Friday, December 26, 2014

review: the widow's daughter by nicholas edlin

Billed as a story of a man haunted by his time as a doctor with the Marines in New Zealand during World War II, The Widow's Daughter takes an excruciatingly long time to get started. The pivotal characters (other than the Marines) are not introduced in the first 100 pages and the murder of Emily's brother occurs just shy of page 300 of a 370 page book. The earlier plot is somewhat interesting for its take on what the war was like for those stationed away from the action, but it grows tiresome as the carousing goes on and on. The Widow's Daughter starts to pick up once Peter learns of Emily's past and who she really is to Oscar, but there are far too few pages left for that story to really develop.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Penguin.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

review: auf wiedersehen by christa holder ocker

Christa Holder Ocker's memoir of growing up in Germany during World War II provided an interesting perspective. Although her mother did not support Hilter, her father fought for Germany. At one point the family must leave home, but there is still some normalcy for the children as they play with each other and attend school. Ocker details some very lean times as the Allied troops came and her family ended up deciding to leave Germany for America. But there is also much missing from the story. What sort of role did her father have in the war? What happened after they arrived in America?
3/5
Review copy provided by the publicist, Stray Dog Media.

Monday, December 22, 2014

review: beyond limits by laura griffin

Beyond Limits brings together Elizabeth and Derek, who first met in Scorched, as they hunt for a terrorist who is plotting an attack in Texas. This latest edition of the Tracers series is light on the involvement of The Delphi Center with the techs there not really assisting in the case. It's a combination of Elizabeth's official work for the FBI and Derek's skills from his SEAL training that allows them to succeed. This shift away from The Delphi Center is a bit of a disappointment, especially since the plot is less suspenseful too. Others in the series had a very real threat to keep the reader on edge, but Beyond Limits doesn't reveal what the terrorist has planned until the final chapters making this installment heavier on the romance than the suspense. I didn't like Elizabeth when she was introduced in Scorched, but she is thankfully improved here. One part I really enjoyed was the depiction of Texas. Having lived in this state for six months (I've a native of the Pacific Northwest), I picked up on things like the Dairy Queen cup being used as a spittoon that I wouldn't have really noticed before. It makes me want to revisit the first three in the series (which are my favorites).
3/5
Review copy provided by the author.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

review: a murder at rosamund's gate by susanna calkins

The first in the Lucy Campion series starts very slowly--so slowly that the first 100 or so pages could be cut without detriment to the story. Although Lucy and the others in A Murder at Rosamund's Gate are aware that some young women have been murdered, they are more worried about the plague until Bessie is also murdered. Bessie and Lucy were maids in the same household and Bessie was romantically involved with Lucy's brother as well. Just as happens today, Lucy's brother is the one who falls under suspicion. Lucy doesn't think her brother would kill Bessie, so she begins her own investigation which causes her to believe all the murders are related. In the end, Lucy does of course solve the mystery, but it is pure luck rather than any skill. The lackluster revelation is representative of the entire book which puts the mystery on the backburner the entire time. Despite many referencing Lucy's intelligence (she taught herself to read), she rarely showed it. Lucy seems an unlikely heroine to build a series around.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Minotaur Books.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

review: so tough to tame by victoria dahl

Victoria Dahl's sexy series set in Wyoming continues with So Tough to Tame. Charlie was Walker's tutor back in high school; now they're both adults and Charlie is back in her hometown after a scandal. As soon as the two reunite, there's a connection which leads to the expected romance of Dahl's novels. And as usual, Dahl's female lead is strong despite some troubles. Overall, it's a terrific romance although this one is a little heavy on that aspect with only a little about the intriguing circumstances surrounding Charlie's job.
5/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

review: the haçienda by peter hook

Although the subtitle is How Not to Run a Club, The Haçienda is primarily Peter Hook bragging about how great his bands were and how great the club was too. Much of the narcissistic musings are cringe-worthy as he hurls insults at other bands and just about everyone else he had contact with in the 1980s. The writing does little to make the memoir better either as Hook rambles in a convoluted way to tell his tale of a club he believes should be celebrated.
1/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, It Books.

Monday, December 15, 2014

review: murder at the book group by maggie king

The first in a cozy mystery series from Maggie King, Murder at the Book Group focuses on an author named Hazel Rose who belongs to a mystery book group along with her ex-husband's new wife, who just happens to die at one of the meetings. Although there's a suicide note, Hazel and many of the others don't believe Carlene would've killed herself. While the police look into the death, Hazel and Carlene's stepsister Kat set about figuring out who killed Carlene.

Given that it's a cozy, it's understandable that there's not much drama to Murder at the Book Group; however, the amount of time Hazel spends discussing Carlene and analyzing possible suspects grows to excruciating levels. King also inserts a number of strange asides about exercise and politics that didn't contribute to the development of the plot. Carlene's soap opera-esque bed-hopping did provide entertainment as well as create a grand number of suspects for her murder so that it is hard to guess just who suspicion should fall on.
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

review: pieces of happily ever after by irene zutell

Pieces of Happily Ever After follows Alice as her world comes crashing in. Her husband is cheating with a celebrity and her mother's Alzheimer's is getting worse. Alice was likely intended to be a sympathetic character, but I often wondered why her husband hadn't left earlier given how overbearing and judgmental she was. And of course, in a like mother, like daughter, the young child was a brat too. What redeemed Pieces of Happily Ever After was that her husband's betrayal did cause a change in Alice. She actually made some friends and turned into a slightly better person. Irene Zutell also puts a humorous spin on some tough situations thus lightening the somewhat over-dramatic spin.
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, St. Martin's Griffin.

Friday, December 12, 2014

review: chasing before by lenore appelhans

Felicia, you were supposed to be with Julian! At the start of Chasing Before, which continues the story from Level 2, Felicia is all about Neil. Julian doesn’t even make an appearance in the first few chapters which are all about Felicia and Neil reaching the next level and deciding what assignments they want (muse, guardian angel, etc.). They soon discover that the Morati are still causing trouble, so that must be dealt with while they work on qualifying for the positions they’ve chosen and deal with some drama caused by the appearance of Neil’s older half-brother. Unfortunately this drama makes Felicia seem weaker and whinier than she did in the first novel. There really should’ve been more Julian in this book.
3/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

review: ghost trackers by jason hawes and grant wilson

Ghost Trackers should’ve been exciting as high school friends Amber, Drew, and Trevor reunite for their high school reunion 15 years after graduating and learn that the supernatural entity they thought they escaped is killing their former classmates. It wasn’t. Ghost Trackers is written so passively that even the climatic scenes at the end were skim-worthy.
1/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Books.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

