Saturday, August 31, 2013

Book Review: If You Could Be Mine

If You Could Be MineAuthor: Sara Farizan
Publication Date: August 20, 2013
Publisher: Alqonquin Young Readers

In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?

“I want to marry you,” I say, and Nasrin looks at me with a sad expression that makes me feel helpless and pathetic.

She keeps thinking about the two boys who were hung two years ago in Mashhad. They were hung after being accused of raping a thirteen-year-old boy, but most people think the two were lovers who got caught.

I was just something to keep her busy until the Superman of suitors came forward.

This novel was so much more than I expected it to be. The story focused on what it was like to be a homosexual in a country like Iran, which has no toleration for the issue whatsoever. Nasrin and Sahar have been in love with each other since they were just six years old. Now emerging into adulthood, Marin’s parents have arranged a marriage for her that is to take place soon, and Nasrin has faced it and decided that there is nothing she can do about it at all. She proposes that she and Sahar go on as they have before, but this is not enough for Sahar. She wants to be with Nasrin openly and publicly. So much so that she is willing to have a sex change for that to be possible. Both of these girls are in for a world of pain and obstacles, but will their love for one another be enough for them to persevere in a country with little to no tolerance?

The only issue that I had with this book was that the emotions and stakes were high, but I never felt like I really knew either of the girls that well. I definitely felt like there was not enough Nasrin, after all she is one that is about to be married off. I did enjoy Farizan’s writing style because it was easy to follow and flowed extremely well, but I felt like she left out a lot of detail when it came to her two biggest characters. Most of the novel revolves around Sahar and her looming decision to have a sex change. I just couldn’t quite understand why the girls didn’t just leave the country in the first place – but that’s just me.

This book did make me cry, and that is always a plus. Like I said previously, the emotions were high and the action was always enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. I was very interested in the setting; I know that Iran is a very strict place for women, especially gay women, but I was so enthralled in the culture and absorbing all the information that I could about it. I really loved Farizan’s writing style. It is the type that can sail you right through the end of the book without you even realizing you are almost finished reading!

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

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Review: The Wishing Thread

The Wishing ThreadAuthor: Lisa Van Allen
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Ballantine Books

For fans of Jennifer Chiaverini and Sarah Addison Allen, The Wishing Thread is an enchanting novel about the bonds between sisters, the indelible pull of the past, and the transformational power of love.

The Van Ripper women have been the talk of Tarrytown, New York, for centuries. Some say they’re angels; some say they’re crooks. In their tumbledown “Stitchery,” not far from the stomping grounds of the legendary Headless Horseman, the Van Ripper sisters—Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie—are said to knit people’s most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, granting them health, success, or even a blossoming romance. But for the magic to work, sacrifices must be made—and no one knows that better than the Van Rippers.

When the Stitchery matriarch, Mariah, dies, she leaves the yarn shop to her three nieces. Aubrey, shy and reliable, has dedicated her life to weaving spells for the community, though her sisters have long stayed away. Bitty, pragmatic and persistent, has always been skeptical of magic and wants her children to have a normal, nonmagical life. Meggie, restless and free-spirited, follows her own set of rules. Now, after Mariah’s death forces a reunion, the sisters must reassess the state of their lives even as they decide the fate of the Stitchery. But their relationships with one another—and their beliefs in magic—are put to the test. Will the threads hold?

Includes an exclusive conversation between Sarah Addison Allen and Lisa Van Allen
Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

And her sisters, once as close to her as seeds in the heart of an apple, were gone.

In kindergarten, other children were learning to tie their shoes, but Meggie was already an expert at both the knit and purl stiches – whether she liked it or not.

It was no stretch of imagination for the people of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow to believe in magic.

For the women of the Stitchery, this was the beginning of the end.

I am the biggest fan of Alice Hoffman and her beloved tale, Practical Magic. In fact, that book sits at the top of my bookshelf. I believe that The Wishing Thread was written in the same light, being magical realism, and I noticed quite a few similarities. The Van Ripper women have a special gift, and this gift causes them to be both loved and hated by the local residents of Tarrytown. They live in what is called the “Stitchery,” which is only minutes from the place of the legendary Headless Horseman. Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie can knit people’s deepest, darkest wishes, dreams, and prayers into beautiful pieces of clothing such as mittens, scarves, or just about anything. When their Aunt Mariah dies the sisters must come together and heal; they must also make a few sacrifices along the way. If you love magical realism, then you should definitely pick up a copy of this book!

