Category: Adult Fiction

Covet by Tracey Garvis Graves (Book Review)

Posted September 9, 2013 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Covet by Tracey Garvis Graves (Book Review)Covet by Tracey Garvis Graves
Published by Dutton Adult on September 17, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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4 Stars

What if the life you wanted, and the woman you fell in love with, belonged to someone else?

Chris and Claire Canton’s marriage is on life support. Downsized during the recession and out of work for a year, Chris copes by retreating to a dark place where no one can reach him, not even Claire. When he’s offered a position that will keep him away from home four nights a week, he dismisses Claire’s concern that time apart could be the one thing their fragile union can’t weather. Their suburban life may look idyllic on the outside, but Claire has never felt so disconnected from Chris, or so lonely.

Local police officer Daniel Rush used to have it all, but now he goes home to an empty house every night. He pulls Claire over during a routine traffic stop, and they run into each other again at the 4th of July parade. When Claire is hired to do some graphic design work for the police department, her friendship with Daniel grows, and soon they’re spending hours together.

Claire loves the way Daniel makes her feel, and the way his face lights up when she walks into the room. Daniel knows that Claire’s marital status means their relationship will never be anything other than platonic. But it doesn’t take long before Claire and Daniel are in way over their heads, and skating close to the line that Claire has sworn she’ll never cross.

Everyone who knows me at all knows how much I adore On the Island, and Tracey. When I found out she was writing a new book, I knew I had to have it. It was on my to-read list before it had a title. I didn’t even know what it was about! I just knew if she wrote it, I needed it. When I found out what Covet is about, I was scared. I typically don’t read books like this one, but I trusted my love for Tracey’s storytelling, and went with it. And again, she hit it out of the park. Finally, a women’s fiction novel I’m on board with. I loved it! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Tracey has this amazing knack for tackling controversial subject matter and making it seem less controversial. And I love that she’s not scared to do it. On the Island deals with a non-conventional relationship (a rather sizable age gap), and she wrote it perfectly. It didn’t seem weird anymore. The same goes for Covet. Again, Tracey tackled a non-conventional relationship: an emotional affair. I’m not usually ok with this, but I totally understood these characters and their situations. Maybe it’s because she writes her characters in such a way that you can’t help but be on their side, or maybe she’s just perfect at putting emotions on paper. I don’t know what it is, but it’s a rare talent.

2. I was so invested in everything that was going on, and especially in the outcome. This book hurts! I felt such pain for Claire as I watched her husband neglect her day in and day out. I felt horrible for her husband, Chris, but at the same time I was SO mad at him for not pulling himself out of his funk long enough to realize what he was doing. Daniel made me swoon so much that I wanted to keep him for myself. And I felt so bad for him because he knew going in that Claire was married, but cared enough to just be her friend. Can you help who you fall in love with? These three just ripped me apart. I could not foresee an out come I would be ok with, but Tracey did it. I came out ok, and you will too!

3. The book goes back and forth between Claire, Chris, and Daniel. They each get to tell their story and share their feelings with the reader. I loved this, and I think it really contributed to my feelings of compassion and hope for all of them.

4. The friendship between Daniel and Claire is the kind that comes along once, but sometimes never, in a person’s lifetime. I really can’t even describe how I felt as I read their exchanges and their dialogue. They were there to fill the emotional voids in each other’s lives, and such an intense bond formed that I understood even though I felt like I shouldn’t.

5. Claire and Chris are also wonderful together. I loved reading about their first date and their courtship. And looking in on Chris in his office late at night, and jumping into his mind made me really pull for him. Basically, Claire is a lucky girl to have two great guys going after her!

6. Tracey’s writing is superb! I just love her style.

Overall, Covet is an amazing look into an issue that’s probably a lot more common than we think. I loved and felt for all the characters, and really enjoyed reading it! I’m still a fan of Tracey’s!

4 Stars

Uncharted by Tracey Garvis Graves (Mini Book Review)

Posted August 28, 2013 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

Uncharted by Tracey Garvis Graves (Mini Book Review)Uncharted by Tracey Garvis Graves
Series: On the Island #1.5
Published by Penguin on July 2, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance, Survival
Pages: 160
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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When twenty-three-year-old dot-com millionaire Owen Sparks walked away from his charmed life, he had one goal in mind: get as far away as possible from the people who resented his success, or had their hand out for a piece of it. A remote uncharted island halfway around the world seemed like a perfectly logical place to get away from it all.

Calia Reed wasn't part of Owen's plans. The beautiful British girl - on holiday in the Maldives with her brother, James - made Owen wonder if getting away from it all might be a lot more enjoyable with a carefree girl who didn't know anything about the life he left behind.

But Owen had no idea how much his carefully detailed plans would go awry. Nor did he realize that a decision he made would have such a catastrophic effect on two passengers who boarded a plane in Chicago.

And when Owen shows up at Anna and T.J.'s door with an incredible story to tell, everyone involved will learn just how much their lives are intertwined.

