Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Review: Better Homes and Hauntings

Better Homes and HauntingsAuthor: Molly Harper
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
Publisher: Pocket Books

Author of the beloved Half Moon Hollow series of vampire romances (Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs), Molly Harper has created a standalone paranormal romance in which a dilapidated haunted house could bring star-crossed lovers together—if it doesn’t kill them first!

When Nina Linden is hired to landscape a private island off the New England coast, she sees it as her chance to rebuild her failing business after being cheated by her unscrupulous ex. She never expects that her new client, software mogul Deacon Whitney, would see more in her than just a talented gardener. Deacon has paid top dollar to the crews he’s hired to renovate the desolate Whitney estate—he had to, because the bumps, thumps, and unexplained sightings of ghostly figures in nineteenth-century dress are driving workers away faster than he can say “Boo.”

But Nina shows no signs of being scared away, even as she experiences some unnerving apparitions herself. And as the two of them work closely together to restore the mansion’s faded glory, Deacon realizes that he’s found someone who doesn’t seem to like his fortune more than himself—while Nina may have finally found the one man she can trust with her bruised and battered heart.

But something on the island doesn’t believe in true love…and if Nina and Deacon can’t figure out how to put these angry spirits to rest, their own love doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance.

Every time he looked up at the huge structure, a What have I gotten myself into/I want my mommy expression fell across his boyishly handsome face.

“Because he explained it to me in a rational, polite fashion,” she said. “And he signs my checks. Also, I like him better than you.

“Please don’t say ‘spirit.’” Nina groaned as Cindy led her through the towering oak doors.

Molly Harper is a phenomenal paranormal author, and she has done it again with this standalone novel. Deacon Whitney is a very rich man made famous by his social networking site, but he has also inherited the family estate, Crane’s Nest. This mansion sits on a private island away from civilization and has the reputation of being haunted by Deacon’s Great-Great Grandmother, Catherine Whitney. Deacon has decided to restore the mansion and in doing so he hires a stunning team made up of the best architect, landscaper, and clean-up service he could find. Together this team of people, along with Deacon’s cousin, Dotty, strives to uncover the mystery behind Catherine’s death.

Molly’s books are completely addictive and if you have not picked one of them up yet, then you need to get on Amazon or Books a Million right now and find one or more that suit your tastes. I don’t read a lot of paranormal fiction, but Molly Harper’s books have always been some of my favorites. The paranormal element in this book was definitely well-written and added both mystery and drama to the story and in the character’s lives. I love reading about haunted mansions and Deacon’s family estate is the perfect scenario for a spooky ghost story!

As the house starts to look and feel better the characters slowly uncover the mystery and betrayal behind Catherine Whitney’s death. I loved the pacing of this story. There was just enough detail for readers, but not too much that readers won’t be hanging on the end of their seats. Deacon and Nina’s chemistry is completely noticeable and so sweet. Deacon, even though he is a filthy rich man, is not at all arrogant and I really loved how well his and Nina’s personalities coincide. Overall, this was an amazing break from reality!

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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review: Top Secret Twenty-One

Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum, #21)Author: Janet Evanovich
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Bantam
Series: Stephanie Plum # 21

Catch a professional assassin: top priority. Find a failure-to-appear and collect big bucks: top score. How she’ll pull it all off: top secret.

Trenton, New Jersey’s favorite used-car dealer, Jimmy Poletti, was caught selling a lot more than used cars out of his dealerships. Now he’s out on bail and has missed his date in court, and bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is looking to bring him in. Leads are quickly turning into dead ends, and all too frequently into dead bodies. Even Joe Morelli, the city’s hottest cop, is struggling to find a clue to the suspected killer’s whereabouts. These are desperate times, and they call for desperate measures. So Stephanie is going to have to do something she really doesn’t want to do: protect former hospital security guard and general pain in her behind Randy Briggs. Briggs was picking up quick cash as Poletti’s bookkeeper and knows all his boss’s dirty secrets. Now Briggs is next on Poletti’s list of people to put six feet under.

