Book Mama

A Mama and her love of books. Come share what I've read. Reviewer for: CK2s Kwips and Kritiques

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Location: Alaska, United States

SAHM to 5 wonderful people. I'm a happy wife and mother who is shamelessly addicted to books. Come share them with me. My reviews are courtesy of CK2S Kwips and Kritiques.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Home for Book Mama

You can now find me at Literary Mama.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Even Now by Karen Kingsbury

This is my first book by “The Queen of Christian Fiction”, Karen Kingsbury, and it certainly won’t be my last. Planning to only read a few pages, I was immediately transported and lost myself in the story.

The flashback in the beginning of the novel seamlessly flowed into the rest of the plot giving us a hint of what to look for and still hungry to discover how the events unfolded.

The characters were tangible and very relatable. These people had flaws just like anyone else and paid terrible prices for their decisions. The reader isn’t preached at, as is sometimes a complaint with Christian Fiction, but is simply told a story.

Fraught with beautiful sentimentality, Kingsbury weaves an intricate tale of love and loss, forgiveness and faith. The only flaw in this having to swallow the reasons why these people haven’t been able to find one another in this day and age. But the overall storytelling more than makes up for the suspension of disbelief one must sustain.

Handled with delicate non-partisanship, current issues of Afghanistan and the Iraq war are woven into the story , bringing even more realism. This is an integral part of the story as we’re asked to believe two families have spent 18 years looking for each other with no success.

I’ve already recommended this book to friends and family and look forward to sharing more of Karen Kingsbury’s stories of faith and hope in the future.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

She's Giving a Book Away!

Melissa wrote up a great review of Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky. If you'd like a chance to win a copy, check out her blog where you can find a synopsis of the book and her review!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Accidentally Dead by Dakota Cassidy

Nina Blackman is dead. And not just your ordinary dead, but UNdead. She didn’t start out that way. Oh, no. One minute she was a dental assistant minding her own business when a patient, hopped up on laughing gas turns around and bites her. Starting out with a craving for blood instead of hot wings with blue cheese dip was a rude awakening and her new fangs are just cumbersome. But her friends are there to help her though. And Greg, “HawtMortalityStealer” an honest to goodness vampire, is going to guide her. Whether she wants him to or not!

ACCIDENTALLY DEAD is second in this hilarious and sexy paranormal series. It’s not required for you to read THE ACCIDENTAL WEREWOLF first, but why deny yourself the pleasure? There’s lovely character development to be had as you meet Marty, Nina’s friend, Color Wheel mentor and moon howler and Wanda, Nina’s own personal and very human Jiminy Cricket. These characters grow with each installment.

Nina wasn’t initially my favorite character. I was a bit worried about spending a whole book with her. Honestly? She scares me a little. I think she could intimidate Rambo and The Terminator combined. That’s part of what made this book so fun! Discovering what made Nina-Nina was more touching than you would expect from paranormal chick lit. I grew to adore her as a character.

Labeling Nina ‘Stubborn’ doesn’t even begin to cover it, ’cause she’s on a quest to get UN-undead. I found myself more than once laughing out loud (okay, snorting on occasion) at her tenacity. Dakota Cassidy has a gift for humor in her writing and who couldn’t use a good sidesplitting laugh? She also manages to leave us guessing, using just the right amount of suspense to keep the pages turning.

The foreshadowing for Cassidy’s next book in the series, THE ACCIDENTAL HUMAN left me frothing at the mouth. Wanda’s story promises to be just as snarky, touching and fun.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Accidental Demon Slayer by Angie Fox

Happy birthday, Lizzie Brown! First there’s a demon in your toilet bowl, then your AWOL, Harley riding grandma with a jelly jar full of witches brew suddenly shows up on your doorstep, and finally your hyper-active Jack Russell Terrier has started talking to you. But best of all… You’re a demon slayer. Maybe you should change your dinner reservations because Hell is out to get you!

Wow! Okay, I have to say it again. Wow! This debut by author Angie Fox knocked me flat on my rear!

I was loathe to put THE ACCIDENTAL DEMON SLAYER down and found myself discovering new places to hide and read. More than once I came out of the bath with pruny toes or suffered dark circles under my eyes from staying up all night. Reading at stop lights is definitely not recommended by this reviewer. It could cause horn honking and possible hand gestures.

A biker bar full of Granny witches in leather and halter tops was only the beginning as we’re introduced to a gorgeous Greek shape-shifting griffon with his own plans for Lizzie. The chemistry could not be denied and the steam these two generated fogged up my glasses.