I loved being reunited with T.J. and Anna! It was a lot of fun to hear about what they’ve been up to since On the Island, even though they were not the focus of this novella. We are introduced to Owen, who chose to maroon himself on an uncharted island to get away from his crazy life. I really, really liked Owen. Even though he was wealthy, he wasn’t happy because his life was full of money and not relationships and simple pleasures. I love that he recognized this, because so many people these days believe that money buys happiness. His time on the island proved to be therapeutic, and he ended up learning a lot about himself in the process.

From time to time, Owen would head to the mainland for supplies and a shower before going back. One time he met Calia, a cute British girl, and her brother, James. The three went back to the island together, and I really liked reading about the bond they formed. James really cared for his sister in a, “you mess with her, you die.” kind of way, and I’ve always loved it when siblings have that kind of relationship. Romance also blossomed, and I really loved seeing what it did to Owen. It totally changed him–the sign of a great relationship. I also really liked Calia, although you don’t get to learn a ton about her. Adventure happens, as is Tracey’s mantra. It’s amazing the things that happen on this little island.

Most of this story is a flashback and Owen tells Anna and T.J. about his experience being stuck on an island. It was easier for him in that he had a pilot flying in to check on him and a satellite phone, but it was also very hard. And, of course, we get to discover how his story relates to theirs. It was all very exciting.

This book is quite a page-turner! With all the adventure and mystery, I tore through it. Tracey’s writing is still amazing. She is so good at describing the island, that I’m sure she’s been there. I can’t wait for more books from her!


RiverTime by Rae Renzi (Mini Book Review)

Posted May 27, 2013 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

RiverTime by Rae Renzi (Mini Book Review)RiverTime by Rae Renzi
Published by Carina Press on February 14, 2011
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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2 Stars

Casey Lord needs a break. Her great-on-paper boyfriend, Reed, is pressuring her to marry him--but she's not sure if he sees her merely as an asset to help his political career. A river-rafting trip in the remote wilderness provides the perfect opportunity to clear her head. Until a flash flood sweeps Casey away from her group--and straight into the arms of Jack, a mysterious man also stranded by the flooding river.

Jack won't tell Casey his last name, and her innocent questions about his life are met with evasive answers. Yet they have to trust each other to survive, and as the pair await rescue, their uneasy truce slowly blossoms into friendship--and love. They agree to keep secret whatever differences may separate them in the real world.

When rescue finally arrives, will it spell an end to their budding relationship?

I have a major thing for books with survival elements, and I absolutely ADORE the Grand Canyon (which I was not even sure was the setting for this book until I started reading it), so this book sounded perfect for me. I even ended up buying it without reading many reviews (which I forget), because I thought is sounded amazingly romantic and exciting. Sadly, I wasn’t really impressed.

The book starts out while the flash flood is in progress. It’s exciting and grabbed me immediately. The synopsis leads you to believe that Jack saves Casey, but she actually saves him. They both have baggage and frustrating lives, so they agree to forget about it all and live in “Rivertime”, which they treat like a parallel universe of sorts. Anything that happens in the canyon stays there, and will not impact their real lives. I didn’t like this element of the story. By turning this time into something that only mattered in the present, they both made decisions I did not agree with. I lost respect for them because of this.

I liked Jack, and his snarky sense of humor. Casey was your typical heroine, and did not really make an impression on me. With a setting as dynamic as the Grand Canyon, very little was done with it. For all I knew, they were stuck in a forest somewhere. I would have liked more scenery. And considering that this is a survival story, not much surviving happened. There were no animals, no chance of dehydration, no nothing really, except for some rain. I feel like a lot more could have been done with this as well. Casey also has this thing with comparing people to very detailed pieces of chocolate (with nuts and caramel, etc.). That got really old.

I don’t like relationships that that start out as pure lust. They both wanted to have steamy times, and they were each others’ only option, so it happened. This was a very insta-love kind of story, to the point of creepiness. I honestly don’t feel like they were stranded long enough to form a realistic relationship. They fell for each other before they even knew each other, which made it really hard for me to believe that their “love” could withstand their tumultuous real lives. Love needs a strong foundation, and you can’t just form that in a week or two.

I think my disappointment all boils down to the fact that this book spun out of control extremely quickly. Jack and Casey’s time in the canyon was a VERY small part of the story. The rest of it was spent on politics, cheating, misery, and weak characters having a hard time making decisions. Jack and Casey’s realities brought so many details and needless drama that I didn’t care about at all. I feel like the story would have been so much better if they had just been left in the canyon. I continued reading because I hoped things would get good again, but after the first quarter of the book, things went downhill and stayed there. And the ending… well, it was pretty terrible. Everything was wrapped up into a WAY too convenient and implausible bow. I love happily ever afters, but they need to be realistic for me or I end up scoffing. With a promising beginning, Renzi should have quit while she was ahead and written a novella instead of a novel.

2 Stars

Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris (Book Review)

Posted April 25, 2013 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 7 Comments

Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris (Book Review)Bridge Of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris
Published by Kensington Publishing on February 28, 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages: 431
Format: ARC
Source: Author
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4 Stars

A skilled violinist sacrifices her career aspirations and family's approval to secretly elope with her Japanese American boyfriend -- the night before Pearl Harbor is bombed. Torn between sides, she will make choices few people in history dared.

