Review: Help Yourself by Rachel Michael Arends



Ever the optimist, Merry gladly accepts her mediocre life in a backwoods town with a bossy boyfriend and dead-end job. But it all turns on a dime when Merry is notified of a conditional inheritance. She travels to the coast and stays at her late father’s beach house, under the supervision and direction of his barrister. Merry has to complete a handful of tasks before she can inherit the house and some of her father’s millions.  

This book is based on pretense, but written in such a fun way that it seems more like little surprises rather than deceit. I enjoyed every beautifully-created character, from the red-faced ex boyfriend to the cheating best friend to the psychologist father (remember the show Growing Pains?!) and the eccentric old man. They may have had bits of stereotype, but Arends put a fresh spin on them all. 

I’m a sucker for the beach and a love story, and this novel had both. Though Merry’s self-improvement and uncovering secrets drove the plot forward, the romance and the beach provided a steady undercurrent (no pun intended). 

Help Yourself is creative, fun, and emotional. From the gimmicky chapter titles letting me know whose point of view I was about to read from, to the delicious descriptions of the ocean, Arends made something new out of something familiar. I had a ball reading it! 

-calliope 

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Review: Solitude of a Birdcage by Brielle Skye

birdcageOkay…I won’t lie. There are parts of this book that really made my stomach turn….okay….the whole background of the novel did this. It bothered me. A great deal. The whole cheating thing just bothered me. The fact that it was an ongoing thing. I found myself getting very angry. Disgusted with the characters. Disbelief. You name it I felt it.

Having said that, I finally had to sit bak and take a breather. Once I did that, I had to remind myself that, again, I wasn’t there. Yes, so many things were wrong here, but I’m still not sure that any of it was done in malice. Yes, they made many mistakes. Who doesn’t? Yes, they should have done a million things differently…but isn’t hindsight always 20/20…

One thing is for sure….Brielle Skye made me *feel* during this book. I felt a wide range of emotions. After finishing the last page, I STILL feel a wide range of emotions. I did enjoy the book.

At the end of the day, the only thing I can fault Skye with is her portrayal of Van. She was often shown as a selfish and uncaring person. I almost felt that Skye did this to somehow allow the reader to ease some of the guilt that we might feel for wanting Max and Isaac to persevere. I see so many authors do this. Make one of the victims out to be a bad person…as if they somehow deserved to be wrong…

Let me be perfectly clear here….If you are dishonest with someone it ALWAYS…I repeat ALWAYS…says more about you than it does the person you were dishonest to…no matter how bad a person they may be. You can’t control other people and make them into a more generous, loving, caring person….but you can control your actions to that person…how you act ALWAYS says something about yourself….not the other way around….

I understand why Skye felt the need to do this…to give us a reason to perhaps dislike Van…but I stand firm in my own personal belief that it wasn’t necessary…or even fair to the reader….

Skye gave us a story full of tons of emotions….mixed emotions….she gave us tons of stuff to feel….tons to ponder…..tons to rage against….tons to fall in love with…..I just wish she would have given us credit to deal with it as well…instead of an easy out….

********Finally…this is where you STOP reading this review if you haven’t read the book….that’s right….STOP….click off now…..

However…if you have read it…..there will be a second book….I personally loved the ending of this book….even if I did feel a jerk reaction….and swore just a tiny bit…..

But here’s what I’m getting at….I’m guessing in the second book that the plot thickens and we find out the shooter’s name….and I am saying right now….I think that person is DG…I thought that from the first meeting of him….I’m not sure why…..but there it is…..I also think Van is lying about that bit at the end….************

Okay…that’s it…I hated this book in so many ways….but I mean that in a good way….I really loved it once it was said and done….I was forced outside of my comfort box…and again reminded that we can’t judge others if we aren’t in their shoes…no matter how black and white it appears…no matter how wrong we feel it is……This was a book I didn’t want to end…and I needed it to hurry up and end so I could see what happened….I guess Skye gave me both of those wishes…haha

Until next time…

Urania xx

Review copy provided by Netgalley for an honest review

Buy it now The Solitude of a Birdcage by Brielle Skye

Review: The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly

41GV+5TmsBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Sometimes you just know. You pick up a book, look at the cover, read the blurb on the back. And you decide it sounds pretty good so you give it a chance. And then you start reading it. Within the first few pages, you know you’ve found something good. These little gems don’t come along very often, but this one by Mary Louise Kelly was just that kind of book for me.

Caroline Cashion has a happy, successful life. She makes her living as a college professor. She can’t believe how lucky she is to actually get paid for doing what she loves. Although single, she’s very satisfied with her life. She also enjoys a close relationship with her family, eating dinner with her parents several times a week. The only dark spot in her cheery little world is a nagging pain in her wrist. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, surely, as she spends her days hunched over her computer typing away. But a semi-routine doctor’s visit turns up something both ominous and puzzling. Caroline has been walking around with a bullet lodged at the base of her skull. Ominous because, well, it’s a bullet at the base of her skull. And puzzling because, well, she’s certain that she’s never been shot. As she seeks to find out the truth, she uncovers family secrets that have been buried for several decades. And she garners the attention of those who would rather those secrets not come to light.

