Sunday, June 30, 2013

REVIEW: Return To Summerhouse by Jude Deveraux

Title: Return To Summerhouse (The Summerhouse #2)
Author: Jude Deveraux
Publisher: Thorndike Press
Publication Date: June, 2008
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Time Travel Romance

Description: Magic most definitely resides in the Maine summerhouse where the mysterious Madame Zoya has granted the innermost wishes of its visitors.

Now, three women have come to this special place with one thing in common: a painful past they would each like to rewrite. Amy, who hides a heartbreaking loss behind her seemingly perfect marriage and family... Faith, a widow in her thirties whose deepest grief is for a man from years ago... and Zoe, an artist shunned by her hometown for reasons she doesn't know, after a traumatic night erased her memory. With their mystical powers, Madame Zoya and her sister Primrose are about to transport the trio to eighteenth-century England to alter Amy's ancestry. But although surprises await each of them, will stepping back in time bring the women the happy endings they seek?

My Thoughts: If you already read the first book in this series, the second one is a little different in that the characters do not already know each other when they all arrive. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this difference, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Amy, Faith and Zoe are complete strangers when they each arrive and in the beginning of the book, I found myself thinking these women would have a hard time bonding or relating to one another.

Each woman carries a large amount of grief, pain and bitterness in their lives and it takes several chapters before I fully understood how much these women needed one another. When I read a book, I usually associate with just one character. As I learned more about each character and their back-story, I discovered I cared about all three of them in very different ways and loved how connected they were without any of them realizing how much.

The only flaw I had with this book is the ending seemed a little rushed after all of the detail spent in the past. I would have liked to witness Faith and Zoe’s experiences first-hand instead of after the fact. Even still, the story was beautifully written and the characters are people you really are rooting for.

My Final Verdict: If you enjoyed the first book, I highly recommend this one. For me, Return To Summerhouse was an enjoyable return to the magic that I experienced when I read the first book. This was a very good story with a wonderful message of hope and love for three women who appear to be damaged beyond repair.

If you haven’t read the first book, I think you could still read and enjoy this one without reading the first story.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

REVIEW: Confessions Of An Ex-Girlfriend by Lynda Curnyn

Title: Confessions Of an Ex-Girlfriend
Author: Lynda Curnyn
Publisher: Red Dress Ink
Publication Date: August, 2002
Genre: Chick-Lit

Description: Ex-Girlfriend Emma Carter has a lot on her mind. Her boyfriend got a life --- in L.A. Her hairdresser found God. And that extra ten pounds of "relationship flab" she acquired while falling in love with a commitment-phobe has just put her out of the running for new romance --- or so she thinks. But before Emma can get on with her life, she's got to face a few startling truths about being single in New York City...

Confession #5: Marriage suddenly seems like a social disease. Even the latest bride in my family --- my mother --- has put me to work in the service of her wedding day. What about us non-brides-to-be? Working in the warped little world of wedding planning has only led me to one conclusion: If you don't get married in this world, you get nothing. Once, in an editorial meeting, I jokingly suggested that a woman should get a bridal shower when she turns thirty, wedding or not. Everyone looked at me as if I were some kind of nut. I am 31 years old; am I not entitled to free Calphalon yet?

Who ever thought that baring your soul could be this good?

My Thoughts: Confessions Of An Ex-Girlfriend is one woman’s journey to find meaning in the end of her two year relationship when the man she loves accepts a job in L.A. and leaves New York and her behind. Emma struggles through most of this book living a very dysfunctional life. She is stuck in a boring job at a bridal magazine writing articles that are intended to sell the institute of marriage and all its glitz and glitter to brides to be. Emma’s mother is preparing to get married for the third time and wants Emma’s help and expertise with the planning. Emma has not told her parents about her change in relationship status. Emma’s father is lawsuit happy and may or may not have fallen off the wagon (again). She desperately needs highlights, but her hairdresser can only make time for his spiritual lessons and his guru. Her unwanted single status forces Emma to take a long, hard look in the mirror and acknowledge some facts (no matter how painful) about being single once again.

