November 2014 archive

Holiday Romance Mini-Reviews

Each fall when the temps start dropping I get in the mood for holiday theme stories. With steamy scenes by the fire and snowy settings, these three contemporary romance novels do not disappoint!

The Heart of Christmas (Whiskey Creek #7) by Brenda Novak – From Goodreads: Eve Harmon has always enjoyed Christmas, but this year it reminds her of everything she doesn’t have. Almost all her friends are married now, and that’s what Eve wants, too. Love. A husband and kids of her own. But the B and B she manages, and even Whiskey Creek, the small Gold Country town where she was born and raised, suddenly seem…confining.

Eve’s worried that her future will simply be a reflection of her past. There’s no one in the area she could even imagine as a husband—until a handsome stranger comes to town. Eve’s definitely attracted to him, and he seems to have the same reaction to her. But his darkly mysterious past could ruin Eve’s happily ever after—just when it finally seems within reach. And just when she’s counting on the best Christmas of her life!

Jennie’s Thoughts: I haven’t read all of the Whiskey Creek novels, but I’m working on it. They are full of interesting characters and intriguing plot twists. This novel was full of action and suspense which I loved, and the romance was pretty steamy too.

Christmas on 4th Street (Fool’s Gold #12.5) by Susan Mallery – From Goodreads: There’s nowhere better to spend the holidays than with New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery in the town of Fool’s Gold, where love is always waiting to be unwrapped…

Noelle Perkins just got a second chance at life, and she intends to make the most of every minute. That’s why she ditched a frustrating legal career to open her own store in Fool’s Gold, California. The Christmas Attic celebrates everything that’s magical about her favorite season. Business is booming, and as a bonus, gorgeous army doctor Gabriel Boylan has offered to help out during the holiday rush.

Gabriel’s memories of Christmas past contain more sour grapes than sugar plums, thanks to a drill sergeant father who ran his home like a boot camp. Spending the holidays with his family while he recuperates from injury sounds as appetizing as last year’s eggnog. Still, there are some enjoyable distractions in town, including sunny, sexy Noelle…and the red-hot mistletoe kisses they can’t stop sharing.

Gabriel didn’t think he was made for happily-ever-afters. But when fate hands you a love as sweet and surprising as this, only a fool could refuse….

Jennie’s Thoughts: This is another series I’m slowly making my way through. Noelle and Gabriel’s story was sexy and sweet. I loved the subplot with Gabriel’s parents and Noelle’s store is exactly the type of store I expect in Fool’s Gold! This story was full of holiday spirit and snow, including an unplanned stay in a cabin!

Maybe This Christmas (O’Neil Brothers #3) by Sarah Morgan – From Goodreads: This winter, ex-skiing champion, reformed heartbreaker and single dad Tyler O’Neil has only one mission—making sure his daughter, Jess, has the best Christmas ever. The fact that his best friend, Brenna, is also temporarily moving into his chalet at the overbooked Snow Crystal resort is a delicious distraction he’s simply going to have to ignore. Theirs is the one relationship he’s never ruined, and he’s not about to start now.

Ski pro Brenna Daniels knows all about the perils of unrequited love—she’s been in love with Tyler for years. But living with him is absolute torture…how can she concentrate on being his friend when he’s sleeping in the room next door? Then when Tyler kisses Brenna, suddenly the relationship she’s always dreamed of feels so close she could almost touch it. Could this be the Christmas her dreams of a happy-ever-after finally come true?

Jennie’s Thoughts: This was my favorite of these three holiday romance novels. I just love the O’Neil family, and a friends to lovers story is one of my absolute favorites. Plus, the skiing stuff was fascinating and I am bit of a sucker for Tyler and his daughter’s growing bond! This is one of my favorite romance series I’ve read lately. It’s full of winter fun, family drama, and super hot romance!

NetGalley hooked me up with these three books, but these are my views, I promise!

Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

From Goodreads: Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.
With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderlandand the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

Jenny’s thoughts: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cathrynne M. Valente is a whimsical, clever, beautifully written book. It just wasn’t for me.

For a short book, it’s packed with detail about Valente’s fantasy world, Fairyland, and the beings who inhabit it. I found myself more caught up in the unraveling of Fairylands details more than in the plot and definitely more in the characters’ development.

Reading this book felt like visiting an art museum. I like the looking at the pretty things, but I can’t ever break below that surface to appreciate the full value.

I never connected with the characters or story, but it was definitely a pretty experience.

(I’ve seen this book compared with the stories of Narnia, Oz and Wonderland, and I think that’s probably fair comparisons – I honestly never got into those, either. If you have, you’ll probably love the Fairyland series.)

Audio Review: The Daughter Of Smoke & Bone Trilogy

(This is a spoiler-free review of the audio, not the story line. I can’t fairly review this series because all I do is gush about it incessantly)

Okay, so I’ve read Daughter of Smoke and Bone about 3 times already, and Days of Blood and Starlight probably twice. But I hadn’t yet picked up Gods and Monsters, so I NEEDED a refresher. I had a few extra credits on Audible,so I decided to get the entire trilogy and do a complete listen-through.

I’M SO GLAD I DID.

Khristine Hvam narrates the entire trilogy, and I really enjoyed listening to her. Her take on Razgut’s creepy voice had me shuddering (in a good way- it was creepy!) I could tell by her voice which character was speaking- she had good, distinct voices for each character. This was especially good for me with Book 3 since I had not yet read it so really had to tune in to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

I’m currently begging my husband to listen to this series- He listens to podcasts all day so I know audio will suit him, and when he reads fiction it’s often fantasy. I’m not generally a fan of fantasy, so my over the top gushing about these characters and the story has him intrigued, at least.

