Sunday, March 31, 2013

Book Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold

Strands of Bronze and Gold (Strands of Bronze and Gold, #1)Author: Jane Nickerson
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .

When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.

Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.

Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale

We reclined upon the pillows and supped from foods spread on an enormous brass tray. Even the meal was magical. Cakes, so light and airy it seemed they might float away; cubes of pale, creamy cheeses that melted in my mouth; vegetables dipped in spicy sauce; pastel fruit that tasted of sunlight in far lands.

My godfather’s wives had had to deal with him. Since finding their possessions, their personalities had become ever more vivid in my imagination. I could guess how they would have reacted to M. Bernard’s abrupt fits of temper. Tara would have flown into a rage, Victoire would likely have withdrawn, Tatiana would have abased herself, and Adele would have fallen into melancholy. I would handle him better than they had.

There was such a thing as too many paintings composed of graphic scenes from the Old Testament and mythology. There was such a thing as too much grandeur, too much opulence and curlicues and gold leaf. Too many rooms to be the dwelling of one man and, now, one girl.  

It was ridiculously vast and grim and terrifying. I loved it already.

Of course Ducky would report this to M. Bernard. She would betray us.

I was living the nightmare I had dreamed in the orangery, when I knew a ghastly face approached. In it I had cried out to Anne, begging to know if my brothers were yet coming. In the reality no one was coming to help.

I will admit right now before I even start this review, that before reading this novel I had never even heard of the fairytale called Bluebeard. While I was at first saddened by this and almost went to look it up online, I then convinced myself that maybe it would be a good idea to read the book without any knowledge of this tale, and I am so glad that I did it that way. For those of you that know nothing of this fairytale, like me, then you have two options before reading this book: read the fairytale or go in face first like me. I don’t think it would make a difference either way. The story is still rich with culture, intense with mystery, and vibrant with traces of southern culture.

This book tells the story of a young girl, Sophia Petheram, who has recently lost her father and will now go to stay with her godfather, M. Bernard de Cressac in the swamps and plantations of the great southern state of Mississippi. Sophia’s life changes abruptly as she is introduced to this new, lavish lifestyle that awaits her at Wyndriven Abbey. Sophia may not be prepared for the horrifying secrets and the ghastly ghosts that await her behind the great stone walls of the abbey, but will she come out alive or will her fate be just as the other brides of M. de Cressac’s?

Jane Nickerson has an amazing talent for creating a world full of mystery and intrigue. I was immediately pulled into the setting, Deep South Mississippi, maybe because of my own southern fetishes, but needless to say it was riveting and highly inviting. Sophia’s character seemed a little naïve to me at first, maybe because I saw right through M. Bernard’s character, but I started to warm up to her after a few chapters. I loved Sophia’s good nature and her character is easy to follow and become accustomed to. My favorite part was her adjustment to the lavish and luxurious lifestyle that she was not at all used to in her former home.

This book was highly suspenseful and took some unexpected twists and turns. I was not expecting the events that took place at the end of the novel, but I will say that I definitely saw through Monsieur de Cressac. I loved the idea of four previously deceased wives and was on the edge of my seat for the duration of the book because I desperately wanted for the mystery to be solved. I have found a new favorite author in Jane Nickerson and am anxious to get my hands on her next novel!

***A BIG thank you to the publishers at Random House Children’s Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: The Blue Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee

The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeno Society JubileeAuthor: Carolyn Brown
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Bestselling author Carolyn Brown makes her first foray into women's fiction with this poignant and hilarious novel about four friends in Cadillac, Texas—where the best jalapenos in the world are grown.

Everything is calm in Cadillac, Texas until Aunt Agnes declares war on Violet Prescott, the president of the Blue-Ribbon Jalapeno Society, just in time for the annual jubilee. But after the festivities—and the hostilities—are over, it's four friends who are left standing, proving once again that friendship is forever

More than forty years ago Grayson County and Fannin County women were having a heated argument over who could grow the hottest jalapenos in North Texas. Idalou Thomas, over in Fannin County, had won the contest for her jalapeno cornbread and her jalapeno pepper jelly so many years that most people dropped plumb out of the running. But that year, Claudia’s mamma decided to try a little something different, and she watered her pepper plants with the water she used to rinse out her unmentionables. That was the very year Fannin County lost their title in all of the jalapeno categories to Grayson County at the Texas State Fair. They brought home a blue ribbon in every category that had anything to do with growing or cooking with jalapeno peppers. That was also the year that Violet Prescott and several other women formed the Blue Ribbon Jalapeno Society. The next fall, they held their First Annual Blue Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee in Cadillac, Texas.

