Sunday, June 30, 2013

Book Review: Weather Witch

Weather WitchAuthor: Shannon Delany
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Series: Weather Witch # 1

In a vastly different and darker Philadelphia of 1844, steam power has been repressed, war threatens from deep, dark waters, and one young lady of high social standing is expecting a surprise at her seventeenth birthday party–but certainly not the one she gets!

Jordan Astraea, who has lived out all of her life in Philadelphia’s most exclusive neighborhood, is preparing to celebrate her birthday with friends, family and all the extravagance they might muster. The young man who is most often her dashing companion, Rowen Burchette, has told her a surprise awaits her and her best friend, Catrina Hollindale, wouldn’t miss this night for all the world!

But storm clouds are gathering and threatening to do far more than dampen her party plans because someone in the Astraea household has committed the greatest of social sins by Harboring a Weather Witch.

“Perfection, like beauty, must be worked at in order to be obtained. You do not work as hard as you should.”

Catrina had once remarked that a beautiful lady could never have too many mirrors.

Promising herself to Rowen was only a gain to him. And a misstep could be dangerous to rank – a badly planned marriage, a social faux pas, magick discovered in one’s heritage…many things could send a family hurtling toward ruin. But magick – it was the worst – it was a nearly inescapable taint and the only thing that did more than ruin a family’s reputation. Magick was even worse than being a Catholic in Philadelphia.

“Should not all angels sparkly beyond mortal means? If Jordan judges her to be angelic, I second the notion, for there is no lady here closer to heavenly than our own Jordan Astraea.”

Jordan Astraea is about to turn seventeen and is surrounded by her best friends and family on the evening of her huge birthday celebration. She has been told many times how important her rank and beauty are to her life and social standing in society. Rowen, the boy who has had her heart since her earlier years, is below her rank but Jordan cannot bear to think about parting with him just yet. Catrina, Jordan’s so called best friend, reminds Jordan just who she is and where she comes from often enough. In the society that these girls live in, rank is everything, and if you do not come from a formidable rank then you have nothing. This is why everyone is surprised when on Jordan’s seventeenth birthday she is called out as a weather witch, the lowest rank there is. Jordan and her family know this must be a misunderstanding or just an outright lie because no one in her family has ever shown any signs of witchcraft. Jordan’s entire life and existence comes crashing down right before her eyes as she is whisked away from her family and those she loves.

I was greatly impressed with the society that Delany presents to us in her new novel/series. The idea of a weather witch was phenomenal and highly intriguing, especially to someone like me who loves witches and the supernatural. The only problem that I had with this book was the fact that the world building was so large and important that I felt like I was in information overload. Sometimes while reading I found myself confused as to what Delany was referring to. For example, when Jordan first states that she is Fifth of the Nine, I thought maybe this had something to do with being a witch, but I later found out that this refers to rank. This all eventually came together as I read on, but I would have liked to been informed of everything up front.

I loved Rowen’s character as well as Jordan’s character. I was somewhat eerie at first regarding Jordan, mainly because I thought she would be just like her spoiled friend Catrina, but I was surprisingly shocked at how she turned out. I knew that Jordan had a good heart whenever she was questioning her relationship with Rowen. She knew that rank was important, but she couldn’t bear the thought of hurting him. Catrina was an exceptional character as well, even though I did not care for her. However, I think this was the point in this story. Delany can write cunning, mischievous, and brats, and she can write them well! And trust me that is a compliment!


***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at St. Martin’s Griffin in exchange for my honest review***

Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Review: The She-Hulk Diaries

The She-Hulk DiariesAuthor: Marta Acosta
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Publisher: Hyperion


CURRENT STATUS: No job, no boyfriend, no permanent place to live, no car, and most of my clothes are held together with staples and duct tape. Bank account almost wiped out. Many of my former associates have expressed a desire that I never darken their doorways again for legal and financial reasons.

She-Hulk got us got us kicked out of the Avengers Mansion. People keep posting videos online of her New Year's Eve shenanigans: twirling, flaming telephone poles in Times Square, climbing the Empire State Building while dangling Anderson Cooper...

Saying there are two sides to Jennifer Walters's personality is an understatement. When she hasn't morphed into a 650-pound, crime-fighting, hard-partying superhero, she's a single lawyer trying to get her act together. Hilarious and action-packed, The She-Hulk Diaries tells her story, as she juggles her intense legal career by day with battling villains and saving the world by night. Maybe bad guys will stop trying to destroy the planet so she can have a real social life and even meet a guy who isn't trying to take over the universe.