It was non-stop fun from the first page to the last. The frisky, larger than life characters kept me turning pages and were established quickly and with much aplomb!

I’m still not sure exactly what made Pirate, the spastic yet loyal dog start talking, but it made for some cute moments. He was featured enough for moments of levity and was a constant for Lizzie from her previous life as a pre-school teacher.

In the uber popular genre of paranormal romance, just about everything has been done before, yet THE ACCIDENTAL DEMON SLAYER keeps it fresh and unique carving out a place for itself. Scoot over Sookie Stackhouse and Queen Betsy Taylor. There’s a new player in town and Lizzie Brown is going to need some room!

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Shay Bourne is convicted of murdering a little girl and her step-father, a policeman. As he awaits execution on death row, he learns that the little girl’s sister, Claire is in need of a heart transplant and he knows what he has to do.

When miracles, involving Shay, start occurring on death row, a priest with faith and a secret and an atheistic ACLU Lawyer work together to help Shay to make that final donation to the sister of his victim.

Will Claire’s mother be able to get past her hatred of Shay in time to accept the gift of his heart to save her last remaining child? Is Shay The Messiah, come again, to save more than just Claire’s life?

I’ve been asked many times what this book is about. Is it about a child/cop killer on death row? Is it about the death penalty? Is it about religion? Is it about forgiveness? Is it about organ donation? It’s all those things. And so much more.

You can expect controversy with any Picoult book, and you can also expect an amazing amount of research and a story told from different points of view. This book features a lot about religion, and that’s definitely going to push people’s buttons. The perspective of Christians, Atheists and Jews are well thought out and very well written.

One of Picoult’s best story telling gifts is writing from several perspectives, and managing it so authentically. It always makes for an eye opening reading experience that I look forward to from this author.

As we hear this story told from several different points of view, the characters become very real. I felt as if I were reading someone’s journal, discovering inner most thoughts and feelings.

Take nothing for granted in CHANGE OF HEART as Picoult takes you on an emotional roller coaster from the first page. The journey you began will be nothing like the journey you end with.

Even if I don’t agree with some of the points of view in this book, I have to appreciate how well they were written. CHANGE OF HEART will certainly make you feel, but it will also make you think.

The Defense by Stacey Lynn Schlegl

Samantha is a beautiful and successful graduate student, clinic volunteer, makes meals for neighbors in need, spends time visiting the elderly and is brutally berated by her mother, who can’t seem to see the compassionate, loving person inside her daughter’s plus-sized body. After surviving a brutal rape, Sam puts on weight as a way to keep her safe, all the while never daring to hope that love will see past her size 18 body and love the woman inside. Her mother’s constant emotional abuse keeps Sam in a state of upheaval.

Bruce, a Korean student who knew Sam before the attack and subsequent weight gain wants a chance at breaking through her defense. Working on a school project with her finally gives him a way to get close to her and discover just how special a woman she is.

This is a beautiful and touching story of self acceptance, forgiveness, inspiration and unconditional love, no matter your size, sex, color or race. Samantha is a character that anyone can relate to and feel sympathy for. In a society, where size 18 is more common than a size 8, people of the larger size are looked down upon because what’s inside of them isn’t as easy to see. It’s easy to have compassion for Sam’s plight because we’ve all been a book judged only by our cover.

Bruce is the kind of man we all dream of. His acceptance of Sam no matter what her size helps her to learn to love herself and gives her self esteem much needed support. He is a mirror that reflects the truth back to Sam. The truth she was afraid to see.

While the ideas proffered in this story are touching and motivating, I was disappointed by the writing style. The dialog was rather robotic and stunted. The characters didn’t speak with the flow of a regular conversation. It felt rather simplistic and took me out of the story. I loved what the author was saying, I just didn’t always enjoy the way she said it.

The end was every little girl’s dream come true, however it felt entirely too rushed. The final fifteen pages could have been stretched into a very satisfying thirty at least. It was gratifying to see Samantha come so far and become comfortable in her own skin and gain self confidence. I love endings that tie up loose ends with a pretty bow, but Samantha and Bruce worked so hard to have it all end so abruptly. I was a greedy reader who wanted more detail in their “happily ever after” than just ‘happily ever after’.

Overall the message was inspiring and important for women in particular. I hope readers enjoy this book, because even with its flaws, I did.

Real Vampires Get Lucky by Gerry Bartlett

Glory St. Claire is a full-figured vampire with flair. And yet she is slow to embrace certain aspects of her… condition. When she happens upon loan shark Lucky Carver whose throat is messily torn out, Glory knows she has to turn her first human in order to save her. Lucky isn’t one to lay low though, and vampires like to keep their existence a secret. An ex-rock star boyfriend and new paranormal friends can lead only to trouble. While Lucky lives large, she attracts more than just vampire hunters, but the one who wanted her dead to begin with!

In this third installment in the Glory St. Claire series, we’re taken on a real page turning thrill ride.

It’s advisable to read this series in order and get a full grasp of the characters as sub-plots keep building. New readers would be especially lost if they hadn’t read the previous novel, REAL VAMPIRES LIVE LARGE.

As usual, Glory and Jerry are steaming hot! Although Glory requires her independence there’s no denying their inevitable draw. They are a couple it’s impossible not to cheer for.

The characters in this series are unique and hilarious! The shape-shifting body guards, newly turned rock star vamp and community of vampire friends make for seriously fun reading. Instead of depressed pale and sulky vampires, we’re treated to lively and sassy bloodsuckers.

The humor is clever, yet not heavy handed. There are two mysteries taking place simultaneously. Who’s blackmailing Glory and who tried to kill Lucky? While it isn’t the most tightly woven shocking surprise, it was certainly entertaining!

This is a series that has quickly become a favorite! I’ll have my eye out for REAL VAMPIRES MAKE WAVES, next in the Glory St. Claire adventure! I hope you will too.

Courtesy of C2Ks Kwips and Kritiques

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A young woman suffers the horrible and violent loss of her mother and is sent away to a Finishing School in England, away from everything and everyone she has ever known. Spence School for Girls is a Gothic mansion hiding many secrets that Gemma Doyle is destined to discover.

Turning a group of girls from enemies into a circle of trusted friends, Gemma finds she has a connection to other realms and has visions that lead the girls to a world never before imagined. Soon the power they all discover becomes a tantalizing possibility instead of the stifling future as a Victorian wife, but the temptation brings with it an evil that could devour them all.

This book was a complete joy from beginning to end. It has so many elements that make it enthralling. Paranormal, romance, historical, an old fashioned ghost story, there is literally something for every literary taste.

The novel features young ladies and is labeled as Young Adult, but I found it to be captivating at any age. I enjoyed it as much as my daughter did. The Victorian Age proffered a setting different and perhaps more mature than contemporary fiction, fully engaging adult and teen readers alike.

The author uses several metaphors to express the repression of young women in that time period. The dutiful responsibility, the lack of freedom and choice, and yet the splendor of it all is captured with aplomb.

The mystical aspects to the story were somewhat far reaching and require the reader to suspend their disbelief and have faith that the author will connect all the dots.

Parents of younger readers should be cautioned that there is a rather steamy dream sequence and instances of drinking and stealing.

Courtesy of C2Ks Kwips and Kritiques

Sunday, June 15, 2008

American Fringe by Valerie Frankel

Adora Benet has landed the job as the writer for a teen advice column. She’s thrilled as the column becomes popular and sought after. After responding to an anonymous question in her column, she unwittingly inspires a senator to run for president. The senator’s son provides Adora with some complications just when things are going so well with her boyfriend, Nate.

I thought this was a good book, that was well written, if somewhat average feeling. The characters were fairly engaging and I felt the struggle Dora went through with the pressure from her parents while she was still feeling so rudderless. Then the success of her column gave her some always needed esteem. Yet I didn’t feel engaged with her. I didn’t feel invested in any of the characters.

What concerns me the most in Young Adult fiction these days is use of profanity and the casualness of the sexual relationships. Young Adult fiction is geared towards 12 year olds and up. It’s sad that they are further inundated with the “f” word and teenagers having sex where it’s treated as just a matter of course, and not an important decision. I think it’s an unnecessary element to the story doing nothing to further the characters or plot.

This is the third in the “Fringe” series and I don’t think you need to read the others in order to understand the plot. They seem to stand alone quite well.

While this wasn’t a bad book, and the writing was good, I was left feeling a big flat at the end. The sex and profanity lead me to give it a 2-1/2 Klover rating, as you may want to think about it before your young adult reads it.


Escape by Carolyn Jessop

In this amazing true story, Carolyn Jessop shares her life growing up in Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or FLDS. Detailing how she was handed off to marry a strange man who was thirty two years older than she was at eighteen and how she and her eight children endured psychological hardships the rest of us can only imagine. A remarkable inside look into the radical religion and its horrible affects on all who are touched by it.

I’m so glad this book was written. I think it’s especially important with the current events regarding the FLDS church today, but it’s such an inspiring story in general.

Carolyn’s amazing courage saw her though a painful childhood, a marriage nothing short of a horror story, and constant competition with other wives in her household just so she could survive with her children. And then her remarkable courage saw her way out of her situation at long last.