God didn’t take too kindly to a woman screwing around with another woman’s man. Not even if the woman had been married to him and the “other woman” wasn’t married to him yet. Maybe it was a good thing that Jesus wasn’t riding in a patrol car that night. She’d hate for her friend Trixie to be one of those left behind folks.

Friendship – always and forever priceless.

“Why? Because you can’t count that far without taking off your shoes?”

Women in the South? In some type of society or club? Friends and enemies? Count me in, please! My readers know how crazy I am over stories with alternating viewpoints, especially when those are different women. This book had everything that any Southern Belle would enjoy: catty women, a women’s club based around who could grow the hottest jalapenos, and some fine looking cowboys! I love small towns and I love reading about Texas settings. I have never been to Texas, but I would love to go one day soon. This book is full of humor, friendship, and best of all, some home grown cooking and the hottest jalapenos, and ladies, around!

I absolutely love books like this one. I am talking about books where the characters become actual people in my life. I feel like I know them and want to be their best friends. There are a select few that I would love to slap across the face, Violet Prescott and Anna Ruth in this case, and that is to be expected. This is how you know you have an awesome book. I am still thinking about this group of southern women and the hilarious stories that they have to tell. I became so invested in their lives and the story behind this society, club, or whatever you want to call it. I laughed out loud and even had my fiancé laughing after I read him some of Aunt Agnes’s lines out loud.

How you can form clubs and societies based off of a jalapeno still surprises me, but I think that is why I love it so much. Here we have ladies striving to grow the hottest jalapenos, bake the best jalapeno cornbread, and puree the sweetest jalapeno jelly. This is one of those small details that really have the power to bring people, characters and readers alike, together. I loved the men in this book as well. Well, some of them anyway. Some were lying, cheating scumbags, but that’s to be expected I guess. While reading this book you receive a nice taste of cowboy and some mighty fine jalapeno jelly too! I wouldn’t miss this book for the world if I were you!

***A HUGE thank you to the publishers at Sourcebooks Landmark for my copy of this book, which was given to me in exchange for my honest review***

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: A Most Improper Rumor

A Most Improper Rumor (Whispers of Scandal, #2)Author: Emma Wildes
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Series: Whispers of Scandal # 2

What is society to do when the diamonds of the first water are caught in compromising situations, one after the other? Can the young ladies survive the season with their reputations intact…or will the scandalous whispers surrounding them bring about the ultimate ruination?

Once the toast of the ton, Lady Angelina DeBrooke is no longer known just for her exquisite beauty, but more for her notorious marriages. Dubbed the Dark Angel, she has fallen in love for the first time and wishes to marry, but fears finding herself a widow for the third time. With two poisoned husbands and a cloud of suspicion hanging over her head, she turns to the only man in England who might help her…

Benjamin Wallace, Lord Heathton, isn’t interested in playing detective again, but when Lady DeBrooke approaches him in a quest to clear her name, he finds the challenge irresistible. Her second husband was an old friend, and when he takes a closer look, he catches the scent of a foe he has hunted before—and knows this is his chance to finally trap the elusive prey...

Had anyone discovered she’d created another identify and quietly accumulated a small fortune, she might have hanged. The thought always made her grow cold. It hadn’t been anything more than caution on her part and a bid for some measure of independence, but admittedly, a seemed calculating. As it was, she lived modestly lest anyone inquire as to where the money came from.

Was this love? Of course he was attracted to her, and certainly she was everything a man could want, beautiful, gracious, intelligent, but it was something more. Undefinable. Moving. So precious he feared losing it more than anything in this world.

All her knew was he was truly in trouble because he had no idea how to be in love. And yet it had happened.

Kindred souls. Yes, he thought she was the most glorious lovely woman he’d ever seen, and he desired her beyond rational thought, beyond prosperity, beyond anything he valued in his life; but he also found music in her laugh, a singular enchantment when he looked into her silver eyes, and, most important, peace in her presence, even when they were both silent and absorbed in other tasks.

This is the second book in the Whispers of Scandal series and is best if read after reading the first book. I do not believe that this one can stand alone because many of the events that take place in this book directly follow what readers learned in the first one. In this novel we meet a woman named Angelica DeBrooke who is the most notorious woman around and is commonly known as “Dark Angel.” Both of her husbands have died and what makes this more coincidental is that they died from the exact same causes. Of course she is accused for murder and needs help out of this sticky situation. This isn’t even the half of her problems. She falls in love with a man named Christopher, who would love to marry her, but Angelica cannot bear the thought of his fate being the same as her first two husbands.

