Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan

Paperback384 pages
Published June 24th 2014 
by Harlequin HQN
Series: O'Neil Brothers
My Rating: 
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Fiery French chef Élise Philippe is having a seriously bad day. Not only have the opening day plans for her beloved café fallen apart, but Sean O'Neil is back in town, and looking more delectable than ever. Last summer, they shared an electrifying night together…and the memories have Élise really struggling to stick to her one-night-only rule! Her head knows that eventually Sean will be leaving, so all she can do is try to ignore her heart before she spontaneously combusts with lust. 

Being back in Vermont—even temporarily—is surgeon Sean O'Neil's worst nightmare. For Sean, returning home to the Snow Crystal Resort means being forced to confront the reasons and the guilt he feels about rejecting his family's rural lifestyle years ago. But discovering that Élise has settled in Vermont and still sets his blood racing is a very welcome distraction! Thinking he can persuade her into a replay of last summer is tempting, but remembering how good they are together is going to make walking away more difficult than he could imagine…

Oh, holy gods of romance. Whew. Where to start. I was expecting a really great read from Sarah Morgan, but this one was special. It brought tears to my eyes. It made me want to burst into song with joy, kind of like Maria does in The Sound of Music. Everything about this book was just that good.

Here are two characters who aren't interested in relationships. Sean isn't interested in relationships because he's focused on his career. He's a orthopedic surgeon, and he's totally dedicated to his work. He works long hours and just doesn't have the time for a relationship. He's a one night stand kind of guy, not a player, but not looking for love and the traditional family with two point five kids and a dog. He thought Elise was the perfect woman for him because he thought she was the same.
Book Three, coming October 2014

He was wrong. But to be fair, Elise thought she was that way. Thought there was no way she could do love again after being really badly burned. She had built a new family for herself at Snow Crystal with the O'Neils and she was happy with her life. But Sean kept showing up, first to help out when his grandfather has a heart attack, and then because it seems he can't stay away from Elise. And even though they keep telling each other and themselves that's it's only sex, they both know deep down it's so much more than that. Ah, l'amore.

The romance is palatable. It seeps off the pages. I absolutely loved watching these characters fall in love, and learn to share their hearts. Sean learns to share his heart with his family, and Elise learns that sharing her heart doesn't have to result in pain. The story is also very much about community and family. I loved that we got to see plenty of Jackson and Kayla, that Walter plays an important role in this story, and I loved that we got to see the way Tyler feels about Brenna. Soooo looking forward to his book! This series feels like a family saga, and I'm loving the relationships. Sarah Morgan has penned a wonderful tale of life, family, love and spun it in a beautiful setting with characters who are delightful to read and with a romance that just leaves you with a smile on your face.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: The Devil's Footprints by Amanda Stevens

Paperback377 pages
Published March 1st 2008 
by Mira Books
My Rating: 
Genre: Thriller/Suspense

The footprints were etched in the snow for miles, passing through walls and crossing rivers...appearing on the other side as though no barrier could stop them.In 1922 a farmer in Adamant, Arkansas, awakes to a noise on his roof and finds his snow-blanketed yard marked with thousands of cloven footprints. The prints vanish with the melting snow...only to reappear seventy years later near the gruesome killing of Rachel DeLaune.

Years after her sister's unsolved murder, New Orleans tattoo artist Sarah DeLaune is haunted by the mysteries of her past. Sarah has always believed that her sister was killed by a man named Ashe Cain. But no one else had ever seen Ashe. He had "appeared" to Sarah when she needed a friend the most, only to vanish on the night of her sister's murder. The past bleeds into the present when two mutilated bodies are found near Sarah's home, the crime scene desecrated by cloven footprints.

First off, let me say that I listened to this on audiobook. It was narrated by Alicia Harding. She did a superb job narrating this story. It was absolutely wonderful, and thrilling to listen to the narration--it gave me chills in the right moments, was infused with mystery and I was riveted throughout the novel. 

Now, onto the story itself. I have never read anything like this. It's not easy for me to review without revealing too much. I thought this story would have more of a romance element to it, but as it went on it became apparent that while the heroine and her ex have unresolved romance issues, that this story was not about them finding their way back to one another. I'm not sure why I thought it might be. Probably because I'm a romance junkie. But I did not mind in the slightest--Amanda Stevens spins a fabulous web of a story. She's probably one of the most talented authors I've read to date. I've become a huge fan ♥ 

The story pivots around Sarah. The murders trigger certain doubts in Sarah that had me really questioning exactly what was going on in this story. While the murders seem unconnected to the murder of Sarah's sister, Rachel, which happened fourteen years ago, in another part of the country, they start to raise questions about that murder. And why Sarah came home covered in her sister's blood. What knowledge does Sarah have of the events that led up to her sister's death? Does she know her sister's killer? These are questions that haunt Sarah because she can't remember. And the more the story progresses, the more obvious it becomes that maybe the murders and the murder of Sarah's sister are somehow connected. But I was left guessing throughout as to exactly what was going on.  

This story was thrilling. I was spooked by some of the events--like the appearance of the cloven footprints. At other times, I grimaced as the murders were being discussed and the layers of the story were being peeled away--or piled on, depending. I was absolutely enthralled by the mystery. Because this is a multi-layered story and there are many secrets that come to surface. I highly recommend it whether or not this is your genre of choice--it's intelligently written, the pacing is flawless and the mystery will leave you guessing throughout. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

What's the Scoop??? Audiobooks Rock

Guess what everyone? I've discovered the joy of audiobooks. Now, I've always loved reading. Since the moment I learned to read, I have never ever stopped reading. And I doubt I ever will.

Several years ago, I realized that there were ereaders out there. I asked questions about these magical devices, thought about how cool it would be to own one. Learned there were even apps out that so you could read from your phone! Imagine that! Reading a book from your phone. I was floored. Now, keep in mind, this is back when everyone was just starting to use smart phones. I didn't even own an iPhone at the time, and the idea of ebooks was still new to me. Probably to a lot of people really. Anyway. That Chrismtas, I got a Kobo Wifi ereader as a gift. I've since upgraded twice, once to the Kobo Touch, and more recently to the Kobo Aura. But it was that first Kobo Wifi the made me a lover of the ebook. I thought I'd used that ereader minimally, but it soon became a HUGE part of my reading life.
My first Kobo looked like this!

Now that I've waxed eloquent about ebooks, I'll start my tale about audiobooks. Now, these were something I never thought I would use. Seriously. I love reading. I love sitting down with a book, or my ereader and seeing the words on the page. I love the highlighting, the going back and reading your favourite parts over and over (which I still find easier to do in a paperback) and I thought to myself, no way can I ever just sit and listen to a story. 

Well, I'm an idiot. I kept hearing more and more good things about audiobooks. They were becoming increasingly popular. People would talk about audiobooks as though they'd found pure gold, and were always saying how much they loved their audiobooks. And I kept thinking, well not me. That's just not how I read. I need to see the words written on the page. I can't listen to someone reading to me. But then, one day, not too long ago, I started thinking...I have to try this. Everyone can't be wrong. Even some of my friends who also always thought they'd never turn to audiobooks were loving them. So I asked some questions, did a little researching here and there. Got pissed off when I realized my local library doesn't really have any audiobooks. I was still hesitant though, because I'd listened to some samples and the narrators sounded kinda Romper Room to me. No offense to them, but I felt really silly listening to those samples.

But I finally purchased an audiobook. I'd only listened to maybe a minute of the sample, when I thought, for sure I can do this. And since someone had given me a coupon for the purchase, I thought I'd spring the little extra that audiobook costs and find out what the fuss was really all about. The audiobook I purchased was The Devil's Footprints by Amanda Stevens, narrated by Alicia Harding. And OMG ... it was so freaking good!!! Most of that is because Amanda Stevens is a brilliant author. Like, seriously, she is going on my automatic buy list. I don't even know why I'm sitting here writing this post when I ought be reading her books. But anyway. I have to say, the narrator did an amazing job. Hats off to Ms. Harding. Between Ms. Stevens' writing and Ms. Harding's narrations I was so spooked out that I didn't know whether not to listen or to go hide under my bed.

Add to Goodreads

For the record, I kept listening. And I fell in love with audiobooks. I'm fully converted. It only took one book. Just one book. And here I'd been so resistant. I think what made the audiobook reading experience so good was a couple of things. First of all, the medium is the message. Just experiencing a novel in a different media type than the printed word brought a whole other dimension to it. Secondly, I'd argue it's because of oral tradition. Audiobooks bring us closer to a more oral storytelling tradition--and all literature grew out of that tradition. Ancient peoples used to tell stories around the fire. Such tales as The Odyssey were only told orally for years and years before someone wrote them down. Oral storytelling is powerful. Being read to by someone is a powerful experience--just think how much little kids love it! Ever seen a little child being read to, the rapt look on their faces? For me, listening to this audiobook allowed me that same childlike experience; the wonder and awe of being told a story.