review: ten things i've learnt about love by sarah butler

Alice returns to London just as her father is dying. It is clear that some secret is weighing on him, but Alice’s father dies before he reveals anything. In the alternating chapters, a homeless man is thinking about finally finding his daughter after 30 years. This man is, of course, Alice’s real father and that fact is apparent very early on. With no suspense as to how these two stories will come together, Ten Things I’ve Learnt about Love doesn’t have much going for it. Alice’s story of feeling like an outcast and roaming the planet is typical and boring while Daniel’s story detracted from Alice’s journey of finding out about her mother who died when she was young.
2/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

review: the crown by nancy bilyeau

The Crown is a suspenseful page-turner with some exciting twists. Set in the time of Henry VII, The Crown follows a young nun named Joanna as she learns her cousin is to be burned at stake. When Joanna and her father interfere, they are sent to The Tower. Joanna is semi-fortunate though as she is soon let free in order to find King Athelstan’s long-lost crown for the Bishop of Winchester who will save her father’s life in return. The stakes are high and Joanna’s life may be in peril too when a murder takes place at Dartford Priory. Nancy Bilyeau’s writing beautifully brings to life the various settings with excellent descriptions.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Touchstone.

Monday, December 1, 2014

review: black ice by becca fitzpatrick

They could’ve gone to Hawaii with friends for spring break, but instead Britt and Korbie are backpacking in the Grand Teton National Park where Korbie’s family owns a cabin. The two high school girls are traveling alone though they’ll meet up with Korbie’s boyfriend and her brother who happens to be Britt’s ex. At least that was the plan until the sunny day turns into a snow storm that forces the girls to stop on the road. Thinking that they’ll freeze when the Jeep runs out of gas, they decide to look for a cabin to wait out the storm. It’s a decision they will soon regret.

Black Ice is intense. From the moment the snow starts falling, Becca Fitzpatrick builds an increasingly perilous situation for the wholly unprepared girls. Britt proves to be tenacious though a bit impulsive which causes additional problems. Although some of the twists were easy to guess, with Black Ice being more about how Britt would survive the life-or-death situation she’s in, knowing the killer’s identity doesn’t detract from the drama.
5/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

review: too hot to handle by victoria dahl

Victoria Dahl's books are always fun, sexy stories with strong heroines and Too Hot to Handle is no exception. It follows a woman who has drifted a bit through life, but now Merry has finally landed a museum curator job where she's tasked with turning a Wyoming ghost town into a tourist attraction. Of course there's a hitch. The grandson of the man who established the museum trust is contesting the will. The conflict Merry faces is tremendously done and she is an excellently flawed, lovable character.
5/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Friday, November 28, 2014

review: saving grace by jane green

Saving Grace starts off slowly with a lot of background on how Ted and Grace got to where they are now. Ted is a temperamental, well-known author while Grace has turned to cooking (Jane Green includes a number of recipes in this novel) now that their daughter is grown. It seems like a fairly light read, but then turns dark when a new assistant comes into their lives. While I never really connected with Grace, who comes across as weak (did her childhood really damage her so much that she couldn't see what was happening?), Green does create an interesting premise albeit one that takes a little too long to get going.
3/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

review: s.e.c.r.e.t. shared by l. marie adeline

After her own love life took a bad turn at the end of S.E.C.R.E.T., Cassie joined the group to guide other women on the same path she took. This is how Cassie winds up helping Dauphine, who is shy around men. The second book of the series primarily follows Dauphine and her sexual fantasies, but also incorporates the continuation of Cassie's story. L. Marie Adeline also brings in a minor character from the first book to create trouble for S.E.C.R.E.T. which made a nice addition and a great way to add some drama. There are also some unexpected turns regarding how Dauphine gets some of her charms which keeps the second in the series from being too much of a repeat of the first.
4/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

review: it's the great pumpkin: the making of a television classic by lee mendelson

As with A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition, It's the Great Pumpkin: The Making of a Television Classic is beautifully illustrated. Lee Mendelson provides a fascinating look behind the scenes of the Halloween Peanuts special. Of note is that because child actors were used, their voices would sometimes age them out of their original role and they would voice other, older characters. It was fun to read about the experiences of the child actors and the production team as they reminisced about the television specials. This book includes the story of how the Halloween special came about, photos, and of course, the fully illustrated script.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Dey Street Books.

Monday, November 24, 2014

review: playing with matches by suri rosen

Playing with Matches begins after Raina has already been expelled from a private school in Manhattan and forced to live with her strict aunt (her parents are in Hong Kong for work) in Toronto. Unfortunately her presence is what the fiancé of Raina’s sister cites as the reason for breaking off the engagement. With her sister/best friend devastated, Raina vows to find Leah a match. This comedy of errors finds Raina mixed up in all sorts of humorous matchmaking mistakes as she tests out her abilities on others before anonymously setting up her sister. Despite her frequent missteps, Raina is someone to absolutely fall in love with. Playing with Matches is a cute story, but it will also touch your heart.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, ECW Press.

Friday, November 14, 2014

review: now that you're here by amy k. nichols

In an Arizona much different from the one of this universe, Danny is running from the cops when he suddenly wakes up in a different universe (ours). He meets the parallel of the girl he had kissed in his universe and as luck would have it, Eevee loves science and sets about helping Danny figure out how he ended up in another universe. They make a good team (and a great couple) and the subject of parallel time is fascinating, but Now that You’re Here could have been stronger if Danny had expressed more conflict about the two worlds. In the one where he has fallen in love with Eevee, he has no parents which should make a difference to a high school kid. Eevee, on the other hand, is fully fleshed out and a strong lead character.
4/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

review: every contact leaves a trace by elanor dymott

One night Alex’s wife is murdered. In looking into her death, Alex discovers there was much about Rebecca’s university years that he didn’t know. Unfortunately, Elanor Dymott describes everything in such excruciating detail and sets about unfolding the mystery in such a roundabout telling instead of showing way that I no longer cared to learn who killed Rebecca and why about halfway through Every Contact Leaves a Trace. I hoped the revelation would be at least a decent payoff, but it was dissatisfying at best.
1/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, W.W. Norton and Company.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

review: boomerang by noelle august

After waking up together from a night they can’t remember, Ethan and Mia discover they are both the new interns at an online dating site called Boomerang. Although they’re obviously attracted to each other, their new boss lays down some rules which include not dating each other. They’re also in competition with each other for a job at Boomerang after the internship is over. These supposed obstacles never really got in their way so it all seemed very contrived. Boomerang was cute, but lacked substance. The introduction of Ethan’s ex, Alison, proved to be quite pointless. It felt like there should’ve been something more there, but it never ended up being addressed.
2/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Monday, November 3, 2014

review: tabloid city by pete hamill

Pete Hamill’s Tabloid City is incredibly disjointed with numerous characters and plots taking place. The primary story is about the collapse of a newspaper, but that story gets lost in the multitude of others, many of which had no bearing on the rest of the story. The other story that’s at the forefront doesn’t even develop until about one-third of the way into the book because so much time is wasted on the other minor plots.
1/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Back Bay Books.

review: when we fall by emily liebert

When We Fall focuses on two women with different lives living in the same New York suburb. Allison has just returned to her hometown to raise her son near her parents. She may finally be ready to date after her husband died a decade ago. Charlotte has a seemingly perfect life, but there’s plenty of trouble in her marriage. Allison and Charlotte meet when their children end up in class together. They are further brought together when Allison realizes Charlotte’s husband was good friends with hers when the three were at summer camp together. While it seems Allison could be a much needed solid friend for Charlotte, her presence has the unfortunate side effect of straining Charlotte’s marriage even more.

