Review: Marry Me at Christmas by Susan Mallery 

  
This is another fantastic installation in Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series. 

Madeleine Krug climbs outside her comfort zone to plan a wedding for the sister of famed Jonny Blaze. Jonny is happy to meet her – and spend time with someone who doesn’t glom onto him for his star status. 

As they work together, their relationship changes and deepens. Madeleine and Jonny together develop from platonic to romantic … in a nice, gradual, believable way.  

Besides the love story, Mallery shows us the overwhelming Christmas spirit Fool’s Gold offers. I celebrated right along with the sidewalk strollers and cocoa sippers, listening to carols and looking at the sparkling lights. 

From the sense of community and close friendships to the welcoming embrace given to newcomers, the people of Fool’s Gold are the perfect backdrop for Madeleine and Jonny to grow as individuals and a couple. And as usual, Mayor Marsha is the one to make things happen – for the good of the town, and for the good of romance! 

-calliope

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Review: A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice

51GdIgFFSzL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_It’s always a joy to discover a book that’s been around for several years but has somehow flown under my reader radar. On the one hand, there’s a bit of frustration that I HAVEN’T READ THIS BOOK BEFORE NOW! But conversely, there’s pleasure in being able to recommend an older, maybe unheard of, book to friends.

Once upon a time, there were four friends. They did everything together. But then they began to grow up. And their paths diverged. Two of them became jocks. One became the popular cheerleader. And one becomes the outcast. But things aren’t always what they seem, and being on the right side of things doesn’t guarantee a happy outcome. Death, by both murder and suicide, sets everything on a collision course to an ending that can’t be happy for everyone.

This story is full of dark secrets and family histories that were best left hidden. Everything’s connected, and that’s not always a good thing. The writing is beautiful, poetic even, full of rich imagery and so descriptive that you can feel the atmosphere with every page.

This was recently a rerelease of Christopher Rice’s debut novel. Of special interest to me was the note from the author sharing his thoughts on how he would/wouldn’t change the story if he were to write it today. Yes, he’s Anne Rice’s son. And with that comes huge expectations. But talent is talent, regardless of the family lineage.

~Thalia

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A Knights Bridge Christmas by Carla Neggers

  
Like most of the Carla Neggers Swift River Valley novels, A Knights Bridge Christmas has beautiful descriptions of setting and a range of characters Neggers magically makes real. Even Daisy, now deceased, enamored me. Neggers hugs the reader with ice rinks and hot cocoa, mittens and hats, decorating a historical home for the holidays, and falling in love. 

A bit of unnatural dialogue and a too-trusting heroine took me out of the magic here and there. Some conversations were stilted and felt thrown in as an afterthought. And Clare just blindly agreeing to Logan’s suggestions seemed totally unrealistic. 

I’m always willing to overlook a few things for a holiday love story. This one includes a little mystery, a little adventure, and a happily ever after. 

-Calliope

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Review: The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst

  
Unsophisticated journalist Thomas gets nudged into the world of Hollywood by a well-meaning acquaintance. When Thomas catches a glance at the sheltered, Bel-Air-raised Matilda, he’s compelled to get to know her… and then to take things further. He doesn’t realize that two different worlds colliding can cause something more dangerous than just a spark.  

This novel is definitely quirky! From Thomas’ newsroom friends to his social awkwardness at Hollywood parties, from Matilda’s refined upbringing to her life full of secrets,  from film producers’ power to the corrupt indebtedness in the industry, The Gilded Life offers the reader a panorama of the lifestyles of wealthy LA elite. 

The quieter yet more powerful backbone of The Gilded Life is an illustration of how our environment shapes us. We see how being overprotective only protects someone as long as we control their environment. The moment they step into real life, our overprotectiveness proves to be the real danger — they have no instincts, no judgement skills, no confidence of their own.  Thomas doesn’t get it until it’s too late. And Matilda doesn’t get it until reality has changed her irreversibly. 

This was a fun, unique read that was part literary fiction, part adventure, and part romance. Four solid stars!

-Calliope

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Review: A Song of Shadows by John Connolly

24565629I *really* like this Charlie Parker guy! Besides Parker, I also really enjoy the other characters in this series as well. In many ways, we get to know and love Charlie simply by watching how others act and respond around him. It’s not something I’ve thought about much before. Usually a character is revealed simply by how they act and respond to situations. By what they say and do. Here, Connolly does a superb job of showing Parker’s character by those that go out of his way to help him. To watch over him. We learn to love Parker by the love they show him.