I appreciated the detailed accounts that Carolyn shared that helped me appreciate how dire the situation is in these compounds that are virtual prison camps to women and children. How young men are cast out because they are more desirable husbands then the old men marrying young women for power. Children abused by other wives in a plural marriage to make way for their own children to be favored. Husband’s controlling every minute detail of the wives lives allowing them little of their own.

It still amazes me that this all happened and is still happening in modern day America. And yet thanks to this book, I can understand how difficult it would be to break away from a situation similar to Carolyn’s on some small level. The power that the FLDS wield is mighty, and those uninformed can’t understand the levels they will go to as they fight to keep control of their cult with seemingly endless resources.

As honest and open as this book was, I almost feel ashamed to say I wished for just a bit more. I craved to learn more about Carolyn’s life after her ESCAPE. I found myself hoping she found a faith of her own, and not one that she’d been born and then manipulated into. I hope her children have found peace and happiness and that Carolyn will continue to enjoy the love she’s found at last.


Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

What if you woke up in the hospital to a movie-star handsome husband, a Louis Vuitton bag with Platinum credit cards inside, perfect teeth, hair and body? Now, what if you didn’t remember how you acquired those things? What if you didn’t remember the last 3 years of your life? Lexi Smart wakes up to discover she’s a brand new person and struggles to live up to who she’s become and discover how she got that way!

I’ve loved Sophie Kinsella’s books since first discovering her Shopaholic series. This time, the author really shows off her writing chops by taking on the old plot device, amnesia. Instead of being tired and same old same old, Kinsella manages to keep the idea fresh and makes it uniquely her own.

Lexi was immediately someone to like and enjoy spending time with. I wanted her to succeed. I wanted her to be happy. Her struggles beside the amnesia were familiar ones, easily relatable. The rest of the characters were enjoyable as well, even as I learned to dislike one or two of them. I really appreciated how all the characters seemed to unfold like a flower.

It was a remarkable journey to go back with Lexi and see the turning point in her life that made such an impression. The bizarreness of having to learn everything about your own life was written with the clever charm Kinsella has become known for. With a few brushes with hilarity thrown in for good measure!

REMEMBER ME? is the perfect summer read. I’ll never look at a sunflower the same way again!


Virgin River by Robyn Carr

Melinda Monroe applied for the job of midwife in a very small remote town to try and heal after the senseless death of her husband. Upon discovering it was a lot more rustic than the pictures she was shown, she almost turns tail and goes back to more familiar surroundings. Until someone leaves a baby on the clinic doorstep. Mel discovers she’s needed in Virgin River. She’s also surprised to discover love was waiting for her.

This is my first time reading Robyn Carr, and it certainly won’t be the last! A friend was so enthusiastic about this trilogy that she offered to send them to me. Now I owe her big time. I’ve become an instant fan of Carr as a result

As I mentioned, this is the first in a trilogy. I highly suggest you get SHELTER MOUNTAIN and WHISPERING ROCK at the same time. They are all part of the same story and you’ll want to find out more about VIRGIN RIVER and revisit its characters.

I was immediately struck by the wonderful surroundings. The setting was as much a character in the book as the people. It made me long to visit such a place, if only it existed!

The characters are what really kept me turning pages into the night. As Mel and Jack began their friendship that eventually turned the corner into love, I was riveted. I have to admit to falling a bit in love with Jack myself. He was the epitome of everything desirable in a man. The supporting characters were all written so vividly, that I can’t wait to meet up with them all again.

Most of all, I appreciated the respect Ms. Carr wrote with as she created characters who were veterans in the Iraq war. No politics were involved, but she wrote with such honor at the sacrifices these men made and their lifelong bond. It brought tears to my eyes.

I highly recommend this deeply touching series by Robyn Carr.


Small Favor by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden, wizard detective doesn’t look for trouble, but it sure finds him. Mab, Queen of the Winter Faery Court, is calling in one of the Favor’s Harry owes her. Find Gentleman Johnnie Marcone. Chicago’s criminal kingpin has been acquiring power in Sidhe Courts and now he’s missing. Honoring Mab’s debt could complicate things even more in the ongoing war between the Winter and Summer Seelie Courts, not honoring it could kill Harry once and for all.

SMALL FAVOR is the tenth installment of the Harry Dresden series, and it just keeps getting better and better. This novel continues to live up to the high expectations fans have become so easily accustomed to.