Both women were realistically presented as flawed though sometimes Allison was too naïve while Charlotte jumped to too many conclusions. Another downside was that Charlotte’s friends too often seemed like caricatures. Given how character-driven When We Fall is, the story would’ve been better with stronger character development; however, the plot was engaging and moved with a quickness that really draws in the reader.
4/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

review: christopher's diary: secrets of foxworth by v.c. andrews

Cathy told her side of the story in Flowers in the Attic, now Christopher has his chance in Christopher’s Diary: Secrets of Foxworth. On a visit to the burned out Foxworth mansion, distant relative Kristin and her construction worker father come across Christopher’s diary which miraculously survived two fires and many passing decades. Kristin soon becomes consumed by the diary which recounts the story well known to readers, but which has been distorted over the years for Kristin and the other residents of the town. Christopher reveals nothing new in his diary though the relationship between him and his mother gets a bit creepier. There’s more of Kristin than Christopher here, but Kristin’s reactions ally with those who read Flowers in the Attic so that she seems like a good friend you’re sharing the story with. This novel sets up the next in the Christopher’s Diary series, Echoes of Dollanganger, which will hopefully include more from the diary of what went on in the attic (disappointingly, Secrets of Foxworth doesn’t include aspects that would be great to hear from Christopher’s perspective such as what he saw when he explored the mansion alone) as well as delve deeper into Kristin’s budding relationship with Kane (the two K names have to mean something!).
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Books.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

review: the missing place by sophie littlefield

In a well-researched novel (she even nails the changes to TV news production over the last decade) centered around the oil business in North Dakota, Sophie Littlefield creates a moving story about the love two mothers have for their sons and the dedication they show in order to discover the truth. The well-heeled Colleen doesn’t have much in common with Shay who has always had to work hard to provide for her children, but the pair comes together when their sons disappear at the same time. They suspect the oil company employing the young men is covering up the disappearance, but they have no leads and the local police department won’t help. Littlefield paints both women as tenacious and has them play to their very different strengths in order to solve the mystery that has quite the surprising outcome.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

review: the life list by lori nelson spielman

When Brett (named for Lady Brett from The Sun Also Rises) was 14, she created a Life List. Brett had long forgotten about the list, so she is all the more shocked when that turns out to be her inheritance instead of her mother’s cosmetic company. The Life List sends Brett on an incredible journey of self-discovery that is beautifully portrayed. The ways in which Brett ends up accomplishing her goals of the past is creative and touching, especially when she gets back in touch with her childhood friend.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Bantam Books.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

review: the barter by siobhan adcock

I went into Siobhan Adcock’s The Barter expecting a chilling ghost story with the mother in the present day trying desperately to protect her baby, but that’s not what this story is at all. Bridget’s primary storyline is pretty ho-hum—a woman who gave up her career to raise her baby feels the conversation of the other moms isn’t stimulating enough. The other storyline, which is set a century earlier, was of more interest as Rebecca finds it difficult to go from doctor’s daughter to farmer’s wife. It is from this storyline that the ghost Bridget sees seems to develop from, but Adcock never makes clear exactly why this is. (My assumption is that Bridget’s house, which is said to be new construction, was built on the same land.) The Barter could work if the focus was on the struggle of these two women to be mothers in their respective time periods, but the introduction of the ghost threw the story off.
3/5
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

review: cold calls by charles benoit

Eric, Shelly, and Fatima go to different high schools, but they do have one thing in common—someone knows their respective secrets and is using that information as blackmail. The trio discover their link when they’re sent to a weekend bullying seminar after getting caught dishing out the torment as instructed by the blackmailer. At times it seemed a bit far-fetched, but the three teens came across as genuine. And it was great when they started working together to uncover the mystery of who was blackmailing them and why. Although the how of the blackmail was a little iffy, the why proved to be quite plausible.
4/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

review: cinderland by amy jo burns

In a riveting memoir, Amy Jo Burns writes of her formative years in Mercury, PA (Burns and her classmates note that Mercury’s claim to fame is that Trent Reznor once lived there). After the steel industry collapse, Mercury is rocked by allegations made by seven girls against their piano teacher. Shockingly, many in town supported the teacher despite his guilty plea. As Burns recounts, she was among the “smarter” girls who lied and said the teacher never touched them. Cinderland is part childhood memoir and part confession to the brave seven who told the truth. Although exploring the implications of being one who lied is uncomfortable at times, Burns addresses the topic forthrightly and in unabashed prose.
5/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

review: 29 by adena halpern

On her 75th birthday, Ellie Jerome blows out her candles and wishes to be 29 again for one day. When she wakes the next morning, her wish has come true! But being 29 again when your best friend lives in the same building and your daughter never butts out of your life proves to be difficult. While Ellie is off having an adventure with her granddaughter (the only one she confides in), her daughter and best friend worry endlessly about what happened to Ellie and end up having quite the adventure of their own.

29 was a primarily fun read with Ellie reflecting on her past giving some humorous advice (remember to moisturize!) though the parts with Frida and Barbara became annoying after a while. It was also in those Frida/Barbara parts where things didn’t always add up. Frida locks herself out of her apartment and waits for Barbara in the lobby, but it then becomes clear the doorman has a key. That detail becomes even more important a bit later, but Adena Halpern continues to overlook that fact so that Frida and Barbara can have even more trouble.

About the audiobook: Adena Halpern’s 29 is read by Lorna Raver. Raver’s reading was spot-on with Barbara having a particularly grating tone while Ellie, Frida, and Lucy sounded their respective ages. 29 was published by Blackstone Audio in 2014 and runs 9 hours.
4/5 Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

review: above the east china sea by sarah bird

In two stories that eventually intermingle, two teenage girls live in Okinawa—one in present time on an Air Force Base and another during World War II—in Sarah Bird's Above the East China Sea. Both are stories of family, disappointment, and struggle. The novel was a bit uneven with the storyline split as the present day plot was much stronger and more emotional. Although Bird brings the two stories together, the World War II parts often felt like they were there as a history lesson. Fortunately the present day story makes up for those more tedious plot points.
4/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

review: the good girl by mary kubica

Appearances can be very deceiving in Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl. One would think Mia comes from a perfect family, but her father, a prominent judge, worries more about how the family will be portrayed in the media than Mia when she disappears. Fortunately for the missing art teacher, her mother believes Mia was kidnapped and a detective puts a great deal of effort into finding Mia.

