from an unexpected quarter. Though the villains are little more than piggish caricatures, McGlothin's rugged prose captures the sultry locale, and the suspenseful edge is a nice complement to the story's social conscience."

The rules: Enter by leaving a comment to this post with your email (if I can't contact you, you can't win). You can gain additional entries by leaving separate comments letting me know that you're a follower (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on September 25. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

review: the home for broken hearts by rowan coleman

About a year ago, Ellen’s husband Nick died in a car crash, which, of course, changed the lives of Ellen and their son. Those changes have manifested themselves differently in Ellen and Charlie; Ellen doesn’t go out while Charlie only eats the foods he ate the day Nick died. Because the insurance company determined Nick to be at fault, there’s no payout and Ellen desperately needs money to keep the house. Ellen is surprised to learn that not only is there no insurance money, but Nick had kept secret the financial trouble his business experienced (and that’s not the only secret he had!). The sister Ellen has an iffy relationship with suggests renting rooms in the house; Hannah will even find the people to save Ellen the trouble. The three lodgers are quite varied and bring a liveliness to a house filled with unhappiness.

Although Nick’s secret wasn’t what I thought it would be, when it was revealed it seemed a little expected. (Oddly, it seemed Coleman was hinting that Nick’s secret would have to do with his death, which it didn’t.) To address any of the reasons why would be a complete spoiler, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that while The Home for Broken Hearts is well-written and has many interesting aspects, the secret is a big ol’ cliché.

Despite the cliché (which thankfully comes toward the end), I enjoyed the book. Each character really came to life, especially Ellen and two of the renters: Allegra (one of Ellen’s favorite romance novelists) and Matt (an attractive younger lads’ mag columnist). One character who really intrigued me was the one never met: Nick. The three who knew him (wife, son, and sister-in-law) view Nick through their grief while the three tenants hear something different in the “he was wonderful” stories. Even before Allegra shared her thoughts on Nick, I’d been leaning that way too; it pleased me that someone else heard the same stories and didn’t think Nick was such a catch after all.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Monday, September 6, 2010

giveaway winners: secrets to happiness and follow me

Happy Labor Day and congratulations to the giveaway winners!

Secrets to Happiness: headlessfowl, Jennifer L., and Scorpio M.

Follow Me: Brenda

Thursday, September 2, 2010

review: all i ever wanted by kristan higgins

I almost stopped reading All I Ever Wanted after the first few pages; Callie just seemed a little too obsessed with her failed romance with her boss. Because really, are you still not over a five week relationship that ended eleven months ago? But I trudged on and it did get better (though I could've done without half the characters having unusual names). A few chapters in, Callie's obsession makes more sense. She's never really moved past age 14 when the very cool and two years older Mark gave her her first kiss. And since Callie doesn't seem to have much other relationship experience, it does kind of make sense that she's stuck on Mark. But it’s time for her to move on; and who better to move on with than the new vet in town? Only problem is the new vet is ice cold and witnessed her breakdown at the DMV.

As Callie embarks upon her date other men to get over Mark plan, she has some crazy dates and deals with her even crazier family. Eventually Callie and the vet get together. Ian (the vet) proves himself to be a fantastic guy when someone Callie loves dies, but their romance gets a little complicated when Mark attempts to get in good with Callie again. The story is predictable, but nicely done. My big complaint is how annoying Callie sometimes is. In addition to her initial obsession with Mark, Callie repeats the same cutesy phrases (“holy guacamole” in particular) to the point of exhaustion.
Review copy provided by FSB Associates.