To top things off, Ranger—resident security expert and Stephanie’s greatest temptation—has been the target of an assassination plot. He’s dodged the bullet this time, but if Ranger wants to survive the next attempt on his life, he’ll have to enlist Stephanie’s help and reveal a bit more of his mysterious past.

Death threats, highly trained assassins, highly untrained assassins, and Stark Street being overrun by a pack of feral Chihuahuas are all in a day’s work for Stephanie Plum. The real challenge is dealing with her Grandma Mazur’s wild bucket list. A boob job and getting revenge on Joe Morelli’s Grandma Bella can barely hold a candle to what’s number one on the list—but that’s top secret.

I sucked in some air and made an effort to settle my stomach. So big deal if I am a cupcake. Seemed to me it was a lot better than being a bagel.

“If those people who figure it out start shooting at you, I’d appreciate it if you’d step away from me.”

“This isn’t working for me,” Lula said when I got back to the Buick. “I don’t want to be locked in the car with short stuff anymore.”

Stephanie Plum is, as always, back at it and has solved another crazy mystery with the help of her hot, hunky, loyal, and hilarious friends! In this installment in the Stephanie Plum series Stephanie is dealing with a Russian assassin that shares a little bad blood with her trusty sidekick, Ranger. Not only this, but she is also tracking down a man by the name of Jimmy Poletti who was not only running a car dealership, but apparently was also dealing in the trafficking of young women. She has a midget named Briggs in tow whose apartment was blown up and now has no other place to go. She decides to keep Briggs however because of his connections to Poletti. With so much action-packed fun, a lot of things blowing up, like usual, and of course so many famous one-liners from Lula, this Stephanie Plum novel is just as good, if not better, than all the rest!

What I always remember most from this series of books is the laughter that I share with the exciting cast of characters. There were so many places in this book where I paused and had a good laugh. Lula always breaks the tension in any situation and her choice of words is always phenomenal. I especially love the conversations shared between her and Stephanie. Lula loves to tag along on missions with Stephanie and I don’t know about Stephanie but I sure do enjoy her company. Lula is not the only characters or situation that will cause you to double over with heaving belly laughter though. Fans of this series know that the story cannot be over until one or more things has been blown up. So of course this is always cause for a few good laughs!

As I mentioned before, Stephanie is not the only one who finds herself in dire need of some help in this book. Big, rough, and tough Ranger finds himself in danger this time around. A pissed off Russian named Vlatko is in America and out for blood, specifically Ranger’s. It was nice to see Stephanie become so defensive over Ranger. I am one of those fans who is not sure if I would rather see her with Joe or Ranger. I like them both for different reasons. Ranger is just as protective over Stephanie as Morelli is, and it was nice to see Stephanie be so quick to aid in Ranger’s defense. After all, he has saved her life more than a few dozen times!

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

Friday, June 27, 2014

Book Review: Tempest in a Teapot

Tempest in a TeapotAuthor: Amanda Cooper
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Series: Teapot Collector Mystery # 1

Tucked away in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York is the charming town of Gracious Grove, where time moves slowly, gossip spreads quickly, and the scones are to die for…

When her fashionable Manhattan restaurant goes under, Sophie Taylor retreats to her grandmother’s cozy shop, Auntie Rose’s Victorian Teahouse, where serenity is steeped to perfection in one of her many antique teapots. The last thing Sophie expects is a bustling calendar of teahouse events, like her old friend Cissy Peterson’s upcoming bridal shower.

Not everyone is pleased with the bride-to-be’s choice of venue—like Cissy’s grandmother, who owns a competing establishment, La Belle Epoque, and has held a long-simmering grudge against Rose for stealing her beau sixty years ago. Tensions reach a boiling point when Cissy’s fiancé’s mother dies while sampling scones at La Belle Epoque. Now, to help her friend, Sophie will have to bag a killer before more of the guest list becomes a hit list…

Gretchen Harcourt’s beautiful face had a frozen look, like botox meets bad temper.

“You finally did it,” Francis said, lifting his face and glaring at the senior owner of Belle Époque. “You finally killed someone with your awful food.”

She desperately wanted to rush in and ease people’s suffering. That part of her personality had made both life and work difficult at times.

