Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Review: Prep School Confidential

Prep School ConfidentialAuthor: Kara Taylor
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin/Thomas Dunne Books
Series: Prep School Confidential # 1

In this breathtaking debut that reads like Gossip Girl crossed with Twin Peaks, a Queen Bee at a blue-blooded New England prep school stumbles into a murder mystery.

Anne Dowling practically runs her exclusive academy on New York’s Upper East Side—that is, until she accidentally burns part of it down and gets sent to a prestigious boarding school outside of Boston. Determined to make it back to New York, Anne couldn't care less about making friends at the preppy Wheatley School. That is, until her roommate Isabella’s body is found in the woods behind the school.

When everyone else is oddly silent, Anne becomes determined to uncover the truth no matter how many rules she has to break to do it. With the help of Isabella’s twin brother Anthony, and a cute classmate named Brent, Anne discovers that Isabella wasn’t quite the innocent nerdy girl she pretended to be. But someone will do anything to stop Anne’s snooping in this fast-paced, unputdownable read—even if it means framing her for Isabella’s murder.

Any girl at St. Bernadette’s Prep should know three things: Skirts need to be one inch above the knee only if a teacher is looking, a dab of nasal spray will make any zit less red, and the lock on Headmaster Bailey’s office door can be picked with a credit card.

Trouble is like a dog that wants to rip your throat out: If you stare it down, you have a better chance of saving your ass.

Because as charming or pretty as I am, it’s like Bailey said. Trouble always seems to find me.

“I have a better idea,” Brent says. “As long as you’re comfortable with breaking a couple of Massachusetts laws.”

Anne Dowling is the Queen Bee at St. Bernadette’s Prep, well that is until she almost burns down the school. After her little incident with the school bad boy, Anne is sent off to Wheatley School in Massachusetts, a boarding school where she will be given another chance. Anne thinks that this may be a new start for her, but after being there only one week, Anne’s roommate turns up murdered and Anne has to figure out why it happened and who did it. Remembering her father’s words, “Trouble seems to find you wherever you are, Anne,” she sets out on a little sleuthing adventure of her own with the help of two guys that she finds herself attracted to. What could go wrong with this scenario, right? Everything you can possibly imagine.

Anne was the perfect character to guide me through this murder mystery. She was a bit cocky at times and definitely packed a punch when it came to her attitude, but she was everything that I expected her to be. She is not your typical or average spoiled little rich girl, in fact she never even remotely came across as a rotten princess like some of the other prep school girls. Anne had a style and personality that was all her own. She was daring and bold and I don’t know that the story would have been the same without her.

The love triangle, if that’s what you want to call it, was not like most. I was really happy with this one and I will say that the end of the book will leave readers in a bit of a cliffhanger about Anne’s love life. I liked both Brent and Anthony, but I must say that I liked Brent more. He seemed to be more involved in helping solve the mystery of Isabella’s murder. Brent was more down to Earth, whereas I think there are things about Anthony that have not been revealed to readers yet.

The murder mystery kept me on edge. If people say that they saw it coming, then I cannot admit to being one of them. At one point in the novel I thought it could be one of about four or five people. Taylor does an amazing job of writing chapter cliffhangers, and I was hanging off the edge of my seat. I could not stop reading. I read this book yesterday in one sitting. I would recommend this book to anyone!

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

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: The Wednesday Daughters

The Wednesday DaughtersAuthor: Meg Waite Clayton
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Publisher: Ballantine
Series: Wednesday # 2

Meg Waite Clayton, nationally bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters, returns with a compassionate, wise, and enthralling new novel of mothers and daughters, best friends who become family, and secrets and dreams passed down through the generations.

"The present and the past intertwine beautifully and inevitably in Meg Waite Clayton's winning follow-up to The Wednesday Sisters. From the beguiling Lake District setting, to a completely charming (and spot-on) portrayal of Beatrix Potter, to the way the Wednesday daughters strive to unpuzzle both their own choices and their mothers' legacies, every layer of the novel delivers. Utterly rich and satisfying.
—Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife

It is early evening when Hope Tantry arrives at the small cottage in England’s pastoral Lake District where her mother, Ally, spent the last years of her life. Ally—one of a close-knit group of women who called themselves “The Wednesday Sisters”—had used the cottage as a writer’s retreat while she worked on her unpublished biography of Beatrix Potter, yet Hope knows nearly nothing about her mother’s time there. Traveling with Hope are friends Julie and Anna Page, two other daughters of “The Wednesday Sisters,” who offer to help Hope sort through her mother’s personal effects. Yet what Hope finds will reveal a tangled family history—one steeped in Lake District lore.

