Review: Secrets on Cedar Key by Terri DuLong

20131128-001716.jpg Especially around the holidays, I love a good, sweet, easy romance with family values and a cozy theme – like knitting. Terri DuLong’s Secrets on Cedar Key had it all – except it wasn’t very good. Maybe I couldn’t handle the dozens of characters because I haven’t read the earlier books in the series. Or maybe I didn’t relate well to the main character (she’s a little older than I am). I think the main problem was that the book was disjointed, wordy, and didn’t flow well at times.

DuLong used a lot of pages describing things that didn’t move the plot forward. And even if I forgave that, sometimes I was left hanging after a plot point wasn’t followed through: We hear about Marin planning and making a cassoulet for her beau… but then we don’t hear about the actual dinner where they eat it. We hear about numerous other dinners that are irrelevant, but not the cassoulet dinner, even though its preparation was described, and then described some more. Another example is when Marin’s stepdaughter is having a baby. The nurse comes in with dialogue, including saying that the doctor will give an epidural. Well, the labor and delivery is described, and no epidural was given. So why mention the epidural in the first place?

Secrets of Cedar Key drove me crazy with so much description of irrelevant people, places and things. If the story was told in half the words, I could have enjoyed Marin’s new romantic relationship, the expansion of the yarn shop, the changes in her family, and the quirkiness of the other Cedar Key residents. As it stands, I can’t recommend it.

–Calliope

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Review: Yours to Keep by Serena Bell

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Well, I thought this was going to be an ordinary light romance, but it was EXTRAORDINARY! Ana is an undocumented immigrant from the Dominican Republic, but only because her visa ran out when she was a child and her mother passed away. Ethan is a well-loved local doctor (and widower) who needs a Spanish tutor for his teenage son. You can connect the dots that form the romance.

But Serena Bell gives the reader even more of a story… the story of Ana’s family, their efforts, their fears, their love for one another. I cried my eyes out at Ana’s plight: trying to achieve and succeed while flying under the radar in a country that didn’t know she existed. Ana’s brother and sister were her whole world, and they sometimes had to give up personal wants and values for the good of the whole family.

The other moms in the community were surprising but necessary characters. They tried to befriend Ana, help her, and make her feel better. But no rich white woman had been in her shoes. They didn’t feel the fear of getting caught that Ana lived with daily. They were awkward and ignorant, even if they meant well.

I absolutely enjoyed the love story in Yours to Keep. Ana and Ethan overcame personal challenges and came to a meeting of the hearts and minds. What really pulled at my heart strings though was Ana’s illegal immigrant status and her determination to succeed despite it. The adorable-but-typical teenager was a heart-tugger, too. And watching his talented dad (He cooks! He cleans! He saves lives!) fall in love was very romantic.

–Calliope

Buy it now Yours to Keep

Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

cuckooDid you love watching Mike Hammer back in the day? Did Colombo melt your heart? Do you still dream of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe? I have to admit, I absolutely loved watching those types of shows. I loved the language. I loved the smokey rooms. I’m not quite sure how Galbraith has created that magic in a modern-day novel set in a modern-day London, but he has! I swear I heard those old voices in my head all throughout this novel as I read! It was surreal! I really seemed to be reading every line though a smokey haze in a room with jazz music playing in the background.

This is the first novel about Cormoran Strike. A modern-day detective that fought in Afghanistan and lost a leg. He is now barely making ends meet. He has a famous father that he does not talk to. His mother is no longer living. He has recently left his long time on/off again fiancĂ©e. He sleeps on a camp bed in his office. His hired help is temp agent that he isn’t sure how long he can afford. He sometimes drinks too much.

yea…yea…yea….sounds boring right? WRONG! There is so much more to Strike than meets the eye. There is a deep longing to know more about him. He keeps to himself. You can’t help but be intrigued by him. You want to know what makes him tick. There is no doubt that you feel a deep-seated morality to Strike. He seems to take the high road. Yet you get the feeling that he has had to fight for that part of him for most of his life. That he has been tempted and he has resisted….but at a personal cost….you want to understand why this is. What has drove him to become the person he is…the man, that for all outward looking appearances appears to be a failure, but one that once you meet him, you know this couldn’t be further from the truth….