This book was an incredible read for me. The plot is original and intriguing, and I couldn’t put it down. The author weaves a story full of twists and turns leaving the reader desperate to find out what’s going to happen next. The only thing that kept this from being a five star book for me was a twist towards the end that stretched the limits of character credibility for me. Still, an excellent story!

~Thalia

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Review: Thou Art With Me by Debbie Viguie



I’ve been reading and enjoying The Psalm 23 Mysteries since Book 1. Number 11 – Thou Art With Me – might be the best one yet. 

As with the other books in the series, church secretary Cindy  and rabbi Jeremiah pair up to solve a murder. In prior books they developed a friendship and then something deeper. This installment is set around Valentine’s Day, so it’s apt that their relationship evolves even more. 

The murder is a serious one, and there’s real danger to Cindy and Jeremiah. I loved how Cindy got to have the upper hand in this investigation. Her poker skills were amazing, and had I not already loved her she would’ve become my favorite character based on that poker game scene alone.

Debbie Viguie is one of the few authors I’ve read who has a talent for writing a high-quality novel quickly. The dialogue, character depth and authenticity, consistency, and writing technique are TOP NOTCH. Viguie moves the plot along very quickly without sacrificing detail. With this book, and every Psalm 23 Mystery, I am on an amusement park ride that’s fast, fun, and life-changing. I remain impressed, and can’t wait for Book 12. 

-calliope

As of this writing, you can buy books 1-11 on Amazon. If you’d like to order Book 12 or pre-order subsequent books, you may go to Debbie Viguie’s blog and web site.

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Review: Rock Hard by Nalini Singh

01 rock I have always enjoyed Nalini Singh’s books. My favorites are her Guild Hunter series. It’s hard to move onto another series, after loving those so much. But the Rock Kiss series is a nice series. It’s a change of pace to read about real people and not have the paranormal aspect thrown in.

This book is my favorite of the Rock kiss series so far. I loved the fact that it wasn’t an insta love story. It had plenty of tension and angst, and that’s the best part of love stories. There was a fair amount of flirting and seduction and very subtle foreplay, but the sex wasn’t the main part of the story.

I enjoy stories with a big strong male character and the timid little females. I’m all about being taken care of, even if it’s not the norm. So when my books have it, I love it.

EXCERPT
Charlotte arrived at work at seven thirty the next morning to find Gabriel Bishop’s office door open, but no carnivorous predator inside. A fresh suit was hanging on the back of his door, however, which meant he’d been in already.
Deciding to catch up on e-mails that had come in overnight from international suppliers as well as stores involved in a stock take, she was typing a reply when a sweaty Gabriel arrived fifteen minutes later. He was dressed in black running shorts and a faded University of Auckland T-shirt that was currently sticking to his body.
She’d known he was in shape, but now she realized none of it was an illusion created by his well-cut suits. Okay, she’d already known that, but seeing his muscled body in the flesh was a whole different ball game. He was built like a tank, hard and powerful.
Each of his thighs was thicker than both of hers put together, his biceps toned, his shoulders appearing even wider than usual. Everything about him was big. Civilized clothing didn’t make him look better, she realized—it toned down his intense masculinity. Out of his suits, with the ink on the upper part of his left arm exposed, as well as that on his opposing thigh and…
Her skin hot and lower body clenching, she just nodded in response to his “Good morning.”
Disappearing into his office, he returned with his suit pants and a fresh shirt slung over his arm, along with a sports bag. “Push the meeting with Sales to nine, will you, Ms. Baird? I need to talk to HR about something before then.”
“Yes, sir,” Charlotte said almost soundlessly, but he was already gone, heading toward the employee shower one floor down.
The thigh tattoo went all the way around, the design intricate.
Heart rate a rapid stutter, Charlotte got up after he disappeared and decided to go grab him a coffee. He’d bought her one yesterday after all. She was just being nice. “Oh, shut up, Charlotte,” she muttered once she was in the elevator, and slumped her face into an upraised hand.
The truth was she was running away. Only for a few minutes, but that’s what this was: strategic retreat. Gabriel Bishop was overwhelming. Once, before she’d ever met him and under the influence of cocktails, she’d told Molly she wanted to rip off his shirt and sink her teeth into his pecs.
That desire hadn’t waned even now that she knew he was a T-Rex. Of course, the desire was all strictly in her imagination. The idea of actually handling him in real life? So impossible as to be laughable. Charlie-mouse was not about to play with a predator who could eat her alive and not even notice the bones. The good news was that she could admire him in relative safety—there was no chance in hell he’d ever notice her as a woman.
Getting the coffee from a nearby café, she took it back upstairs. He was in his office when she entered, the striped dark gray of his tie hanging around his neck and his damp hair roughly combed. The scent of clean, fresh soap over warm skin permeated the office. Shooting her a smile that turned him from gorgeous to flat-out devastating, he flipped up the collar of his white shirt to get the tie in place. “Thank you, Ms. Baird.”
Nodding, Charlotte escaped, though she really wanted to stay. She’d never realized how erotic it was to watch a man dress until this precise moment. And she shouldn’t be having these thoughts about her boss—especially since she couldn’t keep from quivering like a rabbit in his presence. Sometimes she just annoyed herself.
“Get to work,” she muttered and knuckled down.
Gabriel was fine for the first hour, but then he began barking orders even a six-armed woman with a split personality would have had trouble handling.
Finally, pushed to the edge, Charlotte snapped. “I’m going as fast as I can!” she yelled when he asked her for something a minute after he’d asked her to complete another task.
He scowled and held out a file. “This is a priority.”
Grabbing it from his hand, she said, “Fine,” and slapped it down on her desk.
It was over an hour later that he disappeared for ten minutes. When he returned, it was to put a small bakery box on her desk. “I think you need something to sweeten your mood today, Ms. Baird.”
What she needed was for the T-Rex who was her boss to stop snarling and growling, she thought as he returned to his office. Not opening the box until her curiosity had almost killed her, she found it held a slice of decadent chocolate cake with a white-chocolate ganache topped with curls of both white and milk chocolate. “I cannot be bribed with cake,” she muttered, eating a bite nonetheless.