Even though Emma knew from their first date that her boyfriend would move to L.A. as soon as he sold a screenplay, that event did not happen for two years, in which time Emma got completely comfortable in the relationship and put it out of her mind. Why do we ignore these glaringly obvious relationship red flags? How do Emma and the rest of us develop relationship amnesia and completely forget these events and then walk around like the walking wounded wondering what happened? One thing that annoyed me about Emma is that she spends several pages pining for this jerk instead of getting angry. I felt she should have gotten angry a lot sooner. Two years spent in a relationship, regardless of the red flags at the beginning, is a long time. The last thing I want to see is Emma feeling sorry for herself, while sitting by the phone on the chance that he might call. When Emma finally does get angry and lets him know it, I was cheering. Let him have it, Emma. Rip him a new one.

I really liked Emma’s best friends, Alyssa and Jade. Where Alyssa is sweet and kind and in a committed relationship, Jade is the complete polar opposite. Jade is anti-relationship where Alyssa is living with her boyfriend. Emma fits perfectly in the middle between them. I was amazed how these three different women could be such good friends, but they are and it works. In the early days of Emma’s singleness, Alyssa and Jade both play a vital role in helping Emma reinvent herself.

I also liked that Emma wasn’t afraid to throw herself back in the dating pool, no matter how scary it was or unprepared she was. I loved that Emma does not strike gold right away either. I really enjoy a story that is realistic and having Emma start dating after a long term relationship and find Mr. Perfect on her first attempt would not have been believable for me as a reader.

My Final Verdict: Whether we’re ex-girlfriends or supportive shoulders to friends going through it, this is a good story that will appeal regardless of the situation. Fans of chick-lit and romance will appreciate how Emma comes out of her ordeal willing to take chances without losing her romantic side or becoming bitter.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

REVIEW: The Sixes by Kate White

Title: The Sixes
Author: Kate White
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: August, 2011
Genre: Romantic Suspense / Mystery / Thriller

Description: From the New York Times bestselling author of Hush and the Bailey Weggins mystery series comes a thriller set in a college town where a student’s death sends one woman on a search for the truth and into the clutches of a frightening secret society.

Phoebe Hall’s Manhattan life has suddenly begun to unravel. Right after her long-term boyfriend breaks off their relationship, she’s falsely accused of plagiarizing her latest bestselling celebrity biography. Looking for a quiet place to put her life back together, Phoebe jumps at the offer to teach in a sleepy Pennsylvania town at a small private college run by her former boarding school roommate and close friend, Glenda Johns.

But behind the campus’s quiet caf├ęs and leafy maple trees lie evil happenings. The body of a female student washes up on the banks of a nearby river, and disturbing revelations begin to surface: accusations from coeds about abuses wrought by a secret society of girls on campus known as The Sixes. To help Glenda, Phoebe embarks on a search for clues—a quest that soon raises painful memories of her own boarding school days years ago.

As the investigation heats up, Phoebe unexpectedly finds herself falling for the school’s handsome psychology professor, Duncan Shaw. But when nasty pranks turn into deadly threats, Phoebe realizes she’s in the middle of a real-life nightmare, not knowing whom she can trust and if she will even survive.

Plunging deeper into danger with every step, Phoebe knows she’s close to unmasking a killer. But with truth comes a terrifying revelation: your darkest secrets can still be uncovered . . . and starting over may be a crime punishable by death.

My Thoughts: When we first meet Phoebe Hall, her life is in a downward spiral. Her boyfriend has ended their relationship abruptly and she is faced with every writer’s nightmare when she is accused of plagiarism. I immediately felt bad for her and, like Phoebe, thought a change of scenery would be a good thing. One of her oldest friends who she went to boarding school with offers her a great opportunity to teach a writing class at Lyle College, far from Manhattan and the bad press and unwanted publicity.

Initially, the move appears to have been a good decision. Phoebe is settling in well and is enjoying the small and quiet community that surrounds the college. She even has a romantic interest on the horizon with a fellow teaching colleague, but Phoebe is reluctant to begin any relationships. Suddenly, Phoebe’s peace and solitude are ripped to shreds when the body of a young coed who had gone missing is found in the river. Several clues point to a secret club on campus, only known as The Sixes. Phoebe’s friend, Glenda, enlists her help in finding out more. The more Phoebe digs, the closer she comes to a killer as well as reliving some horrible experiences she, herself, suffered while attending boarding school.

First of all, I enjoyed the story and the concept of a secret society with an intricate agenda recruiting coeds on campus. It gives the plot a very mysterious and sinister tone. Kate White does a good job of leading the reader through several scenes that allude to The Sixes being involved in the murders and then without warning, I started to suspect others. This story is full of suspicious characters that are all capable of heinous acts. I had a hard time deciding who was trustworthy.

