Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs

The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper ClubsAuthor: Dana Bate
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Hyperion

Hannah Sugarman seems to have it all. She works for an influential think tank in Washington, D.C., lives in a swanky apartment with her high-achieving boyfriend, and is poised for an academic career just like her parents. The only problem is that Hannah doesn’t want any of it. What she wants is much simpler: to cook.

When her relationship collapses, Hannah seizes the chance to do what she’s always loved and launches an underground supper club out of her new landlord’s town house. Though her delicious dishes become the talk of the town, her secret venture is highly problematic, given that it is not, technically speaking, legal. She also conveniently forgets to tell her landlord she has been using his place while he is out of town.

On top of that, Hannah faces various romantic prospects that leave her guessing and confused, parents who don’t support cooking as a career, and her own fears of taking a risk and charting her own path. A charming romantic comedy, The Girls’ Guide to Love and Supper Clubs is a story about finding yourself, fulfilling your dreams, and falling in love along the way.

“And, really, with all of the champagne and red wine, combined with the prospect of sugary frosting and pecan goo, it almost wasn’t my fault. I was distracted. Who hasn’t made a few bad decisions under the spell of sugar and alcohol? Besides, Adam acted like a jerk for most of the evening. I’m hardly the only one at fault.” – Finished Copy pg. 13

“Baking and cooking bring me inner peace, like a tasty version of yoga, without all the awkward stretching and sweating. When my life spins out of control, when I can’t make sense of what’s going on in the world, I head straight to the kitchen and turn on my oven, and with the press of a button, I switch one part of my brain off and another on. The rules of the kitchen are straightforward, and when I’m there I don’t have to think about my problems. I don’t need to think about anything but cups and ounces, temperatures and cooking times.” – Finished Copy pg. 24 & 25

“Baking was my way of restoring order in a world drive by chaos, and it still is.” – Finished Copy pg. 25

“I stagger over to the freezer, wanting nothing more than to fill the emptiness inside me with something rich and disgustingly caloric, anything to erase this feeling of being so completely alone. But, as I dig out a fist-size spoonful of cookies and cream ice cream, for the first time in my entire life, I cannot bring myself to eat.” – Finished Copy pg. 50

“We head back into the kitchen, where I finish baking off the pretzel bread and pull one of the carrot cakes from the refrigerator to let it come to room temperature. Mounds of toasted coconut cling to the side of the cake, held in place by the fluffy cream cheese frosting. Beneath the frosting lies a moist and fragrant cake bursting with carrots and cinnamon and golden raisins, stuffed with gooey caramelized pecan filling. It is, in my eyes, a dessert approximating perfection.” – Finished Copy pg. 143

For some reason I always find myself lost and mesmerized in the books that surround food of any sort. This book may very well be my favorite book so far this year. I was just so lost in the literature and lost in Hannah’s world of carrot cake, cream cheese frosting, and coffee cakes galore! Books that have anything to do with food or a main character that loves to cook and bake are just really hard to beat. There is just something about them that feels extra cozy and all the more real to me. Hannah Sugarman is down on her luck. How awesome is the last name ‘Sugarman’? Her parents are displeased with her and she has just been dumped. Yes, this is how most of these stories start off, but trust me Hannah’s story is worth sticking around for.

A Secret Supper Club? If you would have asked me yesterday I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what that was or even if it was real. This Secret Supper Club becomes a group of characters that I found myself falling in love with. My favorite scenes were scenes where the Secret Supper Club met and shared dinner and lots of funny stories. I must say that you should not read this book if you are extremely hungry because Hannah and her crew will have your mouth watering. When Hannah describes whatever it is she might be cooking I have a hard time not getting lost in daydreams. Everything sounds so dreamy and the imagery surrounding the food is to die for. Literally, wanted to reach out and grab everything she talks about.

Even though this book is about a Secret Supper Club, that is not all that the story focuses on. We follow Hannah as her life begins to unravel and then get sewn back together again. She enters new relationships and brings a very lively cast of secondary characters to the table. I also loved the setting, which is Washington D.C. I have just recently started noticing that a lot more books are being set here as opposed to New York City or San Francisco. I like reading about the fast-paced city life and I love how Hannah’s pace seems so calm despite what is going on around her.

If you love Chick-Lit or anything about food, then I highly recommend you give Hannah Sugarman and Dana Bate a try! This is Dana Bate’s debut novel and I must say Ms. Bate, I am pretty impressed!

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

Book Review: The Fairest Beauty

The Fairest BeautyAuthor: Melanie Dickerson
Publication Date: January 22, 2013
Publisher: Zondervan

A daring rescue. A difficult choice. Sophie desperately wants to get away from her stepmother's jealousy, and believes escape is her only chance to be happy. Then a young man named Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother, and everything twists upside down. This could be Sophie's one chance at freedom---but can she trust another person to keep her safe? Gabe defied his parents Rose and Wilhelm by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: the girl's inner and outer beauty has enchanted him. Though romance is impossible---she is his brother's future wife, and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else---he promises himself he will see the mission through, no matter what. When the pair flee to the Cottage of the Seven, they find help---but also find their feelings for each other have grown. Now both must not only protect each other from the dangers around them---they must also protect their hearts.

