Category: Adult Fiction

I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins-Clark (Mini Book Review)

Posted June 16, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins-Clark (Mini Book Review)I'll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
Published by Simon & Schuster on April 5, 2011
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Pages: 337
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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2 Stars

Alexandra “Zan” Moreland, a gifted, beautiful interior designer on the threshold of a successful Manhattan career, is terrified to discover that somebody is not only using her credit cards and manipulating her financial accounts to bankrupt her and destroy her reputation, but may also be impersonating her in a scheme that may involve the much more brutal crimes of kidnapping and murder. Zan is already haunted by the disappearance of her own son, Matthew, kidnapped in broad daylight two years ago in Central Park—a tragedy that has left her torn between hope and despair.

Now, on what would be Matthew’s fifth birthday, photos surface that seem to show Zan kidnapping her own child, followed by a chain of events that suggests somebody—but who? Zan asks herself desperately, and why?—has stolen her identity.

Hounded by the press, under investigation by the police, attacked by both her angry ex-husband and a vindictive business rival, Zan, wracked by fear and pain and sustained only by her belief, which nobody else shares, that Matthew is still alive, sets out to discover who is behind this cruel hoax.

What she does not realize is that with every step she takes toward the truth, she is putting herself— and those she loves most—in mortal danger from the person who has ingeniously plotted out her destruction...

I think I’ve mentioned to a lot of people that I love Mary Higgins-Clark. She is the first author I got hooked on as a teenager, and I really devoured her novels. It’s kind of a summer tradition to read her newest release while on vacation, so I bought this for my kindle and was SO excited to find some time to read it while I was in Europe! I read this mostly on my cruise and in Rome, Italy! The story was entertaining and intense, and I was definitely intrigued. However, the writing in this book does not sound like the Mary I grew up reading. Sadly, I found myself getting really tired of the writing style. It really detracted from the story, and I don’t have a ton to say about it. Haha.

I honestly think that Mary has reached the point in her career where she has hired a ghost writer or two, and I can’t blame her for that. According to her bio, she’s around 85 years old. I just wish she had hired a ghost writer with real talent to match her own. It makes me so sad to think that she chose to continue producing really mediocre books under her own name, rather than just bow out and leave with some amazing books under her belt. Maybe she’s still writing these on her own, but if that’s the case she has definitely slipped. In any case, this book followed a completely different writing style and formula that made her previous books winners in my eyes.

Zan is a pretty boring, semi-crazy kind of character. We know very little about her, except the fact that she is a very rich, divorced interior designer with a child who vanished several years before and a dark past. Plus, she’s gorgeous, thin, and so much better than everyone else. She’s completely unrelatable. Her ex-husband, a PR guy, blames her for the kidnapping of their child. And seriously, this guy is annoying. Not only is he a jerk, but he plays this role of sugar daddy/lover/brown-noser to this young singer client of his and caters to her every whining whim. Again, unrelatable. The other characters in this book are also rich, stuck up, and flat. Honestly, I feel like I learned more about and related more to the nameless culprit than I did with any of the main characters.

The plot seemed incredibly unrealistic and implausible. This just would not happen. For those who wish to read this, I don’t want to spoil it. But seriously. I just kept shaking my head and going, “No.” Haha. Too many coincidences and dumb, unobservant characters. If anyone had taken a second to be smart and use today’s technology and some common sense, I really think this story would have ended much sooner. And the mini romance seemed like it fell out of the sky at the last minute. I didn’t buy it at all. I’m so sad! I think I need to go back and read some of her older novels from the 90’s. She really was an amazing author in her prime, and her books scared the crap out of me and were so well done.

2 Stars

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins (Book Review)

Posted June 12, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins (Book Review)Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins
Published by HQN Books on April 24, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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2.5 Stars

After her father loses the family fortune in an insider-trading scheme, single mom Parker Welles is faced with some hard decisions. First order of business: go to Gideon's Cove, Maine, to sell the only thing she now owns—a decrepit house in need of some serious flipping. When her father's wingman, James Cahill, asks to go with her, she's not thrilled...even if he is fairly gorgeous and knows his way around a toolbox.

Having to fend for herself financially for the first time in her life, Parker signs on as a florist's assistant and starts to find out who she really is. Maybe James isn't the glib lawyer she always thought he was. And maybe the house isn't the only thing that needs a little TLC.

So… Thanks, Mr. Bieber, for getting this song stuck in my head. Actually, I think the song came before the book… so… yeah. Anywho… Yeah. Sadly, I know this song. Sadder, it’s an easy one to get stuck your head. Saddest, it was ALWAYS in my head. Every time I read, I was thinking of Justin and his silly little boy dance moves (yeah… I’ve seen the music video, too. *facepalm*) So basically, that’s what happened. I read the book, it had a cute story, too much mention of “lady land”, and the Biebs singing in the background. Interesting mixture, no? As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. What a fun story idea! Any of you HGTV-watchers will agree with me that it’s really fun to watch (or in this case, read) a really ugly, crummy, decrepit house be completely flipped and turned into a really cute/gorgeous living space! That’s what’s going on in the background of the story, and I really loved picturing the changes this house went through.

2. Gideon’s Cove, Maine (the setting for this story) is darling. This place sounds like one of those quaint, hidden oceanside towns where everyone knows who you are whether you want them to or not. I really liked all the people she met while she was there, and each character added something special to the story.

3. I liked Parker, because she was not the stereotypical spoiled heiress. No offense to you if you are a spoiled heiress, but I generally don’t like them because they feel entitled and better than everyone else. Of course, there are exceptions, and Parker is one of them. I found it refreshing. Yes, she had to be taught how to change a vacuum cleaner bag, but what counts is that she was willing to learn and then do it herself. I liked that she is the author of a quirky children’s book series, but I really did not like that the characters in her books talked to her. That was weird.

