Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: The All You Can Dream Buffet

The All You Can Dream Buffet: A NovelAuthor: Barbara O’Neal
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Bantam

Perfect for fans of Kristin Hannah and Susan Wiggs—Barbara O’Neal’s new novel of food, friendship, and the freedom to grow your dreams brings together four very different women longing to savor the true taste of happiness.
Popular blogger and foodie queen Lavender Wills reigns over Lavender Honey Farms, a serene slice of organic heaven nestled in Oregon wine country. Lavender is determined to keep her legacy from falling into the profit-driven hands of uncaring relatives, and she wants an heir to sustain her life’s work after she’s gone. So she invites her three closest online friends—fellow food bloggers, women of varied ages and backgrounds—out to her farm. She hopes to choose one of them to inherit it—but who?
There’s Ginny, the freckle-faced Kansas cake baker whose online writing is about to lead her out of a broken marriage and into a world of sensual delights. And Ruby, young, pregnant, devoted to the organic movement, who’s looking for roots—and the perfect recipe to heal a shattered heart. Finally, Val, smart and sophisticated, a wine enthusiast who needs a fresh start for her teenage daughter after tragedy has rocked their lives. Coming together will change the Foodie Four in ways they could never have imagined, uniting them in love and a common purpose. As they realize that life doesn’t always offer a perfect recipe for happiness, they also discover that the moments worth savoring are flavored with some tears, a few surprises, and generous helping of joy.

This afternoon, she was shooting a piece of pistachio cake. Two generous layers of white cake frosted with the palest shade of green. The beauty was in the depth of field, the fine, pure white crumb of the cake against the cracked satin of the antique plate, the alluring color of frosting.

But when he arrived, he was taciturn, broody, and much too good-looking. The kind of good-looking, Lavender had complained to the Foodie Four, that caused trouble.

What would Lavender say? Get your butt outta that car, girl, and find some adventure.
Four foodie blogger friends meet up for a relaxing vacation at Lavender Honey Farms, the farm that Lavender Willis owns and has ran for many, many years. They each have pasts that are tying them to the ground, but these four women make up their minds to enjoy some time well spent with friends and their favorite thing to talk about – food! Lavender realizes that she is not as young as she once was, and has invited these three women to her farm to figure out which one she believes deserves the chance to take her place and inherit her life’s work.

Barbara’s writing is truly to die for. The words just flow right off the page and this story is such a fun, light read. It was so nice to just kick back with this book one sunny afternoon and not stop until I had finished the book completely. All of these characters have tiny bits and pieces of their lives that someone somewhere would be able to relate to. Ruby was the youngest of the group and was one of my two favorites. She was pregnant with a baby by her ex-boyfriend, who doesn’t even know that she is pregnant. Ruby was a very special character. She grows and matures so much throughout the course of the story, and I would say that because I am close to her age I related with her a great deal.

Ginny was my other favorite. Ginny’s life is not really a bowl of cherries. Her marriage is far from perfect and she has become sort of an outcast in her small, sleepy town because of all the publicity she receives from her food blog. Her husband and friends are very negative and hateful when it comes to her success and it makes Ginny question her own ambitions and dreams. Ginny had to really talk herself in to taking this trip, and I loved the fact that she brought her dog, Willow, with her. Some of my favorite scenes were between these two, so cozy and sweet!

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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Book Review: Sing For Me

Sing for MeAuthor: Karen Halvorsen Schreck
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Howard Books

When a good church girl starts singing in a jazz club and falls for the music—as well as a handsome African American man—she struggles to reconcile her childhood faith with her newfound passions.

Raised in the Danish Baptist Church, Rose Sorensen knows it’s wrong to sing worldly songs. But Rose still yearns for those she hears on the radio—“Cheek to Cheek,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”—and sings them when no one is around. 