Throughout The Good Girl the woman who the book centers on doesn’t tell her story until the very end. It was a bit puzzling (before the ending), but it worked well to have everything told from the perspective of Mia’s mother, Mia’s kidnapper, and the detective investigating the case. The shifting perspectives as well as the nonlinear fashion in which Kubica relayed created more tension and mystery than likely would have occurred otherwise.

About the audiobook: The Good Girl is read by Lindy Nettleton, Johnny Heller, Tom Taylorson, and Andi Arndt. As the novel changes perspective with each chapter, the different readers made it much easier to follow. Johnny Heller and Tom Taylorson were most enjoyable as they changed tone to distinguish between the dialogue of the other characters. The Good Girl was published in 2014 by Blackstone Audio and runs 10 hours and 38 minutes.
4/5
Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

review: dark tide by elizabeth haynes

Genevieve had a goal to quit her job and live on a boat. In order to do so, she needed to make some extra money. As Dark Tide opens, Genevieve has realized her goal and is now living on a fixer-upper boat called Revenge of the Tide. Unfortunately the same night Genevieve hosts a boat-warming party, she discovers the body of friend in the water. But Genevieve initially doesn’t tell anyone she knows the dead woman because she doesn’t want it getting out how she made the extra money. Eventually it all spirals beyond Genevieve’s control in a tense mystery from Elizabeth Haynes. The way the plot unfolds with past and present scenes allows the suspense to build slowly and create a gripping storyline. The downside though is that the revealed motivation is a little weak.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Harper.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

review: a blind spot for boys by justina chen

After a bad breakup with an older guy, Shana is not interested in starting a new relationship, especially with someone about to start college. She goes as far as to block the emails of Quattro, who she met while photographing Seattle's gum wall. But fate intervenes. Quattro is going on a trip with his father to Machu Picchu. It's a trip that Shana's parents also decide to take upon the devastating news that Shana's dad is going blind. Despite being in different tour groups, Shana and Quattro are thrown together when a mudslide takes out much of the trail.

A Blind Spot for Boys is beautifully written with great descriptions and plenty of highly emotional moments, but it's also predictable. Too frequently Justina Chen falls back on clichéd responses--Shana's dad isolates himself from the family, a minor character who is a wealthy jerk saves only himself, and Quattro runs hot and cold with Shana. But Chen also excels at creating family and friend dynamics, so that even the clichés seem reasonable.
4/5
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

review: mating for life marissa stapley

Mating for Life features an aging folk singer and her three grown daughters. Unfortunately, Marissa Stapley doesn’t stop with those four women, but instead incorporates a number of other characters including the girlfriend of the man who works at the marina and the daughter of the boyfriend of one of the women. With so many characters in a constantly shifting narration, it was impossible to relate to any of them. Mating for Life frequently felt like someone was relating a boring story of “and then this happened.” When Stapley initially introduced the main female characters, Mating for Life promised to be a drama-filled look at a family who went in different directions; but the numerous subplots made it all too scattered and disconnected.
2/5
Review copy provided by BookSparksPR.

Monday, September 22, 2014

review: little girl gone by drusilla campbell

Madora was having a bad reaction to cocaine when she met Willis. Madora’s mother didn’t approve of the relationship given the age difference, but she eventually left her daughter behind when she decided to marry. Soon Madora had dropped out of high school and moved into an isolated, ramshackle house with Willis. Little Girl Gone skips ahead five years to when Willis kidnaps a pregnant teen with intentions of selling her baby so he has money to go to medical school. Meanwhile, a 12-year-old boy is orphaned and moves in with his aunt who lives near Madora and Willis. Their lives intertwine and Madora and Django bond over Madora’s dog.

While the plot has all the right elements to make an interesting and dramatic story, Little Girl Gone is a little lackluster. It’s all pretty predictable with an ending that falls flat and felt tacked on. There are some compelling moments, but they weren’t enough to push this one out of mediocrity.
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

review: one hundred names by cecelia ahern

Kitty’s career in journalism is failing after she did a story accusing a man of having an affair with an underage student. Making matters worse is that the one person who keeps her working is dying. The dying woman gives Kitty a list of 100 names, but no explanation other than Kitty should do a story. Kitty is determined to do just that. As Kitty tracks down the names, she also experiences a lot of strife in her personal life stemming from the defamatory story she did. Yet Kitty is not sympathetic. She thinks only of herself—not her dead friend or the people her story hurt. Although Cecelia Ahern creates an interesting story and a great journey for Kitty, it is not the story or journey that Kitty probably should have made. In the end, Kitty experiences little growth even as she triumphs.
3/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

review: keep the change by steve dublanica

Following his bestselling book Waiter Rant, Steve Dublanica uses his background as a tipped employee to inform his research on tipping for Keep the Change. As Dublanica posits, many are confused on how tipping works and what's appropriate. For example, in some states (like my home state of Washington), tipped employees receive tips on top of their regular wage which must meet the state minimum ($9.32 in 2014); in others (like Texas where I live now), their wages can be reduced below the state minimum because of the tips. The interviews with a wide variety of tipped workers proved eye-opening and incredibly interesting, especially the one with the shoe shiner. I had no idea that shoe shiners are oftentimes considered contract workers who make almost no salary--they literally live on their tips. Dublanica also explores the history of tipping and how even as tipping started to become commonplace, the tipped workers were often exploited by corporations. This is definitely a book that will make you think if, like me, you've never worked for tips.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Ecco Press.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

review: going vintage by lindsey leavitt

Shortly after discovering her boyfriend has an online "wife," high school student Mallory discovers a list of goals written by her grandma when she was Mallory's age. Mallory decides to follow her grandma's list and live what she expects will be a simpler life free from technology. But Mallory soon discovers that not only is her life is not any simpler, her grandma's high school days were filled with even harder choices.

The lists that began each chapter were cute, but Mallory's sister was more than a bit annoying. I'm not sure how Mallory didn't smack Ginnie would she would get all know-it-all-y about being "authentic." Although Ginnie unfortunately didn't show any growth, Mallory made an excellent evolution from being a bit selfish and impulsive to having a larger understanding of her life.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Bloomsbury.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

review: september girls by bennett madison

September Girls has a lot going on, but none of it is particularly plotted out. After Sam’s mother takes off after making new friends on Facebook, Sam’s father decides to take Sam and his older brother on a summer vacation to the beach. Sam’s brother declares it’s time for 17-year-old Sam to lose his virginity which should be easy enough to do given the abundance of attractive, flirtatious girls living in this beach town. But these are not ordinary girls. As Sam will eventually find out, the girls were cursed by their father and have only a short time here to defeat the curse. It’s a big mess of an almost nonsensical plot.
1/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, HarperTeen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

review: breakfast served anytime by sarah combs

Breakfast Served Anytime is set at what Gloria calls “Geek Camp.” It’s there that, separated from her best friend, Gloria makes new friends and learns how little she knows about the world. She befriends people she never would’ve been friends with if they attended her high school and is challenged by the class she’s taking at camp. Sarah Combs’s debut is splendid. Gloria starts off as a bit of a judgmental brat, but her evolution is so beautifully written that it’s easy root for her.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick Press.