Tucked away in a hidden drawer, Hope finds a stack of Ally’s old notebooks, all written in a mysterious code. As she, Julie, and Anna Page try to decipher Ally’s writings—the reason for their encryption, their possible connection to the Potter manuscript—they are forced to confront their own personal struggles: Hope’s doubts about her marriage, Julie’s grief over losing her twin sister, Anna Page’s fear of commitment in relationships. And as the real reason for Ally’s stay in England comes to light, Hope, Julie, and Anna Page reach a new understanding about the enduring bonds of family, the unwavering strength of love, and the inescapable pull of the past.

We Wednesday Daughters weren’t born on Wednesdays, and we aren’t blood relations. We don’t gather to write at picnic tables like our mothers did. We’re just daughters of friends who’ve called themselves “Wednesday Sisters” since before I was born, daughters who became friends ourselves the way girls who grow up together sometimes do, whether they have much in common or not.

And this is our story, which is, I suppose, a love story. Or two. Or, actually, probably four.

Mom didn’t need anything in this world anymore except for me to pack up what was left of her life in England, the way I’d not yet managed to pack up her pajamas and teapots and hairbrushes at home, her puzzle collection, her manuscript drafts of the children’s books she’d spent her life writing but had never seen in print.

This is very much a story of mothers, daughters, best friends, and the relationships that they all share. If you have read The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton then you already know what to expect from her wonderful, surprising novels that are full of vivacious characters and at times sad storylines. This book tells the story of the daughters of the original Wednesday Sisters. It picks up after the death of Ally, Hope’s mom, and the girls have traveled to her small cottage in England’s Lake District to clean out some of her belongings. This book, likes others by Clayton, confronts each of the characters personal lives and some of the personal struggles they are facing. I was just as pleased with this book as I was with the first!

The story was told in alternating viewpoints. Some of the chapters took place in the present with Hope, Julie, and Anna Page. Other chapters were from Ally’s diary and were conversations that she was having with the late Beatrix Potter. There were many Beatrix Potter allusions in this book, and I found them all to be very tasteful and remarkably placed within the storyline. I did enjoy the chapters from Ally’s diary the best. I found myself smiling and really feeling a connection to the entire literary sphere after reading these. Each chapter started with some type of quotation having to do with Beatrix Potter, and there is a note from the author in the back explaining her own fascination with Beatrix.

Although this storyline does not exhibit a lot of action, I still thought that all the events and recent happenings surrounding these three women were enough to keep me interested and involved. Clayton writes with a poetic form and it almost feels as if she is trying to paint a scene for her readers instead and of tell them a story. She shows and doesn’t tell; I absolutely love it! I was very invested in my time with the Wednesday Daughters, and this was a book that I flew through in less than two days!

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

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Book Review: The House of Tides

The House of TidesAuthor: Hannah Richell
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

The Tides are a family with many secrets. Haunted by the events of one tragic day a decade ago, they are each, in their own way, struggling to move forward with their lives.

There is Dora, the family's youngest daughter, who lives in a ramshackle London warehouse with her artist boyfriend. She is doing a good job of skating across the surface of her life, but when she discovers she is pregnant, she finds herself staring back at the darkness of a long-held guilt. Dora's mother, Helen, is a complicated woman whose relationship with her family has always been turbulent, while her father Richard has cobbled together a life that bears little resemblance to his boyhood dreams. And Cassie, Dora's long-estranged sister, has cut off her family entirely, it seems.

When Dora arrives at Clifftops, her family's rambling home on the Dorset coast, it seems that Helen might finally be ready to make amends for her own part in the tragedy. But what Dora soon discovers is that the path to redemption does not rest solely with her mother. Can family crimes this damaging ever really be forgiven?

By the time Big Ben chimes midday she is gone, lost to the murky depths below.

Helen hadn’t been sure at first. It was scary enough deciding whether to keep the baby. Motherhood was one thing…did she really need to be a wife too?

And Cassie watched as her mother folded her arms across her chest and turned her gaze back toward the room, noting the dangerous glint in Helen’s eyes.

Dan shifts and sighs in his sleep and as Dora moves her hands into her still-flat belly and contemplates her future, she suddenly understands. She cannot hide any longer. She must return to Clifftops.