Los Angeles, 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern's life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother's best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.

When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.

I was born in Japan, on an air force base. My mom has told me stories of the amazing people and the friends she had while we were there. A school of boys from Japan came to my junior high school in September of 2001, and I got to host one of them. He shadowed me for a week. It was an amazing experience, especially since they were here on the day of the September 11th terrorist attacks. They got to share in our tragedy, and I saw legitimate sorrow and concern for us in their eyes. I heard their condolences through their broken English. Japan is filled with amazing people, and I can’t imagine the prejudices they have dealt with, especially during the time period of this story. As always, my main points are bolded! :)

1. I really felt for Maddie and Lane throughout the entire book. Their relationship was kept a secret, they never showed any signs of affection in public, they had to elope last-minute because Lane’s father had already picked out his wife, and then the war and accompanying tragedies split them apart and made their lives so much harder than anyone deserves. Lane’s parents were against the marriage, and Maddie’s brother (TJ) demanded she get a divorce, even though Lane was his best friend. Actually, TJ was so mad about it that it helped fuel his decision to join the Army to fight against the Japanese, often picturing Lane in his mind as he shot the enemy. 

2. Before I read this book, I had not understood the magnitude of the racism and segregation the Japanese-Americans dealt with. I admire both Maddie and Lane for their strength, for following their hearts, for looking past the opinions of others, and for sticking with each other, no matter the hardships involved. They were both so young, yet they had a more realistic picture of how life should be than the majority of the people they came across.

3. I learned a lot from this book. I was not aware of the camps the Japanese-Americans had to stay in once Pearl Harbor was bombed. The entire west coast pushed them away, out of their homes and businesses, searched and ravaged their homes for signs of treason, and forced them into dirty camps like prisoners. This internment lasted the duration of World War II. You only had to be 1/16th Japanese to receive this kind of punishment. Children were ripped away from their families. Spouses were split up. The Japanese-Americans who were visiting/vacationing in Japan during the attack, were not allowed to return to the USA. In fact, they were forced into the Japanese Army and had to fight against their own friends and family back home. Brothers, on opposite sides of the war, were forced to fight one another. And it happened. In the author’s note at the end of the book, she mentions a brother shooting down an enemy plane, only to find out his brother was on it. My heart broke. Some of the Japanese-Americans were forced to enlist in the US Army and spy on the Japanese, translating documents and sneaking into the fields at night to eavesdrop on their plans of ambush or attack. The ones who were not forced to enlist marked the reluctant soldiers as traitors, and put their families on “death lists”. These are not the things we’retaught in school, or at least I wasn’t. I’m grateful to Kristina for educating me with her extremely well-researched facts–heartbreaking as they may be.

4. Kristina’s writing style is gorgeous. She intertwines subtle symbolic messages and melodies with a sweet Romeo and Juliet kind of romance, and a cold, unfeeling war. Her lovely, descriptive passages soften the blow of the poignant sequences of war and loss.

5. This is the kind of book that one experiences, rather than reads. I felt so many different emotions throughout. The romance was heartwarming, the ever-present glimmers of opposing hearts softening made me hopeful that love knows no bounds, the tortures and deaths were devastating. It was quite an emotional roller coaster that didn’t end until the final page.

6. This book is much heavier than I had expected, and I don’t usually venture into such deeply emotional reads. I’m glad I read it, though. It’s a versatile read, and has a little bit of everything: romance, action, suspense, loss, coming of age, history, symbolism, and growth. Did everything end up the way I wanted? No. But I respect the author for not tying everything up into a perfect bow. If she had, it would have been insulting to the survivors and their families, not to mention those that perished. She painted the war as it really was without sugarcoating it. I think it’s good to be reminded of what humans are capable of. 

Maddie and Lane, along with countless numbers of other inter-racial couples and friendships, crossed over the barrier, and formed relationships that helped unite the races. Years later (and a long time coming), in 1988 President Reagan officially apologized to the Japanese-Americans for their internment during WW2. Kristina ends her author’s note with a quote that I loved: “Indeed, history has much to teach us, if only we are willing to learn.” I think that is so true, and beautifully sums up the entire message of this book. I’d recommend this to pretty much anyone, but if you love historical fiction with a hint of romance, I bet you’ll like this. :)

4 Stars

Nocturne by Syrie James (Book Review)

Posted January 28, 2013 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

Nocturne by Syrie James (Book Review)Nocturne by Syrie James
Published by Vanguard Press on January 4, 2011
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

When Nicole Whitcomb's car runs off a Colorado mountain road during a blinding snowstorm, she is saved from death by a handsome, fascinating, and enigmatic stranger.

Snowbound with him for days in his beautiful home high in the Rockies, she finds herself powerfully attracted to him. But there are things about him that mystify her, filling her with apprehension.Who is Michael Tyler? Why does he live alone in such a secluded spot and guard his private life so carefully? What secret--or secrets--is he hiding?

Nicole has secrets of her own and a past she is running from--but Michael understands her better than anyone she has ever known. Soon, she is falling as deeply in love with him as he is with her--a profoundly meaningful experience that is destined to change their lives forever.

