Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I Heart Hollywood Book Review

I Heart Hollywood by Lindsey Kelk

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Celebs, sunshine and beautiful boys...enough to lead a girl astray?

Angela Clark can't believe her luck. She's an English girl living in New York with a dream job at a hip magazine, The Look, and a sexy boyfriend. Her latest assignment takes her to Hollywood to interview hot actor and fellow Brit James Jacobs. Thrown in at the deep end, she heads west with best friend Jenny, dreaming of Rodeo Drive and Malibu beach. Soon Angela discovers that celebrity life in Hollywood is not all glamour, gloss and sunshine. Despite his lady-killer reputation, the only person who seems genuine is James. Then a paparazzi snaps them in an uncompromising position and suddenly Angela is thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Can she convince all those close to her - especially her boss and her boyfriend - not to believe everything they read? And will Hollywood ever win Angela's heart?

Review by Brittany:

This is the second in the "I Heart" series by this author. This book is a UK import as she is published in the UK and not in the US.

Even though this is a second installment, it is not necessary for the first to be read before this one is. It may enhance the reading experience, but the author does enough of a recap in this second book to cover all necessary bases.

My largest disappointment with this book was actually the character of Jenny Lopez, which is surprising because she seems to be a fan favorite and was a great character in the first novel. She is Angela's best friend, but I thought she was the worst character in the book. She was extremely temperamental with everyone, especially Angela, and she came across as being quite selfish. Angela and Jenny have many confrontations throughout the book, and each time I found myself getting more and more frustrated with Jenny. I also can't understand why Angela puts up with Jenny. I found the entire friendship frustrating and I don't understand why they are friends.

That being said, the other characters in the book are great. Angela is a bit of an airhead and makes some bad choices, but she is lovable anyway. She is funny and humble and endearing, despite the fact that there were many times when I just wanted to shake her. Her boyfriend, Alex, is less developed in this novel, which is one reason why reading the first would enhance this one. I could see why she cares for him, but I don't think his charm came through as well in this one. The Hollywood star of the novel, James Jacobs, spends most of the book seeming just that little bit too good to be true. In the end, he is shown to be human like the rest of us, which I really appreciated.

I enjoyed reading about the different hot spots in LA and the experiences Angela had. There was a bit too much partying and drinking for my taste, but that's only a personal preference. Overall I thought the book was pretty cute. I just hope that, throughout the series, Jenny's character will get some redeeming qualities.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Time of My Life Book Review

The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern

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Lucy Silchester keeps receiving this strange appointment card and sweeping its gold embossed envelope under the rug. Literally. She busies herself with a job she doesn't like, helping out friends, fixing her car, feeding her cat, and devoting her time to her family's dramas. But Lucy is about to find out that this is one appointment she can't miss, when Life shows up at her door, in the form of a sloppy but determined man.

Life follows her everywhere - from the office, to the bar, and to her bedroom - and Lucy learns that some of the choices she has made and the stories she has told aren't what they seem. Now her half-truths are about to be revealed, unless Lucy tells the truth about what really matters to her.

Review by Brittany:

This author is one who always writes stories that have a little element of magic to them. This book has Life, a person who solely exists to document your life and can help you out if you let your life get out of control. I love the idea of this person who you can talk things through with to help you figure yourself out.

My favorite thing about this book is the characterization. Lucy, the main character, feels like a person. She tells white lies that lead her to tell more white lies, until no one knows how she is really feeling or what is really going on in her life. She got her job under slightly false pretenses, and her whole life is a bit of a sham. But she also banters with a new friend, develops a relationship with Life, and forms a rocky sort of relationship with her neighbor. She is very much like a real person, and I love that.

Life was an interesting character because he is a person, but his whole life revolves around Lucy's life. It's a strange concept. His appearance at the beginning of the book is a bit bedraggled, as is Lucy's life, but as the story progresses and Lucy's life improves, so does the appearance of Life. This is a neat little detail that adds some characterization to Life.

I thought this book was definitely worth reading. The slightly magical elements to it add something fresh, but the basis of the story is about changing your life for the better, something I think we can all relate to. Ahern makes her characters believable and relatable, while also telling a good story. Even if you don't pick up this book, she's an author worth reading.

Notable quotes:

You never forget about things you've done that you know you shouldn't have done.

I wanted to just stop for a while. I wanted to stop doing things and stop moving. I just wanted to be on my own.

And older people are like babies; something about their demeanor makes you love them despite their ignorant selfish personalities.

I knew something monumental was happening. I was doing something that needed to be done and I felt the burden of it every step of the way.

Our lives all crash and collide and you think there's no reason or rhyme to it?

There is an outcome, repercussions and occurrences to everybody you meet and everything you say.

...that's what people do, they're mostly polite, even when they're feeling rude inside.

...life has a way of getting what it wants when it really knows what it wants.

I thought about it some more, thought about my dreams, my wishes, my ambitions, where I wanted to be that would make me feel better than being here. I couldn't come up with anything.

But then I'd changed and the things he'd loved about me were gone and then so was his love.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Juliet, Naked Book Review

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

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In a dreary seaside town in England, Annie loves Duncan - or thinks she does, because she always has. Duncan loves Annie, but then, all of a sudden, he doesn't anymore. So Annie stops loving Duncan, and starts getting her own life.

She sparks an e-mail correspondence with Tucker Crowe, a reclusive Dylanesque singer-songwriter who stopped making music twenty-two years ago, and who is also Duncan's greatest obsession. A surprising connection is forged between two lonely people who are looking for more out of what they've got. Tucker's been languishing (and he's unnervingly aware of it), living in rural Pennsylvania with what he sees as his one hope for redemption amid a life of emotional, familial, and artistic ruin - his young son, Jackson. But then there's also the material he's about to release to the world, an acoustic, stripped-down version of his greatest album, Juliet, titled Juliet, Naked. And he's just been summoned across the Atlantic with Jackson to face his multitude of ex-wives and children (both just discovered and formerly neglected), in the same country where his intriguing new Internet friend resides.

What happens when a washed-up musician looks for another chance? And miles away, a restless, childless woman looks for a change? Juliet, Naked is a powerfully engrossing, humblingly humorous novel about music, love, loneliness, and the struggle to live up to one's promise.

Review by Brittany:

This is a book about music. Except really it isn't. It's more about the musician and the ways in which life doesn't go the way you expect, even if you're semi-famous. And it's also about not being a musician and how life doesn't go the way you expect it to.

One skill of Hornby's is his ability to show the dreariest sides of relationships. He did this in High Fidelity and he does this again in this novel. Annie and Duncan have been floating along, staying together more out of convenience than for any other reason. Duncan jumps at the first opportunity to stray, and Annie realizes that maybe Duncan isn't worth keeping around, no matter how much he apologizes.

