Monthly Archives: January 2016

Subscription Boxes for Book Lovers

I think I just got myself in trouble.  I found subscription services tailored to book lovers.  I signed up for three services so far.  So you will see a few reviews that are based on the subscription boxes.  They are all book related, so I figure they kind of fit here too.  I’m sure that I’m going to be asking my better half for forgiveness once he finds out what I’ve done, but since it’s all books and book related…I think he’ll understand.

I signed up for a one-off box from Prudence and the Crow.  This is a vintage book subscription service based in London.  For a mere £12 a month (plus shipping), you can choose from 4 different genres or choose the random option.  The FAQ states that you will receive a vintage paperback from your favorite genre along with other goodies and random surprises.  I absolutely cannot wait for this one.  I have a feeling I will be going back and signing up for a continuous subscription.

I also signed up for The Bookish Box and while this one doesn’t actually send books, it’s all book related items and just sounded like way too much fun to not give it a try.  Each month the box will contain a t-shirt and 3-5 other items that are all book related in some way.  The box is $29.99 per month (plus shipping).  Looking at some of the past boxes, I can’t wait and can only hope that what I get is even half as good as some of their past boxes.  This one is a little on the expensive side, so we’ll see how long I can keep this one up.

The last one that I signed up for was Book of the Month.  I had an e-mail giving me the first month for $1, so there was really no way I could pass up on that offer.  If I continue, the cost is $16.99 per month.  Each month you get to choose between 5 books that have been picked by the judges and guest judge.  You can add up to 2 other books per month either from that month’s selections or from previous months.  This one could really get me into trouble.  I very nearly added another book to my cart for the month!  My selection this month will be The Night Charter and after reading the description and the sample from Amazon, I can’t wait.  Look forward to the review here soon!

There are a lot of other subscription boxes and services out there for book lovers.  I may find myself trying a few of the other ones out there too just to see.  I’ll post a review of each with pictures!  And of course I will be reviewing the books that arrive!

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Review: Beating Ruby by Camilla Monk

4 Stars

I received this an an ARC from the author after reading and reviewing the first book in the series, Spotless.  And being a total airhead, I totally forgot to post my review until I got an e-mail about the upcoming third novel in the series.  So I apologize to the author, I don’t have any other excuse other than to say I was busy trying to convince Krakky to pick the lotto numbers for me.

This book is the second in the Spotless series and picks up a few months after we left Island Chaptal.  She has seemingly gotten on with her life after she was kidnapped and learned that everything she knew about her life was a lie.  She has a new job that she enjoys and she has found a nice, normal boyfriend, Alex.  She is still healing from her broken hart, having had it broken at the hands of March.  The hit man sent to kidnap her and who ultimately helps her unravel the secrets of her life.

Island has been working on Ruby, a revolutionary software project for the banking industry.  Her boss is soon found dead and all evidence points to him stealing a vast fortune using Ruby and then erased all records of the transaction and the software itself.  Of course it falls to Island to clear his name and set his legacy right.  And of course she needs to turn to the one man who broke her heart to help her.  But can she trust him again?

Once again this book is hilarious.  A romance novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously and allows the reader to laugh at the plot, the characters and ultimately themselves.  A truly tongue-in-cheek approach to “Chick-Lit” that makes you smile every time you pick up the book.  It’s a romance novel that makes fun of the entire genre.  Every outlandish situation is one that makes you smile.  You know that nothing like this would ever really happen in real life, but that’s the whole idea!

Once again this book had everything.  Romance, intrigue, epic battles and a scene with a baby octopus that simply cannot be missed.

I love the characters in spite of myself.  You really do have to suspend belief because there cannot possibly be people like this in the real world.  Though, if there were, I think I would love to meet them!

If you want a romance that doesn’t take itself or the characters too seriously, definitely pick up this series.  As long as you read them in the spirit that they were written, you will not be disappointed.

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Filed under Humor, Romance

Review: The Vatican Princess by CW Gortner

4 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The story of Lucrezia Borgia is one that has been told many times over the last 500 years and in most tales, she is made out to be quite evil and scheming.  But after research, most historians have changed their views of Lucrezia and her role during the reign of her father, Pope Alexander VI.  This book takes a fresher look at her life and is probably closer to the truth than many of the historical texts and stories that many of us grew up with.  This is still a work of fiction and there are many areas that are very sensationalized, but you can easily see the research that went into this book and how the author strives to show this enigmatic historical figure in a new light.

