Monday, December 31, 2012

Kicking 2012 To The Curb


Here we are, folks...another year done.  All of the hype about 2012 being the year that the human race bites the dust has turned into so much bullshit.  How many does that make, now?  Five end of the world apocalypses?  I've lost count...

This seems to be the time that people start focusing on those New Year resolutions.  You know those people.  We all know those people.  Hell, we ARE some of those people.  We make all these grand commitments about how we are going to improve our lives.  Eat healthier, get more exercise, go to church, reduce our stress, be happier, save money, blahblahblahblah.  Frankly, I don't know anyone who makes a resolution and actually sticks to it all year.  Do you?

We start out with great intentions, though.  "This is the year, I am finally going to (insert activity here)!"  Those great intentions might actually motivate and carry us for about three weeks until reality kicks us in the ass and before you know it, the holiday season is upon us once more and those resolutions made eleven months prior come knocking to remind us we broke our promise.

I'm beyond sick and tired of setting myself up for failure and disappointment.  Instead of making resolutions for ourselves, we should make them for other people.  The people in our lives we love and care for and even the people we don't.  Our spouses, children, parents, siblings, extended family members, friends, co-workers, employees, supervisors, anybody really.

To be honest, if left to my own devices, I will respond in the same manner when I was told, as a child, to clean my room.  My sister, Susan, and I would go into the room full of good intentions to clean up, remove the mountain of laundry from our bed, put said mountain of laundry away, put the toys away, make the bed, etc..and so forth...hours later, we haven't done a DAMN THING except goof off.  But we still want Mom to think we have made progress, so we would just cram everything under the beds or tossed into the closet.  I won't follow through on the resolutions either.  I will find something else to do that looks like a lot more fun and will be distracted away from the resolution.  Even now, the resolutions that I want to make that I can live with are eat more chocolate, take more naps, do LESS housework, play MORE Bingo....

So, it appears in 2013, I will require supervision.  I say, BRING IT ON, 2013!  Show me what you got! 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

REVIEW: Perfect On Paper by Patty Froese

Title: Perfect on Paper
Author: Patty Froese
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Publication Date: April, 2012
Genre: Inspirational Romance
Rating: 8/10

Description: Anne Stanborough, a well known mystery writer, inherits her maiden aunt's book store, Perfect on Paper. The lawyer handling her aunt's estate is none other than the handsome Jake Harrison, but despite his attraction to the beautiful author, his painful divorce has made him wary of a marriage between two driven professionals. Anne can't let go of the career she's worked her entire life towards, and he isn't willing to make a second mistake in marriage.

It looks like they should call the whole thing off until Anne discovers that her late maiden aunt might not have been so "maiden" after all… A love story from the past tugs this couple back together again, but will it be enough to prove that a love founded in God really can overcome anything?

My Thoughts: Perfect on Paper was a giant departure for me in the romance genre. There are no scary monsters, zombies, werewolves or vampires lurking in the dark shadows. No serial killers hiding in the basement waiting for the moment to attack. I was able to relax and enjoy Perfect on Paper without wondering who the killer was because there was no killer. Just a sweet romance between two characters I enjoyed meeting and getting to know.

Anne is a mystery writer who moves to Charity Falls when she inherits her deceased Aunt's book store. Jake is the attorney handling the details of the estate. Immediately there is an attraction that they both feel but it appears to be futile. Jake is divorced and wants a wife who is happy to take care of the home, him and children. Anne is definitely not your barefoot and pregnant type of gal. She has enjoyed some moderate success with her writing career and, having lived in New York City, is quite independent. She does not want to give that up.

The story gets really interesting when Anne is asked by the mayor to write a book about the history of Charity Falls. Anne has been struggling with writer's block on her mystery novels, so she happily accepts. This assignment brings her into more contact with Jake as a resource for historical facts and anecdotes. During her research, Anne discovers some secrets hidden away by her Aunt. The mystery novelist in her prods her to investigate, which then ignites a fire in Anne to write a romance novel based on what she learns.

Perfect on Paper is an inspirational romance that explores the choices and struggles normal everyday Christian people face and how their faith in God gives them the strength and courage to widen their horizons and take a leap of faith in each other.

If you are looking for something that is sweet and heartwarming without any gore, violence or sex, I recommend Perfect on Paper. Jake and Anne are characters that will work their way into your heart and put a smile on your face.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

REVIEW: Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

Title: Hold Tight
Author: Harlan Coben
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: April, 2008
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Rating: 10/10

Description: Best-selling author Harlan Coben asks that provocative and terrifying question with his fifteenth thriller. How much do parents really want to know about their kids?

Tia and Mike Baye never imagined they'd become the type of overprotective parents who spy on their kids. But their sixteen-year-old son Adam has been unusually distant lately, and after the suicide of his classmate Spencer Hill - the latest in a string of issues at school - they can't help but worry. They install a sophisticated spy program on Adam's computer, and within days they are jolted by a message from an unknown correspondent addressed to their son - 'Just stay quiet and all safe.'

Meanwhile, browsing through an online memorial for Spencer put together by his classmates, Betsy Hill is struck by a photo that appears to have been taken on the night of her son's death and he wasn't alone. She thinks it is Adam Baye standing just outside the camera's range; but when Adam goes missing, it soon becomes clear that something deep and sinister has infected their community. For Tia and Mike Baye, the question they must answer is this; When it comes to your kids, is it possible to know too much?

My Thoughts: Through no fault of his own, Harlan Coben is an author I overlook often. That's really unfortunate and sad because he is a wonderful story-teller. His ability to create characters that a reader can connect to and really care about is exemplary. In addition, placing these unique and interesting characters into stories that weave in and out of the nooks and crannies of his mind to end up in a book that keeps the reader glued to their seat from start to finish takes extraordinary skill. I found myself so intensely focused on this story, anxiety building wondering what would happen next.

The sad fact that I haven't read many of Mr. Coben's books is completely my fault. As I stated above, I overlook this author often. It's likely down to laziness on my part. I don't take the time to take a good look at what is being offered when I am in the mood for a thriller / suspense story. Fortunately, it's never too late to teach a reader new reading habits.

I loved the way this author takes multiple story lines and knits them together into one book and so they are all connected. The best part is how realistic the story is. It's as if the kinds of events described in this book are taken from current day media headlines. Murder, suicide, bullying, parental spying, disobedient children, psychosis and even revenge. Whatever your reading preferences are leaning toward, this book can deliver on many levels.

Don't make the same mistake I did. If you have not considered Harlan Coben when you are looking for something in the thriller / suspense genre, it's not too late to rectify that. You will be glad you did.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

REVIEW: Vamps And The City by Kerrelyn Sparks

Title: Vamps And The City (Love At Stake #2)
Author: Kerrelyn Sparks
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: April, 2006
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 7/10

Description: Who says a vamp can't have it all?

Darcy Newhart thought it was a stroke of genius—the first-ever reality TV show where mortals vie with vampires for the title of The Sexiest Man on Earth. As the show's director, Darcy's career would be on track again. And she can finally have a life apart from the vampire harem. Okay, so she's still technically dead, but two out of three's not bad. Now she just has to make sure that a mortal doesn't win. If only she wasn't so distracted by a super-sexy and live contestant named Austin.

But Darcy doesn't know the worst of it. Austin Erickson is actually a vampire slayer! And he's got his eye on the show's leggy, blonde director. Only problem is, he's never wanted any woman—living or dead—as badly. But if he wins her heart, will he lose his soul? And if it means an eternity of hot, passionate loving with Darcy, does that really matter anyway?

My Thoughts: After being quite disappointed with the first book in this series, I wasn't at all sure I would like this book or even want to continue reading the series. I really enjoyed the premise of this book. A vampire reality show that mirrors The Bachelor type shows we are inundated with on television would be a lot more entertaining to watch, in my opinion, especially when there is a mix of human and vampire contestants.

