Tag Archives: romance

Book Review: The Specimen by Martha Lea

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From Goodreads:
The year is 1866. Edward Scales is a businessman, a butterfly collector, a respectable man. He is the man Gwen Carrick fell in love with seven years before. Now he is dead and Gwen is on trial for his murder.

From country house drawing rooms to the rainforests of Brazil, The Specimen explores the price one independent young woman might pay for wanting an unorthodox life.

Set in a Victorian world battling between the forces of spiritualism and Darwinism, polite society and the call of clandestine love, Gwen and Edward’s tale is a gripping melodrama, a romance and a murder mystery that will compel readers to its final thrilling page.

A sweeping drama with a Victorian backdrop, The Specimen is a book worth examining.

The Specimen has so many interesting characters. Gwen and Effie, two sister who are the complete opposite of one another become the bane of each others existence. Mr. Scales, the womanizing doctor, betrays his wife with various affairs that help to weave a web of deceit. All three are tangled together into a drama that ultimately leads to murder.

The chapters alternate between the present year, 1866, which finds Gwen on trial for the murder of Mr. Scales, and the past, the years leading up to the murder itself.

Gwen and Effie have inherited their father’s estate in Cornwall. Being polar opposites, their relationship is anything but smooth. Gwen seizes the opportunity for escape when she falls in love with Edward Scales and is invited along to Brazil as an assistant helping Edward collect and catalog specimens.

Gwen soon finds that the man she fell in love with during those fleeting moments of lust repulses her in the light of day. She endures the journey, through all sorts of conditions, only to find that she has been betrayed beyond anything she could ever have imagined.

There are many twists and turns in this murder mystery. The author allows the reader to come to some their own conclusions and doesn’t feel the need to bog us down with details but allows our imagination to fill in some of the plot. I really liked this style of writing. Some pieces of the puzzle were given out of order, which at first made me feel like I must have missed something. But, smartly, the answer becomes known later in the story.

Martha Lea has created such a wonderful Victorian setting for this book, making a unique reading experience. The changes in locale made the story interesting and reflected what was transpiring among the characters. I was surprised to find a little humor and had to laugh at some of the quips made by some of the minor characters.

If you enjoy unconventional murder mystery that makes you think outside the box like The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax or Mistress of the Art of Death, you’ll enjoy this book.

This book was provided for review by Netgally.

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Book Review: Gone Missing by Linda Castillo

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From Goodreads:
Rumspringa is the time when Amish teens are allowed to experience life without the rules. It’s an exciting time of personal discovery and growth before committing to the church. But when a young teen disappears without a trace, the carefree fun comes to an abrupt and sinister end, and fear spreads through the community like a contagion.

A missing child is a nightmare to all parents, and never more so than in the Amish community, where family ties run deep. When the search for the presumed runaway turns up a dead body, the case quickly becomes a murder investigation. And chief of Police Kate Burkholder knows that in order to solve this case she will have to call upon everything she has to give not only as a cop, but as a woman whose own Amish roots run deep.

Kate and state agent, John Tomasetti, delve into the lives of the missing teen and discover links to cold cases that may go back years. But will Kate piece together all the parts of this sinister puzzle in time to save the missing teen and the Amish community from a devastating fate? Or will she find herself locked in a fight to the death with a merciless killer?

This is another great installment to Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series. As with the other books in the series, this was really hard to put down.

Kate is an ex-amish Ohio police chief who’s had to solve quite a few Amish related murder mysteries since taking her post in the small community of Painter’s Mill. Make no mistake, these aren’t the sentimental Amish books reserved for the Christian lit genre. The murder’s are brutal, the mysteries and character’s more complex and the action doesn’t stop.

Kate is one of my all time favorite book characters. She’s strong, smart and doesn’t try to be something she’s not. Once she’s on the case, there’s no stopping her (sleeping, eating, living be damned) until she solved the mystery and the killer has been found. Her relationship with John Tomasetti is a big draw to this series as well. Both flawed with wounds from the past still fresh, they find solace in each other to get though past and present situations.

In this book, Amish teens are going missing creating a widespread puzzle to solve. As always, Kate has to face her own fears to save others and it makes for a nonstop action packed story. There’s no lull, no rest for Kate and John and no rest for the reader because you won’t be able to put it down. This one offer’s a surprise ending too! Icing on the cake!

You don’t have to read these in order either. Each makes a great stand alone story. I actually read #2 first than #1 before returning to #3.

If you’re a murder mystery and suspense fan and like authors such as Tami Hoag, I urge you to give this one a try. You won’t regret it!

On a side note, I tried to watch the made for TV movie modeled after book 1, but quickly lost interest. It just didn’t do the book justice.