One day, Rose’s cousin takes her to Calliope’s, a jazz club, where she dis­covers an exciting world she never knew existed. Here, blacks and whites mingle, brought together by their shared love of music. And though Rose wor­ries it’s wrong—her parents already have a stable husband in mind for her—she can’t stop thinking about the African American pianist of the Chess Men, Theo Chastain. When Rose returns to the jazz club, she is offered the role of singer for the Chess Men. The job would provide money to care for her sister, Sophy, who has cerebral palsy—but at what cost? 

As Rose gets to know Theo, their fledgling relationship faces prejudices she never imagined. And as she struggles to balance the dream world of Calliope’s with her cold, hard reality, she also wrestles with God’s call for her life. Can she be a jazz singer? Or will her faith suffer because of her worldly ways? 

Set in Depression-era Chicago and rich in historical detail, Sing for Me is a beautiful, evocative story about finding real, unflinching love and embracing—at all costs—your calling.

How can he be so brave, bold, so foolish, so familiar? How can I be so glad that he is all these things, and surely more?

Minutes later, I’m a different girl. A girl Dad would call a tramp. A girl I’d avoid if I saw her on the street.

I could sing. I could make money doing that. This flashes through my mind unbidden.

This book offered a storyline/plot that is somewhat different than the things I am normally drawn to. I am always up for something different, and this book offered just that. The setting is Chicago in the 1930’s, mid depression. Rose Sorensen, our passionate heroine, finds herself between a rock and a hard place. She is loves to sing types of music that she knows her family and the people of the church she was raised in would not approve of, and she finds herself in love with an African American man named Theo. Rose is not doing any of this to rebel against her parents or her church. In fact Rose is just the opposite, she is strong in her values and in her faith. She feels that she has a calling that is pulling her in the opposite direction that her parents may have wanted her to go, but can be strong enough within herself to make the right choice? Even if it means making a daring, bold move?

The part of this story that interested me the most would have to be Rose and Theo’s relationship. I will just say what everyone else is already thinking – they are involved in an interracial relationship at a time in history when prejudices were running at an all-time high. I enjoyed their relationship because it slowly developed over time, and was not a quick rollercoaster ride. I also enjoyed reading about their connection because of all the challenges they faced, and it was inspiring to follow them and see how each character grew in love and faith when it came to each other.

Another relationship that I very much admired in this book was Rose’s relationship with her younger sister, Sophy. I am an only child, so of course I am drawn to the bonding of sisters in any book I read. There are several genuinely sweet and intimate moments shared between Rose and Sophy. They are the epitome of what a sister is supposed to be. They share their darkest secrets and look to each other as comfort and security in dark times. They are truly best friends and make this book worth reading a hundred times more!

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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Book Review: Vintage

VintageAuthor: Susan Gloss
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow & Company

A sparkling debut novel in the vein of The Friday Night Knitting Club, centered around a Midwestern vintage clothing shop and a group of women who eventually transform the store and each others' lives.

At Hourglass Vintage in Madison, Wisconsin, every item in the boutique has a story to tell . . . and so do the women who are drawn there.

Yellow Samsonite suitcase with ivory, quilted lining, 1950s...
Violet Turner had always dreamed of owning a shop like Hourglass Vintage. Though she knows the personal history behind each precious item she sells, Violet refuses to acknowledge her own past. When she is faced with the possibility of losing the store, she realizes that, as much as she wants to, she cannot save it alone.

Taffeta tea length wedding gown with scooped neckline and cap sleeves, 1952...
Eighteen-year-old April Morgan is nearly five months along in an unplanned pregnancy when her hasty engagement is broken. When she returns the perfect 1950s wedding dress, she discovers unexpected possibilities and friends who won't let her give up on her dreams.

Orange sari made from silk dupioni with gold paisley design, 1968...
Betrayed by her husband, Amithi Singh begins selling off her old clothes, remnants of her past life. After decades of housekeeping and parenting a daughter who rejects her traditional ways, she fears she has nothing more ahead for her.