Monday, September 1, 2014

review: nowhere but home by liza palmer

Before I get to the details of Liza Palmer’s Nowhere but Home, I feel I should share a little background. While this is a great book, I think I had an appreciation for it that I wouldn’t have even a few months ago. After spending my entire life in the Pacific Northwest, I accepted a job in Texas which is the setting of Nowhere but Home. The setting plays such a large role in the novel that I definitely enjoyed the book more now that I’ve spent some time in Texas. There were plenty of moments when I thought, “That’s exactly how it is!” One of the biggest adjustments? Being called “ma’am.” And that’s just one of the things I related to in Nowhere but Home.

So what’s the book about and why did I love it so much (besides the setting)? Well, a woman named Queen Elizabeth Wake (yeah, she goes by Queenie) has been a bit of a wanderer ever since leaving her hometown—a place where she was always an outcast simply because she was a Wake. After being fired from yet another job, she decides to go home for a bit. Her sister still lives there and Queenie hasn’t seen her nephew, now a high school freshman and great football player, since he was a baby. Although she intended to make it a short visit, Queenie ends up staying far longer for a multitude of reasons.

Nowhere but Home has a fantastic family and small town dynamic to it. The growth that Queenie experiences, especially when working in the prison kitchen, over the course of the novel is quite the ride, but it’s a good one. Queenie learns a lot about herself and the life she fled. Palmer excellently inserts humor into what is, at times, a very emotional story so that it all comes together marvelously.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, William Morrow.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

review: wild within by melissa hart

After splitting from her husband, Melissa Hart starts taking her dogs to a dog park in Eugene, OR. That’s where she meets a man who works at a raptor rehabilitation center. Although Hart is a bit apprehensive around the owls and birds of prey housed at the center, she volunteers. Soon her entire life is consumed by Jonathan and the rehab center. In Wild Within, Hart documents their time together and how they eventually came to adopt a daughter. Hart spent an inordinate amount of time lamenting the long adoption process and the obsession the couple had with adopting a girl who would be just like Jonathan’s adopted niece. Although the couple experienced growth over the course of Wild Within, the initial obsession made them seem naïve and selfish which was a turn off.
2/5
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

review: tuesday's gone by nicci french

The second in Nicci French’s Frieda Klein series has Frieda looking for the identity of a decomposing corpse found in the apartment of a mentally ill woman. Although the woman is initially a suspect, it soon becomes clear she brought the dead man back to her apartment in a misguided attempt to help him. It’s a fascinating plot, but the writing is a little clunky. The constant change in perspective and multitude of characters disrupted the action too frequently. Intriguingly, Tuesday’s Gone also brings in an underlying plot involving the happenings of Blue Monday—perhaps that first case isn’t yet over.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Penguin.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

review: dead float by warren c. easley

Cal Claxton is a lawyer who works on the side as a fishing guide for his friend’s company. Although he left the Los Angeles district attorney office for a small Oregon town, Cal still finds himself in the middle of all the action. This time around he’s the guide when someone on the trip is murdered. When the cops suspect Cal is the killer (he, whoopsie, once had an affair with the dead man’s wife), Cal and his friends set about proving Cal’s innocence and finding the real killer in what turns out to be a high stakes operation.

With a few chapters of set-up, Warren C. Easley establishes the story for those who haven’t read the first book in the series then gets right to the discovery of the body. From there the drama dies down a bit, but ramps back up for a big ending. Although Dead Float is not action-packed, it’s still a gripping mystery with excellent descriptions (particularly of the Deschutes River and surrounding area). Cal’s attachment to his dog and daughter (who has quite the tale as well in a subplot that throws off the pacing) makes the intelligent lawyer quickly relatable while his dalliance with a married woman becomes forgivable.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publicist, MM Book Publicity.

Monday, August 25, 2014

review: follow me by joanna scott

After becoming pregnant by her cousin, the parents of teenaged Sally Werner try to make her marry him. Sally instead leaves her son with her parents and takes off for parts unknown. On her journey she’s spotted by two brothers who bring her back to their family who start calling her Sally Angel. Sally adopts the name and tries to make a life with these new people, but it’s long before she takes off again. She has another child and makes another name change all the while acting quite selfishly so that her daughter eventually decides to live with her father. Years later that daughter has a daughter named after Sally. It is that Sally who sets the narrative of Follow Me in motion—she wants to know the truth about her father, who has just gotten in contact after many years, and her grandmother’s secret past which is tied into the story of the younger Sally’s father. It took Joanna Scott a long time to finally reach that pay-off so that much of Follow Me is the story of the elder Sally’s troubled life. While parts of Follow Me are interesting, too much of it is Sally making herself out to be a wholly unsympathetic woman.
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Back Bay Books.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

review: the curse of van gogh by paul hoppe

One of the blurbs for Paul Hoppe’s The Curse of Van Gogh says that the story features “a more credible character” than that of other stories featuring art theft. While this may be true, it also means the book is excruciatingly boring. Hoppe wastes more than 100 pages having Tyler simply meet with people. Sure, one of them vaguely implies a threat to Tyler’s family, but nothing happens in the first half of the book; it’s all setup.
1/5
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

review: my last kiss by bethany neal

While celebrating her seventeenth birthday, Cassidy has a bit too much to drink. As a result, her ghost self can’t remember how she died. Her death has been ruled a suicide, but some don’t think Cassidy would’ve jumped from the bridge.

Although Cassidy seems to be in ghost form so she can solve the mystery of her own death, she doesn’t seem terribly concerned about actually doing that. Cassidy comes across as vapid as her main concerns are about boys and her friends rather than figuring out who she was on the bridge with and why. When she discovers that her boyfriend can hear her, they first discuss her being a ghost before she bothers to ask about the night she died. It’s a conversation that lasts six short sentences before the subject goes back to Cassidy haunting Ethan. Cassidy does so little to figure out how she died that My Last Kiss is less of a mystery than a trite story about underage drinking and bad freinds.
2/5
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

review: all fall down by jennifer weiner

Allison looks to have it all together--a big house in the Philadelphia suburbs and a daughter in private school--but she's barely hanging on as her husband's job doesn't pay what it once did (he's a newspaper reporter), her daughter is "difficult," and her father's in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She takes pills to cope. Allison constantly tries to justify her addiction, which she doesn't admit is an addiction, but her family eventually intervenes.

