Tuesday, January 25, 2011

REVIEW: Your Big Break by Johanna Edwards

Title: Your Big Break
Author: Johanna Edwards
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: March, 2006
Paperback: 308 pages
Genre: Chick-Lit
Rating: 8/10

Description: Dani Myers has become an expert at romantic breakups ever since she was hired to "facilitate" them for clients of Your Big Break, Inc. In other words, she dumps people for money. But company rule #5 (do not get personally involved) is getting harder to obey. One of her dumpees is turning out to be the kind of guy she might just want to pick up on the rebound. and a new client has just walked in, begging for Dani's help breaking up with The Big Jackass, who's been leading her on all this time-and now turns out to be married.

It would be a routine job except for one problem: the so-called Big Jackass is married to none other than Dani's mother.

My Thoughts: Another new to me author brings a very entertaining story about a woman who works in the unhappy side of love and relationships. Dani Myers’s family thinks she works as website designer. The truth they don’t know is that Dani works for a company that people hire to dump their significant others. This isn’t an easy job for Dani because she is too compassionate and sympathetic to the people getting dumped. This becomes evident when she begins befriending the people who are dumped and even matchmaking.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this story is the numerous layers of the story and the different characters. Dani finds herself attracted to one of the men she is supposed to dump and is so reluctant to hurt him, she does the dumping anonymously. Another client is a womanizer who should qualify for some kind of frequent flyer program with the number of women he has hired Dani to break up with. Yet another client is revealed to be dating Dani’s father, who just happens to be still living with and married to Dani’s mother.

Unfortunately, when relationships are built upon deception and dishonesty, it’s only a matter of time before the walls come tumbling down. Dani is left trying to make things right with numerous people in both her professional and personal life.

I will be looking for more books by this author and recommend Your Big Break to anyone looking for a story that provides a happy ending from an unusual theme.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

REVIEW: First Drop Of Crimson by Jeaniene Frost

Title: First Drop of Crimson (Night Huntress World, #1)
Author: Jeaniene Frost
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: February, 2010
Paperback: 371 pages
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 8/10

Description: From the New York Times bestselling author of the Night Huntress series comes a breathtaking new journey to the dark side of desire.

The night is not safe for mortals. Denise MacGregor knows all too well what lurks in the shadows—her best friend is half-vampire Cat Crawfield—and she has already lost more than the average human could bear. But her family's past is wrapped in secrets and shrouded in darkness—and a demon shape shifter has marked Denise as prey. Now her survival depends on an immortal who lusts for a taste of her.

He is Spade, a powerful, mysterious vampire who has walked the earth for centuries and is now duty-bound to protect this endangered, alluring human—even if it means destroying his own kind. Denise may arouse his deepest hungers, but Spade knows he must fight his urge to have her as they face the nightmare together . . .

Because once the first crimson drop falls, they will both be lost.

My Thoughts: I was very happy to see Spade getting his own story but reading this book came with some confusion. WARNING to the reader: do not read this book unless you have read the first four books in the Night Huntress series. I’ve only read the first two and experienced a lot of confusion as there are events that have already occurred when this story begins that I have not read about yet and characters that appear in this book that I haven’t met yet but are known in the story. For example, the last time I saw Denise, she was marrying Randy, but here she is hooking up with Spade. Not that I mind, but the question “what happened to Randy?” kept going through my mind. The confusion is all on me because I jumped the gun and didn’t get caught up with the Cat & Bones series first.

Overall, I really loved this story. Denise and Spade are an amazing couple and I really enjoyed learning more about Spade’s past and getting to know Denise better. When this story begins, Denise is not the vibrant, carefree, happy woman I last remember. A lot has happened to her and none of it is good. She is really just a shell of her former self. She’s existing, but definitely not living. She’s losing members of her family faster than she can comprehend and that puts her further into the pit of despair she is barely keeping herself afloat in.

And if that weren’t bad enough, she gets branded by a demon who tells her that unless she tracks down one of her ancestors who betrayed him and brings the ancestor to him, he will murder every member of her family and then he will come after her. Unfortunately, Denise doesn’t know this ancestor or anything about the deal he had with the demon. She doesn’t know where to turn so she goes to Spade. Helping a human is the last thing Spade wants to do and he makes his displeasure very well known. Going to a vampire is the last thing Denise wants to do. For her, associating with vampires has brought her nothing but misery. She has even cut Cat out of her life.