“If Duke Baldewin’s daughter were still alive, it made sense that she could be in danger from the shadowy Ermengard; Duke Baldewin’s daughter would be sixteen, maybe seventeen years old, making her a threat to the duchess’s rule. Though surely someone would have corrected the erroneous report of her demise by now. The truth would surely have leaked out and spread to Hagenheim. Or so one would think.” – Finished Copy pg. 14

“Sophie watched the stranger’s mouth as he spoke, as if seeing the words forming on his lips as well as hearing them would help her make sense of everything he said. Was she Duke Baldewin’s daughter? Was she betrothed? It was too strange to comprehend.” – Finished Copy pg. 58

“He’d forced a kiss on her, and she hadn’t even been able to reach for her knife. She was still alert enough to wonder if he would truly marry her and take her away from here. Hadn’t she thought just last week, when he visited her in the dungeon, that if anyone could help her escape it was Lorencz? But could she trust him to marry her? Besides, she wasn’t sure she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.” – Finished Copy pg. 66

The duke’s beloved daughter. Sophie allowed herself to dwell on that. Her father, the duke, had loved her. She was loved. Once upon a time.” – Finished Copy pg. 76

This is the first book that I have read by Melanie Dickerson and I don’t know why?! She has written two other fairytale retellings, similar to this one, and is working on a fourth! This story is obviously a retelling of Snow White and it lives up to the original. Sophie is the daughter of Duke Baldewin, but she doesn’t know that. The evil Duchess of Ermengard has kept Sophie prisoner for many years and has always envied her natural beauty and charm. However, someone knows the secret that the evil duchess has tried to kept hidden for so many years: Sophie is royalty and is now in grave danger and will soon face death at the duchess’s hand. This news falls into the hands of Gabe, a young man from Hagenheim Castle, and he makes it his personal mission to save Sophie from grave danger. Will he beat the Duchess of Ermengard to the chase?

I fell in love with this entire fairytale all over again. Even though they were all different characters, I still loved every single one of them. I always love the villains too for some reason and the Duchess of Ermengard was no different. She was written with such hatred and animosity, that I couldn’t help but love her character. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how a proper villain should be written. I, of course, loved Sophie’s character as well, resembling Snow White in the story. She was so loveable and fit the Snow White persona perfectly! I was immediately drawn to her character and the courage she exhibits right from the first page.

The plot takes some unexpected twists and turns that even I was not ready for. I loved that once Snow White escapes the action begins to speed up and I absolutely adore her rescuer, Gabe! Gabe is courageous, noble, and persistent; in other words, everything you expect Prince Charming to be. The romance was perfectly paced and staged. It became somewhat predictable from the start in this department, but I was still pleasantly surprised by the end. This is a fairytale after all, and we all know that everyone lives happily ever after, maybe?

I greatly recommend this book to fairytale lovers, especially if you enjoy a good retelling! You won’t want to miss this one!

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

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: Crystal Cove

Crystal Cove (Friday Harbor, #4)Author: Lisa Kleypas
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Series: Friday Harbor # 4

In New York Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas's Crystal Cove, Justine Hoffman has made a comfortable life for herself on the island of Friday Harbor. She is the proprietor of a successful boutique hotel, and she has the safe, predictable life she has always wanted. Growing up with her flighty, nomadic mother, Marigold, has instilled in her a deep longing for stability. But in spite of everything Justine has achieved, there is still something missing. Love. And after years of waiting and dreaming, she is willing to do whatever it takes to change her destiny.

What Justine soon discovers is that someone cast a spell on her when she was born, with the result that she will never find her soul mate. Determined to change her fate, Justine finds a way to break the enchantment, never dreaming of the dangerous complications that will follow.

And when Justine meets the mysterious Jason Black, she accidentally unleashes a storm of desire and danger that threaten everything she holds dear . . . because Jason has secrets of his own, and he wants more from her than fate will ever allow.

“Although Justine had never experienced real love, she knew it when she saw it. When Zoe and Alex were together, they tried to be casual, but the emotion was still too new and raw for either of them to be easy with it. Their intense awareness of each other was emblazoned in the air no matter how discreet they were. Sometimes it was even in their voices, as if love had filled them until they had to remind themselves to breathe.” – Paperback Copy pg. 5

“Reflecting on those years of constant upheaval, Justine thought she understood why her mother could never stay in one place. If you held still long enough, love might find you, and catch you so tightly that you couldn’t slip free.” – Paperback Copy pg. 9

“After a childhood of constant wandering, the weight and feeling of home was deeply satisfying. Justine knew practically everyone on the island. Her life was filled with all kinds of love…she loved her friends, the inn, the islands, walking through forests thick with pine and sword fern and Oregon grape. She loved the way Friday Harbor sunsets seemed to melt into the ocean. With all that, she had no right to ask for anything more.” – Paperback Copy pg. 28