4. James, a.k.a. “Thing One”, is a total babe. He’s Parker’s Dad’s lawyer, and has been hanging out in the background of Parker’s life for years. Now, he’s off to Gideon’s Cove to help Parker spruce up her house, and to crush on her a LOT. He’s had a thing for her, but it’s complicated. You know how it is. He’s got this troubled past that makes him guarded and tough, but his dreams make him completely perfect and sweet. Plus, he’s a hard worker. Phew! I really liked his character.

5. Parker’s son, Nicky, his father Ethan (who is one of her very best friends), and Ethan’s wife Lucy are pretty much Parker’s only family, since her dad screwed his life up and pushed her away. I really liked all the supporting characters, but these three were my favorites (although Malone is pretty great).

6. I liked reading about Parker’s relationship with her dad: how it used to be, how it is now (and why), and how they try to mend fences. It added a deeper feeling to the story that gave me something to root for.

7. I got really tired of hearing about how Parker’s Lady Land perked up when James smiled, or how it stirred when he ripped siding off the house. There was just so much lust! And when they finally did act on things, it was meant to be a fling and only a fling. I guess I’m more of a traditionalist, but I don’t like it when love stories begin with two characters only interested in physical encounters and nothing more than that.

8. Sometimes this book was pretty funny! Here’s my favorite part. Parker had just gotten to Gideon’s Cove, expecting a mansion, and found the little run-down shack she inherited. Of course, she ventured in to assess the situation:

“Hi,” he said, as if she wasn’t murdering her jeans against the hood. “How’s it going?”
“There was a mouse in my pants.”
He raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Lucky Mouse.”
Her breath caught. Wrong thing to say. Wrong. “It’s pretty traumatic to have a rodent in your pants, Thing One,” she snapped. “Unless you like that sort of thing.”
“Oh, hey, sorry princess,” he said, approaching the car. “Didn’t mean to make light of your tragedy.”
“There was a mouse in my pants,” she blurted.

I actually laughed. I enjoy it when that happens!

9. Sometimes I got a little bored with all the dialogue between the main characters and supporting characters that didn’t do much to add to the story. I found myself skimming through a few passages because things were just moving too slowly.

10. The ending made the entire book worth it, and I got pretty teary-eyed. I’m a sap. Haha. It was just really sweet!

While this book had its moments, and the story was appealing, it was not one of my favorite reads and I actually had a bit of a hard time finding the motivation to read it. I’m glad I stuck with it, though, because it was fun to see how everything wrapped up. I got attached to Gideon’s Cove and some of the characters, so I had to see where everyone ended up. I was pleased with how things were left. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy a fluffy summer romance, laced with a deeper lesson on family and healing. This was my first Kristan Higgins book, and I do think she’s an author I’ll consider in the future!

2.5 Stars

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (Book Review)

Posted June 9, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 12 Comments

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (Book Review)I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
Published by The Dial Press on February 14, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 433
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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4 Stars

I’ve lost it. :( The only thing in the world I wasn’t supposed to lose. My engagement ring. It’s been in Magnus’s family for three generations. And now the very same day his parents are coming, I’ve lost it. The very same day! Do not hyperventilate, Poppy. Stay positive :) !!

Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her “happily ever after” begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!

Well, perfect except that the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life.

What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents . . . she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life.

Guys, this is my very first Sophie Kinsella book, and I officially love her to pieces! I really, really debated buying this book. Even on Kindle it’s over $13, and I had not read a book by her before… and I already owned Can You Keep a Secret? and the Shopaholic series, so I should probably read one of those first, right?… but I wanted this because it sounded adorable. Seriously. This inner debate went on for months. Finally, I bit the bullet and bought it before my big Europe trip, and I LOVED IT. I am SO glad I trusted my inner shopaholic and bought this book anyway. It was a great Sophie book to start out with! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The humor is, hands down, my favorite part of this book. Poppy (love that name!) thinks some of the funniest things! Her ring is gone, so doomsday is here. She panics like I panic. Worst case scenario? Yes. No matter what, she worries about the worst possible thing that could happen. And the string of events that occur are priceless. She is so unlucky that it’s almost hard to believe! I laughed a lot.

2. The story is super unique, in my eyes. And the romance is too! What a way to fall in love! Find someone’s fun in a garbage can, and spend days commiserating about the woes of life, not to mention arguing over who deserves the phone. It’s a completely modern love story that totally worked for me. I really want this to be my love story!

3. Poppy is so likeable, and so much fun to read about. Magnus is a stick in the mud you love to hate. Oh, and his parents are stuck up in a hilarious kind of way. And Sam is a snarky and dreamy and incredibly sweet business man, who kind of reminds me of Mr. Darcy. The characters are amazing and dynamic. None of them are perfect (even though some of them think they are!), and their flaws made them real, believable, and memorable.

4. I didn’t like the footnotes. Yeah… there’s about 10 footnotes a chapter. Problem is, I read the Kindle version and the footnotes for each page were not on that page, but compiled in a list on the last page of the chapter. Nobody likes flipping and flipping through the “pages” on Kindle. It’s annoying, and you forget where you are and where you were. I ended up having to ignore them, or trying to remember where the footnotes happened so I could understand the footnote once I got to the end of the chapter. For this reason, most of them made no sense to me, and made me rather frustrated.

I didn’t have a ton to say about this one, did I? Haha. It’s just a wonderful book. Rather than looking for my likes and dislikes, I just read and experienced the story. I didn’t take notes, and I didn’t read critically. I just read it, and I loved it! I don’t know about all her other books, so I’m basing my love of Sophie Kinsella off of this one alone. I’m pretty convinced, though, that I will automatically buy anything she writes from now on! Read this if you love silly, inspiring, makes-you-giddy kind of sweet contemporary romances!