Lucrezia was the pampered daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, an extremely ambitious man who sought after and ultimately acquired the title of Pope.  She becomes a pawn at an early age to further advance the Borgia name and bring even more power to her father and her family.  Family always comes first and this is something that she is raised to believe, even to the detriment of herself and others around her.  She learns too late in life that sometimes family doesn’t always know best.

Set in 15th and early 16th century Italy, this book follows Lucrezia through almost a decade of her life.  Soon after her father is elected Pope Alexander VI, she is married off to repay a debt to the Sforza family who helped bring her father to power.  It is not a happy match and she is made to suffer for several years until her father decides that there is a better match to be made and works on annulling their marriage to make a better match, once again to further his cause.

The author admittedly does sensationalize a few unproven stories about Lucrezia and her brothers Juan and Cesare.  Many stories have mentioned an incestuous relationship between the siblings and some have even been so bold as to say that Lucrezia gave birth to a child that was sired by one of her brothers.  A Papal Bull decreed that the child was sired by Pope Alexander VI and an unnamed woman, but a second document states that it was a child sired by Cesare and an unnamed woman.  But what was the truth?  500 years later we will probably never know, but the author puts forward just one option.

The book does read like a soap opera in some ways but it is always entertaining, always interesting and incredibly descriptive and well researched.  You can’t help but feel for Lucrezia and what she had to endure during her life.  She had more heart break, more upheaval and more betrayal in less than a decade than most of us ever see in an entire lifetime.  This is an incredible story about a very interesting historical figure, one that was demonized for centuries but is now finding a new voice.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting a great read about a historical figure.

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Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

3 Stars

I ended up liking this book more than I thought I would.  I wasn’t really impressed in the beginning and I’ll admit, the only reason I stuck with it at first was to get to the bottom of who died and who did it.  I did find myself enjoying the story the further along I got, but it was a rough start.  I think the writing style wasn’t my cup of tea more than anything else.  I usually don’t mind much when the story shifts from one point of view to another, but not only did this go from one point of view to another there was the addition of snippets of interviews done with other parents after the incident.  I think they were meant to give more backstory and what the whole mess looked like from other parties, but it ended up being distracting and confusing.

The story revolves around the Kindergarten class and their parents.  Jane is new in town and her son Ziggy is accused on the very first day of bullying the young daughter of Renata.  It quickly becomes a matter of which camp you are in.  Camp Renata where they go so far as to start a petition to have a child who was accused but never proved to have bullied anyone removed from the school.  Then there is camp Jane where everyone is just a little less catty and more interested in making sure that Jane and her son are treated fairly.

The main characters are Madeline, Celeste and Jane with everyone else kind of being in the background.

Madeline has to deal with her ex-husband and his wife.  They have moved into the same suburb and their daughter just happens to be in the same class as Madeline’s youngest daughter.  To make matters worse, her oldest daughter has decided that she no longer wants to live with Madeline, she wants to live with her dad and stepmother, Bonnie.  She lies to herself and everyone else, saying that she’s perfectly okay with the arrangement, but she’s devastated.

Celeste is the quintessential perfect woman.  Rich husband, perfectly behaved twin boys.  Stunningly beautiful with what looks like the perfect life  But looks can be deceiving and there are cracks in this perfect life.  Little lies that soon turn into big lies.  Secrets that threaten to come out and things that are seen and can’t be unseen.

Jane is the new mother in town.  She’s younger than most of the other “kindy” moms and was even mistaken as a nanny during orientation.  She is a single mom and she hasn’t told Ziggy or even  her own family who the father is.  She just tells them it was a one night stand and she doesn’t remember him.  She has her own secrets too.

It really was an interesting book and the interaction between the women was done very well.  I wish that it was more just their voices instead of interspersing the voices of other parents, but that’s just my opinion.  I did enjoy the mystery aspect and trying to figure out who was going to die and who was going to be the one at blame.  I wasn’t quite as surprised by who died as I was by how it came about and who did it.  I think the book was worth it just for the satisfaction that came from the revelation.

Good “chick-lit” book and it was a quick read, so I’d recommend it to someone who wants a light, fast read for the beach or plane trip.  Or just wanting to curl up on the couch with a nice hot cup of tea and a warm blanket.


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Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

4 Stars

My boss has been pestering me to read this book for nearly a year now.  I think every time he’s seen me with my Kindle or with a book, his immediate question was, “Have you read Ready Player One yet?!”  I finally caved in and pushed my TBR pile aside and made time for his recommendation.  Being a geek and a book lover too, I figured he wouldn’t steer me wrong…and I was right.