As the sexual tension between them builds, however, the clues mount up. When Nicole learns her host's terrifying secret, there is nowhere for her to run but into the blizzard raging outside, and Michael may be the only one who can save her life.

1. I love the cover! It does a wonderful job of setting the tone for this haunting love story. I love a good romance. I love a good forbidden romance! I gobbled this book up like a bag of my favorite chocolate truffles, and here’s why!

I was very privileged to receive an invitation to a Q&A with Syrie the day after I finished Nocturne. I will do my best to integrate my questions and her answers into this review without spoiling any parts of the book!

2. This book is amazing for so many different reasons. Syrie’s beautiful writing never disappoints. How could it, though, when she chose such a wonderful setting for the book? It takes place in a beautiful, secluded area not far from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, which I have visited and is very lovely. I asked Syrie why she chose this particular location, as I had never read a book that took place there before. She said, “While doing research for this novel, to make my plot work, I needed to find a very remote spot where a reclusive person could own a fabulous spread and beautiful home, yet was not too far from a ski resort … and where it was believable that Nicole could actually be snowed in there for four days. For some reason I just knew it had to be in Colorado. An expert on all things Colorado (my cousin, in fact) suggested that particular location, and I am so grateful. I thought it worked perfectly.” I totally agree! I loved the descriptions she used and the pictures she painted. It was an ideal setting.

3. We have a very sexy, dangerous man who pulls himself out of isolation to rescue a damsel in distress. Michael is a 260-year-old vampire. He has given up drinking human blood and lives in a very secluded Rocky Mountain home to resist any temptation. In his spare time he reads a lot, writes, plays the piano, gardens, takes care of his horses, and works with wood. He is very content with his life, and enjoys his privacy. Seriously, this guy is perfect — intelligent, well read, musically inclined, sensitive, strong, loves animals, etc. You can’t help but love him. Syrie told me that Michael was inspired by, “…my love for Mr. Darcy! Admittedly, he does share a few of my husband’s traits, but mainly it was me conjuring up the type of man I’d fall madly in love with, if I was snowbound with him for four days.” She and I clearly have something in common because, aside from the vampire quality, Michael is my kind of man!

3. One thing that I found so unique about Nocturne is that the entire story revolves around two characters. That’s right. TWO. Yet, it’s not boring or long-winded. I wasn’t hoping for more characters. Actually, I would have been really annoyed if some highway patrolman or Michael’s housekeeper had shown up and destroyed the magic of this chance encounter. I asked Syrie if it was difficult writing a story with only two characters, or if she enjoyed being able to focus more on each one individually. She said, “I LOVED writing about just two characters. As a reader, with many books, I become so interested and invested in the main characters and their stories that I’m tempted to skip all the scenes with minor characters and just get to the main plot. I’ve felt that way as a writer, too. I thought, what if I just write a book about the two main characters? Could I do it? The challenge was to make them complex enough to keep the sexual tension and the twists and turns of the plot going. I hope you enjoyed the result.” Like I said, I did enjoy it and I really got to learn about and become friends with Michael and Nicole as a result.

Speaking of Nicole… She’s working a job that she has no passion for, but she does it because it’s safe. A traumatic past led her to that decision. At the tail end of her Steamboat Springs vacation, she gets caught in an awful snowstorm. She runs off the road, blacks out, and wakes up in a strange home by a warm fire. Her rescuer is a very secretive, moody, mysterious, and very attractive man. He did not want to save her. In fact, he wanted to leave her out there to die, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. So, here they sit, snowbound in an isolated home for four days. Nicole notices he is a little odd, and as she begins to figure him out she’s terrified of staying with him. She has to decide, though, which is more dangerous? Should she take her chances and brave the deadly blizzard, or take her chances and trust this man to keep his promise and keep her safe?

4. As the days go by, they have lots of long, deep conversations about life and love. I really enjoyed these conversations. It was like I was a fly on the wall of Michael’s cozy study, listening in on their private discussions. I usually get bored with long strings of dialogue and no action, but this was quite refreshing!

All in all, I loved this book. Yes, the story has been done before, but this take on the subject matter was so well done and so unique, that I did not feel like I had read it before. I was a bit skeptical about the whirlwind romance that took only about 3 days to reach its peak, but this was believable. The characters were relatable. They both had flaws that made them imperfect, but they brought out the perfection in each other. The twists and turns were dramatic, but again believable. The ending left more to be desired, but Syrie said, “…Nicole and Michael’s story is far from over. I’d love to write a sequel to Nocturne. It will depend on whether readers and the publisher request it, so we’ll have to wait and see!” I know I want to read it!

I thought I’d end my review with Syrie’s thoughts on her inspiration for this novel, and why she chose to focus more on certain elements of storytelling than others. “It must be something in the genes, but some of the most romantic and enduring relationships in my family history began as love at first sight (including my own love affair with my husband.) Maybe that’s why I felt compelled to write about the passionate, whirlwind romance between Michael and Nicole in my new novel, Nocturne. I…love that initial period of intense discovery between new lovers. I call it “falling in love through conversation,” and it’s so important to me that I have placed great emphasis on it in every single one of my novels.”