I just couldn’t stop thinking about cozy this book felt. The bond of the sisters and their stitchery felt very comforting and I could clearly picture their home and each of them in my head. Magical Realism has that tendency I believe, to make you feel like you are nestled down by a fire wrapped up in the greatest story ever told. I was instantly drawn into their lives and their ability to transport magic into a scarf or a pair of mittens. I also liked the rules that were dropped throughout the story. For example, “It’s wrong to knit for a person you dislike.”

I instantly connected with the oldest and youngest sisters, Aubrey and Meggie. I didn’t care too much for Bitty because she shut out her ability to do magic and she abandoned her sisters so early on. I did like her daughter, Nessa, and her curiosity takes the reader to creepy, mysterious places throughout the book. I think that Nessa, even though she is young, connects with Aubrey and Meggie and feels her own magical gifts. I loved Aubrey just because it is usually the oldest sister who steps in to save the others when times get tough!

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

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Book Review: Shake Down The Stars

Shake Down the StarsAuthor: Renee Swindle
Publication Date: August 6, 2013
Publisher: NAL Trade

When you’re in trouble, and sinking fast, who do you call?

Piper Nelson is stuck. She can’t quite stay away from the husband she divorced. She isn’t always attentive to the high school students she teaches. And even she admits that she’s been drinking too much and seeking out unsuitable men. Piper’s mother, married to a celebrity evangelist, and her sister, immersed in plans to wed a professional football player and star in a reality TV show, are both too self-absorbed to sympathize with Piper’s angst. They tell her to get a grip. But how can Piper ever really recover from the blow she suffered five years ago, when a car accident took the life of her young daughter?

When Piper’s ex-husband announces his new girlfriend is pregnant, Piper is forced to take stock. Realizing that it’s time for a change is one step, but actually making it happen is quite another. And despite what she thinks, Piper can’t do it alone Lucky for her, a couple of crazy, funny new friends are ready to step in when she needs them most…and show her how to live and laugh again.

It’s two in the afternoon, and I’m already nursing a bottle of scotch I took from the banquet hall when my sister’s engagement party will take place.

The place is straight out of The Great Gatsby with its expansive lawns, indoor swimming pool, smoking room, the aforementioned libraries, and lookout tower covered in ivy.

She sits next to me on the bed. I worry briefly that she’ll catch on to the fact that there’s a man under the covers, but no surprise, she’s completely oblivious.

This book caused me to feel a lot heavier emotions that I was planning from the start. Piper is our troubled heroine, who is going through a divorce and is far from the normal divorcee that we often think about when reading books like this one. Hear me when I tell you that this book will take you places and make you feel things that you did not expect at all! Piper is a troubled soul and at first I questioned her character and if I would even grow to like her. However, when I also took into consideration that Piper was dealing with her daughter’s death as well this changed things for me. I have never experienced feelings like these, but I think that Renee Swindle did an amazing job in characterizing what they might feel like.

Piper is a strong character with deep, believable characterization provided by Swindle. Like I said before, I started off not liking her at all, but by the middle of the book I was Team Piper. I couldn’t stand the people in her life that had hurt her of the trials that she was going through. This would be an excellent book for someone to read that is going through a hard time that others may not understand. Piper could be considered a very inspirational role model in the life of suffering through things just like she is.

The love interest in this book was very delicate and I often wondered if anything was going to come of it. Renee Swindle had me guessing the entire time. I fought the urge to read ahead and find out about the supposed love interest, but I did not. I waited like a good little reader. There is so much I loved about this book, and I could really go on and on. What I loved most was that this book gave me everything I was NOT expecting! It was a wonderful surprise! Very well-written!

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

Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review: The First Affair

The First AffairAuthors: Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Atria Books

Jamie McAlister has resigned herself to the fact that in this job market, her painfully expensive degree might only get her a position at Starbucks, when she suddenly lands a prestigious internship at the White House. Although she doesn’t hit it off with the other interns—lockjaws who come from so much money that ten weeks without a paycheck doesn’t faze them—she is eager to work hard and make the best of the opportunity while it lasts.

An unexpected encounter late one evening with the charismatic President Gregory Rutland seems like just a fleeting flirtation, but when he orchestrates clandestine meetings and late-night phone calls, their relationship quickly escalates. Jamie knows what she is doing is wrong: he’s married, he has kids, he’s the President. Yet each time she tries to extricate herself, Greg pulls her back in.

