Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: Expose Me by Kate Hewitt

The Fifth Avenue trilogy were some of my favorite books from this summer, but Expose Me, the last book, was probably the one I liked the least.  Keep in mind though, I really, really loved the first two books.

I never felt the same kind of chemistry between the characters - Alex and Chelsea - that existed in the other books in this trilogy.  I didn't like them as much.  I felt like they tried too hard to be mean to each other, too hard to avoid getting involved.  To some extent that's expected, but it went too far.  To the point where I was thinking, why even bother?  Also because the character is named Chelsea in this book, and she's the host of a TV show, I kept imagining Chelsea Handler in this role.

It's been a few months since I read the book, and don't remember the details all that well.  I still enjoyed the book and am probably being too harsh in comparing it to the other two books in the trilogy.

But the important part of this book was bringing down Jason Treffen, the man responsible for the death of one of Alex's friends.  This book provides the conclusion of what has been building up over the first two books.  To some extent, the romance is secondary to these two characters completing this task.  Alex has to convince Chelsea to assist in bringing down this man who has destroyed so many lives.  This is a big part of the story, because Chelsea doesn't want to do anything that might harm her career - at the same time, she realizes this could be the kind of story that might make her career.

This is such a great trilogy, I highly recommend it - all three of the books provide some great reading entertainment.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Read: May 4, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: Fanning the Flames by Victoria Dahl

Victoria Dahl is one of those writers whose work I started reading because she's one of my favorite people to follow on twitter.  Seems like a really cool person, and in turn, that makes me want to read her books.  So far, I've very much enjoyed what I've read of hers. 
I remember last summer, she mentioned writing a story about a librarian who watched the firefighter next door running each day.  I was looking forward to that story because, well, my library shares a parking lot with a fire department and there are many jokes in my life regarding going to pick up books/check out the firemen.  Of course, I don't really do that.  But still, funny, right? Whatever.   However, I was a little disappointed that this wasn't a full length story.  And because it was so short, the romance felt a bit rushed.  I usually like a little more of people getting to know each other, more of a build  up.  I guess we are informed that these two people have known each other for a while, so it isn't as if they just met and fell for each other.  They do know each other, which was one of the obstacles in their relationship.  He'd been friends with her ex-husband and she had known his wife before she died.  

One of the reasons I may not have loved this story was because the main characters are older.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it isn't something to which I can relate - being older and having kids and former spouses and such.  These aren't topics that resonate with me at all.   The older part, yes, to some extent, but that's it.  

As for their story, Lauren is a librarian who, despite always being attracted to Jake, has never acted on that attraction.  But she gets talked into going out with her co-workers one night, and he's there.  And he seems quite interested in her.  As you might imagine, the two finally give into their attraction to each other.  

I still liked the story, just not as much as I usually like Dahl's books.  At about 61 pages, it's perfect for a quick, sexy read.  And it's set in Jackson, the beginning of the Girls' Night Out series, and I loved the first book in that series, Looking for Trouble.  Some of the same characters are mentioned, making this well worth reading to know what's happening with everyone involved.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: A Wedding in Provence by Ellen Sussman

I decided to read this while I was travelling this summer.  I like to read books that are set in the places I'm visiting while I'm there.  I started this while in France, visiting chateaux in the Loire Valley - so not exactly Provence, but the same country.

I read most of this book while on the train from Paris to Brussels, then Brussels to Bruges and back, and then Brussels to London.  It's an okay book, didn't love it, didn't hate it.  Sometimes those are the most difficult to review.

This is the story about an older couple going to Provence to get married at a friend's bed & breakfast.  The scenery is beautiful, but the people gathered for the wedding aren't feeling so fairy tale like.

There isn't anything too dramatic or horrible,  just a typical family drama.  Two sisters, one good with her act together, the other something of an irresponsible bad girl.  The irresponsible daughter shows up at the wedding with a guy she met on the plane.  The good daughter shows up alone, her boyfriend finding an excuse to avoid the trip.  Somewhere along the way the good daughter decides she's tired of being good and the bad daughter is forced to behave responsibly.  I found it a bit of a stretch to assume that their entire personalities were transformed based on the events of one weekend, but this is why it's fiction.

I didn't feel any strong connection to the characters.  In fact, I kind of disliked the couple getting married.  The mom especially seemed like a rather unpleasant person, and I don't think that was the intention.  I didn't ever get the feeling that this couple had some great love that was going to solve all their other problems.  The couple I liked more was the one running the Bed & Breakfast, despite their problems, they seemed genuine.

Overall, the book was okay.  A fairly quick read, it held my interest and did well to pass all the time I spent on trains.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

I wanted to write a really great review of this book, because it deserves one.  And I wanted to be able to say something other than, "OMG, I loved it!" because you know, that isn't especially intelligent.  And yet.

OMG, I loved it!

I read Discovery of Witches, the first book in the All Souls Trilogy, a few years ago.  I knew nothing about the book.  My library had just gotten the ability to loan kindle books, so I was looking at what was available.  Witches, I like stories about witches, I'll give it a try.