Characters from the previous book make an appearance, as expected, but happily this story does not focus too much on them. I struggled a little bit with my memory of the first book because it's been six years since I read it so a lot of the details were fuzzy. Even so, those murky details did not keep me from enjoying this story, which I did, and more than the first book.

Now that my interest in this series has been rekindled, I will be looking for the next book.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

New Additions To The TBR Pile In November

Unfortunately, 2012 is nearing the end and, once again, I wish I could say that real life has kept me from completing my annual reading goal. If only that were true. There's still another month left, and though I am 99.9% positive, I will fall short, I am closer this year than I was last year or the year before.

November brought only one new addition to the pile and the review for this book will be up in December. As I begin to wind down my reading year, I can only look back and be thankful for the opportunity I have had this year to read the books I did read and go forward hopeful that next year will be more productive.

Title: Hold Tight
Author: Harlan Coben

Description: Best-selling author Harlan Coben asks that provocative and terrifying question with his fifteenth thriller. How much do parents really want to know about their kids?

Tia and Mike Baye never imagined they'd become the type of overprotective parents who spy on their kids. But their sixteen-year-old son Adam has been unusually distant lately, and after the suicide of his classmate Spencer Hill - the latest in a string of issues at school - they can't help but worry. They install a sophisticated spy program on Adam's computer, and within days they are jolted by a message from an unknown correspondent addressed to their son - 'Just stay quiet and all safe.'

Meanwhile, browsing through an online memorial for Spencer put together by his classmates, Betsy Hill is struck by a photo that appears to have been taken on the night of her son's death and he wasn't alone. She thinks it is Adam Baye standing just outside the camera's range; but when Adam goes missing, it soon becomes clear that something deep and sinister has infected their community. For Tia and Mike Baye, the question they must answer is this; When it comes to your kids, is it possible to know too much?

Monday, November 26, 2012

REVIEW: Up & Out by Ariella Papa

Title: Up & Out
Author: Ariella Papa
Publisher: Red Dress Ink
Publication Date: December, 2003
Genre: Chick-Lit
Rating: 6/10

Description: How long does it take to go from It Girl to on the dole?

TV producer Rebecca Cole has seen better days. Like the day her cartoon creation, Esme, made her a hit and scored her a promotion. That was a good day. But now that her roommate has decided to heed her therapist and appreciate the simpler things in life — outside of New York City — and a corporate takeover at her network has left Rebecca jobless, this food snob has to find a way to afford her rent and her penchant for fine dining. Oh, and she really should start saying no to the break-up sex with her ex.

Surely Rebecca will be able to draw herself out of this mess, and maybe even find a way to eat well in the process?

My Thoughts: This is my first Ariella Papa book and I have two additional Red Dress Ink titles by this author buried in my to be read pile.

Up & Out centers around a young woman named Rebecca, whose life is made up of working at a television network, eating out at as many restaurants as her wallet will allow her and the occasional sexual encounter with her ex boyfriend. Rebecca's life takes a sudden and unexpected turn when she is terminated from her job after the network is taken over by a bank. Left to make ends meet and facing homelessness, Rebecca moves back in with her boyfriend to figure out what direction her life will take her next.

If this was all the story entailed, I would have given up on this book as a waste of time. Fortunately, this story is rich in characters. Surrounding Rebecca are her three best friends, all of whom are going through their own trials and tribulations. I was often left wondering if the stress and anxieties these women were experiencing would bring them closer together as friends or drive them apart.

Rebecca comes off stronger than I initially was led to believe and though some of her choices are not choices I would have made, she manages to land on her feet and better off than where she started. I especially liked that I was surprised at one of her choices where her ex-boyfriend was concerned and they both turned out to be not at all what I was expecting.

Though there is a "boy meets girl" twist in this story, it comes from a very unexpected place and made the story so much more enjoyable. If you like the unexpected and enjoy being surprised, give this one a go.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

REVIEW: Celebrity In Death by J.D. Robb

Title: Celebrity In Death (In Death #34)
Author: J.D. Robb
Publisher: Putnam
Publication Date: February, 2012
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Urban Fantasy
Rating: 10/10

Description: Lieutenant Eve Dallas is no party girl, but she's managing to have a reasonably good time at the celebrity-packed bash celebrating The Icove Agenda, a film based on one of her famous cases. It's a little spooky seeing the actress playing her, who looks almost like her long-lost twin. Not as unsettling, though, as seeing the actress who plays Peabody drowned in the lap pool on the roof of the director's luxury building.

Now she's at the center of a crime scene-and Eve is more than ready to get out of her high heels and strap on her holster and step into the role she was born to play: cop.

My Thoughts: Another fabulous Eve Dallas installment! One of the things that I noticed strongly with this book are how different Eve and Peabody are. They are like night and day but get along together and complement one another perfectly. For that matter, Eve and Roark are the same as well.

Eve is not easily influenced, swayed or impressed by much of anything. She plays her cards close to the chest at all times, shows emotion, but keeps her inner spirit locked down so tightly that most people, even those closest to her, don't know where they stand with Eve or what she is thinking or feeling.

CELEBRITY IN DEATH has Eve and Peabody rubbing elbows and hobnobbing with the glitzy and glamorous Hollywood types while filming The Icove Agenda. Where Peabody is gushing over meeting all the stars, Eve is strongly detached. Eve would much rather put on her favorite boots and coat instead of fancy party dresses and shoes designed to torture one's feet.

I really enjoy seeing Eve outside of her element and comfort zone. Thanks in great part to Roark's presence in her life, Eve holds her own quite well at social gatherings and functions but it's such a joy to see Eve switch gears from high society wife to murder cop.

Still not enough Somerset in this one, but I got my Mavis, Leonardo and Bella fix, so I'm satisfied for now. I always enjoy Eve's interactions with Bella, especially Bella's insistence that Eve give her a smooch.

This case hits a little too close to home for many of the characters. The actress portraying Peabody in the movie has been murdered. Her striking resemblance to Peabody is so acute that seeing her corpse causes many characters to display a strong emotional response.

Unfortunately, the victim is not very well liked by anyone at the party. K. T. Harris has plenty of enemies for Eve to focus on as potential suspects. After a drunken tirade at the dinner party, even Eve is not one of the victim's fans.

Once again, Eve does a fantastic job of ferreting out the most obscure clues that eventually lead her down the path to finding the killer. The speed with which she accomplishes this amazes me even more. It's almost as if the crime scene speaks to Eve, tells her its secrets. Being a cop is all Eve has ever known. It's definitely in her blood, but it's also in her soul. I'm glad Peabody is so different and that she doesn't try to mirror Dallas. She can hold her own just the way she is, but I never get tired of seeing these two wonderful characters in action, two halves of a whole.

I think fans of this series will be very pleased with what CELEBRITY IN DEATH has to offer. A lot of fast-paced action, snappy dialogue, several laugh out loud moments and an intriguing plot makes this one of the best Eve Dallas books out there.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

REVIEW: Pretty In Plaid by Jen Lancaster

Title: Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomanical, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase
Author: Jen Lancaster
Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: April, 2009
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 8/10

Description: In Pretty in Plaid, Jen Lancaster reveals how she developed the hubris that perpetually gets her into trouble. Using fashion icons of her youth to tell her hilarious and insightful stories, readers will meet the girl she used to be.

Think Jen Lancaster was always "like David Sedaris with pearls and a super-cute handbag?" (Jennifer Coburn) Think again. She was a badge-hungry Junior Girl Scout with a knack for extortion, an aspiring sorority girl who didn't know her Coach from her Louis Vuitton, and a budding executive who found herself bewildered by her first encounter with a fax machine. In this humorous and touching memoir, Jen Lancaster looks back on her life-and wardrobe-before bitter was the new black and shows us a young woman not so very different than the rest of us.

The author who showed us what it was like to wait in line at the unemployment office with a Prada bag, how living in the city can actually suck, and that losing weight can be fun with a trainer named Barbie and enough Ambien is ready to take you on a hilarious and heartwarming trip down memory lane in her shoes (and very pretty ones at that).

