Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My take on: Keep Me Safe

I have to start off by Maya Banks put a unique spin on romantic suspense in her last book Keep Me Safe.

Ramie St. Claire is consumed by pain -- her own and the pain of others. Why? She has worked for years with the police to locate crime victims. What's the catch? Is she a psychic? Ramie is more than that. She can literally feel the pain of these victims. Everything they experience Ramie can feel as it's happening. Every single act of torture Ramie can feel. Every time she helps families find their relatives, it takes a little piece of Ramie's soul. She is physically and emotionally drained. Now, a brutal killer is after Ramie. She can no longer help locate people without risking her safety. But that doesn't matter to Caleb Devereaux, a wealthy man searching for his kidnapped sister Tori. Caleb won't take no for an answer. He has to find his sister no matter the risks. After Tori is found, Caleb dedicates himself to helping others by forming a security firm. Ramie runs far away and refuses Caleb's help ... until she is desperate and has no where else to turn.

I like to think I'm somewhat well-read when it comes to romance books. That's why I think this was an interesting way to form a romantic relationship. Not many heroines find their dream man this way. Having said all that .... this book wasn't quite for me. As a character, Ramie was too weak for my tastes. Everyone treats her like a fragile piece of glass. She'll break if you press her too hard. I like my heroines to have some toughness within them. Caleb was a true alpha male. Caleb is definitely sorry for causing Ramie more pain. However, he makes sure everyone knows he has power, and knows just what to do with it. The sexual connection between them felt a bit quick, and I'm not a fan of insta-love.

The ending was happy and haunting at the same time. Without giving too much away, Caleb is forced to betray Ramie in the worst way. She's more damaged by the end than she was in the beginning. The resolution to everything comes rather quickly. It seems like some therapy would be needed. There's no stop-your-heart cliffhanger to the ending, so I'm curious to see how the next two books shape up. Although this one wasn't quite for me, I'm willing to give Maya Banks another try.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from Sullivan and Partners in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

My take on: The House We Grew Up In

Update: Sorry I've been missing in action, but sometimes school and work commitments take up a lot of my time. Plus, I'm not the fastest reader. One more semester to go and grad school will be over! I will still be reading and posting reviews, just not as frequent. I promise my posts will pick up in the spring.

Dysfunctional family drama with a mix of hoarding? Sign me up! The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell is a sad, but realistic portrayal of a family in crisis.

The Bird family, Lorelei, her husband Colin, and four children Megan, Bethan, Rory, and Rhys, are in dire need of help. Lorelei, literally and figuratively, likes to hold onto things from the past. A picture, a piece of tinfoil, books, and even little scraps of paper hold some special memory for Lorelei. Any attempts to break away from the family are met with resistance. Any attempts to break away from the family, Lorelei sees as acts of defiance. Meg is often the voice of reason. Beth refuses to think for herself, she'll do what everyone else does. Twins Rory and Rhys would rather stay holed up in their rooms than confront their mother. Colin's attempts to change their lives is met with resistance, leading him to realize the woman he married is slowly disappearing. A death shatters the family, but in Lorelei's mind it's a moment to bury and ignore -- just like everything else in their messy house. I could easily sense the tension between the characters, especially Meg. She's the only one who challenges Lorelei, and is often the bad guy for doing so. If she doesn't break away, Meg's sanity is at risk. She's the only one who can see that Lorelei is mentally ill.

The story alternates between the past and the present. Sometimes that worked for me and sometimes it didn't. I felt like the narrative from the past is where the action/conflict was. To the outside world, Lorelei projected an image of happiness. She just couldn't handle any attempt to shatter that image. Hindsight is 20/20 and I felt like that was the theme of the present-day narrative. I was more interested in the Bird family's past. I was engrossed in the changes in the family as they were happening. The childhood's of the Bird children, shaped who they became. While hoarding is on the extreme end of family dysfunction, I'm sure everyone can find a little bit of the Bird family in their own. What would you do differently? What would stay the same? Do you grow up wishing you were born into a different family?

Random tidbit: After reading this, I will never look at a chocolate Easter egg the same again! Want to know what I'm talking about? READ THE BOOK!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received an e-galley from the publisher (Atria). The House We Grew Up In was one of the Fall books for She Reads.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Little Black Lies free preview!!

"Zoe Goldman, a resident psychiatrist who struggles with ADHD, is haunted by a reoccurring nightmare of a mysterious fire that claimed her mother’s life. The arrival of a new patient, a skillful sociopath who killed her own mother as a teenager, reignites Zoe’s desire to dig deeper into her own family history. But with Zoe's adoptive mother suffering from dementia and no other source of information, Zoe struggles to solve the mysteries of her past while trying to keep it together in the present.  Little does Zoe know that uncovering the lies will soon reveal everything she needs to know and change her life forever."