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Book Review: Undead and Unreturnable by MaryJanice Davidson

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From Goodreads:
MaryJanice Davidson gives vampire queen Betsy Taylor a Christmas to remember in this fourth funny outing in her bestselling Undead series. This time, Betsy’s holiday cup runneth over. For starters, Betsy’s mother has finally erected Betsy’s tombstone in the local cemetery. A psycho nut job serial killer is targeting tall, thin blondes in the Twin Cities: women who look like Betsy. Her vampire mate, Eric Sinclair, is balking at wedding planning and at the modern notion of communication, while her hateful stepmother has just had a baby. Of course, it’s time for the irrepressible Betsy to launch an advice column for vampires trying to cope and to team up with a freshly killed ghost to track down her murderer. But why does her sister, Laura, keep taking out that sword? As usual, Betsy floats triumphantly in a sea of chaos, helped and hindered by the usual madcap cast of vampires and humans.

I read the first book of this series, Undead and Unwed, back in 2009 and have been reading my way through the series off and on. Starting off fun and unique, the series is a cross between Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series and Molly Harper’s Naked Werewolf series, with a vampire twist. I really enjoyed reading 1-3 but this one just didn’t live up to my expectations.

The story does not advance at all with this installment. It’s more of a review of the first 3 books and should have been more appropriately numbered 3.5. There’s no plot whatsoever and no growth to the characters at all and, although Betsy is still the humorous self-absorbed character I know and love from the previous installments, her plight was considerably too blah to make this one worth reading.

I’m not sure why some authors feel they need to constantly reintroduce their characters in every series installment. By book 4 I feel like I have invested enough in this series not to be dumbed down by repetition. If great authors of intricate stories like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series don’t see a reason to repeat everything that has happened in past installments, certainly a light series like this doesn’t have to.

Unfortunately, I think I’ve already read the best this series has to offer and don’t intend to continue.

I encourage reading books 1-3 though. This really started out as a fun series with a unique take on vampires, a steamy love interest and some mystery solving on the side.

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Book Review: Kiss River by Diane Chamberlain

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From Goodreads:
In the anticipated sequel to KEEPER OF THE LIGHT, award-winning author Diane Chamberlain takes fans back to the sea-swept place called KISS RIVER. Ten years ago, a hurricane caused the upper half of the Kiss River lighthouse to crumble into the sea. Deemed beyond repair, the remaining 100-foot brick shell of the lighthouse and its spiral staircase have been cordoned off and left for nature to finish the demolition job. Sister and brother Lacey and Clay O’Neill live in the keeper’s house next to the Kiss River lighthouse. When stranger Gina Higgins arrives in the area, she joins them in their bid to restore the decrepit beacon. But all three are hiding secrets from their past, and Gina’s arrival puts in motion a chain of events sure to change their lives forever.

This title is the second in Diane Chamberlain’s Kiss River trilogy. I had not read the previous title, Keeper of the Light, but when I saw Kiss River at the used bookstore, being a big fan of Diane Chamberlain, I decided to pick it up.

I had no trouble diving right in and, although this is part of a trilogy, it made a great stand alone story. Ms. Chamberlain’s books always get me hooked. She creates great drama with a hint of mystery and her characters are always down to earth and realistic. They’re characters you can invest in. Kiss River has a great cast of characters.

The main drama of the story comes from Gina Higgins, a teacher on summer break, who has headed east for the sole purpose of getting an up-close look at the Kiss River lighthouse. She soon befriends a brother and sister duo, Lacey and Clay, who live and are currently restoring the keeper’s house. Gina hides her true purpose under the pretense of being a lighthouse fanatic who is intent on preserving the Kiss River lighthouse beacon. What Lacey and Clay don’t know are that Gina has more than one motive and the lighthouse mean more to Gina than they could ever have imagined.

The best parts of this book lies with a more subtle drama brought to light through diary entries made by the daughter of the lighthouse Keeper during WWII. I loved these parts of the book! The two stories, past and present, come together in a surprising way.

Parts mystery, drama, romance and historical fiction, this book offers something for everyone.

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The Next Always by Nora Roberts

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From Goodreads:
The historic hotel in BoonsBoro, Maryland, has endured war and peace, changing hands, even rumored hauntings. Now it’s getting a major facelift from the Montgomery brothers and their eccentric mother. As the architect of the family, Beckett’s social life consists mostly of talking shop over pizza and beer. But there’s another project he’s got his eye on: the girl he’s been waiting to kiss since he was fifteen…

First things first; I am not a regular romance kind of girl. I must have something else in order to digest it. It could be something paranormal or a murder mystery but the story simply has to have something else going on. The Next Always just didn’t have that extra something.

