Saturday, April 30, 2016

Stacking The Shelves (159)

STSmall_thumb[2][2]Stacking The Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews, is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

*Book Signing* New Hardcover:

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
My youngest son with Katherine Applegate. She was a pure delight!

*Won* Signed Paperback Pretty:

We Were Here by Daisy Prescott

*Doodled* Hardcover:
I preordered this because I love a Stiefvater doodle. Not gonna lie, though. Thought the doodle would be bigger. Included an original signed bookplate though, so that was cool.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

*Signed* Hardcovers:
I was so excited to find these at my local independent bookstore!
The Book Thief: Special Anniversary Edition by Markus Zusak
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Balto of the Blue Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Blissed By Jamie Farrell

Blissed by Jamie Farrell
(Misfit Brides #1)
August 5, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Contains: strong language, fade-to-black sex
Source: Personal purchase

 Welcome To Bliss, the Bridal Capitol of the Midwest

Natalie Castellano practically has it all—beauty, brains, and a stellar reputation. Because childbearing hips and exhaustion lines are totally sexy. And knowing when to let go of her family’s failing bridal boutique is smart…right? Plus, who doesn’t want to be that divorced mother in Bliss?

With all she has going for her, it would be selfish to secretly wish for love too. Who needs it? Definitely not Nat. But perhaps she does need to take her wedding dress-obsessed little boy somewhere else for a fresh start.

CJ Blue is on top of the world. At least, he was last week when he stood on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Now, he’s in an empty confessional, hiding from the hullabaloo of a family wedding. Aka the depths of hell.

His meddling relatives want to poke at the deep psychological wounds he supposedly bears from being a twenty-something widower. But he doesn’t want to talk, he doesn’t want to be fussed over, and he certainly doesn’t want another chance to fail at love. He just wants to get through this wedding and back to his adventurous life.

But when a dark-haired, wounded-eye beauty invades his sanctuary and whispers a secret he was never supposed to know, he gets swept up in her life. Is he brave enough to tackle the adventure of life in Bliss, or will he walk away from the only woman in the world who could offer him love, forgiveness, and a second chance?

This story drove me nuts because it was so unbelievable. I spent most of the story annoyed and angry and generally disliking everyone. That's not how I like my chick-lit or my sweet romances to go. Because let's be honest. This should have been a silly, fun, warm-fuzzy romance. But when I can't get through a single chapter without cringing at people's actions, becoming indignant, or becoming angry because once again Natalie, or some loser next to her, have done nothing to defend themselves, I simply cannot enjoy myself. And that's really disappointing because I grabbed this book because of the cute cover and the cute blurb. I wanted fun and cute. Meddling relatives sounds fun. But deranged committee leaders hell-bent on your destruction isn't so fun. Sadly, fun and cuteness I did not find until toward the end.

My main problem with this story was the characters, and I include the town of Bliss as a character. The characters in this story just were not endearing. Natalie, the heroine of the story, was a complete doormat. And the few times she grew a spine, she quickly lost it again. Drove me nuts. CJ, the hero, was just meh. I didn't find anything particularly special about him. Now Marilyn, the Queen General, was unbelievably horrible. She was so rotten, and yet these people just cowered in her presence. Arthur, Natalie's Dad, was clueless and insensitive. I was so disappointed in him. Noah, Natalie's 4-year-old son, was cute but weird. Then there's the actual townsfolk of Bliss. They were the worst: cowardly, ridiculous, judgmental, just standing by while Natalie gets bullied. I hated this town. Lindsey, Natalie's sister, was one of the few people I actually liked. She, some of CJs siblings, and the guys at the bar, were the few sparks of light in this frustrating story.

Also, the writing style is also very odd. Sometimes it flows well and other times she throws these odd phrases and word choices in, and they don't quite catch me right. I think she's trying to be poetic or creative or something, but it comes across as odd, and not the good odd that I enjoy. I also found myself skimming a lot by the second half. This was mostly due to my annoyance. But the story also dragged, so that didn't help. I also found it odd that a book with so much cussing in it would be so brief about sex. It felt contradictory to me. Either tone down the cussing, and keep the sex scenes brief and fade-to-black. Or leave in the cussing, and heat up the sex scenes.

This was my first Jamie Farrell book. While I was disappointed, I am willing to give Jamie another chance. I did like Lindsey, and she will be the main feature in the next book of this series, so that gives me hope. Lindsey as the heroine, and the evil QG off the crazy train, gives me hope that the next story will suit me much better.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Originally Published: October 1953
Genre: Dystopian

The terrifyingly prophetic novel of a post-literate future.