The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that you’re expected to make tectonic lifestyle changes immediately after the holidays, when your brain is lumpy and dried out as a slice of fruitcake that someone shoved under the sofa.

Well, Shulky had hung the drapes and she always changed the lightbulbs without complaining. She kills scary spiders in corners. She only eats out, so she never leaves dirty dishes. Frequently, she brings back bottles of expensive wine, which are useful as hostess gifts, and she always passes to movie previews. I didn’t feel so irked as I organized her collection of BeDazzled booty shorts.

“Confident men do not denigrate women,” I said. “Cease abusing my client or I shall seek redress.”

Superheroes have a different dress code, too. Shulky’s PVC, Lycra, leather, sequined, and studded ensembles crammed the guest closets. She always dumps her clothes on the floor, expecting me to put away her thigh-high boots, spangled bikini bottoms, and chain-mail bras. One of her halter tops had something gross and sticky on it. I threw it away and scrubbed my hands with hot water and antibacterial soap.

This book was an awesome escape from the types of stories that I normally read. Here we have Jennifer Walters, aka “She-Hulk”, and her life has just taken a turn for the worst as she realizes she has no job, no boyfriend, no permanent place of residence, and a sad excuse for a social life. The book is written, as the title suggests, in the format of Jen’s diary and her epic personality and sassiness comes out through her daily entries. The book starts on January 1, the start of a New Year, and Jen has decided to make some New Year’s Resolutions, except these resolutions will begin on February 14! She decides to turn her life around. Little does she know, her superhuman side has far better plans!

Jennifer Walters does not refer to the She-Hulk, or Shulky, as a part of herself, but rather as a friend that walks in and out of her life unknowingly. I knew little about her character, but thought that Marta Acosta did a wonderful job of exploring what Jennifer Walters might really be like, apart from She-Hulk. Jen was full of surprises and I loved her quirky, funny personality which often filled the pages with humor and sarcastic happenings. I also loved the diary format and I contribute my strong like of Jennifer’s character to the format in which the book was written. There were things crossed out and tons of lists made my Jen. The pages of this book, otherwise known as Jen’s diary, gave me an inside look into Jen’s head that I don’t think I would have received otherwise.

I must admit that I do not know that much about the Marvel universe, but this book has helped build my intrigue to find out more. I only know what I have seen in movies and on television. To be honest with you, I had no idea that the She-Hulk was even a character before I read this book. I thought Marta did a fantastic job of connecting this book to the Marvel realm, while still giving Jennifer Walters her own voice. There were several mentions of some pretty awesome Marvel heroes that we all know and love, and this only helped build my wonder to learn more about Marvel! I really wanted to read a comic book by the time I had finished the book!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Hyperion in exchange for my honest review***

Book Review: Beautiful Day

Beautiful DayAuthor: Elin Hilderbrand
Publication Date: June 15, 2013
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books

A summer wedding stirs up trouble on both sides of the family in this new novel from bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand.

The Carmichaels and Grahams have gathered on Nantucket for a wedding. Plans are being made according to the wishes of the bride's late mother, who left behind The Notebook: specific instructions for every detail of her youngest daughter's future nuptials. Everything should be falling into place for the beautiful event--but in reality, things are far from perfect.

While the couple-to-be are quite happy, their loved ones find their own lives crumbling. In the days leading up to the wedding, love will be questioned, scandals will arise, and hearts will be broken and healed. Elin Hilderbrand takes readers on a touching journey in BEAUTIFUL DAY--into the heart of marriage, what it means to be faithful, and how we choose to honor our commitments.

I wish for you a beautiful day, Jenna, my darling. You alone will make it so.

The wedding was taking on a life of its own. It was the damnedest thing. A person could plan for months down to the tiniest detail, a person could hire someone like Roger and have a set of written blueprints such as their mother had left – and still things would go wrong. Still the unexpected would happen.

Jenna accepted the Notebook graciously, then hugged it to her chest.

It was only as Margot got out of the car and took in the staging for the wedding that she appreciated what a very special day tomorrow would be. She and Jenna had been talking about the backyard wedding for over a year, but that didn’t prepare Margot for the excitement she felt now.