“Justine had fallen in love with the former hilltop mansion as soon as she’d seen it, and had bought it for a steal. As she had painted the rooms and decorated each one according to a different artist such as a van Gogh or da Vinci, she’d felt as if she were creating a world of her own. A quiet, welcoming place where people could relax, sleep well, eat well.” – Paperback Copy pg. 28

“Some men were so good-looking that they didn’t have to be sexy. Some men were so sexy they didn’t have to be good-looking. For this man to be both was proof that life was essentially unfair. He was one of nature’s randomly created genetic lottery winners.” – Paperback Copy pg. 94

Justine Hoffman needs a chance to fall in love, real love. Not the overnight kind. She is bound and determined to find her Mr. Right even if it takes a little witchcraft to help her find him. She is desperate and about the point of giving up forever when Mr. Everything-but-Right walks into her life. Could Justine’s true love be one that she doesn’t expect at all?

Friday Harbor is where I want to be, like right now! This love story had a perfect backdrop and I was completely entranced by this story and by the pieces of witchcraft and Justine’s potions, enchantments, and spells. What better place to be a witch that a quaint, cozy seaside town? The whole idea of Friday Harbor just seems so cozy and inviting and the hotel that Justine runs has just the right feminine touch. I love when authors make settings so realistic that I feel as if I can reach out and touch them. I mentioned Justine’s ability to cast spells and produce potions, traits passed down by her mother. I loved this added detail, even though I don’t believe in witchcraft, it is still fun to read about and see infused with the lives of the fictional characters we meet.

When Jason Black walked onto the scene in Friday Harbor I knew that things were about to heat up between him and Justine. He was everything that Justine wasn’t looking for, but everything that she needed to spice up her life. Did I mention that there was a curse? Justine has been cursed to never find true love. Can you imagine? Not only is the curse detrimental to Justine’s love life, but once broken can bring horrid consequences to whomever attempts to break it. This curse goes against everything that Justine is working so hard for. Justine’s determination to break the curse and the tension and frustration that fills the room every time Jason enters it is enough to keep readers invested in their relationship.

Lisa Kleypas once again draws readers in and leaves the longing more of Friday Harbor and its many colorful characters. I am hearing that there may be another installment in this series and I am not sure if I can wait for Fall to read it, but I will try my best!!

***A BIG thank you to the publishers at St. Martin’s Griffin for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review: Giving Up The Ghost

Giving Up the GhostAuthor: Phoebe Rivers
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Simon Spotlight
Series: Saranormal # 6

Sara discovers an exciting new paranormal ability—but will it hurt more than it helps? Though the paranormal has become nearly normal for Sara Collins, life has been stranger than usual lately. Accidents and mishaps are happening at home, and Sara’s dad and Lady Azura aren’t getting along very well. Lady Azura blames the negative energy in the house. Sara’s not sure what that means, but she’s also a little preoccupied dealing with a new power she’s just discovered: the ability to read minds.
What starts off as fun insight into people’s thoughts quickly leads Sara down a frightening path. Is Sara hearing the true thoughts of her friends and family, or is some sort of negative energy wreaking havoc? Sara confides in Lady Azura and together they discover that Sara’s new ability is not a gift like her other abilities. Rather, it’s a curse. A curse that Sara needs to overcome before it destroys her most important relationships.

“I’d been able to see spirits – dead people- for as long as I could remember. Recently that power had intensified, and for a while now I’d been able to interact with the spirits, to talk with them. Since I’d arrived in Stellamar last summer, I had gradually come to accept these powers. Before moving here, back when I lived in California, I’d hated them. They made me feel different, and I just wanted to be normal. But with my great-grandmother’s help, I was actually starting to look at them as the “gift” she insisted they were. Most of the time, anyway.” – Finished Copy pg. 3

“My dad and I had come to live with Lady Azura, my great-grandmother, at the end of last summer. She and I had something in common: the power to see the spirits of the dead.” – Finished Copy pg. 10

“I leaned back in my chair and stared straight ahead. I definitely wasn’t liking this new skill of mine, the ability to read minds. Not one bit.” – Finished Copy pg. 27

“I wanted to know more about this “negative energy” she kept talking about. I kept thinking there was more to the story than Lady Azura was letting on. It bothered me that she was keeping it from me. As though trying to protect me. Did she think I couldn’t deal with it?” – Finished Copy pg. 43

“I wasn’t scared anymore. I was mad. I swung my legs out of bed and set out in pursuit. I felt this overwhelming urge to follow it, to keep it from harming my family.” – Finished Copy pg. 62

It has been one of my goals since the beginning of the New Year to try and read as much middle grades fiction as I possibly can. Books like this one make me wonder why I don’t read more of them? This book is number six in an ongoing series by Phoebe Rivers about a girl who can see and talk to spirits. Sara, our heroine, hasn’t quite figured out if this is a curse or a blessing as of yet, but with the help of her great-grandmother, in this book, she may just come around to the idea a little bit more. In this installment, Sara and her great-grandmother Lady Azura, who can see spirits as well, are sensing a negative energy in the house and Sara is bound and determined to figure out what it could be before it hurts her family.