4 Stars

Sound of the Heart by Genevieve Graham (Review & Guest Post)

Posted May 22, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Book Review, Guest Post / 3 Comments

Sound of the Heart by Genevieve Graham (Review & Guest Post)Sound of the Heart by Genevieve Graham
Series: The MacDonnells #2
Published by Berkley on May 1, 2012
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Author
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4 Stars

Dougal MacDonnell, a fierce warrior from the Highlands of Scotland, is able to hear the thoughts of other men and dream how the future will unfold. Devastated by the loss of his family during the Battle of Culloden in 1746, he fosters a deep hatred for the English. But when Glenna, the love of his life and a Scottish outlaw, is captured and shipped overseas, Dougal is forced to join an English army made of vanquished Scots. Now fighting on the side of his sworn enemies, he embarks on a journey that will take him across the seas to the colonies. There he will risk everything for the chance to find his true love.

(Even though this is a companion novel, it can be read as a stand-alone. The first book is Dougal’s brother’s story.)

I read Genevieve’s Under the Same Sky and reviewed it over at The Broke and the Bookish last month, so I was excited when Genevieve contacted me and asked if I was interested in reading this companion novel. Under the Same Sky was a tricky read for me, as some of the subject matter was highly distressing, and my tender heart had a hard time reading the recounting of certain historical happenings, including rape, abuse, and war. I wrote to Genevieve about my struggles, and we began discussing history and how women were treated during the times this book covers. Genevieve is here today to talk about what she and I discussed (how researching opens up so many unknown truths), and you can find her guest post beneath my review of Sound of the Heart. Now, on to my review (which I will try to keep brief so this post does not turn into a HUGE read!)! I fear my review will be vague, as there are so many ways to include spoilery… but I will do my best to not spoil anything! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I went into this book expecting a darker read, like Under the Same Sky. The covers of both books are rather deceptive, so don’t assume you’ll be getting a light, fluffy romance when you pick them up. Sound of the Heart is much lighter than Under the Same Sky, and I actually ended up liking it even more than I liked the first one. I rarely like sequels or companions as much as the first book, so I was pleasantly surprised at my reaction to this one.

2. Now, we’re still dealing with some heavy subject matter, it’s just spread more thinly throughout the book, plus there’s much less violence towards women, which is what I struggled with in book 1.

  • The bulk of the first part of the book tells us all about Dougal’s time being imprisoned as a POW after he survives the Battle of Culloden (which is actually told in great detail in Under the Same Sky). The struggles of life in prison during this time are told in great detail, and I felt so badly for Dougal and all the others with him. There was a lot of violence, and prisoners were killed or beaten for the smallest reasons.
  • Women were treated very poorly and we read some instances of rape and abuse. It’s much tamer and less detailed than in Under the Same Sky.

3. I really liked Dougal. You don’t learn much about him in the first book, but I liked him just as much as I liked his brother, Andrew in Under the Same Sky. We’re given another sexy Scottish Highlander with a cute accent and a sweet demeanor. He befriends and watches over two younger boys who are imprisoned with him, and I loved the tender bond the three formed. He sort of adopts them as his own brothers after his family died in the battle. The loyalty to his family was very touching. I love family guys. I also really liked his friend Joseph, who had a lot of personality and a sense of humor that lightened the mood during the dark times of the story.

4. Glenna is a very dynamic character, with a lot of secrets. I won’t tell you how she falls into Dougal’s life, because that’s a spoiler, but I really liked her. I appreciate the fact that Genevieve writes strong female characters. So many historical romances make women look like submissive, meek little chickens with no backbones or common sense. Glenna was SO strong, just like Maggie was in Under the Same Sky. She was thrown some major curve balls in life, but she’s still a sweet character with a lot of street smarts.

She is captured from her humble home with Dougal and shipped overseas, where she is sold into slavery. Hello? I had no idea white slavery existed during this time, nor did I know that Scottish men and women were essentially kidnapped and shipped to the Americas to serve as slaves or fight for the English Army. Her life as a servant starts out better than most, but then things go wrong and she is placed into a terrifying situation. She fights back, though, and I kept saying, “Yes! You go girl!” all throughout the book. I loved watching her grow. She also runs across some wonderful friends, and I enjoyed reading their stories as well. They all had such sweet personalities, even though their lives were far from pleasant.

5. The romance was really wonderful. Glenna and Dougal are adorable together! Sadly, a lot of this book is them trying to get back to one another once they are separated, but you can feel the longing they share. Their love keeps them alive, and I really enjoyed reading about a love with that kind of power.

6. Again, Genevieve does not disappoint with her writing style. It’s gorgeous. She has a way of packing you up and taking you to the settings in the book. She also has the power to make you feel what the characters are feeling. I know that’s why I struggled so much with Under the Same Sky, and why I ended up really enjoying both books. It’s because her writing is so powerful that it feels real. You’re sent on this roller coaster of emotions and feelings, and when the ride is over you’re as in love with the characters as they are with each other.

Overall, I’m so glad I read this book. I loved reading about Dougal and Glenna’s love story, and I enjoyed learning more about the history during this time in Scotland, England, and the American Colonies. I would recommend this to lovers of historical romance and historical fiction. Genevieve has a book 3 in the making, and I KNOW I want to read it! It tells the story of Adelaide, Maggie’s sister in Under the Same Sky. SO exciting! Hopefully Penguin picks it up, as I know it’ll be nothing short of amazing.

 

Genevieve Graham graduated from the University of Toronto in 1986 with a Bachelor of Music in Performance (playing the oboe). While on a ski vacation in Alberta, she met her future husband in a chairlift lineup and subsequently moved to Calgary to be with him. They have recently settled in a small, peaceful town in Nova Scotia with their two beautiful daughters. Writing became an essential part of Genevieve’s life a few years ago, when she began to write her debut novel, Under the Same Sky. The companion novel, Sound of the Heart, will be in stores May 1, 2012.