Elin Hilderbrand seems to be everyone’s go to summer read, including me! I know I was thrilled to death when I realized that she had a new book coming out this summer. It seems that I have been finding a lot of wedding reads here lately, and this is awesome because I am actually planning my own wedding right now. This book tells the story of Jennifer Carmichael and her entire wedding party/family as they prepare for her Nantucket wedding to Stuart Graham. Jenna’s mother, Beth, passed away seven years prior to the wedding and in her absence left behind a notebook for Jenna that details each of every part of her wedding. Jenna carries the notebook and follows almost every piece of advice that her mother gives for her big day. Most importantly, Beth wished for Jenna to have a beautiful day!

I am a sucker for any book about a wedding, and it doesn’t just have to do with the fact that I am planning my own. Hearing the wedding details and seeing all play out before my eyes is always a nice treat! This wedding takes place in Nantucket and everything comes together so nicely off the pages, just like a dream. The story is told from many different perspectives, except Jenna’s which I would have like to see, including her sister Margot and her father, Doug. Margot was my favorite voice. She really did love and care for her sister, but her own life was unraveling before her eyes, so it was hard for her to focus on the wedding. However, she came through as an exquisite maid of honor for Jenna.

My favorite part was, of course, reading the snippets from the notebook left behind by Jenna’s mother, Beth. I have read a few reviews where people say that they can’t believe that Jenna followed everything her mother wanted for the wedding, but I believe if you had lost your mother before your wedding you might want to honor her in this way. I thought the detail from the notebook was a nice touch, and it just set this book apart from so many other typical wedding stories. Beth was a fun and loveable person. I wish she had been alive to share in Jenna’s day!

Like I mentioned before, the only sad thing for me was not really hearing a lot from Jenna. However, that is not enough reason for me to knock it down a cupcake. This book was touching and completely inspiring as I look towards my own wedding!

***An ARC copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Reagan Arthur Books in exchange for my honest review***

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Review: The Queen's Rivals

The Queen's RivalsAuthor: Brandy Purdy
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Kensington

Their ambitions were ordinary, but they were born too close to the throne...

As cousins of history's most tempestuous queens, Ladies Jane, Katherine, and Mary Grey were born in an age when all of London lived beneath the Tower's menacing shadow. Tyrannized by Bloody Mary and the Virgin Queen, the sisters feared love was unthinkable —and the scaffold all but unavoidable...

Raised to fear her royal blood and what it might lead men to do in her name, Mary Grey dreads what will become of herself and her elder sisters under the reigns of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I. On their honor, they have no designs on the crown, yet are condemned to solitude, forbidden to wed. Though Mary, accustomed to dwelling in the shadows, the subject of whispers, may never catch the eye of a gentleman, her beautiful and brilliant sisters long for freedoms that would surely cost their lives. And so, wizened for her years, Mary can only hope for divine providence amid a bleak present and a future at the whim of the throne — unless destiny gains the upper hand.

A gripping and bittersweet tale of broken families and broken hearts, courage and conviction, The Queen's Rivals recounts an astonishing chapter in the hard-won battle for the Tudor throne.

Only a fool believes in Forever.

Kate and I were unable to conceal or curtail our excitement, bobbing up and down on our toes and fidgeting enough to provoke some sharp words from our lady-mother, until at last we mounted our ponies and rode out with glad hearts, reveling in the warm softness of our winter furs, gold-fringed and embroidered leather gloves, and new velvet riding habits – cinnamon for Kate and black cherry for me.

But Jane had to soldier along bravely, pretending nothing was wrong, hiding her head, and her sorrow, in her books, letting time pass and her heart heal, forcing herself to forget that love for a mortal man had ever dared trespass on that sacred ground where there was room for only God and learning.

This book tells the story of the Grey sisters – Jane, Katherine, and Mary – whom I did not know that much about until after reading. Of course, I did know more about Jane than Katherine and Mary. This story is told from Mary’s perspective because she is the youngest sister and lives the longest. Mary isn’t as attractive or well-liked as her sisters and I loved Purdy’s take on her as a character. This story follows the three sisters up to Jane’s wedding and their lives as royals along with their family ties, marriages, and sudden twists and turns that will have you wanting to know more about the women that were the Grey sisters!

I thought Mary’s voice was perfect for this book. As I said before, Mary was not as praised and admired as her sisters were and she often mentions praying and wishing to be more beautiful like them. Mary does adore her sisters, however, and I think that Jane and Katherine were painted beautifully through her eyes. Mary has such a good heart and her positive spirit always shines through even when she and her sisters or her family in general are going through a rough period politically, socially, or even emotionally. She was a great lead and I enjoyed learning more about the Grey sister that seems to be swept under the rug often times.

