Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Review: Strangers in Budapest by Jessica Keener

Blurb from Goodreads:
Budapest is a city of secrets, a place where everything is opaque and nothing is as it seems. It is to this enigmatic city that a young American couple, Annie and Will, move with their infant son shortly after the fall of the Communist regime. For Annie, it is an effort to escape the ghosts from her past; for Will, it is a chance to try his wings as an entrepreneur in Hungary’s newly developing economy.

But only a few months after moving there, they receive a secretive request from friends in the US to check up on an old man who also has recently come to Budapest. When they realize that his sole purpose for coming there is to exact revenge on a man whom he is convinced seduced and then murdered his daughter, Will insists they have nothing to do with him. Annie, however, unable to resist anyone she feels may need her help, soon finds herself enmeshed in the old man’s plan, caught up in a scheme that will end with death. 
My Review:
This was on the verge of being interesting but I felt it was a bit repetitive and could have done with some editing.  I also expected a bigger mystery - the climax at the end was over before it started and we were left with more questions than answers.  The premise was interesting as was the setting of Budapest in the 90s.  It was very atmospheric but something was missing - maybe more backstory?  The history/backstory as it was told was one-sided and so we didn't get another perspective, which would have really elevated this book.  I hope you have better luck with it - it definitely had some good parts even if it was a little boring, unexplained and repetitive. 
Strangers in Budapest comes out today November 14, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.
She had run out of things to say. That was her problem. Their problem. This inability to find words to make things better. It was so much easier to say nothing. She felt the seductive pull of it. Stop speaking. Sink into quicksand. Become silent. Pretend things will be okay. Sink into silence as if it could protect her from the noise of life above and all around her. it was an old family habit, this silence. She leaned back in the seat, the music and the wheezing rush of the air conditioner meshing together. Silence was the phantom body in her family. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review: Royally Wed (The Royals #3) by Teri Wilson

Blurb from Goodreads:
Teri Wilson’s Royals series returns with this charming and witty retelling of the timeless classic MGM film Royal Wedding starring Fred Astaire.

When Asher Reed, an American classical musician, is hired as a last minute replacement to perform at the royal wedding of Princess Amelia in Great Britain, he’s hoping he can shake his recent bout with performance anxiety long enough to get through the festivities and get his career back on track. Little does he know that his life is about to change forever.

As a guest of Buckingham Palace, he knows he has no business even speaking to the princess, but he’s completely awed by her beauty and more than a little intrigued by her rebellious spirit. Still, he definitely knows he has no business kissing her silly at the fitting of her wedding gown. He’s there to perform, not cause a royal scandal. But when he stumbles upon her groom’s appalling secret, the fate of the princess and the British Crown suddenly rest squarely in his cello-playing hands....

With Teri Wilson’s signature “endearingly charming and delightfully sizzling” (USA TODAY bestselling author Nina Bocci) prose, Royally Wed is a delightful whirlwind romance that will leave you breathless and have you out of your seat for a standing ovation.
My Review:
Another retelling and another book that didn't quite work for me. I think this one felt a bit rushed in its romance - yes, it was a retelling of Royal Wedding - and so it adhered to something of a whirlwind but I'm not quite sure that the current day and age was properly worked into this retelling. I really did like Asher and a lot of the book was told from his POV.  He was charismatic and charming - I just didn't quite get he and Amelia together.  They truly didn't spend enough time to really click let alone fall in love.  I just wanted more from this book.  I actually wished it would have ended a bit differently and then perhaps had a sequel where Asher and Amelia could get to know each other.  Seems silly but I wasn't buying the speed of things in this book.
Royally Wed comes out next week on November 13, 2017, and you can purchase HERE. You can read my review of book one, Royally Roma, HERE.  All of these are retellings of classic movies and can be read standalone.
He was publicly flirting with the princess of England at the rehearsal for her wedding ceremony. If anyone in the room could be privy to the thoughts running through his head, he'd probably be thrown into the Tower. 
He needed to get a handle on himself. No . . . what he needed was a damn reality check. 
He let out a tense exhale and averted his gaze. In a matter of seconds, she was going to be standing right in front of him. he was going to have to look her in the eye and pretend she wasn't his first thought when he woke up every morning and that he didn't lie in the Blue Room at night and dream about her willowy legs wrapped around his hips while he drove himself into her. He was going to have to shake her hand while everyone watched, all the while wishing that he could touch her under vastly different circumstances. 
There was something very wrong with him. He shouldn't be having those kinds of thoughts about an engaged woman. Amelia wasn't his. She never would be. Which was probably for the best. She drove him a little crazy.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Review: The Lullaby Girl (Angie Pallorino #2) by Loreth Anne White