This is a very interesting partnership. Spade has been hurt because of humans and Denise has been hurt because of vampires. On the surface, it doesn’t seem possible that these two can trust each other much less be partners, but the author does an amazing job of showing the reader that underneath the outer layers is so much more that gives the reader a better understanding of these two tortured souls.

I really enjoyed following their journey to track down Denise’s ancestor while trying to avoid and outsmart the demon, who is able to track Denise’s whereabouts through her brands. Adding to the mix are the familiar characters of Cat, Bones, Ian and Mencheres, Spade’s sire. Mencheres will be getting his story in the next installment of this series, but I really hope there will be a story for Ian. His presence really lightened the atmosphere and brought great moments of comic relief. I am going to hold off reading the next installment of this series until I get caught up with Cat and Bones.

Overall, this was an awesome story filled with vampires, demons, ghosts and shape shifters as well as some really hot and passionate scenes between Denise and Spade that left my face red. Excellent fight scenes round out the story to make this one a book not to be missed.

Friday, January 14, 2011

REVIEW: Baby Proof by Emily Giffin

Title: Baby Proof
Author: Emily Giffin
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: June, 2006
Hardcover: 340 pages
Genre: Chick-Lit
Rating: 1/10

Description: First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes....a baby carriage? Isn’t that what all women want? Not so for Claudia Parr. And just as she gives up on finding a man who feels the same way, she meets warm, wonderful Ben. Things seem too good to be true when they fall in love and agree to buck tradition with a satisfying, child-free marriage. Then the unexpected occurs: one of them has a change of heart. One of them wants children after all.

This is the witty, heartfelt story about what happens to the perfect couple when they suddenly want different things. It’s about feeling that your life is set and then realizing that nothing is as you thought it was- and that there is no possible compromise. It’s about deciding what is most important in life, and taking chances to get it. But most of all, it’s about the things we will do- and won’t do- for love.

My Thoughts: Initially, the story started out pretty good. It held a lot of promise as I was introduced to two characters that know what they want in life and were fortunate to find their common interests, desires and goals in each other. Unfortunately, this story can never have a happily ever after. So, there really isn’t anything to like about this story. As soon as Ben changed his mind about not wanting children, he began to try to manipulate Claudia into changing hers by constantly bringing up the subject. For Claudia, that just increased the stress and tension. She hopes that Ben changing his mind is just a phase. At this point, logic should dictate to one or both of them that their marriage is in serious trouble and they should have gone to a counselor. Instead, they quit communicating, except to fight about having a baby, and from there things get progressively worse. After one particularly ugly evening, Claudia packs her bags and leaves and moves in with her best friend. From there, the impending divorce is just a formality and before I had time to process that they are having serious problems, the divorce is final!

They end up together, obviously, but this book gets the lowest rating because nothing is resolved! Ben still wants children, Claudia doesn’t. I’m left asking myself WHY GET BACK TOGETHER? Oh, because you love each other and can’t to be apart? That didn’t stop you the first time from packing your crap and moving out! That didn’t stop you from jumping straight into a divorce! So, I ask myself, what could possibly be gained by getting back together now? Claudia hasn’t changed her mind about not wanting children, so if she decides to have them because she doesn’t want to lose Ben, then that makes her TOO STUPID TO LIVE. If Ben decides he is willing to live without children because he doesn’t want to lose Claudia, then he’s giving up his dream to be a father and that’s always going to be a source of resentment. It’s not like they both decided they wanted children and found out they couldn’t and then agreed that living without children to save the marriage any damage from the stress of trying was their next step. On such an important issue as whether or not to have children, how can you expect either one to compromise and have a successful marriage? You compromise on the color you will paint the kitchen or the breed of dog you take in or where you will go on vacation, but never on whether or not to have children.

Nothing about this story ends up working for me. What should have happened is when Ben announces he has changed his mind about children, Claudia should have told him that she hadn’t and suggested counseling to help them decide where they would go from there. Then we see them trying to work out this major difference and dealing with the obstacles in their way. Then, either Ben would realize it was just a phase and he really doesn’t want children or Claudia would change her mind and her biological clock would begin ticking. Either way, it would have been resolved. Nobody would have had to sacrifice anything by compromising. Win-win!