The plot, as with previous endeavors, is intricate, but not difficult to follow, and yet it’s nearly impossible to guess what Harry will do next. Butcher walks the fine line between caustic wit and delicious tension like a circus tightrope walker. The humor is perfectly timed and the pop culture references will bring a smile to any Geek Girl’s (or Guy’s) face. It’s not all fun and games though. There are some dark moments that Butcher uses his skill to make us cringe just as adeptly. Harry’s character is also an expert tightrope walker as his loyalties and sense of right and wrong is constantly put to the test.

The dialog is just what fans of Buffy and Firefly have been craving. Harry Dresden is king of the witty repartee!

All my favorite characters were brought back in this book. Michael wielding Amoracchius is always fantastic. I love the dynamic that Michael brings as Harry deals with his questions of faith. Thomas, Harry’s half brother, has become an indispensible character in the Dresden universe. Murphy always brings out the rogue in Harry as their relationship grows and changes. Butcher has a wonderful way of juggling a lot of well loved, bigger than life characters in such a way that it’s not overwhelming.

It was a wonderful ride, as always. I like seeing Harry’s life come together and having things go his way once in a while. Heck, even the Captain of The Warden’s is being nice. Real nice…. I think he’s more than earned it!


Remains of the Dead by Wendy Roberts

Sadie Novak’s company does the job no one wants. After cleaning up after her brother’s suicide, she decided that no family member should have to endure what she did and starts the company. Scene-2-Clean takes care of what crime scenes leave behind when the police are through.

Sadie is hired to clean up for a murder/suicide where her unusual ability to talk to the dead comes into play. A pesky ghost needs Sadie’s help to discover her real murderer, putting Sadie in more danger than she’s ever had to face before!

Remains of the Dead is the first in a fantastic new series by Wendy Roberts. I learned more about the biohazards of cleaning up various body fluids and by products than I ever imagined I’d want to, but it added invaluable realism to this unique mystery novel. And a new appreciation of those in that line of work!

Roberts’ sense of humor is a necessary element the keeps the pace light when it needs to be to even out the dark, gritty aspects. The plot is sharp and woven together so as to give the reader’s ego a bit of a stroke by thinking they have it all figured out, only to discover there were many more surprises in store. The ‘Whodunnit’ part was rather predictable, but there were many other aspects to the story that make up for it.

The characters were engaging and genuine. Even though this was the first in the series, the characters were well established and I look forward to meeting up with them again in Devil May Ride coming out in December of 2008.


Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

What do you get when you combine a cranky cook book author/food critic, a dog- napper, a sexy hitman, a Southern mobster wedding, noisy flamingos, a flying frying pan and 5 million dollars? A delicious crime novel and romance all rolled up together like a brandy soaked trifle with cream filling!

Agnes finds herself (and her dog) the unlikely target of dog-nappers. To her rescue comes Shane, a hitman with a long history and an empty stomach. Keeping an eye on Agnes becomes a full time job, but Shane has troubles of his own when his hits fail and his targets continue breathing. As Agnes is determined to put on the perfect wedding, or lose her house, she’s face with philandering fiancé’s, Mafioso’s threatening florists and cake designers, and with in-laws and outlaws. But having Shane on her side means she could discover her happy ending.

This was my first time reading a Crusie-Mayer collaboration. I heard various things about the writing team, not many of them good. To them, I say, “phooey”. I found the relationship aspects inductive of dreamy sighs and the action aspects worthy of cheers for their sheer cleverness. Cruise and Mayer are a fantastic combination, not unlike strawberries and cream.

The characters created were interesting and fun. I was immediately invested in them and could see Agnes flipping her pecan pancakes and Shane grinding coffee beans as vividly as if I were standing there. In fact, this book made my stomach yearn for a midnight snack as I read into the wee hours. It was a shame that some recipes weren’t featured. There were a lot of different people we got to know in this book, and yet it wasn’t at all difficult to keep up with them all and enjoy their unique qualities.

The story could be a tad far-fetched at times. One and one sometimes added up to three, but that was part of the entertainment. I can’t find too much fault with it because some of the preposterousness was what made it so much tremendous fun. It wasn’t a complicated story, yet it had a lot going on. If it hadn’t been so enjoyable, Agnes’ To Do List alone would have exhausted me!

My favorite aspects were the extremely well written and detailed fight and action scenes. Shane’s bomb defusing, bullet dodging, and use of military firearms were nearly as exhilarating as Agnes and her cast iron skillet! Just kidding. Don’t hurt me, Bob.

I really enjoyed the romance between Shane and Agnes. He had me the moment he brought her home an air conditioner. Sure, roses are nice, but nothing says “potential boyfriend” like cold air on a blistering hot day. Agnes could depend on Shane, and I found that very sexy.

