Monday, November 21, 2011

review: the bungalow by sarah jio

It was always assumed Anne would marry Gerard, so she said "yes" to the proposal. As the wedding approaches, however, she has doubts. She questions his character because he's not fighting in WWII. So when her best friend announces she's become a military nurse, Anne takes the opportunity to delay the wedding and serve her country in Bora Bora, which is where she meets Westry and everything changes.

Although not fully a WWII story (the time period is more incidental to the plot), it was incredibly interesting to see the war from the perspective of nurses stationed away from the fighting in Europe. The female side of the war (other than the homefront) is frequently not represented in literature, television, etc. so this was a nice change.

With The Bungalow, Sarah Jio creates a world rife with love and heartache that also contrasts the beauty of the island with the ugliness of a terrible crime. It is captivating. The story is exquisitely detailed and made me want to accompany Anne in her return to Bora Bora. Toward the end, Jio had me crying at the loss of love only to turn it all around in a joyous ending.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Plume.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

giveaway: cloudburst

Want to read the latest from V.C. Andrews? Thanks to Simon and Schuster, one lucky person will win a copy!

Check out my review, then read the publisher description:
"Fate swept Sasha Porter into the lap of luxury, and into a torrent of bitter lies and shocking betrayals—all revealed in the riveting new novel Cloudburst from bestselling author V.C. Andrews®.

Since being taken in by wealthy Mrs. Jordan March and living in her exquisite home like a daughter, Sasha Porter’s traumatic past—destitute on the streets, and the shattering accident that killed her mother—seems like a fading nightmare. Beautiful and sophisticated, as bold and daring as her “sister,” Kiera March, Sasha still keeps her mother’s wise words close to her heart: never fully trust anyone. Inside her privileged new world, it’s advice that will prove more precious than gold.

Against the wishes of Jordan’s husband, Donald, Sasha attracts the attention of Ryder Garfield, a shy, handsome athlete, and maneuvers her way into his heart. But Ryder’s hidden torment soon explodes in a horrific tragedy that pulls Sasha into a flood of guilt and despair. And when someone she thought she could trust targets her vulnerability, Sasha recalls her mother’s warnings—and a violent storm of dark deceptions and shocking family secrets is unleashed. Will she sink or swim?"

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 December 17. Winner will be selected at random. Since this is from Simon and Schuster the winner must have mailing addresses in the US; no PO Boxes.

review: cloudburst by v.c. andrews

Cloudburst picks up Sasha Porter’s story three years after Family Storms. Although it is a continuation with many of the same characters, it seemed as though the author had not even read the previous book. The continuity errors started almost immediately with Sasha commenting on how having her own car would save her foster father from having to drop her off at school, but in the first book, the driver (who apparently no longer exists in this book) always took her. From there, Sasha was quite nearly a different girl altogether as she snobbily flitted about her private school. I tried to convince myself that Sasha’s personality change was due to all that happened to her in Family Storms as well as what must have occurred over the three intervening years, but her forgiveness of her foster sister was hard to swallow.

When a novel carries the V.C. Andrews name, there are expectations that go along with it; this story seemed more like a typical young adult general fiction novel. That’s not to say it wasn’t still a decent read (after one ignores the continuity issues), but those looking for something similar to Flowers in the Attic or Dawn will likely be disappointed. Here Sasha suffers more typical teen dramas like gossip about how far she’s gone with her boyfriend and her foster parents not wanting her to see said boyfriend. There is a brief glimmer of a V.C. Andrews-esque plot, but it is quickly ended.
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Star Books.

Friday, November 18, 2011

review: make the bread, buy the butter by jennifer reese

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese is part cookbook, part memoir. Reese begins by discussing Smucker’s Uncrustables (a frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwich) and the arbitrary lines that are drawn regarding food. She writes, “Not so long ago, people must have wondered who couldn’t fry her own donuts, grind her own sausage, cure her own bacon.” From this introduction Reese sets about determining what’s best to make at home and what should be bought at the store. As she runs through a number of recipes for everything from peanut butter to steak tartare, Reese shares her experiences, including building a chicken coop. I immensely enjoyed reading about her adventures and was thrilled that she determined a number of things aren’t really worth the time and effort when the professionals can do it. I did sometimes question how she made her determinations though. Some made perfect sense, such as buying your Thanksgiving turkey rather than raising and killing it yourself; others like burritos were a little less clear. Although Reese says people should make their own quesadillas, she says burritos are “essentially fast food” not worth the prep work unless someone already makes a lot of Mexican food. I wholeheartedly disagree.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Free Press.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

review: the man who couldn't eat by jon reiner

The Man Who Couldn’t Eat is all about the man who couldn’t eat. Jon Reiner proves himself to be more than a little self-obsessed in his memoir about life with Crohn’s disease. If it weren’t for my prior knowledge of Crohn’s disease, I’d think Reiner to be the first person ever diagnosed. Although his vivid prose regarding his agonizing pain and inability to eat brings the reader in, the wallowing becomes too much over the course of more than 300 pages. Just about every page is filled with descriptions of the food Reiner desires but must deny himself which is followed by far too much information about what eating such food would cause him to do on the toilet. He also rages about the healthcare system in America and his doctors’ inabilities to provide him with specifics; Reiner frequently seems ungrateful as a result. It wasn’t long before I was completely turned off.
2/5
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

review: prophet's prey by sam brower

Before writing Prophet’s Prey, Sam Brower spent years investigating the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and their leader Warren Jeffs. Brower was raised in the mainstream Mormon church, but left for a few years before returning upon marrying and having kids so he knows a little more than most about the break between the fundamentalists and the mainstream. As such, he provides an interesting perspective.