With the conflicted desires of the most powerful man in the world driving her to her breaking point, Jamie can’t help but divulge intimate details to those closest to her. But she must have confided in the wrong person, because she soon finds herself, and everyone she cares about, facing calculated public destruction at the hands of Greg’s political enemies, and—perhaps no matter how much he cares about her—at the hands of Greg himself.

Her hands crossed over her chest before clenching mine. “You’ll totally find a job, too. No doubt. Just take it on like a rattlesnake on fire.”

“Good night, Jamie.”
“Good night, Greg.”
It had begun.

Someone thought I was special and I wasn’t ready to let that go.

Enough. You know what’s wrong with you girls?” His eyes darkened flat. “You think the rules don’t apply to you.”

The First Affair is the latest novel from the duo author writing team, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus! This novel follows Jamie McAlister as she lands an intern position at the White House, where she then becomes romantically attached to the President of the United States. Yes, I said President! Jamie first stubbles upon the President when she finds him in his office having a panic attack. She has experience with this type of attack and she rushes to calm him down. They later share a kiss and then everything spirals downhill from there. Before Jamie can blink her eyes, she has gotten herself into a world of trouble and is tangled in a web of lies and deceit.

The first half of this book lacked character and interest for me. At first I found Jamie to be extremely naïve and immature. She just jumped right into an affair, with possibly the most powerful man in the United States, without a care in the world. However, the second half of the book does get a little more interesting and enjoyable. The affair gets racy and Jamie starts looking over her shoulder around every turn. The FBI and paparazzi get involved and everything becomes really fast-paced and I, as the reader, was even starting to fear for Jamie’s life.

I was very interested in the setting, as I am finding myself reading more and more books that take place in Washington, D.C. Jamie’s position as an intern fit her character and played into the affair quite nicely. I loved some of secondary characters that Jamie worked with at the White House. I am reading a lot of reviews that comment on how similar this book is to the Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton affair. And while they are right, I still enjoyed the drama and the sauciness of the characters and the affair. I mean how can you read a book about an affair between a girl and the President and not at least be interested in the drama and hot, racy scenes?!

Not the best work by these two authors, but I have not given up on them because parts of this book did make me move to the edge of my seat!

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

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Book Review: Into The Whirlwind

Into the WhirlwindAuthor: Elizabeth Camden
Publication Date: August 1, 2013
Publisher: Bethany House

After her father's death, Mollie Knox takes over his watchmaking company and uses her head for business to solidify the good name of the 57th Illinois Watch Company. Her future looks bright until the night her beloved city is destroyed in the legendary Great Chicago Fire. With her world crumbling around her, Molly must do whatever it takes to save her company in the aftermath of the devastating fire.

Zack Kazmarek is an influential attorney with powerful ties to the political, mercantile, and ethnic roots of Chicago. His only weakness is Mollie Knox, a woman who has always been just beyond his reach. However, all bets are off after the fire destroys Chicago, and Mollie is in desperate need of assistance. Just as Zack finally begins to pursue the woman he loves, competition arises in the form of a hero from her past who can provide the help she needs to rise from the ashes.

While Mollie struggles to rebuild, the two men battle for her heart. One has always loved her, but the other has the power to save her. In the race to rebuild the city, can she survive with her business and her heart intact?

The city Mollie loved so well was being destroyed as flames engulfed buildings, weakening them until they collapsed into piles of rubble, blocking escape routes and sending throngs of people into greater panic. By tomorrow, Chicago would be nothing more than a smoldering ruin.

Mollie would ensure these people would have employment for as long as they kept turning out the world’s most beautiful timepieces.

For above all else, Mollie feared anything that would bring change into her carefully crafted, perfect life.

When we first meet Mollie Knox, her entire world has just gone up in smoke, literally. The Chicago Fire of 1871 is the perfect setting for this book because it frames Mollie’s life and the struggles she faces every day. Mollie has recently inherited her father’s Illinois Watch Company and seems to be managing it just fine three years after his death. Not long after starting the book readers will be introduced to Zack Kazmarek, who jumps in to help save Mollie’s life just in time. Zack has longed for more than a business relationship with Mollie for quite some time, but after this fire has more than destroyed her father’s legacy, she has more on her mind that falling in love.