Lady Jane Grey seems to be just an incredible bad word! At the beginning of the book she seems like such a prude, but we find out more about Jane as we get deeper into life with the Grey’s. She is the oldest sister, so most of what happens throughout the book happens to her first. She gets married and assumes her own household. However, what intrigued me the most about Jane was her desire to follow God and better her education. At first this was all she cared about. She didn’t want anything to do with being in love, and I enjoyed reading how confident she was in her beliefs. She was definitely a strong-willed woman.

The one thing that I did not enjoy about this book was the fact that some scenes were vulgar and graphic. Mary leaves out no detail when it comes to sharing the drunken state of her parents and their friends as they party into the wee hours of the morning. And the list of events Mary describes just goes on and one. I completely understand that this was part of the author’s tactic, but I could have done without it.

I did enjoy the book and I did enjoying traveling back through history, especially at a time like this one!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Kensington in exchange for my honest review***

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Review: Over You

Over YouAuthor: Amy Reed
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse

Max would follow Sadie anywhere, so when Sadie decides to ditch her problems and escape to Nebraska for the summer, it’s only natural for Max to go along. She is Sadie’s confidante, her protector, and her best friend. This summer will be all about them. This summer will be perfect.

But that’s before they meet Dylan.

Dylan is dangerous and intoxicating, and he awakens something in Max that she never knew existed. No matter how much she wants to, she can’t back away.

But Sadie has her own intensity, and has never allowed Max to become close with anyone else. And Max doesn’t know who she is without Sadie.

There are some problems you just can’t escape.

Sadie, tonight is full of so much heartbreak, and you don’t even know it. And I will not tell you. It is my job to hold it for both of us.

You’re bored. Of course you’re bored. You get bored in Seattle, how could I expect a farm to entertain you? It’s been four days, and already you’re talking about stealing Doff’s truck and driving until we find a city.

It is times like these when I’m struck dumb by your beauty and simultaneously surprised that I have never once felt the slightest attraction to you. I have wanted to kiss lots of girls, and you are by far the most beautiful girl I’ve ever known, but I have never wanted to kiss you. Maybe it’s because you’re less a girl and more like something else, something that straddles the worlds of light and dark, something only half there, something half untouchable.

Sadie, maybe this story isn’t about you anymore.

Amy Reed is one of my favorite authors, and I am always intrigued to pick up one of her books just to see what she is going to throw out at readers next. Her writing is different and usually has some sort of mad twist to it. This book was, however, not one of my favorites. I did give it 3 cupcakes, but I really had higher hopes for this book. This book centers on the friendship of two girls, Max and Sadie. Max is obsessed with Sadie, which completely took me by surprise at first, and Sadie is just somewhat of an emotional mess. This book is not going to be something that suits the taste of everyone. I have to tell you now because I am dying to, the book starts off in second person saying “you” A LOT! This took some getting used, and I usually do not care for this in books at all. I can count on my hand the number of books that I have read and enjoyed that use second person.

The reason that I did enjoy this book is because it made me look at relationships a little bit differently. We all know that romantic relationships can sometimes be toxic, but this book gives readers a look at a friendship that is more toxic that any I have read about in the past. Max and Sadie, in my opinion, do not have a healthy relationship. This could be because Sadie is about as awful as they come and I hated her, but I think that was the point in Reed’s writing this story. Sadie was spoiled and completely self-centered and I hated the way that she treated Max. If you want to feel good about the friendships or relationships in your life, try reading this book.

At first I saw Max as pitiful. She just did whatever Sadie wanted her to. She even followed her out to Nebraska for the entire summer. Max is always getting stepped on, and usually by Sadie. Both girls have personal issues that they are trying to move past, but it felt to me like all the problems in Max’s life get swept under the rug whenever Sadie decides to have a breakdown or decides that she needs Max’s complete undivided attention. I wanted to grab Max out of the pages at times and strangle her, and I haven’t felt that way towards a character in a while. I am very adamant in my day to day life about standing up for yourself and loving who you are. Do not make your happiness dependent upon anyone else, Max!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Simon Pulse in exchange for my honest review***

Book Review: The Heist

The Heist (O'Hare and Fox #1)
Author: Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Publisher: Bantam

From Janet Evanovich, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum novels, and Lee Goldberg, bestselling author and television writer for Monk, comes the first adventure in an electrifying new series featuring an FBI agent who always gets her man, and a fearless con artist who lives for the chase.
FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare is known for her fierce dedication and discipline on the job, chasing down the world’s most wanted criminals and putting them behind bars. Her boss thinks she is tenacious and ambitious; her friends think she is tough, stubborn, and maybe even a bit obsessed. And while Kate has made quite a name for herself for the past five years the only name she’s cared about is Nicolas Fox—an international crook she wants in more ways than one.             