The Trouble with Research…
is that you find out stuff.

I write Historical Fiction, so that means there’s going to be a certain amount of research involved. When I started writing, I had no experience with researching, other than what I did eons ago in school, but I was excited about starting. My first book, “Under the Same Sky”, takes place in the 1700’s, a time of which I had no knowledge, other than what I had read in well-written historical fiction, like the “Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon, and the “Into the Wilderness” series by Sara Donati. The time period sounded gritty and exciting and full of adventure. A perfect setting!

When I realized my hero’s name was Andrew MacDonnell, I enthusiastically went online and researched the MacDonnell clan tartan. When I got past all the advertisements (and pried my eyes off pictures of models and movie stars in kilts), I ran headlong into a discovery that made me shake my head with confusion. Did you know … It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that clans began to claim their own tartan? Until that time, the variation in tartans was a regional thing. The striped patterns were based on the dyes available in the region. Oh, and in the beginning I had no idea that the words ‘plaid’ and ‘tartan’ weren’t technically interchangeable. Maybe in North America they are, but in Scotland, a ‘plaid’ is a wool tartan blanket which the people slung over their shoulder.

For that first book, I also studied the Cherokee and other Native American tribes and absolutely loved researching them. I dug in deep, exploring the seven different clans within tribes, the animal totems, the beliefs after death, hunting rituals … and I ended up with about 50,000 extra words that had nothing to do with the story. They were pretty fascinating reading, but took the story completely off track. So I cut them and stored those chapters away for another time.

I’ve come to believe deeply in the importance of revealing truths in historical fiction. While I’m no expert, I know a lot of things now that I never knew before. For example, I was aware that it was tough to be a woman back then, but I had no idea just how bad it was. One in three women died in childbirth. One in three! Was every one of those babies fathered by a husband? No. Rape was a fairly common occurrence back then and since women had little protection and no rights, it was practically impossible to punish the perpetrator. Unwanted pregnancies were occasionally terminated by herbal concoctions or more brutal methods, but the mother rarely survived. If she did, it would be a miracle if she ever managed to bear another baby.

“Sound of the Heart” gives the reader a taste of prison life for battle captives in 1746. When the defeated Scottish warriors arrived at the prison, after walking three hours, were they fed? No. They were locked up for two days with no food and no medical aid. Did men die easily on the battlefield, succumbing to wounds with a final loving word whispered to their loves? Since pain relief was barely used and loved ones were often miles away, I’d say no.

Some authors research political aspects, society rules, formal issues. All are valid, important facts within historical fiction. I have chosen to follow a grittier path. My characters are every-man and every-woman, commoners who have never seen silk or pearls. Often, though, they have a little something “extra” (like psychic powers). I throw them into scenes they might not survive if it weren’t for their strength of character or something changing in the situation that frees them. Like my characters, I don’t know anything about the “regency” side of history. I only know about the often agonizingly painful realities of life back then.

“Sound of the Heart” also introduces readers to an ugly aspect of history that many of us (including me) otherwise wouldn’t know about: white slavery. Beginning in the 1600’s, hundreds of thousands of white slaves were taken to the colonies. They were treated as badly as their black counterparts, and often worse. They were usually less expensive, because they were constantly being replaced. After all, the colonies were a hot climate compared to overseas. Working plantation fields was far too much for them, and many died.

I know some people are put off by violence in historical fiction, and I’m sorry when my stories upset them. I salute those readers who battle through the difficult parts so they can get to the end. I was once accused of using rape as something of a plot vehicle, which actually left me slack-jawed. The thing is, just because I include these things in the stories doesn’t mean I make them up. I don’t. These are real situations. And just like white slavery today, it is important that we stop looking the other way. I refuse to sugar coat the truth, and I don’t pull punches. At the same time, I stay away from gratuitousness.

Okay. Hopping off my soapbox now.

I guess the moral for today is you never know what you’ll find when you start researching the past. But chances are, if you persevere and keep digging, you’ll come away with treasure.

4 Stars

Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter (Book Review)

Posted May 3, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter (Book Review)Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter
Published by Ballantine Books on June 12, 2007
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift
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3 Stars

After a string of disastrous dates, Emily Albright decides she’s had it with modern-day love and would much rather curl up with Pride and Prejudice and spend her time with Mr. Darcy, the dashing, honorable, and passionate hero of Jane Austen’s classic. So when her best friend suggests a wild week of margaritas and men in Mexico with the girls, Emily abruptly flees to England on a guided tour of Jane Austen country instead. Far from inspiring romance, the company aboard the bus consists of a gaggle of little old ladies and one single man, Spike Hargreaves, a foul-tempered journalist writing an article on why the fictional Mr. Darcy has earned the title of Man Most Women Would Love to Date.

The last thing Emily expects to find on her excursion is a broodingly handsome man striding across a field, his damp shirt clinging to his chest. But that’s exactly what happens when she comes face-to-face with none other than Mr. Darcy himself. Suddenly, every woman’s fantasy becomes one woman’s reality. . . .

I love Jane Austen spin-offs. I think we’ve all figured this out by now. Because I love them so much, they can easily disappoint me at the same time, which is what happened here. This was on of those “meh” books, and actually the book that inspired my 3-Star rating explanation over on my sidebar. Sometimes that’s really the only word I can come up with when someone asks me how I liked a book.

1. It was a slow, basic, fluffy plot that was perfect for a leisurely day of summer reading. There was not a lot to it, and I got through it pretty quickly. This is not always a bad thing, as I enjoy having a lighter book to just enjoy every once in a while!