The relationship between Tucker and Annie is fragile at best, and the development of it is interesting. They mostly use email as a way to correspond and start developing something, no matter how impractical the relationship is. When he travels to England from the US, he meets with her in person. They are able to communicate in the same fashion as they did during email, building some type of relationship. The whole thing is impractical, however, because Tucker is married, lives in another country, and has a son with his wife.

Tucker is also a character with few redeeming qualities. He disappeared from the music scene, leaving more and more abandoned children and hurt ex-wives behind him. He has no money, no inspiration to write music or to sing again, and no desire to really be back on the music scene. He is just existing. His one real redeeming quality is his love for his youngest son Jackson, the one child he interacts with and has truly attempted to raise.

So if the characters aren't redeemable and the relationships are doomed, why is this a good book? Because Hornby writes it the best. He makes these characters lovable - or relatable or believable, at the very least - and gives the relationships bursts of promise, even if the majority of it is not promising at all.

The end of the book did leave me feeling a bit incomplete. I feel like there were loose ends that I would like to have tied up, but in leaving those ends loose, I think Hornby has actually told me everything I need to know.

This book isn't a happy book, but it's also not a depressing book. It just is. And this book does what it does in the best possible way. I would definitely recommend it.

Notable quotes:

But she could see now that a lot of resentment had been locked into her somewhere, and it was busy, restless stuff, roaming around looking for the tiniest open window.

Not being married to him was becoming every bit as irritating as she imagined marriage to him might be.

We get together with people because they're the same or because they're different, and in the end we split with them for exactly the same reasons.

There was an awful lot to be said for familiarity, if you thought about it. It was an extremely underrated virtue, ignorable until the very moment that you were in danger of losing whatever or whoever it was that was familiar - a house, a view, a partner.

It was hopeless, life, really. It was set up all wrong.

She had to defend him in order to defend herself. That was why people were so prickly about their partners, even their ex-partners.

It was an illness, loneliness - it made you weak, gullible, feeble-minded.

The trouble was, she couldn't help but be boring and bland and sensible and good.

But then, that was the trouble with relationships generally. They had their own temperature, and there was no thermostat.

Tucker accepted completely that women were the fairer and wiser sex, but they were also irredeemably vicious when the occasion demanded.

She was trying to say something else; she was trying to say that the inability to articulate what one feels in any satisfactory way is one of our enduring tragedies.

The truth about life was that nothing ever ended until you died, and even then you just left a whole bunch of unresolved narratives behind you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Baby Proof Book Review

Baby Proof by Emily Giffin

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First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes...a baby carriage? Isn't that what all women want?

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

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

Review by Brittany:

As a fan of Giffin, I knew when I picked this book up that it would be one that would interest me and that I would enjoy. Giffin has a way of writing that draws you in from the first page and keeps you hooked all the way through, and this book was no different.

I could totally relate to Claudia. As a woman who is unsure of whether or not I want children, I could relate to her on a level that I often can't in books, which helped make this book a winner for me. Claudia has dedicated herself to the idea that she will not have children, so the idea that her husband might want children throws her for a loop.

One thing that surprised me about this book is that the events happened extremely fast. The synopsis is what happens within the first few chapters, so there's a whole lot of story that comes after. Claudia and Ben cannot agree on what is best for them - a life with children or a life without - and they separate because of it. This sends Claudia on a path of trying to figure out how to live her life without Ben, the love of her life, which is really where the meat of the book happens.

I also thought it was interesting that Claudia's sisters are women with vastly different feelings about children than Claudia. They end up being extremely important characters to the development of Claudia's story and to the events with Claudia and Ben's relationship. While they were only supporting characters, Giffin wrote them in such a way that they played a large part.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. There were times when I wanted to shake the characters for being stupid or weep along with them during troubling times or laugh along, all of which are important elements in any book. Giffin is an author who knows how to write good characters and a good story, so I will continue to read what she writes.

Notable quotes:

After all, most people - women and men - view not wanting kids as a deal breaker. At the very least, I risked coming across as cold and selfish, two traits that don't top the list of "what every man wants".

Fleeting references to our history had been made up to that point, and I was well aware that we were both silently making those inevitable comparisons, putting our relationship in context. She is more this and less of that. He is better or worse in these ways. It is human nature to do this - unless it's your first relationship, which might be the very reason that your first relationship feels special and remains forever sacred.

The person who loved me like this was the person I loved back - which can feel like an absolute miracle. It is an absolute miracle.

I have often heard her say that the biggest decision a woman can make in life is not who to marry but who should be the father of her children. "You can't undo it," she says. "It bonds you for life."

Everyone has a messed-up family - to one extent or another - but we all have an obligation to rise above it.

I can't possibly fathom how another woman feels when I don't want to be a mother myself. After all, what kind of a woman doesn't want to be a mother?

I realize it's mighty difficult to act normal when someone else is behaving oddly.

It strikes me that she is the sort of person who, if you are unfortunate enough to fall for, you might never be able to stop loving.

I don't know whether I will ever overcome my fears of motherhood. Whether I will someday be a mother. Whether I am capable of being a good one.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Babyville Book Review

Babyville by Jane Green


Bestselling author Jane Green has won the hearts of thousands of readers with her fresh take on single life and the dating jungle. Now in Babyville, she applies her golden touch to the next phase of a girl's life, in an irresistible new novel about two young women coping with the chimes of their biological clocks, and one independent glamour-girl who tries to tune hers out.

Meet Julia, a wildly successful television producer who appears to have the picture-perfect life. But beneath the surface, things are not as perfect as they seem. Stuck in a loveless relationship with her boyfriend, Mark, Julia thinks a baby is the answer...but she may want a baby more than she wants her boyfriend. Will a trip to New York City with a jet-setting friend - and all the glittering energy and eligible men the city brings - help her discover what she really needs?

Maeve, on the other hand, is allergic to commitment. A feisty, red-haired, high-power career girl, she cherishes her ability to do just as she pleases and breaks out in a rash every time she passes a stroller. But when her no-strings-attached nightlife leads to an unexpected pregnancy, her reaction may be just as unexpected.

And then there's Samantha - happily married and eager to be the perfect June Cleaveresque mother. But baby George brings only exhaustion, extra pounds, and marital strife to her once tidy life. Is having an affair with a friend's incredibly sexy husband the answer?

By turns witty, rollicking, and tender, Babyville isn't really a story about babies - it's about three friends whose lives are suddenly turned upside-down by that life-changing event that hangs over the head of every girl: motherhood.

Review by Brittany:

Jane Green is an author who writes novels that women can easily relate to. This book focuses on three different women and the struggles they have when it comes to motherhood. Each woman in the book feels differently about motherhood; however, each character is relatable, which I think is a testament to the skill level involved in her character development.