Audacious, handsome, and dangerously charming, Nicolas Fox is a natural con man, notorious for running elaborate scams on very high-profile people. At first he did it for the money. Now he does it for the thrill. He knows that the FBI has been hot on his trail—particularly Kate O’Hare, who has been watching his every move. For Nick, there’s no greater rush than being pursued by a beautiful woman . . . even one who aims to lock him up. But just when it seems that Nicolas Fox has been captured for good, he pulls off his greatest con of all: He convinces the FBI to offer him a job, working side by side with Special Agent Kate O’Hare.

Problem is, teaming up to stop a corrupt investment banker who’s hiding on a private island in Indonesia is going to test O’Hare’s patience and Fox’s skill. Not to mention the skills of their ragtag team made up of flamboyant actors, wanted wheelmen, and Kate’s dad. High-speed chases, pirates, and Toblerone bars are all in a day’s work . . . if O’Hare and Fox don’t kill each other first.

“Don’t!” she yelled, launching herself at him, hoping to take him down with a flying tackle before he could make a suicidal mistake. Too late. She missed him by inches, and hit the concrete hard just as Nick leapt off the building toward the hovering chopper. Her heart stopped for a couple beats while he was in midair, and resumed beating when he latched on to the helicopter’s landing skid. He held on with one hand, blew her a kiss, and the chopper veered off toward the Las Vegas Strip.

Kate stared glumly at her reflection in the mirror and started to take off her Kevlar vest. And that’s when she noticed it. She didn’t believe it at first, and had to look over her shoulder to confirm it, but there it was: a Toblerone bar on her pillow.

Kate O’Hare’s favorite outfit was her blue windbreaker with letter FBI written on the back, worn over a basic black T-shirt and matching Kevlar vest. The ensemble went well with everything, particularly when paired with jeans and accessorized with a Glock.

FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare is obsessed with catching the elusive con man, Nick Fox. Evanovich definitely put her own unique touch on this novel, along with the help of Lee Goldberg. The action is jam-packed, per usual for any Evanovich novel, and the characters are full of attitude, passion, and plenty of laughs. O’Hare and Fox were made for each other, honestly. I knew right from the start of the novel that I wanted to see them working side by side. Turns out Nick’s greatest con so far was asking the FBI for a position working right alongside Agent Kate O’Hare! You can imagine the fireworks that went off in my brain at this point. From there on it was just one big rollercoaster ride!

Kate O’Hare was a tough cookie. I kept finding myself comparing her to Stephanie Plum, but I must say that Kate had a bit more edge than Stephanie. When Kate had a gun attached to her hip I wasn’t worried that she was going to blow something up, I was worried she was going to blow someone up! Kate has the talk and the walk and it was interesting to see a different heroine that still had some traits of the previous heroine created by Evanovich. Kate is obsessed with capturing Nicolas Fox, and I could tell straight from the beginning that this was going to result in a problem for her. Nicolas was not only tall, dark, and handsome, but also extremely charming and cunning. Not a good mix for any girl with weak knees. Watch out, Kate!

Nicolas Fox was what movies are made of! By saying that I mean to say that as soon as his character comes on scene and we see the way she plays with Kate’s mind, I could picture this being made into a movie right away! I really hope they make this book into a movie just like they did with the first Stephanie Plum novel. Nick is sly and clever and has little tricks up his sleeve that sends Kate over the edge. There is a running joke in the novel with Toblerone bars, and I think it is just the perfect touch to their crazy relationship. When these two team up the novel gets even better! If you are an Evanovich fan be sure to pick up a copy of this novel today!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Bantam in exchange for my honest review***

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: His Clockwork Canary

His Clockwork Canary (The Glorious Victorious Darcys, #2)Author: Beth Ciotta
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Signet
Series: The Glorious Victorious Darcy's # 2

History is repeating itself.