I would definitely recommend this book to lovers of forbidden love stories, real characters, and beautiful storytelling.  Please do me a favor and go buy Nocturne so that Syrie can write a sequel! I’m not done with those two yet! Thanks so much to Syrie James for taking the time to answer my questions, and to Wunderkind PR for sending me a copy of this book!

5 Stars

Bah, Humbug! by Heather Horrocks (Mini Book Review)

Posted December 19, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Bah, Humbug! by Heather Horrocks (Mini Book Review)Bah, Humbug! by Heather Horrocks
Published by Word Garden Press on September 9, 2011
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 96
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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2 Stars

Lexi Anderson is an up-and-coming, Martha Stewart-type TV hostess whose two kids love the Jared Strong adventure novels, which happen to be written by their new neighbor, Kyle Miller. For the first time in his writing career, Kyle has writer’s block--until he sees the snowman on his lawn and realizes it’s the perfect solution to his plot problem. He digs in and discovers two things: one, his villain’s weapon will fit inside a snowman's body, and two, this particular snowman was supposed to be the backdrop for Lexi’s next show. From this improbable beginning comes friendship, but can there be a happy ending for a woman who is afraid to get close again and a man who has shadows from his childhood? Families join together and hearts are healed as this couple goes walking in a winter wonderland.

You know how sometimes you’ll be flipping through the channels for a fun Christmas movie to watch, and all of a sudden you come across a particularly cheesy and sugary romance on Hallmark? That’s how I felt with this book. It was SOO a Hallmark movie. And don’t get me wrong. I love some of those Hallmark Christmas movies! But I’m sure you know exactly what I’m saying when I tell you that this one was just TOO Hallmarky. I supposed with the right overdose of the Christmas spirit pills, one might be able to sink their teeth into this one without getting a cavity. But even the cheeriest of elves, or Mrs. Claus herself, would probably feel the need to brush their teeth big time once they finished this.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad book by any means. The story idea was a lot of fun: famous children’s author meets young Martha Stewart, and they help each other recover from their pasts to pave the way for a future together. But the story was so implausible that I could not see past that to anything else. Lexi and Kyle meet for the first time when he destroys her beautiful snowman, in the hopes of finding a twist for his next book. She gets so unbelievably mad at him, you’d think he stole her secret fruitcake recipe and sold it on the Black Market. It’s a snowman. But she flies over the handlebars and refers to him as one of the worst men in the world for ruining her snowman.

This is the biggest case of instalove I’ve ever seen. More than Twilight, even. They go from hating each other’s guts to planning a Christmas party together, which of course makes them fall in love. The two are engaged before they even have their first kiss and before they even exchange “I love you’s”. Ahhhh! It happens in like 4 days! To offset the sugary love, the author threw a very depressing pity party for Kyle and his family, who spend Christmas Eve morning the 22nd anniversary of their mother’s death. It felt a little forced to me, and I got really depressed reading pages and pages of crying. It was just a roller coaster of extreme emotions.

I did enjoy that the story takes place in Salt Lake City. I always have fun reading about places I’ve actually seen, like the mall they mentioned. And I really liked Lexi’s kids, especially her daughter Tricia. But other than that, this book was just too much for me. Martha added too much sugar to this batch of cookies!

2 Stars

Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace (Mini Book Review)

Posted December 6, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace (Mini Book Review)Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace
Published by Cedar Fort on September 8, 2009
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 186
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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3 Stars

With a successful bakery to run, super cute nieces and nephews to spoil, and plenty of good friends to keep her company, Abbie s not about to start crying over the fact that she s doesn't have a boyfriend to spend Christmas with. But when her sister convinces her to write a note to Santa, Abbie has no idea that a little Christmas magic is about to land her the man of her dreams. Or rather, that man is about to land smack dab on the floor in front of her Christmas tree with no memory of how he got there.

Now Abbie and Ben have to figure out where he came from, who he really is, and if he's actually available.

Aubrey Mace, the award-winning author of Spare Change, has done it again! This light-hearted holiday romance is sure to please even the most cynical scrooge. Told with humor, sweetness, and Aubrey's signature wit, this is one Christmas story that will keep you smiling all year round.

Santa Maybe is a cute, quick read with lots of adorable Christmas spirit and tradition. It all starts when Abbie writes a letter to Santa, asking for a husband. She does this as a joke, not expecting anything to happen, seeing as how she has sworn off of men. Low and behold, she is awakened by a thud in her living room. Armed with a rolling pin and lots of adrenaline, she sneaks out and finds a man asleep under her tree. I swear, I need to write my letter to Santa now. I need a man for Christmas too!

I’d been wanting to read this book for a few years, and am so glad I started my Christmas reads further in advance this time. Santa Maybe is the perfect book to get you into the Christmas spirit. Abbie owns an adorable sounding bakery, and she spends a lot of time there baking goodies as the snow falls outside. I could practically smell the cookies baking in the oven. When Ben shows up, he immediately fits into her life perfectly, and is so persistent and amazing. It was fun watching the two of them try to figure out who he was!