Allison is incredibly selfish and wholly unlikable. Throughout All Fall Down I found myself wanting to strangle her. She became even worse in rehab. It's possible no other fictional character has ever been so haughty and self-righteous. The plot also feels unrealistic as Jennifer Weiner herself seems to acknowledge when Allison shares her addiction timeline and story in rehab. She went from hardly ever even drinking to full-blown pill addict (albeit one who suffered no consequences other than having her daughter’s teacher stop her from driving until she drank some coffee) after being prescribed a painkiller for back pain. And then after spending so much time with Allison lamenting her life and refusing to believe she’s an addict, Weiner tacks on a pat ending where nothing has been dealt with.

About the audiobook: Since I started reviewing audiobooks, I've discovered that nothing makes me hate a book more than a whiny child character narrated in a grating whine throughout. Although I hated Allison, I sometimes felt sympathy for her when Ellie would screech. Jennifer Weiner’s All Fall Down is narrated by Tracee Chimo (who plays Neri Feldman on Orange is the New Black). It runs 12 hours 45 minutes and was published by Simon & Schuster Audio in 2014.
2/5
Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox.

Friday, August 15, 2014

review: elly in love by colleen oakes

Elly in Love finds florist Elly being tapped to do a celebrity wedding that will be part of a reality show. Of course the celebrity wants things like navy blue flowers and is always partying when Elly needs to discuss wedding plans. Further complicating matters, a young man Elly’s never met shows up resulting in much upheaval. Then to top things off, her boyfriend is keeping secrets.

While Elly in Love had its moments, the second book in the series mostly grated. Elly’s assistant always being referred to as “Snarky Teenager” was amusing at first, but quickly wore thin especially since she wasn’t really snarky. Elly’s underlying insecurity regarding her size made appearances occasionally, but seemed to have inserted simply to make her more relatable. The best moments were the few scenes when Elly worked on the celebrity client’s wedding and gave her some great advice about friends that aren’t really friends.
2/5
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

review: the rules by stacey kade

Stacey Kade’s The Rules is a fantastic example of how to do the first book in a series—it has a compelling enough plot to make additional books viable, but also has an ending that satisfies for those who don’t wish to read another book. In The Rules, a high school student is hiding in plain sight from the company that created her. Her “father” took her from the laboratory when his six-year-old daughter was dying from cancer. From that point on, he has raised the half-human/half-alien as his daughter, but with five very important rules to keep them safe. But Ariane can’t help but break some of the rules. Kade beautifully blends science fiction into a teen romance that has excellent characters. There are some great twists too that were hinted at in some bits of dialogue, but still seemed like bombshells when they happened.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Hyperion.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

review: serenade by emily kiebel

Emily Kiebel’s debut felt it was going in two directions. The first half of the book is about a college student who defies her mother by studying music on the east coast. Lorelei had her father’s support, but he dies in the first few pages. It initially seemed Serenade would focus on Lorelei’s struggle after the loss of her father and how to reconcile with her mother; instead, Kiebel introduced a new set of characters (Lorelei’s long-lost maternal relatives) who inform her she’s a siren. From there, Serenade is about Lorelei learning about being a siren and then rebelling when she decides to rescue an attractive sailor she was supposed to sing to his death. Because none of this develops until there are only a few chapters left, the pacing feels very off and the ending is rushed. A large number of loose ends are also left in what is clearly meant to set up a sequel (a big pet peeve of mine). Even so, there’s enough here to keep the story interesting, especially with someone as vivacious as Lorelei learning her heritage.
3/5
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Friday, August 8, 2014

review: gravel on the side of the road by kris radish

Kris Radish’s collection of autobiographical essays could not hold my interest. Despite nonfiction being where the novelist got her start, the stories dragged and had little purpose. They also didn’t flow well. Radish jumped around in the timeline of her life and transitioned without any sense of a cohesive narrative. She went from being an intern (Spaghetti Dinner) to a job as a teenager (Salt and Pepper) to interviewing a soldier leaving for war (Soldier Boy). Overall, there’s little of substance.
1/5
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

review: letters from skye by jessica brockmole

In 1912, an American college student sends a fan letter to a Scottish poet. She responds and over the course of many exchanged letters, the two fall in love despite being in other relationships. But the war splits them up. In 1940, as another war rocks Europe, Elspeth’s daughter seeks answers when her mother disappears. Told entirely through letters, Letters from Skye is a touching story that suffers somewhat from the constraints of its epistolary format. Jessica Brockmole keeps the letters realistic which means there cannot be much character or plot development as the action occurs off the page. Even so, the writing of each character sets him or her apart from the others and the incorporation of letters from minor characters works well to explain things the main characters wouldn’t be able to given the format.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Ballantine Books.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

review: molly's game by molly bloom

After attending college in Colorado and having to leave the US ski team due to injury, Molly Bloom headed to Los Angeles without a plan and only $2000. She crashed on the couch of a former teammate, but he made it clear it needed to be a temporary situation. So Molly headed to Beverly Hills to look for a waitressing job. Although her first waitressing job didn’t go well, the next led to the exhilarating world of high stakes poker games frequented by the very wealthy, including movie stars. In Molly’s Game, Bloom documents how she went from waitressing to running underground poker games that would eventually get her arrested. Her journey is an incredible one, but the story starts off a bit slow with a lot of background about her early life. Once Bloom gets into the poker scene, she reveals herself to be naïve, but good-hearted through her engaging, quick-paced writing.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, It Books.

Monday, August 4, 2014

review: rooms by lauren oliver

Lauren Oliver’s Rooms constantly shifts narrators—some are dead and some are alive—while taking place almost entirely in the home of the recently departed Richard Walker. As Richard’s ex-wife, two children, and granddaughter arrive, the ghosts of the house observe them and share their own stories in the narration. It makes for an incredibly disjointed and somewhat confusing story. The characters lacked depth and were wholly unlikable as a result.
2/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

review: the perfect stranger by wendy corsi staub

When the post goes up on Meredith’s cancer blog that she’s passed away, her blogger friends are shocked she hadn’t revealed the cancer was back; they are further stunned to learn she was actually murdered. Although they’ve never met in person, the other bloggers decide to attend Meredith’s funeral which leads to them being pulled into the investigation.