Blurb from Goodreads:
Detective Angie Pallorino took down a serial killer permanently and, according to her superiors, with excessive force. Benched on a desk assignment for twelve months, Angie struggles to maintain her sense of identity—if she’s not a detective, who is she? Then a decades-old cold case washes ashore, pulling her into an investigation she recognizes as deeply personal.

Angie’s lover and partner, James Maddocks, sees it, too. But spearheading an ongoing probe into a sex-trafficking ring and keeping Angie’s increasing obsession with her case in check is taking its toll. However, as startling connections between the parallel investigations emerge, Maddocks realizes he has more than Angie’s emotional state to worry about.

Driven and desperate to solve her case, Angie goes rogue, risking her relationship, career, and very life in pursuit of answers. She’ll learn that some truths are too painful to bear, and some sacrifices include collateral damage.

But Angie Pallorino won’t let it go. She can’t. It’s not in her blood.
My Review:
This was definitely the second book in a series that was as good if not better than the first for me!  I feel like series have been hit and miss re: second books lately and I was so happy that this series continues to be wonderful!  Angie Pallorino is kick-ass and such a complex character!  I honestly think she's one of the most well written characters I've ever read. The Lullaby Girl picks up right where book one ended and is non-stop action, twists and turns.  I love the setting of these books, I love the police procedure and I love the layers of story.  This book throws you head first into Angie's search to find out more about her past and WHOA! you will not see it coming.  

The Lullaby Girl comes out next week on November 14, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.  This book just as good as the first and I can't wait for book three, The Girl in the Moss, which is scheduled to be released next year on June 12, 2018, and you can pre-order HERE.  You can read my review of the first book, The Drowned Girls, HERE -- I cannot recommend this series enough!
She stalled dead in her tracks, then spun abruptly and took two fast strides toward the old detective. The steel toe of her boot caught against a piece of paving. She stumbled, flailing toward Leo as she tried to regain her balance. Her latte burst the lid off the takeout cup and gushed hot, creamy, brown liquid onto Leo's crotch and down the front of his thighs. He lurched back in shock, his butt hitting the wall. "What the fuck!"
"Oh my goodness, Angie said sweetly. "I am so sorry, Detective." She stabbed her hand into her pocket and grabbed the napkin she'd put there when she'd purchased her coffee. She started to dab the napkin at Leo's wet crotch. "Holgersen, you got another Kleenex for me there?"
Holgersen bent double with laughter, slapping his bony knees like a cartoon.
"Get your fucking hands off my groin." Leo slapped her arm away, unable to back out of her reach because Angie had cornered him up against the wet concrete wall.
Slowly, Angie came erect. Her mouth tightened. Standing toe to toe with Leo, her eyes level with his, she said quietly, "I can be so clumsy, especially with my sore arm. Gunshot and all. I do hope you have a spare pair of pants in your locker, Detective." 
Wariness crept into his weathered face. He did not move a muscle, and there was little doubt in Angie's mind that he was suddenly recalling the last time he'd overstepped the line with her at the Flying Pig Bar and Grill and she'd grabbed his balls and squeezed. Hard. "You watch that mouth of yours around me, Leo," she whispered.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mini Reviews: Battle of the Ones Imitating Austen

Blurb from Goodreads:
After years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.

Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.