The father/daughter relationships in this novel….just wow….I can’t give much away, but I will say —- the last line gave me chills and I almost cried aloud that it ended! I’ll be counting the days until I start the next in the series!

This novel starts with Charlie recuperating from an injure he obtained in the last novel. It also has him in the midst of a few murders….and nazis. We revisit some of the crimes from the Holocaust. I have to admit, I have not really gave much thought to those war criminals after the fact. It brings up some important moral issues as well. Can one ever commit a horrendous crime simply because of the circumstances they found themselves in? Furthermore, can you be removed from those circumstances and form that day forth do wonderful things and to help the human race? Should any of that good change how you should be dealt with in regards to the original crimes?

How often are criminals sought after only because of political pressure? Where does moral obligation come into play?

Finally, I encourage you to read this novel. Not just because Charlie Parker is so great. Not because of how much you love his friends. Not because of all of the inter-workings of some really complex and interesting relationships….

But because this book left me with a yearning to learn more about history. I found myself putting down this novel…not because I was bored. But because I wanted to run to the internet and look up more about war criminals and history. Because I wanted to better understand how some of the things discussed in this novel could have happened. I don’t think I found many clear answers. However, I did have discussions about it. And so very many questions! Sometimes in life, it’s really good to just ask the questions….even if you don’t get all the answers you seek….at least you’ve thought enough to ask them….

Confused? Read the book….you’ll understand then….

Until next time…

Urania xx

ARC provided by Edelweiss for an honest review

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Review: The Dark Ones by Rachel Van Dyken

01 darkones This is a fast paced read that will keep you at the edge of your seat and your heart racing in your chest.

From the very first chapter, this book grabbed me. This is exactly what I was hoping for! It was pretty much non stop action and intrigue and I was sucked in and never wanted it to end. I mean seriously, who wouldn’t get sucked in with a vampire book? (pun intended)

Genesis was wanted by two men, but she can only be with one. After being raised to believe one thing and finding it it was all false, she has no idea what she’s supposed to do and how she’s supposed to handle this new life that was chosen for her. She must find the strength to stay strong and put her faith in the beings that she has feared all her life.

Ethan struggles with wanting Genesis. But knowing that he’s loved and lost before, and he’s not sure if his heart is strong enough to try this again. He’s not sure if he can live through that again.

The romance aspect, of this book, is definitely what I come to expect from Rachel. Beautiful and sweet, with a nice helping of sexy. Plus the emotional side did tug at my heartstrings a bit too.

Rachel Van Dyken has mastered the paranormal romance. As if there was ever any doubt. I am very much looking forward to the next installment!

~Melpomene

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Review: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

81Y+vQ0oq1LBooks serve many different purposes. They give us a fun escape from the demands of daily life. They give us a glimpse into a time from long, long, ago. And often, they give voice to our thoughts as the author so eloquently puts words to what may be going on in our lives.

Young Jackson and his family are having big problems. Dad is ill and unable to work regularly, and Mom pieces together part-time jobs to make ends meet. But it isn’t enough. Jackson and his little sister, Rosie, go to bed hungry more often than not. And when a yard sale that includes all of their belongings doesn’t even bring in enough to cover next month’s rent, they find themselves on the verge of being homeless once again. Just when Jackson thinks his life can’t get any worse, his imaginary friend, Crenshaw, makes a reappearance. And just as when he was younger, Crenshaw is there to help him make sense of things.

Just as she did in “The One and Only Ivan”, Katherine Applegate brings to life the magical world described on the pages. Her descriptions of Crenshaw’s antics are spot-on as any cat owner will recognize. The innocent denial of Jackson and Robin is truly childlike. As it should be. And her underlying message of friendship is timeless as well as ageless. Friendship is what pulls us through, gives us hope when things aren’t going so well. Who cares if that friendship comes in the form of an imaginary human-size cat?

Yes, this is more of a children’s book than a book that is truly meant for adults. But aren’t we all children at heart? I mean, how many of us read ALL of the Harry Potter books? Multiple times? Crenshaw is a story that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Read it by yourself, read it to a special young person in your life, just read it.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: Crenshaw