This story focuses beautifully on family dynamics, grief, pent up resentments, and putting the pieces of life back together again. In the opening scenes of the novel we witness a suicide, and from that point on I was hooked. We are then introduced to the Tide family and begin to witness a few flashbacks as well. Helen and Richard are the mother and father to Dora and Cassie. They take the girls every year around to visit Richard’s parents at Clifftops, the house that he always called home. That is until Richard’s parents are killed, then the entire Tide family moves to Clifftops permanently. The move into this romantic countryside home is anything but easy. Family secrets are revealed, bonds are drawn closer yet pulled farther apart, and it makes for one of the better debut novels I have read this year!

I am always a fan of novels that highlight more than one generation of women. Here we get the different viewpoints of three generations of women. We see how they deal with grief, secrets, relationships, and so much more. This was another of those stories that you have no other choice but to hang on. Firstly, because you are so interested in the pieces of the puzzle that you cannot wait for the entire thing to be revealed. The family secret is what makes this story. Secondly, this story becomes so personal in way because you really begin to sympathize with these women and their past lives. This is a very intimate plot line and allows readers to see deep inside the mind of so many characters.

My readers know that the setting of any book is usually what draws me in, along with the characters of course. I loved reading about Clifftops, even though it holds many secrets and becomes a dark place for our characters. It reminds me of all the books I have read that have taken place at these enormous countryside estates and villas. They are so large and if their walls could only talk they could probably reveal more than one family secret!

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

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Review: Of Beast And Beauty & Interview With Stacey Jay

Of Beast and BeautyAuthor: Stacey Jay
Publication Date: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Press

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

She sighs. “Oh, I don’t know. Lots of things. If the dome is damaged by a storm and the roses have to repair it, that takes a lot strength. If blight touches the harvest, or children are born sick, or…any number of things.” She shrugs and lifts a hand in the air. “Any weakness in our city or our people. Correcting these things can make the roses grow hungry again faster.”

“Our covenant has remained strong for almost eight hundred years. The roses take care of us. Surely, if the tainted were something to be afraid of, the roses would use magic to correct their mutation.”

Now I understand. I know the real reason I’m locked away from my people. “I may be tainted, but I’m not a fool,” I whisper into the too-tranquil air.

Tonight I will remember the fear in her eyes and let it fill my mouth with a taste as sweet as her rose-and-sugar breath.

Isra has been blind for most of her life, at least since she was four years old. Her sole purpose has always been to be a human sacrifice for her people and the land of Yuan. She spends much of her time with the magical roses in the domed city, and the power that lies within them. With just one prick from the roses she is given her sight back for a short period in time. The roses feed off the blood of royals…the queen, to be exact. On a day, much like any other, while Isra is wondering amongst the dark roses, she runs into a Monstrous. Gem, a mutant beast, who lives outside the dome and is the race of monster that she has been trained to fear her entire life. He is taken prisoner and Isra is looked away again in her tower. She must see Gem again because she needs his help. She needs his help to free her people and herself from a long dreaded curse.

The story alternates between the viewpoints of Gem, Isra and at times, Bo. Bo is the royal advisor’s son and will soon be the husband to Isra and future king to the people of Yuan. Isra was at first odd to me just because of her tendencies and the way she seemed set apart from the world around her. As she journeys off with Gem, and I will let you find out why, she learns a lot about herself and her purpose for still being kept alive. She also learns that the ones you trust the most are often times the one that will betray you the fastest. Isra reminds me of a delicate piece of porcelain at first the way she is locked in a tower and treated as a little china doll. When she was with Gem she became a completely new person, and I must say I liked that Isra a lot better.

Gem was definitely The Beast. He had such a rough exterior, but underneath there was a teddy bear heart. I picked up on small details that fit the original story of Beauty and the Beast, and I must say that Gem fit the best. He endured so much to save his race of people, and then to save and care for Isra. Their love and their connection was much like that of Beauty and her Beast’s! Gem could be rough and crude with Isra at times, but at times I must say that I felt like she deserved it. Isra could be na├»ve sometimes, and refused to see the cruelness of her closest confidantes and people of the city.

Bo was a character that at first I thought I might like. I enjoyed whenever the chapters belonged to him, and I honestly thought that he and Isra might actually have a successful marriage. Without spoiling anything, there is one scene in particular that made me cringe with hatred for Bo and all he stands for.

I think the roses are meant to be symbols in this story. And what better object could be a symbol for something? The rose has many meanings and has been talked about in literature by some of the greatest, including Will Shakespeare. There is a dark magic behind the roses of this book, and I was intrigued to find out as much as I could about them. This is what makes literature so beautiful. An author can take something as beautiful and as delicate as a rose and can then give it life-altering powers. You must suspend your disbelief for this story!