The story goes from mysterious and sinister to downright chilling when Phoebe’s home is broken into and based on the items left behind, she appears to be the victim of bullying. She isn’t a stranger to this kind of treatment as she endured horrific treatment by bullies when she was at boarding school. It takes most of the story to learn the full extent of the bullying she endured. I would have preferred to have it revealed sooner because I just couldn’t understand why she was placing herself in danger. Once I learned what she went through, I understood that Phoebe wants to make sure nobody is ever bullied again. Unfortunately, the choices and decisions she makes while looking into the disappearance and murder lead to more murders and more danger to Phoebe. She has several close calls herself and is physically injured repeatedly because of those choices and decisions. I thought she was taking too many risks and just can’t understand why does the hero/heroine always realize who the killer is only after they are alone with them? It would have been better for my blood pressure if this revelation would have been made while Phoebe is sitting on the couch, eating ice cream and watching television.

In spite of Phoebe’s tenacious pursuit for the truth, I really liked her and admired her ability to rise above a painful past and move forward in times of adversity. The story is a standalone read and doesn’t leave any loose ends, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Phoebe makes another appearance in a book down the road.

My Final Verdict: Overall, this was a good story that should appeal to readers who like their romance mixed with suspense and mystery. I would have liked it better if Phoebe hadn’t taken so many foolish risks, but I applaud her diligence in seeking out the truth and fighting for the underdog.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

REVIEW: Immortal Eclipse by Sherry Soule

Title: Immortal Eclipse
Author: Sherry Soule
Publisher: Disenchanted Publishing, Inc.
Original Publication Date: May 15, 2013
New Edition Published: June 7, 2013
Genre: Young Adult / Mystery / Romantic Suspense

Description: ENTER A SINISTER, CHILLING WORLD FILLED WITH DARK SECRETS

A devoted fashionata and practical New Yorker, Skylar Blackwell doesn’t believe in the supernatural—until she inherits Summerwind Mansion. . . .

When her uncle is brutally murdered, and the cops seem uninterested in following up the case, Skylar journeys to California to seek answers. Her search for clues is soon overshadowed by haunting nightmares of a young woman also murdered in the house.

Now the inhabitants of Summerwind are mysteriously dying, leaving no evidence as to how or why, and Skylar finds herself in a deadly race against time to expose the killer—before they strike again.

Armed with only wit and Pradas, Skylar begins questioning the servants, but the growing list of suspects includes the sexy and brooding caretaker, Dorian Delacroix, a man desperately trying to forget his tragic past. And a major distraction for Skylar.

Determined to play detective—instead of the fashion police—and unravel the dark history of the mansion, Skylar is plunged into an otherworldly mystery that not even she can explain away. As the boundaries between reality and dreams blur, Skylar’s greatest challenge is to stay alive long enough to learn the truth.

My Thoughts: The book started out very good for me but started to spiral downhill with Skylar's incessant inner monologue. I don't mind first person point of view, but this one just didn't fit for me. I found myself wondering several times whether she was talking to someone or to herself. Especially when the inner chatter begins when she is having a conversation with someone! I had to go back several times and reread paragraphs because I was getting lost.

I thought Skylar was very brave to make the move across the country into the unknown and flying by the seat of her pants. I thought Dorian was intriguing but I felt as frustrated as she did at his constant hot and cold manner.

My Final Verdict: I read 68% of the book before I was advised there was a new edition. As honored as I am to be asked to read this book to begin with in exchange for my review, I don't feel invested enough in the characters to start over after coming this far. In addition, switching to the new edition and continue reading where I left off would give me the sense of not reading the whole book. I am told that the new edition has major rewrites so if a young adult fashionata with a love of Pradas, a sexy, brooding, mysterious man and a house full of sinister characters and dead bodies intrigue you, then this book may appeal to you.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

REVIEW: The Night I Got Lucky by Laura Caldwell

Title: The Night I Got Lucky
Author: Laura Caldwell
Publisher: Red Dress Ink
Publication Date: September, 2005
Genre: Chick-Lit

Description: When Billy Rendell suddenly gets everything she wants, it turns out to be the last thing she needs . . . A long-awaited promotion. Freedom from emotional baggage. A newly -- ahem -- amorous husband. What's wrong with this picture? Well . . . everything. For starters, Billy hasn't actually earned any of it. Instead, like some character in a fairy tale, this stuck-in-a-rut publicist had all her wishes granted overnight -- which feels great, at least at first. But soon Billy's brand-new success starts to unravel -- who'd have thought becoming a VP would be so Very Painful? Or that a harmless crush on a co-worker would turn not-so-harmless now that he's crushing back? It'll take a surreal, rollicking, high-stakes journey for Billy to realize what she really wants out of life . . . before it's too late.