An engaging story that beautifully captures the essence of women's friendship and love, Vintage is a charming tale of possibility, of finding renewal and hope when we least expect it.

Violent sensed the girl had a story to tell, and listening to other people’s stories was her specialty.

Every item in the boutique had a story behind it, from a Missoni caftan to a Fendi baguette bag with the tags still on it. If Violet didn’t know the real story behind something, she liked to use her imagination.

This baby was her only hope for having anything that resembled a family.

Three women bond in a vintage dress shop. This sounded like a story that was right up my alley. Turned out, I was right. I have always been so intrigued by stories with multiple viewpoints, and this one is no exception. Firstly, there is Violet who owns Hourglass Vintage, where the three women meet, and is about to be evicted from her beloved store. Next, there is April a pregnant, unwed teen who is and out of luck and options. And lastly we have Amithi, who has just discovered that her marriage was not all that she thought it was, nor was it founded in love and stability. These three women, each dealing with different dilemmas, but somehow use them to bond over beautiful vintage gowns.

This book very much centers around the idea of hope. The story took me to such a happy place. Violet’s store, Hourglass Vintage, is where most of the story takes place. Not only are the lives of the three women mentioned above shared with readers, but also many customers who visit Violet’s shop. Many of her customers are dealing with their own struggles just like Violet and her friends. Even though through much of the story Violet is facing eviction, she learns to rely on the comfort that her customers truly bring to her life.

Friendship is a strong theme throughout this book, and this idea grows more and more as the three main characters bond. They bond over their past and their present, and hopes they have for their futures. This book will be a true treat for anyone who loves women’s fiction. Did I mention this was a debut novel? Yes, and such a remarkable one!

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

Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review: Fallen Too Far

Fallen Too FarAuthor: Abbi Glines
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Atria
Series: Too Far # 1

The wealthy son of a rocker. A tough farm girl from Alabama. Two step-siblings from different worlds. One summer in Rosemary Beach.

The last thing Blaire Wynn wants is to move in with her father’s new family in Rosemary Beach, Florida. She has no choice. Blaire’s mother has passed away after a long illness, leaving behind a mountain of medical debts and no way for Blaire to keep their small Alabama farmhouse. 

Driving into the wealthy resort town in a pickup truck with a pistol under her seat, Blaire knows she'll never fit in. She’s even more disappointed to discover that her father has left for Paris, leaving her with her new stepbrother, Rush Finlay. The cynical, condescending, and unapologetic son of an infamous rock star, Rush is as spoiled as he is gorgeous and he immediately gets under Blaire’s skin. 

But as the summer goes by, Blaire begins to see a side of Rush she never expected, and the chemistry between them becomes impossible to ignore. Unknown to her, Rush has a secret that could destroy Blaire’s entire world. Will she find out what he’s hiding before she falls too far?

“Everyone always says that love was enough. It wasn't. Not when your soul has been shattered.”

“He wasn't what sent me running. He was what had made me want to stay.” 

“I had fallen too far. I was in love with Rush Finlay.”

“She was the rock in a world that was crumbling.”

“Inside I knew he was meant to be the guy that taught me about life. Even if he broke my heart eventually.” 

Abbi Glines has captivated me with another amazing series! Honestly I have never read one of her series of books that I did not enjoy, and I think I have at least started all of her series at this point. In the Too Far series we start with Blaire’s story, which is completely emotional and heart-wrenching. Blaire’s mother has just passed away and Blaire is left with absolutely nothing. She heads off with a gun under the front seat and only $20 for gas in search of her estranged father, who left after her sister died. Blaire’s life is full of heartbreak. When she reaches Rosemary Beach, where her father lives with his new wife, she only finds his stepson, Rush. Rush is no picnic and Blaire figures she might as well hit the road and try to find work, but just when she least expected it, Rush invites her to stay until she can get back on her feet.