The book is separated into three parts, each part focusing on one of the main characters, with cameos by the other characters. It starts with Julia, describing her relationship with Mark and the struggles they are having with conceiving. The second part is about Maeve, a career woman who has a one night stand and accidentally gets pregnant. The third part is about Sam, a married woman who wanted nothing more than to be a mother but is finding it more difficult than she had anticipated.

The layout of the book was interesting and different than other books that I have read by this author. Having the parts separate meant that the focus of the book shifted, including the written point of view. The author made it work by giving updates for each character in each part, so that the reader always knows what is going on with each of the characters. By the end of the book, the reader is up to date with each character's life, which makes the story feel complete.

One thing I loved about this book was the character of Maeve's mother. She plays a huge role in the part of the book that focuses on Maeve's story, and she is truly such a powerful force in Maeve's life. While Maeve doesn't easily admit it, her mother's approval and opinions matter greatly and play a role in the direction Maeve chooses to take in her life. I love characters like that.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick, easy read, and while some parts of the story were emotionally difficult, the author wrote it in such a way that I didn't feel completely obliterated by any of it. I was invested, and each character's life worked out in the way that it was supposed to. I really enjoyed this book.

Notable quotes:

Not that she's unhappy, exactly. But she's not happy either. She just is. For the last couple of years Julia has felt as if she's lived her life floating on a cloud of apathy, and she's really not certain what the problem is.

Sam is only saying all the things Julia thinks when she wakes up in the middle of the night with a pounding heart, almost suffocating with the panic, the need to escape, only bearable because she knows normality will return with daylight.

She didn't mean to say it. Christ, she didn't even mean to think it...

You won't have anything in common anymore, since you are not interested in babies, and they are no longer interested in life.

"I suppose, though, wherever you go, your life is still your life and you're still you."

"I had relationships with wonderful men, but I expected too much from them, and always moved on thinking I'd find the perfect man out there."

...I stand up and walk to the window, where I watch the cars for a while, wondering how everyone else's life can carry on as if nothing terrible has happened, when mine has just been turned upside down.

She also knew she would never do such a thing, but she knew how you could be on the edge, and how little it would take to push you over.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Size 12 and Ready to Rock Book Review

Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot

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Just because the students at New York College have flown the coop doesn't mean assistant residence hall director Heather Wells can relax. Fischer Hall is busier than ever, filled with squealing thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls attending the first ever Tania Trace Rock Camp, hosted by pop sensation Tania Trace herself - who just happens to be newly married to Heather's ex-boyfriend, heartthrob Jordan Cartwright. But the real headache begins when the producer of a reality TV show starring Tania winds up dead...and it's clear that the star was the intended victim.

Grant Cartwright, head of Cartwright Records, wants to keep his daughter-in-law (and his highest-earning performer) alive. So he hires his oldest son, black sheep of the family and private investigator Cooper Cartwright - who just happens to be Heather's new fiance. Heather should leave the detecting to Cooper. But with a dorm full of hysterical mini-divas-in-training, she can't help but get involved. And after Tania shares a really shocking secret with her, this reality suddenly becomes more dangerously real than anyone ever anticipated.

Review by Brittany:

This book is the fourth in the Heather Wells mystery series by this author, but one thing I loved about this book is that you needn't have read the others to follow along. It's been a long time since I read the other three, but this book covers enough of what has happened that it was a great refresher for me and would give enough information for someone new to the series to just jump right in.

One thing I will say about this book is that it's a little silly. All of Cabot's books, at least in this series, have an element of silliness to them, and the Heather Wells series does center on the fact that she is a "plus-sized" heroine. There are mentions to her size throughout all books in the series, along with her previous success as a pop star. Heather now is the assistant director of a college residence hall, which also gets poked fun at.

However, although there is some silliness here, Cabot covers a lot of serious issues in this book. The primary one is domestic abuse and the ways that this can affect a woman, even once she has escaped the situation. This book also alludes to infertility, leading Heather and Cooper to have a pretty serious discussion about having children. These are both scary things and Cabot does well with covering these topics, while still managing to maintain a certain level of lightheartedness in her writing.

If you're looking for a fairly quick and easy read, this one is a good choice to make. It won't require much thought and will keep you turning pages quickly.

Notable quotes:

I feel as if an earthquake is going on, only inside of me instead of beneath my feet. The ground is shifting, shifting, everything moving in slow motion, but only I can feel it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lone Wolf Book Review

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

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In the wild, when a wolf knows its time is over, when it knows it is of no more use to its pack, it may sometimes choose to slip away. Dying apart from its family, it stays proud and true to its nature. Humans aren't so lucky.

Luke Warren has spent his life researching wolves. He has written about them, studied their habits intensively, and even lived with them for extended periods of time. In many ways, Luke understands wolf dynamics better than those of his own family. His wife, Georgie, has left him, finally giving up on their lonely marriage. His son, Edward, twenty-four, fled six years ago, leaving behind a shattered relationship with his father. Edward understands that some things cannot be fixed, though memories of his domineering father still inflict pain. Then comes a frantic phone call: Luke has been gravely injured in a car accident with Edward's younger sister, Cara.

Suddenly everything changes: Edward must return home to face the father he walked out on at age eighteen. He and Cara have to decide their father's fate together. Though there's no easy answer, questions abound: What secrets have Edward and his sister kept from each other? What hidden motives inform their need to let their father die...or to try to keep him alive? What would Luke himself want? How can any family member make such a decision in the face of guilt, pain, or both? And most importantly, to what extent have they all forgotten what a wolf never forgets: that each member of a pack needs the others, and that sometimes survival means sacrifice?

Another tour de force by Picoult, Lone Wolf brilliantly describes the nature of a family: the love, protection, and strength it can offer - and the price we might have to pay for those gifts. What happens when the hope that should sustain a family is the very thing tearing it apart?

Review by Brittany:

As a long time Picoult fan, I never doubt that I'm going to enjoy one of her books. They all have some kind of moral dilemma that really makes me wonder what I would do in the situation of the characters.

In this book, the moral dilemma focuses on quality of life and whether or not it is moral to pull the plug on someone's life support, without their consent. Two siblings are each trying to win the right to make the judgment call on their father's quality of life and what he might want.

One thing about this book that was a bit of a letdown for me was character development. Normally Picoult writes such clear, humanized characters that I feel like they are real people. I can relate to them and understand the struggles they have and the choices they make. This book didn't have that for me. The father, Luke, is learned about primarily through tales from when he lived with wolves in the woods in Canada. The other characters are learned about through flashbacks and their responses to Luke's condition, but none of them are particularly deep or likable.