My Thoughts: When I read a Jen Lancaster book, I have come to expect to be entertained. This author has a unique voice in her writing that draws the reader into her world. I don't feel like I am reading a book but instead am sitting in a Starbucks with Jen Lancaster, laughing and giggling over foo-foo coffee drinks.

In PRETTY IN PLAID, we are given a front seat view into how fashion shaped Jen throughout her life from Girl Scout to college coed to career woman.

From Jordache jeans to designer Prada handbags, this book is an adventure in fashion that will appeal to the girly girl in all of us.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

REVIEW: Die For Me by Karen Rose

Title: Die For Me (Daniel Vartanian #1)
Author: Karen Rose
Publisher: Vision
Publication Date: September, 2007
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 9/10

Description: COME TO ME

The first victim is found in a snow-covered Philadelphia field. Detective Vito Ciccotelli enlists the aid of archaeologist Sophie Johannsen to determine exactly what lies beneath the frozen ground. Despite years of unearthing things long buried, nothing can prepare Sophie for the matrix of graves dug with chilling precision. The victims buried there haunt her. But the empty graves terrify her-the killer isn't done yet.

SCREAM FOR ME

He is cold and calculating, the master of a twisted game. Even with Vito and Sophie hot on his trail, he will not stop. One more empty grave must be filled, and one last scream must be heard-the scream of an archaeologist who is too close for comfort and too near to resist...

DIE FOR ME

My Thoughts: Another amazing offering by Karen Rose. I enjoyed the revisiting of past characters, Tess Ciccotelli and her brother, Vito. We first met Vito in Tess's story, YOU CAN'T HIDE. I was very happy to see him get his own story and happy to see Tess make an appearance. I especially liked meeting the rest of the Ciccotelli clan.

DIE FOR ME is also the first book in a spin-off trilogy featuring FBI Special Agent Daniel Vartanian, whose involvement in DIE FOR ME sets the groundwork for the next two books.

I didn't really feel much of a connection to Daniel mainly because I was so focused on Vito and Sophie. I'm not too worried about it, however, because I know when I read a Karen Rose book, she always does a fantastic job of creating complex characters that draw you into their lives so effortlessly that it is very easy to forget they are fictional characters.

This story takes place primarily in Philadelphia, where Vito is a homicide detective. Sophie is an archaeologist working for a local museum who is brought in to help unearth several mysterious graves. If that doesn't make her interesting enough, the fact that she speaks numerous languages fluently and rides a Harley should seal the deal. I really liked the dynamic of cop and archaeologist. Neither profession is afraid to get their hands dirty, so to speak. Both are good at digging to find the results. A perfect match that I could see a mile away, but these two need a little more time to get there.

I must warn you that the method of murder deployed by this sadistic villain is quite disturbing, but that's one of the things I really love about this author. She doesn't gloss over the horrifying details. Her stories are very realistic and I am glad they are. As a reader, I hate being patronized so the more realistic the story, the better it is for me as a reader. As disturbing as parts of the story were, I couldn't pull myself away. Danger lurks around every corner and nobody knows who the killer is or the reasons for the murders or who is next.

I highly recommend this book if you like stories full of high octane suspense with a blend of romance and characters that grow on you.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New Additions To The TBR Pile In October

I've been looking forward to jumping into the J.D. Robb, though I am feeling some anxiety now that I'm nearly caught up and will have to go through withdrawal like everyone else...

Title: Celebrity In Death by J.D. Robb

Description: Lieutenant Eve Dallas is no party girl, but she's managing to have a reasonably good time at the celebrity-packed bash celebrating The Icove Agenda, a film based on one of her famous cases. It's a little spooky seeing the actress playing her, who looks almost like her long-lost twin. Not as unsettling, though, as seeing the actress who plays Peabody drowned in the lap pool on the roof of the director's luxury building.

Now she's at the center of a crime scene-and Eve is more than ready to get out of her high heels and strap on her holster and step into the role she was born to play: cop.


Title: Team Human by Justine Larbalestier

Description: Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn't mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It's up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity!

On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.

Acclaimed authors Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan team up to create a witty and poignant story of cool vampires, warm friendships, and the changes that test the bonds of love.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

REVIEW: A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison

Title: A Perfect Blood (The Hollows #10)
Author: Kim Harrison
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Publication Date: February, 2012
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Rating: 10/10

Description: Ritually murdered corpses are appearing across Cincinnati, terrifying amalgams of human and other. Pulled in to help investigate by the I.S. and FIB, former witch turned day-walking demon Rachel Morgan soon realizes a horrifying truth: a human hate group is trying to create its own demons to destroy all Inderlanders, and to do so, it needs her blood.

She's faced vampires, witches, werewolves, demons, and more, but humanity itself might be her toughest challenge yet.

My Thoughts: I initially started out listening to this book on audio because the narrator brings such life, personality and entertainment to the story with Jenks's lines on their own. Unfortunately, my head wasn't in the story and I began contemplating giving up entirely. Instead, however, I took a break and started over with the print edition, and couldn't put the book down. Though I sorely missed hearing Jenks's voice and all of his Tinkerbell quips and expletives, I felt more connected to the story.

Now that Rachel has been officially classified as a demon, she has lost the privileges of the mundane and ordinary that we mere mortals take for granted. Having a driver's license and a registered vehicle, for example, is one of the fringe benefits of humanity that is denied to Rachel. In exchange for obtaining her license and vehicle registration, Rachel agrees to investigate the murders of witches. These murders aren't your run of the mill ritualistic murders. These murders are the result of a hate group trying to create their own demons. The interesting twist for me is that the hate group is made up of humans and they prove to be quite a difficult undertaking for Rachel and her gang.

We see a lot more of Trent in this story as their relationship begins to evolve more into a friendship instead of bitter adversaries. Personally, I am glad to see this. I've always felt Trent would be better as an ally for Rachel instead of an enemy. I am looking forward to what happens to them next. I certainly would not be opposed to a romance between them, though if you had asked me for my opinion on this subject five books ago, I would have given a very different answer.

I never tire of Jenks and though it's interesting to see the beginning of something between him and Belle, I'm not sure if I'm ready for that. I don't want to see Jenks hurt and I don't know if pairing him with a fairy is a good idea.

Not nearly enough Al in this book, unfortunately. Throughout this entire series, Al has turned out to be the biggest surprise for me. I'm convinced that for the first time in his entire existence, this demon has developed feelings for his itchy witch. I don't necessarily want to see them explored or see Rachel living in the ever after with him, but I think it makes for a very interesting dynamic.

I'm hoping that now it appears that Rachel has finally made peace with the fact that she's a demon, she will come out much more self-confident and that can only mean greater success for her. I look forward to finding out.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

REVIEW: Team Human by Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: Team Human
Author: Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: July, 2012
Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance
Rating: 6/10

Description: Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn't mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It's up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity!

On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.

Acclaimed authors Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan team up to create a witty and poignant story of cool vampires, warm friendships, and the changes that test the bonds of love.

My Thoughts: This was quite a different perception on the vampire genre. In this book the protagonist, Mel, is anti-vampire. She doesn't trust them one bit and dislikes everything about them. I thought this was a great premise, especially since Mel is living in a city founded by vampires!

Mel finds herself pulled into a mystery when she agrees to help one friend figure out why her father left. Mel also has her hands full trying to convince her other friend that vampires are evil and keep her from falling in love with one who starts attending school with them.

I thought the plot was refreshing and held my interest throughout the entire book. I really liked Mel and though I knew she was way off base with her suspicions, I enjoyed how the story played out.

I enjoyed Mel's treks into the vampire community. Seeing it through her eyes gives me a whole different outlook. Usually, the lead characters are awestruck by the vampire world, especially if they are mortal. Sometimes they are afraid. I didn't get the impression that Mel was afraid but more determined and focused. Any fear she felt, she managed to keep it disguised very well.