I loved that this storyline ties into the storyline from book one and that the main characters from that book reappear in this one. I do not want to spoil anything for anyone so I cannot go any further into details where this is concerned, but I will say that I loved Alicia and Ben and was so thrilled to see them reappear in this story, and to be so involved in helping Angelica solve her case. I also enjoyed the fact that Alicia gets involved in this investigation because I absolutely loved her character. I found it hard to love Angelica’s character and I think that has to do with me just being so in love with Ben and Alicia’s story in book one.

I did enjoy this book and was invested in Christopher and Angelica’s story, just not as much as Ben and Alicia’s. I felt like in this book the details were given to me so plainly and that I didn’t have to work for anything. I wasn’t kept guessing at all. I also hated how Angelica’s beauty was constantly referred to. However, I was pleased with Christopher’s character and his devotion to Angelica. Some of my favorite quotes were when he was describing his love for her and the strong romantic pull that he felt where she was concerned.

I was most happy that Ben and Alicia surfaced in the story and I am just sorry to say that I don’t feel it would have been the same without them.

***A BIG thank you to the publishers at Signet Eclipse for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Review: The Queen Is Dead

The Queen Is Dead (The Immortal Empire, #2)Author: Kate Locke
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Orbit
Series: The Immortal Empire # 2

When her brother Val gets in over his head in an investigation of Half-Blood disappearances and goes missing himself, it's up to Xandra, newly crowned Goblin Queen, to get him back and bring the atrocities to light. Xandra must frequent the seediest parts of London, while also coping with what she is, the political factions vying for her favor, and the all too-close scrutiny of Queen Victoria, who wants her head. Add this to a being a suspect in a murder investigation, a werewolf boyfriend with demands of his own, and a mother hell bent on destroying the monarchy, and Xandra barely knows which way is up. One thing she does know is that she's already lost one sibling, she's not about to lose another.

Xandra Varden is the newly crowned Goblin Queen of England. But her complicated life is by no means over.

There are the political factions vying for her favor, and the all too-close scrutiny of Queen Victoria, who for some reason wants her head. Not to mention her werewolf boyfriend with demands of his own, and a mother hell bent on destroying the monarchy. Now she's the suspect in a murder investigation --- and Xandra barely knows which way is up.

What she does know is that nothing lasts forever---and immortality isn't all it’s cracked up to be.

There was a dead rat nailed to my door.

People looked at me as they passed by. A halvie wasn’t that much of an oddity in these parts, though certainly not commonplace. Unfortunately word had got out, thanks to the rags, that there was a freaky new goblin in town. My photo had been in every paper a couple of months ago, first because of my love life, and then because of the scandal of my genes. I was something of a celebrity, though without the chat show appearances.

There’s more beneath London than old trains, catacombs, plague pits and tunnels. It’s not so much the long-forgotten rooms and caverns that a body need worry about; it’s the things living in them. I once heard that there’s a species of mosquito that is found only in the dank dark beneath my fair city. Some stupid sod actually risked his fool life to go beneath and find the bloody thing.

Churchill’s heart in my hand, warm and still beating. Churchill’s blood on my lips, coating my tongue. Warm sweetness sliding down my throat as my goblins ripped him apart. At least he had stopped screaming.

I have been so invested in this world and in Xandra’s life since reading the first book in this series last summer. I love the Steampunk feel, the bright, red hair, and Xandra’s incredibly independent personality. Before you start reading my review I highly advise you read the first book in this series because there will be spoilers and it will be very difficult to understand and follow if you are not aware of what preceded the events in this second book. With that being said, Xandra is back and better than ever in this book. She is now the queen of the goblins and has just recently lost her sister and best friend. Alas, the trouble is not over for Xandra. In the second installment in this series our beloved Xandra is accused of murder and is focusing on trying not to lose another sibling. The adventure has just begun!

The world building is still phenomenal in the second novel. I would even go as far to say that it is better. We see the goblin’s world and the passages underneath London explained and explored more by Xandra in this book and readers really get an inside look at Xandra’s new life and really see the difference in the mortals and immortals that rule London’s living realm. The class system is still setup and played out as it was before and the politics are growing continually worse.

Xandra’s character is obviously my favorite part about these stories and the rollercoaster ride that readers embark on with her character has been fantastic since page one. Locke’s characterization of major characters is superb and even the smallest details and dialogue gives you a deeper insight into a character like Xandra and her closest friends and relatives.  Xandra is still maintaining the same kick butt mentality that she did in the first novel and this time she has less to lose. I am anxious to read the next book in this series, which is due to release in November of this year.