I love to see how Sara’s character grows throughout the series. For example, in this book Sara obtains a new “gift”: reading the minds of others. Just when Sara thinks she can accept the fact that she can see and talk with spirits, she is thrown another curveball. I love how Sara continues to try and live a normal life and still submerge herself in her crowd of friends and not single herself out or label herself “different” or “odd.” Sara finds solitude and comfort in her family as well, and I think this sends out an awesome central message for the targeted age groups for this book. She puts her family first and does anything she can to ensure their trust and safety.

These books are so unbelievable cute and so easy to read. I was finished with this book before I had even started it, and Rivers relates the text and the events in Sara’s life to things that pre-teens might experience today. She draws in central issues like problems or disagreements among Sara and her close friend in order to draw the reader in and hopefully relate them more closely to Sara herself. I love this series and my younger cousin loves when I receive books like this one too. So not only do they have one vote, but now they have the vote of one eager eleven year old as well! Check them out today. This would be a wonderful book to tempt younger children that don’t always have the desire to read.

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

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Book Review: The Archived

The Archived (The Archived, #1)Author: Victoria Schwab
Publication Date: January 22, 2013
Publisher: Hyperion
Series: The Archived # 1

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

“Coded. Every Keeper has a system, a way to tell a good door from a bad one; I cannot count the number of X’s and slashes and circles and dots scribbled against each door and then rubbed away. I pull a thin piece of chalk from my pocket – it’s funny, the things you learn to keep on you at all times – and use it to draw a quick roman numeral I on the door I just came through, right above the keyhole (the doors here have no handles, can’t even be tried without a key). The number is bright and white over the dozens of old, half-ruined marks.” – ARC Copy pg. 15

“‘But,’ you say, recovering. ‘If a History does get out, you have to track them down, and fast. Reading surfaces has to be second nature. This gift is not a game, Kenzie. It’s not a magic trick. We read the past for one reason, and one alone. To hunt.’” – ARC Copy pg. 28

“I try to unpack, but my eyes keep drifting back to the center of the room, to the floor where the bloodstained boy collapsed. When I pushed the boxes aside, I could almost make out a few dark stains on the wood, and now it’s all I can see when I look at the floor. But who knows if the stains were drops of his blood. Not his blood, I remember. Someone’s. I want to read the memory again – well, part of me wants to; the other part isn’t so eager, at least not on my first night in a foreign room – but Mom keeps finding excuses to come in, half the time not even knocking, and if I’m going to read this, I’d like to avoid another interruption when I do it. It’ll have to wait until morning.” – ARC Copy pg. 35

“It’s not the blood, or even the murder, though both turn my stomach. It’s the fact that he ran. All I can think is did he get away? Did he get away with that?” – ARC Copy pg. 90

“‘You, Mackenzie Bishop,’ he says as we hit the landing, ‘have been a very bad girl.’” – ARC Copy pg. 184

From the perspective of someone who wants to end up as a Librarian, this was an awesome premise and plot! Dead people who are kept on shelves like ghosts or forgotten books? Yes, please! The world building is simply phenomenal. You have Librarian who catalogue the dead and Keepers who return the dead to be archived. Schwab took this concept and ran with it. This could almost be comparable to a Harry Potter type world. She goes so in depth with the characters and the idea of being a Librarian or a Keeper, that I was literally waiting for a manual telling me how to navigate this magically creepy world.

The only complaint that I really have with this book is that it took me a little while to understand and get into. One of the minor pet peeves that I had was that for quite a few chapters I thought that when Mackenzie was saying “Da” she was referring to her father and that now he was a ghost. I did not learn until later that “Da” was actually her grandfather. This was a huge disconnect that should not have happened at all. The story does pick up and begin to make more sense as the pages turn. The mystery and the romance swirl together evenly like chocolate and vanilla. Not too much of either to make you annoyed as the reader and a nice shift in between the two.

This turned into a murder mystery and I was NOT expecting this at all! Maybe that was just me, but whoa! It hit me in the face like a left hook. I loved how the anticipation grew and how the suspense shifted me to the end of my seat. This is going to be an amazing series and I am anxious to see where Kenzie takes us next. Kenzie was a great lead character and in my opinion acted well over the maturity expectations for someone that is only eleven years old. I loved her connection to her deceased younger brother. I could feel her pain and emotions rise clear off the page. I recommend this series to anyone and the only reason that I am not giving it five stars is because of the disconnect at the beginning. I do not think I should have felt that way at the start, but the rest of the book is just too stellar to deny!

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: Soulbound

Soulbound (Lone Star Witch, #1)Author: Tessa Adams
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Series: Lone Star Witch # 1

As the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter—and a member of Ipswitch’s Royal family—Xandra Morgan should be a witch of incredible power. But things don’t always turn out like you expect…

While she hasn’t lived up to her family’s expectations, Xandra has come to terms with her latent magic and made a life for herself in Austin, Texas, running a coffee shop where she makes potions of a non-magical nature. While things aren’t perfect, Xandra is happy—until she runs into powerful warlock Declan Chumomisto.