In addition, I didn’t like most of the supporting characters. Claudia’s friend having an affair with a married man who obviously will never leave his wife for her and she should be asking herself, what makes her think that a man who will cheat to be with her won’t cheat on her? Her name should have been Cleopatra because she is the Queen of Denial. Then there are Claudia’s sisters, Maura and Daphne. Maura has the perfect life on the outside. Beautiful children, married to a, hot rich guy, living in a mansion. It’s all a fantasy. He’s cheating on her and she’s too stupid to live because she is putting up with it. She gets a spine near the end of the book and is no longer a doormat, but for how long? Daphne is desperate for children and her inability to have them makes her a basket case. Things work out for her in the end, but I want to know why they weren’t trying to adopt all along? I felt like she wasted too much time moaning and boo-hooing about her infertility instead of just looking into adoption sooner. I thought Claudia’s dad was OK but her mother is a wacko who I could barely tolerate. Most of these people needed a serious slap upside the head, including Claudia and Ben.

Overall, if you like a story with stupid people making bad decisions and then wondering why their lives aren’t turning out the way they planned, then grab this one. Otherwise, steer clear of this one and go for something else.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

REVIEW: Deeper Than The Dead by Tami Hoag

Title: Deeper Than The Dead
Author: Tami Hoag
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: December, 2008
Hardcover: 416 pages
Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
Rating: 8/10

Description: California, 1984. Three children, running in the woods behind their school, stumble upon a partially buried female body, eyes and mouth glued shut. Close behind the children is their teacher, Anne Navarre, shocked by this discovery and heartbroken as she witnesses the end of their innocence. What she doesn't yet realize is that this will mark the end of innocence for an entire community, as the ties that bind families and friends are tested by secrets uncovered in the wake of a serial killer's escalating activity.

Detective Tony Mendez, fresh from a law enforcement course at FBI headquarters, is charged with interpreting those now revealed secrets. He's using a new technique-profiling-to develop a theory of the case, a strategy that pushes him ever deeper into the lives of the three children, and closer to the young teacher whose interest in recent events becomes as intense as his own.

As new victims are found and the media scrutiny of the investigation bears down on them, both Mendez and Navarre are unsure if those who suffer most are the victims themselves-or the family and friends of the killer, blissfully unaware that someone very close to them is a brutal, calculating psychopath.

My Thoughts: Initially, I contemplated giving up on this book as parts of the story seemed to drag and come to a near standstill as the story seemed to focus on minor supporting characters. I’m glad I stayed with it as the author was able to bring these characters more into the spotlight so that I could see how integral to the story they were. Though my suspicions about the identity of the See No Evil killer proved to be accurate, I was not anticipating several other events involving other characters that were a surprise and disturbing in their level of the sinister and macabre. The story takes place in the early ‘80s when DNA testing is not as common or widely used as it is now. The town soon realizes there is a serial killer loose when it is discovered that another woman has gone missing.

At the center of the story is elementary school teacher, Anne Navarre, who is trying to make sense of the grisly discovery by some of her students of a dead woman. I liked this character. She cares deeply for her students and is very protective of them. We also learn that Anne is living with and caring for her elderly father, a very mean spirited and hateful man. Fortunately, she doesn’t take his crap and is willing to put him in his place when he becomes verbally abusive. Tony Mendez is one of the sheriff’s deputies working the case along with the help of Vince Leone, an FBI agent who specializes in profiling. We also get to see more into the lives of the children, Tommy, Wendy and Dennis. No story would be complete without the addition of detestable characters and this one delivers. I couldn’t stand Tommy’s mother and Dennis’s father.

Though this story dragged in part for me, I am glad I stuck with it because once it kicked into gear, I couldn’t put it down.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

REVIEW: Smart vs. Pretty by Valerie Frankel

Title: Smart vs. Pretty
Author: Valerie Frankel
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: February, 2000
Paperback: 288 pages
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 6/10

Description: What happens when a single woman in her early thirties gets stuck living and working with her sister again along with all the insecurities of sibling rivalry?

Meet Francesca Greenfield, a smart, urban professional suddenly tossed out of her so-so career and into the business of selling coffee alongside her pretty, perky sister Amanda.

But selling coffee is only the start of their worries.

Francesca has always known that she was the smart sister, “though our mother never set us down and said, ‘Francesca, we’ll call you the smart one.’” Amanda was soft and lovely from the beginning and had always garnered most of the attention --- and all of the dates. Now they’ve been thrown together in a last-ditch effort to save the family business before it goes permanently down the drain.