Sophie Taylor has decided, after losing her job of course, that the bustling, busy streets of Manhattan are no longer for her, and she decides to return home to the small, quiet town of Gracious Grove. Here Sophie’s grandmother operates a tea room called Auntie Rose’s Victorian Tea House, and it is all the rage for booking social gatherings and bridal luncheons. Sophie comes back and decides that she would like to help her grandmother in the tea room. Her first task is to host the tea party being thrown in honor of her childhood friend, Cissy’s, upcoming nuptials. Cissy’s grandmother, Thelma, who runs a rival tea room across town is not happy when her granddaughter chooses Rose’s tearoom over her own. During all the chaos that is bound to ensure between Thelma and Rose, Cissy’s future mother-in-law, Vivienne Whitaker, suddenly collapses and dies while eating a scrumptious cupcake. It is soon discovered that the cupcake was poisoned, and Sophie knows that she must take it upon herself to help her friend and solve this mystery!

This mystery was superb because there is a long list of potential suspects who would kill, literally, to see Ms. Vivienne Whitaker bite the dust. This mystery kept me guessing the entire way through. I was very intrigued by Vivienne’s character because it seemed that a lot of people despised her for many reasons. And not just that, but also the apparent feud between Rose and Thelma that we soon find out has been going on for years. Their rivalry is hysterical and added a lot more drama to the mystery as well.

Gracious Grove is the perfect setting for a series like this. It is a small town and everyone knows how things get around in small towns. It was also a perfect setup for the tea room because you could tell how much everyone in town really appreciated the tea room and that business was apparently booming. I always love the comfort that small towns bring in books. Everyone, usually, is willing to help and pitch in and most of the characters in this book were no different. Plus the tea room really made me want a cup of tea for myself! Great start to a debut series!

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Review: The Beautiful American

The Beautiful AmericanAuthor: Jeanne Mackin
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: NAL Trade

From Paris in the 1920s to London after the Blitz, two women find that a secret from their past reverberates through years of joy and sorrow....

As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing sixteen-year-old daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Neither has emerged from the war unscathed. Nora is racked with the fear that her efforts to survive under the Vichy regime may have cost her daughter’s life. Lee suffers from what she witnessed as a war correspondent photographing the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

Nora and Lee knew each other in the heady days of late 1920s Paris, when Nora was giddy with love for her childhood sweetheart, Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray, and Lee’s magnetic beauty drew them all into the glamorous lives of famous artists and their wealthy patrons. But Lee fails to realize that her friendship with Nora is even older, that it goes back to their days as children in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a devastating trauma marked Lee forever. Will Nora’s reunion with Lee give them a chance to forgive past betrayals…and break years of silence to forge a meaningful connection as women who have shared the best and the worst that life can offer?

A novel of freedom and frailty, desire and daring, The Beautiful American portrays the extraordinary relationship between two passionate, unconventional women.

“You look stricken,” Lee said, taking my hand. “Food, and a good strong drink. That’s what you need.”

Fame got you credit, but at the end of the month it didn’t pay the tab.

The rest was history, as they say.

A story about two young girls growing up in the late 1920’s, grew up in the 30’s, and experienced war times in the 40’s. Nora and Lee are old friends who reconnect during wartime. Nora is traveling all over Europe searching for her missing daughter when she runs into her old friend, Lee Miller, a world renowned model turned photographer. Lee is suffering from what she has witnessed after photographing the terrible events occurring at the Nazi concentration camps. Nora and Lee once had a rocky relationship, but this is a story about learning to forgive, being free, and living with desire and passion. These two extraordinary women weather some painful times together, but isn’t that what friends are for?

This time period is always one of my favorites to read about. The 1920’s-40’s was a time of glamour and glitz for some women, and it is always reading about their lives when I find that I would love to have been able to experience the times with them. Things were so much more simple then, even though a war was raging. Nora and Lee both have amazing backstories and are beautifully written characters. I could not possibly decide which of them I liked better. They both had flaws, weaknesses, and strengths. Their relationship definitely complimented each other. Such a beautiful tale set in a beautiful time.