It is apparent very early on how much compassion and love Mollie has, especially for all the veterans that work for her. Her father, also a veteran of the war, wanted there to always be a job and a paycheck for any veteran in his employ. Mollie has tried to maintain that same mentality, and knows that many families are depending on her to rebuild the company and get things flowing successfully again. Mollie is a character that is defying the odds for women in this time. She is a wonderful businesswoman, who is both smart and classy. I admired Mollie from the first page onward. She really has her wits about her, and she is not a character that will have you shaking your head, but rather a character that makes you wonder how you can be more like them!

This is my second book by Elizabeth Camden, and I will say that this is my favorite of the two! I absolutely loved this book and the literal “whirlwind” that Mollie’s life becomes and that readers get to experience alongside her. I flew this book in no time and was ready for more. Zack wasn’t always my favorite character, but he started to grow on me more towards the end. Mollie was the highlight of this book, and I loved the respect that she still carried for her father long after he had passed. She was definitely a role model for me and a joy to read about!

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

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Book Review: Little Black Book of Murder

Little Black Book of Murder: A Blackbird Sisters MysteryAuthor: Nancy Martin
Publication Date: August 6, 2013
Publisher: NAL Hardcover
Series: Blackbird Sisters Mystery # 9

Someone’s getting crossed off the register.

Nora Blackbird may have been to the manor borne, but these days money is so tight, she can’t afford to lose her job as a society columnist. So when her new boss at the Philadelphia Intelligencer—Australian tabloid editor Gus Hardwicke—tells her to work the celebrity gossip beat or start checking the want ads, the choice is easy.

Now Nora’s writing a profile on billionaire fashion designer Swain Starr, who recently retired to build a high-tech organic farm with his new wife, Zephyr, a former supermodel. But before Nora can get the story, the mogul is murdered. And now Gus wants her to snap up an exclusive on who killed Starr before the cops do.

But solving a celebrity murder isn’t easy with a home life as colorful as Nora’s. Her sort-of-husband, Mick, a former mobster, is associating once again with unsavory characters. Her sister Libby is on a mission to get her diabolical twins on stage or screen with the help of an unscrupulous former child star. And the youngest Blackbird sister, Emma, just got kicked out of the house by Mick—who refuses to explain why.

If anything can bring the blue-blooded Blackbird sisters together, it’s a murder investigation involving high-society events, glamorous people, and the disappearance of a genetically perfect pig that may or may not be basking in the sun at Blackbird Farm. They’ll all have to pull together this time, because if Nora can’t bring home the bacon, she might have to exchange her bucolic estate for a cramped walk-up. 

“Nora Blackbird,” he said to me, his smirk broadening. “Do you always dress like you’re going to a garden party?”

Under my feet, I heard the furnace give a plaintive moan. I almost ran after Libby and asked her to share that pitcher of margaritas.

Please, I said to a greater power. Please don’t let Rawlins be mixed up in this.

She hadn’t been grieving at all for her ex-husband. Her blood was still boiling.

Nora and her sisters are back at it again, and to be honest I hope Nancy Martin keeps writing this awesome series! I don’t care if anyone disagrees with me; this series just keeps getting better and better. Nora and her sisters have grown, their family has grown, and their outside connections have grown, so the entire town they live in is now full of some new people that we didn’t have from the beginning and also some of the golden oldies that have been around since the first book! In the newest edition to this series, Nora is having to put in more hours with The Philadelphia Intelligencer and has been asked to cover celebrity gossip as well as her regular material. Nora is not happy about this, but the economy isn’t where it needs to be and neither is Nora’s life. While she is interviewing Swain Starr, famous fashion designer, Nora is nearly shot and ends up caught in the middle of two women fighting over Swain. Later Nora find Swain’s body and her nephew’s car keys are right beside the dead body. Nora quickly picks up the keys before they can be confiscated by police!

I always enjoy seeing Nora on the socialite scene. She may not like it, but she fits in well with all the rich and famous. Nora is so charismatic and sophisticated that it doesn’t matter what scene she is on, she shines! Nora has gotten herself in quite the pickle this time, and it always floors me how Nancy Martin can come up with these awesome story lines over and over again that keep avid readers like me coming back for more! This story is no less thrilling than any of the others, and I loved watching the characters develop throughout the book! I will tell you that things get spicy and a little bit twisted!