***A HUGE thank you to the publishers at Orbit for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Litfuse Blog Tour: Grave Consequences

Grave Consequences (Grand Tour Series, #2)Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: David C. Cook
Series: Grand Tour Series # 2

The Powerful, Epic Romance Continues...

For Cora Kensington, the journey of a lifetime takes unexpected twists. And her future—her very life—depends on the decisions she’ll make at each crossroad. As her European tour with her newfound family takes her through Austria, France, and Italy, an unseen enemy trails close behind. Meanwhile, a forbidden love continues to claim her heart, putting everyone’s plans in danger.

And as Cora stays one step ahead of it all, what might need the most protection is her own heart, torn between the dramatic pursuit of a dashing Frenchman and a man who has been quietly staking claim to her affections all along. Love has dangers all its own. She must escape the bonds of the past and discover the faith to make the right choices, as each one has grave consequences.

A shiver of fear ran down my back as I looked to the busy train platform outside my window. It’s only your imagination, Cora. Silently, I counted to thirty, watching businessman shake hands before parting. A young husband tenderly bussed his wife on the cheek as she anxiously wound a handkerchief in her hands. A man caught my eye in passing. He smiled and tipped his hat in my direction and I hurriedly glanced back to my lap. But when I lifted my eyes, the blue eyes of the dapper blond gent inside the train car with me were locked on my once again. He was clearly watching me over the top edge of his newspaper.

Even the memory of his wolfish eyes running over me from head to toe sent a shiver down my back.

‘What? A suffragette diver among us?’ Felix said in wonder, smiling at me. ‘Perhaps you’re more a Kensington that I imagined. Though heaven knows I can’t convince Lil to make the jump now that she’s stared down the executioner’s blade. And Vivian believes it to be the last thing you women should be doing.’

‘But the tour is what we make it, is it not? I want you to feel like you are in these places as they really are. Living them. Touching, smelling, hearing, absorbing them.’

Here we are again, back alongside the Kensington’s and back on tour across Europe. The opening scene starts with a rocky train ride and I knew that this book was going to hit the ground running, and I was right. First I would like to suggest that if you have not read the first book in this series that you do that before picking up a copy of this one. If you do not, you will be incredibly lost. Cora is the exact same character as she was when we left her in the first novel. Finding out that she actually comes from a position of stature and wealth has not changed our ever humble Cora at all, and I love that about her! This book takes us deeper into adventure, adds more suspense, and allows readers to get to know all the many characters they met in the first book a little better.

This book involves a lot of adventure and adds even more suspense than the first book. My only problem with this is that it took too long to get around to it all. As with the first book, which I adored, we are given a substantial amount of background information and really more than enough really. I love and appreciate the historical context greatly, but at certain points I found myself wanting to skip ahead to get to the “good stuff.” However, I will say that Cora and Will’s relationship was explored deeper throughout the novel and it was actually one of my favorite parts. I love both of their characters so much that it made the reading not seem so long and they bridged the gaps in between the suspenseful scenes.

I am a huge fan of Downton Abbey and am constantly reminded of the characters, wealthy lifestyle, and the various settings as I read this series. Part of the joy of being so connected and in love with this series is actually appreciating the historical content and the way the Lisa Bergren delivers it to readers. I become so lost in the descriptions of European delicacies and the brightest and latest fashions that I often have to remind myself of what story I am really reading. The descriptions are so rich and vibrant that you will feel as if you have been on a Grand Tour of Europe the entire time!

***A big thank you the publisher and Liftuse for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Book Review: Starstruck

StarstruckAuthor: Rachel Shukert
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

“Wit, pluck, darkness, pitch perfect period details, juicy twists, and big heart. This book is one to savor.”--Anna Godbersen, New York Times bestselling author of the Luxe and Bright Young Things series

A golden age of glam . . .

Every week they arrive in Los Angeles--beautiful and talented young hopefuls who dream of becoming stars. It's all Margaret Frobisher has ever wanted—and when she's discovered by a powerful agent, she can barely believe her luck. She's more than ready to escape her snobby private school and conservative Pasadena family for a chance to light up the silver screen.