A lot of people have described this book as nostalgia porn.  Yep.  It is.  Especially for those of us who grew up in the 80’s.  You don’t have to be a geek, gamer or a child of the 80’s to enjoy the book, but it does help.  Without at least a little bit of geek knowledge, you might get a little bit lost during the beginning.  There is a LOT of reference to old games, movies, TV shows, music and other cultural phenomenon that made the 80’s such a kick-ass decade.

The book takes place in 2044 and reality sucks.  The economy went into the toilet due to an energy crisis, public schools are closing down, no one can find a job and life is just generally horrible.  But there’s still OASIS.  The virtual utopia that the world’s population plugs into to escape their sad and depressing lives.  The economy in OASIS is more stable than any real-world economy and even the virtual schools perform better than their real-world counterparts.  This is the world that Wade Watts lives.  He attends school inside OASIS and he feels more alive when he’s plugged into this virtual world than he ever has.  He’s spent the last several years trying to solve the ultimate puzzle, to win the fortune of the late creator of OASIS and control of his universe.

The creator was a recluse video game genius with an obsession with all things 80’s and in his will, he decided to leave his fortune to the winner of the ultimate treasure hunt.  Somewhere in his vast universe he’s hidden three keys.  To find these keys, you have to solve his riddles.  And of course you have to stay alive while trying.  With a prize this big, people are willing to lie, cheat, steal and kill to get ahead.  This is what Wade has to deal with when he stumbles upon the first clue that leads him to the first key.  Suddenly his life is in danger and he will have to confront the real world, the one he’s spent his entire life escaping.

It took me awhile to get into the book, but once I got in, I was hooked.  I had a blast living through some of the funnest moments of my own life through the eyes of Wade and his friends.  It brought back a ton of memories and I was laughing by the time I finished the book.  Definitely an awesome read for anyone who has a little bit of geek in them.


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Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

4 1/2 Stars

This book landed on one of my recommendation lists, and I decided to give it a shot.  The plot sounded interesting and I’m a sucker for a good fantasy novel.  I can definitely say I wasn’t disappointed and this is one series I’m looking forward continuing.  Despite its title, The Final Empire is the first book in the Mistborn series.

For a thousand years the world has been ruled by the God-like Lord Ruler.  His dominance has kept the population separated by class.  The noblemen are the ruling class, high in their keeps.  The skaa make up pretty much everyone else.  They are the ones who work the barren land, the mines, the shops.  They are treated worse than animals.  Beaten at a whim.  Killed when they no longer serve a purpose.  They are conditioned from birth that they are lesser beings, they were made to serve.  Rebellions come and go, but no one has been able to throw off the chains and rise up against the Lord Ruler and his Ministry.  But somehow hope survives.

Hope is what brings our heroes together.  They are very unlikely heroes too, they are thieves.  Thieves with a secret.  They have as their leader the Survivor of Hathsin.  Kelsier was once imprisoned by the Lord Ruler deep in the mines of Hathsin, made to crawl daily to harvest the precious metal beneath the craggy ground.  But he escaped and found his former crew and presented them with a nearly impossible job.  Overthrow the Final Empire and dethrone the Lord Ruler and make themselves incredibly rich in the process.  What begins as a heist becomes so much more as they are tested at every turn, always on the bring of being discovered by the Steel Inquisitors where a grisly death will follow soon after.

The true hero of the story is a young thief named Vin.  She was abandoned by the only family she remembers, her brother.  He taught her to never trust anyone.  Everyone always betrays you.  For sixteen years she has lived those words.  Always keeping to the shadows, never trusting, never believing.  She had to rely on herself and this burgeoning power that she’s only beginning to understand.  She seems to have the power to make people do what she wants, but can only do it for a little bit at a time.  During a job for her crew, she comes to the attention of Kelsier and his crew because of her abilities.  She soon finds that she has more power than she ever believed possible.  She is a Mistborn.  A half-breed from the union of a skaa and nobleman.  She has the power of Allomancy, the power to use metals to do amazing feats.  And while there are others who are able to use metals themselves, most can only use one metal.  But Vin is able to use them all and her natural ability sets her above nearly everyone else.

Can this crew of thieves with a conscience really make a difference?  Can they change a thousand years of fear and oppression?  Can you put this book down once you get into it?

I really did enjoy this book.  It did take a bit for me to get into it because the author really just jumps into it and doesn’t start with backstory or being overly descriptive.  You just get thrown right into the story and are left to wonder what are skaa?  Why is the sun red?  Why are there mists that come at night that no one will wander out into?   But you are swept along as the story picks up pace nearly immediately and you are tossed and turned along the way.  There are twists that you don’t expect and outcomes that are surprising.  The characters are strong, interesting and amazing to get to know throughout the book.