The night that Luke and his daughter Cara get into the car accident that puts him in the hospital remains a bit of a mystery. The full events are not revealed until the end of the book, but the entire thing felt a bit anticlimactic. I think this is largely due to the fact that the characters were not well-developed and I didn't feel as invested because of it.

I will say that I was, as usual, impressed with the level of Picoult's research. Her books are always thorough and leave me feeling extremely overwhelmed by her sheer knowledge in any subject. The information she gives about wolves and the way that she can write about living with them without (probably) ever having done it herself is impressive and a trademark of this author.

Overall, the story is good because Picoult just knows how to write a good book. However, this is not a favorite of mine by her as I expect more character development in her novels.

Notable quotes:

It's a funny thing, how - no matter how much bigger I am than my mother - she is still the one holding me, instead of the other way around.

Mistakes are like the memories you hid in the attic: old love letters from relationships that tanked, photos of dead relatives, toys from a childhood you miss. Out of sight is out of mind, but somewhere deep inside you know they still exist.

It's just one more item on a long list of things I never expected.

When people say growing up can happen overnight, they're wrong. It can happen even faster, in an instant.

When you are the family fuckup, receiving credit is almost overwhelming.

"No matter what you do for someone - no matter if you feed him a bottle as a baby or curl up with him at night to keep him warm or give him food so he's not hungry - make one wrong move at the wrong moment, and you become someone unrecognizable."

When something upends the equilibrium - when one child needs you more than the others - that imbalance becomes a black hole. You may never admit it out loud, but the one you love the most is the one who needs you more desperately than his siblings.

Like a missing tooth, sometimes an absence is more noticeable than a presence...

Cara may thing I don't love her as much as I do her brother, but parents aren't the only ones who play favorites.

I feel like my marriage is a Venn diagram, and the only shared space between us right now is an awkward silence.

Can you really be mad at someone for doing something stupid if they truly, one hundred percent, thought they were doing what was right?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Likeness Book Review

The Likeness by Tana French

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Six months after a particularly nasty case, Detective Cassie Maddox has transferred out of Dublin's Murder squad and has no plans to go back. That is, until an urgent telephone call summons her to a grisly crime scene.

It's only when she sees the body that Cassie understands the hurry. The victim, a young woman, is Cassie's double and carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie once used on an undercover job. Suddenly, Cassie must discover not only who killed this girl but, more importantly, who is this girl? And as reality and fantasy become desperately tangled, Cassie moves dangerously close to losing herself forever.

Review by Brittany:

This is one of the only books I have ever read that left me feeling like I don't know a single thing about any of the characters, but I love it anyway. Most books that feel like they have limited character development don't make much of an impact on me, but this one is different. The main character spends the majority of the book pretending to be someone else as she is an undercover detective, so I never quite felt like I was experiencing anything in the way that the character would. And even though she constantly describes her experiences with the other characters, I never felt as if I was getting to know any of them.

This feeling did not take away from the novel at all. Cassie is working as an undercover to try to solve the murder of the girl pretending to be Alexandra Madison, so she has put herself in Lexie's life. The police spin the story that she wasn't murdered, only assaulted, so that Cassie can infiltrate the circle and try to solve the crime.

One skill this author has is sliding in the little details that make the end result logical. Tiny things that the reader won't really think about (she never carried her cigarettes with her on her walks) that feel unimportant until they aren't anymore. Piecing together the motive and what happened on the night of the murder is a precarious, careful thing, and the author really works to make it logical and not overly obvious.

French is an author who just knows how to make it work. She keeps the action moving at a consistent pace that makes continuing reading easy to do. Her characters in this book aren't necessarily going to be the most notable characters, but they each play their role in moving the story along. I would definitely recommend this book to those who are interested in murder mystery novels or just looking for a good read.

Notable quotes:

It hadn't occurred to me, till then, that all that silence could have been plenty revealing, in its own way.

"But there's no point in wishing. Once you're stuck with someone, all you can do is make the best of it."

My hand was on the door handle when for a split second out of nowhere I was terrified, blue-blazing terrified, fear dropping straight through me like a jagged black stone falling fast. I'd felt this before, in the limbo instants before I moved out of my aunt's house, lost my virginity, took my oath as a police officer: those instants when that irrevocable thing you wanted so much suddenly turns real and solid, inches away and speeding at you, a bottomless river rising and no way back once it's crossed.

"What could possibly be simpler, or more crucial? You can have anything you want, as long as you accept that there is a price and that you will have to pay it."

No matter how strong you are or how controlled, keeping a secret - I should know - gets heavy after a while, heavy and tiring and so lonely it feels lethal.

"Students and very young people can rent with no damage to their intellectual freedom, because it puts them under no threat: they have nothing, yet, to lose. Have you noticed how easily the very young die? They make the best martyrs for any cause, the best soldiers, the best suicides. It's because they're held here so lightly: they haven't yet accumulated loves and responsibilities and commitments and all the things that tie us securely to this world. They can let go of it as easily and simply as lifting a finger. But as you get older, you begin to find things that are worth holding onto, forever. All of a sudden you're playing for keeps, as children say, and it changes the very fabric of you."

When you're too close to people, when you spend too much time with them and love them too dearly, sometimes you can't see them.

"You've got a bad habit of taking too much credit for the stuff other people do around you."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Neverland Book Review

Neverland by Douglas Clegg

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For years, the Jackson family has vacationed at Rowena Wandigaux Lee's old Victorian house on Gull Island, a place of superstition and legend off the Southern coast of the U.S. One particular summer, young Beau follows his cousin Sumter into a hidden shack in the woods - and christens this new clubhouse "Neverland".

Neverland has a secret history, unknown to the children...

The run-down shack in the woods is the key to an age-old mystery, a place forbidden to all. But Sumter and his cousins gather in its dusty shadows to escape the tensions at their grandmother's house. Neverland becomes the place where children begin to worship a creature of shadows, which Sumter calls "Lucy".

All gods demand sacrifice...

It begins with small sacrifices, little games, strange imaginings. While Sumter's games spiral out of control, twisting from the mysterious to the macabre, a nightmarish presence rises among the straggly trees beyond the bluffs overlooking the sea.

And when Neverland itself is threatened with destruction, the children's games take on a horrifying reality - and Gull Island becomes a place of unrelenting terror.

Review by Brittany:

When I bought this book, I didn't realize it was going to be a horror book that deals with near possession. As the story continued, I often was surprised by some of the events that were taking place, due in part to the story being something different than I had expected.

The book has some very intense imagery. The children in the book do some animal sacrifices and see some horrifying images that aren't real, such as imagining another child being murdered when it is actually a china doll being broken. The author describes some of these in great detail, and even though I'm a fan of horror films, reading some of these was a little much for me. It was also often confusing trying to separate reality from what is imagined by the narrator.