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

 Stacey Jay :)
Me: What was your favorite scene in OF BEAST AND BEAUTY to write?
SJ: Strangely, it was a quiet scene, when Gem tells Isra one of his people's legends about the summer star. There is just something special and intimate about that scene, and it is definitely a turning point for Isra and Gem's relationship.
Me: Tell us more about your thought process for developing Isra's character.
SJ: I knew from the beginning that I wanted Isra to undergo a major transformation from the somewhat spoiled, sheltered girl she is at the beginning of the book, to the leader she becomes at the end. I also knew that I wanted her to have a physical disability that kept her from realizing some of the darker truths about her society. I spent a lot of time working on Isra's backstory--her childhood and upbringing--so I started off with a pretty good idea of who she was and where she was going.
What I didn't know until I was halfway through drafting the book, however, was the truth about how she lost her eyesight. It was one of those strange, book-in-process things where I discovered the truth right along with Isra. But once I had that "ah-ha" moment, I went back to revise the manuscript with the new development in mind and discovered the clues were already there. My subconscious had apparently been trying to communicate the truth to my writing mind since the beginning of the novel. Eerie stuff.
Me: Of all the books you have written so far, which one has been your favorite to write and why?
SJ: My favorite to write would probably be "Dead on the Delta," the first in my adult urban fantasy series. It was just pure, escapist fun, and an interesting new challenge since I'd never written that sort of mystery before.
But my favorite end product is absolutely "Of Beast and Beauty." "Of Beast and Beauty" wasn't always an easy book to write--there were a lot of sad, painful scenes--but the end product is a book that comes from a deep, true place and is, in my opinion, the best thing I've ever written.
Me: What is the most difficult thing about writing retellings? Are there lines you are sure not to cross? Or certain plot points that you feel should never be left out?
SJ: I consider "Of Beast and Beauty" my first retelling ("Juliet Immortal" and "Romeo Redeemed" were completely new stories using familiar literary characters), so I'm not sure I'm an authority on them just yet. With "Of Beast and Beauty" I knew I wanted to include all the key components of the familiar fairy tale, because that's part of the fun of a retelling, but I also wanted to use characters and symbols in new and unexpected ways (which is also part of the fun).
I think you have to walk the line between the two, especially with a story as familiar as Beauty and the Beast. You want to make sure the story is recognizable as a retelling, but you also want to show that you have new life to breath into an old tale. Otherwise, there's no point in revisiting a story.
Me: What is your favorite inspirational quote?

SJ: “Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

Thank you for being with us today, Stacey!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: Rosemary Cottage

Rosemary Cottage (Hope Beach #2)Author: Colleen Coble
Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Series: Hope Beach # 2

The cottage by the sea offers Amy a refuge to mourn her brother’s death and perhaps even discover a new love. But what if Ben’s death was no accident?

Rosemary Cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina has been in Amy Lang’s family for generations and offers her a haven within its peaceful walls. There she hopes to discover what really happened to her brother, Ben, even as she tries to come to grips with his death in the ocean months before.

She hopes the Coast Guard team will help her find closure, but they are quick to dismiss her concerns of foul play. Everyone in Hope Beach regards the suspicious e-mail she received as a vicious prank. When it seems discovering what happened to Ben will take longer than she expected, Amy moves her midwifery practice to Hope Beach.

Coast Guard officer Curtis Ireland may hold the key to many of her questions, but he also hides a secret that will change her world forever. And her own secrets could tear apart the fragile love developing between them. Will Amy have the courage to put down her mask and let Curtis love her for who she is? And can they both weather the danger that threatens to destroy the most precious thing in their lives?

The distant sound of the sea blended with the hum of bees seeking the spring flowers. The clumps of blue-green vegetation gave off a spring fragrance Amy Lang recognized as rosemary. Rosemary for remembrance. She stood on the stone walk beside her friend Libby and stared at the house with memories washing over her.

She looked like a mermaid with her dark hair streaming down her back to her waist. Her eyes were an unusual color – part green and part golden – and they were full of love and laughter as she looked toward the camera.

Amy hesitated, then nodded. “His death was no accident.”

What if she moved here? The thought tempted Amy Living in this place was like going back in time to a happier, safer place. It would be a rewarding life. And she could get her overseeing physician on board. He’d told her for a long time that she should move to one of the places around the state that really needed her.

