Review: Summer of Love by Sophie Pembroke

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The nice thing about most romance novels is there’s a happily-ever-after…predictable, but appreciation-worthy.

The nice thing about Summer of Love is the unpredictable happily-ever after. Lily and her boyfriend have ups and downs, believable and authentic. And by the second to the last chapter I still wasn’t sure what was to become of Lily’s love life. And even though it was unexpected, it was happy and quite satisfying.

Sophie Pembroke wrote a terrific friendship sub-plot between Lily and Cora. They interacted like true best friends: with exasperation and candor, assertiveness and love. I really enjoyed seeing them support each others’ dreams, and encourage each other to be honest with themselves.

The guys in the story were loveable and handsome Everymen. They treated women with respect as far as they knew how, and they were honest about their feelings without being far-fetched.

Summer of Love is a great beach read or relax-after-a-long-day read. I love my British chick lit, especially when it ends with true love and a big smooch.

-Calliope

buy SUMMER OF LOVE

Fangirl Friday: Signed books

You know I was never a reader, until I got my kindle three years ago. So I never had books on bookshelves, unless they were kids books. But having a kindle means that I never saw pretty covers. After a while I decided to start collecting only my favorites, in the hope of getting them signed eventually, whether by personally meeting the author or sending them the books to get signed. Then I was entering contests and going to book signings and this is the result.

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Not bad for the three years. Now to decide who gets these, in my will. Perhaps someone named Jennifer. 😉

~Melpomene

Review: The Bookshop on the Corner by Rebecca Raisin

20140714-202708-73628623.jpg Rebecca Raisin infused this book with total cliched cuteness. From the bookshop owner who wanted to read all day to the loud hairdresser in a nearby shop to the roving reporter who falls in love with a small town and considers staying… It’s all been done before. But it hasn’t been done like this: with complete honesty about the fact that the bookshop owner wanted her life to be like the lives of her romance heroines. Sarah wanted the perfect boyfriend, the perfect falling in love story, the happily ever after. So Rebecca Raisin has Sarah openly admit what some of us in real life won’t!

It’s all very meta… The whole time I was thinking YES/EXACTLY, followed by THAT’S SO TRITE, followed by BECAUSE IT’S SO TRUE. I felt like I WAS Sarah because I’m a book lover too. And aren’t we all pretty much reading characters we identify with in one way or another?

So yeah, it’s clichéd. But it’s also literary and layered and symbolic and entertaining and relatable. If you like books, that is. 😉

-Calliope

buy THE BOOKSHOP ON THE CORNER

Review: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Half a kingI’ve been meaning to read Joe Abercrombie for ages…I’ve heard so many great things about this writer. So when NetGalley had his first YA available as an ARC I thought I would apply. I am so glad I did! What a fantastic novel!

I have somehow convinced myself that I am not a fan of the fantasy genre. However, every time I talk myself into trying one I often find myself with a novel that I love. I am flummoxed trying to express just how much I loved it. This is one of those novels.

Here we have a young man with a deformed hand. He is passed over to be the next King and instead is to become a minister. Circumstances come about that change everything and the young man is indeed, offered up as the next King. This is a position that he has never wanted. He is just a young boy that lacks the strength and confidence to be a leader of men.

As often happens with kingdoms and politics, the young man finds himself betrayed and left to fend for himself. Armed only with only his wit he must now try to reclaim his rightful inheritance. He finds his champions among the lowest of men and they set out upon a quest to set the kingdom to right.

This is classified as a YA novel and I can understand that. I would caution that it needs to be mature YA. There is some violence within these pages. I think any novel such as this might appeal “out of the box” to young males. There are kingdoms, high seas and sword fights abound. However, I must give major props to Abercrombie here….even though the “hero” of the story is a young man, some of the strongest characters within these pages belong to not men, but to women and young girls. Abercrombie does a fantastic job of erasing all gender bias lines. The strong women in this novel are not “out of the norm”. No one even takes notice of them as females. They just *are*. There are enough of these strong females that there is little doubt that in Abercrombie’s fantasy world they are not a rare occurrence. No one looks twice at them or questions their power just because they are females. The men just follow them as they would any leader….it’s a nice thing that you don’t often find in popular novels. Strong independent women should not be a thing that one should even feel the need to comment on or point out….but sadly, I do feel that need…..and I find it refreshing to find these leaders of men in YA novel. Bravo, Abercrombie.