The competition is fierce at Olympus Studios and Margaret—now Margo—is chasing her Hollywood dreams alongside girls like Gabby Preston, who at 16 is already a grizzled show-biz veteran caught between the studio and the ravenous ambition of her ruthless mother, and sultry Amanda Farraday, who seems to have it all--ambition, glamour . . . and dirty secrets. Missing from the pack is Diana Chesterfield, the beautiful actress who mysteriously disappeared, and there are whispers that Diana's boyfriend—Margo's new co-star—may have had something to do with it. Margo quickly learns that fame comes with a price, and that nothing is what it seems.  

Set in Old Hollywood, Starstruck follows the lives of three teen girls as they live, love, and claw their way to the top in a world where being a star is all that matters.

Larry Julius put on his hat. ‘This is Hollywood, kid. Who the hell knows the difference?’

The Dream Factory. Margaret heard the phrase a thousand times, she’d always thought it was one of those hazy terms, like Tinseltown or La-La Land, that movie magazines and gossip rags like to toss around to make it seem as if Hollywood were a land apart, a through-the-looking-glass kind of place where the rules of the real world did not apply. She’d never considered that it might have something to do with the fact that being on the studio lot felt a lot like stepping into a dream.

And yet here she was, just another starstruck eighteen-year-old girl. A girl in love with a boy and the starry vision of herself she saw in his eyes. A girl in love with her dreams, who thought she was willing to give up anything to make them come true.

Olympus Studios was like another world. Set on the side of a hill, it was partially hidden by fat clouds, like some artist's rendering of the mythological home of the Greek gods that was its namesake. Rows of fragrant eucalyptus trees flanked the winding path that led to a tall outer wall of glittering pink stone. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Olympus’s chief rival studio, had a famous slogan: ‘More Stars Than There Are in Heaven.’ Maybe MGM had more stars, Margaret thought, gazing up at the enormous wrought iron gate, worked in an Art Deco motif of moons and shooting stars. But what did it matter when entering the gates of Olympus was like entering the gates of heaven itself?

For those attracted to the glamour and lights of Hollywood, this will be a perfect read for you. We first meet Margaret, who becomes Margo later on, as she sits in a diner near the flashy streets of Hollywood. We soon learn that she is about to be discovered by one of Hollywood’s biggest names, Larry Julius. Margaret’s story turns into a story about three girls who are all trying to make names for themselves while pushing and shoving their way through the Hollywood lights, camera, and definitely a whole lot of action! When the famous Diana Chesterfield turns up missing everyone starts questioning their positions and who they can really trust.

I will be very honest when I say that this book started off a little slow to me. I have always been intrigued with Hollywood and all the publicity, stars, and mysterious stories that surround it; however, when I first started reading I was getting a little tired of the background information and wanted to cut right to the chase. Things did pick up drastically once we find all three girls in the center of the action. Margo’s life was rather mundane at home and I was tired of reading about her life as a schoolgirl. But when she got to Hollywood and was thrown in the lion’s den, the plot certainly became a lot more interesting and the story took some amazing twists and turns.

Two things in this book were done really well. One was a character. Amanda Farraday was my absolute favorite character and I loved rebellious personality and the fact that she came from a horrible background, but rose above it. She was written with this fire and spark that none of the other characters had and I absolutely loved it. Secondly, I loved the mystery behind the missing Diana Chesterfield. I kept relating her story to Marilyn Monroe, in a way, because that is just how I have always viewed Hollywood in the early and middle 1900’s. Her missing character had me on edge and it was one of the driving aspects that made me get through this novel so quickly!

***A HUGE thank you to the publishers at Delacorte Books for Young Readers for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Thursday, March 21, 2013

ARC Book Review: Going Vintage

Going VintageAuthor: Lindsey Leavitt
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s

When Mallory’s boyfriend, Jeremy, cheats on her with an online girlfriend, Mallory decides the best way to de-Jeremy her life is to de-modernize things too. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in1962, Mallory swears off technology and returns to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn’t cheat with computer avatars).

The List:
1. Run for pep club secretary
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
3. Sew a dress for Homecoming
4. Find a steady
5. Do something dangerous

But simple proves to be crazy-complicated, and the details of the past begin to change Mallory’s present. Add in a too-busy grandmother, a sassy sister, and the cute pep-club president–who just happens to be her ex’s cousin–and soon Mallory begins to wonder if going vintage is going too far.

Lists add a number to randomness, give ideas the illusion of order.

You can’t trust a guy showing more cleavage than you.

The only thing worse than personal anguish is when that personal anguish is grotesquely twisted and broadcast in an untrue light.