I am very curious to see if this book turns into a series and if so, I will be looking forward to reading the next one. I recommend this book if you are a fan of the vampire genre, but are looking for something a little different.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

REVIEW: From The Dark by Michele Hauf

Title: From The Dark (Bewitch The Dark #1)
Author: Michele Hauf
Publisher: Silhouette
Publication Date: November, 2006
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Rating:  3/10

Description: HER BLOOD WAS POISON TO HIM...

Centuries past, through mists of a dark time where vampires and witches lived side by side, vampires gained power by enthralling a witch, ultimately draining her of her strength and depriving her of immortality. Until the enslaved witches rebelled--and cast a spell making the blood of a witch deadly to a vampire.

Now, past and present are about to collide. Michael Lynsay is a man in the spotlight, at the height of his career, with the ability to mesmerize audiences. But he has a secret--he is a vampire, fighting the darkness of his nature. And it looks like it's a losing battle--until he meets Jane Renan, the only woman who can understand his conflicted nature. And the only woman who can destroy him--through love.

My Thoughts: In an already flooded market of vampires, this one didn't knock my socks off, but it wasn't bad. Pretty fast read about a vampire named Michael who is also a rock star who decides to take a self-imposed exile to get his head together and learn to control his blood craving.

Jane, the heroine is a witch, who we learn is the offspring of a vampire and a witch. A plot twist I found interesting is that drinking a witch's blood is toxic to vampires, but having sex seems to give the vampire more power. Go figure...

I read this one to prepare me for the second one in the series, so I am curious to see where it take me next.

Monday, October 01, 2012

REVIEW: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Publication Date: May, 2012
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Rating:  10/10

Description: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

My Thoughts: Without the recommendation of an awesome co-worker, I would have completely missed out on this one. Hands down, this is one of the best books I have read this year, if not in my entire life. I have never read a Gillian Flynn novel before, so when it was recommended to me, I did not know what to expect. One thing that impressed me before I even started reading it was how long it sat at the top of the best-seller list. Because of this book, I have added Gillian Flynn as an auto-read author and will be looking for her backlist.

Nick and Amy are great characters, but not great people. They definitely have their faults, but that is what makes them unique and such great characters. Nick and Amy represent every other couple struggling in a marriage that is certainly out of the honeymoon phase. This couple's problems and grievances are too numerous to list, but this book reminded me how important it is to put in the effort to make our most important relationships grow and flourish. Nick and Amy didn't do that and with every turn of the page, I was able to see first hand how these two characters were spiraling in a whirlpool of frustration, anger, sadness, bitterness, regret, misery and yes, even hate.

Everytime I thought I knew what would happen, I would be surprised at the twists and turns the plot would take. A great book has to be shared so, as it was recommended to me, I have been recommending it to everyone I know. I kept thinking as I was reading this book that this story would not end well for anyone, but I was even surprised at the ending. I couldn't make myself look away. This book would pull me out of sleep calling me to come read. I just had to know what was going to happen!

If you enjoy stories that pull you in right away with little to no build-up and flawed and dysfunctional characters that draw you into the mess of their lives, this is the book to read.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

New Additions To The TBR Pile In September

September saw the arrival of a few more books. I have been eagerly awaiting Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn as I had heard so much about it, especially after it skyrocketed to the top of the bestseller list.

Die For Me by Karen Rose
Description: COME TO ME

The first victim is found in a snow-covered Philadelphia field. Detective Vito Ciccotelli enlists the aid of archaeologist Sophie Johannsen to determine exactly what lies beneath the frozen ground. Despite years of unearthing things long buried, nothing can prepare Sophie for the matrix of graves dug with chilling precision. The victims buried there haunt her. But the empty graves terrify her-the killer isn't done yet.

SCREAM FOR ME

He is cold and calculating, the master of a twisted game. Even with Vito and Sophie hot on his trail, he will not stop. One more empty grave must be filled, and one last scream must be heard-the scream of an archaeologist who is too close for comfort and too near to resist...

DIE FOR ME


From The Dark by Michele Hauf
Description: HER BLOOD WAS POISON TO HIM...

Centuries past, through mists of a dark time where vampires and witches lived side by side, vampires gained power by enthralling a witch, ultimately draining her of her strength and depriving her of immortality. Until the enslaved witches rebelled--and cast a spell making the blood of a witch deadly to a vampire.

Now, past and present are about to collide. Michael Lynsay is a man in the spotlight, at the height of his career, with the ability to mesmerize audiences. But he has a secret--he is a vampire, fighting the darkness of his nature. And it looks like it's a losing battle--until he meets Jane Renan, the only woman who can understand his conflicted nature. And the only woman who can destroy him--through love.


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Description: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River.

Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

REVIEW: Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin

Title: Once Bitten, Twice Shy (Jaz Parks #1)
Author: Jennifer Rardin
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: October, 2007
Genre: Paranormal Romance / Urban Fantasy
Rating: 7/10

Description: I'm Jaz Parks. My boss in Vayl, born in Romania in 1744. Died there, too, at the hand of his vampire wife, Liliana. But that's ancient history. For the moment Vayl works for the CIA doing what he does best --- assassinating people. And I help. You could say I'm an assistant assassin. But then I'd have to kick your ass.

Vayl and I have to take out a Miami plastic surgeon with ties to terrorism. But the assignment gets complicated when it turns out he's in cahoots with a supernatural nasty powerful enough to bring America to her knees.

My Thoughts: I haven't had this book as long as some of the others languishing on my TBR pile. I've been very hesitant to start a new series as it seems to be getting more difficult finding Nook copies of some series at the library and I've just gotten so stingy with my book dollars, that I am very reluctant to just purchase the book (again) without thought or care like I used to.

Though I consider myself a seasoned veteran of vampire fiction (having sunk my fangs into several of them over the years), Jennifer Rardin is a new to me author. This series is a little different than I've encountered before as well. For one thing, there wasn't a lot of focus on romance. Jaz works for Vayl, who is a CIA assassin and a vampire. Her job is assistant / bodyguard, though does a 200+ year old vampire really need a bodyguard? When you find out what the bad guys have in store for all of humanity and what Jaz and Vayl find themselves going up against, you may want a bodyguard for yourself.

I wasn't completely ecstatic with the book after I finished and can't say it's the best vampire fiction series I have read, hands down. I can say this book isn't bad if you like feisty characters who can hold their own with all sorts of evil and creepy characters. I will say this book holds a lot of potential that has left me just curious enough to find out what Jaz and Vayl get into next and see if their relationship is just business.

Monday, September 10, 2012

REVIEW: The 9th Judgment by James Patterson

Title: The 9th Judgment (Women's Murder Club #9)
Author: James Patterson
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication Date: January, 2009
Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Rating: 8/10

Description: The most personal

A young mother and her infant child are ruthlessly gunned down while returning to their car in the garage of a shopping mall. There are no witnesses, and Detective Lindsay Boxer is left with only one shred of evidence: a cryptic message scrawled across the windshield in bloodred lipstick.

The most dangerous

The same night, the wife of A-list actor Marcus Dowling is woken by a cat burglar who is about to steal millions of dollars' worth of precious jewels. In just seconds there is a nearly empty safe, a lifeless body, and another mystery that throws San Francisco into hysteria.

The most exciting Women's Murder Club novel ever

Lindsay spends every waking hour working with her partner, Rich--and her desire for him threatens to tear apart both her engagement and the Women's Murder Club. Before Lindsay and her friends can piece together either case, one of the killers forces Lindsay to put her own life on the line--but is it enough to save the city? With unparalleled danger and explosive action, The 9th Judgment is James Patterson at his compelling, unstoppable best!

My Thoughts: With the 9th installment of the Women’s Murder Club, I feel pretty well connected to the characters, having gotten to know them over the last nine books. I love them all equally, but hats off go to Claire as the one in the group who really stood out for me in this book. She’s very direct and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. I don’t want to give anything away, but the last chapter of the book was so much better, thanks to Claire.