As for the coffeehouse itself, well, there’s rarely a dull moment. Consider the piranha-minded next-door franchise and the brainstorms of one nearly psychotic marketing manager for starters. And who can forget about love? Or at least sex. Thanks to a promotional contest, it’s not long before Amanda is looking to explore the aura of a buff mountain climber while Francesca considers shedding more than her inhibitions with a J. Crew model.

The stakes are rising. It’s time to find out if smart or pretty knows best, whether the distinction really suits either one of them, and if the Greenfield sisters can actually live happily ever after.

My Thoughts: This book has been languishing on my TBR pile for quite a while and is written by a new to me author. I enjoyed the premise of this story taking place in a coffeehouse. What the book description failed to convey to me was that when the story begins, Francesca aka Frank and Amanda are already running the coffeehouse and have been a while. Unfortunately, the business is failing fast and they are facing foreclosure and becoming unemployed as well as homeless.

Frank and Amanda are complete opposites. Frank is pessimistic and cynical. She’s been burned by love and is carrying huge quantities of guilt over the death of their parents. As the older sister, she feels she has to shoulder the responsibility of everything and she resents the way Amanda seems to stroll through life without a worry or care in the world.

Amanda is more trusting and accepting of strangers. She practices I Ching divination, tossing pennies on the table to advise her on matters of importance. Amanda doesn’t appear to be burdened with the stress that plagues her sister. She appears friendlier and happier, though it appears, at times, she is unable to separate business from pleasure.

As complex as they both are, I felt they complemented each other perfectly and I enjoyed seeing their relationship evolve and strengthen. This story had a lot of interesting supporting characters. Clarissa, the grad student who takes Frank and Amanda under her wing to help them save the business proved me right as someone who isn’t all they claim to be. Matt, the anti-social, anti-establishment outspoken employee surprised me. He comes across as a slacker but turns out to be that and so much more.

This story is about so much more than sisters and sibling rivalry. There’s romance, murder, mysterious coffee beans, unpaid debts, revenge, dishonesty and slander. It seems like a lot to juggle and understand, but the story worked. Some of the dialogue is choppy, but was easy to overlook once I got focused on the story and wanting to know what would happen next. There are better chick-lit books out there, but this one turned out to be a surprise for me. I recommend it and will be anticipating reading more from this author.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

New Additions To The TBR Pile In December

I wouldn't be me if I didn't end the year by taking in at least a few new additions. I've often wondered if I could go a whole year without taking any in and I don't see how I could...I don't think I will even try... :o)

Title: Wish Upon A Star by Olivia Goldsmith

Description: From the bestselling author of UPTOWN GIRL and THE FIRST WIVES CLUB comes a sparkling New York romantic comedy about one woman finding her very own Prince Charming where she least expected to. Life in the city isn't all about sex, shopping and Cosmopolitans! For Claire, a secretary from Staten Island who takes the ferry each morning into Manhattan, it's spent working 9 to 5 at a law firm, listening to her friend's disastrous love life and reading romantic novels, desperately wishing that her life could be as full of excitement as the heroines featured. The only highlight is catching an occasional glimpse of devastingly sexy law partner Michael. Until the day Michael offers her the chance of a trip to London -- all expenses paid. When Claire sets foot on British soil she falls head over heels in love -- with a country. From red double-deckers to afternoon tea, she's finally found her home. Friends, family and even Michael are abandoned as she rents a room and sets out to make a whole new life as an American in London. But she reckons without the obstructive efforts of a very strait laced Englishman!

Title: Deeper Than The Dead by Tami Hoag

Description: California, 1984. Three children, running in the woods behind their school, stumble upon a partially buried female body, eyes and mouth glued shut. Close behind the children is their teacher, Anne Navarre, shocked by this discovery and heartbroken as she witnesses the end of their innocence. What she doesn't yet realize is that this will mark the end of innocence for an entire community, as the ties that bind families and friends are tested by secrets uncovered in the wake of a serial killer's escalating activity.

Detective Tony Mendez, fresh from a law enforcement course at FBI headquarters, is charged with interpreting those now revealed secrets. He's using a new technique-profiling-to develop a theory of the case, a strategy that pushes him ever deeper into the lives of the three children, and closer to the young teacher whose interest in recent events becomes as intense as his own.

As new victims are found and the media scrutiny of the investigation bears down on them, both Mendez and Navarre are unsure if those who suffer most are the victims themselves-or the family and friends of the killer, blissfully unaware that someone very close to them is a brutal, calculating psychopath.