2. Emily’s gaggle of old lady friends were hilariously dramatic as they toured the English countryside.  Some of these women were fun to read about, and some of them bothered me a little. Some were just downright laugh-out-loud funny. They formed a pretty strong bond with Emily in the short amount of time they had, though, so I got to know and like them at about the same pace that Emily did. They were always concerned about her, and treated her like a granddaughter, which I thought was cute.

3. Mr. Darcy does make an appearance in the book a few times, but I didn’t like it very much. I’m not sure if it was a cut in the fabric of time, Emily’s mindless daydreams, or visions from a higher power, but the two of them had innocent encounters throughout the course of the book. Nobody saw him but Emily, so she was viewed as being a bit crazy whenever she mentioned seeing him. Seriously, why would you continue talking about meeting Mr. Darcy if nobody else saw him? I mean, does she want to come off as crazy?4. Mr. Darcy bugged me. He was not my Mr. Darcy, and came off as selfish and cocky. I think that’s why this book left me feeling “meh”. I love this guy, and I think the author of this book decided that people like him too much. I don’t have skewed views about men because of Mr. Darcy, but I do appreciate him and enjoy thinking about finding someone similar (thank you, BBC).  I left this book not liking Mr. Darcy, and I was not happy about that.

4. The writing was done well, and the story idea was cute. I was just not extremely fond of the execution or the characterization.

I recommend this to readers who enjoy Jane Austenesque novels, but don’t mind if Mr. Darcy is thrown under the bus a little!

3 Stars

Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly (Book Review)

Posted March 19, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly (Book Review)Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly
Series: Austen Addicts #3
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on April 1, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

Sisters are forever...

Sisters Sarah and Mia Castle haven't spoken for three years but they're about to meet again at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. But what was it that drove them apart and can the magic of Jane Austen help bring them back together again?

(While this is book #3 in a series, I contacted the author and she said each novel is a standalone, and they can be read out of order.)

I love, love, love Jane Austen spin-offs. I’ve read quite a few, including book #2 in this series, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy. While it was not my favorite book, it was definitely cute and worth the read. I was excited to read this next book. And look at that darling cover! While I did not enjoy it as much as Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, and it bothered me in a few places, this book ended up leaving me with a few warm fuzzies and a smile. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The story is actually kind of boring until about 60% of the way through the book, when things pick up and really get interesting. We’ve got flashbacks to when the sisters parted ways mixed in with the present day at a Jane Austen festival in Bath. Most of the present-day scenes are combinations of 2 or 3 people talking about stuff, but it all happens in different places and at different times. I felt like I was reading the same story multiple times: Sarah talking to Lloyd, Mia talking to Gabe, and Mia talking to Shelley, not to mention what is going on in Sarah and Mia’s minds.Plus, we see it all happen in the flashback as well. It was a bit overkill for me. But then at 60%, things pick up and progress is made. The characters begin to open up and move forward, whereas before it was all talk of the past. The mood gets a bit lighter, and more enjoyable… even funny in some places.

2. Sarah bothers me a bit. She has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which is totally fine. I have it… my sister has it. It’s fine. But seriously. There is SO much OCD talk. Sarah and her love interest bond and essentially fall in love because they both have it. Everything Sarah does is “because of OCD.” It is talked about so much, that it ends up being another character in the book. We had Sarah, Lloyd, Mia, Shelley, Gabe, and Sarah’s OCD. I got tired of hearing about it.

The matter-of-fact, and sometimes sarcastic way that OCD was discussed made me feel like the disorder was made out to be something funny and quirky, not a serious thing. This story is written as if Sarah enjoys having it. She sits and talks about it, and laughs. She’s happy she has found someone else who suffers from it too. I was really bothered by it, and got to the point where I skimmed over all mentions of OCD. Maybe I’m just extra sensitive because I have struggled with this same thing for most of my life, but it just really rubbed me the wrong way.

3. I really disliked Sarah’s sister, Mia, and Mia’s friend, Shelley, in the beginning. They were obnoxious, self-centered and immature, throwing themselves at whoever, whenever they please. If someone is married, who cares? If someone is not interested, who cares? And then if they happen to see someone they dislike, they either hide in plain sight and act completely amazed when they are spotted, or they run away through the streets crying their eyes out and mentally channeling some Jane Austen character, asking for advice. Drama. Over the top drama. However, towards the end they both seem to grow up all of a sudden. We are given insights into Mia’s past, and we get to see Shelley as a very nurturing and concerned best friend. I ended up really liking both of them by the end. And Shelley’s dog, Bingley, is hilarious. I really love that dog, and his silly mannerisms and habits.

4. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the cute town of Bath. I would love to visit someday. The author put me right there in the middle of it all.

5. The present-day romance that both sisters experience after so much pain in their past is refreshing and sweet. Both girls have been through a lot, so I enjoyed reading about them falling in love. And I really like both guys, and kind of wish I had one too!

Overall, this was a cute little contemporary, sometimes cheesy, romance that took a while to get going, but ended up warming my heart. I did not love it as much as Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, but I still enjoyed it and think it was worth the read. This book focuses on Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, so don’t be expecting a P&P spin-off based on the title! Now I need to go read the first one, A Weekend with Mr. Darcy!

3 Stars

Truly, Madly, Deeply, You by Cecilia Robert (Book Review)

Posted March 10, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

Truly, Madly, Deeply, You by Cecilia Robert (Book Review)Truly, Madly, Deeply, You by Cecilia Robert
Series: Truly Madly #1
Published by Inkspell Publishing on March 21, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 82
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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1.5 Stars

Four days before Valentine’s Day, Liese Hansfeld is determined to shut the door to her house, as well as her heart, for her annual four days of mourning her one true love. Little does she know her best friend Freytag Meier is just as determined to keep her from her ritual. He’s ready to pick the lock to her apartment door and camp in her living room if that’s what it takes.