Amy Lang goes to Rosemary Cottage in hopes of healing some unsettling wounds and trying to start fresh again. She needs to grieve for her brother, Ben, who was lost at sea. Amy does not believe everyone else in thinking that he died of a surfing accident gone wrong; she thinks there is more to blame than that. While staying the beautiful Outer Banks, Amy meets Curtis Ireland, a Coast Guard officer who always knows what it feels like to lose a sibling. These two bond over more than just grief and agony. They start to form a real friendship, and maybe hope for more than that. Do Amy and Curtis both find the healing they need? Visit Rosemary Cottage and find out!

What I love best about this series is the setting, obviously! I am a North Carolinian and can honestly testify to just how beautiful and majestic the Outer Banks really are. Coble takes us to a place full of such mystifying allure and sets it all on its head. Amy and Curtis face such trials and tribulations in a place that is meant for healing and tranquility. However, even with all that is going on around them, readers will still be able to feel the comfort and peace that comes with a story setting like Hope Beach and Rosemary Cottage.

As always with Colleen Coble, there are twists and turns that will come unexpected to the reader all throughout the book. I usually find myself making empty predictions at the start of all her books, and then I learn that I was terribly wrong somewhere down the line. I very much enjoyed the mystery and the intrigue that fed into Amy and Curtis’s lives. I was glad that Curtis agreed to help Amy find out more about the disappearance of her brother, and I think they worked well together as leading characters. But isn’t that always the case with Colleen Coble?!

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


Book Review: Chose The Wrong Guy, Gave Him The Wrong Finger

Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong FingerAuthor: Beth Harbison
Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Ten years ago, Quinn Barton was on her way to the altar to marry Burke Morrison, her high school sweetheart, when something derailed her. Rather, someone derailed her—the Best Man who at the last minute begged her to reconsider the marriage. He told her that Burke had been cheating on her. For a long time. Quinn, stunned, hurt, and confused, struggled with the obligation of fulfilling her guests’ expectations—providing a wedding—and running for her life.

She chose running. With the Best Man. Who happened to be Burke’s brother, Frank.

That relationship didn’t work either. How could it, when Quinn had been engaged to, in love with, Frank’s brother? Quinn opted for neither, and, instead, spends the next seventeen years working in her family’s Middleburg, Virginia, bridal shop, Talk of the Gown, where she subconsciously does penance for the disservice she did to marriage.

But when the two men return to town for another wedding, old anger, hurt, and passion resurface. Just because you’ve traded the good guy for the bad guy for no guy doesn’t mean you have to stay away from love for the rest of your life, does it?

Because, like I said, I’m not an Eat Pray Love girl. I’m not an adventuress. I am, I hate to say it, in too many ways timid. Ten years ago could feel like last week because last week wasn’t that different from ten years ago.

There are five stages of heartbreak. The first is Denial (He didn’t! He wouldn’t!), followed by Fear (What if he did? What will happen to me if I dump him?), a variable period of Rationalization (He didn’t even have time! I would know if he’d been with someone else!), and eventually Acceptance (Okay, he did it, I have to move on, and he doesn’t deserve me).

Don’t you dare wimp out, I heard Glenn’s voice saying in my head. You’re just looking for a convenient excuse to stay in your tiny world and die alone except for a bunch of cats.

All I knew was that it wasn’t for me to judge. I hoped she’d get her happily ever after no matter what it was.

The first book I ever read by Beth Harbison was When in Doubt, Add Butter, and I absolutely fell in love with her characters and the dynamics she could so easily create between them. I knew that I had to pick up this book and review it on my blog, or die trying! This story follows Quinn Barton, cool name for a girl, as she is about to walk down the aisle to marry her high school sweetheart, Burke Morrison. At the last minute, Burke’s brother, Frank, pulls Quinn aside to tell her that she cannot go on with the wedding because Burke has been cheating on her for quite some time now. Quinn does what any sensible woman would do, well maybe. She walks to the end of the aisle, slaps Burke right in the face, and parades off to Vegas with his brother Frank. Sadly, this does not end in the happily ever after she thought it would, and when their grandmother gets remarried, both brothers head back to town for a reunion. Quinn thought she was rid of them for good!

Quinn, after dating both of the Morrison brothers, is now her own little success because she owns her own little wedding boutique where she designs custom made gowns called, Talk of the Gown. I loved hearing about her quaint little shop and her best friend’s Glenn’s cheese and wine shop right next door. I know this is a small, miniscule detail, but Harbison makes every place she writes about feel so much like home. Middlebury, Virginia all of a sudden became Times Square once I became involved in the lives of these vivacious characters. I loved hearing about the nervous brides that came wondering into Quinn’s shop and I loved being a part of that world for a little while.