I will warn you that the tension between these two starts right from their very first meeting. I immediately fell in love with Blaire’s character, mainly because I felt so sorry for her. She is left with no one to depend on and nothing to her name. She even had to sell her mother’s home just to pay off medical bills. Rush, on the other hand, I did not care for and am still unsure if I do or not. I do not agree with some of his choices, and the way he treats Blaire at first was enough to make me want to throw the book across the room. However, I will say that Blaire softens him somewhat, and this was a nice change to see.

I am most excited for where this series will go next. I have the second book waiting patiently on my night stand and it is eagerly calling my name. I am a huge fan of Abbi Glines, so I know how her books and series tend to flow. I am excited for some of the supporting characters in this book, and I hope they receive their own stories just like Blaire and Rush. If you have ever read and of Abbi’s work, then you already know that she loves to write steamy scenes. Some of the scenes in this book seemed extra steamy to me, but it was all well-written.

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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Review: Summer of Joy

Summer of JoyAuthor: Ann H. Gabhart
Publication Date: March 1, 2014
Publisher: Revell
Series: The Heart of Hollyhill # 3

For Jocie Brooke, the summer of 1964 certainly was eventful, but it's nothing compared to what's coming to Hollyhill, Kentucky, and the Brooke family next. The past is coming to call, threatening to destroy the relationships that everyone thought were so strong. Two people--one thought to be gone for good and the other no one's ever heard of--are making their way to the small town. And it promises trouble for everyone. 

This complex and beautifully written story is the perfect conclusion to The Heart of Hollyhill series. With true-to-life family drama, refreshing humor, and characters readers have come to love like dear friends, "Summer of Joy" will delight Gabhart's fans.

Now if indeed the Lord was giving David a second chance at love and a happy marriage, he didn’t want to drag his feet and let Leigh slip away.

“That’s happening this Sunday for sure, God willing and the creek doesn’t rise.”

Zella was through digging into other people’s pasts. Even if it was for the person’s own good.

The strength of any book written by Ann Gabhart is her writing style and the characters she so easily and flawlessly creates. The only reason I gave this book three cupcakes instead of a higher count is because I was unaware this book was part of a series, and I feel that, while this book can stand alone, that I would have been able to connect to it more had I read the first books. Gabhart’s characters are always so relatable. The family in this story could have very well been my own; I felt so comfortable in their presence and like I had known them for years.

This book does switch perspectives a lot, and this annoyed me sometimes, but for the most part it was told from Jocie’s perspective – a fourteen year old girl. This was different for me, and for the most part I enjoyed it. I am used to reading from the point of view of an adult, and Jocie’s voice was a nice change for me. I believe that this makes the book equally appealing to teen as well, not just adults.

This book hit home with me because of the small town feel. We are given a real family facing life’s real struggles. This is something that I think most people can relate to, and what makes this book so enjoyable for many who read it. Again, I really would have liked to have read the first two books in this series, and I may go back and read them in the near future, but I still enjoyed the book and am enough of a fan of Gabhart that I could not turn it down!

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review & Blog Tour: Pack Up The Moon

Pack Up the MoonAuthor: Rachael Herron
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: NAL Trade

A poignant novel about loss, lies, and the unbreakable bonds of family.

Three years after a horrible tragedy took her son and tore her family apart, artist Kate Monroe is beginning to pick up the pieces of her life and move on. At a gala showcasing her triumphant return to the art world, Kate’s world is rocked again when the daughter she gave up for adoption twenty-two years ago introduces herself.

Pree is the child Kate never knew and never forgot. But Pree has questions that Kate isn’t sure she’s ready to answer. For one thing, she never told Pree’s father, her high school sweetheart and ex-husband, Nolan, that they had a daughter. For another, Kate hasn’t spoken to Nolan for three years, not since the accident which took their nine-year-old son from them. But to keep Pree from leaving forever, Kate will have to confront the secrets that have haunted her since her son died and discover if the love of her family is strong enough to survive even the most heartbreaking of betrayals.