Lindsay has two very high profile murder cases in this book. First up is Hello Kitty, so named by Cindy. Kitty is a cat burglar, a very successful cat burglar I might add, but her job at famous movie star, Marcus Dowling’s house ends with a murder that Kitty did not commit. The second is the Lipstick Killer, so named because he guns down women and children and then leaves his calling card in lipstick on the victim’s windshield. Unfortunately, the powers that be at SFPD feel the Marcus Dowling case is more important and demands Lindsay devote all her attention to this one instead of the other one. Lindsay soon learns that working one will bring her closer to the other one.

As the layers of both cases are peeled back, Lindsay finds herself trying to stay one step ahead of a woman and child hating sadistic killer and an elusive cat burglar torn between risking her freedom by coming forward to set the record straight or doing just one more job that will ensure her financial security and freedom.

I really loved how the story played out but I do have a few grievances. First of all, Lindsay and Joe are still together and still engaged. I really don’t understand and definitely don’t like where Patterson is going with Lindsay’s attraction to her partner, Rich Conklin. Rich has just started a relationship with Cindy and I would love to see where that leads. I think Lindsay and Joe make an excellent couple and I want them to stay together. Mr. Patterson, please stop stirring the pot of deception. If Lindsay cheats on Joe with Rich, she will lose Joe and Cindy and Mr. Patterson will lose me as a fan. I get that adultery is a plot device that elevates tension in the story, but I can’t stand it, especially when it’s the story’s protagonist who does it.

Secondly, the entire epilogue was cold-blooded and I felt didn’t need to be included in the story. It had no bearing on the story or anything that had happened. It left more questions at the end than answers, especially regarding Lindsay’s career and position at SFPD. James Patterson usually does an excellent job of tying up loose ends and ripping the rug out from under me with some of the plot twists and turns, so I really didn’t understand the need for this epilogue. If the epilogue puts to rest any of the confusing feelings Lindsay is having for Rich, then all is forgiven, but I don’t think it will. So, unfortunately, I am not rating this book as high as I would, because the epilogue really pulled me out of the story and left me without any closure. I am anticipating the 10th book with the hopes that there will be some tying up of the loose ends. Overall, I am still a fan of this series and look forward to what Lindsay, Claire, Cindy and Yuki face next.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

New Additions To The TBR Pile In August

Having a hard time focusing on much these days, unfortunately including reading and reviewing, due to working the zombie shift at work. Hopefully that will change in January and I can get back on track. In the meantime, here are the new additions I received in August.

A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison
Description: New York Times bestselling author Kim Harrison returns to the Hollows with the electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed Pale Demon!

A Perfect Blood

Ritually murdered corpses are appearing across Cincinnati, terrifying amalgams of human and other. Pulled in to help investigate by the I.S. and FIB, former witch turned day-walking demon Rachel Morgan soon realizes a horrifying truth: a human hate group is trying to create its own demons to destroy all Inderlanders, and to do so, it needs her blood.

She's faced vampires, witches, werewolves, demons, and more, but humanity itself might be her toughest challenge yet.


A Piece Of My Heart by Kemberlee Shortland
Description: Kate hadn't been just the girl next door. She'd been Mick's life, and he hers. When an unforeseen force drives them apart they're left with wounds that refuse to heal. Now, ten years on, Mick's father's will should have been straightforward, except his addendum was like ice water in Mick's face.

It's essential Mick and Kate work together to save his family's farm. He doesn't count on his new manager being accused of murder, and she doesn't expect a dangerously seductive woman from Dublin claiming Mick is the father of her child. Kate thought she was falling in love with Mick all over again, but this newest revelation is too much for her. She is determined to say goodbye to her childhood sweetheart forever, but Mick has other plans for her future. And none of them involve goodbye.


The 9th Judgment by James Patterson
Description: The most personal

A young mother and her infant child are ruthlessly gunned down while returning to their car in the garage of a shopping mall. There are no witnesses, and Detective Lindsay Boxer is left with only one shred of evidence: a cryptic message scrawled across the windshield in bloodred lipstick.

The most dangerous

The same night, the wife of A-list actor Marcus Dowling is woken by a cat burglar who is about to steal millions of dollars' worth of precious jewels. In just seconds there is a nearly empty safe, a lifeless body, and another mystery that throws San Francisco into hysteria.

The most exciting Women's Murder Club novel ever

Lindsay spends every waking hour working with her partner, Rich--and her desire for him threatens to tear apart both her engagement and the Women's Murder Club. Before Lindsay and her friends can piece together either case, one of the killers forces Lindsay to put her own life on the line--but is it enough to save the city? With unparalleled danger and explosive action, The 9th Judgment is James Patterson at his compelling, unstoppable best!

Friday, August 31, 2012

REVIEW: Killer Summer by Lynda Curnyn

Title: Killer Summer
Author: Lynda Curnyn
Publisher: Red Dress Ink
Publication Date: June, 2005
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 8/10

Description: Three friends. One dead body.
The summer they'll never forget . . .

Sharing a beach house on Fire Island seems like a killer way for best friends Zoe, Sage and Nick to spend summer together. But just as they're dreaming of sunset margaritas and late-night barbecues, the body of their house hostess washes up on the beach. Talk about a buzz kill . . .

Now all Zoe can think about is why the "grieving" husband is planning parties rather than mourning his wife. Nick suddenly has secrets he can't tell a soul. And Sage is trying to score booty as if it's her last summer on earth . . . which it just might be. Because despite the ocean views and endless parties, Zoe, Sage and Nick have stopped wondering if the good times will last and started wondering if they will . . .

My Thoughts: Another very good offering from the now defunct Red Dress Ink line. I feel like I'm beating the dead horse here, but I can't help it. I am such an obsessed chick-lit girl; I collected every release published by Red Dress Ink that I had missed out on after I signed up for home delivery. Every month, I would literally jump up and down and do the happy dance when my Red Dress Ink shipment arrived. I couldn't be happier when some of the titles began to cross into other genres such as mystery and paranormal. Sadly, as with a lot of good things, it came to an end and I was left with a whole bunch of Red Dress Ink books that I have dragged my feet reading because I want them to last.

I chose Killer Summer this year because this has been a killer summer here in the Pit of H.E Double Hockey Sticks where I live. Perhaps a little respite at the beach is in order. I am sure that's all Zoe, Sage and Nick are looking for. Sage's boss has a beach house on Fire Island and the three best friends agree to timeshare space there for the summer, though Zoe's heart really isn't in to it. She gets stuck in the city picking up items for the dinner party being thrown by the house hostess, Maggie. Zoe doesn't arrive with everyone else but instead takes the last ferry out. When Zoe arrives at the house, it's obvious the dinner party has been canceled as evidenced by Maggie's absence from the house. Unfortunately for Zoe, she takes Maggie's pooch for a walk and discovers Maggie's corpse on the beach.

The majority of the book focuses on Zoe's conviction that Maggie's death is no accident, especially since Maggie's husband does not appear to be grieving. It's always the husband that did it, right? He certainly appeared suspicious to me but as the book unfolds, so did a lot of other people. I enjoy it when a mystery has several layers and isn't obvious. Another aspect of this book that I also thoroughly enjoyed is different points of view. Each chapter has a different point of view from Zoe, Sage, Nick or Maggie. Sometimes too many points of view can confuse a story, but I thought it made this one more intriguing.

I also enjoyed the dynamics of all the different relationships. It made for some very interesting characters. I have only read one other book by this author, but I enjoyed this one more and am looking forward to more from this author. Take a break from your killer summer, kick back with something cold and frosty to drink, kick off your shoes and dive into this book. I think you will enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

REVIEW: A Piece Of My Heart by Kemberlee Shortland

Title: A Piece Of My Heart
Author: Kemberlee Shortland
Publisher: Highland Press
Publication Date: January, 2010
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 9/10

Description: Kate hadn't been just the girl next door. She'd been Mick's life, and he hers. When an unforeseen force drives them apart they're left with wounds that refuse to heal. Now, ten years on, Mick's father's will should have been straightforward, except his addendum was like ice water in Mick's face. It's essential Mick and Kate work together to save his family's farm. He doesn't count on his new manager being accused of murder, and she doesn't expect a dangerously seductive woman from Dublin claiming Mick is the father of her child. Kate thought she was falling in love with Mick all over again, but this newest revelation is too much for her. She is determined to say goodbye to her childhood sweetheart forever, but Mick has other plans for her future. And none of them involve goodbye.