For ambitious engineer Simon Darcy, winning Queen Victoria’s competition to recover lost inventions of historical significance is a matter of pride—and redemption. After all, it was Simon’s failed monorail project that left his family destitute, and winning the tournament would surely restore the Darcys’ reputation.

Simon sets his sights high, targeting no less than the infamous time-travel device that forever changed the world by transporting scientists, engineers, and artists from the twentieth century. The Mod technology was banned and supposedly destroyed, but Simon is sure he can re-create it.

His daring plan draws the attention of Willie G., the Clockwork Canary, London’s sensationalist reporter. Simon soon discovers that Willie is a male guise for Wilhemina Goodenough, the love of his youth, who left him jilted and bitter. He questions her motives even as he falls prey to her unique charm. As the attraction between the two reignites, Simon realizes that this vixen from his past has secrets that could be the key to his future…as long as he can put their history behind him.

Simon’s pulse raced as his brother left the room. With every fiber of his being he knew the response would be affirmative. His brain churned and plotted. Only one of them needed to find and deliver the clockwork propulsion engine in order to avenge their father’s name and secure the family’s fortune. But, by God, Simon wanted it to be him.

For the past ten years, Willie had been masquerading as a young man. Sometimes she was amazed that she’d gotten away with the ruse for so long. Then again, she was slight of frame as opposed to voluptuous. What womanly curves she did possess were easily concealed beneath binding and baggy clothing. Her typical attire consisted of loose linen shirts with flouncy sleeves, a waistcoat one size too big, and an American-cowboy-style duster as opposed to a tailored frock coat.

Once in a great while she yearned for some kind of feminine frippery, but she was far more keen on surviving this intolerant world than on feeling pretty.

Simon Darcy’s father has just passed away and he is facing somewhat of a predicament. He needs to make money and provide for the family that his father left behind. When Queen Victoria broadcasts an announcement for a competition that she is holding, he knows that this could be his chance to win the prize and reclaim some pride for his family who is now in despair. Simon thinks nothing can stand in his way from winning this prize until The Clockwork Canary, better known as Wilhelmina Goodenough the lead journalist for the London Informer, joins him on his new journey. He can’t stand the things that he, really a she, writes about in the London news, but Simon is about to learn that The Clockwork Canary has a few secrets of his, I mean her, own!

Another fabulous book from Beth Ciotta. I discovered Beth about this time last year, and I have been following her series of books ever since. She is phenomenal at pulling readers into the Steampunk genre. She even gives readers an “Alternate World Glossary” at the front of this book, and honestly I spent about a half hour just losing myself in this alternate world and its terminology. Truly, I don’t think Beth gets enough credit within the genre. I mean it’s not every day that people just create a new world!

Simon and Mina’s search for this time traveling device is one riveting adventure. I never lost sight of the story and I always felt as if I were involved in the mission. They are both somewhat secretive characters, so this is a story that secrets will unravel as you read. In my opinion those are the best kind of stories. I loved finding out the past between Mina and Simon! Mina stayed camouflaged as Willie G. for as long as she could. The chemistry between them was wonderful and I would love see them pop up in future stories as Beth continues this series!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Signet in exchange for my honest review***

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: Belle Epoque

Belle EpoqueAuthor: Elizabeth Ross
Publication Date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

When Maude Pichon runs away from provincial Brittany to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Desperate for work, she answers an unusual ad. The Durandeau Agency provides its clients with a unique service—the beauty foil. Hire a plain friend and become instantly more attractive.

Monsieur Durandeau has made a fortune from wealthy socialites, and when the Countess Dubern needs a companion for her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, Maude is deemed the perfect foil.

But Isabelle has no idea her new "friend" is the hired help, and Maude's very existence among the aristocracy hinges on her keeping the truth a secret. Yet the more she learns about Isabelle, the more her loyalty is tested. And the longer her deception continues, the more she has to lose.

But it is Eiffel’s tower that people line up for, visiting multiple times.

And I lived without that echo of love and confidence until I found it, once more, in Paris.

Perhaps one day my photograph will be taken, my likeness painted or a word written about me by someone who can see into my soul and tell you something of it.