Oh, and boy, did Abbie end up with a winner. Ben is amazingly perfect (well, except for the amnesia), and the dream man that fills up my single girl’s mind. He’s chivalrous and handsome and thoughtful, caring, etc. He’s all the good things! He and Abbie have great chemistry, but she is convinced that he has a wife and children somewhere. This really hinders the relationship, and I wish we had been given more time to see them as a couple, rather than in this stage of limbo.

Aspects of this story are pretty unrealistic. I mean, Abbie had absolutely no problems accepting a stranger into her house. I’m a bit too paranoid to be able to do that, but he is pretty handsome, so maybe I’d bend the rules for a guy like him! Ben’s face went up on the news, and women began posing as his wife so they could have him to themselves. I found that a bit far-fetched as well. And Abbie’s sister’s reaction to all of this was also rather unrealistic. If this happened to my sister, I’d be flipping out! I certainly would not immediately start shoving her into him. I’d have to interrogate him first!

All in all, though, Christmas is a time for magic. Santa Maybe is a cute, magical story chock full of family, food, and romance. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves simple little contemporary Christmas romances.

(Disclaimer: This book was written by an LDS woman, so aspects of the LDS faith are woven into the story. Nothing is pushed on the reader, though. Ben and Abbie go to church once, so the readers are given a few churchy details during that portion of the book. Other than that, there’s nothing else.)

3 Stars

The Carny by Brooke Moss (Book Review)

Posted October 17, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

The Carny by Brooke Moss (Book Review)The Carny by Brooke Moss
Published by Inkspell Publishing on July 7, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 416
Format: eBook
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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2.5 Stars

At a town fair on the coast of Oregon, handsome Native American carny, Vincent Youngblood, bestows an unforgettable kiss on shy, awkward teenager, Charlotte Davenport. Then disappears without another word, leaving her baffled and enamored. Ten years later, Charlotte is still living in the small fishing town of Astoria, while being trained to--reluctantly--take over for her philandering hotelier father when he retires. After all, who else will do it? Her two perfect sisters are busy being married to their flawless husbands and having cookie cutter children, while Charlotte remains single, childless, and every bit as mousy as she was a decade ago. As Charlotte struggles to climb out from underneath her judgmental parents thumb, the carnival rolls back into town, and Charlotte finds herself face to face with Vin again. He's back to run his father's carnival, walking away from a promising career in medicine he started in Chicago. Will her biased and judgmental family accept her relationship with a man who is not only a Native American, but works as a carny for a living? And what unsavory secrets bind the well-educated and seemingly superlative Vin to that ramshackle carnival? After all, you can t judge a carny by its cover.

I was quite excited for this book, because I love the idea of this serendipitous moment where two people magically collide and form a connection that spans 10 years! I remember when I was younger, there was this TV show called Providence. One of the small story lines that spanned a few episodes was when Joanie went to a masquerade ball, and was randomly kissed by a masked man in a Zorro costume, before he disappeared. It was so exciting and romantic, especially once these two found each other again. That’s what I pictured with this story. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The romance factor is there, even though it was quite cheesy and predictable at times. We’ve got this sexy, swoon worthy Native American named Vin who is a complete dreamboat. He’s been thinking about Charlotte off and on since that kiss, and their reunion is pretty sweet and made me melt. Plus, the things he said to her were just precious. I’m a huge fan of Vin, and to be honest, he’s way too good for Charlotte. This brings me to my next point.

2. I can’t stand Charlotte. She has such low self esteem, that Vin has to continually reassure her that she’s pretty. She actually apologizes to him for not being pretty enough. My. Gosh. Plus, she jumps to conclusions. If she can be mad at Vin, she will be without even giving him the chance to explain! She’s hopelessly in love with this guy, but goes on pouting sprees as often as she can–ignoring him for days while she mopes. Seriously. Can anyone be good enough for her? And THEN she flips and runs into his arms sobbing. She was weak, and he was blinded by love. Seriously, Vin. Come find me.

3. I’m not a huge fan of the supporting characters either. I liked the people we briefly met at the carnival, the part of Vin’s family we met, and I liked Charlotte’s friend. But I could not stand Charlotte’s racist, annoying family. They were so horrible, that I had a hard time believing they were real. I would have enjoyed reading about Vin’s family so much more.

4. I enjoyed the small details: the carnival, the small cottage with the greenhouses, the lighthouse, the quaint town, the crisp air. I would love to visit this place. It was described wonderfully.

5. The writing was pretty awful. I’m not even sure this book was edited. Sundays does not equal Sunday’s. If you’re enjoying Sunday’s weather, you use it this way. If you’re excited about all the upcoming Sundays, there is no apostrophe. You’re adorable. That’s a good use of you’re. You’re dress is adorable is not a good use of you’re. It’s lovely outside. Yes. This is good. My cat wiggled it’s nose? No. There were more typos and broken grammar laws than I could keep track of. It really detracted from the story.