So dear friends, I say to you: read an audiobook. Treat yourself to this experience every now and then. It's one you won't regret having because audiobooks rock.

Review: The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

Kindle Edition1st edition155 pages
Published October 2nd 2013 
by David Meredith
My Rating: 
Genre: Fantasy; Romance

What happens when "happily ever after" has come and gone? 

On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven's wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven's fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White's own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing: 

The king is dead. 

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old. 

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what "happily ever after" really means? 

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.

This story is an examination of what happens after the happily ever ends. The blurb intrigued me because I can still hear the voice of the narrator of the Disney storybook (which I had on record as a little girl) as she pronounced, "and he carried her off to his castle in the clouds and they lived happily ever after." But really, the happily ever after is only the beginning of the story, so the premise of this novel caught my attention. 

What we get in this novel is a far more realistic story than what we are used to, the humiliation and cruelty heaped on Snow White are not something you'd want to read to your children about. It leaves the princess with an insecurity that follows her into old age, where she encounters the Magic Mirror who shows Snow White her darkest secrets and memories, and also, reminds her of something she has forgotten. The mirror forces Snow White to really face her past, and the story shows us a much different woman than we expect. This is a woman who was brought low but found the strength to build a new life for herself. She claims it was all Charming's doing, but while Charming offers her strength and love, he is not the hero of the tale--or rather, he is a dual hero as Snow White is in many ways, her own hero. 

I liked the depiction of both Snow White and Charming. Snow White was much as you might expect her, young in spirit, kind, but also vulnerable because of her early childhood. She has suffered a lot of loss and it has left its mark on her, yet she is not bitter or downtrodden. Just lost and unsure, but as the story progresses we do see her strength more and more. Charming was exactly what his name suggests; a sweet, kind man, patient and intelligent and very loyal. They fit this tale perfectly.

David Meredith has brought to life a much beloved fairy tale, and put a believable twist on it that fits the spirit of the original story. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, intelligently and thoughtfully written. I'm hoping to see more twisted fairly tales from this author. 

I would like to thank the author for providing me with a copy of the novel, in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Feature Favourite: The Prize by Julie Garwood

Today I'm sharing another of my favourite books with you, and it's no surprise (to me anyway) that it's a Julie Garwood.

The Prize
Author: Julie Garwood

The Novel: I think this might have been the first Julie Garwood novel I ever read. I adored it. It was a very entertaining read to watch this couple sort out their feeling for one another. Of course, we as readers know they love each other by the time they get to London but they have a harder time figuring that out. Especially Royce who admits to caring for Nicholaa, but can't quite figure out that he's capable of love. It's very amusing actually. As for Nicholaa, she set out trying to trap Royce into doing what she wanted and instead falls in love with him and then feels guilty for choosing him as her "prize". It's a ridiculous situation for a couple to be. It made me laugh that every time Royce tried to talk to her about their marriage, it turned into a lecture because Nicholaa wouldn't pay attention, or he'd wander off the topic because she'd distract him with all sorts of questions. And then she'd end up feeling like he didn't love her when was trying to show her that he did. Royce's character was very appealing. I liked how fierce and gentle he was, and that although Nicholaa infuriated him that he never lost his patience with her. Nicholaa was a stubborn, hot tempered character, but very sweet and I thought they fit nicely together. I had quite a few good laughs while I read this romance, and it left me looking forward to more reads by this author. Which I devoured in short order. 

The author: Julie Garwood grew up in a large family and enjoyed storytelling at a young age. But she didn't
 begin writing until her youngest child had started school. She has penned a great deal of best sellers since 1985, which have been translated into many languages. The themes of her novels are pretty consistent, despite the varying settings and time settings. In a Julie Garwood, the themes of family, loyalty and honour are explored, and you can be sure her books will be sprinkled with a fair amount of humor. When asked if she'll return to writing historical romance, she says while one is not scheduled to be written, that there are a couple of clans she'd like to visit again in Scotland. 

Julie Garwood continues to be one of my favourite authors. I've read her books over and over again. They are as engaging on the second or third read as they are on the first. 

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