My Thoughts: One of the reasons I adore Kemberlee Shortland's books is because she is able to create vibrant characters that come across realistically. If you love the characters, then you are completely entranced with everything they say and do. If you hate the characters, you are riveted on what these despicable people are going to do next. If the characters annoy you, as a reader, you may find yourself talking back to the character and telling him what an idiot he is. Yes, I know, they cannot hear me, but this is what happens when I read a Kemberlee Shortland book. I am so pulled into the story, I sometimes feel like I am right there with the characters seeing what they see, hearing what they hear, and feeling what they feel.

So, let me just get this off my chest. Mick was a class A jerk who did not deserve Kate or to benefit from any goodwill or kindness she demonstrated. It took me a very long time to forgive him for being a selfish nitwit who treated Kate and his family very poorly. His complete lack of regard for his family's farm gave me the impression he is spoiled and childish. Here's the interesting thing...as annoyed at Mick as I was, I couldn't stop reading because I had to know what would happen. I kept hoping he would come to his senses and realize what he is missing out on and thankfully he does! Though it still bothered me that he let 10 years go by because of a misunderstanding, Kate never stopped loving him.

Kate was an amazing character. Where Mick was selfish, Kate was selfless in her dedication not only to Mick's parents but to the successful running of their farm. She put her career and love life on hold. She sacrificed her wants and needs to ensure Mick's parents were taken care of like they were her own. Some people would think Kate is your typical doormat but I think if there were people like Kate around, the world would be a much better place.

Happily, Mick redeems himself and does a little growing up to become the man Kate needs. On a side note, I actually felt bad for him when he gets blindsided by some less than pleasant events that have followed him from Dublin.

Another treat for me in this story was reuniting with Kieran and Eilis from Rhythm Of The Heart and catching up on what has been going on in their lives. If you have not read Rhythm Of The Heart, I recommend reading that one before this one so you are not pulled out of the story when Kieran and Eilis make an appearance.

Overall, if you enjoy your books to contain lots of complex characters in complicated relationships and lush Irish settings, I highly recommend A Piece Of My Heart.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

REVIEW: Driving Sideways by Jess Riley

Title: Driving Sideways
Author: Jess Riley
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: May, 2008
Genre: General Fiction
Rating: 8/10

Description: Leigh Fielding wants a life. Seriously. Having spent the past five years on dialysis, she has one simple wish: to make it to her thirtieth birthday. Now, thanks to the generosity of the late Larry Resnick and his transplanted kidney, it looks like her wish may come true.

With her newfound vitality (and Larry's kidney) in tow, Leigh hits the road for an excursion that will carry her from Wisconsin to California, with a few stops in between: Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, the Rockies, Las Vegas --- and a memorable visit to thank Larry's family for this second chance.

Yet Leigh's itinerary takes a sudden detour when she picks up seventeen year old hitchhiker Denise, a runaway with a bunch of stories and a couple of secrets. Add to the mix a long-lost mother, a loaded gun, an RV full of swingers, and Hall and Oates's Greatest Hits, and Driving Sideways becomes a hilarious and original journey of friendship, hope, and discovery.

My Thoughts: Driving Sideways by Jess Riley is yet another one of those books I acquired on a whim, added it to my "to be read" mountain with every intention of reading it quickly. Instead, it languished for years in the bottomless pit of my reading pile. With Driving Sideways, new to me author Jess Riley introduces us to Leigh Fielding, a dialysis patient who has recently received a kidney transplant and thereby a new lease on life.

I know it doesn't sound very appealing on the surface, but where this story really pulled me in and hooked me is when Leigh decides to hit the road, literally, on a road trip to visit her best friend, meet the kidney donor's family to thank them for the kidney and finally to track down the mother who abandoned Leigh and her brother when they were children.

Along the way, Leigh meets a teenage hitchhiker named Denise, who isn't all she seems but not completely in a bad way. The story is rich in pop culture references that gave me the real sense of being in the car with Leigh and Denise.

The story moved at a good pace, kept me plugged in and interested in what was going on and what was going to happen next. The characters were easy to get to know and felt realistic for their surroundings and place in the story. Don't make the same mistake I did. Get in the car and go on a road trip of your own to the bookstore to get this book. Every journey begins with the first step and I am sure this is one ride you will thoroughly enjoy.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

REVIEW: Reality Chick by Lauren Barnholdt

Title: Reality Chick
Author: Lauren Barnholdt
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: June, 2006
Genre: Teen Chick-Lit
Rating: 7/10

Description: All-hour study fests . . . all-night parties . . .

Going away to college means total independence and freedom. Unless of course your freshman year is taped and televised for all the world to watch. On uncensored cable.

Sweet and normal Ally Cavanaugh is one of five freshpeople shacking up on In the House, a reality show filmed on her college campus. (As if school isn't panic-inducing enough!) The cameras stalk her like paparazzi, but they also capture the fun that is new friends, old crushes, and learning to live on your own. Sure, the camera adds ten pounds, but with the freshman fifteen a given anyway, who cares? Ally's got bigger issues -- like how her long-distance bf can watch her loopy late-night "episode" with a certain housemate. . . .

Freshman year on film.

It's outrageous.

It's juicy.

And like all good reality TV, it's impossible to turn off.

My Thoughts: Freshman year at college is hard. Trying to adjust to the new freedom and responsibilities of managing oneself while living on your own for the first time in your life is a big deal. Making a long distance relationship with your boyfriend of two years work now that he's in college down in Florida carries a lot of stress. Apparently, our protagonist, Ally Cavanaugh, laughs in the face of stress and auditions for and is chosen to appear on a reality TV show with four other freshmen.

Though the logic of this character's decision to do this seems vividly absent, I found it impossible to look away. As with most sordid and uncensored reality shows on the air these days, I find it difficult to stop watching. Why are we drawn to scenarios where a group of strangers are thrown together in a small, confined space and are manipulated so that their behavior and reactions are then recorded for the rest of us to view, comment and speculate on?

It's hard to not like Ally. I felt a lot of empathy for her as she struggles to adjust to college, picking a major, missing her boyfriend and developing friendships with her housemates all the while a cameraman follows her all over the house and campus recording every facial expression, emotion, conversation and act, some of which Ally would rather forget. Personally, being recorded in the bathroom is pushing it, but again, reality TV fans want it realistic and if you knew your words and actions were being recorded, how realistic would it be?

Reality Chick was a fast, enjoyable read that I recommend if you like living vicariously through others. This book was given a makeover and republished in 2010 under the new title, Watch Me.



I personally like the new cover better.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

New Additions To The TBR Pile In July

July saw the arrival of several new additions to the monstrous to be read pile. Yes, I am a book hoarder and am suffering happily with my illness. :o)


Chaos In Death by J.D. Robb

Description: Eve Dallas is the tough lieutenant hot on his trail, but this is unlike any case she’s ever been assigned - or any killer she’s ever pursued. A police sketch based on eye-witness testimony reveals the killer has green skin, swollen red eyes, goblin ears, and a dislocated jaw-structure that defies the human form. Is it a mask? Is it make-up? Or is the explanation more sinister?

Dallas faces off against multiple suspects - all of them students of medicine capable of precisely slicing the ears, noses, and eyes of the three victims. But who had the motive? More importantly, what kind of rogue science are these healers practicing?


Fatal Fortune by Elizabeth Delisi

Description: No one in Cheyenne, ND believes in Lottie Baldwin's psychic abilities; especially not Harlan Erikson, Lottie's boyfriend, and sergeant in the Sheriff's Office. When a friend's husband disappears, Lottie can't leave it to Harlan. Armed with her courage and her tarot cards, she tries to solve the mystery herself, regardless of who attempts to stop her: Harlan, her friend -- or the criminal.






Rhythm Of My Heart by Kemberlee Shortland

Description: Artist Representative, Eilis Kennedy, gave up a singing career so that other women could have a fair chance at having their music heard. Having suffered rejection from callous men in the industry, she thought she would get away from ‘casting couch’ mentality. But when she finds herself in the office of Fergus Manley, all bets are off. Disgusted by his continual come-ons and lewd invitations, Eilis is looking for ‘the one’ who will take her career to the next level, getting out from under Fergus’s controlling thumb.

Aspiring blues guitarist, Kieran Vaughan, is looking for his big break. But after suffering near bankruptcy at the hands of an unscrupulous business partner, Kieran is left picking up the pieces. He’s unsure if the debts will ever be paid or if he’ll ever have a chance to do something with his music. At his whit’s end, he’s about ready to throw in the towel and find a full-time job with real hours.

When Eilis discovers Kieran playing in a seedy pub in Dublin’s Northside, she knows he’s the one rare talent she’s been searching for. With her know-how and his talent, Eilis will finally get everything she’s been waiting for. Neither of them count on the powerful attraction from first meeting. Eilis is so rocked by Keiran’s forthright words that it sends her running. Kieran risks being arrested as he chases Eilis across Ireland.

Seeing what’s happening between Eilis and Kieran, anger wells inside Fergus and he steps up his pursuit of Eilis. Refusing to let Kieran get in his way, Fergus vows to add Eilis’s notch to his bedpost, whatever it takes.

Will Kieran be able to protect her?


Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

Description: First in a brand new series about a Chicago graduate student's introduction into a society of vampires. — Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn't exactly glamorous, but it was Merit's. She was doing fine until a rogue vampire attacked her. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker -- and this one decided the best way to save her life was to make her the walking undead.

Turns out her savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now she's traded sweating over her thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan "Lord o' the Manor" Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred- year-old vampire, he has centuries' worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects her gratitude -- and servitude. But an inconvenient sunlight allergy and Ethan's attitude are the least of her concerns. Someone's still out to get her. Her initiation into Chicago's nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war -- and there will be blood.


The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein

Description: Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life...as only a dog could tell it.


The Rock Star In Seat 3A by Jill Kargman

Description: It's Hazel's thirtieth birthday and she has everything she's ever wanted: a kickass job, a dream apartment in New York City, and the perfect boyfriend -- who's just days away from proposing. Hazel thinks she's happy but isn't quite ready to settle down. So when her most far-fetched fantasy enters the realm of the possible, shouldn't she drop everything to see it through?

The morning after her birthday, Hazel boards a flight to L.A. only to get the surprise of her life. When she's bumped up to first class, extra legroom and free drinks are absolutely the last things on her mind when she catches sight of her seatmate: her all-time biggest celebrity crush, rock star Finn Schiller! Only the night before she'd confessed her infatuation with the gorgeous musician, and her boyfriend joked that she had a free pass if she ever met him. Hazel can't believe fate has actually thrown them together.

Even more unbelievable is that during the flight they genuinely connect. Finn likes her uncensored cursing and wicked sense of humor, and that she's unlike all of his groupies; Hazel likes his killer looks, ripped physique, and soulful music. But what started as a fantasy quickly becomes a real attraction, and after a dream date and taste of the rock-star life with Finn in L.A., Hazel is forced to examine the track her life is on. Indulging in a passionate affair with a rock star seems crazy -- but could she ever forgive herself if she walked away from her wildest dream coming true? And is her wildest dream the stuff that happiness is made of?

A lively novel about a down-to-earth New York City girl who suddenly finds herself in a rock 'n' roll Cinderella fantasy, The Rock Star in Seat 3A is seasoned with Jill Kargman's signature wit and hilarious dialogue. This is a fairy-tale romance with a twist.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

REVIEW: Rhythm Of My Heart by Kemberlee Shortland

Title: Rhythm Of My Heart
Author: Kemberlee Shortland
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Publication Date: July, 2012
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 9/10

Description: Artist Representative, Eilis Kennedy, gave up a singing career so that other women could have a fair chance at having their music heard. Having suffered rejection from callous men in the industry, she thought she would get away from ‘casting couch’ mentality. But when she finds herself in the office of Fergus Manley, all bets are off. Disgusted by his continual come-ons and lewd invitations, Eilis is looking for ‘the one’ who will take her career to the next level, getting out from under Fergus’s controlling thumb.

Aspiring blues guitarist, Kieran Vaughan, is looking for his big break. But after suffering near bankruptcy at the hands of an unscrupulous business partner, Kieran is left picking up the pieces. He’s unsure if the debts will ever be paid or if he’ll ever have a chance to do something with his music. At his whit’s end, he’s about ready to throw in the towel and find a full-time job with real hours.

When Eilis discovers Kieran playing in a seedy pub in Dublin’s Northside, she knows he’s the one rare talent she’s been searching for. With her know-how and his talent, Eilis will finally get everything she’s been waiting for. Neither of them count on the powerful attraction from first meeting. Eilis is so rocked by Keiran’s forthright words that it sends her running. Kieran risks being arrested as he chases Eilis across Ireland.

Seeing what’s happening between Eilis and Kieran, anger wells inside Fergus and he steps up his pursuit of Eilis. Refusing to let Kieran get in his way, Fergus vows to add Eilis’s notch to his bedpost, whatever it takes.

Will Kieran be able to protect her?

My Thoughts: First of all, take a look at the cover of this book. I don’t know what the Irish word for “WOW” is but that was my reaction when I saw it. If a guilty pleasure read is what you are looking for, then you don’t need to look much further once you see the eye candy on this cover. Women will want a Kieran Vaughan of their own. What’s not to love, ladies? He’s hot, hot, hot, he sings and plays blues guitar, he loves his little sister, he’s nice, he worships the ground Eilis walks on (lucky wench), he rides a Harley, he cooks (fanning face) and last but not least, he’s Irish so he’s got the accent going on and you know that’s going to be music to the ears. If I didn’t already have a Scottish guy, then an Irish guy would be high up on the list. With Kieran Vaughan, Kemberlee Shortland has created a character that makes a lasting impression that remains long after the book is done.

Upon meeting Eilis Kennedy for the first time, my first impression of her is that she is extremely critical of herself and has a very poor sense of worth. Most women can certainly relate to Eilis. She has gotten knocked down quite a bit in love and life, unfortunately, and isn’t very trusting with her heart. She honestly doesn’t see what Kieran sees when she looks in the mirror. She gave up her own career as a singer so she could find new talent and represent them towards successful careers of their own. Regrettably, the “casting couch” scenario still pursues her, only now, her boss Fergus is the one she needs to be cautious around. I would have liked to see her get agitated and fight back, especially where Fergus is concerned. She does tell him off but I would have enjoyed seeing her mop the floor with his behind.

For me, Kieran and Eilis are truly two halves of one whole. Upon meeting, the connection they feel is strong and almost psychic. They know when the other is near, hurt or frightened, the way identical twins are connected. Unfortunately they are human and the reader is made to wait longer for them to get together because they both experience “the big misunderstanding” more than once. I found this to be extremely frustrating because it’s so obvious to me they are meant to be together but they both have a lot of pride and jump to conclusions about each other instead of just talking. Happily, years do not go by before they work it out, as is the case in a lot of books.

Ms. Shortland writes amazing characters that come to life and leap off the page. Even the villain, Fergus, as nasty and disgusting as he was, is very realistic. I got a very good sense of what Eilis felt having him around. Ms. Shortland takes it one step further and makes Fergus truly vile, which gives the story some very suspenseful moments. The story moves at a good pace, even with the big misunderstandings and delivers some exciting and heart-racing moments towards the end. I can’t spoil the ending for you, so you are just going to have to read this book to find out what I am talking about. I’m sure you will agree that Rhythm of My Heart is magical.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

REVIEW: Chaos In Death by J.D. Robb

Title: Chaos In Death (In Death #33.5)
Author: J.D. Robb
Publisher: Jove
Publication Date: September, 2011
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 10/10

Description: Eve Dallas is the tough lieutenant hot on his trail, but this is unlike any case she’s ever been assigned - or any killer she’s ever pursued. A police sketch based on eye-witness testimony reveals the killer has green skin, swollen red eyes, goblin ears, and a dislocated jaw-structure that defies the human form. Is it a mask? Is it make-up? Or is the explanation more sinister?