With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.
My Review:
Katherine Reay pretty much became a must read for me after I devoured her first book, Dear Mr. Knightley. She followed up her amazing debut with a string of books and I've liked them all (you can read some of my reviews of her other books HERE).  Her latest is no exception and I almost feel like she's a modern Jane Austen herself! There is something about the way Katherine Reay writes her characters that is always magical to me - she is good at it that I've pretty much fallen in love with all of them. Mary Davies is another such character - I was immediately rooting for her while intensely understanding her.  I think that is Ms. Reay's greatest gift - empathy -I am always drawn to and drawn in by her characters and I think and feel along with them in every word.
Austen really had a thing against Marys. I'd met Mary Bennet first. Then came Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park. She initially misled me. She had all the wit and vivacity of a Lizzy Bennet, but it took me time to catch on.  She had none of the wisdom -- no discretion. And she got not happy ending. And now Mary Elliot . . . We Marys weren't a kind and gentle lot. We didn't grow. We didn't change. We didn't get redeemed.

Blurb from Goodreads:
Ever since Emma read Pride and Prejudice, she's been in love with Mr. Darcy and has regarded Jane Austen as the expert on all things romantic. So naturally when Emma falls for Blake Hampton and he invites her home to meet his parents, she is positive an engagement is in her future. After all, Blake is a single man in possession of a good fortune, and thus must be in want of a wife.

But when it turns out that what Blake actually wants is more of a hook-up than a honeymoon, Emma is hurt, betrayed, and furious. She throws herself deeper into her work as CMO of Kinetics, the fastest growing gym franchise in the nation. She loves her work, and she's good at it, which is why she bristles when her boss brings in a consultant to help her spearhead the new facilities on the East Coast. Her frustration turns to shock when that consultant turns out to be Blake's younger brother, Lucas.

Emma is determined not to fall for Lucas, but as she gets to know him, she realizes that Lucas is nothing like his brother. He is kind and attentive and spends his time and money caring for the less fortunate.

What she can't understand is why Lucas continues to try to push her back into Blake's arms when he so clearly has fallen as hard for her as she has fallen for him.

Realizing that her love life is as complicated as anything Jane Austen could have dreamed up, Emma must find a way to let Blake know that it's time for him to let her go and to let Lucas know it's time for him to love her back.
My Review:
This was a bit sappy but I still really liked Emma - she didn't fall into a lot of obvious traps that I kept expecting and there was something very refreshing about this romance.  Yes, there was lots of drama and stops and starts but it also felt very real to me.  My one criticism would be a lot of focus on Emma's career - as in the day to day, not just broad strokes - and that bored me a bit.  But still, it also made her a real person and added depth to her character.
Jane died an unmarried woman, which in her day was something disastrous. In my current modern-day America, married or unmarried didn't matter much. But to be unloved . . . that was disastrous, and I'd spent so much of my time being unloved that I knew something had to change if I wanted a different ending from the one my once-hero author had. I had to stop believing her. The bad thing, the secret I carried with me all through my liberal education and feminist discussions with my friends as i worked my way to the executive levels in my company, was that I loved love. I wanted to be loved and to give love and to fight and make up and smile across the room at the one my heart raced for -- smile because he was mine.
Both of these books have Austen in the title but only one involves an MC obsessed with Jane from the very beginning - in a way, both of the MCs of these books are trying to throw off Jane at all directions and end up more immersed than ever.  Both The Austen Escape and Lies Jane Austen Told Me will be released next week on November 7, 2017, and I would definitely recommend reading some Katherine Reay, I've loved everything she's written including this one!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Review: The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic 0) by Alice Hoffman

Blurb from Goodreads:
Find your magic

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy. 
My Review:
Such a perfect book for October - the prequel to Practical Magic and I really loved this!  If you are familiar with PM, you know there is a "curse" on the family.  This book explains the origin of the curse and even though there is a lot of sadness, this felt spectacularly genuine.  I read this very quickly because I loved the timing and pacing of it.  It starts in the 50s and ends in the late 70s, touching on some major historical events.  I don't want to give anything away but I definitely recommend this one.  Such great characters and such a compelling story.