I am very excited to see where this series is going to go!!

~Melpomene

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Review: The Bean Trees: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver



Although this book was written more than 15 years ago, it’s certainly a timeless story. 

Taylor Greer leaves her Kentucky home to make her own way in the world. After a few unexpected pit stops and the gift of someone else’s baby, Taylor lands in Arizona. And so begins the story of a young woman making a stable life, with a job, friends, love, and this baby who was given to her. 

This beautifully written novel is about beginnings and endings and human connections.  Taylor’s Guatemalan friends lost a baby, Taylor gained a baby. Lou Ann lost love, Taylor’s mom (and maybe Taylor, too) found love. April lost a mom, then gained more mother figures than she could ever imagine. I could go on and on. 

I can’t stop thinking about April planting things. Was she trying to put down roots? Bury the past? Become one with the land? In any case, the circle of life plays a large role in The Bean Trees. 

I cried slow, deep tears reading this book. The sweet, steady beauty of humanity strikes in harsh contrast to the spare, dry landscape and the cold politics of the government. And I was left with the knowledge that the love of a mother knows no bounds. Read it, and your heart will be touched also. 

-calliope 

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Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

mebeforeThis is another prime example of why I don’t read book descriptions. If I had read this book’s description I doubt if I would have given it a chance…If I had done that I would have missed out on this fantastic novel.

Yes, I won’t lie…it is sad….I would even say it is somewhat predictable. I knew long before the reader was *told* what was going on. I also knew how it would end. However, I will say that unlike a “Nicolas Spark” (yes, I am about to be negative about NS, get over it) I did not feel like the ending was done just to jerk on the readers emotional chain. I don’t feel like it was done for shock value. I feel it was done to keep the book honest.

It doesn’t really matter if you agree with the choices the characters made for their future (without giving massive spoilers here it is very difficult to discuss this novel)…the point of the novel is that it is ultimately the character’s own choice. No matter how much we love someone. No matter how much we want to do the right thing….at the end of the day we have to love those in our lives enough to let them make their own choices, even if we disagree with them with every fiber of our being.

Moyes does a fabulous job of pointing this out. Of, hopefully, making the reader aware that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge the actions of others. That we should never ever say what is right for another person.

I think much of the public think that the choices discussed in this novel are *easy* choices…or an *easy* way out of a terrible situation. After reading this novel I’m pretty sure it’s obvious that this just isn’t the case. Bravery and selflessness is shown by all the characters in this novel. Yes, it is something they are all struggling with….but at the end of the day they all put away their own desires to support an unbearable end…

I had my own personal beliefs about issues discussed in this book before I read it. I still have the same outlook after reading it. Bottom line….you have no idea of the struggles people go though, even those that are closet to you and ones that you love. You have no right to press your viewpoints on to someone else. You have no right to tell someone what they must do, even if you do so with the very best intentions….As humans we have a basic obligation to respect each other’s wishes and to not pass judgement on something we don’t have a clue about. No one knows how they would act in a situation until they are actually in THAT situation. You can tell yourself a million times that “I would never make that choice”, but until you’re forced to do so you really can’t be sure….

Yea…yea….yea….I know this is a rubbish review and you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about….so stop reading it already and go out and read the damn book whydon’tcha?

Until next time….
Urania xx

Buy it now Me Before You by Jojo Moyes