After endless giggle-fits in bed reading until 2AM, my husband had banned me from reading any more Crusie-Mayer books when he has to get up early for work the next day. I suggest for the sake of your marriage, read this book on the weekend, or in the daytime. You’ll thank me later.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Accidental Werewolf by Dakota Cassidy

With a sky blue convertible within her sights, Marty Andrews, Bobbie-Sue Cosmetics Representative to the masses, has her future all lined out. Selling lip gloss and eye shadow and bringing out a woman’s inner beauty has been Marty’s focus to make all her dreams come true. Being bitten by a werewolf is just not a factor in her long term plan! And it’s definitely wrecking havoc with her color wheel.

Enter Keegan Flaherty the werewolf in question. I mean, he tries to help Marty adjust to her new status as a former human, but Marty just thinks his cheese has slipped off his cracker. But when Marty is kidnapped, she realizes he might not be so crazy after all and there’s a lot more at stake here than lip gloss and lunar cycles.

Dakota Cassidy knocks one out of the park with this werewolf chick lit tale. There was so much to laugh about… The fun and snarky humor was perfectly teamed with nail biting suspense throughout.

Vivid, larger than life characters give the story soul. I was drawn to the juxtaposition between Marty and Keegan and how different their backgrounds were. Marty, being independent and having no one of significance in her life and with Keegan having a large, close-knit family and how they learned to get along was a sweet aspect to the story. Marty’s new found friends were more than supporting characters, they were fully realized and fully hilarious.

But I have to caution you. Don’t read this book while drinking carbonated beverages. Or anything hot. Or anything that could stain, because if you are anything like me, you’ll be laughing until the diet soda spurts out your nose, or you shower yourself (or the person sitting next to you) with a Cinnamon Dolce Latte. Darn, those stains can be hard to get out!

THE ACCIDENTAL WEREWOLF will be going on my “keeper shelf” to read at those times when only a fun read (and maybe some dark chocolate) will do. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good laugh, a tugged heartstring, or a hot Irish shape-shifter!

Secrets of My Suburban Life by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Lauren “Ren” D’Arc’s life changed completely when Harry Potter killed her Mom. No, he didn’t jump out of a book and cast an Unforgivable Curse or anything. A case of Harry Potter books fell on her. Now her Dad moved them to the suburbs because living in the city is too painful for him, taking her away from the city she loves and the friends she knows.

Starting over as the new kid stinks but when the uber popular girl in school, Farrin, snubs her, Ren’s life starts to become even more complicated. Ren accidentally discovers Farrin’s got a secret. She’s been having an online affair with an older man! Ren is the only one who can save Farrin from herself.

Ren, by all respects should be a shallow, stereotypical character as a spoiled rich kid. Thankfully, she’s not at all. She’s a likable character who’s been given a lot of adversity and makes pretty smart decisions most of the time.

The subject of her mother’s death is touched on with sensitivity and realism and with enough sense of humor to keep it inspiring. Also, the seriousness of the danger of online predators is taken on in such a way to be entertaining with a message important for young adults to hear. I would encourage parents of teenagers who spend time alone online to give them this book.

Baratz-Logsted created fun characters in a bubble gum world with substance. She goes deeper than the “Gossip Girl” type books for young adults, and lets her sense of humor shine to making for a unique, smart story.

The mystery aspect really keeps the plot flowing. A little suspense is always good. The slightly goofy slapstick comedy as Ren comes up with a plan to save Farrin from meeting this older man in person gives levity to a dark situation necessary to keep things interesting without scaring away sensitive readers.

I’m happy to recommend SECRETS OF MY SUBURBAN LIFE.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

Archie Sheridan, one of Portland’s brightest detectives, is heading a special task force to catch a serial killer. After ten painful years on the case, the killer caught him instead.

Gorgeous, psychotic, Gretchen Lowell captured Archie, torturing him to the brink of death, finally doing the unthinkable and turned herself in to save him. Now they are both prisoners Gretchen is in the penitentiary and Archie is in a prison of another kind, addicted to pain killers and the woman who held him captive.

Now suddenly Archie has to pull himself together. An ambitious newspaper reporter, Susan Ward, is doing a story on him and a new serial killer is on the loose. Will Susan expose his secrets before he can catch the killer?

This is one of the best thrillers I’ve read this year. Cain has created a unique anti-hero in Archie, a man broken physically, mentally, and emotionally, dependent on a buffet of pills for survival. And yet we sympathize and cheer Archie on as he fights his demons and uses his abilities to catch another serial killer.