Xandra hasn’t seen Declan in years, and though she’s still overwhelmed by his power, she doesn’t trust him. And when her own powers awaken one night and lead her to the body of a woman in the woods bearing the symbol of Isis—the same one that has marked Xandra since the day she met Declan—she’s filled with a terrible suspicion, soon confirmed: the woman is connected to him.

Xandra doesn’t want to believe that Declan is capable of murder, but as the body count mounts, and Xandra’s own powers spiral out of control, she’s not sure she can trust her own instincts…

“Behind me, my mother shrieks my name. In a booming voice, my father demands that I return to the ballroom at once. But I’m running full out now, scrambling to get away from the pity and the revulsion radiating from so many of the guests. They’ve come from all over our territory, all over the world, to witness the Kas Djedet of the youngest, and supposedly most powerful, Morgan daughter. What they’ve witnessed instead doesn’t bear thinking about.” – Finished Copy pg. 5

“Two thoughts hit me at once. First, that I was right about the power. The man who is even now slowly, inexorably, crossing the last few feet between us, is a warlock of almost unimaginable skill. One who straddles the line between light and dark, white magic and black. One who even my very powerful parents speak about only in whispers, despite the fact that his brother has been dating my sister for years now. Though Ryder celebrates most holidays with us, Declan has never before been invited to our house. After all, my mother is adamant that we don’t associate with his kind of power.” – Finished Copy pg. 9

“For long seconds, my brother doesn’t say anything. But I can feel him searching for the truth and it makes me a little sick. Not because I don’t believe what I’m saying, but because I need so badly for him to believe it too. I’m tired of being poor Xandra, the one everyone in the family – in the coven – feels sorry for. That’s why I liked Austin so much. No one there expects me to be anything more than what I am.” – Finished Copy pg. 37

“I don’t bother trying to sleep. One, because I have to be up at four to get to work and two, because I’m terrified that if I close my eyes I’ll be bombarded by images of that poor woman. Of Lina. Or worse. I’ll get sucked into a world where I’m fascinated, instead of repelled, by Declan Chumomisto.” – Finished Copy pg. 139

As the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, Xandra Morgan should be an unbelievable witch with power so great that you would need to approach her with a shield of steel and a ten foot pole. Only she’s not. Xandra’s world is consumed by magic and all of her loved ones expect her to carry on with the magical gene, in fact they will stop at nothing to help her obtain her own witchy powers. However, Xandra comes into a gift all her own; she starts to have visions that lead her to corpses and she begins to see the cause of death. This gift she has obtained turns out to be a little more dangerous than she could have ever imagined and puts her between a rock and a hard place: good and evil.

This cover of this book really drew me in and I was spellbound by it; no pun intended! Xandra Morgan appears helpless and naïve within the first few pages, but readers quickly learn that she anything but that. She is a strong, brave, and ruthless heroine who I will follow as long as this series continues. Her behavior after learning that she doesn’t possess the same powers as her family was so overwhelming and I greatly admired her. I wanted to get to know her better from the first page and I was Team Xandra the entire way through. Half the time didn’t even care what might be going on with other characters; I just wanted to know how she fit into the situation. I love characters like her who get me so involved with the plot of the book that I feel like I am the Robin to their Batman!

In books like this one world building is key. From the very beginning I was thrown into a world full of dark magic, witches, warlocks, and things that I could never dream up even within my wildest imagination. The new terminology was awesome and the suspense had me on the edge of my seat. Sometimes I think that only with supernatural worlds like this one you can come across this intense character building and suspense that plays on the nature of the world that the characters are submerged in.

Overall, I was extremely pleased with this new series and I will be anxiously awaiting the next book. Declan was a great “bad boy” character and I loved the romantic aspects of this book as well. Xandra appeared more scandalous and sexy when he was around, and it was nice to see a different side of her! So fearless!

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Review: Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria

Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria (Death and Taxes, #4)Author: Diane Kelly
Publication Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Series: Death and Taxes # 4

When it comes to exposing tax fraud, Tara and her partner Eddie are really cleaning up. From their brilliant takedown of the disappearing “Tax Wizard” to their perfectly planned downfall of the “Deduction Diva,” they’ve earned the respect of their peers at Criminal Investigations. Now Tara’s ready to celebrate with an ice-cold pitcher of peach sangria—even if her next case is totally the pits…

Tara’s looking forward to a challenge but, back at the office, everyone’s looking for love. Her boss Lu “The Lobo” Lobozinski and office virgin Josh Schmidt are signing up for an online dating service, and—to Tara’s dismay—so is her crush, Special Agent Nick Pratt. Tara’s trying to act chill. But when she learns that her next case involves cash-funneling to terrorists, it’s not just her love life that’s on the rocks. It’s her life, period.