I live very, very close to the real inn this book is based on so when it became this Month’s book club pick I was happy to give it a try. Ms. Roberts actually owns the Inn Boonsboro in Boonsboro, MD, which she and her husband restored. It serves as the backdrop for this book and the catalyst for the story’s budding romance. You can tell that the Inn was a true labor of love just by the descriptions. They are so detailed; you instantly fall in love with the idea of staying there. I’ve never had the privilege, but it sounds wonderfully tranquil. The book is like a vacation brochure.

The book is undeniably well written by a seasoned author. The descriptions and detail that went into recreating the small town feel is well done. The characters banter and play off each other, which make them seem real and more like someone you know. The kids in the book add a little fun and spontaneity. No need to eat that candy bar, this book is super sweet with enough sugar to cover you for a couple of days.

But….

The characters are likable, but regular. These are just regular people doing their regular thing. I’m a regular person (my kids may disagree) who does regular things. It’s boring. I read to escape my boring life, not relive it. Halfway through it got to be a little tedious. It just wasn’t much fun reading about someone’s monotonous days, even with a little romance thrown in. Go to work, do laundry, cook, clean, run errands, help with homework, go to bed, wake up and do it all over again. I don’t need to read it, I live it and it’s exhausting.

If you enjoy romance as the main event in a story and don’t need anything extra, you’ll probably enjoy this one. It’s sweet and pleasant. It’s well written and the Inn will put you in the mood to decorate. But, if you’re like me and prefer your romance as a perk instead of the main event, this one may not be the best fit.

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A Year of Reading Recap – 2012

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What would the New Year be without a look back at the old one? Here’s a recap of my year of reading 2012.

I’ve had the opportunity to read so many wonderful books this year. I surpassed my reading goal of 75 and reached an all time high of 117. 1Q84 was the longest book I read, 945 pages. I think that made the all-time high also. I gave mostly 3 and 4 stars with only 14 making the 5 star distinction, which makes me think I’m a bit too picky and hard to please. I had two books that were so terrible I couldn’t finish them and I’m still cursing about wasting my time on them.

I read more memoirs this year than ever. People are truly interesting and in some cases their stories are stranger than fiction. I cried more this year than ever too. Some of the stories were just so heartbreaking. I’m pretty sure I blubbered through more of The Art of Racing in the Rain than I’m willing to fess up to. Dogs dying in books seemed to be a common theme this year. I seriously cannot take anymore of that!

I had a zombie run and it was a great one. Zombies are the new vampires. Super cool! If I were giving an award for best cover it would go to My Life as a White Trash Zombie. As Steven Martin said in Father of the Bride, “Bitchin!” That cover earns the Bitchin award. (if there were such a thing) Patrick Ness is my favorite author of 2012. Reading his book has inspired both my children and me.

Historical fiction is still my favorite genre. Mixing fiction in with a history lesson makes learning fun even at my age.

Out of the 117 books I’ve read this year, here’s my top 10 favorites:

1. Wilderness: A Novel by Lance Weller
2. Chaos Walking: A Trilogy by Patrick Ness
3. The Wild Girl by Jim Fergus
4. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
5. Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo
6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
7. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
9. The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court by by Michelle Moran
10. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My goals for 2013 are much the same. I’m upping my reading goal to 100. I think I can manage it without feeling too pressured. I’m going to do my best not to purchase books this year. I have probably 75 on my bookshelf waiting to be read and they deserve my love and attention. “Try” is the main word here.

I’m going to give a State Challenge a go and will be book blogging my way through the US. I hope you’ll join me along the way! Every book is an adventure and it’s so much more fun when you’re along!

I wish each of you a New Year filled with joy, happiness and many, many great books!

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!


Book Review: Best Served Cold: The Unofficial Companion to Revenge by Erin Balser

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If you’re a fan of ABC’s hit show Revenge, you’re going to love this smoking hot guide.

From Goodreads:
A must-have for fans of the hit ABC drama Revenge, this guide delves into the fast-paced world of the character-driven series and sheds light on complicated plot twists and unanswered questions. Loyal viewers will love this intelligent and insightful companion to the show, which includes an analysis of main character Emily Thorne’s master plan. The book explores themes and characters from the series as well as its soap opera, literary, and real-world inspirations.

I LOVE Revenge. It’s one of the few shows that I can truly say I have watched from the beginning and never missed an episode of. At work, this is what we talk about come Monday mornings. It’s sparks conversation and contemplation and gives us camaraderie of sorts. The show is fun, addictive and let’s you take satisfaction in getting revenge without having to do the dirty deed yourself.