I tell her. All of it – the making out, the James Taylor, the karate outfit – everything right down to the salsa brand. She’s silent except for a few thoughtful mmms. My voice is monotone the whole time. If I can keep the emotion out of my voice, maybe I can keep it out of my heart. When I’m done with my tear-free report, she lets out a breath and whispers, ‘What a bastard.’

Communicative technology is really just listing, spread out through texts and updates to an assortment of friends, a daily reminder to the virtual universe that I exist.

I have always said that I was meant for a different time, so when I found out about this book and about Mallory I knew that this was a book fit for me. Mallory is a girl that does not fit modern times; she beats to her own drum. Mallory finds out that her longtime boyfriend, Jeremy, has been cheating on her, and to make matters worse she finds out that he has been cheating with an online girlfriend. She comes to the major decision that she needs a life change. She finds an old list of her grandmother’s, when going through some of her old belongings, and is inspired by how simple her life seemed before technology, social networks, and other fetishes of modern times. Mallory takes this idea of simplicity and life before the 21st century, and decides to give it all a try.

One of my favorite aspects of reading Mallory’s story was definitely her relationship with her baby sister, Ginnie. She was funny, smart, and vivacious. Their relationship as sisters was truly inspiring, and for someone like me who has no siblings, it made me desperately want what they had. They shared everything and I absolutely loved the fact that when Mallory had an issue, Ginnie was the first one she turned to. Ginnie was an excellent addition to the story and a wonderful supporting character.

Mallory’s character was of course sensational. I liked the fact that she was not your average girl of the 21st century, even before her breakup with Jeremy. I loved the “going vintage” part of the novel, but I wanted to like it the best. Instead I found myself wanting more in this area. I also loved the fact that Mallory was crazy obsessed with making lists because so I am. This small detail added so much depth to her character.

This story was light-hearted and very delightful. I am looking forward to more from Lindsey Leavitt and to recommending this wonderful story to all my close friends!

***Thank you to the publishers at Bloomsbury Children’s for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Review: Poison

PoisonAuthor: Bridget Zinn
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

“Out the door and into the forest she ran. She found her satchel where she had hidden it in the weeds, and slung it over her shoulder. At the edge of the forest she couldn’t help but look back one last time at the home of the Master Trio of Potioners. It was run-down and seedy, yes, but it had been her home – where she’d made a name for herself, fallen in love with the wrong man, and betrayed everyone she’d ever known. Back before she’d tried to murder the princess.” – Finished Copy pg. 11

“Kyra looked down at the little creature. It had perked up at the sound of their voices and lifted its head to look at them I what Kyra could only describe as a hopeful way. It wasn’t that she’d never heard of Katzenheim pigs, but more as the punch line to a joke than as an actual practical means to finding someone. The idea of trusting her mission to a pig seemed borderline insane. Before Kyra could open her mouth to protest, Arlo had placed the pig’s leash in her hand and started down the hall.” Finished Copy pg. 33

“‘That is what this is for.’ He pulled a tiny basket down from a shelf. ‘You put an object belonging to the person into the basket, put it around the pig’s neck, and you’ll have no problem finding whomever you’re looking for.’” – Finished Copy pg. 34

“Kyra had had quite enough of handsome men to last her a lifetime.” – Finished Copy pg. 45

When I started reading this book I just came back from the movie theater after watching Oz the Great and Powerful. I was instantly drawn in by the beautiful imagery on the front cover and was reminded of some of the scenes from the movie. I didn’t notice the piglet on the front cover the first time I picked up the book, I know I am awful, but it soon became my favorite part. This story follows Kyra who may or may not be a villain and who recently tried to assassinate her best friend. I know what you’re thinking, how is the good guy supposedly the bad guy? But trust me reading Kyra’s story and finding out all about her life as a potions master is well worth the suspense. The book goes somewhat backwards as we pick up after Kyra has first tried to kill her best friend and the princess, then we learn how it all started as we progress onward!

From the pig, to the princess, to the potioner this book is filled with tons of loveable characters. The best part was getting to meet everyone that crossed paths with Kyra on her journey. The piglet, Rosie, absolutely makes this story. I must have a pet pig now, and it must be just like Rosie. Then we have Fred, a wonderful secondary character and addition to Kyra’s journey, who is humorous and maybe a tad arrogant. I have also said that it is the tiniest of details that makes a story what it really is, and here again I am given supreme evidence of that. Bridget Zinn must have had a vibrant imagination because it definitely shows within her world building and these uncanny characters she creates!