The Perfect Stranger poses a question that more people probably should ask—how much information exists about you online? Meredith posted plenty of identifying information on her blog and while Landry tries hard not to, it’s easy for anyone who knows her name to learn quite a bit. A few of Wendy Corsi Staub’s choices detract from the mystery to make it far less engaging. The use of present tense generally felt forced. The Perfect Stranger also had far too many “main” characters for any connection to be made. During the final tense scenes, I didn’t care which characters lived or who the killer was.
3/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

review: the revealed by jessica hickam

Lily lives in fear of The Revealed, a group said to kidnap people during their 18th year. Because of that, parents typically keep their kids confined to their homes during that year. Lily’s parents do just that, but they have even bigger reasons than most parents—Lily’s father is running for president of the North American Sector which was formed after a devastating war. He’s running against a man he used to be friends with. That man is also the father of one of Lily’s former classmates—a boy Lily has come to hate after once being close.

Jessica Hickam spends little time on world-building which works both for and against The Revealed. The novel doesn’t get bogged down with lots of background information, but it also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The Revealed ends with so many unanswered questions that it seems Hickam was intentionally setting up a sequel. The characters and story are interesting enough to sustain a follow-up, but tighter writing could have wrapped up the story in one book.
4/5
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Monday, July 28, 2014

review: this beautiful life by helen schulman

Helen Schulman’s This Beautiful Life opens with the provocative scene of a middle school girl creating a video to attract the attention of a boy who’s two years older. Schulman then shifts to the boy’s family before the video was created. They are a fairly typical wealthy New York City family. Unfortunately this setup does not make them sympathetic; the reaction Jake’s parents have to him forwarding Daisy’s emailed video further cements them as unsympathetic characters. Schulman does keep the fast-paced plot compelling and very relevant through sharp writing and a basis in reality (the story is based on a real life viral video at a New York private school). The ending is lackluster though and seems like an afterthought that provides no resolution.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Harper Perennial.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

review: what strange creatures by emily arsenault

What Strange Creatures begins fairly mundanely with the Battle siblings simply living their ordinary lives. This start illustrates how anyone’s life can be thrown into chaos quite unexpectedly. Theresa would have never expected her out of work, probably alcoholic brother to be accused of murdering his girlfriend, but that’s exactly what happens. Since Theresa will take any excuse not to work on her dissertation, she immediately sets out to prove Jeff’s innocence despite some damning evidence. Theresa quickly discovers that Jeff’s girlfriend has a secret past that could have led to a political scandal and may just be the reason she was silenced.

The dynamic between the siblings was excellent and the portrayal of the relationship became all the better once Theresa and Jeff’s parents arrived on scene. The murder mystery and political scandal elements kept up the intrigue, but What Strange Creatures dragged a bit when Theresa would wax on about her dissertation. Having an English degree, I’m somewhat familiar with Margery Kempe, who Theresa was writing about, but all the extra details were not very interesting though Emily Arsenault did well to draw parallels between Theresa and Margery.
4/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

review: the walk-in closet by abdi nazemian

Kara and Bobby live on their own sides of a duplex purchased by Bobby’s wealthy parents. It’s a convenient arrangement as the best friends are able to pursue their own exploits (far more on Bobby’s side) while allowing Bobby’s parents to believe Kara’s his girlfriend. But while Bobby hooks up with a variety of men (and then panics about AIDS), Kara is stunted by the façade and a devastating earlier breakup. While the first few chapters of The Walk-In Closet were a bit boring, the plot takes an interesting turn when Kara decides she wants to start behaving more like Bobby. She has some hilarious moments especially when her other friends spot her ad seeking no-strings sex. But that no-strings sex turns out to have plenty of strings when Kara can’t resist uncovering the real identity of her fling. The Walk-In Closet is not without vulgarity, but it’s also a touching story about the family one makes.
4/5
Review copy provided by BookSparksPR.

Monday, July 21, 2014

review: the heiresses by sara shepard

Despite the constant spotlight and rumors of a family curse, the Saybrook heiresses do pretty well for themselves. But when Poppy plunges to her death from the company’s headquarters, the gossip intensifies with someone devoting a website to all the bad. The cousins must work together to figure out who’s out to get them, but that’s hard to do when they’re all self-absorbed and keeping secrets.

The lesson here seems to be not to keep secrets from your family. If all of the Saybrooks had just been honest with each other, Poppy’s killer wouldn’t have had any power and possibly any motivation. The Heiresses is soap opera-esque with plenty of scandal, tragedy, and misdeeds mixing in with the mystery of who killed Poppy. Sara Shepard makes sure to include a lot of misdirection so that the reader is never quite sure who is seeking revenge on the Saybrooks. The Heiresses is a suspenseful, guilty pleasure ride.
4/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

review: sisterhood everlasting by ann brashares

It took a while for me to get around to reading Sisterhood Everlasting as I was disappointed by the third and fourth books in Ann Brashares’s Sisterhood series. I shouldn’t have waited so long. Sisterhood Everlasting jumps forward to the girls as adults who have pretty much gone separate ways. They still get in touch from time to time, but aren’t as close as they once were. Tibby especially has been out of contact, so the others drop everything when she invites them to Greece. But when they get there, Tibby is nowhere to be found. Soon after, Carmen, Lena, and Bee receive the devastating news that Tibby has drowned. As they mourn her loss, they are pulled from the comfortable lives they created and must make decisions about their futures. While there was a bit of predictability, Sisterhood Everlasting provided a satisfying albeit incredibly sad conclusion to the series.
4/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

review: the keeper of secrets by julie thomas

The Keeper of Secrets follows three plotlines all linked by a rare violin that was stolen by the Nazis. While the story of the violin starting in 1935 Berlin was interesting, the story surrounding the descendent in 2008 was quite mundane and seemed to serve only as a way to make the violin’s original owners seek it out once more. Daniel’s sudden refusal to play the violin felt contrived as did much of the modern-day story. The introduction of a third set of characters (those in current possession of the violin) further diluted the plot. Given how quickly the resolution came, it was wholly unnecessary to bring in so much background about the violin’s current owner.
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, William Morrow.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

review: eyes on you by kate white

Is Robin Trainer crazy? Just as she’s getting her career back on track, someone seems set on taking Robin down. On the night of her book release party, Robin finds a nasty note scrawled over her thank you speech. The threats escalate from there with Robin being deliberately injured and drugged. Robin knows someone is out to get her, but she also accused her stepmother of something similar. Her tormentor clearly knows Robin’s history and uses it against her to destroy Robin’s credibility which leaves Robin to fight for her job and her life with only a few trusted people. But is her trust misplaced?

