Publisher: Mira

The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak | Mini Book Review

Posted December 26, 2014 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak | Mini Book ReviewThe Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak
Series: Whiskey Creek #7
Published by Mira on October 28, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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2 Stars
Just call her Christmas Eve… 

Eve Harmon has always enjoyed Christmas, but this year it reminds her of everything she doesn't have. Almost all her friends are married now, and that's what Eve wants, too. Love. A husband and kids of her own. But the B and B she manages, and even Whiskey Creek, the small Gold Country town where she was born and raised, suddenly seem…confining.

Eve's worried that her future will simply be a reflection of her past. There's no one in the area she could even imagine as a husband, until a handsome stranger comes to town. Eve's definitely attracted to him, and he seems to have the same reaction to her. But his darkly mysterious past could ruin Eve's happily ever after, just when it finally seems within reach. And just when she's counting on the best Christmas of her life!

 

The Heart of Christmas was my first experience with the Whiskey Creek series by Brenda Novak, and I was happy to see that it read as a standalone. I’m intrigued by the stories of some of the other characters in this book, though, so I’m definitely going to look in to the rest of the series! I’m very mixed on my review of this book, so it has been hard to gather my thoughts together in a way that makes sense to me.

I’m a huge fan of small towns where everyone knows everyone, and you feel safe and loved. That’s exactly what the town of Whiskey Creek is like. And that aspect of the book is one of the few things I actually liked, sadly. I loved the atmosphere. I loved the Victorian Christmas at Eve’s B&B. But I did not love Eve. I can relate to her. I’m still single, the last single of my group of friends actually. It’s hard. But I don’t make bad decisions as a result, and I’ve never been excited about romances that bloom from drunken one night stands. I felt like I lost respect for both characters before I even got to know them. Of course, this opinion is obviously based on a personal set of morals and so I tried to not let my feelings taint my thoughts on the book. But… the fact that things escalated from a regretted one night stand to a slight tolerance on both their parts to a lustful friends with benefits, no strings attached thing to MY LIFE IS ALL ABOUT YOU so quickly I just had a hard time believing it. As such, the chemistry was not convincing and I didn’t really care if Eve and Rex ended up together or not.

Rex’s dark, mysterious past seemed too far-fetched. And the semi-mystery/suspense that resulted from it just did not work for me at all. I can see why the author chose to do this, but I felt like it turned the book into a story you would find in an over the top action movie. The ending itself was unsatisfying because the loose ends are not all tied up, and you’re left with a few questions.

Basically, I was disappointed. Perhaps if I were a long-time lover of Whiskey Creek I might have ended up loving this book. While it did read as a standalone, I did not come into it with the love of the series that many people probably did. Maybe this was not the best book to start out the series with, as I’ve heard it’s not as good as some of the earlier titles. I’ve liked Brenda Novak’s historicals, so I’m going to give this series another shot.


Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (Book Review)

Posted February 5, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 7 Comments

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (Book Review)Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Series: Study #1
Published by Mira on November 18, 2008
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 405
Source: Birthday present
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4 Stars
Choose: A quick death… Or slow poison…

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...

Much like Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, I was really worried about this book. I don’t usually like books where the main character(s) are violently mistreated. In both instances, I read the back of each book and skeptically thought, “Who on Earth could enjoy such a violent and tragic storyline?”  However, I’d heard AMAZING things from friends and fellow book-a-holics that I trusted. I loved The Hunger Games, so I dove right into this book with the same expectations.  I loved this one too!

Yelena lives in the land of Ixia. She has been convicted of murder, and is therefore sentenced to death by hanging. While lying in her dark, grimy, rat-infested dungeon cell she awaits the noose made especially for her. After living in that cell for just under a year, a guard comes and scrapes her emaciated body off the floor and takes her away. She can only assume it’s her turn to die. However, she is presented with a way to live—a new life. There’s a catch, though. If she’s going to live, she has to do it as a servant in the Commander’s home as his food taster. The previous food taster has died, and since the favorable method of assassination is by poison, the commander needs a new food taster immediately. The code states that the next person in line for the noose has to be offered the position. She accepts, thinking that surely there will be opportunity for escape in the future. Valek, her new handler, takes her through an extensive training curriculum, even poisoning her in the process. She comes through with a complete knowledge of all the poisons and begins her job.

Brazell, the father of the man Yelena murdered wants her dead. Her life becomes an obsession of his and she has to fight him and his guards off along the way. Not only is he after her, but so are some of the other servants she lives with. On top of that, someone has noticed some special powers she possesses and insists on either killing her or training her. If she does not learn to control these powers, she could cause major trouble for not only herself, but the world she lives in. This makes life difficult, obviously, and Valek, takes her into his suite so he can protect her. Along with Valek, she finds a few friends in the castle who help her and teach her new things.