The story itself is mostly about one of the family members who died many years before. Her death was under suspicious circumstances and the story eventually reveals that she suffered from the things as Sumter: they both hear voices and have strange behaviors. The sacrifices that the children are making and the weird actions they are doing are all tied back to Lucy, the family member who died years before.

I was actually not very impressed with the novel overall. I think the imagery was appropriately gruesome, but the story itself wasn't intriguing enough to keep me hooked. The shifts between reality and imaginings were confusing and often left me wondering what exactly was going on. There were also no likable characters, not any of the children or the adults. Overall, nothing about this book really stood out.

Notable quotes:

"Those we lose are never really gone, are they? They are there, at least insofar as we remember them, and they have not really left us at all."

"No such thing as imagine. If you think something happened, it did."

The way panic works is you have about a minute or two of it, when you can't do anything right, and then you experience a calm because it begins to sink in that you really can't do anything right, so you just go ahead and do what needs to get done.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

These Things Hidden Book Review

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

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When teenager Allison Glenn is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind her reputation as Linden Falls' golden girl forever. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child. Her former friends exult her downfall. But it's her shy, quiet sister, Brynn, who carries the burden of what really happened that night. She's the only person who can't forget the past that haunts her - especially when Allison is released to a halfway house, more determined than ever to see Brynn again.

Now their legacy of secrets is focused on one little boy. And if the truth is revealed, the consequences will be unimaginable for the adoptive mother who loves him, the girl who tried to protect him and the two sisters who hold the key to all that is hidden.

Review by Brittany:

I have read one book by this author previously, and after having read this one, I feel like this is an author who is willing to write about hard topics. This book does have some themes that may be difficult for some readers, although I think that it is very well done in this book.

As a warning, the crime that is discussed in this book is the death of a newborn. Allison is accused and found guilty of drowning her newborn baby, and the book takes place when she is released from prison five years after the crime. As the story continues, the pieces of the night are revealed a little at a time, so that the reader only understands what actually happened at the end of the book.

The story changes point of view by person, and there are four characters: Allison, Brynn, Charm, and Claire. Allison and Brynn are the two sisters who hold the secrets of what happened that night. Charm and Claire are somehow caught in the story, but how is not revealed until a little further in. The changing point of view was confusing at the beginning of the story, but as it continued, there was value in each person's point of view.

The ending of the book had a bit of a twist that I appreciated. The events of the night in question are not as the reader is led to believe the entire time, so the ending comes as a bit of a shock. The story is made even more tragic once the full truth is revealed.

I recommend this book for those who can separate themselves from the main topic. It is a hard thing to read about, but the story is such a good one. Character development is well done and there's a certain level of suspense that is maintained throughout the story that kept me turning pages. I do plan to read other books by this author.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Woody Guthrie, Gunsmoke and Me Book Review

Woody Guthrie, Gunsmoke and Me by Shirley Bracken

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Welcome to my hometown, Okemah, Oklahoma. It's also the hometown of folksinger Woody Guthrie. Woody and I were born in two different generations and it feels like two different towns. Okemah was an oil boomtown for a short time while Woody was growing up, but good things never last. The oil stopped flowing. The dust kept blowing, and Okemah was overran with hustlers and gamblers. In Woody's own words, Okemah was "busted, disgusted and not to be trusted". The Okemah I grew up in was none of these things. Most of the town watched shows like Gunsmoke and admired Marshal Matt Dillon. Children rode their bikes all day with no fear. No one ever locked their doors.

A few things Woody and I did agree on: we both hated tornadoes, the dust and the talk about the the lynching that happened on the North Canadian bridge.

Come with me as I write stories and poems about growing up in Oklahoma. Take a walk through some of Oklahoma's territory.

Review by Brittany:

This book is a collection of short stories and poems that all deal with Okemah, Oklahoma.

My favorite thing about this book is Shirley's voice. Some writers have a really distinctive voice, while others have a more general tone. Shirley is one who has such a strong voice that the reader is pulled in from the very first page. She also knows how to pace the book, interspersing stories and poems that have related themes but keep the book moving along at an appropriate pace.

While Shirley's poems are strong, it is her short stories that really strike a nerve with me. Stories about tornadoes in Oklahoma and experiences that are in no way related to me gave me chills while reading them. She has a way of telling a story that makes it feel personal, even when it isn't. Her own childhood stories and stories about her own son give the book a lighthearted feel, even when other stories are heavy and deal with strong themes.

This book is priced well and is worth the read. It's not often that a local author has such great skill for storytelling that even one who is not from the area finds the book to be so great. I definitely recommend this book!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Distant Hours Book Review

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

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Edie is an only child of respectable if dull parents who, when she was growing up, did little to nurture her natural love of words or mystery.

But now, a letter that should have been delivered fifty years earlier arrives for her mother and sends Edie on a journey into the past. It takes her to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house in Kent, where the Blythe spinsters live and where, she discovers, her mother was billeted as a thirteen-year-old child during World War II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn't been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother's past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst. The truth of what happened in "the distant hours" of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it. Morton pays homage to the classics of gothic fiction, spinning an intricate web of mystery and suspense that will stay with the reader long after the last page.

Review by Brittany:

First of all, what a lovely, well-written book. This is my first by Kate Morton (although I own all of her other books), and I think I made a good first choice. She tells the story always in third person, but she does switch her focus between the characters, which adds a level of depth to the story that does wonders for it.

The present is 1992, when Edie's mother Meredith receives the letter and Edie begins researching and poking into the past. The story bounces between the present, when Edie is learning more about what happened, and the past, the events as they are happening. The way the author went about sharing both the past and the present was interesting, and I enjoyed reading the events the way they happened, but also hearing in the present how things were told. This also added a level of suspense to the story because the narrators of the present are not as reliable as the facts of the past. The time period is one that interests me as I enjoy reading stories about World War II. Although there isn't a lot about the war in this book, there are key elements to this story that would have been different with a different time period.

The blurb does not mention this, but a huge factor in Edie's curiosity about Milderhurst and the Blythe sisters is a childhood book that was written by their father, Raymond Blythe. Edie fell in love with his book The True History of the Mud Man, and that love for the book pushes her to continue in her pursuit of learning more about the past, including the inspiration for the book.

There are so many secrets in this book, some small but some astronomical, and the author reveals everything by the end of the novel. The reader learns about the night Juniper was jilted and why that affected her so tragically, about Meredith's own past, about the origins of the book. We get a piece of it all, to the point where the story is well wrapped up in the end.

That being said, this is not a happy story. The secrets of the past hold tragedies that have altered the lives of the Blythe sisters, and not for the better. This is not a book that leaves you smiling at the end; however, it is a lovely book that tells a fantastic story. I often enjoy the stories that make me sad more than the stories that make me happy, and this one was a very good book. I am looking forward to reading Morton's other books.

Notable quotes:

The stretch of years leaves none unmarked: the blissful sense of youthful invincibility peels away and responsibility brings its weight to bear.

I had a feeling that for someone like my aunt who'd had the good fortune to find herself exactly where she fitted, no explanation would make sense.

There were simpler romantic choices she could have made, suitable men with whom she might have fallen in love, with whom she could have conducted a courtship openly and without risk of exposing her family to derision, but love was not wise, not in Percy's experience: it was unmindful of social structures, cared not for lines of class or propriety or plain good sense. And no matter that she prided herself on her pragmatism; Percy had been no more able to resist its call when it came than to stop herself from drawing breath.

She didn't say as much, though; the force of Juniper's conviction was such that Meredith knew the fault was her own, that her tastes were too juvenile, that she just wasn't trying hard enough.

There are certain people who exude vulnerability, whose pain and discomfort are particularly difficult to witness, and for whom you would endure almost any inconvenience if it promised to ease their suffering.

Nighttime is different. Things are otherwise when the world is black. Insecurities and hurt, anxieties and fears grow teeth at night.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Taken: Celestial Blues Book Review

The Taken: Celestial Blues by Vicki Pettersson

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Griffin Shaw used to be a PI, but that was back when gunshoes hoofed the streets...and he was still alive. Fifty years later, he's an angel, but that doesn't make him a saint. One small mistake has altered fate, and now he's been dumped back into the mortal mudflat to collect another soul - Katherine "Kit" Craig, a journalist whose latest investigation is about to get her clipped.

Bucking heavenly orders, Grif refuses to let the sable-haired siren come to harm. Besides, protecting her offers a chance to solve the mystery of his own unsolved murder - and dole out some overdue payback for the death of his beloved wife, Evie.

Joining forces, Kit and Grif's search for answers leads beyond the blinding lights of the Strip into the dark heart of an evil conspiracy. But a ruthless killer determined to destroy them isn't Grif's biggest threat. His growing attraction to Kit could cost them both their lives, along with the answer to the haunting question of his long afterlife...

Review by Brittany:

One of the things I first noticed about this book was the quirky banter that Grif has with the other characters. I love when dialogue is enjoyable at the same time as doling out the necessary information. He's also kind of a hard character, very much known for his lack of sensitivity, especially considering how close he is to those who are on the edge of death.

The news that Grif is going to have to watch kit die was an intense and surprising opening to the story, and it sets high stakes for the rest of the book.

Parts of the book were surprisingly emotional, like when Kit is dealing with the death of a friend at the beginning of the book. Her grief is made palpable by just a few sentences on the author's part, but it's enough to give her some depth as a character. Even Grif is given some fleeting moments when he shows some sincerity and some heart throughout the book, which is a nice change of pace from him being insensitive and makes him more of a three-dimensional character.

I also enjoyed the slow burn between Kit and Grif. Even though it's made quite obvious that feelings are developed, it's not a plotline that gets immediately jumped into, which is refreshing after reading so many books where the attraction of feelings are immediate.

My one complaint is that I felt like the author took an easy way out, giving the readers a happy ending instead of doing the hard thing and possibly making them sad. The author changes the foundation of what Grif is, and I think it will be interesting to see how that progresses throughout the series.

Overall, I do think this was a really good book that was well-written, and I would be interested in reading more in the series.

Notable quotes:

But how was she to be alone with this grief?

It was odd, Grif thought. He knew what she looked like close to death, close to naked, close to him...yet didn't really know her at all.

What was it about this generation that they needed to be so connected?

But she was exhausted, too. Tired of lukewarm relationships, tired of feeling hope only to be let down.

"That's the human condition, Anne. As long as you're alive, you're dying."

"Being single," she corrected, "is about hope. It's about the future...the person you might meet at Starbucks or online or in the next aisle at the grocery store. But being married is about the past. How you met, what choices you made early on when there were still choices to make."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Postcards from the Heart Book Review

Postcards from the Heart by Ella Griffin

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Life is looking up for Saffy. She has a great job, a gorgeous flat in the most desirable part of Dublin and - after six years - it looks like her boyfriend, Greg, is going to propose. Greg (just voted the 9th most eligible man in Ireland) is on a high, too - he's about to swap his part as a heart-throb in an Irish soap for a break in Hollywood.

His best mate Conor wakes up every morning with Jess, the most beautiful woman on the planet but, even after seven years and two kids, she won't marry him. He spends his days teaching teenagers and his nights writing the book he hopes will change everything, including Jess's mind.

But their happy endings are playing hard to get. It seems everyone's keeping secrets - one night stands, heartbreak, grief and loss are all in the mix. It's going to take some tough questions and even tougher answers before anyone's being honest - even with themselves.

Review by Brittany:

Ella Griffin is not an author I'm familiar with, but I picked up a used copy of her book in a local bookstore because I recognized it as a UK edition and I'm a sucker for UK imports.

The book opens on Valentine's Day, and Saffy is convinced that Greg is going to propose to her. When he doesn't, it throws her life and his into a bit of a tailspin. Meanwhile, Conor and Jess are floating along as they always have. Conor begins working more on his book and dedicating more time to that than he is to anything else.

The middle of the book got a little slow for me. It was during this time that Saffy and Greg were making some bad relationship choices, and things with Jess and Conor felt a bit stagnant. There was enough to the story to keep me reading, but I wasn't dying to find out what would happen next.

The character of Greg was totally obnoxious, which I think was the point. He's the dumb actor trope who messes up common sayings and treats his girlfriend awfully. Throughout the book I kept waiting for Saffy to open her eyes and realize that he was not a good guy for her! Even after the Valentine's Day debacle and the terrible choices they both were making, Saffy was still chasing Greg. The frustration I felt was similar to what I feel with my real friends when they are dating someone who is totally unworthy. Having that frustration made the characters seem more real to me.

The ending of the book surprised me a bit, not necessarily in how things worked out but in the events leading up to the climax. The author went about ending the book in a different way than I expected, which I appreciated.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read. It wasn't quite as good as I had hoped it would be, but I still found it be an interesting book.

Notable quotes:

"Making a child is the most amazing thing you'll ever do but here's the catch, you won't know that till you do it."

Her daughter seemed to have forgiven him, and wasn't that the whole point of marriage? That guarantee that, no matter what happened, you stayed together.

"It's just that I think there's one person for you and if you find that person, well, you know."

She understood the real reason why people had children. Because nobody really dies, not completely, as long as someone, somewhere, is still smiling or raising one eyebrow or shrugging a shoulder the way they used to.

This was what life seemed to come down to, she was beginning to realize. Losing things.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

If He Had Been with Me Book Review

If He Had Been with Me by Laura Nowlin

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If he had been with me everything would have been different...

I wasn't with Finn on that August night. But I should've been. It was raining, of course. And he and Sylvie were arguing as he drove down the slick road. No one ever says what they were arguing about. Other people think it's not important. They do not know there is another story. The story that lurks between the facts. What they do not know - the cause of the argument - is crucial.

So let me tell you...

Review by Brittany:

This book was listed on Amazon as being on sale, and the blurb is what prompted me to buy it. The blurb is actually almost stated verbatim - although more in depth - in the first chapter of the book. This is a YA (Young Adult) novel, so the characters are all teenagers.

The beginning of the book has a bit of an ambiguous timeline, so I felt slightly confused about the order of events from the get-go, although it was easy to catch up after the initial time transition. The writing style of the author was also a little weird for me at first. Her protagonist is a teenage girl, but the writing does not flow in such a way that a teenage girl would be telling a story. But, as the book continued, I could appreciate that more because the writing was more adult and more suited for me as a reader.

That being said, the author is able to get inside a teenager's head and describe life in high school in a way that feels convincing. The protagonist, Autumn, struggles to fit in with friends, appease her parents, please her boyfriend, and still is trying to figure out who she really is. Throw in her complicated relationship with Finn and it's no surprise that she is often overwhelmed.

I could really relate to Autumn because, like me, she is an avid reader and dreams of writing her books one day. She struggles with the practicality of that career but wanting to chase her passion. She also struggles with depression, feeling overwhelmed by life and sad for no reason at all. How strongly I could relate to the character and how well-written the novel was in dealing with the complexities of being a teenager and of high school made this book grab my attention and hold it.

The ending was shocking and strong and was so full of emotion that I could barely stand it. It was a very beautiful ending to a very beautiful, well-written novel. I definitely recommend this book.

Notable quotes:

We move on completely different planes of existence and bringing one into the other's realm would cause a shifting in reality that would upset the entire structure of the universe.

I can see all of this as if it has already happened, as if it was what happened. I know that it is accurate down to the smallest detail, because even with everything that did happen, I still know Finny, and I know what would have happened.

It was the sort of happiness that fools you into thinking that there is still so much more, maybe even enough to laugh forever.

I love him in a way I cannot define, as if my love were an organ within my body that I could not live without yet could not pick out of an anatomy book.

But there is a difference between knowing something and feeling it.

I want to savor this wonder, this happening of loving a book and reading it for the first time, because the first time is always the best, and I will never read this book for the first time ever again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Day at the Office Book Review

A Day at the Office by Matt Dunn

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Blurb: For most people, Valentine's Day means flowers, chocolates, and candlelit dinners. But for five of Seek Software's employees, it's shaping up to be as much fun as a trip to the dentist.

Long-term singleton Sophie has a crush on colleague Nathan but worries he doesn't even know her name. And is there really any point in her sending a card to the man who organises the annual office Anti-Valentine's party?

Overweight, insecure, and still living with his mum, Calum's desperate for a girlfriend. He's recently met the woman of his dreams online but his exaggerated profile might mean tonight's first date could also be their last.

Mark's been besotted with Julie since she kissed him at the office Christmas party. While she doesn't seem to remember a thing, today might be his best change to remind her. If only he could work out how.

A Day at the Office is a wise, wonderfully moving, and laugh-out-loud novel about life, love, and relationships by bestselling novelist Matt Dunn.

Review by Brittany:

I stumbled across this book during a promotional period when it was a free Kindle download. Matt Dunn is not an author I'm familiar with, but I tend to gravitate toward British authors (I've found they write some of the most lighthearted books) and thought the blurb sounded interesting.

The book had a bit of a slow start as the first chapter basically introduces the five characters (Sophie, Calum, Nathan, Julie, and Mark) and gives a little background of each of them and their particular romantic situations. Once I got past the first chapter, the characters begin interacting with one another and the story begins to pick up.

Nathan's Anti-Valentine's day party is, ironically, a focal point of this Valentine's Day story. Many of the characters are using this event as a way to try to romance one another, although by the end of the book the event loses some of its luster.

The point of view of the novel is always third person, but the author does a really excellent job of still putting the reader inside each character's head. It was really interesting to read what each character was thinking, and - predictably - everyone was getting each other confused on who was interested in who in the office.

One thing I really enjoyed about the book was the banter between characters. There were often times where the characters would interact with one another and there were very slapstick-type jokes throughout. I enjoyed the lightheartedness of the comedy and the easy way the jokes flowed.

The ending is happy, as you might expect, but not in the way you think it will be. It is unpredictable enough to be interesting but you can count on the happy ending.

I found this book to be a cute and quick read, but it's not a book that I think I will reread. It's worth picking up once, but maybe waiting for the price to drop during a promotional period before doing so.

Notable Quotes:

And while at the same time Nathan had fought a wild urge to warn them they might be wasting their time, equally, ironically, he knew that was the only way love had a chance to develop: by wasting your time with someone else who maybe might like to waste theirs with you.

"The rest of anyone's life...It's a long time. I wasn't sure you weren't right for me, but equally, I wasn't sure you were."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Shelter Me Book Review

Shelter Me by Juliette Fay

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Blurb: Four months after her husband's death, Janie LaMarche remains undone by grief and anger. Her mourning is disrupted, however, by the unexpected arrival of a builder with a contract to add a porch onto her house. Stunned, Janie realizes the porch was meant to be a surprise from her husband - now his last gift to her.

As she reluctantly allows construction to begin, Janie clings to the familiar outposts of her sorrow - mothering her two small children with fierce protectiveness, avoiding friends and family, and stewing in a rage she can't release. Yet Janie's self-imposed isolation is breached by a case of unlikely interventionists: her chattering, ipecac-toting aunt; her bossy, over-manicured neighbor; her muffin-bearing cousin; and even Tug, the contractor with a private grief all his own.

As the porch takes shape, Janie discovers that the unknowable terrain of the future is best navigated with the help of others - even those we least expect to call on, much less learn to love.

Review by Brittany:

I picked this book up on sale at a used bookstore, never having heard of the book or author before. I had previously read a book similar to this, one that centered on the grief of becoming a widow, so I knew the topic would interest me.