I am hard pressed to pick a favourite character out of this novel. There are just too many great ones to try to pick from. Abercrombie places this young man in just the right circumstances to not only build a weak boy into a strong man….but he does so with such finesse that lessons learned build up his character as well. He also places just the right mix of good and bad people in the young mans path to enable this wonderful transformation to occur. These lessons and the transformation are not without heavy personal and physical price. If you’re looking for a feel good happy story full of kitten whiskers and puppy tail wags, you are best to go elsewhere….

I can’t wait to read the next installment in this series. There are so many ways that this story can twist and turn….it will be a grand adventure for sure…..

And I can say that I have moved Abercrombie’s other books up my TBR list as well…..

Bravo! Bravo! Job well done, Mr Abercrombie!

Until next time…

Urania xx

ARC provided by NetGalley for an honest review

Buy it now Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Review: The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

20140222-093602.jpgAfter I read Creep, Jennifer Hillier instantly become one of my favorite new authors. The sequel, Freak, sealed the deal. Now she’s back with a new stand alone novel. The question is, does it stand up to the brilliance of those first two books?

Back in the 80s, Seattle was gripped by terror as the Beacon Hill Butcher terrorized the city. That fear was put to rest when the Butcher was killed by police chief-turned hero Edward Shanks. Thirty years later, Shanks is ready to move into a retirement home. Grandson Matt, an up and coming chef and soon to be reality cooking show star, is the lucky recipient of Edward’s large Victorian home. Renovations to the family estate soon turn up family secrets that have long been buried. A side story concerns Matt’s girlfriend, Samantha. Sam is a true crime author determined to find out what happened to her mother, who she believes was one of the Butcher’s victims even though her death came after his crime spree ended. I have mixed feelings about these characters. Edward is a scary, cantankerous old man. Matt is a self-centered egomaniac with huge anger issues. And Sam is a likeable enough person although I found her to be a bit of a pushover.

I was beyond excited when I received this book. I expected a pulse-pounding, on the edge of your seat page turner, and I wasn’t disappointed. It kept me interested even though you pretty much know who the killer is and where the story is likely going from early on. Although this one doesn’t have the suspense/psychological thriller aspect that the author’s previous two books did, it’s still a great book. My only complaint is that I felt that the ending was a bit of a letdown, wrapping up in a handful of pages after building to a crescendo for the last fourth of the book. Still, this is an excellent third novel from a promising author!

~Thalia

Buy it Now: The Butcher

Review: Decadent (Big Sky Pie #4) by Adrianne Lee

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I so enjoy these fun, yummy romances set in a Montana pie shop. Adrianne Lee does a terrific job writing food – it’s totally natural and easily fits in with the storyline. Not to mention Lee’s sensory descriptions are top-notch and make me want pie. Lots of pie.

The romance in Decadent is a little different from books 1-3. Very lusty. More flirting. Roxy is a sensual woman who knows what she wants, so the flirting is overt and you know a physical relationship is on deck.

Wade endeared himself to me. Shy, hesitant, afraid to make a mistake, he has a hard time making his actions match his feelings. Roxy makes some moves, though, and solves that problem!

The end was a little abrupt for me. Roxy leaves and comes back just a bit too quickly and without a lot of explanation. Apart from that one bump, Decadent smoothly sailed the happily ever ship. I was glad to be aboard.

By the way, I started Decadent before bed and was enjoying it so much that I forced my eyes to stay open until I finished it. I closed the kindle waaaay past my bedtime, but I fell asleep happy… thinking about love and pies and Montana skies.

-Calliope

June 2014 release. Only $2.99! And fine to read as a standalone.
buy DECADENT

Review: Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen

underOh dear…where to start? When I first started this book I feel in love on the first page. I was so intrigued. It was a mystery that I wanted to solve page by page. I wasn’t in a rush, it was one of those warm glows that feels oh so very lovely that you just want to savor it bit by delightful bit! I still felt this way at 30%. If anything, I was even more smitten with this novel. I loved Sophie, the main character, despite her naivety. I loved Jag. I loved India and all of the settings….The Palace. The romance. The women’s quarters. I even loved the mother’s cruelness. Not that I liked her personally, I just liked the elements she brought into this story. The layers she brought forth were yet another mystery for me to be intrigued by and a mystery to solve….