Kyra was still my favorite character of them all. Her story intrigued me from the start and maybe that was because I couldn’t quite figure out if she was the villain or the hero. In the end I had a definite answer and developed a love for characters like Kyra. She harbored a somewhat hard exterior and lived her life on the edge. We meet her ex-boyfriend at some point in the story, and let me just say that I didn’t see Kyra as the dating type; I was wrong. I loved the fact that Zinn didn’t give us Kyra’s entire life story upfront, but she made us work for it. It was well worth the wait, Bridget. Job well done!

Lastly, I just recently learned that Bridget Zinn is no longer with us. I don’t think this has ever happened to me while I have been blogging. I feel very privileged to have read this book, knowing it was her dream and her debut. I hope that you can access Blogger in Heaven Ms. Zinn because you have tons of fans who have greatly enjoyed your first piece of literature!

***A HUGE thank you to the publishers at Disney Hyperion for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Book Review: A Bloom In Winter

A Bloom in Winter (Summerset Abbey, #2)Author: T.J. Brown
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Gallery Books
Series: Summerset Abbey # 2

The highly anticipated second installment in the Summerset Abbey series, which picks up just after the climatic conclusion of book one. After Prudence’s desperate marriage and move to Devonshire, sisters Rowena and Victoria fear they have lost their beloved friend forever. Guilt-ridden and remorseful, Rowena seeks comfort from a daring flyboy and embraces the most dangerous activity the world has ever seen, and Victoria defies her family and her illness to make her own dream occupation as a botanist come true. As England and the world step closer to conflict, the two young women flout their family, their upbringing, and their heritage to seize a modern future of their own making.

“On the long journey home, Rowena puzzled over the conversation she and Sebastian had in the garden. Had he harbored feelings for Pru? Maybe But now that Prudence had married, it didn’t really matter, did it?” – Finished Copy pg. 23

“Mr. Herbert cleared his throat. ‘I will speak plainly, Miss Buxton, if that is indeed your name, so there will be no further doubt. There is no room for women in the sciences, my dear young lady, except perhaps as a help to their husbands. Women just are not suited for such work. Their brains are not made for it. And quite frankly, it will be a cold day before The Botanist’s Quarterly accepts the contributions of a woman over those of a man who may be a husband and a father needing to earn money to take care of his family. I don’t wish to be cruel, but that is the truth.’” – Finished Copy pg. 65

“‘Thank you, Sebastian. You’re a very nice man, do you know that? I think Prudence was a fool.’” – Finished Copy pg. 101

"Martha tilted her head sideways and regarded Victoria, ‘We have two organizations because many women are afraid to do the real work of the cause. The Suffragettes for Female Equality is the main organization. The Women’s Equality League is the more exclusive, lesser-known group. It’s for those workers who have proven their loyalty and bravery. I suppose if you’re to work for us, you’re going to have to know.’” – Finished Copy pg. 111

"Rowena tilted her head back and looked at the stars in the winter sky. ‘Yes. Soon I’ll be able to fly in the sky all by myself.’ She smiled. ‘I can’t wait for that day.’” – Finished Copy pg. 126

This amazing series continues with another brilliant installment. At the end of Summerset Abbey, Prudence was married off and left town leaving Rowena and Victoria still under the care of their Aunt Charlotte. The girls face many more challenges in this book, just as they did in the first and we explore feminist action and rights once again. This book picks up right where the last one left off, and I was so happy for this. I thought I was going to die after finishing the first book in this series because I couldn’t stand to be left in the dark as to what was going to happen to each of the girls of Summerset. This is a series that can really appeal to adult readers and those that enjoy young adult as well. The writing and pace are consistent throughout both books and the characters are easy to fall in love with!

We see all three young ladies again in this novel, just not at the same place this time. I felt just as sad and lonely as Victoria and Rowena at the thought of Prudence not being around. I was happy to find out that we do see Prudence in this book and are aware of what is going on in her life as well. The book concentrates on all three of them, just like before, but really gears towards what is going to happen with Rowena and Victoria next, or at least that’s how I felt. Rowena and Victoria are both very ambitious and extremely courageous, especially for women of their time. Victoria is still trying to pursue the career of botany, just like her father, and Rowena longs to fly across the sky all on her own. Being a feminist myself, these books really speak to me. I am reading about brave and highly capable women who weren’t allowed a say in their time, no matter how much money they had. In this book, Victoria pursues a Women’s Suffragette Society. I was stuck to those particular pages like glue.