An extended preview of the LITTLE BLACK LIES by Sandra Block, featuring the first five chapters of the book, will be available beginning Tuesday, November 11th for FREE!  The preview will be available as a free ebook at all major online book retailers including Amazon.com, B&N.comIndieBound.com, and more.  

Intrigued? I know I was. All I saw was the title in the e-mail pitch, and I was hooked. The cover looks pretty good too!!! Almost looks like she's giving us the evil eye!! Little Black Lies will be out in February from Grand Central Publishing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My take on: Until You're Mine

According to Goodreads I began Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes on July 7th, and I only finished it just last week. This book suffered from my frenetic reading style. One week I was really into this book, then something else caught my attention the next. I picked it up for 20-30 pages, then put it aside for days and, clearly, sometimes weeks. In the last two weeks I finally committed to this book because I wanted to know how it ended. If I had to characterize this book I would call it: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle ON steroids! If you haven't seen the movie look it up,  read the book, and then you'll get what I'm talking about.

After years of heartache, Claudia Morgan-Brown has it all. A handsome husband, James, twins boys, Oscar and Noah, and a successful career as a social worker. What more could Claudia want? A baby to call her own. She loves the boys like her own and she has raised them since they were infants, but they are James' children from his first marriage. Multiple miscarriages before and after marrying James, have left a hole in Claudia's heart. But now that hole is finally going to be filled, Claudia is due to give birth to a baby girl in just another month or two. She finally has it all, or so it seems! James is a naval officer on a submarine, and is about to ship off for a long mission. Claudia will soon be alone with two toddlers and a newborn. That can't happen. Claudia hires the mysterious Zoe as her nanny. Zoe comes along at just the right time, but there is something off about her. What is it? Claudia isn't quite sure, but it might cost her everything, including her life, to find out!

Intrigued? You know there is more to the story! Keep reading!

A recent crime spree has left the women in the area frightened. Several violent attacks on pregnant women, including one murder, has left everyone on edge. The detectives assigned to the case, Lorraine and Adam, are baffled. Are these isolated incidents? Or are they connected?

Reading the book, I thought it's way too obvious for the killer to be Zoe. Although she is clearly hiding something about her past, I never believed the killer was Zoe. My mindset from the beginning was that she was a red herring. All of the hints at Zoe being the killer were heavy-handed. In one chapter, the author led me to believe that Zoe wanted a baby of her own. But then the next chapter, Zoe's motives for being in Claudia's life were totally different. Who the real killer was I just didn't get until the final 80 pages. I'm not saying Zoe is the culprit and I'm not saying she isn't, but looking back I realize the clues were there the whole time.

This was a good book, but it wasn't without flaws. The secondary storyline of Lorraine and Adam's crumbling marriage and home life, in my opinion, was just unnecessary. Adam cheated on Lorraine, their eldest daughter wants to drop out of high school, and both of them seem to ignore their youngest daughter. Adam's cheating ties back to the overall storyline, but the book could have still worked without it. Their lives outside the police station served more as a distraction than adding depth to the story. The pacing and flow of the story was a little uneven for me because of this secondary story. I wanted to get back to reading about Claudia and Zoe, but I had to weed through the family drama. Overall, I really liked the book and would read another one by Samantha Hayes!

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy from Penguin Random House's Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 27, 2014

My take on: An Unseemly Wife

Curiosity got the best of me. Quite often I see rows of Amish fiction in the bookstore. I haven't been tempted to read them before, but the pitch for An Unseemly Wife by E.B. Moore got my attention.

The book starts with this dedication:

"For my mother, who told me the Plain stories; 
and when she lost her memory, I retold them to her."

I was intrigued. This was also pitched as historical fiction, which I love. I definitely felt transported back to 1867.

Ruth Holtz lives her life by the Order. Amish men and women follow a certain way of life. They are supposed to stay away from the "English." The English don't live their lives according to God. Ruth, her husband, Aaron, and their children live and work hard on a Pennsylvania farm. They live amongst people just like them. But some English men come to the farm and fill Aaron's head full of stories of free land and opportunities for wealth in Idaho. Now, Ruth's life is flipped upside down.

Everything in Pennsylvania is familiar and comfortable. Everything in Idaho is against the Order. Everything in Idaho is frightening. The "English" are also in Idaho. Ruth doesn't want to leave, but fighting her husband's wishes also goes against the Order. She's supposed to be a good wife, but internally Ruth is finding it hard to be a good wife. She's supposed to be obedient and submissive. Ruth's internal struggle is well-played by author E.B. Moore. She's not allowed to truly think for herself. Aaron's wishes trump hers. My modern-day brain didn't like that, but for the times it was very realistic.

The move to Idaho is coming at the wrong time. The family is expanding, four children is soon to become five as the family heads west. The passages of Ruth giving birth were very realistic. She doesn't want her children to see her in that state, it's unbecoming of a woman. Her boys shouldn't see her with a dressing gown lifted up and neither should her young daughter. It frightens Ruth to think that the children could see her in pain and bleeding. Giving birth without help wasn't the plan, but Ruth gives birth to a boy. The rest of the trip is not without strife. The family has to fight through bad weather, rough terrain, disease, and religious prejudice. She has to learn to rely on a new way of life and new friends, including a preacher's wife. I don't want to give too much away, but despite all the problems on the trip Ruth does get an opportunity at a new life. She does find her voice.

E.B. Moore does a good job of being faithful to the past. There are A LOT of flashbacks. I don't mind books that have flashbacks, but in this case it was hard to follow. One sentence Ruth is in the present day, and the next she is months, sometimes years in the past. I had to re-read passages several times before I understood what was going on. Overall, I liked the plot but I wasn't a big fan of the flow of the story.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Penguin) as part of a blog tour.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cover reveal for Leaving Amarillo ... & Gift card Giveaway!!

About the book: 
Some promises are made to be broken...
Music is my everything.
After my parents died when I was a kid, moving into my grandparents’ ramshackle house on a dirt road in Amarillo seemed like a nightmare. Until I stumbled upon my grandfather’s shed full of instruments. My soul lives between the strings of Oz, my secondhand fiddle, and it soars when I play.
In Houston, I'm a typical college student on my way to becoming a classically trained violinist headed straight for the orchestra pit. But on the road with my band, Leaving Amarillo, I'm free.
 We have one shot to make it, and I have one shot to live the life I was meant to. Leaving Amarillo got into Austin Music Fest and everything is riding on this next week. This is our moment.
There’s only one problem. I have a secret...One that could destroy everyone I care about.
His name is Gavin Garrison and he's our drummer. He's also my brother's best friend, the one who promised he'd never lay a hand on me. He’s the one person I can’t have, and yet he’s the only one I want.
One week.
One hotel room.
I don't know if I can do this.
I just know that I have to.

Intrigued by Leaving Amarillo by Caisey Quinn? 
It's not out until March 2015. 
If you can't wait, read on for an excerpt!! 
Plus...there's a giveaway opportunity if you keep reading on!

For a long time I knew he only saw me as Dallas’s little sister. I used to have frizzy hair and knobby knees and a chest as flat as both boys. But somewhere along the way, I changed. I’m having a hard time convincing myself that he really sees me for who I am now. Maybe he still sees knobby knees, frizzy hair, and freckles on my shoulders.
His eyes narrow and he shakes his head. No. “Don’t. Don’t do that to me. I just told you. You know why.”
I frown involuntarily while swallowing the knot of emotion that’s rising steadily in my throat. “How could I possibly know? You treat me like we’re related most of the time. You put your hands on random waitresses right in front of me. You sleep with anything that moves. Except me. I tell you how I feel and you can’t get rid of me fast enough.”
Suddenly Gavin is a burning man, coming toward me with angry gleaming eyes. He steps into the room, forcing me back against the wall. The door slams heavily behind him, and he braces his arms on either side of my head. I’ve only seen him this worked up when playing his drums. My heart morphs into a hummingbird inside my ribcage. It’s trapped and wants to escape. Desperately.
His words come out with force that would shove me backward if there were anywhere for me to go. “As flattering as your honest opinion of me is, how about you just tell me what the hell you want from me so we can both get on with our lives. You want to hold hands and go steady, Bluebird? Because I gotta say, you’re not as smart as I thought you were if you’re looking for that from me.”
I jerk my chin upward, faking a confidence I don’t have but refusing to let him intimidate me. “Did you sleep with that waitress? I want to know.”
He snorts out a harsh humorless laugh. “No you don’t.”
“I do. Tell me the truth.” I look up into his eyes, praying the answer is no. Something about that specific waitress is really bothering me. Maybe because I saw their initial flirtation or maybe because of what she said to me in the ladies room. I don’t know. I’m well aware of the fact that he’s been with countless women, but somehow this one feels different. More personal. Because this time, he knew how I felt and if he slept with her anyways, then he actively chose her over me. “Please,” I add to my already pathetic plea.
He releases me from my forearm prison and throws both of his hands into his hair. I inhale a much-needed breath and relax just a little. Until he slams a palm against the wall. I flinch, only because it startled me, but I can see in his wounded expression that he believes he scared me. As if I could ever be afraid of him.
“No, okay? No I didn’t sleep with her. There, you happy now?”
“Well you’re obviously not. If you were going to be so upset about it, why didn’t you just go ahead and do her?”
“You gotta be fucking kidding me,” he says, raising his voice a few decibels shy of shouting. “Which is it? You want me to have screwed her or not?”
I’m all wound up, like the toys from my childhood. The ones with the knobs you turn and turn, winding so tight the spinny thing breaks and falls off. I’m confused and hurt and angry and turned the hell on in a way I can’t even process. The combination is more than I can handle rationally. I take a page from his broody book and let my palm smack the wall behind me. It stings so I clench it shut. The pain distracts me and I blurt out the truth.
“No, I don’t want you to have screwed her. I don’t want you to screw anyone!”
His reaction is wide-eyed shock and disbelief. “Anyone? Christ, you want me to be celibate? Do you hate me or something?”
Licking my lips, I take several deep breaths in an attempt to calm down. It almost works. “I want you,” I begin slowly before taking another deep breath. “To not engage in foreplay in front of my face.”
He opens his mouth to respond—most likely to deny that he did that tonight—but I place my trembling fingers against his lips, firmly breaking our ten-year unspoken no-touching rule. I’d like to take a moment to enjoy the soft, full, sensuously masculine mouth of his, but there isn’t time. I need to focus all cylinders of my brain on what I’m trying to say.
“I told you how I feel, what I want. And I get it. You don’t feel the same way. Or you won’t act on your feelings. But that doesn’t mean I can switch mine right off for your convenience. And it doesn’t mean that I’m not jealous, not hurt, and that I don’t hate, hate, being in the presence of any woman who is going to have you in a way that I never will.”
I’m breathing hard, tasting his anxiety and frustration in the air between us. Removing my fingers from his mouth and placing them on mine, I watch him go to war with himself.
He neck loosens, allowing his head to fall forward. Remaining completely still while he inhales the length of my neck, I swallow hard.
“Tell me I’ll never have you that way. Tell me to move on and let this go,” I whisper, needing to hear him say it and terrified that he actually will in equal measure.
            “You’re my best friend. Growing up, you were my safe place,” he tells me on a ragged breath that seems to pull the life completely out of both of us. “I don’t want to ruin you, Bluebird.”

Thank you to HarperCollins for the opportunity to take part in this cover reveal!! Happy reading everyone!

Want a chance at an Amazon gift card? I'm sure 
everyone reading wants more books!! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My take on: The 100

It all starts with a promising first sentence.....

"The door slid open, and Clarke knew it was time to die." Pg. 1 of The 100 by Kass Morgan. How can I not keeping reading? There is clearly the promise of more!

Nuclear war has left Earth a radioactive wasteland. Mankind has had to fend for itself, splitting into various factions, Walden, Arcadia, and Phoenix, living on a large space station. But now life on the space station is in peril. Oxygen is waning. There has to be a way to survive. The council has decided to send 100 of its death row/condemned inmates to Earth. Send the scraps to Earth to see if its habitable. Send the scraps to Earth to give the ruling class on Phoenix a chance to survive longer on the ship. Send the scraps to Earth to do all the hard work.

Clarke, reeling from the death of her parents, is one of the 100 rogue teenagers sent to recolonize Earth after the planet has been left desolate for centuries. Wells, son of the Chancellor, commits a crime and forces his way into the 100, to save the girl he loves. To save his sister, Octavia, Bellamy commits an act of violence just as the dropship is about to leave for Earth. Glass has managed to escape the dropship and remain on Phoenix, but life in space isn't much better.

I'm so used to books based in reality, that sometimes it's very hard to read a book like this. I keep forgetting to just let go. To just enjoy the story. To just let my imagination run wild.  There are some things I loved about this book, and there are some things I didn't.

With each chapter, there was an increasing element of suspense. I had to keep reading to find out what Clarke did to dread her 18th birthday -- the age that all condemned youth will die. Why would Wells want to go on such a deadly mission? He did it all to save Clarke. But was she worth it? Once reunited, why does Clarke have so much hatred for Wells? Once on Earth, why didn't the 100 die? What happened to the people who were left on Earth?

Sometimes this just felt like a teenage soap opera, mixed with some elements of science fiction and Lord of the Flies. There's a lot of teenage angst and hormonal activity going on here, and I'm not a big fan of that. I felt like the juicier part of the story was life on the space station after the 100 leave. Glass' story offers a glimpse into that life, just not enough for me. Equally frustrating is the ending! It just stops, right when the action is starting to pick up! But there is a flip side to that, the author succeeded in making me want to read the next book in the series. Fortunately, I don't have to be frustrated for too long because I've already started reading the sequel, Day 21.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review.
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