“Dig a little deeper, though, and you’d find Eddie and I shared quite a few similarities. We’d both kicked academic asses in college, graduating at the top of our classes. We’d both taken jobs as special agents in IRS Criminal Investigations when we’d discovered that sitting at a desk all day didn’t suit us. And we both wanted to see tax cheats get their due. Especially the Deduction Diva. She’d been cheating the government for years. The Diva’s due was long overdue.” – Paperback Copy pg. 2

“Yes, as ashamed as I was to admit it, to a certain degree I was one of those people who’d rather stick her head in the sand and pretend the world is a happy, sunshiny place full of nice people. I knew it was naïve and wrong, but the alternative was to be upset and depressed all the time, wasn’t it? Who wants to live like that? Besides, it wasn’t like I was doing nothing. I contributed to human rights groups. Just take a look at the charitable deductions on my last tax return.” – Paperback Copy pg. 31

“It had been a while since I’d broken up with a guy, so I was a little out of practice. One of my college boyfriends had made breaking up with him easy. Telling someone you never wanted to see him again was fairly easy when he showed up at your door with a hickey on his neck that you hadn’t put there. Jeez. Did the guy think I was blind? Most of my other breakups had been relatively amicable, the fact that the relationship wasn’t going anywhere obvious to both of us. But with Brett things would be difficult, especially since I wasn’t exactly breaking up with him for good. Rather, I’d just be seeking permission to date another man and evaluate my feelings before making a more definite decision.” – Paperback Copy pg. 41

“I pulled back my blazer to reveal the gun holstered at my waist in case the biker had any thoughts of getting violent, ‘I’m Special Agent Tara Holloway with the IRS. Can I be of help here?’” – Paperback Copy pg. 108

Tara Holloway is a riot and can rival Stephanie Plum any day. In fact, I think they would probably be best friends were they ever to meet. Once again, Diane Kelly takes us deep into the world of IRS Tax Fraud and we follow Tara, along with her partner, Eddie on a wild goose chase for some tax cheating hussy! This book starts with a recipe for Peach Sangria and only gets better from there. I just have to say that I love the covers of these books and I think they get better each time. I am forever a fan of this series and will push them off onto anybody who is willing to listen.

Tara’s relationship with Brett still remains out in left field and with the help of her best friend and some strong Peach Sangrias, Tara tries to work out the kinks in her love life. Tara and Brett have been trying for a good while now to work things out and to be honest I am to the point where I am tired of it, so I know they are. Then we have Nick, who is perfect in every way and who I desperately want to see Tara with! I love watching Tara chase after tax cheaters with names like, “The Deduction Diva” and “The Tax Wizard,” while trying to balance out her love life. It just makes the wild goose chase that much more fun!

Tara’s character and I would obviously be best friends if we were to ever meet. I love Tara’s spark and her spunky personality and I swear it gets better with each and every installment in this fast-paced series. I love the dialogue between Tara and most of the other characters because her personality just comes out so vividly through her language. Tara’s love life, her career, and her charming personality are all reason enough for me to recommend this series to anyone and the reason why I will follow it as an avid reader all the way to the end!

***A big thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: The Start of Everything

The Start of EverythingAuthor: Emily Winslow
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Press

In this stunning psychological thriller for readers of Tana French, Kate Atkinson, and Donna Tartt, Emily Winslow has crafted a literary prism told through the eyes of her many intricately drawn characters. Masterly and mesmerizing, The Start of Everything will captivate until the very last page.

“If you don’t want to see me again, say so. But it’s not right to say nothing. It’s not right to go silent. You know what to do.”

Cambridge, England: Outside the city, the badly decomposed body of a teenage girl has washed up in the flooded fens. Detective Inspector Chloe Frohmann and her partner, Morris Keene, must work quickly to identify the victim before the press takes off with the salacious story.

Across the hallowed paths and storied squares of Cambridge University, the detectives follow scant clues toward the identity of the dead girl. Eventually, their search leads them to Deeping House, an imposing country manor where, over the course of one Christmas holiday, three families, two nannies, and one young writer were snowed in together. Chloe Frohmann begins to unravel a tangled web of passions and secrets, of long-buried crimes and freshly committed horrors. But in order to reveal the truth—about misaddressed letters, a devastating affair, and a murdered teenager—she may have to betray her partner.

“Spring warmth had bloated the body to the surface, and it was caught in a sluice gate where the lock keeper found her. There isn’t enough soft tissue on the skull for us to discern a face, and the skull itself is so damaged that a reconstruction doesn’t seem possible. Jensen guesses late teens to early twenties, with the caveat that he’ll be more sure after a proper exam in the lab. A person this age likely has local parents looking for her, for a generous definition of “local.” We’re close to the country border; if nothing obvious pops in the immediate area, we’ll have to look to Lincolnshire for their missing persons as well.” – Hardback Copy pg. 10

If Mathilde made the same guess…If she looked for her, and perhaps came close to finding her…then the crimes could be related.” – Hardback Copy pg. 73

“It’s the window of a photography studio displaying graduation portraits, team photos, and the like. His finger touches a tiny image of a dark-haired woman in a shiny dress. Our dead girl, as far as we know, had been fair-haired. At least, the hairs on her sweater were fair.” – Hardback Copy pg. 76