The day Kate’s daughter found her was the only day in twenty-two years Kate wasn’t looking.

I thought keeping the adoption closed would give you the ability to belong to your family. Without my selfish wishes ever getting in the way.

The birthday cake tasted like joy.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. When it smashes, it’s a fucking nightmare.

How do I even begin to tell you about this book? After reading several reviews, I have found that Rachael Herron is a beloved author or many readers; however, this is the first book by her that I have had the privilege to pick up. This must change soon! Kate Monroe is our leading character in this heart wrenching story, and we follow her as she deals with life and loss. This story is full of many complex emotions and situations. It is not for the faint of heart. The first chapter will draw you in, and please be prepared because it will be an emotional rollercoaster the entire way through.

Please do not mistake my first paragraph to mean that this entire book is depressing because that is simply not the case. This book is full of many uplifting moments shared between characters. A young boy who is consumed by cancer dies, but not in the way you might expect. The aftermath of that is what is so inspiring and causes me to want to relive this story with these characters over and over again.

I view this book in two parts. There is the story of Robin, who I briefly mentioned above, and then there is the story of Pree, the daughter that Kate gave up at a very young age. Pree finds Kate and has a lot of tough questions that any adopted child who finds their birth mother would ask. I absolutely adore Pree; she was my favorite part of this book. She brings so much vitality and spirit to pages that are otherwise filled with deep emotion and resentment.

If you are in the need of a heartfelt, highly emotional story, then look no further!

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

Book Review: The Nightmare Dilemma

The Nightmare Dilemma (The Arkwell Academy, #2)Author: Mindee Arnett
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Tor
Series: The Arkwell Academy # 2

The second in a thrilling new fantastical mystery series

Dusty Everhart might be able to predict the future through the dreams of her crush, Eli Booker, but that doesn’t make her life even remotely easy. When one of her mermaid friends is viciously assaulted and left for dead, and the school’s jokester, Lance Rathbone, is accused of the crime, Dusty’s as shocked as everybody else. Lance needs Dusty to prove his innocence by finding the real attacker, but that’s easier asked than done. Eli’s dreams are no help, more nightmares than prophecies. 

To make matters worse, Dusty’s ex-boyfriend has just been acquitted of conspiracy and is now back at school, reminding Dusty of why she fell for him in the first place. The Magi Senate needs Dusty to get close to him, to discover his real motives. But this order infuriates Eli, who has started his own campaign for Dusty’s heart.

As Dusty takes on both cases, she begins to suspect they’re connected to something bigger. And there’s something very wrong with Eli’s dreams, signs that point to a darker plot than they could have ever imagined.

The mermaid was lying on the hospital bed, looking distinctly un-mermaidish.

For the most part, Nightmares look like ordinaries, but we’re magical beings who feed on human dreams.

Dreams are symbolic, not literal.

And I knew without a doubt my life was never going to be the same again.

I am so thankful that this book did not have “second in a series” syndrome! I am always skeptical of the second book in a series, especially when I loved the first book. The Nightmare Affair was awesome, and Dusty’s character drew me in immediately! This book was just as good as the first one. In this addition to the series, we get a whole new mystery and all the fun and action that were jam-packed into the first book. A plus with this book is that we get a little more romance thrown into the pot as well. And as always, Dusty never disappoints as an amazing heroine!

The concept of Dusty’s character is what intrigues me the most while reading these books. She is a mythical creature known as a Nightmare. She plays her part very well. I wish Mindee Arnett would explore this creature and the ideas/concept behind it more within the books. Dusty is the only Nightmare I have ever read about in literature. This is why I must separate Mindee Arnett from the rest; she branched out and tried something new. She didn’t stick to the vampires and the witches, but instead she gave us a whole new world and allowed us to see a different side of the supernatural.