I must give props to Jeanne Mackin, the author of this novel. It is not every day that I find a historical fiction novel in which I am so enamored, especially from the very first page. It is difficult to sale me on a book that combines very real, factual events with some fictional events and characters as well. Mackin writes about events that happened during the war that were very real, but she also includes things that were fictional and characters of her own design to this novel also. I loved every part of it!

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: Save The Date

Save the DateAuthor: Mary Kay Andrews
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

A wedding florist finds love and trouble in this delightful new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Ladies' Night

A Savannah florist is about to score the wedding of a lifetime—one that will solidify her career as the go-to-girl for society nuptials. Ironically, Cara Kryzik doesn't believe in love, even though she creates beautiful flower arrangements to celebrate them. But when the bride goes missing and the wedding is in jeopardy, Cara must find the bride and figure out what she believes in. Maybe love really does exist outside of fairy tales after all. 

Told with Mary Kay Andrew's trademark wit and keen eye for detail, mark your calendars for Save the Date!

Weddings were her business, not her pleasure, she told herself.

“Today,” she muttered. “But all that can change in the blink of an eye. These brides are all incredibly fickle. Everybody wants the next cool, hip look. And if I don’t stay right on top of my game, I’ll be yesterday’s news.”

“Well…I loved all those hydrangeas. So old-fashioned. But Brooke is a very modern girl. I’m not sure she’d share my opinions.” (Hydrangeas are my wedding flower!)

Now that summer is in full swing this also means that wedding season is in full swing as well! My very own wedding is next month, so this book was quite a nice, relatable read for me. Savannah florist, Cara Kryzik, is struggling to keep her floral shop above water and pay back the money she borrowed to get the business off the ground. She hasn’t had the best couple of years: her husband cheated, she deals with some pretty demanding customers, and her stepmom is enough to send anyone running with their tail between their legs. Cara lands a pretty big wedding, sure to be the talk of the town, and faces many challenges along the way. Jack, the guy who stole her dog and claimed it was hers, keeps turning up at all the weddings she is working on and she can’t seem to stay away from him, something she both loves and hates at the same time.

I loved the wedding scene that this book provided. I could picture everything that was happening, all the way from Cara’s floral shop to the weddings she helped design and decorate. Mary Kay Andrews is one of my absolute favorite authors, and with completely good reason. This book takes place in Savannah, Georgia and won this southern belle over right from the start. With all the talk of high society weddings and with all the crazy, raged mother of the brides I felt right at home. Southern women like nice things and they are not always easy to please!

Readers will definitely root for the relationship that sparks between Cara and Jack, even though at first it does not seem that it will ever happen. They are not into each other right from the start, but this is sometimes my favorite thing when reading a romance novel. Cara and Jack have also had their share of failed relationships so they are actually able to connect more than they thought possible. Cara is a bit of a mess, but so is Jack. Their road is definitely rocky, and I will not tell you that their love life will be anything comparable to smooth but that’s what makes this book so absolutely amazing!

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

Book Review: What A Woman Needs

What a Woman Needs (Manley Maids, #2)Author: Judi Fennell
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Series: Manley Maids # 2

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 needs...
Big shot movie star Bryan Manley is destined for fame and fortune, not a repeat of his penny-pinching "normal" childhood. But a bet is a bet, so he agrees to play maid for Beth Hamilton—as long as he can use his servitude as research for his next role, and then resume his life in the spotlight.
After her husband’s death and the publicity surrounding it, all Beth needs is a quiet, normal life for herself and her children. She never expected a new Prince Charming to show up at her door, let alone as the new maid. But when the paparazzi follow, Beth is sure of one thing: Bryan has to go.
Then flirtation turns into seduction, and Bryan needs to convince Beth he’s more man than maid—or an actor playing a maid. Because this latest gig as the love of Beth Hamilton’s life just might be the role of a lifetime… 

Bryan hoped that was a good thing, but in his experience, when a woman said nothing, it spoke louder than if she yelled at him.

It’d be interesting to see if Bryan was still laughing when these four weeks were up.

“Will you make me a peanut butter and applesauce sandwich?” She blinked her big brown eyes at him.