Immediately, I was lost in this world.  A witch and a vampire in Oxford.  Smart and sexy.  Romantic and intelligent.  I loved this book so much.  It's all I could talk about.  Anyone who would listen got lured into, "So, I'm reading this amazing book..."

But I didn't love Shadow of Night, the second book in the series, all that much.  Not a huge fan of time travel, though I've since read much more of it since reading this book, and I was bothered by some of the actions of the characters.  These characters that I loved so much in the first book seemed out of their element in the second book.  Diana busy keeping house and obsessing about getting pregnant and Matthew being a jerk, letting his friends treat Diana horribly.  I didn't understand what was happening.  They didn't feel like the characters I'd loved so much in the first book.  And yet, I knew they were the same, and I still cared about them.  It's a credit to the author to have created characters that can evoke this much emotion - I wouldn't get so upset about characters who didn't matter to me.  I might have been overly harsh about the second book, and I may have read it too quickly.  Though on my attempts to re-read it in preparation for the new book, I kept setting the book aside, getting upset all over again with the characters.  I ended up getting a copy of the audio book, and felt I liked it more that way.

And regardless of whether I liked or loved Shadow of Night, I was so anxious for the third book.  This was going to be the highlight of my summer.  I cheered and danced when I found out I'd been approved for a review copy via NetGalley.  (And I am not the cheering and dancing sort, not at all.  But I was that excited.)

You know how sometimes you want something so bad, and then you get it and it doesn't live up to all your expectations?  Not a problem here!  I loved this book.  Loved it!

For two days, I cut off all ties with the world, crawled in bed and read.  I was immersed in this world with these characters I loved so much, and all was right in the Universe.

Pretty much everything that bothered me about the second book was all gone.  Matthew and Diana are back in present time, he's back in the lab, she's back in the library.  These are the people I fell in love with in the beginning.  They're back to being equals, being two people in love, trying to make their relationship work under very difficult circumstances.  Besides being married and starting a family, they've got all kinds of family issues, and then we've got the congregation that doesn't approve of a relationship between a witch and a vampire.  It's all a mess, but they figure it out, together.  That's what I enjoy so much about this book.  They way they work together.  Nothing is easy for them.  There's all kinds of tough choices and heartbreak, but wow, when they get through all of that, it's pretty great.

I especially enjoyed reading about Diana embracing her powers.  She's full-on witch, unstoppable once she starts to get the hang of all the magic she possesses.  The best part is that she does this, while still maintaining the person she was originally.  This was my biggest worry, that's she set aside her career to be a vampire wife/den mother to Matthew's brood of vampire children, as well as their own children.  I wanted to see her still be her own person.  Plus, I love that Matthew, despite his excessive need to protect her and shield her from all harm, understands that she needs to be her own person, that she can't be his kept doll.  He also fully realizes that he loves her because of her independence and her strength.  Have I mentioned how very much I love this couple?

There were a few moments when I was bothered, when Diana goes on about how with children she'll have to give up her job.  Seriously?  What year is this?  I know they're vampire/witch babies, but you have like 500 immediate family members hovering around you willing to help out all the time if you're not comfortable with the idea of daycare.  (I would, however, like to point out that I liked the way the pregnancy was handled in this book, it was not the main focus of the story, which was a concern of mine before reading this story.  I wouldn't have been able to handle that.)

All the family members start to annoy me after a while also.  Part of me really wishes Diana and Matthew could just go off and have their own life, without dealing with twenty other people every single day.  But that's a personal issues, I'm not a big family person.  There was also a moment in the book when a choice was made that upset me quite a bit, but - no spoilers - in the end, I understood why the decision had been made.

Oh, and one other thing that bothered me so very much, I wanted to pause my reading and dash off a letter to the author or publisher.  When Diana reveals that she's married to a vampire and she's pregnant, her friend says something along the lines of, "That never happened on Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Then a comment is made about Joss Whedon.  Don't throw in these references if you haven't done your research!  There was indeed a vampire pregnancy on Angel, the Buffy spin-off (a Joss Whedon show).  And it was shocking and "oh my god, how is this possible? Vampires can't make babies!" sort of like Diana's pregnancy, oh and sort of like in Twilight and again in the new CW show, The Originals.  A shocking vampire pregnancy that no one thought was possible - not that original.  That's okay, it doesn't have to be, but don't try to act like it is.  Sort of like in Shadow of Night, when Matthew and Diana are talking about vampire fiction - like it's so different from their story, and really, it isn't.  Diana's telling him about the books, and she's pretty much describing him.  Oh well, not a big deal, but I'm a big Buffy fan, so that irked me a bit.

Anyway, I loved the book.  Those are minor issues, but I felt I should mention them to prove I'm not a blindly loving fan girl.  Over the past few weeks, after finishing, I'm almost jealous of those who haven't read it yet.  I think I may just read it again, at the same time as everyone else so I can join in the discussions.  I'm sure that like before, I read it too quickly.  Or maybe I'll wait until October and re-read the entire trilogy again.  Or listen to it.  That might be a nice way to spend the daily commute.