There are many changes in this book, specifically to Dusty and Eli’s relationship, which I am seeing that some book bloggers did not take so well to. This is not the only thing that is changing. We get some exciting new changes and are able to find out more about the world that Dusty is involved in as well. We now know some deep, dark secrets that have been revealed, and I would dare say that this book is more dark and dangerous than the first. The pages kept turning and I was heavily engaged in this story the entire way through!

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

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book Review: Loving Lord Ash

Loving Lord Ash (Duchess of Love, #3)Author: Sally McKenzie
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Zebra
Series: Duchess of Love #3

A Little Misunderstanding. . .

Kit, the Marquis of Ashton, is in a sticky wicket. He married young and for love—how na├»ve. He discovered his mistake the very day of his wedding, but he is saddled now with a wife he's reluctant to trust. And however much evidence he gathers against faithless Jess, he can't seem to prove her guilt to the final judge—his foolish heart.

Jessica knows she's bobbled her marriage, however innocently. A fairytale wedding makes no difference if she hasn't got the marquis charmed to show for it. Well, she's had enough of accidental encounters with naked gentlemen and near misses explaining things to her husband. It's time to buck up and go win her man back—even if she has to fight very dirty indeed.

My favorite quotes from this book are some of the notes that appear before each new chapter. They are from what is supposed to be Venus’s, the Duchess of Love, Love Notes.

Fear is rarely a good companion.

The angrier the man, the more desperate his love.

In love, expect the unexpected.

But sometimes you will want to keep his family at arm’s length.

Your family will always discover your secrets.

If you pry, you’ll see things you’ll wish you hadn’t.

This series has held my attention from the very first book, Bedding Lord Ned. So far I have read each of the new releases in the series in one sitting. This book was no different, and I have been dying to read Lord Ash’s story. In this third edition to the series we are presented with the Marquis of Ashton’s story; he has moved back home with large, sometimes overbearing, family and left his wife, whom he no longer trusts, at their manor house. Granted, he has been in love with this woman, Jess, since they were only children, but after finding her in the arms of another man, he knew that he could no longer be around her. However, his life is progressing forward and he has yet to sire an heir. He goes home, hoping to reconcile with her, but finds her with another man yet again. What will be the fate of Jess and Lord Ash?

Following the sons of the Duchess of Love on their wild goose chases towards love has been a blast, and I must say that I was mostly looking forward to Lord Ash’s story. I liked that Sally McKenzie went out of order with her sons. This is odd for a series like this, but was appreciated and even built up some suspense for me. The first book started with her second son, then to her youngest, and the last book wrapped it up with her oldest son, Kit. I cannot say which one I like the best, but I will say that Lord Ash’s story was a thrilling end to this series, and his character was definitely worth the wait. In some ways he was everything I expected him to be, and in others he was a total surprise. Neither was a bad thing!

As I mentioned before, I am never able to put these books down. The same is true with this one. These books never fail to make me laugh. The Duchess of Love always has something up her sleeves and the moments shared between her and any character are to die for. All of the other main characters are just as wonderful as well; they get themselves into all kinds of mayhem and mix-ups. I am forever indebted to Sally McKenzie because of the joy her books always bring!

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

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book Review: What A Woman Wants

What a Woman Wants (Manley Maids, #1)Author: Judi Fennell
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Series: Manley Maids # 1

What happens when three irresistibly sexy brothers lose a poker bet to their enterprising sister? They get hired out for her housecleaning venture. Now, the Manley Maids are at your service. Satisfaction guaranteed. It’s what a woman wants... 

Resort entrepreneur Sean Manley was all set to buy an historic mansion at a great price, making a name for himself while making millions, when the seller and a poker bet change the game. Now he’s in the place as a hunky male maid and there’s one more complication: Livvy Carolla.

The house is Livvy’s inheritance. Her plan? Unload it to the highest bidder and use the cash to start her own bakery business. One look at the help” and she’s hot to take him with her. Until she finds out he’s got a secret agenda.

But when Sean falls for the free-spirited, strong-willed Livvy, he has new ideas for the estate—and Livvy’s part in it. If all goes well, they’ll both be getting what they want. And then some.