I am a sucker for all the new series of books that come out each year. The first book in the Manley Maids series was released in March, I believe, and completely won my heart. I love the concept behind the books: the Manley brothers lose a huge bet to their sister who owns a cleaning business. In exchange, they must allow her to hire them out for housecleaning ventures, in which they meet wonderful, sweet women that they clean for. It really is the perfect fantasy! The first book was adorable and this one followed suit. This story is about Bryan Manley, the big shot movie star. Bryan meets Beth Hamilton when he is hired out to do some cleaning for her. Beth is meek and mild and is just trying to rebuild her life after her husband’s death when she meets Bryan.

Beth’s life if a little tumultuous. Her husband passed two years ago leaving her with five kids, multiple pets, and a whole of life to take care of by herself. Her best friends buy her a month of cleaning service because they know how hard things have been for her: enter Bryan Manley. Bryan sees that he really is needed in Beth’s home. Everything seems to be spiraling out of control. Beth is not the most dainty or put together of women, but her flaws and her emotional heartache is what makes her so real. She is trying her best to pick up the pieces after Mike’s death. She is a very realistic portrayal of what any women would be like in her shoes.

Bryan really becomes connected to Beth’s kids. He quickly learns that he is needed for more than just to clean up the kid’s messes and the messes made by the animals. Her oldest son, Jason, needs some training in how to become a man, and her oldest daughter, Kelsey, needs some training in what to expect from a man and how to be herself around them. He begins spending a lot more time with the kids and his character really begins to flourish when he is in their presence. This is such a heartwarming story for more than just the romantic elements it shares.

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

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review: Engaged In Murder

Engaged in Murder (Perfect Proposals #1)Author: Nancy J. Parra
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Series: Perfect Proposals # 1

There’s no planning for murder…

Event planner Pepper Pomeroy is making the most of her current unemployment by arranging a surprise for her sister, Felicity. Warren, Felicity’s boyfriend, plans to lure his lovely lady into a private jet, propose, and whisk her away on a romantic vacation. He just needs Pepper to handle all the fine details in order to make it the perfect proposal—and it is. Everything goes so well when Warren pops the question that he suggests Pepper do this sort of thing professionally.

But before she can get her new business off the ground, there are some disturbing questions. Like who’s the dead guy Pepper finds in the ladies’ room of the jet hangar? Is it possible Felicity’s high-flying fiancé has been hiding more than the engagement ring? Pepper’s not married to the idea of having a criminal in the family, so in order to protect her sister, she takes off in pursuit of a killer… 

Perfectly Proper Pepper Pomeroy – that’s what they called me in school. I was quite proud of the nickname until I realized they were poking fun at me. You see, try as I may, I’m neither perfect nor proper.

Should I say something and ruin Felicity’s big moment, or should I wait until my sister said yes before I mention the drunken man in the ladies’ room?

Maybe, just maybe, I could make something out of the ruins of my life.

Pepper Pomeroy is still recovering from the fact that she has just been let go from her job as an event planner, when her sister’s boyfriend, Warren, asks her to help him come up with the perfect proposal for her sister. Pepper is used to this; she views it as just another event that needs planning. Warren’s plan is to lure his girlfriend, Felicity, onto his private jet, propose, and then whisk her off for a romantic vacation. Pepper is excited and might even start her own business as an event planner, that is until she finds a dead man in the ladies bathroom of Warren’s plane. When all fingers point to Warren, Pepper knows she must set out in pursuit of what really happened before she agrees to let her sister marry a potential murderer.

I am already a fan of Parra’s other mystery series, so I had no doubt that this one would rank at the top of my charts as well. I am even more excited for this series because of the protagonist, Pepper Pomeroy. She is truly an extraordinary character. She has fiery red hair and is a little bit jealous of her sister’s lifestyle. She is flawed and does not claim to be perfect. In fact, Pepper Pomeroy is a little bit of a mess, but that why I felt so connected to her character. She feels real in every way! And I just love her name; it really feels like it belongs to an amateur sleuth!