If you are a fan of a good fantasy novel with a good plot and amazing characters, pick this one up, you will not be disappointed.

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Review: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

4 Stars

This is the third book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series.  Definitely start with the first two books, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City before even thinking about picking up Library of Souls.  You can’t read this book as a stand alone novel.  And I highly recommend that you read all three.  While highly enjoyable, I couldn’t rate this as a 5 star book no matter how much I liked the series, there were just some things that didn’t sit well with me.

Library of Souls picks up almost exactly where Hollow City leaves off.  You are once again with Jacob Portman and Emma Bloom, peculiar children on a mission to save their friends and all of pecuilardom from not only the monsters who have been preying on them, but on the person who has been behind all of these evil machinations.  Along with Addison, a dog with a nose for sniffing out peculiar children, they will travel from the present day to the Victorian era slums of Devil’s Acre to save their friends and their very existence.

Once again, the story is engrossing and there is action at every turn.  You think you know who your friends and who your enemies are only to have the tables turned on you more than once.  Jacob and Emma rely on themselves more often than not and you watch as Jacob comes into his own peculiar abilities as well as growing in confidence throughout the journey.  The story is also told around old photographs and without the photographs, I don’t think any of the books in the series would have quite the same impact.

There were a few things that just didn’t jive for me this time around.  The start of the story seemed to take quite awhile to get itself established again and this was surprising considering that it picked up right where the previous novel left off.  It seemed to take a very long time to get to the climax and there were several beginnings of stories and backstories that were never fleshed out and explained and this hurt the story in ways because as the climax came closer, they became more important but since they weren’t well explained, it led to some confusion.  And the ending…no.  The ending actually took away from the story.  While it did make me happy on some levels, it was so abrupt and left so many questions, I just couldn’t like how it ended.

Maybe that means that the peculiar children aren’t quite done yet?

I know that this series gets tagged a lot as a YA novel, but I definitely don’t think that it is purely for the YA audience.  There are definitely adult themes and some of the action is quite graphic and would not really be appropriate for many young readers.  But I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a good story, interesting characters and a little bit of fantasy in their lives.




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Filed under Fantasy, Young Adult

Review: Hold Still by Lisa Regan

3 Stars

Jocelyn Rush is a seasoned detective who becomes involved in the investigation into a case where a woman has been attacked, kidnapped, crucified and raped by multiple assailants.  They are easily able to identify two of the men, but a third, has eluded capture because he has worn a mask to protect his identity.  The attacks cause her to have nightmares about suppressed memories she has of her sister’s attack years earlier as a teenager.  An attack that drove her family apart and nearly ended her own life.

The investigation progresses and Jocelyn is loaned out to the SVU squad to help bring down this trio of attackers.  Add in a hunky lead investigator, Caleb, and you have a formula for romance, of course.  The DA on the case happens to be her ex-boyfriend as well.  Talk about a conflict of interest!   But somehow they are all able to get over themselves long enough to investigate the case and bring the identity of the third assailant to light.  You do have to suspend belief during a few (OK more than a few) passages.  Especially when one of the victims is able to locate a piece of information about the case that the entire police department with all of their resources was unable to find and she was able to do it in just a few clicks of the mouse and a Google search.

The characters were somewhat flat and formulaic.  It was hard for me to connect with Jocelyn, she seemed to have an utter disregard for her actual job and seemed like she was going on a crusade and was willing to go outside the law to get what she wanted.  The romance was stilted and completely unnecessary.  I couldn’t connect to that aspect of the book at all.  It just seemed contrived and out of place.  Especially right in the middle of an investigation.  Before or after, okay.  But right in the middle?  I just can’t see that happening and couldn’t stretch my imagination enough to even halfway enjoy it.

The story line was okay.  The plot was actually pretty strong and even though many of the characters fell a bit flat, it was still an entertaining read.  You will figure out the mystery of the third attacker even before Jocelyn does, but the climax is ultimately pretty satisfying.  The story may have a bit of a fairy tale ending, but sometimes you need a story where the good guys actually win for once and everyone comes out ahead.  I would recommend to anyone who wants a quick crime thriller that doesn’t make you think too much.