The doors to Hell – aka her familial estate – were wide and welcoming.

“I believe, dear brothers, you all need to be fitted for Manley Maids uniforms.”

Because will millions at stake, a babe for a boss, and just under three weeks to kick her out of her home, instead of being lord of the manor, he was the freaking maid.

This book catches the reader’s attention by starting off with a heated sibling poker game in which Mac Manley wins over all three of her brothers and forces them to work for her cleaning business for four weeks! This story only deals with one of the Manley brothers, Sean, and a mansion his is cleaning but actually hopes to buy. However, Sean runs into a problem he does not expect. Her name is Livvy Carolla and she is the granddaughter of the woman whom the mansion belonged to. Livvy has arrived on orders for her grandmother to sell the house to the highest bidder and use the money for her up and coming bakery. Sean nor Livvy expect to run into problems, nor do they expect to fall in love!

Livvy has not had such a wonderful life or childhood. People are always leaving or betraying her. Livvy had to learn to put the past behind her and move on. She has now made a name for herself and is quickly climbing the ladder to her dreams. I enjoyed finding out about her family and the history of the mansion she was trying to purchase. I enjoyed seeing Livvy interacting with Sean mainly because he brought out a side of her that was locked away by the loved ones who disregarded her. Sean and Livvy were a great pair! I love characters like Livvy and I am glad she found someone like Sean.

This was a fun, quick read and I was of course happy to find out that I believe we will get to hear from the other Manley brothers. The end of the story had some emotional parts, but I was glad to see that the cleaning business was going to continue, as well as Livvy and Sean’s romance. This was an exciting start to a brand new series. I have started so many new series of books this year, and I recommend this one just as much as all the others!

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

Friday, March 21, 2014

Book Review: The Winner's Curse

The Winner's Curse (Winner's Trilogy, #1)Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy # 1

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction.

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

“The beauty of the flute was in its simplicity, in its resemblance to the human voice. It always sounded clear. It sounded alone. The piano, on the other hand, was a network of parts – a ship, with its strings like rigging, its case a hull, its lifted lid a sail.”

“She saw him and didn’t understand how she had ever missed his beauty. How it didn’t always strike her as it did now, like a blow.”

The crowd was thicker now, filled with the golden features of Valorians, hair and skin and eyes ranging from honey tones to light brown. The occasional dark heads belonged to well-dressed house slaves, who had come with their masters and stayed close to their sides.

Kestrel is the pampered daughter of a proud general in the Valorian army. She is of the highest class and is treated as such. When the Valorians conquered the Herrani in war, the Herrani then became slaves making the Valorians the supreme race of people. However, Kestrel is about to have to make a huge decision. At the age of 20 in her society, citizens are forced to make one of two choices: join the military or get married. However, Kestrel wants neither. Her calling is music, unlike her brave warrior of a father. When Kestrel is dragged to a slave auction she meets Arin, a pivotal character, and Kestrel does something so remarkable that you will not be able to prevent loving her!

Marie Rutokoski has such a way with words. After reading certain lines, I just had to pause and take in all the beauty and elegance that make up Rutokoski’s writing. The pace is perfect because it is fast enough to keep the reader interested, but slow enough to allow readers to enjoy all that is wonderful about this book. There are so many moments within these pages that allowed me to believe that this book will be one of my most favorite books this year. Marie paints such beautiful scenes with her words. Everything is vivid and colorful, just like I like.

The absolute best thing about this book was the world-building. If you have heard anything about this book you already know that a lot had to go into this world. This empire/society is far too vast and has far too much history tied to it for this book/series to be a small one. The world was a mix of all my favorite things: adventure, action, drama, and a hierarchy that brings controversy. We have a war that just ended and the aftermath, and we also have a society that forces their citizens to opt into marriage or the military at a certain age; this is a formula for conflict, drama, and intrigue!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in exchange for my honest review***