I follow many cozy mystery series, and all of them have a different concept and usually focus around different occupations, places, etc. This is the first series I have read that has to do with event planning, and even more specifically wedding proposals. I think this is a fresh new take for the cozy mystery world. Not that I don’t love all the stories that are set in bookstores, bakeries, and big towns, but this just gives me one more series to love and adore. The mystery was well-written and not something I was able to solve right away either.

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

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Book Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits

Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits (Jane Austen Takes the South #1)Author: Mary Jane Hathaway
Publication Date: June 10, 2014
Publisher: Howard Books
Series: Jane Austen Takes The South # 1

This hilarious Southern retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice tells the story of two hard-headed Civil war historians who find that first impressions can be deceiving.

Shelby Roswell, a Civil War historian and professor, is on the fast track to tenure that is, until her new book is roasted by the famous historian Ransom Fielding in a national review. With her career stalled by a man she’s never met, Shelby struggles to maintain her composure when she discovers that Fielding has taken a visiting professorship at her small Southern college. 

Ransom Fielding is still struggling with his role in his wife’s accidental death six years ago and is hoping that a year at Shelby’s small college near his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, will be a respite from the pressures of Ivy League academia. He never bargained for falling in love with the one woman whose career and pride he injured, and who would do anything to make him leave. 

When these two hot-headed southerners find themselves fighting over the centuries-old history of local battles and antebellum mansions, their small college is about to become a battlefield of Civil War proportions. 

With familiar and relatable characters and wit to spare, Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits shows you that love can conquer all especially when pride, prejudice, love, and cheese grits are involved!

Her professional woes had taken an ugly turn, and a bad book review was suddenly the least of her problems.

I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.

Shelby fought back a laugh. Of course he was here. The worst morning in the term wouldn’t have been complete without him.

What a wonderfully simple modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. No matter where I am, I am always in the mood for one of those! Shelby is a compelling heroine modeled after our very own Lizzie Bennet, who has and always will be my favorite Jane Austen character. However, Mr. Darcy is running a close second, and Ransom, who is meant to portray Darcy in this book, is an awesome example of why that is. Their chemistry is not apparent from the start and they have this evident dislike towards one another. This lack of interest is what I love most in romance novels. If they share a blatant dislike for one another, it makes it all the more interesting for me!

Even though I am an avid follower and fan of Jane Austen novels and retellings, I do not like to read the same story over and over again. By that I mean that I dislike reading so many retellings that follow the exact same story line and do not throw anything new into the mix. This book has a lot of the same traits as Pride and Prejudice, but Hathaway adds her own twist and this plot is very different from that of Pride and Prejudice. Of course, there were many elements of the story that were meant to resemble Austen’s work, but it was so refreshing for me to be able to see a significant difference.

This book was full of southern charm, and for a southern belle like me this was the icing on top of the cake. I loved the charming and extraordinary main characters, as well as the secondary characters, which I felt were just as important as the main characters in my opinion. This book is the first in a series, and the next one releases next month, I believe. The scenery was beautifully described and the writing was incredibly detailed. I am so ready to read and review the next book, Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs!

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

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Book Review: Hexed

Hexed (Hexed, #1)Author: Michelle Krys
Publication Date: 10, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Series: The Witch Hunter

If high school is all about social status, Indigo Blackwood has it made. Sure, her quirky mom owns an occult shop, and a nerd just won’t stop trying to be her friend, but Indie is a popular cheerleader with a football-star boyfriend and a social circle powerful enough to ruin everyone at school. Who wouldn’t want to be her?

Then a guy dies right before her eyes. And the dusty old family Bible her mom is freakishly possessive of is stolen. But it’s when a frustratingly sexy stranger named Bishop enters Indie’s world that she learns her destiny involves a lot more than pom-poms and parties. If she doesn’t get the Bible back, every witch on the planet will die. And that’s seriously bad news for Indie, because according to Bishop, she’s a witch too.

Suddenly forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers, Indie’s about to uncover the many dark truths about her life—and a future unlike any she ever imagined on top of the cheer pyramid.

Exactly twelve minutes into cheerleading practice, and I already wish I were dead.

The dead guy was coming to our shop.

So, slight problem with the plan: I have absolutely no clue where to start.

They’ve got Mom. Evil sorcerers have got Mom, and I’m trapped in some invisible mime-box.