I most certainly recommend this book, especially to anyone who has read the first two books in the series.  This was well worth the wait.  If you haven't read the series and you're a fan of stories about vampires and witches, then you should, especially now that all three books are available.

Part of me hopes there will be more books about these characters, but at the same time, I think I'd be bothered by a story in which Diana and Matthew weren't the central characters.  I think of the Outlander series and how much I dislike the addition of all the extra story lines that take away time from Jamie and Claire.  I don't want to see that happen with these characters.  But I have enough trust in Deborah Harkness that I'll read whatever novel she writes next.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: To Love a Highlander by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

This book is what I consider to be pure, indulgent romance.  And I mean that in a good way.  It's probably the sort of book that someone who thinks romances are boring and sappy would dislike, but for those of us who want a really good love story, this is perfect.

There isn't a lot of conflict or angst - or rather it's there, but gets resolved without too much difficulty.  (And on this topic, I almost find the easy, quick resolution to be more realistic.  I was thinking about this as I read the book, stories in which people go out of their way and to great extents to hold grudges and carry out revenge are the less realistic characters.  In real life, won't most people just give in and do what makes life easier?)

There's just enough danger and violence to keep the story exciting - this is, after all a story about a highlander.  The setting is Stirling Castle - which I happened to visit while reading this book, so that added to my enjoyment of the story.

This is the story of Sorely and Mirabelle.  Sorely works for the king, and Mirabelle is the daughter of a Highlander who is visiting Stirling.  Years earlier, when in their teens, the two met, they danced together, but Mirabelle's father's men stepped in.  Sorely being a bastard wasn't considered worthy of Mirabelle.  But all these years, the two haven't forgotten each other, even though at first they don't mention what happened years before, leading the other to think they'd forgotten.

Mirabelle's father is in talks to have her married to someone she doesn't want to marry.  Lucky for her, this someone is an enemy of Sorely.  She goes to Sorely with a rather shocking request to make sure the marriage doesn't happen.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about this book was the way the author writes about these two characters wanting each other.  This is what I meant by indulgent romance.  The descriptions of their desires, the heat created from the slightest of touches are more intense than some actual sex scenes in other books I've read.  I very much enjoyed this, as it was perfect for pure escapism, though I'm fairly sure I may have been blushing as I was reading parts of this on the train ride to and from Stirling.  This is the second book I've read by this author.  The first was a prequel to this book, and I remember a first kiss seeming to go on for almost three pages, and enjoying every bit of it - thinking, this is what a kiss sh
ould be like.  That's how I felt with this entire book.  This is how romance should feel.  Every moment together intense and heated, before they've even touched each other.

This story is definitely steamy.  Also, I loved the characters.  Looking forward to reading the rest of this series and more by this author.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Review: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

When I read the description of this book, it didn't sound like something I'd like. Struggling single mom, road trip, corporate guy with career problems.  None of these are things to which I can relate.  But the book is written by Jojo Moyes, and the two books I read of hers last year - Me Before You and Girl You Left Behind are two of the best books I've ever read.  So I decided to give this a try, and I was so glad I did.

Moyes has the ability to create characters in such a way that even though in real life, I have absolutely nothing in common with any of these people, I still felt like I knew them.  I still cared about them, and to be quite sappy - I was happy and sad for them, laughed and cried and all that.

I admit, near the beginning of the book, I didn't really like the mom in this story.  Jess is just so very noble, it gets annoying at times. She's too good to take her kids to McDonalds (personally, I don't go to McDonalds either - but if you're on a road trip with limited time and a limited budget, come on, it's isn't like a lifestyle change, it's just a quick meal).  Little things like that bothered me.

But in the end, I pretty much loved this story. Other than Jess, I really liked all the other characters in this story - the two kids and Ed were great.  They're all a little quirky and interesting, without being annoying.  There are a few rather absurd coincidences, but you know, this is fiction, and to tell the truth, real life has some rather absurd coincidences in it if you pay enough attention.  It was never to the extent where I was saying, oh whatever, that would never happen.  If anything, I had just the opposite feeling - like maybe somehow things fall into place in the world the way they're supposed to - sometimes.

This is the third book I've read by Jojo Moyes and I'm always impressed with her ability to create these characters and this world that feels so real and can evoke so many emotions. I spent all day reading this book and when I finished, I had that moment in which I felt like my own life was pathetically dull in comparison.  Don't get me wrong, I don't envy their situation, they had some bad things happen along the way, and I never would have survived that road trip - car sickness, a smelly dog, bad food, all at 40 mph.  Road trip from hell.  Would have been so much easier to have given them the money and put them on the train - but then there wouldn't be a story.   

This is such a good book.  I'm going to recommend it to everyone.  I honestly can't imagine anyone not liking it.  So add this to your summer reading list.  You'll be glad you did.

I received a review copy of this via NetGalley.