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Review: Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney

2 Stars

Lucy Resnick grew up visiting her grandmother’s farm in small-town Buttercup, Texas and never forgot it.  Years later, after taking an early retirement from the dying newspaper business, Lucy buys her grandmother’s farm and sets about making ends meet by growing her own and selling her candles and jams in town.  Suddenly the life that she’s beginning to build for herself threatens to come apart as a surveyor for an oil company comes by and lets her know that even though she owns the property, she doesn’t own the mineral rights and the owner is requesting that oil exploration begin on her property.  Just a few days later, Nettie Kocurek is found dead at the Founders’ Day Festival with a bratwurst skewer impaled in her chest and one of Lucy’s jars of jam in her hand.  Nettie was the owner of the mineral rights to Lucy’s property and in the eyes of the local Sherriff (who happens to be Nettie’s nephew) Lucy has become the prime suspect.

Lucy sets out and decides that she is going to have to prove her innocence herself and save her budding farm in the process from becoming the newest oil well in Texas.

I really tried to like this book.  I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be a dark and mysterious thriller.  I would have categorized this as a “beach read” an easy book to lose yourself in for a few hours.  But I can’t even put this book in that category.  I’d have to put this one on a shelf for books full of small-town cliches, frustrating main characters and a completely unnecessary romantic involvement.  I couldn’t connect with Lucy or really any of the characters that we’re introduced to.  Every one of them seems to fall into the typical cliches that we see when a book is written about small town life.  Everyone in a small town must be xenophobic because they always blame the outsider, even if that person has a tie to the community or has been there for a decade.  They all become cardboard cutouts instead of people that you can relate to and I think that was the downfall of this book.

It’s not a bad read.  If you want something that’s going to read fast and not challenge you too much and you don’t mind the small-town life cliches, go ahead and try it.  It might be your cup of tea, but it certainly wasn’t mine.






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Filed under Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Women's Fiction

Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

3 Stars

I was conflicted when it came time to review this book.  I’ve been a fan of Jim Butcher’s writing for awhile, so I was fairly excited to see that not only was he coming out with a new novel, but it was a departure from his Dresden Files series.  I’m not terribly familiar with the Steampunk genre, so this was going to be something very new for me and I was excited to get my hands on it.

He doesn’t waste any time getting you immersed into the story.  There really is no preamble and no buildup.  There is no backstory to any of the characters or even the world that we are inhabiting.  For a first in a series book, this is a little surprising and I think that it was one of the reasons I personally couldn’t give a higher rating.  You’re left foundering a bit to try and understand the story and understand who the characters are and what drives them.  You’re left to infer much and try to draw your own conclusions.  What is a warriorborn?  What are the Spires?  Why is the Surface such a horrible place?  Why are Spire Albion and Spire Aurora fighting?  Who is the Enemy?  And those were just the really important ones.

The plot suffers a bit too.  Why is the leader of Albion sending an untested group of children on a secret mission?  And really, what is the mission?  It’s never truly explained even after Captain Grimm comes back.  And the mission is never even explained to those involved.  Everyone was on a need to know basis truly to the detriment of themselves and their own safety.  Without knowing what the true danger was, they walked blindly from one disaster to another.  I can understand why Captain Grimm would undertake the mission, he was being bribed.  After the near destruction of his airship, Predator, he was offered the necessary repairs to make his airship whole again.  With no strings attached.  Who wouldn’t play babysitter to a bunch of kids being sent on a super secret mission?

The characters didn’t suffer, thankfully.  Even with the lack of backstory, each character had their own voice and you could easily get a picture of each one of them and this is what truly led the story.  The characters and their interactions.  I think my favorite character will have to be Rowl, but I’m also a fan of cats and his snarky attitude fit perfectly with how I think my cats would talk to me if I could understand them like his Littlemouse can.  While a lot of readers didn’t’ really care for the cats, I thought that they added a bit of fun to the book.

The battle scenes were well done, very intense and even though you were pretty sure that the main characters were going to make it out of this book alive, you were never entirely sure.  There are two battles that still stand out in my mind and they weren’t even the climatic airship battles at the end of the book.  They involved spider-like monsters and cats saving the day.  Who doesn’t like it when the cat saves the day?  It was a lot of fun and the action was very fast paced and kept you on the edge of your seat.

The story flowed very well and very quickly.  This is probably one of the longest books that I’ve read by Jim Butcher and he managed to make it feel like a much shorter book.  If you’re in the mood for some fun battle scenes, talking cats and a world where magic and steam-powered airships rule the skies, pick this one up.  This will not be a book for everyone and for anyone who needs to have more backstory and more explanation as to the WHY factor, you may want to steer clear.  I’ll be giving the next book in the series a chance and I hope that he’ll build in more of the WHY factor.  The Aeronaut’s Windlass didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it was still a good book overall.

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