Quinn’s character, along with Glenn’s character, is all a part of Harbison’s humor and witty sarcasm. Both Quinn and Glenn filled me with moments of uncontrollable laughter. There were moments when I thought to myself that these characters must be based off real people; that’s how realistic Harbison paints a picture. I will say that there was some crude humor and language, but I felt that it definitely fits the personalities of the characters!

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Debut Review: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.: A NovelAuthor: Adelle Waldman
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Bold, touching, and funny—a debut novel by a brilliant young woman about the coming-of-age of a brilliant young literary man

“He was not the kind of guy who disappeared after sleeping with a woman—and certainly not after the condom broke. On the contrary: Nathaniel Piven was a product of a postfeminist 1980s childhood and politically correct, 1990s college education. He had learned all about male privilege. Moreover, he was in possession of a functional and frankly rather clamorous conscience.” – From The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

Nate Piven is a rising star in Brooklyn’s literary scene. After several lean and striving years, he has his pick of both magazine assignments and women: Juliet, the hotshot business reporter; Elisa, his gorgeous ex-girlfriend, now friend; and Hannah, “almost universally regarded as nice and smart, or smart and nice,” who is lively fun and holds her own in conversation with his friends.

In this 21st-century literary world, wit and conversation are not at all dead. Is romance? Novelist Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of a modern man—who thinks of himself as beyond superficial judgment, yet constantly struggles with his own status anxiety, who is drawn to women, yet has a habit of letting them down. With tough-minded intelligence and wry good humor The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. is an absorbing tale of one young man’s search for happiness—and an inside look at how he really thinks about women, sex and love.
“People expect girl from good middle-class families to be smart – but what they mean by smart for a girl is to have nice handwriting and a neat locker and to do her homework on time. They don’t expect ideas or much in the way of real thought.”

On the contrary: Nathaniel Piven was a product of a postfeminist, 1980s childhood and politically correct, 1990s college education. He had learned all about male privilege. Moreover he was in possession of a functional and frankly rather clamorous conscience.

Over time, Nate began to grow frustrated by her lack of literary sensibility, the sheer practicality of her intelligence, as well as a certain rectitude or squareness on her part – in other words, by her essential Kristen-ness, which he had once revered.

Perhaps the salient issue was not why but simply that he didn’t want to be in a relationship. His work fulfilled him, and his friends provided all the conversation and companionship he needed.

This book has a simple premise – to take readers on a journey through the dating life of Nathaniel Piven. I want to say that Nate P. is your typical guy, except that once you’re in his head you know that while he has the tendencies of the modern day male, he still has a king and caring nature buried down below. Nate is a Harvard grad with strong views about any topic his friends are able to throw his way. He hasn’t had a lot of luck on the dating scene, although he has had his fair share of women over the years. He has tried dating seriously, but only ends up finding something wrong with them that eventually turns him off to the entire idea of a relationship. Nate is the not the type of guy that I could ever see myself dating, but he does have a certain charm about him at times. However, I would be lying if I said that I thought he was a nice guy all the time because I hated him at times too; I am on the side of the She-Woman Man Haters Club after all!

The language and detail that Adelle Waldman incorporates in this book is from the mouth of a highly educated man – Nathaniel P. Nate’s voice is surprisingly pretentious and witty, and I was so pleased with Adelle’s writing style. I was in a few fiction writing classes in college and the hardest thing for me to tackle was writing from the male perspective, being female myself. Waldman gives a snarky, superficial voice to Nate at times, while at others she makes him seem like the passionate literary whom only wants to be heard and listened to. His personality was arrogant and cocky, but I found it so promising that Waldman could give so much character to a man she envisioned in her head. I swear I have met Nathaniel P. before, maybe even multiple times!

Adelle Waldman has my vote! Nathaniel P., not so much, but I think that was the point. He is a little too self-absorbed for my tastes, and I liked his friendship with Aurit and hearing about his various girlfriends more than I liked listening to him justify his reasons for breaking up with them. Aurit was a character that I did enjoy very much. She put her two cents in, as we say in the South, quite frequently and it was often concerning Nate’s love life, or his lack thereof. Aurit was a little bossy and demanding, but what good girlfriend isn’t? She was the only one that it seemed was able to talk some sense into Nate every so often.

