Review: Anything But Love by Abigail Strom


In this well-written romance the male lead seems to be the center of the story in the beginning … which makes sense, because the heroine has felt invisible for so long. Ben sees Jessica at a wedding and gives her a shoulder to cry on. Jessica melts inside, but maintains a cool facade – something she’s had to learn to do to deal with family problems. But as Ben continues to show Jessica he cares, a little bit of trust builds, and the possibility of healing and happiness comes to the forefront. Whether the timing is right or the friendship will be enough is another story. 

I’m a frequent reader of light and easy romances, so even though Strom is new to me, this book was right up my alley. I was pleasantly surprised to see so much focus on Ben at the beginning. It totally worked. As Jessica opened up, so the story began to center more on her. My absolute favorite parts of this book were Strom’s use of fancy vocabulary… not so much that it stopped me in my tracks, not so fancy that I had to look up anything, but intelligent use of precise words that many wouldn’t expect in a “fluffy” romance. 

This book pulled me in so hard that I was all of a sudden at 81% after midnight… and stayed up to finish it without hesitation!  I was impressed with the characters, the story, and the writing, and now I need to click on some more Abigail Strom for my kindle. 

-calliope

P.S. There’s a happily ever after for more than one couple in this book!

Buy ANYTHING BUT LOVE
 

Review: Daughters of the Bride by Susan Mallery


What a lovely story about a mom and her three daughters. Susan Mallery writes four very different love stories in Daughters of the Bride. Awkward Courtney grows up and grows into herself even while the world isn’t watching. A certain music producer is, though, and he has no qualms about telling her. Distant Sienna seems cold until she realizes she’s surrounding herself with the wrong men. Supermom Rachel forgets who she really is until the love of her life helps her remember. 

The three women help their mom plan her wedding, and through the process they begin to know and love themselves more. 

Daughters of the Bride was a feel-good family story on the surface, but Mallery brought her signature spice to one of the couples’ romance. In the family relationships and in the romantic ones, love abounded. 

-calliope

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Review: Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

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Shame and honor clash where the courage of a steadfast man is motley like the magpie. But such a man may yet make merry, for Heaven and Hell have equal part in him.” – Wolfram von Eschenback “Parzival

This quote at the beginning sums this novel up nicely.

I think it’s a book that people should read. I think it’s important. Doesn’t matter if you agree with war and politics or you don’t. This book is important.

As I read it, all I could think of was how people often forget that despite the politics and the cause of war…well at the end of the day, the people who fight war…well…it’s often just unsure and untested young people.

You have commanders giving orders based on information that they’ve been told. This information is being gave to them by men that don’t wish to displease him. They might not outright lie, but they certainly don’t give 100% accurate information either….Who wants to be the bearer of bad news to a commanding officer? At the end of the day, the men out on missions are pushed harder than many can endure…harder than any can endure…and the bottom line is, casualties can be offset and justified by the bottom line of damage and killings you’ve done to the enemy. When it’s all said and done, war too is just a numbers game.

My heart broke many times during this reading…and honestly, all I could think of is, “these men are only kids!!!!!!!” I don’t mean to take away from their service. There should be no way my statement could ever do that. However, think back to when you were 18. 19. 20. Now imagine watching your brothers in arm dying…or sometimes, worse, not dying soon enough…and knowing its your job to prevent it…that your decision, or hesitation, or non hesitation could cause it. Imagine knowing that the order from above will get you and your brothers killed, but it’s an order and it’s your job to make sure those orders are carried through. Imagine experiencing all of this, when in reality all you fucking want is to be back home in your lover’s arms…

As wonderful as the book was, I just can’t imagine! I can’t imagine what these young men were going through. We often get pissed at politicians for decisions they make. We often get mad at military situations…right or wrong…well that isn’t for me to decide…sure, I have my opinions, same as everyone else…but what I took from this book is that everyone dehumanizes during the event. People often forget the boys that are just out there doing as they are told. They look to congress, or the president or to the leaders of other countries…they make it an “event” or a “situation” or a “military action”. They don’t face the reality that it’s dirty, gut wrenching, diseased, no time to think reality for men that might not even be of legal age to drink. These are the men that are fighting….not some politician behind a desk…or a faceless entity. These men are brothers, sons, husbands, fathers and friends. They are not just numbers at the bottom of a count sheet…no matter how much the public and the politicians try to make it so…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

Review: The Stepmother by Claire Seeber

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I seem to have a thing for stories about families so dysfunctional that it’s criminal.  Evil parents, deranged siblings, you name it and I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame. So of course I couldn’t pass up a book with a title so intriguing as this one…

Jeanie feels like she’s living in a fairy tale when she meets Matthew.  After  a whirlwind courtship and marriage, she dares to believe that she’s found her happily ever after.  And she deserves it, after living through such a traumatic past.  Matthew is perfect, everything she could imagine wanting for the rest of her life.  Sure there’s the small issue of his teenage children, but Jeanie is sure they’ll come around with some time and patience.