6. The deeper issues gave the book substance, and I liked that. Charlotte’s horrendous family forced her to defend herself. Vin’s unreliable family forced him to make tough decisions. They both had sad pasts, which made them real.

7. The ending was too much. You can only have so many “happily ever after” elements before it’s just too much. Every single happy thing that could happen to these two did. I mean, I was happy for them and all, but now that all is said and done I keep thinking that the bow this story was tied up in is just too pretty, especially after all the opposition they were facing throughout the entire story.

8. Regardless of my little gripes about the book, I did enjoy the story. I will always pull for a couple like this one. The more opposition they face, the more I want them to end up together. I seriously loved Vin, and I loved some of the romantic scenes these two shared. I had a hard time putting it down.

Overall, I appreciated the story and the attack on racism, because it’s still a modern problem. I loved Vin so much, and would love to read more of his back story. We briefly hear about is past, and I’d love a prequel that shows us Vin’s life before Charlotte. A strong editor could have done wonders for this book, and I’m sad that didn’t happen. I’d recommend this to people who enjoy happy romantic contemporaries with real issues, a loveable hero, and quaint coastal towns.

2.5 Stars

The Reluctant Bachelorette by Rachael Anderson (Mini Book Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway)

Posted October 8, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Guest Post / 2 Comments

The Reluctant Bachelorette by Rachael Anderson (Mini Book Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway)The Reluctant Bachelorette by Rachael Renee Anderson
Published by HEA Publishing on September 8, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 300
Format: eBook
Source: Author
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4 Stars

Luke Carney has no idea what possessed him to move back to Shelter Springs, Colorado, to set up his veterinarian practice. His parents have long since left, the small farming community is on the brink of extinction, and only one close friend from his childhood remains--Taycee Emerson, his best friend’s little sister, who isn’t so little anymore.

Then there’s the matter of Shelter’s Bachelorette, an online reality dating show created to raise some much needed funds for the town.

Unwittingly cast as the bachelorette, Taycee wants out, especially when she discovers that Luke, her childhood crush, is back in town and will be one of the bachelors. To make matters worse, it's up to the viewers--not her--to decide which bachelors stay or go. And they all seem to like Luke.

Unwilling to let him break her heart again, Taycee launches a subtle attack on Luke’s good name with the hope of getting him voted off the show. But she’d forgotten that Luke's an eye-for-an-eye kind of guy, and when he discovers what she's up to, it means revenge.

I’m ready and willing to admit that I love The Bachelor and the Bachelorette. These shows make Mondays worth having. I know they are totally silly and the couples pretty much never stay together, but I don’t care! I even watch the show if I really REALLY dislike the people. It’s pure entertainment, and I love the drama. So, of course I was excited to read The Reluctant Bachelorette! It was a cute, cheesy read. Sometimes cheese is what you need. :)

Taycee was a likeable lead, and I really liked Luke. They are an adorable couple, and I enjoyed reading about the development of their relationship. I liked the idea behind the show: raising money for charity. I thought it was a fun way to raise money, and I would love to be in Taycee’s shoes! Give me 20 guys to date, and I’m all for it. The only thing that bothered me about this particular group of guys is that most of them were even likeable. I really felt for Taycee and laughed to myself as she went on some pretty bad dates, just because I’ve totally been there! There were a few I liked, though, and I had fun reading about those dates. There was also quite a bit of secrecy and drama, which I ate up.

Luke is my dream guy. I’d love to date him, and I loved reading about his and Taycee’s romance. One of my favorite scenes was when they went star gazing. I did that with a guy one time. He gave me his jacket, and we drove up into the mountains and the sky was on fire. He put his arms around me and rested his chin on my head as we watched the stars and whispered about random stuff. The scene in this book brought me back to that moment, and I totally remember feeling twitterpated and giddy like they did. It was a sweet moment. :) I also love when they spent the day at the swimming hole. So romantic!

This book is so happy and sweet! It’s one of those simple romantic contemporaries where everything makes you smile. Oh, and the ending… I got teary-eyed! This book had a downright amazing ending. We all need books like this. There was a lot of fluff, mixed in with some more serious issues that kept the story grounded. I liked the main characters, and even a few of the supporting ones.

Last of all, I really appreciate the clean content of this book. There was no steam, smut, or bad language, yet it was still sweet and romantic. Romance is possible without a bed in play, and Rachael did a great job proving that. Read on for her guest post on this exact topic of discussion.

The Author: Rachael Anderson
(Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Blog)

“I love to read, write, and do most anything outdoors, with the exception of rock climbing and sky diving. (I have serious height phobias.) If there’s something I can do within five feet of solid ground, count me in!”

Keeping it Clean for a Reason

I write unapologetic clean romance, and I always will. My favorite part of any love story is the falling in love part–all of the stuff that happens before sex. There’s something magical and special about that time, and for me, it’s the most romantic part. Take Pride and Prejudice, for example–the most beloved of all love stories. Jane Austin took two strangers, gave them a reason to think less of the other from the get-go, and then let the respect, friendship, attraction, and love grow from there. By the end of the book, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Mr. Darcy and Lizzy had so much more than chemistry. They had something real and lasting and sigh-worthy. And Jane Austin did it all without sex. They didn’t even kiss until the end of the book.