Yes, I want to see more of this flawed mess of a man!

Okay, so you want to hear about the controversy over the whole J.K. Rowling thing? Well just forget about it! You won’t find any of that here….I will say, that it gave me pause. If I hadn’t known J.K. wrote it, I would have totally believed that this was written by a man. The wording just fit. She did a brilliant job with this. It just *seems* to be written in a man’s style. Now having said that, and *felt* that as I was reading the novel, it gave me pause…Do men and women write differently? Do we perceive their writing styles differently? Of course I am generalising here…but on the whole, do they? Before reading this novel, I would have automatically said no….but now I am not so sure…and since this was IN FACT written by a woman, well that’s just silly, isn’t it?

I hope Galbraith sticks around. I hope he writes a few more in this series. I *really* want to get to the “inner tickings” of Strike and I want to see where the relationship between him and his secretary goes….

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now The Cuckoo’s Calling

Review: Pawn, by Aimee Carter

18221310 If you liked Divergent and The Hunger Games, then you will like this book. It’s kind of a combo of both. I’ve been waiting til closer to the release date, to read it, since I knew I was gonna like it, but I didn’t want to talk about it so early and make people mad. 🙂

In Kitty Doe’s world, you take a test, when you turn 17 and that will tell you what job you will do and how you will live. You need a VI or higher to live a comfortable life with enough food to survive. Anything lower, you’ll be lucky to live til 18. And if you do, you’ll end up Elsewhere. That is one place you don’t want to be. Kitty just took her test, and is now a III. That means she is pretty much nothing. She will barely make it. But here is nothing she can do about it, but try and survive, even if it requires her giving up something so sacred.

When she decides to leave and find a way to survive, until Benjy can take his test, she is offered a chance to be a VII, no questions asked. And she took it. She then finds herself Masked as the Prime Minister’s niece, Lily, and then forced to reverse all the damage the girl has caused.

There are so many characters that you think are good, but turn out bad, and vice versa. Kitty has to determine who she is with and how can she get away, before she is no longer needed.

“Never forget the potential one solitary pawn has to change the entire game.”

There were quite a few twists and turn is this story and a few scenes which shocked the crud outta me. Kitty is trying to figure out how to survive being someone else but also trying to change the game to fit her. She is not your simple pawn.

The Prime Minister’s family is quite twisted. Their dynamics were way to crazy, and a little creepy, to even list. Some of their activities, for instance their visits to Elsewhere, were so disturbing, I was shocked. A few times I was wondering who was good and who was bad. But I guess everyone is a little of both.

It seemed that there was a lot going on, in just one book. Everything moved very fast. I’m not sure if I liked that or not. But after that ending, I am dying to see what comes next!!

~Melpomene

Harlequin Teen
Buy it now Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion)

New Releases for Nov 26, 2013

It’s super Tuesday!!! There are a ton of great books being released today. Again, I’m thanking my family for all the GC. I am using them up quite quickly.

17830559Remy (The REAL series) I love Remy!! That is all I’m saying about that. Here is my review.

17233800Crash into You (Harlequin Teen) I really enjoyed this one as well!! Here is our review.

16101234The Chocolate Heart (Amour et Chocolat) I’m just about to start this one. But here is our review.

17415184Highland Master (The Murrays) Gotta love those Highlanders! I’m hoping to get a chance to read this one soon.

18050760Love a Little Sideways (The Kowalskis) This is Number 7 in the Kowalski series. I have a few of them sitting on my kindle. I am determined to start this series this week. Perhaps while I sit in those long lines on Friday morning.