Susan Ward has her own flaws that makes her a personality who is relatable and interesting, but Gretchen is one of the most unique and diabolical characters I’ve ever read. She’s truly terrifying as Cain takes us back to when Gretchen had Archie in her clutches, her ultimate plaything.

The flashbacks taking us back to Archie’s captivity were flawless, giving important background that I was dying to discover in spite of myself. The torture he survived was nothing short of cringe-worthy.

Thrillers are my personal favorite, and I found this to have a tightly woven plot with captivating (no pun intended), unique characters and an ending that will leave you with a lovely satisfied feeling. HEARTSICK has it all. Not since Hannibal Lector has there been a more frighteningly fascinating villain. It is my sincere hope that we see more from Archie Sheridan, Susan Ward and Gretchen Lowell! What a fantastic series this would make!

Chosen by PC Cast and Kristen Cast

Something foreign and dark is at the House of Night and fledgling priestess; Zoey Redbird is the only one who knows it. As things change and her friends turn their backs on her, an old enemy becomes the only one Zoey can trust.

Making matters worse, her best friend, Stevie Rae is undead. And Zoey risks everything to try and help her save what’s left of her fragile humanity.

On top of it all, Zoey has found herself with 3 boyfriends. With all that’s going on in her life right now, can Zoey make the right decisions without losing all that is important to her?

The Casts have written another page turner. I read BETRAYED and plowed directly into CHOSEN, the third in The House of Night series. These books leave so much up in the air, that sometimes it’s worth it to wait for the next book to save you the frustration.

While the book has a solid plot and has me furiously turning pages in spite of myself, I have some issues.

Zoey has always been a character to admire. She’s got strength of character and integrity. That’s all put to the test in this novel, and Zoey becomes a bit tarnished. She makes some really poor decisions, and pays the price for them. I appreciate that this was written in such a way to show consequences for her actions. She becomes sexually active in this book, and I thought that was a real setback. I’ve always appreciated her because she valued her virginity and she gave it away in a very tawdry manner.

I found myself really missing the old Stevie Rae, because without her sweet nature, Zoey, the Twins and even Damien weren’t quite as likeable.

The scene at Zoey’s birthday wasn’t very believable. I thought all the tacky Christmas gifts from all her fashion conscious friends were a joke and I kept waiting for the punch line.

The relationship between Zoey and the adult vampire, Blake was unfortunate as well. I always cringe when an unhealthy relationship between a teenager and an adult is portrayed so romantically.

I kept waiting for a big confrontation between Zoey and Neferet that was built up in BETRAYED. Nothing ever really happened there… Except some whispered threats that I found to be weak.

The thing that bothered me the most is a personal issue for me, and I didn’t want it to affect my review, but I feel it necessary to mention. I found the prejudice against Christians repugnant. For all the talk of harmony, the characters in House of Night were hate-filled regarding a differing (Christian) belief system coming in direct conflict with the ideals they uphold. I can only hope that in future books in this series, all religions are respected and harmony is reached.

An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris

Harper Connelly was given a special ability the night she was struck by lightening. She can find the dead and see how they died. Now she travels the country with her step brother using her ability the best way she knows how. She’s been hired to find out what’s happened to the missing teenage boys in Doraville, N.C. by the grandmother of the latest missing teen.

After finding 8 bodies, all buried in the same area, and all died in the most horrible ways imaginable, Harper just wants to leave town and put it behind her. Her first serial murder case has taken a lot out of her. But someone doesn’t want her to leave. And there’s a storm brewing. Small towns can be murder when everyone knows everyone and there’s no place to hide.

This is the third in the Harper Connelly series. Although it could stand alone, Harris does a marvelous job of summing up Harper’s history throughout the book, I can’t help but recommend you read the entire series.

I’m a huge fan of the way Harris can weave a tale in a small town and bring such colorful characters to life. She manages it in such a way to be uncomplicated, but not too simplistic to be trite or uninteresting.

Harper is such a tragic character to my mind. Another one of Harris’ talents. She creates wonderfully flawed characters who are so strong in their own way and overcome such adversity and yet always stay so grounded and humble.

The suspense in AN ICE COLD GRAVE can be cut with a knife. Usually a mystery ends with the discovery of the bodies, but this book turns everything upside down. Almost everyone is a potential suspect and nothing can be taken at face value.

The relationship between Harper and her step brother, Tolliver Lang heats up. While some are put off by their relationship, even though they aren’t related, it seemed a rather natural progression to me.

I always look forward to another Harper Connelly. It’s a pleasure to recommend AN ICE COLD GRAVE.