The Rules of Magic comes out TODAY October 10, 2017 and you can purchase HERE.  I definitely recommend this one for fans of Practical Magic - you will not be disappointed!
If there was anything Vincent might have done to stop it he wouldn't have done so, for this occurred only once in a person's life, and then only if he was lucky. It happened the way things happen in a dream. A door opens, a person calls your name, your heart beats faster, and everything is familiar, yet you don't know where you are. You are falling, you're in a house you don't recognize and yet you want to be here, you have actually wanted to be here all of your life. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Review: Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis

Blurb from Goodreads:
Flora Goldwasser has fallen in love. She won't admit it to anyone, but something about Elijah Huck has pulled her under. When he tells her about the hippie Quaker school he attended in the Hudson Valley called Quare Academy, where he'll be teaching next year, Flora gives up her tony upper east side prep school for a life on a farm, hoping to woo him. A fish out of water, Flora stands out like a sore thumb in her vintage suits among the tattered tunics and ripped jeans of the rest of the student body. When Elijah doesn't show up, Flora must make the most of the situation and will ultimately learn more about herself than she ever thought possible.

Told in a series of letters, emails, journal entries and various ephemera, Flora's dramatic first year is laid out for all to see, embarrassing moments and all.
My Review:
I can honestly tell you that I've never read a YA book quite like this, or any book for that matter.  The non-ARC version, I presume, will be a bit interactive with photos, etc but even the e-ARC was so charming with its hints of the multi-media promise.  A lot of this book is told in letters, e-mails and diary entries and I always love that type of formatting, when done well. I hate to tell you what this is about more than the blurb but I will tell you that Flora Goldwasser was such a well-developed narrator.  I really enjoyed this book, especially after the first few chapters.  Ultimately, this book really made me think and look at things in every day life in a new way.  I would say this book has a lot to recommend it.

Everything Must Go came out earlier this week on October 3, 2017 and you can purchase HERE.  I definitely recommend this one for fans of quirky YA, vintage clothing and unrequited love.
If I were Molly Ringwald in a John Hughes movie, I would have slid to the ground with my back against the wall, knees at my chest, a hand clutching my throat, and a dazed expression on my face. But I was more of a take-action type of girl, so I grabbed a set of prints that Mr. Greenberg hadn't asked for and hurried through the door By the time I reached the art room, Elijah was gone. I worked for the next few hours in a distracted daze, and when I went home, i organized and reorganized my closet until I was calm enough to slice some strawberries and read Anna Karenina. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Review: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Blurb from Goodreads:
Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.

Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career as a Ziegfield folly, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a night club, she chances to meet Styles, the man she visited with her father before he vanished, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life.

Mesmerizing, hauntingly beautiful, with the pace and atmosphere of a noir thriller and a wealth of detail about organized crime, the merchant marine and the clash of classes in New York, Egan’s first historical novel is a masterpiece, a deft, startling, intimate exploration of a transformative moment in the lives of women and men, America, and the world.
My Review:
This one starts really slow and I honestly wasn't feeling it until almost half way into the book.  But then it picked up and I could not put it down!  All the zigs and zags added up and I loved Anna like my own. Historical fiction is hit or miss for me but this one was so good that I almost forgot it was fiction.  I was invested and I had to know what happened next. I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't this. Even if you're not drawn to historical fiction (like me), I would recommend this one - it brought something new to living in New York during World War 2 and it was so honest and refreshing.  

Manhattan Beach comes out TODAY October 3, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.  I really loved this one and you will too, especially if you're a fan of historical fiction.
As he smoked, Eddie returned to his worry about Anna as if it were a stone he'd placed in his pocket and now could remove and examine. He'd taught her to swim at Coney Island, taken her to Public Enemy and Little Caesar and Scarface (over the disapproving looks of ushers), bought her egg creams and charlotte russes and coffee, which he'd let her drink since the age of seven. She might as well have been a boy: dust in her stockings, her ordinary dresses not much different form short pants. She was a scarp, a weed that would thrive anywhere, survive anything. She pumped life into him as surely as Lydia drained it.
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