The anger and grief that Janie feels throughout the entire book is so well written that I felt like I could relate, even though I've never been in Janie's situation before. There were scenes where she would be irrationally angry about things that were going on, and she would recognize how ridiculous she was being and still she couldn't stop herself. One such scene occurs when a fellow mother is late bringing Janie's 5-year-old son back from a playdate. Janie snaps in front of both her son and the other little boy, unloading pounds of anger onto the other mother. Janie's frustrations in this moment may be justified, but her reaction is not, and she is aware of this even as it's happening. The author always manages to make what Janie is feeling clear and relatable, including the times when Janie is appalled by her own behavior.

The characters in this novel are also all well written, including Janie's young children. She has her young son, Dylan, and her baby girl, Carly, who is about 10 months old when the book starts. Babies aren't typically given much personality or very many identifying traits, but the author took care to give some to Carly. Dylan is given scenes where his little boy silliness comes through, but he is also a character who reminds Janie of the value of forgiveness and the joys that still remain in life. There are times when Dylan struggles with understanding what happened to his father, and even those moments feel genuine - thanks to the writing.

The characters of Tug (the carpenter) and Father Jake (the priest at Janie's church) play pivotal roles in Janie's journey of grief. Tug becomes an unusual but close friend, and there are scenes he has with Dylan that are so funny and light - a nice change of pace in such a heavy book. Father Jake is there to help Janie deal with her grief, but the lines of their relationship blur throughout the story as they become more and more dependent on one another.

I loved this book. The author did a fantastic job of writing all of the characters and all of the emotions that each character experiences. I definitely recommend!

Notable quotes:

I can barely stand to feel my own feelings, let alone anyone else's.

I guess everyone wants to spend the day in bed sometimes, she told herself, but when you feel half dead to begin with, it's an urge you really ought to fight. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Immortal Circus Book Review

The Immortal Circus by A. R. Kahler

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Blurb: Murdered contortionists aren't exactly what Vivienne signed up for when she ran away to join the circus. But like most things under the big top, nothing is what it seems. With a past she can't quite remember, Vivienne finds that running away forever might not be as appealing as it once sounded - because forever means something quite different at the Cirque des Immortels.

Aided by her friends Kingston - a feisty stage magician whose magic is quickly stealing her heart - and his sarcastic assistant Melody, Vivienne finds herself racing against the clock to discover the culprit behind a series of deaths that should be impossible. However, the answer she seeks might reveal more about her own bloody past - and future - than she bargains for.

The show's just beginning.

Step right up...

The Immortal Circus is the first book in the Cirque des Immortels trilogy.

Review by Brittany:

Circus stories are interesting to me. I love the idea of magic and tricks and believing in what feels unbelievable. This book interested me because of the magical circus idea that I already love so much. This started out as a Kindle serial (released in parts) and was sold all together once the full story was released.

Vivienne is the main character of the story, which is told from her point of view, and she is ordinary living in a world of extraordinaries. Nothing with this circus is as it seems, and Vivienne learns that continually throughout the story.

The books opens up with the gruesome murder of a contortionist, but the show must go on, even as more murders are committed. The story became one about fey (not a spoiler as this is revealed early on) and two kingdoms are at war. Out of all supernatural characters, the fey tend to be the ones that I like the least, so that didn't appeal to me the way it might appeal to another reader.

One character that did really interest me was Lilith, a little girl who is essentially the right-hand man to the circus ringleader/Queen of the Winter Court, Mab. Throughout the book she is a mystery. Why is she still a little girl when others have been permitted to grow up? Why does she seem to have limited intelligence - or limited ability to verbalize her thoughts - when other characters don't? What is her relationship with the cat, Poe? By the end, some of the answers are provided, but there are still some mysteries circling Lilith.

Vivienne's struggle with her memory and her past adds some needed character depth. While other characters are mostly surface, Vivienne gets some depth in the story. She cannot remember much from before she joined the circus, and even as events are happening she is forgetting them. It is clear something is going on with her memories, but what?

There were some scenes in the book that were a bit gruesome, particularly the murder scenes that are described. There was one scene that was erotic without being graphic, but it was sexual in nature and is something to be aware of.

The ending of the book was well done and had enough of a cliffhanger to leave me intrigued, but not so much that I feel like I have to read the next installment to feel complete. This book could definitely be a standalone if you don't want to invest in a series, but it's also a great first piece to what I'm sure will be an excellent trilogy.

Notable Quotes:

"Which means, my dear servant, that I can no longer protect you from the hands of time."

It's amazing how fast things can fall to shit.

"Human skin is so...suffocating."

Keeping track of all these secrets is going to be impossible.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Place to Call Home Book Review

A Place to Call Home by Carole Matthews

Blurb: Ayesha knows that she must escape from her marriage for the sake of her daughter, Sabina. Slipping away in the dead of the night, they head for London to start a new life.

Hayden, a reclusive pop star, hides himself away in the mansion which he shares with two more damaged souls - Crystal, a professional dancer with a kind heart and Joy, an ill-tempered retiree.

When Ayesha and Sabina land on their doorstep, Hayden reluctantly agrees that they can stay with them too. And, although they're all different people with troubles of their own, they quickly form a loving if unlikely bond. So when their peaceful life is threatened, they do whatever it takes to save each other.

Heart-rending, emotional and uplifting, this is a story of finding love and A Place to Call Home...

Review by Brittany:

I am a huge Carole Matthews fan, so picking up this book was no question for me. Matthews is a UK bestselling author who lives in Milton Keynes, and most of her books are not released in the US, except on Kindle.

This book was a little bit heavier than most of her others. In this one, Matthews battles such topics as death, grieving, domestic abuse, suicide, and crime. Ayesha is a character who has suffered from domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, and slipping out into the night is the only way she can think to save herself and her child, Sabina. Luckily, Sabina has never been abused by her father, although she does show signs of recognizing the trauma her mother has gone through.

The other characters who live in the house - Hayden, Crystal, and Joy - are all well-developed characters who have suffered traumas of their own. I love how Matthews created Crystal to be so big-hearted, but her occupation and her appearance are not what you would immediately think of. She challenges her reader to drop the initial judgement of her character. Joy is an older woman in her seventies who basically just misses her family, and her grumpiness slowly dissolves as the story unfolds. Hayden suffered a loss of his own, the death of his fiancee, and has become almost a hermit. When Ayesha joins the group, she turns things around and each member of this dysfunctional family helps the other to heal.

Matthews always writes stories that end happily and that come together; it is merely a matter of getting there. The one complaint that I had about this book was that Hayden is a type of character that has become a trope - he is an attractive, unbelievable rich man who is so giving that no one in the book really has to worry about money. This has a bit of a false ring to it and is a character that is used often to allow writers to almost be lazy about the money thing. It is a small factor that does not take away from the character of Hayden or his development, but it is something that I see too much of in modern literature.

I would, of course, recommend this book as Matthews only writes winners. It is also a nice relief from the erotica and the emotionally tearing books that have become so popular recently.