We all know that a book with the Eiffel Tower anyone near the front cover, in this case located on the spine and bottom of the back cover, gets my vote and immediately finds itself on my To-Be-Read shelf. This book is set in Paris, France and follows a young runaway named Maude Pichon. Maude has recently run away from her father and her meaningless country life. She is struggling to make a name and a life for herself in Paris when she answers an ad that calls for undemanding work for ugly young women. Yes, you read it right! Maude’s job is to befriend a beauty in society and make her stand out more by repulsing people with her unbecoming features. Maude isn’t sure how she feels about this job at first, but her reality is that she has to make enough money to live if she is to remain in Paris.

Maude Pichon was an excellent leading character, although I was a little unsure about the book within the opening chapters. I found it very demeaning and wondered how I was going to get through a book where the main character was made to feel ugly and worthless the entire way through. However, this was not the case. Once Maude meets her first client Countess Dubern’s daughter, Isabelle Dubern, the book starts to pick up speed and Maude’s goal becomes apparent. Maude does not totally embrace her role and cannot stand the fact that she must lie to Isabelle, whose mother doesn’t want her to know that she has hired an ugly friend for her in order that she may appear more attractive. Maude has good intentions and it is easy to like her as a character. Once you read about her life back home and her situation with her father and her possible husband-to-be, you will find it easy to want more for Maude as well.

Maude and Isabelle’s friendship really grabbed my attention. Isabelle’s character is by far from likeable at first. She is rude and downright hurtful with her actions and words towards Maude. I couldn’t understand why she was so cold and turned off in her opening scenes, but I loved finding out about her as Maude entered her life and tried to become her new best friend.

Lastly, this is Paris and there is room for a little romance. The romantic pairing in this book is between Maude and Paul, and this is not a spoiler because readers learn this early on. This is the part of the book that I had a problem with. I felt that I didn’t get enough interaction between the two of them. Paul has a beautiful backstory. He is a struggling Jazz musician who is trying to make it on the streets of Paris just like Maude.

Paris is portrayed exquisitely throughout this book! If you are a Paris lover, pick up a copy now!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Delacorte Books for Young Readers in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: Ladies' Night

Ladies' NightAuthor: Mary Kay Andrews
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Take a splash of betrayal, add a few drops of outrage, give a good shake to proper behavior and take a big sip of a cocktail called…Ladies' Night!
Grace Stanton’s life as a rising media star and beloved lifestyle blogger takes a surprising turn when she catches her husband cheating and torpedoes his pricey sports car straight into the family swimming pool.  Grace suddenly finds herself locked out of her palatial home, checking account, and even the blog she has worked so hard to develop in her signature style.  Moving in with her widowed mother, who owns and lives above a rundown beach bar called The Sandbox, is less than ideal.  So is attending court-mandated weekly "divorce recovery" therapy sessions with three other women and one man for whom betrayal seems to be the only commonality.  When their “divorce coach” starts to act suspiciously, they decide to start having their own Wednesday "Ladies' Night" sessions at The Sandbox, and the unanticipated bonds that develop lead the members of the group to try and find closure in ways they never imagined.  Can Grace figure out a new way home and discover how strong she needs to be to get there?

Heartache, humor, and a little bit of mystery come together in a story about life’s unpredictable twists and turns.  Mary Kay Andrews' Ladies' Night will have you raising a glass and cheering these characters on. 

Am I really discussing paint colors with a cop? Within an hour of my life imploding?

This time around, she promised herself, the blog would be all hers. And for her first post, she decided to go public with what had happened in her life and to her old world.

She pushed the send button and, for the first time in weeks, felt like herself. The real Grace.

She held up her iPhone. “I’ve been doing a little dirt digging on my own.”

Mary Kay Andrews has always been a favorite author of mine and for very good reason. Her books are light and extremely fun to read. I am always invested in the lives of her characters and the even the secondary characters have wonderful stories to tell. This particular book tells the story of a group of women, focusing around Grace Stanton, who have been sentenced to divorce therapy because they have acted out as a result of their failed marriages, which really translates to: they did some really awful to their cheating, lying husbands. Grace Stanton, whom I love, just happened to find out that her husband was having an affair with her personal assistant and in return drives his shined up Audi sports car into their backyard pool. Pretty awesome, right?! Pick up a copy of this book now because believe me it only gets better!

I loved sitting in on Ladies’ Night! These four women, plus Wyatt, were hysterical. As you get further into the book you learn more about each of their lives and why they ended up in the divorce therapy sessions to begin with. They began extending their therapy sessions with a drink at the bar owned by Grace’s mom called Sandbox. It felt like I was reliving the Sex and the City scene all over again. I loved the chemistry of the women and Wyatt, and I loved seeing them find happiness and peace again after learning that their husbands and wife were having an affairs or affairs plural. Those were the best scenes in the entire book!