What Freytag isn’t prepared for is the surge of deep-rooted emotions he feels for Liese, but two things stand in his way: the grief and guilt she still clutches close to her heart, and a man who threatens to snatch Liese from under Frey’s watchful eye. Frey is determined to distract her into forgetting her pain. But is that enough to ease her grief, or help her see he can be more than her best friend?

I was intrigued by the summary of this book. I don’t have a ton to say about it, though. Haha. It was a bit diappointing, and there really was not much to it. It was just ok in my book. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I’m not a huge fan of Liese. Every year she spends the four days before Valentine’s in a state of intense depression. She will see nobody. She lays in bed, has extreme nightmares, cries a lot, refuses to eat (and gets really weak), takes antidepressants that make her really weird, and relives past events over and over again. This year, Frey has decided to intervene and spend the whole time with her to help her through. Seriously. This girl has no personality, is extremely melodramatic, and really has no redeeming qualities. We find out about 90% of the way through exactly what happened to her, and it’s completely heartbreaking. It’s not something I can begin to comprehend. But really, I was tired of her self-destructive ways and was really hoping there was more to the book than that.

2. I got really tired of reading about how tiny and frail Liese is. Every time she showed a glimmer of sadness, Frey scooped her up/picked her up/set her on his lap/put his leg over her so she could not get up. Frey says she “weighs about as much as a kitten”. And “her tiny fingers” held on to his. She’s wounds like a little girl. If she’s sleepy, he carries her. If she’s medicated, he carries her. Honestly, this girl is not a china doll! I wish she had been portrayed as a strong woman who could go on with life. This, combined with her depression and self-destruction made me really annoyed. Yes, she went through something absolutely terrible. But those things are supposed to make us stronger! I wish we had been given a sense of hope. This book could have been inspirational, motivating, encouraging. It fell completely flat.

3. I wish Liese had some character development. It’s like there was no point to reading about her journey, because this journey never ended up taking us anywhere.

4. I’m not sure how I feel about Frey. There were times I thought he was way too good for her, and there were times he creeped me out a bit. He’s extremely sweet and attentive. He was there to comfort her and drag her out of her mopey time. He was very understanding and patient. If she had a nightmare, he was there to help her go back to sleep. I’d love a friend like that, whom I could depend on. But… he was also very smothering and would not let her make her own decisions. He forced his way in to her house when she just wanted to be alone. He treated her like a 5-year-old. He stood outside the door to her room and heard her having a nightmare, so he ran down to the front desk in his underwear and lied in order to get a key to her room so he could climb in bed with her. She woke up really confused. That’s creepy, and I hope no hotel I ever stay in just hands out random keys to random rooms to random people. Finally, he takes advantage of her during a painful time, daring her to kiss him because he thinks she can’t do a good job… and then saying he doesn’t mind if she kisses him for the wrong reasons. My. Gosh.

5. The story literally went nowhere. Luckily it was short, because nothing happened. I can’t even identify the story’s climax. There was a lot of repetition: lots of crying, nightmares, moping, re-hashing the past, etc. And nothing is really resolved. There was not even a real love story. It just ended where it began.

To sum things up: I really liked the idea of the story. I was hoping for a book that would portray a woman who had been through something terrible, but was picking up the pieces and learning to survive. However, I feel like I wasted my time on a story that went nowhere, taught me nothing, and left me worn out.

(Disclaimer: If anyone has gone through what Liese has gone through, I am in no way minimizing your pain. I feel awful for anyone who has suffered anything like this, and I can only imagine that it’s the worst thing to ever experience. I just got tired of reading about it over and over, with absolutely no character development and no real plot. I was just hoping for something more than what I was given.)

1.5 Stars

Gentlemen Prefer Nerds by Joan Kilby (Book Review)

Posted March 9, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 6 Comments

Gentlemen Prefer Nerds by Joan Kilby (Book Review)Gentlemen Prefer Nerds by Joan Kilby
Published by Carina Press on March 12, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 250
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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4 Stars

Self-professed nerd Maddie Maloney is an expert on jewels. Jewel thieves are another matter entirely! So when a mysterious Englishman warns her that a thief known as The Chameleon is after the rare pink diamond on display in her aunt's shop, she tells herself it's just a joke. Even if she can't get Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome out of her mind...

But Fabian Montgomery doesn't give up easily. He's everywhere she goes, convinced the thief will strike. And when the diamond does go missing - and Maddie is suspected of stealing it - he whisks her away from the police and together they pursue The Chameleon.

Fabian plunges her into a glamorous world far from her humble workshop and transforms geeky Maddie into a sophisticated siren capable of espionage. Her mission: to seduce The Chameleon and steal back the diamond.

But Fabian isn't telling her everything - like who he works for, and why he's so interested in The Chameleon...

I love mysteries with a touch of suspense, and I could tell immediately from the description that I would enjoy this book. What surprised me the most, though, was the comedic element the author threw in. This book was so funny, in addition to being suspenseful and romantic. I had a lot of fun reading this, and am excited to share with you my favorite elements of the book! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I love this title! I’m a total nerd, so I was immediately drawn in by the hilarious title, attractive gentleman, and the bright yellow.

2. The book surprised me by taking place in Australia! I’ve never read a book that took place there, so I really enjoyed all the descriptions of the scenery. Part of the book takes place in a resort town by the beach during the weekend of a sailboat gala. I loved reading about all the boats and the people. It sounded so quaint and romantic. I just loved it.