When a conspiracy arises against the Commander, Yelena is forced into the middle of all of it. She has to face the man who drove her to kill, the demons of her past, and the man who just might ruin her future. She also has to quickly discover her true potential in order to help protect those she is bound to by vow and bound to by love. Throw in a ton of suspenseful scenes, some menacing characters, and a love interest or two, Yelena is in for a bumpy ride on the road to self-discovery, love, loyalty, and friendship.

I really enjoyed the unique storyline and cast of characters. Yelena is so spunky. You’d think that with the crappy past she had and the dismal life she ends up surrendering to, she’d be all whiny and woe-is-me all the time. She’s a fighter!  She takes no crap and she kicks butt a few times! It’s really entertaining and refreshing to see such a strong female character. Here’s this skinny, weak little thing fighting off some of the strongest and most evil people ever. There’s a few lessons I think I need to learn from her. I loved Valek from the beginning. He’s got that hardened, cold, stand-offish persona but you just know there’s a teddy bear in there somewhere. That kind of man is very appealing and you’ll know what I mean if you’ve read about a man like him. The other characters were also likable. Really, the only ones I did not like were the villains (go figure). The storyline was so unique to me that it really pulled me in. I was constantly turning pages wondering how the author would treat the subject matter. It took me way too long to read, since I was on vacation, but it kept calling to me from my carry-on bag or my suitcase. 

I could not give the book 5 stars, just because I really hated how horrible some of the people in this book were treated. I had a hard time hearing about the sad life of Yelena, as well as the people from her past. I loved the suspense, the little bit of romance, and the unique storyline.


The Perfect Christmas, by Debbie Macomber (Book Review)

Posted December 21, 2011 by Jana in Book Review / 7 Comments

The Perfect Christmas, by Debbie Macomber (Book Review)The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber
Published by Mira on September 29, 2009
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 232
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought it!
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3 Stars
WHAT WOULD MAKE YOUR CHRISTMAS PERFECT?

For Cassie Beaumont, it's meeting her perfect match. Cassie, at thirty-three, wants a husband and kids, and so far, nothing's worked. Not blind dates, not the Internet and certainly not leaving love to chance.

What's left? A professional matchmaker. He's Simon Dodson, and he's very choosy about the clients he takes on. Cassie finds Simon a difficult, acerbic know-it-all, and she's astonished when he accepts her as a client.

Claiming he has her perfect mate in mind, Simon assigns her three tasks to complete before she meets him. Three tasks that are all about Christmas: being a charity bell ringer, dressing up as Santa's elf at a children's party and preparing a traditional turkey dinner for her neighbors (whom she happens to dislike). Despite a number of comical mishaps, Cassie does it all --- and she's finally ready to meet her match.

But just like the perfect Christmas gift, he turns out to be a wonderful surprise!

First off, yay!!! Two reviews in two days! So proud. :) I really do love this time of year, and I love ingesting as much sweet stuff as possible, both by way of mouth (unfortunately) and by way of entertainment! I watch Christmas movies all month, make Christmas cookies and fudge, design Christmassy jewelry, and listen to the Carpenters wish their darlings a merry Christmas. Finally, I’m guilty of hunting down the cutest Christmas romances all year and saving them for after Thanksgiving, as you’ve seen me do all December here at the blog. I read as many as possible. This kind of book follows the same formula that all other Christmas romances follow. The people are sweeter than candy canes, merrier than the elves, and jollier than Saint Nick himself. And of course… there’s the one woman going through her quarter-life crisis, hoping for a boyfriend for Christmas, followed by a bun in the oven and a white-picket fence. I’m typically not a sappy person, but for some reason I enjoy this during the holidays!

Doesn’t that synopsis just make you smile? I knew that, ultimately, the entire book would be pure, predictable, fluff. But it was extremely sweet, and I did really enjoy it! I got pretty tired of listening to Cassie complain for the first 30 or so pages, but it got so much better once she was done introducing her predicament and venting about it. I adored Simon’s character. He was the scrooge of the book, who did not believe in love even though his profession was to help others find it. I love the banter he and Cassie share back and forth. As Cassie goes through the process of completing her three tasks, she experiences some funny things and also some heartwarming things. You grow to like her, and her totally awesome brother (I’d date him!). It does have a very sweet ending, and everyone is overflowing with happiness and the spirit of Christmas.

It was a cute, fast, fluffy read but I love that at Christmastime! Now, it’s not a piece of genius literature, nor does it have a very original plot. It’s very predictable, and I knew from the very beginning what was going to happen. If you’re looking for a challenge, or looking to be captivated, this is probably not the book for you. If you’re looking for a quick dose of cute Christmas sappiness, then perhaps you’d take from this book the same things I did.

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