Really, you should get lost in Nathaniel’s world, then you might realize how the male mind really works!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Henry Holt & Co. in exchange for my honest review***

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Review: Fifth Grave Past The Light

Fifth Grave Past the Light (Charley Davidson, #5)Author: Darynda Jones
Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Series: Charley Davidson # 5

Charley Davidson may not look like your everyday, run-of-the-mill grim reaper, but she has vowed to reap grimness wherever she goes despite this unfortunate fact. Sadly, she gets sidetracked when the sexy, sultry son of Satan, Reyes Farrow, moves in next door. As he is the main suspect in her arson case, she is determined to stay away from him until she can find out the truth. According to her therapist, however, she lacks conviction.

When dead women start appearing in her apartment - lost, confused and terrified beyond reason - Charley has no choice but to ask for Reyes's help, especially when it becomes apparent that her own sister Gemma is the serial killer's next target. With his ability to observe incorporeally, surely he can find out who's responsible. And even if he can't, he is the one man alive who could protect Gemma no matter who or what came at her. But he wants something in return: Charley. All of her - body and soul. And to keep her sister safe, it is a price she is willing to pay…

The dead guy at the end of the bar kept trying to buy me a drink. Which figured. No one else was even taking a second look and I’d dressed to the nines. Or, at the very least, to the eight-and-a-halves.

And she transformed. She became confident. A true mistress of her own destiny. I almost giggled in triumph while I took another bite and listened in.

I walked through the apartment and spotted one Mr. Reyes Farrow busying himself in his kitchen. In a domestic capacity. The image was jarring and endearing at once and I had to tear my gaze away before he noticed. I couldn’t let him get too used to the idea that I adored him. Best to keep him guessing.

Before I knew it, the entire world was going to know I was the grim reaper. Wait, maybe I could get a reality TV contract. We could call it Grim in the City.

Well, Charley Davidson is back, and so is Reyes! Darynda Jones never gets tiring, and neither does her writing or her characters. Yes, she follows a formula. Yes, I can sometimes guess what is going to happen next. No, it is not always all that predictable. This is a series that will forever have a piece of my heart. We start off this book with a key, a cheating husband, a bullet, and a save my Reyes. Sigh! I had the feeling from the start that this one was going to pack more punch and it most certainly did. The mystery was harder to solve with an exciting twist and the characters were on top of their game, as per usual!

We have all been dying to know more about Charley and Reyes and his purpose on Earth. We have started to learn more about who they are, where they come from, and what their powers are. This book broadens that, and this book also allowed me to feel that Darynda Jones is expanding this series even further. We are seeing deeper into the lives of other characters as well, not just Charley and Reyes. What I loved most was that several of my questions are starting to find answers.

Charley and Reyes are their usual charming selves. I must admit that they are the reason why I am always so anxious to pick up another of these stories. They are both full of mystery and intrigue. Charley can be a little snarky and attitudal, but that is part of the reason I love her so much. She has this sarcastic, snarky humor that you could almost find to be rude and spiteful, but if you know Charley like I do then you realize it’s part of the reason you and her are best friends! I usually don’t go for the mushy gushy, or the tempting romance scenes, but Reyes and Charley are different. It’s like I am addicted to an awful reality show!

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

Book Review: Replica

Replica (Replica, #1)Author: Jenna Black
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Publisher: Tor Teen
Series: Replica Trilogy # 1

Breathtaking new YA SF from the author of the Faeriewalker series

Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake comes from a high-class Executive family in the Corporate States. Her marriage has been arranged with the most powerful family in her state, which means she lives a life of privilege but also of public scrutiny, followed everywhere by photographers, every detail of her private life tabloid fodder. But her future is assured, as long as she can maintain her flawless public image — no easy feat when your betrothed is a notorious playboy.

Nathan Hayes is the heir of Paxco — controller of the former state of New York, and creator of human replication technology, science that every state and every country in the world would kill to have. Though Nadia and Nate aren’t in love, they’ve grown up close, and they (and the world) are happy enough with their match.

Until Nate turns up dead, and as far as everyone knows, Nadia was the last person to see him alive.

When the new Nate wakes up in the replication tanks, he knows he must have died, but with a memory that only reaches to his last memory backup, he doesn’t know what killed him. Together, Nadia and Nate must discover what really happened without revealing the secrets that those who run their world would kill to protect.

“It’s Nathaniel, dear,” her mother said, and Nadia’s chest tightened painfully. But the next words were not at all what she expected to hear. “He’s been murdered.”

Nate had had mostly good intentions when he’d asked her to dance. But that didn’t change the fact that what he wanted to do now wasn’t just reckless, it was dangerous. She should never have let him talk her into leaving the party.