Yes, I realize the contemporary world we live in is a different place. In the movies and so many books these days, people meet, kiss, and fall into bed together in the blink of an eye. It makes me sad, because not only do I NOT want to read (or let my children read) about two characters having sex, but I feel like those writers clicked fast-forward on the most beautiful moments in any love story. I come away feeling shorted.

For me, true romance is in the initial connection, friendship, giddiness, excitement, noticing, frustration, fear, and insecurity. It’s in the first look, first touch, first kiss. It’s in the development of something real, something deep, and something lasting.  By the end of any book I write, I want my readers to know, without a doubt, that those two characters are a perfect fit, in more ways than just chemistry. That regardless of what comes their way, they will stay together for always. That’s the best kind of happily ever after there is.

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4 Stars

Murder for Choir by Joelle Charbonneau (Review & Giveaway)

Posted July 5, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Book Review / 14 Comments

Murder for Choir by Joelle Charbonneau (Review & Giveaway)Muder for Choir by Joelle Charbonneau
Series: Glee Club #1
Published by Berkley on July 3, 2012
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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3 Stars

Even as a struggling opera singer, Paige Marshall has never seen anything like the cutthroat competition of the Prospect Glen High School show choir. Coaching these championship-hungry students may be her toughest gig yet...

Especially when her best young male singer is suspected of killing the arrogant coach of Prospect Glen's fiercest rival. To clear his name, Paige will have to sort through a chorus of suspects, and go note-for-note with a killer who wants her out of the spotlight for good.

Welcome to today’s stop on the JKS Communications virtual book tour for Joelle Charbonneau’s newest book, Murder for Choir, a cozy mystery filled with singing, dancing, competition, and intrigue. I’m so glad you stopped by!

Seeing as how I was a show choir girl all through high school and college, I was incredibly excited to find a mystery novel that centered around such a fun time in my life. It was also nice to step away from the young adult books for a little while and read about people closer to my age. As always my main points are bolded. :)

1. I think the idea for this book was fun and unique. You can do a lot with a show choir, and there are a lot of story elements you can tackle. I’ve never watched the TV show Glee, but a blurb on the cover said, “Imagine if Stephanie Plum joined the cast of Glee…” I’ve also never read a Stephanie Plum novel! Haha. So, I can’t agree or disagree. Perhaps this will give you an idea, though, of what the book is like. :)

2. Paige Marshall is one of those characters that you want to either scream at or be best friends with. On the one hand, she’s always getting herself into trouble. She’s that heroine in the movies who walks out in the dark in her socks because she thinks she heard someone out there. You want to yell at her, “GET INSIDE, DUMMY!” I feel like she was lacking in basic, common sense. It got her in trouble. On the other hand, though, she’s sweet and is doing all of this to save a teenage boy who was accused of murder. She had good intentions, so I guess I can look past that. Haha. She’s also pretty funny.

3. Paige’s three co-workers: Devlyn (my favorite), Larry, and Felicia, were great characters. They were all very different from one another, with dynamic personalities, which was really nice. Sometimes supporting characters are boring and kind of mush together. I really liked them, though, except for officer Mike. I did not like him at all. Throughout the entire book he seemed aloof and unorganized. Plus, he seemed to be a total playboy. Paige’s Aunt Millie was a little over the top for me. She kind of reminds me of Richard’s mother in the TV show, Castle, if you’re familiar with that: tacky clothes, money, a Mark Kay pink Cadillac, and a pushy personality. Both women love their families, though, which is why I can let the tackiness slide and adore them both. And I must admit, Millie was hilarious. Her taxidermy pets and pink platform shoes were heartwarming.

4. The mystery was very intriguing, but not entirely realistic to me. Paige, a teacher, took the police investigation on herself and ended up getting into a lot of trouble. She should have been arrested so many times for interfering with a police investigation, but she never did. If you can look past the fact that this all would most likely never happen, and just enjoy the story for what it is you’ll be fine. :) I had to keep reminding myself of this throughout the book. I guess I watch too much CIS/NCIS/Castle/Blue Bloods. I just wasn’t buying it.

5. Regardless of my former point, I was kept guessing on who did it until about the last quarter of the book. I actually figured it out before Paige did, which made me really proud of myself! Usually the ending is a surprise to me.

6. Maybe I was just lucky, but my show choir experiences were not this cut throat and ruthless. Directors did not have to sleep with adjudicators in order to get higher scores or placements. Students did not wish someone dead or threaten people in the hopes of winning a competition or getting ahead. We all just liked each other and enjoyed the music we made together. So to me, this also felt unrealistic. But the author is a major musician and performer, so maybe she saw this kind of thing happen in her choral experiences. I was just surprised. Haha.

Overall, this is a fun little mystery. I enjoyed the characters and the basic plot line. Joelle is a great storyteller, and I enjoyed her writing style. While I found things to be a little unrealistic, once I looked past that and just focused on the story I began to enjoy it more. Was it my favorite book? No. But I would recommend it to people who love mysteries, a little romance, a little suspense, and choral singing.

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3 Stars