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."