If you have never read this series, I’d probably recommend tackling it visually the first time- you don’t want to miss a moment. If you enjoyed the series, I highly recommend the audio experience!!

Review: Brain On Fire – My Month of Madness

From Goodreads: One day, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory—showed psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier she had been a healthy, ambitious twenty-four year old, six months into her first serious relationship and a sparkling career as a cub reporter. 

Erin’s Thoughts: This book was fascinating.  It was like reading an episode of House, but without Hugh Laurie and everyone guessing it’s sarcoidosis.  Oh, and it actually happened.  There was much more in the Goodreads synopsis, but I didn’t want to give too much away.  Susannah Cahalan’s memoir about her descent into madness due to a rare condition is gripping.  Cahalan strikes a good balance between personal memoir and sharing the science and medicine behind her month of madness.  This real-life medical mystery is a complete page-turner.  I was completely engrossed with Susannah’s story and with solving the medical mystery.  I won’t give away the actual cause of her insanity, but I’m sure you can already deduce that she got better.  If you like memoirs, medical shows, mysteries, or just think brains are cool (I do!) this is a great choice!

Review: Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover (The American Presidents #31) by William E. Leuchtenburg

From Goodreads: The Republican efficiency expert whose economic boosterism met its match in the Great Depression

Catapulted into national politics by his heroic campaigns to feed Europe during and after World War I, Herbert Hoover—an engineer by training—exemplified the economic optimism of the 1920s. As president, however, Hoover was sorely tested by America’s first crisis of the twentieth century: the Great Depression.

Renowned New Deal historian William E. Leuchtenburg demonstrates how Hoover was blinkered by his distrust of government and his belief that volunteerism would solve all social ills. As Leuchtenburg shows, Hoover’s attempts to enlist the aid of private- sector leaders did little to mitigate the Depression, and he was routed from office by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. From his retirement at Stanford University, Hoover remained a vocal critic of the New Deal and big government until the end of his long life.

Leuchtenburg offers a frank, thoughtful portrait of this lifelong public servant, and shrewdly assesses Hoover’s policies and legacy in the face of one of the darkest periods of American history.

Jennie’s Thoughts: This was a really short biography, and it left me wanting to know more about Herbert Hoover, but it also felt like it gave me a good overview into the 31st President. The facts included in this biography about the Great Depression were mind boggling. I kept interrupting my husband to keep reading little tidbits to him. It was appalling, and yet fascinating. I kept reading on almost begging Hoover to step in, to open his eyes to the disaster and the famine. To see that his idea of society stepping in to help wasn’t going to happen; this situation had grown far too big for that.

I find Herbert Hoover an interesting person, if only because he was so much an interior person. He wasn’t overtly emotional or even personable, which makes me want to know more about his inner workings. I think once this challenge is over, Hoover is one of the handful of presidents I plan to read more on.

This was a well-written biography, and if you’re looking to get an intro into the Great Depression and/or Hoover’s time in the White House, I highly recommend starting with this one.

Audio Review: May I Be Happy

May I Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Yoga, and Changing My Mind by Cindi Lee

From Goodreads:

For all her wisdom as a teacher, Cyndi Lee—founder of New York’s world renowned OM yoga Center—understood intuitively that she still had a lot to learn. In spite of her success in physically demanding professions—dancer, choreographer, and yoga teacher—Lee was caught in a lifelong cycle of repetitive self-judgment about her body. Instead of the radical contentment expected in international yoga teachers, she realized that hating her body was a form of suffering, which was infecting her closest relationships—including her relationship to herself.

Inspired by the honesty and vulnerability of her students, Lee embarked on a journey of self-discovery that led her outward—from the sacred sites of the parched Indian countryside to the center of the 2011 earthquake in Japan—and inward, to seek the counsel of wise women, friends and strangers both. Applying the ancient Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation to herself, Lee learned that compassion is the only antidote to hatred, thereby healing her heart and changing her mind.

Andrea’s Review: Okay, okay, this book isn’t for everyone.( If you’re not a student of yoga, a lot of the terms and references are going to bore you immediately.) A lot of people have left negative reviews on GR because the whole book goes back and forth between her hating her body and getting to a place of acceptance, in a never-ending cycle.

But guess what? That’s generally how things work. You focus on a problem, you reach enlightenment, you return to the problem, you return to enlightenment. I can see where the vicious cycle of self-loathing and self-help can be tiresome for someone else to read, but all in all I actually liked the book because I felt like it’s HONEST. You strive to better yourself, and some days you do better than other days. You’re never going to be perfect, and some days it is easier to accept that.

Like I said, I liked the book. I liked the narration by the author, I liked a few yogic things I learned, and I liked the lighthearted way she made fun of her own self-perpetuating cycle. The one thing I remember most about this book, though? Her interpretation of the Latin root of the word “balance” : it means a dance. A constant, ever changing dance.

Review: Sabriel

From GoodreadsSent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.

Erin’s Thoughts: I do not know how I managed to not read this sooner.  I can distinctly remember seeing on the shelves at Borders and being curious about it.  Yet, somehow it never came home with me.  I am so glad that I finally decided to give it a go.  This is fantasy at it’s best.  The world that Garth Nix has created is fascinating and full of vivid details.  I was completely sucked into Sabriel’s world and this idea that she could slip into the realm of death.  The characters are so engaging — Sabriel is a kick-ass female lead.  This book is full of magic and danger, and maybe just a little bit creepy.  I enjoyed it so much that I downloaded the next book in the trilogy, Lirael, immediately, and I think I’m loving that one even more.  I highly recommend this for fantasy lovers, young adult readers, and anyone who enjoys an adventure with a strong heroine.

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