3. Maddie, a self-proclaimed nerd with a PhD in gemology (I believe? Or is it mineralogy?), is such a fun character. She really is the stereotypical nerd, with the eclectic non-sense of fashion and the gem smarts. Her nerdliness is interrupted by Fabian, an extremely attractive and mysterious Englishman who whisks her away to retrieve the stolen diamond, save her from jail, and protect her aunt’s reputation. Right at the beginning as they are running from the police, all she can think about is her sweet cat, and what will happen to it while she’s away. A girl after my own heart. Fabian turns her into a sexy glamazon, and she’s totally against it. She fights him every step of the way. He sends her to a day spa, and her account of the happenings there had me laughing out loud. She got burned in the sauna, almost drowned in the mineral pool, etc. The daunting task of seducing The Chameleon lies ahead of her, and she goes on and on about how impossible that will be. She even has to practice her seduction skills! Her spunk and quick wit created a really fun contrast to the serious businessman, Fabian.

4. I love it when the geeky girl nabs the attractive James Bond type. Fabian is totally the sexy, mysterious foreigner with a carefully concealed past and a lot of baggage. I love how he feels this need to put on a hardened facade, when in reality he’s laughing at Maddie and falling for her on the inside.You can tell he cares, but wishes he didn’t. She tugs at his heartstrings, and I think it’s so sweet to watch the inner turmoil he goes through as she pushes him outside his comfort zone.

5. The romance is a slow burn, and a minimal part of the story. It really was hate at first sight with these two. Fabian is a major inconvenience to Maddie, following her around, bothering her, making her do things she doesn’t want to do. Maddie is Fabian’s pain in the butt, but he needs an experienced and knowledgeable gemologist on his side in order to find and identify the diamond. As time pushes on, they begin to tolerate one another more and more, but it takes a while. No insta-love here! The romance was believable and sweet.

6. The suspense really grabs you. Fabian and Maddie are really good at getting into trouble. Running from the police… seeking out The Chameleon… intense sailboat rides… guns blazing… deserted islands… concealed identities. Luck is not on their side. This book is a major page-turner.

7. It’s the perfect blend of comedy, romance, and suspense. Plus it’s heartwarming. You’d think with all the stuff going on, you might not get a true sense of what makes the characters who they are. But you do! There are some tender moments with Maddie’s family and with Fabian’s family was well. And Maddie’s cat adds a lot, too. Maybe I’m just a softy for cats. I dunno. But I loved that amidst all the suspense and deception, we were given a sense of the moral fabric these characters possess. The emotion is there, and I liked that. It made the characters more relatable.

All in all, this book is fun and exciting, and I really enjoyed it. I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good romcom with some mystery mixed in. I’m definitely going to go and check out some more of Joan Kilby’s books. She’s got a ton of them!

4 Stars

A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter (Book Review)

Posted March 8, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Book Review / 3 Comments

A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter (Book Review)A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter
Series: Elemental Mysteries #1
Published by Self on October 18, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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3 Stars

"No secret stays hidden forever."

A phone call from an old friend sets Dr. Giovanni Vecchio back on the path of a mystery he'd abandoned years before. He never expected a young librarian could hold the key to the search, nor could he have expected the danger she would attract. Now he and Beatrice De Novo will follow a twisted maze that leads from the archives of a university library, through the fires of Renaissance Florence, and toward a confrontation they never could have predicted.

I was really excited to sign up for this book as part of the Elemental Mysteries Blog Tour, celebrating the third book’s release. The premise sounded pretty awesome. I loved the idea of the main character being a librarian, and there being such a focus on extremely old literature. And Giovanni is totally an Italian name, and combining that with the mention of Renaissance Florence, I was sold! Books and Italy. What more could I ask for? A Hidden Fire had its moments, but overall I was a little disappointed. It fell short of its potential, and I feel like it could have been so much better than it was.

1. The whole beginning is pretty mysterious. Beatrice is a librarian at the Houston University in the Special Collections reading room, picking up a new shift where she ends up spending time with Dr. Giovanni Vecchio, who is translating a very old document. He’s a unique person with a hidden past, and we go a while in the book before we find out who he is and why he’s connected to bunch of old literature. Beatrice is more to him than a librarian. Danger surrounds her, plus he’s developing feelings for her.

2. I liked the main characters. Beatrice is smart, shy, and bookish.She’s extremely level-headed, all things considered. I love her sarcasm and quick wit. I think we’d be friends. Giovanni is a sexy bad boy. He’s also very scholarly and is always reading or researching something. He’s also reclusive, with a very rich past that is coming back to haunt him. I loved the banter between the two of them. The sexual tension was definitely there. I just with they had done more with it.

3. The romance is kind of silly and unbelievable. You can tell Gio and Beatrice care about each other, but it’s weird. He treats her like a child he needs to protect, and she treats him like a knight in shining armor. They never really hash out their feelings or intentions. Sometimes they have to put on a steamy act in front of spectators, but then they avoid one another for quite a while after. They are always holding back, but never indicate to each other why. So they always appear to mad at the other, when in reality they are lusting after one another. It wasn’t really romantic to me. It was just frustrating and never really got resolved. I guess that’s book 2’s job.

4. The supporting characters were great. Gio’s butler, Caspar, is so sweet and grandfatherly, especially with Beatrice. He’s also very protective and caring towards Gio. He’s clearly part of the family. I love his cat, Doyle, as well. Caspar starts a cute little something up with B’s grandma, who is also a strong character with a lot of spunk. Gio has a friend named Carwyn, who is definitely my favorite character in this book. He’s a Welsh priest who has been around for quite a while, and has a lot of life experience. He’s funny, flirtatious, and becomes a great friend to Beatrice. He always seems to know how she’s thinking and feeling, and knows just what to say to put her mind at ease. I’m kind of envious of Beatrice. She has so many sweet men keeping an eye on her!

5. The settings were unique, and I liked them. I enjoyed all the library time, and it was fun to picture what everything looked like and smelled like. I love libraries! Gio’s house sounds pretty cool. We also get to explore Greece and Chile in this book, which was cool.