The story mainly focuses on Grace and her life after finding out her husband, Ben, was having an affair. Grace is such a strong character and I love how she was never really whiny or overly dramatic after finding out about her affair. Not a whole lot goes her way after finding out about Ben, but she moves in with her mom and starts working on getting herself back on her own two feet. She immediately gets a job and starts looking to improve her own life. I absolutely despised her ex-husband and his new girlfriend. They deliberately sabotage Grace and I foresee most women readers hating his guts.

This was a wonderful summer read and is at the top of my Summer Recommendation List for 2013!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at St. Martin’s Press in exchange for my honest review***

Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Review: Rebel Spirits

Rebel SpiritsAuthor: Lois Ruby
Publication Date: June 1, 2013
Publisher: Point

Infused with history and mystery, this tale of ghosts, love, and murder takes place in present-day Gettysburg, where the Civil War still looms large.

Lori Chase doesn't know what to think about ghosts. She may have seen a few in the past, but those were just childish imaginings...right? Only now that she is living in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, spirits seem to be on everyone's mind. The town is obsessed with its bloody Civil War history, and the old inn that Lori's parents run is supposedly haunted by the souls of dead soldiers.

Then Lori meets one such soldier--the devastatingly handsome Nathaniel Pierce. Nathaniel's soul cannot rest, and he desperately needs Lori's help. Because Nathaniel was not killed in the famous battle. He was murdered. Lori begins to investigate the age-old mystery, stumbling upon shocking clues and secrets.

At the same time, she can't help falling for Nathaniel, just as he is falling for her....

So, we’re now officially innkeepers. I hope Nathaniel doesn’t mind our guests swarming around in his space. Maybe he’ll materialize to welcome some of the travelers. An odd pang of jealously darts through me. Nathaniel Pierce is my ghost, not theirs.

As I turn to go, I realize it’s not just Charlotte. Everyone in this town seems to believe in ghosts.

Meanwhile, I walk to the foot of the stairs and gaze up, ready to inspect that round room at the top of the house. I’m going to claim it as my bedroom. Mom and Dad owe me that much for uprooting me and dragging me across Pennsylvania to this creepy mansion in the middle of Nowhere, USA. Which, it turns out, might be haunted.

The concept of this book sounded wonderful; however, certain aspects of this book fell short for me. I loved that it was set in Gettysburg, PA because I cannot remember a time when I read a book set in Pennsylvania. I also loved the Civil War ghost named Nathaniel Pierce. I was sure that I would walk away giving this book five beautiful, pink cupcakes, but was sad when I reached certain parts and was disappointed. Lorelei, “Lori”, and her family have just moved to Gettysburg to take over ownership of a local bed and breakfast. When they move in they are warned of the hauntings and spirits left behind in the old inn as well as the entire town. However, Lori has a secret. She can sense things, unnatural things. Things that not everyone around her can sense. Let’s just say that when she meets the ghost of Nathaniel Pierce she’s not as shocked as we might have been!

What I had the biggest problem with in this book was the fact that it was insta-love. I mean Lori met this ghost, Nathaniel, and it seemed like hours later she was in love with him. They had barely even had a conversation when she started mentioning her feelings for him. I think he had appeared before her fully one time, his whole body and not just his voice, before she was gushing over the guy. I was disappointed in this aspect and would have loved to have seen it play out a little differently. Nathaniel immediately returned the feelings too, and at that point I was completely rolling my eyes because honestly he lived during the Civil War and he has come back to try and figure out who murdered him not to fall in love with a teenage girl.

This book did have its redeeming qualities however. The history was rich and full, and I loved listening to Nathaniel speak about his Civil War stories and the memories of this childhood. I enjoyed his character more so than Lori’s, who I felt was a bit dramatic at times, but he still annoyed me by how fast he fell for Lori. He did bring an edge to the story and he helped draw me closer to the Civil War town where the book was set.

I wouldn’t say that this book was bad, but I was never really invested in the story and it didn’t hurt my heart to tell these characters good-bye. You all know that I hardly ever give a book below three cupcakes, and I always try to see the redeeming aspects of any book. This book does have its good traits, and if anything that I have covered today sounds like something you might read, then please try out the book. I read this book in less than a day as it was quick and light!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Scholastic Point in exchange for my honest review***