Title: Catch A Rising Star by Tracey Bateman

Description: When thirty-something Tabby Brockman has the opportunity to reclaim her role as a killed-off character on the nation's #1 daytime soap opera, she figures this must be God's reward. But back on the set, she's faced with the same hateful head writer who killed off her character in the first place, kids who drive her crazy, a stage dad who rubs her completely wrong, and and an unwanted boyfriend who can't seem to get the message. Faced with this dizzying rollercoaster of challenges, Tabby has to wonder: is she finally a star on the rise or just on the brink of another spectacular fall?

Monday, January 03, 2011

Honorable Mentions Of 2010

For the books that didn't make the top reads list for the year, I want to give an honorable mention to the titles I read in 2010 that didn't make the cut for the best but were still very good reading and recommended:

Momzillas by Jill Kargman
Murder Between The Covers by Elaine Viets
Nursery Crimes by Ayelet Waldman
The Associate by John Grisham
Spying In High Heels by Gemma Halliday
The Ghost And The Dead Deb by Alice Kimberly
Ford County by John Grisham
Crime Seen by Victoria Laurie
Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett
A Charmed Death by Madelyn Alt
The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer

2010 In Review

Another year has come and gone and the best part of the reading year is upon me as I get to look back and evaluate what I read and how my stats measured up. Unfortunately, 2010 found me reading less than I did in 2009. I read 50 books and gave up on 12. Not good at all to see that I read less and gave up on more.

2010 brought some changes in my reading tastes. Other fiction dropped way down while chick-lit and cozy mystery more than doubled. Mystery is up a tiny bit, paranormal romance dropped a little and young adult remained the same. Contemporary romance can be a little subjective. The titles I read this year in that category actually straddle multiple genres. For example, I consider Sizzling Sixteen a contemporary romance, but other readers may consider it a mystery or general fiction. I didn’t read any anthologies this year so that’s down too from last year, but as they aren’t my preferred genre, I’m feeling OK with it. :o) Here's how 2010 stacked up:

Chick-Lit: 17
Contemporary Romance: 3
Cozy Mystery: 12
Mystery / Suspense / Thriller: 17
Paranormal Romance: 8
Young Adult: 3
Other Fiction / Literature: 2

Something new for my annual review is a shout out to the authors who were new to me and the authors that made multiple appearances in my reading year:

New To Me Authors In 2010
Lorna Barrett
Gail Carriger
Caprice Crane
Tate Hallaway
Gemma Halliday
Kristin Harmel
Melanie Lynne Hauser
Richelle Mead
Jane Porter
Karen Quinn
Daria Snadowsky
Ayelet Waldman

Authors Read Multiple Times In 2010
MaryJanice Davidson
Emily Giffin
John Grisham
Alice Kimberly
James Patterson
J.D. Robb / Nora Roberts
Elaine Viets

Best reads of 2010 in the order they were read are:
Born In Death by J.D. Robb
Tall, Dark & Dead by Tate Hallaway
The 8th Confession by James Patterson
Wife In The Fast Lane by Karen Quinn
Innocent In Death by J.D. Robb
Undead And Uneasy by MaryJanice Davidson
Eternity In Death by J.D. Robb
Creation In Death by J.D. Robb
Flirting With Forty by Jane Porter
Undead And Unworthy by MaryJanice Davidson
Strangers In Death by J.D. Robb
Bite Me by Christopher Moore
Ritual In Death by J.D. Robb
Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen
Q Is For Quarry by Sue Grafton
One Foot In The Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison
Fatal Truth by Robin Burcell
Confessions Of Super Mom by Melanie Lynn Hauser
Salvation In Death by J.D. Robb
Run For Your Life by James Patterson
Forget About It by Caprice Crane
Learning To Play Gin by Ally Carter
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
When You Wish by Kristin Harmel
Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich
The Pink Ghetto by Liz Ireland
Promises In Death by J.D. Robb
You Drive Me Crazy by Carole Matthews
Charley’s Web by Joy Fielding
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
The Ghost And The Dead Man’s Library by Alice Kimberly

Here's hoping 2011 will be a more productive year!


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About Me

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I am not a professional reviewer, but I love to read and share my opinions on my reading with others who are interested. I work full time but my ideal perfect day would be to curl up with a good book. The majority of the books I review here are from my private collection and my reviews are provided purely for entertainment purposes. I receive no compensation whatsoever for sharing my thoughts and review on any book. If you would like me to review your book, please email me at sharalsbooks@yahoo.com Happy Reading! :o)