18221310Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion) This is the first in the Blackcoat Rebellion series. I just finished it yesterday. My review will be up tomorrow. All I can say is, if you liked The Hunger Games, you will like this.

Now, I hope you found at least one book that caught your eye. Make sure you fill up your kindles before you head off to family gatherings. You never know when you’re gonna need a break from all those crazies. 🙂

~Melpomene

Review: The Chocolate Heart by Laura Florand

16101234 I love the Chocolate series by Laura Florand. 2 different authors that I really like – Ruthie Knox and Nalini Singh – recommended these books publicly and I’m so glad they did.

The latest book, The Chocolate Heart, is set in a Parisian hotel for the majority of the book. Summer Corey has been told all of her life that she is a spoiled brat. By her father, by those around her and by the press who loved to follow her around as she made mistakes. Everyone was surprised when about 4 years ago she dropped out of sight and it was rumored she was on an island the entire time. The first time she’s seen again by the public is in her father’s expensive hotel facing off with pastry chef Luc Leroi.

Fans of the series will recognize the Corey last name and will be happy to see some previously featured characters have some screen time. Summer’s father has essentially blackmailed Summer to be in France for a certain amount of time even though Summer hates the city and has only negative memories of the hotel. Luc tries to woo her with his elaborate chocolate desserts and is astonished to have them returned to the kitchen one by one every evening with Summer’s regrets, saying that she does not eat sweets. Luc is bound and determined to get to the heart of this enigma of a woman who does not want to let anyone in.

What I love about this series and what is hard to explain is that it’s about chocolate, but so much more. Looking at covers and reading descriptions doesn’t quite do the books justice because there is so much depth to these books that were unexpected to me at first. This new book does not disappoint at all. I adore the descriptions of the desserts and how they’re made – the author does a wonderful job of doing this in such a way that it captures the emotion and passion that seems to jump from the page. After reading each book in this series I always want to run off to France and find a chocolatier to watch at their best.

Luc is a passionate man but not a typical alpha male in the sense that is common in many romance novels currently. He is intent on Summer and wants to know her and why she is the way she is, while Summer has no desire to get to know him. She wants to run away back to her island and get back to her lonely existence.

This was a beautifully written addition to the series. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to another romance lover.

5 stars

~Clio

Buy it Now The Chocolate Heart (Amour et Chocolat)

Review: This Is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell

20131120-190720.jpgIn an ideal world, parents would send their little ones off to school each day worrying about nothing more serious than if they’ll have someone to play with at recess. Teachers would be free of the worry that they might have to step in front of an armed gunman to protect their students. And those precious little ones wouldn’t have to suffer through lockdown drills where they practice what to do if a “bad guy” gets into their school. Unfortunately that world does not exist.

Emery and Jake are high school seniors who spend time volunteering at their local elementary school. Their hours at the school are spent tutoring the children in French and just helping out wherever they can. It’s understandable that they’ve formed attachments to the first graders they spend so much time with. Brian Stutts is an Iraqi war veteran who is going through a custody dispute over his son, Patrick. Because he is suffering from violent outbursts as a result of PTSD, he is not allowed to spend unsupervised time with his son. A confrontation occurs between him and the teacher, resulting in an armed Stutts holding the first grade students, the teacher, and Jake & Emery hostage. The high schoolers must not only worry about their own safety but also the safety of the little ones who look up to them.

This is a fast-paced book that’s full of tension and suspense. The author tells the story from two viewpoints, switching seamlessly between Emery and Jake. It’s hard to take at times, coming so soon on the heels of Newtown and all the other school shootings that seem to be in the news on a regular basis. But, will there ever really be a perfect time to grapple with this issue? I also found myself feeling some sympathy for Stutts and what he experienced in Iraq. There’s never an excuse for this type of violence, but there are very real issues that must be addressed before we can even begin to end the violence. Regardless of your politics or where you stand on the issue of gun control, this is an excellent book for young adults and older readers as well.

~ Thalia

Buy It Now: This Is Not a Drill