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

The classic dystopian novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.

Bradbury’s powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which, decades on from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock.

What a masterful writer Ray Bradbury was! I'm one of those rare people who never read this in high school. So when my high school students were reading it, I read it along with them. What a treat! The story pulled me right in, gripping me until the very end.

I know there are many dystopian books these days. There was a time when the market was quite saturated with them (probably still is). But there's a reason that Fahrenheit 451 is a classic and has stood the test of time since its publication in 1953. While it was written not long after WWII and during the McCarthy Era, it is just as relevant now as it was then. Bradbury somehow captured both his time and future generations in such a meaningful way.

The characters were also fascinating. Each plays an important part, and if you look at their depths, you get even more out of what they were saying (or not saying). But the way Bradbury uses words and phrases is the true art of this book. I was gripped by his imagery, his syntax, his symbolism, his perspective. For a story less than 200 pages long, his message came across loud and clear. Bravo!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review: The Siren's Dance by Amber Belldene

The Siren's Dance by Amber Belldene
(A Siren Romance #2)
April 26, 2016
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, 18+
Contains: strong language, sex
Source: eARC for Honest review

The performance of their lives is about to begin…

Death has transformed former ballerina Anya Truss into a vila—an alluring wind nymph—but her need for revenge has kept her trapped on the riverbank where she was drowned. Now, after fifty years of waiting, she finally has a chance to break free by getting even with her cruel dance instructor, the man who betrayed her and broke her heart. But for her plan to work, she must place her trust in a handsome but unlikely ally.

Straight-laced police investigator Sergey Yuchenko has spent years searching for the father he never knew, and he finally has a solid lead. Problem is, that lead comes in the form of a ghost—a gorgeous but stubborn vila with destructive powers she can't control. Anya's graceful beauty awakens a desire in Sergey like he's never felt before. But when past secrets are brought to light, the lovers will have to face an evil that could tear them apart forever.

I was completely engaged by 'The Siren's Dance.' Though I did read the first book in this series, and thoroughly enjoyed it, this second book can be read as a standalone. You will get pieces of the first couple's story though, so it may tempt you to backtrack to their story. I actually re-read the last few chapters of the previous book before starting this one, and it helped refresh my mind and get me right back into this story world.

If you've read the previous book and worry that this one is just going to be more of the same, don't fret. Not only is Anya very different from her sister in her personality and history, but Sergey has a very different upbringing and career from Dmitri, making this couple unique and endearing in their own special way. I liked all the special nuances of this story. Anya has not only suffered from being murdered, but she has this complicated ballet history that really drew me in. Belldene did a great job layering Anya. She's so prickly, but there is so much hidden beneath her shell. I loved the patience Sergey showed her, seeing her for more than the front she put off. Sergey was a terrific guy, and the perfect balance to Anya. He also has a fascinating history, and honestly, I did not see a certain part of his past coming. Well done on keeping me on my toes. Also, well done on creeping me out and giving me the heebie-jeebies toward the end. But not the very end. The very end was perfect.

This story definitely engaged me from the budding romance to the mysterious pasts to the creepy evil dude needing to be stopped. What I especially liked is the bond these two formed. Though they were seeking out the same man, their hearts wound up seeking each other out, finding the one other person who truly understood them for what they were. Their love story was complicated, suspenseful, and ultimately beautiful.

Siren Romance Series:
The Siren's Touch #1

The Siren's Dance #2

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Post: Weekly Wrap-Up (04.24)

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, showcase books, share upcoming news, etc. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme

What I Read Last Week:
Eric Liddell by Catherine Swift
Tall, Dark & Lonely by RL Mathewson (re-read)

My Reviews Last Week:
The Player and the Pixie by LH Cosway & Penny Reid (my 5 star review)
Dirty by Kylie Scott (my 4 star review)

What I'm Listening To:

Hexed by Kevin Hearne (re-listening)

What I'm Currently Reading:
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Stacking The Shelves (158)

STSmall_thumb[2][2]Stacking The Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews, is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Hardcover Happiness:

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Paperback Pretty:

Dirty by Kylie Scott

eARC Goodies:
Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine
Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Review: Dirty by Kylie Scott

 From Kylie Scott, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Stage Dive series, comes a fresh, hilarious, and sexy new series.

Welcome to Dive Bar, where the tattooed bartenders keep the drinks—and romance—flowing with a perfect cocktail of heartbreak, humor, and sweet, sexy romance. Are you ready to get Dirty?

Dirty by Kylie Scott
(Dive Bar Series #1)
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance 18+
Contains: strong language, explicit sex

The last thing Vaughan Hewson expects to find when he returns to his childhood home is a broken hearted bride in his shower, let alone the drama and chaos that comes with her.

Lydia Green doesn't know whether to burn down the church or sit and
cry in a corner. Discovering the love of your life is having an affair on your wedding day is bad enough. Finding out it's with his best man is another thing all together. She narrowly escapes tying the knot and meets Vaughan only hours later.

Vaughan is the exact opposite of the picture perfect, respected businessman she thought she'd marry. This former musician-turned-bartender is rough around the edges and unsettled. But she already tried Mr. Right and discovered he's all wrong-maybe it's time to give Mr. Right Now a chance.

After all, what's wrong with getting dirty?

'Dirty,' the first book in Kylie Scott's new Dive Bar series, was not what I expected. But that was actually a pleasant surprise. For the heavy material that was touched on, this was actually a light, sweet read, and just the read I needed. From chapter one, I was sucked right into this story, and quickly fell in love with Vaughan and Lydia.

I loved Vaughan. He had such a chill presence, but you know under that mellow exterior is a whole lotta deep water. I loved Lydia. Her personality was refreshing, her ability to be honest and push through the awkward was fantastic. And yay for a beautiful, curvy girl full of personality and heart! I loved the way Vaughan and Lydia's friendship developed. There was something truly special in the air that day, and charging their chemistrty forward in such a deep way for such a short period of time. But in spite of the abbreviated time period, I bought their relationship hook, line, and sinker. They were a really great couple, who happened upon each other in the oddest sort of circumstance. But funnily enough, that really worked for them. It took a real stroke of luck to bring these two together. What seemed like bad luck turned into the best luck of all. I really hope they make lots of appearances in the rest of the series, because I can't get enough of them.

I also liked the new characters brought into the story, setting up the atmosphere for the series and future books. Dive Bar is fun and is loaded with interesting characters. The only drawback for me was that these secondary characters were chock full of drama. I could have used a bit less of it, especially one set of circumstances in particular. It just made me sad in another wise fun and sweet story. But I'm definitely interested in where these other characters and their lives are going. I'm buckled in for the ride.

Kylie is a long time fan of erotic love stories and B-grade horror films. She demands a happy ending and if blood and carnage occur along the way then all the better. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and one delightful husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet.

Kylie is represented by Amy Tannenbaum at the Jane Rotrosen Agency, New York.

Stalk Kylie Scott:
 Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Monday, April 18, 2016

Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: The Player and the Pixie by LH Cosway & Penny Reid

The Player and the Pixie 
By: L.H. Cosway and Penny Reid 
Publication Date: April 12, 2016 
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Sports, Humor

How can someone so smokin’ hot be so bad in bed? I mean, Sean Cassidy is absolute rubbish. RUBBISH. He is the epitome of walking, talking false advertising and I want a refund! Plus he’s an arsehole. So… what is wrong with me that I can’t stop thinking about him? The Pixie and the Player is a full-length, romantic comedy novel, can be read as a standalone, and is the second book in the Rugby Series.

  THE PIXIE Lucy Fitzpatrick doesn’t like rugby. As the little sister of Ireland’s most infamous rugby player, Lucy can’t seem to escape the championship-sized shadow cast by her big brother, or her mother’s frequent attempts to micromanage her future. Her rainbow hair is as free-spirited as her quest for inner peace, yet overbearing expectations keep bringing her down. And when she’s down, her compulsive little problem lands her in seriously big trouble.

  THE PLAYER Sean Cassidy is a cold-hearted brute… or so he’s been told. Frequently. By everyone. His blonde locks, baby blues, and rock hard bod make ladies the world over drool with desire. As the rugby world’s second most infamous player, he should be basking in his success. But Sean has never been content settling for second place, and his frequent confrontations with Lucy’s big brother leave him cold. And when he’s cold, his compulsive little problem lands him in the lap of Lucy Fitzpatrick.

  THE PLAN Sean has a problem only Lucy can solve. Lucy has a problem only Sean can fix. The solution seems obvious: you scratch my back, and I’ll bail you out of jail. But when their business arrangement unexpectedly leaves Sean scorching hot and Lucy on the precipice of inner peace, can they convince the world—and Lucy’s big brother in particular—that this is the real deal? Either way, both the Player and the Pixie are about to teach each other some pretty monumental lessons about family, life, but most importantly, love.

What a surprise! I got hooked on 'The Player and the Pixie' and fell for Sean and Lucy. Now, it wasn't a surprise that I would love something from Cosway or Reid. I love them. What surprised me is how much I loved Sean! I didn't realize until I was reading that Sean was the jerk-Sean from 'The Hooker and the Hermit.' Now that was exciting to find out! It made getting into the story that much easier, especially with Ronan's sister, Lucy, involved. This had the makings for a disaster or a dream. I'll give you a hint... not a disaster (though the dream took some work to get to).

I loved getting to know Sean and Lucy. They are each so different from what the world sees. They found kindred spirits in one another. I loved the mix of genuine feelings that they had to go through. The soul searching. The resolve that though the path wasn't straight, there was no denying the goal had to be each other. And the journey there was fun and loving, awkward and nerve-wracking, cute and sexy. The twist they took with the plot was a hoot, but also so endearing. How can you not love Sean after all that?

Bottom line, I loved 'The Player and the Pixie.' And I confess, I loved it more than 'The Hooker and the Hermit.' It had that something special that hit me just right. Yay for Rugby Boy and Rainbow Bright!

I didn’t know what I was doing.

Requests, things I wanted, words I would never speak or allow myself to think were now uncontainable.

It’s the sex, I reiterated. Again. I’d used this explanation, now on repeat, as a simple justification for the complex cacophony of my mind.

“Be with you?” Her long, dark lashes fluttered, beating like distressed butterfly wings against warming pink cheeks.

I licked my lips, tasting her there. “Yes.”

She stared at me, confused. I was also confused. And oddly frightened.

Because it wasn’t the sex.

Several seconds ticked on as we studied each other in breathless silence. She found her voice before I did. “What does that—”

“Lucy?” Annie’s voice was paired with a soft knock on the bathroom door. “Are you okay?”

I opened my mouth to whisper a clarification to the question Lucy hadn’t quite posed, because I was compelled to tell her it wasn’t the sex. We didn’t have to have sex. We could just . . . talk. Or play cards. Or touch. Or look at each other from across the room.

We could merely be together.

But she covered my mouth with her hand. Her features arrested with unmistakable panic.

“Yes. I’m fine! I just . . . started my period is all. Made a mess in my jeans, like a crime scene.” Lucy hollered in response then grimaced. She immediately mouthed I’m sorry to me. Her cheeks flushed red.

I lifted an eyebrow. She rolled her eyes, ducking her head with obvious embarrassment. I pressed my lips together so I wouldn’t laugh.

Issuing me a quelling look, Lucy released me and skittered out of the stall, whispering, “Stay here and count to three hundred.”

“Oh! Do you need anything?” Annie’s voice was less muffled and I surmised she’d opened the bathroom door.

“Ah, no. Have it all sorted now. Thank God Tom has these nice absorbent napkins instead of those troublesome hand driers. Although I feel like I’m wearing a nappy. They’re bad for the environment, so I should talk to him about replacing the napkins. Maybe make a few available for emergencies . . .”

Lucy’s anxiety-riddled chatter faded as the bathroom door clicked shut.

I released an audible exhale. My heart was beating as though it might leap from my chest. I needed to catch my breath. Neither had anything to do with being caught.

What the f--k were you doing?

It was the sex. She’s phenomenal in bed. You’ve never had that before. It was just sex.

I nodded, reiterating the logic of my justification for the uncharacteristic behavior. If I repeated it enough, perhaps I would believe it.

I didn’t count to three hundred as instructed. I counted to one hundred and twenty-three, then realized what I was doing.

“You’re mad, Sean,” I muttered, shaking myself and promptly leaving the ladies’ room. I checked the cufflinks on my dress shirt—a nervous habit—and strolled back to the table, eyeing the assortment of eejits gathered.

L.H. Cosway

L.H. Cosway has a BA in English Literature and Greek and Roman Civilisation, and an MA in Postcolonial Literature. She lives in Dublin city. Her inspiration to write comes from music. Her favorite things in life include writing stories, vintage clothing, dark cabaret music, food, musical comedy, and of course, books. She thinks that imperfect people are the most interesting kind. They tell the best stories.

Penny Reid

SEX! It all started with sex, between my parents. Personally I don’t like thinking about it, but whatever works for you is a-ok with me. No judgment. The sex happened in California and much of my life also occurred in that state until I moved from the land of nuts (almonds), wine, silicon… boobs, and heavy traffic to the southeast US. Like most writers I like to write, but let’s get back to sex. Eventually I married and gave birth to 2 small people-children (boy-6, girl-4 as of this writing). By day I’m a biomedical researcher with focus on rare diseases. By night I’m a knitter, sewer, lino block carver, fabric printer, soap maker, and general crafter. By the wee hours of the morning or when I’m intoxicated I love to listen to the voices in my head and let them tell me stories. I hope you enjoy their stories.