“I shivered and pushed forward. Danny needed his fresh clothes, so I jogged around to the side of the house. Mr. Bennet had planted winter shrubs around all the edge of the building, thin-branched bushes that snagged my clothes as I jogged past towards the climbing frame. They didn’t flower but were bright themselves: red, yellow, and orange. Together they gave the effect that the house was being cooked over a fire.” –Hardback Copy pg. 132

This psychological thriller is told from the perspective of many different characters and follows the tragic death of a young girl found in a flooded fen in Cambridge, England. Detective Inspector Chloe Frohmann and her partner, Morris Keene, begin to piece the mystery together piece by piece and chapter by chapter. Along with the help of Mathilde Oliver, a young girl with a form of Autism, who is also trying to solve her own mystery. Could the two investigations somehow be related? Will their stories match up? Winslow has a writing style that is sure to keep readers hanging on for pages and pages of eerie twists and turns.

I am going to start with what I didn’t like about this book and then close with what I did enjoy last. First things first, this book started very slow for me and it took me awhile to pick up speed and really become invested in the story and the plot. Once I got into the story and connected with the characters, I had no problem finishing the book and really enjoying it. Secondly, I am all for multiple viewpoints but in this particular story and the way it was told, it just didn’t work for me. At times I was confused and constantly questioning characters motives. Like with my first complaint, this got better towards the middle of the book and definitely improved by the last one hundred pages, which I was totally into 100%!

Mathilde Oliver’s character was definitely my favorite! I mentioned before that she was written with a form of Autism and at first I thought her character seemed very distant and reclusive, and after understanding her character in full I understood why. She doesn’t like to be touched and she doesn’t really show emotion, even after the death of her father. I found her character to be unique and complex. I loved chapters from her perspective as well as from the perspective of Chloe Frohmann, the detective. I always love to read stories about female detectives. I just think there is something to be said for any woman doing a job like that.

The story, after the beginning, is very suspenseful and had me biting my nails. I feel like it is Halloween in February after all these thrillers I have been reading! I loved the mystery and the unfolding chapter by chapter was done very nicely and the transitions were smooth once I got far enough into the book. This was a first by Emily Winslow for me and I think her style is just one that I will have to get used to; it is very unique and complex but you just have to understand how to appreciate it!

***A big thank you to the publishers at Delacorte Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest, unbiased review***

Book Review: The Union Street Bakery

The Union Street BakeryAuthor: Mary Ellen Taylor
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Berkley Trade

Life can turn on a dime. It’s a common cliché, and I’d heard it often enough. People die or move away. Investments go south. Affairs end. Loved ones betray us...Stuff happens.

Daisy McCrae’s life is in tatters. She’s lost her job, broken up with her boyfriend, and has been reduced to living in the attic above her family’s store, the Union Street Bakery, while learning the business. Unfortunately, the bakery is in serious hardship. Making things worse is the constant feeling of not being a “real” McCrae since she was adopted as a child and has a less-than-perfect relationship with her two sisters.

Then a long-standing elderly customer passes away, and for some reason bequeaths Daisy a journal dating back to the 1850s, written by a slave girl named Susie. As she reads, Daisy learns more about her family—and her own heritage—than she ever dreamed. Haunted by dreams of the young Susie, who beckons Daisy to “find her,” she is compelled to look further into the past of the town and her family.

What she finds are the answers she has longed for her entire life, and a chance to begin again with the courage and desire she thought she lost for good

“By seven, the earthy fragrance of freshly baked bread perfumed the shop. The front display cases burst with breads, cookies, and pies. The place was transformed from a dark cold place to a warm inviting retreat that beckoned those who passed. Rachel had done this. She had brought the sunshine.” – Paperback Copy pg. 24

“A good bit of bluster eased as they left but without anger to fill the space, sadness filled in the creases. As I moved back toward the bakery, I had the sinking sensation that life had again turned on a dime.” – Paperback Copy pg. 34

“Besides, I had enough in the present to worry about. My real job was gone. My real savings were gone. And I’d thrown my lot in with one sister who couldn’t add a column of numbers and another who’d rather have her head in ruins.” – Paperback Copy pg. 57 & 58

“As I read the words on the first journal page, the hairs on the back of my neck tingled. Energy pulsed through my body. I had the sense that I was becoming reacquainted with an old friend. That I’d somehow known this girl who’d written these words over 150 years ago. I was not like Margaret, who believed in the past life/karma theories. I believed that life was only about the living, and you have what you have right here and now.” – Paperback Copy pg. 86

“But for now I was willing to settle for some sweet denial and benign procrastination.” – Paperback Copy pg. 117

“That night, I fell into bed just before nine. My body ached and my head throbbed from energy overload. I sensed I was on the edge of something huge. It was something that felt dark and dangerous and like it or not would change my life forever. And as much as I wanted to turn back and run to my old life, I knew that a door had shut and a dead bolt thrown. I could remain in limbo, churning and fearful, but I was ready to creep closer to the edge.” – Paperback Copy pg. 190

Daisy McCrae is without a job, a place to live, or a boyfriend so I guess you could say she has run out of luck and options. Her family has offered her a job and accommodations staying and working at the family owned bakery, The Union Street Bakery. Daisy has just left her career and was well established within a highly influential company, so this makes the transition back home even harder. Not to mention, she doesn’t really get along with her two sisters and the thought of the mother that abandoned her on the McCrae’s doorstep all those years ago still haunts her. Nevertheless, the bakery needs Daisy financially and Daisy may not know it going in, but she needs the bakery more than she knows.