What girl wouldn’t dream of having someone so handsome and charming in her bed? But any girl who shared his bed would spend a lot more time sleeping than she expected.

“You looked like you could use a rescue,” Nate said, and Nadia felt a flash of gratitude. “Besides,” he continued, “I don’t need an ulterior motive to dance with the most beautiful girl in the room.”

This is a far cry from what I usually read, but I loved it! This is categorized as Young Adult Science Fiction, a genre that I hardly ever touch. I was very pleased with this story and am anxious for the next book in the series to be released. Nadia Lake is engaged to be married, an arranged marriage that is, to Chairman Heir Nathaniel Hayes. Nate is charming, handsome, and a total catch, so she considers herself lucky to be consider worthy of his betrothal. Two years shy of their marriage Nate is murdered at a fancy wedding in the Corporate States. He is soon made into a replica, think of a clone, but the last two weeks of his memories have been erased. Nadia and Nate must go on a wild goose chase in order to track down the last person that was with Nate before he was killed: Nate’s lover!

The futuristic setting that Jenna Black describes for us in her new series is what intrigued me the most. It resembles parts of Ender’s Game and The Hunger Games, at least with the lifestyles of The Gamekeepers. I wouldn’t say it is identical to either of these books in any way, but just certain parts about the setting and the world building Black sets up reminded me of both of these books. Black does not dish all the details about the futuristic society that Nate and Nadia live in from the start, but allows readers to be immersed in the society and its strange tendencies and government as Nate and Nadia race against time to solve this murder mystery.

There was not a strong romantic aspect to this story, but I think I enjoyed it more because of that. I always love to see an author that can write a truly fascinating story without including a love triangle. There is potential for both of the main characters to find love, but this time around they were more concerned with beating what they were up against. Nadia and Nate are terrific characters, even if they will never have anything more than a friendship. (I will let you find out why on your own.) Nadia is brave for a sixteen-year-old girl and even though she doesn’t approve of the way Nate behaves at times, she still does her best to help him in his time of need.

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

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review: Tulle Death Do Us Part

Tulle Death Do Us Part (Vintage Magic Mystery #6)Author: Annette Blair
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Berkley
Series: A Vintage Magic Mystery # 6

National bestselling author Annette Blair’s “fast-paced, fascinating” (Fresh Fiction) Vintage Magic series continues as clothing boutique owner Madeira Cutler takes on a murder from the past that won’t stay dead...

Maddie’s love of classic fashion has made her Vintage Magic boutique a success—even if the visions she experiences when touching certain items often lead her into trouble. Decades ago, at a Mystic Country Club costume ball, a secret scavenger hunt ended in an unexplained death, hastily concealed.

Now, Maddie's invited to participate in a similar anniversary event: but one touch of the vintage petticoat used to hide evidence of the original crime hurtles Maddie into a scavenger hunt of her own. She must find missing petticoat pieces and re-stitch the clues it expose a killer!

Last night, I bedazzled my hard hat. Crystals, and sequins, and bling. Oh my.

My name is Madeira Cutler, but I prefer Mad or Maddie. Only my dad, Harry Cutler, lit-quoting University of Connecticut professor, uses my full name, whether I wanted him to or not.

Confession time: My father doesn’t know about my psychometric gift or my mother’s. Not his thing, Mom used to say.

Another outstanding read by Annette Blair. Maddie Cutler is a character that I will follow until this series ends. Her boutique, Vintage Magic, is a place that is so cozy it feels just like home. If you know Maddie and are familiar with her character, then you know that sometimes all she has to do is to touch a piece of fabric or clothing and she will receive some type of psychic vision. This story finds her seeing visions from a scavenger hunt that went wrong and a murder mystery that was left unsolved. The girl in question was said to have drowned, but Maddie believes there just be more to it than that!

Maddie has endured some huge changes since the first book in this series, and I am so happy and pleased with the development of her character as well as the relationships she has developed throughout the series. I do not want to give anything away, but I think that Maddie is coming into her new powers and the new knowledge that she has recently obtained. Of course, I expect her to make some mistakes and stupid decisions along the way, she made a few in this book that were just too obvious but it is to be expected. I love the development of other characters as well, especially Maddie’s mom.

The first book I ever read by Annette Blair was The Kitchen Witch, and from that moment on I have been enraptured with her stories of witchcraft and charm! This series is no different. I always tell everyone that I love “witchy” books, and most people that I talk to agree with that statement. If you are looking for a good, cozy “witchy” read then you can’t get much better than Annette Blair!

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