Now for my favorite character: Sebastian. I have loved Sebastian since he first loved Prudence! He returns in the second installment and is just as divine and as handsome as he was before. He still harbors feelings for Prudence in this story, even though she is already married. I was so drawn to his character in the first novel and wanted so desperately for him and Prudence to end up together. He interacts more with Rowena in this second installment and I will leave it up to you to find out if anything transpires there?! There is some more romance in this novel and it is just as heated and as secretive as it was before!

This is a series that will forever sit on my shelf and is definitely one that I could see myself reading over and over again!

***A HUGE thank you to the publishers at Gallery Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Book Review: Star Crossed

Star Crossed (Stargazer, #1)Author: Jennifer Echols
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Pocket Books
Series: Stargazer # 1

Wendy Mann loves her job rescuing celebrities from public relations scrapes. She grew up with nothing, and now she’s drawn to glitz, glamour, and a lighthearted lifestyle. She speaks her mind, so she’s just the tough cookie to tell stars the truth about how other people see them, even when they don’t want to hear it. But after six years at the top of her game, Wendy crosses the line. A star she was sent to save rebels against her and nearly gets her fired. To salvage her job, she must rehabilitate the career of a singing starlet with a penchant for posting inappropriate photos of herself and arguing online with her famous ex. Problem is, the ex is represented by Wendy’s arch nemesis from college, the hot and haughty Daniel Blackstone. And both stars are scheduled for a collision course on national television, broadcast live from Las Vegas.

Daniel’s uneasy when he hears Wendy Mann from his firm’s most hated competitor has been brought in to revive the career of his client’s ex-girlfriend. Daniel must win at any cost. And if he has to seduce Wendy to smooth the way to their partnership, he’s willing to sacrifice himself for the cause. But Daniel doesn’t count on the scorching heat between them—and when they get to Vegas, all bets are off.

“‘Maybe that won’t happen,’ Wendy said. ‘Send me. I’ll meet this pretty delinquent with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. Maybe I’ll even straighten her out, and in that case, I want a raise and a promotion.’” – Finished Copy pg. 16

“‘The Blackstone Firm?’ Wendy exclaimed. ‘I have to rep Lorelei Vogel, I have to make her like me while I do it, and I have to extricate her from an Internet brouhaha with my ex-boyfriend’s doppelganger, who’s now a Blackstone Firm client? The only way that could get any worse is if Daniel Blackstone is the rep.’” – Finished Copy pg. 37

“As Wendy walked away from Daniel’s table, she started to get that sinking feeling, with mountains looming over her. She knew she had no filter. She had very good instincts about what made other people tick, and very bad ones about what made herself tick, or how far she could take her natural inclination to tease, like stopping on her walk to elementary school and poking an ant bed with a stick. It was only afterward, as she was retreating from an encounter, that she realized she’d made a mistake.” – Finished Copy pg. 77

“However, with Daniel standing so close to her, impeccably dressed, dark eyes casually roving across the dancers in front of them like he owned the place, her sense of humor failed her. She felt like she was in ninth grade and a hot senior stood next to her in the lunchroom line. Between arms and legs flailing in the strobe lights, she spotted Colton staring at them, and she went cold in the sweaty room. Now was the time to look like she was flirting with Daniel, now now now, and her brain was a blank. She did the next best thing. She put her hand down by her side, slightly behind Daniel. Then she brought her hand closer to him, closer.” – Finished Copy pg. 89

Jennifer Echols is one of my favorite young adult authors, so there was no doubt in my mind when her debut adult fiction novel was released. The last book I read by Echols, Such A Rush, left me speechless. I loved the writing and the character development that Echols is so unbelievably great at creating. Echols brings all the same elements used in her young adult literature to the table here, except she spices things up a bit! This story follows Wendy Mann as she is on the verge of losing her career and on the edge of a spicy, hot romance waiting to happen. Did I mention this story takes place in Vegas?

I can’t remember the last time that I read a book with a setting in Las Vegas, but I absolutely loved it in this story. This is also the perfect setting because of the relationship between the leading characters, Wendy and Daniel. What happens in Vegas is never predictable and neither is the scandalous relationship between Wendy and Daniel. Echols throws in a few twists and turns just to make things more suspenseful and keep her readers guessing.

At first I wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy this book when compared to Echols’ many young adult novels. I found comfort in Wendy, the main character, because she shares some of the same characteristics that I have admired in many of her other leading ladies. Wendy is a strong, confident woman who comes to a shaking and trying time in her life. I loved seeing her grow and watching her unwind in Sin City. I am so looking forward to the next book in this series, which is due to be released in the fall.

***A BIG thank you to the publishers at Pocket Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***