At about 40%…..well…..I realised that all of my love was based on appearances. Oh come on now….don’t act like that….you know we’ve all done this…..don’t lie! Who hasn’t fallen in love from the first moment and imagined it to be all of these wonderful things….and you dig and you dig…and then you realise….well, hell’s bells….this isn’t as mysterious as I had hoped. This isn’t as complex as I had hoped…..sigh….

Now don’t get me wrong….this isn’t a short novel….It’s a nice 400 pages….you should be able to fit a lot into 400 pages! Right? Yet, I felt that this was just a rough draft. It was missing bits I needed. There just was too much missing. Why didn’t Sophie fight? How did she end up where she was? Why did she leave India when she didn’t really have to?

I still loved this book. I am just a bit disappointed in Alison McQueen. I mean, she had everything here before me. She dangled this beautiful setting….these star crossed lovers….this wonderful story right in front of me face! She had me salivating! I mean, I had to wipe the drool off of my face. I had to try to control me glee. I bragged to everyone I could once I reached 30%…….and then….alas…..she broke my heart. It’s like being promised a homemade cheesecake after having a sunday roast……Looking forward to it all week with promises of how lush it will be…then the weekend comes….things get hectic…..and on Sunday you’re handed an instant turkey roast meal with special offer cheesecake flavoured biscuits! Yes, it has enough flavour for you to appreciate it. Yes, you are thankful for it…..yes, it did fill you up…..however….all you can think of is just how much more wonderful it could have been…..

so yea, I’m mad at you Alison McQueen. I KNOW you can do better than this….this was a 800 page novel that you chopped down to 400…..and yes, the shell is there….and yes it’s beautiful….but damnit….I want me meaty bits…..I not only want your words to feed my body…I wanted them to feed my soul as well….

Don’t get me wrong, I loved it from the start…..and I didn’t mind the ending…..I just missed the middle….

Sigh……Maybe next time…..

Until next time….

Urania xx

Review Copy provided by NetGalley for an honest review

Buy it now Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen

Review: Until We Fly, by Courtney Cole

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“I stand on a wall to protect what is mine.”

WOW. Just WOW. I started this early this morning and read it in one sitting. I needed to finish it. My heart is in my stomach. My stomach is in my shoes. My nerves are shot. I’m a mess. At one point I had to put my kindle down and walk away to catch my breath. I was so upset. I live for angst filled books, and this definitely filled that requirement.

Synopsis
Ex-Army Ranger, Brand Killien, has always been good.

A good friend, a good soldier, a good everything. .
The problem is, good hasn’t gotten him anything but a crushed heart.

So after licking his wounds, he decides to move on. And moving on doesn’t include being good anymore.

Bad sounds so much better.

Jaded and detached, Brand is determined to never open himself up to anyone again. It’s not worth the pain. Instead, he becomes closed, hardened, aloof.

But then he’s called back home for a family emergency… a family that he is estranged from. A family that he put out of his mind a long time ago for very good reasons…reasons that involve secrets and pain. Reasons he tried hard to forget.

But home is where the heart is, and it just might be where Brand finds his again.

Why? Because home is where Nora Greene is. A fiery, red-headed spitfire, Nora is a thing from his past. A beautiful, feisty thing. When Brand left, she was away at boarding school.

But she’s back now.

And she wants Brand, scars and all.

I have been in love with Brand for a while now. I wanted him to have a happily ever after. I really did. He was a sweet guy and he deserved it. But his heart was broken and he became hard and closed off. He thinks he’s no good to anyone. Everyone leaves him, so he feels unworthy. He lives with guilt, from a past that he can’t get away from. It’s always chasing him.

Nora is living with a controlling father and she is trying to break free. She keeps secrets that could cause more harm, if exposed. So she takes this on all by herself, even if it slowly takes pieces from her.