Dallas faces off against multiple suspects - all of them students of medicine capable of precisely slicing the ears, noses, and eyes of the three victims. But who had the motive? More importantly, what kind of rogue science are these healers practicing?

My Thoughts:Chaos In Death is one of the short stories offered in The Unquiet anthology and with the other short stories in this series, I only read the Eve Dallas story. Chaos finds Eve and the gang on the trail of a sadistic killer who leaves notes at the scene of his crimes signed as Dr. Chaos. Witnesses who have seen him report seeing a monster, distorted green skinned face and fangs. He is also observed to be laughing and dancing after the killings. The victims are mutilated with the precision like skill of a surgeon or someone who has medical training. Eve has never faced someone quite like Dr. Chaos before and doesn’t know who or even what Dr. Chaos really is.

I finished Chaos in Death with a mixture of anticipation and sadness. Anticipation because I am always anticipating what the next book will bring. But now, I am experiencing some sadness because I am now only one book away from completing the series. This may not mean much to a lot of people but it does to me. I resisted starting this series for a very long time and it’s taken me over ten years to get to this point. What can I say…I really wanted to savor this series. I resisted this series for so long because I honestly thought I would not enjoy a series set in the future. Never had any trouble reading and loving books set in the past, but for some reason, a story set in the future held no appeal for me. On one hand, I never thought I would arrive at this moment so quickly, but on the other hand, Chaos in Death is #33.5 in the series and as I have already mentioned, it’s taken me over ten years to get to this point so it hasn’t been that fast, come to think of it. It feels like it has though. Oh, and just to clarify; saying I’m completing the series isn’t really accurate. The series is still ongoing. The 35th book in this series, Delusion in Death, will be available in September, 2012. It just feels like it’s over because now I will no longer have a handful of Eve Dallas titles at the ready to tide me over. I will become just like everyone else suffering in their anticipation waiting for the next new release.

As always, Eve is in top form on this case, which takes on a horrific Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde twist when the killer’s identity is revealed. It’s probably one of the reasons I enjoy this series so much. J.D. Robb is fearless and shows no hesitation in stretching the limits of her imagination to create the evil and depraved filth that ultimately she will throw into Eve’s path. Fortunately, Eve isn’t left on her own to solve the riddle with each case. She has surrounded herself with a crack-shot team of professionals who know their stuff and get the job done quickly and efficiently, making the streets of a not so distant future New York City safe…at least for the moment.

Thank you, J.D. Robb for a great ten years of reading. It’s been a great ride and I am eagerly anticipating more.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

REVIEW: Girl's Guide To Witchcraft by Mindy Klasky

Title: Girl’s Guide To Witchcraft (Jane Madison #1)
Author: Mindy Klasky
Publisher: Red Dress Ink
Publication Date: October, 2006
Genre: Chick-Lit
Rating: 7/10

Description: Which is more unlikely?

Meeting a single, straight, reasonably attractive, willing-to-commit man?

Or discovering a secret cache of magic books?

For good girl Jane Madison, neither has a shot in hell of coming true--until the day she finds a hidden room....

Now she's done a bit of experimenting and found a spell that makes her irresistible to men--even those who have previously ignored her. And another that turns a cat into her witch's familiar (a snarky, critical, self-absorbed man--pretty much a typical male). Though her impulsive acts of magic have brought a warder (sexy, grouchy, elusive and determined to stop her from using magic) down on her, Jane's not willing to let go of this fantastic new life.

Though she wonders about having things that aren't "real," she's having too much fun to stop. After all, no one ever said being a witch was easy...

My Thoughts: One of the things I loved about Harlequin’s Red Dress Ink line was the diversity. Within the chick-lit genre, Red Dress Ink offered a nice variety in the Red Dress offerings. Some of them are straight chick-lit, some are suspense or mystery, and some, such as Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft, has a paranormal twist. Combining two of my favorite genres, chick-lit and paranormal romance is brilliant. It’s such a shame that there are no longer any new Red Dress Ink releases. Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft is the first book in the Jane Madison trilogy about a librarian who learns she is also a witch.

Jane Madison is a reference librarian at a small library in Washington, D.C. After her boss informs her that the library is cutting her salary by 25%, Jane is offered free room and board in the cottage behind the library. Jane accepts (what choice does she have?) and moves into the cottage. After several hours of intensive scrubbing and scouring, Jane begins to feel the charm of the cottage. Jane inadvertently finds a key that opens the door to the basement and she discovers a collection of antique books. Jane is thrilled and when she reads from one of the books, a statue of a cat turns into a man named Neko, who informs Jane she is a witch and he is her familiar.

From there I was hooked. I had to know what would happen. Mixed into the yoga sessions with her best friend, Melissa, which Jane hates, the mojito therapy sessions with Melissa and Neko that I would personally love to participate in and the gorgeous warder, David, who is assigned to give Jane witchcraft lessons are several side stories. Jane is infatuated with a college professor who spends a lot of time in the library. Jane learns that the mother she thought was dead is actually alive and abandoned Jane as a baby and now wants to come back into her life. Jane is dedicated to her job and works hard trying to obtain funding for the library. There is really so much going on that one book just can’t cover it all.

I really liked the characters. Jane is self-conscious and comes across as a little scatterbrained and awkward, which I felt only added to her charm. Melissa is the best friend we would all love to have. She accepts Jane for who she is, cheers her on when things are going well and is ready to pick her up with mojito therapy when things are not. I loved Neko. As Jane’s familiar, he is there to assist her with all things witchy but I loved that he has such a vibrant personality on his own. He also retains his feline tendencies, which causes Jane to fear for the safety of her pet fish. As her warder, David is more than just Jane’s witchcraft mentor and teacher. There’s an attraction between Jane and David that I hope will be explored in more detail in the remaining books.

Overall, a good start to a trilogy. I look forward to reconnecting with Jane and her friends in the next book, Sorcery and the Single Girl.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

REVIEW: The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein

Title: The Art Of Racing In The Rain
Author: Garth Stein
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: June, 2009
Genre: General Fiction
Rating: 10/10

Description: Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life...as only a dog could tell it.

My Thoughts: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein was recommended to me by a very good friend and is nothing at all like the books I normally read. For starters, the narrator of the book is a dog named Enzo and the story is told entirely from his perspective. It’s given me a whole new insight on animals and what they are really thinking and how they feel and the fact that they understand so much more than we give them credit for.

The story begins on the eve of Enzo’s death. He’s an old dog, you see, and as we all have done and will do, he’s reflecting back on his life with his master, Denny, a race car driver and his family. Enzo’s view of the world is very funny and thought provoking. Enzo shares with us his love of television and watching car races as well as a documentary that people in Mongolia believe when a dog passes from this life, he will be reincarnated as a human. Enzo is very clear that his ultimate dream is to come back as a man, find Denny and shake his hand.

Through Enzo’s eyes, we are introduced to Denny’s future wife, Eve and meet their daughter Zoe. With Enzo’s help, I learned more about racing cars than I ever did. Most importantly, we learn from Enzo exactly how loyal a dog is to his pack master and the love he feels for his entire pack. When Denny faces the ultimate adversity, we see it through Enzo’s eyes and feel his helplessness that he can’t fix it. You can’t help but love Enzo. While reading this book, I wished he were with me several times so I could hug him.

This book will make you smile, laugh and cry. This book will make you angry (I absolutely hated the twins and if I had been Enzo, I would have bit them). For me, only a book that truly speaks to my heart is capable of bringing out so many emotions when I read it and The Art of Racing in the Rain did that and more. Get this book, but don’t just read it…savor it. Life is short and Enzo showed me how important it is to make every moment count.

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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)