This guide provides an in-depth behind the scenes look at the cast, characters and episodes of this hot show. Having watched every episode with what can only be described as complete rapture, there were many things I missed which this guide brought to light. I feel like going back and watching the episodes again just to catch some of the little details I missed.

It gives insight to all facets of the show including how it the idea came about, cast decisions, filming and production and gives you opportunities to extend the enjoyment of revenge though books. Why does Victoria wear those tight dresses? How did Emily’s cold stare come about? Is the Grayson mansion for real? How does the show mirror The Count of Monte Cristo?

If you’re a seasoned Revenge watcher like me, this guide will extend your knowledge of the show. If you have yet to watch the show and plan on catching up on Season 1 (it’s available on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes) get this companion guide to follow along with each episode. It will add to your viewing pleasure!

Revenge on iTunes.

Revenge on Amazon.

Revenge on Netfix.

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This book was provided for review by the publisher.


Book Review: The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper

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Just as fun as the first installment in Molly Harper’s Naked Werewolf series, The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf is sure to lighten your mood and remind you how much fun budding romance can be!

From Goodreads:
Baring It All Generations of werewolves have been secretly residing in a secluded valley a stone’s throw from Grundy, Alaska. So when a snooping Outsider comes to Grundy to investigate rumors of lycanthropic shenanigans in the area, the valley’s pack alpha, Maggie Graham, resolves to chase him away, even if doing so takes a quick bite on the butt. What a pity that researcher Nick Thatcher turns out to be so drool-worthy, and that his kisses make Maggie want to sit up and beg. Maggie just can’t seem to convince Nick to leave . . . and even worse, she can’t convince herself to stay away from him. Cross-species dating is problem enough for a harried alpha female, but on top of that, a rival group of werewolves is trying to move into the valley. With interpack war threatening, Maggie can’t afford to be distracted. Combining romance and a career can be tough for anyone; for a werewolf in love with a human, it may be disastrous. . . .

This installment in the series picks right up where the first left off. It gets a fresh take though by changing the perspective to Maggie. The great thing is we still get all the great characters from the first book. I was really skeptical about reading this, wondering if I would enjoy it since I really enjoyed the first and didn’t really want to move on from the main characters introduced. I got a pleasant surprise! I liked this one just as much!

We get introduced to some great new characters too. Maggie’s view gives us some insight into the pack hierarchy without being bogged down by technicalities.

All of the Maggie Harper books I’ve read so far have been fun reads. They’re easy-going, girly books that are perfect for a beach read or to get you through a winter slump. This book features the same recipe of a heaping amount of love, a sprinkle of sex, a dash of comedy and a little mystery.

Great book…great fun!

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Book Review: And One Last Thing… by Molly Harper


Book Review: Die for Me by Amy Plum

Die for Me (Revenants, #1)Die for Me by Amy Plum
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was full of potential but fell short of my high expectations.

The story is about Kate, a 16-year-old whose parents passing has facilitated a move with her sister to live with their grandparents in Paris. An introvert, Kate spends her days in Paris reading classics, perusing art and sipping drinks at a local cafe. She becomes involved with Vincent, a handsome, aloof, nineteen year old with a secret life. Kate soon realizes there’s more to the world around her than she thought and falling for Vincent could mean repeatedly viewing death.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is the setting of Paris. The descriptions of the various cafes, museums and the french language lend a mystique that is sweepingly romantic and beautifully artistic. This is even evident in the beautiful backdrop on the cover of the book.

The author uses zombies as the bone of contention. The plot is well thought out but easy to guess. Don’t expect any big surprises in this one.

The one theme in this book that disappointed me was the love story. There was no pull, no reasoning to why Kate and Vincent should be or would want to be together. The love affair, if it can be classified as that, seems forced, not genuine or natural.

I really wanted this book to be better than good. The romantic Paris locale and the unique zombie premise promised a distinct story uncommon in the vampire and werewolf YA fiction that has become so popular. But, unfortunately, it did not live up to its possibility for greatness. It wasn’t a bad book, just not as good as it could have or should have been.

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Book Review: Heavenly Date and Other Flirtations by Alexander McCall Smith

Heavenly Date and Other FlirtationsHeavenly Date and Other Flirtations by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This collection of short stories based on romantic encounters was neither romantic nor entertaining.

I love The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, so when I saw this book at the used book store, I picked it up right away.

Expecting romantic dates in interesting and exotic locales like the description reads, I was excited to get started. However, after reading the first story I knew I had made a mistake with this one.

The stores themselves didn’t make any sense. The characters where strange and as far as locale, descriptions were nonexistent.

A complete disappointment. I’m just thankful this was not the first Alexander McCall Smith book I read.

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