6. I laughed a lot. There was a lot of joking around, sarcastic remarks, flirtatious moments, and interesting tastes in clothing. The characters lovingly made fun of each other. It was refreshing, since the underlying story is a bit dark and dangerous.

7. I liked the incorporation of the elements (fire, earth, wind, and water). Each book in the series focuses on one, and this one obviously focused on fire. And I liked the paranormal elements. I’m not going to say what those are, for fear of spoiling things for you, but it’s an interesting twist.

8. Really, my only complaint is that some of the plot dragged on and on, and was rather repetitive. There was a lot of sitting around and talking, with not a lot of action until the last part of the book. This is a long book, yet the bulk of the story felt rushed at the end. Nothing was tied up for us.

I would recommend this to people who enjoy paranormal urban fantasies with a tiny bit of romance. I’m thinking book 2 will open things up a lot more, and I’m curious to see what happens next! Book 2 (This Same Earth) is already out, book 3 (The Force of the Wind) is out this month, and the concluding book (A Fall of Water) has a tentative release date in June of this year.

To visit more stops with reviews of books 2 and 3, interviews with the author and characters, book excerpts, and chances to win all three books, click here

3 Stars

Dracula, My Love by Syrie James (Book Review)

Posted March 7, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

Dracula, My Love by Syrie James (Book Review)Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker by Syrie James
Published by Avon on July 20, 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars

Many have read and loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But questions remain. What is the true story of Dracula’s origin? What if Mina could not bring herself to record the true story of their scandalous affair—until now?

In Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker, Syrie James explores these questions and more. A vibrant dramatization, told from Mina’s point of view, brings to life the crucial parts of Stoker’s story while showcasing Mina’s sexual awakening and evolution as a woman, and revealing a secret that could destroy her life. Torn between two men—a loving husband and a dangerous lover—Mina struggles to hang on to the deep love she’s found within her marriage, even as she is inexorably drawn to Dracula himself—the vampire that everyone she knows is determined to destroy.

Syrie did something amazing with this book. She made me want to read another book. That’s what books should do, in my opinion. It convinced me that I needed to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This book gave me Mina’s point of view, and so obviously, I had to read the original. I was kind of scared to purchase Dracula, My Love, because it’s a little out of my usual comfort zone, but I am SO glad that I did. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The writing style is breathtakingly beautiful. Syrie’s descriptions are notoriously amazing, in my opinion. The writing is done in old-fashioned English, which I found very refreshing. It really added to the story. I have a hard time when historical genres are written in contemporary language. This felt very authentic and seemed very real as a result.

2. The characters are so well developed. Each person has their own voice and their own opinions. Dracula is strong, sexy, deceptive, evil, manipulative, and extremely romantic! Mina is also very strong, rebellious, and thinks for herself during a time when women are supposed to be meek and submissive. She grows up a lot over the course of the book and learns a lot about herself. Mina’s husband is the typical male from the time period. He’s controlling, demanding, protective, and all about saving Mina from this evil man who so desires her. Of course, he never catches on to the fact that Mina is a willing participant in her rendezvous with Dracula.

3. The mannerisms of each character are believable. I love the contrast between the chaste, ladylike behavior Mina displays around her husband and friends and the, for lack of a better word, lustful thoughts and actions she exhibits with Dracula. It’s like he has her under some spell that amplifies her desires and emotions when she’s with him.

4. In all actuality, though, this book is not all about lust and carnal desires. Her time spent with him is always spent in long discussions about life and literature. They have so much in common. Her greatest desire is to be with him. The book is really very clean, except for one steamy “dream” she has about him.

5. You get to jump into Mina’s mind and hear her thoughts. You will begin to understand her wants, fears, and desires. You number yourself lucky for not being in her shoes, but care too much to stop hoping that she figures everything out. She has a difficult situation at hand. She goes from being the plain, simple girl who never gets any romantic attention (even from her husband), to being obsessed over and stalked by a mysterious and sexy bad boy. You’d think that would be terrifying, but she is so captivated by him that she dreams of him and longs for him when most women would flee in fear. This mortifies her. She’s a married woman, but can’t help herself. She can’t keep away from him. And on top of all of these conflicting emotions, she has to keep all of this a secret or else jeopardize Dracula’s life, as well as her own. You will be glued to every page and travel through every emotion with her.

6. It was spooky, suspenseful, exciting, and filled with deception, mystery, and romance. While Mina’s husband and his accomplices (including Van Helsing, a former boyfriend, and the widower of her best friend) came up with an intricate plot to murder Dracula, she appeared to be helping them, but in reality was leading them on a wild goose chase formulated by Dracula himself. She kept swinging back and forth between the two, doing her best to keep everyone in the “loop”. She hoped for both sides to win, because she cared so much about everyone involved. I’d go insane (or have a nervous breakdown) if I were her.

7. This book did not change the original story of Dracula. It is more of a companion to Stoker’s novel, rather than a retelling. I loved the the author stayed so true to the original. You really are seeing everything that happened, but from a different point of view.

8. In addition, reading Mina’s side of the story made me understand and appreciate Dracula so much more. In my opinion, the classic novel is kind of hard to understand. Perhaps I feel that way since I am just beginning to read the classics, and am not used to the old writing styles yet. Because it was so true to the original, I understood what was happening in the original more than I would have otherwise. Plus, I saw a tender, romantic side of Dracula and found myself falling for him right along with Mina. I think that’s part of the reason I loved this book so much. I think a little part of everyone is curious about the forbidden. It’s only human nature.

All in all, you should definitely read this book. I’m glad I gave this book a chance, because it is a truly beautiful story of love, deception, obsession, survival, and sacrifice. I was riveted, and could not put it down! I went out and bought every other novel by Syrie James, and she has yet to disappoint me thus far!

5 Stars