The relationship and the snappy, hilarious moments between Nora and her sisters never gets old. I LOVED that this book/murder was tied to Rawlins in certain ways. Rawlins is Nora’s oldest sister’s son. If you have read this series since the beginning, then you have watched him grow and now he has gotten himself into a bit of a mess. I do not want to give away any spoilers, but Rawlins does play a big part in this story. I enjoyed everything about this book, and I think it makes for a great edition to Nancy’s ever-growing series!

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

Book Review: A Fatal Likeness

A Fatal LikenessAuthor: Lynn Shepherd
Publication Date: August 20, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Series: Charles Maddox # 2

A mystery that explores the dark lives and unexplained secrets of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his wife Mary, author of Frankenstein.

In the dying days of 1850 the young detective Charles Maddox takes on a new case. His client? The only surviving son of the long-dead poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his wife Mary, author of Frankenstein.

Charles soon finds himself being drawn into the bitter battle being waged over the poet’s literary legacy, but then he makes a chance discovery that raises new doubts about the death of Shelley’s first wife, Harriet, and he starts to question whether she did indeed kill herself, or whether what really happened was far more sinister than suicide.

As he’s drawn deeper into the tangled web of the past, Charles discovers darker and more disturbing secrets, until he comes face to face with the terrible possibility that his own great-uncle is implicated in a conspiracy to conceal the truth that stretches back more than thirty years.

The story of the Shelley’s is one of love and death, of loss and betrayal. In this follow-up to the acclaimed Tom-All-Alone’s, Lynn Shepherd offers her own fictional version of that story, which suggests new and shocking answers to mysteries that still persist to this day, and have never yet been fully explained.

He has outsoared the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny, and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again.

She smiles. “I do not own the house, and feel a similar degree of detachment from the garden. But if it would amuse you to dig about in the undergrowth, I for one will not prevent you.”

“You see,” she says to her husband, who seems from his stance to have entered the room only a few moments ago, “it is all as I told you it would be. We had only to wait, and an opportunity would present itself. And so it has. So it has.”

I  do not remember, now, what first led us to talk of ghosts.

Our leading man, Charles Maddox, is back. And this time he is summoned by the only surviving son of Mary Shelley, named Percy after his father. He is called upon because the Shelley family is missing some very important papers concerning the late Shelley that they are in desperate need of and must have back in their possession. These papers could be used for blackmail and would quite possibly ruin the reputation that the Shelley’s have established. Charles gets more than he is bargaining for on this case, and goes into it blindsided. He finds himself caught up in a tangled webs of lies, deceit, and murder. Readers are sure to see a side of the Romantics that they are either unfamiliar with or completely and utterly shocked by; I know I was!

Being an English major and English teacher, I have done my fair study and read my fair share of work by many authors known as part of the group we label, The Romantics. However, I think our author, Lynn Shepherd, has done MORE than her fair share of study on the lives of the Romantics, and more specifically Percy and Mary Shelley. This book made me want to do more research and study about their lives and the relationships they got themselves involved in. I actually went to the library and checkout out a few non-fiction books involving both Percy and Mary. I do not know if Shepherd does not like the Shelley’s, but I got that feeling after reading. However, her depiction of them was completely believable, whether true or not I do not know, but she convinced me to read more on their lives. I think that makes for a successful author!

Just like the Romantics and their lives, Shepherd’s writing was dark and reflected the period and the movement. I always have to get my students to understand that just because they are called “romantic” does not mean it will be a mushy gushy love poem full of boring clichés! Shepherd’s writing style was beautiful and completely poetic, in the sense of the Romantic writers themselves. The only thing that I did not like about this book was the depiction of the Shelley’s, true or not. When you are a literary like me, who happens to love Frankenstein, you get this idea in your head of who you perceive the author to be and what you think they are like. No matter what, you don’t want anything to change that. It’s almost like a young girl looking up to a certain performer or actress, and then learning that they are completely ruthless and a jerk. However, this does not change the fact that Shepherd is an excellent writer and spins a dark and twisted tale that took me no time at all to finish!

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

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Review: A Clockwork Heart

A Clockwork Heart (The Chronicle of Light and Shadow, #2)Author: Liesel Schwarz
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
Publisher: Del Rey
Series: The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #2

FOR BETTER OR CURSE. That might as well have been the wedding vow of Elle Chance and her new husband, the ex-Warlock Hugh Marsh in the second book of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, historical adventure, and paranormal romance into storytelling magic.