My Thoughts: This was one of the books that have been languishing on my to be read pile, gathering dust for years. I am still despondent that the Red Dress Ink line was discontinued. Nothing brought a smile to my face like opening my mailbox to find my monthly arrivals waiting for me. If I weren’t already a fan of Laura Caldwell’s books, The Night I Got Lucky would have made me one.

Billy Rendell is a character anyone can relate to and I found myself empathizing with her immensely. Everything from the angst of having an unusual name, to abandonment issues, unsatisfying marriage and career struggles, Billy is carrying a lot of emotional baggage. We’ve all been there and we all have wished for things to be different or to get what we want. It’s the human condition. What I really liked about this story is that Billy learns that getting what she wants may not be the best thing.

After yet another visit to her therapist where she again whines about the state of her life, her therapist gives her a small jade frog and tells her that her luck will change. Billy goes home, slightly offended and disbelieving, puts the frog on her nightstand and goes to bed. The next morning, everything, and I mean everything has changed! Billy now has everything she thought she wants. The promotion, the attentive and loving husband, the sexy coworker now attracted to her, no longer missing her father who walked out on Billy and her mother and sisters, just to name a few. This is where things get really interesting and Billy quickly learns that everything comes with a price and for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

As Billy tries to cope with the massive changes in her life, I got the impression she was drowning. Nothing was working out quite the way she had pictured. Billy decides that destroying the frog will put everything right. I got such a kick out of all the ways Billy tried to destroy the frog, even dropping it off the top of the Sears Tower. But every morning when Billy awoke, there was the frog back on her nightstand smiling at her. I got such a good sense of the desperation Billy was feeling by this time, and though her situation is no laughing matter, I couldn’t help but be amused at her reaction every morning.

Billy finally realizes luck and wishing away her problems are not a solution and she has to actually take action, participate in her life, and bring about the change she wants to see. I thoroughly enjoyed the results.

My Final Verdict: Overall, this was a very good book that I could not put down and I recommend it to all fans of the chick-lit and romance genre. This book was highly entertaining and the author does an excellent job of creating characters the reader will have feelings for and be drawn to. The secondary characters were intriguing and interesting too, without taking the reader’s focus from the central storyline. If you aren’t a fan of chick-lit, consider giving Laura Caldwell’s mysteries a try. I definitely will be.


Sunday, June 02, 2013

New Additions To The TBR Pile In May

Temporary residents arrived in May. One has already moved on and the other will soon follow as I will be reading it soon.


Penelope by Anya Wylde
Description: Leaving behind the rural charms of Finnshire, Miss Penelope Fairweather arrives in London with hope in her heart and a dream in her eye. The dowager, no less, has invited her for a season in London, where she will attempt to catch a husband.

Thus begins our heroine's tale as she attempts to tackle the London season with all her rustic finesse. Unfortunately, her rustic finesse turns out to be as delicate as a fat bear trying to rip apart a honeycomb infested with buzzing bees.

What follows is a series of misadventures, love affairs, moonlit balls, fancy clothes, fake moustaches, highwaymen, sneering beauties, pickpockets, and the wrath of a devilishly handsome duke.



The Witness by Nora Roberts
Description: Daughter of a controlling mother, Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking at a nightclub and allowing a strange man's seductive Russian accent lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever.

Twelve years later, the woman known as Abigail Lowery lives on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she designs sophisticated security systems--and supplements her own security with a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing. But Abigail's reserve only intrigues police chief Brooks Gleason. Her logical mind, her secretive nature, and her unromantic viewpoints leave him fascinated but frustrated. He suspects that Abigail needs protection from something--and that her elaborate defenses hide a story that must be revealed.

With a quirky, unforgettable heroine and a pulse-pounding plotline, Nora Roberts presents a riveting new read that cements her place as today's most reliably entertaining thriller--and will leave people hungering for more.

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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)