Just a Taste by Deirdre Martin

Food has always been an important part of Anthony Dante’s life, and after his wife’s untimely death, the family restaurant is what keeps him going. Now the restaurant is a regular neighborhood institution and Anthony plans on keeping it that way.

Enter Vivi Robitaille. She’s arrived from France to follow her dream of running a little Bistro in the United States with her sister. The competition heats up in both kitchens as Vivi and Anthony try to outdo one another. But the competition takes a turn and the two chefs find themselves creating some heat outside the kitchen too.

Who doesn’t love food? The delicious meals and fine wines in this tale made my mouth water and brought realism to the story.

Anthony’s deep felt sorrow as he still mourned for his wife brought sensitivity to his strong and confident character and made him more accessible. His close-knit family brought charm and his brother, a retired hockey hero turned stay at home dad had me giggling.

Vivi’s unconventional sibling relationship was interesting to witness as it developed from shallow to supportive and full of unconditional love. Vivi’s ability to love her sister through anything was one of her greatest strengths and what made her such a wonderful match for Anthony.

Apparently there are other books featuring characters from the Dante family, but this is my first. I’m looking forward to reading more by Deirdre Martin to see what the Dante’s are up to!

Their chemistry was wonderful. It was fun to see them fight over whether a dessert contained butter or shortening, and make up afterwards. A lovely, charming read!

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

Eloise Kelly is a Harvard graduate student working on her history dissertation. Her biggest desire is to discover the identity of The Pink Carnation, an English spy during the 19th century Napoleanic wars. Eloise gets her wish as she is given the opportunity to study a family’s collection of letters kept secret.

The letters feature Amy Balcourt, exiled to rural England as a young girl, she’s always dreamed of going back to France to help The Scarlet Pimpernel and Purple Gentian to avenge her father’s death.

Leading us, along with Eloise, Amy takes us from England across the channel to France on the adventure and love of a lifetime.

Historical fiction has never before been this fun and entertaining! A book within a book, Eloise guides us on her journey to discover who The Pink Carnation was through Amy. Just when the pouf of the Napoleanic grows wearisome, Eloise takes over for a while.

The physical humor had me giggling out loud. The characters do ludicrous things, make silly mistakes and say ridiculous things. Not what I expected, but was so pleased at the book being so unexpectedly funny.

The character of Amy Balcourt is a firecracker. Her tenaciousness, intelligence and wrecklessness made her charming and unforgettable. I’ve never enjoyed 19th century France before Amy. Her romance with Richard and the Purple Gentian was frought with humor and unpredictability.

Richard was the perfect dashing hero. Unadulterated, but tarnished just enough to make him loveable and sigh-worthy. I cheered for him all the way as he did his best to win Amy over.

Even the supporting characters are complex and nearly as interesting as Amy and Richard and become even more so as the story progresses.

More than just historical fiction, more than romance, more than espionage and suspense, THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE PINK CARNATION shakes up the genres for a fantastic blend that has something for everyone.

The first in a series by Lauren Willig, I look forward to the next installment! I highly recommend THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE PINK CARNATION.

Courtesy of CK2S Kwips and Kritiques


What Lies In Shadow by Tina Wainscott

Jonna’s secret identity on the web takes the form of a wildly popular blog. She can be a different person, explore new ideas and fantasies, and she enjoys the many friends she’s made who comment on her entries.

When Jonna thinks her husband is having an affair, her friends encourage her to have one herself. She’s found an excitable volunteer in one of her readers, Dominic. But when she has second thoughts and realizes she wants to work on her marriage, Dominic won’t take no for an answer and begins to stalk her. He knows her innermost fantasies and her innermost fears and will use them to keep Jonna all to himself…

This is my first read by Tina Wainscott, and it definitely won’t be my last. The suspense had me burning the midnight oil. I could not stop reading because the twists and turns kept me in a constant state of delicious tension.

In today’s modern world of blogging and chatting and e-mail, it’s all too common to begin relationships with people we only think we know. You never really know for sure who you are opening yourself up to online. This book served as a good reminder and gave me the creeps!

Jonna’s character was likeable enough, and in comparison she was made more so by her irritating and unsupportive girlfriend. Dominic was truly frightening because he knew so many intimate details about Jonna. It was disturbing enough when he was using that information to woo her, but when he turned the tables and used it to stalk her, it was truly frightening.

For me, the sign of a really good thriller is how gripping the story is. How unpredictable. This one had me going until the very last page! I highly recommend WHAT LIES IN SHADOW.

Courtesy of CK2S Kwips and Kritiques