As Elle devotes herself to her duties as the Oracle—who alone has the power to keep the dark designs of Shadow at bay—Marsh finds himself missing the excitement of his former life as a Warlock. So when Commissioner Willoughby of the London Metropolitan police seeks his help in solving a magical mystery, Marsh is only too happy to oblige. But in doing so, Marsh loses his heart . . . literally.

In place of the flesh-and-blood organ is a clockwork device—a device that makes Marsh a kind of zombie. Nor is he the only one. A plague of clockwork zombies is afflicting London, sowing panic and whispers of revolution. Now Elle must join forces with her husband’s old friend, the Nightwalker Loisa Beladodia, to track down Marsh’s heart and restore it to his chest before time runs out.

These men had no idea who they were dealing with. And enlightening them was going to be such fun.

Sated, she stood and straightened her cloak. A gentle psychic tug caught her attention and she stared in the direction of the university. The pull she felt was the desire of men. She could feel herself being summoned.

“I think I need something stronger than tea.” Marsh walked over to his liquor cabinet. He selected one of the decanters. It was filled with bright green liquid that could only be absinthe.

Elle smiled at the use of her nickname. He used to call her ‘ells Bells or later simply Bells for short.
Elle Chance, our leading lady, is back in action, and this time she is married! Yep, you heard right. She is married to ex-Warlock Hugh Marsh. However, not everything is peachy keen for the newlyweds. Hugh has supposedly given up his warlock ways; however, he finds himself in the middle of a rather odd case which leads to trouble and ends up leaving Elle alone and to fend for herself. Elle doesn’t want to give up flying and is faced with more huge decisions in this book. This book is not full of romance or tales of happily wedded bliss. Readers will see some big changes in the life of Elle.

I was drawn to this book for many reasons. Some of those are the steampunk feel, the bright red hair, and the strong, vibrant female characters. Elle is by far my favorite. I was immediately drawn to her because her ambitious nature is so unlike what I am used to in books. There are ambitious female character, yes, but Elle breaks the mold. She is witty, smart, and so courageous. I was just so taken with her character right from the start. Not to mention the fact that she is an oracle and her powers and abilities are very creative and unique on the author’s part. I also love Loisa, a vampire of Nightwalker, who is a nice alternative to Elle and with her we are able to see the extent of Schwarz character development skills!

I love the supernatural that encompasses these books and I am excited to see where we are going to go from here. This book is a perfect mixture of steampunk and fantasy! The next book is releasing next June, and I am just hoping that I can wait that long. I would recommend this to people who are ready to try something new, and maybe even branch out of a genre that they read very often. Elle is the perfect heroine and lady pilot to take any reader on an exciting new journey!

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

Book Review: Winds of Salem

Winds of Salem (The Beauchamp Family, #3)Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
Publisher: Hyperion
Series: The Beauchamp Family # 3

Modern-day witch Freya Beauchamp is cast back in time to 1692 amongst the Salem Witch Trials by an enemy spell, as her present-day family attempts to reopen the passages of time to bring her home.

Freya Beauchamp is trapped in 1692, in Salem of all places, with no recollection of her past. A powerful enemy spell has sent her spiraling away so that she is separated by centuries from her mother, Joanna, and sister, Ingrid. This is not good news for a twenty-first-century witch. Not to mention the immediate threat she faces from the wealthy and influential Putnam family. When little Annie Putnam is one of the first to make accusations of witchcraft, her landowner father jumps at the opportunity to consolidate his power and expand his holdings in Puritan Salem Town. If Freya is caught using magic, she will be forced to relive the witch trials, and this time, even her immortality is in question.

Meanwhile, twenty-first-century North Hampton has its own snares. Joanna and Norm consult the Oracle for advice, and Freddie and his pixie allies search for a missing totem that could reopen the passages of time and help bring his sister home. When Ingrid bumps into an old flame, she finds that her new love for Detective Matt Noble is in doubt.

Moving between past and present, Winds of Salem's dizzying plot twists and page-turning suspense is sure to bewitch fans old and new.

“Oh, stop that, you wench! You are considered the fairest maid in all of Salem Village and Salem Town! Many speak of your beauty. I will hear none of that from you! Anyhow, it matters little nowadays. Men of high rank marry poor lasses like us here in the New World. Don’t ruin this for us. I am so very happy we are both in love!”