Sam Brower works as a private investigator, so he seemed a natural person to provide assistance when the Chatwin family was expelled from the FLDS community. After taking that first case in 2004, Brower became deeply involved in investigating every aspect of the FLDS. His own life was placed in jeopardy a number of times because of his actions which he thoroughly documents in Prophet’s Prey. The atrocities he uncovered (many of which have become known through media coverage of Warren Jeffs’s criminal trials) are horrifying. Thankfully he doesn’t delve into graphic detail, but does make clear just how far reaching the abuse of children was. Most astonishing was the number of non-FLDS who did nothing or worse. When someone claiming to be abused at the YFZ Ranch called a crisis hotline, CPS eventually moved in and removed the children. The FLDS made the process of determining parentage and whether or not there’d been abuse incredibly difficult and time-consuming, but District Judge Barbara Walther was prepared to hear the case. Unfortunately, Brower tells of how CPS simply didn’t follow the rules. The judge had ordered DNA testing, but CPS started returning children to people claiming to be their parents. Nothing prevented these people, who may or may not have been the biological parents, from placing the children in abusive situations. Nearly every page contains shocking discoveries like that.

Although the material is gripping, Prophet’s Prey lacks a cohesive narrative. Brower jumps around at times and repeats some stories along the way. The book is informative, but could use a little editing.
4/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

giveaway winner: the christmas wedding

Totally late posting this one, but Kelly's Avenue is the winner of The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson. Congrats!

giveaway: hot november romances

Thanks to Hachette two people will win one copy each of two books: Deliciously Sinful by Lilli Feisty and Too Wicked to Wed by Cara Elliot.

Read about the books here and here, then read through the rules to find out how to enter. Some have been randomly selected to win, but couldn't because I had no way to contact him/her. Be sure to read the rules!

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 November 26. Winner will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winner must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

feature: too wicked to wed by cara elliott

Normally I wouldn’t do a feature since I like to review all the books, but this time around I feel a feature is best. In order to participate in the blog tour for Deliciously Sinful by Lilli Feisty, one also had to tour another book on the same day. Cara Elliott’s Too Wicked to Wed sounded interesting enough that I agreed to the double tour. But I truly struggled to get through Too Wicked to Wed. Although I found no fault with the writing in and of itself, I just couldn’t garner any interest in the plot of this historical romance as Alexa just didn’t seem wicked in the slightest bit. The first few chapters indicated nothing special about the protagonist or any other character. I skimmed ahead to see if it would get interesting, but found nothing. Since I didn’t read the entire book, I feel it would be inappropriate to write an actual review.

Here’s the information from the publisher:
"Outspoken and independent, Lady Alexa Bingham enjoys the heady freedom of making all her own decisions, even though the challenges of overseeing her family's country estate are daunting. But when a chance encounter with London's most notorious rake awakens a secret longing for adventure, she accepts her aunt's invitation for a Season in Town...only to find that breaking the rules of the ton has serious consequences.

The Earl of Killingworth uses his rakehell reputation to hide the fact that poverty has forced him to work for a living. As the owner of a gambling den and brothel, Connor has no time for glittering ballrooms or innocent young ladies. But after a reckless wager leaves him with a new business partner, he is forced to take a risky gamble...Will the cards fall in their favor? Alexa and Connor begin to play a dangerous game of intrigue and deception as they seek to outwit a cunning adversary who wants to put them permanently out of business. But if they are not careful, it is the flames of their own fiery attraction that may destroy them."

Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

review: deliciously sinful by lilli feisty

Lilli Feisty’s Deliciously Sinful is aptly titled. The setting is a family-run restaurant in a small California town. After the deaths of her aunt and uncle, Phoebe needs a chef for the restaurant as she is somewhat talentless in the kitchen. She ends up hiring the very-LA, very sexy Nick Avalon and the two have numerous romps in the kitchen as well as other locales. The book oozes sex on nearly every page. It was so hedonistic that I was quite (pleasantly) surprised to find a touching story interspersed. Phoebe has an 18 year old niece struggling to admit what she really wants in life as she feels she must stay home with her widowed father. Further contributing to the anguish is that Jesse’s been raised vegan, but wants to cook Julia Child recipes that involve meat. In this storyline Nick proves that he actually can be the responsible, settled man Phoebe wants as he mentors Jesse. The drastic difference in the two plots proved a bit uneven, but Deliciously Sinful was a pleasurable romance.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

Friday, November 4, 2011

review: damage control by denise hamilton

A scandal involving a political family is at the center of Damage Control, which finds Maggie Silver handling a case involving the family of someone she was once friends with. The public relations firm Maggie works for specializes in damage control, so they’re the perfect people to call in when an attractive young woman working for Senator Paxton is found murdered. Although the firm doesn’t know of Maggie’s relationship with the Paxton family initially, her boss soon decides to use it to their advantage and has Maggie focusing all her time on the matter. But as current lies and past betrayals are revealed, Maggie finds she’s in a very dangerous situation.

Damage Control alternates between present-time and 1993, which is when Maggie was best friends with Anabelle Paxton. At first it is unclear why the two are no longer in touch, but the entire story unravels with perfect pacing that adds to the suspense of some brilliantly tense situations. In addition to the family drama, the murder mystery is also incredible with plenty of twists that kept me guessing.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Scribner.