Eyes on You immediately appealed because of Robin’s job in television, which was accurately portrayed. Beyond that, Kate White created a compelling character who is both vulnerable and strong and capable but fallible. Even as doubts about Robin’s sanity crept in, she remained a rootable protagonist. The plot moves quickly with plenty of intrigue and enough misdirection to keep the reader guessing.
5/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Monday, July 14, 2014

review: panic by lauren oliver

Lauren Oliver’s latest young adult novel provides a peek at the desperation that is sometimes felt by teens lacking control of their lives. Panic takes place in a poverty-stricken small town—the sort of town the kids all want to escape. But it usually takes money to escape, which is why the graduating seniors are so willing to take place in the high stakes game of Panic. No one’s quite sure how the game got started, but Panic has life and death consequences. One of those consequences is why Dodge is participating this year even though he’s an outsider. As for Heather, she’s seeking a better life as her mom and stepdad spiral in addiction. Heather and Dodge were well drawn as were the supporting characters so that their small town angst was completely understandable. And Panic seemed exactly like the sort of game these kids would play even as the cops tried to stop it. The town and its atmosphere really becomes a character too in Panic with Oliver’s descriptions of the diner, trailer park, and Meth Row. The challenges set by the Panic judges are nicely intertwined with the everyday lives of the characters.
5/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Friday, July 11, 2014

review: after i do by taylor jenkins reid

Lauren and Ryan have been together since meeting in college, but now things aren't going well after a decade as a couple (six married years). They fight all the time and feel they no longer love each other. So just before Lauren's 30th birthday, they agree to separate for a year.

I initially didn't think I was going to like After I Do (I did have high expectations after loving Forever, Interrupted) because Lauren and Ryan seemed so awful as to only deserve each other. But it turns out they did deserve each other--not because they were awful, but for far better reasons. I loved that through the character evolution and the use of unsent emails Taylor Jenkins Reid made Lauren and Ryan rootable.
4/5
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Monday, June 16, 2014

review: dancing on broken glass by ka hancock

Lucy and Mickey agreed to never have children because of their genetics—her mother and grandmother died from cancer and Lucy survived it while Mickey is bipolar. Despite a tubal ligation, Lucy finds out she’s pregnant during one of her checkups. Although the timing is less than ideal with Mickey only just being released from the hospital, Lucy can’t see not having the baby regardless of their agreement. There’s so much hope between the couple, but then Dancing on Broken Glass becomes devastating. Be prepared with a box of Kleenex as these characters will break your heart.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Monday, June 9, 2014

review: sight reading by daphne kalotay

Sight Reading follows two women, Hazel and Remy, along with the man they each married. When the story begins, Hazel and Nicholas are married and have a young daughter. As Sight Reading continues, Nicholas has an affair with Remy, who he later marries. With Nicholas and Remy being musicians, the musical themes of Sight Reading mostly work, but did seem a bit of a stretch at times. The book gets bogged down in the musical references. And perhaps because of the music theme, the story felt unbalanced whenever the focus turned to Hazel.
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Harper Perennial.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

review: forever faithful by karen kingsbury

In one large volume, the works that make up Karen Kingsbury’s Forever Faithful trilogy are brought together. Waiting for Morning centers around a woman who loses her husband and one daughter in a car accident that injured her other daughter. A Moment of Weakness deals with childhood friends reuniting as adults just as the cheating husband of one launches a custody battle. Halfway to Forever brings the characters of the first two together with the couples facing great strife. All three stories had great potential, but there was far too much heavy-handed moralizing. In the world Kingsbury creates here, there are clear lines between the good and the bad; and the good are always the Christians while the bad are always the nonbelievers. It’s just not that simple in real life. In the end, the plots were highly predictable and one-dimensional.
1/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Multnomah.

Friday, June 6, 2014

review: learning to stay by erin celello

Getting along while her husband was fighting in Iraq was hard, but Elise never expected it would be even harder when he returned with a brain injury. Elise struggles to care for her husband who doesn’t want her help, maintain their fixer-upper house, and work on an important case at the law firm where she needs to prove herself.

Learning to Stay was a difficult book. It was heart-wrenching to read how changed Brad was when he returned. Elise had to make some very difficult choices on her own and they weren’t always the best choices, but they are entirely understandable. The descriptions were eloquent and brought the dramatic scenes to life. After all the tears it was nice that Learning to Stay ended on an uplifting note, but it didn’t seem very realistic.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, NAL Accent.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

review: the witch of belladonna bay by suzanne palmieri

With her brother in prison for murder, Bronwyn finally returns to her hometown after fleeing years ago. Until now Bronwyn had never met her 11 year old niece, Byrd, who possesses the same powers that led Bronwyn’s mother to the opium addiction that caused her death. The Witch of Belladonna Bay alternates between Bronwyn and Byrd’s narration, but also inserts a bit from Bronwyn’s mother. The use of three female narrators all with magical powers was confusing at times. Suzanne Palmieri included a lot of excess information (particularly about Byrd’s mother and Bronwyn’s fiancé) while leaving out other details. The nature of the magical powers was quite vague, so that I was always wondering why the mother needed drugs to escape.
3/5
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

feature: friends and lovers by vristen pierce

Today is the release of a steamy novella from Vristen Pierce. Friends and Lovers is the sequel to Pierce's Between Friends which is when Stacy met Evan and Justin. Friends and Lovers finds Stacy returning home after taking a job in London. That means she's back with Evan and Justin, but as it turns out they now want her to pick just one of them. The publisher, Hachette, was kind enough to share an excerpt from this eBook which you can buy pretty much everywhere except Amazon since Amazon is playing hardball with Hachette books right now.


I gave Hank my brightest smile. “I think I’d like a Screaming Orgasm.” Justin definitely brought out my mischievous side and I had to admit I enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed the way Hank’s eyes narrowed at my audacity. 

Justin wrapped an arm around my waist. “And I think I just may give you one or two before the night’s over.” 

I laughed just as Hank grunted and ambled off to get the drinks. 

Justin chuckled near my ear. “Did you have to order that?” 

“Yes.” I turned around and pressed a quick kiss to his lips. “You make me naughty.” 

He gave me a sexy smirk. “Oh, do I?” 

I nodded. 

“Care to prove it?”





Saturday, May 31, 2014

review: multiple exposure by ellen crosby



Multiple Exposure opens with photojournalist Sophie returning to her London home from an assignment in Iraq.  She is horrified to find blood and signs of a struggle.  Her husband, an operations officer with the CIA, is missing.  Sophie believes Nick was abducted, but others believe Nick’s on the lam after killing the boss of an oil company with interests in Russia.  Sophie doesn’t believe Nick’s a murderer, but eventually she leaves London for Washington, D.C. where she takes a job as a photographer with a private company that gets hired to work an event displaying Faberge eggs.  That’s where Sophie overhears an assassination plot.

The first book in Ellen Crosby’s new Sophie Medina series is full of intrigue, but the separate plots mean Sophie has a little too much going on given her amateur sleuth status.  Even so, Sophie was believable in her ability to piece so much together due to her tenacity and the skills she developed while working in warzones.  The pacing of the story was excellent until the end when everything wrapped up very quickly.  It was a less than satisfying ending to a story that had all the key elements of a great political suspense novel.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Scribner.