Perhaps was she was doing was witchcraft, the occult, magic – all considered odious, wicked, abominable, the insidious design of the devil. That was what everyone believed. But did that make it true?

The Beauchamps’ magic had grown feeble, Ingrid knew; it was a candle at the end of its wick.

The burning field of wheat and her sister in the middle of it…

I do not want to spoil this series for anyone who hasn’t already read it, so there won’t be a lot of the synopsis here. However, I will say that if you love the Salem Witch Trials, as I do, then you should start with the first book in this series. This series of novels follows the life of Freya Beauchamp as she gets herself stuck in 1692 Salem, where she is going to then live through the horrible series of events known as The Salem Witch Trials. Freya’s parents and loved ones are trying very hard to bring her back the same way she went before it is too late and she is stuck in Salem and away from her family forever.

Again, I teach high school English. I am in love with literature that focuses on the lives of the Puritans, and in this book you get to see it first hand as you follow Freya into 1692 Salem. The story flips between present day and 1692, so readers will never lose interest and the action and events just get better and better. Freya’s family plays a huge part in this, and one of my favorite characters has always been her sister, Ingrid. Ingrid has my dream job: librarian! I loved seeing more of Ingrid, and I truly feel that her character is an excellent addition to the story line.

Have I mentioned that I am SOOO excited for this book to be made into a Lifetime series? Well, I am! I have always loved reading about witches, witchcraft, and the Salem Witch Trials ever since watching Charmed for the very first time. I will say that I wish there were more details about magic in this book. I would love it if that’s all they talked about! I am just so intrigued with witchy characters; they are usually my favorite characters in any book or series!

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Blog Tour: Winter In Full Bloom

Winter in Full BloomAuthor: Anita Higman
Publication Date: August 15, 2013
Publisher: River North

Lily Winter's wings are folded so tightly around her daughter that when empty nest arrives, she feels she can no longer fly. But Lily's lonely, widowed life changes in a heartbeat when she goes to visit a woman who is almost a stranger to her-a woman who also happens to be her mother. During their fiery reunion, her mother reveals a dark family secret that she'd been hiding for decades-Lily has an identical twin sister who was put up for adoption when they were just babies.

 Without looking back, Lily-with her fear of flying-boards a jumbo jet and embarks on a quest to find her sister which leads half way around the world to Melbourne, Australia. Befriended by imprudent Aussie, he might prove to be the key to finding her sister. But her journey becomes a circle that leads her back home to attempt a family reunion and to find the one dream she no longer imagined possible-the chance to fall in love again.

A distant gaze crossed his face, as though he were starting off into a faraway serene and lovely place. A place her music created, perhaps.

“He was supposed to be my prince, the one who would rescues me, protect me from harm, but what he did was far from noble. When he gave away his heart and body to another woman after he’d promised to be faithful, well, my hero became a villain.”

As if he were still connected to my sister, I didn’t want to let go of him.

“I think of those sweet babies when I play my music. I’m playing for them and for the lost little girl inside me who never got to grow up.”

Lily has just become used to living a lonely, widowed life. At the start of our journey with Lily, readers find that she has just found out a secret that her mom kept from her for many, many years: she has an identical twin sister who was given up at birth. Lily does what most people would probably do, and leaves on the next flight to Melbourne, Australia where her twin sister lives. Lily hopes to have a better meeting with her sister than with her fiery mother, and she has no idea what lays waiting for her overseas. Lily meets a man named Marcus who might be able to help lead her to her sister, but might he also lead her heart to love again?

Lily didn’t immediately pull me into her story because her story is just like so many other heroines in books I have read. However, once I met Lily’s mother and found out the secret her mother had been hiding from her for her entire life, I was hooked and really started looking at things from Lily’s perspective. Lily was a truly endearing and likeable character. Her heart and her mind are on the same page; she is caring and compassionate even in a time when her life is a huge mess. It was wonderful to see this story through her eyes and be able to watch her put her life together again.

This story is ultimately a story of relationships and the changes and healing that we must go through in life. Lily’s life was life a puzzle waiting to be picked up and put together. The writing style used by Higman was very lyrical and soothing. I had no trouble zooming through this story. Not to mention the cover! If that cover did not sell you, then you should have your eyes checked!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at River North and the Liftuse Blog Publicity group in exchange for my honest review and for the purposes of the blog tour***