Monday, January 30, 2017

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard

Glass Sword (Red Queen, #2)Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publication Date: February 9, 2016

Can we say "cliffhanger"?! Omg, Victoria Aveyard, how could you do this to me? I follow you faithfully through every page and you just leave me like this, hanging, needing to know what happens next but unable to do anything but pre order King's Cage and wait. I don't know if I can hold on until February 7th (a whole WEEK away!), I just don't know if I can do it. I have been wanting to read this series for quite some time now and I picked up Red Queen earlier this month with Glass Sword on deck and King's Cage on pre order, when deep down I knew this was going to be a binge worthy series that I should wait to begin only when I had all three books in hand. Unfortunately, patience is a virtue that I don't possess.

I was really impressed with this book. It's been especially fascinating for me to watch Mare Barrow change, evolve, grow and at times it seems digress. Aveyard did an excellent job with the character development and there are a lot of deep layers being revealed and peeled away the deeper we dive into her story and I'm interested to see how that will continue in the next book. I enjoyed Red Queen a lot but I think this book was even better. It was extremely fast paced and so much happened, so much was revealed about both the characters and the storyline, there were so many more interesting characters introduced in this book and it wasn't all predictable sunshine and rainbows, there were twists and betrayals, unexpected deaths of important characters and unlikely alliances that I didn't see coming.

I love the whole premise of the world that Aveyard created where a select few have special abilities including the affinity to control and conjure lighting, see the future, become invisible, defy gravity, read and control the thoughts of others, alter physical appearance and many more abilities that were fascinating to read about and imagine, not only for the obvious positive effects they had on an individual but also the negativity that accompanies the unknown and misunderstood and the fear of what is different. This world world also had a lot of negative characteristics that were, unfortunately, realistic and relatable both historically and even still in the present day world we live in like the discrimination, segregation and punishment of those who are different and thought to be inferior, the vulgar abuse of the great responsibility that accompanies power and leadership and the possibility of good and evil existing in everyone. Unfortunately their were many disturbing parallels between the government and citizens from this novel and the world we live in today and perhaps that was unintentional but I still found it to be very interesting and rather eye opening.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable read that I gave a five star rating. It had many typical aspects of YA fantasy, that I enjoy, with a bit of a dystopian twist and more than one romantic connection, plenty of betrayal, impressive character development, plot twists and a great storyline that when combined created an exceptional novel. My only complaint is that I don't have the next book, King's Cage, already in hand!

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Scores: How I Opened the Hottest Strip Club... by Michael D. Blutrich

Scores: How I Opened the Hottest Strip Club in New York City, Was Extorted out of Millions by the Gambino Family, and Became One of the Most Successful Mafia Informants in FBI HistoryScores: How I Opened the Hottest Strip Club in New York City, Was Extorted out of Millions by the Gambino Family, and Became One of the Most Successful Mafia Informants in FBI History by Michael D. Blutrich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Expected Publication Date: January 31, 2017

I really wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I'm typically not a big fan, or reader, of non-fiction or autobiographies, however, I love a well written, trashy memoir that is full of sex, scandal and corruption. This book definitely fit the part!

As a longtime listener of Howard Stern and lifelong resident of the northeast I've certainly heard of Scores before but my knowledge of the establishment was limited to the fact that it was very prestigious, in terms of strip clubs, where only the most beautiful women we're gainfully employed and didn't dance for just the occasional dollar bill but rather shattered the glass ceiling bringing home over six figures annually while working 3 days per week.

That was my perception, and I don't think it was all that inaccurate, but I had no idea what went on behind the scenes with management and the MOB, the Gambino family in particular, and all the crime and corruption that was either kept out of the headlines completely or at least never reached my local newspaper from what memory serves. This book was a real eye opener and I was completely captivated by the telling of it. The author and narrator, Michael D. Blutrich had my attention from the very first page and he managed to hold it until the very last. Not the typical owner of a nightclub that makes millions off of female sex appeal, this gay, Jewish, New Yorker brought an unexpected dynamic to the telling of his story. This struck me as a very open and honest account of the rise and the decent of his business and personal life paved with good intentions that were poorly executed with many bad decisions especially jumping into bed with MOB which ultimately costs him not only his freedom but also his identity and puts his very life on the line. This book has murder, mayhem, betrayal, corruption, FBI investigation and informants, prison sentences, witness protection, sex, scandal and celebrities. There's something for everyone in this book that reads like a fast paced fiction novel while exposing the underbelly and inner workings of a notorious New York nightclub the way only someone who actually experienced it firsthand could express.

I found this book to be extremely interesting and informative (no pun intended) because it exposed me to a world and way of life that is completely foreign to me and it read like something out of a Hollywood movie so the fact that this is a true story makes it even more compelling from start to finish. This wasn't a dry, slow going account with pages of boring facts that were only included to increase word count but should have been edited out, this was a must read page turner that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend!

I received an advanced copy of this publication from Netgalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publication Date: October 15, 2015

OMG! This book was soooooo good! I'll be honest I was so reluctant to even dive into this read because of the mixed media format. I thought surely this isn't for me, however, I watched a review on book tube from someone whose opinion I trust (Christine @polandbananabooks) and she highly recommend the audio version of this book. So I took her advice and got this book from Audible and it was amazing! I can even articulate how good it was but the different voices, sound effects, special effects, along with a talented cast of narrators brought this story to life in a way that felt more like watching a movie than listening to a mixed media format audio book. I highly recommend that anyone who has even the slightest interest in Illuminae especially those who are intimidated or put off by the format, to try the audio version because it is so so good.

Aside from that, no matter how you read this book it's a really captivating, addicting novel. It takes place in outer space in the future, 2075, and gravitates around two teenagers, Kadey and Ezra, who recently went through a breakup and were then forced apart by extenuating circumstances but are able to remain in contact through emails and instant messages and such. This book has so many subplots and elements that create such a well rounded, unique and totally entertaining novel that you won't want to put it down and 600 pages will fly by like nothing! There's star crossed lovers, a virus outbreak resulting in zombie like afflicted, an artificial intelligence system that turns on its creators, outer space battles and corrupt corporations, all taking place on space stations and space ships in other galaxies in the future. Who wouldn't want to read about that. It sounds like a lot to include in one book but the storyline, the plot and the character development is all so well executed that every element fits into place to create a really great read that kept me one my toes and not wanting to put it down. As soon as I finished this book I immediately went back on Audible and purchased Gemina, book two in this series. I highly recommend this book to everyone and definitely think the audio version is the way to go with these books although the hard copies are absolutely gorgeous and great for any book lover to add to their shelves. Don't be deterred by the multi media format because after you get into the compelling story you don't even notice it.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Above Suspicion by Joe Sharkey

Above SuspicionAbove Suspicion by Joe Sharkey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: January 17, 2017

Non-fiction books are not my typical genre. I could probably count on one hand how many nonfiction I read last year. However, I am a true crime junkie! Although, my usual prefer preferred format is TV, which shows like Dateline or 20/20 and just about anything on the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel. So when I saw this book and read the synopsis I had to pick it up. I used to read a lot of true crime books. I've read almost everything written by Ann Rule, however, although they are generally very factually accurate and extremely detailed, I also find them to be extremely dry and slow reads. Having that in mind I was a bit apprehensive in reading this book, despite its appealing description, and very skeptical whether or not I would enjoy or even finish it – knowing worst case scenario I could always hold out for the movie. However, I'm glad I didn't wait. This book was worth the read!

This is a true story about an FBI agent named Mark Putnam, who seems to have it all – a supportive wife, two beautiful children, a successful career, but against his better judgment he engages in an extra marital affair with a drug addict name Susan, who also happens to be an informant on the FBI's payroll. This book is a detailed account of what leads up to this betrayal, the repercussions that follow, one poor decision after another, unbearable guilt, remorse, and regret as one man goes from having a happy, normal, existence to destroying not only his own life, but the lives of those closest to him as well.

This did not read like a typical, old-fashioned true crime. It was fast-paced, extremely interesting and engaging and I often forgot I was reading nonfiction. The author, Joe Sharkey, did a great job collecting facts and researching this book. It was in debt and informative but again, very enjoyable and easy to read. I am looking forward to to watching the movie adaptation which is scheduled for release sometime this year (2017), directed by Philip Noyce and starring Jake Houston, and the lovely Emilia Clarke who I adore from Game of Thrones and Me Before You. Both, coincidentally, also originated as books adapted to TV and film. I highly recommend this read to anyone who enjoys true crime, fast-paced thrillers, investigative reporting, or just an overall exciting, eventful read.

I received an advanced copy of Above Suspicion from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

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I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

I'm Thinking of Ending ThingsI'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publication Date: July 14, 2016

WOW! This crazy little book just took me for a ride...and all I can say is WOW!

I'm Thinking of Ending Things was a little slow getting started because nothing really happened until about pg 80 but i could tell it was building up for something and that I'd either be very disappointed or very pleased with the outcome. Luckily I was pleased. This is definitely a book that's best read without knowing much, if anything, so I'm not really going to get into a description or summary, other than to say it's about a guy named Jake and his girlfriend, who is also the narrator but whose name is never revealed. They're going on a long car ride to have dinner with Jake's parents, all the while she's thinking of ending things with him. It's very well written and nicely paced although, it's not a very long book, about 205 pages, but I couldn't put it down because I was dying to figure out wtf was going on and the further I read the more I needed to know, it was very well paced for optimum tension and anticipation! Iain Reid did an amazing job both creating an atmosphere that is both terrifying and extremely realistic and deceiving his readers.

Psychological thrillers can either be the best books, when done well, or the worst books, when done poorly and this book was one of the best! Reid has way of creating scenes that I can imagine myself apart of and he knows how to give his readers the ability to really empathize with his characters and what they are experiencing on a very deep and personal level, literally giving me goosebumps as I was reading. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this book when I started it but I knew I would either love it or hate it, as the reviews of others have reflected in pretty much equal measure, but I thought it was amazing and I would love to read more by this author and hope he continues to pursue writing fiction.

This book is like reading a puzzle, with bits and pieces that finally come together at the end creating a final result that is incredible and leaves the reader feeling satisfied (and possibly a little shaken up). I don't know why I'm Thinking of Ending Things is not getting higher ratings but to each their own, I guess. I loved it and I'd love to see it made into a movie. If you're a fan of really griping, suspenseful, psychological thrillers this book is for you.

There's a little blurb on the cover that reads "You will be scared. But you won't know why..." and that couldn't be more accurate.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Buzz Books 2016: Young Adult Fall/Winter

Buzz Books 2016: Young Adult Fall/WinterBuzz Books 2016: Young Adult Fall/Winter by Publishers Lunch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publication Dates: May 2, 2016

I've read several of the Buzz Book Publications and have greatly appreciated the reference they provided in helping decide what to read, and specifically, what to read next! The YA 2016 fall/winter edition was certainly no exception. I've been on a bit of a YA kick as of late, fueled in part by all the attention the genre gets on book tube and blogs that I follow but there are always so many new books coming out all the time in this genre, that it's hard to narrow it down to the one book I'm capable of reading at one time. I've found that often I either love ya or hate it and can usually tell with in the first chapter or two what category a book will fall into, not always, but most of the time. With that being said this handy dandy little reference is must have for me and readers like me and I've found it to be an excellent tool for helping me find excellent reads, beefing up my tbr shelf significantly, and also in steering me away from books that have gotten good reviews but either aren't what I was expecting or don't appear to be something I would enjoy. This particular edition is of 20 different fall/winter 2016 YA reads and it includes, for each novel sample featured, a brief summary, a lengthy excerpt from the books, and a small bio about the author, in that order. I believe that any and all readers who enjoy reading from the YA genre need this little gem on their bookshelf. I easily rated it 5 out of 5 stars - now that's not to say that all 20 of the featured books with samples within deserve, or will receive, 5 stars individually, but this publication as a whole, which readers the opportunity to gain insight and reference on their next read, is certainly deserving of 5 stars, in my opinion.

I received a copy of this publication from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Buzz Books 2016: Fall/Winter

Buzz Books 2016: Fall/Winter: Exclusive Excerpts from 40 Top New TitlesBuzz Books 2016: Fall/Winter: Exclusive Excerpts from 40 Top New Titles by Publishers Lunch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publication Date: May 2, 2016

These publications are difficult to review because it's not one specific work but rather a sample of several books that have received a certian amount of hype, all published in fall and winter of 2016. For what it is, I absolutely adore this little gem and other similar samplers, as an excellent reference tool to get a feel for upcoming popular releases and to read the beginning of these books prior to purchasing to get an accurate impression of the writing and the storyline. I find that 99% of the time I can tell within the first two chapters weather or not a book is going to entice my interest enough to continue reading on and this sampler is the perfect way to form that opinion as well as an excellent tool in helping one decide on what to read next, or what to read period. I've found that 9 times out of 10 the features in this publication are excellent selections that I thoroughly enjoy and more often than not they are also selections that I wouldn't have personally picked out without the suggestion. This is a handy reference tool and an excellent companion for all readers and reviewer's out there and I highly recommend this to everyone - from avid reader to novice- this is definitely a must have!
This is definitely a five out of five star rating for me, although, that's not to say that all the novel featured within will receive five stars but rather the ability for one to sample these featured novels deserves five stars.

I received a copy of this publication from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: September 29, 2015

"Let's say my currency carries more sway."
"Money is money."
"I trade and information… the things men do when they think no one is looking. Shame holds more value than coin ever can. "

Six of Crows is a story about six thieves from the bottom of the Barrel (*you see what I just did there?), hired to carry out an impossible heist for a ridiculous pay out. The leader of this unlikely crew is Kaz, a member of mysterious and relentless bad ass, who at the age of 17 already has developed quite the name and reputation for himself and is known by locals as "dirty hands". He carries a cane with a crows head for the handle and is never seen without his notorious black leather gloves, creating plenty of rumors and speculation about what he's hiding underneath. His crew is just as mysterious and extremely diverse, although, as the story progresses we are revealed bits and pieces of their pasts and explanations of how and why they turned out as they are and exactly what this conquest means to each of them individually. Their group is made up of both allies and enemies and when they are forced to trust each other with their lives and freedom during this impossible mission the only thing they can truly rely on is that nothing and no one is always as it seems.

I was very much looking forward to beginning reading this and do well, although, I've never read anything byLeigh Bardugo, these books are highly recommended with excellent reviews from readers whose opinions I value and trust. However, I made it about 150 pages in and was honestly about ready to quit. I just found it to be incredibly slow paced with all the foreign names and places. It was hard for me to keep everything straight and it was beginning to feel like a chore to pick it up and continue reading – not a quality I look for or enjoy in a book. I decided to stick with it and give the audio version a try, went on Audible to pick up where I left off and that made all the difference! I'm so glad that I stuck it out because the story was fantastic! All the plot twists, deceit and betrayal, make it impossible to predict the outcome – a quality I adore in the books I read – and the ending makes me want to run start reading Crooked Kingdom immediately! All the hype surrounding this book was definitely justified, in my opinion, and I'm so glad that I didn't give up on it.

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The Fifth Petal (The Lace Reader-book 2) by Brunonia Barry

The Fifth Petal (The Lace Reader, #2) The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: January 24, 2017

I received a copy of The Fifth Petal without realizing, initially, that it was book #2 in The Lace Reader series. I've never read anything by Brunonia Barry before but I was so intrigued by the description on the back of The Fifth Petal that I went out and bought myself a copy of book 1, The Lace Reader, thoroughly enjoyed it and immediately read The Fifth Petal right afterwards. I was equally pleased and impressed with the second book in this series.

Its a book that I find is very difficult to define, as far as genre goes because there are so many different categories it could fit into ...there's a bit of mystery/suspense, a bit paranormal/New age/magic, some romantic/contemporary aspects, all thrown into it in equal measure making it impossible for me to classify into just one category.

The novel is about a series of murders, one incident from over 20 years prior in which three women were killed and a little girl was spared and a second incident years later, when a teenager died under questionable circumstances. The common link in both is Rose, a local historian turned crazy person who was present at both incidents and claims a banshee killed the victims with its screams. The general assumption of the town is that Rose committed the murders and her crazy ramblings are viewed as proof. Detective John Rafferty, along with Rose's psychiatrist, and Call I, the little girl now grown who witnessed the first murders and has now returned to try to get the truth from Rose, all try to uncover the truth of what really happened.

I loved the mix of reality and magic in this book but it was magic that didn't seem all that unbelievable especially when set in Salem, Massachusetts with its notoriety for witches and witchcraft. It was also a nice follow-up to The Lace Reader with reoccurring characters like Rafferty and his now wife, Towner, yet the storyline was completely new and honestly I think this could be read as a standalone and still be very much understood, although it's great to have the backstory of the characters and a better grasp on their development so I would definitely recommend reading these books in order. Being from New England myself I felt Barry did an excellent job capturing the feel and charm of a northeast coastal town filled with hard-working, three dimensional characters that were easy for me to understand and relate to. This book also did a great job illustrating the effects of trauma and grief over the course of many years in the lives of several individuals and how differently it can affect different people.

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys murder mystery detective novels, or new age paranormal romances because this book truly has a little bit of something for everyone. I'm giving The Fifth Petal four out of five stars.

I received an advanced readers copy of The Fifth Petal from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Shadow Queen (Ravenspire #1) by C.J. Redwine

The Shadow Queen (Ravenspire, #1)The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publication Date: February 16, 2016

I'll be honest, this probably isn't a book I would have normally went out and purchased, however, I received an ARC of 'The Wish Granter', book #2 in the Ravenspire series, and sequel to 'The Shadow Queen' and I was intrigued enough to give the series a try (great marketing by Balzer + Bray). I opted to go with the audio version on audible which is my preferred format for reading high fantasy, especially book 1 in a series containing unique names and places with difficult pronunciations that would slow me down where I reading the hardcopy. The narrator, Khristine Hvam, did a good job, not a great job, I would have liked to see a bit more of a range of contrast when narrating the different characters, especially the villain, but overall she captured the essence of the story and sufficiently gave it a life and a voice. I would listen to her narration for other books in the future.

The Shadow Queen is a retelling of snow white in which Lorelai, the teenage heroine escaped the wrath of her evil aunt turned stepmother, Irina, when she was a young girl. Irina has assumed that both Lorelai and her younger brother, Leo, were killed along with their father when I Reena bewitched the kingdom and took over the crown. However, rumors of Lorelai's existence cause Irina to negotiate a blood oath with Kol - the young and newly appointed king of Elder, who has the ability to transform from human to Dragon at will -to hunt down Lorelai the rightful queen of Ravenspire, and return with her heart. The blood oath ensures that if Kol fails at this mission he will die but if he succeeds Irina has agreed to use her magic to save his people, the kingdom of Elder from the certain annihilation brought on by an opposing force that is quickly closing down upon them. To guarantee his cooperation, Irina takes Kol's human heart as collateral, leaving him with only his predatorial dragons heart, as she sends him out to do her bidding.

Will Irina succeed in destroying Lorelai, the last and only threat that could take away her crown and reclaim her birthright as the queen of Ravenspire or has Irina greatly underestimated the strength and power of Lorelai's magic and the loyalty of her friends and followers???

Overall, I rate this story with 3.5 stars. It wasn't my favorite book of all time but it wasn't horrible either. I found the characters to be a bit flat and the storyline was quite predictable, but considering this was a retelling of a fairytale I guess that was to be expected. It was entertaining enough but lacking in any real substance but I will continue to read C.J. Redwine and look forward to book 2 in the Ravenspire series, The Wish Granter, said to be a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin and from what I can tell from the synopsis, has completely different characters altogether, which is a bit of a disappointment in my opinion. I definitely highly recommend the audio version opposed to the regular print version of this book.

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Throne of Glass (Book 1) by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: August 7, 2012

"Your scars are awful" he said, almost whispering. She put a hand on her hip and walked to the dressing room door. "We all bear scars, Dorian.… Mine just happened to be more visible than most."

I feel very accomplished, and less like I'm missing out on a significant reading experience, to have finally read Throne of Glass, book one of the five book fantasy series, by epic storyteller, Sarah J. Maas. I was not disappointed.

In this book we are introduced to our heroine, 18-year-old, world renowned, female assassin, Celaena Sardothien. Fresh out of prison, more specifically, the salt mines of Endovier, A notorious DEF can't wear few survive more than a couple months of hard labor and brutal conditions, and no one gets out alive. But Celaena is retrieved from Endovier by Prince Dorian Havilliard personally and he propositions the young assassin with the opportunity to be his champion in a competition to determine who the best of the baddest is, the winner of which will be named the kings assassin. Furthermore, if Celaena when's this is steamed title, after four years of service to the king (who she utterly despise is for conquering her country and enslaving her people), she will be granted not only a clean slate and a fresh start but also her freedom, a liberty and luxury that the good hearted assassin has never experienced. Despite her profession, we learn that Celaena is morally sound, loyal and just, although a bit misguided, who has fallen victim to her circumstances yet managed to hold onto her integrity and spirit and has merely done what has been necessary for her survival and nothing more.

Now, Celaena finds herself an unlikely guest at the Kings Castle as more than one prestigious mail admirer tries to win her affection and attention while jealous onlookers will stop at nothing to see the assassin gone for good. However, Celaena's attention tries to remain focused on the multitude of tests she must compete in before the ultimate battle for the title of kings assassin. With so much at stake and everything to lose Celaena tries not to be distracted when her competitors keep turning up dead, brutally mutilated by someone or something that can only be defined as pure evil yet elusive and at large.

Celaena finds herself fighting for more than just her freedom while the scars from her hunting past won't allow her to forget where she came from and what she's at risk of returning to, all the while making unexpected connections and friendships, despite herself, only to learn that both allies and enemies aren't always as they appear.

I enjoyed reading this book tremendously. Celaena is a bad-ass bitch! An entertaining protagonist, likable, albeit flawed, and overall an absolute pleasure to read about. It was impossible not to become invested in her. It was obvious that this was only the beginning of Celaena's story and Maas set the stage for an intriguing, addictive saga. The romantic-triangle subplot was also nicely laid out, without overpowering the storyline but suggesting more will be revealed as the series progresses.

I'm giving Throne of Glass 4 out of 5 stars and for readers who enjoy YA fantasy with a strong, kick-ass, female protagonist, this is a must-read series.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray

Cooking for PicassoCooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publication Date: August 9, 2016

This is the story about two women of the same family, living in different times and separate continents, who are connected by blood in history. The narration alternates between 17-year-old Ondine, a cook at her family's café in a small town on the French Riviera in 1936, and Celine, Ondine's granddaughter, who lives in present day California and learns from her ailing mother that Grandma Ondine once cooked exclusively for the great and notorious Picasso. With her mother's health in rapid decline, Celine finds herself traveling to the small town of Juan-les-Pins, France, in hopes to uncover the mysteries of her family's history and determine what part the great painter, if any, played in her grandmother Ondine's life and legacy.

This was my first introduction to author, Camille Aubray, and I was pleased to find she is an absolutely exquisite writer. I listened to the audio version of 'Cooking for Picasso' on CD and it was such a beautiful and relaxing experience that I was truly sad when the book was over. I primarily listen to audiobooks while driving in my car and I found myself purposefully taking longer routes and remaining in my vehicle even after reaching my destination in order to continue listening to this eloquent novel. Aubray's descriptive style and attention to detail made me feel like I was on holiday in the French Riviera, at a café in a little seaside village, enjoying authentic French cuisine, cooked to order and prepared with love.

My boyfriend is an inspiring chef who recently returned to school for a degree in culinary arts and he listened to most of this book along with me (which isn't at all typical behavior for him) and he was completely captivated by all the references to food preparation and cooking and all the detailed descriptions of French meals and the ingredients included to make them, as was I.

Overall, this book was an absolute joy and I feel I must give credit not only to the author, but also to the talented narrator, Mishandled Marino, who did a wonderful job giving voice to these three-dimensional, complex, characters and really bringing the story to life. The only complaint I have is a very minor one and more of a technical issue then one with the writing itself and that is that I felt like the narration speed was extremely slow and I would have liked the narrator to pick up the pace significantly because at times it felt like it was being read in slow motion to me. However, after a while I was able to adjust, somewhat, but I normally get my audio books from Audible, where I have the option of adjusting the narration speed and I normally set it to x1.5 or x2, when listening. But again, that is just a personal preference and, of course, no fault of the authors so it did not affect my ratings for this book to which I happily gave five out of five stars! I highly recommend this book, especially to those readers who enjoy beautifully descriptive writing, art lovers, or "foodies."
Bon appéti!

I received a complimentary copy of 'Cooking for Picasso' from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

The Lace Reader (#1) by Brunonia Barry

The Lace Reader (The Lace Reader, #1)The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: September 1, 2007

I received an ARC of The Fifth Petal without realizing, initially, that it was book #2 in The Lace Reader series and I found myself intrigued enough from the description that, upon that realization, I purchased a copy of The Lace Reader from Audible.

After finishing this novel I'm a little bit confused by the storyline, specifically after certain revelations towards the end which I won't disclose, but overall it was a very complex story with a lot of moving parts and different characters and at times I found it difficult to keep everything and everybody sorted and straight. I had to go back and reread several passages and paragraphs on more than one occasion throughout the book, however, that could be attributed to the fact that it was an audio book with so many layers to it. That's the only reason why I rated this four out of five-stars opposed to giving it a five star review but other than that minor complaint I really enjoyed this novel a lot. I've noticed a lot of negative reviews for The Lace Reader on Goodreads which goes to show that you can't always go by the opinions of others because everyone's take is unique. I was especially attracted to the setting of this story, modern day Salem, Massachusetts, being a New England native myself and living just north of Salem in Portland, Maine I have visited the area several times and was therefore really able to connect to this story and visualize the different scenes. It even made reference to my home town of Portland and mentioned different landmarks that I frequently go to so that's always fun.

This story is told from the point of view of Towner, the female protagonist who returns home to Salem after years removed when she gets word that her beloved aunt has gone missing. Tower comes from a long line of Lace Readers who are gifted with the sight and can see premonitions of future events, among other supernatural abilities and are thought of as modern day witches of Salem. When Towner returns she is forced to face her haunting past filled with tragedy and family secrets that have nearly driven her crazy. Meanwhile a cult of religious fanatics run by Cal, an abusive preacher who has brought nothing but pain to the women in Towner's family, herself included, remains a constant threat while a good intentioned detective, with demons of his own, tries to bring Cal to justice before he can cause any more pain and damage. This is a very diverse book with a few fantasy/paranormal elements, a bit of myself and suspense and also a romantic triangle, or quartet rather, thrown in to really thicken the plot. It's about relationships, family, loss and grief and mental illness and also addresses domestic violence and the patterns of abuse that a battered woman suffers. Somehow Brunonia Barry was able to weave all these complex themes together to create a beautifully written, creatively original and undeniably unique novel that I really enjoyed and highly recommend to all female readers of fiction. I'm very much looking forward to reading the second book in The Lace Reader series, The Fifth Petal, in the very near future and I cannot wait to take another trip to Salem, Massachusetts.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

A List of CagesA List of Cages by Robin Roe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Expected Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Oh my God what a book! What a heartbreaking, beautiful, horrible, story of human beings at their very worst and very best. I didn't know a lot about A List of Cages before I began reading it aside from the fact that it had two teenage protagonists- 14 year old Julian and 18 year old Adam Blake, so this book really caught me off guard and took me for one hell of an emotional ride! This book is full of "feels" so be prepared! It's beautifully written, with such a unique and powerful storyline that deals with several controversial issues including learning disabilities, the foster care system and mental health issues as well abuse and how to handle a situation when someone you know is being abused.

I really enjoyed reading this story and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone! It's hard for me to review this book because it's so unique and unlike anything I've read before. The narration alternates between the two protagonists, Adam and Julian, who have known each other since they were young children. They are now in high school, Adam a senior and Julian a freshman, and are reconnecting for the first time in several years since Julian moved in with an uncle after living with Adam in foster care for several months after his own parents died unexpectedly. They are both exceptional characters who I found myself completely attached to and invested in and by the end of the book I cared deeply for both of them in different ways.

I don't want to say too much about the plot but it's a great read and don't just take my word for it - get this book for yourself and read it! This book comes out on January 10 and I think it's going to be a huge hit in the ya world in 2017 and I'm very anxious to read more by Robin Roe!

I received an ARC of A List of Cages from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles, #1)The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publication Date: July 8, 2014

I wasn't overly impressed with this book but honestly I heard so much hype around it and so many misleading reviews that I don't think my expectations were realistic, therefore, I guess I kind of set myself up for disappointment. I heard that this book had an amazing plot twist and the author did such a phenomenal job deceiving her readers so I was totally looking forward to be deceived and that absolutely DID NOT happen (pouty face). The 'major plot twist' turned out to be relatively minor in the grand scheme of things and completely transparent, not to mention predictable. Maybe it appeared that way for me because I was expecting to be deceived and therefore over analyzing and over critical to what was going on, which is unfortunate because I like a good surprise plot twist as much of the next reader. Just a word to the wise...if you pick this book up based on all the hype, expecting epic deceit, prepare to be let down.

Having said that, this wasn't a bad book in it's own right, nor can it be blamed for the hype surrounding it, or for my disagreeing with other reviews. It was the average ya fantasy/romance novel. It certainly wasn't high fantasy, at least not so far in the series, but there were definitely some magical elements going on. This was a story about a princess, called Lia, who was betrothed to a prince from another kingdom whom she was to marry without ever having been introduced, for the sake of political alliance and peace between the two nations. However, she didn't agree with this idea so she ran away and went into hiding, living as a common peasant, meanwhile, the prince and an assassin hired to kill her are both tracking her, each with his own, very different, agenda.

My other major complaint with The Kiss of Deception is the ending. I thought it was so inconclusive that I cannot rate this higher than three stars because I am so aggravated! I knew this was book one in a series of at least three books so obviously I didn't expect everything to be wrapped up, cut and dried, at the end of the first book but I felt like the conclusion was so inconclusive that it doesn't feel like the book even ended and I got little to know satisfaction after reading nearly 500 pages! Not cool. I hope book two is an improvement because if it's any worse I won't be reading any further into The Remnant Chronicles.

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: March 2, 2010

This isn't a book that I would typically pick up an read and it was my first time reading Seth Grahame-Smith or anything Abraham Lincoln related, however loosely. I was introduced to this book when I began listening to the preview for it on audible and I was so intrigued that I bought the audio book and I actually ended up loving it! I don't think I would have liked this book nearly as much if I had read it in paper format, or e-book for that matter, because the audible narrator, Scott Holst, was phenomenal! He really brought the story and the characters to life and completely captivated me in the process. Obviously this was a very loose reselling of the life of Abraham Lincoln but I have to admit there was a lot of historical accuracy, aside from the vampires and the hunting of them, of course, but I learned a lot about Lincoln's childhood and family life as well as what it was like growing up in that day and age of American history. Grahame-Smith did an amazing job of collaborating fantastical elements with historical events to create a re-telling that was entertaining and informative in equal measure. I'm looking forward to reading more of his books like this and the next one on my TBR shelf is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, historical non-fiction, or books about Vampires and I definitely recommend listening to this book in audio format for an even better experience!

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Fickle by Peter Manus

FickleFickle by Peter Manus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Expected Publication Date: January 17, 2017

I know they say you should never judge a book by its cover but I'll be honest- I do. Quite frequently, in fact. This book was no exception in that sense. Although the cover wasn't extremely exciting, there was something about it and about the title, "Fickle, " and the fact that this is one of my favorite genres - mystery, that intrigued me enough to check out the synopsis and decide to read this book. I've never before read anything by Peter Manus, in fact I believe this is actually his debut novel but I was certainly impressed by him and will look forward to, hopefully, reading his future publications. This was a book unlike anything I've ever read before and it was so creative and so unique in the way he created the format of the story, set up as different blog posts and comments with characters consisting of the blogging community. How very cool! Being an avid blogger myself, and a huge fan and followers of other blogs, I could easily relate to, and appreciate, this format and I have a lot of respect for Peter Manus because he was able to create such a compelling and very complex novel, within the limits of blog posts- very impressive and nicely done.

This story is about a woman who is known in the blogging community as "fickle" who witnesses what appears to be a suicide at a Boston subway and there is suspicion around her connection, if any, with the deceased and weather or not she is in anyway responsible for the untimely death. I don't want to give much more away then that but I will say this is a very complex novel with a lot of layers and depth. I really enjoyed this book and I wasn't sure that I was going to, considering the format, but again, it was wonderfully executed and I give it a four out of five star rating and highly recommend it.

I received an ARC of Fickle from Netgalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased, review.

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Fall 2016 Debut Fiction Sampler

Fall 2016 Debut Fiction SamplerFall 2016 Debut Fiction Sampler by Various
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publication Date: 2016

I know this is a little late to be reviewed seeing how it's a sampler for books released in the fall of 2016 and we are now in the Winter of 2017, however, the books included in this great little gem of a publication are still fairly new releases by any standard and this sampler is a great way to get acquainted with them, if you will. I do apologize for the cover pic, or lack there of, use your imagination :)

I really love these samplers put out by Netgalley, this one specific to fall 2016, as a way to get more insight from a book then a synopsis gives and it's a great way to preview a novel prior to purchase. There are six novels featured in this sampler and the preview you are given for each is quite significant and more than just a couple of pages. I read this on my Kindle and received at least the first 30 pages per book which is definitely enough to get a feel for the writing style, the storyline and plot and an introduction to the characters in order to judge weather or not the book is something you want to continue reading. The six featured samples included in this publication are as follows:

The Mothers: A Novel by Brit Bennett (Riverhead)
The Girls: A Novel by Emma Cline (Random House)
Dark Matter: A Novel by Blake Crouch (Crown)
Sweetbitter: A Novel by Stephanie Danler (Knopf)
Homegoing: A Novel by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf)
A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel by Amor Towles (Viking)

Of that selection I have personally, so far, read The Girls and Dark Matter because of my piqued interest after reading the sample of each book in this publication and they were both 5 star reads that I thoroughly enjoyed. I'm looking forward to reading the other four novels featured in this sampler as well, especially The Mothers.

This is a great way to get inspiration for your TBR shelf and i highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading fiction novels especially if they like to have an idea of what they are getting before they go out and purchase a book. I especially enjoy this because 99% of the books I purchase I buy from online companies so I don't have the luxury of actually flipping through the book like I would at a physical bookstore so I usually have to rely on the brief description provided in the synopsis, or from the reviews of other readers, so this publication is a great resource for me, and for the countless other out there who purchase their books online.

I received Fall 2016 Debut Fiction Sampler from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Stalked by Elizabeth Heiter

Stalked (The Profiler #4)Stalked by Elizabeth Heiter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: December 27, 2016

I'm a sucker for a good suspense/thriller/mystery - definitely one of my guilty pleasures- so when I saw StalkedI was totally intrigued and had to indulge. I'm not at all familiar with this author, in fact, I've never read anything by Elizabeth Heiter before and when I picked up Stalked I wasn't aware that it was book four of the Profiler series but I took a risk and read it anyway and this book can absolutely be read as a stand alone. I'm sure that had I read the series in order I would have a better understanding of some of the characters and their backgrounds but I understood what was going on perfectly well and there were no holes in the storyline or missing pieces that I was able to pick up on. I don't want to giveaway much about this because I think it's one of those books you're better off going into without a lot of expectations, if any, and if you like this genre you can already get a feel for what the book will be like without knowing and specific details. Overall this was your typical suspense/thriller/mystery novel with a strong, professional female protagonist and a bit of a romantic interest tied in with some twists and good old edge-of-your-seat reading to make up a really good book. This is one of those books that is fun to read, doesn't require a lot of brain cells and isn't going to improve intellect or stimulate literary development but it's a very entertaining read. It was a quick read although fairly long, nearly 400 pages I believe, but it was fast paced and I got through it in just a couple of days.

I gave this book four out of five stars because I really enjoyed reading it and I look forward to reading more books in this series and by Elizabeth Heiter. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys this genre and if you like books by
Patricia Cornwall or Tana French definitely check out Stalked by Elizabeth Heiter.

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Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: February 10, 2015

This is a book that has been on my TBR shelf forever! So I'm really glad I have now finished book one in this series and I'm pleased to say that I enjoyed it immensely and I can't wait to read #2 sooner rather than later (hopefully). I've heard so much about this book since it's been out, it's still all the rage on Booktube and other social media platforms but I feel like it's one of those books that's better to read if you are told very little about it ahead of time. I read and watched several "spoiler free" reviews and although they didn't come out and give anything specific away I still feel like I had an idea of what to expect and that took away from my overall reading experience so I'm not going to do that in this review. Regardless this was a really fun book to read and I've been on a total ya/fantasy kick as of late and this was certainly no exception. It was your typical ya fantasy novel with a female protagonist that had a bit of a Hunger Games/Divergent feel to it, although the storyline and the characters were totally different and completely unique to this particular novel but nevertheless it had a similar vibe to ya books I'd read, and thoroughly enjoyed, in the past. Following in the tradition of those two other trilogies, I would love to this series adapted to film...fingers crossed!

Again, I don't want to divulge to much, but this is a story about Mare, a teenager who was born and raised in a world divided by two types of humans, Reds and Silvers. Silvers are the dominant race, with special powers and all the advantages and they live comfortably, with complete control of the government, military and all other resources. Reds are inferior by birth, oppressed into basically slavery and sent off to the front lines of a never ending war on behalf of the Silvers when they reach 18 years of age. Mare is a Red by a series of events places her in the "protection" of Silver royalty, "hidden in plain sight" when a group calling themselves the "Scarlet Guard" threatens a rebellion against the Silvers and Mare is caught right in the middle and cannot trust anyone.

I gave this four out of five stars only because there were some chapters that seemed to drag on and I found myself skimming through but for the most part this book had a lot going on and held my attention. It's definitely a high fantasy novel with a bit of a romantic triangle thrown in to thicken the plot a bit and overall a great read that sets you right up for the second book in this series. I recommend to anyone who enjoys high fantasy ya, especially those who liked the Hunger Games and the Divergent trilogies.

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