Hexed reminded me a little bit of Rachel Hawkins’s Hex Hall Series, and everyone needs a good witchy read now and then. This book was fun, fast-paced, and had a great young voice as the lead and to guide readers through many terrifying adventures. I finished the book after one day and am already excited for the next book in this series to be released. The story and plot were well-paced and this was a nice little jump into an alternate world. This book is what I would definitely call a summer read, and even though not everyone will like it, it’s got something for everyone!

Indie is our main character and when we meet her she is just a normal teenage girl worried about what we might think are meaningless things. She worries about keeping her popular, snobby best friend happy and holding on to her boyfriend, much like many other girls do. However, Indie’s world changes very quickly and so does she. She never comes off as being invincible or even tries to hide her weaknesses and fears. She freely admits them and faces them. She was a stand up main character!

Michelle Krys is very witty and her book is full of humor and scenes that will make you laugh out loud. I love books that have the main characters dealing with very serious matters, but still find time to be funny. The book has a little bit of everything, as I mentioned, before. It has drama, mystery, a little bit of romance, and a lot of laughing moments. So even if you didn’t like the entire book, you might still find that there are parts that suited you nicely!

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

Friday, June 13, 2014

ARC Review: 17 First Kisses

17 First KissesAuthor: Rachael Allen
Publication Date: June 17, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen

No matter how many boys Claire kisses, she can’t seem to find a decent boyfriend. Someone who wouldn’t rather date her gorgeous best friend, Megan. Someone who won’t freak out when he learns about the tragedy her family still hasn’t recovered from. Someone whose kisses can carry her away from her backwoods town for one fleeting moment.

Until Claire meets Luke.

But Megan is falling for Luke, too, and if there’s one thing Claire knows for sure, it’s that Megan’s pretty much irresistible.

With true love and best friendship on the line, Claire suddenly has everything to lose. And what she learns—about her crush, her friends, and most of all herself—makes the choices even harder.

In her moving debut, Rachael Allen brilliantly captures the complexities of friendship, the struggles of self-discovery, and the difficulties of trying to find love in high school. Fans of Sarah Ockler, Susane Colasanti, and Stephanie Perkins will fall head over heels for this addictive, heartfelt, and often hilarious modern love story.

Finding a guy to kiss in this town is next to impossible.

My first kiss was with the most popular guy in town. For most girls, in most towns, this would be a good thing. Not for me.

Sometimes you have to take the flying leap. Swallow your fear. Kiss that boy you’ve been thinking about every night for the past month. I don’t have the luxury of wading into the shallow end by degrees.

This contemporary read was just what I needed to kick off my summer. I was craving a light novel, and this debut author and her new release looked very intriguing. This book is a coming of age story that focuses on the difficulty of keeping friendships together and learning to love yourself. Claire is our protagonist, and a marvelous one at that. She is the perfect example of what I believe most teenage girls feel like when they are influenced by the popular crowd and just want to fit in. Claire has kissed quite a few boys, hence the title of the book, and is often referred to as a “slut” because of this. I thought a lot of the influence and pressure she felt was remarkably realistic because I am a high school teacher and can attest to the fact that it does go on frequently.

The friendship between Claire and Megan, the most popular girl in school, is incredibly real. Megan is the Queen Bee, so to speak, and Claire is used to losing boys to Megan, but this time and this boy might just do their friendship in. Their relationship will seem very minimalistic and petty to some readers, but I think it is a perfect portrayal of what high school friendships often resemble. The thing that almost comes between them for good is a boy named Luke, who I will get to in just a minute. It was interesting to watch their relationship progress, and I will tell you that Megan and Claire’s friendship very much resembles a spiraling out of control roller coaster, but as I said before, very realistic.

The bigger message that this book aims to critique revolves around abusive relationships. I was not expecting this at all in any way, shape, or form but it is there. This novel did not turn out to be as light as I thought that it would, but I can definitely stand behind all of the messages that it advertises. This book is about boys and what kind of impact they can have on your life. It is about doing what is best for yourself instead of others at times, and it is also about being a friend, a real, true friend!

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