“People watching has always been a hobby. Watching other people’s lives distracts me from my own.”

An unexpected accident brings these two together and fate draws them closer.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like Nora. She seemed a bit too forward to me. But after a while I realized she is just a girl who is going after something that will make her happy. And frankly, she desperately needs a bit of happy in her life. Her story was almost more than I could handle. My heart was in pieces over it.

“He made me feel safe in a world that is dangerous and ugly, a world that has only hurt me.”

I honestly don’t know how to put in words, what this book made me feel. Sadness, happiness, angst, overwhelming anger, heartbroken, disgust, content. By the end of this roller coaster ride, I was completely happy I climbed aboard. This is the fourth book in the Beautifully Broken series, but it can be read as a standalone. But you really should read them all. Courtney Cole is an amazing writer and believes in happily ever afters, so even if she drags you through the mud, you’ll get all cleaned up, by the end.

“Sometimes, before we fall, we fly.”

~Melpomene

Buy
Until We Fly (The Beautifully Broken Book 4)

Catch up on the others:

If You Stay (Beautifully Broken)
If You Leave: The Beautifully Broken Series: Book 2
The novella, Until We Burn (Beautifully Broken)
Before We Fall: The Beautifully Broken Series: Book 3

Review: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

20140426-172618.jpgPredictability in an author is a good thing, but so is the unknown. I enjoy knowing what I’m in for when I read a new selection by a favorite writer. But it’s so much better when an author delivers something different yet equally amazing with each new novel. Chris Bohjalian is just such an author. With this latest work, he once again has gone off course in a delightful way for me.

Emily Shepard doesn’t have a picture perfect life. Her parents drink and argue too much and are miserable with their lives in Vermont. Emily “fails to live up to her potential” according to counselors at her school. She’s always right on the edge of things, flirting around with major trouble. Still, she lives in a nice home, loves writing in her journals, and adores her dog Maggie. Then it all begins to fall apart in a matter of hours. The nuclear power plant where both of her parents work has a meltdown, killing her parents and scores of other people. Her town is declared radioactive, and to make matters worse everyone blames her father for the devastating accident. So Emily does the only thing she knows to do. She flees her small town and heads to Burlington where she joins the ranks of homeless teenagers trying to survive. Hooking, stealing, using drugs, cutting…Emily experiences it all during the few short months she’s on the streets. If not for the love of a lost little boy she might have stayed there. But one tragic event leads to another and she eventually finds herself back on the road to home, to confront her emotional demons as well as whatever physical ones might remain.

This book started off well, pulling me in very early on. It proceeded nicely if somewhat uneventfully for about the first half. Then the story built to a crescendo, ending on a high note. Especially memorable for me is the moment when the reader finds out the meaning behind the title. If anything was missing for me, it would be that I was left with a few questions about some of the major characters. But still, sometimes it’s better to be left wondering than to be given an ending that you don’t like.

~Thalia

Buy it Now: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands: A Novel

Review: The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons

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This would be a fantastic book to listen to in the car on the way to the beach for a week. Or while basking in the sun on your back deck. It’s a beach read… about the beach and its freedom and isolation and peace.

I admit I went into this book expecting something heavy. Instead I found an easygoing story about four women who get together for two weeks at the beach. The catch is, one woman is the new girl. The other three don’t let her forget it, and make her life miserable until personal tragedies bring them all together.

The Girls of August leaves many loose ends: we don’t know what happens with the health of two of the women, or the marriages of the other two. We never find out what happens to the island natives, or to the land that was supposedly left to one of the husbands. We don’t know if there’s a next vacation planned or a wedding.

I’m uncomfortable finishing a book without closure. I felt like I read a short story that was supposed to share a moral or a theme, but left the plot hanging.

However, The Girls of August has the wonderful redemptive quality of authentic friendships and introversion. These ladies were real with each other. They were snarky and sarcastic and bitter and loving and comforting and witty. They used the quiet of the beach to peel away their layers and discover themselves – not the women other people *expected * them to be, but who they really were. These women didn’t necessarily change, they just figured out who they were and who they were going to be from now on.

–Calliope

buy THE GIRLS OF AUGUST