But in this story, there’s no such thing as a happy ending.  Someone has discovered Jeanie’s darkest secrets and is trying their hardest to expose her.  The question is, just who is it?  And which one of her new family members is out to destroy her?

There are so many twisted characters in this story with so many secrets that I was left guessing until the very end.  I couldn’t decide exactly who the “bad” person was.  Was it Jeanie’s stepdaughter, Scartlett?  Or was it someone from Jeanie’s past?  An outstanding story that had me hooked from the very first page.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The Stepmother

 

Review: You and Me, Always by Jill Mansell


Another fun yet substantial read by Jill Mansell! 

From a letter she reads on her 25th birthday, Lily finds out about some important people from her past. While she decides how much time and effort to spend finding them, she is supported by longtime friend Dan and his sister, as well as her foster mom who owns a vintage shop. Lily also gets to meet a famous star… fall into Like… and live a jet setting lifestyle for as long as. 

I enjoyed every character in this book, even the one villain – maybe because he wasn’t given too much space on the page. Haha! Lily was such a kindhearted soul that each personal relationship she had was meaningful and poignant. In our recent times of uncertainty and violence, I appreciated this book heavy on the niceness. 

My favorite part was the unrequited love moving along with perfect timing. More than one character found true love and a happily ever after… That’s my kind of book. 

– calliope 

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Review: House Revenge by Mike Lawson 


This was a pretty entertaining read. Though it’s the eleventh in a series, I had no trouble keeping track of characters and their occupations, good guys vs bad guys, and the relationships among them all.

House Revenge takes the reader through Boston politics, from commercial land development to dirty congressmen to cops on the take to connections with Mexican drug cartels, all through the eyes of Joe DeMarco. Joe is a right hand man taking direction from politicians, but trouble arises when he doesn’t think through his approach.  

In House Revenge, at the request of those more powerful than he, Joe tries to help an old lady stay in her apartment. Her building is getting torn down to make way for bigger and better – and more profitable – enterprises. Joe doesn’t intend to get too involved, but we all know where the path of good intentions leads. By the middle of the book, Joe is halfway there. 

I liked the peek into DC and Boston politics, the interactions with Boston Police, and the local references. Though some of Joe’s “solutions” seemed pretty far-fetched, I’ve got to give him credit for getting as far as he did in a world where one hand washes the other, and quid pro quo is the status quo.

-calliope 

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Review: End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

13414676This is a really nice book. I can’t fault the writer at all. However, I have to say it was gut wrenching for me. Schwalbe and his mother had a very special bond. Hell, from what I grasp, she had a special bond with everyone she knew. She seemed like she was a truly amazing person.

The part that was really hard for me was the dedication Schwalbe had for his mum. No, it wasn’t a bad thing. It was an amazing thing. When my father died, I can’t lie, I was, perhaps more devastated by my lack of involvement in his final days. That is so very hard to write. To admit to. Sure, I can blame circumstances. Being in a different country, blah blah blah, but that doesn’t ease the guilt one feels. Then to read a book where Schwalbe went to such great lengths….well it was very hard. Yes, he was lucky. His mum was lucky. We can all say, well, he had a job that allowed him to be by his mother’s side so often. That’s all. He could afford to spend 5 hours a day with her when she was having treatments. He could call her a dozen times a day. Reality is more simple than that though. He made it happen. Amazing sacrifices he made to make sure his mother was surrounded by love in her final years…

I’m jealous of his dedication. Of his courage. His sacrifice. Of those hours, days, weeks, months, and years he had with his mum at the end. Reading this book made my gut clinch with my own guilt…I miss my dad…I wish I had been the kind of daughter to him that was like the son Schwalbe was to his mum…I wish I had that opportunity…

There’s nothing else to say really…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe