Monday, October 31, 2016

Review: A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

Blurb from Goodreads:
Art restorer Emily Price has never encountered anything she can’t fix—until she meets Ben, an Italian chef, who seems just right. But when Emily follows Ben home to Italy, she learns that his family is another matter . . .

Emily Price—fix-it girl extraordinaire and would-be artist—dreams of having a gallery show of her own. There is no time for distractions, especially not the ultimate distraction of falling in love.

But Chef Benito Vassallo’s relentless pursuit proves hard to resist. Visiting from Italy, Ben works to breathe new life into his aunt and uncle’s faded restaurant, Piccollo. Soon after their first meeting, he works to win Emily as well—inviting her into his world and into his heart.

Emily astonishes everyone when she accepts Ben’s proposal and follows him home. But instead of allowing the land, culture, and people of Monterello to transform her, Emily interferes with everyone and everything around her, alienating Ben’s tightly knit family. Only Ben’s father, Lucio, gives Emily the understanding she needs to lay down her guard. Soon, Emily’s life and art begin to blossom, and Italy’s beauty and rhythm take hold of her spirit.

Yet when she unearths long-buried family secrets, Emily wonders if she really fits into Ben’s world. Will the joys of Italy become just a memory, or will Emily share in the freedom and grace that her life with Ben has shown her are possible?
My Review:
Two things I can say about all of Katherine Reay's books - I always devour them and I always love love love her heroines. I'm happy to report that A Portrait of Emily Price is no different!  What I loved about this book was how it captured that sense of freefall from A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man but in a modern way and with a woman as the protagonist.  This wasn't a re-telling but the allusion cannot be missed -- the struggle of the artist and the mixed emotions.  This was set between Atlanta and Italy (in the country, outside Florence) and both were lovely.  My only qualm was a bit of the ending -- there were parts I really liked but the build-up was not my favorite. Obviously, uncovering a family's deeply protected secret is usually not nice or good but it felt extra out of place here.  Still, I liked this one a lot and have come to anxiously await each of this author's releases.

A Portrait of Emily Price comes out tomorrow on November 1, 2016 and you can purchase HERE. I definitely recommend this one if you like contemporary women's fiction that is a bit of a spin on a classic (here, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, one of my favorites).  I have loved all of this author's works so far!
It was at night Ben and I found each other. He'd crawl into bed beside me and drag me back against his chest, and I'd whisper the same question into the darkness, "How was your day?" 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Mini Reviews: Battle of the Holiday Flops

Blurb from Goodreads:
Three friends, three wishes—one Christmas! 

Riley Erickson, her pregnant sister, Jo, and their friend Noel are all wishing for the same thing: the perfect man. Or at least men who are perfect for them. Riley's hasn't turned out to be too impressive, dumping her for her bridesmaid three weeks before the wedding. Jo's husband is being perfectly stubborn. And Noel has given up completely. 

When the three women visit a shopping-mall Santa on a lark, the guy is full of predictions. Riley's going to meet her perfect man in a memorable way. Noel is going to get a good man to go with that house she's trying desperately to buy. And Jo, well, a new man is about to come into her life. What on earth does that mean? She already has her hands full with the one she's got. As for Riley and Noel, they have some holiday challenges to meet… 

But Christmas wishes can come true, as these three women are about to discover. Because in spite of romantic setbacks and derailed dreams, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year!
My Review:


Oh man, this is the sort of book that makes you not like holiday romances -- it was just so bland and cliche.  Three women, two of them sisters and all of them friends, visit Santa at the mall in distress -- each is unhappy with their life, with work, romance, marriage --  and Santa tells them everything will be alright. Soon, of course, all of Santa's predictions come true and everything turns out swimmingly for each of the women - new opportunities, new romance, a fixed marriage.  I don't think this one truly captured the holiday spirit for me because aside from Santa's wishes and this being set at Christmas, there wasn't any of the other feeling/setting.  Definitely will not be adding this to my annual list of holiday romance re-reads!
What should you serve someone you wanted to impress? It had to be good, because Noel needed to butter Ben Fordham up like a Thanksgiving dinner roll, convince him that he had to cut her a deal and let her have her house.  That was a tall order since the man was in the business of flipping houses.  That meant he wanted to make a profit. And that meant . . . 

Blurb from Goodreads:
A perfect, feel-good romantic novel to curl up with this Christmas. A story of new beginnings, love and friendship. Perfect for the fans of Jenny Colgan and Lucy Diamond.

Ellie Browne has left behind her high-flying job in London to return to the charming Buckinghamshire village of Little Leyton. Working shifts at The Dog and Duck and running her own doggy-day-care business, Ellie's looking for a much simpler way of life and a good old fashioned Christmas.

But Little Leyton’s landscape is changing; Johnny Tay, Ellie's ex, wants to pick up where they left off; sultry property developer Max Golding, has moved into the village and is ruffling feathers; and rumour has it that the pub, which holds a special place in Ellie's heart, might be sold. Suddenly, life’s looking a whole lot more complicated...

Can Ellie juggle her emotions and commitments in time to celebrate Christmas?
My Review:
Again, this one was a bit misleading with Christmas in the title because it was really more like a year at the Dog & Duck (the local pub) with Christmas only taking place in the last 18% of the book.  Regardless, this was a sweet premise if a bit saccharine.  It also involved serious questions between Ellie and Max -- mainly, that she spends the entire book not being told important things by Max and despite all of her concerns, just falls into a relationship with him.  I didn't get it; particularly, their chemistry and motivation seemed to be lacking.  Ellie was well-flushed out except in her thoughts and dealings with Max.  It was like she became a totally different person and we never really get to know Max, except as devious and an object of affection.  Lovely setting but serious plot deficiencies when it came to the romance.
Later as the carols sung by the Salvation Army wafted in to the pub from the High Street, I looked all around me, at the fire blazing in the hearth, the tree glimmering in the window and my lovely advent candle flickering behind the bar, finally being given its rightful chance to burn, and wondered if there'd been a time when I'd ever been happier.

Blurb from Goodreads:
A feast she wasn't expecting! 

Clover Greene would sooner crawl into her oven than host family for Thanksgiving dinner. Yet another annual ritual of too much food, served with a side of criticism over "Clover's Bad Life Choices." This year, she needs to distract them all—with a handsome fake boyfriend. And she has the perfect guy in mind. 

Contractor Erick Fields is the poster boy for sexy single dads, and Clover has been secretly crushing on him for ages. She certainly wasn't expecting Erick to agree to her insane charade…or to add lots of hot, wicked sex to the deal. If they can pull it off, the worst Thanksgiving ever might give them something to be really thankful for!
My Review:

Of these three, this was probably the one I was most looking forward to reading, and it was better than the two, because I'd read such great reviews of the first book in this series.  Unfortunately, although this had a few fun moments, it just didn't work for me.  One, the romance was WAY too fast. Even though these characters are acquaintances, it just seemed odd that they moved so fast into serious waters.  Two, although I liked that this was different in that the conflict in the book was not between the characters, I had issues with Clover's family to the point where they seemed so unrealistic and Erick's reaction to them seemed so over the top.  This was infinitely sexy, which can be a good thing, but the sexy-times seemed a bit over the top for me and were used to drive the plot forward in lieu of an actual plot line. I, however, seem to be in the minority re: this one so you may really love it!
"You," she said, narrowing her eyes at him.  "You make me happy." 
"And you . . . make me coffee. And if that's not another word for happy we need to change the thesaurus." He pulled her even closer and was grateful for the sudden influx of male body warmth. It couldn't have been more than fifty out this morning, which was great jeans-and -sweater weather and terrible "nothing but a bathrobe and boots" weather. 
Well I didn't have much luck with these holiday romances but maybe you'll have better luck with them! Three Christmas Wishes and Her Naughty Holiday were released earlier in the month on October 18, 2016, while Christmas at the Dog and Duck came out last month on September 22, 2016.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

If I Could Make My Favorite Bloggers Read Books, Part 1

If I Could Make My Favorite Bloggers Read Books is a new feature on my blog in which I discuss or, really, tell my favorite bloggers which books I really, really, really want them to read!!  This is the first post in a multi-part series because I had so much fun!

If I Could Make My Favorite Bloggers Read Books, Pt. 1

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Silver-Tongued Devil (Portland Devils, Book 1) by Rosalind James

 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.

Today, I am waiting on:  
Silver-Tongued Devil (Portland Devils, Book 1) by Rosalind James

No more wild rides. No more wild side.

Blake Orbison’s pro football career with the Portland Devils may have come crashing to an end, but not calling the signals anymore just gives him more time to devote to his business enterprises, including the latest and greatest: the opening of the Wild Horse Resort in scenic north Idaho. And that other one, too. Blake’s on the marriage track now, and he’s got a game plan. But when he runs into a trespasser leaping from his shoreline boulders into his lake, what’s a good ol’ boy to do but strip down and join her?

Dakota Savage is nobody’s temporary diversion, least of all the man responsible for her family’s semi-desperate circumstances. Some people may think she has a piercing too many, but she’s had more than enough of being called trash in this town. She’s come home to Wild Horse to run her stepfather’s painting business, and any extra time she has goes into creating her stained glass. An overpaid, entitled, infuriating NFL quarterback is no part of her life plan, no matter how sweet he talks. No matter how slow he smiles. No matter what.
Rosalind James' Escape to New Zealand series is probably my favorite contemporary romance series that's still being written; it's about hot rugby players in NZ.  So I definitely can't wait for her new series about the NFL! Silver-Tongued Devil is scheduled to be released on November 15, 2016!

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday??

Review: The Oslo Conspiracy by Asle Skredderberget, Translated by Paul Norlén

Blurb from NG:
The main character in Asle Skredderberget´s crime novels is Milo Cavalli. Half Norwegian and half Italian, he is definitely not your typical depressed Nordic noir investigator. In fact he´s quite the opposite. Milo is successful and attractive AND extremely rich. He goes to confession. He worries about his friends and family. And he taps into his family fortune whenever he needs to in order to crack the case he's working on.

In The Oslo Conspiracy, a scientist is found dead in a hotel room in Rome. Before she is strangled, she manages to scribble a few words on a piece of paper.

Milo Cavalli is sent to help out with the investigation in Italy, since he is familiar with Italian red tape. Milo finds the note from the scientist, and he also learns that earlier her kid brother had been executed by gang members in a schoolyard.

Milo becomes obsessed with finding out if there is a link between the two killings--the sister strangled in Italy and the brother shot in Norway. And he is willing to use his vast fortune and special connections—especially when those connections involve beautiful women-- to find the answers.

A new twist in thrillers, The Oslo Conspiracy is certain to captivate readers who like their heroes rich, handsome, caring, and very, very sexy.
My Review:
This is the English debut of what I gather to be a popular Norwegian crime thriller/mystery series starring the dashing Milo Cavalli.  Milo Cavalli is a half-Italian/half-Norwegian financial crimes detective  in Oslo who has left a successful career behind in the financial sector (although he is still plenty wealthy as he continually tells us) to give back to the community in the form of being a policeman.  And while I didn't mind Milo and his rather sleazy yet self-righteous and entitled attitude, I was bored with this 'thriller'.  There were so elements and outrageous connections between several different people and crimes that I not only had a hard time keeping track but I was unable to suspend my disbelief to find this to be a viable or worthy story.  I don't think I will read more books in this series, assuming they will also be translated, because the thriller aspect was missing for me.  It was really more of a police procedural, to be sure, but I can't even tell you that that part of the book was done well. The setting was okay -- from Rome to Oslo to New York -- but not enough to make me excited to read more.
The Oslo Conspiracy comes out today on October 25, 2016, and you can purchase HERE.
Not much of what his father had said to him while he was growing up had stuck, but one of his sayings had. 
"It's not about finding the right one, Emil. This time also has to be right. The right person, at the right time. It's not easy, damn it. Most people end up with the wrong person at the right time. Others find the right person, but the time is never right," Endre Thorkildsen had told his son.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: Believe (The Brightside #3) by Katie Delahanty

Blurb from Goodreads:
My name is Amanda Conrad and I. Am. A doctor.

When my cousin Liv whisked me away to South Africa to be maid of honor in her super-secret celebrity wedding, I was about to begin a five-year residency at NYU and was on my way to becoming a plastic surgeon. My plans definitely did not include a rock-star best man sweeping me off my feet.

But what happened in South Africa needed to stay there—he’d return to his touring and I’d start my residency, with our fond memories of a whirlwind, fairy-tale week. But now nothing feels right—I’m questioning my once solid plans, and I can’t stop thinking about him. Our lives are so different… Am I ready to risk everything I’ve worked for since I was thirteen—and put my heart on the line? To dream bigger than I ever thought possible? To believe I can have it all? That’s the thing about growing up...sometimes you have to be brave enough to redefine happily ever after. 
My Review:
This is the third book in this series although it could be read as a standalone (note, however, that the first two are definitely a duo to be read together and in order). And yet, the same magic from the first two books continues in this one as well!  I love love love Amanda -- we'd gotten to know her a bit in the first two books as being a sounding board for Liv but being inside her head felt so real. And I feel the same re: Matt.  We knew him a bit from the first two books but we really get to know him in this one.  The settings were so fun, too -- from Africa and its magic for the wedding to NYC where both Amanda and Matt have just moved for different reasons to being on the road together while Matt tours.  Having been on the road before with a band, I can tell you that this was accurate and nostalgic and fun.  I liked that this wasn't too serious because I was in the mood for that -- it was a bit more about trust and self-discovery but the romance was super cute as well.

I really think this is such a fun and funny underrated contemporary romance series -- bonus points if you like rockstar romance, too! Believe comes out today on October 24, 2016, and you can purchase HERE.
"What is it really about?" 
He thinks for a moment before responding with a smile. "I'll never tell."   
"Why not?"
"I learned that from Berkeley. As a writer, once a song is released it's not yours anymore. It belongs to the listener. I don't want to change it for you; it could ruin it. Music is memories; it can transport you back in time, and that song is a moment for me--it's what I needed then-- just as it became for you what you needed then. It's yours."  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Review: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

Blurb from Goodreads:
Philip K. Dick Award Winner for Distinguished Science Fiction.

When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead.

In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power—and the strong who possess it.

A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence.

After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.
My Review:
This is an interesting dystopian novel with a narrative we've heard before -- plague destroys most of the world, especially most women, and those left are unable to birth live children. This book is told both through diary entries as well as a sort of omniscient narrator -- I actually appreciated both of these voices and views in which the story was told and it added to the story.  I've seen comparisons to Station Eleven but the language was not nearly as beautiful. The story and way in which it was told was compelling but it's definitely not on the level of some of my other favorite dystopians -- namely, Station Eleven, The Handmaid's Tale and Gold Fame Citrus -- despite a similar narrative.  Still, I enjoyed this and sped right through it. It also provided an exceptionally relevant and prescient commentary on how men behave and how they treat women when there is no society and nothing to lose.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife came out earlier this month on October 11, 2016 and you can purchase HERE. I definitely recommend this one if you like gritty dystopian.
In the days when the world had not yet fallen, the screaming of sirens was constant.  The structures that still held were the ones designed to cope with emergency and disaster, but none of them could work indefinitely. Desperation moved block by block,and people fought and fled. 
The died of the plague, and they died of proximity to each other. When there weren't enough people in charge of keeping the lights on, the cities went dark. When the sirens quit, the rules gave out. Some people had been waiting their whole lives to live lawlessly, and they were the first to take to the streets. Some people knew that would happen; they knew better than to open their doors when they heard cries of help. Others didn't. What disease cannot do, people accomplish with astonishing ease.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Conversations With Myself (& Hopefully You): ARC Greed

This discussion is inspired by my feelings lately when reading and reviewing ARCs versus the feelings I had when I requested those same ARCs:


ARC greed -- have we all experienced this?  What I even mean by this term is that I sometimes feel overwhelmed when looking at Netgalley and Edelweiss and  I sometimes over-request, if only because I can!  I get greedy when I see all the new and shiny ARCs available and I will sometimes request things that have even a hint of interest for me, not necessarily focusing only on those books that I really, really want. 

The problem with this over-requesting and with getting greedy with requesting (and receiving) ARCs is when it comes time to read and review these ARCs.  Last month and this month, I have looked at my ARCs with a release date in each respective month and I just haven't wanted to read any of them.  I need to start asking myself -- If I was immediately approved for this ARC, would I read it right this minute? And if the answer is no, I really need to stop being so greedy with requesting.  It's easy to get greedy when it comes to requesting ARCs -- you will see books you've been wanting, new books from authors you love or even just a book that you've seen on a WoW -- and suddenly, you can take the chance of being able to read that book early. I need to stop falling into this trap but I guess what I most want to know is whether I'm alone in this feeling.  Do you ever request something that down the line you don't even really want to read, or at least not on a strict timeline for review? Do you feel guilty when you do?

As always, these are just my thoughts -- I'm sure someone somewhere has discussed something similar.  And if you know of such a post, please link it to me below!  In the meantime, let me know if you are ever super hungry, or even greedy, when it comes to ARCs. Does that same feeling still exist when you eventually read the ARC or do you read ARCs as soon as you get them without pause for their release date? And, if so, how do you do it? Teach me your ways!


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Celine by Peter Heller

 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.

Today, I am waiting on:  
Celine by Peter Heller

From Edelweiss:
From the best-selling author of The Dog Stars and The Painter, a luminous, masterful novel of suspense—the story of Celine, an elegant, aristocratic private eye who specializes in reuniting families, trying to make amends for a loss in her own past.

Working out of her jewel box of an apartment at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, Celine has made a career of tracking down missing persons, and she has a better record at it than the FBI. But when a young woman, Gabriela, asks for her help, a world of mystery and sorrow opens up. Gabriela’s father was a photographer who went missing on the border of Montana and Wyoming. He was assumed to have died from a grizzly mauling, but his body was never found. Now, as Celine and her partner head to Yellowstone National Park, investigating a trail gone cold, it becomes clear that they are being followed—that this is a case someone desperately wants to keep closed. Combining the exquisite plotting and gorgeous evocation of nature that have become his hallmark, with a wildly engrossing story of family, privilege, and childhood loss, Peter Heller gives us his finest work to date.
Love the sound of this between the setting, the mystery and this author! Celine is scheduled to be released on March 7, 2017, and this one sounds great!

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday??

Review: IQ by Joe Ide

Blurb from Goodreads:
A resident of one of LA's toughest neighborhoods uses his blistering intellect to solve the crimes the LAPD ignores.  
East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood's high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can't or won't touch. 
They call him IQ. He's a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he's forced to take on clients that can pay. 
This time, it's a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes. 
My Review:
Oh IQ! He is my new favorite tragic hero. Seriously. This was such a fun book to read -- I laughed out loud several times and was also continually intrigued. When I finished this book, I was honestly sad it was over and I haven't felt that way in a LONG time.  This is another mystery told intercalary but you know what I loved most about this?  We find out so much about IQ by learning about his past and what makes him tick and yet, I still want to know more.  Because of this, I really hope this is the start of a series.  I, for one, can't wait to read about the next mystery IQ will solve and also to find out more about him. This was funny, well thought out and written in such a way that it was so easy and a joy to read. 

I think (HOPE) that this is going to be a series -- I am definitely ready for more IQ! Definitely recommend this one to fans of Elmore Leonard or fans of witty mystery-- this had a bit of Psych feel as well! IQ comes out today on October 18, 2016, and you can purchase HERE.
"I'm an up-and-comer, you know what I'm sayin'? I was born to be a celebrity. I should have the spotlight all over me." 
"Spotlight all over you -- for what?" Isaiah said.   
"What do you mean for what?  That Kardashian girl's booty could fit inside my booty and you talking about for what. You know she made thirty million last year?" 
Isaiah knew other girls who felt that way. Somehow believing a big booty was like owning real estate or having a college degree, something you could put on a job application.  
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