As a young girl, Daisy was abandoned by her mother and on the bakery doorstep and eventually adopted by the McCrae’s. She calls her mother “Renee” because she was too young to remember her and even though several missing person reports were placed, the police were never able to locate Daisy’s mother. On her first day back to the bakery an old and somewhat feeble lady walks into the bakery, a loyal customer, and claims that she knows Daisy’s birth mother. Daisy thinks it is some type of hoax at first, but then not long after the elderly woman dies and leaves Daisy a journal full of answers to all her unanswered questions.

I loved the mystery behind the story and I loved how the journal of this slave girl brings Daisy and her sisters closer together. Daisy starts to find the purpose in her life; the one she has been missing all the years prior to that moment. I loved how the mystery unveiled itself chapter by chapter and how we are able to follow Daisy on her journey. At first I wasn’t impressed by Daisy’s character because she seemed so depressed and dry, but when the mystery of her birth mother stares her in the face, we suddenly see this very vivacious character come to life.

There is a “ghost” story mixed in with this book as well and of course the story is filled with tons of imagery related to the bakery and all of the wonderful goodies that Daisy and her sisters concoct. At the back of the book there is a list of recipes that were mentioned in the book and I just love finding these recipes in books like this; it makes them that much more heartwarming. I could feel myself inside the Union Street Bakery and I was impressed by the culture, history, and historical feel that Taylor was able to bring to these pages.

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

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Book Review: Blaze

Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains)Author: Laurie Boyle Crompton
Publication Date: February 1, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She's desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark's feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her "sext" photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now...

“I try imagining a superpower that would reduce my attractiveness to pubescent boys, while inversely making me more alluring to uber-hotties like the cretin’s coach, Mark. Putting out is likely the missing plutonium to that puzzle. I am, after all, the Amazing Su-per Virgin Girl! Fully flowered! With chastity of steel!” – ARC Copy pg. 3

“Growing up in the country, if you can ride your bike to a girl’s house and that girl also happens to be in your grade, BOOM! You have yourself a best friend.” – ARC Copy pg. 33

One thing’s for sure, I think as I climb into the driver’s seat, I’ve set my sights on a really super guy.” – ARC Copy pg. 113

“I picture the comic cover with Ghost Rider giving Zodiak the penance stare as Suicide stands by in a rage shouting, ‘Don’t kill him! Kill me!’ I understand that now. The desire to make all the pain and shame stop happening. To just want everything to go away. I get that.” – ARC Copy pg. 245

The main character, Blaze, named after Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze himself, is a comic book junkie who feels invisible within the halls of her high school. Blaze makes the mistake of falling for the wrong guy, Mark the Shark, and starts to lose part of herself and involves herself in things that she wouldn’t otherwise. She gives in to Mark’s charms and he totally takes advantage of her. He is the love em’ and leave em’ type, and Blaze’s reputation and her moral standing are crushed in the process. Mark’s actions are really low especially when he posts a half-naked picture of Blaze on the Internet. How will our super-hero girl handle this? Will she prevail over her arch-nemesis, Mark the Shark?

There were parts of this book that I loved and others that I didn’t care for so much. First of all, I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of sixteen. You may think this book should be directed at preteens, but I am here to tell you that some of the language and scenes depicted in this book are way too mature for thirteen year olds. Secondly, it took me awhile to get into this book. The introduction took about three chapters, but the buildup was worth it. Being the feminist that I am, I hated to see Blaze’s character taken advantage of and hung out to dry. Although, I am not so naïve to know that it doesn’t happen to young girls all the time. I know because I was a young, naïve girl once and I had my heart stepped on and squashed into the ground. So for this I can appreciate Blaze’s real honesty and her truly complex character.

I LOVED the play on comic book heroes and super-villains. I thought that was very well done and it made Blaze’s character more relatable. She had such a passion for them, and even though I know nothing about comic books, it allowed me to relate with her on a personal level because I could sense the uniqueness of her character and the awkward, quirky side of her that I loved so much. I hated Mark’s character and I am sure you all don’t have to wonder why. He was your typical teenage jerk and took complete advantage of Blaze, even though she allowed it.

I am still in the middle as far as the rating of this book goes. I am not totally downing it, but I am not totally convinced that it was everything I thought it would be. I enjoyed many parts of it and I would suggest that if you love quirky, awkward heroines to definitely give this book a try. For a debut novel it was not bad and I will definitely give this author another try in the future!


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